Palm trees vs normcore...

posted on: Friday, 24 April 2015

Whilst in an attempt to persuade my husband that we need to cover a single wall of our house with tropical palm tree wallpaper, he patiently turned to me and said: 'Lou, we don't live in the tropics, can we go for something a little more rural?'. He's right, of course, and I acknowledge that my longing for palm trees must now be relegated to photographing them when we are on holiday, not adorning my walls with them. There's a thing in me (I put it down to a childhood spent in Florida) where I love all things tropical. I can get with the Britishness of wellies and wool but deep down, I yearn for something more exotic.

Meanwhile an absolute truth of my life at the moment: I am governed by the sartorial constraints of my lifestyle. We live in a farmhouse, often surrounded by tractors ploughing the fields. Not a palm tree in sight! I notice that British people go through this seasonal shift at this time of year, where the shops are suddenly flooded with white linen and bikinis, even though the British summer can be somewhat unpredictable. It's rarely warm enough for white linen and even when it is, it seems slightly incongruous when worn; like we are children playing house.

My lifestyle doesn't really allow for the following items:

Silk kimonos - although I have three.
Slinky evening jumpsuits - oh, to have the occasion to wear one.
Flowing maxi dresses.
Stiletto heels.

The staples instead are:

Trench coats
More jeans.

I often ponder whether I should throw caution to the wind and disregard these protocols and wear whatever the hell I like? Can anyone recommend that approach? I realised that without even planning it, I am a proponent of 'normcore'. It's taken me a while to work out that 'normcore' looks fabulous on very pretty women who are, on the whole, very slim. If you see a beautiful woman wearing a white T-shirt and cutoffs on Pinterest, chances are she has those wonderful toned, brown legs and ombre, tousled hair. There's often a jaunty hat. There will usually be a palm tree in the background! Whereas the average British housewife....subliminally we all think we look like the Pinterest woman. I am sticking to that. It's all about inner beauty and a big smile, right?!

So I lust after retro wallpaper. I secretly inject random, ironical nods to a more exotic life in to my choices, but ultimately it's all pretty staid. But can I just say I really want some leopard ankle boots? And some electric blue Nike Air Max. And a pink sofa. And neon wall art. And a high-waisted bikini in corals and blues. Oh and a bright neon bra, ideally with a racer back. And a white blazer. Oh and these really cool Chloe sunglasses I saw somewhere. And really long hair. And a full-length, backless gown that drapes. Yep. ;-)

Teenage rip tide...

posted on: Thursday, 23 April 2015

My parenting obsession continues...I think back to the years my children were simple souls, whose toddler group or playground antics could be easily soothed. Now parenting seems like a self-conscious, ramped up version of its former self. I notice, at post-yoga coffee (decaf; naturally), that the most comfortable conversation is with other mothers with children the same age.

It was always thus. Women relate to women who relate.

We collectively lament our teenagers. We find them exasperating but we retell their antics with a curious pride. Each milestone and rite of passage is important and shared. But when my child has stepped off the heavily trodden path, I wonder whether to share details with friends I have known and trusted for years. As if it's my failing. And in a way it is. It's not that my children are on a bad path at all, they are just not always on the commonly accepted, normal path. Let's say they sometimes take the side road. 'And I, I took the one less travelled by'. Normally this individuality would incite awe in me but I have to say, at the moment, I am weary of being the parent with the child who forges ahead, who is a pioneer. But that's the thing with parenting - you don't get to choose!

There is a lot in the press about miserable teenagers. The spectre of depression and anxiety looms large. Unlike my own teenage years, when everyone seemed to muddle along OK (or am I looking back with rose-coloured spectacles?) it seems now that they are against each other. Competitiveness has run amok. Kindness gone. Misery reigns. Or so we are told. I read article after article about social media and its negative effect. But can I just say, no one ever says what to DO about it!!

People point out the obvious; that teenagers are confused, pressured and anxious because their every waking move is documented on line. They stalk their friends and their enemies, every photo invites judgement (like! unlike! follow! unfollow!), they solicit each other to share intimacies then spread them around. Trust no one. They look at imagery that belongs in a horror film. They look at porn that should be reserved for very hard-core, utterly consenting adults. They think things are normal and acceptable when they are not. They lack social confidence. They fret about their appearance to a level of detail I never knew possible. Their screen time is mind-blowing. Every parent I know says their home life is adversely affected by technology, but very, very few understand, let alone police it. Many say they confiscate phones overnight but then I witness their kid's messages pinging through at 2am. The teens, stupefied with tiredness, turn up for school each morning.

If we are to believe the press, it is a mind-bending, up-in-the-night, frightening maelstrom that we may not all survive! And it can feel that way.

It's like my generation has made an enormous mess in the corner of the room and now we are all pointing at it as if we had nothing to do with its creation. We did this. We created the technology and now it's causing problems. I long for someone somewhere to come up with a solution or some regulation or some guidance. I search my own instincts for ways to handle the daily events that arise in the life of a modern teen. Living with it is hard. It does feel (to me at least) like there is a very dangerous rip tide just under the surface. That some unseen current is at play and we might get caught in it.

And what is it really like living with a teenage daughter? Well, it's lovely. It's tumultuous and challenging. And funny and enlightening. She makes me laugh and smile more than she will make me cry. I just have to keep my nerve and go with the flow.

It was just a mission statement...

posted on: Monday, 20 April 2015

Daily, I think I could do with writing something here, in this virtual space. It's been ages, I am starting to feel guilty. I think of things I want to tell you. This is what non-bloggers will never fully understand about bloggers; there is a CONSTANT inner dialogue of stuff I want to write about. For you, the unknown reader. Or the known reader (as a handful are). I make mental checklists of things I should point out; what seem like sparkling, erudite observations that I make, concocted as I am in the shower or stuck in traffic. Then they slip past like a never-ending game of Pooh Sticks, I can never quite identify which was my stick. I read so much, I see so much, a visual smorgasbord of images and quotes and soundbites, I forget what I have personally thought and what I have read. A thought that might have belonged to someone else?

And so...where was I?

We went to Dubai - it seems like a long time ago now, much has happened. It is only the faint tan lines I see on my skin that are a testament to the (brutal) heat there. We had a great time. Staying with family, doing cool things, seeing new things. We travelled around a lot and left the bizarre desert metropolis of Dubai and went cross-country to the Indian Ocean. I had never been in the Indian Ocean before; a lovely moment. As a surprise for my daughter we saw 'One Direction' newly formed of four not five. And yes we still miss Zayn! I have written before about Dubai here, as this was out third trip there in recent years (both of my husband's siblings live there) so it's becoming a mainstay. I do feel very lucky that we can see these places and increasingly as we travel as a family, we are becoming more bold. It's a good feeling; to push past boundaries and try different things. Holidays are not about relaxing on a beach any more and I really like that.

This I know for sure though: when you marry in to a family, you gain a family. My brother in laws and sister in laws form our little unit, now all moved to Dubai. Visiting them is half lovely and half heartache as I realise how much I miss them. No matter how hard we try, it's hard to remain part of someone's life when they live in another country. So I left with a heavy heart and have pored over the photos more than once.

During the Easter holidays my son turned ten! Double figures! He is ten! I find this startling and comforting at the same time. I used to think, when he was born, that when he would be ten, my daughter would be nearly fourteen and I would be 41. And those numbers seemed impossibly far away then. Now they are here I am staggered at how fast the time went. So all those wise people who say it goes in the blink of an eye were right.

I feel like the Easter holidays were also an onslaught of teenager demands, to which I am struggling to keep pace. I gotta say: she's running rings around me! Trying ever so hard to stick to all of the resolve I have alluded to before here. I can honestly say that this stage of parenting has been (and remains) as demanding as the newborn stage. Have I said that before? I feel like I have, but maybe I just walk around thinking it? It's not as physcially exhausting but as a good friend pointed out to me today, 'It's a complete head-f**k. Yes. Quite.

I carry on.

Days are interspersed with internet hunts for spring wardrobe items - the perfect underdressed jumpsuit (a wardrobe staple: so say this stylish friend and this stylish friend). A white blazer. I pulled on my pale pink chelsea boots bought in Amsterdam last Autumn - but too pale to wear over winter - and it brought a smile. Yes, I am that person. I greet a new season like a new friend who I really want to buddy up with.

And of course my Pinterest obsession continues - what did I say about a visual smorgasbord??!! Any one who follows me there will see that I pin at 6am every morning, this is a telltale sign of my waking thoughts, surely?!

And finally I returned to yoga after a four week break - I can't tell you how good it felt and how hard it was. I honestly think everyone should do yoga. It is the answer to all. I had a major relapse in the pain I experience whilst I was not doing it (long story; dental issues, low-level, long term stress-related teeth clenching). I am not stressed for sure, but I am a person who holds stress. A sad truth. I am now thinking maybe I need hypnosis?! Rewiring in the way I react to things? Any thoughts? I am all ears...

It's good to be back.