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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

I THINK IT JUST KICKED


The fashion world has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Funny enough, I worked in it for a while, or near to it anyway, and while there were pieces of it that intrigued me, “Oooh nice dress... Ahhhh shiny pages with stuff on them I can't afford,” or “Wow she’s tall. Honestly, how do they get that freaking tall?” I knew ruminating over whether skirt lengths were going to be long or short each season was never going to be my thing. As my old boss said to me one day over my review lunch, "Face it Anka, you don't want to write about this sh*t." He was a smart man.

Coming from a family of 5 women with a model for a mother, for many years, I was definitely the sartorial black sheep of the family. Back then, I would often go out dressed in pyjamas and cowboy boots or wear these rusty tin hair clips in my hair that would make my mother crazy and finish off the look with a pair of sweat pants and a Metallica T-shirt and simply, as they say, didn't give a toss. Or just to confuse everyone even more, I'd vary my look so wildly from one day to the next, that they weren't sure if I was channeling Little House on the Prairie, or Seattle grunge girl... I suppose I was kind of like your garden variety, fashion Sybil (it took me many decades to take an interest in what I was wearing and actually find my look that didn't involve pyjamas, and I give all the credit to my elegant mother).

Furthermore, I never understood how people managed the whole keeping up with the fashion trend thing, without going bankrupt. "That's in. No, it's out now! Don't you know it's out??!! Wait it's back in!! But only for twenty five minutes!!" OMG. Which is it?? I happily pride myself on the items in my closet that I’ve discovered in old thrift shops and are older than a box of Twinkies (and are the exact pieces that get the most compliments) and don't give a sod if they're in or out. They're on me, how's that? 

Alas, I digress wildly. Funny how easily that happens… 

So the other day at London Fashion Week, a male designer, Xander Zhou had male models on the runway strutting their anaemic, robotic stuff (you know that stare they all have as they walk down the runway) wearing prosthetic pregnant bellies. Many of the bellies were exposed as the men stroked them or belly cupped their pseudo babies.  The whole motto of the show was “New World, Baby,” and apparently showing men pregnant in fashion is a thing now. It's so en vogue dahling, as apparently we're on the precipice of men being able to carry life. News to me.

I have to admit, at first it just cracked me up, inspired an eye roll and confirmed why many feel as if the fashion world is elitist and often out of touch – in short, what prosthetic bellies have to do with selling men’s clothes is beyond me? Especially as it’s not a maternity menswear line. Now that would be interesting! 

Then of course, I could hear the feminist Gloria Steinem voice inside of my head whispering: 'Yeah, it’s fine for them to pretend to be pregnant, let’s see them really try to pull it off.' One whiff of labour pains, stretch marks, sleep apnoea and heartburn, and they’ll be signing up for a surrogate faster than they can say “Praise Be!” 

But it’s an intriguing age old curiousity that (some!) men have when it comes to women’s ability to grow and carry life.  This, “See, one day we can do it too!” mentality as somewhere deep down it kills them that there is one thing we can do that they simply cannot. Plus you know half of men deeply resent maternity leave and that's why (ahem) in some countries we get something hideous like 14 days. As far as I’m concerned, I’m fine if they want to figure out how to make male child bearing happen. I wasn’t a lover of pregnancy barring a few weeks out of the 40 (yeah, I said it), and would gladly have given my husband the chance to get fat, be unable to sleep for nine months and squeeze the King’s 9-pound head out of his… well, they’ll have to work out those pithy little details once they're done playing with their rubber bellies. 

Happy Hump Day all. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

ACHOOOOO


Our new kitty cat has a snot blowing problem. Yes, you read that correctly.

Anyone that knows me well knows how funny and ironic this statement is. If truth be known, which it shall be in about two seconds, I was not the person you looked at and immediately thought, pets!! Not that I haven’t had them in my life; I grew up with dogs, cats, turtles, horses, lizards, frogs, you name it. But as I aged, and realised I was a gypsy with a profound affinity for order and cleanliness (the first step is acceptance), pets just didn’t factor into things. And of course, with the years came, ahem, well, rigidity. To say I became more like my mother and looked at the running of our house like a well oiled piece of machinery, is an understatement. The woman liked order and I loved her for it (well, certainly NOT as a teenager).

Alas, then we had The King, and a certain amount of surrender was mandatory. After your first year of poo, colds, vomit and the like, you quickly realise it’s not your house anymore. As the years ticked by and we realised a second child was not on the cards, the pet discussion of course came into play. The King would vociferously chime in that a pet WAS in his future and began obsessing on names, breeds, toys, and scenarios in which his pet would make life complete – and cut down on the impending therapy bills later in life due to being a single child. The kid is brilliant at guilt laden negotiation. 

Enter Albus. A very cute Russian Blue kitty cat we brought home about six weeks ago. I of course prepared myself for all the changes to come, many of which were highlighted by my friends and husband who couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of me, with a cat. The obvious ones I mulled over and in time digested: the litter box, what happens in the litter box, the toys, the paraphernalia strewn around the living room, the food (the smell of the food!), and the clawing at your rug, furniture… doors, and so on. And my response, the more times repeated, became steeped in confidence, “I can handle it.” And to be honest, when you look at this little grey fur ball, the rest of it fell by the way side. As it should. 

That is, until I encountered the snot. 

Now, I knew a bit about cats, but I have to admit, I barely knew they sneezed, let alone could catch colds (colds that lasted as long as a Game of Thrones sodding winter). Let’s just say, our little Albus gave us a crash course education in all things snot related. For the first few days, he walked around sneezing and we all thought, huh, that’s kind of sweet, "Achoo," a kitty sneeze. "Awww."  Then his sneezes started increasing and stuff started flying out of his nose at an alarming rate. Sticky, gooey, cement hardening snot that would attach itself to any surface it came into contact with. You’d be having a sweet little cat moment and WHAMMO, snot would spray your shirt, the walls, the windows (I secretly think his favourite thing to do is to spray the window from his perch and watch me squeal and run around searching for the Windex), and of course the King's Lego (the only time the King is NOT thrilled with Albus). It got to the point where I’d have to do a snot check round the house every morning, as you would find it literally everywhere. 

Upon educating ourselves, apparently cats not only catch colds, but cat herpes, chlamydia, and syphilis. Who knew kitties were such little harlots? As I like to look at most things in life as lessons, or opportunities for growth, I try to tell myself that this little ball of snot filled fur is teaching me to surrender and go with the snot, as they say. My deal with the King is I'm allowed to clean up after Albus's nose purges, but I have to do it with a smile that says, "Oh well, this is just part of cat life, as I prance happily around the house singing "skippety do dah, snot is the greatest!" (As admittedly I had a curse filled rant one morning as I scraped snot off the wall that did not go over well with the King). 

But, I am human after all with a lifetime love of order and I’m certainly not going to be upset when his nose finally dries up and I can put away the disinfectant wipes. 

Here’s to clear windows. 



Tuesday, 15 May 2018

THE CAT'S MEOW


We became pet owners recently. To those that know me well, this came as a great surprise. Okay, fine, a total AND UTTER shock. “Anthea, a cat person? Hahahahaha, that's a good one." 

At my ripe old age of, ahem, murky forties, I have no shame in admitting that I am a bit of a clean freak (my husband will be laughing heartily at my ‘tame’ description of myself). It’s hereditary all right; in my family, you were either clean or you were promptly sold (to the dirtier family down the street). But once we had our son, and that realization that it was only going to be the three of us, the proverbial pet clock started ticking loudly. And of course, once the King approached the age of will, demonstrative dialogue and had testosterone coursing through his veins, the guilt was laid on thick.

It became a constant barrage of “Why don’t I have a sibling?” “Just go buy one Mommy!” (Yeah, okay, I’ll get right on that); or “If I don’t have a sibling, then can I please have a pet, cause if I don’t get a pet, I may end up in therapy cursing your name for years.” Okay, this was implied, and not exactly stated, but the message was clear, this kid needed something to look after.

No pressure then.  

So after a stern talking to my OCD self, I caved first (deep down when it comes to the King, I am a soft touch) and then informed my husband we were getting the King a cat -- [see how I did that, "informed."] At first he looked at me, reminded me who I was, and started laughing. “What about the smells, the hair, the furniture?! You could never handle it.” To which I responded, I’ll deal with it (on the inside I wept a little at the thought of shredded furniture, but nothing a homeopathic sedative didn't fix). As I saw it, my cat, my darling cat would be the cat exception. The angel cat that wouldn’t scratch furniture and would sh*t rose petals. Yes, in this one instance I was an idealist.

And as fate would have it, we soon fell in love with a Russian Blue kitty cat (he's grey and he matches the decor of the house, I'm telling you, it's a bourgeois dream come true). My son started on his name list and I quickly delved into the world of cats -- holy haystack was that a wake up call. Between the food, the toys, the litter, the bed, the scratching posts, AND the insurance, I looked at my husband and pondered whether buying an actual baby from the local high street was an option... Come on, doesn't Argos sell babies yet? 

Once Albus - as my son anointed him -  arrived, I quickly realized that we didn’t need a baby. We had one: a grey, fuzzy, manic, slumbersome ball of meowing fur. And the rest they say is history. My husband, the last one one to get on board, is now amusingly and utterly under this cat’s spell, the man is putty in Albus's cat paw. He holds him, talks to him, and worries about him endlessly. 

"He’s crying, I swear he’s crying… he looks depressed, anything that sleeps that much must be depressed, no? His eyes look weepy, should we call someone?” 

And of course my son walks around the house repeatedly telling me that his life has been profoundly changed now that “we are cat owners.” In fact, the elation on that kid’s face when he curls up in bed at night with Albus beside him is starting to make me think that a cat farm may be in our near future. 

OCD be damned, I may have just saved myself a fortune in therapy bills.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

GIVE



Since my mother passed away last year, I’ve been obsessed with the notion of doing more, or shall I say more specifically, doing more for others. I suppose staring in the face of one’s mortality can do that to a person. It’s also hard not to question everything in one’s life when death strolls up and whacks you in the face (as we know, death isn't subtle). Like many, I came to the conclusion, that sitting on the sidelines and ranting on Facebook about politics and what not, wasn’t going to cut it anymore. 

So I asked myself what matters to me, and more importantly, how will that make an impact? Some big questions best answered after a large cup of coffee. Aside from lending my writing skills to causes that mean a lot to me and doing what I can for the environment, it always came back to children in some for or another - being that they're the future and all that. 

So I started volunteering at my son’s school - which has made me want to run up and hug every teacher I come into contact with and hand them a bottle of wine - and signed up to volunteer at a renowned children’s hospital here in London. I figured, if I can give a few hours and make a child smile or distract them from the fact that their life is being spent in a hospital (whilst giving their parents the time to sneak off and grab a cup of tea) then job done.

Before you start thinking of a litany of excuses as to why you can't give up your time, please understand that volunteer work in any capacity is not one size fits all. The whole point is to ask yourself, what is your thing, what makes you tick? And how can you use your time, energy and skillset to give back and make the world a little less bleak. And when I say time, I mean, ANY time you can spare, in any capacity. The world is a big place awash in causes/organisations/institutions that could use a helping hand in a variety of ways. 

The sobering part is, how many people do not engage in any sort of volunteer work throughout their life and yet, giving even an hour of time would make a difference, not only to a cause but also to one’s own well being. Is that a selfish reason to undertake volunteer work?  Well, if it makes you feel good while helping others, who cares how much one’s ego comes into play. In my opinion, we have become a world of insular, polarized, fear driven creatures that need a huge reminder that power in numbers can be a beautiful thing. I’m as jaded as the next woman, trust me, but I’d like to believe that what is missing in all our lives is the remembrance that once upon a time, we used to help one another a lot more than we do now. We didn’t let our differences (or fear thereof) polarize us to the point of lunacy... well, okay, maybe we did, but when we weren’t being ignorant, war mongering bigots (oh my stars, how little we've progressed!), we came together to build houses and communities, and borrowed cups of sugar! Before sugar became the enemy of course.

What has amazed me most thus far about my experience at the hospital are the other volunteers. The age range is vast, backgrounds diverse, and the experience they bring to the table is awe-inspiring - it often causes me to ask myself, why haven't I done more?!  From the twenty something’s with full time jobs that choose to give up their weekends to volunteer (their weekends people, their weekends!! My weekends in my twenties were spent... well, let's just leave that there) to the woman at the age of 72, with MS, that gets herself there once a week, by bus, to be a "ward granny." Honestly, the volunteer pool is beyond impressive. 

So, honestly, what’s your excuse? 

Thursday, 1 February 2018

FEMINIST IS NOT A DIRTY WORD


Of late, I’ve been trying to figure out when “feminism” became such a dirty word.  By definition, feminism can be defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.

God that sounds atrocious (yes, that’s sarcasm people). Let that sink in for a moment… 

When you read that definition it’s hard to understand how every woman on this planet is not a feminist and shouting it proudly from the top of a woman-owned building in women-designed shoes. We are still paid less than men, still facing a very thick glass ceiling, still being trafficked, objectified, raped, (in some countries cannot drive or vote) and still have to say things like, “Thank you, but can you look at my eyes when I speak and not my chest.” (These are not opinions people, these are facts).

Like I’m sure many have, the #Metoo movement has sparked all sorts of conversations between my friends and I, at dinner parties, in the playground, at work etc. And while I’ve always been a very proud feminist some of my women friends, to my surprise, make sure I know they are not, as if it’s a dirty word associated with showerless women who burn bras and hate men.  I suppose my first question always is, if you're not a feminist, by its sheer definition, then what are you? Someone who doesn't want equal rights for women? Or someone that simply doesn't care cause you have plenty of rights and sod the women who don't? This then spurs me to want to grab the dictionary and just read them the definition as I’m convinced they must be misunderstanding the words… um, you’re a woman, don’t you want equal rights for, you know, women? And for the record, I shower, I love men (with exception), and am raising a damn fine son who is indeed a feminist (as this is not just reserved for women) and understands that women are his equal and are on this planet to be respected and revered.

Like any movement, the feminist movement has a long checkered past and yes, there have been participants of all types, convictions (as in passion, not criminal) and affinities to showers. Some of these women could certainly be called militant in their belief systems, and some simply want equality for women without having to shout it from the rooftops. But herein lies the problem, like it or not, change doesn’t always happen through the stoic types who support the movement but aren’t ready to holler it loudly. Sometimes change is only brought about by those ready to adopt the 'by any means necessary' stance. For every Gloria Steinem, there is a Rose McGowan, who is angry, unruly and eager to make enemies along the way cause she feels like she has no other choice. Remember,  change is also very uncomfortable for those that don’t want change. I strongly believe that the loudest voices sometimes need to be heard to shake things up, as it is far too easy to sink back into what is deemed normal. And women accepting (or shall we say, tolerating) a male dominated society’s view of normal is what got us into this sh*t in the first place.

My other response to those that think the movement has gone to far is this, with every movement there is going to be a bloodletting. Things may go too far at times because there has been silence and acceptance for so long, and when the volcano blows, it’s damn hot and leaves nothing unscathed. But in time, things will settle down and hopefully a new normalcy will come out of this, a bar of which we all should strive for (for men and for women), a new definition for what is acceptable behaviour. The other thing we should be focusing on is what has gotten out of hand is not this latest movement, but the fact that so many women have been silent for so many years and all of this abuse/assault has been allowed to persist.

But most importantly what this entire movement has done is start a dialogue. And it is loud and messy and complicated, but it needs to be had. The fact that we are talking about Aziz Ansari over a dinner table and wondering where the line is and if he’s being unfairly maligned means the movement is long overdue. It has brought a voice to the silent corners, the uncomfortable ambiguities that men and women often never discuss. It has also shone a light on the voiceless, a very important demographic that is easy to forget if you’ve always had a voice. This is one of those watershed moments that no matter if you’re a man or a woman, you need to take a step back and remind yourself that this is a time for listening, a time for dialogue and a time to understand that everyone has their own experience and it’s not always pretty, easy, or comfortable. 

So rock on my feminist sisters. I’m proud to stand with you (on a rooftop).


Friday, 24 November 2017

THANK YOU


I have lived abroad for a long time - a very long time. So long in fact that I use funny words like petrol and rubbish, spell many words with an s instead of a z (realise!), and am often accused of having “an accent” whenever I return to the States. My response: I have a sponge-like musical ear, what can I tell you? Twenty minutes in the deep South and I start sounding like Scarlett O’Hara.

Of course once the King came along, my Anglophile ways increased three-fold.  It got so bad, I started saying tom(ah)to and ban(ah)na, as the King was developing this weird hybrid accent and my husband was having a heart attack.  And yes, this also means that my knowledge of the American holiday schedule has gone out the window. The other day, an American mother asked the King what he was doing for Thanksgiving and he looked at her blankly and said, “What’s that?” Of course I got a look of horror from the mother as if I had set the flag on fire.

In my defence, I live here. My husband is British and we celebrate British holidays (why, hello bank holidays, so good to meet you). Furthermore, I am a totally average cook (I used to call dinner anything I could spoon from a can, so I've come a long way, baby) and the thought of whipping up some pumpkin infused extravaganza frightens the heck out of me. Not to mention, if one looks at the origin of the Thanksgiving 'celebration', well it is more of a reminder of our extremely violent, colonial history that I can't manage to digest (sorry Native Americans)!  Now, on the basis of having a day to be thankful, well, let’s just say, I’m trying to instill that philosophy every day (am I off the Thanksgiving hook yet?)

As you can imagine, in a big city, once you spill out your front door it is impossible not to see something you’re thankful for. Or shall I say, there is always something that reminds you that what you currently have is pretty darn incredible. In fact, it’s teetering on luxury... Only three people living in your flat? Yeehah! No mold or moths in the cupboard? Break out the champagne! Transport running on time and you can manage to feed your family and not go broke, it's time to party!!

Just this morning (thank you coffee) as we rode to school on the bus (thank you for a seat, bus god), I pointed out to the King that a man was sleeping under a sheet of plastic in the park. The King took one look at me and thought, “oh how I am grateful I have a bed.”  You see, city living is reality at it’s most glaring. Makes you pretty darn thankful for your boiler and four walls. 

I’m also keen on trying to find little things on a daily basis to be thankful for… for example, when the King sleeps past 5:45 (a.m); when my husband and son actually make it into the toilet bowl (as opposed to peeing on the floor); when I wake up in the morning and I don’t look 85 years old; when people actually pick up their dog excrement on the street (OOOOOH thank you); when the sun manages to make an appearance at least once during the day...  and when the orange-infused POTUS hasn't managed to get us all killed. See, little thank you’s that pepper the day, they're out there you just have to pay attention.

As for the big things, I shall happily mark the fourth Thursday in the month of November to remind the King that at least once a year we should be profoundly grateful. We’re healthy, we’re happy, (He’s hungry… he wanted me to add that in), we live in a vibrant city, want for very little and we are surrounded by love, friendship and a boatLOAD of Lego (Ahem, the King’s addition again)… I also had 45 years with my sweet, elegant mother before she passed away, and I got to tell her I loved her... so there’s that. And in my book, that's a big thank you. 


Alas, the King may not know what pumpkin pie tastes like (or a food hangover on the following Friday) but he certainly knows that there is a world out there and I’m damn thankful he’s in it.
Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed