Tag Archives: wine

For my next trick…

Happiness is...

Happiness is…

One year ago today I started this blog, then called ‘me without sav b’. It marked the beginning of a month of abstinence while I trained to run the Mothers Day Classic four weeks later. I raised over $1000 for a boy called Darcy (who is the same age as William on whose birthday Darcy’s treatment began), who was undergoing treatment for the awful childhood cancer neuroblastoma.  I would like to think that people sponsored me to run – I am no runner – but, truth be told, it was probably as much about my forgoing of alcohol as the exercise. Recording my month ‘off’ ensured I was accountable. This in turn helped make the venture much easier. For this reason, among others, I have decided to ‘go public’ with my latest undertaking – a twelve month stretch off the booze. Here’s why (stop reading now Mum):

Following a particularly vile hangover, details of which I won’t inflict on you, I came to the realisation that I was missing too much of life to carry on in this vein. I have been stressed, crabbit, disorganised, forgetful and only just managing to keep up with the day to day tasks of managing a family of five. Everything was last minute, I thrived on pressure, – or so I thought – all mothers of young children need something to help them cope with the daily grind, the expectations, the sheer bloody monotony that accompanies this choice. And yet a few months before I had begun a fledgling career as a writer, people paid me for words, one of the things I love most in the word. But it seemed that the more I drank, the less the words refused to flow. And the early mornings stopped, and the unhappier I became, and the greater the need for that ‘witching hour’ snifter became and with it the loss of another evening.


I have signed up to do a 12 month HSM through Hello Sunday Morning, an amazing and inspiring organisation which aims to ‘change your relationship with alcohol one Sunday at time.’ You can be as active or passive as you like once you have completed a short profile – there is real support from people of all walks of life in many countries and at various stages on their personal journey. You can set yourself goals, large or small and tick them off as you go. Checking in, monitoring progress would not be for everyone but I find it invaluable.

I am claiming my evenings back, and the early mornings, sometimes featuring a walk with friends in whom I have confided and who are my cheer squad. The fog is lifting. I am still forgetful and disorganised but some things I might have to admit are just me (I’ve always joked that I was born to be blonde after all) which I can live with.   What I can’t live with is the knowledge that I am failing to do everything in my power to live a happy and fulfilled life, thereby hopefully passing on positive examples and ethos to my children. There is no doubt that even in the 13 (count them!) days since ditching the vino I am a nicer wife and mother. I have oodles more patience and I’m simply enjoying my family again, laughing at their foibles, giving them more time.

Lorna Jane (a trendy exercise-wear shop for those of you not familiar) featured a slogan in their window a couple of months ago that I read every morning on the school run: ‘Be the best version of yourself you can be.’ I can now say proudly that I am trying.







The last week has been a bit of a write off – literally.  I have upset a well known psychologist and had to defend a statistic in my second article – you’ll gather that the paper won given the correction at the bottom.  I didn’t reference correctly, a  dreadful crime in newspapers and a bloody big lesson learnt for me (especially since I am a keen and conscientious researcher, stupid stupid).  The psychologist bit irks me a bit more; just because she is a ‘someone’ is it right that my words – which were a direct quote actually – are pulled?  The words removed, ‘it doesn’t really matter how children eat their meals, it’s what they eat that counts most’ added strength to my article as I went on to disagree with her.  I expressed my opinion, so sue me.  Perhaps I used the wrong forum, perhaps I should stick to ‘fluffy’ articles and make life easy for myself.  I don’t think the answer is to become a hard-nosed journo taking on the world, my skin is most definitely not thick enough for that.

 Having a long weekend last weekend meant we drank SO MUCH MORE than we have been recently.  Three days in a row and there is no doubt that it saps my energy.  This means meal plans aren’t done (not toasted sandwiches again), washing is left longer (I am thinking of trialling a new system actually where I wash and then chuck into buckets each boys’ clothes which they can then rifle through at leisure when clean items are required.  It would save a lot of ‘Mum, I’ve got no pants!’ when actually they have and I have just been beaten, again, at bedtime by that huge pile of laundry to sort and fold.)  Sorry, so mind-numbingly boring but so relevant and unfortunately so me.  I blame it on never having been a corporate high-flyer (or even low-hoverer), as I have heard that treating your home as you might a bunch of recalcitrant juniors is a successful technique for imposing domestic harmony.

 So, with my small hiccup in newspaper-land and my many hiccups after more wine than was frankly necessary I am going to take this entire week for mental health.  I am going to pitch again and keep my fingers crossed that I haven’t tarnished my rep for ever and in the meantime whip into shape all the unruly socks in the house.

 Over the long weekend

 I cooked beautiful cauliflower soup – which darling Sam declared to be “the best soup I’ve ever eaten!”  Gorgeous boy, always knows how to cheer me up!

The best soup Sam has ever tasted apparently!

The best soup Sam has ever tasted apparently!

 We made pancakes which was a bit tense to begin with as I couldn’t cook them fast enough to keep up with demand and the whines of “Where’s mine?” were being laid on thicker than the batter.  I caught up though and we had wonderful fun tossing one poor pancake till it was cracked and split like the sole of an ancient old shoe.

The pancake while still whole.

The pancake while still whole.

 I read surprisingly little of the three fat newspapers I bought, but I did weep at Will Swanton’s wonderful account of a young surfer.  An amazing story perfectly told.  Surfing. Another thing to worry about.

 We tried to take in Vivid Sydney on Sunday with our lovely friends Morgan and Hannah.  It looked amazing the little we saw.  Our poor children though, being short couldn’t see much for the hoards of people.  We wildly wrote our phone numbers all over their arms so scared were we that they were going to get tugged away by the flow of the crowd.  They were amazing though and so uncomplaining.  They loved the sparkly tunnel called ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ and clapped like mad in order to elicit a response from the bright pink foxgloves.  No-one was prepared for the crowds, next year we have said we’ll do it better and manage that glass of wine we had been anticipating.  Thank goodness we were each with close friends though, it definitely helped us all cope.  I can’t wait for next year!

The boys inside 'Hundreds and thousands.'

The boys inside ‘Hundreds and thousands.’

Loud clapping lit up the flowers, gorgeous.

Loud clapping lit up the flowers, gorgeous.

Almost at the end of the week and despite all of my good intentions I have to admit to being really rather keen on a small (ish) glass (or two).  I’m sure I can find justification if I try hard enough!



Do you ever have a day when you just shouldn’t have got out of bed?  We had one yesterday – no, that’s not me and my doppelganger good-cop mum sidekick but the entire family.  From the moment the boys barrelled into the study/playroom at 5.50am the day was doomed.  I was faffing already, getting lost in reading other blogs (a brave, beautifully written post from Lisey Bendy’s blog to be precise check it out here www.shittytittiebangbang.com) and trying and failing to galvanize myself into writing action.  So having achieved nothing by the time they came in put me in a grump which, as it turned out, matched the one Sam had woken up with and as it happened Andrew.  Humph.  The sort of day where we need a bigger house in order for us all to be grumpy in our own little corner.  Except life of course isn’t like that and the day had to be faced.

Edward decided to well and truly face it when he leapt off the chest of drawers onto Sam’s bed, kneecapping his big brother with a salad server (previously pilfered from the kitchen) and breaking a precious new Lego Chima model in the process.  Oh the pitiful sobbing from the victim, the defensive yelling and flailing of arms and legs as the offender was put into time-out (never one to down without a fight is Edward), the tears and snot and dribble from both.


This set the tone – before breakfast.  For the rest of the day I felt like my witty aside of ‘ha, ha, UN peacekeepers have nothing on me!’ should have been stapled on a large board to my forehead.  Navigating a day like that is walking the parenting minefield.  I didn’t know which innocent instruction would set off the next homegrown greanade (it turned out to be ‘please bring your water bottle through’, who’d have known?).  I staggered into The Source holding up two fingers.  Luckily being such a good customer I jump the queue now so energy levels were promptly pumped up.  Just writing that makes me wonder if it is my good custom that pushes me up the orders or my sons’ custom of rolling about on the floor and demanding water from the fun little tap on the counter that encourages the baristas to feel the need for speed. Hmm.

I did read recently that the results of a major study into bullying have shown that children mollycoddled by their parents are 10% more likely to be bullied than those allowed to find their own boundaries and learn conflict resolution by themselves.  Glad to see my parenting technique of ‘leave them to it, they have to learn the hard way’ gets the thumbs up from the professionals!  There are simply only so many times one can say ‘stop it’ in one day, we just happen to reach that threshold surprisingly early sometimes.  For the article click here http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/kid-gloves/story-e6frg8h6-1226636971204.

Today everything is different!  I was left in peace until almost 7am, quite a record.  Andrew was impressed that I had turned stripping beds into something fun when I gave the boys two minutes to do it themselves before I did it for them.  He obviously hasn’t realised I am training them to be decent houseguests in order to secure sleepovers!!

There was great excitement this morning when our Easter parcel from my Mum arrived – only two months late!  Sam’s question ‘Where has it been until now?’ met with William’s reply ‘There are people who have to taste every single thing in every single parcel before we can have them.’  Now there’s a reality TV show in the making.


With her permission I would like to share a short story about my friend ‘Agatha’s’ son’s reply to a question posed by his teacher which is still causing her to seriously consider changing her name to Agatha and moving school possibly even city pronto.

Teacher ‘ Let’s think about Balmoral Beach.  It is a natural landscape but now has lots of man-made features.  Can everyone think of a man-made feature at Balmoral and share it with the class.

Girl 1: The path along the front.

Boy 1: The rotunda.

Girl 2: The benches.

‘Agatha’s’ son: Balmoral Cellars…

I’m laughing even as I type.  She should be proud I say, I wish it had been my son’s answer!

Today is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day http://foodrevolutionday.com/.  It has had no publicity here that I have seen but I’m always one to try and impose some culinary experience on the boys so tonight we are making pizzas with some lovely friends.  That is four mums and ten children.  I imagine I’ll be calling Jamie all the names under the sun this evening before taking to the drink!  In the meantime I had better go and make the dough…

This week I’ve been

Reading ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King – a present to celebrate my first commission from my gorgeous boys, loving it (perhaps I should have read it earlier?)

Reading ‘An Omelette and a Glass of Wine’ by Elizabeth David – I’ve just discover ED, such poetic descriptions of food.  No wonder she was such a revolutionary.

Reading ‘Mrs Queen Takes the Train’ by William Kuhn.  Gently enjoyable, taking a while to get going (I’ll avoid a British Rail joke here!) though.

Cooking for my lovely preggy friend Rebecca.  Curry, soup, pasta sauce.  I still remember fondly the gorgeous parsnip soup my lovely sister-in-law Lucy filled my freezer up with before William’s arrival.

Celebrating having lost 1.5 kilos, better stay off the wine (you were right Mum!).

Boys will be boys…

WE DID IT! Now what?!


As the banner says, I did it!  I managed to finish in just under an hour – awaiting the official result but by my watch it was 58.40 (7.11 mins per km – a PB!).  Very happy with that given I did next to no training for the last two weeks leading up to today.

What an amazing experience it was too. It was incredibly empowering to be a part of something so strong and so vibrant and humbling to read all the tribute cards.  It’s easy to forget as we go about our busy lives that cancer could affect any of us at any time.  It is our obligation to support those affected where we can and, when given the chance, to pull together to find a way to beat this terrible disease. 

Huge respect and congratulations to everyone who took part today and of course massive thanks from me to everyone who supported me, financially, emotionally, physically.  Most of all my four amazing boys.

Some photos from my day.


With the boys at the starting line.


My smile belies my dreadful nerves.


  Very happy to see Hannah


Almost there (running so fast Andrew could hardly get me in shot!)


Across the line!


Clashing with my t-shirt!


  Celebrating with the Kelly family.


  Doing it for Darcy.


The journey home.  We never tire of travelling to and from the city on the ferry, it still feels like an adventure.

Image  First stop The Source – loving BJ’s creative coffee labelling!

 Image First drink in a month, cheers!


A lovely lunch at Bathers, our ‘go to’ place for occasions with the boys.  Such a treat!  (And yes, I’m still wearing the medal – the boys and I have taken it in turns all day!)

Darcy is doing really well at home with his family before immunotherapy treatment 4 out of five begins later this week.  It looks like they have had a great Mother’s Day too, and so so deserved.  http://www.facebook.com/DoingItForDarcyNz?fref=ts

I am still blown away by your generosity, thank you.  In case you were waiting for me to actually do it….https://www.youcaring.com/other/doing-it-for-darcy/54263

Julia xx

Reflections from an empty glass part 1


Image  It’s in my DNA, what can I say?  This from a book at playgroup, love it!  I remember this from my childhood (the book not the Scotsman staring sadly at this empty bottle).

The one question that I have asked me more than any other over the past month is ‘do you feel fantastic?’  This of course is in relation to my not drinking for almost a month (28 days to be precise – and counting).    It is often asked with a hopeful tone of voice followed by relief when I give my answer…not as fantastic as I think I should!  This is probably because I have had an incredibly busy few weeks, never have I been trying to keep as many balls in the air*, so rather than nurturing my de-toxing body I have been pushing it to its limits in terms of tiredness.  The one thing I can say is that there is no doubt I would have dropped more balls had I also been having a couple of wines a night – and the rest at the weekend.  As much as I revile the man, a quote that encompasses this comes from old George Dubya: ‘…drinking began to compete with my energy.’  Hmm, I’d never have put myself in the same basket as him!

It makes me slightly apprehensive about being allowed to ‘get back on it’ as one friend puts it.  Although I have had the self-discipline to abstain for a month I know that, as an all or nothing person with, let’s face it, three good reasons (all under 7) to reward myself at the end of the day it could be a slippery slope back to the days of energy sapping boozing.

I was happy to read this morning though that a study conducted by Newcastle University (where else?) has concluded that ‘…consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning, such as memory.’  Bloody brilliant, it’s Veuve all the way then!

There have only been a handful of occasions over the month when I have really longed for a drink and, very like I remember the craving for a cigarette, the moments passed surprisingly quickly.  The way in which it differed from cigarettes is the social acceptability of enjoying a glass or three.  There are not many mums of young children I know who can’t or don’t join in with the playground banter about wine o’clock and/or a drink being the only thing that gets them through the witching hour.  One friend didn’t drink for two and a half years after starting with a month like me – I guess she must have felt so great at the end of the month the very idea of compromising that inspired her to keep going.  In a way I’m quite glad then not to feel utterly fabulous – that first glass is certainly going to taste good.

So cheers my dear fellow time-poor, sleep-deprived, down-trodden wonderfully supportive Mums, here’s to Sunday and a very happy (and mildly merry) Mother’s Day!

Image  Love it!

*Public apology number one –  to the gorgeous Alice Curry, whose first birthday I forgot.  Totally unforgivable especially as her gorgeous mum has been unfailingly wonderful at remembering the boys’ birthdays.  I only wish I was there to grovel in person.  Sorry sorry KC.

Public apology number two – to my Mum who loyally reads this drivel and who now probably wishes she doesn’t!

Image  My nails after a gorgeous pampering session courtesy of Sam at the wonderful Northern Nursery Mother’s Day morning tea.  He asks every day ‘do you like your nails Mummy?’  Needless to say they still look like this!  I am wearing my polish with pride.

The happy other (and mother)


Image    The best coffee in Mosman (and further) found at The Source.                                         Love being a regular!

Arghhhh!  If I have ever craved a glass of wine since the 12th April (and I have, believe me I have) I have never craved one like I do tonight.  Thankfully Andrew has taken the boys to rugby training at which there is a bar and bbq so I don’t have to stand watching the other parents enhance the rugby experience with a drink (oh the times I have done that – Kelso Rugby Club, Murrayfield Car Park, Melrose 7’s, endless pubs in Edinburgh, feel free to add to this list).

The bottle of Prosecco that is in our fridge will be given away tomorrow since it has begun to speak to me, “mmm, , drink me, just imagine the lovely icy fizziness, you know you want to, no-one will know…”  (not terribly imaginative this bottle, and it makes up words) apart from I will and that’s enough.  I am many things including weak when it comes to self-control generally but I feel so accountable doing this, both to all the wonderful people who have supported and sponsored me and of course to Darcy.  Thankfully I definitely got the gift of tenacity from both my parents so when I do something…  Roll on the 12th May however!

I’ve been thinking about community today, and how far I’ve come in terms of feeling settled in just a few months.    A lot of you will know that I have a tendency to over-think things and there is no doubt I have done it with the whole expat situation.  I’ve even been known to bring my post-colonial and anthropological learning into the discussion, applying the idea of ‘the other’ to myself and the boys.  It has really concerned me that they and I will not share a cultural identity should we choose to remain away from the UK.

I am not yet entirely at peace with this however I have decided to put this to one side for now and simply enjoy living in Mosman.  We are truly blessed to live in a place which affords us easy access to every amenity and facility we require or desire (just a pity it’s not more affordable).  The boys are settled into the most wonderful schools, both of which have such strong community values and which we really feel a part of and now have some lovely friends through.  To supplement this I joined the social committee and coerced Andrew into being on the management committee of the Northern Nursery School.  Turns out I chose the wrong committee, we meet in the mornings with children in tow as opposed to the evenings with wine in hand…hmm, I sense a theme to this post.

We met a lovely lady on the ferry last weekend who has lived in Mosman for thirty years and who told me she met most of her close friends when their children were around this age.  I suggested that we all live for the Friday evening wine with children’s supper and she replied ‘And what about the Monday to Thursday wines?’  A kindred spirit and great example that we are not all dreadful old soaks as we feared.

My sense of belonging was shaken a little this morning when I found that a nasty note had been shoved under our front door.  In it, some nutter from the flats which overlook our back garden accused the boys of waking her up (we’re assuming female from the handwriting) every morning at 6am (when it is still dark and the boys are still in bed) and then a line later expresses her pity for said annoying boys since they have a mother who shouts.  Show me the mother of three very lively boys under 6 who never has cause to shout and I’ll promise not to drink for a bloody year.  What a cheek!  Talk about not having enough in your own life to worry about.   Andrew made me report the old bag to the police who said I should have phoned and they would have come round in order that the perp (ha ha!) might have seen them and therefore would know we’d reported her.  What a cowardly thing to do and the last thing I need.

Phew.  Now I need a drink more than ever.

Image      Autumnal Joy!

Running wise my lovely friend Chris, a chiropractor whose son Hugo is Sam’s bestie, re-aligned my ankles (I think that’s what she said) and I now have orthotic insoles in my trainers…fingers, or rather toes, crossed I’ll be able to run a bit more in the last week I have to train.

Darcy is at home recovering from the immunotherapy treatment that was really brutal last week.  Wee soul, it is just so much for anyone to go through, let alone a child.  As a Mum I imagine it must be utterly heart-breaking to watch.  I feel it physically in my gut when I think about the Wilson family and what they are all going through, they show such bravery and determination always with a ready smile.  Simply amazing.

Fan-bloody-tastic effort everyone!  We have made it to the $500 mark which was the initial goal.  I’m upping it to $700 by next Sunday, can we do it?  Yes we can!

Link to Doing it for Darcy http://www.facebook.com/DoingItForDarcyNz?fref=ts

Link to fundraising page https://www.youcaring.com/other/doing-it-for-darcy/54263