Wrapping them up in cotton wool…..

I write this as I’m laying in bed watching the news having been on a weekend away with one of my best friends. 

We had an amazing time and did all the things that you do when you are child free, we sat in the sunshine sipping alcoholic drinks, made no plans and went with the flow and didn’t go out to dinner until really late just because we could. We also went shopping, beautiful retail therapy without any, ‘Mummy I need a poo’, ‘can we go now?’, ‘This is rubbish’ or ‘why do you need to buy things anyway?’

But we both missed our children massively, you can’t help miss those little faces, usually covered in toothpaste and food stuffs, smiling up at you simply because you are their mum. 

I don’t think there is anyone across the country who hasn’t considered the attacks in Manchester this week. Young, old, single, married, parents or otherwise how can you not contemplate the state of our world when young people are being killed leaving a pop concert. Something that is a rite of passage for any young person and a huge life experience.

I have of course considered this position as a mother. I am aware that as a child terrorism existed but I only have one memory of it. This was the IRA and it was a trip to London as I recall. My sister Emma who has severe physical and learning disabilities would often need to go to hospital in London for various appointments and I remember once we went as a family. All I remember is my mum talking about there having been the threat of a bomb nearby while we were there. I didn’t understand it or comprehend exactly what the threat was but I knew it was something bad and I was scared. I remember this feeling to this day. 

Fast forward to now and as a mother of two who are sadly both acutely aware of terrorism I wonder how much of the world I should be exposing them to. Do I explain all the ills of the world to them and introduce them to the cruel side of life now or shield them for as long as I can? I think the trouble is I have no explanations myself. I don’t understand how anyone can justify killing innocent people so how I can put that into words!

The school have spoken to the children about the attacks in Manchester and the boys have seen snippets of the news. You can’t really keep it from them in the tech full world we live in. I don’t want them to be scared, I want them to be five and seven year old boys, carefree, covered in mud and genuinely believing girls smell. I want them to see all the love, beauty and magnificence that life offers.

I also want to make sure they don’t go out, ever go anywhere without me or their dad and be able to know they are okay at all times. I can’t though can I? I can’t stop the boys from growing up and living life because my parents couldn’t do that with me and I can’t stop my life to ensure they are always okay. We all have to have faith that we make the right decisions for our little people and that they will be safe. Just as I had to believe I would be safe going to London for the weekend because this is my world, my break with my friend and the place I still have so much of to see. 

We can’t be scared and not do things just in case. You would never leave the house out of genuine fear if every little thing that could go wrong or might happen worried you. The parents of the children who died this week in Manchester have had their lives altered forever and in hindsight they would never have let their children go to that concert. However hindsight before th  event and the ability to see the future are gifts we simply do not possess. 

This is such a hard time to be a parent, it’s a hard time to be a human and to be able to make sense of all the things that are going on. But how did our fellow humans get through war and any of the many other historical events we are aware of? Without fear, with the knowledge of all that there was to be scared of but going about their lives anyway. This gives me strength, even if I do look at my beautiful boys sleeping in their beds tonight and think if only I could shield you from everything.

As Winston Churchill once said ‘If you are going through hell, keep going’.

A year in review……

Hey all, how are we?

So I realised this week that I have been writing ‘Tired from Whitstable’ for a whole year. I am struggling to process this fact and can’t help but think about how much has happened in the last year. Life is not unrecognisable but it certainly has changed and then some!

My boys have grown bigger and not just in size! Their characters and personalities grow every day and they are turning into real little people who have likes and dislikes, talents and loves. They also have honed their mess making skills over the last year to the point where I think they can now be awarded ‘expert’ status. 

Karl and I have grown as people and as a couple. We have had great highs and some devastating lows but we still stand together and work on us on a daily basis and isn’t that what relationships are about!

I suppose I should acknowledge some physical changes too, in the last year I have lost a womb, more than half of my hair (by choice), some of the colour of my hair (bloody greys!) and I have gained two tattoos, three new scars on my tummy, some laughter lines, some worry lines, a good stone in weight and HD brows (well not at the minute as I’ve not been in a while so they more resemble hairy caterpillars!)

How about the mental changes? Depression and anxiety have kicked me in the arse over the last year however now I am finally feeling strong enough to kick it back where it belongs. I’ve realised that I need to accept the things I cannot change and deal with the things that I can. I’ve met people who have made me realise so much about this world and its idiosyncrasies that I can see my place in it and I’ve learned some lessons the hardest way possible.

I’ve realised how important it is to embrace the things you love no matter how strange they seem to others because who you are should be celebrated. If I hadn’t have embraced my love for Instagram and gained confidence in taking pictures of all manner of things that many people don’t even notice I wouldn’t have started my blog, started writing a column for the paper or had the nerve to speak to you all about my mental health issues and how I hope to overcome them.

We change, we evolve and we build on our foundations because that’s what human beings do. Who can honestly say with their hand on their heart that they are exactly the same as they were a year ago? The changes in you might not be the way you envisaged them. You may have made mistakes, been alone and had to rebuild or you may have gone from strength to strength in your achievements. No matter how you became the person you are today you should be proud of who you are.

We can all be seen as ‘works in progress’ much of the time and anyone who claims to have it all sorted is either lying or incredibly naive. I have finally in the last year come to realise that to work on me is the most important thing, for my children, my husband, my family and my friends. I can’t be who I need to be for the people I love if I am a depressed, anxious mess and for that reason I refuse to let it define me anymore. 

This next year is going to be a big one, I can feel it and I know that you will be here with me. I can’t wait to see where we all are in a years time and how much we can achieve. 

Here’s to another year of comedy moments with the boys, ramblings about anything and everything, photography, flowers, love, family, friendship, trips out, ice cream and of course the cows at the bottom of the garden.

Thanks for taking the time to be here with me over the last year. I can’t thank you enough for being so amazing and know your thoughts, kindness and love have helped me through one of the hardest years of my life. Much love xxx

Food, fun and family…….

Hey all, how are we? How has the week been?

I was very chuffed recently to have been invited along to a newly refurbished Manor Farm Beefeater in Gillingham, Kent. I imagine this was because they had heard about my impeccable taste in décor, my wonderful taste in food, how much I love sampling wine or it may have been because if they could get through a night with my children they will be able to cater to anyone!

I instantly cast my mind back to growing up and how when my parents would take my sister and I out for a treat we would go to our local Beefeater. We would go for birthdays and other special occasions and I remember adoring it when the meal was all eaten up and my mum let us order ice cream sundaes for pudding.

Often the Beefeater was where we would go to meet family for a special meal on the lead up to Christmas and I remember always being excited about going. Fast forward to thirty three year old me and being totally honest I’ve not set foot in a Beefeater for years. Not because I’m adverse to them but I think because with so many other restaurant chains having grown in popularity and us tending to go out for lunches on our own to small trendy cafes where people would never dare take their children!

But it occurred to me that if the Beefeater was where my parents took my sister and I for family meals then we might be missing a trick. I am a huge fan of local business and small independent restaurants but most of these are on the High Street locally and not on the outskirts of town like the Beefeaters tend to be. They often have outdoor play areas and large car parks. I started to get quite excited about going along and seeing what the Beefeater experience was like as an adult.

So last Thursday Karl and I drove from Whitstable to Gillingham. We didn’t take the monsters as my parents had kindly offered to have them and being honest we wanted to see what it was like without having to deal with bogeys, wrestling matches or spilled drinks!

I was really impressed as soon as we walked in and I was hit with that nostalgia of being young as we walked into a porch area where you had to wait to be seated. I remember our local Beefeater in Whitstable having a similar set up and waiting in anticipation for my children’s menu!

We were seated quickly and drinks orders taken straight away which I really like. Karl was most impressed to see homemade milkshakes on the menu! I like to know there is wine on the way and that I can peruse a menu without having to catch a waiters eye to ask to order drinks. The table we were in was a booth and the restaurant was set up in many different sections with a small number of tables in each. It made it feel much more intimate and you didn’t feel at all like you were in  larger restaurant. In fact all of the stair cases rising here and there made me think of Hogwarts and Karl and I both had a giggle trying to work out how you got to each section.

The menu was varied and offered the traditional steak house fare along with a local specialities section, lower calorie options and alternatives for all the side orders you could have. You could even ask for more chips or salad once you had finished if you were still hungry at no extra charge. Karl had chicken wings to start along with a bbq dip and I had pate with toast. Both dishes came quickly and were really yummy. Karl didn’t even offer me a chicken wing so they must have been far too good to share!

Being meat lovers we both ordered steaks for our main course with a portion of onion rings on the side. The steaks were cooked to perfection and the peppercorn sauce that accompanied mine was also scrummy (so much so that Karl stole it!) From our table and most of the restaurant in fact you could see the chefs cooking in the kitchen so you knew what was coming out was fresh.

We couldn’t resist pudding and Karl’s eyes lit up when he saw Mississippi Mud Pie on the menu and I was very happy to see my favourite banoffee pie. The desserts were just lovely and the portions really generous so much so that we probably could have shared however with Karl and I and our attitude to pudding that was never going to happen!

Karl then had a coffee which was Costa and I had another glass of wine while we waited for our bill which for two of us, three courses, two glasses of wine, a bottle of cider, a coffee and some extra sides was just over £70. I was really impressed, we had eaten enough to keep us going all week and it was really reasonable. I took the time to look around and see how family friendly this Beefeater was and it was exactly the same as when I had been small. Children were provided with colouring, special menus, things to do and were welcomed. The restaurant was spacious and decorated in such a way that you felt you were somewhere really special.

There were really individual touches such as retro lights that consisted of huge lightbulbs, all manner of different cow themed art and crockery and really comfy, attractive seating. I would absolutely not hesitate to visit with the boys and in fact we are planning on returning again soon. It’s so lovely to go somewhere where the children are just as welcomed and treated the same as grownups. The staff were friendly, pleasant and engaged in conversation and this was every server I saw. We left with very full tummies and smiley faces.

 You can find Manor Farm Beefeater on the High Street, Rainham, Gillingham. You can find out more about them and other locations all over the country by clicking here