Saturday 23 April 2011

On Guard! Q & A Meme

Swimmers during learn to swim week, at a suburban swimming pool, probably Wellington region, ca 1939

My lovely friend Jennie who writes the inspiring blog about her gorgeous twins has tagged me in this meme. I love reading memes and I discovered some intriguing things about Jennie, so perhaps you will learn something interesting about me too!

Which living person do you most admire and why?
This is a really hard one, but its actually my husband. My husband was born with a rare and debilitating condition, athrogryposis multiplex congenita. When you meet him, the first thing you notice is his booming voice, his generous smile and his gregarious nature. Walking is hard for him, his toes have grown under his feet, his legs don't have a good range of movement, and he has restricted movement in his hands. He works hard, he provides for us, and he never moans, well not about his condition anyway!!! He has travelled widely, and he's devoted his life to helping other people with disabilities, in his words not mine, "get off their arses and live a good life!".

When were you happiest?
7th August 2010, this was Joseph's corrected 1st birthday. We had been in our new house a few months, he was doing well with weight, and development (and still is) I had been off antidepressants for 3 months, I was in the process of being made redundant, and life was (and still is) very good. I finally allowed myself, at this point, to enjoy being a mummy, and started making plans for the future.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
I've had lots of these in my life, but the one that stands out was in high school. I was useless at any sporting endeavour. The only thing I could do a half decent job at was swimming, but I was still always last. So in grade 10, in the last ever sporting event I'd ever have to take part in, I started swimming in the 50 metre freestyle event. There I am, crawling away, and a rope is on the water, I lifted it up, and kept swimming. I had no idea that this rope meant that it had been a broken start and I was meant to turn around. I kept going. I could have caught Michael Klim the way I was swimming (he was probably in tiddlers for 3 year olds at the time), and then suddenly I feel a hand. I stopped, stood up, and someone I didn't know said "you need to turn back and start again". Mortified, I was too ashamed to get out and walk past the 1 000 people wetting themselves with laughter, so I swum back.

The race started again, and I had to turn back, the exertion was too much, and I was wheezing. Mr Mitchell, the beloved PE teacher who everyone fancied except me, fished me out, and put his arm around me. I got awared 1 point for starting 1 point for coming back and 3 points for trying again, these points went to our house score. I also was permitted to do the 25 metre race, only 3 people in it, I came second getting a further 5 points. So in total I got 10 points for our house, and if it hadn't happened I would have come last and only got one! Every cloud......

Aside from property, what is the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

It was my wedding dress. I shopped around quite a bit, but being *ahem* a larger lady, found that off the peg was not going to work for me. I went into a gorgeous shop called Bellissima, in our town, and the ladies there were just lovely. On hearing my budget £1000, they said, well, the sale rack is there, but its all size 12. That was never going to happen, so they persuaded me to consider revising it. "Show me anything that doesn't start with a 2" I said. And I found a beautiful Alan Hannah silk dress, and got it made to measure. It was perfect. The rest of our wedding was on a relative shoestring.

What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is my Kitchenaid mixer. I am a keen cook and had wanted one for a long time. I put it on our wedding list, not expecting anyone for a minute to pay almost £400 for a gift, but a lot of people gave us money or vouchers, and we were able to pay for it this way. I love the fact that its a gift from so many people, its pretty, its practical, and I use it often.

Where would you like to live? 
I don't know. I have no idea. I think, ideally, I'd love to live in Sicily, near Santo Stefano Di Camastra, in a little house, with a large vegetable garden and a path to the sea.

What’s your favourite smell? 
Lavender. My grandmother loved it and always had it growing, and she had lavender bags and lavender toileteries. When I miss her, I just have to smell it, and it reminds me of her.

Who would play you in the film of your life? 
Being a larger lady, I don't think there is a lot of choice. Kathy Bates? Perhaps not cuddly enough! Dawn French? She did a shocking Australian accent in a film Ben Elton wrote whose name escapes me, so she might be out. Toni Collete? She put on a lot of weight for Muriel's Wedding...I think she would be perfect! Of course in my head I look like Uma Thurman.....

What is your favourite book? 
I love autobiographies. My most recent one I loved was "The Happiest Refugee" by Anh Do, who was born in Vietnam, but raised in Australia. It's heart-wrenching, hilarious, sad, funny, happy and ulitmately life affirming. I really recommend it! One of the first in this sort of genre was Anne Davison's "Tell Me I'm Here" about her son with schizophrenia. I read it when I was just a teenager and it really informed me about mental illness, and the reality of living with conditions like this.

What is your most unappealing habit?
I have loads and loads I think! My husband says untidyness! Which I think is a little unfair. He just has no possessions, he's happy with a telly, a fridge and some clothes. I have stuff! So perhaps its hoarding....

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice? 
I'd be quite happy never ever to be invited to a fancy dress party. I think my ideal outfit would be an Arabian belly dancer! Bright, noisy, and you have to have a bust and a tummy to carry one off!

What is your guiltiest pleasure? 
It's Facebook. Its usurped cupcake baking and chocolate eating as my guiltiest pleasure! I just adore Facebook, I love renewing friendships, making new ones, and sharing photos. I just adore it, and its enriched my life. But it is a giant time suck, which is bad.

What do you owe your parents? 
I think the biggest thing is teaching me the art of resilience. My parents both individually and together have weathered quite a few storms, as have I, and I think my parents taught me that whatever you are going through, you just keep treading water, and hanging in there until trouble passes.

To whom would you most like to say sorry to and why? 
My ex husband. I married him for all the wrong reasons, I wanted stability and security, and I wanted to be the perfect wife. I wanted to settle down young, and have a family, and be happy. I was determined to make it work, and it didn't, and I'm deeply sorry that I wasn't more self aware in the first place, to realise that at 21 I was just too young, and needed to live a lot before I settled down.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
My gut feeling is to say Joseph. I think really its my family, can I say that or is that cheating? Joseph is the baby I never thought I'd have, Corey and I never thought we'd make a baby, and to have with us a miracle baby, born so small, so sick, who has just got on with it, overcoming every obstacle in his path, is just a complete joy. Having Joseph really taught me what love is.

What does love feel like?
I think swimming in the sea in Fiji sums up what love is like. The sun shining, but not harsh, the sea refreshingly temperate, almost warm, the sky and sea almost undiscernable from each other in colour, a peaceful South Pacific breeze - all these factors combined to make you feel safe, warm, and totally at peace.

What was the best kiss of your life? 
On our wedding day, in front of all our friends and family, when our vicar just gave us a knowing smile and a wink, and we kissed. It was perfect!

Which words or phrases do you most over use? 
My husband just said "Corey", he he, I guess I do say that a lot! I think I say "oh for goodness sake" a lot, and some of my Aussie phrases get overused at times!

What is the worst job you’ve done? 
When I first arrived in the UK I found it really easy to find a job, but really hard to find a good job. When you have no local knowledge and no friends, its hard to sort out the good from the bad. I took an awful job in an "ambulance chasing" law firm, although I didn't realise what it was. My job was to try and get people to make spurious claims against councils and employers. I lasted 6 weeks!

If you could change one thing from your past, what would you change? If you could edit your past, what would you change? 
I don't know. I wish in a sense I hadn't got married at 21, but if I hadn't then the course of my life wold be unrecognisable, but if I could edit that out, and the hurt and anguish it caused, and still end up where I am now, then that would be good.

What is the closest you’ve come to death? 
In pregnancy, Dr K reckons I was six hours away from death. I am very fortunate that I had pre eclampsia that has a very good treatment protocol, and I was fine. My heart goes out to those women, especially in developing countries, that do not have the access to medical facilities and personnel. I never forget that pre eclampsia still kills women every year.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
I don't feel like I've achieved what I'm here for yet.....but I'm not sure what that is. I think my greatest achievement is parenting Joseph and getting through post traumatic stress disorder and not being a complete raving looney!

When did you last cry and why? 
Yesterday, watching the video of Joseph walking. I never thought the day would come, and it seemed so ordinary to see him pottering in the garden, but so utterly extraordinary too. Tears of pride and relief.

How do you relax? 
Winding down in front of the telly with the lap top on my knee either blogging or chatting is my favourite relaxation. I also love to have a nice walk with Joseph, and love playing in the park with him, but perhaps my favourite relaxing activity is cuddling on the bed, all four of us, husband, Joseph and Atticus Woo (the cat) and reading Joseph his 3 bed time stories.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life? 
Having an extra £500 a month. How I miss maternity pay. I love our life, and I am grateful that my husband has a good job, but an extra bit of income would make all the diffeence. Must really start looking for a job!

What is the most important lesson life has taught you? 
That it all comes out in the wash. However bad things seem, however sad you are, however frightened, that things have a way of working out, not always in the way you expect, but you get through it, somehow.

Now to tag, I am tagging my good friend Simone at SFR Product Reviews, who as well as a lovely, generous mummy blogger, lives nearby to me and has become a very good in real life friend!



  1. Thank you for answering in such depth! How wonderful that Joseph is walking!! I cannot wait to kiss David on our wedding day! 10th September here we come!!

  2. Fascinating read!

    If you're looking for a good read you might like Georgia Blaine's Births, Deaths, Marriages. They are short autobiographical pieces and she's actually Anne Deveson's (Tell Me I'm Here) daughter. It's a lovely book, there's something about the combination of the short story form and memoir that really works for a young life, and she writes a bit about PND too.

    Also there's going to be a picture book of The Happiest Refugee!