March 2006


Isn’t this gorgeous? It is a look I get every single day. So how lucky am I?

(I’ve been wandering round the Internet looking at breastfeeding art. There is some lovely stuff out there. Try KellyMom for a good list of links.)

I wondered about the history of Mothering Sunday.

Celebrations of motherhood, and days devoted to mother-goddesses, are of course nothing new.

The Romans celebrated a holiday in honor of Cybele (a mother goddess) that fell in late March. The Greeks celebrated Rhea (the mother of the gods) and the Celts celebrated their own mother goddess Brigid, both also in spring. I assume that the bringing forth of new life is the connection, and the reason why mother celebrations are so linked to the springtime.

But what about the Christian celebration, held on the fourth Sunday of Lent? In England, it became traditional for children – especially daughters in domestic service – to be given a day off and return home during lent to visit their families. This custom grew into a Christian one tied to Easter, in which people would make offerings to their “mother” church.

(Is this just one more example of the church assimilating a pre-existing culture so as to appeal to the heathen masses? The pagans have a festival in winter – OK, let’s have one for the Christians too. The pagans celebrate motherhood in spring – right, let’s do that as well. Christianity is nothing if not adaptable, eh?)

But whichever way you look at it, the US version started by Anna Jarvis is altogether less attractive.

According to Wikipedia:

A year after her mother’s death she held a memorial to her mother on May 12, 1907, and then went on a quest to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday. She succeeded in making this nationally recognized in 1914. The International Mother’s Day Shrine still stands today in Grafton as a symobol of her accomplishments.

According to TheHistoryOf:

Anna’s personal life went a very different direction. She was so hurt by a disastrous love affair, that she never married. Every Mother’s Day brought her pain. She had originally meant Mother’s Day to be a religious observance. However, as commercialization hit the modern world, it got swept up in the flood of markets and profit.

Anna tried to sue the companies that were making money from her “sacred day”, with numerous litigations. But that, too, failed, and Anna became a recluse. She devoted her life to her blind sister, Elsinore; but then Elsinore died. It didn’t take Anna long to use up her life savings and, soon after, lose her home. All these negatives affected her health and, in November 1944, she had to apply for social assistance. Some of her friends gave her enough money to spend her final miserable years in a private sanitarium. Can you imagine her sitting there telling people that she “invented” Mother’s Day? Surely, they thought her to be deranged.

Finally, in 1948, at 84 years old, deaf, ailing and nearly blind, the woman who had such a warm idea, died feeling very cold. She wasn’t a mother herself. So she didn’t have anyone to visit her on Mother’s Day. It’s such a sad ending to what started out as such a happy story.

And so, according to History’s Women:

It must be noted that, while Miss Jarvis spent most of her adult life striving to create a special day to honor mothers, in the end, she was disappointed with the way Mother’s Day turned out. As the popularity of the holiday grew, so did it’s commercialization. What she had intended as a day of sentiment quickly turned into a day of profit. In the end, shortly before her death, Anna Jarvis told a reporter that she was sorry she ever started Mother’s Day.

I think I prefer the mother-goddess version. Don’t you?

This year, I’m looking forward to Mothering Sunday more than I ever have before. Yes, I was a mother last year too, and No, my daughter isn’t up to making me tea in bed this year either… so why is this year different?

Well, for one thing, this year I feel like a mother. Last year I had been doing the job a mere seven weeks and was feeling overwhelmed, storm-tossed, bedraggled and alone. This year, I have all of 14 months’ experience and – more to the point – I feel empowered and alive as a mother in a way that I never have before. I love it. I feel that I was born for it.

And, another thing, this year will be the first that my daughter and I spend with my mother. As I have grown into this new role and, by some mysterious process, become that thing which is a Mother, all that has happened to me has given me a new appreciation for my own mother. I can’t wait to get there and unload chocolates and our precious home-made card: scribbled chalks on black paper, more love and enthusiasm than skill – but no less, I hope, for that.

So this Sunday for me will be a celebration. I celebrate where I have come from and where I have got to so far. Perhaps I will even find time to wonder where the journey will take me next.

Lately I find my thoughts turning more and more to sunshine. I think I am craving the stuff, after what seems like a long and gloomy winter.

We both badly need the medicinal effects of warm, balmy air to our skin, to dry out the winter damp and clear up all manner of little ailments. Come to that, the nappies could do with it too – oh, to see them hanging on the line, a row of little bright white squares, reflecting the bright white sunlight.

I got my first proper taste of spring today, walking outside in the bright, warm sun – not shivering in a bitter wind or having to shield my eyes from the low angle of the cold winter sun. Just pure, warm, pleasurable sunlight. Lovely.

Roll on the holidays. Roll on a Spanish roof terrace with a washing line and a tiled floor too hot to walk on. Roll on grandparents, and swimming pools and gentle snoozes, book in hand, under the warm shade of a fringed parasol.

Body Shop fans – it is time to mourn.

The company is being sold out to L’Oreal.

Not only does L’Oreal support animal testing, something against which The Body Shop has in the past been proud to stand, but it is also part-owned by babykillers Nestle.

According to The Body Shop’s website:

“The Body Shop believes that, as part of a global community, it is the responsibility of every individual to actively support those who have such human rights denied them. Whether it’s signing a petition, using our purchase power to boycott a company, or lobbying governments, we all have the power to effect change. If enough individuals demand change – big business and governments will have to listen.”

Take them at the word. Even if you are not already part of the Nestle Boycott, you can still boycott The Body Shop. If you feel strongly enough, e-mail The Body Shop at ukcustomer.relations@the-body-shop.com. to tell them how you feel.

I don’t think the loss of my occasional business will bring the company down (at least not by myself!) but nor do I think it much of a hardship to defect entirely to Lush.

I’d like to make a complaint about the following comment heard on the BBC at the weekend, from rugby commentator Jonathan Davies:

This kick will be slightly easier than the last one, because it’s much more difficult.”
(Sadly, Yachvili lost his head, and kicked it wide of the posts.)

Sigh.

I think I need a cup of tea.

The Times reports today on government plans to make state pension contributions for women – and presumably men – who choose to stay at home to bring up children, or care for sick relatives. Does this scent of “women’s work” being viewed now as better than just slacking?

Today has been so stand-out good that I just have to tell the world all about it.

It didn’t start so auspiciously as I was late to work after staying at nursery to settle in a tetchy small person… I was anticipating another day like, say, yesterday where she spent the whole day being either foul or asleep or latched (leeched) on and then absolutely refused to have anything to do with bed until after 11pm, with her screaming and me wound up so tight I felt like I could just throw her out of the window… but none of that happened today.

It has been wonderful.

I even had a good, productive day at work, which has been pretty unusual lately because that – like everything else I guess – has been getting me down too. Then the baby was charm and impishness personified both at lunchtime and when I picked her up. She demonstrated her developing womanhood by multi-tasking – standing up and eating a sausage roll at the same time, which is no mean feat let me tell you. Finally, we had a thoroughly pleasant evening together and – wonder of wonders – she went to sleep peacefully and unprotestingly at SEVEN O’CLOCK! I can’t remember the last time that happened. Before Christmas, I think.

It was weird – I have hoovered, cooked, cleaned, done laundry. The house looks almost normal and I *still* have a happy evening of reading and surfing ahead of me, stilton on toast in one hand and vast mug of hot chocolate in the other.

I have no illusions that this will last but maybe, just maybe, a weekend of sheer idleness has done us both good and got us out of a trough. Here’s hoping.

The Bill had its provisional second reading on 3 March 2006.

Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, there wasn’t enough time to debate it, and it now has a second reading booked for 20 October 2006. The current listing puts the bill seventh on the agenda. Given that this time it was fourth and still did not make it anywhere near a debate (the House got part way through the second item), it’s pretty much the end.

(Click here and scroll down to point 7 or here and scroll down to the B’s.)

A few years ago the BBC ran a “big read” to try and find out the nation’s favourite fiction books. By some probably dubious method involving 140,000 votes being cast over a two-week period in 2003 followed by a televised “final” with TV voting, the BBC came up with a list of our 200 favourite books.

Somebody or other gave me the Big Read Book of Books for Christmas that year, and I decided that it would be a good idea to read all the books on the list.

Er.

Well, getting pregnant and having a baby interfered with the plan and I confess that I didn’t even start… but now seems like a good time to dust it off and get it going properly. This blog, and this public commitment, is going to be my incentive to keep going!

So, here are the rules:

# Each book, once read, will get blogged.
# I’m going to do the books in order, from #200 up to #1
# I’m not going to buy any books if I can help it – many I already have, others I will get from the library or borrow from friends… Let’s see how few I can buy, eh?
# I’m going to be finished by the end of 2010.

2010 sounds like a long way off – but it still means blogging 40 books a year, with two months gone already! Some of the books I’ve already read, and others are picture books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar… but even if I only have to read about two-thirds of them I’m still aiming for about one a fortnight. Challenging enough, I reckon.

Wish me luck…

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