30 January 2013
27 July 2011
22 January 2010
20 January 2010
Thought I would try and start uploading my photos more regularly to make up for the fact I haven't been writing! The photography course I'm doing is taking up a lot of time but, as a picture paints a thousand words, I'm hoping they might compensate (for the time being) for the lack of wordage!
This is what happened when Chickie said he'd like Hamster sandwiches for lunch!
P.S. For those of you who like photography, check out this link to a new site I like called 'Beyond Snapshots' ...
08 November 2009
I like blaming my husband for things. In fact, cursing Accountant for all the irritating things I encounter on a daily basis, often takes up most of my energy.
So, now that Chickie has set up his own ‘toy testing’ business, I naturally assumed one of his father’s rogue chromosomes was responsible.
“Can you superglue this, mummy?” said Chick, showing me his spitfire.
“Another one?” I cried, shaking my head at Accountant in the kitchen as if he’d broken it himself.
“Afraid so” said Chick before wandering off to subject more toys to his four stage ‘testing’ procedure:
Stage 1 “Abuse Test”: What falls off if toy is pummelled on floor?
Stage 2 “Impact Test”: What falls off if toy is thrown across room?
Stage 3 “Tumble Test”: What falls off if toy is thrown down stairs?
Stage 4 “Tension Test”: (stuffed/beanbag toys) – what comes out if toy is sat on repeatedly?
Chick reappeared, holding ‘Tyrone’, his T-Rex.
“It’s in two bits” he beamed.
It took me a moment to fathom how one big lump of plastic dinosaur had split in two before realising that the loud thudding noise I’d been ignoring had probably been Tyrone succumbing to ‘Stage 1 Abuse’ testing.
We locked eyes, my voice a sinister whisper. “Santa watches you ALL the time” I rasped, “and if he sees you breaking your toys,” Chick nodded, “they’ll be no Christmas.” I looked suitably scared on his behalf.
“Sorry Mummy” he offered immediately.
“Don’t apologise to me.”
“Sorry Santa” he said, looking at the chimney.
Pleased with my cunning, I sent my reformed son off to enjoy his new attitude.
Minutes later, sobs drew me to where Chick sat quivering. “It just broke” he offered in a big breath, holding up what once was a bi-plane.
My eyebrow twitched. “How?”
In an Oscar winning performance, Chickie’s incredulousness was communicated with the deepest of shrugs and by the rising and falling of a voice overwhelmed by utter shock. He was so good, I almost believed that the metal wing simply detached itself right in front of his very eyes.
“The truth?” I encouraged, frowning.
He stuck to his story before eventually asking, “Is it always good to tell the truth Mummy?”
I winced as I recalled all the times I’d asked Accountant whether my bottom looked big but I didn’t falter. “Yes”.
Following a full confession and the subsequent confiscation of all of his toys, Chickie sat glaring at me whilst I discussed his latest phase with my mother.
“Oh, he’s just like you were” she tweeted.
“What?” I scoffed, reminding her of my perfect school reports.
Then she reminded me of how I dismantled my bunk bed on holiday, painted all her doors black and carved a cross in her dining table.
“Oh” I managed, before blaming her for not channelling my creativity more effectively.
02 November 2009
Accountant doesn’t seem to hear as well as me. He also seems to have trouble identifying everyday objects located right in front of his very eyes. Add to this, his contraction of glue ear, and you too could enjoy Saturday mornings like this:
Acc [in pants and socks in kitchen]: Where’ve you hidden my cafetiere?
Me [unconscious in bed]: You left it by the toaster.
Acc: The roller coaster?
Chick [sat on my head]: I want a roller coaster?
Me: I said TOASTER!
Acc [not moving to look]: It’s not there.
Me [red faced]: Near the percolator.
Acc [still not moving]: There is no cheese grater?
Chick [bouncing on my head]: I want a roller coaster. Plllleeeassseeeee...
Me [purple faced]: You might actually have to move something to see it.
Chick [still bouncing]: Where mummy? Can I see it?
Acc: Why do you keep hiding things?
Chick [intrigued]: Why did you hide it mummy? Let’s find it [flinging off my duvet]
Me [cold and weeping]: I didn’t hide anything. There is no roller coaster.
Chick [exasperated]: There is! I want one. [sobs]
Acc: Where’s my coffee?
Reclaiming the duvet, I slid underneath it.
I heard Accountant pad into the bedroom so wrapped myself up tighter than a fajita in my 15 tog cocoon. Chickie began enquiries about swapping me for a mummy who didn’t hide roller coasters.
“Where’ve you hidden the coffee?” Accountant’s voice was muffled. A pleasing start.
“Coffee?” he tried again.
“Liz?” he began tugging at the covers, but my resistance was strong.
“Daddy, I want a rollercoaster?” chirped Chick.
It took an hour before I agreed to come out and my terms were simple:
I would no longer be expected to answer any questions that:
a) I’d answered before
b) required basic thought before asking
c) were anything to do with fairground rounds
It was a great success, rendering Accountant practically mute. I spent a blissful day soaking up the sound of bird song whilst eavesdropping on the wind whispering to the autumn leaves.
I decided it was definitely sustainable on a long term basis.
The next day, in clear breach of my Restricted Speech Policy, Accountant asked where I’d hidden Chickie’s shoes.
“In his wardrobe” I huffed.
Accountant insisted not. I stomped past him, vowing to ram one into each gluey ear, before coming to a flabbergasted halt. Accountant leaned in, eyebrows jiggling high above his head, a lopsided smirk grazing his earlobe.
I avoided eye contact as I struggled with the shocking revelation that they weren’t actually there.
“I told you” he trumpeted.
“I love you too, sweetheart” I tried, before making a hasty retreat. Accountant was in hot pursuit. I broke into a power walk.
“Say sorry” he began.
“Grey lorry?” I replied.
“I want a lorry” piped Chick.
I kissed his cheek before casting a loving wink at my husband. “Discuss it with daddy” I added before skipping away.
26 October 2009
I’m not a perfectionist anymore.
I realised this on Saturday, in Morrisons, stood in front of disposable tablewears (Indicator No 1) last minute shopping (Indicator No 2) for Chickie’s fourth birthday party. One pack of perforated paper tablecloths were slung into my basket alongside non-matching paper napkins (Indicators No 3&4).
In 2007, preparing for Chickie’s second birthday party went something like this:
Two months prior, family members received ‘The Masterplan’ outlining the ‘creative vision’ and responsibilities.
Accountant – Runner
Sister – Make Up and Hair Design
Grandad – Set Design and Props
Grandpa – Sound and Lighting Technician
Nanna – Food and Beverage Manager
Grandma – Post Production Co-ordinator
Me – Creative Director
A homemade ‘Happy Birthday’ banner featuring three self-illustrated chicks in orange and yellow formed the central theme.
Co-ordinating invitations, an exact pantone match to the ‘Happy Birthday’ banner, were designed and circulated.
Chick balloons reinforced the theme and we all remember the look of relief on Grandad’s face (Set and Props) when he finally tracked down the only yellow and orange balloons with chicks on them in the Home Counties.
On the big day, the team gathered together at 0800 hours in the church hall for their motivational briefing. This was especially important for Mum (Food and Beverages) who never responded particularly well to the pressure, tending not to sleep or eat for the fortnight preceding the party. Giving her the additional responsibility of creating a three tier train cake with alternating orange and yellow chickie passengers had left her looking unwell. I nodded in my sister’s direction (Hair and Make Up) before pointing at our mother, who was muttering to a tray of ‘chick’ themed fairy cakes in the corner.
“If we can all just focus our attention back to the flipchart” I said, tapping my marker against the board.
Mum looked up with red-rimmed eyes.
“Right then, you clear on what’s to be done?”
Six beige faces stared back.
“Go, go, go!!!” I encouraged, shooing them off to be the best that they could be.
In the post-party de-briefing, Grandad came to realise that incorporating a pink balloon in the entrance decor was against everything the party stood for and clearly not on my diagram, and Accountant was enlightened on the fact that using a ripped piece of serviette as a ‘present table sign’ was grounds for divorce and almost compromised the entire project. Nanna was encouraged to practise her icing skills and Grandma to develop more initiative.
“But thanks for your help. Next year, we’ll make it even better” I concluded.
And we did. Nanna had colour in her cheeks. Grandad had sausage rolls in his. The balloons clashed with the party boxes, the invites had a typo, the cake was from Sainsbury’s and the only theme was mayhem.
In honour of the birthday boy, who has taught me that perfection is not for him!
19 October 2009
Stood before Lola’s playhouse in the garden, I listened as her mother (a new acquaintance) updated me on its recent refurbishment.
“We just put the carpet in” she explained, stroking the Laura Ashley curtains framing the windows.
I poked my head in. “The wallpaper’s lovely” I added, wondering what species of child she had and why she’d got one instead of me. I pictured Chickie’s playhouse at home, splattered with mud, decorated with dead spiders and mostly used as a giant footstool to scale the fence into next door’s garden.
“The three piece suite is lovely” I cooed, before closing the stable door on dreams of motherhood I’d once entertained.
“Perhaps Chick should play indoors?” I suggested as we walked back towards the house.
“It’ll be fine” she said, waving her hand in that way people do when they’ve no idea what they’re dealing with. Whilst she went to the kitchen to make some tea, I surveyed her living room with its white everything and toys in labelled boxes – ‘animals, dollies, miscellaneous’. I felt like I’d booked a chimp into Champneys. I looked into the garden to see him happily relocating decorative stones from her feature border to her drain.
A bolt of pure anxiety propelled me outside. Whilst continuing my chatty repartee with her, I did my best to sound like my cheek wasn’t pressed against her patio slab and my right arm wasn’t being used as a drain rod.
After a quick scrub down, I perched nervously atop the white leather sofa, resisting the urge to bite my nails as I watched Chickie enter the playhouse.
“Here we are” she trilled, appearing with a tray of French Fancies.
“Lovely” I said, smiling as my eyes crept over to Chickie’s grinning face peering back before he slowly shut the door. Gentle palpitations pattered across my chest.
As my friend ran through her interior design plans for Lola’s dollhouse, I realised this was a mother who had never had to cut her child’s fingernails off to gain access to the dirt underneath. She didn’t have to wash her sofa covers every fortnight. There were no teeth marks in her furniture. And I bet she’d never once had to hose Lola down before pre-school. We were parenting polar opposites.
“They’re playing so nicely” she remarked, nodding towards the playhouse which was now very, very quiet. In my experience, this was not a good sign.
“I’ll just check all’s well” I called back as I fled across the lawn.
And there was my son surrounded by the usual carnage. My friend gasped behind me. “I’m so sorry...” I whispered, tugging Lola out from under the sofa.
At nightfall, after re-categorising the toys according to purpose and colour, we returned to the home specifically tailored to suit our child. With washable paint on the walls, washable fabrics on the soft furnishings and nothing white in sight.
12 October 2009
It was risky but, due to babysitter shortages, Chick was coming with me to meet the Headmistress of his potential new school. Before we left, I gave a short but inspirational ‘briefing’.
“You see these sweeties” I removed the jar of Percy Piglets from the shelf before wafting them around his nose. Chick inhaled, his pupils dilating with longing as he nodded emphatically.
“Well” I whispered, crouching down, “they can all be yours.” Now in a trance like state, Chick’s eyeballs never strayed from the piglets. “All you have to do is be SUPER good when we go to big school.”
He licked his lips. “Agreed then” I said, patting his head before bundling him into the car. On the way, I ran through some behavioural expectations.
“Remember manners. Don’t run. No squawking, roaring or spitfire impressions. Whatever mummy asks, do it quickly and quietly.” Chickie stared ahead.
“Your entire future depends on it” I added in a sinister whisper for dramatic emphasis. Confident that my four year old now understood the importance of the occasion, we trotted off, to meet Mrs Bewbush.
In my head, when imagining the introductions, Chick had been waiting, cross legged, whilst flicking through ‘GCSE Maths: Higher Level, The Revision Guide.’ What I hadn’t anticipated was that I’d be pulling him out by his legs from beneath a giant paper mache elephant.
“Let go of that carpet tile now!” I spat through gritted teeth, whilst turning around to smile sweetly at the Headmistress and the other families who were all waiting patiently for Chickie to release his grip.
Once retrieved, I whispered, “They’ll be no Percies now, Mister” before he scampered off down the corridor. And then nipped through an open door into the playground. Agog, I stared at the retreating silhouette I couldn’t quite believe was mine as it sprinted across the running track before disappearing. I apologised to Mrs Bewbush who continued her presentation as I took up pursuit.
“They’ll be no sweets, no aeroplanes, no playdates, no bike, no trains and no FUN!” I ranted at the child smirking at me as I pulled him back across the field towards the normal families. “Wait till I get you home” I jabbered on.
Later, at home, Chickie was distinctly unimpressed as I closed all his blinds and tucked him into bed at lunchtime. Ignoring his wails, I stomped downstairs to email his father.
Eventually, all that could be heard was the tv. Until the chuckling started. Curious, I checked his room, where he was no longer in residence. Nor was he in our room, or anywhere upstairs.
That’s because he was on the sofa – enjoying cartoons. Until I started chasing him around the living room, out into the garden and then back up into his bedroom - the Tom and Jerry theme tune, playing in the background.
05 October 2009
As I waited in the car park for my sister and our appointment to view the ‘out of catchment’ school of choice for Chickie, a sudden knock on the window almost made me wet my pants.
Two familiar faces peered in. Philip and Louisa from No 32. The perfect couple with above average everything.
They waited, all attractive and intelligent looking, whilst I clambered out of the car. After a posh double/triple kiss (the one where I never know which cheek to kiss first or the right number of kisses to apply and end up headbutting everyone), I casually asked, “What are you doing here?”
“We’ve got an appointment to see the school” Philip chimed. Drat - they lived at least 20 metres closer to the school than us.
“You’re both looking especially dapper” I commented, raising an eyebrow. Philip looked like he was wearing Armani and Louisa’s outfit seemed tightly based around the tones of his aqua pink twill stripe Windsor double cuff shirt.
“Yes, well I was wearing something very similar to what you’ve got on” she nodded at my woolly dress and leggings, “but Philip sent me back upstairs to change.”
“Yes, it’s very important to make the right impression, don’t you think?” he beamed.
At which point my sister over-revved her way into our lives before abandoning her giant car at an angle that effectively shut off emergency access to the school.
“Her boys used to come here” I explained as she started to weep as we made our way across to reception. “And she was so very active within the school” I added, smiling up at Philip sweetly as all the teachers rushed out to hug her.
After signing in, my sister and I took our seats across from the administrative team. Philip began to tut. “Oh dear, I think you’ll find it’s the 30th today, Liz” he said loudly, peering smugly over the visitors book at me. “Shall I correct your entry?” I glared at my sister who had told me it was the 29th.
When the Headmistress appeared, I resisted the urge to curtsey, and to stick my tongue out at Philip as she asked after my two nephews.
Then the tour began. Louisa and Philip powered through a list of Jeremy Paxman style questions including curriculum, funding and class sizes. I cooed over the shabby chic toilet cubicles.
“It’s all so tidy” commented Philip.
“Thank you” said the Headmistress.
“Yes, how is Meredith getting on with her destructive phase?” I asked Louisa.
“Have you heard about Chick’s ASBO?” Philip asked my sister.
I laughed along before mentioning how he got a special star for ‘Participation’ in his Sunday School last week.
Afterwards, when Philip had finalised their harvest festival donation arrangements, we walked back to our cars, before double kissing each other and racing each other back to our street.
28 September 2009
Deep within the darkest of woods, a huge French chateau cast its shadow over the land and a lone figure waited within.
At dusk, an English family approached and the mother knew immediately that she’d made a grave mistake.
“Wow” said Accountant, “it’s massive!”
“BATS!” squealed Chickie as we got out of the car, pointing towards the third floor of our accommodation where a steady stream of winged silhouettes were firing from the roof.
Suddenly, I longed to curl up like a hedgehog and roll myself back across the Channel.
Arthritic trees contorted towards the fading light, their sad swooshing, the only reprieve in the quietest of quiets.
The spindly caretaker arose from the front steps, beckoning us inside.
Positioned beneath a stuffed moose, opposite the stuffed deer and to the right of the medieval weaponry, I smiled weakly at Madame Cadiet as she demonstrated the shutters. My eyes crept over the brass devil faces with their hollowed out eyes and horns.
“It smells like a church” whispered Accountant. His unexpected breath on my neck, the cause of a mild heart attack. Clutching my chest, I tippy toed further into the nightmare.
A complex labyrinth of bedrooms, bathrooms and corridors followed adorned with menacing little dolls, giant crucifixes and paintings of hangings. The third floor was cordoned off. Madame pointed upwards, barking “non” and shaking her head vigorously.
“Non?” I queried, keen for expansion.
“NON!” came the reply.
“Anything you need?” she asked upon leaving.
“My daddy” sprang to mind but I shook my head until she became just another shadow.
“I love this boo-ti-ful house mummy!”
“It’s the perfect haunted house!” added Accountant enthusiastically.
I glared at him. “What?” he squeaked, wide eyed and gormless, as only men can be.
“I’m not keen” I whispered without moving my lips so as not to alert Chickie to my distress.
“You don’t like it? Why?” Accountant boomed.
“Mummy?” Chickie’s bottom lip wobbled.
I glared at Accountant. He stared back, wide eyed and gormless.
Later, I sat down with the guest book, eager for reassurance that others had survived their holiday. Thank you to Claude from Belgium as, without him, I might never have known that Monsieur Litoux died in the house in 1983.
That night, lying rigid atop the 130 year old mattress and the kitchen knife I’d tucked underneath, I listened to the trees whispering about me outside the window.
Whilst Chickie and Accountant snored away the longest night of my life, I pondered whether it was the first time that all the occupants of a nine bedroom house had wedged into one bed. Then I pondered the padlocked third floor. And the padlocked cellar. And the wardrobe in our room, big enough to comfortably house a lion, a witch and a serial killer.
A day earlier than planned, Accountant drove his twitching wife back across the Channel, all curled up in her seat, just like a hedgehog.
05 September 2009
So, Daddykins, despite your inheritance withdrawal threats, I’d like to discuss last Wednesday.
Here’s what happened.
Approximately five years ago, my mother and I had a conversation a bit like this:
Mum: “Your father’s got high cholesterol”
Me: “How high?”
Mum: “High” (accompanied by a suitably grave look and a muttered disclaimer that she warned him not to eat so many custard tarts)
When dad returned from the golf course, he found me waiting, eager to discuss the lifestyle changes I had planned for him.
“Right” I began, “they’ll be no more bacon butties or pudding of any kind. No cheese and no butter on your toast anymore”. I paused to think, “In fact, no more toast! You can eat muesli”. Dad remained silent, still clutching his golf bag.
“No sausages, no crispy duck, no fatty cuts of meat. You can kiss goodbye to whole-milk dairy products too”. I looked up to assess absorption levels. “Mum, write this down!” I snapped as I caught her glancing at dad with sympathy in her eyes. “And no muffins, no cookies and no pastry!”
Dad stared bleakly back at mum which I took as his acceptance to my terms. “I’ll be back in a week to review your progress” I stated, marching out in a self-righteous huff, having badgered him for years about his relationship with saturated fats.
To be fair, initially, he was good and I was pleased. But then he fell off the wagon and just kept on rolling. Pleas, sleepless nights and Heart Foundation pamphlets did nothing.
Which brings us back to last Wednesday when I was invited round to dinner. Upon arrival, I handed him a ‘please stop eating’ letter I’d written, confident that all the love and fluff enclosed within its five pages would surely pull at those clogged heartstrings. He read it, in silence.
Seated for dinner, the anticipation of dad’s new child size portion brought peace to my soul.
Until I saw five roast potatoes making their descent towards the table, set off beautifully by two large portions of crackling.
He avoided eye contact as he quietly positioned himself before them.
I waited until his fork was but a breath away before whipping the hardened lumps of pure pork fat off of his plate, confiscating them indefinitely. I glared at mum, who should have known better. Then I glared at dad.
Now I have no choice but to ask for the public’s help.
So, if you see a white haired Ken Barlow look-a-like around town, who looks like he could be about to tuck into anything other than a rice cake, please inform the Worthing Herald immediately.
Together we will stop him!
28 August 2009
Inspired by a visit to a friend’s pastel dollhouse, I decided it was time for one last push for perfection and jotted down some thoughts before typing up and colour coding our dreams for the future.
More outdoorsey (me)
Co-ordinated dresser (him)
Smaller boned (me)
Straighter teethed (me)
Gracious, patient, serene (me)
Eager to please (him)
Fluent in French (both)
Grow organic vegetables (expert horticulturist) (one of us)
Shinier hair (me)
Advanced DIY skills (him)
Less spotty (me)
Six pack (him)
Accountant pulled a pen from his suit and defaced all my hard work. I attempted to read his revisions but he waved them above my head. I made a mental note to add ‘taller’ to the list.
He started reading, “Smaller bottom (her), seasoned camper (her), spatially aware (her), basic arithmetic (her) and buy a caravan (me)”, before thrusting the list in my face and strolling off towards the kitchen. My eyes narrowed menacingly as I noted his sketch of a giant bottom.
Later that night, as I sat reading ‘Growing Vegetables’ whilst listening to ‘Intense French’, Accountant lay wedged in the deepest recesses of the sofa, flicking between Miss Marple and The Professionals.
I paused the French. “Perhaps you should think about getting to work on that six pack, Sweetheart?”
“Yes” he agreed. My mouth fell open as he bounced straight up. I beamed at him lovingly as he walked towards me. He smiled back, gliding past, before coming to rest at the fridge.
He winked at me as he trundled back to his indentation in the sofa, Guinness in hand.
The next night I was reading up on problem complexions, when I looked out the window to see my neighbour’s husband bounding back home from his jog, sports bottle in one hand, buggy and baby in other. I reached for the list. “Multi-tasking – him.” Who knew men were capable of such cunning.
“Sweetheart” I yelled downstairs, eager to update him on his new task. No response. “SWEETHEART!!!” Nothing.
“I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!” I shouted, stomping down the stairs. Muffled oinks greeted me as I stepped into the living room, where my beloved lay sprawled face down, gently sucking the sofa cover in and out of his mouth. A small drool pool at the base of his bottom lip put time of unconsciousness at approximately 8pm.
I returned to the study, watching as super husband did his stretches in the front garden whilst weeding the lawn.
Turning on the computer, I started my column, appreciating as I wrote, how perfect Accountant actually was for someone like me.
24 August 2009
As I stared blankly across the table at Patrick, cursing the headache I’d had since the summer holidays began, it took me a few seconds to register that Chickie’s little friend didn’t look quite right. He was rocking gently as Chickie prattled on at him about cheese and light sabers.
“SSshhhh” I said, trying to focus on Patrick, who hadn’t blinked in over a minute. Chickie moved onto flip flops and nobblybobblies.
“Patrick” I said softly, waving a hand in front of his colourless face. He continued to stare ahead, through glasses that now rested at a 45 degree angle to his sunken eyes.
“Patrick!” I said, more insistent as I heard his mother walking back towards us.
Chickie joined in the fun. “PATRICK, PATRICK,!!” he yelled, leaping up and down like a ‘Pop-Up-Pirate’.
The gentle force of Chickie’s interest brought Patrick round momentarily before he fell asleep, once again, with his eyes open.
“I’m so sorry” I said to Patrick’s mother as he collapsed into his plate of cheese and pickle sandwiches. “I gave him loads to drink to compensate for all the sweating...” I trailed off as she lifted his head from the worktop and began picking crumbs out of his matted hair.
She tells me it took Patrick over a week to recover from his playdate with Chickie.
Then came Megan. A sweet little girl, with blonde waves in her hair and innocence in her eyes. At Amazon Adventures, she waited patiently as Chickie changed into his thermoregulation sportswear before skipping off holding his hand.
The next time I saw her hand, it was been dragged in the opposite direction to which it wanted to go, up three levels, through a giant mangler, up the rope nets, to infinity and beyond.
Whilst she was being pushed to her physical limits, her mother and I sipped tea and chatted about her night waking.
Megan would reappear briefly every now and again, each time, her hair slightly curlier than before. She’d gulp down some fluids before Chickie would reappear, much like Jaws, to take her again.
At one point, she broke free, hiding behind her hands, cuddling up to her mummy.
Chickie found her and nodded enthusiastically when asked if the girl cowering behind her fingers was his girlfriend. Megan peered through a gap at her mummy, desperate for it not to be true.
“Let’s go again!” he yanked at her, unbothered that Megan’s core body temperature had exceeded recommended levels.
When we left, Chickie skipping, Megan hobbling, I waved another friend goodbye. Forever.
Or so I thought.
Then a text arrived.
“Megan didn’t move all night! She stayed in her bed! Say thanks to Chick!”
So, if your poppet’s not sleeping, just call ‘Chickie Extreme Sleep Solutions’ – so effective, they’ll be unconscious even when they’re still conscious!
18 August 2009
I don’t know the exact moment in time when I became my parents but I think it was around Monday or Tuesday of last week.
I was stood on my neighbour’s doorstep discussing her new self-styled fringe, the left side of which had been a great triumph in hairdressing terms. The right side - less so, looking more like it had been chewed off.
To ease my neighbour’s suffering, I removed the three extra-strong kirby grips on top of my head, allowing the ravaged hair beneath to poke up into the fresh air for the first time in six months.
“I cut it myself too” I whispered, pointing to my “Something About Mary” style tuft whilst glancing over both shoulders to check the immaculately coiffed occupants of No 98 weren’t laughing at us through their net curtains.
“It’s just that hair cuts are so expensive” she said, stroking her severed hair.
“Oh, I know, it’s ridiculous” I replied, strapping down my quiff again.
After that conversation, came the conversation at playgroup about Tesco Clubcard savings. I brought it up. On purpose. I talked about the credit card benefits, the amazing clubcard deals, the best ways to earn points, bags for life and concluded my findings with a Tesco versus Waitrose essentials range cost/benefit analysis. And I wrote the ASDA Lancing Store grand opening on my calendar.
Then, I started darning, without even realising it. One night, I sat happily for hours, with Accountant’s fermenting socks composting in my lap, smiling contentedly as I held up the mended article to the light.
And I inexplicably have loads of money off coupons. I’ve started unconsciously cutting them out and putting them in a drawer. Just like my mother-in-law.
I also read the August Somerfield magazine cover to cover, lifting up the page with ‘Credit Munch of the month’ to show Accountant. “Cod with a Spice Rub, feeds 4 for £4” I chirped.
But the chilling moment when I suddenly realised I belonged in a Doris Day film was when my dad began his weekly ‘roast chicken’ report.
Historically, I have always been blessed with the ability to completely ignore him when he excitedly details the weight and class of the chicken, how he was just there at the right time (3.58:03pm every Sunday), and they were marking them down and he bought 3 for £2.99 instead of £14,72.... BUT last week, not only did I listen but I found myself equally enthralled at the prospect.
So, if you should see me and I start talking to you about fabric conditioner or I’m bulldozing you out the way at the Special Offers cabinet, you have my permission to slap me (gently) with a roast chicken.
04 August 2009
Accountant seemed unusually pleased with me as he came over to dollop a big kiss on my head.
Confused, I looked round at him from where I sat at the kitchen table. He nodded at the computer in front of me, beaming broadly. I turned to look at the screen, wondering what was going on.
“That’s excellent” he commended, patting my shoulder as he nodded approvingly at the Oxfam website I’d been checking out before he’d wandered in.
I wasn’t sure why it was so excellent but Accountant’s love levels were clearly soaring. It felt like a good time to ask for stuff.
“Any chance of a cup of tea?”
“Of course” he responded before zooming off towards the kettle. Whilst he clattered around, I continued my online activities.
On his return, he seemed less pleased, craning his head towards the computer before enquiring as to what it was exactly that I was doing. I felt it safest to clarify what it was exactly he’d thought I’d been doing.
Fundraising, fighting climate change, organising outreach projects were some of his suggestions.
I nodded as if in deep ethical contemplation whilst casually guiding the cursor towards the minimiser icon in the corner of the screen.
“Mmm” I stalled for time as Oxfam’s Secondhand Clothes Store “1000s of women’s clothes and accessories” became a neat rectangular giveaway on my lower toolbar.
Accountant shook his head. “Shopping is like donating..” I began as his disappointment sent him shuffling off.
A few days later, my charitable nature found me in a clash of wills with a pensioner in the ‘Help the Aged’ shop. At stake, a pair of vintage Carvella shoes.
The nanna won and followed me into ‘Link Romania’, taunting me with her bargain. “Yours for 20 quid” she cackled from behind the paperbacks.
I consoled myself by finding Accountant a pair of shoes for £6. He trotted off to work in them the next day, almost agreeing with me as I wittered on about how my love of shopping and his love of saving could finally co-exist and he seemed pleased with me again.
Until 9.30am, when he left a message on my mobile. “There’s a massive crack in the soles of these shoes.”
A text followed at 10am, “The soles are crumbling all over my floor.”
11am: “There are bits of shoe all over the office.”
And 1pm. “I have no shoes on now and the Partners are asking who it is leaving black stuff all over the office!”
When Accountant arrived home in his socks, he explained how his heel fell off in the middle of a client meeting, landing on the floor, £6-price-sticker side up.
As he wandered away, leaving a trail of black bits in his wake, I decided it might be time for an Accountant Outreach Programme.
All donations payable to me!
20 July 2009
At the first clap of thunder, against all my instincts, I played it cool. Chickie was peering at me from under his duvet and I knew better than anyone how a mother’s reactions to life’s little dramas could end up costing you a fortune in counselling fees.
Chickie was sporting the same expression he’d worn the first time he’d heard a balloon go pop. A full blown phobia naturally followed. The first bang at any party now his starter gun for a 100 metre sprint to the car.
“Is there light-er-nin?”
“Shall we see?” My acting was brilliant. Calm, nonchalant. I even managed to sound excited.
“Yeah!” Chickie was fooled.
Inching towards his bedroom window, I reached out a cautious hand to pull up the blind.
Chickie clambered up onto the bay windowsill, reaching for his toy telescope.
When the first flash came, I tried to style out the scream that had been waiting in my throat since my charade had begun.
Chickie eyed me suspiciously through his giant lens.
Then something astonishing happened. Chickie arose, short and stout, but magnificent with the added height advantage of the window ledge beneath him. The thunder crashed and his fearless, hyperactive shadow dazzled as firebolts filled the blackness surrounding him.
With each boom, Chickie appeared to gain more power. He was beginning to remind me a lot of He-Man at the ‘POWER OF GREYSKUL’ bit. It was at this point, I became as scared of Chickie ‘The Electromagnetic Toddler’ as the thunderstorm.
But then, storms when I was young, had been dealt with differently. My mother made no attempts to hide her naked terror and although I’m sure she didn’t actually run around screaming, “we’re all going to die!” I definitely got that vibe.
In the event of a storm, my mother had a simple plan.
1. My sister wore wellies
2. I wore marigolds
3. Mum took tranquilisers
Then came the running. Instructed to take off directly after the last lightning bolt and before the next clap of thunder, we would sprint, for what my sister and I could only assume was, for our lives, to the car. There we would sit. In the darkness. In the garage. Wearing rubber.
Personally, I liked to spend this special family time praying that the 100 foot Ilex tree directly opposite the garage wouldn’t be hit by lightning. Mum liked to hyperventilate.
Now watching Chick as he demanded that I watch ‘HIS’ storm, I was struggling to believe how any blood relative of mine could actually be suited to thunder. Personally, I was more a mild summer’s day. Accountant, by profession, probably drizzle. My mother, a force of nature unto herself.
14 July 2009
“So, are you having anymore?” The girl asking the question nodded in my son’s direction. I followed her gaze as Chick, now one of the biggest boys at playgroup, practised his t-rex impression on all the babies, delighting in the way they vibrated, and then wailed, in their bouncy chairs.
“He’s a limited edition” I replied as I scurried off to apologise to all the mummy’s frantically cooing at the neat row of open mouths.
Once again, I explained to him the principles of pleasantness and how, if applied often, harmony and inner-peace would surely follow. Chick charged off towards the Rich Tea Fingers.
As he worked the biscuit lady in charge of distribution, I mulled over the ‘anymore?’ question which, lately, someone seemed to be asking me every day.
It had been over three years and, despite promises that I’d change my mind about never, ever, ever having a 10lb 1½ oz baby EVER again, I was still very comfortable with the idea.
Plus, Chickie’s energy levels were equal to that of three regular children and five springer spaniels.
But then came the ‘only child’ sympathy gaze. Wistful eyes would be cast over the little boy who faced a life of solitude because his mother was a wimp.
“He has friends round every day” I justified, but their expressions remained the same.
A few days later, my friend asked me if I might be able to have her son for the afternoon. Initially, I was scared. Two boys, co-incidentally born on the same day, in my sole charge.
So, that afternoon, Patrick was delivered. Looking a lot like Chick, but with glasses, he bid me a good afternoon. Chickie galloped around in circles, foaming at the mouth. Patrick excused himself to play trains.
Then the magic happened. The Patrick magic. His soothing, managerial style, a damper block to Chickie’s constant vibrations. It was the most peaceful afternoon I’ve enjoyed since Chickie gave up naps.
At 7pm, I reluctantly buckled Patrick into his car seat next to Chick. As we drove into the hills, Patrick directed us.
“Right at those arrows and then over there by the double garages”. He was so helpful.
“Mind that car” he added thoughtfully.
At the front door, Chickie and I tried not to cry as Patrick walked out of our lives.
“Thanks for having me” he chimed back over his shoulder.
Chickie began to sob. I bit my lip.
“How are you feeling?” I asked his mum.
“So so” she answered.
“I could have Patrick again tomorrow for you if you like?” Before she could answer I’d arranged collection.
Chick and I skipped back to the car, overjoyed with our discovery of the perfect ready-made twin!
06 July 2009
And there they were. Eight little words that every mother longs to hear. I hit play again on the answering machine, enjoying it for a second time.
My mother’s recording, cautious but still loud enough to be legally binding, asked the question. “Would Chickie like to come for a sleepover?”
“Why yes, yes he would”, I answered aloud, as I skipped off to find the stick that opened the loft hatch.
Climbing the ladder, I made a mental shortlist of restaurants for that evening and began imagining me at 9am the following morning, stretching, yawning and then pulling the duvet back over my head because I’d no need to get up. Not for hours.
I was in the process of unwedging the suitcase from the hatch when another question was presented from below.
“What you doing mummy?”
“Getting your suitcase sweetie!” I chirped.
“We going on holiday?” Chickie sounded excited. “On a boat?”
“You’re going in a car!” I informed him with my most enthusiastic expression.
Making my descent towards Chickie’s happy little face, I beamed at him, basking in all the joy.
“Nanna’s having you for a sleepover!”
The joy suddenly stopped, his smile flipping itself over on his face to convey deep dissatisfaction.
“I don’t want to...” he began.
Feeling the dream was now in mortal jeopardy, I frantically interjected. “You can jump on all the beds, play with grandad’s golf clubs and go to bed really late.”
He mulled this over for a moment before continuing, “no.....”
“I think Nanna’s made some ginger biscuits” I cut in again, lifting my eyebrows as far as they’d go.
He was waivering, I could feel it. “You could squirt Grandad with the hose!”
His lips curled devilishly. I began packing.
Hours later, I bundled him into the car before Nanna and Grandad had brought it to a stop. “Too-da-loo” I began waving, wishing old people didn’t take so long to drive away.
“I want to sleep at mummy’s house.”
I quickened my pace towards the front door.
“I WANT TO SLEEP AT MUMMY’S HOUSE!”
I broke into a light jog. Mum and Dad still hadn’t pulled away and, with all their windows open, it was hard to pretend I couldn’t hear but I kept trying.
As my foot crossed the threshold of my now quiet house, I heard the worst word of all, “Elizabeth!”
I considered making a run for it and hiding behind the front door but then dad had a key.
“Yes” I smiled sweetly, pivoting round to see three unimpressed faces looking back.
Waving Nanna and Grandad off, I looked down at my son, who smiled back.
“Mum” he said
“I want to sleep at Nanna’s house.”
Nanna finally sped up as I began chasing after her car.
28 June 2009
“They’ll come back - just shout ‘CHICKEN’” my sister had instructed.
“Chicken” I trilled, waving my empty hand to fool the ‘husky-with-attitude’ who couldn’t even be bothered to look up.
“CHICKEN!!!” I screamed more shrilly, as she bolted in the opposite direction.
A couple moseyed over. “Morning” the chap said, all smirks as ‘Toula’ leapt over a stream, ears flat back as she whizzed even further out of my family’s life.
“CHICKEN!!!!!!!” I yelped, “CHICKEN!”
The couple moved on.
I fully intended to kill my sister when she got back from sipping cocktails in the Royal Albert Hall whilst I stood in a field clutching a sandwich bag filled with her belligerent pet’s steaming poo, pointlessly yelling about poultry.
It wasn’t the only lie she’d told in order to coerce me into house, dog and babysitting her life for the weekend.
For instance, she’d mentioned nothing of her youngest’s tendency to be sick on short car journeys. It seemed he didn’t feel the need to mention it either. With no forewarning, it proved a smashing surprise.
Nor had she mentioned the nightly wart treatments that I was to be so intrinsically involved in.
Chickie groaned from his buggy as he woke from his nap, instantly hysterical as he remembered that he had a sore throat and matching cough. Bo, the good husky tied to his buggy, licked him better.
Whilst I wiped him over with antibacterial wipes, Toula reappeared. I pretended to be pleased to see her, grabbing her whilst she sniffed out treats. “Oh, they’ll be no treats” I informed her once her lead was back on.
Too ill to walk, Chickie remained in his buggy. Too stroppy to walk, Toula lay down. Too young to walk, Bo pulled us all along.
Accountant and nephews were waiting on the beach so I stumbled towards the sea entangled in leads, wheels and dogs legs.
Once on the shingle, Chickie still wouldn’t walk so, with Bo’s lead between my teeth, I dragged him backwards through the stones in his buggy whilst he held Toula.
As she zoomed past me, the buggy suddenly became nice and light. I watched as Chickie flew past on his belly, still holding her lead. Whilst he howled face down in the stones where he’d finally come to a stop, Bo escaped, almost taking my teeth with her, to join Toula in eating the horse droppings that had proved so enticing. Toula, not one to share, attacked Bo.
With such an audible range of snarling, screaming and genteel seaside mayhem, most of the beach were watching. All except Accountant who I could see sat on a bench outside the cafe, slowly sipping a coffee.
“What?” was all he could say when I finally collapsed before him with a bleeding child and two freshly fertilised huskies.
18 May 2009
Accountant huffed past me, scowling and sweating heavily. He glared ahead as he dumped his 15th wheelbarrow of turf onto my wellied feet. I could tell he was beginning to hate me. And I was beginning to hate gardening, despite an enthusiastic start and the stirrings of a curious crush on Alan Titchmarsh.
Perhaps Accountant had been right. Laying a whole new lawn over the weekend may not have been one of my better ideas. Unwilling to accept that that could ever be the case, I’d ignored him, badgering him relentlessly until he broke. My victory was short lived when he informed me that I’d be laying it alone.
So I spent everyday working the land - digging, excavating, stamping, levelling and raking then re-raking in readiness for the Bank Holiday weekend. When Chickie slept, I raked. When Chickie went to playgroup, I raked. When Chickie went to bed, Accountant dug and I raked.
Twenty hours of hard labour and hands that would never look womanly again and we were ready.
As I surveyed the 27 squared metres of levelled mud, the 4ft high piles of turf and my husband’s retreating silhouette, I did wonder what I’d been thinking. It definitely hadn’t looked that hard on Groundforce but then Alan was a skilled professional and they had featured his lawn laying in fast forward.
Upon unrolling my new green carpet, my spirits wilted further. Rather than the lush, thick bowling green grass I’d expected, I found a sad looking offering, yellowing and smelling of something familiar.
Whilst Accountant barricaded himself in the house, I plundered on. One hour and four squared metres later and I decided a call to the garden centre was overripe as was my, now steaming, lawn.
Me: "It's yellow and smells funny"
Penny at the Garden Centre: “What does it smell like?”
Me: “Horse poo”Penny at the Garden Centre: “It shouldn’t smell like that, that means it’s fermenting and won’t root. You need to bring it back”
I knocked on our back door, which Accountant had thoughtfully locked. I watched his peanut shaped head poke through the curtains which he’d also closed.
Me: “We need to take the lawn back”Accountant: “@#;!in& b@#%!** hell!”
That was the last time I heard him speak for a while. He didn’t speak at all as he began reloading all the grass he’d previously unloaded back into the wheelbarrow and then into his car.
He didn’t speak much this weekend either as he trundled back and forth with his wheelbarrow piled up with all the new grass.
On Sunday evening, my green (literally) fingers ached and everything else hurt but I had one last thing to do before I could rest.
Collapsing next to Accountant on the sofa, I poised myself.
“Sweetheart” I began, “I’m sorry.” Deep breath. “You were right.”
It had taken ten years, but it had finally happened and Accountant couldn’t have looked smugger.