South London Photographer: Dealing with my little apes

I’m very lucky to have such nice neighbours. They’re very understanding. I should think it’s like living next door to a group of howling monkeys for them. Mornings can be fairly frantic in this house, as they are all around the world where young children are concerned. But on Saturday mornings my lot really do take the almighty piss. We have a club to get to by 11am so not too onerous time-wise, you would think. Only, No 2 likes to languish in bed for as long as possible, by default refusing to get dressed. He favours reading, which is hard to be discouraging about, or watching someone with an incredibly loud and annoying voice play games on YouTube, which is best to stay as far away as possible from; and No 3 is just ornery about getting dressed whatever the day, time, or mood he is in.

Son no 1 does not have the patience of a saint. In fact, he might have the exact opposite amount of patience. So he can be more than a little disgruntled when 10 O Clock passes and the small ones still haven’t bothered to put any clothes on, despite having been asked several times by then. If we don’t leave by 10.15 then we can’t walk and No 1 likes to walk. At which point he goes, well, I think the phrase might be ‘ape-shit’. I do tell him his tempestuous encouragement towards the small people is not actually terribly helpful, but he’s usually too far-gone to hear me, bearing his teeth aggressively and howling like a proper monstrous primate from the deepest unconscious depths of our collective evolutionary past. And that obviously sets the small ones off. From the safety of my own screen, where I might be trying to get some work finished, I try in my ineffectual way (‘come on, boys!’) to calm it all down but I seem only to make things worse. (Yes, I do hear the voices out there suggesting that perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to get some work done at that particular moment and therein lies the problem… but … a woman’s gotta do what a … and all that….)

After some grunting and pushing and shoving, whilst attempting to drag his brothers to the pile of clothes I’ve left out for them, No 1 eventually recovers access to language and I get told, “It’s all your fault! You don’t bring us up to be normal! Why can’t you parent like other people? They’re psychotic and it’s because of you!” It’s quite hard to hear though because of the crying and yelling behind him.

Mmmm… Is now the right time, I wonder, to discuss the word ‘normal’ – what is normal anyway? Do you really think your friend’s parents are normal?  Ha! You just wait….I decide now is probably not the best moment but mentally log the philosophical debate for later.

“They need more rules! I had more rules when I was their age…” he continues to rant at me while his younger brothers run round howling and beating each-other up in a confused and pointless act of retribution aimed in entirely the wrong direction, although for them it would seem, any direction will do. But they don’t get dressed.

“We discussed rules last week,” I tell him, “but you said the rule about no food outside the kitchen was a dumb one. And have you bought that collection of cups and bowls down from your room, while we’re about it?” I ask.

“That is a dumb rule. And I don’t mean those sorts of rules…”

“Oh… how about a rule saying you must help me with the dishwasher every day instead of randomly every few weeks or so. Or you must bring your own washing pile down and put it in the washing machine, and change your own sheets? They sound like good rules to implement.”

He grunts. But by now we are far too late to walk and must drive to the activity, which annoys me too. So it becomes hard not to sympathise with No 1 even though he’s clearly being selective about what sort of rules we should have and who should be required to follow them.

I manage to get all of my various sized simians into the car; more yelling, more howling, more gnashing of teeth from all of us. And on our journey No 1 declares we should have a chart that clearly identifies the rules he thinks we should start following. I dreamily imagine what I would write:

‘No fucker will grow up in this house to become an imbecile who can’t take care of themselves as an adult….’

No, that ‘s not right… I know exactly what the oh, so sensible No 1 will say…

“Mum, children whose parent’s swear at them are more likely to grow up depressed!” He keeps telling me.

“No, no – that, my love, is likely to be down to a genetic predisposition… sorry.” But he’d be quite right to chastise me, not because I shouldn’t swear at them, which of course I shouldn’t. But because we’re meant to be thinking about a set of rules, not a manifesto. And in any case a manifesto is a pointless thing because one of us is bound to creep in during the night, alla Napolean the Dictator Pig along with his helpers, and cross out bits or add words to suit whatever changing relationship we have with the rules anyway. In the end I don’t think a set of rules up on the wall will suit us.

And anyway, it’s not all bad because No 2 isn’t always howling like a deranged primate. Sometimes he’s wandering around with a pigeon-feather tucked behind his ear like Haiwatha and laughing hysterically at the thought of ‘mature’ cheddar. “Is it really called mature cheddar? Oh, I’m such a mature cheese, I’m so very, very, very mature! Hahahahahah!” I loved that moment. And when No 3 isn’t screeching like an absolutely maniacal and outraged mini-ape, he’s hugging me and telling me I’m the best mummy in the world. And as for No 1, he’s really being amazingly mature most of the time right now, although not in the same way as the cheese thankfully. I do just feel for the neighbours though. Because really, all they get to hear are the howling animals we’re all so good at impersonating.

On the work front, my iPhone photography session for children is full but I’ve been asked to do one for adults too. I will probably hold one on the 10th of June from 6pm for 1.5 to 2 hours.  More details to follow this week.

SJ x

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Son No 1 wants some rules implemented… (c)SJField 2016

 

 

 

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South London Photographer: Focusing on community

Last night I photographed an event at the Grosvenor Arms, where I’ve been documenting some changes since Brendan Conway and his partners took it over.  The group are studying ways to create ventures that encourage genuine human connection within communities, and looking at ways of providing spaces where positive interaction between businesses, families and individuals can occur.  It’s really great to know these concerns are bing addressed by society.

I was lucky with the light and some great moments.  I left the group having a brilliant time and I hope they enjoyed themselves.

Short blog this time – but I’ll be back soon!

SJ

Images (c)SJField 2016

 

South London Photographer: A very local wedding

A couple of weeks ago I dropped the kids off at school and sauntered down the road to Wandsworth Registry Office to photograph one of the loveliest weddings. Maybe most weddings are lovely but I particularly liked being witness to the genuine and extremely evident feelings of joy I hope I was able to capture in this one.  And what a cute baby to make my day too.  I’m so pleased Hannah & Andy got in touch with me so I could photograph their day. All in all, everything about my morning at work that day made me think, this job’s pretty good indeed. As always in blog posts about weddings, I think I’ll let the photographs do the talking.  Have a great week, SJ

All images (c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Phone photography sessions for 8-12 year olds

Phone photography sessions for children aged 8-12, £8 per child, Tuesday 31st May, 2016, 5.30pm.  Get in touch for more details on 07581 694 934 or via photo@sarahjanefield.co.uk

Advertising over…. I have been a bit quieter than usual on social networking the last couple of weeks or so.  Several reasons and actually, a good thing for my relationship with the non-digital world, but maybe not ideal for my business.  It’s tricky to get the balance right.  You read all this stuff saying you must be Tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking constantly to get your social media marketing statistics up, aiming always, of course, to result in bookings, and you should be regularly engaging with others too otherwise it doesn’t work – obviously, and don’t what ever you do, disappear from the digital airwaves.  Geez… so many rules! When’s a person meant to do some actual work? And when did all those terms become verbs, anyway?  Language, heh…. fluid, in flux and developing always; so interesting.

Anyway the reason I am quieter than usual is because a couple of projects I am working on are taking up a great deal of my time, energy and internal resources.  So much so, that I am often surprised by how quickly time passes; especially when I turn around and notice that it’s 6pm instead of 3pm, which is what I assumed it must be on Sunday evening, having finally remembered I needed to tell a friend I wouldn’t in fact be turning up … admittedly that was quite a large amount of time to be wrong by, and thankfully it’s not always so dramatic.  Sunday, however, utterly disappeared and before I knew it the kids hadn’t been fed properly or even put to bed, and I had a meeting online with fellow students, which to be honest proved slightly tricky, but all we got there in the end, wherever there might have been.  Bed and asleep for those small people, thankfully.

The whole creative process is incredibly fulfilling, even though it means being on a bit of an emotional roller coaster…”that’s what I mean… shit, no it isn’t,… yes, this works,…oh, my god, I’m awful, I can’t do anything right!… yes! No! Maybe! Try that … help! try this… back that way, where did I put the thing that I need now?..Aaaaargh!!!” It’s quite tiring too, actually, but most of the time I love it a lot.   And, despite the current political debate within the education sector, where it appears that some quarters are attempting to limit and thwart creativity in our schools nowadays, children are thankfully still very much up for exploring the world in a creative and artistic way. Which is a good thing.

And is probably why I’ve been asked to do some photography sessions aimed at kids.  I’ve had a think about the best way to go about this, and decided to initially offer an hour in a local park and to concentrate on using a phone/tablet or iPod, and see how that goes. All participants will need an electronic device like a phone that has a camera on it.  We’ll have a chat about taking images, how to edit, the merits of apps, whether or not to use effects, and where to share them. Get in touch and I’ll give you further details as there are a couple of apps that your child will benefit from having access to.

Right, that’s it – must get on with some admin whilst I’m taking a quick break from one of the projects that’s absorbing so much of my being.  Here are some pictures I have taken on my phone recently, which are the sort of thing we’ll be aiming to do in the kid’s session. (Mmmm… wonder if the social media gurus will be satisfied with today’s efforts…)

Have fun! SJ

(c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer:Second exhibition of work under my belt

“Mum,” said the middle child on Thursday afternoon with a great deal of seriousness,”I don’t know how to live.”  Good grief, I thought… what now? I was about to embark on a gentle and encouraging speech about how life is full of complex feelings, and suggest that whilst it sometimes feels confusing, I loved him, and that his current state of emotional turbulence was only normal and to be expected occasionally, etc, etc, etc, when he continued. “Yeah,” he said sorrowfully, “I’m not allowed Mortal Combat, which, you know, makes it kinda hard to fit in with my friends.”  He stared at me to see if his ploy had worked.  “OK!  I’m actually rather busy over the next two days getting this exhibition stuff ready, so next time you want to try manipulating me into a buying a game that is way too old for you, and which incidentally I won’t ever let you have at home anyway, you might want to pick a less stressful time.” I ended with a loving and maternal smile, of course.

Despite various complaints from children, not to mention the rain, I am really pleased to say that on Friday evening I arrived at Barmouth Kitchen where my work is being exhibited, completely ready and with everything in its place.  And, that lots of people turned up to take a look and also buy prints.  This was the second of my exhibitions at Barmouth Kitchen, or, for that matter, ever.  Just like the last time, I learned a lot from the process, and also had a brilliant evening talking to friends and strangers who had come to support me.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, here are just a few examples along with the statements I wrote to accompany the images.  They will be available to see at Barmouth Kitchen for a while yet and are for sale, so do pop along and get in get in touch if you’d like to order.  I’ll make sure they’re all up on my website over the next few days too.

The child wanting Mortal Combat has just come to show me a different game which he thinks isn’t as bad, but the point of it seems to be something to do with squashing and exploding an animated man standing in a lift, which I’m not convinced is much better.  Still, who am I to say?  Hang on, oh yes, I’m his mother!

Have a great week! SJ x

Barmouth Kitchen, 2 Barmouth Road, Wandsworth, London SW18 2DN – Huge thanks to all their support and to Ryan who helped me hang the pictures on Thursday evening surrounded by my screaming boys.

Images (c) SJField 2016

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Things I noticed 

I took all of these pictures on my phone. I am not apologising or bragging about where or how they are produced. It’s an important part of their existence. We in the 21st century are increasingly connected to the digital world, especially the one that is recorded on our phones. These small objects which we take everywhere with us offer a digital record of our realities at any one time. During the last 12 to 15 months I have used my phone extensively and obsessively to record what I see as I go about my day. Editing the pictures doesn’t take long but it does keep me occupied when I perhaps could/should be doing other things, and might be viewed as therapeutic, but could also be referred to as avoidant. By mediating the world through my phone do I render the world less authentic or real? Often people can’t work out whether the pictures are paintings or photographs, and that lack of certainty about the nature of the pictures generates questions about how we relate to reality as I, and the rest of us, dive further and further into the digital sphere.

Sarah-Jane Field

April 2016

www.sarahjanefield.co.uk

Prices:

£80 for mounted only, 8×8 or 7×10

£95 for mounted and framed, 12×12 or 11×14

All limited to 5 editions

Printed on 310gsm William Turner paper and supplied with certificate of authenticity on request

 

South London Photographer:Feeling nervous

At the end of the week I will be sharing some Prosecco with a number of friends as well as strangers when I change over the images I have hanging in local cafe, Barmouth Kitchen, where I will be hosting a viewing of some new work, most of which was made last year.  The images will be for sale and then available to see in Barmouth Kitchen for a number of months afterwards.  Do come along and take a look at some point.

It feels a bit weird to be looking at the images I’m putting up there again whilst I am in the middle of working on new projects.  Looking at them reminds me of a different time and takes me back to some of the feelings I had surrounding what informed those pictures.  Not sure if that’s a good thing or not, or even a very useful thing.  But it’s interesting for sure.  And the whole process does tell me how things have changed and progressed in the interim.

My father would frequently say to me, “You’re a bundle of nerves!” when I was acting.  How I was ever an actor I have no idea – because yes, he’s right, I can certainly get quite jittery when feeling exposed in this way.  And I feel sick with nerves this morning although I can’t quite work out whether it’s the old work about to be exhibited or the new work that I’ve shown to some colleagues which is the main source of it all.  Both no doubt.  Or perhaps it’s just the thought of all the little things I need to do before Friday to be ready. Order Prosecco being one of them!

Whatever the cause, I am, nevertheless, looking forward to catching up with people on Friday and eager to see my work on display.  It is a great feeling to see your expressive efforts framed and up on walls, and watching and hearing people respond to it.  (Incidentally, talking about putting yourelf out there, if you’re in the Wandsworth area, do pass by the Grosvenor Arms, where I’m documenting some changes, and see the words and quotes that have been graffitied on the outer walls there.  I believe the messages will only be there for a short time but they are thought-provoking and worth looking at if you’re passing.)

That’s it for me this time – there are children to wake, dress and deposit at school before heading off to a brilliant small company based in Oxford called Glanville Picture Framing that makes great frames (find them at various markets in and around Oxford), and then getting on with the rest of what needs doing to be ready in time.  Poor kids this week – think I’m going to need to do a lot cycling over the next few days to work off this jangley energy. See some of you on Friday!

Image (c) SJField 2015

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One of the images that will be available to see at Barmouth Kitchen from 15th April onwards.  Prices start at £80  – find out more by calling or emailing me, contact details here

 

 

South London Photographer: Doing some research

I have been busy looking at photographs taken in pubs as I continue the project I recently started, documenting a local pub which is currently being refurbished.  Son No 1 has also been asking to visit Tate Modern since the beginning of the Easter holidays which we’ve not managed.  However, this morning I remembered that one of my student friends had mentioned the Alcohol & Art room at Tate Britain so I woke everyone up and announced we’d be heading there as it might be useful for my work.  I was greeted with a grunt from No 2 who claimed he can’t stand galleries, and a pre-teen telling me he already plans.  When did that happen?  Already has plans?  What? Without me? (He’s just stomped upstairs, I might add, as he has yet another strop this afternoon, which seems to have suddenly leapt out of nowhere… is the teen thing really about to happen? Already? Yikes!)

I was not to be deterred.  So off we trotted – without the big one who already had plans – and instead I was accompanied by the very small person who goes where ever I tell him anyway because what else can you do when you’re four years old, and the middle-sized one who was not looking forward to it at all.

But when we got there what should happen?  No 2 stood in front of a painting by George Cruikshank, called The Worship of Bacchus, for absolute ages and then told me all about Bacchus and Dionysus, and Zeus and Hera, all stuff I have no idea about, but which they’ve been learning at school.  He’s also a big fan of Percy Jackson which is based on the Greek Myths and so, as well as being a YouTuber when he grows up, he thinks he might want to be a scholar of Greek Mythology.  Not only that, I think he actually really enjoyed the modern art room where we got to see that famous bed, and which is where Son No 3 set off the alarm as he got just a wee bit too close to the detritus that lies around it.

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We didn’t stay too long, because as really impressed as I was with my middle son’s interest, I suspected it might not have lasted if we’d hung around for ages.  But I love that he seemed to gain so much from my somewhat self-referencing visit and he actually taught me a few things I didn’t know too!

Hope you’re all enjoying your Easter breaks if you’re on them. x

Below are some images of the Grosvenor Arms pub in London which is currently being refurbished and which I’m photographing as it goes through its transformation. Not quite as many people there as you can see in Cruikshank’s The Worship of Bacchus right now, but soon!

All images (c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Son No 1 suggests ranting for a living

“You put dead mans in boxes,” the smallest person says.

“Pardon?”

His statement races through my mind chaotically like a confused mouse in a clinical maze, trying unsuccessfully to connect Son No 3’s belief that I ‘put dead mans in boxes’ to the conversation I’m having with No 1. He, the oldest and my resident social-networking expert, is telling me about ‘ranters’.

“So, they’re an actual thing?” I had queried.

“Yes, you just rant about stuff. It would be perfect for you, mum.”

Even so, I don’t understand why a ranter is categorised differently to a blogger or a vlogger, but I am told the woman we are discussing is neither of those things. She is most definitely a ranter and I can be one too, if I like, although I must have some extreme ideas to rant about.

That’s the whole point of a ranter. She or he must be vociferous.

Son No 1 goes on to give me an example while Son No 3 continues quietly munching on cereal, and taking it all in.

“So, you could spout extreme feminist views, for instance, but they have to be really out there!” He then does an impression of my potential ranting which is not terribly flattering about men. Or me, to be honest.

“Heh, men are ok,” I say, “so long as they go back in their boxes at the end of the day!”

It’s a joke, of course. But I do worry immediately about the message I’m transmitting to my youngest and oldest male offspring.

Which is where Son No 3’s statement about putting dead men in boxes comes in.

“No, darling, I don’t mean it …I don’t really want to put them all in boxes…” I find it too hard to fully explain because well… how do I deconstruct a slightly acerbic, not terribly funny joke to a four year old? Four year olds famously don’t really do irony. (Neither do psychopaths, they tell me, but that’s another story).

And anyway, I am more concerned about his notion that I want all men to be dead before putting them in their boxes.

“Why do you think they’d be dead?”

“Because your dead dad is in a box,” he replies.

“Ohhhh – yeah!” He’s referring to my late father’s ashes, currently residing in an urn, which is still inside the cardboard box we received it in, on the day of his funeral, and which rests at the very top of the book-shelf in my front room; reasons for which I explained in an earlier blog.

So it turns out, to all intents and purposes, that Son No 3 has listened carefully to the lesson about social networking ranters given by Son No 1 along with my interactions, and concluded that I believe all men should ultimately be turned to ashes and stored in cardboard boxes. Which, I hasten to add, isn’t true. Really. I mean, mostly, it’s not true at all.

All joking aside, in case anyone misses the irony – I’ve realised that occasionally parody doesn’t travel as well as I imagine it might – it is often challenging passing on basic feminist ideals to my three male children in a balanced, mature, and humanist way. Feminism isn’t about women or men. It’s about human beings being decent and fair to one another. Which, obviously….Silly… never equates to one gender being consigned to boxes, dead or alive, at the end of the day, or in fact any time – no matter how their sex is defined.

I am, like so many other parents, trying to ensure the boys grow up to be modern, helpful, authentic, genuinely kind, gentle but happy in their masculinity, as well as present; and who know where the washing machine and dishwasher are. And who don’t assume it’s their God-given right to be absent most of the time doing who knows what while some poor long-suffering wife/girlfriend is stuck at home, either all day or at the end of a full working day sorting his underwear into darks and lights before shoving them in the machine, which only she knows how to use. I know I don’t always get the tone right. In fact, I fail miserably every now and again.

Either I am a little too caustic; presumably generating ideas in small minds that suggest I might think men should be kept in boxes. Or I just find it easier to get on with domestic chores myself, rather than teach them how to contribute.

The challenge of bringing up those three little boys who absorb messages from the world around them, some of which lead Son No 3 to believe that I can’t be a super hero because I’m a girl, is immense. I strive constantly to counter such beliefs calmly and rationally but I’ve been bought up in the same world, and have undoubtedly, and without thinking, upheld many of the gender specific roles we still cling to in our society, by cleaning up after everyone and allowing them to get away with not learning basic white goods management. I do of course know little girls can also be happy to let mum do it all too. And I totally get that we mums love to mother our kids, to make them feel taken care of, looked after, even cosseted to various degrees. Because it’s lovely for them to feel that way, and wonderful to be able to do it. Nevertheless, I am furiously trying to back-peddle, and listen enviously to tales of how other families apportion various chores equally to all their children, regardless of gender. Instead of always doing everything for them, I am consciously trying to remember to give them space to learn how to take care of themselves in the domestic sense. Because it would be awful for them to reach their 50s and still not know how to use a washing machine like that poor deceased dad of mine, whose ashes live in a box on the shelf.

So no, I don’t think I’ll become a ranter as suggested by Son No 1. I don’t have extreme enough views. I can’t possibly bang on about men being consigned to boxes at any time and in any state because the world would be a sadder place without them. Most men are, of course, OK really. Especially when served on a nice bit of toast with a little dollop of pickle on the side. And perhaps a glass or two of a decent chianti.

Image (c)SJField 2016

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Son no 3 likes helping. Long may it last! 

 

South London Photographer: Fastest blog ever – not even remotely!

There is always a list. The great, long, never-ending, constantly updated, ‘List of things that need doing’. Whatever else goes on it, ‘mop kitchen floor’ usually gets pushed to the end because that along with all the other housework is so boring. To save time, to make the most it, to cram as much stuff into life as possible, I started this blog, one of the more enjoyable items on my list, with the intention of writing and publishing it faster than ever before. I gave myself 20 minutes prior to taking the kids to school. And I failed. Of course.

What was I thinking? Do I really not fully comprehend that the sloth I gave birth to, known affectionately here as child No 2, requires constant reminders throughout the morning to climb down from whatever mythological fantasyland he inhabits for long enough at least to put his clothes on and eat some breakfast?

And, am I not fully aware that the minute I sit down at the computer the smallest one will clamber all over me, making cute chimp -like noises, muttering how much he loves me, along with biscuits and Ninjago; and oh yes, saying, “you’re so soft, mummy, fat, fat fat!” as he grabs hold of the middle-aged-post-three-pregnancy folds that exist round my midriff. It’s hard to write with that going on.

And then there’s the fact that I can’t actually write quickly anyway. When will I accept that writing takes time, and involves, for me at any rate, several readings to identify all the horrible syntax, spelling errors and usual run of the mill typos?

So, why I thought I could possibly write something and publish it within 20 minutes, I do not know. Living alongside Son No 2 in his mythical fantasyland, no doubt.

After losing my temper, swearing needlessly, then feeling utterly horrified by my behaviour and apologising profusely to a 4 year old, I realised I was attempting the impossible. Slow down! You can only do as much as you can do – you can only go as fast as you can go. These are the messages I need to tell myself constantly. Because otherwise such mornings can result in hot tears of frustration along with a generous mix of guilt pouring down my cheeks as I drive the children to school because we’re late and walking will take too long. Which is a horrible way to start the day.

I recently spent the afternoon with a friend who reminded me that we all have these moments. Her life, to all intents and purposes, looks much, much more grown up than mine does. But she too has mornings in the car, tears streaming down her face, filled with a mix of guilt and rage. I think we all do.

We need to be kinder to ourselves. I did try this yesterday when I set off at 8.40 on my bike with the intention of dropping the kids off and heading out to an exhibition rather than going straight home to get through marketing, studies and housework. I deliberately answered clients and potential clients before breakfast in order to clear my morning and make space for my outing. So far, so good.

What actually happened was that I got the venue of the exhibition wrong – it wasn’t in Chelsea at all, (which was fine as I’d enjoyed the bike ride anyway); then cycled back to have lunch with my mum; then remembered a meeting I needed to be in Putney for, so cycled over there as I didn’t have time to go and fetch the car; then cycled back to school, before momentarily losing the Sloth, who as well as being a slow moving animal seems to have some issues with listening, which was pretty horrible; then found him (thank you lolly-pop lady, school and Mrs. M for taking care of him) but by that time it was too late to go home and fetch the car; so cycled to Clapham Junction to meet the oldest boy for his dentist’s appointment; then afterwards, a quick visit to the barbers to have them all shorn; and finally rode home. By the time I arrived back at the house I’d probably cycled about 20 miles or more. My poor legs were killing me!

I actually loved the fact I was able to spend so much time in the spring sunshine, and think I’m pretty lucky to have had the opportunity to be out on my bike all day. Even if it did result in agonising pain (hyperbole – it was sore but agonising? Maybe not.)

So, what I think happened this morning was that the cramps were over, but the guilt for having an enjoyable albeit slightly painful day had set in. And because I must head into town today for some work related activity, I tried to get too much done before breakfast. And it doesn’t help anyone at all – all that rush, rush, rush, rushing. Least of all me. Monday was world poetry day. I suggest we should start having ‘let’s be a bit kinder to ourselves and others’ days as well. And let’s have them often.

In fact, I was really touched and pleased when I arrived home to find a card from the lovely and talented photographer, Sarah Legge, who has been so supportive of me.  The card said on the front, “You Are Awesome”.  And to think, it wasn’t even “lets be kinder to ourselves and others’ day! Thank you, Sarah.

There! Blog done; not in record time, not before breakfast, not at the cost of speaking to my children. But still with more than enough time to head out for the day and get other stuff done too. (Although the kitchen floor and the mop still don’t get a look in!)

Image (c)SJField 2015

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This image along with a whole host of others to be exhibited at Barmouth Kitchen, SW18 from 15th April, 2016

 

South London Photographer: Good surprises and other nice things

Don’t you hate it when people refer to unexpected babies as mistakes?  “Was he a mistake?” they say with pity in their eyes.  “No!! He most certainly was not. He was a wonderful surprise that took me a while to get my head around.”  I suppose the word ‘mistake’ might be better than a comment I had from a women working at a playgroup I visited.  “I had three.  All grown now, ” she said sadly, “Wish I hadn’t bothered with the last one.  He’s nothing but trouble!” Not an overly sensitive thing to say to a women heavily pregnant with her own third child. And actually, by the time No 3 arrived I was immensely grateful for the opportunity to experience those early precious days with an infant again.   I’m not saying it was easy.  A friend who also had a 3rd baby at the same time and I still talk about the enormous shock to our systems.  Goodness, imagine all those poor women who had 8, 10, or more children in years gone by.  I have no idea how they coped.

If you thought it was hard finding time to pee after having your first child, just wait until you try to manage three.  Also remembering to feed everyone, walk the dog, pay the bills, and talk to grown-ups too. Prior to having children I had a verdant collection of house plants, a super-organised filing system and regularly hosted dinner parties where I impressed my friends with culinary delights. “Wow, Sarah-Jane! It’s like eating in a posh restaurant!” By the time Son No 3 arrived I had lost the ability to keep even a cactus alive, managed to misplace important court documents and am currently the less-than-proud owner of a cardboard box full of bank statements, randomly chucked in, in no particular order.  My cooking skills have been reduced to the level of burnt baked beans and undercooked frozen pies.  And I’m not pointing fingers or name shaming or anything, but I’m not sure being dumped by the now ex-husband before baby No. 3 reached his first birthday helped any… that aside, having three kids has proved challenging to say the least, and it was only when I started packing up my flat to move a couple of months ago that I started to appreciate just how immensely chaotic the last few years had been.

As I sorted through our belongings I realised that I must have barely unpacked when we’d moved in there two and half years previously.  I seemingly just chucked overflowing boxes and bags in corners and cupboards, only took out what we couldn’t do without, and then did the best I could under the circumstances.  Which is I think all any of us can hope for.  As I packed up this time round, I began finding things that I had forgotten about, thought I’d lost, or never even realised I’d had.  I came across all sorts of objects and items, but mostly what I discovered were shattered and disparate parts of me that had long ago been put aside, shoved away, hidden and misplaced, perhaps because being a mum and a wife made me think there was no room for them.  I don’t think I’m unusual in this – it seems to be part of the process, and there are undoubtedly several groups of anthropologists dotted about the place looking at changing roles for modern Western women and how they cope with children, marriage, and work. (Especially interesting when you consider that nowadays so many have never even held a baby by the time their first one arrives.)  As I packed up my home, I seemed to be unpacking myself.  And guess what? I was pretty pleased to see all those parts of me resurface.

The last few weeks have been a bit strange though, as all the separate parts I recognised try find their way back into my existence.  Will I ever have an organised filing system again?  I’m not sure; I have been slowly trying to sort out the mess that several years of un-filing amount to, but there is always a floor to mop, a bottom to wipe, or a meal to cook that everyone will grumble about for some reason or other. I’ve been bought a beautiful plant as a moving-in present, and I’m very much hoping to keep it alive for longer than a few weeks.  And I’ve invited some friends for dinner soon, who I know will be hoping for a little more than burnt baked beans and a pie that’s still frozen in the middle.

I guess the point is that having a family, navigating life, and just getting from one moment to another isn’t always straightforward.  Perhaps it’s not easy to accept that in a world where the general consensus seems to be that we should be aiming to have it all NOW!! And be damn good at every aspect.  Perfect parents who never shout, with successful happy children and blossoming careers too.  I’m pretty sure that’s not how life works all the time though, despite the plethora of articles in women’s magazine telling us otherwise. So let’s recognise the good stuff, work through the difficult and just be a bit more realistic with ourselves. I’ve had some other really good surprises recently; like when I lost my phone and found it still lying in the gutter half an hour later, where it had presumably fallen out of my pocket as I yanked a sullen, sulky child out of the car so we wouldn’t be late.  Or the beautiful foggy morning we had yesterday so that I was able to take photographs in some of my favourite weather conditions.  Neither of those of course even come close to the best surprise of recent years, my amazingly cute and funny Son No 3 who celebrated his 4th birthday last week.  He’s an absolute pain in the arse sometimes but I am so very glad I bothered.  And if anyone refers to him as a mistake again I might be compelled to slap them.  Hard!

Image (c)SJField 2016

 

(c)SJField 2016