Friday, 15 November 2013

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Separated at birth - you work it out
Today is my 41st birthday. I am sitting typing this with a lonely gin and tonic and a torn hamstring from doing the splits on Saturday night. No-one can ever accuse me of not enjoying a party so we had a small one and dressed like it was 1972. Strictly speaking I should have gone topless and worn a nappy but I haven't done that since the top of my toga fell down in the student union in 1991. Instead I bought a beautifully vile vintage halterneck dress and some Farah Fawcett platform boots whilst The Boy polyestered himself up in a pornstar wig and chest-revealing shirt. It was like being married to William H Macy in Boogie Nights except William H Macy has more money and was less likely to go up in flames standing next to the fire. We're nothing if not authentic - prawn cocktail, chicken in a basket (quail and spatchcock poussin actually - very progressive), black forest gateau, all washed down with Mateus Rose, Black Tower and Martini and Lemonade. Actually I stuck to a double magnum of Monterra Merlot which went down very well. So well I thought I should do the splits even after proving I was the most agile in the room by winning the cereal box game. 
Magic Gold Hair RemoverUnfortunately The Boy is in danger of looking like he's walked off the set of Debbie Does Dallas anyway. It's "Movember" and, whilst most of us spend a large chunk of our time removing every trace of hair, some valiant men out there are growing their tashes into very suspect shapes to raise money for and awareness of mens' cancers. Not all men though. It seems the British Armed Forces spend a considerable chunk of their time depilating. I know this because a friend in the air force has discovered "Magic Powder". It truly is magic - I've witnessed it. It was originally developed in the 70s to help black men avoid razor bumps when shaving their facial hair but now it seems it's become more popular in the forces than blue eyeshadow is in Moldova and, believe me, that's popular. I'm not sure whether it's because they're bored when they're not out patrolling or whether it's because it's too hot to have ANY hair, but when they're not playing scrabble or watching Come Dine With Me, they're waiting in the shower for the follicle-tingling 3 minutes that it takes to dissolve the fuzz on their.....well, you guess. My local beauty therapist told me you can tell a lot about someone and their relationship by how much hair they want removed but I'm not sure what she'd make of that. Being a curious bunch we tested it out with a pot "T" had bought back from Afghanistan when we were all round at their house for dinner. We picked the hairiest man in the group, mixed up the powder, spread it on his shoulder and watched it disintegrate. His hair not his shoulder. Though this stuff does come with warnings - apparently it can melt your skin off. They actually do a version with extra Aloe Vera and vitamin E which is the one I think I will order off Ebay. Armed Forces - your secret is out!

Having said that, we were wondering whether women should also take part in Movember and create interesting shapes in their topiary. Too late for this year -can't achieve much growth in the next two weeks but anyone want to join me for "Ho"-vember next year? 

I'm torn between a Dirk Diggler and a Poirrot..

Friday, 20 September 2013

Walk this way....

Attention - sore delusional people ahead

I've been extremely busy lately doing all the things someone in the midst of a severe midlife crisis should be doing - trawling the internet for good boob job surgeons, going to see inappropriate rappers in Paris, walking over the roof of a major London icon (this was an accompanied and supervised excursion, not me just getting adventurous and ebullient after a few beers in the smoke). Oh, and tramping over the hills in training for a long sponsored walk.

After my lovely sympathetic and handsome but chinless doctor suggested I didn't train again for a half marathon whilst seeing a cardiologist, I decided to do a big walk instead. A bit like Forrest Gump but slower and without his athletic prowess. I walk a lot. I've walked from London to Brighton, walked a marathon and regularly walk from the Waitrose car park to the chocolate aisle. This had somehow lulled me into a false sense of security. Signing up for the Thames Path Challenge 50km walk I wondered just how hard a long walk can be? I actually know the answer to that and it's not that tough. Or it wasn't until this one. I had originally signed up for the 100km but had changed my mind about that one when I wondered what walking along a deserted riverpath in the middle of the night would be like. So I downgraded and changed to the 50km so I could do it with my sister who is busy training for a climb up Kilimanjaro.

 It got off to a good start. She had done a power plate class two days before and so couldn't move her legs. I had run up four escalators at Waterloo, still missed the train and couldn't move my buttocks. I also already had a blister from wearing inappropriate heels when gallivanting around London the week before. Still, for the first 44km, it was a breeze. All day with my sister to myself, we caught up on the important things in life - when our next alcohol free day might be, which of my children will turn out to be the least annoying, which is the best gin, how she can get 30 volley balls onto a plane to Peru next month. And then the conversation changed.

Me "So, what are your current pain points?"

Stick "front of right thigh, balls of both feet, all my toes, fat fingers - what are yours?"

Me "Both buttocks, backs of both thighs, hips, front of both thighs, right calf and balls of both feet"

Stick "Right. How many kilometers are we on? 46?

Me "No that last one was 43"

Both "What the f***??"

I started to hallucinate. This might have been triggered by the heady fumes of Deep Heat which wafted alongside us for the whole 50km - I could tell when Stick had been spraying it on her legs in the portaloos because the 10 toilets on either side of her would rock with coughing. I began to see Mars Bars hanging from the trees, the bollards by the side of the path were actually champagne bottles. I could smell dope. Actually, I could smell dope. A courting couple had decided to park up at the end of the riverside track and have a quiet Saturday afternoon snog and splif  - their peace and fuzziness shattered by 3000 walkers marching past. Stick began to talk about the Orkney Islands in a strange cockney accent. It all got very weird.

I was going to put a glamorous spin on this and claim that I loved every minute and that it was a walk in the park because I'm superfit. But that's pointless because you wouldn't be able to learn from my misfortunes and I would at least like to think that I could impart some post-event wisdom. By 47km I had almost lost the will to carry on. I wondered how on earth I had even considered doing the 100km. Stick had perked up considerably because she thought I was about to die and felt she needed to look after me. She said she started to get really worried when I went quiet  - and the words I did manage to get out were incoherent.I got colder and colder and my coordination became more and more random. Eventually we reached the finish line. Stick, the girl with the immovable legs, skipped across it and grabbed the proffered glass of Cava with both hands. I crawled over and dragged myself to the medics tent where I muttered something incomprehensible which could have been loosely translated as "two double gin and tonics and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps please". And so I spent a happy hour in the medics tent, wrapped up in foil blankets, drinking hot tea and mumbling incoherently while the doctors waited for my core temperature to rise. Luckily for my ego there was someone else in there in an equally bad state and he was younger and fitter looking than me.

And so there ended my brush with mild hypothermia and delirium. It's not often a doctor suggests you go home and enjoy a few glasses of wine so I seized the opportunity with both swollen hands and dragged my sorry ass to the car. The next day I felt surprisingly fine. Mild aches, no blisters and the one that I had started with had miraculously disappeared. I also discovered that endurance walking is a bit like giving birth to your first child - 24 hours later the pain and trauma is forgotten and you want to do it again but take it to the next level  - Common sense kicks in after giving birth to twins and you realise that enough is enough, you'd rather dig a tunnel to Australia with your tongue than do that again.  But now I want to do the great Wall of China. All of it.

The official results from the challenge came through last night. We took 10 hours and 4 minutes (including 75 minutes for stops) and came in 320th out of around 1000 walkers which I think isn't bad. 25% of people dropped out. Like all experiences you must look at the learnings that emerge:

1.   Don't let your good pre-challenge intentions cave in at the last minute and drink two bottles of wine with your lasagna the night before. If anything, drink beer - it has more carbs.

2.  Do eat en route. If the gingercake at afternoon tea stop is too dry and not up to your exacting standards, eat it anyway.

3. Let your sister carry your bag when she offers

4.  Listen to your sister when she tells you to put your coat on

5.  Make sure that your husband's aunt and uncle are going to be at their house which is on the route, and that they're not 120 miles away near your house. The large brandy and piece of cake that we knocked on the door for at 39km could have made all the difference.

6.  Stop doing these events. Take up knitting instead.

And so, having already been to bootcamp this week, I can feel another long walk coming on this weekend.
As that famous perambulator Charles Dickens said “If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

"crisis" - noun from the Greek κρίσις - krisis - any event that is, or is expected to lead to, an unstable and dangerous situation

Forgive me readers for I have sinned - it's been 6 weeks since my last post. 

The reason mostly being that I have been exceptionally busy having a midlife crisis. A recent article in the Daily Record (whatever that is) asked...."Do you hanker for the simple life but fret about job security, while harbouring a secret desire to learn a new musical instrument and go to the Glastonbury Festival? If the answer is yes and you are a 43-year-old man or a woman of 44, you are having a mid-life crisis". Great, not only am I having one but I'm underage.  It had to happen sooner or later - afterall, I could already be beyond the halfway mark of my allotted time on earth. Luckily I had a windfall courtesy of my lovely bank. I know - how often does that happen? But it enabled me to have a real midlife crisis - one which I could actually act out with proper money and not just drool over in front of The Antiques Roadshow with a cup of rose tea and a copy of Plastic Surgery Monthly.

midlife crisis tatoo1 Mid Life Crisis   Whats a Woman to Do?
I'd do this but it would ruin my new tan
The Boy "suggested" that I pay off some of the mortgage with the rest but then, after I'd had to buy a new pair of secretary-style specs because mine shattered when I accidentally threw them on the floor  and then a new bag to put them in, I thought "how about a boob job instead"? Someone asked what made me think I needed one? That's easy. The Twins. Boob jobs (and tummy tucks) should be standard procedure on the NHS for any woman who has given birth to more than one child at a time. No woman should have to endure having to buy a new pair of canteloupe melons to stuff down her bra every other day. I've probably spent the equivalent of a boob job on melons in the 3 1/4 years since I had the twins anyway. It's a false economy.
Spot the Difference -  The Tilt Table -
also looks suspiciously like
the electric chair  - 

Waterboarding - lego style
Anyway, the other thing not occupying my time has been running. As a direct result of the swimming pool incident in New Zealand, I am under doctors instructions not to train stupidly for the half marathon I did last year and was signed up to repeat this year so I have registered for a 50km walk instead. I had signed up for the 100k walk  but I was so busy having my midlife crisis that I forgot to train and had to downgrade. Today I went to see the cardiologist that the doctor referred me to - it seems next on my list of medical procedures is a heart scan, a 7 day trace and a "tilt table test". I was intrigued by this last one so I Googled it when I got home which is the cardinal sin as far as the quest for medical knowledge self-improvement is concerned. Basically you get strapped to a horizontal table, they tilt you to almost standing measuring your heart rate all the time and waiting to see if your blood pressure plummets and if it doesn't they repeat. They do this until either you faint or you've been tortured for an hour but what's reassuring according to Wikipedia is that "In extreme cases, tilt table testing could provoke seizures or even cause the heart to stop" Great. The helpful "information" video on You Tube makes it look like water-boarding and , as your arms are strapped down,  you can't even read your Kindle or research plastic surgery options on your iPad. But look on the bright side, it could be quite good fun and is probably cheaper than going to Chessington World of Adventures.

When I picked up the children today,  little girl twin asked "have you been to hospital today mummy?". Yes, I've been to see the heart doctor (in the absence of a travelling husband I have to have someone to share my trials with, even if they are 3 years old). The Monkey (6) gave me a huge hug and sang "Cause when you hold me like this you know my heart skips, skips a beat". It sounded familiar but, again, as another sign of midlife crisis and because I am so wrapped up reminiscing about Depeche Mode and Fine Young Cannibals, I had to google it. It's Olly Murs and The Monkey even knows the dance. If anything was going to jolt me back to reality it was that. I need to play that boy some of The Cure instead.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

"accident" - noun - an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury

Some people are born geniuses (genii?), some are born wealthy, some are born with perfect looks. Freaks, all of them. Others are born with a genetic mutation which leads us to injure ourselves at the drop of a knife, I mean hat. I know I get this from my mother  - it's well documented that she put a javelin through her foot and knocked her teeth out playing hockey.

Status Quo, that classic British rock band, once released a song called Accident Prone - it was included on the album "If you can't stand the heat" in 1978 which was written at almost exactly the same time I was busy pouring boiling fat all over my arm when I was about 8. Then there was the time I ran at full pelt into the patio door. It was only 20 years later when I needed a sinus operation that the consultant mentioned that the bent bone and cartiledge in my nose was probably due to a hard bang to the nose earlier in life. Ski-ing has resulted in torn cruciate ligaments and broken fingers and when I was flying on a trapeze for the first time a few weeks ago (41 things to do before you're 41), I managed to trap my arm in the mechanism which, when you're landing from a great height, hurts. I've also burnt off my fringe when I hovered too close over a candle, got my head stuck between railings and given myself two black eyes trying to somersault my way off the swing in the back garden. You can't say I don't try. The only one I've walked away from unscathed was when the boy rolled the car and wrote it off in Scotland the weekend we got engaged. Happy Memories.

But even before all of this I had already fallen into a body of water twice - this made my parents extremely nervous when I was around the wet stuff and more recently just made them laugh uncontrollably. Baths were very shallow in our house or I was sat in the kitchen sink (to wash, not as a punishment for insolence) and my little sister was sent to guard me though I'm sure she probably had fantasies of holding my head underwater for a very long time after I'd pushed her down the stairs and broken her national health glasses. I wasn't even allowed to go and wash my face in the dew on May Day in case I drowned. So it was probably no surprise then that last week I broke the 35 year spell and fell into another body of water. Jetlag, not enough food, no sleep and a mystery virus (hypochondria!) made me black out at the hotel pool in New Zealand and fall headfirst into the water. I have no recollection of smashing my hip or breaking my toe (I like to think it was broken) until I was dragged out of the water by a very nice and handily-present South African guy. I have no idea what would have happened if he hadn't been there - it may very well have been my last accident but, no, I lived to spend an uncomfortable 24 hours on a flight home with a bruise the size of Shane Warne's head and an ego the size of a nanobe (which is very small indeed).

One body of water I've not fallen
into though surely it's only a matter of time
This accident, I'm pretty sure, was as a direct result of me being properly frazzled. Frazzled by name, frazzled by nature. I must at this point stress that I was not pissed.  In fact everyone else from work had gone out to a bar and I, completely uncharacteristically, had sloped back to the hotel for a swim. I have been so frazzled that a few weeks ago I was calling my daughter's name "Molly, Molly, where are you?" and a little voice answered back "Mummy, I'm here". I was holding her. 

Hopefully my toe will be healed enough for me to wear my impossibly high heels in two weeks time and my bruise sufficiently faded to expose my hip in public (I'm talking about at the pool and not because I am prone to walking around Waitrose with my hips on display - for god's sake, I'm 40 1/2).  My coccyx, however, is another matter. I am trying to numb the pain with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon. Coccyx injuries can apparently, according to the NHS website, be caused by 
  • falling over while skiing or ice-skating
  • falling from high up, such as from a horse (or trapeze - it didn't say that)
  • accidentally landing on one of the bars at the side of a trampoline
All of which I have done. Bizarrely it can also be done by childbirth which I certainly haven't done lately though I have squeezed out two at the same time) and intend to never ever do again and, even stranger, anal sex.  It didn't mention anything about tipping headfirst into a pool.

Today, somehow, I managed to go for a run but I made sure I called my good friend and neighbour and told her, like Captain Oates, "I'm going out and may be some time".

He never made it back but I seem to keep going...........

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

"The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey."

The English are a funny nation. If you listen very carefully you will hear sounds which undeniably define us - the hammering of rain, the slurp of a pint of warm beer, the word "sorry", the rustle of a fish and chip wrapper, the shuffling of feet in an eternal queue - and the dulcet tones of Geoffrey Boycott moaning about just about everything.

For those of you who are reading this outside the UK,  Mr Boycott is, like Pimms and the common cold, a national institution. A former Yorkshire and England cricketer, he made his name playing a sport invented by the English. Actually, the English have invented quite a few things - football, darts, badminton, rugby, trains - only to then become the subject of much scorn when we find everyone else seems to do it better. There are some things however, that no-one can do as well as us - apologising, stiff upper lips, queuing and cricket. To name but four. Cricket is probably one of THE most English things you can do and, if you're watching and not playing, is naturally built around the consumption of much alcohol which is another English trait. It's such a slow and potentially dull game that it offers up endless opportunities for reading the paper, discussing the plans for the weekend  and drinking several bottles of wine between 11am and 7pm which, in most people's minds, is the perfect way to spend time. The enjoyment of it isn't even weather dependent. If a cricket match is rained off in England, everyone still sits in the stands for 8 hours and carries on drinking under the pretense that play might actually recommence at some point within the next four days.

But back to Mr Boycott, who is one of the members of the Test Match Special commentary team. TMS was started in 1957 and was the first ball-by-ball cricket commentary - previously it had been considered too dull to commentate on - but now it is as ingrained in the national psyche as being awarded Nul Points in the Eurovision Song Contest. And it isn't dull, because when nothing happens from ball-to-ball, they divert wildly and talk about pigeons, planes or cakes instead or reduce themselves and the nation to tears with some double entendre howlers - I'm sure I remember listening in 1993 (ish) and hearing them all collapse because they'd been sent a cake by a Mrs Tit. Which brings me to the point of this. I know you were wondering if there was a point. For years and years, the TMS team have been sent cakes to keep them going through the long, arduous day. So when I realised that the friend I was taking to the world's greatest cricket ground last Friday had secured us an invitation to the TMS commentary box, I spent 4 sleepless months worrying about what I might take the team. In the end The Boy had the great idea of presenting them with "an over" of 6 cricket ball cupcakes. Great idea. Except he didn't actually have to make them and in fact buggered off to the cricket instead. And so, having selflessly spent my childrens' inheritance on ingredients and icing equipment, I set about creating the gift. The cake bit was easy - then I stared at them for two hours wondering how I was going to make them look like cricket balls. Then I poured a glass of wine and stared at them for another two hours until my neighbour called round and offered her pearls of wisdom in exchange for a glass of wine. Wine consumption had to stop when I realised that I couldn't recreate the intricate stitching of a cricket ball but started again, after another three hours, once the bloody things were finally finished and in their spotty red and white box.
They think it's all over.......

Normally during a day at Lords (which incidentally is the only cricket ground civilised enough to still allow you to bring your own alcohol), you would start drinking the minute you find your seat. Which we did. Naturally, however,  I was super abstemious and didn't consume the usual 2 bottles before lunch - let's face it, if I'm going to meet some national treasures, I want to be able to remember it. The moment came, we were escorted up to the "pod"  by our host, the lovely Kiwi commentator Jeremy Coney, and shown into the box where we handed over our gifts and met the team. All except Geoffrey Boycott that is, who is so dour he didn't even look up from his seat. Still, never mind. We met the rest of the crew - Aggers, Blowers who was looking particularly resplendent in his traditionally upper-class pink English trousers, and my hero Michael Vaughan who seems much thinner without his whites on. 
Jonathon-- is that a microphone or one
of my cakes attached to your chin?
(courtesy of the BBC)

Needless to say - that was a first (and more than likely a last) that I will never forget. The cakes got a few mentions on national radio, I died and went to heaven, fell in love with Jonathon Agnew and returned to my seat with some stories to tell and a couple more bottles to polish off. Creating a masterpiece and meeting some of your heroes is thirsty work.

The following day when I spent 8 hours listening to that day's commentary on the radio, I was slightly relieved to hear that the commentary team were all still alive. But then I have always wondered whether they actually eat the stuff they're given......

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Every Lidl counts....

You may be wondering (or indeed it may not have even crossed your mind) why there's been a deafening silence from me over the last two months. You may have assumed I had broken my head ski-ing. But you'd be wrong. I didn't even get that far. The week before we went I got myself a nice dose of tonsilitis and then an even nicer dose of food poisoning while we were there. So, yes, misfortune followed me on yet another ski-ing trip. And yet I keep going back for more.

The radio silence post ski-ing is purely down to me being a lazy arse. Four days after we got back I spent a glorious few days with Norovirus and then got the flu. Proper flu. Not man flu but Boo Flu which is ten times worse. That turned into something else and another course of antibiotics later I have emerged back into the land of the living. I know I was properly ill because I barely drank for about ten days and haven't even read a book in two months. The doctor recommended two weeks in Mauritius but sadly the NHS don't cover that and fleeced me for another £7.85 instead.

So, it became a vicious spiral - two months of not doing much means two months of not having anything to report. No-one wants to read about me sewing a button on or going to bed at 7.30pm. Honestly, I still can't think of anything to write about but it's a bit like going to the gym, you just have to get the first one over with again. Which reminds me - I haven't been for a run for two months either and that half marathon is looming again....

So, have I achieved anything over the last 8 weeks? But I have been to Lidl. It wasn't my first time but I do get a buzz everytime I walk through the doors and head towards the special offer centre aisles. For those of you who have never been to one, you really haven't lived. If there's anything you've been struggling to find for most of your life or simply something you never realised you needed for the house, you'll find it there.

Essential kit for a day out in Manchester
Lidl is German, a nationality with which you would normally associate order, tidiness and purpose. Not so. The best thing about Lidl is the sheer unpredictability and randomness of what you might find. Not so long ago I went in to buy some apple juice and they were selling generators,  horse saddles and ...............angora kidney warmers! This was an incredible stroke of luck because I actually needed a kidney warmer and where would you normally think to go to look for one? Last week I bought a lime green watch for £6 (which is actually what I had been looking for for about 2 years) but could also have been tempted by the all in one wellie waders for when I go to Manchester or a bionic knee for next time I go ski-ing. I'm kidding about that last one but I notice that at the moment you can buy a paint and mortar mixer or a rain barrel pump. I keep going in the hope that they'll have a 6 bedroom Georgian rectory with 2 acres and a granny flat in Dorset.

What every cold abdominal cavity organ needs and individually
sized to fit your kidney.

And so, dull I know, but I have broken the back of my non-posting period. Now I can make plans. Just as well I have my circus course to look forward to in 2 weeks and my new challenge, a different martini from my martini book every Friday. Or Monday. Whenever.....

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The White Stuff - friend or foe?

My love affair with the white stuff is well documented. By me anyway. Are you thinking I am a habitual user of Bolivian marching powder? Well, no, as curious a nature as I have, I can safely say I have never touched the stuff. Neither am I a habitual user of milk. I haven't touched that stuff since I had the flu in 1998 and survived for a week on the living room floor with only a packet of digestive biscuits for company. The white stuff I'm talking about is the the soft powdery kind that heralds disaster whenever I am within 300 light years of it. It senses me coming and does its best to bring me down, in more ways than one. Yes, it's that time again. We're off on our annual ligament-tearing holiday.

As a kid I was quite lazy (which strikes me as rather odd that I like the outdoors so much now) and turned down the school ski trips that everyone else went on, much to my parents' relief I'm sure as it meant they could upgrade the Volvo and we could have an extra lunch in the Golden Egg in Wolverhampton. But I rather wish I hadn't because by the time I learnt, I was old, knackered and I had "the fear". Injury now follows me like a hungry kitten.

On my first trip, I was the only person on the flight out with my arm in a sling and my knee in a brace. Ho Ho. I managed to tear the ligaments in my right knee and break and dislocate the fingers on my left hand the day BEFORE we went ski-ing. Naturally it was The Boy's fault. I told him not to push me. Spent all week in the chalet on my own getting crosser and crosser.Until someone else broke their leg and joined me on the gin and tonics at 11am.
For instant cleavage enhancement
why not use these new bra-fillers, a couple of
chicken fillets from Tesco or my knee caps

Trip 2.    Tore my cruciate ligament in my left knee on the first day. On the second day The Boy left to go up the mountain and left me with an ice pack and some paracetamol. I called him at lunch time to explain that the ice-pack had attached itself and that trying to remove it was also removing my skin. Apparently I was supposed to wrap it in a towel first but he didn't say that and I normally respond best to literal instructions. Spent all week in the chalet on my own with a knee which, once it had defrosted, looked like a rotting chicken fillet and promptly shed its skin. Ended up having surgery.

Trip 3 -   Enjoying a leisurely lunch in a mountain restaurant in the Pyrenees when the weather seems to turn and the restaurant starts to empty." I'm sure the announcement in French is saying that they're evacuating the mountain "I said to The Boy. He reassured me it was fine and that we should enjoy our long lunch and second bottle of wine. Left the restaurant to find that they had indeed evacuated the mountain due to the now-raging blizzard. I managed to scramble into the last cable car down only to get trapped as the wind buffeted us from side to side hundreds of feet above the mountain-side. Almost fell out as the wind blew the doors open. I didn't find the cable car engineer shouting "Merde" into his walkie talkie or the Spanish father-of -three making the sign of the cross very reassuring. In the meantime The Boy skied down - he was, quite rightly as it turned out, more frightened of the cable car than the blizzard

Trip 4  - Having worked out that I have the classic ski-ing get out clause - "weak knees", I called upon the company of my extremely tall and similarly "weak-kneed" friend Tall Matt so that we could at least haunt the bars all week while the others availed themselves of some hairy blacks and their body weight in vin chaud. Unfortunately, I got pregnant and then had to break it to my drinking partner that I would be sticking (most of the time ) to peppermint tea. So 6 months pregnant, we arrive at departures at Heathrow to find a Matterhorn of luggage in the check-in hall. Instantly we knew this trip was doomed and sure as eggs is eggs and as sure as disaster follows me around on ski-ing holidays like a bad smell, our luggage didn't make it. It didn't make it in fact until a week after we returned. BA, in their wisdom, despite us flying to France, sent our luggage to Italy by road for sorting before sending it back again. By Road. It wouldn't have been so bad if we didn't have our first evening's meal in the suitcase. Knowing that the shops would be shut when we arrived and feeling smug for planning ahead, we had packed the ingredients for Chicken Fajitas for eight. When we were finally reunited with our luggage more than two weeks later, the chicken fillets looked like my kneecap from trip 2.  Spent all week in chalet in the same pair of maternity jeans and wearing the same pair of disposable contact lenses. 

There have been other trips with no major catastrophes which, for that very reason, aren't worth mentioning here. Last year I decided that I might give it a go again this year but then my excuse this time is that a) I have signed up for a half marathon again so can't risk me knees going, b) looking after small children post knee surgery is about as tempting as walking around Kabul with a sign saying "where's the nearest bar"  or simply "kidnap me" and c) I wouldn't get to read as much. I have toyed with the idea of going either paragliding or husky sledding but I am waiting to see whether the side effects from the antibiotics for my tonsilitis are unwelcome enough to make me want to stay in the chalet with a martini and a good book. I also looked more closely into both activities which also went some way to putting me off. But you can't say I don't come up with decent ideas in the first place. 

Last year I walked UP the piste to the restaurant at the top. It got some funny looks, not least when, halfway up, my friend had to stop and pull her trousers down " to get some air" - it was quite hard work. I might stick to that but if I do try anything new, even if it's a new cocktail in the safety of my own balcony, I will let you know.

As for the next 48 hours, I am going to pysche myself up for the overnight drive to The Alps with 3 small children in the back and only one portable DVD player. 

I bring it all on myself....

Monday, 11 February 2013

41 things to do before you're 41

So, as I was waiting for the kettle to boil for my rose tea this afternoon, I flicked through this weekend's Sunday Times and what should I stumble upon but a guide to the "40 Things To Do Before You're 40". Unfortunately this was 2 months and 28 days too late but then I suppose they weren't to know I was trying desperately to cram in a load of stuff before the big 4-0 crept up. However, it did provide me with a good list from which I can at least measure my level of respectability and coolness in the eyes of the ST "Style " section and meant I didn't have to waste time compiling it myself.  So, here's the list and my achievements. And an extra one to take me up to my 41st birthday.....

1.  Go to Glastonbury - realise you never have to camp again - a big fail on this front. I didn't need to go to Glastonbury. I had about 2 hours in a tent in Much Wenlock in 1989 to realise that I would never be camping again.

2.  Unwrap a Diamond - Tick. Scotland March 2004 - the evening before he tried to kill me when he wrote the car off.

3.  Find jeans that you like your bum in - achieved this in the summer of 1991 with a pair of white Levis (501s of course). It's been downhill ever since - literally.

4.  Walk out of a play you aren't enjoying - strictly speaking it was a film. "Four Rooms"  was a 1995 film made of 4 segments, each with a different director. One was from Quentin Tarantino, the god of shouty, unnecessarily violent and totally brilliant films. Unfortunately, as it also "starred" (and I say that in the loosest sense of the word) Madonna, it was worse than digging a tunnel to Australia with your tongue.

It's all very modern these
days with phone consultations
5.  Decide whether you want children and act on that decision - I'd say this was more of a natural progression. I don't remember having a conversation, not even with myself, but have children I did. The second one was more a case of giving my mum something to aim for before she died and then I ended up with twins.

6.  See a psychic (not related to previous suggestion) - a 200 year old man told my fortune in Jaipur in India in 2005. He said I would have 3 children - a boy, then a girl, then he wasn't sure what next. We scoffed. I had the first one two years later and then hummed and haaed before going for number two. Afterall, we were stopping at two given I was already so old. And lo, we got three and what were they? A boy, then a girl, then a....not sure......a boy who thinks he's a girl. I then saw one about two years ago who told me my Gran was saying I needed to do some exercise and to go out and buy a bike. You have no idea how scarily accurate this was - she spent her life telling me to do more exercise when the most she got was disembarking the plane in Malta or unscrewing the gin bottle.

7.  Stop writing your dad's name on the "in case of emergency contact" bit on forms.  - achieved. In 2004 when I was 32 which I think is acceptable.

8.  Live abroad long enough to get a taste for the local breakfast - a contradiction - if you lived abroad for long enough you'd get bored of the local breakfast. I only have to be in New York for a nanosecond to get a taste for French Toast with bacon and maple syrup. However, I did spend long enough in Prague over the summer of 1992 to get a taste for Pilsner Urquell for breakfast.

9.  Lunch entirely on free samples at a farmer's market - tick - boring.

10.  Hand in your notice at a job you hate - I can beat this. Get offered another job, go to hand your notice in at the one you hate but get made redundant instead with a nice little pay-off and a shiny new job you love.

11.  Get an accountant - never

12.  Be able to order wine confidently - it's my job!

13.  Bin all your tights and replace the lot with Falke - the redundancy pay-off wasn't THAT generous.

14.  Knit a scarf for someone who loves you so much that they'll actually wear it. - I did start a scarf once for The Monkey but it was so deathly boring to knit that I abandoned it and did one instead for his stuffed monkey who is much smaller and loves me so unconditionally that he is happy to wear it all the time.

15.  Grow your hair so long that it covers your nipples - 2003. It was easier then - your hair could be shorter and still cover them but as your body parts move south you hair has to try that much harder to get there. Cut it off. Your hair not your nipples.

16.  Host an afterparty that people still talk about years later - I think we may have done a few of these but they're blurring into one big one. I'd like to think we'll be talking about our recent Burns Night and the incident with the kilt for years to come.

17.  Keep a plant alive - finally. Every orchid I have ever had has lasted about an hour. Until Maureen came along - she's the orchid named after my mum and miraculously is still with me even if my mother isn't.

18.  Go skinny dipping in phosphorescence - mmmmmmmmm, maybe before I'm 50. Does it hurt?

19.  Have a fling with someone deeply unsuitable who you can't introduce to anyone then end it in three months.- couldn't possibly say. Or remember.

20.  Snog a celebrity (D list is fine). - this is a struggle. Does snogging the cousin of a certain member of Take That count? Or being asked out by a well known news personage??

21.  Have a working knowledge of Shakespeare and the shadow cabinet - I have a working knowledge of The Shakespeare pub in Bridgnorth and I know that the shadow cabinet don't really work, does that help?

22.  Paint your bedroom, vow to hire a painter next time  - never. I painted our loft when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with twins and had to paint side-on - one of the most therapeutic things you can ever do.

23.  Spend Christmas with the love of your life, just you two, all dressed up eating turkey and watching trash TV. - Well, I did that with The Boy in 2003 if that counts.

24.  Forgive your ex - yep, all of them. For various things. I don't bear a grudge.

25.  Find a foundation that's invisible in daylight - I am NOT old enough to wear foundation yet!

26.  Have a kinky dream about a colleague - nearly. Except I don't work with Nick Clegg. And I fancy David Cameron far more.

27.  Eat spaghetti vongole in Sicily - never eaten spaghetti vongole (allergic) and never been to Sicily, one of which I'd like to rectify

28.  Go on the biggest scariest rollercoaster you can find and enjoy it - December 2012, Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen - it was also the shortest and most expensive but perhaps you're paying for the fear factor.

29.  Find glasses that suit you - September 1995 and still wearing them

30.  Hang pictures you really like. Ignore what you see on other people's walls or in boutique hotels. - done. I have framed vintage travel posters though I'm still worried who I might offend by hanging  "Skegness is f***ing shit" poster instead of the more traditional "Skegness is so bracing"    Skegness

I'm sure she may well agree with Viz but I do worry about upsetting my Nan when she uses our downstairs loo

31.  Spend a year with an incredibly flat stomach - the summer of 1992. Finished first year of university, living with the boyfriend in glorious High Wycombe and working the nightshift stacking shelves at Tesco in Lightwater. Ate like a horse, thinnest I've ever been. There's a lot to be said for nightworking - of one sort at least.

32.  Perfect your signature roast chicken and make stock after - get lost. Like I keep saying, life's too short to be slaving over a hot carcass.

33.  Witness a birth - they don't specify here whether it can be your own (by which I mean the one you labour through, not the one where you pop out) so I'm assuming it can - not only have I witnessed a birth, I've witnessed a multiple birth!

34.  Speak at a funeral - I couldn't speak at mum's funeral, I made my sister do it. I blubbed like a baby reading a poem I'd written at my grandad's funeral and when I get nervous my right leg shakes uncontrollably which makes standing up at a lecturn a little tricky. Silence, in my case, is golden.

35.  Stop wearing lycra - lycra was invented so we didn't have to wear baggy pants. Lycra was not invented for the over 25s. Know your limits, only wear it under the privacy of something much much bigger and looser.

36.  Pull an all-nighter. Drink sambuca, dance on tables, then go straight to work. - what do you mean? I've done this SINCE I was 40 and more times before than I can remember.

37.  Delegate - that's what husbands and children are for.

38.  Eat the worm in a tequila bottle - I would rather stick red hot knitting needles in my eyes.

39.  Yearn for a utility room (congratulations, you're a grown up) - I don't yearn - I had one WAY before I was 40 - and it even has one of those hanging drying things.

40.  Realise it's not all about you - oh but it is.

41. Learn to swing on a trapeze - seriously - all booked in for 27th April.......full report to follow

28 out of 40 - not bad I reckon. And now I shall draw up a new list for the rest of this year. Any suggestions would be warmly welcomed (though not necessarily adhered to).

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth

One thing that's guaranteed is that, as we grow up we all experience certain rites of passage - first kiss (Christopher Timmins at the local Grammar School - or was it Andrew Mahafey or Howard Someone or Other?), first pint (Halfway House around the corner from school), first illicit fag (on the 890 bus back from school) and losing our first tooth. Although admittedly this last one comes (hopefully in most people's cases) slightly earlier than the first three examples.

Losing our first tooth is tied up in the myths we are led to believe when we are little - Father Christmas, Jack Frost, The Tooth Fairy and, in my case, that Cliff Richard invented the lawnmower. Dad has played on my gullibility since the day I was born but that's another story. Apparently Cliff also invented the internal combustion engine.

So, The Monkey has lost his first tooth. It seems someone unknown had told him that a tooth fairy comes and leaves you a nice wedge of cash in exchange for said tooth so there was a lot of expectation from the minute it started to wobble to the minute I  was called to attend the murder scene in the bathroom where he had yanked it out. And then suspended expectation mixed with complete panic when he took it off my laptop where it was sitting for safekeeping and then promptly catapulted it across the bedroom as he tripped over while he was examining his extraction handywork.

Belief in the tooth fairy is quite widespread and apparently so popular even with adults, despite it involving the expenditure of hardearned cash, that only 3% decide not to perpetuate the myth when they themselves have children. The Wikipedia definition is "The tooth fairy is a fantasy figure of early childhood.The folklore states that when a child loses a baby tooth, if he or she places it beneath the bed pillow, the tooth fairy will visit while the child sleeps, replacing the lost tooth with a small payment." It also says this tradition is practiced in various countries in the Anglosphere, wherever that is. 

The Tooth Fairy aka Jordan
Obviously there are two aspects of this which are open to personal preference and interpretation . Firstly, what guise does the fairy take?.  A survey conducted in 1984 (someone clearly needed to get out more) found that 74% of respondents thought the tooth fairy was female in the classic tinkerbell style which seems quite sensible. However, some people seem to think "it" is a dragon, a rabbit, a mouse (quite a popular theory that one), two little old men (??) , a dental hygienist, a potbellied flying man smoking a cigar (??), a bat, a bear and a rat. We wouldn't need a fairy rat - we could just put a little pair of wings on the real one. So, the inhabitants of Anglosphere are undecided on what the fairy actually looks like. Apparently though some people leave a trail of glitter across the floor to replicate fairy dust? That's insane - why create hoovering for yourself?

Secondly, what is the value of a child's tooth? Not much in our house. Why raise the already inflated expectations of a small boy by giving him more than 50p when he has no concept of the value of money anyway? This caused some raised eyebrows from my friends who all seem to be incredibly generous with payments fluctuating between £1 and £5. PER TOOTH! My sister in law pays less than her ex-husband so her kids do their best to manually extract their teeth when they're staying over at his house. My sister reminded me that we used to get a bag of pic 'n' mix when we lost one.

What doesn't seem to be in dispute though is the manner in which the tooth is left for the fairy, whatever guise he, she or it comes in. It seems to be standard practice to leave the tooth under the pillow. Except in our house where The Boy lives in a parallel universe in which parents leave the tooth buried under salt in an egg cup. What?? This caused many many raised eyebrows amongst friends, none of whom had ever heard of this tradition, even his sisters who swear this didn't happen in their house. So, that's what we did. The poor tooth fairy had to ferret around in an egg cup full of large-grain sea salt and then try and bury the measly 50p back under it so that The Monkey could get it all over his fingers in the morning and then need 3 gallons of water after he'd licked them thinking it was sugar. When I questioned The Boy as to where exactly this "tradition" of his came from, he admitted he had absolutely no idea. Clearly he had made it all up, just like when I told everyone I knew that Jon Bon Jovi lived down the road.

And so a tradition has now started in our house. One in which it seems we will get away with minimal contributions for lost teeth (just as well with three of them) but which is going to cost far more in sea salt and egg cups.  I may just tell them all now that it's all a big joke and that Father Christmas doesn't exist either.

Bah Humbug

Monday, 28 January 2013

Elvis Blue, pickled bodies and a roving gunman

I've stayed in some fairly ropey places in my time (The Travelodge in Covent Garden springs to mind) and some fairly swanky places but only in South Africa would you get such a dichotomy  -  a lovely civilised guest house with wrap around balcony directly on the beach with a warning that a scary hooded gunman might like to leapfrog over said balcony and avail himself of you or your ipod. It doesn't make for a great night's sleep. I first spotted this sign as I went for a walk along the beach at sunset and had to shimmy up the pole to check this man was indeed sporting a balaclava and brandishing a handgun as I had been rather lulled into a false sense of security by a sign on the other side of my balcony asking me to call the local penguin police should I find a stray one on the beach.  At 4.30 am as the sun was coming up I fleetingly considered taking a look at the sunrise over the ocean - surely all good gunmen were in bed at that time or at least back home assessing the night's pickings. Then I decided against it, hid all my valuables (principally my new pair of orange Havaianas) from view and slunk back to bed for another couple of hours.

 Jeffrey's Bay - that's where I've been for the first time  - visiting my friend Louis who you may remember had a bad accident and then a massive stroke.  I tell you , there's nothing like seeing a close friend who was once a super-fit surfer but is now confined to a wheelchair to make you realise you just don't know what's around the corner.

Sorry, I can't come out tonight ,
I've got a splitting headache
Elvis Blue and Frazzled Boo
So, greedy for firsts, I notched up another couple - I met and experienced the warm embrace of the winner of South African Idol, Elvis Blue, and gawped at my first dissected human head (not his - the two events were  unconnected) at the Body Worlds exhibition in Cape Town. What a shocker - I'd always wanted to go to this and it lived up to expectations - gruesomely mesmerising, looking at this guy was like watching the initial auditions for X-factor - you can't quite believe what you're seeing and can't imagine many things worse but someone has super-glued your eyelids open and told you that if you don't look then they'll pour your last bottle of Tanqueray down the sink. Honestly, it was astonishing. You could get so close to this guy that you could see the individual hair follicles on his chin and a tiny freckle on his head. There were also preserved male and female bladders - unsurprisingly the male version was much smaller than the female - I always thought men felt duty bound to slope off to the gents every 5 minutes in the pub but it seems it's genuinely forced upon them because their bladders can only hold a quarter of a pint of lager at a time. Ours, however, has to bear the weight of twins on it for 9 months. We are superior to men in so many ways.

And so that was my fleeting weekend in my favourite country (I know I've said Denmark is my favourite but it's always been South Africa - I was just saying that to please the Danes). So how nice it was to arrive back at Heathrow to find (eventually) my car under 5 inches of snow. Uncharacteristically I had made a note of the zone and row number which was just as well given it had even snowed on both number plates. I wasn't, however, organised enough to change out of said orange Havainanas before attempting to find said car. We live and learn as they say.

From this..... this

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Godmother - Part One

Me - with a cleavage

I think this is the "first" I am most proud of.

For some reason, and I can't imagine what that might be, no-one has ever asked me to be a godmother to their child before. I am 40 and haven't had any godchildren. I have only ever had a god-dog because my friend felt sorry for me and agreed to hand over responsibility for her chocolate labrador in the event of her or her husband or 5 year old son not being able to look after her.

Until just before Christmas when I got the phonecall I have always wanted.....

The definition of a godmother is...........well, there are several:

  • A cocktail made with Amaretto and vodka -how come I have never come across this??
  • "The Godmother" -a 2011 Romanian film - I know why I have never come across this.
  • "Godmother" - a 1999 Hindi film -  I also know why I have never come across this though apparently it won lots of India.
  • Griselda Blanco - the "godmother of cocaine" who was thought to have ordered dozens of murders in Miami's drug wars and was killed outside a butchers shop. 
  • A female arranged to be a legal guardian of a child if an untimely demise is met by both parents.

Having ruled out the first four on account of never having heard of any of them (apart from Griselda), I assume I am the fifth. However, there is a twist. As there isn't a religious significance to this I am not technically a godmother. I am, in fact, a BODGEMOTHER!

How proud am I to be deemed irresponsible enough to be a Bodgemother? I feel very honoured to have been bestowed such a task. I have racked my brains to think how I could have been chosen for this role and I can only imagine it rests on a comment my dear Bodgedaughter's mother made a few months ago when she was pregnant and I was availing myself of their spare room for the night......." I'm really worried about getting back to my usual ( read "happy go lucky, boozy, good time") self after the baby's born. Matt (husband) - who do you know who has bounced back and now enjoys a drink and a good night out whilst still having kids to look after?". "That'll be Boo"  he replied. Admittedly there was one other person though I can't remember who that is. But even so, that was possibly one of the proudest moments of my life.

So, the role of a godmother (for argument's sake, let's not be technical about the religious aspect here) is, principally, to take on responsibility for a child should both of that child's parents meet an early and sad demise. God forbid. It is not to be confused with a fairy godmother who is actually a fairy and acts as a mentor or guardian to said young person. As much as I like to think I have, I don't have magical powers and can't fly back from the pub or magic money into my wallet.

Apparently a godmother is responsible for the religious nourishment of their godchild. This will be why I am a bodgemother and not a godmother. The Boy has three godchildren and that involves buying them each a case of port from their birth year and then drinking it before they're old enough to realise they had a case of expensive investment in their godfather's garage.

So, in the absence of any strict rules for a "bodgeparent" I vow to support my bodgedaughter in the following while she is growing up:

  • She can possibly come and stay while her parents are getting pissed at some wedding overseas because they go to about 28 weddings a year and I don't go anywhere anymore because I'm 40 and have three of my own little blighters.

  • I will take her for her first martini (mojito actually - apart from the ones I had in San Francisco, I hate martinis
  • I will make her a drawstring bag for her judo kit.
  • I will teach her roman numerals so she can shine in pub quizzes. At least in the roman numeral category.
  • I will play her non-stop Eminem so her first word is ********
  • I will NOT take her camping. That is for her parents or one of the other bodgeparents, I love the outdoors but I draw the line somewhere.

A bodgeparent's responsibilities are not to be taken lightly. I am aware that I now have to behave like a bad aunt and hope like hell that, should her parents actually meet a sad and untimely demise, she doesn't choose me as her guardian. A bodgeparents role could backfire badly. You teach them all the really bad things and then inherit a child who has benefiitted from your wisdom.

Matt & Ells, please drive really carefully until she is at least 18 and don't give her cider when she's 18 months  old like my parents did. That's my job!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Resolution? Revolution!

So, what do you do when you're a middle-aged (I guess I am) mother - not a housewife because I actually work full time though I do have the luxury of doing so from home - and you're having a quick mid afternoon G&T , I mean cup of tea? You leaf through the Ocado magazine that arrived with your milk-soaked shopping delivery and check out what all good middle-aged mothers should be doing which, apparently, is making New Year's resolutions. Personally I gave up on that when I was about 7 (must not pick my nose) because I have about as much hope of sticking to one as I have of getting the kids to bed without a fight or working in the wine trade and being tee-total.

The following ten (ten?? is one trial by torture not enough?) are what Ocado recommend which, to be honest, aren't that original and have no doubt been dreamed up by a panel of readers comprised of middle-aged mothers across the middle-class provinces of Britain (or at least the parts south of halfway that Ocado deliver to - who said the north south divide was extinct?) who were, at exactly the same time as me, pouring themselves their first G&T, sorry, cup of tea, of the day.

1.Drink more water
Proof, if it were needed, that I am
adhering to "Revolution No 1"
This is extremely difficult. I appreciate that it's supposed to be vital for all known forms of life (excluding me) but it really is the dullest drink known to man. Apparently some bottled waters taste different from others. I'm supposed to have an educated palate but give me a bottle of Ribena to improve it any day. My objective is to drink more sherry. It has water in it, which helps, but it's very underrated, is far tastier, there are more varieties and I really shouldn't be wasting precious water when the Aussies need it to put out their fires.

2. Get Fit
More people join gyms in January than at any other time of the year and 99% of those give up within about 3 nanoseconds of swiping their shiny new membership cards at the gate which is surely designed to keep you in rather than out. Gyms are a complete waste of time unless you want to go and ogle some muscle (Mmm). I've been a member of more gyms than Joan Collins has had husbands and it's never done me any good. My version of this resolution would have been to stay fit having already achieved the glowing halo of someone who can run 13 miles and still look like they don't need a pint of cider. Unfortunately I got complacent (lazy) and only went for my first run in two months on Friday. This was principally because when I stopped training I lost weight (so why get fit in the first place I ask myself) and then put it all back on in the space of 6 hours on Christmas Day. I'm going on my mission of mercy to South Africa next Friday and I'm aware that I may have to go to the beach (oh dear) so I may have to run a few miles before my plane takes off just to shift that extra sherry. Having been for the second run of the year today though I have decided to "improve" my fitness, not "get some fitness".

3. Get more sleep
Everybody's favourite bedtime saying
Actually, this is the one I do agree with. I am a knackered mother-of-three. I have a full time job. I occasionally go for a run. I make things. I read a lot. I go out and I sometimes work away. I have to deal with childrens' bedtime which is like a day spent in your worst work-meeting ever but worse and without a pay-rise. And then I go to bed at 11 which is stupid. I spend half my life wishing my children could get themselves to bed after me and then don't go to bed till 11. Luckily The Boy is a star and I am absolved from attending to most nighttime disturbances because a) I pretend to be asleep, b) I'm on the side of the bed furthest from the door and therefore from the crying and c) I can't see in the dark which is very dangerous for the children. Since the day my mum became ill I haven't slept. While she was ill I lay awake worrying about her and what would happen. Since she's died I lie awake being visited by images of her actually dying. They are horrific. I was there so I know. Perhaps I should cut down on the sherry. Let's face it,  I am in bed for 8 hours before I have to get up which is time enough - perhaps my resolution is just to get better quality sleep. Actually, more sherry then I think.

4. Learn to relax
Crikey, this is going to be a long post. Sorry.
I see no point in relaxing. What's the point? It's time you'll never get back. Although the opportunity to read a book in one sitting would be nice but those things don't happen once you have children. If you know it's not going to happen don't worry about it. Live a little.

5. Go somewhere exciting
Interestingly, in the article, Ocado don't seem to recommend actually going somewhere. They seem to merely recommend sitting in your armchair with the latest issue of Conde Nast Traveller. The article must have been sponsored by Conde Nast. I reckon go somewhere different. In March I am going to Dusseldorf. It's work so I wouldn't say it's exciting but I've never been so I reckon that counts.

6. Spend time with my family
A couple of weeks ago I seem to recall my friend saying "you're the least likely mother". This is because I am constantly whingeing about my kids. I am sure having only one would be a piece of cake (though not my one) but, as any mother of multiples will know, more than one of the same age has the potential to put you in a psychiatric unit before you would normally think appropriate). For the record, I absolutely adore my children and I would do anything for them. But time on your own is equally important.Plus it's the only time The Boy and I aren't hurling knives at eachother. So here's a resolution -  to have more time away from them. Nothing wrong either with going away on your own. The extra day I had in San Francisco on my way back from NZ last year did me the world of good. I maintain to this day that it has made me a better mother and can only have had long term benefits.

7. Eat Better
Interestingly, before I read this Ocado article (which basically advocates eating fruit and veg) I had been to Waitrose and bought a load of veg with which to make myself a super-healthy roast veg lunch. I did - it was delicious. But then I emailed The Boy and suggested jacket spuds for dinner and he ordered me to get my arse to the butchers to get a couple of big rib-eyes to have with a healthy portion of dauphinoise potatoes. I am salivating as I type. So, don't eat better in the sense of depriving yourself of anything that is remotely normal. Improve fitness and eat what the hell you like. Including the leftover childrens' tea, especially if it's chicken goujons or fish fingers.

8. Try something new
Ocado are talking specifically about recipes here. My mantra from the start of this blog was to do anything new, no matter how small. I know the things I do may seem pathetic and trifling to some of you daredevils out there but at least they're things I haven't done before which I reckon all counts.

9. Drink less booze
WHAT? I've just signed a decree that says I will drink more sherry. Ocado reckons we should try and aim low alcohol-wise. What is the point in that? Sorry Banrock Station 5.5% alcohol Shiraz Rose but I would rather dig a tunnel to Australia with my tongue than get you anywhere near it.

10. Be Greener
"Buy a compost bucket"it says. We have one. Unfortunately it's at the other end of the garden and I'm not which means when it's raining, windy, snowing, icy, drizzling, grey, I'm in the middle of a cup of tea (sorry, sherry), or a day in the week ending in a "y" then  it doesn't happen. If I leave the scraps on the floor under the table, my gannet twins or new kitten might hoover them up instead. Which effectively is being green anyway. Alternatively I could buy myself a nice fitted green velvet jacket which I've always fancied. Or I could be bluer and get a navy one.

Whichever way, I can't win, as I expect you'll hold me to them......

Friday, 4 January 2013

Manchester - So much to answer for.....

An average Monday morning commute
down the Mancunian Way. No wonder
my house had slugs on the walls.

Manchester - home of persistent precipitation in varying degrees of wetness, Abduls Kebabs, the largest student population in Europe and the best quiff since TinTin got his head stuck in a tub of Brylcreem . I'm talking about +Morrissey here - godfather of the 80s northern music revolution and provider of many a good night out for me. Oh and I forgot about Britain's best football team - Manchester City.

I've had two bouts of living in Madchester. Despite my parents' protestations and their belief that Oxford or Cambridge might have been nicer places for them to visit at weekends (and nothing to do with the fact that I skived off school too much and wasn't clever enough to get into either anyway), I lived my student life in Manchester. Where could have been better? The UK's biggest student population so plenty of like-minded layabouts, the best music scene in the world and still only an hour and a half away from mum's washing machine. In spite of the amount of snakebite I consumed during that three year period, I seem to remember quite a lot and so it was amazing to go on a bus ride down memory lane (the Number 111 down Oxford Road) on a predictably wet Thursday before Christmas. Walking up Oxford Road towards the university nearly 20 years on  I almost cried with emotion - Abdul's is still there but bigger and flashier and they seem to have cleaned the vomit up off the walls. The university refectory where I sat gazing out of the rain spattered windows as the ambulances hurtled past when the IRA bombed the city in December 1992. The bus stop outside the BBC at which I was rudely interviewed by a TV crew after having pulled an allnighter - they asked whether I found bald men sexy. What a question for 8am. Unfortunately my mum's friend called her later that day to say she had seen me on TV and that I looked a little unwell and was maybe overdoing it. The BBC building has now been demolished to make way for their swanky media city in Salford. Money well spent I'm sure. 

Anyway, further up the road the bus stopped outside my old house - this was the house I've mentioned before where a charming man relieved us of our video player. It was in Moss Side - an infamous area and one where gangs routinely fought out their battles in the forecourt of the petrol station across the road - and just down the road from the Pattie & Dumpling Shop where Benji Stanley was shot dead. It was a real shocker at the time - he was just a 14 year old kid and apparently only a few years ago the police discovered it was a case of mistaken identity. I tell you, when you've lived in Moss Side and are lulled to sleep every night by the drone of a police helicopter sweeping the alleyways between the houses, you can handle just about anything. I'd like to think it toughened me up but I still have a pathological fear of goats cheese.                                                        
                                                    Curle on Curl action
Curly Watts - my all time favourite
City fan. Perhaps.
Keith Curle - one time player and big head.
"I'll have 50 quid on myself to score the 1st goal"
"Sorry, and you are........?"
So, what has Manchester ever done for us? It's produced Man City, the club I worked at when I was a student taking bets in the executive boxes from soap stars (Curly from Coronation Street) and working for a Morrissey lookalike called Rob whose false teeth (not sure why he had them, he was only about 26) used to fall out when City scored. Then after a midweek match we'd measure and tweak his quiff and go with him to Smiths Night at a club in town - I'd like to say it was at the Hacienda but I think that's my mind playing wishful tricks on me - and slope around to the dulcet tones of Morrissey wishing for a quick death by jugganaut or telling Manchester it had so much to answer for.

Honestly, I could go on about Manchester for hours as you can see. I'm in love with it and always have been. Mancunians call a spade a spade (the jacket potato shop "Spud-u-like" has been replaced by a fast food joint called "Fatso's"),  Man City have a better stadium than Utd (technically Old Trafford isn't even within the city's boundaries. Ha! and let's face it, 99% of Utd supporters haven't ever set foot in Manchester - take The Boy for example), it produced the world's first computer and also split the atom. It gave us New Order, The Smiths, Oasis, The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses amongst others and, rather bizarrely, is twinned with Puerto Cabazas in Nicaragua about which I can't tell you much at all. Indeed anything. Do they get earthquakes in Nicaragua? You do in Manchester. The earth literally moved for me there...

I would go and live there again though would possibly have to do so on my own as there's no way I'd get The Boy up there. His nose starts to bleed if he goes north of Cirencester.

Mad for it!