In praise of London’s libraries

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The beautiful Brixton central library

How many of you are members of your local library?

I know some of you will be of course. I know some of you were very vocal about the recent cuts to library budgets. I know some of you go there for your kids, to borrow books and go to play groups. But the vast, vast majority of my friends, I am pretty certain, haven’t passed the door of a library since they were at school.

And I was exactly the same until YESTERDAY, when I joined Richmond libraries. And I am both amazed and impressed at how brilliant they are, and ashamed that I didn’t join sooner.

I have rose-tinted memories of libraries as a child – going along every week with my mum to take out books on penguins and snails; and then on my own slightly older to explore, crimson-cheeked, books by Judy Bloom, marveling at the high-tech way you could scroll through old newspapers on their machines.

But then libraries were about boring dusty books at Uni, revising and avoidance, and I never really went again.

Until now. Now I have a son, I want him to read a lot like I did, to explore books – their smells and the imagination within them, to discover authors and adventures. And I also want to start reading more myself – and having a house that is weighed down with books already, I don’t particularly need to own any more.

So I went along yesterday, egged on in all honesty by the fact that both my son and I are bored of all his books and I wanted to get him some more, and discovered that libraries now have so much more than they used to. They have free internet access. They let you borrow audio books, both kids and adults. They let you borrow MUSIC and boxsets (“The Wire? Yeah we let you keep that for 3 weeks”). They have every type of book imaginable and allow you to explore new authors and old friends alike. And they are all new-fangled with online renewals and inventories and a nifty computer thingie which you simply swipe your books to your account (yes I realise this is linked to the cuts – more on that below).

And the best thing? I am ashamed that I just didn’t know this – I simply assumed in this world where there is no such a thing as a free lunch that you would have to pay something, a few quid perhaps for each set of books you wanted (yes, I know, The Chef already laughed at me ) – that all of this is FREE. That is, up to 20 books for 3 weeks for just the price of paying your taxes. And in a London where you can barely walk out your front door without shelling a tenner here and there, that is a great thing.

The other great thing about the library? It is a community - your community. It was filled with dads looking at crime novels, grandfathers trying out this new-fangled interweb thingie, kids playing and reading about frogs, mums reading to toddlers, your neighbours all. They have baby singing classes and reading groups, fairs and talks.

It reminded me of my childhood, where life was about simplicity, and community, and where money didn’t matter so much, or certainly it wasn’t so apparent to me as it is now.

So I’m going to support the library in any way I can. Although my first challenge is to see if I can read my first bloody book in 3 weeks! Shantaram took me a YEAR…

Finally, I couldn’t talk about London’s libraries without talking about the cuts. I had read about them, of course, without really understanding how they affected me. So last night I looked at this website  which told me what’s actually happening all over the country. From a quick look, it looks like smaller areas have had their libraries closed, other libraries have had to take up the slack and open longer hours, thousands of qualified staff have been laid off, and mobile centres seem to have disappeared almost entirely. Which makes me worried about those communities, those immobile people, who are denied the thing that I have just discovered.

Where I used to live in Lambeth, Upper Norwood library is now funded outside the council, at least 6 mobile centres seem to have been lost, large branches have had their hours increased, smaller branches their hours cut, Waterloo and Streatham libraries may have to move and Streatham’s qualified staff all dismissed, other libraries at risk are Durning, Waterloo, South Lambeth, Minet and Carnegie (5 out of 11), West Norwood’s library is still closed, librarians jobs have been cut, £1.5 million has been cut from a budget of £6 million.

In Richmond where I now live, Ham, Hampton Wick and Kew libraries are all under threat with other libraries having to open longer hours, self-service is in all libraries, and £351k has been cut from the budget.

Do what you can to support London’s libraries – having discovered them I would be sad to see this bastion of community disappear. Check the website above for campaign groups such as Save Lambeth Libraries, or check out this page on what you can do to support libraries across the country.

For the love of food – Al Boccon Di Vino, Richmond

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So, as you know, I now have a small person occupying my time so I haven’t blogged for a while, but this place is just so damn good I wanted to tell you all about it.

It’s called Al Boccon Di Vino and it’s a tiny little restaurant in Richmond owned by this impossibly cool man who managed to make me giggle like a schoolgirl simply by winking at me:

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And run by this fabulous lady who The Chef actually fell in love with, and who walked round all night filling up our wine glasses and offering out limoncello, with words of love and laughter.

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Now, I didn’t think London could possibly produce a better fun Italian restaurant than Giuseppes in Borough – I mean, when it comes to atmosphere, Giuseppes always has me up dancing by the end of the night – arms round a group of people I only just met, warbling out old love songs on the microphone and listening to Frank Sinatra while sipping limoncello.

But Al Boccon Di Vino has atmosphere in spades and is the most incredible authentic Italian feast.

First, it has to be said it’s great for Richmond, which I’ve always found disappointing food-wise. Richmond is sooo beautiful – overlooked by the deer of Richmond Park as the sun sets over the Thames that runs through it. It should be filled with fabulous eateries and river-side pubs. And yet it seems more to be filled with Zizzis and Stradas and such like, and a mixture of hooray henrys and wobbling young tykes bound for Be At One.

But this place is an institution. It doesn’t care about money, and as such there is no menu, but you squash in next to your neighbor (who you are likely to get very well acquainted with) and are served a veritable banquet of food, like an Italian wedding feast.

We were there for almost 5 hours!!! And were solidly eating for most of it, although there is a well-timed pause before the mains and after the antipasti. We spent quite a lot of time chatting with our neighbours about this incredible feast which gave the place a real community feel. This is what we ate (or what we remember we ate at least):

Antipasti of lightly tempura’d vegetables

Aubergine with the most delicious mozzarella and parmesan mousse

Fried Mozzarella

A plate of prosciutto

2 Types of Scallops

Langoustines

Beef Carpaccio

Pasta with wild boar

Mozzarella and tomato ravioli (which The Chef declared to be the best pasta he’d ever tasted, before declaring his undying love for Simona, and ordering a second bottle of wine)

A whole roast suckling pig that was shown to the diners to a great mass of applause, served simply with roast potatoes

Strawberries and pannaccotta

Some other desserts perhaps (neither of us can remember)

Complementary coffee, grappa and limoncello

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The meal was fabulous. Fabulous! A real event, a showpiece meal served with a feeling of joy and community. The cooking was fantastic in the most part brilliant. All I would say is that the scallops were perhaps a bit overdone, but the rest of the meal was incredible, and generous in it’s cooking and presentation.

The cost for all this? £40 a head, which is quite ridiculous when you think of the amount of food and the quality of the ingredients. But as they say, they don’t do it for the money.

We went for the house wine (2 bottles given how long we were there and, well, because we don’t get out much) and this was fantastic, particularly the white, and it comes in at £25 per bottle.

I can’t recommend this place enough, although suggest you don’t go as a surprise as you’ll need to set aside tons of time and don’t eat for say a fortnight or so beforehand. Prepare to be full, happy and a little sozzled by the end. It would be a GREAT place for a group for a birthday or similar.

Al Boccon di'vino on Urbanspoon

To Parents Of Even Smaller Children

So, I’ve had a couple of miserable days recently. And then it all gets better again and I forget how bad it was. Only I write a blog so I wanted to write about the miserable stuff too, before I forget. To share, you see. To make you feel better perhaps. Hell, to make me feel better.

First, there was the day I was cooking a fish pie, with my son bouncing in his jumperoo, nursery rhymes playing; feeling warm and cosy and thinking what domestic bliss! I am a domestic goddess earth mother type person! My baby boy had even fallen asleep on the jumperoo he was so relaxed and I popped him easily in his cot for a snooze.

Only, an hour later, I woke him up by mistake trying to get some of his dirty laundry to wash, and he screamed the house down. Nothing I could do could get him back to sleep so by the time I’d bundled him into the pram, the fish pie was burnt, the Le Creuset pie dish was smashed in my rush to tidy the kitchen, and I had to leave my cosy warm house to walk out into the rain to calm a sleeping baby back to sleep before I even had the chance to grab any lunch. Suddenly I was tired, and hungry, and cold, pounding the streets endlessly until he fell asleep. And of course then the chaos had a knock-on effect on the rest of the day, making us miss a baby class and cancel a coffee with a friend.

A few days later and unplanned Armageddon hit again. Having had an amazing week with Mr Schmoo (for that is what he is now called), where he was happy and sweet and fell asleep easily for long naps, suddenly my baby boy was changed. He was whingy and whining and kicking and arching his back, and refusing to go down for naps even though I could tell he was exhausted. But why, I cried to the heavens?! It could have been many things – teething, constipation from eating solid food, a “Wonder Week” leap of development that had sent him bananas.

All I knew was my perfect routine was now shattered. But on this morning, I also woke up shattered. I had a cold, a sniffy, achey, knackered cold which meant all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa, put the fire on, and watch Ray Donovan on repeat. Add to this it was cold and pouring outside and I envisaged a lazy day of playing and snoozing.

Sadly Schmoo had other ideas. He was up at 5am and didn’t fancy going back to sleep again. Then he ate a bit too much acidic fruit for breakfast and spent the entire day straining in a constipated fug that might almost have been funny if it hadn’t looked so painful. Add to this crazy teething that made him bite anything in sight (including my face). Any attempts to make him nap when he looked exhausted ended up with him SCREAMING blue bloody murder, arching his back and kicking around, so all I could do was rock him and walk and eventually reach for the Calpol. He didn’t nap AT ALL. And so, I ended up, of course, pounding the streets again with the wee man in the pram. With pouring rain soaking me, a passing car chucking a puddle onto me for good measure. Not one walk but THREE walks. All lasting exactly the length of time that he slept, round in circles sometimes, perhaps stopping for a coffee and maybe a sit down…..NO he’s woken up, up you get and keep walking…

Hungry, cold, tired, ill. But luckily The Chef did bedtime and got him to bed, only the wee man was so tired he didn’t drink enough milk, so we was up at 3am, and again at 4am….

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Several of my mummy friends on Facebook posted this article by Steve Wiens in the Huffington PostTo Parents Of Small Children - which talks about how exhausting and relentless caring for little ones can be, and how, although wonderful at times, kids can make you frustrated and so bone-tired, you almost can’t imagine making it til bedtime.

When I first read it, I’d had a lovely day with Schmoo and couldn’t really empathise. But now I think about it all the time.

When I’m walking in the rain pushing a crying baby I also think – how on earth will I make it to bedtime?

I think of the relentlessness of it all, the fact that I never really stop being responsible, never really get more than a few snatched hours as a break.

And that even if I could have longer I don’t actually want to or feel I should, and I need to go through the arduous process of finding a good childminder and then paying them money I should be saving.

I think of the “breaks” that I do have that are filled with pureeing, and sterilizing, and washing, and cleaning, and doing admin, and replying to emails. And never seem to be filled with nice things like doing my nails or having a bath or reading a book.

I think of my friend who didn’t even have time to change her Tampax when her baby was screaming, until she finally ended up screaming herself.

I think of my friend who is now up every two hours at night, after months of sleeping through.

I think of my friend who’s son pulls out great tufts of her hair every day.

(It’s not the same friend, by the way, that would be really shit).

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But then the next day, today, Schmoo is back on great form. And one big, gummy smile, and I’m delirious again. And I’m tickling his tummy listening to him laugh, and in awe of him rolling not once but twice. I’m bouncing him on my knee singing Grand Old Duke Of York, and giving him huge cuddles and kisses. I’m pushing him in his pram, this time singing, and I’m laughing and smiling at him, thinking how wonderful and amazing he is and how much I love him.

And it’s OK now, it’s really OK.

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So what have I learned from the shit days?

  • The Wonder Weeks app is a fairly good indicator of whether you will be living with a saint or a monster
  • A night out with friends can restore your sanity – and all it costs is the price of a bottle or wine, and a hangover
  • A few hours’ break courtesy of a partner or friend can make a huge difference. Go shopping! Have a bath! Sit in your pants and look at Facebook!
  • Babies have rubbish memories so they won’t remember the crying and the screaming, once they feel better they won’t recall any of the bad stuff
  • But WE do remember and it does affect us – it’s OK to walk away sometimes and let someone else take over
  • They only last a few days, weeks at most…

….Everyone goes through it and it will pass.

It does pass, really.

On happiness & motherhood

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And then there were three….

You will have to excuse my lack of blogging of late. But on 27 March 2013, I gave birth to my son and my life changed out of all recognition. And recently, 7 weeks on, I’ve realised some things about happiness that make the HPL rules more important than ever to stick to and I wanted to share them here.

It is only now, as my body releases the hormones I’ve had circulating in my system over the last 10 or so months, which kept my baby inside me and allowed him to grow, that I am able to reflect on how I’ve changed.

Firstly, I realise I had a tough pregnancy. I have a new-found affinity for Kim Kardashian in that I too grew to the size of a small bus while carrying my baby boy, to the extent that many people (including medical practitioners) told me I must be having a huge baby. I feel for her because while you can put vanity on the back burner as much as you can, hating photos of yourself, catching yourself sideways in a mirror and gasping at your sheer bulk, isn’t the best thing for your self-confidence or esteem.

And then there’s how the hormones affect you. For me, my body was allergic to the hormones, and while my body gave everything it could to make my son the beautiful and chilled out boy he is, it took something from me – my skin became red and sore and swollen and itchy, I didn’t look like me, I would look in the mirror and cry in pain and in sadness at the loss of something. Only now, when he is 7 weeks, and my skin has begun to look normal again (thanks, in part, to Waitrose Baby Bottom Cream, who knew?), I feel that I have regained “me” again, only a fatter me with droopier boobs.

Then there’s the moods, the loss of confidence at work because of baby brain and guilt about maternity leave and your career path, the overwhelming love and fear for your baby and your family, and the separation from old friends whose lives are now on a different track.

Then there’s the birth. Well mine was pretty bloody awful. It was brutal and traumatic and you can read about it on my baby blog here if you want to. It gave something to me, of course – it gave me a power and a confidence, especially as I did it without an epidural and mostly on gallons of gas and air, but it also made me cynical and angry at mother nature and at life, and its something I realise I need to recover from mentally and emotionally, as does The Chef who saw things I can’t even imagine.

And finally motherhood. The highs, those incredible highs – of picking up a sleepy warm baby in the morning, of the first smile, the picking his clothes and laughing when he does something funny, the watching him asleep, the cuddles and the love – that overwhelming love again – and the worry about anything that might happen to him. I feel such pride in my family, in him, this chilled out wee fella that The Chef and I made, who seems better than us, who seems so perfect, who I can’t wait to watch grow, who develops every single day.

But, at 7 weeks, as the hormones that made him slip away, I feel something new. A sense of change, of wondering who I am now, what I do from here.

I’m not working, my life is my baby and cups of coffee, endless coffees, with other mums. We talk about our babies and about our boobs and our stitches. I am fascinated with recording every feed, every poo, every minute of sleep.

I found myself telling a (male) friend of mine, in great detail, about how my son hadn’t pooed for 2 days and how it was great that he had finally done a poo that morning, explaining in detail how he went red and I felt bad for him but was also happy as he’d been constipated… and halfway through I thought – what on EARTH am I doing! I’m talking about my son’s shits in great detail! To a bloke! I’ve become one of those mothers….And I post photos of him on Facebook all the time. And when The Chef brings up something in the news I feel ashamed – I didn’t watch the news today, in fact my world is here, so small now, between the bedroom and the nursery and the kitchen. And between the coffees, I am here – in the nursery mostly – with him, loving him and cuddling him, but alone, lonely at times. Working us both up to the next coffee, the next GP visit, the walk to the park, that is the day’s activity.

My god I’m not complaining. I love being a mum – I’m good at it I think. I love him and I love our life together and I love my family. But I realise my identity, my happiness, my confidence, has taken a knock with all this, left me moody and on the verge of rage or tears fairly easily, left me not quite knowing who I am now, how I’ve changed, whether I will ever be the old “me” again. And so now, I realise how important it is that I work on my happiness, and in doing so, work out where I go from here.

And so to the rules again:

1. Be Active – important given I can only live in elasticated waistbands for so long. I’m doing a mother & baby yoga class to ease my creaky bones, and I’ve dug out my gym kit with thoughts of swimming and running.

2. Connect – vitally important for me right now. I miss my friends after 7 weeks of wanting to be holed up with my baby boy. I want to organise a girls’ night out and drink wine – wine! – and a night eating good food with The Chef. I want to drink a martini. I want to go to the cinema. I want to see old friends, and friends without kids, and phone people when I feel isolated with a baby stuck to my breast.

3. Give – my current bugbear, after awe-inspiring treatment by NHS midwives at Kingston hospital, is the proposed plans for the NHS – the fact that it is effectively being privatised from under our noses to an American-style insurance-based system with healthcare for the richest, from private companies, while the poorest will suffer. I need to see what I can do to get involved. As a mum I’m also filled with an empathy I don’t think I had before – so I want to make sure I give clothes and toiletries to charities that help women and children.

4. Nurture – easy. I do it every day until around 7pm when I put him down to sleep. But there are other projects too to get excited about – transforming my garden, planting new colourful flowers, transforming the house in which I spend so much time in nowadays. Projects, and economical maternity-leave budgeting ones at that, will keep me busy over the next few months.

5. Learn – I’m going to learn to cook. As The Chef knows, I can barely boil an egg, but I’d love to get better of it, to become a bit more domesticated, to feed my lovely family. I’m starting this week with doing a few simple meals. God help us all.

6. Be Curious – Since the hormonal fug of pregnancy has started to lift, the baby is able to sleep in his pram, and I’m mastering public transport, I want to go exploring London again. So many places I want to go – Eel Pie island (open house 22/23 June), the Polka Theatre, the Electric Cinema, some of the new restaurants whose openings I’ve totally missed.

Happiness, like confidence, is a transient thing, and one you need to keep working at. Getting married, having a baby, can be the happiest time of your life, but the changes they bring and emotions they evoke can be overwhelming at times. I’m glad I have the HPL rules to ground me, and I love a project to work on. I’ll let you know how I get on.

A weekend in Berlin

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Berlin is one of those places that everyone said was amazing, and I always wanted to go, but never got round to it. So back in summer, we hatched a plan for a girls’ party weekend and booked for November. Turns out that unbeknownst to me at the time, I was actually pregnant, so I was five months gone by the time we got there. So it was less “oonst oonst”, more “oooof can I have a waffle”, but still a fantastic place to visit.

There are lots of reasons to go – incredible art galleries and museums, amazing nightlife, great shopping and restaurants, and a truckload of history. Imagine a capital city without a finance district, not brimming with lawyers and bankers, but artists and musicians, and you get a very cool city like Berlin. Add to that people are friendly, everything is great value, and you can still smoke in bars (not so great for those who are 5 months pregnant) and you have the perfect long weekend.

We can’t claim to have even scratched the surface of what’s on offer, but here’s some tips on places to visit:

1. The Holocaust Memorial

I can’t put my finger on why this is so perfect, in fact no-one I’ve spoken to can, but it just is. It’s somehow magnificent and powerful and subtle and moving and I have no idea why. Round the corner from the Brandenburg Gate, I could spend a long time wandering amongst it all.

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2. Views from the Reichstag

You can get a lift up to the roof and look from the top of its glass dome for an amazing view over Berlin (it’s free), but it’s also a beautiful building. You should also have a look at the Roma gypsy memorial in the Tiergarden nearby.

3. Wander round the Scheunenviertel (Barn Quarter)

This is one of Berlin’s oldest and most quirky areas and if you wander around slowly, you can find gorgeous courtyards, rambling alleyways, painted houses, shops, cafes and galleries. It reminded me of the roads between Spitalfields and Brick Lane – once a run down area, now filled with art, shops and cafes. We also saw an unbelievable number of cool-looking galleries all along the nearby Auguststraße.

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4. Eat curry wurst, have a German meat and cheese fest, and try Berlin’s restaurant scene in Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg

Anyone who eats meat and cheese in such great quantities, including first thing in the morning, has my vote.  We ate fantastic German food in Oderquelle on Oderberger Street and loved the cheap buffet breakfasts in the nearby cafes on Sundays.  I also loved the relaxed vibe and lovely pan-Asian food at Toca Rouge  on Tör strasse in Mitte.

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5. Visit the retro vintage clothes shops and record shops in Prenzlauer Berg

I was delighted to find the original vinyl of “Ferry Cross the Mersey” as well as vintage shops selling amazing clothes, shoes and bags – shops that were museums in themselves.

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6. Check out the flea market on Sundays in the Mauerpark

Apparently the king of Berlin fleamarkets, it was sadly closed when we were there but still served a mean currywurst.

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7. People-watching and whisky drinking in Berlin’s bars

We liked Café Schwarzsauer in Prenzlauer and Melody Nelson cocktail bar on Novalisstrasse in Mitte. Great music, cool people, smoky as hell. Made me wish I’d gone a decade ago…

8. Visit the Jewish Museum and Museum Island

The Jewish museum is housed in an amazing building and is huge, charting German Jewish history from the beginning and focusing on the Third Reich, with sculptures and a lovely café. You should also see the Berlin wall museum at the Potsdamer Platz, and Checkpoint Charlie, but sadly we didn’t have time.

You could also spend a day, if you weren’t distracted by waffles and gluhwein and winter markets, visiting Berlin’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island). It’s a small island in the Spree river which is a UNESCO site in itself as well as the venue for 5 museums , the most famous being the Pergamon museum, but also the Neues Museum, Altes Museum, National Gallery and Bodemuseum.

9. Head to Berlin’s clubs

Sadly I missed out on this being the size of a baby elephant, but I would definitely want to go back and try one of Berlin’s great clubs. The most famous is Berghain, and there’s also Kater Holzig, Wilde Renate, and Chalet.

We flew Easyjet from around £60 each way.

Introducing the HPL’s new blog

You’ll be glad to know that I’m not going to bore you with too many tales of cracked nipples and pelvis pain over the next few months as I’ve decided to post all my thoughts on the joys and – frankly – bloody awful bits of pregnancy, birth and motherhood on a new blog. So, if you’re interested in seeing how I figure out what on earth I’m doing, please have a look at my new blog:

The Happy Baby Project

Imaginative title hmm? I’m tweeting about mummy stuff from @happybabyblog and I’ve also set up a Facebook page. Well, I have to do something to bide the time spent mulling over my growing tummy (and boobs, and thighs and bottom).

But here, I’m still going to dedicate my time to the worthy pursuit of great burgers, decent wine and being happy in London. Life, albeit slightly more curvy, carries on as usual!

The Happy Baby Project

I’ve been quiet over the last few weeks because life has changed somewhat, and it has something to do with the little wriggly person that’s been growing inside me. Yes, the HPL is having a baby!

And while I’m wildly happy about it now, there were times in first 12 weeks when I really struggled to remind myself of all I’ve learnt about being positive. Of course I appreciate how lucky I am, and what an exciting thing is about to happen to us, but my body’s reaction to the news wasn’t exactly pleasant. And it took this wonderful blog post by Caroline No to give me the strength to say IT’S BEEN BLOODY SHIT! I’ve been a bit rubbish at this pregnancy stuff! And finally – who cares!

My skin decided it didn’t like the preggie hormone or the preggie hormone didn’t like certain foods anymore and broke out in giant red itchy spots all over my chest, neck and face, which might or might not have been hives. I got teenage acne. I developed an agonising pain in my right buttock which turned out to be my pelvic girdle pinging out of place, making walking nigh on impossible. I found myself sobbing like a heartbroken teenager for hours on end, once hysterically laughing and sobbing at once, not knowing why. I felt nauseous and fat and bloated and frumpy, unable to squeeze into my old clothes but not big enough for maternity gear. I ate three burgers in a week. I missed wine and hangovers, still do. And don’t get me started on itchy boobs and cracked nipples and giant wire-less maternity bras which make cycling to work an interesting exercise in pot-hole avoidance and agonising bouncing droopy pendulous bosoms….

A cumulative force of utter exhaustion, the need to cry repeatedly and teenage acne-like skin meant I lived as a hermit for weeks – not even wanting to go for a walk and covering my face when I saw anyone including a man reading our meter: “Don’t Look at Meeeee!”.

There were sudden periods of anger, an unbearable urge to snap. The Poor Chef got the brunt of it, being the only person in my vicinity for much of the time. You put a wine glass in the dishwasher the wrong way – YOU IDIOT!!! You didn’t put the plant pot in the right place – YOU RUINED MY BIRTHDAY!!! And how could he understand the raging hormones that were filling my body with negativity and fury and sadness, when he was just really really happy?

But on the cusp of 12 weeks things got better. I got my energy back, which built up to something like hysteria when I realised I could finally socialise and actually see my friends again (lunches and walks along the Thames best – drunken dinners not to the most fun when you’re sipping on Schloer all night and wondering why everyone’s laughing at an unfunny joke). My skin cleared up and my hair went from greasy to full. I contacted friends, I felt positive, I started thinking about the future. And The Poor Chef came out of hiding.

And then this week we had the scan. I was a bag of nerves, wondering if it was there at all, or alive or deformed, or multiple. But then we saw him (for we call him “he” after the scan but we don’t know if he is a she yet of course). What a gorgeous wee wriggler. He was tiny, of course. But with a round little belly and a lovely face with big lips. And beautiful frogs legs and two feet, which he kicked in the air before turning his little bottom towards us. I can’t feel him yet but my tummy is getting more solid and I love the little reminder that he’s there, wriggling and waiting.

So now it’s different. I’ve told people which really helps. I’ve bought a few bigger clothes and am enjoying better skin and shaking off the indignity of the last few weeks. I’m loving my new body – the round curves, the bigger breasts, the hardening belly. I’m so proud of my body, so impressed at its strength and the way it seems to know exactly what to do. I can see why women who’ve given birth often want to do marathons  afterwards – and I feel the same – because I love my body in a way I never have before and I’m amazed at what it is capable of and I want to get fit, not just work out at the gym to lose weight, but get stronger and faster and show myself what my body can actually do. I feel womanly and dare I say a bit beautiful.

I am already aware of competitive mum syndrome and what lies ahead. There are the I’m-still-a-party-girl mums (I stayed up til 2am and wasn’t tired at all! Yes the baby is two weeks old lets book that girls’ holiday to Ibiza!). There are the body-beautiful mums (I’ve not put on ANY weight! In fact I’ve LOST weight! Who’s the first for botox?!). There are the capitalist mums (I’ve just bought the most fabulous baby papoose to match my bugaboo pram travel system in a neutral colour to match my tastefully decorated nursery!). And there are the this-is-totally-natural-to-me mums (vitamins? I didn’t bother with those. Epidurals? I’m just going to power breathe with my doula).

So what sort of mum will I be? Well who knows. But I’m not pining my party days any more. In fact I’m loving getting to bed at 10pm and being cosy under a woollen blanket on the sofa. My favourite recent purchase is a great pair of sheepskin slippers.  I’m looking forward to my body getting big and round because I have a feeling it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be doing and I really want to take care of it from now on. And I believe what my child really needs is our unconditional love, and a favourite cuddly toy which is soft and old and worn, and being read to all the time, and its grannies and granddads and aunty and uncle teaching it about life and the world and where it came from.

I know one thing for sure. This is the biggest adventure of our lives and its one that I’m finally ready for. And sometimes it will take all I’ve learned about happiness and positivity to keep me going when times are tough, but the joy this little thing will bring will teach me more about life and love than I ever imagined possible.

So wriggle away wee man, we love you very much, and we can’t wait to meet you in March!