Saturday, 31 March 2007

Manic panic

Balloons: plain or with "Darren and Janey" and two intertwined hearts on them? Three or four tiers on the wedding cake? Flowers: discreet display or a Kew Gardens/Chelsea Flowershow hybrid? Ice sculpture or fruit tower?
Silver or gold tablecloths? Champagne or sherry on arrival? Jellied eels and prawns or just jellied eels? Pageboy in baby blue, bridesmaids in pink? Guard of honour from Darren's team mates or dignified exit from the church? Daimler or Ferrari to pick the bride up from her family home? Horse and carriage a la Jordan to take the happy couple to the reception? Calais or Asda to buy the drinks for the reception? Sugared almonds or Belgian chocolates on the tables? Kalms or valium for the Wedding Planner?

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Strained Relations

A Family Conference had been called. We all piled round to Auntie Ivy’s last night to discuss The Wedding and To Meet The Bridegroom. It was nothing short of a disaster. Mum, Ivy and Daisy were on one side of the room with Darren, Janey and Darren’s mum Lou on the other when Bea and I arrived. And there they stayed, with Bea and I in the middle dodging snipes, verbal bullets and deflecting Looks.

Darren is a footballer. He has footballers legs (bandy) and tattoos all over his muscled arms. A pierced ear and a bizarre hairstyle made me think instantly “poor man’s David Beckham”. Bea asked him “are you one of those footballers that think spitting is acceptable?” He grunted an answer but none of us caught it. Janey stroked his arm and made soothing noises. “However is he going to say his vows if he can’t speak?” Bea whispered so quietly everyone in the room, the house next door and those wandering around the park over the road could hear. Another grunt, this time from Janey who shot Bea a Look.

Lou, Darren’s mother – fresh from rehab – was wearing a fetching denim ensemble of different hues and ages. Her jeans were bright blue and brand new, her waistcoat was grey, mottled and decades old and her jacket, slung over her shoulders like a cape was stonewashed and frayed. She doesn’t want “no son of hers done up like a dogs dinner”. This was in response to Ivy’s comment of “top and tails for the men”. Janey favours a “larnge suit” approach and advised that she herself wasn’t going for traditional wedding colours. Ivy and Lou both tutted at this. Ivy went as far to say “me and your dad are NOT paying for some half cocked, thrown together thing that looks nothing like a wedding. We want pomp, we want ceremony, we want an ivory wedding gown”. As they hold the cheque book, Janey had to agree with her demands. “I’m not having bridesmaids I don’t know though, Jenny Mackintosh ended up with half of her John’s female relations and she didn’t know of them”.

The Wedding Planner had so far not taken part in any discussions, despite the fact that my lever arch folder (pink) had taken pride of place on the kitchen table, along with my pencil case (haven’t had one of those since I was 15) and my Post-it Notes and notebook. In fact, nobody seemed bothered that I’d raided WH Smiths, Janey was far more interested in telling everyone that “someone from Big Brother will be at the wedding, we’re really close”. Davina McCall? Dermot O’Leary? Third secret camera man from the left? The mind boggles. Bea, who doesn’t believe in Reality TV, began to panic about falling over Z-listers in the aisles and at the reception. Her Philip Treacy confection would no doubt lose value if it was seen anywhere near a Big Brother “star”. She was looking slightly green around the gills.

“What abaht the food?” Lou asked, fixing me with a piercing look. Literally. Her eyebrow had what appeared to be a screw through it. “Only, some of our lot are whatchamacallit intolerant. Glue or something.” Janey rolled her eyes, hissed “Gluten” and jangled her bracelets. Aunt Daisy sniffed and muttered something about faddy eaters. The evening was not going well.

It degenerated once we’d got on to choice of entertainment for the evening. We were still in our starting positions although Bea and I had at least sat down at the table. Bea suggested a nice string quartet that played at a christening she attended recently. “Very tasteful, very unobtrusive, just to provide background music while you’re eating the, erm….” here she looked down at the list of food suggestions spread out in front of me “sausages rolls with ketchup dip, quiche and jellied eels at the buffet table” Darren looked aghast – well, he would have done if he knew what it meant – “we ain’t having no poncy violins. Nah, mate of mine said he’d do the disco.” Janey grinned “What, Dave?” she asked. “Yeah, Dave” Darren said, waggling his eyebrows. Janey giggled girlishly and blushed. Dear God. I wasn’t going there.

So – a mere three hours after we arrived – we’d discussed all that we came to. We knew the church, the reception venue and I had been left off the Wedding Breakfast invitation list “cos you’ll be at the hall sorting stuff out and that”. Mac is to be Page Boy and Ring Bearer (this will go down like a lead balloon), Caitlin is to be bridesmaid, along with Darren’s cousins Tatiana and Juliet. Because it’ll be “cute beyond words”, Ian is to join Darren’s brothers and a couple of team mates as Ushers. This left Bea in a cold sweat. As she said on the way home “I do not want a son of mine to start speaking football speak and thinking tattoos are acceptable. I shall police his every move.”
I’ve been left with seventeen pages of A4 covered in scribbles, an offer of help from Bea “I’ll make sure we don’t go to Tacky City or beyond”, an aching brain and a wish to flee the country until the 1st of July.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Wedding Fever

As I think I’ve mentioned, my cousin Janey is engaged to be married to an amateur footballer called Darren. He plays for a non-league side but is constantly, according to Janey, on the brink of being signed for a “proper” team. This wedding is causing mixed emotions in our family: Janey’s mother, my Auntie Ivy, is beside herself with glee that her only daughter is becoming a WAG and both of them are getting up my mother’s nose; my other Aunt Daisy, because of the swiftness of the wedding (30 June 2007), is knitting bootees and matinee jackets in various shades of pastel; my sister Bea is wondering what Philip Treacy creation to choose for what “will hardly be a society wedding, what with all Darren’s chums milling around in Burberry and Hackett, but is still a family social occasion”.

And me? I’ve been roped in to help out with the wedding arrangements because I just sit at home all day doing nothing. I admit that, when I was asked on Saturday by Auntie Ivy to “help Janey, she hasn’t got a clue when it comes to flowers”, I was just settling down to watch Friends series 5 for about the fifth time but even so. I objected strongly for about two minutes before I gave in. Auntie Ivy’s voice goes right through me, anything to shut her up. Janey has now taken to calling me her Wedding Planner. In public. I met up with her yesterday at The Rye. I had just dropped Mac off to Eliza’s for the afternoon and was looking forward to a very large glass of wine and some chips and garlic mayonnaise. She arrived wearing a huge princess cut diamond, fake Donna Karan, fake tan, poker straight blonde streaks, bright red nails and dangling a Jaguar keyring. It seems she’s going to take to being a Footballers Wife very well. The engagement has clearly turned her head. At Christmas she had bitten-to-the-quick nails, mousey curls and drove a Honda.

After a quick air kiss she asked me where “me folder” was. Professing confusion (real, not faked), I pointed out the menu. “No, the Wedding Folder. You’re my Wedding Planner, you need a Wedding Folder. For all of your information things and…..stuff” she finished lamely, choosing a tuna salad and a sparkly water. She wants weekly meetings and daily phone calls. She wants overall say on everything and wants me to arrange wedding cake tastings, flower workshops and catering company tasting sessions. Kicking into action (carbs are great for getting the brain working aren’t they?) I asked her the budget for this extravaganza. She ummed and aahed a bit, fiddled with an oversized earring, flicked a curtain of hair over her shoulder and wrote a figure on a beermat. During this fiddling and flicking session I had visions of Gordon Ramsay doing the food, Chikako Shindo for the flowers and Harrods supplying the four tiered iced confection. After seeing the budget I quickly downgraded to Mrs Entwhistle and her daughter June doing the food, East Street stalls for the flowers and Charlie in the kitchen making a cake. And as for the venue! Out goes Claridges and in comes the Church Hall.

Janey looked defiantly shame-faced (yes, it is possible to be both). “Dad’s cashing in a policy which’ll give us another couple of hundred quid, Darren’s got some saved and mum’s doing the Lottery” she said, carefully extracting the onion from her salad that had just arrived. I offered her a chip. “Don’t, I need to lose at least a stone and a half before the wedding” said my stick-thin cousin who would blow over in a gust of wind.

I get the feeling that my mood for the next three months will be an irritable one. There was one bright moment, when we left The Rye together, me to go to WH Smiths to get some ring binders and paper and Janey to go to the gym to work off her tuna. She sashayed across the road, BMW keyring on full view to pedestrians and drivers alike before skulking into an unwashed sky blue Honda.

On another matter I’ve got Lydia clogging up my doorstep, phone and sofa having a mild (!) fit of angst. On Sunday, following the disaster with Giles In The Office, she and Matthew bonded over a bottle of wine and a roast dinner cooked by yours truly and found they had a lot in common. Apart from their ages. Lydia (and David joins her in her misgivings) is worried about the 14 year age gap. Matthew is taking her out tomorrow night and she’s worried about being called a cradle-snatcher by everyone in the restaurant. David agrees with her. But not to her face, clearly. When he broached the subject with me this morning, I suggested that he not worry about the age gap for, after all, there is a 15 year gap between our good selves. After a few seconds of silence, he claimed it was different “for a man to be seen with a younger woman, less stigma”.
Annoying, but sadly he’s right. But now I’ve got to convince Lydia that it’s okay for her to be seen out with a younger, good looking man – especially if we can engineer it so her husband and his bit on the side sees her as well.
Now, how can I manage that…….?

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Horsing around

Well, the plan hatched last Monday worked. Kind of. Lydia was on the doorstep dressed in jeans and a low cut T-shirt wearing make-up with her newly cut hair shimmering around her shoulders at ten past 11 this morning and in my kitchen, leaning nonchantly on the centre island by twenty past. Giles In the Office arrived at 11.30 for "just the nine holes David" and accepted, with a fair amount of joyful neighing, (I kid you not) the offer of a cup of tea and a digestive.

What the hell si wrong with David? Why is it that men think that women go for men like Giles? I've not met him before and I wish that I hadn't. He's about six foot nine, rake thin with an Adams Apple so prominent you could hang a coat from it. He has no hair on the top of his head but plenty at the sides, in his ears and up his nose. Sandy in colour and thin of texture. Quite how David thought that Lydia would be salivating to be seen in public with this horse-like man was beyond me. I tackled him in the hallway while the kettle boiled. David didn't quite mention the word "desperate" but I could tell he wanted to. How on earth did he imagine that Lydia would be desperate enough to rile Mike and annoy Susan and Mrs Robinson Senior by having anything to do with Giles In The Office. How on earth did he think it would help?

Lydia was already wobbling when she arrived - she'd seen Mrs Robinson Senior in Ayres yesterday and was subjected to a five minute lecture on how many bootees she's knitting for The Baby and isn't it "wonderful news, considering all the time he was with you there was no sign". Lydia said that if she wasn't waiting for a crusty cob she would have left. When I returned to the kitchen she was more than wobbling, she was backing away towards the garden while Giles trotted after her. Mac was digging his flowerbed and chatting to someone along the road quite happily. One look left confirmed that it was Mike and Susan who were also getting back to Nature in their own garden, three doors along. Lydia went into sharp reverse and backed into Giles who took this to be a bit of horse-play and neighed excitedly. Mike dropped his rake, open mouthed as he watched his wife (for that is what she still is) being propelled around our garden by Giles, giddy-upping loudly.

I was saved by the doorbell. Two visits in one week by Matthew, my stepson. I've never been so pleased to see the boy. Shoving him past his father and into the garden, more in hope than anything else, I watched as he caught Lydia as she galloped past him, Giles having released her and now pretending to lassoo her. "Bloody hell!" Matthew said as he held a heavily breathing Lydia in his arms, glaring at Giles. "I say old man, that's my filly!" Giles brayed, distracted momentarily by Mac flicking earth everywhere. What the hell had David told him? Mike and Susan, in their own garden, were still watching the scene unfold, with open mouths and more than a hint of humour on their faces.

I ushered everyone back into the house and things calmed down after a while, Lydia keeping her distance from Giles who had returned to his normal colour and was slurping his tea. David appeared with golf clubs and dragged a reluctant Giles off to the golf course. Which left myself, Lydia and Matthew staring at each other. "Has that stupid horse man gone?" Mac called from his flowerbed. That did it. Matthew started sniggering and did an uncanny impersonation of Giles which set Lydia off, and she ran shrieking round the kitchen yelling "giddy-up!". It was several minutes before I could stop crying. With laughter.

David rang after they'd been gone an hour to say that Giles was "very keen indeed" on Lydia and hoped "the fine filly would still be at the house for some supper". I took the phone into the hallway and told him not to bring that man back into the house under pain of death.

"But.....the plan! You said!" David sputtered. I lowered my voice "The plan has changed, your son and our neighbour are nose to nose on the sofa".
And I'm here to make sure there's no horsing around!

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Blooming marvellous

A fab day today. Nature and all that. We cleared the garden of all dead plants (90% of them to be fair), repaired the lawn so it at least looks presentable, raked the gravel so it no longer resembles a beach with the tide out and bought enough plants and shrubs to make Alan Titchmarsh weep with sheer joy. We went to Alleyns Garden Centre before lunch – me still in jeans and muddy jumper, David in cords and the beginnings of a bad mood and Mac clutching an old seed catalogue and bereft at leaving the flowerbed he’s taken as his own.

We bought topsoil, troughs, pots (terracotta and glazed), hanging baskets (25 quid each! For a bit of earth and a few pansies! But they looked so lovely and sturdy), some recycled chimney pots and plants. More plants than you can shake a stick at. Pansies, rose trees, clematis, honeysuckle, heathers, lavender, more herbs than James Martin has seen in his life and my ultimate favourite. A pussywillow. Bea met us there and queried my sudden need to return to nature. “Darling? Mud other than Dead Sea is so not good for you. Think of your nails!”

David’s bad mood did not get past the initial grumpy stages, especially as I promised that he’d be back home for the football. After we’d lugged everything inside and David and Mac were reclining in laddish mode in front of the England Under 21 game I set to in the garden with Bea and Ian who was showing far more interest in the mud and dirt than Bea was happy with. He was grubby within seconds.

It’s a picture. The flowerbeds are weeded and newly planted. The hanging baskets are swaying gently in the wind outside the utility room and there are three terracotta pots in what is the sunniest area of the patio in the summer – one of lavender, one of rosemary and one of blackcurrant mint. I can almost smell them already.
The pussywillow has been planted (and is so far safe from digging doggies)
in the centre of the lawn, as directed by Bea and Mac’s flowerbed is awaiting the planting of his heathers and rose bush. Mother Nature – she’s amazing.

Up with the Lark

I woke up at ten to six this morning and could not get back to sleep. David wasn't snoring particularly loudly and he was very firmly on his side of the bed with the duvet clutched over his shoulder. The birds weren't doing their usual dawn chorus right on my window ledge (I sleep closest to the window and it is open summer and winter), the dogs weren't mooching around demanding attention and there was no sign of Mac. After twenty minutes of just lying there with everything going round in my brain I decided to get up.

I crept past Mac's door - I could hear contented snuffles - and down the stairs. The dogs thumped their tails in welcome but didn't get up. Senior dog doesn't rise much before 9am. I put the kettle on and changed into a tracksuit that was fresh from the radiator before stepping out into the garden. Aaah, nature. My brother-in-law has gone Green all of a sudden. He started talking about his carbon footprint on the phone the other night and I didn't have a clue what he was talking about - Bea is slightly miffed because he's happily driving an eco-car around leafy Dulwich. And it isn't an Audi. I've met other Greens before, of course. Ruby Over The Road has a mini recycling plant in her garden and recycles everything you can possible think of. But Nature? Never really had much to do with that. And it's all about the same thing isn't it?

Jack Next Door has a fantastic garden. It's pruned, teased and swept to within an inch of its life. One bed for flowers, one bed for veg and he's in the middle of erecting canes to support his runner beans. Our garden looks like a bomb has hit it. The lawn is pockmarked courtesey of Mac playing football, the gravel is unraked, the raised flower beds are all weed and no blooms. The path is looking raggedy and the ivy, hooked painstakingly last summer by David up and over the shed, is dead and brown. Now that the house is more or less decorated (just the bathroom to do now, waiting for new suite to be delivered and installed this week) I need another project. By seven o'clock I was seriously considering knocking Jack up and asking him if this (rather spiky looking plant) was a weed or not and planning a rockery. Nature!

Tea made and enthusiasm well and truly stoked, I set about designing my dream garden. I've watched enough of Ground Force to know what I'm talking about. Decking, a water feature and a few hardy annuals and all will be well. I then went into dreams of a wonderfully fragrant patio filled with lavender plants, rosemary and mint so that the wonderful smells would invade the house on hot summer evenings. Mac's felt tips came in handy as I sketched and coloured. I left the drawing propped up on the tea pot and crept back upstairs with a cup for David. He sleepily took it, expressed surprise that I was up and dressed before falling deeply back into the Land of Nod. Mac was still asleep and I was getting a bit miffed about this. My family were asleep while Nature happened outside!

The birds were singing, wood pigeons were cooing and, although still very cold, it was a fresh cold rather than chill-you-to-the-bone cold. It was now nearly 8am. On a Saturday. And I was awake. Normally I have to be prised from my pit by a hungry child or desperate dogs. Today though I was raring to go. I left a note telling my husband of my whereabouts and bundled all three dogs into the car. Senior dog appeared to still be asleep and looked extremely confused when he found himself standing in the car park of Peckham Rye Common at just gone 8am. He gamefully trotted off though. Junior Dog got over excited to have the Common all to himself and ran round like a thing possessed. Middle Dog took it all in his stride and peed copiously. Where was everyone? Why weren't they out enjoying Nature? Blackbirds congregated in the middle of the Common searching for worms until the dogs formed a three pronged attack and they took to the skies cawing loudly. Nature!

I rang Bea and got her au-pair. I could hear Caitlin and Ian arguing over which jam to have and tried and failed to find out if Bea was in fact up and awake. The au-pair professed not to know but promised to let her know I'd called. There was no-one else on the common apart from me and my woofers. People drove past in cars all looking half asleep. I was awake and ready for anything! Senior Dog, however, had had enough and was looking plaintively towards the car.

Back home and it was barely past 8.30am. Why had I never taken advantage of this time of the morning before? Why do I lounge in bed on a Saturday until 9 or, worse, get up to sort Mac and the dogs out before GOING BACK TO BED! I've achieved so much today. Not even 9am and the dogs have been walked and fed and are wandering around the garden. I joined them and found Jack Next Door pruning something and he listened patiently to my plans for the garden and offered any help I needed. At five to nine I was cooking breakfast, determined to get my boys up and out. There are garden centres to visit, Nature to witness.

At five past nine David appeared looking rumpled and sleepy. He was most surprised to find his wife leaping around the kitchen toasting bread and grilling bacon and had to sit down to recover. He found my drawing and clutched his head. He knows what I'm like when I get the bit between my teeth. He also knows that I have expensive tastes. "Water feature? It's a rock with a leak" he exclaimed as he slurped stewed tea, denigrating my plans for a cutting edge water feature. The dogs were whizzing around - even they had caught the Nature mood - and Junior Dog brought in parts of the garden to show me. The plant I uprooted earlier was laid at David's bare feet with a wag of a tail and a goofy expression. Mac joined his father ten minutes later, also rumpled and sleepy. "Is mummy alright daddy?" he questioned. "Not sure lad" came the considered response. I outlined the plans for the morning: old clothes and into the garden for clearing up purposes. In the absence of Tommy Walsh and Charlie Dimmock we'd have to do it ourselves. To give them their due, neither my husband nor my son told me where to go.

They're out there now. David is weeding the flower beds and Mac is carefully replacing the divots in the lawn. And me? I'm about to publish this blog and then look on-line for the nearest
garden centre. Nature!

Friday, 23 March 2007

Taxing issues

I've just renewed my car tax - online. How fab is that? With just a few clicks of a mouse and a bit of keyboard twiddling, those clever people at the DVLA have ascertained that yes, I am the owner of a slightly battered, in-need-of-a-good-valet BMW, and that my insurance is valid and the MOT is up-to-date and that I can have a shiny new tax disc (sent through the post within 5 workings days).

Also, this scares me slightly. Big Brother and all that. By entering my car registration details (and the reference number on the Vehicle License reminder form) the DVLA have found me, found my car, checked that I am insured and MOT'd. All in the space of 3 minutes. Well, 7 minutes but only because I had to run out into the street with my Gromit slippers on to check the mileage. As the car is still parked outside Lydia's - Mike's mother has had to park at the end of the road on the rather dubious corner - and I couldn't find the keys, this took slightly longer than usual. But even so. I expressed my concerns to David who was more amazed by the news that I had actually remembered to renew the road tax without the threat of towing/fining/crushing.

You can do almost anything on-line these days: do your weekly supermarket shop, buy highly expensive electrical goods, find love, lose a fortune, reach millions of people in a single click of a mouse. David is never off the thing, I'm growing increasingly attached to it and Mac made me increasingly proud last week as he quite happily sat there in front of the Barney website and managed the mouse like an old pro.
However did we cope without it?

Monday, 19 March 2007

News from the Front

Lydia is thinking of selling up and moving away from "that harlot and the b*stard". This is a disaster on two counts according to David.

1 Who Knows Who We'll Get As Neighbours Next

2 Mike will be Cock of The Walk which is plainly annoying his macho pride (David's not Mike's)

It's more of a disaster for Lydia if she stays, apparently

1 Mike and Susan are "in her face 24/7"

2 His mother is visiting every weekend and makes a point of parking her car outside Lydia's house

3 She's so far at the end of her tether she can't find her tether at all.

Solutions from yours truly, hopefully to keep David and Lydia happy:

1 Our car to be parked at all times outside Lydia's house to foil the smug parker

2 Engage Lydia more in our life, including her in outings, introduce her to suitable eligible accountants etc and generally take her into our fold.

3 Feign disinterest when Mike and Susan are around, even going to the point of laughing uproariously to suggest complete indifference

4 Start dressing in proper clothing again. And start wearing make-up.

This seems to have worked. Saskia and I are taking Lydia to our hairdressers on Thursday (she has late night girls nights) for makeover. David has parked the BMW outside her house and has several parking cones on standby in case the BMW is needed. Lydia agreed to practice nonchalant expressions whilst she's watching Eastenders. David to speak to Giles In the Office tomorrow to see if he fancies popping over this weekend, ostensibly for a game of golf but really to meet Lydia who will be casually dressed (in something other than tracksuit) and wearing some lippie whilst lounging carefully in our kitchen.

We're giving this strategy a week to see if it works. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, 18 March 2007

My Day

As I sit here at the computer, I can glance over at my two Mother's Day cards which grace the mantlepiece, along with the bunch of flowers and the box of Thornton's chocolates with a fair amount of pride. Mac presented me with his hand-made card (and therefore sparkly, covered in pasta and artfully stuck stickers) and his bunch of daffodils (paid for yesterday, he assured me about four times, out of his own pocket money and chosen, he told me nine times, all by himself - although David was hovering by the DVD rack in Sainsburys at the time) at ten to seven this morning and gave me the box of chocolates twenty minutes later after he had ascertained that I did in fact want them so he couldn't actually have them for breakfast.
I was whisked downstairs and deposited at the table where he helped David cook me a Full English Breakfast (consisting of bacon mummy, sarsidges, tomatoooooos, mushrooooooooms and some toast, no marmalade). I was then told to sit on the sofa in my pyjamas while he and David whisked around with a feather duster before taking the dogs to Dulwich Woods while I read the papers and drank so much percolated coffee my bladder felt as if it was going to burst.
At lunchtime I was treated to Roast Pork mummy, with potatooooooooos and greeeeeeeens and for afters (if I was very good and ate my brockli mummy) I could have some of my special Haagen Daaz Baileys icecream. With sprinkles.
David's 24 year old son from his first marriage, Matthew, popped in at ten to four with a card (You're Like A Mother To Me - and hand written inside "because you nag me and embarass the bum off me in public") and assurances that, if he hadn't just laid out five hundred quid on the Vectra he would have bought me a present. As it was, he polished off the rest of my ice cream, took his baby brother into the garden to play football and kicked said football into Jack Next Door's greenhouse. He then left, to pick up his girlfriend (Sheree? Alice? Melissa? Hannah?) to take her to the pub for a bit. He didn't specify what bit.
Am now recounting my day to you with a fair amount of pleasure........David is bathing Mac, the dogs are slumbering in their beds and - as a very special Mother's Day present - my gorgeous husband has promised me an early night.........but not before he goes out to buy more Haagen Daaz.
Happy Mother's Day!!!!

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Just say no!

Never ever do the following:

1 Ask an accountant (however lovely, sexy and gorgeous in the bedroom he may be) to lay laminate flooring.

2 Wave your son off to Peckham Rye Park with an Eastern European au-pair and his two cousins WITHOUT packing a change of clothes, snorkel and flippers.

3 Allow a well meaning - but ultimately dippy - neighbour to look after your three dogs (of varying sizes, temperaments and good-behaviour levels) in her house which is decorated in white, creams and what she calls eau-de-nil and has stunning (and delicate/expensive/irreplaceable) knick-knacks - some dating back to her Great-Great-Great-Granny's era.

4 Wake up on a beautiful Saturday morning, with birds chirping away in the garden, your husband in an amourous mood and think "Aah, today will be a fantastic day!"


1 The strips of laminate flooring are not the same size as the room he is laminating and he can't make it fit but is instead bleating about how much it has all cost and doesn't fit.
2 He will take it upon himself to lean so far over the fence at the pond to pick up a strangely shaped stick that he will fall in head first and be unable to doggy paddle because of the gloop.

3 They are canine wrecking balls.

4 Because, if today is anything to go by, it won't be!


Friday, 9 March 2007

Can open.....worms everywhere

I am deep in hell right now. In fact, I can almost feel the flicker of Satan's flames licking at my delicate flesh. Picture the scene: David away for the evening at a "stag" do (I have warned him, if he ends up in Boulougne with the "stag" he will be in deep merde), sister Bea and friends Saskia and Charlie round for a Girls Night In - lots of wine, Haagen Daaz and eating out own body weight in Kettle Chips. Ten past nine, just as we were cackling along to my much worn DVD of Dirty Dancing, the doorbell rang.

Lydia, sodden and trailing snot everywhere, on my doorstep because of her b*stard of a husband and his sl*t". Saskia, sensing some man bashing on the horizon, invited her in. Half an hour later both Saskia and Lydia are listing the faults of every man they've ever met, Bea is valiantly trying to defend certain members of the male race and Charlie drunkenly bemoaning the fact that all she wants is a man, "surely they can't all be that bad". And me? I've retreated upstairs with David's laptop. My son is fast asleep with his security blanket wrapped round him - I've left my security blanket (bottle of Baileys) downstairs which has probably been tipped down Saskia's neck by now. I can't throw them out, I can't stay up here (Bea is already worried about my bladder - she does worry so) so what shall I do? This is a real-time crisis - I might ring the Samaritans.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Baby Blues

Eliza had a little boy on Monday........7 pounds and 3 ounces (or whatever the equivalent is) and he's called Jack. And is gorgeous! It was a fairly easy birth compared to Ashley's - just the 8 hours agonising labour before an emergency ceasarean. Much joy abounds around their little family and she's got enough flowers to open up a florist.

At the other end of the scale there's Susan at Number 30 who has recently found out that she is pregnant. And is being fairly discreet about it in the circumstances. The first person she told was Alice, the street gossip. So therefore, everyone now knows the fact that it's her first child, she's "15 weeks gone" and that Mike is the father. You know, Mike Robinson, Lydia's husband.

I found out from Lydia herself who deposited herself on my doorstep this morning and wailed through the letter box. "She's effing pregnant!" she bellowed as she fell onto the sofa. Lydia's initial politeness and well manners have long since disappeared - she's now comfortable enough in my company to eff and blind and put her feet up on the sofa. "Omigod!" I said, hiding the Mr Sheen under the nearest cushion. "And of course, according to Mary, they haven't even been trying for long which is another slap in the face for me cos obviously he can have children so it must be my problem that for the past 8 years of our marriage we haven't been able to conceive!" Lydia lit up a cigarette with a shaky hand. "And, of course, his effing mother has already visited the new little love nest and given it her blessing."

It was then that Eliza rang to give me yet more riveting updates about the newborn (I do love my friends but they do ring at inopportune moments) "He's filled his nappy!" she cooed as Lydia sucked on her cigarette and squinted at Jeremy Kyle who was giving it his all on the TV in the corner. The show was entitled "I've just had your baby - how can you leave me?" and was populated by lots of people from council estates with Croydon facelifts and trainers the size of tanks on their feet. One delightful young lady had so many piercings on her face that it actually hurt to look at her. "Aw, and he's smiling!" Eliza was still wittering on and Lydia was glued to the television. "Effing hell" she muttered (Lydia, not Eliza) and stubbed out her cigarette in my newly polished (usually ornamental) ashtray and looked as if she wanted to throw it at the screen. "I'm on my way round!" Eliza bubbled "see you in ten minutes" and rung off before I could stop her. Lydia looked as if she had no intention of leaving just yet.

David arrived home two minutes before Eliza was due and while Lydia was dunking her fifth custard cream into her tea - I gave him a quick run down of the morning's events and he picked up his son and disappeared off to the park leaving me with it all. Men!

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Growing up

My son has grown up. He was only three last Thursday but is already showing signs of being far more mature than he was last Wednesday. Do other children mature overnight or is it just Mac?

I first noticed signs of this phenomenen on his actual birthday. We were in Harvesters and up he went to the salad cart but, although he chose his pasta, sweetcorn and cherry tomato dish as usual - he actually chose cucumber slices. Mac hates cucumber. Or he did when he was younger. Just the day before when I tried to sneak some in his cheese and ham sandwich. He ate some again on Saturday while we were at the Hop Farm (exhausting, muddy and smelly but a fab day out) and I was so excited David suggested that I'd had too many E numbers in the sweets on the way to Kent. He was mightily restrained throughout the day, instead of running on ahead and generally going a bit loopy. He strolled off to see the llamas with his father, both with hands behind their back and enjoying their genteel stroll.

On Sunday, at the birthday family gathering he helped me with the food preparation. Normally, this help entails me asking him to do something simple like decide where to put the watercress on the (shop bought) quiche and he gets bored before I've even finished the sentence. On Sunday he did this PLUS butter some crackers, arrange the cheese on the cheeseboard and wash all of the fruit. He even ate a plum. Unprompted. More cucumber was munched during tea - Bea was astonished (she didn't see Saturday's cucumber eating session, she was too busy convincing Caitlin and Ian that they didn't want a bunny rabbit to take home) and offered him another slice. Which he took and ate, after dipping it into the sour cream and chive dip. I had to have a recuperative glass of wine.

And today - well, today was magnificent. After picking him up from nursery ("I had quite a nice day mummy but I don't think I'll go again until Monday") we went off to B&Q to get some paint and some bits and pieces for my decorating extravaganza which will start this weekend. I was standing in a busy aisle deliberating over White with a hint of Barley or White with a hint of Apple for the hallway when a rather large gentleman in a huge strop came at me with one of those trolley things. He rammed straight into me and had the audacity to tut loudly as if it were my fault. His wife looked equally aggrieved with me. I said something along the lines of "Ow that bloody hurt!" and added in a few expletives for good measure. My son, hands on hips, brought the shop to a standstill. "Mummy!" he exploded. "I WILL NOT tell you again. No swearing!"

You could have knocked me down with a paint brush. Suitably chastened (and I actually apologised for getting in the man's way) I paid for my purchases and we left the shop.

As we got in the car Mac leant forward, stroked my arm and said "If you promise to be good for the rest of the day you can have a Happy Meal mummy."

I take it that a gherkin is a cucumber?

Thursday, 1 March 2007


Mac's birthday. Harvesters. 9 children (including birthday boy), 9 mothers - including myself - all hellbent on flirting with the (admittedly sexy) waiter. 9 children all excitedly looking forward to huge Rocky Road ice cream dessert and ignoring the proper food. 9 mothers, half of them drinking red wine straight from the bottle, the other half clinking ice in their mango and orange drink. One waiter manfully trying to keep order. Birthday boy inconsolable as they had no croutons at the all-you-can-eat salad cart. Yours truly trying to hold an erudite and intelligent conversation but giving up half way through and joining in on the "my au pair is terrible/Boden/Jingle Bunnies/stress incontinence/potential straying husband/shagging the lodger" conversations buzzing round the table.

Total collapse on receipt of bill, all 8 remaining mothers assumed I would be paying and "hadn't bought any money". One guilty mother ran all the way to cash point to pay for her and her child, it took her so long we all ordered another drink and the bored kids decided to run through the restaurant. Including Mac which appalled me. Birthday boy suddenly remembered he had been brought up with manners and returned to the table to give me a kiss and a pat on the head. Another collapse, this time with pride as my three year old little man then proceeded to castigate his friends loudly which resulted in him getting some extra marshmallows from the worn out waiter.

Home, nearly bankrupted (I'm not kidding, I'm hiding the bill from David) and exhausted. A nice sleep on the sofa, me and my baby. This time three years ago I had a five hour old bundle in my arms. Birthdays are so emotional for us mothers. Oh, and exhausting!

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.