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.

sisters of mercy

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.

Sisters Julie

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!!

Stop bog snorkelling and get bonding: parenting is a team sport!

Raising children is a journey with no clear destination and only a fairly limited and often useless map.  That is why friends with kids are invaluable.  It feels so much better to share your challenges with other people who also have no clue what’s going on.  Over the last few years I have shared so many challenges and had so much support from friends with children that we have forged bonds of steel.

gang-julie-sarah-amelia-ball

Gang of three: How we want people to think we look

We are like the Royal Marines of parenting.  No man left behind.  If you’re running late and your child needs picking up, if you have to drop one child and collect another from different parties at the same time, if you’ve lost the flipping homework book and have no idea what the little darlings should be doing, and, most of all, if you’ve had a rubbish week and need a glass of wine, WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.

gang-julie-sarah-amelia

How we actually look

And naturally, like all highly specialised crack teams, not only are we trained to control an angry seven year old at twenty paces, but we have also developed our own vocabulary, a sort of linguistic short-hand of key information.  So if you want to get with the gang, you’re going to have to learn the lingo.  Here’s a couple of phrases to get you started…

  •     Personal grooming: you always need a haircut

Origins of the haircut:  Just because you have children, you can’t let attention to your appearance slip.  Which is why it seemed perfectly credible when one of the dads slipped out of a children’s party claiming he was ‘going for a haircut’.  He returned four hours later and sheepishly confessed he had actually spent the entire time in the pub with a mate.

How to use it in conversation: Do you actually have to work late the night my mother’s staying, or are you going for a haircut?

  •     Driving skills: do a Catherine

Origins of the Catherine:  My lovely friend was so busy yelling at her kids in the back of the car, that she entirely failed to notice the rockery looming ominously at the back of the parking space.  Luckily she was alerted to its presence by the sound of her boot caving in under the pressure. (No children or animals were harmed in the making of this phrase.)

How to use it in conversation:  I don’t want you to get upset, but I may have caressed a post on the way out of the car park.  It’s more of a light graze than a full-on Catherine.

  •     Wage slave: trotter-trotter-trotter

Origins of trottering:  As part of a fulsome description of how hard she had been working, one of our friends started typing manically at an imaginary keyboard much as a demented pig in a punk band might play the drums.

How to use it in conversation:  I’d love to come for a quick drink or ten, but I’m stuck in the office trottering my life away.

  •     Coping mechanisms: Honking arsenic

Origins of honking arsenic:  We can thank autocorrect for this one.  Whatever my friend was actually trying to text was unclear, but her meaning was plain – her mother-in-law had outstayed her welcome and my friend needed rapid and permanent relief from an increasingly oppressive situation.

How to use it in conversation: Getting my kids to do their homework is draining the will to live out of me.   If I have to make them practise their lines for assembly as well, I’ll be honking arsenic.

Now you know enough phrases to seamlessly slip into our gang and act like you have always been there.  Use this information wisely and you could be joining us on our next night out.  If you’re really canny, you may even be able to persuade one of us to pick your children up afterwards…

 If you’re now feeling wistful about the joys of friendship, why not read my blog about How to be a great friend.

PS Thanks to our wonderful BBC for the photo at the top!

How to be a great friend

Behind every great woman is… a great best friend, helping her negotiate life’s ups and downs.  Best friends are the people who make the good times sparkle and the bad times bearable.  They’re an Ant to your Dec, a Mel to your Sue, they might even be a Thelma to your Louise if you’re old enough.  Because there’s something incredibly wonderful about what great friends can achieve together.

img_3875Last week something happened that made me feel really stressed and upset.  I even had a bit of a cry (unfortunately I am big on crying and small on being stoic).  And then I texted my friend Sarah, and somehow she made everything seem maybe not perfect, but not so bad.  So this is a bit of a love song to Sarah, but it’s also about everything great friends do for each other…

  • She makes everything an adventure – We can be lost, late, and have no lunch, but it’s all part of the joy, because whatever we do she brings an attitude that says ‘we’re going to have FUN!’.
  • She makes my world bigger – Not by travelling vast distances, but by stretching my thinking, by showing me different perspectives, by doing things together it would never occur to me to do on my own, and by sharing her knowledge and her life.
  • She makes me a better person – Not by criticising or denigrating me, but by inspiring me with her values, how she behaves, and the things she does.
  • She is always on my team – I’m not always right, sometimes I’m not even close to right, but she never judges me or makes me feel bad, she just helps me find a better way.
  • She is always there for me – I know that if I needed her, my best friend would turn the world upside down to support me, and just knowing she would do that means all it takes is a text from her to make me feel better.

eybn-julie-sarahEveryone needs a Sarah on their team, and, even if you don’t know it, you are probably someone else’s Sarah.

In fact, reading down the list, I realise that it isn’t just Sarah, these are qualities that all my friends have.  So now I need to stop typing, and start emailing, texting and telling them all how fabulous they are…