Posted by: learningwoman | July 23, 2012

and now we live in Australia

We’re here…finally…and it’s wonderful and scary and strange and interesting and challenging. We’ve been here just over a year. The kids love it and so do I. A found it to be almost more than he could handle to start with but he seems to be becoming reconciled.

There have been challenges from all sides. Financial worries that we haven’t had to deal with in our marriage before, finding work that’s steady enough that we can feel comfortable and more.

but later….this is just a quick hello to my former, ‘worried-that-we’d-never-get-here’ self 🙂

Posted by: learningwoman | January 29, 2011

The Utter, Inexpressible Joy of Hugs..

I love hugs. All kinds of hugs.

The abandoned, arms flinging around neck kind, the comforting, warm kind, the coming home and gratefully walking into loving arms kind, the ‘in passing’ sort of hug, just to remind us of care.

Hugs warm me to my core. They tell me I’m loved and they’re a gift I have at my immediate disposal, to comfort or to communicate sympathy, or love, or happiness, or just gladness at seeing you again. They convey things I’ll never be able to put into words. A language all of their own.

When I came to live in England, I discovered that hugs weren’t something I could take for granted. A. gives great hugs; bear-like, gorgeous, all encompassing hugs, but I quickly learned it wasn’t the norm, at least where we were.

I came across, for the first time in my life, the ‘barely-touching-gingerly-patting’ hug, and the ‘leaning-forward-from-the-waist-a-metre-apart’ hug. Then there was the awkward ‘hug-that-turns-with-a-cough-into-a-pat-on-the-shoulder’ hug.

I experienced them with fascination, and no small gratitude that I had A. to keep me supplied with the glorious, life-enriching hugs that I was most familiar with.

I grew up in a family of six people who hugged every time one of us left the house…and every time we came in.

Every time…..

and then there was the steady diet of hugs from friends I’d known since childhood, school friends, family friends, boyfriends, best friends and hugs from kids I babysat.

My friends here have eventually become used to me hugging them as a greeting, some of them even look forward to it 🙂

I take every opportunity possible to hug my kids and they love hugs too, often seeking them out after school, or as they run past, playing. At a guess I’d say we each get about 40 hugs a day. We’re hug junkies! lol

Hugs were and are unquestionably the best part of my day.

Today I found a post full of hug photos, which reminded me how precious they are and which inspired this post.  Have a look at the expressions on their faces. Says it all really 🙂

What about you? How do you feel about hugs? Do you love them, or do you find them uncomfortable? Are they welcome, or do you take an involuntary step back when someone like me appears?

Posted by: learningwoman | January 27, 2011

Seductive silence

I could be preparing dinner for later, or putting on another load of washing, or packing away the game of connect four that my children left out this morning as they giggled their way to the front door.

But this silence has wooed me with its gentleness…picked me up and settled me softly onto the couch….allowed me the space to think that I was craving.

I could be making the beds, or organising the uniforms for tomorrow, or walking the dog.

But my ears are gratefully absorbing the absence of clatter, my shoulders are relaxing, my breathing is calm.

It’s such a rare thing here, silence. If I move, I’ll break it. Even the cushioned pressing of the keys on my laptop is an intrusion, though I love to feel them sink under my fingers and watch the words appear.

I’m sensitive to noise. Excessive amounts of it, especially the random kind, distresses me for reasons I don’t really understand.

I love the sounds of my family but this silence is such a gift. A rare and beautiful gift.


I could be doing any number of useful and industrious things.

But instead, I’ll sit, curled comfortably, nestled into the warmth of these pillows, laptop balanced on my knees to write, and enjoy the peace.

Posted by: learningwoman | January 26, 2011

A letter to my 10 year old son

Dear S.

I know you think it was mean of me to keep you home from school today, a Wednesday, which you assure me is the best, most fun day of the week. The day when you get to do computer studies on a laptop. The day when you get  ‘golden time’ ie: an hour of free play in the classroom with your friends. The day when you do PE, the day when…anyway, there seem to be a lot of wonderful things to do on Wednesdays.

It hasn’t even been fun, has it? We spent the morning talking and decluttering. After lunch you had to write a couple of pages about why I’d kept you home and then spent 30 minutes reading your book. We played a game of chess and went for a short walk in the park with the dog. I know you wanted to bring your football but you had to leave it at home.

You were cross with me on the way home, when I said you’d have to stay in the car when we went to get Z. and now you’re sitting, feeling restless and angry that I haven’t let you turn on the TV, Wii, computer. I did say you could read, or do some more writing but you just looked at me and sat.

I haven’t shouted at you. I’m not angry with you. and this isn’t the way I thought I would be spending my day either.

So why am I doing it?

Because I love you. My shining, laughing, beautiful, enthusiastic boy.

Because somehow you’ve learned behaviours that aren’t okay, here or at school.

Because I don’t want to send you in, tired and full of attitude, for the teachers to deal with.

Because you’re ten, and teaching you this stuff now is so much easier than trying to do it when you’re a teenager.

and because I’ve done everything else I can think of.

So, instead of trying to talk with you about the impact our behaviours have on others, and ultimately on ourselves; instead of screaming uselessly when I feel pushed to the brink; instead of having to go to the school to discuss your attitude with your teacher and instead of threatening to take things away, or alternatively reward you; I’ve opted to keep you here for the day.

A day for reflection, of opportunity to talk if you want to, to have hugs, play quiet games, write, read, walk. Without distraction.

I love you, have always loved you, will always love you.

I might not be right about this, this staying at home for the day stuff,  but you can bet that I’m doing the very best I can think of at this moment.



Posted by: learningwoman | January 25, 2011

Great tools

This morning we bought a new vacuum cleaner to replace our four year old Dyson, which, after having dealt valiantly with dog hair and the boots of a thousand children, had simply stopped working.

We had used it for the last time yesterday morning, while de-cluttering the lounge room and it had seemed fine but after sucking detritus from under chairs and rugs, it finally, pathetically, gave up the ghost.

So today we bought another one. Not an expensive all bells and whistles one but a cheap ‘oh well we’re moving to Australia and we only need something to tide us over’ one. A Zanussi something, on special from Tesco. It came in a million pieces and needed some assembly. (Okay, perhaps a million is an exaggeration but it seemed a lot)

The instructions were good though and between the two of us, we had a brand new, assembled vacuum cleaner in about 15 minutes. Since the lounge room is the only carpeted room downstairs, we started there and despite having done it the day before, the dust cup was filled in minutes and the carpet had changed colour, or at least had become noticeably lighter in shade. It was nothing short of amazing.

A. got very enthusiastic and proceeded to vacuum the house, with me going in front, lifting things and tidying to make way. I left him cleaning the filter while I went to have a shower and his voice floated up the stairs.

“Yes, I think Dave and I will get along just fine.”

“Who?” I called down, water rushing past my ears.

“Dave” he answered

“You’ve called the vacuum cleaner Dave?” I laughed

“Yep” he said, in a voice of satisfaction.

Our newest tool had proved its worth.

Which got me thinking. There’s something very satisfying about things that just work, that do what they’re supposed to do, when they’re supposed to, with no fuss or bother. This laptop for instance, the one I’m typing on. I’ve had it for a year and it’s done everything I’ve asked it to, it’s never crashed or complained, or lost pages of work. It just does what it’s supposed to. I began to list in my head all the things I own that share this happy quality…..the hair dryer I rarely use but which works beautifully when I need it to, my mobile phone, wonder of technology that it is….and so on. Right down to the dustpan and brush.

I don’t need or want tons and tons of stuff. I just want what we do  have to work beautifully. Efficiently

Which reminds me, I should call the oven repair bloke tomorrow……..

Posted by: learningwoman | January 23, 2011

The little bag of Christmas decorations..

When we took the Christmas tree down this year, I carefully separated the decorations into three piles. One to take to the charity shop to be recycled, one of things that were falling apart and needed to be thrown out and one of things to be lovingly packed to take with us to our new house. To be put on next year’s Christmas tree.

This last pile included things that the children had made and brought home from playgroup, pre-school, primary school. Or things that we had made together, sticky with glue and messy with paint.

It also included things we had bought together, A. and I, before the children were born and things we’d bought since, small ones exclaiming excitedly at the twinkling, glittery beauty of them. Some were decorations my mother had made, sewn, with love and care.

By now you know what’s coming I’m sure..

It was this last pile that I hastily put into a plastic bag, keeping them aside while I organised everything else into its proper place and it was this bag that I put by the fridge to be moved into the storeroom later, when I rushed out the door to pick up the kids from school.

Tonight, while I was washing up and A. was bathing S. and Z., I remembered this bag, dried my hands on my favourite bright red teatowel and went to move it to safety.

It was gone.

You knew it was coming.

I called up the stairs. “A.! Where’s that bag that was next to the fridge?” He came to the top of the stairs “What?”

I repeated the question.

“I threw it out when I took the rubbish.” He was dimly, uncomfortably aware, without knowing why, that there was a problem. “Why? What was in it?”

I told him and his face fell. “You’re joking!” I shook my head, lip trembling.

For the next 10 minutes we searched, him outside, in the vain hope that somehow the bin men had miraculously missed the bag when they’d been to collect our rubbish. They hadn’t of course, they were as efficient as they ever had been. A. was sorry but of course, it wasn’t his fault, I should have moved it sooner.

I searched inside, in the storeroom, in the loungeroom, anywhere I could think of but I didn’t find it and with each successive failure to discover it, I felt more and more sad until finally I was sitting on the floor of the storeroom/laundry crying as though my heart might break.

I don’t get deeply attached to ‘things’ as a rule. As long as I have my family around me and everyone’s safe and healthy, I’m pretty philosophical about breakages and losses. But this was a bag of memories. Memories of my babies, their eyes lit up with the joy of Christmas. Memories of proud little faces as we asked about their lumpy, glittery offerings and they explained their creative process. Memories of walking in the cold, cheeks rosy in the wind, to buy that special round, painted bauble we’d seen in the shop window and loved.

I sat for a few minutes, indulging in my grief and then shook myself and stood to go back into the kitchen, reminding myself that in the scheme of things it was a small tragedy. That everyone was okay and that together we would create new memories. I was wiping my tears away with the red tea towel when S. came in, still warm from the bath, tall now, almost as tall as me. “It’s okay Mummy.” he said, wrapping his arms around my neck. “It’s all going to be okay. What was in the bag?” I told him and he hesitated for just a second, then hugged me again.

“We’ll make new ones Mummy, don’t worry.” I hugged him back fiercely. What a great kid! “Yes we will darling and it is all okay, you’re right.” We smiled at each other and I sent him off to get ready for bed.

Five minutes later I heard a small, firm tread behind me and I turned to see Z., looking as though he was there with a purpose. “Why were you crying Mummy?” I told him I’d felt sad because I’d lost some special things. He nodded. “Well, when you’re crying, you should think of something happy” he said earnestly “like us hugging you, or doing something fun.” as he spoke, he stepped forward and opened his little arms. I leaned down and he  put them around me, as far as he could and patted me for a moment. He stepped back and for the next few minutes, explained to me in a complicated, convoluted way how the brain and the mind work and what other steps to take when we feel sad. Then, pausing only to make sure I was okay, he turned and ran back up the stairs. I could hear him telling A. and S. that he had managed to stop me crying and I smiled.

10 minutes later, I found that little bag of memories, hidden in a corner I hadn’t thought of and I added to their preciousness the memories my boys had just created, before I put them carefully away.

Of course I don’t really expect, or want, to spend my days drinking interminable cups of milky coffee, I just wonder why there doesn’t seem to be any more time in my day than before Z. started primary school?

In fact, some days there seems to be less, which frankly just baffles me.

I’ve decided to just keep going, observing and trusting that things will settle down. I’m sure they will……won’t they?

Posted by: learningwoman | November 27, 2010

Today my baby turned Five

One of my first posts was about Z. turning…3 I think.. Today he’s 5…how quickly those two years have gone.

No more snotty baby kisses pressed on my face as I sleep. He’s tall now and considered in his conversation. He has much to say (hardly surprising given his surroundings) and a generally pretty thoughtful way of saying it. Still affectionate but not in quite as abandoned a manner. More of him later.

S. is 10 now. It’s been an interesting time with him too.

I’m proud of my boys. Baffled, worried, excited, infuriated, amused, and helplessly loving them is part of what I’m feeling about being their mother right now.

and so it goes on….

Posted by: learningwoman | May 10, 2009

Crazy Days

Every now and then a truly crazy day comes along. I’m talking now of those days when no-one’s had enough sleep and everyone’s feeling tetchy and raw. Arguments break out for no discernable reason, voices are louder and the smallest members of the family are prone to whinging and defiance.
All a bit tiring really.
Add to the mix a six-month old labrador puppy and madness ensues!

Today was such a day. I won’t describe it, the kids are upstairs now with A., having a bath and hopefully, calming down and I’m enjoying the peace down here.

Roll on tomorrow, when we’ll have had a nourishing rest and we’ll all be lovely to each other to make up for it. 🙂

It’s been ages since I wrote anything here and I’ve missed it. Are you all happy and well? I’ll have to come and check your blogs and see.

Posted by: learningwoman | October 16, 2008

TX4 56 Taxi recall and its impact on us.

A. has just rushed up to London, after getting the long awaited phone call to take his Black Cab in for its check.

They’ll have it for three days and then, hopefully, he’ll be able to work in it again.

For those who have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about; More than three weeks ago, all TX4 56’s were taken off the road, recalled because of a fault that was causing fires under the bonnet of some of them.  Several of these cabs’ engines went up in quite impressive flames, so it was a sensible move.

In the last little while, around a thousand of these taxis, nationwide, have been taken off the road, leaving the drivers without any means of earning their living. We’d saved contingency money, so we’ve been okay but I did wonder how many were plunged into financial difficulty as a result of this recall.

Drivers have been renting other cabs, borrowing them from friends or simply having time off. A. has done a combination of these. He’s been remarkably philosophical about it but watching him rush out the door, smiling at the thought of once again being in control of his work, made me realise again how stressful this past few weeks has been for him.

Not a TX4 but you get the picture...

Not a TX4 but you get the picture...

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