Monday, 19 November 2012

There's a rat in me kitchen what am I gonna do?

Fleetingly, I thought it might be a warning.
It was a quiet Friday night, home alone (apart from 3 small children and my dad). In the utility room, fetching the all important ice and tonic for our early G&Ts, I heard a sudden rattle from the cupboard. "That's funny" I thought. "The cat was run over in March. Why would the cupboard that stores his Go-Cat be shaking?" And then I saw it, a snakelike tail, whipping frantically from side to side through the gap between the cupboard door. In a flash it was gone and so was my tonic as I dropped it on the floor and legged it back to the relative safety of the kitchen.

Photo: Now that's what I call a Saturday night........
A gin whizz works wonders on
your sewing technique
Was that a superior being's way of telling me that a gin and tonic was going to cause further damage to my liver? If so it didn't work. The lack of tonic meant I had to improvise and turn the G&T into a Gin Whizz which is basically Gin & Blue Curacao with 2 millilitres of tonic. The 2 ml of tonic lulls you into a false sense of security because it turns it a pretty turquoise colour but it still acts as liver-stripper. Actually it proved a nice blast from the past because as soon as I'd made it I remembered it was mum's favourite cocktail and she was a fairly abstemious and very elegant lady and that made me much calmer.

Needless to say, this morning I called the rat-catcher extraordinaire. At least, I called Barry's number to find that he had bought a canal boat and gone "sailing" for 3 years with his wife. Rat Catcher Mark II (his name was actually Mark and he had bought Barry's pest control business off him) promptly dropped what he was doing (wasps nest in Hindon? squirrel in Tisbury?) and hot-footed it over here. How glad was I. He indeed confirmed that we have a mutant rat. I know he's mutant - I saw his tail. It turns out he had tunneled from outside, under the house, into the cupboard in the utility room and eaten all our poor deceased cat's Go-Cat ( I suppose you're asking why it was still in the cupboard 8 months after Euston died but I've always been quite poor at letting go and you should also know by now that I am the original manana girl - "Why do today what you can possibly put off until tomorrow?"). Where's your bloody cat when you need him? Buried under the apple tree. So, I felt quite reassured that once in the cupboard, the rat couldn't get out, especially when we had taped it up with "fragile" tape. Until I realised that once in the cavity he basically has the run of the entire house. So I spent all afternoon in my office listening to a dead body being dragged across the floorboards between my office ceiling and the loft conversion. At least that's what it sounded like. I know Go-Cat is supposed to endow the recipient with strength and agility but I bet that rat has a beautiful glossy coat aswell.

Roland Rat - I stress I DID NOT listen
to his hit "Rat Rapping" in my bedroom
I am rather torn now as far as my affections and beliefs are concerned. I grew up (figuratively, not literally) with Roland Rat, a  lovable rogue of a stuffed rat whose best friend and number one fan was a gerbil called Kevin. They brightened up my Saturday and Sunday mornings in the early 80s when I was too young to hang around on street corners and had to stay in my room listening to Kool & The Gang and Billy Joel (I still do). Then when The Monkey was learning to talk and couldn't say "grandad" he used to (and still does) call my dad "Rat Rat" and thence there came "Ratty", my mum. As she's now no longer with us I can't say a bad thing about rats but the one running over my ceiling as we speak is making me question the warm, furry connotations that rats always held for me. Now I just want to dangle some chocolate in front of it and bring a make-shift guillotine down on it's furry little neck.

Weirdly I googled "evil ninja rat"
and it came up with my wonky-nosed
hero Owen Wilson
I have only had one experience of a rat before (apart from drawing one wearing wellies when I was about 9) and that was in the utility room of our house in Wimbledon. Home alone again, and pretty clueless, I leaned over the garden fence and called to my Polish neighbour "There's a rat in my kitchen , what am I gonna do?". I have to say it was lost on him though he did come up trumps and come round and beat it senseless before handing it to me in a Sainsbury's carrier bag for disposal in the outside bin.

UB40 were a great band but I never found any useful advice in any of their songs.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Money, money, money, ooh ooh

Anyone got any get- rich- quick schemes?

Sometimes life deals you a blow that gets you thinking for a while. Here's me wingeing about turning into an old crone while one of my closest friends tries to claw back even the smallest part of his former life. As a consequence I am feeling massively guilty - firstly for actually having a life and secondly for lusting after shoes when I could be spending the money on a flight to see him. I tell you, it's put me off getting my teeth whitened until at least after Christmas.

Wrong brand but you get my drift
When I was a wine buyer for a retailer I struck up a strong friendship with a short South African guy called Louis. He won't mind me calling him short - he was fully aware of it and made up for his slightly reduced stature by sporting a particularly fine collection of brightly coloured Pumas  - only a pair at a time obviously. We hit it off instantly, probably because he came from my then favourite country in the whole world (I'm very fickle - it's now New Zealand) and partly because he enjoyed a glass of wine or 8. Don't believe a word people say - as a buyer you favour those suppliers who you get on with most and they end up doing better out of you. The Boy can attest to this. He was one of my suppliers at said retailer and I thought he was a nob so I delisted his wines and cancelled our meetings. It was only when I needed an excuse for a meeting in London and he was the only one who agreed to meet late on a Friday afternoon that I thought he had potential. That and the particularly fine bottle of sherry he handed over. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Louis and I became firm friends, had many big nights out and ended up working for ourselves together. It was only when he didn't return my calls or emails for a few weeks that I realised something was seriously wrong. Eventually his friends in South Africa tracked me down and told me he'd been in a bad accident in Spain, in a coma for 6 weeks and was badly injured.

That was 2 years ago. His family moved him back to Jo'burg and he slowly started to recover some of his mobility but I know he was enormously frustrated - he told me he had to learn everything from scratch again and I'm not sure he's ever managed to wear the Havaianas I sent him to encourage him back to the surf. Now I hear he's had a massive stroke and is back to square one. How on earth is that fair?

The point of this is (and I know this isn't a very cheery one), your mates are very important. Especially the vertically challenged ones who wear orange and turquoise footwear and like to say "What you told Bob?" a lot, even if your name's not Bob. Especially if your name's not Bob. I appreciate today I bought a new camera (a birthday present to myself from the children) but somehow I will have to find a few hundred quid to fund a flight to SA.

I could go down the barracks and become a lady of negotiable affection but I hit 40 tomorrow and I may now be a little on the senior side. I could ebay all my shoes but I'm always put off by having to pack them up and take them to the post office. Any other suggestions would be most gratefully received.

Louis, if you're reading this, I'll see you on the beach in Jeffrey's Bay and mine's a glass of Sauvignon. A large one.

Monday, 12 November 2012

What's the magic number?

The first sign I see every day -
 it's a conspiracy

According to De La Soul's 1989 hit, "3 is the magic number". According to my least favourite author, the number that makes the world go round is 50 (and let's face it, it's worked for her given that's probably how many millions of £s she's made from peddling questionable mummy porn). But I have discovered evidence to the contrary. You know how, when you buy a new car, every second car you see is suddenly the same? Now that I'm only two days away from my milestone birthday, the number 40 keeps assaulting me from all angles.

It starts when we're born. The average pregnancy is 40 weeks. We're born, go to school, learn that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights during the great flood (Noah's Ark, not the one in Lynmouth in 1952), spend 40 days every Lent being coerced into giving up something we truly love, maybe end up with a job that gives us the pleasure of paying 40% tax, develop a 40 a day habit, monitor our football team to make sure they achieve the 40 points they need to avoid relegation, get done for doing 48 in a 40 speed limit and then we die. Admittedly that's much later on (hopefully)  but the average life expectancy in the UK is 80 which means I am 2 days away from being half of my potential average.

How depressing is that? If we look on the bright side, apparently life begins at 40. Whoever came up with that? It is actually a modern saying because until the early 20th century, life expectancy was indeed only 40. Death begins at 40 may have been more appropriate then.  I can't imagine that everything is suddenly going to change on Wednesday. Unless the meeting I have in Park Royal on Thursday is going to have great significance for my future which I very much doubt.

The shoes - lasted about 40 seconds
It's not all bad though. On Saturday I was whisked off to a "surprise " party. You know it wasn't a total surprise because I'd already mentioned that my good friend had copied me in on an email replying to the invitation. Which, in hindsight, was very fortuitous because on Thursday The Monkey asked "Mummy, do you know you're having a surprise party at the weekend?" Don't tell a 5 year old anything. He assumes that because he doesn't like surprises (carrots in his shepherds pie, spiders in the bath, trips to Legoland etc), no-one else does. So I went to my surprise party intending to act very surprised. No need. There were people there I genuinely had no idea were coming and how much of a bonus is that? I was surprised though that I had to remove my unfeasibly high heels at the table. You know you're getting on when you can't even sit down in them.

I did prove that I still have staying power though and managed to drink 40 glasses of wine and stay up until 4.40 am (give or take 40 minutes). Then I was up at 8 with the kids, had 40 cups of tea in quick succession, savoured a medicinal Bloody Mary, made a Meccano motorbike (thanks dad) and watched 40 Year Old Virgin. I lied about that last bit - I've never seen it so can't comment on its artistic merit or otherwise but it would have made quite an appropriate end to the day (apart from the virgin bit). Didn't manage to squeeze in 40 winks during the day though which is something I think all 40 year olds should probably do.

Oh and, before I forget, forty is the only number whose letters appear in alphabetical order. You're never too old to learn something new.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Another fad bites the dust

Remember how I mentioned I can be a little bit faddish? Another fad has bitten the dust.

Hell hath no fury like a woman caught
up in the French house-buying process.
So, we got back from Ooh La La Land and I did indeed manage to persuade The Boy to pursue one of the properties. The owner of the house we really loved was English so we reckoned we knew what we were dealing with and we played hardball for a couple of weeks, starting with a silly offer but intending to meet his negotiated price if we had to. I really hate to say I told you so but when the owner finally accepted an offer for the amount he had made clear he always wanted and from someone who didn't increase their offers in €50 increments, I bellowed I TOLD YOU SO! and then didn't speak to The Boy for the rest of the day. Unfortunately we were due to meet in Trafalgar Square at 5.30 to go for an anniversary drink and meal (this is the anniversary that I forgot and he remembered in a very good example of complete role reversal). We met, me still slowly emitting steam from my ears, and he asked me to suspend my fury. I couldn't not really  - it turned out he had arranged a surprise birthday meal for the friends who can't come to my actual surprise birthday meal next weekend. With The Boy fully redeemed we are now back on speaking terms and have thoroughly suspended the idea of a French house.

And so to the evening next weekend that I don't know anything about. I know I'm having one because a good friend copied me in on his reply to The Boy's invitation email entitled "Boo's Surprise Birthday Party". Normally curiosity would have got the better of me but I actually deleted it without reading it. I almost wish I didn't know anything at all about it because being in the dark has given me a sartorial planning nightmare. At first it was going to be a little black dress which I last wore when I was 30 but I would need suck-it-in pants and they only serve to spew the fat out elsewhere like under your armpits or as a third breast. Then it was going to be a a lovely blue dress I got that I thought was pretty cool but a friend ordered me not to wear it with the warning words " You're turning 40, not 50" and " we all know you have 3 kids but you needn't dress like it ". (Sometimes you need a blunt-talking mate). Now it's going to be my favourite best jeans (which I bought when I was 30), a new top and some impossibly high snakeskin heels. My justification for these is simply that I remember opening the under stairs cupboard when I was about 6 and finding a pair of identical ones (mum's not dad's). Given I don't have my mum I think it is only right that I replicate her choice of footwear. She would want me to, I know.

So, 10 days till I turn 40. 10 days to eat protein only and run 70 miles, wrapped in clingfilm or 10 days to give in gracefully and admit that it's about to happen and I don't even have time to get my teeth whitened.