Friday, 1 April 2016

Where I Did Not Know and possibly Got It Wrong

There’s no shortage of sticks and the opportunity to beat yourself with them in parenthood.  It’s a minefield.  Maybe it gets easier with subsequent children, but for firsts or onlys, every day has got the potential for you to do something wrong.  Doing stuff wrong is an alien concept for me.  I’m a planner, a thinker, a reviser.  I treated pregnancy like I did my academic qualifications; reading, research, planning.  I didn’t go into it half-baked, and much of the research was focussed on how to get a girl.  Grapes and strawberries, apparently. Copious bowls of Frosties and eggs (not together, I’m not an animal) were also part of my diet, but I was well pregnant by then so imagine they didn’t have any impact on the pink or blue issue.  I wanted a girl, and was willing to take a bit of dubious advice.  I’m no scientist, who am I to argue?  Anyway, I Got It Right.  Early babyhood was approached similarly, and really, there’s not that much to get wrong.

So, from right to wrong.  Daughter is nearly eight and I’ve no experience with eight year olds.  There are no books now.  The holy grail of Mumsnet generally confirms I’ve Got It Wrong, but who’s to say.  It’s the not knowing what to do I don’t like.  I’m not one of these intuitive wear-your-baby-in-an-aztec-print-blanket type of mothers (although admittedly I think she would be a bit heavy for that now).  I’m not a follow-her-lead type (her lead would be to Wetherspoons for ham, egg and chips followed by a supermarket sweep style jaunt to Smyths).  I want to know what to do in advance.  I want to get it right first time.  I’m not comfortable with making mistakes.

Once they go to school, keep your stick handy.  The dropper-offers and picker-uppers may be able to keep it somewhere a teeny bit further, as they might have a bit more opportunity to Find Stuff Out, but I suspect it still needs to be accessible.  I’m so seldom at the school gates that Teacher asked me who I was there for last time I picked her up.  Practically on first-name terms with Nanny though.  So I read all the letters, ask the questions, but generally still have no clue what goes on.  The very latest stick beating happened with a Children’s University Graduation.  I remember the passport coming home.  I remember…well nothing else.  I didn’t return the form as I knew Daughter had a princely two stamps in her passport (which was securely stored in a location I remembered, so yay me).  On the day, about 4 children in the class didn’t go, one of whom was Daughter.  She was pretty casual about it and scoffed at the prospect of a graduation in primary school, but I was beside myself (whilst also scoffing at the prospect of a graduation in primary school).  What worried me was the possibility that she could have gone only for my devil-may-care letter chucking.  What troubled me was that I Didn’t Know.  How did everyone know about this and understand it?  Where had they got their stamps?  Why didn’t Daughter have them? What if she doesn’t graduate?  Does she need to to get into a good high school?  Is Oxbridge out of the question? Why was I so rubbish?  So of course the rest of the day was written off to forensic investigation of where she could get them, how many she might have, what was recorded at school centrally and what I’d failed to do for her.  I harangued the Drama club (participates, hooray), pestered the Dance teacher (thinking about it, thanks!) and the swimming club (no response, get your act together).  There was me thinking these were nice activities for her to do, when all the while they may have had stamp value!  The next family day out is planned according to the list of places that participate.  We’ve already been to loads on the list, but like a bad parent I concentrated on us having a nice family day and let the stamps go to waste!  If only I’d known.  Why didn’t I know?!!!!  So of course I’m black and blue with stick beating.  I might even need a new stick, but I’ll have to keep hold of this one for now because you can’t be without one.  I do know that she’s off for a fortnight now though, and I do know who is looking after her on the days that I can’t.  And I do know that I’ll be sending her Children’s University passport…

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

I like to move it move it

I went for a gym run last week, I didn't fancy their tunes, so I cranked my favourite iTunes album on - Ministry of Sound Anthems 90.  427 minutes of pure joy. Well, probably 400, there are a few duffers in there (King of My Castle, Ebeneezer Goode and Don't Call Me Baby, if you're asking). I had to have it loud to drown out the perma-playlist (and the sound of my heavy breathing).  and it was exhilarating. Although my feet were pounding a mechanical pavement, my head was in various 90s local hotspots...Ferraris...Paradox...Reds...Some of the songs actually made me run faster and I had to speed the treadmill up.  My speed songs seem to be:

  • Things Can Only Get Better by D’ream
  • Son of a Gun by JX
  • U Sure Do by Strike

Feel free to sing as you’re reading now…

Then I got in the car, where my radio was set to Radio 1, and there was some kind of old and new mash-up going on.  I should admit that Radio 1 is at Daughter's insistence, having decided that Radio 2 (I slipped there gradually over the years...) is for old people and I should have the station that Granddad has on.  You know, her 69 year old grandfather, who clearly pumps out the best choons on the school run.  She was very keen to distinguish which Granddad, as maternal Granddad listens to a local show that she has actually been on, so there's no moving the dial on that one.  When I asked Father in Law what station he had on, he replied it was 'just' Radio 1, thus revealing himself as some kind of secret hipster.  I'm monitoring him for growing a beard like the young ones do.  I'll have to say something if he tries a man-bun.  Particularly with him being bald…Anyway, loud music, post run high, I was car-seat dancing all the way home. And it got me to thinking; where is the post 30s mummy to shake her thang?


We danced on our Christmas night out.  We waved our hands in the air like we just didn't care.  We did the dance-walk to the dance floor.  We danced and sang to club classics of our day, in a hotel function room that had been converted from one of our main stomping grounds when these songs were out.  And to be honest, it wasn't much of a conversion.  But since then, nothing.  Not a shimmy, not a shake.  Because post thirties working motherhood doesn't leave a lot of time for dancing.  And even if it did, we don't know where to go.  Where are the clubs?  We don't want to be starting our nights out at midnight.  Someone will start mentioning ringing a taxi around then.  But even if we had the stamina, we can't be rocking up and shaking our stuff with the young ones to remixes of songs that were ours first time round.  What if we slip up with the words now they’ve been remixed?  It’s too risky. 

Maybe I’ve hit on the business idea that will free me from my daily grind.  Mum dance parties!  They could be based on those under 18’s discos that nightclubs used to do in the old days before 14 year olds looked old enough to actually get into nightclubs like they do now.  We could actually hire nightclubs, we’d be in and out before the actual clubbers wanted to come in.  Early start, maybe around 8:30pm, big ‘ol dance floor, limited bar (prosecco and gin, what else would we need?), and a full on 90’s mix, throwing in those few 70s and 80s belters that get everyone on the floor (Dancing Queen and We are Family being personal favourites), plenty of soap and loo roll in the ladies and we’d be set.  Finish at 10pm, home in time to make the packed lunches and get to bed at a reasonable time.  Result!  Now remember, this was my idea, so if I see any MumClub nights advertised, I’ll have to give you a very stern talking to!  (but don’t forget to send me a complimentary ticket!)

Until I can get this off the ground, or we work out where we can actually go out dancing, it looks like it’s car dancing.  If you see me at a set of lights, give me a nod and join in!


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

We're All Going on a Summer Holiday

I've been on a lot of holidays. I'm not saying I've seen a lot if the world, but I've seen a lot of sun loungers. If I look back at the last 21 years of holidaying independently, I'd say the key changes are the internet, terrorists, budget airlines, clamping down on piracy, and of course, parenthood.

The 20-28 years were spent holidaying with Sister to lots of different places that were all really the same.  The list reads like a 1990’s diary entry for Judith Chalmers…Magaluf, Benidorm, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Tenerife (various), Lloret de Mar…you might spot a pattern.

But regardless of the destination, I think there are a number of incontrovertible truths:

  • At least one item of clothes will return unworn, but several hours will be spent lamenting the absence of another item of unpacked clothing;
  • I’ll arrive more tanned than I leave (thank you St Tropez);
  • The placing of sockets and mirrors in the hotel room has been at the bottom of someone’s thought list;
  • Placing of said mirror will mean that in the dim light ‘more is more’ becomes a makeup mantra until mistaken for the drag act;
  • Pledges to ‘take it easy’ on food and drink become a myth as soon as you’ve passed through airport security and it is entirely acceptable, nay compulsory, to have a pint of lager/glass of prosecco (depending on the decade) with breakfast (or for breakfast).

The joy of packing has been entirely smooshed by the new airport security measures.  Yes, I know it's essential, and yes, I'll rather be safe.  But I feel a bit sorry for those who never experienced the joys of liquids in hand luggage. Sister and I were proud carriers of the Vanity Case. Oh yes.  In addition to your bag.  Stuffed to the gills with goodies over 100ml.  Choice of perfume.  Factor 8 sunlotion (well we didn’t want to burn…) Large bottles of Finesse shampoo and conditioner (Finesse!  Where did that go?!)

The joy of the vanity case was that it left your 22kg free for clothes.  And when I say 22kg, that was pretty flexible.  Father used to chauffeur us to the airport, and like all good packhorses helped us right up to the desk.  And then he used to lift it on to the belt, keeping a bit of weight off so that our true excess didn’t register.  Talk about going over and above your parenting duties.  But if they didn’t slap a ‘WARNING – HEAVY’ label on our cases we thought we’d forgotten something.  And of course, security was simply ‘Did you pack this yourself?’ and the detector arch thing, which I still set off every time I go through.  Clearly some kind of secret metal body part that my parents have decided I’m better off not knowing about.

But despite the capacity to pretty much pack anything, I can describe several holidays where Sister and I were woefully ill prepared…

Benidorm 1994

The rep (remember them!) had bright, bright pink lipstick and could have benefitted from a dollop of Finesse.  She welcomed us with tales of a heatwave.  Ha!  Clever us.  Excellent thinking not to travel in our usual jeans.  Too hot.  We won’t need them.  We went to sleep to rain.  We woke up to rain.  For a fortnight.  We were cold.  We got wet.  Sister bought some fake tan, but we refused to buy over-priced brollies.

Cyprus 1998, 1999, 2000

Nice little Easter breaks.  Scorching, we were told.  One bad day of weather a year in Cyprus, they said.  Unexpected then, for us to have to seek out indoor bars, and revisit the German bar with the real fire.  But lovely resort, lovely people, good fun, so we booked again for next Easter, told by all we’d had bad luck.  We clearly travelled by Tardis rather than plane, as we found the same again.  Only a pair of idiots would book a third time, right?

I don’t know where we were when we watched Jim Davidson Live (on the telly, not live live) and I have blocked it all out of my memory.  We all make mistakes.

So what did we do on these inclement jaunts?  Museums, trips, immersing ourselves in the local culture?  No.  We sought out beer for 100 pesetas a pint and watched every episode of Only Fools and Horses and films that had only just hit the cinemas.  And there’s my next complaint about the modern holiday.  Where are all the bars showing pirate films and back-to-back comedy telly?  Gone.  I don’t want Sky Sports or miserable news.  I want to see Del-Boy falling backwards through the open bar hatch.



The biggest change is the small person that accompanies me on my holidays now.  She’s turned me and Husband into the pack horses, and seeing that she hasn’t quite developed a palate for lager yet, she’s not keen to seek out a cheap pint, or watch a just-released film with shaky camera work and shadowy images walking across the screen.  She is happy to while away an hour or so thrashing us at Top Trumps though, so there’s a new holiday activity.  And crazy golf.  You’d think they were at the Open (or some other golfy type thing).  I’m not allowed to play, just keep score and carry the cardigans.  Pack horse…it must be in the genes.