Posts Tagged ‘children’

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

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

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.


“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.

Welcome to the playground

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

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.

From busy to busier

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Well as the title says I am run off my feet here. I’m not sure how those of you who have been working twenty years plus manage it at all; on current form I’m not sure I’ll be able to manage twenty days. I feel like the proverbial dog chasing its own tail; no matter how hard you try, you’re not going to make it. Of course I will make it and probably sooner than I think, I am wading through my list gradually. That is a point actually, it would help if I had a list. But I don’t. I just hold all the relevant details in my head and constantly go over them to check that there’s nothing I’ve forgotten, which leads to unnecessary stress. But by the time I’ve deliberated whether I should handwrite or type a list, and if handwrite then in which notebook I’m most likely to remember to check and update it, it seems more productive just to get on with doing the tasks I’m procrastinating about writing down. You see? I make things unnecessarily difficult.

The invitations for my book launch have been consuming a lot of my time over the last few days. It’s very important to get them right, and I know this. They will be going out to Very Important People and it’s vital that they convey the right image. I want them to say: good book and Bright Young Thing basically. Not quite in the Evelyn Waugh/Stephen Fry way, I can’t have alcohol and scandal tarnishing my reputation, but similar. Ish. And I won’t be able to call myself ‘young’ for much longer, so I’d better do it while I can. Anyway, a friend of mine alerted me to the idea that people will perceive me in a certain way (before that I’d thought they would concentrate on the book) by commenting on my intended outfit for the book launch. “So,” he said, “you’re going for the young, sexy, author look are you?” I must be honest – until that point I hadn’t even been aware that such a thing existed. I certainly haven’t seen it as a fancy dress option anywhere before. But that aside, it was vital that I spent time making sure that my invitations were right. I want them to be classy, clear and – well – inviting. And I started off with all good intentions but then when I was in the offices of the printing place and being offered lots of different designs and choices – most of which I didn’t understand because they related to the size and thickness of the card used – frankly it sounded as though the proprietor were speaking in code. And I felt my attention begin to slip away onto more interesting things. I’d drag it back and focus and before I knew it, it was sliding away again and taking my eyes with it. Luckily the appointment ended fairly soon after that with the promise of a proof image via email within the hour. It arrived and I deliberated over it for a lot of hours – without actually managing to appraise it effectively at all. The sensible part of me (0.4%) knew that I should spend time making sure it was perfect, but the rest (can’t do maths) was screaming ‘it’s fine, just say yes’. But I didn’t! I listened to sense, and also someone else, and forced myself to make sure it was as perfect as it could be before I gave the go-ahead to print them. Just to clarify: it isn’t laziness/disinterest that prevents me from taking a proper interest in things, it’s the fact that I have So Much Stuff to focus on at the moment I feel guilty for prioritising one thing. It’s like trying not to favour a child, except inanimate objects really don’t listen to reason. So my mind flicks back and forth continually with other thoughts crowding out the one I’m actually trying to progress….. If anyone says a book release is easy, they are lying.

However, my eldest daughter went back to school yesterday, and my younger one went today.  Which should, in theory, give me a lot more free time in which to be productive. Yesterday it didn’t work out like that, I got sidetracked by a coffee morning and conversations. This is more important than it sounds because my new manuscript is largely reliant on these conversations – they will be its lifeblood if I get the stuff I’m looking for. To give you an example I heard one such conversation today – it was a serious conversation – and it ran like this (between two American women):

A:“You know, I’m so used to my kids being the only white-blondes around that I struggle to identify them here. I used to say ‘there’s mine’ and now I’m like ‘oh – I’m not so sure’”.

B: “I totally know what you mean, it was like that when we lived in Japan. It was easy finding my kids because they were the whitest ones there.”

A: “Guess it’s going to be more difficult here, huh?”

B: “Totally.”

For those not in the know, this not a normal school-gate conversation. Not a lot of people have previously lived in Japan, but even less rely on their children’s hair and skin colour to identify them in a crowd. I have no problems identifying my eldest daughter at the moment however, she’ll be the child scratching her head. Oh yes, the Nits Are Back. I discovered this at bedtime the night before school started – nightmare. But the nits paid for it. After I combed them all out onto kitchen paper we lit a little nit bonfire outside and I was immensely satisfied to watch them burn. Hideous things.

So to re-cap: I am very busy and also quite stressed. This is a new emotion to me, nothing has ever stressed me before; GCSEs, A-Levels, Uni, childbirth, motherhood….I’ve been quite relaxed about it all. But not this and I don’t know why. I suppose it might have something to do with finally achieving a really important goal and wanting to make sure that everything goes to plan…..but let’s just say that my stress-relievers are definitely in demand at the moment. And they go by the names of Chablis, Sancerre, Meursault, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. This last is a wine and not a child, just to be clear. I don’t know if you’ve met them? But yesterday I found myself in an alcohol-free house! This was purely by accident I hasten to add. Mere oversight by my stressed and tired brain. My in-laws live nearby (who am I kidding? They live next door) and I considered crawling round there and begging for a bottle of wine, but this is NOT a good look and my pride prevented me. I decided to root through the kitchen cupboards for the meths instead. Clearly I am verging on true bona fide, alcoholic, scandalous, Bright Young Thing territory.