Smart, sexy single desperately seeking similar…

Another year over … and a new one just begun

2016. What a year.

A year notable mainly for the roster of esteemed celebrities who chose to shuffle off this mortal coil, starting with David Bowie and ending with George Michael via Prince, Leonard Cohen and Hilda Ogden.

Fortunately, my own 2016 was rather less eventful.

In fact, my 2016 looked almost exactly like its predecessor, give or take the continuous development of the little guy who, incidentally, visited his tenth country at the ripe old and of three – “and a half!” – and informed me that he’d be relocating to Spain, via Australia and Germany, on his fourth birthday.
I’ve applied for a deferral.

Actually, travel was responsible for most of last year’s highlights: Spain, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Spain again, Hungary and Germany. All fun, interesting trips … although, it has to be said, not always particularly restful.

When we travel in company, it’s a joy. But I’ve discovered that solo travel with a ‘threenager’ has its drawbacks: small humans tend to throw tantrums when it’s least appropriate and are guaranteed to fall asleep just before the plane lands, leaving you to haul a slumbering sack of potatoes – plus your handbag, your 10kg backpack, their mini-backpack and assorted hats, coats and gloves – down extremely narrow aircraft steps. Bonus points if you manage to pick up the pram from below the aircraft without dropping the infant.
Oh, and there’s no lift to the terminal so I hope you’re good with carrying that lot up the stairs?

Truly, I am a beast of burden.

Anyway, travel aside, the biggest excitement of 2016 has been buying a house. Well, waiting to buy a house. And not a whole house. Obviously.

(In this city? On a single salary? Don’t make me laugh.)

Actually, I’ve been waiting to buy the darned thing – that is, 30% of a shared ownership flat – since June. But here we are in January and … fingers crossed we’ll be done before February, or else the little guy and I will find ourselves sitting on a pile of boxes in the middle of the street.
But what of romance, I hear you ask. Did the fat little fella with a bow and arrow make a last-minute appearance, saving 2016 from the designation of romantic wasteland?
Reader, he did not.

Sure, the Phantom Texter popped up from time to time, promise much and delivering … um … absolutely nothing. But when that’s the romantic highlight of the year, you can be sure that it was a pretty poor vintage.

Actually, last year was possibly the most romantically bereft period of my life. No one notices a mum with a kid. And, let’s face it … if I’m not at work, I’m with the kid.
Not that I hold the little guy responsible in any way. He starts conversations with anyone and everyone – regardless of age, colour or gender – and many a happy exchange has been the result of his chatty nature. I just need him to focus his efforts on single men of a certain age and demeanour.

And here’s the rub: I just don’t know any single men.

Few friends from my single era remain, and every single one of my mummy friends is happily married. Single men are entirely outside my sphere of existence. I probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than meeting my other half.

But I should hate to think I have yet another year of singledom ahead. Sure, I get along fine on my own, but a partner in crime would be nice … if only to help me carry the kid off the plane. (I jest.)

So join me as I raise a glass to the nascent year, and cross your fingers too. Surely there’s someone out there for someone like me?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.


Happy birth… oh, never mind

Guess what? It’s my birthday again. And this year I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of … indifference.

In years gone by, my day of birth was a cause for excitement and celebration – or at least a couple of good nights out with my mates.

In more recent times, it’s been an uncomfortable reminder of the passing years, and the ever-diminishing possibility of becoming a mum again.

But this year … this year I just feel largely … disinterested.

If truth be told, I’m more excited that I’m having a night out. It’s been nearly THREE MONTHS since I had a night out on the town with my mates – or what’s left of them.

(I did manage to sneak in one or two cocktails with a dear old friend when I went to visit my mum, mind. And thank goodness I did, or my sanity would have been completely out of the window by now.)

I know I bark on about it all the time, but the single hardest thing about being a lone parent is the isolation: you’re either in full-on mummy mode or sitting by yourself on the sofa, whiling away the hours until bedtime.
So the opportunity to leave the house AND hang out with grown-ups seems like a miracle of bounteous good fortune.

Truly, I am blessed.

The weird thing is, I’ve kind of forgotten how to snazz myself up for a night out. As I realised when I was trying to envisage some kind of outfit that would be suitable for a celebratory soirée, my work wardrobe is far more daring and sexy than my civvies. Scary, right?

Obviously, I’ll be going with mates who won’t care if I turn up in a bin bag, but since this is a rare opportunity to get my gladrags on, it’d be nice if my imagination could stretch to something more than jeans and a Primark tshirt. But I seem to have become the antithesis of glamour.

For example, a friend recently bought me a voucher for a photo shoot, complete with makeover. Now, I admit that I’ve never been much of a glamour puss – para boots and dreadlocks were more the order of the day for me – but I think this experience underlined how very little primping and preening happens on my watch.

Although I’d stated my preference for minimal make-up right from the start, the young lady still trowelled on what I considered obscene amount of gunk and goo … resulting in a less-than-ecstatic response from yours truly.

In fact, I looked so continually horrified at every stage of the makeover that the young lady eventually threw her hands in the air and, with good-natured exasperation, capitulated to my desire for, “less eyeshadow, please”, “not that much blusher!” and, “my own lipstick might be a bit less … red”.

I think the defining moment was when her query about whether I did my own eyebrows was met with a blank stare. Do…? Eyebrows…? She knew then that she was dealing with a rank amateur.

(The photos turned out great, by the way. And I looked like myself. Or rather, a very smooth version of myself.)
Anyway, this all goes to show that maybe I should up my game. Women of my age surely need all the help we can get with our je ne sais quoi … not to mention our dwindling appeal for the opposite sex. (Ha! As if any of them are looking.)

So tonight I’m going to push the boat out: I’ve already painted my nails (whoo!) and I may even apply some foundation. (Steady on…)

So if you spot a gussied up dame, caked in panstick and swanning about like Zsa Zsa Gabor with a cocktail in her hand, that’ll be me. Pop over and buy me another, why don’t you?


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The storm before the calm

Sometimes, being a single parent is hard.

Sure, you have to watch the pennies, so any luxuries tend to be on a smallish scale; there’s no one to take a turn when your kid is waking every hour because they’re too hot/too cold/in desperate need of a tissue cos snot is bubbling out of their nose; and there’s no one to help you wrestle your pram, luggage and wailing, overtired infant down the stairs at those end-of-the-world airport gates that Ryanair seems to favour. But, hey, plenty of people in ‘traditional’ families have those kinds of problems too.

No, the thing that I really miss in my one-parent wonderland is someone to share a glance of understanding, or a roll of the eyes, when things get tough.

And when I say, “get tough”, I’m referring specifically to the Age of Infinite Tantrums.

I feel bold enough to talk about it now that it has – dare I say it – passed (for this week, at least), but … my goodness! … the AIT has pushed my mummy powers to the absolute limit. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s been my toughest mummy challenge to date.

Now, I know that tantrums are pretty testing for any parent. But imagine that, on certain days, the only person you speak to outside of work is a grumpy three-year-old.

Next, imagine that, on other days, the only person you speak to AT ALL is a grumpy three-year-old.

Challenging, right?

Enter the Age of Infinite Tantrums.

Suddenly, everything you say or do has the potential to provoke a full-on, face-down, snot-streaming tantrum. You cut the toast the wrong way … despite the extensive survey you undertook, knife poised in mid-air. You took a shower. (Yes, I know. You do that every morning but .. how could you?) You cleaned you teeth first. Waaaaaahhh!

It’s like stepping on snails in the dark.

Yup, tantrums always suck and I’ve done my bit of standing by, trying to look nonchalant while my small human lies petulantly spread-eagled on any number of shop floors, but I thought we were doing pretty well; we were getting through the terrible twos and the subsequent ‘threenager’ years relatively unscathed.

And then the AIT struck: two solid weeks of tantrums, every morning and every night.

“Two weeks?!” I hear you sneer, “Two measly weeks? Big deal!”

I know. I know. Two weeks. It’s not long, right? But, dear friend, kindly reserve judgement until you’ve walked a mile in the moccasins. And once you’ve experienced it, try doing it on your own.

Truly, despite my overwhelming and unerring love for the little fella, I thought I may boot him up to the moon through sheer rage, frustration and puzzlement.

Furious internet research furnished me with gems such as, “stay calm; your child needs reassurance that these big feelings are OK – that he is OK”.

Now, this works fine for the first forty minutes (yup, forty) but by the time the little guy reached his zenith – an impressive one hour twenty of full-on, eye-popping screams and snot-smeared rage – I was feeling, let’s say, a little ragged.

Even bundling him onto the bike for some cool, soothing air had little to no effect; he was thrashing like a freshly caught salmon. In fact, he was thrashing so hard I thought we were going to crash the bike.

So, dear lady who stopped to talk to me despite my hysterical son and my tear-filled eyes, I know I said thank you at the time, but what I really meant was THANK YOU. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

Because not only did your presence distract my beloved infant, finally stemming the near-eternal tide of tears, but it made me feel that I wasn’t alone. And that made it a whole lot easier.

But the tantrums kept coming.

And then, ten days after The Great Tantrum, we had an evening of my calm – an evening devoid of purple-faced rage and pencil throwing.

The next morning, as soon as I went to wake the little guy, I knew I had my boy back. There was no grumpy face, set in pre-whine mode, just a cheeky little phizog beaming up at me.

“Mummy,” he said, “I’m not going to have a tantrum today.”

And he didn’t.

Of course, it would be lovely to say that that was the end of it … but, naturally, it wasn’t: this is real life. The next day, the mere thought that I might be brushing my teeth first enough to set the little guy off. (For the record, I wasn’t; I was getting some trousers from the little guy’s wardrobe.)

Truly, these are testing times.

Still, as they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, so I now have a whole new raft of infant-tackling tactics in place, and my fingers firmly crossed.

But if you see me wrangling with an apoplectic infant, please be brave enough to look over and smile, or give me a sympathetic roll of the eyes.

In the absence of a stiff G&T, it might just be what I need to get me through the day.

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From Russia with love

So here we are in Lithuania – me, the little guy and Nanna, on a three-generational holiday. And in the great tradition of our three-generational holidays, we’re staying in a hostel.

We’ve spent the morning traipsing round Vilnius’s finest kid-friendly attractions, so we’re taking a well-earned rest in the common room with a beer, a glass of milk and a cup of tea, respectively.

The little guy is – naturally – showing off his finest Spiderman moves, attracting the attention of our fellow hostellers, so we take time to say hello and introduce ourselves. We meet a young girl from Oregon, USA, who’s worked as a nanny and has clearly got the measure of my overly bouncy infant; a young guy from Korea who’s just graduated and is taking time out to travel round Europe; and an older guy who tells us that he’s from a place on the Russian border with China, and his town is half Russian and half Chinese.

“Interesting,” I say. “I’d never really thought of the two populations living side by side…”

But I don’t get to ponder this further, because the Korean guy starts talking about his plans to go to Warsaw and it turns out that’s where the American girl is headed, too, so they start talking about that, the conversation ends and the little guy and I head off to hang out on the beanbags with Nanna.

Cut to three days later.

I’ve just realised that I’ve miscounted the nappies and we’re two short, so I’m on a late-night mercy mission to the local supermarket. (I’ve become a bit casual since the little guys switched to teeny tiny pants during the day; I somehow forget that he still needs them at night.)

While I’m perusing the aisles in search of Baltic bum wraps, Nanna is putting the little guy to bed in our four-bed dorm – which, since there are three of us, has effectively become a private room. She’s just changed into her nightie and is about to read the first of three bedtime stories.

Suddenly, without as much as a cursory knock on the door, Russian Guy bursts into the room, burbling about how he’s leaving this evening and asking, “Where is your daughter?”

My mum – quite politely, given the rather startling circumstances – explains that I’m out and will surely be back soon.

Exit Russian Guy.

Ten minutes later, Nanna is just snuggling down under the covers when Russian Guy bounds in again, explaining that he’s leaving now and he’d like to leave his contact details for me.

My poor mum, from her supine position, is forced to extend a hand to receive the scratty bit of paper with Vladimir’s email, WhatsApp and Viber contacts, popping it under her pillow whilst meekly promising to pass it on to me.

Which she duly does … and seems vaguely surprised when I immediately ‘file’ the details in the nearest waste paper bin.

Now, I’m sure that Vladimir was a nice bloke, but our interaction was so brief, I don’t think I’d pick him out of a crowd.

Admittedly, from one point of view, I could be passing up the chance to meet a rare and intriguing character who could just be the man of my dreams. But from another point of view, he’s an odd kind of dude who’s barely exchanged ten words with me yet expects me to leap at the chance to stay in touch.

Later that evening, I’m out with one of the girls who works on reception, having a beer and telling her about Vladimir and his granny-bothering.

“I have a habit of attracting oddballs,” I say, as we grab our coats and start walking back to the hostel.

Barely have the words left my lips when a large, bearded guy – all hair and eccentricity – dances up to me, yelling, “WELCOME to Lithuania!” before blowing me a kiss and wafting away.

The girl and I look at each other, and burst into incredulous laughter.

“You’re not wrong,” she says. “All the weirdos come your way.”

And all I can do is nod in agreement.


Who am I?

I’ve been pondering my single status again lately – just for a change – and it occurs to me that I’m a completely different person to the one I was when I last had a relationship.

I mean, I’ve had a child since then. And it’s amazing how radically that changes things.

In the pre-infant years, I would have listed my main interests as travelling, going to the gym and socialising. Nowadays, the latter two activities are almost off my radar and the former – although still something I do whenever possible – has taken on a completely different form.

Now, my holiday destinations are not so much chosen for their cultural richness as for the number of parks and infant entertainment options I’m likely to find in the vicinity.

But it’s not just the practical things that have changed: my character has changed too. I have, in some ways, become more patient – not that you’d know it if you saw me chivvying the little man on the nursery run.

Perhaps patient isn’t exactly what I mean, but … tiny tantrums definitely teach you the value of a poker face, and no one knows the meaning of the phrase, ‘pick your battles’ like the mother of a toddler.

As a matter of fact, patience isn’t exactly a family virtue and I admit that I may not have always been the most mellow of partners in the past. So … would I be an easier person to be with, now that I’m a mum? Or would the poker face that I so ably display with the little guy be completely redundant in interaction with grown-ups?

Not that I’m likely to find out anytime soon. The Forester and I have exchanged one measly text, which doesn’t suggest super-high levels of engagement from either side. And, of course, I discovered that the Phantom Texter is married.

It almost went without saying, didn’t it?

He finally declared his intent, and I told him how flattered I was (and I was; he’s a highly attractive gentleman) … but didn’t he have a wife? To give him his due, he didn’t deny it or answer obliquely – just expressed regret that he was now no longer a contender for my attentions.

On the one hand, I’m truly disappointed; on the other … do I look like the kind of woman who’d be happy as a mistress??!

It never ceases to amaze me just how many men – men who are otherwise kind, intelligent and reasonable – think it’s OK to play around behind their partner’s back. I honestly don’t get it. If you love her, why would you cheat on her? And if you don’t love her, why would you stay with her?

I suppose the phrase, “having your cake and eating it” applies, and the answer to the question is simply because you can. Unless I have a peculiar ability to attract that sort of ‘gentleman’, I’d keep a very close eye on any man I got involved with.

Or maybe women are just as bad. I wouldn’t know.

Anyway, it’s just my luck that the first gentleman in months (if not years) to pay me any kind of attention turns out to be ineligible. It was fun to look forward to his messages and, if I’m honest, have someone care about how my day was, how I’m feeling and whether I’m alive or dead.

(Apart from my mum. My mum cares. Obviously.)

Because let’s not beat about the bush here: it gets awfully lonely being a single mum in a world of coupled-up parents. I’m sick and tired of being the ‘strong woman’; I just want someone to give me a cuddle, make me dinner (toast is OK) … or even just talk to me.

I mean, I love the little guy to bits but there’s only so much you can say about Peppa-bloody-Pig before you want to climb the walls. Weekends of undiluted toddler talk are pretty tough.

But I don’t want to be ‘the other woman’ and I never will. Alone is the last place I want to be, but alone with someone else’s man? No thanks.


And the seasons, they go round and round…

And so the interminable rain of summer has given way to crisp, bright, quasi-autumnal days.

(I know. This is England. It does weird things like that.)

It’s been a busy summer: the little guy and I holidayed with a dear friend in Riga (Latvia has now become his default destination whenever I query where he’s beetling off to), visited the abuelos in Spain – a trip that went much better than I could have predicted – and had countless jaunts to the seaside, the countryside and a host of assorted festivals.

In fact, just last week we were at a Scarecrow Festival – the highlights of which included the little fella ringing a church bell and posing next to a scarecrow version of Freddie Mercury … a sight that had to be seen to be believed.

The piglet is, of course, growing like a weed. He’s pretty much out of nappies, in the daytime at least, and prone to startling me with sentences like, “Mummy, it’s quite hot in here. Could you open the window so I can have a bit of cool air?”

He’s two. I mean, not even two-and-a-half. Can you imagine what he’s going to be like as a teenager?

Anyway, for the moment he’s delicious and delightful and funny and surprising, and getting more so every day.

And what of romance? Well, very little. Surprise, surprise.

My mingling with the opposite sex is sorely limited by my inability to leave the house. Or, to put it another way, unless I happen to meet Prince Charming at the supermarket checkout, I’m scuppered.

Since I’m officially done with dating sites, I’ve signed up for a speed dating soirée, to try and force my hand: I’m hoping that seeing the whites of their eyes will induce me to look more favourably on the catalogue of candidates up for selection.

I’m steadfastly refusing to look at any of the participants’ profiles ahead of the event, though. I know myself too well: I’ll have talked myself out of every single one of them before I even get through the door.

Yep, things have been quiet on the western front, to say the least. The only hint of romance – the merest twinge – has come from a most unexpected quarter. In fact, it’s such an unexpected quarter that I’m keeping it verrrrry close to my chest.

But … you know when someone seeks you out and repeatedly texts you and there’s nothing particularly untoward in the content of those texts … except that the person had no real reason to be texting you in the first place? Well that’s how it is.

In fact, when someone asks you if you consider it “inappropriate” that they’re texting you, well … that almost suggests that they do … doesn’t it?

Maybe I’m reading far too much into it, and maybe he just wants to be friends – do men ever do that? I’ve got no idea anymore – and discuss life, the universe and everything, but … my famously ineffectual instinct suspects a more amorous intention.

Anyway, the Phantom Texter is an attractive gentleman, and eligible in many ways but, unless I’m very much mistaken, as married as married can be. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not in the business of stealing other ladies’ men.

Eligible gentlemen may be in extremely short supply, but when I find one, I want him all to myself. Surely that’s not too much for a girl to ask … is it?

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Two plus one equals…

If I’ve been a bit quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been in a period of extended rumination; a long, slow cycle of contemplation and consideration that still has reached no satisfactory conclusion.

Quite aside from the usual mental clutter of, “Where are my keys?”, “Why is there porridge in my shoe?” and, “No! No! NO! Stop doing that, little man!”, I’ve been cogitating on an altogether more serious issue: I’d like another baby.

Now, anyone who saw me in my sleep-deprived state after the birth of the little guy (up to and including … ooh, about two months ago) could be forgiven for thinking I’ve taken leave of my senses. Surely to go through all that again – this time with a toddler to care for, too – well, hello, insanity.

And yet. And yet …

Although it cannot be denied that there are moments when the little guy makes me as crazy as a kookaburra, there are so many moments of joy and excitement and pride that far outweigh the tears and frustration. (As Little Chick’s ma says, “Sometimes you make me mad, sometimes you make me sad, but I will always love you, because I’m your mummy.” If you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry; your time will come.)

So, what’s stopping me? Well, of course I’d need to obtain the necessary ingredients to make a child. But this is the 21st century and those sort of obstacles are relatively easy – if a tad costly – to overcome.

There’s also the censure of my mum, who despite being on the other side of the country is still Chief Babysitter #1 and whose views are not lightly discarded, despite the fact that I’m a fully grown woman.

Now I don’t want to misrepresent her: she would never permit herself to prohibit further procreation. But you know that when your mother disapproves of something, there’s usually a good reason. And it’s hard to ride roughshod over the displeasure of the woman who bore you.

Alas, financial issues also play their part. Since the cost of sending a child to daycare is almost equivalent to a month’s rent on a three-bedroom house, it stands to reason that sending TWO children to daycare means you’ll need to dig deep into your savings if you still want to have your little luxuries … like food, heat and light. At least until one of them starts school, pennies would have to be pinched like they have never been pinched before.

Last, but by no means least, there’s the question of how it feels to know that your dad was a pipette. Even if the little guy’s dad is an infrequent visitor, at least he knows who daddy is. How would it feel if you had no one to come and take you to the park, even if it was just once a month?

Truly, this is not how I imagined family life would be.

But still, it’s undeniable that the urge is there, particularly when I see how tender the little guy is with other friends’ newborns. Just last week, he was bestowing kisses and clumsy cuddles on his friend’s baby brother, drawing aahs from all present.

And maybe it’s irrelevant, but I can’t help thinking that a family of three is more resilient than a family of two. As things stand, when I’m gone, my precious little guy will be all alone. My family is tiny … and who could rely on his relations with dad?

The little guy is all in favour and has already stated his preference for a sister, but it’s true that the first two years would almost certainly be hellish: when I’m tired, I’m grumpy and maybe it’s unfair to inflict that grumpiness on the happily growing little man.

(Although as the mother of the aforementioned newborn quite rightly said, who would be unlucky enough to get two infants with a propensity for waking at 5am? And surely if you do, they can keep each other company, right?)

I’m also not sure about the logistics of getting two nippers onto a bike.

I suppose the question I really need to answer is, “Can I do it?”. I asked myself the same question before the little guy was born, but I didn’t know the answer then and I still don’t now: some days I think I’m a great mum and other times I fall far short.

But time waits for no man and I’ll have to make the definitive decision soon, before Mother Nature makes it for me.

It looks as though the contemplation isn’t over yet…

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The tide (finally) turns

I don’t know what happened to June: one minute it was there and the next – pofff! – it was July. Just like that.

Perhaps it was in contrast to previous periods of extended solitude, but June seems to have whizzed by in a haze of action and activity, from sunny Fridays lazing in the park to visits from old friends, barbecues a-go-go, a toddlerful of strawberries and even a day out at a festival.

(Admittedly, it was a festival aimed at the under 5s and filled with glue, glitter and sensory play, but it was a festival nonetheless.)

The last month has also seen the little guy’s word count zoom to …. ooh, about eleven.

In addition to yes, no, shoes, door, duck! (triumphant tone, applied to anything with wings) and buh-bye! (solemn hand-waving of the turn-the-tap-on-and-turn-it-off-again variety) we now have more! (insistent look) and no more! (an equivalent to more!), as well as any amount of earnest conversation that doesn’t quite amount to any recognised language.

Even my name has changed: I’m now a perfectly pronounced mom-my, rather than the ma-ma-ma of yore. Yes, my little pud is growing up. He even tried to dress himself today. And OK, he was draping the clothes over his limbs rather than actually slipping into them but hey, as some philosopher* once said, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.

Yep, there’s a definite sense of change in the air, and it’s change for the better.

For starters, after hitting an all-time low, relations with the Baby Daddy finally – finally! – seem to be on the up. He’s sent a couple of messages lately full of enthusiasm about spending one-to-one time with the little guy.

Admittedly, it’s six weeks since he actually saw him and the proposal is mainly to avoid contact with me, but no matter. Father and son time is always good news in my book, and I’ll be happy for my little piglet to get some quality poppa time.

There are changes afoot in other areas too: it seems improbable, I know, but my Aura of Romantic Doom seems to be leaving me. Yep, this weekend I went on not one, not two, but THREE dates.

Surprisingly, for such a long-awaited event, there isn’t that much to say, except that coffee was drunk and the conversation flowed quite nicely, but … I’m not sure any of the candidates is set to be waltzing down the aisle with me any time soon.

Admittedly, it’s hard to gauge compatibility in a 90-minute ‘interview’; if you go on first impressions, you’ll only ever spot the instant hits with no chance of identifying the ‘growers’. Which means you might end up dating the equivalent of The Cheeky Girls, whilst passing up on slow burning – and possibly longer lasting – pleasures.

I also concede that the presence of a one-year-old doesn’t really give an authentic dating experience, but all three gentlemen were very gallant about it and acquiesced to the little guy’s demands with alacrity.

Still, even if I didn’t find Mr Right, it was nice to dip a toe into the waters and remind myself what it’s all about. Because, to stretch a watery metaphor, it finally feels as if the tide’s in my favour, so it surely can’t be long until my ship comes in.

*It was Laozi in the Tao Te Ching. I looked it up to spare you the trouble. And no, it wasn’t Confucius. Wikipedia told me so.


Fading to grey

It’s a funny thing, being a single parent. You start to disappear.

You start to disappear because you don’t really fit in any of your social groups any more. You don’t really fit in with your mummy friends, because on the weekends they’re busy doing family things. And you don’t really fit in with your childless friends either, because they’re busy going to parties and dinners and lots of other evening things that you can’t join in with.

Of course, you can meet up for daytime coffees at the weekend, but your conversation isn’t really what it once was – partly because you don’t get out and about much anymore, and partly because you’ve been up since 5am and someone’s swapped your brain for stewed apple.

In essence, you’re reduced to a small subset of people who are both good friends AND have the patience to hang out with you and your energetic child, as well as talk about children more than is usual. It’s a rarefied group.

So this week I’m trying to break the mould: I’m going out for coffee with a man THAT I DON’T KNOW. Or, in other words, I’m going on a date. In fact, it’s a bit of a strange date because, in the absence of a babysitter, the little guy will be coming with me.

It’s been so long since I attempted such a thing, I’ve completely forgotten the protocol … but I’m pretty sure that taking your squawking infant with you is not exactly de rigeur. Still, if we get beyond the first date, the little fella will be on the scene pretty much all the time, so I suppose it’s a good way of seeing how the gentleman in question handles the company of minors.

(And before you get up in arms about me taking the little man on date, remember I’m going for a coffee in town, not a gin-soaked soirée at the Folies Bergère.)

And in another attempt to stop myself from fading from the social scene altogether, I’ve also signed up for a dating event … although my attendance is dependent upon finding someone who essentially wants to sit by themselves in a house free of TV, internet or any other entertainment-based mod cons while the wee piglet slumbers upstairs.

It’s not an easy sell, I’ll admit.

Although my lack of electronic entertainment doesn’t bother me one iota, when I explained the situation to one potential babysitter, she looked at me – completely perplexed – and said, “But what do you do in an evening?”

The truth of it is that by the time the little lad is finally tucked into bed and I’ve tided the residual whirlwind, eaten some dinner and got everything ready for tomorrow’s onslaught, it’s almost time for bed. A few pages of my book and my eyes are already starting to close; I don’t have time to miss the TV.

That said, my phone’s been away for repair for nearly a month now and it’s like being starved of oxygen. Not only am I closed off from the modern world, I’m also wandering around with my friends’ telephone numbers scribbled on a little scrap of paper. It’s like going back to 1989.

More importantly, I’m prevented from taking spontaneous snaps of the little piglet, which is obviously a tragedy. I suppose it will prevent me from boring my date with a ‘quick’ photographic resume of his life since birth, but I’m struggling to find any other positives.

Anyway, since the weather forecast predicts torrential rain for the next five days, it looks as though I’ll be turning up to my coffee date in full waterproofs – a look that’s not exactly known for its ability to snare men at 20 paces.

The only bonus is that my rainproof jacket is a lurid, squealing orange. And there’s definitely no chance of me disappearing in that.


Baby’s back in town

Aaaaaand here we are. Back in town.

When we bundled up our lives six months ago and said farewell to our old life, who could have imagined we’d be back so soon, like the proverbial bad penny?

A pair of little and large vagabonds, we spent a couple of months with a dear friend in Spain and then it was back to my hometown to spend precious time with grandma and great-grandma. But my hometown is small, and all my friends have moved on, so when an old employer called me with a job offer I couldn’t refuse … well, I couldn’t refuse. So here we are.

It’s good to be back in the city again; I love having space and people all around me and mummy friends to share a coffee with, but it does feel odd to have come full circle. I see my old friends when I can, but the little guy is no longer as portable as he once was, so I pretty much have a 7pm curfew – not great for my social life.

Of course, I don’t regret my situation for a minute and I’m hugely grateful for the little man’s presence but … the evenings do get quite lonely. I’m fine with my own company but even I get bored of me seven days a week. And sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the feeling that it’s just me. From paying the bills to organising the entertainment, it’s all on my shoulders.

Last week, when the boy and I were both ill, I realised how fragile our little set-up is: without me to hold it all together … well, there’s no one else there.

Help came in the form of two kind friends who delivered groceries and babysat for a while, along with good old grandma who endured a week of baby bodily fluids erupting from all quarters. But most of my friends have busy lives or families (or both) and grandma has plenty on her plate already. So although I can ask for help in emergencies, sometimes I want someone to pamper me just because.

And when I say ‘pamper’ I don’t mean anything spectacular. My ambitions are fairly modest as far as pampering goes. I’m not after massages and candlelight and roses; I’m thinking more in terms of slapping a solid snack in front of me and talking to me while I eat it. Oh, and holding the wee one while I put the bins out. See? Nothing too extravagant at all.

It is (I imagine) the sort of thing that my other half would do for me, if I had one. And of course, I’d be willing to reciprocate.

Though it’s not that I’m after someone to look after me, because I can perfectly well look after myself. But it’d be nice to have someone to share things with, both good and bad; someone to snuggle up with when it’s cold outside or berate me when I’ve forgotten to buy toothpaste for the third time this week.

So, although a lady with a baby is not (I imagine) the world’s greatest catch, I’ve signed up for a dating site. Again.

… and it’s refreshing to know that even though I’ve been out of circulation for a year or so, my niche fan group remains the same: my first profile views are from a 19 year old and a 57 year old. And the two (two!) guys that I found interesting enough to send a message to both completely ignored me.

So where should I go from here? If you can’t get out in the evening to socialise with adults, your friends don’t know any singles and you don’t get any joy with dating sites, what’s left?

Maybe it really is time to dig out the sandwich board and wander the streets professing my singledom. Or perhaps I could raffle myself off as the booby prize in a charity draw. It may sound far-fetched, but if you’ve got any better ideas, just let me know.