Showing posts from October, 2012

A Halloween Tale

I used to hate Halloween. If I'd wanted kids to practise extortion with threats I'd have steered them towards a career in banking instead of sending them forth to wrest sweets from old ladies. And I'd never believed in ghouls. Then came my comeuppance. At nightfall, while trick or treaters roamed our streets, I was ambushed by a monster. It was a scrawny, slimy monster with purple flesh and scaly legs. There was a dripping hole where its face should have been and two pulsing bulges for eyes. My tranquil nights became hellish. The monster roared through the darkest hours. It seeped toxic mucus and it gnawed at my flesh. The more it gnawed, the larger it grew and slowly I realised that it wasn't my flesh it was gnawing, it was my heart. My monster had enslaved me and, in doing so, he had turned me into a monster. I would have vanquished any soul who prevented his flourishing and felled any predator who caused him harm. And he had turned me into a parag

It's a Dog's Life

I do not, as a rule, like shopping unless it involves a stationery department or soil conditioners. Today, however, my 10-year-old begged to visit Harrods. She wanted to sketch out her future living spaces for when she realises her ambition to be a primary school teacher/hair-dresser/Burberry model. The 7-year-old was also eager. He hoped for fragrant lotions in the in-store lavs. And so we trudged among Egyptian pillars and, when we reached the fashion-wear, I began to be interested. For amid the designer plaid, taffeta and leopard-print loucheness I could have bought a £95 pilot's uniform with a cap, a French maid's outfit for when the Bishop comes calling or, in readiness for Halloween, a fetching green witch's disguise. In furnishings, furred sofas are so much more 'Now' than leather and everyone's accessorising their bespoke four-posters: The patisserie, for a three figure fee, will cater for parties and there are delicacies in the wicker hampe

Braced for a Bishop

The Bishop, announces the Vicar, is coming to lunch next Sunday. I am worried. Sunday lunch is always chipolatas and cornettos in our vicarage and this may not be suitably episcopal. What, I wonder, do bishops like to eat? 'Bread and wine!' retorts my scornful 10-year-old. The Vicar is worried. He too fears that his Sunday morning schedule will expose the Bishop to chipolatas. Even more, he fears that I might Rise to the Occasion and ruin his social standing with my attempts at proper cooking. The 10-year-old is worried. She suspects that small talk with a purple-frocked prelate, if word gets out, would be deemed an uncool weekend leisure activity by her school peers. And she knows that she might not get her Cornetto. The 7-year-old is, however, serene. His talent for ingratiation should one day earn him a job in the Foreign Office. If his sister is in disgrace he'll curry favour with his father by voicing a religious vocation. If she rejects her dinner-time peas he&


The latest prompt from the 100-Word Challenge wants us to add 100 words to and winter will bring . You can tell from my crusted nails that I've been preparing tirelessly for what the coming season has in store...  When, with creeping years and budget cuts, life seems full of endings, I seek refuge in the soil. From seeds, frail as dust, rainbows unfurl and beauty lies dormant in the ugliness of bulbs. Gardening is the art of patient hopefulness. We plant saplings we won't live to see mature. Amid the dying leaves of autumn we bury bulbs for a radiant spring. Ordure, too, has purpose. The days may darken and winter will bring its chill, but dung shields the sleeping life and nourishes when it wakens. When parents decline and recessions bite, I must recall the resilient hope of the gardener. And buy seeds!


The government, this morning's news tells me, is launching an apprenticeship scheme for would-be spies. Until now I've assumed that, should redundancy claim me, my future will unfold behind a Tesco check-out. How else is a middle-aged mother, who no longer recalls what an isosceles triangle is, to earn the mortgage repayments? But today middle-aged mothers must have jubilated, for who could be better qualified for state espionage than our nation's parents? We've spent years outwitting our children, decoding body language, sweet-talking officials and suppressing our  pre-parent identities. Who but a parent could secure unquestioning co-operation with a jelly bean? Glean, through deft reconnaissance, the contents of other children's school lunch boxes? Infiltrate the closed ranks of a toddler group? I've been hastily redrawing my CV to highlight my requisite skills and I suggest that you all do the same for when the secret service comes calling. Adaptability

The Thief of Time

It can't be that time is the sentence that must be incorporated into this week's  100-word-challenge . I believe I was uttering those very words as I read the prompt and realised I'd forgotten to scavenge the freezer for the children's supper. Parents, says new research, need 27-hour in a day. This is clearly absurd – I need 32 to be the woman I'm meant to be.  Lately my days have been shrinking faster than woollens on a hot cycle. I've shed superfluous distractions like dusting and cooking. For essential activities I've learnt to multi-task: I can draft a blog-post whilst manuring my flowerbeds and dial Boden while helping my children through their Haribos. Nevertheless, 'It can't be that time!' I panic as school beckons when I'm busy with my nap. Age eats into flesh, we know – but, with far greater ruthlessness, I realise, it devours Time.  

One Year On

It was a year ago this Tuesday that an anchoress in Alaska unwittingly launched me into the Blogosphere. The Vicar, having read her latest theological wisdom, clicked a tab on her blog and propelled my own musings - on how to stand trendily at the school gate - onto the Worldwide Web. Back then, before I'd heard of mummy bloggers and before my aged laptop permitted me onto Twitter, I blogged about the tooth fairy, my daughter's quest for biological enlightenment and the knitted breasts in the vestry. Twelve months have matured me. Now I write of swabbing midnight vomit, my daughter's quest an iPod and nipple tassles in the nave. This cyber-journey has taught me many new truths: that every domestic setback, from shredded tissues in the hot cycle to the embarrassing moment with the Bishop, has an underlying value - as a blog post! that blogging accelerates children's mastery of life skills. Yep, ever since I began spending hours in isolation with my laptop my help


I am perched on the rim of the boiler cupboard talking of cat food brands with a row of similarly balanced mothers. It's a weekly ritual. Before us a flotilla of heads bobs in pool which is loaned by a secondary school for swimming lessons. The chlorine smells of vomit. Possibly it is vomit for there are sinister scurf marks on the changing room floor. And all of a sudden it hits me that I shall look back on this unlovely routine with nostalgia when my children are grown. So startling is this discovery that I consider other tedious childcare fixtures with new eyes. The Saturday morning battle over the Coco-pops in the mini-cereals selection pack, for instance, and the fractious pelt through the park to school. When, in my bath chair, I look back, I'll excise my shrillness and their complaints and remember only sunlit hopscotch over the dog turds. From my bath chair, in fact, even nit-combing will probably come to seem desirable. When I am no longer indispensable, I shall mo


The vandal who defaced the £50m Mark Rothko painting at Tate Modern this week did so, he claims, in the name of his one-man art movement, Yellowism. I do not agree with daubing art works, but I too have made great sacrifices for Yellowism. The £60 of school dinner money spent on sacks of poo, for instance. That summer of pick-axing that has unstrung my back. The hours I've spent wandering garden centres instead of filling my trolley at Co-op and the nights my children have gone hungry while I've been crouched in the London clay. Today the morning sun spot-lit my autumn border and this was the view from the breakfast table. The money, the hours and the seized-up shoulders have fused finally into a hymn to Yellowism and my children can have their mummy back again. For a season! This is my contribution to The Gallery at Sticky Fingers which requires photos on a theme of yellow. 

The Worst Thing About Motherhood...

The prompt from this week's 100-word Challenge   at Julia's Place is I woke with another headache which effortlessly reminded me of two nights last month - and innumerable nights before that. It's probably the worst thing about motherhood. And it's a thing they don't warn you of – those upbeat parenting manuals.  The knock drags you from slumber in the small hours. 'I woke with another headache,' they wail. The wafts on the landing tell you the rest. Turgid with sleep you prioritise. Fill a bath for the vomit-soaked invalid; fill a sink for the foul-clotted bedding. You shampoo. You launder. You tuck them up, soap-scented, in clean sheets and you soothe them into serenity.  Then, irreversibly awake, you return to bed and you realise: the power to relieve childish grief is probably the best thing about motherhood.

How to Be Happy

Now that austerity has deflated national economies, governments are switching their attentions to that elusive asset: happiness. David Cameron plans an official assessment of the nation's spirits, China has launched a happiness index for local government officials and deep in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan a Gross National Happiness Centre is under development to teach its disproportionately suicidal citizens how to count their blessings. The secret to happiness has, however, already been cracked by a housewife in a Manhattan penthouse. The Happiness Project, in which Gretchen Rubin set herself a 12-month deadline to achieve bliss, planted her at the top of the New York Times' bestseller list and now, after all that questing, she's found the darn thing - it was lurking in her own flat all the time. Yours could be festering in your home too, unnoticed under the sofa cushions. To find it, according to Rubin in her latest DIY manual Happiness at Home: Kiss more, Jump more

Marital Mysteries

The latest prompt for the 100 Word Challenge requires us to add 100 words to suddenly it was in my hand . For some reason my tax return sprang to mind, but as I tried to wrestle this into appropriate prose, I recalled a disconcerting revelation at the start of my marriage:  It must have slithered somehow from its moorings for suddenly it was in my hand. My mother had warned me that marriage exposes many mysteries, but I hadn't anticipated this. In those early days it would unfurl in the most inconvenient places and, frankly, I was disappointed. It was thin, short and slippery – not the imposing specimen it had looked from afar. Nowadays, of course, I'm used to it. If I spot it where it shouldn't be I restore it reverently to its place. But I remain disconcerted by its measliness – the plastic dog collars that roam modern vicarages are shadows of their starched-linen predecessors.