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Gandhi and the Mental Middle Finger

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“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Mahatma Gandhi

My son is a legend. Seriously. He should get a medal, an award or some sort of formal recognition. There should be a national holiday in his name. On that holiday, everyone can choose to ignore anything they don’t wish to hear that is said to them. Everyone may adopt selective deafness and persistent apologising. No-one needs to worry about modifying their behaviour. National Ignore Day will have been born. Hallmark will probably make a card you can buy for that. Or they’ll simply ignore it??

The Mini Pig is not so mini now so I sometimes have to be cross with him. It is allowed. The puppy dog eyes no longer tear up when I am forced to mildly tear a strip off him. He no longer cuddles as much as he did when he was little so I won’t miss those so much when he withholds them after I tell him off. For the same thing. Again. And again. And again.

Is it me? Is it too much to have asked for – ooh – going on two years or more now for him NOT to drop his used boxers and clothes in a heap shoved behind his bedroom door? Am I unreasonable to ask him NOT to have lights in two rooms plus a TV, PlayStation, PC for Facebook and my iPad for Lord knows what purpose ALL switched on at the same time? The poor leccy meter is dizzy with the amount and speed of revolutions it is expected to make of an evening. I am positively hyperventilating at the size of the bills it decides I should pay!

Mini Pig has heard the nice requests. I know he has because I sat him down for those.

He has heard the firm but still fair plea to his better nature (global warming for the leccy usage, rats and dust allergies for the tip that is his room, mum’s time and energy spent cleaning up after him and in fruitless nagging). I know he heard because I sat him down with the Man Hog present as a witness for those ones.

He has heard the stern and not remotely amused threats of property removal from his possession. He has witnessed me physically carrying out those threats. He has absorbed my screaming ab dabs like a parched sponge and stoically accepted he needs to find some other entertainment until I deem him punished sufficiently enough to return the goods. Having previously secured his solemn promise to do what I ask.

And then he ignores me. Legendary.

How many times can one over-stressed woman ask a boy to change out of his uniform after school so it does not end up with whatever that night’s meal is all down it? Vanish is great but until they invent “Miracle” or a tree that grows new school shirts overnight there will still be hints of stainage and I can’t have that, OCD about it as I am. How often can one small almost teen say sorry so convincingly and then KEEP ON DOING IT!!! AAAGGGHHH! *pause for necessary deep breathing and ohm noises*

Yet if the Man Hog and I happen to be chatting about anything to do with him or his sister or anything mildly of interest from behind closed doors an entire floor away, young Bat Flaps can hear all that OK! If I go into the kitchen and stealthily ease open a cupboard for a sneaky Malteser, again from a whole floor away, there he is! Like a starving rabid dog with the hearing of a hungry hawk. If I’m wrapping a present locked away somewhere with seven doors between me and him, he’ll tune his sonar into the rustle of paper and come looking for the source.

Nothing actually wrong with the hearing then. Nor the brain functionality – passing all tests with flying colours at school. Well, except for DT but he has small hands – it’s not easy making a shed with those. Be fair.

How do you get through to someone whose capacity to ignore you is greater than your patience to deal with him? How do you handle a kid you love more than life, but who is without a doubt sticking his mental middle finger up at you? I am trying to be all Gandhi about it – slowly, slowly catchy monkey, patience is a virtue, he’ll get it eventually and all that. But the slowness is more likely to send me head first into a vat of sloe gin before he ever conforms.

I am seriously considering some form of training. Apparently for gun dogs and guide dogs, they reprogramme the dog’s brain during a four week breaking session. It involves a lot of lemon juice up the snout and a bit of ear pinching, I believe. But I would do that – if it meant he would listen to me, do the very small things I ask like “Rinse your toothpaste spit, please” or “Please don’t leave your shin pads under the cushions so I get goosed every time I sit down“. If it meant he would eat all his meals from a bowl on the kitchen floor too (less food on the clothes?), well there’s a bonus right there.

Now then……who’s got the number for a decent Dog Whisperer? Whoever it is, I bet they won’t whisper quite like me. At the top of my lungs with a wooden spoon at the ready to carve out my own eye sockets from the sheer frustration! Maybe I should just go the old fashioned route – a hissed directive and a sharp poke in his little porcine buttocks with a cattle prod? No?

OK, so……Any other suggestions before I sell him for medical experiments? I soooooo would, you know.

Quote credit to: http://www.brainyquote.com

Picture credit: http://www.punjabigraphics.com

Snoring, Boring and Foot Fetishes

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So I haven’t written a blog in a while – apologies to any who may have missed my inane ramblings. There is therapy available on the NHS and you should probably take advantage of that.

Here’s the thing. I read somewhere that most general chit-chat and drivel bloggers such as myself get to around a year or so of blogging and then start inhaling the fatal smog of ennui, lethargy and deflation. Having been all puffed up with ourselves and our witty twitterings, we then discover that we’ve promptly and – in my case – quite unexpectedly run out of steam. Or the desire to write. Or the time. Whatever. The cold hard fact is we’re blog-blocked and it is nigh on impossible to get started again.

That has certainly been my experience. Somewhere around Oktoberfest 2012 – when most sane people were drowning in beer and oompah-pa – I began imbibing the salty liquor of my own stale ideas. I began, in essence, to bore myself. Neither a hurdy-gurdy man nor a glut of men in lederhosen could drag a blog post out of me.

“How can this be?” I hear you cry. “Such wit! Such talent!” Well yes, dear reader, obviously *rolls eyes*. Yet despite believing all my own press AND having an ego twice the size of Rosemary Schrager’s pre-jungle left thigh, I had hit a blog wall and HAD NOTHING MUCH TO SAY!! *cue horrific screaming and folk everywhere hiding their heads in their pinnies*

Distraction from this disturbing realisation occurred in the form of home improvements – multiple and far too expensive. The world famous WOM room is now fully operational at around the cost of a small LearJet. We experience severe dehydration and inertia every time we actually light the 11.5KW woodburning stove. We heat not only our home, but most of the village as we have to open all the windows in order to get rid of the smell of our own roasting flesh. It can linger so. Banners have appeared on lamp posts screeching “No Public Incinerator in Our Village!”. Sooooo dramatic. Many otherwise productive hours have been lost in warmth-induced comas and partaking in several jolly long and surprisingly intimate talks with the Man-Hog over a glass of rapidly mulling (of its own accord) wine. TV or noise of any kind that does not suit me has been banned from the WOM. The children enter and feel compelled to converse – using the real and proper Queen’s English instead of grunting. I think they secretly like it – all that undisturbed parental focus? Got to be character-building. They’ve even had their friends round to hang out in the WOM – subject to special permission.

One unexpected and truly exciting benefit has been the dearth of slugs coming up through the ancient and crusty floorboards – or the 2013 home improvement project as I like to refer to them. Yes, tis true. Lamentably the slugs do not like this newly tropical sitting room and have decamped somewhere else. I fully expect to find a coven of them lurking in the somewhat cooler utility room planning a sneak slime attack on us for ruining their fun. Ugh.

On the family front, further distraction from the Big Issue of blog-constipation was to be had in the form of Teen Pig, Man-Hog and Mrs Pig’s birthdays. Followed by a couple of significant milestone ones in our wider family in December. Too much carousing and general whoopee around such moments resulted in a severe case of gout/trench foot/trotter-rot in the Man-Hog and his inability to wear shoes. Anti-Crocs in any form as we are – truly a footwear abomination whose inventor should have been drowned at birth – the poor old MH has been slapping about in flip flops throughout most of the recent cold and very wet weather. Feet that were merely sore are now also chilblained, purple and sporting slightly beveled edges. If you thought he had gone hippie, think again. I can assure you there is nothing remotely zen about him. The only part of being a hippie he would embrace would be the free love aspect and, frankly, by the time he’s lurched in his awkward lopsided gait- cussing and sweating – towards you, you will want to charge him for embracing anything – bugger free! All I know is the fallout of such foot flinching was me forced to attend a festive dinner dance without him – any attempt to shoehorn him into his dress shoes would only have landed him in hospital – and as a result I was the self-styled victim of far too much rum and way too many Jaegerbombs without the aid of my warder to carry me home. The hangover was legendary – even for me. I have been told I lay catatonic in the WOM for almost three days. Excellent role model and citizen. Not.

Christmas and New Year were a blur of flu, bronchitis, sickness, missed events, events we wished we’d missed and ones we somehow managed to completely forget about altogether. Various folk came of age, failed to act their age and in my case, denied age even as a concept.

So – that was then. Now what’s old pigletinapoke blog going to do in 2013? Shut down? Or continue? And does anyone except me really care? We shall see. I shall be checking the stats on this highly boring yet “momentous in its mere appearance” post to see if anyone out there still reads it after my prolonged absence. And just as a teaser, my next post will describe in excruciating detail just how ridiculous my working life has become. Until the next time……..

 

The Weight-Loss to Home Improvement Correlation Theory

For the past few weeks I have been doing the Cambridge Weight Loss Plan. This was all sparked by my friend Sue – now forever know as “Non-Starter” for her immediate abandonment of the idea in the first week! – who thought we should both drop a few bags of sugar from our hips before the start of the new netball season. I gamely went along with it. I did not weep at the thought of twice – nay, sometimes thrice! – daily shakes or freshly-shat slurry masquerading as low-calorie soup. Nor have I moaned at the consumption of more lettuce leaves than a hutch full of fat lardy bunnies. No, stalwart that I truly am, I have just got on with it.

Five weeks in, the Man-Hog has just noticed that I slip easily through doorways and have to avoid storm drains more carefully these days lest I descend through the bars into the low-calorie soup below. Relief then – at least the old fella doesn’t need new specs just yet. Possibly a nursing home specialising in slow cognitive decline? But not new specs. Money saved – KERCHINNNNGGG!

Which is just as well really as I appear to have spent the national debt of Greece in a flurry of home improvements which appear to be directly correlated to the number of pounds I have lost. 15 DIY projects on the go at the last count. The main thrust has centred around creating the “WOM Room” as the Teen Pig has named it. WOM stands for “waste of money” – her principal beef being me squandering her potential inheritance on unnecessary structural alterations and the DFS sale. Such naivety! She doesn’t yet know I plan to blow every last bit on fast living and hard liquor before I shuffle off this planet. She’ll work it out eventually.

On Friday night, I sat in the WOM room for the first time, leaving barely a dent in my new cushions, lighter by degrees as I am each day at present *smug smile*. The WOM room is not yet finished – there’s still the installation of a ludicrously expensive woodburning stove, and the purchase of a decent reading lamp and a set of cast iron tongs to tweak my logs with.

Incomplete as it may be, this is no WOM. This is most definitely womb for me. No TV noise. No beeping of phones. No yelling. No mess and general stickiness. Come to think of it, no reason to be in here unless I invite you! The rest of the family have their own spaces for doing all the things they like to do. All I have ever had is the bed (sad) or the loo (sadder). This, then, is a proper, grown-up room for me to read in, listen to music in and have jolly mates round to. The stove will warm my seemingly permanently frozen cockles, heat will drift up the stairs and hopefully lower my gas bills releasing more money for shoes.

The House of Pig is slowly coming together. Mrs Pig is shrinking altogether. Non-Starter Sue has lost no weight whatsoever. Everyone is happy. Except the Teen worried about her own personal poverty following my clearly imminent demise. Selfish moo. But I do have to thank her for the WOM/womb idea – without those Pigs there’d be no blogs at all really.

Alas Poor Washer, I Knew Him Well…

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Alas, I am awash with washing. Piles of the stuff lurking in every nook and cranny of the house. Staring at me reproachfully as I bravely try to ignore and rise above the trauma that is my washing machine and tumble dryer both going kaput on the same day, within an hour of each other. I wish this was a tragically romantic tale of white goods love played out in the utility room; that in the end, after years spent together, Tumble simply couldn’t continue living without Washer and shuffled off her electrical coil to join him.

Unfortunately I think it has more to do with their mutual chokings on gargantuan-sized helpings of the Man-Hog’s Calvin Kleins. Exhaustion and eventual mechanical death brought on by the sheer volume (and sweatiness) of Chelsea and FC Barcelona footy kits. The used socks alone are enough to induce coma in the strongest kitchen gadget, let alone poor old frail and past-its-best Washer.

It’s times like these that my passion for all things John Lewis borders on stalking. I avidly pore through their website, lusting frantically (and frankly unrealistically) after the shiny mechanical washing problem-solvers they have on display there. Having made my choice and licked the screen picture in delight, I lurk around their free delivery page, waiting for the perfect slot to come up for me to meet the green-liveried delivery man who will restore my much-missed laundry life. Not to mention that whole “Never Knowingly Undersold” thing they have going on. I love that tag-line so much I have been known to drop it into conversation in All Bar One on a Friday night after work. It’s a life mantra actually – I’d never knowingly undersell myself. Ever. Overegging and clinical arrogance is probably nearer my mark.

So I sit and watch now as the clock tick-tocks its clicky little tune towards my 2PM-9PM slot. I won’t be there to receive my new utilitarian family members – no silver-tongued delivery spiel coming my way due to work commitments – but have instructed the Man-Hog on pain of death to call me the instant they arrive. After a week without tub-rub, rinse and anti-crease cycles, I am frantic with the need to hear him load over-ripe towels into my shiny new drum. I ache for the ripping sound of the lid of the washing tablets container. I close my eyes and sigh – ecstatic as I imagine the glug-glug of the fabric softener into my pristine new dispenser drawer…..and then there’s the drying to be done….oh my!

Really must get out more!

Photo credit: http://missionsite.net

John Lewis PLC and the “Never Knowingly Undersold” are used purely for entertainment purposes, neither the author nor this blog has any official association with the company whatsoever. So don’t sue me. Please.

Parenting: Old Navy Stylie

We have a favourite film in our house – well, at least the Man-Hog and I do. It is “The Bounty”, the 1984 version starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. The Man-Hog admires all the stiff upper lips of stout, loyal serving men (not so loyal as it turns out) in difficult circumstances and, of course, the ripe Polynesian women. I covertly ogle the young and as yet untainted-by-booze-and-unfortunate-rantings Mel Gibson from behind my firmly gripped cushion, replete in all his fine-fettled youth and breeches-clad glory. Mmmm.

Anyway, moving swiftly on. The film has many excellent lines and we quote them to each other (because we are sad) and have most recently started using them on the children (because it amuses us).

For example, a whingey-whiney complaint about insufficient pasta content in the week’s dinner menu can be met with “Your comments shall be noted in the log, sir.” A protest against demands to tidy their rooms shall be parried with “Filth, sir! Filthy, Mr Christian! Still filthy! Look!” and the like. Long journeys are not to be negotiated – we have family in the deepest North after all – and complaints are countered with “Around the Horn is the easiest way, the better way, and that is how we will go. Anything more?” as we turn our heads creepily slowly to face them, slitty eyes piercing into their developing skulls and with a firmly overinflated sense of our own superiority.

We’ve stopped short of making them dance for 15 minutes daily under pressure from Social Services, and the only grog on board the good ship “Prancing Piglet” is that consumed by the Man-Hog during a particularly tense episode of “The Real Wives of Orange County”. (He wants one, I am NEVER going to be one.) Nevertheless, the spirit and culture of the Bounty such as seamanlike behaviour, discipline etc. and the Prancing Piglet – more like ill-disguised sarcasm and grog in times of stress – appears to be working. The children are responding and I hope to issue promotions to Lieutenant shortly.

Such parenting ethos does mean that high standards need to be maintained at all times. I’m just off to check the bathroom floor for errant socks and discarded boxer shorts. If I find any, someone will be walking the plank. And I don’t mean taking the Man-Hog out for his daily stroll.

Over and out.

Photo credit: http://filmous.com

Review Blog: The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studios

What to do with the Teen/Tween combo during the Easter holidays? How to avoid days of stultifying TV watching, kerb-trawling around the village and general boredom and lethargy? Well, we found the solution.

Yesterday we took the Terrible Two to the Warner Bros. studios at Leavesden, near Watford. A bit of a trek by car, given the state of the holidaying M25, but nevertheless we got there in one piece and without any tantrums. Result number 1.

The Two had no idea what they were going to, and it was a sick and twisted pleasure to keep the whole thing a secret from them for over three weeks! They were expecting the usual parental tortures of visiting castles and digesting historical facts;  yomping through open spaces requiring much movement of legs; or – worse – something involving home-made crafts. No, yesterday was not what they expected at all. Entry into the inner sanctum of the studio that filmed the Harry Potter movies was not on their radar. Result number 2.

We were ushered into the foyer to await our tour into the innermost workings of the Potter movies. We are all fans, even if we are far too cool and teenage/old to admit it. The first thing we saw was the poignant sight of Harry’s actual understairs bedroom:

Complete with cobwebs, spiders and a pair of round-eyed spectacles left by the side of the bed. Poor Harry! Then we went into a cinema for a brief film explanation from the main stars of the movies as to what we were about to see. Staff then lead us on to the first of the “wow” factors – the Great Hall. Gobsmacked doesn’t begin to describe the Mini-Pigs faces. I haven’t included the picture I took of them as they took it all in – I don’t want to spoil the surprise when you go along  – but it was an absolutely hysterical portrait of two kids who were trying not to show that they were seriously impressed!

The exhibition contains original sets, props, costumes and artwork from the movies that were filmed there. Harry’s Quidditch cape, the cloak of invisibility and Dumbledore’s robes – all here, all original and incredibly detailed pieces of work. The tour also explains to the layman how a movie is put together, who the main players are from the director of photography through to the make-up girls and runners. Satisfyingly, it also reveals how the children were part of a huge extended family of cast and crew – something I found very comforting given the 10 years or so the main characters spent at the studios and on these films.

There is also a creature workshop with all the ghouls, goblins and fantastical creatures that featured in the movie, from conceptual art to the moulds to the finished masks. There is even a hairy werewolf chest – the Man-Hog was momentarily intimidated by such manliness in a human dog. Then there’s the animatronics – moving works of art simply staggering in their detail and lifelike actions.

After all that, you can pay a visit to gringots Bank, wander through Diagon Alley, stop by the wand shop and pick a cage for your owl. You can sit in the flying car – and yes, that’s the real Hogwart’s bridge in the background there, not a painting:

Jump aboard the bike or take a photo on the back of the triple-storey night bus (seen in the background in the pic below):

You can even swoon over Ron Weasley’s bed with hand-knitted blanket, as the Mini-Pig Girl did….who knew she had long harboured such a crush??

Or, like the Man-Hog, you can marvel at the level of detail given to each prop, piece of original artwork or paper model which at every stage transforms the unbelievable creativity of J K Rowling’s mind and works into actuality. You can, like me, be moved by the simple things such as the sight of the REAL sorting hat (pic at top of page) or the incomparable final surprise of the tour which is so breathtaking and awesome I will not ruin your experience by detailing it here.

Besides all of this were the extremely courteous and knowledgeable staff, who knew details and snippets of information you will not get anywhere else. They were able to point out things to the children that they may not otherwise have noticed, and the experience was the richer for that. The Starbucks cafe at the entrance to the venue is an excellent, clean and comfortable place to meet with others before starting your tour. The shop at the end is full of everything a child could want and the prices were no more than you would pay in your local Disney or other concession store. Result number 3.

Forget what you may have read in the press, and don’t baulk at the price – I promise you it is well worth the money. The cost at the time of writing is £83 for a family of two adults and two children. The audio tour and digital guide are extra but are, apparently, excellent though we did not take advantage of it as I sometimes think those audio headphones cut off family enjoyment of being able to share things together. The price was worth every penny when your cynical “too cool for my own good” teenager turns to you in the final room and says, “Mum, that is just the most amazing thing I have EVER seen.” Worth the drive there when your son says “Thanks for today. I was a bit worried it would be boring but….it’s been brilliant.” Forget all of that when your husband says “Thanks for booking this….it wasn’t what I expected at all.”  The Man-Hog is rarely impressed by anything except my roast beef and Yorkshire pud. Successes on the family entertainment front, then, don’t come much better than this. Final Result: Harry Potter – 1,  Boredom & Lethargy – Nil

In conclusion, go and do this tour –  if you have even an inkling of the scale of astoundingly skilled work and people involved in bringing the Potter books to life, you will not be disappointed. You can book tickets at their website at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk 

DISCLAIMER: All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal views and I have no link to Warner Bros. or any affiliated entity whatsoever. I wrote this review because I was impressed by the venue and did not write it for any form of monetary or other personal gain. All photos are my own.

Moving On Up….

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So it turns out that moving house is about as easy as shoving a pinecone sideways up my own backside without the aid of Vaseline and is just as much fun. The housing market, or at least that in the East of Sussex, continues to be in the doldrums with some properties taking up to a year to sell. Let’s not even go there, I am already bored senseless with re-tidying my already tidy house.  Then there’s the expectations of the children to manage: everyone advised us we needed to prepare the kids for such a large move so we did that. Thoroughly it would seem, and they are both fully on board with it. Now, of course, they just want to get on with it and they ask accusingly as another week goes by “So when ARE we actually moving?” as if there is something we can actually do about it. Aaggh!

So I have decided to stop the subconscious ramming of woodland flora up my own orifice and think jolly thoughts. Positive thoughts that may just, miraculously, bring forth the desired outcome.

To kick-start the process, I have been reading “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. I’ll confess I bought the book about two years ago and it has been gathering dust on my shelf ever since. I am not much given to introspection, Zen, mumbo-jumbo, belief in a divine power or NLP of any sort so this has been a first for me. Nevertheless, the current house-sale stagnation has forced me to seek out alternative ways to deal with my frustration other than verbally bashing the family or gnawing my fingernails down to a soggy pulp. Hence “The Secret” and its wise teachings. I remain unconvinced that positivity alone will move a matter forwards. I am also not given to trying to direct the future. I have always felt it best not to dwell too much on what I want to happen since I am usually thrust so deeply in amongst what IS happening that I can’t possibly contemplate a future past wine o’clock tonight.

There’s also this whole business of repeating affirmationsto myself like some sort of sad nutcase – the  book does not mention when I am meant to do this? In private in front of a mirror, similar to a goldfish mouthing to itself in a tank? In public, on the train with complete strangers within earshot? When IS the right time to mumble comforting phrases to myself without appearing to be losing my marbles? I am still unclear on this point and have been doing them a bit ad-hoc until I figure it out.

I admit I would like my inner cynic to be proved very wrong. I have already found the basics of the book helpful. I have (in the bath) told the Universe I am worth my weight in gold, I have (in my car) written a “cheque” to myself for what I think I need for our future, and I have thought relentlessly positively for countless days now. If nothing else, the upside of such concentration is the halting of my descent into a negative screeching spiral of: “Mo-fo busstard estate agent from hell!” or “Asswipe ignorant two-bit cheap prospective purchasers!” etc. Which can only be a very good thing. So let’s see what happens – come on, Universe, surprise me!

To end, I thought I would share today’s positive thoughts with you: Firstly, I feel notably thinner than I did yesterday for reasons I cannot fathom given the sheer number of Rich Tea biscuits consumed before bedtime last night. Secondly, I have no noticeable plants of an alpine nature growing from my butt. It’s all good so far. Watch this very uplifting space.

Ebbs-cuse me, Am I Growing Old?

“OK, darling, I’ll pick you up at ten.” So said I in yet another chat message to dearest daughter yesterday afternoon. Closing the jaunty little messaging app on my phone – having made sure to include plenty of smileys, emoticons, kisses and hip textences lest I appear as uncool as I suspect I actually am – I was suddenly struck by the reverse-level life I am leading these days. Apologies for the terminology, but if you were currently house-hunting in a seaside town where every house is reverse-level living, you’d be regurgitating that guff as if it is normal too.

So; reverse-level, topsy-turvy, upside-down or plain tits up; whatever you want to call it, that’s what life has become. I’m not sure I’m enjoying this new “normal” – at the very least I’m resisting it inwardly so as not to appear to be growing old. Old? Me? Noooooo! *runs screaming for the nearest wine bar*

But it may unfortunately be true. I can’t fight the fact that my own mis-spent youth has been superseded by that of the kids now. When did it become the norm for the kids to be out later than the parents? How has it happened that I sit wistfully yearning for jim-jams and Horlicks yet denied, having instead to stay fully clothed, some form of alert and ready to fire up the old jalopy at a moment’s notice? When did my own weekends become slaves to my teenagers’ social lives?

I’ll be honest – after a day at work I struggle with anything much past 11PM. Living in a quiet Sussex village means not much goes on during a weekday evening in the depths of winter except a spot of dull TV and a nose around Twitter before bath and bed call me skywards. Throbbing metropolis? No, sir. Sometimes a distant neighbour trips over a wheelie bin and curses loudly, which is always amusing. Or a teen hidden in the dark smoking an illicit fag has his foot run over by a British Gas van in next door’s driveway lighting up the windows in nearby houses and requiring an ambulance. Very funny and completely true. But generally things are quiet in the vicinity after 9ish. Hence, having to hold my eyelids open with tweezers and sellotape  so I don’t fall asleep open-mouthed and forget to collect a kid from some teenage hang-out at midnight is, I’ll admit, a bit of a struggle. (Tip: place a cocktail stick or two vertically in your cleavage whilst watching TV. Secure in place with more sellotape. That way if you begin to nod off, a sharp poke in the schnozzle will wake you up instantly. And – bonus – you get a free chest wax, which can only be a good thing.)

Have I grown old then? Did it creep up on me unawares like a stealthy stoat? Am I ready for botox, tight perms and a 6 week cruise around Croatia? Doomed to a Val Doonican soundtrack in the car and layers of chunky knits? Lord save me!

I don’t think I’m old yet per se. Not in my soul, for sure. I am hoping that this is just the natural progression of things. The ebb and flow, the tidal rhythm of life. My tide is out now (for out, read “I am temporarily dead”) while my fledglings spread their wings and explore their independence. I am, for now, not Sarah the Party Animal who likes one too many cuba libres and to dance inappropriately on tables but Sarah The Mother, a four-wheeled Moses basket driver that fetches and carries them, bears them safely home, never fails to be there when required. Albeit grumpy and tired with rising chest welts and spike marks on the end of my nose.

I have resisted the mother label, if I’m honest, never quite thought of myself that way. Mum is OK, I can do Mum. Mum is a matey sort of name that implies nurturing in a friendly haphazard way. A muddling through Mum. Occasionally an absent-for-an-altogether-irresponsible-amount-of-time-while-sailing type of Mum. Relaxed is, and will always be,  my parenting style. We each have our own. But “mother”? No. That’s reserved for people much more responsible and demonstrably better at the task than me.

Sarah, the regular sort, will re-emerge eventually. I’ll probably don hot pants, go to gigs and festivals, maybe even plant a boob-shaped pampas grass flag on my front lawn in my early 50s, just as my offspring are settling down, sprogging up and going into their own quiet times. (Pause for silent evil chuckle.)

Ebb and flow. Flow and ebb. It’s how it is supposed to be. Now, if I could only stay awake until then……

 

Photo credit to: http://scrapetv.com

 

In Which We Make A Decision!

Moving house is acknowledged to be one of the five most stressful experiences in the average human life. Right up there with death, and we all know how that ends. As I write, I am sending hopeful prayers to the god of British estate Agents, asking him to unearth their good natures which I know must lurk somewhere beneath their seemingly rhino-like hides and have them do their jobs properly for this little family. No more, no less. Sell my house, help me find the new one and then slip quietly away clutching my hard-earned in their paws. Simple. Stress is not something I wish to invite willingly in to my life. I am not very good at it;  I tend to over-react and have been known to bite people. Literally.

So why have we made this decision to up sticks and slink West by over 200 miles? A decision that will, inevitably, lead to more than a little over-crowding in my tiny stress pouch? Why would we willingly put ourselves through it?  Staying put is the obvious solution, isn’t it? 

Er….no.

I want to move. I’m done with the current status quo. For many of the usual reasons – changes in the local neighbourhood, changes in our lifestyle as a family, a general yearning for sea air, beautiful walks, friendly locals, more sailing, alternative opportunities for the kids, etc etc yawn yawn. Most of which I already have and will be sad to leave behind, but which I hope we will find again. We have made some truly great mates in our nine years in this locale, and we will miss them all horribly. Coupled with this, we know we are lucky to be thinking about moving at all at a time when many people are just looking for some job security, extra income or someone to even give them a mortgage.   

So why else? The simple fact is that I need to go. Some other, less conventional, reasons are also behind the decision. Not the least of which is the hole in my home and my life since the demise of my gorgeous labbie back at the end of last summer. The house, that haven of happiness after the hellish working day, would greet me with jolly children and a waggy-tailed pooch. All that has changed since his demise. Now I come back each day – we are talking almost seven months on – and there is no joyful canine greeting, no excited yelping, no-one to sit by my side at the dining table puffing biscuity breath into my face until I take him for a walk. No stench of dog or filth underfoot either, of course, which I acknowledge to be a minor upside but not enough to overcome my sadness and sense of loss.

That’s just the inside of the house. Outside is even worse. I have tried to walk the paths of the beautiful local estate lands three times since Fred shuffled off this Earth. Each time the lack of crunching feet behind me, or a black rump in front of me snuffling through the woods, has seen me return crying my eyeballs out. I don’t do crying, I promise you. Clearly, now, I don’t do walking either. If even the gorgeous local countryside no longer holds an attraction for me, then I am as they say “stuffed”. I know there will be those among you who think I have lost my mind – he was only a dog after all – I’ve lost a lot more significant others than that. But grief is a funny thing. You can’t plan it, you can’t even really understand it. You just have to acknowledge it is there, and that things have changed irreparably.

Another reason, perhaps even more non-sensical to the majority including the Man-Hog, is my panic that life is passing me by. Too short all together when looking at my parents – surely my best source of genetic life expectancy calculation – who both sadly croaked fairly early on into retirement and with so much still left to do in their lives. I don’t want to be that person – waiting and waiting for retirement, for the perfect time, whatever that even is? I fear “not getting it all done”. I want to go while I have such a desire, some sort of means to pay for it, and the determined will to change things for everyone in my family for, hopefully, the better. The Man-Hog is lonely at home, the kids are great but too pale and chesty, and I am craving fresh salty air and a change of pace like my own personal crack habit. I want to get on with it.

There are many more, very personal, reasons why we want to go but I shan’t bore you with them. Suffice to say it has taken two years to come to this decision and I am so glad we finally have!

Amazingly, we have the support of our two children for this move. Upping sticks as a teenager is not an easy issue for most to come to terms with. The Mini-Pig girl has GCSEs to contend with this summer, something we have to factor in to the overall move plan somehow. I know about enforced moves, I had to do it at the age of 18 and I couldn’t wait to turn my back on my parents and hightail it back to where I came from.  Luckily, the Man-Hog (the boyfriend du jour) was in situ back in the former homelands and it all worked out very well. But I remember the feeling of doom, of panic and of powerlessness. I have never wanted that for the children and if they had voiced any dissent for this plan, we would likely have re-considered. My kids positively embrace the idea. They are just as eager to get on with it now that any prevarication between the parentals has ended. I cannot count the number of times people have told us how lucky we are that the children are enthusiastic for this new era – I would be shocked except I am conceitedly proud of them and their ability to adapt. Living with a mother like me – the original Mrs Ants-in-her-Pants-Let-Us-Chuck-Ourselves-Off-A-Cliff-Today – it should really be no surprise. It is one less stress to have to deal with.

 So, the house is up for sale – I have smiled winningly at the estate agent and am praying I had no poppy seeds in my teeth at the time! The Man-Hog and I are venturing West hand-in-porky-hand on Friday for a nose around properties in our price range at the other end. All we need now is a fair wind and some good fortune. Oh, and estate agents that do their jobs. Watch this space.

 

Photo credit: http://businessinsider.com

 

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?

Photo credit: http://noveltp.com