(happy) Mother’s Day

How does Mother’s Day make you feel? Self-congratulatory? A little smug? So happy and content you could burst?On the contrary, it makes me feel somewhat melancholy and a trifle guilty. Actually really, truly guilty. And because it’s such a curious contrast as to how the Smalls want me to feel, I had better try and explain myself.

Firstly, Mother’s Day reminds me how brilliant my mother is. Sometimes I wonder if she is just too daunting an act to follow. Motherhood (along with marriage) is the hardest job we’ve ever signed up for. It feels like a continual hike up a very steep mountain, with very few pit stops. I STILL ask my mother a million questions a week. And this makes me feel sad. What will I do when I can’t consult my mother-the oracle any longer? I’ll be so lost…

This brings me to my second melancholy thought. More than 4 of my besties are already unable to ask their mother how to descale their iron, get rid of a child’s hacking cough or even take those small people off their hands for an hour’s peace. And I feel so SO sad for them. I almost wish I could share my mother with them to make it feel more fair.Before I cause mothers up and down the country to fling themselves on the floor in a pool of tears, I do have one more miserable thought. Do you find all those thank you messages and I love you cards bring out any of the Great Guilt? Am I a good enough mother? Couldn’t I be less short with them? And listen to their detailed stories with undivided attention?

I suppose the bottom line is that it’s our day, Mums. They want (and need) to thank us. And it’s not their fault that it’s sometimes a little hard to stomach.

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Sarah Brown and Bec Astley Clarke’s #theirworld charity bracelet

Yet again, He and I were due a date night. It’s scarily easy to just pass like ships in the night or to flop (speechless) onto the sofa to watch more of our latest box set addiction, Suits.

But the Mondrian is close enough to his work to be on the way home and, besides, I was really keen to support Bec (Astley Clarke) launch her charitable bracelet collaboration with Sarah Brown for Theirworld Charity. (You might remember the Breast Cancer bracelet Bec and I worked together on.)

Bec between Sarah Brown and Laura Bailey

Bec between Sarah Brown and Laura Bailey

So last night we enjoyed this stunning view of our favourite city from the Rumpus Room – the roof of Mondrian London at Sea Containers.

Astley Clarke bracelet launch

… and drank Lanique Sours & U’Luvka Vodka Cocktails…

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…along side Laura Bailey, Laura Whitmore, Laura Carmichael (that’s a LOT of Laura), Savannah Miller, Kathy Lette and Amber Nutall.

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Laura Whitmore holds the #hashtag

We heard from Sarah how her charitable work gives children the best start in life through research into safe pregnancy and childbirth – as well as the best opportunities for education.

Sarah Brown delivers her mission

Sarah Brown delivers her mission

just look how absorbed the crowd was…

just look how absorbed the crowd was…

20% from the sale of this woven duck-egg blue silken cord bracelet, with a pretty enamel charm inspired by the Theirworld logo, is donated directly to the charity.

spot the #theirworld bracelet in this stack

spot the #theirworld bracelet in this stack

I hear Amber Le Bon was amazing on the decks at the after-party but we were already downstairs having dinner for two in the restaurant. After all, it was a date night.

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film review: Still Alice

Imagine you have just been punched in the stomach. Really, really hard. And just then – as you stand there winded and struggling to breathe – this particular thug knocks you sideways with one HUGE thump. That’s the only way I can describe how I felt walking out of a screening of the painfully sad film, from Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer, Still Alice.

Bearing in mind we all know the beyond hideous symptoms of Alzheimer’s, perhaps the cruelest of all neurological disorders, it will come as no surprise to any of you that know me that is my Single. Biggest. Fear. Nothing could be worse than drowning in the confusion of declining brainpower.

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Julianne Moore’s performance as a professor at Columbia University is nothing short of astounding. I’d even go as far as… spellbinding. As the disease starts to take over her mind she boldly tells her husband John (played by Alec Baldwin) that she would rather have cancer. Quite a claim but I do see her desperate point.

Watching Alice as she tells her children of her diagnosis, warning them of the genetic fear (one which lies so close to my heart) and struggling to continue to communicate with them and the rest of her world, as the months turn into years, is nothing short of pure agony. This powerful, well-respected, ambitious working mother and loving wife is rendered… well…undignified as she loses her mind and identity.

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But – as the title begs –is she still Alice to her nearest and dearest? As the disease takes over, how much of the professor, the mother, the wife remains? Is she simply a sum of the symptoms of dementia?

I thought seeing this film and then writing my review might cure my fears of dementia. A bit like subjecting yourself to a snake documentary to over come ophidiophobia. But – no – I am inconsolable, at least for this evening. But please don’t avoid the film for this reason, it is beautifully constructed and, of course, focuses on a thoroughly crucial topic. So, with renewed respect for any family members living with a loved one suffering as Alice, I’m off to bed remembering the film as I go.

Still Alice is now on national release.

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Benenden Revisited

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Benenden School, Cranbook, Kent

 

I never honestly thought I’d go back. Actually, I could think of a million reasons not to make the journey. Logistically and emotionally on one hand while feeling utterly detached and that it would be slightly pointless on the other. And I certainly was not looking for anything as dramatic as closure. How could I possibly benefit from this St Trinian’s time-travel? All the time rationalising just how natural it is for us to move on and remember (most) fondly and, besides, that summer’s day in 1990, I really did leave behind that part of me in Kent.

But encouragement to join the 25th anniversary of boarding school life was firing at me from all angles. Many suggested I might regret not going. Others implied I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t really swayed by either but I was curious to know what it was that I feared facing. For those who haven’t lived in a boarding house, it is hard to explain. I suppose, in reality, this hadn’t been simply ‘school’. It had been our home. And for seven years, these school friends had been a wonderful combination of flat mates, soul mates and partners-in-crime just as those girls in Madeline stories: in two straight lines we broke our bread and brushed our teeth and went to bed.

And so, last Friday, I jumped aboard the all-familiar school train from Charing Cross to Staplehurst, joined by those same London faces I would eagerly look out for as my parents waved me off. This time there was no bottle of Bacardi in a brown paper bag nor any excessive leaning out of those rattling carriage doors as a much more modern train sped into the deepest, remotest English countryside.

This time mischievous chit-chat was replaced by a 25 year life update as we hurtled though marriages, offspring and sadly ageing parents. Slightly nervous, but definitely giggly and girly, our incessant conversations filled the carriage as it had done all those years ago. And, before long, we were draining our first glass of white wine in the main school entrance hall, slightly stunned by the grandeur, formality and traditional setting of our childhood.

A lunch, which in no way resembled previous school dinners, followed. The tales across the tables flowed as easily as the wine. It was baffling to witness how, in a flash, we all tied together again. Those teenagers, with whom we had eaten so many meals, seemed hardly to have changed. And I relaxed realising that back in those wood-paneled rooms with wrought-iron windows, over looking acres and acres of Kent countryside, we had been transported back to our former selves.

As it happens, I wasn’t alone in my indecision to attend. Most admitted to having dreaded the thought of the reunion. But we’re so often reminded that school days are the best days of our lives. And I did, in fact, have a ball for 7 years straight. So what on earth was the issue? Was the idea of looking back on what we have/haven’t achieved so daunting? Were we wondering how much we might/might not have changed? Or did we fear the school and our peers might not live up to our memories?

And how did it all end?  Well, we laughed, we remembered, we reminised and we laughed some more but, despite all this, I shall probably never return again…

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