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).