It turns out Harold had been planning his escape for quite some time.
Harold had taken the kids and not come back. I’m not going to win myself any friends here, but I shocked myself with how little I missed them at first. I called my friend Claire to tell her what happened and she was aghast. “How dare he take your kids?! How dare he walk out on you?”
The words made sense when I heard them, but I couldn’t muster up the vitriol to match her ire. I stopped listening to her after a while and left the phone off the hook. Slowly wandering round the house, I found myself trailing my hands along the pristine walls that we’d had painted just last month. The smiling faces of Alex and Milly looked out at me from the photos that we’d had taken whilst we’d been away in New York.
They were propped up on a park bench somewhere in Hyde Park, the auburn leaves of autumn falling around them. The composition was perfect, the mise en scène – ideal. They were even wearing the cutest matching pom pom bobble hats that I remember buying especially for the shoot – adorable. When I looked a little closer, though there was something a little off about it. Milly and Alex were smiling, cute little rows of milk teeth perfectly white, but there was something wrong with their eyes. They shined, unnaturally, as if they were both on the edge of tears.
The more I explored my own home, the more I started to see the discrepancies between my life and and my home. The kids’ rooms were spotlessly tidy. I breathed in deeply, trying to detect a trace of them, but I all I could smell was fresh paint and varnish.
A vintage rocking horse sat facing the corner of Milly’s room, I remember how she had hated it when we’d put in there. She’d spent hours crying in her cot, telling me through the baby monitor that the horse was watching her. It had cost Harold nearly £600 at an auction, so I wasn’t about to move it out of there.
One day I was taking some photos of the rooms for an abortive home decor blog post when I noticed that she’d turned it round to the face away from her – I remember being proud of her early independence, she wasn’t even 3 yet.
Mine and Harold’s room was perhaps the most eerie. The bed sheets were smoothed down to a tee, it hadn’t been slept in for days. A blast of fresh cotton fragrance blasted me as I walked through the room and irritated my sinuses. Harold had said that the automatic air fresheners were a step too far, but I’d insisted. He said that it masked our own scents that it made him feel like he was living a show room and I remember asking him what was so wrong with that.
I didn’t cry, when I finally made my way back downstairs. There were no histrionics or fretful online shopping sprees. All I could think about was how to get my family back home and convince them that I was worth loving.
This is a dangerous time of year to be my credit card.
As an ex-corporate marketer, I now help out small businesses with their branding and image, I can only guess how crazy things must have been in the old office last week.
For many years, ‘Cyber Monday‘ has been the biggest day in the Online Retail industry. Since the popularisation of America’s biggest shopping day, Black Friday, however, there’s been a seismic change in the way shops and online retailers dole out their reductions.
This year, the amount of anticipation for the shopping season has had an unprecedented amount of media coverage. Newspapers, online media outlets and social networks have been alive with chatter, leaving retailers with only one way of responding. Instead of saving their big deals and savings for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, corporate giants like Amazon and Very announced week long sales – capitalising on the attention that they’ve been given.
So this is good news for us shopaholics, right? I mean, more days of sales, equals better deals right?
Well, this year, that might not have actually been the case. The clever clogs over at MoneySavingExpert.com spotted a few examples of tempting Black Friday deals being either cheaper online or simply elsewhere on the High Street. There were also reports of retailers attempting to push low-quality items (cheap wide-screen TVs and white goods are common culprits) into the arms of deal-hungry consumers, let’s hope there aren’t too many disappointed shoppers out there!
There were still some great places to shop this Black Friday season.
The trick with picking out places to shop at is, for me, down to intent. The thousands of eager shoppers that line the streets, come Friday morning, may well be first in line for the retailers’ deals, but they’re also going to be susceptible to buying things they really don’t need. The best thing to do is stay safely wrapped up at home. Staying in and shopping will save you money in the long run, plus it’s just too cold out there now to be jostling with angry shoppers on the High Street.
Although I had really planned on not getting suckered in this year, I still found myself on the sofa with the kids on Friday night, credit card in hand! I did have a limit set, but there were so many lovely deals on – I might have gone a little overboard. Let’s not tell Harry about this – OK?
Here are a few of the deals I picked out on Black Friday, I mostly kept to high-end items to benefit from the biggest savings and guarantee the maximum bang for buck:
Hugo Boss Puffer Jacket
£183 Deal Price: £129.10]
Children’s designer outlet, Kathryns (https://www.kathryns.co.uk/) had a very generous 30% discount on all their stock over the Black Friday Weekend, so I made sure to make the most of it by purchasing this classic puffer. It’s a timeless design and, as I bought it a couple of sizes up, it should fit Alex for a few years to come.
Canary All-in-One Home Security Device
[Was: £179 Deal Price: £109]
This was a little bit of an impulse buy. Of course, Harry and I installed a security system into the house as soon as we had the kids, this is just a little bit of added security for when we have babysitters. The Canary is essentially a security hub, with a mini HD camera that records sharp videos whilst remaining discrete. A steal at this price.
The Oh She Glows Cookbook
[Was: £16.99 Deal Price: £16.99]
Angela Liddon was the rising star of the food blogging scene this year, with her popular Vegan recipes blowing up Instagram on a regular basis. Her book, gorgeously photographed and well written, would make a great gift for any aspiring vegans – or even a treat for yourself!
OK – so I didn’t go completely nuts, but I still feel a little guilty. At least my boy will be warm for the next few winters and my house will be safe. If I still feel bad, I’m just going to have to console myself with some lovely vegan food!
Us Mums can often be a conservative bunch.
Regardless of how much money we (or our other halves) make; when you have children, they become the number one priority. So, when the cold weather comes back in around this time of year, we’re often faced with the choice of either fitting out our kids with some brand new woollens (that they probably don’t need) or replacing some of our own sorry pieces of threadbare Winter clothing.
If your kids are as young as mine (around 2 and 4), the best option for buying them Winter clothes, is to always buy a few sizes up.
If you buy from good retailers, you’ll often find that these items of clothing will last much longer than many of your own clothes. Little ones might well roll around and make up a lot of ground during the Summer months and inside the house, but they’re not going to be anywhere near as active during Winter. Wrap them up in high quality thermals and you won’t have to buy any more for at least a good couple of years.
With your kids’ Winter clothing all wrapped up for a couple of seasons, that leaves you with lots of playing around money to invest in that new Winter coat you’ve been waiting so long for. Now, the kind of coat that you’re going in for will vary depending on where you’re spending your Winter this year – you wouldn’t want to be sporting your brand new woollen Parker at the bar of a Ski Lodge!
This year, Harold and I are taking a brief break from the kids and flying off to New York for a long weekend.
Alex and Milly get to spend some quality time with Mum and Dad, who always love having their grandchildren to stay and we get to have our first romantic getaway for months, in one of the most festive cities on Earth. We leave next weekend and preparations are very nearly complete: we booked a parking space (book early to avoid slumming it and risking your car’s safety!), we’ve got a 3-day itinerary all planned out with Air B’n’B and our bags are nearly packed.
The only thing left for me to buy is a decent, chic Winter coat. Something that I can feel fashionable and warm in, when Harry and I are braving the near-freezing conditions out there.
These are the options that I’ve been considering so far:
[from Jigsaw at £298]
Wool is always a sound option when thinking of Winter. This elegant coat could easily be paired with some smart tailoring – but could just as easily cover a cocktail dress for a Christmas dinner party.
[from M&S £125]
Slightly cheaper, but just as warm, this Wool-blend coat falls slightly longer, so you can pair it with a long skirt or even trousers – definitely a look suitable for a city break.
[from Whistles at £170]
There have been rumours that Manchester’s favourite sons, Oasis, will be making a return to the stage once more – why not prepare for the inevitable 90s revival and invest in this essential piece of fashion suitable for informal getaways only…
I’ve not got very long to figure out what I’m going to be wearing in NYC, but I’m glad that I’ve at least got some good options at my disposal. Any thoughts, to help me out?