Saturday, 24 October 2015

Why autumn is so important

Why autumn is so important 

Autumn has always been my favourite season. I never cared much for summer – it was always too hot, spring – too muddy, and winter – way too cold and snowy. But autumn was special - mild and colourful - to me it was the best season of all. Even when I was a kid and the beginning of autumn also meant the beginning of school, I still loved it.
And as the years were flying by, my love for autumn never faltered. I would still go for a long walk in the park and collect a bouquet of colourful leaves. Even shopping I find more inspiring in autumn and I always pick up a new jumper or a pair of boots, or a coat, or a scarf – or all of the above.
The beginning of this autumn was very exciting – Mr Chateauneuf got a new contract, and we quickly realised that it demanded all of his time and energy. And the more he was getting involved with the job, the more house responsibilities I took on. Until everything began to spiral out of control.
Mr Chateauneuf filled his days with meetings, emails and phone calls – oh, there were so many phone calls. There were made and taken at ungodly hours in the morning and inappropriately late in the evening; they interrupted our family dinners and brought to a halt so many conversations.
Some nights I would go to bed and Mr Chateauneuf would still be working, I would wake up in the morning, and he would already be on his phone answering emails or taking/making yet another call – at 5am.
I became a full time mum, desperately trying to hold a full time job as well. My priorities shifted from writing, shopping and lunching with girlfriends to making sure the boys woke up on time, had showers, changed their pants (Little Dude had been known not to shower for days!), did their homework, fed the cats and that there was a dinner on the table for them in the evening.
I also lost my mascara but didn’t realise it until a week later, because I hadn’t worn it. Elegant heels were collecting dust in a shoe cabinet while flat boots were getting more wear than ever.
Our diaries were filled with carefully planned entries, and we had to live our lives with a military precision to ensure nothing was dropped or forgotten. And as crazy and manic as our schedules were, somewhere in that whirlpool of events, there was a long awaited annual lunch with some dear old friends.
We usually meet up in our friend’s house, and this year was no exception. On arrival we were greeted by a bear hug from our host and the traditional glass of champagne. And once everybody was there and the kids ran off to play, we all gathered around the Aga, enjoying its cosy warmth and a long overdue catch up.
The entertainment for the kids was carving out the pumpkins in  preparation for Halloween. The idea was to carve out all the pumpkins and set them on the table covered and surrounded by leaves. As the kids expedition to collect the foliage was getting ready, it was hardly a question of who would go out with them.
In the garden all the girls were bubbling with excitement, admiring different shapes, sizes and colours of the leaves. We were rushing from one tree to another, collecting the most colourful and bright leaves. These were then carefully deposited into plastic bags and given to the boys, who bored and disengaged, were awkwardly tugging behind us.
And as my own leaves bouquet was growing bigger, it suddenly occurred to me that in-between cooking dinners, washing and worrying about clean pants, I nearly missed autumn.  
Ok, I didn’t forget to shop this year but I didn’t go for my traditional walk. I missed the smell of fallen foliage and rain, I never stopped and listened to October silence and I didn’t collect the leaves. An important entry was missing from my diary – I forgot to schedule autumn.
Much later that night, as the pumpkins were carved and placed on a vibrant blanket of leaves, and my glass was refilled for the hundredth time, I couldn’t help but wonder, maybe I didn’t miss autumn. After all I shopped – check, collected leaves – check, kind of been for a walk – check and as a special addition to my traditions, we carved out pumpkins.
Ok, I wasn’t carving out anything – Mr Chateauneuf was – I was drinking wine. But still, pumpkins were carved and most of my boxes were ticked. Autumn officially happened and I most certainly didn’t miss it.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Questions every stepmum dreads

Questions every stepmum dreads

As a stepmother, I get asked an unending string of questions posed by the family, close and not-so-close friends, and even by people I barely know.

When I first started dating Mr Chateauneuf, those questions didn’t bother me. But now, three years later, I have developed something of an allergic reaction to them. The last time I had a volley of them fired at me, I was at a hotel bar. The lady asking them was somebody I had only met that night. As soon as I got the first question I excused myself and fled for my room. And I still didn’t come up with an adequate defence to stop them.

One Saturday evening, after a busy family day out, we managed to get an earlier train home. Because it was a busy train and our seats were reserved on the departure that was due an hour and a half later, we didn’t get seats.

Like professional commuters we found a solution - we sat on the floor. Right next to the toilets. Directly opposite the loos and leaning against the window, were two older ladies chatting away.

The migration towards the lavatories began as soon as the train left the station. After the third visitor, an orderly queue was formed. And as the passengers were coming up to the loos, the two ladies by the window were asked the same questions – are you in the queue? Is there anybody in there? Have they been there long?

When eventually the queue disintegrated, I jokingly said to the ladies that they should write a sign with all the answers to the questions they’d been asked at least ten times that evening, to save them answering the same questions over and over again.

And as Mr Chateauneuf and the boys joined our friendly banter, I suddenly had a thought. I needed the answered questions board.

If only it was socially acceptable to produce my answers sheet to the questions people are dying to ask, I might start liking people again. I might even be less anxious meeting new people and dreading the compulsory Q&A session of introductory conversation.

After all, we email each other at work sitting right next to each other. One night I even emailed Mr Chateauneuf, while lying next to him in bed. So, I think it’s about time I produced a neatly prepared answer sheet and skipped all the drama.

  • Three years we’ve been together.
  • No, we are not married.
  • Yes, we are going to one day.
  • No, the boys are not mine.
  • No, I don’t have any children of my own.
  • No, I am not going to have any children of my own.
  • Because we don’t want to.
  • Because I’m selfish and like my life the way it is, and my breasts – not saggy.
  • No, I don’t want a girl – I have a niece.
  • I know the boys are not mine.
  • No, I don’t feel I am missing out.
  • Yes, I am sure I am not missing out.
  • I don’t need my own, I love these two.