Five Reasons Why I Am Living My Teenage Years All Over Again

This weekend I was a bit depressed.  Piglet was ill, we couldn’t go swimming, and although I was briefly delighted about this as it meant I wouldn’t have to get up at 7am and sit on some godforsaken bus for half an hour, my dreams of a cosy lie-in remained just that, as Piglet was up and pointing at the bedroom door by 7am.  Our only venture into the outside world ended in a bout of diarrhoea that was only discovered upon removal of his snowsuit, which fortunately had remained on whilst we were out, and I started feeling morose.  I had cabin fever.  I was a 35 year old woman living at home with my mother, and my mother was bossing me around.

Now there are some things about being twenty years younger that I would not say no to, like having perfect skin (I’ve conveniently forgotten about the spots, and am choosing to remember only the lack of wrinkles), being able to go to school every day and learn stuff and, better still, hang out with all your friends all day, every day, and being able to rock a crop top without sucking in your mum tum and wondering whether the phrase mutton dressed as lamb is going through the heads of all who wander past.  However, the following are not among them.

1.) Being constantly reminded to do your homework.  Yes, you do read correctly.  Only these days, homework is a pile of books to be marked, or some lesson planning you made the mistake of admitting you needed to do this weekend, only to be constantly reminded of it every five minutes. I’m an adult.  I’m not trying to get out of it by lying on the sofa with my head buried in Twitter, yelling “I’LL DO IT IN A MINUTE.”  No, not at all.

2.) Having no social life.  Now I’m sure that if I had my time again I would be the most popular girl in school.  Isn’t everyone now, in these days of social media?  People just never stop talking, socialising and taking duckface selfies so that some acquaintance will drop a passing “gorgeous, hun” on their profile.  However in 1996, my social life mainly consisted of waiting until Christmas, when someone’s parents would be going to some kind of function with a buffet and a “disco,” and would allow some of their daughter’s friends to come along to make it a bit less boring, and sometimes there would be boys there.  Or at least vaguely in the area, on the street outside.  Now, alas, I have no friends within a hundred mile radius, and the only boy I see is my own son.

3.) Being told what to do.  Once upon a time, I was an adult, I had autonomy.  I lived in a flat on my own with Piglet, and if I wanted to allow him to throw his dinner around-or at least ignore the fact that he was doing it-I could, without anyone telling me I was being “too soft,” “making a rod for my own back,” or “you never did that.”

4.) Living in the house where I grew up.  Well, it could be worse.  I could be still in my old bedroom, but apparently having a child does confer certain privileges, and I am now in my brother’s old room, which is at least not the size of a small cupboard.  The main drawback of this is not the house itself-at least it’s got double glazing these days, and they’ve even opened a cafe up the road. Modernity is catching up-but the constant fear that you will bump into someone you know from primary school, and they will THINK YOU NEVER LEFT.

5.) Realising that your son might be having the exact same childhood that you did, not that there is anything wrong with that, except that you went to university, you built a career, you bought a flat, and you had your own baby, for you to bring up.  Now it feels as though he isn’t even your son, but your brother in all but name, as he is effectively being brought up single-handedly by your mother whilst you are at work, in the same house where you grew up, and that, like a salmon, you have returned home to breed, and life has come full circle.

teenage
This isn’t me. I would never be seen drinking ropey 90s alcopop Hooch, not even 20 years ago.

One day, I used to promise myself as I leaned out of my bedroom window twenty years ago, one day I will leave this place and find my own life.  So I did.  And then I came back.  And now I can’t even get into that bedroom as my brother is in it, having also come back.  Thank goodness we have an understanding mother.

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Life: Perfectly Instagrammed?

This is a nice photo.

Everything on Instagram is nice.  Sometimes I almost think I could be a photographer, or at least someone with a lovely lifestyle blog full of beautiful soft-focus shots of their immaculate home full of spotless white furniture and inspirational quotes.

However, as we all know, life doesn’t come packaged up neatly in an Instagram-ready box, with all imperfections filtered out.  So here’s the real story behind this photo.*

1.) It was taken in the pub.  Yes, I took my toddler to the pub!  Unhand me now O officers of social services, for I had but one one glass of wine.  And it took hours to drink that, due to intermittently abandoning said wine to chase a toddler around.

2.) Yes, Piglet ran around in the pub.  I am the mother whose toddler runs riot in a drinking establishment.  Gone are the days when we used to sit in the corner of the local after work on a Friday afternoon and swear that we would never be those raucous parents at the bar, allowing their children free rein over the dry roasted peanuts and the “lounge bar” whilst they cackle over their Bacardi and Coke.

3.) As he has spent so much time running around a pub, Piglet has been exposed to a lot of swearing and bad language (NOT FROM ME OR MY COMPANIONS OR RELATIVES, I mean from others in the pub, just casually dropping an F-bomb here or there, in the context of their pub bantz, innit).  I am now convinced that his second word (he can already say “ball”-well done) will be something I don’t approve of, like “Noel Edmonds” (see below).

3.) In a bid to stop him running around (and to give me a welcome break from chasing him), I introduced Piglet to the fruit machines.  Not to play with actual money, obvs, but it can’t be far off, as he is now OBSESSED.  There is a future as a gambling addict awaiting him, and it is all my fault.

4.) This photo was taken when I tired of chasing Piglet around and holding him aloft to look at Noel Edmonds’ face amongst the flashing lights of Deal or No Deal, and handed him to my brother.

5.) Last but not least, it isn’t Christmas any more, so instead of a little boy looking eagerly at a snowman, with shades of the Snowman movie, and a youthful Aled Jones singing in the background, it’s a boy taking a breather from running around a pub on a Sunday lunchtime pointing at the fruit machines and absorbing age-inappropriate vocabulary whilst surrounded by the last vestiges of a Christmas that is no more.  Sad times.  Until next year.

*OK, so I’m not that Australian girl who had like, 500,000 followers and got loads of free clothes and then revealed the real life behind the Instagram shots in a not very surprising expose.  My real life behind the Instagram doesn’t involve free clothes, loads of likes OR posing 50,000 times until you get that one great shot.  Have you ever met a toddler?  That camera would be going straight into their little hands, and into the Lair of Lost Toys under the sofa, or lobbed across the kitchen until it smashes into a thousand tiny pieces.

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The Insane Toddler Interest in Large Vehicles: Part 1

Today, finally, following two busy Saturdays spent in London, what seems like endless weeks of work and almost a week of illness (mine.  I am still praying that Piglet doesn’t receive the gift of my pestilence) I finally spent some time with Piglet.

Mummy and Piglet time.

So, what did we do with this precious time?

Well, we sat at home quite a bit, annoying Granny who had been looking forward to her first child-free day in eons, though this naturally didn’t stop her from giving a constant running commentary on my complete inability to parent, particularly in her favoured areas of Discipline (there is none) and Eating (if he doesn’t do it, it’s your fault, but I will stand over him and make sure he doesn’t make a mess on the carpet anyway).

Then we went out to peruse the various local attractions that were taking place today.  These consisted of:

1.) The Grand Unveiling of the Great Tea Cosy, and

2.) Some Christmas fairs

Also, I’m not sure if this counts but

3.) the library was open.

Number 1, the Grand Unveiling of the Tea Cosy, was, as you may guess from the name, the most interesting, even if, as you can see from these photos, it was more of a blanket than a tea cosy.

This used to be a bus stop. Yes really.
This used to be a bus stop. Yes really.

May I just say here, that the area where my mother, and now unfortunately also I, live, used to be rubbish.  It used to be so rubbish that people in Bristol had never even heard of it, even though it had been part of the city for, like, eighty years, because nothing ever happened there and there was nothing to do.  There wasn’t even a cashpoint.  All that there was was the edifice pictured above underneath the tea cosy/blanket, which at that time was a bus stop and some public toilets.

Yes, the social hub of the neighbourhood revolved around the location of public conveniences.  This was the actual geographical centre of all social activity.  Where other areas had a high street, we had a bus stop.  A means of escape.  And some loos, in case you got caught short amidst all the escaping.

Now, however, that bus stop has been transformed into a cafe.  A cafe which has great tea cosies.  And to celebrate this fact, everyone turned up this morning at the cafe to watch a great big tea cosy being put on top of the cafe-which-used-to-be-a-bus-stop.

Now all of this is relevant because……

This is now my actual life.

Yes, the most anticipated event in this month’s social calendar, this month’s December social calendar, at that, was the unveiling of a giant tea cosy on what used to be a bus stop, at the top of my road.

And to think I used to leaf through glossy magazines wistfully at the beginning of December, checking out all the latest looks for the “party season” (which, every year since 1995, which is as far back as I can remember being interested in the Party Season, have involved some form of glitter, sequins or shiny material.  Because it’s the party season, right?) and think about all the invites to all these Christmas parties that the rest of the world was supposedly invited to every night of the week each December, that were inevitably about to start plopping into my inbox left, right and centre.

OK, so I’m not suggesting that I ever had quite the number of social engagements that other readers of Grazia, Cosmopolitan and the like presumably did, and to my eternal disappointment, I have still never been to an office Christmas party that was actually held IN THE OFFICE and involved scandalous behaviour on or near a photocopier (please tell me this is a thing, people.  I need to know that someone, somewhere, is going to an office party tonight which is IN THEIR ACTUAL OFFICE), but I did used to have some semblance of a social life.  This means that I used to have things to do at weekends which did not take place at the top of my road on a bus stop, not even one which is now a cafe.

Anyway, Piglet and I made the most of our trip to the bus stop cafe and I had a lovely cup of soup and a roll. Piglet wasn’t interested in either.  He was, however, very interested in this.

"A-DA!"
“A-DA!”

Yes, it’s his favourite one of the three annoying emergency services vehicles that my mother got him last Christmas (actual toy not pictured.  This one would have been a bit big to fit under the tree), the one which periodically yells “MY LADDER IS FOR SAVING PEOPLE!” when you least expect it, like when you’ve just popped downstairs in the middle of the night for a glass of water and accidentally stand on it.

After looking at the fire engine for a bit and actually climbing in it (it was there for display, it wasn’t actually fighting a real fire at the time.  We didn’t just randomly hijack a fire engine and climb in it.  That would have been morally dubious.  And brave, even for Piglet) we went back over to the cafe so that Mummy could get a soup, and the fire engine decided that would be a good time to start flashing its blue lights, so that the children could see the fun blue lights (and they do like these things.  I once saw a fire engine give a display at a nursery, and there was so much toddler jumping up and down with excitement, I thought there was going to be an earthquake) at which point, Piglet turned in the direction of the fire engine, pointed and yelled “A-DA!” repeatedly at the top of his little lungs whilst trying desperately to break away from Mummy’s grasp and run headlong into the oncoming traffic to get back to said fire engine and get a closer look at those lovely, tantalising blue lights.  A tug of war then ensued as I tried to balance my cup of soup (plus roll, don’t forget the roll), the pushchair and a wriggling Piglet making a desperate bid for freedom.  A freedom in which he would be able to inspect the fire engine and its blue lights at close quarters.  Finally, I managed to get him into the pushchair and take him back to the fire engine in a manner more befitting my dignity as a parent with the capability to drink soup whilst pushing a pushchair and wear a fur coat at the same time too, just as the fire engine was pulling away.  Piglet then sat stony-faced, completely uninterested, as all the fire officers on board waved at him.

He then decided he was going to get excited about a passing bus instead.

At least spending what remains of my social life on a bus stop is paying off.

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“PLAY NICELY GIDEON! THAT BABY IS ONLY SMALL!”

Piglet is now showing some interest in other children and babies.

Not, however, as much interest as other children are showing in him.

Today for example, we were on a train to Bath.  This is the same train, I might add, that Piglet demanded to be walked up and down repeatedly last week, prompting me to say in an attempt at being strict at the beginning of this particular journey, “we’re only going to be on here ten minutes today, you know.  No walking on the train!”  The usual exhortation is of course “NO CRAWLING!” which is now pretty much my catchphrase.  No crawling in the restaurant, no crawling in the train station, no crawling on the bus.  I am completely unreasonable when it comes to the Rules of Crawling.  Luckily, on this occasion, Piglet was content to amuse himself by poking a tiny hand through the gap between the seats behind, and stealing another passenger’s bracelet.

Then another child suddenly popped up next to us, with her mother, having walked from another carriage just to take a look at “the baby.”

This is not an uncommon occurrence in Piglet’s life, and he is usually nonplussed.  I, however, am sometimes not, such as the time a toddler actually clung onto the front of Piglet’s pram in our local library when he was asleep, and I practically had to prise him off and use my best Stern Teacher Voice while his mother sat looking on and ignoring the situation, and even more alarmingly, the time a little boy with chicken pox (THE ACTUAL POX) stroked Piglet’s face-encouraged by his mother, no less-in Kings Cross Station.  Given that Piglet wasn’t even three months old at the time, I wasn’t quite ready for a chicken pox party.

Also today, in the park, Piglet had an interesting introduction to some of the apparatus when pretty much everyone in the park under the age of five came running over to him to all pile onto the same piece of equipment that he was tentatively grasping (holding on for dear life) at the same time, rapidly trailed by various mothers shouting “GIDEON!  PLAY NICELY PLEASE!  THAT BABY’S ONLY LITTLE!” Unfortunately, I was unable to capture a picture of his bewildered face in time, but here he is recuperating on the giant swing.

IMG_1727

At the moment all Piglet is able to do is gaze at other children with a mixture of awe and terror, which means that the most fun he has had all day was playing a game which involved crawling backwards and forwards through Mummy’s legs for ten minutes.  It evidently didn’t tire him out, as he was up until 10.45pm dancing to the tunes that the baby walker plays.

I need to take him to the park more often.

Piglet Breaks His Silence; Confirms He Is Dog-Lover

Piglet said his first word today.

So, was it “Mumma”?
No it was not.
Let’s forget the possibility of it being “Dadda,” as he has been repeating that sound for months without, clearly, the slightest clue as to what it may refer in some circles, since he has never heard me utter such a sound.  This naturally makes me somewhat smug when I come across parents who swear blind that their seven month old has been calling Daddy by his correct title for several weeks now, as if Piglet can identify and pronounce the “dadda” sound, despite his never having had any sort of a Dadda whatsoever, then that is surely incorrigible proof that babies make random sounds without having the slightest clue what they refer to in the adult world.
This is what I have been telling myself since lunchtime today, anyway.
We popped into our new local haunt the Cafe on the Square, a fabulous place which used to be a public toilet with “Kelly loves Darren 4EVA” scrawled on the walls in marker pen, but which has been turned into a tiny but very friendly cafe staffed by helpful Christians doing God’s Work of serving lattes and paninis to a surprisingly gentrified bunch of locals, and got into a conversation with a blind lady and her guide dog (well, the human lady did most of the talking, but it was the dog who was of interest to Piglet).  The lady kindly allowed Piglet to stroke the dog, which he did enthusiastically, having recently discovered that animals are A Thing.  Yesterday he met a cat, and was similarly enthralled.  The cat, unfortunately, was somewhat less magnanimous than the guide dog, and very nearly attacked him.
Anyway, the guide dog and Piglet (via their respective guardians) were formally introduced and exchanged pleasantries, and upon being informed that the dog’s name was AJ, Piglet yelled “AJ!” to the universal joy of everyone in the cafe.
Yes, Piglet’s first word was the name of a dog.  He loves a random dog, that he has met a grand total of once, more than he loves his Mummy.
An actual dog.
Later on, we went to the park and Mummy felt even worse after facing her Diane Keaton in Baby Boom moment (not the one where she starts a successful business selling apple-flavoured baby food and gets to return to her old company in triumph and then totally give them the finger.  I am still waiting for that one) after being privy to a parkside conversation about “when you did your circus skills course Hermione dahling” and fretting that not only does Piglet love a dog more than his Mummy, but Mummy has ruined Piglet’s chances of going to a good university forever due to not enrolling him in circus skills, baby sing and sign, or that one where the babies get tickled with giant feathers, which he is probably too old for now anyway and it’s all just TOO LATE.
There may, however, be a future for him at the Dogs Trust.
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These are my peeps part 2: Are these really my peeps?

Part of the joy of moving house is, of course, getting to know the new neighbours, and so today, I took myself to the local cafe (not the one where Piglet previously disgraced himself by kicking a table over.  We’re lying low from that one for a while) in an attempt to do just that.

Well, actually it was more of an attempt to distract Piglet from opening all the cupboards in Granny’s death-trap kitchen and extracting the contents (so far today I have had to prise ceramic oven dishes, washing powder caps and a bottle of Tabasco sauce from his little hands).

Anyway, off we went to the cafe, and I almost immediately found myself in conversation with a local.  This particular individual was well over eighty, and was presumably suffering from some sort of age-related macular degeneration, as when I happened to mention that I was looking for a place to live, she suggested the flats where she lives.

These flats are known as “Homes for the Aged.”

Now I know I am suffering a daily increase in the number of grey hairs on my 35 year old head, but I hadn’t considered that this aged me twenty years, but presumably it must do as you have to be over 55 to live in these flats.

OH GOD I AM ONLY TWENTY YEARS AWAY FROM BEING OFFICIALLY AN OAP.

AND APPARENTLY I ALREADY LOOK LIKE ONE.

Luckily at that point it started raining and the cafe was overrun with middle class mothers and their offspring, who had been in the park outside, sheltering from the rain.  Aha, I thought, these are my peeps.  Here is my opportunity to make some new, local friends.  

I mean, I am a Middle Class Mother, right?  I have a Bugaboo.  We go to swimming lessons.  Hell, I even wore a Breton top yesterday.

“Look!” I cried gleefully at Piglet, “look!  Other babies!  Maybe you should invite them to your birthday party tomorrow!”

Piglet examined the other babies with interest.  The other babies sat in their pushchairs and ignored him.  The Mothers came in and ordered lattes in paper cups (I drink lattes!  I am a Middle Class Mother, right?)  They were all wearing sensible hiking jackets and flat shoes.  I was wearing these leggings.

And I looked 55 years old.  In THESE LEGGINGS.  Just let that sink in for a moment.  After five minutes, the Middle Class Mothers departed, once all their babies had started crying, and I was left thinking two things.

1.) This area must have undergone a degree of gentrification since the 1980s, when my dad once had to lead a local boy home by his ear after he karate kicked me in the street, and
2.) Are those really my peeps?

I mean, those women almost certainly have husbands.  And they almost certainly have cars, and don’t have to take the bus everywhere.  And those women almost certainly never wear Black Milk leggings.  This is possibly because Black Milk leggings are designed for teenagers and not 55 year old women like me, but I am convinced that I will not be welcomed into the Middle Class Mother fold unless I wear sensible shoes and hiking jackets AT ALL TIMES.

I will continue in my efforts to find some friends.  For Piglet’s sake, at least.

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Piglet vs the World

Ladies and gentlemen, I no longer live in Wembers.

Well, it’s not official.  I haven’t even notified the bank I’ve changed addresses yet, let alone actually sold the flat.  However, Piglet and I are currently residing with my mother and are now the occupants of a room I previously shared with my brother in 1985.  It’s great being 35.

The journey here was relatively uneventful, except for a few awkward moments conversing with someone I met once at a job interview who sat on the table next to us at Reading Services while I was trying to feed Piglet an appetising combination of Heinz baby biscuits and a jar of “cheesy fish pie,” which was the only offering for babies (for some reason the only food available at the services seems to be chips, and I am convinced that once Piglet is introduced to chips, it will be the beginning of a long descent into morbid obesity that will end with him being lifted out of a hole in the side of the house by crane, while a finger-wagging Jeremy Kyle stands alongside narrating a TV documentary warning of the dangers of fast food).

Speaking of food, Mother and I are probably now barred from one of the local cafes after Piglet kicked a table over whilst remonstrating with his grandmother about not being allowed to crawl around on the floor of said cafe and pull himself up on all the other diners’ tables and steal their food (which is undoubtedly what he would have been doing, had he been allowed to crawl around at will).  It would be an understatement to say that Piglet does not like being told that he cannot crawl around, especially in restaurants, pubs and train stations.  However, at least Granny is in possession of a highchair, so I no longer have to try to convince him to remain in his Bumbo seat for the duration of a meal, instead of climbing out, smearing food on every available surface, taking all the books off the shelf, pouring water over them, and then trying to push large pieces of furniture around the room as though they were toy cars.

I am pretty convinced that he is lying next to me now, having sweet dreams about which bits of Granny’s house he is going to destroy first.  That is, if the house doesn’t get him first.  There is quite a lot more babyproofing that needs to be done in a house than in a flat.  We should probably just line the whole place with crash mats.