Something other than chocolate.

I know, I know – “is there anything else other than chocolate?” Chocolate has a peculiar hold over the female of our species and at times there really is nothing else that will do. But the chocolate fest that is about to descend, may have you wishing that there was another food group available.

So if you are looking for something else to serve over Easter, that is not of the chocolate persuasion, why not try this Rhubarb Meringue Pie. It’s seasonal, looks amazing and it has fruit in it so must count towards your five a day! Oh yes and it’s really yummy too. In fact it’s sooo yummy I’m beginning to feel a little inferior, perhaps I’d better go and put on some lipstick.

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How was it for you? Mother’s Day that is.

I’m sorry to say that I was a grumpy, old baggage, and it was not from lack of attention or gifts. Mr B had brilliantly ‘assisted’ Miss B with buying Mummy three months subscription to Spotify Premium (I was down to my last few hours and was getting nervous). And then Mr B cooked a very delicious slow roast lamb for lunch. Oh yeah, and he also took the dog out for a walk twice, cooked breakfast, Miss B’s tea and our supper.

However, a grumpy Pootle like mist was following me around, finally forming into a cloud when Mr B, leaving for dog walk number one, found me standing by the front door, head stuck in The Sunday Times Style supplement. “Remember you have a child,” he called out. My response was rather extreme, as they tend to be when you press each other’s buttons. Thing is, I was engrossed in an article about mothering guilt and the lack of time and attention we devote to our children because we’re too busy doing, well… stuff like this. So there I was still in my pyjama’s, stranded on a day of maternal celebration, in a deluge of guilt and feeling like a complete fraud.

The squall passed. Mr B returned and he cooked an absolutely beautiful lunch, with the most spectacular roast potatoes. But the thing is, that’s what I do: bustle about the kitchen, glass of wine in hand, saying, “No thanks,” to help, but “Yes please,” to company. I don’t feel like I do much these days to gain a sense of achievement or earn public accolades, and basically my ego needs the attention of Sunday lunch. So not only a fraud but a redundant fraud. “Boo, hoo,” I hear you cry, “poor you!” Anyway, even I could see from the depths of my pityfest, that I was being ungrateful. But the cloud would not lift. So following a final, exhausting bedtime battle with Miss B, I thought I should seek professional help.

At stormy moments like these, Deepak Chopra never disappoints me.  The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents is a sanctuary. It describes how you can bring the Seven Laws into everyday day life by attributing a day to each law. Hoping, as Scarlet O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day”, I turned to Monday:

“ Monday is the day of Giving – Today we tell our children,
‘If you want to get something, give it’ ”.

I urge you to read it.

After an absorbing few minutes, I began to realise the source of my cloud. Giving and receiving are part of the same process, it is about flow. When I act selfishly and try to hoard my time/attention, I stop the flow. Miss B then feels the lack and wants more attention and I want more time. We both end up grumpy and I feel guilty. Put simply if I want to get more time, I have to give more time, something which the article I was ‘trying’ to read discussed.

So much for the guilt, now to the ingratitude.

“If it is more blessed to give than receive, it is much harder
to receive than give. We receive ungraciously out of pride,
feeing that we don’t need anyone’s help, handouts, or charity,
or out of some sense of discomfort.”

I definitely felt that I didn’t deserve praise and my ego didn’t want to let go ‘my thing’. But if you want to go with the flow, you have to let go (don’t think that will catch on as a mantra but you now what I mean). So maybe Mr B, would like to do some more Sunday lunches? You’re very good at it and I promise I’ll be more gracious!

So Monday morning dawned frosty and bright and brand new. I sat on Miss B’s bed and listened to her patiently, as she hopped around her bedroom – not getting dressed, telling me about the “noise with big teeth” in her dream. When attempting to brush her  hair, I did not respond to the shrieks and shouts with shrieks and shouts. I simply said I was giving her my patience today and could she be patient too – hair was brushed, in a ponytail and has a clip in it. And as we were walking to playgroup across the field, I didn’t once say, “Hurry up or we’ll be late.”  Just, “Isn’t it a beautiful morning.” To which Miss B replied, “Yes, the birds are singing and Mummy isn’t grumpy”.

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Filed under Child, Depak Chopra, Drinking, Eating, Husband, Identity, Motherhood, Patience, Shouting, Tantrums, The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents

Is it time I did the washing up?

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I’m the Mummy or The Bracelet of Power

“I’m the Mummy.”

“No, I’m the Mummy.”

“No, I’m the Mummy.”

“No, I AM the Mummy.”

“But I’m wearing The Bracelet.”

“Oh, so you are. May I have it back please.”

“No (big sigh) because I’m the Mummy now.”

A seemingly normal bath time battle at the Muddy End. But I hadn’t realised that Miss B had become so corrupted by the allure of Motherhood or that she had in fact,  turned into Gollum. The similarities are obvious now: small, feisty, peculiar turn of phrase, obscenely strong grip on jewellery which isn’t hers! Tolkien’s Sauron had “one ring to rule them all”, well clearly at the Muddy End, there is one bracelet.

Now, said Bracelet of Power, is a chunky, silver snake thing, that That Sort of Mother  used to wear until I, rather like Miss B, insisted that I try it on. Now, That Sort Of Mother is far more bountiful and gracious than I am, and insisted that I keep it. And on my wrist it has stayed, only removed for bath time duties when it might actually inflict injury. It has become a part of me and as far as Miss B is concerned, it is a signifier of Motherhood, part of my robes of state.

As children, the details of our mothers’ person and belongings are so well known to us that they have a  powerful effect even into adulthood. The often bandied phrase ‘sentimental value’ communicates nothing of the deep sense of identity and connection that these objects hold. Talking to That Sort Of Mother about this, we began to remember with startling detail, Great Granny’s hands – her long capable fingers with chipped coral nail varnish and the trace of ericaceous compost that seemed permanently to line her cuticles. And on her wrist, her charm bracelet.

Now, that bracelet held power, as a recent family confession session made clear. Apparently, one quiet afternoon, when Great Granny was otherwise occupied, my two older cousins took the bracelet from her dressing table to have a better look at all the little wonders: the windmill, the man in the sombrero, the golden compass (not of Philip Pullman fame but almost equally mysterious to us). Having carefully detached them, they realised with horror that they couldn’t get them back on. Children’s logic being rather like that of politicians, when they became panicked by the threat of discovery and disapproval, they hid the many charms around the house. Of course their crime was discovered but not all the charms and as Galadriel would say: “some things that should not have been forgotten…were lost.”

So to this day, hidden under the grandfather clock or perhaps in the lining of the nursery curtains, they are still waiting to be found, probably by another child looking for a place to hide their Precious.

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Do you wear your gingham heart on your sleeve?

Yesterday was very exciting. I left the Muddy End in a blaze of sunshine, depositing Miss B with kindly grandparents and Dog B with helpful neighbours (thanks again Mrs G!), and got myself on a train to London – a little ironically to go to the Country Living Spring Fair.

Now this sort of thing is not normal Muddy End territory, for several reasons. Contrary to what Mr B may think, I don’t really enjoy shopping (don’t spit your latte all over your keyboard Mr B). I get very bored seeing the same old stuff everywhere and when I do see things I like, I don’t have the spare cash to shop without actual need. And well, to be honest I’m not really a gingham heart sort of girl, in case you hadn’t noticed – Miss B does not scamper bare foot through orchards, wearing unfeasibly clean Liberty prints, while rare breed chickens peck pleasingly in the foreground. Because that dear reader, and I hate to disillusion you, is a myth and not at all what life is like here at the muddy end of the lane. However, I’m not adverse to a harmless bit of window shopping, so having left  behind the blossom and birdsong of Hampshire, I found myself amongst the bustle and buses of Upper Street, at the Business Design Centre.

There was bunting and gingham, tea cups and cup cakes, hounds and hares, lacy dresses and cashmere cardies, hand-died organic garden twine and all the stuff you’d expect to see and the names you know. But nestling amongst the jaunty, gingham hearts, there was sense of longing, not just for the stuff, but for what it suggests – “if I own this hand-printed, woodblock tea towel I am a thoughtful home maker – I am a good mother.”

The lure of  ‘vintage’ and ‘hand crafted’ is that it takes time and effort to find or make, things that are in pretty short supply these days, particularly amongst knackered, harassed mothers. However, the pseudo stuff can be purchased on every high street or in one click on the internet –  all the gain without the pain or smell of charity shops. It is not hard then to see why the Cult of Kidston has arisen amongst us. When you  feel guilty that you are not making Annabel Karmel’s fish pie from scratch or hand crafting cupcakes with your toddler, all you have to do is put on your Cath Kidston apron and you’ll instantly feel better about  shoving some fish fingers in the oven. Here I have to admit to owning book, apron and boxes of fish fingers.

So to answer my own question, while you’ll never find me wearing a gingham heart on my sleeve, I fear there might be a blue and white spotted one hidden beneath my cashmere cardie.

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I’m Back – New and Improved …Well Almost

Spring Sunshine

Previously at the Muddy End of The Lane:

Mrs B (aka Moi) was stuck in the mud of Mummyhood. Mr B was huffing (and wheezing) at the levels of dust, dog hair and discarded lego. Miss B was 2 and Dog B was shiny, handsome and charming.

Forgive me Reader, it’s been a year since my last blog. I would like to say that I’ve been somewhere terribly exotic, out of reach of Wifi or soaking up the cultural influences and drinking coffee in smoke filled European cafes. But I haven’t. I’ve been here, drinking coffee – yes, soaking up cultural influences – not so much. However, life does not stand still, even in our quiet backwater, and things have moved on. Miss B is now 3 and at playgroup. We have a cleaner and there’s definitely less huffing going on.

As has been mentioned elsewhere on this blog, my level of cleanliness is not next to godliness. I’m more agnostic about it than a downright atheist, but this lack of faith has led in the past to some hot words with Mr B, who is without doubt a true believer. However, providence has intervened and we have now acquired a cleaner, who is indeed heaven sent. So with the house slowly gaining some order, it is time to turn inward and clean up MY act. Yes, dear reader I am attempting Detox.

Now these have been attempted in the past without huge success. But having stumbled across the Clean Program, it seemed to promise the answer to all my prayers and should be given a try. If you haven’t heard of it, it is the Detox preferred by Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore. I won’t go into the minutiae here, save to say that it is ‘doable’:  for 3 weeks you cut out booze/coffee/wheat/dairy/sugar. You get to eat a reasonably normal lunch and breakfast and supper are a smoothy or a soup. The keys are to leave 12 hours between supper and breakfast and to support digestion/elimination processes with easily available supplements and simple practices like body brushing.

Now all this dietary stuff is all well and good but what I have found really helpful are Dr Junger’s (he who created the Clean Program) insights on hunger and “Quantum Detoxing”. We seldom seem to listen to our bodies. What we interpret as hunger is often a ‘need’ for something else: comfort, creativity, change of scene. Reaching for the French Fancies, when one of these emotions crops up means we don’t deal with the emotion, we become addicted to the sugar high and oh yes, it also makes us fat.

Now, I’ve been listening to my ‘hunger’ for the last few weeks and it is very interesting. It’s given me the opportunity to look at my emotions from a different perspective. So when I have been feeling bored or claustrophobic I’ve been listening to music instead, something I haven’t really done for years. I’ve made up a new play list on Spotify entitled “Cabin Fever” and rather than reaching for those pastel coloured sweet nothings, I’ve been pressing play on the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”.  And the results: 6lbs lighter, clearer less puffy skin and better mood – although there is a portrait of me in the attic with spots and particularly capacious eye bags.

So I can now lay aside my doubts. I am a convert. Spring cleaning be it internal or external is good for mind, body and soul even if it does lead you into a pact with the Devil.

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The Joy of Mud

Our Hero

Things seem to have been particularly muddy this month. Rain, sleet and snow and all that increased farming activity preparing for spring (how dare they!), mean that the track along The Field now threatens to remove your boots with each step. Dog B seems pretty happy about it all and trots, skips and sniffs his way along most merrily, while I pick my way, determined not come a’cropper and trying not to be late for picking up Miss B from her child minder. But apart from all the eponymous mud out and about, things have not been clear for me – internally.

I started to write this blog to help give me some perspective on life here and as a place where I could talk about all those daily doings and insights which will just not fit into the ‘proper writing’ – when it happens. But events great (potty training) and events small (jam tarts) get in the way and The Way has not been clear to me anyway (too many ways?). And in fact, now that I’m here, I’m not sure how I got here or why I am here at all… which leads me into an interesting quote I came across recently:

People say that what we are all seeking is the meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell, in an interview with Bill Moyers.

The quote was in a book leant to me by That Sort of Mother and is about Soul Retrieval – the shamanic healing practice, by which we can be restored to our full selves, rather than live with the sense that there is some part of ourselves missing. All of which is very interesting to me and possibly to you too if you didn’t stop reading at “shamanic healing practice”. Now, to return to the quote itself, which was the main reason for this little existential sniff along this very muddy blog, for those of you who do not know, Joseph Campbell had a theory – The Monomyth. All around the world, for thousands of years, we have been telling the same story about the hero and his journey – from obscurity, through trials to triumph, and in telling this story to each other we gain some understanding and perspective on our lives – kind of like what I’m trying to do here, just on, you know, a seminal level. Anyway my point, yes I do have one, is that we should follow Dog B’s example and experience the joy of mud and being alive, rather than spending our lives bound between by our fear of failure and the Herculean tasks of our To Do Lists.

Pheww, that feels better, back on solid ground now and away to try and upload some photos.

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