There’s a right way to make a scone

Over the years I’ve seen the debates on whether you put the jam first or cream first. ‘What a ridiculous thing to debate’ thought pre-last Saturday me. Which takes me onto last Saturday: we decided to make the most of the not-raining weather and take the kids on a picnic. I’ll make scones I thought as it was the most middle class, British thing I could come up with (other than the picnic of course). Perfect. We packed up the kids, the picnic, the emergency M&S pre-packaged fruit and headed to the local park. We got there and walked past a family having McDonalds as a picnic and, mentally kicking myself for not having thought of that first, I consoled myself with the thought I’d made home made scones and we carried on.

Once they were unwrapped the boys treated me to a barrage of: ‘Auntie Mandy makes us scones.’ ‘When can we see Auntie Mandy again?’ and the finale – ‘Auntie Mandy’s scones are nicer than yours’. I laboured on and noticed something that did NOT feel right. My other half was putting jam on his scone before the cream. I seriously didn’t think I had strong feelings about these things until that moment. A quick glance at my step-daughter showed not only was she putting jam on first, but smearing the cream into it and mixing it all together. Once this was done she put both pieces of scone together and ate it like a sandwich. Ingenious. If you’re practically force-fed scones by your Dad’s girlfriend and just want to get it over as quickly as possible so you can go and play.

Maybe 37 is the age where you start to care about stuff like this. It’s been a hell of a shock to me that I give a monkey’s about whether cream or jam goes first and that I made scones in the first place.

If you give up drinking everyone assumes you’re pregnant

For the last few months my Facebook feed has been showing an advert for ‘one year, no beer’. Admittedly I never bothered clicking into the ad but I did notice the photos of people looking hungover and puffy with their year later photo next to it of them looking 10 years younger. Naturally this appealed to me and the thought of giving up drinking started to filter into my consciousness. It took a few months of these photos coming up in my feed to think this could be something I could do. After all, a slightly haggard mid-late 30s mum of 2 needs all the help she can get right? Plus, think of all the money I’d save and the hangovers I’d dodge. Making this decision was infinitely easier because my partner doesn’t drink so I wouldn’t have to spend a year resentfully looking at him enjoying a glass of wine while I was having a self-inflicted year long break from alcohol.

I made the decision to quit drinking for the year, decided a start date for it and started to tell my friends this was what I’m doing. Every single one of them asked either if I was pregnant or planning on getting pregnant. No. I am not. I just wanted to opt out of the ‘we must drink at every opportunity’ culture I seemed to be a part of. I have a few friends who don’t really drink and never get asked the procreation question but I guess it’s because they’ve never really had a relationship with alcohol so no-one thinks anything of them not drinking.

The reaction from friends and family has been interesting; with most people asking how I’ll manage and had I thought as far ahead as having a drink at Christmas or my birthday? Yes and I’m sure I’ll manage just fine. The nicest response was from Naked Wines when I cancelled my account explaining, it wasn’t them, it was me. Anyway, I’m over a week in, 51 weeks to go. I’ll see you on the other side and in the meantime, if you want to join me for a non-alcoholic cocktail, you’ll be very welcome.

People don’t mean to be irritating

Patience was never my strong point. I’ve got better over the years and the more patient I have been, the less irritable I am. However there are still times where my nerves jangle over something someone else has done – loud throat clearing, someone coughing while I’m driving, people standing too close to me in queues, my partner repeatedly asking me questions from the other room when I’m in the kitchen with music playing so I can’t hear him and have to constantly turn off the music. I’m going to stop my list now as it makes me look miserable.

I get over my misery by telling myself that people (other than my partner, whom I’m sure does it on purpose) aren’t doing it to irritate me and that they’re probably not even aware of me and my irritations when they’re doing these things (although my huffing and puffing when they’re too close to me in a queue should give it away).

On Sunday I was listening to a meditation where the guy leading it started to talk about letting go of what irritates us in our surroundings and just ‘be’. Out of the whole meditation this really resonated with me. It reminded me that even though I can’t control other people in my environment, I can control how I react to it. If I react in irritation, it will not only make them feel uncomfortable, but wind me up even more. If I let it go and realise it’s not about me, they don’t feel uncomfortable and my irritation subsides. It’s win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Facebook shoutouts are brilliant

I’ve never been a ‘put your whole life on Facebook’ person. Ok, I was kind of, in my 20s when Facebook first came about but since then, I’ve realised that the whole world doesn’t want to know the finer details of my life.

I’ve always admired people who do Facebook shoutouts, whether it’s because their babysitter has let them down last minute, they need a pet looked after or they’re looking to borrow something. I’ve thought it’s taken a lot of guts and trust in friends to openly ask for favours. When friends have done shoutouts on Facebook I’ve always responded if I can and helped out where possible.

This week I had to be brave and do a shoutout of my own. My partner and I are going away next week, a trip that’s been meticulously planned with military precision to encompass when all our children are away with their other parents, and in doing so, a couple of months ago we planned for Stitch to stay with friends.

Fast forward to Saturday, one week before we leave and the friend sends a text saying they don’t want to have Stitch after all. After exhausting family members who have already been tapped for doggy daycare by my oldest sister, I had to put a shoutout on Facebook.

What an amazing response! Friends who I haven’t seen in years replied saying they’d have him as long as I could get him to them and I had offers from people in Bournemouth, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes (clearly London folk aren’t as dog friendly as non-Londoners). What’s been lovely about it is, not only is Stitch sorted, with back up offers if someone can’t have him, it’s also meant I’ve spoken to friends who I haven’t spoken to in ages, with the chance of meeting up with them soon. In the meantime, Stitch is going to enjoy a week with his girlfriend, Bonnie, who has stayed with me twice, as a result of me responding to a Facebook shoutout.

Everyone is doing the best they can

This feels like a bit of a follow on from ‘people don’t mean to be irritating’. It came from a different place though. At the end of the Child Contact Centre AGM I was chatting to my minister about the usual; life, the boys, anything but religion as I haven’t been to church for quite a while. Naturally we got onto the more challenging sides of life, particularly as raising a blended family isn’t easy at the same time as working, co-running a Child Contact Centre and being responsible for childcare for all the live-long day of the never-ending summer holidays.

Whilst describing a particularly challenging circumstance to my minister, involving one of our other childrens’ parents. My minister cut in quietly and said ‘just remember Holly, everybody is doing the best they can’. That’s all it took. When I looked at it like that, I felt compassion rather than exasperation. I felt that maybe I could be more empathetic and help resolve the situation, rather than challenge it. The result was that the situation dissolved, life went on as normal except for one thing: I didn’t forget what my minister had told me and now when I’m feeling exasperated by people, I remind myself that as difficult as I’m finding them/their behaviour, they really are doing the best that they can in that moment.*

*unless it’s my partner talking to me for the 394856 time from the other room, knowing I can’t hear him. Then he’s just being a pain in the butt.