Wednesday, 30 January 2008

In Dublin's fair city....

I have learnt the following:
- the distance between St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre and the hotel is ridiculously long when heavy bags are involved.

- Margaret hurt her back in Dublin Cathedral and went into Boots for some Deep Heat and "was amazed that it looked almost exactly like the one in Tunbridge!"

- nearly all of the tea place/coffee bar places employ Central Europeans.

- the local television station RTE shows episodes of "that silly show you like".

- Amelia wants to buy something green but not so green that it looks "too Irish".

- Guinness is not that nice.

- Dublin Zoo was a big disappointment.

- the statue of Molly Malone was surrounded by rubbish andhad "a can of coke in her basket".

- Grafton Street is "all muddly".

I have also learnt to ignore the phone every other time it rings. I still get the same amount of information but an hour or so apart instead of every twenty minutes.

Monday, 28 January 2008

The Temporary Dubliners

They've arrived. Landed on time and in one piece but Amelia's ringing tones echoed across the sea thanks to good old BT "We had to get a coach to the hotel and it cost seven euros and it took ages and we went through lots of places that looked English. We could have been anywhere!" Quite how she expected to get to the hotel without the aid of a coach, and for free, is beyond me. As is the fact that she was no doubt expecting exotic landmarks when all she got was "lots of roads and houses and a sort of motorway!".

Still. I can breathe a sigh of relief that she's a plane journey away. Although it seems that our home phone has become the hotline to Dublin. She's been on Irish soil since half past 12 today and already we've had six phone calls. The first as above, the second and third at the hotel to let us know that a) her bedroom is lovely and opposite Margaret's and b) to let us know that the pelican crossing noise is different in Dublin.

The fourth call was a joint one with Margaret as they were walking through St Stephens Green on their way to the shopping centre, the fifth to ask me if David needed any new pants as there's "a sort of Debenhams equivalent here" and, half an hour ago, the sixth call to ask if it would be wrong to go for an Italian meal on their first night in Ireland instead of finding somewhere that serves "soda bread and colcannon".

We've got another four days of this.

Sunday, 27 January 2008


Since around 6.30am this morning I've been working myself into a frenzy of panic about my impending trip to Stansted with Amelia and Margaret tomorrow. Despite assorted useful tips and diagrams from my dad, Kelly, Charlie and David AND the fact that my sat nav is just sitting there waiting to be told where to go I'm still a nervous wreck. I think the fact that Amelia would castigate me loudly and on a loop if I got lost and Margaret would panic (the woman jumps at every noise and keeps asking "did you hear that?" - her nerves are shot to pieces) if we deviated from our route is only making me feel even worse.

So, you can imagine my joy when Jack Next Door offered to take the intrepid travellers for me AND collect them on Friday. In fact, if my husband hadn't been in the room with us at the time, I think I'd have snogged the face off him.

What a buzz

I have discovered that not only do I have the sex appeal of a gnarled old walnut, but poor old David is suffering as a result of my lack of sex aids and is therefore severely under tantalised in the boudoir department. Or so the representative of Ms Summers (a delightful girl with two tone hair called, rather prosaically, Flora) would have me believe. I wasn’t the only one who came out of there weighed down with the knowledge that they were about as sexy as a verucca.

My first shock of the evening was to find my darling sister Bea already at Saskia’s getting stuck into the Chardonnay. My second was at the sheer range of, erm, instruments that are on the market. Once we were all seated (apart from Saskia, me, Bea, Lydia, Marjorie and Jane Opposite there were about fifteen assorted friends of Saskia’s crammed into her living room and spilling out into the hallway) Flora produced a garishly coloured box and gave us a bit of spiel about the company she was representing. As my only experience of Ann Summers (and let me say here and now that I have nothing against Ann Summers and all she/it stands for) was a rather giggly tour with Charlie when we were in Bromley last Christmas, I was a bit wary of the contents of the box. As well I might be.

Edible knickers (please, for the love of God!), mini whips, pens in the shape of male members, a set of boobs keyring (imagine whipping your keys out in front of the boss with that on there) love dice (don’t ask), ice cube trays (who would want a couple of frozen willies in their vodka and tonic?) and a bondage teddy. A teddy bear dressed in a red PVC outfit and gimp mask. I did fleetingly think of Mac’s request for a present but, as I didn’t want Social Services battering down the door, I dropped that idea pretty damn quick.

We all sat there in silence (apart from three of Saskia’s colleagues who had, they informed us, been in the pub since half one) in complete awe at what was being passed around. I decided that I was being incredibly uptight and decided to get into the spirit of the occasion by attempting a few cracks with a whip. It was at this point that I caught my big sisters eye and threw it down on the table as if it were contagious. Marjorie of course was having the time of her life and was giggling like a loon. It got worse when the outfits came out.

Now, speaking for myself, I love a man in a uniform and yes, there is an element of fantasy in there. A fireman heroically rescuing me from a burning building or a policeman cautioning me for a wrong doing whilst seducing me makes me sit and stare into space when in reality both scenarios would freak me out completely. If I was in the presence of a fireman and a burning building I’d be more worried about if everyone were safe than appearing seductive and if I was ever cautioned by the police, the sheer shame of it would make me unable to look anyone in the eye ever again.

David has never suggested that he would like it if I paraded around nightly in various outfits and, to be honest, I’ve never asked him if he would. When I revealed this to Flora and the assorted guests there was a mass intake of breath. “’ve NEVER.....asked him if he'd like you to dress up? Like....NEVER?” said Flora in disbelief. Half of the room was looking at me agog, the other half (including Bea, Lydia and the mousey blonde from Saskia’s gym who blushes every time a man walks through the door) were looking at the floor. “How many other women have not asked their man if they would like to indulge in some dressing up?” Reassuringly, half the room put their hand up.

The outfits on offer included a policewoman (a black PVC mini dress, whistle and handcuffs - which you had to buy separately), a nurse (a white PVC mini dress with stethoscope and hat), a sex kitten (black body stocking with a set of kitten ears on a head band) and an airline stewardess (a pink PVC mini dress and a jaunty hat a la Steps in the Deeper Shade of Blue video. But in pink). “No French maid outfit?” Bea asked as she trawled through the rails which set off a storm of guffaws.

Outfits done, we moved onto the gadgets (which is a euphemism for all kinds of strange battery operated items let me tell you). I have Delicate Readers to consider so I shall draw a veil over many items on offer. Suffice to say we were all in hysterics as one or two of the, shall we say, larger items were passed round and demonstrated. Flora, who must be well used to having a room full of cackling drunk women, was a little bit mystified at our general restraint and sheer disbelief. “What could you do with that?” Lydia asked, brandishing a twelve inch phallic shaped piece of rubber that could gyrate and pump when the necessary buttons were pushed. Which she did to much amusement and shrieking. Marjorie looked as if she’d found the Holy Grail and put her name down for one.
Flora was having to push a lot of the stock as we just weren’t interested in buying, just taking the mickey. “If I came home with that my husband would ask for a divorce!” said Saskia’s neighbour, pointing at a gadget that promised to reach parts that other gadgets couldn’t reach. “Perhaps if I came home with this, my husband would call off our divorce” said a rather washed out looking lady dressed entirely in navy blue as she shook out the policewoman’s outfit. After an unproductive hour and a half, Flora had taken to buttonholing us individually and managed to catch me as I left the kitchen bearing a sausage roll. “Now, what would you like? Or more importantly, what would your husband like?” she said with a wink as she dragged me into her room of torture.

I ummed and aahed a bit and bought a pair of chocolate boob sweets for David. I couldn’t bring myself to actually order anything but noticed Lydia toying with a set of handcuffs. She caught my eye and, me being her lover’s sort of step-mother, she blushed bright red. Bea was arguing (rather too loudly) that as she already owns and wears stockings, there’s nothing shameful about buying fishnet seamed ones. Jane Opposite had put her name down for the PVC air hostess outfit and was screeching “I’m Jane, Fly Me!” as she rummaged through the box of gadgets looking for the “purple one I saw earlier”. Marjorie had, of course, worn out Flora’s order book - she had to go out to her car to get a new one. “I’m getting one of those, one of those, two of those, one of those, oh and that!” Marjorie beamed as she waved gadget after gadget in front of my face like some sordid Generation Game conveyer belt.

I cracked in the end of course. I won’t tell you what I bought but I can assure you it doesn’t run on batteries. Besides, knowing my luck if I did buy a battery operated item, Amelia would find it as she “helped” me put the ironing away and would ask me “what sort of phone is this?”

Snuggling up to David on the sofa bed late last night I asked him if he would like me to dress up and/or jazz things up in the boudoir in any way. He replied in the negative and assured me that things were jazzy enough (especially, he added, after I’d been on the Baileys). When I told him what I’d bought and that it would arrive “express delivery”, he settled down to sleep with a satisfied smile on his face.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Bed snobs and breadsticks

People have often said to me “what goes around, comes around” and “you get back what you put in”. Well I must have been going around an awful lot, putting lots of bad things in somewhere for today, on my doorstep I found not one, but two Dublin-bound old age pensioners. Yes, Amelia has arrived for her stay “before we go to Dublin, have I mentioned we’re going to Dublin?” along with her travelling companion Margaret Casey. I have nowhere to put this additional OAP, short of showing her the sofa bed and telling her to get on with it. And I just know that the sofa bed will not do her any favours.

Both were sitting down at the kitchen table with their second cup of tea when David and Mac arrived home from the golf shop. “Hellloooooo!” trilled the OAPs. Mac threw himself at Amelia and showed her “what we paid for in the shop granny!” whilst David did an impression of a surprised halibut. A hissed conversation then took place in the utility room during which I confirmed to David that he and I were on the sofa bed whilst Margaret made use of our Queen sized bed with goosedown duvet. This had been decided during the first cup of tea “anything less than a proper mattress dear and I’m stiff as a board. I’m a martyr to my back I am”. Mac’s bed wasn’t big enough for her as she’s used to a double and she felt she couldn’t sleep that close to “that many stuffed animals”.

She also came out with a gem of a comment: “I only eat kippers for breakfast I’m afraid” said the woman who arrived uninvited to a kipper-free house having failed to bring her own which necessitated a trip up to Sopers. Who had just sold their last pair. David escaped to Sainsburys when my back was turned with my list and his son.

I’m wary of letting David out to do the weekly shop because I know that, even with a comprehensive list, he will forget something very important. The last time was when I had written “chicken for dinner tonight” in huge letters. He came back with no chicken because he “didn’t see it on the list”. The time before that, where I had lovingly detailed the list of herbs (fresh and dried) that I was planning to use to restock my herb and spice cupboard, he came back with salt and pepper only. And then complained when his roast beef “didn’t have any rosemary on it”. Still, he’d gone and, other than ringing him every five minutes to track his course round the shop, I could do nothing but trust him.

The intrepid travellers were comparing tour guides and giggling over their planned visit to Dublin zoo and the Guinness factory when David arrived back. The first thing I noticed was the bag of Haribo jellies Mac was clutching in one hand, the second thing was the distinct lack of shopping.

My beloved husband had taken one look at my list, another look at the “sheer amount of people crammed into the aisles” and decided that, this week, we could do without toilet rolls, milk, butter and yoghurt and we’re unable to eat salad for the foreseeable because “women were going crazy with cucumbers” and "don't even get me started on the breadstick aisle". He managed to negotiate the deli counter with no problems only because Mac had charmed the lady behind the counter. He also got the kippers, shrunkwrapped when I think Margaret was expecting so-fresh-they’re-still-smoking. I shoved them at the back of the (strangely empty on a shopping day) fridge and hoped for the best.

I asked my family and house guests to decide whether or not to have an early, hastily thrown together dinner as I was going out at half past six or I’d eat at Saskia's and they could please themselves once I’d gone. The camp was divided. David and Margaret were happy to eat early, Amelia couldn’t see why they had to suffer just because “I was out gallivanting at a highly dubious party with a bunch of women who should know better” and Mac didn’t want me to go but I could go if I brought him back a present. I fudged that one and retired to the PC to mooch through Blogland.

From my comfy swivel chair I can hear the debate raging in the kitchen: Amelia is digging around the freezer and tutting loudly, Margaret is keen on making omelettes for everyone and keeps asking Amelia where I keep my eggs, Mac is stuffing his face with Haribo and David has just wandered through to ask me where the Spices takeaway menu has gone.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Sighs of relief all round

My lovely (reconditioned, don't pay handset insurance, it's a waste of a fiver) N95 mobile phone handset arrived yesterday afternoon at twenty to five. Cutting it fine by any stretch of the imagination but, as I'm sure that the nice delivery driver knew nothing of my week of torment and threats, I made no comment save a nice long squeal when I opened the door to him. Poor man, he looked quite frightened.

David is happy that I'm happy again - he'd taken to hiding his all singing, all dancing handset for fear of rubbing salt into my wounds. The dogs are happy that I'm happy again - they'd spent much of the past two days tiptoeing past me and slinking away at the first sign of a raised voice. Mac is happy that I'm happy again - he snuggled up to me while we were having our post nursery cup of tea (he's very much into blueberry tea at the moment) and said "I like it when you're not shouting mummy".

So, now my family are no longer living in fear of me (and the call centre staff of my mobile phone provider are free from my increasingly ranty calls) we've all, collectively had a good day. Mac and I spent this afternoon getting muddy in the garden, David spent a productive day choosing new office furniture and the dogs have trailed mud through the whole house. But who cares?

I'm in a good mood and tonight we're celebrating with one of our "you can have whatever you want for dinner" sessions. David is having a full English breakfast (yes I know, I know), Mac is having his favourite homemade pizzas with baked beans (again, I know, I know!) and I'm having the biggest jacket potato I can find with cheese, onion and ham.

Ooooh, must dash, my phone's ringing!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Who will buy?

Have you ever wondered exactly why you buy what you buy? I’m not just talking about food, I’m talking about the every day items. For example, why do I buy Ariel washing powder and favour Comfort over Lenor? Why I am loyal to Fairy Liquid when there are just so many washing up liquids to choose from? Why do I stick with plain old chickens and steer clear of the yellowing corn-fed ones? What drives me to buy what I buy? Familiarity? Habit? A reluctance to try something new? Being a stick in the mud?

You can tell, can’t you, that I’m still waiting for my sodding phone to be delivered.

I rang them yesterday at twenty past three and was fobbed off with loads of rubbish, including the fact that I was out when they tried to deliver. When I told them that my husband had been walking the streets with the dogs at 7am and my son was taken to and from nursery by a helpful pal so that I could in fact remain at home they immediately backed down and promised to talk to the returns department on my behalf. This they did, but not before I threatened that my next call to them would be when I chose Option 2 (option 2 being “if you are thinking about leaving this useless phone company” although I’m paraphrasing here) and that if my phone was not in my grubby little mitt by 5pm TODAY, ie on the 24th of January in this, the year of our Lord, I shall not only tell them where to stick the remaining ten months of their contract but shall advise all of my friends/family/passing acquaintances/random strangers NOT to choose this useless phone company but to go Orange instead. Hah! That got them. Woman in the Call Centre fell over herself to promise me delivery today. Well, we’ll see.

Anyway, I’m sitting with David’s laptop at the kitchen table which is the optimum place to hear the doorbell and (hopefully) the arrival of my mobile phone. The living room would be an obvious place to sit but then I’d find myself glued to the window waiting for the little jaunty delivery van to appear and will only get disappointed when he delivers yet more crapola to Jill With The Purple Door – honestly, that woman is a devil for catalogues – and steers clear of my doorstep.

I wonder what a market researcher would make of my choices? They split us consumers into different groups you know. Saskia once took part in a consumer survey and found she was an Alpha with Omega tendencies. She didn’t know what the hell it meant but she hasn’t bought ketchup since.

From my position at the kitchen table I can see that I buy Kingsmill bread, Clover margarine, Bonne Maman jam. Why not Hovis, I can’t believe it’s not butter and good old Robinsons? Why don’t I play fast and loose with my eating habits? Could it be that I prefer Kingsmill, Clover and Bonne Maman? Can’t be just that, surely.

If I open up the cupboard under the sink (if I can negotiate my way past the childlock) I will see Ariel (colour and white tablets) sitting next to my Comfort concentrate bottle. Next to that is a bottle of Flash liquid (always the lemon scented, always), Asda own brand stain remover, Domestos bleach and Sainsburys own brand surface cleaner.

This afternoon I shall whiz round with the Cif, Mr Sheen and Febreze. For dinner tonight we’ve got a leg of pork because, well, we always have a leg of pork. And I can never cook belly of pork properly. Along with King Edward roast spuds (never Maris Piper), broccoli and carrots.

I’ve written my list for shopping on Saturday and have highlighted several items that I always buy and have vowed to change brands, just for the hell of it.

It’s funny what waiting around can do to a girl.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

At the end of my tether....

The mobile phone that was to be "delivered before 10am, Wednesday 23 January 2008" has failed to materialise as promised. I'm giving them until 3pm (incredibly generous I feel) just in case the delivery driver has got stuck in traffic/held up on another delivery/got lost in a one way system and then I shall ring my mobile phone provider and, by God, they'd best have a good excuse ready to explain the shambles they laughingly call a "service".

I'm about to sharpen the disembowlling knives.......

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

In a stew

It seems that it’s going to be a riot at Saskia’s on Saturday – everyone I see or speak to (Jane Opposite, Lydia, Marjorie Stewart, Eliza) have been invited and are all “dead keen” on seeing what Ms Summers has to offer them. All except Janey, who said rather forcefully “I can’t even look at a banana these days let alone think of anything going near my Minnie”. Such a pity, Darren’s taken on the look of a beleaguered blood hound and is looking forward to his paternity leave finishing. Janey’s doing well, she’s up and dressed every morning which is more than I managed for the first couple of months. David said he got so sick of the sight of my pyjamas that he was all for burning them when I finally progressed onto trackie bottoms and T-shirts.

Scarlett is absolutely gorgeous and is, Janey says, the perfect baby. She sleeps when she’s supposed to and doesn’t do any of that high pitched screaming “that other babies do”. Outings have been less successful “by the time I got her ready, got myself ready, packed what I needed to pack and double checked everything I was too knackered to leave the house”. I remember it well. On David’s first solo outing to the little green round the corner with a five month old Mackenzie I weighed him and the buggy down with so much stuff he looked like a pack horse and only managed to get to the end of the road before heading home again.

My phone problems are on the verge of being resolved so I won’t say too much in case the good people at my mobile phone provider are listening and put a spoke in the wheel. I spoke to five people yesterday, all in the same department, and all giving me contradictory advice. I was fit to be tied by 6pm and had to have a strong cup of tea and a flapjack to calm myself down. Why, oh why did I sign up to an 18 month contract? To get a phone that’s so sodding fashionable, so up to the minute it freaks itself out at the mere thought of doing anything remotely phone-like and has to have a lie down every now and again, complete with eye mask and ear plugs. There’s a lot to be said for the sturdy brick like phones favoured by people “over a certain age”. Still, it won’t stop me embracing my all singing, all dancing new snazzy fashionable handset if/when it arrives.

Amelia has “suggested” that I take her to Stansted on Monday morning to catch her flight. I was all for dropping her off at Liverpool Street but no, she wants door to door service and I’m working myself up into a frenzy of panic about it already. Sat nav or no sat nav, I’m a wuss when it comes to going places I’ve never been to before. I’ve got no idea how her travelling companion will be getting to the airport and I’m afraid to ask in case I have to go to Stansted via Sevenoaks. Still, there are compensations. My mother in law being in a whole other country being the chief one.

I had a challenging day yesterday, food-wise, when my slo-cooker failed to cook, slowly or otherwise. Therefore, the lovingly prepared beef stew that I bunged, erm, placed into its capacious pan at ten past nine in the morning was still in its uncooked state at 5pm when I decided to have a sneaky peak. Nothing else was defrosted and I couldn’t see David embracing a ham salad for dinner so Mac and I hotfooted it to the butchers on Nunhead Lane and demanded meat. On the walk home we discussed why lamb is called lamb but mutton is really sheep. This is what you get for being open and honest with your children. Still, lamb is what we had and very nice it was too, even when Mac said “if this lamb wasn’t cooked, when it got bigger it would be a mutton daddy”

Today I was mooching around wondering what the hell to cook for dinner tomorrow when Silvana came to my rescue with this recipe. It takes, as Mac would say “long and lots of time” but the heavenly smells currently emanating from the kitchen mean it’s oh so worth it. It already smells better than the last lasagne I made which my mum said could be used as a doorstop. The thought of making it even propelled me to Sainsburys New Cross to get what bits I needed. In midweek and everything. And I remembered to pick Mac up on my way back! However, David has just called to say that he won’t be home for dinner so the beef stew from yesterday (now cooked to a turn) is for Mac and I only. My poor husband has to entertain a gang (Clutch? Gaggle?) of Japanese businessmen this evening and they all – as a man – want to head off into Soho for the evening. David is risking it by taking them to Chinatown and hoping for the best. I fear a diplomatic incident but he’s promised to return with a doggy bag so I shall keep schtum.

My own plans for our visitors from across the seas are coming along nicely. The money (omiword!) has been deposited in my account and is sitting there, glowing at me. Charlie has agreed to be my deputy tour guide and keeps emailing me links to various touristy places to “gen up on it all, you don’t want to sound like a plank do you?” Don and Lorna arrived in our green and pleasant land on Sunday and are currently rambling around Scotland while I try to remember interesting facts about the Tower of London. Still, it’s something for me to get my teeth into and I’m really enjoying it.

Quite why I couldn’t embrace “The Bloody Tower” when I was twelve and stuck with Mr Marshall’s double History every Tuesday morning will forever be a mystery.

Sunday, 20 January 2008


I'm in a bad mood which is not entirely due to good old PMT. These are the reasons why, in no particular order:
1. My mobile phone has been playing up for a whole week now and I'm now forced to use a crappy old handset that quite frankly even Auntie Ivy would scoff at. My mobile phone provider (if this carries on much longer I shall name and shame them on this blog, hah, that'd teach 'em) are, quite frankly, useless and I wish them all (ridiculous logo included) to hell in a handcart. But not until they've sorted out my problem. Problem being, my oh so snazzy phone has decided not to text or call people on my command but randomly ring people and send them blank texts whenever it feels like it. This is, however, an improvement on the early part of the week when it wouldn't do anything other than sit there and look fashionable. Hence my reliance on an oh-so unfashionable handset (at least it works, David points out.) A bit much though when your phone decides to call random people at random times without you knowing it. Imagine my horror yesterday when I realised that, not only had my phone decided to ring my boss at work, but my conversation with Mac on exactly why men stand up to wee and women sit down is now embedded on her voicemail and will no doubt be played to all and sundry for a long while to come. My defunct phone is currently in the dresser drawer whilst my make-do handset sits solidly on the arm of my chair. I'm building up a good head of steam with which to bamboozle the call centre tomorrow.

2. Wind. Of the weather variety, I've yet to reach that stage. Yet. Overcome with a fit of housewifeliness this morning I lugged the washing out into the garden instead of draping it attractively over every radiator in the house, despite the ominous black clouds gathering over the horizon. I hung it out on the line and even enjoyed a bit of banter with Marjorie who was out there doing something with her hanging baskets. The last load in the machine, I happened to look out into the garden where I saw Mac's pyjamas fandangoing round the garden with my jeans and assorted items of undergarments. Picking them all up and wrenching the items of clothing that had managed to stay gripped to the washing line, I stomped back into the kitchen and threw the whole lot onto the floor. Half an hour later the "last load" was draped attractively over every radiator in the house and my last, last load was back in the washer. David arrived home from golf and said "good clothes drying weather this, why don't you put it all out on the line" and received an earbashing for his trouble.

3. Amelia will be arriving on Friday so that she's "nice and fresh" for her flight to Dublin on Monday. No further explanation needed as to why that's put me in a bad mood, surely.

4. At this "time of the month" I drop everything. Well, that's not strictly true. I drop things when I don't want to, or I drop expensive things, or things that make a mess when dropped. Take Friday afternoon. I was in Sainsbury's. Mac was being angelic (it helped that he was a bit tired after nursery) and was "reading" from my list. "We need sweets mummy" he said helpfully with a cheeky grin that so reminds me of David. I was busy looking at a very nice serving plate and so nodded absent mindedly. Thinking that the serving plate would look very nice on the dresser, I leant forward to put it in the trolley. Time of The Month law, however, meant that it slipped neatly from my grasp and crashed to the floor. At the checkout, I pulled my purse from my bag only to find that I had left my coin compartment open when Mac had his weekly ride on the Postman Pat ride and about six quid in change cascaded to the floor.

5. Saskia has talked me into attending her Ann Summers party next Saturday. I could have said no, I was building up to saying no but then she informed me that she'd already told the rest of the merry gang of "up for it women" that I was coming and they were all "really pleased because, as they said, you hardly ever go out these days". I resented a) the implication that I was boring and - worse - was being boring and b) that I was being dragged along to watch a group of drunken women get excited about bits of rubber. Saskia then put the tin hat on it by telling me she'd invited Marjorie "for a laugh". Charlie had the good sense to decline Saskia's invitation and said to me when she rang "do you remember the last time she had one of those parties?". David, however, thinks it's a fab idea, has agreed to babysit and has intimated that money is no object if I see something I like. I doubt that very much. His ardour was dampened somewhat when I reminded him that not only was he going to be alone with his mother on Saturday night, he had to tell her how I was spending my evening.

Thank you kind reader, I feel a bit better now. Still rageous but no longer growling. Bad mood aside, I'm very lucky. I have a nice, clean, sparkling house (filled with nice clean damp washing), three dogs snoozing happily in a heap outside the living room door (all upside down but that's okay, it's a sign of a happy and contented dog), friends that as Charlie said, love me "grumps and all", a gorgeous happy little boy who is lying on top of his duvet cover and singing what appears to be the Flintstones theme tune in his sleep and a husband that has just dropped a kiss on the top of my head and said "C'mon ratty-arse, time for bed".

It's not all bad really.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

What have let myself in for.....

I forwarded Don’s email to Bea at work yesterday and she rang me almost immediately in the middle of what sounded like a meeting – Blackberries can be a curse and a blessing I should think. “Darling, they’re giving you carte blanch to spend their money and hang the consequences! I think you should go VIP all the way, they can clearly afford it.” she said as someone with a booming voice droned on about “market forces”. I also forwarded it to Charlie in response to her emailed question “What are you up to?”. She thinks that it’s a dead cert invitation to Vancouver, all expenses paid and can she come too. She then clogged up the whole email system of the hospital by emailing me a link to the Vancouver tourist website that did something nasty to their firewall.

Am I reading the email wrong?

David was slightly more to the point when I showed it to him last night. “You’ll run yourself ragged, spend a fortune and start saying things like “Oh my Gahd!” and “have a nice day y’all”. He’d had a trying day “trying to fit round pegs in square holes”, but even so.


Bea rang this morning and held a conversation with me and her PA which went something like this:

Bea: I’ve just rung dad, I’ve said we’ll host the family party as long as certain elements are kept away. Skinny latte please darling and some of those dinky little cinnamon biscuits.
Me: I know, he’s told me.
Bea: Cinnamon! Also, I think you should avoid the usual touristy places, you’ll end up getting mugged by street urchins and photographed by Japanese tourists.
Me: I often wonder how many pictures I appear in. Strange to think that there’s a nice American family who visited Hampton Court at the same time as us this summer that has me in their picture of Anne Boleyn’s Court in an album on their coffee table.
Bea: yes, well, you’re strange like that. Are they cinnamon?
Me: well, I think it’s exciting and what tourist comes to London and doesn’t see the House of Parliament? Or Horseguard’s Parade? Or Trafalgar Square, or, or, or……
Bea: well, on your head be it. Do you need my help? No, the little ones in the red tin that Judith bought in from Harrods.
Me: They want to go to Harrods - we could have a shopping day that I suppose you could help with.
Bea: Eurgh, this isn’t a skinny latte.

Dad’s a bit worried because he’s already mentioned the party to the family, including the “certain elements” Bea is referring to.

I won’t tell her that until nearer the time.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

An email from Don and Lorna

Re: your visit to London

Dear Joanna

Thank you so much for your email which we received with delight this morning. We would very much like to take you up on your kind offer to act as our guide during our trip to your wonderful town and are looking forward to it immensely!

We won’t hear of you spending any of your own money on our outings and will today send some money over to you in case you need to book anything in advance. If it’s possible, please mail us your bank details.

We are in your hands totally and have no real preferences, other than an overwhelming urge to visit Harrods and buy one of their bags! Your dad has already agreed to take us for pie and mash although Lorna is already having second thoughts about this! Your dad has also promised to arrange a family get-together – having been away from England for so long I wonder just who is left!

We are in need of a little one to spoil and hope that your son will join us in all or some of the outings, your husband too. Lorna is a real people person!

So, over to you. In you we trust completely and look forward to little tasters of our itinerary - we can be reached via this email address but our replies may be a little haphazard as we travel around the country. We arrive at Heathrow at 2100 hours on 1 March and leave from the same airport at 11.15 on Thursday 13th – yes, we did double check the date! We’re so looking forward to our visit. I’ve told Lorna that we will save sleeping for when we get home!

We look forward to meeting you, and hope we can return the favour one day when you visit us in Vancouver.

All love, God bless
Don and Lorna

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Seven up

Mya has very kindly given me the topic for todays post as I'm feeling a little bit not with it today - I do hope that I haven't caught one of the many viruses currently galloping their way around my family and social circle. Just yesterday evening, Marjorie appeared on the doorstep informing me that "my Frank can't keep nothing down" which is enough to boggle the mind.

So, seven previously undisclosed facts from Yours Truly!

1. I look younger than I am – a friend of David’s thought I was “28, 29?” when in fact I’m in my thirtymumble year! Said friend of David’s is now top of my Christmas card list.

2. I hate offal of any kind – the mere thought of eating it makes my teeth curl up and die. Oh, and hummus makes me want to heave. As does pate….sorry, am I putting you off?

3. I have a “mischievous” sense of smell which makes me to go round the house saying “can you smell that, what is it, are you sure you can’t smell it” when everyone else is saying “I can’t smell a thing”.

4. I can’t eat or drink anything citrus based after 6pm or I’m up all night reading the words “Armitage Shanks” at very close quarters

5. When faced with a bag/handful of wine gums, I have to eat by colour and in colour order. Therefore, all of the green ones go first, then the lemon, then all of the orange, then the black, saving my favourite red ones until last. I can eat fruit pastilles willy-nilly.

6. I can’t wear yellow or rose gold jewellery at all – not because of an allergy but because I look like Queen Chav of the Chav People. And we’re not talking huge great swathes of gold around my neck, wrist and fingers either…..earrings, a couple of rings and necklace is enough to render me cheap-looking.

7. I’m a hypochondriac and a worrier, technically two facts but they are sort of one and the same thing - I was bitten by a farm dog when I was 10 and, having just read a book where a boy was bitten by a stray dog and ended up with lockjaw, I insisted to my beleaguered father that he rush me immediately to Kings College Hospital. After much muttering he did. We sat in A&E for two hours, in a cubicle for one hour ten minutes (even I was beginning to wish I hadn’t bothered) when a doctor appeared with my notes. From when I broke my arm the previous summer. And had had a tetanus injection.

I'd like to pass this onto the lovely Dulwich Mum, the fantastic Landcroft House (Three each and one for Scrap?), the wonderful Mary, the brilliant Debio and fab Kelly.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Visitors from Vancouver

Dad rang in a blind panic just as I was leaving to collect Mac from nursery: what does he do with his cousin who is coming over to dear old Blighty for just over two months with his Canadian wife and will be spending12 days at my dad’s abode and is expecting the Full London Tour Guide experience. Exhausting and expensive. First things first I said as dad hyperventilated down the phone – when are they coming? The answer floored me somewhat “They fly in on Sunday”. I joined in his hyperventilation. I calmed down once dad told me that they were arriving in England on Sunday but not getting to London until 1 March. That puts a slightly different complexion on things doesn’t it? After a brief discussion on the logistics, I promised I’d look into it and told him to go and make some tea.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a tour guide. Well, for about a week or so after a trip to Clink Prison with the school and the wonderful tour guide who kept a bag of toffees in her pocket to keep the attention of wayward school children. It’s quite exciting when you think about it – all that knowledge, able to impart little gems of information at the drop of a visitors guide. Don’s family left England when he was two – this will be his first visit back aged 60 - and Lorna has never been to England before. They’re looking forward to visiting Belfast, Edinburgh, the Lake District, Shakespeare’s birthplace, Cornwall and Newcastle. A mixed bunch I’m sure you’ll agree.

But London. There’s so much to do and sometimes I feel ashamed that I live in this great city and don’t ever visit it. In my time I’ve been to Hampton Court a couple of times, the Tower of London ditto, London Dungeons (where I was jumped on by a monk, don’t ask), the Aquarium, The Eye once and a boat trip up the Thames which we abandoned at Kew because mum didn’t “like the sound of the boat engine”. We got a train and about six buses back and it took us forever. In thirty-mumble years that’s pretty disgraceful.

There’s London Zoo, Trafalgar Square, the Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert, St Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, The Globe Theatre, Madame Tussauds, Kensington Palace, the Thames Barrier… endless list as you can see. Where to go, what to drop? Do they like gory, would they prefer regal? Do museums bore or invigorate? Will they sneer at our souvenir stalls or buy enough tat to necessitate the purchase of another suitcase for their return journey?

I rang Dad back and got their email address – I’ve offered myself as Official Tour Guide and have promised them a whistlestop tour of London.

To be fair, David hasn’t exactly asked me what I’m letting myself in for here but I could tell he was thinking it.

Meatballs and mayhem

On Saturday Eliza and our respective progeny headed for IKEA Croydon. Eliza wants a “slidey door wardrobe” and I don’t need a reason to go to IKEA. Off we went in Eliza’s people carrier (after spending ten minutes trying to fit Mac’s car seat in), light of heart and free of care. There was hardly any traffic and, despite meeting every White Van Man on the road that morning, we arrived in good time. First stop, the loos. Mac has now decided against going into the Ladies with me. Fine when daddy/assorted male friends and relatives are with us, not so fine when there isn’t. Mac couldn’t see any harm in asking random passing men to take him to the Gents. Naturally I stopped him from approaching anyone and hoiked him into the Ladies whereupon he kept repeating “I’m a boy, not a girl” lest anyone be confused by the jeans, caterpillar boots and checked shirt and short back and sides his father made him have on Friday.

After a general mooch about - “shall we have coffee now or later” - we found ourselves surrounded by wardrobes but only one double one with slidey doors – one mirrored, one plain but big enough for her and Simon. “I don’t need a big wardrobe, I haven’t bought anything new since Jack was born” Eliza suddenly announced, pulling at her purple T-shirt. After sighing deeply, she decided that it would do “I suppose” and we set about measuring its height, width and depth with one of those IKEA tape measures. It wasn’t until I was half in/half out of the wardrobe admiring the neatness of the shelving that an imperious voice informed us that “all of the measurements are printed on the ticket”. No, not a member of staff, just a passing interested stranger. We thanked her and attempted to look nonchalant. Eliza picked up a brochure and leafed through it whilst Interested Stranger examined the “integral trouser rack” in the wardrobe next to ours. “Do you want it with one mirrored door and one plain one or both mirrored or both plain?” I whispered as I watched Mac opening every single drawer of a tallboy and putting a pencil in each. “Don’t you have to have it as it is?” Eliza hissed back.

“No, you can have whatever combination you like” Interested Stranger foghorned into my left ear. “My daughter has plain doors but I have one mirrored and one plain” she continued with a smug smile as she watched Mac who was now smiling angelically up at her, having dispensed with his pencils. “Okay, right, thanks” Eliza said firmly, shooting me A Look and making as if to leave. Interested Stranger bent down to Mac and said “Oooh, aren’t you da cutest liddle boy den?” in a high pitched voice. “Mummy, why is this lady being silly?” asked my son, raising one eyebrow, his latest trick. I stuck my head back into the wardrobe.

Finally having escaped in fits of giggles, we whizzed round the rest of the shop – I always come out with more than I planned to and this visit was no exception. I still haven’t worked out where to put two of the three fig plants I bought but they were a bargain at just £2 each. And David’s groan of “do we need more glasses?” when I unpacked the six hi-balls and six tumblers said it all. Oh, and the candle sets, but one of them will do for Marjorie’s birthday next month. And the dogs can never have enough fleeces. And we did need a new rug in the kitchen (but maybe not one this big) and I couldn’t go to IKEA without getting something else for my kitchen accessory rack but, as David pointed out, I hardly ever make cakes so the measuring spoons I’ve bought will be pretty redundant. But the huge wooden bowl looks pretty impressive in the middle of the table and even better now that I’ve put lemons in it. And IKEA means meatballs, both for lunch and to take home after a visit to the shop.

The restaurant was packed and I volunteered to go and get the lunch while Eliza found a table and sorted the kids out. I indulged in my habit of People Watching and listened into a number of interesting conversations, including a mother and daughter who were talking about something going septic because “you’ve never once opened the Savlon tube”. “Meatballs for the grown-ups and Eliza, pasta for Mac, plate of chips for Jack” became my mantra as we snaked round in the queue. Fifteen minutes later I arrived back at the table to find Jack having a tantrum and Eliza refusing to move away from the window as she was “watching all the cars mummy”. Mac sat serenely at the table and told me that he’d changed his mind “I want meatballs now mummy, not pasta”. We left for home an hour later, frozen meatballs defrosting in the boot, Mac’s unwanted pasta churning in my stomach.

The road out of IKEA is tricky……round a sort of roundabout and then keeping left to head back to Thornton Heath, Selhurst and so on. If you get in the outside lane (avoiding people who have just got off the tram and are so desperate to get into IKEA that they just run across the road without looking), you’re heading onto the A23 and Junction 7 of the M25. Which we did, Eliza saying “Shouldn’t I have gone up the hill and not along here?” as we headed Brighton bound. “Don’t panic” I said, knowing that she would. Who was I kidding, my own hysteria was mounting. I hate, hate, hate getting lost or taking the wrong turning which is why I should carry my sat nav round with me at all times. “Omigod, omigod, omigod….I’ve only got one nappy left for Jack!” Eliza breathed whilst I envisaged all three dogs sulking because I’d left them with David and abandoned them for longer than the “couple of hours” I’d promised.

I won’t go into the details of how we got back onto the right road but, suffice to say, it added nearly an hour to the journey once we’d dealt with traffic jams, wrong lanes, missed turn-offs and angry drivers who actually knew where they were going and were cursing the idiots in the navy blue people carrier. Tempers were frayed in the car as my map reading skills leave a lot to be desired and Eliza kept saying “Shall I go right here? Shall I go right here?” and then going left because I “took too long to sodding answer!”. It was a trying time and I had gnawed through my nails and was about to start on Eliza’s when we saw a signpost for Crystal Palace football stadium. Never before have I been so happy to see evidence of the Eagles.

Once we were on familiar territory we both exhaled shakily, tried to control our breathing and attempted to lighten the atmosphere. I made the mistake of clocking the expression on both Mac and Ashley’s faces when I whirled round to shout abuse at a motorcyclist who, fed up with our dithering, had overtaken us on the inside and had nearly taken the wing mirror with him. Both children were rigid with terror, Ashley’s eyes were the size of dinner plates and Mac’s bottom lip had gone into wobble overdrive. Jack was sound asleep and had missed all of the drama. “Silly Jack’s mummy!” I cooed to the pair of them as we passed the stadium, “getting us lost like that!” Ashley’s eyes widened even further but Mac’s lip stopped wobbling. “Silly Mackenzie’s mummy for distracting me by pointing out the heavily tattooed youth which made me get into the wrong lane in the first place” Eliza boomed heartily but with A Look at me. Mac’s lip started wobbling again while Ashley’s eyes returned to their normal size. “Shall we sing a song?” I bellowed cheerfully. “As long as it’s not ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’, yes” Eliza muttered darkly.

We arrived home seven hours after we’d left it, both Eliza and I hysterical (but this time with laughter rather than panic), Ashley singing Wheels on the Bus, Mac loudly informing us that he doesn’t really like meatballs and Jack still soundo. “How come,” said David as I recounted the tale of terror to him over a cup of tea and a slice of almond cake “I just go somewhere and nothing untoward happens but you… go out and something always does?”

Whatever can he mean?

Thursday, 10 January 2008


Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday my dear blog
Happy Birthday to yoooooooooooo!

Cake anyone?

Monday, 7 January 2008

Nunhead Wives

Marjorie Stewart has decided to take me under her wing. I know this for a fact because she told me so this morning when she dropped in with a starch spray. “I’ve noticed David’s collars are a bit limp” she said by way of explanation as she bustled in through the door clutching a folded piece of A4 paper. The upshot of this visit was to “instruct” me in the art of being a good wife. Now, pardon my arrogance but I was already under the impression that I was already one of those. Obviously not. Marjorie revealed that, at their Mince Pies and Mulled Wine do before Christmas, David was mightily impressed with the way that she “waited on Frank hand and foot” and that he has since admired her “ability to make a steak and kidney pudding AND a sticky toffee pudding on the same day and with little or no fuss.”

What? How? When? When are all these discussions being held? At secret meetings? Exactly how does David know that Marjorie’s puddings are the talk of The Avenue? And for exactly how long has he been longing for a Proper Wife? One that doesn’t make him do the washing up I mean. “Have a little read of this dear” Marjorie simpered, pressing the photocopy of an article entitled The Perfect Wife’s Guide into my hand. “It’s something worth sticking to, I don’t need it back, I’ve taken a photocopy for you. You’ll find all you need to know there.” And off she went, no doubt to prostrate herself at Frank’s feet.

I was on the phone to David in a flash and, although I didn’t actually accuse him of fancying Marjorie’s puds, I came damn close to it. “Slow down and talk me through it darling” said my unflappable husband. So I did. To give him his due, he didn’t actually laugh out loud but instead declared me “a perfect wife” with absolutely no hint of irony.

And so, just for you, at enormous expense, is The Good Wife’s Guide from Housekeeping monthly (13 May 1955 edition) along with Nunhead Mum of One’s Guide from 7 January 2008.

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
Spend the best part of the weekend planning the meals for the week ahead. Shop for enough ingredients to last several weeks, freezing where appropriate. Change your mind several times, right up to and including the time when your chosen dinner for the day should be in the oven but is, in fact, still frozen solid. If your husband has been drooling over the prospect of Beef Bourguignon with lemon and rosemary rice whilst he’s slaving away at The Office, imagine the nice surprise he’ll have when he’s greeted with roast chicken and a jacket potato instead.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.
Gauge the time of his arrival. Go to the bathroom and drag brush through hair. Wipe mascara from underneath right eye and sit down on sofa for a breather. Try not to react violently when husband arrives home and says “is that all you do all day, sit around?”

Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
Dutifully ask how his day has been whilst refereeing dogs feeding time. Make appropriate noises and throw in the odd laugh (it may be that you have to listen carefully in case he’s telling a story about how the MD had an angina attack by the water cooler) and then spend ten minutes or so filling him in on the minutiae of your own day until he glazes over and offers to do the washing up.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
Clear away the clutter into various cupboards/unused rooms. Use excessive force on the door that refuses to close because it has crapola circa 1992 stuffed into every crevice. Completely forget to make one last trip through the house before he arrives home and dispense soothing words (whilst trying not to sigh in irritation) when he trips over dog toy/Action Man and hurts his ankle.

Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
See above. Fail to locate dustcloth and use palm of hand, smearing dust nicely across surface.

Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
Ensure the central heating system receives its annual service and turn thermostat up to high during the winter. Your husband will fall asleep in his armchair due to heat exhaustion and possible suffocation. Open window, lower heating and dispense medication for the headache he is now suffering. Grit teeth as he hits the roof when the bill arrives.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer of vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
Suggest to child that daddy might quite like to see him without a ketchup smeared face and in a T-shirt without half the garden on it. Remind child that he is a little treasure and would he please stop whining. Fail to eliminate all appliance noise because you need child’s pyjamas dried in half an hour so have dryer on “super fast quick dry” programme which sounds like Boeing 747 attempting to land in utility room.

Be happy to see him.
Throw yourself joyfully at your husband on his arrival home, tripping over child and three dogs in the process, all of whom have the same idea. Express delight that he can now take over amusing three dogs and child and retreat to eat ice cream in kitchen.

Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
Smile incessantly, prompting queries as to whether you’re okay or have been at the Chardonnay. Be accused, when showing sincerity in your desire to please him, of trying to get round him for “some reason”.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
Try to remember that a blow by blow account of his spat with Trevor from Accounts over his monthly billing sheet is far more important than you telling him that you’ve put diesel into his petrol run car.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
If he is late home, try not to worry that it’s because you don’t wear a bow in your hair and don’t have a clean child and surfaces. Try to understand that queuing in the lunchtime rush at Pret a Manger can be very taxing.

Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
Your goal: as you have absolutely no hope in hell of ensuring your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity, do the next best thing and get Sky so he can watch cricket/football/rugby matches until his heart’s content.

Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
Don’t greet him with complaints and problems until he’s been stuck into the wine for an hour or so and then hit him with the whole lot. Remember, whilst he is in an alcohol induced haze he is at his most amenable so now is the best time to negotiate.

Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink waiting for him.
Ensuring that he’s comfortable and offering him a lie down will arouse his suspicions enough to ask you if you’ve dented the car again. Offering him a drink immediately on his arrival will have the same effect. Bask in the warm glow of wifeliness and try not to mind that he is highly suspicious of your motives.

Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
Don’t be disconcerted that arranging his pillow and taking off his shoes has led him to believe you are trying to seduce him. You are obviously a sex goddess.

Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
If he wants to do something his way, let him. Even if you know that it’ll all go tits-up. If he brags about being “master of his own destiny”, smile sweetly and make your own alternative arrangements which he will adopt as his own soon enough. In the event of this happening, you have every right to point out where he went wrong for months afterwards.

A good wife always knows her place.
A good wife is what he’s got. Remind him forcibly at every available opportunity. Just don’t let him read the Housekeeping Monthly, 13 May 1955 edition and ensure that he is not in prolonged contact with any 1950’s throwbacks. It may give him ideas.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Scarlett James Cassia Grace....

.......was born at 12.37pm today! Weighing 7lb 3 ounces, she arrived after a 22 hour labour - Janey's waters broke while she was in the middle of ordering something from QVC yesterday. Darren didn't get lost on the one way system and they reached the hospital in record time. Ivy kept apologising to the nurses and telling them that she was ashamed of her daughter and her "foul bloody language" and Darren's mum Lou was desperate to know the "absolute final" agreed combination of names as she's going to arrange her tattoo appointment for tomorrow. "There I am, wondering when my placenta was going to put in an appearance and she wants to know if we're putting the James before or after Grace!" Janey hooted, slurping back the champagne that David had smuggled in.

Janey said that she "weren't half glad I'd pre booked me epidural" and said that there was one comical moment when Darren ventured down to the "business" end of the bed just as the baby was crowning and "went as green as the gown he was wearing" but, all in all said Janey, it wasn't as bad as she thought it would be. That'll be the drugs talking I said knowingly.

Ivy was all misty eyed and not letting anyone else hold the new arrival and Uncle Jim had arrived (after having to practically park in Catford) without the camera so she sent him home to get it. As we were leaving, Mac ceremoniously gave "Scallet" one of his teddies "from when I was a baby" and I had to be scraped off the floor.

"When are you going to have another baby mummy?" Mac asked in a loud booming voice as we negotiated the warren-like hospital corridors. Lots of indulgent smiles abounded from the harrassed hospital staff but David had to whip into the coffee shop to get a "strong Americano".

Friday, 4 January 2008

Pregnant pause and teenage patois

Still no baby. Janey spent an uncomfortable and tearful Wednesday night and is now, Friday morning, seriously considering ringing the hospital to see if she could be “introduced”. Darren manhandled her into the hallway at ten to eight yesterday and draped her over the banister rail. I thought this to be a little callous and told him so but apparently this was the only position that Janey – for a while at least - felt comfortable in. She hung, stretching her back out and making groaning noises. Like a baritone bat.

“I could just turn up at the hospital and say I’m in labour and then they’ll just keep me in” she said hopefully as I dragged a chair into the hall so I could keep her company. Mac thought this was great fun and announced that he was going to make a “tent” under the stairs. “Won’t work, they’ll see you’re nowhere near labour and turf you out again” I told her, supplying my son with bedsheets, clothes horse and blu-tack. “Callous bastards” she said.

Yesterday passed very slowly. Katie (my erstwhile friend who only every really calls on me if she need something) rang to ask if she could borrow the car on Saturday to go to IKEA “to pick up some furniture in the sale”. Although I should be pleased she’s stopped living in almost-squalor in Rotherhithe (she used an upturned crate for a coffee table), I was less pleased that she wanted to purloin our car and load it up with flatpack furniture. You can bet your boots that she’d show no concern for the suspension.

David got home early, just before Darren appeared – the former apologising for the telephonic mix up of the previous day. Janey was reluctant to accept his grovelling and snapped “Listen, if you can get this baby out of me then you’re forgiven. Until you can do that you’re of no use to me at all.” The parents-to-be left shortly afterwards, Janey informing me she’d be back at the same time in the morning. Deep joy.

Freed from my shackles, Mac and I headed off to Surrey Quays for some retail therapy, me quite giddy at my freedom and Mac on the promise of a Burger King Happy Meal. We’re easily pleased. We mooched around BhS, skulked in Superdrug and meandered around the Body Shop. Suitably buoyed up by my “ave-we-gorn-raving-mad” price reduction purchases I realised that I’d spent twenty quid on stuff that would usually cost more than double that. So I bought David a shirt as well.

Whilst eating in the Burger King open plan area (and watching the estate agents do their stuff through their floor to ceiling windows) we were joined, at the next table, by three anaemic looking teenagers. The boys were dressed in silver grey tracksuits that hung around their crotch and trainers the size of tanks. One had a nose stud and a rather fetching black anorak half on half off his shoulders. The young lady was dressed in cystitis inducing tight jeans, wholly inadequate shoes for the weather, a voile shirt and bum freezer black denim jacket with her hair in a pseudo Amy Winehouse beehive.

I suddenly felt ancient.

I felt even older when they started talking. I couldn’t understand a word of it. I could hear them, being just four feet away from them, but it was a whole other language. Their conversation was peppered with phrases such as “yahknahwhattahmean?” and “isit me bruvverfromanuvvermuvver, isit?”. Then all three guffawed loudly. More baffling conversation followed. Those bits that I actually understood included “this is me ‘nah that ain’t right’ and then this is him “yeah it’s right innit’ and this is me ‘don’t vex me’ and then this is him “I’ll vex yah right up innit’ and then this is me……” on and on ad infinitum.

I pulled out a pen and started making notes on my napkin. The young lady just sat throughout this entire debate and, apart from guffawing loudly, made no contribution other than to look pretty and to check her phone for texts constantly. Then both boys turned their attention to her and suddenly we were in the playground again, you know, when the boy you fancied at primary school would pull your pigtails as a mark of his affection.

More conversation with her loud pleas of “Shuddup innit!” being the only thing that I could make out as they quite obviously enjoyed winding her up. Then “That rude boy Marcus is drooling for me Maria” from the anoraked youth. Maria, for it was undoubtedly she, took umbrage at this and started off on flurry of “leave it man, leave it, he’s just a mate innit, leave it nahyeah?”. I’d covered three napkins with this and Mac was showing more than a little interest. A ketchup covered chip had been hovering near his mouth for the past two minutes and hadn’t reached its destination. Maria stomped off at this point and both boys skulked after her after a suitable period of “way too sensitive man” being bellowed across the concourse after her. “Mummy, who were they?” my boy asked me breathlessly. Mac is under the impression that I know everyone.

Is this how young people (can you hear me mother?) talk these days? Where are the manners, the not slouching over a table, the not chewing gum with your mouth open? I looked at my precious child and suddenly saw him in thirteen years time lounging at a Burger King table joining all his words together and not pausing for air as he regurgitated some strange patois at his youthful friends. I tell you, it put me right off my Whopper.

On the way home I held a gentle discussion about the need to talk properly because it’s only right that you show people respect and that by disrespecting other people, you disrespect yourself. I think it was a tad too heavy (once I’d explained what disrespecting meant) because when we got home and showed David his new shirt he examined it closely and said “thanks darling but there’s no hole for my cufflinks” Mac demanded “are you disrepectsing my mummy?”

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Due dates and a feeling of doom

Janey’s due date is today. She’s been packed for the hospital since the beginning of November, Darren has learnt the route to the hospital (he gets confused by one way systems) and Auntie Ivy has knitted herself into a nice spell of RSI. Janey is spending the day at my house because she doesn’t want to be alone, Darren will be collecting her after work at 4pm and has double checked that I know the way to the hospital. You can imagine the withering glance I gave him can’t you. She couldn’t face going to Ivy’s because “she’ll drive me insane following me round with a bucket in case my waters break”.

Amelia is being driven home by Jack today but keeps saying to Janey “if you want me to stay dear, I will.” Janey knows better than to do that. Amelia is only really angling for a longer stay because the news of her planned jaunt to Ireland did not impress her son who is worrying that she’ll get lost in the wilds of Dublin and won’t return. Here’s hoping.

Mac is fascinated by Janey’s forthcoming event and keeps asking her questions like “will it hurt more than when I stubbed my toe” and “how will the baby come out?” at which point I had to divert him by asking him to help Granny finish packing because I’m not ready for him to hear Janey’s vivid description. On being told, by her midwife, that the vagina was one of the largest and most flexible muscles in the human body, she told the wittering health professional in no uncertain terms that “something that could weigh more than 6 bags of sugar is not coming out of my lady garden – I want a cessation”. She meant, of course, caesarean. The midwife pooh-poohed her request and told her and the assorted pregnant ladies at the class that she would have nothing to do with the “too posh to push” brigade. Half of them got up and walked out to the nearest Costa Coffee outlet and she had to go and bring them back.

Still, it’s been a pleasant day so far. Janey finds it hard to sit, stand, walk or lie down comfortably so we spent much of the morning rearranging the furniture and the way she slouches in it. She finally found a comfortable way of reclining on the sofa (pillow under head, waist, calves and feet) but couldn’t eat or drink in that position so had to struggle to half sitting/half slouching position, using an arm to prop herself up on the back of the sofa. As a result, her white T-shirt is now splodged with camomile tea, baked beans and dots of chocolate where the recently scoffed Mars bar has melted. She’s also unbearably hot so both living room windows and the back door are open to cause a nice “breeze through”. All three dogs are huddled in their baskets in the hallway and Mac is in full jumper and jeans mode. And the cramps. She yelped so loudly at one point that I thought we were starting. “Where does it hurt?” I yelled, mentally boiling kettles and fetching towels. “My f****** leg!” she yelled back. Trust her to be the only woman in the labour ward moaning about her leg. Amelia refused to let Jack into the house when he came to pick her up because “Janey is in an ungainly position on the sofa and is swearing like a navvy”.

The open windows (curtains billowing in the force ten gale) have attracted interest from several neighbours. “I thought you’d been burgled!” Ruby Over the Road guffawed as she peered in the window to find me rearranging Janey. “I’m about to be” Janey muttered as I hoiked her left leg up in the air and rubbed it vigorously. Ten minutes later Jane Opposite stuck her head in, closely followed by her daughters Jessica and Melanie. “Whatcha doing?” Jane asked as she caught me (still) rearranging my cousin on the sofa. I stated the obvious to which Jane Opposite responded “You should get a beanbag, ‘ere Jess, go and get mine”.

Janey later said that having Jessica and Melanie, Marjorie Stewart and Jill with the Purple Door all watching through the open window as Jane Opposite and I lowered her onto the bean bag made her feel like she should be in a window in Amsterdam. And it wasn’t even comfortable. The minute Jane Opposite had shut her front door Janey yelped “Get me out of this!”. It took ten minutes to get her standing upright. “I’m not having another one” she moaned as she headed towards the toilet for the fifth time since she arrived. By the time she needed the loo for the sixth time she looked at me plaintively and said “Do you mind if I just pee myself?” My short, sharp answer propelled her to the toilet again.

Ivy rang at twenty to two to ask if anything had happened yet. Janey gave her a brief run down - “cramps, peeing every forty minutes, raging backache, so uncomfortable I want to rip my own head off, losing my patience” – and forcibly threw the phone at me. “I don’t want her here!” she hissed as I put the phone to my ear and heard Ivy say “I’ll just finish my lunch and I’ll come over”. I then spent five minutes convincing Ivy that the minute anything happened I’d ring her.

Then David rang to ask if I wanted anything brought in for dinner as I’d had The First And Only Woman Ever To Be Pregnant in the house since 8am and wouldn’t have the chance to prepare anything for dinner. Unfortunately, Janey answered the call and, as she and I sound alike on the phone, he had unwittingly offended her. She’s now taken to calling him “Your Husband”.

We then had tears at half two as Janey wailed that she couldn’t cope with this for much longer. I pointed out that her due date is just today and that many first babies are late (Mac was six days late) and she burst into fresh tears and hit me.

Kids TV at 3pm and Janey and I had a nice time cackling uproariously at all of the “yoof” television presenters while Mac tutted us disapprovingly. “Look at her!” Janey wheezed as a rather bouncy young lady in a purple T-shirt had a chat with an animated sock about all the birthday cards she’d had that day. “She’s getting paid to do that, I could do that and with less roots showing!” Bea dropped in at twenty to four with a hamper for “the mum to be” full of massage oil and aromatherapy stuff and we had yet more tears which re-doubled when Darren turned up and asked “where’s the baby then?” in a jovial fashion.

Bea castigated him for being insensitive and stood, open-mouthed in disbelief, when he asked me for a “cuppa before we go, I’m parched.” She followed me into the kitchen and said that she was so sorry and that she’ll try to pop in on Friday. I asked her what she meant (poor, innocent fool that I am) and she said “You know you’ve got this until she actually goes into labour don’t you?” The penny dropped as only pennies can. The whole situation was confirmed when Janey said that she’d be here at the same time tomorrow, give or take, depending on how her bladder was.

Under house arrest with very hormonal, very pregnant lady with no reprieve date in sight. I wonder if this is why they call pregnancy “confinement”?

Tuesday, 1 January 2008


Happy new year one and all.......wishing you all the best for 2008! xx

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.