Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What I want to say to myself, aged 14

I recently made the most beautiful cushion. It was a Christmas gift for a young lady by the name of Olivia. It has the cross-stitched prints of her four-legged buddies, and patches made with her beloved, dearly departed Grandad’s tie. It’s really stunning. You’d hope she feels lucky to have it. But it’s me who is privileged. Olivia is a special young lady. She is the inspiration for this blog.

Olivia is a liker of my Facebook page. For Christmas 2011, she begged bits of her family’s clothes to make her mum a memory quilt. Imagine how special that must be. This is her Mum’s e-mail from August 2012 …

“ … you've inspired my 13 year old daughter since I found you on [Facebook]. Last year we had a completely homemade Christmas and for 6 months she secretly and painstakingly made me a patchwork blanket from clothes of all the people I care about! I've shown her your work and she's again determined to continue her creations.

I would love for our homemade Christmas this year to cheat a little and get her a print of our lovely dogs paw print- this would make her year! She's animal mad and adores our gorgeous pooch.

Please keep making. I love looking at your creations every day and love that my little girl can see a future in her own amazing works of art.

I've attached a pic of my blanket as it makes me so proud.”

I remember my school days. I was a geek. Not that I would have dreamed of admitting it at the time. I liked to make things. I always have and I would imagine I always will. I have to be practically handcuffed to stop me making something! If nothing else it keeps my hands busy and stops them putting food in my mouth. I used to make all sorts from empty loo rolls. My parents still have my clay creations. My Gran’s kitchen still sports the clock I made. I hate to admit it, actually no, I don’t (but I did at the time) that I used to take knitting into school to do at break. I had no friends. Well, I had “friends”, but no BFF (is that what you say these days?). No-one who I would see all day at school then chat to on the phone all night. My all-girl school was very clique-y, and I fell out with my gang in the early years. Many an hour was spent on my own in the library, trying to hide from the teachers in a quiet classroom so I didn’t have to spend time outside with everyone else, trying to fit in. I won’t even go into the names I was called on the bus home from school! I was never sporty, and I was never terribly bright, so I really didn’t feel that I had an outlet. I do, however, vividly remember my Textiles GCSE lessons. I loved them. They cost my parents a fortune! But they taught me so much and I remember wondering what on earth I would use these new-found skills for. I imagined a future in an office, at a desk. If asked at the time, I wanted “to be someone’s boss”, “have a BMW before I was 30”.

Looking back now, I did those things. I was a few people’s boss. I had the BMW. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. I managed a Head Office and drove the BMW around from site to site feeling very proud of myself, at the ripe old age of 25. Then I met my now-husband. I remember driving home one day, in my lovely shiny BMW, and bursting into tears at the traffic lights. It occurred to me that I would never have children, or at least be a good, attentive mum, if I stayed in that job. I thought it was my life and I was proud of the team and systems I had built. I was working 60 hour weeks putting into practice all the “useful” skills I learned throughout my education (Maths with Mechanics, Physics and Business Studies at A Level, Business Studies at university). They meant nothing to “me”, the real me, not the person I thought everyone wanted me to be. I thought I would be letting my parents down … they’d scrimped and saved to pay for my education, how could I possibly let that go to waste?

I became an IT trainer for a short time. That was fun. I love IT; as I said, I’m a geek! I’m no expert, but I can get by more than most. Was this my calling?

Then I fell pregnant. I never imagined that the most important thing in my life would be to become a mother. A mummy. This, and only this, is my calling. Now, how can I possibly contrive to stay at home with my baby?

Clare’s Jewellery Box was born. I know, rubbish name hey? I made silver imprint jewellery for myself, hubby, a few relatives and friends. I did a few craft fairs then I went back to work after my maternity leave. Massive disappointment!

I took a promotion to a seriously geeky job with the NHS – all graphs and spreadsheets and budgets. It was fun for a couple of months. They’re just not my type of people. I need to make things. I made two babies … now I must make things for them! And so it began.

It’s soooo hard being a kid, a teenager and a twenty-something. You think you’ve found yourself, then the next week you’ve lost yourself and you have to start all over again. You feel like you should be having the time of your life … after all, the bills and the “proper” jobs and the housework are for the grown-ups, right? Well yes, that’s really tough. It’s rewarding, but it’s flipping tough. But don’t let anyone negate your feelings … growing up is hard work. And you don’t even get paid for it! There’ll be friends telling you what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t be doing, magazines and celebs telling you what you should wear, what you should eat, how much you should weigh, how you shouldn’t listen to people who are telling you what to wear, eat and weigh. If you thought about it too much, your head would explode.

You will hear a lot of advice during your formative years. You will most likely continue to hear that advice until your own children leave home. Unfortunately, some of the grown-up really do know what they’re talking about. Admittedly some of them don’t, but you won’t know that for a while!

You will make some bad decisions and do some silly things, love someone you shouldn’t and say things you shouldn’t. They’re all important experiences; “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and all that. The clichés become clichés because they’re true. Be sure that you make choices that you’re proud of. As long as you love the person you beome after all that, you shouldn’t regret anything.

I now have a (relatively) successful keepsake business. I work from home, around my babies; I get to play with them, work when they sleep. I get to be there. They will remember that, like I remember my Mum being there. I also know how proud I am of both my parents, who both have their own business. I want my babies to feel that same pride and motivation. It’s stressful, it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s my calling. I get the best of all my worlds, combined in a beautiful converted mill in rural Scotland. Who’d’ve thunk it? I look back at the girls at school, the colleagues who gave me the “are you mad, you’ll never make it” look. I pity them in a way. I hope they’re happy, I truly do, but I couldn’t live my life how they think I should, just because that’s “normal”. I don’t want to be “normal”, I never have. I can be “me” now, and it still baffles me that people want to pay hundreds of pounds to buy what I love to make. So many people in fact, that my waiting list is around 5 months long. I’m so proud of the amazing feedback I receive regularly, I cry when I read through my Testimonials page on my website. I can make a real difference to people’s lives by doing what I love to do.

When the lovely Olivia’s mum e-mailed me I had a revelation. A light-bulb moment. Call it what you will … I had it, and this missive has been brewing in my happy little mind since then. I want just one of you to make something. Just try it, you might like it. Scour the internet for inspiration and supplier, and make. Craft. Draw. Sew. Write. Do something. Find your skill, your niche, and love it. Please.

I found my key to happiness … strive to do what you love, do not settle with learning to love what you do. Be more. Be you. And be proud of you.

Now go, find your happy place and build your castle there.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Where did 2012 go??

Apparently I'm rubbish at blogging!! So sorry for the lack of, well, blog since moving day!! But ... we did it!! Six months ago!!!

I can't believe it's been that long. It feels like forever and no time at all both at the same time. So much has happened since July. Moving day was fun … the guys we found in the end were excellent, and massive thanks to our brothers who both rocked up raring to go and help us load the vans. Unfortunately said vans weren’t big enough for all our stuff … the old house’s tenant is being very accommodating of her cellar full of our stuff that’s still there!

Our summer was perfect, getting stuck into country life. I’ve never seen so many dead mice and small associated rodents … our cats think they’re in heaven!! Most were intact at first, then one of the cats decided that she likes their bellies so we now find heads and bottoms … nice!! It only took me about 6 weeks to stop having panic attacks, cold sweats and nausea when I fling them off the dustpan into their oblivion, I can even do it without covering them with kitchen roll now, get me! The children are loving the big house, the fresh air and the neighbours … currently sheep. There were cows, but they’ve gone off to the big farm in the sky, so we now have a winter of mucky little clouds running across the hillside. Our eldest started complaining a couple of weeks in that his body was hurting, and here I was thinking he was stricken with some hideous disease. It didn’t take me long to realise that it was his muscles – he’d never had the space to run around like he does now – all flipping day!!

Our house is beautiful, and in the perfect setting. We have a family of owls in the “chimney”, and through the skylights above our bed we can see them soaring late on a summer evening. Of course it’s very cold and very dark just now, 1st January 2013, so we don’t see them very often now. One thing we learnt is about domestic oil tanks. Now, us townies take things like hot water for granted. So, it comes as something of a surprise to find out that you have to fill an oil tank up to benefit from this luxury. Bye-bye £1500!! We’re desperately hoping that it will last us the winter as we battled to find a company that would deliver to us, and they all refused to do so after September, eek! We live down a track, which is fabulous as we no longer have to put up with 6 busses an hour passing by, along with the drunks heading to the newsagent next door at 10am in the morning. We now have the neighbour walking his dog, the farmer’s brother visiting him once a week, the odd pheasant and a family of partridges, who are hilarious by the way!

Our eldest has settled into his new pre-school impressively well. He’s got another year there in Scotland – in England he would have started big school this September. There are 11 in the pre-school, and our youngest will make number 12 when she starts on her second birthday in February – she can’t wait!! The “big” school has 32 students – that’s smaller than his old pre-school class. It’s a completely different way of life, and a way of life that we seem to have dropped seamlessly into. Hubby and our boy have been shooting, we can drive to beautiful, secluded beaches in less than 15 minutes, everyone knows everyone and there’s such a sense of community. The children are just about getting used to strangers saying “Hello” in the street without us having to scuttle off worried that we’ve done something wrong. The stresses of our former life seem to have melted away, as corny as it sounds. Now I worry about, well, thinking about it, not a lot really! Work is streaming steadily in, the bills are getting paid, although our cars seem to be revolting against country life and have insisted on being pacified by having copious amounts of money spent on them in the last few months. 4x4 here we come methinks! We’ve all never slept so well in our lives … there’s literally nothing to wake us up, except sometimes the weather. Which is dramatic in its gloriousness. Seriously, it’s like the sky is in HD. The sunsets are incredible. The dawns are incredible. To the point that I keep my camera readily accessible so that I can run outside to catch that day’s.

As we rolled into 2013 last night, I realised with huge surprise that 2012 saw us realise a lifelong ambition – we moved to the country. To a stunning house. To a wonderful lifestyle and a life full of opportunities for our little ones, and for us. We did it, we really, truly, actually did it! :P  that’s me, sticking my tongue out at all those who didn’t think we would!

I just wanted to say a great big MAHOOSIVE thank you to all the lovely folk who’ve supported us and to my wonderful clients. As some of you know, 2012 has been a huge one for us. This time last year we were wondering if we could do it. Well, we did it – we moved 400 miles away from our families, left well-paid jobs and made Neverland full-time. And we haven’t looked back.

If you make one resolution for 2013, make it a good one. Take that leap of faith. Better to regret trying and being able to go back, than regret never trying. Do what you love, be with who you love, be someone you love. Hug often, smile more, laugh every day. Talk with your angels. Be proud of your children being children, yes, even when they’re tearing round the house screaming their heads off! Be thankful that they can. Pray that they will for as long as they can. Make memories people.

We’ve all been through some tough times, some much more than others can possibly imagine. We need these times to make us strong, to make us people we are proud to be. Don’t go into a new year feeling guilt or regret. Feel strong, feel empowered to do something positive, ask for help, offer it whenever you can. Pass it on.

We wouldn’t be here without Neverland, and testimony to that is the fact that about 75% of our waiting list is returning clients or recommendations. This means so much to me. You have made our dream possible. YOU! If you can help someone who you’ve never even met fulfil a lifelong dream, what else can you do?

With the most heartfelt thanks
Clare, aka Tink (with tears in her eyes and a swollen heart) xxx

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

What a day!!

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful life events there is. Well, it is when the removal firm cancels with less than 24 hours before they're due to arrive!!

I e-mailed our guy last night to confirm all the arrangements, and he replied at 7.30am today and all was good. Then, just as we'd packed the children off to Grandma's for their last sleepover, done some packing and sat down to lunch with Hubby, I recieved another e-mail asking me to ring him asap.

"Are you sitting down", he asked. "Erm, I am now, why??" Apparently his trailer has "snapped in half" in Portsmouth and he was on his way in the AA van! How on earth a trailer snaps in half I don't know!! Now, we're in West Yorkshire, we're going to Aberdeenshire, and he's based in Stockport, so it's not going to happen, is it!?

Well, it's good job he rang me and not Hubby. There was a vein throbbing in his temple, he wasn't a happy bunny! Queue two hours of frantically ringing round and e-mailing various removal companies, and queue lots of being laughed at! "Yes, hi, I'm wondering if you can help. We need to move 385 miles tomorrow please". This is where the wonder that is Facebook came into it's own!

I posted a status asking if anyone knew a man with a van. An old junior-school friend messaged me - she knew a man with a van!! Really nice guy too ... much ringing back and forth with various suggestions but the long and short of it is, we're not moving tomorrow, but we are moving on Thursday!!! At 6am, eek!!!! .....

Monday, 2 July 2012

Two sleeps to go!!

(My apologies for the lack of paragraphs, the editor has gone funny!) Well, it turns out that packing, being a temporary single-mum and running a business is pretty time-consuming! I haven't blogged for months, literally!! And in those months we've ... found a tenant for our house ... found a house for us to live in ... quit the day job ... organised the removals guys and ... are moving in two days!!! Eeeek!!! I can't believe it's here already. We put the small people to bed at home for the last night tonight, they had their last supper at home, their last bath, their last tea. They're having a day and a sleepover at Grandma's tomorrow so hubby and I can concentrate on organising and packing. So that means it's our last night with a snuffling, trumping lump of baby in the cot in the corner of our bedroom. Sad ... and quite looking forward to having a grown-up bedroom again! Since my last post I've taken the children to visit Daddy in The Shire twice. The first time we went, we found a nice house in a little hamlet. It was fairly close to Hubby's work, fairly nicely decorated, fairly close to a good school and facilities. But it had a very smelly utility room! The previous tenants kept their dog in there and it stank of dog wee! At first the owner was happy for us to organise the floor being replaced but we were worried that it had soaked into joists, skirting boards etc etc and we wouldn't be able to use the room. In the end, the owner promised the house to someone else, so it all worked out. This visit was the start of convincing the children that the move will be a good thing. We were out on a drive when a deer ran across the road in front of us, they saw so much wildlife, breathed fresh air, didn't have to sit in traffic jams, it was lovely! During our second visit, we found an idilyic converted mill at the end of a track. It's a little place called Minnonie, near Banff. Minnonie consists of four houses along a track ... it's perfect!! I really can't convey how perfect it is! We're never going to want to leave!! We decided it would be best to rent for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we'd loose too much money if we sold our house just now. We bought it right at the height of the market and it's worth about £20k less now. So we're keeping our foot on the property ladder and renting it out. Secondly, we don't really know the area in The Shire yet, so renting gives us time to explore before buying a piece of Scotland. This second visit really cemented the idea with our eldest. We visited castles, beaches, the local towns ... he came home and started painting the beach, with the rainbow which ended in the sea just in front of the beach, and announced "this means I'm starting to like Scotland now". Minnonie Mill is a converted mill, which was built from the stone of a nearby castle when it was demolished. Our nearest neighbours will be cows! There are four bedrooms, a playroom, a utility room, a bootroom, the kitchen, conservatory and 10m living room, guest en-suite with corner bath and walk-in shower, house bathroom, garage/workshop, underfloor heating, integral vacuum system, resident owl in the chimney, 3/4 acre of garden/countryside, stream, pond, oh, and two waterfalls! Not to mention the visitng deer, otter and heron! It's serious child-paradise, and I think the grown-ups will be pretty happy there too! We've already got the guest rooms booked up for August, and I've even bought a specific wall calendar for visitors so we don't double-book!! Just need to pack this little house up now! We've been living in a state of half-packed-ness for months and it's driving me mad. We've just had an ill-timed week in Scarborough too with the in-laws, giving us 4 days between getting home and moving, and squeezing in a farewell party too! We've run out of packing boxes, so I physically can't do any more now till the guys arrive at 7am on Wednesday morning. I managed to convince Hubby that it wouldn't all fit in a Luton van, so he agreed to hire a man and a van (well, two men and a van!). It's not much more than doing it ourselves, and they're finishing the packing and dismantling too which is a huge relief. Most of our stuff is in toy crates/baskets and things anyway so hopefully it won't be too bad. The children are at Grandma's from tomorrow morning till we pick them up to set off on Wednesday so we can pack most of their things without them being too distressed. The logistics of it all has been stressing me out a bit but I just keep thinking "it'll be fine, we've got professionals"! Still, moving a house-full of stuff 400 miles is no small feat, and the last time we moved it was just the two of us and two cast ... no business, no children! It'll be fine, it'll be fine, it'll be fine ... (goes off to rock in a corner) ...

Monday, 5 March 2012

I’m sad :o( But I suppose I’m excited at the same time. We’ve embarked on the first official stage of our Scottish adventure … hubby’s moved to Scotland and started his new job! He left at 4am yesterday morning. I knew he was planning on leaving early, but 4am?! He woke early and couldn’t get back to sleep, bless him. Must have been one of those “big day ahead” feelings. I was ok when I woke up – I’d seen him leave, and we’d had a nice evening together with no working, a big bag of Maltesers and some of our fave telly so we’d sort of said goodbye (we don’t do big emotional scenes!). I was ok when the kids asked where Daddy is – he’s at work in Scotland, the first bit of our exciting adventure. I was ok through getting dressed and through breakfast. Then I saw the note he left for us. Then I was not ok. I had a bit of a cry. Oli was so adorable … he gave me a big squashy cuddle and said that he misses Daddy too. All day he was saing “let’s pretend Daddy’s here”, and was very put out that we didn’t have a Darth Vader for our Star Wars playing. We’ll be ok on our own for a bit, although we’re not sure when we’ll see each other again at the moment. We have a friend’s wedding on 17th March, and it may well not be until he comes home for that. Mum and Dad invited us for dinner, and I think if I keep us all busy the time will fly. Before we know it the house will be sold, a new house will be bought and we’ll be packing up and driving off into the sunset. We tried a bit of a sneaky experiment – we asked the Scottish estate agent if the bank which owns the farmhouse would do a part-ex. They won’t. Boo! Can but try I suppose, we’ll get there somehow. In the meantime, I have fudge …

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

We're selling my likkle house :o(

The next day we put our house on the market officially. It’s priced for a quick sale, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the valuation – I was expecting a lot less. We bought at the height of the market so I knew we wouldn’t get back what we paid, but it could have been a lot worse. A major sticking block is going to be the change from the English system to the Scottish system of house-buying. In Scotland, you have to make a “clean” offer. Basically, if you make an offer and it’s accepted, you have to pay up. There’s no backing out like in the English system, which is only binding once the contracts are signed. So we need a quick sale and quick completion so we can make an offer in Scotland. Our estate agent has benchmarked us with a 3-bedroom ex-council semi, which was on for the same price and went within a couple of weeks. I’m glad – I’ve been keeping an eye on a 2-bedroomed terraced house down the road, which has been on for about a year. Our agent puts my mind at rest though – that one isn’t really comparable as it’s on 3 floors, so the bedrooms/bathroom are tiny and there’s not as much outside space. Ours has good sized rooms, a lovely big garden (which I’m really going to miss) and lots of character. It’s a lovely little house, and I’m gutted to be leaving, but happy now knowing what we’re moving to. The “For Sale” board goes up the next day, and our agent sends through the particulars for approval. I’m really pleased – she’s used the photos that I took, used the words “oozes character and charm” and mentioned the strawberry patch in the garden. Who could resist? Hubby spoke with the agents in Scotland and finds out that there’s been another viewing of the farmhouse, but they’re not in a position to put in an offer either. It’s a race against the clock. Fingers crossed for a quick sale!

The reccie ... Day 3

The morning of Day 3 looks a bit scary … the roads are covered with snow. Our B&B is up a little road from the main road, and it’s a fair gradient. We pack up, get brekkie and head out to brave the weather. Fortunately it’s quite sunny and no longer snowing, and we make it down to the main road without skis. Despite Hubby’s mum’s insistent texts that we’re practically going to have to live in Scotland from here on in, we’re fine. Once on the main carridgeway it’s fine, one lane is still snow-covered but it’s a fairly sedate drive back. Until I say that I’d like to take the turn-off through Keswick, then Hubby actually heads towards Ullswater (there’s a reason – our friends are getting married there soon so we’re having a nosey), but when I realise that it’s added half an hour to our journey, I’m not a happy bunny. I want to cuddle my babies. They apparently haven’t missed us one bit, but I need big squashy cuddles. I’d gotten used to Scotland, to the different air, the laid back drivers, the breathtaking scenery. Coming down through the Lakes, through Skipton I feel a sulk coming on. Once we hit Bradford it’s settled in for the rest of the journey. I really don’t want to be here. The thought of living and dying in Birstall really depresses me. No offence to all the lovely folk who love Birstall, but it’s just not for me, and this weekend has confirmed it. We spoke to lots of people, native Scots and English “immigrants” alike, and all of them just cemented our reasons for wanting to move. The cost of living, the way of life, everything. Apparently we can knock 25% off our food bill. Hubby had a look at car insurance and can more than half it. And, of course, it's beautiful. That’s it then, we’re moving to Scotland!