Saturday, February 24, 2007

Beach boys

There are days I feel quite proud of myself for giving this a go and trying to carve out a new life for all of us. Today was not one of them. I just thought: "God this is such an effort" when I woke up, opened the wooden shutters and gazed out onto the foggy village street. I hate weekends up here when I am on my own. The week is bad enough but then, at least, I have help with the children and there is school to give the day some structure. The weekend though completely tips me over the edge of darkness; I roll down the scree, leaving pieces of myself along the way and by the time I reach the bottom there is very little left.

I decided it would be better not to be alone - when I say alone, that equals me plus three children and I turned to my phone book. I list the mothers up here all together. There's a slightly grey trail down the page of names; the trace you would get if you regularly ran a finger down it slowly, name by name, looking for someone to call. It is the mark of desperation. One woman was out; one woman's husband is only at home at weekends; I rang another woman once before when I felt this teary panic and she sounded so surprised at the call, I would rather not repeat the experience; one friend left to live away; two others have their own domestic difficulties; another, I had seen too recently for it to be respectable to call again so soon; a couple I know so slightly, a call would be bizarre. One mother I do like and I did call. She invited me round tomorrow but it still left me with today.

In the classic tradition of the unhappy female, I gathered the children up and went out to shop. I hate the supermarket in the nearest market town. My husband goes shopping there with the three children and tells me the shop assistants cannot do enough for him. They do nothing for me. They might occasionally say: "Do you want help packing? "but they do not mean it. They might say: "Do you want cash back?" but they want to ask me: "Why did you have three children? You can't control them." Instead, I prefer to make my own rounds of the butcher, the baker, the grocer, the newsagent, the chemist and the electric shop. When they know you live here and you are not a tourist, small shopkeepers do not seem to mind if you shout at your children. That can come in handy. The man in the electric shop was supposed to sell me an inside aerial which would make the television work. He sold me an aerial - the closest it came to making the TV work, was sitting on top of it; it certainly did not fetch down a picture from the skies.

After the shopping, I took the children to the beach. This is why we live here - one of the reasons anyway. "Right," I said, "we're going to the beach." My six-year-old jutted out his jaw. "I hate the beach," he said. I was not in the best of moods. "I don't want to live here," I said, perhaps over-hastily and not what the children need to hear, but the words pushed themselves out regardless. I blame the weather. "We live here so you can go to the beach. We are going to the beach. Whether you like it or not." My son shook his head. "I'm not going. I'm staying in the car. You go." Forced to chose between the beach or straight home to bed without tea, he caved and chose the beach where the fog was so dense, it obscured even the castle. The boys played in the misted-out dunes, doing what they call "adventuring" and I ploughed the sand with the buggy and a chilled baby. "There you see," I told them, the wind so cold it felt like it was tearing strips from my head to hang from its beaded belt, "isn't this nice?"

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

It ain't so cold if you're galloping along the beach.

Get yourself and the boys along here http://www.slatehallridingcentre.com/

Local yokel said...

I was on the beach today. The castle is beautiful in whatever meteorological cloak it wears.
How sad you want to blame Northumberland for everything. Your vague insults of the place and the people have given you a book deal. Try to be slightly grateful - or at least a little more gracious.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I love your blog and I am surpised you have had only one comment on today's post so far.
I didn't want you thinking everyone else was out having a fab time apart from you.
My husband was at home but we still managed to have a dreary day doing 'jobs' and shouting at the children.
I moved from the city to Wales and it took me years to adjust.

Keep writing,you are fab.

Mx

p.s We live near the beach and my two won't go either!

mutleythedog said...

God I know this one - I was a house father for 5 years in a small town, its not OK when the excitement of the day is the Post Office and a visit to Somerfields. Roll on the summer, when at least swimming in the sea is possible, at least it is in North Kent where I was. You kinda just have to get used to your own company and thats it. No one wants you. We had a castle as well, which was free to enter, you can have enough of it.

Sorry for no silly remarks today - my 18 years of marriage is over and its kinda depressing. Im off to a flirt blog!!

SarahClark said...

I am often 'home alone' with the children at weekends too.
Saturdays are the worst: the kids are tired and needy after their busy week, and I'm tired and needy after my busy week. It's exhausting. Trips to the park - where I get bored to death, freezing cold and muddy - send me into a mild depression. Most Saturday nights home alone find me a muttering wreck with my hair standing on end and a hiroshima house to tidy. Sundays are much better: we go to Starbucks, and the kids are usually pretty mellow and playing 'nicely' by the time they have to go back to school.
But crucially - and this frightens the life out of me - whether our weekend threesome turns out to be happy or horrendous bears a direct correlation to my mood: 99 times out of 100, if I'm happy, they're happy!!! What a responsibility!!! If the same applies to your children, could that be a good enough reason to move back to London? Write the book first, obviously. I'm not sure, but perhaps children need a happy mum more than they need a beach. Perhaps.

Anonymous said...

You give your kids a choice ! ?

Tell them to like it or f**king lump it !! They sound a bit spoiled to me.

Shouting is fine, but try hitting them occasionally - it worked for me.

And why do you 'need help with them' during the week ? You have no job !

Chill out a bit..

Popeye said...

Dear WITN,

You are an inspiration and I love you(r blog).

P.S. After your brilliant health visitor description perhaps you could define some other professions for us...

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wife in the north said...

re mutley: that is so sad.I am very very sorry. 18 years is a long time. I can't imagine how you begin to adjust.
re anon: funnily enough I was thinking about riding as part of my trying to get into Northumberland life
re local yokel; the castle is my very favorite one and I am not blaming Northumberland for anything at all (other than making my husband fall in love with it). Any "vague insults" are aimed at myself as I try to fit in and not Northumberland which grows on me daily. It is cold,it is mudy,there was fog. It is also any number of other wonderful things which is why we are here. I am really sorry to think you are coming away from the blog feeling you and your county are being insulted - that is not what this is about. Stick with me OK?
re sarahclark: i know, i know, i know. I entirely agree. It is just getting to that place where you can smile so they know they can smile too.

SueBee said...

I think your husband sounds very selfish leaving you in the north, as he is hardly ever there. However I love your blog and well done for the book deal. Don't stop writing!
Sue

Odile S said...

Hi,
This is why I collect url's on my blog in between posts on brainy stuff for keeping the minds of our children healthy.
e.g. www.braintrainer.nl/braintrainer.swf

I also live in a small town with my children and husband. But a little more cultural activity. Lucky me.

jenny, sw london said...

Even though I live in London and have good shops and friends on tap, I still dread the two weekends a year my husband goes away cycling leaving me to entertain the children BY MYSELF. It's never as bad as I think it will be because there are several coffee shops we can wreck, but your latest post reminds me of when I spent a year in Peru because of my husbands job. No one spoke English, I suddenly had a maid to tell what to do in Linguarama Spanish, and no friends. It took a couple of months of false starts, but I did eventually make a couple of very good friends who rescued me from the highlight of my day being a trip to the local supermarket.It ended up being a year to remember but it took time to get there. Hang on in there, Spring is coming...

rilly super said...

your blog is a gift to us all dear, a gift. It's so moving I haven't cried this much since I watched Terms of Endearmemt. I hope you keep up the good work and don't let thise sniffy awful people upset you. chin up dear!

Cathy said...

I grew up in a place where it used to be said that it took 25 years for an incomer to be accepted as a local.It was a very different world to London, where I now live. But London is far from perfect too,it is equally possible to be isolated and lonely here.

What is important is building up friendships which can support you.That may take a little time, but will be worth it in the end and while your children are young they will be the key to those friendships.

Sarahclark is right, your state of happiness will be mirrored in your children.Sadly I have personal experience of this. Please, please ask your doctor for help if you need to.

The Grocer said...

School holidays in winter can be tough, especially up here when so much of what is on offer is outdoors.
I could be smug and suggest all sorts of activities and day trip destinations but I get a sense that it is more about doing it all alone day in day out that is dragging you down. It will get better.

Anonymous said...

why are you still married to your husband?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - I grew up in Wales, and it wasn't a case of not wanting to go to the beach, but one takes all these things for granted as a child. Fields and trees and sand and sea - well, it will all be there tomorrow, and there is always something more exciting..

Only when one is grown up and needs to take a step back do you really appreciate what a wonderful country Wales really is.

Val said...

I sometimes think we get what my sister-in-law calls 'the do-do-do disorder' with our kids, feeling like we have to entertain them al the time. Yes, by Saturday they are often exhausted after a hard week at school. It doesn't make you a bad parent to let them loll in front of a DVD for a couple of hours -- or even more! -- while you do whatever you need/want. They need chilling time too -- I certainly find my six-year-old capable of much more enjoyable interaction when he's had a bit of down time doing his own thing. It's tempting when you are somewhere with beaches and castles and adventure landscapes to feel you should be taking advantage of it every waking moment. I bet the locals don't do half as much outdoorsy stuff with their offspring as you feel obliged to!

Cringe said...

I'm really sorry again, I'm so mortified. I had account probs and used another blog user name (Whinge) to post a comment 20 zillion times. I was blaming the computer & my small daughter for distracting me. Am going away now, and cringing massively.

Wendy said...

oooo sweetie weekends are always the worst the structures of weekdays are devoid and the minutes and hours slowly tick by.... without even neighbours at 1.30 to break the everlasting time with! And this is what you gave up a career to do be a stay home mummy... nothing in the world can prepare you for the sometimes amazing, somtime monotenous, sometimes so boring matchisticks are a necessity to poke your damn eyes open the pain from them reminding you to spurt out the ever necessary tirade of positive encoragement of your babies! ah just another day.... (disclaimer here to my children ... you are lovely & its worthwhile...)

Luke said...

I think you'd rather like the sounds of Hometown Glory by Adele. Love for London and all that:

http://www.myspace.com/adelelondon

Yans said...

The things about kids is, if they are with you they get on your last nerve and if not you miss them to bits. You must enjoy your kids now that they are young.

You are better off than women living in London, you spend quality time with your kids with your clumsy husband out of the way. He is probably not that clumsy, he just misses you guys a lot hence his dis-orientation. A man is not really complete without his family close by.

I just could not forget the key left on the car and yes..you do write very well.

Newmania said...

re mutley: that is so sad.I am very very sorry.

Oh dear hope he`s alright. I get an existential sort of feeling looking out at water when its not sunny. Wonder why

Probably because I`m so deep and interesting ..ah yes thats it.

Phew

Anonymous said...

"Why are you buying condoms?" Have you ever heard a shop assistant ask this question ? It is a fair bet that you haven't, although many young men seem to think that there is a chance that they might. A radio advert many years ago made the point that the shop assistant was more likely to be thinking of what she was going to have for her tea that evening...

I suspect that the shop assistants aren't as worried about the number and behaviour of your children as you might think. If they are smart they might even be thinking, 'thanks for helping push the average birth rate for the country above the feeble 1.8 and thus helping to pay future pensions, without Gordon Brown having to resort to 'German-style' bribery'.

I have no children [yippee!] but have some delightful nephews and nieces. My cousin and his wife live on a farm and have two boys and a baby daughter. My brother and I were very peeved when our sister turned up, as she got all the attention, and we couldn't even thrash her at football..

But these boys absolutely love their baby sister, and it is a good thing for her to know she will always have two brothers to act as her 'guardians and protectors' on life's highway. Although one of our disappointments as men is finding out that girls soon learn to look after themselves very well indeed, thank you very much..

Anonymous said...

One thing that does surprise me [being a lazy arse bloke] is why you feel the need to fill up a day which could more usefully be spent doing nothing ? Don't any of the beaches have a cafe / tea / coffee shop where you can curl up with a good book, or spend a few hours reading the paper ?

Maybe this is just a 'man thing'...

Zoe Grant said...

What a wonderful blog. I remember those dark weekends when my husband would be away, which grated more when he was in ITaly or France than in the UK, and being stuck at home with 4 children. I don't drive and the thought of public transport & 4 children filled me with horror. So we often went to library or the park or moped around the house when it rained!!!! A ray of hope arrived along with our new daughter last October when my inheritence meant we could start a business from home and I no longer had to be mum & dad whilst my husband earnt a living driving around Europe.
Like you I would hide away & cry in desperation of some adult company as I tried to make friends in a new town. It does get a bit easier but even now with my husband at home I still feel lonely.
Keep writing it's a great steam valave!!! Take care

Rare Breed said...

Re: Suebee - I love wifey's husband, and he can't possibly be selfish - he gave us Wife in the North - a very generous act in my opinion.

And Lazy Arse Anonymous: you can't read the paper or a book for hours with children - they dribble and crayon you know!

Anyway - I want to congratulate Wifey for lots of things today, but I am going to stick with one, a very important congrats - and that is that you go to the butchers, the bakers and the candlestick makers rather than dreary, mundane, global tryannical despot ridden supermarkets - hooorah for wifey.

So today I love wifey and her hubby!

Diane said...

I'm across the pond, but my best friend just tipped me off to your blog...I thought that your honesty about mothering was great...I was having a rotten day today and you cheered me up -- as a writer and editor myself, i tip my rumpled wrinkled hat to you! and yes, i've got three kids too..Been there, done that...Keep up the good work!

Linda said...

Oh that is a beautiful beach. So sorry to hear your little boy 'had one on him.' I know where you are coming from with the other mum thing. When my girls were younger I made them join ballet so I could meet people. I felt really lonely as we had moved to a new area and lost contact with friends without children. That was eight years ago and I did meet mums I clicked with - suggest a boozy night out at the first opportunity, that's always a good plan. Good luck to you.

Freya said...

Hello, a frend back home in the UK told me abut you. I'm doing similar thing over hee in the US - I moved to the wilds of Pennsylvania (though am back to NY after 5 months this week and so far I only have the one child an no book deal...). I can totally relate. Especially to the comments from irate locals - I've been getting those too. www.freyaanddot.blogspot.com
Would love to hear from you.

Sandra Montgomery said...

Reading todays blog took me back to when I had three small children creating chaos in my life and house. How I despaired at ever having any time to myself every again and wondering if I would be able to go a day without a crisis.

Now here I am, all alone. Kids grown and gone. Husband divorced. And I realize that those were the best days of my life. And how very, very lonely I am now.