The joys of the approaching “back to school” day.

As the first day back at school approaches, are you like me and thinking ‘Thank God, a bit of peace” or are you lying to yourself? Or have you just spent 2 months in your house in Tuscany?

When I say that I’m relieved about the first day back at school, I’m not talking about that first ever bittersweet day of school. You know, the one when their blazer is too big and they look way way too young to be let outside, into the world to fend for themselves, to endure the horrors of playground politics. Because that very first day is the one that is indelibly inked into your DNA for evermore.

I can remember spending a year skipping merrily about, telling anyone who would listen how much I was looking forward to my house being empty from 8.30am until 3pm every day for the first time in what felt like forever. My husband took them and I sobbed uncontrollably for an hour. I’m never quite as pragmatic as I like to think.

But for quite a few years now, the long summer holidays have produced an awful cacophony of emotions and feelings within me. Because I have felt that maternal mix of guilt at being a terrible mother whilst simultaneously experiencing the certainty that I’m being a terrible businesswoman. I would go so far as to say that when I used to want to scream at them every time they innocently asked ‘what’s for lunch?’ I’d even feel the guilt of being a terrible human being. Ok, I’m kinda lying here – I did used to scream at them when they asked about lunch, so much so, they stopped asking for a while and then started to make their own.

So, if you have a child or children ranging from the age of 5 to, let’s say 14, you’ll be doing that whole trying to find shirts in the only Marks & Spencer/Asda/Tesco that doesn’t seem to know your child’s size even exists.

You’ll be working out if you should bother sewing/ironing/sticking those labels in or even whether you should bother marking the clothes with a Sharpie. Because, quite frankly, if they’re stupid enough to lose their pants at the swimming baths, they’ll more than likely find someone else stupid enough to not notice that you’re walking around in theirs.

You’ll be queuing, yes, queuing at a shoe shop with a ticket system exactly like the deli counter at a supermarket. You’ll be waiting to see how much your child’s feet have grown in the week that you feel it’s been since you were last there clutching onto a ticket with an unfeasibly long number.   You’ll then have a mini heart attack and weep a little when they ring up the total on the till – or perhaps that’s just me with three children exactly the same size who needed shoes and trainers bought for them every 2 weeks because their feet grew so quickly (or is that just my imagination).

And, if like me, you’re a bit of a neat freak and you like the smell of a new pencil case, you’ll be questioning your children on what they need for their next year. Is it time for compasses? (does everyone know someone who tried to tattoo themselves at school with a compass? No? Just me then).

And so it goes that you’re buying protractors, erasers, pencil sharpeners that you know will be lost within three hours on the first day, and you’re grabbing some colouring pencils, and HB pencils and possibly a Lamy if you’re feeling flush or they got a WHSmith voucher for their birthday. And of course, you have to get them a new pencil case because the unidentifiable ‘matter’ that is crumbed into the deep recesses of last year’s case is actually starting to smell and you can’t possibly infect the new items with the dirt. At least not for the first week.

And as the day approaches, you’ll start feeling a little guilty that you’re excited about getting some semblance of a life back, that you’re really wanting to look forward to hearing the word ‘mum’ again without it sounding like nails down a chalkboard. Because however much you love your children and even like spending time with them, there’s nothing quite like that moment of closing the front door and being able to just get on with your own stuff.

Unless, of course, you’ve just spent nearly two months in your house in Tuscany with your family, living the ‘simple life’ with bronzed healthy children who haven’t spent more than an hour on their computer for the want of getting back in that pool with their cousins. In which case, console yourself with the vitamin D that has been absorbed to last you through the winter.

Although I can’t help but think you’ve been a bit laissez faire with your preparations. Have you ever tried getting a pair of grey Teflon trousers on the day before term starts? No? I have – it’s not pretty.

Oh, and if you’d like to buy some excellent and very special ring binders, refill pads, pencils and notebooks for the new term, pop over to the site and grab some. We’d love to inspire your little ones with some plans…

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Getting to the point. Quickly and sharply

Today, I’m reminded of how petty I can be.

I’m sure that there have been many typos and terrible homophone usage in my copy over the years.  But I’m certain that you’ll not find a misspelling of the word ‘stationery’ anywhere.

Now, I accept that it’s probably because I’m so kinky for stationery, that seeing an ‘a’ instead of an ‘e’ in there is akin to nails down a chalkboard (or cotton wool… no?  Just me then).  But still, it’s the english language!  And if you are writing for a living, are you not supposed to have a superior grasp of our mother tongue? (Oooh, I’m getting quite het up here; I’ll stop now)

If you’re emailing me to tell me how much you’d love to write something about our stationary, because you’ve always loved stationary, I will (and I’ve been surprised at my own restraint here) very politely decline your offer of a review.  It’s stationery people.  Not stationary.

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(It was the same with the word ‘liaison’ when I worked in recruitment many years ago.  If your CV had the word liason in there, you’d have to be a frickin’ genius at everything else to not get binned).

Harsh I know.

I think fair.

But harsh.

That’s all.

 

Oh – Happy Easter!

 

Mid-Week Rant and Being Glad

I don’t do inspirational quotes. ‘She could so she did’ just all seems a bit obvious to me, and just a little bit too happy clappy for my more realistic sensibilities.  My teenage angst diary is filled with sentences like ‘for the love of God why does everyone need to share their emotions – it’s just so American’ and I would be simultaneously describing my feelings in overblown and minute detail’. Irony, thy name was Sarah (Ok – hypocrisy). I am now bombarded daily with photographs of sunsets and cursive script telling me to stay positive, to believe in myself, to believe I am invincible. Declarations of positivity in a once size fits all declaration of ‘here is a summary of the entire human condition in one sentence’ and those ‘life affirming’ quotes are everywhere; social media; TV; mugs; greetings cards; posters etc etc.

I don’t subscribe to any of them. Seeing a sentence encouraging me to stay strong, or informing me that I can do anything I put my mind to is pithy at best, downright depressing at worst. It’s an assumption that we’re all going through the same shit, but surely, by its very nature, the human condition is as diverse as the faces on our individual faces. I’d like a ‘cheer up ya miserable git’ or ‘yeah, it probably has already happened, but then it could be worse, you could be dead’ mug/fridge magnet etc etc because it is, at least, not trying to make me feel better with ‘inspiration’ and will, in all likelihood, make me laugh through tears.

So, now that I have set myself up as an entirely miserable git, I would like to point out that I derive my joy from the very little things (this it isn’t a precursor to a new Two Little Boys range of ‘take joy in the little things’ mug/fridge magnet etc)  I suspect it’s already been covered…. ad infinitum.

My glad list needs to start with my first thought this morning (and the prompt to this rant):

I have the ugliest mug in the world (yeah yeah, I get the inference) but this particular drinks receptacle was given to me by one of my children, so although I’ve never been on a horse and have no desire to ever be so. This particular mug with all it’s ugliness holds an entire pint of coffee and I will lie in bed at night thinking about that ugly mug and its contents in the morning. I am glad of that mug and that mug comes with me everywhere where I’m likely to stay overnight.

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I’m glad of my morning view as I approach the coffee machine, glad that the flowers I planted a few months ago are still alive and add some colour to my life at 5.30am.

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I’m glad of films written by Neil Simon. Hard days disappear when watching Oscar and Felix attempting co-habitation. (I’d be Felix minus the cooking). And Maggie Smith complaining she looks like Richard the Third with her imaginary humped back in her new dress never fails to make me giggle (The Odd Couple and California Suite).

I’m glad I have copies of every published word that John Steinbeck penned. The beauty, kindness and tragedy within us all reflected back in every sentence. Check out Mac and Doc in ‘Cannery Row’ if you were forced to read ‘Of Mice & Men’ as a teenager, oh and then read ‘Of Mice & Men’ again – it’s beauty in written form and his books genuinely soothe me through troubled times.

I’m glad of my dentist when I get up to leave.  And I’m glad that although he doesn’t understand my phobia of being ‘numb’, he agrees to drill fillings without anaesthetic and he winces more than me.  (It really isn’t as bad it sounds – Marathon Man it ain’t).

I’m glad of my bedside lamp.  I think it’s ugly but it’s very reliable, was a gift and every night when I read myself comatose, I’m glad not be jolted back to consciousness by finding a light switch – I just touch as I drop my book and glasses onto the table.

I’m glad of the bed.  My marshmallow of comfort and my sanctuary; I will climb up into its folds at night and feel thankful to my friend (who’s bed it is) and equally fearful that the long loan will come to an end.  I’m glad of the little piece of paper on my bedside table with the badly spelled words ‘I love you mummy’ written within, from my son when he was still chubby and bursting with affection me.

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And so I’ve hit on the ‘mother’ inspirational quotes, and boy, do I have something to say about those…

I don’t subscribe to that appalling commercial that says ‘mums – you’re doing great’ it’s merely another catch-all. Do we need reminding or validation from a large conglomerate cynically tapping into our maternal neuroses .  There must be bad mothers out there, so it’s a downright lie to them and if we’re good mothers and ‘doing great’, that’s what we bloody well should be doing – there is no need for an impersonal congratulation.  If your child is alive, vaguely happy, hopefully healthy and not a psychopath then you’re doing exactly what you signed up to do.  Yes, it’s really hard work and relentless and frustrating and all-consuming, but it’s being a mother and if you’re lucky enough to have a scrap of paper written by your son with the badly spelled ‘I love you mummy’ on your bedside table, then that is, quite frankly, all you can hope for.  And don’t get me started on the stuff about ‘loving’ your children – watch an expletive filled Chris Rock stand up set about exactly that – it basically ends with ‘YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TAKE CARE OF THEM YOU DUMB *********’.  I think I’ve made myself clear.

And then there’s the ’strong woman’ myth; the ‘you are strong, you are mother’ or ‘you can do anything’ or ‘believe in yourself, you’re just amazing’. Words used include ‘wise; beautiful; good; perfect; accepting; letting go; blah blah blah’.  Well, I’m not strong, I’ll let you know about the wise if I live long enough and I don’t often wake up thinking that my mistakes have just been doors that have opened for me.  I’ll cry until the snot streams, I can say stupid stuff, I can’t blindly accept anything without proof, I think letting go can sometimes be counterproductive (it is, after all, what makes me me) and I wake up to drink coffee, period.

But judging by the number of times these words of ‘inspiration’ are shared on social media to other women, there’s clearly an epidemic of females who don’t feel as strong as they ’should’.  Like a quote from some guru is going to make it all alright.  If your friend is going through a tough time, or if you think they need to be reminded of their triumphs and their ability to survive the shit that life throws at us all, then put it in your own words and tell them – by instant messenger, by email, by text, by letter, by phone or even in person (radical stuff here!)  don’t just have a gift company write their name on a print you’ve clicked on to purchase online.

Do I wake up on #motivationalMonday and think ‘this is going to be an excellent week full of surprises and joy’?  No, because I’ll be going downstairs to clean the kitchen again.  Of course, the day I went down to see it sparkling bright and clear and realised that one of my sons had taken the time at 11pm the night before made me burst with love and pride – so I was glad of him for that.

So, what else am I glad of?  I’m glad of a jumper that my husband bought me years ago that is soft, falling apart, warm and very comforting.  Anyone who has seen me in the last eight years when the temperature has dropped below 15 degrees will have seen that jumper. I’m glad when I’ve had the time to wash that jumper and it smells fresh and new.  I’m glad that some people smile when they see me approach and am often genuinely surprised (and glad) that they’ll even engage in conversation. I’m glad of the text conversations I have with old friends who will always reply and remain a constant in my life – even if I don’t see them year in year out.  I’m glad I got to tell my favourite person as a child that she meant the world to me before she died.  I’m glad of my black duvet in the shape of a coat, I pull it around me on cold winter days and literally think ‘ooh, I do love this coat’.

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On a business level, I’m glad when customers take time to personally write us a good review. Actually, I’m glad when someone buys one of our products.  I’m glad if you got this far in my rant and you’re still reading and I’d be glad if it made you smile or convinced you to read Steinbeck.  You see, I can take joy in the little things (see above), but I don’t continually need to be reminded to do so. Now, I must get on with a new project range that includes the words ‘miserable git’.

Here endeth the lesson/rant.

Oh, and I’m available for motivational speaking whenever and wherever 😉