Showing posts from January, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Middle Age

A reader has asked me when middle-age starts. She sounded nervous. I can't think why. Years are no barrier; you can start middle-age any time you like. I personally embraced it in my early twenties when I eschewed Saturday night clubbing for re-runs of Brideshead Revisited. It proved so addictive that I have never looked back. Middle-agers enjoy comforts unimaginable to those who are burdened by youth. You don't have to worry how many friends you have on Facebook because you foster your relationships on sheaves of Basildon Bond. You are the only one not shivering on a wintry station platform because you're sensibly swaddled in thermals. You can dangle from trees because you've stopped caring about street-cred and you know what to do with a Jerusalem artichoke. Evidently, though, the transition remains mysterious to those who have yet to find the courage to try it, so here are 20 pointers to help you work out whether you qualify for Mid Life. You know you're mi

Around the World in 80 Words - India

I'm rather besotted by Sahdandproud's new linky to write up a global destination in no more than 80 words. Given that I've spent the last two months trying to condense wit and wisdom into Twitter's 140-character quota, 80 words seem positively incontinent. I am worried, however, that my previous effort on winceyette in Weston-super-Mare may cause some to conclude that I do not lead a glamorous life. So this week I'm going exotic to show you that before parish and progeny tethered me, I had Been Places! You smell the dawn in India. It wafts from the dried-dung fires that warm the street-dwellers; from the holy cows nosing the gutters; from the men defecating beneath walls. It’s light when the women trudge to the edge of town for more discreet necessity. And through the light come the school children, balancing round lunch tins. Men crouch on the kerb to be shaved. A buffalo drowses with a bird on its head. And the cacophony, dulled by nightfall, resumes.  If yo

Saturday is Caption Day....

over at Mammasaurus . The more comments I get, the nicer I am to my children, so please humour me or else I won't dig him out!

A Stylish After-Life

My children are disconcertingly comfortable with death. My nine-year-old will cross the street to examine road-kill and keeps a spider's corpse in a ring box in her knicker drawer. I once feared that her mind was macabre; now I tell myself it's  anatomical research for medical career. Their ease in the face of the Inevitable must be rooted in the martyred saints who have gazed down on their childhood from church windows. Or perhaps it's a happy symptom of infant innocence; youth is more accepting of life's mysteries and less stilted by taboos. We are accompanying my elderly mother through a cemetery. I am conscious that death is an impending reality for her and I talk distractingly of Jerusalem artichokes. My daughter paces insouciantly alongside us, eyeing the mossy tombs. 'When,' she suddenly addresses her grandmother, 'you're in your grave, I'll put all your make-up on it so you've got it to hand.' She pauses, reflecting on what fur

Home Hygiene

I have always done my own cleaning. Not very often, mind. Once every month or so keeps the funghi at bay. But, each time I've worked out where I keep the dusters, boy do I let rip! Skirting boards. Pelmets. U bends. With my portable radio in one armpit and a sheaf of Miele nozzles in the other, I stalk the vicarage assaulting cobwebs and secretly binning any infant possessions that can't be kicked to oblivion under the beds. But uncooperative lungs have prevented me terrorising the family filth since mid December and even the Vicar is noticing the dustballs that skim in his wake. Sensibly, he seeks out a cleaner for a day to tide us over. I am excited because someone else can fidget the grime out of my daughter's shell collection. And I am nervous because I'm not sure I can cope with someone toiling over my bacteria while I lie on my day bed. What if she forgets to tame the muesli-like stuff under the sofa cushions? (We don't buy muesli. How does it get there?) Wh

Around the World in 80 Words

Sahdandproud is an amiable young father who can’t sleep at night. In order to distract his mind from nocturnal anguish over recycling bins and family upheaval he has decided to tour the world in 80 words a stop.  To do this he has set up his first linky and requires globe-trotting bloggers to add their adventures in miniature. Mr S&P faces a long, dark domestic journey of his own over the coming months, so I thought it might ease the pressure a little if he took a detour via Weston-super-Mare. I shall, therefore, skip plans to feed my children lunch and recall one rainy afternoon in Somerset…. It was the nighties that first struck me. Voluminous confections in winceyette bunched on rails in an indoor-market stall. Dangling above them, targeted presumably at the same clientele, were X-large French maid outfits in latex. Nearby was a video stall. Alongside ‘Carp Fishing’ and highlights of Daniel O’Donnell, were films about ladies who, well, nakedly loved each other! I knew then th


A kind-hearted blogger, Sarah Hague  has granted me a Liebster Award. This, apparently, is a salute to lovable blogs with fewer than 200 followers and I am supposed to import a special badge on to my home page to advertise my good fortune.  Now, obviously I can’t do this. I am incapable of programming contacts into my mobile phone, so I shall never master the science of html codes on Blogger. But you can imagine it. It’s a white rectangle with a black rim and it has Liebster Blog written on it and an amorous red heart. And I am very grateful. But these gongs come with strings attached. I have first to thank my benefactress who blogs enviably about life in southern France and who shames my sparse larder with her fridge full of smoked trout blinis. Then I have to pass on the compliment to five other bloggers who have a discipleship of under 200. This could be awkward. Some blogs don’t advertise their subscribers. Asking a blogger how many followers they have is like asking a middle-age

Saturday is Caption Day....

over at Mammasaurus . Neither advancing years nor ecclesiastical dignity will obstruct my fondness for tree-climbing. I can shin up a sycamore as sinuously as I ever did. I just can't always get down again. You don't have to be witty. You don't have to be wise. All comments give me a thrill...

Making the Most

'They're testing me for lung cancer,' says the young woman at the back of church. I moan in dismayed sympathy. She says that she has endured a three-week lung infection that has resisted two courses of antibiotics, so her GP has referred her to Accident & Emergency for a chest X-ray. The poor young woman instantly assumed the worst. I moan again. In alarm. I too have endured a three-week lung infection that has resisted two courses of antibiotics, so my GP has referred me to Accident & Emergency for a chest X-ray. And cancer never crossed my mind. I sit out the hours in the hospital waiting room. Rationally, I know that there is nothing to worry about, but as I study the posters reminding me to Wake up to Rape, to report my drug problem, to memorise the signs of meningitis and to bear in mind that more people die from hospital-acquired blood clots than breast cancer, AIDS and traffic accidents combined, mortality seems to edge a little closer. Nurses wire me

The Facts of Life: the Climax

I am leading a flotilla of small children to Sunday school. My daughter hurries to catch up with me, the big Bible under her arm. 'Ali says that Madison says that if you want a baby you have to drink from a man's dinky,' she shouts over a row of bobbing toddler heads. 'You explain,' I hiss to Ali's mother and burst hastily into prayer. Ali's mother busies herself with Pritt sticks and doesn't seem to hear. My daughter clocks the embarrassment and saves it for later. Later comes when I'm sorting the laundry. 'So how does...?' I've braced myself for this moment for the last two years. Ever since an inflated picture of a sperm nosing an egg billowed from a street banner outside her primary school and she thought it was a worm that liked apples. Calm, frank and measured, I was going to be. Only when she asks I dash for the walk-in wardrobe and shriek for the Vicar. And the Vicar steps on one of her Sylvanian family rodents and the ensuing

Saturday is Caption Day....

over at Mammasaurus . If you can spare the time for wit and wisdom, please share it here.

Infant Philosophy

'What am I?' asks my son. 'A boy,' I reply, not listening. 'What's a boy?' 'A boy is someone with a ... A boy is human who is male.' 'What's a yewmanooizmale?' My daughter is pondering separate cosmic mysteries on the sofa. 'Why does cat poo smell?' These untiring interrogations exasperate me. They distract me from the serious business of the White Stuff catalogue or the Met Office weather bulletin. They also unnerve me, for their infant logic exposes the vastness of my own unknowingness. 'Why did Jesus have to die?' asks my daughter and I discover that, despite sharing a house with a theological library, I flounder. 'Why is water wet?' 'Why don't we have three arms?' 'Why doesn't my Lego tip over when Earth turns round?' I don't know and I don't know and I don't know. Lately the questions have become more focused and just as foxing. 'What is eight times 13,' as

Wok and Roll

It is the family service and the Vicar is telling the assembled children about Victoria, the well-spoken homeless woman who once lived on our vicarage doorstep. She refused the floor of the church hall or a bed in a hostel. She laid her damp sleeping bag against our front gate and declared it was an 'act of worship'. There she pondered theological mysteries and traded cigarette stubs with passing vagrants. Victoria, the Vicar is explaining, had three great needs: a sleeping bag, hot tea and occasional medical intervention for head lice. I'm worried that he'll mention her most visible need, which was men. No passing male was denied a slot in her sleeping bag and our vicarage CCTV pulsed with live footage of her vigorous hospitality. When I mentioned that Sex Addicts Anonymous were meeting in the church hall behind her she dashed in, arms spread wide, and threatened a collective relapse. Victoria had once had a husband, but the only good thing in her marriage was, she

How to be a Better Mother

Each new year I make a resolution to make a resolution. And each year I fail, because unless there is a realistic chance of keeping it, it's a waste of mental energy. Realistically there is no chance of my seeing the bottom of the laundry basket in 2012 because I'd have to open it first and face its dirty secrets. No chance of becoming the beacon of Christian charity that Sunday sermons briefly inspire me to be, because I'm far too fond of a gossip. No chance of me cooking a meal that does not incinerate the Le Creuset and resemble the fall-out of major bowel surgery, because I shall never master the alchemy of food. But this week, after trying to make a meal out of an elderly mushroom and a stray cheese string, I think I may have found my new direction. I am going to become a better mother. To bolster my determination, I've divided the journey into five easy steps that even I should be able to achieve: Feed my children No more frantic 6pm rummagings through the

Facts of Life: Part III

My daughter is looking sheepish. 'You'll be very surprised,' she says, 'but there's a boy I really like.' I am surprised. My nine-year old has a healthy contempt for the male sex. 'Bullocks' she calls them dimissively. She once flung movable parts of the sitting room at her brother's head when he suggested she fancied one of the boys in her class. But romantic fervour has swept our local primary school. Six year-olds who share a football are deemed an Item. Eight-year-olds nurse ruptured hearts when their swains place their lunchbox alongside a rival's. I, therefore, conceal my surprise and look encouraging. 'Who do you like?' I ask as I suspend a row of damp underpants from the drying rack. 'I'm in love,' she says,'with Harry!' Harry is the cat. 'Harry is a cat,' I point out. 'But I'm in love with him.' 'You love him, sweetheart. You're not in love. If you're in love with someone