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White Out

It has been the most exciting week so far.  I am frantically washing and packing for the most middle class of holidays, a ski holiday.  Before you all reach for the smallest violins in the world to play at me for bemoaning having to pack for a holiday – it’s not for me.  It’s not my Winter break. I won’t be testing the fondue and quaffing a cocktail.  It’s for the Eldest Childerbeast.  On Saturday he is embarking on his first ski trip and his first holiday with secondary school.  This has raised a number of issues for me.

First, none of us have ever been skiing.  Partly because Middle Childerbeast is not a fan of moving about at all. Partly because Youngest Childerbeast is a fan of moving about too much and often in different directions at the same time. Mainly because we have a big enough mortgage as it is and if this is the cost of a holiday for one, then one for five is going to be eye-watering. In spite of never having skied before and following a rousing speech from his Headteacher, the Eldest Childerbeast came home from school and announced that he would like to go out on the piste. After a sharp intake of breath at the cost, Man of the House and I agreed.

Secondly – my child?  Abroad?  Brexit? Skiing?  What could possibly go wrong?

Finally, I was rather worried about the mental health of the teachers at his school.  The health and workload of teachers is an increasing concern with school budgets being what they are – you’d have to be a lifelong Tory to have not drawn the correlation between the cause and effect.  However, when I heard that eighty children are going, on a twenty seven hour coach trip, each way, to Italy, to spend a week crashing into eachother and (I think that this is what we call ‘the clincher’) some of the teachers go every single year, I was deeply concerned. Being a teacher is one thing, but giving up a week off to spend more time with a load of sweaty, mouthy adolescents that are not even your own children is quite another.

Due to his novice ski status, about six weeks ago I took Eldest Childerbeast for a Sunday afternoon of skiing at The Snow Dome. It was highly entertaining to watch a group of people slip, slide and clutch the arm of the person next to them to avoid falling over when I was not one of them myself. I met a large number of parents from all over the country who appear to have had almost precisely the same conversation with their children at almost precisely the same time that I had with mine. We tittered politely when one person careered down the slope and cannoned into the crash pads at the bottom, causing people to scatter to try and get out of the way before disappearing in a volley of snow. It occurred to me that on an annual basis,at February half term our European friends are invaded by our teenagers. And on an annual basis, like the teachers, they seem to welcome it.

The afternoon was a productive one. Whereas everyone on the slope started off wobbly and poised to get out of the way at the moment’s notice, by the end of it Eldest Childerbeast was whizzing downhill, slicing through the queue of people waiting to get the lift to the top of the slope, whilst simultaneously braking and turning, deftly managing to wangle it so he got near the front of the queue but without causing an outbreak of tutting. Only one child insisted on repeatedly descending on their back and head first. There is, perhaps, just no helping some people.

Eldest Childerbeast hasn’t really given any thought to his holiday since. That is to say, he is very excited, but has not given any consideration to how many pairs of pants he will require. That may well be because he has no intention of changing out of the pair he puts on before he goes. Neither has he scoured the shelves looking for hand cream that won’t set his eczema off, and it will probably come back unopened, but I have found some anyway. Nor has he written a list of foods that he is allergic to in English and Italian so there is no room for misunderstanding. It will probably stay in his rucksack, but I have written it out anyway. The fluffiness of his socks will not have crossed his mind. The warmness of his pyjamas will not have even featured. As I sit here typing this I am pondering on life’s important questions – how many packets of chocolate biscuits in his suitcase is too many? How long would it take me to get to him if he had an accident? And I know that I said that I wanted my children to have every opportunity that they would like to take, but surely I only meant that when they were babes in arms and them being grown up enough to take them felt like a lifetime away?

He has not even gone yet and I am already missing not shouting at his to stop swearing at his computer and to pick his wet towel off the floor. And as the coaches pull away on Saturday I know I will feel bereft. As the sound of eighty teenagers shouting “roasted” at eachother fades into the distance my only comfort will be that it could be worse. I could be a teacher. And for the next twenty seven hours, I could be on that coach.

Photograph by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

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England Bleeds

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Gosh I feel sorry for the Prime Minister’s handlers.  They let him loose to be questioned by the general public on a radio show, which they had thought would be much safer than being interviewed by Andrew Neil and he was immediately taken to task by a single mother about his comments regarding their children. Just when they thought they’d navigated the last catastrophic bollock that he dropped when shooting his mouth off for the Torygraph, another one appears.   

For those of you who missed it Mr Johnson is father to an undisclosed number of children himself and not in a relationship with any of their mothers which would therefore make them single mothers, and there is nothing wrong with that.  I am not sure what that makes him.  According to the current PM we are “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”. I say “we” because if you’re a regular reader, then you might have noted that I am the child of a single parent.  My parents separated when I was twelve and divorced five years later.  Technically that doesn’t make me illegitimate on Mr Johnson’s list, but it does make me three out of the four and on seventy five per cent I should respect the result of the referendum.  Unless, of course, it’s utter piffle.

As I read the latest splurge of bile that has been vomited into the ether, I asked myself three questions: 1. Are the comments fair? 2. Is there anyone left to offend? and 3. Just who is the kind of person that this sort of dialogue appeals to?

This might not be a popular point of view but I think Mr Johnson might have a point.  About me.  As the child of a single mother.  First, I am ill-raised.  My parents were and are useless.  Hopeless.  But it was and is nothing to do with their marital status.  I make no excuses or apologies for it and they certainly don’t.  They just weren’t and aren’t very good parents.  And that, quite simply, is that. Second, I would not say that I am ignorant as such.  I went to university and then Law School. I even understand some of cricket.  However, I am perfectly content to accept that like pretty much everyone on the planet I am undoubtedly nowhere near as clever as I think I am. Very few people are unwaveringly confident and consider themselves to be intellectually superior to everyone else.  Except for the stable genii.  To my mind those people should not be left alone with the tv remote, let alone the nuclear codes. But that does seem to be where we are, much to the eternal bafflement of most of us.  Last, but certainly not least, when called for, I can be aggressive.  Or in other words, a stroppy cow.  I cannot think of a single person who knows me who would disagree with that.  “Formidable” was one word ascribed to me once.  “Gobby” has been a less complimentary one.  Particularly with injustice.  Which might explain why I ended up in my job.

Moving on; is there anyone left to offend?  Just to run over the Highly Derogatory Comment List at the time of my writing, those currently making the cut are: gay men, black people, women of the Muslim faith, children of single mothers, by association single mothers, dead people in Libya, and possibly the most infamous catch-all (in a very crowded field) for everyone involved in a business, which is pretty much all of us one way or another; “f**** business”.  Colonial poetry has been recited in Burma, and if you haven’t seen the footage of a small child being rugby-tackled then google it if you must, but please watch from behind a cushion because it’s like watching an episode of ‘The Office.’ Consider the most embarrassing thing your most embarrassing relative has ever done after too many sherries and you’re only half way there to the amount of cringing.  By the time I publish this piece, I expect at least one more group of people have been insulted in order to try and appeal to whoever it is who likes this sort of language.  Which as an aside, makes me wonder why those nodding in agreement with such talk consider themselves to be either exempt or immune from the next inevitable barrage. 

As the above list covers quite a large proportion of the population it does leave one to opine as to who the incumbents are trying to appeal to, because it clearly isn’t me.  If you’re reading this without frothing at the mouth, then I suspect it isn’t you either.  But it must be someone and they must exist, in number, somewhere in this country, because it seems that a lot of people will vote for them.

Notable by their absence from the list of people above is heterosexual males.  More specifically white, middle-class males.  Maybe it’s them?  But this presupposes that heterosexual white males aren’t offended by such remarks about fellow friends and citizens.  Man of the House is a white, middle-class male and I could have peeled him off the ceiling at the “letterbox” comment.  Similarly, I am not black, but I found the description of black people so offensive that I couldn’t bring myself to repeat it to a friend who hadn’t read about it.  It is extremely unfair and breathtakingly stupid to consider that only the groups of people being insulted are offended by such things.  No one I know espouses such views; no one.  I feel certain that many of their parliamentary candidates do not espouse such views.  But here’s the rub: some of them are still standing up to be counted with those who do.

Which leads me to the Christmas card list. Very. Short. Indeed.  It must be.  Surely.  If the incumbents get a majority they’re proposing to hand power to the Executive so they can do whatever they damned well like and ignore Parliament.  Whilst the furious head-nodders might think that that is okay when they’re doing something that they agree with, what about when they’re not?  What about when you don’t fit neatly into the box? No one would vote for that would they?  Or do they think it can’t or won’t happen?  History tells us otherwise.

The apparent and increasing tendency to only care about something if and when it directly affects a person is a very sad state of affairs indeed and it was not ever thus.  There is simply no way of making someone care about something if they don’t. I confess to not giving two stuffs about Aston Villa being trounced at the weekend, but Man of the House was very upset about it.  Diminutive Friend is currently rather put out that less than twelve hours after she had decorated her Christmas tree, the fairy lights chose that moment to go kaput.  Okay, middle class problems both. But I would help Diminutive Friend sort the damned lights out if she asked me to because she’s my friend and it’s vexed her, so it vexes me by association.  I’m afraid I don’t think there’s anything that can be done to help Aston Villa.  But if it was in my gift to help, help I would because it matters to Man of the House. 

There are two lines that keep popping into my head about the parlous situation in which we now find ourselves.  The first is that line at the end of ‘Henry V’: “…and made his England bleed…” The signs are strong from lots of people who know a lot more about these things than I do that if the nationalists get their way England will bleed.  The second is the distinct impression being pedalled that concern for each other is a laughable weakness and that the whole thing, our lives and those of the people we love, is a really very amusing game.    Saying that you care when all of the facts and figures staring you in the face after nine years show that you really, really don’t.  Truth is immaterial.  As is honesty.  Or integrity. Sorry, not sorry.  Move on, nothing to see here.  But there is plenty to see here.  And there are a lot of us watching.  With each other. Whilst we get used to disappointing football teams and wrestle with the Christmas tree lights. In the words of one of the world’s most famous single mothers – “I think you’re the weak one.  You’ll never know love or friendship. And I feel sorry for you.”

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Supreme

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Unless you have been living on another planet (and you may well consider Mars an attractive alternative at the moment) you will have noticed that there has been a lot of activity in the UK Supreme Court this week. If, like me, you are a girly swot and proud of it, you may have also read the submissions that have been made public on the Supreme Court’s website (https://www.supremecourt.uk/brexit/written-case-submissions.html) and watched the proceedings with great interest live from the Supreme Court. Some of you may be slightly less interested but are aware that the PM is in Court and it may all get a bit more fraught next week. You’re right, next week is going to be very interesting indeed.

I should just pause here to make an important initial point; the case before the Supreme Court is not directly to do with Brexit. The Court is not considering and has not been asked to consider, and could not in any way consider, what, if any, form of Brexit, this country will or will not have, now or ever. This case is about parliamentary supremacy and the abuse of power.

If you really want to get up to speed, then the actual documents prepared by the most highly skilled and experienced legal teams in Britain are the place to start. I would urge you to read the submissions for yourself. Seeing something and reading it with your own eyes must always be preferable to someone (most definitely including me) telling you what they think they say. If you really can’t face that, even with a large glass of wine on a Friday night, there are a number of extremely intelligent commentators and I would therefore recommend that you see what they have to say instead. I would not urge you to get your information from the msm. The Mirror is not a legal authority in any way, shape or form. Neither is The Daily Mail. Judges are not enemies of the people. The only side they are on is that of the Law. Which they apply. When they are required to do so. That is one of our checks and balances on making sure that there is a sanction when people steal, or, as has been suggested in this case, lie in order to prevent that check and balance coming from Parliament. However, if you prefer something half-baked, distinctly less experienced, definitely less skilled and without a shadow of doubt a lot less intelligent than the actual papers in the case or the legal commentators, but something (I flatter myself) more challenging than The Sun, then carry on reading.

When I was an undergraduate I was taught that under the British Constitution, Parliament reigns supreme. It is elected by the people of this country and what Parliament says, goes. Not the government, not the Sovereign, not the Prime Minister and not the Courts, Parliament.

There are two main questions before the Court in this case:

1. Is this matter justiciable? i.e whether they have the power to look at it at all – courts should not get involved in politics, but it might not be just about politics; and

2. If it is justiciable whether the prorogation of Parliament prevented Parliament from scrutinising the government or in other words, to stifle parliamentary supremacy, which would be unlawful.

Now there have been three days of submissions from a selection of QC’s on either side. It has been the most compelling viewing since JR got shot. Okay, I’m not that old but I vaguely remember people talking about it. Now they’ve put it an awful lot better and with more gusto, learning and panache that I could ever muster, but in essence the position of each side is this:

Government: Of course we didn’t do it to stymie Parliamentary scrutiny. It is perfectly usual to prorogue Parliament with a new government so there can be a Queen’s Speech. Okay so the timing might be a little off – and it’s not like we said we weren’t and then went ahead and did it…oh…er…maybe we did….but other people have done it and got away with it. What’s in the Act stays in the Act unless Parliament changes it. Which they’ll have loads of time to do when they get back – there’s absolutely nothing else on. Parliament doesn’t do anything in September anyway – here’s a memo from the PM saying so. We really don’t know what all the fuss is about. You want us to what? Put it in a Witness Statement so that if a person swearing it could be found in contempt of Court? That’s a bit rash!

The other side: You lied to the Queen, you lied to the Electorate and you lied to Parliament. Parliament should be given the opportunity to sit if it wants to (and not if it doesn’t) to decide what to do about it.

Guess which side persuaded me of their case? I’m fascinated to see what the Supreme Court says next week.

Michael Gove famously said that the British people are tired of experts. No we’re not you patronising politician. The experts have been a joy to watch this week. Give me some more of those experts and be bloody quick about it. I cannot trust a government that treats our democracy like a game of monopoly to be won, even if they’ve been promised two hundred pounds for passing No Deal by the Banker to add to their own offshore stash. But especially if they are not prepared to swear it in a statement of any kind, not even one single person will put their name to it. Not that they care a flying flamingo what I think, but they should care about the Court. I trust that even if I personally disagree with the decision that the Court may come to, I can respect it, because I know that they’re experts. I know that the judges have more knowledge in their little fingers than I do in my whole head. But also because the Court will, as they always do, lay out all of the reasons for their decision, line after painstaking line, page after page. Backed up by facts and evidence. In black and white. All for the entire world to see. Honesty, truth, transparency. And they’re brave enough to own it.

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Peer Pressure

“When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old, He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold. With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand, For God and for valour he rode through the land.”         Jan Struther 
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No peerages for guessing what I’m writing about today. There has been a wealth of choice as we all reconvene after the Summer particularly if you, like me, have been watching far too much of BBC Parliament from behind the sofa. Yes, the Honours List has come out and, as per usual, a selection of people who really don’t deserve one are on it.

We all know about knights. Armour, bravery, ladies in those pointy hats with the hankies coming out of the top swooning at their manly prowess. Historically an honour given to men (not women, obviously, because how on Earth could we be expected to get on a horse and fight in a skirt? Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc clearly didn’t get that memo) for military prowess and service to their monarch. The Knights Templar are probably the most famous who fought in the Crusades. And when they became too big for their boots – money, it’s always about money – they were slaughtered on Friday 13th which is why we all think it’s unlucky. Which it is, if you are Knight Templar. Keep your wits about you this coming Friday. There was an informal chivalric code that all knights were expected to obey, the keys here being honour and nobility. Richard III; when he made his final, fateful charge down the hill as Bosworth, led from the front. Henry VIII, whilst being quite a bit of a shit in pretty much every aspect of his life, was brilliant at jousting. You get the picture.

So for those of you who don’t know, about twenty five years ago, a man called Geoffrey Boycott was quite good at cricket. Also, about twenty five years ago, a French court found that he was quite good with his fists. He was convicted of assault of his then girlfriend. Anyway, it has been questioned as to why someone convicted of a criminal offence and particularly an assault on a female partner, should be recommended for an honour, and recommended particularly, I would like it to be noted, by a woman. It’s a good question.

One hopes that it remains a fundamental tenet of justice that having made a mistake and paid their debt to society that someone who has a spent criminal conviction is given the opportunity and support to learn from it and move forward with their lives. Of course there are shades of grey within that – some people don’t want to change, some people can’t, some people will simply never get better and in the eyes of many, some things are simply unforgiveable. However, that is the principle, and frankly if that goes, then rather like the government thinking that they are entitled to pick and choose which laws apply to them, then if we all start thinking like that, we’re all in trouble.

When asked about potential criticism of the honour from a domestic violence charity, Mr Boycott’s response was: “It’s twenty five years ago , love….I don’t care a toss about her, love.” A position that would be more believable if he hadn’t then said he voted Leave because of it. It is language that every single woman reading this has been batted with by a man when he’s trying to both belittle and dismiss her.

A potential client telephoned me once for a quote on a job. I gave him the quote and other pertinent details. expecting him to end the telephone call and then call me back if he wanted to instruct me. Rather than do that he decided to take the opportunity to berate me, an assistant solicitor at the time who was merely telling him a fee from the firm’s fee scale, that I was too expensive and he wouldn’t be using me, and whilst he did so he called me “dear” a lot. He then put the ‘phone down. Another man tried a similar thing with a Partner on another occasion. She was older and stroppier and had heard it all before – she stopped him mid-sentence and advised him that she was not his “dear”. This week, Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, rose to speak in Parliament and was told, by a male MP to “sit down, love”. I rather suspect that the journalist interviewing Mr Boycott was not his “love” either. Casual words speak volumes.

Mr Boycott maintains his innocence and has said that he under the French system he was guilty until found innocent. As you know, the English & Welsh system is innocent until proven guilty. The suggestion he made was that he would have been found not guilty under the English & Welsh system. The issue I have with this is that whilst the French may do things differently, the Court which had all of the evidence before them, evidence significantly over and above the photograph which has been doing the rounds on the internet, and they, the Court did not find him innocent.

Thirdly, it was twenty five years ago. And if there was a modicum of remorse for the entire incident being shown by the guilty party then I might have some sympathy for this position. However, on the one hand, the criminal conviction is being hawked as being so long ago that we should all just forget about it because the Court got it wrong anyway and no one in England believes it. However, the same logic is not being applied by the hawker to an impressive cricket career of twenty five years ago. Shall we all just forget that as well because it was also a long time ago? Ditch the peerage with it? Not keen? Strange.

There has been talk of the peerage system being outdated and needing modernising; I disagree. I think we should go back to basics. Given some of the decisions, I’m all for letting the Queen decide. She’s an eminently sensible woman who has shown herself to possess a super human ability to hold her tongue in the most trying of circumstances when the rest of us would have completely lost it. And her criteria are that someone should get an honour if and only if they have done something truly exceptional for the love, safety and security of our community, our country or our world. Someone who is gentle and brave and gallant and bold. Someone who rides through our land for God if they have one, or for good old-fashioned kindness and love if they don’t. For valour. They all ought to have some riding lessons. For what is a knight without their horse? And if we are going back to basics they might be required to ride into battle at some point so they will need a horse. And just so you know, Mr Boycott, if we do, it’s knights at the front, love.

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Inside Out

nuts in round white bowl
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None of us are getting any younger, and as far as I am concerned, frankly, it is beginning to show. I am spending increasing amounts of money at the hairdresser’s, and in sharp contrast, Man of the House is spending decreasing amounts of money at his barber’s. I noted that I go to the dentist every six months, have my eyes tested every two years, and naturally look forward with eager anticipation to my next cervical screening, but as a generally healthy person, I have never had a proper check over. So over the next couple of weeks, I am embarking on a personal MOT.

Next week I have a Health Check. Or as they are called in our house, a Death Check. After I had handed over the not insubstantial amount of cash to a very friendly lady, I then received a list of less than friendly instructions. The first is that if I am late they will still charge me the full amount. Well they’ve already got my money, so that was nice customer service before I had even got through the door. The second is that you can’t eat and can only have water to drink for the eight hours preceding the check. Mean. The third one is that you have to fill in a questionnaire answering a lot of personal questions, and I assume that if you lie (“Cake? Me?  Never touch the stuff”) they will know about it. Unkind. Then at the appointment (assuming that I am not late because if I am I presumably get detention) a complete stranger will come into the room, poke and prod me all over and tell me exactly what is wrong with me, which I wholly anticipate to be pretty much everything.

It occurs to me now that I am paying for someone to tell me that I am not as slim as I thought, as tall as I had believed, my diet not as good as I had hoped and in spite of walking over twelve miles a week with The Hound, I’m not very fit either. They will probably also hand me a black envelope containing a piece of paper with a month and a year printed on it, which if it is sooner rather than later, may be considered a blessing if after all I am indeed using too much oxygen. All in all, and at best, the outcome of this excruciating and expensive experience can only be one of overwhelming disappointment. B minus, Could Do Better.

Last week as part of this regime, I had a hearing test (free at Specsavers if you have any concerns). I have suspected for some time that I have some hearing loss – it’s a family thing. I arrived and after some hearing-related small-talk the audiologist shut me in a booth with some earphones on and I had to concentrate really hard to hear different noises. If I heard a noise, I pressed a button. It was quite a bit more difficult than it sounds. It’s a bit like all of your children shouting at you at once and you being asked to hear the cat meowing at the front door. The test confirmed that I have some hearing loss in one ear that requires further investigation. Of course in certain circumstances, and particularly with three Childerbeasts in the house, one duff ear might be considered a good thing. Now when they kick off (“I was sitting there first”, “get off me”, “that’s mine”) I can simply lie down on the good ear and muffle the sound.

I was trying to come to terms with the inevitable ear trumpet and ear bashing when what I really needed was a boost. Brunette Friend messaged me with what I hoped was cheering news. Nope. She had stumbled across an advert in a department store aimed at women for “sex proof” mascara and wanted me to know that we have all been having sex incorrectly if we weren’t dolled up to the nines. Yes, you too. Unless you all knew about this and haven’t told me.  To quote Stephen Fry, more of an oil slick than an oil painting I may be, but I’m not sure a face full of make-up much improves me. And up to that point, I hadn’t really cared. So not only is my body not good enough, I don’t look right either.  Shit.  We discussed a number of concerns: 1. Are heterosexual women supposed to only have sex if they’re wearing mascara? 2. What is it you are supposed to be doing with your eyelashes during sex that requires your mascara to be sex proof? 3. Is the person in charge of this marketing the same one who gave the green light for that new lovely Ikea dining set that has been in the news this week (google it)? and 4. Did our partners know about this? Grade C. Requires improvement.

To make my middle-class week even worse, I then learnt of an injection pen that is being marketed, mainly to women, to suppress their appetites. And from the speech of the lady who was telling me and the assembled company about it – this is meant to be a good thing.   She advised that a fellow female, of whom I had never heard and whose only apparent contribution to society is to market this nonsense, has been shouting about it from the rooftops. Ever the cynic, I suspect that is because this will make her rich. If I have got this right, she both injects herself and starves and starves her body of the nutrients and fuel that it needs in order to function and stay healthy so she can pursue an aesthetic of the absurd. A look that is entirely unrealistic and unhealthy for any woman wishing to live a long and healthy life. And a look that gives out the very strong message that it doesn’t matter one iota if you achieve nothing in your life, it doesn’t matter how long that life is as it is of no concern to be bothered about what is really going on inside your body, or no consideration should be given to what sort of person you are. All that matters is that you have your sex proof mascara on and you look pretty. I wonder what the Death Check people would have to say about that. “Yes Miss Pointless, you look very good in a bikini, but to have abs like that you have starved yourself to the extent that you have stopped ovulating and therefore your womb is knackered and your heart is about to give up.” And I also wonder what their colleagues in mental health would say about rock hard abs and prettiness being marketed en masse as the only thing that matters in life. You can probably guess what I have to say about it and contains quite a few swear words.

It is with no apology at all that I shall be going to my Death Check with no make-up on.  I am not afraid to admit that I don’t own sex proof mascara.  Neither do I own rock hard abs.  I’m not thin.  I’m not pretty.  But I’m doing my best, and my best does not include teaching my children that crap.  The people who know me and love me don’t seem to care about things like that.  But I have noticed, that they, and I, do feel quite strongly about cake.  Sssshhhhhhhh! If we could just keep that between us for the next week or so.

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Daddy Cool

This week a number of people have been quietly muttering to themselves whilst they have been making or are planning to make their way around the shops looking for Father’s Day cards and presents for Sunday. Sister B telephoned me this morning to ask me what I thought our father would like. I said that I had a vague memory that he liked fudge. In the absence of any ideas, let alone better ones, she immediately made her way to Thorntons.

Twenty minutes later she telephoned me in some distress from outside a jewellers. She had impulse-bought her Man of the House a bracelet and was clearly wondering whether she had made the right choice. I enquired as to whether her Man of the House was jewellery-wearer. She said she wasn’t sure. She said that the jeweller had said that she could return it for a full refund. On receipt of this news, I made soothing noises, comments such as I am sure it will be fine, couldn’t she blame the choice on my niece (aged eight) and that jewellery is such a personal thing it is difficult to get right. She said she’d send me a photo.

I received the photo. It was a man’s bracelet. I have strong opinions on a number of things – you have probably noticed- but men’s jewellery has as of yet, passed me by. Thinking that it was the right thing to say, I said that it was not too bling. Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, as he would probably like more bling. At this point, realising that sense and reason had left the building, I did the only thing a responsible sibling could or should do in such circumstances – I sent her a clip from Youtube of that episode of Friends when Joey buys Chandler a bracelet and he hates it.

All was quiet for about another twenty minutes and then she rang again. This time from The Body Shop. Would our Dad like a shaving kit? I said I didn’t have a clue. Not the faintest clue. I expected that he does shave and therefore might find a use for it. And everyone appreciates something useful. This should not be an unusual conversation to have with a sibling. Except that I haven’t seen our father for thirty years.

My parents split up when I was twelve. I know I am not unusual and I am not claiming to be anything but ordinary. In common with many people their behaviour followed a particular pattern; my father tried to pay as little as possible after leaving the matrimonial home as somehow in his head physically leaving the house meant he had absolved himself of any responsibility for the life he had brought me and my sisters to. Therefore my mother made life as difficult as possible for my father to see us by being vile–a constant reminder that seeing him was utter betrayal. To cut a very long, tedious and upsetting story short, the ultimate result of this game of two cats and three mice was that me and my sisters didn’t see my father and we went hungry. Literally. What little my mother had she kept for herself. My father knew that, I suspect it is one of the many reasons he left her. The only positive I can take from the immense amount of energy that my parents continue to pump into hating eachother over three decades is that they must have really loved each other once.

Therefore, for obvious reasons, Father’s Day was at best, a non-event for me until I had children myself. I loved my stepdad and in stark contrast to my mother he never demanded anything – certainly not attention and definitely not on Father’s Day. So that first Father’s Day when I was still mourning his loss and I shuffled off to buy something for Man of the House from Childerbeast Number One was a little strange for me as it hadn’t featured on my radar for nearly twenty years. When Sister B started seeing our dad again, much to everyone else’s confusion, Sister A and I supported her absolute right to self-determination, regardless of that being in a different direction from us. It is therefore testament to the strength of our relationship that she feels able to ask me what our Dad may or may not like for a gift in the expectation that I will genuinely try to help.

So this Fathers’ Day, I want to thank you, Dad. It is a daily struggle to unlearn all that crap from you and my mother, but struggle we must. And struggle we do. My wish for you this Father’s Day is that you let go of hating my mother just long enough to see the real tragedy of what you both did. The little girl that became a woman and mother herself can only really remember that her Daddy might like fudge. So I hope you like it. I’m afraid it was that or those dates you get in the oblong boxes at Christmas. If you play your cards right, next year my sister might get you a bracelet.