Less than a hundred years ago, a few women got a say
in how the country was run, but it wasn’t an easy way.
Some didn’t like other people voting, because that would affect the status quo,
And if that became unbalanced, that might mean they would have to go.
We are the Clitterati, descendants of the Suffragettes,
All we want is equality, but we haven’t got there yet.
Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Acts required all genders treated the same,
Although they were on the statute book, the difference was still plain.
Women have the babies, so they are often overlooked,
If you have a career and a baby, either way, I’m afraid, you’re fucked.
We are the Clitterati, we are half the population,
We work and pay our taxes, and yet are still the poor relation.
And onto the Equality Act, as close as 2010,
reiterating the requirement to pay women the same as men.
Large companies have been forced to show their figures and the facts are clear:
If you have a penis you are paid more; year on year on year.
We are the Clitterati, hello, yes, not gone away.
You want the fruits of our labours, but you do not want to pay?
In 2018 the Press reported the extent of intimidating sexual behaviour,
This was news to decent men – but not women – that’s the flavour.
None of it was a surprise to us, the advent of metoo:
Women don’t like being bussed to dinners to be felt up by men- who knew?
We are the Clitterati, (that’s not really a thing),
But not any less ridiculous than being favoured for your ding.
Politicians who happen to be female have their legs front page news,
Confusing with their womanly wiles – politics just a cunning ruse.
Too hot, too pushy, too clever, too fat, or worst of all, not hot enough,
Bikini bods, body hair – but we have to like it rough.
We are the Clitterati, all colours and shapes and sizes,
We’ll look how we like, thank you. But we will now meet you at your rises.
Kittens, ponies, lots of pink, and books with lots of pictures,
Don’t worry our pretty little heads, our brains are not permanent fixtures.
The girl exams? Yes, we did those. The easy ones for females?
Please feel free to congratulate our breasts, they’re the ones that write the emails.
We are the Clitterati, we are more than half of humankind,
We think we should be treated equally and you really shouldn’t mind.
Some of our hands rock a cradle, some of us wanted to but couldn’t,
Some never wanted either – it shouldn’t matter – and it doesn’t.
Our children will inherit this precious Earth, and as phenomenal Maya once said,
I am a Phenomenal Woman, and for that, I will not bow my head.
We are the Clitterati, we don’t really exist, but we’re strong.
We’re everywhere, yet nowhere – and poof – like that – we’re gone.
Thank goodness that in addition to Father Christmas and his elves taking the cumbersome task of present acquisition, wrapping and delivery off my hands, that I also have my House Fairy Team. This morning they were able to flutter about looking for school cardigans at the last minute because although they had been washed, The Sock Fairy had not put them into Childerbeast Number Two and Three’s drawers. Tut, tut.
If you don’t have a resident House Fairy Team, I strongly recommend that you get one immediately for 2019. They cost nothing and really make life so much easier for everyone – usually the female in the house in particular (Human in Charge). As we all know, more often than not, it is still deemed the female’s job to shoulder the majority of these tasks, paid or unpaid employment, full or part time – the statistics are widely and publicly available if you’d like to argue the toss with me. I think you can mix and match your requirements, but if I run through the main team for you.
- The Monitor Fairy. No, not like the lizard. S/he (for no one has ever seen a House Fairy) is essentially in charge. Not a very glamorous title, and not a very glamorous job either. S/he has a number of tasks, but in summary:
- Clothing and bedding. S/he is expected to know not only precisely what items of clothing are in everyone’s wardrobe, but also their whereabouts at any given moment in time, their status in the wash cycle, and crucially, when the owner of that item of clothing is likely to want it to grace their person, but before they have actually communicated that wish which usually only happens at the point of dressing. This excludes all items belonging to the Human in Charge – they’re fairies, not wizards.
- Food. S/he is to take a note of all of the foods that the Humans (and any animals) residing in the House like and dislike. They are to ensure that there is an endless supply of those foodstuffs into the House in order that no Human in the house (excepting the Human in Charge) is left to the mercy of The Fridge Troll (see below). It is also vital that there is a number of nutritious and balanced snacks available at any one time. It is essential that these are available so that the Human In Charge can list them to the other Humans in the house who announce their hunger for the sole purpose of them being listed and subsequently roundly and repeatedly spurned, even if they were a favoured item previously.
- Cleanliness. It is The Monitor Fairy who instructs The Cleaning Fairy to chisel the toothpaste off the bathroom sink and sandblast the kitchen floor.
- Diaries – social and unsocial. Every single Human’s movements, social and work-related are to be noted so that there is not a diary clash. It is also vital to ensure that the points above re clothing and food can be seemlessly dovetailed to encompass the movements of everyone in the house (Human in Charge exclusion applies). If there is a diary clash then it is to be noted that as a first solution, if the Human in Charge is one of those involved in the diary clash, then whatever they had planned (work, career, wee on own) has to be ditched first so as to cause the least disruption. If the Human in Charge is not the cause of the diary clash, then simply cloning of self is all that is required to resolve the issue – see Hogwarts.
Also in the House Fairy Team are the following:
- The Sock Fairy. As I am sure you all know, The Sock Fairy is the one who creates all odd socks and let widely known, also puts all of the clean underwear away. So when someone shouts “I’ve got no pants” in an accusatory tone five minutes before you’ve got to leave the house in the morning, you can take comfort in knowing that it isn’t you that they’re blaming for the shoddy service, but the most wayward and undisciplined member of the House Fairy Team.
- The Toy Fairy. S/he knows the location of all toys. And when I say all toys, I mean toys and playthings that have been completely ignored for months, even years, but suddenly and inexplicably become the best thing sliced bread and need to be located. This is usually when The Tidy Up Fairy is trying to sneak them out of the house to a charity shop.
- The Tidy Up Fairy. Not to be confused with the Cleaning Fairy, who actually cleans once s/he can get to the floor after the Tidy Up Fairy has worked their magic. If you get nothing else get a Tidy Up Fairy. They spend all day every day picking up toys, pieces of paper, drawings and other bits of general debris and putting them into small piles around the house. They are so focused on their task that they go into one room with the express intention of helping The Toy Fairy but then get distracted by something that needs tidying up and then wonder why they came into that room in the first place. They are constantly concerned that this means something more serious is happening to them rather than they have too many things going on.
Being a House Fairy is not an easy task. There are always baddies working against the House Fairy Team, and the most notable of these are The Fridge Troll and The Toothpaste Terror.
- The Fridge Troll. S/he (for no one has ever seen a Fridge Troll) sneaks into your fridge and eats all of the food. One minute it is full, then next it is not. This can cause such distress to one of the Humans that they feel the need to shout, immediately, whilst their head is still in the fridge and they themselves are hanging off the fridge door and leaning into it that “there’s nothing in the fridge.” Again, this has a tone which suggests that this parlous state of affairs is All. Your. Fault. Of course it is not, it is The Fridge Troll and their evil works.
- The Toothpaste Terror. Rather like Pan’s Shadow, this Creature of Darkness flits into the bathroom and layers toothpaste onto the basin in such a manner that it hardens in seconds and then, just so you know they’ve been, they spit the remainder all over the mirror. This needs particular monitoring just after the basin and mirror has been cleaned as that is the time when the bathroom is at its most vulnerable.
Before taking a team on, please also consider that most days it will look as if the House Fairy Team have been doing absolutely nothing all day. On occasion you may well wonder why you are convinced that you can hear the tiny, high-pitched sound of fairy snoring at nine o’clock in the evening if so little has been achieved. Please do remember that they are to all intents and purposes, invisible and their task is quite literally, thankless. Except one day, just one day, maybe they will hear someone mutter something that will keep their heart warm when their magic starts to fade: “Mummy, sometimes when I can’t get to sleep, I put my nose into the pillow because it smells of you. It makes me feel better and then I can go to sleep.”
Happy New Year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every month I am relieved of nearly sixty pounds. Depending on the number of children that they have, other parents who go to the same leisure centre as me are also relieved of upwards of twenty pounds a month per child. For this I and they get the exceedingly dubious pleasure of escorting their Chillderbeasts to their swimming lessons each and every week.
I have been taking my Childerbeasts swimming since they were tiny, with me actually having to go into the pool with them at that time because four month old babies going swimming themselves is apparently not recommended For those of you who remain blissfully unaware, getting ready to take a baby swimming is another job in itself before you even get near the pool if you are a woman (see The Thigh’s the Limit if you are in any doubt as to what I am referring). I was usually sweating and stressed out before I even got to the front door.
Now when you take your children swimming when they are very small, it is a double-edged sword. You are getting them used to the water so they will never remember they were frightened when they start actual lessons, if they ever were; tick. The water is usually freezing cold; cross. And causes their little lips to go blue; cross. So you leap about even more enthusiastically to try and warm them up; tick. But when you eventually give in and get out they throw a tantrum and kick their little legs up and down because they were having a lovely time; cross. But they are also now starving; cross. And their swim nappy needs some attention; cross. Then you have to stand sopping wet and rather cold whilst you dry an upset and wriggly child. Once they are dry, the changing rooms are usually so disgusting that you don’t want your child to touch anything, let alone put their hands in their mouths and everything, absolutely everything has a pointy edge just asking for a head to be bumped on it . We all know how much children listen to being told not to do things, so the only thing to do is to put your dry clothes on your cold and wet body, pick up your child, and leave. Remember, you are paying for this.
When they get bigger, it’s a whole new circle of hell. First, assuming that you have got into the changing rooms past the ridiculous turnstiles (who would infiltrate the local leisure centre? Who?) you have to get the recalcitrant child into their swimming attire. That’s like trying to nail jelly to the wall. Then, in spite of you having asked them before they got undressed if they needed to go, and they catageorically denied it, they need a wee. So they take it all off again. In the festering and disgusting pit that is the changing room toilet. It is never any different in any leisure centre I have ever been in. Why is the person who uses the loo before you in a swimming pool changing room utterly incapable of a) getting their urine into the toilet b) getting the toilet paper into the toilet and c) flushing it? It’s not difficult. I assume that they do it at home. Once I had to report a used tampon on the floor of said toilet to a very distressed looking member of staff. I had not specified what horror they were likely to find because I could not bring myself to utter the words, so utterly incredulous was I that someone would be so monstrous. I had merely suggested that the toilet might need some attention and that was sufficient to strike the fear of God into them. After somehow controlling an almost uncontrollable desire to disinfect everything, you note that the changing rooms now seem to be at a temperature that is hotter than the surface of the sun, and the swimming hat has yet to go on.
For reasons not even known to myself, last year, I volunteered to go swimming with the school. I picked up a top tip from one of the children for putting on a swimming hat during that time and I pass it onto you. The adult holds the hat open. Hold it firmly and face the open part towards the child. The child, with hair up if necessary, then runs full pelt and head-first at the open hat. In one swift movement, as the child’s head goes into the hat, the adult releases the hat, steps to one side and the child has to either stop running or hit the wall. Either way, they are now wearing a swimming hat.
Just when you thought you were ready to advance on the pool, you have to tackle the damned goggles. Goggles are viewed by children like food; what was acceptable last week, or even the day before, could cause great offence this week. So the goggles fitted and did not let the water in last week. Today is quite the opposite. The goggles are re-adjusted and put on. You then gratefully release your child into the care of their swimming teacher for twenty five minutes or until they decide they need another wee, whichever comes first.
You make you way to the viewing area where, in spite of the cacophony, you will note that your child is listening, that’s right, I said listening, to their teacher. And not only are they listening, they are showing all of the signs of doing as they have been asked. As you sit there, gently perspiring, sporting your shoe covers and the unpleasant feeling of damp around your ankles from the bottom of your jeans getting wet, you think of all of the places you’d rather be; a yacht, a beach, the dentist…and you remember that you’re actually paying for this.
At the end of the lesson, you collect your child and join the queue for the showers. Now, builders of leisure centres, I want to talk to you so listen up. In my extensive experience, it is generally mothers who take their children swimming. Now we could get into a very long and detailed discussion as to why mothers generally take their children swimming, which I am more than happy to do. But we both know that it ain’t going to change anytime soon. When our children are small they come into the changing rooms with us. Trust me, we do not enjoy the experience; we accompany our children because we are their mothers and that is our job. So what you could do is provide more showers. They’re not that expensive and it sure as hell would make a difference to us. Thank you for your attention.
When you eventually get your child into the shower, you then have the very thorny issue of getting the little bugger out. You will stand there telling them to rub the shampoo in. You will insist that they put their head under the stream rather than standing with their bum poking in the water and their head poking out. You will, in very clipped tones, invite them to stop filling their swimming hat with water. Every week you will eventually make a plea to their better nature and point out that there are other children still waiting so could they please speed up. Eventually, you bring the big guns out and tell them that if they don’t get out of the shower you will cancel computer time/not let them have some chocolate/never feed them again.
They won’t dry their legs before they put their pants on. You will ask. You will ask every week. You’re wasting your breath. Every other mother in the changing area knows it because they were standing in the shower with you when their child was also filling up their swimming hat with water instead of having a wash. They won’t dry their hair off either because what would a Childerbeast have to complain about if it wasn’t for wet hair dripping down their back? Oh that’s right – they’re hungry again. Eventually, in a timespan that feels geological, you leave. Safe in the knowledge that you will go through the very same ordeal in precisely seven day’s time.
In some years from now you will be on that beach. Slathered in factor fifty you will look up from your book to see your Childerbeast sploshing about in the sea. Before you sat down you assessed the distance between your sunlounger and the sea and you already know that the distance is such that if you had to run to get there, you could. The distance is now one hundred metres rather than one hundred millimetres. So for now you can watch them from where you are. They will marvel at the fish they can see whilst snorkelling. They will shout “Mummy, look at me” as they leap in for the millionth time. You may even hire a boat or go on a trip which involves everyone throwing themselves overboard and swimming to the beach for a visit to a local taverna. And as you sip on your cool drink, you will lean back, sigh and think to yourself “I have most certainly, most definitely, and without a shadow of a doubt, paid for this”
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
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
I hope that you have all had a great couple of weeks of being fabulous and gorgeous. I know I have. I can’t tell you how wonderful and brilliant and not forgetting incredibly talented I have been. And if it were possible to be even more alluring than I already am (pretty difficult, I know) I have also been to the hairdressers.
A woman’s relationship with their hairdresser is a mystery to most heterosexual men – they don’t seem to understand two things. The first is how having their hair done is a recreational activity for a woman. And the second is why it takes so very long.
The second one is easier to explain so I shall take that first. Look boys, we generally have a lot more hair than you, even if it is just longer, and it therefore takes a lot more time to deal with. We tend to have more complicated cuts, colours and blow drying which tends to increase with age. Whereas boys tend to have less hair and less interesting things done to it – if you ever were attentive towards your hair, then that is more likely to decrease with age. I have a lot of hair even for a woman. And when I say a lot of hair, a lot of hairdressers have not really believed me until they have witnessed it for themselves. I am now familiar with the crestfallen look on the poor trainee’s face when they are presented with my barnet and told that it is their task to put the colour on it.
The first one is more difficult – the recreational aspect. You know when you go to buy a new pair of shoes and you go into the shop with your old, grotty pair on your feet and you feel ashamed that you’ve been walking around with such awful shoes on that up until that point you didn’t think were that bad? Then, after talking yourself out of the sparkly high heels (it’s not as if you go anywhere to wear them now) you leave the shop with a new pair of shoes that do not look as if they have been chewed and you feel like you’re dancing on air? Well that’s how I feel when I go to the hairdressers. Or to be more specific, that’s how I feel when I leave the hairdressers. When I arrive, I usually look like the wreck of the Hesper. A few hours later I leave looking like I imagine the Hesper did when she first began to founder (they’re hairdressers, not Hogwarts), but nevertheless a miraculous improvement on what fell through the door first thing.
Every woman reading this will be familiar with arriving at the hairdressers. After what feels like two hours of shouting at someone to put their shoes on, and searching for a lost cardigan, we are all welcomed warmly by the receptionist or our stylist. Our coat is taken and we are offered a drink. As it is probably the first opportunity that we have had to have a drink, we gladly accept. We are shown to a chair and given some magazines. Man of the House goes to a barbers where if you are five minutes late they not only disapprove and make their disapproval known to you, they refuse to do your hair, make you re-book and send you away with a flea in your ear. Probably an actual flea if the cleanliness of their salon is anything to go by. Meanwhile, I am being sat in front of an exceedingly unflattering mirror. Then my hairdresser wafts into the room, places both hands on the back of the chair and asks me “what are we doing with your hair today, Natalie?”
Every single time I say “Whatever you like as long as it’s not awful.” I then gesture to the mangled creature that resides on my head. It has an entire life of its own. Over the years I have tried to curl it, straighten it, get it to go a particular way, stay up in a style, stay in a clip even, and it won’t. So I no longer bother. I would say that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but my hairdresser can. My hairdresser rifles through my hair and then talks a lot of numbers at a trainee standing next to her which I am given to understand relates to the colour. I am put in a gown and a towel, then some plastic around my neck and the poor trainee takes a deep breath and sets to work. It would be difficult to describe how stunning I look with a colour on my hair and crocodile clips helping it stick up in every direction, but I am sure that you can all picture it.
Across town, if Man of the House has managed to beg an appointment, probably on his hands and knees, his hair cut is almost done. Which is just as well because if he needed the loo he is probably risking dysentery given that they never ever clean the toilet there. His barber starts huffing on a mirror and rubbing it with his sleeve to try and create a space so he can show him the back. Man of the House steadfastly refuses – he doesn’t need a reminder of what once was.
As he’s paying with one note, and possibly having the door slammed behind him as he leaves, I am just settling into reading ‘Cosmopolitan’ for the first time since the last time I was there. As usual it’s full of adverts of impossibly thin women holding handbags that look as if they might snap their twig-like arms and wearing sunglasses that really could do with a nose to sit on. Oh, and lots of articles about impossible sex lives. Nothing like filling our young girls’ heads with ridiculous notions of what they can expect from being a grown woman in 2018. As I flick through on the one hand thinking “This is an outrage, these women haven’t eaten properly for years” and on the other “oooooohhhh, nice shoes…..” the trainee is still painting colour on. And then s/he puts me under a heater that looks like it ought to be on the Starship Enterprise. I imagine Hollywood stars whom the tabloids would describe as “age-defying” being sat under these with a head full of foils. I am then taken over to the basins and the colour is washed out and I am given a lovely head massage. On one occasion, the lady at the basin next to me was so relaxed that she fell asleep and started snoring. When she snorted herself awake, someone appeared at her side with a cup of tea.
My hair cut takes another hour. Yes, an hour. But in that time my hairdresser updates me on her love life and tells me how lovely the colour looks on my hair. She makes my hair look beautiful. And as she gets a mirror to show me the back of my head without the need to clean it first, I confirm that the colour does indeed look lovely, I have lots of hair, and there is no way I will be able to make it look that nice myself. I then look in the unflattering mirror and ask if there is anything that she can do with my face. She always laughs as if I am joking.
I hand over many more notes than Man of the House did. My coat is held for me as I put it on, the door is held open for me with wishes for a lovely rest of the day, and I leave. Straight back into the real world. And as usual I’m on a tight schedule. I have three children to pick up from school and three swimming kits to get ready before that as well as a load of washing to get out of the machine and on the airer and another one in. Did I mention that everyone will also be starving hungry the minute they emerge from school? The Childerbeasts hand me their coats, their school bags and then run off. Laden, I follow them.
And that’s why women like the hairdressers.
Photograph courtesy of hansbenn on Pixabay
I hope you don’t mind me asking but do I look any different today? Not at all? Not wishing to put words into your mouth, but is there any chance that I look radiant? That is to say, even more radiant than usual? Refined even? Okay, supple? What do you mean “no”? Oh I see, I always looks radiant. Thank you.
The reason I ask is because I was poised to write a piece about the touch paper of the Brexit bomb being lit by the PM yesterday. I was thinking on this in the shower this morning. I was using a shower gel, ah-hem, I mean a shower mousse which confidently stated without any caveats whatsoever that should I venture into the shower with this product, that I would emerge with my skin being “cleansed, radiant and refined.” It also has a special nozzle that it helpfully advised me was reminiscent of the nozzle for piping cupcakes, which is obviously what I do when I’m not stroking my kittens or riding my ponies. And just in case I wasn’t sure that I would understand it in English, it also gave it to me in French as well. Having used it liberally, I was rather hoping that the effects might be obvious, but it would seem not. How disappointing.
Anticipating that the effects from this miracle mousse were not likely to be as successful as promised, I started looking at the wording on all of the beauty products that I have (of which there are many) and then I wondered what the wording was like on products for men and decided to compare the two. I report my findings to you.
First, there were a lot fewer products in the bathroom, or indeed the house, for the Man of the House. He’s not a particularly vain person, which is just as well because I have a rule that a woman should not be involved with a man who spends more time in front of the mirror than she does. However, I think he is a fairly typical man in that respect. I have a lot of lotions and potions for a variety of first world beauty needs, which are obviously not needs at all. The disparity in the number of products tells its own story. However, in spite of there being precious little to choose from, there was a manly shower gel. Well actually it was a hair and shower gel, so it performs two functions at the same time. I have a separate shower mousse, shampoo and conditioner. The bottle was a dark and manly colour, with hard edges and an easy to use top. No fancy cupcake nozzle for him! No, no. He has manly work to get on with like striding around on his mobile ‘phone shouting “I need you on this deal, dammit!” and “buy” or “sell”. This is why he needs one product to do everything as quickly as possible. I had a look at the bottle. There was one line on the front: “For the man who wants to look good effortlessly.” On the back there were some short and clear directions, in one language, as to what to do with the gel if you were such a man. Wash with it. It also advised that if you get it in your eyes, to rinse them. Bless.
I moved on. My products have lots of writing on them which include words like “peptide”, “expertly created”, “latest scientific advancements” and “essence” on them. Frequently there is an accompanying leaflet and a box. They also make claims as to the effectiveness of the product such as “anti-ageing” and “leaving skin feeling supple and comforted”. And if all of this is not repeated in French, then it is frequently peppered with French, because let us be honest, everything sounds so much better in French.
Boy stuff? Theirs has directions as to use. One body spray specifically advised to “shake well….hold upright….15-20cm from body and spray.” Another helpfully advised the nervous user that it was okay to use their product everyday. Just what kind of a man are these products for? Some years ago, a friend of mine (who had just got his own flat), was cooking chips. He put the oven on to heat up, then when at temperature, got the chips out of the freezer. All as advised on the instructions. Very good, well done. He opened the oven door and got his baking tray at the ready. Just wanting to check how long they took to cook (because you get chips out of the oven when the instructions say so whether they are actually cooked or not), he placed the bag on the hot oven door…. he only did it once, presumably because he didn’t need to do it twice because the instructions were forever to be viewed on the oven door…….He now runs his own successful business. Surely if you spray yourself in the eye with a body spray you are only going to do it once? And isn’t the clue in the name? Presumably they felt that they had to put something on the bottle rather than leave it blank.
Meanwhile, ladies, one of my products advised me to “Forget the diet”. If you have read my blog about my shopping experience then you may be forgiven for thinking that I might need to go on a diet. However, I am not on a diet. I have never been on a diet. I have no intention of going on a diet. Ever. They are not helpful for me. That is not to diss women who are on diets, because I have lots of friends who do find them useful as a way to help them feel better about themselves. However, what particularly irritated me is the assumption that all women are on a bloody diet and a numpty somewhere thought that an opportunity to bring it up on a body wash was a good idea. Someone proposed it in a meeting, presumably to nods of approval, and then at another meeting, and then it landed on someones’ desk, and it ended up on a container of shower mousse and in my shower. With entirely the opposite effect of the one intended because it really pissed me off.
Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, the two most prominent and powerful politicians in our country met earlier this week to discuss what will inevitably be the most tumultuous time for our country since the European Union came into being. As you would expect with such an important meeting, there was a photograph on most front pages. One newspaper (I use the term loosely) thought that rather than comment on the importance or significance of this meeting, a headline about the attractiveness of the legs of the two protagonists was appropriate. I am heartened by the ridicule that this headline was subjected to. In contrast, yesterday, when Tim Barrow presented Donald Tusk with the letter triggering Article 50, I searched for a similar headline. Nothing. Not a peep. Not one comment about Tim Barrow’s bottom or Donald Tusk’s enviable figure. I was really quite put out. I bet they were too.
Generally speaking, it doesn’t matter one iota that women like to have more moisturisers than men. We all (men and women) want to try and look our best, or if we are being really honest about it, feel a bit better about ourselves. It is the ingrained nature as far as women are concerned – the notion that we are treating ourselves on the one hand (with a nice shower mousse) but then getting beaten over the head with the other (“forget your diet, but only while you are using this shower mousse oh chubby one!”) and men just have a shower and then get on with being important. Two women meet and their bodies are commented on: “Ooooh look at the girls having a bit of a play at politics, don’t they look nice?” Two men meet and the headlines, quite correctly, stick to the facts and the job that they are doing. Which, as we all know, was delivering a letter from one of the women who was the subject of the exceptionally dubious headline earlier in the week.
I hope she’s not panicking about her diet or how emollient rich her make-up remover is. I hope she’s not playing at it. Because if she is, we really are never going to get out of the shit that the boys from Eton have left us in.