Thursday, 22 February 2007

Farmer Mac

Preparations for Mac's birthday outing to the Hop Farm are gathering pace. The birthday boy is almost beside himself with excitement and is crossing each day off his specially made calendar before bedtime with something akin to hyperactivity. Conversations with my son now include comments such as "cow pats are just poo mummy", "will I be able to cut the wool off the sheep?", "can I drive the taractor" and "how are baby chickens made?". Well, you try explaining a chicken's sex life!

His actual birthday, 1 March, is almost forgotten in his excitement. I've told him that those of his friends that are still actually speaking to us (about 6 have come round my way of thinking) will be coming along to the Harvesters with their mothers. We've abandoned the idea of McDonalds in an everso mature "yah-boo sucks to you losers" dig at the bitter and twisted mothers....ggrrr.....rant. Sorry. Harvesters it is. With the "all you can eat from the salad cart" promise and their gorgeous Kickin' Garlic Chicken. The only problem is, Mac may have gone everso slightly vegetarian since I told him that the mince in the Shepherds Pie I made on Saturday contained, what he could only describe as "moo-cow". He was confused, then apoplectic. "Are you making me eat cows and chickens like they have on farms?" he demanded. I couldn't lie to my son. He took this information to his father who patiently explained that some animals are just made to provide us with food. Once we got through to him that any animal he sees at the farm (including the llamas) will not end up on his plate the following day he calmed down. He didn't eat the Shepherds Pie, I had to scrape the mash off and just give him that. Every meal time since then has been an experience, let me tell you.

Everyone is looking forward to the outing - mum and dad are scouring weather forecasts, Bea is buying designer farm wear at a vast rate of knots and Charlie has already programmed the journey into her sat nav. His birthday presents include some wellies and a gigantic stuffed collie dog and Eliza has promised to make him a farm themed cake. Let the celebrations commence!

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Changing Rooms

David has set me a challenge, a project if you will. Lying on the sofa watching endless home decoration programmes on Sky he kept laughing hysterically between coughing fits. "That looks ridiculous!" he hooted as Carol Smillie proudly displayed a headboad made of MDF and covered in white paint and amateurish roses dotted all over it. He nearly fell off the sofa when Handy Andy painted one wall of someone's living room a nasty sludge brown. "Who wants that to come home to?" he barked, clutching his stomach. "You could do better than that" he added as I handed him a bowl of chicken soup (Covent Garden range, yum). That set him off thinking about me decorating our humble abode rather than paying a professional to do it. Personally, I think he's a bit delirious.

I quite enjoy dabbling with paint brushes and wallpaper steamers, I do. It's just that it looks like a mammoth task from where I'm sitting. Hallway, stairs, kitchen, bathroom, upstairs landing, toy room........that's a lot of paint and elbow grease. Still. The gauntlet has been thrown down and I'm not one to shirk a challenge.

I'm off to B&Q to get some colour charts and some inspiration!

Worry Lines

David has Mackenzie's cold. But obviously, it's "flu". He woke me at half past 2 this morning coughing and spluttering and fumbling blindly for a tissue, before laying back on the bed like a starfish (I had about 9 inches of mattress and zilch duvet coverage) and groaning. "I'b dot a colb!". My wifely response is not printable on this blog, I have my delicate readers to think about. I did, however, drag myself downstairs to make him a Lemsip.

I am quite proud of my wifely skills. I do love David and want to look after him (making sure he eats vegetables, doesn't eat too much salt, isn't worried about unnecessary housely issues - God, am not a 50's throwback honestly) but it can be rather annoying sometimes. Standing in the freezing kitchen with three sulky dogs (I'd turned the light on and all three of them scowled at me as I woke them from their slumbers) at half 2 in the morning is not my idea of a good time. Kettle boiled, Lemsip made, I returned to the boudoir to find him snoring his head off, Olbas Oil bottle leaking everywhere on the bedside table.

I worry about my immediate and extended family. I'd protect David and Mac (and the dogs) with my life. Many's the time I've threatened to go and shout at David's boss when he's being an a*se to my beloved husband - much like I regularly storm the nursery when Mac's biscuit privileges have been removed because he thumped Nasty Nuala because she had the cheek to bite him. One of the do-gooder assistants claim it's because "Nuala has a lot of hidden rage for a three year old". My rage is not hidden as I observe the teethmarks left on my child's arm/leg/cheek after an attack. Just as with the dogs when we're out. Once, a Great Dane pinned Senior Dog to the floor amid gnashing teeth and snarls. Without once thinking of my own safety (this dog's head came up to my chest), I weighed in with my umbrella and Scary Mummy voice. Junior and Middle Dog left me to it as they knew I could cope admirably. Great Dane shot off PDQ and Senior Dog tried to pretend it hadn't happened and sauntered off casually in the opposite direction.

I worry about my parents, once children reach a certain age WE become our parent's parent! Many is the time I've told my dad to wrap up warm while he's at The Den watching football and berate my mum for not finishing her soup. I worry about my sister Bea - although granted, my worries just lately seem to be centered around her choice of au pair. She's had some shockers in the past. One girl arrived from France on the Monday, tasted a Sainsbury's croissant on the Tuesday and was back on Eurostar on Wednesday. Caitlin barely had time to practice her "Bonjour, au revoir" routine. The one she's got now seems to be okay but she's got a licqorice habit that's quite, well, extreme. When we visited on Monday evening, she smiled at Mac and exhibited blackened teeth. Quite terrifying.

I worry about my friends......Charlie who can't find a man (God knows why, she's tall, brunette, legs up to her arm pits and extremely pretty), Saskia who doesn't want a man (she's not going through a lesbian stage, just a man-hating one) and Eliza who fears she'll be pregnant for ever. Her due date is 28 February but she's got doubts that this one will be on time. Ashley was ten days late and had to be hoiked out rather unceremoniously. I still don't think she's forgiven her mother.

There's no time to worry about myself so I let others do it for me. David worries that I'm getting bored and am not fulfilled enough at home, Bea worries that I'm going all New Age (I've bought some crystals, so pretty, and some aromatherapy stuff), Dad worries about my inability to change a plug (!), Saskia worries about me dropping into the world of Yummy Mummies and never getting out and Charlie just worries. About everything.

Anyway. It's time for another Lemsip and for me to pander to my poor, ill husband who is lying on the sofa, remote control at the ready, wrapped in my fleece, manfully trying not to wheeze too much.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Birthday Boy

"Darling, you'll never guess what!" My sister Bea rang just as I was sliding a chicken into the oven. "It's Ray Winstone's birthday today!" she continued in an excited tone. Nothing to get excited about you may think but, to my sister and I, Lord Ray of Winstone is the absolute bees knees, male totty wise. Short of suggesting we bike round a birthday card (with personal greetings from us two) to his home (not that we know where it is, lawyers please take note) I did the next best, grown-up thing. I squealed!! Bea squealed. Mackenzie squealed purely because his cold is getting better and he sounds less like he's on forty B&H a day.

Ray Winstone. Ever since I saw him strut his stuff as Henry VIII I've been hooked. I watched him in Arthur with the (be still my beating heart) ever so slightly sinister Clive Owen. When he had his own show on ITV, Vincent, Monday nights became sacrosanct and even David knew not to bother me for an hour and a half from 9pm. Hell, even that bloody cereal advert has me glued to the screen. I don't know what it is. No, scrub that. I do. It's his voice, his demeanour, his eyes, his........okay, I'm in serious danger of gushing here so I'll go and baste my chicken. After I've rung Bea to check if she's tracked the birthday boy down.

Sigh......I wish!

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Sunday, Sunday

Sunday evening, and all is right with the world. Well. Nearly alright with the world. David often wonders how I can be so cheerful in the face of such adversity and has offered me some solutions.

Worry 1: Mac's cold is still in evidence although the Calpol is having some effect. He no longer sounds like an asthmatic pervert but his voice is strangely deep for a nearly three year old - it sounds as if his voice has broken. It's slightly offputting hearing my son boom "Can I have a cup of tea please mummy" whilst sounding like Brian Blessed.

David's solution: what's the problem, it's a cold!

Worry 2: The BMW is making a clunking sound. Not all the time, just whenever I go round a corner. Or reverse. It sounds like a little man with a hammer is under the bonnet.

David's solution: ring Garage Tom in the morning and book it in to be looked at. honestly, women, do I have to do everything myself.....etc to fade.

Worry 3: Senior dog ate something dubious in the park this morning and is now mooching around the house emitting noxious whiffs. I've been tempted to give him some J Collis Brown but David advised against it.

David's solution: Charcoal biscuits and alpine air freshener. Oh, also....stay down wind.

Worry 4: My cousin is newly engaged to what can only be described as a footballer. Amateur league only but a footballer none the less. Called Darren. Her mother is estatic, my mother is dubious, his mother is in rehab.

David's solution: We can be away for the wedding.

Worry 5: The freezer is broken and leaking water all over the newly laid laminate flooring. Twenty quids worth of steak ruined, as well as Mac's Curly Fries and, well, the entire contents.

David's solution: You didn't tell me about the freezer.....bloody hell, whinge, etc

Worry 6: Lydia Robinson has taken to sitting out in her garden at all hours (in this weather!) wearing just a tracksuit and smoking endless cigarettes. I was out there earlier checking Senior Dog's bowel movements and I thought she was having a barbecue, such was the smoke.

David's solution: Go and ask her if she's got space in her freezer for my Green and Black ice cream.

Hm. Helpful, non?

Friday, 16 February 2007

What's up Doc?

Mackenzie has a cold. He sounds, when breathing normally, like he's about to make a pervy phone call. After exertion (like this afternoon when chasing Middle Dog around Nunhead Cemetery for ten minutes), he sounds like a Geiger counter. This all came on yesterday morning and I had the foresight to book an appointment at the GPs. Lovely Loretta came on the line and said she could fit him in at ten past four today. "Perfect" I said and told Mac he was going to see Cuddly Dr Barnett.

Mackenzie likes our GP practice. The receptionists - Lovely Loretta, Pretty Polly and Cheery Cassie - are suckers for my son and his good looks, wit and charm. All of which, apparently, he gets from his father. He is cooed over upon arrival, offered the least draughtiest chair (our surgery has "character" rather than insulation) and given a lollipop. All before he even sees the doctor. No wonder he spent the rest of yesterday smiling and practicing his cute smile. Dr Barnett calls him "young fellermelad" and often finds ten pence pieces behind his left ear to give to my pride and joy. During the course of Mac's last chest infection, we made enough for an Ayres sausage roll each.

Four o'clock found us in the doctors surgery. Mac had been cooed over, seated in the least draughtiest chair and given his red lollipop and we were told that Dr Barnett is off sick and that "we've got a locum in". Fear not, thought I. Locums are human. Dr Barnett has been my GP for ten years, David's for six and Mac's since, well, before birth. But, okay, today we'll see a locum. It'll be fine.

Ten past four arrived. As did what can only be described a gorgon. Seven foot tall, a shock of grey hair sticking out at all angles, blood red face and breath you could practically see. Mac shrank back in his chair and had to be forcibly dragged into the consulting room. I could see Pretty Polly looking on aghast.

"What's wrong with him?" Locum GP bellowed at me. "A c-c-c-cold" I stuttered. This scenario was alien to me. Dr Barnett and I usually chat about all sorts before we actually get down to the diagnosing part. "Puhchuf!" Locum GP said, looming over Mac and peering down at him. "A cold, y'say? Looks alright to me!" he added before thumping the keyboard of the computer so hard, my teeth began to ache. "Calpol. As directed. Anything else?" he bellowed.

"Erm....." I was at a loss for words - most unusual for me. Where was the chat about the weather, Cheery Cassie's practice nurse daughter and what he was planning for dinner that evening? "N-n-n-no!" I stuttered, hauling Mac out of his seat as Locum GP opened the door for me and practically threw us along the corridor back to reception.

Stunned. That's how best to describe my appearance in front of the girls. "He is a bit......abrasive" Pretty Polly whispered as she sent in the next victim. I looked down at Mac who was still sucking on his lollipop. "Erm." I said again, truly shaken to my core. Even the familiarity of the waiting room seemed to have disappeared - the faded wallpaper and ancient posters about flu jabs no longer looked cosy, they looked seedy.

"D'you want a lollipop?" Pretty Polly asked with a smile, offering me a luminous green confectionery on a stick.
Just off to buy some Calpol!

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Love Hurts

Valentine’s Day dawned on a rather subdued street - the Robinson Row is still rumbling on.

Opinions are divided. Jack Next Door claimed he could see it coming. “A neglected garden is a sign of a neglected marriage” he said wisely as he leant on his broom. I took offence at this – my marriage isn’t neglected even though my lawn is. Jane Opposite was remarkably cool about the whole thing. “He looked the type” she sniffed (not disdainfully, she’s got a cold). “If my Bill ever cheated on me, I’d cut it off and use it as a fag holder” she added before whisking back inside. The mind boggles! Ruby was saddened by the whole thing. “She looks like a battered tulip” she said, near to tears as she sorted clear glass bottles from coloured in her mini recycling plant in the front garden.

The most upset of them all though is Alice Three Doors Down. A scandal like this under her very nose and she knew nothing about it. Because I was “on the scene” so to speak, she keeps quoting me (making things up) around the neighbourhood and pumping me for information - I don’t want Lydia to think that I’m spreading rumours about her. I went to see her this afternoon – she looks very pale and her eyes are permanently red rimmed. “I just wanted you to know that whatever you hear from the neighbours, none of it has come from me” I told her as I made her a cup of tea. The tea she offered to make me came straight out of the cold tap and the milk was rancid. I found some powdered stuff in the cupboard and did the best I could. She nodded and took a long sip of her tea. I offered to get her some shopping in and invited her for lunch tomorrow. She declined both offers but thanked me with a hug.

I had barely left her front garden when Alice pounced. “How is the poor love?” she asked, craning her neck to see through the window. “Fine” I said firmly, edging away from her. She followed me, practically yapping at my heels. “Why don’t you and Marcus come in for some lunch and you can tell me all about it?” she continued. Marcus? “Mackenzie and I have had lunch” I said, even more firmly, practically taking her nose off as I slammed the front door on it.

I then got a phone call from Jill With The Purple Door who wanted to know how “things” were in a sympathetic voice, last heard when Mrs Thatcher was talking about the seven hundred million unemployed. The last time this woman phoned me was to ask me to remove Senior Dog from her front gate as he was pining (and yelping) for her on heat springer spaniel. About three years ago. I don’t speak to her when I see her in the street or along Nunhead Lane. But all of a sudden I’m being invited to coffee.

Mike has moved into Susan’s house. I don’t think Mike had much choice in this matter – on Monday afternoon Lydia threw all of his belongings out of the upstairs windows. Clothes, CDs, DVDs, shaving gear, shoes, books…..the whole lot rained down on the road leaving it looking like a tornado had hit it. Several of the neighbours were quite concerned about their cars and hastily moved them as Lydia threw the contents of Mike’s half of the bedroom out of the window – Ruby’s car had a pair of blue checked boxers hanging from the aerial and a copy of the Beatles latest CD wedged in her rear screen wiper as she shifted down the road at a vast rate of knots.

David is quiet on the whole subject, other than to ask if his car was alright and not dented by any flying objects.

Before he went to work this morning, he presented me with a card, a dozen red roses and an invitation to the little Italian restaurant at Shad Thames, with babysitting arranged and triple confirmed (Charlie is nothing if efficient). My happiness was tinged with a bit of sadness but also relief.

What is it about other people’s misery that attracts us? And I’m not excluding myself from this either – I must admit that on Monday night I sat down and counted my blessings with more than a hint of smugness, snuggling up to David in the boudoir and congratulating myself on having a non-straying husband. I’m not saying that I’m in anyway pleased that all this has happened (unlike some I could mention who claim that Lydia “had it coming”) but I’m secretly chuffed that it’s her and not me. Does that make me a bad person?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it does.

Sent to Coventry

Oh dear. There’s trouble afoot in my world as I know it. This morning I went, with Mackenzie, to one of the usual nursery “outside activity” days. This means, instead of the kids running round destroying the nursery, they get the chance to destroy further afield – on this occasion, the local swimming pool. The pre-requisite for these outings is that as many mums as possible come along too. Fair enough.

So, there I was, draped in my towel to cover my swimming cossie for as long as possible – if I could get into the water with it wrapped round me, I would. There are too many size 8 au-pairs wandering around in bikinis for my liking. Mac was splashing around quite happily in the shallow end (no longer does he cling to me in the baby pool) along with his friend Tom and his mum Alison and Alex and his mum Joy. Naturally enough, conversation eventually turned to Mackenzie’s birthday treat. Friend Tom has been invited along with Jamie, Luke and Nike – Friend Alex hasn’t. Friend Alex and the rest of the alienated bunch of teeny pals will have to make do with a McDonalds Happy Meal. I mean, on the day itself! With the usual 3 year old lack of malice, Tom, holding onto his float with one hand casually came out with something along the lines of “my daddy’s giving me ten pounds to spend at the farm”. Naturally, Alex wanted to know what, when and how.

“I’m going to a farm with Mackenzie for his birthday” Tom continued, ignoring the anxious looks both myself and his mother were throwing at him. “And Luke and Jamie and Nike” Tom continued before effortlessly pushing himself into the centre of the shallow end. Alex’s lip wobbled alarmingly, his mum Joy looked less than joyful. “When was this arranged?” she demanded. It’s strange how someone wearing a flowery swim cap could look so ferocious. “Erm, last week” I squeaked. “I trust Alex’s invitation got lost in the post” she all but bellowed. Alex’s face was screwing up.

Mackenzie came to my rescue “Don’t shout at my mummy, daddy said he’s not paying for ALL of my friends to come because it wasn’t finally veeable”, he said, fixing her with steely blue eyes. Joy squinted down at him. “He means financially viable” I said but am sure I made it worse. “I see” Joy sniffed, scooping Alex away from the little gathering and heading for her cronies over by the water slide.

Alison was actually wincing when I finally looked at her. “Dear me, that’s torn it” she said quite cheerfully. Indeed it had. Within minutes, the tale had been spread around the huddle of mums and I was well and truly in the doghouse. Glares were being shot at me as gradually Luke and his mum Sally swam over to us, followed by Nike and his mum Bree (and new au-pair, size 10, blonde, German). We were the chosen few and therefore cast out from the group as a whole. “I told them we were all going to McDonalds on the 1st after playgroup as a birthday treat” Bree flapped as she approached “But Nasty Nuala’s mum said she’d rather eat dogs doings than sit under the Golden Arches with us”. The new au pair looked askance at this and twiddled with her belly button stud.

So. Because I’ve tried to do a lovely thing for my son’s birthday, I’ve caused all this upset. Canvassing the opinion of my friends and family I got the following responses:

Saskia: “Is Nasty Nuala’s mum the one with the hairy back?”
Eliza: “We’re not as small minded as this are we?”
Charlie: “Would they prefer Burger King then?”

How do I explain to a nearly three year old that the reason most of his pals didn’t stay around for the usual after-swim packet of crisps and Ribena Toothkind was because they had small minded, mean, bitter and twisted mothers who are social climbing on behalf of their off-spring?

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Affairs of the Heart

There was some drama yesterday! Honestly, this street is getting more like a soap opera each day……are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Do you remember in a previous entry, I mentioned our neighbours, the Robinsons? Okay. She rang my doorbell yesterday morning at ten past ten. And she looked, well, awful is the word that springs to mind. A shapeless grey tracksuit, hair all over the place and red rimmed eyes. Ushering her in, tripping over inquisitive dogs, I deposited her on the sofa and waited for her to speak. She didn’t. For ten minutes She cried, She sobbed, She choked, She moaned a bit and then drew a shuddering breath. “I’m sorry” she gasped and PREPARED TO STAND UP!!! I wasn’t having any of that! She wasn’t coming into my house, depositing the contents of Her nose and tear ducts into my Kleenex and then buggering off!

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hunching down beside her. She sniffled for a bit, blew her nose again and stared at a point over my head. “Mike’s having an affair” she said flatly. Mike? I assumed at this point that Mike was Mr Robinson. “With Her Along The Road” she added, sniffling a bit more and slumping further back into the sofa. I felt it a bit impertinent to ask which Her Along The Road we were talking about so I fell silent as I ran through the list of suspects myself. Her at number 16 was always done up like a dogs dinner, but then Her along at 110 was no stranger to matters of the physical judging by her hair. Shaggers clump Saskia calls it. But then Her at number 50 was a bit of a goer according to her DAUGHTER. It was driving me crazy, I’d have to ask the poor bereft woman in front of me. “Erm, can you…..? Erm, which….? Okay….who?” She wiped her nose rather violently and shuddered. “Susan. Or Susie as she signs herself in texts to my husband”

Susan? The only Susan I know on this road is…….”Not Susan At Number 30?” I gasped. She nodded and shuddered again. I’m not surprised. Susan At Number 30 is what my mother charitably calls “a slattern”. I call her a tart.

Then it all came out. How Mike and Susan met at the pub’s Halloween Fancy Dress Party last year. Mike had popped in for a bottle of wine on his way home and Susan was perched on a bar stool dressed as Elvira. They’d got talking, found out they were neighbours and, She reckons, Susan asked Mike if he knew of any good handymen. Fnar. Mike, She says, is very handy with all things DIY related and soon was never out of Susan’s house fixing, sawing, drilling and screwing. Literally it seems, She said with a grimace. Even on Christmas Day apparently, her fuses blew and she rang Mike to go and fix them. An hour to fix a fuse while She was left with both sets of parents, his sister and her husband and aged aunt with a duff hearing aid.

Thank God David doesn’t have a gift for DIY! Although that was a rather uncharitable thought, the poor woman in front of me would kill for non-practical husband right now. “So how did you find out?” was my next question. I know, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to ask her what her name is but that’s not important right now.

It was classic. Lying cheating b*st*rds everywhere, heed my next words. She found out by accident.

She wasn’t feeling too well on Sunday night so Mike sent her up to bed early with kisses and sympathy. She said she fell asleep and woke up about half past 11 and there was no sign of him. She went out to the landing and called down to him. She said he answered her sounding all flustered, telling her he’d be up in a minute. She then went back to bed and he appeared minutes later, kissed her at length and told her to phone in sick the following day if she still wasn’t right. In his hurry to get into bed, he’d forgotten to set the alarm and woke in a panic at twenty to nine, with ten minutes to get washed, shaved and out of the house.

After he’d gone she had another snooze and then, feeling better, had got up and wandered downstairs to find his mobile phone on the arm of his chair, obviously where he’d left it last night. At this point, She was so far back in the sofa she was very nearly hiding behind it. “I looked at his messages” She whispered. Ah, her big undoing. Or was it?

There were hundreds, She said. All from Susan. She didn’t go into detail and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know anyway. She then checked his Sent items and there were similar, if not worse, texts that he’d sent. Then there was the list of phone calls – the last being made at 11pm the previous night. She was now shaking and I remembered my manners and went off to get the brandy. She turned her nose up at first but was soon knocking it back. “So now what? And how do you know that it’s Susan At Number 30” I asked her as she tipped David’s best brandy down her neck.

Snooping, that’s how. A pastime that’s highly over rated but all snoopers have to be wary that they might find something they don’t like. She snooped in his drawers, in his wardrobe and his briefcase. She finally hit the jackpot in his shed (shed?!) where she found a box full of what She termed as “crap”. A Christmas card signed with ‘love and kisses forever, your Susie’, an empty bottle of Bacardi Breezer (she looks the sort actually) and a champagne cork which She swears could have only been drunk when She was away at weekend conference at the beginning of November and came back to find the very expensive bottle missing from the fridge. The cad had said he’d dropped it on the tessellated tiles.

“Now what?” I ask, removing the brandy bottle from her grasping hands. “What would you do?” she asked me shakily. I had to think of that at length. Thankfully planning revenge on my husband and his floozy is not something I’ve had to deal with – and never want to. I told her that firstly I’d stay calm (yeah, right) and then I’d confront the Woman who had the bare faced cheek to mess with my marriage. I went into great detail about what I’d say to her, possibly using mild violence if necessary, the threats I’d issue and the promises of what I’d do to her if I ever saw her and overly pumped up bosom anywhere near my man again. She looked quite impressed and, I have to say, I quite enjoyed playing the wronged wife.

She thought about this for a while, stood up, thanked me, gave me a hug and staggered to the front door. “Let me know if you need anything!” I called after her, all the while thinking about how brave she was being when I noticed instead of turning left to go home, she went right. Heading for number 30.

Oh shit.

Did I follow? You bet I did.

I was minutes behind her once I’d grabbed keys and coat. She had already rung the doorbell and was pacing the path. One of the upstairs windows opened and a tousled bottle blonde head appeared, attached to a body wearing a tatty looking negligee. “Whaddya want?” said Susan, for it was she. “You……you, you, you…..” She was lost for words so I helped out. “Slut?” I ventured, quite cheerily. A man appeared behind Susan at the window and said, in quite a strangled voice “Lydia?”

Ah! Lydia Robinson! At last! Anyway, you’ve guessed it. The mystery man was in fact Mike.

Oh dear.

Suffice to say, things went down hill from there. Lydia kicked over the bay tree pots, thumped on the door a bit and stomped off down the path, all the time screaming like a banshee. It turns out she didn’t need my help with what to say, she was doing just fine. The door was opened by Susan (she shot me a rather filthy look which I thought was uncalled for, I was picking up her bay trees) and Mike shot out down the path and after Lydia who turned on him magnificently and caught him with a fantastic right hook – blood from his nose shot everywhere. By this time I was skulking along the street and didn’t even stop to pick him up off the floor. Lydia thanked me once again and said goodbye as we made our way back to our respective houses. Apart from the fact that her nostrils were flaring and she reeked of brandy, it could have been one of those feel good moments I hear so much about.

Sneaking a peek back down the road leading to number 30 Mike was still on the floor and Susan was attempting to staunch the flow of blood with a silk scarf. Looking the other way, Lydia was stomping up the path to her house, a look of grim satisfaction on her face.

And David’s concerned I’ll get bored if I stay at home all day!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Planning Permission

We’re currently working on the invitations – hand made no less. I’ve just received a lecture from a nearly three year old because I can’t draw cows and he said my sheep looked more like a chicken. We’re going to the Hop Farm for Mackenzie’s birthday extravaganza. It looks great fun, with a working farm, Pet’s Corner, indoor play barn, shire horses and tanks. Don’t ask me why!

David is a tad miffed – we’re going on 3 March and, because our son is 3 on 1 March, he would no longer qualify to get in for free. As I’ve got a morbid fear of celebrating birthdays before the actual birth date, I win and he’ll pay. He showed great interest in the tank exhibition so I’ve told him he can disappear for a couple of hours to himself. Aren’t I good?

The guest list is full of unseen hiccups and potential all out wars. Family is a must – “I want…..Grannys, Grandads, Auntie Bea, Caitlin and Ian and Uncle Stephen”. I have visions of Bea, on hearing the word “farm”, turning up in full waterproof gear from head to toe. All designer, naturally.

Friends are tricker. His, not ours. Charlie has bitten the bullet and said she’d meet us there with the baby wipes, but Saskia recoiled in horror at the thought of being in close proximity to sheep, chickens and shire horses and preferred to join in the festivities on the Sunday when we’ll be doing civilised things like eating cake and drinking wine. Trudy will be there with knobs on, including the Twins From Hell, Anna and Alice. No, I will not think evil thoughts about five year olds. And then there’s Eliza who will come with Ashley if the former isn’t grunting and groaning in child birth….besides, there’s a warning (!) on the site that panicked her somewhat: N.B Pregnant women are advised not to touch sheep or lambs.

Mackenzie’s friends are legion. There’s the gang from the nursery and the One O’Clock Club Posse. Who to invite? Or rather, who to alienate, for that is what we shall be doing. Best Friend Ben is a dead cert. Ben and Mackenzie were born on the same day in the same hospital and his mother Rosie and I used to share the postnatal weeping, one day on, one day off. Rather like shift work. We were in adjacent beds and her husband, merrily plastered when he arrived for one visiting time hung over my precious baby’s cot and proclaimed “He’s got the look of the McWurthers!”. I hoped not if he was anything to go by – all nasal hair and dandruff. Anyway, Rosie and I remained friends and thankfully so have the boys.

I decided that each adult could cope with two kids each. Trudy could take her girls. So….that’s me, David, Bea (Stephen will have Ian and Caitlin), Charlie and possibly Eliza although, technically, she’ll already have two children. So, four adults equals eight children – six minus Mackenzie and Ben. Six children to invite out of a possible 15. Easy peasy. It was unanimously decided that grannies and grandad’s could be in charge of coats, fetching drinks, working the video camera and panicking when the kids got too close to the llamas.

I voiced this all to David - he hasn’t gone into work today because of the snow and is cluttering up the dining room table. He was fine with the role given to the elders of the family but had a financial query (this is what you get when you marry an accountant) “Who’s actually paying for all of this?” he asked, using the tone of voice he uses when meeting with clients who haven’t kept their books up to date. I ummed and aahed a bit, praised Kenzie for spelling “Granny” with the “y” round the right way and bit on a finger nail. “We can’t ask their parents to pay! For tickets and everything!” I pointed out as David got busy with the calculator and admissions list I’d printed off earlier.

Tch. It’s been agreed. Six children, including Mackenzie and Ben. Hm. I would have argued the point but he peered at me over his glasses and I turned to jelly. I love it when he gets all masterful. Anyway.

Four friends to choose, eleven to cast aside. To soften the blow for Mac, I ventured (in whispered tones so David couldn’t hear) that we all go out one afternoon to McDonalds – asking mums to cough up for a Happy Meal sits easier on my conscience than the full day out with souvenirs at the end of it.
My little boy has a big decision to make – I only hope he’s up to it. His father has taken him off for a “man to man” chat about the financial implications attached to his birthday treat - there’s nothing like spoiling the magic of birthdays is there?

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Birthday Blues

Sister Bea struck terror into my heart this morning by pointing out that it’s under a month to Mackenzies third birthday. Obviously I know when his birthday is as I was at the inaugural one, I just didn’t realise that a third birthday qualified as an “event”. Bea was horrified. “Of course it is darling! Caitlin and three of her chums had a lovely day out with Rutta for her third birthday – they went to the London Aquarium and then onto the London Eye”. I remember this of course, vaguely. We all trouped round to Bea’s house for a birthday tea to be greeted with four kids under five, all of whom were suffering from air rage and an au pair who had screaming nightmares for two days afterwards about sharks “invading the space of my head”. She’s Latvian. And no longer employed by my sister.

I broached the subject with Mackenzie this morning while he was building a tower out of Lego and a pair of my tights. When asked what he wanted to do for his birthday he said “I want to be a farmer mummy”. I rang friend Eliza to ask what she had planned for her daughter Ashley’s third birthday in May. She expressed astonishment that I was asking her this at the beginning of February. “It is an event” I stated imperiously. Eliza hooted with laughter and said she had to go, the baby was sitting on her bladder and I shouldn’t make 8 month pregnant ladies laugh so much. “A farmer?” I re-approached Mackenzie during elevenses. “Yes mummy, with pigs and cows and a big engine.” Right. At lunchtime he continued the theme. “I’d like wellies and a hat and a black and white dog too”. Before he went down for his afternoon nap (I was tempted to join him) he said “Can I reeeeelly be a farmer then mummy? With Ben and Jamie and Luke and Tom?”. Now my child was forming farming partnerships. With milk yields and crop rotations thrown in for good measure once Anal Jamie got involved no doubt. Can you call a four year old anal? This child either has OCD or has issues with the size of his mother’s breasts (32 double A).

The answer came to me just now whilst I was watching a re-run of Jeremy Kyle on Sky. He was giving advice to a particularly loathsome looking woman who had a gazillion children and apparently never spent time with any of them as they were growing up. Shouldn’t think she had the time anyway. Her fifteen year old son (pierced eyebrow, nose, lip and ear and some kind of Tourette’s) was ranting about the time she didn’t give him the money he needed for his school trip to the City Farm and he was the only one left at school that day.

There you have it. Who says watching daytime TV numbs the mind? A day trip to a working farm! For Mackenzie and assorted friends and relatives! I was so excited with my flash of genius that I almost woke him up to tell him. Instead I’m about to search for ‘childrens farms’.
All together now…….Old MacDonald had a farm………ee-eye, ee-eye, oh!!!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Hitting the Panic Button

I don’t often panic. I’m more your cool, calm and collected type to be honest. You know the sort, brushing off disasters with a disdainful sniff. But when I DO panic…….I really panic.

Take yesterday for example. I had taken Mackenzie for some shopping along Nunhead Lane. We went into the butchers for some lamb for dinner, along to the greengrocers for some “grapes please mummy”, into the chemist to drop off a prescription and into Ayres for a crusty cob and something scrummy. Mackenzie stood in front of me, eyes glued to the alarmingly sugar-filled cakes in the shapes of frogs, dogs and those mallow-cornet things that immediately take me back to age 14 whilst he ummed and aaahed between a lurid green frog (please don’t think my child eats huge amounts of sugar – it lasts him nearly a week) or one of those big chocolate chip cookies. I myself was eying the last crusty cob and was determined to be the one that wrestled it from the shelf before the rather large woman who was wearing a bright blue puffa jacket who was moving up on my right hand side in a way that would surely attract the attention of the shop assistant skulking by the coffee machine. Thankfully, another shop assistant saw my plight and ducked neatly out of the way of a huge rack of hot sausage rolls to serve me. “That crusty cob please” I said triumphantly and looked down at my pride and my boy to see if he’d made up his mind. He wasn’t there.

My heart leapt into my mouth and my stomach came up to join it. He had gone, slipped out when I was too busy salivating over bread to watch him. I whirled round, eyes frantically searching for him in the crowded shop. I couldn’t see him.

Ayres isn’t the hugest shop in the world but it gets very busy. The doors also lead onto a quiet little road that in turn lead onto what is known locally as a “bugger of a road to cross”. This, and other thoughts of a child snatching nature, were running through my mind when I caught sight of his jaunty red denim jacket. My feet couldn’t move but I was so sure it was him, the other side of the shop (we’re talking about 15 foot here) eyeing up the gateaux whilst jabbering away quite happily with the large woman in the blue puffa. Finally, all thoughts of crusty cobs forgotten, I was galvanised into action.

I didn’t quite grab him to my bosom and weep uncontrollably with joy whilst glaring at said woman and accuse her of abducting my child but it was all clearly written all over my face. “What are you doing?” I asked her but, on seeing the look of shock on her face (actually, she didn’t look quite so large up close, it must have been the size of her jacket), I hastily directed my question to Mackenzie who was picking up on my vibes and trying to climb up my legs. “Looking at the big cakes” he said, at the same time she said “Telling him I was buying the chocolate cake for my son’s birthday party”.

I gathered my thoughts and my composure, made a fatuous comment, muttered apologies and left – crusty cob forgotten.

I was so shaken on my way home, my lungs felt like I’d just run 10 miles without stopping, my heart was thudding in my ears and I was red hot. Mackenzie, however, was bemoaning the lack of cakes so I had to promise him an extra one the following day – I couldn’t go back there today.

I tell you - in that split second before I found him, all sorts of things were going through my mind. He was under a bus/car/knocked into the air by a speeding motorbike. He had been savaged by a dog. He’d been abducted by a disturbed mother/pervert/just plain weirdo. It was a mind numbing experience.

And that poor woman. Her only crime was to wear a bright blue puffa jacket.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

House work

I can’t put it off any longer. Something needs to be done. Of all the rooms in my house only the bathroom, all three bedrooms and living room are up to scratch. It’s time to call in the Workmen.

The hall and staircase look like something out of a seedy bedsit (okay, so I’m exaggerating but not by much), the kitchen is okay if you don’t look at it too closely (and certainly not at the lino-d floor), the utility room looks like a nuclear bunker and what we euphemistically call the Study is purely a box room full of junk. Don’t even get me started on the downstairs loo. Upstairs is better……the bedrooms were the first thing we did but the bathroom is now in need of a touch up. The tiny upstairs room that has been taken over by Mackenzie’s toys needs a spruce up as well as does the landing which is covered by so many patches of different colours from different paint testers it looks like a tube of Smarties.

When I mentioned this to David last night, midway between a rather excellent dinner (though I say so myself, as no-one else did) and whilst waiting for The Bill to start, he took on a rather pained expression.

“Do you remember the last time you said that?” he said darkly, turning up the volume on that irritating car advert as a diversionary tactic. It didn’t work as I had the Sky remote and zapped it off. I fixed him with my baby blues and let them work their magic. It took slightly longer than usual (I think the lamb was sitting rather heavy) but eventually he threw his hands up in that gesture of defeat that I love so much and gazed at me affectionately whilst shaking his head and muttering something about his feckless wife.

Actually, now I think about it I do remember the last time we engaged Workmen. It was, I think, because I was so happy at finally having a bedroom that wasn’t navy blue and orange that I’ve since wiped it from my memory bank. It all came back to me today though, following a conversation with my sister Bea.

She: “Darling, please tell me you’re not going to put up with the shoddies you had last time?”
Me: “What was wrong with them?” It might be worth mentioning that at this point I was knee deep in Homes and Gardens magazines and a rather fetching silk wallpaper swatch
She: “They were colour blind sweetheart. Why else would they team mushroom with kingfisher blue? Your bedroom would have looked like a doctors waiting room”
Me: “They weren’t that bad!” It’s all coming back to me now – one of them had BO and the other, I’m sure, was a kleptomaniac
She: “I’ll tell you what – I’ll send Calixta round to see you. She’s doesn’t decorate, she designs a concept. You’ll adore her”

Of course, I could just ask my friend Andy to do it but he’s ridiculously busy at the moment – all those people who have bought flats in that converted church in Deptford have hired him to fit the place out in ecclesiastical chic. He’s bulk buying five wick church candles at 40 quid a throw and has got a job lot of incense sticks.

What room to do first? Could I live with the rather tatty looking bathroom suite a moment longer while we do the hallway and stairs? People coming into my house for the first time look as if they want to leave and never return. Or do I need the bathroom done first so that I can enjoy my Crabtree and Evelyn bath salts and Molten Brown lotions in pure luxury (I’m thinking laminate flooring with shaggy rugs everywhere and those dinky little taps that look nothing like taps). But then the kitchen is where I spent most of my time. I’m hankering after Nigella Lawson’s kitchen but, keep getting drawn to IKEA for some strange reason. But then James Martin’s kitchen is very me, all pine and marble and a rather pointless statue of a fish besides the sink. And a black oven and separate hob. I also want one of those mini blow-torches for caramelising things.

I’ve made a decision. The utility room can wait until last I think, Mackenzie’s toy room isn’t a priority either and the upstairs landing could wait a bit longer. I’m going to ring Calixta right now and see when she can fit me in, Bea’s final comment is still ringing in my ears “don’t call after five darling, she’ll be re-birthing”.

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.