Archive | April, 2012

Ce qui me gêne

27 Apr

A macaroon (macaron in French) is a small cake made predominantly from ground almonds. The name comes from an Italian word, referring to the method of turning the almonds into a paste. In France, they have developed the style to those delicious little sandwiches in wonderful flavours, and they are now conquering the world with their sugary yumminess. The French have only one word for almond-based cakes – they call them all macarons. To use the word macaron as an English speaker is completely unnecessary – we have a perfectly functional word to describe the item, and it’s a direct translation from the French word.

In all honesty, it seems a little silly to use foreign phrases when our own will do. Except for in the title of this blog post, of course. We don’t shun the word cheese in favour of fromage, simply because we are eating Roquefort. Unfortunately, it has become so widespread (oh, Wikipedia) that a lot of people do not even know that macaron and macaroon mean the exact same thing, but I’d bet money that it originated with the sort of people who say things like “au contraire” a lot.


16 Apr


I did it. I completed a marathon. I am a marathoner. Four months and 260 miles of training runs culminated in a fantastic day.

The night before was pretty disastrous. We had an early dinner at Pizza Express, much to my chagrin. To be in a big city and faced with such options as Las Iguanas and Yo Sushi was frustrating when I knew I could only eat something pretty basic and spiceless. An evening by the seaside couldn’t be wasted, so Barney rode the carousel for the first time, grinning gummily as it whizzed round.


Hey Mum! Where's the sand?

We got back to the hotel around 8, to find that our room was filled with the thumping sound of 90s classics from the function room downstairs. When we asked reception, they said that they would turn the music down and that the party would only go on until 11. Not ideal – I’d hoped to be asleep by 10 – but bearable. The music went on until 12:30 and got louder and louder as more drunk people grabbed the microphone and sang along with the music. Barney’s sleep was horribly disrupted, and so even though the music stopped, he spent much of the rest of the night awake. Bearing in mind that he has slept through the night since four months, having a baby attached to me all night was pretty gruelling!

Still, I managed to get up, ready and fed with toast before I headed off to the start line. I was in the slowest corral, and held back so that I wouldn’t have to be packed in and have a million people overtake me over the first few miles. I have never seen so many people in a place where there aren’t usually that many people, if that makes sense. I believe that there were around 9000 runners and apparently 100,000 spectators expected for the day!

Twenty minutes after the gun, we got moving. My number one priority was to try and ignore what everyone else was doing and stick to my own pace. I knew that I was aiming for between 7 and 8 hours, so I aimed for a 17 minute mile. It was hard! I didn’t manage – I stayed at a steady 16 minute mile for the first 20 miles. Patrick met me after 3 miles; a couple after that, he and his mother, Alison (and Barney!) jogged with me for the worst hill climb. I then left the centre of Brighton and headed out towards Roedean School. The view out there was beautiful – an imposing, Mallory Towers-esque school, looking out to sea. Our first u-turn was at 8.5 miles. I still felt strong and steady, while other people zoomed ahead and fell behind. At mile 10, she joined me and stayed with me for 8 miles. My mother-in-law does *not* fit into the stereotype at all!

I pushed myself a little hard running next to her. I think it’s because she is a runner – I was a little embarrassed at being so slow – but if I hadn’t had her amazing support I don’t think I’d have achieved such great (for me!) times in those stages! My sister, Dad, uncle and Granny were all there to wave me on a few miles on.

Reaching halfway was quite hard – I think that the “out-and-back” nature of the course was mentally challenging, because I had already turned back and was running very close to where the finish line was, but with the same again to go. The next stage took us into a residential area, and while supporters were thinner on the ground, a number of people were having marathon parties and came out of their homes to cheer us on. Brighton is such a friendly and beautiful city!

At around mile 18, I was starting to suffer. Patrick took over from his mum, and stayed with me to the end. These are the perks of being slow – you can have your cheering squad alongside you at all times! The final leg took us around an industrial estate, which started with the 20 miles marker and an official race sign that read “To Hell and Back”. I don’t know if that was supposed to bring out a wry smile, but for me it was the point when I realised I simply couldn’t run any longer. When I was pregnant, I was referred to a physiotherapist because of problems with my pelvis being misaligned, and I could feel those symptoms flaring up again.

The final 6 miles were through an industrial estate with a power station, steelworks and what smelled like a sewage treatment centre! Only the hardcore supporters remained in this area, and the NSPCC (the charity I was raising for) crowd were there and full of enthusiasm. As I headed towards the group, I heard “it’s one of ours!!!” and the cheers were music to my ears! The final stretch was upon me, and I hobbled along, pausing every so often to scrunch up and stretch out my aching muscles.

I knew that the finish line was at the new pier, just along from the skeleton of the old, burnt pier, and that broke up the distance. Each mile absolutely crawled by, at this stage. The mile markers were almost painful, as each one was met with a “seriously? It’s only been a mile?!” I had started Patrick singing rugby songs through the industrial estate, and Chicago and Yogi Bear had carried me through some tough times so far. By this time, Granny and Alison had joined us, so the nature of the songs had to reflect their audience a little better! Green bottles were the answer, so we sang 20, then 30, then 40.

I made it to the finish line, which they were in the middle of disassembling, and it was incredible. I had finished, and I wasn’t last – those were my goals for the day, and I had achieved them. There honestly hasn’t been anything in my life for which I’ve set a plan, stuck to it and followed through to completion in this way. I feel like I can do anything.

We place so much value on the skills and attributes that come naturally to people – this actress has never had to diet and hates exercise; that sportsman is “gifted”. The truly glorious feeling is to achieve something you never, ever thought you could. I remember the feeling of every exam result – a sense of relief that I’d “got away with it” again, that my natural academic skills had got me through. The feeling yesterday, continuing into today and beyond, is so much more than that.

A Mother’s Work Meme

8 Apr

I saw this post on Mummy Pink Wellies and thought I’d weigh in. Here goes…

A Mother’s Work Meme

Please post the rules
Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you
Leave a comment on so we can keep track of the meme
Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them
Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a hashtag – #amothersworkmeme)

1.  Did you work before becoming a mum?
2.  What is your current situation?
3.  Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…

And, most importantly…. you’re tagged!! If you read this and agree or disagree, please join in.

1. I was a chartered certified accountant. I had been in the process of starting up my own one-woman practice, but had fallen into the lucky situation of having one client who provided enough work to keep me busy full-time. When they found they could no longer use me, I looked into going back to employed work, but when I fell pregnant, I realised that I didn’t want to use child care full-time. My dad needed some help with customer services and product research in his company, and offered to provide me with enough hours to keep me busy while I built my business.

I struggled immensely to find clients, due to my complete inexperience in that side of the business, and began to work full-time with Dad, particularly after two key staff members left in February last year.

2. Working with Dad fit really well into our lives – I could answer queries while hooked up to a breast pump in the middle of the night, and despite my fear of the “boss’s daughter” tag, I started to feel like I was really contributing to and becoming a valuable member of the company. I’m still a bit embarrassed when I tell people that I work for my dad, but I feel that spurs me on to work harder to prove myself.

I work about 30 hours per week. Barnaby is at nursery for eleven hours per week and naps for about three to four hours per day. I can also work in the evenings and more at weekends when Patrick is home to help. I realise that I will need to cut this down as and when Barnaby needs less sleep and moves around more!

3. Katherine makes a great point about the “what do you do all day?” comments. I keep a timesheet, because I’m weird like that, and I regularly do a 50 hour week including work, housework, feeding, changing, reading to Barnaby, walking the dog and attending baby-specific classes and appointments. I am sure that plenty of mothers attend more classes and toddler groups than I do, and absolutely certainly do more housework. The only way people have time to watch Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women is if they’re as rubbish as I am at housework, or if they’re not spending much face-to-face time with their children.

For me, there are two big bugbears in the world of mothers and work.

One is that we need to acknowledge that, for most careers, taking a year or more out is going to slow us down. We need to research and make our choices; recognise the real-life implications and stand up for ourselves if we genuinely feel that an injustice has taken place. If I tried to return to accountancy, having missed out on a year’s practical experience and ongoing professional development, I would have to accept a frozen/lower salary until I had proven that I caught up. That’s not a Four Yorkshiremen statement, that just seems fair to me.

Excellent childcare is available from a very early age, so it’s not essential to take full maternity leave, unless being the main provider of childcare to your child is something you want and choose to do. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of mean-spirited people out there in the mummy blog world who have written about how wrong, uncaring and unnatural mothers who send their children to nursery are, and the damage they’re doing to their children, completely disregarding that, throughout history, childcare has been a communal activity. It takes a village to raise a child, after all. To imply that a child can only be raised well if the mother is the main childcare provider during the working week is not only insulting to working mothers, but to the loving and dedicated childcare workers who provide the service.

The second point is that we need to bring more flexible working into the system. Many jobs can be done from home, or with flexible hours, but it just doesn’t happen – especially in lower-paid roles. Too many bosses seem paranoid that their staff will not work unless properly supervised, but that seems like crazy logic to me. Why hire somebody you cannot trust? Why not work toward improving company loyalty? We need to move towards a working world in which parents and non-parents have equal opportunities to achieve a work/life balance.

I’m afraid I’ll have to break a rule, as I honestly don’t know who to tag, but if you’re reading this, then please consider yourself tagged! I’d be interested to hear opinions of parents and non-parents alike.

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