Friday, 30 March 2007

Hurrah for the Hols!

Last day of Spring term today. The boys are doing a cricket training course this Easter, so they will be able to emulate their England cricket heroes (presumably pedallos will be provided). The range of activities on offer to children over the holiday is jaw-dropping: horse riding, sailing, circus skills, lion taming for the under-fives....the list is endless. When I was a child my brothers and I had to make do in the holidays with watching black and white television re-runs of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Belle and Sebastian’. When the two hours of children’s TV finished, (I know its hard to imagine) we would amuse ourselves with marathon sessions of Monopoly and Cluedo. Were we bored? Well yes, hideously so, but when we moaned about it, no one paid any attention. My mother was as unlikely to ferry us around to ‘holiday activities’ as she was to pay someone to clean her house for her.
I was wondering if I could con my kids into an alternative range of Easter courses. How about:
Junior Horticulture (weeding the garden)
Life Laundry for Littlies (tidying their bedrooms)
Kitchen Skills for Young Chefs (making lunch)
Advanced Kitchen Skills for Young Chefs (making dinner).
I think I could be on to something here........Time to crack open the prosecco!

Thursday, 29 March 2007

The Roadrunner

I’ve had one of those days where I have gradually become irritated by the sound of my own nagging. Now the kids are all in bed, and I’m snuggling up to a large glass of soft, ripe Rosemount Pinot Noir (£7.99 Ocado), I’m feeling subdued and rather remorseful. Their view of me today has been:
7am- see crazed, wild-haired harpy descend on kitchen, chivvying everyone to hurry up and eat breakfast ‘faster’, go and brush teeth, get dressed ‘faster’, get schoolbags, go to the toilet, put shoes on ‘faster’, get in the car, put seatbelts on ‘faster’.
8.30 am – arrive at school for a calm, nurturing day, where no-one shouts ‘Shut up, I can’t hear myself think!’ or ‘You did that deliberately, didn’t you?’ Make lovely, arty things with tissue paper, sing jolly songs in little piping voices, write stories about fluffy animals, and generally express creativity in a multitude of ways.
3.30pm – meet up with crazed, wild-haired harpy, who constantly issues military-style commands to get in the car, put seatbelts on ‘faster’, get in the house, take shoes off, get out of school uniform ‘faster’, do homework, eat dinner ‘faster’, get in the bath, brush teeth, put pyjamas on ‘faster’.
Sitting here now with my glass of Pinot Noir, I’m not quite sure what all the rush was about.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

You Lost Me At ‘Hello’

I was watching my daughter play hockey this afternoon. If you could call it that. To the untrained eye, it looked like a dozen mini Grim Reapers, scything away at each other. For most watching parents it was an exercise in flinching, and fretting about likely dental bills. For those with private health insurance and the number of a good plastic surgeon, it offered the prospect of an early introduction to corrective rhinoplasty.
Halfway through the match, I noticed a rather good looking father arrive and join the opposition spectators. With an almost audible cinematic whoosh, I was transported back over twenty years, as I realised I knew this man from university days, knew him really well in fact (although not in the biblical sense). I went over, said his name, and gave him a hug. He was speechless, but that may be because I omitted to introduce myself, and he couldn’t for the life of him remember who I was. We talked for a few minutes about jobs, families, children, old friends, and gradually he made the connection with the person I was twenty years ago. As the second half of the hacking match started, I started to wind up the conversation, leaving him with the honest assurance that he “hadn’t changed a bit.” There was a dreadful, lengthy pause. Then in a manner worthy of Hugh Grant, he stuttered and said “Gosh” and “Well” several times, but couldn’t quite bring himself to return the compliment. I limped away.

Now I’m back in my kitchen, licking my wounds and the last of the Shiraz.
I’ve decided that the reason my old friend thought I had changed so much isn’t because two decades and three children have left me decayed and ravaged beyond recognition. No, I think he was shocked that I had morphed into a respectable mother with a ten year marriage and a cliché-ed hairstyle. The last time he had seen me, twenty years ago, I was drinking cider and CherryB and sporting my favourite ‘Tight Butts Drive Me Nuts’ T-shirt. Thinking about this transformation, I am rather shocked myself.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

It Is A Wise Father That Knows His Own Child

H and I have just been to our daughter’s school parents’ evening. Bizarrely, they serve drinks at this event, although I’m not sure why. Looks like a lethal combination to me – all those pushy parents, straining to contain their vicarious ambitions.
As always, I was one of the few parents drinking. It could be because the white wasn’t chilled very well, and the red has a tendency to turn newly-bleached teeth blue.
By the time we got to speak to our daughter’s long-suffering teacher, I had already downed two of the luke warm whites. Maybe I’m a bit of a pushover at these events, but since she didn’t raise any problems about our daughter’s progress, I was happy to thank her after our allotted ten minutes, and get up and go home (to a decent chilled white). I have always worked on the principle that if there’s any trouble to do with your kids, it will surely come and find you – you really don’t need to go looking for it.
Before we left the school hall, I was tempted to take a glass of wine up to the poor teacher who was now being grilled by a particularly alpha Dad, as his decorative wife looked on adoringly. Maybe a few swigs would have given the teacher the courage to suggest to him that his darling daughter had not inherited his mathematical ability. She could then have offered him the consolation that at least she hadn’t inherited his looks either.

Monday, 26 March 2007

They Think Its All Over

Went to watch my son play football for his school this afternoon. He had a few weeks of glory in the D team, before the pressure of such dizzy heights got to him, and he was relegated to the E’s. I must say, he seems to have dealt with it better than some of the mothers whose sons have made a similar slide from the A’s to the B’s.
There is something very heartwarming about watching small boys play football. They are completely untroubled by concepts such as tactics, strategy, or indeed skill, preferring to all cluster around the ball like enthusiastic bees, hacking away indiscriminately. It took some of them half the match to realise which direction they were supposed to be running, so you can imagine the confusion after half time, when they swapped ends.
Its now several hours after the event, and I’m relaxing with a big, generous Wolf Blass Shiraz (Tesco £8.49).
I spent the match standing on the touchline with a cluster of spectator mums. Those in heels were trying to pretend that they weren’t really sinking backwards, and every now and again, one high pitched voice or another would warble a few words of encouragement.
The opposition goalie wore gloves that made him look like Mickey Mouse, and had the terrified expression of a rabbit caught in the headlights. When our boys managed, by pure fluke, to chip the ball past him and into the net, it was difficult to know whether to clap, or to run on and console him. We opted to clap, partly to restore our failing circulation.
Once there was a score on the board, the father of one of the visiting team started prowling up and down the touchline. After a while, he could contain his frustration no longer and started yelling at his son, issuing commands like ‘Tom! Mark your own man’ and ‘Move to the left, Tom!’ He gradually worked up to such a torrent of orders, that the poor child kept missing the ball completely, he was so anxious to follow his father’s instructions.
When I was at school, I happily played netball for eight years without my parents ever attending a match - I probably would have been mortified if they had ever turned up. These days we are called upon to witness our children’s every move - they can’t shake us off. I’m sure little Tom would have been absolutely fine today, if it hadn’t been for his father’s ‘support’.
Maybe if I’d had a testosterone-releasing Intrinsa patch, I could have run up and down the touchline too, either barking at my own son or propositioning the alpha Dad. Neither prospect is very appealing.

Brave New World

Apparently a patch designed to boost women’s libido will be available on prescription from this week. Intrinsa (a sort of Viagra for women) releases testosterone into the bloodstream through the skin, and stimulates thoughts about sex. Hmmmmm. I read this news with raised eyebrow and hollow laugh. Doubtless, the drug companies are rubbing their hands (or other appendages) with glee. As someone teetering on the edge of the menopause, I need to be careful with my criticisms, but it does seem to me that this is somehow missing the point. Surely one’s ‘libido’ is an urge – an itch that needs to be scratched? There can’t be that many women who would want to add thoughts about sex to their daily mental ticker tape? Isn’t it rather crowded there already? Maybe its me who is missing the point – Intrinsa is really aimed at men, especially the sweaty-palmed type who need to bribe or drug women to sleep with them. Doubtless, they will soon be able to order it on line, along with their Viagra and Rohypnol. The days of Aldous Huxley’s ‘sex-hormone chewing gum’ are upon us.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Lush Off The Leash

Last night we went to a wine dinner in a smart restaurant, where the food had been chosen to complement the Bordeaux wines (or was it supposed to be the other way round?). There is something rather liberating about this format, where someone else has chosen what you eat and drink (can’t see why my kids complain about it so much). All that is required of you is that you sit and savour whatever is served up/poured out for you. Six different wines (one excellent sauvignon blanc, four fine and varied reds and a sauternes that tasted like Haliborange tablets) ensured Drunk Mummy Heaven. There was a short presentation about the grapes, wine producers and vineyards which added a touch of respectability to the proceedings. For the most part, it was just an excuse to drink lots of delicious wines, out of delicate sparkly glasses with no greasy lip smears or dishwasher stains on them.
When we got home, our fresh faced young babysitter was still toiling away at her homework. When she sees me rolling in, grinning inanely, she probably thinks ‘Stay-at-home motherhood for me?’ then shudders and reaches for her textbooks.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Bipolar Disorder-ly

Why, in all these rather bossy manuals/programmes about parenting, or child-rearing, do you never see the following advice to parents:
“Pour out a large slug of your favourite wine and don’t speak to anyone until you have sucked the final dregs from the glass.”
It works for me every time.
Like a converse version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, my potion of choice turns me from snarling, intolerant beast into rational, considerate human being. Here are a few examples:
Sober Mum bellows ‘What do you mean, you’ve lost your cardigan again?’
Drunk Mum reassures ‘It’ll turn up somewhere.’
Sober Mum yells ‘For God’s sake, can’t you eat a yogurt without wearing it?’
Drunk Mum soothes ‘Don’t worry, it’ll come out in the wash.’
Drunk Mum is also capable of ignoring nose picking, pocket billiards and endless noisy horseplay, preferring to smile indulgently and kiss the golden heads of her little cherubs. Sadly the kids are forced into the company of cantankerous Sober Mum for most of the time. They occasionally get to spend time with her much jollier counterpart (Sunday lunch, the odd Friday night in front of the telly) but in order to maintain some sense of propriety, it’s a rare treat.
Tonight’s tipple is La Marca prosecco (Ocado £5.99). I like to have a couple of glasses on a Friday night, a couple before dinner on Saturday night, and the last bits while making lunch on Sunday. Its light and peachy, and makes me feel festive. I can’t afford a ‘champagne lifestyle’ but the ‘prosecco lifestyle’ suits me just fine.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Acts Of Civil Disobedience

Right, they’ve finally all gone to bed, and I’m sitting here with a glass of Tesco’s Finest Chablis. I bought an embarrassing amount when it was on offer at a fiver a bottle before Christmas. The only other items I had in my trolley were a low calorie sandwich and a clutch of children’s birthday cards. I must have looked like the dipsomaniac version of the mad old woman with a trolley full of tins of cat food. I’ll be cutting my own hair next.
Anyway, this wine is crisp, green, and not too oaky, and the condensation is forming nicely on the outside of the glass. I should have time for at least one fortifying glass before my lovely husband returns from the coal face, and I have to cook the dinner. Actually ‘cook’ is too elaborate a word for what I usually do. ‘Assemble ingredients on a plate’ would be a more honest description. I suppose serving up a bit of microwaved fish and a bag of lettuce keeps me off the radar of the healthy food police, but only just.
I’m not really hungry, since I have already wolfed the equivalent of a three course meal in instalments, while preparing the children’s dinner, coercing them into eating it, and clearing away the resultant mess. I’ve also done the packed lunches (when did I start nibbling crusts for fun?) so the prospect of a third round of food preparation doesn’t exactly fill me with joy.
I think a second glass of this Chablis will go down rather well. It will make me feel subversive enough to slip a couple of Jammie Dodgers into the lunchboxes. I know that some parents view them as polonium-210 for kids, but its convenient sometimes to be able to blame a child’s obnoxious behaviour on sugar or food colourings. At least it gets you off the hook as a parent.