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.....
......to 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 awards............in 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!