It’s Christmas! Peace and goodwill to all men! (Just as soon as I’ve had a good night’s sleep.)

I’VE become one of those parents who gets violently angry when any childless person dares to complain of tiredness.

“Did you just say what I think you said?” I found myself hissing at someone a few weeks ago. “YOU! – who could have an unbroken eight hours of sleep any time you like! – YOU SAID YOU’RE TIRED?”

The boy this was aimed at took a small step backwards, his smile only wavering slightly (fair play to him).

“No, you’re right mrs, I didn’t mean to offend you,” he backtracked nervously.

“And if you’ll just sign for the parcel I’ll be able leave you in peace. To not sleep.”

I’ve well and truly become the mum who, with crazed eyes hidden behind matted, unwashed hair, will yell jealously and indiscriminately at anybody who looks vaguely well-rested.

(In my defence, I have a baby who refuses to sleep for longer than 30 minutes at a time – rage, caffeine and sugar are all that get me through the day sometimes.)

Still, it’s Christmas – and surely if there’s ever a time to relax, regroup and show goodwill to all delivery men it’s now.

Tis the season, in my opinion, to hunker down at home with the heating cranked up and the mince pies and Baileys a-flowing.

And, more importantly, with Smithy off work, it’s time for him to get up in the morning with the baby so I can lie in bed and sleep. Possibly all day.

This thought alone has turned me positively zen-like.

Never mind that everybody we know wants to be a part of ‘baby’s first Christmas’, which means we’ve spent the last week rushing all over the North West visiting various relatives.

Never mind that, on ‘mad friday’, it transpired that Smithy hadn’t done any of his Christmas shopping, so we ended up battling with a pram through a heaving Manchester city centre trying to track down Auntie Margaret’s favourite jelly sweets and a scarf in a very specific shade (red but not too red) for Uncle Jim.

Never mind that in the last day-and-a-half I’ve had to take the baby to four Christmas parties that she was invited to.

(Apparently I double-up as both a walking milk bar and a plus-one).

It’s Christmas – and just as soon as everything calms down, maybe by Christmas Eve, or after Christmas Day, or possibly once New Year’s Eve is out of the way, I will be sleeping like nobody has ever slept before.

I will.

And that point I promise I will stop scaring delivery boys.

Merry Christmas!

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on December 24, 2015


Everybody needs good neighbours…

IT’S Monday morning as I write this column and quite frankly I’m struggling.

Nothing sounds quite right when all I can think about are the people who lost so much at the weekend.

I had an idea all lined up for this week but what seemed funny on Friday afternoon now seems far too glib – and I can’t summon the good mood needed to write something light-hearted when I feel so utterly sad for the people who have been affected by Storm Desmond.

I’ve been glued to the news coverage (from a surreally dry Leicester, where I was attending a family party) and my heart broke as image after image appeared on the screen.

But what also struck me was that community spirit appeared to be more alive than ever.

I’ve always found South Lakeland a friendly place, but this has never been more evident.

Mother Nature ripped apart peoples’ lives and in their droves complete strangers rallied round to help them.

I was heartened to see, almost immediately after the scale of damage became apparent, that somebody had set up a donation website to raise funds to help those in difficulty. And even better, how many people had put their hands in their pockets and donated.

It’s been lovely to see that Tim Farron and local councillors have been visiting residents, offering their help and support, and are responding quickly to messages on social media from those either needing help or wishing to help.

The sheer number of people on Facebook I have also seen offering food, shelter and other supplies has been staggering.

And, of course, despite being stretched beyond all belief, the emergency services and other rescue teams have gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of local people.

Now everybody who has lost something needs the community to continues its efforts.

I hope the momentum gathered is not lost as we approach Christmas – and I can only reiterate the calls for second home-owners to give up accommodation for those affected (a genius idea, in my opinion).

My thoughts are with everybody battling to get their lives (and livelihoods) back on track. 

As for me, I plan to spend the rest of the day cuddling my daughter a little bit more tightly and being thankful that so many good-hearted people exist in the world.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on December 10, 2015

I’m just like Kirstie Allsopp! (But without the talent…)

IN THE name of austerity (ie. maternity pay ending) the Smiths are having a ‘DIY’ Christmas.

Back in October when I first had the idea I imagined myself spending several happy hours making handmade chocolates, jars of chutney and jam (with beautifully-designed labels in the style of Cath Kidston) and stunning Christmas cards adorned with the baby’s handprints.

In this snowy (obviously) dream world I also envisioned my husband cooking up a pan of mulled wine and cracking out the (home-made) mince pies, which we would share while I worked – all with Christmas carols playing softly in the background.

My imaginings also went so far as to include relatives near and far opening said gifts on Christmas morning and exclaiming over how much thought and – dare I say it? – pure talent had gone into each item.

“I know I got a PS4 from Santa,” I imagined my little niece saying. “But Auntie Anna’s presents are by far the best I have ever had! How creative and clever she is! I hope I grow up to be just like her!”

Clearly I am an idiot.

I could not manage chutney and I could not manage jam.

(Although if anyone is after a burnt strawberry goo then I am your girl).

The baby would not sit still while I painted her hands (farewell, unique Christmas cards) and I gave up on the idea of making chocolates and just ate chocolate instead.

In the end I made some salt dough tree decorations, stamped with the baby’s footprints, but I’m not convinced I baked them for long enough and I’m pretty sure they’ll have disintegrated before you can say ‘January sales’.

All this effort also cost me way more than if I’d simply bought everybody a box of Tesco Finest biscuits in the first place.

So, in conclusion, I am no Kirstie Allsopp and it’s fair to say nobody will be exclaiming over my artistic talents come Christmas morning.

Now – will somebody please pass me a bottle of shop-bought mulled wine?

I’ve got a house covered in paint, glitter and the slight smell of burnt jam – and I’ve still got all my Christmas shopping to do.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on December 3, 2015.