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dimanche 29 mai 2011


Today was Mothers' Day here in France, and I pretty much screwed up. Damn you, Don Draper, and those sexy, manly shoulders and brooding stare...

Yeah, I stayed up waaaaay too late last night, meaning I spent all of today exhausted. I got up late (but before the girls got home all the same), spent far too long making lunch, worked during the afternoon and then napped till supper time. No nice walk into town for an icecream (my original plan), not even a trip to the botanical gardens...

But I received beautiful things from my little girls - made with love. A hand-painted mug (bought at IKEA apparently! How appropriate) and wonderful card from C, a little secrets box and poem and handmade card from L. They also, with D, bought a plant at the Parents' Association plant sale on Friday. It was wonderfully touching and moving. I love these two little girls so much!

I often think of my own mother. I don't miss her (she died in August 2003 after many years of early-onset dementia, and the last 2 or 3 were horrendous: she was completely dependent on my father, had no idea who she was, where she was, who anyone else was...) because we were never really very close. She just wasn't the touchy-feely-cuddly type, and she was certainly never my confidente. But I do miss the mother I never had. I'm so envious of all these people who have a strong relationship with their mother. I miss seeing what kind of grandmother she would have been (I think she'd have been a better grandmother than mother, to be honest). I miss that mythical mother I dreamed of. Don't get me wrong - she loved me, I loved her, our relationship was pretty good. But she had no idea who I was, she hated letting me grow up (and tried desperately to keep me a child. I blame her for my social ineptness - she never taught me anything "grown up", like how to put on make-up, how to talk to boys. She never even gave me "the talk", I had to find out by myself), she resented me for having the life she thought she should have had (a university education) and for spoiling the life she did have (a high-powered personal assistant in a large petrochemicals firm near London, earning good money and having fun in the Swinging Sixties). I'm pretty sure she didn't actually want children at all - my parents were married for 13 years before I was born, and I'm an only child...

No, my mother had no idea what I was thinking, what my dreams were, who I was.

I have no idea what kind of relationship we would have had now if she hadn't developed dementia. I know I would never have wanted her present for the birth of the girls (as I said, no touchy-feely stuff from her), but having her around in the weeks or months that followed might have been nice.

I don't know, it's so hard to say. She was my mother, and she was the way she was. I DO miss her, in some ways, but given how she spent the last few years of her life, I considered her death to be a blessed relief to be honest. She was surviving, technically alive, but for what? She had no life to speak of... I miss some of the fun times we had together (we did have fun together, as long as we remained on neutral ground and never broke down and talked - oh, the horror! - of our feelings and emotions), I miss lots of things about her. But mostly, as I said already, I miss the mother I wish I had had.

In these last few months, when life has been so hard, my strength has come solely from my desire to always do the best I can for my sweet girls. Their love for me, and mine for them, are what keep me sane. I just hope and pray that the relationship I have with them will be better than the one I had with my own mother. I want to be part of their lives, I want to be the person they can talk to, turn to when they need advice or sympathy or just someone who will listen.

Today was Mothers' Day here in France and yes, I screwed up. But the essential was there: my girls and I spent time together, and they love me and I love them. Together, the three of us are strong, united and hopeful. Our future - THEIR future - will be better because of the love we have for each other today.


So I went. It was a bit of a marathon - I had to trek out to one birthday party by bus to drop of L, then race back with C in tow to drop her off at another one (damn all these spring babies!), but managed to get myself in the tramway by 3.30. I didn't buy all the stuff on my list (I didn't have time to hunt everything down, plus I'm pretty sure I couldn't have carried more) but I did get a lovely standard lamp and shade, a table lamp and shade (same lamps, different shades), some new cutlery, some sun lotion, a pair of orange slippers and all the light bulbs I needed. Oh, and I bought a box of "IKEA Family" plasters because some of them have L's beloved yellow-with-red-spots camel on.

It was tiring - exhausting, even, and I almost missed my stop on the way home because I was dozing in the tram - but oh! sooooo worth it! The lights are in place and look so much better than the halogen thing. I'm very pleased with the result. It's the little things, dontcha know.

Of course, I got no work done today AT ALL. This was partly because of the hectic afternoon, but also because I didn't have time this morning and then spent all evening glued to Mad Men Season 3 on DVD. It arrived today and I'm gluttonously stuffing episodes down as if there's no tomorrow...

And the girls aren't here tonight. This is quite pleasant - I can watch my DVD without interruption - but I'm pissed off about tomorrow. It's Mothers' Day here tomorrow, and my girls won't be home till lunchtime (if then). D wanted to cancel their night with him so I could "spend time with them in the morning, and then he'd take them in the afternoon" but that would have been WORSE, except of course he can't see that: I'd have virtually been alone all day (he's coming at 10 to pick them up for their Sunday School stuff, so I'd have spent about 30 minutes in the morning hustling them along to get ready, and that's it). At least this way, they should be here for lunch at least... But still. It's Mothers' Day and I want to spend it with my girls. That's normal, no? I know I'll be stupidly reasonable and let him spend Fathers' Day with them...

But enough bitching. Today has been OK, not bad at all even. The weather is glorious, my new lights make me ridiculously happy (shows how empty my life is, no?), I saw very little of D (always a plus) and was out and about this afternoon for the first time in God knows when. It was a "normal" Saturday!

The only problem with that, of course, is that IKEA is full of lots of other people having a "normal" Saturday, by which I mainly mean couples, measuring, comparing, discussing how to make "their" home nicer. I felt like a bit of a loser wandering around by myself (almost no one seems to go there alone, particularly on a Saturday). But I love IKEA enough for that to not get me down (too much).

OK, it's time to turn off my lovely new lights and maybe actually go to bed before 2 am for once...

Happy Mothers' Day for those celebrating it today!

samedi 28 mai 2011

The urge

It's true, I am, indeed, starting to feel "the urge". Not for what you might think (though a little of THAT would be quite nice too, I must say...), no, not at all...

Tomorrow is a birthday party extravaganza with C being invited to one party and L to another. I have to deliver each girl to each party (luckily they have a 30 minute start time difference) and then... and then... I'm free till C's 6 pm pick-up time. Did you hear that? Yes, I'm FREE...

This, of course, can only mean ONE THING.

And, if I add in that the little girl hosting the party C's going to is Swedish, you might be able to figure out what my "urge" is...


People, I feel that a trip to IKEA is looming large. I have my sights set on a standard lamp (base + shade) and matching table lamp to replace the hideous halogen thing D bought (that I've always loathed and that now seems to no longer be working), plus a parasol and base for the balcony and maybe a few other extraneous bits and pieces. I'm excited as hell, and utterly horrified at how pathetic my life has become.

Who'm I kidding? Even before "last year", I got horribly excited about trips to IKEA - there's nothing new there.

So, by about 3.30 I should be on my way. I don't have long, but I can be quick. Seriously, I can. I'm pretty good when it comes to making snap decisions about spending money I don't really have...

The flat is a tip, a total and utter tip, but I have PLANS, people. PLANS. I'm going to pack up all D's stuff (because of course there's still a shitload of his stuff here) and either get him to take it away, or at least get it down into the cellar. This is a huge task in itself because the cellar has been so badly filled (by D) that it's almost impossible to get anything more in, even though there's actually a ton of space.

But let's imagine that I manage. Then I can fill up the newly-vacated drawer and shelf space, thus liberating the floor from the mountains of crap currently to be found there. I have to put doors on the kitchen cabinets, buy a worktop, put up curtains... I'm excited at the prospect of getting this place smart and nice to live in. Then I can invite people round without dying of shame and embarrassment...

And it all starts tomorrow, with my beloved IKEA...

mardi 24 mai 2011


Technically, it's still spring. But it already feels like summer here. The air is hot during the day, warm at night. The leaves on the trees, a bright, spring green just a few weeks ago, already have that tired look that summer in the south of France brings.

"Things" are happening, too: end-of-year shows are being prepared, and the first wave hits this week: two "concerts" for the songs learned at school this year, plus two "circus shows" to mark the end of the year. The last circus classes will be next week. The school end-of-year extravaganza will be held on 17 June. School ends on 1 July.

The girls are starting to get excited about the long holidays - 9 weeks! This year feels "finished" for them, their sights now set on CM2 and CE1: which teacher will they have? Will they be with their friends?

For me, the seasons barely change. Yes, I enjoy the warmer weather, no doubt about that. But it makes me more self-conscious (if that's possible) about my body, my skin, my age. One advantage of not being involved in beach trips any more is that at least I avoid the dreaded swimsuit trauma most of the time (I think I was at the beach here 3 times last summer? Maybe? And twice in Spain. Quite a feat for someone living just 10 km from the Mediterranean...). Summer also means memories of the past - as a real family, a family of four, we had fun in the summer months. The beach, the lake, picnics, barbecues. Journeys to the Alps, the Pyrenees, Italy, the Basque country. Late nights at funfairs... All finished now.

Summer is time. Lots and lots of time. And not enough time. The girls need activities, entertainment. I need to work. But I also need to get away, with my girls, somewhere-that-is-not-here. For now, nothing's planned, everything I look at is too expensive. But oh, how I want to get away! Just a week would be enough - I haven't taken any holiday so far this year and I'm worn out, worn down. I would love a week in a hotel, just the three of us. Visiting things, eating out, eating icecreams, being just maman, not having to work. I don't know if it's going to be possible and I see these summer weeks stretching before me.

Friends are coming to visit, and I'm looking forward to that so much! I hope to find a circus course for the girls to do in late August (something to occupy them in those final days when they start yearning for school and friends again). I'm guessing D will take them to his mother's place for a week too. But the rest of the time, I don't know.

I have felt more positive lately, yet tonight, sitting here at my desk, I feel like I'm adrift, floating on a wave so far out to sea, so far from anything that might anchor me down, that I'll never see firm land again. I get through the days, I get through the nights, but drifting, drifting, drifting.

There was a party this weekend, Sunday morning to be exact. For my sweet little L and her friend G, both of whom turned 7 within a week of each other. It was great to organise a party with someone else; a workload shared is a workload shared after all. The parents are great, we had a good time, the party was a success. There were 18 kids, they all had fun. It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day. I felt happy, relaxed, at ease. Till D showed up (as he'd said he would). He didn't stay long, but his presence set me adrift again. I drifted, unable to put down an anchor and stay on dry land. It's always the same now. Being in the same room as him disturbs me more than ever. And with the summer, meaning trips to the beach, he'll be here every day.

I still find it hard to believe I'm living this life. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? Why did this happen? Is there anything I could have done to change the outcome?

This will be my second summer alone. I'm in a better place than last year, for sure, but I still haven't found my best place. I'm still adrift. And, without the rhythm of school days to guide me, the summer will be another test of my ability to keep control, to keep on top of things.

It's still technically spring, but in my heart it's summer already. I can feel control slipping away, the pull of the great ocean is my siren song and soon I will be truly adrift.

mercredi 18 mai 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It is now, technically (here in France, anyway) my birthday. I am 42 years old. This is a number that actually doesn't scare me - in fact, it makes me think of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a book that I read many, many times as a teenager) in which we learn (thanks to the computer Deep Thought and it's 7.5 million years of cogitation) that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42. Unfortunately, the Question itself has been lost (God, I loved this book...)...

There was also, once, a lifetime ago, a British band called Level 42 (named after the aforementioned Answer), and they were the very first band I ever saw play live. Check them out (this was one of their biggest hits). How's that for useless information?

So, yeah. Turning 42 just doesn't have the negative feel to it that, say, turning 40 had. Except of course that it means I'm another year older.

And still single.

And still broke.

And still staying up ridiculously late every night and fucking up my days as a result.

As for today, well, the "plans" I had have mainly gone down the toilet: I was going to do a roast chicken for lunch (a popular - and rare - occurrence chez Magic) and then the girls were going to make a cake for me, all by themselves. Of course, my oven broke irredeemably on Sunday night, so I bought a new one on line and paid a small fortune for a rush-job delivery, promised today (17th) before 1 pm.

It didn't come.

And the asshole delivery guy put "doesn't live at this address" as the reason. Which is, of course, total and utter crap. I was here till 2.30 pm and they didn't come. I phoned up the place I bought the oven from, complained long and loud, and have been promised it'll come tomorrow. But that's too late - I'll be out quite a bit of the day (it's a WEDNESDAY, which means no-school-and-lots-of-activities for the girls) so you can bet it'll come when we're not home. And even if it comes when we ARE here, there'll be no time for roasting chickens or baking cakes. So that'll be my 2nd birthday in a row with no cake (that makes me sound so childish, I know. But come on. It's my BIRTHDAY. I want a CAKE. I was even willing to make one myself, but now can't. Sniffle).

My new "plan" is to go out for lunch, but we don't have much time, what with one activity finishing at 11, then homework, and the next starting at 2, but it should be possible.

At least this year I know the girls haven't forgotten, despite their attempts at subterfuge with D this evening.

I'm pretty sure this birthday will be better than last year's. I'm certainly in a better place, personally. I'm stronger, more confident, more resilient, more at peace. That doesn't mean life is good, exactly, and I do remain more lonely than I could ever imagine possible, but I'm starting to come back to life a little.

Happy Birthday to Me!

mardi 17 mai 2011

Les mouches des temps

Wow. It's already the middle of May... I'm struggling to come to terms with the idea that in just a few hours (on Wednesday, in fact), I will be turning 42. My God that sounds old. Yet it's strange, I don't necessarily FEEL particularly old (though Lord knows I look it).

I'm hoping my birthday will be a little less craptastic than last year. I mean, I know it's not going to be anything wild, but hopefully it won't leave me a jibbering wreck of misery, sobbing silently into my pillow so that my Dad could remain in blissful ignorance of my nightmare life... At least this year, the girls are aware of my upcoming birthday and even know what day it is, so that's a start. And, if my new worktop oven arrives tomorrow as it's supposed to, then I might even get a cake and candles this year...

With regards to presents, I've mainly bought myself stuff. First, I bought the aforementioned oven, but that's not exactly the gift that's going to make my eyes shine. It's more that the old one just died and I can't cope for long without an oven.

More excitingly (for me, anyway), I bought myself a small, white, metal table and two matching stools for the balcony (all very cheap from IKEA), so the girls and I can sit outside and have meals over the summer; I have also bought (but not yet received, oh, the suspense is killing me!) three potentially lovely things from Cath Kidston:

First of all, this adorable dress:

Yes, it's most likely the most expensive single item of clothing I've ever bought, but it looks adorable to me and I'm hoping it will succeed where so many other clothes have failed and make ME look adorable too.

Then I bought enough of this material to make a tablecloth and matching napkins for my new balcony table:

And, finally, I bought myself this stationery box set too, because I am weak and frivolous when it comes to a) Cath Kidston stuff b) Amazon and c) CK bargains on Amazon.

So, all in all, a pretty good set of presents. I'm very pleased! After that, I'm not bothered if I don't get any more gifts at all - even though I received two packages, one from my Dad and the other from one of my best friends, M, this morning. This birthday already feels better than last year's!

I've also been trying to get my act together: my Dad installed the wall lights that have been languishing in a cupboard for almost 2 years (D was a seriously unenthusiastic DIY guy), I installed the TV box thingamajig without a hitch, and I'm intending to get to work on clearing this place of D's stuff as soon as I have a minute to breathe. I think I'll feel better when all his stuff has gone, once and for all - clothes, books, papers, CDs, DVDs, all kinds of stuff. I want it all gone; that way, there'll be more space for tidying up the mess that has accumulated.

Being 41 wasn't a particularly happy time for me - one of the worst years of my life, to be honest - so I have hopes for 42. I'm trying not to be too optimistic (that's hardly in my nature now, is it?), but just a little, tiny bit hopeful.

lundi 2 mai 2011


My baby girl turned 7 last Wednesday. Unlike many mothers (or so it seems at least), I have little or no nostalgia for the baby days. Don't get me wrong: I didn't hate them, no, I really didn't (well, not all the time, anyway). But I do, most definitely, prefer the NOT baby days. And 6 was pretty good on the whole, so I'm hoping 7 will be at least as good (especially as Lord knows the year my baby was 6 was a difficult year for all of us).

We had a fun day, mainly. My dad was here (he arrived the afternoon before) and there were presents (lots of lovely presents!), and a friend spent the morning with us, then she and her mother both had lunch with us, and we had L's favourite lunch (roast chicken, green beans and chips (oven chips, I refuse to deep fry anything), followed by strawberries and cream), then they spent the afternoon with D and his friend, came back home for supper and cake: a beautiful butterfly-shaped chocolate chip cake with lemon frosting. So yeah, it was a good day.

But for me it was a bittersweet day. Her birthday last year was really the signal of what was to come - D was still here, but brought the neighbours down for the cake part of the day because he couldn't bear to be here with me; he bought a birthday card just from him (and not from us - I was furious with him!) and it was clear that all was not well.

Today was 1st May, and this is actual anniversary of the day he left me, the day he bad-mouthed me to our friends and accused me of trying to kill him, the day he stormed away from all of us (me, the girls, our friends and their son) in the street saying he couldn't bear to be anywhere near me, the day he fucked up my life for good.

At that time, I desperately wanted him to come back, for us to go back to "normal" (ha!). At the time I still had feelings for him, a need for him. Now, after a year of real struggling, a year that has been hard beyond belief, my feelings have changed completely. I wouldn't "take him back" now if he paid me. Now, it's I that can't bear to be in the same room as him. I actively hate him, even, on occasion. And I certainly hate what he's done to me, my girls, our lives.

My life has changed in so many ways in the last year. Not all for the worse, I admit. I'm stronger than I was before, more in control of certain things, more independent. But definitely worse in more ways than I care to admit (I've never, never been so lonely in my entire life; I yearn for companionship; my financial status is just about out of control; and, while I certainly feel even closer to my sweet girls, at the same time there have never been so many arguments and tears as there have been this year). So yeah, my feelings for D have definitely done an about-face.

Days when I don't see him are better than the ones when I do (I nearly always have to speak to him on the phone, and that's bad enough. I'm uncomfortable in his presence, even on the phone).

Here's to hoping that my baby's 8th year will be a happier, more fulfilling, more peaceful, more serence year than her 7th. My little girls are strong, beautiful, bright and loving. I adore them to the ends of the moon and back. They are my life, my hopes, my dreams. They are my world. They deserve better than the crap year they've just had, and I'm doing my best, night and day, to ensure that they get it.

Happy Birthday, sweet L.