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
It’s been half term already and we’ve been camping with friends.
Living the simple life in a field, blowing giant bubbles.
Can you tell we enjoyed it??
We weren’t far from the coast.
And next to the site was a high ropes playground..
Including a terrifying giant swing!
Truly the stuff of nightmares!
As was our departure. Not a sight you want to see…..we lost the car keys in the long grass on the first day. But it was OK as we kindly got driven back to London to fetch the spare set. Except we got hit by a super-storm…Damp got in (She’s 19 years old) and short circuited the electrics so the spare key wouldn’t work…and the manual key? Was part of master key that got lost! At least once we got in we were able to drive away, which was more than the car behind us – they’d lost all their keys, including their house keys and had to be towed away from the campsite!
Laters, Kate x
Every May Bank Holiday we try to go to the May Fayre at Morden Hall Park, a National Trust property at the end of the Northern Line. It’s a old fashioned cocktail of traditional family delights far removed from it’s urban setting. Apart from the display above..bikers doing their thing..
Except afterwards you could have a free go over an obstacle course yourself..and that’s what makes it’s so special. People are there because they love what they do and want to share it.
In amongst the stalls are little gems like this one for rescued reptiles, where the owners are happy to talk and answer questions.
These two had been inspired by watching too much Harry Potter..
You never know what you’ll see next.
Wholesome, good family fun. Until next year.
Laters, Kate x
The wallpaper we made over the holidays?
Despite just using the basics: Lining paper, leftover emulsion paint and cut up sponges – has worked a treat.
(Even though it meant embracing chaos)
This was the before state of the downstairs toilet. A mini dumping ground of DIY and general clutter.
First step was a deep clean of the tiles. Vinegar, though powerful on the nostrils did the job. A little bit of re-grouting was needed – and then I was going to dye the grout a dark grey, but I was concerned the new grout was of a different consistency – less chalky, more rubbery so would they dye the same colour? It was an easier decision to not risk it. Besides the new pristine white of the tiles was impressive. Finally, paint – white on the ceiling and the Little Greene Paint Company’s French Grey Dark on the woodwork which is a soft, pinky grey that seems to blend with any thing. A continual stream of Radio 4 plays on the ipad helped the process along..
The wallpaper went up easily: The lining paper was one of the thickest available and was aided by both pasting the wall and paper, and leaving the paper for a few minutes to fully soak up the wallpaper paste.
The randomness of the print meant there was no problem on the join – second piece went up where it went up. Bliss.
The finished job.
Except there’s always one thing left to do…a fitted mirror over the sink. Sigh.
Better get ordering.
Laters, Kate x