Monday, 30 April 2007

Moving on up

Lydia is moving to Beckenham this weekend and I’ve said I’d help her. As sad as I am to see my pal leave, Amelia’s coming for the whole Bank Holiday weekend and, quite frankly, I’ll do anything to get out of the way. She was fuming actually (Lydia, not Ameila, I suspect Amelia will be over the moon to have her son and grandson all to herself) Mike had obviously been in the house yesterday while she was out with Matthew for the day and had stuck Post-it notes with the word “Mine” written on them. How childish! He’d appropriated several of the easy-to-move-items like CDs, the wine rack (empty) and the lemon juicer as well. Lydia had removed all of the post-it notes, put them in an envelope and wrote on it “be a man and come and see me about which items are yours”. She dropped it through their letter box late last night, she said, after several gins for courage. Atta girl!

The Stewarts - Frank and Marjorie - were enchanted with the house and went into raptures over the breakfast bar. I met them briefly - Lydia introduced me as one of “the nicest neighbours in The Avenue” before they left the other evening. They finish each others sentences. Marjorie giggles like a simpleton at everything Frank says and Frank calls her his “wench”. Perhaps they were nervous, who knows?

Anyway. It’s happening. David said he saw Mike this morning looking highly peeved. Perhaps he’s got wind that Lydia is moving one or two of the nicer pieces of furniture into storage today before he can get his hands on them. Susan is apparently having dreadful morning sickness. Mike had the cheek to tell Lydia this when they met in the paper shop this morning. Mike was bulk buying polos and Lydia said she nearly didn’t resist the temptation to tell him where to stick them. Especially when he called her “naïve” if she thought she would get away with keeping him from his IKEA bed frame. She said she hates the bloody ugly thing anyway (a hundred stubbed toes later) but said she’d rather set fire to it than see it move into the love nest up the road.

Such a shame when a marriage breaks down - not only because of the emotional trauma and upset but the division of goods and chattels. I remember sitting with Saskia as she watched her dad move out of the family home. We were 14 and parked ourselves on the stairs purely because that was the only place we weren’t in the way. Alan took boxes and boxes of stuff from all over the house and dumped them all in the living room as he loaded them all up on a van. There was no other woman/man involved - they simply just couldn’t live with each other any more. And you can see how right they were to do so, they can now be in the same room as each other and actually be civil. At the time though Saskia’s mother Margaret sat out in the garden during the actual move, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine and calling him every name under the sun. Which is probably why she screamed at him like a banshee when he tried to remove the Bhs touch lamp from the lounge. My word, she certainly shot through that house.

David’s out on Friday night with work (if you can call eating a sumptuous meal, drinking fine wine and smoking expensive cigars working) so I’ve said I’d host farewell drinks for Lydia. She’s agreed to invite the Stewarts and Saskia has promised to “thump the crap” out of Mike and Susan if they even darken the pavement outside the house.

Such a civilised evening its going to be!

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Book Worm

I'm having a mild panic. I'm shaking and bewildered: I have no books left to read. None at all. And, unless I start on Mac's, nothing to read when I retire to my boudoir this evening for my customary "Chapter Before Sleep". David is looking quite pleased at this news, so often he's faced with a wife holding a lump of paper and cardboard who rejects his amorous advances. I mean, I do give in eventually, I just have to had my fix of the written word first. I hate not having a book to read, I feel like I've got a limb missing.

I've re-read all my old favourites over the past few months: the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, both Bridget Jones' by Helen Fielding, Lace and Savages by Shirley Conran, and my absolute favourites of all time Jilly Cooper's Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Appassionata, Score! and Pandora. One after the other! I've just finished Score! About half an hour ago. It's entirely my own fault that I don't yet own a copy of her new book Wicked! - I see the hardbacked version every time I'm in Sainsbury's but never actually get round to picking it up. I've just this moment ordered it on-line but it's going to take a few days to get to me. I've also re-read Ms Cooper's Class, How to Survive Christmas, Turn Right at the Spotted Dog and Angels Rush In. I've even gone right through the Martina Cole series. But I can't find my copy of Two Women. I wonder where it is.

I'm stuck and lost. My mum once said I would "read the back of a cornflakes packet". It's true - I love reading and can be found with my nose in a book at every available moment. Mac has inherited my love of books and likes nothing better than curling up with a good book and a cup of cammomile. I can pinpoint moments in my life just by re-reading a book. For example, I first read Riders while travelling, with my parents to Cornwall for a fortnight's holiday in Newquay. I barely lifted my head out of the book for the first four days after I'd bought it at a motorway service area. It was there, that fortnight in Cornwall, that I discovered Judy Blume. Racy! I kept Forever well hidden from my parents!

The Sweet Valley High series eventually ran into the hundreds and I had every one of them, well read and well thumbed and passed around my little gang. I got rid of the lot one hot and clammy summer when we redecorated the entire house and had a massive de-clutter. I still miss them.

During my pregnancy, Jackie Collins' back catalogue kept me busy - I went into labour halfway through re-reading Lovers and Gamblers and kept pleading with David to bring it with him to the hospital. He didn't of course and I didn't get a chance to start re-reading it until Mac was a month old and slept longer than an hour.

So, I'm now bookless. Mac has offered me Treasure Island which I've got in reserve. David is, even as I type, searching the cupboards and under the bed for Two Women. Mac is helping. I'm blessed that both of my boys understand and are happy to feed my addiction!

Over the Moon

Mackenzie wants to be a footballer. It's an ambition fuelled by his father and all those hours spent with Sky Sports. He wants to play for England and, because he's a quarter Australian on his father's side, for Australia "in his spare time". This ambition was stoked yesterday to great effect at his teams last home game of the season where Mac got a chance to mingle with his heroes and have a kickabout on the hallowed turf.

David and I are both fans of this South London side - no, not palace or charlton, the other one - and have been for a while. I was taken to a game when I was three by my dad and seem to remember I spent the entire time on dad's shoulders, got bored halfway through the first half and wanted to leave at half time because I thought the game was over. David is well travelled with our beloved club and can talk me through our crowning glories and low lows from before I was even born. It's very poignant to me now when I hear him doing the same with Mac. Dad loves telling him tales and stories of our defeats and triumphs. Yesterday was Mac's first ever game and he spent Friday in a state of hysteria and almost turned himself inside out practising keepie uppies.

Yesterday dawned to much excitement and I barely had time to walk the dogs and get myself together before leaving for the ground. David had arranged for a special treat for our boy but we daren't tell him for fear of his exploding with joy. BM (Before Mackenzie) I was a regular at The Den and loved it. It's a club that has got a fearsome reputation but, with the support of its fans and the club board and management, it's a club that's putting the past behind it. It's a family club, I've never felt scared or worried when I've been there (in fact the most scared I've been at a football match is when we were away playing a Welsh team - and my absolute terror was down to the actions and cynicism of the Welsh Constabulary. But let's not go there.) I'm determine to ensure that Mac grows up loving this club as much as I do. Anyway.

We arrived and took our seats - it was a joy to be back sitting in my familiar seat, in familiar surroundings with familiar people. I haven't been at The Den since, ooh, before Christmas and now I had the chance to show my son just what I'd been missing. He was centre of attention in our block and loving it - such a show off!

Mac knows the footballing basics. He can recognise the difference between a goal kick and a corner. He knows that the referee should be universally hated (even when he appears to be on the side of your team) and that each half lasts 45 minutes and could have anything up to five minutes added onto each half. He's never ever been to a real game before though. His first thoughts on the whole experience, twenty minutes after our arrival, were "it's better than watching it on TV mummy". Indeed. He was going through the programme with his Granddad and finding the players on the pitch. I can't describe the atmosphere at a football match. The camaraderie, the laughter, the jokes, the comments. Football fans are the wittiest people in the world. During one of our bad patches (we couldn't find a barn door, let alone hit it), one of the opposing players was lying on the floor like a dead duck being tended to by the physio. Our players were standing around chatting. One wag from the crowd yelled out "Don't just stand there, practice for f***s sake!"

Bea was horrified when I told her that Mac was going to The Den. "Don't blame me if he comes back wanting a tattoo and a can of Strongbow" she said darkly.

He had identified all the players warming up on the pitch just before David suggested they go for a walk, with a broad wink in my direction. Mac happily sauntered off with his father and reappeared, ten minutes later on the pitch complete with football and a sudden attack of shyness. He spent the whole time hidden behind David, especially when his Lions hero and one of our Super Strikers, came over to chat to him. Once he had returned to his seat, his natural exuberance had returned. "I spoke to him mummy!" David said once he had removed his child from his leg in the tunnel, Mac wanted to go back out there. To distract him, one of the groundstaff gave him a quick tour of the dressing room.

He loved his day - the result went our way too and because it was the last game of the season, the players came out on the pitch afterwards for a lap of honour. Mac went to bed clutching his matchday programme and a pair of socks that David said the kit man smuggled to him as they left the dressing room. "I'm going to be a Lion when I grow up mummy" he said sleepily, nestling his head on his rolled up socks.
It's entirely possible - he's gone out this morning with his father to buy some proper football boots and to find a team that takes highly ambitious and determined three year olds. I might start one myself!

Thursday, 26 April 2007


Evil Stella! Poor Ben! Stupid Phil!

Red wine and Ribena

My baby is such a little man. After yesterdays minor blip in the playground (sobbing into my neck) by the time his father got home he was stiff of upper lip once more. He recounted the tale of woe to his father while they both sat out in the garden with their usual late afternoon beverage – David with a glass of red wine and Mac with a glass of Ribena Toothkind - both sitting side by side on the bench by the lavender, right ankle propped effortlessly onto left knee. I love watching them together but at the same time feel a little bit jealous that I can’t share what they share. I know I’m mummy and yes I’m needed to wipe tears, tend to grazes and to just “be” but it’s not the same. I listened unashamedly as I prepared Lemon and Tarragon Chicken. David was coming out with some sound advice about not letting the bullies see that they’re getting to you (slightly hard when one is having face ground into tarmac?) and that all bullies are cowards and Mac just needs to find their Achilles Heel. My eyes were bubbling at this point (nothing to do with the onions I was slicing) as Mac reiterated that he’d had a “hobbible day daddy”. He sighed deeply and drained his glass. “And I’ve been trying so hard to be a big boy” he went on forlornly. I dropped my knife and headed for the wine bottle.

He went to bed at half past seven, in readiness for the morning. “I’m not going to be a silly boy tomorrow mummy” he said as I trawled through Treasure Island for the fifteen millionth time. I pointed out that getting upset and worried did not make him a silly boy and wondered what the hell his father had been telling him during the bits I couldn’t hear earlier. “No mummy but getting upset about silly bullies is silly” he responded, jutting out his little chin defiantly before snuggling under his duvet. I headed wine-wards again.

Mac and I arrived at school this morning in the rain, Mac wearing his brand new denim jacket (bought by Saskia – amazingly enough she got the right size) that made me think that we were asking for trouble. But then I realised as I watched him preen in front of the mirror that he needed the jacket for protection, to make him feel good about himself. How many times have I slapped on lippy and mascara when I need to feel better about myself? As I walked him to the classroom the Head approached us. She’s a nice enough lady but she could do with a bit less tie dye and a bit more Head and Shoulders. And you could braid the hair on her legs.

“Boys will be boys” she said as I broached the subject once Mac was safely settled on his chair. She also said “she’d monitor the situation” and that she’d keep “me abreast of developments”. Platitudes. I saw the monstrous children take up their positions in their chairs and the little girls either side of them actually winced as they did so. I can’t believe that they’re just picking on my child and told this Head this. “We have had some other comments” she admitted but refused to say whose mother had complained. I saw Nasty Nuala’s mother practically shove Nuala through the door. If Nasty Nuala – who once bit another child’s head because he wouldn’t give her the yellow crayon – is a bit dubious then something must be wrong.

It broke my heart to watch my little man wave goodbye and then actually leave him to the jackals. But I did it. Via Ayres for a large Danish and a hot chocolate. I then paced for about half an hour. The dogs picked up on my mood: Junior Dog had a Mad Moment and Middle Dog threw up in the flowerbed. Senior Dog slept through it all.

Bullying – in any form – is atrocious and I despise it and the people who do it. I was lucky enough not be bullied at school – the closest I ever got to being on the receiving end of a bully was when Louise Jacobs (the leader of our little gang in 4L) ignored me for one whole term because I’d dared to listen to the teacher during a tedious French lesson and not her. David was bullied at school – he was a Sea Cadet in Southampton – by an older, stronger boy who used to find it amusing to make all the younger children carry his bags and do all his homework. David said he did for him one night when it was his “turn” to do his English homework. By writing appallingly and spelling every other word wrong and handing the essay into the teacher before this boy could see it, he got his own back. Okay, said David, so he was beaten up and given Chinese burns, but the boy didn’t bother with him again.

Bullying can be something other physical. Some drivers bully other drivers by inching so far out at junctions until the oncoming car is forced to stop and let them go. I worked with someone who maintained their boss’s diary by using bullying. If there was a diary clash, this woman bullied and shouted her way to getting what she wanted, not caring about the trouble she caused and however many toes she trod on whilst doing it. Lydia admitted yesterday that she felt bullied into leaving The Avenue. Mike is increasing the pressure on her to see a solicitor about the house and the divorce and she feels bullied and put upon by the constant bragging about the baby.

I resisted the temptation to drive past the nursery during lunchtime playtime. If Mac was having a bad day and saw me, it might do more harm than good. But then if Mac WAS having a bad day, surely it was my right to protect him? I managed to hold on, by eating my body weight in custard creams and having ludicrous conversations with Janey about “first dance” choices. The current dilemma is between songs I’ve never heard of. Suddenly I feel old, weighed down by all my worries.

David arrived home, five minutes before I was due to leave to pick Mac up. We went together, to show a united front at the school gate. I felt ridiculously proud of David (I am proud of him obviously) that he’d cut short a meeting to pick his son up from school. He said his boss wasn’t happy and tried to bully him into staying even later than usual. The irony wasn’t lost on either of us. I was wobbly on my feet and was clinging to David’s arm. “If there was anything wrong, they’d have rung” he soothed. Hm, they didn’t yesterday, I pointed out morosely, envisaging a trip to A&E with my battered and bruised son.

The Head was in the playground as the children started leaving. We joined Tom’s mum Alison. Also at the gates was Mrs Mother of Bullies wearing skimpy vest top, leggings and trainers the size of tanks. Her gold glinted in the sun and the skimpy top revealed another three tattoos. David was shocked speechless as he looked her up and down. The baby was in the buggy playing with a gigantic set of keys. I saw Mac larking around with his friend Tom as they both left the building with Adam and Ben behind them. I pointed them out to David who set his jaw in a determined line. Mac spotted us and did what I call his little happy dance – he’s so pleased when he sees David in “unusual” situations. I can’t remember the last time David picked him up from nursery. “Daddee, daddee!” he yelled, still on school premises so having to restrain himself. “Daddeee, daddeeee” Adam and Ben chorused in high pitched voices, shoving Mac hard in the back so that he stumbled but didn’t fall.

I was rooted to the spot. Everyone was there. David and myself had witnessed it. The Head was about six foot away from them. Mrs Mother of Bullies had obviously also seen it as she had a face like thunder. It seemed like everything had frozen in time. Apart from Mac, who wheeled round to the monstrous pair and said “And so what?” in a tone of voice I’ve never heard him use before. Sarcastic, just like mine in fact. Oops. “Just because you haven’t got one!” Tom said loudly, jaw jutted a lot like Mac’s as they both stood there, hands on hips, facing their tormentors. Ben and Adam’s heads dropped and they seemed to shrink to half their size. I’d like to say that the whole playground burst into spontaneous applause at this little exchange but I wouldn’t lie to my dear friends. There was, however, a lot of smiling going on between parents and their children. The Head looked like she’d swallowed a wasp. “Oh God!” said Alison as she took in the scene before her. “I’ve told him that not everyone is lucky enough to have a mum and a dad” she said. Alison is very PC. There are times, however, when you can be too PC, OK!

Mac and Tom trotted up to us, looking both victorious and a little shamefaced at the same time. They really are sweet boys and hate unpleasantness. “We found their Akees Hill daddy!” Mac said defiantly, arms folded as he watched Ben and Adam mooch over to their mother who proceeded to castigate them loudly. Using very ripe language I might add.
We passed them, once again outside the chip shop on Nunhead Lane. Both boys had chicken and chips again, Mrs Mother of Bullies had a pie and the baby was this time gnawing on a saveloy. “Bye Mackenzie” Adam piped up as we strolled past. Mac stopped, turned to Adam and weighed up the situation. I held my breath. “Yeah, bye” he said with a little wave. Only David and I saw him punch the air in triumph.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Frills, flounces and fisticuffs

I’m quite enjoying arranging this wedding now that things are more or less sorting themselves out. Manuela the caterer has taken to biking over various bits and pieces for me to try - at this rate the buffet table will be bigger than the entire church hall. Just this morning, Manuela’s brother – the heavenly Juan – appeared with a slice of fruit cake and a slice of sponge cake. “She say, you choose, you ring her” he said as he cocked a leather-clad leg over his gleaming Kawasaki. Jane Opposite nearly fell out of her bedroom window as he roared off down the road.

Janey arrived at half ten – this girl doesn’t go to work when she doesn’t feel like it. “I told ‘em, I’ve got a wedding to plan. Posh Spice didn’t go to work every day did she?” she said as she lowered herself gingerly onto the sofa. The bride to be has had a new tattoo done. She’s already got “Darren” inscribed in Chinese on the base of her neck – done during a drunken holiday in Ibiza last summer. The “close season” as she – a trainee Footballers Wife – calls the summer. She’s now got three butterflies, the largest at the base of her spine and two smaller ones above it, as if in flight. She’s having the rest done over the course of the next month – another 12 in total. This work of art is going to be framed by her backless wedding dress. “It bloody hurts though” she winced as she leant forward to rummage in her bag.

Pam the florist is working wonders on the floral displays for the church and the reception. I took Janey to meet her last week – as I’ve mentioned before Pam is a dead ringer for a well known Dame. As Pam gestured us in through her open door (she was on the phone in the kitchen) Janey spluttered “Bloody hell, it’s Judi Dench!” and fell over onto the wood block. The sponsorship deals are trickling in (Nice Nails are doing the manicures of the wedding party for “just a tenner each” if they can hand round flyers while the happy couple are signing the register) and a decision has been reached on the outfits for the bridesmaids and page boy. Even Bea has been pacified by the way I’ve dealt with the slightly more outlandish demands from the happy couple and their mothers. Ivy wanted a hundred doves released as they said their vows and Lou, Darren’s mother, wanted Chas n Dave to play at the reception. Janey woke up one morning and decided she wanted an Egyptian themed wedding so that she could be carried into the church by Darren’s team mates dressed in loincloths. I vetoed it on the grounds that you wouldn’t have jellied eels and mini sausages at an Egyptian wedding and Darren wasn’t having “Tel and that lot” getting their hands all over his wife to be.

I saw The Dress this afternoon. It’s nice. Very simple and so un-Janey-like. No flounces and only the teeniest tiny frill around the hem. The iridescent beads will be hand sewn on by the dressmaker Amy once the final fitting has taken place. Amy, a jovial woman with pins sticking out of her mouth, warned against eating too many takeaways once the final alterations have been made. Janey wrinkled her pretty nose as she stepped out of the dress and slithered back into her jeans and vest top. “I NEVER eat takeaways – do you know how much hidden fat there is in them?” she said in horrified tones. Sensing a diatribe on how she only eats salad and fruit but never bananas, I whisked her off to pick Mac up from nursery. “Is that him?” she asked, peering into the playground. She can’t wear contact lenses and only wears her glasses when she needs to see things. I looked in the direction she was pointing and was affronted to find out she thought my son was the scruffy looking creature skulking across the playground. His jeans were falling off him, his T-shirt was ripped, his hooded jacket was minus a hood – that very same hooded jacket that I lovingly washed yesterday.

My dander was up – what the hell was my child doing looking like a reject from Glastonbury on dirty protest? His face looked grubby from here and his baby elbows were grazed and hold on………he was crying. I was out of that car faster than you could say “scruff”.

“Mummeeeeeeeeeee” he wailed once he saw me. Miss Potts, the slightly nervous classroom assistant hovered by the water cooler. “What’s going on?” I enquired darkly of her. Mac was snivelling into my neck and the poor sausage was shaking like a leaf. Apparently, some new boys joined the nursery for the new term. These new boys are a bit – as Miss Potts put it – rough and ready. Mac got himself suitably together to inform me that these big boys – twin brothers – had spent the morning and most of the new term bullying my child. It culminated today when Mac joyfully told his friend Luke during Morning Break that he was going to be bridesmaid instead of a pageboy at Janey’s wedding. The poor excited lamb got his words mixed up and was shoved into a wall as a result. Apparently, Adam – the larger of the two boys - held his hood and bounced him like a bungee.

Miss Potts was now hopping from foot to foot as I asked her if the boys were still here. She seemed incapable of telling me. Mac told me they were “there mummy” and pointed them out to me. These three year olds were HUGE. I mean, seriously huge. Not in height but in size. They looked as if they lived on chips and sweets. Adam – the gorgon on the left – and Ben mooched along scattering children in their wake. They were heading for what I could only assume was their mother. I am not in any way exaggerating when I tell you that she was tattooed, beer bellied and wearing more gold than H Samuels window. I’m no Kate Moss, I even have a tattoo, and I favour chunky silver jewellery but come on. Even Janey was sitting bug eyed in the car as she saw me stride over to Mrs Mother Of Bullies.

“Excuse me” I said as I approached, proffering my grubby and tatty-looking son as an opening gambit. She removed the cigarette from her mouth, shifted her chewing gum from one side to the other and looked me up and down. “Yeah?” she said, raising one pencil thin eyebrow that was pierced tastefully with a gold screw. As she unflexed her arm muscles, the Crystal Palace tattoo on her bicep moved sinuously. “Your children have been bullying my son” I said, nerve deserting me somewhat as the other School Gate Mummies were retreating away from me. Mrs Mother Of Bullies bounced a buggy up and down (another large child nestled within – about 10 months old and sporting gold hoops and identity bracelet). By then Adam and Ben had reached us. “Ere you two, have you been bullying this little boy?” she asked, gesturing to Mac with her lit cigarette, a large sovereign ring on her middle finger glinting in the sun. “No mum” they both said in unison and extremely sweetly. Mac was hiding behind me at this point. Mrs Mother of Bullies shrugged at me, threw her cigarette to the floor, ground it into the pavement with her Reebok’d foot and the merry little band strolled off down the road with nary a backwards glance.
I was incensed. Miss Potts had disappeared – no doubt to lie in a darkened room with smelling salts. I dusted down my son and bore him off to the car but not before lodging a complaint with the “right-on” head of the nursery who promised to “look into it Mrs Mitchell”. Janey was still bug eyed in the front seat. “Who was that?” she asked, dusting down her size 8 self and holding her stomach in self consciously. I muttered something incomprehensible and whisked off home for a nice soothing cup of tea, a hobnob and a cuddle with my son.

We passed the Family of Bullies as we drove along Nunhead Lane. They were standing outside the chip shop, both boys had a box of chicken and chips each, Mrs Bully was delving into an open bag of chips and the baby was gnawing on a battered sausage.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Funny how.....

…..things always work out for the best! I cracked last night and told Lydia that I had someone in mind for her house. She was overjoyed and rang Janey immediately. But Janey knocked her back! She said “no offence but couldn’t live that close to my cousin, I want to cut the family apron strings after I’m married”. I mean, I’m officially offended but also hugely relieved! Especially as Lydia got home from work tonight beaming from ear to ear. She had posted a “flat/house share wanted” notice on the staff noticeboard just this morning and an hour later was offered the full run of a town-house in Beckenham.
The owner – Julia - works away a lot so Lydia would more or less have the place to herself. Beckenham’s a bit further out than she would ideally like but now is not the time to look a gift-horse in the mouth. And the answermachine was flashing at her when she got in – the letting agent has found a couple in their late fifties who are dead keen to move into the area. They’ve moved from Sussex to be near their son and grandchildren and will be dropping into have a quick look this evening. Lydia has taken all this as a sign that she’s doing the right thing, everything is fitting in smoothly and she’s now praying that it doesn’t “all go tits up”.

Ruby Over The Road was devastated to hear the news when Lydia told her she was moving away. Since the whole “Mike and Susan” affaire became public knowledge, Ruby has been blanking them both whenever she sees them. “The cheeky madam even had the gall to ask me how best to braise lamb when she saw me in the butchers last week” she said as she absent-mindedly patted Lydia’s forearm. Jane Opposite joined our merry little band as we stood outside my gate, smoking a cigarette in a holder and peering at us through the smoke. “Letting ‘em get away with it though isn’t it?” she asked Lydia “I’d have stuck around, made their life hell” she went on. Ruby looked slightly disturbed at this. “How?” she wanted to know. Sadly Jane had to leave us at that point – Bill couldn’t work the “faaacking SkyPlus”.

A BMW crawled past us containing a nicely dressed couple and a smarmy looking gentleman. The letting agent – for it was he – opened the back door of the car and a man and a woman in matching jumpers and wearing leisure shoes got out and stood nervously on the pavement. Lydia rushed off to greet them and to “sell” her home.

She really is keen to get away as soon as possible!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Moving stories

Lydia Robinson is moving out of our pretty little avenue. She says she no longer has a choice, especially since Love Rat Mike has informed that he will no longer be paying his half of the mortgage after this month. However sad I feel that I’ll be losing someone who has become a good friend, it was inevitable that Lydia would leave – living up the road from your estranged husband and his tart is a little too much for her to bear.

She broke the news to me this morning over a lovely latte and a slice of carrot cake. Mike had visited her on Saturday for a “talk”. The “talk” included asking her not to contest the divorce he is already seeing his solicitor about, showing her a scan of Robinson Junior and telling her he would be using his wages to help to pay Susan’s mortgage rather than “theirs”.
She’s remarkably calm about it all – I’d still be throwing things and kicking furniture. Matthew, she says, came up with all sorts of solutions for her including one in which he moves out of his flatshare and into her house. Sweet, she says, but she’s not ready to get that deep into another relationship. So, the estate agent is due at 12noon tomorrow and Lydia is on the mailing lists of several estate agents. Ideally, she says, she’d like to rent the house out and move somewhere fairly cheap for a while. She says she’s not looking to move too far out of the area but it depends on the cost of flats and so on. Her mother, she says, is already painting the bedroom of her childhood in Deepest Darkest Essex in readiness for her to move home. Lydia said that she’d rather stay living in the same street as B*stard and Tart than do that!

Cousin Janey, on the other hand, is looking into buying properties with her footballer boyfriend for after the wedding. Janey lives with her mother and Darren lives in a four bedroomed house with three other footballers (one of whom actually plays for a “proper” club apparently!) During our daily wedding update chat at lunchtime, Janey revealed that she’s looking at apartments in Surrey Quays, Gypsy Hill, Brockley and Sydenham. Or even in Nunhead or Dulwich, she said almost as an afterthought.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? It’s got to be fate hasn’t it? Do I help Lydia by introducing her to potential buyers/renters? Janey has often commented on how lovely our peaceful little avenue is and of course, having Bill Opposite’s Porsche parked outside is an added bonus for her. Or do I keep quiet? Could I cope with Cousin Janey dropping in every ten minutes to borrow sugar/update me on her latest drama. David would insist that we move rather than let that happen.

Decisions, decisions!

Friday, 20 April 2007

Race for Life

My friends are taking part in the Race for Life on Sunday 15 July 2007 at Blackheath - and they've started a can link to it opposite as well. Sponsorship not required to read their blog but if you could drop them a quid or two, it would be lovely! Thank you on behalf of The Quartet!

At 4.10am no-one can hear you scream.....

Friday began, for me, at 4.10am when Mac’s plaintive cries could be heard emanating from his bedroom. The poor lamb had had a nightmare “about a big thing with all teeth and eyes” and refused point blank to stay in his bed, despite a performance of the “anti-monster” routine, first trialled after Eliza’s last Halloween party. He wasn’t having any of it.

He returned with me to my bedroom and snuggled up against his still sleeping father who expressed sleepy concern that I’d changed sex and shrunk since we went to bed, six hours earlier. “It’s me daddy!” Mac chirped, now wide awake and full of questions. “Why are there monsters in my head mummy?” he asked as he dug an elbow into my chest. “Because you ate cheese before bed.” I answered mumsily (and a little bit grumpily). “Yes but why does that make them in my head?” he went on, kicking the duvet away from him and uncovering both David and myself. “Because……well, there are monsters everywhere. And sometimes people think of them when they’re asleep.” Cue wide-eyed terror from Mac who sat bolt upright in bed, no doubt expecting to see a bug eyed monster hovering at the foot of the bed. “Go to sleep” David contributed as he slid further down the bed in search of the duvet.

“Will the monsters get me?” Mac continued, wrapping both arms round my neck and breathing his sweet baby breath into my face. “No darling, daddy and I will look after you” I promised, already both eyes shut and willing myself to re-enter the Land of Nod. A blissful two minutes of silence before the next thunderbolt. “Mummy, have you got a baby in your tummy?” This time it was David that shot bolt upright in bed, no doubt expecting to see the stork hovering at the food of the bed.

“No” I replied even more grumpily. I know I’ve only been exercising for two weeks but come on. David settled down again, his back to us both. Another minute of silence. “Mummy, how do babies get into ladies tummies?” I could hear David snigger and try to disguise it as a snore. Was I fully prepared to discuss the birds and the bees with my three year old son at twenty past four in the morning? Is there ever a good time to discuss this with your children? The bulk of my sex education came from Miss Ross in Biology in the first year of secondary school which entailed looking at pictures of the different bits that men and women have (inside and out) and putting a condom on a courgette. I tell you, my twelve year old self was fainting clean away at the sheer size of the courgette whilst my school mates attempted to act blasé. Oh, and from a conversation with my mother when I was nine and I asked her, on the way back from seeing her friend in Islington, how babies were made. We were on the top deck of a 171 at the time and there were lots of interested parties up there, listening in. Mum, bless her, told me the bare – if slightly untrue - facts. A man’s tadpole meets a ladies seed and that makes a baby. I demanded to know how that happened. I still remember my exact words “What, do they leap of the man and lady and do this on the mattress?”. Mum shushed me and looked out of the window for the rest of the journey home.

Mac was still waiting for a reply and was stroking my face. “You’re lovely mummy” he said with a cheesy grin. Pleased with the fact that we could discuss my loveliness rather than the facts of life, I smiled goofily. Nope, he was still on a roll. “So how do they mummy? Do you swallow them?” his eyes were the size of dinner plates. Another snigger from David. I fudged around a bit and started with the usual sentence. “When a man and a lady love each other very much……”. I didn’t want my son growing up and impregnating every young lady he has the good fortune to meet. I want him in a proper relationship, preferably with marriage behind them and excellent job before any begetting takes place. I ended up with “….and that’s how babies are made!”. Mac still looked confused. “But you and daddy are always sleeping together…..and you’ve only had one baby!”

Something tells me that I shouldn’t have used any euphemisms. I changed tack and went for the bare details. Driving it home, as it were. Mac’s dinner plate eyes doubled in size. “Eurgh, that’s hobbible!” he yelled, clutching at his head. Yes, I’d told him straight. He didn’t like it. “Eurgh, daddy!” he continued, turning and pummelling his father in his kidneys. David shot me a look and admitted defeat on the sleep front. “That’s how mummy had you though lad, how can it be horrible?” Mac wasn’t convinced and had both hands covering his eyes. “Hobbible” he reiterated.

David sighed into the early morning darkness and said. “You do realise he’s going to tell everyone about this. We’ll end up being tarred and feathered and put on the Bad Parent’s Register”.

Am sure I’m already on that, somewhere.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Park versus Gym

We eschewed the stuffy, smelly gym last night for a walk round the park in the fresh (!) air. Charlie, Louise, Mary and myself congregated in the car park at Peckham Rye sans dogs and children. It was very liberating I can tell you. Water bottles clutched in our mitts, we got down and dirty with the warm-ups that Louise (married to body builder Tim) always insists we do religiously. There we were, under the trees, stretching and twisting and limbering - watching as kids on bikes tore along the path, dogs chased sticks and loving couples lounged in the sun. All very idyllic.

We decided to quickly walk a lap of the common “just to see how we get on”. Mary has a bad back and had spent all weekend with a cold, Charlie has a dodgy ankle and Louise has problems with her hip and knee which means that at any given moment her thigh goes numb causing a comedy stumble. As the second-from-youngest of the group, I felt quite chipper! Nothing twinging, nothing aching. Amazing!

The first lap (along by now defunct paddling pool of my youth – ah, many happy hours spent in there - along the main road, to the corner, up what is locally known as The Side of The Rye opposite Barry Road, before walking back along past the One O’clock Club and the old - now sadly removed - Prisoner of War huts) took us roughly 15 minutes. We were all concentrating on the joys of exercise so only briefly touched on Louise’s sisters birthday party plans, Charlie’s work dilemma, Mary’s chest and whether it was wheezing and my comments about the dead daffodils.

By the second lap (in reverse this time, for originality), we were planning twice weekly park walks and there was even talk of abandoning the gym altogether. By the time we’d reached the dead daffodils along The Side of The Rye we were all chipping in to buy some basic weights, stretch bands, mats and skipping ropes so that we could have our own “park gym” which would save 45 quid a month each. We agreed that, after a brief rest on the benches, we could go round again. Mary’s wheezy chest wasn’t given her too much grief, Louise’s thigh had only gone numb once and Charlie’s ankle was holding out admirably.

The third lap was noticeably slower than the second. We were ambling rather than walking by then. Comments were being passed on passers-by as they waited for buses (“Don’t like that skirt that woman’s wearing” – Charlie. “I’ve got that in black” - Louise). A dog-walker was loudly castigated by myself and Mary for watching as her rather large dog deposited something unpleasant in the long grass before walking off without picking it up. Lady Dog Walker made a very rude gesture and an even ruder comment. I do so despise inconsiderate dog owners that ruin it for the rest of us. By the first bank of dead daffodils, a loving couple were enjoying a good old snog and there was much nudging and winking amongst the four of us as we approached that turned to old fashioned blushes when we realised that the loving couple were both female and really going for it. Practically by the roadside! By the third bank of daffodils we were stopped in our tracks (helpfully Louise’s thigh went numb again) by the most hunkiest jogger in the world. Most joggers in the park are of a certain age, paler than milk, dressed like a reject from an 80s pop video and gasping for air. This guy was tanned, dressed in teeny tiny shorts and vest and breathing as if it wasn’t an effort. He was running in short bursts, his legs pounding like pistons as we all stood there with our mouths open. Once Louise’s numbness had dispersed, we were off again, now all but meandering along past a heaving One O’Clock Club – kids were climbing all over the jauntily coloured apparatus, screeching with delight while parents fondly watched them.

As we returned to our starting point, instead of milling around by the benches as we had done previously, there was a concerted move towards the cars.

Well.....there's no point in overdoing it!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

7.30pm Tuesday

Is it me or are you now feeling sorry for Eastenders' Ben Mitchell? He's gone from annoying the hell out of me to making me want to hug him and feed him up. Not only is his big brother Ian as wet as the fish before it's battered in the chippy, he's got a father whose colour changes from grey to red depending on his mood and who uses exhaling as a form of communication. He's now got potential-step-mother-from-hell Stella. I'm even moved to say "poor kid"!

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Money Money Money

Congratulations to Silver Birch and all that backed him - needless to say we didn't! We went, between us, for Celtic Son, Joe's Edge, Eurotrek and Longshanks. Saskia is kicking herself - apparently she "hovered over Silver Birch but didn't go for it". Jack Next Door did judging by the amount of whooping and yelling going on as the race ended. But we did win ten pounds on Thunderball last night - we're off to spend it now!

Friday, 13 April 2007

Grand National 2007

Well. For the first time in my life I've placed a "proper" bet on the Grand National. When I say "proper", I mean officially rather than putting a quid in a pile and each member of the family having to pick a horse out of a hat to win the pot. Last year Mac scooped the £9 jackpot. Didn't quite make it to a bookies though. Can't quite shake off the image of sweaty, tattooed men all gazing up at a screen and urging on "old nags" and then kicking off, spitting and whinging when they lose.

It was all quite civilised in the end. Saskia got me started - she came in this morning with the paper and started looking at the runners and riders with all the authority of someone who spent her youth at Catford Dogs Track. I got quite excited at placing a bet but was worried that once I'd started I wouldn't be able to stop. I'd be betting on everything like my maternal Grandfather who would bet a days wages, along with his workmates, on the colour of the next car that pulled into the car park of the hotel he worked in. I'd end up feverishly betting on-line all day and all night, I'd be pouring our money down the drain and neglecting my child and my marriage. Saskia shut me up by pointing out that I do the Lottery twice a week and stick to my £2 a day limit. Hm. Well, sometimes I have a go on Thunderball too.......

Anyway. When I asked her how she was going to pick a horse she said "Pah, it's simple. You look at their odds, their probable jockey and don't forget the trainer. Haven't got a hope in hell if it's Joe Bloggs from Oxshott trying his hand at running a yard and only been in the business a week." she continued, pushing her glasses further up her nose. I got quite excited at this point, Saskia used to go out with a jockey but she found his height off-putting. Apparently he banned her from wearing any sort of heel and even then she was three inches shorter than him "I got a crick in my neck from stooping and, besides, he stank of horses" she announced at the time.

So, looking at the runners and riders and trainers and odds and then what? I was desperate to know. Sask looked a bit sheepish at this point and chewed on the end of her pen. "Well, and then, well.....y'know" she said, inching further along the sofa and peering at Loose Women on the telly. "Then, well, you choose.....well. Oh, okay, you choose the horse with the nicest sounding name or a name that means something to you!" she admitted, throwing her pen and the paper on the floor.

Hah! Random betting! I can do this. While Saskia logged on and joined a betting site, Mac and I pored over the paper. Hm. Horse name that means something. I had a strawberry yoghurt this morning so perhaps Bewleys Berry? Quite keen on gardening so Hedgehunter? Longshanks as Mac has long legs? Simon as it's the name of the postman? Some of these names though - makes you wonder what they're called in the stables. I can't imagine the owner of Numbersixvalverde calling out "Dinner, Numbersixvalverde!". Do they shorten it to Greenie? Sixie? Or perhaps it's like the Kennel Club. You've got the dog's Kennel Club name (we had a spaniel when I was younger and his KC name was Captain Vornick Chestnut. Don't ask.) but you call him a normal name at home. Captain Vornick Chestnut was more commonly known as Conker. So perhaps Numbersixvalverde is called Fred in the yard and Monkerhostin is called Neddy.

Looking at the list of non-declared riders got me quite excited. Model Son! I've got one of those so would have chosen that. Dublin Hunter to remind me of when I went to Dublin with Charlie and we spent the whole time hunting for a decent cappucino. I dragged my eyes back to the list of actual runners just as Saskia was entering her credit card details and announced that she'd registered. Using a highly scientific and well thought out method (no, not going to reveal our secrets) we chose our horses. Mac wanted to have a bet and so chose his horse by simply asking me to given him a number between 1 and 40. David rang just as Saskia was inputting all this information and said I could choose one for him. The responsibility! I managed to do this with little or no fuss....I simply chose a horse who was trained by somebody called David.

See? Who needs to study form!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007


Not too bad. Not too good. Fair to middling would be my description. I think I've pulled something, Charlie got dehydrated, Louise dropped a dumbell on Mary's foot but least whippersnapper Vince doesn't work there any more. No, we got Gladiator-type woman called Serena who told us to "visualise the bodies we want". It was when I was visualising myself as Jennifer Aniston that I pulled a muscle.

David is on hand to rub it better and provide me with all the news from Corrie.

Gym Bunny

I've taken the plunge. I'm going back to the gym tonight after an absence of, ooh, about 7 months. The last time I went was on possibly the hottest day of last summer, the air con had broken and I was poured back into my car by my lovely fellow gym bunnies. I lost about a stone of fluid just by walking for twenty minutes on the treadmill and went through four litres of Volvic before I felt "normal" again. And then I couldn't go back because I had embarrassed myself by collapsing over the rowing machine and making gurgling noises.

Still, they've had a 25% staff change so I think it's fairly safe to go back. Charlie and Louise are taking the plunge and rejoining me, and I've managed to convince friend Mary to come along too. Safety in numbers and all that.
I've got a love-hate relationship with the gym. I first went in February of last year, having spent the last 14 or so years avoiding them like the plague. In my twenties there were always more exciting ways to lose weight and stay fit. My first visit came about as a bit of a dare. Charlie said she'd go if I did. I said I'd go if she did. As a result of this, we both ended up sitting in lycra and trainers on a bench watching a young whippersnapper named Vince limber up on an exercise mat. The warm-up was enough for me, I was ready for the sofa and telly but no, Vince lead us over to a very scary looking machine called the cross-trainer and began to push buttons all over the place.
The first visit nearly killed me. I staggered out of there, past gorgeous young things effortlessly chatting whilst pounding along on the treadmill. Without a word, Charlie and I headed for the first chip shop we saw. There's something faintly obscene about standing in a chip shop, sucking the salt off the chips whilst wearing exercise gear.
It got better - and so did I, and only only on one visit a week. I could do 20 minutes on the rowing machine and hold a conversation at the same time. Charlie became attached to the cross trainer and had to be physically removed from it at the end of each session. We became slavish converts to warm ups and warm downs, becoming especially good at The Plank. This entails lying flat on your stomach, raising yourself up on your elbows and your toes and holding. It tightens all the muscles in the body and my best time was 70 seconds. Doesn't sound a lot, granted, but you try clenching your entire body for more than a minute with the certain knowledge that there are at least three Size Zeros looking at the size of your bottom as it quivers with exertion.
And then came the fateful day in May. I had been feeling decidedly ropey all day - Mac had been playing up and I was very tired. I'd left him with David and the sulks and I headed gymwards. Charlie was on holiday (not stuffing herself poolside, she assured me) and Louise was bouncing along quite happily which merely added to my bad mood. Anyway, I coped with the warm up and I had been doing some squats and felt a bit lightheaded so sat down for a while with my bottle of water. Vince, young whippersnapper that he is, kept bounding over to me, urging me to get going on the bench press. To shut him up (he did go on an awful lot) I sat down and hooked my legs and arms around various levers. And then.....boof!
I remember "going"......I felt very, very, very lightheaded, my ears were pinging and my whole body was shaking.........I felt myself "go". The next thing I remember is Louise trying to force my bottle of water into my mouth and being wafted up the cleavage by a hunky gym boy wearing nothing but shorts. Apparently I'd been out for about a minute. Lou said hunky gym boy went white under his tan and Vince was poised to dial 999. All the Size Zeros, I found out later, didn't even break their stride. They're obviously used to early thirtysomethings keeling over. Vince, regaining the upper hand and putting his mobile away, got me on the treadmill for ten minutes at 10mph to "work my way through it".
It's funny now but at the time it was very frightening. Louise was envisaging what to say in my eulogy. When I got home David insisted on putting me to bed and taking both my temperature and my blood pressure. My temperature was fine but my blood pressure was 90/61 - an hour after the incident...gawd knows what it was at the time. When anyone in Holby has BP that low, people start rushing around and panicking. I spent the evening in bed with a very concerned (sweet!) husband checking on me every ten minutes and bringing me nourishing things to eat.
The following week I returned, Louise watching me like a hawk, ditto Vince. The hunky gym boy was nowhere to be seen. I heard later, earwigging a conversation between a couple of the Size Zeros, that he'd been frightened off by an "incident". Wonder what it was!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007


Following on from my slightly nostalgic post yesterday (wittering on about Harry Secombe and Sunday night hair washes), I've been feeling just that. Nostalgic. It's a funny word when you think about it. As is nostalgia. Hey ho.

Whatever happened to the sweets of my youth? I know you can still get cola bottles, blackjacks and fruit salads but they just don't taste the same. Where are the MoJo's? Nova bars? Space dust - which used to foam in your mouth especially if you helped it down with a mouthful of cream soda. And why doesn't Roast Beef Monster Munch taste the same as they did in my youth? They surely didn't taste synthetic back then? And Vimto - either it's changed, I've changed or it's always tasted like disinfectant.

And games! What about 40/40 in the street with your friends on muggy summer evenings while The Parents all watched telly and watered the garden. I can't exactly remember the fundamental rules but I know that it involved running, yelling and hiding behind trees. I do remember, however, old Mr and Mrs Gennie (they were in their late forties at the time!) blithering on about the dangers of running up and down the road wearing jellie shoes. Jellie shoes! Who remembers those? I had a sparkly pink pair for best and a red pair for going in and out of the sea when on holiday. Knock Down Ginger was a favourite as well, especially when we KDGingered the Gennie's during "It's a Knockout". Haha!

Then there was entertainment. Telly highlights included the Dukes of Hazzard, TJ Hooker, CHiPs, and at lunchtime (I came home from school for lunch) there were The Sullivans (the lives and loves of a war-torn family in Melbourne) and The Flumps (small lumps of brown fur on legs) I was obsessed with Pootle (the little one) and wanted to name my first child after him. I also used to want to be Daisy Duke and spent many a childhood afternoon being "rescued" by an invisible Bo or Luke whilst my friend Natasha did Sergeant Roscoe impressions. I also had a fancy for Adrian Zmed who played Vince in TJ Hooker - but then I saw him in Grease 2 which pretty much ruined any fantasies for me. Ditto with Erik Estrada and that blonde bloke from CHiPs. Not that I saw them in Grease 2 but I got fed up with their macho posturing as they sat astride their bikes and made sexist jokes. The original Grease was far superior and still holds a fond place in my does Dirty Dancing. How I longed to have anyone who looked like Patrick Swayze say to me "Nobody puts Baby in a corner". I was more used to being a wallflower at parties and always being one of the ones who helped tidy up afterwards. I always ended up with a dustpan and brush......

Boy Bands! Before they were called boy bands! Bros and New Kids on the Block. If you were a Bros fan you couldn't like NKOTB and vice versa. Rivalry was, er, rife. I wasn't bothered either way but was partial to humming "Cat among the Pigeons". A girl at school, Kelly, claimed that she knew the Bros boys personally as they used to live in Peckham, three doors along from her friend of an aunt. This was treated with a fair amount of derision by my fellow classmates but a good 11 of them went on a pilgramage to the boys' old house one day. Apparently, their mum gave them all a carton of Princes orange juice which I bet were never thrown away. Wham! How many of us girlies lusted after George and his quiff, not noticing the rather soulful Andrew Ridgeley behind him strumming a guitar? How many of us girlies felt cheated when George came out and Andrew went in, never to be seen again.

Rubik's cubes! I nearly broke my fingers twisting and clicking away for hours on that wretched thing. It was an obsession, trying to get all the coloured sides lined up! You could get different shaped ones, as well as square and I had them all. You could hear me coming as I clicked, cursed and fumbled away. We used to have Rubik's cube challenges at school - one corner of the playground sounded like a grasshopper and cricket orgy as we all tried our hardest to outdo our contemporaries. Until one day, Nicholas stunned us all. He stood up, pleaded for silence and then, from behind his back, brought out a completed Rubiks cube. It was a pivotal moment. We knew he'd done it "his way" because I saw him with it that very morning in the milk queue and it was all jumbled up. He became a God-like figure and the afternoon was spent gazing at him in awe. Until he was rumbled. He'd thrown it on the floor in frustration and it fell apart - how easy it was for him to put it back how it should be!

Ah........I've set Saskia, Eliza and Charlie off now - Saskia is hooting even now with laughter as she remembers me pretending to be Daisy Duke at a school jumble sale "foiling" the evil headmistress in her dastardly plan, along with the invisible Bo and Luke and ending up pulling the entire contents of the White Elephant stall down on top of me. Thanks to the wonder of Sky I can relive my Dukes of Hazzard and CHiPs days whenever I feel like it - Mackenzie enjoys them too. David thinks I'm crazy but is everso slighly engrossed when Daisy Duke appears on screen. He claims it's because he's looking for the certain similarities between her and me. Hm.

I've Googled "nostalgia" and came up with this which in turn, when searching for space dust, I found this. It's well worth a look!!!

Monday, 9 April 2007

One Hell of a Weekend

Saturday. The day that David promised me he would amuse his mother. How was he planning to do this? By taking her to the World of Golf superstore in Sidcup. Perhaps understandably she was less than keen on going. “No, I’ll help with the shopping for tomorrow” I heard her say as she buttered her fifth piece of toast. Mac, fresh from walking Jessica round the garden (all three dogs sat at the patio window and watched with glum looks on their faces) was asked if he wanted to go in Granny’s place. Faced with a morning spent with his doting father in an as yet unchartered territory or shopping in Sainsburys with his growling mother, he dashed off to change into something golf orientated.

After watching me add a few final things to the shopping list, folding it and putting it into my bag along with mobile phone and purse, Amelia asked if she could add a few things to take home with her. “It’ll save me asking Edie Mickelthwaite’s son”.

Pilchards, lemon curd, gravy granules, Jacobs crackers, Dijon mustard.

David kissed me goodbye which elicited a tut from his mother. He kissed his mother goodbye and I tried not to yowl. We really don’t get on at all you know. The drive to Sainsbury’s was uneventful. She tried not to clutch her seatbelt and cross herself when I overtook a bus on Champion Hill. Driving Amelia always makes me want to do handbrake turns and rev the engine yobbishly at traffic lights. She brings out the truculent teenager in me.

Sainsbury’s Dog Kennel Hill is effectively a building site – they’re revamping the store but its still easier for me get to and negotiate than Sainsburys New Cross. Amelia’s first comment was “How on earth are you expected to get into the shop?” I pointed out the huge entrance with the rather large “Entrance” sign above it and wrestled with a trolley. Amelia took control and just walked, regardless of other people with wayward trolleys, cars and a bus. All screeched to a halt as she strode on regardless, leaving me following her, red faced and damp around the armpits.

Fruit, veg and salad were placed in the trolley with little or no problems and we headed for the ready meals section. “Why Don’t You Make Fresh?” she queried as I hoiked three lasagnes in the trolley. She repeated the question when I didn’t answer immediately. I was counting to ten. Explaining as I swept round to the yoghurt section that my lasagnes could be used as doorstops, she halted by the fish counter to insult the cod and halibut. And again by the meat counter, looking outraged when I perused the pre-packed beef joints. “This is Fresher!” she boomed, pointing at the amused butcher. I pretended not to know her and picked up Jamie Oliver’s 21 day matured beef. “That’ll Be Off!” she chuntered, striding over to look at a towering display of Easter eggs.

Halfway round, I’d forgotten I meant to pick up some tulips. “I’ll go dear” she said, smiling at me before trotting off obediently. Ten minutes later there was no sign of her and I’d kept popping back to the aisle she’d left me in. Hefting the full to the brim trolley in front of me I headed flower-wards. “Don’t worry young lady, you take a seat there and we’ll do an announcement” said a rather lanky youth behind me as I passed the Customer Service desk. I tutted almost automatically at the thought of yet another Poppy/Clara/Flora/Millicent being lost in the wilds of the freezer section as a yummy mummy or right-on daddy perused the organic mushrooms. “Would the daughter-in-law of Amelia Mitchell please return to the Customer Service desk”

I went hot, then cold and wanted to climb into the flora and fauna in front of me. I turned round slowly and there was Amelia, clutching her throat and taking shaky sips from a glass of water as a clutch of orange jacketed youths milled around her. Apparently, when she returned to the freezer aisle where she’d left me, and I wasn’t there, instead of waiting or looking for me herself she did the next best sensible thing and reported me to the deputy manager of the store for abandoning her. I got a very sympathetic look from the deputy manager – perhaps he has a MIL From Hell too.

We went through the tills in silence and drove home in a pretty similar manner. It was minus 10 in that car by the time I’d pulled up outside the house. I started throwing carrier bags into the hallway as she made her way to the sofa and the remote control. Chuntering madly, I put everything away, filled the kettle and laid my head on the cool work surface.

“If you’re making tea, I’ll have coffee” came a voice from the living room.

Sunday. Dinner wasn’t as dreadful as I had thought it would be. David more than made up for his golfing aberration the day before by not only amusing Amelia all afternoon on Saturday with old photo albums and a walk down memory lane so I could have a relaxing afternoon generally pottering around but this morning he took her to church with Mac. He had to find it first, it being so long since he stepped in anything remotely resembling a church. Mac promised to show him where it was.

Lydia and Matthew arrived while they were out – Lydia looked amazing and she admitted while Matt was in the loo that they’d done “it” for the first time the night before. I dropped the spatula as she went into rhapsodies over his technique, staying power and, erm, dimensions. I halted her, I don’t really feel comfortable talking like this about my step-son. She does look amazing though. I felt like sending her along to Susan at Number 30 to ask to borrow a cup of sugar. Matthew looked equally amazing – he’s a very handsome boy, like father like son. I looked at them both fondly as they argued over who had the biggest Easter egg. They’re obviously over the age gap problems.

The church-goers returned at half past 12 and Amelia immediately spotted the cuckoo in the nest. “Hello, And Who Are You?” she said, regally holding a hand to Lydia as she returned from the Littlest Room. Lydia, not sure whether to merely take her hand or kiss it, told her she was a neighbour and friend. “Yes Well, As I’m Sure You’ll Appreciate, We’re Having A Family Lunch. Myself, My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren So, It Was Nice Meeting You But……” Amelia left the rest of the sentence hanging and almost swept Lydia out of the room.

The cheek of her! I was so incensed at her rudeness I couldn’t speak. David handled the situation and within minutes we were all “laughing” at the mix up. Not me. I quickly rang Saskia and Charlie on my mobile and invited them over later. Hah! That’ll teach her. Lydia looked faintly uncomfortable and surreptitiously removed her wedding ring as we made our way to the table.

Mac is such a little man now, he spread his napkin over his lap rather than tucking it in his collar and ate his melon with raspberry coulis like a pro. There was a rather dodgy incident when he scattered his carrots all over the place but Amelia was grilling Lydia and so missed it. She’s very hot on table manners, even David keeps his elbows out of the way.

As Lydia was looking a bit shellshocked at all the questioning, Matthew bore her off to the garden before dessert for a cigarette and no doubt a quick snog. Oh, how I miss those illicit snogs. It’s not quite the same when all you’re hiding from is a slightly disapproving three year old. Amelia patted her mouth, covered the (empty and all but licked clean) plate with her napkin and pronounced the meal “nice although the carrots were a bit underdone for me”. David shot me an understanding look. She then took to her bed at just gone eight complaining of stomach ache “I don’t think the gravy agreed with me, shop bought you see” she said loudly as she wearily climbed the stairs.

Monday. Breakfast a little subdued due to the copious amount of wine I had drunk the previous evening. Saskia and Charlie arrived (late!) at nine with three bottles of red and three of white. Matt and Lydia staggered home at gone 2 this morning. As a result, not up to taking Amelia home and stopping off at posh restaurant as per the plan. Eliza rang mid morning: did Mac want to play with Ashley this afternoon and sleep over tonight? Ashley got a tent for Easter and it had been “pitched” in her bedroom. Mac more than keen and packed for a week. Amelia, once Mac had departed, felt very put out and said she’d like to leave a bit earlier than planned and, while David were there, could he do one or two jobs in the flat?

As a result I spent a blissful afternoon re-reading, for about the fifteenth time, both Bridget Jones’ diaries (Helen Fielding = Genius) firstly spread out on the sofa with huge bag of Maltesers and then later in the bath complete with candles and shamefully large glass of wine. Am now waiting for David to come home, hair washed, squeaky clean in new tartan jim-jams with a nice curry bubbling on the stove. Do you remember that “Sunday evening feeling”? When you were about 8 years old, waiting for the Top 40 on the radio, Harry Secombe burbling on the telly after Bullseye and the knowledge that you’ve already done your homework so don’t have to do it on the bus on the way to school.

Yes? Well, now imagine that AND the satisfaction of knowing that your Mother-in-Law is not due to visit again until at least Whitsun weekend and that you’re planning to make full use of the fact that your Son and Heir is two streets rather than two rooms away from your boudoir. Bliss!

Friday, 6 April 2007

Jolly Good Friday

Sometimes I know for certain that my mother-in-law loathes and despises me and would do anything to annoy me. David thinks I’m being paranoid “Your mother likes me!” he says, missing the point completely. Saskia and Charlie – neither of whom have MILs – think I’m being mean “Aw, she’s old and lonely, you should be nicer to her, you’ll be her age one day”. Even Bea, who’s own MIL is, shall we say, less than nice to her thinks I’m making several mountains out of one molehill.

I do feel for Amelia, I do. In my more rational moments I’m even quite misty eyed when I think of her struggling along on her pension in a Sevenoaks sheltered housing complex. She doesn’t make friends easily (hardly surprising really) and those friends she does have are either deaf, senile or both. Anyway, they’re all away for Easter with various relatives. The anniversary of her husband’s death is a date that I observe religiously, not only for David’s sake but for hers. It’s a day out for me (and I mean that nicely) as we visit his grave, take flowers and generally reminisce. My FIL Frank was a nice, kindly old gentleman. He’s been gone for nearly four years now and never got to meet Mac who would have loved him. See, as I write this, I’m quite well disposed towards her.

But then I retreat from my PC, just for a moment, and can see her scrubbing at my kitchen surfaces as if they’ve not seen a wipe with Flash liquid for several months. She’s already “been under the rim with some bleach” and ran her finger along the dado rail as she came down the stairs, peering at it with great disgust when she reached the bottom. She’s been here for nearly three hours. And she’ll be here until AT LEAST mid morning on Monday.

But the really annoying thing is the Easter present she bought for Mac. I know I shouldn’t allow myself to get irritated but I can’t help it.

David and Mac drove off at ten past nine this morning to fetch her – David had already promised they wouldn’t be back much before 4pm. He was going to take them shopping, have lunch out and then come home via the scenic route. Bless him, he does his best to understand.

At twenty past ten I got a phone call from Amelia – she was at Nunhead station and could someone come and help her with her bags. I nearly dropped the phone in shock. I burbled something incomprehensible and rang David on his mobile. He was as incomprehensible as I was. No-one in the entire residential complex knew where his mother was and he was fearing alien kidnap. After I’d calmed him down I told him his mother was here and he had 3 minutes to get home to rescue me.

Amelia looked like a refugee standing on the platform when I got there, draped in scarves and cardigans, clutching her coat. She was miffed when I told her we were on foot and demanded to know where the car was. Not able to tell her why it was parked outside Lydia Robinson’s house (still foiling Mrs Robinson Senior) I lied and said that walking was good for you. She tottered along behind me as I struggled with her coat, a suitcase and old-fashioned blanket bag. When I told her David and Mac had gone to pick her up she fixed me with an accusatory look. “I told him I’d make my own way here” she said, puffing to a standstill outside the newsagent. I was sent in to get some Mint Imperials.

On arriving home she sniffed and pointed out that we Still Had The Dogs Then. All three dogs escaped upstairs and not, hopefully, to roll on her bed. I must check actually. I made her tea, sat her down with an Ayres hot cross bun and the remote control. She immediately turned Sky on and started channel hopping like a teenager. David rang – he was at least an hour away, traffic had built up since this morning and was terrible.

That hour was the longest hour of my life. It was actually one hour and 1 minute but I won’t quibble. Mac arrived and threw himself on his granny and dislodged the remote control from her grip. “What are you watching granny?” he asked, looking at a motherly looking woman showing her television viewers and a simpering host how to make “simple and easy cards and the whole package costs only £25.99 including postage and packing”. Amelia sniffed. “Nothing darling, something your mother was watching, I Don’t Watch Much Television, It Numbs The Mind”. My jaw dropped several inches, mind already numbed with sheer boredom of watching a woman stick butterfly shapes on cardboard for the past forty minutes. I couldn’t even read Heat in peace, she kept making me look at television.

To relieve me of my MIL induced stress, David suggested a trip to Pets At Home to do the usual bulk buy for the dogs. Mac was employed to convince his granny to go with them. “We can look at the birds!” he chirruped, doing an impression of a budgie. I have high hopes for that child – he’ll be in Eastenders in about ten years, as a long lost Beale cousin. They left and the dogs returned to the living room. Twenty minutes there, twenty minutes back, at least 20 minutes in there thanks to Mac’s obsession with budgies. An hour. Bliss. And it was. Cup of coffee, two hot cross buns and a shopping channel free flip through Sky.

Right on cue, pandemonium broke out.

“Mummmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeee!” came the childish screech as the car pulled up outside. I leapt to my feet and collided with Senior Dog in the hallway. “Look what Granny bought me!” he yelled from the path, struggling with a box marked “animals in transit”. The box listed alarmingly to the left and Mac nearly dropped it. Amelia was looking smug as she walked in to help him. “You must look after it darling” she said as the two of them decanted a rabbit into the hallway. All three dogs converged on the poor creature, no doubt looking for its squeak. Mac screamed, Amelia howled as Senior Dog trod on her foot, the rabbit crapped extensively and David clutched his head and a gigantic rabbit hutch. It was therefore left to yours truly to rescue the poor creature (the hall carpet was covered in little black pellets) and remove it to a place of safety. Just the thing to bring calm and balance to this household. The dogs will be pathologically jealous, David won’t have anything to do with it and Mac will lose interest once it doesn’t do tricks. I’ll be left as Chief Rabbit Cook and Bottle Washer. Do you see what I mean? She loathes and despises me.

Welcome to your new home Jessica Rabbit.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Food and Flowers

I met Manuela – a stunning Spanish beauty – at her house in Sydenham this morning to discuss the menu for Janey’s wedding. I’d mentioned over the phone that we wanted to keep it simple, buffet style and she’d prepared a few things for me to try. I ate all of the breadcrumbed mushrooms without even trying the garlic mayonnaise dip. Fantastic.

I also met Manuela’s mother Chineria, her mother-in-law Gabriella and her sister Juliana – they’ll be helping out on the day and also serving. This may pose one or two problems. Chineria and Gabriella speak little English and Juliana will be 7 and a half months pregnant on the day of the wedding. I swallowed my doubts along with a heavenly slice of broccoli quiche.

Manuela had grasped the basics of the menu and ran through the list in her lilting accent – amazing how exotic sausage rolls, mushroom vol-au-vents, mini samosas and strawberry flan sound when spoken with a hint of Spanish.

“Now, about the strawberry falana” she said, clutching my forearm and gazing at me intently. “How about I do a-different falana’s but tiny?” Here she demonstrated the small-ness of the flans by holding her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart. “Strawberry, the orange, the lemon, the garapa?” Chineria and Gabriella nodded enthusiastically and gazed at the menu. Both noses wrinkled in unison after a few seconds. They’d obviously reached the shellfish section. Manuela spoke in a torrent of Spanish and both women relaxed but still looked a tad disturbed. “You don’t want just the jellied eels and the prawns!” Manuela said, with a toss of her auburn curls. “You want the selection! You want the crabcakes, the lobster claws, the mussels, the langoustine – jellied eels and prawns! Pah!” she went on, crossing them off the list with a defiant black pen. I cringed and asserted myself. I could imagine several uncles and distant cousins who would go into a decline if there were no jellied eels. A family occasion meant slimy fish and salty jelly or else it wasn’t a family occasion. “Okkay, we put back. We keep at the back and hope nobody notice” Manuela pushed a slice of quiche lorraine towards me.

By the time I was ready to leave – along with several foil packages of titbits – we had more or less agreed on the menu and were ready to go. The price was right and the food was heavenly – I’d even been offered Manuela’s brother to help out behind the bar.

Pam the florist is a dead ringer for Dame Judi Dench. Seriously, I almost fainted clean away on her doorstep. She’s retired but still likes to keep her hand in and loves weddings and christenings. She’s able to do the bouquets, the table centre pieces, the oasis displays and the church end-of-pew posies.

She’s charging, naturally for the cost of the flowers which she can still get at the flower market at trade but then only a minimal amount for herself. When I checked that that was okay she said “I so love a good wedding, just being there is payment enough”.
Dear Lord, I hope she’s not put off weddings for life by this one.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Disco Balls

Thanks to Jane Opposite, I’ve found a caterer and she is – deep joy! – free on Saturday 30 June. All the other places I’ve tried have been fully booked, with one cheeky whippersnapper (she sounded about 12) telling me that they take bookings a year in advance. Jane was watering her pansies out the front this morning when Janey drew up in her Honda, Nelly Furtado blaring out of the stereo. “Have you found a caterer yet or what?” she bellowed over Maneater. Slithering from behind the wheel, Janey was wearing less than I wear to go to bed in. What appeared to be a sheer blue cot sheet covered her lithe form and clumpy heeled shoes dangled off her stick thin legs. She looked like Barbie’s anorexic sister.

Anyway, Jane heard me bemoaning the fact that every small catering company in south east London was fully booked and she came over to offer me Manuela’s number “She’s Spanish but don’t half do a good spread” Jane said, eyeing up my cousin and smoothing down her own outfit (leopard print top and white jeans). I’ve just rang Manuela who sounded delighted to be asked. I’m meeting her tomorrow to discuss the menu, Janey can’t make it as she’s having her umpteenth dress fitting but told me that she trusted my opinion. Nice to be trust isn’t it. By your own family.

They’ve decided on a Daimler to pick the bride up – the Chairman of Darren’s football club has offered his for the day, with the reserve goalkeeper offering to be chauffeur. Darren’s savings have been eaten up already and there’s only just enough in the budget to pay for Manuela if I discreetly lose a few of the wilder ideas from the buffet. A whole wild salmon is not really necessary and neither is the exorbitant cost of an ice sculpture. You’re looking at a hundred quid before the guy has even got his chisel out. Janey wanted a lifesize footballer taking a penalty. She’ll end up with Charlie being creative with a pile of fruit. So The Groom is looking for a sponsorship deal to help out with the costs. Not Hello, nor OK, not Heat or Womans Weekly – he’s touting round “his contacts” to see what he can do. It's just a shame that he rubs his nose and winks unattractively whenever he says that.

So, apparently, it's "sorted". All I need to do is design an Order of Service booklet and include the names and adverts of all the people contributing. I’ve got Dave’s Disco “all the tunes your feet could want!” on page two along with a list of phone numbers to reach him on. For this, he’s only charging a “couple of ponies” for the reception. And is bringing his "mahoosive glitter ball" with him as an added bonus.
The Chairman of Darren’s football club runs a bookies and he’s taken out a half page ad on page 3 to encourage people to lose their shirts at his establishment as well as details on how to hire out his Daimler should you so wish. Crosses Cabs are putting in a “couple of hundred” if guests are encouraged, via an add in the Order of Service booklet, to use their service to get from the church to the reception and home afterwards. A company called Drinks and Things – run by Les, an old friend of Darren – is donating enough alcohol to ensure that all those guests who drive will be unable to find their cars, let alone drive them, therefore sending them phonewards with the number for Crosses Cabs in their little mitts. Heavenly Hair and Nails are donating their services to the bride and bride’s mother if guests are shunted in their direction – I’ve already booked in for a wash and blowdry on the Friday before.

As you can imagine, Janey is getting great pleasure out of dropping the word "sponsored" into every conversation she has about the wedding and she's dropping huge (and incorrect) hints as to who is contributing. She’s making Dave’s Disco sound like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. She’s also more than a bit peeved with me. “We’re doing all the work here!” she screeched down the phone at me yesterday afternoon. “You’re the Wedding Planner – plan something!”
So I have. I’ve written everything down in my pink wedding planner folder – Darren is never off the sodding phone to me making sure I’ve got all the “details pukka, babe” – and am in the process of negotiating with a florist. According to Saskia who found her through a colleague at work, she’s a fantastic arranger of flowers who will not only attend on the day to coddle the bouquet but she’s cheap as well!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Easter at home

David returned from Amelia’s yesterday morning bearing leftover chicken, home-made rock cakes (“I know you sorely miss home baking darling”) and the look of a defeated man. Still, he perked up after a cup of coffee and a rock cake. Whilst the dogs were crunching on the leftover chicken (no, not the bones, dry old bird) David announced that he had a confession to make. I must admit, my heart stopped. What with all the shenanigans going on with Lydia, Mike and Susan, a tiny part of me fully expected his next words to be “I’ve met someone else”. But it was far, far worse than that.

“Mum’s coming for Easter. I couldn’t help it. She asked and I couldn’t leave her, Marigold is going to her daughters for the weekend and she’d have been all on her own and……..” he tapered off as he caught sight of my expression. I love my husband dearly. I do. But at that moment I could have cheerfully murdered him. And Marigold and her daughter– whoever they are.

My silence prompted him to continue “I’ll take Mackenzie with me to pick her up on Friday and I’ll be as late coming home as I dare – and then we can drop her back mid-morning on Monday and have lunch out, just you, me and Mac.” I was mentally planning to look up the most expensive restaurant in Sevenoaks when a memory prodded at my brain. I had already invited Lydia and Matthew for lunch on Easter Sunday – I asked her yesterday and, for someone who was dickering over her relationship with a man 14 years her junior she was remarkably keen on accepting for both of them. This wouldn’t ordinarily be problem – after all, Matthew is Amelia’s first grandson – but Amelia has a huge problem with extra-marital goings on. She’s not over the fact that her only son remarried with indecent haste after his divorce came through. I think she was most disappointed when it took a year for Mac to appear – she had the shotgun all ready. And she would have used it too.

Plus, Bea has arranged an Easter Egg hunt in Dulwich Park on Sunday morning and I really could not cope with Amelia wittering all the way round – she’s got a pathological hatred of public parks - “They’re full of Dogs Doings, Perverts and Joggers” - but it’s not enough to prevent her from coming along. Oh no, why let a pathological hatred of something get in the way of a good old moaning session. I also wanted to wangle a “sighting” of Matt and Lydia by Mike and Susan. Oh God, why does David do this to me.

I outlined the problems to him. He came up with a number of solutions but they didn’t, sadly, include putting his mother off. Apparently he’s going to amuse his mother all day on Saturday so I will have little or nothing to do with her, he will take both her and Mac to the Easter Egg hunt on Sunday morning, leaving me to cook the beef (I had planned to have lamb but Amelia doesn’t like lamb “far too greasy, it Gives Me Heartburn”) and all the trimmings. And he promised to keep an eye on the situation over dinner to ensure that no-one mentioned divorce, sex outside of marriage, separations, “b*stards and harlots” and religion. This will be a challenge, not least because Mac is absorbed with all things Easter and tells all and sundry that we have hot cross buns “because Jesus ate them when he got cross”, but that Amelia, when she wants to, can be rather holier than thou. She had an attack of the vapours last year at the Nativity play because it wasn’t a traditional version and harangued Mac’s nursery teacher for ten minutes afterwards until David dragged her away. Miss Peterson avoided me for the whole of January.

But, it’s been arranged so I’ve got to bite the bullet. I need to shift all of the junk that has accumulated in the spare room since her last visit and get used to living in a tropical atmosphere. But first, I must tell David that I’ve got my eye on the biggest chocolate bunny in Ayres the Bakers. He’ll know what I mean.

Sunday, 1 April 2007


David's away today and tonight - he's at a financial shin-dig today (start of new financial year blah-de-blah) in Tunbridge Wells and is popping in on his mother in Sevenoaks on the way home for her world famous Roast Chicken and Three Veg (dried old bird, wrinkled carrots, manky sprouts and sodden broccoli.....don't get me started on her bullet-like roast potatoes) and an overnight stay in the narrow single bed of his childhood. Amelia did invite Mac and I but I couldn't cope with a ten hour lecture on how peaky David's looking, how his shirts aren't as Immaculate As His First Wife Used To Do Them and how Mac is so out of control he should expect an ASBO any minute.

Please note that I am no longer biting my tongue where Amelia is concerned - I'll take the risk that every piece of electrical equipment in the house packs up and dies. Ggggrrr.

Anyway. To console Mac on the departure of his beloved father I had planned a fun day. We took the dogs up to Nunhead Cemetary this morning and told spooky stories all the way round. Mac was fine, I jumped sixteen foot in the air everytime one of the dogs emerged from the undergrowth. We came home for breakfast (bacon sandwich for me with rind and Coco-Pops for Mac who promised not to tell daddy) and had a chat with Lydia who was going out to lunch with Matthew. Again. We haven't had a chance to flaunt this burgeoning relationship in front of Mike, the Harlot or Mike's mother but we're working on it. Mac is enchanted that Lydia is seeing his big brother for lunch and asked to join her. Lydia (she's getting used to humouring my son) promised to take him next time. Little does she know that my son has the memory of an elephant and has mentioned it precisely four times since. Still, I'm pleased for her. And Matthew. And Mac, they go out to some swish places these two.

A good morning in the garden - Mac gleefully pointing out that "nothing has died yet mummy!" while watering rather too enthusiastically. All 3 dogs are soaked. A nice afternoon watching Ice Age and Ice Age 2 - me in tears for most of it, Mac patting my shoulder while handing me wine gums and tissues. Roast beef for dinner, Mac helped me, mistaking parsley for rosemary but hey ho, he needs to learn his herbs. I asked for two cloves of garlic and got two bulbs. No dessert today because - gasp - we've got chocolate for when we're watching Emmerdale and Coronation Street. Mac loves Emmerdale for the animals (not that we see much of them since Matt went and therefore stopped going "up to t'top field to see to t'sheep") and I love Coronation Street for its humour. Seriously!

So, chocolate. Mac has his favourite Buttons and, as a special treat, a Chomp. I've got a Lion Bar and - for when Mac's in bed and I'm flicking through the movie channels - Galaxy. Yum.

Whatever happened to Picnic bars?

All about me

My photo
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.