sarah miles

Triple blogger and a bit of a lush.

Dec 112014
 

‘You didn’t?’

Oh, yes I did!

 

I am usually never more than 30cm from my iPad – it is like my entire world in an Orla Kiely case. Except, that same iPad is now in a bag of dried rice in my airing cupboard.

How did it happen?

FullSizeRenderEasy, really:

1. Pile washing into a basket and pop iPad on top so you don’t drop it when coming downstairs.

2. Pick up daughter’s school shirts on way down and place on top.

3. Load washing into the machine.

4. Put out recycling.

5. Re-enter kitchen.

6. Wonder what the banging sound is in the washing machine.

7. Swear loudly.

8. Google what to do and realise you’re not the only one…

 

Thing is, I can’t claim on insurance because (a) my husband dropped his in the garden last week and smashed it to buggery and claimed and (b) the excess is £200 and I may as well buy a new iPad and save the inflated premiums, which will cover its cost anyway. Which is what I’ve done, because I am not hopeful for my poor iPad. I can’t turn it off and (apparently), this is essential as it is the short-circuiting that well and truly buggers it up. So, perhaps, wiping it while it was still flickering with life (yes, it WAS still working when I retrieved it from the suds) was not the best thing to do.

I peeped at it tonight and it is lifeless. The light has gone from its watermarked screen and it is, in effect, an ex-iPad.

I pick up the new one tomorrow.

Dec 042014
 

Sometimes, I truly believe that the small things in life act as a metaphor for the bigger issues. In my case, for the past ten days or so, my fate seems to have been dictated by a Christmas pudding.

It all started when I declared, with no uncertainty, that we would once again be embracing ‘Stir-up Sunday’ in our house, the last Sunday before Advent when, traditionally, puddings (and wishes) are made. I say ‘embraced’, but, in truth, I was the only one doing the embracing. The rest of my lot gave it more of a shrug.

Stir-up Sunday happened to fall on the weekend away I had booked with a friend. Undeterred, I assured the household that the ingredients had been bought and on my return we would congregate in the kitchen and make the pudding.

image

Now, I have a really good pudding recipe, care of La Nigella, and it can’t be compromised. Needless to say, as I skimmed it on the journey home I realised that I had forgotten that the fruit needs to be soaked for at least 24 hours (preferably a week) in the sherry before the pudding is made. After muttering a few choice expletives, I decided to opt for the short soak and declared we would have Stir-up Monday instead. I then ruined the mood by singing in my best Susannah Hoff voice ‘It’s just another Stir-up Monday…’. Yep, that reaction your having – same for the kids. And the husband.

Of course, by Monday I was knackered and the kids didn’t get in from school ’til 6 and I had only got in from work myself at half 5 so, I decided it was probably better to give the fruit a decent soaking after all and leave it until the next Sunday.

Next Sunday came and passed. Having single-handedly erected the tree and decorated the house I was in no mood for pudding. Neither were the kids who had reached ‘that point’ (I was soon to follow) and were shouting and fighting and bickering on a loop.

So, last night (Wednesday) I decided the fruit was plump to the point of bursting and pudding must be made. I was on a bit of a high because that day I had finished writing the 121 school reports required of me, the last Parents’ evening of the season had been administered the night before and, save a 3 foot high stack of marking, the end of term had now loomed into view.

So, with kids in pyjamas and about to go off to Bedfordshre, I dragged them into the kitchen and made them stir and wish, ignoring the arguments about who was in whose way and whose turn was longer (the longer the turn, the longer they could stay up – which was more bad planning by me). My son pointed out that as I was the OLDEST I had to go last. I made a very altruistic wish, more of a hope really, and packed the kids off to bed.

The last thing to go in the pudding was the pudding charms. A few years ago I splashed out on some lovely silver Victorian pudding charms, each with a special meaning and each, in its own right, a particularly beautiful choking hazard. I’m buggered if I can find them. I have checked all the usual ‘safe-keeping’ places and they are nowhere to be found. The only possibility is that I left them at my sister’s last year but, seeing as I am in Kent and she is in Lincoln, I couldn’t pop ’round for a rummage. So, this year’s pudding is one that champions all that is health and safety and none of the fun.

By the time I had actually managed to get the string around the rim of the basin to tie the ‘lid’ on, it was about 8pm. Merrily, I popped it in the steamer and checked how long it had to steam for: five hours. FIVE HOURS! I had been up since 5.15am with my poorly daughter and now I had to stay up ’til 1am. I was not convinced the pudding would be ‘right’ if left in the fridge until the today (and anyway, I have a carol service to go to after school and would have even less time), so I left it steaming and whiled away the evening with Alan, Dara, Ant and Dec until it was midnight and I only had an hour to go. Finding some meaningless nonsense on tele to watch, I waited out the hour…only to wake to an acrid smell at 2.45am and my head in the over-hanging branches of our Christmas tree. My pudding had boiled dry, the house stank and weeks of pudding-chaos had been topped, like the star on the top of the tree, by my falling asleep during the final leg. I turned the gas off, swore and went to bed.

This morning, the smell was still there and I gingerly peeped at the pud. It looks…done. It is supposed to be steamed for five hours and then for a further three on Christmas Day. I am hoping that I can steam it for 1 hour and it will be OK. But, more to the point, I am concerned that it will taste of the smell of carbonised stainless steel. I might tweet Nigella and see if she will help me. Maybe she’ll take pity tell me what to do, but I fear ‘Bin it and start again’ could be her response.

Anyway, assuming you’re still reading and haven’t given up on my pudding rant, the point of the post was that all of this menial activity is really just a metaphor for my life at the moment. The complete lack of time I have and trying to juggle events, squeeze things in, do six things at once…all of them badly. Nothing going to plan, no matter how much effort or preparation is put in beforehand. Life lacking charm and, like my poor old saucepan, feeling boiled dry.

I am hoping the pudding can be salvaged and, with it, the hope that, by Christmas, everything will be just fine. But, I fear I might be saying, ‘Pudding, I am going to have to chew you up and spit you out.’ Please, Life. Don’t do the same to me.

Nov 202014
 

Yes. Before you start, I KNOW suburbian isn’t word. But it should be.

So, the other night I was at that point in the evening when you know you should be going to bed but, in actual fact, you are nursing the dregs of a bottle of wine (that was part of the M&S meal deal) and watching crap on tele.

As is the case in these situations, we flicked through the channels and happened upon the top 10 hits of Queen. Or something to that effect. Now (bearing in mind that a week or so before when watching Alison Hammond on Strictly, my husband revealed he had not recognised the song Wuthering Heights, or who sang it) we had whittled our way down to the top Queen song ever and THIS conversation happened:

Husband: I wonder what no.1 will be?

Me: Er…duh! Bohemian Rhapsody.

Husband: Oh, yes. Of course.

(We watch for a few minutes. Yes, I was singing along)

Husband: So, can he really sing?

Me: Freddie Mercury?

Husband: Yes. Can he sing? I mean, really.

Me: Er, YES!!

Husband: But, I mean…would he win The Voice?

 

 

Yes. I was as stunned into silence, as I presume you are.

My husband is a reasonably sane man and, whilst not well-versed in 80s pop (he grew up in SA), he is reasonably cultured.

Or so I thought.

Clearly, ignorance of la Bush and questioning the vocal capability of Freddie Mercury calls this into question. Can you seek divorce on grounds of your husband being a musical luddite?

All those misconceptions of married bliss. And another one bites the dust.

queen-bohemian-rhapsody

Oct 072014
 

working-mom-275x300I have always been one to vehemently champion the working mother, being one myself and all. And, up until now, everything has gone as well as it can. I have three kids and have always gone back to work through financial need and because I think I might have gone beyond bonkers with boredom if I didn’t.

I thought, as they got older, it would be easier. Not so. My youngest has just started school and (I naively presumed) with all three of them in the same school, life would be easier. Not one bloody bit. I now have three sets of pick-ups, homework, kitbags to wash, snacks to organise, reading to be heard etc. etc. We live about 30 mins from school and by the time we get home (usually around 5:30pm) we have homework, showers, supper, PJs, teeth and reading to do. That leaves about 30s for my kids to actually relax. Be kids. Play.

Bit crap, isn’t it?

And so, for the first time, I am wondering if it would be better if I was at home. I mean, it’s flippin’ manic. All of the above plus 5 lots of washing, the housework, the bills, the food planning/shopping/cooking/cajoling/clearing. We have no babysitter. This not only means no nights out but we have the impending Parents’ evenings to attend, as teachers (yes, both of us in the same school). What do we do with the kids?

Our weekends are a blur of kids’ parties (bloody ****ing things), MORE homework, chores and passing out in front of Strictly. Having made a different home-made pizza for everyone. And cleared up.

My oldest daughter is entering tweenage and squawks at how unfair it all is. My son has Aspergers and needs a lot of attention which former daughter finds unfair (surprise!). My youngest is as feisty as …. and requires taming at any opportunity lest she release the wrath of a four-year-old redhead.

It’s tiring. So, so tiring.

We are trying to do it all and scraping through, but I worry that my kids’ childhood will be gone in a whiffling breeze and when we are finally sorted and good-to-go it will be ‘Where are the kids? Oh, university!’.

Life.

Complicated, isn’t it?

Oct 052014
 

Hello Wall,

You and I seem to be newly acquainted. It’s funny how, in a household so full of people, so bloody busy, there is a serious lack of communication.

I chatted to you just the other day – did you notice?

The kids were tired and being grotty little monsters after school, OH wasn’t home and no matter what I said or how I said it, nobody took any notice.

And so I turned to you. Told you everything. Exhaled. Felt better.

I like how you listen. To my wittering, my screeching, my need to just, well, have a conversation. I kinda had another wall for a time. But I think that wall may have been demolished; I had no warning, no planning permission, no health and safety memo. Nothing. It was there one day and gone the next. I am searching amongst the rubble, but it seems that’s all there is. I have asked the council what’s going on, but I get some prepared statement; a promise of nothing. Lies.

And so, I seem to be back. And, do you know what? It feels good. The awkward silence has dissolved and you and I are back on track. Which is always a good place to be.

Sarah x

Sep 222014
 

Dear Blog,

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken and it’s my fault; I’m just so busy.

I won’t bore you with the details but it ranges from the wildly exciting to the excruciatingly mundane and I just don’t have any more time or energy to write to you. I’m sorry about that.

I still love you and you will always be ‘the one’. I know you’ll always be there for me and I am forever grateful for that.

I just wanted to let you know; I haven’t forgotten about you. I think about you a lot and I thought you should know that. For what it’s worth.

I will come back. Everybody needs their wall.

Sarah x

Aug 212014
 

quote

It’s been one of those weeks. You know, the really expensive ones that you didn’t see coming. On Monday, our washing machine broke – seems it can’t be fixed and we need a new machine. Two adults, three kids and two muddy dogs in a house with no washing facility.

Then, on Wednesday, the boiler went on the blink and we had no hot water (there is nothing so unfulfilling as a mildly tepid bath and a bath-bomb that just sits, fermenting on the bottom of the bath without a hint of fizz).

So, not only could we not wash our clothes; we couldn’t wash ourselves. Even having to have cold water to wash my hands was an irritant.

These things happen and we are fortunate that we can have them fixed or replaced, but it brings home the fact that you never realise or appreciate  what (or who) you’ve got until it’s gone. You know; like when you get a cold and appreciate breathing.

So, there I was, a bit grumpy and inconvenienced and then something happened that made me snap out of it quicker than a cat having a (tepid) bath; I turned on the news.

If ever you need a big slap of reality, just look at the headlines, and then offer the other cheek and get repeatedly slapped by the horrific stories they are exposing. Beheading, bombs, splintered limbs, disease, landslides, abuse, neglect –  utter misery. I used to turn down the radio in the car for some headlines, to protect my children from this ever-hideous world. Now I just turn it off altogether because all the headlines depict some tragedy or vile act of one human being toward another. Yet, as adults, we cannot ignore it; we must not. The abject horror and suffering many people have to endure is too hard to bear – but they must and so should we. People die in order to make the world aware (I was brought to tears by the statement from James Foley’s parents) and I feel it is our duty to sit up and take notice.

 Change cannot come from ignorance, but from education and action. And hope.

In my last post I spoke about luck; how we can make our own luck, good and bad. I think I need to take that back. It IS luck; a genetic roulette that allowed me to be born in the UK rather than Gaza, that allows my kids to grow up in comfort and shelter rather than squalid refugee camps.

Next time I open my mouth to complain about some small misfortune that has befallen me, I will stop to think and close my safe, healthy, free mouth before remembering how bloody lucky I am.

Aug 162014
 

imageSome people say they are lucky. You know they type; they always win prizes in raffles, parking spaces magically appear for them and life always seem to turn out with a cherry on the top.

I do believe in luck. I think. Or, perhaps, coincidence. I’m not a mathematician and probability eludes me, but there are some things in life that happen for no good reason whatsoever. We call it luck. Sometimes good; sometimes bad.

“The harder I practice; the luckier I get”

I think there are times when you can make your own luck. And that’s what I am trying to do at the moment. Create opportunities for myself that prompt exclamations from observers of ‘Lucky you!’. I smile and nod, but I am making it happen; it isn’t luck, it is sheer determination.

For example, I write this sitting on the train from King’s Cross to Edinburgh. I am going to the festivals for the weekend with the intention of, naturally, seeing a few shows but moreover to promote and distribute poetry. I assume you are aware that I co-run a website called ‘Paper Swans’ and we ran a micropoetry competition on Twitter, the winners of which have had their poems printed on pocket cards (currently residing in my suitcase) to be given out and discussed at the Edinburgh Book Festival. When I said to a friend that I was going to Edinburgh, his response was (naturally) ‘Lucky you.’ Don’t worry – I didn’t labour the point, but it made me think and about all the time and effort (and money) I have put into making this happen. It will be a success – I know it will, because I will fulfil what I am setting out to do. Luck will be if I happen to meet a poetry agent or small publisher who takes an interest in what we are doing. Luck is if I get through the weekend without it raining or if I bump into Hugh Jackman at a bar. But getting to Edinburgh, having these beautiful poetry to cards to give out – I made that happen (with my cohort, Stephanie, of course!).

It’s funny how pensive you get on a train, isn’t it? Hours of time to kill, the outside rushing by. In a few hours I will be swept away with the hubbub of ‘arty types’ and, as I’m travelling alone, I’ll be feeling as alive as hell.

And if you’re wishing you could do something exciting too? Well, good luck to you.

Aug 112014
 

dr_seussI have spent the last two weeks with an old university friend who I haven’t seen for 14 years (since her wedding). The key reason for our prolonged separation is that she lives in the British Virgin Islands and I, alas, don’t. However, after a late night Facebook conversation, she flew in the face of sensibility and headed for the UK!

IMG_1822We are both bookworms and so when I suggested we do the London book bench trail, she gave a resounding YES and we had one of the best days out I’ve had in a while. If you haven’t heard about the book benches, you can read more here, but basically there are 50 benches secreted around London, each celebrating a different author. They are to be auctioned off in October and I wish I had the means to buy one!  They are so beautiful and it was like doing a treasure hunt around London. We walked for 5 hours solid and completed two trails – ‘Riverside’ and ‘City’. Along the way we came across other ‘bench hunters’ and everyone was very amenable when we turfed them off various benches so we could take photos. I loved it so much, I went back with the kids the next day! The Riverside trail is perfect for the kids – most of the benches are children’s authors and it starts at London Bridge and ends by the Globe theatre – all along the South Bank which is perfect to scooter! All three of my children (ages 4, 7 & 9) scootered the whole thing AND over millennium Bridge to St Paul’s AND along Fleet Street and The Strand to Charing Cross. If you find yourself in London and needing a day out, this is perfect. Plenty of cafes and restaurants along the way and all the sights to see – Tower Bridge, The Gherkin, HMS Victory, The Golden Hinde, The Globe, St Paul’s…just brilliant.

I’ll leave you with the benches, which speak for themselves. It might take a few moments to load (go and make a cuppa – it’s worth the wait!)…which is your favourite? Can you guess the author for each one?

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Jul 262014
 

imagesI saw his photo weeks ago. He looked nice. Groomed. Professional.

Today, I knocked at his door. He led me upstairs and he nodded for me to sit. We chatted. I told him some of my untold secrets about my life, my body, my needs. He just listened.

Then he asked me to remove my top and sit on the bed. I did so. He looked at me; hands slid over my face, my neck.

Silence.

Then he said, ‘Just lay face down on the bed’.

I did so, aware of my exposed torso, his hands all over my body, pushing me down.

He asked me to turn over. I did. He said he would mostly be behind me and I should just relax. It would take about 20 minutes.

I put on my top, paid him and left.

I am sore.

But that’s what you get when you go to the osteopath.

Jul 212014
 

I have noticed, recently, that a few well-established blogs are going about somewhat of a transformation – namely – they are changing their name and twitter handle etc. The key reason behind this seems to be that the blog name no longer reflects who they are or what they write about. Brave move. Stupid move? I don’t think so. Partly because they are so well-set in the blogging world that everyone will know who they are anyway, and followers will just keep on following. I also think it is wise to move with the times, keep up with changes and also with who you are. These bloggers are actually staying true to themselves and what blogging IS, so hats off to them.

imagesNow, I have always been a teeny bit of a sheep. So all this got me thinking….this blog is now weeks off being 3 years old and I wondered – perhaps it has also outgrown its name?

I named it ‘Hello Wall…’ after Shirley Valentine, a 42 year old housewife, stuck with no proper conversation or raison d’être and so, she finds sanctuary in talking to the wall. (For further clarification – take a look at my ‘About Me‘ page for an excerpt).

So I look to my life: not solely a housewife, a part-time one. 41. Lots going on with Paper Swans taking off…

Hmmm…

I then remember a conversation I had just last night, where I questioned if I had changed in the last few years? Life has certainly moved forward and things seem better generally, but are things really different? The answer I got then answers the question I have now raised about whether my blog needs a change?

What was the answer?

Well, you’d have to ask the kitchen wall…

 

 

I apologise for the overuse of italics in this post. Oh, bugger. I’ve done it again.

Jun 272014
 

My body speaks to me; the ultimate body language.

It says:

‘FFS turn the lights out.’

‘Yes, your bum DOES look big in that.’ 

‘You used to be so much slimmer, I mean LOOK at you!’

‘Really? Shorts?’

‘Stop eating. Just stop.’

‘You look hideous in that, just look at your belly.’

IMG_1623

Ah, yes. My belly. My nemesis.

We all have parts of our bodies that torture us. Some people can eat cake and it goes to their hips; their thighs; their arms – me? It’s all about the belly.

As soon as I eat (especially carbs) my belly expands. I’m sure if you cared to stare at it for 10 minutes while I eat pasta you would actually witness its growth. Recently, one of my pupils asked if I was pregnant. They say kids speak the truth, and, although a wholly inappropriate comment, I knew that they saw what I see.

Without carbs, it goes flat (ish). but one sniff at a bagel and it literally balloons.

And I hate it. My belly. I hate it. Before I had kids it would poing back into place but three kids later….not so much.

Then I realised what a pile of crap this is.

Some of you probably don’t know, but I am the co-founder of Paper Swans which is dedicated to poetry and flash fiction. And over at Paper Swans we have launched our #bodybeautiful project for women just like me. And you, possibly. Women, who thanks to the media indoctrination, think that we should be skeletal and unnaturally proportioned. So five poets have written postcards (free for the taking – mine is about peeing when you sneeze.  I know.) about the subject of a post-child belly and we are getting our #showusyourbelly campaign trending. I am in awe and moved by the women who have been so brave and gutsy to send me photographs of their bellies for our slideshow. It’s totally anonymous, emails are deleted as soon as the image is added to the slideshow, and it is a campaign to normalise women’s bodies. Show that we are all the same. We even have a celebrity belly on there but you won’t know which it is because celebrity status means nothing when it comes to post-natal bodies. Mumsnet featured us in their newsletter this week and we are hoping the word will spread…

I really hope you’ll take a look and JOIN IN. It’s all for the right reasons and whatever size or shape you are we think your bellies are wonderful. I have even come to terms with my own because of it. Free therapy! And women, empowering themselves.

Gotta be good.

#showusyourbelly

Jun 152014
 

IMG_2125Yep. In 5 days time it’s Britmums Live. And this year I am a butterfly. No, not literally, but there to smile and chat to the more apprehensive amongst you and assure you that we are all the same. Some might seem louder, but that’s just compensation for nerves. Crap. I’M nervous and I’m a flipping’ butterfly!!

But that’s because I know how it is.

I decided to write this post as a sort of interview with myself. Three years ago. When I was first attending Britmums and had SO many questions that didn’t quite seems to be answered…

I don’t know ANYONE who is going.

You and most other people. Those that have the most tenuous of links to someone will be all gushy and loud and (thinking thank GOD I’ve found someone). Give it five minutes and you will be that person. If not, FIND THE BUTTERFLIES.

What do I wear?

Anything you like. Jeans, trainers, dresses, heels, fancy dress…it’s all there and NOBODY cares. Really. I’d go for something comfy – jeans and flats. This year I am being dressed by the lovely Boden so I will be elegance personified. With wings. (Not the sanitary kind I hasten to add).

What do I do with my suitcase?

There is a bag and coat check at the venue. Fear not. They will take care of any excess baggage.

I haven’t been blogging very long…

Doesn’t mean you’re not FABULOUS! (and nobody cares)

When I meet people and they say ‘I blog at..’ and I have no idea – WHAT DO I DO??

Smile and say ‘I haven’t read your blog. Do you have a business card?’

If they do, you have their details and they feel great.

If they don’t, they feel embarrassed and you have the upper hand.

Nobody looks like their Twitter avatar. Who ARE these people?

Your guess is as good as mine. Smile. They like that. Then get out your phone/tablet/card and say…So, WHO are you again? (they will be the ones to feel like their profile isn’t big enough;-))

What if I get to the evening and everyone has plans and I don’t?

PLEASE come and find me (or another butterfly). DO NOT go back to your hotel.

I am going to All Bar One on Friday evening and eating far too much on Saturday. Come and find me.

I am there to meet brands and monetise my blog.

Good luck to you. Go and schmooze…hand out cards, tweet, instagram, Facebook…THEY LOVE IT!

I don’t want to walk in by myself.

Come to the Butterflies page on Facebook. We match up and get people to meet beforehand, like a coffee shop or pub, so they can walk in with friends.

I walk into a seminar and there are TABLES!! Where do I sit?

If you are feeling confident, go up to a free seat and ask “Is anyone sitting here?’ Chances are the answer will be NO and it is a mis-match of lots of bloggers.

Alternatively, (served me well in the past) sit at the end of a free table People will join you. You can do the seminar and not have to talk to anyone. It’s OK. Really.

I am only there for the BiBs…

Good luck. I am not bitter. At all. ;-)

I don’t know my way around London. Help! Scary!

It’s Ok. Everyone is so self-obsessed in London, they won’t notice.

Please, PLEASE, if you have ANY other questions – ask! nothing too silly and all will be answered.

 

I feel very privileged to be a butterfly seeing as I am really quite shy. But I think that means I understand. And I really do.

See you on Friday xx

xx