For Those of You About to Fall

A friend of mine recently told me about one of her friends whose husband had suddenly left her for a colleague. She described feeling like she was at the top of a very steep slide and she couldn’t stop the fall. I know what she means and I want to tell her and anybody else who is ever at the top of the slide that yes the fall hurts but you land, you always land and you might land somewhere better than when you started. To quote La Haine “ … Mais l’ important n’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage.”.

I was recently lucky enough to attend a brunch where Jo Malone was speaking (this was at The Ned, which I am obsessed with so it was definitely one of the better Saturdays of my life! Thanks again Ruth), she is very inspirational, I was on the verge of tears at least twice, there really is nothing better than strong positive emotions. One thing that she said that struck a chord with my divorced self was “Struggle takes you to such great heights”, think about that for a minute the next time everything seems to be going wrong (you know like when your hike hates you, the dinner has burnt, everything went wrong at work and there is wine in the fridge….). The old cliche of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is true”, indeed I’m pretty sure anybody whose marriage ends badly is a little wiser the next time…

Anyway back to the slide down. I’ll never forget my first meeting with my solicitor, having to explain why I was there, what had happened, what the financial situation was etc. That was the rope of my slide. It made the end of my marriage very real and was the beginning of the divorce process which can be horrendous, mine wasn’t easy but it could have been so much worse, I didn’t have to move for a start so I know how lucky I am. Realising I had to share my daughter was heartbreaking as was the day I had to transfer a lot of money. But guess what? I actually enjoy the weekends when I’m alone and my flat is now 100% mine and best of all I had a divorce party with a divorce cake that tasted better than my wedding cake and I have a very big smile on my face on the picture of me cutting in…

So my advice is : find your “separation/divorce village”. You need your family, friends and a good solicitor. You need wine or chocolate or both, you need spa days with your girlfriends, you need lipstick, you need a new bra or two, you need dancing in the kitchen with your child, you need sunsets in Ibiza, you need to listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade on repeat (“Becky with the good hair…), you need that feeling on the first New Year’s Eve after separation, you need to remember “mieux vaut etre seule que mal accompagnee”, you need Bumble for when you’re ready to come across a load of weirdos but some good ones who will help you move on, you need a haircut, some pink shoes and you need to believe you can get down that seemingly never ending slide and land on your feet. Not only will you land on your feet, your divorce will be pronounced on the 4th of July, which is Independence Day and you’ll have your delicious cake and eat it.

Girl, you can do it, at some point you have to let yourself fall. The single mum club ain’t that bad, I welcome you into it and it doesn’t have to last for ever.

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One Year Older…

I turned 36 a month ago and was reminded today that Sex and The City is 20 years old…time is flying! I am going to start with saying that I have really been finding it quite tough recently. Indeed the life of a single working mum is bloody hard and I am one of lucky ones as I have a job and support. Also it was the anniversary of my dad dying, which didn’t help. Still I am feeling better, maybe it was because today was sunny or because I ate loads of M&Ms or because a few things reminded me of how lucky I am and am going to try and keep dragging my mood and confidence upwards over the next few weeks (slowly does it).

I have never been great at self care and have a tendency to not only keep my emotions in but also to “catastrophize” ( ; ) TM ) and then I closed a car door on my thumb, got really bad PMT, somehow convinced myself I was rubbish at my job (I am not), felt fat, wasn’t sleeping properly, got post holiday blues, indeed who wouldn’t feel sad at leaving this:

And ended up in some kind of downward spiral. A good and wise friend of mine asked me what I was doing about improving things and basically concluded that I needed a “win”. He was right so I spent a ton of money on Amazon buying all sorts of books, my mum arrived for a week, I looked at my performance at work and realized I am not rubbish, got some encouraging words from an old friend, spent Saturday evening at The Ned, which I love, slept more, bought some bargain shoes at TkMaxx, watched TED talks, discovered Love Island, cried and cried again and I am very happy to report that things are looking up! There were always going to be some tough moments during a divorce and following losing a parent whilst bringing up a feisty child to say the least:

So yep, I do have my vulnerable moments, moments where I actually wondered if I wasn’t depressed but took time to analyse the situation and make adjustments such as trying to sleep more and accept that I get really bad PMT since I gave birth. Losing a night’s sleep because I was in A&E for my thumb really didn’t help and was one of the catalysts for this not so great period.

Anyway, it’s time for Love Island, which is basically self care. Bisous everybody (bright dresses and smiles are a good thing!):

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Quick Note To My 15 Year Old Self

You wanted to be one of those business women you used to see walking through airports, it seemed so glamorous and high powered. Well guess what? It’s not glamorous, especially not when they make the dreaded announcement that all bags have to go in the hold because this means you will have to wait at the other end for the bag to come out on the carousel, which means it will take longer to finally get to your hotel when a big comfy bed awaits (and a lovely bar it turns out in this case). All you’ll be thinking about is if your daughter is going to behave well and be OK whilst you are away and if your meetings will go well. You won’t feel glamorous drinking a tea from EAT in the departure lounge. However you will feel pretty pleased with yourself at how efficient you are at travelling by now: timing, packing, security, you know exactly what you are doing. One thing you still haven’t mastered is getting out of Zurich main station, still getting lost after going there for over 10 years, it’s your travelling nemesis!

Still you will enjoy watching French TV when you go to Geneva and drinks by the lake. You’ll fall in love with the Helvetia Hotel in Zurich and crave their scrambled eggs after client dinners. You’ll always steal gummy bears from the SWISS departure lounge and drink apple juice on the flights. Going to NYC for work will become your favourite but that stops in 2014 unfortunately!

You’ll exchange your Eurostar points for Selfridges vouchers and go on many a free flight with your Avios.

Anyway those women you used to see rushing through the airports were probably tired and definitely unaware of the strong impression they were making on teenage girls.

One last thing, you’ll have a very cute daughter and a fun (but sometimes hard) life ahead of you and don’t worry about the BAC, you’ll do really well.

I Thank You, I Am Proud of You and I Promise You

As it is Father’s Day  I wanted to share my eulogy from his funeral a few weeks ago.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

First thing Dad, more people have turned up to your funeral than my wedding so you did well there! Rest assured that I’ll make sure that in future people will always say 1,000 people came to Marcus’ funeral and Robbie Williams sang Angels. You know what I mean dad.

I want to thank my family and friends, who have supported me recently, in particular Sandie without whom I could not have managed to do it all over the past few weeks. The bad times definitely show you who really cares.

Ironically you were one of the only people I knew who didn’t have a Facebook account, yet there is a group with 170 members dedicated to you.

It is a testament to the man you were that so many people have sent messages and raised money for today. Special mention to the WOMAD crew (in particular Steve, Angela, Geoff, Soly, Dick Vernon, Jack, Stevie and so many more), WOMAD which turns out is not only the World Of Music and Dance but also the world of friendship, love and generosity. We are forever grateful.

I want to quote a few of the notes left on the Facebook page (I’ve edited them a bit) because the world needs to know what a man you were. One thing is for sure, you were definitely one of the boys:

  1. “You were a true friend; a rascal; a good laugh in the good times; dignified when times got tough. You were never slow to tell anyone who gave you the opportunity how much you loved your family and how proud you were of them and their achievements. You often wore your heart on your sleeve, which brought you gentle ribbing from your friends and family, but NEVER derision or dismissal. You were – and still are – a truly unique individual who enriched our lives, and will be sorely missed. Thank you for having been MARCUS; a larger than life figure who I’m proud to have known.”

 

  1. “a WOMAD legend gone, clearly he will be greatly missed”

 

 

  1. “a true legend, who had a lot of fun. I learnt a lot from Marcus, most importantly always wear sunscreen”

 

  1. “Raise your glasses for an amazing man, we will miss you madly thank you for all the good times and exceptional company RIP mon ami”

 

 

  1. “In a festival world full of characters you sir were a giant. Always on hand for a chat, a joke a 4am call out across site or fist if needed. Old school rock n roller and a real gentleman. The world is a poorer place without you Marcus. I am sure campfires will echo with tales of your exploits for years to come. Rest easy man. “
  2. “WOMAD will never be the same”

Nothing will ever be the same to be honest.

How many people have the honour of knowing their dad was a legend, so unique and so unforgettable? Lana, George, Max and Tallulah, we had our extraordinary dad, I know he wasn’t perfect but man he tried. And Lana Banana, you did him proud, you were there til the end, something I couldn’t do and that’s because you’re an Armstrong, we all are and man am I glad I never changed my name. George and Max, you have clearly inherited his physical abilities and strength, George you look more like him every day (in a good way!). Max, whenever I would ask how you were, he would say “Max is lovely”. Tallulah, one of the only full size pictures he kept was of you, he was so proud of you and always told me how well you were doing at school.

He loved us all so much, may you never doubt that.

Dad kept 2 cards: a fathers’ day card from Tallulah and Michael Eavis’ invitation to his 70th birthday at Worthy farm. These were the loves of your life, your family and your festival family

 

Dad, this is what I am thankful for, why I was proud of you and what I promise.

I THANK YOU:

  • For taking us to festivals and opening our eyes to what an amazing world it is out there
  • For giving us all a love of music from Dire Straits to Burning Spear to Tracy Chapman and Tom Petty.
  • For a non-conventional childhood
  • For introducing us to such a wide variety of people
  • For not being a dad like any other dad
  • Showing me what passion means, your passion was working at festivals and you made it happen.
  • I thank you for Teaching me that if you walk in somewhere like you own the place, they’ll let you in.
  • For not judging me and just being there when I needed you a few years ago.
  • For coming to Berlin to my 21st Birthday party, you made up for forgetting my 18th birthday! Of course, in true Marcus fashion, you made one of the waitresses give me their staff t-shirt as a souvenir
  • For instilling in me this strong will to live life to the full. Carpe Diem.
  • For all the laughs and fun times: for example when we went to Twickenham to watch England and every time you got up to get another beer they scored so you missed all their tries. For having a mouse stuck in your leather trousers. For shouting out loud at my graduation when someone was receiving a degree in medieval grammar or something “ I bet he’s fun at a party”. Man you were fun at a party dad.
  • Thank you for offering to take care of Arabella on Xmas day when she was only 1 month old and just wouldn’t stop crying. Not everyone would take that on, I’ll always be grateful for you coming in my room where you heard me struggling and offering to help.
  • For giving me health and safety advice when I was stuck in a hotel during Hurricane Sandie. If there was one person I would have been happy to be with at that time, it was you because you would have made me feel safe. Nothing scared you. You were a true man.
  • For some of the most magical moments of my life like standing in the crowd at Glastonbury when Robbie Williams sang Angels, that’s a big deal for a 16-year-old.
  • My friend recently told me “you’re amazing Adele and it’s partly thanks to your dad”. What else is there to say.

 

I always tell the story how one of the only times in my life when I’ve been really irresponsible was when I decided to have a party in my hotel room in Abu Dhabi. Tony Paiton told me “ your dad would be proud of you” I knew this meant it would end badly! But man, was it fun. Story of your life basically.

Now this is the hard bit for me. I know you never thought I was proud of you but I really was dad and this is why. I would not have changed you for a thing, you made us strong.

 I AM PROUD OF YOU:

  • for taking me to buy my first bra at John Lewis, I ended up with a lacy red thing that probably wasn’t appropriate for a 14-year-old but you tried your best.
  • for having the strength to drive Lana and I back to Heathrow and put us on a plane to France so many times. That can’t have been easy, you were a better man for it.
  • all your certificates that used to hang in Brenda’s at womad
  • For being able to walk into any pub and make friends at the bar. The dodgier the better. From Rastafarians to Hell’s Angels, you had friends from all walks of life.
  • For giving me the courage to walk around my school in France wearing my England rugby shirt that I am wearing today whether England had beaten or lost to France at the weekend. You didn’t care what people thought, I’ll never forget when you came to visit me in Berlin and wore your “fast as fuck” hoodie.
  • Once at Glastonbury I watched you with my own eyes avoid a massive crowd crush by climbing on the top of a bridge and redirecting 10s of thousands of people.

 

  • Most importantly I am proud of you for showing us what to live authentically means. Very few people manage this and if I can live even half as authentically and true to myself as you did dad, I will be proud. Needless to say “work hard, play hard” was invented with you in mind.

 

I PROMISE TO:

  • always have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on Christmas morning
  • drink pints in your honour
  • try and make you even more proud of me than you were
  • dance in the mud all night at Glastonbury (talking of which if anybody has ticket, come and talk to me J), to take Arabella to WOMAD and by the way she wanted to say she loves you Granddad
  • make sure all your children stay in touch with each other
  • to put my happiness first as you told me to do.
  • go to New Orleans where you always wanted to go
  • watch every France versus England rugby game religiously for the rest of my life
  • To not look back and to be happy.
  • And I finally I promise to be one of those people, who has stories, just like you did because sensible can be wrong sometimes.

 

Very few people can say “ if I die tomorrow, I’ll die a happy man because I’ve done so much in my life”, you said that and you meant it. It gives me great relief to know you died happy and typically under your own terms. As per Mark Twain (thank you Adrian): “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”

Over and Out, it’s time to switch the radio off.

Linking up to Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog Posts

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You Were Amazing Dad or Therapy Through Blogging

This time last week I was in Mauritius with my mum and daughter making the most of our last day in paradise. It was hot, the only worry on my mind was “will the taxi turn up on time tonight for the airport?” and I was completely relaxed after a great 10 days of not doing much.

This morning I’m sat on a train going to Dorset to start dealing with funeral arrangements for my dad, who died a few days ago. There are so many worries on my mind that I can’t even process it all or sleep past 6.30 at the moment.

About 6 hours after he died, I thought “I’m over this, I feel fine” , people have probably written essays on that type of reaction. It must be some kind of defence mechanism and it’s probably not very healthy. I’m not over it and I’m going to write about it. Some people might not understand why I want to make my feelings public but I know it’s going to help me and frankly at the moment I really don’t care about being judged. I’ll post as many photos on Facebook as I want, go out as much as I want and just deal with it however I want to.

What makes me sad the most is that he couldn’t live his last years to the full due to pain and illness, that’s a shame. I’m the eldest of his 5 children and I was lucky that he gave me away at my wedding and met my daughter – my brothers and sisters won’t have that and that’s painful. If my youngest half sister graduates from university, I’ll make sure I’m there and unlike dad, T I promise you that when they are handing out a diploma for a slightly boring sounding degree I won’t shout out “I bet he’s fun at a party!”. I think this was before he fell asleep and Granny had to poke him because he was snoring so loudly…


Yep that was typical dad (typical of him, he definitely wasn’t a typical dad in good and bad ways) – he spoke his mind and didn’t give a damn what anybody thought. What was also typical and sometimes comical (and sometimes very annoying) was his ability to exaggerate a fact…indeed dad was not perfect by any means and had an uncanny ability to “enhance” the truth. He worked at festivals and clearly met famous people but which ones he “saw” versus “met”, I’ll never know and now I don’t care.

In times like these you start to see the influence people had on you. My love of rugby comes from him, I didn’t inherit his love of Chelsea FC though (#arsenal) nor his love of Stella, man that stuff is disgusting.

I do love a festival though and I will forever be grateful for all the summers I spent working and having fun at festivals, it seriously enriched my life. The people I’ve met, the music I’ve heard, the experiences I’ve had at festivals are a big part of my life and I will always be thankful for that.

There is so much more to say, so many more memories and mixed emotions. I forgive you for forgetting my 18th birthday (and some others…) you came to Berlin for my 21st so that made up for that.

So what was amazing about my dad? He embodied our surname “Armstrong” – he worked outside most of his life and could do work guys 20 years younger couldn’t, he had tons and tons of friends from hell’s angels to a disabled guy, who he looked after at WOMAD and made sure he had a pass to the site every year to people he used to play rugby with and what seems like half of the UK’s festival crew. Anybody who met him would always remember him, he really would help people if he could, he was flamboyant and fun and I recently discovered that he said years ago “if I die tomorrow, I’ll die a happy man” and that gives me great comfort.

He lived most days like it could be his last, this did mean not much sleep (which eventually caught up with him) but he had more good times in his life than 50 average people put together.

I get my belief in “carpe diem” from you dad and I’ll do my best to live life to the full (I might just be a bit more reasonable and sleep more!).  The Armstrong show must go on.

The Highs and Lows of the Past 24 Hours

Lows:

  • Getting up at 4.40AM to go to the airport
  • Not getting what you wanted out of the work trip
  • Getting home at 11PM
  • Seeing your daughter for 30 mins in those 24 hours
  • Break your favourite glasses ever in 2 at the airport
  • People staring at your sellotaped glasses
  • Spending £££ on new glasses
  • Buying lunch then realising you had brought lunch in
  • Wanting to take your mum to the Seychelles as she’s always dreamed of going back and realising it is just too expensive
  • Storm Doris causing the cancellation of your train home
  • Not realising the trains had been cancelled until you got to the station and it was PACKED
  • Getting home to a wine free house
  • Hopefully nothing else

Highs

  • Seeing your friend/client blossoming as a pregnant woman
  • Walking along Lake Geneva in the sun
  • Beer and crisps at the airport (it’s the little things, especially when everything is shit!)
  • Getting on the Heathrow Express with one minute to spare
  • Man at the opticians managing to temporarily glue your glasses back together so you can work and see until the new ones are ready 
  • Being told your vision has got a tiny bit better (I’m telling you it’s the little things, I’ll take anything at this point!)
  • Being lucky enough to live somewhere where there is the overground and the tube so you can get home despite storm Doris
  • Trying on the new bargain sale clothes you ordered and then fitting perfectly 

I’m kind of exhausted, drink anybody?!?