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.

Welcome to the playground

An introduction to UBER-mothers: the frightening new addition to the playground circuit.

They’re like Pandora bracelets. We’ve all got one, we all recognise a genuine one and some are more ostentatious than others. UBER-mothers are a fierce new breed. Right at this very moment they are spilling into the Home Counties like spiders out of an egg sac. They come quietly from birthing their twins in central London with no pain relief in 26 minutes and they slide effortlessly into school life. One minute they don’t exist and then – boom! Before you can blink they’re striding around being an UBER-mum.

So what exactly is the problem? Principally, they make the rest of us feel a little bit too lazy (UBER-mum never sits down and normally sleeps standing up), a little bit too boring (uber-mum reads the Times, Telegraph and Guardian ‘just to get a little perspective’ before breakfast so she can furnish us all with her learned opinions about ISIS and Boris Johnson) and a little bit too decadent. Mention that you once had a glass of wine at lunchtime on your birthday and watch her face drain of colour.

Plus, we’ve been caught off guard. We don’t know how to deal with them yet. We’ve done the earth-mother thing, and UBER-mum is not following the script. She’s not consuming lentils by the metric tonne, making her own cheese or embracing Wicca beliefs. The thing is that these UBER-mothers look normal on the outside. All right, so they’re probably wearing Birkenstocks and a smock of some description, but that’s forgivable because it’s from White Stuff or Boden. It’s not hand-knitted as she delivered the placenta or tie-dyed by an old woman on a hill in Wales.

These UBER-mums are a little like Stepford wives. They will have come from a senior role in middle management in a City based financial company. And this, they know, enables them to make the best decisions in the whole school about absolutely anything. There will be nothing they cannot do. Which leaves us lesser-mothers feeling a bit bemused. But…but….we’ve been running the committee for years….? Ah yes, but wrongly, says UBER-mum with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. It’s no good offering an opinion, or demonstrating your experience, because UBER-mum has a special voice that simply goes louder and louder.

And she will have a careful number of children. Not so many that people think she’s a careless, pain-addicted ninny with an aversion to contraception, but enough to give her an advantage over every single other mum. Twins? Boy AND a girl she says triumphantly. Older sibling? A boy, she says proudly, I just know he’ll look after them. No younger children then? Oh yes, a little girl. Newborns are passé, we’ve all argued the hell out of the right to breastfeed entirely naked in public and be mentioned in the Queen’s Honours list for it. So UBER-mum has thrown down her sicky muslin cloth and embraced her nursery-aged child. She’s only three, UBER-mum says fondly, so she’s still expressing herself through night-time wakings, but I don’t need sleep. I always get up at 4am so I can finish off the housework before the kiddiwinks get up. And because you are so frozen in horror at her use of the word ‘kiddiwinks’ you will forget to challenge the insanity of 4am cleaning.

Gradually this UBER-mum will infiltrate the school. She will be EVERYWHERE. Because she has a winning combination of children she will be found roaming free-range in the nursery, in the lower years AND the upper years. And that’s another thing. She will always be in the school, no matter what time of day. You won’t always know what she’s doing, but she’ll be there. And because of this she will swiftly become more familiar than anyone else has ever been, with the school. It won’t matter that your children are fifth generation pupils, UBER-mum has whizzed in and knows everyone and everything that can possibly be known. The playground has now replaced the boardroom and the staff room is her HR department.

And just when you think she’s reached a limit, you discover that she has gone one stage further. She has now befriended half the teaching staff. She’ll be on first name terms with most of them and sharing a giggle before assembly. So much so that she’s able to choose exactly who she wants in Peregrine’s class. Why did you choose that name? Oh I knew he was a Peregrine the moment I laid eyes on him. And we wanted to name him after a dear relative who died tragically in the sixth century.

If you’re not careful, UBER-mum will stalk around school being a curious combination of confident and passive-aggressive. But there is one disadvantage to being an UBER-mum – they operate alone. It makes logical sense in her head; no-one could be on a level with her. So what can you do? The very opposite of divide and conquer. Form a tight-knit, impenetrable group of mothers, each of whom has a skill that they possess Masters-level qualifications in, whether this is contract law or baking cake pops. Make sure you have representatives in all areas of the school at all times, ready to challenge. If you can harpoon an ex-headteacher or two to line the corridors akin to milk of magnesia, then do it. Do it, do it, do it.

Ultimately, UBER-mums won’t harm you. They’re just really, really, rage inducingly, annoying. So if you come into contact with one, try and channel your inner Witches defence, a la Roald Dahl. Keep your eyes down, don’t engage – and walk past hastily. UBER-mum may not harm you – but she can infect you. If you’re not careful, soon your entire wardrobe will contain nothing but polka-dotted items and flimsy, transparent scraps of Cath Kidston. You will be creating your own pasta before dawn and making it proudly clear to friends that your children are so competitive that even poo-ing is a spectator sport.

Beware the UBER-mother. You have been warned.