Showing posts from September, 2012

Agony Aunt

A stranger has sought me out in the blogosphere hoping for advice on 'wearing my wife's shoes.' I'm quite happy to oblige. Wait, dear, until she's out shopping and have a trial run in the bedroom before flaunting them down at the Working Men's Club. You wouldn't want to make a fool of yourself - stilettoes, you see, can topple a man faster than a crate of Bishop's Finger. I'm less confident that I can steer the surfer questing 'elderly man in his jockstrap'. I'll keep a look out, for sure, but, you know, with so many pensioners cruising the aisles of Asda in posing pouches you might need to narrow the search down a little. When I began blogging nearly a year ago I was acutely aware that I had no wisdom to add to cyberspace. I love gardening, but the blogosphere is crowded with far more expert amateurs than me.  I'm pretty well schooled in consumer rights, but government websites have already done a thorough job on the Sale of

What Lies Beneath

This week's prompt for the 100-word challenge is a picture. Last night a ripper was on the loose. Guts lay in slimy pink piles in the corridors. Last night also a friend's toddler plunged head-first down a stairwell while in my care. And then I lost my teeth and my daughter. Why should a mind, placid in daylight, unleash such horrors at bedtime? By day we are anchored by deadlines, smalltalk and teabags. At night, when darkness swallows the reassuring props and the mind is uncaged, we are reminded that the comforts we cling to are frail ones and that we are all perched perilously above the unknown.

Capturing Time

Today my daughter turns 10. She rejoices in her new seniority. I lament her ebbing childhood. Once birthday lists contained dolls clothes and magic wands. Now she requests Hollister hoodies and an iPod Touch. We get out the albums and watch her morph over the pages from a blurred foetus to a lanky schoolgirl. She questions me closely about the forgotten years. For her, the mop-haired toddler is a stranger. For me, sometimes, it's the tall pre-teen beside me, who is unfamiliar. In my mind's eye, she is small enough to lie on my lap and biddable enough to stay there. In clothes shops I unthinkingly head for garments that are five years too small. In reality she is big enough to borrow my shoes and cool enough to lament my sober heels. I regret now all those years I wished her older so that I might gain quiet nights, civilised meals and the luxurious liberation of school days. I'm worried that I didn't make the most of what I had, while I had it. And I'm nervous

Home Truths

Middle-age is an underrated condition. Those who have yet to reach it fear it; those who have, deny it. A survey by that matchless celebration of mid-life endeavour, Saga, shows that its customers reckon they pass from youth to old age near their 70th birthdays, bypassing middle-age entirely. I am an expert in this field. I entered middle-age in spirit in my early teens and in body a good half decade ago. It's a stage that brings many comforts - a thicker skin, maturer children, guiltless nights on the sofa and an extensive collection of cardigans. But its greatest gift is wisdom. While the young continue their blundering pursuit of their true selves, we mid-lifers have found ours, absorbed the shock, made some necessary adjustments and resigned ourselves to what we cannot change. And so, from this enviable perch, I'm contributing to KateTakes5's collection of Truths as divined by women. Younger readers like Kate - this list of enlightenment could save you years of s

Ageing Gracefully

I strayed the other day past a shop which sold classy and desirable homeware. I knew that it was classy and desirable because the soft items were patterned with Cath Kidston-style florals and the hard ones notched and lined with cracks and crinkles. Distressed furniture is the scientific term. The more distressed a chest of drawers, the more it is valued.  House guests are supposed to assume that the chest has passed through your family dynasty; that each scar, painstakingly applied by a craftman's tool, is a souvenir of a generation. My body is similarly distressed. My chest, after four decades of family life, resembles the railway intersection at Crewe. A craftsman would be proud of the fine lines that pleat my face and I've grown three well-shaped liver spots on one hand. By rights, like that furniture, I should be highly prized by society. Yet adverts urge on me hi-tech slime to thwart Time. Clinics beg to hack years off me with a surgeon's knife. And now I read tha

How to Cook Incompetently

As the apple fell is the latest prompt for the 100 Word Challenge . Anyone who was on Twitter last week might have heard my anguished cries from the kitchen after I'd burnt a pan of apples. @kateab answered them with the following fragrant recipe which saved the greater part of the Vicar's cherished Le Creuset pan and, thereby, my marriage. For decades it's shamed me. Then, as the apple fell, I made my resolution. My crassness in the kitchen is legendary. Guests pale at the thought of my catering. My children have been reared on fishfingers. But now Worcestershire Pearmains rain down on me and the lawn is aroll with Bramleys, so gingerly I braved the cooker. Too late, the stench of incinerated Le Creuset recalled me. Frantically I simmered a soup of washing powder to salvage the Vicar's best saucepan. I blocked it from view when he came home, but he smiled and, for the first time in our marriage, declared: 'Something smells good!'


'What,' I asked my 9-year-old, 'Would your three wishes be?' Solemnly she sorted her priorities and concluded: to meet Emma Watson, to become an Olympian and for us all to be happy. I asked my 8-year-old niece. She required no reflection. 'A bow and arrow, a sword and shield and a laser gun,' she replied. I admire childish precision. But now Babberblog has turned the tables on me. He wants to know what I want. I assume he means that whatever it is he'll try to get it for me. The trouble is, my mind's now gone a total blank. Naturally, I crave world peace, health and wealth for all, a rebirth of the rain forests and a cure for dandruff, but I'd better keep my wants within the realms of reason so that Babberblog has a chance of procuring them for me by Christmas. So, Mr B, these, in random order are my desires: I want hair like Wonder Woman. All around me, insane beauties are forcing the curl from their tresses and bleaching out their chestnut h

Secret Gratification

Returning to the routine is the prompt for this week's 100-Word Challenge . I was about to glory in my reclaimed domestic rituals in a blog post anyway, so all I had to do was delete half the adjectives to fit! This week I felt suffused with wellbeing. The cause? I'd matched a stray sock in the laundry to a single sock in the Vicar's drawer. Heady with triumph, I indulged in self-gratification. I arranged the spare loo rolls in a pyramid. I conquered the rings of limescale round the taps. And I bagged half my children's possessions into bin-liners while they wrestled fractions at school. The summer holidays were invigorating, but returning to the routine brings a superior fulfilment. Today, for instance, I am agog for that ritual unburdening. Yep - no spa resort can offer the purifying pleasure that is bin night!

A Happy Ending

Yesterday my 9-year-old was wrestling the new experience of grief. Today she learnt about miracles. Her beloved black cat vanished ten days ago and we all presumed he was dead. Then we received a call from a stranger in response to this: The stranger happened to have been in our neighbourhood, happened to have seen our posters, then happened to take a walk past a secluded fairytale cottage in the woods: There on the gate he saw this: A black cat had arrived starving on the cottage doorstep the week before, he discovered, and the owner had been leaving food in the front garden ever since. Instinct convinced him it was Harry. Instinct convinced us that it couldn't be. We drove to the woods and found the pink cottage and soon a small black cat came hurtling out of its front garden. He found us before we found him. It was Harry. He had strayed half a mile over fox-ridden parkland, crossed a busy main road, climbed a wooded hill and arrived at the lonely cottage the very sa

The Lessons of Loss

Death has touched my my 9-year-old over the last two years. She sat a foot from the coffins of her great aunt and uncle at their double funeral. She watched the cremation service for her grandfather, mourned the loss of a schoolfriend's mother and attended the burial of the kind man at church who had given her his collection of vintage toy cars. The disappearance of familiar faces baffled, but did not unduly grieve her. She tried and failed to imagine the people she'd known nailed into the wooden boxes. She gathered fragments of memory - her grandpa's flourishing bow when he opened the front door, the ice cream the friend's mother had bought her - and tried and failed to comprehend that they would do these things no more. But life continued its orderly path without them and she moved serenely onwards with it. It's taken the disappearance of a small black cat to teach her the reality of loss. Harry was her baby. She'd race upstairs from school to see if he

Intimate Secrets

Last week a security man at London's Natural History Museum asked to search my handbag. I was dismayed. I have, you see, things to hide. Things that I really do not wish London's security officials to know about. Should some of these things come to light, my good standing in the community could be gravely undermined. The man, however, was ruthless. He rummaged unfeelingly through my capacious companion and exposed my guiltiest secrets to public scrutiny. For all those in the queue behind me could see that within the elegant contours of my leather Bridge bag lurked: I'm not sure why I carry a potato peeler. Probably it dates from my backpacking days in Eastern Europe when I had to seize any culinary opportunity that came my way. For those who scoff, how do you know you won't find yourself in the middle of a carrot field one day, and require instant gratification? Yes, I do have those sophisticated tissues in neat plastic packages, but I don't ever open them if