Wednesday, 23 October 2013


There is little that I would not do for my children.

I would scale bridges if it shielded them from harm...

I would hurl myself from an aeroplane...

Climb to the highest tree tops...

Wrestle warriors...

And battle freezing rapids...

I would even, if it came to it, endure public humiliation...

My children, alas, are less resolute and both balk at overcoming fearsome challenges for my sake. 

My son is powerless to take on the chaos in his bedroom...

My daughter flees in the face of the washing up...

 And neither has the stamina to confront a vegetable...

But today... weeks of sleepnessness have shrunk my temper. The cats flee before me and the Vicar, wounded by unaccustomed sharpness, seeks refuge in his study. I berate the children for their failings and shut myself in the sitting room for a sulk. As the door inches open I ready myself for battle. And in come two wary figures. One drapes me in a blanket. The other proffers a teddy. They have advanced where grown men have feared to tread. I guess I can call it quits!

Apologies to everyone who kindly left comments. I managed to delete the original blogpost and can't recover your much appreciated wisdom.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Dressing Down

'You cannot do this to me!' shrieks the 11-year-old. I reverse out from under the bed and find her brandishing a hairy brown banner. On closer inspection, it turns out to be my favourite Sunday skirt. My daughter sees the sentiment in my face and blanches. 'Mum,' she says in more patient tones. 'I'm doing this for you. I'm putting it in this pile here.'

I am performing the solemn annual ritual of retrieving my winter wear from under the guest bed and stowing my summer clothes in its place. Ordinarily this is a task I enjoy. Summertime I find stressful with its pressure to haul a bronzed and hairless body round beaches and barbecue parties. I have to start my annual hunt for the iron when my summer cottons emerge from hibernation. In winter I can vanish comfortably into wool which, even after a season in a zipper bag, hangs in biddable clumps without need of intervention.

This year, however, my daughter has appointed herself supervisor of the proceedings. Two piles rise on either side of her. The smaller comprises my collection of skinny jeans, some bobbled tops from Oxfam, redeemed by their French Connection label, and a slippery white Moment on Madness from New Look. It is dwarfed by the neighbouring mound of tweeds and polyknits, destined to boost the retail revenues of the local cat charity.

I look on stricken as the 11-year-old examines a length of lumpy orange wool. She sees a sad relic of Dorothy Perkins' history; she doesn't know that it's the surviving half of a twin set bought on a reckless spree the day I was made redundant so that I could walk tall in the dole queue. The stripy polyester trousers, unwearable now I see them through her eyes, were one half of a matching pair bought by my mother and me on our final family holiday in Llandudno. The corduroy skirt with the loud flowers was chosen from my first Boden catalogue while administering a dawn feed to my newborn.

My wardrobe, like my photo albums, is an eloquent record of my history. I rarely buy new garments unless I foresee a long-term relationship. So intense is the bonding process on the shop floor that I can recall the origins and circumstances of almost everything I own. When moths eviscerated half my jumpers it was a bereavement. The Laura Ashley jacket, a brave gesture from the Vicar in our courting days, and that hairy brown skirt, presented by my brother to ease my transition into Vicar's wifedom, may be modified with scarves and knee boots to disguise their antiquity, but they will always be part of the family.

I consider explaining all this to the 11-year-old who is now screaming over some elderly corduroy which I like to think still bears the hairs of my first cat. But I realise this is a truth she will learn for herself when her past starts to outweigh her future. Instead I bait her with Strictly Come Dancing on the sofa and, while she sits entranced by the silks and sequins, I creep back to the dominant pile in the guest room. She is right about the polyester trousers and the loud-flowered corduroy, but, furtively I reclaim the hairy brown tweed and the length of orange wool. Twenty years may have passed since that dole queue, but old friends can still help you walk tall.

Does your wardrobe contain old friends or are you a ruthless purger?

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Family Time

It is Sunday lunch in the vicarage. Because it is the one meal in the week that the whole family eats together, the table is laid in the dining room with place mats and matching crockery and a lighted candle beside the ketchup bottle. The Vicar says grace, we take our seats and conversation begins.

The 11-year-old, 'What planet are you from, Mum! Potatoes aren't vegetables, they're carbs!'
Me: 'Trust me, they're vegetables.'
The 11-year-old: 'How can you say that something that just pops out of the ground is a vegetable! It's a carb.'
The Vicar (diplomatically): 'They don't just pop out of the ground. Mum worked very hard digging them up.'
The 8-year-old: 'Who do you think's the prettiest girl in this room?'
The Vicar (diplomatically): 'Both of them!'
The 11-year-old: 'What? You're saying mum's pretty! She's middle-aged!'
The 8-year-old (singing): 'Mama do the hump, do the hump hump...'
The 11-year-old: 'He's singing about humping, Mum. Why don't you tell him off?'
Me: 'Please don't sing about humping at the table.'
The 8-year-old: 'OK, I'll sing it in my bedroom.
Me: 'No, I mean just don't sing about humping. At all.'
The Vicar (diplomatically): 'Who can remember what the fruits of the spirit are from the service?'
The 8-year-old (glaring at his sister): 'What I remember from the service is that she ate loads of the cake afterwards and I didn't get any.'
The 11-year-old: 'Don't listen to him. He's a liar.'
The 8-year-old: 'Don't listen to her. She's evil.'
The 11-year-old: 'Hold on everyone, I'm going to burp!'
Me: 'If you dare...'
The Vicar (diplomatically): 'Did you say there were Cornettos in the freezer?'

What are your family meals like? Can you suggest improving topics for discussion next Sunday lunch time?