Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Actually getting back out there. And then running away again.

So I went on a date.  With a man I found on the internet.  Not entirely put off by narrowly avoiding being killed and dismembered in Huddersfield, when someone liked my profile, I had a look at theirs.  And then dithered for a while.  And then sent him a message.  He replied.  We seemed to have a lot in common.  He seemed nice.  We agreed to meet up.

First dates.  Terrifying.  Particularly as I’ve never done dating.  Everyone I’ve been out with (and there have only been three – one when I was 15 who lasted for 3 months, and then one when I was 17 who lasted 2 days, and then the man who became Ex-Husband) started as a friend and so by the time I went out with them I actually knew them.

So we arranged to meet in Manchester.  We had lunch.  We talked, about Buddhism and politics and all sorts interesting things.  He seemed nice.  There were some of those awkward pauses where you desperately try to think of something to say.  And there were a few occasions where I made a joke and he just didn’t get it.  But mostly, it was going well

And then we went to see possibly the worst film I have ever seen.  To The Wonder – on at the Cornerhouse, so I thought it would be quirky and interesting.  And it was about faith and romance – good for a first date between an former Buddhist and a not-really-Christian, you would have thought?

I never imagined it was possible for a film to be boring and confusing and depressing all at once.  Women lying round in fields.  Couples arguing and then making up and then splitting up again.  Ben Affleck apparently paid by the word.  And a random priest who had a crisis of faith which didn’t appear to be related to what little other plot there was.  I felt like my brain had been trampled by a herd of cows and, after the film, agreed to see him again, then ran away.

I didn’t really know whether I wanted to see him again.  How could I? I have nothing to measure the date against except the experience of being in a ten-year marriage, a relationship I was happy with until it was inexplicably pulled from under me.  If I felt a bit weird about something with Ex-Husband, I could talk to him about it.  I am just guessing that you don’t spend your first date with someone explaining that you feel a bit weird about dating because your Ex-Husband suddenly abandoned you, leaving you with two tiny children, and started a relationship almost immediately with one of your closest friends.  I know how I feel when I fancy someone who I have been with for ten years.  I remember how I felt when I fancied people before I started seeing Ex-Husband.  I’m not sure how I should expect to feel about someone now, me, here, post-marriage, with two small and complicating children.  So he didn’t always get my jokes and we didn’t have an instant connection – is that a reason to write someone off after a first date?  My previous relationships have developed from friendships – how long do you date someone for before you can know whether it could develop further?

The second date was a chance to see how I felt about him without the first date nerves.  We had a good time.  He was still nice, and interesting, but it felt strange and awkward.  I told him I’d had a good time but I wasn’t sure the spark was there and I wasn’t sure I was ready to date.  We agreed to stay friends on Facebook, which didn’t exist last time I was going out with someone.  I felt relieved.  I felt sad.  I felt full of doubt.  I’m not sure how any date would compete with the memory of being with a man I loved and trusted until the moment he left.  I wonder if I did the right thing.  I wonder if I should have given it more of a chance.  I wonder why I thought this was ever a good idea.

On the plus side, I didn’t get murdered.

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Today has made me grumpy. I like to share.

My friend Rachel was supposed to be coming down to stay for a few days but her little boy developed a lurgy, so I’ve had a few days to myself with Big Girl and Little Girl.  Monday and Tuesday are my days off work anyway, so we did our usual activities, but I thought I’d use my day’s leave today to do something nice – more than just our usual trip to the park.  I thought about taking them to the new Sea Life Centre at the Trafford Centre, but it isn’t opening until June and apparently toddlers aren’t welcome on building sites.

Then I found the Staircase House musuem in Stockport. It’s a townhouse dating back to the 15th century and is advertised as being very child-friendly – almost everything can be picked up and touched – and is only a bus-journey away, so almost exactly what I was looking for.  That is, if what you are looking for involves spending a lot of money to have people be rude to you while your children cry repeatedly.

It started well.  They sat on the bus like mini-cheddar-scoffing angels, being delightful.   We arrived in Stockport and wandered around trying to find the musuem, talking about maps (we’ve been watching a lot of Dora the Explora this week) and going up steps and looking down from bridges.  We stopped for lunch in Blackshaw’s Cafe which provided them both with the finest selection of fruit I have ever seen with a children’s meal: watermelon, pineapple, orange, grapes and kiwi fruit.  Which they both refused to eat.  Along with their sandwiches.  £3.50 each for a choc chip biscuit and a carton of apple juice.  Then into the museum, which was delightful.  Big Girl’s favourite bit was the bee handpuppet from the educational bag we carried around with us not really looking at.  The first room was a storage barn – a dark little cavern complete with the sound of invisible cows mooing, horses neighing and chickens clucking, which scared the shit out of both girls. We meandered (quickly) on through a store room and into the kitchen and onto the viewing gallery, where you could look over the balcony at a wall with exposed parts showing all the different materials used to build the wall.  I lifted Big Girl up so she could see better and she burst into tears, possibly thinking she might fall off the balcony.

At this point, when she had been crying for less than a minute, a woman stuck her head out of a window and suggested that I come back later if ‘they’ were going to carry on making a noise because they were having a class and the sound carries.  Was she a teacher? Did she work for the museum? I don’t know, but how about if you’re planning to have a class in a museum designed for children, you do it in a room which isn’t going to be affected by noises in the building? How about you allow a three-year-old to cry for more than one minute before you start complaining? How about you…. never mind. We moved on.

Except Big Girl didn’t really want to see any more of the museum.  I wanted to see the 16th and 17th century bedrooms and, more importantly, feel that we had actually done what we’d made an epic bus journey to achieve, so I dragged them round the rest of the museum.  Two helpful museum staff tried to engage them in sitting on sofas and looking at fancy beds while Big Girl tried to hide behind my legs and look sulky in a way that only she (and I) can manage.  I admitted defeat and we left.

The journey back to the bus station involved an altercation half way down a steep, wind-y  flight of stone steps about whether Big Girl was ever going to move again (I thought she should, she said she wouldn’t).  I didn’t want to carry both of them in case I fell.  I couldn’t take one and then the other as I didn’t want either one out of my sight and I didn’t want to put Small Girl down half way down the stairs in case she threw herself the rest of the way down in a fit of tiredness/adventure/contrariness and broke herself again.  I ended up half-carrying Big Girl down by one arm while she wailed at me, and then erupted into a massive screaming tantrum at the bottom.  Instead of joining in, I distracted her by looking in a cake shop window.

Finally, finally, we made it onto the bus.  I balanced a child on each knee and fed them chocolate biscuits until Small Girl demanded ‘milk, milk’.  I don’t love breastfeeding on buses but neither do I enjoy travelling with a 20-month-old crying while arching her back and contorting herself on my knee, so I gave it a go, whereupon the po-faced elderly woman in front of me said “you’re not breastfeeding on a bus?”. Initially I assumed this was some mixture of respect and admiration: how wrong I was. I conceded that I was doing exactly what she could see that I was doing and she grumbled that there’s no privacy these days.  I’m still unsure how she felt her sense of privacy was being offended, but said that I didn’t mind and suggested that if she didn’t like it she didn’t look.  I don’t really enjoy seeing men hang their arses out of their trousers, teenager-style or builder’s bum style, but I just don’t look.  The Equalities Act 2009 protects my right to breastfeed in public but sadly doesn’t protect me from grumpy old women bitching about it.

So here’s what I’ve learnt.  Small children don’t appreciate museums.  When your frame of reference is about a year long, the 16th century is probably an alien concept.  Days out are entirely for the parent’s benefit.  In my case, mainly to make me feel like a competent and enriching presence in their life.  They’ve been enriched by being frightened by non-existent cows and the threat of falling off  a balcony, by being given a lunch they didn’t want and being dragged half way across Greater Manchester.  I think they would have preferred the park really.

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