In honour of Mothering Sunday, I thought I would do a little post about my mum. It’s difficult to summarise a relationship as important as the one you have with your mother, regardless of whether it’s a good or bad one. So I thought that perhaps I wouldn’t even try. Instead, here’s a little look at some of the things my mother has taught me…
1 – The easiest fairy cake recipe ever.
Let’s start with something sweet. This is basically 4 ounces each of self raising flour, butter and caster sugar and 2 eggs. If you’re feeling fancy, add some vanilla. If you want larger quantities, change it to 6 ounces of each and 3 eggs. Mix it all up in a haphazard manner, and add a little milk if it looks too thick. Used a million times to make wonkily-iced fairy cakes when I was a child and now with my own children. It’s unashamedly old-school, and that’s what makes it good. Not even metric weights! And if I’m honest, we don’t even call them fairy cakes or cup cakes or whatever everyone thinks they should be called. Because we’re from Yorkshire. So they’re called BUNS.
Alongside this famous bun recipe, Mum taught me the things I can cook by heart now. Just knowing how to make a béchamel sauce has given me the basis for a myriad of other recipes from lasagne to cauliflower cheese! Yum…
2 – Books are GOOD.
One of my best memories as a child is my regular visit to the local library. The smells, the stamping of dates, the little green cards and the always-teetering pile of books that I chose each time. I had seven each time – the maximum number allowed. And it was the best thing ever. I used to even play librarians at home. My mum was the one who took me on those visits and the one who encouraged me to read in bed when I woke up early or couldn’t sleep. Now I’m a parent, I know that she was sneakily trying to get me to stay in bed, because these days I’m the one saying ‘if you can’t sleep, go and read for a bit’…
I’m pretty convinced that Mum’s early encouragement is the reason I’m such a keen reader now, why some of my best memories revolve around books and why I’d rather spend my last fiver on a decent book than anything else.
3 – Don’t forget your neck.
Yep. My Mum’s regular skincare advice. Whatever moisturiser you’re putting on your face, put some on your neck too… Also, moisturise your hands. Those are the places you’ll age fastest. I try not to care too much, but I do still find myself following this advice!
4 – What to pick, what to leave.
Habitually outdoors, Mum is the original forager in my life. My childhood was filled with demi-johns of elderflower wine merrily ‘glooping’ away on the top of the cupboard, fingers stained with blackberries, ‘Top Secret’ blackthorn bush locations (or sloe gin making) and winter pine cone collections. Every summer we went back to our family on the Isle of Wight – where Mum was born – and spent much of our time beach-combing for pretty shells and pieces of sea glass. I still do that now.
Mum taught me about plants and trees, wild flowers and birds. She taught me which plants you could eat. Which ones could heal. And the folklore and superstitions about which plants must never cross your threshold for fear of bad luck. We still enjoy foraging, jam-making and being outdoors together now. In fact, Mum put two hours’ worth of digging into my new allotment last weekend, for which I will pay her in fresh vegetables later in the year.
5 – About the existence of horses.
Despite not being terribly interested herself, when I was seven Mum took me to a local riding stables, thinking that perhaps I might like horse riding. I ended up there every weekend I could, working as a groom for extra lessons. She has often described this as her ‘most expensive decision ever’ as I ended up with a pony of my own in my teens – an excellent way to avoid boys for as long as possible – and later went on to do my degree in Equine Science. If it hadn’t been for Mum, I would never have ended up at Agricultural College, which has ultimately resulted in the career I have today. And, because I had my beloved pony, I also learnt the merits of hard work – as part of the deal, I was expected to help pay for her through working a myriad of part-time jobs.
6 – How to be a good mother.
Whether I’m aware of it or not in my everyday behaviours, my Mum has undoubtedly had a huge influence on the way I parent. She’s a little stricter than I am, but her belief that children thrive on routines – every evening at the same time, the sacred bath, story, bed – has definitely influenced me; we’re daily story-readers in our house!
When I was incredibly poorly during my first pregnancy, she was a complete rock. Along with my Dad, she drove me to hospital when I fell really ill. A few hours after arriving, I ended up in life-saving surgery and gave birth to a 2lb 11oz baby girl. She kept my life together whilst everything fell to pieces around me. And she’s continued to do so, as my life has gone through major changes over the past few years.
Even though we have opposing views on some things, and we do argue sometimes, I know that she’ll always be in my corner, and always do everything she can to support me. And for that I’ll be forever grateful.
Thank you Mum, for everything…