mama in my 40s

"One of the lessons I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. Michelle Obama


Is there ever a right time to say 'I told you so'?

Guaranteed to plant a seed of teenage rage when spoken from the mouths of our parents, do we forget the weight of these four little words as we get older? 

Having long since passed the forty barrier, I am presented with regular opportunities to set up my stall and hold my ' I knew this would happen' banner aloft.

I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm not saying I haven't made mistakes (Lord knows I've made enough mistakes to record a Blues album). And yet, whilst age doesn't always bring wisdom, it certainly brings experience.  So surely I'm allowed a little bit of #post-forty gloating? 

I, usually, attempt to disguise this as concern and commiseration.

Example 1: 
"Oh so your teacher did mean for you to explain how the character reacted rather than retell the whole story."

(subtext) Do you remember when I told you to do that but you ignored me because even though you've just started high school and I've been teaching for 20 years, clearly you know better?

Example 2:
"Oh no, really, she cried for hours whilst *insert partner's name* went out to get formula. I know, breastfeeding is hard but yes, you did give it a go and as long as she's fed eventually, right?"

(subtext) Remember that time I told you that breastfeeding can be great but isn't for everyone so, just in case, chuck a tin of formula in the back of your cupboard so it's there when your boobs and baby aren't co-operating? Having been through it three times I find that with ninety nine breastfeeding issues, using formula ain't one.

Example 3:
"Ok, so you know when I told you to make sure you start the bedtime routine an hour before lights out and leave the DVD for tomorrow, was to save you from the nightmare moment when the girls turn on you and then each other like gremlins after midnight"

(subtext) Read above

Gah, I sound so self-righteously smug, don't I? But look, surely after all this time schlepping around Planet My Life, I've learnt some stuff on the way and, occasionally, I want to save people the trouble of making the same mistakes I did.

Because I love hearing other people's advice and experiences. Especially other parents and other women. What's better than sharing a being a mum / wife dilemma with a good friend? Why take the unknown high road when,sometimes, the path with the flashing signs and clearly marked dangers can make life that little bit easier? I usually end up with a bag of solutions and leave thinking that it's not just me who's bumbling precariously through my every day. We're all at it!

So surely, we can all crack an 'I told you so' every now and then?

Point of note - beware of overuse!

With the offspring - choose your moment carefully as the mistimed 'ITYS' may result in much sulking and grunts in place of speech.

With the newbie mother or sibling - dress it up like your child's first ever World Book Day at school because the naked 'ITYS' will be akin to sticking your tongue out and going nah nah nah nah naaaa. And no-one likes that person.

With the live-in significant other - treat it like foundation: cover all necessary areas then apply a little make-up.  Failing that - a well placed eyebrow lift can also effective

With the mother-in-law - leave it, it's just not worth it.


Apparently being in your forties mean you have more patience or you don't care about stuff as much. You don't sweat the small stuff as much. Haven't we seen and done it all. My favourite sentence when giving mama-talks to the 3G is 'nothing can shock me'. And yet I'm not sure if that's completely true.

How the social media is affecting the well-being of our youngsters is extremely upsetting and if I'm honest, frightening. I hope I never become de-sensitized to the articles about children who have committed suicide after the effects of online bullying have taken their toll. The heartbreak of the parents remains in my mind as does the silence of the online voices that had been so vociferous before.  

What is it that makes a child type and send vicious comments to another? Or share lies and threats around a whatsapp group? Do these children find some joy in witnessing the gradual demise of a classmates confidence and spirit?

There have always been the bullies haven't there? I imagine we can all share a bullying story from our schooldays and will probably have advice on how to get through it. But that doesn't make it okay does it? Because now those bullies have become digital which has turned up the volume on the playground whispers.

I consume the guidance on how to keep my daughters safe online and how to build confidence and self-worth but I can't protect all the time. We follow the directives from schools and organisations and share this information with our girls.  The parents who have lost their precious children were doing everything they thought was right too and still, the wicked words of these cowards filtered through the force-field of love and support. And still children are dying.

So whilst the foibles of our politicians, the antics of footballers or the price of a chocolate bar won't rattle my cage ; reading about the loss of a young person to online bullying never ceases to shock and upset me. And even moreso because no one seems to have the answer that will solve this bloody awful problem.


Thinking back to my third year at school (for that it was called before all this Year 9 business) and choosing my options for GCSE. Most were straightforward, English, Maths, the sciences that I liked, the language I was good at, the humanity I was more interested in. And then for the other stuff, the stuff that shaped who I was. I really wanted to take Drama but there weren't enough numbers to make a class, I didn't have the confidence to choose Art even though I spent most afternoons creating art so I picked Media - a new subject at the time; one that has been vilified ever since.  At no point did anyone ever guide or suggest how to pick my options.

The paraphernalia I received from a careers evening that I didn't attend (but my mum did) frightened me with the route ahead rather than secure my decisions. At no point did anyone really ask me what I was interested in and what I thought I might want to do. The ideas of teacher and journalist were floated around but the feedback from mum that all journalists were alcoholics and I would have at attend university to be a teacher sounded so foreboding that I disappeared into a cloud of indecision for about 7 years. At this time no one in my family had been to a UK university so it seemed like one rung too high for the likes of me.

When I finally got out into the wider world, gained some work experience, finished university and teacher training I spent the next 19 years in secondary schools, teaching English and Drama.  Job done, right? 

Well no, I'm afraid not. After nearly twenty years in the business I'd like to diversify, change it up a little, challenge myself, to create a business that encompasses my experience and skills and do some good in the field. I read articles about women of my age and older starting up, beginning again and whilst, yes, it's hard work the benefits of being your boss can often outweigh the alternative. I meet so many who, despite successful careers have been plateaued by their bosses. They can show all the willing, integrity and determination all they like; if the powers that be have done with you, you've hit a career wall. And moving sideways in this current climate is like attempting a ski jump with trainers on. No amount of botox or on trend fashion will detract from what I am worth financially. And so I become Orwell's Boxer.

Let's look to the future shall we?


You know that moment when you are planning what to wear on a night out and nothing seems to fit? You find yourself scouring the back of your wardrobe for that elusive outfit that might just be swanky enough and fit over your hips without you lying on the floor and sucking all your ounces in. And yet somehow, everything seems to have shrunk, someone has snuck in during the night and dropped all your clothes down a size.

No. That's not it, is it? Somehow, I was easing my way out of my usual cusp of two dress sizes and creeping upwards and outwards towards another.

Because I hate shopping for clothes and can't afford or be bothered to buy a whole new rack and rail of clothes, I decided to don my scraggy tracksuit and jump around my living room in the morning with Davina McCall's 5 week fit dvd.

I am reminded of a most wonderful auntie I lived with often during my tiny years, who used to exercise along with Mad Lizzie on ITV whilst I ate my cereal. There is something appealing about exercising with the telly - you can lose the pounds without leaving your house.  And my auntie always looked so happy doing it - I think this is where my fascination started.

And it's been great. Getting my keep fit on before the rest of the house wakes up - smug klaxon - and five weeks passed quickly. I'm now in week 7 so feel confident to do a daily mash up of some of the exercises. Back in my cusp sizes and happily fitting into clothes that haven't seen the light of day for two years; I swear they actually blinked in surprise as I relieve from the depths of my wardrobe.

However, I've been ignoring the signs, stubborn with my eyes on the summer holiday beach prize. The first tingle was in the knees, so on went the Nutmed brought back from Grenada by my Dad. Then the elbows - yes the joints were mutinying.  Still I ploughed on. Enjoying the glow of a workout completed.

Until the back called "time" yesterday. Five days away from my first goal, I am forced to rest and slather myself in voltarol whilst cranking myself upwards when coming out of any sitting position.  

I can imagine my knees and elbows ringing up my lower back complaining that I simply wasn't getting the message. 

Knees: she can't expect to sit around in that car and at that desk and then simply get up one day believing she's West London's answer to Mr Motivator

Elbows: Exactly! All that Zumba talk mounting to nada yet here she is flinging us around at 6am every morning. Someone needs to remind her she's 44 and there ain't no quick fix

Lower Back: You called, darlings?!

Well, I may be down but I'm not out. And anyway I love the smell of Deep Heat!


BigL turns 11 today and she's bang in the middle of the SATs. I know, rotten luck right? But she has worked so bloody hard in preparing for these exams because SHE wanted to. In this time of rubbishing all the tests that kids have to do (and believe me there are too many and some are pointless too) I have made time to congratulate my eldest on her efforts throughout the year. This is the first time I've supported a year six child through exams - my experience has always been with the older ones, but I do believe the premise is pretty much the same. If you put in the effort beforehand it will pay off. Coming into year six we talked about the entrance exams in January and SATs exams in May but didn't apply pressure.

A couple teacher friends have supported her with some extra tuition, by her request, which was brilliant for instilling confidence - she was able to take her time, ask questions and explore areas she was unsure of at her own pace. Throughout the year she has managed to juggle school homework with an hour's tuition per week with rugby with Guides and with plenty of Minecraft. Yes because the play in her life is as valuable as her learning; in fact her play is a way of learning. Through Guides she has made friends outside of her school circle and will be spending more and more time outdoors learning new skills. Her rugby, netball and athletics is amazing for teaching her to be calm under pressure, make plans, teamwork and making her voice heard.

There have been some real learning curves this year with the whole tweeny attitude coming in, the all-encompassing need to have a mobile phone (which has yet to come to fruition), the change in relationships with siblings and friends. Oh yeah and the constant interrupting with her favourite phrase 'no, no, no' whilst I'm explaining or indeed answering a question! 

When I look back on the baby stuff I've kept and get distracted from the telly by photos on our digital frame I see her growing in quick time. Her hair grown longer and thicker, her smiles still speak of childhood and she is approaching the height of me at a rate of knots.  It's often assumed that once of the baby fug that life gets easier with kids...well it does in that I don't have to lie her down on park benches to change her nappy anymore but it's different. The pressures change and just saying 'No' doesn't always cut it; I reason with her more, have to back down occasionally for peace in the house and still have to set boundaries. 

And this is also a time to unloosen apron strings (and purse strings) to allow her some freedom out there in the big wide...street. 

So as she sits SATs day two on her birthday I salute her hard-work and her disposition through this whole year, I am amazed at her strength and calmness through new experiences, I have confidence that she will find her way through the difficulties of late and hope that I have supported her in the right way, I also love that she still hugs me (although not in the playground) and still calls me Mummy - long may that continue.


Remember the time? Surrounded by cooing friends as cute tiny outfits are brandished for the arrival of a tiny human being. A perfectly packed bag with a perfectly organised birth plan sit by the door. And all eyes are on the parents to be offering tales of joy for the precious days ahead gambolling happily with the newborn amidst fields of bluebells and happiness and daisy chains in their hair.

You know that noise an incorrect answer makes on Family Fortunes? Well, insert that here!

A disclaimer - babies, kids, children, bairns, offspring are all wonderful and I thank my lucky stars that our three are healthy and happy (most of the time) and they make me proud every day. 

Ok but now fast-forward, oh mothers out there, to the moments when you would let a passing stranger hold your child if it meant you could have a thirty minute sleep.  When you could shove the advice of others down their well meaning throats because whilst they are swanning about with their fully grown school kids you haven't showered for three days.  When you are almost paralysed with fear that your spotty /coughing / fevered / apoplectic with screaming baby will never become that beautiful bundle of bonny that you had dreamt about when you decided to get into the pregnant state that deluded monsters out there call 'natural'. 


Now there's a word.  According to the 21st pretty much everything can acquire the natural status.

A well meaning dad once said to me that women used to give birth to their babies in the fields and carry on working.

Side eye.

Men - you might want to stop reading here but I urge you to continue.

I'd like to know what's so natural about waking up a mother and finding your insides feel like they're going to fall out of you if you so much as think about walking? And that you believe your baby has been celebrating a carnival inside you for 9 months that on leaving, it's like the Day of the Dead below the waist.

What's so natural about having a vice clamped onto your once hidden mammaries, that now seem to constantly be required to be pulled out and yanked for six to twelve months in a varying range of public places?  Obviously accompanied by either frowns of disapproval or prying eyes.

What's so natural about the copious amounts of poo (all the colours of the rainbow), sick (milky and with bits), snot, eye gunge, ear gunge, scalp peelings being projectiled and shed over you for the next few years?

And then there's the fear. Oh the gut-wrenching, night sweats fear that you will accidentally lose / smother / burn / forget / break your baby. No one ever tells you about the fear at those bloody baby showers do they?

I was at a fun baby shower once (no really it was and the chicken, rice and peas were to die for) and an elder told us teasing mums to stop frightening the newbie mummy with our tales of doom, gloom and what-we-would-like-to-call honesty. But no. I disagree, I think women work with the power of knowledge and information. I wish someone had told me about the bad stuff when I first got pregnant; about the stuff that will make me cry, that will shake and make my marriage, that will make me doubt that anyone should have let me have children in the first place.

I wish someone had told me about the failure I would feel after a miscarriage; why aren't the support agencies preparing parents for the difficulties that could be faced pro-actively because it's a very different set of faces you are thrust into if your baby is incredibly sick or worse, doesn't arrive or stay in this world for long.

Do we naively believe that regardless of eventualities that modern medicine can fix all ailings so that we don't consider the many paths after pregnancy? Is it tempting fate if we prepare ourselves for sadness instead of the gladness we should expect or does it allow mothers, fathers, families to be aware of the support they can access if needed?

So I'm now the self-designated mother with the truth message about the sugar and the salt of babies but not too overbearing now, after all, I went back and did it twice again didn't I?!

This post was written after attending a Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Baby Loss session at the Women of the World Festival , London, 2016


I'm sure we have all felt lonely at some point whether it was as a child waiting to make friends in a new school playground or the climb up management ladders that often leave silences when you walk the staffroom or the first few nights at home after the end of a relationship.
The Loneliness series across the BBC was a moving eye opener .Society will often presume the lonely are usually the old; unmarried or widowed. But the programmes presented various sections of our communities that get bitten by the lonely bug at some point in their lives.

There were the long married couples that had made it 'til death did indeed part them but what struck me about them was the honesty and the resilience. Then there were the new arrivals in new town/city/country and the new mums settling into their routine - silent until the baby cries. Everyone had a tale to tell and I was often in tears, especially hearing the 100 year old Caribbean lady telling of how she was alone day after day with only the telly for company (apart from the carer who came to wash and feed her).

I was pleased to see that the programme makers dealt with a range of lonely people; of every age, gender, race, class. Lonely can strike at any time and anywhere. 

So in addition to the lonely situations mentioned above I think there are other types of  loneliness that you can feel when you are physically alone - a Valentine's Day (if it matters to you) when you are recently broken up or a Mother's Day when you're estranged from your kids or spending nights alone when a partner is constantly working late. Some people are comfortable in their own company and living alone is a pleasure but for others this may be tantamount to misery.

And then there is the loneliness you can feel when you are surrounded by people. You know when you feel you just don't fit in or you fell you are being ostracised or bullied. This is not just a playground situation either. Or the loneliness you may feel when you feel trapped, maybe in a job or friendship or relationship.

So the programme got me thinking about how I've come across loneliness in my own life. Strangely, even though my weekdays are spent writing for hours on end on my own (bookended by the GeordieLad and the 3G in their work/school day hustle and bustle), I don't feel particularly lonely. The transition from a full time teacher in busy secondary comps to solo creator had its bumps but I suppose knowing I usually have a mate on maternity leave round some corner or other, or that the hours do fly when you're having fun I aim not to waste time until the school run.  And as someone who hates being the new girl I still wouldn't put moving schools or starting new jobs as lonely.

I worked out that my loneliness time was actually during the busiest time of my life. As a full time working mum of three small children, head of a pivotal department incorporating 15 staff, doing both nursery and school runs, filling the schools hols with oodles of activities to alleviate the working mum guilt, I barely had time to breathe because then I had planning and marking to do. I was surrounded by people all the time except for a 5 minute car journey between work and the nursery. . And yet I felt so incredibly lonely because I would work through lunch breaks, speed off at the school and nursery gates, avoid the hellos at kids events, work in the early hours of nearly every day that I created a massive gap between me and the people who cared.

There is a form of loneliness that comes with the internal negative voice that tells you that you are not good enough. This would be shouting loud and proud during my working days yet I would smile, laugh, make jokes, be assertive, be creative, be supportive but looking back I wasn't making proper time for me or anyone else. I didn't have the ... what we call... headspace. So then I became lonely amidst the company.

And now, meshed into hours of silence except for the scratching of pencil on paper I find I am not nearly as lonely as I thought I would be. I have found myself talking to more people because I answer texts and phone calls and emails and invites like never before. I make time to visit people and renew or strengthen friendships that I had always put off for another day (not everyone, mind, I'm working on it!).


My morning ritual starts with a cacophony of groans followed by a facial search. The groans may fluctuate depending on the exercise that has been partaken the night before and the facial search... well let's just say that MiddleS asked if I was able to grow a beard like Santa's . Sigh.

MiddleS is great at that; letting me know my foibles and flaws. Luckily I adore her so she gets away with it - for now anyway. But I'll admit some of the aspects of me or my mothering that she likes to comment get me thinking and sometimes re-evaluating.

I'm now used to her preamble starting with 'When I'm a mummy I'm going to let my children do..." and this is followed with a range of allowances that she is currently deprived of; such as being allowed to have her ears pierced, wearing crop tops, having a mobile phone, the list is endless. I know there will come a time when we'll have to start negotiations of Cold War proportions because there are very few boundaries that I haven't crossed in my own youth. I can hardly belittle or bad mouth mistakes of my yesterday simply because I don't want my kids to repeat them. We all know that if you keep telling the young 'no'it just makes the 'yes' seem more exciting.

AWOLMum always told me to never start plucking my eyebrows whilst she tweezered her own.  So, like, that message got through! But I get it now. Hiding my tweezers is easy though (plus I always intend to make that threading appointment) but as for my piercings and tattoos - not so discreet. Many of my piercings are long gone and my tattoos are usually hidden from view but this all got me thinking about how I communicate that certain actions or choices I may have made in the past are now huge regrets of mine. AWOLMum had me when she was very young but I don't recall her ever telling me when I should or shouldn't have kids - the focus in our home was getting an education. However she was horrified when I kept 'putting holes in my body' and shaved all my hair off at uni but I did it anyway, and then some. There was some of my own sadness and insecurity that had me piercing, painting and pretending I wasn't me back there in my 20s and 30s.

When the girls ask me about my tattoos I say that they hurt really badly and I wish I didn't have them any more. When they ask about my piercings I say that they hurt and it costs lots of money to keep buying earrings when you lose them. When they ask about my historical hair disasters I say that the damage to my hair can never be undone. See a pattern here? Who knows? Maybe they'll develop an aversion for all things not natural to the body and I won't have to worry at all. Or maybe these are just rites of youthful passage that they will go through and look back on with a cringe in the same way I do.

Until then I'll tweezer in secret and pass on the message about how lovely they are as they are and hope that something sticks. Hopefully they won't have to wait until their 40s to realise it.


Today someone asked if I minded my age being public. Regularly students are shocked when I volunteer my age instead of allowing them to guess (usually ranging from 23 to 56 - go figure!). I hasten to add that I am not compliment fishing, I just don't see the point in being embarrassed, coy or hiding your age. It's what it is. I'm 43. 1972 was a brilliant year for births, obviously. Being a child of the 70s was great - we were allowed outside 'til it got dark and three TV channels were more than enough. Experiencing teendom in the 80s meant fab music and BratPack films. I was at uni during the Britpop 90s and raved all the way through to my first job, but was also eager enough to keep up with technology as the millennium dawned. Seriously, who could ask for more? And now that the GeordieLad finally caught up with me on the goodship 40 this weekend, it's even better!

Bizarrely when I was a youth-type person I dreamt about being around in the 1960s because the fashion, the music, the Afros, the feminist writing was so mind-blowing. Until I read a couple of history books and realised the sixties was maybe not the best place for a black woman - social-politics wise - compared with the here and now. It's ironic that I roll my eyes at kids trusssed up in re-vamped eighties fashion in the same way I thought I looked cool in sixties gear.

Don't get me wrong I occasionally wish I could turn the clock back to right a few wrongs or take a different path to a better life destination. And I do wish I had appreciated my curves pre-kids, coz Lord knows those children came bearing more curves for me and they're both here to stay. Kids and Curves.

Overall though. Post40 me is a better me. Not perfect. Still improving. Always learning. Feeling loved.  

So no, I certainly don't mind being asked my age, being teased about my age, sharing my age in public. It is what it is. More importantly, I'm looking forward to 44.


This post started out as a query about why many of us get hung up on these 'do lots of amazing off the wall things before you are 40 or your life is is pointless' type lists. I came across an article I had cut out and kept* on the approach to my special day, which included such wonders such as:
Go skinny dipping in phosphorescence
Grow hair so long it covers your nipples
Spend a year with an entirely flat stomach
Eat the worm in a tequila bottle.

I mean come on!!! I don't even know where to start. How on earth have I got time to grow hair so long it covers my nipples, when I never even have a minute to sit down at the end of the day? Oh and my hair is afro, so clearly I will have to move my nipples onto the top of my head.

Admittedly, I did create a list the minute the fizz on my 39th birthday had lost its bubbles; mainly because my life had come to a grinding halt and I needed to give myself a kick up the jacksy. I had lived my twenties in a ball of low self-esteem, my thirties carrying babies and the weight of 150 student exam results; so I saw my forties as a time to think about me. Put me first...for a little while at least... on the odd weekend, you know.  I asked those around me for some ideas and filled in the gaps myself. What was I thinking? I was completely out of my depth, to the point that I must have fallen asleep and woken up thinking I was Rockefeller. Sheesh! Needless to say I counteracted my wonderlist with the caveat that it was a 40 during my 40s list - I still have some time.

Whilst I am surrounded by people past the 40 post seemingly happy with their lot, I wonder if it's our aim that once we turn 40, we should all be skipping through the years sticking two fingers up at 30-somethings? If you are - fab, great, I'm jealous. However I'm not there yet, and I'm getting impatient.  Two years into my forties and I'm facing some career challenges which are taking a toll on my confidence, I'm still on the verge of cardiac arrest after my Zumba classes, and I still haven't found my own style. Damn you 40s - you predicted and promised me confidence and a swagger!

But mid-post I was caught up in a discussion with FantasticoDad about living life for each day. Watching his wife losing herself and those around her in the depths of Alzheimers, I realise that whilst I have little connection with her the 3G have lost their Granny.  And heading into year five of having a fully compos mentis AWOLmum I realise that the 3G have no recollection of their biological Nana; my mum. Two legacies disappearing in time.  

So this post has changed its tack. Yes, these lists are a bit of fun, but why do we do them? Why are we so hung up on creating this decade-timed bucket lists? My worry had been that if some of these activities were too weird and wonderful, my day to day life would get in the way and I may find myself approaching the next decade with only one item ticked off and a sense of disappointment. But I guess, at least, I would be changing the habit of a lifetime and doing something a little less ordinary.

Thankfully, the article did conclude with the sentiment that our forties are a time to give yourself that kick to achieve some stuff, to relax, and to accept you for you. I like that. It might take me until the end of my forties though because those are some big deal accomplishments - so in the meantime I might have a go at *shuffles through list* : find jeans that my bum looks good in, and find glasses that suit me.  #livinglifedangerously

Great money spinners- the little books by the side of the counter in bookshops. I'm not normally a sucker for these but when I turned 40, suddenly I wanted these to check out whether I had done enough before I was 40, whether I was doing enough now that I had turned 40, and what more I should be doing after I was 40. Like I'm bored in my life right now?!

Anyway this one Oh my God I'm 40! by Deborah Durbin.actually made me really laugh out loud. It called out all the milestones that we hang around our necks at hitting this milestone; some may label it mid life crisis stuff. Well I haven't got time for all that, but reading through this book was an eye opener into just how easy it is to get over-serious about this 40 business; how we all need to enjoy this new decade instead of planning and it was also perfect blog fodder. So I decided to mention the bits of the book that really hit home i.e. the 'activities' I was already guilty of.


Apparently there is an 'inexplicable urge to write your own funeral wishes' when we get #Post40. And I thought I was the only one. Ever since FantasticoDad once told me that he wanted a New Orleans style jazz band I've been pretty much planning my own.

I know it's a cliche but I don't want people dressed in black, I try to bring colour to life and that's how I'd like to be remembered. I so understand that this might be hard for people but you know's my day. So bring out the pink, the red, the yellow, orange, purple and green. I want people to see my loved ones walking to say goodbye to me and wonder where the carnival is at.

And that goes for flowers too. N to the O on lilies. Ever walked past a lily and got that stainy stuff all over you? That won't do with all the colourful clothes people are going to be sporting so I want my favourite flower - the gerbera. I had them all over my wedding and honestly they are the only real flowers I like. Bright and bold I want them to be worn in lapels and in hair. Hippy-chicks all over my funeral.

I've always been a bit worried about being buried - I have to thank FantasticoDad for that irrational fear; so I'm opting for scattering ashes. But where? I'm born and bred in the UK but I figure this is the time to give people an excuse to go to Hawaii. I demand that I am scattered around the shores of Maui. Or the Caribbean Sea. Or I'm kidding. Somewhere exotic so people get a holiday out of the sadness that comes from losing me.

Now music. See, music is so important to me that I am in danger of creating a soundtrack to my very own musical. The idea is that you won't be able to help but sing along. Songs will be poignant and reminiscent of me - a good warbler with a throat searing top note only to be sung in my car with the windows firmly up. Or a belter of a song in my kitchen whilst the 3G are huddled over homework trying to block me out. I considered Jennifer Hudson's "And I'm telling I ain't going", but I didn't want to hint at the threat of a haunting. So this is my short list:

Golden - Jill Scott because yes there were bad days, but the older I got the more I tried to enjoy mornings, birthdays, everydays.

Save a Prayer - Duran Duran taking the people back to the 80's and just a wee request for all who loved me to keep a place for me in their hearts.

Willow - Joan Armatrading because oh my goodness this song just sums up so much of what I live for. It's what I look for in people and what I hope to provide. Oh and when AWOLmum sings she sounds just like her.

Dream a little dream  - Mamas and Papas in the same vein as Duran Duran but I hope it gets people swaying because look what's coming up next...

I'm every woman - Chaka Khan now I guarantee there will not be a single woman who will not want to break out and sing with this one. It's a tribute to the fact that each and every woman that is special in my life is now part of me.

No more drama - Mary J Blige so we're gonna bring some soul into the room with a subtle comment that as I have passed there will be no more drama for me as I am at peace.

Perfect Day now this might seem weird because obviously there'll be people thinking 'Wait...what? This isn't perfect' but my party piece (and by party I mean back in the kitchen with the 3G) is singing this with all the voices from the BBC version. Everyone should have a go at this. (My fav one is the Gabrielle bit - I do the actions and everything!)

As - Stevie Wonder It's always a hard task to choose just one Stevie song but I find this song uplifting, and I'd like to think of everyone saying their final goodbye to me with this song being my goodbye to them.


2012 wasn't just a great year because the Olympics came to London Town. I turned 40 and was determined to love every minute of the year. 

As a kid I used to wonder how old I would be in the year 2000, then when I got there I couldn't fathom that I would turn 40 in 12 years time. Bearing in mind that I considered donning sackcloth and ashes as I approached my 30s, who'd have thunk that I would enjoy the following decade? But I did, and I intend to keep doing - to the nth degree.

I don't believe in that old cliché - life begins at 40; my life began bloody 40 years ago, but I do believe that I turned a corner where I took a deep breath and started to appreciate the people around me and concentrated on my achievements, rather than my regrets. And I started to love me for me; my Afro hair and my lumps and bumps - bits that I had, honestly, hated in my 20s. My circle of strong, supportive women continues to grow and are a constant band of role models and peers for the 3G. Most of all I am learning to be happy with me (finally) and still working to achieve dreams that I was frightened to pursue or had abandoned in my 30s. Now note I said 'started to love me for me' and to coin a rather overused phrase: this is a journey - goodness I am actually balking at the fact that I wrote that. But you get what I mean, I didn't wake up in April and jump out of bed stroking my crows' feet with I did what the GeordieLad tells me to do whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself. I gave my head a shake.

So a list was made - my 40@40 list, a bucketlist if you will. The original plan had been to attempt all these things in one year. Unfortunately that darn job, mortgage, kids, bills, family, all that stuff just got in the way of me spending my way into oblivion. Therefore an allowance to made to exhaust this list before I turn 50. Don't laugh until you've read it - then you will see why I need a whole decade. Some are done, more of that another time.

Being forty meant I knew better than some, but not all; decisions and choices could be made with the strength and confidence of experience; personal attributes were to be tweaked and honed not reconstructed to gain the approval of others; acknowledging the tales and tribulations of my female friends meant that life became more treasure and less waste, and  it was okay to wanna sit down and rest every now and then. In short it was time to stop mucking about.

The teen years were a time to experiment and mooch, the twenties saw my learning expand and new paths were taken, the thirties were a time to grow roots and build walls, which leaves the forties as a superb decade to bring all that together. Share and grow wisdom, find new challenges, remain a little kooky but remember to make time for peace, invest in those close to you and relish the opportunity to find new faces. Right, this is getting a little self-helpy so I'm closing here...

I didn't stop long enough to enjoy my thirties and maybe I lost my way a little for the sake of others. Not this decade.