Monday, 31 December 2007

The Visit

David, Matthew and Mackenzie went off at sparrows cough this morning for what is fast becoming a tradition in our household: a round of golf on New Years Eve. Lydia arrived with pastries from Ayres at a slightly more civilised time and to continue where she left off on Christmas Day: refereeing between myself and Amelia. My mother in law, since she got little or no mileage out of picking up random objects and asking me if they should be where they are, has taken to harrumphing loudly and saying “well, if I’m in the way, just tell me!”. Oh, I can almost taste the words forming on my lips.

She’s here until Wednesday when Ginny is arriving to take her home with her for a couple of days. Ginny has the constitution of an ox and managed to completely ignore her mother all day on Christmas Day and much of Boxing Day – I’m thinking of asking her for lessons on how to do that. Lydia and I had just settled in for a good old natter at the kitchen table when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it!” carolled Amelia, falling over Senior Dog in the hall “It’s only Margaret!”. Margaret?

“You go in there lovie, Margaret and I will be in here. Any chance of some tea or do I have to do everything myself?” Amelia’s voice really grates on me sometimes but my pithy retort was halted by the arrival of an angry looking lady of indeterminable age who plonked herself down at the table, pulled out a packet of B&H and waved them under my nose? “Do you mind?” she asked before lighting up and inhaling half the cigarette in one fell swoop. My answer academic, I asked the obvious question. “Erm, sorry, who are you? Sorry!” I wibbled as if I didn’t have the right to know who the hell was in my house.

It turns out that the angry lady inhaling lungfuls of tar at my kitchen table was Clare, daughter in law of Margaret Casey who was, at that very moment with my own mother in law, sharing horror stories of their Christmases with their respective families. Amelia and Margaret live opposite each other at the residential home in Sevenoaks and are firm friends. It turns out that Amelia, fed up of our company, had rang Margaret on her hefty chunky mobile phone and invited her over. Of course, Margaret had to enlist the help of her daughter in law to get here from Blackheath. And here they both were, one smoking her head off and the other waiting on a nice cup of tea and slice of Christmas cake.

“I’ll have this and I’ll be off. Pick her up about 1-ish, is that okay?” Clare lit up another cigarette and puffed on it with some restraint this time. A bellowing voice from the living room stopped us all in our tracks. “No, you’ll wait here for me, I shan’t be long. Once I’ve had my tea. Is it made yet?” Margaret had spoken. Lydia, obviously thinking along the same lines as me – get the tea made and them out – filled the kettle. “Erm……” I began as Clare stubbed out her cigarette and appeared to be doing some deep breathing exercises. “She’s. Driving. Me. Mad. !!!” she hissed as she exhaled.

Margaret certainly looked harmless enough when I took their tea in – a sweet little old lady in mauve twinset and comfortable brogues with corrugated white hair and a walking stick. But then, the same could be said for Amelia: someone who favours Tweed perfume, snazzy matching outfits, rollered and set silver hair and pudgy little cheeks. But I know that she’s a vicious old bag when the mood takes her so who am I to judge? “I’ve just been telling Margaret about my spa day!” Amelia enthused as I handed over the last of the Christmas cake (that I’d been planning to scoff tomorrow).

I’d struck gold with this years Christmas present. In fact, so good was it, she had literally nothing bad to say about it. But did manage to comment that it was a waste to wrap a plain white envelope with “gaudy shiny paper”. It’s a day for two people, at the local spa in Sevenoaks, with a whole host of deluxe pre-paid treatments. It cost well over a hundred quid but, oh, it was so worth it just to see her have to smile and graciously thank me. David played a blinder too by admitting it was nothing to do with him, and that it was all my idea. “I’m so looking forward to it!” Margaret beamed as she sunk her gnashers into my cake.

Margaret is, to the best of my knowledge, the third person Amelia has “promised” this little jaunt to. I already had words with her on Wednesday when I heard her invite Junie Ellison “I shall make my mind up who to take nearer the time” she had huffed. And now it seems her list has grown. Ah well, I’ve paid for two OAPs to be prodded and poked – any extra ones will have to divvy up on the day. I left them “surfing the interweb” as Amelia showed her the “email site”.
“She’s not on your computer is she?” Clare demanded as I returned to the kitchen. Lydia looked quite scared and was clutching her mug of tea as protection. “Honestly, she’s just taken an internet course and she’s never off the bloody thing. She Google’d something the other day and a load of porn sites came up – I can’t get my Harvey off the sodding thing now. But then he’s at that funny age.”

Still. Things calmed down a bit after that. More tea was made and we heard all about Clare’s Christmas with her MIL. Harvey, her fifteen year old son, was castigated on Christmas Day for dressing “all in black, I suppose you’re one of those Toff’s”. She of course meant Goth, which he is. On Boxing Day he appeared in black jeans and a fluorescent pink T-shirt by way of protest and was accused of “going queer overnight”. As it seemed best to just let Clare ramble on, Lydia and I were fairly redundant but for making tea and providing things for our guests to shovel into their mouths. Lydia gestured that it was coming up to 12noon and that the quiche (a posh Quiche Lorraine) needed to go in the oven. I gestured in no uncertain terms that I was not going to share it with our (unwelcome) visitors and Lydia choked on her tea. Still Clare was ranting. “And it’s not as if I can offload her on the second. She’s here until the 11th – it’s her birthday on the fifth, Harvey’s on the eighth and the anniversary of her husband carking it on the tenth and we’ve all got to go and stand round a bench in the crem. Poor old sod, bet he’s having a whale of a time up there without her.”

We were interrupted by Margaret and Amelia, both flushed and looking guilty. Before I could ask them what the hell they had just Google’d, Margaret clapped her hands together. “Now then!” she said in a piercing voice. “We’re going to Dublin!” Amelia burst out, slapping a hand over her mouth and all but bouncing up and down on the spot. “Dublin?” I said, at the same time as Clare said “When?”.

It transpires that our intrepid mother in laws had found, booked and paid for both flights and accommodation in the time it took us to meander through The Casey Christmas Day Extravaganza (roughly 50 minutes). “What made you suddenly decide to go to Dublin?” Lydia asked as she seemed to be the only one with the power of speech. “It’s not just you young ones that have whims you know, we just decided!” Amelia said, tapping her curls to make sure they hadn’t slipped out of place in all the excitement. “We fly out on the 28th and get back in on the 1st!” Margaret added. “I’ve always wanted to go to Dublin.” Amelia said wistfully as she escorted Margaret out to look for her bag and coat. “Are you going to sit around all day drinking tea or are you going to take me home?” Margaret barked at Clare from the front door. Clare, who was mid muffin and completely unconcerned that her mother in law had booked an Irish mini break, uttered a swear word and stomped out without so much as a thank you.

Our visitors left in a flurry of bickering leaving Amelia giddy with excitement and reaching for her phone to advise all and sundry of her impending trip, me baffled and Lydia putting the quiche in the oven in a dazed fashion. What the hell is David going to say about his 74 year old mother heading over to the Emerald Isle. And do the good people of Dublin’s Fair City know what they’re letting themselves in for?

Happy New Year!!!!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Good will running out

I'm exhausted. I've been smiling constantly since Christmas Day, not worrying that Aunt Daisy had dropped a pint of milk all over the kitchen floor, letting family rows wash over my head and trying not to murder my mother in law. No judge in the land would find me guilty of murder, I've been severely provoked for nigh on a week now. I've taken to sitting on my hands (when I'm not nervously nibbling my nails) and turning my head away from her every time she walks in the room.

It went as well as could be expected, the Big Day I mean. Mackenzie had gone from being a whirling dervish of excitement on Christmas Eve to a cool, calm, controlled child who opened each present carefully (after noting who had "been helping Santa out"), studying it intently and saying thank you before moving on to the next. It took a while, especially when people kept arriving with presents. I sound so ungrateful but I'm not - the boy did extremely well and was happy to parcel up some of his old toys to take to the St Christopher's Shop in East Dulwich on Friday. The dogs, on the other hand, had to be barricaded into our bedroom because they insisted on ripping off the wrapping of each present, often without warning. Darren, carrying a neatly wrapped DVD across the room to David, had it ripped from his hands by Junior Dog and opened in three seconds flat.

Lunch was a triumph. We toasted absent friends which choked me up, especially when I caught Dad's eye. However, the crashing from the kitchen as four baking trays and the bowls for the Christmas pud slid off the draining board reminded me that Mum was in fact with us. I could almost hear her say "How many times have I told you not to balance your draining dishes?"

Christmas Dinner conversations included just what exactly Braxton Hicks contractions meant - impending birth or what? For it was Janey who spent the entire day alternately stuffing her face and clutching her stomach (festively draped in a holly berry red Cashmere jumper) and worrying. Auntie Ivy hovered three inches above whatever seat she were "sitting" on in preparation for the dash to hospital. We also tried to work out exactly where Janey's baby would sit in our family tree. By dessert we had worked out that she would be a second cousin of either me or Mac and would have debated further but for Saskia asking plaintively if we could stop using the term "second cousin" - "It sounds like something out of Little Inter Breeding On The Wold" she said as she emptied the last of the Shloer into her glass.

We watched The Queen at Ginny's insistence - all very heartwarming and so on but really wish I believed that HRH had just an inkling of what's really going on in homes across the country. Does she really believe that we've all got family photos in silver frames on the baby Grand? Mine are on top of the computer table. I ventured this opinion which set off a glorious row between Uncle Jim, Amelia, Ginny and Jack - it lasted almost until chucking out time. Charlie spent five minutes trying to open the passenger door to what she thought was Saskia's car until Saskia pointed out - from across the road - that she was attempting to break into a strangers BMW.

Boxing Day - after watching a glorious win at the Den - was spent at Bea's. Bea's Boxing Day Bashes are things of legend. I arrived with a hundred-weight of prawn parcels which Enormous Au Pair (EAP) bore off never to be seen again. Caitlin and Ian were covered in paint and unveiled the first of their masterpieces to the gathered crowds. Bea tried to start off a bidding war but had to concede defeat when she realised that the running buffet was still in the kitchen and not running into the dining room. EAP was "sampling" everything before she bought it out. "There were fifty iced biscuits on that tree yesterday morning - today I counted just five!" Bea fumed as she whisked past with a vat of mulled wine.

Thursday and Friday were spent having a half hearted detox and finding places for new presents - and weaning the dogs off of opening the unopened (and undelivered) presents still under the tree. This weekend has been spent in a blur as I contemplate 2007 and wonder what the hell 2008 has in store for me and mine. Oh, and ignoring Amelia who keeps holding things up and saying "do you want this" and "should this be here?". I'm doing an admirable job - she's now started asking David the same questions and his answers of "how the hell am I supposed to know" and "don't ask me" are infuriating her even more than my silence.

Now, there's an unopened bottle of Hardy's here somewhere......unless Amelia has moved it.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas....

The first turkey is sizzling in the oven, Amelia is tiddly on the mulled wine, David is still finding things for Mac's stocking, all three dogs are sparko in the utility room having been run off their paws today in Dulwich Woods, Mackenzie is glued to the window looking for Santa on his sleigh and I'm taking this opportunity to wish you and yours a very merry christmas......and a blogging new year!

with love from Nunhead Mum of One x

Friday, 21 December 2007

Lists

I’m a devil for a list. Or four. I have to have a list or I don’t feel “complete”. I’ve been known to have a “to-do” list, achieve something not on the list, write it on and then tick it. That's not normal is it? But the sense of satisfaction that gives me is really quite thrilling. I currently have a “done” list, a “to-do” list, a “to remember” list, a “shopping” list and a “not a hope in hell” list. They’re written on scrappy bits of paper in increasingly stressed writing but…..here’s the best bit……my “done” list is neat and tidy and would be worth an A plus and a gold star if it were being marked.

My “done” list is not as long as I would like. It includes “turkeys collected and in fridge”, “Mac’s stocking”, “mulled wine ingredients” and “presents wrapped”. My “to do” list includes such gems as “hand deliver all hand deliverable cards” and “make gravy using giblets”. My “to remember” list reminds me to “get fresh straw for Becks” and “keep all peanuts away from Auntie Daisy” – not because of an allergy but because she throws them into her mouth rather like a performing seal and it irritates me immensely.

My shopping list is a work of art and is longer than the provisions I already have in. I’m taking solace in the fact that most of the stuff on the list can only really be bought nearer Christmas but it does involve arm to arm combat in Sainsburys with about 600 other rabid shoppers. I might see if David wants to take his mother tomorrow. Although, actually, no. Last time I sent him shopping for Christmas food (I had a temperature of 104 and raging flu) he came back with an anorexic turkey, one lump of broccoli, two carrots and a pint of milk – “it was like the end of the world!” he said hoarsely when he returned. It was a very lean Christmas, food wise, that year.

My “not a hope in hell” list tells me to “be extremely tolerant of Amelia”, “do not leave Uncle Jim with the brandy bottle” and “return David’s amorous overtures on Christmas morning without fretting about sprouts and basting birds”. Sometimes I think my life would be easier if I could throw all caution to the wind and just let things happen – but the control freak in me (she’s currently racing to the fore because I can see Amelia meddling with the order of my fridge shelves) won’t let me.

But I have a cunning plan.

I have convinced Amelia that she and Jack Next Door should go to Marjorie’s Mulled Wine and Mince Pies shindig together and that David should go with them as chaperone. I dropped a few hints that Jack and his mother are past the holding hands stage and now is his chance to foil her romantic shenanigans as she surely foiled his in the past. He's upstairs now getting ready.

While they will be suffering at the hands of the Stewarts, I shall be opening a rather nice bottle of fizz and will watch Eastenders and UKTV Gold with a smoked salmon canapé or five.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Father and Son

Mac finished nursery yesterday lunchtime – their final morning was spent listening to Christmas stories and threading popcorn onto string to take home to “decorate your trees!”. Mac’s is sitting in a tangle on the kitchen table where he left it yesterday. “You will remember to pick me up mummy won’t you?” my child asked me as we trotted merrily along the road. There was a lot of history in this comment. I’m fine with the usual 3.30pm pick ups – any earlier and my brain freezes. “I won’t forget, I promise” I sniggered up my sleeve for a treat was in store for our wonderful child. David was to collect him and take him Christmas present shopping and to see the Oxford Street lights.

This jaunt gave me the ideal opportunity to wrap up the last of the presents and to assemble Mac’s stocking which took longer than anticipated thanks to my habit of buying things and “putting them somewhere safe”. As I started shopping for Mac’s stocking in August of this year, there’s a lot of places to look. I’ve inherited this from my mother: many is the time around mid May she would suddenly bring out a Terry’s Chocolate Orange that she’d “put somewhere safe”. I also spent half an hour on the phone with Amelia as we discussed the final plans for her arrival tomorrow. David will be collecting her, two turkeys, half a pig (that she ordered from the farm for me and forgot to tell me!), assorted sausage meat and freshly sliced streaky bacon. “They’ll be done and plucked tomorrow” she informed me, referring to the turkeys bearing my name. I bet they will, well and truly.

At ten to two I heard from the intrepid shoppers “We got on a train mummy and then another underland train and then we climbed lots of stairs and now we’re shopping!” Mac was beside himself with excitement and both of them were driving David up the wall. “He’s never still!” he said to me in a surprised tone of voice when he finally wrestled the phone from Mac. “And he’s always talking!” he added, pausing to bellow “Come here, stand still and hold my hand!!!!” into the distance. With visions of Mackenzie being trampled by over-eager shoppers (or worse) I expressed some concern that David had not yet noticed the all singing, all dancing person that is his son. “Of course I know he’s always talking and running around. But you’re always there to distract him” he added rather forlornly. Assuring David that Mac will calm down eventually, I bade him farewell. And then laughed like a drain for five minutes.

Presents wrapped, stocking done, husband and child roaming the metropolis I rang all of my guests who were coming to us on Christmas Day – it’s the mark of a thoughtful hostess according to Bea. I rang Janey first who complained that she’s suffering from wind. “Aw, this time next year you’ll have your bundle of joy!” I cooed. “Sod that” she belched “This time next month I’ll be up to my eyes in smelly nappies and nipple pads”. Hm. Not overly festive in their household yet then. I rang Auntie Ivy who promised to bring me “two dozen mince pies, don’t buy any”. I eyed the boxes of Tesco’s Finest mince puffs on the dresser and mentally diverted them to Marjorie’s shindig tomorrow night. Aunt Daisy sounded plastered already as she was “test sipping which sherry to bring on the day”. Ginny next but she was out so I left her a message on her arthritic sounding answering machine. Dad told me that he’d bring the new hutch round on Christmas Eve - Becks is showing signs of boredom and is putting on weight so Dad has built him a multipurpose hutch, with stairs and integrated toys and everything. Okay, so it’s bigger than the garden but as long as the bunny is happy. And there’s clearly a gap in the market for bunny gyms so he might be onto a winner with this one.

Charlie and Saskia said they’d be here at about half past eleven. One is picking the other up and they’ve both promised to bring champagne and truffles. Lydia put me on hold for three minutes while she castigated a marquee man who “hadn’t put it up where the client wanted it and now the client is suing for crushed bushes” before letting me know that she and Matt will be with us at about “12-ish and we’re bringing champagne and smoked salmon nibbly things". Jack Next Door will be providing “all the nuts we could want” and will be with us after 1pm.

Talking of nuts, David rang me from John Lewis sounding extremely frazzled. “I’m ringing to admit what I’ve done before I get home and am grassed up by my own flesh and blood” he said in a defeated tone. In order to ensure Mac’s attention, good behaviour and his presence at David’s side at all times in “the sheer bloody crush of people in the immediate mile and a half vicinity”, David had resorted to buying a Snap Trax Bob The Builder Carwash and Garage as a bribe. “But mummy,” David was still talking “I’ve told him he can only have it when we get home AND if he’s been a good boy for the rest of the time we’re out.” I could hear Mac singing “Bob the Builder” very loudly in the background. I promised David fish and chips for dinner and reassured him that he was doing a great job.

He was glad to get back to work today!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Twelve Days of Turkey


On the first day of Christmas my true love said to me
“I’m glad we bought a turkey and a proper Christmas tree.”
On the second day of Christmas, much laughter could be heard
As we tucked into turkey, a most delicious bird.
On the third day of Christmas, we had people from next door
The turkey tasted just as good as it did the day before.
On the fourth day of Christmas, with relations, young and old
We finished off the cake and pud and ate the turkey cold.
On the fifth day of Christmas, outside, as snowflakes flurried,
We were nice and warm inside, ‘cause we had turkey curried.
On the sixth day of Christmas, the Christmas spirit died,
The children fought and bickered, we had turkey rissoles fried.
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love he did wince
When he sat down to supper and was offered turkey mince.
On the eighth day of Christmas, the dog ran off for shelter,
I’d served up turkey pancakes and a glass of alka seltzer.
On the ninth day of Christmas, by midday Dad was blotto,
He said he had to have a drink, to face turkey risotto.
By the tenth day of Christmas we were left with just home brew,
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we suffered turkey stew.
On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Christmas tree was moulting,
The mince pies were as hard as rock, the turkey quite revolting.
On the twelfth day of Christmas a smile framed my love’s lips,
The guests had gone, the turkey too, we dined on fish and chips.

Christmas presence

I had a girly night in last night – David was out at the cricket club’s Christmas do with Matthew and Saskia had planned a Council of War at my house: she’s got her eye on a handsome new buyer at work and she’s planning to get her claws into him at their Christmas party on Friday. Charlie came along to offer advice and exclusive use of her make-up kit. Lydia came along for the ride because she was on “taxi” duty for the party goers. I’d had a busy and productive afternoon sorting out the Cupboard at the Top of the Stairs which houses all of the junk that “will come in useful one day”. I counted fifteen photo frames, five Bibles and a complete set of “How to Play the Piano” circa 1972. And I threw away a couple of battered silver platters and a bag of dusty balls of wool.

By half past six we were all munching our way through Pizza Hut’s finest (my detox seems a long time ago now) when Mac came home from tea at friend Alex’s with his serious face on. “Mummy” said my tiny serious boy. “Alex’s mummy said that not everybody is lucky enough to get presents because Santa can’t afford to buy them for everyone”

“And, Alex’s mummy says that not everyone lives in a nice house with a fire and lots of food, some people live in boxes under railway bridges”. His bottom lip started trembling and I wanted to go outside to see if Joy was still revving up her Citroen 2CV so I could bash her brains out. I’m all for a social conscious but the boy is not yet four and still makes himself sick with excitement on Christmas Eve. “Is that true mummy? Do people live in boxes?”

Saskia snorted with laughter at this and he shot her A Look. I explained that yes, not everyone lives in a nice house or flat and has food and warmth and everything else that we all take for granted and that some people have to rely on the good will of others just to get through their day. Saskia’s snorts were getting louder. “Oh come on, what about that bloke! The one who assaults you and demands cash as you leave London Bridge station! I saw him once getting out of a BMW on Tower Bridge Road dressed in all manner of designer gear!”

Mac shot his godmother another Look and turned back to me, bottom lip still quivering. “Alex’s mummy said that there are lots of people in places that don’t even have Christmas because they’re poor. Mummy, that’s very sad isn’t it?” I was silently cursing Alex’s mummy. “Is this the happy clappy hippy that looks as if she’s tie-dyed her face?” Charlie asked as she covered Saskia’s cleavage in glitter.

Despite Mac’s claims that he “can’t live without that mummy”, the vast majority of the presents that he asked Santa for have gone by the wayside. He’s getting a bike and one or two other “main” presents, he’s not a spoilt brat by any stretch of the imagination but I could tell that he was struggling with himself. And possibly losing. “Mummy, I’m going to ask Santa to give all of my presents to the people who don’t have Christmas” he announced, his little chin set at a determined angle as he plonked himself down by the Christmas tree.

Logistically, this is a nightmare and, however proud I am of my little cherub for giving up his Christmas presents so happily, I didn’t relish explaining to everyone that they’ve got to now send their thoughtfully chosen gift via airmail somewhere. Anywhere. Lydia took control of the situation but somehow made it worse. “Nobody wants to take your Christmas away honey, even those who don’t have their own. Rather than send them one of your presents, why don’t you send them one of their own?” she said as she fiddled with a jar of olives.

“How would we do that?” Mac asked, eyes huge as he gazed across the room at Lydia. “Well, there are websites that you can, you know, buy, erm, stuff for villages and places like that and, oh, they’re all doing it at work. Malcolm bought a couple of mosquito nets for Uganda.” Like the rest of us, Lydia was beginning to wish she hadn’t started this. “Can I buy something for Ganda?” Mac asked.

Suffice to say, five minutes later we were all squashed around the computer and flicking through this. Mac was quite disappointed that there were no sheep for sale (as he put it) but settled on a goat. He also wanted to buy the vet care kit so that “if the goat isn’t well they can make him better”. I explained that we couldn’t guarantee that both the goat and the kit would end up in the same place which provoked another avalanche of questions. “How will we wrap him mummy?” he said as I entered my credit card details. “And how will he get there?”

Once we’d dissuaded him of neatly wrapped goats dropping into the Ugandan equivalent of the Post Office he was off on another trail “How will they know the goat’s from me, Lydiar?” he queried, having asked me to print off the picture of the goat and named him Alfred. “Well, they won’t really but you’ll know that you bought them a goat and that the goat is helping them” Lydia continued as the printer chugged out the picture. “So they won’t know that the goat is from me and my mummy paid for him and his name is Alfred?” he went on, peering at Lydia suspiciously. “Well, no, but that’s not the point. You’ve bought someone who doesn’t usually have Christmas a Christmas present. Just like you wanted to.” Lydia added, wrenching open the jar of olives in triumph.

Fortunately for her, Charlie distracted him by whisking him upstairs to the Cupboard On Top of The Stairs to find a nice frame to put Alfred in. “Never mind”, I told Lydia cheerfully as she threw olive after olive down her neck, “Alex’s mum would be proud of you”.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Busy, busy, busy....

Over the past three days I've cried at a Nativity, almost wept with pleasure over a dessert, danced to a steel band (and ate my body weight in mince pies, thanks Ayres!!), cheered and yelled at a football match and cursed at boy racers and selfish shoppers.

Is it any wonder that all I want to do this evening is slump in front of mindless television with a couple of sweet and sour king prawn balls from Great Wall on Nunhead Green and just......chill?

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Boot camp

"You have to be fit for the play tomorrow, you simply have to!" So spoke Bea at ten to ten this morning when she rang to see how I was. I was a snivelling, wheezing heap. I don't do "ill" at all graciously. "I mean it, sweet Mackenzie will be devastated if you're not there tomorrow, that sort of thing can scar a child for life! I will get you well, even if it kills me!". My sister has Sergeant Major tendencies, she'd just had a breakfast meeting and, apparently it wasn't worth attending, "not even for the Bollinger in the Bucks Fizz darling". I wheezed some more and reached for a Locket. "I'm on my way!" she boomed down the receiver.

She arrived at 11am with an extremely tiny young lady who was carrying an awfully large bag. I surveyed them from behind my bumper pack of Kleenex and tried not to sneeze: the poor girl would be splattered against the wall if I did that. "This is Shani" Bea bustled as she pushed me down onto the sofa, directed the bean bag under my legs and lifted said limbs.....all in the same movement. Shani looked impressed, as well she might. "Shani is a holistic healer and no, she's not here to do a nasal lavage, don't worry" Bea continued as she shed her coat and kicked off her shoes. Bea sat to one side, Shani to the other, both watching me intently. I coughed. Coughs mean sneezes. Then I blew my nose. Still they watched me intently. "I see" Shani said eventually, getting out an A4 book and writing my name at the top of a clean page. "Hm" said Bea.

We then had Twenty Questions: when was your last bowel movement, when is your last meal of the day, what is the first thing you put in your mouth each morning, do you eat citrus fruit past 4pm, do you eat carbs later than 6pm? Erm......yesterday, dinnertime at about 6pm-ish, toothbrush usually, no it makes me ill, of course - doesn't everyone?

For half an hour I was cross examined, Shani filled three pages and Bea recoiled in horror at some of my answers. The last one threw her completely. Shani asked what I'd eaten and drunk already today. "Well, I had the rest of Mac's rice crispies, chocolate from my advent calendar, an Ayres croissant with butter and jam, an apple, a Milky Bar, the left over scampi from last night, about five Lockets, a cup of tea, two coffees, four biscuits and a banana". Bea checked her delicate watch "But it's only half past eleven!" she said, bewilderment in her eyes. I believe in honesty, even though it looked as if there was a huge case being built against me.

Apparently, all is not lost. To cleanse my system of accumulated toxins I need to fast for a day, live on pineapple and grapefruit for another day and then eat little and often for a further three days. I must drink lots of sugar free drinks and abstain from coffee and tea (and hot chocolate I suppose) - this keeps the membranes of my respiratory tract well hydrated.

"Colds are a direct result of stress" Shani intoned as she rooted around in her bag. "Have you been stressed at all?" she continued. The last three (four? five?) months of my life passed before my eyes and I had to focus very hard on Bea's concerned expression to stop hyperventilating. "Well, erm, possibly" I muttered. "There are some quick fix remedies we can undertake now" Shani added getting two candle like instruments out and waving them under my nose.

Suffice to say that, 60 seconds later I was lying on my right side on the sofa being watched by all three dogs as Shani put one of these candle like instruments in my left ear and lit it. I could see my reflection in the blank TV screen: it looked like my head was on fire. Shani started humming and Bea started flicking through her Blackberry. This Hopi Ear Candling would, apparently, loosen any compacted ear wax, clear my throat and blocked nose and stimulate my blood and energy flow. Quite frankly, the sheer amount of wax in just one of the tubes was frightening - as Bea said "bloody hell, all that in one ear, how are you not deaf?". The second ear was just as full - I was quite light headed during my head massage and nearly fell asleep.

The next treatment involved the removal of my shoes and some reflexology. I swear I felt movement in my kidneys and a tickle in my bladder - but that could have been because Shani said that she was working on my "blockages" and that I'd feel a release of energy. "And other things!" Bea snorted. Shani shushed her and continued twiddling my toes.

Half an hour later I was sipping boiled water with a slice of lemon in it and not even yearning for a slice of the chocolate cake that I had planned to have for my elevenses. I felt an overwhelming urge to cry (quite usual according to Shani) but resigned myself to the odd sniffle of gratitude to both my sister and her "perfect precious lady" - the latter left me with a sachet to run into my bath tonight "eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, tea tree, echinacea, sage and lemon balm - all to soothe you", the former left me with instructions to get an early night with George Clooney (Oceans 12 is on tonight!).

I'm currently sitting here with absolutely no sign of a cough, rejuvenated and not even worrying that David and Mac had roast chicken for dinner while I fasted away. I can hear, without recourse to shushing everyone and everything and muting the television, the dogs grizzling in the garden as they toy with a rawhide bone and I can hear Mac murdering "Away in a Manger" in the bathroom, with accompanying splashes and deep baritone from his father.

I'm ready. Bring on Gorgeous George.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Bleurgh....

I missed the dress rehearsal of the Nursery Nativity today - I've been sneezing, coughing and spluttering since Saturday mid morning and am well and truly feeling sorry for myself. David has ordered me to keep my distance until I'm less contagious (but has been forcefeeding me hot lemon and honey), all three dogs are sulky and snappy with each other because they all want to be the one to "protect" me and Mac is too caught up with his performance to do anything other than keep opening boxes of tissues for me. In my sneezy, eye bleary state they're very tricky.

There's a lot of it going round said Charlie when she volunteered to go to the rehearsal this afternoon. Marjorie reckons that "it's the time of year for bugs". Frank is itching to get busy with the Vicks Vaporub and keeps offering to "whizz round". Bea has suggested that I have a nasal lavage (something that I think was suggested to Mary during her recent illness) and that she knows "the perfect precious lady to do it darling". My comments to all of the above were varied.

Personally, I think this is revenge. My body has hit me with a virus because I had the temerity to throw it into a state of confusion by giving it my all on the dance floor, scaring several consultants with my bared cleavage and bellowing the words to Tiffany's "I think we're alone now" at the top of my voice.

I'll get my own back one day.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Partay!

Never again will I mock the hangovers of others. Never again will I loudly crash around, pouring scorn on their aching heads and weary bodies. We had our work Christmas bash last night and the vodka was flowing a little too freely in my direction: my headache has only just receded and I'm as wobbly on my feet as a day old gazelle. David was fairly sympathetic between half seven and ten to nine this morning but then went into the "told you so" smug mode. "I did say that you should have eaten something before you went out" he said as he made me drink an Alka Selzter.

It was a good night though, stuffy consultants lost their inhibitions, surly ward sisters were seen to be smiling and our manager, who has been a vegetarian for five years, cracked and ate a chicken drumstick after slurping back nearly all of the famous Hospital Punch. I only left the dance floor to go to the bar and gossiped the night away with people who were amazed to see me back in the fold and demanded on a nearly four year catch up. Hard to do when you're giving it your all on the dance floor to Shakira.

I've got another two Festive Fridays to come: next Friday is David’s work do at a swanky restaurant (if only I could remember its effing name) and on the 21st the Stewarts are throwing open their house for all manner of festive frolics. David’s “do” will consist of the directors and their wives, no “underlings” allowed. This information was imparted to me by David’s PA (a lovely lady called Iris who swears like a trouper but turns into Doris Day when faced with authority) when I rang David earlier. “We’ve all been shunted off to the nearest crappy dive for our party” Iris huffed “still, at least they’re f***ing paying for it”. I plan to wear my gorgeous lovely shoes and David has already asked me to charm the MD into upping the Christmas bonuses. This may be a mistake and the directors could end up owing the company money. It’s nice to know that he has faith in my charm skills though.

The Stewarts are harking back to their days at Mermaid Court when “the whole cul-de-sac trooped through our house” and are hoping to recreate it in The Avenue. Jane Opposite (she’s been away having plastic surgery - her newly modelled and enlarged chest arrives ten minutes before the rest of her) has deemed it the perfect opportunity to “unveil these puppies in me Versace knock-off”. Jill With The Purple Door is making her famous mulled wine and Frank is bulk buying mistletoe.

I plan to stay at home with Mac and send David and Amelia (she arrives on the 21st and is staying until well into the New Year - I may will need therapy) whilst playing the “I’ve got all these presents to wrap so I can't possibly come” card.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Follow that star

Two Nursery Nativity rehearsals in and I'm fearing for the sanity of several teachers and some of the Yummy Mummies at the nursery who will discover that their child is not the next Big Thing a week today. It's really quite worrying, the sheer amount of pressure some parents put on their not yet four year old children.

Take today for example. Joseph - magnificently played by a young lad called, remarkably enough, Joseph Miller - has a lot of trouble not letting his mind wander for the five or so minutes after his big line about having a place for "me and my wife Mary". It is a lot for the kids to cope with and remember, especially when Mr Furnish keeps faffing about with the lights and sound. At Tuesday's rehearsal Joseph tried to engage the sheep in conversation about advent calenders and who's got the "bestest one". His au pair read heat magazine throughout. Today, mummy had replaced au pair and spent the entire time shouting above the children's babble of conversation and Miss Biddulph who was on her way to losing her temper with Mr Furnish who was having a hissy fit because the star wasn't hanging right. Mummy kept yelling "keep your head up and shoulders down" and "E-NUN-CI-ATE!" during Joseph's plea to the inn keeper (hilariously played by Mac's friend Ben who has obviously gone to the Derek Trotter School of Acting).

But all in all, things are looking pretty good. There was a slightly worrying moment during the Angel of the Lord speech when lovely Laura Jacobs forgot her lines and wailed into the darkness of the wings "Mummmeeee, what comes next?". The hymns (Away in a Manger and Once in Royal David's City) took my breath away with their simplicity - even though half of the children didn't have a clue what they were singing but bellowed "Once in Royal David's City stood a lonely apple shed" with all of their little hearts.

Magnificent. My own little star urged me to dissect his role in the play on the way home. I told him he was the very essence of all things sheepy which pleased him no end. "I'm an essence sheep!" he proclaimed when David arrived home (weary and bedraggled and cursing the crowds flocking to see the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree). "My little lamb!" David enthused from beneath three joyous woofers - his arrival home is an event for this household. "Lamb?" Mac queried darkly, shooting me A Look.

Well, said David as he boiled the pasta for Mac's dinner, how the hell was I supposed to know we had lamb chops for dinner?

Gobble-gobble!

It's great being back at work - there's just so much to do!

Monday, 3 December 2007

One for the locals.....


Double click on the poster to make it easier to read!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Falalalala.......lalalalaaaaa!

My house currently looks as if Santa has crash landed his sleigh in my living room and that Delia Smith has taken over my kitchen. I would have said Nigella Lawson but it's Amelia in the kitchen, not me. Come to think of it, there is something very Delia about my mother in law, especially the way she's prodding the pork at this very moment in time.

The reason for this state of affairs is quite simple: it's Christmas soon. Have you noticed at all? If not then you need my son informing you every hour and, as he slides down under his Scooby Doo duvet, he tells you how many sleeps there are until the Big Day. If I sound grumpy, I don't mean it. I love Christmas, I really do. It's just that I have to do it at my own pace and in my own time. This time last year I was thinking about writing my Christmas card list and thinking about wrapping up the odd one or two presents and thinking about the menu for Christmas Day and what to take to Bea's Boxing Day Evening Buffet. This year, thanks to Amelia's control-freak nature, I've written my card list, wrapped up those (very) few presents I've already bought and planned the menu for both Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Bea doesn't know it yet but I'm bringing about a million mince pies and a hundred weight of prawn parcels.

Yesterday was lovely: Selfridges was busy but not packed, Santa presented Mac with a lovely present that he's yet to open (Amelia said that if he opened this present, Santa would know and not bring him any more: it's a wonder that David and Ginny don't have issues) and David enjoyed his monthly golf club meeting almost as much as Amelia enjoyed her dinner with Jack Next Door. I spent a lovely evening alone watching Casualty and Only Fools and Horses and eating Roses chocolates directly from the tin and only had to get up three times: once to let the dogs out and in, once to open the door to a merry David who couldn't find the key hole with his key and once to peek out at the lovebirds as they said their goodbyes over the privet.

Today has been less idyllic: David's hangover did not (sadly) prevent him from getting up and stomping around like a bear with a sore head, Amelia has been mooning about all day getting in my way and giving out her orders (albeit in a moony fashion) and Mac is rehearsing the big show stopping number for the Nursery Nativity - badly.

Even as I type he's belting it out in the garden with the dogs ("I'm singing alcopop mummy" he keeps saying thanks to Charlie praising his a-capella version on Friday), Amelia is telling me that my potatoes "will never go crispy unless you turn them regularly" and David has just fallen over the sellotape dispenser and has stubbed his toe.

Tis the season to be jolly.....how I'm longing for a Silent Night!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Present and correct

I’ve finally sat down to make my list. It makes worrying reading.

David: not sure yet, he hasn’t dropped any hints and I’ve been ever so careful and attentive in case he does because this time last year he kept hinting that he was “almost out of aftershave” and I remember thinking “why is he telling me?”

Mackenzie: the list is horrific – he’s taken to cutting out pictures from catalogues and those handy Toys R Us flyers and leaving them in a great pile beside my bed. If I buy everything on the list would have to move to bigger house to accommodate.

Dad: something for his DIY obsession. B&Q vouchers?

Bea: already got hers. Not saying anything cos she reads this blog.

Charlie: already got hers. See above.

Stephen: David in charge of this

Caitlin and Ian: bought the budding artists some canvases and oil paints – I shall have an original on my wall!

Saskia: something from Neal’s Yard or Lush. Although, we bought each other the same Lush giftset last year so might go back to basics and trawl through Boots.

Amelia: last year left gift choice to David. He got her a new set of saucepans and I got the blame. This year am thinking getting vouchers to send her and Junie Ellison (her Best Friend) off to a spa for the day. When I mentioned to David he admitted that he didn’t know that Spar did vouchers. But he’s not well so I’ll let him off.

Ginny: David’s decision, he scored massive brownie points last year with his eccentric sister by buying her a deerstalker hat. Seriously.

Lydia: something ingenious, she does love a good gadget does Lyds.

Matthew: He’s already asked David and his gran for money this year rather than present but money isn’t very festive is it? Will get him a joke present.

Janey and Darren: erm……

Dogs: a doggy stocking each and some turkey flavoured dinner

Random presents to get for random people/neighbours/droppers-in: boxes of chocolates, bottles of wine (red and white), York Fruit things, bottle of Baileys for Auntie Ivy, After Eight mints, mince pies (handy for carollers) and festive toys from Tescos…….

I haven’t done that well have I? And I’m sure I’ve missed some people off my list and I won’t remember them until 6pm on Christmas Eve and my Random Presents won’t be suitable and then Marjorie will waltz in with super duper present and……then…..and then……..look, I’m getting hysterical.

Just like last year.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Santa Express

I had failed to remember that I had invited Amelia next weekend - so relieved was I to hear that "Giles has got me another bird" that I'd blocked out exactly what I had to do to appropriate said fowl. I was reminded by the lady herself during our phone conversation earlier. I had planned to take us all to Santa's Grotto at Selfridges and was getting rather excited about it. My son is remarkably cool about the whole thing and is more enthralled with "getting on a bus mummy". Something which happens less often than Santa's yearly visit I have to admit.

Anyway, the tickets were booked and all was well. When I mentioned our trip to Bea she spent the next three minutes hooting with laughter and remembering our one and only visit to Santa's Grotto - I was three, she was seven and had to be restrained from telling me that "he doesn't really exist y'know, it's just a fat man in a red suit" by both parents and maternal grandparents all the way there.

It was torture. For me. And, I guess everyone else in the general vicinity. My collywobbles started when a man dressed in green and red lycra with a pointed hat on took me and Bea away from our parents and made us join a queue! Alone! Deserted! Bea took it like the pro she was (is) whilst I started whimpering. I could just see my parents salivating over a nice cup of coffee and a slice of cake in the adjacent cafe when the queue started moving closer to the ominous looking room where Santa resided. "I'll go first, I'm oldest" Bea informed me importantly as we reached the door and a rather sinister looking fairy took our names. In Bea went and I slipped under the bingo-winged fairy arm and shot in with her. Big sisters are supposed to protect you aren't they?

Bea proceeded to list her Christmas requirements while I was held back by yet another red and green lycra'd woman who told me "to wait your turn". Poor Santa was bewildered by Bea's list and obviously regretted asking her what she wanted for Christmas. She didn't look very impressed.

Then it was my turn. "Ho, ho, ho little girl" said the ruddy cheeked Santa. "Wail, scream, bellow" went yours truly. Bingo-winged fairy stuck her head through the door and said "do you want the parents?". Bea was quicker than all of them - she was clutching her unwrapped dolly (with change of outfit and bottle) and booming "Muuuum!" whilst dragging me away from my nightmare.

I had vowed that no child of mine would grow up with a Santa aversion. Mac was nine months old when he first had his picture taken with the Man Himself. He slept all the way through. The second time he visited he revealed Santa to be beardless with a rather fake looking beard by yanking the whole thing off. Last year he loudly castigated Santa for "not bringing me my bike!". What's best? A frightened child or a precocious one? Answers on a postcard please.

When I advised Amelia of our plans she went quiet. Which is unusual for her. "We will be back by about five won't we?" she queried sharply. I assured her we would be (our Santa train trip is booked for mid morning) and she exhaled noisily "Only, Jack's booked the table for 7pm you see and I want to shower and change."

Jack? As in Jack Next Door? Amelia's coy giggle answered my query and I hung up feeling rather lightheaded. I informed David of his mothers date with Nunhead's answer to Alan Titchmarsh and he dropped his hob nob in his tea.

I don't even want to think about what Amelia is going to ask Santa for this year.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Ping!

Strictly I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here Come Dancing! What a show that would make! 12 celebrities find themselves in a jungle dressed in all manner of lycra and sequins, undertaking Bush Tucker Trials to different kinds of music, having to learn dance routines around a camp fire. Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly will report on their cha-cha-cha's and waltzes from the dunny whilst Ant and Dec quiz the professional dancers down at the Bush Tucker Trial Clearing. To earn meals for camp the dancers would have to perform different dances whilst tripping over logs and their own beds and having spiders, eels, maggots and rats descend on them. Rehearsals would be tense because they'd have to keep stopping their routines to go and fetch wood and get fresh water and go off to get the Celebrity Chest.

I can see it now! Celebrities would be queuing up to take part......it's ground breaking television (where else are you going to see an orchestra and four singers in the middle of the jungle?)

And of course, the whole thing would be presided over by the judges: a wallaby, a scorpion, a kangeroo and a snake!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The greatest story ever told....


Tyred and emotional

No, not a spelling mistake. I’m a wreck of the nervous variety and am currently clinging onto a cup of strong coffee and have jaffa cakes in easy reach. I’m also whimpering slightly and feel the need to cry just a little bit. The reason for my total collapse is because of a flat tyre I experienced yesterday. I'm still in shock for it was not just a flat tyre, but a flat tyre with a bloody great nail in it. Shall I start at the beginning?

I had taken my pride and joy to nursery and decided to whisk off to Lewisham to start buying some presents. Yes! Mid November! This, for me, is early. Purchases purchased and muffin and latte consumed, I headed back to the car park. I’m not sure if you know the Lewisham Shopping Centre at all but you get such a buzz when you manage to get into the lift with life and limbs present that you almost forget to validate your car park pass thingy at the pay station. But today, I remembered. Feeling so full of myself (presents for Janey, Saskia and Charlie purchased AND I’d remembered to pay for my parking) I skipped merrily to my car. “Got a flat there” said a passing woman with a buggy. “A flat what?” I asked innocently as I put my bags in the boot. “Tyre” she said over her shoulder as she strolled shop-wards. It was true. I had a flat-as-a-pancake passenger rear tyre with a socking great nail sticking out of it.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when faced with a scenario like this, a million things flit through my brain all at once – from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the split second it took for me to register the fact that I had a flat tyre I’d thought that I: a) could drive it home s-l-o-w-l-y, ignoring all helpful comments of “you’ve got a flat tyre” from other road users and wait for David to come home and change it for me, b) could ring Green Flag and give them all a laugh, c) could ring a man, any man, of my acquaintance and ask them to drop everything and come and rescue me or d) cry.

I can actually change a tyre. I’ve done it, ooh, about six or seven times in my lifetime. But always with back up. Always with someone to tell me that my nuts aren’t tight enough or “don’t put the jack there, it’ll go through the floor you silly cow”. Never solo. Never alone. As I was now. I seriously considered plumping for option d) when I heard my name being called. I looked up and there he was, Tom the Caretaker from Work, coming towards me clutching an M&S shopping bag.

I reverted immediately into Hysterical Woman mode. Forgetting social niceties such as “hello Tom, how are you and how is your wife?” I screeched “I’ve got a flat tyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyre!” and slumped against my incapacitated car. “What do you want me to do about it?” he queried laughingly. “Help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” I wailed, already wrenching open the boot and tipping out the shopping bags.

Bless him, he did. He didn’t actually say I was a useless female who shouldn’t be allowed on the road but I could tell he was thinking it. He was in charge of the situation so I felt calmer and turned into Helpless Female, simpering at him as I handed him the jack. I even said “I wonder why they call it a jack”. Again, bless him. He ignored me and got on with the job in hand.

I passed him the spanner thing and watched him as he tried to loosen off the nuts. See, I know how to change a tyre. Sadly, it seems I can’t tell the difference between a socket spanner and a hoover attachment. “Your nuts are rollocksed” (please note Delicate Reader that the last word actually began with a “b”) he said, handing me back the failed spanner. It was at that point that it registered it was made of plastic and was the missing part of my Dyson. More simpering, self depreciation and shamefaced hanging of head. Once he had the correct spanner we were off.

As was the tyre, within minutes. Shoppers were passing us and watching the free floor show as I attempted to engage Tom in friendly conversation to show that I was actually an intelligent woman and that I could have changed the tyre myself, but it was just so lucky that he was there at the time. “So, what do you think about property prices?”. He shot me a withering look as he held out his hand for the spare.

I was still in Helpless Female mode and did that thing that ALL women do when we handle something dirty and greasy – I slapped my hands together, grimaced and said “euw, yuck” as I rolled the spare tyre to him. Why do they get so greasy and grubby? They’re just sitting there in the boot. Tom tightened the nuts for me, lowered my car to the ground and shoved everything into the boot. “Thank you soooooooooooo much!” I cooed, slamming my boot shut and pretending that the past ten minutes or so hadn’t happened. “Where are you off to now?” I continued cheerily, leaving Helpless Female mode behind and going for the Woman in Control look. “To wash my hands” he said slowly. “Shall I……look, do you want me to…….where are you parked?” I burbled but he was off, M&S bag under his arm, dirty mitts held out, having to go back into the shopping centre to find a handwashing facility. “Thank you Tom, I’ll see you at work next Monday!” I called to his departing figure. I don’t think he heard me.

Out on the road it occurred to me that I’d better have the tyre mended because if I didn’t, David and my dad would form a chorus of disapproval. Dad has impressed upon me the need to have water, spare tyre and torch in my boot at all times and David thinks I should be more independent. So I went to Grays on the A20 feeling, once again, everso pleased that I was looking after my own car (albeit with help) and was being proactive etc and blah, blah, blah. I won’t take my car anywhere other than Grays – I once took my trusty Golf to a large tyre and exhaust place that I won’t name for fear of being sued/beaten about the head with a pressure gauge but, suffice to say, they have branches everywhere and a rather jaunty jingle.

Anyway, I took my Golf into this place and was told that I needed “four new tyres love” instead of just the one I’d thought (honestly, it was smooth in places). Feeling slightly wrongfooted (and loathe to part with nearly a hundred quid without getting a second opinion) I rang Dad and told him. “I told you to take it to Grays” he said the minute he heard my news. I thanked the kindly gentleman (who was already preparing my car for the ramp despite the fact that I hadn’t said “yes, please replace all four tyres immediately and forthwith”) and drove off towards the A20. Man at Grays had a quick look at all four tyres after I’d relayed my tale of woe and said “nah, just need a new offside rear”, did the dirty deed in 15 minutes, pumped up the other three and only charged me £35. I have since recommended Grays to all of my friends. Even if they didn’t want me to.

I pulled into their car park and went for the World Weary Woman look with a hint of “I know exactly what’s wrong with my tyre and think nothing of taking it to be fixed without a man present” as I sashayed into the office. I showed a Grease Covered Youth the offending item and he bounced it into the back of the workroom while pointing me in the direction of the waiting area. Patio furniture and a Pepsi machine but it’s nice. There are magazines and a TV, which was blaring out Sky Sports News. I perched on a seat and tried to look as if I do this sort of thing every day. If I had any gum, I’d be chewing it nonchantly at this stage.

“Can you bring it in and drive it up to the red line?” came the voice of Grease Covered Youth five minutes later who was carrying my tyre as if it were as light as a feather. My car was parked outside in the car park area and I told him so. “No, I need it in here to put the tyre back” GCY said wearily. I gave a giggle and wondered how on earth he thought I’d got it here without a tyre. “I’ve got the spare on!” I said, rolling my eyes. “Yes, but if you keep the spare on, you’ll get done. Give us yer keys, I’ll do it.” he said patiently, catching the eye of the Bloke Behind The Counter.

Instantly, I went back into Helpless Female form as I watched my beloved car be driven in, jacked up and attacked from behind. I stood simpering behind GCY and, yes, even asked “I wonder why they call it a jack” again. The response was the same. Nothing. Now that I could see the two tyres alongside each other, yes, the spare one is inches thinner and has a big “NOT TO BE USED EXCESSIVELY” sticker printed on it.

I paid my money, overtipped GCY and shot out of there – ironically enough with my tyres squealing.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Crash, bang, wallop.....

You know they say that bad things happen in threes? Like, for example, you hear of someone breaking a leg and then you hear of someone breaking their toe and then maybe a few days later you hear that Great Aunt Alice has broken her hip?

Well, fortunately there are no broken bones in this sorry saga but plenty of broken appliances.

It started on Sunday when Mac wanted to watch a video – such antiquities in our house. We’d connected our old video to the television in our room when we got our DVD player and so Mac settled on our bed for a pleasant afternoon of watching Scooby Doo Chases Some Badly Faked Ghosts (or whatever it was called) and I left him to it. Bea, if you’re reading this, stop now. I don’t often use the TV as a babysitter but sometimes I just really, really need to.

Anyway, I was pottering about in the kitchen, creating another gastronomic masterpiece with which to dazzle my husband and child when I heard a plaintive yell from upstairs that sounded not unlike “Mummmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeee”. I leapt up the stairs, imagining all manner of bad things to have befallen my boy to find him sitting on the floor by the video in a pile of celluloid. “It made a loud cracking noise and then went all snowy and then ‘jected my video” Mac looked crushed – it was his favourite Scooby Doo adventure. He’d pulled the tape out, thinking he was rescuing it when all he’d done was pull out the tape and entangle it further. “We will get a new video mummy won’t we?” he implored, no doubt thinking of the shelf in his room full of classics in VHS format. I started a list of “things to buy before Christmas”.

On Tuesday, I’d dropped my lovely boy off at nursery (successfully avoiding any more reference to the Winter Fayre/Nursery Nativity shenanigans) and came home to put some washing in the machine. I was distracted mid load by a phone call from a double glazing salesman who would not take no for an answer. He hung up pretty sharply after I blew my whistle (handily kept for that very purpose) down the receiver and I went back to my loading.

Twenty minutes later, there was a distinctive smell of hot TCP in the air. TCP is pretty repellent as far as I’m concerned so I was gagging and opening windows. All was well. I was sorting out my salad crisper drawer, Heart FM was pouring jolly tunes out of the stereo, Middle and Senior Dog had embraced the radiator in the hallway and Junior Dog was mid nibble of a Bonio when the smell of hot TCP was joined by the smell of burning. Before I had time to say “what’s that burning smell?”, Heart FM fell silent and a large “BANG” emanated from the utility room. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’d blown up the washing machine and had tripped a number of fuses. I counted 27 garments (including two pairs of jeans) in the machine – all sopping wet and dripping soapy water everywhere. I’d overloaded the damn thing.

Another item to add to my list. David was brave in the face of two failed pieces of equipment – one necessary and the other essential.

He and Mac went late night shopping to Comet last night while I was at the hairdressers. I returned with a head full of blonde, glossy, shiny, bouncing locks and decided to get on with the hoovering that I’d started before I left. I’d completely forgotten that I’d booked in for “colour, cut and blowdry” at 4pm – poor Mac was halfway through his tea when he was hoiked out of the house and found himself sitting on the squishy sofa of Shear Class still clutching his pitta bread and humous. He still looked shell shocked when David arrived at ten to six.

Anyway, I pushed the “on” button and nothing happened. I walked over to the plug and checked that it was in fact still plugged in. It was. I went back and pushed the button again. Still nothing. Now, I’m not technically minded but I realised that something was wrong.

I didn’t dare ring David at Comet and tell him I needed a new Dyson so I shoved it back in the cupboard, vowing to look blank and act surprised when it fails to work the next time I go all domesticated.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Tables and Turkeys

Christmas is very much on my mind just lately and there’s still six weeks to go. I’ve been conscripted to help out with the nursery Winter Fayre (post to follow), my refusal to participate in the behind-the-scenes activities at the nursery Nativity have been wholeheartedly ignored and David has already started looking for his present. And I haven’t got a clue what to buy him this year.

Still. The cake is looking (and smelling) heavenly. I have to resist the urge to have a sneaky peak (and sniff) every time I go into the utility room. David has now taken to hiding his brandy and has promised to buy me a “cheap one to pour into the cake”. Honestly, it’s one tablespoon twice a week, I’m not emptying the bottle into a funnel in the side. Mind you, the brandy is almost as old as I am so I can understand his reticence. I don’t like the sound of “cheap brandy” though.

The list for Christmas dinner is growing almost daily. Janey had promised that she would cook her first ever Christmas dinner for her, Darren, Ivy and Jim. Darren’s parents are “going a'Spain” for the festive season. But she’s hit a problem. Her pregnancy has reached the stage where the mere thought of cooking with raw ingredients makes her want to vomit – “I’m pretty sure I’ll still feel like this on Christmas Day” she whined down the phone to me yesterday. I understand how she feels – for two months I couldn’t look or touch anything raw. The thought of touching a raw chicken literally made me stick my head down the toilet. I noted the barely hidden plea in her whine and mentally made two more spaces at the (small) dining table. I then added another two after Janey informed me that Ivy had been thrown in a panic at Janey’s inability to now feed her on Christmas Day and that she screeched “I haven’t got time to get everything ready now for you to come here and your father has already said we’re not getting a tree this year.” If Ivy cooks the Christmas Day meal she starts her preparations in mid October and decorates the house to look like Santa’s grotto.

If I’m neurotic it’s because it’s hereditary.

I rang David. “We need another table and chairs” I informed him the minute I heard his dulcet tones. “Why darling?” said he, no doubt envisaging the total collapse of our current one. “We’ve got 15 people coming for dinner on Christmas Day and our table only seats 6” I continued. Silence at the other end. “Erm, 16 for dinner” he amended. “I’ve just got off the phone from Ginny who feels that faced with a choice of spending Christmas with mother or the Colonel, she’d rather face mother.”

So that’s two additional tables needed then. IKEA beckons.

The turkey has got to feed 16 people on Christmas Day and roughly the same amount of people (albeit in smaller portions) for Boxing Day and if I’m going to attempt to make my mum’s famous soup I need at least a couple of slices. I then did something that I never thought I’d do.

I rang Amelia.

After the usual niceties (I do try, honest) I asked her how big the turkey Giles has reserved for me will be when, gulp, its time comes to die. “About 15 pounds Giles reckons” she said, chewing on a Danish pastry. I told her my predicament and, to my relief, she started panicking almost as much as I was at that present time. “All recipes call for about a pound or a pound and a half of turkey per person so you’re looking at a 16 pounder at least. And that’s if you plan to be stingy.” Her tone suggested that I would indeed be stingy with the fowl. After a discussion about whether to abandon the reserved bird (it’s got my name on a tag round its neck) and get a bigger one or to reserve another similarly sized bird, Amelia promised to ring Giles and panic buy another one. Two turkeys with my name on them. Great. She sounded so inordinately pleased and amazed that I’d rung her for advice that I thawed everso slightly and asked her over the first weekend in December thus securing Amelia-free weekends for the rest of November.

Hah!

Jack Next Door has taken to popping over to see me daily since his dalliance on our sofa with Amelia a couple of weekends ago. I feel slightly uncomfortable that he’s got the “hots” for my mother-in-law and try to stick to safe subjects. Like soil erosion and wilting perennials. Not that I know anything about that but, quite frankly, it’s any port in a storm.

The discussions yesterday and today (he came round to watch Jeremy Kyle with me yesterday and today popped in with an Ayres jam doughnut) centred around the lack of tables and chairs and our impending trip to IKEA. He’s offered to bring his “laminated oak and four chairs” with him……”I’ve also got two stools if you need them?” which will make a nice change from crystallised orange slices and a poinsettia.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Driving me crazy

Auntie Ivy struck terror into my heart and bowels this morning “I’m going to start driving lessons again!” she chirruped happily as she slopped hot water all over my work surface as she attempted to direct the kettle into the cafetiere. “I was watching that programme last night with that woman from the Royle Family who kept failing her test but then that nice Dr Who started teaching her and she passed!”

She meant of course the BBC comedy drama starring Jessica Hynes and David Tennent that was on last night – she has a habit of mixing up her programmes and never gets actors names right. We once bumped into Eastenders' Laila Morse in Sainsburys New Cross and she kept calling her Big Mo which did not go down too well.

“If she can do it, I can!” she continued as she whisked the milk. I remember well her attempts at learning to drive. She became a champion for learner drivers everywhere and, quite simply, knew all there was to know about driving, especially as she got 99% in her written test. All of us experienced drivers didn’t know what we were talking about and got everything wrong. When she failed her test it was such a shock to her system – she’d failed on just about everything. Predictably though, after a few days, it all became the driving instructors fault and whenever we were out in the car she would pour scorn on the other road users. Things came to a head when I was driving her and my mum somewhere and the two of them were gassing about something – I tended to turn off when the two of them got going. Anyway, Ivy stopped mid sentence and said “Why have you stopped here?”. I looked from her to my mother and said “Because the red lights tell me to”. Sure enough, there were two red lights halting my progress along Peckham High Street. “Oh.” said Ivy “how long have they been there?”

The remainder of the journey was spent with both mum and Ivy giggling their little socks off at not being aware of a set of traffic lights that had been there for a very, very long time. Quite worrying when you think about it. But she found Mr Rush “in the paper” early last year and he tended her and nurtured her, right up to and including when she failed her second driving test in March of this year because she was “doing 50 in a 20 mile per hour zone”. Outside a school. Her only comment was “well, it was half past ten in the morning, the kids should have all been in their classrooms!”

So, as you can imagine, I was filled with trepidation as Ivy outlined her plan for the next few weeks: a couple of refresher lessons and then I’ll put in for my test. “I’m going back to Mr Rush, he’s so very patient and never shouts at me when I make a little mistake”. Honestly, I’d hate to have her nerve in my tooth. The “little mistake” she made was when she panicked on a roundabout and ended up sitting on top of the lovingly planted pansies. The Council Parks Department worker had fled for his life when he saw the white Peugeot from “Pass and Go” mount the pavement. Quite what Mr Rush was thinking when he put her forward for her last driving test is anyone’s guess. I should imagine he’ll be rooted to his seat in terror when he hears Auntie Ivy chirrup “Hello, I’d like to book some more driving lessons please”.

“I’ll be able to take Little Un out for drives and be able to go to Morrison’s without waiting for Jim to be bothered. A nice little run around, that’s all I’ll need” she was getting quite dreamy on the sofa, clutching her coffee mug as she saw herself pootling along, headscarf covering her silver curls, whipping in and out of parking spaces effortlessly.

Before you start to think that I’m being incredibly derogatory about my aunt and her ability to drive because I am such a perfect driver – I’m not. I passed my test on my fifth attempt and found the whole experience a dreadful one. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of independence that being able to drive would give me. My instructor John said that I alternately drove to fast/too slow, was too hesitant/too carefree, drove to close to parked cars/hogged the middle of the road and was very kind to pigeons. I used to slow down when I saw them in the road.

I failed my first test because I showed no regard for other road users, my second because I was too hesitant and slow, my third because I had an argument (and lost) with a bus and my fourth because I drove a little too fast. What did these people want from me? My fifth instructor was the one who took me for my first test which threw me completely. I’ve since told other people who are stressing over their tests to just go with the flow and do the best you can. Easy to say, harder to do. I swear that I only got through my fifth test because of an enormous sense of “oh, I don’t care any more” and 2 Kalms. Sssh!

And I’ve had a few disasters in the past 16 years I’ve been driving – mainly to do with directions and getting lost. I went to Surrey Quays a few years back with my mum (there’s a theme developing here) and I took the wrong turning off St James’ Road and ended up going through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. I went round Leman Street police station three times and nearly ended up at City Airport twice. I then saw a sight that cheered me to my very core: the stone and blue turrets of Tower Bridge! I was in St Katherine’s Dock going over some cobbles at the time and joyously told mum that we were more or less home and dry. “We don’t want Tower Bridge though do we?” she said in a confused voice “We do if we’re going to cross the river!” I said, relief flooding my body. “What? Do you mean we’re north of the river?” she screeched. Being north of the river, for my mum, was like a Man United fan finding himself sitting in the middle of the stand at Man City’s stadium. She had to be put to bed with a large cup of tea and a copy of Gulliver’s Travels.

Sat Nav doesn’t help me either. I argue with it. Seriously. It tells me to go left and I go right. Which defeats the whole object really. And the first ever Sat Nav I had didn’t say “okay, right well you haven’t listened to a sodding word I’ve said and now you’ve gone wrong so just take the next sodding turning I tell you okay?” (or however they politely say it) – it got just as lost as I did until I laid my frazzled head on the steering wheel and it started babbling utter rubbish. So last Christmas I got a super duper Sat Nav that says “to correct your route, please take the next right” whenever I go wrong. Which is frequently, because I still argue with it. I think it’s even started to anticipate where I’m about to go wrong because the second I take a different turning to the one it told me to take (because it’s never right, let’s face it) I can hear it give a deep and weary sigh. One of these days it’s going to give me such a rollicking, I can feel it in my bones.

But who can blame Auntie Ivy for wanting to try again? I am so pleased that I persevered and didn’t “sell out” and swap from manual lessons to automatic ones.

Naturally, I’ve asked her to tell me the dates and times of her lessons so I can keep out of the way.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

We will remember them

They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We will remember them
Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

A is for 'Arrods

I've started (thank you Silvana) the Christmas cake - there's a bowl of sultanas, raisins, cherries and peel steeping in brandy in the kitchen and David has marked the brandy bottle in case I "borrow" any more. Hm! The kitchen smells heavenly and Junior Dog is drooling all over the kitchen floor.

My guest list for Christmas dinner has grown to include Jack Next Door who mournfully told Amelia during their telephone conversation of last night (!!!!!!) that he would be all alone on Christmas Day as his only daughter will be in Chile categorising rock samples. "I told him he could join us for the day" my mother in law informed David when she rang this morning to report on the progress of our turkey. Apparently it's going to be a whopper. Good job really. I need more cutlery and a bigger table.

Frank and Marjorie went out first thing this morning and got back at about four making such a racket that I was forced to go and investigate. They were laden down with Harrods bags and letting everyone know that they'd been shopping "for Christmas decorations, none of this Pound Shop crap for us". Frank's voice could wake the dead when he gets going. The cab driver could be seen mouthing the words "effing lunatics" as he drove off.

The trip to Harrods was fuelled by Marjorie's visit to Joyce at Number 2's house yesterday on the pretext of collecting for her OAP hampers. The Stewarts have identified four OAPs in the immediate vicinity of The Avenue that "live alone and need an eye keeping on them over the winter". They're rallying the rest of the neighbours to donate to their food collection. At least one of the OAPs is chuntering about being treated "like a bleeding charity, if I want other peoples store cupboard leavings I'll ask for 'em!"

"It's awful in there" Marjorie had boomed yesterday on the doorstep as she collected my own contribution (four tins of soup, four packets of shortbread and four packets of tea). "Where?" I asked politely. "Joyce at Number 2! All manky tinsel, fake tree and Chinese lanterns. That kind of foil decoration went out in the 90s and as for those dreadful paper chains......eurgh!" It was then that she revealed her plan for Saturday. "We're going to 'Arrods to add to our collection - it's a very superior shop" she said, as if I didn't know. Bea pops in and out of Harrods for "bits and pieces" as I do in Sainsburys. And they've got an East Dulwich Deli - my dear sister hyperventilates whenever she mentions it. I wasn't that impressed with my Christmas visit to the Rich Peoples Store a couple of years back, I have to admit. The most exciting part of the day was seeing Dennis Bergkamp in Planet Harrods......he had a burger by the way.

As they lugged their famous green and gold bags in (with Frank booming "watch the goods woman!") Jane Opposite appeared in her doorway, eyeing up the shenanigans and dumping a rubbish bag in the bin. We exchanged glances as Frank reappeared to take in a box with the words "DELUXE NATIVITY SET" stamped on it. "Tis the season to be jolly eh ladies?" he said with a wink that seemed to encompass the entire Avenue. "Not with you it ain't mate" Jane said, flinging a couple of empty wine bottles in her recycling box. Undeterred, Frank continued with what he thought was some saucy badinage "You must come and check out my elaborate hangings" he said, turning to me and straightening up. Jane Opposite had disappeared behind her front door in a flurry of swear words.

"All top class stuff, none of this Woolies mass produced stuff" he went on. "And just wait until you see my lovely big shiny balls!"

Perish the thought!

Friday, 9 November 2007

8 into 8 into 8.......

Yes thank you Kelly, I do love being tagged! And I hope you the answers interesting! My "8 things......" list goes something like this..........

8 things I'm passionate about:

1. My family - each and every one of them
2. My friends - I'd be nowhere and nothing without them.
3. Me time - it sounds extremely selfish but sometimes I like it when everyone leaves me alone.
4. Chocolate - a bit worrying but I panic if I haven't got any in the house.
5. Laughter - I love laughing and making people laugh.
6. Doggy cuddles - there's nothing like the unconditional love that woofers give you.
7. History - as I get older, I've got an urge to learn more and find out more.
8. Blogging - it makes me smile.

8 things to do before I die:

1. Finish my book.
2. Get it published!
3. Go to Australia and cuddle a koala (won't be the same at London Zoo)
4. Visit the Trevi fountain.
5. Win the Lottery.
6. Own a Mercedes convertible.
7. Invent something useful that the modern world simply cannot live without.
8. Keep smiling.

8 things I say often:

1. "Uh, what time is it?" Every day without fail.
2. “Er, what exactly are you doing mister?" To the dog(s), not David obviously.
3. “Clearly!" my favourite catchphrase.
4. “Er, hello?" my other favourite catchphrase
5. “I love you", to random people in my life
6. “Charlotte Ann Edwards" - Charlie and I use each others full names in conversation rather a lot
7. “Oh God, noooooooo!" - whenever anything goes wrong. Which is frequently.
8. “Thank you for another day" - am not religious but I tend to say this as I drop off to sleep. I've got a lot to be thankful for when you think about it.

8 books I've read recently:

1. From Here to Maternity by Mel Giedroyc
2. The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous by Jilly Cooper
3. Savages by Shirley Conran
4. Does my Bum Look Big in This by Annabel (?) Weir
5. Two Women by Martina Cole
6. My Life on a Plate by India Knight
7. Turn Right at the Spotted Dog by Jilly Cooper
8. Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding

8 songs I could listen to over and over:

1. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler
2. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You the Rod Stewart version
3. Something Inside So Strong by Labi Sifre
4. Doncha by Pussy Cat Dolls
5. Love is In the Air by John Paul Young
6. Viva Forever by the Spice Girls
7. I Bruise Easily by Natasha Bedingfield
8. Don't Stop Me Now by Queen

8 qualities I look for in a best friend:

1. Loyalty
2. Honesty
3. A sense of humour
4. A level of randomness!
5. Patience
6. Loving me for who I am
7. Acceptance
8. The ability to make me a better person just by knowing them

8 people I'm passing this on to:

All about me

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Nunhead, London, United Kingdom
I'm a mum of one, wife of one and owner to several dogs, a variety of breeds and sizes. I live in the up and coming area (or so they say) of Nunhead and have mad neighbours, strange friends and certifiable relatives. I shop locally, although I do defect to Sainsburys once a week - shoot me now local shopkeepers.