Monthly Archives: January 2010

Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Thanks to the readers who donated to Bloggers for Haiti. We have now reached eight times the original target to send one Shelterbox out to the survivors of the earthquake –  it would be brilliant if we make that ten. It will take a very long time to fix Haiti, so if you haven’t already donated, please click here.

Tom continues to say really cute things. Take last week: I told him about Haiti in the most basic way possible. The following day, he was watching telly while I made the tea. He insists he’s too old for Cbeebies now and has learnt how to turn over to CBBC. It’s mainly a lot of precocious kids on there but there’s also Newsround and that’s what was on when I walked in the front room.

“Are these the people whose houses fell down?” he pointed at a report from Haiti.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Oh. They can’t eat breakfast or colour in or eat tea or play with their toys. Can we send them our house please?”

I know it’s twee but he really does make me proud. I thought of this the other day as I stood in a long queue in Primark, listening to the unfeasible amount of screaming babies wriggling in their buggies. I remember shopping there when I was pregnant. I couldn’t afford many good maternity clothes so I had one pair of jeans with a stretchy waistband and used to buy big baggy tops in Primark. I remember walking through there, a load of tops draped over my arms, listening to those wailing kids. I caught sight of myself in a mirror, all pale under the fake yellow light. Huge, bloated, a constant frown on my face. What the hell am I doing? I thought. This is all I’ve got to look forward to.

Yesterday, I found an old notebook. It had notes in it that I wrote when I was pregnant. I don ‘t even remember writing that stuff, I can’t believe how distraught I was. From now on, I’ll just be mopping up baby sick and watching daytime TV. I wrote. One of my friends confessed recently that she was worried about me when I was pregnant because I was the ‘least child-friendly’ person she knew.

Tonight, Tom said “You’re my favourite family person Mum.”

“Thanks. You’re mine.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re ace and I grew you in my tummy.”

“Did you choose me?”

“No. I didn’t choose you and I’m glad you’re such a good boy because I didn’t know you would be and I was frightened.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t think I’d be good at being a Mum.”

“You are really good at being a Mum though!”

“Thanks.”

“You’re my zero family person.”

“Zero?”

“Yeah. Zero comes before one. You’re my best.”

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s loads better than I thought it would be.

Writing about all this soppy love stuff seems like an appropriate time to mention a reading I am doing next month in Preston. Novelist Jenn Ashworth has asked me to read at Word Soup, alongside Joe Stretch, whose take on love is far from soppy. I used to knock about Preston when I was a teenager, so that’ll be strange. Look here…

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The Haiti Post

“The snow… the ice… it’s trecherous! It’s ridiculous!”

This time last week I was still stuck at home with Tom, whose school was apparently still inaccessible. The enchantment of the snow had quickly warn off. Deep piles of bright, powdery stuff had been replaced by a slippery crust that was almost impossible to walk on. Eventually, school reopened on Tuesday and getting there was a tricky choice between slip-sliding along the pavement or walking in the middle of the road, where there was no ice, but a lot of cars.

“I am fed up of winter.” Tom moaned, when I dragged him up from another near-fall. “Whose idea was it to send all this snow?”

“Mother Nature.”

“Who’s she?”

“She’s the lady who decides about the weather.”

“Where does she live?”

“In the sky.” I was chucking out any old answers to his questions as I concentrated on keeping us both upright. “She’s got an office in the sky.”

“Does she sit at a desk?”

“Yeah.”

“Has she got a computer?”

“Yeah, she’s got a big screen with a picture of the world on it and she decides who gets what weather.”

“Well I’m fed up with Mother Nature,” said Tom.

Of course, Mother Nature doesn’t just do weather. I’m pretty sure earthquakes are her department too. So, I and millions of others are really fed up with her because of what happened in Haiti. It breaks my heart when these things happen, as they so often do, to places that are poverty-stricken and helpless. I want to do something, so many of us want to do something.

I am not going to write here today about the banal details of mine and Tom’s lives. January has been a difficult month, but now I realise how trivial all of that is. This blog has a lot of readers. Today, I implore every single one of you to donate to Haiti. Maybe you have been meaning to donate since it happened and are a bit overwhelmed by all the different appeals for aid. Perhaps, like me, you’re skint. If you are, you don’t know true poverty and hopefully your overdraft will allow you a pound or so. Maybe you’ve donated already. If you have, donate again. Go to the Bloggers for Haiti page and follow the easy instructions. It doesn’t take long.

None of us can argue with Mother Nature or undo her work. All we can offer is the smallest of gestures that might help fix Haiti, a task immeasurably greater than digging a school out of the snow.

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My Snowy Twenties

I began the year, like so many others, in a pointless muddle of alcohol that did not signify how I meant to go on.

Something told me not to go out on New Year’s Eve, to avoid the inevitable debauchery and nurse my escalating cough. I wondered whether to stay at home or go and celebrate with Tom and the rest of my family.  I’d made promises though, there were loads of parties to get round, it was going to good.

It wasn’t though, not really. I spent New Years Day stuck to a sofa across Manchester, wearing my party frock, bleary-eyed, longing for my son. I was with good friends, we’d partied all night, it had been fun, but I wanted to see my boy. What was I thinking, spending the beginning of the new year in different city from my son, in different world?

My cough kept me awake all of Sunday night. It was school in the morning. Getting Tom there on time is one of my new year’s resolutions, along with being tidy, starting to be sensible with money, writing more, going to bed and getting up early, ironing Tom’s school uniform and many more. Eventually, I surrendered to my insomnia and put away clothes all night, rubbing my eyes and waiting for Tom to wake.

I felt proud of myself for wrapping us both up and leaving the house on time (even if I had only managed it through not going to sleep.) Tom and I slipped all over the glassy pavements.  We trudged across the crunchy grass in the park.

I love mornings I thought, gazing dreamily at the glistening frost No one else around.


No one else around.

I gazed across the park. There was no glow from the lollipop lady’s flourescent jacket in her usual spot by the main road. Poor Tom moaned at me as he slipped and skidded all the way back home.

“Why didn’t you know school was closed Mum?”

I don’t know. Because I am always stressed out, because the  term dates letter probably fluttered about on the hall rug for a bit then got put out for recycling, because –

“- I’m silly. I’m silly and I’m sorry.”

It would have been nice to enjoy the reprieve and spend the day with Tom, but I was ill. So, he had to colour in while I lay on the couch coughing and dozing.

Then the blizzards came. I knew before I opened my blinds what I would see, because a hush had descended on the street. School was closed again. I felt ill and I was supposed to be working, but Tom was making it difficult with his constant demands to play outside. So, on my lunch break, I found myself in the brightest, deepest snow I have ever seen, making a snow dalek.  Friends arrived and we ran up and down the back alley, pelting each other with powder snowballs, falling to the ground and making snow angels. Rosy-cheeked and breathless, I stood in my slippers cooking homemade soup for Tom’s tea. A world away from the wildness of New Years Eve, but the freshest I’d felt all year and the best beginning to 2010.

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