Things To Do In 2015

I’m that person who has a specific notebook only for New Year’s resolutions. Each year I look back over what I was supposed to achieve the previous year, tick things off (cursing myself for making vague resolutions that aren’t easily quantifiable) and give myself a percentage score. Then I write a new list. Except I don’t call it New Year’s resolutions, I call it ‘Things To Do’. I first made that list in 2009, and since then I have failed to learn how to snowboard and play guitar, go to Disneyland, write more gig reviews, be cooler, find out what kind of books I enjoy reading, make more stuff, learn more about music, be more organised and better filed, play more piano, finish decorating the house, be a laid back mummy, be more positive and more grateful, and love the cats more. I’ve achieved some stuff too, but somehow that list isn’t quite as interesting.

I’ve just ticked off 7.5 out of 13 Things (I was meant) To Do in 2014. It occurred to me today that I should probably check the list half way through the year to give myself the chance to try a bit harder on the things I’m not doing so well with. For some reason this almost seems like cheating, like I need an additional aspect to the challenge whereby I have to first remember all the promises I have made to better myself and then achieve them. At the moment the internet seems to be full of blog posts and articles about how awful New Year’s resolutions are and how they only make us feel bad about ourselves. But who exactly is forcing you to make unachievable resolutions and beat yourself up about it? The ominous words “lose weight” have been top of every Things To Do list since 2011, and this year I finally got off my fat bottom and did it. So long, three stone! See you again NEVER. Actually being able to tick that off the list this time only adds to the satisfaction and pride I feel. And yeah, every fat New Year’s Eve I’d look at that particular resolution and feel a bit glum about it, but I needed that reminder that I’d let myself down again, because it was important that I didn’t give up. So overall I think New Year’s resolutions are brilliant, and here are mine for 2015, as scribbled in my purple notebook:

  • Maintain that weight! Go you, size 12 girl!
  • Blog more, or at least write down ideas for posts when you have them
  • Get a tattoo that means something
  • Celebrate turning 30 in style!
  • Don’t worry so much about all those things you never get done. One day there will be time. For now, concentrate on being a calm, fun, organised mummy, and staying well
  • Fervently be yourself, about everything and to all
  • Be even less of a bitch than you were this year
  • Go through every drawer and cupboard and get rid of some stuff
  • Attempt to learn some new hair styles before you cut it all off
  • Get those toddler scrapbooks up-to-date
  • Dance even more. Be even sillier. Keep grinning at stupid things and vocalising your ridiculous thoughts. Feel delirious at nothing. This is life. You do you.

I’m ending 2014 completely exhausted but fairly content (for someone who is rarely content), and I think this year’s list of Things To Do is my favourite yet.

Happy New Year 🙂

My 2014 In Music

I feel like this is the year I rediscovered music and took a giant leap closer to myself again. It all started in the Spring when I decided that I’d had enough of CBeebies one day and put a music channel on instead. And the baby loved it, so we kept on watching. That tiny decision led to so many things. The radios that were once a necessity for every room found themselves being used again. I got myself a proper Spotify subscription and spent every evening absorbing new music and rediscovering old favourites. I smiled more. I sang more. I did stupid dancing around the kitchen at 6am after a sleepless night. I accidentally got into One Direction in my late 20s (but that’s another story). The toddler and I both watched Sam Smith’s Glastonbury performance on the telly – properly together, mutually spellbound. Every morning she requests we dance around my bedroom to Happy and Best Song Ever (she calls Best Song Ever “I know I know” and she’s brilliantly accurate with her dance moves for 19 months old). Music is wonderful. I didn’t know how much I missed it. I can’t live in a silent world. So here is my year in music, condensed into a couple of lists. Let’s start with best albums…

Top 10 albums of 2014

1. I Forget Where We Were – Ben Howard
2. Dream Your Life Away – Vance Joy
3. Distance – Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards
4. Four – One Direction
5. Supernova – Ray LaMontagne
6. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
7. 1989 – Taylor Swift
8. Breakfast – Teleman
9. Alarms in the Heart – Dry The River
10. In The Lonely Hour – Sam Smith

That one took me a while. I’m still not sure I’m entirely happy with the order. Finding 10 that I liked enough to be on the list was hard enough – there were so many songs I absolutely loved that were followed up by really disappointing albums. This next list took even longer and was much more painful to compile. It’s possible that I should have been doing other things with my spare time, like addressing the overflowing laundry basket, but we can’t all be mums all the time. So, neglected laundry aside, the hardest part was deciding the rules – could I have more than one song from the same artist? could it include album tracks or just singles released this year? what about if I know I really loved the song at the time but now I can’t stand it because I overplayed it? In the end the only rule I went by was that it had to be a single released during 2014 and I still couldn’t narrow it down to less than 30 songs. I’m not sure a top 30 of anything is even a thing but I’ve made the bloody list now so you might as well have all of it…

Top 30 singles of 2014

1. I Forget Where We Were – Ben Howard
2. Brothers and Sisters – Twin Atlantic
3. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson
4. Superheroes – The Script
5. Sedated – Hozier
6. Cucurucu – Nick Mulvey
7. Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift
8. Figure It Out – Royal Blood
9. Cristina – Teleman
10. Mess Is Mine – Vance Joy
11. I Found – Amber Run
12. Steal My Girl – One Direction
13. BO$$ – Fifth Harmony
14. Say Something – A Great Big World
15. Walking With Elephants – Ten Walls
16. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
17. Bones – Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards
18 .My Door – Dan Hyde
19. Chandelier – Sia
20. Money On My Mind – Sam Smith
21. Salute – Little Mix
22. Blame It On Me – George Ezra
23. Stolen Dance – Milky Chance
24. Fancy – Iggy Azalea
25. She Wants To Know – Half Moon Run
26. West Coast – Lana Del Rey
27. You & I – One Direction
28. Feel – Bombay Bicycle Club
29. eez-eh – Kasabian
30. Holding Onto Heaven – Foxes

Thanks, music, it’s been a blast. Can’t wait for more dancing in 2015!

A Proper Christmas

Last Christmas I was totally skint. It was the first time I can remember admitting defeat and not buying anyone presents (apart from the new small child I found myself with). My mum made me a food hamper as a present. The Christmas before that I was skint. I was desperately saving for an impending baby while her hapless father spent all his spare cash on cigarettes. I bought everyone socks as presents. The Christmas before that… I can’t even remember. Something along the lines of being skint. And the problem with having no money at Christmas is that you feel somehow excluded from the whole thing. You can’t buy those 3 for 2 presents in Boots, or that Christmas jumper that’s suddenly (boringly) trendy, or all the cool lights for your garden, or the gingerbread men cookie cutters, or all the cheese. You feel sad. You love Christmas. But you feel like Christmas is a club you’re no longer a member of. So Christmas can pretty much just sod off.

This year the toddler will be 19 months old at Christmas time. Our current favourite activity is murmuring “woahhhhhhhh” at the Christmas displays in garden centres. She demands “more! lights!” every time we spot some Christmas lights on the 40-minute drive home from nursery. And as I thought about the scraggy 10-year-old tinsel I usually drape half-heartedly over pictures, I realised that the toddler and I are rapidly approaching the stage where I can no longer coast through the very early years of motherhood because she won’t remember any of it. I need to start thinking about the kind of childhood I want her to have and the memories I want to create for her.

I grew up with tradition and moderation at Christmas. We had a real Christmas tree that didn’t go up until a couple of days before Christmas and stayed up for the full 12 days. My mum picked greenery from the surrounding fields and tucked it behind pictures, although not until the 23rd for some other traditional reason that I’m not even going to guess at. Church on Christmas morning. Phil Spector’s Christmas album blasting out from the record player while mum cooked as I sat cross-legged on the kitchen side eating Pringles for breakfast (at the age of 22). No presents until after lunch (apart from stockings, obviously). A genuine belief in Father Christmas until I was 11. It was WONDERFUL. Christmas came to mean so much to me that I was fully prepared to break up with any boyfriend I happened to be seeing if he insisted we spend Christmas Day with his family instead of my mum and brother.

Because we live so close to my mum, her Christmas traditions will likely become the things my daughter remembers about Christmas. Which is fine by me, because as far as I’m concerned my mum has got Christmas spot on. But I am fed up with my miscellany of rubbish Christmas decorations that make the house look messy rather than festive. For a couple of weeks a year I want our funny little house to match the traditions that are so important to me. In five years’ time I want this little girl to come home from school, see the twinkling lights on the garland on the stairs and feel that frisson of excitement that Christmas is nearly here. I’m fed up of waiting to not be skint before I can do Christmas properly. I want to get it right for her.

The fact remains that I still have very little money. But I’m determined to make it work. I’m going to concentrate on buying things for one room each year. Not go overboard. Keep it classy. A few choice pieces. And after a couple of years of doing the same my Christmas collection will be complete.

I spent a whole evening Googling Christmas decorations. I walked around my living room. I made a list. Me and the toddler had one of my favourite days yet touring round The Range, Homebase, B&Q, etc, gazing at sparkly things, giggling and eating cheese sandwiches. I bought a wreath. Better tinsel. Some glittery twigs. Hanging paper shapes. GARLANDS. And I felt that frisson of genuine childlike excitement that has been missing from my Christmas for the last few years. Suddenly I was part of the club again. And I loved it.

And, yeah, maybe the toddler won’t remember this Christmas, or next Christmas, but I needed an excuse to spend money I don’t have on sophisticated grown-up decorations and this is the one I’m going with, okay?

This post wasn’t supposed to support the idea that money is everything at Christmas. I also have no handy money-saving tips to share. But I think that the most important thing about all this is that you create the kind of Christmas you want for you and your children. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or how they’re doing it. This is the kind of Christmas want, and I’m going to do my best to make it happen on my own terms.

Anyway, I was so excited about my new decorations that all plans of being restrained and waiting until at least the 14th to put them up went straight out the window. Well. One garland, the wrong type of lights and a fight with some glittery twigs later and I was ready to opt out of Christmas all over again. It’s possible that being festive is harder than I thought…