Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Panto

If you're a lover of colourful language
If you're in awe of the double entendre
If you're mad about men wearing make-up
And you're wild about waving a wand

Then you need a seat at the panto
Where the sexiest woman's a man
Where the lead boy is often a lady
But be careful if you take your gran....

Every other line is innuendo
Every innocent item is rude
Cream horns and big baps are now filthy
Stick it in dear, we love when it's lewd!

The best lines belong to the animals
The best legs belong to the dame
And there's always an actor who makes you think
"What a minute - is that whatsisname?"

There'll be singing and shouting a plenty
Costume changes and a set piece or two
And if there's only one thing you remember
When you see the bad guy, you must BOOOOOOOOOOOOO


--------

This poem was is dedicated to the Corn Exchange Newbury, and in particular the cast of Dick Whittington - panto at its best! 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Christmas Warning

Merry Christmas everyone!
At Christmas, enter my house at your peril
The rooms are all bomb sites, the children are feral

New guests arrive as the last are departing
Our brains are in a funk, and everyone's farting

Days pass in a haze, we slump and we list
We're fed up of Twister and being half-pissed

Last week we were lively, fresh faced and perky
Now our skin's gone to pot, and our insides are turkey

The mere thought of port makes me want to heave
I won't touch a drop, til at least New Year's Eve


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Why Christmas Cards Matter

It was always Aunty Janet who was first.  Sometimes her card would arrive at the end of November; spaced out letters carefully indicating our address.  That award has now been passed on to Aunty Margaret - 1st of December her card popped through the door, beginning what is one of my favourite traditions: the sending of the Christmas cards.

Ah - the mark of the left-hander
Card writing is more fraught for us left-handers - pens must be chosen carefully or else our thoughtful missives become streaked with the mark of those born 'cack-handed' - but I truly enjoy those couple of hours that I spend thinking of each person as I write out their card.  Remembering their children's names; the laughs we have had; how our lives have changed since the last time that we saw each other.

There are those that think Christmas cards are a waste of time, those who think they are a waste of money and those who (like my uncle) are extremely vexed if the card contains no more than a "Merry Christmas".  As he so succinctly puts it "why bother to send a card all the way to Australia if you're not prepared to bloody well write something proper in it?".

My father-in-law pens a couple of sentences to each of the grandchildren in their Christmas and birthday cards which convey an entire story related to the picture on the front of the card.  His handwriting is expressive and lyrical and what he writes makes me so happy for the children that I am doubly glad I am married to his son - those cards go in the box marked 'keep forever'.

Only one person I know writes like this..
We all want to make our mark in the world and one of the easiest ways to do it is by putting pen to paper.  To show someone we've thought of them, to take the time out to do so.  Using a groovy font on an email is no substitute for the individual loop of your letters, no replacement for the joy that is your glad tidings written on something that is real.

Hmmmm - 'arty'
One of the cards that arrived for me today made me squeal with excitement as I could tell it was Laura from the envelope.  There is absolutely no mistaking her handwriting and it reminded me of all those teenage years that we spent scrawling Prince lyrics on her bedroom walls and trying to pose 'artfully' with unlit cigarettes hanging out of our mouths (whilst we were rebellious - we weren't stupid enough to smoke when her dad was home....).  I think of the teenagers that we were and the women we have become and I am so happy that we are still in touch.

These flecks of ink on envelopes have the power to move me before I've even looked at the contents and I know I'm not the only one.  We end as we begin with Aunty Janet; it is her funeral and amongst the flowers is a piece of writing that I will never forget: a square of paper decorated with flowers that reads "Your cards were always first."

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Saturday, 12 December 2015

What every woman wants for Christmas

Darling, don't buy me a Dyson
When you're out Christmas shopping this year
There's something else I've got my eyes on
But it seems that my hints are not clear


Sweetie, do not buy me saucepans
I don't care how special they are
And I would think twice, if you think it is nice
To buy anything that's "for the car"

Lover, do not buy me lingerie
That is tacky, or lacking in taste
Yes to knickers of silk, or a similar ilk
But not with holes "strategically placed"

Wubsy, if you buy me weighing scales
You may find them wrapped round your head
I don't want to measure the impact of food pleasure
So I'd like something special instead

Something that is unique and fabulous
Something to take my breath away
Something that is killer, as my stocking filler
To give me the best Christmas Day

But don't expect me just to tell you
What I want, or to which shop you should go
If you want the surprise to light up in my eyes
I expect you to simply just know.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Black Friday

For some Black Friday is a shopping idyll
Where you can buy everything that you 'need'
When the whole world turns into a Lidl
And we follow like dogs on a lead

Every advert that tells us "slashed prices"
Every promise "save 80 percent"
You can go get an asbo in ASDA
Queues form early - you may need a tent

You can fight over tellys in Tesco
Maraud over mascara in Boots
Or if you're a bit more upmarket
Go to Harrods and fight over suits

You can head out to Next just as dawn breaks
Fix your mind set to "that sparkly-top-that-is-half-price-with-a-slight-snag" is MINE!"
Park your car like it's just been abandoned
And hope that you don't get a fine

Or give all your money to Amazon
Have the boxes all sent your house
Shed your entire month's salary
With one little click of a mouse
Image from jacobreed.net

These bargains won't be there tomorrow
These deals, they will not exist
These items, they won't buy themselves you know
But this shopping tale comes with a twist

You know when Black Friday is over
When your cupboards are bulging with stuff
When you think "yep, everyone's sorted
I've definitely bought enough"

There'll be an email in your inbox
A banner ad that will make you wail
And an ad on the tv announcing
"Good news people - we're having a sale!"





Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Responding to War

A brief summary of the wars and terrorist attacks I can recall in my lifetime so far, and what I did as a result of each:

IRA Attacks
I wasn't quite ten but I do remember the Brighton bombing being reported on the news.  Bins were removed from town centres and train stations.  I put my crisp packets in my pockets and carried on being a child.

The Cold War
This boils down to a programme I watched and a book I read:
  1. Spitting Image - I'm not sure why my parents let me watch this as a child - the political satire completely washed over me as I concentrated on waiting for the "Gorby", Reagan and Thatcher puppets to appear and the song at the end of the show.      
  2. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs.  I'm not sure why my parents bought me this book (do you detect a theme?).  Having thoroughly enjoyed Fungus the Bogeyman I thought I was in for a treat.  Instead I was absolutely petrified and wondered how quickly I could paint the windows white and turn the kitchen table on its side when the four minute warning came.  I cried a lot after reading this book.
I continued to enjoy Spitting Image, never looked at When the Wind Blows again and carried on being a child (albeit one with a knowledge of satirical songs that I could recite, but didn't understand).

The Falklands War
I was seven when this happened but have very clear memories of various features run by The Sun to support 'Our Boys' including a song to be sung to the tune of 'Don't Cry for me Argentina'.  It is entirely possible that we stuck a Union Jack that came in the centre pages of the paper to one of our windows.  It is also entirely possible that The Sun ran pictures of bare-breasted women wearing camouflage as a means to support the war effort.

I learned the words to the song, and carried on being a child (albeit one who thought seeing a pair of tits in a newspaper was normal).

The Gulf War
By this point I was using fake ID to get into pubs and dodgy nightclubs.  Quite often you'd encounter men who said they were soldiers who were off to serve and "might not come back", and they wondered if me or my friends might like to oblige them with a sexual favour.... 

We carried on going out, carried on using our fake ID but stayed the hell away from men with low rent chat up lines.

The Iraq War
By this point I had a friend living in Kuwait who described the time a rocket went over the British Embassy.  She hid under a table.  I thought again about 'When the Wind Blows' and decided that tables are actually a life-saving bit of kit.  I also worried constantly about her, hoped she would come home (which thankfully she did) and carried on living my life.

9-11
I was out shopping, buying a present for my husband to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.  My phone beeped with a text from my brother that read "A plane hit the Twin Towers" - I called him to ask what the punchline to the joke was.  Then realised how far from a joke it was.  

Walking back to work some fighter jets crossed the sky and when I arrived at the office everyone was crowded around a computer - the news website crashed so we put on a radio and stood there in silence and disbelief.  I thought "Oh shit, this is it, WWIII is on the way."  I still can't believe it happened.  I did travel to America in the years that followed, and continued to visit tourist attractions, landmarks, corporate offices.  I went to work for a big American company.  I carried on living my life.

7-7
I was at Heathrow airport - and couldn't believe the news.  I phoned my husband.  We made sure everyone we loved was safe.  I was afraid but I got on the plane.  I carried on visiting London and using public transport.    

I have children now.  They want to know what's going on in the world.  I tell them a little, avoid 24 hour news when they're around, and am mindful of the newspapers.  They worry about whether there will ever be a time when "they don't have any family" or whether bombs will "come here" and then remark on how lovely the sausage rolls were that they had the other day, and write out their Christmas Lists.  They don't put 'world peace' - they want a Lego Death Star and Sylvanian Families.  They carry on being children. And I want to protect that.  To protect them.

I am not a politician, I'm not a soldier and I'm not a member of the security services.  I can't trawl the 'dark web' and track people, infiltrate ranks, engage in combat or seek to solve problems that have no clear resolution, so what can I do?  

I can only do what I know.  The stuff that I was born and brought up to do: show kindness and compassion, give and receive love, enjoy life, make music, draw pictures, trust people, laugh, have fun, take the opportunities that life puts my way, enjoy the moment.  This life is a gift, and whatever way it is taken away from me, I want to know that I have lived my life, and helped my children to live theirs - happily and unafraid.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

London Calling

One of the things about living in a village is that it will eventually turn you into a Country Mouse and a trip to London will become a major event which involves discussing travel options with your friends because:

  • Your nearest train station might as well shut from 8pm onwards given the infrequency of the service (and the fact that you need to change to get on a main line which, if timed wrong, could leave you stranded at Reading as your car waits patiently in the car park at Newbury for you).
  • Driving to a 'proper' station involves either a parking fee that will make you swear (£17.80 for 7 hours at Reading..) or a walk to your car that includes having to cross a bridge with steps so steep you'll develop an irrational fear that the man behind you is going to push you down them (thanks Didcot).

This combination of extortionate parking, irrational bridge-fears and worrying about being stranded, led to me deciding to drive to an evening event in the arse-end of nowhere (or Docklands, as it is more commonly known).  The sat nav was set, I was ready to go.

I glided along the M4 and entered our capital city under the watchful eye of giant Mockingjay and Call of Duty ads - a grim portent of things to come?  Not initially - the sat nav lady had decreed that I should experience some impressive sights first:

The Royal Albert Hall where cyclists slither at speed between cars like black lycra-clad sperm rushing to a waiting egg.  They wear no helmets and use tiny flashing red lights to alert you to their presence - a far cry from the blinding bike torches and neon clothing of the countryside cyclists that I know.  The parking sensors go mad and I wonder how on earth they maintain their balance and concentration under the assault of traffic fumes, breathtaking buildings and unpredictable manoeuvres.


The Ritz where a top-hatted doorman skips like Fred Astaire across the road to usher an elderly couple into a cab.  They are elegantly dressed but look dowdy next to his tails and epaulets.  Back on the pavement a bell boy pushes a gilded luggage trolley filled with bags from Selfridges and Harrods.  He wheels them to a discrete side door so they can be whisked to the room of someone too rarefied to be seen with their own shopping.


Image from broadwayworld.com

The Strand, strewn with Christmas lights which makes me feel like I am on a float in a Disney parade.  Even the buses are in a festive mood - great sweeps of window curve up and over the side of the them like the flash of a shoulder revealed by an evening dress.  I am in awe, but not for long....




Hyde Park Corner and Holborn await me snarled up and twisted like a spastic colon.  Lanes closed, cars too close, people oblivious to the traffic lights.  The sat nav represents major junctions as mere roundabouts which confuses the hell out of me, lanes disappear behind netting and traffic cones, signs and road markings become invisible under the weight of traffic.  I pause for a group of pedestrians who have ignored the lights.  A taxi driver properly, massively, blares his horn to inform me that it really is 'each for their own'.  I realise that I am not cut out for using my car as a plough to move people - he'll have to wait.

After a learner-driver on a moped swerves across two lanes and into my path, I find myself off course and on Liverpool Street.  Which is a cul-de-sac.  A cul-de-sac full of taxis that have formed a little Yo! Sushi style conveyor belt to allow customers into their cabs.  They are not going to move for me (not a great night for me and taxis) and I end up reversing the length of the street - unfortunately not with my left arm slung casually across the back of the front passenger seat...

A good hour later the Limehouse Link tunnel welcomes me and I eventually get to the NCP which closes in just over two hours time unless I want to pay a £50 release fee.  It has taken me 2 hours to cross the city.  I am deflated as I walk from my car to the venue but then I cross the bridge and see this:




Many people would argue that there is no beauty to be found in the financial district but there is something about seeing London lit up at night, reflected on the water, that is pretty magical to me.


My inner Country Mouse marvels at the sight and then I remember that behaving like a naive tourist at night is not a sensible thing to do and put my phone away.  The event goes well and the journey home takes only two hours door to door - it's a result but what will stay with me is the journey there.

Those two hours crawling across the city felt like a valid way to experience London - beautiful, maddening, alive, infuriating, confusing, crowded and never, ever boring.  It drove me round the twist, and I feel like I earned some driving stripes, but most of all I fell a little bit more for our capital city.  London, I love you.


Soundtrack:  London Calling - The Clash

Monday, 2 November 2015

Quelle heure est-il?

What's the time?
I'm
6 o'clock and all's...dark
Not sure, anymore

Clocks 'spring forward' and 'fall back'
I wake up and it is the crack
of dawn
I yawn

My brain is in an awful mix
Is it 7 o'clock or 6?

At 4.30pm we go to the park
And sit there, swinging in the dark

Our body clocks are all confused
I don't think that we can get used
To shortened days
And longer nights
Bare legs now swathed
In winter tights

We bundle up indoors and pine
For warmer days and bright sunshine

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Five things to do - for free - in the school holidays


School holidays are expensive - even if you're not heading off for a week in the Canaries.  The expense is inconsistent too: a day at Legoland will sting you for at least £70 even if you have collected your cereal packet vouchers; two hours at the cinema will cost you close to £30 for an adult and two children, but one of the local holiday clubs near me (why aren't they called 'play schemes' anymore?) charges only £11 per child for 5 hours.  Whichever way you turn it's going to cost.

So, in an attempt not to hemorrhage money this summer, I thought I'd rack my brains for those times when my children have enjoyed themselves, and it hasn't cost me a penny.  Here's my top five:


Mmm.....delicious!

1. Let them make a 'potion'

Give the kids a bowl or jar and (almost) free reign to put what they like into it. When it's complete, decant the potion into a used water bottle and 'voila' your very own 'marvellous medicine'.  It will be disgusting but you will get at least 30 minutes peace.

Warning: Before you attempt this - make sure you've put the good stuff away or your favourite hand cream is going to go missing (as I discovered here).


2. Funny face drawing game

Beautiful - no?
Get a sheet of paper, fold it in three and take it in turns to draw parts of a face.  Warning can be addictive - you may need a ream of paper.

Double warning this can get very silly, very quickly - watch out for the addition of "wee and poo" to the character that you've worked so very hard to render accurately.

3. Tickets Please!

This is a much loved game in our family (read more here).  We play it using our slide - but you don't need a slide to do it!  Here's how it works:


  • You are the ticket inspector - it is your job to inspect your child's 'ticket' (real or imaginary, either will do) and decide whether they are allowed to pass (down the slide in our case).
  • You never, ever allow your child to pass on the first go.  You must inspect the ticket, then explain in outraged voice why you cannot let them pass because their ticket is out of date / for a different mode of transport / poo-stained.
  • Once you decide to let them pass, you must let them think they've got away with it before exclaiming "Hey!  That ticket says Mickey Mouse / is a used chip wrapper / is poo-stained!"
  • You then chase them around the house / garden / park until they are back at the start.

4. Shout at your children in a foreign accent

This game started in our family when we found ourselves stuck in a caravan with no tv on a very wet day.  Having become frustrated at the children's failure to listen to me shouting at them not to play with the pull-out bed, I thought I'd give it a go whilst using a German accent (and the handful of German words that I know).  It resulted in unexpected hilarity and gave us a welcome respite from playing Uno for the 130th time.  
Note: You don't need to speak a second / third / fourth (okay, okay uber-talented linguist) language to succeed in this game, but you do need to shout it like you believe it.  

5. If all else fails.....give them an Argos catalogue

Who needs the internet
when you've got one of these?
I reckon Argos could compete with serious publishing houses for the amount of print that they produce...and the popularity of their free doorstop-sized shopping bibles.  This popularity seems not to have waned with the advent of the digital generation - my children love them more than the internet!  And far from turning them into mad consumers it has actually made them aware of how much things cost, encouraged conversations about saving, and there is the extra bonus that there is absolutely no risk of them clicking a link and adding twelve Lego Death Star kits to my basket.

Warning: You need one per child or all out war will start.  No-one wants to be given the furniture section whilst the other one gets the toys....


Well those are my top five - perhaps not quite enough to get us all the way through the holidays but it's a start - if you've got anymore let me know!


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Duvet Wars

It's time for the Duvet War
And I want to have more
Than you
The problem is
You want more too

Image from harrycorry.com
The weather here is freezing tonight
And in our sleep we start the fight
I wake up and my left side is cold
Because you, my one true love,  have rolled
And gripped the duvet between your thighs
I shiver and wish it was King-Size

I tug the corner
But it’s stuck tight
And you are out, just like a light
All toasty, sleeping like a log
Dreaming merrily in our 10 tog

I pull hard and wake you
But I don't care
This is Duvet Wars 
And you must share!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Tandem

Ten minutes after this photo was taken
I wasn't smiling quite so much.....
"Let's ride a tandem" my husband said
Planting a seed inside my head
Of a romantic gesture, built for two
"I'll ride up front, and chauffeur you"

I thought it was a marvelous treat
Until ten minutes spent in the seat
Revealed that the tandem we had on loan
Had a back seat that was made of stone

And whilst the pace was easy to keep
My nether regions fell straight to sleep
"Please can we stop" I found myself sobbing
My legs were fine but my noony was throbbing!

We dismounted: and this feels hard to explain
But along with standing like John Wayne
Came a pins & needles fizzing sensation
That made me lose my concentration

Back on the bike and I can vouch
I said something a lot stronger than "ouch"
It felt like a brick was beneath my smalls
I held in a scream and wished I had balls

The man at the bike shop said "How was your ride?"
As I hobbled, wobbled and staggered inside
"My bits really hurt" I said with a choke
"I see why", he replied, "that seat's meant for a bloke!"

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

If Estate Agents had to Tell the Truth

Image: sellahouseonline.co.uk
I have been highly entertained this week by an estate agent's description of a house that is up for sale near me.  It says that it can be accessed by a "ramp passing up over a stream".  The 'stream' in question is actually a culvert that is either bone dry or full to bursting on those rare occasions when the rivers that flow underneath the village rise up and surprise us all, bringing shoals of energy drink cans, and crisp packets discarded by people who are allergic to bins, floating up to the surface.

The point of this post however, is not to expose the estate agent in question, but rather to ponder whether we'd sell be able to sell our houses if we had to tell the truth.  To try this out, let me take you on a virtual tour of my own home....

The front garden
Estate agent: "a charming gravel drive with stepping stones leading up to the front door".

Me: "if I slip one more time on this bloody gravel I am going to block pave the entire bloody thing and don't get me started on how bloody difficult it is to pull a pushchair / wheelie bin / carry shopping in heels up here.  We've got gravel on a slope - who in their right minds would do that?!"

The hall
Estate agent: "a bright hallway which allows light to enter the length of the house."

Me: "this is where the children dump all their crap.  Sometimes they simply shed their shoes as they enter the house which means you can't shut the front door."

Clear stairs - so rare
I took a picture...
The stairs
Estate agent: "an elegant enclosed staircase with very high ceilings giving a sense of spaciousness."

Me: "this is where my husband dumps his coat.  It also acts as a transition point for crap that should belong upstairs but has made its way downstairs.  The high ceiling means it is an absolute bitch to decorate and impossible to remove cobwebs from without balancing perilously on a chair at the top of the stairs.

The living room
Estate agent: "a comfortable room featuring French doors that offer easy access to, and from, the garden."

Me: "this room has no storage.  Unless you count "under the sofas" oh, and "behind the sofas"".  Nobody steps from the garden into this room - it's got a bloody carpet!"

Don't go in there...
The kitchen
Estate agent: "built to an excellent specification, this kitchen has been incredibly well designed to accommodate family dining."

Me: "this room cost us a fortune, so it should look nice.  Just don't open the cupboard under the stairs unless you really like the sight of 3,000 plastic bags and 112 cook books wedged in at right angles around a hoover.  And mind the change jar doesn't fall of the shelf and kill you."

The bedrooms
Estate agent: "Period features bring charm to these three well appointed rooms."

Me:  "These rooms do not have enough storage.  Unless you count "under the beds".  The period features mean you will smash your hip at least once on one of the fireplaces."

The bathroom
Estate agent: "a high quality, very modern family bathroom."

Me:  "This is where I spend at least 3 minutes a day cleaning wee that is not mine from around the toilet, 30 minutes a day sorting out washing, and 10 minutes a day hiding from my children.  It is the only room in the house with a lock on and normally has a child outside of it shouting "muh-meeeee!".  If not that, there will be a child on either side of the door shouting at each other.  The floor is hard enough to smash a smartphone screen."

Fortunately I am not an estate agent, and not about to sell my house.  But if by some chance either of those come true, and this post comes back to bite me on the arse, at least I'll have told the truth.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Errant Fly

*Burp*
Errant fly
I don't know why
You zoomed into my mouth as I was running
Was it a premeditated act of cunning?

Or did my ill-timed intake of breath...
Draw you, buzzing, to your death?
And as you travelled towards my gut

I think we both wished, I'd kept my mouth shut.


Monday, 28 September 2015

Wave Goodbye

Following on from the wistful post about my little girl growing up, here's....another one.

The walk to and from school has taken many forms over the past six years - from blissfully skipping hand-in-hand under trees dappled by sunlight, to nightmarish epics where we're being lashed by rain and splashed by passing cars as one of the children screams that they are "NOT. WALKING. ANY. MORE!" 

I have taken anything from one child to five children on this walk; in the latter case I am a pied-piper marching down the path with a little crew trotting behind (but not in a weird child-catcher kind of way, more in a "I offered to help way more people than I realised and am now carrying five book bags" kind of way).

The journey has gradually got easier as their legs have got longer but something else has happened in the past few weeks; we leave the house together but other than that I pretty much walk on my own.  The boy wonder runs or scoots ahead with his friend, and my daughter and her friend meander somewhere behind me deep in conversation.  Where I used to hold a little hand, all that's needed for me to hold now is an umbrella that my daughter refuses to use (proving that she is nearly ready for senior school - those kids never wear a coat, let alone use a brolly!), or a lunch box that is getting in the way of my son's aerodynamics.  I exchange rueful smiles with the other parents who appear to be walking a rucksack to school.  We have, as one mum put it, become donkeys - transporting our children's heavy loads.

Events like this are occurring ever more frequently and whilst there are elements of being needed that I was very happy to drop (I never once enjoyed trying to catch a cascade of baby vomit or when nappy changing required everyone to have a full change of clothes thanks to errant weeing and explosive pooing) there are times when I don't feel quite ready to be surplus to requirements - none more so than when that hugs and kiss before they go into school was first replaced by a wave goodbye.

But my need is not theirs. Their growing confidence and independence mean that they don't want a constant waterfall of overt affection to be showered upon them - it is very uncool when you're with your friends to have your mum trying to plant a sloppy kiss on your forehead.  What they need now is to know that the hugs are ready to be switched on at any given moment - as I found when one of the children felt unwell and snuggled in for a good half an hour.  I caught their cold as a result but it was worth it.


So I stand back and try to calm the ever-alert hawk that twitches in my brain, desperate to swoop down and protect my young.  I keep to the very edge of the playground (which now has yellow lines designed to inform parents precisely where they are permitted to stand - perhaps this was actually the children's idea?) and speak to my own friends, glancing occasionally to make sure the children are ok - which of course they are as they don't have their mum cramping their style.  I watch them go in, wave goodbye, and walk back home.

And then I find this on the table:


I'm reminded that just because it's not shown on the playground, it doesn't mean it's not felt - I got a hug after all.


Soundtrack - Wave Goodbye - Steadman

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mystery Meat

Mystery meat
Mystery meat
I've looked in the freezer
There's just you to eat
Are you a health hazard
Or are you a treat?
What are you mystery meat?

Mystery meat
No label = no idea what the contents are...

There is no label
On top of the Tupperware 
So how am I able
To tell if you're safe
To serve up at the table?
Dare I chance it, mystery meat?

Mystery meat
Is it months or days
You've been in the icebox
In a frozen haze?
There's only two options for this foodstuff maze
Bin or taste you, mystery meat

Mystery meat
The microwave pings
I hope that the heat has killed off nasty things
The mystery's over 
And my heart it sings

You're last week's spag bol, mystery meat!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Jamie Oliver Set My Kitchen on Fire

Jamie Oliver, you, sir, are a liar!
LIES, DAMN LIES!!
You made me start a kitchen fire
I'm not sure when it was you dreamt
Someone just like me could attempt
Half an hour for three courses - I'm on to you
I didn't even try for two

I went for just one thing to eat
A pizza designed for "a cheat"
But Jamie do you think you can
Picture adding oil to a "very hot" pan
It will send up a sheet of flame
This is what I actually got..
That seems impossible to tame

My stuffing-face-with-pizza desire
Is replaced by a need to extinguish fire
I put it out with a wet towel
And then my stomach began to growl..
The pan was ruined, and nothing was eaten
Your recipe left me hungry and beaten

Oh Jamie, how I do despise
Your beautifully presented book of lies
And though you want to preserve my health
I'm placing you back on the shelf
My attitude may make you frown
But at least my house will not burn down

***

Footnote: this is a true story.  You can read the blog post that inspired this poem here


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sunday Service #1


Sometimes we all need a bit of peace and quiet.  I've been collecting videos of things that make me feel good to be alive.  Here's one of them:



Thursday, 3 September 2015

Bush Issues

You know how it is when you're planning a swim
You look down below and the bush needs a trim

You think to yourself
Would this look ok?
If I tucked it all in ...
Or would hair start to stray


With each movement I made
To get into the pool
If I wore shorts instead

Do you think I could fool


The hirsute swimmer's friend
Other swimmers in thinking
I was a surf chick?
If I had a quick shave
There's a risk I might nick

That delicate skin
And then get a rash
When I go to the pool
I want to make a splash

With my elegant strokes
Not looking like Fozzie
Is hiding away 

Down the front of my cossie


If pull down the bottom, there's a chance it might hide
My topiary
But if I go down the slide....
It will ride up and show I'm too busy relaxing

To spend time on plucking and shaving and waxing

And then I see blokes

With big hairy guts
All covered in pubes from their throats to their nuts
Who don't need to be shaved
Yet when it comes to my bits
They must be so carefully managed 

And it's....

Very unfair and a little bit weird
That my foof must be covered
But not a man's beard!


The filter gets clogged
With the hair from their backs
The pool would be cleaner
If men all got waxed!


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Don't Go Changing

I've never hankered for a return to the baby years; as each year passes the children have become more interesting, engaging and surprising and there is a huge amount to be said for being free of potty training and broken sleep.  These strong-bodied, active, articulate little people teach me just as much about myself (I need to keep a cooler head, play more, worry less) as they do about themselves (they hear more than I give them credit for, they can sense if I want five minutes to myself and so interrupt me, they will read the front cover of Private Eye and ask what "pissed" means....).

This summer, however, I've felt a niggle.  One that I should be mentally capturing moments and committing them to memory even more keenly than before, especially when it comes to my daughter.

For her, this summer has been one of cartwheels, of plunging into rivers on rope swings, Cub camps and family camps and running through fields uninhibited and happy.  

For me, it has been one of unexpected cuddles, of watching her conquer fears and dive into swimming pools and freezing seas, of tearing across a field in her shorts roaring with laughter, of conspiring with her cousins for an extra hour of play.  It has been the best.

And then I remember that tomorrow she's moving up a year at school.  And that there are girls two years older than her entering into puberty and if I'm honest, I'm happy to wait a hell of a lot longer for that to come knocking.

My husband and I don't 'baby' our children, and we're open about what's to come but now feels like a very special time for our girl.  I can still carry her (although only just), and it is still more than ok to tickle fight, water fight and pillow fight.  I'm still helping with hair washes, and still called upon to give a kiss goodnight and read bedtime stories.  She is free to run, jump and play unselfconsciously and I want that to last *as long as possible*.  

I like to think that a bit of honesty plus keeping the house free of MTV, Page 3 and trashy magazines will help to keep her free of undue pressure and crappy role models but I can't delay the inevitable, and I can't pretend it isn't going to happen.  What I do hope is that I get just a couple more summers like this one.  Don't go changing - not just yet.




Soundtrack: Just the Way You Are - Billy Joel

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Stiletto Shoes

Stiletto shoes
You're the footwear I'd choose
These will be going back in the box then......
If my car was driven by a chauffeur
Or I never had to leave my sofa

If I never had the school run to do...
Oh how I'd cherish a pretty shoe
And on those rare occasions when
I try to put on heels again


You make my ankles painfully twist
And fail to hold me up when pissed
I've decided it's probably better that
I stick to shoes that are sturdy and flat

Friday, 28 August 2015

Push

"Push through your bottom" the midwife said
As I lay panting on the bed
"Push, push, push! I can feel the head!"
"SO CAN I!" was my reply...


"Now push, now wait....
no more pushing until you completely dilate."


"Now push, then pant in measured spurts
And I know Mrs Kent your vagina hurts

You should listen to me, I am wiser and older
Must you bite your husband on the shoulder?"

"Push, push, push, just one more try!"
There was a rip, and a slip, and a baby's cry
A girl, a daughter!
A hug, and then
"I am never doing that again."

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Stinging Nettles

Nature: out to get you
Overgrown stinging nettles
You have no fragrant smell or petals
All you are is bouquet of pins
Pricking my ankles and hurting my shins

The reddened bumps begin to rise...
And then you sting me on my thighs
How is it that you have mastered
Getting through clothes? You spiteful bastard!


I'll have to change my running loop
Or turn you into nettle soup

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Truth About Camping

It is our first camping anniversary.  A year in which our family has gone from borrowed tent to ownership, and from zero accessories to a camping box that contains a collapsible colander, a magical cookery set that fits into something the size of a saucepan and no less than 6 torches.  We are converted, and fully committed.

And whilst I may be a convert, I'm certainly not evangelical - you won't (yet) catch me signing up for two weeks in the wild or even a weekend on a site that has a compost toilet and no showers.  Having recently read a blog that made me vomit in my mouth a little bit thanks to its earnestness ("you really must buy merino under layers for your children"), I thought I'd bust some myths and reveal the truth (ok my truth) when it comes to camping.

Camping is cheap.

This is a LIE.  Unless you're camping in your back garden and subsisting on tap water, foraged

A money pit with a view...
blackberries and stolen apples, camping will cost you money.  When you first buy a tent you think "ooh, isn't this the life, we'll invest £400 now and reap the rewards for the next 10 years".  Then you realise that pitch fees can range between £15 and £50 per night.  And that you have to buy good sleeping bags.  And a cooker.  And implements that are easily transportable.  And chairs.  And these things occasionally break or fail which will cause you to spend more money.  Watch your cheap weekend spiral into profligate spending as you realise that a. your mattress has a hole in it or b. your food has gone off thanks to an un-forecasted spell of sunshine and a lack of ice packs on your part. 

Camping is easy.

The 'lap of crap'
This is also a lie.  You try packing a car in the vain attempt to prove that you can fit all of the stuff in that you've had to buy without caving in to buying a trailer or a roof box that fits surprisingly little in it, despite the fact that it is the length of your car.  We haven't bought a trailer yet, but given the last time we camped I had a 'lap of crap' - that is, a bag full of stuff that didn't fit anywhere else - it's on the cards.

Then try to put up a tent.  Together.  My husband's tactic was to first put the tent up with one of his friends, which meant that when we went camping as a family I had no idea what was required.  The same went for when we had to take the damn thing down and pack it back into its slightly-too-small bag.  It was one of the least laid back holidays we have ever had.  On the plus side, it has probably worked wonders for our marriage as several trips later we are expert in the art of tongue biting and compromise.

Camping is great for kids.

Now *that's* a family walk
This is true.  Our children have cycled through forests, swung on rope swings over streams, had amazing adventures and made new friends*.  It's the main reason that I enjoy, and recommend,
camping.

*Under no circumstances say to your children "Why don't you go off and make some new friends?"  It's like one of your friends pointing out a group of mums on the playground and saying the same thing to you.  These things just need to be left to happen.

Camping is about getting back to nature.

Oh - deer!
Yes and no.  One the one hand, we have woken to deer looking at us in the adjacent field (and been woken up by them eating outside our tent at 3am which is slightly less idyllic), enjoyed proper fresh air for days on end and had our routine dictated by the weather - not our watches.  We have felt the sun on our backs and walked in grass that glitters with the morning dew.  We have observed starry skies and been soaked to the skin as Mother Nature unleashes buckets of water on every man, woman and child.  I am certainly more relaxed for spending time outside of our normal four walls.

On the other hand, the sites we have selected always have 'facilities' which have ranged from club houses, pubs and play parks, to swimming pools and shower blocks that come with hairdryers. We have also had day trips to water parks and been out for a curry during one of our recent breaks. Hardly Bear Grylls (but then even he has been known to stay in a hotel...)

Camping is healthy.

Given the diet of the average camper seems to consist largely of barbecued meat and alcohol, I'm putting this down as a LIE.  No nuts and berries here my friends.

Camping is fun.

The sound of a tent being unzipped at midnight.
Photo (c) www.vulcantothesky.org
Aside from the fact that your children will argue no matter where you take them on holiday (or how you holiday), that you will always forget something crucial (but never the beer), that other families never seem to be having the sense of humour failure that yours is (until you hear another dad shout "we ARE NOT having another day like yesterday!), and that any sound in the middle of the night is equivalent to the Vulcan Bomber flying overhead, this is absolutely TRUE.  We'll be going again soon.




Like this?  You might like my book - Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One - find it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/JZKTmY

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Children Stop Fighting!

Children - please stop fighting each other!
Daughter - you should love your brother
Son - stop winding up your sis
There really is no need for this!

Must you sing the Clas Olsen ad...
Until it drives her completely mad?
You tumble, tussle, yell and shriek
And we've only just begun the week!


If this goes on, we won't survive
The summer hols, which is why I've
Booked Holiday Club for you again
You can have fun, and I can stay sane ;)




Like this?  You can find more of my poetry at www.facebook.com/abrighterwriter 

Monday, 10 August 2015

National Trust

If this summer holiday
You feel it is a must
To pack your kids into the car
And visit a National Trust

I'm duty-bound to warn you
It won't be like the ads
Full of Boden Mummies
And earnest, smiling dads

You won't glide around the gardens
I'm smiling because I'm hiding from my children...
at Basildon Park NT
In a state of familial bliss
Your children won't marvel at nature
What will actually happen is this:

One of them will say "boooring"
And "I can see that statue's bum!"
And "This place smells of dog farts"
You will pretend not to be their mum

It will probably rain on your picnic
And your child will lose a shoe
Then get a splinter in their finger
Then announce "I NEED A POO!"

They'll probably drop their ice cream
Then try to eat it off the floor
Or leave a sticky handprint
On an antique painted door

And the kindly National Trust staff
Will never, ever shout
But you know that they are thinking
"Get those bloody children out"

You'll shout out "Put that cup down!"
And "don't sit on the chairs!"
"The piano is NOT FOR TOUCHING!"
And "no running on the stairs!"

All you wanted was a day out...
And all you did was moan
The trick to visiting the National Trust
Is to go on your own

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Shirtless Man

Image credit: here 
Shirtless man
I know it's hot
But I cannot
Share your belief that it is best
In summer to reveal your chest...

I have to ask would it really hurt
When you're on the street to wear a shirt?
Your brazen display of hair and nips
Is enough to put me off my chips!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Fights with Tights

Now *that's* a ladder!
Tights that are too small
According to the packet I'm not too tall
According to the packet I'm not too wide
But the tights that have been stuffed inside...

Do not fit me, in the way they should
They're from John Lewis - they ought to be good!
With every move, the waistband slips
Eventually stopping just on my hips

The gusset now sits by my knees
Who the hell is designing these?!
I attempt again, heel and toe
To coax them up my leg but no

They're somehow twisted, the fit is not right
You bloody cursed, stupid tight!
I hoik them up as I lose my rag
Then ladder the front, and they start to sag

They're supposed to be "10 denier - nude"
But in actual fact my 'look' is screwed
I'll have to go bare legged today
And hope I don't scare children away

So if by some chance we should meet
When I am walking down the street
And I blind you with my lily-whites
Please don't blame me - please blame the tights

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Radio Ga-Ga - Why the BBC Matters to Me


I have always loved the radio, from the thrill of taping the Chart Show using the 'play' and 'record' buttons on my old Steepletone radio / cassette recorder, to the joy of appearing on Zoe Ball's Breakfast Show in the '90s and winning - yes winning - tickets to an England vs Cameroon friendly at Wembley thanks to my bizarrely detailed knowledge of Stavros and Mrs Merton.

Photo courtesy of clearanceaisleltd
- yes you can still buy these!
Imagine my delight then when a man appeared at my door a couple of weeks ago asking if I wouldn't mind taking part in a radio survey.  It turned out he worked for RAJAR (the radio version of gaydar?) who were conducting a survey on listener habits.  I wondered if it was at all linked to the recent announcement that Apple is 're-inventing radio' and the push to change the BBC and signed myself up.

Ritual de lo Habitual

What I discovered is that I'm a creature of habit when it comes to 'tuning in' and also a massive fan of the BBC.  Radio 2 is the first thing that goes on for its family-friendly start to the day and tunes that remind us that the music we once believed to be 'cool' is  now considered retro... 

Once the kids are packed off to school it's over to 6 Music for a dose of hip-hop, indie and rock that makes me wistful, joyful and causes me to either leap, rock-out or do the running man in the kitchen - I mean, what else were kitchen floors made for?  

Four play

If I'm in the car, then I'll probably tune in to Radio 4.  Oh Radio 4 how I love thee..... I initially started listening when I worked at Microsoft as a means of genning up on business news courtesy of the Today Programme and James "Knock-er-tee" Naughtie - why won't he pronounce his name as it is spelled?  Imagine how much more fun his life could become!  After a while the incessant baiting of, and arguing with, politicians became too much but I have stayed loyal to the channel, thrilled at the ability to hear the most incredible feats of human endeavour and some of the most thought-provoking stories thanks to Prof Jim Al-Khalili's Life Scientific and Jenni Murray and the Woman's Hour team.  

Radio 4 has taken me into the cab of one of the very few female driving instructors in India, introduced me to the awesome Prof Kate Jones (leading bat scientist and funniest guest I have heard), helped me understand (a bit) financial markets, and most recently, made me cry at the moving conversations captured between ordinary people by the Listening Project.  

Perfect Peace and a children's mosh pit

When I really need to concentrate, Radio 3 goes on - no lyrics to invade my work, just interesting music that lulls and stimulates my brain.  I was inspired to give it a try after visiting my childhood next door neighbour's house - we were a bloody noisy family to live next door to; too many children spread across too great an age range in too small a space.  As I stepped inside with my then newborn daughter I couldn't believe the tranquility.  In Yvonne's kitchen was a crossword on the table and classical music coming from the radio.  It was amazing - I'd always envisaged soundproofed walls to keep out our din but no, here was a light filled space of calm just a wall away from the equivalent of a children's mosh pit.  Classical music is magic.

Trumpets and tonguing


But what of Radio 1?  I left there long ago, turned off by Chris Moyles and music that I found too kiddie-pop for my indie tastes.  But then I happened to tune in randomly to Scott Mills one day and discovered Innuendo Bingo.  It was featuring a clip from a Radio 4 programme about trumpet playing - with a particularly emphasis on the optimal tonguing and fingering technique - I spat water across the dashboard as his studio guests spat water over one another.  Puerile?  Yes.  Funny?  Absolutely!  I have been back more than once since and the Greg James "Going Home Song" is now a family staple.

The BBC has something for every aspect of who I am: curious, serious, focused, passionate about music and every now and again (ok, very often), downright childish.  And as a parent I love the fact that not only are their stations advert-free, but when it snows, I can share the joy with my children that is tuning in to your local station to find out if the school is closed - oh the suspense as Andrew Peach from Radio Berks reels off the list of schools and oh the shrieks of joy as ours is called out!  Whatever happens with funding, I sincerely hope that BBC Radio continues in all of its current brilliance - life would be much poorer without it.

  

My radio love affair - in true Craig David style we did it all day Wednesday!