France Part 2 – Marseille – Ramatuelle/St Tropez – Frejus/Nice

Marseille

We already had a campsite booked near St Tropez so Marseille seemed like a good stop in between from Lanuejols. The only problem was, French holiday season had literally started this weekend so I was warned it would be difficult to find anywhere.  One of the first places that popped up on my Internet search was a Facebook page called ‘Yes We Camp!’ in the L’estaque area of the Marseille coast. It called itself an ‘experimental’ campsite. It had been set up since April 2013 and would run until October 2013. It was a community project aimed at developing a space that was eco-friendly (dry toilets and sun-warmed showers) that was open to people from all over the world to come and share and help build and develop the space. There was also a programme of workshops, music and artists. It was also 7 Euros a night including breakfast! I sent an email. I got a reply saying their booking system says they are full but they will make an exception for Bear Cub and I. I was a little apprehensive at staying at what sounded like a cross between a music festival and a hippy commune so I also sent off an email to a ‘conventional’ campsite that was also cheap. They came back to me saying they were full so Yes We Camp it was!

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It took ages to get there. In miles it was not so far but coming down the constantly winding mountains in a car that can only cope with 30 mph on any incline made for a slow and tiring journey. Once we got to the coast we stopped for lunch in Montpelier in the old part of the city and it was actually really lovely. A very characterful and elegant city.
When we finally arrived in Marseille, all I knew was that it was in the L’estaque part of the city. Amazingly I found some signs and stumbled across the campsite. My first impression was ‘where have I brought my child to?’. All though very ‘cool’ looking it looked very ‘unfinished’. It was built on a disused patch of concrete land in the port of L’estaque and basically consisted of some scaffolding structures that housed various caravans, old boats and pods an cabins that had been made into makeshift accommodation for campers. There were also a few astro-turf ‘platforms’ just a few inches of the ground to accommodate campers who brought their own tents. I’d been informed by email that there was no room but an exception would be made for us. What this meant was that we had to erect our tent on the actual ground next to one of the platforms on the first night and could move to a platform for the second night. However, this was easier said than done as it turned out underneath the gravel on the ground was concrete!!! We ended up putting up the tent using stones to hold the ropes out and tying the front to one of the platforms. It was very flimsy but remembering our first night of camping I felt the tent would survive one night and so would we. We had a quick look around the camp at the ‘dry toilets’ (gag) and sun-warmed showers – I wondered if we could do 2 nights!

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We were tired and hungry and I am ashamed to say we resorted to evil MacDonalds!! I NEVER eat MacDonalds yet on this trip we have done twice! Mainly because I have found it to be one of the only places with strong, free Wifi! They also always have a park outside so I can get to work booking our schedule while Ru has some kid time and plays. I was kind of dreading going back to the campsite but we reluctantly did so only to find the whole place buzzing with a great vibe. Music was playing and the bar had opened and people were beginning to mill about. It was not a very big campsite so was not too crowded. Yes We Camp has it’s own currency – Gastons – and you have to go to the Gaston van to buy them before you can get any drink or food. It gave a real feel that this was indeed it’s own little experimental world.  Bear cub found a little boy of 5 dancing his heart out on his own in front of the DJ and promptly went and joined him while I headed to purchase some Gastons. This was where I met the ‘French Toy Boy’.

‘French Toy Boy’ was a cheeky chap with a friendly open face, good looking (and knew it)and with a quick tongue. He must have said something about me in French to his companion as when I didn’t respond he said ‘You don’t speak French then?’ His English was very good. He had in fact lived where I work in London and he’d done everything from working in Hostels to being an unofficial social worker to an Au Pair. We got chatting . He started flirting. It was then I realised he didn’t realise I was on ‘old lady’ so I hit him with the line that usually gets them running ‘Yes I’m here travelling with my 4 year old son’. ‘Damn!’ he exclaimed before he could stop himself and then ‘How old are you then?’ The French, I’ve found, are very direct. ‘Guess?’ I said – my favourite game. ‘Well I would have said 26 but now I know you have a kid then maybe you are 30 or 31?’ It always amazes me that people think if you have kids you must be old when my mum had my sister and I at 19! Anyway it was a lot of fun to see his face as I continued to say ‘older’ as he worked his way up the 30’s! By time I said ‘yep’ at 37 his eyebrows were almost touching his hairline! So I thought that would be it – I’d successfully scared him off and given my ego a massage in the process 🙂

However, I then kept running into him – lastly in the communal showers!!! (He did have a great body, though a little short for me). He continued to flirt. I told him I was probably old enough to be his mother and asked his age to which I was shocked to find the answer was 23!! A baby! He was however, great company and we had some fun and at 37 I was taught how to properly French-kiss for the first time! In my head it was meant to help me get over the guy I was here to get over – let’s call him ‘The Artist’ (I know, I need to date a maths lecturer or computer engineer in future – all artists and musicians are trouble and hereby banned!) but it didn’t :-/ I just felt guilty for some reason and missed him even more! Still progress to do on this one.

Being at ‘Yes We Camp’ did turn out to be a really fun couple of days though and certainly added to our ‘experience’ of travelling. We also got a boat to the main town, which Bear Cub loved, and had some amazing Crepes at a Creperie in the centre of Marseille.

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I don’t know what it is about Marseille but I have never been in a place where I got so many compliments from young men. In one day I was called ‘beautiful’ and ‘a model’ by 3 different men! So if ever I feel low in the self esteem area I know I just need to take a trip to Marseille! 🙂
Bear Cub enjoyed the freedom of ‘Yes We Camp’ where he could stay up late and go wherever he wanted really but we were both also looking forward to getting some beach time again.
Ramatuelle/St Tropez

I had thought the journey to our next campsite – Les Eucalyptus – would be the most straight forward as it was just up the coast from Marseille and less than 2 hours away. It actually turned out to be one of the most stressful! Suddenly, when we were only 40 minutes away, the Sat Nav told me to turn off the motorway.  I thought it a bit strange but it had been pretty good so far so I did and continued. After around 20 minutes it suddenly went crazy and then simply said ‘no route found’. Whatever destination I typed in it said the same. I knew I couldn’t be far so continued for maybe another 10/20 minutes before I realised I was actually heading back where I came from! I was so annoyed! I turned around and headed back for the big motorway. It added 40 minutes to our journey but as soon as I rejoined the motorway, we should never have left in the first place, the Sat Nav randomly started working again. Hungry and stressed (again) we stopped for lunch by the beach and bought a bucket and spade and Bear Cub had a ride on the merry-go-round and both felt a little better.
Again, I had a bit of trouble finding our campsite but it was exactly between a lovely little village n a hill called Ramatuelle and the bustling, vibe of St Tropez. The beach was literally through a gate of our campsite and 100 metres away! We got the tent up and then headed out for dinner and thought we’d check out St Tropez.

I have never seen anything like St Tropez! Firstly the sheer amount of traffic in one tiny town was incredible. We circled for half an hour trying to find a space to no avail. While circulating I felt like I was in some weird special episode where ‘The only way is Essex’ meets ‘Made in Chelsea’. I have never seen so many fake body parts and pretentious looking people in my life! In the end we had to drive to Ramatuelle which was the same distance the other side of our campsite. It was still tough to find a parking space here but we eventually did and the lovely little village was a welcome surprise. We went to the first restaurant we saw and ordered quickly. However, the service was slow. Painfully slow! Bear Cub was bordering on a meltdown and we were both close to being too tired to eat when it finally arrived. In fact we even left before the dessert that was included in the meal. To make matters worse there was a police diversion the way we came so I had to somehow find my way back in the dark along country roads to our campsite!

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Les Eucalytpus was a small site in a great location close to the beach as I said. It was literally just a campsite with a toilet and shower block but was very well kept and clean. Most of the campsites I booked for our French leg were via ‘Cool Camping’ which I highly reccommend, however, Les Eucalyptus did have one completely scathing review. It was so in-depth and long and bad it did make me think twice about booking it and I did meet a family in Lanuejols who said they didn’t book there because of it.  However, I always feel things are sometimes a matter of perspective and depend on what a person’s expectations and desires of a place are.  We actually enjoyed the campsite. The only part of the review I could agree with, which was a bit annoying, was that is was very close to a private resort on the beach that played very loud ‘party’ music until quite late at night. However, we’d just come from the campsite in Marseille which was a bit like a music festival and there had been quite a storm on the last night and Bear Cub had slept through all of it oblivious, so I wasn’t too worried.  (In fact after our Yes We Camp experience it has made me determined to take Bear Cub to an actual music festival next year – something I would never have been brave enough to do before this!) Apart from the loud music, for a beach holiday it was perfect. Also at 8am every morning the ‘bread man’ would drive in and toot his horn and you could buy fresh bread, croissants and other pastries for very cheap.

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It was nice to be on the beach and Bear Cub had a great time playing in the sea and with the sand. We also continued our daily reading of ‘Life of Pi’ together. Bear Cub was absolutely riveted. I kept expecting him to get bored but he insisted I read more and more of it to him just occassionally asking what certain words meant. I’m sure it looked like I was a pushy mother forcing her 4-year-old to read modern literature instead of nursery rhymes!

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On a motherhood note, and to prove it has not all been fun and plain sailing, Bear Cub suffered from really bad constipation while we were here (sorry for TMI factor but that’s parenting!) probably due to all the bread and pasta we were eating. So much so that we had to go to the chemist to get some immediate relief. And when they say ‘immediate’ boy do they mean it!!! It is so glamorous being a mum :-/ He then proceeded to go the other way for a few days which believe me, was worse!
We had 3 nights at Les Eucalyptus to slow down our pace and had some good beach time and it was much needed after our busy schedule.
Frejus

Our next stop was just an hour away along the coast line in the seaside port town of Frejus. we were staying at a Youth Hostel that had been recommended to me. We couldn’t check in until after 5.30pm so we headed for the port and arrived to find a vibrant food market along the sea front. They were selling some delicious hot cooked food as well as fruit and vegetables. We bought some fresh cooked ham, sausages and chicken which ended up providing lunch and dinner for two days.
Annoyingly we could not find the hostel for a while but then some young guys actually drove us there (we followed them) and it turned out we’d been a stones throw from it but missed the turning as it was quite hidden. The Frejus Youth Hostel was a great location. The hostel itself was very old but it was set within its own Wood and you could choice where to put your tent anywhere you liked. They also had kitchen facilities so we could cook rather than eat out (our little gas stove had run out of gas just the day before! It had been a good excuse to dine out for our one posh meal of the trip so far and I had an amazing seafood risotto!) Again it was all very basic but was in beautiful surroundings with a supermarket close by and a 5 minute drive to both Frejus and the other little port town St Raphael. The only problem for me was the amount of mosquitos. After the first night I woke and Bear Cub and I counted 20 bites on my body!! I’m slightly allergic to them too so they swell up and throb as well as itch so not fun 😦

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I think the tiredness had been catching up with BearCub again and also the fact that we’d had so much intense time together as his behaviour had got increasingly difficult over these next days so I was pleased we would soon be reaching Italy where he could sleep in a proper bed – though he seemed to sleep just fine in the tent – just needed less late nights!

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For our second day at Frejus we went to St Raphael and visited the beach and Bear Cub played in the water while I read. Back at the campsite we made our dinner and at the kitchen area found ourselves surrounded by 7 French men of varying ages where only 2 spoke very little English. However, they seemed to be very sweet with Ru who jabbered on to them anyway.  After Ru was asleep in the tent I went to use the Wifi at the hostel and on my way back from the showers one of the French guys asked me if I would join them for a drink. I was going to say no but then thought I’d have just one so sat down for a glass of wine. The guy who had invited me spoke really very little English so the conversation dried up pretty quickly. He then started tapping away on his phone. He kept fidgeting about nervously and then finally showed me the screen where his ‘translator’ had written ‘You are a very beautiful woman!’. ‘Merci Beaucoup’ I replied thinking him very sweet. It was only when a little later he showed me the screen again which said ‘I don’t want to offend, but do you want to spend the night with me?’, that I wasn’t quite so impressed! Around the same time one of the other guys casually pulled out a gun to show the others. It was real, it was loaded! It was time for me to go to bed!!! ‘French phone guy’ walked me back to the tent and in pretty clear English this time said very abruptly, ‘Give me a kiss!’ to which I simply replied ‘Non!’ He got the message and sulked off! Never a dull moment eh?!
We were up early the next day as I wanted to get the tent down before breakfast so we could leave for the 1 hour drive to Nice to drop the rental car off as soon as we’d eaten. I felt a little sad, very proud and mostly pleased to pack up the tent for the last time. This city girl was definitely converted to a camping adventure queen!

France has been wonderful: Beautiful, freeing and expansive for me inwardly as well as outwardly.

I wonder what adventures Italy will hold….

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Every now and then you need to scare yourself to remember you’re still alive… Here’s what I’m doing!

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Around last Christmas I started to feel like I needed a challenge, like I really needed to give my life a huge kick up the bum!

I tweeted, ‘Some times you have to scare yourself a little just to remind yourself you’re alive’. 

By New Year’s Eve, when I was doing the obligatory (and depressing) year’s reflection, I vowed that I would not allow my life to be the same in 2013 as it was in 2012.  I needed to step out of my comfort zone.  A plan began to form.

The year Bear Cub was born was both the best year of my life and the worst. Best because he was, and continues to be, one of the best things that have ever happened to me bringing me an unending source of inspiration, joy and love.  Worst because it is the year my marriage broke down.

When I fell pregnant (after much deliberation) I could never have dreamed in my worst nightmare that I’d end up a single mother before my baby was 18 months old!

It’s been a hard few years.  My friends and family have been amazing and I feel as though I’ve been propped up, carried and cheered along by them all.  Somehow I got through the worst of it and somehow I’m surviving though it’s particularly tough financially, often tiring and sometimes lonely.  But that is all it has been in some ways – survival.  I’ve only had the strength to just about do what I needed to in order to provide for Bear Cub, make sure he is ok, get to work and back and complete the daily logistical nightmare that is the life of a single, working, parent.  It was New Year that I realised that although I could not say I am fully healed, I am standing on my own two feet again and I have run out of excuses to continue to just coast along.

My friend Ruth and I started More than a Mum because we both are big dreamers who desire and believe we can have the lives we truly want as women even if we’re mums!  I’ve always been passionate about wanting to encourage people to go for their dreams, to be the best they can be and not settle for anything less.  Understandably, and possibly forgivably, I’ve not had the strength to live life in this way this last few years but now I want to take up  the challenge again for myself.

After all, how can I inspire and encourage other women to do what I’m not living out in my own life?

It’s true to say I’m at a cross roads in my life and with Bear Cub starting school in September it will finally be my time to fully concentrate on my own ambitions and dreams again.  However, sometimes fear and life experiences bury those dreams down pretty deep and it takes some real digging around to resurrect them again and it takes even more courage to dare to believe you can achieve them.

I realised I was on a journey and I realised I needed to get off the merry-go-round of life for a while and to find some space and time to hear, to think, to know and to plan.  I needed a sabbatical and I needed an adventure.

What better way to realise a spiritual journey than to go on a physical one – so I decided I would go travelling with Bear Cub.

What started as visions of travelling for a year in Bali, Thailand and other exotic places was scaled down to a three-month road trip across the West Coast of the U.S and finally has been reduced to 6 weeks backpacking across Europe.  Throughout the planning I have faced numerous obstacles, let downs and disappointments but the revelation I received was that it was not so much the destination that was important, but the journey itself.  Furthermore, the length of time initially felt like  a bit of a cop-out but then I realised that you can change your life in a day let alone a few weeks! Six weeks is what I have so six weeks will have to be enough.

So there you go, that’s what I’m doing.  I’ve never done anything like this in my life let alone with a four year-old in tow so I am both excited and terrified in equal measure.  But I’m much more scared of not going at all.  Experiences will be had and experiences change you so I will come back changed – or at least clearer in terms of the direction I want my life to go in next.  That is my only agenda – that and having a really special, bonding, adventure with Bear Cub!

I never want to be one of those people who hear about people doing amazing and exciting things and then says, “I wish I could do that!’ The answer is we all can.  We just have to have the guts to do it.

We’re on a mega budget and I’ve not booked anything yet and we plan to leave week of 22nd July so if you have any travel tips (particularly with little ones), places we should visit, friends we can stay with or equipment we can borrow (I’m serious!) or potential sponsors, then please do get in touch.

I hope to blog once a week for MTAM while I’m away so I’ll keep you up to date on our adventures (and mishaps)!

Big questions from little people…

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I must admit I thought I had a bit more time on this one so I was taken  back when my sister informed that Bear Cub (my son) had asked her, ‘Aunty, why doesn’t my daddy live with me?’ He has a very close relationship with my sister and will often ask her ‘life questions’.   At three and a half we are also at the ‘why?’ stage so she knew a fobbed off answer would not suffice and rarely does with Bear Cub anyway.  He has a friend he likes but they argue a lot and wind each other up so my sister used their friendship as an example saying mummy and daddy are better friends when they don’t live together and see each other all the time.  He seemed to accept this but did ask me about it again a few days later

As Bear Cub’s Father has not lived with us since just after his first birthday I’d hoped it seemed ‘normal’ for him as it was all he’d really known.  I wasn’t sure if he even ever remembered his dad ever living with us at all.  I’d expected the question when he started school when children would inevitably talk more about their families and perhaps ask him where his daddy was.  Any friends we do see during the day often have husbands or partners at work so Bear Cub would rarely see ‘dads at home’ to feel that his situation was any different to anyone else’s.  However, he’s an observant and smart cookie and figured out the situation for himself.

I never lie to Bear Cub and always try to plainly explain to him the truth about things whenever possible – but obviously in a way he can understand and digest appropriate for his age.  There are a number of answers I could have given and not one of them particularly nice – ‘Mummy and daddy don’t love each other any more’, ‘Mummy and daddy argued a lot and didn’t get on so are better friends when we don’t live together’, ‘Mummy and daddy are friends but not special friends anymore’.  I somehow wanted to take out the negative as I knew whatever I answered would be faced with a ‘why?’  I think I ended up saying a combination of all of these statements leaving out the details of why we no longer got on or loved each other.  I didn’t want him to think that it was any negative or bad reason that his daddy didn’t live with us anymore but the reality of course was.

In some ways I wished I’d given my response more thought but then I realised I felt that way just so I could sugar up an answer that whichever way you looked at it, realistically, was just not ‘nice’.

It is right and normal that all parents want to protect their children from harm, bad experiences or negative feeling in the world for as long as possible, however, the question came up now at three and a half years old and he wanted to know.  Therefore as he questioned, he deserved a response – without one he may have made up his own conclusion possibly even taking some blame himself which would be a more awful scenario.

The question was a reminder for me of the failure I feel that my son has not had the secure, stable, loving upbringing from both parents I’d always envisioned – one he so innocently deserves.  It is far from ideal and a life away from what I’d hoped and planned but, it’s our reality.  In truth, Bear Cub does have a loving and stable home and I do a good job as a mum (most of the time).  It’s not how it was meant to be but it’s how it is.  I’m sure I could have handled the situation better but then you always think that when you over analyse things afterwards.  To balance the negativity in the truth of the matter I never speak ill of Bear Cub’s Father and instead try to point out the positives to him.

There is a helpful book called ‘Where’s Daddy?’ if anyone is facing or thinking about the same question coming up.

Where’s Daddy? is an invaluable guide for mothers and fathers with broken families.  It will help them answer children’s questions concerning separation and divorce. And provides forewarning of the doubts and problems which may arise later.  The authors make an ideal team to discuss the subject: Jill Curtis is a well-known psychotherapist and her daughter, Virginia Ellis, with two small children, has been through the pain of separation followed by divorce.  The book is based on a questionnaire sent out to hundreds of separated and divorced parents. The wide variety of their replies revealed the confusion, problems and agony caused by lack of advice and knowledge of where to go for support.  Where’s Daddy? Contains a list of resources and helpful addresses

I only wish I’d read it before Bear Cubs question came up but I’m sure there’ll be plenty more interrogation along life’s way.

Any tips/stories/advice of how others have dealt with this scenario would be greatly received.

This post also appears at More than a Mum

To show fear or not to show fear…

One of the constant dilemmas I face as a single-mum to my 2 year-old bear-cub is how much negative emotion to try to ‘hide’ from him.  The other day we found a huge spider in his bedroom and I tried to calmly explain that we needed to take him outside so he could ‘be with his spider friends’.  When bear cub questioned why I was putting the spider in a glass and not picking it up with my hands I answered, through gritted teeth and with shaky hands, that I simply didn’t want to accidently squash him!  From the look on his face I don’t think bear cub was convinced for a minute.  I however, was actually quite proud of myself for managing to get that close to a big spider even if there was a glass between it and me.  Dealing with spiders is yet another new territory for me since becoming a single parent.

But there are so many questions here regarding fears.  We, as mums, instinctively want to do what is best and right for our little ones.  We cannot fight the overwhelming force which leads us to want to protect them from all harm at all costs.  On the other hand, most of us recognize how in the long term it does not benefit our children to grow up completely ignorant to some of the harsh realities in life that they inevitably will face.  The fact is, bad things do happen in life and it is not always a world of Cbeebies-happiness.  But how much should we educate them in the darker side of life and at what age? I constantly change my mind on this one.  As a child, I was exposed to the troubles of the adult world too much and too soon, the result being my sister and I were in somewhat of a role-reversal situation with our mum particularly in our teens and we were forced to grow up too quickly.  The positives are my sister and I are very strong, independent and calm in a crisis but we do some times wish we’d had a few more years of the care-free existence of a child who only has to worry about what they might not get for Christmas.  This experience has made me adamant that my son will not feel burdened with the responsibility of ‘making sure mum is ok’ or feeling guilty at having his own life and certainly that he will not feel that he has to be ‘the man of the house’.  Having said that, despite my best efforts, if I’m having a ‘difficult’ day which I feel I am handling internally I’ll often catch my little boy making an extra effort to make me laugh or smile.  It saddens me that he can so easily pick up my mood and want to or even feel responsible for turning it around.

My reality is that my little boy does not have his daddy living with him and although we’re trying to make that situation as smooth for him as possible he is beginning to become aware that this is not the case for many of his friends.  I’d be doing him a disservice as a parent to not sensitively communicate with him about this in terms he can understand.   I think we’d all agree it is not healthy to wrap our children in cotton-wool but I also believe it is good practice to let them know it is ‘ok’ for mummy to not be happy all the time and that sometimes people get sad.  More often than not, if it’s explained in an appropriate way they can handle it and move on.  After all, as I have discovered, kids are not stupid and know when you’re faking something anyway!

This blog is also posted at www.morethanamumblog.wordpress.com

When worlds collide

So it was going to happen at some point – last night my two worlds (or maybe I should say two of my worlds) collided in public view!

I’m a singer as well as a mum and we had a gig at the ‘Real Food Harvest Festival’ outside the South Bank Centre.  The Bear-cub is usually in bed when I have a gig and mostly I arrive late for sound check having done make-up in the car on the way, squeezed in some ridiculously high-heels, and hope that none of the audience would guess less than an hour before I was singing ‘Wheels-on-the-bus’ and bargaining with my two-year old to get out of the bath!  However, on this occasion the gig was in the late afternoon and on the beautiful South Bank which I love both vibe and view.  So with toddler in tow I thought it would be nice for him to see mummy sing.  We’d been at a wedding the day before and he’d danced the night away in his kilt (a whole other blog!) so I’d assumed/hoped he’d do the same while we performed.  But, I should have remembered the rule – if you plan your day and especially for your little one to do something in particular they will of course sense it and do the complete opposite. What’s it called again? Ah, yes: Sod’s Law!!!!!

It had already been a crazy journey on the over-ground train to Waterloo with said toddler landing his plane on various strangers heads while mummy attempted to apply make up in order to make illusion/transformation from mum to professional singer! I’d already forgotten my Mac and Clinique make-up and all I could find was ‘Hello Kitty’ make-up – yes really – Hello Kitty make-up at a professional gig!  We arrived early and Bear-cub consumed an entire posh cup cake, ice cream and falafel in 15 minutes flat and all seemed to be going to plan.  Then it was our turn to perform and I placed Bear-cub with a friend and went to the stage informing friend casually over my shoulder, as I quickened my step, ‘He’ll be fine, he’ll start dancing once the music starts’. But no, how silly of me to think the juggling balls could stay in the air and impress/convince the general public that I was the ultimate literal all-singing-all-dancing-modern-mum!  Bear-cub instantly decided to have a meltdown screaming ‘I want to sing on stage with you mummy!’ and I knew it was one of those that could not be bargained away – besides I’d used up all my trump cards with cupcake and ice-cream all ready administered!

So the only option was to relent to bear-cub’s request and I performed a 40-minute set with my band holding my 2-year old’s hand on stage throughout!!!  To say I was slightly distracted during the show would be an understatement and at points I wondered if I was even singing in tune let alone singing the right words.  Bear-cub however, was in his element twisting and gyrating like a mini Justin (Timberlake, not Bieber or Fletcher) and we just about pulled it off.  There were of course a few a hairy moments when Bear-cub started holding his willy and I was expecting a puddle to appear on the stage at any moment.  But, no such disaster happened – I think he may have just been doing a Michael Jackson impression!  Another moment was when Bear-Cub decided to break-dance during the last track and attempt some kind of head-spin (no word of a lie) but I managed to grab the microphone stand, keep it from falling and keep smiling as if it was so sweet and planned and not stressful in the slightest.

What was interesting was seeing people’s reactions when they gathered round the stage to listen to us and spotted a pint-sized member of the group.  Some would laugh and point, some would push their kids to the front for a dance and some would frown.  My friend in the audience afterwards told me how she overheard one mum tut and comment to her husband how awful it was that I was ‘making’ my child stand on stage with me during a gig!! This mummy was either jealous, has a child who willingly complies to her every wish or simply has no sympathy for single parents who are still trying to live their dreams and still be a great mum – oh well! I still managed to get Bear-Cub home and in bed for 8pm, collapse on the sofa and celebrate with a rum and a coke.   The collision of two worlds, rather than being a disaster of global proportions, was merely unexpected fireworks that made some beautiful colours in my view – at least that’s what I’m telling myself!

Upstaged by a 2-year old!

Woman-to-Mum-to-Woman

When I was pregnant and read a million books on childbirth and such (and found out all the gross stuff that no one tells you) I remember reading a quote that said something like, ‘Two people are born during childbirth; a baby and a mother’.  That quote has stayed with me as it’s very true in many respects; you are a woman and then you become a mother which seems like something entirely different.  However, I actually feel we then need help to make the bigger transisiton back into a woman again at some point.  We will always be mothers once we have had children, even when they grow and leave us, but I think we have to make a special effort to be re-born again into a woman at some stage.  This is in order for us to have healthy and fulfilling relationships, careers, goals and many other areas of our lives.

Now, I know it is certainly not a cop out or an easy option to be a mum but it is sometimes something we can hide behind in order to not get round to doing things we know we should do, or deserve to do or even want to do because we’re too afraid to see if the new ‘mum’ self can still go there.  This is one of the reasons why I set up the ‘More than a woman/More than a mum’ Facebook group.  We are fully mums and fully women but we are also more than both.

On Tuesday 30th August my band, Sugarfoot, is launching our brand new e.p – ‘Taste‘.  I am so excited and so proud on so many levels.  This e.p has been a long labour of love for us.  It was started before my son was born (at least the writing of the songs was) and we have recorded over the last year through one of the toughest times in my life.  Before I became a mother I had a fear that when I did I would have to say goodbye to some of my dreams.  I like to do everything I do to my best ability and I just couldn’t see how I’d be able to do both.  To a large extent I was right – it’s bloody hard at times!  However, here we are about to launch our new e.p and it sounds great. Amazing in fact! It feels like a huge achievement.

On the night of the launch I know I will be feeling like ‘Tonight Matthew, I’m going to step back into my old life’ and I’ll be nervous wondering if I still ‘have it’ and probably feel like a bit of a fraud as well as wondering if there is any of my son’s dinner on my outfit! But, at least I will be there, trying to live the dream.  Ok, so life is not as glam as it used to be but with support from our friends and family, some self-belief and simply not settling for second best we can all realise we’re more than a mum and more than a woman!

If you want to help me celebrate this achievement and fancy seeing me strut my stuff and shake my thang, feel free to come to the gig on Tues 30th Aug 2011 at The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, London from 8pm.  Free entry and we’ll be selling the e.p for £5.

I’m a Pro!

A pro-crastinator that is!!! : /

Ok so I’ve had a really s**t couple of weeks what with running out of money 4 days after pay day, nursery fees almost bouncing, having a sick little boy who was up most nights (grrrr!) and finding out a previous so-called ‘friend’ is not just spreading gossip about me, but lies!!! (I must admit this last one particularly floored me – I truly don’t understand why someone would do that at all).  So, I let it all get on top of me for a couple of weeks and felt myself slightly retreat back into that slimy hole I’d finally managed to begin to haul myself out of.  You see, although it’s pretty dark in ‘said hole’ it morbidly feels safe and secure in there.  Of course it’s all illusion.  It’s the trap we fall for as in actual fact it’s a slippery slope which leads all the way to nowhere – and fast!

I realised I had to write about this to be faithful to the warts and all mission of this blog (so far mainly warts, bad and ugly – hoping to have some ‘good’ to feedback soon!).  I also realised these ‘setbacks’ were just that – setbacks.  They aimed to mess up my footing and I’m sure many can identify with just when you finally feel brave enough to dream something or take a teeny-tiny pontipine step (that one’s for all the mum’s who read this!) then something tries to whisper to you that you just can’t do it and what on earth were you thinking you could for anyway!!  Well, in the interests of keeping this clean – stuff that! I am going to make a difference, I am going to encourage and inspire women like me who do have a dream that deserves to be fulfilled and I am going to stop feeling sorry for myself, ignore tiredness and give up being such a professional procrastinator!!

Instead of believing everything is against us, let’s challenge ourselves to believe everything is ‘for’ us.  One of my all time fave ‘dream’ quotes is from ‘The Alchemist’ when author Paulo Coelho says:

‘And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’

Can I get an Amen?!!!

Loretta x

P.S Please join the ‘More than a Woman/More than a Mum’ Facebook group as I’ll be posting some research questions and some tips for getting you on your way to your dreams in return this week! Hold me to it!!!

P.P.S and ‘Like’ the More than a Mum facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/morethanamum