Thursday, 28 February 2008

Sick Day

My son dragged his weary legs, white and skinny in baggy spiderman pyjama shorts, up the steps of his white cabin bed. He pulled the duvet up and reached out for the blankie and "cub" that help him sleep. He rested his handsome head on the soft blue pillow, looked at me with eyes almost crying, and heaved a great sigh of relief. I felt his burning forehead and took his temperature for the 10th time today ... 103 again. "I'm sorry this hasn't been the best day ever", I said with a heavy heart, my eyes almost crying too. "Yeah, today was a bit rubbish", came the sad reply.

20 minutes later my daughter, not one to tiptoe when stomping is an option, made her way noisily to the bathroom. We went through the usual routine of teeth, toilet, giggling and a bit of a performance. "You'll definitely be well enough for school tomorrow" I said firmly, "this hasn't been a very good day, has it?" She didn't comment but looked at me intently the way she does: seeing my thoughts, reading my feelings, taking note.

Both kids were home sick today, and I was ill too. As I work until 3pm every weekday and never get anything done, I thought this might be an opportunity to catch up with phone calls, bills and stuff. How wrong I was. The children wouldn't play together, they whined and battled over everything, I felt rough and achieved nothing, and we were bored and irritated all day long. I spent 14 hours seething and cursing under my breath, wishing I was anywhere but here. But then later, as they snuggled their tiny bodies down to sleep, I felt awful for not making their sick day more enjoyable.

Does every parent find parenting as confusing as I do?

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Timeless Friend

I remember stroking your white cat Albert, in the shade of the giant pampus grass outside your old house (age 5?)

I remember telling ghost stories, hidden behind the raspberry bushes in my back garden. It was always summer back then (age 6?)

I remember the secret scribblings we hid for each other in the girls' loos at school, and the whispered code that meant "I've left you a note" (age 7?)

I remember doing a dance routine on your sofa, singing into hairbrush microphones to "Mr Blue Sky" by ELO, in matching vest and knicker sets (age 8?)

I remember pretending Starsky and Hutch were our boyfriends. Only we both wanted Starsky (age 9?)

I remember getting into trouble for sneaking out of school without asking, to go to your house for lunch (age 10?)

I remember us fighting with the boys and rolling down the big grassy hill at the edge of the field (age 11?)

Last night we sat talking in my kitchen (age 39 & 40) ... you haven't changed a bit x

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

No Contest

After a 3 week absence, Big G is home, and we're all happy.
He's popped out ... to get wine ... so I've popped online ... to have a whine.

When we had tiny babies, we did that irritating thing that all new parents do: have Tiredness Competitions. It's a scientifically proven fact that out with baby comes an umbilically attached urge to let your partner know exactly how tired you are, and exactly why you've had a much harder day than they have. You know the routine:
"That was the worst night I ever had"
"I only slept about 2 hours"
"I've haven't stopped all day, I don't think I even had lunch"
"It's so hot in our room, I didn't sleep a wink"
"I've been up since 4, couldn't get back to sleep"
"I'm so exhausted, how am I going to get through the day"
"I just can't get on top of anything, I need more help"
And it's all true. I reckon I won the Tiredness Competitions most of the time, mainly because I submitted my winning entries with infinitely far more fury, expletives, ferocity and wine-fuelled venom than my placid, gentle giant of a man ever would.

Big G almost got home last night on a flight from Washington DC, but halfway to England the plane broke, turned around, and sped all the way back to where it started. So he had to wait around for hours, get on a later flight overnight, then take a bus, then a taxi to home. Then he had to look after the kids because I couldn't get out of working today. And that's on top of severe pilot sleep-deprivation due to several night flights and early starts in a row.

So I don't think I'll bother starting a Tiredness Competition tonight. He'll win.

Off now, for a glass of Rioja. Chin chin!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

One Mattress Too Few

Two of my nephews came for a sleepover. One (11) clutching a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' DVD; the other (7) clutching his special milk and all manner of Spongebobbery to snuggle in bed. I'm proud of the younger boy and my daughter (also age 7), for having mastered the art of pretending to be asleep when they hear me walking upstairs. I'm sure they think I'm too dim to realise that all that giggling, rustling and thumping is actually them.

I meant to borrow my sister's zed-bed, wrote it on a list, and of course forgot. So the big bulky 11-year old is now trying to sleep on some rather narrow sofa cushions, held together with an elasticated sheet, underneath my son's cabin bed. In my defence, I did try to alleviate the bed shortage by inviting one of my kids to sleep in with me tonight, but they solemnly shook their heads. No. Way. Jose.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Glass Half Full

Like just about everyone I know, I've been drinking on and off for 22 years. For various reasons, and to various extents, and all in all I think my liver could do with a rest. So I'm off the wine at the moment, partly because my brain functions better without it (not that that's necessarily a good thing), and partly because I've been known to mutate into a rude, cantankerous, gnarly old bitch the morning after a glass or two. The best way to stay on the wagon is to not buy booze. If there's wine, I'll drink wine; If there isn't, I'm not bothered.

However ... Big G (that's the old pot and pan) is coming home on Monday. He's away a lot, flying planes, so when he re-appears we all get a bit giddy and stay up too late. And, on account of the fact that he has a whopping great Airbus strapped to his derrier most of the time, he doesn't drink much when we're apart either. So next week I might have to break my new good habit and crack open the odd bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to celebrate his home-coming. It would be rude not to, after all.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


I once read that the word most commonly uttered (or rasped) by a dying person in the final throes, is "mother".

In any language, mother ... or mama, mom, moeder, mana, mater, maman ... means the same thing: the one who held you, fed you, cared for you, protected you. Whatever happens later in life, an infant always thinks its mother is the centre of its universe. So no wonder a dying person thinks of the one who gave them their life, as they feel it slip away. Knowing this fact makes me a little nervous - if I'm that important, I'd better make sure that when my children are 95 and I'm long gone, they'll remember me in a good light!

I know I didn't appreciate my Mama, Mom, Moeder, Mana, Mater, Maman enough when I was growing up. It was easy to take her for granted, because she was so dependable, fair, consistent and unfailingly on my side. She still is, and I'm pleased we live 9 minutes away from her now, instead of 4 hours.

I wouldn't mind my final word being "mother". It's better than "don't shoot", I suppose! Or "for God's sake, slow down". Or "are you sure my parachute is packed properly?" Hmmm. I hope it's "goodnight, see you in the morning".

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

In Appreciation

One of my mantras is: "But I'm not ready."
Another is: "Sorry I'm late."

6 whole days ago ... I know, shame on me ... the mother of this lot kindly gave me an award. Apparently when you get one, you are meant to pass it on to 10 other bloggers. And, as I haven't done this yet, I am clearly shirking my responsibilities (nothing new there then). I do, as always, have excuses for my tardiness ... but they're not at all interesting. I expect some of my favourite bloggers already have the "E for Excellent" award, so I taken the liberty of creating a new prize called the "Keep Up The Good Work" award. Being new to this game, I'm not sure if this is strictly the done thing, but if not, feel free to take me to a Blog-Etiquette-Violation-Tribunal.

So without further ado (drumroll please), I hereby bestow this award upon the following:

Potty Mummy
Family Affairs
The Land of Sand
david mcmahon
Pig in the Kitchen
The Other Side of Paris
Wife in the North
Stay at home dad
Frog Blog by Frog in the Field
mother's pride
Nuts in May

Oops that's 12, got carried away there, oh well never mind.
Annoyingly the links don't seem to work, never done that before, sorry :-/

Yes You Are

My kids like watching that show 'Drake and Josh' on Nickelodeon, and today there was a scene where these two boys do a sort of Blues Brothers rendition of 'Soul Man'. My daughter, quite adept at making up lyrics she hasn't quite heard right, spent the rest of the day singing 'I'm Sooo Mad'! Didn't have the heart to correct her.

Monday, 11 February 2008


The downside of growing up in a safe and pleasant town is boredom. But the upside of boredom is the chance to daydream.

My primary school years were blissfully jolly, but from the ages of 11 to 18, I was a typical angst-ridden teenager. Safe? Definitely. Shy? Yes. Scared? A little. Bored? Absolutely. As a result, my tender teenage years spawned a million dreams, most of which got lost over two foggy decades as drunk student, stressed-out executive and manic, self-employed mother of two.

But wait. I'm back. In the place where all my teenage dreams took shape. One of my reasons for leaving Cheshire - lovely as Cheshire is - was that I had lost sight of my dreams. Some people dismiss daydreams as mere fantasy; I think they're a telescope through which you can see the twinkling of your hopes, your spirit.

The north west is abnormally cloudy most of the time, so I never really saw the stars. Back down south, the stars come out all the time.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The Myth of Housework

I scored a U in one of my O levels. That’s U for Ungraded. Useless. Unworthy of even an F (Fail). The subject? Greek Classics. At the tender age of 16, I haughtily decided that stories of Oedipus, Pandora and the like were so pointless and irrelevant that I didn’t bother reading the books. Hence I flunked the exam. Utterly.

There was however one story that I must have read because I remember it to this day – the sorry tale of Sisyphus. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a mischievous king who had to roll a huge rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again when he had nearly reached the top. He was condemned to do this for all eternity, as punishment for tricking the gods. Over the years, thinkers and writers have interpreted this myth in many ways: perhaps it refers to the interminable pattern of the sun rising and setting each day? Perhaps it refers to people who strive for wealth, but fail time and again to find happiness in their possessions? Any task that is repetitive, unfulfilling and without real purpose may be called Sisyphean.

But it is only now, 20+ years after my own Greek (Classics O level) tragedy, that I finally see the relevance of a Greek myth. “EUREKA!” to quote Archimedes. The story of Sisyphus is surely about housework. Housework is as Sisyphean as an activity can be. Parents tidy up, and children follow them around making a mess again. We put away the trains, and out come the cars. We tidy up the pens, and out come the paints. We clean up after breakfast, and then it’s lunchtime. We sort out the clean clothes, and the kids get grubby. Again. And where do all the bits come from? The little rubber things, scraps of paper, and miscellaneous toy parts that have been detached from their original playthings and scuff about the carpet and under the furniture making the house look like a junkyard. It’s a fact of life that every time you clean up a family home, more mess appears. Quickly.

Housework is unavoidable, repetitive and unfulfilling. It’s something we parents have to do day in day out, to make our homes safe and comfortable places to play, eat and sleep. But, given the Sisyphean nature of housework, no wonder it’s the part of parenting that most people find the hardest. No wonder that, although they’re probably great parents, so many people score a U in housework. That’s U for Untidy, Unkempt, and Unbelievably chaotic!

Friday, 8 February 2008


One Christmas, while visiting Big G's family in America, word got out that I'm not half bad at cooking roast potatoes. As the festive kitchen operates in a fairly democratic manner over there, I took on the task with due seriousness. Well we couldn't sit down to Christmas dinner with disappointing potatoes now, could we? As one person carved, one trimmed green beans, one poured wine and the children chased the dogs, I tended the spuds. I basted, turned and checked on them, clucking and fussing, making sure they were coming along okay. My mother-in-law, able to see the funny side of anything, watched until she could bear it no longer: "you're like an EXPECTANT MOTHER!" she blurted. And I was. I must have done an alright job though, as the next year I got promoted to gravy.

All week I've been tending my blog. Like an expectant mother, clucking and fussing, making sure it's coming along okay.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Peking Luck

Yesterday I went to the posh hardware store in town, who claim to stock everything you need for the kitchen. I asked for chopsticks. They didn't have any. "Try the Chinese restaurant", the bloke said.

I went to the Peking Chef, and asked politely whether my children could please have some chopsticks for the school's Chinese New Year tasting party. "Oooh, we don't have many spare", he fretted, glancing nervously at the biggest pile of sticks I have ever seen. "I only want two pairs", I explained, "can I give you some money?"

The party went well, the children came home with garlic breath, and tonight they ate sausages, mash and gravy with chopsticks. It can be done. Me, I'm £2 lighter, but I reckon it was worth it.

Slightly Embarrassed Now

Most charming of you, the mother of this lot, to give me an award. Me being the new kid on the block, n' all! Thank you.

I think I'm supposed to pass it on, but goodness knows how I do that. Another night, maybe.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008


Today I made the mistake of mentioning to my 20-something child-less colleague that once, when my son was behaving like an abominable little terrorist, I told him that children who are allowed to do whatever they feel like and don't learn to do what their mummy tells them, grow up to be baddies and go to jail. Well it's true, isn't it? She was horrified, like I was the abominable one.

Generation Game

Grandad wore a tie to the doctor's and peeled the lunch-time potatoes before breakfast. His bear-hugs could break even the sturdiest of ribs. He had a full head of snowy hair, full red lips in a permanent smile, and overgrown eyebrows twirling skyward like soft-whip ice cream cones.

Grandad, Dad and I were born 30 years apart. As I reached 40, Dad turned 70; Grandad would have had a telegram from Her Majesty, had he not already been ten-toes-up. When I was little, we three sometimes reminded each other of our 30-year gaps ... like we were the privileged members of some kind of silly age-pattern club, or something. I liked being the youngest.

Yesterday my parents brought the children home, having had them round for tea. As Dad smiled and pulled on his hat to go, he looked momentarily just like his father (but without the wayward eyebrows). Oh no, I thought, you're the oldest now. A demon stood on my shoulder. He glanced furtively around, leaned in towards my ear and hissed: "you're next".

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Polly's Rescue

In the glam rocking, flare wearing, long hot hippy days of the late 1970's, there was a girl in my school called Polly. She was unusually large, had an unusually long chin, and was unusually awkward. She wasn't shy, but said all the wrong things and made all the wrong faces at all the wrong times. She tried so hard to make friends, but the girls kept her on the edge, teasing her slightly and rolling their eyes whenever she came near. I wept inside for her, but there was nothing I could do. Nothing I would do anyway, for befriending the outcast is social suicide for a 10 year-old.

I saw Polly in town yesterday. I couldn't stop staring. I wanted to apologise. Same build, same chin, but gone is that tortured, needy look in her eyes. As she took her daughter's hand, she looked happy. I can only assume she has found someone who loves her, and that she can now love herself too. Either that, or she's found a really good therapist. We had a brief, gasping, oh-my-god-it's-you conversation, and I walked away. Happy too.

Monday, 4 February 2008

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

I have an assignment. My task is to write about spring. Paralysed by writer’s block, I ask my son what he thinks about spring. “Hmmm …” he ponders, rubbing his chin as all good thinkers do. “It makes me want to lie in the middle of the garden on the grass. It feels nice, all warm and sunny on top of my eyes”. Wow. Me too.

But what is it about spring that makes us come over all misty-eyed and poetic? Perhaps it’s the gloomy feeling that winter will never end – and then suddenly it does – that inspires us. Spring is gentle, with its delicate blossom buds, its soft baby leaves and weak rays of sunshine trying feebly to warm us up; Winter is monstrous, with its icy grip and roaring wind, assaulting us with freezing sleet under a blanket of darkness. And yet spring is victorious every time! David slays Goliath, in a seasonal manner of speaking.

A Tight Spot

It's taken me 9 weeks to get used to shoes. During 8 years of working (and dossing about) at home, I lived in bare feet and flip flops, reluctantly pulling on trainers for the school-run, or coffee at Starbucks. The worst thing about starting a 'proper' job was having to wear sensible shoes again. Okay obviously the shoes weren't the worst thing, but they did add uncomfortable, sweaty insult to the injury of having a boss and no time at all to go for coffee anymore.

But the thing I will never ever ever ever EVER get used to is tights. Who the hell invented tights? It can't have been a woman. Every other day I wear trousers but today, most unusually, I had to go and meet a potential client in the City. Expecting them all to be smart city-slickers (which they weren't), I felt duty-bound to wear a suit. I only have one (ugly but hey, machine-washable) Marks and Spencers black suit, and in a moment of madness went for the skirt option instead of the trousers. Hence the tights. Itchy, pully, hot, stifling, nasty bits of nylon that threaten to ladder at any second without cause or warning. Tomorrow I'll be back in trousers and, dammit, to offset the discomfort of today, I might even wear trainers to work.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Blood Brother

The curious thing about blogging - unlike just plain writing - is that you don't know who you're writing for. Will anyone read this? Will strangers? Or just friends and family that I send the link to? Or will my posts remain my own (not-so) secret diary of the days when I had two small children, a far-away husband and a mid-life crisis to worry about?

In case anyone who doesn't know me pops in for a peek, let me explain. One year ago I lived in Cheshire with my husband, ran a small business, had two kids settled at school and good friends nearby. Then Big G - that's the husband - took a great job in America where he grew up. The plan was we would follow him over the ocean and set up home ... but ... we changed our minds. Long story, much soul-searching, anyway we didn't go. Returning 'home' to America turned out to be all the proof we needed that London is where our little family belongs. Tried to sell the house - didn't. Tried to sell the business - did. Took a job in my home town, scooped up the children, phoned the removal men, and here I am. Rather dazed and confused, but here I am. Waiting now, for Big G's return.

Meanwhile, L, B and I went for a meal tonight with my brother, his wife and their two mad boys in their little white cottage with a red door. I adore my brother. Always have. It's good to be home.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Five a Day

Child: "I don't want the vegetables"
Parent: "Just eat them please"
Child: "But I don't like green beans. Or carrots"
Parent: "Yes you do. Okay, give me half and eat the other half"
Child: "I don't want any"
Parent: "You need to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, it keeps you healthy"
Child: "I've eaten enough fruit and vegetables already today. I had raisons - they're fruit"
Parent: "Right. Let's just eat up shall we"
Child: "Are crisps fruit and vegetables?"
Parent: "No"
Child: "Yes they are, they're made from potato. Potatoes are vegetables"
Parent: "True. But I still don't think crisps can be called fruit and vegetables"
Child: "Well they are in My World"
Other Child: "Anyone who wants to enter My World, line up for an interview"

That's okay, I think, I'll pass.

Shall We Play Families?

H was here. She's 9 and lives next door. After a cool month or so of pretending they don't play with dolls any more, the girls have finally warmed up enough to admit that nothing could be further from the truth. So now, from the minute H invites herself in, the game of Families begins. H is always the Mum (on account of her 'eldest' status) who takes the two oldest doll-kids to nursery; L is always the teenage sister who stays at home to look after the two smallest doll-babies; B's the Dad - a title which, until recently, L wouldn't let him take for fear that he would consider himself in charge. Dad goes to work, in the game: Doctor, Office Worker, Policeman, Motorbike Racer, Robber, Soldier. Clearly he's keeping his career options open.

H has a vivid imagination. Apparently she once used an encyclopedia to find out what robbers eat, and it said 'horse meat'.

A Word About the Move, by B, aged 6

I moved house from my old one, and it was very very busy. There was a big truck that was mostly light blue, and when it got to the house that we were in, we weren't even starting to drive. Then we started heading off, and it was three hours to get there. And I had a look all around when I got to the new house, I was really pleased when I got to this new house too. And that is the end of my blog for today.