Saturday, 31 December 2011

Twenty Twelve Vision

As everyone else is saying how rubbish 2011 has been I thought I'd offer my own review of a year that has been a bit of a curate's egg. I've watched Charlie Brooker's Newswipe and it pretty much encapsulated the news events for me, so I refer you to that for the newsy / political perspective done far better than I would have managed it.

The year began with a very close friend coming back from the dead. I mean properly actually dying then having the paddles to bring her back (like in the movies). I put it down to a desperate need for attention myself - it had been a few years since she got married and our friends live in other parts of the world so it took something radical  in order to get them to call. Mission accomplished. She is under strict orders not to repeat this so we're all waiting with bated breath to see what fresh capers she has planned…

I had my first Mother's Day as a mother this year. Of course my son was oblivous to the significance of this. In later years he may badly wrap a gift to give me, but for now I'm content that hubbie helps and we kid ourselves he has any idea what is going on. (I have deliberately left this dubious so you can decide who I mean).

In May we sold our house - the first home me and hubbie have owned together. The home we brought our son back from the hospital to. The home we brought Neo from Battersea Cats & Dogs Home to. Of course it took months to actually move (see Oct), but someone came to see it in May and said she'd buy it. Result !

To everyone else August in London was about lunatics in balaclavas nicking TVs from the walls of betting shops. For my family it was all about the "Monsoon Wedding" of my youngest sister complete with a flower strewn Ambassador and bangra rhythms. It was also a chance for Khushbir to dress up in his Bollywood finery and impress everyone by applauding at the speeches.

Having enjoyed a year of playgroups, back-to-back Come Dine With Me and cups of tea with other Mums the time came to return to work and in September I went back to a new location, but the same colleagues. I'm not sure if it just because I had been away and I missed my boy, but going back to work was truly hideous. The only silver lining in all this was that my boy had his first birthday at the end of September and we celebrated with cake and hats and singing so now he knows that the correct response to a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday is to put out his hand for a piece of cake. That's my boy !

After months of frantic phone calls between vendors, buyers, the bank, the estate agents and solicitors we finally moved house in October. We paid to have a company move all our belongings, which I admit does make life much simpler, but isn't entirely foolproof. We had boxes marked as containing curtains with kitchen items and picture frames in. I wasn't sure if this was simply a mistake or an elaborate attempt to make us laugh when unpacking. The final straw for me was having to wear the same two pairs of shoes for weeks until I looked in the box marked "baby's room" which had all my shoes in it the entire time !

In November after weeks of going into work and being pretty much ignored and sidelined I decided to leave. It wasn't the simplest decision, but one that having been made proved to be the best course of action. My work colleagues continued to ignore me and on my last day only two people actually wished me well. If I could be bothered I'd take up a case of constructive dismissal, but frankly being able to spend every day with my boy is the best outcome I could have asked for - regardless of how I came to it.

So we come to the last month of the year when I had already finished going into work and was able to concentrate on preparing for Christmas and more importantly the wedding of our own TOWIE stars. I love, love, love weddings and this one was in a fairytale setting (albeit in Essex) with the funniest best man's speech we've heard in a while.

My year began with a friend's health scare and it ends the same way. A good friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing treatment in early January. She is my age and has a young son. Whatever else happens in 2012 we've already agreed to go shopping for wigs together and discussed how to wear scarves at a jaunty angle to cover hair loss.

I hope 2012 brings you happiness, good health an abundance of love and just enough wealth to not spoil you.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

lip-smacking, gnocchi-making, cheerleading, hubbieman :o)

So I was watching Ocean's Eleven the other evening and while I drooled watching Brad and George it occurred to me that I have very pedestrian taste in the men I lust after from afar. It isn't like I'm the only one to have noticed that William Bradley Pitt is a good looking chap so I console myself with the knowledge that I noticed him first.

It was while watching Thelma and Louise at university (as an example of feminism in film) that my least feminist thoughts came to me about the character of JD. It's mainly that thing he does when he licks his lips - which any girl who has read romantic fiction will tell you is what the hero does right before he kisses you passionately.

Similarly I remember George - before he was considered gorgeous - as Booker in Roseanne, a wholly unlikeable character who dated Roseanne's sister Jackie and was written out fairly early on. I recall thinking he was yummy, but feeling bad about it as he was such a git. So imagine my feeling of joy when years later he reappeared as a doctor in ER and it was ok to fancy him again ! Of course the real appeal of George isn't his twinkly look, it is his complete refusal to settle down. Remember how Warren Beattie was the sexiest man alive and considered untameable, so when he finally did marry Annette Bening his sex appeal vanished. George is far too savvy to risk it, so it gives all of us hope that we might get a go. Well, if Mariella Frostrup and Lisa Snowdon can go out with him then I'm pretty sure we're all in with a chance.

In reality neither of them would be quite considerate enough for me which is why I'm with my hubbie. Ok, it's not the only reason, it's not like I weighed up the odds of ending up with either George or Brad and decided that hubbie was a better bet. He did the leg work and continues to put up with the insanity that is my approach to life. Whether it's the ever changing house rules, "I never use the stripey glass for water." "Can I have some water in the stripey glass please ? Of course it's ok, it's a glass isn't it ?" or my inability to read instructions that come with anything, he is the most patient of human beings.

At the time I met my hubbie I'd been online dating for a while and had met the usual array of weirdos, loonies and men who suddenly realise they are alone and all their friends are paired off so they had better meet someone pretty soon. (Don't worry they say equally lovely things about the women they met). My expectations were low and I was just grateful to meet an intelligent man who didn't mind being beaten by a woman in a debate. When we actually started to go out with each other (I can't say dating, it sounds too american and formal for the carnival of drinking and eating our way round London that was our early courtship) I realised that maybe I didn't have unattainable standards, I'd just been going out with completely the wrong people. We went to an italian restaurant one evening and I fancied gnocchi which I was told they didn't have, so I changed my order. A week later when we were having dinner at his place he cooked me gnocchi and I told him that it was my favourite pasta. Later he confessed that he made it because I'd been disappointed at the restaurant and he wanted to make me happy. Seriously, how often does someone tell you they want to make you happy ?

Now, having been married for five years he has gone from hanging on my every utterance to selective deafness (which happens in all marriages I'm told) and as we live together the element of surprise is pretty non-existent. So you can imagine my delight when I received an unexpected early Christmas present on Saturday. I'd just been on Radio London telling Robert Elms that my dream would be to learn to fly and hubbie and baby were in the other room cheering me along. When the item finished hubbie went upstairs to get something and came back and presented me with the gift of a flying lesson. Apparently when we were out exploring a few weeks back and managed to end up at Biggin Hill I mentioned that I'd love to have a go at flying and he had remembered.

So you see Brad and George, while you are wealthy and famous and good looking and have a special place in my heart, it will always be just below the place reserved for hubbie.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Stressed is desserts backwards - like that helps !

I managed to get the baby to sleep and thought I'd blog a little, then I found a post I hadn't finished and thought that might be fun to share. I must have started writing this in mid-late Sept when the prospect of moving house seemed a distant dream. Now I'm sitting on the sofa in the new house and am in the slightly less stressful process of ignoring Christmas. Oh well it's nice to know that all things (even the stressful ones) pass, so here goes...

--- I'm not sure why it happens, but it just does. All the most stressful things that can happen in life converge at once. The last time I bought a house - as I recall - I managed to get divorced, change jobs, and buy a home in the space of about two months.

As usual my brother drove the hired van, as usual I lost my temper and burst into tears and as usual there was far too much stuff for the space. At the end of it all there was a bed that had travelled with me for many years and a lot of books, but nothing to sit on or to watch or listen to. I surveyed the surroundings and looked at the view of Battersea Power Station out of the window and breathed a sigh of relief. Then I got in my car and drove to my Mother's house.She was preparing dinner and I took a plate out and sat and the table and barely looking round she said "What are you doing here ? Aren't you staying in your own place tonight ?"

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those boomerang children who keep going back home and never want to leave, believe me. I'd gone to university in the Midlands and had even taken a job in Wiltshire to get away from home, however, I had agreed with my folks an arrangement where I'd stay with them to save money and help pay for my home. It had taken so long for it all to work out and happen that I had forgotten that the point of all the hassle was to actually live in the place.

And now seven years later it's all flooding back to me, except this time I have a chain and estate agents to deal with as well as a husband, a baby and a cat.  My first home was a new build and as a first time buyer I had no chain, so I had no appreciation of how mind numbingly tedious and petty the process can be. One evening our estate agent called to ask if we were taking the trees and satellite dish with us. To be honest I felt like saying, "yes, I am planning on digging up the entire garden to take with us - including the new fence - and I will be taking the dish and all the guttering that my husband replaced last summer."Apparently some people take the light bulbs, switches and even plants from the ground when the move. Heaven forbid I add to my already burgeoning loft full of belongings. ---

…that reminds me, now that it's getting colder I need to clear the garage of all our belongings so that the car can go in the garage instead of boxes of things we really don't need. Of course the reason I'm sitting on the sofa now is avoidance. When I could be sorting and finding a place for all the things we moved here with I've decided that blogging is a far better use of my time. The garage and spare room will just have to wait.

Oh and I've now iced the Christmas cake - let the festivities begin !!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

This woman's work

We went to a wedding on Saturday - it was a lovely sunny winter day and I had been really looking forward to it for months. The planning was as follows:

A few months before:
Received invitation so I completed the food preferences section and gave the card to hubbie to hand to the bride-to-be (his work colleague).
Hubbie forgot to take the card in. He promised to book accommodation in plenty of time.

One week before:
I checked where the wedding card was that I'd bought a while back. Also checked what to get as a gift using the invitation I'd kept safe.
Hubbie went online to finally book accommodation that he started looking at months ago (did I mention it takes him 6 months to get round to doing anything ?) - hence we are staying 20 minutes away and not at a closer hotel with transport to and from the wedding as provided by the happy couple.

3 days before:
I made sure I'd received and tried on the frock I ordered to wear and checked the baby had suitable clothing and a change of outfit.
Hubbie remembered his suit needed dry cleaning.

The day before:
I started to pack baby items and made sure the buggy was in the car and that the baby changing bag was loaded up and ready.
Hubbie programmed the sat nav.

The morning of the wedding:
I made breakfast and packed for me and baby including bedding and spare clothes and food. Packed the car and got myself and baby ready to go.
Hubbie moved loft boards (that have been sitting in spare room in front of the cupboard) and took out travel bags. Programmed the sat nav again.

On the way to the wedding:
I set up the dvd player in the car to keep the baby occupied. Got my book ready to read on the journey while hubbie drove.
Hubbie asked me if I had any money for the Dartford Crossing, I said I didn't and he went quiet. I offered to get some money out on the way. Hubbie said nothing. As the motorway sign indicated the Dartford Crossing up ahead I asked hubbie if he had any money and he said he didn't. When I asked what he planned to do he said, "Shall I pull over at the next services then ?" My response is unrepeatable. After a detour to Bluewater and some circles of the car park I ran into M&S and bought some sandwiches, fruit and drinks, got cashback and then bought some mints to make change. Got back into the car - seething.

At the wedding:
One of hubbie's work colleagues makes a comment about me feeding the baby 'crisps' at the table. I smile and tell her they aren't crisps.
Hubbie carries his son around to show off to other work colleagues and receives plaudits and smiles for doing such a good job as a Daddy.

The next morning:
I load up the car as hubbie and baby stand at the window watching me and click the car lock from inside. I check to make sure I have money for the Dartford crossing and programme the sat nav.
Hubbie starts to hold his forehead - a sure sign that he'll take to his bed later 'poorly,' but he'll still go to work tomorrow and expect sympathy when he gets home. I tell him to sit in the back with the baby and rest while I drive us all home.

Home from the wedding:
I unload the car, put the washing into the machine, feed the cat, sort out some lunch and defrost something for dinner.
Hubbie puts the baby to bed and goes for a lie down upstairs.

I can't wait for Christmas !

Friday, 2 December 2011

An Ode to tea

A friend came to visit on Sunday afternoon and I offered him a cup of tea with his cookies, mince pies and cupcake. I opened the cupboard and listed what we had: Assam, Darjeeling, Lapsang Souchong, Yorkshire tea, PG Tips and various herbal and caffeine free options. It was then that I realised my love affair with tea is getting out of hand. Having a variety of teas is fine, rivalling the East India Company is going a bit too far.

It actually started when I realised that I was down to my last few teabags and panicked. As I was going to work I popped into Sainsburys and bought some emergency packs of Yorkshire tea and Twinings Everyday tea. Then the next time I was in Waitrose they had an offer on Twinings so I got some Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey and Assam. There was a free tin with one of them so that was alright. Then I got home and found some Assam and Darjeeling in the back of the cupboard so they came to the front.

So now my daily schedule of tea is thus: PG tips for breakfast, Assam or Yorkshire for morning cuppa while baby sleeps, Darjeeling after lunch while baby sleeps, random selection for afternoon tea. Assam as evening cup and again random for last tea of the day. It's all very bohemian when I throw in a Honeybush or Moonlight Jasmine green tea for a change. It sounds silly, but having so many types of tea has given me a new appreciation for the taste and experience of drinking tea. My palate has become attuned to the slightly tinny nature of Assam, the mild, but ultimately strong perfume of Darjeeling (the champagne of teas no less !) and the sweet comfort of Honeybush caffeine free.

The downside is that now I'm home full time I'm averaging around 6-7 cups a day and before long I'll rival Tony Benn in the tea drinking stakes. Add to this my return to pre-Christmas baking and it is a seriously dangerous combination that ultimately will lead to an expanded waistline and me grumbling that I'm too fat. Hubbie will mumble something about how I'm not and look sympathetic while polishing off the oat and raisin cookies to help me out. It's far too stressful to think about - I'm off for a brew.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

You 'n' Resolutions

In a few weeks time most of us will be considering what to resolve to stop doing on 31st Dec 2011 and what to start doing on 1st Jan 2012. Channelling my inner psychic I predict that there will be a few who will resolve to stop smoking, drink less, lose weight, change job, make money and a few who resolve to move house. Resolutions tend to be a public declaration to do something that we haven't really committed to, but we feel obliged to start a new year with a new set of (old) aims. Of course if you really want to make a significant change in your life any day should be fine - why wait until 1st January ?

In the spirit of doing something realistic I've compiled a list of actions. If you just pick one to do - on any day you like - consider it a get out of jail free card with your resolutions later. Don't send me a Christmas card - even if it does donate 5% to charity - just pick something from the list and give it a go.

1. Register as an organ donor
2. Volunteer in your local community
3. Give blood
4. Make something with your own hands and give it to someone
5. Join your local freecycle group
6. Visit or write to an older person you know (no Santa does not count !)
7. Give away those old clothes / books / bric-a-brac you've been meaning to throw out for years
8. Instead of sending a text message or an email to a friend call them and have a conversation

Let me know how you get on :o)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Stop, Look AND Listen

I used a Sat Nav today for the first time ever and it was fabulous !! Up until now I've muddled along with the AA route planner, then most recently Google maps and back in the stone age I used an atlas, but none of these have anything on the bossy woman in the Garmin. I do realise that I'm late to this party, but now I've tried it there is absolutely no going back for me.

Of course not having had a car for years has something to do with this cultural vacuum, but the other reason I told myself was that I didn't think I'd be able to drive and listen to music and the sat nav all at the same time. I used to pride myself on being able to listen to a few things at a time - which we all try to convince our parents we can do when they ask why we have the radio on when we're supposed to be doing homework or revising. Now, however, I struggle to hear a great deal and mostly say 'huh ?' as a reflex action even if I've actually heard what's been said and it takes my brain a few seconds to register it. I like to think that it's because I have so much going on in my head. I do have selective hearing where I can hear my son breathing heavily in a different room, but I can't hear my husband explaining the offside rule (for like the millionth time) right next to me.

I blame Sky plus. Where before we used to have to listen or accept that we just missed dialogue I can now still pause or rewind to hear the bon mots from Dave Lamb on Come Dine or the muffled dialogue on the Wire. Little effort is expended in watching / listening to television so I've simply lost the knack. I tend to watch with subtitles on now so that if the baby is asleep it won't disturb him. Of course if the cat is snoring I hear him above everything else. First thing in the morning when he's hungry it's hard not to hear him pleading from the bottom of the stairs to be fed after a night on the tiles (as evidenced by his freezing cold ears).

The order of priority in the house for feeding is: baby, cat, hubbie then me. I usually get to make a cuppa after they've all been fed and sometimes even get to sip some of it before moving on to do something else and coming back to a stone cold tea later. Prioritising the boys in the family isn't something I resent at all. It makes my life easier to have a system and it keeps them out of my kitchen. I only mention it so that when hubbie reads this he can teach the other boys of my Mother Theresa type sacrifices for them. The ultimate aim is to be venerated without being a martyr. Not in a tattoo that says ' I love Mum' - I'm sure that is a lovely tribute, but I'd prefer something less permanent and not so inky thanks. Besides which it would look ridiculous on Neo's beautiful white fur.

I'm thinking somewhere in between Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the Krays without the extreme violent criminal tendencies. A sane level of gratitude and not a little awe would do me just fine. With subtitles of course.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Underachievers of the world unite

It was during the lunch to celebrate my last day at work that I found out that it isn't just me who feels I haven't fulfilled the dreams I had in childhood. Well to be honest I haven't fulfilled the dreams I had more recently to finish unpacking the boxes when we moved house, but that is less profound. 

When we're very young we believe we can do anything. Hubbie is convinced our son will be a lawyer (as well as being an accomplished musician, naturally) and in as much as we can help this we will. His dreams, however,  might be to be an astronaut, or - judging by how he watches Neo - to be a cat when he grows up. I still have a hankering to be a polar bear which is only really tempered when I watch Frozen Planet and see one struggling in arctic tundra without food. Also the weight thing would really mess with my head. 

The ambitions I admit to are that I wanted to be a barrister when I was at school, but my parents made it very clear that we didn't have the sort of money or connections that would help me with that. The secret dream I had was to be a blonde as I honestly believed the hype about it being more fun. 

My dreams now are far more prosaic: 

* Health and happiness for everyone I love. 
* That dress that makes me look slim under certain light in a particular mirror. 
* A seat on the morning train. 
* A parking space when I go to the shops. 
* The fishcakes we like in Waitrose that are always sold out. 
* Finishing a whole cup of tea while the baby sleeps. 
* Getting all those flying bugs off the houseplant in our front room without resorting to insect genocide. 
* The ignition actually switching the oven on so I don't have to lean into a gas filled oven with a match lit from the hob. 

As a life plan goes it's not being the first Asian newsreader (damn you Lisa Aziz) or writing a fabulously received novel, or creating the next Peppa Pig (watch this space). It is a list I can actually see myself getting to the bottom of without feeling like an utter failure though and that has to be worth something. 

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Hair today, shave tomorrow (well Dec actually)

moustaches prostate cancer movember
Something has happened to my male friends. They have replaced their normal photos on facebook (amusing cartoon depictions or ironic images) with what looks like those photos that are taken in shopping centres where you dress up as a person from the olden days. Not all of them are hirsute so this sudden need to grow facial fuzz is in some cases wildly disturbing. The ones who are naturally young looking now look like extras from Starsky and Hutch and others who are naturally hirsute now look like the station master from the Railway children.

The reason is - of course - Movember (see link at end of blog) which seems to have captured the interest where other causes have feared to tread. The traditional charity donor is a woman, older and gives to a range of causes. This donor would give a small amount regularly while alive then leave her entire life savings in her will to an animal charity causing a lengthy probate dispute with her family who had no idea that the donkeys would get the proceeds from the sale of her bungalow. As these lovely donors die off charities have desperately tried to diversity their donor base and have had to come up with new ways to appeal for funds. 
In order to get men to donate to charity the challenge fundraising event was born and we have seen the walk along the Great Wall, the trek to the base camp of Everest or the cycle ride in Vietnam. This time, however, someone has hit on an idea so simple it is genius. Ask men not to do something and to get sponsored for it. I've lost count of the number of times a man has complained about having to shave, so the idea of not doing it must be like Christmas, New Year and England being in the World Cup Final all at once. 

I doubt any charity, however forward thinking is going to encourage women to grow hair for sponsorship. If they did we could look forward to the prospect of breast cancer charities publicising "pits for tits." Do you find waxing taxing ? Never fear, grow your hair and instead of being a social pariah you will be adored for being the wonderful fundraiser you are. Nah, I just don't see it. The most a man can expect to suffer is some mild ridicule for growing a moustache, a woman ditching the bleach and wax or going all Frida Kahlo is just going to look like she's neglecting her personal appearance.

For now I'm enjoying seeing the transition from respectable looking man to porn star to Burt Reynolds tribute act. Good luck to all my friends who are taking part in Movember and if you want to know more - go here: Movember

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Work is a four letter word

So, I've been back at work for a month - give or take a day or two. In that time we've moved house, our son has turned one and we've celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. It's been an eventful month. I've been unpacking since we moved in and if I get it all done before retirement age it will be a miracle. Apparently moving house is one of the most stressful things in life. I can assure you that unpacking is hardly a picnic either.

Since I've been back at work I've come to the conclusion that I just don't want it all. I'm perfectly happy to be 'just' a wife and mother. After 25 years of work (with the exception of a year of maternity leave and a few months of unemployment back in 2006) I'm chucking it all in to stay at home and watch daytime tv. Ok that's not strictly true, but commuting to work in an office where no one talks to me all day and the high point of conversation is the PAs discussing what sangwich (sic) they had for lunch is no match for staying at home with my son.

If ever I was unsure about my decision to quit work today was the final straw. This is how it was supposed to go: wake up, have breakfast, travel to a meeting in a prison, come home. This is how it actually went:

Woke up and hit the snooze button twice. Went to get the baby for his morning feed, while hubbie let the cat out (cat flap due to be installed in the afternoon, we are still acting as door staff for the family feline). Handed baby over to hubbie and went downstairs to find that in the night the cat had decided to create modern art using litter all over the carpet. It was still only 6.30am and I didn't want to disturb neighbours by vacuuming so got the dustpan and brush out to clean up while hubbie gave baby his breakfast. Realised I was running late and wouldn't have time to a) eat anything b) prepare anything to take with me. Ran out of the front door with one arm in my coat and trying to hold onto an umbrella and an apple and pear hastily grabbed from the fruit bowl. The pear was fine at this point. As I opened the front door saw Neo sitting out front and was undecided whether to risk him following me to the tram or to press on and let hubbie deal with him and risk getting locked out with the baby as they were in the doorway waving me off. Half walked, half ran to tram stop - even went through the woods which spook me out, but was in a hurry so risked it by running and jumping the puddles. Made the tram and even got a seat - marvellous ! Checked my phone to see that if lucky I'd actually make my train to Clapham Junction. Pear starting to disintegrate. Tram stopped and the driver announced that we wouldn't be moving as there was a 'revenue dispute.' Tram started moving again. Got to East Croydon two minutes after my train had left.  Went to machine to buy a ticket - got confused by all the options so went to the window and bought the one via Clapham Junction. Ran to platform 1 and made fast train - even got a seat ! At Clapham Junction found the platform for Clandon and realised that had I stayed on the tram to Wimbledon I could have joined the train there - rats !! Went to get a brew from my fave coffee shop and three men got to the queue before me so I went back to the platform and bought tea and croissant from 'Cuppacino.' Got on train and got a seat - yay !! Stood up and spilled very hot tea on myself - ouch !! Spent rest of the journey with half a cup of tea and wet trousers slowly going cold. Pear really not in a good way and now bag smells of rotting fruit. Got out at Clandon and went outside to get a taxi (as advised) to the prison, only to find they don't actually have taxis at the station - you have to pre-book, apparently. A nice man overheard me and offered to share his taxi to the prison, but it wasn't coming for another 25 minutes so I tried phoning the prison to tell them I'd be later than expected - no one answered. Got to the prison and signed in and waited at the gate to be picked up. And waited. And waited. Then went to ask if the knew I was there - eventually got picked up and taken to the meeting. After the meeting was taken on a comprehensive tour of the site, complete with watching the prisoners eat their lunch while not having anything to eat <rumble>. Pear now in need of last rites, but in desperation ate it using a napkin and all my fingers to stop it turning to cider. Finally left prison and was driven to Woking to get the fast train. Went to buy a ticket extension and was told I'd have to buy a new ticket for the journey as it's a 'different line.' Sighed, bought ticket and got on train. Five minutes outside Clapham Junction announcement that we had to move to the front 5 carriages to get off the train so I and about 50 other passengers got up and plodded the length of the train (much to the chagrin of a woman in first class). Finally got back to East Croydon - sent message to hubbie declaring myself hungry and fed up. Cheered up to hear that baby was asleep, cat flap had been fitted and my Mum had brought a hundred weight of yummy food over.

Really wish I'd stayed in bed and watched the fox scrumping windfalls in our garden - think I'll do that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

It's not ADHD, it's... ooh where did you get your shoes ?

I met a friend for lunch today. A friend who I've known for years who I used to meet for drinks that went on for hours, for a coffee that turned into dinner and who hosted the best ad hoc new years eve eve party I've ever been to. We used to meet and chat and chill and linger. Then she selfishly decided to live abroad so I'd get a call saying, "I'm in London until Sunday, are you free for coffee tomorrow ?" I always made sure I was available and we maintained a mad friendship that endured her inability to pack until hours before a flight and my inability to finish a hot drink. The main thing we always had was a conversation that never finished. It would just pick up from the last time we met. Today, however, was different. I last saw her a few months ago when the baby was still small so we had tea and cake while he slept. So when she asked if I was free for lunch today I looked forward to seeing her and taking my son out to eat as he sits up now and eats really well.  I love taking my son out to eat. He's hilarious and entertaining and actually not a fussy eater so it's not such a big deal. I dug out something clean and almost dry from the airer and managed to get some lip gloss on before I left the house. Once we got there the conversation went something like this:

"So how have you been ? Khushbir sit nicely until your food comes. No you can't have a snack, your food is coming. Oh really ? Where has he been travelling ? Ok you can have one sweetcorn ring. Ok you can have a carrot puff then. Ok stop dropping them on the floor or you can't have any. So is he seeing anyone these days ? What was her name again ? Right, if you keep dropping them on the floor you can go back in your buggy. I mean it. When did you last see her ? Oh she's getting married ? That's wonderful. Look the nice man is bringing your doughballs and salad so sit nicely. Is he much older than her ? Oh that's nice. Can you just eat them please ? (as baby expertly flicks half a cherry tomato making it spin on the table I make a mental note to tell Daddy that his Subbutteo champion status is safe in the hands of his son and heir.) So how are you folks doing ? No you don't need to drop the doughballs on the floor (doughball flies across room and lands under buggy) Ok so you don't want to eat those then Do you see them that often ? No you like pasta, you eat it all the time. Oh you want your own spoon - sorry I'll get your spoon then. Do you think you'll come back to London any time or do you think you'll stay abroad now ? Right, the next thing that you drop on the floor is the end of your lunch young man. Sorry, what were we talking about ? Oh yes, no place to grow old… Yes can I have a cup of tea please and his meal comes with a chocolate cupcake so I'll share that. Oh it's ok he won't have any. Right in your buggy now while Mummy has her tea. No fuss please. Ok, do you want blue bear. No keep your shoes on please. Ok I'll just put blue bear under the buggy then for safety shall I ? Ok I'll put your shoes under the buggy as well. No keep your socks on please. (waitress tells my friend it's the last chocolate cupcake). Do you want this one love, I can get him some gelato or something. Are you sure ? And how is work going ? Ok you can have a little taste of chocolate cake then, but only one tiny bit - here (baby smiles) ok one spoon for Mummy (baby yells) ok one more tiny taste for you then (baby licks lips and puts foot in mouth with sock still on) I don't usually give him chocolate of course. Oh so you like chocolate - great. Ok you can have a little bit more, but no more. (sweeping sense of doom at what I have unleashed on my poor child as he is genetically pre-disposed to chocaholism on my side) Shall we get the bill ? Sorry you still have your coffee - what time is it ? Oh it's only 1.30 - wow that is early isn't it ? Have you done a poo poo ? Oh dear. Is that what all this fuss is about ? Do you need me to change you ? (picks up child and tries to be discreet while sniffing his behind) I'll be back in a minute - just a quick change and we'll all be happier… Well we're going shopping for cotton wool balls, but you're welcome to join us. Is that chocolate on your socks ? Just wait until Daddy sees the state of you later. No I don't blame you. See you soon love.

I have paraphrased, of course, but really this is by way of apology to anyone who has experienced this with me recently. Of course if you have done the same then you may be sympathetic to that realisation a few hours later, when the baby is asleep usually, that you started about 6 different topics of conversation and didn't finish any of them. Apparently this will only last another 18 years, please bear with me :o)

Sunday, 11 September 2011

"It's a moo point - a cow's opinion" (Joey from Friends)

Someone said something the other day that made me feel that my parenting was inferior to a friend's. It was an innocent remark and nothing was meant by it - in fact she was complimenting the other woman's child. I took it personally on behalf of my son. Then someone sent one of those feel good email stories featuring a heartwarming tale about the innocence of youth. I wondered if this really was a story about cute innocence or a comment about how foolish the child was to think that God was taking her photo when lightning flashed.

Feeling offended on behalf of others could be a full time occupation for me if I didn't have plenty else to do. I used to get offended by every little thing and then I realised it was pretty pointless. After all, just as I have an opinion about every little thing so does the person who's saying something critical to or about me. Instead of arguing the toss I'd rather try and find something vaguely amusing about their efforts.

The vehemence of atheists always interests me as they spend an inordinate amount of effort criticising something they don't believe in. I do have a faith and if someone doesn't it really isn't something I feel bad about. I'm not going to spend energy convincing someone to believe in God if they don't want to - that's like trying to get my husband to eat cauliflower by calling it gobi instead. If you spend time espousing the wisdom of Richard Dawkins, why not just go the whole nine yards - wear a nice suit and knock on doors to tell people to believe in him like you do.

Similarly it baffles me that there are meat eaters who get very irate about vegetarianism, as though it's a personal affront. Why does someone else not eating meat in any way affect your life ? Do you secretly feel bad about it or is it a way of asserting a primal urge now that you don't have to go out and chase your food to death ? It just isn't the same when it's already dead and packaged nicely in convenient portions delivered by Marlon from Waitrose in the strawberry van now is it ?

I'm not militant about food or about religion - it's personal. However, one of many points of intolerance for me is when a person says they don't vote and justifies this decision with "it makes no difference, they're all the same." Well, so are people who don't vote. You have rendered yourself ineligible to express an opinion if you can't even be bothered to take part in the process. Just as I judge anyone who writes 'could of,' 'alot' or 'definately' as illiterate, if you tell me there's no point in voting consider anything said after that as having disappeared into the ether as I just stopped listening to you. 

For the same reasons not everyone will have made it as far as this sentence (unless you're one of those 'speed reader' types who reads the last line to see if it's worth reading the bit in the middle) - if you did, thanks :o) 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

"would you like ice with that ?"

Being on holiday means doing things you just don't do otherwise - these include:

1. wearing flip flops to dinner
2. smiling at and talking to complete strangers 
3. eating about 5 times as much as usual 
4. drinking during the day 

The last of these is the one that I find causes the most controversy. On a flight to Vancouver with friends for a skiing holiday Harriet leaned over to me and whispered, "are we drinking ?" as they wheeled the drinks trolley through the cabin. It was 11am in Heathrow and I'd already been traumatised at being told I needed at least 6 months on my passport to enter Canada (I had 5) and because an older Asian man who had taken 20 minutes to check my passport before we got on the plane had told me to carry a second form of ID 'just in case.' So I replied, "Well we are on holiday."

In America they have a very different relationship with drinking and see it as a form of sociopathy to drink like we do over here. My friend Steph has a Scottish father and a Californian mother. She moved to San Francisco about ten years ago and after 2 months in her new job her work colleagues staged an intervention as they were worried about her drinking every evening after work. In order to alleviate their fears she explained, "It's ok I'm not an alcoholic, I'm British." When me and hubbie went to Las Vegas we had some explaining to do as 'Sin City' seems to also have an issue with what they consider problem drinking. Ironic really for a place that sells a jug of margaritas for $1 and where you can drink for free so long as you keep playing the slots. 

I blame my own delight in drinking during the day on a poor start to my drinking life. While it's customary to have a youth filled with illicit cider drinking and getting into pubs when underage I did no such thing. I went to university ill-prepared for the nights out and had no idea what to order when someone asked me what I was drinking. For one term I drank only Martinis and for another pints of black Russian. Not only was this bizarre, but also very, very expensive. It also meant that my traditional Sunday night out left me so hungover that I routinely fell asleep during lectures on Monday afternoon. Well what do you expect when you timetable 6 hours of history for a Monday ? I told everyone I was narcoleptic, but I suspect they didn't believe me as I slid down my chair then snored like an asthmatic Alsation while Trevor tried to drum up interest in the crusades. 

Not being able to hold my drink was also my downfall at work functions so I decided to just tell people I didn't drink as it was much simpler than explaining that later I'd fall asleep in the loos at Paddington so that my male work colleague would have to send a woman in to find me and ask if I was alright. 

In the last few years I've been drinking a lot less, first because I was dieting, then because I became pregnant and chose not to drink at all and subsequently because if I had a drink then fed by son he'd be up all night like a loony. So it makes me laugh when I see my in-laws as they always offer me a drink before dinner with the explanation "of course we don't usually drink on a (insert day of the week here) it's only because it's Xmas, Easter, the Queen's birthday, the end of the bottle." They needn't bother of course, but for some reason they feel the need to justify it. It's almost refreshing in a culture where if you don't drink everyone thinks you must be a bit weird. When hubbie stopped drinking someone asked him (in all seriousness) if it was because he had the clap. I might try that line next time someone says "Oh go on, one won't hurt." 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bully for you

A you tube video of Asyraf Haziq - the Malaysian student who was mugged following an attack that left him with a broken jaw - became news last week. I don't need to see people being cruel to know that it happens and to be shocked by it. What followed was a flood of sympathy and support for him as the innocent in the chaos of rioting who became caught up in events that he had no involvement in. It made me angry and it left me feeling sick about the mentality of those who not only beat him up initially, but those who then robbed him. It wasn't just criminal, it was old fashioned bullying. 

Then yesterday there was a news report claiming that a third of teachers have been bullied online by parents using facebook. Cyberbullying - as it's being called - is just the most recent development in an age old form of abuse that I've recently had a smidgen of experience of. Whether at school or at work or even at home being bullied has at various times just been a part of my everyday life. After a while it's just how life is and goes some way to explaining why I get so angry about what I see as injustice and unfairness.

It fascinates me what drives some to bully and others to be the ones who are bullied. I've often heard people say that bullies are victims themselves. I'm afraid I can't concur. As someone who has been on the receiving end of bullying at many different stages in life I don't think I've visited it on others as a result. It does make me wonder if some of us are predisposed to being bullied either by virtue of what we look like or how we respond to bullies. I can't recall a time when I've actually confronted a bully, so maybe that and my desperation to be liked makes it easy for them ? 

Of course this doesn't explain why pick on someone who is already bleeding or a person who is doing their job and you just don't like them or what they say. I do wonder what became of the girls who bullied me at school. Did walking behind me in the playground and pushing me or stealing my school bag lead to a fulfilling adult life or are they as pointless now as they were back then ? It's probably all coming back to me because I'm traumatised at the thought of sending my son to a nursery. I know that this is the beginning of leaving him to find his way with other children and he has to learn to be independent and to stand up for himself. I just wish that I didn't keep finding evidence the people can be really nasty and they don't need a reason. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

An obituary for Croydon

This morning I took a bus into town and saw a bike shop with windows smashed and Richer Sounds boarded up. It was so close that last night me and hubbie literally sat in the front room fully dressed until 3.30 am in case we needed to get our family out of Croydon to safety.

The last time I was this terrified it was 1977 and the National Front were marching past our family home  - the flat above my parents shop (yes it was on the corner - ha ha very funny). At that time I had no idea why they were marching or who they were, just that my parents had closed up the shop and were peering through the closed curtains. No one should ever see their family this frightened.

I relived that memory today as I felt sick, scared and disbelieving. I don't know what the appropriate response is to feeling afraid that your family might get hurt, but one person (who is abroad right now) kept referring to other people she'd spoken to being 'level-headed' about it. I guess being in another country and watching news footage doesn't automatically make us all experts in empathy.

This afternoon the police issued photos of people who broke into the large retail stores on Purley Way and other stores that have CCTV. The fact that they so blatantly disregarded any need for disguise shows either supreme arrogance or a belief that there will be no consequences for their actions. I sincerely hope they are wrong.

Friday, 29 July 2011

I'm sorry I haven't a clue (apparently)

Me and the baby visited friends this week who have a four year old and a newborn. I've only been doing this parenting lark for ten months now, so didn't appreciate that their home was not kitted out for my adventurous and somewhat clumsy ten month old. He used a chair to clamber into a standing position until it swivelled depositing him on the floor with blood coming out of his nose. I did my best to appear like a parent who is cool with mishaps - rather that the insane first time parent I really am - while I was there. Then spent the entire drive home panicking that he wasn't actually asleep, but in a coma from a serious head injury sustained while in my care.I only mention this as for the longest time I thought everyone else knew more about parenting than me. I would ask for advice on every little thing until one day I realised that I am allowed to make decisions about my own son. Then I witnessed the world of competitive parenting.

Actually I first witnessed the world of competitive grandparenting which is far more serious. I am blessed that neither my mother nor my mother-in-law pass opinion unless asked. Ok, the latter does comment on my husband's weight, but as she is his mother I figure that's their issue to work out. Both my husband and I were raised by parents from the "in my day" school of parenting. They believed that complimenting their offspring would make us spoiled and unruly so instead they operated a carefully orchestrated system of sarcasm and apparent disinterest in our achievements.

As grandparents, however, they take a completely different approach and dote on their grandson (while never actually telling us that they do of course). Mother-in-law had friends over from Australia and was hosting one of her famous buffets (think Bridget Jones' mother crossed with Ria from Butterflies). Her friends are all grandparents with a few years under their belts so she is used to hearing their boasts. I am new to this world so imagine my horror as they one-upped each other (including sharing which of their offspring was barren) until there was an eventual and clear winner. This was earned by the grandmother who flew four hours to babysit her grandchildren so her daughter could attend a course for work.

In light of this oneupmanship my own experiences pale into insignificance. It starts as who is breastfeeding and who is not - you're out of the game early if you fail at this hurdle. Then it's weaning and whether you prepare all the (organic - naturally) food yourself. Sleep patterns, teeth, crawling, etc, etc. It's the most dull conversation and lately I'm constantly being asked if and when I'm going back to work. Frankly it's no one's business, but as my husband reminded me, people think I am now incapable of conversing about anything other than babies and all matters related to.

The point of this is the comment a woman made to me as she shared a revelation about my grave error in giving my son water to drink as 'a breastfed baby does not need water.' I instantly felt terrible. She then followed up with an invitation to attend a meeting to find out about 'natural parenting' in tones usually reserved for 'specialist' interests. Up until now I'd thought my parenting was pretty natural. My son laughs, plays, eats really well, sits up at the table when we go out to eat and sometimes even sleeps all night. Apparently I'm a terrible person because I allow him to watch Rastamouse while I pop to the loo or make a cup of tea. No amount of eco nappies, bamboo swaddling, organic baby food and soothing music can make up for that sort of negligence !

Friday, 22 July 2011

The sordid case of life imitating art...

You know how the saying goes 'there is a novel inside all of us' ? Well, a few years ago - with some prompting - I decided to unleash that novel. It was a vanity project really as I was convinced that my wit and intelligence would light up the pages and it would be a runaway success. Instead I laboured over this work and found that the characters took on a life of their own and at times I really struggled to find 'their voices.' It wasn't as simple as it seemed when I narrated possible chapters in my head while cleaning or running. Once in front of the screen all my genius prose dried up and I was left with clunky paragraphs that didn't really follow on from each other. I asked a friend to read it and he was nice about it, but I didn't submit it to anyone as it was never finished and I wasn't sure it would be of interest to anyone else. This was about ten years ago.

Then my life started to resemble events in my novel. Things my protagonist did or said which I'd forgotten writing about happened in my life and I wasn't sure whether I was subconsciously channelling the character I'd written or it was just unfortunate coincidence. Then recently I watched a Channel 4 Dispatches programme about the murder of Anni Dewani (Hindocha) in South Africa on her honeymoon. I realised that her name was the same as my character (and the same spelling) and there were startling similarities in her story with the exception that my character wasn't murdered, but left for dead at the beginning of the novel. It was so chilling I decided that in the interests of public safety the novel inside me is best left unwritten !!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

I wonder if Dave Lamb remembers me ?

The story so far:

As anyone who knows me well will tell you I am a fanatic about Come Dine With Me. Recently they advertised for potential contestants in Croydon and for a millisecond I considered applying then remembered my vow to never do reality telly, so I encouraged my friend Gemma to do it instead.

Then I told my hubbie that the voiceover of Big Barn Farm on Cbeebies is done by Dave Lamb (the now legendary narrator of CDWM). He wasn't actually listening so a few days later I heard a cry of "Oh My Days !!" from the front room and he asked if the voice of Petal the Pig in Big Barn Farm was Dave Lamb. I rolled my eyes to the ceiling, tutted and went back to making the dinner.

Then we were watching Miranda and hubbie said "Oh look it's Dave Lamb," and I was open mouthed in shock as I realised he was none other than Janutha from Goodness Gracious Me !! All this time I had no idea.

So today I decided to stalk him even further and was even more shocked to discover that not only was he at the same university as me, but at the same time. Oh hold on it gets better.  He was part of a comedy troupe called the Cheese Shop who I actually knew at the time (well I knew a couple of them from the Radio Station we all presented shows on) so I probably at some point actually met him if not drank in the same bars as him.

In the space of a few weeks Dave Lamb has gone from that bloke who does the funny commentary on my favourite TV show to a bloke I probably met at some point 20 years ago in the Biko Bar !!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

"Rebekah, you're fired !" Go on Rupes, grow a pair and do it !!

That News Corp have withdrawn from the bidding process for BSkyB was nothing like as unexpected as the rapid closure of the NOTW.  What is surprising is that someone as egotisical as Rupert (Montgomery Burns) Murdoch has actually jumped before being pushed. His continued faith in Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) and the blatant disregard with which he sacked people who had nothing to do with the phone hacking paint the picture of a Randolph Hearst character (albeit a less portly depiction than the one Orson Welles made infamous). The political rats throwing themselves over the side rather than admit to having made nice with the Murdoch empire only serve to prove how absolute power corrupts absolutely (to paraphrase). Not one of the main parties comes out of this clean.

Why anyone is in any way surprised that it wasn't just movie stars and John Prescott who were hacked is a mystery. Does anyone truly believe that newspapers write actual news ? Years ago I knew a woman who went on to become Paul Merton's second wife. At the time she had started seeing him her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was doorstopped by the NOTW and asked if he knew that she was having an affair. She found out who had told them as the person had all new furniture paid for by the snooping hacks.

We've known for years that the famous can expect their rubbish to be rifled through and 'sources close to' often means the person's own PR. It isn't exactly a massive leap of faith to see that with the growth of mobile communication it was going to be the next source of information. Private conversations and personal information being made public has led to suspicion being laid at the wrong door and innocent people being sacked (eg. personal assistants to famous folk).

My father-in-law refuses to own a mobile phone and is highly critical of what appears to be an over-reliance on them. He is giddy with schadenfreude over this story as he sees it as proof that nothing good can come of being so available. He reads the Daily Mail so I'm waiting to hear where he thinks they get their 'facts' from.

Monday, 11 July 2011

To Mock a Skinny Bird (and her fella)

So the Beckham girl is called Harper Seven.

It would be uncharitable of me (but entirely in character) to be snooty about this, but I'll suspend disbelief just this once. So let's assume they have read at least one book and her first name is an homage to Harper Lee and I can only make a wild guess that seven was Daddy's shirt number. If you know me at all you'll know I have a pathalogical hatred of all sport so if I'm right about the latter, hubbie will fall over in shock.

While taking the mickey out of the poor child's names would occupy me all day I am far more interested in the error that has been repeated by all the media outlets who've reported this 'news.' The potted history of the Beckham family includes the fact that they were married in 1999 and that Brooklyn is 11 years old. Now I distinctly recall he attended his parents wedding and upon checking he was indeed 4 months old when his parents married in July 1999, so why has no one noticed that he's actually 12 ? Is it the Beckham PR machine rewriting history for us or is it just a mistake ? If it is the former then someone needs to remind them of the existence of search engines and archives.

Ok, you know I wasn't going to leave the name thing alone. What is it with people giving their children more than one name ?  The number of Lily-Roses, Molly-Louises and Tyler-Jacks we meet at various groups makes my head spin. I blame celebrities for this trend and Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis in particular. If you couldn't decide on one name then maybe do the Indian thing and have a formal name  and a family name. It's a truism that a Singh who is Ranvir at work will be called Bunty at home. In my own family we each have at least 4 family names that have evolved over the years and some that we have no clue about the origin of. All I'm saying is instead of naming a child Ocean-Blue or Meadow-Amber why not go for Bunty, Sweety, Tinku or my current fave for my own son, Pookie ?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The cat's been sick and Morrissey is on the telly...

So I decided to start with a momentous first blog and was waxing lyrical about all sorts of nonsense when the cat decided to walk over me to sniff the baby monitor and walked back. In the process he deleted all the writing I'd done. Convinced this was him being a critic I took it personally and told him off. Imagine how guilty I felt when minutes later he was throwing up in the next room !!

It may have been a reaction to my telling him off, but it was more likely to be a result of next door having a barbecue this evening. Neo has been caught on camera in the past licking the cold grills of a barbecue and whenever we eat outdoors he is sick (and mysteriously the last of the sausages go missing !) He has also tried veggie sausages before now and that wasn't a success either. Poor lad had no idea what was going on when he bit into those !

Every year we record a lot of the Glastonbury coverage on the BBC and this year is no exception. The usual course of events is we delete the previous year's recordings which we still haven't watched only to replace them with the new ones. This year we have decided to break with tradition and actually watch them first and have just been watching Morrissey. From the song that signifies when we first met (I want the one I can't have) to the one that was played during our wedding (This Charming Man) the Smiths repertoire is pretty significant to me and hubbie. It makes me realise that the bands that I once thought were so radical and anti-establishment are now middle aged (or in most cases retirement age) and firmly part of the establishment.

I find it hard to let go of things: books, DVDs, CDs, shoes, clothes, memories, expectations. It's a cliche that women love shoes, but in my case it's true. Last year we attended 6 weddings and I was pregnant for all but one of them. As a result I was unable to wear the beautiful shoes I'd chosen specifically to match with outfits and kept for that special and unknown future occasion. When the year of weddings was upon us I was carrying my son and a fair amount else in my frock so pretty shoes were not practical. Ironically I don't really care what I wear on my feet these days, but still have the boxes of magic in case I have a special day to wear them to.

Expectations are far more difficult to let go of. The year before I fell pregnant I decided I was fed up with being unhappy in my body and made an effort to lose weight. Following a sensible eating plan and exercising I became the slimmest I've been as an adult. It was very satisfying to be slim and to feel 'normal' for once. Then I found out that the thing we'd been told wouldn't happen had happened and I was expecting a baby. I was so delighted at the news that I didn't consider how this would affect my body in the longer term as I just thought I'd lose the weight again. What I hadn't appreciated was how difficult it would be to just go back to what I did before. I've heard the term 'getting my body back' and it always sounded a bit shallow, but I think I understand what that is about now. For so long my body has served a purpose and my responsibility has been to maintain it for the wellbeing of another person - from carrying him and supporting him to feeding him.  I barely had time to enjoy being slim and I'm now struggling with the idea that it just won't happen again. It's not the most important thing in life, but it is a difficult thing to let go of.

Right, having managed a blog free of feline interference I'm going to cut and run. The baby is kicking the side of his cot in his sleep (which is pretty much what he did for 9 months when I was his cot !!).

Hasta luego !