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A Tale of Two Villages

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Photo by Ákos Szabó on Pexels.com

 

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Bicester Village, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge against shopping to new mutiny,

Where credit cards make bank accounts unclean.

 

Hunting

A few weeks ago, after I had told Man of the House that he was going to take some time off work he announced that on one of these days that he “wanted to go clothes shopping.” I can count on the fingers on one hand when Man of the House has wanted to go clothes shopping in the last eighteen years and three of them were when we first started going out. I could only assume that the situation in his wardrobe was desperate if he was making such an announcement. On the allotted day, having divested ourselves of the Childerbeasts, we made our way to a local shopping village.

We arrived, found a parking space and I was rather hoping for a coffee and a muffin of some sort. Not a chance.  I could almost hear Sir Stirling Moss saying “aaaaannnnndddd they’re off” as I was frog-marched to the first shop. A shirt shop. Asking me what his shirt size was, Man of the House began rifling through the rails. He identified a few garments he liked, spurned some others and then made his way to the till to pay. Bag collected, thanked for his custom and we were out. Onto the next one.

In the next shop we were looking for trousers. He advised the sales assistant of his size who very kindly brought him various pairs, some of which were roundly rejected and others he deigned to try on. No sooner had I parked myself on a pouffe that the changing room curtain was flung back, rings jangling, and he emerged.  He was Making A Purchase. And no he didn’t need to try the same style on in navy, he would just take a pair of them as well. Geez.

Out. Into a shoe shop. Tried a pair on. They didn’t fit. Didn’t want to try any others on. Back out.

By this point I insisted on going to the loo, even if it was just for a quick sit down and to get my head straight.

In the next shop we didn’t get any further than the doorway, Man of the House stood in the entrance and stated that he couldn’t see a single thing he wanted to buy and stalked off.

I gratefully accepted when he enquired as to whether I would like a coffee. Coffee was purchased. Coffee was drunk. A pastry was consumed. And the route march resumed. Two hours after we had arrived, Man of the House announced that he had seen all that he wanted to and asked if there was there anywhere that I would like to go.

Amongst other places I wanted to go to was a shoe shop. Jimmy Choo to be precise. I don’t like clothes shopping for myself. I find it quite stressful. But I do love shoes. Not that I have anywhere to wear them, or a bank account that can afford them. But a girl’s got to dream. So we went to see Mr Choos shoes. They are sparkly and glittery and beautiful. I coo-ed. I admired. I’m not ashamed to say that I stroked. I picked up the most beautiful pair of shoes in the whole world and with a smile rather like the one that must have graced Judy Garland’s beautiful face when someone pointed to her ruby slippers and said “you have to wear those all of the time” showed them to Man of the House. He announced in a loud voice that if that was what I wanted for Christmas, he could simply buy a plain pair of shoes and let the Childerbeasts loose with a glue stick and glitter. The security guard looked even less impressed than I was. It was time to go home.

Gathering

Due to a diary nightmare, I had a longstanding date to return to said shopping venue with two girlfriends precisely one week hence. Therefore a week later, Blonde Friend, Brunette Friend and I made our way to the same destination. On arrival, without even asking, we all knew that none of us had eaten because in spite of being up at stupid o’clock, we had been sorting everyone else out with their requirements for the day. In a leisurely manner we made our way to a catering venue and purchased something to eat and drink. We sat and discussed what the target purchases were, and which establishments each of us would like to visit. After finishing our breakfast, we meandered down the street. Blonde Friend pointed out a clothing shop that I had never heard of, nor seen before. Brunette Friend advised that they sold lovely clothes at reasonable prices. So we went in. We browsed. Probably for fifteen minutes. Even twenty. Blonde Friend tried a couple of dresses on. She bought one. We then moved on.

In another shop, whilst Brunette Friend was under a pile of bedding (as in choosing, she wasn’t having a little sleep), I was minding my own business in the children’s pyjama section when Blonde Friend rushed over to me and grabbed my arm “Natalie, Natalie, they have some lovely dresses here that I think would look lovely on you. Come and have a look.” I took three dresses into the changing room. I tried them all on. One looked so awful I refused to emerge. But the other two required the opinion of both friends, a shop assistant and another woman waiting in the queue. They all thought I should purchase. I bought two dresses that I didn’t even know I needed.

Our third shop seemed to involve locating Christmas presents for each other’s families. I bought my eldest Childerbeast a book titled ‘How to Swear’, a bright yellow tome which Brunette Friend had ostentatiously waved at me from across the other side of the establishment. Since they have started secondary school, the language from Childerbeast Number One has been so bad I am now at a loss as to what else to do other than to get him to swear properly. I made it very clear to the assistant that the book was not for me. I know how to swear properly thank you very much. It is my Childerbeast that needs the guidance. Yes, that makes it so much better. Yes, Social Services are welcome any time.

Ambling from one shop to another, admiring shoes in windows without any hilarious comments about glitter and glue sticks, we started to flag a little and determined that we ought to have lunch. And probably a cake. There we re-assessed our purchases and also where we hadn’t been that each of us wanted to go. One couple complimented us on the number of bags, and therefore our shopping success. In turn, I berated them for having only one small bag, and suggested that after lunch they go back out there and try harder. We left. Tired but content, and with time for another cup of tea when we got home.

 

 

 

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Judge Me By My Size, Do You?

 

 

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Photo by Hristo Fidanov on Pexels.com

The best stories are always those where there is a battle between good and evil; the Empire and the Rebel Alliance, Frodo and Sauron, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, those of you who love Marmite vs those of us who hate it…… You may recall that just over a year ago I wrote a blog about being involved with a potential building project of a new pre-school. I say potential because at the time of writing nothing was certain. For those who don’t recall it was a blog written about three days before we were scheduled to knock the old building down expressing my extreme anxiety as to the consequences, if, for want of a better phrase, we fucked it up. The two important points to bear in mind were: 1. We had to build it into the Summer holidays so we could open for the new term, and 2. We had one pot of money that had taken ten years to save, and that was it, down to the last penny.  And in that blog I said that I would let you know how our story came to an end; it was a titanic battle.

As many of you who volunteer or work for charities know, we needed cash. And lots of it. You’ll be relieved to hear that we weren’t three days away from the start date when I was writing and still wondering where we were going to find the money. However, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to thank every single person who ever donated anything towards the project because without them we would never have got to it even being a possibility. Previous trustees had been scrimping and saving for almost ten years to try and gather a pot of money together to prepare for the day that the building came down, either because it was knocked down deliberately, or by a reasonably strong gust of wind.

As the gust of wind option became more likely the need for the cash became more pressing. Thankfully we had a committee member who had the perfect skill-set of knowing precisely how to wring money out of people combined with an ability to boss about those of us who didn’t. And to keep it up, consistently, for about four years. It is impossible to express to you just how hard it was to raise that money. And once raised, how incredibly careful we had to be to make sure that money was enough.

Whilst we were getting the money together, because we are not completely stupid (which may surprise most of you), it had also occurred to us that we needed the legal right to actually go ahead with the build. Apparently planning authorities and landowners get a bit sniffy if you just start building on their property.  This is where my complete and utter inability to organise a fundraiser did not matter (“Natalie you look as comfortable with that bunting as [three year old son] looks when I give him a pen”). However, my  skill to work my way through the varying departments at the local authority until I got to speak to the correct person to give us that permission did matter. I exchanged the contract, I believe, with around an hour to spare before an army of volunteers turned up to empty the building before it was to be knocked down and the site cleared the next day. Nothing like taking it to the wire.

The committee also had a number of very detailed conversations late into the night about the minutiae of the building. A long list of all of the things that would be necessary in order for it to function as a pre-school, together with the associated cost of those items and the difference between essential and desirable. My colleagues and I now know far more about toilets than frankly, we ever wanted.  Consequently we have also given more consideration and had more open conversation than we would have ever wished to regarding the dimensions of the human bottom.  Nevertheless, if you need a lavatorial expert, I know just the woman, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Taking the old building down and the new one going up was where committee member number four came in. We had employed a company to supply and construct the building but once it was plastered we were going to need some other people come in. Committee member number four knew (and presumably still does) an inordinate number of people with diggers and trailers, those big metal fences, drills, chain saws, and lots of other manly equipment and power tools. A selection of eager husbands, fathers and I think some people who just fancied joining in turned up the next day and took great delight in dismantling the old building and chucking it into skips. Committee member number four took five days annual leave to work on the project. And that excludes evenings and weekends.

This is not forgetting other committee members, and the Manager in particular, who were doing boring and unsexy but extremely necessary administrative stuff and things like sanding handrails for hours on end, digging holes and spending a thrilling evening on their hands and knees putting nails into the floor so the carpet could be laid.  All to ensure that we finished. On time. And on budget.  Ready for the new term.

Perhaps when you are surrounded by people who are all working towards the same goal, even if you differ at points as to how to get there, the thing that binds you together is that you all do want to get there.  Although there was a web of red tape involved which was exceedingly challenging to navigate, we didn’t feel that we were up against the wrong side.  It was realizing that some people are wandering through life with entirely and exclusively their own interests at heart that did.  One of our volunteers was working on the building one evening after being at work all day and looking forward to their dinner at eleven pm when their partner telephoned as they had come home to discover that they had been burgled. The plasterer walked off site the reasons for which we will never know and in doing so risked everything everyone had worked for, and five people’s jobs. Orcs? Death Eaters?  I think so. By contrast a local builder found us four plasterers who were in the building the next morning to try and catch up the time. A local farmer who grows and sells sunflowers for charity had heard about the project and gave us a donation.  Rebel Alliance?  Gryffindors?  Yup.

And us? The committee as was? What happened to us?  We are still around, but not putting our hands up for any charitable building projects any time soon.  Any number of people could have done what we did.  And we could not have done it without everyone who had gone before us, and everyone who stood with us at the time.  We just happened to be the people who were in the right place at the right time.  And we knew it.  Although some days it felt very much like the wrong place and the wrong time.  But it is my view that the anything worth having in life, something worth truly having, is something that you have to fight for – love, respect, friendship.  Do you remember that scene in Star Wars when Yoda lifts the X-Wing out of the swamp using The Force? If you don’t (unconscionable but possible) look it up on YouTube.  Luke Skywalker stands amazed and can only just manage to say “I don’t believe it.”. Yoda turns to him and in his distinctive, ominous and slightly squeaky voice, utters the immortal words: “That. Is. Why. You Failed.” We were a group of people for whom failure was not an option. We knew that together we had the ability to pull it off.  But only together.  Which I think by my own assessment, makes us all Yoda. Yikes.

Blog, Uncategorized

The Philosopher’s Stone

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Photo by Rick Gailer on Pexels.com

 

My what a week so far! Put away the fake tan for the weekend – King Don is allowing us to bask in his orange glow from today; yesterday my British friend who works in Croatia was put in the most compromising diplomatic position since the PM had an involuntary Spring Clean of her Cabinet on Monday; and that particular Spring Clean,  I suspect caused more excitement in the Strictly recruitment team than when someone said “why don’t we put Ann in a harness, attach her to a wire and propel her onto the stage?”

Whilst the people who are supposed to be governing us are more interested in power than governing, some proper people who live in the real world have been doing some actual work. The young boys and their coach trapped in a cave have been saved by a team of people the majority of whose names will probably never be known to us, except that of the man who sacrificed his life; Saman Gunan. The English men’s football team and their manager have excelled themselves in both skill and spirit, to the nation’s pride and delight. And my eldest Childerbeast, in preparing for their last week of Primary School and born to a mother who would rather hide under a duvet than even draw a raffle in public, was in the school play; they were pirates.

If you’re a parent you’ll know the drill : the audience filed into the hall and sat, sweating in a confined space on a hot day, just as they have done every year for the past seven years. They admired the programmes made by the children, spotted their own child’s name, spotted the names of their child’s friends and then proceeded to fan themselves with the programme. The Head was legally obliged to tell us that should there be a fire (she’s a one for Cuban cigars in the school veg patch when she thinks no one’s looking) that we were all to run like hell towards the door…..Forty plus children then came onto the stage and burst into song. I love primary school children singing. It’s about the only time in life that people are not self-conscious about themselves or their voices, and they just sing. And it always sounds lovely.

The children had learnt all of the songs and their lines by heart. They all had different costumes, which I can attest, had driven each and every one of their parents’ completely mad in their creation. They enjoyed the fight scenes far too much, particularly the child who had got someone in a fake head lock and was pretending to punch their wriggling captive in the stomach. I think that it tells you everything you need to know about the school that out of everyone encumbered by wooden legs, parrots, beards, scarves, hats, mouse ears (yes, there were mice), whiskers and pieces of eight, that it was their teacher who had the most flamboyant costume of all; thigh high boots, puffball skirt and the most elaborate red hat I may have ever seen – Man of the House said it was worth the donation to school funds alone.

Now you might not consider a school play to be important work compared to the rescue of the young boys in Thailand. I agree. There are degrees of importance and thankfully no one’s life was at risk on Treasure Island last night. But children who may find reading difficult had read the script and learnt all of their lines and all of their songs – all of them. It taught all of the children about words, and music, and tone and timing and about a million other things that they didn’t know they were learning about. And when someone forgot their line, a friend quietly prompted them. Children who find it hard to stand up in front of people, stood up in front of people. Children who don’t find it so hard stood next to those who did and supported them. And finally, red-faced and sweaty, they all gathered for a group photograph to go in their year book.

Not that the last seven years have been plain sailing. There has been a lot of angst. Friendships move and change. Refusal to do homework. General cursing of the homework.  Stropping. Growing. Dear lord above there has been so much growing.  Eating. Never ending amounts of eating. And I am well aware that the door slamming is only going to get worse. But I know that fundamentally, my Childerbeast is at school with good people and there is a security in that which is about to be taken away.

Because this is the end. Probably of childhood, and inevitably of innocence. And I, and the other mothers are closing our eyes and counting to ten. Or twenty. Because it only seems like five minutes since they were babes in arms and the time has gone too quickly. We don’t want to send them into the world just yet…….Ever. We know that the world is governed by people more interested in promoting themselves and their own interests and run on a day to day basis by those doing proper, necessary and often unglamorous (pirate costumes aside) work and it seems that never the twain shall meet. So do we teach our children to beat the first lot or join them? Beat them, I say. Kill them with kindness. A cannon from Treasure Island could be swiftly relocated to the Strictly studios. So when they and their disgraceful self-interested behaviour are finally vanquished, instead of waterboarding which some of them seem inexplicably fond of, we and our kind shall dress them in sequins, stick them into a cannon and in a poof of glitter, fire them onto a dancefloor.

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BDE

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This week I have stumbled across the news, well I say news, more gossip, that Ariana Grande is engaged. Now I have two Childerbeasts who love Ariana. If you don’t know her, she’s an extremely petite woman, very pretty, perfectly coiffeured, and I believe she has an exceptional vocal range which she has worked exceedingly hard to achieve. By all accounts she is a very talented and hard working young woman. Congratulations Ariana, I hope you are very happy together.

In a gender role reversal, her fiance appears to have been subjected to the same scrutiny that women often are when showbiz couples are revealed. From what little I have seen Mr Grande-to-Be is quite tall and I am given to understand, a confident person. That is about all I can tell you apart from that he is a person of the male gender. Comments have been made that he does not possess a chiseled jaw, or a row of perfect white teeth, with the implication of “what is she doing with him?” and “how dare he be so confident when he doesn’t look like a film star.” He is not what we would think of as Showbiz good-looking whereas Ariana most definitely is. And then Ariana tweeted suggesting that her fiance’s….ahem….. feet are so large that the wedding shoes will have to be bought before the rest of his outfit. There seems to have been some collective relief expressed on Ariana’s behalf that the mystery of their relationship and his confidence has been revealed in one tweet, because presumably, why else would she look twice at him? And why would anyone who is not textbook perfect have the audacity to be confident otherwise?

This confidence has been referred to as BDE: Big Dick Energy. A confidence that men who are not jaw-droppingly handsome possess because, presumably, they know something that we do not. Similarly, both statistics and experience tell us that there are men who do not have this confidence because they also know something that we do not. That’s right, tiny hands. This may be exhibited by the small glove wearers behaving like toddlers to over-compensate for their feelings of inadequacy over being able to squash their danny pats into children’s gloves. I think that none of us have to think very hard to find an example of someone like that.

This leaves us women in something of a quandary because for obvious reasons it is not possible for us to have this confidence. And frankly, if a large vagina was something that we all aspired to, then pelvic floor exercises would not exist. Yet, there are women who fall into both categories; tiny hands and big feet. The woman who told me I was training the Hound all wrong (see The Dog’s B*******) – tiny hands. The woman who woefully misjudged Sister B when out shopping and thought it acceptable to be rude to her and not get a mouthful back (see Generation XX) – lego-sized hands. The person who interrupted a point I was making, suggested to me that reading a legal document meant that they were just as qualified to offer legal advice as me, and then proceeded to tell me what I ought to be advising – teeny, tiny hands.

Take the flip side: Big Feet. Sister B for merely giving the rude woman a mouthful and not clothes-lining her: BDE. Colleague who didn’t leap across the desk and chin the person who may as well as said “you’re an idiot” when they had asked a simple question: BDE. Myself for putting one hand on one ear and another over my mouth to stop myself being breathtakingly rude back to someone: BDE. And my friend who could see me literally wrestling the desire to verbally tear someone to shreds, poised to kick me in the shins in order to save me from straying into a Tiny Hands Moment myself (or a dropping a Donald as I shall now call it): BDE.

All of these examples show two things.  First,  when faced with someone dropping a Donald in our direction, we are at risk of being so enraged by the appalling behaviour that stems from their inadequacy, we end up behaving in a similar way ourselves. The only purpose that can ultimately serve is a world full of people putting their own wants and needs first and trampling over other people in order to do so. That can’t be a good thing.  Second, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes people just need telling, whether they want to hear it or not –  because the world seems to be filled with tiny hands-type people – stupid, over-confident and utterly oblivious to both. But having BDE is one thing; knowing what to do with it is quite another.

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Not to be Sniffed at

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At risk of utterly alienating the very few followers that I do have: I don’t have hayfever.  There. I said it.  I have never had it.  And hopefully I never will because it is awful, and has been particularly bad this week.  Nevertheless, and before you stop reading in disgust, I do have Sister A, a Childerbeast and a Man of the House who do.  And whilst I don’t live with Sister A anymore I do remember when we were little her having to bathe her eyes open in the morning because they had sealed up with goo in her sleep, and I also remember her coughing up pollen balls in a particularly attractive manner, not entirely dissimilar to a cat and a fur ball.

For my own personal viewing horror this week have been The Eldest Childerbeast and Man of the House.  It has been so bad for The Eldest Childerbeast that he has had time off school.  This was causing him particular distress when he thought that he might not be well enough to go on the annual school residential trip.  As far as I can tell the residential trip consists of getting wet and dirty, and near constant eating, so I can see why he would be upset at the prospect of missing out. Meanwhile Man of the House has still been off to the office looking rather like Sir Christopher Lee in Dracula most mornings because unless he were to have something instantly terminal, or I’ve told him that we-are-going-on-holiday-and-you-are-coming-with-us, he always goes to work.

So what to do with a Childerbeast who is obviously poorly, but you do have to try and teach them to cope with something that will probably happen every year?  First, like everyone else in the country at the moment, I went to Boots and bought out their range of hayfever products.  What a time not to be able to find your Advantage Card.  If you need any hayfever medication, anything at all, I’m your woman.  And if I haven’t got it I can guarantee I have a friend who does because her Childerbeast has also been struggling this week as well and between us we have the whole thing covered, probably for the next five years.

My First Parenting Fail of this week was quite late in the week really – Tuesday – in that I tried to dose him up and send him to school. I am the sort of person, like Man of the House is, that sometimes, most times, no matter how bad you feel you just need to get on with your day.  And I mistakenly thought that this was one of those times.  I had just sat down at the hairdressers when I received the call; begowned, my hair parted in that particularly attractive fashion that they do when about to put a colour on your hair, and with a stylist poised with the colour brush. I got up, apologised profusely to my lovely hairdresser who couldn’t have been more charming about it, and I left,  still sporting the cream that they put on your hairline to stop it dying your skin.   Five minutes later with the colour brush let loose and it would have been an even less attractive prospect, so I think we can all be grateful for that.  I was in such a dither driving to collect him, that I went around a roundabout twice.  I think that is because whenever I had a call for emergency childcare when I was in paid employment it never went down well at all and that was always made very clear to me.  The lowest point was when the nursery was being closed in the snow and I had to challenge my boss to let me leave the office to collect my child.  That is to say, if they had continued to say no, I would have just had to walk out because that was the position I was being put in. I tried to remind myself that this was not the same situation, there was no one effectively making me choose between my job and my child, and I did not have to react in the same way.  Also, if I kept going round the roundabout, then all it was going to do was make me dizzy and delay me further.  I got to school, got a reminder from the Eldest Childerbeast not to cuddle him until he was in the car, and popped him on the sofa under a blanket.

Second, we ditched the school thing and tried the range of hayfever products and paracetamol whilst lying on the sofa watching ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and eating popcorn.  That worked rather well.  If nothing else the sight of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn always serves as a healthy and pleasing reminder to me that I am married, not dead.  But it was not doing anything to get rid of the headache that had been making The Eldest Childerbeast feel so poorly.

Third, fruit.  Well it was okay, probably an ego boost from virtue if nothing else, but no discernible improvement.

Fourth, junk food  Not bad.  Helped.  A bit.

Fifth, a HEPA filter.  Every year I say I’ll buy one and every year I don’t.  This year I did.  Expensive.  But frankly I would have paid a King’s Ransom at that point to have a child who wasn’t so distressed. He believed his room to be pollen free.  I wasn’t going to tell him otherwise.

Sixth, a headache cooling patch.  That was good.  I recommend.  Not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before but I hadn’t.  Neither a long term nor practical solution for the young discerning tweenager about town.

Seventh, finally, and in desperation that he wasn’t going to make his trip, we went to the doctor.  Or The Prodders as they are called in our house.  The Prodder did indeed prod the Proddee.  There was nothing seriously wrong with him (I knew that but sometimes I need a medical professional to tell me) and she prescribed a steroid nasal spray.  The instruction to The Eldest Childerbeast was to stuff it up his nose and give it a big enough squirt so he can taste it running down the back of his throat.  That sort of disgusting instruction from a doctor was met with considerable enthusiasm.  The same enthusiasm with which he happily drank a bottle of ginger ale that he had won on the bottle stall from a vase that one of his friend’s had won on the tombola at the church fete last weekend.  And so it begins…..

Last night, after twenty four hours of snorting (medically prescribed) steroids, he was running around the house and shouting.  So much so that after the start of the week when I had that panic that you always have when your child is ill, I was more than happy for him to bugger off for four days.  Five would have been fine by the time he actually went to bed.  When he came in at half past four this morning to chat, I decided that a week would have been better and made a mental note to mention it to the Head when they get back.  Assuming that it is not my child who deliberately capsizes her kayak like someone apparently did last year.

I waved him off.  He even let me give him a kiss in public.  And as they departed my friend and fellow hayfever medication stockpiler asked me if I was okay.  I blamed the watery eyes on the hayfever that I didn’t think I had.  Apparently she had just the thing for it.  Turned out it was taking me to another’s friend’s house for a cup of tea and a biscuit.   They said it was too early for gin 😦

 

 

 

Photograph courtesy of blickpixel on Pixabay
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The Thigh’s the Limit

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The other week my daughter (who is the length and build of a racing snake) commented that her thighs were fat and they should be covered up.  She’s eight.  And she’s not overweight.  Still coming back from the stratosphere after last week’s Cartastrophe,  I explained to all three of my children that hips, thighs and bottoms are very important, as not only do they hold your entire body up to permit you to move about, they also help to keep all of your internal organs in the right place.  I spoke at length about how important it is that these parts of your body are strong, and looked after, and in order to be strong and looked after, they need to have a food source and also some muscle to them which involves exercising, because they have the weight of whole body resting on them.  Who knows if they were listening to me?  They probably weren’t given that they kept asking me to move out of the way.  However, I spoke to Sister B earlier today and she said that Niece (also the height and build of a racing snake and aged eight) had made a similar comment whilst poking her thighs.  This displeases me intensely.

In an entirely unrelated conversation, a couple of weeks ago a friend revealed to me that at the age of forty she was “going to get the legs out.”  Rather than it being her issuing me with a warning to run for cover as she was about to strip off, she meant that she was wearing (woo-hoo) a dress with a short skirt.  Now when I say a short skirt, I don’t mean a bum-skimmer.  Just a perfectly decent and acceptable skirt above the knee.  She had decided that she was not going to hide her legs away anymore.  So after forty years of keeping them under wraps she has unleashed them.  And they are perfectly lovely legs, which I am given to understand carry her about without any difficulties and have been known to run occasionally.

Inspired by the latter conversation and enraged by the former, last week,  I purchased a pair of shorts.  I can hear you wolf whistling now.  And I don’t mind telling you that partly because I wanted to show my daughters that thighs without that ridiculous gap are normal and nothing to be ashamed of, and also because I too have spent forty years covering my legs up, I had all good intentions of wearing them.  They’re not short shorts.  Whilst I strongly believe that you should wear whatever the hell you like, as far as I am concerned, no matter how good my legs may or may not be, short shorts are only for anyone under the age of thirty and Kylie Minogue.  It is to my (and that of Man of the House’s) eternal chagrin that I do not fall into either of those categories.  Plus my legs are quite fair indeed; unlike Kylie’s, they are translucent rather than transcendent.

Of course, just by making a purchase, it is not as easy as all that for a woman to wear a pair of shorts.  Men buy shorts, put shorts on, and they’re good to go.  It’s like swimming.  Men think to themselves “oh I fancy a swim, I shall take my shorts, a towel and a pair of goggles and make my way to the local swimming pool.”  It should be that easy for women, but it isn’t.  Women think “oh I would like a swim.  But do I want to go through at least an hour of hair removal before I am fit to be seen in public? And where I am going to find this hour undisturbed so that I may gather my array of tools in order to shave, pluck and wax so that people will not gasp in horror or faint when I disrobe?”    So I had to commence on the task that is not dissimilar to painting the Forth Bridge.  Ladies of diminutive stature be grateful because whilst those of us on the taller side may be able to reach some things on the high shelves, not only do we continually bang our heads on the cooker hood, it also takes us bloody hours to shave our legs.  Deary me you don’t know how lucky you are.  So after a geological age, my leg hair was dealt with for at least twenty four hours.  I could have got the shorts on and the legs out there and then.  But I felt that it would be unkind to everyone, and especially unkind to the Hound who can only see in monochrome, not to do something about the glare.

I decided to set about dealing with this issue with some fake tan.  I first had a fake tan only a few years ago.  Man of the House had said “why don’t you have a fake tan before we go away?”  Thinking to myself “Blimey, if he thinks I need to have a fake tan, I really do need to have a fake tan” I immediately booked myself in to a beauty salon.  Someone stood me in a shower cubicle stark naked apart from the tiniest disposable pants in the world (me in the pants, they were professionally and appropriately attired for the task) and advanced on me with a spray gun.   If I hadn’t have given birth to three children when I couldn’t have cared less if a brass band had been in the room, I might have felt a tinge of embarrassment.  As it was, I barely flinched when I was asked to put myself in all number of ridiculous poses, which the therapist confidently assured me was to achieve the much-vaunted all over glow.

This year I thought that I could probably manage my legs myself. I had been advised by a friend that one should moisturise one’s legs prior to application of the fake tan to ensure even cover and no streaks.  I placed a towel on the bed, myself on the towel, moisturiser on my legs and then the fake tan.  I lay down to let it dry and closed my eyes.  That was a mistake.  I woke up to a little face next to me at the side of the bed, for whom a promising career in the diplomatic service awaits: “Mummy why are your legs orange?”  She should have looked more carefully.  They were orange at the front and stripey at the back.  A wash did not improve them.  So I am afraid that the shorts, and my not very subtle point about thighs are going to have to wait for a few days until the legs aren’t streaky and I can spend another eon shaving them.  By which time Summer will be over and I can retreat to the comfort of my jeans.  Thank God.

 

 

 

 

Photograph from tumblr.com
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Tea and Cake

Tea now, gin later.jpg

Afternoon tea is very in at the moment isn’t it?  Or it certainly seems so.  Not that it ever really went out of fashion.  The idea of tea and cake becoming unfashionable seems to me to be very odd indeed.  Perhaps with the advent of ‘Friends’ and the rise of the Starbucks and Costas of this world, the unthinkable happened and the popularity of tea wained slightly in England.  Well I am pleased to see that it is back, and so is gin apparently.  Yippee! I need to do more research on the gin before I am able to write with any authority on that particular subject.  And I also suspect that you might also need to do some more research before you are able to see whether or not you agree with my views on gin whenever I come to express them.  So let’s agree to re-group on that one in the future.

Yes, so afternoon tea.  Imagine my friend’s delight when she was invited to afternoon tea with a group of friends.  This is my friend who openly admits to never having met a cake she didn’t like, so she was very happy indeed.  I am not sure she has met a gin she didn’t like either.  Nevertheless, she womanfully presses on with trying to find either a cake or a gin she isn’t keen on.

Unfortunately the date of the afternoon tea fell on a day when her significant other had to go to work, and she was going to have to take her (very well behaved and older) children with her.  I’ve been both in and out with these children on many occasions, not only are they very well-behaved, they also entertain the other children, which is a win-win situation as far as I am concerned.  In the meantime, my cake/gin loving friend had another friend get in touch with her who was having a childcare nightmare on that day; she and her partner had to work and there was no one who could look after her child.  My friend agreed to help out, because that is the sort of person she is. The child happens to have a severe food allergy.  My friend checked it out with her parents, the restaurant where the afternoon tea was to be taken and also happens to be trained in the use of an epipen.  All was in hand.  Everyone who needed to could go to work.  And everyone else was having cake.  Marvellous.

I need to declare an interest here.  My son has a food allergy. Several actually.  Thankfully none of them are life threatening, but if he has an allergic reaction it is pretty unpleasant for him.  He gets hives on his hands and his face, his lips swell, he can find it hard to breath and eventually he throws up.  He usually feels rather ill for the rest of the day.  He has medicine, which he usually throws up as well.  I discovered his food allergy when he was eight months’ old.  I won’t bore you with the details, but after about six months’ of carefully noting what I had prepared and a process of elimination, I had nailed it.  The hospital confirmed that which I already knew.  My son is pretty wonderful about it – he has never let it put him off trying new foods or eating out.  And I know that many many children have so many more serious things to worry about.  Most people have daily shadows lurking in the back of their mind when it comes to their children, that is one of mine.

Back to the story.  After having taken every precaution, my friend then notified the afternoon tea organiser of the additional child.  Down to the last exclamation mark, this was the response she received:

“Seriously!!!! I thought she had a severe allergy!!! Don’t want to put you off but it’s not a risk I would take!!!! I’m there to have a giggle with friends not stressing about someone’s allergy!! Sorry if that sounds harsh but I do panic about these things 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 (: (: (: (: ”

My friend asked me if I thought this rude.  I thought it exceptionally rude and told her so.  In addition, I have a few comments in response because my friend is far too polite to say them, nor does she have a blog:

  1. Yes, you do want to put her off.
  2. You’re not stressing about anyone’s allergy, you don’t want the child there.
  3. It doesn’t sound harsh, it is harsh. Couching it with a ‘sorry’ at the start does not make it less so.  Besides, you’re not sorry. And you don’t panic either.  You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
  4. A sarcastic person might suggest that it must be very difficult for you spending your days stressing about the food allergies of other people who are not in your care.

Now we all know what is really going on here.  And I agree with what is the main thrust of the women’s response is that children can be a pain, particularly one’s with allergies. But that’s life.   It very rarely fits neatly into boxes.  Children certainly don’t.  Suck it up.

We don’t really get to choose many things in life – our looks, our intelligence, who we fall in love with – all of these things are outside of our control, however much we like to think that they’re not.  But there two things that we can choose.  The first is that we are sufficiently privileged in this country to be able to choose to have children.  For me, having children meant that however they were to come to me, they were mine to care for, come what may, until the day I die.  And when our friends have children, they become part of our lives too.  And the second, for which I am grateful every single day, is that we can choose our friends. The one who will be pissed off if my son happens to be ill in spite of carefully checking everything?  Or the one who will hold my son’s head whilst he is sick on her shoes?  Hmmm…tricky….The one with the barf-spattered trainers please. I choose that one.  But I promise faithfully to replace the shoes.

 

 

 

Photograph courtesy of OneManOneShed on etsy.com/uk