Showing posts from September, 2013

How to Build a Character

Scout Camp, we're told, is character building. And I can certainly vouch for this as my 11-year old's two nights roughing it have imported numerous new virtues into our vicarage: Self-sacrifice : I missed my firstborn after depositing her in the Friday darkness with her sleeping bag and hold-all of Hollister tops. Her empty bed pained me in the mornings and I had, forlornly, to sing solo along to Adele songs on Youtube without her at my side. Humility : as, hastily, I subdued my uncool glee at the reunion upon clocking my daughter's warning scowl. Patience : as I listened with beaming attentiveness to a half-hour, high-speed account of who fancied whom on campus while, armed with a Post-it note of scrawled directions, I wrestled the A10 into submission. Courage : as I squared up to the damp, muddy menace that was her dirty laundry bag. Forbearance : as, all evening, I withstood the howls and recriminations of an adventurer who had achieved one hour's sleep th


I am regarded as an airhead. The scantiest mishap is used as corroboration against me. There was that time, for instance when I found I'd carefully soaped a block of butter in the washing up bowl (this was not my fault: the Vicar had slipped it into the butter dish while it waited in the queue of dirty dinner plates). The time when I decanted a hot tray of oven chips into the laundry basket (perfectly excusable; oven and washing machine sit side by side); the time I sent my son to school with an unfilled sandwich, poured orange juice into the cafetiere and the occasion last night when I poached two eggs in a waterless pan. 'Couldn't you smell the burning?' asked the Vicar incredulous. It's true that if I had properly marshalled my faculties I would not have left the car keys in the door all weekend or opened smalltalk with the Bishop with an account of a neighbour's breast implants. And it affects me as much as my family when I visit Budgens to buy bread and f

How Survive a Children's Party - the Expert's Guide

I've always assumed that children would be content to celebrate themselves with the sort of pleasures I favour for my own parties - a shimmy on the trampoline, pass-the-parcel and a sagging sponge improvised in the vicarage oven. And, until last year, the formula seemed foolproof. Now, though, a pack of crayons swaddled in back copies of The Guardian and my unpredictable baking are deemed a social handicap. The kids and their classmates require the hire of doughnut cafes, paint ball pitches and ice rinks to mark the passing years. This has its advantages; no more scraping vomit from the skirting boards and no more multi-packs of cheese strings colonising my lager shelf. It's easy, however, to assume that your large cheque absolves you from the risks of other people's children en masse. Don't be fooled. Each time your child gains a year you are likely to age by three more, whether or not you farm the festivities out to professionals. But there are precautions you can tak

Monster Mother

'You deserve a sock in your eye because you're so HORRIBLE!' screams the 10-year old, dislodging my contact lens with well-aimed footwear. I have never had any delusions about my character. 'Mediocre' wrote my history teacher. 'Lunatic' says my brother. But it takes offspring to divulge the full extent of ones defects. I never realised the depths of my egotism until my daughter pointed out the damage wholemeal bread and the mile-long walk to school is doing to her sense of Being. 'You are totally selfish!' she says. I never understood my callousness until my son blamed me for the pooches with killer eyes that cross his path on Sunday strolls. 'You are evil!' he shrieks. And my horribleness had not hit home until Sunday lunch when I deferred permission for the 10-year-old to browse body art on my laptop while we finished our sausages. I extract sock fibres from my left eyeball and reflect on motherhood. Storybooks tell of serene, selfl

Being Indispensible

Vocabulary in our vicarage is limited. If a bishop strays by, we may muster dialogue on theological ethics and we are capable of whole sentences on Haagen Dazs ice cream flavours. But mostly the family gets by on a catch-all three-letter word: mum . It serves as an expletive: 'M@!*M!! (You made me drop my iPod!) As an SOS: 'Muuumm! (There's a ghost under my mattress...) As an imperative: 'MUMMM!' (Come and get Barbie's hair out of the plug hole) As a warning: 'Mu-um!' (Don't dare wear that corduroy to school) As a prevarication: 'Ask Mum...' (...why you should iron your nightie for your wedding night) It is a privilege to be indispensible. But privileges can be wearing. The word is a prefix to almost every communication. And it is a prefix I am obliged laboriously to acknowledge before these communications can proceed, even if I am alone in the room with the speaker. 'Mum?' 'Yes?' 'I've changed my sneeze. D