Who knew so many of you waited for the third of the month with such a sense of delight and anticipation? I have say that I’m deeply flattered by the messages and emails I’ve had asking where an earth the monthly update has gone (I always publish on the 3rd, without fail) and it just goes to reinforce my notion that one day in the future my online journal will become a very important historical primary source.
Students at the Virtual University of Barcelona will be there, plugged into their VR headsets, watching a CGI version of Ruth Crilly as she reads out her diary entries. Hopefully they won’t CGI a reenactment of me almost impaling myself on a shower attachment (see here) but I suppose I won’t have any control over it and if it’s far enough in the future I’ll be dead anyway and won’t care.
So it’s with this sense of duty to future generations that I force a November Life Update out of my hardened, dried-out brain: I really can think of nothing worse than sitting down to write at this particular moment. I’m just absolutely fried. And I did, in fact, start writing this month’s update on time, but in the final few hours on the night of the third, when usually I would be at my desk wondering why on earth I leave everything to the last minute, typing furiously on my laptop, I wasn’t even at home.
I was, Dear Readers, doing the equivalent of an Iron Man competition (but more stressful), wearing a maxi-dress, tights, cashmere jumper and a parka designed to withstand arctic conditions. I have never been so sweaty in my life. It didn’t help that I was performing this act of extreme fitness inside, or that I was carrying a fifteen kilo (living) package on my front. The world’s heaviest koala.
Down the hospital corridors I ran, desperately asking all those I passed by for directions to unit B24 – “where’s B24? I cannae carry on!”, staggering under the weight of my child and blinded by the sweat that was running into my eyes. The corridors were endless, my knees began to buckle – by the time I reached unit B24 I must have looked like someone who had just completed one of those horrendous fake SAS training courses.
“Take her,” I wheezed, “take…the child.”
So anyway, that’s why I couldn’t finish my life update in time. A purple rash, an evening of tests, a late arrival back to the manor. Please don’t be concerned by the hospital visit: all is, thank God, well. A dramatic temporary condition but not one that tends to be serious or pose a long-term problem. Saying that, it has been incredibly stressful – there’s nothing like the feeling of dread when your child is ill. Even a fever and a cold sets me on edge, so rash + blood tests + swellings + whatever else sent my mind into total overdrive. I felt as though I wanted to be sedated for a month or so, until she was better, but of course that wouldn’t be a practical option would it? You have to front these things out. I’m becoming convinced that parenthood forces you to mine into previously un-mined depths of bravery – you have to be brave and you have to be stoic, because you can’t let the little ones see that you’re scared.
Phew. What a ride it is.
The part of my life update that I started writing (pasted below) is actually quite bizarrely prophetic: I was feeling a strong sense of unease as we were going into second lockdown that week and much of that unease was because Mr AMR and I had both had some health scares within our families. So it seems mad that I was writing this at about two in the afternoon, and then by four I was in the local A&E and by seven I was at the big hospital in Bath! Seems only fitting that you read it, really, so here it is. And I promise to deliver the next update on time…
“As we head into another national lockdown in the UK, I can’t help feeling a slight sense of panic. Some non-Covid-related health incidents in our extended family this year have really drummed home the importance of being able to spend time with – and support – the people you love, but at the same time keep them protected and shielded as much as possible too. It’s the sort of deep-set anxiety that makes you want to retreat into your shell, like a tortoise, because on top of worrying about people you love there’s also the very real, very devastating economic fallout to process and the fact that the world is becoming a very different, completely unfamiliar place.
It’s a lot to soak up and it’s not something that I really feel comfortable writing about, even after months and months of constant discussion and deliberation. The subject is just too…big. I think that there’s enormous pressure online to dissect and debate, to come up with a cuttingly sharp political meme or an acerbic tweet, but most people are just trying to get through the week.
And so instead of thinking about the pandemic, I’m trying to recreate Farrah Fawcett hair flicks with my old heated rollers. It’s work-related, so I don’t feel that it’s too frivolous, but even if it is a silly thing to be doing as the country folds in on itself you can rest assured that I’m being suitably punished. So far I’ve scorched six out of ten fingers, two so seriously that I fear I may have lost my fingerprints.
Perhaps that’s a good thing – I could go and commit some two-fingered burglaries! Watch out museums. I’ve never understood why they used to try and remove their own fingerprints in films – why not just wear gloves? You can get some excellent tight-fitting gloves, I can’t imagine that there would be too much compromise to fingertip agility. Although they used to say that about ultra-thin condoms, didn’t they, in our younger years? “Featherlite for her pleasure!” Or was it “Ribbed for her pleasure”? I don’t know which women they used to test the pleasure-rating of those condoms but they must have been really easily pleased.”
I’ve been dithering over whether or not to post a life update this month; it seems almost flippant to talk about mundane, everyday events when such momentous things are happening in the wider world.
I don’t know whether anyone really needs to hear about how my three year-old is now “dry at night” but still quite enjoys doing a leisurely poo on the lawn. Or how my nearly-five-year-old told me the story of Peter Pan and said that there was a crocodile who swallowed Captain Hook’s “cock”.
On one hand, I know that the goings-on in my little sphere are completely irrelevant and insignificant, but on the other hand those tiny events are my entire world. Don’t get me wrong; I’m totally and utterly aware of what’s happening outside – I’m absorbed in it, completely, to the point where I often can’t sleep. The brutal murder of George Floyd, the rallies and protests, the anger and fear and passion, the chaos of a global pandemic, the outrage and the lies and the constant streams of stats that make no sense, it all flies around my head constantly, as I’m sure it does for most of you reading.
So yes. Huge world events and teeny home ones. But I have written this update every month for five years now and have never missed the correct day. Granted, I always leave it until the last minute and so never have enough time to write everything I want to say, but I’m honestly happy if I manage to jot down a few pertinent observations. My daughter building a slug home, for example, and crying when the slug ran away. (Ran! Haha. Sprinted. Honestly, the poor slug must have thought he’d entered some kind of nightmarish torture garden with both kids looming over him and dangling bits of cabbage and trying to get him to climb into the toadstool house.)
Or the snail she named “Fragile”. Or the little note she wrote me after the slug had left home saying
“Sad slug gon. Angelica.”
Oh, sidenote: I don’t want to be one of those madly annoying mums who show off about their kids, but I am clueless as to what my daughter should be able to do at almost-five. I was just taken aback that she suddenly started writing stuff, with no help, considering the fact that we have done a grand total of TWO HOURS homeschooling in the whole lockdown period. Do small kids just learn…telepathically? Because I have willed her to learn something, anything, so maybe that worked…
Or does it count that you spell things out to them when you read? Because I’ve done that a bit, but honestly not much. I’m so confused as to how she’s suddenly had this leap in knowledge when the most she’s allowed me to “teach” her is that a) not all men with beards are called Mr Twit b) pavements in America are called “sidewalks” and c) you can’t go around corners on a wordsearch.
Things I’ve taught my three year-old, who is a completely different kettle of fish to his sister and quite literally will not listen to instructions: a) don’t drink water from the end of a hose pipe b) don’t drink water from the dog’s bowl and c) don’t drink water from the shower drain. Oh wait! d) don’t drink water from the bit of drainpipe that’s been left next to the back door.
You’d think he’d been raised by alleycats! He loves toiletting al fresco, eats with his face in the bowl and loves nothing more than a curl up and a head stroke.
On that note, I’ve done enough historical data entry for this month – I have the hormonal headache to end all hormonal headaches and so must to bed. As someone in the tudor times would have said. Possibly before doing a dump in a porcelain bowl, throwing it out of the window and then clambering onto a mite-infested mattress. Until next time…
Oh, the dreaded PMT week has worked its way around again and I am trying to keep a lid on my symptoms, this month, rather than barking rabidly at members of my family and occasionally frothing at the mouth.
Last month’s PMT, at its peak intensity, saw me pacing up and down the driveway in the rain, inexplicably grasping a garden trowel and devising ways I could get revenge on my husband for something he had done but that I couldn’t quite remember. It could have been anything – the world is my disgruntlement oyster when I’m on the hormone highway to the Red Roof Inn.
At the moment he’s hiding from me, maybe watching Pointless, which in itself incenses me to an almost vessel-bursting degree. Because when I have PMT and I have to work I don’t like anyone to be a) having fun or b) relaxing. I prefer it if everyone sits in absolute silence, staring morosely into thin air and telepathically beaming me sympathy vibes.
Except that my three and four year-old couldn’t care less about my PMT or brain-strike (MUMMY LISTEN TO ME! MY (note: imaginary) FISH HAS A SLICE MISSING FROM HER TAIL! CALL THE DOCTOR!”
“It would be a vet,” I say, “and I don’t think vets do home visits for fish that they can’t see.”
Oh, all of my energies have to be ploughed into being civil. My head pounds, the blood races around my arms and legs and sends them at once buzzy and at the same time desperately fatigued, as though I have flu. I feel panicked, at this time of the month – out of control. It’s the same sensation I get as when I’m dreaming that I’m falling through space, free-falling, the feeling of weightlessness tainted with pure dread that happens just before I startle myself awake. I wouldn’t be great even without responsibilities, in PMT week, but now that I’m in a giant pressure cooker of continuous domestic duties and unceasing child-borne demands and –
“MUMMY! YOU HAVE TO GET THE VET FOR LAYLA THE FISH AND ALSO I NEED A POO. GET THE VET NOW, MUMMY, HERE’S YOUR PHONE.”
My nerves are jangled. My iPhone almost slips to the floor but is caught, ham-fisted, and passed to me covered in Nutella. All of my senses are heightened. I feel as though my skin has been thinned and that all of my nerve endings are more exposed. A door slam makes me jump, the sound of someone starting a hedge strimmer two fields away makes me want to pull on my wellies and march over and demand silence.
I’m surprised that the family haven’t crafted some sort of giant snake-holding stick, to keep me at arm’s length. With a loop at the end of a long pole so that that they could snare me and I could sit collared at the kitchen table, angrily sipping my camomile tea and darting my forked tongue at them.
I always thought that the standard “brain fog, excruciating 24 hour headache and water retention” variety of PMT was bad enough, but lockdown PMT is like experiencing all of the aforementioned things whilst being chased by a swarm of angry bees around a shop selling expensive crockery. Wearing an itchy woollen suit that’s too tight around the torso.
Have you experienced Lockdown PMT yet? How was that for you? I am busy sketching out an Escape Cupboard for next time, seeing as though it’s quite likely we could still be in the same socio-domestic situation. I’m going to line it with all the empty egg boxes I’ve been collecting, but not filling because my chickens have decided they don’t like laying eggs this year, so that the walls are soundproofed. And then I’m going to put in one of those shitty little mini fridges that make more noise than a Boeing 747 jet engine and fill the mini fridge with cans of Coca Cola and bars of Dairy Milk. I’m then going to steal the family iPad, download every single episode of Friends and lock myself in the cupboard for six days.
When they open the door to retrieve me I shall be a spotty mess, gurning from the sugar overloads and subsequent lows, but at least nobody will have heard me scream…
Why is it that when I have an early wakeup call, I simply cannot get to sleep? And by the way, I’m talking early-early here, when the owls are still hooting and the foxes are still tearing open the bin bags and rooting for chicken bones. Witching hour early, 3.30am early, not your pedestrian kind of early. Not 6am early. Pah! I spit on 6am.
Before Christmas I had a hideously early wakeup time – 4am – and the night before I could not get to sleep no matter how hard I tried. It didn’t help that I started packing at 11pm and couldn’t decide what to wear to travel to Paris. (Luxury problems, I know.) It was a toss-up between two terrible options; the skinny jeans that garrotte my Pleasure Garden in half with their seam, or the dress that makes my underarms overheat. And the choice of travel attire of course affected all of my other packing, because one option needed a longer coat and the other required a shorter type of coat and the whole debacle sent me into a late-night, overtired tailspin of organisational hell.
Even when I finally got into bed and closed my eyes (the kids woke up twice between 11pm and 1am) I tossed and turned for hours, unable to get comfortable or stop my brain from whirring.
And then after all of the whirring and tossing, I was too hot. Far too hot. This phase lasted for an eternity, roasting my feet and legs even though my shoulders and chest were cold. Which was a worry in itself, as I had a chest infection and we all know you have to keep your chest and back warm! God, you might get pneumonia and die! I’d already tackled death and the depressing certainty of it in the first couple of anxious hours.
It’s that first era of sleeplessness that always kicks everything off, isn’t it? The anxiety era. It starts with the worry of missing the alarm going off, then it moves to the worry of travel in general – things that can go wrong on car journeys, on trains, definitely on planes. After twenty minutes you’ve played out at least eight horrific scenarios involving masked men, suspicious packages, air hostesses with exploding tea trolleys, pilots with a death wish. Then, once you’ve exhausted all possibilities and turned your pillow over to the cool side again, you move onto life in general and all of the things that can go wrong, compiling an almost exhaustive mental list and committing it to memory so that you can refer to it again and again in times when you really need to be getting to bloody sleep.
Anyway, I finally got to sleep at three, but it could have been later because three was the last number I saw on my phone and we all know how time flies when a wake-up call is looming! And then, my friends, guess who sauntered up to the front door HALF AN HOUR EARLY?
The taxi driver. He knocked on the door at four, waking up the dog and then the toddler and then the small child who had until then been peacefully, blissfully slumbering, no worries or hijack scenarios keeping them from their beauty sleep.
I imaginary-throttled the taxi driver. Had I been living in the Georgian times and not merely living in a house from that period, I would have thrown open the bedroom sash, upturned my chamberpot and doused the man with piss. Alas I live in 2020 and we have a toilet. Also, if anyone can “throw open” a Georgian sash window I’ll give them a medal, because it takes about eleven minutes of jostling and joggling just to get them open enough to poke a hand out, even if you’ve had the frames reconditioned and all of the sashes re-weighted. Just saying.
So the kids woke up when the taxi driver knocked and – bizarrely – one child puked and the other did a poo. They were like an effluent-emitting version of a cuckoo clock, pyjama’d kids instead of cuckoos. Cuck-koo-BLEUGH! Cuck-koo-pppppllllllllllop. (That’s the universally acknowledged sound of a poo happening.)
Why could the taxi driver have not just been on time? Why half an hour early? Why knock on the door? It’s not as though we’re short of places to stop and pull over, near us. Yes, it’s dark, yes it can be slightly sinister and the trees look like witches fingers and you might get a bat flying into your windscreen, but for the love of God it’s four o’ clock in the morning! Being early is worse than late, in some scenarios – any decent person knows that. It’s as bad as turning up half an hour early for a dinner at someone’s house – you just don’t do it. They might be shaving their legs, or they could be peeling potatoes; if it’s a couple then they’ll likely be stressed and shout-whispering hateful things at each other, things about divorce and who makes all of the social arrangements and whether chicken past the sell-by date should be thrown away if it smells faintly of cheese.
If you book a taxi for 4.30AM, who in their right mind turns up early? It’s not like 4pm, when the passanger-to-be will most likely be doing that pacing, hand-wringing thing whilst waiting for their chariot to arrive. Daytime passengers are always ready for their car approximately twenty minutes before it’s due: morning passengers are not. Nobody sane chops a full thirty minutes from an already truncated sleep just so that they’ll be ready for a taxi – if you have all of your faculties then you’ll time it to a tee. Wake up, brush teeth, slide into pre-laid-out clothes, quietly creep downstairs and let yourself out of the front door – taxi idling outside, but preferably engine should be off so that you don’t disturb half the world.
You’d think that these would be basic and obvious default settings in life. Mind you, you’d also think that knowing how to pack a suitcase would be, yet I fail each and every time I do it. On this particular trip I managed to pack four different moisturisers yet only one matching pair of shoes – the other pair were both made of the same beige leather but the left foot had a 6cm heel and the right foot was a whacking great 10cm! Oh how I hobbled.
Anyway, those anxiety-fuelled sleepless nights are a total bore, aren’t they? And there’s nothing worse than finally dropping into a deep slumber and then hearing the alarm go off. I should have had one of my Epsom Salt baths (I tip five large mugfuls into a warm tub) but I was too busy hunting my wardrobe for the jeans that would leave me permanently disfigured in the nether regions.
Why don’t they make jeans with a gusset?
I’ve had a slightly longer break from work than anticipated; but don’t worry, there’s nothing sinister afoot. I’m not ill, the dog didn’t die, I’ve not had a drastic facelift that meant I needed to hide behind bandages for a month. I was just absolutely shattered before Christmas and then the school holidays (aka “the great relentless abyss of no childcare”) completely finished me off.
I won’t harp on about Christmas not being a holiday – you can read this post from the same time last year and just update the kids’ ages – but it’s safe to say that having a four and two year old is as much work (possibly more) than having a three and a one year old. At least toddlers (generally) haven’t discovered eye-rolling and chat-back. At least toddlers are vaguely amused by wrapping paper, empty boxes and the jangly bell from a Lindt bunny tied to the end of a piece of ribbon. Fast-forward a year and the children now want painting games on the iPad and festive biscuit-decorating sessions.
Anyway, to cut a long and fairly pedestrian story short, I decided to take a few casual days off when school started back last week so that I actually had more than twenty seconds to myself. It was great. On the first of the two child-free days (there were four school days in total but Ted only goes to nursery part time) I stayed in bed looking for second hand velvet sofas on eBay and browsing for vintage rugs on Vinterior. On the second child-free day, which – alas – wasn’t consecutive – I went to Bath in the morning with Mr AMR, had some lunch and then sorted out the shoes and boots in the utility room. Bliss.
So that covers the two days last week when I actually had some proper time off: what of the rest of the “holiday”? What an earth have I been up to, seeing as though I’ve been on a self-imposed social media ban which theoretically should free up about nine hours a day? Here’s a run-down: brace positions, people, it’s a wild ride.
I learnt how to use the scanner thing at Sainsbury’s. Have you used these supermarket handheld beepy scanner things? I’m not talking about the self checkout tills, which are so useless and stress-inducing they make me want to chew off my own feet, I’m referring to the handsets that you pick up at the start of your shop and take around with you, zapping barcodes as you go, so that at the end of your shop you can just pay and go.
No unloading the trolley at the till only to pack it up again and then unload it into the boot of your car. (Sounds such a ridiculous waste of time when you write it down.) No watching helplessly as your bottle of Malbec slowly rolls along the conveyor belt, straight off the end and then smashes on the floor. No performance anxiety as you try to pack your bags in front of the people waiting in the queue behind you – the pressure as you feel them judging your packing speed and dexterity! The shame as you fumble to retrieve your bag-for-life from the floor! The panic as a loose lime you’ve reached for rolls away, escaping your grasp. You can feel your audience’s eyes trained upon you – they wince as you pack heavy potatoes on top of squishy cherry tomatoes, they breathe an audible sigh of relief when you realise that the milk is leaking and ask if someone could possibly get you another.
“JANET! JANET! Six litres of full fat on checkout nine! The woman’s got a leaky one!”
None of that when you use the handheld scanner. Utter genius, it is. Although I have to say, don’t let your kids mess about with it. I almost paid for eight giant boxes of dishwasher tablets and a “Pressure King” pressure cooker.
I saved over £290 on curtain tie-backs. Yes, you heard me – £290! The one from Samuel & Sons that matched my tasselled curtain (photo above) would have been £300 inc VAT and I managed to get an (admittedly much plainer) version without the tassel but with all the same tying-back abilities in the Laura Ashley sale. Eight quid! The fact that it took me around ninety-five man hours to research alternative tie-backs is by the by. I’m pretty sure my labour costs were more than the original tie-back…
I made Yorkshire Puddings properly for the first time and they were immense. Quite literally. I put a bit too much batter into each tin and they rose to just about fill the top oven. I think one of them was almost ten inches tall. Who cares, though – more is more when it comes to Yorkshire Puddings, surely? It’s the only part of a roast dinner I’m actually bothered about. Next year at Christmas I might just make myself a giant Yorkshire and fill it with gravy. Bit of al dente broccoli. Scrap of turkey and a dollop of cranberry and I’m done.
I took the stair gate off and now Mr Bear the cat is an omnipresent menace. Honestly, life was easier when he was confined to the ground floor. Now that he has free run of the house he sneaks up on you when you’re in the shower, jumps onto your back when you’re sitting on the loo and pounces on the kids’ feet in bed. He’s having an absolute whale of a time. Although I caught him pointing his claws in the direction of my velvet upholstered Soho Home bed the other day and so the gate might have to be resurrected. It’s been so nice without it though – just walking down the stairs, freely, without having to wrestle with the lock and then risk breaking my neck tripping over the frame. We could have taken it down about a year ago if it wasn’t for the cat and his penchant for creeping about the place and using furniture to sharpen his nails…
I did a self-imposed social media ban. Which I’ve already mentioned, but it’s worth saying again: I didn’t look at any social media from the 21st of December until the other day. Amazingly, my screen time didn’t go down, but that’s because I used all of the social media time trawling the internet for furniture bargains. I reckon if you squished all of the time together, I spent a full day and night searching for stuff on Vinterior – the scrolling started to make me feel seasick! (By the way, if you want to get £50 off your first order with them use RUTH CRILLY in the code box. This isn’t a special affiliate setup – anyone who orders with them can get a code.)
Why the social media ban? I just wanted a quiet and relaxing Christmas (HA!) and to properly stop thinking about work for a couple of weeks. The thing is that I have a perpetual internal monologue as I go about my day – I almost narrate my own existence – and because of this I’m always tempted to write down every thought that I’ve had, or record every action. Quite often little things I’ve done can form the basis for a post here on A Model Recommends, or I’ll jot down a thought that will then become a bigger idea which then requires a longer sit-down with pen and paper to elaborate, and unless I absolutely switch off, one hundred percent, the temptation is always there to quickly write a caption or draft a blog post.
So I moved all of my social media apps to a different page of the iPhone menu so that they weren’t staring me in the face when I opened my phone and then I just sort of forgot about them. I can highly recommend it, at least every once in a while. I actually think I have an OK relationship with social media – I’m definitely not addicted and can easily detach myself – but still. A digital cleanse felt pretty good!
Now I’m finding it quite hard to get back to work, however – I’m dragging myself very slowly into 2020, like a giant, jumper-wearing slug. I have been setting myself absurdly basic tasks so that my brain doesn’t go into shock;
email the sofa-fixing man about fixing the sofa, ask him to fix the sofa and how much it would be to fix the sofa. Can he even fix the sofa?
How are you finding the New Year? Did you set any resolutions or do you have a masterplan for 2020? Mine is to try and be more organised with work so that I don’t feel so stressed – plan my content and commitments in advance so that I know what I need to get done, rather than just fitting in tasks at the last minute or late at night. 2020 is the year of the new, streamlined me!
I interrupt the gift guide frenzy to bring you some videos that have somehow slipped the net, here on A Model Recommends. Firstly, this house update and then – perhaps tomorrow if I get a move on – a rambling makeup try-on with a fancy new red lipstick and a chat about Gold Digger.
Please tell me you’ve been watching BBC’S Gold Digger? There’s much I feel I need to discuss with you! I tell you what, I’ll give you a head start now so that you can watch the first episode before my next post – then we can chat about it next time. You’ll definitely have something to say.
Though I’m wary about recommending it as Mr AMR only gave it a four out of ten and felt quite cross that his time had been wasted – I found it utterly ridiculous in many places but enjoyed it immensely.
Anyway, back to the house update: Cinematic Views and a Mouse’s Back. Not an actual mouse’s back; it’s a Farrow & Ball paint shade. Very descriptive. There’ll be a longer post soon with all of the house shenanigans, this is just to keep you all going…