Wednesday 31 December 2008

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

What an odd year this has been. For our little family, 2008 began with sorrow and is ending with optimism. The rest of the world examines its cuts and bruises, and wonders ... what next? 2009 is waking up.

For me, the new year is a time to hug my loved ones close and give thanks for all my blessings. Whatever might have pulled me down last year, it's time to bounce back and start afresh this year!

May all you delightful writers and readers out there in the blogosphere be blessed with fine fortune, rosy-cheeked good health, a spring in your tail, joy in your hearts and fun fun fun fun fun. x

Saturday 27 December 2008

The Wrong Kind of Cough

I can't sleep because every time I lie down I start coughing. Sitting up helps the cough, but not the sleep. I spent Christmas night on the sofa so Big G could sweat out his flu fever in delirious solitude.

So I went to the chemist today and asked for some medicine that would suppress my cough at night.

"Is it chesty or tickly?" asked the pharmacist.

"Chesty", I wheezed.

"Sorry, no, we've only got tickly", she said firmly, with a sidelong glance at a large shelf groaning under the weight of at least 30 different types of cough medicine.

"But I bought Benylin for chesty coughs", I explained, coughing, "but it just loosens everything up and makes you cough more. I want something that stops me coughing at night".

"Well, I don't know ... if it's chesty ..."

"What about that one?" I blurted, pointing at a serious looking bottle labelled NIGHT-TIME COUGH SUPPRESSANT MEDICINE.

The pharmacist frowned. "Hmmm, well it won't cure the cause of the cough, it'll just stop you coughing".

"I'll take it", I said.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

The Sick, the Sicker and the Very Excited

The Sick = Big G and Me. We are wretched with earaches, headaches, sore throats and rattling coughs from the deep that make 40-a-day smokers sound healthy.

The Sicker = Grandad G. He flew in with wheelchair assistance and is hobbling around the house, able to walk only when leaning on a rail or an arm. The slapdash doctor who's trying to avoid the inevitable Knee Operation will have an ear-ache of his own in the new year, when Big G gets on the phone.

The Very Excited = Who else? At 7 and 8 years old, the children are still splendidly Santa-Centric. They leap and whoop their way past the presents and the tree, the lights and the chocolates, all the way to Thursday. I really hope I feel better by then ...!!

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Oh, Tannenbaum

I can smell it now, that magical whiff of pine needles and oven-fresh mince pies. We dust off the Bing Crosby carol CD, and his velvet voice competes with the shrieks of the children. I love that cold afternoon when we turn up the heating and put up the tree.

The twinkling trees that light up the land between December and twelfth night have their roots in sixteenth century Germany (‘Tannenbaum’ means ‘fir tree’ in German). Folklore tells us that the triangular shape of the fir represented the holy trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – and that originally Christmas trees were hung upside down.

Even the right way up, they didn’t really catch on with the English until, in December 1848, the London News printed a woodcut illustration of Queen Victoria with her German Prince Albert, standing in front of one. Victoria was a popular queen, and Christmas trees became quite the fashion after that.

Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Christmas tree fashions came and went. In World War II they were forbidden except in public places where they were put up to boost moral. They returned in the glow of post-war nostalgia, and families gleefully shopped at Woolworth’s for baubles, tinsel, angels and stars. The psychedelic 60’s brought us tacky, pre-lit silver trees, and 1970’s housewives bought plastic green ones that didn’t drop needles on the carpet.

I have always thought that, like dogs, Christmas trees say something about their owners: Some are small and neatly tucked in the corner; some lush and gloriously overcrowded with quirky baubles; others a simple, quiet statement of elegance. Oh Tannenbaum, what a lot you have to tell us.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Tea-Towels and Tinsel

An obedient hush came over the audience as the Head Teacher stood up on the stage in his courdoroy suit, with his rosy cheeks and shaggy rock-star hair. "If you're expecting a Christmassy feel to the show, you won't be disappointed", he grinned, "there are tea-towels on heads, lots of tinsel and glitter, it's really wonderful".

Aaahh, the infants' nativity. Every child - the good and the naughty, the dim and the sharp - has a little part to play. My son was a Narrator and wore a white shirt and black bow tie. The Donkey plodded about and looked embarrassed. The Sheep wiggled their tails and got a hearty laugh. The Innkeepers shook their heads. The biggest girl was in charge of holding the extra-large star on a stick, and got some extra-loud applause. Twenty more Stars in yellow t-shirts and golden crowns waved their arms and sang about twinkling in the East. The Angels sang too - a little out of tune perhaps - but it sounded heavenly to me. The youngest Shepherd yawned as it got close to bedtime.

It's delicious, the school nativity. It makes us parents do those proud, misty-eyed, movie-mother sorts of smiles.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Outside Looking In

I went out running the other night. I'd left it too late and it was dark already. Not just darkish, but freezing cold, icy black dark, with tiny stars peeping through the wispy fog hovering above the trees. I wished I'd worn a hat.

I started running up the hill and did a bit of a skid on a patch of ice. Shit, I thought. Turning round and going home was not an option, I'd been waiting all day for this run. So I jogged on slowly instead - taking small, careful granny steps - treading on piles of old crunchy leaves whenever I could, to reduce the chances of slipping.

I love running in the dark. Gardens are spooky and all is quiet. People sit in their brightly-lit lounges with the curtains wide open, scratching themselves and feeding their faces, watching TV and not caring that I can look in and see them as clearly as if they were on TV themselves.

I run slowly past, invisible, breathing in icy gulps of air, glad that I'm outside and they're not.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Stop, Look and Listen

We parents tell our children lots of things we think they need to know. "Never trust a man who wears a ring on the outside of his gloves", for example.

Sometimes they ignore what we say ("keep the noise down please").

Often they do the opposite of what we say ("it's Saturday tomorrow, try and sleep in late").

And occasionally they know what we're going to say before we say it ("time to go out, have you been to the toilet?")

Some parents have an annoying habit of telling their children that "things were better in the olden days". This is of course untrue, not least when it comes to government road safety campaigns. No offence 1970's Alvin Stardust, but I'm not sure the sight of you wearing a monkey on your head and giving us a serious look was ever going to deter anyone from walking out in front of a car. In fact quite the opposite, might I suggest.

But whatever you tell your kids today, and whatever they hear, tell them to watch this ...

Saturday 8 November 2008

November Tears and Fears

Tonight we'll go to the bonfire party where I used to go as a child. Big G will be with us so we can hang on to one child each in the crowd.

Last year was so different. He was working away as usual, so I took the children on my own to the fireworks display in the quaint northern village where the children's school was. We went every year, in a big dark field up the hill from the church, where you were never very far from a sheep. In the car park field, wardens waved torches and wheels got stuck in the mud.

I found my friends - a small group of lovely mums from school - bound by the emotional bonds of small children growing up together. We used to meet for coffee and share the ups and downs of our lives. The kids ran around with their little mates, thrilled to be out in the dark and having hot dogs for tea. I remember the heat of the bonfire, the sky as it lit up and the smell of smoke as it drifted over the woods, blending in with the rain clouds on that cold November evening.

That night was 2 weeks before we were due to move back down south. Perhaps it was the loneliness, the exhaustion, or the fear of saying goodbye. Perhaps it was just overwhelming self-pity because my friends were all with their husbands and mine was so far away. Whatever the reason, I started crying and couldn't stop! Luckily it was dark and luckily there were arms to hug me and friendly faces to listen while I wept.

I can't believe a year has passed since then! I'm really looking forward to tonight.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Bump, Bump and Bump

Today my daughter fell off the monkey-bars and sprained her leg, so she limped home from school weary and whimpering and had a long soak in a hot bath. Later I accidentally nudged her off the sofa and she banged her foot and started crying.

My son got hit hard on the chin at lunchtime with a tennis racket which has left a sore, lumpy bruise. He came out of school looking tearful and wobbly. He held his tears in until he got home, then he let go and they trickled quietly down his soft pink cheeks.

I felt sorry for the boy so I reached down to pick him up. I wasn't standing up straight properly and sprained my back. I think it's time to declare this day way too dangerous, and go immediately to bed.

Wednesday 5 November 2008


My little boy came down for breakfast.

Me: "Guess what, Obama won!"

Boy: "He WON? Yay! Can I go and wake Daddy up to tell him?"

Me: "Yes, but eat your cereal first"

Boy: "Can anyone in America be president?"

Me: "Yes, if they are clever enough and work very hard"

Boy: "I'm going to live in America when I grow up. I'm going to be president. And I'm going to be a Dad too, of course."

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Old Rivals

The taxi driver who took me to the meeting from the train station is a Liverpool fan.

The taxi driver who took me from the meeting back to the train station supports Everton.

The fact that I found this out without asking says a lot about the place (and no, I can't take credit for this photo)!

Monday 3 November 2008

Ticket to Ride

Tomorrow I'm going to Liverpool and back in one day. The Beatles have absolutely nothing to do with it, but I do like this photo. I am slightly miffed that as I zoom to Liverpool and back I'll be passing my old friends in Cheshire on the way, without getting off the train to say hello. Oh well, can't be helped.

So now I must blog off and search for something vaguely suitable to wear for a meeting. I'm kind of looking forward to some time sitting still in one place and reading. I hope it's warm and empty on the train - cold and crowded will ruin everything.

Sunday 2 November 2008

Betty Marathon

When I first met Big G, he raved about this arty French film he'd just seen, called Betty Blue. "I'd like to see that", I said. Almost twenty years passed, and on Friday night I finally got to see it.

We snuggled up under a blanket on the sofa - candles lit, full tummies from a late dinner - it was lovely. We watched the film in all its fleshy, romantic, hedonistic, quirky, obsessive, rambling, subtitled cult-classic glory. Divine.

An hour and a half passed and the story was still going strong. Two hours, and no sign of an ending. We started yawning and made some tea. After two and a half hours, we popped out the DVD to check the running time: 2 hours, 58 minutes. Clearly we've lost our movie stamina over the years, so we turned it off, went to bed, and watched the last half an hour yesterday.

I do recommend Betty Blue, but don't watch it if you are easily shocked, the nervous type, or in any kind of a hurry.

Saturday 1 November 2008

Halloween in a Hurry

Yesterday I broke my pledge to blog every day until my birthday, but hey, nobody's perfect.

In the last few years - when I worked from home and had a bit more time on my hands - I started to plan halloween activities weeks ahead. This year, by contrast, I only started thinking about it on the day, as I left work.

3pm: Made a couple of frantic phone calls to rustle up at least one friend with no plans

3.15pm: Dashed to Waitrose to buy 2 pumpkins, some vampire teeth and treats

3.45pm: Picked up the kids from Grandma's and drove home, responding to a rapid fire of halloween-questions on the way

4.00pm: Big G and the kids started carving pumpkins and looking for candles; I dug in the fridge for a speedy supper

4.30pm: Up to the bedrooms to negotiate costume details - it was a very cold night - and emerged with one witch and one ghost

4.45pm: Wrestled torches off excited children so they could concentrate on speed-eating

5.00pm: Found face paints, wiped food from mouths, applied white and green accordingly.

5.15pm: Drove back to town to pick up only available friend

5.45pm: Gladly accepted Big G's offer to take the 3 Trick or Treaters out. Dedicated the following hour to and tidying up and answering the door to ghouls and skeletons

And so it went on ... full speed ahead ... we eventually got the kids to bed by 9pm when we got them down off the ceiling, high as kites on sugar, excitement and e-numbers.

Ah, parenting - it's so relaxing.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Out of Africa

On Monday Mum and Dad came back from their first ever holiday in Africa. They went to Kenya - some beach, some safari, loads of sun. Kenya has suffered terribly since last year's riots beat the tourism industry to within an inch of its life ... there were just 40 guests in a hotel that sleeps 500.

Today Mum and Dad came over to see all 7 grandchildren who were squashed in, like wriggling worms, to our little house. They came clutching brilliant memories, a glossy Kenya book and some beaded bracelets for the kids. There was also a soft, fragile, ornamental Masai necklace made from tiny black, bronze and cream beads. My 15-year old neice politely declined the necklace, it was passed around from my sister-in-law to my daughter, and somehow ended up around my neck.

Lucky me :-)

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Halloween Snow

Apparently it hasn't snowed in London in October for 70 years. Last night, snow fell and quickly turned to crunchy ice. This morning we scraped the car, poured hot water on the windscreen, and the children and I set off for my sister's house.

I don't know if it was because of the ice, but 2 trucks collided on the M40 this morning. One driver died and one truck shed its load of lard. The police closed the motorway, and all the surrounding roads were gridlocked. It took me almost 4 hours to drive the journey that usually takes 40 minutes.

As I was slowly making my way home alone, my sister phoned to tell me that all 5 of the cousins had been playing out in the snow, they'd had lunch, and our sons (aged 6 and 7) were having a lovely time, naked. "Naked snow ball fighting?" I asked. "No, just naked", she replied. "That's alright then", I thought.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

The Toad, the Quandry and the Anti-Role Model

Ooooh. Yeuch. Some slimy moron left a grubby comment on one of my posts, so I deleted it and switched 'Comment Moderation' back on. I'm all for freedom of speech, but this is my blog and if someone wants to advertise sex aids on it, they should have the decency to ask first. The toad.

And I have been the laziest blogger ever recently. In fact, I can't decide whether to carry on or not. I haven't even bothered logging in and leaving comments with all my favourite writers out there in blogland. So I've decided to blog every single day from now until my birthday, and then make up my mind whether to blog-on or blog-no-more.

Meanwhile, with a week to go until the US presidential elections, I am keeping everything crossed for Obama. How could anyone not want him to win? One of the many things that irks me about McCain was his statement that "Sarah Palin is a role model for women". How the hell does he know who my role models are? I'll pick my own, thank you. I mean, would anyone ever say they picked so-and-so for their running mate because "he is a role model for men"? Of course not. Patronising twat.

Monday 6 October 2008

The Swims We Do For Love

I was shivering with cold, wet and exposed, brushing up against hoards of nearly-naked strangers with spotty backs and miserable faces. The urge to escape smothered me as children's screams bounced off the walls and made my ears hurt. Boredom pinched me with its cold mean fingers as I forced myself to smile, aching to be home reading the paper and drinking hot tea.

Thirty l-o-n-g minutes earlier we had approached the front desk: "Four for swimming please", smiled Big G. The children scrambled into their swimsuits in a froth of excitement: "Watch me!" they whooped a hundred times, swimming from Mum to Dad and back again, daring to go, gasp, "right under!" Goggles and wet hair got crazy and tangled. What fun. The wave machine came on (with the Hawaii Five 0 theme tune at top volume), so the children leapt about like seal pups, diving down, bursting up for air, laughing with skinny legs and arms sticking out all over the place.


Saturday 27 September 2008

Role Reversal

So there I am in my bedroom, in front of the mirror in my undies, singing along to the perfect song for a sunny Saturday. My make-up's done and I'm straightening my hair.

The door flies open and in marches an eight year old girl. She's been ready for ages, waiting for me. "It's too LOUD" she snaps, turns the music down and stomps out.

Now hang on ... isn't that the wrong way round?!

Tuesday 23 September 2008


Girl: "Who did you wave at?"

Me: "Your uncle - he just went past"

Girl: "I didn't see his car."

Me: "No, he was on his bike"

Girl: "His BIKE?!! Where was he going?"

Me: "Home. He rides his bike to the station so he can go to work"

Girl: "He works at the STATION?!!"

Me: "No ... he gets the train to work"

Girl: "WHAT? He gets the TRAIN to work?!!"

And so it goes on and on ... the curiosity of the very young ... the endless questions ... pounding relentlessly on our heads until our ears are deaf and our brains are numb. And we wouldn't have it any other way!

Sunday 21 September 2008

Peachy Surrender

My parents took me upstairs to my old bedroom to admire the new wardrobe for my Dad's clothes. A place for everything, and the drawers slide smoothly shut with a satisfying click.

The warmest place in the house, at the front and above the kitchen, I liked that old bedroom when I was little. I could see my best friend's house opposite and keep look-out for relatives arriving on Sundays just before lunch. Before we extended the house, my sister and I shared that room. We made up putting-things-away-games when our mum tortured us with having to tidy our room. We messed it up something shocking, and complained like banshees when we had to tidy it. The room's very neat now, what with the children in their forties, a new wardrobe and everything.

One day my sister and I were given a Roald Dahl book each: I got Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, she got James and the Giant Peach. I loved my book. I read it over and over again, living the story, soaking up every detail of every picture, convinced I got the better deal. A stubborn younger sister, I refused to swap and read hers. I remember picking up her book and staring at it, wondering what the bugs were all about, flicking the pages, slowly turning it over and reading no more than the back cover.

When I'd finished admiring the new wardrobe, my mum suggested I borrow some of the few remaining children's books left on the shelf. I finally relented and took James and the Giant Peach to read to my daughter. It's brilliant!

Thursday 18 September 2008

Better Together

This week Big G said cheerio to his American job and came back to start a cooler one in the UK. No more trans-Atlantic commuting for him. He flew into Heathrow in the early morning sunshine, with 3 duffle bags and a back-pack. We loaded up the Toyota and drove home.

In the 19 months he's been working abroad, I've been bending under the weight of loneliness, stress and frustration, all crammed into a stiff, prickly bag called self-pity, sitting heavy on my shoulders. I'm tough enough and didn't break ... with a little help from my friends and family ... but I do declare there have been some very gloomy days.

And how do I feel today? Today I feel relief. Relief, relief, relief.

Sunday 14 September 2008

Don't Grow on Trees

The car was packed for the long drive home this afternoon, and the time had come to start rounding up my grubby children - tired but happy from a brilliant weekend of non-stop playing with old pals, and a too-short night on a blow-up mattress.

I stood in the garden with my friend, car keys in hand, and we had one last laugh at the expense of our deliciously sensitive and over-dramatic sons:

"You're MEAN Mummy, you just don't understand how I FEEL", I mocked.

"Mummy, this has been the WORST day of my LIFE", she mimicked.

And then we cackled like hags, shoulders shaking as we tried to laugh quietly so the children wouldn't know we were talking about them.

Yes, I managed to dig myself out of Cheshire and plant myself back here in southern soil ... but one thing I've learnt is that friendships like that one don't grow on trees.

Saturday 9 August 2008

See Ya

Time for a little blog break. Things to do, you know how it is.
Bye for now,

Tuesday 5 August 2008

A Little Boy's Fall For Grace

My daughter has lost 8 teeth so far, and until today my son had lost just the bottom two. They've both written letters to their Tooth Fairies and discovered that hers is called Gretel and his is called Grace.

Just before we left America on Sunday, one of my son's top teeth moved into a new phase of wobbliness. By this morning, after some frantic jiggling, he was able to poke it out of his mouth like Nanny McPhee.

This afternoon he cried out, in a panic, that his wobbly tooth really hurt. As I walked towards him, I saw him give it a big tug, his head went slowly down onto the table and then he fell backwards to the floor. The tooth was out and he had fainted.

He awoke almost immediately and started crying so I picked him up and took him upstairs to lie down on my bed. He was white as milk with no colour in his lips, and his eyes were scarily sleepy. He had a headache and pins and needles in his shoulders. I reassured him but needed reassurance myself, so I called my parents. Then I called the doctor, who said as long as he hadn't banged his head on the way down I should keep him home and let him rest. The poor little boy felt awful.

After a while his cheeks were pinker and he looked less worried so I took him downstairs for a drink, some cookies and Bedknobs and Broomsticks on DVD. He got back to his normal bouncy self as the evening progressed. As he put that troublesome tooth in an envelope for Grace, he thought for a moment and said: "if I write and tell her this tooth made me faint, do you think she'll give me more money?"

Saturday 2 August 2008

Bobbing About

... it did end (boo). We had our 3 long snoozy days on Sanibel Island. We found a couple of southern family restaurants that serve corn breads before appetizers and cook jumbo shrimp in a dozen different ways. It was great to see everyone relaxing, getting brown and sleeping late.

Yesterday we stayed inside between lunchtime and 4pm, and even then the sun was still scorching. We all wandered down to the beach and I made the little one keep his white t-shirt on over his slightly pink little shoulders. I was convinced the sea water was washing off all the diligently applied sun cream, so I kept slapping more on to the kids' hot sandy skin as they wriggled to get back to digging holes. I tried not to fuss.

My daughter climbed on top of an inflatable alligator so I pulled her out to beyond where the small waves were breaking and we bobbed about together. The water was hot, shallow and cloudy. My toes were sinking into the soggy sand, sometimes touching shells or seaweed. I looked around at all that water and tried to banish the word 'shark' from my mind ... but it kept swimming back ...

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Lizard Land

Florida now. I get a quick blog fix while Big G ponders dinner options with our friends. They're favouring the Island Cow, with a menu the size of Minnesota. We are in the condo cooling our skin from this morning, re-applying sun cream and eating snacks. The two big kids play cards under the air conditioner, the two little ones play a secret game under the bedsheets.

We chose Sanibel Island for its relative lack of tourists, its wildlife, dolphins, pelicans and palm trees. The sea is as warm as washing up, and sprinkles a fresh haul of shells onto the baby soft sand each afternoon.

We'd only planned to stay 3 nights but might add a 4th ... relaxed times together like this are so rare I don't want it to end ...

Sunday 27 July 2008

Route 93 North

As more family members have gathered, we four made bed-space for the little ones by sleeping up at Big G's sister's house in New Hampshire.

I offered to drive because Big G had been flying and hadn't slept all night. His Day-Off Marguerita clinched the deal. With a light dusting of shame, I confess that in the 19 years I've been visiting, this was the first time I've driven more than a couple of miles on the wrong side of the road.

I moved the seat forward (this is a long-legged family), quickly reminded myself how to drive an automatic, and buckled up. We got onto Route 93 north and cruised in the middle lane. Over here, cars can pass on either side. The driving seems more mellow and the lanes are wider. The New Hampshire state motto is "Live Free or Die".

The roads got quieter. The air got cooler. The trees got bigger, greener and more densely packed. I pulled off the highway without crashing and we made it to the wooden house on the edge of a wood. The kids went to sleep straight away: The girl drifted off elegantly like a Queen Bee in a Queen size bed, sandwiched between Queen size pillows and teddy bears; the boy flaked out, smiling and exhausted on a blow-up mattress.

We popped a Boston Sam Adams beer each, and sat out on the deck. The cat skulked off for a night of chasing chipmonks. The mosquitos buzzed about and the storm clouds gathered in the humid night air. Apart from the sounds of our voices and the cold bottles clinking, it was very, very quiet.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Letter From America

Coooee! Over here! It's almost 8pm on the east coast of America, which means it's almost 1am in England, which means I must go to bed immediately. The children went to sleep at 6pm, but will be wide awake and eating Cheerios by 3am - I guarantee.

It's wet and humid today, and I'm in Big G's Dad's house. Grandad G lost the love of his life to illness 6 years ago, and he wears his grief like a pale grey cloak soaked in the tears of a longing, lonely soul. The ceiling fans purr, the dogs pad about and bark at cars and the clock on the fireplace ticks as it always has. Grandad G and I sat at the kitchen table of this classic New England home, ate omelette with salad, and talked the world right like old buddies do.

Our two English Roses are frothing with excitement at the thought of seeing their California Cousins who arrive on Saturday. 3 bright blond pre-schoolers, born 18 months apart and sunny as the place they live in.

It feels good to be here. I so need a holiday!

Friday 18 July 2008

Give That Boy a Guitar

My brother writes songs, and has very cleverly put some of them up on the worldwide interwebby net thing for people to listen to.

My favourite is 'A Girl Like You'. Have a listen. My brother sang it at his own yellow-flowered wedding in Sweden - land of herring, meatballs and ABBA. It was summer, we were near a lake surrounded by trees, and it didn't get dark all night. The meal was eaten with good cheer, the speeches were warm with love and the guests sang songs round the table, as is Swedish tradition.

Later the lights dimmed and glasses were refreshed, the band picked up their instruments and my brother sang this song. When he got to the line "I thank you for believing and for being my wife" the band paused, all eyes fell on his beautiful new bride, and everyone cheered.


Thursday 17 July 2008

In Her Own Time

My daughter has mild cerebral palsy. It makes her a bit weak and stiff on her right side, but she's capable of most things. She has a little dyslexia but is brilliant at maths. She wears a splint but can run and dance. She does most things with her left arm but can bring in the weaker right one when she has to. My girl is funny, quirky and gorgeous.

I feel horrible that we've got behind on her physiotherapy since we moved - I'll blog more on that later (it might kick me into action). Knowing there are lots of people so much worse off than my daughter is one of the many things that make feel slightly uncomfortable blogging about this at all.

Last year I met a woman who had been the school helper for 2 children with cerebral palsy. From an early age to their teenage years she supported them through life's challenges. Her words of wisdom to me were:

"Take on every challenge head-on, and she will cope. Your daughter will learn how to do everything - she'll just do it a bit later than most other children, that's all".

So at age 8, she's still wearing arm bands but she'll swim eventually. She's still got the reading age of a 7 year-old but she'll catch up. She just has to work a bit harder, that's all. And today ... gasp, gulp, sniff ... today she rode a bike without stabilising wheels for the first time!!! She got on, fell off, got back on, asked Daddy for a push, went a few feet, fell off, got back on, and so it went on and on. Her steely determination paid off, and at the last count she'd circled the garden 14 times without falling off.

I'm so proud I could melt.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Saturday Night's Alright

Rioja (eagerly): "Honey I'm Home!"

Woman: "What are you doing here? I wasn't going to drink tonight"

Rioja: "Ah, but you know you want to"

Woman: "I'm thinking about it"

Rioja (beguilingly): "Just one glass won't hurt"

Woman: "But I'm on my own, it's a bad idea"

Rioja: "I'll keep you company, help you relax"

Woman: "But then you'll put me in a bad mood and give me a headache"

Rioja: "You'll be fine, and anyway it's sad not to drink on a Saturday night"

Woman: "But I'm happy and you'll spoil it for me"

Rioja (purring): "I'm gorgeous and you love me"

Woman: "I'm putting you in the cupboard so I can't see you"

Rioja (in a muffled voice): "But you can't resist me! Let me OUT!"

Woman: "Piss off"

Thursday 10 July 2008

Liar Liar, Pants On Fire

I love hearing what children have to say. Most of the time they're honest, quick and funny - their innocence wrapped around their little shoulders like a sweet-smelling garland.

Not so the girl next door, who is a total liar. She doesn't just slip in the odd forgiveable fib like most kids do; she pukes out one big fat fabrication after another, like turbo-charged projectile verbal vomit, reeking rot dripping in bile and not welcome in our house.

It's astonishing to hear her. She's nearly 10 and old enough to know better, but she's clearly got issues. She's nice in some ways, and usually she and my daughter get on brilliantly. But by golly she doesn't half talk some shite.

Here is a fresh selection dredged up from the vomitorium of stinking lies she's spewed out recently:

"My dad's car takes diesel and it costs £300 to fill it up"

"I looked in an encyclopedia to see what robbers eat, and it said horse meat"

"My mum lets me take my duvet to school so I can sleep in class if I want"

"I can have anything in the world I want, whatever it costs"

"I was the first baby ever to be born after 4 o'clock in the afternoon"

"I can't play with my toy push-chair because my cat jumped into it last night, did a poo in it, and then broke it"

"I was in the garden and put my hands out to see if it was raining, and a bird's egg fell right into my hands"

Surprisingly, the girl next door's nose is still quite small.

Monday 7 July 2008

Be Gone, Comfortable Cookies

"You Eat What You Are". I know, I know, but I just think that's a better expression than the usual, "You Are What You Eat". Everybody knows that if you cram cakes, fried egg sandwiches and chocolate down your throat all day long, you're going to get a bit chubby. News, what news? Saying "You Are What You Eat" is just a great steaming pile of patronising twaddle telling us what we already know.

Turn it around however, and you get something much more interesting. People cram cakes, fried egg sandwiches and chocolate down their throats all day long for a reason. They need something ... no, not nutrition ... comfort. Frustrated? Stuff ya face. Lonely? Stuff ya face. Hate your body? Stuff ya face.

Fat tastes gooood. Sugar tastes gooood. Slowly curling your tongue (tired from moaning) around vanilla ice cream oozing raspberry sauce feeeels gooood. Salty crisps distract you from the paperwork mountain. Brownies cushion the blow of a bitchy remark. A sneaky spoonful of chocolate spread from the jar is sweet mini revenge for the bitter tedium of grumpy kids kicking off at bedtime.

Forgive me for coming over all evangelical, but I'm trying to shed the extra pounds I don't need before my holiday, and it's taken me 6 months to get round to it. And for my beloved friends hooked on calorie comfort, I wish them the power to dig deep and find enough love for themselves to STOP!

Friday 4 July 2008


I had a good look at my hands today. They grew from a longing inside my father to tiny fists inside my mother, and came into this world with 10 soft nails the size of snow.

I must have discovered I had hands at around 3 months old. They fed me, got bigger, and I used them to steer my first bike. How amazing are hands - they've lifted and squeezed, caressed and scratched, grasped and wrestled, wrung and stroked, tweaked, pushed and pulled me through life. The hands that tap tap tap in front of me take the thoughts from my head onto your computer. Wow! They're a pink skin pillow to lean on while I read.

I've always liked my hands but my nails don't get enough love. The gold ring on the left has earnt a few scratches in the last 14 years, and I wear them like medals of honour.

I remember gently pulling up the skin on my Grandma's hands so that I could marvel at how it didn't go down again! Mine still goes down, but I've noticed a few brown age spots (I might insist they're freckles). I looked at a palm-reading website but quickly left - these hands do enough without telling me the future.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Yeah Yeah Yeah (Yawn)

I love early July for the Wimbledon on the telly. I drift in and out, checking on the score, and as a fair-weather sports fan I only sit and watch properly when it's a really big or exciting match. When Boris Becker appeared today to commentate, I took the opportunity to educate and inspire my daughter by telling her about one of the greatest sporting legends of all time:

ME: "See him? He WON the WHOLE of Wimbledon when he was JUST 17!!"

GIRL: "He hasn't got any eyebrows"

ME: "Yes he has. But listen. He was only 17 - and he was a champion!!"

GIRL: "Why hasn't he got any eyebrows?"

ME: "He has, they're just very pale. It was amazing ... I was only 17 myself, and this guy ..."

GIRL: "Please can I have a biscuit?"

***** sigh ***** I really don't know why I bother.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Looking Forward to Chapter 10

Chapter 1
Summer 2006. Mr and Mrs live in the north of England where they don't belong, and decide to re-locate. But where to? The soul-searching begins.

Chapter 2
Mr applies for a job in the US and gets it. America it is then. It'll be fantastic, they dream, and tell their family and friends. The Big News spreads like lice in a playground.

Chapter 3
Mr packs up and moves to New York. Mrs can't go yet, "I'm not ready", she wails. She tries to move mountains alone, and gets scared at night.

Chapter 4
Mrs hates being asked "have you sold the house yet?" Mr loves his new job and commutes back and forth. The children are angry. Mrs is angry. He tries so hard but feels excluded - and he is.

Chapter 5
Summer 2007. Loose ends are tied up, Mrs is almost ready to go. But wait ... maybe America doesn't feel like 'home' after all? They re-visit London and light up like firecrackers. The seeds of doubt grow.

Chapter 6
A decision is made. They're Going Back South. Mrs and the kids call the removal men, pack up their lives and fall into the arms of their extended family. What a gift from heaven they turned out to be.

Chapter 7
New home, new job, new school, thin on friends. Too many changes for Mrs to handle. She gets excema and dizzy spells. The children are ghastly but who can blame them.

Chapter 8
Mr and Mrs know they're better together. The children are settled and happy again. There's more talking, respect, caring. Petty arguments disappear like lost baggage.

Chapter 9
Summer 2008. Mr works really hard to get a good job back in the UK - and gets the best one imaginable. Respect and appreciation are thrown all about the place. The future suddenly seems a dozen shades brighter .....

Triple Delight

And the wonderful Daryl E gave me this one! So before this flurry of award giving makes me giddy I'd better get down to posting something ...

Sunday 29 June 2008

Double Delight

This week good news came in twos.
I'll tell more later.
Later - when my daughter isn't trying to wrestle me off the computer - I'll also pass on these two beautiful awards I received this week.
Thanks Lehners in France!
Thanks Maggie May!

Update: I would like to pass these awards on to these top bloggers:

The first (trophy one) goes to:

The Mother of This Lot
Who has so many awards she has built a shelf to put them on.

The Lehners in France
Who has some brilliant stories to tell.

Whose honesty and optimism inspire me

The second (Special Scribe one) goes to:

Daryl E
Who I feel drawn to, like she's a long lost friend or something.

Pig in the Kitchen
Who is a master in the art of story-telling (and cooking)

Frog in the Field
What can I say? Funny, touching, awesome.

Friday 27 June 2008

Excuses, Excuses

I want to write something tonight.

But I'm too tired. And that glass of divine red wine was too large. And the bubble bath is almost full. And my white bed looks too inviting. And it's been a long week. And there's been brilliant news that melted me with relief. And the final stage of selling my business passed this week. And I had to pay the tax man. And I never go to bed early enough. And I'm always cream-crackered on Friday nights. And I'm a bit t&e (tired & emotional). And I need to go count my blessings and stop moaning. And anyway I can't think of anything to write.

So I won't write something tonight. Oh. Hang on ... I just did.

Monday 23 June 2008

Never Mind the Tupperware

I was invited to my first ever Tupperware party. I nearly said "do I look like the kind of woman who buys bloody tupperware?" Or, "thanks, but I'd rather poke my own eyes out". But what I actually said was: "Brilliant, I'd love to come". Times is hard, ya know?

The charming hostess had been concocting nibbles all week. And I'm not talking sausage rolls and celery sticks here; this was one mouth-wateringly awesome hand-crafted canape explosion. The booze was flowing like ... well, wine ... and a hit-squad of expert mothers, who know their Tequila from their Kahlua, were whipping up and dishing out cocktails like tomorrow's children and hangovers were off the radar.

The Tupperware presentation started. We ooohed at the storage box that expands. We aaahed at the microwave jug that doesn't get a hot handle. We basked in the warm ripple of approval that washed over the crowd, as we saw just how magnificantly that happy-chopper can chop. Some mothers concentrated and referred to their catalogues; others exchanged subversive glances and sniggered into their Harvey Wallbangers.

It was drizzling, but the crowd stayed outside with the candles and ice-buckets of pink fizz. Alpha mums swaggered and laughed the loudest; Cuddly mums swapped stories of their childrens' antics; The atmosphere was warm and funny, and I found friendly people to talk to. It got dark, then chilly, and then I drove home.

Wednesday 18 June 2008


"How old is the hamster?"
"Quite old, I think he's nearly 3."
"How old is that in hamster years?"
"Oh about 70 I suppose"
"When he gets to 100 in hamster years, will the hamster queen send him a telegram?"

Children ask questions like puppies chew shoes. They hurl them at Mum when she's heaving great sighs, her bloodshot eyes blinking through smudged mascara and freshly dug wrinkles as she sorts out the laundry mountain. Then they hurl more at Dad when he's longing for ... something ... worn out from blood-sucking work, jobs to do and things not working properly.

Children gleefully soak up whatever answers they can get. They hear the facts, the delivery, the emotions draped around the words and the inconsistencies with what they heard yesterday. And then they digest, ponder, and conjure up a whole new set of questions ready to launch at anyone they suspect might give them a quality answer. And on it goes, until the quick-tongued, big-eared, relentlessly inquisitive little angels are finally silenced by sleep.

"If the queen lives to be 100, will she send herself a telegram?"

Saturday 14 June 2008

Happy Hoof

One final word on panda food: I saw in the Guiness Book of Records, in the "World's Sleepiest Mammal" section, that pandas snooze for 18 hours a day. They only eat bamboo, which doesn't provide much nourishment, so they sleep to conserve energy. Right. So why not nibble on a bit of fruit then? And stay awake longer? Or some nuts? Our two-tone friends' stubborn refusal to mix up their diet seems a bit daft to me. Clearly they don't have much to do. And while I think about it, how do large beasts like horses and cows live on only grass and a few buttercups? And they don't even sleep that much.

The children and I are quite excited about horses at the moment. Our neighbour has taken us, two Sundays in a row, in her rusty volvo to the stables to the countryside where she volunteers. Apparently there are umpteen therapeutic reasons to care for and ride horses, physical and mental, and this place is for disabled riders only. We go in the tack room to read the diary and admire the saddles, the children try on the hats. It smells of leather and damp.

Out in the fields, the eight well-behaved horses live in pairs in fenced-off areas. The white boss one (with different coloured eyes) has a bad back and needs a soft saddle. One needs medicine for a sore shin, and one will only let my neighbour feed him. There's a cute little black one, and one that swaps horsey-lip kisses for carrots. The new black one gets pushed around by the feisty one, and there's one with honey-coloured hair. Each day the horses get a few pieces of carrot, a handful of "Happy Hoof" feed, and garlic. And they sure do eat an awful lot of grass.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

A Panda Food Moment

We're getting settled here in the south now, and I don't expect we'll migrate back. But every now and again some little thing triggers a memory and whisks me back to my old long-gone life up north. Today it was bamboo.

A couple of summers ago we upgraded our square of Cheshire soil. It went from being a nasty patch of water-logged mud with a pile of bricks in the corner, to a pretty peachy little garden with flowers, drainage and a path: "well stocked", as estate agents say. We had help from 7-foot tall Matthew - who had won rosettes at the Tatton Flower Show - and his troop of wheel-barrow pushing, earth-shovelling Manchester lads who trampled mud and testosterone all around the place.

We took Matthew's planting plan and phoned the trade-price garden centre. Upon hearing the man's quote, we spluttered a few heavy-duty swear words, picked ourselves up off the floor, cut the volume required in half, and ordered the plants. I don't remember what most of them were called - they were selected on the basis of being oriental-looking, clay-loving and reasonably hard to kill.

When the plants arrived on a truck, late one hot and humid Saturday afternoon, we off-loaded them and stood them on the deck. I put the kids to bed and poured a glass of icy cold wine. I went outside and sat amongst our new army of friends with roots and leaves: bushes, ferns, young trees, handsome, mysterious plants with Latin name tags in all shades of greens, yellows and reds. Some had stripes, some had prickles, some were just lush. It was quiet out, and almost dark. The bamboo swished in the breeze; I was elated.

Monday 9 June 2008

Back From the Brink

A big boxy thanks for all those "pack or unpack" comments! I heard today that the landlord is happy to sign a new lease for a minimum of 3 months, with 2 months notice if they sell it after that. So I'm unpackin'. Oh yes. But not today.

Friday 6 June 2008

Away With the Fairies

Okay, just ignore that last post. Today I took a phone call from the estate agent handling the sale of the house we've been renting for 6 months; the sale has fallen through so we don't have to move out now after all. Over the last 6 weeks it's been on, then doubtful, then back on again ... and now off. I've been grumblingly dragging my weary bones around town looking at other (unsuitable) houses to rent. Apparently the bloke buying the house belonging to the people buying this one has had his mortgage offer withdrawn by the bank. Gut-wrenching news for all concerned, except us! So now I'm looking at the pile of boxes I've already packed, and trying to decide whether to unpack them or not.

I wonder what will occur on Monday. Someone who is said to be 'away with the fairies' has lost their grip on reality and expects the unlikely. If I unpack, does that make me away with the fairies too?

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Pressing the Pause Button

I wanted to write something deep, funny or meaningful for my 50th post. Instead, I must write about injustice. Nobody in the UK is able to sell their house at the moment (we didn't, and our house in Cheshire is now full of tenants). Nobody, except for the people who own the house we're renting. They've sold it. So we have to move out in a couple of weeks. Bah humbug. So again, I'm feeling ever so slightly overwhelmed by life's crappy jobs, and will have to neglect my blog again for a while.

I'll come round and say hi when we're all settled in to the new place! Blogbye for now ...

Thursday 29 May 2008

How I Met Mr. GoneBackSouth

July 1989. I was weathered by late-night cramming for exams and too much beer, trussed up in Doctor Marten boots, red lipstick and an attitude the size of Peru. Soul II Soul and Guns N' Roses were rocking the UK and Margaret Thatcher was ruling it.

Clutching my student exchange work-permit, I boarded a plane to America with my friend, affectionately known as Has Anybody Seen My Organizer? We argued all the way to JFK - we were ready for a summer adventure and he wanted to go to Boston because he'd heard it was cool; I wanted to go to South Carolina because I wanted to spend the summer on the beach.

Upon arrival in Boston, we checked into the youth hostel. With no plans, no jobs and nowhere to live, we hung about. Soon, word spread that the movie theatre up the road needed people fast - Batman was about to open and they were expecting a stampede. Tom, the Manager, opened the door to 8 smelly but eager British students. We all marched in to ask for jobs and he hired us all. We put on white shirts, black elasticated bow-ties and red waistcoats (that matched my lipstick). The boys sold and clipped tickets, the girls served food, drinks and candy. We got to see lots of free movies.

We fooled around and made the place our own for a few months, leaving our customers wondering if they'd suddenly been transported to England by mistake. We quickly adopted bad American accents, purely for popcorn-serving purposes, so we could ask "you want budder on that?" There were mice in the corn sacks, a creepy guy on projectors and relentlessly sticky floors ... but it was a good job. Has Anybody Seen My Organizer? and I made friends with a lovely American guy at the movie theatre, who I shall call BassBoy. We lost sight of BassBoy over the years, which I regret. He was a good friend.

BassBoy had a tall, good-looking friend with a golden tan and deep beautiful eyes: Big G. He was Boston born and bred. Sensitive and shy with a whale-sized passion for music, Big G would meet BassBoy after work so they could go out and party. We became friends. One warm dark night, some of us sneaked over a fence and through a forest to swim in the reservoir near Big G's home. We perched on a rock in the deep deep water under a huge black sky, fish brushing against our toes, and we shivered in the breeze and the knowledge that we weren't meant to be there. We bonded that night, Big G and me, dripping wet and giggling under the stars.

I flew back, moved to London and sent Big G a postcard. He wrote me letters and I wrote back (no email then). In February 1990 he visited London for a week. He came again in July, we looked into each others eyes, and here he stayed.

Cup-Tag Cop-Out

Oh Lehners, Lehners, Lehners. You are a very nice friend to tag me in my last post, but I'm going to have to call upon the "Can't-Be-Tagged-Twice-In-One-Week" rule of Blogdom. And if you won't accept that, then here's another excuse: I have a story to tell tonight that I promised to Daryl, and if I'm farting about taking photos of my cups (and my favourites are all in the dishwasher so I'll have to wash them first and everything), I won't have time to write it, and then I won't be able to sleep. And anyway I don't know where my camera is. Actually the dog ate it. Okay I haven't got a dog, but I haven't got a camera either. I know, I know ... lame, spoil-sport, kill-joy. Hate me if you must.
Now, onto my story ...

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Tag Revelations Before Lunch

Retired and Crazy tagged me after my last post, so now I feel compelled to reveal 6 things you don't know about me. As I'm at my sister's house with 5 kids and no other grown-ups, I had better be quick. However they're old enough to entertain themeselves (aged 6-14) so I can afford to be ever so slightly neglectful. Here goes, in a hurry:

1. I attract road speed traps like some people attract wasps

2. I am a brunette with a fleck of grey (covered)

3. I met my man in an American movie theatre

4. Some of my friends think I've borderline OCD; I think I'm borderline misunderstood

5. I'm notoriously late unless I make a superhuman effort

6. I love Starbucks marmite and cheese paninis, but have switched from latte to Americano (there was way too much dairy going on)

I may get round to the business of tagging 6 other bloggers later (or I may not). Off now to make rolls for lunch ...

Friday 23 May 2008

Sleepy Heads

I went upstairs to look at the children.

First the boy. He's 6 and wants to grow up NOW. He's sleeping hard, worn out after 13 hours of non-stop activity. He's had bed hair all day, and now it's even beddier after sleeping on it still damp from the bath. He's lying on his side, high up in his cabin bed like an infant king. One skinny leg with scabby knees is out and over the blue monster duvet. His free arm hugs the cub that's been his smelly bed-mate since he was born, and he holds on tight to the last surviving scrap of baby-blanket. His lovely full lips are open, drooling a bit on the pillow, doing that pretend sucking thing that he does in his sleep. Perhaps he's dreaming of the warm, snoozy baby milk years.

Next the girl. She's 8, and veers from toddler to teenager and back again. Her beddy teddy is lying on her chest, watching me through the dark with round black eyes, protecting her while she sleeps. She lies on her back, arms thrown wide in pink nightie, on pink pillow, under pink duvet. She was swept away by an enormous yawn as she settled down, insisting "I'm not tired" as her eyes closed. Her face is round like the moon, picture perfect with wide-apart eyes and long, long lashes. As a baby, she turned her head from side to side as she stirred in her sleep, and she still does sometimes. With a murmur and a sigh, she dreams of fairies and kittens and Daddy coming home.

They seem so grown up sometimes and so young when they're asleep. Sometimes I'm afraid to go to bed; I sleep so heavily and I don't want to leave them alone - even if they are just down the hall. I wonder how much of our quirky little life in 2008 they'll remember when they're big. In their slumber, some of it is being filed into their brains' long term memory, some into short term memory, and some is going straight to the shredder.

Monday 19 May 2008

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3

Yes, yes, I've been listening to Ian Dury on YouTube. So here are 3 of mine:

(1) That Life gave us Bowie, Lennox and Mercury ... and ears.

(2) That ye olde hobbies of writing a diary and to pen-pals have fused together in an electronic explosion of magical marvellousness and meetings of minds to spawn the blogosphere. Hooray!

(3) That my daughter didn't see what I found in her wellington boot tonight: a large, hairy, squashed spider. Death by socked foot. I'm surprised she didn't feel it.

Sunday 18 May 2008

Bowie Plays Brazil

Today I stumbled upon a blog by a British guy in Brazil. He's got a video up of two of the greatest artists, David Bowie & Annie Lennox, singing a tribute to another great, Freddie Mercury. The video is awesome and at the end I got a chill down my spine and started crying (long day ... time for bed). Bowie is so spectacularly good; he sang the soundtrack to my life as I was growing up.

And as for the British guy in Brazil ... well I may be wrong ... but he seems to me like a genuinely lovely, big-hearted poet who's been through some serious sadness, and might appreciate some warm positive vibes from all you kind and caring bloggers out there.

Goodnight x

Thursday 15 May 2008

Digging Rights

Today I caught myself wondering, "maybe we should get an allotment?" Then I quickly sprinted to the sink, splashed cold water over my face, gave myself a quick slap and vowed never to entertain such mad thoughts ever again. Doing a sloppy job of maintaining a low-maintenance garden is enough gardening for me.

Nevertheless, back in the 19th century the Allotment Act declared that an Englishman has the right to grow his own carrots, whether or not he owns any land. All these years on, hidden behind the leafy hedgerows and down the lane, men, women and children in wellington boots and waterproofs are still cheerfully growing carrots on land that doesn’t belong to them. And potatoes, raspberries, beans, tomatoes, garlic, onions, apples and flowers too.

I know a family in Cheshire with an allotment, and my children have 'helped' them make a scarecrow, chase chickens, throw stuff on the bonfire, dig random holes, that sort of thing. Every time we visit we come away with a box of fresh eggs ... my friend is gracious enough to wash off the straw and poultry poo first.