“There’s no such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothing.”

One of my friends is married to a man who loves the outdoors.  I’m not sure if he was the first to come up with this statement, but it was via him (and her) that I first heard it.

Personally, my own love of the outdoors was a slow burner.

My parents are not what you would call outdoorsy people.  The only kind of outdoors my dad was keen on was a beer garden, and my mother is the sort of person who wraps herself up in winter clothing if the temperature falls below 25 degrees celsius and the sun goes behind a cloud for more than a few minutes, wailing that a light drizzle means we are all destined to spend the next twenty-four hours trapped inside rubbing our gloved hands together by the fire, watching the weather for signs of improvement lest we be swept away by a raging torrent on the way to the Co-Op.

As a result, I was in my late twenties before I even possessed a pair of shoes that could withstand walking across a garden lawn in good weather, let alone the vaguely muddy result of the month of January on our local woodland.

But I can happily say that I am now a convert to the outdoors life.

It started with Iceland.

I had wanted to visit Iceland ever since 1994, after spending six Geography lessons in a row doing nothing but watching hours and hours of grainy video footage of the island of Heimaey, off the coast of Iceland, enduring a particularly slow-moving and tedious lava flow.  It was at once both a piece of brilliantly lazy lesson planning on the part of our teacher (just pop the video on, and hope for a quiet life-a lesson I popped into my teacher toolkit to revive years later) and bizarrely effective in terms of securing a lifelong fascination with volcanoes that led to me visiting Iceland, poking some real lava flows (mercifully cooled down) and attending a screening of further grainy volcano footage from days of yore in a tiny cinema.

Although there weren’t any volcanoes actually erupting at the time of my visit, one thing I did learn from my trip to Iceland was that a pair of gladiator sandals were perhaps not the best choice of footwear for hiking across all that volcanic terrain, and I was forced to spend a day in Vik, a coastal town with one shop-an emporium of randomness that sold everything from kitchenware to Christmas decorations (in the middle of August) looking for a pair of hiking boots.

Incredibly, I found my hiking boots, and I kid you not, they were game changers.  Suddenly, I could walk wherever I chose, in complete comfort.  I could hike up glaciers and jagged rocks.  I could traverse sandy beaches and muddy woodland paths.  I could do anything, with my own two feet, battered as they were from years of teetering heels, and all in the warmth and comfort of a nice woolly sock.  It was true.  There was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.  All those times I had cursed England’s green and rolling hills and charmingly cobbled pavements for not being suitably evenly paved for my six inch platforms, and all along there was a whole new world of comfort and joy out there, just waiting to be explored.

I cannot say I am always an adventurer.  I do still enjoy my high heels and the trappings of relative urban comfort, but as I have got older I have gained a new appreciation of the countryside and its joys, and with that has come the desire to share that adventurous spirit with Piglet, come whatever weather it chooses to spring on us.

And so this weekend I took it upon myself to spend the dying days of the summer holidays walking around in the rain.

I love a bit of walking around in the rain.  The fact that there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, and that conversely, good clothing existed which kept the rain off one’s person to a reasonable extent, was a revelation to me.  I could go out, I could walk around, and no longer would I end up hobbling as the skin on my heels peeled away and my feet contorted into increasingly awkward shapes to avoid the relentless rubbing.  No longer would I wade miserably through puddles as the sodden hems of my trousers slapped against the backs of my legs.  I was free.  Free from the constraints of trying to look good and ending up looking like an unprepared idiot.  Now I was going to show Piglet how it was done.  We were going off on an adventure.

“We’re going off on an adventure Piglet!” I cried happily.  “The woods are our oyster!”

Piglet’s lack of response quickly told me he had fallen asleep under the comforting plastic of the pushchair’s rain cover.  Clearly this was not the action of a child who found bad weather unsettling and likely to give him a cold, as my mother had claimed.

On we plodded, up hill and down dale, passing soggy dogs and their plastic poncho clad owners.  Passive aggressive texts from my mother questioning the wisdom of walking in the rain with a toddler (“what if he catches pneumonia?”) were ignored.

Eventually Piglet woke up, the sun came out, and we played in a park sandpit, grubby but happy in our wellies and waterproofs.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing*, and I hope that Piglet remembers that.

*OK so a hurricane might be a bit much even for the hardiest of North Face jackets, but let’s assume we’re talking normal conditions, not some kind of deadly Weather Apocalypse like in that episode of Chuggington where the storm simulator goes crazy.

When I Had Mummy Friends

This weekend Piglet and I went to the park.

Basic, I know.  Everyone goes to the park.  I am basic.  Don’t hate me.

The park is both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure.  Mainly terrifying.  How much helicopter parenting is acceptable in the face of the overwhelming fear that one’s child will be attacked by a passing poodle, mown down by a child on a speeding scooter, or internally damaged by a particularly sharp piece of woodchip they have decided to eat?

And then there are the other parents, an army of middle class mums in Boden tops and skinny jeans, miraculously balancing coffee cups alongside their children’s scooters without dangerous spillage, and dads with artfully arranged facial hair.

“Did you push over that little girl’s sandcastle?  Now you just sit on this rock and think for a minute about what you’ve done.”

O how I want to talk to those parents.  O how I want to be them, with their sensible middle class marriages.  I imagine they must all live in perfectly colour co-ordinated homes with little white painted wooden hearts hung in the windows.

I’m sure I’m wrong.

I want to talk to the parents in the park.  I want to swap stories of difficult births and sleepless nights, to drink coffee in the sandpit and to sit on that rock and think for a minute about what my life has become.

I want some mummy friends.

When you move to a new city, even one that isn’t new, one that you grew up in, left and then returned like a salmon to breed, and live in the care of your parents in perpetuity, you lose your old ties, the friends from school that you never stayed in touch with; the London friends who now live so far away.  And making new ones is now that much harder.  You can’t go to the pub and forge new friendships over gallons of wine and humorous complaining, and your peers at work are all married with their own families.  In short, my mother, aged 62, has a better social life than me.  The baby boomers are ruling the world these days, didn’t you get the memo?  It’s theatre trips and cruise ships all year long.

This weekend, I went out for the third time since Piglet was born almost 20 months ago.  I had strict instructions to be back home by 9pm.  My dinner companions were, naturally, close family.  You didn’t think I had friends, did you?

It was better than the second time.  At least this time there were no desperate texts from my mother, who in between living the life of riley on cruise ships, is my eternal babysitter, telling me that Piglet was walking repeatedly to the front door looking for me, and refusing to go to sleep without Mummy’s milky pops, and it was essential that I come home immediately.  However, the long and short of it is, I have no social life, and no friends.

How do you find these women, the elusive Mummy friends, the Mother Hood?  Are they at the baby groups, when I am at work?  Are they in the library, singing rhymes and winding the bobbin up?  Are they sat in cafes, drinking  frothy coffees with the Mummy friends they already had, the ones you used to have but left in London with the remnants of your old life?

I used to have Mummy friends.  There were loads of us popping out babies at work that year,* spending lazy days wandering around Westfield having long lunches and enjoying the novelty of the baby changing rooms (THERE ARE ACTUAL ROOMS FOR BREASTFEEDING) while our colleagues slogged it out at the coal face.

Now there is just me, standing on the sidelines as the Whatsapp conversations continue without me, knowing that there are a million and one Mummy Friends in the park, drinking their coffees, having their long lunches and winding the bobbin up, and I have to start all over again.

Are there NCT classes for toddlers?  I could do with a lesson on how to safely retrieve small cars from the toilet bowl, and I might even meet some new Mummy Friends.

*OK not literally AT work, although in those last weeks before maternity leave I did have an emergency list titled “People At Work Who Could Maybe Deliver a Baby, in Order of Preference.”  It always pays to be prepared.

Diary of an imperfect mum
Mummuddlingthrough
ethannevelyn

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”Reflections

“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.

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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.