Friday, 30 August 2013

Seen & heard: August


1. I'm a complete and utter sucker for musicals.  Where some people cringe at the cheese, I revel in it.  And I adored Pitch Perfect, which is a sort of Glee-goes-to-college movie, and therefore amazing.  Anna Kendrick and Skylar Astin were great as the romantic leads, but of course Rebel Wilson stole the show as Fat Amy ("I call myself that so twig bitches like you don't do it behind my back").  Definitely the best film of the month, in a month of excellent films.

2. Sarah recommended Robot & Frank a while ago, and it's a lovely little film.  Set in the near future, Frank is an ageing cat burglar whose children worry about his memory loss.  The answer?  Employ a robot as a healthcare assistant.  Frank initially resists this idea, but when he discovers that the robot has not been programmed to regard burglary as wrong, he realises that he might have found the perfect partner in crime...

 3. I watched Whip It for about the sixth time because I wanted The Boy to see it.  I never get bored of this film, and when I stopped to think about it I realised that one of the reasons I love it is that is smashes the Bechdel test (as does Pitch Perfect, when I think about it).  Yes, main character Bliss spends some of the film thinking and talking about a guy, but it's by far the least important plot strand. Her journey to becoming a roller derby star is the heart of the film, and her conversations -  about derby and about life, but rarely about love - with the strong women she rolls with are key.

4. You know when I said I'm a sucker for musicals?  I really, really meant it.  I LOVED Rent when I saw it on stage years ago - so much so that I went three times in a week - and I also love the film.  My idea of a good night in on my own is pyjamas, popcorn, laptop propped on my knees in bed, and the Rent DVD.  I start crying during the opening number Seasons Of Love and usually weep on and off through the rest of it, culminating in wrenching sobs when (SPOILER!) Angel dies and during the last song.  Yes, maybe I am weird to so enjoy a good cry, but it's cathartic no?


I'm still obsessing over Arctic Monkeys new material, this month Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?  All of the singles from the new album are SO good, I can't wait to hear the whole thing.

I've also been listening to a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and Hole.  Trying to reclaim my youth maybe?

Thursday, 29 August 2013

August reads

1. I love India Knight's books, and Mutton was no exception. A welcome return to Clara Hutt, who we were first introduced to in 199 My Life On A Plate. Now 46 and worrying about her sagging eyelids, how to satisfy her "rampant horn", and the return of her previously plain-Jane, now glamour-puss friend Gaby, Clara's exploits are never short of hysterical: I honked with laughter several times. I especially enjoyed the admittedly silly but fun Game Of Thrones-esque subplot involving a fantasy novel author. 

2. Pretty Things was my latest Sarra Manning read.  Brie, Charlie, Walker and Daisy are spending their summer holidays taking part in a production of The Taming Of The Shrew and - in typical Manning fashion - they quickly become embroiled in various romances of both the gay and straight varieties.  I enjoyed it, although not as much as Adorkable, which I also reread this month and still loved.

3. And speaking of Game Of Thrones, this month I was working my way through book two: A Clash Of Kings.  Still brilliant, still compulsive.  I love this series, and am trying to read slowly so I can savour every detail.  I've just started book three so shhh, no spoilers please.

4. Occupy!  Scenes From Occupied America has been on my bookshelf for well over a year waiting to be read, and I'm so glad I finally got round to it.  It's a kind of oral history/diary of the occupations - mainly NYC but also Oakland, Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia - and was a fascinating read.  Ultimately, though, I found it a little depressing; to think that so much of the excitement and enthusiasm of the Occupy movement of 2011 seems to have disappeared.

5. Click is a collection of essays by women about the when, why and where they became feminists.  It's an interesting book to dip in and out of, and it definitely got me thinking about my own story (mmm, anyone sense an upcoming blogpost?!), but it's very US-centric: while a variety of ethnicities are represented, every essay is by an American writer.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

About a boy

Scrolling through Twitter the other day, I see someone's retweet: "Grown women, please stop it with all this 'the boy' shit".

It made me cringe, for a moment, because of course I totally do all that "the boy shit" on here.  And then I started to think about why I do it. Because actually, I'm the kind of person who would usually be driven up the wall by just that kind of twee appellation. So why do I call The Boy, The Boy?

There are a few reasons. 

Firstly, and most importantly, he works in an area of academia that's very Internet- and social media-savvy. Using even his first name - with the other details I sometimes use (his hometown, for example) - might lead to him being too easily identifiable, which seems a bit unfair when it's not his blog.  He doesn't need, when looking for a job or a postdoctoral position, to have potential employers googling him and coming up with my lovelorn crap. 

Secondly, there's the small matter of our age difference. The Boy is eight years younger than me - 27 to my 35 - and so calling him by that name is a gentle way of acknowledging yet mocking what is a fairly unusual difference in ages (and never mind that he is a good sight more mature than I am).

And finally, what the hell else am I supposed to call him?  As I said above, I can't use his real name. I could, and have toyed with, just using his initial (which is T, for those of a nosey disposition).  The Man is just... well, it makes him sound like he's in the government or the CIA or whoever we talk about when we talk about 'the man'. I really hate the phrase 'partner'.  So, what do I call him?

I call him The Boy. It might sound a bit nauseating, but it's what I've become used to.  I'm sorry if people find it irritating or babyish, but you'll just have to cope.  It's a name he is fond of. It's a name with a reason behind it. It's a name that is going to stay

Monday, 26 August 2013

Made: upcycled chair

Passing my local charity furniture shop on Friday, I spotted a rather sad looking old, brown wooden chair.  When I saw the price - a mere £5 - I decided to take it home with me and see what I could make of it.  A square of fabric from my stash, some paint I had stored in the garden shed, and a sunny weekend of painting, and voila!  A brand new chair for my kitchen!

                    Before:                                   After: 

1. After knocking out the seat pad with a hammer, I sanded the chair down to provide a key for the paint and wiped it clean with a damp cloth.

2. I found some wood primer that I had left over from repainting my front door and applied one coat before leaving to dry overnight.  In the morning, I painted on two coats of eggshell (Dulux  Quartz Flint 4 ,which is a lovely chalky blue/grey-tinged white).  I'm a slapdash painter at best, so it's good that the shabby chic look is in fashion.  I definitely err more on the 'shabby' side than the 'chic'.

3. If I were doing this properly, I'd have removed the original leatherette covering from the seat pad, put a layer of fresh foam down, then re-covered in my fabric, carefully staple-gunning the edges down.  But I tend not to do things properly, so I wrapped the existing pad in my fabric and shoved it into place without fastening!  I will do it properly soon, but I was keen to see what the finished product would look like.  Rather natty, I think (if I do say so myself).

New school year resolutions

For me, the new year doesn't happen on January 1st but at the end of August.  It's a time when I think about where I want my year to go and the things I would like to achieve, both at school and in my personal life. 

The year ahead is going to be a strange one as a lot has changed.  At work, my two closest friends and my wonderful head of department have all left, so school will be a lonelier place.  And at the end of last term I won a long-sought after promotion, so will be working extra hard to get to grips with my new role.  At home, I am eagerly awaiting the return from the Netherlands of The Boy.  This will be the first time we have lived in the same city (apart from a couple of weeks at the very start of our relationship), so I am filled with all the feelings about spending the upcoming year with him.

In July of 2012 I made a list of ten resolutions for last academic year, and my progress towards meeting them has been - if I do say so myself - pretty impressive.  They were:

1. Appreciate and enjoy my city - DONE
2. Appreciate and enjoy my country - NOT DONE
3. Appreciate and enjoy Europe. - DONE 
4. Get my house in order - WORK IN PROGRESS
5. Buy a bike and ride it - DONE
6. Take more photographs - DONE
7. Work less, live more - DONE
8. Be a better teacher - DONE - BUT ALWAYS MORE TO DO! 
9. Get a new tattoo - NOT DONE
10. Try and work out where (metaphorically) to go next - DONE

As I was really rather successful with those, I thought the time was ripe for some new resolutions for this new school year:

1. Restart the £100 challenge, at least until my credit card is paid off (turns out long distance relationships don't come cheap).

2. At least once a month, make a meal that I've never cooked before.  I love cooking, and make almost every meal from scratch, but I am very predictable in the kitchen, relying on a small handful of recipes that I repeat ad infinitum.  Going out with a vegan has made me a little more experimental, but I'd like to make use of my multitude of cookbooks, rather than just flicking through them to admire the pictures.

3. Do 30 minutes of cardio at least four times a week, and weights at least twice a week. NOT for weight-loss purposes, I hasten to add. I'm not falling for that bullshit, don't worry. I just love the way my body feels after exercise (I'm particularly taken with my nascent biceps), and even if the cardio isn't at the gym I want to make sure I get plenty of exercise this year.

4. Make good use of my day off.  I started well last year, but slipped into the bad habit of going out on a Monday night and then being too, err, 'tired and emotional' to do much on Tuesday.  I'd like to use the time better this year: day trips, crafting sessions, even a day in bed reading.  As long as it's not just a day filled with chores or staring blankly at my laptop.

5. Get that damn tattoo decided on and get it done!

I will, of course, be blogging on the regular about my progress - particularly towards numbers 1, 2 and 4.  Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

In pictures: A weekend wedding

Sunday saw the Devon wedding of my best friend, Cara, to her very lovely other half, Dan.  It was a day filled with sunshine, flowers, smiles, lots of happy tears, beautiful dresses, quotes from Plato,amazing food and rather too much alcohol.  It is definitely the first wedding reception I've been to that ended with the bride, pint of lager in hand, dancing to Slipknot and Rammstein: a very Cara moment!  And no, your eyes don't deceive you.  This post does indeed contain multiple photographs of a usually camera-shy me (which were taken by my friend Alison).


Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ten things to love about Leicester

With a mere three weeks to go until The Boy moves back to Leicester, I thought I would put together a little list of some of the things he can look forward to.  Now, I haven't always loved my adopted hometown, but there is much to love here.  Ten things, in fact.

1. You're never more than a few miles away from open countryside.  Like many UK cities,  the bright lights of the town centre are never terribly far from lovely countryside.  A ten minute drive - or a twenty minute bike ride - is all I need to be amongst open fields.  Leicester, being notoriously flat (remember Adrian Mole's unpublished novel, Lo! The Flat Hills Of My Homeland?  Yeah, that's Leicester in a nutshell), doesn't really do good views, but there are some very pretty corners.

2. Curve Theatre is a masterful piece of architecture, dominating the Cultural Quarter and providing an excellent venue for world-class theatre, dance and other performances.  Recent shows I have loved there include Some Like It Hip-Hop and One Man Two Guv'nors, and I'm looking forward to seeing Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and the new Alan Bennett play in their autumn/winter season.

3. Phoenix Arts, our independent cinema is always a good bet to see great new releases in a much more pleasant environment than the local multiplex. It also has a good bar and cafe with a buzzy atmosphere, and a great membership scheme.

4. The wonderful bars, including the Orange Tree chain (The Orange Tree in the city centre, The Lansdowne near Leicester University, and O Bar in the studenty surroundings of Braunstone Gate), which are all really wonderful for good food, good drinks, retro surroundings and a convival atmosphere; The Exchange Bar, in a gorgeous flatiron building, hosts great open mic nights in the basement; Manhattan 34, which sells amazing mulled cider in the winter; The Crumblin' Cookie, which is part-cafe, part-bar, part-comedy and music venue, all-awesome... there are so many good places to eat, drink and be merry in Leicester!

5. ... but I don't love them quite as much as I do my home from home, Firebug.  I write about this place a lot, because I do spend rather a lot of time there.  Whether it's lunch and a pint during a shopping trip, Tuesday evening dinner before book club, or a Saturday night drinking session, Firebug is always a relaxed place to hang out alone or with friends.  If and when my aunt Jenny ever makes the long-promised visit to the UK from South Africa, we've already agreed that this place will be our first stop!

6. St Martins Square & The Lanes is an area of entirely independent shops in the city centre. There are vintage stores galore, gift shops, interiors and fashion boutiques, tattoo parlours, a great haberdashery, Rockaboom Records, a cook shop, plus lovely places to eat and drink (Taps is a favourite bar, which features actual beer taps on the tables in the cellars, and the World Peace cafe is a great veggie/vegan option).

7. Leicester is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the UK.  Not only that, but it's regularly held up as an example of how to get multi-culturalism right; while not perfect, Leicester has far fewer tensions than others of its ilk.  We have an annual Caribbean Carnival, fantastic food in the numerous 'ethnic' restaurants and cafes (including a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options in the hundreds - thousands? - of Indian eateries), the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India... I could go on and on.  Having grown up in Bradford, I loved moving to Leicester and experiencing life in a truly integrated multi-cultural city.
8. Clarendon Park is a lovely area just to the south of Victoria Park. Queens Road, its main thoroughfare, is a hotchpotch of independent shops, delis, cafes and restaurants. I love to wander up here to do my weekend shopping the old way: fruit and veg from the greengrocer, flowers from the florist, meat from the butcher, cheese and bread from the deli (and usually a couple of finds from the numerous secondhand bookshops). Green & Pleasant is a great store for organic and fairtrade food; Vintage Utopia is chock full of retro furniture at very reasonable prices; The Offie is the place to be if you're a beer and ale fan, with over 500 different brews.

9. New Walk New Walk is a unique, mile-long 18th century pedestrian walkway that links the centre of town to Victoria Park.  The majority of the buildings along the route are also late-18th or early-19th century and, with old iron lamp-posts, quiet squares and trees lining the walk, it makes a wonderfully traffic-free and peaceful way to get to and from the city centre.

10. Finally, the very best thing about Leicester is that it's easy to leave!  Being pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the country, it's very well-connected.  London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield are all within an hour's reach, and it doesn't take too long to get anywhere else in England other than the very furthest reaches. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Why I'll never monetise my blog

There comes a time in every blogger's life, once they start getting a good number of followers and page views, when the PR requests start coming through.  To monetise or not to monetise?  That is the question.  Take some freebies in return for a review, take the money in return for a sponsored post, or remain entirely un-monetised?

I do think that there is a vast difference between getting a freebie that you would write about anyway and taking any sponsorship that comes along. It makes total sense to read a restaurant review of a free meal on Rosalilium, because Elizabeth blogs about food regularly. Likewise when Bethany on Arched Eyebrow posts about a bra she's been given; she's a fatshion blogger, she'd write about that kind of thing anyway. It's when I see posts sponsored by Argos, fer chrissakes, that I start to feel a bit stabby. I'm sorry, but you cannot convince me that even the most laundry-mad blogger would willingly write about a new tumble dryer.

It also seems to me that recently some of my favourite lifestyle bloggers have become more and more drawn into a depressing pattern of sponsored post after sponsored post.  I'm all for bloggers sharing their interesting finds and lust lists, and if you can be sponsored to write about something you would want to mention anyway, then great!  But one or two of my once-favourite blogs have become nothing but sponsored posts and very rarely write anything original, which makes me both yawn with boredom and respect them a whole lot less.

One argument which is prevelant amongst pro-monetising bloggers is that they deserve some reward for the time they put into their blog.  There seems to be an attitude amongst some bloggers that blogging = professional writing and that therefore they should be paid, either in kind or in actual cash.  Well I'm sorry, but blogging is not the same as journalism at all.  Most bloggers aren't trained writers and the quality of the prose on most blogs is far off what would be acceptable in a magazine or newspaper (some of it is far off what would be acceptable in my year 7 English class, but that's another matter).  That doesn't invalidate blogging at all, but it's naive at best and insulting at worst to pretend that it's the same as being a professional writer. 

For me, there is a huge gulf between the bloggers I truly respect and admire - Sarah, Louise, Laura, The Girl, Elise, E & B - and a lot of the other 'lifestyle' bloggers out there, and when I sat down to think about why that was, I realised that none of those women ever blog anything except what is completely true to them. I may be wrong, but I don't think I've ever seen the dreaded words, "This is a sponsored post" at the bottom of their blogs.  As a result, I genuinely look forward to each new post appearing in my feed, and when they express an opinion about a place or product or experience, I take notice because I know they must really mean it.

I blog because I enjoy writing, I enjoy having a dialogue with commenters and other bloggers, enjoy 'meeting' new people, and first and foremost because I enjoy having an online diary that I can look back on.  It would make me very sad to think that the only reason to blog would be because I was being paid. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

In pictures: walking in Yorkshire

I spent the weekend in Yorkshire with my family, and on Saturday my mum, brother and I went for a walk in the Pennines, along part of the Kirklees Way.  Although it was a grey, blustery day, with the lowering clouds threatening rain at all times, and although we got chased by a cow, it was a lovely walk, with the heather nearing full-bloom and the hills looking stunning.


Thursday, 8 August 2013


I saw Liz's Wanderlust post recently and, although it's been a while coming, I quite fancied having a go at these questions.  I love to travel, and I love writing about it too...

1. Which airport would you like to never see again?
I'd read nightmare reviews of Skopje's airport and was slightly dreading flying into and out of there last month, but was pleasantly surprised (to be fair, I think it's had a very recent makeover).  So it will have to be Luton airport: unfair really, as it's not a terrible airport (and the security queues are amazingly fast-moving), but it reminds me of stressful Friday afternoon dashes down the M1 to catch a flight to Amsterdam to see The Boy.  No need for that soon!

2. What is your travel nightmare?
As the queen of the spreadsheet and laminated itinerary*, my travel nightmare is things not going to plan.  I've actually lived this nightmare, in San Francisco two years ago.  We had booked a three-day trip to Yosemite, including a pick-up from our hostel plus accomodation, online.  On the morning of departure, my brother and I sat and waited in the lobby... and waited.... and waited.  A few phone calls from the friendly receptionist, and it transpired that the Yosemite people had no record of our booking and would not, in fact, be picking us up then or any other time.  Cue meltdown as Richard and I faced two nights on the streets and (perhaps a worse fate) three more days in San Francisco, which we had had our fill of.

* I don't actually laminate the itinerary, that's a Darjeeling Limited joke that my brother enjoys.

3. Would your rather stay in a fancy hotel and do fewer activities, or stay in a hostel and do more activities?
It really depends on the purpose of my trip and who I'm with, but the honest answer is: both! 

In my twenties I loved staying in hostels.  Meeting new people, partying all night, getting little sleep in dorms; these were all part of the travel experience.  But I tried doing it that way again in South Africa last summer and, my gosh, I realised that there are some things you really do become too old for. 

That being said, my ideal trip now would be divided between spending time in a hostel, which I think are generally better for bringing you closer to local life (especially when you're travelling alone), and a few days in a lovely hotel, to enjoy the bliss of solitude and silence!

4. Do you have any pre-travel rituals?
Apart from checking a zillion times that I have my passport and boarding passes or tickets, nope. 

5. What is your favourite airline to fly with?
BA.  Not only do I rate their service, on my last two longhaul flights with BA I got upgraded on the return leg.  My top tip is to join their frequent flyer programme*; I can't see any other reason why a scruffy backpacker would get upgraded twice in a row.

* To do so, book a flight directly with them - which won't be any more expensive than through a third party website - and then select the option to join the BA Executive Club. You can then also use your Tesco Clubcard vouchers to collect Avios, which equals free flights!

6. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
There are so many places on my to-visit list that it's hard to narrow it down.  But the next big trip lined up is at Easter, travelling to Verona - to visit the Corte Eremo reading retreat - and Bologna.  Hopefully we'll be able to do the trip using Eurostar and trains within Europe.

7. How do you survive long haul flights?
For long haul flights my tolerance for cattle class is poor.  If and when I can afford it, I'd always book the premium economy seats, which are not a huge amount more expensive but are SO much more comfortable.  Or alternatively, I just fly BA and hope they upgrade me (see above!).

8. What is your favourite stamp in your passport and why?
I regularly mourn the fact that stamps just aren't that easy to get nowadays.  As a lot of my travel is within the EU and Schengen zone (and as my passport is only a year old), I don't have many stamps, so it would have to be my stamp from South Africa last summer.

9. What are your top 3 necessary items for travel?
I'm guessing that the obvious of passport, tickets and credit card can be discounted? 
1. Earplugs aare n absolute necessity for a decent night's sleep.  
2. Kindle.  I still prefer 'real' books at other times, but for travelling it's a godsend.  I read a lot when I'm on holiday - like, five books a week a lot - so travelling before getting my Kindle was a bit of a nightmare, with heavy bags and lots of abandoning read books along the way while acquiring new ones to keep me stocked with reading material. 
3. Clean pants.  Sounds obvious, but if I forget anything when I travel it is always my knickers!

10. What's your favourite holiday photograph of all time?
Shocking precisely no-one who knows me, I possess zero holiday photographs of myself, my friends, or my family.  I am so camera-phobic that I almost never take pictures of people, because I know how much I hate it.  So all my favourite holiday photographs are just of places.  The one at the top is one of my favourites of recent years, of the sun setting over Table Mountain last August, as seen from my aunt and uncle's house.  And this one, of blossom in Paris, reminds me of my wonderful weekend there with The Boy this April.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


BUYING... lots and lots and lots, including two Breton striped tops in Nijmegen, two ace dresses in the Joules sale (one with boats on it and one with birds, because I'm just a total blogger cliche) at Cheshire Oaks, and cool vintage finds in Leicester.

TAKING... lots of photographs of myself (I refuse to use that horrible 'selfie' word), in an attempt to get myself more camera-ready for being a bridesmaid next weekend.  I hate having my picture taken, and am the queen of blinking/pulling an odd face/talking at the wrong moment. 

READING... I am still working my way through the immense pile of paperbacks that make up the Game Of Thrones series, and also Winnie De Poeh, which is Winnie The Pooh in Dutch, and is my genius (ok, rubbish) idea for learning the language.

VISITING... Chester, on a road trip with a couple of friends.  We did some serious damage to our purses at the Cheshire Oaks shopping outlet, had a lovely evening out and then explored Chester the following day.  Also Norfolk, to visit two other friends and their little girl.

DRINKING... mojitos in Chester and cider in Norfolk.

EATING... far too much!  Lunches out, dinner with friends, long lazy evenings messing about in the kitchen whipping up meals and drinking wine: my summer holiday excess is not just limited to shopping.  I generally give less than a fuck about gaining or losing weight, but I have a bridesmaid's dress to fit into in less than a fortnight, so I need to keep an eye on things!

MAKING... all sorts.  I feel like I finally have my crafting mojo back, which is lovely.  Last week I made blinds for my friend, Emma's, kitchen window and a very cool wedding present involving vintage maps (tutorial to follow, after the gift has been given) for my best friend Cara.  Then yesterday I had a lovely crafty afternoon with a friend who's recovering from a knee op and can't really get out of the house; we made bowls and bookends from old records, and padded heart decorations. 

PACKING... to go away again.  I got back from Norfolk on Monday and am now heading off to Leeds to visit the family for the weekend. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Some thoughts about not wanting children

I am 35 years old and childless, and I've just started my period.

Accepted social discourse would have me weeping and bereft; yet another woman who has left having children too late. There isn't an understanding that someone in my situation might feel relief - euphoria would actually be closer to the mark - at dodging the bullet of pregnancy for another month*.

Because whilst my peers busily organise their lives around child-bearing and child-rearing, I am going out of my way to avoid it. And this can lead to a nagging feeling of guilt. How dare I celebrate every period, while close friends battle to conceive?  When I know that, for some, starting a period is not a cause for relief but for grief?  By not wanting children, I'm definitely the odd one out amongst my friends.

I didn't always feel this way. Despite never being terribly keen on babies or children, I always assumed that one day I'd have kids. It's what you do, isn't it, if you're a woman with a working womb? But the time for having children was always far ahead of me. When I got pregnant at 21, I didn't hesitate about having an abortion. My life was chaotic and I was in no fit state to parent a child. "I can have children when I'm 30ish," I thought to myself. As that milestone approached, 34 suddenly seemed a more sensible age at which to breed, and as that birthday came nearer, back those goalposts went again. And now I'm 35 - the same age at which my mum had her last baby - I am becoming increasingly convinced that the ever-moving goalposts are a sign that perhaps I just don't want children at all.

In my twenties, and even my early thirties, having a baby was entirely hypothetical and could therefore be, rather like Schrodinger's cat, both a possibility and an impossibilty. It wasn't something I needed to examine too closely, I could just let the idea stay in its box. But when you hit 35 and having children becomes a question of now or never, you have to really consider... is this what I want? And my answer, I think, is no.

This is the bit where I should say, "I love babies, I adore spending time with children. I just don't want any of my own." But it's a lie. Babies both bore and scare me. I'm quite taken by their squidgy cheeks for all of, ooh, 2 minutes, but then I'm totally over them. And children... well, I love my nieces and nephew dearly but my gosh, an hour with them and I'm wanting to gouge my eye out with a spoon just to enliven proceedings. I prefer to enjoy them from a distance. Preferably one of some miles. There is nothing - literally, nothing - in the world that I enjoy more than returning to my silent, empty, blissfully childfree house after an afternoon with kids. 

"It'll be different when you have your own," people say. But the question remains, what if it isn't? It seems like rather a large risk to take. The notion that women (never men, have you noticed?) who choose to remain childfree are somehow 'selfish' is perplexing to me; I can't think of anything more selfish than for me to have a baby just to find out if it is different when it's your own.

I have the utmost respect for my friends and family members who have chosen to become parents, and I think they do an amazing job.  I'm also grateful to them for giving me an opportunity to buy cute baby clothes from Cath Kidston and hunt down cool children's books to share with their offspring.  But breeding is just not for me.

The fact is, I love my life exactly how it is. I enjoy my job (ironically, I love teaching children. I just like leaving them at work); I like to go out at the weekend and drink a bit too much and giggle with my friends; I love spending time with The Boy, whether it's quiet nights on the sofa or packing our bags and jetting off to a new city for the weekend; I love to read for hours on end, to experiment in the kitchen, to sit and write quietly. All of these things are so precious to me and when I think of having children, all I can think of is how it would stop me from doing all of them. Is that selfish, to prioritise my own well-being and happiness over that of a child who doesn't exist? I really don't think it is. If I did have a baby and I spent hours to myself, then that would be selfish. But I can't see how choosing not to have children in the first place is a selfish act.  How does choosing to be a good teacher, daughter, aunt, girlfriend, sister and friend rather than a most likely poor parent make me selfish? 

* I should perhaps explain that I do use contraception, I'm just extremely neurotic about its efficiacy and am ever-convinced that I will be in the 1% for whom it doesn't work.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Summer in Nijmegen

And so to The Netherlands.  It was wonderful beyond words to spend all of last week with The Boy.  We...

... caught lots of trains, exploring Den Bosch, Leiden and The Hague (Den Haag) as well as spending time in Nijmegen, his hometown;
... visited two art galleries and one cinema;
... ate lots of tasty food (I might be in trouble for this photo of The Boy enjoying his falafel, but I love it!), had a picnic in the park, and drank cider on a boat on the canal in Den Haag;
... sought out political graffitti, which Nijmegen is full of.  This one reads, "Education is right for everyone, we won't let it be taken away";
... browsed through dusty old record shops;
... wandered around cathedrals, like proper old people, and got freaked out by the dolls heads in the window of a shop just behind Stevenskerk in Nijmegen;
... played Scrabble using a Dutch set, which was abandoned when I ended up with a hand consisting of seven (SEVEN!) Es.

And now I am back in Leicester, and it's only five weeks until The Boy moves back here too!!  Counting the days...