Showing posts from March, 2012

Rock Chick: Aftermath

'Back to square one then?' said the verger at the Sunday service following my rock-chick makeover . He surveyed my decorous wool dress with disappointment. There was disappointment at school drop-off too, when I presented myself on the Monday in my bargain coat from Help the Aged.  'Tighter and brighter,' must be my mantra from now on, said one of the mothers, who advised me to embrace the heatwave with tube of Sun Shimmer Bronzer and diamante flipflops. I sense, however, that my leopard-print adventure has done more that 18 months of parish cake-baking to enhance my standing at church and school. The coolest of the mothers who survey me know that, beneath my tweed cladding, lurks a temptress in Jimmy Choo shades. The Vicar, glued to his laptop in his study, turned out not to be fine-tuning a sermon, but gazing with glee at my blog pictures.  Clearly the Church of England craves a hymn to bling. My daughter, still in shock at the brief realisation of her dreams,

Rock Chick

My rock-chick 9-year-old is embarrassed to have a mother who looks like this: Instead she would prefer a mother who looks like this: But, despite the shedding of my winter tweed and the purchasing of designer wellies, my efforts do not satisfy her and so she presents me with this:  If I achieve all six targets she will buy me soap.  I have spent the last ten years anticipating my Second Flowering, but the mirror merely shows an autumnal withering. So when one of the school-gate throng suggests that I take her at her word, I decide that I shall give natural processes a prod and dazzle my daughter at school pick-up. I consult some of the mothers whom she has wished me to resemble and they are thrilled at the prospect of helping new life emerge from my Boden corduroy. The evening before my transformation, Facebook is abuzz with strategies for shoring up my face with cosmetic adhesives. Since my wardrobe is irredeemable, a call goes out and carrier bags are proffered surreptitio


A bit has fallen off my face. Last time I looked, a smooth pink contour joined my nose to my left eyebrow. Now there's a grand canyon. It's a bright morning and our bathroom faces east so I decide to wait until dusk and examine it again. I borrow some Vaseline from my 7-year old's room and am grateful that he spends his pocket money on such things as J-cloths and washing lines and heavy duty lubricants. I rub it into the missing part of me, then peer closely with the Vicar's vest draped over the lampshade. It now resembles one of the cracks down my sheep-and-cow coffee mug: faint, but still There. When my mother comes to dinner I keep the lamps down low and hide the candles. Twenty years ago she urged me to splurge on make-up to 'make the most' of myself. Now she urges the same 'to make the best'. There's a indefinable shift there that I do not like. She says that I look tired. She asks if I've got anything on my face. She delves into her b

My Private Fantasies

The prompt from this week's 100 Word Challenge at  Julia's Place  is  the red box My private fantasies are stuffed in my sock drawer. Sometimes I spirit them out for savouring.  A seaside cottage is the wildest, sketched in ink on the folded paper. Then a cedar tree casting blue shadows on a lawn I don't possess; a month on Greek islands, a crate of manure, a navy wool dress from Boden.... Occasionally, with appropriate guilt, I realise one of them.  But, on Budget Day, the red box was raised like a cosh over the nation. ‘We're all in this together,’ says the Chancellor.  I am already fortunate. Many aren’t. So I threw my secret list away. 

You know you are a vicar's wife when...

This week's listography at Katetakes5 has as its topic 'Five reasons I know I'm a...'. You get to fill in the blank yourself. First I thought I'd pick 'slattern', but I've already confessed much about my domestic indolence. Mothering Sunday has exhausted my motherliness, so that's out, and I had trouble thinking of what else I am, until someone hailed me as 'Father's wife'. So - you know you're a vicar's wife when: You find a dog collar in your knicker drawer. You are the only one in trousers round a dinner table of (cassocked) male clergy You are fluent in the afflictions and ailments of half the senior population within a quarter-mile radius You can improvise emergency small talk about dialogical personalism if stranded with a bishop You can, with a single kettle and five packs of Cheddar slices, host 70 famished faithful in your back garden.

How Was it For You?

“ The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new” ( Acharya Rajneesh) In the past, when I was merely a woman, Sunday mornings went something like this: hot coffee, hot toast, a Mozart CD and the newspapers. A tranquil stroll along the river to church and an hour of peace in a pew. A tranquil stroll back and five hours of peace on the sofa. Now I have been graced with motherhood and one day a year is dedicated to celebrating my transformation. Today is that day. And my morning went like this: 1.    Unblocked the kitchen drain that had flooded the patio with purple ‘porridge’ 2.    Laundered the school uniforms 3.    Served breakfast 4.    Washed up breakfast 5.    Mounted the kitchen worktop to scrape the scurf of the tops of the units. 6.     Hung out the school uniforms 7.    Washed the kitchen floor 8.    Helped ten infants conjure flowers out of coloured cardb

Mothering Sunday

The Dailymum has kindly passed on a meme to help me celebrate myself this Mothering Sunday. These are the questions: Describe Motherhood in three words Enervating. Enriching. Unglamorous. Does your experience differ from your mother’s? How? I didn’t nag her for iPads, Rihanna and Ralph Lauren.  My mother was a 1970s rarity – a full–time career woman. It was my father who fetched us from school and scorched our corned beef fritters. Whereas I wedge my career in amongst school hours and launder infant underwear between deadlines.  What’s the hardest thing about being a mum? The guilt and the fear. Guilt that you are not feeding them, schooling them, entertaining and encouraging them as perfectly as they deserve. Fear that calamity will claim them. What’s the best thing? When they are silently asleep. Only when I watch them lying trustingly on their pillows, well-fed and well-cleaned, do I feel a fully successful mother - especially if I’ve remembered to wash the sheets. How has

Adrift in Drought

This week's 100 Word Challenge from  Julia's Place  requires us to incorporate the words 'but I turned it off'.  Which is timely because... I bought a pickaxe when we moved here and sought solace in savaging the vicarage garden. From the soil I extracted seven ancient keys, 32 bricks and a femur. Into the soil I put horse dung, roses and deadly monkshood. As the plants grew I felt myself take root in our new landscape. The progress of peas seemed to chart my own flourishing. When I faltered, I pickaxed ponds. Then they announced the hosepipe ban. My serenity may wilt along with the unwatered garden and so, nozzle poised over my unfilled third crater, I panicked. But I turned it off.   


There is a shark in our local swimming pool. It cruises beneath my nine-year-old, jaws stretched in anticipation of her flailing heels. Back stroke is deadly for the shark, undetected, threatens to swoop from the depths and clamp her from behind. The most dangerous thing about the shark is that it is invisible and therefore unavoidable. She knows only that it lurks somewhere in those turquoise depths awaiting her. Each week, nonetheless, she returns from her swimming lessons with flesh unscathed. But new perils must be faced at home for there are monsters in her bedroom. They unfurl when the lights are dimmed - nightmare shadows on the wall. The fluffy pink dressing gown hanging off the doorknob morphs into a hunchback; the light with its shade, a crone in a witch's hat, and invisible horrors issue through the black slit where the wardrobe doors don't quite close. 'Nonsense!' says the Vicar who doesn't believe in hauntings. But I have lived with monsters too.

A Pinnacle of Evolution

I am, I'm told, one of the 'most impressive living things yet produced by natural selection.' I am always keen on a compliment, especially when it comes from a Cambridge academic who has spent months of scientific research to reach his conclusion. Not that I am alone on the evolutionary summit. Everyone in their 40s and 50s is up there with me, lording it over the flanking generations. Shrivelling flesh ? Delinquent hormones? Thickening chin bristles, ladies? Cherish every symptom, for it is, according to a scientific new book, Nature's way of shaping us into 'an elite cast of skilled, experienced super-providers on which the rest depend.' But I could have saved the author, Dr David Bainbridge, a good deal of toil, because his findings have long been obvious to all of us mid-lifers. I knew, as I simultaneously interviewed a psychologist about body odour, typed an opinion on whippets on someone's blog post, extracted a foreign body from a molar and burned


In a deep stone recess where spare chairs are stacked there is a cadaver. You glimpse it only when, sated with gothic opulence, you return up the cathedral steps.  The sculptor's art has petrified the bones and sinews beneath the rotting flesh. Originally it had also petrified the figure – a medieval prelate – intact in its grand regalia: life and death lying side by side. Now only death remains in all its horrifying humility.   And the glory of the cathedral darkens a little with this reminder that the most awesome earthly forms – whether bishop, beast or building – are skeletons in disguise.   This week's 100 Word Challenge at Julia's Place  immediately - and probably irrelevantly -  conjured a long-ago visit I made to Lichfield Cathedral. The prompt (intended to prompt pieces on horses, yes, I know!) was this picture:

How to Be a Supermum

The 9-year-old has presented the 7-year-old with a 5-step guide to Becoming a Better Brother:  1) Start wearing Hugo Boss  2) Start wearing hair oil  3) Substitute trainers for regulation school shoes  4) Be seen talking to the 'in crowd' in the school playground  5) Become a Chelsea supporter If he adopts all five she will forgive him for not being a twin sister on whose hair she might practise French plaits. The Vicar, evidently, is a lost cause, for he is merely required to adopt Adidas footwear and to sing hymns less loudly at school assemblies. Then she borrows a biro and sketches a picture of her ideal mother and she labels it, optimistically: 'My Mum'. Her ideal mother looks like this: Her real mother looks like this: She mistakes my horror for grief over my own failings, and she tells me that she will let me off the designer hair, the painted nail extensions and the tunic top blaring 'Love' if I will consent to buy real Uggs and a s

Ornamental Nipples

One of the ladies of the choir sidles up to me after the Sunday service. She looks furtive. From her handbag she draws a pink carboard box which I hope might have chocolates in. Behind plastic lid nestles a pair of black diamante-studded nipple tassles. I carry a burdensome assortment of essentials in my handbag, but the addition of nipple tassles has never crossed my mind. The Lady from the Choir explains that they were a long-ago gift and have never had an airing. She wonders if they would come in handy for the next Saturday Caption picture on my blog. I am grateful but I am uncertain. I believe in undergarments that are fulsome, frill-less and thermal. Behind me is the stern and elderly lay reader. I'm certain that she too believes in undergarments that are fulsome, frill-less and thermal. And suddenly I cannot resist it. I make my way over and proffer the box. 'Have you any idea,' I ask, 'how one sticks these on?' The lay reader settles her glasses and pe

Saturday is Caption Day....

over at Mammasaurus . Below is one of my few remaining skills. One day it could save a life. I can also lick the end of my nose and do remarkable things with spinach. If I fall under a bus this will be the last picture ever taken of me. So what would be a dignified caption?