Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Challenge Joanna

The very lovely and extremely fragrant Dulwich Mum has set me a challenge. This challenge does not require me to leave my house and head off to the nearest shopping mall with instructions to "spend, spend, spend" like her previous task but to do something that comes even more naturally to me: reading.

I must, apparently:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

1 is easy as my latest book is right to hand (on the dresser next to the phone and a wodge of old receipts) and it is entitled Samantha Smythe's Modern Family Journal by Lucy Cavendish. Number 2 is extremely easy (even though I have only managed to read up to page 26 so far). Number 3, piece of cake. Oooh, cake. Sorry. Number 4 is coming up next and goes a little something like this.

They wipe their yoghurty little mouths on the curtains. They, especially Bennie, tear around the house and slam into doors which they then push open at high speed so that the doors jump up and down on their hinges and smash into the walls and take little chunks out of the plaster and then these little chunks become bigger and bigger until they look like deep ravines or scars in the paintwork. They perch on the top of the cushions on the sofa so that all the furniture is squashed and uncomfortable. In the summer, when they can't be bothered to walk the few steps it takes to get to the loo, they just urinate on the mat outside the back door. "What's that smell?" my mother once asked once.

Well. That sounds just like my house. Apart from the urinating. But there was that one time that Senior Dog started peeing the minute he stepped onto the patio because he'd left it too long to go out into the garden to "be clean".......anyway, Mac likes Frubes and he likes to spread it around. The sofa and the clothes that I happen to be wearing at the time being favourite places. He hasn't mastered the sharp corner on the top landing either and the laminate flooring is covered in scuff marks caused by him slithering round it on his way to wreak havoc in his room. The dogs also have this problem as they rush in to join him barking joyfully and careering all over the landing like Dancing on Ice rejects, claws gouging great scar lines out of the distressed oak. David shows no respect for cushions or indeed knows what they are for: he sits on them rather than snuggling them round him and nesting. And I've already explained about the strange smell as you step out of the kitchen.

And, to complete number 5 and therefore the challenge, I would like to tag Kelly (this should be interesting, judging by her latest post), Dulwich Divorcee, darling Rilly, Mya and Elsie Button.

I hope you all find time to pick up a book and get turning those pages!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

The best laid plans

I might have known that my plans for Amelia's visit this weekend (dinner out on Saturday, Jack taking her home at 5pm on Sunday) would go awry, especially when she had a very definite view of how the weekend would pan out. Added to which, the unseasonable weather yesterday rendered me unable to anything but sit out in the garden marvelling "It's April!" every ten minutes or so. Anyway. As they say, the best laid plans and all that. I did manage to get out to Sainsburys without her but she was waiting for me when I got home and commented on my canned goods. "David likes a nice tin of mushroom soup" she said as she peered at a tin of custard. "You'd be better off making it from fresh" she said with a sniff as she banished my Ambrosia to the back of the cupboard. She took one look at the amount of veg, fruit and salad I unpacked and said sniffily "That'll never last the week."

Cleaning duty next and man did she have a field day. "You'd get far more purchase on that mop if you used both hands" she said as I half-heartedly ran a Flash liquid soaked mop over the utility room floor. "Oh, you buy this polish do you?" she went on as I whizzed round the living room with a duster. I didn't dare start in on the decorating, besides, I wanted to lounge around the garden in the sun while David and Mac were at The Den for the last home game of the season. "Oh Lord, they're out here" she hissed as we set up our chairs. Indeed, Frank and Marjorie were spread out on their lawn on luridly coloured beach towels, the whiff of Ambre Solaire on the breeze. "Hello campers!" giggled Marjorie and screamed as Frank tickled her. I got stuck into my book whilst my mother in law unravelled wool, found her place on her knitting pattern and started clacking away. "We're making toys" she said after ten minutes of silence. "For the Rotary Club summer fayre" she went on when I merely nodded my acknowledgement. Five minutes passed where the only sounds were clacking needles, the low hum of conversation from Frank and Marjorie and tweeting birds. Idyllic.

"I'm not going out with Jack tonight. Well, it's silly him paying all that money out when we can eat with you. What are we having for dinner?"

I put down my book and breathed deeply. I had planned nothing for dinner, hoping instead to get away with a Chinese takeaway while the geriatric sweethearts went out for dinner a deux. Amelia doesn't "do" Chinese takeaway and so huffed and puffed a bit when I told her. "Well, if you want to spend good money on something that you could make at home for pennies" she sighed and went back to her knitting. Ten minutes later. "I fancy some tea. Do you?" This was in fact code for "I want a cup of tea, in you go and put the kettle on". Five minutes later, tea made, I picked up my book, shot her a look and started to read.

"You'd best go and show me this takeaway menu then, see what takes my fancy". she instructed. By the time David and Mac got home at twenty to six I was on my second glass of wine.

To escape the madness I headed shower-wards. I love a good shower/pamper session and planned to make the most of my pardon by slathering myself in raspberry shower gel and then raspberry scrub, soaking my feet and just generally being a girlie. An hour later I descended the stairs, hair washed and conditioned, dressed in comfy lounging jammies and wafting the scent of the fruit that I can't bear to eat but adore bathing in. "How long has she been up there?" came a disapproving voice from the kitchen "How long does it take to have a shower?" she demanded of me the minute I entered the room. Jack Next Door was already in situ and smiled winningly at me. "I adore a nice long shower" he said with a wink in my direction. Amelia immediately softened "Do you lovey?" she said, beaming at him. David and I exchanged glances. "Not long to go darling, she'll be going home on Monday." he whispered as he went out to open the door to the delivery man.

Monday? "Monday?" I hissed as I followed him out into the hall. "Yes, didn't she say? She didn't want to drag Jack all the way out to Sevenoaks at that time of night so she said she'll get the train back on Monday morning."

Is it any wonder that I ate all of the King Prawn Balls myself?

Three green parrots at the Peckham Rye Cafe

I'd heard the rumours of course, that we had parrots living in the park but have never seen them. Until today. We were up the park at ten to eight this morning: me, David, Mac and the dogs while Amelia made us her "speciality" for breakfast.

And there they were. Green, glorious and gorgeous, perching in the cluster of trees by the now defunct paddling pool. A truly amazing sight and sound, the were conversing amongst themselves as I stood staring at them, open mouthed with three hounds running round me and a child leading his father a merry dance on his bike.

"Hm!" said David when I told him - of course, when we went back they were nowhere to be seen. Had I imagined them? I wished I'd imagined (rather than suffered) the gunk masquerading as porridge when I got home. Amelia's still in the kitchen chipping it off the saucepan and David has left for golf moaning that he can't "put one foot in front of the other".

Even the dogs turned their noses up.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Deep breathing

David is at a big meeting in Tunbridge Wells and is coming home via Sevenoaks where he will be collecting his mother. She's staying for the weekend. Which is why I've been sulking since yesterday lunchtime when he first mentioned it to me. Of course, when he rang her last night he'd barely got the words "Mum, did you want to come and st......" out of his mouth before she accepted. I heard her scream "yeeeesssssss!" from my position over by the dishwasher.

So now I've got to work out how to keep my mother-in-law occupied for the next two and a bit days. I've already informed her sometime paramour, Jack Next Door, and secured her a ride home in his car. At about 5pm on Sunday. Oh, and he's taking her out to dinner on Saturday night. "Just do what you had planned to do anyway" David advised. Easy for him to say - he's doing what he planned to do on Sunday, a game of golf with Matthew. "We'll be back at about three!" he said in an injured tone of voice when I mentioned it. Oh right, just in time for the Sunday Roast I'd have spent all morning preparing.

My Saturday will consist of Sainsburys, cleaning and decorating as planned - oh, Amelia's going to have a field day. Really, she will. She'll be able to malign my product choices, my lack of elbow grease and say, on a loop, "you've missed a bit".

Still, to be fair, I can't remember the last time she came and stayed for the weekend.

I'm sure it'll all come crashing back to mind the minute I clap eyes on her.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire

I have been trying, for the past few days, to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Before 9pm, I mean, which is about the time that my darling sister is quaffing her third glass of champagne of the evening and Saskia is just starting a night shift. I love my bed, adore my duvet and count my pillows as personal friends. It hasn't happened today, as you'll see by the time of this post, and it hasn't happened for, oooh, quite a while.

I'm not quite sure why to be honest. I'm full of good intentions - Mac has been angelic at bed time since Saturday (am saying this quietly just in case) and has been in bed and asleep by 6.30 every night. David has taken to yawning profusely by 7.45pm and by 8pm I'm well on my way to realising my dream of early to bed. I can almost feel the soft scented undersheet beneath me as I toe twiddle happily. So what goes wrong?

On Saturday, after a restless Friday night because I'd got over-tired watching Benidorm, My Family and channel hopping, I woke up at twenty past seven determined to be back in my beloved bed in fourteen hours time. That night I didn't get to bed until gone eleven. Indigestion and a drama-filled phone call from Janey (Darren has apparently "gone off" her since Scarlett was born and she fears he is having a dalliance with "a trollop down the club") put paid to that. On Sunday I decided that, come hell or high water, I'd be snuggled down under the duck feather duvet by 9pm. Hah! David decided, at twenty past eight to have an in-depth discussion about what to do about the whole "second house hunting" thing. It was gone ten by the time I'd promised to get less carried away and more serious about the whole thing - I even promised I'd learn how to plaster my own walls if we got somewhere that really, really, really needed work done to it.

On Monday - my own fault - I got engrossed in my book after the last Coronation Street had finished. I could have continued to read the book in bed but didn't actually want to put it down to go up and shower and brush teeth and get changed and all that. If that makes any sense.

Last night, again, I got over tired. Half asleep and grouchy through Holby and promising to record Most Haunted and watch it later. I made the fatal mistake of turning over at 9pm and then got engrossed in the spooky shenanigans.

By now you're probably thinking, like Bea, that I'm a telly addict. I'm not. I have certain programmes that I have to watch/record and the others I can take or leave. Bea's answer to my problem is "watch less dross on TV darling and you can go to bed with a nice glass of wine and a good book" but asking me to do without Stenders and Corrie and Holby and "alternative" comedy is like asking her to give up Bollinger. Or shopping.

So tonight, with nothing on that I wanted to watch past 8pm I was determined to get up those stairs and to go to bed. David is out at a work retirement do, Mac my angelic child was snuffling in his sleep by twenty to seven and the dogs were whizzed round the block before David left for Orpington. Ten to eight, cup of tea left on the stairs, doors locked, windows shut, already showered and dressed in stunning jim jams I was breathing deeply and serenely. By the time I'd seen the credits roll on t'Street I was ready to zap the TV off and head upstairs in daylight. By this point I was grinning gleefully to myself.

But then I thought "ooh, haven't checked my emails today and Charlie was going to send me pictures of her new nephew". And while I'm on-line I must have a look-see at why my cyber pals have been up to in Blogland. Oh, and Facebook. And really must sponsor my friend on her Race for Life thing in July. And then there's Ebay, always good to have a look round Ebay.......and if I visit the Links of London site then David will find the address in the address bar thingy and be curious enough to take a look........and......and........and.........

Tomorrow. I've promised myself an early night tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Indecent proposal

I have just been propositioned on Peckham Rye Common. In broad daylight. By the One O’Clock club that I went to as a child. Well. To be strictly honest, Junior Dog was propositioned in broad daylight by the One O’Clock Club but, as his chosen representative in the, er, attempted transaction I need a shower, a slice of Ayres carrot cake and a strong cup of coffee.

The dogs and I had just dropped Mac off at nursery and all three canines were champing at the bit to get onto a big bit of greenery. Well, Senior Dog could take it or leave it but the other two were sweeping him away with their enthusiasm so it was a merry band of dogs that ran around like lunatics for half an hour. After they’d investigated every sniff, chased every crow and watered every tree on the common I headed towards the One O’Clock Club side of the common so that I could walk them off, cool them down and generally get the mud off of their paws on concrete.

As we approached the path, a lady dressed in a Country Casuals wax jacket and raspberry coloured cords was attempting to control a gorgeous chocolate Labrador by screaming “Flora, come here at once!” at her departing figure. Flora looked to be a woman on a mission, charging up to a surprised looking Jack Russell, flinging herself on her back and displaying her nether regions. The bitch (and I mean that in a caring way) was obviously on heat.

This set all three of my boys off. Senior Dog, tired but always up for a romp or two, started bouncing up and down, Middle Dog yowled in what he thought was a “come and get it lady!” tone of bark and Junior Dog turned into the Tazmanian Devil. Flora was dragged unceremoniously back to the path whereby she decided to flaunt herself in front of her mirror image, Junior Dog.

All three of my boys are handsome in their own right: Senior Dog is a regal looking King Charles Spaniel with an aura of “oh I can’t be bothered” about him. Middle Dog is a collie/cairn terrier cross and looks like a grizzly bear but decidedly smaller. Junior Dog is a fine specimen of black Labrador, glossy and sinewy. And well up for what Flora was offering on a plate.

“Oh, he’s beautiful” said Country Casuals as she attempted to hold onto Flora, put her on a lead, prevent her from ramming her rump into Senior Dogs face and stroke Junior Dog at the same time. “Yes, he is” I agreed, preparing to take my leave of the strumpet and her owner. “Is he, you know, intact?” Country Casuals panted as she held Flora in an armlock and peered sideways at Junior’s Crown Jewels. I agreed that he was and attempted to drag all three dogs away from their very own lap dancer. Country Casuals peered at me over the top of her bifocals “I say, you wouldn’t be interested in breeding him would you?”

This is a topic that has divided both David and I in the past: to castrate or to breed. I have heard too many tales of dogs that have been “done” and it changes their merry nature. A friend had a spaniel who was so off his head (he used to run round walls like a Wall of Death rider) she was advised to give him the unkindest cut of all. It made not a jot of difference to his Wall of Death skills but he now did it while snarling and snapping and savaging anything that didn’t move. Friend Andy had a scatty Rottweiler (he cried every time the door bell rang and was scared of the dark) but, once he’d been allowed to do his stuff with a lady Rotty called Jezebel, he felt more at home in his skin. By this I mean, he barked the house down every time the doorbell rang but was not averse to Sunday morning cuddles under the duvet and tummy tickles.

I would have loved all my boys to become fathers, sure it would be the making of them. David was more worried that, when I was offered either the pick of the litter or payment as per the price of the puppies (which is my right as the stud fee), I’d come home with a puppy. So it never happened.

Country Casuals was still talking “Flora’s been hip scored and she’s a pure breed, only just turned one and, as you can see, is absolutely beautiful. Just like your dog there, he’s so handsome, they’d have lovely puppies” I was sold on it. And I could tell Junior Dog was gagging for it. Literally. He was choking as he strained to get to “his” woman.

I nodded quickly, banishing David’s fears to the back of my mind. I’d take the price of the puppy and put it in Mac’s bank account. I asked her where she lived and said that I’d get the contracts drawn up (again, have heard horror stories where the owners of the stud have been paid “the price we’re charging for the puppies, £150” and have then enquired anonymously a few days later only to be told “pure bred mate, the others have gone for £500 and there’s only one left”). It’s a mercenary business you know. Country Casuals was staring at me as if I’d gone mad. “I can come over later this afternoon, about five? I’ll bring his papers and if I could see hers that would be lovely.” I prompted, thinking that I’d have time to check the contract and anything else I should know out with the vet before I got her to sign anything. Junior Dog cost us £450 so Mac was in for a small windfall.

“What do you mean: contracts?” Country Casuals asked, now helping Flora to flaunt her rear at Junior Dog (who was foaming at the mouth at this point) and keeping her away from Senior and Middle Dog who were sulking and trying to get the attention of the One O’Clock Club lady who was sweeping the play area. “Well, I want it done properly, contracts, stud payment to be taken as the price of what you are going to sell the puppies for. I’d like to see her family line too, I’ve got his for you to see.” I pointed out, quite chuffed at my business acumen.

“Well, can’t we do it right here, right now?” Country Casuals said, rolling up her sleeves and looking around her. Kids played further along by the cafĂ©, people were enjoying the weak sunshine while they drank their tea and a group of workmen were doing something by the lamppost with a pneumatic drill.


I was affronted and found myself swelling up with righteous indignation. “He’s a pure breed!” I said, jabbing a finger at Junior Dog who was lying down, exhausted with his longing for the wanton temptress Flora who was giving all three of my boys a “come hither” look. “So is she!” Country Casuals said as she bent down to her tarty animal. “Then you should want more for her than a quick bunk up behind the One O’Clock Club!” said I as I wrapped the three leads tightly around my hand. “Oh come on, it’ll only take half an hour” Country Casuals wheedled as she started talking to Flora in a baby voice “Now dawling, de naughty doggie is going to jump onto your booful liddle backie wackie and give oo booful bubbas!”

A half an hour bunk up behind the One O’Clock Club while we two look on and Senior and Middle Dog get a quick thrill. Is that all my boys, erm, stuff is worth?

“I don’t think so” I hissed between clenched teeth. “If you are serious about this then you need to do it properly but don’t even think about asking me again. You should have more respect for yourself and for Flora!” My dander was seriously up – I was outraged. As I stalked off (dragging Junior Dog behind me) and got into the car I had to sit for a while to calm myself down. Junior Dog, the poor thing, was looking seriously peed off on the back seat, especially as the other two appeared to be mocking him.

As we drove out of the park, Country Casuals and Flora were talking to a rugged looking man with a shaggy Golden Labrador. Flora was doing the Dance of the Seven Veils and Country Casuals was laughing at something Rugged Looking Man was saying. I wound down the window and yelled “TART!”.

Come to think of it, I’m now not quite sure if I meant Country Casuals or her hound.

Saturday, 19 April 2008


Mac has been in a very questioning mood today. David took charge at breakfast so that I could leaf through Heat magazine with a cup of coffee in peace. I listened idly to the exchange going on over by the fridge as I slouched at the table. "What would you like for breakfast?" David asked Mac. I cringed. Never ever ask him that without limiting his options. I usually say "What would you like for breakfast? Toast, strawberry cereal or apple porridge?". He then happily chooses from one of my choices. Asking Mac an open ended question is like waving a red rag at a bull. I slid down in my seat as Mac pondered his response.

"Erm, some eggs please daddy and toast and mumlade and bacon and sausages and 'shrooms and apple." David looked over at me. I didn't see him do that, I sensed it. I was engrossed in the letters page.

"Okay, how about toast and marmalade then?" said the breakfast amateur. "No daddy, want eggs and sausages and bacon and bread and yoghurt and porridge." David laughed nervously and stuck his head in the fridge. "You can't have all of that, you'll burst!". "Why?" said Mac, thereby starting the first of many uses of that word today.

"Why are flowers pretty?" - this while we were in Sainsburys, along with "Why does fish smell fishy?". "Why do footballers spit?" as he watched one of Arsenal's finest do that thing that professional footballers seem to think is manly. "Why are books made of paper?" as we perused the childrens section of Nunhead library. "Why is daddy going to hide in the bathroom?" as David disappeared up the stairs. You can imagine how I was feeling by about ten to one. "I've got a headache!" I muttered as I rifled through the cupboard for some paracetomol. "Why?" piped up the voice behind me. "Because I've been doing a lot of thinking." I said as I threw two down my neck. "Why?". Deep breathing from me as I answered "Because you've been asking a lot of questions today." "Why?"

I knew the answer to that: "Because you're learning about lots of things and it's only natural to ask questions". "Why?" asked my wonder child as he patted the sofa seat next to him. "I can't sit down yet, I'm doing lunch" "Why?". "Because it's lunchtime!" "Why?"

I could go on but if I incorporate every single question I've answered today into this post then I'll get RSI.

I must just tell you this one though. I decided to turn the tables on him and answered "why?" to when he asked me if he "had to" eat the carrots in his Shepherd's Pie tonight. He rolled his eyes, put his hands on his hips and said "Because I don't like carrots that's why. Honestly mummy, you do ask some silly questions sometimes."

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Getting to know you....

I received an email today from a work pal - the idea is to copy and paste said email into another email, answer the questions and forward on to (not only the pal that sent it to you) but other pals too. The whole point is that you get to find out more about your friends. So I thought I'd give it a whirl on here!
3. WHAT WAS THE LAST FILM YOU SAW AT THE CINEMA? Water Horse. I cried and dropped my popcorn
5. WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR BREAKFAST? 2 slices of toast with marmalade
7. FOODS YOU DISLIKE? Parsnips, beetroot, offal, houmous
8. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CRISP FLAVOUR? cheese and onion but has to be Walkers
9. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CD AT THE MOMENT? Nelly Furtado's album, or Kylie's Greatest Hits
10. WHAT CAR DO YOU DRIVE? David's, if I can get away with it!
11. FAVORITE SANDWICH? smoked salmon and cream cheese
13. FAVORITE ITEM OF CLOTHING? my sloppy Joe jumper.......bliss
15. FAVORITE BRAND OF CLOTHING? Anything that takes my fancy (sorry Bea!)
16.TO WHERE WOULD YOU RETIRE? Somewhere rural
17. WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY? 18th, I was the only sober one there
18. FURTHEST PLACE YOU ARE SENDING THIS? Worldwide judging by "hit list"
19. WHO DO YOU LEAST EXPECT TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? Well, I hope that a couple of people include this on their blog.
26. PETS: Senior Dog, Middle Dog, Junior Dog, Becks the Rabbit and, as of yesterday, a goldfish
28. WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE? Daisy Duke of Dukes of Hazzard, vet, doctor, police officer, pony trek lady!
29. HOW ARE YOU TODAY? Excited, going to see Derek Acorah, spiritualist medium, tonight
30. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SWEET? Foxes Glacier Mints or those gorgeous chocolate limes!
31. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER? freesias, gerberas, roses, white lillies
33. WHERE IS THE FURTHEST YOU HAVE EVER BEEN FROM HOME? Wales! Well, it seemed a long way from home at the time!
34. SMALL THING YOU REALLY ENJOY? that feeling of contentment that you just can't explain

So, over to you fellow bloggers......

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Sleepy pockets

Mac and I have taken to having afternoon naps - it's great and now he doesn't want Easter holidays to end. I'm not quite sure what's going on to be honest - I promise I won't even bring up the subject of my great age :-) - but since The Illness that hit us last week, we're all very sleepy. David drove into work today just that so he's forced to stay awake on the journey home - he fell asleep yesterday and missed his station. Still, Mac and I have no such worries. I hit my sleepy pocket at about ten past two, Mac is ahead of me - he's taken to lying face down in his lunch so I've moved that forward to 12noon. Neither of us take to our beds, we snuggle on the sofa. 40 minutes, that's all I need because, since Friday afternoon, I'm always wide awake at ten to three.

It's been a very slow few days on the home front - but we've booked a couple of weeks away, the first at the start of the school holidays and the second week at the very end. The first venue is the same cottage we had last summer and the second venue hasn't been thought of yet but I'm still holding out the hope that we will have a weekend retreat by then. The estate agents we registered with certainly aren't backwards in coming forwards - both of our inboxes are full of details. I'm a bit concerned though that they seem to have not one idea about our actual needs.

We specified "2/3 bedrooms, in need of redecorating and doing up, fairly close to sea, not too expensive (see budget)". They're sending us information on either 1 or six bedroom properties that don't even need hoovering let alone repainting and one gorgeous house was just the 12 miles from the beach. And the prices!

Still. Mac has got it into his head that we need to make a cake "for Daddy" and he is currently wrapping himself in an apron - he looks like he's in a straight jacket so I'd better go and rescue him, I'm posting under the guise of "looking for a recipe sweetheart". Hm, wonder if Silvana or Kelly have anything we could make............I'm sure I could turn this into a cake of some description!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Age defining

I realised, on Thursday at about 7.33pm, that I am 36 this year. This sudden realisation came about when my hairdresser asked me how old I was. "35" I answered confidently, because I am. "When's your birthday?" she asked me as she teased and primped the hair of my friend and hairdressing buddy Louise. "1st of June" said I. Gulp. This means, this year, I'm 36. My life flashed before my very eyes, right there in Shear Class. School, college, wedding, childbirth, a couple of Christmases, a few drunken birthdays and, bizarrely, a hot summers day in Greenwich Park. 36. No longer can I hold onto that allusion of youth that being "under 35" gives you. On 1 June I shall be four years away from the big four-oh. I'm not a natural blonde. I think it's only right that I tell you this. I have a combination of three different blondes skillfully weaved into my hair by Amanda - it gives me the perfect excuse for my ditsiness - but sitting there on Thursday, my head covered in meshes I thought "why am I bothering?"

When I staggered home to face David dozing on the sofa in front of Eastenders on BBC3 he must have had such a shock to be faced by his newly blonded wife with the poker straight shoulder length bob. "Wow darling, it looks lovely!" he yawned. "Yeah right" I said, flopping down on the sofa next to him while Junior Dog tried very hard to place my face. I must look so different. "I'm getting old. Do I look old? Or older? Is it more of a progressive thing? Do I look different now to how I looked at this time last night? Or is it not as sudden as that? Is it creeping up on me and everyone can see it except me Do you think I'm getting old?"

My beloved husband sat blinking at me, mouth open, words forming on his lips but nothing coming out.

He blinked at me a few more times before saying "Erm, well, everyone's getting older darling, it's how things are but, erm, you, erm, don't look much, I mean any older than you did say, last week.....or even, erm, last month...you, well, you look your age......look, what's happened?" Obviously his brain hadn't had time to formulate the right words.

"I'm 36 this year" I stated, suddenly in the mood for some chocolate. "36. No longer 35. I'm ringing Bea" I added, grabbing the phone while David headed for the Scotch bottle. "How did you feel when you reached 36?" I asked my lovely sister the minute she trilled "helloooo, the St John-Sykes household". "Dar-ling girl!" she said and then did the brittle laugh she does when she's not really sure what to say next. "What a question to ask someone at a quarter past ten!"

"So, how did you feel when you reached 36?" I pressed as David handed me a glass of wine. "I'll let you know when I reach 36!" she trilled. I was in no mood for messing around "Bea, you're older than me." I snapped. More brittle laughter and she then changed the subject so deftly to whether or not I thought Enormous Au Pair was losing weight - I was halfway through my answer before I realised.

"I'm 36 this year" I said gloomily as I replaced the receiver. "36. That's four years from 40." I added, showing off my maths skills to the accountant I married who was now searching the house for chocolate. He knows me so well. But not well enough to know I have a secret stash of Galaxy in one of my old handbags in the cupboard under the stairs. I didn't have the energy or the inclination to get up to get it.

"So what?" David said as he returned with the next best thing: a packet of hob-nobs. So what. A typical man's response. "It's the end of youth, the end of, oh I don't know, carefree days, of vitality, fertility - things dry up. First your skin goes, then your nails start going dodgy, your Female Bits start acting up, then come the hot flushes and shoplifting (I was using my mum's aunt as an example you understand) and the 'eurgh get off I've got a headache' and then you start forgetting things and start putting the milk in the bathroom and the toilet rolls in the fridge (mum's aunt again) and then......oh, it's just an end of life as I know it." A whole biscuit went into my mouth followed by a large swig of red wine.

"Erm, sweetheart, didn't you say the same thing when you were 30?" I vaguely knew him at the time but he maintains he remembers my 30th birthday extremely well - I'd got up on the karaoke stage at the pub my family, friends and I were celebrating in and sang, in quick succession, "I will survive", "I know him so well" (playing both the Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson parts) and "Cat Among The Pigeons". I'd then slumped onto the banquette and claimed my life was over. I remember nothing of this at all. Amazingly enough he still married me.

I glared at him and tipped more wine down my neck "Oh, what did I know? I was young and stupid."

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

At the gates of Hell

I have emerged, fortunately unscathed, from a period of hell that I feel is only right to share with you all. Please note: do not read this post if you've just eaten, are about to eat or are feeling nauseous. I promise to put something cheery at the end of this post so skip straight down to that if you'd prefer. I was woken in the early hours of Tuesday morning (2.57am to be precise) by a sound that awoke not only my body but my maternal instincts. My child, my poor little boy was making the most god-awful retching noises in his bedroom - suffice to say he'd decided to save the carpet and had vomited all over himself, his bed, his bedside table and even into one of the drawers. Projectile vomiting wasn't in it.

I picked him up with his duvet and dumped them both in the bath. By the time I'd cleaned him up he was shivering so I plonked him in bed next to his (still sleeping) father while I mopped up and generally remade the bed. Three quarters of an hour had passed and I'd washed my hands about six times. He decided he wanted to sleep with mummy and was already half asleep on my half of the bed. No sooner had my head hit the pillow and my body the remainder of the bed than David was up and sprinting for the bathroom.

Yes, you've guessed it. A passing bug had decided to visit Nunhead and settle on my abode. They were being ill in tandem. If one had his head in a bucket, the other was on the loo and vice versa. This went on until twenty to eight when I rang David's PA (she showed no sympathy) and then the doctors surgery for an emergency appointment. "There's a lot of it about" said the Helpful Receptionist and said there was no need for an appointment "keep their fluids up" she said as she slammed the phone down on me.

I know they were ill, I know that. But honestly. Florence Nightingale had nothing on me. I was up and down stairs with buckets, constantly bleaching the loo and soothing both fractious son and whining husband.

They rallied briefly, at the same time. Just before ten to two when both decided they could "do with some soup". Chicken seemed to be the obvious choice but I had none in the cupboard so would have to run up to Spar. "Nooooooooooo, don't leave me mummeeeeeeeeee!" wailed my child as if I was heading up the Amazon for six months rather than ten minutes up the road. "No, I'll do without" said my husband as he envisaged being left in the house, alone, with a poorly child.

They went downhill after that. I made them both have a bath while I remade beds and opened all the windows to "let the germs out". They then both lolloped on the sofa, not wanting to eat and, it seems, not wanting me to eat either: "don't like food smells mummy" and "if you cook anything darling I'll vomit". I made do with some cheese and crackers while Eastenders was on.

Amelia rang in the midst of all this and asked me how everything was. I lied and said everything was fine, closing the bathroom door on a retching husband. I couldn't face Amelia on top of everything else. "I'd better let you go, Holby starts in ten minutes and I know how cantankerous you get if you miss it" she sniffed.

Well, I couldn't even enjoy that. In the space of one hour I had a request for a story, two glasses of water, one of milk, one of lucozade, some dry crackers, a piece of dry toast and a cup of "weak tea". Of course, by five past nine, both were sound asleep, David diagonal across the bed and Mac curled into a ball beside him.

I took advantage of this lull and cooked a frozen pizza (with all the doors shut and constant squirts of Neutradol up the stairs). The dogs were pleased that I could give them some attention and all three vied to sit on me. Actually, Most Haunted was quite spooky this week so I was pleased with their presence. Bed at just gone ten with me curled up the other side of David, from above we must have looked like a lopsided percent sign. At twenty past twelve all hell broke loose again. David actually vaulted over Senior Dog as he shot into the bathroom. He stayed in there for twenty minutes "ooh, it was coming out of both ends" he groaned as he shuffled back into the bedroom. Of course, that reminded Mac that he was still not quite right - half an hour later, more projectile vomiting with shouts of "eurgh, that's disgusting" from his doting father.

Another clean up operation, during which I noticed Middle Dog salivating at the top of the stairs. Before I could ask him (!) if he was okay he vomited profusely. It bounced down the stairs.

At this point I sank to the floor and had a quick cry. I then got up and put another load into the washing machine.

Child and Husband were back in bed, with David manfully trying to explain to Mac that sometimes "people got ill and it took a while for them to get better". I mopped up, pacified Middle Dog who was trying to get into bed with the other invalids and made myself a strong cup of coffee. Back in bed by 2am and ignoring complaints that the smell of my Kenco was going to make them ill again.

I lay awake for ages, listening to the deep breathing and snores from my beloved boys and I began to worry about what their malaise could actually be. I'd just reached Lassa fever when there was a stirring in the bed beside me. A small, cold hand found its way into mine and I squeezed it, feeling the beginnings of tears. "Mummy?" said a small voice. "Yes baby boy?" I whispered back. "I'm going to be....eeeeuuuuuurgghhhhhhh!"

That was at quarter to five this morning and thankfully it seemed to have been the last of the vomit. David has very kindly reported on the state of his, erm, movements, every time he visited the Little Boys room (the rate has slowed down somewhat thankfully) and Mac is almost back to his usual self. Middle Dog, it seems, just felt left out - he's fine and demolished his breakfast and that belonging to Junior Dog too. David felt well enough to ring his PA himself, signing himself off for the rest of the week "well, you can't be too careful can you?" he said as he flicked through Sky.

And me? I've still got the headache that started niggling at the back of my skull at lunchtime on Tuesday and I hurt my back as I manoevered the bucket under a vomiting child last night. I seem to have avoided the vomiting and, erm, the other thing (touch wood) and am sick to death of washing and bleaching and wrestling with the sodding duvet covers.

I'm typing this in bed, on David's laptop while the man himself does "daddy duty" and reads Mac a story. It's one he's made up himself from what I can hear from here. It's rather touchingly called "The Big Bear's Sore Bum"

Still, I promised you something nice and here it is - it never fails to make me smile - especially the woman in the black jumper and glasses.

Sunday, 6 April 2008


Imagine my surprise when David snuggled up to me in bed on Friday morning (steady!) and said "I fancy doing something different tonight". The thoughts that flitted through my mind were many (and not altogether pure I have to admit) and befuddled. In a split second I imagined me shocking Marjorie with details of my boudoir secrets, and stockings and suspenders played a very large part as did that nice bottle of red I'd been saving for a special occasion.

What a pity he meant bowling.

David used to be something of a demon in the bowling alley - during our courtship he dazzled me with his strikes and spares and the way that he looked dashing and handsome even when he was wearing those ludicrous shoes they make you wear. At the time, I did that girly thing of lumping the ball down the lane and then clutching my face as I didn't manage to trouble any of the pins.

As he set off for work, he left me to do a ring round "the gang" and to book a "lane or two" at our local Hollywood Bowl. By a quarter to twelve I'd spoken to Nathan ("Ollywoodbowlhowcanihelpyoooooooo") and booked two lanes for 7pm and had corralled Bea, Stephen, Lydia, Matt, Charlie, Token Gay Man Friend Andy, Marjorie and Frank (the latter two only because Marjorie was with me when Charlie rang to confirm her attendance) into joining us for some bowling fun. Enormous Au Pair would be delighted to look after Mac and his cousins would be over the moon to welcome him for a sleep over said Bea as she pondered what to wear for her first ever trip to a bowling alley. I warned her that she would have to wear shoes that other people had worn before her. She went quiet for a little while and vowed to wear six pairs of socks "and all of them Stephens".

For those of you who have seen the (truly terrible) Grease 2, you will possibly understand why I get the urge to sing this every time I think of/see others bowling. I was ten when it came out and was (for a very short while) obsessed with it but then I shunned it in favour of the original and better Grease. The fact that it starred Adrian Zmed swung it for me I think - what can I say? I was young and I was hormonal.

Anyway, there was no singing, dancing or gymnastic displays when we all gathered at ten to seven. "Do you remember your Grease 2 obsession?!" Bea crowed as she slithered out of her coat to reveal skin tight black trousers and a "genuine bowling shirt" complete with poodle with diamente collar appliqued on the back. Oh, and her name embroidered on the front pocket. Quite how she managed to arrange this in the time since ten past nine that morning is a mystery but, as the lady herself said, "I have a fab PA". She caused quite a stir, especially with the group of "young people in lane 17, the ladies with Croydon facelifts and enough gold to dazzle Mr T and the gentlemen covered in Burberry and DelBoy jewellery".

We gathered at our lanes having previously agreed to Boys versus Girls. There was the usual amount of bravado from The Boys as they strutted their stuff and immediately took over the setting up of the computer. The Girls were more interested in stowing our bags safely and deciding what we'd like to drink. Bea was horrified that they did cocktails "by the jug darling, whatever next" and plumped for a jug of Pimms which was "just about acceptable".

There were no balls left on the racks for us to choose - I spoke to Der Management who suggested that I venture into other lanes and ask other bowlers for some balls. A challenge I relished as you can imagine. But nearly all of our fellow bowlers were selfish and refused access to their balls, despite lane 26 having six medium pink balls. I chuntered loudly and went back to shout at Der Management. When I returned to our lanes I was informed by Marjorie that "our balls aren't coming back". A maintenance man of Spanish descent appeared in front of us "zee balls, zey are not returning, zere is a problem viz the lane, I be maybe five, maybe ten, maybe 15 minutes to sort?" he said as he headed off up our lane carrying a drill.

Fifteen minutes later we had more balls than we knew what to do with - they'd all been stuck in our lane. It's a wonder that no-one else had complained. I shot the occupants of Lane 26 a disparaging look as balls of all weights and descriptions shot out at us. Bea went back to the bar to order another jug of Pimms.

Incidents of note: I broke my thumbnail and got a strike, Lydia proved to be adept at putting The Boys off their stroke and attempted to nobble Matt by snogging the face off him - but it merely bouyed him up enough to get two strikes, one after the other, Marjorie loudly cheered every time Frank hit any of the pins, Charlie patented Drunken Bowling and did really well and Bea, so stunned at how good she was at this "bowling lark", got carried away on her return from a triumphant spare and fell arse over tit down the ramp which led to our seats.

David took the whole of the first game to regain his sheer brilliance but won the second game at a canter, Matt won the first game and has not yet let his father forget it, Frank spent most of his time in the gulley and tipping Carlsberg down his neck, Andy made up for his lack of bowling ability by keeping us all in (rather juvenile) hysterics with a non stop stream of double entendres and Stephen wanted to set up a team and "do this regularly".

The Boys beat the Girls in both games but Charlie won our first game and Lydia the second. I came a respectable third then fourth and whinged so much about my poorly thumb that I managed to drag David over to Pizza Hut for an Italian Meat Feast.

And, once we got home, the bottle of red put in an appearance too.

Smile :-)

Thank you Graham for passing this onto me......and I shall keep checking back for new posts from you and Tilly xx

I'd like to award this award (that I've just had awarded to me) to everyone who reads my Ramblings - for that alone you deserve something!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Spring has sprung

It's that time of year again. The Dreaded Spring Clean. I say "dreaded" but it's not really. No, I do like to give something a good going over with a damp cloth and a squirt of bleach, it's.....theraputic. My mum used to have a Spring Clean and an Autumn Clean. April and October, there she'd be in the cleaning equipment aisle of Sainsburys wondering whether or not to buy Cif or something else.

Of course, I've chosen this time of year to do some decorating so, as well as being compelled to clean everything in sight, I'm also itching to get on with some glossing. There's nothing quite so satisfying as seeing what looked like a white glossed door actually turn into a white glossed door when you put fresh paint on it. Still, I'm consoling myself with the fact that decorating is a form of spring cleaning and that obviously I can do it all. To be fair, David has offered his assistance with a roller.

Oh, and de-cluttering! For a hoarder like myself it's quite traumatic but I'm trying to be minimalistic in everything. Clean lines, empty surfaces - David went into the kitchen last night and asked me if we'd been burgled.

It's amazing just how much stuff I keep just for the sake of keeping it. "Sixteen egg cups in various colours? Well, we might have sixteen guests at some point, all of whom want a boiled egg for breakfast". I've kept the lids to saucepans I no longer have just in case I "need" them. For what I asked myself as I consigned them to the bin. "Just in case, you never know!" I answered myself as I got them out again. One cup of tea and stern talking to later, I'd ditched them again and tried not to think "what if".

Drawers. Pardon me but every kitchen has a Junk Drawer. Doesn't it? My Junk Drawer contained, in no particular order: elastic bands: of varying sizes and elasticity, highly coloured food bag ties, a defunct lighter, a ball of string, a ball of twine, a pair of scissors that don't close, sixteen million pens, only half of them with ink in them, an ages old sachet of cappucino, post it notes (various colours), an old knife, an ancient ladle........it goes on and on. I consigned half of it to the bin and then had to have a sit down to get over it.

Still, I'm starting on the dining room today because while we are decorating the kitchen, everything will have to be stored in there. I'm going for Rice Pudding for the walls to make the whole room light and airy. David grumbled that the whole place will look like an operating theatre if I carry my light colour theme through the house. He's also moaning about the patchwork effect on the walls as I find a paint tester, go off the colour and go and get another one. I'm actually getting to like the look of the chimney breast wall to be honest.....

I do, however, have a bit of doubt over the colour I've chosen for the bathroom. It's Pale Pink which looks beautiful when it's first up but deepens in colour as it dries. They might as well have called it Candy Floss And Then Some.

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.