29 July 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

When I reluctantly entered this weekend, I was 30 years old. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was 31 on exit. The youngest I’ll ever be and the oldest I’ve ever been, all in one middle aged approaching moment.

I got some nice presents; perfume, a magazine subscription, deck chairs, picnic hamper and six prominently placed scabby zits on my cheeks and chin. Yes, the boobs may have sagged, the bottom may have more dimples than an avocado but I still have the sebaceous glands of a thirteen year old.

My kind friend, Wuce, helped put a plan in place to navigate me through the day as quickly as possible. Wuce, Meerkat, Poff, Accountant, Chickie and I would meet at Woodies Diner for pancakes at 10am. A visit to the Fire Station’s Open Day would follow so Wuce and I could check out the Firemen and the boys and babies could play with the Fire Engines. Finally, a yummy din dins at my favourite restaurant where I planned to gorge myself silly following my two weeks of eating rice and peas after discovering I was almost back to my full term pregnancy weight albeit without the baby.

Then Accountant upset the Birthday Girl. Following his third “I’m too lazy to fill my car up with petrol and too stupid to learn my lesson” roadside rescue in a month, and prompted by the overpowering fumes of the fuel canister he’d thoughtfully left in the back of my car, he informed me at 9.50am that he needed to fill up the aforementioned canister and return it forthwith to Brother-in-Law. A Brother-in-Law who had been plucked from the comfort of his armchair to rescue aforementioned moron from the roadside at 9.30pm the previous evening which had gone down a little something like this:

"If there's one thing I hate in this world, it's snotty kids” grumbled Brother-In-Law. Sister sniffed, mopping her crusty red nose for the 1000th time. "How's your sore throat?" she asked Brother-In-Law, concerned. "It still hurts" he confirmed miserably. "May be you should have an early night and go to bed" she suggested.

When diagnosing Chickie's 'hayfever' based on his watery eyes and sniffles, I didn't realise I was actually unleashing the toddler equivalent of the virus carrying chimp in ‘Outbreak’ upon my unsuspecting sister and her family. Now, collectively and somewhat impressively, their symptoms covered the whole range listed on the back of their Beechams Cold and Flu capsules.

Each day, feeling guiltier than the last, I rang, in the vain hope someone's condition had improved. Each day, someone mucous filled would reply, feebly, that all were stable but none were out of the woods yet.

Brother-In-Law fancied Sister's suggestion, a hot drink and bed sounded appealing. Then the phone rang. It was Accountant, on the A24, somewhere outside Steyning.
Now you’re up to speed.

I had tried concealing my irritation whilst watching Accountant mosey around the house in the buff for the preceding half hour as if time and underwear were something that only applied to other people. When the fumes hit my nostrils as I got into my car, my irritation shifted to annoyance. Then he mentioned his new petrol delivery round. Annoyance got a complimentary upgrade to anger. Then the petrol canister reminded me of the time he’d left a petrol canister in the car before and me and my migraine had requested he not do it again. Then that reminded me of the time he’d left a second degree dirty nappy in the car overnight and the car had stunk like poop for a month and anger turned to resentment. Then I threw in his inability to fill up a petrol tank into my big bag of marital exasperation and I was brewing for a popping.

I did, admirably, make initial attempts to remain calm, suggesting in the most carefree tone I could fabricate, that he call Meerkat to mention we were running very late. Then I helpfully suggested he shouldn’t leave petrol cans in the car, due to the noxious gases, and queried as to whether he had any recollection of the last time I’d asked.

His reply? “SHUT UP! Just SHUT UP!”

My reply, “You’ve ruined my birthday! I don’t want to spend the day with you”

Him: “Fine. Give me the keys”

Keys duly and forcefully lobbed from driver’s side of car at Accountant’s head.

Accountant stomps to front door in a self righteous strop. I watch from the car as he tries every key in turn. Two minutes pass and each key is tried again. Further fumbling and some muttered expletives. Three minutes and the Accountant/Key fiasco is proving delightfully amusing. More futile attempts to find the one key, out of a potential four, that will open the door. Jingle Jangle. Four minutes. Finally, after demonstrating the dexterity of a cocktail sausage and illustrating my ‘gross incompetence’ point brilliantly, he finds the winning combination and scurries indoors, out of earshot of my sniggers.

The rest of the day was spent stuffing my face whilst awarding marks out of ten to the fireman's bottoms. For information purposes, the firemen with the big biceps, who effortlessly lifted Chickie in his buggy over the peripheral fence,and made me wish I was in the buggy instead, you get a 9/10. Once the judging was over, Chickie and Poff spent the afternoon going round and round and round and round on every miniature train ride at the Fire Station followed by every miniature train ride at the Fair. They still had the audacity to scream in outrage when their plans for ride number 32 were scuppered.

Where was Accountant whilst all the fun was going on - sulking at home!

25 July 2007

The Night I Slept In A Field

Nothing about the situation I found myself in was what I’d describe as satisfactory. Zipping shut our ‘bedroom’ door so that the insects congregating outside could have their own room, I stepped over the candles which illuminated the shortcomings of the evening’s accommodation. I descended with caution toward the only air bed I’d ever had the misfortune of meeting and the husband who lay curled on top, snoring like a cat worn out from his day’s adventures.

The unexpected buoyancy of the mattress sent me lurching backwards, waking Accountant who cushioned my fall. His smug ‘camping’ smile returned immediately. It had arrived around the same time he’d successfully pitched our borrowed tent in a sheltered spot at the far end of the finest field the Sheep Farm had to offer, and coincided with the last time I’d managed a smile.

Burrowing under the covers for comfort, I did a final inspection. Vest tucked into knickers – check. Trousers tucked into socks –check. Jumper tucked into trousers – check. And finally, the ear plugs, the benefits of which I now realised were to be threefold.

1.To keep wee beasties, whose country home I’d been forced to share, from moving into the only fully insulated orifice not covered by my ‘tucking in’ scheme.
2.To block out Accountant’s persistent beer induced snorts
3.To mute the “BANG BANG BANGs!!!” of the Cowboys and Indians who had our tent surrounded.

On returning from our trip to the beach earlier in the day, we had glanced at each other in dismay. The terraced tent I’d been only too happy to leave behind was now part of a canvas housing estate. Five more tents and a camper van had formed a semi-circular barricade between our tent and potential escape. The fifteen hyperactive children that accompanied were a delightful addition, as were their relentless machine gun imitations.

Lying in the dark on the stone cold airbed, which was now vibrating from the force of Accountant’s snoring, I wiped my nose again and swallowed painfully. My second cold of the month, compliments of Chickie, was reaching it’s peak. As the chill from the mattress penetrated my multi-layers and spread down my body, I wondered what pneumonia would be like and whether next weekend’s romantic weekend away at Worthing Hospital would be better than this. At least I wouldn’t have to pay £1 for a shower.

When my Sister had offered to have Chickie for the weekend so we could have a weekend away, I wasted no time. Paris, Bruges, New York? I’d been to them all in another life and how sweet it would be to return.

Then the oven broke - £71. Then Accountant’s exhaust fell off - £200. Then some oik stole the radiator grill off my car - £100. Replacement fridge filters £62. Rubbish clearance from my gardening exploits - £110.

For eight years, I’ve consistently declined 99% of Accountant’s suggestions on the grounds of being completely stupid. This included repeated requests to go camping. It’s taken two years of full-time motherhood and the associated financial forfeit to break me.

On arrival home, I unpacked the wellies and kagool I never thought I’d own, and put them away, hoping not to see them again for a long time. Then a sticky Chickie was collected from a Sister, weary from her impending illness and from spending two days mopping up the endless thick, yellow goop being produced by the little germ factory up Chick’s nose.

“How nice is it to be in a proper bed?” I asked Accountant that night, taking a long, snotty sniff of my soft, freshly laundered pillow. “Mmmm, it is lovely” Accountant agreed, the novelty of camping having worn off after sampling the toilet facilities the following morning. “I don’t think I’ll be going camping again sweetheart” I said. “No, me neither” replied Accountant.

Relieved, I snuggled down, never more appreciative of each and every one of the 400 threads in my Egyptian cotton sheets and grateful that my night of disrupted sleep and backache had not been in vain. I never had to go camping again!

"I know" chirped Accountant suddenly, interrupting my moment, “we should go caravanning instead”.

18 July 2007

Creative What?

As my old neighbour, Mr P., handed me a copy of his latest book, "From Darkness to Light", I wondered whether I should mention I was 31 years behind on my philosophy reading.

As I glimpsed at the back page and read his closing paragraph, "And so it is that my substance is not, and yet it is in this that I am not, that I who am not must Be" I thought it best to keep to myself that I'd once forgotten how old I was and that, up until a few days ago, had thought Labradoodles were comedy pets.

Perhaps it was the gormlessness of my expression that encouraged him to seek out my thoughts on 'Life Essence' and 'Creative Consciousness'. Unfortunately for me, no matter how hard I tried, Mr P. would not be steered toward my favourite topics of weight loss, chocolate and the uselessness of men, opting instead for politics, spirituality and the arts, using words like, 'untrammelled universality' and 'self-agrandisement'.

I had nothing intelligent to say when I lived next door and things have only deteriorated since. However, I nodded and 'hmmm'd' in all the right places and then off we went.

Whilst not the best philosophy student he's ever had, I think Mr P. quite enjoyed hearing all about Chickie's bowel movements and how, after a long and difficult search, I've finally found the most delightfully fragranced fabric conditioner money can buy.

15 July 2007


“Slurp” went Bridget as she licked Chickie’s face from chin to forehead like an ice cream. Ironic really as I’d only seconds before been discussing what stinky little germ incubators dog’s mouths really were. I laughed along with the crowd, all avidly watching the cute exchange between pooch and child from their pub benches.

“What breed is she?” I enquired trying to pretend I couldn't see Chickie’s tongue travelling in a southerly direction to sample the fresh doggie drool curdling on his chin. “A Labradoodle” said the owner, who was also feigning nonchalance about her newly stained linen trousers. Chickie’s arrival to pet Bridget had resulted in an exuberant bounding routine, sending her water bowl flying through the air and landing at her owner’s feet.

“A Labradoodle” I scoffed, laughing. As I waited for her to tell me the real breed, I realised that she wasn’t actually joking and Bridget really was a Labradoodle. I’ve checked on Google and it’s true. Labradoodle’s exist and I met one today.

This weekend it would seem I’ve reached my personal stupid best. I’ve enquired as to whether Scotland is a separate country, I’ve admitted to thinking people weren’t allowed to honk their car horns between 7am and 11pm at night because the Highway Code said so and I topped it off with my tumbleweed moment, laughing far too hard at Bridget’s owner’s genius fabrication of Labradoodles.

Yes, it’s time to go back to work. It seems that a woman can’t live on ironing, cooking, cleaning and sewage management alone without losing a few brain cells in the process.

10 July 2007

Mushroom Packing - A Perilous Pursuit?

“Is that a varicose vein in your leg?”, Glam-Nan enquired, leaning forward to squint curiously at Accountant’s lily white leg, poking out of the end of his shorts.

“Yes it is” replied Accountant enthusiastically, perking up at Glam-Nan’s interest in the long term condition that had never caused him a day’s discomfort.

“How’ve you got that then?” said Glam-Nan, not as savvy as I at avoiding any interest in Accountant’s bodily functions.

“I don’t know really” replied Accountant somberly, rubbing the offending vein as if to ease the pain he’d shouldered silently for so many years.

“Well, has anyone in your family got them?” said Glam-Nan. I rolled my eyes at Snowy, who I assumed was finding the pointlessness of her continued enquiries as tedious as I.

“No, I don’t think so” said Accountant, his brow furrowed with the concentration of a man working his way back five generations for any history of knotted legs. “I did work in a mushroom factory once though”

“Oh really?” replied Glam-Nan who I knew was working up to the disclosure of her very own pair of varicose encrusted legs, waiting for the optimum moment to reveal her own personal suffering as she stood for years, without breaks, hairdressing for a shilling a week.

“Yes. There were men and women who had worked there for thirty years and I always remember their legs were all gnarled up from standing for so long” said Accountant, his words tinged with concern as to the toll his time at the factory may have taken on his own health.

"How long did you work there?” I enquired, momentarily interested.

Accountant took a second to calculate, then delivered his answer with the utmost gravity, “About ten weeks”.

Laughing at Accountant continued for about an hour. It stopped for the “America’s Got Talent” Results, and then recommenced in earnest.

Accountant pretended he didn’t care but his sideway evils told a different story.

08 July 2007

I Warn You Now, This May Be Nauseating

I’m not great at mush, as you’ve probably noticed. I struggle to write heartfelt sentiments without sounding like the hormonally imbalanced woman that I am. However, I wouldn’t be doing motherhood justice if I didn’t, once in a while, throw the Evening Primrose Oil to one side and have a good old slush session. So here it is.

Looking down at my little boy as he slept, his chubby little hand still clutching his new red car, my heart welled with a bittersweet mixture of love and wistfulness.

Every night I go in and see him and stroke his fluffy hair as he snores gently, unaware that I’m there. Every night I’m amazed at just how beautiful he is, how we managed to make something as perfect as him. One more day of his childhood has come and gone, a day he won’t even remember but I always will.

The other evening, I was looking through albums, seeing the little boy we know now in the pudgy face of a then tiny stranger. We didn’t know how he’d spend endless hours playing with his little cars, how he’d love getting up to mischief with his naughty cousins, how thrilled he’d be to see his daddy when he came home from work, running down the hallway to administer 'cuggles'.

Neither did I know just how proud my husband would be of the little man who idolises him. A husband who has embraced fatherhood with gentleness and devotion.

A child changes everything. They change your circumstances, they change your relationships and they change who you are. They deserve the best that we have to give them so we keep trying, to nuture their innocence and protect their childhood, knowing that every night is a night closer to losing both forever.

To my boys - love you xxx

05 July 2007

Sunday's Child is Full of Grace, Monday's Child Eats Coal From the Grate

An unremorseful Chickie smirked back from the naughty step which premiered this afternoon. “Say sorry Chickie”.


“You can stay on the step then until you say sorry for being naughty”


Sensing that Chickie wasn’t going to break easily, I wondered how this battle of wills was going to end.


“Say you’re sorry and you can come off the step and have your “minky” (cutesification of ‘milk’)


A child as stubborn as his father. A mother bored with hovering by the bottom step feigning indifference.

Remembering the advice of the collective child rearing experts I used to love watching on telly as they broke up brawls and intercepted slanging matches between parents and their toddlers, I bent down to Chickie’s level, looked him straight in the eye and tried again.

“Chickie. Eating coal is naughty which is why you’re on the step. Say sorry to mummy for being naughty”.


A brief pause….


“Yes Chickie”. Excellent, I thought as I awaited his apology.


Damn it. He’d pulled the cuggle card. Resist the cuteness, must resist the cuteness “No Chickie. Say sorry”.


This wasn’t going at all well and Chickie had been on the step for a good five minutes in clear breach of Super Nanny’s “one minute for every year of their age” rule.

As I deliberated my next move, Chickie took the opportunity to lean over and squish his nose up against mine, his eyes wide with mischief as he formed his mouth into the letter “O” and started going “OOOOooooohhhhhhh”, collapsing into fits of giggles before “OOOOOOOOOOOohhhhhhhhhhhhing” some more.

Feeling this moment could make or break my first serious attempt at getting Chickie to take responsibility for his naughtiness, I tried my very best to look stern. “OOOOOOOOHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” said Chickie again followed by more giggling.

I couldn’t do it. It was like trying to put a fruit pastille in my mouth without chewing it. We sat nose to nose, Chickie on his ‘naughty step’, me on all fours, laughing at mummy’s pathetic attempts to discipline her child.

Round One to Chickie.

02 July 2007

Bounce - NOW!

It’s a bit of a bummer when you go to all the trouble of timing the conception of your second born to ensure a summer production and then it goes and rains.

That’s what happens though when you live in this dismal land, where the sky is the colour of your favourite pair of old white knickers, turned mouldy from too many years of wear and washing.

Poor old Sarah, mummy to Titch and Annabelle, had hired a bouncy castle and even made sandwiches in the shapes of choo choo trains and stars for Titch’s first ever party. Then there was the bbq, the 500 cocktail sausages (all of which were eaten and all by the same child) and 30 guests, all squished into the playroom trying to pretend they couldn’t hear their hostesses repeated pleas for them to go outside and “bounce, damn it”!

At the first glimmer of sunshine, the castle was plugged in and inflated faster than my tummy after a curry. All children were thrown inside and not permitted to leave despite the supplier’s warning that bouncy castles, children, electricity and torrential rain don’t mix. Sarah had paid £60, she’d take her chances.

And bounce they did, albeit in wellies, their soggy little bottoms testament to the fact they were all true Brits.