Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Bringing it on

I was going to call this post "Things I've Learnt Over the Last Couple of Weeks" but then I had second thoughts. Because I haven't really learned a lot: all the things I've "learnt" I sort of knew anyway.

Like, for instance, when in the grip of a gigantic bout of gastric nastiness and you really, really fancy a Minstrone Cup-A-Soup, don't have one. Reason being, it reproduces itself barely five minutes after you've swallowed the last mouthful and keeps you up all night, not only with increased gastric nastiness but the added bonus of flatulence.

Also, NEVER thank your lucky stars (in your beloved's ear shot) that you're so grateful that "he hasn't had what I've had!" because as sure as Sunday follows Saturday and photographers follow Posh Spice, he will get it, on the very day that you're starting to feel better after ten days. But naturally, "his" bit of it will be nastier, bigger and he'll feel so much worse than you ever did. And he'll be an even bigger drip than you, refusing to - ahem - mop and bleach and generally sanitise everything like what you did. On my first proper day of feeling better (Monday) I spent as much time huddled over the toilet bowl cleaning it as I did when I was in full flow myself.

Plus, NEVER EVER allow your mother-in-law over the threshold when you are feeling less than the full shilling. Added to the fact that my house was not up to standard (cue Amelia standing in the bathroom and bellowing "I thought you said you'd cleaned up here!"), I was "making the house a mess" by my mere presence. My lounging around outfit of tracksuit and T-shirt was deemed inappropriate and I'd feel "so much better" if I put on a nice dress or something. She arrived on Saturday and I spent much of Sunday in tears until she went home.

The first thing I did wrong was "put on a nice dress or something" and headed out to Ruby Blue in Leicester Square for Token Gay Friend Andy's 40th birthday party on Saturday night. David drove Charlie and I over there and warned me against the evils of alcohol on an almost empty stomach - all I'd eaten in the previous four days was toast.

Of course, I was floored by my Woo Woo.

I'll say that again. I was floored by my Woo Woo. Charlie, having drunk a Bramble in three minutes flat, staggered over to the bar to get me "another drink sweets". She returned with a jug of Woo Woo and helped me to demolish it, along with a plate of Cajun Wedges and Stateside Dips. By the time I rang David to come and get me I was beginning to regret everything. Traffic problems meant that he suggested that Charlie and I walk/stagger to Whitehall and he'd pick us up by the Cenotaph. Charlie had got it into her head that he meant Whitechapel and kept talking about Jack the Ripper which set off a gaggle of Japanese tourists who were posing, in the dark, in Trafalgar Square.

I actually think the excessive consumption of alcohol killed off any lingering germs - but don't attempt this yourself.

David did his best to mediate between myself and his mother on Sunday but, when faced with a plateful of greasy pork, overcooked broccoli and rock hard potatoes, I refused point blank to eat it. She then accused me of being a drama queen and insisted I eat "half of it". Now I know how Mac feels when faced with spinach. I said no, she said yes, I suddenly realised I was a 36 year old woman in my own house and in charge of my own destiny so I got up from the table, closely followed by Mac (who came to check I was okay but also to escape his own plate) and then David who spent half an hour stroking my hair as I snuffled into a cushion. She left shortly after that.

But it's not all been bad. I've learnt that, after days of having what my mum would call a "tub down" in front of the bathroom sink because I was completely averse to getting wet because I felt so crap, your first shower is fantastic. I stayed in my first one last Thursday (I know, shocking) for half an hour. Sheer bliss.

And I've also learnt that I have lovely friends - cyber and otherwise - who send me nice emails and bring me lovely books to read and a sister who rings me from the most random of places to ask how I am.

"Darling, I hope you can hear me because I can't hear you but I thought I'd ring whilst waiting for Flavia to finish her flying lesson! I'm at Biggin Hill darling! Kent! Imagine that!"

Thursday, 22 January 2009


I thought I was getting better. As of yesterday, I wasn't. David was so concerned that he took the day off to "look after me". I tried not to go into the kitchen (smell/sight of food) because I didn't want to see the results of his attempt to get a bowl of Ready Brek into his son in my nice clean kitchen. After my second projectile vomit of the morning, he rang for the doctor because "this isn't right". We'd already had the "you're not, you know, you know......" conversation. I answered him whilst reading Armitage Shanks at very close quarters (after doing some in-my-head counting) and assured him he wasn't going to become a father again, weeks after becoming a grandfather.

"She's just not eating or drinking but keeps being sick and you know at the other end and I'm worried." I mentally rolled my eyes (too much energy to actually do it) at my beloved husband's attempt to get our GP out of his warm comfy consulting room. But then I had to throw up. Again. Obviously, Lovely Loretta at the Surgery heard me chundering and promised the doctor would be with us "soon".

He arrived just as David was leaving to collect Mac from school - he asked the same question that David did and received short shrift. I know that pregnancy affects different women in different ways but come on! I had intimate knowledge of every grain of pattern in our laminate flooring and I know the ingredients of Flash Liquid, that's not normal.

Apparently it's "something doing the rounds" and he's given me some nutrition drink that taste likes chocolate flavoured socks and told me to rest. David took today off to "look after me" but I've insisted he goes back to work tomorrow because I can't actually cope with feeling like this and being "looked after".

God love him!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


I've been ill. Pause here for sympathetic noises. Not ill as in a little bit dicky or oooh, something I've eaten but ill. I won't go into details as some of you may be eating but, suffice to say, the jeans I purchased in a mad fit of "I'll lose weight at some point that they'll fit" actually fit. Okay, so I can't breathe in them but I can do them up. And walk.

Not that I plan to continue with the rather drastic weight loss plan but my darling sister, who dropped in tonight with glossy magazines, lip gloss and - rather bizzarely - a pineapple, exclaimed "Sweetheart! You have cheek bones! Oh, this is wonderful!"

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Lenor, lemons and dust bunnies

I think I’m channelling Nigella, Anthea and Kim and Aggie (and quite possibly Kelly). Seriously. I’m not quite sure what is happening but, since we got our heat back on Monday I’ve been in a domestic whirl. Whilst Alf the Plumber was fiddling around in the boiler cupboard I noticed little dust bunnies in said cupboard that wafted out onto the bathroom floor when he shut the door and informed me that “T’was sorted”. The minute Alf left the house I was up in the bathroom hoovering out the boiler cupboard. It’s sparkly clean now and I’ve even put one of those hanging air fresheners in there. I didn’t leave it there, oh no.

I steam cleaned the bathroom tiles with the handy little steam cleaner thing that Amelia bought me for Christmas. My grout is sparkling.

Then I scrubbed every piece of enamel in the bathroom before going into the toilet and repeating the whole thing. It’s now cleaner than a nun’s imagination – it actually hurts your eyes to look at it. Mac is complaining even more about having to get in the bath.

I wasn’t finished there. Safe in the knowledge that my pride and joy was having tea at friend Jack’s house and I had all the time in the world, I polished the bannisters and hoovered the upstairs carpets. Twice. Are you impressed?

I’d like to point out at this stage that I do not live in a hovel – my house is clean and tidy (stray shoes and abandoned socks notwithstanding) but I was on a mission. Something had taken me over, I was a woman possessed.

David had agreed to collect Mac on his way home from work – when they both arrived home at gone six they found me in the kitchen fondling lemons, stirring rice and griddling chicken breasts. Both were open mouthed (David especially, apparently I was fondling the lemons “suggestively”) and even more so when I showed them the already laid table. I even washed up.

After the Tuesday school run I returned home to commune with my kitchen. I made a lamb shank stew and baked a cheesecake. Then I set about cleaning the kitchen, re-organising cupboards and generally whisking about with some bicarb.

Auntie Ivy dropped in with one of her catalogues - “have a look on page 174 and tell me if the woman in the green tracksuit hasn’t got a look of our next door neighbour” – and asked me if I was feeling okay. I assured her that I was and she left with a funny look on her face. When I looked in the mirror I saw why. My hair was sticking out at all angles, half caught in a scrunchie, my face was bright red with the effort of leaning in and out of cupboards and I had bicarb all over my (black) T-shirt.

In the afternoon I rearranged the living room, much to the consternation of the hounds who dislike upheaval. My paintwork is gleaming, my sofas have been Febrezed and I opened every window in the house and huddled in my fleece jacket for two hours telling myself I was “airing” the place.

Yesterday I literally tackled the utility room. It smells heavenly in there but only in certain places…..half Lenor, half musty. I found out why when I manoeuvred the washing machine out of its little niche – the jeans that I thought had blown off the line before Christmas were moulding up nicely in the corner. It now smells as clean as a summer meadow and I think the washing machine benefited from its little shimmy – it’s stopped freaking out every time it does the spin cycle.

Mac and I made biscuits when we got home from school – he’s not quite sure how to cope with this New Domesticated Mummy. I didn’t even whinge when he trod cookie dough into the floor. As a result we had a jolly afternoon and made “not gingerbread men” and decorated them with sultanas. And I agreed to his request of “beans on toast for tea please mummy”.

Today I’ve been wafting around the house in leisure-wear (Bea, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry) inhaling the lemony freshness, marvelling at my gleaming surfaces, casting my gaze over all that I survey and content in the knowledge that, for now anyway, all is right with my world.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Big Chill

Well, Boiler Man (Alf) arrived at 10.35am on Saturday morning. He left at 10.40am with a promise to return "maybe Monday" with the part that our boiler requires. Five minutes to note

a) how cold it was in the house
b) that we've got a "top of the range" boiler
c) that no doubt we're missing hot water "That's what people take for granted you know!"
d) that it'll only be a matter of "unclipping one bit and putting in the new part but it's going to cost a fair bit oh, and here's my call out bill which I'll need to take for now"

I stayed out of the way while David dealt with him (to be honest I was standing in front of the oven warming my bottom half) but I noted that

a) plumbers are good at stating the bloody obvious
b) I know, so why isn't it frigging well working (my language deteriorates when I'm stressed)
c) No shit Sherlock (see "b" brackets)
d) 90 quid? £18 per minute? I'm in the wrong job. That's more than David Beckham gets, surely?

So. Whilst we wait for Alf to return "maybe Monday" we are managing. The kettle has been overworked so much that I now apologise to it every time I click it on. Mac is okay, he's been staying with Bea since Saturday morning and rings me every now and again to say things like "I'm a bit hot mummy, I had to have my window open last night!" and "It's really warm in Auntie Bea's bathroom!" which isn't helping David who would live in the bathroom if he could. He's never happier than when his splashing around in the bath or shower - the enforced abstention is killing him. He's even seriously thinking about taking Marjorie Stewart up on her offer of "taking his ablutions next door"

The dogs have taken to dragging their fleeces around with them - Junior Dog looked like Little Red Riding hood whilst he was waiting for his dinner last night, draped in his red fleece. They're all still sharing the one basket and spent last night fighting with David for bed space. They're not usually allowed on the bed but needs must. I had hounds packed tightly around me which meant that David had about six inches of mattress and no duvet. I woke up this morning to find him wrapped in his dressing gown, perched on the edge of the bed.

I've discovered that fan heaters only heat the air directly in front of them. We have ten (donated by neighbours) dotted all around the house and more cold spots than hot. I think that Gladys is also complaining about the cold because things are being moved around the house again. We lost the TV remote control this morning (come on, the TV is the only thing keeping us going!) and found it after a frantic search (David, not me, I was wrapped in my duvet on the sofa under Senior Dog) in the cutlery drawer.

I'm cooking a curry for tonight, Mac will be taken to school by Flavia in the morning and David is, for the first time in ages, looking forward to going to work. My healthy eating plan has gone out of the window and I'm dreaming about doughnuts and Sara Lee desserts. And hot chocolate. And custard. And fondues. And........

Friday, 9 January 2009

Beyond cold

Our boiler expired at ten past eight tonight with a thud, a clunk and a prolonged hiss. David informs me that it's "buggered". We have fan heaters all over the house so it sounds like a jumbo jet is about to land. I am wearing tracksuit over pyjamas and have towelling bath robe on. David is dressed in about sixteen different layers topped off with Amelia's Christmas jumper (it's got gigantic robins in it, it's homemade) so he must be cold. All three dogs are sharing one basket and keep fighting over the fleeces.

Bea has offered us sanctuary but we can't leave the dogs and Bea is "unhappy" about the idea of them wandering in and out on her parquet flooring. Charlie has offered to come and "lift our spirits" by bringing hot water bottles and a few bottles of the alcoholic variety. Frank and Marjorie, on hearing our plight, have offered us a paraffin heater (treacherous with Junior Dog skittering about). I'm chain-drinking Galaxy hot chocolate so the healthy eating plan has gone for a burton and all I can think about his apple pie and custard.

It's cold and its miserable and we're unlikely to get a plumber round until mid afternoon and will then have to pay weekend rates. But then, having watched the Anne Frank Story on BBC1 all week and the the documentary that followed it on BBC4......I think we're all very lucky.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Easy when you know how

The school run this morning was easier. On Tuesday we had tears, tantrums, claims of “You don’t love me mummy” (which really did a lot for the guilt levels) and massive sulks (according to Mr S about 90% of his class were in similar moods) all day. But Jessima, the sweet classroom assistant, informed me that he enjoyed his lessons and his shepherds pie for lunch. On Tuesday, Bea’s au pair Flavia picked him up and took him to school. Bea suggested it because “darling, if you’re stressed, then so is he”. The little turncoat skipped out of the door clutching his school bag and chirruping “Byeeee mummy!” as if he were auditioning for a cereal commercial. Flavia looked from him to me and gaped. She had obviously been told she would need to prise/bribe my child out of the door.

Today was calmer. I made no reference to the word “school” or conveyed any urgency whatsoever about getting there. I meandered over my Special K (is it me or is it really horrible?), sipped my tea thoughtfully and generally mooched whilst Mac ran around getting dressed (wrongly, but he tried), brushing both hair and teeth (he got that right) and finding (polished) shoes. “Erm, mummy?” he queried eventually. It was twenty to nine at this point. “Yes?” I replied, reaching casually for heat magazine. “Aren’t we going to school today?”


After I dropped him off I came home via Argos. We needed a new laundry basket (the previous one was made of wicker and has been slowly unravelling since October – I threw a T-shirt in there last night and the whole thing collapsed in a heap) and I got some Argos vouchers for Christmas and thought I’d take advantage of the sales.

Big mistake. It seemed that the entire population of Peckham was crammed into Rye Lane Argos. There were three people on the till and, when I joined the queue, there were fifteen people in front of me. I’d used “Ring and Reserve” to pre-order my items: laundry basket, kingsize duvet set and set of tea/coffee/sugar canisters. Don’t tell me I don’t know how to live the high life.

There was a woman in front of me who must have bathed in Obsession perfume. She made my eyes itch and I still have the sore throat. She knew one of the three people on the till and there was lots of eye contact going on between them both which made me feel uneasy for some reason. The lady behind me kept bumping into me as we shuffled along slowly. She looked as if she were in full possession of the basic faculties (sight and hearing) yet kept bumping into me so forcibly that I ended up with a close up view of Obsession Woman’s hair clip each time which, as you can imagine, went down like a cup of cold sick.

After the seventh time I turned round and gave her A Look. After the tenth time, I apologised for being in her way in such a sarcastic tone that the man in front of Obsession Woman got the giggles.

After twenty minutes of queuing I reached till number two and found myself in front of Devon. Devon didn’t speak but held out his hand for my order slip. “They’re all in stock” he informed me, as if I hadn’t “Rung and Reserved”. I did not give him the pithy answer I wanted to as I didn’t have the energy.

Nor did I have the energy to sit on a brightly colour chair (all bolted to the floor) and wait for the remarkably bright computerised voice to inform me that my “item number five-one-five-three is at the collection point”. Woman Behind Me came up and promptly sat next to me, disgorging the contents of her bag all over the floor as she did so. As she bent down to pick up her purse she all but headbutted me in the ribs. She had barely had chance to put everything back in her bag before her item number was called and collected. I gaped. People ahead of me in the queue had their items and were out of the door. People after me, ditto.

I sat and seethed for five minutes whilst the purple jumpered staff behind the collection points went into a flurry of packaging items and stamping receipts. It was then that I saw my three items, clustered together on the top shelf. Hah, any minute now!”

Three minutes later the computerised voice had not announced that I could go to the collection point. Well, I went anyway. “That’s mine, all three of those” I said, quite politely, to a neon pink taloned young lady with a stud through her bottom lip whilst pointing to my easily visible items. She gave me a cursory look and continued her conversation about paper cuts. “They’re mine” I said, leaning towards my items and smiling winningly to a beautifully coiffed young gentleman who was skittering about delivering items to various customers, all of whom were snapping and snarling and not saying thank you.

I took a deep breath. Apologised to my mother for what I was about to do. Winced everso slightly and snarled “Just give me the stuff I’ve paid for and I’ll leave you to it yeah?”.

At which point I had three assistants vying to put my items in bags for me, all of them poised to stamp my receipt. As if by magic my surly tones had summoned assistance – it’s not right though is it? It seems, unfortunately, that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

No wonder the chairs are bolted to the floor.

Monday, 5 January 2009

For whom the school bell tolls

For someone who has spent almost the entire Christmas break reminiscing about the “fun” that he has at school, Mac is showing a distinct lack of interest about going back to school tomorrow. For the past fortnight, his conversation has been peppered with phrases such as “Oliver makes me laugh mummy” and “I eat my lunch with Jessica sometimes” and “I like Mr S, he is funny”. When we walked past the school the other day (when I encountered Dawn and her Thornton’s toffees – but that’s another paragraph) we had to stand outside so that we could peer through the gates to “see if anyone is there”. A patrol car slowed down and kept a beady eye on us so we moved along pretty sharpish I can tell you.

Yesterday, I asked him to find his school shoes so I could polish them. “Why?” he said, peering over his comic at me and looking just like his father. “So I can clean them for Tuesday” I replied. “Why?” he repeated. “So they’re clean for school” I said. He gave me a look as if to suggest that he didn’t want to go to school on Tuesday, much less in clean shoes.

This morning I woke him up at usual “school” time – half past seven which is half an hour earlier than he has been waking up. He burrowed down deeper into his bed, wailing. I’ve spent today bouncing around the house with faux bounciness exclaiming things like “wow, you’re so lucky to be back at school tomorrow” and “are you looking forward to seeing all of your friends?” in an attempt to buoy him up. It’s not working. He’s currently sitting on the sofa looking like a little old man who has just been told there are no more Werther’s Originals.

And talking of Werthers Originals and Thornton’s toffees foisted upon me outside school gates, I’ve been really good these last couple of days. No, seriously. I mean, obviously I haven’t been sticking rigidly to my low fat, low sugar, low carb, no caffeine, no fun whatsoever diet BUT I’ve stuck to a diet of sorts. Or should I say “eating plan”. Say the word “diet” to me and you can usually find me face down in an Ayres gateau ten minutes later. I’ve decided to eat sensibly and healthily AND on Friday walked round Sainsburys up and down the cake aisle twice and did not buy anything. Nothing in the sweet bakery section found itself in my trolley. I even surprised myself. And I didn’t do my usual trick of sitting in the car on the way home saying “Ooooh, I wish I’d bought that Danish/muffin/cookie/slab cake now”.

So I’ve had the odd packet of Quavers (they’re not crisps so they don’t count) and the occasional snifter of Roses (Marjorie dropped them round as a belated thank you for having them over Christmas) – I haven’t gone mad, that’s the point.

Unlike Jane Opposite who approached me this morning while I was sorting the bins out. She was wearing a full length leopardskin coat, furry hat and dark glasses. She looked like……well, I don’t know what she looked like. “You alright?” I asked her. Bill and Jane Opposite were suspiciously quiet over the festive period – there are normally a couple of rows that spill out into the street. Last Boxing Day Jane could be heard screeching at her girls “Well, I’m fed up with effing turkey an’ all but it’s effing Christmas innit?”. Last New Years Day Bill stormed out of the house at ten past nine in the morning, gunned the Porsche and didn’t return until the fourth of January.

“Depends what you mean by alright” she said. It turns out that Bill and Jane had agreed on a “no present” rule for each other but then, at the last minute, she had cracked and bought him a watch. As a result he sulked throughout Christmas Day. “So, the day after Boxing Day he went online and found one of them clinics, you know, that do…..stuff” she added, shivering as a particularly arctic gust of wind blew up The Avenue. I asked her in for a proper chat which she refused. “I haven’t been able to sit down since Friday night” she explained, leaning on the fence and wincing.

It turns out that Bill bought her liposuction of the thighs, bottom and stomach as a belated Christmas present. Jane lowered her glasses an inch or two and I caught sight of red raw eyes “He thought I’d love it. The surgeon assures me I will. Once I can sit down, breathe and walk properly”

Thursday, 1 January 2009


The first day of a new year and all I want to do is sit in the warm, swaddled in fleeces and drinking hot beverages. I did, however, venture out this morning at ten to nine with Mac and all three dogs for a run round Peckham Rye park whilst David scrambled eggs and peeled smoked salmon off of the packet. I'm not a great fan of New Years Eve - I think that it's all a bit maudlin, there even (for me, anyway) seems to have a forced jollity about it all. Grinning presenters on BBC1 and all that. Bah Humbug even.

I'm having an odd day. I feel a bit low, but then it's that time of year isn't it? I'm a generally happy, bright person so find it incredibly hard to be melancholy but I know I need to let that emotion out so that I can get back on track again. Wow, this is so unlike me, I feel I need to give myself a good shake!

My mood is gradually improving as the day goes on though. They're showing an Only Fools and Horses marathon on G.O.L.D at the moment which never fails to make me smile, no matter how often I see it. Lots of snuggles and cuddles on the sofa, David is doing me a favour by eating the last of the Quality Street, Senior and Middle Dog are upside down in their beds in the warm and cosy hallway whilst Junior Dog is lying flat out in the middle of the room. Mac is reluctantly letting me share the sofa with him and about sixteen million toys.

This scene is coming up soon so I'm going back to the sofa to enjoy it fully.

Tomorrow is another day, when normal Nunhead Mum service will be resumed!

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.