Showing posts from July, 2012


Together the flames is the prompt for Julia's 100 Word Challenge this week. I imagine we're supposed to wax fluent about the Olympics, but now I've watched the diving and the gymnastics I'm unmoved by our national sporting fervour. Instead, I thought of a small stone village in the Derbyshire Peaks that I recently visited. Eyam seems lonely, windswept and unremarkable until you realise that almost all of the oldest cottages bear an inscription... Death arrived in a bale of cloth from London. The tailor aired it before the fire and as the household huddled together the flames released the fleas. Randomly the plague claimed victims in the knot of small lanes. They could have fled but, to contain the horror, the survivors sealed off their village and awaited their fate. Today plaques brand the cottages where whole families died. Rocks in a field show where a widow buried her six children. Within a year, three quarters of the village were dead. The disease perished with

The Five Joys of the Summer Holidays

I love the prospect of the long school holidays. Hot days idling with the children in National Trust gardens. Family gatherings round a barbecue. Boden dresses. Church fetes. The merciful hibernation of my alarm clock. I dread the reality of the long school holidays. Hot hours idling with the children on the M25. Petulant offspring picking black bits of the char-grilled chicken. The last-minute dash for children's summer wear in packed shopping malls. The dawn chorus of guests staggering home from our neighbour's latest 'get-together'. The constant, interminable bickering. Katetakes5 's latest Listography invites us to list the five things we most relish about the summer break, which is timely since I'm just unpacking from a miraculously hot week on a Cornish beach. Now that I've stowed my squabbling pair in front of Grease and poured myself a Peroni in the spare room, I feel equal to considering these hidden joys. Five is quite a feat, but here, afte

How To Be a British Beach Babe

A new survey shows that women spend more readying their bodies for a beach holiday than they do on the holiday itself.  £472 is the average required to help us hold our own by the poolside, according to research by Debenhams. I am relieved to discover that I am not alone. This year we are ditching our annual jaunt to some Mediterranean hotspot and are heading to Cornwall. The idea was to save money. The sums we've spared ourselves on airfares and car hire have, however, been swallowed by my extravagant summer accessories. I insist, you see, on feeling good on the sands, and perfection comes at a price: These thermal vests should flatter any contours and shield my skin from the most extreme summer temperatures. I've experimented and can fit all three at once under my beachwear. Who says that essential accessories can't be funky! This is small enough to stow in a handbag and, in extremis, to shove up the three vests when stretched on my lounger. I always think

The Perils of You Know What

Pssst! Huddle round, for I could be in big trouble if I'm overheard. I'm talking about the Olymp..., no, sorry, I'm not allowed to say the word. I mean the Games - no, no, not allowed that either. The international event where Team GB takes on - hang on, am I permitted to say Team GB? No? Could you hold on a minute while I consult the two lists of words banned from by the London Olympics Games & Paralympics Games Act! The Act, I'll mention while you're waiting, was passed in 2006 to preserve the profits of the Olympic organising committee LOCOG. Pardon? Sorry, I meant - to preserve the integrity of the Olympics brand from those who might seek to exploit it for private commercial gain. Drat, I said the O word again! This Act forbids any unauthorised person or business to associate themselves with the O******* by  using two or more words from List A (such as the various ways of writing the year we are currently in), and the conjunction of List A words with one

Sin City

The rain turned the road into a river. It bullied the trees and slashed through the glow of the sodium lights. And, by the score, they crept through the wet, confident that all witnesses were abed. I, returning from my annual night out, watched disgusted. The city was slimed with lascivious activity. On every street corner they were, in couples. Slick bodies pulsing. I stepped over them as best I could, averting my gaze from their urgency. Tomorrow I shall write to my MP. Climate change will put an end to the winter fuel allowance. Instead every righteous household should receive a summer allowance. Of slug pellets. Julia's latest 100 Word Challenge requires us to add a hundred words to the line The rain turned the road into a river. Which isn't really a challenge at all, since I can't remember a time when our roads weren't a river, or when my children's innocence was put so much at risk...!

Fifty Shades of Parenthood

Everyone - except me - is talking about the must-read bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey . I was briefly excited, thinking it was the latest Farrow & Ball catalogue for the minimalist middle-classes. Now I discover it's a sort of DIY manual for repressed housewives. I can't say I'm keen. I'm comfortable with my repression and night-times are occasions for catching up on back issues of Gardeners' World rather than wading through a stranger's exhausting erotica. Mummy 365, however, has invited fifty bloggers to share their own parenting fantasies for the next cyber sensation:  Fifty Shades of Parenthood . Now that does appeal, for fantasies I have aplenty, especially one, which goes something like this: Nerving myself against the familiar surge of shame, I study it properly for the first time in months. It is dishevelled, matted with slime trails, a far cry from the alluringly-trimmed attraction that has, in my younger days, given so much pleasure to so many.

The Importance of Couch Potatoes

The 100 Word Challenge this week requires us to add 100 words to the sentence Murray was just about to serve for the Championship . It took me a moment to work out that it referred to Wimbledon. But then I, along with several million other Britons, were otherwise engaged on Sunday:  Andy Murray was just about to serve for the Championship. The nation was poised on the edge of its sofas. Even clouds, swollen with malice, briefly held their breath. And I went for a walk. Other people's balls do not excite me. A kick-about in the park and volleys with the Vicar are amusements I can understand, but the only thrill about Wimbledon is that it it was predicted to bring Britain to a standstill. I wanted to see how London looked empty. The streets, however, teemed. It's scandalous, this indifference to our national glory. Next year I shall become a tennis evangelist - so that I can shop queue-lessly during the finals.


I am the sort of mother who wishes her children's lives away. When they were helpless newborns I longed for the day when they crawled. When they crawled I longed for the day when they walked. When they walked I was impatient for speech, when speech arrived in a volley of vacuous questions, I counted the years until intelligent conversation and when intelligent conversation budded, I looked forward to the liberty of school days. Now my oldest is nine and I want time to stop. I dread the transformation of adolescence as vigorously as she plans for it. I have no map to chart me through these turbulent years, for I was not a normal teenager. Doris Day was my pin up, tree-climbing my hobby and hand-me downs from the church warden my preferred daywear. My 9-year-old, however, declares that she will marry a Chelsea footballer who embraces tattoos, body piercings and a daily night out down the pub. She studies her face in anxious anticipation of spots that will indicate the onset of pu

Famous Five

A Littlelightwork , a brand new, witty, sophisticated Dad blogger (go and boost his stats as soon as you've read this. The fact that he's my brother is mere coincidence!) requires me to post up pictures of five famous people whom I reckon I resemble. It's a meme thing devised by Diary of a Dad and a tricky one for I don't even resemble myself these days. Cameras and mirrors show an unrecognisable middle-aged matron with eye bags and chin bristles, whereas I'm certain that the reality is closer to this: Here, however, is the unvarnished truth (you can see the resemblance if you close your eyes): Now, I do my best not to go round looking like famous people. I have never craved the spotlight and paparazzi lenses vex me. Hours I spend each morning trying to suppress any hint of Claudia Schiffer or Keira Knightley, although I've been told I bear a passing resemblance to that woman who writes for The Guardian: I got a shock, however, when I opened my pape

Procrastinate Now!

Today I face two work deadlines, three weeks of laundry, four important phone calls and a school gardening club. My time is finely carved, yet there is one thing I know I shall devote myself to unstintingly: procrastination.   This week researchers announced that we waste three years of our lives and 69 minutes of our day putting off essential tasks. Some of us can squander as much as two hours in 24, especially if we are women and especially if we live in Cambridge.  Now I am a woman and I once lived in Cambridge where, as I recall, we did indeed neglect needful chores such as stocking our larders and cleaning our rooms in order to fathom cosmic mysteries in The Bath inn. I am therefore amply qualified to procrastinate and procrastinate I do with gusto, which is why I'm writing this blog post instead of rinsing the family smalls. I take issue, however, with idea that those of us who have perfected this art are wasting our lives. Why, while other people are toiling over their t

Finding my Feet

When I venture outside, as many of you already know, I usually wear these: For church, glamour and my annual Wild Night Out I exchange them for these: But for the most part of most days, I am shod in these: Sunshine, however, throws me. My footwear has to endure the mile walk to school and back. It has to accommodate the fact that my nail varnish remover doesn't work and that the Vicar's stored his razor in an unknown new place, so I can't mow my shins.  And so, when things hot up, I turn to these: All of the above, except the Hunters, cause my young daughter pain. Especially my vintage M&S Footgloves (above). Because the mothers of other local 9-year-olds express a more proper sense of self in variations on these: When a batch of family prints arrives from Photobox, I feel the pain too. I look, I realise, like a vicar's wife. Maliciously, the sun decides to shines as I ponder this, and so my boots are no longer feasible. I decide, therefore, to go