Saturday, 30 April 2011

Commenting - good practice... and bad!

Now when I first started blogging, I was quite confident that I wouldn't be a blogger who comments, you know "that's just not me" - I preferred the voyeuristic approach to blogging. But strangely enough, I have become a serial commenter and I think I know how it happened.

After a glass of red wine, I broke the seal commenting on pretty in print,  (a blog that is delectably cool), I felt the need to explain why I was following her twice - something I actually could not explain, or rectify, and has happened to a few of the blogs I follow. However, that had plunged me into commenting territory, a place I had previously been afraid of. It's the whole not knowing who you're talking to that freaks me out; will they get my humour? Or just find me weird? But there I was treading water in the pools of uncertainty. But she replied, thanked me for the compliment  and… started to follow me - my first follower (who wasn't related to me) she even left some complimentary comments on my blog, and that was all it took. I was hooked!

As the very witty and accomplished blogger Miss Underscore said 'It's often the comments and interaction that is the most rewarding thing about blogging.' which I am discovering to be very true.

Sometimes, I read something that makes me howl, chuckle, gasp or I read something that stays with me for days, so I’m logging on in the early hours just to re-read it, to let it sink in all over again. When that happens I have this desire to tell the writer how they just made me feel something new… Or just to find a way to thank them. That’s why I comment. Fore me, Blogging has something that all those English seminars were missing.

This week, I have found myself commenting more and more, but what's been brilliant is the other comments I've discovered - I have found myself creased in two at the lap top by some of the commenting - a whole new dimension to the hilarity of blogging.

Some of my favourites - the good and the bad:

At 14 weeks pregnant, the rather brilliant  Sassy Curmudgeon shared her concerns with becoming a "Mummy Blogger"  and commenting war fare broke out

Anonymous said...
I am one of those who are a little worried, simply because I personally have no interest in parenting.
Just...please, for the love of god..don't give us a graphic play-by-play of your birthing process like so many other blogs I've stopped reading. I unsubscribe at the term "mucous plug".

Erin said...
"I don't get why people (anonymously) are expressing their "worry" over the content of your blog. It's *your* blog, that you generously use to entertain us out of the goodness of your heart. Do what feels natural for you!"

@EllenQ, I commented anonymously because my work computer would not allow me to post a comment any other way. She asked for our opinions; I gave mine. I'm not sorry that it doesn't 100% agree with yours.

At this point Sassy had to step in... but without her wise words, who knows where this was going? Only to a place where the prefix "mother-" and suffix "-head" were waiting!

Parma Violet Tea has the igenious ability to include witty sexual innuendoes with a breeze of subtlety and a sprinkle of eloquence. Shame her commenters can't do the same. In this post Miss U was questioning the BMW driver's failure to use indicators and what that said about their sexual technique.

Anonymous said...
Perhaps you could trade your Ford in for a tea'd certainly get scrappage, although you'd probably need to make up the cash difference! Poor old Henry Ford. Any colour as long as it's...RUST! As far as signalling is concerned; I know exactly where the little-indicator-in-the boat is located; and I always let the lady turn first!

Dear God! This was a genteel post about tea cosies and afternoon tea! Anon y Mouse - jump in your BMW fanny wagon and take your smut elsewhere.

Well said Miss Underscore. Well said!

My final "stolen" comments come from Tired Dad's blog, as he is so bloody popular  this leads to its own hang ups. Firstly, some “Anonymous” cretins decided to use his commenting space for some free advertising

Tired Dad said…
Fuck off Anonymous

Anonymous continued, more than once.

Tired Dad said…
Fuck off anonymous twice.

Which encouraged his followers to start abusing Anonymous. Brilliant example of blogging solidarity. Loved it!

Secondly, when blogging about internet dating, the air of romance crept into Tired Dad’s comment box!
Anonymous said...
I was going to comment and protest that I thought you were quite dreamy, until I realized it's probably just that I have the crippling self esteem issues necessary to find you attractive.

A little banter sarted to trickle in until Non-working Monkey said Blogging Love is good, but it sometimes leads to emigration!

As you well know, TD, I used to write a blog about internet dating (which is of course excellent), gave it up, then met my HUSBAND through the blog I started afterwards. He was a commentaterer. I'm just saying. Be careful. Idle chitchat in comments boxes can result in selling all your stuff in the yoo-kay and moving to Montreal, nose pressed against the window night after night as temperatures fall to -32 and cats freeze to the pavement.

I was delighted by this! Ever a romantic and a recent follower of NON-WORKINGMONKEY blog, I had no idea that was how she ended up in Canada - a blog fairy-tale!

Amongst all this comedy thoough there is something else I'm struggling with in commenting world. There's some blogs you can't comment on. They catch you in your throat and pinch the tears from your eyes; you can't mechanically type what they just made you feel. A sadness that is captured by poetic beauty is one I try not to cry over, but usually fail - The Safrole Tree. Instead I carry this blog around with me, re-running the imagery in my head, hearing his broken voice filled with the dampness of tears, wishing no one had to write about a pain like this, but being thankful that he can.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Chocolate, Lies and Powercuts!

Easter weekend; bank holiday indulgences and the enigmatic progression of family life

When did Easter turn into a mini Christmas? More than one of my "mummy friends" asked me last week if I was ready for Easter? Easter Eggs - check. Wine - check. Scales hidden - check. Was I missing something?

Some snippets of my Easter weekend…

The scene: I'm on the lap top (doing work, actually), children are on the decking, posting jigsaw puzzle pieces down the cracks, the doorbell rings - Oh Me Darling - I answer, it's the neighbour, he doesn't acknowledge the ridiculous doorbell, which says a lot about his perception of us. I return from the door, the eldest appears at the doorway with a Cars Easter Egg "Is this for me?"

A long-winded lie comes about, I can't repeat it because it was tedious and nonsensical, but it involved me going into the bedroom, closing the door, pretending to make a phone call, shouting at the Easter Bunny (The Future Husband having a nap) for bringing the Easter Eggs a day early (not hiding them very well).

Saturday Night and The Future Husband’s book is stamped - so I'm home alone, minus the two fledglings, curled and snoozing in my bed. Sky TV has nothing for me, the Laptop is too demanding, I retreat to bed. I watch MOTD (because it seems strange not to) whilst I twitter on my phone. I had left various lights on around the house, to wind up The FH, but one by one they drain to darkness, the TV fizzes out and the i pod dock blinks off. I use my mobile as a torch, as Harry Potter would use his wand, and look out the window – the street lights are off, most of the houses are dark, except one or two that are using their lights as beacons to advertise their power. A house alarm is making the street shudder. I feel very vulnerable. I ring The FH - it takes 4 calls before he answers.

Fighting back tears, I say "The electricity's gone off and I don't like it"
"I'll be right home" he says.

I am rational enough to know that this is clearly a fault with the street's supply and someone, who is practical and logical (or the woman whose alarm is going hell for leather), will be on the phone to the electricity company right now. So I may as well go to bed - because who needs electricity when you're asleep?

However, in the dark corners of my mind a conspiracy theory is brewing...

There is a psychotic stalker out there, who has cut the street’s electricity, it's his master plan to come and murder me. He has the spare set of keys that I lost months ago. The phone's dead (digital phone), he knows I can't use my mobile touch screen in a panic. No one will hear me scream because of the blaring house alarm. It's all too perfect. I was right to call The FH. A thirty-one year old, rational woman should not be home alone, with two children, at a time like this.

The Future Husband's drunken bellow can be heard as he saunters down the street, stopping to theorise with every furious neighbour about the inconsistent power cut  "So... Why... Are… Only some houses effected?" Eventually, he gets to me, with Pleased as Punch Neighbour in tow "Yep. Everything working in my house! Everything! We got Sky. Lights. Phones. Internet! Everything!"

"Yeah. Nice one mate!" he says closing the door in his face. “Half the street's gone off Fran, and there's a mad alarm going off."

I was pleased to have called Sherlock Holmes back from the pub.

He then suggested, having shared his wisdom with me, maybe he should go back to the pub to retrieve the bottle of wine he won in the Quiz. Obviously, if we have no electricity, more alcohol needed. Forty-Five minutes later he hadn't returned, the pub is about 100 metres away.  Now my rational mind knew he had obviously got another drink and was happily bantering about his neurotic Mrs. However, the dark corners of my mind were not settled and there was also the notion that the psychotic stalker had slit my beloved’s throat, hid the body and was ready to make his move! Another phone call and another walk home by The FH.

This is what the following hours entailed: listening to The FH’s drunken stumbling around in the dark; getting out of bed and searching for his damn i pod; worrying about The Future Husband’s capability to extinguish the candles before falling asleep; both of us knocking over various objects and using inventive expletives. The power eventually came back on in the early hours of Easter Sunday.

The Day : Easter Sunday.
The Location: The Parents' house 
The Cast: The Future Husband hung-over. The long suffering fiancé (moi) tired. The children full to the brim with chocolate and animation. My Mother chaotic. My father lying low in his den upstairs.  The pregnant sister hormonal and emotional and her boyfriend, arriving from the pub, a little overwhelmed. 

As always, it was a race to the finish line, but we all pitched in and were eating a rather delicious roast, in a rather relaxed manner, by 5.30 pm. This idyllic image was only interrupted, by, what I can only describe as a Tom and Jerry style fight in the kitchen, between all three family pets; the cat was chased by the spaniel, the spaniel chased and bitten by the older, protective, maternal rescue dog and a lot of barking, gnarling, screeching and scratching came from the circle of fur.

My Father continued to tuck into his roast pork, so The Future Husband decided he was next in line, as animal referee, and dived into the whirlwind, the cat sprang out and landed in the middle of the table straddling the jersey royals! Now I need to blow my own trumpet here, because my reactions were as fast as lightening (there was no way this dinner was being kicked to the corners of the kitchen by a cat) I picked up the cat and hurled her to safety (out of the kitchen) and the black spaniel took pursuit like a whippet after a mechanical hare.

I turned to the table; The FH had returned with a few scratches, everyone else was frozen in a tableau form of shock, apart from children, who were whimpering into their gravy. "Jersey Royal anyone?"

Elsewhere, the Easter bunny, apologising for his earlier errors, got overexcited and bought too many Easter Eggs to our house, I became obsessive and neurotic about a possible writing project and, after over indulging, The FH and I pledged a period of sobriety.

Sod it! Let's crack open another one - egg, not bottle.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The inequity of time

Somewhere on a woodland walk my mum watched me and her grandson run, liberally, towards her (there's 27 years between us, but our running style is almost identical - for visual image picture Friends episode 'The one where Phoebe runs'). When we reached our destination, breathless and giggly, my Mother said "Sometimes it'd be nice if age went backwards, then I could look at you and think: one day I'll be able to run like that"

She meant run with energy and freedom, not run like a four year old. The words stuck.

Wouldn't it be nice, when pulling at your crow's feet in the rear view mirror and your reflection is impaired by a twenty-year-old's glow, as it bounces off the car window, that you could think "it's ok one day I'll have skin like that"?

Or when hoiking around your dutiful boobs in a multi-support contraption and you come face to face with a braless whippet-snapper, to think "I'm looking forward to that"?

For women, we gain and lose with Time. I think we get funnier, definitely wiser, generally more stylish, a lot of the time sexier, (it's a confidence thing), but, physically, you're always going to look back with anger... "I wish I'd made the most of what I had!"

Women never look distinguished with grey hair, or become charismatic with wrinkles. Occasionally, they are referred to as "having blossomed" in their twenties, but then we flower and wilt. The worst part is growing old gracefully is now translated to "letting yourself go". It's become a failure.

Mind you, maybe nature knows what's doing - evolution is pretty clever stuff! Imagine that every self-assured, sexy, intelligent and witty female had skin of a twenty-two year old, bouncing hair and a body that pinged back into youthful perfection - wow! That would be a rather overpowering species.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sea Fret Ruins My Life!

I can be heard muttering, shouting and hissing this phrase most summers! Sea Fret (or mist as The FH insists on calling it) is my arch nemesis!

She lurks on the horizon, swirling her way to the coast, spitting profanities, whispering my name. "I will steal your sunshine" she hisses (she’s female, of course; I've always got on better with boys). "Your day is ruined" she mouths through her vapour haze. "You will remain pasty" she cackles and these words haunt me as she hits the shore.

I am aware today the rest of the country is baking in hot sunshine - 25 degrees in London!  Do not dare complain city dwellers, do not complain about sweaty tube journeys, or the noise of the necessary fan at your desk... not while we  in the North East behold  
Bram Stoker's inspiration.

The lifeless mist sucks the colour from my lovely, coastal town and we are left with what can only be described as worse than rainy winter – a summer wearing a mask of drab!

The sunshine does everyone a favour. Everyone looks better, smiles more and feels brighter - and that's just the science bit. What about fashion? Floaty skirts and flip flops - flattering and comfortable - it's a winning combination! But it seems for those of us living near the North Sea, we must be punished: x amount of Sunny days must be followed by y amount of fret - and that's the Math!

We  had a wonderful day yesterday; morning spent at a park and owl centre, afternoon on the beach with a leisurely walk through the woods, looking for tadpoles, but think we were a bit late and maybe should have been looking for Frogs, or at least the in-between ones (frogs with tails/tadpoles with legs). But on the edge of this delightful day, a cold shiver prowled, she occasionally gnarled at my feet, forcing me to look to the horizon, where she was skulking, crowing with glee, planning her attack.

She makes it on the weather nowadays – as they acknowledge the poor fate of the East Coast: "And it looks like Glorious Sunshine again tomorrow, apart from here, here and here (points to a picture of me) where the Sea Fret will mean temperatures plummet and mask the sunshine all day".

It's worse now that I have children... not because Sunshine means a whole day out of the house, but now I am awake at 6 and get to witness the wonderful day the rest of the country is having  before the Fret has slithered in and stolen it from my grasp. Nothing good comes from waking early. Nothing!

This late morning, whilst I tip tap on here, the drab haze is swirling round the streets. My optimism makes me hopeful that the Sun will burn through; bang on cue, to top up my half-full glass, my Sister texts to say she can see blue sky. I need to inspect from every window; these terraced houses can be deceptive. But if The Fret has been defeated today, will she come back angrier tomorrow? And what will she be cackling? – “I will turn your straightened hair to frizz”.

Now I've finished the Blog, blazing sunshine beats against the window - previously my nemesis has ruined my plans, taunted my fashion choices - now she makes me look like a liar on my blog!

Monday, 18 April 2011

I am now the woman who lives the other side of a comedy doorbell!

We arrived home, after a long weekend visiting family, to find a surprisingly amount of post awaiting us. When we were younger, childless and playful, one of our favourite games on the return drive home was to place a bet on how many answering messages and how many items of post there would be. Ever the optimist, and suffering from delusions of grandeur about our popularity, I would always lose. Now we are older, child-full and deprived of sleep, our conversations on the journey home are usually brief, factual and loaded with subtext, so the huge pile of post was a pleasant welcome.

Amongst the drivel of junk mail there were also late birthday cards with hidden delights, a cheque from the DVLA and a parcel delivery notification which read 'look in your Green Box'. For those of you not in the same borough council, the Green Box is the recycling tub for glass and cans, which we keep in our front garden (we are too lazy to carry it through from the back every fortnight and we quite like broadcasting are alcohol consumption, it gives us street cred). Anyhow, there in the Green Box was in fact a parcel, clearly the postman had insider knowledge to its contents and deemed the Green Box a worthy safe guard.

Last week, when things were intense because I had just turned  31, a mini-tantrum arose when I missed a delivery of Birthday Flowers due to the broken doorbell; The Future Husband had ordered a new one - with 15 different rings including Jingle Bells, Chopsticks, a cuckoo and Yankee Doodle Dandy! Fortunately, amongst the fifteen classy tones was a traditional "ding dong". Unfortunately, our 3 year old has already discovered how to change the ring tone (from a device inside the house, plugged in at child level), and does so whenever boredom trickles near him. This means, we never know what is going to jingle through the house - Silent Night went off earlier when the window cleaner called. Said window cleaner has seen me answer the door wearing only a swimming costume in November (another story); therefore he wasn’t at all flummoxed to hear a novelty Christmas doorbell at Easter.

I fear embarrassing times lie ahead, for the woman who has a comedy doorbell…

Friday, 15 April 2011

Learning to love the Gym - I can't, I just can't!

This week I decided enough of the excuses, I'm taking the gym seriously. The future Husband had also given me the ultimatum: - either use it or lose it! Last week I failed to go once, I blame the whole Come Dine With Me experience but mentioning that wouldn't have done me any favours. "Yes darling, I didn't go to the Gym, which you kindly pay for, sacrificing other luxuries like Tropicana Orange Juice, because I was too busy pissing about make trial deserts, fortune cookies and writing limericks for a dinner party you weren't invited to."

Instead, I decided, actions speak louder than words! And they definitely do!  After an all or nothing session yesterday, my muscles are making their overworked presence known. *Ache.Grimace.Ache.Grimace*

The muscle pain I can deal with, but it’s the logistics of trying to get a session in that's the real killer. It takes all the will power I contain to make the decision to go, but then you've got to battle with all those excuses, of all the reasons you can’t go, that just fall on top of you. Today is a particular challenge as we're off visiting relatives today so a session’s going to be tough; packing not quite finished, house not quite tidy, children not quite compliant! Let’s be honest it’s not looking hopeful, but on a positive note I am writing this in my badly fitting gym gear and trainers, so you know, progress! But, really, I must go and the burning of calories is just a bonus, the real desire is to attain material for this blog: there's some really crazy gym goers out there! Next time, take out the earphones, avert your eyes from the plasmas... open your mind; it’s a whole Matrix experience!

The gym truly is an awful place. I don't care what the gym bunnies and gym buffs say - it is! My gym is a public gym - I guess it's different if you're rich and swanky and can afford one in your own house. But for us regular people ,who go to the council's very own leisure centres (whilst they are still standing), then it is quite bizarre that we (me and the bunnies and buffs) exchange cash for the experience.

There are so many unwritten rules as well, here’s just a few I’ve got a grasp of already... but I am well aware I’ve got a long way to go:
1.      Always look at the Plasmas. Even when wearing headphones or if you’re directly under them. That is where your eyes should be.
2.      Small talk is forbidden
3.      Wipe and spray your machine – even if you haven’t broken into a sweat. A gent didn’t yesterday, and the lady in the machine next to him (because sometimes you actually have to get in them) actually gasped
4.      The urinal rule – only weirdoes don’t leave a gap! E.g There’s 6 cross trainers free, you’re on one of them and somebody gets on the one next to you. Weird!
5.      If you walk on the treadmill no on in there will ever take you seriously (even if your boobs have been given a health and safety warning)

I have decided that every gym outfit is unflattering - for me especially - you are never going to find something in JD sports which looks as good on me as a fifties shirt dress.  So me and the gym are already off on the wrong foot. But I'm discovering it's not just me, yesterday there was a 6ft, slim, blond, attractive (though probably not very funny) female (goddess?) there, but still her skin tight black ensemble managed to not do her any favours. And even if any of us manage to pull the outfit off standing still,  as soon as you get on one of those machines it's going to make any of the wobbly bits start putting on a show dance for everyone. And, amazingly, the goddess did wobble - so heaven help us mere mortals!

This particular gym was once originally squash courts. It is a pit, devoid of natural light, below the rest of the leisure centre. So windows it doesn’t have but a balcony it does. The general public, therefore, can come along and look, laugh or point at you. Who says the youth have nothing to do? One teenage boy says :“What shall we do today?” The other replies “Dunno shall we go see if there’s anyone shit in the gym?”. I’m just waiting for a rotten tomato to land on my head.

 This little haven then squeezes in gym equipment like Ryanair squeezes in seats. This creates an enactment of any of my London tube experiences: we're uncomfortably close to each other but pretending we can't see each other; even though you're doing your best to avoid eye contact with me, I want to smile at you; even though you won't be able to hear me through your ear phones on, I want to talk to you; because we are invading each other’s personal space, I have this irrepressible desire for you to acknowledge I exist. Just like being on the tube then?  Does anyone else feel like that? I am weird?

And finally - what do we do to ourselves in there?  Is there anywhere else we could make ourselves less attractive in 40 minutes? Where else would you make yourself go that red and sweaty in public? And those big, ugly fan heaters on the wall are going to do jack shit to cool you down after you’ve nearly blown a gasket on the exercise bike. The facial expressions? Seriously, are they necessary? Apparently so, I've seen myself do them in the mirrors too. The mirrors which are EVERYWHERE, so you can see how unglamorous you look ALL THE TIME.

Then when you can't bare it any more you leave. This is when you get that feel good rush; it's not the self satisfaction of exercise, it's not the cumulative number of calories burnt (great, a mars bar), it's not even adrenaline. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling that gently seeps into your body as you walk away and think 'Thank Fuck that's over!'

Monday, 11 April 2011

Come Dine With Me?

Actually don't - because you have to give over a week of your life to a dinner party and it'll cost you a bomb!

The beginning:
Somewhere, amongst a group of friends, a conversation started "We should do more dinner parties", and then the conversation digressed, as conversations do, and it ended with "let's do our own version of Come Dine with Me!" Surprisingly, this was received by a number of nodding heads. Well not that surprisingly actually, as unless you've "lived it", when someone mentions "Come Dine with Me", you probably picture yourself watching TV saying: "I could do better than that!" and "What's all the fuss about?"

Oh the arrogance we adorn this side of the TV!

It was decided we'd go in couples - because of course that would be easier, forgetting that it would double the guests from four to EIGHT. Instead, we were just thinking, "Two in the kitchen - piece of piss!" Additionally, we had to change the rules so we'd do one a month because otherwise we'd all lose our jobs.

So I doubled up in with my sister because The Future Husband said "living crap TV; my idea of Hell". Although, after the successful Chinese banquet, he had cooked for my parents, he never failed to reiterate how he could have "pissed it". This was followed  up  with stage whisper of "only difficult for some" whenever I whinged about things not going right.

The Other Meals:
We were third to go, this meant two dinner parties before. Now this is fun the bit: turning up and someone's house, drinking their wine, eating their food... criticising their every move! You can't help yourself. My Sister and I are the least competitive about such matters, or so we thought. It’s incredibly easy to get suckered in and before you know it you're thinking "Is this homemade?" and  “Not very adventurous”.

My pregnant Sister, maternal hormones sinking in, had raised concerns over the decision to score, worried about  hurt feelings, falling out and bruised egos (because we're in out thirties and these things are still issues) and even suggested the possibility of not scoring! Nevertheless, the group decided we were "taking it seriously" so we decided we would only score 8, 9 or 10! Brilliant! Can you tell there were only two blokes? Another way to spare feelings was all scores to be anonymous; a non-participating friend would keep the score and consequently hold the power which could tear us all apart.  Even with this is mind the temptation of "tactical scoring" gnawed away at me.... Me? Competitive? Rest assured, I had a quiet word with myself and resolved this issue.

The Menu:
This actually started back in January - because as we were "taking it seriously" we all had to submit are menus before the first meal. My Sister and I had a crazy, but brilliant idea, let's cook something unusual (advice: don't do something unusual), and found a meal we'd never cooked before and stuck that down. Crazy? Yes. Brilliant? See below.

Practice. Practice. Practice:
Obviously, a practice run was needed; our family were willing guinea pigs. I have to inform you, at this point, me and my sister believe we are "Super-cooks". We have been spawned from generations of female cooking marvels and our lovely Mother has raised us in a kitchen that overspills with fresh herbs and exotic spices and has a collection of kitchen utensils that would shame Lakeland. Subsequently, this transformed to very blasé approach of  just following the recipe - 'Jamie's Meals in Minutes'. \We were thinking there’s two of us, were equivalent to one Jamie O... and went forth into my mother's kitchen... and we came out... Deflated!

It was awful: everything was cold, the crispy chicken was crunchy (like peanut brittle; my dad's remaining teeth whimpered at his first bite), the presentation was disastrous and my poor, pregnant Sister couldn’t even drown her sorrows with red wine... which of course I did, it was the best part of the meal! Our dumfounded family tried to give us some constructive criticism: "maybe you could change the menu!"

Great, nothing salvageable then.

We couldn't change the menu, “we were taking it seriously”, so it just meant more practice runs. A week later, I really knew how bad the meal had been when The FH asked what was for tea and when my reply was  "Crispy Chicken, Green Thai Curry, Kimchee Slaw..." he groaned and asked "Really?"

However, hope was not lost, with a couple more tweaks and run-throughs we realised a lot of the prep could be done in advance and we began to nurture each other's confidence back to health; "It's fine. We can do this. It'll be great."

The preparation:
The Monday before our meal (which was on a Saturday) we devised a list, which included ridiculous things we had to do - like buy extra cutlery and plates (who has enough matching for eight?), make fortune cookies, prepare the ice breaker, create a party game (limericks?) and other completely unnecessary things we had devised to make the week as difficult as possible.

Fortune cookies? Can you make them?  Oh yes you can! You can make about 40 batches, using a video tutorial (a really annoying American woman on you tube), to try and perfect them and they will still be soggy - seriously, we tried everything. Oh the annoying American woman's weren't soggy. They were perfect! It’ll take a "few attempts to get them right". By few, she must mean over 40, because we stopped at that many and still hadn't quite mastered the art of fortune cookies. Fortune soggies, maybe.

THE meal:
Eventually, Saturday came around; we were chilled throughout the day, under the impression that we had everything under control... until an hour and half before when we remembered about everything we had forgotten to do (the vegetarian’s dish; the Kimchee Slaw) and this entailed a blind fury of mess and chaos till the guests arrived. We slowly witnessed life imitate art as we became contestants from the show and Dave Lamb started his commentary in my head. E.g.
  • I added an extra chilli to the curry! Why? You see them on the TV "I haven't done it with 3 chilli's before, just thought I'd add an extra one." Noooooooooo! Don't do it you shout, but they can't hear you, they do it! [Dave Lamb: Is that wise? Too late.]
  • Fifteen minutes before they were due to arrive my Sister turned to me and said: "Do you want to go do your hair and make-up? I'll manage here." at this point when watching the TV show I always think "Why haven't they done that earlier?" Why hadn't I? I have no idea. I must like the drama. [Dave Lamb: Because that's the most important thing right now: appearance.]
  • The chicken will be fine in there on low while we have starters. [Dave Lamb: one problem there girls, it's not on low.]
  • "Ooh Seaweed! How'd you make that?" For some reason instead of telling them we bought it from Sainsbury's we started a squirming lie about how you make crispy seaweed. [Dave Lamb: Yes Fran tell us how you made that Seaweed which I saw you empty from a packet earlier.]
  • After downing a glass of Chablis during the starter,  we then started to plate up the mains I turn to my Sister "I've gone blank, I don't know what I'm doing" [Dave Lamb: Erm Serving dinner to your guests would be a good start.]
Thankfully, we had made our fancy deserts the day before, even though all week we had been tempted to buy them and pass them off on our own, but succumbed to the pressure of "must be homemade". But... they rocked - who doesn't like mini deserts? Plus the limericks in fortune cookies and celebrity (creepy) masks created some unforgettable comedy moments. I think laughter is the best course at a dinner party.

The aftermath:
Totally knackered. Totally hung-over. A little bit skint. Warm and fuzzy feeling of success? Not quite - but I'm glad people enjoyed it. Would I do it again? NO! And I make a solemn vow to never watch the contestants on TV and suggest they have a lack of intelligence. No they are not stupid, probably slightly insane, and a little bit weird, but not stupid!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Learning to be thrifty at thirty (better late than never)

A girl who has absolutely no restraint when it comes to spending, and has never EVER saved a bean, gave up her salary to be a full time Mum - so how does that work?

My friends and ex-colleagues are always asking me how I'm coping not having an income.

This is how I cope:

Birthdays and Christmas -Always ask for vouchers - not for Wasrehouse/Oasis or similar. For somewhere you're really going to get your money's worth - H & M and Outfit are my personal favourites. But don't spend them all at once - they've got to last all year (or 6 months each way in my case) and they do - choose wisely now, those purchases are forever (well it feels like it),

Any loose change around the house - IT'S YOURS.

Never pay for the following yourself, it is his job now and he won't argue with you: - underwear, razors, tampax, wine.

Make sure you are in charge of any rewards cards - Nectar, Boots, Tesco  - that's what you use to buy all your luxuries (the one's you promised to give up on "cut-backs".

NO MORE BRANDS! We were marketing fodder - if it was branded, we'd buy it and convince ourselves: "anything other than Heinz is minging". Not true.
Or... "that won't wash our clothes" Not true.
Or even... "it smells weird". Not true.

And failing all that, have a very generous, eccentric and extravagant Mother - who will palm of unwanted groceries on you, turn up at your door with a orange Sainsbury’s bag brimming with fresh fruit, let you keep the pound from the shopping trolley (a tradition from when I was a teenager) and a thousand other wonderful things like slipping you the odd twenty and telling you to treat yourself! If you don't have one, I suggest you adopt one. They are marvellous! My currently has blue streaks in her hair - an added bonus!

Friday, 8 April 2011

"You're going to have get better at this Lad..."

These are the words of The Future Husband on our son’s attempt at lying. I have to agree, he is.

  • The Eldest suddenly jumps up from the bedroom floor. I'm sat on the edge of the bed blow- drying my hair, badly. He pulls my arm, he's carrying a red permanent marker pen "Mamma, don't look at the floor. Right over there by the door. Don't look over there on the floor" I turn my head to the designated not-to-look-at area. Wails and tears flood out of him "Mamma No. Promise you won't look at the floor over there."
  • The Day before Mothers; Day, The Future Husband gets The Children dressed. The Eldest comes down stairs, with The Youngest in quick pursuit, "Mamma, the boys are all going to the shops and we can't tell you why?"
  • Later on, my flowers arrive a day early (who's going to pay the extra delivery charge to deliver on a Sunday?), "Oh Thank you" I say kissing the boys. The eldest replies with "There's some chocs in the orange bag, in the cupboard too"
  • Wails and screams summersault  around the house - I enter the living room to see them both sat on the floor , a hand space apart, The Youngest is screaming, The Eldest looks worried.. “What happened?” I ask. 
          "I hit him." He replies .
  •   What’s in your mouth?"  
Choc- ho - late" he answers as it dribbles down his chin
“Who gave it to you?"
"Grandad. He told me not to tell you."

But, hey,  if he doesn't - the teenage years are going to be easy!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Good bye day - you are gone forever!

There are the days when you wake up and feel like you slept on a little fluffy cloud. These are they days where everything goes as expected; you might as well have had little blue song birds helping you adorn your favourite outfit, which is clean (...and ironed!) and looks fabulous, I have to say.

You’re thinking “What days? What’s she talking about?” Those days do happen and more often than you think, unfortunately, your memory swallows them and deposits them right at the bottom of your brain, right underneath the heavy-duty bin bag full of "bollock days”. But the best thing about "that bollock of a day" is it gives you something entertaining to write about.


The central heating was blaring, unnecessarily, and the shower had been running on boiling for 15 minutes before I had even managed to get undressed. The vital undressing had been delayed by screaming/pooing/ squabbling/falling/biting/ children. Blissfully, inside the shower all was quiet so I just stood there for far too long, enjoying the muffled peace.  When I finally got round to slapping conditioner on my hair, the lovely stream of  hot dramatically cut to god-damn-freezing cold, my first thought was: "shit what have done?"

This led to me rinsing the slab of conditioner out with painfully cold water and then running to stand naked and dripping and f-f-f-freezing in front of the boiler. Which said nothing. It just looked dead. No light. No numbers. No noise. Nothing.

What to do? I ring Future Husband. Leave urgent message. Get dressed. Get kids. Leave house. I then spent the day flitting between play groups, relatives' houses, park etc.

A couple of hours later I pick up  my mobile to discover a number of missed calls, texts and voice messages from The FH, asking me technical things like [what did the error code say?] so I start to reply, in text, [There wasn't an error code. There was nothing. Like someone had just switched it off.] This is the point when I remember the switch, next to the plug, outside the bathroom... and the youngest child's recent fascination with plugs. This is the point I delete the text message and write [I didn't check the switch near plug. I think I might be a dickhead.]

Later, on the school run I got myself tangled up walking along with someone I didn't know very well. I was struggling for conversation, whilst the children ran ahead, not helping me out at all. Suddenly into my head pops, an image of her ex-daughter-in-law from the previous day. When I had seen this person I had had one of those moments when I thought "Is she pregnant? Isn't she pregnant?" But I was wise to this conundrum, I'd learnt the hard way - you DON'T ask, you wait for  a reliable source (preferably the expecting mother)  to confirm if they are. Or otherwise, like me, you can ask their ex-mother-in-law? *raises hand to heaven in despair*

Her answer was "No! Not that I know of any way!" She then went very quiet, as I tried to dig myself out of a hole whilst the earth continued to tumble on top of me. Conclusively, if she is, or isn't, I've made sure I'm not very popular.

The rest of the day was spent trying to shake that horrible angst feeling, which was clinging to the cuffs of my trousers, because of the two stupid things I'd done.

How to shake it off? Do a final stupid thing which blows the other two out of the water? Ok then.

I locked myself out. Well... I locked myself out and the locked in the spare keys which usually reside at my parents’ house. Actually… I locked myself out, locked spare keys in, then convinced myself I had left back door open when hanging the washing out.  This then snowballed into a series of cringe worthy events:
  • standing on a wheelie bin in the alley to see if I could get over the wall (I couldn't - too short and too wide). While stood on bin a passer-by asked if I needed help "Yes could you just help me burgle this house?" On a positive note I can't look like a criminal.
  • asking neighbours (who I barely know) if I could climb over their wall, involving said neighbour helping me get over the wall and a BBQ collapsing under my weight
  • discovering my back door was actually locked
  • sheepishly, after making such a hoo-ha, having to go back into neighbour’s yard to retrieve a pot of chives that my clumsy self had knocked into his yard
  • the Future Husband having to make an hour trip to deliver me his set of keys
So all in all – everything went well, I must have had little blue song birds helping me dressed or something. Sorry if it wasn’t very entertaining to read about though!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Apparently I pinch all his material

Dedicated to The Future Husband, not because I pinch his material, but because he gives me so much to write about.

He is actually my fiancé; hence the pseudonym, but I can't actually call him that for two reasons:
1) I find it impossible to say without sounding like a dickhead
2) The only way I can get the french spelling is by writing it in word first and copying and pasting it - too much effort!

A few snippets:

The Proposal was more of a drunken barter, which included the length of engagement and how much the ring was likely to cost, I must tell you we had been together 7 years and he had fathered my 2 children at this point, but he was still comforted by the words "long engagement" and "second-hand jewellery store".

                                                                              * * *
Not long after our first child was born - actually I can be more accurate - the day before FH's paternity leave ended, he said "I don't mind if I come home tomorrow and find you and the baby covered in baked beans and shite. But, if it does get that bad, you can ring me you know".
Brave man.
* * *
When we ended up talking about who are friends chose as their significant other...
Him: I guess it's like you and me, there's probably people who like you, who can't stand me and there's people who really like me, but don't like you.
Me: I don't think there's anyone out there who likes you, but doesn't like me.
Him: Well that's because you're a goody-goody. Me, I'm like red wine - an acquired taste.
Me: I'd say you were more like Lime Pickle actually.
* * *
"His material" is good because:
  • if I cut his sandwich in half I'm attacking his manhood
  • he freaks out when our sons try on my high heels and bras.
  • when he put petrol in his diesel car he told his work mates it was me
  • he owns more pairs of shoes than I do.
I love him because...
  • he makes me breakfast nearly every morning
  • we laugh... a lot
  • my tantrums never work with him
  • he has better taste in music than me
One final note: he is the only man I have ever loved and I am quite proud of that!