Archive for February, 2011

From nappy to nib

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

And lo…..it is February. How did that happen?! It seems like just yesterday we were leaping around and singing Auld Lang Syne – badly. I suppose it has been a busy month, the girls went back to school which involved an absurd amount of uniform being located, washed and ironed. I mean, why does a nine year old need three different sets of sports kit? The answer is indoors, outdoors and house colours in case you’re wondering. Plus a special white set that I have never seen her wear. In addition to this it was my birthday and a good two weeks were occupied by me being ill; luckily all better now. The birthdays just keep on coming though; it is my mother’s this weekend, which means a jaunt up to Windsor. Before we confirmed that we were coming I asked if she was planning to go out and do anything and she replied “Well I wanted to go out for Sunday lunch, I love that, but no-one else can make it so what’s the point? Me and Steve and the boys can sit and look at each other over the breakfast table, we don’t need to do it in a restaurant.” I felt guilty, but just to clarify, by ‘no-one else can make it’ she meant none of her children. My sister is working, which is a decent excuse, and my two older brothers are at Uni a long way away. They did offer to come back if she paid the train fare but that might feel rather like hiring your own children, no? And I, being the eldest, bowed to pressure and agreed to spend most of the weekend there. This will be after my 8:30am meeting on Saturday (why do I agree to these things? I could have made my apologies but I did that for the last one and it gets suspicious). Plus we then have a four-year-olds birthday party to go to for most of the rest of the day. Because the children are little this means that all parents have to stay as well, you can’t drop-off, which is usually OK because they generally have wine/Bucks Fizz at these things but I fear this won’t be the case on Saturday. Just to give you an idea of the calibre of this party the mother was telling me at the weekend how the Cinderella she had booked to lead the party had let them down because she’d been offered a six-month job singing on a West End stage. And they’ve hired a train to take the children around one of our local country parks. For the four-year-old party circuit this is pretty impressive. I fear my own daughter’s party will not compare well. Mostly because I can’t get through to the place I want to book it.

And when I have not been organising parties (or trying to) I have actually been writing. That’s right, I have imposed some discipline in my life and shut everything out of my mind except getting those tiny, vital words down onto the page. And to my surprise, it has been going superbly well. I’d reached a bit of an impasse with the manuscript – I simply could not progress it from where I had got to. I’d looked at it over and over again and just couldn’t do it. In this situation there are two options for me, either just plough on and write regardless and edit heavily afterwards, or erase ruthlessly back to an easier point and take it from there. I chose the latter because I learnt of the danger of writing yourself into a dead end when I was about fourteen. In this instance I didn’t have to erase too much and then the words flowed, much to my amazement. I know I’ve said this before, but the way that I write is by watching what is going on in my imagination and simply writing it down. Obviously I’m creating it at the same time but I’m not really aware of that bit. It does take a lot of concentration and, for me, peace and quiet, I’ve never been one of those people who can work with the radio on. Or cBeebies. And it isn’t foolproof either, sometimes my characters just aren’t doing the things I think they should be and then we fall out and I stop writing their story. But when it works, it’s magical. The people, the places that I’m writing about feel so real – even though I made them up. I’m aware this makes me sound slightly delusional, I don’t actually think they are real, but they exist, I can see them all so clearly in my mind’s eye. And if all goes well I can see the scenes created on the page in front of me with my real eye. As well as that, this time I have a more complete sense of the manuscript. I can clearly see the emotions that need to run through it and the ebb and flow of their fortunes in line with these emotions. I feel a bit sorry for my characters because they have to go through an awful lot before they get to where they want to in life, but they will be better people when they get there. So yes, writing is taking up a lot of my time, which is lovely.

Also this week I will be going to Cari Rosen’s book launch, which is tremendously exciting; we have exchanged a plethora of emails over the last few months, but never actually met. She is a very lovely, clever lady and her book, ‘The Secret Diary of a New Mum (aged 43 ¼)’ is published on Thursday 3rd February by Vermilion. Or it is is available online here: http://tinyurl.com/62vhw88. From knowing a bit of Cari and her – at times – self-deprecating sense of humour it promises to be an entertaining read, and possibly emotive too – from the subject matter there are issues it could raise. However, I shall reserve judgement and comments because I haven’t read it yet. I do find the question of older mothers particularly fascinating though because I am at the other end of the scale. I had my eldest daughter when I was nineteen, which technically made me a teenage mother for two months, yet I am so far from the stereotypical teen mother it’s laughable. It was a contentious thing to do certainly, especially because I was in my first year at University studying Law. But I was determined and, somehow, it worked. I completed my first year, had my daughter at the beginning of what would have been my second year, took a year out to be with her at home and then went back to Uni full-time, completing my degree and graduating one year later than planned. My then very young daughter went to the nursery on campus so I was never far from her and the whole thing worked very well, I was lucky. And whilst I have never regretted my decision for a second, having a baby at nineteen whilst in your first year at Uni is not something I would necessarily recommend to my own daughter, which is an interesting juxtaposition. Just to complete ‘The Short History of Sarah Haynes’: I never went into Law – I decided to write instead. But it is definitely a good thing to have that degree safety-net.

But if there are accusations to be levelled at older mothers for choosing to have children late in life (whether a preferred option or not), therefore surely there are accusations to be levelled at very young mothers too and surely I would be in line to be accused of these? I’m sticking a tentative toe into the water here, I’m aware that this is a hotly-debated subject. But really – can there be any such thing as a perfect time to have children? And if there were, it would surely be determined by factors which are true of women at different times in their lives, financial stability for example, so you could certainly never arrive at a perfect age. Unless you were doing it on grounds of physical ability alone and who would ever have a baby if they were not emotionally or practically ready just because now was the right time for their body? It’s an interesting subject and I suspect those people at extremes of the baby-carrying scale will always come in for some criticism, deserved or not. I think I am right in saying that Cari is on Women’s Hour tomorrow, Wednesday 2nd February, where perhaps some of these issues will be discussed.

Right, it’s all very well to eulogise about having these children and how it was definitely the best thing to do but I have now reached a moment in time where I must actually go and care for them; feed and dress and wash their clothes, etc. Oh and organise parties to celebrate the day of their contentious birth…….that sort of thing, the list goes on, as ANY mother will know, even if they are 43 ¼…….