Work like you don't need the money.Love like you've never been hurt.Dance like no-one's watching.Sing like no-one's listening.Live like there's no tomorrow.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Someday my Prince will come...?

It's sordid really and would have the Daily Mail stacking faggots for a burning, but I actually often enjoy being single. There... it has been said. Of course there are things I miss; cuddles from someone not related to me, conversation on topics pre-dating the year 2000, Sex....and.... er... there I struggle because I am enormously ashamed to admit, that there isn't anything else I actually miss about having a husband or partner. The benefits of not having to pander to, worry about, diet for, impress or seek the approval of another adult in the family, are multitudinous!

I don't have to hide a new outfit I've bought for myself, I don't have to justify watching back to back American TV on a Saturday night and no one sulks if I go to bed at 9pm. I don't have to be anyone's ideal weight, a domestic goddess or intellectual equal. I can have as many Blond days as I like and all my victories are mine alone; I can self-congratulate and be as self- satisfied as I like because know one will even notice my smugness.
Of course the downside is that all the responsibility for the family falls onto me and at times it is a heavy yoke to bear because there is no one to share that?

I asked the children what I should look for in a new partner as, I have observed from other people's new relationships, Post Marriage; that it is foolhardy to not involve the offspring in the selection process. "A wrestler" pronounced J with no hesitation "He needs to be strong to pick you up". Thank you, my son. "Someone rich" said the gloomy teenager only briefly raising his head from Nuts magazine, "So you stop borrowing my birthday money!" Ouch.... tell it like it is why don't you! My daughter however took this question very seriously and after a lot of thought and referring to her Ladybird 606D Fairy Tales, said " A Prince; a tall one, who s not mean and is not obsessed with Hi Fi!" perhaps I shouldn't have asked? But then I've listened to far too many children complaining, about their parent's new squeeze, to risk it?

So far my children have had to put up with the "almost" evil stepmother, fondly known in our house as "Boring Dora the Explorer" whose obsession with minimalism and materialism left no room in her heart or mind for a personality. The children were unforgiving and still talk about their Father's error of judgement and taste, despite her exit over a year ago! I feel that anyone that was even willing to take on me and the children, should have pre dating counselling because my children could give the X factor panel and Anne Robinson, a few tips.

And frankly there has been no pressing sense of urgency on my agenda? I felt it was perfectly respectable to be quietly single, while my Ex made a Grade 1 prat of himself galloping through unsuitable partners, like a blindfolded dog on heat. But then inevitably, he has, of course met a lovely woman. So lovely, that I actually prefer her to my ex husband. She is beautiful, witty, wise and battle scarred like me and most importantly, she loves my children...and they love her. In fact if I could have hand selected the woman to "replace" me, I would have chosen her, hands down, no contest. I can see us becoming good friends.

Which is wonderful. It is great for the children because they finally get to share their father with a woman who is not me, but is worthy of their affection. It's wonderful except that it feels as though someone has broken me all over again. I feel like I've been turned inside out and every raw nerve ending, is exposed to the outside and every single wall I built around my emotions to protect me, has been decimated. Why? simply because I have to share the only thing I have left for me, which is my children's undivided and misguided conviction; that I am the ONE and ONLY, greatest woman that has ever walked the earth. And frankly I needed that because no one else thought it?

I know now that I am completely over the loss of my marriage because I feel a profound sense of relief that someone has taken the children's Father in hand and concluded his embarrassing and selfish quest for happiness, but I not sure I will ever recover from having to share my children with another mother?

It is, of course, utterly pathetic to sit and wallow in self pity, but my inner 4 year old is jumping up and down on the sofa in full melt down with her hands over her ears! I have never been competitive or driven in my life, but suddenly I feel a terrible need to find an unbelievably wonderful, supportive, handsome and solvent Step Father for my children, simply because I've been horribly out done by my Ex in the, "Find a Fabulous Partner" stakes. Mind you I think any man I meet, would practically have to be Bear Grylls crossed with the Dalai Lama, to even match up to the loveliness of their Dad's new girlfriend.

Of course there is the other more-than-obvious problem that I am a single,working, full time parent with custody of three impossibly challenging and wonderful children, which leaves me with next to zero opportunities for actually meeting someone? Unless I ran him over on my way to work or he comes to fix my boiler/mow the grass/ bait the rats/serves me in Tesco's? I work with only women and socialise with women and therefore actually rarely meet any men and they are always married... or Gay? So where does a slightly unhinged 30- something run into her Prince Charming when Kate Middleton's snaffled the last rich one on the market?

Therefore I have resolved to not look, on the off chance that fate will deal me the upper hand and drop one in my lap/in front of my car? Preferably one that isn't Married, Psychopathic or Muslim? Meanwhile I will remain Hopelessly Devoted... to me.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

You never forget how .. it's just like falling off a bike

Due to some administrative glitch or celestial hiccup, I seem to find myself single and kissing forty. Having taken a long,hard look at myself in my (oversize) mirror, I have decided that this cynical, battle scarred woman needs a mate. It is 20 years since I dated and I am even more ill prepared than I was, as a bright eyed and bushy-tailed teen?

I seem to have come full circle and seem only to frequent all female company, with the exception of friends, who frankly don't count as men; having been thoroughly sanitised and emasculated by wedded domesticity. A recent perusal of dating sights made depressing reading. A wise woman pointed out to me that every eligible, single man, has been or is about to be some other woman's Ex. There is bound to be a long list of good reasons for that. Most of the men on these sites list GSOH, which you are going to need, as their introductory gambit is invariably whether you will be interested in phone/virtual sex and what you are wearing? This is like a red rag to a bull as far as I m concerned and I have replied numerous times, that I am wearing a scuba diving suit, marigold gloves and yesterday's makeup. Disturbingly some were still keen....

So what am I looking for and what on earth have I got to offer? Well on the plus side I' m employed, still retain most of my own teeth and have vast...... patience. What am I looking for....well much the same I suppose, as long as it comes in a 6ft + package. Is that shallow? There might be some delightful "shorter" men out there but somehow I predict that any man willing to take me on, is going to require both height and stamina to deal with my enormous... personality!
The key, my delightful friend confided, was selling myself. Not literally you understand, but in a stunning profile, which leaves no one in doubt of your irresistible charms.

So she wrote a disarmingly lovely reference for me for , My Single Friend, and we waited with bated breath. I m sorry to report that terms of growth and interest my stocks have plummeted which goes to prove, that which our female friends love and adore in us, holds very little appeal to the opposite sex.

One of my many failings it appears, is being too honest, simply because that is a quality I seek out and admire in others. It is top of the list on my future partner shopping list. However it is not a quality found readily in those frequenting dating sites. I went to meet a guy who had seemed charming and attentive online, in a country pub, not far from where I worked. I took the usual precautions of ensuring a friend would ring me, ten minutes into the date to check, using a pre arranged code phrase "The guinea pigs have escaped?" to make sure I was OK. Several other friends were similarly employed to text me during the evening in case I was in need of an emergency getaway!

The aforementioned gentleman had not been strictly honest in his reflective account of himself. The man I met was a ginger haired, tattooed hob-goblin, who was unpleasantly touchy-feely and regaled me with tales of shopping trolley theft and his job at Parcel Force (deliveries not a Manager of an Exports Business, as per his dating profile). What was worse though, was that the mercy phone call never came and the minutes dragged by like hours as the leery, cider breathed Bilbo Baggins ogled my frontage. Finally I escaped into the frozen air, gulping like a stranded goldfish and raced into the night, salaaming my car down the dark country lanes until finally, my phone exploded with a torrent of texts and missed calls. Apparently the site of the rendezvous had no mobile signal.

A few more similar experiences was enough to make me decide that husband-less was infinitely preferable to the horrors of the dating market and I slipped far to comfortably, into wallowing deliciously in my own self sufficiency. Except of course that humans are not designed to be alone; One too many Saturday nights watching terrible television and comfort eating leads to navel gazing and self pity. So I have decided the time has come to bite the bullet and see if there is a tall, like minded, kind man out there, otherwise I am in peril of being found dead under a pile of laundry and dog hair, without any one noticing my demise?

So it is time to stop prevaricating and get "A round tuit" as my grandmother would say. So here is my advert, with apologies to Paul McCartney

When I get older losing my hair,
not so long from now,
Will you take me out for dinner
share a cheapo bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
then pass out on the floor,
Will you still love me,
will you still hug me,
When I'm sixty-four.
I can do listening, sharing your views
When the nights are long.
You can read the paper by the fireside
wake up Sunday morning with me by your side.
Doing the garden,
walking the dog,
walk along the shore?
Will you still need me,
will you still heed me,
When I'm sixty-four.
Every summer we can go camping,
in darkest Wales clutching hot cups of tea
Coldplay or Keane on CD
climb a mountain in the pouring rain
as long as its just you and me?
Send me a text, or poke on Facebook
add me as a friend
Message that you love me beyond all hope
lots of xxxx then press “Send”
Give me your answer,
txt, MSN or Yahoo
ask for one date or more?
When will you view me,
‘cos I m getting gloomy?
Come knock on my door.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Ode to Smalls

All things wrinkled and cotton based
all pants of numerous shades
all shirts; school and otherwise,
they leave me in a daze

The ever towering mountain
of clothes to put in drawers,
neglected due to Face book
lie on my bedroom floor

Someone come and save me
and bring domestic bliss
to this exhausted mother
and her Clothing abyss?

The socks conspire against me
in endless hide and seek
school trousers knot like pythons
to ensure vagabond Chic!

All things found in PE bags
all crisp packets, tissues and gum
deeply hidden inside pockets
to guarantee tumble drier fun

The navy rugger shirt
the luminous leotard
sneak into the white cycle
to make my life more hard

Oh Oh oh

All things needed on Monday
last seen two months ago,
and mentioned on Sunday evening
they fill my heart with woe

I know there is a bottom
to the towering laundry pile
but I don't when I last saw it
it has been quite a while.

Oh Oh oh

All things made of silk or wool
have languished there so long
I m sorry I forgot you,
to you I pledge this song.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Largely about me


10 stone 2 is just a dream to me,

how I long for how I used to be,

Oh damn my own stupidity!

I am twice the girl I used to be,
cakes and chocs kept calling out to me

and now I’ve become quite cuddly!

Why did
they invent Reeses Peanut butter treats?
If I d steered away I be able to see my feet,
oh deary!

Yesterday, mega stretch marks had not come to play,

Now it looks as though they're here to stay,

Oh, I wish it was yesterday.

Suddenly, the scales whizz round to 15,3,

There's a shadow hanging over me,

Oh someone hide my enormity?

Why I
Had to have a second helping at dinner today?
Now I
Have thighs like trees and I long for yesterday

Love affair between my food and me,

treats me better than any man I see,

and never lies or cheats on me…


Love was such an easy game to play,

Now I need a place to hide away,

Oh, I believe in yesterday.


(apologies to Paul McCartney)

Now we are not 7 any more.

Somehow without my knowledge, Middle age has snuck up upon me. I came face to face with it when brushing my hair the other day and discovered, at the age of 37, my first white hair. Long, wiry and stubborn; it took a yank to remove it, thus shattering any illusion that it was a stray dog hair that had accidentally found its way onto my head. I held it ,staring in fascinated disgust and marvelling at how long it was, amazed at how I had failed to notice before? It was so shocking, that I showed it to my children and friends and even my Mother who all tutted with sympathetic disinterest, clearly not realising how completely in denial I have been ageing?

Of course I d have to be a blind idiot, to have not noticed the other tell-tale signs of my diminishing youth; the steady descent of my boobs towards my navel, the fine crease lines on my neck and chest and the laughter lines around my eyes, stretching like afternoon shadows on the High Coral towards my hairline. But what no one seems to have realised least of all me, is that I have not significantly changed emotionally or mentally from the exuberant 2o something I once was? Or have I?

My passport has expired and I when I dug it out to renew it, I peered at the ten year old photo looking into the eyes of my 27 year old self. I am fresh faced and scruffy in a charmingly disorganised way but it is my eyes that tell a different story, not my obviously youthful complexion. I hadn't had my daughter and was a mother to two little boys and a loving wife to an aspiring young doctor. I had no idea of what the next ten years would bring; the love, the laughter, my first and only daughter, the end of my marriage and the beginning of my journey as a single parent. I feel strangely sorry for my previous self and it its now that I realised how I have changed rather than simply aged?

I went to the 40th Birthday Party of a very dear friend and we wined and dined and especially danced, until the very early hours of the morning. It was dawn when I returned home in a taxi, exhausted, elated and carrying my shoes. I was longing for a cup of tea and worrying about the dogs being left alone for so long. The evening had been memorable, hilarious and poignant as all mile stone birthdays are, but particularly because this friend and I have travelled a similar journey for the past few years. The gathering of all her female friends from her whole life, in one place, to celebrate her birthday, was a heady mixture of ferocious pleasure at how far she had come and how strong women are, when they stand together with their female friends but also an aching reminder and nostalgia for how much is passed and laid to rest. "Do you feel 40?" I asked her as we whirled around the dance floor and she smiled wryly and said "No I feel about 18!" and therein lies the dichotomy. In my teens and twenties I could have danced til daybreak and then gone to work with a stiff coffee and a handful of paracetamol because I simply couldn't imagine a time when I would feel so exhausted, or that I would really look forward to a "quiet night in" browsing the Internet for sprinkler attachments for my hosepipe and a nice parasol for the terrace? Yet my where my mind thinks I m still 25 and immortal ,my heart and body conspire to contradict me. It took me a week to recover from hedonistic indulgence of the fabulous party and I was struck with a particularly nasty cold, as if to reiterate the point that I am, getting older.

But inside me there is a day spring of youthful excitement and wonder and exuberance which cannot be assimilated with what I see in the mirror? I have a postcard in the kitchen that reads
" Life cannot be measured by how many breaths we take... but by how many moments take our breath away". I thought for a while about things that excite or enthrall me and had to think quite hard,about what took my breath away, other than the Parents race at Sports Day? I felt sad when I realised that, the moments of euphoric excitement are indeed fewer than they once were? I wondered if exchanging the rose-tinted spectacles of Youth, for the trifocals of Experience in some way lessens our susceptibility to raw, powerful feelings of pleasure, joy, passion and the sheer thrill of being alive?

But then I realised that perhaps it was just likely that my now slightly jaded and cynical feelings about Love,Life and relationships and reality was what was stemming the flow of excitement in my life. I decided that the key was spontaneity. I watched a delightful and ridiculous film called the "Yes man" and was inspired to challenge my own cautious and pessimistic behaviour.
Thankfully I don't feel the need to sky dive or bungee jump but I decided that "going with the flow" and to hell with the consequences could liberate my pent-up inner 18 year old again.
It would be nice to get excited about something other than the Boden Sale catalogue arriving, after all!

My newly 40 year old friend has grabbed Life by the horns and hit the ground running, by relentlessly trying new things; festivals, rock concerts and travel sans Children! As much as I want to indulge myself I found that the thing that gives me the most pleasure now in my life, is seeing firsthand the happiness and excitement of those I love. This is not so much of an cop out as it sounds. There is something enormously liberating in being happy for someone else but not wanting anything for yourself? I decided then and there, that that, was the defining feature of my ageing process; I am not simply growing older, I am growing up.

"Yet, getting old is a natural process where things are slowing down, and you'll begin to see that the sparkle in your heart and the twinkle in your eyes make you beautiful in a way that's not achievable in youth. "
Dorothy Parker

Friday, 21 May 2010

Big Pants and the emotional forecast

I am prepared to lay a bet there are probably very few men who aware that, women's pants can be a very reliable method of forecasting the mood and demeanour of their female better- halves in the hours and days ahead? Women have an extremely complex psychological relationship with their undergarments which cannot be underestimated! Whilst they are very likely to talk about what their underwear is covering, sisters and girlfriends' conversations about their knickers themselves are rarer than hen's teeth! This is not because the topic is boring but simply because a woman's choice of pants is incredibly private and we are rather sensitive about it and we wouldn't cope at all well if it were analysed!

When a girlfriend took me to M&S and shared the identity of her preferred cottons, it was a symbolic moment almost akin to becoming Blood Sisters. We solemnly collected up every single pair; black and white, in our respective sizes and marched to the till daring someone to challenge the fact we were wiping out the entire stock. A good pair of knickers is a friend for life; well at least until the elastic goes and sometimes for a good while after! Women attach sentimental meaning to the underwear. Many wives keep the basque knickers suspenders and garter, they wore on their wedding day if only to marvel at how on earth they fitted into them? And that is the key to our love affair. It is all about the right fit. Or at least the right fit for the right day.

Any man standing boss eyed with boredom while their beloved is handpicking their new knickers must surely be wondering why on earth their is such an infinite variety of cuts and fits of knicker? The men's department will only tend to stock perhaps five or six different makes of pants which concentrate mainly on the merits of airflow and containment. But for a woman, regardless of her age or dress size; her knickers can make or break an outfit! That dear menfolk is why a woman has to have new lingerie to go with the dress, shoes, bag etc etc. Of course the bottom line is modesty and draft exclusion but a good knicker maketh a woman.

Women, if put under pressure, will grudgingly admit they have knickers lurking in that chest of drawers, not only for EVERY occasion but for EVERY emotion. For example, I accidentally bought some knickers in my size and took them home; taking silent pleasure in their pristine whiteness in my shopping bag. However on removing the packaging I realised that a MAXi BRIEF was not by any stretch of the imagination brief, in any respect? In fact, on examination, it was clear that I could comfortably shelter in them against storms, whilst camping on the north face of Everest. But despite my fleeting disappointment I decided to keep them because you never know when they might come in useful. A few days later and after a somewhat challenging week I woke this morning feeling completely mentally and physically exhausted. So after a bracing cup of strong tea I reached for the big pants. Why? simply because with big pants you cover every eventuality. No VPL (they practically hug the back of your knees), No Muffin Top over the waistband of your work trousers and absolutely no chance of the horror of Wendy's Wedge (the female equivalent of Builder's Bum see BOB the Builder for details).

These particular knickers rose snugly to just below my breast bone and I felt comforted that I could take on whatever the day could hold. So I threw caution to the wind and put on a pair of white linen trousers. To wear to work. To wear whilst making pizzas with a group of 2 and 3 year olds! Thus as I bent over to spread passata for one of the children there was a collective gasp from my female cohort! "Mel" my Boss asked hesitantly "Is everything all right ?" following her gaze in the direction of my XXL's I understood her anxiety. A large, glacial expanse of armpit hugging cotton was on view, not looking too dissimilar to a surgical brace although clearly not. The concern in the air was palpable. "Oh I m fine!" I replied breezily" Just bought some knickers in the wrong size but needed something anti-VPL under these trousers." My colleagues nodded sympathetically but clearly privately considering if this was a precursor to some kind of mental breakdown. As every woman knows, no girl puts on her XXLs unless her grip on reality is faltering or she is dealing with some MAJOR Fat Demons.

However there is the flip side of the coin.. the special occasion knicker. It is no coincidence that when women buy a new outfit they have to buy smalls as the icing on the cake because the lovely knicks will probably never see the light of day ; but they might and there's the rub! No self respecting woman gets married without glossy virginal whites or perhaps ivories to show she's second only to God at that moment? Likewise, when women want to impress in the boardroom, playground or bedroom, it is all about the right bra and knickers. I am not alone in having lucky knickers and I defy any woman to contradict that.? They are the silk and lace or for the minimalist among us, sporty cotton numbers that have got us EXACTLY what we wanted; WHEN we wanted it and HOW we wanted it. That set , speaks volumes about our inner Goddess and are testimony to the times when we are on top of our game. When discovered amid the greying elastic of the usual knicker drawer, they are an instant trip down memory lane rendering you breathless in way you probably haven't been since the last time your wore them! For every saggy every-day knicker, there will be a pair that shout "This is who I am supposed to be!"

Of course there will also be an eclectic collection of near misses; the red lace and black satin number that he thought you meant when you said sexy; much more top shelf "Loaded" than the Agent Provocateur that you had in mind. Then the eponymous thong. Whoever created the thong clearly hated women. Why would anyone combine a cheese slicer, a string vest and Lycra all in one design? They NEVER look good, rendering most women to look like they are doing a good impression of a rolled brisket of beef. Thongs are one of those items when the saying "Less is more" definitely doesn't apply. Apart from being excruciatingly uncomfortable they look utterly hideous if accidentally glimpsed over the waistband of your most expensive jeans. If God had meant women to wear thongs he would have put our reproductive parts on our shoulder to be nurtured and rendered us smooth as a Barbie underneath? Better to be bare than risk of feeling like a tightrope accident?

So, black, white, sporty ,stripey or floral, our knickers should be friends for life and when the stakes are raised and the going gets tough, you can guarantee that us girls will be quite literally be wearing something to cover our ass!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

There is a hole in my bush and other horticultural Farce

The Weather although hardly subtropical, has turned Spring like and my mother decided the time had come to face the horror that is my garden. Two years of thorough neglect and the unfettered destruction wrought by two hairy canine berserkers, has made eighty foot of gravel and turf come to resemble the battlefields of the Somme.
So armed with steely determination, extra thick garden waste bags and rusty secateurs, my Mum took on the garden and managed to prune, hack, scoop and shovel it back into some semblance of order. However she got a bit snip- happy with the privet hedge and now there are tempting holes through which the furry terrorists have been hurdling into next door's garden.
There they have made merry; liberally fertilising my elderly neighbour's lawn, digging crater size holes and burying their terrifyingly prehistoric- looking bones that the local butcher gives us, under her prize petunias!
Mortified, I tried to block the holes with garden chairs but to no avail, as with ears flying and tongues lolling in derision the dogs simply used the garden furniture to vault the obstructions and carry on their nasty playtime with glee! So my Mother and I conceded defeat and decided it was time to "Call a Man in".
After admiring my friend's immaculate ,velvety new turf and woven willow fences, I rang her gardener who, after a few near misses (him turning up to view the garden whilst we were sitting in A&E with the walking wounded) finally agreed to come and assess the problem, on a sunny Tuesday evening. Simultaneously my Mother phoned another chap who had popped his card through the door, to come and "Quote us happy" for fencing the boundary between the two houses. However due to a breakdown in communication, neither of us realised we had arranged for both Gardeners to come at the same time, on the same evening?
Already slightly lacking focus from a glass of wine with Supper, my Mother answered a knock at the Door and greeted a small, dishevelled man covered in bits of mown grass, who said he had come to see the garden. Assuming that he was the chap she'd arranged to come and quote for a fence and calling him by the wrong name, she led him up the garden to look at the boundary. Then came another knock at the door and I opened it to Tall, handsome "Quote me happy". Realising my Mother's error and that Tall handsome was here to quote for the fence and Small dishevelled was here to quote for the turf, I tried to interrupt my mum who was in full flow explaining what height fence posts we would need. Small dishevelled was looking suitably bemused, as his strengths clearly lay in shovelling, weeding and turfing rather than bevelled panels and concrete posts, but he was far too polite (or confused) to interrupt her and even responded to her calling him Matt when he was really called Alan! Meanwhile Tall handsome (you obviously can't be small or ugly and deal in large panels and gravel boards) was trying discreetly not to laugh at my discomfiture.
Mortified that it appeared that I had invited them both to engage in a quote off for the job I decided to engage Tall handsome in a muted conversation about the best way to erect a good barrier. Now I have been out of the game for a while and the farcical situation had thrown me off my guard. Tall handsome fixed me with his cornflower blues with a smile playing around his lips and asked me what the problem was? Unused from lack of practice, to being flirted with overtly and slightly overcome by this unexpected upsurge of testosterone in my back garden I replied that I had a very big hole in my bush and I needed something big and strong to fill it! (OMG OMG OMG!!) Rising to the occasion he said he had exactly the right thing for the job and could fill my hole very quickly with no problem and that the thing for the job came in six inch increments! Then.. and I swear on my life this is true... he added "Fnah Fnah!"
Well at that point my inner teenager took to the fore and I fell about laughing, scarlet with embarrassment squeaking something about it having been a very long day and that wasn't meant to sound quite the way it did?
At this point my Mother came over suspiciously to make sure I wasn't being won over by his earthy charms and demanded what he was going to do about my turf because it was looking a moth eaten and could do with fertilising adding that it hadn't been seen to in a while!
Spluttering incoherently I tried to explain that Tall handsome was the fencing man and that Small dishevelled was in fact the gardener and wouldn't know about a good solid upright if it jumped up and bit him? Meanwhile the two men eyed each other competitively vying to out quote each other, while the dogs circled sniffing their crotches enthusiastically!
Eventually I managed to give the correct attention to each chap and explain the confusion and apologising profusely for the chaos.
Sadly it seems that Small dishevelled will come in at the right price for the work and so will have to be the man for the job . But both my Mother and I agreed, that although more expensive, it would be churlish not to invite Tall handsome back for a little monthly maintenance of this Lady's garden!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Down Time

I know that most parents find the school holidays a torturous experience which can leave them staring longingly at the bottle of Merlot at 11.30 in the morning, but oddly I find them quite liberating. Those who know me will confirm that my daily lot, is one of running harem scarem between one appointment and the next, desperately trying to keep all the balls in the air and the children out of A&E. So once bereft of the usual, frenetic routine the Hieatt household slows to the ambling pace of a senile tortoise. The key to surviving the holidays appears to be having absolutely no expectations whatsoever. This is not as easy as it sounds because it requires letting go of everything, to the extent that the children closely resemble amazonian cave dwellers who've been dressed by Oxfam! Hair is unbrushed, faces unwiped and their feet closely resemble those of Hobbits. Absence of any routine means breakfast can span several hours and can comprise of almost anything. This morning it was Pasta with Parmesan at half eleven. Friends and their offspring seek us out like a a Mecca for Lost Willpower and Disorganization, and join in whatever shenanigans might be underway. The washing machine grumbles contentedly all day long full of grass stained socks, in perfect harmony with the shudders of the dishwasher as it works its way through the continuous stream of plates, tea mugs and every knife in the drawer, liberally covered in Nutella. There are no plans until something happens, there is no shopping until some one's hungry and the house echoes with the noisy play off my offspring and most of the children in the neighbourhood.
I used to plan school holidays to be full of activity like a military manoeuvre, until I realised that it simply made the children tired and whingey and rendered me monosyllabic with exhaustion and red eyed with frustration. Now, the children usually spend the first three days of the holidays noisily protesting their boredom until the realization sinks in that their Mother is not actually going to do anything about it! Thus, left to their own devices they start to entertain themselves. Occasionally they ll query, more out of habit than necessity whether we are "going to do anything?" and ""Have we got any money?" and once informed that it is negative in both cases they amble off on increasingly grubby feet to find something to do.
We have now sustained this for ten days! All the neighbourhood children pass through every few hours, eating loaves of bread and jam, gossiping and leaving all the doors open. I follow after them picking up lost socks, trainers, sports caps and mobile phones to be left by the front door at the end of the day for collection. The dogs snuffle enthusiastically at any new arrivals and are rewarded with a near continuous supply of biscuits and toast crusts. It was at least an hour the other day before I realised that the labrador had his snout firmly wedged inside a jar of peanut butter that some generous visitor had given him.
But all of this is only possible due to the wonderful windswept Spring days we've been enjoying which means that the children can roam free range between each others houses until well into the evening. At that point whichever parent draws the short straw, gets their living room invaded by the tangle haired mob who commend ere the remote and demand endless popcorn refills. It has to be said that this is of course very slovenly, low maintenance parenting. But if one is willing to completely resign oneself to the possibility that your eight year old may be seen in the street looking like an Eastern European Street Walker after a morning experimenting with blue eyeshadow, or that your teenager may eat breakfast at two in the afternoon and that might well be left over pizza from lunch then you will find all is well with the world. If there is nothing to achieve then there is little possibility of disappointment?
Granted there may be the odd fleeting moment of anxiety when you realise that you can't actually remember where you last saw your offspring ,but then you simply remind yourself that they will home-in like pigeons when they are hungry. You will find yourself in a Zen like state of being, trailing aimlessly about with a dust pan and brush between the last departure and the next arrival occasionally muttering "I really should try and get some things done" only to find another day has passed and you are no nearer to achieving the slightest thing and yet painlessly, one step nearer to the holy grail of Back to School. So, as my teenage son would say, "Take a Chill Pill" sit back, stick the kettle on for your 14th cup of tea.. and ENJOY!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Beware the competitive Mother!

Browsing through the Sunday papers, I was musing over the insidious and pervasive pressure on Parents these days, to rise to the challenge of breeding the most beautiful, multi-talented and socially adept citizens of tomorrow. The pressure begins "in utero", as the expectant Mother is supposed to retain her size 6 figure throughout gestation, by living on edame beans and skinny non- caff lattes, whilst remaining at work until 40 plus weeks, with Mozart on ipod, strapped to her belly and Gina Ford on her spreadsheets.
Once the Child rearing project has commenced (either via elective non vagina-threatening C section at 38 weeks, or water birth with self hypnosis) the pressure continues to mount. Disciples of Ford will have their progeny sleeping through the night on 3oz of breast milk expressed whilst simultaneously organizing a years' worth of NCT coffee mornings/baby massage appointments/Nursery viewings .
The other mere mortals among us however, will be staggering around in our pajamas at eleven in the morning, knocking over piles of unopened post and leaving soggy breast pads lying about, like S.O.S missives to lost sanity.
But the Competitive mother will have vaulted back into her Boden Capri pants and will have hot- footed it to Baby Yoga, in a cloud of post natal smugness and Cath Kidston co ordination.
I remember quite vividly sitting in a baby clinic in south London with my son in his pram ,watching one of these Uber Mothers regaling the Health Visitor, with how clever little Oscar, could now roll over, smile and hold his head up at a mere three months old. My own son, however resembled little more than a rosy, weetabix- encrusted wittchity grub who would occasionally give me windy boss- eyed grins!
But that was only the beginning. For some women it seems, are driven by some inner demon to "Out Mother" every woman within a 20 mile radius?
At a coffee morning in a smart Brixton town house, as I stared bleary-eyed into a cup of strong tea (probably why my baby didn't sleep through the night, caffeine gets into the breast milk you know) the hostess coaxed her daughter Alana away from the Duplo, with an organic bread stick and thereafter got her daughter to perform her impressive repertoire of the Alphabet, Numbers up to one hundred and a nursery rhyme in Mandarin. As we sat agog, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my son, not wishing to be outdone by his little playmate, had decided to run his tongue along the length the skirting board, up and over the chrome radiator paying particular attention to each groove, down the other side, round the BT phone socket and out the door into the sea- grassed lobby. His feat of endurance seemed to pale into insignificance in comparison to my Hostess's tiny progeny, so I kept quiet.
But beware, for now the competition steps up a pace as children reach school age. Having secured a place, by fair means or foul, at a catchment school with the an Outstanding OFSTED; the Competitive Mother really moves the goalposts ,catching out the complacent and rattling the nerve of even the most laid-back and self assured parent on the Playground.
Not even the smallest detail is overlooked from their child's Sigg water flask (no gender-bending phalates) to the recycled, bamboo t shirt in their child's PE kit. Every single second of the day is mapped out with military precision, in order to maximize productivity.
I used to screech to a halt in the school car park each morning, with my son bouncing around in the back of the car still clutching his breakfast toast and wearing his school tie Karate Kid style, around his shocking, unbrushed bed head. Every day, without fail, I would park next to the Mercedes containing the Yummy Mummy of my son's little classmate. Mother and daughter would be passing the time with Flashcards or Musical Times Tables on the CD player, waiting for the school bell to ring and offering sympathetic glances in my direction, as I rummaged frantically in the foot well of the car for the elusive missing school shoe, that my son would have kicked into the front of the car after escaping from his Britax car seat's five-point harness, like an infant Houdini!
But, competitive or not; every Parent hopes in their heart of hearts, that their child will have one special talent that makes them stand out amidst their peers. The early infant contenders wielding Suzuki violins, Kumon Maths certificates and swimming medals may have had a head start, but with six years of Primary school and the world debt spent on out -of -school activities, Parents always hope that their child will show some kind of sporting, artistic or intellectual ability that can be bragged about over lunch with other mothers or at the gym. However for those of us whose offspring's main talents lie in the field of excessive nose picking, Pokemon obsession and repetitive Simpsons impressions it can be a wilderness out there.
A friend recalled her feelings of inadequacy upon receiving a round robin letter inside a Christmas card from a friend . The letter skimmed briefly and insincerely over Best Wishes for the Holiday Season, before launching into a full- scale catalogue of their children's sporting and academic achievements. It left the reader in no doubt, as to the Olympic and Ox bridge potential of the couple's two children. Bored by his mother's absorption in the letter, my friend's son filled his mouth to overflowing with salad leaves so they hung down his chin like a cellulose beard, before clamoring " Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! MUMMY!! Look I can chew like a cow" as my friend looked on in resignation.
Whether it is the sweatband -wearing, Nike-clad Coach Dad on the field at Sports Day, or the Mother with a Carlucci picnic at a cricket match; the child whose Father emailed a Russian Space Station for the Year 2 project or the child who went to Norway to "really understand" icebergs in Geography; there is an impossible standard that most of us will fail to meet. Critically, the Wise and the Good, will understand the need to shield our children from any disappointment that we may feel regarding their accomplishments, for the sake of our children's precious self esteem. But there will always be the Parents who feel the need to fulfill their own frustrated ambitions through their children by ricocheting their offspring between tennis club and ballet lessons. How many though, whilst wallowing in the satisfaction of having plied their children with every opportunity to excel, will have completely failed to notice the tiny pearls of genius that their children might have been born with? Talents that never even required a standing order or eight months on a waiting list? Sometimes to lack ambition but to have strong belief and a sense of wonder in your child as in individual, is all that is needed. Parenting is for People, not for Players.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Portrait of My Mother

My Mother has it taken upon herself, at a time when she should be contemplating retirement, to do a task, which most of the schools in our neighbourhood have balked at. She has chosen voluntarily, to come and stay with me and look after my younger son during the week, to enable me to work. This may not sound that extraordinary to those people who always assumed that, when they had children, their Parents would share the child raising responsibility. However many Grandmothers don't live over 100 miles from their grandchildren and many Grandmothers, don't have the unenviable task of spending their whole week with an Autistic Spectrum Child who has not been to school since 2009.
I m not sure if the reality of living with us had actually dawned on my Mother when she arrived two weeks ago, like a vision of hope in the bitter cold of Early March. Like a proverbial Mary Poppins, she has flown around our home, cleaning, cooking, shopping and restoring to white, surfaces that had disappeared under a dusky blanket of dog hair and dust, longer ago than I care to remember! Only my Mother would have the courage to scale the North Face of my Laundry Mountain and within 24 hours restore the cotton Ying and Yang of the household! My son stared into the now empty laundry basket in amazement, saying, "Wow I had forgotten there was actually a basket under all of that?"
She then took on the Fridge. I think she was glad of her Karate expertise, as the contents had moved from jumping to full scale River Dance formations. "You weren't going to use that?" she enquired mildly of a jar dating back to 2007. Peering through the clouded glass I agreed that perhaps we could live without some cranberry sauce which my Ex husband had opened at Christmas ,three years ago. It held no sentimental significance; particularly as I never liked the bl**dy stuff and he was probably imagining smearing it over another sort of breast anyway!
I think my Mother takes stoicism to a whole new realm for the love of her children and grandchildren. When I was newly single, I dragged her on a family holiday to Wales. It rained relentlessly for a week and she remained ferociously cheerful? Heartened by her joie de vivre I decided that the family needed a canoeing experience and on a day when, the contents of the Amazon River seemed to be falling from the skies over Ceredigion; we boarded canoes and paddled upstream on the River Teifi. Perhaps in hindsight, putting a White Water Virgin and a dyspraxic ten year old in a canoe together, was not one of my finer moments... As I ploughed grimly upstream and traversed the rapids, deafened by the barked instructions of my eldest son and the plaintive wailing of my daughter, clinging limpet-like to my back,: I saw through the horizontal rain, the vision of my Mother and younger son, ashen- faced, merrily travelling backwards at some considerable speed downstream, with the fit young instructor paddling frantically after them. As they disappeared over a rapid and were propelled into the bushy undergrowth of the opposite bank, I could faintly hear my mother shouting " Its alright darling it's alright!"
We never saw the Otters, the trip promised. But my Mother was not so easily beaten and although she had to have, " a little lie down" after being prised from the canoe, she bounced back. A day later she was ploughing through the waves at St Davids, armed with a surfboard and to my consternation, looking a hell of a lot better in a wet suit than I ever have!
But back to the present, and despite the almost Dickensian grime and ASBOs of our home, she has been devoted to the task. After the first night however, she alerted me to the fact that she believed the boiler, which stands in the corner of her room, might be about to explode? I replied, rather unsympathetically, that it had sounded like that for years and hadn't blown up yet? How that was ever supposed to reassure her, I had not really taken into consideration? So, on the second night as we got ready for bed, she called me in to her room to listen to the noise she was hearing. Kneeling with my head to the floorboards I was forced to agree that there was indeed a VERY odd noise coming from somewhere in the room and it was definitely not coming from the boiler! In the silence, there came a persistent TAP TAP TAP noise followed by a noise not dissimilar to a marble being rolled along a table top. Further investigation revealed a large collection of sawdust and odd cigar shaped droppings...
Now a lesser woman would have been suspended from the ceiling shrieking in anticipated horror at that point, but to her credit, my Mother simply enquired what I thought it might be? In a flash of inspiration I realised it might actually be our latest rodentine escapee! Before she arrived I had relocated my daughter's hamster to the Boys' bedroom at the other end of the landing. However the tiny Alcatraz expert had made a bid for freedom and in the excitement of my Mother's arrival I had forgotten to look for him?
So we sat companionably, with our knees under our chins and waited until, sure enough, a pointed twitching nose and two pink eyes emerged from under the Toy box. In front of him, this proverbial Samuel Whiskers, was rolling a partly chewed Conker and when he stopped in the middle of the floor, I lunged for him, causing him to shoot like a orange bullet under the wardrobe.
Ten minutes and a long trail of sunflower seeds later, the furry fugitive was captured and my Mother was calmly sweeping up with a dust pan and brush. I apologised profusely, between bouts of hysterical laughter but she wasn't in the slightest bit reproachful of this strange visitor in her bed chamber. Her only concern had been that she thought she was going mad and the noises had been in her mind. I remarked wearily, that horrible noises in my house invariably had horrible origins and I asked why she hadn't woken me up the night before, instead of lying awake in a petrified state of dread? Her answer ? That she "didn't want to wake me because I had been so tired."
In this one of many millions of similar instances, I saw what a Mother's love truly is; selfless, patient and uncomplaining. The sort of love that drives from a Work Commitment, 300 miles away to see her newborn Granddaughter only to have to have drive straight back again. The sort of love that takes her eldest Grandson on a horrific ride at Legoland, despite being terrified of heights; the sort of love that makes a open-ended commitment, to look after an Autistic Spectrum Grandson, that no school can cope with; the sort of love that watches her Daughter cock things up again and again and again and yet always finds a way to tell her that she is a wonderful Mum and daughter and how proud she is of her. There are no words to say thank you for that kind of love, nor enough flowers or diamonds in the Universe to make recompense? And yet she asks for none of these. My only hope is that one day I can live up to the extraordinary standard she has set and that will be considered a fair return on investment.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Moments that money can buy!

I have had another birthday and whilst it brought the usual moments of self doubt and the odd twinge of dismay that, I m getting older and I still haven't reached where I want to be, on the whole this was a pretty good birthday. It is a sad fact that I look forward to my Birthday primarily for the Birthday Money I get sent by devoted and overly generous relatives. Now this may sound crass and greedy, but actually a little financial flexibility, affords me the luxury of spoiling those I love,with treats, whilst still being able to pay all the bills!
So, at the sound of the first Birthday Card plopping on the doormat, I was all primed and ready to race to the bank before closing, so that the awaited cheque would clear that working day. Now I must be clear that I am not angling for sympathy but just reflecting on the "State of Play" that many parents find themselves in, these days. Single Parent or Happily Married the recession has landed many in families in hot water. Middle Class Parents are no longer tossing up between a holiday or a new car but between school fees or the mortgage. Either way it's a no win situation, unless you happen to be the blessed couple who collected the £56 million lottery rollover! But being very British everyone has rallied around and Wives and Mothers have proved themselves endlessly resourceful. Many Mothers I know, have swapped roles with their husbands as City jobs came crashing down around their ears and the newly crowned Househusbands group together for comfort in the playground with the demeanour of shell shock victims. Meanwhile their wives have raced off to the office or classroom secretly hoping no one will discover spare knickers for a potty training two year old, in their handbag?
On the back of the strained financial climate, those of us lucky enough to have jobs clamour like starlings for more hours to try and bridge the deficit between income and expenditure.
Into this dark crevasse falls; the summer wardrobe winking up from the glossy Boden catalogue, the holiday deposit (now camping in a Yurt in Devon instead of Club Med), the Ballet lessons for your youngest, the school ski trip for your eldest.
But in those rare moments of solvency, one experiences a lightness of heart almost like a suppressed giggle. Suddenly you can book an excursion or a treat for the family and the payment clears! My Birthday Money paid the Water Rates; bought a much deserved bunch of spring flowers for my wonderful mum and booked 6 seats for the WWE wrestling for myself, the children and two friends. As I sat on the folding seats at the local Leisure Centre, accompanied by five near-hysterical children, I pondered the contradiction that, although I was way outside my comfort zone and about to watch an event that held zero personal appeal; my children were ecstatically happy. And that, in a nutshell was all it took for a deep sense of contentment to envelope me as I sat surrounded by an ocean of waving, giant foam fingers!
A mother behind me leaned over and asked "Wrestling Virgin?" I nodded and she announced cheerily" Ah, me too, I have to do all this stuff since my husband of 22 years left me six months ago!"She too had a fleet of overexcited small boys accompanying her. " I can't really afford it" she whispered conspiratorially " but you do anything to make it better don't you?"
She settled back to enjoy the show and I did too. It was surprisingly good fun, but for me the highlight was watching my children's faces glowing with delight and anticipation and I was profoundly glad that I had brought them. The Mother behind me poked me shortly before the end of the show and the Compare announced that three little boys had Birthdays that day. They had been granted Back Stage Passes to meet the WWE wrestlers and her son was springing up and down on his seat in delight. "Beat that, Dad!" she muttered through gritted teeth, winking at me.
It seems there is nothing that Parents won't do, to secure those golden moments where your children are ecstatically happy. In a World where nothing is certain and where a Parent cannot even promise their children, that the family they have so painstakingly created, will stay together; then the struggle begins, to create happy memories from the scattered remains of the ideals you once held. Money can't buy Happiness; but the sad truth is, that it sure as hell offers a helping hand, to those of us upon whom, the sole responsibility to create a happy childhood, rests. I asked my son what the best bit of the evening was and his reply was "Seeing you having a good time, Mum!" And it is true, on those rare occasions where I am completely reassured that my children are happy, I do let down the wall I put in place three years ago, at the start of my solo voyage. That in itself is a gift to me, for which I am profoundly grateful and has made this a Birthday to remember.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

A Complete Woman

I am profoundly ashamed to admit that I have reached the age of 36 and 3/4's without having the faintest idea about DIY. Now, 2 years,8 months and 14 days into single parenthood, I have seen the light, literally; shining on the dashboard of my dishwasher which has stood silent and slightly festering for the best part of 3 weeks.
Now although I went to an excellent school, which taught Girls to believe they could do anything they set their minds to, they were slightly lacking in the practical skills department. Now whilst I can write a cracking iambic pentameter and regale you with the 100 Years War; I left school utterly devoid of the ability to cook, sew, put up shelves or wire a plug.
I had to go head to head with these fairly major deficits ,when I reached University. Now I look back fondly and indulgently, at my teenage self, trying to make a white sauce with John Stuart Mill propped up next to the hob, by grating cheese into hot water.
By the time I set up home, I was doing so with an eminently practical husband at my side and thus never had to worry about Raul plugs and earth wires, especially as he found my total incompetence and consequent gratitude at the completion of any DIY, oddly endearing. Or so I thought.
I managed to cover up my secret shame quite comprehensively as I never had to deal with anything more complex than a name tape, or perhaps tyre pressure until 2006 .
However all this had to change and over recent months I have had to deal with enough Household disasters to fill a Good Housekeeping Manuel. Thank God for Google is all I can say!
So when a dear single girlfriend who is now an old hand at all that is domestically challenging, came for dinner with her son and tried to load the (broken) dishwasher, the proverbial floodgates of my ineptitude opened. To give her credit, despite her incredulity she poured a large glass of pinot grigio and putting on her specs instructed me like a 21st century Fairy Godmother, to bring her various objects to complete my transformation to a Complete Woman.
Of course I had no tools in the house, with the exception of a diminutive cross head screwdriver from a Christmas cracker. She gently enquired if a neighbour might have what we needed, so I pulled on my trusty UGGS and trotted across the roads to my (also) single female neighbour and banged tentatively on the door.
Now I should mention at this point, that in the last 18 months our street has experienced the Marital equivalent of Armageddon. I now have four single parent female neighbours and two single parent male ones. Despite the obvious turmoil and steady flow of removal vans this has incurred, what remains is a truly wartime spirit of damaged souls who pull together when it all becomes too challenging. The single ex wives now dog -walk together like a indomitable tribe of Amazonian Cath Kidstons; all Hunter wellies and attitude!
I digress; I knocked on her door and of course (it is Saturday night after all) she was in, thoroughly cocooned in a duvet, clutching a box of Maltesers. I obediently trotted of my list of requisites; a (bigger) cross head screwdriver, duct tape, socket joiners, wire strippers, a 13 amp fuse and plyers. There was an illicit excitement in the air, a bit like trespassing into the male domain , as we rummaged through her Ex husband's tool box.
Clutching my haul I scampered home to find my friend on her hands and knees pulling the dishwasher out from under the kitchen counter. Then with our wine glasses beside us we set to work stripping the wires and dropping the unfeasibly tiny screws from the plug.
The children (mostly male) passed through laughing making derisively sexist comments about how we would never do it but we soldiered on regardless. My eldest son watched us gloomily, waiting for us to electrocute ourselves and soon became bored by our dogged perseverance.
It was strangely calming and companionable sitting beneath the towering height of the laundry pile amidst the tumbleweeds of dog hair and fluff from the tumble drier.
Patiently and painstakingly, she guided me through the steps of wiring a plug with the instructions from Google on a post it, on the fridge door:Yellow/green-Earth, Blue- Neutral, Brown -Live.
I called my daughter over to watch, instructing her that EVERY woman should know how to fix her household appliances, much in the same tone with which my Aunt told me how to walk in heels and how to butter your bread in Good Company. My daughter watched critically, her face inscrutable, before announcing decisively that; when she was an Adult, she would pay someone to fix things!
At last, after a some fiddly screwing and a great deal of VERY blue language, the wiring was finished and like a Mother Bird watching her fledgling take flight, my friend directed me to the socket. My heart was in my mouth. I wasn't sure I could cope with the disappointment and the wave of inadequacy that would overwhelm me if it didn't work? But as the connection was made and the Dishwasher light came on, I leaped about the kitchen like a Lottery Winner shrieking with delight. We hugged and congratulated each other on our very female EUREKA moment. My friend wryly observed that her evening dates were rarely this ecstatic! We stood in somber wonder at our achievement listening to the heavy clunk and whir of the mechanics and the atmosphere was heady. Later as we sat in our post-electrical glow sharing a cigarette, we decided that sexual satisfaction didn't have much on this, particularly as both of us had survived significantly long periods of conjugal drought, and yet neither of us could live for even a week without our dishwashers!
As Rites of Passage go this was a pretty good one. All it had taken was a Phillips screwdriver and a length of electrical cable to complete my education. I appreciate such an event may seem insignificant to those with an O level in Home Ec, but for the girl who glued her Needlework GCSE pajamas together; tried to boil potatoes in a kettle and put shelves up with blu tac (yes,really!); this Household Ugly Duckling had finally become a Domestic Swan.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

When Kubler- Ross meets Infidelity

The internal cataclysm that occurs on discovering that your spouse, has been unfaithful to you, is the equivalent of stumbling over a landmine in the free-range egg aisle in Sainsburys. That is to say, that it is farcically unbelievable, violently messy and nothing within a 500 metre range with a fragile outer layer, stands a chance. The world drops away from you like a bungee jump into the Grand Canyon but without a rope, or a parachute.

This Year's tabloids have been awash with grotesque revelations of the seedy misdemeanours of a number of high profile (low morality)public figures. The undeniable majority of the culprits are men. Clearly not the weaker sex, considering the stamina required in sustaining their sordid deceptions and juggling so many women at the same time?

Why not women? Is it simply that Women lack the imagination to carry out such duplicity? Or simply that the cuckolded man is not such tasty prospect as the ashen-faced, bambi-eyed WAG clutching her Louis Vuitton and blinking in the headlights. Of course, the truth is, that many a woman has stolen illicit pleasures under the pretext of lunch with a girlfriend or a trip to the gym but more often, it is the Husband , who ceremoniously leaves the Family home on the quest known as "I have the right to be happy too/it's not you it's me/I need to find out who I am/We have grown apart/You are too fat and I don't fancy you therefore I have the God- given right to shag someone else!" Take your pick.

It is very hard to believe that statistically, Divorce rates are at an all time low, when every third woman you ask, has either been a victim of infidelity or knows someone who has? It seems incredible that when Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book, Death and Dying described catastrophic loss, that most 21st Century Women's practical experience would be; the death throes of their married life or long term relationship? That is not to say, that the loss of a marriage is more painful and intolerable than being widowed, but simply that at least the widower has the consolatory belief that their spouse loved them and their children, unconditionally.


To be told by the person you have committed your life to"For better or for Worse", that they no longer love you, or in fact, never did, is likely to provoke a exaggerated response of incredulous disbelief. Things like this only happen to other people, surely? Not to you and not by someone to whom you had always given the moral high ground? It is as ludicrous and obscene as Father Christmas being charged with theft and assault. The shattering and splintering of every notion and belief you have held as Gospel, as they come raining down around your ears, is akin to being caught in a ice storm. Whilst drenched from head to foot in frozen horror, you are simultaneously pierced by multiple, agonizing splinters of realization. The Mantra that "This cannot possibly be happening to me", thunders in your ears and women have been known to laugh blankly in total disbelief, pick up their wallet and go shopping as though nothing has happened.

However this defense mechanism, can't stall or drown out the dull thundering roar which is the sound of "All Bloody hell", about to let loose.


"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". The engulfing rage once you realize that your spouse has been Playing Away is a little like being caught in a rip tide. It is deadly and exhilarating and you have to be careful it doesn't destroy you. Having said that, exercising a little wrath is both healthy, necessary and entirely justified under the circumstances. Personally I favour the Shot Putt... using the Bang Olufsen or vintage Hi fi system you have lovingly dusted and tiptoed around reverently for the past 15 years. I liked the approach taken by one wife who took out a £36,000 advertising campaign to be shown in Time Square during rush hour in New York explaining exactly how sad and pathetic and small genital ed her husband was!. Sadly my budget wouldn't stretch..

It is interesting the anger that revelations of marital misdemeanors provokes from your family and friends. It can be almost as explosive as your own. Whilst your girlfriends will seethe sympathetically with you, cry with you and eat Haagan Daaz to the point of vomiting with you; nothing is quite so likely to provoke homicidal tendencies from women who have never said Boo to a Goose; than a woman betrayed by another woman. It is a crime beyond all forgiveness to be betrayed by a female friend. Most women will admit that secretly, they think that infidelity from a man is almost par for the course, but a woman who has chosen to seduce another woman's husband or who has taken a Father from the family home, is likely to be up there with Moira Hindley or Medea! The Home Wrecker is reviled like no other and has invited the wrath that she inspires amongst the Sisterhood.


This is the time in a woman 's life when she needs strong women around her. Anyone having experienced any kind of life-altering grief will tell you that the "Grief cycle" is in fact a "change cycle". Confronting the demise of a marriage or long-term relationship is to expose an area within oneself of profound psychological weakness which any sane woman would prefer not to explore. That is when you should call on reinforcements in the form of any girlfriends who categorically class themselves as your Fan Club! Otherwise you'll rattle around like a brussel sprout in a sieve, in awful ever decreasing circles of despair with cries of "If only I d been thinner/better paid/more interesting/had bigger breasts/smaller stretchmarks/fewer store cards" until you have dug yourself into a hole of self loathing that you will need RAF helicopters to rescue you from? In reality no amount of bargaining with the Almighty or liposuction is going to retrieve the situation. This is where your female friends will offer the gentle gift of perspective and will stop you renouncing your passion for Maria Carey or ebaying your soul to the highest bidder. There is no compromise and no half way house, you simply have file your spouse under AWOL and move on.


This is no ordinary Depression..... this is S&M depression! When the black dog arrives, the only advice is to batten down the hatches, put away sharp objects and sit out the storm. It is possible to lose weeks and months during this period, but when you come through it; which you absolutely will; you will be able to look back with black humour and laugh grimly at the lowest points. I remember the good folk of my church community rallying round to bring meals for us when I lost the ability to cook and eat. I remember my son earnestly standing next to my chair as I lay next to an untouched plate of supper and saying sternly "You have to stop crying Mummy or they will NEVER stop bringing Casseroles!" I recall vividly standing on my Mother's doorstep in London on Christmas Eve, shivering in the frozen air, gulping down sobs and hanging onto my mobile like a life buoy, talking to a friend whose husband had also upped and offed with a mid life crisis. We couldn't get a word out between us. It seems anarchic to laugh in the face of the taboo but actually it is what might well keep you afloat.


Accepting that what is past is past and you are the better for it is a very odd experience and quite disconcerting. A girlfriend who is an extraordinary capable single mother, was quite taken aback after a number of years of flying solo, to suddenly find herself the focus of attention from a nice unattached man. Firstly after checking in her rear view mirror to make sure he wasn't flirting with someone else,she found herself experiencing the first symptoms of infatuation. Pinkly flushed and exhilarated,she dusted off her self esteem and skinny jeans, and toddled off to go and check out what was on offer. After some reassuringly average sex and a few evenings of conversation with someone over 21 (for a change),she found herself trying to think of reasons why she couldn't see him that night. The revelation that actually she rather enjoyed being single and not having to pamper to someone else's whims and emotional needs proved incredibly liberating. Granted the sex was nice in the same way that your car passing its MOT is a relief, but frankly that was it! She was perfectly content with her own company amusing herself as and when she felt like it. Discovering you don't need affirmation from a partner to enjoy being you,is like rounding a bend in the road to find the most beautiful view unfolding in front of you. There is no one to tell you what you should see, no one to disturb the perfect silence of the moment and all the time in the world to realise that you are not lonely or unfulfilled. Accepting that you are comfortable with yourself is like flying. While I profoundly regret the loss of my marriage I no longer cling to regrets in order to have a sense of purpose. The end of a bad marriage is not a death but a weight cut loose from around your neck. If I had an epitaph for the end of mine it would the words of Dorothy Parker;
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Bard Karma

Bard Karma

Shall I compare Life to a Summer’s day?
No, it’s less lovely and more desperate?
Large bills do come a week before Pay Day
to be filed under “SH*T!!!!” until that date.
I wonder upon whom the eye of heaven shines?
When happiness lies so thin or semi- skimmed
And Half Term grates with fractious children’s whines
that they’re bored, and fighting tear each other limb from limb.
Behold, Mother's sense of humour starts to fade
when at that point, the electrics choose to bloweth
The cause? Rats chewing, in spite of traps we laid, through appliance cables; how many no one knoweth?
So long the holiday stretches ahead of me
My only solace now from cups of tea!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Good Morning. Let the Stress begin.

If you happened, by some misfortune, to be in the vicinity of our road, early on a weekday morning; you would not be criticised for supposing that all peace negotiations had failed and that World War III had, in fact, commenced.
Mornings with three children, two of whom have severe ADHD and a Labrador, who is, in fact a Weapon of Mass Destruction, leave very little to be desired.

When the alarm rings at 06.45am and I crawl out of bed, there is only time to attend to the most critical of personal ablutions; Loo, teeth, Contact lenses and a VERY strong cup of tea before the call to battle is sounded. With some trepidation, I advance upon the Boys' room, carefully negotiating a path through a minefield of PSP games, discarded clothes, Lego and dirty plates, from illicit late-night snacks! The next manoeuvre must be completed from the foot of the High Sleepers and timing is key. Using a well rehearsed cheery tone one must display lightening reflexes. Simultaneously flicking the light switch one then lunges like an Olympic Fencer to grab the corner of the adjacent duvets and whip them off the sleeping incumbents. This has to be done in approximately 2.5 seconds before beating a hasty retreat to avoid the ensuing Missile Offensive from the top bunk!

The roar of incomprehensible, expletive-laden rage, which explodes from the Boys' room, trips a circuit of chaos. My daughter sets up a shrill wailing from beneath her duvet and the Labrador's sound-activated Bark and Bounce Sequence commences down below. Clutching a fistful of clean pants and balled socks I hurl them into the appropriate bedrooms like hand grenades shouting "Get dressed! Leaving in 15 mins". By the time I reach the Dogs they have hyped themselves into a frenzy of delight which invariably results in someone or something (usually pictures on the wall) being knocked flying! With some nervousness I inspect the room for evidence of Crimes against Domesticity.

Beans the Labrador, aged 18 months is possessed of an awe-inspiring lack of intelligence. This is coupled with a innate desire to seek and destroy, anything and everything that one would reasonably expect to find in a Family Home. Whilst he has a Pedigree as illustrious as our Royal Family, he is as my Vet ruefully informed me, "Incredibly thick!".
Personally I think he is a furry incarnation of Norse God of Chaos, Loki. He is both irresistible and infuriating by turns. No sofa is left unturned and no pants-crotch unchewed, as Beans romps through daily life with an exuberance which unparalleled in my experience.

He is merciless to his victims; a Pair of Roller skates, Eight Shin Pads (Nike), a Habitat sofa and cushions (chewed from the front and right out through back of the frame) 22 Shoes (School, Ballet, Trainers, Football boots and UGGS) both single and pairs, have been indiscriminately annihilated. Enough Barbie Dolls have been summarily executed by amputation and decapitation to satisfy even Tarantino and any Fatwas! Despite the entire contents of the room now being placed 3.5 foot above floor-level, Beans is dogged in his determination to extricate, chew and anoint with pee every single item I possess!

Down into this Armageddon, come the children, in various states of undress, as I hurl things into the washing machine, unload the dishwasher and clear up whatever little gift Beans has thoughtfully left for me during the night. Roaring and swearing like Rugby Internationals, the Boys career madly around the place, indiscriminately whacking and punching anything which strays into their path. Abbie and the dogs retreat to the relative safety of the Sitting Room and the solace of Cbeebies. Inarticulate with fury due to being unable to find his school trousers, which are right in front of him, my eldest will exact his revenge on humanity, by repeatedly slamming the fridge door or grabbing handfuls of his brother's hair. Meanwhile, my younger son skips around the house like a skeletal bush baby, shrieking irrational arpeggios of anguish, with his trousers and pants on back-to-front.

All that can be done, is to sweep the uncontrollable rabble toward the front door, each clutching their Marmite on toast in one hand and the rest of their clothing in the other. Nothing in nearly fourteen years of Parenting, has ever made Mornings any easier or less chaotic? Four nannies came and went, without having even the slightest impact on the routine and invariably, with their Gina Ford and Supernanny mindsets, in tatters. Since shouting oneself hoarse and threatening to remove every luxury known to them, including light bulbs; is not even met with the slightest deference, I have concluded that the Path of Least Resistance is the best. But thenas if by magic, a merciful silence descends like a 13.5 tog duvet of calm, as the Boys' morning dose of Ritalin kicks in. Thereafter, the street breathes a collective sigh of relief, as the Hieatts head off on the school run. The only evidence of the earlier mayhem, is the solitary cup of tea left cooling quietly, on the front wall.