Saturday, 22 February 2014


Iota has tagged me into a list of cosmic questions to which she requires answers. Self-exposure alarms me, but Iota strikes me as the sort of person I'd like to have as a next-door neighbour so for her sake I'll bare all:

What is the view from the room where you are currently sitting?

The empty playground of a children's nursery and the family Skoda which I had meant to get round to washing last year.

Do you buy lottery tickets?

Of course not. I'd hate to risk becoming an overnight millionaire.

If you had to live in the Arctic Circle or on the Equator which would it be?

The Arctic Circle. I'm fond of tobogganing and dislike heat.

What's the novel inside you (you know, the one that everyone is supposed to have)?

I'm the only person I've ever met who doesn't have a novel inside them. To console myself for this deficiency I channelled my literary energies into a large diary when I was 14. I haven't missed a day since, so should you desire to know what I had for breakfast on 5th May 1984...

Do you still have your wedding dress?

I did, until our last house move but one. It took against the coal cellar where I'd housed it in its giant box and I, once it had turned green and fluffy, took against it. The thermal vest I wore underneath it is still going strong, though.

Is your big toe longer or shorter than the toe next to it?

Well, I don't know and I'm not about to remove my sock and slipper to find out.

Name a guilty pleasure

Speeding past cars queued on the motorway on the opposite carriageway to me.

If you could change one thing you did last week what would it be?

Putting my daughter's cheap pink jeans in with a white wash. Again.

What's your middle name?


Can you, with Edith Piaf, say 'Je ne regrette rien'?

My stack of years - and all those journals - have taught me that most painful experiences have a purpose, although it can take both decades and discipline to recognise it. They have also taught me that one shouldn't take oneself too seriously. So I try no longer to agonise over what can't be changed. But I do regret not being able to recall the last phone conversation I had with my mother before she was run over.

What fairy story character do you most identify with?

The witch in Hansel & Gretel.

Now I'm supposed to invite 11 bloggers to answer 11 questions of my own. I can't think of 11 bloggers or 11 questions so here are five of each:

When you look in the mirror what do you see?
If you could choose one motto/mantra to live by what would it be?
Which era would you command a time capsule to transport you to?
What was your childhood ambition and have you fulfilled it?
If the world were to end tomorrow where would you want to be and what would be on your apocalypse menu?
When did you last change your sheets?

Over to you...

A Dad Called Spen
Kate Takes 5
Kate on Thin Ice
3 Children and It
Actually Mummy

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Hardcore Living

Recently a BBC researcher contacted me and asked if the family would be willing to be filmed for a series on vicarage life. Obviously, narcissism urged me to say yes. I could be the next Amy Childs, only in an M&S cardie. The church teas on Fridays would be seething with fans wanting to bond with the Vicar over a Jammy Dodger. And watching the episodes would keep me going through the suspenseful wait for the next series of Rev. Indeed, said the researcher, a real-life Rev is what they are after. A heart-warming, fun-filled glimpse into family life in a vicarage to follow Songs of Praise.  It was at that point I knew we had to say no. Any fly-on-the-wall portrait of our vicarage life would have to be shown after the 9pm watershed to protect the nation's children. I myself would find it hard to stomach:

Graphic footage of me wrestling my chin bristles with deadly steel weaponry in the bathroom and, sheathed in rubber, delving for the plastic Smurf someone's dropped down the lavatory.

The shaming intemperance when come 5pm I can't hold out any more and fall upon my stash of PG Tips.

The terror when the grill pan bursts into flames after I try greaseproof paper as a substitute lining for foil.

The psychotic mood swings, when, tucking my babes up for the night, I glimpse the state of their bedrooms.

The raw expose of mid-life marriage as the Vicar and I masticate side by side on a wedge of Cathedral City while watching re-runs of Foyle's War under his 'n' hers sofa rugs.

The chilling suspense as, with five minutes to go before school drop off, I'm still hunting down my son's left shoe.

The wanton child cruelty as I confiscate my sobbing daughter's iPod Touch for the third time in a week.

The ungodly indecorum when, at 9am on the Sabbath, I realise I'm on the rota to explain decapitation to flock of Sunday School toddlers.

The undignified lack of self-control when, at 10pm, the Vicar and I can no longer suppress the urgency of our need and head for bed with Sophie Kinsella.

Is your family life fit for public viewing?

Sunday, 9 February 2014


I've never been much of a one for shopping. Security staff scrutinise me as I stand immobilised by apathy near store exits while companions contentedly browse. The vicarage laundry basket brims because I lose the power of motion before reaching detergents at the far end of the supermarket.

In the past I surmounted this deficiency by wearing clothes till they shredded and rinsing the vicarage smalls in Head & Shoulders. Now, however, I have children and my children persist in growing and currently scarcely a month goes by without an emergency dash round shoe shops to replace essential footwear. And on these occasions I marvel that I used to deem shopping a hardship for high streets with two kids in tow are like this:

11yo: Oh my gosh, Mum, I need this pore eraser.
Me: You don't need it; you want it.
11yo: Mum, you're so medieval. Make up is my life!
9yo: What are 18 nines?
Me: Um…
11yo: I've got to get it!
Me: What is pore eraser?
9yo: MUM, 18 nines?
Me: Um ...
11yo: You don't even know what instant pore eraser is!
9yo: What are seven 14s?
Me: this homework?
9yo: I'm counting the lightbulbs in the ceiling.
11yo: Mum, I cannot live without these heels. Can you lend me the money?
9yo: Did you know there are 329 lightbulbs in the Asda in Kingston?
Me: You are not having heels like that.
9yo: There are 98 lightbulbs in this store.
11yo: Get with it, Mum! Just 'cos you wear fashion like Henry VIII in the 18th century...
Me: 16th century.
11yo: What's the point of knowing when some old king died when you don't know what instant pore eraser is!
9yo: MUM, I've just made the biggest mistake of my life!
Me: Heck, what?
11yo: Tell him not to interrupt!
9yo: MUM!
Me: Goodness, what's wrong?
9yo: I've just realised - it's not 98 lightbulbs, it's 72!

What's shopping like with your young 'uns?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

How to Repair Self-Image

It is the Sabbath and I am prising cat hair off my warmest corduroy. My house guest is peaceably eating marmalade in a woolly jumper when a holler from the 11-year-old diverts us to the vicarage sitting room. Only it is no longer a sitting room. A sign on the door announces Sexy Salon. The coal scuttles have been moved aside to make room for three pink crates of cosmetics. Fairy lights are strung across the Vicar's favourite armchair and reading lamps have been trained on the sofa.

The 11-year-old breaks it to me gently. I am in many ways a good person, she says, but I have trouble with both glamour and dignity.

Me having trouble with glamour and dignity

She tells me that, since it's Sunday, she's prepared to sacrifice half an hour to school me in both and thereby make me feel better about myself.

My friend's two daughters are surrendering a chunk of their Sunday for a similar purpose. We are both manhandled into seats, the reading lamps are aimed at our faces and an assortment of weaponry is brandished.

My friend's transformation appears to be unfolding serenely across the other side of the room...

...but, before long, my 11-year-old's zeal starts to falter. 'Your spots are using up all my concealer,' she laments, surveying the dwindling stick of pink unguent.

She flinches as she daubs on blusher and encounters an obstacle: 'You've got bristles growing out of your mole!' she informs me indignantly.

Then she reaches for something brown and gloopy -  'I'm just using a bit of this to hide the bald bits in your eyebrows' - before finishing me off with a rainbow palette of eyeshadow. This last stage in boosting my self-image presents problems that my beautician has not encountered before. 'Gosh, your eyelids are wrinkly - your eyes are hidden under great folds,' she says. 'No offence - I'm just a bit shocked.'

The half hour approaches an hour and I still haven't scraped the mud off my Sunday boots. 'She looks like Baby Jane!' squeals the 9-year-old gaping at my mask of pink grease and lopsided ringlets.

The 11-year-old starts listing the facial flaws of various celebrities and I feel bound to explain that beauty can be inner as well as outer. She puts down the hair tongs and surveys her handiwork. 'I think,' she concludes with an air of defeat, 'that yours must all be inner.'

Baby Jane (left); Me (right)