Showing posts from June, 2013


I am driving my 10 year-old to her weekly gymnastics class. We are not in harmony. She is berating me for refusing to allow her an iPhone. I am berating her for spurning the supper I'd painstakingly incinerated for her. As we draw up at the leisure centre I have decided, not for the first time, that I am not cut out for motherhood. She stumps off to the gymnastics hall; I join a slumped row of mothers on the floor of the viewing gallery. I am nursing wounded feelings and read a novel instead of watching my firstborn with the raptness she expects of me. Later I look up. She and her class partner are performing backwards rolls. Her partner rotates clumsily and doesn't get up again. Teachers bend over her, cajoling her to stand, but she lies there, head bent to the floor, legs twisted under her, and she doesn't respond. I think she's malingering and watch with amused exasperation as she ignores all overtures. A group of lifeguards are summoned from the pool. They too try


I do most of my mothering on a wing and a prayer. Only come evening do I forage the fridge in hopes of stray proteins for supper. Homework is a high-speed frenzy over breakfast bowls and my tartan sofa rug has had to stand in for most fancy-dress costumes required by school. I have, however, always been braced for puberty. Patience and humour were to be my guides. I would extract the Usborne book with the frightening diagrams that I'd hidden behind my archive of Gardener's World and talk my daughter through feminine biology. I would shop companionably with her for her first bra and I would defuse adolescent tantrums with a kiss. Now, though, our once quiet vicarage is bedevilled by puberty and I have lost control. The Vicar watches papal masses at top volume on Youtube to drown out the shouting beyond his study door. Fights are needlessly picked, recriminations slung up and down the stairs and the sulks can cloud an entire afternoon. Yes, my behaviour has deteriorated dism

Father's Day

It is the family service. For once the eight-year-old goes unprotestingly to Sunday School so I can sit in my pew with dignity unimpeded by a small boy building himself a bust out of rolled-up service sheets or rehearsing Gangnam-style manoeuvres in the nave. The Vicar, majestic in vestments, preaches of love, faith and hopefulness and I watch the faces of the faithful raptly absorbing his wisdom. I wonder, not for the first time, how it must feel to be a revered father-figure to such a throng and, furtively, I suppress a length of loo roll trailing from my sleeve so as to look worthy of him. The Sunday School troops back into church. The children are clutching glittered cards for Father's Day. The Vicar, all dignified benevolence, invites them to read out their tributes and, to my surprise, the eight-year-old, ordinarily silenced by an audience, is first up to the microphone. I beam proudly as he regards his daddy and musters his courage. 'My Dad,' he begins, 'is v

To Catch a Thief

My name is Anna and I am a kleptomaniac. 'Where,' shouts the Vicar, 'have you put my swimming trunks?' 'Where,' shouts the 8yo, 'have you hidden my school tie?' 'You're dead meat, ' bawls my daughter, 'if you've lost that over-the-knee sock with the bow on.' Guiltily I survey the empty banister where the clerical trunks usually hang and wonder if I have, through some unconscious compulsion, spirited them off to my potting shed. I survey the scrunched uniform shed by my son at last night's bath time and try to recall if I hijacked the tie. And I climb inside the family duvet covers in search of said sock because I remember putting it in the washing machine and I don't remember taking it out again. Marriage and motherhood have exposed my criminal underside. And the volume of items that go  missing is shaming. Most of the Vicar's socks are without partners, the remote control for the DVD has not been seen since an


Our family has gained a garrulous new member. She spends her days in my 10-year-old's room and is unprepossessing in looks and character. From the bed she holds forth on her world view which is as jaundiced as her complexion, for Tweety is a creature of vigorous and vociferous prejudices. She deplores my M&S wardrobe (she demands Hollister) and shouts over Radio 4 (she wants Heart FM). Tweety is contemptuous of Sunday Mass (she desires shopping malls), appalled by green vegetables (her diet is restricted to pastrami sticks) and is militant about washing up and pocket money (she requires £20 a week with extra for the Superdrug make-up counter). 'It's not me, it's Tweety!' protests my 10-year-old when shrieks of derision greet the family Skoda. Life has become clamourous since Tweety was won at an Easter tombola, and yet, united in disapproval, my daughter and I live in vastly improved harmony. And so I too have decided to acquire a friend who will fearl