After such a turbulent year I’ve had little time to be able to help in the local community and unfortunately I missed out on holding our annual family fun day in the town centre to raise money for local charities this year. Despite being in and out of hospital for the majority of the year with my breast reconstruction and eye surgery I’ve still given it my best shot. In the summer I was fortunate enough to visit the Florence Nightingale Hospice to film and create an awareness video for their services and Florrie’s children’s team to assist with their online fundraising and marketing. During a clear out of books, clothes and children’s toys I took five sacks of belongings to a charity shop in Wendover where I live, and I offered my help at Millie’s school for which I was asked to cover some school books with plastic this week.
I know it may seem insignificant and maybe even pointless in doing little things to help, but to think of all that the teachers have to do on a daily basis, how little spare time they have and how much it would cost them in man hours to bring in additional staff to finish tasks for them, it all adds up. And for the sake of a few hours of my time I know that I have helped to slightly lighten their load so that their time and funds can be spent on benefitting the children, and the books will keep better and last for many more years to come so that thousands of children can enjoy them. We are all capable of helping others, no matter how big or small, it’s important that we do whatever we can whenever we can to help others. Time and money will never be plentiful enough for everyone, in offering a helping hand together we can do so much, especially at this time of year it’s an occasion to be thankful, to reflect and to give back. I urge you all to take five minutes out of your day for the sake of others and to bestow the same spirit to your children. And my covering skills got a bit of a brush up too as I stuck my fingers together several times, peeled the plastic into my hair and almost chopped the end of my finger off with the scissors; but now I can wrap a book in six seconds flat!
Wow I had an emotional turn this week and I can’t even blame it on my period because that finished days ago. Every Sunday Gabriele goes to his dads and it’s been that way for the past five months since he left; the problem being that when handing Gabriele over he has never once not screamed and held his arms out to me, and it sends a knife straight into my heart. He doesn’t seem to do it any other time, just when he knows he has to go. This morning was somehow harder than ever for me as we’d been cuddling up on the sofa watching a Christmas film and he was lying across my stomach drinking a bottle of water whilst I ran my fingers through his hair that he always likes me doing. He had a gorgeous little chubby fist clasped around the little finger of my other hand and we were both so peaceful and snuggled and it’s everything you could ever wish for in life; to love somebody so much that time stands still and nothing else matters.
Then the doorbell went and it was time for him to go. Gabriele gets excited when the doorbell goes and he clung to me like a little monkey on my hip, stiffening his legs and biting the end of his bottle with enthusiasm to see who it was. I opened the door to hand him over to his granddad and he smiled, but as soon as he realised he had to go he clung onto me for dear life, tears ran down his face and his hands clawed at me to hold on as he buried his face into my neck. He had to be pulled off of me, out of my arms as he screamed and cried his little eyes out in the street and all I could do was shut the door, turn away and fall to my knees and sob. As I’m writing this my eyes are red raw, my throat is burning and my nose is choked. It kills me inside to have him leave in such a way, and all I can think of, God forbid something should happen to me or him, then my last parting memory of my son is having him pulled from my arms screaming, neither of us wanting to let go. Nobody should feel the hurt that we both feel each time.
I know rationally he’s probably fine the second he’s gone and he’s no doubt laughing and playing now and all is forgotten, but it doesn’t make the heartache any easier to deal with. It’s not as if he does it when I visit people, when I go shopping or when he goes to my family, it’s just when he has to go on a Sunday. I’m not saying he doesn’t like being with his father, or that he’s done anything wrong, but it’s every time that Gabriele realises he has to leave. As a mother I didn’t bring either of my children into the world to have to hand them away and it cuts me like no pain on earth that I have to let him go when he wants to stay in my arms, it is ungodly and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s one thing to know that they have to go and it’s only for a day or so, and I busy my mind with the thought of them playing and having fun whilst I can carry on with things that I have to do so we’re both happy and everything is in order. But saying goodbye in such an horrendous way, that’s what kills me, that’s what makes the pain so much harder and unfair doesn’t even come close to what it is. I found a quote online that is the closest thing to summing it up; “Heartbreak is an odd kind of pain. You’re not dying, you’re not even sick, but yet you hurt so much.”
I can deal with whatever pain life has to throw at me, I can have my world taken away, my heart broken and my dreams crushed and I will still get back up and carry on for my kids; but seeing my children distressed, crying and holding onto me, that’s a killer. It’s the necessary evil of life that I didn’t choose, that my son doesn’t deserve but that we both have to accept as a family that has separated. I don’t know why it got to me more than ever this week, but I sobbed my heart out by myself and was fortunate enough to be rescued by a friend who gave me a good talking to and got me out for some food and drinks and I found my smile again. I guess it’s the roller coaster of emotion that is life and parenting. I love my life, I love my children, but I’m forced to watch their hearts break over and over again and it chips away at me, and this time it took me down too. I’m bad enough seeing my little ones have an injection or graze a knee, but at least that’s a rarity. Every seven days we have to go through the same horrific hand over and I hope and pray that Gabriele gets used to it one day because my heart is literally held together by a plaster right now.
A television series for Channel 4 that I filmed with earlier this summer, ‘Ruth Watson Means Business’ aired this week and I sat with baited breath on the sofa to see if the Riva restaurant in Gravesend, Kent would be able to turn it’s business around following poor online customer reviews. I had been called in to give my opinion of the establishment, the customer service and my advice as a consumer and to pick up on all faults and flaws that I found. I first visited for dinner with my ex-fiance Luca when we were still together this summer, then I was called back a month later to do a hidden camera visit during a meal, before finally returning a month later to meet the owners face to face with Ruth and to justify my thoughts. I absolutely adore the Riva, it is a stunning venue in a breathtaking location but on our first visit the venue was freezing and Luca’s steak was tough and chewy, the silent restaurant was deserted save for a table of mature diners who looked over their shoulders at us every time we spoke, and the staff were unhelpful when we had a problem with the food whilst the owner sat in the corner looking miserable. Upon our return the food hadn’t improved and the owner did all she could to avoid the customers, with only a handful of elderly diners joining us in an otherwise empty and silent restaurant. What a shame.
I then returned towards the end of the summer to meet the owners and answer to the feedback I had given as I joined Ruth at the table in a rather court-like meeting. Ruth immediately pulled me up on my dislike for older diners, roaring that we can’t all be young and beautiful and that I must have a huge ego to think that people were looking over at us as we ate so that we shouldn’t talk at dinner; I had a feeling they’d include that bit! When my turn to speak came I politely explained that a restaurant is normally far busier with a varied mix of clientele from old to young, male and female, couples, families and friends so you feel comfortable and confident to talk, laugh and enjoy the atmosphere. For us to be sat as a couple in an almost abandoned restaurant, when we spoke quietly everyone could hear us and it echoed across the room, so the collection of several diners in their late fifties upwards kept looking over their shoulders at us making us feel rude for talking during dinner, much like somebody talking in a cinema at the start of a film. On both ocassions that we came for dinner, in our early thirties we were the youngest diners there by at least twenty-five years so we couldn’t help but feel that the local vibe for young couples, friends and work colleagues to go to the Riva for dinner was non-existant as whenever I’ve been at a restaurant at eight in the evening I’ve always seen a general mix of the public and never just one demographic group. We felt more like we were in a library and it killed the ambience and magic of the evening. Perhaps it was just on the days that we happened to visit, but it was unfortunate and not as comfortable a dining experience as we’d have hoped if we hadn’t have felt like the minority and more than a little out of place.
Other than that the owners took my feedback well as I advised that the staff should welcome the customers, smile and be attentive, asking how they are and tending to their needs. The Riva seems to get a lot of negative online reviews and I believe it’s because the staff don’t interact with their customers, if they were to ask how the food is, offer their recommendations and be pleased to see people then they wouldn’t leave after a bad experience and write about it online; but instead voice their concerns at the table so that the management can rectify the complaint and in turn allow the night to continue pleasantly. Unfortunately the owner saw this approach as showing off and having an ego, whereas I see it as common courtesy, politeness and being welcoming and friendly to the clientele. If she feels unable to hold that role herself then the Riva would definitely benefit from a bubbly and people-person front of house to take the lead and represent the venue. I still feel that the Riva is an amazing place and that the owner should be proud to welcome her guests, to invite them to come back with friends and family at the end of their meal and to ensure that the customers realise that they can come to her. I left the show saying that I would love to return and wish them all the best. It’s difficult trying to run any business and I understand doing it single-handedly isn’t easy, but with the right person pushing it forward the Riva can be the jewel of Gravesend.
This week has marked the end of my P90X review which ran consecutively for ninety workouts and I’ve absolutely loved it! When I started I was post-surgery, weak and scrawny with little energy and no strength at all, and now that I’ve finished my body is a fine tuned muscle machine. It has centred my mind and given me great focus during an emotional time of my life and I now have the fire from within to carry on single handedly. After each hour and a half daily workout I whizzed through the night feeds and sleepless nights and got through having the flu whilst collapsing on the sofa with my horrendous periods, because God knows I need all the energy I can get as nobody is there to step in and do it for me. I am thankfully strong in body, mind and soul. My life has found balance and I have licked my wounds and repaired my armour. Aside from the odd emotional moment when I see the children upset, I’d like to think that I’ve weathered the storm of single-parenthood and now I’m bobbing along nicely with the children basking in our little boat.
It’s less than two weeks until Christmas now and all is in order, presents, home and dates for the diary. So now I can finally sit back and relax safe in the knowledge that all is taken care of… apart from the school run, dinner, baths, homework, housework and night feeds ready for it all to start over tomorrow. But I’m smiling like a complete teddy bear right now as I write this because I wouldn’t have it any other way.