Sunday, May 29, 2005

The edge of reason

So Sunday night finds me blogging in an attempt to clear my head and begin the winding down process for hollybobs. I'm looking forward to getting away, mostly so that I can stop banging on about getting away. The last week at work has been torture and I'm really annoying myself now so I can only imagine how irritating it is for everybody else. The flat is positively subtropical as I've been doing last minute panic-laundry and realised this morning that I haven't got a hope in hell of getting everything dry in time for Small Person's departure for the Ex's tomorrow, so have whacked the heating up to eleven and switched most of the radiators off. Except this being a rented flat the heating system is predictably a bit wonky and therefore my bedroom is hotter than the sun despite the radiator being off in there. Still, the flat is sparkly and my case is nearly packed so not all bad. I'm having to pack virtually everything Small Person possesses as the Ex is not renowned for either housekeeping skills or, after Friday, his parenting. Small Person had her birthday party yesterday at a hellish place called Kidz Kingdom which I loathe with every fibre of my being but it was her choice so I relented. It's a massive echoing place filled with bouncy castles, rubbish food and slack-jawed Saturday staff underlining why it's known as the minimum wage - only those with minimum intelligence need apply. Small Person has had two bad pain-related experiences there in the past so next year I'm going to insist on something a little less fraught with danger. That's assuming of course that she lives to see her sixth birthday - following on from her theme park black eye the other week, this weekend's heart-stopping moment came in the form of a near-drowning. Small Person and Best Friend were apparently paddling in the sea at a nearby beach with her father and Best Friend's mother (I should clarify at this point that the Ex and Best Friend's mother are currently embroiled in what they consider to be a secret affair, what with her being married. However, they're so far from discreet that if Stevie Wonder had been at Small Person's party he'd have been wondering why they didn't just get a room...), when a locally-renowned for being a bit of a worry passenger ferry entered the nearby port. There's been a lot of kerfuffle over the waves this thing generates, but it's been running for three years now - there are warning signs up and down the beach alerting people to just this, but for some reason a) the kids weren't even nearly within reach (Small Person has just turned five, Best Friend is six and neither can swim), and b) no adults noticed the resulting 2-3 foot swell until both children had been engulfed and Best Friend was under the water. While no harm was done it could have turned out a lot differently, and I now have to spend two weeks hoping that my daughter isn't run over/burned alive/sold into slavery while in her father's care. I appreciate the argument that I could always take her on holiday with me, but I feel the more pertinent point is that I should be able to trust her father to look after her as well as I would, but I can't. Grrr. At times like these I find myself idly dreaming of horrible accidents befalling him, leaving me to ensure that Small Person becomes a well-rounded Large Person without too many physical or mental scars.

Ooh, a serious one for a change. Still, it's helped to get that off my chest. That aside, the birthday party was just plain horrible. The Ex, his is-she-or-isn't-she thing, and her friend turned up and almost immediately fucked off to smoke fags, leaving me to watch out for their kids (I don't mind watching mine but let's not take the piss here). They looked like they'd arrived fresh from a caravan on the roadside, and I'll admit to not being happy that my daughter is spending so much time with people who look as if they steal horses for a living. And that includes her father - talk about hindsight - what was I thinking???!! Next year's party will be very different - if the Ex wants to throw one he can organise it himself and I won't have to spend two hours worrying about people thinking I'm in some way affiliated to them. I know, I know, my middle class is showing but I make no apology for that.

On the plus side though, the staff were so woefully inept that I haven't paid a penny for the party. Every cloud and all that......

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Nobody likes a smartarse

I’ve just done it again. The Other Half just forwarded me an email with “spooky” coincidences and similarities between 1981 and 2005 (mostly to do with football but also randomly pointing out that Ken and Deirdre off Corrie got married in both years). Am not sure why 1981 and 2005 are mystically linked but then I’m not a) a numerologist or b) that bothered. However, my first reaction was to immediately rush off to Google some of the more spurious-sounding facts to see if it was true or the product of a fevered geeky imagination. So having established that no, there wasn’t a new Pope in 1981 (he did get shot in 1981 – I’m no vicar but I’m pretty sure that’s not the same thing as being elected Pope. Otherwise presumably inner cities all over Britain would be chock full of scarlet robes and Popemobiles rather than tracksuits and chavved-up Saxos), I triumphantly replied to all concerned to point out that in fact there was a rather large hole in this particular piece of netlore. As if anyone cared. How completely irritating am I? I’m like the class suckup who sits at the front of every lesson and puts their hand up every time a question is asked – generally waving it around, squirming and whining “I know Miss. Miss. Miss. I know” until the rest of the class collectively snaps and beats them to death in a slow-motion hail of packed lunches and novelty pencil sharpeners while the teacher stands at the front slowly applauding and Barber’s Adaggio for Strings swells in the background and…..

….oh, hang on, where was I? Oh yes, my propensity for being a complete smartarse. I just can’t help myself – since the advent of the internet and therefore the tools to debunk any urban myth going I am simply unable to take anything at face value. The minute I receive a mail telling me to beware of dodgy policemen, date rape drugs that make you sterile, imaginary speed cameras that can apparently do everything from recording your speed to knowing if you’re cheating on your tax return, evil fraudsters patrolling car parks offering free perfume samples to unsuspecting women that turn out to be chloroform and then they steal your handbag or the like, I rush straight to Snopes to check them out. For some reason it pleases me immeasurably to be able to go back to the person who’s sent the email on to tell them they’ve just made a complete twat of themselves. I think it’s partly because most of these “warnings” are either so obviously made up as to be ridiculous, or that they have very clearly originated from the US – I personally haven’t come across a K-Mart parking lot in my part of England, or maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. It’s especially funny when somebody feels moved to share their inside knowledge with not only their personal contacts, but the entire company too. The websites for checking these things out before warning everyone from the MD down about dialling *70 or whatever the hell it is from his “cellphone” to make sure that police car behind him on the dark interstate really is the police and not white slave traders/child kidnappers/Michael Jackson or whatever are easy to find, so can’t everyone just run a little check before bombarding the rest of us with this crap? Also, Bill Gates isn’t going to send ANYONE a massive cheque for helping him test his email tracking system – I would ask incredulously if there’s really anyone out there who still believes that one, if only I hadn’t had it forwarded on to me the week before last by someone I had previously credited with a certain level of intelligence. Oh, and before he gets all upset, I’m not suggesting the Other Half shouldn’t have passed the mail that kicked this post off on to me cos I know he only did it safe in the knowledge that I’d tear it to shreds.

God, I love feeling so superior. If only it was based on an actual measurable skill rather than a very sad knowledge of websites about hoax emails. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Soldiering on, part 2

So here I am, bravely blogging while recovering from whatever hideous mutated virus the Other Half kindly passed on to me over the weekend. I felt slightly rubbish on Friday but put that down to a reaction to the jabs I had on Friday morning (have I mentioned we're off to Mexico?). By Saturday evening I felt more than slightly rough, and spent most of Saturday night feeling very sorry for myself indeed. My tonsils were like giant poisonous golfballs, and swallowing felt like ingesting razor wire. Yuck. My general self-pity was excacerbated by the knowledge that we were due to be up bright and early Sunday morning for Small Person's birthday trip to Legoland. The Other Half had been due to visit Dover on Saturday for work but couldn't go as he felt so horrid, so he stayed at mine on Saturday night, hoping for a good night's sleep and a smooth start to our big day out. This of course was where it all started to unravel. Having spent the night listening to me weeping piteously and pathetically about how awful I felt, and concentrating hard on not putting me out of my misery with a strategically and firmly placed pillow, I'm sure the prospect of a day in a kid's theme park with me, Small Person and my mother wasn't sparkling in his imagination like a kebab at the end of a five-hour bender. Personally I felt so dreadful that I would have sold my grandmother to medical science if they'd promised I could stay in bed for another hour, but since she died more than ten years ago they weren't interested so with wobbly bottom lip and brave face, I selflessly agreed to go. Of course, this was only because the prospect of letting Small Person down having spent three weeks relentlessly trailing Legoland was less attractive than actually going to the damned place, but I think I get good-mother points for it anyway. Having decided to hit the nearest McDonalds for soothing medicinal milkshakes, the Other Half swept unswervingly past the one on the way out of town and I tried very hard not to cry. We loaded up on shakes at the next one (fifty miles down the road!!), and picked my mother up just after 9am. 9am!!! On a Sunday!! For the poor Other Half who had had about ten minutes uninterrupted sleep between my bouts of wailing, and who is not used to early weekend starts having spent his life until about six months ago resolutely child-free, it was an unsettling experience. Not least because my mother is so completely weird. But more of that later.

Legoland itself is, if you're nearly five, a fabulous place. If you're thirty-two-and-a-quarter with a very sore throat and the shivers it's an outer circle of hell. I moped, whined and dragged my feet for the first couple of hours while my mother talked about herself, Small Person shouted "Look, Lego!!" every twenty seconds and the Other Half feverishly scanned the horizon for an escape route. It all really started to go wrong when me and him went on the Jungle Coaster, which was for big people only. Unbeknownst to us, the queue was incredibly long and slow, and my mother was standing with her back to a wailing Small Person by the time we got back to them. She's not big on sympathy, my mother, and once Small Person had told her that she wanted Mummy not Nanny, her ego took over and she just plain ignored her. Lovely. After the most expensive lunch in the world, I was even boring myself with the poorly routine so I stuffed an ice cream down my throat and took Small Person on the carousel (which the Other Half spectacularly failed to get a photo of despite about forty attempts). My mother, for reasons known only to herself, decided that this was the perfect moment to bring the Other Half up to speed with the last thirty-odd years of my family history, including her own failings as a mother, and her regrets at "leaving" my dad (she sort of had no option as he'd run off with the Avon Lady). Thanks Mum. She has developed a habit of loudly announcing her own shortcomings (when I went over the other weekend she suddenly informed me that she'd had a difficult childhood), which I can only assume is an effort to garner sympathy as I really don't believe she's genuinely sorry for anything she's done - she just feels bad that people think badly of her. So, family revelations over (for now - god only knows what she's going to come out with next - mind you it's been a while since she told anyone about me getting arrested at sixteen for being drunk in the High Street on a Tuesday afternoon...) we were about ready to head home. The best part of any day out with mother is saying goodbye, and we then hurtled back to mine where the Other Half dispensed tea, sympathy and hugs with the carefree air of a man who knows he doesn't have to spend the day with his girlfriend's increasingly batty mother for ages, and possibly never again if he can come up with a good anough excuse. Bless him.

So, I didn't make it to work yesterday, and felt rubbish again today so have bunked off and done all the good stuff like sleeping, reading and taking incredibly long baths. I ought to struggle in tomorrow though - after Friday we're not back in the office for nearly three weeks and I ought to remind them what I look like before we go.

And I've wrapped all Small Person's presents, and will be waking her early in the morning so she can have them before school. Motherhood one, guilt nil. Makes a change.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Soldiering on

We’re supposed to be going out tonight for a Thai meal. It’s really an IT boys’ night out but since I work for the same company the Other Half is allowed to bring me along by default. Except the poor lamb is poorly ill AGAIN. We think we’ve figured out the reason why he’s coming down with so many colds at the moment – Small Person has just started school and is therefore bringing home all sorts of new and exciting illnesses. I have a natural immunity as this has been happening since she started nursery at the tender age of not-quite-two. The Other Half, however, has no kids of his own and has therefore not previously been party to the rivers of snot and administering of Calpol in the small hours (come on, let’s not pretend you’ve never given a bit more than the specified dose just to get the little buggers to sleep at 3am when you have work the next day. It can’t just be me…) that are part of the rich tapestry of parenthood. Talk about a baptism of fire – in the weeks since she started school they’ve been passing the same cold or variations thereof back and forth like some twisted game of viral tag. At any given point one of them can be found slumped, red-eyed and pitiful, bravely reaching for yet another tissue and demanding cuddles and chocolate (not necessarily in that order). To be fair to both of them, they’re actually pretty good at feeling bad and I constantly surprise myself at the level of sympathy this conjures up in me. Despite the fact that the merest hint of coming down with something myself has me morphing instantly into Verucca Salt and demanding levels of care and attention that would make Mariah Carey proud (I tend to soldier bravely on while giving the impression that I’m about to breathe my last so you’d better appreciate me while I’m here, dammit), I don’t really get on very well with ill people. I’d have made a fabulous fifties hospital matron – hustling malingerers out of the door quick smart before they could clutter up my nice clean ward. If the Ex was ever suffering from a cold or the like, I’d find my mind wandering to thoughts of euthanasia and how I’d explain to his mum that it was the kindest thing, really. Mind you, I used to dream about that even if he wasn’t ill. (Note to self: must never reveal my true identity…)

So instead of a fascinating evening watching an entire department of geeks struggling to interact with each other (all the while wishing the time away so that they can get back to their PC’s and log back into the real world) in a social setting, we’re staying home. It’s rare on a Friday night, but following last week’s headlong encounter with the pavement after a night on the ale, perhaps a night off won’t be too much of a bad thing. I’m going to head to the Co-op, fight my way past the disaffected youths mooching around the alcopops and stock up on lovely munchies. Not for the Other Half you understand – I’ll be insisting he sticks to Beechams and dry toast (it’s the best thing, honestly darling), but to keep me occupied while he sleeps it off. Mind you, as far as munchies go I’ll have to go some way to beat the incredible performance of one of his friends on Wednesday. A couple of the lads came round to watch the Ipswich/West Ham game (and that’s as far as my knowledge of anything football related goes), and one of them decided to bring “a few nibbles”. The minute he arrived he unloaded a carrier bag of food and set to work. The next hour and a half heralded a display of gluttony that would have had Rick Waller reaching for the Dominos menu in a panic lest he lose his crown as the World’s Fattest Man. This unassuming looking, not-very-tall-but-a-bit-round bloke proceeded to tuck away twelve mini scotch eggs, fourteen sausage rolls, fifteen white chocolate cookies and half of the biggest bag of Doritos I’ve ever seen, accompanied by garlic dip (the Doritos not the cookies, although it probably crossed his mind). Those are the facts, honest – I swear I haven’t embellished the sheer quantity of food he ingested. I didn’t see much of the football – I was transfixed by the sight of snack after snack disappearing rapidly down this guy’s throat. It was like watching a python swallow a goat – I’m sure that, if that man were the surviving male member of the human race, in about ten thousand years human beings would have the ability to unhinge their jaws in order to neck vast quantities of savoury snacks more efficiently. I can only thank my lucky stars that he wasn’t sleeping next to me that night – the combination of scotch egg, garlic dip and speed eating can’t be good for the digestion. Apparently he was very keen to stop for a bargain bucket on the way home – I wonder if maybe he has a tapeworm to feed?

How lovely.

Technical hitch

I was going to post last night, honest. But no laptop so something new tonight, promise.

Who on earth do I think is reading this?!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Back to reality

Well, the countdown has begun – only 9 days to go. Not to hollybobs you understand, or Small Person’s fifth birthday (which is next Wednesday, incidentally), but to something infinitely more important – the return of Big Brother. I am unashamedly obsessed with this programme – other reality TV passes me by for the most part but this I love. Well, I say it passes me by – I will confess to a guilty and slightly embarrassing penchant for “Airport”. I think it’s because it’s comfy, cup-of-tea and slippers programming – a warm and cosy slice of middle-class England passing through airports; variously fainting, being too drunk to fly or losing their passports, all narrated by the soporific, comforting tones of John Nettles. There’s no high drama, nobody dies and it always turns out alright in the end. Lovely. The other weekend when the Other Half was poorly, he snoozed on one sofa (he laughs in his sleep – how scary is that?!) while I curled up on the other and blissfully watched an hour and a half of back to back Airport on some satellite channel or other. Rock and roll…..

Anyway, Big Brother. I know it drives people mad, and it’s fashionable to be sneery about it and write it off as dumbing-down and the lowest form of entertainment, but it’s cheaper than the zoo and you can drink beer while you watch it – I rest my case. There’s something utterly compelling about watching a bunch of fame-hungry halfwits prostituting themselves on national television, and acting completely surprised when they leave to discover that either they are loathed by the nation or, worse, greeted with total indifference. The hurtle into obscurity is always gratifying to watch too, particularly if said contestant has been convinced of their meteoric rise to fame on leaving the house. I realise that a number of people stopped reading this when I got to the words “…the return of Big Brother” but I love it and it’s my blog so there. My sister Fifi and I limber up our thumbs and charge our mobiles in order to spend pretty much every night of the week watching from our respective houses and texting (mostly the words “Oh, my god”, admittedly) throughout. We become obsessed with the contestants and talk about them in intimate detail, as if they were long-standing friends or family members which is slightly worrying and probably not to be encouraged – I mean, it’s sort of ok for me to discuss Robbie Williams in personal terms as he’s proper famous and therefore in the public domain, but to become unable to start my working day without a twenty minute discussion on the toilet habits of a nail technician from Aylesbury is probably not normal. In the summer of 2002 when my niece was born, Fifi and I spent the day in her living room watching the live feed on E4 from two different camera angles. Absolutely nothing happened at all, but we were unable to leave the room in case something did. I’ve watched C4 late on a Friday night, gazing vapidly at the screen for ages as the contestants sleep on, oblivious, and I try to convince myself that it’s ok to go to bed now as it’s unlikely that 3am will herald an all-out naked drunken wrestling match. I know it’s sad and I know it’s wrong but I just can’t help it. It’s one of those guilty pleasures, like secretly enjoying Countdown if I’m off sick, or listening to Radio 2 in the car. The joy of Big Brother lies in it’s unerring ability to make you feel good about yourself – the feeling of superiority engendered by watching a sad drunken Sarf London slapper whap her tits out during a game of strip poker is unrivalled. I realise that probably says more about me than her, but I’ll take superiority where I can get it, thanks. It’s my self-esteem and I’ll boost it however I want. I invested in a Freeview box yesterday, lured by the promise of E4 switching over when BB starts. I can’t actually get any ITV channels on it but am convinced that my personal god will prevail and enable me to spend the next twelve weeks in glorious, horrified bliss, texting like a maniac and smiling smugly to myself throughout.

I’ve asked the Other Half to Sky Plus BB while we’re in Mexico, but he insists that he has to switch all electrical appliances off while the house is empty. A likely story – he just doesn’t want to spend 4 hours watching the Friday night shows back to back when we get home, the poof.

Must remember to wrap Small Person’s birthday presents before next Wednesday………SUCH a good mother…..

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Aquatic mammals and open wounds

The tickets arrived this morning for hollybobs - just over two weeks and the Other Half and myself will be jetting off to Mexico for a fortnight of cocktails, beer and, well, cocktails. Our resort is on the Caribbean coast (I know that as it was the subject of a particularly vicious argument yesterday....well, I said it was the Caribbean, he said it wasn't, I said it was, he said it wasn't, he later apologised and I was vindicated - and that's the closest we've come yet to having a proper row. I know, we're sickening), and there's plenty of opportunity for snorkelling, lazing around, and, regrettably, swimming with dolphins. We saw the dolphin excursion in the brochure, and the Other Half immediately went "ooh" a lot and said he'd always wanted to do that. Since I'm dragging him off for a day to look at the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza I thought it would be the decent thing to do for me to accompany him on his excursion of choice. Between you and me though, the thought of swimming with dolphins leaves me a bit cold - I know everyone sees it as some magical life-affirming experience, and that dolphins are revered by the sort of people who wear t-shirts with wolves on them and have dreamcatchers on their rear view mirrors (are these people really sleeping at the wheel? What on earth is the point of having a dreamcatcher in your car???), but as far as I can make out they're really just big rubbery things that in all probability smell of fish. And given my irrational fear of pretty much every animal on the planet, I'm fairly sure that the whole thing is going to freak me out. I looked at the website relating to the dolphin encounter in Cancun, and it was frankly quite creepy. Much was made of the fact that I might get to kiss a dolphin - I'm not entirely convinced that I want to be in the same body of water as one, much less kiss it. Why on earth would I want to kiss it??! The website also used the word "caressing" as in "you will have the opportunity to caress the dolpins as they swim around you". At this point I began to wonder whether I'd in fact stumbled across an, ahem, specialist website - I mean, isn't it inherently wrong to actually invite people to caress animals? Apparently there's also the chance to "cradle the dolphin in your arms". Well, count me out. I have visions of a group of us standing around in waist-deep water, awkwardly holding a dolphin each and wondering how long it is before we can put it down again. No thanks. Factor in every girl's nightmare of potentially having to wedge myself into a wetsuit, and I'm thinking of taking a note from my mum excusing me from swimming with dolphins as it's just plain wrong. I may be wrong and it may change my life in an as-yet undefinable but deeply spritual way. I might become an altogether more serene, loving person who's at one with the universe. But I really don't see how lurching about in a glorified swimming pool with creatures who eat mackerel for fun is going to do that for me. Urgh.

Am now off to have a lovely hot bath as I was very drunk indeed last night and fell up the kerb on the way home, landing ingloriously on my face. How impossibly glamorous. I have a very bruised hand, sore knees and a lovely scab on my lip that a friend thought was a cold sore. When I told the Other Half he suggested that I tell people that that's what it is. Of course - it's so much better say I have herpes than to simply explain that I had too much beer and therefore too many feet to control comfortably.

Bless him.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Random musings

This blogging thing is becoming weirdly compulsive. It's Monday evening, I'm knackered and I really should be slumping on the sofa, but instead I find myself on the wonky chair at the sloping table with no real idea of what I'm writing about today. The reason the chairs are wonky and the table sloping is the universal truth that once people find out that you are in need of furniture they suddenly remember that table/bookcase/hostess trolley (not really - haven't seen one of those since Mother used to rely on hers in the late seventies to keep the sunday lunch warm if she got too drunk to remember to serve it...) that's been cluttering up their place for the last umpteen years and offer it to you in an altruistic attempt to offload the damn thing before they absolutely can't avoid taking it to the tip any longer. When I left the Ex and set up home here I had no furniture whatsoever - Mother (for all her faults she is thankfully in possession of more credit cards than sense) leapt to the fore and provided half of Ikea, but we didn't get round to the whole table-chair thing. So a friend's boyfriend selflessly offered a "loan" (one of those loans where at the end of it you find yourself off to the tip with no real idea of how you got there) of this dining set that must have had the coffee morning oohing over it in 1964 when it made it's debut at his Granny's house. Tablecloth notwithstanding, it's a veneered marvel which would no doubt have been a valuable prize on Sale of the Century in it's day. So here I sit, rambling on, while Small Person rocks out to Green Day's American Idiot in her room next door (ah, the pride of hearing your almost-five-year old singing loudly about the "subliminal mindfuck America". There's nothing like it...).

It was a fairly eventful weekend - which began with myself and the Other Half being scarred and inked in the name of body art - I am very pleased indeed with my new tattoo - and rightly so as it hurt like a motherfucker and prompted me to once again vow "never again". Well, at least until we get back off hollybobs and I go in to get it finished. The Other Half is wandering around grinning like a man demented - he is permanently secretly delighted that his office-drone exterior belies the tattooed rock god that he of course is underneath, and (apologies to anyone who knows us!) I have to admit it's a very sexy combination. We then skipped off to the pub and drank a great deal of beer and subjected the pub to our taste in music on the jukey, and poked gentle fun at the goths, which always makes for a top night out. Bless the goths - while I'm sort of proud that there's still a thriving subculture out there, I always want to chuck their cheeks and tell them to cheer up a bit. Which would have infuriated me at their age but from the lofty perspective of my thirties it would be damned funny. Except then I'd be battered to death with rubber spiky rucksacks and great big shoes and that might not be so amusing - although on a diet of angst and Evanescence (don't get me started) they probably wouldn't be able to summon the energy. So maybe worth a try.....

Anyway, I got a text late Friday night from the Ex asking if he could bring Small Person back late on Saturday due to a planned trip to Pleasurewood Hills (bleak concrete wasteland between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft - fun only if you are seven and have spent your formative years in a council-run orphanage) - fine by me......until she arrived home sporting a huge purple shiner that would have made Basher from Whizzer and Chips envious. Granted, the Ex had done everything possible following her undignified exit from the clown slide (on her face apparently) in taking her to the first aid post etc. However, this was scant consolation a) at Blockbuster yesterday afternoon and b) at school this morning when various people failed to disguise their horror/pity at this dreadful mother dragging her beaten child around. I felt inclined to steal a line from Ian Cognito, a comedian I saw at Glastonbury years ago (more of Glasto another time...) - if I want to discipline my kids I hit them where it won't show and if they play up when we're out I just press the bruises....but that would have ensured an even faster call to Social Services and the swift recindment of my invitation to join the PTA. To add to this stress, the Other Half's tattoo is making itself at home on his arm by swelling up and getting very hot indeed. Factor in his appointment with the neurologist at the hospital this morning and it's no wonder that last night found me more than a little strung out and unable to sleep. Thankfully, Small Person is on the mend and was returned to me after school without the aid of a social worker, the tattoo is (allegedly) healing nicely, and we were assured that the Other Half is no more likely to drop dead without warning than I am (which gives rise to the paranoia....what's wrong with me.....) so all should be well. I'm one of life's pessimists - me and him have been through an awful lot to get to where we are (if I told you you wouldn't believe me) and I'm halfway convinced that I can't be this lucky and have a life this settled. Slight reaction to tattoo - that'll be septacemia (sp?) then. Small Person with a black eye - undiagnosed fractured skull. You see what I'm up against here??! It's a combination of guilt and a deeply entrenched gloomy outlook on life - both of which I'm trying to let go of, with varied success.

Right, time to grit my teeth for a spirited round of the Hungry Homer game before tucking a protesting Small Person into bed. Valium, anyone.....?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Don't tell my mum.....

Tomorrow, the Other Half and I will be sharing the painful yet rewarding experience of having our latest tattoos. It’ll be my sixth (although it’ll be covering tattoo #2) and the Other Half’s second. Anyone who’s ever had a tattoo will more than likely concede that at some point they’ve thought about having another one, but I’m one of those people who has generally given in to the urge rather than being sensible and going without. My last one was done about a year ago, so I’m more than ready for the adrenalin rush and vague fiscal anxiety of a new one. I used to be very blasé about the whole experience, but learned my lesson last time. I went to the tattooist with a friend who’d never had one before, and spent ages beforehand blithely dismissing any rumours of pain or discomfort, safe in the comfort zone of not really remembering exactly how it feels. It’s a bit like childbirth – the minute you’re done you forget the pain and spend the rest of your life telling anyone who’ll listen (and a number of people who won’t but are trapped in a car/lift/office with you and therefore have no choice) what a, like, amazing experience it is. So we got to the studio, I lay on the bench and as soon as the artist did the first quarter inch of outline I began to think I’d made a slight miscalculation and would have to shamefacedly make my excuses and leave. There followed an excruciating ninety minutes of me gritting my teeth and trying not to cry as a huge black tribal design was carved into my lower back. So now that tomorrow is almost upon us, I’m beginning to question my decision to have a bigger, blacker tatt put on my shoulder. The Other Half is unaccountably excited at the prospect of his next design – his last foray into the world of pain you pay for (as far as I’m aware…!!) was three years ago. Following his attention-seeking brain haemorrhage last year (some people will do ANYTHING to be in the limelight), he’s only just off the Warfarin and therefore fairly confident that he’s not going to bleed to death in the ignominious surroundings of a Suffolk tattoo studio. Here’s hoping anyway – we’re off on hols soon and am not sure the insurance would cover it.

I’ve had some fairly random experiences in tattoo studios over the years, but people dropping dead has thankfully not been one of them and I don’t really want to start now. Possibly the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me was at the Silver Needles tattoo studio in Southend about 10 years ago. A friend of mine and I had got very into body piercing, and she was learning the trade from the resident piercer. I’d already had my nipples pierced (that lasted about six months, until I had a motorcycle accident and slid down the road on my front at 40mph. Not recommended altho the policeman’s face was a picture when I responded to his query as to whether I’d received any injuries…..), and she had decided that a more intimate piercing was on the agenda for her. As the piercer was not over-experienced in this particular area, I found myself “assisting”. This basically involved holding the clamps on my friend’s, ahem, downstairs (can I just state for the record that they had VERY long handles and I was resolutely looking the other way) while he whipped first the needle and then the jewellery through. Nice. An interesting side-effect (apparently) of intimate piercings is the sudden loss of self-consciousness of anyone who has had one, regardless of the propriety of the situation. My friend would without hesitation and seemingly at the drop of a hat happily hoik up her skirt/drop her trousers and display her parts proudly to anyone who showed more than a passing interest in her tales of needles and body jewellery. This also manifests itself in men who have Prince Albert piercings, even the potman from our pub who was not over-endowed and would preface any viewing with the excuse that he’d just carried a fresh ice-bucket upstairs and was consequently at less than his supposedly-magnificent best. The fact that he was known to all and sundry as “Pencil Dick” made this even funnier every time someone caught him at it.

I’ve been lucky with my tattoos and still love them all, with the exception of the one I’m getting covered up tomorrow. Considering my first one is now fifteen years old I think I’m fairly lucky in that respect. Small Person informed me the other day that when she’s a grown-up lady she wants a tattoo like mine, and to my own vague discomfort I found myself promising to take her if she still feels the same when she’s eighteen. Despite my own prolific tattoos and piercings, god help her if she ever comes home with ANYTHING that hasn’t been strictly approved by me. I know it’s hypocritical, but that’s my prerogative as her mother.

Have just read that back and realised that I have now karmically set myself up for being surprised on a family holiday when she’s fifteen by a large anchor tattoo on her backside. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

All kinds of everything

I was four years old in the summer of 1977, and remember the Silver Jubilee fairly clearly. We were at a holiday camp in Brixham, Devon, and it was very hot indeed. On June 6th all the children were given a Jubilee mug with a packet of Treets (the closest thing we have to these now is peanut M&M’s – they don’t taste the same you know) in it, and a Jubilee pencil. This pencil, in my ickle hands, was HUGE. It was about five times the size of a normal pencil, with the Jubilee picture of the Queen on the side, and a Union Jack thingy on the top. As far as I can recall I really liked it. Or so I thought, until somebody pointed out recently that it may well have been the root cause of one of my weirder phobias.

I am sort of notorious for my utterly irrational fears. I am scared of most animals – dogs and cats I am happy with but anything larger and in the farmyard arena is pretty much out. Horses are just plain scary, geese are homicidal maniacs and everyone knows that every so often a whole bunch of cows (a herd….?) will gang up on an unsuspecting rambler and squash him flat until he’d fit into his own cagoule pocket…(I had one of those cagoules that folded into its own pocket and I’m here to tell you unashamedly that I LOVED it. Genius…….a raincoat that stored itself IN itself – that’s transcendental, man…). Conversely, anything smaller than a cat is ok unless it has more than four legs. Rats and mice are no problem, but insects? No thanks. I’ve tried really hard not to pass my arachnophobia onto Small Person, and have really only struggled with it on one occasion. She was no more than two, and in the bath at our old house. I was faffing around with laundry in the airing cupboard, and heard a small querulous voice say “Mummy? Butterfly?”. I looked round to see a big spindly-legged spider stalking up the side of the bath, and with a big cheery smile said “that’s right, darling” and squashed it flat in a handful of loo roll. I’m deeply paranoid when it comes to spiders, and tend to endow them with almost supernatural powers of hearing and regeneration. As far as I’m concerned, if a spider is in the bath you must remain absolutely silent when going about your ablutions otherwise it will launch itself into the air and latch onto your head and bite your face off. Likewise, even when squished to a pulp you must never, ever go near the loo until you’re absolutely sure they’ve flushed away as it’s guaranteed that they’ll climb out and come after you. And that’s scientific fact, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m also vaguely afraid of lifts, and as a previous post will attest to, I’m deeply scared of flying. Other problem areas include clowns (but I’m not alone in that one), Tom Baker, the dark, being in the bath when the plug gets taken out, other people’s cheese (don’t ask), hotel corridors (am holding Stephen King personally responsible for that), Jools Holland when he’s standing up (the proportions are all wrong), cellars, attics, being a passenger in a car, needles and cotton wool if it’s squeaky. I also have a slight issue with the word “mo*st” but that’s more about prudery than fear – it’s the rudest word in the English language and there’s simply no need for it. I think all this makes me a fairly well-rounded individual – I know someone who’s afraid of wet wood, my friend’s father is physically sick if he sees an unattached button and my sister is unnerved if she thinks about her own tongue for too long. As far as the Other Half is concerned, however, I’m a sure-fire candidate for ECT and writing home with crayons.

The one that he and pretty much everyone else I try to explain it to REALLY struggles with though, is the one that people misinterpret as my fear of “big things”. This always generates much hilarity, but it’s really not about big things at all – I’m not scared of elephants (although admittedly they are bigger than a dog and slightly dangerous but then I’m never really likely to meet one in a situation that might prove hazardous to my health) or tractors or the Eiffel Tower or mountains or, well, big stuff. My problem is one relating to the scale of things – in a nutshell it’s things that are bigger than they should be. For example, display models of everyday things that are scaled up for impact. Our local toyshop had a window a few years ago with really big (about three feet long and proportionately, er, girthed?) Crayola crayons in it. These on their own were sort of ok, but the Ex then invited me to think about how the box for these giant crayons might look, or how thick the lines they would draw might be. This is where I really have a problem – it’s just wrong. Also wrong are giant paperclips, really big cutlery and oversized furniture. I once saw a programme in which the presenter was sitting in what looked like a normal stripy deckchair, until the camera pulled back and it became apparent that this chair was massive – he looked like a midget in it and I had to look away. There’s a female TV presenter who puts the fear of god into me with her scary enormous coat buttons – it’s not the sight of the buttons that freaks me out, but the thought of touching a button that size and actually doing it up….imagine the size of the buttonhole…..I know I’m not making any sense here but it just makes me feel very uncomfortable and makes the inside of my head sort of itch. Occasionally it goes the other way, and something is scaled down to the extent that it makes me feel as if I’m the one that’s disproportionately big, but that’s just as bad. I’ve met one other person in my life who has related to this, although actually with hindsight I think she might just have been humouring me. Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve lived with this for as long as I can remember but never really tried to rationalise it. It’s a constant source of amusement to anyone who knows about it, and I’ve learned to shrug it off and just not look at things that might freak me out. And then in a meeting the other day we went off at a tangent about a pencil museum in Cumbria, and I mentioned my Jubilee pencil. A colleague of mine who knows about my phobia did the finger-on-the-nose-while-pointing thing beloved of Lionel Blair on Give Us A Clue, and excitedly shouted “That’s it!!!!”. And do you know, thinking about it she might just be right. It doesn’t make me any less weird, but sometimes it’s nice to think there might actually be a reason for areas of my instability.

As if.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Oh, I do like to be beside the SEASIDE

There’s an email that’s done the rounds a number of times containing pithy one-liners, entitled “Only In Britain”. It contains various observations on the peculiarities of British life, all of which appear to have had the word “America” replaced with “Britain”…..for example how many of us are aware of the relative pack sizes of hot dogs (10, apparently) and buns (8), or is everyone else in the country barbecuing more than me? Anyway, the list closes with a list of “statistics” regarding the propensity of people to harm themselves in a variety of stupid ways (Xmas cracker-pulling injuries, not taking the pins out of new shirts etc) that are easily dismissed as a figment of an overactive imagination. Or so I thought until yesterday, when it became clear that it’s actually not unlikely that “18 Brits had serious burns in 2000 trying on a new jumper with a lit cigarette in their mouth”. Let me explain…..

Myself, Small Person and the Other Half took ourselves off to the seaside yesterday, in an effort to make the most of the Bank Holiday. Although it was raining at home, when we arrived at the beach the sunshine was glorious, and we (well, two of us did anyway – the Other Half’s idea of a day at the beach involves rather more in the way of tropical weather, cocktails and girls in skimpy bikinis than was on offer on this particular Essex beach) spent an enjoyable hour or so finding shells, fossils and one particularly sparkly stone which was the cause of me being the one having the tantrum when Small Person threw it away. Having established after a while that Small Person was hungry (she made absolutely sure we were aware of this by simply repeating “I’m hungry” in an increasingly whiny voice for at least twenty minutes. Apparently I employ the same tactic to let the Other Half know that I’m tired and it’s miles when we’re on our way home from the pub on a Friday night.), we headed for the picnic tables to enjoy our lunch in the sunshine. Sometimes I wonder exactly how old I am – how long before I’m booking a Mystery Tour with the local coach company and making sure I’ve got my cardigan with me? So there we were, bickering gently over who should sit where and who had the best crisps, when the calm was shattered by the arrival of a delightful family, who appeared to be totally deaf. They straggled across the green, all three generations of them, bellowing at each other as if they were at least half a mile apart, rather than the two paces that actually separated them. They congregated at a table outside the café, but were forced to move after intervention from the café owner. This was not welcomed by the alpha-slob, who announced to anyone in a four mile radius, in a VERY Essex accent, that “WE HAVE HAD TO MOVE FROM THAT TABLE BECAUSE THAT IS THE CAFF’S TABLE AND I CANNOT DRINK MY BEER AT THE CAFF’S TABLE”. He repeated this three times in case anyone in a neighbouring county hadn’t heard, and the entire horrific tribe moved to a table next to us. Within seconds, the picnic was out (including lager), the elder kids had sparked up, the radio was on and the younger ones were pestering at the tops of their voices for money. Every single word uttered by any member of the family was at ear-bleed volume, and for the most part anyone outside the family spent the next few minutes trying very hard not to giggle at the ensuing rows, intimate conversations and general loudness. The younger ones eventually persuaded Daaaaad to buy them kites, and he then proceeded to strip off his shirt and lumber up and down the picnic area, hollering instructions at his already-disinterested kids and generally refusing to let them touch the kites at all. Small Person was completely fascinated by these people, and had to be actively discouraged from staring open-mouthed as they argued, swore and shouted at each other. I can only imagine what the volume levels must have been like in the car on the way home. The sort of people you never, ever want to pitch up next to you on your first day’s sunbathing of your hard-earned holiday, announcing that they too are staying for three weeks and isn’t it nice to meet someone else from home.

And the best part? Watching the teenage son attempting to put his T-shirt on with a lit cigarette in his mouth. Makes you fear for the gene pool, doesn’t it?

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