Sunday, March 30, 2008

Letting go

8am this morning. I'm still in bed. I have bed hair, my skin is a little oily from the night, my huge pregnant belly is peering out from beneath the hem of my too-small ti-shirt, kohl eye-liner is smudged unattractively around my eyes, my legs need de-fuzzing, I seriously need to brush my teeth.

I text M, who landed in Heathrow from Atlanta an hour ago: "Let me know when you're on your way home and I'll get out of bed." Then I settle back into the pillows with a mug of coffee, a stack of interiors magazines and my iPod on shuffle. 30 minutes later I get a text, "I'll be home in 20 minutes. Don't bother getting out of bed".

I haven't seen my husband in 2 weeks. More importantly, he hasn't seen me in 2 weeks. I look a mess! Damn, I have 20 minutes to make myself look presentable. As I hurtle through my shower, I find myself fuming, Do you not know what it's like to be a woman! You haven't seen me in 2 weeks - of course I need to get out of bed and make myself look attractive! We've been together 3 years, married for 1. But first impressions still count.

By the time I hear his keys in the door, I am presentable but still fuming inside. Of course, when he walks in the door with all his bags - including some goodies for me from DKNY - and looking tanned and handsome, my stress melts away. Especially when he gathers me in his arms and kisses me all over and says, "You look great!"

Okay all you out there in long(-ish) relationships - surely you also still stress out about looking good for your partners? My reaction can't be unique?!

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Olivia recently posted her "Hot List" of sexy celebrity men. I've always been hesitant to share my list with the girls I know because they look at me as if I am crazy. As Olivia pointed out, my heart has always been with another generation despite my own personal hot man being 4 months younger than me.

I fell for the mercurial looks and music of singer David Bowie (top left) before I was a teenager and now in his 60s he is around 30 years older than me. I was captivated by this man who no one ever seemed able to pin down and define; who never seemed to be afraid of trying out new personalities for himself; and who is frightfully erudite and intelligent. My lifelong obsession with him has exposed me to alot of writers, musicians, artists, films and lifestyles.

I fell for the music and looks of singer and poet Leonard Cohen (top right) in my late teens and now in his 70s he is around 40 years older than me. I continue to be drawn by his deep voice, his love of women and spirituality and sex, his poise and elegance. I am so sad I will miss his concert in July.

Playwright and actor Sam Shepard (bottom right) ensnared me with his cowboy looks and Pulitzer-winning writing when I was in my early teens and he too is over 30 years older than me. I loved the fact that he went out with Patti Smith and has settled with Jessica Lange - two women I also had girl crushes on.

Actor Tony Leung (bottom left) is a more recent addition to my Hot List, having first encountered him in Wong Kar-Wai's movies. He's just some 10 years older than me so I am doing well! He has a brooding presence, and... well... he's just hot, period.

I have my girl crushes too, off course. Since I was a child, I've been in awe of actresses Rekha (below left, with another of my childhood hunks Amitabh Bachchan) and Shabana Azmi (below right) and dreamed of looking as beautiful and as elegant as them when I grew up. I wanted the poise and sophistication of actress Catherine Deneuve. I wanted the raw sexiness of actress Jessica Lange (I also wanted her hot life partner Sam Shepard!) and the indie sexiness and über coolness of singer Debbie Harry. My most recent girl crush is Beyoncé - quite apart from her talent, I would love to have a body and mane like hers.

Okay, let's make this a tag - who are your boy and girl crushes and why? They can't just be people you admire; they must be people you find sexy also. I tag you all. Please leave a comment when you've posted so we can check your crushes out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter drift

In the end I didn't do much more than drift from one thing to another without purpose, which makes a refreshing change as I am a woman who likes to plan.

I watched season premieres of House and Grey's Anatomy, neither of which I've seen before, as well as the new Dirty Sexy Money, which is looking promising. I chatted with my parents and with M over the phone twice a day as he travelled between Jacksonville and Manhattan (where I'd instructed - whoops, requested - him to look at camcorders, laptops and DKNY clothing for me). I watched Brief Encounter and a few episodes of The Waltons on DVD. I watched The Way We Were. I filled my bags at the Food Hall in John Lewis and cabbed it home, chatting about Thailand with the affable taxi driver who has a Thai wife and 8 month old daughter living in Issan. I ate alot of Green & Black's milk chocolate and blood red oranges and marmite on toast, though not all together. I stayed in bed late, sleeping, napping, reading Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard and The Inheritance Of Loss, and listening to Loretta Lynn, Leonard Cohen and Lambchop on my iPod. I wrote in my journal - a pretty pink and cream Japanese notebook from London Mitsukoshi's JP Books. I did laundry but I couldn't be bothered to hoover and dust the house despite my mother-in-law coming over on Easter Monday (today). I showed her around the new house. We went out to eat Turkish food with her friend and my sister-in-law and we looked at baby photos of M. We watched the 4D video of Little Planet's scan. I watched my belly dance as the baby did her rolling and kicking and hiccuping routine inside me. I browsed baby and nursery products from independent sellers on the internet. I read other peoples' blogs. And tomorrow morning I am off to my parents' house to eat home-cooked curries and drift aimlessly for another week.

I miss M so much. It's the longest we've been apart. I know from my own experience that a life spent largely alone can be rich and rewarding if you continually endeavour to make it so. But it's wonderful how much texture, shape and rhythm a loved one gives to one's day.

Friday, March 21, 2008


The four days of Easter begin and, aside from Easter Sunday when my mother-in-law, her friend and my sister-in-law visit for the day, the time is all my own. Do I tackle the brisk wind outside and catch a movie in town (Love In The Time Of Cholera), look at fabric for curtains and sofas in John Lewis, and check out a few art exhibitions (John Virtue and Antony Gormley). Or do I simply snuggle in at home for the day with a good book, my magazines, a DVD or two, and comfort food.

There is a part of me that feels I should 'save' snuggling for maternity leave and get out and about while I still comfortably can.

I'll see how I feel after I've drunk my coffee, read a few chapters of my book (The Inheritance Of Loss) and flipped through April's editions of O and Real Homes magazines - all without leaving my warm bed. It's the holidays after all. Who really needs to decide anything...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Intimacy and solitude

I was raised a happy and contented only child, I've been single for more years than I've been coupled up, and I enjoy solitude so much I have joyously spent weeks in my own company not socialising with a soul. When M said he had to go away to the States on business for two weeks, I thought to myself, "This will be fine. I love my own company. It's been a while since I've been truly alone to operate at my own pace only." And I've been enjoyably busy, booking the removals, arranging the parking suspensions, finding the cleaning company, buying a new PC, scheduling BT to install the phoneline and wireless broadband, showing friends and family around the new house, cooking all my meals, reading, writing, dreaming, and of course working. But I miss my other self. I am so much more of myself when I am with him. He enhances me. My life was good before him. But now it's so much better.

Monday, March 17, 2008

29 weeks

A little blurred as I don't have a scanner so had to photograph the scans with a slightly wobbly hand, but here is Little Planet in full 3D gloriousness. We got some video footage of her moving around too. Our little girl. She already has hair. Doesn't she look like a baby alien!

After the scan on Harley Street on Saturday, we popped over to Marylebone for lunch at Café Divertimenti of spinach and bacon quiche, Iberian platter, blackberry and amaretti tart, almond and raspberry shortbread, and coffees. In between bites, we eyed up the pretty little Indian toddler lunching on Hipp organic baby food with her parents. Then to John Lewis to look at carpets for upstairs in the new house, rugs for the living room, a spare bed, and curtains. And then, to the Barbican for Hou Hsiao-Hsien's new movie, Flight of the Red Balloon. Though not as compelling as his previous Café Lumière, the film spun a chaotic human story around a calm and serene heart in an elegant and beautiful way. Then a hearty dinner of lamb chops and kebabs at our favourite Turkish restaurant Antepliler.

Most of Sunday was spent in the new house, dismantling old wardrobes the previous owner had left behind, measuring areas to see where things should go, and generally enjoying ourselves in our first official, privately-owned place together as a couple.

My home, my family. This weekend was bliss.

Friday, March 14, 2008


It's official. We've completed. The house is ours!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Waiting to leave

  • Singing nursery rhymes to my bump
  • Playing Baby Einstein classical music to my bump
  • Stroking and talking to her for hours on end
  • Reading and listening to music in a big, comfy armchair
  • Doing pregnancy meditation
  • Doing pregnancy yoga
  • Pottering around my new home
  • Sitting in my new garden with a mug of hot milk or chocolate
  • Listening to DAB radio in my new kitchen
  • Daydreaming about our baby
  • Cooking meals for M
  • Having long, candlelit soaks in our new bathroom
  • Envisioning how each room should look like
  • Surfing the net from the couch, in bed, at the kitchen table and in the garden, because finally we will have wi-fi
  • Watching classic old movies on DVD
  • Buying things we will treasure for the baby and for the house
  • Being alone and free to reflect, to prepare and to nurture myself and my bump
These are the things I am most looking forward to doing when I start maternity leave in a few weeks. Some of these things I can do and am doing now, but in snatches of time. In my new house and with uninterrupted hours, I will have space and time to simply be, before my life becomes three. Sigh.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend doing

Marvelling at Alexander Rodchenko at the Hayward...

Giggling with Juan Muñoz at the Tate Modern...

Lunching on a cheese and ham toastie for M and steak pie with mushy peas for me at the Hayward's new terrific Concrete café... Browsing rugs, furniture and camcorders on Tottenham Court Road... Dining on kimchi, fried chilli chicken, deep-fried oysters and dolsot bibimbap at Bi Won on Coptic Street... Being both captivated and appalled by Woody Allen's neglected masterpiece Interiors on DVD... Savouring pears poached in a vanilla syrup and served with fresh raspberries, prepared by M... Flicking through back issues of Living ETC and Elle Decoration dreaming of each and every room in our new house... Breakfasting on clean-tasting Portuguese goat's cheese brought back by M from Lisbon... Finishing Don DeLillo's cinematic debut novel Americana and starting Natsume Soseki's The Tower Of London... Burning my tongue on the lime and chilli pickle that accompanied our lunch of samosas and dahi bora... Shamelessly being sucked into the irrepressively lighthearted and saccharine Pollyanna DVD with Hayley Mills... Sorting through, binning and filing away several months' worth of paperwork, from banking to work... Shortlisting removal and cleaning companies... Dining on homemade Hungarian goulash and potato salad with M and his sister, followed by blood oranges, passionfruit and dark cherry chocolate while perusing the cookbooks, as my sister-in-law is also a big foodie.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


We've finally exchanged contracts on our house today. Bearing in mind we first had our offer accepted late in October of last year, this has been an unusually long process. We could have pulled out months ago and relooked for a place to buy, but to be honest we weren't in a terrific hurry to move and as we had found our ideal (for now) house, we were willing to wait. But last week we decided enough was enough and that we definitely had to move in before my maternity leave began. We gave all concerned a deadline for completion, after which we said we would pull out. And the threat seems to have worked. The solicitors have said we can collect the keys next Friday. Hurrah!

Unfortunately, M is in the States for two weeks thereafter but this gives me time to arrange for a removals company and for a cleaning company to come into the new house and give it a good scrub and other necessary things. All I care about, to be honest, is having those keys in my hands.

Very excited.

Monday, March 03, 2008

27 weeks

  • M has been away on business in Lisbon and didn't come back until Saturday night, so I took advantage of my regular playmate being away and spent the first part of the weekend vegging out. I am so tired. I'm struggling through my afternoons at work and keep waking up throughout the night because my growing bump and my aching pelvis makes it uncomfortable to turn in my sleep.

  • Needing the loo and an increasing number of quite vivid dreams are also waking me up throughout the night. Usually my dreams are work-related, around the theme of not managing to get all my work finished on time. But the other night, I had my first ever fantasy-themed dream that I can remember, where I was in a dark, dank forest filled with ancient trees with twisty limbs and ogres with gnarled faces. I wasn't being chased and nothing nasty or frightening happened, but it was a strange and vivid enough environment to awake me.

  • I am really counting down the days to my maternity leave now - a month and a half to go - just so I can catch up on my sleep during the day and generally take it easy. But also because the experience of pregnancy, birth and becoming a mother is becoming more and more absorbing to me. The all-absorption is perfectly natural of course and I'm not really questioning it. Yet because my career has always been so central to my life and I am very ambitious, the shift in focus is rather strange.

  • On Friday night, I snuggled into the sofa alone with a plate of vegetable and prawn stir-fry with rice balanced on my belly, a glass of milk and a DVD of The Hours that had me sobbing uncontrollably. I don't remember crying this hard the first time I saw this movie. Must be all the hormones combined with fatigue.

  • On Saturday, I went out for a walk locally, dropping off and picking up dry cleaning along the way, and buying croissants and the paper which I spent most of the day reading from cover to cover. I fell asleep for an hour; I made up a playlist on my iPod of "happy music", featuring the likes of the Scissor Sisters, Dolly Parton, Nancy Griffith, The Killers, Prince, Beyonce, David Bryne, the Sugababes and Girls Aloud; I ate twiglets and surfed the net; I vacuumed and did laundry. Generally I pottered and drifted and slept.

  • By the evening, though, I was feeling rather bored. Luckily I had theatre tickets booked and headed to the Barbican to meet my sister-in-law for dinner at the Waterside Cafe and a sleek and modern production of Hedda Gabler, which was chillingly good.

  • By Sunday, my regular playmate had returned to London laden with Portuguese almond tarts and goats cheese. We woke up late; I bought a free range chicken and some beef from the butchers; we breakfasted on hot croissants and coffee.

  • And then we traipsed across to east London and The Baby Show at ExCel. I still think it's a little early for us to be buying things for the baby, but we are now deciding what types of breast pump or moses basket or pram or baby sling to buy, so it was nice seeing our chosen products up front.

  • I already have catalogues from Beaming Baby, Little Green Earthlets and Green Baby and want to buy a number of things from each of these so it was great seeing their actual products on show at ExCel and having our delight in the clothes and toys ratified. Really, please do check out their stuff - truly lovely and just a little bit different from the usual stuff you can buy at Mothercare, John Lewis et al. ExCel allowed us to discover another unique mail-order company - Lula Sapphire. Most of my baby wish list will be made up of items from these small stores.

  • I picked up a couple of DVDs there, focussing not just on life with a new baby but also on the birthing process itself because I really need to start thinking about this now! I picked up Miriam Stoppard's Having A Baby and what looks to be a particularly excellent DVD by the venerable Yehudi Gordon, Sheila Kitzinger and Caroline Flint called Birthwise: Your Creation, Your Choice.

  • And from the Natal Hypnotherapy stand we picked up a gym ball that was also being marketed as a birthing ball (which M appreciated a lot!).

  • The best thing for both of us about being at The Baby Show today, though, was seeing all those babies - most of them very cute indeed. Really, now that I am pregnant I am really making up for never having been a broody person and rarely having given a baby a second look.

  • I've really popped out now. I look decidedly pregnant and more and more people are offering their seats to me on the Tube.

  • For the public at least, it feels my belly has a life separate from me. It feels quite odd how some people stare at it as if it is not adjoined to me but is a unique object to marvel at or reflect on or simply to stare at absentmindedly. I feel like waving my arms in front of them and saying, "Hello, it's me, I'm here too, this is part of me".

  • I've been getting my first Braxton Hicks - painless, "practice contractions" of the uterus that become more noticeable as you enter the third trimester. I've only noticed them twice so far. The front of my abdomen suddenly hardens and then pops out for a few seconds. At first I thought it might be Little Planet sticking a limb or her head out against me, but when I read about it more I realised they were the actions of my own uterus. My belly truly does have a life of its own.