Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Podcast 7

Not unlike our home – at one time a reasonably orderly place of grown-up farmhouse chic, I rather fancy – the Bad Farmer’s Wife blog is quickly becoming usurped by the arrival of Baby Daisy.

I also rather fancied that I was blossoming into a considerably better Farmer’s Daughter’s Mum than Farmer’s Wife until, that is, I started preparing for round two of Daisy’s immunisations last week.

The first round had not gone well, for either of us, so the night before the appointment I Googled for tips on how to minimise the horrifying anguish that comes from presenting your daughter’s delightfully chubby thighs for those nasty, but of course necessary, injections.

I clicked on a link to a podcast by parenting doyenne Dr Miriam Stoppard (Podcast 7), who calmly reassured me that feeling anxious and guilty is perfectly natural before cautioning that I should nevertheless hide this from my child..uh-oh.

Last time, sitting in the baby clinic waiting room I became so traumatised by the screams from the adjoining immunisation room that I was on the verge of tears before Daisy and I were even called. By the time the perfectly pleasant nurses stuck my beautiful bub in each thigh while she sat happily oblivious on my lap, I was in floods.

Daisy screamed and screamed while I cried, desperately trying to comfort her. The nurses passed me a wad of tissues and ushered me back to the waiting room where poor Daisy (and I) sobbed our little hearts out; the health visitors and other Mums looked on, collectively murmuring, ‘oh dear’. Eventually, we both calmed down thanks to a warm drink and a nap – Daisy rather than me.

A month on, it was hardly surprising that the immunisation nurses remembered us, or possibly just me, only too well. But with Podcast 7 fresh in my mind, I kept smiling and talking to Daisy and when the dreaded moment came, took her over to the mirror to distract her. It worked, albeit briefly, but generally I think we both did a lot better.

Strapping a relatively calm Daisy into her car seat back in the waiting room, I heard one of the health visitors comment on the beautiful red hair of another Mum’s daughter. ‘No mother wants a ginger baby,’ the young Mum replied, completely dead-pan.

She was right, I thought. Motherhood’s not easy but at least I didn’t have a ginger baby.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Pregnant pause

When I was pregnant, friends and relatives would often relay the usual new parent platitudes: having a baby is life-changing, nothing can prepare you for parenthood, get ready for the sleepless nights etc. But before it actually happens, it’s literally impossible to comprehend the reality of these hackneyed sayings. Even if you’re a relatively seasoned Auntie and Godmother, or have spent years in the company of close friends’ offspring, this only gives credence to that other well worn expression – it’s totally different with your own.

In fact the best piece of advice I was given before the arrival of our beautiful baby girl was not to take too much notice of the first few weeks. ‘You’ll be sore and bleeding, your boobs will leak, you’ll be knackered like you’ve never known and you’ll be completely emotional,’ the frank mum-of-two told me, adding: ‘but once you’ve got those weeks under your belt, it’s blinding!’

I remember being simultaneously alarmed and grateful for her brutal honesty and certainly during the first fortnight of our little Daisy’s life, the Farmer had to keep reminding me of this candid advice as he found me in floods of tears over the sheer magnitude of love I felt for our daughter. The anxiety I felt (feel) over Daisy’s welfare was overwhelming too.

To quote Johnsons: ‘when a baby is born, so is a mother’ and before becoming a Mum I confess I was quick to judge the parenting of other mothers, swearing I’d never: have the baby in bed with me, comfort feed, be overly protective, use a dummy and so on. Then the reality kicked in and of course I do whatever makes my precious bundle of joy happy which, breastfeeding on demand and being in Mummy’s (and Daddy’s) arms, preferably to the exclusion of all others.

Thankfully as Daisy grows so does my confidence and now that she’s an astonishing 8 weeks old (actually she was 8 weeks when I started this post, now she’s almost 11), I’m a somewhat more relaxed Mum... though the Farmer may beg to differ. He says I'm like a bear with her cub, constantly alert to potential predators such as the central heating thermostat or an overzealous grandparent.

What we do both agree on is the other thing you’re often told about parenthood: that it’s amazing and the best thing you’ll ever do. But my own personal favourite, coined by another girlfriend and mum-of-two, has to be that having a baby takes falling in love to a whole new level.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What’s in a name?

As D-day (that’s due day) looms ever closer, like all expectant parents the Farmer and I are faced with one of the biggest and arguably most important decisions of our lives – what to call our daughter. Indeed, one of the reasons we chose to find out the sex of our baby was to eliminate 50 per cent of the inevitable disagreements that arise over this highly subjective issue.

Long before I had even met the Farmer, I dreamed of calling my future baby girl something beautifully exotic and different – Africa, India and Savannah were up there – but nowadays in everyone’s quest to be unique, ironically these sorts of names have become almost pedestrian. Consequently, I have found myself being drawn more towards classical names such as Grace, Jessica and Bethany.

We are both fond of Millie and Molly but are not sure how well our adolescent daughter would react to being named after one of our dogs, however beloved... Frustratingly we also agree on a lot of names not really available to us thanks to being part of two rather large families as well as the last in our circles of friends to conceive.

Like parenthood, choosing a name suddenly feels like an overwhelming responsibility because it seems bound to shape her character and personality in some way. To me, the meaning of the name is important too as is what it might get shortened (or even lengthened) to, and we obviously have to consider what goes with our surname. Then there’s still trying to be a bit original without being pretentious or worse, new-agey.

On top of all that, it’s astounding just how forthright people can be about names – particularly family. In much the same vein as the whole folk fondling your bump without asking quandary, it would seem that everyone has a bank of names better suited to our unborn baby than we, her future parents, do and aren't shy about voicing them.

Fortunately we have had largely lovely reactions to our current frontrunner, so much so that my Dad and Stepmum are already calling her by the name. However, ‘Oh no, that sounds like a cow’s name!’, was not quite the response we’d hoped for from both my own and the Farmer’s mother. ‘What about Annabel? Sophie’s a lovely name. Or Charlotte,’ they insisted, reassuring us that they’d get their thinking caps on.

‘It's so annoying! They’ve had their turn - seven times between them,’ I complain to the Farmer who, as ever, remains bullish. ‘Ignore them,’ he says, ‘My Mum wanted to call me Julian.’

Monday, 27 September 2010

Battle of the bumps

After an extended leave of absence, I’m back by popular demand...well, by a handful of kind requests anyway. Where have I been? Right here on the farm, as ever, and since losing my biggest copywriting client (long story) and finally falling pregnant (even longer story) – both coincidentally back in March – I seem to be turning into a fairly good farmer’s wife as it happens.

A lack of work coupled with the increasingly undeniable fact that there will be a baby here in two months’ time has seen the farmhouse undergo a series of much needed improvements and me go into domestic overdrive. Our newly created larder is now stocked with jams and jellies – blueberry, redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry (thank you Silver Spoon Jam Sugar with added pectin) – and I’m in the process of filling the deep freeze with meals for when the baby arrives.

Inspired by last week’s opening episode of the River Cottage Every Day series and Hugh’s stew club, today I decided to make a batch of hearty beef stew.

Down at my local butcher, I selected some root veggies and onions while the nice lady-butcher diced me a shed load of chuck steak. As we waited for my card to process payment, she asked me what I was doing for the rest of the day. I told her of my freeze-ahead plan before the imminent arrival of my baby, at which she looked quite taken aback. ‘I had no idea,’ she said, staring openly at my belly in disbelief. ‘You’re very neat,’ she added politely.

This, I have to tell you, is pretty much the standard reaction of strangers and people I haven’t seen for a while on discovering I’m 30+ weeks pregnant. I know, I know, I should be grateful that I am so ‘neat’ but at the same time I can’t help but wonder what they must have thought before finding out my news. That I’ve let myself go? That I'm a bit portly? That I’m taking my role as farmer’s wife altogether too seriously?!

I’m just disappointed that after waiting so long for the stork to visit our nest that it’s not immediately apparent to all that I’m with-child rather than with-an-awful-lot-of-extra-pounds. ‘Who cares?’ the Farmer reassures, ‘we know you’re pregnant. Just think of all those people who have big bellies with no baby inside. Look at your Dad!’

True, I console myself thinking of my foodie Father. Nowadays when we hug I don’t get anywhere near him, his bump being as big as mine. Instead we kind of bang bellies sumo wrestler style.

‘This is very expensive,’ he says proudly of his paunch, referring to the many Michelin-starred meals that have gone into it. ‘It’s cost me a lot of money,’ he adds, slapping his stomach forcefully, something I’ve had to discourage him from doing to my own.

Ironically, by all accounts (friends, family, books, the media) my bump – albeit temporary – is about to cost us a lot of money too.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Power of the Pen

Despite the fact that I write marketing copy for a living, I would have to say I am fairly susceptible to the odd advertising campaign or two. Okay, as the Farmer is fond of telling me, I’m an ‘ad man’s dream’. Always have been. A new mascara that increases lash volume by 10, it’s mine; a moisturiser that turns back time, I’ll take it; an email from Citalia about city breaks to Venice, I’m there. I even bought a (very expensive) cream in my mid-teens that promised to increase my bust size (if only I knew then that gaining several pounds in weight does the same thing for free).

It should come as no surprise then that upon receiving a proof of the Kitzbuhel brochure I penned the words for (Crazy about Kitzbuhel), complete with breathtaking photography and striking scarlet branding, that I was instantly captivated – again.

      Arriving in Kitzbühel is like stepping into a 21st century fairytale. World renowned for its winter    sports and hair raising Hahnenkamm downhill ski race, Kitzbühel with its candy coloured Medieval Old Town and magical alpine setting is a beguiling Tyrolean treasure; a place, as locals are keen to tell you, of legends...

As if this wasn’t enough, a few days later Kitzbuhel Tourism asked me to proofread their KitzLux brochure – more than 20 seductive pages featuring the cream of the Kitzbuhel luxury hotel crop. So when the Farmer suggested we book a pre-Easter break somewhere, it was a done deal. How could we resist Kitzbuhel the Legend?

Naturally, I couldn’t. We head off next week to effectively plough the money I’ve just earned from Kitzbuhel back into Kitzbuhel... Gee, they really saw me coming.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Working Girl

After a rather extended Christmas break and a bout of blogger’s block, I’m back, albeit a bit reluctantly. The problem is that my cunning plan to alert the publishing world to my writing prowess via my blog doesn’t seem to be working.

According to my tracking statistics, I have garnered a total following of just over 100 visitors since starting the Bad Farmer’s Wife in September (2009), which – don’t get me wrong – I am very grateful for, but clearly it’s not quite the volume of traffic that’s going to have Bloomsbury beating a path to my door...

Since the dawn of 2010 then, it’s fair to say that my motivation has been pretty poor. And until last week, I’ve had very little to blog about apart from the tiresome weather. What happened last week? It all started when the Farmer got a call from the police asking if we were landlords of a flat in town.

About three years ago, we bought a one bedroom flat in a fairly smart neighbourhood as a rental investment. It was one of about a dozen in a converted Victorian hospital and until last November, had been successfully rented to the same quiet living tenant. Sadly he left, so the flat was re-advertised in the local paper.

Being unfeasibly paranoid about showing the flat on my own to potential axe murderers, the Farmer did a couple of viewings and let the property within a matter of days to a bubbly Brummie girl who told him she was setting up a Fake Bake franchise. She gave him two letters of reference and paid the deposit and one month’s rent – in cash. The subsequent month was also paid in cash.

I immediately thought she’d done a runner on hearing the news of the police phone call. ‘It’s worse,’ the Farmer said grimly. Worse? I repeated. She can't pay the rent? I groaned. ‘No, the rent’s all paid up,’ he said, ‘because the flat’s being run by a ring of prostitutes!’

He went on to explain that after a tip off from one of the neighbours, the police had done a stake out of the property: the girls worked in 2 week cycles leaving the key under the bin for the next girl. However, they couldn’t prosecute them – allegedly they were doing nothing wrong (tell that to the neighbours!) – it was the pimp they were after; in most cases, usually the landlord! But after interviewing the Farmer, they quickly ruled this out. ‘A spot of farm diversification,’ the Farmer joked.

We were, as you'd expect, completely gobsmacked – our lovely little flat, a brothel! Worse still, I had to go round and clear out their belongings, left behind in their hurry to leave. Armed with rubber gloves and bin bags, I found a colourful selection of eye-popping underwear, bottles of baby oil, value packs of BIC razors and lots of air freshener... Fortunately, there was nothing more sordid than this.

Sitting down to dinner that night, the Farmer pointed out that while the situation was not ideal, at least they had paid the rent before they were busted. True, I agreed, we may be suspected pimps but at least we're not out of pocket.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Twighlight Zone

Today, we have nearly two feet of snow here on the farm and it’s still falling. Normally I adore the snow and although it’s chocolate-box-pretty outside, I’m not loving it quite as much as usual because some of my family are trying to get home for Christmas and travelling conditions are treacherous.

As the snow tumbled down yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that the farmer and I were inside with the fire on watching fantastical festive film Inkheart while my poor sister- and brother-in-law were stuck at Gatwick Airport with our 18 month-old niece for the second day running...

Thankfully, they eventually got a flight into Edinburgh, but last night I was still unsettled. I found myself familiarly frustrated by our afternoon viewing of Inkheart, wondering why I hadn’t come up with such an enchanting tale of myth and magic myself! I always feel this way after watching a captivating fantasy film – clearly I’m young at heart! - as this is the kind of book I would love to write.

Take the Twighlight series by Stephanie Meyer. I first heard of Meyer on a flight from Geneva to Heathrow earlier this year. I was suffering a terrible bout of travel sickness (Farmer in Shining Armour) and had my head in a paper bag for most of the journey, but miraculously still managed to lug into the conversation the two women in my row were having. They had discovered a mutual love of the author of a book one of them was reading.

‘I’ve just finished the second one, it was fantastic,’ the woman next to me enthused. ‘This one’s even better, she’s such an amazing writer,’ agreed the woman next to the window. Before another wave of nausea struck, I swivelled my head a fraction to find out what this amazing book was. I observed a striking matt black cover emblazoned with the word Eclipse in scarlet and made a mental note to look it up on Amazon when I got home.

When I did, I was slightly taken aback. Like me, these women were in their early 30s and I was bemused to learn that they were fans of teen fantasy novels about vampires; until, that is, I watched the movie adaptation of first book Twighlight a fortnight ago. It was fabulous! And tonight – weather permitting – I'm off to see New Moon, the second in the series. Then I shall start Eclipse, book 3.

Twighlight reminds me of a modern day version of 80s classic The Lost Boys, while my friend Morn compares it to Romeo and Juliette. Either way, Meyer’s clearly hit on a winning formula – love, high school angst, blood sucking vampires. If only I'd thought of it first...