Love is in the Air

Crikey, where did January go??

So, I bet you’re all on tenterhooks wondering how the happiness project is going? Well…

January’s focus was on energy and having fun. Now, I didn’t get very far with ticking things off on a resolutions chart, and I didn’t change my whole style of life to suddenly have bags of energy. I think my family would actually have been terrified if I had, to be honest. And I didn’t have the big cull that I’d wanted to have to get rid of all that draining clutter. BUT I did make some small changes, and big changes can’t happen without small changes first, can they?

I wanted to exercise more, eat more healthily (more about that in a sec), try new things, cull, organize and laugh more. I have started regular exercise (I’m not going to keep saying “not as much as I wanted, but…” Just add that onto all of these things, please? ta) in the form of Pilates – I can’t afford to go to a class but fitness tv and a couple of DVDs from eBay have been my rescuers here and I’ve got a couple of routines and videos that I love now and that really push me. I never, ever thought I’d find a form of exercise I not only enjoyed but looked forward to, so this is a HUGE lifestyle breakthrough. Eating healthily – I don’t do diets. I like food too much and the risk of doing a diet is that I fall off the wagon, hate myself and end up eating to make myself feeling better. Er, no thanks. What I am trying to do is reduce portion sizes and try to choose healthy options at mealtimes, cutting out snacks or replacing with low-fat ones. My rule of thumb is less than 5% fat and I’m doing pretty well at sticking to that. Luckily I’m not fussy and do really enjoy salad so that helps. The other thing with making it a generally healthier lifestyle is that hopefully it will give me better eating habits for life and surely no-one seriously expects me to have no chocolate or cake ever again?? GAH!

A word about “healthy choices” though. In many, many diet books they will try to convince you that it won’t cost you any more than your normal shopping to eat healthily. Um. This is (how can I put it?) misinformed unless you are in the lucky position of genuinely not noticing everything that you spend on your shopping. Fruit and vegetables and low-fat yoghurts and healthy cereals etc etc etc DO cost more than junk. They do. It’s a fact. Rubbish food on the other hand costs relatively little and bulks out four good appetites cheaply. A sponge cake for 6 for example can cost 50p. Seriously. You can’t buy 6 bananas for that. And that’s if you’re doing a straight swap, unhealthy for healthy. If other members of

the family are not giving up sweets and biscuits etc you still need to buy at least one or two things for them. Swap white rice for brown or white bread for wholemeal? Great, if everyone is happy about that, otherwise it’s just double the amount of bread. Anyone with genuinely helpful suggestions on this subject, I would seriously love to hear them.

So, to sum up, I’ve done a few changes for the better, I’d say I do have more energy than before Christmas. And I did lose 4lbs, hooray!


February, now. Following my mentor’s advice (The Happiness Project), I’m focusing on my marriage this month. I am incredibly lucky to have a strong and meaningful relationship that’s going strong thirteen years on, since I left school. But in Gretchen Rubin’s book, she sums up February as “Remember Love” and that is always good advice, no? So I’m making a conscious effort to try and work on my little negative traits and remind my gorgeous husband how much I love him. One of the resolutions she makes which I love is to “Give proofs of love”. This is is biggy for me actually – you remember when you first get into a romance and you do silly little gestures, just because you love someone? After thirteen years, especially thirteen years of life as a grown up hitting you round the face with a wet kipper, you let those slide and work everyday on dealing with the big monsters together (too many metaphors? Tough, this is MY blog post). Well, we deal with those pretty well together now. So there you go, that’s February… Oh, and by the way. If you want to follow my lovely husband on twitter (he doesn’t tweet often but, and this is in no way biased, he’s funny when he does), try here.



PS I also read a very inspiring post on exmoorejane’s blog the other day, about why writers blog. Mine has been rather neglected lately but Jane’s post reminded me that I just love words and writing and my blog isn’t about being a mum or a writer or whatever, it’s just about being me. I need to remember that more, and so MY blog will be more of MY ramblings and less about building a platform or trying to force a post into narrow categories and hopefully it will also be more frequently updated! Thanks for bearing with me (again) so far. You rock!


To my husband on his birthday

Today is my husband’s birthday (I’m actually writing this the night before so let’s hope scheduled posting works, eh WordPress?). I love birthdays; I always try to make the most of them and make the birthday person feel special.

That’s not always that we buy the most expensive presents, although he’s arranged some amazing presents for me over the years with love and thoughtfulness. And I’m afraid he’s going to have to wait at least another year for the house in France (besides, they’re murder to giftwrap, only Steve Martin can get a bow big enough). But this year I’ve hopefully got him presents he’ll like and I’m pretty sure the things the babies have done will make him well up.

To finish the day off, I wanted to do him my own tribute here on the blog. I’m by no means a poet and I make no grand claims about the quality of what follows; except to say it’s from my heart and with much love to you, Andrew.

On Your Birthday

You think you’re getting old, my love

You fret about grey hairs

I’m sorting out a zimmer, love

A lift for those darn stairs.

But you see, it’s just not true, my love

You’re in the prime of life

With those two gorgeous kids you love

And a most besotted wife.

Your future’s just beginning, love

I know how bright you’ll shine

And I will be with you, my love

Until the end of time.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

Dear Daniel and Emily

A year ago I wrote this post.

So much has changed since then. Daniel, you’re nearly four and you’re such a big boy. You can dress yourself – in fact, you insist on it – and go to the toilet and even nearly read. You look after your baby sister and hold her hand when you’re walking together. Emily, you are the most independent little thing – walking everywhere, getting into as much trouble as you can and usually following your big brother round adoringly. Full of cheek and mischief and life.

But so many things have stayed the same. I’m still exhausted and there are days when that fog seems as thick and close as it ever has been. Some days I’m wishing your babyhood away, just to get to the days (and nights) when I can sleep and do more than merely function. Other days I catch myself and remember how precious and fast these days are, and I’m trying to imprint little details on my mind.

In the day-to-day business of life, I get carried away. You try to play and I say “In a minute”, “not now” or “just wait a minute, can’t you?” No, you can’t. Sometimes you should, but you can’t. I look at you and you’re both so big and grown-up I forget that you’re not even four, not even fifteen months. I expect things of you that aren’t reasonable. I get cross.

I’m sorry. I want you both to know how much I love you. I’ve just been in to see you both and whispered it in your ears and hoped that it drifted through into your dreams. I’m going to print out this post and last year’s letter and keep them for you, for a day when maybe we all lose our tempers with each other.

I love you.

Mummy xxx

“You Look Beautiful”

In case you’re reading this from a cave in Outer Mongolia, you may not have heard that today is Royal Wedding day. There are a million different things I could witter on about here. We had a lovely time watching it, with friends’ as our kids played at princes and princesses then started beating each other up. The crowds were impressive, the Queen and Prince Philip doing well at 85 and 90 respectively, and Princess Catherine’s dress was stunning beautiful and exactly the kind of style I’d have liked myself.

But I think the most touching moment for me was when she first joined Prince William at the altar. You could clearly see he said “beautiful”. Now, he could have been talking about the flowers, the Abbey, or even his Granny’s hat, but it’s more likely he was talking about his wife-to-be. This article agrees with me.

That, for me, was the fairytale moment; the dream moment. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many guests are at your wedding or what they think of you (and she has guests more than most brides to worry about) nearly as much as your husband’s reaction. That moment wasn’t scripted or rehearsed or said for the benefit of the cameras, and it wasn’t thinking about repressing tender feelings because of royal etiquette  – it was a spontaneous reaction to seeing the woman he loved.

It’s what I wanted to hear from my husband on our wedding day (and I did, in case you’re wondering); it’s what I imagine every woman throughout history wants to hear from the one they love and I’m so pleased Kate Middleton as-was heard it from her bridegroom.

“You look beautiful.”


from nopo_11 on PhotobucketThere’s a scene in Moulin Rouge which is possibly in my top ten film scenes ever – The Emergency Rehearsal. Christian (Ewan MacGregor)is unexpectedly pitching the show they need finance for to The Duke, and he says it’s about love. The Duke sneers until Harold hastily adds more licentious details. Well, excuse me, M. le Duc, but I’m with Christian when he says “Love is a many-splendoured thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love.” I reckon some of the most powerful stories in the world are love stories, and some of the most beautiful songs in the world are love songs. Not the watered-down number 1’s produced by cloned boy bands but real, moving songs. Which, funnily enough, can often be found in musicals.

Take “Love Changes Everything” – it talks of the contradictory way you feel when you’re in love, the way it transforms you for ever, and the song just soars and takes you with it. I think I want it played at my funeral – obviously the Michael Ball version (is there another?).

Obviously there’s the whole range of love – romantic love, parental love, love of country or a cause… all of these have been covered spectacularly in musicals. Off the top of my head, Love Changes Everything from Aspects of Love, I’d Give My Life for You from Miss Saigon and Do You Hear the People Sing? from Les Misérables respectively. What I’m really looking at in this post is different ways romantic love manifests itself, as demonstrated spectacularly in Notre Dame de Paris by Richard Cocciante and Luc Plamondon. I don’t think it’s widely known in England although it did have a run in London with Dannii Minogue, and was featured on the Royal Variety Show one year. It’s not one of the blockbusters anyway, although it deserves to be – it’s stirring, powerful and has a modern edge whilst retaining the atmosphere of the time in which it’s set. (Quick disclaimer – to my shame I haven’t yet read Victor Hugo’s original book, so all references to story and characters here are entirely based on the musical).

The story features Esmeralda the gypsy and the three men who love her in their different, yet ultimately destructive, ways. Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer, who loves her the most unselfishly and tries to protect her; Frollo the priest, whose lust overcomes his morals and eventually leads to Esmeralda’s execution; and Phoebus, the Captain of the King’s Archers who selfishly pursues her and takes advantage of her love for him despite being betrothed to another girl, and who betrays Esmeralda when she needs him even though she has risked her life to love him. These three men show the different facets of their love in the song Belle, in which they variously turn their back on the Church that has sheltered them, their priestly vocation and vows and their vows of fidelity to another woman. It’s the first time you get to know exactly how each of them feel about Esmeralda, whilst I have an image of her flitting just out of reach. It shows the power a woman could have over men even in an age dominated by man – each man is completely enthralled by her and breaks the rules they have set themselves in an effort to claim her.

Quasimodo alone recognises her free spirit – “A bird stretching out its wings to fly” is how he describes her at one point. His is the ultimate unrequited love, and he actually does die of a broken heart. He is the only one who wants what’s best for her even though he longs for her so much, to the extent that he murders the man who has raised him, the only one who has ever shown concern for him until now. His love for Esmeralda overcomes the love he has for Frollo, who he loves “more than any dog ever loved its master”. I think if you really want a heartbreaking love song, you could do worse than listen to Quasimodo’s Dieu Que Le Monde Est Injuste (God You Made the World All Wrong in the english version) – on YouTube here (ignore that the title says Vivre). Garou’s voice is perfectly imperfect as he mourns his own hopeless situation, the contrast between his ugliness and poverty, Esmeralda’s beauty and Phoebus’ wealth and handsomeness.

Frollo is the Bad Guy. In Belle he blames Esmeralda for inciting his own lustful thoughts. He basically admits that he wants to break his celibacy vows, he knows how wrong it is, yet it is Esmeralda who “is the devil incarnate” and who carries the weight of original sin. Belle is a foreshadow of Tu Vas Me Detruire where he sings of being torn apart by his obsession, of how he thought himself as hard and cold but consumed by lust and haunted by the gypsy’s eyes. And again he he blames Esmeralda and curses her. In the end, of course, he does destroy himself, and Esmeralda and Quasimodo alongside him. If Quasimodo’s is the ultimate unrequited love, Frollo’s is the ultimate destructive love.

Phoebus is a bit of git, really. I found when listening to first the English then the French, that Phoebus is far more sympathetic and distraught in the English. In the French he is much more calculating, quite determined to have his cake and eat it. His part in Belle sets out his plan to be unfaithful to Fleur de Lys and his fairly slimy nature comes up again and again in the show. In Le Val D’Amour he reveals that he frequently sleeps with prostitutes; in Déchiré he describes himself as ‘torn apart’ to a gang of his soldiers but he’s loving every minute of it. He also shows how little he knows of Esmeralda – despite the fact that she is young and innocent, he sees her as a stereotypical gypsy and mistakes her exotic-ness for loose morals. He shamelessly exploits her love but casts her aside for the wealth and stability of Fleur de Lys, leading to Esmeralda’s death. Phoebus shows the ultimate selfish love; and you just know that it’s not going to end well, however much Esmeralda wants to “live for the one she loves”.

I haven’t touched here on the fraternal love of Clopin or the platonic love of Gringoire the poet. But it’s indisputable that the power of this story is due to the importance of love.

Despite what The Duke thinks.

Here’s Belle. And if that’s a bit intense, let’s finish where we started, with the gorgeous Christian in Moulin Rouge.

Belle on YouTube Elephant Love Medley on YouTube