“I’m just off out for…er…cat food!”

THIS week my husband and I celebrated our six year anniversary.

There’s nothing like an occasion such as this to put into perspective just how much times (and one’s relationship) have changed.

Back in the early days when I was still Anna Clarke and I looked youthful and unstressed, Smithy and I would probably have marked the event by exchanging romantic gifts and cards filled with communications of our undying love for each other.

We’d have gone for a meal where we’d have drunk too much and had both dessert AND coffee because we had two incomes and no children and didn’t have to worry about the bill or being up at 6am the next day.

This year I realised the night before that I’d forgotten all about our milestone, so I had to dash to Tesco at 10pm on the pretext of buying cat food to get Smithy a card and a present.

I wrote the card the next morning in the bathroom (so I could lock the door and not risk being rumbled) while Smithy got the baby dressed.

He handed me a card that still had the price tag on, smiled lovingly at me and said: “The last six years have been…oh god the baby’s just pounced on the cat!!”

Then we all went out for lunch.

Smithy and I decided to forgo a starter and all but inhaled our main courses (we’re on borrowed time with a baby who can go from 0 to screaming the place down in approximately two seconds) which turned out to be a good call as our darling offspring got bored and started to throw peas at her fellow diners, prompting a speedy exit.

By the time the baby was in bed we were fit for nothing but staring at the TV in silence.

Still, I must count my blessings: I’m fortunate enough to have a husband who spent a whole £1.49 on my anniversary card. 

Who said romance is dead?

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on March 17, 2016.

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Motherhood: the ugly truth

IN LESS than a week my baby will be a whole year old.

I have no idea where those 12 months have gone but I do know they have been the most amazing of my life – and also, without a doubt, the most difficult.

At times the last year has been little more than a blur of mum-and-baby groups, sleepless nights and desperate negotiations with a tiny, grumpier, greedier version of myself (and the latter two take some doing, I can tell you).

So, to mark the occasion, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned along the way:

1. Being a parent is really bloody hard, but being parent to a small baby is like trying to crack an impossible code. If she’s screaming and we’ve already ruled out hunger, tiredness or a nappy-based issue then I’m stumped. 

2. At every baby class you’ll find at least one mum who thinks she has The Best Child Ever. “Of course we always knew Little Jimmy was a musical genius,” she will say, looking adoringly at her distinctly average child, as he stares dead-eyed into the middle-distance. “He mastered the violin – or at least he saw a violin and looked vaguely interested – at just three months old. We’re expecting a call from the London Symphony Orchestra any day!” 

3. Children’s toys are annoying from the second you realise you need an entire toolkit to get them out of their packaging to the moment you finally pull their batteries out and hurl them from an upstairs window. They are all too loud, take up too much space and hurt like hell when you stand on them. (However, on the plus side, and I will give them this, they’re useful babysitters when all you want to do is eat biscuits and catch up on Neighbours.)

4. Nobody is as interested in your baby as you are. I’ve started many conversations with: “You will never guess what the baby said/did/vomited earlier…” before realising that the other person’s eyes have glazed over or they’ve gone slightly green.

5. You will, at some point, run out of biscuits and will resort to raiding the baby’s snack cupboard. At that point you’ll discover that Farley’s rusks are delicious dunked in tea and apple rice cakes are a more than adequate mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Now I have to go as the baby is asleep and I have a week’s worth of Neighbours to work my way through.

And that bag of carrot puffs (‘perfect for weaning babies!’) won’t eat itself, will it?

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on February 18, 2016

I’ve got 12 seconds and not a moment longer!

AFTER a glorious 12 months on maternity leave I’ve returned to work and, quite frankly, feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train. Twice.

I have no idea how people with multiple children cope because having one extra human being to organise in the morning is pushing me to my limits.

(What I do know is that they deserve medals and glory and unlimited wine on prescription.)

These days, Casa Smith is a tight-run ship.

Everything is planned down to the last minute and there’s no room for manoeuvre. 

If an activity has not been put on the timetable with a precise start and end time it won’t, and can’t, happen.

My poor husband does not know what has hit him.

“What do you mean I can’t have a drink?” he asked slowly, his hand paused halfway towards the kettle, where it had been stopped in its tracks 10 seconds previously by a large squawk. From me.

“I just wanted a hot chocolate before bed…” he added.

I looked at him aghast.

“It’s 9.37pm! Nine! Thirty! Seven! PEE EM!” 

I squawked again.

“We have to be in bed by 9.45pm or we won’t have 15 minutes to nod off and eight hours of sleep before the alarm goes off at 6am! Are you mad?!”

At that point he looked as if he was about to say something, but thought better of it.

He looked longingly at the kettle, then back at me.

“So…you don’t want one then?”

I didn’t have time to answer him.

I was too busy hanging up some wet washing with one hand, ironing the following day’s outfit with the other and using my mouth to run a hairbrush through the baby’s hair.

Now I really must go as I’ve used up my allocated time for writing this column.

Next on the evening’s agenda: making tomorrow’s lunch.

I have four minutes and 32 seconds and not a moment longer.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on February 4, 2016.