Showing posts from March, 2013

In Search of Self

'You know I have an attitude problem,' says the 10-year-old. There's a hint of pride in her voice. 'Yes,' I reply warily. 'Well everyone in Year 5 and 6 has one too. It's something you get when you're ten.' Impertinence, I realise, is the latest playground must-have, along with a Juicy Couture school bag, Ralph Lauren underpants and an iPod Touch. Anyone with dreams of status has rehearsed the curled lip and the cocked hip with which to repulse all adult utterances. They've mugged up on fashionable conversation openers: 'You're dead, Mum!'/ 'You just don't geddit!'/'You wanna ruin my life!'. They've jettisoned puerile pleasures: bedtime stories/family time and devoted themselves to the things that really matter: self-adhesive nail extensions, New Look fashions, Jesse J and Instagram. The shadowed eyes, for which I've blamed hormones, are down to the strain of this transition. I've been distracted


There's an emotion that assails you when your child draws its first breath and that emotion remains steadfast for as long as you draw your own. The feeling powers you through those hectic months of bonding, through the first wrench of schooldays and through the turmoil of teens. It requires of you sacrifices that your childless self would have quailed at and conjures spectres that appal you in the night hours. This feeling is inevitable, indestructible and all-consuming. It's called guilt. There is no remedy, although you'll convince yourself that every other parent has found one. When you feed your kids sausages, you know that every other mother is serving organic ragout. When you terrorise them for tardiness on school days, you know that every other mother is cheerfully diffusing tension with a sing-along. Other mothers never shout at their children, never feed them cheese strings, never leave their bed sheets on for five weeks and never harry them from the house so t

Wild Living

The prompt for this week's 100-Word Challenge at Julia's Place is The unseasonal weather meant . Dunno what made her think of that one... The unseasonal weather meant we had to rely on our inner resources last weekend. My eight-year-old possesses enough of these for all of us. He sold paperclip bangles which hooked me inextricably to a stranger during the morning crush on the Tube. He taught me to recite rhymes to cheer a potted palm and he invented the killer game 'Suspense': together we gazed at his digital clock and watched for the minute to change.  Relentless winter intensifies family time and that's a privilege. My son has many more distractions up his sleeve. So why, ungratefully, do I now find myself longing for the liberation of sunshine? 


My children want to make biscuits. 'To be a cook you must have the look!' says the ten-year-old. She has been holding clandestine talks with my mother about my need for cosmetic enhancements and, while I'm looking out my apron, she produces a bucket full of lurid substances which I never knew she owned. She applies to cosmetics the same technique that she uses for her splatter paintings. Now and then she swabs the splashback off with a tissue soaked with spittle. My looks may be improved by the ordeal but my confidence is not. 'I can't get the lip gloss on straight,' she says, making random sweeps with a tube of pink gel, 'because you've got all these little red lines going off your mouth.' When I am suitably glistening she tells me to keep my mouth shut at all times to hide my yellow teeth. Then she ponders a cunning hairstyle that will hide my moles. Eventually I am ready to survey my new reflection. 'You look years younger!'

A Nation of Undesirables

I've just completed the trawl though atlases, timetables, savings accounts and passport renewal forms in order to book our summer holiday. And, having settled on a beguiling gîte in Brittany I was about to become excited when I realised who would be coming with me. Believe me, you wouldn't want to holiday with this woman. I suspect she's on day release from a female offenders' institution. She definitely looks as though she'd been doing hard drugs. Or maybe I'm misjudging her and her grim-faced pallor is a symptom of galloping tuberculosis. The Vicar, too, paled when he saw the company he would be keeping. He's been lurking in his study ever since laying eyes on her, bracing himself for August. So you see, the Home Office has a lot to answer for. I suspect its requirements for passport photos are part of a strategy to reduce the numbers entering this country, for most immigration officials would baulk at admitting the personages pictured in the averag

Mothering Sunday

'What,' the Vicar asked the assembled children at the Mothering Sunday service, 'does your mother do for you?' 'She cooks us nice meals,' answered one. 'She gives us love,' lisped another. 'She tells us off!' mumbled my son. I marshalled a beatific smile and attempted to resemble the tirelessly loving, deliciously competent cooks in the pews all around me. I tied a tablecloth round a small boy who was portraying the disciple John during the sermon, I draped a blue handkerchief over the head of a small girl who was being Mary and I hoped that in the eyes of all but my offspring I embodied an icon of motherhood. Then the children gave out daffodils to their mothers. 'I told 'em I had two lesbian mothers so I could get you two bunches,' said my daughter loudly. This time my beatific smile was ineffective. The elderly worshipper next to me shifted sharply along the pew. When the service ended the octogenarian lay reader limped up


My ten-year-old can fluently recite lines from a sex chatline. 'Yes, I'm wearing my school uniform, silly!' she simpers, 'And I've finished my oral, although I did find it a bit of a mouthful at first.' The unwitting culprit is my father who thought that St Trinians was all cardigan-clad mischief-making under the wholesome eye of Joyce Grenfell and who therefore bought a DVD of the 21st-century remake from Age UK. When I arrive, my daughter is raptly viewing schoolgirls in black-frilled scanties running a telephonic sideline from their dormitory. I waver. My daughter thinks she is watching a clutch of teens having a makeover and my dismay baffles her. If I grabbed the remote and trashed the disc I'd have to explain the offence and rouse even greater zeal. If I let her continue she would revolutionise her classmate's games in the school playground. 'Mum, I'm ten!' she protests as I mutter my misgivings. So, troubled, I let her continue and

Saturday is Caption Day

over at R ocknrollmum . In case any of you were thinking that vicar's wives are purely ornamental I want it known that tremendous skills are demanded of us. Baking, for instance. My oven fancies are the ballast of church fetes and socials. Here, for instance, is the birthday cake I baked this week: Any appreciative caption suggestions would be welcome!