Monday, August 14, 2006

The Eagle Has Landed and is Decluttering

That's right, the eagle has landed, all my ducks are back in a row! I am so pleased to have A safely back. You pray and believe everything is going to be alright, and it is so wonderful when those prayers are answered. I am incredibly grateful.

In advance of our family vacation I am encouraging A to declutter his room and get ready for the new school year that will arrive almost immediately we get back. In a spirit of fairness I too am decluttering and organising closets. My burst of activity is not only prompted by the impending arrival of September, which for me has always signalled a new start, but also by a wish to facilitate any reinvention I might be considering. In view of the fact that A is becoming so independent at such a speed and my role as a mother is evolving, I want to reinvent within my career as 21st Century Housewife (not to actually change that role) and the scope for reinvention is quite tremendous and full of possibilities. It is all rather exciting and I do not want any negative energy that any clutter or messy closet might hold to get in my way!

I do find decluttering incredibly therapeutic. The getting rid of things you no longer need and physically removing them from your universe is almost always followed by something exciting. Either something new (and hopefully more useful) arrives to take the place of the clutter, or something exciting happens. I nearly always find this to be the case. In fact whenever we have wanted to move I have always begun the process by decluttering. It does not just make the house look nicer or make it easier to move, it seems to signal to the universe that you are ready to let go of the old and let in the new. Whether one wishes to move or not, anything that encourages forward movement in life is highly desirable.

I admit it is hard to pack for a holiday and declutter at the same time but I have always been one for a challenge. Of course packing itself is a bit more challenging at this time. My friends are having a quiet giggle at me because for the very first time I was insisting I was only going to take hand luggage (I am not a light packer at the best of times) and of course that is now totally impossible. In all honesty, the only real inconvience to the hand luggage restrictions (and something I feel almost ashamed to admit) is that I will not be able to take my makeup on board. Of course anything that faciliates an easy journey during these worrying times is important, but I really hate being seen without my face properly made up. It may be old fashioned, but that is the way I am. Sadly I have yet to find a makeup that lasts an entire transatlantic journey. I have spent huge amounts of money and time trying to find said product, but it seems to have eluded me. Still, it is hardly a terrible thing in the scheme of things. Made up or not, it is much more important to have a safe and happy journey.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ducks in a Row

Well, yesterday sure made my blood run cold. You just relax a tiny bit and then bang! Someone uncovers yet another fanatical plot. It is very unsettling.

A was really worried about terrorists when he flew to Spain on Monday. I told him not to be silly, of course everything would be okay. I sure did not feel okay when A rang yesterday and asked me if I knew what had happened. Last time someone asked me that was 9/11.

Thank God it was all intercepted and stopped. Thank God there are additional security measures in place. Thank God we are British and just carry on regardless.

Still, I have to admit I prefer that, if these sort of things are happening, I have all my ducks in a row as it were. In other words, I have all my people in one safe place all together. This time we are all spread out and it feels very uncomfortable. Especially as the duck who is not in place is my 13 year old son.

So I'm doing the usually Mummy thing - assuring him that his return flight is an European flight, that there are extra safety measures in place, that it will all be okay. And I'm praying my heart out. It is the best protection I can give him.

I wonder if I'll feel confident when we all fly out to North America next week? The more I fly the less I like it (and I fly a lot!). Now we factor terrorism into it - well it just makes it all the more difficult. Eight hours of sitting there worrying. Super. Can't wait. Eight hours of looking at everyone else like they could be a potential terrorist. I hate that. I'm genuinely one of those Pollyannas who looks for the best in everyone, and believe it does not matter who you are or where you come from you are probably inately good, and suddenly here I am practically turning into a racist - judging folks on how they look. Terrorism is such an insidious thing. Even when you swear you won't let it change you or make you afraid, it does both.

We have to fight that as much as we have to fight the terrorists. Fight being afraid, and fight changing from loving trusting human beings to frightened distrustful racist ones. As for me, I'm going to keep praying till I get my duck back, and then pray some more as we go off to North America together. I still believe we are, most of us, inately good, and that by working together we can crush "the enemy within." Good always wins in the end. Somehow though, I think we are a long way from the end.

Monday, August 07, 2006

And all I've got left is a pink slip of paper

This morning at 5.50am my son, A, flew to Mallorca to join his Aunt, Uncle and family at my parent's in-law's flat. It is the first time he has flown on his own - and at 13 really did not need to be an "unaccompanied minor" but as he had not flown alone before we thought it was a good idea. Don't get me wrong, A has flown more air miles than most people have had hot dinners. His first flight was at 8 months and if it weren't for 9/11 he would still love flying as much as he did as a little boy. Now, like most of us, he approaches it with a reasonable amount of trepidation but an acceptance that if we want to travel we just have to get on with it and not let anyone scare us. This does not explain why I nearly burst into tears when I heard he had arrived safely. Not much getting on with it going on there. Really stupid I know, but he'll be my baby till he's 110. Having said that I'll never hold him back - I'm always the one telling him to jump in with both feet and not to be afraid of anything or anyone.

Anyway we decided to send him as an "unaccompanied minor" as he had never flown from Gatwick airport (we always fly from Heathrow if we are flying from London) nor had he ever flown alone into Mallorca. He speaks reasonable French but not much Spanish. So we thought it was a good idea. Yet even as I stood with A in the waiting area with the four other "unaccompanied minors" (one a really tiny little boy - what a brave mum he's got!) I felt a sense of trepidation. Sadly I think it was less to do with worrying about him and more to do with realising he isn't really a little boy any more. And of course due to the fact it was four o'clock in the morning and I'd had very little sleep I was totally emotional. Suddenly I was watching him go off to college, dancing at his wedding and growing old. Good grief, it was ridiculous.

Anyway we waited a little while, A with his pouch round his neck containing boarding pass and passport ("From now on I'll look after my own when we travel together Mum"), and then the lady from BA came to escort him to the plane. From the carbonated paperwork we had filled out, she took the green slip, A took the white slip and I got the pink one. He hugged me and his Dad and went off - didn't even look back once.

My husband remarked I looked a bit lost as we walked away. I just held on to the pink slip and my dignity with both hands. Time for a little bit of personal reinvention for this 21st Century Housewife I think. A isn't the only one who is growing up.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Skinny Summer?

I do wonder how it can be August already! The time just seems to fly by. Another thing I wonder about is everyone’s insistence that summer is the easiest time to maintain your weight – or lose weight if that is what you are trying to do. For me this is simply not the case. In fact, with the sheer exception of Christmastime, summer is the hardest time for me to stay on the straight and narrow from a dietary point of view, and the time when I have to exercise more, not less.

I think the main reason for this is picnics. We have the good fortune to go to lots of picnics in the summer. The best so far this year was my friend’s birthday picnic in late July. It was idyllic. We sat in the sunshine in the grounds of Calke Abbey, one of the Midlands’ most beautiful estates (I can’t say I like the inside of the house, it is spooky, but the grounds and gardens are incredible) drinking champagne and eating the most wonderful delicacies. As the afternoon wore on we progressed to cakes, chocolate covered cherries (not the pre-packaged ones, actual cherries dipped in melted organic chocolate) and other lovely treats. We ate virtually all afternoon. It was wonderful. The company was super and it really was one of the highlights of the summer so far. Most picnics we attend follow much the same formula, and always involve tons of lovely food and treats. Even if we are watching an outdoor performance of some description and I have packed the picnic, I find it impossible to exercise any restraint whatsoever. On the contrary, a picnic for me is an excuse to try the new and different with absolutely no consideration of their calorific value. I also eat more pastry that at any other time of the year in the form of beautiful vegetable tarts and quiches. In the winter, Pilates and aerobics keep my stomach relatively flat (although my hips will never be as slim as I would like them to be) and me in pretty good shape. In the summer, it takes extra sessions of Pilates and lots of walking as well as the aerobics to maintain the status quo. In the winter I would never dream of drinking at lunchtime. However a summer picnic is the perfect excuse to try some lovely bubbly at any time of the day (provided one is not the designated driver of course!).

A secondary reason I find summer a challenging time to stay in shape is ice cream. Fairly easily ignored during the winter, ice cream is the most wonderful summer treat. Occasionally to my horror I find myself having some nearly every day (which can be a disaster). Thankfully I have discovered some incredible sorbets by Bottlegreen this year which make it no hardship to skip the ice cream and have sorbet instead. Except if someone happens to have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream sandwich to hand in which case I find resistance is nearly impossible.

My family and I always eat lots of fruit and vegetables. In the winter I take advantage of the fact that produce from other countries is available and we have strawberries, melons. blueberries and whatever other fruit is tempting and on the supermarket shelves. Of course there is more variety of fruits and vegetables available in the summer, but the sheer amount we eat does not change, only the sorts of fruit we might eat. Nor do I hesitate to serve salad in the depths of winter. My tastes do not change just because the season has and you are just as likely to find Salade Niçoise on my table in November as in July or August.

It isn’t that I have put on tons of weight or anything. On the contrary my size remains the same. It is just so much more work in the summer! And it is so incredibly frustrating when every piece of media I see, from newspapers to magazines, insists that this is the easiest time to stay fit and trim. I wonder if there is anyone else out there like I am, or if I quite simply am quite the opposite of the norm because categorically, for me, summer is the most difficult time of the year to keep my shape.