Saturday, 17 September 2016

Green fingers


It is a truth universally acknowledged ...... to quote Jane Austin, that my generally well manicured fingers are anything but green!
My friends will attest that my plant killing powers are legendary. 
Garden or house makes no difference.

I have always had a garden until 3 years ago when I moved into my town house and for the most part enjoyed it. 
I am creative, I can plan out, visualise, colour scheme and shape, I have a good knowledge of plants, and I love a good garden centre but keeping them alive? Not so much. 
I used to do all the planning and planting in our herbaceous borders but after my knee operation left me unable to kneel I found it difficult and I retired to my decking where I took a more managerial role, delegating to my Mum and then Mother in Law.

My problem is remembering to tend them after so lovingly planting them. I'm OCD but ADD which means my attention to detail is second to none but my attention span is rubbish.

It is something my sister is good at and I am not. She is most attentive to her herb and tomato container garden in a way that brings shame on me. 
Nurturing children and giving them strong roots is clearly my forte, same principles I suppose, love, attention, good food and water but I lack the ability to transfer those principles to plants. 
I start off with the best of intentions but I am a shocker for forgetting to water them then panicking and over watering them.
It is feast or famine in my house, survival of the hardiest! 

For example, Mum bought Jo and I a succulent each for Easter which we both put in our respective bathrooms. Mine lasted a few weeks until it turned to pulp. 
My sister was laughing at me and when I was at hers the following weekend I admired her still as good as the day she got it plant perched nicely by her sink.  The next day she rang me and announced that me just being in the same room as it had given hers the kiss of death just 24 hrs that is quite a skill.

Somewhere up there God is shaking his head and thanking himself that I don't have a garden anymore to continue to bi annually sacrifice foliage and flower.
Saying that I really do miss the pleasure of sitting in a garden, reading a book, sipping a cocktail, BBQs and nighttime stargazing. 
*Friends with gardens note, please invite me to come round and share yours more, I promise not to touch anything.

So, I am the owner of a one pot container garden by my front door. 
My last offering, a sunflower has bitten the dust, not I might add by my own hand this time but by a family of snails that moved in and found it most delectable.

I said to my sister this morning that I was thinking about getting a plastic plant to put in it but she told me "that's just defeatist!" and so off I trundled to Homebase and then round to Mums to plant it up.
It looks lovely don't you think? 
How long it will stay looking lovely is anyone's guess.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Love letters

The art of letter writing in this day and age of computers, smart phones and i everything seems to be long out of fashion.
I've always loved to write. As a child I wrote reems of imaginative stories and letters. I wrote back and forth to my cousin Alison in Durham, I wrote to a friend in India and I had pen pals in France and Germany. But it was in young adulthood that I began to exchange letters with my Grandmother.

As a teenager I used to hop on the bus to Gypsy Corner and visit Grandma and Alec. I loved that house, I have the fondest memories of staying over in the school holidays with my sister. 
Grandma cooking, always cooking (it's no wonder Jo and I are such foodies, she was a superb cook) while Alec watched cricket in the front room. 
I vividly remember the garden and the magnificent greenhouse where I was permitted to pluck juicy ripe tomatoes which were then ritually cut into quarters, sprinkled liberally with salt and I would sit out on the lawn in the summer sunshine and enjoy. 
I had a very happy childhood they were halcyon days.

They were avid gardeners and in their quest for green fingered perfection ( clearly not a gene I inherited as I kill every plant I own) they found a beautiful bungalow in Dorset with a huge surrounding plot of land and re located in the late  80s which is when our correspondence really got started.
We always wrote the customary thank you letters at Christmas and birthdays but they progressed into newsy letters about school, first jobs, aspirations,  first loves, relationship advice, She often called me a ninny! Holiday plans when I went to visit them and do the touristy Thomas Hardy stuff, berations when I forgot to call. 
As I married and had children there was advice and recipes. She was always so proud of us all and loved to hear about her Great Grandchildren. As she got older it became a lifeline to the outside world as visits from us were not that frequent as far away.

I have kept lots of them, I wish I'd kept them all. I didn't realise how much they would become to mean to me. 
A record of the past, of the young girl I was and the woman I've become, shaped by the love of my family. 

A few years ago, Grandma had a fall and ended up in hospital. Alec, feeling alone and vulnerable and knowing time was quickly running out wrote a love letter to her. A poem. It is very touching.
He never gave it to her, we found it on his computer after he passed away. She is now 103yrs 7 months and in the words of my friend Minal "a legend" and is still with us but her time is also running out. 
I am so glad I have them, a time capsule in a shoe box.

No one writes love letters any more....Burton and Taylor, Churchill and Clemintine,......and now I can add Alec and Millicent to that list. The world needs more love letters I think.

Millie has been blessed with a long life, happily without major illness & I feel fortunate to have known her and shared so many years with her. But now I know that if the day comes when I should  lose her, my heart would be so full of memories, not just of what she did or tried to do for me, but of her companionship and love, that I should not be able to speak my thoughts at that final time so I put some pen to paper while I could.

My Millie

The many years I shared with you
Are ones I'll always treasure,
For they were the happiest, 
And gave the most pleasure

But time will never be the same
Without you here beside me,
Without your ever-loving hand
To point the way and guide me

The days to come will be without
Your sun to light my days,
Without the care you always showed
In - oh! so many ways

In life I loved you dearly,
In death I love you still;
For you still hold that special place 
That no one else can fill

We always knew the day would come
When we must be apart.
When one must go & one must stay
With just a heavy heart

So now we all must let you go
And seek somewhere to find,
Some way - but what- to fill the gap
Your going leaves behind

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Fly baby girl


From even before I held her in my arms over 23yrs ago she owned my heart. 
My first born. My girl.
Beth was an enfant terrible to be fair.....she was a screaming, demanding, feisty ball of determination from the get go. Fierce as hell and smart. A head full of curls and a temper too. Some kids need to be dragged along and some know where they are going and she was definitely in the 2nd camp.

Tomorrow she starts a new adventure. 
Her boarding pass is downloaded and her suitcase is packed. She is off to Upstate New York to work at Camp Long Lake for the summer. 4 long months away from home.

I feel as nervous as I did when she left for her first Brownie Camp or PGL but I am also so excited for her. She has my love of travel and adventure and I know she is going to have the most AMAZING time and will learn so much and make friends for life. 
It feels like the beginning of something new and wonderful for her.

Beth and I are very close, closer than a lot of mothers and daughters. 
We've been through a lot as a family and circumstances have meant the last few years we have shared a room together. 
We laugh all the time, but I also push and nag and support her in everything that she does to make her the very best that she can be.  
She has little common sense at times but she is hardworking like you wouldn't believe and loyal and kind and true. 
Since the age of 7yrs she has known what she wanted to do career wise and last year she graduated from Wimbledon with a BA Hons in Costume Interpretation. This next step is a continuation of her dream and I hope it brings nothing but good things for her future.

I am as proud as proud can be of my little girl ( I can still call her my little girl, she is only 4ft11" ) and I am going to miss her terribly but I hope she throws herself in wholeheartedly, feet first and gets involved. Work hard, play hard, that's my mantra. 
It is going to be a life changing adventure that she will remember forever.
When her Uni friend first mentioned it to her she had just split up with her boyfriend and I said just do it! You will never ever have this opportunity again. Life will take over and you will get tied down so just do it! 
It wont disappoint. 
I so admire her bravery and her belief in herself. Little girl, the world is yours for the taking.

Things I will not miss:
Her messiness
Her weird food habits (Mrs Cropley) 
Her snoring

Things I will miss:
Her laugh
Her daft Bethisms
Her hilarious tv commentary

I will have free reign of my double bed, I'm looking forward to early nights and reading in bed again and free reign of her wardrobe. I borrow her clothes all the time so this won't be news to her anyway.
But still......September seems such a long time away.

I selfishly thank God for technology, FaceTime, messenger and Skype will be a lifeline.
I hope that the next few months fly for me and that she is home again soon. 
For her I pray she keeps safe and that she is happy. 
That's about all any mother wants for their child isn't it?

Monday, 2 May 2016

Do we ever really leave High School?

I'd lay money that if we revisited these characters in later life they would have reverted to type as adults. So, do we ever really leave High School behind?
I bet that if you look around the people in your life you can pretty much work out who was in which clique but today it is bullies that are on my mind.

Yesterday an on line friend was being harassed by a nasty little troll and it really upset me. I see it all the time on Facebook, especially on the F1 sites which I admin. Little keyboard warriors with Napoleon complexes spouting their bile. Anyone can be brave behind a computer screen!
Worse than that I see it in real life too, at work, in the street and I am the victim of it at the moment.

All bullies are insecure and most are jealous of what they perceive you to be or have. Many of them have been victims of bullying themselves in the past.
It can take the form of ignoring, harassment, spreading rumour and lies, bad mouthing you behind your back to others to get them on their side, and in some cases, verbal or physical abuse. Nothing short of playground politics.
Have no doubt though, they feel threatened by you and bullying makes them feel that they have control of the situation but how you handle them will determine that in the end.

I fell out with someone a while back, it was our business and I've kept it to myself, I don't make a habit of bitching about people behind their backs but people do love to get involved.
So I continue to hold my head up with quiet dignity, they will not get the better of me and they will not stop me from doing what I love. They have a very high opinion of themselves and ultimately their behaviour will
reflect badly on them.  I don't need to do a damned thing but sit back and watch karma take its course.

Worse than the bullies in my mind though are the accomplices, those that bully indirectly by enabling the bully, laughing with them at their meanness and joining in, or just plain turning a blind eye, not having the balls to take a stand when they know what the other person is doing is wrong.
It's cowardly.
It's not how I was brought up. I was taught to stand up for others and not to sit back and watch people being belittled or humiliated. To treat others with the kindness and respect that I would like to be treated.
So, we have a choice in these situations to stand up and be counted or to be morally vacant.

It is a sad old world we live in that people would rather sit back and judge without being in receipt of all the facts.

Friday, 25 March 2016

For the love of food!


What a lovely way to spend Good Friday, being ridiculously spoilt by my sister who bought Glen and I vouchers for a Gastro tour of Borough Market for our birthdays.
The tour is run by Celia Brooks ( ) an American author and tv chef who has lived here in London for over 20 yrs.
Borough Market is an amazing place for anyone that loves food. I've been here a few times now.
It is nestled under the shadow of London Bridge and Southwark Catherderal and is a buzzing and vibrant place to be, you are assaulted from every angle by the noise of hustle and bustle and deliciously delightful smells in the air.
The market itself has been there in one form or another since the 11th century and in the 13th century it relocated to its current position where it has remained ever since. 
In 1755 it was closed by Parliment but the Southwark residents joined together and raised £6,000 to buy a plot of land called the triangle, once the courtyard of St Margarets Church where they opened the market in 1756.
Today it is a haven for the very best British and international produce, very niche and providing exceptional quality and provenance. It hosts 100 individual stalls and is now run by a charitable trust. The pitches are like gold dust and to get one they have to prove that their produce is of the very highest standard but the trust only charges them £50 a day.

So, our tour started with a meet and greet at Rabot 1745 ( Hotel Chocolat ) where Celia introduced herself over coffee and pastries. There were 12 of us on the tour including a family from America.
Our first stop on the tour was at The Exotic Meat Co which I was already familiar with as I buy Ostrich steak from them, one of my sons favourites.  We sampled the crocodile burger which was a first for me and unexpectedly tasty.
We moved on to New Forest Cider, a bit early for me and cider not really my thing but Glen enjoyed it.
We sampled a carrot dipping salad, olives and assorted Turkish delight ( not something I'm very fond of especially the Rose flavoured ones but I ended up with mint which was unusual) at the Turkish deli before moving on to Northfield farm where we had the most amazing beef skirt, lamb and pork, cooked to perfection. It always amazes me to eat something of such superior quality than you are used to on a daily basis. You really can taste the difference and appreciate the extra cost involved.
We moved on to Shellseekers where we sampled hand dived scallops fresh from the south coast and then on to Brindisa, Italian deli and Jo's happy place. She and Glen went to ham school there and learnt how to carve the Iberico. The lads serving us have to taste each new ham and out of the hundreds they have sampled they said today's was possibly the best they had ever tasted so we really had a treat!
Then back outside to the street food stalls. Egyptian Koshari, a street dish of rice, lentils, vermicelli, spicy tomato sauce caramelised onions and chickpeas. Delicious followed by Khanom Krok at a Thai stall which are little coconut puddings. A mouthful of heaven.
These are just the highlights, we also sampled, olives, Balsamic pearls, liquorice, mushroom pate and lots of lovely cheeses amongst other things before finishing up in Bedales for a little wine tasting, a white Colombard and a very nice Rioja and some more bread, cheese and chacuterie.
Celia was delightful, bubbly and passionate, she knew the stall holders and families and had a great knowledge of the market and the foods and their provenance.
From there we said our goodbyes and waddled off to the tube station and back to Bond Street where we fell into a pub and had another bottle of Colombard!
It occurred to me that this would possibly be the most perfect date ever if you need some inspiration! Seriously though, if you have never been to Borough and would like to, let me know and I will take you, everyone should go at least once.
Don't worry, it doesn't have to be a date and I can give you a free tour!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

1 in 3

1 in 3 - That's quite a scary statistic isn't it?
I was driving today and Susan Vega's "My name is Luka" came on the radio. I haven't heard it for years but as I listened to the words a tear rolled down my cheek. It put me in a very reflective mood.

I should have known at the style of my husbands proposal to run a mile! Not, will you marry me but " how do you feel about a joint bank account?" It was the first sign of the control he would continue to exert over the next 25 years. I was 18yrs old.
A joint bank account ensured that while I was at home raising our family ( he didn't want me to work ) he could control me financially. I would have to ask him for money or to sign a cheque to pay for something. He also chose where we went on holiday, what we bought, how we decorated the house etc I didn't even know how to switch the heating on. My sister and my Dad set up a secret bank account in which they deposited money every month so I had a little grace from going cap in hand to him.
When I went back to college (paid for by my Dad) and started working part time he was not happy at all and it was the beginnings of me breaking free. In the last 5 years we were living pretty much separate lives as I carved one out for myself and the anger and emotional abuse became worse as he felt all control slipping away as I became stronger in myself. It was utterly miserable.

I assume family and friends had an inkling of how unhappy things were but it was not something we really talked about much.
I remember once walking down the high street from the station to Mum and Dads for some gathering and we were arguing and he pushed me to the floor in the middle of the street in broad daylight. No one stopped, everyone looks away when these things happen. I arrived at Mum and Dads with a big smile on my face and bruises elsewhere and no one would have had a clue. 
Shame is the keeper of secrets.

Domestic Abuse affects the whole family though. My children were victims ( I hate that word ) too.
Countless times he had Luke by the throat up against the wall screaming and spitting in his face. 
Then there was the time in a rage he smashed Beth's ceiling light in plunging us into darkness, glass all over her bed and the floor before he went and got his air pistol out and threatened us with it. That was the 2nd time I fled to my parents house. I should have stayed.
Then in 2010 I got cancer and it was my saviour. Over the next few years I re evaluated my life completely. I discovered I couldn't do it any more. I couldn't put up with the neglect and intimidation, the cruel things he would say to us. I couldn't bear the thought of any more years of humiliation and sadness and the thought of what it was doing to my kids. 
By the end he had no respect at all and would disappear for days without any contact, he was having an affair, there were drugs involved for years too.
I found my strength and my sister gave me the financial support I needed to be able to leave, divorce him and move on. 
I don't always feel very strong, years of being told and shown you are worthless take their toll and eat away at your self confidence but I am getting there. 
I love my life and I have an army of the most loyal, trustworthy and generous friends and family around me who give me unwavering guidance, support, love and patience.
My children are as much my anchor as I am theirs and I am immensely proud of the adults they have become.

I am not airing my dirty laundry in public to gain sympathy - I do not want your pity. I don't need it and it serves no purpose but the truth is 1 in 3
1 in 3 of your friends, of your circle. 1 in 3 who will hide it just as well as I did and who die a little bit more every day inside, 1 in 3 who won't talk about it. 
So I will talk about it.

My blog was only ever really for me, to indulge in my love of writing and to make sense of my thoughts and feelings and my world from the inside out.
Free therapy!!!
But if I can make you think for a moment - well that's good too if it has a positive impact. 
Is there someone you could reach out to?

Definition of Domestic Abuse.
Physical/ Sexual/ Emotional/ financial/ psychological

Control : To make a person subordinate and dependent by isolating them from sources of support, depriving them of independence and regulating their every day behaviour.

Coercive Behaviour : To control by threats, assault, humiliation, intimidation or any abuse used to punish or frighten their victim. 

Reasons people stay : Fear, financial reliance, children, guilt, shame.


Mothering Sunday was originally observed by the Catholic and Protestant Christians in the 16th century and it falls on the 4th Sunday of Lent when people returned to their Mothering Church which was either the church they were baptised in or the local parish church or cathederal. Anyone who did this was said to have gone "a Mothering"
In later years it became a day when domestic staff were given the day off to visit their mother church usually with their own mothers and family. Children who were in service were also given the day off  and would pick wild flowers along the way to present at the church or give to their mothers which in turn became the secular tradition of giving a gift to honour Mothers on Mother's Day.

I am a Mother, a daughter and a God Mother and honorary Auntie.
It's the best job and the toughest gig in the world rolled in to one.
My love for my children is un ending, irreversible and un conditional.
I don't always get it right, kids don't come with a rule book and I've pretty much winged it a lot of the time. There have been tears and tantrums (theirs and mine) but mostly lots of love and laughter. 
Everything I've done and do is from the heart and has been since their heartbeat was contained within my own body.
To carry a child within your womb is a magical thing but by no means the be all of Mothering.

I have friends who have adopted and fostered children and the love they share is no different. 
Being a Mother is about care and love and nurture. It's not about being your child's friend ( although if you get it right it can happen) it's about showing up, making the tough decisions, putting them foremost at all times. It's about guiding this precious little bundle so full of promise to achieve their full potential and releasing them into the world to repeat the pattern.
I come from a strong line of matriarchs. My Grandmothers and my Mother have taught me how to love and be loved. They have shared their knowledge, strength and love and I am blessed.

So Mothers I salute you all.

My girlfriends who are all doing an amazing job, (Kerry, Satinder, Diane, Loretta, Mandy, Lisa, Claire, Caroline, Claire) raising beautiful children, sometimes on their own with little support (Bev, Linds, Em) some with children who have challenging needs  (Rabiyah, Sally, Claire, Angie, Gillian) those that are bringing up other people's children (Marion, Katie) those Mums struggling with illness and difficult times at the moment, (Jo, Claire)  those that have babies in heaven or still to become great Mums ( Rachael, Megan, Natalie) those who are pregnant and just beginning their journey, (Jenni)  my cousin Carrie who has just brought a new baby into our family, the Aunties (Jo ) and teachers (Minal, Anna) out there, you are all applauded.

It takes a whole village to raise a child
Nigerian Proverb

Sunday, 21 February 2016

72 hours

After a sedate start to half term spent doing odd jobs, seeing my God Daughters and taking Satinders children, Himmat and Anmol out to the cinema Friday arrived and launched me into a weekend of fun.
What started out as a keep it simple surprise girls night in for Satinders 40th with a Sophisticated Wine Tasting with Pieroth ended up with cocktails, cowboy hats and naked butlers! Finished off with lovely homemade Indian food from Laddi and a fabulous cake made by Chang. So much fun though. I left at 2am and it was still in full swing. 
So it was a somewhat paler than usual( yes it is possible, remarkably) and jaded Emma that met Jo and Glen at Marylebone to catch the 12.40 to Birmingham Snow Hill on Saturday morning. Still, armed with coffee from Valerie's and an M&S sandwich we boarded the train where we proceeded to open a very nice bottle of Champagne. The kill or cure method of hangover picked me up somewhat and I didn't even get a snooze on the train. We had a short walk on arrival to our Air B&B 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom flat right above the restaurant.
We took a bit of a wander to see the library and came back to have a rest and get ready for our evening out. 
As I've mentioned before my very generous sister takes Glen and I out for a fine dining meal every year and this year we were dining at (Glynn)  Purnell's, 1 Michelin*
We were greeted and seated in the living room, choosing to sit and have a drink before going to our table. We were booked to have the Brummie Tapas tasting menu and while we were having our drinks we were given the menu to peruse and asked if we had any questions. Trust me to ask the question that sent them into a spin and highlighted that one of the dishes had been slightly changed, off they went to re print the menu. I never did find out what an Albufeira sauce was, I'd only asked as we used to holiday there as children but it turned out with its change to sauce, to be my favourite course of the evening!!!
We started with Lime spiced potatoes with mayonnaise. OMG who knew lime and potatoes would go so well together?  Little balls of heaven. I was still dreaming about them as I went to sleep.
Followed by Bread and butter.....not any old bread and butter, it was baked with a black treacle and it was floaty light. In fact we were given 2 loaves to take home with us.
Next was a Beetroot mousse with horseradish crumble - salted beetroot. Lovely, but my least favourite course.
Next up was the much awaited Monkfish Masala from The Great British menu which was Jos favourite dish of the evening. It was outstanding.
Then my favourite, Loin of (Rose) Veal with Bordelaise, pomme dauphinois and black truffle. Despite the fact I am not overly keen on truffle this was heaven on a plate for me. Rich sauce made with stock and bone marrow and the meat was divine.
Then the deserts......Burnt English custard egg surprise, another GBM dish which scored Glynn 10,10,10 with a winter Rhubarb Trifle. The egg was everything you could wish for in a desert, the trifle was so tart that you couldn't make out most of the other flavours except for a hint of ginger but both gorgeous.
Then the table showstopper Mint choccy chip which was frozen at the table in front of us with liquid nitrogen. Impressive and tasted just like a frozen mint aero!
With the dining experience we had chosen each dish was brought to the table by the chef that had prepared it and they explained the dish to us which was a really nice touch. All the staff were fab.
The pastry chef then brought out a special Birthday dessert ( I wish I was 20yrs old! ) which was beautiful. We never did work out what the pink filling was but the pastry was the thinnest, crispiest, almondy perfection!
The space itself was beautiful, quirky and retro. The walk to the bathrooms was a bit rainforest cafe with jungle wallpaper and piped birdsong and you had to walk down a corridor watching yourself in a huge mirror accompanied by the harshest lighting. I looked like I'd gained a stone which possibly I had by the end of the evening! There was also a floor to ceiling window into the kitchen which was a bit......daunting? You wanted to have a peek but felt a bit naughty school girlish ( not completely foreign territory for me ) what do you do if they look up and catch your eye??? Smile and wave or blush and dash off? I did spy Glynn himself in there but thankfully it was Jo who tested the theory when Sonal and the pastry chef looked up and pointed at her! It was a shame Glynn didn't come out and say hello to his guests though. 
Sonal Clare (local boy done good from Ealing) the restaurant manager was exceptional. Attentive and friendly striking just the right balance. The sommelier didn't seem to work the living room just the main restaurant but Sonal asked us what we liked and came up with some new wines for us to try which were all perfect. All in all one of the nicest dining experiences we have had by far.
The next morning turned out not to be quite as leisurely as planned when pur train was cancelled and we had to find an alternative and longer route home. We had lunch planned at The Ivy cafe in Marylebone with a table booked for 2pm but we stepped off the train, into a black cab and arrived on the nose!
I am feeling a bit weary now liver is screaming GO BACK TO WORK AND EAT A F***ING SALAD WOMAN!!
I am getting to old for this.....oh no wait....I'm only 20!