Tagged: london

Just the two of us…

On Wednesday, B’s nursery was closed for an inset day and T had to go back to work, so I took the day off and we had a little one on one time.

We went to the Museum of London Docklands where he had a great time wandering around the exhibits, and playing in the children’s area. It’s amazing to find out about the city we live in, and it’s all free!

The children’s area is fantastic with lots of interactive play areas and we didn’t do the half of it because he spent the entire allotted time in soft play!

We went next door and shared a pizza and garlic bread at Pizza Pilgrims, where they give kids some stickers to keep them occupied. He enjoyed sticking them all over the place whilst swigging water and munching garlic bread, and the staff made a fuss of him whilst mama had a cheeky rosé. He loved it!

And we went to the Crossrail gardens where he enjoyed running about and shouting “Hello!” at a bird in a tree for half an hour.

We had a wonderful day. It’s so much fun to see the world through a child’s eyes. And it was all free apart from the pizza! It was lovely to spend time together and he still had a great time playing, even though it was just the two of us most of the time.

I don’t doubt there will be times in his life where he asks why he doesn’t have a sibling and maybe even asks if we can have one. But for now, he loves his dog brother and he loves his parents, and this mama enjoyed the fact that we could spend a precious day together, just the two of us. 💕


Life is short

In London, where I live, we’ve had so much bad news over the last few weeks. 

Already the Manchester suicide bombing of the Ariana Grande concert shocked us all. How anyone, least of all someone who was the child of a refugee, could do something like this to innocent children is beyond our understanding. 

And then suddenly it was close to home. Borough market and London Bridge – places we know and love and went out to in the evenings. It’s the last thing you’d expect in those hazy summer evenings spent at after work drinks, that people would go on a rampage. Just too close to home. And not long after the Westminster bridge attack. 

And then Grenfell tower. A large tower block of residential apartments, many or all of them social housing, up in flames. Hundreds presumed dead. A “stay put policy” the reasoning behind why many stayed in their homes whilst the building burned around them. But also the impossibility of escape when so far up. 

I live in a block of flats. Not so high up but we don’t have a lift (elevator) and we are right at the top. It makes me think. I think our building has better fire proofing than Grenfell. We have fire doors and dry risers. And it’s an old building, lots of brick and stone. But still. 

It’s the human stories that get me. With any of these, it’s the little things. I’m not saying I didn’t have the capacity to feel before. But since becoming a mother there is something primal I feel whenever I hear about children. 

At Grenfell, someone threw a baby out of the window from the 9th or 10th floor. The building was burning. Imagine what it must take, the terror in your heart, to throw your child out of a window in the chance they might be saved. Knowing that you probably won’t be. If either of our lives end, I want B to be with me and yet… a parent has chosen to be separated from their child at the point of likely death in the hopes that their child will live. I just can’t imagine the pain. (The papers are reporting the child survived. But nobody knows what happened to the parent.)

Another story: a 12 year old girl calls her mother in a state of fear and terror. She’s trapped on the 20th floor. Her mother is a cleaner working night shift. She rushes back to the tower and people hold her back. It’s too dangerous to enter. But her little girl, her baby is trapped up there. The smoke is too thick. She doesn’t get out. 

Grenfell is so terrible because it was not an act of terror – which is terrible in itself – but an act of negligence. Someone, somewhere approved the cladding that apparently created a chimney of inflammable material. Instead of the hour or so expected that residents would be safe in their flats, the entire building went up in a matter of minutes. The fire started on the fourth floor which meant those in the upper floors had little chance of survival. 

And the residents of Grenfell were from the poorer ends of society. Immigrants, Muslims, social housing, a diverse set of people living in a tower block just a stone’s throw from some of the richest. Kensington is one of the richest parts of London but side by side with some of the poorest. The great paradox of London – wealth and poverty side by side. 

The inflammable cladding was probably an aesthetic decision to try and protect the rich neighbours from the “eyesore” of poorer people on their doorstep. Part of an apparent £6m refurb project that didn’t fit the building with sprinklers or fire protection or alarms. Those people were often living with multiple occupants in flats, with larger families, which is why the death toll is predicted to be so high. Many of the residents were Muslim, and this happened during the holy month of Ramadan, which is why many were still awake at 1am when the fire broke out, otherwise the death toll might have been higher. 

In London everyone pulls together. People galvanised within hours to offer shelter, and bring food and drink and clothing and toiletries to the Grenfell residents who survived. Their immediate material needs can be met. But their emotional needs cannot. The horror of anyone who escaped dwarfs the horror of those who had to watch, helpless, as a tower block full of innocent people burned. And yet all any one of us can feel is horror. The stories of people trapped in their own homes, where they should feel safe. 

Today is the fifth anniversary of my friend’s husband’s death from cancer. He fought bravely through limb amputation – he was amazing, doing sports without a care in the world. But five years ago he passed away in his sleep. My friend now has a new husband and baby and she talks about the pain of knowing that her husband wanted her to be happy with someone new – and she is – versus wishing he was still here. It’s a painful paradox. 

My other friend who has cancer has finished chemo and first surgery and she’s recovering before her reconstruction surgery in a couple of months. I’m glad they caught the cancer but I hate what she is going through. It’s so taxing on her body. And it’s the second time she’s had cancer. I don’t know how she gets through it. Somehow she does. I try and let her know I’m thinking about her every day. But really I wish I could just take it all away and there was no such thing as cancer. 

It feels as though there has been such horror lately. It hurts to think about it. On a personal level I know I live in immense privilege, the fact that I have a roof over my head and a longed for baby and a great partner and dog, and I’m healthy. I am lucky to be here. And in any of those disasters we think: It could have been us. 

We have to be thankful for what we have. And I truly am, but in the past weeks I have been even more. With these horrible things happening all we can do is hold our loved ones a little tighter and enjoy every single moment. I thank my lucky stars every single day for what I have. Life is short and you never know what’s going to happen. Be happy. 

In pictures: Christmas beginnings

Today we had a local Christmas festival to mark the opening of the Christmas season. I love Christmas! And so great we got to see it all on our doorstep. Strictly speaking, I try not to think too much about Christmas before December, but it’s too much fun to avoid!

So here are some pics of today. It was freezing, but we bundled up Dog in his little jacket and braved the cold. It was worth it! Lots of fun! 

Creepy big santa puppet…

Fireworks! I love fireworks! Dog didn’t mind them at all. He’s grown up hearing them so luckily he doesn’t care at all.

School lantern parade. I felt really emotional seeing them all with their home made lanterns! It was so sweet.

Creepy Santa on parade!

A *cough* diabetic treat!

Our local celebrity opening the Christmas show.

All in all, we had a lovely time. Every year we go to Paris for our pre-Christmas Disney and Christmas markets trip, and this year I’m not traveling in December because it’s too close to B being born, so this kind of makes up for it!

Almost time for Christmas countdown to begin!

Some work fun

As you may know, I recently changed jobs. So far I’m really enjoying my new job aside from a few minor niggles that are hopefully getting ironed out (the guy who works for me!)… But generally it’s been really nice. 

One of the things I thought was really important was to do a team outing. It sounds corny but I think team bonding is really important to help the team work well together and also as a leader I think it is important to show some appreciation for the wider team, the guys on the ground. I have one team member who works directly for me but then a bigger team who effectively work for me on the client (as I own the client relationship), and it was those guys I really wanted to thank. 

So I got special permission from my boss (the big boss!) to take them to a special London landmark for a pretty special night out. I wanted to do something really nice for the team, firstly because most of them are from overseas (living here away from home for months and years at a time) and secondly because we also had some visitors from the leadership team from overseas as well. 

I kept the whole thing a secret right until the last minute. (I like secrets. Think it adds to the anticipation.) And then I took them to the top floor of the client building last night and got them to guess where we were going.

You could see it from the top floor meeting rooms…

The Shard!

The Shard is London’s tallest landmark, a massive glass triangle pointing up to the sky. A shard of glass! It is pretty awesome and a view from the top gives you a 360 of the whole of London.

We went to Hutong which is a Chinese restaurant and we had lots of yummy food… And I made them do team building exercises! Which was funny.

Anyway, I think everyone had a good time…

Sometimes you just need your mum

I’ve written a bunch about my mad, bad family and I hope if I’ve got anything across it’s the idea that they are not exactly “normal” but I’m really rather fond of them. For example, I don’t believe in the Grateful Adoptee trope (for who are we apart from… y’know, individual humans?) but I do also feel a fair amount of gratitude in just being part of my crazy mad lovely family.

Anyway as you know, last week I decided to throw myself a bit of a boo hoo pity party. Usually I give short shrift to these, I mean, they really are a bit self indulgent – but if you can’t be self indulgent on your own blog, where can you? (Answer: stop being so self indulgent and do something nice for someone else… You’re even boring yourself!) So this week, buoyed by all your good wishes, I started as I mean to go on: with a bit of Happy.

I had arranged a while back to take my mum out for her birthday. It was a trip to spend a day together – she doesn’t live in London but now she’s an OAP (hilarious!) she gets cheap train fares so I said I’d take her out for a day in London. She wanted to wait until the schools were back and it was a bit quieter, and also she’s had a couple of ops to recover from. So I took Monday off and we arranged a little day just for her.

Here are some pics from the day.

Buckingham Palace. Once a year it’s open for a couple of months for the public to visit. They do a different exhibition each year and this year it is the state rooms where they hold banquets. You can’t take pictures inside but it really is amazing. If you look online it doesn’t really show the scale of the whole thing. This year we got to see the banqueting hall all laid out for a state banquet. There were gold plates, engraved crystal and huge candelabra. We also got to find out how they set it all up – days in advance! They even have measuring rules to see where to place things! It is a fun way to spend a couple of hours. There is an audio tour where you can listen to the info on headphones, which led to some funny moments when my mum did that speaking very loudly thing… Oh well! If you are ever in London at the right time over summer then you can reserve tickets here. I highly recommend it!

Claridge’s. After the tour of BP we headed off to Claridge’s. For those of you not in the UK, Claridge’s is an institution. It is a very posh hotel. I’m a bit of an afternoon tea fan so I thought I’d have to take my mum for afternoon tea. Unfortunately she couldn’t walk far as has recently had an operation on her foot so we didn’t get to wander round the shops as I had planned… Which meant we went straight there and arrived two hours early! We asked if they had an earlier table and they said they’d let us know if we waited in the bar. So we decamped to the bar for two of the most expensive drinks I’ve ever bought! Total cost for these: £35! And there were even drinks at £80 a glass! We did get free snacks… The cheese straws and nuts were nice (though possibly not worth the money!). We decided we’d stick to one drink rather than bankrupting ourselves but fortunately we managed to get an earlier table for afternoon tea… My wallet was saved! 🙂

We went through to the dining room. This picture doesn’t really do it justice as it’s very nice. There were huge floral arrangements everywhere. Pink hydrangea in huge bunches and smaller bunches of roses. There was also a pianist playing accompanied by a double bass. The lady on the double bass looked topless from where we were sitting as she was obscured by a piano and wearing a strapless dress! (I assume – perhaps she really was naked!) It all felt very decadent. Which is what you want for afternoon tea!

We ordered our tea. I had fresh peppermint tea as I don’t like tea. (Obviously not a true Brit. Maybe it’s the adoption thing…) Then our savouries arrived. Lots of yummy sandwiches, quiche and free refills! I’ve noticed a lot of places do this now. It means you feel duty bound to make the most of it! The quiche was cheese and onion – very dainty and tasty. And the sandwiches were from L-R: Smoked salmon (yuck!), free range egg (v traditional), chicken with a ceps mayonnaise (v tasty), cucumber and cream cheese (also v traditional) and ham and celeriac remoulade. They were all very nice apart from the salmon which I switched with my mum as she doesn’t like the cucumber ones!

Then we had scones. These are a bit like what Americans call biscuits as far as I can tell, but we have them with jam and cream. (And what we call biscuits is what you guys call cookies! Can you imagine the shock when Brits find out you serve scones for breakfast with gravy!) Anyway there’s a whole debate over whether you add the cream Devon style or Cornish (from Cornwall) style. Clotted cream tastes like cream but it’s the consistency of butter. I can’t remember which style I use but I add the cream first, in place of butter, and then the jam on top. They usually serve scones with strawberry jam in England but this jam was something made from tea. Considering I don’t like tea, it was really delicious! We had fruit scones and plain scones. I could only eat one as I was so full already! They were quite small as scones go but quite frankly I couldn’t even manage both of them, so it really wasn’t a problem!

With afternoon tea you also get a selection of cakes – the main event. All the posh places now compete to do the fanciest ones. These were rather fancy but quite traditional (no theme, like some do themes like the Pret a Portea at the Berkeley – where they do cakes inspired by this season’s fashion collections! Or the Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at the Sanderson, which is my favourite). I really was stuffed by this point. I had the hazelnut choux bun on the far right and the chocolate raspberry one. They were both delicious!

Then as I had asked in advance if they could do something for my mum’s birthday, they brought out a birthday plate! This was complimentary and she was really chuffed. It definitely got me Child of the Year award! 🙂

Finally – just in case you’re not stuffed  enough, you get little boxes with fresh chocolate truffles. They really give you a very spoiled experience.

As we couldn’t eat everything, they boxed it up to take home. My mum insisted I take it all as she has my dad on a strict diet! He was always quite skinny when we were younger but now he’s older his metabolism has slowed down but his appetite hasn’t! He’s not really fat or anything but he has a very sweet tooth. I got into trouble for smuggling him some contraband sweeties last time we met (and I sent him a small care package of my favourite cheese and a small fruit cake for his birthday – last year I sent him a giant personalised pork pie!). So I took home the extras to T. He was very pleased! Dog tried to get in on the action but was sadly denied!

Overall we had a really nice day. I think if you’re one of four especially then it’s nice to spend some 1:1 time with your parents. Of course we haven’t always seen eye to eye so don’t get the impression we are the kind of mother daughter who make you want to vomit with their “best friends” schtick. 🙂 My mum is definitely my mum and my dad is my dad! But I think now I’m in my late 30s we can relate on a more adult level and I am a bit less selfish and self absorbed than I was in my 20s! Plus they’ve probably calmed down their expectations a bit as the options of becoming a doctor / lawyer / President of the United States are all no longer open to me!

One thing we did actually get to discuss was the whole forum and adoption thing. We didn’t discuss in any depth but we did touch on my latest experiences (of adopted people who had a bad time of things and now feel upset about having been adopted), not in the context of anyone being right or wrong but more in the way of saying how I don’t feel that way. We discussed how we were always treated as “their children” and the adopted ones weren’t treated differently – I am glad that we were and never felt we might get taken back or anything. I even told my mum about this blog in the knowledge that she’s only just managed to master SMS and Skype and is unlikely to go looking!

Interestingly my mum said that she did feel they had been a bit naive and hadn’t expected there to be such a big deal about race – we were brought up largely in this kind of “colourblind” mentality to which I think there have been pros and cons. Like I truly didn’t grow up thinking there was anything inherently differentiating in personality or needs based on the colour of people’s skins. I didn’t think I was inferior because I had non white skin, but then again, I did learn that people would treat me differently because of it. I know now that the tide has turned on people’s feelings re race and I’ve learned from the forum that in America at least, skin colour is a very big deal. I think the colourblind thing gave us benefits in one sense but also left us quite ill prepared to face racism in the big wide world… but then I guess it depends whether you blame adoption, parents, upbringing etc for that or you blame the world. Personally I blame the world for being racist rather than my parents for being white, but that’s just me!

It’s funny though, my mum even said she didn’t think people of my ethnicity got much trouble in the UK (to which I put her straight! She does know of previous incidents but she forgets!) and also we just talked about how people deal with stuff. Like I’m definitely one of those people who doesn’t really dwell on things – I even said about dad’s saying (“There’s no point worrying about things you can’t change”) and we had a little giggle about it. (We were drinking an early G&T at this point!) We talked about sibling #2 and how happy we are that the earlier problems seem to have gone away (#2 was also adopted and had quite a few issues growing up but is super happy and settled now, engaged to be married, all good!). Plus we talked about how the world is hopefully changing – in the context of my gay sibling and how we don’t expect there to be the level of homophobia in the past. I guess we all have our things. (Apart from #3/RFB who is just the archetypal white hetero one!) What is fundamental to happiness, I think, is our ability to process the unfairnesses and injustices and grievances and make the most of our lives.

For me that means not focusing on the bad stuff. For sure I do have to deal with any number of small irritants and a few big ones, but I find that it’s unproductive for my life to focus on them. I’m just too lazy to go around feeling bad all the time… It takes effort! I think that may be down to my personality or it may be down to my upbringing, or it may be a bit of both.

Today I went to my follow up occupational health appointment. The doctor had said last time that she thought I should come back and see her in a month’s time as she was a bit worried about me. But it’s now a month and a bit on from the last time (took a while to get the appointment at a mutually convenient time) and we really seemed to have moved on hugely since then. She asked if I still felt sad about PB and I said yes, but not debilitatingly so. I think my first pregnancy and miscarriage after IVF will always be a big experience in my life, but I am not the kind of person who’s going to be doubled up in grief for the rest of my life… I will always carry that sadness with me, but I’ll be okay. Because I really feel like I will. I feel a lot better, and maybe I’m in denial or something or maybe I’m just pretty quick at moving on. I’d like to think it’s a coping mechanism that I’ve got honed to a fine art!

I think for me it helps to focus on the stuff in the future. Like, I know I can’t see anyone about my fibroid until October, so there’s no point in spending a lot of time thinking about it before then. We can’t restart IVF until that’s sorted out, so I won’t try and get in touch or schedule anything before then. We’re off to the Magic Kingdom / USA next month so that’s what we’re focusing on and looking forward to… booking restaurant reservations, organising fun surprises for T and our schedule for the parks! (Squeal!) And buying cheap Disney clothes! I have a haul of them and I reckon I can get through the entire week with only wearing Disney clothes. 🙂

And before then, this month, I have a large wedding cake commission for a friend’s wedding so that’s exciting too. And after our trip to the US (our favourite place even disregarding WDW!) we will be looking forward to Christmas. I really love autumn (fall!)/winter when everything gets a bit chillier and cosier and we can have hot chocolate and cinnamon and wear awesome winter coats and everyone’s getting excited about Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year. I mean, I do enjoy the sun but autumn’s the best because it’s all about getting ready for Christmas!

And more immediately: We’ve been looking at houses. It’s all very exciting even though we probably won’t do anything about it for months and months but it’s nice to dream.

And I guess that’s the thing: I’ll never stop dreaming, or enjoying the happy stuff. Life’s too short to feel miserable for long. We all have a little wallow once in a while but I don’t want that to define my life. My task is just to keep adding fun things into the schedule to look forward to, and to enjoy the happy things when they happen. Which, when you have a T and a Dog, is pretty much all the time.

I know that a lot of you have been recipients of some pretty crappy news lately and I want to say: I’m thinking of you. I know that discovering this community was a lifeline to me – almost a lifetime ago! back in April I think it was – and I want you to know that I appreciate each and every one of you. You are all making a difference to people’s lives, people like me who felt completely alone and logged on one day and wrote a little something and put it out there, and got all this love and care back. And when we were going through the dark days you were all there for me (and us) and sharing your own experiences and making me feel like there was someone out there who cared. Some of you have even become my “IRL” friends (okay, we haven’t yet met in real life but we’re a part of each other’s virtual lives and I feel like I know you!). I mean, that’s pretty awesome. If I was going to be Pollyanna about it (I’m not) I’d say that you are making the world a better place, one friend at a time! And that’s pretty awesome, don’t you think?