Monday, 26 December 2011

Decks the Hall with Boughs of Sorrow

Well that's that over and done with.

It's Boxing Day and I'm still here.  The children had a lovely time trying not choke on Ferraro Roche and tattooing me with stegosaurus ink stamps (they want me to get a large one tattooed across my butt.   Well that would certainly be a talking point wouldn't it? But presumably only amongst those who ever saw me naked from behind which, lets be honest here, is currently somewhere around the 'zero' mark.  Still- it could potentially put a whole new spin on the grand unveiling next time I go for a smear test).

Anyway Father Christmas came and he even found a tree under which he could put the presents (more on that next blog).

He also found some stockings but maybe the less said about those the better......  Oh ok I confess.  I realised late on Christmas Eve - when I say late I mean at the point the children needed to hang them up - that I didn't actually have any stockings for Santa to fill.  Gulp. I think in previous years I used a big woolly pair of over the knee walking socks but in the 'post break up I am going to throw most my life in a skip and start again' insanity, I think I must have looked at them, thought 'huh? When do I ever go on some kind of walk that involves actual WALKING SOCKS!?' and given them to the charity shop - forgetting they were actually my children's Christmas stockings.

Clearly this has 'parenting fail' written all over it BUT all was not lost! Having dismissed my son's offer of a school ankle sock (kind of limiting in terms of present volume) and my lace hold ups (they'd get laddered and cost more than a fiver) I stumbled upon.......... a pair of thick cable knit tights from Next.  Luckily I'd drunk circa 3 litres of wine by this point so it instantly occurred to me to slash through the gusset with a pair of kitchen scissors and present each child with a severed tight leg.   The tights were unfortunately a sort of flesh colour (thus why I never wore them - they were an ill judged purchase to go with a tea dress and look 'wholesome'.  It didn't work).   So basically on Christmas Eve it looked as if two withered limbs were hanging from my fire place and the children did keep asking 'but why are they torn?' but hey Santa still filled them! And anyway - surely that's what Christmas is all about? The memories? Even if they are of your mother's torn tights.

Hang on in there people - we are on the cusp of a New Year and I have no idea what it will be other than never ever dull.....

Monday, 28 November 2011

Catering for Zombies

Ok so if you read this blog you are probably used to the surreal (and the downright ridiculous) but even I (after many years of living with 'this life') sometimes pause and look back at the day in hand and think 'huh? That's not for real right?'.

But it always bloomin well is.

Last week I had tickets to a gig to see two bands play quite a long way away.  I was taking Badger Girl. She had her outfit sorted and everything (I have a feeling of loss that I will never see it).

But the day before she called me (just as I came off a 12 hour shift and was stood in the neon glow of the doorway of the only Chinese Takeaway in town open on a Tuesday night).

Badger Girl: 'Stick?'

Me: 'Who else?'

Badger Girl: 'Stick you OK?'

Me: 'Yeah I seem to be losing my voice but it's OK - the world will rejoice'.

Badger Girl: 'Stick, I'm really sorry - there's something I've got to tell you.....'

Me: 'It's Ok, don't worry, whatever it is it doesn't matter' (I already know she can't come and it's fine, I'm really not worried, it's no big thing).

Badger Girl: 'I can't come to the gig because we've got to do the catering for a Hollywood Zombie Film being filmed somewhere in the countryside near Shepton Mallet. It's got Corey Feldman in. COREY FELDMAN! Though I've looked him up on the internet and he's gone downhill since I had him on my wall. I think it must have been drugs. It said he'd been through 'difficult times' - that'll be drugs right? I think he's demanding too. That's probably also the drugs.  I think he actually will be demanding.  Oh and also there is the kid in it who was the kid in Terminator. You know the one out of Terminator 2? The film with Arnie? Well anyway he's gonna be there.  In Shepton Mallet!! Only he's a grown up now. Obviously.

Me: 'Hmmm (whilst eyeing the Chinese menu through the window and trying to work out whether chow mein or special rice is better value) that is kind of crazy'.

Badger Girl: 'Anyway we've got to do all of them breakfast, lunch and dinner and it's nuts and we have to get up at 3am every day and go to bed at midnight and it's a lot of sausages to prep....;

Door opens - anxious looking man asks if he can help me. I tell him I'll let him know.

Me: Erm, it's Ok.  Really it is OK (thinking to myself - I love Badger Girl.  I really do love her. For all she brings to my life and making me feel sane. Every single week. And who knew? Really who knew that Zombie's were running wild outside Shepton Mallet but still need 3 meals a day and prefer paella to human blood).

We hang up.

I go into the Chinese. Strangely drawn by the Formica and odd photographic calendars and pictures of pandas and bamboo and wipe clean plastic and the way it all attaches itself to several decades of 'life as we have known it'.  Despite being supposedly foreign it's about as familiar to parts of life as you can get it.  And it's not about to change. I appreciate that.  The lack of change.  When everything else changes, your bog standard local Chinese tends not to.

I order two random dishes and sit down to try and glean something interesting from the local free paper (a past time which we all know is fruitless).

And then I wonder what I'm going to do about the gig. I text my brother but he's busy with work.  I deduce that the best thing to do is write it off and not go.  Not much lost.

But then the next day - hours before my supposed departure I wonder what my dad would have done and realise he would have said 'book a last minute hotel, get on the bloody train and enjoy yourself'.

And so I do.

I stay in a rather odd hotel with curtains that appear made from the pelts of Teddy Bears and a 7th storey toilet with a floor to ceiling window looking over the city (which is great until you realise, mid-flow, all the other buildings are several storeys taller and people can, literally, look down on you as you go about your business).

I go to the gig and sing along and don't even get squashed or hit or molested or covered in Carling. This is a first.  Clearly I should travel alone more often.

But then I wake up in the night and discover 3 things:

1. The Teddy Bear Pelt/Panoromic Poo View hotel room has no actual heating. Yup NO heating and it's COLD.  Beyond cold. I'm shaking all over.

2. My throat has swollen shut and there is drool running down my chin because I can't swallow.

3. My throat really has swollen shut and I can only emit a feint 'eek eeek' noise - not unlike a hungry guinea pig. I can not talk. At all.

By the morning the situation had worsened.  I check out via a series of clicks and eeks - like a Killer Whale informing his brotherhood to destroy a seal pup.

The receptionist looks highly alarmed and draws me a map to the nearest pharmacy whilst frantically pointing at EXIT.

And thus - quite some walk later - I find myself in a BOILING hot branch of Boots in a foreign city carrying a heavy bag and wearing a heavy coat and holding two bottles of coke and queuing at the pharmacy.  There are a dozen very old and very frail people ahead of me and one pharmacist...... The wait goes on.....Sweat is running down my brown...... My head is fizzing.......People are talking about the weather..... I need to take my coat off but I can't work out how.... I need to put down my bag and this coke....but I can't seem to get there.....Wooo hhhhhhh oooooo aaaaa....


I hear a bang and see my coke bouncing across the floor. At eye level.  Hmm I am on the floor.  It appears I've fainted.

I try to get up, quickly, but hordes of otherwise bored and quite ill people have found their new distraction  And the problem is - I can't speak.  I can't just say 'oohh sorry folks! Oh how embarrassing! Let me get up a minute!!'.


 So as I'm asked 'are you OK?'....'do you want us to call anyone....?' 'can you get up?'.... all I can do is 'eek'.

Gesticulating wildly I flap whilst people recoil in horror.  'Do you need an ambulance?' one of them carefully mouths.

It is by now clear that I am not just on the floor. I am obviously on the floor and have bigger problems than even that.  And I might even be drunk. Or on drugs.  Or foreign.  OR a drunk, drugged up foreigner! Whatever it is I need to be spoken to VERY VERY SLOWLY WITH BIG MOUTHS. Coz that always helps.  Doesn't it?


Anyway by sheer brute force I finally managed to make enough sense to say I'd got too hot and after an enforced 'time out' on a chair I'm allowed to skip the queue and purchase some throat medicine.

And a few hours later I'm home with one child watching freight trains on the internet and the other one sporting a face like raw meat where he's 'fallen over' at school to the point where he's had to be collected.  Again.

And I sit there and think 'huh? Did that all really just happen? The Zombie Film? The chow mein? The curtains? The throat? The floor in Boots? The being stuck at a signal light somewhere outside Weston Super Mare?'.

But it did.

And if you see the grown up kid out of Terminator in a Zombie film any time soon you can at least say that you know someone, off the internet like, who knows the person who served him his bacon butty and that the friend (not the one who served the bacon butty) fainted the very same day.

Fame at last......but I think I'd rather stay at home with the freight trains.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Strand Tests are for Wimps

Many years ago this blog started with me searching the internet for ways to save cream coloured cushions from a tsunami of red wine - I think I ended up soaking them in litres of milk - so it seems quite fitting that several years later history was pretty much repeating itself, only this time I wasn't scouring the internet for red wine/stain solutions but red hair/stain/I look like Sharon Osbourne solutions.

Some people get their thrills by partaking in adrenaline pumping sports.  Some people escape via the X Box. Some people get drunk and start fights (please, don't mention Birmingham). Some people leap off tall buildings attached to parachutes or plunge from cranes attached to pieces of elastic.  Women like me stuck at home with small children on a damp cold evening seek out that illusive thrill, that sense of 'what if?', that stepping into the void by.......

... well by dying their hair without doing the strand test.

Apparently 98% of callers to 'Hair Dye Manufacturer's Help Lines' answer 'no' to the 'but did you do a strand test question?'.  The other 2% are either lying or gaining background history for their 'My Hair Dye Caused My Face to Explode Like a Pumpkin' story in Take a Break.

Anyway needless to say I've never done a strand test in my life. Just as I never read instructions properly or terms and conditions or put the butter in the fridge or put my driving glasses on until it's dark.  And hey, you know, it's only hair! It's not like it really matters....

My hair first got dyed when I was about 14.  It was Badger Girl that did it (Quelle Surpise). I was having a sleep over at her house (only they weren't called sleep over then - it was just 'staying at your mate's house') and she'd bought a box of dye and between her and another girl they bullied me into it, killed themselves laughing as they refused to let me wash it off for about three hours and then - when her rather cross mother rescued me - insisted on washing out over the kitchen sink with jugs of warm milk (she lived on a dairy farm).  It was downhill from there.  Before you knew it was I was stealing fabric dye from Textiles lessons and turning bits red (it came out in the rain) and then it was Jiff Lemons to 'lighten' it and then, before you know it, I'd started on the Sun-In.

I'm not really sure what happened next. I know when I was 16 I let a budding hairdressing student perm it in the college common room. I say 'budding' - she never actually reached the blooming bit...... I've still got the photos of me grinning like a loon with the rollers in.  I'm sat on a gas heater and she's leering over me with a fag in her mouth.  I'm not quite sure what my mother thought when she picked me up at the end of the day with rampantly curly hair but I think by that point she'd stopped asking too many questions.  The perm fell out in about a week so we did it all again 'for a laugh' and then I think my hair started to fall out so we stopped.

On to University and I wanted 'highlights' (once perms are old school you go for highlights because their more grown up and 'posher') but highlights done by a proper trained professional (rather than some student who leaves you like a gloriously stripped autumnal badger) cost about the same as an entire term's cider budget so we did them ourselves.  With a shower cap we poked holes in and a needle to pull the hair through.  This could potentially have worked if I'd had short hair and wanted that fabulous '80s retro Michelle Fowler off of Eastenders' look but sadly my long hair was soon being ripped from it's roots by my well meaning friend so we took the cap off and just  put bleach through 'some random bits'.

And then I got a job and had more exciting things to do than mess about with my hair.

And then I had kids and didn't have a well paid job and didn't have anywhere to go in the evening so the fiddling came back.

But despite my lack of strand tests I have never had a disaster. I've always used permanent 'potential for disaster is immense' dye and never ever felt any sense of regret.  In the summer I went bright copper and have been happy with it ever since.

Until last week.

Last week I decided to be 'sensible' and refresh the 'copper tones' with a non-permanent 'more healthy for your hair' type of dye.  A gentle, non risky, Amber glow so I would look nice and shiny like a well nourished dog, for the reunion I'm going to with Badger Girl on Saturday and my graduation photos next week......

Tra  la la la la - dye on - wash off - dry hair........


Amber my arse.

More like Puddle of Mud.

It was BROWN.  With this awful type of artificial old lady reddy sheen.

It certainly got my heart racing.  Racing with the fear of having to go out with hair like Sharon Osbourne.

But it's OK right because this is NOT permanent. Yeah? So I just have to wash it out as quick as I can.

So I searched the internet for ideas.

1. Fairy Liquid - washed it twice in this - no freaking difference. Other than I'm covered in bubbles.

2. Bicarb of soda - washed it twice in this - guess what? No difference. Other than I'm covered in white powder.

3. Warm olive oil - bunged it in the microwave for a minute and poured it on my head.  Ow.  Turns out 15 seconds is all you need.  No difference other than a burnt scalp, rivers of oil running down my body and all over the floor.

4. White wine vinegar - I don't have this, only cider vinegar - but guess what!? NO FREAKING DIFFERENCE.  Only now I'm covered in olive oil AND vinegar and stink like a Greek salad. Chuck some croutons and a few olives into the mix and dinner is served.

By this point it's 1am.  The adrenaline is starting to leave my body so I go to bed only to be woken at 4am by a howling child and lie there in a confused state wondering why all I can smell is salad dressing and where all the white powder came from.

6am get up and hope the hair has 'grown on me' or magically gone back to copper.

Nope.  It's Dawn of the Freakin Dead looking back at me.

Take children to my mums.  She comments my hair is 'very shiny'. Yes mum that will be all the olive oil I can't wash out of it.

Decide it's too oily for work but can not face one more minute of hair washing (having washed it about 19 times in 24 hours) so put talc in  it to soak up the olive oil.

I now have volume to die for but on the other hand you could turn me upside down and deep fry my hair as Tempura batter.

TRY to live with the hair for 2 more days.  Someone at the hospital compliments me on the way I've matched my hair to my BROWN top.   It still looks like Puddle of Mud with 'berry' tones and then I see Janet Street Porter on TV and realise I'm potentially channelling her look and freak.  Borrow my mum's Vosense (possible the harshest shampoo in the world) and wash it twice more...... Nope - I've had tattoos less permanent than this hair dye.

So after a whole week of excitement I give up and strip it with proper stuff from a shop rather than ideas off the internet.  This involves spending an entire afternoon walking round in a bin bag and shower cap smelling of rotten eggs only to then have to spend 30 minutes under running water.  I never want to wash my hair again. Ever.   Some people will do ANYTHING to avoid housework......

And after all that my hair is.....exactly the same colour it was before all this ridiculous carry on. Back to a sort of Auburn blonde.  Like my Scottish grandma.

My mother was right all along - I should never have messed with it in the first place.  But since when did anyone ever listen to their mother?

Maybe I need to take up Base Jumping?

Monday, 24 October 2011

Time Out

So we wanted a weekend away – having fun and forgetting about our responsibilities.

So we went to Birmingham.

Don’t ask – I don’t even really know why.  We started out looking at cheap Travelodge deals and settled on Manchester, then decided we couldn’t afford the petrol. So we decided on Brighton but of course Brighton takes about 30 years to get to from Somerset.  So we decided on Bournemouth but then, and I don’t really know how, booked Birmingham.

That well known destination for people for looking rest, relaxation and getting away from it all.

Basically what happened in Birmingham, stays in Birmingham and there was exceedingly appalling and embarrassing behaviour (I think) but we took in the kind of sights and sounds all good holiday makers should….  The inside of a Travelodge (by night and day in my case as on the Sunday I was unable to get dressed until 5pm), the inside of a minicab or two, a very very dubious ‘night club’, a kebab shop, a Chinese ‘all you can eat buffet’ (which appeared to be inside a village hall), several layers of a multi-story car park several times, Primark, Wetherspoons, a pub which Facebook informed us was ‘for lesbians ‘ (but was actually filled only with old men – maybe hoping for lesbians?) and a tattoo parlour. 

Oh yeah – I missed out Tesco Express.  But we didn’t buy anything so does it count?

My biggest error was claiming on the Saturday night that I didn’t feel like drinking much…Yeah that old chestnut.  They catch you when your guard is low.

All I had consumed in the entire day was 2 migraine tablets and a prawn wrap.  At something like 7pm I poured a cider.  Just the first of the two I intended to have.   2 litres as it turned out. Then I started on the vodka.  Later I let a young man (and I mean young) who claimed to have ‘many much money and house in Dubai’ and was very angry at his (ex) girlfiend who ‘invested many years in but was a cheating bitch’ buy me tequila slammers. I think most of them went down my dress but I bitterly remember swallowing way too much lemon. 

To be frank it was downhill from there.  We had to flee a dubious ‘nite spot’ and I promptly fell over a crash barrier and got shouted at (yes shouted at) by the police.  On trying to pick the crash barrier up I fell on top of it and couldn’t get up.  Somewhere on the street was a camera crew so if you are watching  Police Interpectors sometime in the coming weeks and see a 30 something mother of two face down on a crash barrier with her bottom in the air and knickers on show whilst the narrator gives a somber speech about the demise of society you can at least impress your friends by ‘knowing’ me.  In a vague kind of relieved your life hasn’t turned out like that way.

On getting back to the hotel I struck up a conversation with a highly camp man standing outside his bedroom.  Having given him a dose of my rapier wit he came back with……

‘OH MY GOD – honey? WHAT is THAT all over your face?’.

On closer inspection it was lipstick.

I’d gone out wearing bright crimson lipstick.  It was now covering the entire lower half and some of the upper parts of my face.   I looked like a 5 year old clown who’d gone wild with the Crayola.  A drunk 5 year old clown at that.  

Cutting a stylish dash as ever.

I then passed out in the double bed next to my friend (there were no twin rooms available) and, having made a big scene about personal space and pillow barricades, woke up with my leg wrapped round my friend’s torso, holding her tightly to my bosom. 

I then decided I needed breakfast and for reasons I can only put down to ‘still being drunk’ entered the dining hall wearing my pyjamas (which didn’t even match and the bottoms had shrunk on an accidental boil wash and were wafting around half way up my legs – though frankly that was the least of the onlookers concerns) and a pair of leopard print high heels.  I promptly proceeded to miscalculate the amount of leverage needed to spoon scrambled egg from the buffet serving platter on to my plate and with one deft move, transferred the entire congealed eggy mass from the platter, through the air and onto the shoes of the man stood next to me. 

Time stopped.

We both stared at his shoes (what we could see of them through the egg).

I said ‘oh’.

I lamely attempted to kick some of the egg away from his shoes, managing to simply kick him in the ankle.

Through all of this he remained utterly still and utterly silent –  presumably fearing I was a deranged crack addict who had escaped from the local secure accommodation in search of scrambled eggs and  half a tomato.   In leopard print heels.

I then went back to bed and remained there until 5pm.  My friend managed to go out but had to take the electronic swipe card with her so of course I had no power and spent several sweaty hours lying in a semi dark room with no clock, no tv, no kettle and no idea really what the hell was going on or where I was.  On the plus side – at least I was only in Birmingham and it wasn’t as if I was missing out on a day next to the azure blue ocean or trip to swim with dolphins. 

I’d like to claim none of it was my fault and my drink was clearly spiked but frankly, it was entirely my fault and I shall aim not to repeat the experience.  Again.

Especially the bit with the scrambled egg……

On returning to work my boss enquired what I got up to on my mini-break.
A bit of a shopping I said.

And lets just leave it at that. 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Here Cometh the Silence

I have a bit of a blog block.  I barely seem able to get on the lap top these days and I can only blog from the lap top (I do have access to computers in two of my three jobs but there is no way on this earth I could blog from them - one is in a hospital and I don't have time to urinate most shifts, let alone blog, and the other is lets just say 'carefully monitored') so on rare occasions like this where I get to a real life keyboard with free internet access I feel a bit confuddled about where to start.

I mean seriously where do you start? There is so much stuff and it's all just mashing about in my head.  Birthday cake catastrophes, accidently writing to people under the name of Bucky, wardrobe disasters x 2, a trip to Birmingham etc etc etc.  It's all in there fighting to come out.

Not to mention this weekend is the anniversary of the weekend last year where my marriage exploded. I was of course, in the style of all great Soap Operas, at my mother in laws house (also knows as the Tropical Biome - long time fans may recall it as the one with those really special ornaments. Like the Banjo Playing Bunny and the Satanic Shepard Boy).

About this time on the Sunday I was shaking like a leaf, throwing up down a toilet, packing my bags and children into a hire car (my car had of course been hit by a 4x4 that week and was broken) and heading off into the wilderness... single.  I seem to recall the journey took 7.5 hours but this included 4 stops:

1. Grantham train station - I think I took the children there to make them happy and once again try and cover up the fact I was loopy.  Something like that.  I remember we couldn't get on the platform without a ticket so I stood at the barriers looking wild and desperate and shouting something like 'here comes a GNER!' with false mania - even though GNERs no longer exist (can you tell just how much You Tube footage of the railway era I have sat through?).  It felt somehow suitable dramatic.

2. Being sick in a lay-by off a dual carriageway somewhere near Melton Mowbray. This felt rather less dramatic. More desperate.  And then I needed a wee. The children peered out of the window in bemused horror.

3. A service station where I bought (and I still don't know why) a loaf of seeded bread for the children. I think I deemed actual pre-prepared food as too complicated and too expensive.  I threw it in the back - the whole sliced loaf - as if they were pigeons or ducks on a pond - and left them to it. When I 'came to' about a week later I realised the back of my brand new coupe hire car was entirely coated with stale bread crumbs. You could have deep fried the upholstery and served it a turkey escalopes.  When I handed it back to the hire firm they asked if I'd had rats in the vehicle......

4. An empty Asda car park in Burnham on Sea where I ended up because the motorway was jammed and I got lost and confused.  I think drove around in circles for a while whilst simultaneous texting my friends, playing the Prodigy at full volume and shouting at the children.  I think I then stopped the car and cried.  Large numbers of local skater boys who were using the car park for stunts stared on somewhat bewildered.

It would have made great documentary footage. In fact maybe I should just sellotape a camera to my forehead and stream my life life in the web? That might solve a few of my problems.

So anyway after that everyone said things could only get better.  They lied.

But I'm still here and I'm Ok and so are my children and that's the main thing.

The children are sat here now.  The eldest one (who appears to have messed up my lap top with his Trainz Railway Simulator CD-ROM which a very kind blog follower actually sent him! How's that for kind!) is watching a DVD entitled 'Dave's Railway Films - Freight Trains Around Crewe'.  This is a somewhat amateur yet entirely genuine production.   It makes the previous favourite 'Florida Freight Trains' look like an Oscar winner, yet I must confess I prefer it to 'A Lineside Look at Model Railways' which features an enthusiast crafting the spokes for a miniature bicycle with...... HIS OWN HAIR.   We also have a new, yet to be watched, DVD called 'A Busy Day at Watford Junction, 2011'.   This sounds like it could potentially be a seedy 1970's documentary about a Watford massage parlour but no.... It is an hour of footage of trains arriving and've guessed it...... Watford Junction.


The younger child is basically that Crazy Frog ('Very Annoying Thing') that was around a few years ago with that horrendous, repetitive, loud loud noise coming out of his mouth.

This child will ensure that, even if I had the time and lack of chaos to enable it, no man will EVER immerse himself in my life again.  I mean I have a lot to offer but not enough to compensate for being dragged from bed at 6am on a Sunday morning by a small child bellowing 'Hello BIG FAT BOBBY HEAD' out the bedroom window (hopefully at our cat - not at, god forbid, a man with a big fat head) followed by the lovely song 'ogi ogi ogi OG OG OG' followed by the 'stomp stomp STOMP' dinosaur song with actions (i.e. stamping so hard the floorboards reverberate through the entire terrace). This is of course all punctuated by me shouting 'stop it! STOP IT, STOP IT NOOOOOWWWWW!!'.  I look at internet dating profiles (purely for comedy reasons) and see 'successful 30/40 somethings' talk about how they are SO successful that they would now like to meet a woman for travelling, romantic walks on the beach, meals out and maybe one day a family.  None of them say they want to meet a women so they can get out of bed at 6am every single day, be deafened by a hideous noise being emitted by a small person wearing no clothes but possibly clutching a flea ridden cat, peel congealed banana and melted chocolate of their smart phone and have to wait at least a decade for a romantic walk.

Now if I could just find a partially deaf railway enthusiast I 'might' be on to a winner but maybe we best not go there.

I love him more than life itself but my god he is LOUD.  As his brother said to him earlier 'could you just try and be a bit less irritating? Please?'.

His answer was..... NO I CAN'T STOP THIS.

But never mind - their dad is taking them away for the first part of half term - back to the Tropical Biome/House of the Banjo Bunny.

What am I going to so with all this SILENCE!?!

Friday, 7 October 2011


So my life continues to fall apart around my ears. Yawn yawn yawn.  You don't need to hear all this (although it is all actually quite fascinating from a bystanders point of view).

But the good thing is that the kids are oblivious to it all - I think they are so used to the constant chaos by now that it's basically business as usual.

In fact my eldest, on the afternoon where he saw fit to fire EVERY SINGLE piece of small Lego he owns (that would be something like 3,000 pieces) around the ENTIRE downstairs of the house, on a day where I'd been pushed to the edge and was already quietly crying (after the Lego Incident I was loudly howling) explained to me very patiently 'mummy - you really don't need to sit in the toilet and cry - that's crazy! Just do it in the front room like we do. A toilet isn't for crying into'.  

Good point son. Good point.

By the way - the Lego? 2 hours of 3 of us picking it up and I'm still picking miniature policeman's helmets out of my bum cheeks every time I sit down in my nightie.  Either them or those teeny weeny clear plastic bits that represent headlights.  Love beads they ain't.......

Anyway so the kids are alright.  Or at least I hope they are.

And their constant, deadpan, innocent humour is like a tonic to my soul.  So this post is dedicated to them - Original Son (OS) and Last Every Son (LES) - this one's for you.... For all the times you make me think and smile in 24 hours...

Last night: 

OS: 'Mummy?'
Me: 'Yes?'
OS: 'There's something I've got to tell you...'
Me: 'Err what?'.
OS: 'It's about your phone....'
Me: 'WHAT?!' (prickles of fear creeping up my spine).
OS: 'It's really bad'.
Me: 'Tell me, tell me NOW!' (having palpitations about what I'll do if it's gone down the toilet pan and I need to Google chutney recipes/expensive frocks I have nowhere to wear/directions to somewhere I don't need to go at 2am because I'm awake and don't want to think about reality).
OS: 'Weeeeeellll mummy, that man, the one who put the apple in it? I'm afraid to tell you - he's dead'.

This morning: 

LES: 'Grandma? Who is ACTUALLY in charge of the whole world? Jesus or my teacher?
Grandma: 'Ask your mother!'.

At bath time: 

OS: 'Mummy? Have you ever had leprosy?'.
Me: 'Err no.  No, leprosy - like earthquakes, tsunamis, killer bees, volcanoes, alien abduction and all that, isn't a particularly big problem in England'.
OS: 'Oh OK. Well you need to send money in to save a leper and today we did Street Dance and saved one leper and I thought it might be you - from before we were born'.
Me: ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? (hurries to mirror to check complexion).

At bed time: 

Reading the incredibly moving book 'Cold Paws Warm Heart' where a little girl reaches out to an icy cold polar bear that everyone else has shut out and gradually warms him up before finally warming his heart with a hug.....I'm sniffing back tears of emotion as I gaze upon the beautiful illustrations and moving prose....I finish and pause - allowing a moment for the true meaning of the story to sink in.....

LES: 'So the polar bear is dead now, yes?'.
Me: 'NO! He's sleeping, all happy and warmed by love!'.
LES: 'Did the little girl shoot him? BANG!'.
Me: 'Sigh'.
OS: 'Can we have that poem with bumfit in it....'

Endless peels of laughter...... (this is actually a real poem - it comes from a book given out by the Government in the Bookstart programme. It's something to do with counting sheep in Cumbrian and also includes the words dick and whore. Actually no - I don't think there's any whores in it. Just dicks and bumfits. So that's OK).

Bless their crazy souls.....

Monday, 19 September 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For...

So - as you all know I have had some 'issues' with the hall I use for my teaching.  Issues including fig-roll stealing-Orange Club raffling-line hopping-chain smoking ancients, a roof that leaks because some scumbag stole all the lead, a toilet a heavily pregnant lady got locked in, a man in a Stetson who subtly threatened me over my mis-use of dishwasher detergent and that's before we get to being serenaded by faulty fire alarms and an intruder alarm that seems to wait for me to relax before causing my near collapse.  And so it was with some joy that I found out that for one of my recent sessions a different hall had been booked! A much newer posher generally all round 'lovelier' venue.  Wooo hooo! Good bye ancients, good bye handwritten threats on Sarah Lee Gateaux, good bye local youths peering in the the windows while I hold up placards of vaginas.   From now on everything will go swimmingly.....

It all started well.   

I had to pick up the fob - yes FOB, electronic automatic device thing - from a highly ordered awfully polite lady called Margaret.  Nobody was smoking a roll up or wearing a Stetson or warning about local rituals.  All I had to be aware of was that the lights would come on automatically when I swiped my fob.  Imagine that!! From the darkest depths of a 1970s pub carpet and flickering strip lights to AUTOMATIC ILLUMINATION. 


And then I got there.  

And it was all incredibly well kept and incredibly clean and errr incredibly ordered.  Everywhere I looked there were signs and signs and well more signs. And orders and instructions.  I began to feel that I had been overtaken by some kind or higher order.  The Order of Margaret and her Kin.  

It started at the door......

And continued inside.....where we were helpfully shown just exactly where the light switch was (but sadly not  how to operate it - personally I think 'press here for illumination' is needed you know, just in case).  We were also shown just exactly what doors not to go out of, unless the place set ablaze (god forbid). 

And the feeling of being in quite another universe just grew and grew..... I mean I understand the dangers of over stacking chairs, many halls have a sign saying 'MAX 6 CHAIRS IN EACH STACK' but here we have quite a different level of order.  We have chairs segregated on grounds of whether or not they have arms.  We have numbers both as numerical symbols and as written words. We have a picture of a chair just in case you were previously unsure as to what one looked like.  And of course best of all we have an arrow showing you just exactly where the corner is.  Because corners of rooms, you know what? They can be illusive.

At this point I decided I needed a cup of tea but on entering the kitchen I was relieved I was not classified as a 'weekend user' (although I will confess that in past I have used many things to get through the weekend - particularly if it involves rain and small children) but was fascinated to find there was an entire drawer dedicated to 'teaspoons'.  That's a whole lotta teaspoons. 

On turning round in the kitchen I was alarmed to find that there are apparently mysterious people out there who go round adding random tubes of Savlon to other people's First Aid kits.  You have been warned.....

So with that in mind, I went to set up my refreshments on the tea trolley but then decided maybe not.... I did not want to risk anyone moving it... 

Groping for the kettle I kept clear of all other switches.... 

And then went looking for the mugs.  Ironically I could not find any mugs for quite some time, but I sure knew where everything else was.  Seriously this is just a SMALL selection of the labelling of the kitchen. I was worried I'd wear my phone battery out if I took the full portfolio. It was like someone's John Lewis wedding list got cut up and laminated.   Boy do they love sealing things up in wipe proof plastic sheaths.....

These aren't just platters - these are OVAL platters...

Woah! The photo below stopped me short mid-photoshoot......  Hmm so if it looks like a cupboard but it is NOT a cupboard what is it? And if it's not just a pretend cupboard that isn't a cupboard so doesn't open why can't you try to open it and merely fail and think 'oh it's one of those silly pretend cupboards they put in to make it look neater'??  Now clearly I could have answered this by disobeying the sign and just trying to open it. But I didn't.  I actually got scared by all the signs.  I felt a sort of creeping dread.  A dread that I would uncover something I really shouldn't.  That curiosity really could kill the cat (or in fact me).  I feared I might find the body parts of someone from the Bridge club or some kind of equipment that gets used when everyone else things it's the over 70's Short Mat Bowls.  Or maybe, just maybe, another really angry sign saying 'we told you not to open this cupboard and now the curse of a thousand years shall descend on your family'.  Actually I think maybe I already must have opened that cupboard.....Anyway - I started thinking about Ancient Egypt and tombs and those scary beetle things in that Mummy film and I left the cupboard that isn't a cupboard well alone but have annoyingly pondered on it ever since.....

You think I'd use your dishwasher?? No offence but on the evidence presented I think I'd like to speak to my Lawyer first and you know, get a kind of pre-nuptial drawn up before I enter into that kind of usage of your facilities.....

See I told you it would get complicated.....

Okay okay.....

Yeah probably while you scan my retinas and close down the CCTV file....

You know what I said about the dishwasher? Well it counts for the heating system too.  At the other place - the crazy hall - you just simply turn the radiator up.  Reach down. Grab a knob. Turn it.  End of story.  Unless you get too hot. Then you turn it back again.  Simple. 

Sorry? You want me to take a blue mop for a walk? Okay okay... Does it get a biscuit afterwards if it behaves? 

If only I was making this up.... 

By this point I had reached the stage of rash rebellion.   When I heaved those goddam heavy tables back into that cupboard do you know what? I let them fall in what ever direction they wanted to and there may - I say MAY have not been 8 to the left and 7 to the right.  It could have been 7 to the left and 8 to the right.  Am I bovvered? No.  I have risen from my oppression and am now rebelling. 

And thus it continued.  

The couples arrived and sat in a kind of frightened silence. Nobody even wanted to make a cup of tea.  It was then that I knew.  However insane things were back at the other hall, however weird and crazy and 'not like you might have hoped' do you know what? It was where I belonged. The chaos suited me. I was born to cope with it.  Born to catch drips in buckets or shout at Panto groups to shut up or confront old people about their smoking and biscuit theft.   So thank you Margaret and Co - you keep a truly lovely hall - you really do - but you are BLOWING MY MIND WITH YOUR SIGNS.  I'm outta here.

And so it was a week later I was back where I belonged..... standing next to a man in a Stetson who warned me about the Christening party coming in at 1pm and the left over food from the 'gone wrong wedding' the night before that was cluttering up the kitchen area and reminded me about the dishwasher fluid.... 

I never thought I'd say it but I was glad to be back.....

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Dog Days Really ARE Over

So, as I hinted in my last post, my mum's other dog died. This post will therefore contain potentially offensive subject matter about dead dogs. Again. You have been warned.

Now the poor thing was about 110 years old and had already survived cancer and a stroke which left it lying under a garden shrub for days on end and walking sideways evermore cannoning of furniture like a staggering drunk (but yet always daftly happy) so it wasn't ENTIRELY unexpected, but all the same for someone as bereaved as my mum to basically lose the last thing she lives with, it was pretty sad all round.

The dog of course chose to die on my birthday.

Well done dog.


I shall toast you every time I get another bloody year older and remember the time you ate one of my best 'going out shoes' when you were a puppy and I nearly killed my brother for leaving my bedroom door open.

Luckily I didn't know about the dog dying because I was on a windy cliff top with my ex-husband and two children out of mobile phone range for the entire week.

I can't say I'm entirely unhappy about this coincidence as it did mean my brother was the one who got the 7am phone call informing him of the dog's demise which is probably fair as I had to get the previous dog actually killed which is like SO much worse surely (stamp foot, toss hair and sulk in true sibling fashion). All he had to do was turn up once it this one was already dead and sort it out.....

I asked him to guest spot on here and tell it how it was but he declined so I'll have to do it for him and try to do his Services to Deceased Dogs proud.

So anyway he dragged his wife - his poor long suffering wife (god love her, her family are so erm normal compared to ours, just nice lovely people. Since being with my brother there are things she has been exposed to by our family that NO woman should have to suffer including my dad's testicles, a horse trying to die under a fence, various people's arses, way too many funerals and now THIS) and baby out of bed and went to bury the dog.

On arrival the dog was lying in the doorway between the kitchen and lounge.

'Right mum, you best call Jonny to come and dig the hole'.

'Oh I have, he's gone away, he's not back today'.


'Can't you just leave her there? You know for a few days? JUST LEAVE HER' (mother starts up a somewhat theatrical wail a bit like they do in the Middle East).

My brother nervously exchanges glances with his wife.

'Err mum, you can't actually LEAVE the dog there for like DAYS. What are we meant to do? Step over it every time we want to move rooms? Let the children use it as a climbing frame? 'Come on kids! Who needs a teddy when you've got a real life dog - and it's guaranteed safe to play with! And yes that is real life poo coming out of it's butt'. NO NO NO NO NO. I'll dig the bloody hole - like NOW'.

And thus my brother found himself in a small corner of Somerset trying to dig a big hole for a big dead dog. On rock hard summer baked soil.

A few hours (yes hours) in he was in despair and needing further guidance. Where can one turn to on the matter of dog burial? It's not like you can call up one of your many friends who specialise in grave digging during their leisure times. Or get a book out the library. Or call a charitable helpline (and even if you could, like most charitable helplines it would probably say 'thank you for your call, you really must be desperate, however due to lack of funding our offices are currently closed, we are open between the hours of 10.30 and 11 every other Tuesday if the month starts with an M when we would be happy to take your call. You can not leave a message. If it's that bad there's always The Samaritans. Goodbye').

Nope - in a situation like this there can be no answer but Google. And thus he found himself locked in the toilet, Googling 'how to bury a dead dog' on his phone.....

Interesting facts which I can pass on to you all, should you be in a similar situation soon and not able to Google, is that the dog should be placed 4 foot down and about 5 inches below the surface you should place a layer of chicken wire to deter scavengers. Lets be frank here - the last thing my mother needed was the dead dog's head turning up on her garden bench 'Godfather stylee' several weeks later.

And so back he went, with the help of an axe and some wire (god knows where he got the wire from) and dug and dug and dug...

Three hours (yes three hours) later he was looking at this:

(Note: the white fluffy at the base of the picture is NOT the dead dog. That would be sick. It's my brother's live dog, Mildred, who came to inspect proceedings and probably left with more questions than answers).

So he now had a hole big enough for the dog. Actually looking again at that picture even I will admit that's pretty impressive work. It looks the work of a frantic and desperate man. A man driven by the desire to stop his mother turning a decaying dog into a piece of interior design.

He went to retrieve the dog.

By this time his poor wife had given up trying to restrain their 18 month old son and had had to put him down on the floor and for 3 solid hours dissuade him from climbing aboard the dead dog for a ride (remember the dog is lying in the doorway between the two rooms which make up the downstairs of my mum's house - it's not like you could shut the door.....).

Time had ticked on and rigamortis had set in.

This was not just a big dead dog. It was a big stiff dead dog.

And thus my poor sister-in-law found herself having to assist in making a shroud and wrestling the great big stiff dog into a wheelbarrow. I'm sure she's had better days. They then had to get the dog in the hole which posed several more logistical problems due to it's inflexibility.

But bravo - the dog is now buried beneath the apple trees and my mum is happy about that (well clearly she's not overly happy - she'd rather the dog wasn't dead but you get the idea).

I was informed of this when I returned from my holiday whilst standing on a damp recently washed patch of carpet.....

So that's it then - no more dogs. No more dog related fun and games. I for one will be glad of the rest.

Except tomorrow my mum is getting a puppy.....


Friday, 26 August 2011

The Dying Days

And so here we are in the dying days of August.

August - the month of dying.

This is a kind of catch up blog post and I warn you now - it's not all laughs. There are wry laughs in it and feel free to chuckle away - I do. But it's also a bit deep. Just to kind of warn you.

August wasn't always this way for me. After all August is the month of my birthday and it's summer and it's all fun fun fun...

Well, once upon a time it was.

It was GSCE results' day yesterday and as I watched many a carefree, tousle haired teen walking round the town holding their fluttering results sheets, it took me back to the August's of my childhood. They seemed to be filled with endless summer days and as the holidays began to ebb away and the shadows started to lengthen, we would sit outside under apple trees, sharing bottles of mixed spirits we'd stolen from our parents' drink cabinets (top tip learned from this: Baileys doesn't mix well with fruit based alcopops - it's like drinking vomit) and we'd watch the shooting stars and life seemed to be so free. So 'ours'.

My major worries could probably be listed as: 1. my spots 2. the fact I never tanned and 3. how could I get to a particular party or my life would probably BE LIKE TOTALLY OVER.

I whirled through life a hurricane. I leapt from triumph to disaster and always bounced. I felt I had the world at my feet. I felt safe. I felt I was on the brink of something big. The script told me everything was going to be wonderful.

Not long after that things began to change. Some people hurt me very badly and then a friend was killed in an accident. Life began to take on darker tones. Echoes and shadows. But that's what growing up is all about. I still felt I had it all at my feet and would just keep on tearing through it, dancing to my own tune.

Any now, here we are in my 'grown up' August. An August so filled with echoes and shadows that at times it feels almost like my winter.

So I haven't blogged because I've been too busy dealing with it all. Notable events have included:

- a week in a caravan with my ex-husband. People always look slightly torn between wonderment and horror when I tell them that but it's not like it was just me and him staring at the kitchenette and politely asking whose turn it was to grill the sausages. We took the children. And it was fine. Nice even. There's nothing even really blog worthy about it (well if you skip the bit where I accidentally ended up on the clubhouse stage in an anorak and couldn't get down before the compere noticed and shouted 'steady on love! It's not the X-Factor). I flew a stunt kite, ran along a beach, supervised a duff BBQ, lost at crazy golf, poured my life savings into the 2p slot machines and danced the 'waddle' with a woman in a giant seagull costume.

- my mum's 'other' dog dying. On my birthday of all days! Well done dog. Marvelous effort. Nothing like a stiff dog in the doorway to bring on that birthday cheer. There is a somewhat darkly comic blog post in this which I will save for another day.

- my youngest son's 4th birthday. This is not only a big day because my 'baby' is growing up and I feel like I haven't even really started his childhood yet but it's also the anniversary of the day I nearly died. For those of you that don't know the history I really did nearly die. I nearly died in my living room and in an ambulance and on a hospital trolley and finally in a high dependency bed. It was a jolly poor show all round. I'm as over it as I'll ever be. It seems 4 years is something of a watershed in grief. It really does feel like 'history' and I've already had the breakdown and the special counselling where a lady jiggles her finger in your eyes and re-sets your brain so you don't feel the need to sit in lay-bys crying every time you see an ambulance BUT (and it's quite a big but) there are still those ripples out there, rushing through the universe. At this time of year I notice everything feels that bit more 'current'. I hold my wrists more so nobody can hurt them. I drink more than I should. I sense the cooler edge in the days and feel a kind of tremble. A little bit of dread. I think that tremble is grief. Either that or I really HAVE been drinking too much..... I have that line running through my head....'By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes'. I wake up at 4am and don't now why but that line is there, whirling round like a stuck loop of tape.

And of course, there's another, funnier, blog post in the whole birthday shebang. The making of the cake. I have surpassed my previous Iggle Piggle legend with 'The Sad Pussy' but more on that another time (with pictures).

- Two days later was the first anniversary of my dad's death. Which conveniently enough was also his birthday. Bravo. Two birds with one stone and all that. I don't really know what to say about this. I feel like it all kind of happened in a dream (or nightmare) but now I'm starting to wake up and realise it wasn't just a bad dream. There are so many boxes of ridiculous horribleness that if I even stop to think they're real then WHAM - I shut the lid as quick as I can. The passing of this date also means I am now on the countdown to the bit where my marriage went KABOOM. I've never talked in detail about what really happened there - for that you'll need to buy the book. No seriously - much as I air MY dirty linen I don't air other people's but needless to say - I feel a bit odd about the thing. The tick tock of waiting for yet another 'significant date' (although once again conveniently it pretty much ties in the anniversary of the date I was sent off to a psychiatric unit four years back, so hey - look on the bright side - I've kept whole chunks of my annual calendar free of terror!).

- pressing on with the divorce. Never much fun I should imagine although it could be worse. In the middle of all of the above I had to invite three estate agents round to value the house. They arrived on a rainy day where both children were climbing the walls and all my wet laundry was trapped in the downstairs bathroom. I showed the first one in and welcomed him to chaos. We sat at the table talking about market values but he kept looking increasingly distracted.

'I there something bothering you?' I asked. I hoped he would say 'no just your amazing eyes/smile/hair (although it's unlikely to be the hair as, in a effort to stop tramps stroking my legs and wide-boys asking if I was up for it, I dyed it from blonde blonde to bright red. The juries still out on whether it worked but a drugged hippy did fondle my poncho last weekend. I'm not sure if this is a step or step down the ladder of attraction?).

'Err it's just your children' he said 'and what they're doing to that cat'.


You see for his birthday the youngest got a doctor's kit. Operation Cat in now fully in swing and the cat undergoes about 3 pretend major surgeries a day.

'Nevermind that!' I shrugged 'let me show your round! Now here's the downstairs bathroom - sorry but this is where I have to take you on a tour of my knickers'.

This was supposed to be an apology for all the wet laundry but it came out not quite in the way I had hoped. I'm sure he feared he'd walked straight into the den of a deranged housewife trying to lure him into some kind of blackmail/live porn-stream sex chat. Although in hindsight it could have been worse. I could have said 'wet knickers'.

'Your hilarious!' he said.

'Yes' I replied 'but in all honestly you wouldn't live with me would you?'.

'No' he said 'in all honestly I wouldn't and to be frank you look like a woman on the edge'.

Astute observation there young man. Say it like it is.

- migraines. For reasons I can not begin to fathom (ha ha) I've been waking up to crushing migraines which mean I have to hide under a duvet, take drugs which border on 'amazingly trippy' and sob at small children to leave me alone/stop dragging my covers off/stop playing the duck whistle/stop BLOODY MOVING AND TALKING until I feel semi-alive. This is not a whole lot of fun.

- and then of course all the usual things of having young children on summer holidays and going to work and trying to keep a house (ha bloody ha).

So you see August has been kind of busy. And sometimes I look at other families going to stay with granny or having lots of days in the park (oh yes, I did have a day at the park. I got locked in the temporary toilet block whilst my children were locked in the car...... There was a quite a kerfuffle with that one I can tell thee.....) and I think 'when's that going to start for me? When am I just going to have a normal life?' but I know, deep down, in truth, for many people August - just like Christmas - in not a barrel of laughs. Very few people have 'normal' lives. Granted not all of them are quite as weird as this one but lots are a damn site harder.

Very few people get to adulthood and parenthood without having echoes and shadows and ghosts - and those that don't? Well they probably fall over and think the sky is caving when they get to 66 and mis-place their bus pass or crack a garden gnome (or something).

So it's OK.

I'm almost out of August.

And I've realised something else. There are two things that help to keep me vaguely sane (apart from my amazing friends who I never seem to have enough time for). Those are running and writing. They let the pressure blow from the boiling pot, without it the crack start widen the steam starts to blow. And of course in a month like this, especially when you are either working or caring for small children with no let up (bar the weekend with Badger Girl and the poncho - more on that later - but it was magnificent) there is just no physical opportunity whatsoever to run and no time to write.

But that must change.

So from tomorrow running and writing go to the top of the priority list - even if it means I have to run up and down the stairs and write very short blog posts (I'm not sure if I'm actually capable of this - but we'll see).

So thank you people, for sticking by me through all of the journey so far. Who knows what's next? But even though life has not quite been how I could ever have imagined and those teenage days seem like they belong in another universe, I'm still dancing to my own tune and despite all the triumphs and disasters, I'm still bouncing (just).


Saturday, 30 July 2011

And With These Cakes I Blind You....

So I'm back in the den of the Fig Rolls stealing, 'you wear pretty clothes, for a big girl', Line Dance stomping ancients. And their wrath.

Yes, back in their hallowed village hall to try and prepare people for pushing something the size of a bowling ball out of their bodies (or even better watching it) and then being kept awake by aforementioned bowling ball for the next 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years or until you crawl out of the other side feeling like you've spent a sizeable chunk of your life somewhere in the jungle being hunted by the Viet Cong whilst listening to CBeebies on a psychotic head loop.


Anyway I arrived on Tuesday night somewhat flustered because I've mis-located (i.e. totally lost) all the plugs that go in my balls. And you can't keep your balls up if you haven't got anything to keep the air in them. No matter how hard you pump, at the end of the day your sitting on a pile of baggy rubber. And no one wants to be sitting on that.

As I contemplated my sad limp balls, the hall caretaker appeared. He wears a cowboy hat and has a roll up permanently attached to his lower lip. I have a feeling he models himself on Clint Eastwood and the village hall is his 'Wild West'. He needs to defend it against reprobates like me who upset the line dancers and don't put the chairs back in the exact same spot they moved them from.

You think I exaggerate?

Take a look at this. Item one of 6 laminated photographic 'cheat sheets' that aim to ensure that each chair leg is relocated to the exact same spot of grotty carpet from which it came:

Fail this task at your peril.

However, for once, it wasn't chair leg dis-location that I had failed at.


Caretaker: I need a word (lowers peak of hat and inhales on rollie in what a body language expert would call an 'assertive' manner).

Me: Oh, right yes?

Caretaker: The dishwasher .

Me: Yes?

Caretaker: It has instructions. Laminated. Stuck to the front of it.

Me: Yes?

Caretaker: Follow them.

Me: Why? To find peace, enlightenment and the secret of the afterlife ?(no I didn't really say that - I just mumbled 'I do' and stared at the floor knowing that full well that when I last used the dishwasher A MONTH AGO I hadn't quite waited the full 15 minutes for it to 'warm up' before pressing the big red GO button).

Caretaker: SOMEONE used it without putting the drain plug back in the hole. The system was entirely drained. ENTIRELY. £15 of cleaning straight down the drain.

Me: Oh.

Caretaker: The drain plug is a long PLUG. It is clearly pictured and labeled on the instructions. Failing to follow those instructions has cost £15.

Me: Oh. I seem to having troubles with my plugs tonight.....

Caretaker: I will let it go. This time. But only this time.

Me: Oh.

And with that he walked into the sunset casting a long shadow, kicking up dust from baked soil and leaving a trail of tobacco smoke and air of threat.

10 minutes into my class all the fire alarms went off. And then the intruder alarms. I ended up demonstrating a baby's journey through the pelvis in the middle of a playing field with the local youths looking on and the alarms serenading me from the mid-distance.

I felt a shiver of bad Karma. The ancients were surely sending me vibes from their world of raffles for Club biscuits and multi-packs of fig rolls. I had deprived them of an entire gallon of dishwashing fluid. It was the modern equivalent of opening King Tut's tomb. A curse was freed.

Sometime later, when all the clients had left, I went into the kitchen to make sure no mugs were left on the draining board or tea towels left unfolded. It was then I noticed a sign. THE sign.

A prophecy was written.

'Cake for the over 50's Pop In Centre. Do not touch or you will be blind'.

Dear god. They clearly had darker spirits than even I had ever imagined on their side.

As potential 'blinding' activities go, stealing a Sarah Lee Frozen Gateaux wasn't up there on my list of 'possibles' but clearly I was wrong.

I guess if you touch their tea bags you get stoned and nicking the sugar results in the pox?

On closer inspection it said 'billed' not blind....but all the same - I'm not taking any chances.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Voices

Not long ago I was standing out the back of Badger Girl's shop, which happens to be a rather beautiful church yard (if you can see past the over flowing bins, people hanging around waiting for their methadone scrips and rats as big as, err, badgers) while she smoked a roll up (I'm painting a none too beautiful picture here but bear with me) and the sun was beating down, the sky was blue and I just felt this deep sense of inner peace. It was a wonderful feeling. A sea of calm amidst a raging storm of emotions. I took it to be a sign. Perhaps only of the powers of passive nicotine inhalation but a good sign all the same.

Anyhow - feeling rather jolly about it - I told my mum.

'Ohh' she said 'that's interesting'.

'Yes!' I said enthusiastically 'I think it's a sign that I'm at peace with myself'.

'Ohh well perhaps but maybe it was the Lord. You know 'speaking' to you!'.

Stunned silence.


'Well you were in a church yard. It could have been a sign. You know from The Lord'.

'Mum, have you been on the Jacobs Creek already?'.

'Well stranger things have happened'.

'Mum I think me finding God amidst the bins out the back of a Rave shop would probably be just about the strangest thing EVER to have happened. Even too strange for me. OK?'.

And I left wondering just what was going on in my mum's head. I mean don't get me wrong -she loves the Harvest Festival as much as the next person and like a good old rendition of Lord of the Dance but she's never been one to believe in dramatic convertions. Or miracles.

Two weeks later I was back in the same church yard.

As I walked through the sunshine dappling the ancient path I heard a noise.

It started as a low moan and then started to rise.

Glancing around me I saw no one.

The moaning built in tempo and took on a sort of beautiful resonance.

Om ah ah om. Om ah ah om. Aaaa haaaa. Ommmmm. Ommmm......

Ok there was no denying this. I really could hear some kind of voice and it sounded sort of heavenly.

I shudder of alarm ran through me.

My mum's words rang in my head.... 'The Lord is speaking to you'.....

I mean even during the worst of times I never actually heard full on mysterious voices or felt like I was ascending to heaven or being 'touched'. And now this?


Panic began to rise within me as logical explanations fell away.

No one else seemed to be able to hear the noise and it was clearly very local to me.

So local that it seemed to be coming from the bum pocket of my jeans.....

Pulling my phone out of my pocket I realised that my butt cheek had activated the You Tube button on the screen and replayed the last video I watched..... Some Tibetan chanting I'd downloaded to see if lying on the bed listening to it would help transform me into a tranquil being (I'll let you judge as to whether it worked....).

So it wasn't God reaching out to me at all. I was just talking out of my arse....

I'm just relieved I didn't actually go for help and arrive at A&E asking for help. There are things you really don't need on your medical records and the belief you are being haunted by Buddhist mantras is one of them.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Beaver Feaver

So tonight I bust my Beaver virginity and attended my first ever meeting of 'The Colony'.


They call it 'The Colony'.

I had had no previous experience with Beavers, what with being a girl and all that. I'd done Brownies and had a short experience with Guides (before my dad removed me amidst mutterings about the women running it - something to do with lace gloves, Madonna and rumours of prostitution - totally unfounded I'm sure but who knows, odder things happen in village halls regularly. I should know). But never Beavers.

My eldest son is now 6 so he can join and as another boy from his class was doing it and as I think it involves things that he might enjoy (like maps and using Mento mints to explode bottles of coke) I decided to give it a go.

So I phoned the lady in charge up (The Beaver Master so to speak) and she said 'sure, bring him along to the Colony!'.

Seriously? A Colony? Wow - it's like proper Beaver-tastic.

So I took him along but for the first night you have to stay. And as I was staying it meant his younger brother was staying.

Oh dear god. A wanton mini-Beaver.

Things started well although I was quite alarmed by the Rules written out on the wall. From where I was sat I could read 'Beaver's DON'T spit, bite, hit, kick or swear'. Part of me wanted to grab the chalk and add 'or growl' but I was too scared of the ladies in charge. However boredom soon set in and whilst the older one behaved meticulously the younger one set up a chant of 'Stinks like a Beaver, Stinks like a Beaver'.


How can two children born from the same womb be so, erm, bloody different? The older one is quaking in his boots in case he gets anything wrong and the younger one is already aiming to tick off everything on the 'Beaver's DON'T!' list before he even starts.

There is an innocent explanation to his 'phrasing' - it just sounds bad. He is a big fan of the film 'Cars' and of all the dialogue in that film he's taken the joke phrase 'stings like a Beaver' and misheard it into something even worse.....thus 'stinks like a Beaver'. His current 'phrase of the day!'.

He must know it's not a great thing to say because he even asked me 'is Stinks Like a Beaver a bad word? Like when Grandma says bloody?'. Yes I told him. Hmmm he said, with a smile. And thus the game began.....

In an act of great kindness (or desperation - I'm never sure where the line falls myself) the Beaver Master said he could join in with the crafts - and thus I found myself supervising a table full of small boys painting bits of egg box. At this point I was deeply regretting still wearing my work trousers. But not as much as I was several minutes later when, in act of over excited glee,' Stinks Like a Beaver' child ran behind me, stuck his head up my top and yanked my trousers down hard.

Don't ask me why. I don't know why. Like I don't know why he Sudocremed the cat or hid my mum's car aerial in a hedge or shouts 'Boobies' 99 times a day. Just because he can I guess.

Now I've had a stomach bug since Sunday night and after 3 days of living off boiled sweets (with one brave foray into Super Noodles) my trousers are rather on the lose side.


Down they came.

And in a moment we had a whole new spin on the meaning of a Beaver meeting.

The small boys fell about laughing. I gave a brave ho ho ho and tried to redirect their egg box painting efforts. I don't think the Beaver Master and the Vice Beaver Master noticed. Well maybe they did but they felt it wise not to point out the obvious and inform the rest of the room that I was half undressed. I don't think they do a badge in 'Looking at Half Undressed Ladies'. Yet.

At this point I should probably point out that the Beaver Master and her Deputy aren't actually called that. No. They are in fact called 'Sunshine' and 'Snowflake'. I'm not quite sure what to make of this. They are clearly lovely women very very good at their job but they'd be equally at home on the door outside the local nightclub strong arming drunk men into wheelie bins. If you're going to control a room full of 6-7 year old boys you need a bit of steel in your veins (I found this out when I went to wash my hands and within minutes witnessed an arm wrestle, a deliberate attempt to flood a sink and way too many farting noises). Calling them 'Sunshine' and 'Snowflake' just doesn't fit. I think it might be ironic. Or maybe it's just to mess with the kids' heads and help control them? There's something kind of extra powerful about saying 'sit down, keep your hands to yourself and STOP TALKING or Snowflake here will have to take points off you'.......

Very clever.

Anyway gradually the egg boxes gained antennae and became caterpillars. The boys then had to stretch out sheets of cotton wool and stick them to the painted backs of their caterpillars.

My son had painted his caterpillar red. Blood red. As he sealed a sheet of cotton wool on top of it I was reminded of something. Pondering it for a moment more I was hit by the shock realisaion that my son had made a rather too realistic model of a sanitary towel. A used sanitary towel.

Oh god no!

And then they covered them in cress seeds.....

From one unspeakable sight to another.

Both children have brought their caterpillars home, expect they haven't quite made it into the house. They have displayed them artfully on the dashboard of my car, lodged up against the window.

Other people have bonnet trophies of Jaguars or leaping stallions or soaring stags. I get the 'Bodyform Ultra Cress Covered Two' (without wings).

So if you see a harassed woman driving around wearing tightly belted trousers (or better still a jump suit) with two 'sanitary-protection-like' objects wedged on her dashboard, don't worry, it's only me.

And don't tell Sunshine or Snowflake what I said because I'm actually really scared.....

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Now let me start this post by saying that I am immensely grateful for EVERY moment of childcare my mother ever provides me with. Having done years and years with no babysitters or 'childcare' or help other than (now ex) Husband With the Sad Face, well I know what it's like, hard - so I know how lucky I am. But, at the same time, lets face facts here - my mum's 'childcare' services are somewhat eccentric. Well they'd have to be wouldn't they? I mean her years of nurturing produced me. And my brother. He doesn't blog but he's a Geography teacher. Which probably says enough.

So I'm grateful but, let's put it this way, if OFSTED were inspecting my mum she wouldn't just be on Special Measures. She'd be shut down with a big leading article and mug shot in the local paper. She'd then become some kind of cult figure defended by women who wear odd hats and lots of navy blue across the land and, eventually, she'd probably be debated on the This Morning! sofa by Philip Schofield and whichever blonde he's currently sat with.

Anyway I think it's good for my children to have 'input' from sources even more eccentric than myself. It makes me look better. However there are times when she makes even me a bit, err, nervy.

Let's start with the concept of benign neglect (as in hands-off let them get on with it parenting). This is the type of parenting I think is a terribly good plan. But my mum takes it to whole new levels. I got back from my Saturday morning cup of tea with the nice Relate lady to find my mum sat on my sofa doing the Suduko.

'Mum where are the children?'.

'Oh upstairs I think'.

'You think? Ok and err what do you think they're doing up there?'.

'Oh they've taken the cats up there. They said they were building a cat trap and now they've put them in it'.


'But they've been every so good. I haven't seen them for at least an hour'.


The less said about the 'cat trap' the better. I don't want women in howling-wolf-fleeces waving placards outside the front door. The cats are fine though. One of the children has quite a few 'tribal scars' and there's blood on my carpet but no one was crying so fair play mum. I think.

Next look at language. I'm not the most clean mouthed of people but I do try very hard not to swear in front of my children. I've managed this pretty well for about 6 years. Two weeks with dear old Grandma picking them up from school twice a week?

The 3 year old opens the back door and exclaims 'Good morning bloody cats!'.


'Mummy this bloody truck is stuck again'.

etc etc.

As the youngest one said to me the other day whilst watching the next 'thrilling' installment of 'Trucks and Trailers' (Channel 5's 'fly on the wall' documentary about Eddie Stobart' lorries) 'mummy, this programme has bloody in it, like Grandma'.


Then lets look at 'games we play with Grandma'. Trying to drive the car I can cope with. Eating raw jelly until you go green is a rite of passage. But how did I genuinely feel the day they walked into her kitchen and said 'Grandma, can we have the scissors please, we're going to go and cut down some more nettles'. Scissors? Not just any scissors. Kitchen shears you use to cut up meat (or small children). And off they went. With these shears. Into the nettle beds. 'It doesn't matter if we get stung mummy, Grandma sprays us with the Wasp-Eze'.

So that's fine then. I'm not sure what she does if you lop off a digit but hey, time will maybe tell?

And then we have my mum's special take on the passing of life. There was no avoiding death when I was growing up. We were constantly surrounded by small birds and mammals she had rescued from cats, window panes, ponds or water butts and put into a shoe box.

To die.

Small children luckily provide you with a lot of shoe boxes and great stretches of my childhood were spent peaking into green Clarks boxes and praying for baby voles/frogs/bullfinches/whatever to live and go back into the hands of nature.

They were inevitably on a one way trip to a shallow grave but I never gave up hope.

And so the cycle is now reignited. Most women who dream of becoming Grandma's probably hope to go and feed the ducks or pick blackberries or play Pooh Sticks. My mum clearly had other plans. Like letting small children see damaged birds die.

We got there on Wednesday morning for her to exclaim 'look children, LOOK! A baby robin!'. And there, thrust upon, us was indeed a baby robin. It was lying on it's back with it's legs in the air inside a little cardboard easter nest box the smallest child made at pre-school to celebrate Easter.

Easter might be all about resurrection but I think it would have taken more than a miracle for this robin to rise again.

'Grandma, is it dead?'.

'Mum why are you showing my children a dead bird? They've not even had breakfast'.

'It's not dead darlings. It's STUNNED! It flew into the window! I'm going to leave it in this box in the sunlight and see if it comes back to health'.

The kids give me a look as if to say 'Ok we might only be 3 and 6 respectively but WHAT THE F@CK IS SHE ON?'.

I give them a look as if to say 'god knows but if you find out, tell me. It'll help'.

At this point the smallest child realises his carefully crafted Easter Nest has been commandeered as a Robin coffin.

'Waaaaa - I want my box back!'.

I decide to let her sort that one out and quickly go to work.

When I return at the end of the day she confirms the Robin actually died. Woah - what a shocker. But not to worry she then entertained the children by letting them watch a fox try to dig out a nest of baby rabbits. It was a thrill a minute - every time he went down the hole they looked to see if he came up with any in his mouth. Luckily he didn't but no doubt if he had, she'd have run out, clutched their injured form from his jaws and put them in a shoe
box. Before arming the kids with kitchen shears, stinging nettles and raw jelly.

As the great woman herself would say - Thank God for Grandmas BUT Bloody Hell!