Eleven years passed between the London Marathon and the next official tick on the Bucket List… one heck of a long pause, except it wasn’t really. What happened? Life… and with it, plenty of challenges along the way.
Despite the excitement of buying our first house in 2000, we were back on the move just six months later, having quickly learned that it’s true what they say about location being everything… The children’s park next to which our little two up two down was found (complete with pets one and two), turned out to be frequented by drug dealers, drunks and little rat bags. After a few months of the wing mirrors being kicked off the car, vodka bottles being thrown at the house and police regularly knocking on the door, the ‘For Sale’ sign went up (predictably this was torched, burning a huge hole in the front lawn) and thanks to the very buoyant housing market, we were soon on our way to property number two.
The next Cook/Fuller household came with it’s very own set of challenges. It started my love of DIY (multi-coloured rooms and hand painted leopard print the length of the hall, stairs and landing will probably do that for most people), and landed us next to yet another dealer. I should probably point out that I don’t come from the ghetto, quite the opposite, stereotypical middle/working class, fairly rural, Sussex… generally pretty dull. It would appear though, that I don’t have a great deal of luck when it comes to neighbours, and it’s fair to say that we didn’t get on from the start.
They didn’t like the fact I had no interest in talking to them, and I didn’t like the fact that they sold drugs. Various wars ensued, as TV’s were turned to face walls and set to the highest volume possible and parties, complete with MC and night club-sized speakers (theirs not mine), resulted in most of the neighbourhood calling the police. One of the ‘highlights’ of our time there, has to be the many conversations heard over the fence. While I’m not one to pry, it’s hard not to hear when drunken voices are powering their way into the garden.
The most shocking and definitely frightening revelation, involved the lady of the house complaining to her friends about how she had had to keep telling their young daughter off for helping herself to something that wasn’t hers. ‘She knows better than that, I keep telling her it’s not sugar’ (and yes, social services were a regular visitors of theirs) eek! The others tales, while great to recount to my buddies over drinks, are definitely not suitable for release into the wider world, courtesy of the wonder that is WordPress or any other media for that matter.
Despite the dodgy surroundings, we persevered and after a few months, were surprised to learn that there would be an addition to the family. In 2002, we welcomed our son Charlie into the world; beginning our new life as parents and hopefully responsible adults. Amazingly relations with the people next door also took a turn for the better and it seemed that all would be well, but it wasn’t. I’d be lying if I said I was a natural mother, it just didn’t happen that way…
Aged just twenty three and experiencing a traumatic birth, that left me on the verge of needing a blood transfusion, (5’2 women are not supposed to give birth to 9 1/2lb babies) bonding with my new arrival didn’t turn out to be sun shining from the sky, or birds singing in the trees. A difficult fight with post natal depression, complicated the process further and made life all round, something of a rollercoaster – hair raising and seriously scary at times. My best and oldest friend (she likes to me to remind people at this point, that I am referring to length of service rather than her actual age – she is older than me by three and a half months… I like to reminder her of this), stepped up to the plate and was a massive support, for which I will eternally be very, very, grateful.
It certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Despite my problems I loved him dearly, always making sure I took good care of him. He’s eleven now and these days, we’re a pretty good team. I make sure he washes regularly, doesn’t go out looking like a wally and occasionally, convince him to get his hair cut. He in return, tells me I’m not like the other mothers… but that he quite likes that about me. His favourite quirk of mine being the fact that I am always, ready to body surf the length of the ground floor of the house, on the wheeled ottoman which resides under our coffee table. My husband does not see this as a positive attribute – I put this down to his being an only child and spending far too much time in the company of adults during his formative years.
By the time Charlie reached his first birthday, we had begun to grow out of our little house, embarking on the hunt for something with enough room to swing both the cats at the same time, and a garden for the little man to play in. Moving into home number three a few months later, the DIY began all over again and before long talk moved to expanding the family. ‘Wouldn’t it be great to start trying for a little brother or sister when Charlie turns two’ said Adrian… a week later I told him I was pregnant. On Charlie’s second birthday I was already six months into cooking baby number two and cultivating a figure that would put any self-respecting hippo to shame.
Amelia’s arrival, weighing in at almost a pound less than her big brother was thankfully, more peaceful this time. She made us a family of four and we settled into the first few weeks together, happy and contented. Seven weeks after joining us, the peace was shattered as our baby girl became sick, spending some time in the care of the wonderful doctors at the Brighton Children’s Hospital, to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude and the life of our little Moo. Earlier lessons in life to fight for what I needed were invaluable as I pitted my wits against the local GP’s who insisted that I was worrying over nothing.
As Amelia recovered, my health declined and the S.S Depression set sail for her second voyage; the rollercoaster of the last time paling in comparison, rather like a tea cup ride versus a bungee jump sans elastic. Those who have been there will understand, those who haven’t, never will. I’m not going to bleat on about feelings, or how best to deal with this type of illness, all I will say about my experience, is that I came out the other side and lived to tell the tale.
Life continued to tick along and over the following years, jobs changed and more furry friends came to live with us (two dogs, five hamsters, two rats and a rabbit – just call me Noah). We finally decided to tie the knot, ten years after meeting and threw ourselves into the terrifying task of organising a wedding. Always looking for ways to make the most of every opportunity, we combined the wedding with the children’s baptism, enjoying a beautiful candle-lit ceremony (which was luck more than judgement, thanks to an ancient setting and a well-timed power cut) and fabulous party, to celebrate two more special milestones.
After almost seventeen years together, the road has often been more than a little bumpy. But we’ve hung in there and between us, we seem to make it work. All the while our mostly happy, crazy, lovely, challenging and at times maddening lives continue to whirl around us.
By the time 2011 came around, we were pretty much settled and I was ready to go off on my adventures again…