Archive for the category “Books”

5 moments of motherhood to savour

Sensible Son is 11 today. And today he is (literally and metaphorically) boarding a bus and heading off with his mates, for a week-long residential in the ‘big smoke’.

Naturally, he is super-excited about the prospect: ‘We’re going to the Rainforest Café for dinner, having breakfast in the hotel, we’re even allowed to take sweets… and stuff.’ The educational benefits of the Science Museum and the V&A appear to have slipped his tweenager mind. And, of course, I’m excited for him too. Well… kind of.

I’m excited for him to step out into the wonderful world, to board that bus armed with only a spare pair of boxers and a redundant flannel. It’s just that I wonder how on earth his going came round so soon. One minute, it seems to me, I was puffing through contractions watching Harry Potter and the next I’m waving goodbye to my almost-taller-than-me son. If it’s not deemed ‘uncool’ to wave them off that is. Life, it seems to me, is speeding past so fast.

When I was younger I stumbled across William Henry Davies’ poem, ‘Leisure’:

‘What is life, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare’

And as I gallop through my life as a mum, I realise – frequently – that I’m not that great at sitting down, let alone standing still in the sun and taking time out ‘to stare’. I find myself – too often – not necessarily savouring that moment, focussing instead on the junk they need to start collecting for next term’s topic, on the next school trip when they all need a packed lunch, looking forward to the next steps, instead of savouring the now.

I remember one afternoon about 8 years ago, standing in my kitchen, making supper. I had one baby on my hip, one boddler on the floor and the toddler wandering about with a needs-changing nappy. ‘Make the most of it,’ said a ‘been-there’ family friend smiling at the chaos, ‘it doesn’t last long!’

Thank goodness for that, I’d thought to myself at the time. But now… Now, I realise, a little sadly, that she was right.

So, at the risk of turning into a ‘been-there’ bore, here is my top 5 list of motherhood moments to savour:

  • Babygros

OK, their legs never bend the way you want them to, and you always get to the bottom popper before realising you’ve popped it wrong… but my goodness, they’re so scrumptious on a newborn baby. And a onesie doesn’t have as much appeal.

  • Breastfeeding

Yes, there’s that excruciating agony of the misaligned mouth and the months of sodden shirts and grey breastfeeding bras… but, ahh, that magic of a tiny finger entwined with mine, and a thin leg kicking gently in replete delight. That bright-white balcony bra can wait.

  • The grabbing of legs

I know it’s always at the most inopportune moment, that they sidle up to your thigh and attach like an octopus… but the 100% trust and need in those chubby arms is astonishingly special. A long limb slung casually round the shoulders isn’t quite the same.

  • ‘Dear Zoo’/Peepo/insert here the current ‘every-night-book’

Granted, it’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for ‘they sent me a…ooh…now what could it be?’ every night… but those chuckles, the appreciation of met toddler expectations and the snuggle-up peace of a bed-time book should not be underestimated. Creating avid readers is the ultimate investment in their education and in your future evening emancipation.

  • Mother & toddler groups

Yes, when you’re looking after little ones it can feel like some days you’ve done nothing but drink coffee and chat… but those hours of maternal bonding over Gina Ford will probably lead to forever friends. And you’ll never have such a great excuse again to eat cake and natter while you ‘work’.

Why I don’t look forward to World Book Day

Every year, round about World Book Day, my heart sinks.

Not, I hasten to add before I am thoroughly lambasted by the book-lover-brigade, because of the focus on all things written. No, I am 100% in favour of a Day dedicated to celebrating the written word, having spent a large chunk of my early adolescence upside down on the back seat of a Ford Cortina devouring Agatha Christie. Probably best to keep that story for another light news day.

No, my heart sinks because I know that, with the unfailing inevitability of a moany Monday following a too-late-to-bed Sunday, the boys will skip home from school brandishing ‘The Letter’. ‘The Letter’ which merrily encourages them to ‘dress up as their favourite character from a book’ in return for one shiny pound. And I have no problem with the pound , indeed I would happily part company with a significant amount more if only there wasn’t the ‘creative’ element involved.

The conversation goes something like this:

‘I don’t know who to go as!’ (boy)

‘You’ve read loads of books… which is your favourite?’ (mum)

‘Oh, I don’t know!’ (boy)

‘Well,’ (mum, helpful), ‘why not someone from Starfighters, Famous Five, Harry Potter?’

‘We don’t have any Starfighters’ costumes, no one would recognise the Famous Five and absolutely EVERYONE does Harry Potter!’

‘Well,’ (mum, slightly less helpful), ‘what about Horrid Henry – that could be fun. You could go as Henry and your brother as Perfect Peter!’

‘Horrid Henry is for KS1 mum, not KS2. And anyway, there’s absolutely no way I’m going with HIM!’

‘Ooooh, for goodness sake!’ (mum, thoroughly exasperated and out of ideas) ‘Look, you think about what you want to be and let me know when you’ve decided and we’ll come up with something.’

‘Maybe I won’t bother this year…’ (boy – muttering). ‘Dunno what to go as anyway…’

***

Morning of World Book Day

‘But I thought you said you weren’t going to dress up this year?’ (mum, one leg in car, one leg out, about to put the key in the ignition to head off for school)

‘I didn’t MEAN it mum… oh, everyone else will be dressing up and I’ll be the only one who isn’t and Miss said there’s a prize for the best costume and I’ll look silly if I don’t….’

(Mum, sounding not unlike Horrid Henry herself): ‘Arggggggghhhhhhh!’

There follows frantic scrabbling in the dressing up box resulting in an odd assortment of tweed caps and recycled Victorian topic garb.

‘Perfect… there you are: Oliver Twist. Now get into the car and LET’S GO!!’

‘Oliver who?’ asks boy, but knows better than to push it. ‘OK…thanks. Er… can I have my pound?’

***

So this year, I awaited World Book Day with the usual trepidation.

‘Bring a book you’ve enjoyed and finished with into school to swap’ read the instruction on the crumpled letter thrust into my hand. Genius! Fantastic! We can do that! Giddy with relief, I nigh on dance for joy.

 But boy proffers another piece of paper.

‘As you may be aware, next Friday is Red Nose Day. The children are invited to… dress up as their favourite character from a book in return for a pound.’

Noooooooooooo.

The MOB goes live on Radio Wales

Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed about MOB Rule on BBC Radio Wales.

Water bottle and sweaty palms at the ready, Rob quickly put me at ease and we had an interesting and lively chat about boys, bodily functions and parenting issues. To listen click here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qzfr7 and, if you don’t have a spare three hours to listen to the whole programme, move the cursor to around 1hour10 in. When you get to Phil Collins you’re almost there!!

It’s only available for another couple of days so if you want to tune in, you’d better be quick!

Six reasons why it’s marvellous being a Mother Of Boys…

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/showbiz-and-lifestyle/showbiz/2013/02/05/what-is-it-really-like-being-the-mother-of-boys-91466-32745038/

An exciting win – Writers Bureau ‘Writer of the Year 2013’

It’s been a fantastically exciting month or so for the MOB. Not only have we had a smattering of snow (more exciting for the boys than me I’ll admit!), ‘MOB Rule’ published and the ensuing press coverage, but I was also delighted to win the Writers Bureau ‘Writer of the Year 2013’ competition.

The Writers Bureau provided me with the course which kick-started the book so I was particularly pleased to win, especially as there are some truly inspiring stories on their website from many great, and dedicated, writers. To read more… http://www.writersbureau.com/writing/writer-of-the-year-2013.htm

The MOB heads north…an interview in the Northern Echo on the ‘Rules of Engagement’

Recently I had great fun being interviewed by fellow (more multiple than me) MOB Ruth Campbell. We chewed the female-only fat and discussed the – ultimate – joys of boys. To find out more about the ‘Rules of engagement’ go to…http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/leisure/lifestyle/10175319.Rules_of_engagement/

Two newspapers in one weekend and a forecast of snow!

Last week, for me, was a bit like snow in the South West. Unexpected, exciting and just a little bit scary.

Because last weekend, Saturday to be precise, the MOB appeared in both the Guardian and the Times.

For the Guardian I wrote a feature entitled ‘Mad about the boys’, a piece dedicated to the almost sacred relationship between a boy and his stick. To find out more about why they may be mere pieces of wood to you, but they’re oh-so-not to a son, read here… http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jan/12/hannah-evans-mother-of-boys

The Times meanwhile, ran an extract of ‘MOB Rule’, alongside ‘Bringing up boys: a parent’s guide to getting it right’. Much more academically supported advice than my entirely anecdotal tales, I delved into the guide. The only bit I found slightly concerning is that the daily calorific intake of a teenage boy is around 2775 (almost as much as Olympic athletes); I therefore picture myself in five years time pushing not one, but two trolleys. To read on, go here (but you’ll need to pay!)… http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/families/article3654616.ece

What do you do a month before you publish your first book?

Mob RuleToday is one month exactly to ‘P’ day. 17th January 2013, the date when my first book, ‘MOB Rule’ is published and available, not just on pre-order on Amazon, but on real life shelves.

When I first started writing ‘MOB Rule’, I wrote it for me. I wrote it because I wanted to ‘capture’ some of the peculiar magic and mayhem of my life as a MOB, a life which I realised was speeding past all too scarily fast. Truth be told I wrote it because a friend delivering the Church newsletter said I should. I never could resist flattery in any form.

So I started writing it. And then I finished. Nearly 60,000 words, every one of them written, read and quite probably re-written. What next?

I could bind the dog-eared pages in a plastic folder, stick a label on the front marked ‘My Book’ and put it on a shelf. To gather dust until either my boys, or maybe more probably, their spouses of the future, took it down to laugh, to cry, to reminisce.

Or…

I could show it to a friend who happened to be a literary agent, could hand it over to him and brace myself for feedback, could (as his sage wife later put it) ‘send my book out there and let it fly’.

As anyone who writes knows, your writing is part of you. In some cases, and in particular when the writing is autobiographical (albeit with a pinch of artistic salt) your writing is you. And so letting someone else read, dissect and deliver a verdict on it, is a bit like going to your child’s parents evening. Guaranteed to make you sweat.

Sure, the Father of Boys had said it was good. When I’d read him each instalment over the phone or in bed. He’d smiled, he’d chuckled, he’d guffawed out loud. But he’s my husband so I’d expect unconditional loyalty and copious praise. But someone else’s husband, someone unrelated, someone expert… what would they think? With a sickness in my stomach akin to dropping my firstborn off for his first day at nursery, I handed over my ‘baby’ and sat back to wait.

Fortunately for me, the parting was (as the teachers always tell you and you never believe) the most painful bit, and ‘he’ was absolutely fine the minute ‘mum’ was out of sight. The book stood on its own two feet: my agent loved it and amazingly, and gratifyingly, so did Bloomsbury (and in fact another publisher) thereafter.

And so, to cut a long publishing story short, it’s now a month ’til publication day. When ‘MOB Rule’ will be out there to be bought by all of Britain and some of the rest of the world. Or at least by my mother-in-law, and my mum, who will each buy one.

The question therefore is what do I need to do now? To plan, to ‘get ready’, to prepare for publication?

I have been warned by more seasoned writers that the ‘due date’ itself can be a bit of a disappointment. Because, in reality, nothing actually happens. After the agonies of editing, proofing and rewriting, the day your labour of love is actually published can feel a bit like New Year’s Eve. Alcohol-fuelled expectation followed by a few damp-squib fireworks.

Ever optimistic however, and in the hope that my ‘P’ day may, after all, be something special, here are a few of the things I will be doing over the next four weeks:
– Googling myself on a daily basis just to check where the book will be sold. This will stop after ‘P’ day. If reviews are nice, Bloomsbury will tell me. And if they’re not, I’d rather not know
– Avoiding eating that extra slice of Yuletide chocolate log. Never has the prospect of a few photos been a better incentive not to over-indulge
– Becoming a media ‘tart’. Not, I admit, a role in which I feel most comfortable, however on this occasion I will be status-updating, tweeting and blogging for Britain. Apparently the book (unfortunately) won’t promote itself.

So come on…what else should I be doing in the run up to ‘P’ day?

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