Monday, 28 January 2013

Get into the Groove

With January nearly at a close I had hoped to be more organised by now; settled fully into the New Year with clear plans for the next eleven months.

We painfully ground through the gears of dragging ourselves out of our Christmas coccoon and into to the first weeks back at school, pre-school, work and, in my case, starting a new job.  By now, we should have made a clear transition from a boundary-free festive season (see 'How Soon is Now' ) to clearly planned, precision-timed, actions and activities.  But no, not us.

My son caught norovirus, and two days later so did I.  And then it snowed and snowed and snowed and the school shut so we both worked from home and took it in turns to pull our daughter around on a sledge.  Then we had a weekend of pulling both of our children around on their sledges which was actually great fun because we caught up with friends and found our tricep muscles.  And then school reopened but our daughter caught a virus which kept her off for three days.   Fortunately nothing serious, so after a sigh of relief I allowed myself a strangulated "aargh!" 

Aiming to get back into the groove after Christmas has felt like trying to tidy up during a children's party: very hard work and ultimately fruitless and frustrating.  A bit like this:
Photo by nawtydawg - the scrawl is mine

But come Friday, it will be February and I will try again, and who knows - perhaps I'll finish the month like this!

photo from lovemeow 

Soundtrack: Into the Groove by Madonna

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Little Green (Dustbin) Bag

I have recently been introduced to the shopping site 'Bag Servant' and what a delicious (and potentially dangerous) place it is to spend a lunch hour.  From Biba to Balenciaga and Radley to Ralph Lauren it's got the lot, and best of all you can try them on thanks to a neat bit of technology.  I am thoroughly enjoying mentally spending money on all sorts of goodies even though I know I can only afford the sale stock.

And it's a good thing that I can't afford the high-end candy because my own relationship with handbags goes thus:

I buy one and promise faithfully that I will not let this one turn into a portable dustbin.  I momentarily covet and care for it and then I end up putting it down in some kind of puddle in the playground / at soft play (see What a Girl Wants for more on that) thereby spoiling the leather and breaking the seal on keeping my bag well cared for.

The last bag this happened to is (what was) a very lovely butter-smooth purple leather tote with silky cream lining that smelt like heaven and appeared to answer my need for a bag that would carry my laptop but still look great.  The first thing I did was over-stuff it when trying to take everything as carry-on for a business trip which resulted in a rivet popping off and one of the tags breaking.  I then put it down when taking the children trampolining; failing to spot the orange juice that had been spilled on the floor and so adding a nice dark patch to the bottom in the process.  Because of my carelessness the outside looks a little care-worn but what of the inside?

Not my bag
Well, I was hoping it might be as organised as the 'My Mummy's Bag' book that I recently bought which is full of lovely pull-out cardboard pieces that reflects what a working mother might have in her handbag (laptop, hanky, keys, mobile, picture of the children, lists of things to do, lipstick, and in a nice touch, a leopard print shoe just like the ones I have).   I bought it for my daughter as I thought is vaguely reflected what my day is like and she enjoys pretending to go off to work.  But it is a lie.

My bag is nothing like that example of organised womanhood.  Here's what is actually in it:

Now this is a real 'mummy's bag'

  • A wallet stuffed with receipts, cards, photos of the children and - in a rare state of affairs - some money!
  • Boots Double Points vouchers that I will never use on mascara because they all get spent on Calpol.
  • Debenhams Beauty Club statement which has £3.29 on it because my shopping there is now restricted to children's pants and pyjamas.
  • An old-school multi-coloured biro.  Red, Green, Blue, and Black all in one pen!!
  • My old phone, because I can't be arsed to find a proper place for it / put it in the recycling pot.
  • Free crayons from children's meals at Camp Hopson of Newbury - one of two reasons the children love going there.  The other is it has an old-fashioned fundraising box in the shape of a 3ft bear.  God knows how old it is but I hope they don't plan to remove it or I'll end up having to buy it off them.
  • One giant 'flump' which did not make it back into the bag.
  • A little bit of Clarins darling (I do make an effort sometimes)
  • One long orange balloon.
  • A mouse.  For a computer.  Although from the hole in one of the inside pockets it is possible that a live mouse has been in there.  Perhaps after the unidentifiable crumbs in the very bottom - don't say that you haven't got any lurking in the bottom of your bag!
  • It didn't contain my keys.  I never know where they are, it is my morning sport to try and find them.

I tipped the bag out, took a picture and (giant flump aside) put it all back in.  It is a portable dustbin once again.  I know I should be sorting, decanting, organising and throwing away but it just comes back.  So I'm going to use this as a public forum to ask Bag Servant to add a new service - one that turns your portable dustbin back into a beautiful bag.  No?  Oh well, I'll just have to find myself a new one but this time I promise to look after it!

Soundtrack: Little Green Bag by George Baker

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hip-Hop Junkie

Lyrical gymnasts made here
Ah Basingstoke in the late '80's, early '90's.  A shimmering new town full of hope, opportunity, and potential.  Ok, maybe not that.  A grey town centre populated by pigeons, a few punks still hanging on in there, and a writhing mass of teenagers wondering how the hell they were going to avoid marrying the boy with the limp / the girl with the wonky eyes, and living next door to their parents. We worked as cleaners, skived as much school as possible, used fake ID to get into the glory that was 'Martines' (a nightclub under a car park - woohoo!) and busted moves on sticky dancefloors.  It was also hip-hop heaven.  

Your passport outta here!

Given that pretty much every house on the estates on which we lived had either a satellite dish or a 'Squarial' (remember those?) we had gone from getting Spandau Ballet on Top of the Pops to being able to watch 24 hours solid of MTV and how we embraced it.  'Yo MTV Raps' gave me hip-hop history as well as a shopping list for the next time I ventured into London to buy a black leather medallion from Camden market or something on import from Tower Records.  We danced badly, wished we had porches that we could 'hang-out' on, memorised lyrics and watched 'Boyz N the Hood' with the same intensity that we had watched 'The Breakfast Club' five years earlier.  

Maybe it was the teenage desire to mark ourselves out as different and shock our parents but we embraced the stories told by these films and the words of the songs as if they were our own despite the fact that we lived closer to Guildford than we did to a ghetto.  

Terrible 'decks', incredible album
I remember being engaged in a lengthy conversation with a man from the council who had come to fix our radiators and had taken exception on seeing my record collection.  He decided to give me a long, racist, lecture which culminated in him suggesting that I wouldn't turn out to be 'any good' if I carried on listening to black music. He had a point in that some of the language is not to everyone's taste and I would agree that some artists do not promote healthy attitudes towards women (2Live Crew anyone?) but music 'turning you into a loser'? I don't think so.  Hip-hop and rap music did not turn me into a misogynistic, gun-toting, police-hating, welfare-reliant, potty-mouthed hoodlum.  Quite the opposite.  It gave me a medium to channel some of my adolescent fury, a way to indulge my love of language and to revel in fast-paced lyrical gymnastics.  It made me think about how words affect other people and through albums like '3 Feet High and Rising' brought me a great deal of joy.  It also meant that after leaving Microsoft, one of my first paid pieces of work was to write a rap for a Progress Software.  It gave me the skills to pay the bills.

Soundtrack: Hip Hop Junkie by Nice & Smooth

Friday, 11 January 2013

What a Girl Wants, What a Girl Needs

Not school-run suitable
Through a website that I quite like having a browse for shopping tip-offs; Avenue57, I came across Easy Living magazine's 'School Runway' - where mums can upload photos of themselves in outfits that they wear for the school run in order to look like they sail through motherhood without a hair out of place - and I was amazed.  Whilst a few of the women were wearing normal clothes, most of the women were wearing proper 'outfits', complete with statement handbags, improbable heels and designer cloaks, jumpsuits, and corsets.  I am willing to bet that they had dressed up especially and made their nannies hide out of shot because I'm not buying that these are 'normal' pictures.  Mild irritation aside that these ladies looked impossibly glamourous at 8am, and that I have a far more limited budget than them, my argument is this:

When you do the school run, unless you are driving, or even better - you have a chauffeur, it is simply not possible to do it in the kind of clothes that you wear in your imagination.  I would love to spend my days wearing beautifully tailored trousers, gossamer-fine knitwear and chic shoes.  In the summer this would be swapped for flirty tea dresses, strappy sandals and some Jackie-O sunglasses, and if I really wanted to go to town perhaps I would wear a dramatic gown and stunning heels and tip up sipping a cocktail.  But no, this would not work because what you actually need is the following:

  • A hood.  Because it will in all likelihood rain whilst you are walking to / from school and it is not possible to carry an umbrella and try to stay in control of two six-year-olds who would like you to carry their PE kits, lunch boxes and book bags while they pretend to be horses.
  • Flat shoes.  If at some point you need to run away from the rain / after a child / to school because you're late (again), you will fare better in flats.  As a lifelong lover of heels I have compromised with cowboy boots but it still feels like a betrayal.
  • Massive pockets or a bag that it's ok to get trashed.  Even if you don't carry much in the way of 'stuff', your child will be guaranteed to give you at least one thing to take care of as soon as they reach you on the school playground.  It will probably be wet, or sticky, or chewed, or all three.  Chuck it in your handbag and pray it doesn't stick to your phone...  And if you are going to the park on the way home then you must be prepared to leave your bag on wet grass or some unspecified goo that you didn't see when putting it down to push your child on the swing.  Pray that it is Diet Coke and not cat 'musk'.
Yee-ha: Yes.  Wow-wee: No
There are some mums who carry the above off really well, teaming a retro parka with skinny jeans and biker boots or who are still young enough to look indie with a tour t-shirt, a pair of black drainpipes and battered Converse.  For me though, there are times when I get back after dropping my daughter off and think "what the hell have I just left the house in?!"  As it is often a combination of skinny combat/cargo trousers, aforementioned cowboy boots, an ancient hoody, and a quilted jacket (with a hood - let's not forget the hood) because it's too cold for anything else and it might rain, I feel like my clothes are shouting 'tally-ho!', 'yee-ha!', 'respec' and 'run for cover!' all at the same time.  I am wearing what I need in order to be practical, not what I want.

That said, there are times when I manage to park the car back home and walk to collect my daughter after a day in the office where I have worn clothes that I enjoy and that don't making me look like I've run through a fancy dress shop.   This fixes the 'look' issue but walking half a mile in heels takes much longer than in flats and when it's combined with wearing your favourite Hobbs number and living in a village it does make you feel slightly conspicuous as you trip-trap your way down a street on which there are no offices.  It does also offer many opportunities to go over on your ankle which takes you back to being 14 and practising to walk in high-heels.  

Now this is a bit more like it!
So as I am about to embark on going back to work properly, and this may become a more regular occurrence, and I'm not about to start wear trainers with tights, I've decided there's only one thing for it. I'm getting a chauffeur.  Bring on the gown!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Let's Talk About Sex


So the Church of England has decided that gay men in  civil partnerships can become bishops.  Very good!  But they must promise to be celibate - what?!

Now I make no claim to understand the politics and ancient traditions of the church but what I do know is that this decision seems to be creating a very strange condition of employment and one that I am wondering how on earth the church will enforce.  My mind swims with images of senior clergy hiding in cupboards ready to leap out at the slightest hint of romance and spot-checks to make sure that the 3-drawer chest is wedged securely between the single beds.
Hmm, not sure these are far enough apart..

I agree with Rev Ian Stubbs comment here that it is odd to be told it's ok to be in a loving relationship but that you cannot express it in a sexual way.  Even more if you have done so up until the point that you're given your dream job.

Can you imagine working all your life to become an astronaut, or a brain surgeon, or a prima ballerina to be told that you can have the job, but only if you stop having sex?  Actually, would you take any job where that was one of the requirements?  Whether you get your rocks off on a daily basis or only fancy it on your birthday and Christmas, and whether you do it out of true love, for kicks, or to create new life it's part of what makes us human so how can you be expected to switch it off?  

I'll be interested to see how this goes; perhaps all the candidates will be celibate, and for those that aren't I think there might be another ancient tradition involved that is still very much alive today: that of crossing your fingers when making a promise (plenty of space to do that in a cassock :) ).

Soundtrack: Let's Talk About Sex by Salt-N-Pepa

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

How Soon is Now?

I believe that the school holidays are designed by quantum physicists and contain a special ability to bend spacetime in order to confuse the hell out of us.  The children are bewildered as to what day it is and learning to cope with boredom despite being surrounded by Christmas presents, and parents are trapped in a fug of over-indulgence from eating plate upon plate of rich, lovely, food and deciding it's a great idea to finish the night off with a double Baileys, and then a Gin and Tonic, and perhaps the last tree chocolate.  And some twiglets.  And the port.  And if the port's open then we might as well get the cheese out....feel your waistline expand overnight!

Essential School Holiday reading
Our son returned to pre-school today and my husband has been working over the festive period but full equilibrium is not restored until I go back to work and our daughter goes back to school next week.  I am trying my hardest to re-engage but it feels an effort to even look at the laptop as the screen of choice for the past two weeks has been TV-sized for the never-ending feast of movies.  

Getting up in the morning has drifted from the regimented to the frankly, slack.  After the huge build up and early waking caused by the promise of presents and then the days spent eating more sugar than you will admit to their dentist and running around like a lunatic clutching toys as the tree lights flash in techno timing, the children are completely exhausted.  First day back at school and work is going to require some serious prep and negotiation to make sure we get there on time and in the right clothing.  It will be a very bad day indeed if she wears my leopard print kitten heels and I wear her princess dress.

Today, after venturing out to the shops to try to find something that is neither 40% saturated fat or 40% proof for our cupboards, our daughter said to me: "it feels like Sunday, doesn't it?"  Quite right she was too, and it took us a few seconds to agree on what day it actually was but the question that hurt our brains the most was one posed by our son when he asked us: "is today, tomorrow?". This prompted a five minute conversation about how yes, if today were yesterday (which it wasn't) then today would indeed be tomorrow, but today is now today, which makes tomorrow, tomorrow, and not today tomorrow because today was tomorrow but only when viewed from yesterday.   At the end of this explanation (which to my mind was worthy of a pat on the back from Brian Cox although in fairness I think he's more of a hair-ruffler than a back-patter), he added neatly that if that were the case, then could he please have a tree chocolate.  Because I'd told him yesterday that he could have one tomorrow. 

So thank you, oh school timetable warlords; you have brought physics to the forefront of our conversations and inspired our son with science but if you wouldn't mind sending me a new copy of a Brief History of Time before the Easter Holiday kicks in, I'd be very grateful.

Soundtrack: How Soon is Now by The Smiths