New year’s eve with small kids

1.

New Year 1

New Year 1 bis

2.

New year 2

3.

New year 3

4.

New year 4

5.

New year 5

6.

New year 6

7.

New Year 7

Tehehehe….

Hey, how did you celebrate the new year ?

Bonne année to all of you!

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The princess who fell off her bike

fashion statement… And badly sprained her ankle.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, stop sniggering, it could happen to anyone.

So erm, moving on: Last week, in a daring streak of supermarket psychology brilliance, I worked out that my three latest exes T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing me from the shackles of single-motherhood-singledom to become universally worshipped fatherly figures. Except that becoming universally-worshipped fatherly figures turned out to be too hard, so off they went…

Fine.

Well, not fine, really, but whatever.

Well perhaps not whatever either, because, as fellow blogger That Precarious Gait accurately pointed out, what was my role in all this?

She’s right, what was I doing?

Name: Lady E

Occupation: Lapsed scientist, lapsed science communication specialist, accidentally turned international relation-ist.

Looks: Short, slight, dark-ish. Currently looking dangerously attractive in a one-legged, strap-on-cast fashion.

Likes: Summer, sitting on a beach, messing son’s hair, mum’s lasagna, having friends around, gardening, cream tea, scribbling dodgy sketches.

Dislikes: Bad weather, supermarket baguettes, coffee, mushrooms, people who decide not to vaccinate their children because, you know, it’s not naaatural.

What made her attractive: Contagious smile, awesome chocolate mousse, kind, stable.

What makes her unattractive: Well, I could go on and on with a list of flaws I see in myself, including being late, moody pre-period, insecure, short-fused and shouty when I’m tired, but don’t know what did it for my exes. None of them had anything to say about me. All they could articulate was about family life being too much.

Baggage: Anxious parents, anxious streak. Childhood-rooted fear of abandonment, compounded by experience in a few significant romantic relationships. Wobbly self-esteem.

Said baggage would explain why I unconsciously tend to doubt my ability to attract anyone permanently, and thus favour men who display rapid signs of commitment (by the way, that’s another spot-on hint from That Precarious Gait). So, that’s the ones who are totally smitten, rapidly want to settle down and have a family. They all give me a sense of security I fail to give myself.

Voilà.

So theoretically, all I have to do is find enough security in myself to counter the inevitable uncertainties of relationships, especially the new-ish ones. Piece of cake, right? While some people love the unknown and accompanying butterflies, I just get scared senseless. And it feels like each repetition of the whole abandonment trauma has heightened the fear.

Ow, great then, sounds like I might have to stay single for the next 60 years or so…

Because whilst I am a wiz in the garden, no amount of mulching and composting seems to have had much effect on the self-reassurance / security I have been trying to grow for a few years…

So if you happen to have any green-fingered tips on how to grow your sense of security, and manage your fear of abandonment in relationships, I’d love to hear them!

Right. This song’s had me dancing uncontrollably (yes, on one leg) lately. Oooh yeah ! 🙂

Sugar how you get so fly?

Sugar how you get so fly?

Robin Schulz – Sugar

Interlude

Corbières

This week I have been blessed with forgetting.

Not my usual where-on-Earth-have-I-left-my-phone (oh, and the charger, and the canteen bill?), but the rare gift of has-there-really-ever-been-another-day-than-today oblivion.

In fact, get that: I managed to entirely forget the past year…

And nope, it did not involve half a gallon of rum and passing out with cocktail olives up my nose.

Which is impressive, because even by my standards, the last twelve months have been pretty hairy.

Say, if I were to produce a dodgy Xmas present calendar with pictures illustrating each month, there could be: Mr Nice and I crying over our separation and the death of my children’s pet Guinea pig (August 2014), Mr Nice changing his locks and turning into Mr Big Bastard From Hell (September 2014), me frowning over a job application (anytime beween July 2014 and February 2015), meetings at the bank attempting to fit a size 12 budget into a future size 6 income (November 2014), piles of unfinished work and a ticking clock (finishing my old job, Jan-Feb 2015), an idiot’s guide to international relations (starting new job just as Mr Xmas plunges into depression, March), a bottle of Sauternes and foie gras (to celebrate my promotion, April), an idiots’ guide to surviving hierarchy overload, stress at work and single parenthood (May to July), a blown gasket for Mr Xmas (June).

Although I have to admit that I wouldn’t know a gasket -let alone a blown gasket- from a garden gnome.

Anyway, this week, no shade of work, blown gaskets or big bastards. Nope.

Toulouse 1I righted the world’s wrong with friends near Toulouse, until far too late in the night to cope with energetic offspring in the morning.

Watched my son’s delighted fishing despite his refusal to touch anything on the hook (bait or fish).

Watched my daughter go down the water slide all by herself for the first time.

Chuch bell CorbièresListened to the church bell ring out the slowing down hours, in a quaint village of the ruggedly beautiful Corbières.

Cooked with only a microwave for three days (a challenge)

Counted the number of mosquito bites behind my right knee (8, a record)

Listened to my children fight over three hours of jammed traffic and torrential downpour between Narbonne and Montpellier. Fantasised about heavy-duty parcel tape, gags, and James Bondey-type cars where you press a button and a sound/bullet-proof glass partition buzzes up between the front and back seats.

Saw a lot of relatives and was stunned by how much their children have grown. A mystery of the universe (apart from the disappearance of anti-matter): How do I keep forgetting that other people’s children grow up too?

GuardiansWatched Camarguese cowboys near Montpellier herd bulls through the streets at high speed (and yeah, I didn’t fancy getting too much closer as I took this shot). It’s a local festive tradition. So is drinking neat Pastis.

So there. It has been a busy, and lovely week to round off my Summer break. Tonight, I will be driving North one last time, and going back to work tomorrow. I haven’t started loading the car and think I may varnish my nails. Anyone mentionned denial?

Madilyn Bailey – Radioactive

A nice cover, which keeps playing on the radio this Summer, and my children like to sing along to when they’re not fighting.

Not sick of holiday snaps?

Corbières IMG_1780 Corbières

Kiddos

Swimming kiddos

Swimming smurfs

I am swimming Southwards, and as the joyful hum of the beach recedes, the sea’s wet clapping quietness surrounds me.

The water is warm, the sun gently leaning to the West. I feel a timid kind of happiness.

Not the heavy-duty, my-life-is-so-fecking-perfect-I could-die variety, but nevertheless, a thin, fragile, in-spite-of-everything-I-am-still-standing (well, strictly speaking, I tend not to swim standing, but you get my drift) and-right-this-second-life-is-sort-of-close-to-perfect kind. Which all things considered, is pretty good.

I see three main reasons for this:

  1. Yeeeeeesss, hallelujah, at long last, I am on holiday! In fact, I am somewhere around halfway through my 3-week break, and work (what work?) feels mercifully far away.
  2. My antidepressant is good shit.
  3. This morning, a cute guy tried to chat me up at Montpellier’s train station, and I have generally noticed a decent amount of male attention lately. Thought of the day: Skimpy Summer dresses and tanned legs should be available on prescription too.

But there’s an underlying fourth reason, currently digging holes in the sand and splashing in the waves: My kiddos. I keep having moments akin to the revoltingly-soppy-bullshit abundant on Facebook, when I just cannot believe I have such beautiful, kind-hearted, clever, lovely children. They amaze me. There (sick-bags are available in your seat pockets).

This said, rest assured that their ability to be disgusting-brats-I-just-want-to-throw-in-the-bin is also amazing at times.

And for the last few days, they have been joined by the boy they consider a funny kind of sibling: Mr Nice’s son (hence why 3 smurfs in the pool picture).

It’s a long story… Which cut short could be something like (I recommend having an extra cup of coffee before reading, on account of staying alert):

  1. Bear with me, I have a thing going on with numbered lists at the moment.
  2. Our kids (aged 5, 6 and 11) had been kind of brought up together for just under three years, when Mr Nice and I separated at the end of last Summer.
  3. Mr Nice and I both solemnly promised the children that they could still spend time together and count on the two of us.
  4. Mr Nice promptly turned into Mr Big Bastard and decided to do the exact opposite.
  5. Responding to our distraught children, Mr Nice’s son’s mother (are you following?) and I, ensured they could see each other regularly.
  6. Over the last 10 months, Mr Nice’s son’s mother and I have actually become friends.
  7. Mum+son have joined us for a few days holiday in the South.
  8. We’ve all had a fantastic time, and sincerely hope Mr Nice sunburns and catches stomach flu.

End of story.

Worlds collide

Petals by Lady E

Petals by Lady E

A baby I don’t know is sitting in my daughter’s buggy. A red-haired little boy, who dribbles on the straps, looking content. His mother smiles, hands me a few notes, and walks away.

A little piece of my heart tears.

There is something really odd about standing in the sunshine on a perfect Saturday morning, selling chunks of your children’s babyhood for a few euros.

I look at the new mums milling around with newborns strapped to their chests, at the collection of baby-bumps cooing over minuscule onesies and ridiculously cute pyjamas. I remember being one of them, walking around NCT sales, oblivious of the middle-aged mothers selling their wares, absorbed in my own present of moses baskets and muslins.

Today, I have a son in middle school and permanent bags under the eyes. There will be no baby number 3.

As the sale closes, I stay behind with a friend who is expecting her first, and shows me her loot. As she beams and talks animatedly, I lose myself in the rush of pregnancy and newborn memories. The hopes, the worries, the excitment.

A man is walking towards us. I automatically look the other way and carry on smiling, but my pounding heart muffles all other sounds, as recent, painful memories in France collide with the bittersweet flow of UK pregnancies.

A year ago, Mr Nice and I walked down the same road, hacking out the menu for our evening barbecue with friends…

He walks past us, a stranger.

My friend doesn’t even notice.

The view from my office

View from my office

View from my office

Firstly, why did I ever think that cycling into work in a blizzard may even remotely be a good idea?

Secondly, night is falling now. And the roads will be even more slippery than this morning.

Thirdly, only a week left to go. In a week, this will no longer be the view from my office, because I will no longer be working here.

Just to add to the stress of wrapping-up a zillion projects before I leave, I have to take BIG job decisions. And frankly, I don’t like big decisions. They feel daunting, and definitive, and I would rather stick sharp things under my nails than decide.

Ok, so the reason decision time has come is because even though I have signed up for a terribly-paid but interesting fixed-term post somewhere, I am now being offered a slightly-better-paid but less interesting permanent position somewhere else. And that’s really just the executive summary of the problem, because there are many more ramifications such as being able to work part-time, how much time off  I can get to fit around the kids, development perspectives, the fact that if I go in one less-interesting direction, I will be closing the door on future, more interesting ones, and the all important issue of how good the canteen is.

So, hey, I know I am lucky to even have the luxury of choosing between two (well, actually it’s three, but the third one was a no-brainer) jobs, but guess what: I am scared. There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last five years, and I feel like hiding under the duvet pretending all this latest job changing lark isn’t really happening.

I know that I will eventually get over it, but right now, my eyes are watering, and I can feel a headache coming on.

At home, Mr Xmas, who has picked up the kids, showered my youngest and cooked dinner will be there, all deep-voiced and calm.

Think I’ll just catch the tram and bus home tonight…

Buena Vista Social Club – Dos Gardenias

Lanzarote

Before I found out I was going to become a pauper last Autumn, Mr Xmas and I had booked a week off in Lanzarote over the New Year.

So after spending a really noisy, hectic, lovely week in Paris with my family for Christmas, I headed for a really quiet (read child-free) week with Mr Xmas in Lanzarote. Lanzarote is a smallish Spanish island off the coast of Southern Morocco, on the same latitude as Florida : It is renowned for its year-round mild climate and freakish volcanic landscapes.

We did a lot of hiking.

Hiking

Classy picnics.

Picnic

High-brow entertainment.

Uno

The only downside being that our studio flat was right next to the hotel’s bar, where staff rehearsed an Abba musical every. Single. Night around the time we cooked dinner.

Abba

Because we’re French, we picked the starter of our New Year’s Eve dinner off the rocks on a beach…

Winkles

Winkles

And speaking of New Year’s Eve, it was probably one of the simplest, yet best in my life.

New year

In a word, I spent a blissful week away from all the pain of the past and uncertainties of the present.

And have since come back with a bump to Winter and errr… Is it just life? My workload is through the roof as I’m on the final stretch of my current job, there have been interviews for new jobs, broken cars, grumpy children, grumpy and sick children, cutting down on all expenses. Yet, none of it has been as bad it it could have been, because you know what ? I am not alone.

Mr Xmas is here. In fact, Mr Xmas has all but moved in with us, and much to my surprise, it feels ok.

Well, better than ok: I actually look forward to seeing him every night, to burying my nose in his smell and debriefing the day.

That is not to say that there aren’t still moments when I doubt, freak-out and question everything (hey, it wouldn’t be me otherwise), but they are getting fewer and further between.

Something odd, tranquil and powerful is seeping through the cracks of my tired heart.

Grand corps malade – 15h du matin

This song is light and silly, a reminder that Spring is around the corner. Makes me smile at the rain and fog.

… I’ll leave you with a few real pics of our holiday

Geometry by Lady E

Geometry by Lady E

The winkles' beach !

The winkles’ beach !

Timanfaya national park

Timanfaya natural park

Volcano top

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Atlantic

Atlantic