Showing posts from May, 2012

Marital Secrets

Every week, Julia at Julia's Place , imparts a prompt around which bloggers must construct a hundred words. I find it addictive. The idea is creative writing but I find those random challenges ferret out aspects of domestic reality that I might never have thought to blog about. This week, in honour of the Jubilee, Julia requires a poem that reflects the passing of sixty years. I have no idea how to write poetry and my domestic reality doesn't yet accommodate sixty years. But then I remembered my father's oft-narrated tale of a colleague on his local paper who returned stunned from a routine visit to report a couple's diamond wedding anniversary: Side by side they sit in the parlour, Serenity on chintz. Her hand, fragile as the flowered porcelain, pours the tea And, wordlessly, he thanks her. Behind, their family drifts through the decades on the mantel, The newlyweds briefly multiplying,  Then, as years pass, shrinking back into a twosome; Shrivelled but smiling in

The Bottom Line

The lament reverberates up the stairs.  In the kitchen crouches our tabby, mewling. Frisbee never mewls.  He bypasses a brimming bowl of tuna. Frisbee never declines food. Evidently he is a cat in Darkest Misery. Then he cocks his leg for a cleansing and I glimpse a purpled puckered wound beneath his tail. It is Sunday. I ring the RSPCA rescue centre, which rehomed him, and they advise the out-of-hours animal hospital. I ring the out-of-hours animal hospital and they advise that I speak to a consultant. I speak to a consultant and she fears a fox attack, an exploded abscess and a disabling infection and she urges us to hurry him in immediately. And so I drive 12 miles to the hospital and pay £33 for an assessment and wait one hour for the consultant. And the consultant examines the alarmed cat’s undercarriage and pronounces her diagnosis: the ‘wound’ I glimpsed was his bottom!

How to Conquer the School-Gate Catwalk

Stylish mummies are, I discover, building whole blogs  around the outfits they wear on the school run. I am entranced by this idea. If we all put up photos of our early morning selves, we could trade invaluable fashion tips which would make the daily chore of outshining the other parents so much more companionable. To start the ball rolling, and with the help of two small photographers, I've kept a picture log of the past week. Feel free to borrow any style tips for your own dawn journeys, so long as you credit this blog (a Post-it note pinned to a lapel would do the trick.) Monday The drought, as you can see, is still going strong. Underneath this waterproof coat (£30 from Harpers Bazaar surplus store in Malvern) I'm wearing a £2,250 Prada sheath dress and a rope of Swaroski diamonds. Please note the wellingtons. They're not any old wellingtons - they're Hunters and they cost me £64. The mud splashes were extra. Five mothers screamed over them when I first wo

A Passion for Balls

This week's 100 Word Challenge at Julia's Place must incorporate the words The flame flickered before... The Olympic torch must have inspired her, but I have cunningly manipulated the prompt so that I can boast about what I did on Sunday... My daughter has become an overnight football fan. The fact that she’s never seen a game is no deterrent. She’s acquired a Chelsea plate, Liverpool pyjamas and an album of Match Attax which she exhibits mercilessly.  So, after Sunday Eucharist, I agreed to my first match. Fearsome in tweed skirt and wellies, I assaulted that ball and any juvenile obstruction. I flung myself at the goal, my necklace lassooing interfering opponents. And I scored!  Triumph ignited in me a passion for a sport I’ve never rated. Briefly, the flame flickered before middle age felled me and it was smothered by the mud I sprawled in.      

The Age of Innocence

This week’s listography at Kate Takes Five is Five Things I Love About Kids . I wasn’t going to participate. Come Saturday afternoons I’m more minded to list two dozen things that exasperate me about kids. But the challenge set me thinking and the thinking prompted appreciative realisations about my bickering pair and consequently, by this evening, my weekend temper had sweetened immeasurably and I’d promised them crumpets for tea. I am, therefore, grateful to Kate. Here are the five things I love about children: Glee Everything is a treat: that tea of buttered crumpets, a scour in the car wash, finding a worm, a turn with the Hoover, rainbows of petrol shimmering in puddles and watching the ball-cock rise and fall when lid of the lavatory cistern is removed. Actually, all of those things are still a treat for me, bar the Hoover, but whereas in children it’s an engaging enthusiasm, in adults it suggests an undeveloped mind! Imagination The plastic laundry basket is a doomed crui

The Terror of Silence

Adults – civilised adults – talk to you. Children talk at you. My children talk at me all the time. They’ll relay the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows through the crack in the bathroom door. They’ll list their favourite footballers from their Match Attax cards. They’ll embark on a joke that has no known ending while I’m perfecting a tweet and they’ll test their recollection of the first names of all the teachers in their school when Gardeners’ Question Time is starting. This ceaseless, guileless prattle can be endearing. It can be exasperating and, occasionally, it can cause me to flee to the nettle bed behind the garage. But yesterday, in hospital, a mask was placed over my daughter’s face, her eyes rolled back and she was silenced. Her silence muffled even the screams of a child in the next treatment room while we paced the corridor outside. When, eventually, we were summoned, her eyes were open but she was still silent. I would have endured the highlights from five pa

Scientific Knickers

Julia’s 100-word Challenge this week wants us to incorporate the words liberty , empire, apple, yellow and enormous . She has evidently been excited by a recent trip to New York. I was going to duck out, then I remembered a snippet I’d just read in the Daily Mail. I aspire to a pear-shape, but the reality is more of a withered yellow apple. Child-bearing has killed off my crop-tops and poured me into the more accommodating contours of empire-line smocks. From behind I’m still skinny, but, front-on, strangers are apt to congratulate me on my happy event. However, today’s newspapers announce M&S’s scientific knickers which will subdue my post-natal midriff into a wasp waist. My glee is enormous. An alchemy of polyamide and elastane; panels, padding and mesh will sculpt my flesh while allowing my lungs full liberty, so, henceforth, an hourglass figure in a sheath dress will be manning the church tea urn. 


At the start of the year, my 9-year-old declared herself Pony Mad. Her rolled-up bedside rug became a steed, her wall was plastered with posters of cavorting colts, her table was cleared to make room for home-spun tack and her pink unicorn hobby horse was retrieved from retirement and stabled beneath her kitchen chair. Then, following a weekend with her cousin, she pledged herself to Harry Potter. The table was reorganised as a tribute to Hogwarts, Alan Rickman glowered above the bedstead and the pink unicorn was metamorphosed into a flying broomstick. Next, a play-date with a precocious friend turned her into a fashionista. The bedroom became a boudoir and the table became a repository for old perfume bottles, scavenged jewellery, lip salves and hair ornaments. Now, after another weekend with her cousin, she is a football fan. She begged a trip to Sports Direct to spend her savings on a Liverpool football shirt (‘Although I’ll get Chelsea or Arsenal if they’re cheaper!’). The potio

How (Not) to Woo a Millionaire

My parents have met a pair of millionaires in the middle of the Baltic. The millionaires have a smart pad in London and a yacht on the Med. I am not interested in money. It is the soul, of course, that counts! But I am interested in the yacht. I like to imagine myself bobbing about on it if the friendship blooms. It would re-conjure our beloved old caravan holidays, only with plumbing instead of a bucket. And the friendship does bloom. My parents are invited to the smart pad in London. My mother ponders a gift for a woman who has everything and decides on a jar of Lidl's pickled herrings. So irresistibly do they evoke their Baltic cruise that she buys another jar for herself and swallows a few spoonfuls for a night cap. Next day they rev up the Skoda for the trip into town and my mother forgets the herrings. They speed back and she lunges into the fridge and grabs the jar and she hands it to the hostess who is thrilled and grateful. Back at home again, my mother is probing th

A Microscopic Giant

The prompt for the latest 100 Word Challenge is this sphere of prehistoric bones in the National Museum of Scotland.  It reminded me of awed afternoons in Oxford's Museum of Natural History. The Gothic contours resemble a dinosaur’s rib-cage so I feel I’ve been swallowed whole. And they’re echoed by the skeletal giants that motionlessly prowl the aisles. The Eustreptospondylus oxoniensis and Camptosaurus prestwichii once roamed nearby fields; now they’re poised in reinforced glass cases. Their names are as daunting as their dimensions. But, for me, they’re dwarfed by a flea concealed in an upper gallery. It’s detectable only though a magnifying lens, yet it wears minute hiking clothes. I’m awed by the power and perfection of such a microscopic being and by the humorous tenacity of the human who clothed it.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

The National Trust has compiled a list of things that every child should do before the age of 11 3/4. One of them is to climb a tree. I would go further. Tree climbing ought to be a regular activity until the age of 65. There is, however, a problem. Our local council proposes to ban tree-climbing in all its parks, including the large semi-rural one that my children and I walk through to and from school each day. In future, I would have to pay £500 for the privilege of swarming one of the oaks in the wood, unless I could satisfy the council that I had a reasonable excuse. Retrieving a stuck kite would not be a reasonable excuse, for the council plans to ban kite-flying too. For £500 I could take out a six-month membership of our local David Lloyd gym and my children could exercise safely in a risk-assessed, temperature-controlled environment which has a mission statement and a latte machine. But I shan't. I shall continue to encourage them to climb trees and I shall continu

The Magic of Mothering

This week's 100-word challenge at Julia's Place  requires us to use the word ruby . It just so happens that... It strikes me, as I try transmuting a pair of Doodles into Dorothy’s ruby slippers: parenting classes omit crucial aspects of child-rearing. They are eloquent about weaning and potty-training, but they don’t touch on how to conjure a flock of sheep from Whiskas boxes or improvise a Victorian maid’s cap from a wedding garter. Primary education is less about times-tables and more about encapsulating historical and literary landmarks from household flotsam. My advice to new parents is to relax about the intuitive routines of feeding and hygiene. They’ll need all their energies for mastering conjuring tricks when their children start school.