Showing posts from April, 2012

The Art of Waiting

The bus is late. I stand at the head of a lengthening queue outside the 99p Shop. Three lanes of traffic roar past us and a beer can rolls round our feet. 'We spend half our lives waiting,' says a tiny old man behind me. 'It is not good'. I reflect on this this. The greater part of parenting involves waiting. Waiting in playgrounds, waiting at swimming lessons, waiting at the school gate. It's the aspect of child-care that the uninitiated find most challenging and it's the aspect, a mother of independent teenagers warns me, that she most misses. Waiting, it strikes me, gives us time out of the rush and clamour to collect our harrassed thoughts. Time to wonder where that man with the yellow shoes is headed with that aspidistra. Time to rationalise a hurtful slight; to draft the next blog post; to ponder elusive cosmic mysteries. Why should flapping a J-cloth or lunging for fashion bargains be more valid activities than the rare stillness of time suspended.

Guilty Parenting

This week's 100 Word Challenge at Julia's Place  requires us to incorporate the words: I'm exhausted. Shut the door behind you... Easy peasy. I say them every day! I have begun to neglect my children. For every two hours of their company, I crave 20 minutes of silence. When a storybook is finished or Scrabble lost and won, I scuttle to the bedroom to breathe freer air. There sits my laptop, a portal onto a virtual world which seems, after a day of juvenile bickering, more real than reality. When my twosome erupts after me I banish them: ‘I’m exhausted. Shut the door behind you!’ Lately my craving has coincided with bathtime and, miraculously, the children have learned to organise themselves. I’ve muffled my guilt for I’ve realised that careful neglect is favour; it hastens priceless independence. 

Fairy Godmothers' To Do List

In the Disney film of Sleeping Beauty, two fairy godmothers bestow their gifts on the infant princess before the witch blasts in with her spoiler. For this week's listography,  Katetakes5 has been pondering what blessings she would wish to be bestowed upon her children, were a passing fairy to take an interest them. And that set me to wondering too. My daughter, if I asked her, would plead for a Juicy Couture tracksuit; my son for the extinction of school. And I? If I could wish for them gifts to carry them through adulthood, I would choose: Imagination An essential tool that allows you to conjure a stallion out of a roll of carpet, to plan an Eden in a rubbly back yard, to invigorate a wet Saturday and walk in the shoes of a stranger. Imagination helps empathy and empathy fosters charity and charity is the root of all virtues. Patience I always hope that if I wait long enough the gift of patience will be bestowed on me. But, two minutes into a childish alter

The Unofficial Citizenship Test

For fun I decided to take the official practice citizenship test - that government interrogation designed to check whether immigrants have absorbed enough Britishness to merit a UK passport.  I am born and bred British and so were three centuries of my family tree.  I scored 53 per cent and failed the test. Briefly I was stricken. I love warm ale and the sound of hard balls on cricket bats. I own a box set of episodes of Are you Being Served? . I thought I was British to the core. But, according official criteria, I am an imposter. Then I started to ponder and it struck me that the problem is not with my imperfect national identity but with the questions. You could know how many days a year British schools have to be open, the difference between Hansard and Speaker’s Notes and which year women won the right to divorce their husbands and still nurse a murderous hatred of the British way of life. But noone who sincerely loves Marmite could look an Englishman in the eye and wish him i

A Worrying Discovery

The dead, I discover, no longer wear shrouds. Probably everyone knows this, but I didn't, and I find the news strangely disturbing. A while ago, I was at the funeral of a school-gate friend (where I discovered too late that mourners no longer wear black). It hurts more to think of her laid out in her casket in her familiar plaid skirt and knee boots, rather than transfigured in white linen. Later a dismaying notion strikes me. I struggle to decide what to wear to the office, to church and for our occasional wild nights at Bella Pasta. Now I must ready a costume for the Last Journey. Just in case. I do not wish the Vicar to have a hand in this: I would spend Eternity in a boiled wool cardie. And so I ask the church sideswoman whether tweed or tulle would be best. She says greens are nice. We discuss my wardrobe and ponder my Boden notch-neck-knit dress with my patent Mary Janes. These don't get out much because they torment my left bunion. The sideswoman says that, under the

The Voice Within

The latest torment devised to force bloggers to humiliate themselves requires us to disclose ten things that we say to ourselves every day. Random Pearls of Wisdom  is the kindly culprit in my case.  It was hard to narrow it down for I mutter to myself all day long and, although much of it is certainly random, none of it, unlike my tormentor, contains either pearls or wisdom. Below, however, is the verbal framework, that supports me through the daily grind. Sock it to me, junior!  I emit this upon awakening and rearing bolt upright on my pillows each morning. It makes the coming day seem more malleable, but the Vicar, for some reason, dislikes the habit and asks, mildly, if I could devise a different salute to the dawn. Let’s get this show on the road! Another ritual motivator, usually uttered while still prone in bed, and which also seems to exasperate the Vicar. HatemyselfIhatemyselfIhatemyself! This I mutter at intervals throughout the day when I realise that I’ve confused the l

The Blight of Beauty

Earlier this week a 40-something blonde journalist called Samantha Brick wrote an article for the Daily Mail about why the world resents her beauty. I have watched the fall-out from her candour with appalled fascination. Hate campaigns have rippled through Twitter. 5,000 mocking comments were left on the Daily Mail’s website. Columnists in rival newspapers have lined up to condemn her delusions. I am a lone sympathiser. For I too am a 40-something blonde journalist and I too know how it is to be condemned for your looks. This is my story. Fifteen years ago, as I hurried for the morning train to work, a voice hailed me urgently. I turned and saw a handsome young man in hot pursuit. As he drew close he held out a flaccid parcel. It was the egg mayonnaise sandwich that I’d packed for my lunch and which I’d dropped on the pavement in my haste. I knew, though, as his eyes met mine, that the favour was a pretext and the alacrity with which he moved off after handing it over confirmed it.

The Puzzle of Pocket Money

My children love money. They make minute study of the Queen's head and of the date of minting. They rejoice in coins released during their birth year and in coins with an extra polished sheen. They squirrel their riches in a mysterious system of purses, pockets and money boxes and occasionally, after grave reflection, they take a few coins out and spend them. Ever since my mother handed my daughter a quid and informed her that, at six, she was old enough to receive pocket money, I've sacrificed a portion of my weekly earnings to my babies. For two years it was 50p each. Then, when Haribos caught up with inflation, I recklessly doubled it. Since few of my friends had begun the habit back then, I had no benchmark against which to calculate their dues. I worked on the premise that my 10p a week income in the early 1980s funded a bag of sweets and so my children should be enabled to afford the same. Swiftly they learned that they could blow their weekly hand-out on a chocolate

War of Words

My seven-year old son is unwillingly acquiring literacy. He loves the spoken word. He hoards unusual nouns and adjectives that strike his fancy as he hoards chocolate coins and cotton wool buds and he emits them randomly at startled visitors. Written words, however, are enemies to be wrestled into submission or mangled into a new, less intimidating form. 'Children' looms menacingly at him off the page of his school reading book. He stares at the word in fright for a moment, then 'Trees' he pronounces, and hurries on to the more biddable conjunctions. I am thrilled, therefore, when he announces that he is going to take up novel- reading in bed. His sister and his cousin are digesting Enid Blyton's Secret Seven adventures on their pillows and so my son decides he is going to read the Secret Seven too. He begs a copy from my high-brow book shelves and disappears upstairs. Five minutes later he is back, moist-eyed and aggrieved. 'The others are saying I'm