I am officially the worst mum in the world!

(Above me as a new mum with my first born)

When I held my first baby in my arms. I was really happy. I was going to be the best mum in THE WORLD!

We would create fantastic family paintings together. We would cook and eat healthy nutritious food together. We wouldn’t play with plastic toys! Oh no we would probably make wooden toys together! We would always be laughing and I would be the perfect mum!

It is so easy being a good parent until you have kids.

Actually it’s quite easy being a good parent when your children are babies who don’t move.

I used to see those mothers who judge other mums. I used to be that mum!

The ones with precious new born bundles in supermarkets who look scornfully at the crazy looking mums. Those ones who are waving their fingers and shouting at their poor innocent kids in the snack aisle “Put those pom pom crisps down now or I WILL walk out and leave you here! I WILL !”

What a horrible thing to say! But those words or words like it have come out of my own mouth.

Now I smile knowingly at the mums I see doing this and get out of their way.

Something happens almost over night where you change into your own mum. Things your mother said to you and you swear you will never say come out of your mouth “you want biscuits? biscuits? I’ll give you bloody biscuits, I’ll biscuit you! (?)

It stops being fun as a parent when you have to start disciplining them. First it’s easy things like not too many crisps but that soon becomes not buying expensive presents and not having rats!

When my eldest was six years old she decided she wanted a pet rat and she wanted to keep it in her bedroom. I said no way. This lead to the mother of all tantrums which lasted all night and continued to the next day.

Sat on the toilet the next morning a note was pushed under the door which said, I kid you not,

“I HATE YOU. YOU HAVE RUINED MY LIFE”.

She was 6 years old!! 6!!

The odd time I do try to discipline them now they still tell me that I am the worst mum in the world!

This hatred from my own children used to really upset me. How dare they? I do it for them! It’s all because I love them! Etc etc.

Then I remembered the times I hated my mum. The time she wouldn’t let me go parasailing in Greece at the age of 12 and I didn’t talk to her for the rest of our holiday. The times I made her cry because she annoyed me SO much. That for most of my childhood she was the worst mum in the world (to me) but how I secretly always knew that it was her love for me that made her strict and that sometimes it helped me out of sticky situations. “I would love to go to Manchester with those boys we’ve just met but my boring mum says I can’t go”.

Now of course mum and I laugh about the above and I know one day my kids and I will laugh about the day I ruined their life too.

Until then I wear the “worst parent in the world” badge with pride and don’t judge the shouty mums, the strict mums or any parent. We are all just doing our best. One day our kids will realise that!

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Why I make (and usually keep) New Year’s resolutions!

For years I have made new years resolutions but mine are somewhat different. Instead of stopping doing one of my many bad habits I try to start something new.

A few years ago my new year’s resolution was to learn how to put up a shelf. I got a friend to show me and did proudly put up my own shelf. It is however a skill I have now unfortunately forgotten!

Last year I gave myself the ‘resolution’ of starting to drink Brandy! Yes you read that correctly. I had decided that drinking Brandy was a very grown up thing to do and I would immediately look sophisticated and distinguished! However it took me right up until the end of December to achieve my first glass – and then I didn’t like It! But at least I tried It!

I think new year’s resolutions have a bad reputation. Most people use them to say they are going to lose weight or start exercising and that’s completely understandable. After the Christmas holidays nearly everybody wants to be healthier. But it’s also one of the most difficult things to do. More often than not we set ourselves unrealistic goals and the failure to achieve them is horribly demoralizing. We all want to be more healthy but I don’t think it should be a New Year’s resolution. Especially when January is one of the toughest months to get through! I say have the glass of wine and eat the cake if it helps get you through the longest month!

For me a new year’s redolution should be something nice to do. Something you actually want to do and something that will be fairly easy to achieve but perhaps for one reason or another you have been putting off.

THIS year my new year’s resolution was to get another tattoo! I already have two but I wanted another in a more prodominent place. I didn’t have to wait until December to achieve my resolution this time. On January 4th 2018 I went  to see my talented tattooist and friend and she did this beautiful tattoo on my right forearm –

I am so pleased with it! I will be doing a blog about my tattoos but in short for me there is something that gives you an accomplished feeling about being tattooed.

Now I am not for one minute suggesting you get a tattoo but neither am I saying that on January 11th it is too late to choose a new year’s resolution.  But make it an enjoyable one. Make it one that in 2019 you will look back and be proud of achieving. Or proud that like me, with the Brandy, you did it but you don’t want to do it again!

HAPPY 2018!

This Christmas I will not end up in A and E! This Christmas I will wear my life jacket!

For the last few years I, myself, not the kids, have ended up in A and E.

 Last year I was rushing to get into a car and fell over  (tits over fanny- in the middle of the road – and no I wasn’t drunk!) spraining my ankle. The year before that I woke up after putting up the decorations and had pulled a muscle in my neck. Don’t ask me how and the year before that I was trying to make fajitas and a spray of very hot oil caused me a second degree burn on my wrist. Ouch!

The last time I was there – last Christmas – I had a really nice nurse, a woman in her 40s, a mum, I found out, and we had a great chat – 

Use your best Watford accent – “Oh my love! The amount of mums we get in here over Christmas! You wouldn’t believe it! We are all rushing about so much and that’s when accidents happen!”  Of course she was absolutely right. All my previous accidents HAD indeed been because I was rushing about. I looked around and saw another woman my age with her arm in a sling. Ok so mine were only ‘minor injuries’ but excuse the pun they have been a complete pain in the ass – especially at the busiest time of the year.

I love Christmas but it does get so hectic and we end up rushing about and not thinking about ourselves or our safety! I have noticed that road rage seems to be increased around Christmas as everyone rushes around trying to fit everything in. The words ‘Happy Shoppers’ certainly wasn’t invented at Christmas. The amount of bad tempered shoppers  (myself included) is truly amazing considering this is supposedly the most wonderful time if the year!

So here is my ‘life Jacket’ anology.  I have 3 children with only 3 years and 10 months between them  *I’m counting! My way of surviving has always been the ‘life vest theory’ – You know when you get on an airplane and they something like this –

If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. “

 I can not look after my own children in an emergency unless I have my life jacket on. Because if I can not survive neither can they. I now use this as my parenting mantra. As a parent my duty is to look after my kids and make sure they are well cared for. However I can not do this if I myself am not well. Having my life jacket on has become a metaphor for making sure that I put myself first in order to make sure I can look after the kids. I will give you an example… It’s been a long day. The kids are hungry and you have a lovely healthy meal planned. But you are knackered and you know that finding the strength to make that lovely fresh healthy meal (that 2 out of 3 MAY eat) will kill you. So you order in pizza, put your feet up and have a glass of wine! Happy mummy , happy kids.  That’s the Life jacket. So is a night out with the girls, McDonalds, a weekend away with the husband and wine/chocolate and shopping. You get the idea.

So as I rush about putting up decorations, buying presents, attending children’s plays, concerts and parties… I am going to remind myself to stop. Stop rushing. Stop stressing and give myself a break – put on my life jacket because if I don’t I may have another minor injury and worse still my kids might not have a good Christmas because I didn’t have my life jacket on as I am to busy worrying about everyone else. Oh who I am kidding? My next post will probably be from a hospital bed after falling off a table dancing. I have done that before….

In the beginning there was Wham

I got my very first house plants when I was 12. I begged my mum to buy them me on a soggy sunday trip to a garden centre. It was 1984 and I named them George and Andrew. Andrew was the taller leaner one but George was my favourite. They lived a long and happy life in my ever changing bedroom and I am told that Andrew  (a yucca) was moved into my mum’s garden and there continued to thrive. 

It would be many years later that I would own my next plants. I worked in Italy for years and was never lucky enough to have a garden. Then in 2000 my dad (who had recently started growing vegetables too) brought me one of those propagator sets you can buy in bargain shops. It had a plastic propagator with lid, tomato and chilli seeds and a small amount of compost.  It was only small but it was not a small gift. My dad brought it over to Italy for me knowing I had a small but sunny window sill. I loved taking care of it and watching the fruit grow. Those tomatoes were the sweetest I have ever tasted and from there grew my love of growing veg. 

A couple of years later I moved back to England and together with my future husband we rented a tiny flat on the ridiculously polluted Camden road. This didn’t put me off however. We had a large sunny window by which I grew many varieties of house plants and I took in sick plants and tended them back to health earning me the nickname ‘plant whisperer!’

Our window in Camden –

From there we moved to Chalk farm and finally I had a lovely balcony! I grew tomatoes and chillies, peppers and even aubergine! There wasn’t much light but I loved spending weekends there and dad gave me some plants called ‘night scented stock’ which he planted under our window so that as evening came in so did this wonderful floral scent. Unfortunately I have never been able to grow it since.

Caring for these plants, planting seeds, watering them, nurturing them also fulfilled another need in me. Following a wonderful wedding and honeymoon pregnancy we lost the baby after an ectopic pregnancy ended in emergency surgery, a removed fallopian tube and a long period of recovery.  I swear that being able to grow these plants and reap their results aided my recovery greatly.

A much wanted successful pregnancy brought us to Watford and our first house and garden! Ok ‘yard’ or ‘rear courtyard garden’ as the estate agent called it! It was small, shady and uncared for but I loved it!

There were no decent window sills so again Dad came to the rescue and in the summer he put up a mini plastic greenhouse for my seedlings.  My Sicilian husband put in a (very optimistic) vine and a beautiful Rosemary bush. I grew beans up the washing line pole and tumbling tomatoes from the fence.  Buckets became carrot and potato beds and every spare bit of soil had a herb!

Our small back yard in Watford –

We found out we were pregnant with baby number two which would mean having  two babies under 18 months old.  We had started to literally outgrow the yard. That’s when my husband suggested we get an allotment, I thought he was mad. Two babies a yard full of plants and he wanted an allotment?! In March 2009 we picked up the keys to our beloved plot on Farm Terrace Allotment but that as they say is another story…

Mother Earth Lush

A blog about a blog? Can I do that? Well I am!

I have been trying to figure out my ‘usp’ My Unique Selling Point for writing a blog. Obviously I would ideally like it to be an account of a paid journey through Italy but 

A) No one is going to pay me to do that and 

B) The family still needs me and so do my child minding families! So I CAN’T  do that.

As you may have read this year has been a year of self recuperation and reflection. I have come to the conclusion that one of the main things I miss about my days of campaigning for Farm Terrace is writing about it.  My first Face Book “rant’  about it was in 2012. My first blog was 2013. But “What exactly is a blog?” this is  a question that I have been asked a lot recently. 

This is the definition according to the wisdom that is wikepedia –

 blog/ blɒɡ/ noun

  1. 1.

    a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

 Conversational style” sounds just like me!  I can do that!  Blogs are hugely popular and lots of the good (and bad) stuff you read on social media probably originated from a blog somewhere. You will find blogs about every topic under the sun. So what’s stopping you from writing one? Nothing! For me it appeals as it is a creative platform to document my life. Hopefully my kids and grandkids will be able to read them one day -should they want to! This of course means that you have to be very careful about what you write as it will always be out there but for me the campaign to save Farm Terrace was a baptism of fire with all aspects of social media. 

So what am I going to write about?

In short my chaotic life. Not a diary but an insight into all the stuff I do or TRY to do in order to achieve my goal of living the so called ‘Good life’ which to me is trying to be as self sufficient as possible and finding happiness in the simple, natural things in life.  However My friends love taking the piss out of me calling me an “Earth mother”!  They laugh because despite of my best efforts to grow and cook my own food etc I am not a hippy or moralistic and I often have a glass of wine in my hand! Is that a bad thing though? At least I am trying to lead an ethical, responsible, organic life for me and my family. The fact that I do make mistakes and am flexible with my morals, have a weakness for Haribos and am often found with a glass of  wine in my hand – is my ‘USP’ and is exactly the type of blog I would like to read.

So I have chosen the name ‘Earth mother lush’ for my blog and I will be writing about the allotment and garden,  how to grow food, vegetarian food, my chickens, my other pets, the stresses of being a woman and responsible-ish parent. All sprinkled with anecdotes, photos, videos and a huge dose of humour  (I  hope!).

A very long year. Pay back is a bitch.

Throughout the Farm Terrace fight people kept asking me how I did it all. I had two very small children and a baby when I started campaigning. I wasn’t getting much sleep, I was multi tasking and I was completely inexperienced.  But I just did it. Apart from a couple of periods of ‘campaigning fatigue’ I kept going until way after the bitter end. Even finding the energy to do probing interviews about how horrible it is to lose. 
But then in January I crashed.
I woke up one morning crying. I didn’t know why. I felt numb. I wasn’t  angry any more nor was I bitter. It was much worse – I felt numb. I had a physical response. I was lethargic, exhausted and unable to explain why. For one who is capable of passionate tears accompanied by loud cries this was the opposite. Silent but constant.
If I am honest I knew this was coming. I was finding it harder and harder to cope with campaigning issues and the multitude of commitments I had taken on to replace campaigning for Farm Terrace.
Thankfully I didn’t feel that I couldn’t cope with my family or my job. This was purely connected to being ‘SARA JANE TREBAR’. I wanted her to disappear.  I needed to be anonymous. To not have to talk to anyone about losing the case. I had to be ‘just’ a mum, ‘just’ a wife ‘just’ a friend for a while. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. If I am honest I was grieving not just for the allotments but for the person I had been while campaigning.
For one who has never suffered depression it was a shock. Luckily withdrawing from other campaigns and commitments helped.  I put all my energy into planning a month long summer holiday which was not just cathartic but also rejuvenating as I visited old friends, reflected on my past and began to think about my future.
Like many people at the age of 45 I find myself facing the dreaded mid life questions; “what next?” “Who am I now?” and “what do I want to do?” The truth is that I don’t know.

Hopefully this period in my life will make me a stronger and better person. It has been a very long year and I still feel weak and unsure . I think this is payback from being strong and determined for so long.
At an event last month I saw this picture saying “Be you, be brave” and I knew I had to buy it. The words struck a chord with me. I may not feel it at the moment but like all of us I am stronger than I think. I just need to remind myself of that.

Farm Terrace Allotments – One year after we lost the fight to keep our plots.  

20171102_0943501883903839.jpg The entrance today

One year ago todaywe lost our fight to save Farm Terrace. We fought a good fight but the odds were stacked against us. Farm Terrace allotments stand behind Vicarage Road stadium in West Watford and date back to the late 1890s. There were over 128 plots which accounted for just under 10% of all allotments in Watford. Farm Terrace was the largest allotment site in the centre of Watford, a densely populated town of 80,000 covering eight square miles.

It was May 2012 when the Farm Terrace Community received a letter from Watford Council stating that the land was needed for the so called Health Campus to rebuild the hospital situated next door. It soon became clear that the hospital was not the priority and housing seemed to be the real pursuit of the land grab, leading the remaining Farm Terrace allotment holders to challenge the eviction. The initial reaction was to tell us we were wrong and force a legal battle but in 2014 the Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill, admitted at a Mayoral hustings there would be no new hospital for Watford and only a possibility of new facilities. The campaign that followed to save Farm Terrace was bitter, raw and passionate. The Mayor of Watford swayed the public with untruths and unfulfilled promises. Ultimately the truth came out that the land would be used for a football carpark, housing and possible hospital facilities if there was funding. In the end the dubious council campaign did its damage.

We finally lost our four year fight at the Royal Courts of Justice late last year and were given just 48 hours to leave our allotments despite requesting a short extension to remove our belongings. This was denied and the council arranged a fence to completely surround the fence already around the allotment to prevent re-entry. Almost one year on the allotments remain abandoned and derelict with a season of fruit and vegetable crops rotting in the ground.

The council had to offer us new allotments that were close to Farm Terrace. Their proposal to the UK government was to replace the lost 128 plots on a site two miles away on the outskirts of Watford at Oxhey Village. To date only 22 plots have been replaced with 11 used by new tenants. The site chosen by the council was not accessible for most Farm Terrace users and eight of us reluctantly optioned to relocate to an existing site relatively closer than the Oxhey Village option.

As any allotment holder knows starting a new plot is daunting. Luckily we had experience and knowledge but it was hard work and bittersweet preparing the new space. In the first week we found our plots had been rotavated for us by the council but contained bricks and other building rubble. We dug deep and through hard work and perseverance similar to our four year court battle we have moved forward and pursued our true goal of growing vegetables. We now have new sheds, worked-over land and fresh compost that has led to a productive first season. Despite the group success we still felt like misplaced refugees in a place we did not choose after decades developing our Farm Terrace community.

We have turned our anger and bitterness into digging, building and planting. The fact we could do this side by side was invaluable. To retain some identity we named our plots in the corner of Holywell allotment site ‘Farm Terrace Corner’ so our old site will never be forgotten. It is still difficult to walk past Farm Terrace but as I began to write this piece I felt that I had to. It stands like a decaying museum piece and I fear for inner city and town allotments as developers continue to eye up short term financial gains rather than long term social profit of community assets like Farm Terrace. The partnership between Kier and Watford Council to redevelop the area around Watford Hospital is a good example of this. Farm Terrace was not lost because people didn’t want it or that it wasn’t needed but because of short term greed.

Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem council now wish to distance themselves from the sordid affair and have already relabelled the Health Campus as the Riverwell Development which currently has permission for 85 ‘housing units elsewhere on the development’. No planning permission for Farm Terrace has been submitted yet. While we wait to see exactly what will become of our beloved site I worry how little value the government places on green sites over quick profit.

It has been depressing, demoralising and destructful but these feelings are being recycled and reused as physical energy as I weed and plant spring bulbs on my new plot whilst other allotment site continue to be closed and developed throughout the UK.