How I’m winning at parenting – no GCSE maths required

At least once a month I panic that I am failing my children in some new but devastating way.  That they will be condemned to live out their lives in misery and despair because they haven’t had piano lessons.  This month I have been hyper-ventilating that I am insufficiently enriching their spare time with stimulating extra-curricular activities.  Which is why in the last few weeks my children have been surprised to find themselves on a day trip to the Science Museum, dancing to the Bollywood Brass Band, and attending a talk on Homer’s Iliad.

I have written about the Science Museum before and it remains excellent, but Bollywood at Blackheath Halls in south east London was a whole new experience.  Band leader Kay Charlton opened the evening by inviting the audience to dance in the space in front of the stage, which I thought was just an easy way to identify who had been drinking before they arrived.  And for the first couple of songs two confident individuals ploughed a lonely furrow waving their arms and jiggling awkwardly from foot to foot.  But, as the evening went on, more and more people began to join them.

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This is Chaiyya Chaiyya – a song and dance number filmed on top of a moving train.  Gotta love Bollywood!

I’m not sure if there are any down-tempo songs in Bollywood, but every single one the Band played was an absolute barn-stormer.  In the background a huge screen projected carefully chosen dance scenes from Bollywood movies, and for every other song, a dancer in traditional dress gyrated mesmerizingly to the music.

By the time we reached the finale, pretty much every member of the audience was on their feet.  My family were all up giving it more welly than a Barbour and Hunter shop in a sale.  We went home as happy as we were sweaty, which must count as a triumph by any objective measure.

Natalie Haynes

Natalie Haynes

Next up on my children’s cultural odyssey was Dulwich Literary Festival and tickets to see classicist and broadcaster Natalie Haynes talk about her new book, A Thousand Ships, a re-telling of the Trojan war from different female perspectives.  I’m going to level with you here, this is not something my children were busting to go to.  This was a little treat for mummy disguised as an educational benefit to my children.

After anxiously bombing round darkest Dulwich on a rainy Friday looking for, but failing to find, the entrance to Dulwich College, the evening went surprisingly well.  Natalie took the audience on a whistle-stop tour of The Iliad with a fierce feminist take on the well-known tale.  As she rightly pointed out, it is just as much about the women caught up in the war as it is about the men.  After all, Helen is the only character so integral to the story that we have added the words ‘of Troy’ to her name.

At the end of the evening we left with a signed copy of the book, two children with a nascent interest in ancient Greek literature, and a very happy mummy, who is now a little bit in love with Natalie Haynes.  I’m chalking that one up as another win.

Mr B reckons that we are reaching the end of my children’s cultural education, as either my enthusiasm or my money will soon run out.  But he hasn’t realised that the Troy exhibition is now on at the British Museum and that tickets are FREE for children under 16.  I feel a little giddy just thinking about it…

Want to expose your children to the same maelstrom of culture as mine have just endured?

Patio cleaning for a man who loves the smell of napalm in the morning

My poor husband works so hard and at the weekend all he wants to do is sit in the garden surrounded by lush greenery, listening to the tinkle of next-door’s fountain.  Sadly this is not his experience.  The gentle sounds of next door’s water feature are drowned out by the raucous shrieks of our unruly children.  The lawn looks like a stretch of unloved scrubland.  And the patio has been reclaimed by nature and is now coated in a thick layer of green slime.  It’s a cruel, cruel world where a man works hard all week only to come home to a slimy patio.

So last weekend I decided to address the whole rogue patio issue.  In his usual supportive way, my husband stood at the back door shouting helpful advice.  First piece of advice: coat the patio in bleach before hosing it down.  Of course he recommended bleach.  He loves the stuff.  Nothing makes him feel like a toilet has been properly cleaned like its pungent aroma burning his nasal passage every time he goes in the bathroom.

But, as we all know, bleach may well be excellent for patios, but it is terrible for clothes.  So I did what any right-thinking woman would: I took my trousers off and power-hosed the patio in my knickers.  This is despite watering it down so extensively I’m not even sure there was any bleach on the patio.  My daughter was baffled.  I mean, if a substance is so harmful you don’t want to get it on your clothes, surely messing about with the stuff in your underwear is the height of folly?  To be fair, I think a bigger concern was what the neighbours might think; but they’ve met me before, so power-hosing in my undies probably falls well within their expectations.

And now the patio is lovely.  It is an oasis of calm and joy.  My husband is happy and I am fully dressed again.  The only cloud in the sky (apart from the constant one that hangs over every British summer) is that now the patio is impeccable, my husband has noticed that the lawn isn’t meeting requirements.  Oh well, at least that’s a job I can do with my trousers on…

P.S. I would love to tell you that the lovely patio in the picture is mine, but sadly not.  It  is the patio my husband would like to have when we win the lottery.  It was designed by Belberdos Landscapes, who seem to do a lot of rather chic gardens.

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.
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    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.