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Love, Loos and Armageddon Out of Here

Happy New Year to all you lovely, lovely people. I hope you all managed to have a brilliant time and got some actual R’n’R in there as well for good measure.

Having finished in the office on Dec. 16th, I returned to work today. Without doubt, a massive shock to my system. The alarm clock going off for one thing – that hasn’t happened in a while. My boy has a Pac-Man alarm clock that chimes with all the subtlety of a siren announcing all-out nuclear war. Today, it is entirely appropriate as the weather outside appears to indicate the world is indeed ending. Well, the Mayans did say it would happen in 2012, didn’t they? They’re up there now, somewhere, jigging about on their little moccassined feet chanting “Told you so!” and whipping their ancient plaits back and forth in glee. The weather is forcing droplets into my already beleaguered roof – the “plink, plink fizz” noises have nothing to do with the number of Berocca tablets I consumed over the holidays and everything to do with the slowly dissolving ancient lime plaster holding the roof up. The wind and rain buffeting around my office – which, it has to be said, is London’s very own version of Tan Hill – is testing even the Everest-approved windows and attempting to dislodge the building all together. God forbid someone releases a helium balloon over in Hyde Park – at best,  a hapless tourist maimed as it whisks down Piccadilly slapping faces at breakneck speed; at worst, all mobile phone masts downed within a 50 mile radius.

Armageddon aside, I want to unburden myself of some embarrassing Christmas moments – everyone has them so don’t go getting all holier-than-thou with me. My tale of woe begins in Cumbria two days before Christmas and, luxury of luxuries, with separate hotel rooms for us and the Mini-Pigs. The Man-Hog was in a state of priapic frenzy during the drive up at the mere thought of potentially 8-10 solid hours of my undivided attention. That, or he’d left his wallet in his front pocket again. We arrived at the hotel in the early evening, checked in and mounted the stairs to our respective rooms. The kids were almost as ecstatic as we were and darling daughter shooed us out of their room and announced she was taking over mothering duties for the evening including baths and bedtimes, leaving the parentals free to….talk. Such was our involvement in the…talking…we did not realize until later that the ma-hoo-ssive elderly coach party we had seen occupying every chair in the lounge on our arrival had, in fact, decamped to a function room for a chess tournament immediately below our room. Our unmuffled…discussion…did not appear to have disturbed Flossie and Enid locked in mortal “Knight 2 takes Bishop 5” combat beneath us, but nevertheless we quickly dressed and went to the hotel bar to establish an alibi. Sadly, every smirk on the faces of our fellow bar-hoppers was ill-disguised proof positive that we had got away with nothing. I suggest the hotel beefs up its sound-proofing, or invests in honeymoon villas. “Discussions” are, after all, private. Either way, I couldn’t wait to leave the next morning.

We carried on to Scotland to my brother and his lovely family near Perthshire, and were joined by my nearby sister and her family for Christmas and Boxing Days. It was so great to see them all and despite having to seat 22 of us for dinner somewhere, we all had a wonderful time. The very best part about my family is the genuine love for each other’s company we have without having to try at all. Despite not having seen my bro or sis in over a year due to distance and work commitments, spending time all together was as easy as slipping on a comfy dressing gown. As effortless as sliding into cashmere bedsocks. As enjoyable as a round of peanut butter toast eaten in the bath. Fantastic. Until…

I blocked the main loo. Not just blocked it, but bunged it up an absolute kipper. My worst nightmare come true. I railed silently against unfairly oversized portions of bubble’n’squeak, ranted inwardly about forced consumption of Yorkshire puddings, of the availability of cheeses galore together with copious jars of onion marmalade. In the end, though, I had to call the Man-Hog to assist as nothing I did was working. He, being of a delicate disposition, cannot trifle with such issues without a biohazard suit and several stiff gins so he called in my brother. Oh, the shame! Bro couldn’t sort it either, so he called in senior brother-in-law. At this point, we’re talking three grown men standing in the bathroom and examining the by-product of my too-good festive frenzy while I apologized frequently in abject misery from behind them. I don’t think I will EVER live it down. Buckets were deployed and carried openly through public spaces where, of course, everyone else was gathered still enjoying stollen and Christmas cake (they’ll regret that combo as I did – ha!). At one point, a rodding eye was threatened but I became tearful at the sheer mention and the threat was withdrawn. I can still hear them all now, laughing themselves sick at my expense. The shame, the shame.

Needless to say, we left hurriedly the next day – if I was going to block anything else, it was going to be on a motorway in complete anonymity. I even left a dress and a couple of Christmas pressies behind, such was my packing haste. This was all aside from the Man-Hog’s humiliating police incident on Christmas Eve, the blobs of turkey curry subsequently discovered down the front of my new Christmas dress that NO-ONE had mentioned at the time, and the head-crushing amount of some shameful 80s Malibu cocktail consumed by yours truly on New Year’s Eve.  So, that was Christmas 2011. Perhaps next year, I can wander naked through an Edinburgh street sporting only one eyebrow or discover that I have, in fact, had the word “Prat” printed in lipstick on the back of my coat for several days. There’s surely not much else embarrassing I can do, is there?

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All I Want For Christmas….

Apparently Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat (big old goosey porker – he’s being dispatched to Weight Watchers first thing in the New Year). The working year is drawing to a close and as usual, the last week is dragging by like a snoozing grizzly on an Evostick sled. Is it only me that finds the last working week pre-Christmas a complete waste of time?

 I am sitting here busily working out excuses for avoiding the “Outer Office” Christmas do tomorrow. They’re going to the Playboy Club. In God’s name why would I want to go there? Unless it was their intention to play “Whack a Bunny” complete with huge rubber sledge hammers or “Pin the Flick-Knife on the Bunny” then honestly, the experience leaves me less than thrilled. Of course, the Outer Office is 99% male, hence the venue choice. The only other female in the Outer Office has a cough similar to a crack-smoking homeless man and is currently eating something packed with Echinacea and Peruvian mouse droppings to try to cure herself before tomorrow’s party. It smells like rancid Chilli Con Dog Poo. Frankly, I’m just not up for any of this. I feel a stomach flu coming on that will render me unable to attend. Sorry Bunnies!

The trouble is, I am just not feeling festive. I’m not miserable, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not feeling….Christmassy. This is so not like me – I practically AM Mariah Carey in a too-short Santa outfit warbling for all I’m worth as people cover their ears and weep silently. I’m not sure if it is the internet Christmas shopping I did as opposed to the usual racing around the streets style. Has the disengagement left me feeling a little….disinterested… to be honest? Could it simply be that the kids aren’t little any more and buying for them is a) supremely expensive, b) technology or fashion-based – ugh! or c) no fun now that “The Myth” has been dispelled. It just seems like another job to have to do – all the jolly jingles and George Michael replays in the world are not lifting me into my usual Christmas mode. Nothing was helped by the Man-Hog being a complete plank and using our joint account debit card to buy my presents. Internet banking reveals all – I now know precisely what is under the tree, where it came from and how much it cost. There are no surprises to be had except, possibly, me running away to become a Playboy Bunny on Christmas Eve just for shits and giggles.

Is it just that the usual trials and tribulations of life have not yet suspended normal service? The unseasonally stormy weather has wreaked havoc with Crumbly Mansion, for example. The roof is leaking in a running total of five places so far. The new roof. The one that cost us thousands to replace just over a year ago. That one. The wind has also managed to seek out any tiny pinprick in the ancient windowframes and send gushing torrents of water into them. We fall asleep to the dulcet sound of plips and plops splopping into  strategically placed plastic cups. Like a half-arsed glass harp. So tempted to empty them into the Man-Hog’s vibrating Snore-Chasm but then I remember I am supposed to be in love with him. This holds me back – just. This morning, Mini-Pig announced he has managed to lose his entire PE kit two days before the end of term – grrr! Not a small loss – we are talking the entire contents: astro boots, rugby shirt, shorts, socks, the lot. A mere £100 or so to replace. He’ll be cleaning chimneys and taking out the rubbish for the next fifty years to pay that lot off, the little blighter.

The Texan boss tried to enthuse me with his alternative Christmas do involving steak with green butter sauce followed by a theatre trip. The play, the 24,606 performance of The Mousetrap, was actually great and the acting was fantastic. However, having pre-filled his useless cowboy tum before the performance, the Texan proceeded to snooze his way through it, complete with head-bobbing and the odd “What?” at the top of his voice as I elbowed him continuously in the ribs. Great! Either I’m the most boring companion since Eastenders’ Ian Beale or too many years working together has bred the sort of comfort level that indicates that I would think slumping into an afternoon zed is perfectly all right and not at all rude!

 But, dear friends, all is not lost. There are ten days to go and work finishes tomorrow. Next week I shall begin to wrap said internet presents as well as gaudy tinsel around various bits of my body. I will drape twinkly lights from the soon-to-be-released-from-school Mini-Pigs and attach baubles to anything that sticks out horizontally on the Man-Hog. Wine will be mulled, pies will be minced and with any luck, the famously irritating Stratton Christmas spirit will wake from its slumber and get on everyone’s wick. Because all I want for Christmas…… me. Enjoying it again.

 Watch this space. x

Looting? But Men HATE Shopping Don’t They??

Looting in London is all over the news. It’s taken over from phone-hacking and the world recession as the single most talked about thingamajiggy on Twitter and Facebook today.

But I am confused. The majority of the looters shown on TV and press are male. Men hate shopping, don’t they? Many’s the time I’ve had the world-weary sighing and protracted bleating from the male species when I have suggested that my wardrobe needs an intravenous drip. My better half has to put “Bluewater” into the SatNav as he leaves so long between visits he forgets where he’s supposed to be chauffering me.

So how come all these blokes on the TV suddenly know a) exactly where the shops are; b) exactly what kids want for birthdays/Christmas (ie mobile phones, laptops and cameras); and c) the best price to pay for such things (i.e. FREE) – when they never could summon the enthusiasm before?

Something’s amiss.

Not to mention they are all appropriately dressed for the task. There is a definite “tailored-for-shopping” look going on out there. Comfortable trainers (Nike or just plain nicked), black and grey colour palette (so as not to distract from colourful potential purchases/thefts), and hoodies in case there is bad weather while they’re out “shopping”. Rather well-planned.

They’re also depicted with a drink in their hand, or as having had one recently. This is becoming tantamount to an episode of Sex and the City. They’ll be making a programme about it next, you wait and see. “Theft An’ Narky”. I like it, it has a catchy ring to it.

Oh, I know. I’m being terribly silly about it all, but honestly, I’ve had enough today of all the do-gooding, nosy parker commentators out there championing causes of action from behind their nice safe desks, demanding National Service, public birching and a return to hanging. Most of these people have never been to Tottenham, Brixton, Peckham or the like so how would they know how it is to live and work there anyway? Yes, it’s awful and I do genuinely feel for those DIRECTLY affected. But talking, talking, talking about it for some 24 hours straight now is simply giving these yobbos what they want. Please shut up Twittering, get out from behind your desk if you are near to one of the areas affected and actually start helping; or else be quiet and stop giving these miscreants airtime.

While I’m slightly taking the pee here, I do realise that social unrest is a serious issue. Cameron, the government and society as a whole must address it, for everyone’s sakes. But it is hard to feel sympathy in the face of such blatant opportunism. A fact that was nicely condensed down for me by my 15 year-old. Playing Devil’s Advocate and discussing some of the reasons why looters may feel justified, she said, “Mum, if the looters steal stuff to sell because they are poor and need to feed their families, wouldn’t they be better off breaking into Tesco’s and getting the ACTUAL food, rather than Curry’s for electricals?” Um, yes. Good point actually. She’d make a terrible yobbo with such logic. Thank goodness for that.

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