Category Archives: Family

Hold on, We’re going home

I spent my whole childhood and adulthood living in West London, save 5 years at uni in Liverpool, in fact I only moved out of the area when I was 37. It is my home, my place, my familiar.

My mum and I started off in the area housed in bedsits in Paddington, I was 18 months old and my mum was a lone parent at the age of 23. Westbourne Gove and Queensway weren’t the cafe strewn Daylesford organic destination they are now. It was grotty hotels and a little down at heel but the area has always had quite a stunning mix of very wealthy and very poor residents. See the multi million pound houses for sale in Blenheim Crescent that lead onto those gorgeous private gardens you glimpsed in Richard Curtis’ Nottinghill and then remember the council housing estates at the end of  the same road.

And it was into one of these council blocks that my mum and I moved for our first ever proper home. Flat 152 (floor 15, flat 2) Grenfell Tower, Lancaster Road, W11, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. We moved into our flat as soon as the building was completed but the greens at the base of the tower block were still rubble and the landscaping continued for a while after we arrived. It was big and shiny and new, all 23 floors of it. Our flat was one of two on the far right hand corner when you exited the lift. From the windows we could see what was to be one of my primary school, St Clements. My orignal primary school St James burnt down when in was 9 so we were all moved to first Avondale and then portakabins in the playground of St Clements, which has since closed. Far in the distance you could see Holland Park, Portobello Road and the old BBC TV Centre in Shepherds Bush, though as hard as I tried I just couldn’t see the Blue Peter Garden. Don’t worry though, I got to see it a few years later on a school trip. Woohoo. Remember when Blue Peter used to do these huge balloon releases, and they had tags attached, if you found one you wrote in and got a prize? I used to watch those but never found a balloon.

Grenfell Tower was a lovely community, my mum made friends, I made friends, it was clean and safe, though that wasnt the rumour in the neighbour hood. Believe it or not the milk man used to deliver to all the flats. That stopped after a couple of years for rather unsavoury reason I believe.We had a two bedroom flat and for the first few months all we had a rocking chair and a mattress to adorn it, very minimalist, but after my grandma gave us some money we also got a sofa and a cooker – fancy huh!

We were exceptionally high up but our neighbour, Bob, used to clean windows in the block and my mum would always hide in the bathroom as she couldn’t bear watching him clinging to the outside of the building while he washed and cleaned. Nothing fazed him, remarkable really, but obviously something that would never be allowed to happen now.

We were burgled once, poor fools, we had absolutely nothing for them to take so instead they ripped up every singular one of my mum’s photos into tiny irreparable pieces. This was in the 1970s, the days with out back up disk of pics, if you didn’t have the negatives then bye bye photos. That is why there is not one singe baby picture of me. The police told us that the burglars were clearly pissed off and decided to ransack and ruin the place instead, but honestly who burgles the flat of a single mum in a tower block, what were they expecting, jewels?

We had made friends with a lady and her daughter who were on the 7th floor and I remember being invited for a birthday tea  but of course my mum had no money to buy a gift so we found the smartest looking of my Ladybird books to give as  gift. I remember to this day being very sad as I loved each and every one of my books but needs must. No one living there had any money, that’s just the way it was.

There were a few fires while we lived there, basically people setting fire to the rubbish chute which ran from the top of the building to the bottom, ending in big bins at the bottom. I remember my mum bundling me up in a duvet and carrying me down the 15 floors in the middle of the night and we would stand outside with all the other pyjamaed residents while the fire brigade did the necessary.

Despite being such a new building the lifts, 2 of them, were frequently out of order and my mum suffered from quite bad back problems, still does to this day, and she sensibly decided that carrying a child and/or shopping up and down 15 floors was going to do nothing to ease her pain so she applied to the local housing association for a ground floor flat and we were given one, down the road, near the Elgin Pub, anyone remember that place? and just off the Nottinghill Carnival Route.

And that where we remained for many happy years. We moved in there in time to celebrate my 5th birthday. Did we miss Grenfell Tower, yes we did. I have only happy memories of living there and now it is all gone. My mother woke me up on the morning of the fire to tell me it had happened. I was shocked and desperately saddened, all those people, all those children, one stair case. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

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Me and my mum lyrics home london rain

I rarely return to the area these days, I moved out to Buckinghamshire when I was pregnant 7 years ago and I work near Euston but yesterday I returned to Holland Park to see my dentist. I am completely dental phobic and refused to move from the chap who has looked after my teeth for the last 30 years. As I walked down the avenue, loving the leafy trees and reminiscing I knew I would eventually view the tower, I searched the skyline as I crossed each road and finally there it was, a black smudged shell. You could see the day light streaming through the smashed window and out the other side, it was a shocking sight and I can only imagine how terrifying it had been for all involved. My mum won’t go and see it though she wants to pay her respects, it is too much for her.

I couldn’t think of anything to do to help, practical donations of clothes and food had flooded in, to help those who needed assistance, thankfully. But I did see that there were T shirts available to buy where the proft went towards a fund for the victims, so I ordered one. See Lulu in the main picture wearing it, and below.

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All profits from t -shirt sales go to residents 

If you would like to buy one they are £10 plus postage each and available online at http://www.love4.london  All profits goes to the residents affected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday night at the movies

Well actually it’s a Friday night and the film is watched at home…

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I am one of those people who can never decide if I like routine in life or if that gets too dull and I need to mix it up a bit. So, I have come to the conclusion that having a few traditions is nice but too many makes life feel prescribed. The beauty of having Lu is that I can now start to invent lovely new family traditions for her and me, probably a reaction to my somewhat flux filled childhood, but whatever the reason one of the things that Lu and I do together is our Friday Film Night.  She chooses the film, but to avoid having to watch the same Barbie film each week I usually preempt it by ordering a film from Amazon that I can bear to watch happily. This means that I can revisit some of my childhood favorites. Recent screenings have included- Labyrinth (when Bowie died), Pinnochio – which neither of us liked, Despicable Me 2 – again, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, Top Dog – a dreadful American childrens film about a sausage dog race which I may be forced to ‘lose’ lest she makes me watch it again. There has also been a variety of Barbie films (I bought a box set, I know!) which aren’t that bad really. My GP told me that Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses was her favorite (most bearable) when her kids were little, I love my doctor.

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I  make popcorn (in the microwave, I’m not that good) and I order those cardboard cinema popcorn boxes online so we have the whole experience but before the popcorn Lu and I have a bubble bath together, get into our pyjamas, light some candles and light the open fire if it is chilly. Then have a little carpet picnic made up of all the things she has requested that I buy from M&S on the way home from work. Usually hummus, carrots, chorizo slices, cherry tomatoes and crisps. As Friday is also Lulu’s Sweetie day (mean mummy, sweets only on the weekend) we usually end up with Percy Pigs too. It is the best time, I relish it, and she is always so excited about Fridays because of it.

If I am having a bad day illness wise and am just too tired and overwhelmed we get into my lovely super king size bed and watch the film on my TV or the IPad, and have our little picnic there. No damn illness is going to spoil my time with my baby.

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A slight caveat; Lulu now does Beavers on a Friday night from 6-7.15pm so we have a Saturday or Sunday Movie Night instead. But never fear, she still gets her sweets on a Friday.

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Sometimes I let my mum join in…

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?

As a lawyer I am very familiar with the ‘clean break’ theory that is trotted out when discussing divorce but obviously when one had children, providing all is well with both parties, then this is just not possible, financially or personally.

So where does that leave the grown ups? In general, and as far as can be expected, my relationship with my ex husband regarding Lucia is pretty much based on reading from the same hymn sheet. However since she lives with me and he moved an hour and half away there are some decisions that I make for Lu that aren’t going to go in his favor but realistically someone will inevitably lose in situations like this on occasion.

I have no interest whatsoever in my husbands life, beyond his relationship with Lucia. Of course his health is important to me as he needs to be able to look after Lu but we aren’t friends, it isn’t how he wants the relationship to work despite my suggestions and that is fine – kind of. Being honest, I still find it odd that he can walk out on me after 14 years and feel ok about throwing all that history and shared experiences away, but each to their own.

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A few weeks after my ex husband left

But (isn’t there always a but?) recently my ex husband’s girlfriend of 4 years broke up with him. This was further complicated by the fact that he lived with her and her two young children. This of course had a knock on effect on Lulu which of course had a knock on effect on me. When did life get so complicated? That my ex husband’s break up should effect me in any way is ridiculous but of course Lulu was very upset as her dad was moving out of the house she stayed in with him, his home. Also the fact that she wasn’t going to see her dad’s girlfriend’s children anymore all added to making her feel very unsettled and I was left picking up the pieces. Through gritted teeth mind, muttering “for fucks sake hasn’t this six year old had enough disruption?” grrrrr. Next came Lucia’s expectation that now her father was single he would be moving back in with us. She was utterly heartbroken when I explained that wasn’t going to be happening as that wasn’t what her father wanted. Lucia’s distress and the tears she cried while I cuddled her broke my own heart all over again. It truly feels so bloody unfair.

 

Everywhere I am there you’ll be

I had an awful dream this week. I was about four months pregnant and my waters broke and I knew that I would lose the baby but I went about my everyday life. Not able to accept the inevitable but being so so sad as I knew it was hopeless and the loss felt overwhelming. I thought if I can keep the baby inside me everything will be okay and none of this is real.

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Didn’t think she would make it through the night, day 5 after she was born

And the reason this was so realistic and horrible is because I had lost a number of babies before I was luckily enough to have my daughter, Lucia. With each of those pregnancies I got a little further along before the sonographer said ‘I’m really sorry I can’t find a heart beat’. When I was pregnant with Lucia my waters broke at 28 weeks and while I thought ‘oh, how lovely we will be able to take our baby home later today, earlier than planed but hey ho’, Not able to accept that really it was unlikely she would live and really I thought that this was just another pregnancy that was a little further along than the others and that realistically I would probably have another number of miscarriages before we actually managed to carry a baby to full term, ridiculous huh?.  As if that is how it works, that you get a bit further along each time you are pregnant until you hit the magic 40 week mark. But my 28 weeker did live, nine week in intensive care and then we could take her home,

With miscarriages, or in my experience anyway, once you are told your baby no longer has a heart beat you can wait for ‘nature to take its course’ and expel the baby or you can have an operation to have it removed. They do these ops on specific days of the week so you carry your dead baby inside you for at least a few days. These are only really options with early miscarriages. I know this sounds disturbing to some but to me I wanted to keep my baby inside me as long as possible, keeping it safe. I didn’t drink during my pregnancies but when I knew the babies had died I could have a drink if I wanted but the act of swallowing that first sip of wine felt so final, that when I took that sip it was acknowledging that the baby I was carrying was dead.

And then this week, a few days after my dream, a Facebook memory popped up of me at a cousin’s wedding a few years ago (see main picture). It was a few days after I had found out I was pregnant with my first baby and I was so thrilled. Little did I know that a few weeks later I would be in A&E bleeding and then a few weeks later being told ‘I’m really sorry…’.

Maybe subconsciously I had remembered that this time of year is the anniversary of my first pregnancy, I don’t know, but it made me feel sad. I always feel sad when I think of my lost babies, it make me weep, that never changes. The passage of time has enabled me to be able to not wake up crying even morning, to not cry every time I see a new born baby in the street, but the intensity of the pain in my broken heart doesn’t change however it no longer stops me in my tracks.

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The day Lucia came home after 9 weeks in intensive care

I wholeheartedly believe that having Lucia has helped me deal with my grief hugely. I am grateful every day that I am lucky enough to have her, she isn’t a replacement for my lost babies, but for me I knew that the only thing that would help me after losing my babies was to have a baby in my arms. This isn’t the same for all people, I know this. I wanted to try and get pregnant again as soon as I had physically recovered from the operations but my ex husband was reticent, he thought I needed to psychologically recover first but I was desperate, I wanted/needed a baby. Getting pregnant was never a problem, usually happened with in the first two months of trying. Keeping them alive inside me was the problem. I found great comfort in the people and forums on social media I encountered who were going through  the same thing. Whenever someone got pregnant you wished them luck and hoped that they had a #stickybean.

So, am I feeling nostalgic as a friend has commented? yes, I think I am, but not in a ‘wasn’t that a wonderful time, if I only I could relive it’, but in a ‘goodness wasn’t that a painful time in my life, and my, it still hurts now.’ I will be mindful of my self, look for signs that I am getting depressed and address them should they appear. But right now I am just a little wistful, wondering what the babies would have looked like, missing them and grieving them still, as I shall always do.

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Now its just Lulu and me, her daddy left when she was two. She is my hope, my reason and my love. xxx

While we devotin’ Full time to floatin’ Under the sea

When Lulu’s dad first left she was still at nursery so he would often take her out for a day to spend time with her (without the fear of a fine) and on those days he would often take her swimming. She was a real water baby, and still is, hence her love of all things mermaid I think. Ariel is her favourite princess of them all, this may also be to do with   the fact that she also has red hair just like Lulu. Anyway, as she got older it was time for her to have formal lessons. Especially as we holiday by the sea in Suffolk each summer, for both safety reasons and to be able to have a full appreciation of the gorgeous sea that surrounds us. So she started lessons at a local pool last year. As a side issue, as you know I am always hot and sweaty but oh my goodness, how hot are childrens pools? Sitting and watching in shorts and a t shirt in the height of winter still doesn’t keep me cool. I am also most cross that I haven’t lost at least a stone from all the sweating.

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Lulu, like most children her age, is a little obsessed with YouTube, and it was while browsing that she came across the mermaid tail swim suit. It is literally a tail, that fits from the tummy down and covers your feet like a sleeve, and you can swim around in the pool with it. It looks fantastic but Lu isn’t a strong enough swimmer yet to merit one. Instead, at Christmas I gave her a gorgeous mermaid tail blanket which I adore but didn’t quite cut the mustard for her. I often find using her pyjama legs as as tail, by shoving both her legs in to one pj leg, like a very tight tube skirt – remember those? I have therfore had my eye out for a mermaid type tail she can actually try out and use in the sea and so when the lovely Leanne at Simply Swim did a shout out for those with children having swimming lessons to try out some of their range I shoved my arm straight in air and starting shouting ‘pick me, pick me, pick me’. And you know what? She did!!!

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She asked to go me to the website and choose some things with Lulu and there it was the holy grail of swimming, THE most perfect pink mermaid tail by Finis, practical and oh so pretty. Into the basket it went immediately, it also comes in blue. To be perfectly honest beyond the obvious joy of the tail, Leanne appeared at a very fortuitous time as all of Lulu’s swimming class friends have googles but she doesn’t, so into the basket went  a beautiful pink pair by Aqua Sphere (currently on sale!), there were lots of pink ones to choose from. It was a hard choice for Lulu. And she needed a new swim suit – I think she is having a growth spurt. Unsurprisingly all the items Lu chose were pink. A super pair of swim shoes by Speedo (also on sale), so useful for our summer hols as the beach we go to in Walberwick is predominately stones. A good old fashioned kick board by Speedo, so she can practice her kicking, a lovely long foam pole, a Zoodle by Zoggs, which I have my eye on for tucking under my arms and floating on my back in the lovely sea but for Lu it can again help with her kicking, on her back or on her tummy. It’s just like the ones they use at her swimming classes.

The swimsuit has been a big hit, she has taken to wearing it in the bath. It is the prettiest  pink with blue shiny metallic hearts on and bright green edging. It also has some extra straps on the back which Lulu and her friends seem to think is the height of sophistication. Finally, she chose a very very pink water bottle by Funkita which she now insists I carry around in my bag for her at all times. I am secretly hoping to sneak it off her at some point as I am rather fond of it. Did I mention that pink is my favourer colour too?

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All the products were true to size and she loves each and everyone, how on earth am I going to get all of them, plus Barbie’s essentials, and the suitcases into my car for the summer hols I do not know.

PS I have tiny feet so I have tried the mermaid tail on which fits (very Cinderella) and I cannot wait for our holiday, I may be more excited than Lulu.

A massive thank you to Leanne and Simply Swim for letting us have such fun with your lovely products.

All opinions are obviously my own.