Just Write

I need to write tonight.

My period is due and everything feels awful. My PMT since Poppy is worse than it’s ever been, and for at least a few days before I am so sad. I saw a homeless person outside KFC last night, a girl really and the thought of her makes me want to cry. She could be one of my girls, I think, she could be me.

I am sad because I have to sit in silence in this house. Silence because Poppy is such a light sleeper. She woke earlier because we opened the front door and I had to feed her to sleep. I now don’t know if she’ll wake again in the night or if she will wake again at 5am.

I am sad because we are done with babies and I’m sad because I think I’m ok with that. I am so desperately sad that I can’t remember what a kick from a baby tucked inside you feels like, and that I won’t spend that first magical night again, the one in the hospital when they dim the lights and you lose all sense of time and space. I am sad that I will never pick up a tiny outfit again and imagine my own baby in it. I am sad that I’ll never parent a boy.

But I’m hopeful too. Planning things with my three, thinking ahead, my own trio of mop tops. My big girls are settled at school, happy and learning and reading and doing sums. It’s a madness really. My baby is nearer her first birthday than her birth and she is a wonderful, a balm to the soul, a true wonder. She sits and she plays and she loves flashing lights and likes to look at pictures of her sisters on a mobile phone. Which is a madness too if you think about too.

I think I am hopeful about my writing. I have had words with myself and know that I can write. I will write. I need space and some time and it will come.

I am sleepy. I am still in love. I am scared. I’m so many things. Pigeonholed. Don’t you hate that? The pigeonholing? I’m a mum, you hear, with an apologetic smile, and I want to scream. No, no, no, you are so much more besides.

You are whole. Your children may have rounded the circle, popped a cherry on top, but you are whole anyway. Whole without them. All by yourself ❤️

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Fiction Friday (9)

It was all a lie or none of it was.

It was a sunny day and yet as the sky fell in, I felt completely numb. The estate agent was stood awkwardly by the gate and I gestured vaguely at him as he met my eyes. He smiled and pulled his phone from his pocket, discreetly tapping buttons with his back slightly turned. The voice continued in my ear, my own phone to my cheek and I nudged a tuft of grass with the toe of my shoe.

‘Are you OK? If I leave you to it?’

I nodded, then shaking my head, remembering that he couldn’t hear that, repeated that yes, I was fine, no big deal, we’d speak in the morning, check in, have a chat. I knew, as we said goodbye, that he would worry about me for a while, would think about how I’d taken the news, and then something would happen, another phone call, a problem at work, and he’d forget all about me. I might occur to him as he drove home and he might send me a text later on, but his job was done.

I slipped my phone into the bag on my shoulder and stepped forward. The estate agent moved to join me and I shook his hand, apologised for answering my phone and said I’d be in touch. I wouldn’t be, the flat was too small, the kitchen was in the lounge and there was no window in the bathroom. I had pictured my furniture as we had walked round, my sofa squeezed under the window, a cosy place to read on a Sunday afternoon, my bed covered in cushions on a Friday night, me cooking in the kitchen overlooking and him, well, he wouldn’t be there at all.

I don’t remember walking home, I remember arriving home and I remember climbing under the duvet in my underwear, my clothes in a messy pile on the floor. I slept, woke up and fell asleep again, and then it was dark and I allowed myself to get up, taking my dressing gown from the back of my bedroom door and pulling it tight around me. I walked to the kitchen, flicked the kettle on and leant back on the worktop. I could see my handbag on the floor by the front door and I rummaged through it as I waited for the water to boil. There was the usual detritus of receipts, lip glosses that I never wore and a random loose earring stuck to the magnetic clasp of my phone case. I yanked it off, threw the earring onto the worktop and turned my phone on.

There were two missed calls, my mum and my store, the usual call that I demanded at the end of every day I wasn’t there, how much money we’d taken, any issues, usually just a random chat if I was entirely honest. There were six messages, my mum wondering why I wasn’t answering my phone, my sister confirming that I was babysitting at the weekend, a friend asking me for coffee, my deputy manager, a message asking if I was OK from the friend on the phone a million hours before.

Then him.

Two words.

‘I’m sorry.’

 

Ring

Isla and I walked home today just the two of us. My sister took Grace and Poppy and we went to Boots to buy face wash. She clutched the bottle like a trophy and carefully extracted the receipt from the self service till.

She held my hand as we walked through the shopping centre and my ring rubbed against the palm of her hand. She asked if she could wear it when we got home.

Now I have a lot of cheap jewellery, rings bought in the sale, long necklaces that I used to wear to work to make my all black uniform less boring and earrings I wear occasionally as they make my ears feel weird. But my ring is different.

It is a simple silver band, an irregular shape as if it has been buried or bashed somehow. It looks nothing at all, I wear it on my ring finger but on my right hand. But inside, it has my big girls names and the year of their birth.

I have taken it off once and that was when I was wheeled into the operating theatre to have Poppy.

I said no, she couldn’t wear it and she asked me why. I explained that one day, it would be left to her sister and her and that they could decide what to do with it then.

She listened and then told me she was really good at climbing walls, she had listened politely but her brain had moved on. Mine hadn’t. Today has been the third day in a very tough week. I feel like a terrible mother, a terrible pseudo wife, a terrible person. I’m anxious and worried, tense and feel sick, I want to sleep but it eludes me. There is more to say, I wrote a post that I might publish.

Or I might not.

I don’t know yet.

Meatless March: an Update

You may recall, if you’ve read here before, that I attempted to go vegetarian for March. you can read about it here: Meatless March

In that blog post I made several observations as to how vegetarianism felt six days and well, now we’re four months in, I thought I’d revisit them and see if my feelings have changed.

1. It’s really easy when you’re at home. Yes, it requires a little more preparation, it means you can’t put chicken in everything, it means that some meals require actual chopping and cooking, but the alternatives are excellent, Quorn is brilliant and we had veggie mince over beef mince before. And you try new things, and some things work and some are truly disgusting. Guess which category cauliflower rice fell into….

This remains true. Quorn is not as good as the Linda McCartney range, their “chicken” pieces are disgusting, whereas Linda McCartney burgers and sausages are better than meat. We have tried new things, but just the same as eating meat, you end up with an arsenal of easy meals that take no time at all and you always have the ingredients: stir fries, salads, baked potatoes and cheesy chips. I have the last one far too often.

2. It’s much harder when you’re out. On Thursday, the first day, we went to M&S while the girls were at nursery and we had a gift card so thought we might get some food from the cafe. Well, I fancied a sandwich and the ONLY veggie option was mushroom and emmental. J doesn’t like mushrooms and I didn’t want it, so we bought a baguette and made rolls at home. On Saturday, we took the girls to McDonalds and they had chicken nuggets and we had one of the three veggie options available. The vegetable deluxe. Well, that should be in inverted commas, as it tasted of nothing. Fortunately we shared one, and didn’t waste money on one each.

Still true. I haven’t eaten at McDonalds since February, and doubt that I will until there are better veggie options. What I have found overwhelmingly is that meat is substituted with spice. So a veggie burger has a little chilli beside it, or some noodles come with actual cut up chillies that you have to laboriously pick out because not eating meat doesn’t mean that you like hot food. Or is this just me….

This all being said, we have a newborn so haven’t been out much, if at all for weeks so I’m excited to start investigating veggie food out once we’re going out a bit more.

3. You do feel better. I feel less sluggish and have a bit more energy which as someone who is eight months pregnant, I’ll take as a win. I’ve given up things I like whilst pregnant anyway, brie, cheesecake etc, so this is fine and doable and I think J feels better too.

I honestly don’t know about this one. I’m no longer eight months pregnant obviously so of  course I feel better! But would I feel the same if I was eating meat? I don’t know.

4. I’ve felt strangely ethical about it as it’s continued. I’ve read stuff over the years about the meat industry and how it’s run and I’ve long held an intense dislike for handling raw meat. This led to feeling uneasy about eating something that I didn’t want to handle and I do feel much better morally for not eating meat.

This. A million times this. I feel more and more strongly about not eating meat. I am still eating tuna and I want to stop this in the next little while alongside sweets which contain gelatine, looking at you Haribo. This segues nicely into….

5. I have no desire to go vegan. I don’t think that it’s financially viable for us anyway, as far as I can tell, all the vegan alternatives to staples are more expensive than the dairy/non vegan options. Milk for example and we drink a lot of milk, cereal, tea, coffee, in cooking. I can’t imagine how much it would cost us if we replaced all of that with non dairy milk. And would you need a different one for each thing? Does coconut milk taste good in tea? Or almond milk in coffee? And can you make a white sauce with any of them?

I now have every desire to go vegan. I look at the non dairy milks in the supermarket with interest, try to try vegan products more and more regularly. It seems strangely half hearted to go vegetarian and not try for veganism. I’ve subscribed to a number of vegan YouTube channels and it’s still very much in its infancy but I would like to try within the next year.

Have I cheated?

Yes. J talked me into a burger just last week and I enjoyed it at the time but didn’t later if you get my drift. I ate the odd ham sandwich right up until Poppy was born but haven’t since. Our house has not had meat in it since we started this experiment. The girls, who start school in September, will go as vegetarians and within the next few weeks, we will ask our parents to not give them meat if they eat there. Needless to say, all of Poppy’s meals when we wean her at sixish months will be meat free.

I am starting to call myself a vegetarian. Just starting.

 

Fiction Friday (8)

‘I need a break,’ he had said and I can remember being baffled, not knowing what he meant at all. A break from work, from Ellie, I genuinely didn’t know what he meant.

‘From us,’ he had said and I’d felt it, deep in my tummy, sick and almost dizzy with the shock. I had always rolled my eyes at people who claimed that they hadn’t noticed their relationship slipping away, but we had been fine. Busy perhaps, maybe a little distracted but things had been as they always had been, we’d been a family, we’d been to family meals, a birthday party, we’d been camping a month before, but more than that, more than big occasions, we spent night after night together, chatting, parenting, sleeping. I’d have noticed, who wouldn’t notice?

To his credit, he’d looked broken as he sat on our bed and told me that he had no idea how he felt about me anymore, how he wasn’t sure if his feelings for Ellie and our family were more than his feelings for me. I’d sat on the desk chair, spinning myself very slightly as I listened and tried to take in any of the words he was saying. At one point, I had checked on Ellie, standing up and walking calmly into her bedroom, leaning against the bars of her cot and adjusting her duvet over her, moved her teddy closer to her hand. I’d burst into tears, standing over the side of her cot, stuffing my fist into my mouth as I silently sobbed. She was my baby, our baby, a combination of the two of us, his eyes, my hair, his long body, my smile. We had to raise her together, I had thought, we had to, that had been our promise to her and to each other when we found out about her, when we first saw her on the screen at the hospital.

He had taken the spare duvet from the airing cupboard, draped it over our bed as he wrestled it into a duvet cover, taken his own pillow from our bed and I sat still for a time on the chair in the corner as I heard him pull out the sofa bed in the spare room. He had come back in for clothes for bed, his tube of moisturiser, the half read book from his bedside table. He had paused beside me that time, laid a hand on my shoulder.

‘What?’ I had murmured, his touch had been too much for me, I had longed for him to pull me up into a hug, to tell me he had spoken too soon, that of course there was no problem here, of course he still loved me, just as he always had. Instead, he had leant down and dropped a tiny kiss onto the top of my head.

I have read, or heard in song lyrics written by people far more articulate than me, that there’s a sound when a heart breaks. I don’t know about that, but I do believe that there is a moment. A moment when nothing is ever quite the same, when you know that you will never love quite the same way again, that you will never be able to give yourself truly to another person. A moment that you can think back on and know that there was life before and life after, a stark line in the sand. That was that moment for me. Sat on my desk chair with my husband kissing me gently on the top of my head.

There, but not there at all.

 

Home

The first flat we lived in together I picked by myself. It had big windows with a view of the park, a nice kitchen and it was probably the cheapest that we were going to get. We moved in October and it probably took about a fortnight before we realised that the heating was wholly inadequate and we were going to freeze. Oh, it was cold. You had to psyche yourself up to get changed, you’d stand in the bedroom with your coat and scarf on, taking off and replacing one layer at a time, peeling off the tights you wore to work and stepping into fleecy pj bottoms in one practised fluid movement.

My memories of that flat are both being cold and warm. Freezing biting cold that felt like it was in our bones but also pulling the duvet off the bed and wrapping up in it on the sofa watching Sherlock or a film. We had our first Christmas there. We lived there for six months before we got a letter to say that they were not renewing our tenancy.

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Next we moved to St Leonards, to a flat named Avalon. I wanted that flat from the minute we viewed it, I whispered to Jody that we should live there before the estate agent had finished showing us round. It had a huge bedroom, little alcoves and nooks. It had skylights in the kitchen and in the hall and the rain against them was one of my favourite sounds. On Valentines Day the year the girls were born, J put hundreds of cut up tissue hearts up the stairs and into the living room. It was where the girls came home.

We left when the girls were eight months old, in a move that was sensible at the time and turned out not to be. It was from that flat, completely empty, me there to scrub clean the bath and make sure that it was hoovered, that I first told Jody that I’d like us to get married. I can still remember my reflection in the mirror as I smiled at his reply. It is the home that we both miss the most. I can still picture every single room, every piece of furniture, the wonderful two Christmases that we spent there.

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We moved to a house that J’s parents owned. It was a temporary home, there was no intention of staying there for any length of time really. The girls grew up there, learnt to walk, were babies when we arrived and brand new two year olds when we left. That’s all there is to say.

This brings us to here. To the home where I sit now writing this.

My feelings are complicated. We had been here a little over three months, the summer of 2016 when I pulled out the wardrobe in the girls room and discovered that the back was covered in green fluffy mould. Horrified, I sent a message to J and to my mum and we began a convoluted argument with the local council and our private landlord, culminating in a letter three days before Christmas saying that it was simply a case of us keeping windows open to keep the mould at bay.

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Yet, here we still are. We have painted every room, bright white in the living room and our bedroom, the girls room a warm peach. We have dug up parts of the garden to lay grass. This is the only house that our girls remember, it’s where we brought Poppy home. We have loved and lived within these walls and it’s our home. I will be incredibly sad to leave here but leave we must.

British winters start off mild and damp, perfect for mould then after Christmas, it gets cold. So you turn the heating on and the mould grows. This isn’t a science lesson, it’s just the way it works. The girls were two and a half that first winter here and we learnt quickly how to make it OK for them to be here (we were tied into a year long contract) and how to make sure we kept any effects of mould exposure to an absolute minimum. They are healthy, hardy kids with great immune systems, they could do winter after winter here now. Poppy isn’t, she will be six months at the end of October, we have to think of her, besides we need another bedroom, the walls are starting to close in.

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But I will be sad on the day that I shut the back door for the last time, lug the pram up four stone steps to the flat bit of the garden, look back into the window of what is now my daughters bedroom, Isla’s plastic unicorn with no hair on the windowsill.

This is our home. Complex feelings and all.

Two Months

I nearly missed today. I had half a paragraph written about something else when I glanced down at the corner of the screen and noted that it is (just) the 27th. Poppy is two months old today so that, and she, warrants a celebratory post.

She stated today with her longest ever stretch of sleep, nearly seven hours. Unfortunately, her big sisters were not so accommodating so I was up after a mere four and a half. She then had her eight week jabs, these terrified me, there is a meningitis one now and whilst I would give her the vaccine to that a million times over, I had read that it could cause a really nasty fever. I panicked and over googled, not for the first time and by this morning, I was convinced that Poppy would be one of those unlucky ones that really suffered.

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So that’s how we started our day. And she was not one of the unlucky ones, she cried a little bit but quickly quietened when we started walking through the park. I checked her temperature all day long, and administered calpol as directed and though she wasn’t herself at all, she has managed some smiles and had absolutely no fever at all. She’s a superstar.

And that sums up this last month really. She is chilled out 23 hours of the day, only really getting cross just before bedtime when she would really rather be sleeping and then she is easily consoled. She is my sidekick, she goes everywhere with me, we are never apart and I think that I am having a lovely relaxing morning or whatever and then realise that I have a newborn with me. But she is the calm and the big girls are the wonderful noise.

The three of them are a joy to watch now. She will sit propped up and watch telly with them, I will stand behind the sofa and watch the three little heads and just marvel that they are mine. Poppy is a little startled when they first come home from nursery, when the quiet of our time together is suddenly shattered but she adores just watching them, sitting in the bowl of my crossed legs while i do a puzzle with them or play lego.

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But really, for now, and hopefully, selfishly, for a bit longer, I am her favourite. I know exactly what she wants at any given time and that’s such an odd feeling, to be so connected to another human. I don’t remember feeling that with the girls, I think I couldn’t as there simply wouldn’t have been the time or the energy to connect so deeply. I don’t love her anymore than I did them, don’t get me wrong, it’s a hard one to explain, perhaps it’s a twin mum thing?

She loves being outside, the hood of her pram pushed back so that she can stare up at the ceiling or the sky. She kicks and wriggles her way to the top of the mattress, her little arm pumping in excitement. If she’s crotchety, we walk. It works like a charm.

She smiles all the time, at anyone and everyone, and she weighs a little over 10lbs, she eats more than the side of the box says that she should and she is still on the 25th centile. She is petite and her skin is losing that mottled quality, her cheeks are fattening up and her eyes remain blue. She looks less and less like the tiny thing she was when she was first born and more like the chunky baby she will be in a few short weeks.

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She is called all sorts: Poppy, Pops, Poppalucci, Lucci Lu, Popsicle, The Lucester, you name it. Funny how that happens with names.

I absolutely adore her. But more than that, I adore what she has brought to our family. She wasn’t needed until we needed her, we’d have been fine without her but we are infinitely better with her.

Here’s to another month of fun, my little Lucci Lu.

Scan

I’d drunk too much water. As the radiographer placed the probe onto my tummy, a firm press into the very cold gel, I can remember him chuckling and saying that he’d get a heartbeat and then I’d have to go to the loo.

“Do twins run in the family?”

I don’t think that there will ever be a more life changing sentence said to me from then until the day I die. I’d spent the day before with Jody, it was a long weekend, I’d made up some rubbish to my family who knew that I never had a Monday off why I was having a Monday off. We went to Battle Abbey and walked round, had lunch in a little deli and J asked me if I thought that everything would be OK. I shook my head and said that the likelihood was that they’d be no heartbeat, that this had all ended weeks ago, I’d read all the statistics, I was bound to be one of the unlucky ones.

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The waiting room that was about to get very familiar was alien to us and we sat underneath posters about giving up smoking and the importance of having the whooping cough vaccine. I drank a huge bottle of water, the literature about having a full bladder fresh in my mind. We were called in and the usual small talk was made, I unbuttoned my jeans, folded the tissue paper into the top of my knickers and laid on the bed.

After he’d confirmed two heartbeats, two pulsing beans in black and white, I was told that I could go for a wee, but only to go a little bit if I could. I sat on the toilet and tried my best, my mind racing, a silly terrified grin on my face. Two babies. Two. Twins. Wow.

There was a lot to be talked about, extra to be checked, the scan seemed to last forever. And all the while, there they were, two heartbeats, two babies the size of limes swimming about in my tummy. Eventually, it ended and I sat up again, I was handed tissue to wipe off the gel and we were booked in for another scan in 4 weeks. There was to be a scan every 2 weeks, a consultant appointment every two weeks, the usual midwife appointments. The next six months, no not quite that, twins come early he said, loomed ahead in a daunting, exciting blur.

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The receptionist waived the fee for the photos. She laughed as she told us we’d had enough shocks for one day. I wondered briefly if twins made it to the staff room, to be talked about over a cuppa, a discussion on how many there were that day, the look on the faces of the shell shocked parents.

There was a pause, I stood by a chair near the door, rested my bag on the arm to stuff my Bounty pack inside. J stood next to me, he hadn’t spoken to me, he’d chatted in the scan room, probably pandering to every twin dad cliché but he hadn’t said anything to me. He stepped forward and pushed open the heavy swing door back out onto the corridor, I ducked underneath his arm and he reached for my hand.

“Two then?” he said.

I nodded.

Two.

Modest

Before the girls were born, tight clothing and me was a given. I’d lost a lot of weight following the break-up and I showed it off, there were days when I would wear a vest top and tights, the vest top stretching across me as a dress, a little cardigan on top as I was at work. In the evening, I’d happily wear a crop top, my stomach toned and flat, and there is a picture of me in shorts so short that they are very nearly indecent.

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I got pregnant and nothing very much changed. The same vest tops stretched a little further and when they didn’t, I just bought them in a bigger size. I never carried my twins as if they were twins, measuring the same as a singleton pregnancy until 38 weeks when they arrived and that helped, I didn’t have anything to compare it to either, so I just looked the way I looked. After the girls were born was a shock. I’d obviously missed the bit about still looking pregnant and I can remember wanting to cry as I pulled on the clothes I’d bought some 36 hours after they were born and we were about to go home.

The weight came off quickly and naturally but everything looked different. It does still, after another pregnancy and another c-section and the way I dress now has changed almost beyond recognition. While I’m pregnant, I prefer tight things, the adage of looking pregnant not fat influencing what I want to wear. My skinny jeans fitted till the end without the button done up and that was a uniform of sorts, a long black vest and jeans, a big woolly jumper over the top. Helpful too that all of my babies were born in April so I haven’t been heavily pregnant during the summer.

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Anyway, all this to say that I don’t hate my body. It has housed three babies, two at the same time, and I love it more than I think I have ever done. There are bits that will never be the same, I miss my really good boobs if I’m being really honest, but it is strong and healthy and has done some extraordinary things.

Yesterday, I wore shorts, short shorts yes but they were baggy and a sleeveless black top. I just felt uncomfortable. I went to the loo with the girls (this is a constant thing with newly toilet trained children) and I checked in the mirror, somehow expecting to look awful. I didn’t, I looked fine, appropriately dressed for the warm weather but it felt wrong. I changed into trousers when we got to Jody’s parents house and I instantly felt better. More comfortable, more myself.

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I haven’t shown any cleavage for months, not even a hint, I don’t like it, I’ll put a crop top underneath a v-neck so that nothing can be seen. If I’m wearing tight jeans, I’ll wear a flowy top, if I wear a strappy top, I’ll wear a little jacket over the top, or a sleeveless denim shirt. There is a woman on instagram whose style I covet and I have no idea if she is a size 8 or a size 12 because everything she wears is loose and usually covers most of her body. If I’m shopping, then I gravitate towards flowy and loose, longer and sweeping.

I am a long way away from covering myself head to toe. A long way. But I have reached an age and a time in my life where I want my body to be seen only by Jody, or if I’m going swimming or if I’m in my garden. I want to show my girls, when the time comes, that they don’t need to look like the girls on the internet.

The body positivity movement is excellent and warrants a post all on its own but I’ll leave it as this. My body, my rules, my clothes.

And it means I can eat a bigger dinner. Or a cookie. And no one will know.

Views

There is an irony that it is my fiction posts that get the most views and the most likes. An irony because I only started the blog because I was struggling to write fiction. They are the easiest to write certainly because I don’t have to write them at all, it is just a matter of going into my own archives and selecting what I want to put up on that particular Friday.  It’s nice to see them up there, they are from all different places, old stories and more recent ones and I like the thought of them not being kept in my computer never seeing the light of day.

My “mummy” posts are the least popular. This initially disappointed me because in the beginning I was hopeful of joining the ranks of mummy bloggers. You know the ones, the ones who post all day on Instagram the free things they get, the free trips they go on and the fact that they can support their family simply through their writing about mummy things. I’m not saying anything about the quality of the writing on these blogs, some is really good, thought provoking and thoughtful, and some is, well, not so good.

There have been a couple of posts that have struck a nerve, I think, and they are what I refer to as deep and meaningful. When I reach into the depths of my brain and pull something out that I haven’t thought about in years. The stream of consciousness ones. The ones where I read them back days later and can’t really remember writing them. They are my favourite to write. Cathartic and hard and I like feeling that way.

This blog is my release. I have felt stressed and anxious all day, not for any reason really, slightly worried about Poppy’s first vaccinations on Monday, and then she has been unsettled this evening. Jody went to bed around ten and told me to come to bed, to take her off her bean bag where she’d finally fallen asleep and come to bed at a normal time. I refused, told him that I’d rather stay up. And the reason is this blog.

I sit in my chair and I open this website, put my fingers to the keys and what I write, I write. I don’t read it back, I won’t amend this before I hit publish, save for spell check and that is how I will continue to write. I won’t ever be a mummy blogger, won’t ever support my family through this little section of the internet and that’s OK. I will have my release, every evening or couple of evenings and I might continue to grow organically in that time. But it doesn’t really matter either way.

Jody told me today that he reads here. Not every single post but enough. He says he knows that I don’t want to talk about what I’ve written, that it’s for me but that he’s interested and likes to read some occasionally. It made me happy. Silly really, he didn’t say he liked it, or that the writing was good, but it made me feel warm inside.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to obsessively check my stats….