Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Goodbye 2008....

Well Christmas passed surprisingly sanely (I did in fact fear, at one point, that certain members of my family have been reading this Blog.....) so here we go, hurtling into 2009.

Goodbye 2008, a memorable year I feel.

A year in which:

- I was officially declared sane. Even if it was by a very strange man in slip-on loafers, a shiny grey suit and dodgy tash.
- I watched my kid brother get married (sniff sniff - it was amazing).
- I watched my 'special pasta' SIL get married (it was, erm, 'interesting').
- I got up before 6am more times that I would consider desirable.
- I buried more guinea pigs than I would consider desirable.
- I cleaned up more poo than I would consider desirable.
- I fought a plague of rats and won (well I hope I won).

and a whole host of other stuff which I'm too tired to recall.

You see, right about now, it's midnight.

Shouldn't I be standing under a clock singing?

Or dancing on a podium with a strange grin on my face?

Or kissing my husband and shouting HAPPY NEW YEAR?

Or standing in KFC crying really hard about I don't know what?

Or trying to stop my friend, whose been on the Diamond White since 4pm, from smacking her boyfriend and throwing herself in the river (been there, done that, wouldn't recommend it - I still have the scars where she bit me and do you think she thanked me for my kind intervention? Did she hell!).

Well no, I am doing none of those things.

I am sat, alone, in my front room, watching New Year's Eve 'specials' which were probably recorded in August, while my sick husband and children sleep upstairs and vast amounts of local 'revelers' (i.e. p1ssheads) gather outside my house singing, throwing fireworks and shouting such jovial tidings of goodwill as 'get in the farkin' motor you dozy mare'.

But the thing is I don't actually care. Deep down I'm happy and I don't think spending £50 on a night sure to end in tears, dodgy takeaways and a hangover would make me feel any better (although if anyone would like to donate £50 so that I can check out this hypothesis, then I would carry out the experiment, purely in the name of scientific research of course...).


Here's hoping that 2009 is as entertaining as ever.....


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

All Wrapped Up and Ready to Go...

So here I am watching a programme about men getting killed by logs (I kid you not - Channel 5, something to do with chainsaws and giant trees) while my OH leaps around the kitchen shouting 'GOT YA' as he attacks the bluebottle infestation with a somewhat manic vigor. The flies are the latest assault resulting from last month's rat epidemic. The rats, I am pleased to inform you, are now dead, thus the flies.... I might tell you about it one day but lets just say I don't like wearing tights anymore and I still scream when I see anything small and brown, like the label inside my husband's coat....

How marvelously festive!

No actually it is. Life is great and I've already had to go back upstairs twice to reassure my eldest son that the strange noise he can hear is actually next-door's dart board being used and not 'someone' on the roof.

It's been a lovely day - in a slightly odd kind of way.

I decided to take the train down to the nearest town this morning so I could get some food for tomorrow. It would be slightly grim to have nothing to eat but Weetabix on Christmas Day. Things were going swimmingly until A said 'oh look mummy! There's the town going past REALLY REALLY FAST'. Que me going 'OH MY GOD, WE'RE ON THE WRONG BLOODY TRAIN!' and getting lots of 'oh what a bloody ridiculous woman' dirty looks of seasoned London commuters'. Yeah I used to be one of you - and then I had kids and became one of 'them'.

So I ended up in Central London, on Christmas Eve, with two small children, a large all-terrain pram and a no appropriate ticket..... Oh well, there's nothing like an adventure to lift the spirits.

We (eventually) got to our correct destination and into the supermarket. I won't say anymore other than I actually shed real tears at one point and I needed an alcoholic drink afterwards.

I then found myself 3 miles from home, with 1 pram, 1 crying baby, 6 large heavy bags of shopping and 1 young boy who (apparently) couldn't walk another step. Tiredness then totally zapped any rationality from his little brain and he did that beserk, insane, brain rewiring mad thing only very tired small children do. Shouting that mummy wasn't walking in a straight line (I hadn't had the wine at that point), demanding to know why mummy wasn't walking in EXACTLY the same pattern as him, crying that mummy wasn't doing 'nice talking' and demanding to know every last detail about traffic light sequencing and railway timetables.

Through all of this, with every step I took the nasty plastic bag handles cut deeper into my wrists (I do have those eco-friendly big hemp bag things but, errr, I forgot them - again), my shoulders throbbed more, the traffic roared louder, the sky threatened rain more seriously, the baby cried harder, the whinging increased, my blood pressure rose and then...... all the bits of shopping I couldn't carry and were balanced on top of the pram crashed to the floor. I stopped the cavalcade and stooped to pick them up, standing there with a cucumber in one hand and half a salmon in the other while A sobbed that I had to 'carry him home'.

I forced myself to think kind thoughts, silently shouted at the sky and just about managed not to use the cucumber as an offensive weapon. Although, in hindsight, I think I may have waved it around in a slightly unusual fashion judging by the looks I got. Or maybe that was the salmon...

But now we are home. Children are bathed, cuddles have been had, baths have been bathed in, fluffy towels have wrapped small bodies, food has been safely stashed, candles are lit, presents are wrapped, magic is everywhere and wine has been poured...

... HAPPY CHRISTMAS! Have a good one.


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Changing Traditions

So here we are, the Eve of Christmas Eve and I am about to embark on my first EVER Christmas not spent with my mum and dad in the family home.

Wow - does that mean I'm actually a 'grown up'? It's only taken 31 years, several homes (one with a mortgage),1 marriage, 2 kids, 2 nervous breakdowns, a multitude of dead pets, 1 near death experience and a brief spell in a psychiatric unit and WOOO HOOOO - I've finally reached the level where you stuff your own turkey..... Only I won't be because the whole roast thing seems like a lot of work and we are going to my parent's on Boxing Day anyway. But I digress...

So this is it - we are doing it for ourselves and this makes me realise that we need to establish our very own Christmas time traditions. You know the kind of thing - carrots for old for Rudolf, mince pies for the Elves and a stiff sherry for mum, sorry Santa.

I'm not sure what traditions our family is going to build but I can, perhaps, provide an insight into the ones that it will not.

My (long suffering) OH has now done 13 (yes THIRTEEN) consecutive Christmas's with my family and, if he hadn't witnessed it himself, he probably wouldn't have believed it but he can vouch that what I am about to tell you is, unfortunatley, true.

So here are some of the scenes which I am sure are indelibly engraved on his mind and which, I am sure, he will not want me to recreate for our family Christmases (although it can always be arranged):

1. My brother getting pinned to the sofa and nearly strangled by my dad for (and this is a direct quote) 'putting a log on the fire like some kind of a f***ing dick'.

Confused? We were. One minute we were all watching Christmas Day TV on the sofa and then my dad asked my brother to put a log on the fire. In any other family surely this would have resulted in, well - a log being put on the fire? But in ours it all ended with my brother underneath my dad, hands round throats and accusations of penis like log loading. Marvellous!

2. My mum being ordered to take everyone's coats to Oxfam on Christmas Eve.

Yup - one Christmas, actually I think it might have been my OH's first ever time spent with my family, my dad opened the door to the cupboard under the stairs and flipped. There were TOO MANY COATS.

To be fair there were a lot of coats but was it really necessary to rip them all from their pegs, throw them across the lounge and insist that they were all taken to Oxfam RIGHT NOW. And when she refused, did she really need dragging from the room for a 'quiet word'? Probably not but it was certainly memorable (and, for the record, the coats are all still there....).

3. The Mysterious Case of the Used Chutney Knife

You can imagine all of our surprise, when, one frosty Yuletide morning we (including my adult husband) were all lined up in front of the fireplace and grilled (at some length) about a serious incident that had taken place during the previous evening.

It would appear that someone had come in from the pub and made themselves a cheese and chutney sandwich and (here is the criminal bit so brace yourself)...... left the dirt chutney knife on the side and not put it in the dishwasher.

I told you it was shocking.

Anyway there was a grand inquisition complete with threats of Christmas being cancelled if the perpetrator wasn't found. The problem was that the perpetrator was clearly my husband and because he's a) not 12 and b) not my father's son, very little could be done about him not owning up and falling to the floor weeping and begging forgiveness for his terrible sin. An uncomfortable stalemate was drawn, with neither side backing down, and the day moved on but the scars have been left...

4. My mum shrieking 'I can't cope with all this death' and running out into the garden

OK, there must have been drink involved, but all the same I was slightly surprised by my mum's reaction to James Bond one year. During a scene where there were a lot of explosions she knocked back her drink in one, claimed she couldn't take any more death and ran into the garden to weep.

Whoooooahhhhh - uncomfortable moment all round I seem to remember.

5. The Gin and the Sick and my Poor Mum's Hen

OK, I can not complete this list completely absolved of all blame. One year it was my Granny and Grandad's Diamond Wedding the day after Boxing Day. This would involve a 400 mile round trip, a lot of time cooped up in a Volvo Estate with my entire family and a lot of sitting around making polite, yet entertaining, conversation.

The night before the Diamond Wedding my dad left us in the pub (me, my OH and my brother) for a 'quick drink' and made us promise we would only have a couple. We were like 'yeah, whatever, of course!' (we were barely past teenagerdom at the time). Of course the pub had sold out of cider so I drank gin by the pint instead (why!?) and we all got terribly, hideously, regrettably drunk.

Roll forward to 7am and my mum shrieking 'who has been sick on my chicken!?!'.

She'd gone to feed one of her hens (who, ironically enough, was sick and in its own pen in the garden) and found it splattered in vomit.

Now luckily for me it was my brother who did it. He'd got ill in the night and leant out of his bedroom window to do what needed to be done........ and did it right onto my mum's hen. She wasn't best pleased (my mum or the hen).

Unluckily, for me I have never, ever, ever, ever, ever been so hungover. I counted every mile click past on the dial as my dad drove all the way there and all the way back. 198 miles EACH WAY. While we were there I never even made it out of the car (other than to be sick). I lay, semi-conscious, spread across the back seats, as worried looking relatives tapped on the windows and mouthed 'are you OK?' at me. Are you OK?? Erm, clearly not or I wouldn't be spending my day running between a toilet bowl and the back seat of a car.

So there we are. The following will be STRICTLY PROHIBITED from our new family Christmases:

- Log fires
- Enforced trips to Oxfam
- Chutney and associated knives
- James Bond and associated explosive killings
- Chickens covered in vomit and...
- Absolutely, definitely GIN!

p.s. for all the madness there is one thing that I hope my family Christmas will be filled with, which my parent's Christmas has always had for me - and that is a deep and absolute love for your children. Even if they do drive you to drink and throw up on family pets.....

Friday, 19 December 2008

The Dog's Head in my Draws

As I tick off my Christmas shopping 'done!' list there is something bothering me quite deeply and it is the dog's head in my draws.

Let me explain.

Last summer my dad turned 60. I had NO idea what to buy him so I decided to get a portrait painted of his beloved Springer Spaniel.

And then I looked into prices....

There were people who could do it at a price I could afford but the result would not have been so much a present as something which would haunt small children through every sleepover at Grandad's house.

So I decided to sew it instead.

Stop laughing.

I found a website (I will confess that at the time I may have had more that a couple of alcoholic beverages and I may have slightly over-estimated my levels of both skills and patience) which could provide you with a 'photo-realistic' (hmm we'll see about that) counted cross-stitch chart so that you are able to stitch yourself an exact replica of your beloved pet's head.

For those of you fortunate enough not to be familiar with 'counted cross stitch charts' this basically means you will be supplied with a large sheet of fabric, a lot of threads, a sharp needle and a big piece of paper (or in this case pieces) with about a million different tiny boxes on them - each box with a different mark in. This mark corresponds to a colour and you are supposed to count every tiny box and every tiny bit of fabric, match them up and do your stitch.

Bored yet? I was.


It took over my life. Every day I spent hours hunched over my bit of cloth counting and stitching and swearing and raising my hands to the sky and asking 'WHY? WHY? WHY DID I NOT JUST BUY HIM SOME VINTAGE PORT?'.

My one abiding memory of last summer was of sweaty hours hunched over that bit of cloth, counting and cursing and scattering snacks on the floor in order to sedate my children, only to then realise I'd lost the bloody needle and start a full scale 'NOBODY MOVE! THERE IS DANGER IN THE AREA!' search. Only to then realise my needle was still attached to my thread.... Then there would be the grim realisation something wasn't looking quite right and that the dog's head was more than a little skew-whiff. Somewhere around stitch number 19,999 I'd have miscounted. The consequences would be dire and everything I would have done since 9pm the night before would need un-picking and doing again.

His birthday came and went. I told him his present would be late.

The summer came and went. I told him he might have it by early Autumn.

It would appear that Autumn started and I stuffed it in a draw in my hallway with the full intention of 'coming back to it' once I'd had a little tiny break.

Now my thoughts turn to Christmas shopping and I realise that I haven't given my father his birthday present yet.

And every time I (accidentally) open that draw, it is there - glowering back at me. With one eye, half an ear and a small portion of its lower jowl.

Something tells me he won't be getting it for Christmas.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Special Pasta

I think before I take this blog any further I need to explain what 'Special Pasta' is as some of you will have been lucky enough to have passed through life without coming across it.

'Special' Pasta was a meal cooked by my Sister in Law (SIL) and her boyfriend and it was so memorable that she will, forevermore, be known as my 'Special Pasta SIL'. I will probably be talking about my SIL now and again on this blog so it would help to set her in the correct historical context.

The story goes something like this:

One Sunday we had to go and visit my SIL and her fiance in their new house (they are now actually married but that is a WHOLE new post....). They've been here for 3 course meals many a time but this was a first for us (lets just say she's not known or her generosity).

Let me just start by saying they are both extremely odd. No they ARE! They are both about 40 (so not teenagers just moved out of home) and, quite frankly, on another planet. They have separate living rooms - his is downstairs with the walls covered in those plates you see advertised in the back of the News of the World - and hers is upstairs, filled with dolls houses and poems to her dead hamster. No really - there is a framed photo of him (before he died) and a poem dedicated to his, brief, life.

I think you could describe them as eccentric. If you were being polite...

She has ALWAYS been a tricky customer, some of the things she's done over the years have had me scratching my head and wondering if I'm trapped in a bad sitcom. For example, last Christmas she gave us a half eaten box of chocolates (you could tell they were half eaten because the box had been resealed with cellotape...) and a cook book with a dedication to HER written in the front of it. That was a painful moment - the bit where my husband said 'oh, how lovely! You've written in it for us! Dear.... Oh!'.

Another Christmas she gave my husband a paperback book about Julian Clary's life entitled 'A Young Man's Passage'. To say this was a bizarre choice is slightly underplaying it.

Anyway, back to that Sunday.....

They started cooking us lunch and said they were doing their 'special pasta'. Well it was certainly 'special'. I watched in horror as they tipped a packet of fresh pasta out of the fridge and a packet of dried pasta out of the cupboard into the same pan of boiling water. Hmmmm. Not the greatest of starts! Then he said he was going to put prawns and pesto on it but it turned out there were no prawns as she'd 'already spent too much in Budgens that week' (erm, WHO exactly does their weekly shop in Budgens? When they have a car? And several large supermarkets in the area?). So no prawns and therefore no pesto as apparently 'you have to have it with prawns'.

SO the pasta is cooking and I watch in horror as the guy then tips in two raw onions, a jar of Ragu and............... a packet of FROZEN mince.

A few minutes later they served it up to us. 'Luckily' there was enough pasta for 12 people and enough meat/sauce for 2 so I just picked out some of the pasta and ate that. Lumps of the meat hadn't even fallen apart where they were still frozen.

They kept saying how lovely it was (which makes you stop and consider what do the normally eat? 'Chappie' dog food?. I just hadn't got the heart to say 'look this is actually DANGEROUS, you can not eat this kind of thing!'. How can you get to 40 and think that that is OK? How can you get to 40 and eat that kind of thing and still be alive?

Other weird things included the fact that they had lived there for months yet she had to ask him where their bin was (?) and when we rang the doorbell she said 'oh we've got a doorbell! How marvellous!'. For some reason they clearly don't have many callers....

As I said, they got married earlier this year. Let's just say it lived up to all expectations.....

Shouting at Strangers

I'm not, by nature, a volatile woman. I don't generally throw things, or shout at my husband, or lock myself in the bathroom sobbing (although, I won't rule it out just yet) but, today, I was driven to screaming obscene words at a stranger in the street.

What drove me to this?

Well on the route I walk to get A from school I have to cross a very fast, very busy road. This road runs through the HQ of one of Britain's biggest employers and, therefore, a lot of people need to cross it everyday. A lot of people and me. So recently they put a pedestrian crossing on it to 'make it safer'. Now bearing in mind the volume of traffic and the volume of pedestrians I would have recommended one of those crossings with the beeping Green Man but it appears the Council knows better and instead we have one of those lame (significantly cheaper) jobs which is basically some stripes painted on the road. Stripes which no bugger ever notices.

Question: How effective is this as a means of crossing the road safely?
Answer: Not very.

So today I go to cross this road. I am not hard to miss. For a start I am pushing a damn huge pram.

What does some woman in a Micra do? Stare at me like I'm mad for standing in the middle of the road and just sails straight over the stripes and, almost, my pram.

Next thing I know I've lost all control of my senses and I'm screaming down the road 'WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?? THIS IS A F***ING LEVEL CROSSING'.

Only of course it isn't. It's a zebra crossing.

There were a lot of men in suits waiting on the otherside of the road. There were 'looks'.

I'm quite familiar with embarrassing myself in public but, all the same, I left the scene swiftly.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

'That' photo

I think I should make it clear here, just in case you are wondering, that I don't actually, normally, look like my profile picture.

Only when I'm posing for the front cover of an updated edition of 'The New Joy of Sex'.

They say things come in threes...

.. and today's tally is:

1. W drank an entire cup of 'Chemical Flower'. A 'Chemical Flower' is A's pride and joy which he creates each bathtime out of bathwater and shaving foam. He then places it, not to be touched by anybody, on the side of the bath. Well during a (very) rare moment of tidying the upstairs bedrooms W crawled off and the next thing I hear is a rapid slurping noise coming from the bathroom. One Chemical Flower. Gone. Down in One. WHY!? What is the attraction of Gillette and 24 hr old bathwater? I very much doubt it is the Best a Man can Get. I panicked (mildly) and contemplated ringing NHS Direct, but then came to my sense and realised that they'd just tell me to call an ambulance, so I googled 'child ingests shaving foam' and was satisfied that he would come to no harm. A did his best to calm the situation by assuring me that everything would be alright because he could just make another Chemical Flower. Argghh!

2. At bathtime I walked into my bedroom to find a light dusting of frost across pretty much all of it. Artifical frost that is. Artifical frost that took the form of £16 worth of Clinque Loose Powder. Luckily I was too tired to even shout.

3. I then came downstairs and poured myself a glass of red wine. The only glass of red wine. I then fell over backwards as I attempted to sit on the sofa and threw said glass of wine across myself and my best cream cushion. I once again turned to google (what did people actually do about minor crisis before the internet?) and discovered that I had 2 choices in removing the stain: white wine or milk. So milk it was. Which means I can't even have a cup of bloody tea because the sink is now filled with all my milk and a large cushion.

So I resorted to starting a Blog instead.....