Friday, April 13, 2007

Fretting about home

I had efficiently found my mobile phone, charged it and set the alarm on it. What I did not do was check the clock on my phone was set at the right time. It was not; it was set an hour late. Yesterday, I had to make a whizz-bang, pop pop journey down to London. I only just made it out of the house by 6.15am for a sevenish train. Just in time for the children to wake up and cry. Real tears, that Mummy was going to London. Do they suspect I may not come back? I did not leave them alone. My husband might have been missing in action but I do have help with the children. I have enough moments where I come suspiciously close to lunacy; if I did not have help, there would be nothing suspicious about it. I would be bang to rights bonkers. I have tried doing without help; frankly, I wanted to kill myself. I have nothing but admiration for women who cope on their own at all times. I could not even pretend that is me. I keep saying to my fellow mothers up here: "Get some help. Get some help for God's sake." They just look at me. They do not seem to need help. They can cope. Everyone can cope better than me. I went to a lovely house the other day. All the carpets were beige. All of them. The woman has two boys. How does she do that? How does she keep it beige? I have only ever bought one carpet in my life. It was beige. What a mistake that was. She makes her boys take off their shoes. I tried to make mine do that. My carpet has not been beige for a long time.

The railway station is away, away along roads that cut through mist flooded fields. An Easterly wind blows the mists in from the sea. Despite spring sunshine washing over daffodil days, in the early morning and in twilight's heavy moments, the sea fret lurks in the village streets. It blocks out spaces behind the rough stone walls with its mist and North Sea mystery. At my cottage, you can stand and see it roll and lurch onwards, eating grass and lambs. Till everything, even the lighthouse, disappears in its soft, grey damp. Usually, not always, it will stop short of the row of cottages; it will stay in the field, knowing it has not been invited; fearing to come further. Sometimes, polite, I smile and walk towards and into its chill embrace. I like the sea frets. I like anything that frets.

It is a long way to London, travelling there and back took around nine hours and all for a business lunch. The lunch was good however and, bonus, at the end of the meeting, my companion handed over a box of German confectionery. The sweetmeat was called "Bethmannchen" (there should be an umlaut in there, but I have a resolutely English speaking keyboard). These Bethmannchen (do not forget that umlaut) are small baked mounds of marzipan, kept upright by three pale almond halves pushed into sugared flesh. I thought: "Bugger. I knew I should have brought pease pudding." But you can never find it gift-wrapped. The confectionery has a history. It dates from 1840; named after the four sons of Frankfurt's state councillor Simon Moritz Bethmann (Moritz, Karl, Alexander and Heinrich). Originally, there were four almonds. When Heinrich died, the confectioner cut the number of almonds to three.

So there you are. Your meeting is over. Your charming associate hands over his tasty gift and suddenly you are thinking: "Infant mortality", "Poor Heinrich" and "How old was he?". It is like finding out the currants in an Eccles cake represent the number of deaths there during the plague. As if Kendal mintcake is a monument to all those lost on ill-prepared Duke of Edinburgh trips in the Lake District. I say: "Thank you " and "How kind". I think: "I hope the children are alright." I wondered too, whether Heinrich's mother ever ate the three almonded confection, to taste between her teeth the grainy, sugared proof three sons survived.


Anonymous said...

Pease pudding - really just a Northern version of hummous, you could start a company flogging gift wrapped 'WITN' pease pudding, profits, towards your pantry.

Anonymous said...

Why do you need help? You don't go out to work. Two of the children are out at school all day, which leaves you with a baby. I don't understand why you need help with them?

Dee said...

That is one long trip for a business meeting! I hope it was worth it.

And as for getting help with the kids, I'm all for it. I don't have kids yet but I very much will get help if I need it once we have children. Doing whatever is best for your children makes one a good mother. Having a mother in a 'suspiciously close to lunacy' state of mind is not that. So all kudos to those who are ablet to do it all. I don't think mom's need to be superwomen (and get pressure from society to be superwomen) who do it all and keep smiling as they go along. If you need help, get help. What's the big deal.

Cathy said...

You can substitute an Umlaut by putting an e after the vowel.

Just as an aside, not everyone can AFFORD to have help at home with the children. Anyway, I'd have to pay danger money to get someone to look after mine!

Just relax and enjoy them while you can, kids grow up all too fast.

debio said...

I didn't have help with my child - nanny was sacked as baby was handed to me - but I sure as hell had help with the garden and the house and the babysitting etc.

This help does not preclude you from 'enjoying' your children, quite the opposite - whilst you're not ironing baby clothes and fretting about the untidy lawn, you are free to devote limitless quality time to the children.

Don't be taken in by thinking that everyone is coping except you. This is simply not true; their carpets might be beige but you can surely guarantee that their lives are too!

Drunk Mummy said...

I have never thought of my children as well-behaved, until the time we went to stay at a smart hotel. As they walked through the grand entrance doors, they all kicked off their shoes and disappeared into the lobby.

james higham said...

Another very powerful post from you and one I'm running this evening over at my place. don't ever stop writing your blog ... please.

Retiredandcrazy said...

My children are all grown up, but I now have help with my husband. Greatly recommended!

The Grocer said...

We had cream carpets for several years, every stain used to remind us of particular incidents. It was almost like we had our past history under our feet. Wooden floors much better though, wipe clean.

Nunhead Mum of One said...

Beige carpets a no-no with one child and three perpetually muddy dogs - wooden flooring better but has its hazards, claws don't grip it (have you ever seen a dog slide past you at 15 mph?) and things that I drop that would bounce on a carpet - don't. Therefore i've had two new mobiles this year alone and don't get me started on dropping a box of Maltesers - the buggers bounced!

Ruthie said...

Beige (or white!) carpets always struck me as the purest folly. What a hassle to keep clean. I'd ruin it within a week.

Incidentally, I think anonymous #2 does not have children.

I am a single mom of one. It is always remarkably hard to cope. It's heartbreaking to have to leave them, however briefly. It feels like a betrayal. I think all mothers feel near the edge of insanity, but some just hide it better than others.

If the kids stay clean, fed, and safe, you've succeeded. Keep your head up!

confused mummy said...

Oh wife, I just don't know how you do it. It never ceases to amaze me that you have pursuaded all these people that you're having a rough time when you have

1. Two houses in Northumberland that you're knocking together.
2. A house in London.
3. A nanny to look after your baby while you try to fit in.
4. A husband with the patience of a saint.
5. A book deal to tell everyone how simply awful it is.

Minx said...

Beige is not good for your health anyway.

Probably all these 'beige' comments aren't good for your health either - but I suppose some people don't have anything else in their lives.

Helena said...

Don't worry, beige is sooo last week...

Anonymous said...

If WITN was telling us about how it was to be a Blue Alien on Planet Green, whilst we're all dealing with being Pink People on Planet Purple, she would NOT have gotten that book deal.

That is what writers write about best, Confused Mommy -- their own lives. That's what they know. I may be envious, but I'm not jealous. Do remember that she didn't seek that book deal out, the book deal came to her. Yes, she had connections. The way she writes, it is obvious that that is how she earned a living.

BTW, as soon as we could afford it, we took up the beige berber carpets. We put in hardwood flooring in the kids' rooms, and terra cotta tiles in the LR / DR area. We still have an off-white berber carpet in our bedroom. Sick kids are occasionally allowed to venture there, if they are barefoot and carry a bigbucket.

I applaud you, WITN. Looks like I'll need to choose a nic one of these days.

Delboy's Daughter said...

Oh my!
Thats why there are currents in Eccles cakes?
I feel better not liking them now.

Hilary said...

Aaagh,what about Chorley cakes??

Sandra Montgomery said...

I tried a Kendal Mint Cake on my last trip to London from my home in Canada. Bought it at Fortnum and Mason's because my soon to be son-in-law is from Kendal so had to try it.


All it is is sugar fused somehow into a rectangle. I don't know how anyone could eat a whole one. I couldn't choke down one bite.