Tuesday, 29 November 2011

I'm a celebrity...

Kateonthinice has devised a cunning new meme to expose the essence of her fellow bloggers. She has cast a handpicked dozen onto a desert island and escape is forbidden until we have completed 11 questions.

1. What one thing about being a parent makes you scream 'Get me out of here!'?

Evenings, when my Beer Moment tantalisingly approaches and the kids appear to be caterwauling the Ring Cycle while nude-wrestling in the bath.

2. What skills, if any, do you have that would be useful in the jungle?

I can lick the end of my nose. This could be handy when my sleeve runs out. I am still pretty accomplished at climbing up trees; just not so reliable at getting down them again.

3. How are you likely to annoy people if you were stuck with them for three weeks?

I shall alienate the entire company the minute I'm let loose on the cooking pots.

4. What is the worst thing you have ever eaten?

Anything cooked by myself. No, hang on  -  tongue! A huge cow's tongue on a plate with the bubbly skin still on. To please a formidable German actuary with whom I had digs as a language student.

5. What luxury item would you take into the jungle with you?

My journal and fountain pen. Life, when transcribed in blue ink, makes better sense to me.

6. What is the most daring thing you have ever done?

Parachute 3,000 ft out of a plane while strapped to the belly of a stranger. To please the same formidable German. I angled a toe wrongly upon leaping, so we somersaulted wildly over Bavaria and yet still the Englishwoman in me felt obliged to make small talk as we spun. It was less frightening than the tongue, though.

7. Who would you miss most if you went into the jungle with a bunch of strangers?

The vicar. And the children, of course, but the thought of that bath-time wrestling has unnerved me.

8. What celebrity, alive or dead, would you like to have with you in the jungle?

Doris Day, my cultural idol, would be the obvious choice, but she shares her bed with a dozen dogs and a vat of vaseline and her off-screen appetites frighten me. Dolly Parton would, therefore, be safer. She can do things with a dulcimer that you wouldn't believe and her natural assets could be a useful buoyancy aid should we try to float free of the island.

9. What would scare you about being in the jungle?

Crawling and slithering and itchy things and things with in-built body armour and eyes on wavy stalks.

10. After leaving the jungle, you go to a luxury hotel. What would be the first thing you did on reaching your hotel?

Eat peppermints.

11. Why is the person who tagged you a star?

I've never met Kateonthinice. She loves rum which I hate and hates spinach and walnut soup which I love and she flashes her breasts when she's joyful which would alarm me. But her blog shows a determined woman who has survived many battles and recorded them with poetic eloquence. It's a pretty safe bet, therefore, that she is a star.

I have now to choose new castaways and I nominate Millandboonwannabe and Sahdandproud because their culinary skills would transform the allure of a bug and larva bake. Crystal Jigsaw, Herecomethegirls, The Last Slayer and Midlifesinglemum can help them consume it.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fancy Stress

Time: 8.20am; Setting: the vicarage hallway. 

The plot so far: we are stressfully hunting down matching shoes for the walk to school after a sticky, delaying incident with the cat litter tray.

Small Son: [as we head for front door] 'By the way, I've got to bring a firefighter's outfit to school today.'
Me: 'Now you tell me!' [Thinks quickly] 'Go and grab your navy trousers and  Bob the Builder helmet.'
Small Son: 'I don't think they wore helmets in 1666.'
Me: 'You've got to be a 17th-century fireman?'
Small Son: [patiently] 'Yes Mum!'
Me: 'What did they wear?'
Small Son: 'Dunno.'
Me: 'Probably tights and tunic. Quick, ask your sister...'
Small Son: 'I'm NOT wearing tights!'
Me: 'Did they even have firemen in 1666?'
Small Son: [disapproving] 'No Mum! They had firefighters.'
Me: 'You have precisely 60 seconds to turn yourself into a 17th-century firefighter.'

Luckily Small Son decides that the fearless firefighters of Restoration England wore jeans and a red Primark fleece. I am not going to argue and we hurtle out of the door almost on time. 

A week passes.

Time: 8.20; Setting: the vicarage hallway

Small Son [as we head for the front door]: 'Mum, it's the Harry Potter day today. I said I'd go as Dumbledore...'

Find more Funee posts at Actually Mummy and more stressy ones at Herecomethegirls

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Bishop's Eye

The Archdeacon is coming to dinner. This is a problem because the Vicar, who does all the cooking, is out all day and so the catering will be left to me. I cannot cook. The Sunday school teacher, whose cup cakes rise half a foot high, knows this and is worried. She offers to leave a three-course meal for three on the vicarage doorstep because the reputation of the parish is at stake.

I do not like this idea because also at stake is my pride, so I tell the Vicar that the Archdeacon can have an all-day breakfast. All-day breakfasts are the only thing I can cook. Now the Vicar is worried. He says it's a helpful thought, but maybe he can stay up late after Parochial Church Council the night before and pile wine and proteins into the slow cooker.

Next evening, as the doorbell rings I realise that I do not quite know what an archdeacon is, but I do know that it's venerable because the Vicar has bought the same duck breasts that nourished a passing bishop. Therefore, I rush up to consult Wikipedia so that I can make intelligent remarks when he's got his coat off.

Wikipedia explains that the office of archdeacon is often described as the 'oculus episcopi'. I can't see how to turn this into small talk, so I seize on a bit about overseeing the welfare of clergy families and decide that an enquiry about the state of North London clergy marriages will be my conversational overture.

But just as I'm poised to beguile him, I fret that I might have looked up Area Dean instead and so I panic and ask shrilly for his views on Waitrose's Seriously Creamy Milk Choc Ices. Luckily he likes ice cream and the topic blossoms into Cornettos and we hardly notice the time passing until the Vicar enters and introduces theological ethics.

I chew on my breast and digest the discovery that oculus episcopii, when off duty, are perfectly normal dinner guests, except that they masticate at table in a cassock.

Monday, 21 November 2011


My daughter has an announcement to make. She assembles us all on the back lawn and allows suspense to thicken.

'I am going,' she declares importantly, 'to become a tomboy.'

I am surprised. Her all-pink bedroom is full of all-pink Barbies and her favourite pastime is Claire's Accessories. But the childish spirit must not be quelled and so I congratulate her and tell her that she'll be able help with my manure mulching. She looks aghast and says that she's going in to change.

Shortly afterwards her head pokes out of her bedroom window. 'What do tomboys wear?' she yells. Then she reappears in carefully coordinated jeans and shirt and trainers. She tows a bag behind her as she climbs the apple tree and draws from it a pair of sun glasses, an iPod and a hair brush.

I offer her a spade to help with the shovelling. 'No thanks,' she shudders. 'I'll get my clothes all muddy.' And she dons the sunglasses and the iPod and reclines on a web of branches and at the end of the afternoon I am crusted with rotted dung and she is exultant as she climbs carefully down from her perch.

'Poor Mummy!' she says, eyeing me with disdain. 'You should become a tomboy too!'

For more clean family fun visit SunFun at Actually Mummy's

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Music Therapy

Flossingthecat was dancing on mashed bananas when, unbidden into her mind came the image of Me, hunched over a record of Doris Day. And so, intrigued, perhaps that a vicar's wife would listen to anything so raunchy, she's tagged me into sharing music that thrills me.

Doris will have to top the list, naturally. But what to choose? That forsenic analysis of the human condition, 'Booglie Wooglie Piggy: Oink Oink' or the optimists' anthem 'Que Sera Sera'? I decide to go radical. Interminable motorway journeys are relieved by the shifting pictures sketched by clouds and so I shall always empathise with Joni Mitchell, as improved upon by the Girl Next Door.

There is, beneath my thermal layering, a cool woman waiting to break out. For I have, now and then, ventured beyond the 1950s and sniffed the cultural air. I've tried Dolly Parton and The Monkees. I've even made it into the 80s with the parting shots of Abba.

But my coolest moment came when I was trailing a duster over the vicarage skirting and from the radio came song which launched me onto the coffee table in a spontaneous, elastic-muscled jive - just me and my can of Pledge. Eight years on, it still causes me to do acrobatic things with my Miele:

When the recent past was less harmonious; when the future was frighteningly obscured, I would speed up into foggy hilltops and blast Karl Jenkins' The Armed Man from the car stereo. The transluscent chords of Agnus Dei would lift me out of the Skoda and into a realm where jobs and mortgages and self-pity seemed briefly trivial.

Due acknowledgments to Mammywoo for thinking up the idea in the first place. I tag Millsandboonwannbe for some melodic romance.

Saturday is Caption Day....

at Mammasaurus.

Don't waste your witticisms -  share them here:

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Fairies Outfoxed

Nine is an enticing age: old enough to nag for body piercings; young enough to believe in fairies.

I tell my tweenager of the miniature feasts that I used to leave out for the fairies and of the miniature thank-yous that they would bestow in return and she is agog to feed the little folk herself. I'm not sure if fairyland abutts our part of London and I'm not sure if modern fairies will tolerate junket. Hoummous, she reckons, is a surer bait.

She transfers her dolls house dining suite to the patio and fashions a microscopic feast from bread. Her brother transfers his dolls house dining suite to the patio and heaps faux gold plates with Hundreds-and-Thousands. And I wonder long and hard what modern fairies leave for their benefactors.

The same, it would seem, as their 1970s predecessors. I know, because I glimpsed it, that tiny silver-foil baskets bearing tiny sugared eggs were left that night on the tables and that the tiny plates were emptied.

But the children never know it. Because when, come dawn, they hasten outside, there are screams. The Vicar hastens outside and he screams. The dolls house chairs and tables are upturned and scattered, the baskets mutilated and the sugared eggs gone. And on the lawn is a chewed dead piglet and a chewed dead frog and half of a lady's slipper.

The piglet, we find, is of life-sized rubber, but the frog is unpleasantly real and we shall never know what happened to the foot that had worn the slipper.

The children, ever hopeful, want to try it again tonight, but I am dubious. The rioting intinct that violated our town in the summer has evidently spread to fairyland and I'm barring my doors.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Social Intercourse

'Do you like wanking?' my mother asks the bishop. I am startled. I have much to learn about ecclesiastical etiquette, but this does not seem a proper way to address a visiting prelate.

The bishop, however, is unperturbed. He tells my mother that he likes wanking very much and they embrace jovially by the chapel door.

I am relieved when I discover that he was reared in war-time Bristol. 'Wank', my mother has often explained to me, was a blameless word for a walk in the West Country dialect of her childhood. She only learned that this was a localised definition on her first day as a London career girl, when she told her new colleagues of the lengthy one that she'd enjoyed before work that morning.

My mother and the bishop are thrilled to share a lost verbal heritage and wank side by side all the way across the churchyard. And I follow at a safe distance and reflect on the unpredictable social adhesives that can bind strangers.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Versatile Blogging

Oldermum has kindly awarded me a green square labelled The Versatile Blogger. Presumably that's because I've demonstrated versatility by managing to display, in the course of two Saturdays, photos ranging from an elderly gentleman standing in a doorway in a funny hat to a scarecrow standing in a garden in a funny hat.

In order propertly to merit this award, I must:

1: Thank the person who tagged me.
2: Share seven facts about myself.
3: Pass the award on to 15 deserving bloggers.

I must also master the technology to import said green square onto this website. My versatility may well not extend to this, so you might have to imagine it - it's green with flecks on and has four straight sides.

So -

1: Thanks again Oldermum.

2: The Secret Seven:

I have kept a journal every day for 28 years. Narcissism presumably drives me, plus an idea that, if I were one day to re-read them all chronologically, some kind of order might emerge out of life's randomness. Translating daily monotonies into blue ink gives them a sense of purpose.

I have never become sophisticated enough for wine-drinking. Lager by the half pint is as far as I've got.

My ingredients for bliss are a spade, a barrowful of compost and a needy herbaceous border to shovel it onto. And a lager and scone for after.

Five years after buying the thing, I haven't memorised my mobile phone number.

I have an inexplicable aversion to peas, hairdressing salons, remote control handsets and visitors' centres.

Every time I cook rice I burn the saucepan. In fact, every time I cook anything I burn the saucepan.

I can still do an elegant headstand. This is a useful ice breaker when small talk runs out in parish gatherings.

3: I am too new to blogging to have identified 15 blogs I could pass the award on to. Those I admire (see below) most will certainly have tasted the green square long ago.

So instead of presenting a gong, I shall simply thank Katetakes5, Himupnorth and Sahdandproud for their patient advice and encouragement as I've blundered blindly into cyberspace (but if any of the three of you have not had your versatility officially recognised, please help yourself to the badge, if you can work out how to!).

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Saturday is Caption Day....

....at Mammasaurus' blog.

A spot of after-school hob-nobbing helps children's social training, for you never know who you might bump into.

 All caption suggestions gratefully received. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Where I Do It

Sahdandproud has displayed his biscuit-eating head-quarters (where he also does a bit of writing) on his blog and is now keen to know where I do it.

The truth is, up in the guest room, as far as possible from the biscuit tin, so that I burn off maximum calories in the regular commute to and from it. I'm glad of the interruption, for this is where I battle writer's block and where my kittens battle my mouse.

To the right is the sheaf of deadlines that I'm supposed to be meeting this morning and on the screen is Mr SandP's website and Twitter tag over which I'm idling instead. The calendar and the trees remind me which season we're really in, for the guest room is so frigid I'm in thermals all year round.

I would like to nose into the secrets of Katetakes5, Himupnorth and Mills&Boonwannabe. With thanks to Bibsey for the original brainwave.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Issues with Tissues

There is something magical about washing machines. You stow in Y-fronts and a knot of school uniforms and you draw forth conkers and fancy rubbers. I found a gentleman's watch last week, the same day, by coincidence, that my seven-year-old lost his. My boss found a mobile phone that had whizzed round with her woollens. Sometimes my whites emerge rainbowed with liquefied wine gums. On lucky days there'll be a clutch of coppers stiffening a gusset; on really lucky days it's a quid.

But  -  I have an issue with tissues. Like that malicious, lurking tea spoon when you've just drained the sink, there is always a tissue in the trousers. My floors are snow-flaked from my progress to the top-floor drying rack, and a confetti of white shreds floats down on the stairs when I hang up the smalls.

I am resigned to the inevitable, but I shall tweak the inevitable to my advantage. I have ditched the own-brand tissue boxes and the pretty pastel shades. I stalk Personal Hygiene in Waitrose pondering the water resistance of Kleenex and Papura. I've trialled Ultra Balm on Delicates and spun Balsam Fresh on the hot cycle. I've even discovered Tissue World Magazine and probed its online archives for chemical pointers.

Then comes a revelation. The shreds have lately turned blue and drape the family knitwear in detatchable ribbons instead of explosions of white lint. My young son, also lately, has taken to stashing wadges of blue paper hand towels from ladies' lavatories. The events, I deduce, are connected and the way ahead is clear. Out go the fancy boxes of 3-ply and in come industrial quantities of Airtex Absorbant Hygiene Rolls.

They don't look stylish on a dinner date, but ladies, they wash beautifully!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Middle-aged Spread

I have bought myself a new top from Zara. This is partly because it was £3.99 and partly because I can fit my thermal vest under it without the edges showing. I think it's rather an elegant new top and, although it is cream and therefore not compatible with rotted manure, I wear it while teaching the school gardening club to mulch beans.

'Do you have a baby in your tummy?' asks seven-year-old Sonja, thrilled.
I laugh shrilly and make a joke about doughnuts.
Later, I tell one of the new school fathers about the remark and pause pleadingly for reassurance.
'So, are you pregnant?' he asks, peering.

I go home and survey myself in the guest room mirror. There is a definite billow where my belt buckle is protruding beneath my new top. Only I'm not wearing a belt; the bulge is a spare handful of me.

I suck in my breath and tell my daughter about Sonja and the new school gate father. She studies my midriff appraisingly. 'It's obvious you're not pregnant,' she concludes. 'You're too old.'

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Saturday is Caption Day

It's Picture Caption Day over at Mammasaurus and a chance to air the family album. If you are tiring of fireworks, put your mind to a suitable witticism for when I next go to visit my father. All suggestions considered!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Facts of Life: Part II

My daughter is staging a show in the sitting room. Usually she swirls one of my winceyette nighties to the Hits of the Monkees. Today, though, she is wearing a black mini skirt (bought by her grandmother), a black crop top (bought by her grandmother), strappy black high heels (ditto) and a black leather, metal- studded waist clincher (ditto ditto).

'I am a hard girl,' she sings, 'and I need a man who likes it rough.' On the sitting room stereo, Lady Gaga decides that she can't sleep with a man who dims her shine. My nine-year old sings gustily along with her.

I am in a dilemma. She hasn't a clue what she's singing about. If I snap it off she'll suspect adult mystery. She'll interrogate me for enlightenment or, worse, interrogate her street-savvy class-mates. And so I sit tight and watch her gyrate and I reflect on the snares of motherhood.

She'd spent her savings on the CD with my reluctant sanction. 'Explicit lyrics' warned the label of the Jesse J album she'd coveted and so I'd deflected her to this one. I am an unqualified arbiter for a modern pre-teen. The complete works of Doris Day devoured my own youthful pocket money and it's never crossed my mind that I should Google each song title before braving HMV.

Later I hide Lady Gaga under the laundry basket and put my edgiest Doris Day on for tea time. 'Tenderly,' Doris sings, 'and breathlessly, make love to me, my darling. Possess me!' My daughter's stops chewing. 'Why,' she asks, 'would loving someone make you breathless?'

I tell her to eat up her boiled eggs and I stalk to the stereo and rip out Doris and put on 100 Best Hymns.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

T is for Tussling

I've just happened upon the weekly photo gallery at Sticky Fingers where the letter T is the current theme.

I thought of Tea bags because they cushion me through life's worst miseries, but  they do not photograph excitingly. Then I decided that I like Tussling more. The excuse for infantile behaviour in public is one of the glories of child-rearing and, when it is combined with my other great love, autumn leaves, Tussles are a matchless Tonic.