Showing posts from November, 2012

Business Magnate

Ten years ago I decided to become the boss of a small business. The staff was minimal – just me, one part-timer (the Vicar) and a couple of advisors. The overheads, however, were enormous. Eye-watering figures were spent investing in infrastructure and researching core strategies. But what I hadn't bargained for was the emotional cost: the sleepless nights; the anxiety when projected deliverables failed and the fear that storm clouds would scupper my blue-sky thinking. I wonder why it has taken everyone else until this week to realise that parenthood and corporate management are the self-same thing. Mothers, some expert has belatedly acknowledged, are essentially CEOs of a small business – it's just that the assets are infants and the core product body fluids. Why, (also this week) it was calculated that over seven days during Christmas we CEO mothers perform £2,500 worth of work, ranging from chef to chauffeur. What a triumph it is for the sisterhood to know that their

In Memoriam

Grey is the prompt for this week's 100 Word Challenge . Some twenty years ago, when I wandered through a Richmond cemetery, I came upon a grave that stopped me in my tracks. I visited several times over the following few seasons and I know I shouldn't have peeked, but I'm glad I did for the memory of it has inspired me ever since. She was 14 when she died. A letter, taped to the headstone, told of teenage grief at the loss of a soulmate and pictured teenage revelry at discos in Heaven. For two years the letters continued. As earthly adolescence brought rows at home and trouble with the police, the dead friend lived on as a confidante. The world would have seen tough young troublemakers, but it was bewildered souls with an innocent faith in the afterlife who unburdened themselves to the 'angel' who empathised. And I, who had read despair in that grey tombstone, now, through their certainty, gained hope.

Fashion Guru

Children, I read, are hogging appointments with personal shoppers at posh department stores because their mothers are too busy to keep abreast of the latest wardrobe must-haves. Now I frequently fear that, when it comes to motherhood, I'm a failure. I rush to check my blog stats before I greet my children. I shout at them when they're obtuse about decimals and supper is often a panicked improvisation with the Vicar's breakfast leftovers. But deficient as I am, my daughter does have a personal shopper. Me. And I am expert in the latest wardrobe must-haves. In winter I am tireless in my pursuit of insulating thermals. I steer her knowledgeably away from kitten heels in Barratts to the supportive rubber soles of Clarks. I can sniff out a polyknit from a hundred yards and my sartorial savvy allows me to guage, at a glance, the most durable pyjamas and the most washable wools. But does my ten-year-old appreciate this personal service that unluckier children have to pay for

Devil Child

The prompt for this week's 100 word challenge is  I really tried not to laugh . Which means I had no choice but to write about what happened after the Sunday service this week.  My son hurried to the church hall to snaffle Oreos. His blond head bobbed angelically amid the faithful and I watched with pride as he beguiled a bevy of rapt ladies. Then I glimpsed the iPod. The ladies were posing for portraits and waiting expectantly for the results. I darted forward, but too late. With five finger taps he'd deprived the churchwarden of her hair and aged her twenty years. The ladies from the choir had gained ten stone apiece and grown moustaches. And the Vicar? I really tried not to laugh as I realised that for 13 years I've been sharing my pillows with this:

Growing Pains

'You'll come to my parenting session on sex?' begged the headteacher grabbing my tweed elbow and steering me into the school hall. The lady sent from the council to make us face up to our anatomies scrawled biological terms on a white board then addressed the captive mothers. 'What,' she asked, 'is the average age that girls reach puberty?' '12?' ventured the bravest of us. '14?' 'Eight!' said the lady triumphantly and wrote 'eight' on the white board. There was a bewildered murmur from the audience. Only I was unsurprised. Puberty, I've learned, is not heralded by packs of Bodyform Ultra or incipient bristles. It begins with a rash of equally unnerving symptoms, none of which biology guides warn you about. And in our vicarage it commenced around the age of seven. It's taken me a couple of years to realise what these symptoms signified and I was about to share my wisdom with the anxious mothers in the sex sessi

The Function of Mothers

Compliments, say researchers, are a sounder currency than cash when it comes to motivating people.  I read this with interest. Efforts to bribe my children to perform basic domestic functions have failed. A carnage of Barbies obscures my daughter's carpet and flung socks and sweet wrappers track my son's progress through the week.  And so I changed tack. 'Your hair looks like Emma Watson's,' I told my 10-year-old, 'and you sing like Adele. Now will you wash up your supper things!'  The silence was deafening.  'You're always telling me not to act older,' she retorted at last. 'Well, washing up is what mums do.' This week's prompt for the 100 Word Challenge is the silence was deafening . As you can see I am accustomed to this phenomenon. If 50p extra pocket money a week and fawning flattery don't work, what else do you suggest I try?

Daily Mail Columnists Should Wear Burkas

Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones has provoked the ire of Twitter with by declaring that mummy bloggers are blinkered dimwits whose lives are spiced by Napisan. I'm afraid I have to sympathise with her, for all of her prejudices echo my own: Writing about my life has pretty much ruined it. Supper last night was an elderly carrot glued to the fridge shelf by a pool of brown mucus and the floor was flooded when I left the bath taps running because Blogger has diverted me from domestic essentials. I've had to shut the children in front of the television when a new post has assailed me and some family members no longer speak to me because Twitter interactions leave me no time to reach the telephone. But there is a big part of me that thinks writing should be hard: you should cringe whenever you press that 'publish' button. Artists – and I'm sorry, I do consider myself an artist – have to wrench the dirtiest, most disgusting part of their inner soul and show it t


It is the Sunday service and the Vicar is preaching about mementos. We all gaze appreciatively at his late father's qualification from the Royal Institute of Chartered Accountants and his certificate from the Royal Life-Saving Society. Then he draws out a large framed photo of his sister's old school friend. Note to self: find where the Vicar keeps this photo and substitute a portrait of the new Archbishop of Canterbury. The friend, he tells the assembled cubs and scouts, had raven hair and filmic cheekbones and, on a family trip to a fairground, he made sure that he shared a pod with her on one of the rides. Unfortunately the ride was a fast and furious one and unfortunately he had just eaten a large portion of chips. The vicar-to-be threw up all over the school friend's shapely knees. The memory, he says, came back to haunt him last year when he saw his sister's old friend in the national newspapers - and he draws forth another framed photo: If it hadn&#

More than a Mother

My name is 'E and G's Mum' and I am a mother: Stimulating my children through public indignity I don't always look like that, obviously. Sometimes I look like this: Nurturing my children with Fairy non-biological And on occasion, when I leave the house, I look like this: Hunter-gathering My main place of work, as many of you have already seen, is here: Hub of the house My evenings are spent reading bulb catalogues under a woolly tartan rug in an armchair while the Vicar sits under a woolly tartan rug on the sofa and plays Angry Birds. It was not always like this. No, once upon a time I answered to Anna. I read the paper over hot tea in at breakfast time and I thought a wet wipe was a killer cocktail. In those days my place of work was an ergonomic chair in a glass office with a latte machine. And in those days I could sweep men off their feet: My two-day body guard training course And transport them to heavenly spheres:

Miss Malaprop

‘Mummy,’ announces the 10-year-old, ‘is too tired to exclaim her consequences!’ As her ambition outstrips her vocabulary, her conversation becomes rivetingly surreal. She admonishes the Vicar for nitpicking: ‘Don’t be so nutritious [pedantic]!’ She sympathises with a friend who has been insulted. ‘I’d feel very bedraggled [dismayed] if someone said that to me!’ and exclaims in disgust when her brother exhibits a half-chewed Malteser: ‘That’s a bad privilege [habit]!’ I love this fearless manipulation of language. My children, armed with a handful of primary-school nouns, can make themselves understood more confidently in France than I can with my university degree, because they are oblivious to grammatical embarrassments and inventive of expressive alternatives. Only children could converse with the profoundly deaf teenager in our first parish, because they were unfettered by self-consciousness. They talked and gestured normally, whilst we adults smiled uneasily and scarpered. I


The picture is the prompt for this week's 100-word Challenge . The orange spot daubs trees that are to be felled to make way for the rest. It's an apt choice as our ash trees are incinerated, but it made me think of a worn leather album that records my family through the 1930 and 1940s. There's the woman in uniform beaming in a field, a teenage Hercules posed in a loincloth and a girl in a garden with dramatic tumbling hair.  Each died young and violently - the woman crushed during wartime training and the teenager electrocuted at work. The flowing-haired girl slit her throat.  I gaze at their smiles and hunt for a portent - a sign in their eyes that they knew Fate had marked them. But they gaze gaily back, vitality frozen in sepia. And now I fear future eyes finding my albums, studying the smiles of my children with the awful benefit of hindsight.   


Kate on Thin Ice has kindly offered me a Reader Appreciation Award. I don't fully earn it, however, until I have faced down an inquisition. I'm not sure my readers will appreciate wading through my mental trivia, but I'm always greedy for gongs so, with multiple apologies, here's my life story: Where do you do most of your writing/blogging? At a desk by the spare room window so I can keep an eye on the Vicar as he paces the parish and watch passing drivers discover the council's vicious new speed bumps. What books were your childhood favourites? Dostoevsky saw me through my first years of primary school. Oh, all right - it was Enid Blyton! I refused to read anything else until I was 15. Then I discovered Anne of Green Gables and Tom's Midnight Garden and have yet to find anything to match them. Who is your favourite fictional character? Anne of Green Gables, obviously. And the murderess in My Cousin Rachel (Daphne du Maurier). Have you ever Goo