The September Retrospective

Welcome to October!

I knew it was October when I woke up this morning because my husband had made his traditional joke on Twitter.

Every. Single. Year.kevtwitter

Is it just me, or did September drag on and on? It was just damp and dreary here in Manchester, hardly the Indian summer I was promised.

We got struck by a horrifying doom this month, in that Kev has finally given in to the inevitable and has gone gluten free. The horror, I know. The horror. No more croissants. No more crumpets. No more Yorkshire pudding.

No more bloody bread.

Oh, I’m not exactly joining in in solidarity. I like cake far too much. But it’s a right old pile of poo for him anyway, and we’re trying to adjust. There is gluten free pasta in our lives now. And a lot fewer biscuits.

Speaking of cake, we went to a Macmillan coffee morning at one of me and Ted’s favourite baby groups, and I actually did some baking! I know, me. I’m not a big baker: I make meals. Big, stodgy meals where I can be creative with the ingredients and not worry too much about putting in the exact right quantities. I like to fling a pile of ingredients in a bowl and see what happens: I’m not scientific or precise enough for baking. But my coffee cupcakes turned out all right, even though they did look a bit like they were sponsored by the poo emoji. I’m not quite a dab hand with a piping bag yet.

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Speaking of baby groups… I’d like to just have a little chat about them.

For Ted’s first few months, I bloody hated baby groups. I’m so socially awkward and anxious, they were my absolute worst nightmare. Sitting in a circle making forced conversation with other mums, tunelessly droning out nursery rhymes? Ugh. I had the friends I made at my NCT group, and thank goodness for that, because they got me through some bloody tough times when Ted was tiny (in fact we’re having a party next week for the upcoming glut of first birthdays, which is going to be lovely). But beyond them, I was a tongue-tied, shy mess.

There was the sensory baby class I attempted to take Ted to where all the other mums knew each other. I sat in the corner by myself talking to my own baby, occasionally doing a manic forced grin if anyone else looked in my direction. I knew things were going poorly when the teacher went out of her way to come and chat to me. It was literally at the point where Ted and I would scuttle over to a sensory station during ‘free play’, and whichever other mums were there would choose that exact moment to pick up their babies and leave. Oh, I’m sure it was a coincidence, but I’m pretty sure it happened more than once. I ended up making excuse after excuse to stay away, claiming illness, poosplosions, anything to get me and Ted out of it until the block we’d paid for was up.

Then there was the baby French class I’d been looking forward to for ages. We never got to that one. I didn’t know the area very well and couldn’t quite find the venue, and ended up pushing the pram up and down the road for ages, getting more and more stressed. I was going to be late, everyone would stare, people would judge me, they’d think I was incapable… I ended up crying on the street in front of a van full of builders, convinced I was too useless to be a mother.

I’d pretty much given up, until I found the Waterstones groups. They’re just happy little storytimes in bookshops, with sensory toys for the babies to play with if they want, stories if they fancy sitting still for long enough to listen, and some nursery rhymes to round it off. All followed by coffee and a chat afterwards. They’re free, and there’s no pressure to do anything you don’t want to. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, with babies ranging from newborns to preschoolers.

Come on, it’s me. If I was ever going to find a baby group I enjoyed, it would be in Waterstones!

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Of course Ted always heads straight for the noisiest things he can get his little paws on

Thanks to these groups I’ve really found my confidence, at last. So much so that at the start of September, I finally signed up for a baby group I was really keen on – and actually went!

I’m talking about Sling Swing.

 

(I’m not in that video, I just wanted to show you what I’m talking about)

As soon as I heard about Sling Swing, back in March, I wanted to give it a go. I even booked a class: but that old anxiety kicked in and I cancelled at the last minute. But this month I finally did it and I’m so glad I did.

Did you know it’s both possible and fun to dance with twenty five pounds of baby strapped to your chest? Or your back, as I tried in my last class. Ted fell asleep and everything.

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It manages to be both nice and gentle (for people like me, for whom ‘exercise’ is a dirty word) and yet also a properly exhilarating workout. After a class, I actually feel like I’ve achieved something – and after nearly twenty years since the last time I did any proper dancing, I’m getting such a happy buzz when I actually remember the steps and manage to do them in time!

I’ve left September’s absolute best thing until last. This month, I met one of my absolute heroes!

Marian Keyes was in Manchester to promote her new book, The Break, and I managed to get a ticket to her sold out event at Waterstones: I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager, and her writing has only got better with age. She did a little talk, and a Q&A, and then a book signing, and I’m even more of a fangirl than ever. She’s such an amazing woman: she’s funny, she’s a feminist, and she’s just straight-up fabulous. Hearing her talk about the state of women’s issues in the world (in general) and in Ireland (in particular) was just so powerful. And the way she spoke about her family with such love, the stories about her Alzheimer’s-stricken father in particular, were both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Just like her books, really.

I’ve travelled Europe following rock bands; I’ve got drunk on tourbuses and ended up in all sorts of crazy situations. I’ve made friends with politicians on trains and blanked famous footballers at work. But nothing makes me starstruck like a writer. I was the same when I met Judy Blume – I went all speechless and nearly cried. It’s probably why I look quite so manic in this photo I got taken of me with Marian Keyes.

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Good lord, even with four hundred and twenty two filters applied, I look like I’m about to lose the plot entirely. When she said she loved my look and asked me where I got my lipstick, I turned into a stuttering schoolgirl.

I tell you what, if I ever meet JK Rowling you’ll have to scrape me off the floor in a puddle.

So that was September. I’m sure I’ve missed out loads, and I’ve hardly touched on how amazing Teddy is now he’s nearly a whole year old (honestly, where the bloody biscuits has that gone?) but I’ll devote an entire post to him soon. I can pretty much promise you my October retrospective is going to be a whole post devoted to “WHAT THE HELL DO I PACK FOR DISNEYLAND OH MY GOD WE’RE TAKING TEDDY ON A PLANE I’VE BEEN PLANNING THIS TRIP FOR NEARLY TWO YEARS AAAAARGH” but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, shall we?

PS: if you’d like more wonderful comedy in your life, particularly at the start of October and the end of April, please go and follow my husband on Twitter

 

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