This school year and certainly the start of 2018 has been tainted by the unavoidable: Our eldest facing the horror of Year 6 secondary school exams. A hideous time and one of the horrible consequences of living in London where there are too many children chasing too few places.
As a parent you can make the decision whether to join the pressure party or take a more fatalistic approach – for many reasons, our choice is the later. But even the choice of a relaxed attitude is not without it’s mental fuck ups: Guilt, doubt, even fear – We chose this school route for them – nobody put a gun to our heads – and when the kids are lining up to go into another exam it’s not easy to stand firm against a serious onslaught of questioning anxiety.
A shining light during this time has been our weekly cold water swims at the open air lido in Tooting. Started at the beginning of September as a conscious way to replicate and appreciate what the kids were going to go through, it was meant as a challenge – could the three of us swim through the year without wetsuits? We’ve watched the saturated colours of summer turn to the stark realisation of winter, leaves turn and mists fall.
We kept going, even when it meant swimming in the sea in October.
Each week is the unspoken question – is this the week we fail?
And each week, as we emerge newly pink it’s like we’ve been fitted with a new coat of bespoke armour ready to face the world: Bulletproof mate, bulletproof.
It’s been a joy, a pleasure, life affirming and life saving.
I swear our blood is a different colour now.
Laters, Kate x
Sometimes it’s the big things that lift a room from the regular: glowing parquet floor, high ceilings, large windows and stunning plasterwork. The oversized mirror ticks the boxes too.
But sometimes it’s the little things like subtle panelling that just catch the eye and jog the memory that can also be tasty.
It’s this train of thought that has influenced plans to elevate the study-renovations-on-a budget: Adding a layer of trim above the skirting boards to suggest height and grandeur, a rectangle of trim on the ceiling to imply cornicing and plasterwork where there is none, simple beading on cupboard doors to give them a sense of age and a box of trim on the wall above my 99p fireplace from Ebay (I jest not) to infer wealth and affluence.
(All pics Pinterest)
Because until you can’t make it. Fake it.
Laters, Kate x
We’re in a little bit of chaos. Our lovely builders who did our kitchen texted on Monday to say ‘we have a slot free starting tomorrow, so would you like us to do all those other little jobs you’ve made a list of?’ Which is great in one way, because we were just about to decorate the study (although we were in that phwoo phwee stage of ‘should we do this just before a Christmas that we’re hosting? It’s going to be tight and I’m not sure if we should lose the present cupboard just yet’)…Except they will help make the study really special by fitting the fireplace, making new shelves and giving us the kick up the backside to get started. It was panic stations yesterday.
It’s all cleared now. And the spare room looks like a reclamation yard again. Which is a shame…
Because that’s where we’ll be sleeping for a while as the family bathroom suite is now in our bedroom…another one of those ‘little’ jobs on the list is to replace the bathroom floor. We converted the bathroom from a bedroom eleven years ago and whilst most of it has stood the test of time – I still love the Cole & Son wallpaper – the floor hasn’t. It looks tired and because the house is old, tiles have cracked so it’s farewell horrible floor, you’ll not be missed. And hello wooden floor when you come! Yup, as a huge fan of my wooden floor in the kitchen – best decision EVER. We’ve made the potentially impractical decision of having similar herringbone parquet but on a smaller scale in the bathroom. Except the kids are now older and to be honest…and boats are made of wood…..and the joy of wood is a) it doesn’t show the dirt and b) it’s flexible. Win bloody win.
We also made the mistake of scrimping on the taps and shower and ordering from Bathstore. Never again. They need to be replaced as well. Sigh. Most of the tiles will remain, although the ones around the bath will go.
I’m hoping to keep the Victorian style tiles to the left of the bath, whilst the rest will be replaced with white/grey marble.
The final job on the list is to plaster and skim the backdoors into place that were retrofitted on the ground floor.
There’s not a space untouched..
Laters, Kate x
It started with a double rainbow over Deal, a pretty coastal town close to Dover where we spent the first part of our holiday with three other families, before moving onto Suffolk to stay with friends, higher up on the east coast.
Living life close to the edge with a bird’s eye view.
First morning dip at Suffolk – the sea measured ten degrees: Three of us are taking part in a personal weekly cold water swimming challenge as an acknowledgement of the pressures our Year 6 children are facing with the coming exam season: We may not totally understand what they are going through, but we are there in spirit.
In preparation for Halloween..a real haunted house!
Brilliant, subversive arcade games on the pier!
Then the waves got up! And we went swimming again!
There’s something magical about walking along a beach in autumn when the clouds are skudding, the wind is cold and the sun is bright.
The view behind us.
I wish I was a surfer dude..
Getting the little ferry across to Southwold side.
Our holiday ended with a rainbow over Southwold, proof that you can find gold at the end of a rainbow: I dare someone to sit next to me and tell me it isn’t true.
Laters, Kate x
This post was edited from two previous posts to celebrate Bella’s eighth birthday and tenth birthday. I decided I couldn’t improve on the sentiment contained, except to say, you never think it possible, but the words grow more concentrated with each passing year x
Today is my daughter Bella’s eleventh birthday. She was my IVF baby, born after six years of heartache, seven miscarriages and 2 years of no pregnancies (which I am sure was psychological. But it really didn’t help). With her birth on this day all those years ago, I finally became a Mummy.
I still carry the scar tissue..infertility is a time I wouldn’t wish on anyone – you beat yourself up for the futility of hoping, nose permanently pressed against the glass, it becomes personal; A retina searing pain that makes you disappear under the burden of inner reflection..the only person to blame being you. Something so simple, so natural…so unachievable.
We literally threw everything we had at it..and we were oh so lucky. The tides finally turned and she arrived..the most beautiful baby I had ever seen..a fairy child.
And she remains the most beautiful inside and out child to this day, the rarest and most delicate of gifts. And now we celebrate her eleventh birthday..it’s hard to believe – it seems only yesterday I was holding that tiny baby, watching the face of Big Ben tick round that first night we spent together in St Thomas’ hospital. I look at her now and have the most enormous chest restricting rush – she is my open-heart production – vibrant, living, learning..I never used to worry so much about life, now there’s more grey..I’ve become an observer, teacher and pupil too. it’s weird – you think your helpless child will be totally reliant on you – you have your experience and that need to guide and help, but it’s just not true. Instead it’s a constant balancing act that I don’t think anyone can get totally right: You want to lead, but you don’t want to helicopter. You want to love and cuddle, but you don’t want to smother. There’s an undeniable pleasure in growing together in habits, tastes and socks…but the easiest thing as a parent is to see your child as a mini-you where you now have the ability to correct all your imperfections..or to see the person they are now as the character they will always be and deny them the space to grow..thoughts like that just end up passing the negativity down the food-chain, or so it seems to me..but then who am I to say?
I know I don’t want her to be the child that has everything – but even deciding that is choosing a course of action, adding an intrinsic quality, another detail. I don’t believe that love is materialistic, instead I believe adversity supports initiative – resilience has to be one of the greatest gifts a parent can bestow. To that I add manners, self-respect and confidence – far more important in real life than examination certificates. I want her to have the space to find out who she is away from any expectations of mine and to be able to express that in any situation. I want her to have the confidence to stand up and say her opinion whether it’s right or wrong. I want her to make mistakes, whether it’s in her maths homework or something bigger, to learn there are always solutions if you look hard enough and mistakes are part of the stepping stones of life and shouldn’t be avoided…sometimes they lead you forward.
Life is as delicate as a falling feather but should always be a glorious caper..I hope she has a wonderfully misspent youth with sunshine smiles and audacious bursts of laughter, she is my joy, my love, my heart…and I hope that when the time comes, I have the sense to set my treasure free..
Does mother know best? You dream about it..but ultimately kids appear from nowhere and have wills of their own and you’re just ordinary people trying to get through life the very best way you can, showing them the world and hopefully a way of looking at things that opens the door to where the magic lies….
I celebrate and raise a glass to you our wonderful, amazing, incredible, magical daughter!
Laters, Kate x
There was a fire at Aghii Anargiri yesterday, the place in Spetses where my parents have their holiday home and where we just left last week.
To put the first picture into context, this is the view from the balcony. The House with the awning is the same house with the awning in the fire picture in the bottom left corner…the fire came down from the hills on the left. My mother was at the house – my father, sister, niece and three friends were all at another beach -Xylokeriza – they all made it to safety, though some with only the swimming costumes they were standing in.
There was a huge fire in 1990 that many of us remember with horror: Nothing can prepare you for the sound, noise, speed, smell. The difference with this fire was it started in the morning which gave the helicopters and water planes a chance. The downside was the high winds, ready to whip the flames back into action.
Today’s media update:
The wildfires on the Argosaronic island of Spetses and at Anavysos, east of Athens, were under control on Wednesday morning after a difficult night with strong winds that threatened to fan them further.
The forest fire on the southwest part of Spetses appeared to be contained by the dozens of firefighters on the island.
The fire broke out on Tuesday at noon at the forest near Aghii Anargyri, near the top of the island’s mountain, and headed west toward the beach before swinging south toward Xylokeriza. This is the same forest area that suffered from the 1990 wildfire. It has undergone extensive reforestation.
The few scattered holiday homes in that area were not damaged, thanks mainly to the rapid response of the local and regional fire service. Six helicopters and at least three airplanes contributed to the battle with the fire on the touristic island up to late in the evening on Tuesday. A helicopter and two aircraft resumed operations on Wednesday morning along with 70 men on the ground plus many volunteers.
The island’s mayor Panayiotis Lyrakis spoke of a possible arson, on which his deputy, Paraskevi Stofyla expressed her certainty.
Swimmers at the popular beach of Aghii Anargyri were evacuated with sea taxis as the flames appeared particularly threatening.
“The blaze passed passed by 10-11 holiday houses but fortunately there was no damage caused,” stated Lyrakis.
My family are now making their heartbroken way back to their house. This was the stunning bay of Xylokeriza, where most of our group were swimming that fateful day.
This is it now.
Whilst grateful that lives are safe, all who know this place as a heavenly paradise will appreciate the sense of grief and bleakness to see it so ravaged and hurt. We await to see the pictures of our beautiful bay.
Laters, Kate x
Ideas for Charlie’s summer wardrobe!
(All pics and links Pinterest)
Laters, Kate x