Today is my last day of being 20. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it all, really. I know it’s just a number. It doesn’t really mean anything. Just time, jogging along, as time unavoidably tends to do. Saying that though, it’s undeniable that there just seems to be something symbolic about turning 21. More so than at age 18, I think, there seems to be some kind of auspiciously grown up connotation to 21. I taste the words in my mouth, and they feel slightly strange. Twenty one. A proper adult. Isn’t 21 just for…more responsible people?
Terrifyingly, I remember thinking as a kid that anyone over 20 was practically ancient. In case I wasn’t already feeling my age today, my yoga teacher informed me this morning that she’s concerned one of my hips is weaker than the other. I’m clearly already a pensioner trapped in an (almost) 21 year old body. Get me to the Mecca Bingo centre and let the good times roll. Admittedly, I always did feel like I was just a bit too invested in the daytime TV programme‘Cash In The Attic.’ Quite clearly, I didn’t choose the pensioner life, it chose me, fifty or so years too soon.
Twenty has been quite a strange year for me, to be honest. Not my happiest. I think it’s a slightly liminal age, 20. Not the heady, reckless, ‘look-at-me-I’m-of-age-and-I’m-going-to-drink-jaegerbombs-til-I-puke’ 18 and not the slowly-starting to get settled mid twenties. At 20, I feel like I lost quite a bit of confidence. I’m hoping to rebuild that, slowly. I’m much less sure, inaway, about everything really. Though maybe that’s not all bad. It’s good not to have a too rigid idea of the future. Frightening, but then we can never really know what’s coming round the corner, can we? 20 certainly wasn’t all bad for me – far, far from it. There was a lot of good. I’m so grateful for all my beautiful friends and family – I’m so lucky to have such amazing, supportive and inspring people in my life. I’m just hoping that in my 21st year I’ll be in a better headspace, able to make the best of whatever opportunities life throws my way.
Fingers crossed and touch wood, my 21st birthday is shaping up to be a lot better than my 20th, even though the forecast is, weather wise, abysmal. I’m hopeful that 21 will be sunny for me on the whole, however. I’m entering the year happier, which is a good start. On my 20th birthday I was caught in a rapidly spiralling and terrifyingly all-consuming calorie phobia, terrified of gaining weight and dreading eating out to celebrate. I point blank refused a birthday cake or even a solitary bun, and my mum half-joked that we’d have to put a candle in a strawberry. I was the only one that made my 20th birthday slightly sad – it was self-sabotage. I got beautiful presents. I was made a fuss of. I was surrounded my dear friends that celebrated with me on a night out, but I rigidly controlled how much I drank and tallied up the mounting calories in every celebratory cocktail I was offered. Not this year. This year I am getting a cake and I am going to eat it and I am going to enjoy it. I am going to drink as much as I want (though ideally, I’d like to still be fairly vertical at the end of the evening). I am going to be with loving family and friends, as I was last year. But this year I am going to celebrate with them. I am going to be in the moment. I’ve never really been a party girl, and am pretty reluctant to be centre of attention. I hate planning events, especially when they’re centred around me. But the driving force for my 21st plans has just been a sort of quietly defiant voice in my brain saying ‘f*ck-it.’ I’m going to soak up turning 21, and I’m going to milk my celebrations dry.
I’ve had a pretty lovely last day as a twenty year old so far. I went to yoga. I went and treated myself to new makeup I didn’t need. I got a spray tan, surprisingly. It’s my first one, and though the lovely lady that sprayed me with what she slightly unnervingly called her ‘gun’ has promised it will develop overnight, at the moment I’m looking releivingly unlike a) David Dickinson b) an Oompa Loompa, or c) the shade of a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. The full effect remains to be seen. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a good day. I’m feeling lucky that some of my friends can make it out to celebrate with me, and incredibly touched that people have sent cards and presents.
The overall mood tonight is: ‘hopeful.’ I’m quietly excited. I’m hopeful that tomorrow is going to be great. I’m hopeful that I’m going to love 21. I’m hopeful. Excited and hopeful. Excitedly hopeful. It’s nice to be excited about things again, even in a quiet way.
I’m sorry that this post is pretty uninteresting and slightly rambling, as ever. I just felt that I should document my last night of 20, in some small way. But now, I’m going to stop being so self-reflective, possibly pour a small pre-celebratory tipple, and ponder the big issues – i.e is my Burberry ‘Summer’ perfume strong enough to mask the pretty potent smell of my spray tan? If not, one thing is for certain is this – I will enter 21 smelling vaguely of digestive biscuits. There are worse things, I suppose.
I hope tomorrow is a wonderfully happy unbirthday (or birthday!) for you all. See you on the other side of twenty. ❤️
Let’s face it, any film that involves David Bowie, the Jim Henson Company, and lashings of quintessentially 80s cinematic magic was destined to be a cult classic. I will love ‘Labyrinth’ forever (you know, it’s not long at all). It has an incredible soundtrack – I’m fairly certain that synthesizers sound upon entrance to the gates of heaven. It’s undeniably quotable. The Goblin King, and this is the key pull for many of us, is brought to life by the Thin White Diamond Starman, the late, great Mr. David Bowie himself. There are Muppet-esque creatures involved. Jennifer Connelly is sublime and I’m of the firm opinion that her eyebrows should be credited in their own right. The film exudes glitter. What is not to love here? It’s 101 minutes of pure fantasy fun. It’s trippy as hell – particularly the infamous Firey scene. It’s mad and it’s magic in equal measure.
I’d argue that Labyrinth has as much to offer an audience today as it did back in ’86, and this is not even taking the iconic insult; ‘your mother is a fraggin’ aardvark!’ into consideration. It taught young ‘uns everywhere not to graffiti – apparently it really pisses Hobgoblins off. It also likely acted as the sexual awakening for thousands of young teens across the globe – Bowie’s leggings were, to point out the painfully obvious, snug. As important as all of these points unquestionably are (particularly the film’s emphasis upon balls – crystal, that is, get your mind out of the gutter, people) – I’d say that we can take some morals from this bonkers, inherently 80s moviethat are actually pretty integral life lessons. Sarah may have only had thirteen hours to complete the Labyrinth and reclaim her baby brother from the mesmerising, permanently smirk-wearing Goblin King, but she packed a hell of a lot in, and learnt a fair bit on her travels. I think it’s fair to say that the Labyrinth and it’s assortment of oddities can teach us all a thing or two. Here goes…
1) Things aren’t always what they seem. Lavish presents might not always necessarily be something you should welcome with open arms – you never know what may be expected in return. Be wary of Goblin Kings bearing gifts. (Note: this lesson can also be eked out by a little something called the ‘Trojan Horse’, though the perpetrators were, in this case, Greek rather than Goblin). On a more positive note, ‘Labyrinth’ demonstrates that there are likely to be doors where none can immediately be seen. Opportunities can arise when you least expect them, and that’s why it’s so crucial to keep on going, even when things seem pretty bleak.
2) Perseverance is key. Although undeniably rash in wishing away sweet, stripy little Toby, Sarah’s old ‘Come-On-Feet’ attitude is pretty inspirational. I know that Sarah has a minor strop upon embarking on the old baby-brother retrieving quest, but I’d probably waste approximately twelve of the thirteen hours crying, trying to get phone signal or fritter away the time on something equally unproductive. She makes the mess, but she sure as hell gets herself out of it again. Impressive.
3) If a talking worm gives you advice, it’s worth listening to. Good advice can come from unlikely places. So, next time a neighbour says ‘Ello and offers some friendly advice, go on, go inside, go and meet the missus. Perhaps not when you’ve got a thirteen-hour deadline to save a small child from spending eternity as a Goblin, though. If this is the case, you might want to get a move on.
4) Sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet and make a choice, even when the right decision isn’t immediately obvious. Up or Down? Left or Right? Become the Goblin Queen or make it back in time for your Finals? Whichever choice you make, it’ll likely all turn out okay in the end, and you’re likely to meet some ‘Helping Hands’ on the way.
5) Friendship is crucial. What Donkey sang in ‘Shrek’ is so very true – you gotta have friends. Even though Sarah eventually confronts the Goblin King alone (that’s the way it’s done, after all), there’s not a chance she could’ve gotten as far as the castle without a little help from her friends. A wide variety of friends means having a great range of skill sets to rely on. It’s important in life to have friends that you know you can turn to, should you need them. Sarah, Hoggle, Ludo, Didymus and Ambrosius are unquestionably #squadgoals. Take that, Taylor Swift.
6) We needlessly cling on to a lot of junk, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. I am a self-confessed hoarder and am guilty of hanging on to things in the vague hope that they might one day prove ‘useful.’ I am also liable to lug a lot of emotional baggage around with me daily. Like Sarah, it’s worth acknowledging every now and again what’s junk and what isn’t, and recognising that sometimes we need to let go of what’s holding us back for our sanity’s sake.
7) The only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves. I often find myself telling myself I can’t do something before I’ve actually tried to do it. Next time I’m bogged down in the marshy Swamp Of Eternal Self-Doubt I’m going to take some inspiration from Miss. Williams and take the (sometimes terrifying) leap of faith in the Escher Room of life.
8) A less inspirational, but nonetheless practical piece of advice: Don’t take food (or drink) when you’re not sure where it’s been. Might have a worm in it. Not the talking kind, either. Could also be spiked with a hallucinogenic. In the realms of the mythological pantheon, it hasn’t seemed to do many young heroines much good – (I’m looking at you, Persephone). Don’t risk it, kids.
9) Stand up to bullies. I ADORE Jareth as a character, but he’s unquestionably an arrogant, scheming, downright nasty piece of work. Also, ‘Labyrinth’ is a strong indicator that the old adage of bullies only being bullies because they’re damn miserable themselves generally has a lot of truth behind it, as unsatisfactory as this saying is if you’re the unfortunate victim of an caustic, sparkly tyrant. Think about it, wouldn’t you be pretty miserable whiling away your days in a filthy throne room surrounded by drunken goblins and a more than healthy amount of chickens? As the Goblin King croons…the lost and the lonely, that’s Underground. Aw. But still. Drugged peaches are never an acceptable seduction method, and using ‘Cleaners’ as an intimidation technique was a low-blow. Not cool, Jareth.
10) The way forward is sometimes the way back. Although Hoggle scoffs at this particular piece of advice, I think there’s something pretty valuable to take from the Wiseman’s words. That’s not to say that we should obsess over the past – it’s over after all, and pretty damn impossible to change. I’d argue that a little introspection, however, can result in both a happier future and a lot of personal growth. Note: I’m talking about contemplative, non-judgemental self-reflection on past-behaviour here; I’m not a proponent of torturing yourself by mentally replaying the moment you said/did that one really stupid thing yesterday/last month/in your third year of highschool on an infinite loop. This will only cause you to spiral into a hellish circle of embarrassment and self-hatred. Like Elsa The Snow Queen (different movie) – You need to let that sh*t go.
11) But remember, words have power, and you can’t take back things said in anger. Also, smugness tends to not pay off. Try not to employ the phrase ‘It’s a piece of cake!’ with too much regularity. The universe will reprimand you for your complacency. Good things rarely follow.
12) You’re braver than you think, and no matter what you’ve done, redemption is possible if you want it enough. Hoggle is convinced that cowardice is an inherent part of his nature, and feels no choice but to play delivery-boy in Jareth’s dastardly scheme to wear a magnificently spangled jacket, get blue highlights, and dance with Sarah. Although Hoggle understandably crumbles under Jareth’s threat that should he refuse, he’ll be relegated to the Bog Of Stench, he redeems himself by aiding Sarah, Didymus, Ambrosius and Ludo in storming the Goblin City, saving their lives through his courageous actions.
13) Families are tricky. You love yours. No matter how much your family annoy you or how dysfunctional your home-life is, you know damn well you’d cross the Goblin City to rescue your fam if the need arose. So, next time you’re wishing your whiny little brother away to the realm of the goblins, perhaps reconsider.
14) Don’t let anyone own you. Not even really sexy Fae Royalty. You’re not something to be bought. Not for all the empty promises and crystals in the world. And remember – the kind of love that demands submission as a prerequisite and brands fear a necessity is no kind of love at all. Despite what anyone tries to tell you; they have no power over you. The only person in charge of you is you. You’re a strong, independent human being that don’t need no Goblin King, girlfriend.
15) Scrabble is always a rousing choice at house parties. Don’t try and play against Sir. Didymus, he will thwart you in the most valiant way possible (V-A-L-I-A-N-T, 7 letters, 12 points). Another lesson learnt from Sarah’s victory celebration bash: build bridges with your enemies. One thing I would point out here, however, is that the sight of Jareth in owl form, peering into the festivities wistfully from the outside, breaks my sentimental little heart every time. Poor little Goblin King. Come on Sarah, you know you want a game of Scrabble with the King of the castle. It’d have been nice if she’d have been magnanimous enough to let him win, that time. Pick your battles, and all that.
16) Glitter improves everything. If there’s one thing that the Goblin King taught me, (aside from how to make outrageously tight leggings a credible style choice, that is), it’s that glitter is akin to Oxygen. Glitter makes everything better. Want to make a dramatic entrance? Arrive in a shower of glitter! Got a dungeon? Make sure it’s full o’ them sparkles. Want to wear lipgloss? That’s cool, as long as it’s Xtra Glitz. Jareth exudes glitter. I like to think that the Oubliette in the Labyrinth encapsulates my entire aesthetic – y’know, a mess but…a glittery mess.
17) Time is short. As Jareth reminds Sarah, time is a tricky mistress, particularly when you have a mercurial Goblin King able to manipulate the clock seemingly upon any minor whim. Make the most of every second – you never know when the clock will strike thirteen.
So remember, life might not always be fair, but baby, that’s the way it is. Get on with it, do the best you can, and when in doubt, Dance Magic Dance. Try to live every day with Sarah’s strong-will, Ludo’s kindness, Didymus’ valour, Jareth’s sass, and a dash of the general Goblin populous’ enviable ‘live for today, drink lots of Ale, have a fight with a few chickens on the way’ mentality. You are all Babes With The Power, and deserve to shine as bright as Jareth’s wardrobe. Keep calm, and like the Firey’s advise…’don’t lose your head!’
Add your voice to the sound of the crowd. – The Human League (1981)
Gigs. More often than not, you’re standing in a room surrounded by a crowd of sweaty strangers. You will be jabbed by pointing elbows as fellow concert-goers jostle for prime position. Beer will unquestionably be spilt on you. By the time you leave, your toes will be bruised and your ears will be ringing. You’ll likely be desperate for a wee, having sensibly decided to steer clear of the toilets, which are, as a general rule, grim on an apocalyptic level . If you worked up the courage to brave the bar queue, you’ll also probably be destitute by the time the band exits the stage – in arena venues, five pound pints are the norm. Despite all of these apparent drawbacks and obstacles, in the case of live music, I firmly believe that the rewards outweigh the trauma. I argue that every gig I have ever been to has had its own rewards. They’ve certainly all been, at the very least, an experience. Even the ones that weren’t particularly good.
There is something special about hearing music live. For me, there is no moment more electric than hearing the sound of the crowd screaming as one in anticipation when the lights dim. There’s no feeling better than sensing an excitement so palpable you can almost touch it when the band are about to head onstage. Hearing the opening notes to your favourite song at a live gig can make your heart soar. An amazing encore can leave you reeling and buzzing with excitement for hours after the show has ended.
I got all of these amazing (and legal) highs when I was lucky enough to attend an Iron Maiden concert the night before writing this post. It was phenomenal. Even seated, the energy radiating from a bunch of strangers congregated as one body to rock the f**ck out – or at least, gathered companionably to sit comfortably in an allocated seat, enjoy the music, politely head-bang and bask in Iron Maiden’s glory – was palpable. There were new fans and fans that had clearly worshipped the band from their genesis (not to mix band metaphors here – Phil Collins and Bruce Dickinson are pretty contrasting characters). I saw eight year olds obviously only recently Maiden-mad and eighty year old rock veterans. The eighty year old a few seats along from me went harder than I did; I have never heard ‘The Number of The Beast’ screamed with quite so much gusto. There were heavily tatted, burly-biker looking guys. There were pristine middle aged women with designer handbags, French Manicures and stylish-but-sensible Kitten heels. Gigs are a shared communion, a mixed bag of assorted characters. As lead-singer Dickinson himself pointed out, there were clearly attendees present that had loved Iron Maiden when they dominated the Heavy Metal scene in the early 1980s, and those whom (myself included, much to my chagrin – I feel in my heart that I belong to the decade of the synthesizer), weren’t even twinkles in our mother’s eyes in the 1980s. The best gigs are a unifying force, bringing together those of all colours, creeds, genders and ages. All I had in common with the vast majority of the strangers in the crowd was a shared appreciation for the music. For the length of the set-list at least, that mutual respect for the show we were being given was more than enough.
Whether they’re full-blown rock gods or just-started small-timers, seeing a band/musician live makes you feel ten times more connected to them than you did previously. If you’ve seen an artist live, even if you weren’t hugely keen on them prior to this real-time encounter, after being in the same venue as them for more than a two-song set-list you’re likely to feel at least some kind of affinity with them. This artist-fan rapport can range from anything to a full-blown adoration to a grudging level of unwilling affection and respect. Silly and obvious as it sounds, being in the same room as a musical artist forces you to recognise that they are actually, y’know, real. They aren’t a disembodied voice emanating from your headphones. They’re a living, breathing, certified human-being, and if they’re worth their mike as a musician, they should be as excited to play for you as you are to listen to them. They’re just like us, except they probably have hundreds to thousands of screaming fans, possess a disarming level musical talent, and are likely to have a f**ck ton more money than you or I do.
Over the years, I’ve seen concerts given by mega-famous, pop-princess girl bands (oh yes, I witnessed first-hand the Girls Aloud glory days). I’ve watched Rock Stars shred their electric guitars. I’ve belted out indie anthems from Brit-Pop heroes. I’ve head-bopped to rappers, likely looking incredibly uncool in the process. I’ve indie-shuffled awkwardly in bar room basements to niche, unsigned alt-rock four pieces. I’ve swayed to and sung along with folksy singer-songwriters, I’ve danced at festivals to that one-song-we-all-know delivered by one-hit wonders that peaked in the early 2000s. One of my all-time best gig experiences was tipsily stumbling into a tent and hearing the fantastic Gypsy Punk band ‘Gogol Bordello.’ I’d never heard of this group before, but, thanks to the efforts of the marvellously bonkers front-man Eugene Hütz, who generously persisted in chucking red wine into the audience whilst leaping about like an over-excited puppy, I’ve never quite forgotten them since. I’ve stood and watched the musical output of friends-of-friends with dubious talent but bags of charisma and an infectious enthusiasm. I’ve clapped, cheered, and, on the whole, enjoyed them all. I can honestly say that I’ve never left any kind of concert or gig wishing that I hadn’t bothered attending. And I’ve never, ever, been indifferent. Every single live gig or performance I’ve witnessed has made me feel something. In a world where, sadly, many of us seem to live under a permanent facade of blasé beige-ness, remaining resolutely unmoved and unexcited by everything, hearing that hubbub of excited chatter whilst filing out of a venue post-gig is something really special. To put it simply, music in any form has the ability to make people happy. It provokes opinion. It provokes discussion. It provokes emotion. And that’s no mean feat.
At the other end of the spectrum, attending a live gig given by some artists can actually make you appreciate their sound on CD/Vinyl/any non-live format more. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen to me with that much regularity. But when you’re listening to a band that you’re familiar with that doesn’t quite work live, their music just feels…off.A prime example of an instance of this is for me was seeing Alt-J at Leeds festival in 2015. Now, I love Alt-J. But I couldn’t help feel that the live format didn’t do their sound justice. As much as the lyrics are usually unintelligible, listened to through headphones, this indiscernible crooning sounds kind of cryptic and mysterious, soothing and alluring. Live, it just sounded to me like a kind of vaguely unimpressive mumble. Personally, I felt that their talent just didn’t translate to the live medium. This is probably a pretty unpopular opinion. I’ve had plenty of friends that have seen Alt-J live and loved them. I didn’t. I’ve got friends that hate Alt-J with a passion, branding them ‘Hipster Bulls**t, and with other, even less complementary titles.’ I don’t. I enjoy their output. Just not when I heard it live. As much as I am actually physically wincing at the reek of pretension that this statement unquestionably radiates; it’s the truth – I would much rather listen to ‘An Awesome Wave’ on Vinyl rather than hearing it mangled and distorted under the influence of dodgy acoustics and speakers that were simultaneously annoyingly tinny and an aggressive, ear-drum busting level of blaring. Perhaps you were present at that particular set and loved every second. My opinion might not be the same as yours. That’s fine. Such is the beautifully divisive nature of live music. You love it or you don’t. On this particular occasion, I didn’t.
On the whole, though, I would argue that not much beats the live experience. The feel of the music vibrating through your whole body, shaking you to your very core, and that goosebumps initiating, hair-raising thrill of excitement the second the lights on stage are illuminated is pretty unique. So next time you’re at a gig, close your eyes, soak up the atmosphere, and cheer along with the best of them. Unironically and unapologetically add your voice to the cacophony of screams. Triumphantly and joyfully make yourself a part of the sound of the crowd. Enjoy the music and live life live.
Twenty One Pilots Confetti Shower
Petshop Boys – magnificently showy (wouldn’t expect anything less!)
I was thrilled when my cousin gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I was less overjoyed when I discovered that all of my name suggestions had been overridden, (and believe me, they were excellent – who wouldn’t name their child Prosecco?) but there you are. They went for the more conventional, but admittedly more classically beautiful, ‘Ava Sophie’. A year on from Ava’s arrival, a lot has changed. I am now unironically invested in the global adventures of an unflinchingly enthusiastic unicorn and a group of four plucky spherical beings dubbed the ‘Go Jetters’. I know the difference between a ‘Snuggle Muzzy’ and a ‘Dribble Cloth’ – spoiler – they’re both Muslin Squares. It’s been an education. Below I’ve listed something that I’ve learnt for every month that baby Ava has graced the world with her Go-Jetting attitude and her inspirational, magnificently unapologetic ‘if-you-don’t-like-it-chuck-it-on-the-floor’ mentality.
1) Babies change. Fast. I’m not kidding, you blink and they have an extra tuft of hair and a tooth coming through. Baby has gone from essentially just sleeping, crying, eating and pooing to giggling, smiling, chattering to herself in a language us mere mortals cannot yet interpret, crawling and toddling. And, you know, continuing to cry, eat and poo on a regular basis.
2) You need approximately ten eyes to monitor them successfully. Obviously this depends vastly on the baby, (it sounds obvious, but this was something I hadn’t really grasped – each baby has their own personality, much like their fully grown counterparts), but the one I know, you put her down and at once she’s speeding off like a small, determined, baby-shaped Ferrari. So what if she doesn’t quite have full control of her limbs yet? Minor problem, babe. Babies are intrepid explorers and any room will be their jungle. Baby Ava spots something, she wants to investigate, and she will scale any obstacle in her way to do so. Which brings me to my next point nicely.
3) Babies are clever. This also makes them super entertaining to watch. My family will happily set Baby crawling about on the floor and watch her like our own personal Television set. Certainly more gripping viewing than post-2010 ‘Hollyoaks.’
6) There’s a lot of weird sh*t you can take your baby to. I’m not kidding, this baby has a better social life than me. Some of it sounds awesome. Some of it sounds vaguely sinister. In order to avoid provoking offence, I’ll let you make up your own mind about which of the following falls into which category. Here are some of the events and phenomena I’ve been introduced to through observing the adventures of Baby Ava. These include: ‘Baby Raves,’ ‘Cake Smashes,’ ‘Sensory Stories,’ ‘Baby Yoga,’ ‘Baby Gym,’ and ‘Underwater Baby Photography.’ A packed diary seems to be the norm in the Under-1 social set.
5) The spectrum of emotions which babies can provoke are vast. The joy when you hear them giggle (incidentally, babies laughter is in my opinion the purest sound in the universe) is unequaled. When I manage to make baby smile rather than cry, I am filled with a warm glow of accomplishment. Babies love me, I think smugly. I’m practically Mary Poppins. I should probably pursue a career in childcare. That is, until the bottom lip starts to wobble and the wails start up, creeping in volume from plaintive whines to high-decibel, ear-drum shattering squawks. Other possible side effects of exposure to a child under 12 months for longer than a one hour period include: exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of exhilaration, feelings of confusion and multiple other vacillating emotions. Possible queries you may have might include but not be limited to: ‘Where is the baby, exactly?’ ‘Was it me she was smiling at or the Rusk cookie I’m holding?’ ‘Does it smell funny in here?’
6) No matter how cool you think you are, you will transmute into a performing monkey in order to entertain a baby. You will lose all self-respect. You will not care. They will also entertain you in return. Snapchat is a blessing to immature aunts everywhere. Put the dog filter on your beloved offspring, parents. It’s funny and cute in equal measures, promise.
7) I learnt of the existence of the ‘voice.’ The ‘voice’ is cooey and I never thought that it or the approximation of any sound reminiscent of it would ever escape my lips non-sarcastically. ‘Who’s a gorgeous girl?’ I ask, grinning stupidly. ‘Who’s a gorgeous girl? Ava is!’ ‘Who’s sounding a little bit mentally deficient right now? Auntie Lorna is! That’s right!‘ And on it goes.
6) Every musical toy is annoying. Every single one. There are no exceptions. Baby Ava has a penguin creature I find especially infuriating. Conversely, 80% of the television output intended for toddlers and small children is oddly fascinating and I imagine would be vastly entertaining to watch drunk. I will save my observations upon the similarities between babies and drunks for a later date.
7) Babies have more carry-on luggage than Mariah Carey embarking upon a world tour. They go through clothes, fast. Mainly because they grow fast, also because they’re liable to attract any stain possible. I’ll leave it to your imagination what kind of stains a baby under 12-months may be likely to accumulate.
8) Every mother’s baby supplies bag is a bit like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. Except instead of lamps and coat-racks, they have 24 different bibs and stuff like sensory lasers. Or something. Probably nappies and formula, too. I don’t know, I’m just the childless observer over-here. A simple trip to the park is like packing for an Arctic expedition. And God forbid you forget something, because it will invariably turn out to be vital and you will have maneuver that deceptively hefty Mother Care pram back up the hill and head for home ASAP.
9) Number nine brings me to a more serious point and something that I never quite grasped the implications of before – there’s a hell of a lot of pressure on mums to be permanently perfect and unflappable. You must either be the archetypal, Fairy-Liquid-Advert-of-the-1950s stay-at-home mother or successfully enroll your offspring into an extortionate nursery that rears its own chickens and serves organic pureed artichoke and caviar. There seems to be an assumption among some of the ranks of MumsNet.com that should you deviate from either of these options, you are a Terrible Mother™. This is, obviously, insane. I was baffled. I thought that babies just needed milk, attention and, I don’t know, a bit of room to crawl about. It appears to be more complex than that. I am infinitely impressed by mothers. If you’re reading this and you have a child and are struggling under the inhuman pressure placed upon you to be ‘perfect’, just know that, unqualified as I am, I feel that you’re really great and you’re doing brilliantly. Keep muddling on. I get the impression that half of parenthood is trial and error. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s good enough.
10) There is no love in the world like a mother’s love. I kind of knew this already – my own mother still generously loves her overgrown and still vaguely incompetent baby (me) even though I am no longer cute and bald. (Yes, bald. I wore a lot of hats. I worked them, though). She loves me when I’m funny and happy and I’ve done something well and I’m a little bit proud. She still resolutely loves me when I am really annoying and anxious and overly-sensitive and grumpy and have done something a bit thick. So yeah, I was already aware that a mother’s love is something infinitely special. But the sheer magnitude of the maternal capability to love her child without limits or conditions was something that watching my cousin cradle a new-born baby Ava really reinforced to me. I watched her smile down upon a part of herself made flesh and knew that she was born to be a mother. I watch in awe as she seems instinctively to know what her wants, and is able to comfort her when nothing and no-one else can. She will protect that child like a lioness protects its cub. She will be overprotective and magnificent, like 90% of parents out there. Ava is one lucky baby. So am I.
11) Babies will fill a gap in your family you never knew existed. Even though the logistic difficulties of staging a seating plan for Christmas Dinner may suggest otherwise, the rewards of the presence of an extra tiny human outweigh the difficulties. You will kind of forget what your family looked like before the bundle of joy filled that baby-shaped hole. They make what already felt complete somehow more perfect.
12) You will love them unconditionally. To you, they are perfect. In fact, I am a purist, and would go as far as to say that I believe that all babies are perfect. Even the ones that are kind of ugly. My goddaughter is the cutest baby ever to have graced the Earth with her presence which is why, I assume, her favourite hobbies include looking in the mirror and getting her (usually sticky) fingers all over my Iphone and attempting to take selfies. Incidentally, if you’d like to hear a more complex theory as to why babies enjoy looking in the mirror, google Lacan’s ‘Mirror Stage.’ Not if you’ve got kids though. If you do, you’re probably too busy reading ‘That’s Not My Fluffy Cat,’ or something similar. I’d argue that by the fifth reading, that’s an equally grueling experience, if less intellectually stimulating.
So, all in all, I feel like I’ve already learnt a hell of a lot from watching Baby Ava’s first foray into this crazy little thing called life. I feel like I’m doing passably okay in my Auntie duties so far. I bought a fluffy rabbit teddy. I instigated the purchase of a Fleetwood Mac Lullaby CD, which I feel was really my most significant contribution to date. I truly mean it when I say that watching her grow has already been incredibly rewarding – not only that, but watching my cousin transmute from mate to mum (and a fantastic one at that), has been both unnerving and a gift in equal measures. I love to watch my own mum and dad play with her, seeing the joy in everyone that comes into contact with a baby that is purity personified. It seems that tiny humans bring out the best in most of us, and I can only say that I’m sure as Ava passes the landmark of her first year, I’m certain that the next twelve months will be as equally filled to the seams with love, joy, ups, downs, surprises, and change for all of us. ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ will probably be playing in the background.