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, 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.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Technical Specifications for i-Can Grandparent

The new i- Can Grandparent is something,that no discerning Working Parent should be without.
A relatively new concept in Familial back-up technology, the i-Can has wide market appeal. Latest figures suggest they may be the run away hit in 2010.
Technical Specifications
Size and weight: averaging between 5' 5 and 6'1 and available in both standard or slim line models. The i- Can fits snugly into any available family car and can pack a surprising amount into a very small case. Designed with travel in mind and not susceptible to fluctuations in temperature, due to an inbuilt climate weather predication ...(it looked like a Tsunami ,so I packed a mac?!) the i Can ,will please and impress with its versatility. Equally suited to Public Transport or private conveyance to its destination, it will rarely be out of range and can respond in an emergency at the mere press of a button (the HELP!!!! one)
The i Can is finger print resistant due to its oleo phobic coating. It can display support for multiple situations (inc harassed Mother, irate toddler and incontinent Labrador) and can interpret several conversations simultaneously.
The i-can has assisted GPS and in built digital compass, ideal for fiendishly complicated after- school care arrangements. The i Can can locate and retrieve the impossible, from the foot-well of the car, the cupboard under the stairs and the horror under the bed, where previous models have failed. The Wi fi connection from a remote host called X perience is infallible.
Power and Battery
The i-Can has a built in rechargeable Twinings battery and can also be charged via a USB (Unbelievably Swift Beverage) connection in the nearest Costa or Starbucks outlet.
Talk time is unlimited and the i-Can has a alert standby mode between 00:00 and 06.30 am
Standby time : up to 95 years for the average model.
Video playback and memory recall is superior on this model, notably of events that most Working Parents would choose to forget especially, when the incident is being replayed, by the New Generation. This feature is called PAY BACK!
Audio Playback: a sophisticated format allows freeze frame and continuous replay on all Ladybird Books and Dick King Smith novels for
evening applications (Babysitting)
System requirements
Now compatible with all forms of PC, Mac, and well versed in email, Facebook and Flickr with vast archive access for all homework topics. Having been in the production phase during the past six decades, the i Can has assimilated considerable understanding and answers on all areas of the Web. Simply type Life into the i Can's Google search engine, for instantaneous drop- down of all appropriate resources and solutions.
The i Can has state of the art sensitivity with accelerometer for when the occasion arises.
It has a Proximity sensor for the approach of impending financial or emotional disaster and an Ambient light sensor to shine light on particularly challenging problems. Uncanny strategic volume control, differentiates the i-Can from lesser models that have gained negative publicity on the Jeremy Kyle Show.
Environmental requirements
The i-Can functions best when kept in the loop.
Optimum temperature for the Pink gloss model is 32'C to avoid overheating. (see The Change in Operating Manuel) . Non operating temperature; below average room temperature in normal centrally-heated storage facilities.
The i-Can, embodies the Parent Company's continuing commitment to the Next Generation and has rendered itself indispensable to the Modern Working Woman. The i-Can has won awards across the board and as one parent stated, "I don't what I d do without mine!".
Another 1 in a million product brought to you by Adventures in Free-fall Parenting.