Tuesday 28 October 2008

Playing tag with random facts

This is very exciting. I've been tagged by Welsh girl which means I have to tell you seven random things about myself or be single handedly responsible for bringing about the end of the world (which I will be anyway given how often we're using our tumble drier at present).

So here they come (incidentally it's quite difficult to be random on command. I'm very good at being randomly random):

1. My nickname is Loo. Contrary to popular believe, I was not named after a toilet, although my parents do believe that I am full of shit. No, the nickname goes back to when I was a little girl and I would refuse to answer to any name other than Lulubell. Actually, my full name was Princess Lulubell, Queen of the Fairies, but I would accept Lulubell for short. This in turn got shortened to Loo over the years. In my head I am still Princess Lulubell, Queen of the Fairies and have the fairy wings and tiara to prove it.

2. I absolutely loathe and detest Coriander. Ground coriander is fine. It's coriander leaf, the fresh stuff that Indian and Thai restaurants insist on sprinkling all over your food in an exotic take on parsley. It is the devil's herb and should be erradicated from the earth. In fact by not doing my tag, I could get rid of coriander as part of the world's demise and all would be well.

3. I'm good at making up song lyrics for children at a moment's notice. This is a talent I've mastered thanks to numerous tantrums that needed distracting or hours of having to lull babies to sleep. Here's a sample:
Night night Mr Sunshine
Hello Mr Moon
Night night Mr Sunshine
We will see you soon

Night night Mr Sunshine
Hello Starry Sky
Night night Mr Sunshine
It's time for beddy bye.

4. Despite being hideously unfit, I can - and always have been able to - sit with my feet soles together with my knees flat on the ground. Like being cross legged, only not. It's what very bendy yoga types do. I'm not bendy. This is my only bendy feat.

5. I'm allergic to all seafood. This does not bother me at all with regards to shellfish which look like swimming cockroaches. But not being able to eat fish - particularly fish and chips - is hell. It makes cooking fish for my children a deeply joyous experience too, particularly as I come up in welts if I touch salmon.

6. When I was a teenager in the 80s, my sisters, a friend and I performed a dance to Wham!'s Edge of Heaven and Alphaville's Big in Japan in front of a yacht club full of people. We wore leotards with black bin liners which we tucked into brightly coloured waist bands. We ripped the bin bags off midway through the dance as we got into the Wham groove. Why we thought this was in anyway cool I will never, ever know.

7. I get irrationally annoyed when people misspell the words lose vs loose. In fact it makes me want to lose the plot, rather than loose it.

I'm now supposed to tag someone else but am not sure who. My bloggy friends have been tagged. Someone take the tagging baton from me please or else the world might implode.

Sodding clock change

I am NOT happy about the clocks going back. I have spent years training my children to sleep slightly later in the morning. We've been moving forward at snail's pace, with the odd minute added here and there so that they now wake up on average about 6.17am. This is still unacceptably early in my book, but a lot better than what it has been for the last 4.5 years.

But now that the clocks have gone back, we're back at square one. 5am arrives and two small boys bounce out of bed, ready to start their day. This hasn't been terribly bad for me - yet - as husband is always up at the time because he's just plain weird. Not only does he get up at this ungodly hour, but he then goes to the gym to exercise. I mean what kind of barking mad person ever does that - much less on a frosty October morning?

But because the children are up at 5am, it means that they've already had 3 days worth of tv by 7.30am. Which leaves them listless and bored and wanting me to entertain them while I'm still trying to pump caffeine in intravenously. What's more, it means they're hungry and have had breakfast by 6.30am. This means that by mid-morning they turn into hobbits and need a second breakfast. And it also means that by the end of the day they are incredibly tired and thoroughly unpleasant to be around.

It's not just the children's early waking that the clock change has brought about. It has viciously cut short the day. I can handle rain. I can handle cold (just). But I cannot handle it getting dark at 5pm (and I know there's only worse to come as we plod towards the bleakness of winter). When it gets dark early, my body believes that it's bedtime. I become lethargic and unable to do anything other than shovel steamed puddings and belly sticking stews into my gob. My body retains all this food as it too knows that winter is coming and might need some added layers of blubber to keep it warm. Add to this that it's now impossible to hang clothes on a line to dry, resulting in excessive tumble dryer usage, leading to excessive clothes shrinking, and my entire wardrobe starts to feel a little snug.

This makes me grumpy too. In fact there is nothing that puts me in bad mood more (with the exception of having a negative bank balance and neighbours with hedge issues) than trouser buttons that dig into my belly button and love handles that are perpetually making a bid for freedom, as they squeeze their way out from between the top of my trousers and the bottom of my shirt.

Time also seems to move more slowly now that the clocks have gone back. This is subliminal. We've spent all of summer (such as it was) retraining our brains so that a quick glance outside will give you a good estimate as to what the time is. Now that same quick glance tells you it's an hour later than what the clocks say. It's like waking up on a Thursday believing it's a Friday. Only it's not. It's all very disconcerting.

Anyway, I must go and turn the television off before my children do genuinely start to get square eyes and they must be due their second breakfast by now.

Monday 27 October 2008

Crisis of confidence

Disclaimer: Morbid navel gazing follows. Feel free to send me a virtual slap.

I would say that about once every two weeks I have a complete crisis of confidence. It's very annoying. It's even more annoying for my husband who doesn't understand why I don't believe in myself and why I can't just make a decision and carry it out. He feels that I dither. I do. Decisions are not my thing. By making a decision, you're effectively bidding farewell to the alternative, and that bothers me.

My most frequent crisis of confidence is about my business. Almost daily I feel as though I'm hanging on tight to the pendulum of a large grandfather clock as I swing back and forth about what to do with my work. Something good happens - like a fab piece of client coverage - and I feel as though I can conquer the world. I see my business being the next big thing. Possibly resulting in me being on the front cover of the Time magazine (probably not but it's good to have stretch goals).

And then the pendulum reaches its zenith and it swings back again. This usually coincides with me opening up a magazine and seeing one of my competitors quoted or a big feature that one of my clients should have been in and aren't. OR, I have a particularly bad day trying to juggle work and kids or I see friends skipping off to a keep fit class and coffee and I think, sod it all to hell in a handbasket, I want to jack it in and become a lady who blogs.

There is very seldom a middle ground. I regularly think that I would be infinitely happier if I just accepted that I should simply do a great job for a few clients, stay small, keep my brain ticking over, make some money and have time for life outside of work. But this just feels so stationary. So ordinary. So under-achievery. In every job, you get performance appraisals and goals to work towards and things to achieve. By just doing the same old thing year after year without trying to do more, I feel as though I'm not trying hard enough. And therefore am a failure.

This is a ridiculous way of thinking. I need to give myself a good shake and stern talking to. I need to view my life as a whole, with work just being one part of it. But it's always there, this feeling that I ought to be trying harder, that I'm not pushing myself, that I'm coasting.

Why can I not view the fact that I have run a successful business for two and three quarter years, that I've taught myself a vast amount, that I've made as much money as many main breadwinners make and that I've done this all while looking after two very young boys, having a house flooded, moving house, running a home and having a husband who's seldom here - as a worthwhile thing? Why does it still feel that I need to pull my finger out?

I don't know the answer. If anyone has any pearls of wisdom, I'd love to hear them. Otherwise just send me my slap and send me on my way.

Friday 24 October 2008

Put the spoon down and step away from the houmous

Today was the last day of term. Which meant that this afternoon I had two very tired little boys on my hands who weren't overly bothered about bouncing on the trampoline or going for a walk in the sunshine. We'd already done snakes and ladders until even they were bored with it (which takes some doing). We'd coloured in the paving stones outside the backdoor with fat coloured chalks. And we'd listlessly pushed a few cars around the carpet.

I decided that cooking dinner would be a good thing to do. It would be educational for them. It would keep them occupied. And it would mean that dinner would be ready early which in turn meant bedtime could be early. And luckily, I'd planned to make a dinner that took quite a bit of time with lots of little tasks that they could help with. Lamb in pita bread with tsatziki and grilled aubergine.

I'm a big fan of teaching my children how to cook - the sooner they can do it, the sooner I can put my feet up in the evenings with a big fat glass of wine while they slave over a stove. So we started out by roasting some cumin, coriader and mustard seeds - all of which we'd had a good sniff of before tossing them in the pan, with son 2 nodding sagely at each, offering his opinion like 'yummy', 'spicy' and 'smelly'. They found the roasting process fascinating, particularly when the seeds started popping. We then took turns using a pestle and mortar to grind them up. It started well but we ended up with a light dusting of aromatic spices across most of the kitchen.

We then cut the lamb into slivers and they took turns sprinkling what remained of the spices over the lamb and squeezing honey and lemon over it. Again, what started out well soon ended up with two small boys covered in honey from fingertips to the backs of their ears.

Moving swiftly on, we sliced peppers, onions and aubergines which absolutely had to be put in a bowl the minute I'd cut a single piece, which meant tiny fingers flying in underneath the sharp knife to make sure that they got to grab the next bit to go in the bowl.

Having survived that, we moved onto making tsatziki. Son 1 just wanted to eat the cucumber. Son 2 was frustrated that the odd piece of grated cucumber fell outside the bowl and insisted on pushing each piece through the top of the grater. We then had another tussle over who was going to scoop the yogurt in, who was going to squeeze in lemon, who was going to crush the garlic and who was going to grind in the salt and pepper. By the end of it we all looked like walking piles of Greek dip.

I decided that it would be safer for them to set the table while I cooked the food so that we didn't end up with pan fried small boy instead of lamb. They seemed to be managing well and the cooking went ahead at full steam, only interrupted by son 2 who kept wanting to know when it was time to do the pita bread, fondling and mangling it while waiting for the go ahead to pop it in the toaster.

I decided he needed another job and asked if he could take some teaspoons to the table for us to use in the houmous. He readily trotted off and did this. I was then trying to grill aubergines, stir-fry lamb, fry up onions and peppers and toast pitas all at once so enjoyed the peace I was afforded for a few minutes after the frenetic cooking afternoon. Until I realised that it really was too quiet.

I went into the dining room. There was son 2. With the utmost concentration on his little face, scooping houmous out of the pot and putting large dollops of it on everyone's plates. Except that he hadn't quite managed to get the plates. And he had used two teaspoons per person, discarding the dirty, houmous-dripping teaspoons as he moved his scorched earth policy across the table. There was houmous everywhere. On the backs of chairs. On the fronts of chairs. On the carpet. In his hair. Even a glob on the ceiling, obviously from a back flick. He was so incredibly proud of himself. It was heartbreaking.

'Put the spoon down and step away from the houmous,' I said. 'But I'm helping mummy,' he said holding a dripping spoon aloft. Like a scene from Hill Street Blues or CSI Miami, I held myself absolutely still and repeated the request loudly and clearly, ready to pop a pistol out of my pocket at the slightest wrong move. Slowly he lowered the spoon and my imaginery SWAT team swooped in, handcuffed him and hosed him down. Actually, he just toddled back to the kitchen and mangled the pita breads some more.

I was right, it did make the afternoon fly by. I however feel like I've once again done fully body contact cooking and the kitchen looks as though a small police force has shot up a tube station. Suffice to say, that I washed dinner down with some wine. It is weekend after all.

Thursday 23 October 2008

When lie ins go wrong

My husband very kindly let me sleep in this morning. He got up with the boys who he's barely seen all week. However, all his good work was undone when - at 7.45 - I woke up, looked at the clock and leaped out of bed realising that I had just 45 minutes to get the kids to school. I charged downstairs and asked husband:

'Have you taken the bins out? It's recycling day today.'
No, said he.
'Have you given the children breakfast?'
Some dry cereal, said he.
'Have you made a packed lunch for son 2?'
No, said he.
'Have you got their school clothes ready?'
No, said he.
'Have you packed their book bags?'
No, said he.
I didn't bother to ask whether he'd managed to find something old for show and tell today because that would have required him to actually look at the homework book and I'm not sure he knows what the homework book is.

So while I got an extra hour of sleep, in return I got to rush around like a mad woman wheeling out bins, making toast, whipping up sandwiches, finding school clothes that aren't filthy, wiping bums, dressing beasties, digging through ancient Christmas decorations for something old (because my son's show and tell suggestion was the lid of a Mr Men bubble bath bottle which didn't really qualify as being 'old' despite us having had it for a few months), all while slurping down coffee in a bid to wake up.

I tried to explain to husband that while a lie in is nice, having to compact a normal mornings worth of tasks into half the time is less restful. I think he thought I was unappreciative.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

The unbearable burden of chores

So right about now I should be writing about how the French apparently don't breastfeed their babies unless they're hardcore hippies and the Italians do but stay in hiding for three months, at which point they head outdoors and transition their children directly onto horsemeat. However, I just don't have the stamina or enthusiasm. The reason? I've just written a list of all the mundane things that need to be done in our house and the hamster-wheel drudgery of it all is sucking out my will to live.

These are things that need doing because they haven't been done for a long, long time. They are chores that get pushed to the bottom of the pile because they fall into the 'Not Urgent, Not Important' quadrant of life. But it doesn't mean that they can be ignored forever. And by virtue of the fact that they haven't been done, they are using up space in my brain (not to mention my cupboards) and I feel as though both need a good decluttering.

I would like to hire someone to take my list and do it all for me. I think they would charge rather a lot, but I really would seriously consider having someone do it all. Know anyone?

Here's the list - have a strong coffee now as you might fall into a boredom induced coma:

Take clothes to charity
Sell suitable things on eBay (this involves washing, ironging, photographing, uploading, posting)
Sort our airing cupboard/towels/linen – chuck old, buy new
Sort out toy cupboard incl toy box in boy's room
Sort out photos lying all over drawing room floor (as they have been since February this year)
Do up spare bedroom
Put new pictures in frames/hang others already done
Put up notice board in office (stick one bazillion school notices on it)
Sort out filing trays in office
Get rid of Chris' crap in office (note to self: do this while he's not looking)
Sort out inside of office cupboards
Get video camera fixed. Film children before they stop being cute.
Chuck out old clothes in my cupboard
Sort out Tupperware cupboard - buy more tupperware (you can never, ever have enough)
Sort out CDs in drawing room (let's play find the right CD for the CD cover)
Get new rechargeable batteries for camera
Get tumble dryer repaired
Get handyman to finish skirting in spareroom, plus plugs fittings
Get handyman to fix hole in kitchen wall
Get handyman to fix malfunctioning radiator
Get boiler serviced
Get more oil
Get car serviced
Sort out hedge issue with neighbours

This is a full time job right? Taking care of all this crap. Not to mention the day to day cleaning, washing, cooking, ironing delight that takes place. The fact that I've sorted out the magazines in my office, gone through my knicker drawer and done the kid's clothes cupboard recently are all steps in the right direction, but they feel rather insignificant when placed next to the Everest of chores that remains.

The time it's taken me to type this blog, I probably could have sorted out the bag of gift wrap and cards (meant to be my organised way of being prepared for any last minute birthday surprises) that seems to have exploded in my office (that's another one to add to the list) but the I-can't-be-arsed feeling has a pretty firm grip on me tonight and it's steering me towards the wine chiller and TV remote control. I really to need to have a stern word with myself. If I could kick myself in the butt I would but I fear I'd pull a hamstring. That would be because I've still not done my fitness video either.


Baby food and baking

I want to blog but now I have to go fetch a small, no doubt grumpy, boy from pre-school. He pronounced this morning (apropo of nothing) that if he was very, very good, that he would be allowed to bake something. I'm not sure who was granting him this wish. The cake fairies perhaps. But given it is National Baking Week this week, I should do my patriotic and maternal duty and whip something fattening up. But that's the problem. I can't fit into my clothes so don't really want to be surrounded by cakes, particularly as I just ate rather a lot of dark chocolate as I read it was good for you and needed a little smackerel of something to tide me over till mid-afternoon snack.

However, I do have a recipe (and the ingredients) for some cranberry bran muffins from the GI Diet cookbook, which after consuming more than one, will have you evacuating your bowels in under 5 seconds. So we might make some of those. A DIY colonic irrigation of sorts.

But my rather long winded point was that I'm not going to get time to blog much this afternoon. And this evening I need to continue writing my article on the breastfeeding and weaning habits of mothers in France and Italy. In researching my article, I have discovered that Italians have a broad range of baby purees (all with added salt, because it's never to early to start hardening those arteries) and while they have the normal range of fruit and veg purees, their meat purees fall into the categories of interesting to vile. Interesting: Chicken and Prociutto. Despite the 100 gallons of salt involved, that could be quite tasty. Vile: Rabbit puree or Horse puree. Fancy eating My Little Pony for lunch dear?

And speaking of baby food, I'm also working on the relaunch of the Babylicious range of baby and toddler meals. And I discovered that the toddler meals only have something like 80 calories per meal. There was a recent craze for celebrity mums to eat baby food to lose weight, but they all found jars of baby food a bit disgusting (particularly if they were Italian). I think I might try eating Kiddylicious meals for a while to see if I can shed a few pounds, thus enabling me to bake something more exciting than bran muffins.

Enough wibble. I'm not late. Must dash.

Monday 20 October 2008

Old photos. Making the case for prozac

I made the foolish mistake of looking at some old photos of me today. It wasn't intentional. I was trying to find an old, unused photo album that my children could use to stick their gogo stickers into instead of decorating our new kitchen cabinets with them. While rummaging in a dusty box I unearthed several random pictures that have never quite made it into an album.

There I was. Young. Wrinkle free. Young. Glowing. Young. Sadly, these aren't pictures taken of me as a child or teenager. No, these were pictures taken in the years just before I got married and had children. Not a million years ago then. So how the hell did I go from being all dewy skinned to haggard looking in such a short space of time? This is a rhetorical question. I know the answer. I've banged on about the lack of sleep not to mention wine guzzling brought about by children many, many times. And the answer is right there.

But the pictures also throw up a few other depressing observations:

a) I used to travel to exotic places. Bali. Kenya. Zanzibar. Now we head off to B&Bs on the Isle of Wight because at least it involves a ferry ride, which makes it feel slightly more adventurous and tropical than just driving to a Butlins in Skegness (that said, I've never gone to a Butlins or Skegness so maybe I need to challenge myself - it would undoubtedly be an adventure but probably not of the exotic variety).

b) I used to wear far more mid-rift tops and short skirts. Both pieces of apparel have long since been retired from my wardrobe. I haven't quite graduated onto jeans with an elasticated waist yet, but it's not long now. I've already succombed to granny knickers and sensible shoes.

c) Ex-boyfriends are quite hard to explain to a person under the age of 5. My son kept enquiring 'who's that man next to you mummy?' and 'where's daddy in this picture?' and 'why's that man kissing you mummy?' making me feel like something of a strumpet, while simultaneously making me wonder what on earth I saw in some of them. The only good thing about ex-boyfriends is that you can find most of them on Facebook (if you're so inclined) and most look as though they've also been attacked by the middle-aged fairies. Which is satisfying.

d) Hairdressers should not be allowed to perm hair. By law.

e) I need to move back to South Africa. It was the lightly bronzed skin from perpetually sunny days that made me radiate health. This sodding country literally sucks the colour out of your complexion. It's not surprising I look grey and wan - it's the reflection off the clouds.

It has been years since I saw a decent photograph of me. This is largely because I'm normally the person taking the pictures. But I also can't quite believe what I see in the pictures, so I avoid them.

Frown lines. Lots of. And they are so very ingrained that you could lose an ant colony in the furrows. Black bags under my eyes that have supersized themselves into shipping containers. A double chin that seems to start somewhere near my ears and heads forward into a nice wrinkly, wobbly waddle. I'm 35 for god sake. Where the hell did that come from? Hair that never looks good. Ever. (Except for the day the hairdresser blow dries it and which I can never repeat again). Teeth too big for my mouth. Lips too thin for my face. Arms that belong in a bingo hall. A stomach that I could share with several Somalians. Breast that now loiter near my belly button. And knees that should be hidden at all times.

When I look in the mirror, I don't see this person. I don't see a supermodel admittedly, but I feel optimistic enough to leave the house without a wearing a sack cloth and a paper bag on my head. But when I see photos of myself, I do wonder why I possibly thought anything other than the aforementioned attire was acceptable.

And the very, very worst thing is when someone else looks at the same photo I am shocked by and says: 'That's a great one of you. You looked amazing. You are so photogenic,' in a way that suggests they genuinely believe the picture looks better than the real you.

I keep wanting to have some professional photographs taken of us as a family but I dread to see the results. But part of me thinks I must do it, because in another 10 years time I will look back on those pictures and write a blog about how I looked so young, so dewy, so wrinkle free. And I'll wonder why the hell I was ever worried. How thoroughly depressing. Prozac anyone?

Saturday 18 October 2008

I am a giant box of cornflakes

I had a lightbulb moment this morning. Not bad given it was 6.30am. My husband had gotten up with the beasties at some even more ungodly hour. Before you wonder why I was up and not having a lie in, it's because I'd spent 5am to 5.45am trying to jam a duvet between me and son 2 who was determined to make pretty patterns on my back with his toenails.

Then son 1 arrived announcing that he couldn't find his one and only gogo and that he needed my help to find it. I asked whether he had looked under his pillow and blankets. He assured me he had. I sighed, hauled myself out of bed and went to his bed. There lying right in the middle of it was the missing gogo.

I pointed to it. He smiled sheepishly and said: 'I didn't see it'. Of course you didn't dear, because you are a boy. That means you are cursed with 'boy-looking', an evil affliction that will last a lifetime. It means that one day when you're married you can yell to your wife that you don't know where the can opener is and she can yell back and say 'It's in the drawer where it always is' and you can deny that emphatically until your long suffering wife arrives, opens the drawer and points to the can opener lying right in front of your very eyes before picking it up and smacking the back of your head with it.

And so despite my husband getting up, I was now awake. I attempted to read but I needed caffeine. I arrived downstairs scowling, my hair sticking on end and looking like a grumpy womble. As I stumbled over to the kettle my children who had been playing contently with their father, noticed that I was there. There was no 'Good morning mummy' or anything of that ilk. No. The minute they saw their mother, like Pavlov's dogs responding to a bell, my children's stomach juices started going and out came the plaintive cry: 'I'm hungry'.

And that's when my lightbulb moment happened. I looked incredulously at my husband and asked whether they'd mentioned being hungry until they saw me. 'Nope,' he said. At that instant I realised that to my children I am nothing more than a large box of cornflakes that wanders the house. I am the human embodiment of breakfast cereals. In fact, I am a life size representation of all food groups.

It all makes sense really. From their earliest days, their food literally came from my body in the form of breastmilk (not to mention the in utero feast they'd had for nine months). And since weaning them off me, I've still been the provider of food three times a day. So it's only natural that they associate me with food. I just hadn't realised quite how acute the programming was.

I might start viewing the loving smiles they bestow on me in a new light now. Whereas I used to think their affection was genuinely for me, it appears it might actually be because they're peckish and they're simply sizing me up as a large, juicy steak.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Do you think they make adult sized armbands?

Well let's just say that the gogos will be remaining in their bag for some time and swimming lessons are cancelled indefinitely. I do not have the emotional stamina to go through it again. Son 1 refused to go swimming before we even left home. Despite getting into his swimming things, he wouldn't leave the house. I tried to find out why he hated swimming so much. He said he was tired. I tried rationalising. Explaining. Being understanding. Cajoling. Reminding of gogos. To no avail. So I asked son 2 if he still wanted to go swimming. Oh yes, he said charging off to the car. I asked whether he was 100% sure. Absolutely definitely yes.

And so, in a groundhog day dejavuey rehash, off we went to swimming with one son howling, one son saying he'll hold his hand. I had told son 1 that he didn't have to swim and that we were going because son 2 wanted to swim. Son 1 was howling because he knew that meant the end of his gogos.

In the change room, son 2 was rearing to go. Son 1 was suddenly vacillating. Then son 2 decided actually he didn't want to swim. Son 1 was still vacillating. Son 2 decided he definitely didn't want to swim. Son 1 was very much still vacillating. I was perspiring (very hot changerooms) and the heat from the stares of the other parents was adding to my rising temperature considerably. I gave them a final ultimatum - it was swim now or forever hold your peace. Another no from son 2, another bit of indecision from son 1. I made an executive decision. Enough is enough.

We left. No swimming at all. Just two small boys wailing about how they actually did want to go to swimming lessons, just not today (although they say that every day). And that they did still want gogos. I explained that all future swimming lessons were cancelled as were the gogos. I knew this was an inflammatory thing to say but quite frankly, I was a little bit pissed off and rapidly approaching the T-Junction of End and Tether.

And so the howling continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. And continued. All the way home. All the way into the house.

I reached for the remote control and turned on Cbeebies. The noise stopped immediately.

I can now add the £80 I spent on swimming lessons to the escalating total of activities we have tried but failed. I'd like to declare that I will never again spend money on classes for these two but I know I will. I know that I will feel bad that they're not keeping up in maths or really do show musical talent or might enjoy mini cricket and so I'll sign them up for something, only to line someone else's pockets while my children howl about how they don't want to do it.

I just hope that they make adult sized arm bands because I have a feeling we'll be needing them.

Dead man walking

That's how I feel. It's Thursday. Just one hour to go until swimming lessons. This is my last attempt. It's not looking good. Son 2 is in one of his stubborn phases this afternoon. Despite bitterly cold winds, he refuses point blank to wear a jumper. This doesn't bode well. Son 1 came out of school and immediately demanded that he wanted to play with his friend. I said we couldn't because said friend was going home with his childminder. This resulted in a spectacular tantrum outside the school, all the while son 2 sat shivering in a t-shirt on his trike.

I've now got them glued to the TV drinking cups of tea and eating biscuits. This is my attempt to let them relax and restore their strength. Meanwhile, my stomach is churning at the thought of returning to the pool.

They have been looking forward to this day all week because I've resorted to bribery. I have my bag of gogos stashed up high. They have been promised a gogo each if they don't cry at swimming. They have been dead keen on this plan. They've even been practising their swimming pool smiles. But I know that the power of gogos might prove futile in the face of having to actually get wet.

I can't believe how much I'm dreading this. At best, my bribe works, they swim and then come home and have a major fight about who gets which gogo, or not being able to decide which gogo to choose or having a fit because they haven't been allowed to choose a gogo. Whichever option I go with, I will need earplugs. At mid-to-bad they will scream and cry and perform and I will write off £80 and not return to swimming lessons and find some other way to teach them how not to drown and feel as though I'm giving up. At worst, it will be inconclusive. One will be fine, the other will scream, putting me in a quandary for future lessons. Not to mention the fight that will happen at home when one gets rewarded with a gogo while the other isn't.

There is so much potential for complete and utter disaster this afternoon that I feel I need some valium - or at least Rescue Remedy - to cope.

I will report back. Probably deaf. Probably wet. Probably gulping wine.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Something more crap than hormones

Why in the name of all things holy did I possibly imagine that watching a bunch of tanned, super toned blonde goddesses twirl about on an Australian beach would make me feel better about myself? I know that I'm not fit. But I can do pilates. I can. Ok. But apparently I cannot do Pilates OZ style. Because that, my friends, requires the follwing:

  • Size DD breasts
  • Very dark tan
  • Very white teeth. Dazzling in fact.
  • A very spinny aroundy type of mat that lets you change position in the blink of an eye.
  • The ability to dislocate your hips so that your stomach can lie flat on the floor while your legs splay out to the sides
  • The ability to change position at an incredible speed - about twenty times every two seconds - all while holding in your inner core muscles while looking graceful and not grunting
  • knowing what the swan, the seashell, the catch, the cobra and the cat are without ever having been told about them before and without being able to look at the sodding tv to see what they are because your head is tucked up inside your armpit while your legs are tied in knots
  • more floor space and less furniture in your house.

I never got to the end of the video. I got to the part called 'choreography' where we had to put all of the above bits together at high speed at which point I just sat back in awe and watched the rippling flat stomachs, before standing up and admiring my paunch, Tesco tracky bottoms, droopy boobs and pale skin. I definitely don't feel filled with endorphins.

All I have to show for my pains is a crick in my neck and something approaching a carpet burn at the point where my butt starts and my back ends. It is incredibly painful. Perhaps I should have tried the yoga DVD and Ohmmed myself into a good mood. I will declare today a disaster and try again tomorrow.

Hormones are crap

Do you know what I really hate about being a woman? It's the random surges of hormones that seem to fly in from nowhere that transform you from normal, rational person to angry, tearful person for no apparent reason. This doesn't seem to happen to men. And they blame us for being moody. But honest guv, it's not our fault.

My hormones play a game of stealth. I wake up feeling slightly irritable (normally because I've been woken by a small person trying to pry my eye open and saying repeatedly: I want milk. I want milk. I want milk). As the day progresses, I become increasingly down in the dumps. I feel that whatever I try I'm useless at. So I don't bother trying. I do nothing. So I feel more useless. This then kicks in the 'I'm rubbish at everything. I should just give up and never work again. I'm a failed mother, failed wife, failed business person, failed everything' train of thought. Before you know it, my mildly bad day has a very large ominous black cloud hovering over it threatening a deluge at any moment.

The deluge usually takes place when something trivial happens. Like the tumble dryer not drying the clothes properly. It's the straw that breaks the camels back. Tears follow. As does a sharp kick to the tumble dryer. Normally followed by more tears because of a bruised foot. I can then either have a glass of wine and hope it all seems better the next day or I can do some exercise so that I get some natural endorphins charging about to fight off the gloomy hormones or I can attempt to do something super constructive like sort through all the things I've been meaning to eBay so that I feel as though I've at least ticked something off my to do list for the day.

Quite frankly, it's not going to be eBay today. It really, really should be exercise. Really. Wine will not help the size of my already voluminous backside and stomach. Exercise will. Exercise will make me feel better. Exercise will help me mentally, physically, emotionally and hormonally. I have to do it.

This is me summoning up the will to do it.................

I'm going to do it....

Am going....


P.S. I might round my exercise off with a glass of wine.

Monday 13 October 2008

Revelations from childhood diaries

Caitlin Moran wrote a hilarious piece on childhood diaries in the Times today. It inspired me to dig out my diaries to see if what I'd written as a child was quite as self-involved and tediously dull as Caitlin suggests all childhood diaries might be.

She was right.

But my diaries had a few revelations for me:

a) I'm a starter, not a finisher. My main diary was started with scrawled handwriting on 10 December 1983 - age 10. I then wrote in it daily for 12 days. I took up the mantle again 28 Feb 1984 followed by my birthday entry the following day. Writing about all my birthday gifts must have wiped me out as I next grabbed a pen on 17 June and again 23 Sept that year. Those were not particularly special days. I'd obviously just stumbled upon the book, jotted down a few banal facts about my day and moved onto other more exciting things. I then wrote one entry on 28 Jan in 1985, one on 8 July 1986 and one on 4 March 1987. Not exactly a stunning track record although at least I had kept up one post a year for four years.

b) I have had and always will have shockingly bad handwriting. It looks like a drunken wood lice has stumbled its way into some ink and then careered over the page looking for somewhere to hide.

c) It's the little details that are important to children. Presents and food in particular feature highly. Diary entry of 15 December 1983, for example reads: 'I had to make lunch. We had bread, sausages, eggs and salads. Mommy and company went sailing. We went to the shop. I bought a chomp and four nickerballs.' There are several points I want to make here. 1) That's a pretty impressive lunch for a ten year old to lay on. 2) Having used their child as slave labour, my parents buggered off and went sailing. Nice. So no childcare then? 3) A chomp is a South African chocolate and Nickerballs are not in fact gentleman's genitalia in some lacy briefs. No. Worse than that. They're black gobstoppers delightfully named 'Nigger balls' for their obvious resemblance to the aforementioned genitalia and being South Africa in the 80s,was a completely and utterly acceptable turn of phrase apparently. Luckily as I was a child I had no idea what the N or B words meant so merrily came up with my own interpretation. I apologise in retrospect on behalf of all South Africans.

d) Kids are mean. Take this entry from the day before the last: 'When we came back from swimming, we found Michelle in our tent. We told her to come swimming with us and when she started swimming we ran away.' I have no idea who this Michelle was but she's probably racked up huge therapists bills to discuss her feelings of abandonment.

e) Age 11 is when you start to navel gaze rather than factually report the mundanities of life. You also feel desperately sorry for yourself. Take the entry from June 1984 in which I proclaim that I have terrible news (we were moving from my childhood home to the Transvaal, away from my father and friends). It ends as follows: 'I am beginning to grow up now. I must be able to stand the hardships of life. ' Then a corner of the page is turned over with a intriguing note 'For Me Only' written on it. Lift the flap and I've rather earnestly written: 'God set us all work to do so let's do it.' I would very much like to go back to 17 June 1984, grab me by my ponytail and smash my face into a desk for being quite so cringe-worthingly woebegone.

f) Broken hearts are tough no matter your age. In 1987 (age 14) I wrote of my first true love the following: 'I've had a couple of problems recently. Craig said that I was childish so now I'm not going out with him anymore. I don't know why but I'm really confused, upset and in love still.' This outpouring of deep feeling was promptly followed by: 'I've gained another very good friend. Michael. I call him brudda. He calls me sista. He gave me a care bear for my birthday.' Gosh now that is mature. Not sure what the other bloke was on about.

g) The really, really important stuff doesn't need embellishment. This diary entry was written on a piece of paper (before I owned a diary) and was pasted into my diary at a later date. It went as follows (verbatim):

Age 10.
5 August 1983 (Friday)
Mommy + Daddy decided to get deforced. We were all very sad, But they tried to make it sound nice. Mommy said I could get my own dog. We were going to live at 24 Deare Str and daddy was going to live at 24 Towpath. I will always remember this. Time. 4:40pm

Even then, even at the biggest moment of my life to date, I captured the important stuff. I was going to get my own dog. Self involved? Me?

Friday 10 October 2008

Long lost Aunts and itchy jumpers

Thanks to the ever hilarious Katyboo who ranted about itchy 70s jumpers foisted on them by well-meaning but aging relatives, I was reminded of a relative whom I have not thought about for many, many years. In fact, had the itchy jumper story not come up, I doubt I would have thought of this person again in my whole life. But now I have and thank goodness, because I feel as though I've given my long term memory a good workout. And it has reminded me what it feels like to be a child.

Her name was Aunt Jean. She was (I think - don't shout at me please mother) my maternal grandmother's sister. I don't really recall much about her other than these things:

She wore pointy glasses. The type you found on most people in the 70s. Or maybe she didn't and I'm just superimposing them on her. If she didn't, she should have done.

She knitted us very thick, very scratchy woollen jumpers at Christmas each year. They were as unattractive as they were uncomfortable (I recall a bottle green fiasco which had me in tears on Christmas morning). However, we were still required to try them on in scorching temperatures (this was in South Africa so Christmas isn't the snowy affair you get up north). For this reason alone I didn't enjoy Aunt Jean's company.

She had a lesbian lover called Maude (maybe it was Maude who wore the pointy glasses?). Now as a child I didn't know that Maude was her lesbian lover. I had no idea what a lover or indeed a lesbian was. And even now this could be wild speculation on my part. They could just have been old dears who were good friends. But I am almost positive that they were slightly more intimate than that. Maude (never Aunt Maude) would have been the man in the relationship, I'm sure. And the thing I remember most about both of them was that they didn't like children. As a child, this didn't sit well.

They had a flat overlooking the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth. Again, mother, if I have this wrong, my apologies, but my brain has been addled by wine and I was very young and it was a long time ago. The Donkin Reserve is a park with a lighthouse and a stone pyramid in it. In thinking about this, I vaguely recall that the Donkin reserve was named after some British bloke called Donkin and that he'd named the city after his wife Elizabeth, but I digress.

We used to (rarely, luckily) go and visit Aunt Jean and Maude in their flat. It was hell on earth. They didn't like mess - or as I mentioned, children. So we would be invited to sit on the floor on pieces of newspaper. We were given a biscuit (I recall them being dry and fairly unpleasant) which we had to eat over a plate and we had to ensure that the plate was over the newspaper. If a crumb dropped onto the floor, we would be skinned alive (or similar). We had to sit still and be quiet. It was boring. Very, very boring. We would be able to see the green space of the park outside the window and wish we were running on it instead of eating our horrid biscuits on the newspaper.

I do recall they had some lurid 70s swirly wallpaper in beiges, browns and orange and they must surely have had an avocado-green bathroom suite.

I'm not certain if they ever tried to kiss us hello or goodbye. I imagine if they did, that all parties concerned were repulsed by the process. There definitely would have been hairy moles on upper lip type involvement.

I don't recall her dying. I don't recall us stopping going there. All I really remember with any real clarity is the hideous green jumper, the newspaper and biscuits on plates. How sad that a person's life can be reduced to that. Sorry Aunt Jean. I'm sure you were a lovely person. Children are fickle. You were probably right not to like them. Or maybe you did and I just didn't realise it, fooled as I was by the torture-inducing jumper and miserable biscuits.

I would love to go back to that flat now as an adult and find out if you really were like I remember you. I would like to revisit it through the eyes of an adult instead of a bored, ungrateful child.

I know full well that if I had an aging relative who knitted my children hideous jumpers and asked that they eat biscuits on newspaper, I'd insist that they try the jumpers on regardless of the weather and would probably suggest the newspaper given the mess my children make when eating. I know I would instantly forget what it feels like to be a child having to sit in silence without making mess and my children would sit silently seething and hating every moment. And then one day in the future they will write a blog (or probably broadcast a live show) and rant about how their mother made them try on itchy jumpers. It's the circle of life. Also known as retribution.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Another smashing swimming lesson. Wine please.

So it's Thursday. Thursday = swimming lessons, which ultimately = wine for mummy. After last week's nightmare I was prepared. For a start, I called the swimming school earlier in the week and explained that my son really, really, really doesn't seem to want to go and what do they advise. Given that they're getting wads of cash out of me, they obviously insisted that I keep bringing him. And not to worry, they were used to screaming children. Comforting.

I suggested that maybe letting my 3 year old (who loves swimming) join the class would help his older brother settle down. Either older brother could act as the big know it all, OR he could have someone to compete against OR he could have friendly hand to hold onto. They agreed despite little brother not really being the right age.

I broke the news to both boys. Son 2 whooped with delight. Son 1 sobbed, wailed and yelled and insisted that I call back and cancel. I relayed what the swimming teacher had said to say, which is that swimming, like school, is not optional. I think its safe to say that that didn't go down well.

Anyway, fast forward to this afternoon. I had planned it all. When they left school (presented with a smoothie) we'd come home, put on a video and eat popcorn. This would feed their starving stomachs with something out of the ordinary and they'd get to wind down and rest, before throwing themselves in a pool.

It worked. All was calm and quiet. They even got in the car without a fuss. Son 2 practically galloped into the car. Once at the pool, son 2 got out of his clothes and into his swimming costume in record time. His older brother sobbed. Son 2 very sweetly said: 'I'll hold your hand Joshy'. That didn't go down well either. Son 1 decided that he was going to use the 'I won't get dressed and therefore can't go swimming' tactic. It backfired. I told him he would go swimming if it meant swimming with his willy on display. He wasn't keen on that option either. In the end it took a friend and I to hold him down and get his costume on.

I got them to the side of the pool. Son 2 was delighted with hiw new swimming cap and readily put on arm bands. Son 1 was less jolly but seemed slightly calmer as his brother was so cheery. I smugly thought what a clever mummy I was for overcoming the swimming problem. Then the teacher came to lead them to the side of the pool, and at that moment, it dawned on son 2 that mummy wasn't going to be in the pool with him.

The wheels came off. Son 1 knows how to throw a good tantrum, but no-one beats Son 2 in the stubborness stakes. He yelled. And yelled. And yelled. And yelled. This caused Son 1 to yell and yell and yell. So now instead of having one yelling child, I had two. Their yells echoed off the ceiling and reverberated through the vast space, so that small children sitting in the watching gallery covered their ears and cried.

It's at times like these that you tutt loudly with the other parents and pretend you have no idea whose children they are. I was mortified - mainly because it had been my great plan to have Son 2 come along and I had assured the teachers that he LOVED swimming. He usually does. I could only imagine what they were thinking.

I was eventually asked by the staff to leave the building as the children were apparently yelling for my benefit. So I did. I spent the swimming lesson playing solitaire on my mobile phone, wondering if my children were still alive. One kind man did come and say that the yelling had stopped, but that they still weren't smiling. Well, it's a step in the right direction isn't it?

Finally the 30 minutes were up and I went to collect them. They both stood there, heaving huge juddering sobs with Son 2 saying: You left me, You left me. That's right son, twist the old guilt dagger a bit deeper.

They have vowed never to return. I've resorted to bribery. I have ordered Gogos off Amazon (I have no idea what Gogos are but apparently they are all the rage at primary school and Son 1 would readly gnaw off his right arm to get some). I've told them that if they go to swimming next week and don't cry, they'll get a gogo each. I know this is going to back fire. I know they will go to swimming and yell, but do it and then demand a gogo. They will forget the fine print about not crying. I will regret ever coming up with the stupid idea, but sometimes you've got to buy results. And £10 for 30 gogos and the half chance that they swim quietly without bringing the roof down sounds like a bargain to me.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Good fences make good neighbours. Hedges don't apparently

I am angry. I am so very, very, jolly angry that it has actually given me a blinding headache. I am so angry that if someone spoke to me right now, I'd burst into angry tears and thump their chest. Here's why:

We live in a tiny little village. The type with twitchy curtains being twitched by many elderly neighbours. The average age of our village population is 80. Since moving her two years ago, I have gone out of my way to be nice to our neighbours. I pick walnuts, dry them, package them and give them to them as gifts (hence stained black fingers of previous blog post). I take them my home made chutneys. I rang them the day the floods came to make sure they were alright. I take them slices of cake when I make too much. I remember to wish them happy birthday and I ask after their health if I know they're not feeling well.

Until recently, I've wallowed in a lovely, warm sense of community. We've been invited to our neighbours annual Christmas party (we're the youngest people there by 40 years) and in general all has been well.

However, earlier this year (around May or June) two of our neighbours stopped by and asked if they could see us on a particular Friday evening. To be honest, that particular evening wasn't very convenient as my husband had had a vasectomy that morning and wasn't really going to be up for polite chit chat. However, I was bullied into the meeting.

At the allotted time, they arrived for their 'deputation' as they called it and enquired as to why my husband was cradling his nether regions. It wasn't until we had to spell out what had happened to the inside of his penis that they finally dropped that line of enquirey.

It turns out that they had issues with our hedge. Apparently the company that delivers their oil was finding it difficult to get up the path and could we do something about it. We said that we could try to cut it back (it really doesn't overhang the path). They pooh poohed that idea saying that if we cut the hedge it will die and look brown and unsightly and they didn't want to have to look at a brown and unsightly hedge either. We were flummoxed. We suggested they might want to use our oil company as they have smaller delivery vans (and they're cheaper). They seemed quite happy with that idea and trotted off.

I should have known that that wasn't the end of it. The last time I took cake round to them, I definitely got the cold shoulder but I thought they just didn't fancy courgette cake.

Anyway, I get back from fetching the boys today (both of whom were tired and grumpy) and the neighbour is taking photos of our hedge. I asked him politely what he was doing (while trying to stop the whinging boys who want something to eat). He then informed me that he had hoped we'd do something about our hedge, but that it was now 33cms wider than it should be and something had to be done. He informed me that 4 years ago they'd managed to get removal vans up the path, but he doubts that they now could. I asked if he was moving (ever hopeful). No, that's not the point. If they wanted to have a very large removal van come along though, they couldn't and this was obviously something causing them sleepness nights.

It quickly became a gloves off conversation. No more pleasantries. I repeated what I'd said to him before about getting it cut back but how they weren't happy about having to walk past a brown hedge (you must understand that their house is around the corner from ours so the only time they'd see the brown hedge is when they walked or drove by it, unlike us who'd see it daily). He said that we could always put up a fence. I pointed out that this would cost us thousands of pounds and would mean a loss of privacy and wouldn't match the rest of the surrounding garden and would no doubt involve planning permission as we have a grade 2 listed house. His exact words were: That's your problem, not ours.

At which point I wanted to karate chop him but that's probably not allowed on an 80 year old man with a hearing aid and walking stick.

I am spitting mad. I can just tell that village whist evenings have been held with mutterings and murmerings about us and our dastardly hedges. I've been wondering why my ears are permanently on fire. I am so angry that I am very tempted to take our hedge trimmer out and hack the hedge into an ulta-modern Damien Hirst style dead hedge fiasco and tell them to stick that in their pipes and smoke it.

Because dealing with grumpy neighbours and trying to figure out what to do with the sodding hedge is yet another thing to add to my ever-growing to do list. It's not enough that I have to look after two children, run a business, run a house and the myriad of other things that go on. No. I should be out there with my measuring tape working out the thickness of the hedge so that I don't offend my neighbours and their mythical removal vans.

They are so off my Christmas card list.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Two wise but brief thoughts

Last night I worked until midnight writing web copy, flyer copy, award entry copy and press releases. This is why there was no writing of blogs. And indeed today there will be very little writing of blogs as I have yet more writing (the paying kind) to do.

But I wanted to share these thoughts with you:

When asking your husband to look after the children for the weekend so that you can loiter in a spa with a girl friend, don't get involved. Just leave. Do not comment on the fridge which he has stocked with ready meals (mainly chicken korma). Do not comment on the two brand new kids DVDs sitting on the kitchen counter. Do not suggest that the children might want fresh air at some point ... and some vegetables too. Just leave. Your children will survive and your husband will feel like he's done something right for once (and might be willing to let you escape again some time.)

On a completely different subject, don't extract walnuts out of their green pods without gloves on. You will never ever have normal coloured fingers again and people will think you've been smoking 60 a day since birth. And here's another interesting walnut tip (because I know that you're now glued to this gripping topic): when drying walnuts, lay them flat on a tray on top of your boiler. But don't leave them for more than 48 hours or you end up with some very shrivelled walnuts that simply crumble to dust when cracked with a nut cracker, leaving an awful mess on your kitchen floor, especially when done by children. All of this makes the getting of brown fingers feel rather pointless and may have you calling tree surgeons to remove the offensive tree while you skip off to Sainsburys to buy some walnuts like normal people do instead.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Drinking before the watershed. Because sometimes it's called for.

Well it finally happened. I knew the day would come and it has. At exactly 17.27 today I became one of those mothers. The type that opens a bottle of wine and gulps back a glass before the children have gone to bed. It wasn't intentional and I don't think I need to sign up for the AA just yet. But I was standing next to the cooker making the millioneth meal of the week that would no doubt be rejected anyway, and I saw a bottle of red wine that had been opened at some point and was standing idly on the counter top with a stopper in it. I have no idea how long it has been there. But it spoke to me. And I listened, grabbed a glass, poured and gulped.

Before you think I'm a complete lush, I must explain. It's not been a good day. The morning was a disaster thanks to son 1 trying to finish a homework project that he decided involved using a camera who's batteries kept dying. It's a long, arduous story but in the end, we got to school late with me very flustered. That said, it was the first day this week that I managed to remember not to leave the house keys in the door. And at least today there wasn't the half chewed remnants of a mouse's head on the doormat which there had been earlier in the week.

I then had a lovely neighbour take son 2 to pre-school so that I could head off for my mammogram. I was late for that too and the NHS decided to pay me back by making me wait a good long time before they'd see me. The term 'hurry up and wait' springs to mind. I then had the pleasure of having my breasts yanked across hard pieces of machinery with the radiographer telling me to relax my shoulder, but stretch my arm and lean forward but twist my head to the side and bend in and relax the shoulder again and keep still. It was like being in a yoga class. Only in the yoga classes I've been to they don't clamp your breast in a piece of machinery with a deathlike grip.

So after that pleasant interlude I got my breasts ultrasounded. The last time I had an ultrasound I was looking at a teeny tiny baby bopping about in my belly, blissfully unaware that it would reject every meal I made for it in the future. Looking at breast tissue is far less interesting. It turns out that I have nothing wrong with me, except for a lump of tissue that even the doctor seemed quite surprised by the size of. But it's just a ball of fat, for lack of a better description. So that's better than the alternative although still not something you want to brag about at a dinner party.

I then raced home and tried to squeeze a full day's work into 3 hours. It didn't fit.

Then I galloped off to fetch boy children 2 and 1 and brought them home amid wails of how they wanted to go to a friends house. But we had things to do. A) Laundy B) General tidy of house C) Go to swimming.

I wouldn't ordinarily subject my children to household chores directly after school, but the house was in a complete state. The curtains hadn't even been opened since last night, beds were unmade, at least 5 loads of laundry were scattered around the house and the cupboards looked as though they were vomiting out their contents.

But the children were hungry and wanted snacks. I gave them snacks. Then I gave them extra snacks and after that we had one more snack. At which point I said I really needed to do the laundry. Son 1 (you might be starting to realise that he's the - shall we say - more temperamental of the two) starting screaming that he wanted something else to eat because he was hungry. I offered him a sandwich with his choice of a filling, an apple or a yogurt. None of these would fill him up apparently. He told me this a LOT and LOUDLY - for a full 45 minutes until he was beside himself yet again. None of this bode well for the forthcoming swimming which he's always so enthusiastic about.

And so it came time for us to go to swimming. This heralded a new, more joyous and even louder tantrum than the last. Now I've been here before when it comes to swimming. I have to just go, get him there under whatever means necessary, let him get to the side of the pool still screaming and wailing like he's being murdered and let the staff take over. He then sobs for the first pool width and by the end of it is beaming ear to ear.

Today wasn't going to work that way. Today I couldn't get him into clothes to leave the house. Having tried every tactic on the planet I resorted to his competitive edge and offered his swimming place to his younger brother who is dead keen but too young for the class. This was a gamble. Son 2 might have said no and the swimming school could easily say a bigger no. But to hell with it, desperate times call for desperate measures. Son 2 jumped at the chance and so with more screaming from son 1, we finally got to the swimming pool with minutes to spare. I then gave son 1 his last chance to go swimming. He refused but when he saw son 2 getting into his swimming things, the wheels came off and he literally clawed the swimming costume off his brother. Which funnily enough put son 2 right off swimming too.

I won't even go into all the twists and turns in this saga suffice to say that I ended up sitting watching other people's children swim for 30 minutes while my two sat at my feet. Money well spent I feel.

And so we got home and instantly the 'I'm hungry' chant started up, while the telephone rang incessantly with work calls which I tried to take but gave up as I couldn't hear a thing over the yelling. So I tried to create a nutritious meal out of nothing in under a minute and it was while doing this that I spotted the bottle of wine. And thought: Sod it.

Now I know how it happens. And I have empathy - vats of it - for all the mothers who are forced to guzzle wine before the 7pm watershed out of sheer desperation. May tomorrow be a better day.

I am aware of my breasts

October is breast cancer awareness month. And to celebrate, I'm going off to have a mammogram today. I really don't want to. I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with my breasts. Well other than the fact that they now point south and look very unappealing when let lose under a t-shirt without a bra. But there is nothing medically wrong with them. It's just that I had a cyst a few million years ago and thought I'd better just get them rechecked due to their overly lumpy nature (now that's more info than you really needed isn't it?)

But this means driving all the way to the hospital in Reading and wasting an entire morning's work while having my breasts fondled by more strangers. It doesn't fill me with a deep amount of joy. And it's one of those things that you really do want there to be nothing wrong, but at the same time, feel like a complete fraud for using up good NHS resources for nothing. It's like using the office photocopier to scan your boobs just for shits and giggles. It's not the done thing to do. Not in your thirties anyway.

And I hate hospitals. For a start, you're almost guaranteed to catch something, probably MRSA. I find myself getting very out of breath and headachey as I try hard not to breathe in case I catch something. Everyone walks around with sad faces. Understandably. But still, it doesn't encourage an optimistic ambience. They always smell of a mix between boiled cabbage and disinfectant. They're labyrinths and I invariably get lost, finding myself in the bit where 'human waste' bins go to be disposed of. Eew. When I was a student, the student residence was located right next door to Johannesburg General Hospital. It has a very large chimney sticking out of the top of it and was continually puffing out dark smoke. When the wind blew a certain direction, the smoke would blow directly over us. The smoke was from the incinerator where they got rid of the 'human waste'. In other words the bits that they cut out of people in the OR. It made outdoor picnics fairly rare.

Anyway, I must go make lunch boxes, sort out breakfast, fold laundry and find something for show and tell (today's theme: something smaller than your hand - given I owe the school 50p for some second hand sports shorts I might just press a coin into my child's hand and send him off). Wish me luck for my breast scan.