How To Have A Baby And Not Lose Your Shit – A Sort of Review

HaveABabyMy good friend and excellent blogger over at Eeh Bah Mum has only gone and written a blooming fantastic book. Yes this is not really a review because  a. know the writer and b. I get a mention on page 2 (plus elsewhere but why spoil the plot for you?). Although I am going to review it because today I finished the book on the train whilst simultaneously laughing and crying.

Kirsty has always been one of the mums I’ve held in high esteem for just making it all look so easy, natural and being a normal human being at the same time. When I would return her daughter from a particularly disastrous walk, covered head to toe in mud, she’d be there with a coffee on offer and a funny story from earlier in the week to counter it. I figured she’d just got the whole ‘being a mum thing’ instantly and calmly got on with it. Instead, the book tells a different side, a touching and honest side that every single mum and mum-to-be should read. If only to know that no one just ‘gets it’ however much it looks like they do from the outside.

I first met Kirsty at the wedding of mutual friends around 4 years ago. We found ourselves getting drunk over nice food while our respective children caused some manner of chaos around the room. Being from Yorkshire, it is vital that you announce such a fact when meeting new people at places like weddings and we therefore figured out that not only were we from the same place in Yorkshire, had kids but we also lived on the next street to each other in North London. A friendship was formed.

I don’t particularly need much in a friendship; the ability to see the funny side of things and a willingness to go to the pub will do. As one of the funniest women I know and her London leaving drinks being up there in the top nights out list, Kirsty has made a pretty solid friend over the years. She has given me sterling advice about second kids, relocating and doing the 30 Day Shred with a newborn. Had I listened to her at the time, I could have saved myself a lot of crying about why my 4 month old won’t sleep long enough to let me work out; why for the past year I have felt like I am losing the plot because the first 6 months of a second child is a false sense of security; and I wouldn’t have spent the past year desperately trying to win the lottery so I could return to North London.

But I didn’t. Instead I read the same wonderful, funny outlook on motherhood in her book while kicking myself for being an idiot. I knew she talked sense when she was telling me it, I was just too wrapped up in baby world and sleep deprivation to remember.

How To Have A Baby isn’t just a funny, honest account of parenting though, it is more than that. It lays bare how having kids challenges you and how you view yourself as a person. Kirsty manages to voice the thoughts that went through my head about kids before I had them, about careers once they do arrive and also nails the first post-child hangover with alarming accuracy.

This is not your usual, ‘how to raise your kids’ book. The advice is simple: chill out and make friends. Something you don’t find in the wall of other baby books telling you about routines, naps, development, and all the other stuff that won’t necessarily apply to your baby because someone forgot to tell your baby to read the book. So in the truest sense, this is a book about how to be a parent and not how to look after a baby or raise a child.

I do wish I had read this book when I was pregnant with my first child. It probably wouldn’t have saved me from new mum craziness but it would have helped me realise I wasn’t on my own. Heck, I needed this book a year ago when I was struggling with two kids in a new place and then I wouldn’t have felt the need to drunkenly apologise to half the mums at the playgroup night out for being an emotional wreck when I first met them. But it is here now, in our lives and will be the gift I give to all new mums.

You can buy the book here.

Stephen King – Full Dark, No Stars

Stephen King – Full Dark, No Stars

Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars.

Hodder and Stoughton

I was 11 when I discovered my Step-Dad’s extensive collection of Stephen King novels. They were stored up in our loft with the rest of his youth that had come from his parents house when he moved in with my mother. I devoured them all within a short space of time, stopping only to discuss the most gruesome scenes with my step-Dad and learning to do so out of ear-shot of my mother lest he be reprimanded for allowing me to read such stuff.

Let me put this into some perspective: Kerrang! was officially banned from our house after the infamous Cradle of Filth cover and Alice Cooper vinyl was relegated to the damp loft until such a time that my mother discovered he was a born-again Christian and then it was okay to play the record, just not on a Sunday.

So Stephen King was a point of reference between me and my Step-Dad. A way we could connect as step-parent and child. Between that and Meatloaf, we get along just fine. Every time I go visit, I find the latest Stephen King novel in what was once my bed room, propped up against the bedside lamp, ready for me to read and then review next time we speak. It has become something of a tradition, in spite of my change of taste in novel over the years and the arrival of the Kindle.

I suspect that my step-Dad has not entirely converted to the Kindle as much as my Mum would like given a the shiny new hardback waiting for me on my visit last month. I have yet to find out how he managed to sneak this one into the house but suspect that by lending them to me, I have become his new book storage area.

I find Stephen King as a person incredibly inspiring but his novels less so after reading so many. I was genuinely enchanted by Full Dark, No Stars not least because it strikes many a resemblence to my favourite author, Neil Gaiman. In fact, his review of the book is found here and I wholeheartedly agree. In particular, ‘Fair Extension’ could quite easily fit alongside character portraits from his own American Gods.

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of four short stories are steeped in Americana, in the outback, the road-trip and the macabre. They weave from murder of convenience in ‘1922’, to revenge in ‘Big Driver’, out of greed and jealousy in ‘Full Extension’ to necessity in ‘A Good Marriage’. The characers are real and remind us that anyone has the capability to commit murder, whether they realise it or not.

These are four dark and uncomfortable tales, looking at the nastier side of human nature but as King reminds us himself in the afterword, even murderers can help an old woman across the road. Even in humanity’s darkest hour, there is never pure evil, there is always something human still left inside the most inhumane. They are certainly not moral tales trying to illicit sympathy for wrong doing but examining what ordinary people can be forced into given extraordinary circumstance.

Full Dark, No Stars is an absolutely gripping read, if not one that should be undertaken right before bed time.