From Here to Fostering

From Here to Fostering
Experiences are everything.......

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Life with Fritha

So Fritha moved in! The gloomy month of January suddenly brightened up. The (already quite noisy) house, got noiser. There was more giggling, more doors banging, more loos flusing, more cuddling, more whistles from the kettle and the unmistakable sound of a dog barking. My little family, who thrive in chaos, was thrilled to have been given a little bit more of it.

Fritha doesnt have much stuff. She is famous for if not minimalistic living, then for her skills in de-cluttering. You will often find attached to the small amount of posessions she has, a great deal of sentimental value. Her weaved baskets contain letters that people have written her over the years (in the days when we waited for the kind of communication we could touch and smell and smile at). Everything is neatly organised. The little pots lined up on her mini mantle piece contain a few cosmetics and at night, the seven rings she wears on her middle finger every day. Her shoes are stored neartly underneath the hatstand which doubles up as a wardrobe (knickers in an eco bag hanging on the left side, tights rolled into neat balls in one on the right). Books. One set of bedding; "its a lovely duvet cover Antonia my darling but I am going to use my crazy red one if thats ok?". Her yoga mat. A dog bed. Herself. And thats basically it. Moving her in took under an hour.

"So your friend is living with you?" people would ask. "So Fritha rents your spare room?" others would question. It didn't seem that complicated to me, we needed a lodger, Fritha needed a lodge. But people seemed surprised. After a few months one friend asked how it was going. "Great!" I breathed, in the excited way that you do when the enthusiasm for the thing you are talking about bubbles out of you regularly in an almost nauseating fashion. "You know that its rare, don't you" she said, "you two living together and getting on so well all the time". Golly thought I. Is it? Rare? How extraordinary. I immediately felt sorrowful for all those who have not had the opportunity to re-live their raucous flat sharing twenties in their more suburban thirties. But of course there is a difference in our situation. It is called an MBA. Rupert is doing one. MBA stands for Man Being Absent. Impossible though it might seem, (it feels like he only started it yesterday although the calendar and bank balance beg to differ), we are actually half way through his two year course now. I say 'we', because an MBA is one hell of a whole family experience. And one which I imagine some families might not be able to survive. The man works all day doing a job he does not love, and all night studying things that he does love (thank god) in the hope of securing a day job that he also loves. A means to an end if you will. This particular man's ridiculously dedicated and disciplined nature means that not only has he achieved a (few and far between) scholarship, excellent exam marks and coursework grades, but that he is loved madly by all his course mates. I have been told by a reliable source (a woman who has done an MBA herself and is now capable of explaining the ins and outs of it to other women without using any business lingo that causes a non business person, such as myself, to lose the will to live), that a network makes all the difference. No idea how it works but apparently a network is what you need and completing an MBA will get you one. For a price. Along with all the pounds, you pay with your time. I became a single parent on day one of the MBA and until Fritha moved in, I felt like one. The day she arrived she ran the kid's bath. Soon after that I found her brushing their teeth (no easy task) without bribery of any kind. Minutes later she was pouring me a glass of wine. And so we settled into a pattern. I would come home from school, collect the kids (if she hadn't already done so), and we would all walk the dog. Sometimes, after teaching four year olds all day, you don't feel like walking a dog. But this matters not in the canine mind, and so walk him we would, Fritha making up games for the boys all the way. Whether we look for fairies in the grass, count squirrels running up trees, or play zig zag tag on the cycle path, she ALWAYS transforms our reluctance into a renewed enthusiasm for fresh air, our common, and walking before tea. 

Her relationship with children is stunning to watch. Ask any of our friends. Whenever we gather, she wraps her heart and soul and body around our little ones. Maybe our chat might be losing its appeal, but we like to tell ourselves that it is because of the connection she has with kids. Like the Pied Piper, her imaginary games enthral them as much as they do her, and they cannot keep away. The children she works with in India as just as in love with her as our Western offspring. Whether she is on her hands and knees pretending to be a dinosaur, running an early morning kids only disco in the living room ("you guys go back to sleep"), or leaving butterflies all over the bedroom floor of the four year old who is learning about them at school when he sleeps so that he will find they have magically appeared, just for him, in the morning, her imagination and love know no end. Even when they are being little shites. "I HATE YOUs" and "This is really unFAIRs" are just as common in our house as in any other occupied by normal, feral children. But from Fritha there is no sighing. No yelling. No door slamming. Instead, a firm "I am looking forward to playing with you again once you've said sorry!" or similar is delivered with a smiley face. And it works! Where she learned all her tricks from I will never know but I feel quite sure that Supernanny has every reason to be very nervous.  We are raising my children together and our lives are all the richer for it. Apart from the incredible practical help (texts often read "I'm running late! Can you collect the boys?!" - "Already have, they are eating tea now, no rush") she nurtures their whole soul. They quite simply, worship her. I imagine they imagine every child has a Fritha in the same way our children imagine every child has food and shelter. 

Once home from our walk, we have our own little dance - tea, bath, bed, wine, supper, all happen in a relatively effortless fashion when Fritha is around. The dishwasher always seems to be unloaded. The clean laundry always seems to be folded. Dirty pots and pans left on the side of an evening, sit sparkling and clean on the drying rack before breakfast. Crisps, bananas, wine and other essentials are always in stock. Our rather intense relationship with Ocado may be wholly satisfying but it is not perfect - there were always things we ran out of. Until Fritha moved in. I cook, she washes up. I hoover, she mops. I put washing in, she hangs in out. I'm in the bath, she chats on the loo. She's in the shower, I chat from the sink. And the absent man? He has two wives, one of whom is almost always available for babysitting (in exchange for a little dog sitting), so that on the odd occasion he has some free time, he can take the other out for a drink. And when he is not around, the two wives have a merry time. 

Fritha has not gotten to the professional level where she is today without a lot of hard work. She would rarely choose Grey's Anatomy, Kirstie and Phil or god forbid Coronation street over a chance to get some work done, emails sent or phone calls made if needs be. The price she pays for the freedom of working from home and for herself is ambiguous working hours. However with a little persuasion, the promise of some slightly higher brow television (ideally in the form of a Channel 4 documentary), and a glass of red on the sofa, she will snuggle with me. And hence the single mother is a single mother no more. I know of none so fortunate as myself, to have a such a lovely husband as well as an extraordinary wife to live with. Or an MBA husband lucky enough to have such an appeased MBA widow behind him. For there is none as appeased as the girl who gets to live with her man AND her best friend. 

Sometimes I think Fritha is unaware of her 'effect'. She makes happy people, happier. It may be that her healthy living, fresh air/yoga induced energy levels mean she is not aware of her limbs simply doing all the things that need doing around the house. It may be that she is unconscious of all that her presence does to make our home such a sparkly place to be. It may be that she does not mean to improve the atmosphere wherever she goes.  Although I doubt it. Her mind is quick and her heart even quicker. Fritha lives to serve. It is rare that I wake up without a steaming cup of tea beside my bed (always the exact right colour). She is not yet a mother but her heart doesn't know this. For she thinks, talks and acts in the way a mother does. A mother whose first thought when she opens her eyes is for someone other than herself. A mother for whom everyone around her is someone to look after. Human beings present Fritha with a chance to live what she loves. She is not a martyr - far from it. She understands that giving to others means you give to yourself. All that comes out of her comes back tenfold in the pleasure she sees in the comforts offered by her hands. "I'm going to wash your car", she beams at 6.30am on a Sunday morning. "Why would you do that to yourself?" I ask in bleary astonishment. The pellet of dog poop that stubbornly refuses to reveal it's hiding place within our battered Ford Focus means we walk, cycle or scoot whenever possible. A blank look of incomprehension from Frith. "Because I want to!" and an hour later it sparkles inside out and both children have had the time of their lives playing pirates and goodness knows what else with their very own Mary Poppins. 

Things that I never knew we needed have appeared over the last six months. A mini greenhouse, "don't buy salad! I've grown us some", a rare and beautiful type of plant, cushions. And the dog!  Our life without Digger is almost as unthinkable as our life without Fritha. Which is why we choose not to think about that and take heart in the fact that she has promised us she will never leave unless it is to move in with a Suitable Husband Type. And so it goes without saying that we will not release her until an incredibly special man arrives and proves himself worthy. The search for him continues................


  1. What a well written blog...I want a fritha! I know fritha is amazing but your words make me fall I love with her. beautiful...what a friend to cherish.

  2. Brilliant to read, your blog has made my day. Rosie xx