3 lost skills of our parents that are ripe for revival

There are lots of things about parenting in the past that wouldn’t pass muster today: like handing out sweets that looked like cigarettes for children to ‘smoke’; or serving spam fritters with Smash like it was an actual meal rather than a dietary outrage.  But they also had some genuinely useful skills that are lost to modern parents.

So instead of worrying about whether my children have eaten all of their five-a-day, maybe I should give a little bit of time to re-learning some of the more useful things parents of the past could do.

The skills I’m thinking of reviving include:

  • Sewing – It’s so dull that after the first term of sewing name tags into my children’s clothes I bought a permanent marker pen. Same effect, but your index finger doesn’t end up red raw.  My mother, on the other hand, could create an entire capsule wardrobe from an off-cut of old fabric.  For my first school dance (because proms hadn’t been invented in those days), we went to a shop, chose a pattern, picked a fabric and my mum made my dress.  Not only that, but she actually seemed to enjoy it. Weird.
  • Fixing stuff – The only thing I’ve ever really tried to fix is my husband and, to be honest, I think the problem may be me, not him.  My parents, however, could fix nearly everything.  Broken toilet cistern?  Banging noise under the car bonnet?  Dangerous sounding hum when you turn the light on?  The older generation knows how to fix all that stuff.  And they pretty much wrote the manual on boring basics like bleeding the radiator and re-wiring a plug.  Although, in fairness, they can’t work the smart TV, so I feel like I might be winning that one…
  • Growing and cooking – Our parent’s generation grew up without the luxury of dial-a-pizza, or ready-made meals, and so had to do it all themselves.  As a result, my mum can somehow make a tasty meal out of whatever sad remains are lurking unloved at the bottom of the fridge.  Not only that, but when I was little, a lot of what she cooked was stuff she’d actually grown in our back garden.  I would starve to death if I couldn’t book my supermarket delivery online, but older people know how to grow what they need.  They will totally survive the apocalypse.

I know it sounds a bit Amish, but these are cool skills to have.  Our parents knew how to make the most of what they had without depleting our planet.  They didn’t need to sort their rubbish into different bins for recycling, because they weren’t throwing away plastic packaging every time they cooked supper.  The very same people who call you up to fix their internet connection, were busily protecting the world’s natural resources before anyone pointed out that we needed to.  Respect.

So if you put aside their propensity for feeding us sugary death-sweets and their worrying disregard for health and safety, our parents actually have some ninja survival skills.  I don’t need to be able to do everything they could do, but if I could just get the toilet to flush after my children have broken it, who knows what other dizzying heights I might achieve…

 

Why I’m ditching black and so should you

I just don’t understand why people wear black to parties.  I mean, I wear black to meetings so people know to take me seriously.  And it’s an absolutely first-class choice for funerals.  It’s pretty much de rigueur if you’re an undertaker.  Essentially black is the colour of being serious and of death.  It is definitely not the colour of parties.  Or Christmas.  Or joy.

It’s like choosing vanilla ice cream instead of pistachio or death-by-chocolate.  Sure, everyone will eat it, but it’s never going to rock your taste buds the way cookie dough can.

I prefer pink.  Pink is the colour of strawberry ice cream, and holiday sunsets.  It’s the colour of candy floss and rosy-cheeked children coming in from the cold.  What’s not to like about pink?  Or if that feels like a colour too far, what about green?  Green is the colour of Wimbledon and the scent of freshly cut grass.  It’s the colour of cool forests on hot summer days and mistletoe at Christmas.

The whole concept of the Little Black Dress is an affront to all that is great about parties.   Black is the colour of conformity.  The colour of corporate anonymity.  But parties are the time to be utterly yourself, not constrained by other people’s expectations, or who you have to be for work.  They’re for chatting animatedly and laughing uproariously.  They’re for dancing wildly and kissing passionately (depending on the parties you go to, obviously).   Everyone should be able to be unreservedly themselves at a party.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?  Maybe someone won’t like what you’re wearing.  But if it makes you feel great, what’s the problem?  That’s the beauty of us all being different!  The kind of people who judge you on your dress are not the kind of people whose opinion matters anyway.

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The Lilac Breasted Roller is out and proud

I know that my tastes, like my personality, tend towards the extrovert.  So if you’re reading this, but don’t feel ready to dress like a Lilac Breasted Roller threw up on you, might I suggest you start with shoes?  Shoes can be a little burst of joy in a grey world.  A chance to flirt with danger without risking your reputation.  And, as Cinderella will tell you, the right shoe could change your life…

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This is how to let them know you’re serious…

When all’s said and done, it’s not about what colour you wear, but how good you feel.  Now go out there and be fabulous!

 

Is it weird to love cemeteries?

We’ve been at it again, me and my good friend Devon.  Stalking the dead.  This time we’ve been visiting Brompton Cemetery, where the dearly departed of West London are interred.  What could be more joyful on a crisp December morning than stepping amongst the tombs of those who have been loved and lost and reading inscriptions about their lives?

Brompton is one of the Magnificent Seven – the fabulously-named ring of ‘garden cemeteries’ built in the late Georgian and early Victorian period to relieve the pressure on London’s crowded ancient churchyards.  And for keen cemetery-visitors like Dev and myself, it does not disappoint.

It is positively bijoux compared to vast Highgate Cemetery and rambling Nunhead.  The well-maintained graves are packed tightly together like a giant game of dominoes, as if with a mighty push you could send a ripple of falling tombstones that would run all the way round the cemetery.  I like my graveyards densely packed – all the better for seeing as many dead people as possible in the time you have available.

bromptonBrompton has some fancy mausoleums and some simple haeadstones, and at the southern end is a rather beautiful chapel – built at vast expense and nearly bankrupting its investors – which looks like a mini-version of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.  And who doesn’t love the Radcliffe Camera?

For those who enjoy variety, Brompton’s inhabitants represent a good mix of the famous, the slightly well-known and people who were possibly somebody at the time, but are now quite forgotten.  I always find it strange to think everyone who knew or cared about someone is dead, yet here I am reading about their lives a hundred years later.

Here’s some of the highlights from mine and Dev’s latest outing…

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To live in the heart of those we love is not to die

This tombstone is not damaged, it was designed like this.  I think its solid simplicity speaks volumes about the General.  Clearly Bill was a man of few words and no messing.  I respect that about him.

The same can’t be said of the next lady:

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To the memory of Blanche Roosevelt Macchetta… By her brilliant accomplishments and rare graces of mind and person she gave distinction in the world of literature and art to the name of Blanche Roosevelt.

I can’t help feeling she might have written that eulogy herself, although in fairness she has her own page on Wikipedia, so maybe I’m too cynical…

I do love a Latin inscription, particularly if it’s a mosaic.  This little beauty is on the floor of the family vault of Herbert Fitch.

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Deeds not words!

Other members of the family buried in the vault get little more than their names and ages, but the eldest son gets a poem:

Come unexpectedly! Give me no warning.

But in a brighter land, bid me ‘Good Morning!’

Rather lovely, I think.

I think the gates below look like they come from the film set for Cleopatra, but they are actually the entrance to the catacombs – I’m not sure whether the snakes are there to keep visitors out, or the dead in!

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The next lady gets a lovely inscription, although I can’t help feeling that the author (her husaband) had obviously run the poor woman ragged.

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In loving memory of my beloved wife Elizabeth Baker… who was a charming companion, a helpmate under all difficulties, a comforter in sorrow, a true wife and sincere friend and now alas the most blessed memory of mine age.

The inscription on the grave below is in Russian so I’ve no idea what it says.  I am filling in the blanks by imagining that she is a Russian aristocrat who fled her homeland during the Russian revolution.  Feel free to investigate and correct me.

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Sadly, despite being quite large, the monument below doesn’t take a good picture – and for some reason the statues around it are all headless.  But I love the idea that the community were so swelled with pride at Robert’s rowing achievements that they all chipped in to give him a good send off.

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This monument was erected by public subscription by the warm friends and admirers of Robert Coombes, champion sculler of the Thames and Tyne.

Rumours abound that this Egyptian-style mausoleum is, in fact, a working time machine.  And I don’t see why it shouldn’t be, since it looks very much like it might be a Tardis.  Although no-one let me in when I knocked…

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Mausoleum of Hannah Courtoy who conveniently inherited a fortune from her husband and invested it in this lovely monument to herself (and her daughters).

And lastly, a nod to science:

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To John Snow MD. Born at York March 15th 1813, died in London June 16th 1858.  In remembrance of his great labours in science, of the excellence of his private life and character.  This monument (with the assent of Mr William Snow) has been erected over his grave by his professional brethren and friends.

I’ve included John Snow because I once watched a very interesting documentary about him, and I thought it would be selfish to keep my learning to myself.  By mapping cases of cholera, Snow was able to demonstrate that they clustered around water pumps, showing that it was water-borne, and not caught by breathing ‘foul air’.  His systematic approach (i.e. using evidence, instead of making stuff up), means he is often cited as the founder of epidemiology. Go John Snow!

Hungry for more stuff about cemeteries, but don’t know where to get it?  Why not read my exciting blog about Highgate and Nunhead.  It’s got all of the fun of Brompton but less of the photos – enjoy!

 

Getting to Brompton Cemetery

The nearest London Underground & Overground station is West Brompton (District Line, Wimbledon branch, and London Overground): turn right out of the station, and the North Gate and Lodges are within two minutes’ walk.

Earl’s Court Station (Piccadilly and District Lines) is within ten minutes’ walk to the north: turn left out of the Warwick Road entrance and walk south along Warwick Road to Old Brompton Road.

Find out more about the Cemetery on the Friends of Brompton Cemetery website.

Death by sparkly asphyxiation – in pursuit of the perfect party dress

I have accepted that I will never get back the body I had before children.  (Since I haven’t got it back in the first nine years after my youngest child was born, it seems reasonable to assume I won’t get it back in the next nine either.)  But I have absolutely not accepted the body I actually have.

I have adopted a sort of passive-aggressive resistance by buying clothes that are between my two sizes – too big for the size I was before children, but too small for the size I am now.  As a result, my wardrobe is full of clothes that can only be worn on very specific occasions – trousers that aren’t suitable for sitting down; dresses that can’t be worn if I want to eat; not to mention several outfits that work much better if I try not to breathe.

I blame cake.  Lovely delicious cake.  If there’s cake in the house, I’m going to eat it for every meal.  Who says that a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge isn’t a healthy and nutritious breakfast?  And carrot cake has got to be at least one of your five-a-day, right?  In the matter of cake, I am like Oscar Wilde – I can resist anything except temptation.

Only I may have let things go too far.  Now even things that used to fit are troublingly tight.  ‘Breathe in, mummy,’ said my daughter the other day as she battled valiantly to zip me into a dress that was patently too small.  Unfortunately I had been holding my breath for some time and was already puce from lack of oxygen.  The only way that dress was zipping up was if I cracked a rib or two.

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Too much for a wedding, or not enough?

And now a dear friend is getting married and I’ve been wondering what to wear.  There’s bound to be food, and dancing, and sitting down.  I don’t think anything in my wardrobe will accommodate all three activities.  If I buy something that’s a sensible size, it could see me through all sorts of Christmas razzmatazz; but it will also mean accepting that I am not, and never will be, Kate Moss.  And I’m just not sure that’s something I’m ready to give up on quite yet.

I want to look young, and sexy and cool.  I want to dance like everyone is watching (I’ve never been a shrinking violet) and feast like a lion gorging on baby antelope.  And all I need is the perfect dress to do it in.

So now I’m trawling the internet for something sparkly that’s just the right side of asphyxiating.  Something that says ‘I see you Christmas, and I’m ready.  Bring it on!’  Oh, and it will need to have a sturdy zip.  Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

Important lessons you can learn from canapes

I love canapes.  I love them the way Romeo loved Juliet, or Nigel Farage loves Brexit.  They are bite-size morsels of deliciousness, with the added benefit that nothing so small could possibly contain any calories.  I hoover them up at parties like Pac-Man eating Pac-Dots.

So imagine my joy when my old university invited me to a soiree at the Royal Society.  Doesn’t the word ‘soiree’ just scream ‘canapes’ to you?  And as if that weren’t enough joy, my bestie Liz was going too.  She’s the woman who spotted early on that I was a bit flighty, and assiduously safeguarded me through three years of drunken student antics.  In fact, she did such a good job that I sometimes think she should have been awarded my degree as well as her own.

Now I may be blonde, but I’m not completely naïve.  I know that I haven’t been invited to this illustrious event purely because university is missing me and anxious to know what I’ve been doing over the last decade.  They want my money, and they’re prepared to serve me any number of canapes to get it.  Little do they know, all my spare cash is ear-marked for fancy shoes, which closely rival canapes in my affections.

And so it was that I went along last night, dressed appropriately smartly and in a pair of shoes I thought would set the room on fire.  And, what do you know, there were a series of really interesting talks – the future of the interweb (hello, Dr Anil Madhavapeddy!), the science of fat (thank you, Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly) and how Muslim housewives can influence politics through exercise classes (interesting stuff, Dr Sertac Sehlikoglu); all rounded off with a few amusing anecdotes from lovely Tim Brooke-Taylor (I’m a fan).  Not to mention as much wine as I could drink.

And from the evening, I have learnt three important things:

  1. It’s really not my fault that I can’t resist cake. It’s totally, incontrovertibly my genes.  Science says so.
  2. I’m too old to wear fancy shoes two nights in a row. I was hobbling like the wicked witch of the west on the school run this morning – no wonder she uses a broom stick.
  3. I type this with great sadness, but the terrible truth is that no matter how many canapes you eat, they will never soak up the amount of alcohol you drink.

So much fun and so much learning!  It was such a good evening that I may even forego a shoe or two and make a donation.  It probably won’t pay for a new library, but it might buy a book or two. Long live education!

 

Thanks to Cooking With Julie for the picture at the top.  I need a woman like you in my life!

How to unravel mummy’s sanity – a guide for kids

The thing to remember about mummy is that she loves you very much, so you can try a selection or indeed all of these sanity-eroding activities and – once she’s regained her composure – she will still love you.  She may be stressed.  She may be exhausted.  She may howl at the moon and drink heavily.  But – and this is the important thing – she will still love you.

  1. Loiter aimlessly in the mornings. Mummy feels an obligation to get you to school on time, and it’s your job to challenge her compulsion.  Top challenges to her obsession with timeliness include: staring vacantly into space when you should be eating your breakfast; and playing hide and seek with your sibling instead of getting dressed.  Why not further spice things up by waiting until you’re half way to school and then announcing that you’ve left your bag at home?
  2. Never ever put laundry in the basket. Unless, of course, you have just tried something on, but decided not to wear it.  In that case, you should always put it in the basket.  A fun way to create extra laundry is to have friends over for a play date then get them to try on all your clothes and do the same.  I mean, if mummy didn’t have laundry, she would literally have nothing to do all day.
  3. Never eat vegetables. In fact, carefully pore through every plate of food looking for anything green and, when you find something, immediately declare the entire meal unfit for human consumption.  If mummy wants you to eat even one of your five-a-day, she needs to get much more inventive than carelessly chopping a few vegetables into your spaghetti Bolognese.
  4. Behave like the perfect child at other people’s houses. Tidy up.  Eat all your vegetables.  Tell your friend’s parents how much you love school.  Mummy will be completely baffled by reports of your good behaviour, but unable to tell other parents that you are actually a complete horror.
  5. Never do anything the first time mummy asks. I mean, if she’s only asked once, how do you know she’s serious?  Wait till she’s really yelling and then take the high ground by telling her you were about to do it, but because she’s shouting you’re not going to.  This might also be a good time to remind her that she should be using her inside voice.
    spirit crush 9a

    Because I said so!

  6. No matter how foul you have been to mummy, become an absolute angel as soon as daddy gets home. This will undermine the credibility of everything mummy says about you, whilst giving daddy an excellent opportunity to share his parenting wisdom.  Mummy loves hearing from daddy how her parenting could be improved.
  7. Start a fight with your sibling for no reason. The best time to do this is in the car, as that is when mummy is least able to figure out who started it and deal with it appropriately.  Mummy will be trapped in a sort of double jeopardy: she wants to turn round and conduct the Spanish Inquisition, but she doesn’t want to take her eye off the road and veer headlong into the oncoming traffic.  Honestly, next time you’re bored on a journey, just quietly lean over and give your sibling a quick pinch, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
  8. Save the best to last. When you think mummy really can’t take any more, when she has completely lost it and looks like she may never get it back, tearfully throw your arms round her and tell her you love her.  She will (almost certainly) forgive you (eventually) because, like I said at the start, mummy loves you very much.  And now you have laid the groundwork for starting it all again tomorrow…

 

The 12 essential steps for a great night out

1     Start your preparation early. In my case, by befriending someone much cooler than me called Liz at university, and then staying friends with her for the next 20 years.

2     Try to contain unfeasible amounts of joy when Liz tells you she has a spare ticket to the Sisters of Mercy at the Roundhouse in Camden.

3    Get permission from your partner to go. Ideally this should be signed in triplicate, in case he or she has a last minute change of heart.  Or one of your children breaks a leg whilst riding their bike.

4    Text all your friends that you’re going to see the Sisters of Mercy, so they know how cool you are. Then laugh uproariously when one of your mummy friends texts back to ask if it’s a good school, and should she also go to see it.

5    Root around your wardrobe for something suitably ‘gothy’ to wear. Sadly admit to yourself that your goth days are behind you, as you pull on some black jeans that you’re sure used to fit, but are now cutting off the blood supply to everything below your waist.

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This is the Sisters of Mercy in the old days.  You know, before iPhones were invented.

6    Feel intimidated on arrival, when you see how many people your age are still living the goth dream and have come dressed head-to-toe in black and are wearing heavy eyeliner. Very heavy eyeliner.

7    Have a couple of sherberts to help you get into the swing of things. Well, I say ‘sherberts’ but really I mean ‘white wines’, because your days of drinking snake bite and black were over pretty much the same time as you got your first proper job.

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Me living it up in the ’90s, when a plastic glass of green curacao was 50p for charity

8    Revel in the way everything about the evening feels exactly like 1989. Except for the bloke on keyboards – who looks like one of the dads at your children’s school.

9    Dance like a loon. Glory in the fact that everyone is the same age as you and therefore dances the same as you, not that funny modern dancing that you can’t really do.

10    Run like a teenager to try and get the last train home. Wish you’d worn your Fitbit – you’ve done loads of steps this evening!

11    Arrive home feeling slightly dishevelled. Re-heat the left over take-away curry your partner has left in the kitchen and gorge yourself before falling asleep on the sofa.

12    Wake up with a slight hangover and an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.

Thanks for another great night out, Liz! xxx

Sisters 2017

P.S. Yes, that is actually me in the picture at the top!!

Tennis whites, trips to the off-licence and other reasons to love Wimbledon…

I’m very partial to watching a bit of Wimbledon on the TV.  I mean, what could be more charming than a sport where people dress all in white and a score of zero is called ‘love’?  This year, I was so excited by it, I decided to get a few games in myself.  Obviously I’m no Serena Williams, but if I let gross ineptitude stop me doing things, I’d never have learnt to drive.

I rifled round the bottom of the wardrobe for my old tennis skirt, but the triumph of finding it was quickly dulled by the pain of realising it is now at least three sizes too small.  To rectify this, I went online and ordered a white one (for a respectfully vintage look) and a pink one (for tennis with a dash of rock’n’roll).

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This is Betthanie Matthek at the US Open taking the whole ‘tennis is the new rock’n’roll’ thing too far

The white skirt arrived the next day, but was too tight to zip up and so short it was practically gynaecogical.  The pink skirt arrived whilst I was out, and was delivered to the local off-licence.

It’s good to know that my neighbours don’t feel the need to buy alcohol before 10.30am, but it’s frustrating to make a special trip to a shop only to find it’s shut.  So the next day I had to make a second visit to the off-licence to collect the skirt I already knew didn’t fit. But the lady behind the counter didn’t want to give me the parcel because I hadn’t brought photo ID.

It could have been that I had an honest face, or maybe she was worried that my hysterical sobbing would put off the other customers, but she eventually relented and handed over a package so massive I looked like I was carrying a fridge-freezer home instead of a teeny-tiny tennis skirt.

And then my luck turned.  Due to high levels of incompetence on my part, it turns out I had accidentally ordered the size I should have ordered if I weren’t so dishonest with myself about the true impact of eating so much cake.  Happy days!

And now I have fallen in love with tennis all over again.  It may be that I play like an over-excited Great Dane – that is to say, with a great deal of enthusiasm but without any actual skill.  But that’s ok, because running round with a racquet in my hand whilst wearing an appropriately-sized tennis skirt makes me brim-ful of joy.  Every time I whack the ball and it lands in, I feel like I’m Roger Federer.

All I need now is the body of Maria Sharapova and a fridge full of strawberries and cream and it will be like Wimbledon has come to south east London…

PS  Writing this blog has reminded me of the brilliant joyful poem about tennis, love and Miss Joan Hunter Dunn by John Betjeman – if you’ve never read it, I recommend it!

Thanks to party.pack.co.uk for the pretty picture of strawberries and cream which comes from their page about how to throw a Wimbledon-themed party.  

Fetid trainers, missing gloves and mystery parcels: welcome to the average morning at my house

All those people who don’t have children, all they have to do is get up in the morning and go to work.  I bet some of them even manage to eat breakfast before they leave.  Sometimes I fantasise about the luxury of making and then eating my own breakfast!  In my house, I have already broken up two fights and emergency hand-washed a pair of school tights before 7.30am.  (For some reason we are always short of tights, even though I do more washing than the laundrette.)

So if you’ve seen me on the school run, or had the misfortune to sit in a meeting where I’ve arrived sweaty and slightly frazzled, let me tell you about a typical week in my house…

Monday:  Due to the unseasonally cold weather, my youngest daughter says she would like to wear her gloves to school.  She watches me search all the usual places gloves might be.  Then she watches me painstakingly empty The Cupboard of Doom, in which all things that haven’t been put away in their rightful place generally lurk.  There are many interesting and useful items in The Cupboard of Doom – some of which have been ‘lost’ for months – but my daughter’s gloves are not amongst them.  After ten minutes of diligent searching, and with the entire contents of the cupboard arrayed around me, I admit defeat.  “Perhaps you could wear mummy’s gloves instead?” I suggest.  ‘Or,’ says my daughter helpfully, ‘perhaps I should wear the ones in my pocket?’ “Oh yes, darling” I say brightly.  “That’s a great idea.  Why don’t you do that?”  Grrrrrrrrr.

morning tarmacTuesday:  When I get home from the school run, there is a card on my doormat from the Post Office saying I have a parcel.  I go to the Post Office to retrieve said parcel, but have to pay £1.50 as the sender has underpaid the postage.  As I turn away from the counter clutching the mysterious package, I notice that it isn’t actually addressed to me.  There is no return address on it, or information that might enable me to forward it to the person it is addressed to, so the kindly man at the Post Office says I should keep it.  When I open it, the parcel contains a small chunk of tarmac.  There is no note or explanation enclosed.  This is definitely the worst way to spend £1.50 I can think of.

Wednesday:  We leave the house a bit late, but cleverly make up time by scootering to school at top speed.  My youngest daughter is just about to run into school when I notice that she’s not carrying her school bag.  When I ask her where it is, she looks at me blankly for a moment, then says helpfully ‘By the front door at home.’  She is resistant to my suggestion that she might survive without it today, as it contains ‘important things’ that she will need later.  So reluctantly I scooter home, collect the bag and then scooter back to school. On the scooter trip home it starts to rain.  Later in the day I phone my husband and mutter darkly about how I literally have no life of my own and everything I do is subservient to the requirements of our children.  He makes a vague tapping sound at his computer and says he’ll have to phone me back later.  He does not call back.

morning heroThursday:  Despite both daughters vigorously assuring me on Wednesday evening that they have absolutely, definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, done everything they needed to for school, on Thursday morning both children announce that they may have slightly, somewhat, maybe a little bit, exaggerated how much of their homework they have actually done.  In an unexpected burst of commitment to their education, neither child is prepared to leave for school until said homework has been completed.  Resignedly I take my trainers off and make another cup of tea.  I might as well be refreshed for scootering to school at top whack.

Friday:  My youngest daughter can’t find her trainers and toady is PE.  Apparently she last wore them pond wading on a school trip, after which she put them in a plastic bag.  Questions about where she might have put the bag are treated as unreasonable.  After a brief search the bag is located.  It smells like a skunk has crawled in it to die.  My daughter is upset and disbelieving when I tell her she can’t wear the trainers, even though they are soaking wet and smell like a tramp’s armpit.  Eventually I persuade her to wear her sister’s trainers, which although they are slightly too big, are completely dry, and have the added bonus that you can’t smell them from ten paces away.  I put the fetid trainers back in the bag to tackle later.  #winning

morning breakfast

After school drop-off, I have breakfast in a café with my bestie Sarah and recount the challenges of my week.  Sarah nods sympathetically, even though her week has actually been much more challenging than mine.  We both agree that the other is a total hero.  I head home with my spirit invigorated and then I type emails, make calls and generally work like a demon until school pick up – because there’s only a narrow window of opportunity before the madness starts again…

7 questions that make normal relationships tick

Relationships are tricky things, aren’t they?  And great communication is one of the pillars that sustains them.  I recently read an article full of questions to help you better connect with your partner. But I won’t be using them any time soon, because questions about who would play me in a movie of my life are not the questions that make a normal relationship tick.

We all know that the real questions that matter are:

  1. Did you put the bins out? This is basic gamesmanship.  Whoever asks the question first has cleverly implied that the other person should have put the bins out.  That person is now obliged to shift their lazy arse off the sofa and put them out, whether they think it’s their job or not.
Couple questions Mark Wright

Last person to ask has to put the bins out.  Those are the rules

  1. Is this the best thing that’s on the TV? This is a euphemism.  What the question really means is ‘The programme you have chosen is utter tosh and I don’t want to watch it’.
  1. Where’s the remote control?  This question is like using the indicator in a car.  It signals that you want to change channel.  If you can’t find the magic buttons, it’s probably because your partner loves the programme that you have just dismissed as tosh and is sitting on the remote.
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Give me the remote control and nobody needs to get hurt

  1. Why did you do that?  I think we all know that this is not actually a question.  It’s a reprimand taking the grammatical form of a question.
  1. Could you unload the dishwasher?  Also not a question.  This is a politely phrased command.  Everyone in a long-term relationship knows that you fail to unload the dishwasher  at your peril.
  1. How do I look?  This is a question, but it’s a trick question.  There is only one correct answer and if you don’t know it by now you will probably never be able to hold down a stable and fulfilling relationship.

    couples questions Elizabeth taylor

    Was the dress code for tonight smart-casual or casual-casual?

And finally, a question that probably doesn’t feature in every relationship, but which is one of my favourites and which I give you for free to use at your leisure…

  1. Does anyone mind if I eat the last biscuit? Psychological warfare at its absolute best.  I mean, who would be so rude and selfish as to answer ‘Actually I mind, because I want to eat that biscuit myself’?
couples questions biscuits.jpg

Biscuits skilfully created by my children with the help of their Devoted Granny

Thanks to Great British Chefs, The Daily Mail and Millelac County Times for the photos in this blog and Devoted Granny for all the biscuits I ate.