Over on Tara’s blog it’s week 140 of The Gallery and the theme is ‘Self Portrait’.
I’m mostly behind the camera, partly because I like taking photographs and also because as soon as anyone points a camera at me I tend to pull a ridiculous face, like a five year old.
I took this one myself. I turned 40 this January and decided this was the year I was going to do things – to publish the book, to take up roller derby. It’s the first of May today, five months into my year of being brave. I suppose some people would consider putting an untouched photograph of myself with no make up to be brave, but I happen to like being 40. My mum went on a gap year at 46 and maintains her 40s were her favourite decade. I’m inclined to agree with her. This article about turning 60 says it all for me. I like getting older. I actually like myself more now than I ever have. I don’t take any crap, I’m brave enough to do things that scare me, and I know when to walk away (even if that does mean disappearing to bed halfway through a night out because I’m exhausted by midnight).
This week I’m madly decluttering the house. This is an annual thing for me and always seems to be quite therapeutic, because it reminds me that we don’t need all the mountains of stuff we carry around. With four children living here, and another two some of the time, there’s a lot of stuff which accumulates in corners. I’m recycling, giving things to charity, and clearing my head at the same time.
Look at that. That’s a photograph – no, it’s a collection, actually – of spring photos. I took it at exactly this time of year in 2011. There’s SUNSHINE on those plants.
It’s blooming freezing. I’m very aware that this sort of gardening, sort of not-gardening, sort of books, sort of not-books, sort of bits-of-everything blog hasn’t had any gardening in it for ages.
So here are five things you can do in the garden this weekend.
1. Go into garden with every intention of getting the edges of the lawn sorted. Realise that lawn is a) sodden and b) covered in dog poo because nobody in the family will take up the challenge of dog poo harvesting in winter. Get sidetracked by lovely leaves growing on the cat pee plant. Hooray, signs of spring.
(cat pee plant, aka Ribes sanguineum – looks pretty, honks of cat pee for some reason)
2. Look at sodden borders in disconsolate manner. Remember that the old gardening rule is that you shouldn’t plant seeds until you’d be happy to sit on the soil with a bare bottom. Realise that removing trousers would result in frostbite of the posterior. Wonder who on earth makes these rules. Think fondly about cups of tea.
3. Decide that it’s far too blooming cold for any sort of gardening, and go to visit a local nursery instead. If I have one gardening tip for this Easter, it’s break free from the big name garden centres with their overpriced, over packaged plants and visit your local nursery. For a start, have a search here at the British Plant Nursery Guide or the RHS Nursery Finder. You don’t have to be a plant expert to visit one – what you’ll find there is people who know your soil, the climate of the area you live in, and what works and what doesn’t. For example here in Southport I’m having to start all over again.
My old, very traditional, English cottage garden was on clay. Now I have sandy seaside soil and a little, walled, tree-lined town garden. Chatting to local nursery owners, noseying over garden walls and seeing what works and what doesn’t is helping me get an idea of what I can plant in what is basically a blank canvas.
4. Visit a local garden. There’s almost certainly a NGS Open Garden near you this Easter weekend – they have a fab search facility on their website. Or go and see how the experts do it at an RHS garden. Our local one is Harlow Carr (I know. I KNOW. I am ridiculously excited and can’t wait to take everyone. Or maybe I’ll go alone. My enthusiasm for gardening doesn’t seem to be contagious. For some reason, driving for two hours to go and look at some plants isn’t that appealing to the children.)
5. Face the facts. It’s going to be utterly freezing this weekend. Stay home, eat cake, and start the weekend with Gardeners’ World (and in my case do a bit of swooning over Monty Don, officially the most gorgeous gardening presenter in the world) and then curl up on Easter Sunday with Gardeners’ Question Time which is my favourite way to spend an afternoon. Besides gardening, of course.
First of all can I just point out that Sealed with a Kiss is on sale here at a very special super low price. Currently cheaper than a cup of coffee and with far more gorgeous men and snogging and cake and seals and gorgeous Scottish scenery. Or if you’re in Canada, you can buy it here or in America, you can buy it here. Also available in lots of other places. Hooray.
I SHOULD be blogging loads this week. I went to Amsterdam and it was utterly gorgeous and deserves a photo post of its own. And people have been leaving amazing book reviews and that deserves a post of its own, too. And lovely Dan, my incredible psychic book cover designer, has given me all the roughs for the cover design so we can show you how he created my (so gorgeous I want it as a framed print) book cover, and that deserves a blog post, too.
But instead what am I doing? I’m sitting in bed because we’ve got no children this week (they’re with their dad and his girlfriend who have come over from Canada to take them to Scotland) and I’m doing NOTHING except rambling nonsense on Twitter and getting excited about my next roller derby training session tonight.
So, in lieu of an actual blog post (I promise there’ll be one later, ooh and I’m redesigning the blog, too, and there’s another blog coming, a different one, which I think you’ll love) you get this. Inarticulate rambling and tremendous, over-caffeinated excitement. I wrote a book! People who aren’t forced to be polite (thank you family and friends for doing your duty) are actually claiming they like it! I think I need a little lie down.
You’re going to need a cup of tea for this one. Or if you’re not in the mood for ramblings, look away now.
One of the things I’ve noticed so far in the great what-d’you-want-to-see-here blog survey (have you filled it in yet? Pop over here for a moment and have your say) is that people seem to want more personal posts.
~ What was your happiest event?
Being shown around by the owner who said ‘we want someone who’ll live here as a family and love it as their own and bring their children up here’ as I crossed my fingers and hoped they’d like us. Crying with happiness as I saw the attic bedroom with the view over the roofs to the sea. Crying with happiness again when she said she would happily take it off the market even though we couldn’t move in for a month. Sleeping in the dining room on a mattress before we moved the children in.
(Ross will be reading this and rolling his eyes. I saw a psychic who told me I’d live in a house just like this with views to the sea – I am resolute that if you imagine hard enough you can see the sea. Or at least the idea of it.)
~ What was the saddest thing to happen?
Cancer. It keeps trying to take people I love and I’ve had enough of it.
~ What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?
Now this – this is where I really want to write something, but tact and stuff means I can’t. Which is a bit naughty, I know. If you really want to know leave a comment and I’ll tell you. But I’m still cackling over it.
~ Who let you down?
I was surprised to find that some friends who I’d known for a long time couldn’t cope with my getting divorced. I’m not sure why – whether it was because they thought it might be catching, or because (as another newly-single friend commented) it was that they were worried I might steal their husbands. But it was a year of surprising new friendships and cementing old ones.
~ Who supported you?
So many people, both online and off. My best girlfriends* (I was going to name you all but it started and it was turning into a speech worthy of Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars, so you know who you are and where the bodies are buried, so we’ll leave it at that. Love you all x) and of course Ross, for whom I don’t have the words. But he knows. *and their husbands, in the case of lovely Phill
~ Tell us one thing you learned.
I learned that I don’t have to do everything perfectly and that perfectionism can be a curse.
Still working on that one but it’s a good lesson.
~ Tell us one thing that made you laugh.
The Oatmeal – particularly this piece (particularly apposite after one slightly negative comment on my survey sent me into a flat spin of must-give-up-blogging panic). I cried laughing reading this.
~ Tell us one thing that made you cry.
~ Tell us something your children did to make you feel proud.
Dealt with tremendous amounts of change, moving schools and making new friends and settling in to seaside life amazingly well. It’s easy for us as adults to say children are resilient, but I think that’s a cop out and not really true at all. I moved schools a lot as a child and I remember that new-school feeling so well. So dealing with that, and a new stepfamily, and their dad living in Canada – well, I’m incredibly proud of them.
Oh and one more thing – both Verity and Archie learned to make coffee. For those of you with small children who wake at 4 or 5am who think there’s no end to the early morning risings – hold on to that one. It’s bloody amazing.
~ Tell us one thing that made you proud of yourself.
I started the year with no money, no job, and surviving on benefits which was a massive shock to the system. I had no idea how difficult it was to get anything – the Daily Mail stereotype of the single mother raking in money is so far removed from reality. Every time I sorted one thing, another one was taken away. There were periods where I couldn’t afford to eat, and I was too proud to ask my family for help when they’d already helped more than enough.
I ended the year with a job, the blog coming back to life, the book edited and ready to be published this month and a plan. Lots of plans, in fact.
~ Tell us one challenge you overcame.
I think learning to cope with the children’s father living in Canada. We’ve reached a point where we all get on well, where they feel secure and confident in their relationship with him, and I feel like we’re all working together well.
~ Tell us three things you’d like to change about your life in 2013.
I’m going to be more organised with my time (about which more in a future post)
I’m going to get to the gym regularly and get back to a decent level of strength and fitness
I’m going to take time to look after myself – there’s a gorgeous spa round the corner and I intend to start using it. I turn 40 this month so it’s time to start having facials (or is it too late? eek).
And finally Jax at liveotherwise has asked me to tell you all about my Next Big Thing. Well, that’s not that hard: later this month my book Sealed with a Kiss is released into the wild. I’m currently reading through the edits of the edits of the edits. I dream about typos and stray apostrophes. And cover art.
If you’re still here you deserve a prize. Congratulations. Sure you lot still want more personal stuff on here?
Before we moved to the seaside house I promised the children a Hallowe’en party as a settling-in present. I happen to love Hallowe’en, so it wasn’t really a hardship for me.
(me being a witch last year)
So R and I went slightly mad in Southport’s shops and filled the house with cobwebs and children and chocolate and cake.
And yes, that glass of wine in the bath was bliss. Next stop Christmas! (You’ll hate me if I say I’ve already been planning – and shopping – won’t you?)