Thank you, Mr Postman

As my late Grandpa Boo used to say, “Too much of a good thing is….Wonderful!” That’s sort of what post-Christmas excess feels like. We have eaten too much, watched too much TV, slept too much (although as a parent of young kids that is almost impossible) and definitely got too many toys!


What excitement there has been each time there is a sound at the front door! Evie drops whatever she is doing, screams, “Post!” and runs to see if there is anything shoved through the letterbox or lying on the floor. Most days it’s just bills or leaflets, but this month all sorts of interesting parcels, cards and packages have been arriving. I have had a hard time convincing them that there is “probably nothing interesting inside” and that “we should wait until Christmas” before opening them.

What amazing spoiling went on this Christmas – Lego and treehouses and puzzles and all sorts of games and books. What the Grandparents missed out on in face-time this year they definitely made up for in toys. I’m sure the employees were cursing inwardly, frantically scrambling through their gigantic warehouses to find items as Isaac and Evie’s grandparents happily clicked away on the other side of the world.

I do feel sorry for those luckless Christmas elves working at online retailers, or Royal Mail employees for that matter. They have their work cut out for them to wrap, post, carry and deliver countless parcels and Christmas cards while we sit at home on our computers and sigh, “Ah, Christmas shopping is so much easier this way,” and reach for another chocolate, feeling rather clever.

Amazon package

But I guess Christmas is about sitting back and letting somebody else do the work, (as I am all too painfully aware of as a parent of young kids who are reaching the age of “Christmas awareness”). I had no idea of the amount of cooking, planning, wrapping and preparation involved to make a happy and exciting Christmas for everyone! As I look back on countless Christmases and holidays through my childhood I marvel at the supreme sense of entitlement I had – Of Course there would be lots of food, Of Course there would be lots of presents, of course there would be lots of swimming in the pool and playing with cousins outside (I grew up in the Southern Hemisphere), and of course all of this would just “magically” happen.

That is one of the glories of childhood; a blissful unawareness of responsibility, and I’m not suggesting that that should change. But I do find myself so grateful for the hard work that my own mother must have put in in the past, and even indeed for the people who do some of my unpleasant work in the present. I noticed this morning, as we were having Simon’s fabulous scrambled eggs and bacon, that the rubbish men were out, collecting all the bin bags and recycling. For a moment I wanted to rush out and offer them hot chocolate and mince pies, saying thank you for their tireless service while we laze about in pyjamas. But, the moment passed, and my senses returned (Thankfully, I thought, as I poured myself another cup of tea).

But the sentiment has remained, and I am so grateful for the many people who work hard to make our lives and special holidays what they are – the patient shop assistants, deliverymen, online retailers, street sweepers, rubbish collectors, postmen, and yes, mothers. I do hope that they know how valuable they are, and what a gift they give us, even if we don’t always show our appreciation. Maybe in the New Year I’ll have some hot chocolate and mince pies ready for the next postman who knocks on our door…. Maybe.

Postman Pat


Deck The Halls


It’s that time of year…. Lights everywhere, laughing children, a myriad of Christmas decorations (some tasteful, some less so), a sense of magic and mystery in the air. Everyone seems happy to see you – I get a chocolate with my latte at the local coffee shop, the ill-fated customer services assistants at the till wearing Santa-hats are all smiles (they are obviously delighted with the rise in sales) and even the grumpy Laundromat owner whose good cheer usually could curdle milk wishes me a “happy Christmas”. Everyone is full of “peace and goodwill to all mankind”.

Everyone that is, except the mothers. You look at these haggard, frantic poor souls desperately trying to tick off the to-do lists, buggy’s creaking under the weight of presents and bags and last-minute errands and decorations and Christmas cards, trying to remember what day the school Christmas lunch is, which old uncle and aunt has been forgotten off the Christmas card list and whether they have got enough spices for the mulled wine. They smile when they see you, but their eyes look slightly mad and there is a nervous tick in their necks. What they’re really saying is, “Somebody, please! Kill Santa and rescue me from this madness!” Or perhaps it’s just me.

I am so so utterly tired from the last two weeks. I was frantically sewing on buttons for Isaac’s Christmas school play, helping him sign 30 Christmas cards for all his classmates, making and decorating Christmas cards for our friends and family, baking, shopping, planning, etcetera etcetera ad infinitum. I thought I was doing better than last year, when I really was such a Grinch I didn’t even feel like having a Christmas tree. But I seem to have swung totally the other way, and now I feel like the best part of Christmas is going to be the day after. They should have a national day called “National Mother’s Day Specifically For Mums Recovering From Christmas”, when all the mums strung out on wrapping paper, endless ribbon and turkey stuffing can go to a quiet place and rock to and fro.

All was redeemed this morning, however. There was a beautiful moment, when we were all sitting in the school hall watching the kids sing Christmas carols. They started on Away in A Manger, and immediately the tears welled up. Not because I was remembering the scratchy Mary-costume made out of old curtains that my mom made for me when I was little, but because finally, I felt that the true meaning of Christmas was being communicated. It isn’t about the lights, or the chocolates, or the cards, or even the presents…it’s about a King being born into the world. And he was born in a simple stable, with straw and cows and sheep…. not with a whole lot of grandeur and pomp, or even much planning on Mary’s part.

So, I am hanging up my Santa hat and leaving all the planning be (for now). I want to enjoy Christmas for what it’s really about – celebrating something wonderful and special with the people who I love. And yes, there will be lights, and yes there will be chocolate. But, hopefully, there will not be stress. Thank God for Christmas. What a special, magical, time of year it is indeed.

Why I’ll Never Be A Ballet Dancer


Evie and I are watching Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker”, admiring the pretty dancing and soaking in the glorious music. The costumes are gorgeous, the dancers beautiful (even the men – why, Oh Why do they make those tights so tight?!!) and the scenery is just magical. My favourite part is always when the Christmas tree grows big up out of the floor. I can tell Evie likes it too.

Two DVD’s arrived in the post a few weeks ago, courtesy of Granny Fee in South Africa, one of which was “The Nutcracker” and other was “You Can Be a Ballet Dancer”. As a result, all Evie has wanted to watch in the past two weeks has been little girls in poofy tutus and very tight hairbuns tripping daintily across the dance floor. It is very cute. I always thought that I would love for my children to learn how to be little ballerinas.

Back in Sub A (Year One in the UK), I took ballet classes in an old church hall along with most of my school mates. We learned how to point our toes, put our feet in the different positions, and hold onto the bar. We learned how to be fairies and how to hold up our arms nicely. Once I tried to be a monkey instead of an angel during improvisation and got told off (personally I think it was very creative to try and hang off the bar by my feet!) I was the only one in the class to get a “C” instead of an “A”, and all I can remember about the exam is my teacher frowning at my feet, and the fact that my pudding-bowl-shaped haircut wouldn’t fit nicely into a bun (thanks, Mom!)

Ballet is beautiful, pretty and ethereal, but it is also rather stifling, and, I have finally realised (with some level of relief), that it is not my favourite kind of dancing, nor one that I necessarily want to enforce upon my children. I can remember my drama teacher at University (a very regal personality of epic fleshly proportions) showing us two clips of different cultures’ standards of beauty in dance.

The first was a line of dainty, graceful, pale-skinned ballet dancers floating across the stage (looking rather anaemic), and the second was of a crowd of large, sweating Zulu women, ululating and taking it in turns to throw their legs high into the air and stamp them down on the ground, massive thighs and breasts quivering, and shrieking with laughter if one of them lost their balance and fell. The difference between the two was quite breath-taking.

Royal Zulu Reed Dance

Thinking about these two extremes takes me back to one of the most life-changing and dramatic times in my life.

I am standing in front of the mirror in the hospital toilet, looking at myself for the first time since having given birth to Isaac. Weak and shaky, my head is still swimming with the enormity of what I have just been through. My body is sore, swollen, broken and a bit messy, not anything you would ever see in a magazine or on a billboard. But I am in awe. It hits me forcibly, what an awe-inspiring, breath-taking, divine work of art I am beholding. This body, this beautiful, beautiful, body, has done something so spectacular and so mind-blowing I can hardly believe it. It has produced life – the most beautiful, perfect little life I have ever seen.


I thought of all the years of self-loathing and dieting, all the years of moaning and complaining and the mental beatings I would give myself for not being thin enough, smooth enough, small enough, fit enough. I am so sorry, I mouth, you are so beautiful, so strong and so miraculous. It felt something like that beautiful Christmas morning must have been, when the angels sang Noel and the shepherds marvelled. I realised that I would never see my body the same way again.

Now, a few years and two more children later, a level of respect and deep appreciation for my body has remained with me. I no longer lament that I am not a graceful, lithe ballet-dancer-type. I rejoice that I am strong, and fertile, and that my babies grow big and fat and healthy. Surely there is no greater thing. I remember coming back to the ballet class one year after a fateful, chocolate-laden Christmas with my overly-generous Grandparents. My teacher arched her eyebrows, “My, but you got fat!

While I have no desire to be massively overweight or unhealthy, my perspective on what is beautiful will never be the same. And while I can admire and respect those dedicated, talented dancers at the Royal Ballet, you can be sure that I will encourage my children to choose a dance that is perhaps more true to life – something that is exuberant and joyous and full of strength and passion (perhaps the Flamenco would be a good place to start). Or at least something a little more free and frivolous – like tap-dancing or hip-hop for instance. Failing that, we will resort to the tunes on Simon’s phone, while Isaac jives and shimmies around the lounge shouting, “Look Mama, my body is full of silly games!”

Our bodies are so beautiful, gifts from God, the creator of life. I wish we always gave them the respect, love and admiration they deserve, whether slim, graceful, large or vibrant. They nourish life and are full of miracles every day.