Walk a mile in my shoes, would you? I dare you, I just dare you!

Has anyone else ever had the sheer, undiluted joy of unblocking a severely blocked, overflowing toilet without the aid of a toilet plunger first thing in the morning? No? Well let me tell you then – it’s not one for your bucket list.

Before I start, I promise I am not making this up. The meaning of this will shine through before long. Yesterday, I made the rookie error of acquiescing to the plans of my children without properly checking what they were.

“Can we swap bedrooms?” – it sounded like an innocuous enough question.

“Why of course my dear child,” I murmured vaguely (or words to that effect), stuck as I was in a pile of legal articles to write about such riveting matter as commercial dispute resolution. “Off you go now.”

I actually don’t know what I expected when I went upstairs later, but the scenes of Napoleonic devastation were not it. There were now no discernible beds, just bits of wood everywhere. Every single cuddly toy that has been collected over the last FIFTEEN YEARS was piled in the bath. To head height. The bathroom was covered with books which hadn’t seen the light of day since the mid-80s. Tables, chairs, lamps, pencils, created an indiscriminate, merry little tide of stuff that now flowed gently across the entire upstairs of the house, blocked only by a whacking great mattress which was placed so that no -one could get up or down or from side to side easily. Or at all, in fact. You may imagine my face. It’s too bad a mess to deal with. Note my use of the present tense.

Somehow the mattresses have bred and there are four of them whereas there are only three beds upstairs. Stationary has gone forth and multiplied to create a tsunami of felt pens, leaded pencils, glittery markers and all sorts of other hellish child entertainment ploys which are all over my gold carpets. Never again will I buy gold carpets, but that’s a separate issue. The elder girl had somehow managed to create a haven of cosy domesticity in her new bedroom, whereas the younger girl’s bedroom looked like Toys R Us had thrown up in there. It’s an unspeakable mess that will need crampons and an ice pick to tackle it, I thought, looking at it. Oh little did I know that just twelve hours later my analysis of what constitutes an ‘unspeakable mess’ would be sorely challenged. The night ended with my younger girl on a mattress and me on the gin.

FAST FORWARD TWELVE HOURS

“Mummy! The toilet’s blocked!” It’s not my favourite way to wake up in the morning, but I’ve had worse.

“Just try flushing it again,” I said sleepily and turned over. There was an ominous silence before I heard “Oh.” Which frankly scared me more than a scream. I leapt out of bed and dashed up the stairs amidst the toys and dolls and clothes and paper and……you get the picture. The next obstacle was a mattress firmly placed across the stairs, but once I had negotiated that to reach the bathroom, I dearly wished I hadn’t. The toilet had overflowed. All over the floor. And I won’t subject anyone to a description of what it was, but think of the worst thing you can imagine and then quadruple it. All over the bathroom floor. Seeping gently and determinedly into shoes, clothes, cuddly toys; all manner of things which have no business being near a bathroom and in the ordinary course of events would not have been. But oh no, all my bad luck seemed to have ganged up on me at once and paid a visit. It was one of those situations where you stare weakly and think – but how? How am I going to sort this out?

I’d never tackled a blocked toilet before and this one was very seriously blocked. It looked like it needed some Oramorph and palliative care. What did I do? I turned around, went back downstairs and pulled on my Dubarry boots. The soles of those have seen some sights, they’re used it. My poor, unprotected feet were not. Then I surveyed the scene and amassed my weapons. A toilet plunger was not amongst them. Google advised that I pour dishwasher liquid and hot water down the toilet. Or poke at the blockage with a clothes hanger. I tried both of those and got absolutely nowhere. I needed a plumber of course. But the thing was, there was no way I could invite a soul into the house as it was. The poor man wouldn’t be able to reach the bathroom – I honestly cannot describe the mess. And even if he did manage to negotiate his way there he would think we stored all our worldly goods in the bath. No, no, a plumber was not an option.

So what did I do? I put on a pair of rubber gloves and stuck my hand down the loo. I kid you not. I held my breath at first before I realised that all the dishwasher liquid had made this effluent smell quite nice. Which was good, seeing as it was lapping against my feet. Once I’d done that I poured a bottle of bleach down the toilet and sent up a quick prayer to God, or Allah or in fact any deity that might be listening and crossed all my fingers and toes.

I don’t know if my treatment has worked yet because I do not dare to go and check. What’s the moral of this story? If your children sidle up to you and whisper sweet-sounding plans in your ear – do not grant them permission instantly or give any reaction that can possibly be interpreted as permission. Because I’ve learned the hard way that if you do that, then life really can be sh*t.

Happy New Year! 2016, eh…………

My New Year had a strange start. Well, no, the actual start was in a very cool club in the conventional manner of a twenty-something. We’ll ignore the fact that I’m almost 34. It was loud, there was drinking, hot tubs and in terms of enthusiasm I was utterly put to shame on the dance floor by a 56 year old American man who actually did dance like no-one was watching. It’s possible that he’d got muddled up because he had his eyes closed the entire time. However, we certainly could see him – and we could also actually feel him as well as he flung his not-inconsiderably sized self around.

 

So midnight came and we jumped up and down like loons because the clock had gone from 11:59 to 12:00. The metaphorical clock, I mean. There was no actual clock, just a rather frenetic countdown which I’m convinced started at 11:59:55. There was no Auld Lang Syne either, or dancing with our arms crossed over, which I’ve always rather enjoyed. It was straight back to Dizzee American or whatever the DJ was called.

 

Somewhere around 2am my friend and I made our way back home and finished off the champagne that we’d started earlier. Which was all very well at the time but when I woke up two hours later it seemed like the worst idea in the entire world. You know when people are near death or dying and they have those moments where they go into the light? Well I was neither of those things (I realised in retrospect) but I definitely had one of those moments. I knew I had ibuprofen somewhere so I blindly and faithfully stumbled forward following the tiny shard of light which would lead me somewhere near to the kitchen, where I found the tablets and my phone. This had a message on it from the same friend that was in the house. It read “I’m inside Buddha”, which I found particularly confusing. Then I went back to bed. It felt like I’d only just gone back to sleep when my friend burst through the bedroom door, switched the main light on and leapt onto the bed.

 

“What are you doing?!” he demanded. Seeing as it was the early hours of the morning and I was lying in a bed with my eyes shut, I thought that was perfectly self-explanatory, but I humoured him.

 

“I’m asleep,” I explained patiently with my arms over my face.

 

“I’m alone downstairs!” He said in genuinely injured tones. “Get up and have a drink with me!” Now I am all very keen on social glasses of wine and Bucks Fizz for breakfast, but not at 6:45am on New Year’s Day when the jigsaw of my head is only just piecing itself back together after champagne and aniseed-tasting shots and I’ve had about thirty seconds sleep.

 

“Do you know what time it is?!”

 

“No.”

 

“It’s 6:45am. Go to sleep.”

 

I tiptoed downstairs at some point later (pretty quietly, I thought) when there was a sudden thunder of footsteps above me and my friend shot down the stairs and collapsed over the table.

 

“I’m so drunk,” he complained.

 

“What, still?!”

 

“Yes……”

 

Because I’m naturally a sympathetic type, I decided this was the perfect moment to tease him about a lady with whom he’d had a fleeting relationship and who had arrived in the club in search of him. “I can’t believe that woman…..” And it was like I’d prodded him with an electrode.

 

“Woman? What woman?” He leapt up from the table and glanced around fearfully behind sofas and curtains, genuinely believing that she might be in the room. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen all year. How often does he find random women about the place?

 

“You know, the love of your life?”

 

“I don’t believe you. I’m going back to bed.” He stormed halfway up the stairs and then stopped. “I don’t want you to go because you think this is a really horrible house.”

 

“It’s my house.”

 

It was around seven hours later that I received a sober-sounding message from him saying how much he’d loved the night and how he didn’t remember much of what happened after we got back. I’m saving it all up for when I meet a new girlfriend of his or something.

 

And so, I am going forward into 2016 with a few resolutions and sadly the knowledge that I really am getting old. When I woke in dreadful pain early on 1st January after my night of drinking and cavorting on the dancefloor, it was hard to work out what hurt more; my head – or my knees.

 

Happy New Year to old and young!

 

S x

And the girl goes to boarding school…..

So the eldest girl has gone to boarding school. This was decided about three minutes after she was conceived. Well, when I say ‘decided’, what I really mean is that her father decreed she would go.

He had been to boarding school!

He hated it for a year but it was the best thing for him!

Therefore, his child would board from 12!

Non-negotiable!

The poor thing didn’t stand a chance. Anyway, my point is that it wasn’t a surprise that she was going. I managed to reduce her sentence by leaving her at her Prep school until she was 13, but that was it, after that she was BOARDING. I didn’t realise until the summer term was coming to a close exactly how much I hated the idea. I had more cold feet about this educational decision than I did about my wedding. Which, in divorce-coloured hindsight, is ironic.

We prepared her for departure carefully. We kitted her out for the school; at an eye-watering expense. I won’t say how much exactly but there are small countries which have less debt than the sum we spent on clothing her for this educational institution. And because she was boarding, the lady who was sorting out her uniform in the shop kept gaily increasing the number of things she would need: “Oh, she’s boarding? Right, well, she’ll need three sets of games kit then….” And before we could murmur a protest, the pile in the basket would grow ever larger. And then more glorious news: “Things go missing at school. Everything and anything will go missing. You must make sure that there are name labels sewed onto absolutely every item of clothing. Even shoes.” Shoes?? If I didn’t already feel faint at the thought of sewing on what were probably about 40 labels, the idea of becoming adept at stitching leather in five days did it. This, I firmly believe, is what outsourcing is for. I can’t sew a stitch, but my friend’s mother, Granny Ann, is a wonderful Scottish woman who can sew beautifully. I think she should get a medal for services to clothes. So lovely Granny Ann sewed on all the labels for me to thwart the boarding school thieves (I’m not going to tell you who she really is because I want to make sure that she always has time for my labels).

The week before eldest child went I was having serious doubts. She wasn’t, but her old mother was desperately questioning whether this was the right decision. Thankfully, a calm friend whose son had gone to boarding school the year before settled me down before I whipped her out for home schooling. On the actual day of her departure, all parents were invited to a dinner at the school. Drinks and nibbles beforehand and then a sit down meal. Her father and I aren’t together (by mutual consent) but we make a good show of being co-parents. Especially in public.

So in we filed for the pre-dinner drinks and it was very impressive. Held in a large lecture theatre, there were long, table-clothed tables with platters of indian snacks, and black and white outfitted girls floating around with trays of champagne. I thought they were hired staff but it turned out to be just the sixth formers. We played the game of pretending we’d only eaten a few snacks and going back for more and by this point, I was confused. Was this dinner?? There was so much food and champagne it seemed unlikely that a lot more would be provided. A quick discussion with my not-partner revealed that there was indeed a separate dinner. What would it be like I wondered? If this was only the pre-dinner affair? I was going to find out soon enough.

We all filed through to where we were having dinner – which turned out to be the school dining room. With not a tablecloth in sight. Oh no, we were having the full pupil experience by queueing up to receive our food, which came from huge metal dishes and then collecting a soft drink from the machine before we set out to find a table. We were forbidden from sitting with our offspring so my not-partner and I settled for the table next to her. We were quickly joined by some Asian parents. Who were keen to talk. It turned out that they were from Malaysia. My not-partner had just married someone from Malaysia! Thrilled to have this in common, I delightedly repeated this, whereupon she looked at my not-partner, nodded sagely and said “Oh, so you have two wives.”

You could have cut the silence with a knife.

To his absolute credit my not-partner went slightly red but then confirmed the situation. Which is that he has only the one wife. Happily, the children were coming in by this point and our fellow guests cried out as their daughter came past, “That’s our granddaughter! See, there. The one with all the spots!” I physically jumped, aghast at their indiscretion. But the three of them seemed fine with this, nodding and smiling with each other. Granddaughter? I smiled feebly and finished my – food. I’m still not sure what it was.

The next thing after that was to say goodbye. So we escorted our daughter to her boarding house and left her joining in with an activity. We didn’t make a fuss, kissed her quickly, said “Goodbye darling, we love you, see you on Friday.” And left. As we walked back to the cars I suddenly realised that we hadn’t left her with any money.

“Oh God,” I said. “Do you think she’ll need money?” The activity for the following day was a trip to Winchester.

“I don’t know,” said not-partner. Just then, we happened to see the Headmistress of this vast, prestigious girls school walking towards us. “Excuse me,” I said, “will the girls need money tomorrow? For their trip to Winchester?” She looked taken aback.

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” she replied. “It’s a familiarisation trip. They won’t be going to Primark or anything.” Tinkly laugh. Phew! Crisis averted. We thanked her and went on our way.

When the child came home for the weekend, I learned two things. One, that the grandparents of the spotty girl who advocated having multiple wives are actually the King and Queen of Malaysia. And her uncle is the Prime Minister, which means I’ve ruined my chance of becoming a high flier in Malaysian politics (not that there was much danger of that before, if I’m honest).  And two, I asked what she’d done in Winchester.

“Oh,” she said happily. “We just went to Primark.”

And that, my friends, is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.