MEET MY FRIEND: MATILDA MACMILLAN

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that Til and I became friends, but I do remember my friend and I often bumping into her in the corridors all the way back in 2002, when we’d just started secondary school.

Even when we didn’t really know each other, she always had the biggest smile on her face so we creatively called her ‘smiley girl’ and would enthusiastically smile and wave at her whenever we crossed paths.

We’ve genuinely been discussing how we became friends as neither of us is sure.

Til’s theory is that we were in the lowest set PE class together (which absolutely makes sense) whereas I thought that we were properly introduced through a mutual friend…but I guess it will remain a mystery!

If you have the pleasure of knowing Til, you’ll know that she is incredibly kind and funny. She is such a talented artist, a great cook and has the most eclectic/hilarious music taste. I’ll never forget our incredible rendition of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ to our friends at a sleepover, going to car boot sales together and laughing (probably too hard) at Cheryl getting bullied on The Greatest Dancer.

When I first moved to London, her and Fred let me stay with them while I flat hunted and started my new job – I honestly don’t know what I’d have done without their generosity and kindness <3

Although she doesn’t like pho or ramen (clearly mad), I still love her and I know that she’s going to be the best mum and I can’t wait to meet baby Mac!

Hi Til, tell us a little about yourself.

Hello! I’m from Brixham on the Devon coast but moved to Sheen in SW London a week before lockdown. I’m currently 40 weeks pregnant as I write this and expecting to go into labour any day now (my due date is today but the baby must have missed the memo as there is not much action at the moment…).

In these unprecedented times, how are you doing and what are you doing to keep yourself occupied?

Pre-lockdown, I was an art student and part-time support worker for adults with learning disabilities but because of being in the third trimester of pregnancy and therefore more vulnerable I had to quit work as soon as lockdown was announced. As we’d just moved house, there was actually a lot to do to keep me busy so I have been settling in and drawing/ painting and doing lots of antenatal classes, pregnancy yoga and preparing for baby’s arrival.

Could you tell us about your experience of being pregnant during the pandemic – I can imagine it’s been really challenging?

Being pregnant during a global pandemic has not been ideal and obviously very different from how I expected my pregnancy would be. Everyone talks about pregnancy being such a special time and if I’m honest I feel like some of that experience has been stolen from us. My husband, Fred, and I have been able to have lots of time together preparing to become new parents which has been really lovely but it has of course also been isolating, as it has for everyone, and that family and friends haven’t been able to share in the pregnancy and feel the baby move or see my bump grow.

I’m incredibly lucky that all my loved ones are safe and so far unaffected by Covid-19 and that my pregnancy has been so straightforward in terms of physical health – I’m so grateful for this. Because of Covid-19 you have to attend all midwife appointments alone and I can’t imagine how traumatic this must be for women who have higher-risk pregnancies, have to face really hard news about their babies alone or have to stay in hospital for days or weeks pre- and postnatally without being able to have visits from their loved ones.

I’ve been quite anxious at times throughout the pregnancy, especially going into hospital and my main fear is getting Covid-19 and having to give birth without Fred. I’ve actually changed to a hospital that allows birth partners to be present for longer post-birth and the midwives there have been truly amazing, and I can’t speak highly enough of them!

What are you most looking forward to doing when freedom is upon us again?

Being able to introduce our new baby to family and friends and hug people!

What did you want to be when you were younger?

A vet (classic, every 7-year old’s dream despite the fact that I am terrible with animals and really not that keen on them).

What’s the best gift you’ve been given?

Fred went to so much effort planning a surprise birthday party for me a couple of years ago at our flat which was so thoughtful and so much fun.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Not a bloody clue but probably with more kids, saggy boobs and hopefully still painting (and maybe making some money out of it if I can).

(QL: It would be a travesty if she doesn’t if she can make me look this good in a painting!)

If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?

My Grandma died of cancer a few years ago. We were really close and I offered to move into her house to care for her (my job at the time was pretty dead-end) but I think I didn’t offer it seriously enough. I really wish I had pushed this more and done it.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Hmmmm, I once dressed up in a full-on bear costume with a massive bear head for a week as a fundraiser! I did everything except sleep and shower in it and as I was at university at the time, went to all my lectures and wandered round the city in it, which provoked so many interesting reactions from members of the public! So many people would stop me to talk, ask to take photos and some idiot even punched my bear head (luckily it was very padded).

If I were to come round to your house for dinner, what would you cook for me?

Well, as it’s you and you know my repertoire, I would cook your fave, chicken tarragon bake! It’s a BBC Good Food recipe you can find here.

What would be your ‘death row meal’?

Close call between chicken fajitas or a KFC fillet tower meal – heaven. Checking Deliveroo daily to see if they’re delivering yet…

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

When I was 6, I tried to impress a boy by eating a sausage soaked in Fanta. Sadly, it didn’t work and he cruelly didn’t fancy me. Also, Queenie Lee, you once made me eat tripe and I will never forgive you for this. I also accidentally drank a ton of used olive oil once (it was hiding in a Fanta bottle). It was pretty grim.

What’s the most interesting thing that you can see out of your window right now?

Fred got a bird feeder for his birthday and I secretly love watching the birds feed from it. Small lockdown pleasures…! We’re under the Heathrow flight path and there is a theory that birdsong is louder here because they have to sing louder to hear each other – whether or not it’s true, it’s lovely to hear them.

Do you collect anything?

Second hand books – it’s a terrible habit even though I have so many I still haven’t read and we have no room left in our bookcase!

Which celebrity would you like to meet at Starbucks for a hot chocolate?

Comedian Diane Morgan in character as Philomena Cunk – I just love her so so much.

Do you live by any piece of advice or motto?

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.

I love this saying and try (and frequently fail) to remember it when I’m not feeling very kind! Google is unsure who said it, but still a great quote.

What’s your favourite quote from a TV show/film/book?

From Charlie Mackesy’s ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’: “Always remember you matter, you’re important and you are loved, and you bring to this world things no-one else can”.

What’s the silliest argument you’ve ever been in?

When two of our best friends’ relationship was on the rocks, Fred and I spent ages arguing from each of their perspectives (they hadn’t even broken up yet and were not present during the argument).

What makes you angry/biggest pet peeves?

People who don’t listen and only talk about themselves (realise I am doing this here, but it is a blog post so…).

What’s your most prized possession and why?

Cheesy but my wedding photos and video – they bring back such happy memories of what was without a doubt the happiest day of my life and so mean so much to me.

What personality traits do you share with your relatives?

My Mum and Grandma’s stubbornness! Also, my Mum’s dodgy curly little toes… My Dad’s pretty level-headed and I try to be too.

Which of your personality traits are you most proud of and why?

I try to be caring and a good listener (although my terrible memory can impede this) – I definitely don’t always achieve this but these are qualities that I really value in my friends and so try to live according to.

Do you ever wish you were raised differently?

Being pregnant has made me think a lot about how I was raised and what from my upbringing I want to repeat or change for my child. There’s a book by psychotherapist Philippa Perry I’ve just bought on this called ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read’. I was so fortunate to have a really happy childhood and a close-knit family, and this is definitely something I want to repeat for my child. But in terms of what I’d change, my Mum could be stricter with my sister and I than I’d like to be with my child. I really want to have open and non-judgmental conversations with my child as much as possible and for them to be able to come to me about anything that’s worrying them.

What’s the first thing you look for in a partner and/or friend?

Someone who doesn’t take life too seriously but is also able to reflect on things.

What is your favourite memory of ours?

There are so many! But I think rather than any big occasion it was just the everyday fun when you lived with Fred and me, laughing over how shocking the Greatest Dancer and Shipwrecked were (both admittedly terrible shows) and exploring bits of London together.

Share your favourite photo of us 😀

Favourites

Colour: Green

Animal: Deer or otters. We live near Richmond Park and it has been so soothing to see the deer during all the strangeness of lockdown and Coronavirus.

Season: Spring – full of hope and new life, not too hot, beautiful flowers and blossoms everywhere.

TV Series: Green Wing – the ultimate comedy that will never be beaten!

Film: Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Ricky Baker is my hero.

Book: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. Basically a children’s book but it is so heart-warming, has the loveliest message to it and is beautifully illustrated.

Podcast: How to Fail with Elizabeth Day and celebrity guests

Drink: A toss-up between a Mojito or a really thick strawberry milkshake courtesy of GBK.

Food: Any Mexican food – there are not enough fish tacos or prawn tostadas in the world to satisfy me.

Instagram accounts:

I love following ‘Brown History’ and ‘Humans of New York’ for personal histories and stories.

For anything baby/ birth/ family related, ‘The Positive Birth Company’ for refreshingly not terrifying birth stories (I have found this a godsend in reducing fear around the trauma of birth), ‘Make Motherhood Diverse.’

For art at the moment, #artistsupportpledge (lots of amazing artists are selling their artworks for a reduced price of £200 to provide them with an income during lockdown).

If you’d like to find out more about Til, give her a follow on Instagram and/or check out her brilliant art account!

xxx

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