The Story of Rachel and I

The time is 00:31. It is Thursday 29th September. I have been in from work for about an hour, normally I would hit the hay straight away but today, today my blog readers, is a special, special day.

 

TODAY IS MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY.

 

Rach is on the left

There will, of course, be the obligatory picture collage on all social media platforms, the annual Whatsapp of my singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, not to mention a birthday text (we both dislike phone calls – reason 101 she is my best friend) plus the celebratory dinner tomorrow but, after mentally recalling our story to myself, I decided I wanted to write it down and share it with the world.

So here it is, The Story of Rachel and I….

 

 

Picture it, Sicily 1922… oh no, wrong story.

Picture it, a lecture hall at Kingston University, in the autumn of 2009, a small group of students have gathered to talk to a lecturer about partaking in ERASMUS the next year, the room is abuzz with excitement.

 

“I wonder where we can go”

“Do you think you’ll need to speak the language?”

“I wonder what the universities are like?”

Rachel “ My brother’s girlfriend did ERASMUS, she said they just partied all the time.”

That is my first real memory of ‘ole McCarth. This was a year into the start of our course at KU (class of 2011 say hey!), our course was Primary Education and as there were only around 80 students (a guess) on the course you’d imagine that we’d have crossed paths before this, well, in a word, no. No we hadn’t. I recognised her face from the rare whole cohort lectures we had, and knew her name as one of the girls I hung out with was in the same specialism as her, but I had never actually spoken to her. At that point I didn’t have any idea how important that party animal would become to me.

 

one of our first nights out in Valencia

Fast forward a month or two and we both found out (along with Jade and Hayley) that we had been accepted on the ERASMUS programme. WAHEY. We were going to being in Valencia, Spain for a term (our course was split into terms like schools, not semesters). We were going to do our teaching placement at an international school, do a week in a local school, have a week off for Fallas and then spend 2 weeks at the university there. I will go on record to say that Hayley was a superstar in those weeks leading up to us leaving. She organised all of us; we had a group meeting with the student that had gone the year before us, she got us the name of a landlord in VLC, she contacted the school, she acted as a go-between for us and the lecturer that was our point of contact in Kingston.

 

Just up from our apartment in VLC

January 4th 2010. Gatwick Airport. Hayley had gone a day earlier and Jade was due in a couple days later. I remember standing by myself (I didn’t want anyone to come with me, didn’t want the fuss) waiting to drop my suitcase off and hearing someone talking at 100mph about 60 people ish behind me in the queue. It was Rachel. Her friends had dropped her off, they were gabbing away. This was something I learnt very quickly about Rach; she does love to talk.

I was a very different person back then, I remember thinking at the time ‘God, I hope she likes me. I hope we get on ok. What am I going to talk to her about?’ I was very shy and nervous back then and wanted everyone to like me. Now I couldn’t give a shit, but then it really mattered to me. We met up after security and since then we’ve been pretty much inseparable. She was, and is, so easy to talk to. I remember sitting on the plane next to her and being nervous because it was a big deal, going to stay in a country for 4 months with 3 girls I didn’t know that well, a country where I didn’t know the language but somehow she distracted me jabbering away, wondering what it would be like and talking about placement amongst other things. By the time we landed in Valencia I knew she was a good egg.

 

casual shopping trip

We got off the plane and survived public transport with Hayley’s instructions. We came out of the metro station at Àngel Guimerà, it was the middle of the night and super quiet, as we stood there waiting for Hayley to come and meet us Rach pipes up “Have you seen the movie Taken? ‘Cause this reminds me of that movie when the two girls get kidnapped”. Excellent. Thanks for that pal.

 

I’m pleased to report we weren’t kidnapped and we met Hayley just fine. Due to an overlap of students leaving and arriving Rach and I ended up sharing a room for a month. That month sealed the friendship deal for the both of us I think. Never have I enjoyed sharing a bedroom with someone so much. We quickly found that we had a shared love of tea, emo music and the same stupid sense of humour. Every night we’d get in to bed, have a chat and end up laughing at something ridiculous – more than once Jade knocked on the wall and asked what we were laughing at and we couldn’t tell her because either a) she wouldn’t find it funny like us or b) we were too busy laughing to explain.

 

A club somewhere in Kings Cross

I can say for the both of us that those few months abroad were our best time at university. We had the best time. The school we were in was amazing; the teachers made us feel so welcome and even took us for our first night out drinking whilst we were there. The children were little gems and loved having us there – there were a lot of tears on our last days. On the days we weren’t at the school we partied, shopped, went to the beach, drank tea, visited our little man in the fruit and veg shop down the street, went and saw Valencia play at the Mestalla (Thanks for the tickets, Carles), snuck in a trip up to Barcelona… we had a ball.

 

Rach and I did try and learn the lingo properly whilst we were there but it didn’t really work out. Especially when you look at our learning techniques…

 

Car is Coche. The best way to remember it is ‘COtCH (e)ing in the car’

 

Donde means where? WHERE is the DON of the D(e)ay?

 

Honestly, and we wonder why we quickly unlearnt most of our ‘Spanish’. This kind of thing was one of the many things we bonded over; we thought it was a foolproof way to learn. Apparently not.

 

We skipped out on the local school placement together once – there was a visit to the local park and after lunch we got bored so we went home and had a nap. Never went back. There was also a lecture at the university where the lecturer was a complete arse, when we had to divide into groups for work again we both went home, had a tea, listened to music and had a nap. Hayley and Jade were both troopers and stuck it out. We just encouraged the naughty in each other I think.

 

Back home we both struggled to re adjust to being on a course our hearts weren’t in. The travel bug had bitten and we wanted to go out there and see everything and everywhere. If we were both honest there was a very similar reason that we both wanted to jump back on a flight to Valencia. Obviously, we didn’t. We both had different friendships groups and mine were very focused and made sure I completed assignments and went to lectures; living in Kingston made it easier for me. Rach was living at home in South Norwood and found it much easier to be distracted – especially when she got into a new relationship (George, I’m looking at you! Ha-ha) I have to say through this phase I was a big fat nag, this was our final year of uni and I made it my mission to make Rach finish the course. There was no way she was going to drop out after she’d worked so hard.

 

Around May 2011, I remember walking with Rach to the car park by the business school and her casually dropping in the conversation that she was pregnant. My jaw hit the floor and we had a long old chat about it in her car (miss you, Ruby). Fast forward to November 20th, I’m in Bath visiting another friend and my BB goes off (I kind of miss my Blackberry too, BBM was the nuts!) with a picture of the most precious thing. My Godson, Nephew, Friend, Guy who is super fun and so much cooler than me. Oscar. That boy has filled my life with so much love, light, happiness and playfulness in his (almost) 5 years on the planet. It has been a joy to watch him grow and become who he is. I’m pleased to report that he has the same silly sense of humor that his mum and I have. It’s great!

When Oscar and I met for the first time

 

We’ve now been best pals for almost 7 years; this post was just the beginning of the story of Rachel and I. There have been so many more moments over the years that have cemented her place in my heart and in my life. She is an absolute gem and anyone that knows her is lucky too. Watching her become a mum and raise Oscar, along with George, has been so special. Rachel took to it so naturally, even though she was always a bit worried about it. If I ever had children I will have her on speed dial.

There is so much more to her than being Oscar’s mum though, she has been there for me and shared some of my best and worst moments. The dose of realness that I often need when I get swept up in my fantasies; she’ll always gently pull me back down to earth. She is funny, loves food as much as me – once I asked her what she wanted to do and she looked at me and said “I think I’d just like to eat some quavers”, appreciates music like I do both the ‘cool’ stuff and the not so cool. She has a sense of adventure that rivals my own, she can talk to anyone, has a heart of gold, is fiercely loyal to me, she always has my back… I don’t actually know what I did to deserve her. She is also, and she’ll hate me for saying this, like, totally gorgeous!!! Sooooo many of my friends see her pic for the first time and go ‘oh she’s so pretty’. Rachel will say something along the lines of ‘oh behave, stop it’ when she reads that but Rach hunny, we say it cause it’s true!!

I’ve rambled on a fair bit now so I will close this by saying Rachel you’re great. Thank you for being my friend. You’re infinitely cooler and prettier than me. I love you. See you tomorrow evening.

 

Your blister,

 

Michaela

 

Xoxo

An Open Letter to my Nephews

Dear Mason- James and Oscar,

Firstly, thank you for being you. When you were both born I cried, tears of happiness and of disbelief. Disbelief that these tiny little bubbas, all 7lb 12oz (M-J) and all 8lb 8oz (Oscar), were finally here. After what seemed like months for me – I can only imagine what it felt like for your mum and dad – you were finally here. Ask me now, and I would bet my left leg that I can remember exactly where I was when I got the message to say you had arrived, I can remember where I was when I received the first picture of you. I can tell you now that you instantly became my wallpaper and screensaver on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook. There was not one person that wasn’t thrilled by your arrival. I can promise you that. Even though I don’t know what age you’ll read this letter I can tell you both now that you have brought so much joy to everyone that has come in to contact with you in your lives. At the age of 26 I can confidently say you are the two best things in my life. Nothing else, no one else, comes close.

Secondly, the reason I am writing this letter to you now (Oscar you are 3y 9m and Mason-James you are 3 ½ days old) is because I want to tell what I have learnt about being young, whilst I’m still going through it. So I’m not telling you (or lecturing, you as you may see it – that’s if you take after me of course) when I’m twice the age I am now (gulp) and you think that I have no clue what I’m harping on about because, after all, there is no way Auntie KayKay was ever young is there!?!?!

So, what do I want you to know?

Please remember that you are loved. No matter what else you believe to be true nothing is truer than this. Yes, mum and dad might be super uncool because when you were 15 they wouldn’t let you stay out all night, or let your girlfriend/boyfriend stay over, they might not know what the number one song is in the chart, but they love you. They are your parents and they deserve to be treated with respect. So hold your tongue. They might not let you get away with everything you’d like to but that in itself is showing you they love you. They are teaching you boundaries and respect for both yourself and others. Remember that showing their love doesn’t always come in massive gestures. When mum asks you if you ate today, or dad tells you to take a jacket out because it’s cold – that is them showing they love you. If they didn’t love you they wouldn’t care if you starved or froze to death. You want to know if someone really loves you look at the little things, not the grand gestures. Also remember that your mum and dad are doing the best they can, with what they have. You might not get what you want but I can tell you now both your mums and dads would go without to make damn sure you’ve got what you need. Do not take them for granted.

To teenage you, get over yourself. Contrary to what you believe, the world does not revolve around you. You are the centre of someone’s world, but not of everyone’s world. You need to remember this. If you forget I am quite happy to bring you down a peg or two.

Some people just won’t like you. AND THAT’S OK. There will be more people who like you than don’t (unless you’re a real asshole, but as you’re my nephews, this will be physically impossible).

The people you go to school with are rarely your forever. As they are all you’ve known, you will think they are. In the majority of cases, for most people, they aren’t. ALL of my best friends I met either through university or work. Unless you are one of the rare ones, you will have this weird period of your life when you are 16/17/18. You won’t know what it is that feels off, but something will. At this point in my career I have employed a LOT of young people who are at ‘school leaver’ age and every year I see them go through it. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you are going through a lot right now. The security blanket of school is about to be taken from around you (no matter how much you may or may not hate it, you will miss the security, the routine). The people you have seen near enough everyday for most of the last – at least – 5 years will suddenly not be there everyday. You will think that it is the worst thing in the world. I promise you, it’s not. Trust the uncertainty. This is just the beginning. Life is about to become SO much more than you thought it could be.

The world is so much bigger than this town. Please travel. If you can only promise me one thing, promise me this. It doesn’t have to be for 10 years with a backpack. It can be weekend getaways; it can be a 2-week holiday each year. Just please get out there, travel. Experience the world and all it has to offer. You will become a better person for it. There is only so much you can learn about other cities and cultures from a textbook. The best way to learn something is to experience it yourself. Oscar, one of the things I loved about your mum when we first met, and even now, is her love of an adventure. You’ve got a great role model.

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A list of just some of the places I have visited in my 26 years. Travel is possible on any budget.

Don’t be afraid to fall in love. The first time you get your heart-broken is not going to be fun; in fact it will completely suck balls, but YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT. Every romantic novel and Hollywood movie tells us that you should take a chance on love because, if you can’t take a chance on love, what can you take a chance on? If people keep saying it, they must be right. Also, please don’t be that asshole who leads girls on to make himself feel better. If you don’t like someone, be blunt (NOT MEAN).  In the long run it’ll be better for everyone involved.

The number on the scale is just that – a number. It doesn’t define who you are. Having said that, food is not the answer. It will not make you feel better about yourself. Eat healthily and exercise regularly. Mason-James, I am praying that you take after your dad here. Your mum’s logic on eating her greens is not quite sound. “Cows eat grass, I eat lots of beef, and therefore I eat greens” Eat a little bit of everything. Enjoy your food, you will discover that food is one of the only 2 things in the world (in my opinion) that has the power to bring people from all around the world, together. The second is music.

Everyone is right: money can’t buy you happiness. Money can provide security, but once you have security, more money cannot buy you more happiness. If you show me someone who thinks money can buy happiness, I will show you someone who has never had a lot of money. The reason is the happiness that material things bring you is temporary. Experiences and memories will give you the happiness you crave. The happiness money can’t. My happiest times are attached to people, not things.

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Oscar, this is an old photo of your mum and I at my 25th birthday. I doubt I will remember what she bought me, I remember her being there.


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Mason – James, this one is of your mum and I a few months before she found out she was pregnant with you. It was taken at Cousin Katie’s wedding.

Find your passion. Find what makes you happy and spend your time on that. Be great at it. You have gifts and skills in you that have not been seen before, and that won’t be seen again. Someone once said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work again”. I believe that to be true. If you do what you love and love what you do, you will work hard and you will enjoy it!

Lastly, because I am aware this is going on a bit. Know that life is full of struggle. Bad things will happen. To both you and those you love. These things that happen very often cannot be changed. Do not blame yourself. Keep fighting. There is an old Japanese proverb

“Fall seven times, stand up eight ”

Keep this attitude in life. Many people suffer great tragedies and live full and happy lives. Remember the people you love, cherish them and mourn them. Accept that terrible things happen, and try to live as if each day is your last with those you love. There is nothing else you can do.

Before I sign off, just one last thing, always remember no matter where life has taken me, no matter what country I am in:

I love you.

Xoxo

Auntie KayKay

Oh, and look at these…

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Mason, this is our first photo together. Taken the day after you were born at East Surrey Hospital.


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Oscar bear, this was our first photo together, taken in your first ever home in Sanderstead. I remember just staring at you for ages. And yes, I had ginger hair – it was by choice!