Friday, 2 October 2015

Early Retirement

I’m thinking of retiring.  I’ve got 28 years to go, and quite frankly, it’s 27 years 11 months and 3 weeks too long.  I’ve worked for 17 years, and I think that’s reasonable. 

It’s not that I don’t like my job, and I’ve certainly got lots of lovely memories.  I think I’ve made a difference to a few lives, even though I struggled to make Wingy understand that the case about the boy who drowned doing the doggy paddle wasn’t actually about dogs.  I treasured the blu-tak Christmas tree angel that Badders made me for many years.  But now, I’ve got other things I’d like to do.

I need to paid for this retiring though.  It would be a good investment to the nation.  If I retired, I would…

·         Walk my child to school and back every day.  No petrol fumes!


·         Volunteer at school.  Qualified teacher – free labour.



·         Be able to go to all these school things and not inconvenience my hardworking

Mother, and Daughter would know that there’s nothing more important than her.


·         Go to the gym every day.  Fit and healthy, less likely cost to the NHS in years to come.


·         Go shopping at least once a week, thus fuelling the economy.


·         But not at peak times, inconveniencing the workers


·         Keep a pristine home (which has no real benefit to the nation, but still…)


·         Be happier and smilier and more pleasant to be around


There’s so much more to life than work.  I wouldn’t be bored, honestly.  I wouldn’t even mind people thinking I was a young-looking 60 something (as long as they did think I was young looking!).  I can’t think of any other way to achieve my desired at-home lifestyle.  There’s winning the lottery, of course, and I’m still well up for that.  But I can’t think of anything else.  I only want to be at home with some money, so packing in work and becoming a housewife is out of the question.  I can’t sew and have no creative cooking skills with pulses (I remember both of them from my childhood, so clearly the type of housewife Mother was has influenced my idea of housewifery!) , so I don’t want to be running the house on less cash.  So retirement is it.  I might get a forecast.  Oh! I could retire now.  With a lump sum of…about £2000.  Pah.  Oh, there’s a monthly payment too..that would cover Daughter’s pocket money.  Back to the drawing board.  Hang on!  Isn’t it a Euromillions night?  You should always have a Plan B…

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Has anybody seen my baby?

My baby girl is about to turn 7 in three days.  Seven!  I absolutely can’t believe it.  My time hop is full of memories of being told at my week 37 antenatal appointment that they were keeping me in until my baby arrived (I thought this was the worst thing ever at the time, and now I look back fondly at the 5 days lying in bed, watching whatever I wanted on hospital TV, doing my nails and napping), not being able to believe she was 1, then 5 (clearly wasn’t fazed by her being 2, 3 and 4).  And now 7.  And with 7 comes more changes, all of which indicate that she is officially No Longer My Baby.  I’ve just been out buying thank you things for the Rainbows leader, because she’ll graduate to Brownies in the autumn.  I’ve got to buy her proper button up blouses for September as she goes into Juniors.  Juniors!  Where some of the children are in double figures (and to be honest, judging from Sports Day, look like they could get served in the pub) and they have to wear a tie.  A tie!  It takes me all my time to buy her hats without chin straps, so buying a tie is absolutely beyond my comprehension.  I discovered a forgotten about Pooh Bear duvet cover last week (the first one she had, lovingly made smaller for her cot-bed by Nanny, and then reinstated to normal size when she got a big bed) and she solemnly told me she was too old for it now.  She was wild about Pooby, as she called him.  And now…too old.

She went to a no-Mummy party a couple of weeks ago without batting an eyelid, went off home with her bestie’s parents after Sports Day and sent an email to her holiday buddy from last year without either of us setting it up for her.  I told her I was working late tonight and wouldn’t be home until after she went to bed, and she simply said ok.  Five minutes ago that would have been met with snot and tears.  She told me a flowery head band I bought her made her look ridiculous and picked a bag-on-trend neon pink nailvarnish.   She told me no-one would want to use her Little Tikes play centre at her birthday party as they were all too big, and yes, fine, sell it if I want.

We’ve moved from a Barbie themed party last year to a Wicked (the musical) one this year, which has taken my party planning skills to a new level.  I’ve got a roll of green shimmery fabric and some crepe paper and as if by magic will be turning the dining room into the Emerald City.  She doesn’t know, but she’s having another doll-in-a-cake cake, but this year there will be no pink and white icing making the skirt – it’s going to be black.  I spent last night making a witches hat and black hair for a doll that she has that happens to be green, so hopefully I’ll make a credible Elphaba.  The piƱata is full of bobbles and lip gloss and haribos, rather than acres of plastic tat, and she wants to make a playlist.

I seem to spend a long time wondering where my baby has gone, but really I know where to find her.  She’s fast asleep at night, her beautiful long lashes flickering and poor Fluff (her no longer fluffy at all bedtime favourite) clutched to within an inch of his life under her arm.  She’s in the garden, running around in her knickers, shooting Cousin with her water gun.  She’s a sleepy girl pulling my hair for comfort (hers entirely, not mine at all).  She’s getting harder to find though, so I’ll take the hair pulling without (much) complaint, because one day I’ll realise she hasn’t done it for a long time.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Sunny Day

I love a bit of sunshine.  It’s good for whatever ails you.  It’s lovely where I am today.  I’ve just been across the campus and the sun wrapped me in a perfect warm hug.  It’s not sweaty hot, but it’s exactly the type of weather that makes you reluctant to be sitting at a screen trying to untangle an untangle-able timetable.  The perfect activity on a day like today is to be snoozing in the sun.  There’s something about a sun lounger and warm sun that leads to the perfect, restful sleep.  In terms of sleep hobbies, it’s my number one.

Before I had Daughter, my entire summer holidays would be spent in the garden with a pile of magazines, knowing full well that if I closed my eyes, the sun would soothe me to sleep.  Boyfriend/Fiance/Husband (delete as appropriate for the time) would come home from work and ask if I’d been asleep all day.  I used to say no, but we both knew I certainly had been for a good chunk of the day!

There’s very little restful snoozing in the sun these days.  The summer holidays that used to seem so long are brutally short now (and makes me very much appreciate the flimsy relationship my boss at the last job had with holiday cards and recording attendance!  I worked hard all year, he reasoned, who was he to deprive me of a few days off) and my fear of Daughter being stolen over the fence puts me off sleeping when we’re in the garden (and of course because it’s more fun being bossed about and thrashed at swing ball, honestly), and then unless she’s busy with Husband on holiday, I can’t sleep then.  I’ve been known to attempt a snooze when she’s been younger and sleeping in her push chair, having first tied the pushchair to my sun lounger for security and wedged her in so she couldn’t escape.  Hardly an idyllic situation for restful sleep.  And I’m sure you agree that someone with that kind of kidnap paranoia probably deserves some brain rest.  I should probably get some therapy.  I can only just about go in the house for a drink or the loo and leave her in the garden now, the summer before last I used to make her come in with me!  I am paranoid but she is quite frankly one of the most attractive children you’ll ever set eyes on, so I think she’s prime kidnap material.  And when I say ‘one of the most attractive children’, I only say that so as not to offend my readers…J

I’d like to set some guidelines for the general public in the summer though.  Maybe consider it helpful advice…

1)       Coats with fur trim need to be put away at the end of May at the very latest, regardless of the temperature.  What will you do in February?  As Mother would say, you won’t feel the benefit!

2)      All toenails look better painted.  Yes, even men’s (I imagine).

3)      Crusty, horny feet are vile to look at.  I can highly recommend the Scholl whizzy foot file thing, but a foot file from the pound shop can do an excellent job too!

4)      There is no reason to smell of BO.  Ever.

5)      Woolly hats will make you hot, whatever look you’re after.


Yes, my toenails are painted, and I’ve had the whizzy on them this week.  Fur trimmed coat hanging up in garage and I don’t really like a woolly hat in the winter, so definitely not tempted in the summer!  And I’m pretty confident I haven’t got BO.  Don’t come too close after my run though…ooh, that’s a new blog in itself – the new runner’s guide to running in the summer.  Tips gratefully received!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Where I would sell my soul for a pair of comfortable shoes...

I don’t think it’s just me, but summer dressing for work is a nightmare.  This little burst of good weather has thrown me into a frenzy.  Things are made worse (in a good way) by being two clothes sizes smaller than I was last summer, so when I say I’ve got nothing to wear, I mean it literally.  Ok, I’ve got a couple of strapless maxi-dresses, but it’s not the kind of capable, in-charge yet (slightly) human image I like to rock in work.  And we have a no bare shoulders policy.

Crisis One:  Colour.  Am I ready to bare?  Of course not.  My natural pallor makes Wednesday Adams look healthy, and I don’t want to embrace pale.  There’s a difference between ‘pale and interesting’ and ‘let’s check for a pulse’.  So, Operation Tan must commence.  And of course it’s not just a case of slapping it on.  There’s scrubbing and buffing and bed linen to consider.  It was a bit of a school-girl error to change the bed and do the tan on the same night…

I’ve promoted myself over the years from novice tanner to high grade professional tanner (ever aspiring to get to C’s Advanced Tanner status), and a decent foam and a velvet mitt have revolutionised my tanning.  Elbows and heels remain a problem though.  And it was very interesting to see what colour it went on Daughter, when she snuck into bed with me the night I’d done it.  Starting her early, although she is absolutely puzzled by my ‘painting’ myself a different colour! 

Crisis Two:  Footwear.  I do not have a single pair of comfortable seasonal footwear for work.  I finally laid to rest my faithful M&S nude peep toe courts at the end of last summer, knowing that if they went into storage, I’d wear them again, and they truly had had their day.  And M&S aren’t known for change, so I was confident I’d just pick up another pair this year, but NO!  They have replaced them with a lurid snakeskin, which I will probably buy in the end out of sheer foot desperation.  I picked up a bargain on Sunday, pretty much exactly what I wanted but with a bit of a shimmery patch, but it wasn’t a shop that did half sizes.  Unable to keep a 7 on, the 6 came home with me, but by Monday lunch time they were under my desk and I was wearing illegal flip flops (against policy.  No mention of slippers though…).  So today I’ve unearthed a pair of lovely gold wedges I’d forgotten I had, which are ok as long as I’m sitting down.  Is it too much to ask?  And then of course there’s the big fat hot summer feet to contend with.  Show my trotters a bit of sun and warmth and they rise like a home-made loaf.  If that wasn’t enough, I have to think about quiet shoes for the exam season.  When I’m setting up or supervising exams, I don’t walk about peering over their shoulders like Miss Battle-Axe, but spend the time running about catering to their every whim – more paper, new pen, toilet trips etc etc, but in the deathly silence of an examination hall, you don’t want to clippity clop about in your heels, but over the years students have told me there’s something worse – the sandal foot slap.  You know, the noise your mule makes when you walk and it reconnects with your foot?  Definitely a concentration breaker!
 Crisis Three:  Is it long enough?  I’m tall, and standard lengths are often short.  This isn’t so bad in the safety and security of the Opaque Months, but as soon as it’s time to ditch the tights, much of my work wardrobe goes out to pasture.  
Crisis Four:  Is it smart enough?  I still need to look like the boss.  I won’t look like the boss in anything floaty, flowery, tropical, short, see-through or with a draw-string waist.  Its times like this that I wish we had a uniform policy.
But of course I don’t need to tell you that Daughter has no such wardrobe crisis.  Range of footwear:  Check.  Do they go up to an adult 6 in those new gold gladiators, I wonder?  Lace up pumps, flashing pumps, sturdy sandals, glam sandals, ballet flats, flip flops…all footwear eventualities covered.  T-shirts, vests, floaty tops, appropriate cardi’s:  Check.  Dresses, shorts, cool MC Hammer pants (you can’t touch this), skirts, blah, blah, blah:  Check.  The child has a sunglasses collection (including a matching blingy pair of aviators to me; so vomit-making for us to have the same, but so irresistible to me) and has to keep her hats in the spare wardrobe because they won’t fit in hers.  I might be willing to admit she’s potentially short on summer coats though, so there’s my mission.  Now we’re past the Peppa Pig and chums age, and she’s ditched cutesy for cool, I’m quite envious of her wardrobe.  Not sure it would help me out of my work wardrobe crisis, but the kid’s got some nice stuff!  And my worries about her thinking her name was George or Florence due to the labels in her clothes have proved unfounded!
But as for me, I’m at the mercy of the forecasters.  I reckon I can cobble about 5 appropriate outfits together, but I am truly in footwear crisis.  Other than that, there are some basic rules to follow:  Stay tanned, stay smooth, and always have a pair of flip flops under the desk and a bobble in my bag!  Maybe this clothing crisis is the real reason I entertain ideas about being a writer and working from home.  I would definitely have a completely unrestricted dress code – bare shoulders and flip flops all the way! 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

In which I have no plans for Easter...

I find the Easter break a bit of a strange one.  It has far less appeal when every food item has a weight-loss plan value as soon as you look at it.  Yes, that hot cross bun dripping in butter might be divine, but it costs about the same as stir-fried chicken and rice…or 3 gins!  I love chocolate, but an article in my weight-loss mag haunts me with values of 12 plus for Easter eggs – not far off half of my daily allowance.  And yes, of course I’d eat it all in one go!

In my single days, me and Sister would hot-foot it to Cyprus.  The first year we were promised glorious weather, and shivered for a week.  One of our favourite haunts became a bar with an open fire.  But it was always a fantastic holiday.  We were wise in subsequent years and packed a bit better (only a bit).  Picking up fiancees, husbands, mortgages and children put paid to the Easter jaunt, so now it’s all about searching for the Perfect Day Out.  But we’re hostages to the weather and Easter opening hours.  And I know that my Perfect Day Out does not involve sitting in a traffic jam of people also in pursuit of the Holy Grail PDO.  So, here on Maundy Thursday, I sit with NO PLANS for the Easter weekend.  I’ve got a few more days off across the two weeks school holidays, and me and Daughter will easily amuse ourselves.  But, I repeat – WE HAVE NO PLANS FOR THE EASTER WEEKEND.  I have clearly failed in basic festive parenting 101.  I have bagsful of Easter craft, but no plans as to when to use them.  I’ve been very ill prepared full stop.  We have no food shopping for the weekend that starts tomorrow, and I realised at lunch time that I had nothing for my class (of 17 year olds…) and so went out to buy something.  I think they all agreed that a Freddo really does symbolise Easter in a different way, and clearly the Easter Frog gets a raw deal.  I did buy some emergency hot cross buns in M&S before, and have taste tested one before taking them home to the family.  No butter, I haven’t lost the plot!

Of course I could go for suitably festive food tonight after work, except I am doing Sister a kindness by accompanying her to see a boy band that she likes.  I am going in dark glasses and a scarf.  I expect it will sound like an explosion when a venue full of old-enough-to-know-better women All Rise – all those cracking knees.

So, in a most unusual way, I’m going with the flow.  It’s not my style, and it makes me a bit twitchy.  But I’m giving it a go.  Wish me luck!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Finding my Fab

Now that I’ve been 40 for a quarter of a year, I’ve decided I’ve been coasting on my ‘fab at forty’ plan.  I’ve lost my Zumba habit, not lost my Christmas weight, allowed some grey hair to come through, and haven’t been out with the girls since Christmas (although have enjoyed a very nice night out with Husband).

So, in a flash of motivation, I’m ready to change it all.

The grey hair is easiest fixed – by Saturday lunch time I will be glossy and swingy and not a hint of silver.  I’ve done very well – I’ve still got less than 10 greys (or thereabouts – it would smack of unacceptable vanity to have actually counted them.  And what if there’s any I can’t see?!), but since I’ve turned 40 they are picking up their pace.  I can’t see me ever embracing grey.  I’m that pale that I would be invisible with grey hair, like some kind of X-Man but without the useful powers.  But nor do I want to be that septuagenarian with the unconvincing raven barnet…Ageing is so cruel!

The Zumba habit is taking a bit more effort.  My old class has morphed into something else, and although I enjoy the new one when I go, I don’t get the same thrill about going.  But what I am desperate to do is run.  Now, regular readers will know I went to a running club. Once.  Having marked it down as only marginally less horrific than childbirth, I never went again.  But I have this yearning to give it a go.  I imagine this super feeling of achievement and health & fitness, and last time the achievement was not actually dropping dead on the run, and the only fitness I achieved was knowing I was fit for nothing afterwards.  But I definitely bit off more than I could chew.  It was the equivalent of giving a weaning baby a well-done piece of rump rather than baby rice.  But I’m going for it this time, with the help of the Couch to 5K programme.  When it stops raining, of course!  And that’s where I fear I might be a fair weather fitness fanatic…

I’m suddenly very keen to get back to my old hobby of ballroom dancing.  Kept that one under my hat, eh.  Oh yes, Gold Bar something I was!  Me and L went, and we were addicted!  I threw my shoe collection away recently and I’m regretting that.  A bad back and wedding planning stopped me going, but I want to go back.  I still don’t want to be the man though!

I’m committing to my eating plan like someone who wants to lose weight, like I did when I started it last May.  It’s the start of a new weigh in week tomorrow, and I want to be a food bore again.  I’ve been passing my pre-weight loss clothes down to Mother, who has been losing weight as a by-product of Father’s weight loss programme, and she’ll need some smaller stuff soon, so it’s only right that I carry on passing my clothes down because I need smaller ones.  See, completely altruistic!

The most difficult one to rectify is the time with girlfriends.  From seeing L twice a week at Zumba, I haven’t seen her for weeks.  And, while it’s better than nothing, it is nice to see her when I’m not dripping with sweat!  I saw T and Z at Niece’s birthday party, but we haven’t got together for an age.  So, I’ve just seen an advert for the Macmillan Night In event, and thrown a date out.  I’m hoping it being in the name of charity, one that many of us have seen in action, might spur us on.  Quite how they’ll feel about paying to come round is another matter.  And I’ve not worked out how to persuade Husband to vacate the premises, or how to have raucous fun without disturbing Daughter…What’s that?  Send her for a sleepover to the Grands?  Excellent idea!  I’m wondering whether Sister has still got that limbo set from Niece’s birthday party last year..!

Friday, 13 February 2015

A Platonic Valentine to My Friends

I listen to Radio 2, which I’m sure will come as no surprise!  On Thursday’s, there is a ‘higher or lower’ song feature, requiring the lovely sports presenter (never seen him, just sounds like a good egg) to guess whether the second song was out earlier or later than the first one played.  Anyway, last week it was ‘Good Enough’ by Dodgy, which took me right back to the day I got my finals.  My friend K had stayed over at my house, having travelled back to Liverpool to get the results.  We hit my local the night before and somehow K managed to rip her jeans on the way home and we never worked out why.  Seven pints does seem to dull the brain cells.  The morning of the results, the radio alarm went off and the song playing was ‘Good Enough’ (clearly not listening to Radio 2 when I was 21!).  As it turned out it was more than good enough as I nabbed a better classification that I had been expecting!

It got me thinking about K, and how we’re just Christmas card and Facebook friends now, and how I’ve completely lost touch with another one of our gang, and it made me melancholy for a mo.  Such is life and the passage of time and all that.  However, it did get me thinking of all my fab friends that I do have more regular contact with, and how it would be good if there was a platonic Valentine’s type day for all the wonderful people who enhance our lives, whether they be real, virtual, constant or in and out.  I watch Daughter with her friends now and wonder whether they will be distant memories in 30 years or whether she will still be laughing with R about how R loved our rug and used to come and make rug angels on it!

I went out for dinner with some of my ‘mum’ friends last week, and we had such a good time.  These are new friends, acquired at the school gates, and they only know the ‘now’ me.  There’s J, who is so calm and chilled and just being in her very presence is like having a soothing balm rubbed on your temples.  Then there’s another J, who makes me snort with laughter every single time we meet, whether that be exchanging children on a play-date or on a night out, or just exchanging plans to drink gin.  We’re planning to take our girls to the Big Smoke in the autumn, so that should be fun. H is my mum-idol.  If there’s any doubt or confusion about school plans, date or requirements, we all chime in with the same…H will know!  She’s got an older child, and most of the rest of us have only got one, or have younger ones, so she is the acknowledged guru.  And she makes a darned strong cocktail!  And not forgetting R, upon whom Daughter loads bags full of toys/tat at school drop-off when she is going to their house for tea (despite the fact that her friend, R’s daughter A, has also got plenty of toys and no doubt tat, and really they just want to wait for R’s partner to come home so they can play whatever computery thing they’ve got!).  And of course, ‘R lets me have two eggs!’ (subtext:  unlike you, Mother, you mean and miserable one egg miser) , which is akin to a Nobel Peace Prize for Daughter!  And L, who is witty and funny, and usually has the up-to-date information (I wouldn’t sully her reputation by calling it gossip!).

The there’s ‘the girls’.  They’ve starred before, and we do like to operate a ‘Vegas’ policy, having all known the ‘then’ us…We don’t see each other enough, but what we are absolutely certain of it that time doesn’t matter.  Whether it’s a big night out of a casual meal out, we will all go home feeling warm and fuzzy and wishing we saw more of each other.

Then there’s H, for whom I was bridesmaid a couple of weeks ago.  How lovely to see one of my dearest friends floating on a cloud of love and happiness.  And how lovely for me to have glammed up in a gorgeous gown (thanks, Mother of the Bride!) and stayed in a posh hotel (thanks, Mother of the Bride!) and drink champagne at 9 o’clock in the morning!  And 10 o’clock.  And…  Again, the Vegas approach has been adopted and adapted – whatever happened in Ayia Napa has well and truly stayed there, and whatever happened in South Wales when we lived together is also there (in Wales, not Ayia Napa).  Except for the night that me and H didn’t go out with everyone else but took the opportunity to clean the disgusting communal kitchen.  It really was vile and a health hazard, but I think I’d send a message back to the young me and tell me to get my backside down the pub.  A message to H’s new husband…see what you’ve let yourself in for!

Some friends you just don’t see at all anymore, and even nearing twenty years later it can still feel like you’ve lost a bit of yourself.  LL and I, who for complete in-joke purposes and so she can identify herself, I’ll call Roy, truly were partners in crime.  How we ever actually got anywhere I don’t know, because it was pre-mobile phone and they didn’t have a house phone.  But come rain or shine, we’d be where we were supposed to be on Saturday night (and Sunday, Thursday and Friday…)  Thursday nights were good, and I didn’t have uni the next day, but I do remember a particularly late one where Roy did have class the next day and ended up asleep under coats at the back of the studio.  Well, you’re only young once!  Now we are miles from each other, and not in touch very much at all.  We’ve both got daughters (and her a lovely handsome son), only six months between them, and we often comment on photographs of one daughter that the other daughter has got the same outfit.  Sometimes you can’t be separated by distance.  I know our girls would have been best friends if we still lived near each other though.

If I mention the other L again, she might start charging me appearance rights!  She is probably my oldest friend.  I don’t want to say just how long, for fear of giving our age away (oh! Have I already done that?!).  But in over 25 years of friendship, we’ve never been on holiday, never been away for the weekend, and not stayed in the same house together since we were in our teens.  We don’t spa together, and really don’t actually see each other outside of exercise classes very much at all, despite literally living round the corner from each other.  But she’ll be the first person the comment on this blog, probably by text, and I don’t think a day goes by where we don’t text.  She knows what I watch on the TV, how much weight I've lost, who’s annoyed me today…you name it.  We don’t go for gooey sentiment, and I could count on less than one hand the number of times we’ve hugged, but this about sums us up:

I’m bound to have forgotten and therefore offended someone.  Aargh!  To C, with whom I share a common belief that we can do things much more efficiently, and who gets a daily bore about my food intake:  13 so far.

And to Sister, who will have the po-iest of po-faces on at not being mentioned…