Sunday, 27 December 2009

Update

Time woken by husband on Christmas Day: 4am with the words "did I lock the back door?"
Time woken by son on Christmas Day: 5.35am with the words "he's been mummy!"
Number of times Amelia/Bea/Ivy asked me why I cook my turkeys on Christmas Eve: in total, around nine times. That's at least three each.
Presents received: numerous
Useful presents received: a few
Unwanted presents received: one, it's brought me out in a rash, I never learn
Number of times aged family members asked me the name of Bea's niece: seven
Number of times aged family members loudly called her the wrong name: numerous
Number of official glasses of wine imbibed: one
Number of unofficial glasses of wine imbibed: a bottle-ful
Number of times Amelia called Mac spoilt: every time he opened a present, therefore around 30
Number of times my back went up during the day: back was permanently up so exact count neglible
Compliments on food received: many, except from Bea's sister-in-law who found fault with everything including the light switch in the toilet
Family rows: three. One involving me and sprouts with Auntie Ivy, one with Janey and Bea's sister-in-law after Bea's sister-in-law called Scarlett "attention seeking" and one with Bea and Ian when Ian refused to eat his carrots. We got away with it I feel.
Number of times Bea's sister-in-law asked if it were "hygienic having those dogs in the house": countless
Number of times my beloved hounds "purposely" paid attention to Bea's sister-in-law: all day long, it was great
Number of massive shocks: one
Number of weddings I have been asked to arrange: one
I hope your Christmas was as merry as mine!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Checklist

Turkeys purchased: two
Collection date of turkeys: tomorrow
Reasons why Bea is no longer hosting Christmas Day: plentiful (and verging on ridiculous)
Guests for Christmas Dinner: 22
Number of guests I do not personally know: 3 (Bea's sister in law, her husband and child)
Number of chairs currently in house: 6
Number of chairs to therefore source: 16
Number of people to offer chairs: 0
Number of times David has said "why are we doing this?": too many to contemplate
Presents wrapped: 4
Presents still to wrap: unsure, David currently locked away in bedroom with sellotape, gift tags, wrapping paper rolls and multiple paper cuts
Cards written: all except David (gold star for achievement)
David's "helpful" suggestions: lots
Number of David's "helpful" suggestions put into place: two (both involve his mother and are in the whole Keeping Her Away From Me area)
Last minute Christmas shopping purchased: sending David out to Sainsbury's in the Bleak Midwinter at 2am tomrrow morning
Festive thoughts from self: minimal
Family row: brewing
Number of times Auntie Ivy has expressed dislike for sprouts: 7 and increasing
Number of sprouts Auntie Ivy will find on her plate if she doesn't stop it: at least 12
Number of bottles of wine in utility room: 8 red, 8 white, 2 rose
Number of bottles of wine hidden for Cook's Treat: 1 red, in cupboard with Comfort and Ariel liquid
Presents still to buy: something for Bea's sister in law, husband and child
Helpful suggestions thereof from Bea: none
Number of suggestions thereof from David: one very good one "just get them a big box of chocolates to share"
Details of defrosting times for pork joint: unknown
Date and time of Amelia's arrival: 24th of December at approximately 9.17am
Date of my certain meltdown: 24th of December at approximately 9.20am
Number of times Mac's face has lit up whenever he hears the words "presents", "Santa", "reindeer" and "Christmas Eve": countless
Thoughts that this is therefore all worth it: growing

Monday, 14 December 2009

Pain versus gain

I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m not a very energetic person. It’s not laziness, honest, it’s just that my mind finds it hard to programme my body, the body that, to all intents and purposes, would much prefer it if “everything” went away and just left me to just “be”.

So imagine the shock that both my mind and body encountered this weekend:

Friday night: work party
Saturday morning: Bluewater shopping centre
Saturday evening: ice skating
Sunday morning: brisk walk around Dulwich Park
Sunday afternoon: balancing on beams

Let me explain further.

On Friday night we congregated in the hospital social club (and adjoining lecture theatre when the junior doctors found it unlocked and set up a mini gambling den in there). I left the house at 7pm, sleek and shiny of hair, svelte of body (Spanxed up to the eyebrows), assured on my heels and radiating coolness.

Cut to three and a half hours later after spending said three and a half hours on the dance floor. My hair looked as if birds had started nesting in it, my Spanx were seriously rucking up under my (mock) wrap round dress, my shoes were abandoned under the table and I radiated enough body heat to warm the Isles of Scilly. I’d also developed a highly attractive wheeze due to the sudden onset of three and a half hours of frenetic dancing. My mind, body and lungs were all waving the white flag. When I arrived home, David took one look at me and made me a strong coffee.

So, on Saturday morning, muttering “whose stupid bloody idea was this?” I joined the queue into Bluewater that began on the A2. Charlie was already there and waiting for me and getting increasingly annoyed that I was still on the road. “I can’t help it, what do you want me to do? Helicopter in?” I screeched. 45 minutes later I joined on her on the roof and parked, amazingly, next to her. “You can imagine the funny looks I’ve been getting” she said as she packed the fold away chair back into her boot – she’d been camping out in the adjacent parking bay and reading Martina Cole.

My legs, already suffering aches and pains brought on my shaking my booty, took one look at the length of shops spread out before them and went into cramp. I spent the first ten minutes standing bare foot on the marble floor, flexing. I managed to get David’s present, one of Mac’s and a little something for Auntie Ivy before we went off to get a coffee. Charlie, who was joining the gang for the ice skating trip, came back with a jaunty little hat, scarf and glove set in blue for her, purple for me. “It’ll match my bruises” I said gloomily as I packed it away in my many bags. “Think positive” she beamed “you can skate, you can skate” she said in what she obviously thought was a soothing voice. “That’s what you think, that’s what you think” I responded.

Naturally, I was right and she was wrong. I can’t skate. I can’t even stand upright without wobbling. She and Bea were naturals, as was Eliza. Janey was an enthusiastic amateur, Lydia could at least manage a few tremulous moves and Jane Opposite preferred to ogle the attractive men on the sidelines. Dawn, Fellow School Mum (who arranged the outing, curse her) had completed failed to mention that she was ice skating champion in her youth and spent the evening getting applauded for her every move.

I tried. I did, really. I put on the skates and clomped over to the ice thinking “ooh, this is a doddle”. Until blade hit frozen water. Have you seen how THIN they are? And they’re supposed to support my body weight AND control it?

I didn’t get a chance to plummet to the floor because I didn’t leave the hoardings for the whole time. I managed to look pretty damn good while I was doing that though and actually said, to a passing whippersnapper who invited me to “have a twirl” with him, that I was “having a breather because I’d been on the ice all afternoon”. “Liar” Janey said as she whizzed past me in a flurry of ice particles.

By the time I was back in my (flat) shoes my legs felt as if they’d been pummelled by a particularly vicious masseuse and then sat on by a large elephant. I have no idea how I got to the bus stop and even less of an idea of how I managed to heave myself onto the bus. Of course, Bea was overly enthusiastic and suggested that we make a regular thing of it. I managed to shut her up by suggesting we find the nearest Pizza Hut and get a stuffed crust each. She was so horrified she spent the rest of the journey in silence.

“I need to get fit” were the first words I said to David on my return. I heaved myself onto the sofa and settled down to watch the Strictly Come Dancing results show. “Really?” said my devoted husband as he offered me the tin of Quality Street. I took five, put three back and stared glumly at the television. A plan was formulating in my head (a classic example of the will being strong but the flesh being weak) and I decided to start my fitness campaign after Christmas. “Why not take the dogs round Dulwich Park tomorrow?” David suggested.

So I did. An hour and a half of brisk walking and I fell into the car. My left leg went into spasm and I couldn’t control the clutch so we kangarooed past Bea’s house just in time to see her dressed in designer leisure wear and supervising the gardener put the fairly lights on the fir tree in her drive.

Which prompted me to go up into my own loft (no mean feat, I hate heights almost as much as David does and so it took ten minutes and a Baileys to get up the courage) and balance on beams whilst stretching across the void to collect the dusty boxes. A full work-out in the loft, not everyone can claim they've done that.

I'll get fit. Definitely. After Christmas. I promise.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Get your skates on.....

......because we're going ice skating this weekend. No kidding. Me. On ice skates. Can you imagine? David can. That's him you can hear guffawing with laughter.

I'll report back. If I manage to keep life and limb intact.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Presents!!

I asked David yesterday what he'd like for Christmas. He didn't know, shrugged and headed out to the garden. Five minutes later he popped back into the kitchen, a wistful expression on his face. Ahah, I thought, he's going to tell me exactly what he wants for Christmas which will save me wandering around shopping centres with a wild look in my eye, will prevent me getting "mouse clickers finger" while I search online for the perfect gift, will stop me panic buying socks, pants and aftershave that, in the bottle smells just about acceptable, yet on the face smells like paint stripper. And has the same effect on his mush.

"Do you know something?" he mused as he leant on the fridge "No, what?" I said, eagerly anticipating the end of my worrying over his present. "I think that squirrel is gnawing his way through the bird table".

Great. Really useful. I suppose buying him a new bird table is out of the question?

He asked me today what I'd like for Christmas. It was a fairly lengthy list and he had to go and sit down. I had to make him a strong cup of tea in the end and he took it with a trembling hand and just.....gazed into space.

In the meantime, I thought I'd treat you to my most favourite ever Christmas song. The guy might have had dodgy gnashers but he signifies the start of my Christmas.

What have you asked Santa for this year?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Christmas Risk Assessments and Health and Safety concerns

I received this email from my boss (who has Health and Safety responsibilities at work yet insists that "an accident or two never hurt anyone") and thought I'd share it with you all!

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk ofallergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered asuitable alternative. Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and beprepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would requestthat laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherd's has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Little Donkey
Little donkey, little donkey
on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher. We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Stocking Fillers

I've decided to be fabulously retro this Christmas and give everyone a stocking for Christmas morning - big ones for the children and smaller ones for adults. Genius idea non? I used to love my stocking when I was a kid. It used to nestle alongside my brand spanking new annuals at the end of my bed and always contained a satsuma, some chocolate coins and a Terry's Chocolate Orange. Life was so much simpler then.

Christmas stockings, like party bags, have gone Grown Up regardless of your age. The last birthday party Mac went to was talked about for days purely on the basis of what the partygoers found in their party bags when they got home. Gone are the cheapo bits of plastic, friendship bracelets and mini packet of Haribos. Mac received a bar of Galaxy, a badge making set, an initial key ring (!!!) and a cuddly toy that I know retails at £10.

Anyway, I've returned to my favourite ShinyShack website for fun stuff and will be buying, amongst other things some massage socks for Bea (those killer heels are taking it out of her), one of these for Janey and a little monkey for little monkey Freddie.

For the smaller items I've got my eye on a whole host of these and one of these for David.

I'm also getting this, this and this for my own stocking - well, I can't be the only one left out can I?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Chez moi

It's all go at my house, I'm exhausted with the information churning in and out of my brain, the things I have to do, the stories I have to invent just so I don't have to have my mother in law descend upon me this weekend, scraping burnt on crumble off of my ceramic pot AND the decision about what to do with the bathroom.

I'm still waiting for my new debit card to arrive, along with the necessary pin number. Now, I know that the woman on the phone on Saturday said "seven to ten working days" and we're currently only on day three but........even so. Philosophy is on QVC this Sunday and I need to be able to purchase wildly and randomly without David finding out, which he will if I have to use the joint card.

And then there's the bathroom. My bathroom is currently pink. Not quite Barbie pink but candy floss pink which is just as bad really. The minute the first paintbrushful went on the wall I despised it but, to prove a point to David (he said I would despise it) I persevered, pretended I liked it but had to grudgingly admit defeat when Mac's new "girlfriend" came out of it yesterday and said "your bathroom is really pink".

Oh yes, Mac has a girlfriend, an older woman no less. She's six at the beginning of December, they met at the After School Club and she's a feisty young lady, what my mother would have called "difficult". Her name is Keira and she doesn't like fruit or vegetables which made the shepherds pie dinner we had yesterday almost untenable. I spent ages picking the mince out and then the ungrateful little minx asked me for some cheese to go with her potatoes. I pointed out they were in fact vegetables and received a Death Stare. I don't care much for this romance. Besides which, I now know how Amelia felt (and feels) when faced with yours truly.

The lady herself wants to visit this weekend "before the Winter really sets in". Not that that will stop her, she's already sorted out her Christmas visiting days and then the "weekend where I'll come up and we'll do some Christmas shopping". I've told her I'll be decorating this weekend and so wouldn't be able to spend time with her but she seemed quite keen on that idea and said "Oh well, I'll be able to spend time with my son and my grandson instead". I think I might wheeze a bit down the phone and mutter ominously about swine flu hitting Nunhead.

So, back to my bathroom. Any ideas? Bea suggests I go for a nice Laura Ashley print but I don't do prints, they give me the heebie jeebies and propel me back to dad's Great Aunt Bessie's house which we had to visit every Sunday when we were kids. The place was a riot of mismatched furniture, overly "busy" wallpaper which clashed hideously with the carpets. It used to scare me, that house. And I'd always leave with a headache.

I was thinking of a nice duck egg blue with brownish towels.......which will complement the ash flooring. David feels blue will be cold and suggested yellow instead. He even went so far as to bring me some yellow tester pots which, to keep him happy, I've plastered onto the walls. It doesn't look right, it looks like they're suffering with some hideous disease and I told him so. The poor man looked defeated and promised to bring me some duck egg blue testers tomorrow.
I took pity on him and made him a plum crumble. Which I then burnt. Still, it masks the smell of the paint.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Money Money Money

I was chased along Bromley High Street on Saturday by a gypsy woman who wanted to tell me my fortune. I didn't want her to tell me my fortune: I was in The Glades shopping centre at half past ten on a Saturday morning and therefore knew that my luck was going to be bad.

Anyway, she caught up with me at TKMaxx and informed me that I'd never be rich but I'd never be poor. Gee thanks, just what I wanted to hear after I'd spent my weekly three pounds on the lottery. She also gazed into the middle distance (I thought she'd caught sight of the marauding teenagers that I'd encountered in Boots who were plastering each other with the makeup samples and giggling like simpletons) before fixing me with heavily kohl-ed eyes. "You'll be sorely tested today" she hissed, furtively glancing up and down the road. "Tell me something I don't know!" I said in an overly jovial voice before catching sight of some stocking fillers and darting into the warmth of the shop.

I reasoned that she hadn't asked me to cross her palm with silver or even demanded that I purchase any lucky heather - perhaps she thought I was past that - and so managed to shrug her words off with a brave "Pah!"

The TKMaxx sales lady didn't seem to mind me talking to myself and rung up my purchases. I couldn't find my debit card in my purse. I shuffled through them all (don't get excited, the cards in my purse include my Matalan membership, my IKEA family card and my Nectar card) but couldn't find it. A small trickle of sweat started prickling my brow. The tutting behind me was reaching a crescendo. I searched through my bag but no joy. By now my prickles had turned into puddles.

Abandoning my stocking fillers I rushed out of the shop, muttering to myself "Ohmigod, omigod, omigod" with a vast range of potential past, present and future scenarios running through my mind. I'll give you an example of just one : the thieves who stole my debit card had bought g large amounts of electrical equipment whilst laughing evilly. Then they handed it over to their accomplice who spent the rest of my money in Marks and Spencers Food Hall. And because I couldn't remember when I last had my card, Alliance and Leicester would tell me to "naff off" and expect me to pay the bills when they came in because I didn't report my card missing (stolen?) in time and I would be destitute, no money. With Christmas coming up. David would be monumentally angry with me (hadn't he always warned me to be careful with my card?) and would call this the final straw and divorce me on the spot for being reckless with money. And even if he didn't then I'd have to use the joint account card to buy things which would make me feel like a kept woman and I'd HATE that but I suppose I could get used to it. And I'd have to re-register my card with everything else and David would know exactly what I spend and where and THEN we'd end up in the divorce courts because he hates QVC even though he really appreciated the nasal hair clippers I'd bought him from there".

This charming little scenario flashed through my mind quicker than you have just read it. It was therefore no surprise that when I finally screeched to a halt in the doorway of TKMaxx that my head was reeling, spinning and generally running amok. My card has been stolen. Or did I lose it? Did I leave it in a random chip and pin machine?

"Think, think!" I muttered, grappling for my mobile, punching in the phone number of my bank and pacing. Once I'd entered my "customer number and pin" and they verified it was me calling, a machine asked me what account I'd like to check on. By now, I was hysterically pacing and attracting quite a crowd.

Now, here is where, in hindsight, I should have listened carefully. It would have saved me clapping my hand over my mouth, stifling a sob and buckling in the knee area.

Always, always, always when I've rung my lovely banking people, the option to check on my current account balance has always been first. My Flexiplan account balance option was second, so number two on my keypad. Always.

A Flexiplan account, for the financially sorted amongst you, is an account where they give you say a £500 overdraw limit. You pay a minimum of £30 into it a month and it adds up to a nice little wedge over time. Unless you're me of course and dip into said Flexiplan until it's £160 overdrawn and the £30 a month goes towards taking you back up to a "nil" balance instead of a "minus" one.

Anyway, back to my drama. I hit "1", thinking that I was being put through to check my current account balance. A few second later a computer told me that "this account is over drawn by one-hundredand-sixty pounds". It was at this point that I did the whole mouth clapping, sob stifling, knee buckling thing. I was turning into a unique piece of street theatre. A scruffy student type looked on the verge of applauding.

I made a funny sort of noise and stifled another sob. The callous bast*rds, stealing my card, SPENDING MY MONEY! and, and, and.......oh God. The computer was still talking in my ear. "If you'd like to enquire about a loan, press 2. If you'd like to order a new cheque book, please press 3. If you'd like to enquire about our savings plan, please press 4.......". On and on until she got to the "if you'd like to speak to a human being, please press 9" option.

"Omigod, omigod, I can't find my debit card and I've just checked on my balance and I'm a 160 quid overdrawn and I know that there was at least £300 in my account and they've stolen it and....and.....I don't know what to do!" I wailed when "Janet from Liverpool" asked if she could help me.

"Right Mrs Mitchell, and when did you last have your card?" she asked calmly. I was beyond calm, I wanted her to agree with me and start a good old bitching session (whilst doing something constructive like promising me that my money was safe and they'd make all thieves pay eventually) but I managed to rally myself. "Tuesday! No, Wednesday, no Friday in Pets at Home and.......and now I'm 160 quid overdrawn and I had 300 quid in there so they've spent nearly five hundred quid of MY MONEY!........" Janet from Liverpool cut me off by clearing her throat and informing me that my current balance on my current account was "three hundred and seven pounds, 59 pence".

"But, but.....what?" I screeched. The pools of sweat under my arms were beginning to affect the rest of my body and my knees were away with the fairies. I was slumped, sweating and bright red in the face on the wall outside TKMaxx. My crowd had attracted the attention of a security guard who was gaping at me warily.

"Your balance is three hundred and seven pounds, 59 pence Mrs Mitchell. The balance you checked was your Flexiplan account which is £160 overdrawn."

"OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHFFFFFFFFMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPP"

That was the noise I made at this piece of information. I could have kissed Janet from Liverpool who was now calmly telling me that she was going to cancel my card and send me out a new one. No-one had spent any of my money. "Ooooooooohhhhhhfffffmmmmpppppp" I repeated at a lower volume, and started taking off my coat as I was boiling up with a mixture of mortification, relief and embarrassment. "I must have.....I mean, it was always option 1 and......so, it's fine then?" I went on, sliding halfway down the wall. "Yes Mrs Mitchell, there has been no worrying activity on your account" I was half expecting her to say "Unless you count the amounts you pay to QVC each month" but she didn't.

"Is there anything else I can help you with today Mrs Mitchell?" Janet from Liverpool was oblivious to the drama and obviously had to go to and answer a call from another hysterical customer. "No, that's great, thank you, no, look, you've done enough! Thank you, thanks so much......tha......" she'd hung up and I was left with a dead phone, a crowd of mesmerised shoppers and an urge to have a wee.

I think I handled my departure from that doorway with aplomb but I'd lost the inclination to shop, the ability to walk without shaking and had developed a huge thirst. I got back to the car, had to sit in it for five minutes before feeling calm enough to drive and then drove slowly home, feeling relieved but mightily stupid. "That'll teach you not to have been nicer to that gypsy" I said to myself as I pulled into The Avenue.

David greeted me at the door with a winning smile. "You're back early! Forget something did you?" he said, waving my debit card at me. "You can't go shopping without this my darling, remember? You used it last night to verify your account when you rang QVC to check the warranty on my nose hair clippers and left it on the mantlepiece!"
Sorely tested indeed.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Now the party's over

"Mummy, can we have fireworks?" This was the question I was greeted with this morning. Clearly Mac was so over the triumphant Halloween party. He had a wonderful time, as did our various guests. Pumpkins were carved, soup attempted (and failed miserably), ghoulies were ghoulish, monsters were monsterish, the dogs were driven to a frenzy by trick-or-treaters and I was extremely disappointed (once the kids were in bed in various beds, sleeping bags and put me ups) in Most Haunted Live's grand finale.

A good night was had by all.....Marjorie dropped by in all manner of leather items as a Wicked Witch, Matthew shared a touching moment with his little brother when they both wore the same costumes and everyone complimented me on my carving. Bea has refused to host the Fireworks Party again this year so Lydia has agreed to combine it with Freddie's first birthday party. "Or we could just go up to Blackheath?" she went on. Bea looked horrified at this. "A public firework display?" she gasped, clutching her chest and agreeing then and there to fund the entire selection of bangers, rockets and catherine wheels. "I'll even throw in a birthday cake" she went on, tapping it all into her Blackberry. "There are right and wrong ways of doing things you know" she said primly, adjusting her devils horns and shrieking as Mac dropped a werewolf head on her lap.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

All Hallows Eve

I am a fantastic mother, wife, friend, relation and neighbour. An all round general good egg. I must be for the house looks as if the Halloween aisle at Asda has vomited its contents into every room. Vast cobwebs (bigger than usual, according to Bea) adorn walls, plastic spiders and bats are dotted everywhere and Junior Dog has his eye on the huge fluffy spider that is sitting on the kitchen table.

Tomorrow (today!) my house will play host to a random passing group of children, friends and family for an all day Halloween Extravaganza. I have no less than six pumpkins to hollow out and carve. Mac will wake up, get dressed in his outfit (he's not sure if he's going to be a demon this year or a ghoulie) and will breakfast on Devil's Food. He will then welcome everyone into the House of Horror before stepping out, in the evening, with me (David is already rehearsing a bad ankle so that he doesn't have to go) and a selected few to go Trick or Treating.

The one thing I am most happy about (I'm happy now that the work is done) is the fact that Amelia will not be gracing us with her presence. She refuses to "set foot in a house that is encouraging reckless spiritual behaviour". This is a woman who won't even eat a Black Magic chocolate.

Still, it suits me. I've got enough horrors to deal with - as has David who keeps "scaring himself shitless with all the stuff in this house". This evening he asked me where on earth I got the skeleton from......"what skeleton?" said I, all innocence, kicking the receipt for said skeleton under the fridge.

He looked extremely worried and took himself off to bed and "just hopes" that he manages to sleep.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Food for thought

Queen Bee Mummy got a shock this morning when Mac and I turned up on her doorstep with Dawn and Jonathan. You see, Dawn, baby Alice and Jonathan had been invited for a play date – we had just been added on at the last minute. Ballast if you will. Dawn rang me at ten past ten, panic in her voice, and instructed me to meet her outside Ayres at half past “We’re going to Queen Bee Mummy’s for coffee” she said.

At half past ten, as instructed Mac and I were outside Ayres, eyeing up the goodies like a couple of waifs when Dawn screeched to a halt, chucked me a £20 note and told me to “buy cake”. This I can do with the best of them and came out, five minutes later with a gleaming, glossy, gorgeous strawberry gateau. “Thank God you were free, I couldn’t face this on my own and, after not letting the boys go to her Halloween party I felt I should turn up for this, you know, just to show willing” Dawn said as we slid towards the leafy park-side properties. Miffed that I was a) a last minute thought and b) available for this lunacy I kept quiet until we were on the doorstep.

For a change, Queen Bee Mummy opened her door herself. The look on her face said it all. I clearly was less than a last minute thought, I wasn’t even being thought about. “Oh, hello. Joanna.” She said, holding out her hand and shaking mine limply. The shame. Shunned by Queen Bee Mummy. Not that I want to be one of her harpies but…..even so. No-one likes being snubbed do they? It got worse.

Apart from Dawn there were five other mummies present: Career Mummy (who can now pick and choose her hours because “such is the success of my company since I floated it”), Actress Mummy (who claims to being on speaking terms with the entire cast of everything from Eastenders to Doc Martin), Vegetarian Mummy (who is constantly haranguing the school to provide a meat free school lunch every day), Nurse Mummy (who is great friends – nudge nudge - with Queen Bee Mummy’s consultant husband – if Gossip Mummy is to be believed anyway) and American Mommy (who arrived from the States in the summer with her banker husband). The Elite Squad. The A Team.

And me.

Dawn, married to a barrister “struggling, but a barrister all the same” was clearly part of the In Crowd. Baby Alice was being handed round the group whilst the older children ran amok in the (landscaped) gardens with Malinka the au pair screeching at them in her mother tongue. I perched uncomfortably on the edge of a WHITE sofa as the interrogation began.

Career Mummy: “What does your husband do?”
Actress Mummy: “Do you work?”
Vegetarian Mummy: “Where do you live?”
Nurse Mummy: “Is it you that has the black Focus?”
American Mommy: “Do you use the entire Philosophy range or just the lipglosses?”
Queen Bee Mummy: “How is Mac getting on with his Maths? Any improvement?”

I answered them all as best as I could and turned to Dawn who had yet to ask a question. She was looking mortified.

Coffee was served by a white aproned staff member which took the heat off me a bit. “Naughty but nice!” Queen Bee Mummy twinkled as Dawn’s gateau, a platter of cheese straws and a huge bowl of fruit was added to the ginormous coffee table. There was then a huge fuss because American Mommy could only drink decaff – “two months to go, Samuel is convinced I’ll have a Christmas birth!” – and there was none in the house. She sat stroking her bump and agreed that a plum and pomegranate herbal tea would be “just peachy”. Queen Bee Mummy looked furious and promised she’d hang “Ocado out to dry for this”.

“Help yourselves ladies” she went on as she did what I assumed were some yoga breathing exercises to calm herself down. The ladies dug in, Career Mummy took two cheese straws and made a huge noise about “not eating anything more until dinner!”. I grabbed a sprig of grapes because they were the closest thing to me and actually looked rather yummy.

“Very healthy Joanna!” Vegetarian Mummy boomed approvingly. Queen Bee Mummy edged the cheese straws closer to me. “Go on, have one of these!” she urged. Actress Mummy looked stressed “There’s no knife to cut the cake, that’s why she’s not having any!”. Queen Bee Mummy shot to her feet and screamed “Angela, the knife! You haven’t given me a knife!”. “Don’t worry honey, we’ll get you a knife” American Mommy said soothingly, stroking my arm and looking a little bit wild about the eyes.

“But….I don’t want any cake” I said, bewildered and catching Dawn’s eye. She now looked more than mortified. Of course. Looking round at the Elite Squad I realised why.

Queen Bee Mummy actually disappeared when she turned sideways, Career Mummy was five foot nothing and just as skinny, Actress Mummy looked as if she’d snap if she moved too quickly, Vegetarian Mummy was being held together by beanshoots, Nurse Mummy looked anorexic and the biggest thing about American Mommy was her bump and even that didn’t look seven months old. Dawn, bless her, can eat like several horses yet still wears size 12 jeans.

Now. I wouldn’t (couldn’t) call myself Kate Moss but (and here I’ve checked with several people before writing this post) I couldn’t be classed as a dead ringer for Dawn French either. Yes, I’m carrying a little, ahem, extra weight and yes, my jeans do tend to restrict my blood supply when I first put them on but and leave their imprint on my body when I take them off but……my practice nurse is happy and, before 11.15am today, so was I.

Angela, in the mean time had bought out the knife, sliced into the gateau and was waving a plateful under my nose as if it were a bottle of smelling salts and I’d fainted. I was still clutching my grapes and feeling a bit hot around the eyes. “Stupid girl!” Queen Bee Mummy hissed at her domestic help and urged me to dig in, grabbing the plate and shoving it at me. Half of me wanted to ram the entire slice of cake into my mush and give them all what they wanted – the other half of me wanted to storm out, vowing never to darken these doors again and hissing “a curse upon ye skinny wenches!” as I went.

I did part of the latter – Dawn, the children and I made a hasty exit, Dawn nearly in tears and apologising over and over again. As we sped away, I caught sight of the Elite Squad gathered on the doorstep, Queen Bee Mummy still holding the plate of gateau.

Shame. I could do with a slice of it right about now!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Horrors

He's too clever by half you know. My son, my pride and joy. Cunning, is another word. Manipulative is another one. I'm not complaining. Much. I'm quite proud of his wileyness (another good word there) but I just wish he......wasn't. Quite so much.

It was 3.40pm on Friday, at the school gate. Queen Bee Mummy had issued her Halloween party invitations but Dawn and I had already agreed that our children would not be attending, not after what happened last year. This led both boys to call us "mean" and mutter "s'not fair". Dawn and I stood firm. "Unless....." said Mac looking at Jonathan and then me "Unless Jonathan comes to our house and you make us a Halloween and all scary things" he went on. I said no, Dawn said no ("I'm not schlepping up and down the road wearing a witches hat, even if you are") and I said no again when I caught sight of welling tears in his eyes, even though I felt like the worlds worst mother. "We can go trick or treating on our own" Jonathan said helpfully, as if this was the issue.
What is the issue, David enquired when he got home and was canvassed on the doorstep by his son. "It's two small boys, quite brave now but petrified at the least little noise on the night itself!" I hissed. "They'll be fine!" David boomed and agreed there and then to turn our house into the House of Horrors. I was still hissing on Saturday morning when I piled Halloween rubbish into my trolley and debated over how many pumpkins to get. And did I get them now or risk leaving it to next week and finding them all sold out?

I muttered "hissing hell!" when I got home and found Mac had called and invited, not only Jonathan and Dawn but "Matt and Lydia and Freddie and grandad and Marjorie and Frank and Janey and Scatty and Blue and Granny".

Who needs to turn our house into the House of Horrors?

Monday, 12 October 2009

What's in a name?

I followed a man round Sainsbury's Dulwich this morning. Quite unashamedly if I'm honest...and not for the reason you're thinking either. He wore the distracted look of a Dulwich Dad - all rumpled hair, quizzical expression and slightly too baggy cords. The reason I followed him at a not-so discreet distance was because of the conversation he held with his child by the courgette section.

"Want that one daddy" said the angelic looking treacle haired child in his trolley "No Quiche darling, not that one, it's very soft" Dulwich Dad responded.

Quiche? I stopped, mid-prod of a marrow and regarded the charming duo as they moved off towards the spinach. I followed them, all thoughts of filling my trolley with green goodness.

I mean, I'm used to Dulwich names. You can't move in Sainsburys or the deli or the Sue Ryder shop without bumping into Jessima, Jacob, Tallulah, Regina, Victoria, Ronald or Archie - all tiny versions of their Dulwich Parents. There was even a Montgomery in Cafe Nero the other day, he was about four and was throwing his toy cars at paying customers. His fathers response? "Don't do that Montgomery, you'll break your cars". But Quiche? Just a plain Quiche or perhaps a Quiche Lorraine?

Had I missed out an entire fashion for naming your child after something you'd find in a chiller cabinet? And if I had, how the hell had my sister? Caitlin has enough names to trip up her future husband at the crucial moment at the altar (two being Alsace and Charlotte) and Ian is going to suffer writers cramp when he starts filling out the many forms that life is going to throw at him. My own precious son is quite poor on the name front but at least he doesn't need to work out if the Simon comes before or after the Edward and three along from the Richard.

So, while I was ruminating on whether I was going to meet twins Sage and Onion at the checkout and bump into Corned Beef in the car park, I skidded round into the Bakery aisle to find Quiche and her father worrying over crusty cobs.

"Shall we get some proper bread for our soup darling or would you prefer croutons?" A dazzling choice for Quiche who was about three. Quiche wasn't going to be fobbed off with bread or croutons - she wanted a raspberry and custard Danish pastry with the tinned Scotch Broth in her trolley. "No darling, not with soup" Dulwich Dad laughed heartily, suddenly catching sigh of his Sainsburys Stalker and raising an eyebrow. I blushed and found myself examining the hotdog rolls.

"Want that" Quiche continued, building up into a mini rage. "Quiche darling no" said Dulwich Dad, preparing to whisk her away from temptation. Quiche was having none of it. "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo DADDY!" she screamed as they headed into Jams and Spreads. "WANT THAT ONE!" she bellowed as they passed the Nutella. Come on! I was thinking, please do what I do when Mac has a temper tantrum Use the full name!

"Quiche, listen to Daddy. NO!" he said through clenched teeth as he skidded to a halt in front of a Dulwich Elder who clearly believed that children should be seen and not heard. I stopped breathing as I watched him lower his scruffy head into his hands and shakily and slowly exhale while his child started sobbing.

"Keisha May Mary Williams, will you PLEASE stop it. Right. This. Minute!"

Ahah, result!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Carry on Burglar

What would you think if this flyer popped through your letter box as it did ours on Saturday morning? Would you panic like David and start checking that the house insurance is up to date? Would you hoot hysterically like Jane Opposite at the dramatics of it all? Would you worry, like Ruby Over The Road, that while we’re all at the Stewarts house and our houses are empty, we’ll all be turned over?

Anyway, I’m not going. I’m not missing Strictly Come Dancing for a bunch of hysterics and Marjorie’s macaroons. “I didn’t put my macaroons on there because we’d just get everyone turning up to be fed and not because their attendance is vital” Marjorie informed me yesterday afternoon when she popped round with a beef stew because “well, you can’t cook with that ankle can you? And what with David playing golf and all…..” She should have seen me on Saturday, hopping on one leg, laughing hysterically at Bea who, in apparent sympathy (or trying to steal my thunder) had fallen over in a pile of leaves in Dulwich Park and had hurt her left knee. It’s a vivid purple and puffy.

“Can you really afford not to dear?” she asked in response to the news that I would not be attending on Friday night. “I mean, the way things are today……” she trailed off and looked out of the window along the Avenue as if she expected to see three rapists, two cat burglars and a mugger hovering.

“David will probably go” I said, one eye on Airport 77 – I love a good disaster movie. “Can I go mummy?” Mac piped up. “Oooh no dearie, not to a grown ups meeting” she said, patting him so hard on his head that her bracelets nearly left a dent in his cranium. “Not really for Little Ones” she mouthed to me as she made to leave “Not with the statistics that Frank’s preparing” she added with a grimace.

So. We’re going to be scared to death by our very own Neighbourhood Watch Chairman. Great. Petrified of our own shadows and forced to eat macaroons.

David has agreed to go to the meeting “to escape Strictly” – the man has no taste. So, while he’ll be listening to Frank’s statistics, setting up vigilante groups and being issued with whistles and torches (oh yes, I forgot to tell you that little nugget didn’t I?) I shall be deep in glitter, lycra and glitz.

I think I’ve got the better deal don’t you?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Birthday Planning

I'm a more mobile today which is fortunate as it's Charlie's birthday bashette tomorrow and, if I'm to be the Hostess With The Mostess, I need to do it without hobbling. She doesn't want a fuss, bless her.

Guest list: her, me, Saskia (if she can finish work in time), Janey, Bea, Lydia. The Boys will be sent to Janey and Darren's house for the duration.

Present wish list: "anything pretty, sweet, girly, practical, functional, smelly, useful, interesting, wacky, random or amazing"

Party menu: "nothing major" then, 24 hours later "can you do your garlic chicken thing? And that nice malteser cake thing! Oh, and I've got a real thing for smoked salmon at the mo, so some of that? With cream cheese and lemon and, oooooh, some of those king prawns and that spicy thousand island dressing?" and then half an hour later "to go with the chicken can you do some proper jackets, like bake in the oven from scratch deal rather than nuke in micro for ten minutes first?"

Drinks: "if I can sleep over on Saturday anything alcoholic" and then ten minutes later "do you still have all those cocktail ingredients? Shall I get some? we can have cocktails and get Bea drunk!"

Specialist decorations: "balloons! Wouldn't be a birthday without balloons!"

I'm so glad she doesn't want a fuss!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Bea-by sitting

I love my sister. I really do. She's kind, thoughtful, loving and caring. She's also certifiably insane. I'm letting you know now that this post could sound extremely ungrateful. Bea is Alternate New Age - alternate in that at work she can verbally whup someone's arse whilst wearing a power suit, sipping a skinny latte and barking orders at subordinates but at home she's all kaftans, herbal remedies, "love n peace" and soothing words.

Guess which persona turned up on my doorstep this morning to "babysit" me. "Darling, don't get up, I've got the key!" she chirruped as she breezed in and caught sight of me in my jim jams struggling into the kitchen for a wash (I can't make the stairs without tears). Usually Bea would be horrified to find me in flannelette and would immediately order me some silk nighties on the internet. New Age Bea was near to tears as she clutched me to her bosom (brushed cotton covered).

The morning was spent chummily watching Lord Ray of Winston in Henry VIII and coming over all unnecessary. But she refused to let me have access to the custard creams. And made me a Green Tea (she had bought a goodie bag) instead of PG. During my second shuffle to the downstairs loo (really, it'd be funny if I wasn't in such agony) she wouldn't pause the programme for me and said that I could "move quicker if you really wanted to". Having dangled the carrot of Mr Winstone stripping off under my nose she then suggested that I should make her a cup of tea "for a change".

I sent her up to Ayres for lunch. I asked for a chicken tikka doorstep or, failing that, a BLT roll or a sausage roll even. While she was out I hazarded an unguarded trip to the loo, fell over Junior Dog and nearly broke my neck. She returned, pooh-poohed my tale of woe and handed over the box of salad she had bought me. Apparently they were all out of my luncheon choices. If I could have got up there I would have personally questioned Mr Ayre as to the whereabouts of his tikka, bacon and sausage rolls.

During my salad box we finished off Mr Winstone and then she tried to encourage me to wear various different crystals about my person. Now, I'm one of the first to embrace anything like this......to quote ABBA, I believe in angels. What I was not at all happy with was her "opening my chakras" with Mac due through the door at any moment. "Darling, you need to open up your channels to enable yourself to heal" she said in soothing tones whilst whizzing me up a cocktail of "health giving ingredients" in the blender. Middle Dog refused to touch it and he eats snails fresh from plant pots.

Mac was delighted to find Auntie Bea on the premises but was not at all impressed with the oatcakes she tried to give him for tea. "Where are the dammy jodgers?" he asked me in an undertone. "Auntie Bea has hidden them honey, we'll get them out tomorrow when Janey's here". He tried, God love him. Even made yummy noises. But he got an oat stuck and choked so much I had visions of going back to A&E for the second time in four days.

We were allowed to watch QVC though, as apparently "some of the items are incredible bargains". She bought her Pilates machine from there and "can't live without it". Mac fell in love with one of Charlie's Bears and wanted to buy David Bear because "it's like my daddy's name" but wasn't allowed to buy it because "it's mass produced darling boy". Mac, not understanding consumerism and distraught at a) there being no jammy dodgers, b) the lingering threat of oakcakes and c) Auntie Bea in New Age mode saying "no", had a mini paddy and sat down huffily on my bad leg.

Cue much bad language from me just as his father returned from work with a cheery greeting and a boyish smile. New Age Bea packed up her goodie bag and promised to return on Friday with a kiss and a plea to "stop swearing darling, it's bad for your karma."

I keep telling myself off for being such a meanie but when your leg is throbbing like an unexploded bomb, it's very hard. And she rang me half an hour ago to see if I was enjoying the Green Tea. She means well bless her.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Ouch!

I was rushed to A&E on Friday afternoon. Well. I say "rushed" more hoiked. I was dropping Mac off to tea at his friend Billy's house and, because I've recently been struggling with the old image, was wearing ridiculously high heeled boots with a view to a) bolstering my self-image and b) whipping into the hospital where I work (every now and again) to say hello to the girls and boys and showing them that I have retained some of my old spark and verve whilst giving my child a fulfilling social life.

All was well, we'd taken the train which was a major excitement for my pride and joy and, although I was struggling with the terrain in my four inch heels, we were bounding along quite happily as we turned into Billy's road. I'm not quite sure what happened if I'm honest, all I remember is a sharp agonizing pain in my right ankle, the knowledge that my foot should not be pointing in that direction, the feel of cold hard concrete beneath my palms and cheek, gratitude that I was wearing jeans and the fact that Mac was screaming his head off which meant we were soon joined by half of the street.

Billy's dad Roger was tasked with taking me over to the hospital, which he did by half carrying me as he wasn't "forking out money for the car park" and assuring me that they "were brilliant" and would "get me sorted". He dumped me on a chair in A&E and approached the desk demanding that I "be seen to immediately" as my "distressed son was distressed at his mummy's accident and if a consultant wasn't summoned IMMEDIATELY then by Golly there would be Hell to pay". Kim and Kelly on reception were not remotely fazed by this blatant attempt at queue jumping (there were three gentleman already waiting along with a lolly pop lady and a woman on an electric scooter who was eating wine gums loudly) and gave him short shrift.

"Oh it's JO!" Kelly boomed once she'd caught sight of me and I was whizzed straight through to cubicles. "You have to show these people who is the boss!" Jim informed me as he watched me drape myself elegantly on the bed. I shushed him as politely as I could and told him that I worked here and so was being sort of fast tracked because of that. "NONSENSE!" he bellowed and moved my damaged leg before plonking himself down on the end of my bed. I felt bad enough being given preferential treatment but didn't want him to think that his boorish attitude and somehow helped me along.

By now my whole leg, encased in black leather up to the knee, was throbbing alarmingly and I could feel it swelling. Nurse Jacob arrived and attempted to remove the offending boot. "S'not happening" he said after tugging ineffectually for five minutes. "Am gonna have to cut it" he added.

He cut, my leg all but exploded out and then things went a bit hazy. Jim departed, then a tearstained Mac and pale looking David arrived (he wasn't worried by the way, he'd just taken note of the car parking fee per hour and spent five minutes rummaging in my bag for my staff pass), I was X-rayed, had a cup of tea brought to me by my manager who found the whole thing hilarious until I showed her my damaged boot. She then went off for a quick cry, she's obsessed with shoes and boots and has a collection to rival Paris Hilton's.

"It's not broken just badly sprained and you've buggered the knee ligament" said Dr Fisher as she discharged me "rest it, don't put any weight on it and ditch the bloody stupid boots" she added before striding off in her Dr Scholls.

So. This is me. Blogging whilst resting. Marooned on the sofa. Struggling to get to the loo (not that you need to know that) and in pain. David has been marvellous this weekend - he wasn't, he was moaning and complaining and being completely unreasonable about my injury until I cracked and told him he was unsympathetic and had a few self-pitying tears and then he suggested he ring his mother and "get her down for a few days". I then had a massive change of mind and told him he was doing a fab job and no, it didn't matter that Mac had biscuits for Sunday lunch because he couldn't cope with doing a roast and no darling, I'm fine, I'll just have an apple.

Bea's taking over tomorrow, Janey's nursemaiding on Tuesday and I've arranged for Dawn to do the school run. I've just sent Mac off to the kitchen to ask daddy to make me a cup of tea. Hope he doesn't forget the custard creams.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Chocolate Malteser Cake

It's Charlie's birthday weekend next week so I'm baking her "the only birthday cake" she "ever wants". I'm doing a test run this weekend because, although this is the only cake I can make without it burning/sinking/looking awful, I'm going to make individual ones rather than a whole big one - Chocolate Malteser Muffins, if you will - and want to see if it actually works. Plus I get to eat a couple without holding back in due deference to the Birthday Girl.

For the cake
150g soft brown sugar (muscavado sugar is best for flavour)
100g caster sugar
3 large eggs
175ml milk
15g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Horlicks powder
175g plain flour
25g cocoa, sieved
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
For the icing and decoration
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa
45g Horlicks
125g soft unsalted butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 x 37g packets Maltesers
Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature (though it’s not so crucial here, since you’re heating the milk and butter and whisking the eggs.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C. Butter and line two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling.

Beat the milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.
Once the cakes are cold, you can get on with the icing. I use a processor just because it makes life easier: you don’t need to sieve the icing sugar. So: put the icing sugar, cocoa and Horlicks in the processor and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape down, and start again, pouring the boiling water down the funnel with the motor running until you have a smooth buttercream.
Sandwich the cold sponges with half of the buttercream, and then ice the top with what is left, creating a swirly pattern rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside edge, about 1cm in, with a ring of Maltesers or use them to decorate the top in which-ever way pleases you.
Makes 8-10 slices.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Breakdown

My car wouldn’t start on Saturday morning. It turned over (apparently) but wouldn’t fire (also apparently). David did what all men do in these situations and asked me to “pop the bonnet”. This is I did and waited for the verdict.

“Could be your alternator, seeing as it’s turning over but not kicking in” he pointed out, leaning manfully over the bonnet and fiddling with a red cable like he knew what he was doing. I have to be honest here and point out that I have no real reason to be smug here at all: my knowledge of under t’bonnet is limited to oil, water and power steering fluid and even I know when I’m nearly out of those.

I rang Green Flag muttering “well, I pay ‘em enough each month” and my call was answered almost immediately by a charming young lady called Felicity. I sat back and examined my nails as she ran through the usual security checks. I confirmed my registration number, first line of my address, my post code and my password. I confirmed that yes, my car is a black Ford Focus, petrol driven and no four wheel drive.

“What is the problem with the vehicle?” she enquired in posh tones “It won’t start!” said I and then roared with laughter at the sheer bizarreness of the whole situation. She didn’t join in. “Does the vehicle have petrol?” she went on.

Now. This really annoys me. Assuming that I haven’t put any petrol in it, how basic is that? Not only that but a fellow woman, asking me if I’m that ditsy that I’ve failed to fill my car up. “Yes” I muttered through clenched teeth. Junior Dog, who was lying at my feet, sensed my tone and did a runner. “Thank you madam, I’ll get someone out to you from DooDah Motors within the hour” she retorted before wishing me a good day. Mutter, mutter, chunter, whinge.

“It’s a standard question, they have to ask it” David said when I recounted the treachery to him. “If you had rung they wouldn’t have dared asked you, a MAN!” I boomed. “Yes they would, they have to” he went on but his smug smile said otherwise.

To be fair, after an hour of pacing (I hate waiting. For anything) a bright green DooDah Motors van appeared. All three dogs went into a frenzy of barking which meant that the gentleman who rang my doorbell vaulted over the fence without opening the gate.

After a little bit of probing, asking questions and generally doing what David did but with a little bit more authority, Mechanic Man decided that it was a “fuel pump system problem”. I looked at him blankly (not because I didn’t know what he was talking about but because I was wondering how many zeroes would be attached to the resulting garage bill). “Basically, your fuel isn’t getting through the injectors which indicates a problem with your pump” he translated. I thanked him profusely and headed inside to ring my garage.

I have one, you know. A garage that I trust implicitly…..if Tom says something needs doing, then it needs doing. He’s amazing. He amazed me even more when I rang him to ask when he could fit my ailing Focus in, I was already mentally rearranging my Wednesday or Thursday morning. “If you can get it here before two today I’ll do it first thing Monday morning” he said. David was as amazed as I was at the swiftness but pointed out that I’d be “lucky” to get a towtruck here on a Saturday. It was just gone half past ten when I rang Green Flag and requested an “immediate pick up”.

I sat and smirked when they said they’d have someone from DooDah Motors with me within the hour for the second time that day. David went out to do some weeding (in a sulk) while I made a cup of tea. No sooner had I dunked my bag when there was a dingdong on the door and more canine boisterousness. This time the man from DooDah Motors stayed on the doorstep and wondered why I was staring open mouthed at him. Time between my call and his arrival: seven minutes. This was all going too well for my liking.

David came out and observed the miracle too. Mac returned from his sleepover at Ben’s house and expressed dismay that Minty (don’t ask) wasn’t working. “Is that man taking him to be mended?” he asked David as they sat side by side on the windowsill. “Righto love,” said the DooDah Motors man once he’d got the ramps in place “Drive it up onto the ramps for me”. I exhaled slowly and pointed out that the reason he was about to load my car onto his towtruck was because the bloody thing wouldn’t start. “Oh” said he, reading his notes from Green Flag. “Okay, humour me, give it a go”.

I threw myself into the car thinking “hah, I’ll show HIM!” and the bloody car started. “That’s not your fuel system pump love, that sounds more like your injectors” DooDah Motors man went on as he listened to my poor Focus cough and splutter.

Apparently, this is called “hunting”. Hm.

Anyway the men decided that the best thing all round would be to take it into the garage anyway so it can “be looked at”. Which is where it still is now. It's been looked at by two mechanics and is, even as I type, being run through a diagnostic machine. I dread to think how much all this is costing and Mac is making my car a get well soon card. I've put him on stand by: I may need one when I get the final bill......

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Me, myself and I

I've been......on holiday to Hastings. Pett Level, to be exact, where I was bitten by a crab, soaked by three dogs in the sea, ate my body weight in chips and relaxed so much my blood pressure dropped through the floor and I had to get myself in a right old two and eight over dawdling drivers just to get it pumping correctly through my veins

I've put.....on about half a stone this summer holiday, largely due to the chip-fest but also because Mac and I have taken to baking of an afternoon. Well, that and an indecent amount of trips to Ayres.

I've been....ignoring Amelia's large Santa Claus shaped hints about this Christmas during the annual August Bank Holiday Weekend Conversation About Christmas. She wants to come to us for the duration but we're off to Bea's for Christmas Dinner in Dulwich and Bea, as caring and sharing as she is, "really could not cope with that woman on my home territory darling".

I've lost.......my marbles trying to get everything ready for Mac's return to school tomorrow. Books, pens, pencil cases (all new because "that was last year mummy"), school uniform and shoes. He doesn't want to go back to school and is sulking, endearingly like his father in the bath as I type. David is up there now, cajoling him, having taken the day off to "help" me get the Pride and Joy ready.

I'm going......to the hairdressers to get the gossip. Marjorie has taken to visiting Mandy every week for a shampoo and set and, as Mandy said to me this morning "Oh my God, the woman is sex mad!". I'm heading there tomorrow to get the low down.

I'm waiting.....for my parcels from QVC to arrive. Am becoming a Philosophy junkie and have told David that what I've bought are for Christmas presents.

I'm catching.....up on all the gossip from my week away. Apparently The Avenue has been heaving with gossip, intruige and tales of stroppy recycling men who refused to carry all the bottles from Jane Opposite's Bank Holiday Saturday barbecue. "I mean, do they want me to recycle or not?" she asked as she stacked her empty wine bottles three deep and six along. Ruby Over The Road reckons I missed a blinding party "I still had the hangover on Monday"

I'm dreading.....meeting up with Andy who is planning his civil partnership with his groom-to-be: their suggestions so far have been a bit, erm, random and I'm worried about their next suggestion, after they went off the idea of a sky-diving wedding and reception in an aircraft hangar. They want to be "original".

I'm......tired and planning an early night. David is quite pleased about this. What he doesn't know is he'll be sewing name tapes into school uniforms all night.

Well. He wanted to help me!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Of Vicars and Tarts

Read this.......and have a box of tissues at the ready. I used to work at that "south London primary care trust" and remember the day that Sonja came into that meeting. I didn't know the full story at the time and it wasn't until much later (much, much later) that I even heard even the smallest snippet of information that was filed in my memory bank under "miscellaneous".

I was read this article over the phone by one of my colleagues this evening and boy, does it put things into perspective.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Five

I've been trawling through my emails today - to be fair I started yesterday and have finally caught up. I got a good one from work (well, several actually but I couldn't possibly share the contents in cyber space and I'm quite sure you wouldn't find the fact that Melanie from Catering's face lift failed and she "now looks like Jabba the Hut". Anyway. As I'm a sucker for things like this I thought I'd offer this tasty little morsel for you all to enjoy. You can be as selective as you like (Bea listed Harrods food hall for section two) but honesty is always the best policy and it must be about you!

Five things you have on your bathroom shelves
1. A healthy selection of Philosophy shower gels/bath lotions
2. Pantene shampoo
3. Shaving foam
4. Egg timer
5. Glass penguin

Five things you have in your fridge
1. Milk
2. Leftover lamb
3. Half a tub of Boursin
4. Half a bottle of Yop (raspberry)
5. Pitta breads

Five things you have in your handbag
1. Mobile
2. Half a pack of polos
3. Security ID for work
4. Manky old till receipts
5. Philosophy Cherry Cola Lipgloss

Five DVDs you have in your collection
1. Peter Kay Live at the Bolton Albert Halls
2. Dirty Dancing
3. Jaws box set
4. Meet The Parents/Meet the Fockers
5. Open Water

Five CDs you have in your collection
1. Kylie
2. R&B Collection
3. Nelly Furtado
4. The Saturdays
5. Oasis

Five authors/books you have on your shelves
1. Martina Cole
2. Jilly Cooper
3. Haunted London
4. Emma Gold
5. Jane Green

Five things you have eaten today/plan to eat today
1. Toast
2. Jaffa cake
3. BLT sandwich from Ayres
4. Peach
5. Banana

Five things you've done today/plan to do today
1. Did washing
2. Ironed Davids work shirts for rest of the week
3. Daydreamed about our holiday
4. Walked dogs
5. Plan to watch Confessions of a Shopaholic later

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Funky Lunch

We're having great fun today - we've made a cake for afternoon tea with Auntie Bea and now we've got a couple of slices of bread, some ham, cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, mini babybels and some carrots. I want to make an Alekesander the Meerkat but Mac wants to create "a farm mummy". I like that he's ambitious!

Check this out for some fun sarnies!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Oink oink

Things I have eaten today:

  • bacon sandwich
  • half a packet of blackcurrant fruit pastilles
  • slice of watermelon
  • punnet of cherries
  • six murray mints
  • three custard creams
  • packet of Cheese and Onion McCoys
  • sweet and sour chicken and rice
  • some of David's chicken with mushroom
  • a nectarine
  • a slice of toast with honey
  • two digestives
  • slice of (cold) cherry pie
  • a banana
  • half a Twix
  • three Rolos

I'm comfort eating. My pride and boy has all but left home. Deserted us. Headed for the hills. Preferring the company of others. All this has conspired me to feel as useful as a knickers on a halibut and a Failure As A Mother. Amelia claims she "saw this coming" and is crowing that she was "right all along". This was all said to David natch and relayed to me with weary resignation but I'm all for ringing her up and demanding to know exactly which bit of witchery she is using to back up her wild claims.

After his long weekend away with Ben and his parents (which was supposed to end on Monday but some how stretched to Wednesday) he returned home to ditch his dirty washing, elaborate on the delights of Camber Sands "we saw a big crab mummy, huge. It was dead though" and sift through the invitations for the remainder of the week. I'm exaggerating slightly on the last claim - I felt honour bound to give him his options for fear that if I didn't those people doing the inviting would either feel miffed about the lack of RSVP or grass me up to my child and he'd hate me forever.

So. Thursday he went to Legoland with Queen Bee Mummy, six other children and three au-pairs. On Friday he had the morning at home before heading to Bea's for an afternoon of puppet making culminating in the Dulwich Puppet Show on Saturday morning. Back home for a quick bit of fatherly bonding whilst watching Millwall play Southampton while I fretted at the kitchen table that I was either a) rearing a child who was so confident and so at ease in all manner of different situations that he was happy to leave me or b) such an awful Shouty Mother that he was desperate to get out and experience Nice Mummies - Queen Bee Mummy is, apparently, "booful and smells nice".


Today he has been resting for tomorrow he's heading to Diggerland with a host of chums (another outing organised by Queen Bee Mummy) and which is somewhere he "alwaaaaaaaaaays" wanted to go yet somewhere I have neglected to take him.

I feel like a spare part and have been repeatedly mentally slapping myself around the mush for feeling this way. "You should be pleased he's not a Mummy's Boy" David pointed out to me earlier. I am. I think. No. I am. And I'm not worried really, just mithering for the sake of mithering. David, however, is panicking somewhat. He was talking to Matthew just before I dived into the fruitbowl this evening and came off the phone looking a tidge green. "Darling, ahahahahaha! Matt's just said something realllllllly funny! He said that I'd better watch you don't start getting broody again now that Mac isn't a baby any more! And that you might want another one to fill the gap!!!! Isn't that funny? Darling? Hahaha? Funny yes?"

For devilment I gave him a coy look and reached for a handy Mothercare catalogue as left by Janey.


It's actually cheered me up a bit I think!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Flying the nest

What to do, what to do? My friend Rosie (mum of Mac's erstwhile Best Chum Ben when they're not falling out) has offered to take Mac camping this weekend. Just the Friday, Saturday and Sunday and home on Monday. In a tent. On a campsite in Camber Sands. He's keen, David's keen, me - not so keen.

It's the whole cutting-the-apron-strings thing for me. I know in my heart that, whilst my pride and joy is flinging random items of clothing into his rucksack and marvelling at the adventures he and Ben are going to have, he's going to get fifteen miles down the road and demand to return home to "mummy". Of course, I could be totally wrong and this could be just the thing he needs, four days (well three and bit) without me fussing, primping and generally worrying about him. Am I? He probably won't even miss me one little bit will he? Moan, mutter, grumble.....

Not that I've mollycoddled him. Much. He's like me, a homebody, happiest when he's within his own four walls. Janey is bemoaning the age of her children: "wish they could go off with their friends for a long weekend" she said as she dug into a slice of pizza (not before picking off the mushrooms with neon pink talons). Bea is encouraging me to be "brave darling, and cut the ties that bind". This was said as she packed bags for both Caitlin and Ian who are heading off to the Norfolk Broads with Flavia the Au Pair on Saturday for a whole week. "You and David can enjoy a second honeymoon" she went on and then informed me that while her "babies" were away, she and Stephen would be going Tantric. When I told David he asked me where they were flying to. There must be a book I can buy him, you know, a beginners guide or something.

Anyway. A decision has to be made tonight. Rosie will be ringing me shortly and I know that I have to say yes. My tiny boy is upstairs, lying awake with excitement as I type. The contents of his wardrobe are all over the floor and he's already packed some toys that he "might" share with Ben.

David has already offered to pop into Boots at London Bridge tomorrow and bring me back some Kalms.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Malfunction!

I'm not quite sure why - perhaps its the stormy weather and/or electrical build up in the atmosphere - but things have started to go wrong in this house. I mean, even more than usual. David's Blackberry took on a life of its own on Monday when it started ringing random entries in his address book. I hear Big Boss was rather concerned to get a phone call from David at half past nine at night, especially when all he could hear was "oikish contestants on Big Brother shouting about lentils". David is now mortified that Big Boss fears he is addicted to the reality show and has laid the blame fully at my door. I won't mention that David himself is rather keen on the new arrival Bea but, he assures me, it's only because she "reminds me of you darling". Hm.


Which reminds me....last week I told Janey that there were new housemates and chucked in those names I could remember. "BEA?" Janey boomed from Sydenham. "BEA as in OUR BEA?" she screeched. Once I'd explained the mix-up she foghorned with relief "Bloody HELL, I did wonder what the hell she would make of sleeping in a communal bedroom!". Our Bea was not impressed by even the merest slightest suggestion she would lower herself to appear on reality television as you can imagine. Anyway, I digress. Malfunctioning electrical items. Right.


Apart from David's wayward Blackberry, we've had:
  • the Sky remote control that keeps informing us that we need to replace its batteries or there will be consequences. So far, since Friday evening, it's had six sets of two batteries. I'm all for leaving it as I'm convinced it's just panicking because it wants attention but David is reluctant to let that happen because he'd struggle to operate the system (and can't go half an hour without swapping channels)

  • our doorbell (battery operated) that keeps ringing of its own accord. We've taken to ignoring it now even though the dogs go mad barking each time it happens - anyone who desperately wants access to our abode will know to knock on the door. I was told off this morning by a Jehovah's Witness who, when we failed to answer her ding dong, came to our open living room window and instructed me that "when someone rings your bell, you are expected to answer it". I stared at her open mouthed and spluttered an apology before realising that she had her head thrust into my house. My subsequent comment won me no favours and, no doubt, no place in Heaven.
  • Sky Broadband that only connects when it feels like it. I can almost hear the PC saying "yah boo sucks, I don't want to upload today". This has also affected the laptop - Mac offered to let me use his but, as it's a Fisher Price one, I declined gracefully.

  • my mobile that only sends texts when I urge it to do so. For example, the text I sent to Charlie only went after I waved the handset in the air and said "send, you git, SEND!"

Still. It's not that bad. At the moment the blackberry is silent, as is the doorbell. David has just selected the Poseiden Adventure on Channel 4+1 on Sky and, as you can see I'm broadbanding.

Although I keep hearing what sounds like an air raid siren. Can anyone in the environs of Nunhead hear it too? Should we be worried?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Fit Flops

This is fast turning into a once a week blog isn't it.......I must remedy that!

I'm currently aching all over (no, not swine flu - or as Mac calls it "swing flu") but because of a present from my beloved husband. When he presented me with a pair of Fit Flops as a reward for getting - ahem, drum roll please - 97% on my First Aid course I wasn't sure whether to hit him or not. What was he suggesting? I know that I could do with losing a few (!!!) pounds and toning up a tad but, quite frankly, I was a tidge insulted.

Not any longer. They are fabulous. I can't praise them highly enough. They tone you up whilst you are walking, making your leg and bum muscles work harder. They're ergonomic. And that's the extent of my knowledge on the subject. Apart from knowing that, after wearing them last Friday for half an hour whilst I walked Mac to school and back, I came back home, kicked them off and felt the buuuurn. And I mean buuuurn.....my buttocks (excuse my French) ached as if I'd done an extensive work out. And I'd stopped off at Ayres on the way back for a doughnut!

Bea, naturally, is horrified and is beseeching me to "get rid of them darling, its practically porn for your feet, it's ugly, offensive and......eurgh!". She's forbidden me to wear them in Dulwich (and therefore anywhere near her house) and resembled Davina McCall even more than she usually does (in tone and actions) when she came face to face with the offending items this evening. "Aaargh, how COULD you come to the DOOR wearing them? Eeeeeshk!" she squealed before running down the path and leaping into her chauffeur driven Mercedes.
I dread to think what she'd say now: I'm wearing my Fit Flops and my Slanket.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Could do better

Well. I'm pretty sure that the results of Mac's first parents evening matched mine. His art work was displayed on the wall, examples of his Numbers and Words were blu-tacked to his table and his teacher, by the time we got to him, was suffering from a rictus grin and a bad hair day.

The general gist was "Mackenzie is a likeable, friendly student who gets on well with his classmates" which I naturally took to mean "class clown" - just like me. Also "Mackenzie needs to listen to instructions carefully and sometimes finds his natural exuberance a little difficult to quell" which David took to mean "unable to focus and rowdy". Again, just like me!

However, we were charmed when a number of other parents were dragged over to meet Mac who was suffering from a rare case of shyness surrounded, as he was, by so many adults proclaiming "So, you're Mac!". We headed out of school and onto Pizza Hut as a treat and our pride and joy kept us entertained with tales of school and informed us that "Melissa eats chalk mummy" which is nothing to laugh at but the face he pulled when he informed us of this fact made me choke on my stuffed crust.

My First Aid course is not a barrel of laughs. I'm on day two and it's hard going.....I came over faint at one point when I had to set a "dislocated arm", the dummy was very realistic (and was called Kevin). Day three tomorrow is Burns and Scalds and Dressings in the morning with Resus Annie putting in an appearance in the afternoon......Thursday morning is a quick recap and then a written test in the afternoon. There's six others on the course and the instructor (Malcolm) has an alarming habit of leaping from one subject to another which isn't wildly helpful.

Still, Liz from Physio and I are having a good old giggle, especially when we were given four rolled up bandages each and told to "deal with the angled object" on two of our male colleagues. They blushed, we snorted with laughter and set to our task with gusto. Liz successfully managed to secure the angled object "sticking out" of Bill the Porter's leg whereas Gavin the Security Guard and I got sidetracked as we looked out of the window at a woman attempted to reverse a BMW into a parking space big enough only for a Mini Cooper.

I wouldn't like to see my report, I tell you that much although I suspect Malcolm would like to suspend me with immediate effect.

All about me

My photo
Nunhead, London, United Kingdom
I'm a mum of one, wife of one and owner to several dogs, a variety of breeds and sizes. I live in the up and coming area (or so they say) of Nunhead and have mad neighbours, strange friends and certifiable relatives. I shop locally, although I do defect to Sainsburys once a week - shoot me now local shopkeepers.