Mad and bloated

Ugh, will my rage never end? Today I hate myself. I am not a good person. When my hormones are raging like this, anyone (read: Rosie – poor thing) is in for it, whatever s/he does.

  • Let a chocolate bar wrapper be whipped away in the wind? – Immediate telling off for lack of civic pride
  • Fail to use soap while washing hands? – Stern imperatives coupled with prophecies of doom (where doom = worms and/or Norovirus)
  • Lost school jumper? – Guilt-trip in which price of lost article is repeated a minimum of 15 times, followed by promises that a replacement will not be forthcoming.
  • Half-eaten lunch? – Protracted moaning about feeling unappreciated plus prophecies of doom (where doom = rickets)

Oh yes, I am a bad, bad person. My volume is at one setting (the one where my throat feels hoarse by the end of the day), and the fact of my corporeal self – my physical self – fills me with loathing. There is simply too much of me. And to make matters worse, I keep eating, so that there is even more of me to despise.

Rosie has every right to batter me every now and then, because when I turn into this thing – this person who only (in her words) uses her ‘shouty’ voice to talk to her, well, that thing deserves a boot to the bum.

It’s times like these when I think that certain tribes had it right after all. I do need to be sent away around this time of the month. I should have a respite somewhere, far away from other people. That way, we’ll all be safe, especially Rosie. Except that ‘this time of the month’ inevitably lasts about two weeks, so that’s not feasible, is it?

By the way, a couple of days after my last post, Rosie and I were laid low by suspected food poisoning. Poor kid just lay on the sofa watching telly while I was comatose on the couch next to her. Every few hours I heard her say, “Mummy? Can I have something to eat?” To which I would answer: “Yes, darling,” and then promptly fall asleep. This went on the whole day. Thankfully, she only threw up when I was conscious. At some point, Ben texted me and discovered we were ill, whereupon he said he would come over to help… then turned up about five hours later. You know, when I was feeling a bit better and the urgency had passed. “Why didn’t you ask me earlier?” he said.

Anyway, to his credit, when he did come back to visit again, he helped out a lot – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry. He even woke up on Monday morning and helped Rosie through the dressing phase. That’s about all he can manage, but it’s a big help anyway (even if I have to remind him to do it).

Whatever it is, he is helpful from time to time. Today would have been a day for me to take a back seat and for him, had he been here, to take the lead. When I’m feeling like this – like I could drop kick a tornado – the back seat (preferably in a car going full speed in the other direction) is the only place to be. I don’t have that luxury though. So here I am, driving from that impossible position, and getting more and more pis@ed off.


Hello? Hello? HELLO??

It’s safe to say that today is not a good day. It begins with Ben shouting at me and ends with Rosie telling me she wants to kill me. 

There is a middle, too. That middle consists of editing a number of documents (fun), eating no fewer than 11 Belgian biscuits courtesy of my work colleague (more fun) and attending various meetings (ho-hum). 

I realise that sometimes I am happiest at work. When I’m busy, there is no time to think, and there is traction in not having time to think. Otherwise you get bogged down in thoughts of your maybe-maybe-not-ex and the million ways he fails you and your child when he’s needed most. 

This morning, Rosie pulls another fit, this time about wearing a long-sleeved top under her uniform t-shirt. It’s below zero, so she hasn’t a choice. I’ve been up since 6.30. Ben has had very little sleep, but unfortunately, I have to wake him to get him to move to the bedroom, because today I have to exercise in the living room (there isn’t anywhere else for me to go and it’s what keeps me sane and healthy, so it’s not something I’m willing to skip just because Ben happens to be sleeping on the couch. Anyway, I’ve warned him.) 

So, Rosie is chucking her fit, I’m just out of the shower, we have 10 minutes to get ready, and Ben is still in bed, murmuring to Rosie, trying to convince her to wear her long-sleeved top. She is taking the wee, as we call it here – playing up to the expectation that she will go into meltdown. And then she does. 

I say, ‘Ben, please, can you just help her get dressed?’ I am half dressed myself, hair wet, and Rosie is crying. I ask Ben again and he roars: ROSIE! She cries. 

me: ‘But… why did you do that?’ 

him: ‘Is that what you want me to do? I was talking to her.’

me: ‘I just wanted you to do what you did yesterday – help her get dressed.’

him: ‘What? Dress her against her will? Force her into her clothes? I WAS TALKING TO HER.’

me: ‘Yes, but there just isn’t time. She has to be dressed and out the door.’

Neither of us can see the other’s point. Ben is enraged. I’m angry and sad. Rosie is suddenly calm and ready to go.

Later, I find I can see his point, but I can also see mine. We had 10 minutes. She was not budging. And once she was dressed and out the door, she’d forgotten the whole thing. She is incapable of seeing beyond the discomfort at that moment. She can never accept that moments from then she will have forgotten it all. She will have moved on to something more interesting.

When I get to work, I dash off an email to Ben. I don’t like leaving things like this, but I also know I don’t want to speak to him for a long time. Equally, he is so laconic – so unwilling to talk – that there is no point in trying to find the right moment. He is angry, depressed and bitter. He is much the same as he was before, minus the booze. He is not the person I knew, nor does he stop reminding me that he never will be. It is his way of saying, move on

Anyway, I write him an email telling him how sad I feel about all this and trying to figure out a way for us to make a few decisions about Rosie – calmly, without shouting at one another. I say that seeing to Rosie’s needs is not something we can do when we feel like it. It’s something we have to do, whatever. I tell him it isn’t a choice for me, and ask whether he sees it as something he can choose to do (or not).

Needless to say, I’ve had no reply thus far. He is a slow burner. In all likelihood, he will never get round to writing any reply. At all. He has never really responded to any of my attempts at rapprochement (I mean texts, emails, letters). He is as silent as a cloud. 

When I get home with Rosie, she decides she wants to wear one of her princess dresses. The one she chooses is one of the scratchy ones, and soon she is asking me to do up the back, then re-do it and re-do it. I try to explain to her that I can’t do anything – that the dress is like this and that I cannot fasten it any tighter because that’s just how velcro fasteners work. 

She doesn’t accept this and collapses into tears, accusing me of refusing to help her. This escalates into a series of threats: I’m going to stab you with a knife. I’m going to kill you. I want you to go. I don’t want you any more. I want daddy. I only want daddy.

I put on my coat and walk down the stairs, to make a point about what it means for mummy to go. She doesn’t like this. She says she doesn’t actually want me to go. And when I remind her later of what she said to me (because I need her to understand that saying things like that is hurtful), she denies ever having said it.

So, somewhere in there, she realises she has behaved very badly. She does apologise eventually, but it is not especially sincere. 

And here I am. Rosie is asleep, my eyelids are drooping at a terrible rate, and the ground appears to have shifted beneath my feet without me really noticing. Tomorrow, it’s just Rosie and me, and I pray she will cooperate, that there will be no death threats or shouting, and that I manage to limit myself to five Belgian biscuits.




Three vignettes

Quick vignette no. 1: Today, I’m in a foul and pestilential mood. Seriously. I’m annoyed at everything. So when Rosie threatens to change her underpants at 8:35am (ie. seriously late), having got her uniform and coat on, I am in no mood. I am NOT having it. We are NOT going on the late register and that’s it.

Ben, who has thus far been asleep on the couch, is summoned with a bark that jumps from my throat and into the living room. He is up in moments, tries to calm Rosie, then attempts to slip away to the toilet.

‘Where are you going?’ I cry, furious. I’m not having this either. How dare he attend to his bursting bladder when Rosie is about to throw a full-scale tantrum. ‘Always trying to slip away,’ I mutter. ‘You are never there when I need you.’

Ben says something under his breath – something beginning with: ‘Yeah, well you…’ and I don’t hear the rest. I wasn’t there? He’s saying I wasn’t there? Where the hell was I then? On a Polynesian beach?

One minute later, Rosie and I are gone.

Postscript: Rosie and I make it to school right on time. Ben goes back to his South London premises. He cleans the cooker hob before he goes. We are unlikely to see him for a while. 

Quick vignette no. 2: Rosie is chatting to me after her shower. I’ve asked her to get up off the ground. I meant to say floor. ‘Floor is for the inside. Ground is the outside,’ she says. ‘Yes, you’re right,’ I say.

‘Mummy,’ she says, ‘drunks – you know the men who drink? – They sometimes sit on the ground outside. And it’s really dirty. Poor them. I’ve seen them. I see-ed some drunk people sitting on the ground and then they left their rubbish there and went away. But, Mummy, they are poorly and should go to the doctor. They shouldn’t sit on the ground. They need to go to the doctor. Because they’re sick.’

Postscript: I hug Rosie for being a much better person than I am. What a good, big heart she has.


Quick vignette no. 3: It’s Saturday night and Ben and I are watching Borgena Danish drama series about a woman prime minister, political intrigue and the struggle to maintain principles and a personal life while furthering your career. Anyway, at one point, the PM invites her ex-husband over (he became her ex after she decided to continue being PM) to see if she can convince him to resume their relationship – even though they’re divorced. She says she thinks his new girlfriend is very nice, but “have you thought about what you’re leaving?” He’s shocked. “What is this? You’re living in another world. We are divorced. I’ve moved on. You need to accept that.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s about the gist of it). He leaves. She’s mortified, gets drunk and shags her driver. Oh dear.

Anyway, we watch this and I feel an uncomfortable chill wash over us. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I think Ben sees himself in the ex-husband character. I ask myself, am I deluded? What are we doing here? Ben comes over every weekend, slouches about the flat, plays with Rosie, surfs the net, watches TV all night, does some cleaning and repairs, leaves. This is what we do. Time and again. There is nothing else. So, what are we really doing? How long can we keep flogging this corpse?

Postscript: Ben left on Monday (see Vignette 1 above). I was not mortified and I didn’t shag anyone. 

That little spinning thing

Catherine wheel (source:

I spend a lot of time watching that spinning thing – the little firework that spins around on your computer screen requesting your patience while simultaneously taxing it (no, they’re not the same thing).

Lately, it’s been appearing a lot more often, turning up whenever I attempt to do anything – open a new window, open a new tab, open an email, close an email. I know – time to get more memory, or time to buy another computer because I just can’t be asked to sort this one out.

When I look back on the last year, and all the sorting I did (chasing several different care providers, trying to get Ben the treatment he needed, trying to get my sanity back and him and his boozy self out), well, I suppose it was a whole year of that spinning thing, cranking its way round from month to month, laying waste to my life like a demented Catherine wheel.

But here we are, a whole year later – more than that really – and things have changed. Ben has moved out. Rosie and I have our living room back. Ben comes round, is sober, and doesn’t spend the whole day on the couch (although he continues to have problems sleeping and therefore occupies it for a lot longer than I would like).

Still, it’s different. No more beer cans, despite my imagining them there whenever I come into the living room in the morning while he’s still sleeping. Only it’s actually just a giant mug of cold Valerian tea (smells like feet before it’s brewed – yech), a tower of chocolate chip digestives and assorted used tissues (he’s had a bad cold of late).

I’ve even left him alone with Rosie for an afternoon and an evening. Yes, I managed to get out with my dear friend who is just about to fly away to a new life in the Caribbean with her two lovely sons. She was one of my rocks last year, taking Rosie in when I needed her to, listening to me moan about Ben when I couldn’t help myself. Just generally being there when I needed her. I’ll miss her.

Yes, changes are afoot with no real sense of what the year will bring. I have plans, like I always do, most of which involve me actually achieving something as opposed to succumbing to inertia.

Maybe it’s time I grabbed hold of that little spinning thing and launched myself off it. I might end up anywhere. Plot the trajectory of that.

So this is the new year

It’s a typical start to the new year, with Rosie screaming and taking more than an hour to find underpants that fit, and me storming out, leaving Ben to sort things with her.

Well, I guess that’s a change. Ben is staying over for the holidays, helping to ease the load a bit, although his messiness adds to it, too. He seems to cancel out all the good he contributes (in cleaning, laundry and occasional cooking) with the cairns of used tissues he randomly drops and the tins of biscuits and assorted bits he strews everywhere in the kitchen and by the sofa.

Still, it’s a relief to have someone else to help discipline Rosie. When he’s awake, that is (more on that in a future post).

And I feel doubly justified in fleeing the house and leaving him to dress Rosie now that I know she has inherited this ‘syndrome’ from him. I know it’s an unfair thing to say, but it’s yet another thing I can blame him for, even if silently.

So, two hours later than planned, we finally set off for Kew Gardens, where we ramble through stately grounds and Victorian glass houses. Kew is stunning, even in the heart of winter. It would be more stunning if it actually snowed, but no such luck in London. Instead, we have muddy tracks and damp cold winds, although the sun is shining.

Palm House, Kew (the fountain wasn’t running on our visit)

The Palm House – one of the 19th century glass structures dotting Kew – is a humid reprieve from the cold. We wander up its wrought iron spiral staircases and ogle the tops of banana and jak fruit trees, among others, spotting a purple bromeliad growing in the crook of a papaya tree.

Rosie is so excited, she only occasionally puts her hands inside her trousers to re-arrange her underpants, although this doesn’t last very long. There is a coral display as well, featuring sea horses, mud skippers, jellyfish, sticklebacks and many others, in an underground space beneath the Palm House, which she finds entrancing.

We brave the Pavilion restaurant with its pigeon-pooped tables, to have some overpriced fish pies and cakes, then meander further, taking in the temperate house and the Princess of Wales conservatory. Somewhere in between we take the treetop walk, swaying gently along the bridges, as if cradled in the arms of a lullaby.

And as we leave Kew, Rosie spots a peacock, strolling between visitors, evidently without meaning to because within moments, it is mobbed by children, phone-clutching parents and young women who all chase it down like a bunch of papparazi.

Once we are outside, Rosie chucks a three-course fit, involving weeping, recriminations and a fruit yoyo dashed tearfully to the ground. When we get home, Ben is cool and withdrawn. Rosie asks for some gingerbread, and he says no. She looks crestfallen. Ben says he is unimpressed by her behaviour and as she has had a treat all day (our visit to Kew), and as she has been very naughty either side of that visit, there will be no gingerbread – or any other treat for that matter.

I can’t argue with that. In fact, I abdicate all decision-making, saying it is up to Daddy today. Rosie eats up all her supper and is asleep by 7.45.

So, that was our new year. Some calm time together book-ended by argument. Life much as it has always been and no doubt means to continue.

Happy new year.

And here’s a little tune, introduced to me by an old friend of mine, that sums up that general feeling of ‘Oh, is that all, then?’ which the new year tends to bring.