Friday, 13 February 2015

A Platonic Valentine to My Friends

I listen to Radio 2, which I’m sure will come as no surprise!  On Thursday’s, there is a ‘higher or lower’ song feature, requiring the lovely sports presenter (never seen him, just sounds like a good egg) to guess whether the second song was out earlier or later than the first one played.  Anyway, last week it was ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy, which took me right back to the day I got my finals.  My friend K had stayed over at my house, having travelled back to Liverpool to get the results.  We hit my local the night before and somehow K managed to rip her jeans on the way home and we never worked out why.  Seven pints does seem to dull the brain cells.  The morning of the results, the radio alarm went off and the song playing was ‘Good Enough’ (clearly not listening to Radio 2 when I was 21!).  As it turned out it was more than good enough as I nabbed a better classification that I had been expecting!

It got me thinking about K, and how we’re just Christmas card and Facebook friends now, and how I’ve completely lost touch with another one of our gang, and it made me melancholy for a mo.  Such is life and the passage of time and all that.  However, it did get me thinking of all my fab friends that I do have more regular contact with, and how it would be good if there was a platonic Valentine’s type day for all the wonderful people who enhance our lives, whether they be real, virtual, constant or in and out.  I watch Daughter with her friends now and wonder whether they will be distant memories in 30 years or whether she will still be laughing with R about how R loved our rug and used to come and make rug angels on it!

I went out for dinner with some of my ‘mum’ friends last week, and we had such a good time.  These are new friends, acquired at the school gates, and they only know the ‘now’ me.  There’s J, who is so calm and chilled and just being in her very presence is like having a soothing balm rubbed on your temples.  Then there’s another J, who makes me snort with laughter every single time we meet, whether that be exchanging children on a play-date or on a night out, or just exchanging plans to drink gin.  We’re planning to take our girls to the Big Smoke in the autumn, so that should be fun. H is my mum-idol.  If there’s any doubt or confusion about school plans, date or requirements, we all chime in with the same…H will know!  She’s got an older child, and most of the rest of us have only got one, or have younger ones, so she is the acknowledged guru.  And she makes a darned strong cocktail!  And not forgetting R, upon whom Daughter loads bags full of toys/tat at school drop-off when she is going to their house for tea (despite the fact that her friend, R’s daughter A, has also got plenty of toys and no doubt tat, and really they just want to wait for R’s partner to come home so they can play whatever computery thing they’ve got!).  And of course, ‘R lets me have two eggs!’ (subtext:  unlike you, Mother, you mean and miserable one egg miser) , which is akin to a Nobel Peace Prize for Daughter!  And L, who is witty and funny, and usually has the up-to-date information (I wouldn’t sully her reputation by calling it gossip!).

The there’s ‘the girls’.  They’ve starred before, and we do like to operate a ‘Vegas’ policy, having all known the ‘then’ us…We don’t see each other enough, but what we are absolutely certain of it that time doesn’t matter.  Whether it’s a big night out of a casual meal out, we will all go home feeling warm and fuzzy and wishing we saw more of each other.

Then there’s H, for whom I was bridesmaid a couple of weeks ago.  How lovely to see one of my dearest friends floating on a cloud of love and happiness.  And how lovely for me to have glammed up in a gorgeous gown (thanks, Mother of the Bride!) and stayed in a posh hotel (thanks, Mother of the Bride!) and drink champagne at 9 o’clock in the morning!  And 10 o’clock.  And…  Again, the Vegas approach has been adopted and adapted – whatever happened in Ayia Napa has well and truly stayed there, and whatever happened in South Wales when we lived together is also there (in Wales, not Ayia Napa).  Except for the night that me and H didn’t go out with everyone else but took the opportunity to clean the disgusting communal kitchen.  It really was vile and a health hazard, but I think I’d send a message back to the young me and tell me to get my backside down the pub.  A message to H’s new husband…see what you’ve let yourself in for!

Some friends you just don’t see at all anymore, and even nearing twenty years later it can still feel like you’ve lost a bit of yourself.  LL and I, who for complete in-joke purposes and so she can identify herself, I’ll call Roy, truly were partners in crime.  How we ever actually got anywhere I don’t know, because it was pre-mobile phone and they didn’t have a house phone.  But come rain or shine, we’d be where we were supposed to be on Saturday night (and Sunday, Thursday and Friday…)  Thursday nights were good, and I didn’t have uni the next day, but I do remember a particularly late one where Roy did have class the next day and ended up asleep under coats at the back of the studio.  Well, you’re only young once!  Now we are miles from each other, and not in touch very much at all.  We’ve both got daughters (and her a lovely handsome son), only six months between them, and we often comment on photographs of one daughter that the other daughter has got the same outfit.  Sometimes you can’t be separated by distance.  I know our girls would have been best friends if we still lived near each other though.

If I mention the other L again, she might start charging me appearance rights!  She is probably my oldest friend.  I don’t want to say just how long, for fear of giving our age away (oh! Have I already done that?!).  But in over 25 years of friendship, we’ve never been on holiday, never been away for the weekend, and not stayed in the same house together since we were in our teens.  We don’t spa together, and really don’t actually see each other outside of exercise classes very much at all, despite literally living round the corner from each other.  But she’ll be the first person the comment on this blog, probably by text, and I don’t think a day goes by where we don’t text.  She knows what I watch on the TV, how much weight I've lost, who’s annoyed me today…you name it.  We don’t go for gooey sentiment, and I could count on less than one hand the number of times we’ve hugged, but this about sums us up:

I’m bound to have forgotten and therefore offended someone.  Aargh!  To C, with whom I share a common belief that we can do things much more efficiently, and who gets a daily bore about my food intake:  13 so far.

And to Sister, who will have the po-iest of po-faces on at not being mentioned…

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

TV Times

I love telly.  There, I’ve said it.  I gorge on books, spend more time on Facebook than is appropriate for a woman of my age, don my trainers a couple of times a week and jump about, enjoy the therapeutic value of a bit of baking and what have you, but I do love a good old session of square-eyesism.  And demand TV has revolutionised my viewing.  I’m a busy woman, work full time, including at least one late night a week, house, family and a magically re-filling washing basket, so my real-time viewing opportunities are limited.  Plus our TV only seems to have two channels – Sky Sports and Pop! (not even Tiny Pop anymore, sniff sniff at my baby not being a baby!) and so  I do very much appreciate a bit of catch-up.

Husband and I have a bit of a Venn diagram approach to joint viewing, with my side consisting of hospital dramas, anything starring Rob Lowe, 'women's stuff', and his consisting of sport and Masterchef, and our common ground being Midsomer Murders and a few more pensioner crime dramas.  Not Silent Witness though, he's not at all keen on that!
There are a couple more things that we might meet on the sofa for, but our viewing habits are largely poles apart.  We did used to like a cup of tea over Emmerdale prior to Daughter discovering the TV, but then it clashed with 64 Zoo Lane and In the Night Garden, and now I don’t know who anyone is.
You’d imagine it would be lonely, watching all this solo TV, but no!  For I have a very valuable commodity – a remote viewing buddy.  Oh yes.  L and I have very similar viewing habits and being a busy woman herself she doesn’t do a lot of real time viewing either.  So, whilst we’re not sad enough to co-ordinate our viewing, we do very often find ourselves watching in close-ish proximity, and in the absence of an actual sofa buddy, it’s nice to have someone to comment to.  Solving mysteries (was it the son or not in Missing?), sharing emotional exhaustion (funeral in Last Tango in Halifax) and general character assassination (Meredith in Grey’s Anatomy) or mutual appreciation of a fine view (Derek in Grey’s Anatomy), a response is only a (free!) text away.  The wonder of the modern age…TV at the wrong time and company via a screen. 
Between a busy weekend away and having to camp out at the Parent’s house thanks to a wait for heating repair, I’ve got a right old backlog.  Husband and I have got a couple of things to watch, but I’ve got quite the stash.  Now, I must text L and work out what I should watch first!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Kit for Fit(ness)

L reminded me I hadn’t blogged in a while, and I said I hadn’t had any inspiration.  Well of course that’s not true, because it’s all around, but I haven’t had time to connect all the dots of inspiration.  Then, last night, lying in bed watching Last Tango in Halifax on my iPad (rock ‘n’ roll baby, rock ‘n’ roll.  The night before would have found me watching Silent Witness in bed when it was actually on instead of on some kind of catch-up! Living on the edge…)  inspiration struck.  Very pleased with myself I was.  Then I went to brush my teeth and the bathroom light exploded and took with it all my ideas.  And perhaps I swept them up with the broken glass (how can such a small bulb make so much mess?!) because whatever I was thinking of eludes me.

But I did find myself giggling a couple of times at the very near miss I had at Zumba last night.  I’ve changed class, largely to go with L again as I like a fitness buddy so that your sense of obligation not to let them down outweighs your overwhelming desire to lie on the couch watching telly.  My old class was dark, and I liked that.  This one is held in the brightest hall ever.  We should probably watch out for planes trying to land in there.  Anyway, week one was Zumba step and I had two things distracting me.  Well three actually.  One was the fear of falling off the step and making a Wally of myself (and probably spraining an ankle).  I haven’t got particularly massive feet, but I swear this step had the circumference of a dinner plate.  Distraction number two was my pants (trousers pants, for those of you not from round here, not knickers pants.  They caused no problems whatsoever.)  No, my lovely wide legged exercise pants are too long for me.  They are too long because they are two sizes too big.  But I love them so, and who wants to spend a fortune on workout clothes for a new activity?  So the blighters tried to trip me up a few times, but ha!  I was on to them and kept hoiking them up until I was a bit Chubby Brown.  But what really distracted me was when I realised I had my t-shirt inside out…How embarrassing.  Cherokee from Tesco displayed for the world to see.

For week two, I was smarter than the average bear.  No lovely pants this week – leggings!  The absence of a trip hazard enhanced my stepping greatly, although didn’t add any additional co-ordination.  Don’t you hate it when you realise that you’re the wrong way round to everyone else?  Oh, just me then.  Anyway, a couple of days later off I leapt to ordinary Zumba.  Back to the pants.  Told you I love them.  Was actually a different pair to the first week, I’ve got three identical pairs.  I told you I love them!  I thought I’d be ok because of the flat floor and no step.  But no.  Turns out, it’s tricky to jump about it a pair of pants that are two sizes too big.  I could feel them going.  So I had to hold on to them and hope that I didn’t take my eye off the ball. 

I’ve got to get some new gear.  I don’t want to.  I’m not a sportswear kind of gal.  And if I’m honest, I’m a bit tight about it.  I don’t want to pay a fortune for decent brands when I’ll wear it for an hour a week and sweat on it.  But then I don’t want to be wearing non-brand brands that everyone will identify as being straight from the budget lines at Sports Direct ( I know I shouldn’t care, but I think there’s a real minefield in sportswear that marks you out as all different things – proper sporty person, posing sporty person, scally sporty person possibly-about-to –burgle-a- house person and the not-really-sporty-at-all-but-trying-to-get-fitter-but-of-course-was-the-last-person-to-be-picked-for-a-team-at-school kind of person).  So I need to start a search.  At least everyone else is on their New Year fitness kick and so the shops are full of it.  The adverts and displays are full of hard-abbed slender beauties, showing off their golden washboard midriffs and shapely calves.  Then you get it home and it looks like vanilla blancmange escaping from a support bandage (which reminds me how last week, Mother, on seeing my uncovered legs as she took in some pants for me (unfortunately not the workout pants…) asked had I run out of fake tan.  Porcelain, Mother, porcelain!).  So, if you know where I can get bottoms that won’t trip me up, fall down or make me look like blancmange or sausage skin, and tops that are fool-proof (or look the same inside out…) let me know.    Feel the burn!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Fab at Forty - am I?

So, forty finally arrived.  It looks alien on the screen to me. Me, 40!  It sounds so mature.  Grown up. Like I should be able to knit.  Or at least sew a button on.

I know you want to know whether I was indeed Fab at Forty.  Well of course I couldn’t say…but I can say that after ten months of counting and pointing and shaking my thang at Zumba, I’ve managed to knock a couple of stone and a couple of dress sizes off.  Never got to my holy grail 12 though, so at least I’ve still got something I can put on my New Year list.

After not knowing what to do, I decided to have a party, where enough people duly oohed and aahed about my reinvention to have made it worthwhile.  Three generations of family raised a glass, and friends old and new put on their gladrags and helped me have a lovely time.  But now what?  I’ve been planning for months, buying shimmery and glimmery doo-dahs to put some fab in the very functional function room.  I’ve glittered up invitations, sourced the perfect dress, found a mini-me version for Daughter, made paper pom poms…and now it’s done and dusted.  I’m without project.  I am suffering list-less-ness.  Well of course there’s a list of kinds – it’s Christmas time for goodness sakes, who operates without a list?!  But there’s no overriding list, no pressing project…and I don’t like it.  I’ve got plenty to do, with some list potential – no Christmas cards written, no presents wrapped (not even all bought – eek!), and no comprehensive outfit plans for me and Daughter, not a morsel planned for the Boxing Day Buffet (that probably won’t be a buffet this year – too much pastry and clock watching for all those little mini fancies that pretty much all taste the same!) – but no next project.  

So what should it be?  My wise friend J would tell me to just be.  Be present in the moment.  Good advice.  But I do like a plan.  So until it’s time to start on the summer holiday plans, I’m going to have to stretch out my mini lists.  But I might just get a brochure…

Thursday, 24 July 2014


When I was discharged from hospital after having Daughter six years ago, I was sent home with painkillers, blood pressure and water tablets and a rather large dose of maternal guilt. The drugs were for a week or so, but the guilt was to be taken liberally several times a day.

The guilt is largely about two things. The first is not being there.  Not for the school drop off. Or pick up. Or to be a 'helper' in her class. Or to take one of her friends home from school for tea, and 'everyone else has someone for tea all the time'. I should get a different job she said, so I can be there to do that.

The second is about not giving her a sister (or a dog, because I'm allergic). We tried, we succeeded, but it wasn't to be. We have tried to explain that you can't guarantee a sister, but that falls on deaf ears. And really, she doesn't want a baby sister, she wants a ready made five year old sister to play with right now.

So, in order to compensate for my epic fails, I try to really step up where I can. And the last opportunity I had to do this was for the big 6th birthday.

The first chance I had to put a shed load of extra work in was sourcing the invitations. Barbie, she'd decided. No problem, I thought. But it turns out that she's not quite as easy to get hold of as you might think. But it gave me the chance to put plenty of time in sourcing them and medicating my guilt.

(Some of you will disapprove of Barbie.  I get your concern. Is she a suitable role model?  We'll let me tell you we now have the Dream House mansion thing in our dining room and I personally think the girl's done good. But each to their own.)

But the big chance came when I got the idea to make her a Barbie cake. No nipping down to Asda for a ready made version for me. I mightn't be able to pick her up from school, but I could stay up half the night making one to show her how much I love her. Mother made our birthday cakes every year, still does and they still look the same. When someone makes you a cake, it's like a message of love on a plate. So, if a cake says 'I love you', what would my Barbie extravaganza say? Probably 'I love you and you have me wrapped around your perfectly formed little finger'.

So, I'd seen a hard could it be?

The first hurdle was what to cook it in. Option one was apparently to bake a number of sponge cakes, stack them and then then carve them into shape. Hmm. Sounded a bit trickier than I'd anticipated, but of course did give plenty of scope for assuaging guilt and stepping up.  However, I decided there was nothing gained from giving Barbie a hideous deformity and so had to look further afield. Option two was to buy a tin. Having exhausted my borrowing options quite quickly ( there's only Z that embraces home baking in my circle of friends, and the Head of Catering at work drew a blank), it became clear I was going to have another opportunity to demonstrate dedication  by researching and then buying said tin.

Then there was the decorating to think about. A lunchtime abandoned to comparing edible diamonds, sugar roses and pink balls (if in doubt, buy all) and I was ready to roll (not the icing, it bought that ready-rolled, ha ha)

So, the big bake began. Half way through I realised I'd underestimated the size of the tin and had to suspend the proceedings for an emergency dash to the nearest shop. That done, I metaphorically sat back and waited for it to cook. And waited. And waited. Eventually it appeared to be done and my job was done for the night.

The next day was all about the decorating. And I also discovered that loom bands make excellent Barbie bobbles. To be fair, I quite enjoyed the decorating so it didn't have the guilt repayment value it should have. Anyway, Barbie eventually looked like this:

Then this:

(And then eventually like this...)

Did she say 'I'm tastier than a brother or sister and quite frankly people will be more impressed?' She did say 'please ignore the icing in my hair' though.

So eventually it was party day. The many surrendered lunchtimes culminated in bags and bags of stuff to make the party look pretty and help 30 odd six year olds have fun. Did I see the fun? No. I spent most of the party willing heat resistant fries to cook to accompany their very accommodating and quick cooking hot dog buddies, accompanied as always by Mother, who surely has no mother guilt to pay for having been ever-present.

Did Daughter miss me at the party? I don't think so. Did she have a brill time and tell me it was her best birthday ever? Yep. Will I ever not feel guilty? I doubt it. All I can do is try and make the big (and little) things count. Oh, and keep doing the lottery...

Friday, 23 May 2014

All Change

Every morning, when I’m performing my morning ablutions, I hear a small child be dropped off at his grandmother’s house round the corner from us (they’re not really loud, we’re on the corner!) and every morning, he cries.  Now I’ve seen this child, who must be about two, with his grandmother, and he’s happy as Larry (lucky old Larry, always cheerful).  What he doesn’t want is for his mummy to leave him.  I hear his nanny placate him with their plans, and I’ve seen his mummy extricate herself and drive off.  And every time I hear or see it all, it takes me back to when Daughter was little little (considering her to be just little now that she is nearly 6).

I went back to work when Daughter was six months old, and as I’ve mentioned before, it was all very traumatic for me.  And probably for Father, who was her primary daytime carer and used to present me with a record of nappies changed, ounces of milk taken and slop ingested.  Strangely there was no record of the Starbucks muffin eaten when she was about 8 months old and in the joint care of Father and Sister for the day.  Sister thought little of what she called my food regime and decided it was high time her precious niece lived a little. How she laughed a few months later when I anxiously asked Mother if she thought it was ok to give Daughter a little bit of fairy cake! That was when I discovered the treachery, now known as Muffin Gate.  Fast forward over five years and I’m the one with the child who tries to exist solely on chocolate and she’s the one with the child who chooses an apple over chocolate as a pudding (apple for pudding? Does not compute!) and is a regular at their local curry house.

I digress.  Dropping her off as a baby was hard, but not on her.  It wasn’t till she was one, and we’d spent the entire summer holiday together that she took a bit of umbrage at being abandoned.  Poor Mother, who was still working at this time, had to try and coax her away and entice her with the fun she’d be having with Granddad that day.  And they did have fun, and I used to struggle to get her out of there come home time, but by god were the mornings hard.

Eventually it all became easier, but she still had her moments.  It wasn’t about where she was or who she was with but rather about the fact she wasn’t with me.  What she failed to realise is that wonderful Nanny and Granddad did far more exciting stuff with her than I ever would have done (I’m finding the years between absolute dependence and leaving home independence a bit of a challenge…) and never in a million years would I have been creative enough to build her an obstacle course of boxes and furniture when she started to walk to keep her away from the radiator and give her enough places to hold on to when she wobbled (good old Granddad), or taken her out to the front gate every day at the same time to talk to the man with the dog that she liked.  Or probably a load of things they did with her that I can’t remember now.

But it’s all different now.  She can’t get to Nanny and Granddad’s fast enough if there’s the chance.  She asked could she phone them the other day so that she could ask if she could go round.  Or if it’s not going there, it’s can she have a friend round.  And no longer do I have to go and snuggle her before she gets up and play a set routine of games before she’ll get up (grabber – where I pretend to be one of those machines and try and grab her belly, tickle – if she doesn’t laugh she wins, cuddle round 1, rock, paper, scissors and then cuddle round 2).  No, now I have to put the TV on and come back when I’m all ready.  And it’s not CBeebies, it’s CBBC.  I fear I’m becoming surplus to requirements.  That’s the thanks I get for holding her non-stop for six months and giving in to her every whim because ‘she’s only a baby’.

So what I want to do each morning is open the window and shout on to the family experiencing the morning trauma:  ‘this too shall pass!’ – and you might be sorry when it does.

Friday, 25 April 2014

I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear...

Fooled by a few cheery sunny and warm days over the last couple of weeks, I have unearthed the summer clothes.  There is quite a rigmarole to the change of seasons in our house, as limited wardrobe space has always required clothes to be boxed up and stored in the loft.  This is what happened in the parental home, with poor Father being required to get in the loft and unearth unlabelled bin bags for me, Sister and Mother, and always be sent up for a rogue sandal (or boot).  Sister and I always had a pile ‘em high attitude to clothes, so we’re talking a lot of bags.  I think that was probably the first thing they did when I left home (last to leave) – teary eyed wave and then up the stairs at record speed to use all the now vacant wardrobe and drawer space!  No more seasonal change loft jaunts for Father now.

I sent Husband up for the summer boxes, also for the last time due to the wise purchase of some nice furniture for the spare room, and he was very surprised to only find one fairly light box.  And it all came back to me.  I’d had a cull, a clear-out,  a declutter the summer before.  I’d Trinny and Susannah’ed and Gok’ed myself.  Made me feel frumpy?  Out.  Too big (ha ha as if)?  Out .  Pre-baby clothes (ahem, pre-nearly six year old clothes)?  Out.  And what survived will see me staying in a lot over the summer.  Three strappy maxi dresses (but not the shrug things I wore with them), three skirts I wear for summer work, all of which are all too big, but no tops.  Two chiffony type maxi dresses that I still love but have practically thermal slip dresses attached to protect modesty and make my hair curl with over-heating.  And that was about it.  I’d held some linen trousers and some chinos back in case of an unexpected heat wave (ha! No catching me out sunshine!) and that is the sum total of my summer wardrobe.

What to do?  I’m trying to lose weight (and take what you will from the fact I haven’t updated you with my Fab at Forty efforts lately…) and so didn’t want to buy until I was looking at smaller sizes, but all that’s happened is I’m in between sizes at this crucial shopping time.  Because we all know that if you haven’t completed your summer clothes shop within the next couple of weeks you’ll be stood looking at woolly hats and boots in the shops.

So while I’m belting things in and working double time to get things washed and ironed, what’s happening with Daughter’s wardrobe?  I did the same with her clothes, and generated eight bags for the charity shop (they do keep growing!) and then declared a state of emergency shopping trip and kitted her out.  I’m having to try hard to remember she’s not a baby and shop accordingly.  I’d still have her in frilly knickers and hats with elastic under the chin if I could.  Wasn’t quite expecting her to have inherited my fondness for leopard print though.  She was given the choice between identical gladiator style sandals (which aren’t the nice sturdy leather Clark’s I would buy if left to my own devices!), which had some frilly flower type embellishment on the front, one in a pinky hued vintage floral design, and one in a gold leopard print design.  You guessed it.  Hear her roar.