Whatsyername…?

Once upon a time I had a brain, actually to be more precise I had a memory – in fact, I had quite a good memory.  I was rather proud of my memory – my family used to say it was elephantine.  Not now, more goldfish than elephant. Actually, I’m struggling to remember what I was going to write this blog post about…

That’s right – memory.  Throughout my thirties, I airily dismissed my inability to retain the most basic of facts and information as “nappy brain”.  As I approach 40 (next week), this no longer seems a viable excuse – I no longer have any child in nappies, nor have I changed a nappy for the best part of 18 months.  Anyway, I never really bought into that “nappy brain” thing – I’d like to think it was just nature’s way of making those early years of 3 children under 5 marginally more bearable with a sort of brain fog – rather like one of those soft-focus photographs, slightly blurry round the edges – “nappy brain” is nature’s survival mechanism.

image of brain broken up into separate lobes

image of brain broken up into separate lobes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what’s happening now?  My stomach lurches when one of my children suggests playing pelmanism.  This was my favourite game as a child – I found it so easy, could remember exactly where everything was.  Not now.  Now, I have to face the ritual humiliation of trying my best but still being thrashed by a three year old.  As for that game with objects on a tray which you have a minute to remember before they are removed and you have to recall them – well, I struggle to remember the tray.

Names.  I have come to dread introductions.  As hard as I think I am concentrating, immediately I am introduced to someone, their name has passed through the increasingly empty space between my ears and gone again.  How difficult can it be to remember someone’s name?  My greatest fear is then having to introduce “whathisname” to someone else and I find myself frantically going through the alphabet (in my head), hoping that the letter will spark of a memory of a name – A – Archie, Andrew…no…B – Ben, Brian…no… C…and so on.  Tell me I’m not the only person who does this?  In fact, I no longer count sheep when I go to bed – I am a raging insomniac – I just go through the alphabet trying to remember people’s names! Is this an age thing?  People say it is because I have so much else to remember – bla, bla, bla.  I don’t buy that – I’m sure I had far more to remember when I was younger and at university or whatever. Those who have read previous blogs I have posted might be tempted to say perhaps it is “mother’s little helper” – the glass of wine that smoothes out the edges at the end of the day. I don’t buy that either.

Whatever it is, I don’t think I am alone.  As long as I can remember my own name and those of my husband and children, I am not going to worry…although I have noticed an increasing tendency to refer to my children by all three children’s names – something my father always used to do and which I found intensely irritating.  I get it now. So if you are introduced to me, don’t be offended if I don’t introduce you to anyone else – I can’t remember your name and it’s nothing personal!

My top ten current irritations…

Photo of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder (Royale)...

Photo of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder (Royale) with Cheese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few things have been getting right up my nose in recent times and I wanted to share them with you – some sort of blogging therapy you might call it – better out than in!  So here goes…

  1. Phonecalls (currently at least 3 times a day) from an automated voice telling me to “be quick” and reclaim £1000s I’m owed on PPI.  These claim processing companies (which will take an enormous percentage should you be successful in your claim) seem to think that this is a war of attrition and that finally I am going to say to them, “please, please, do this on my behalf”.  I am not going to do this – never, ever – so stop ringing me.
  2. Paying to use the facilities (I hate that word) in railway stations.  Payment to use these suggests to me some sort of premium experience, payment for a little extra plush with your flush.  However, in my experience, the opposite is true and railway stations have some of the worst public conveniences out there.
  3. Car Park pay and display machines that only take exact change.  There is no other word for this than robbery.  I can’t think of any shop I would go into, pay for something and expect the cashier to keep the change without asking me.  So why is it ok for car park operators to do just this and penalise people because they haven’t got the correct change?
  4. Shops that offer to see whether a product they don’t have is available in another store about 200 miles away.  I can’t think of anything that I would buy that would be worth driving 200 miles to pick up.  Please stop offering me a thousand other ways to get your product – none of which are convenient – and just let me go.
  5. Packets of nuts that carry the warning of “Allergy advice: contains nuts” – the clue is on the front of the packet and inside the packet.  Just because you have an allergy, does not mean that you are incapable of any sort of rational thought.
  6. Shops that offer you cut price chocolate bars at the till along with all your non-chocolate shopping.  There is nothing more irritating to someone like me who can’t resist either a bargain or chocolate and it is just not fair – so stop it.
  7. Hairdryers that require a 20p piece to work in public swimming pool changing rooms.  This is yet another case of discrimination against those who don’t happen to have a 20p coin in their purse and also leads in my case to another very public example of bad mothering skills when I have to leave the swimming pool with my daughter’s hair dripping everywhere and the audible tuts of others (with 20p) about “catching pneumonia”.
  8. The inability of people working in a well-known hamburger joint to understand what I feel is a simple request “A quarter pounder without cheese”.  I’ve never understood why a quarter pounder should automatically come with cheese, but it does and I don’t like cheese – hence my request.  I don’t feel there is anything particularly fussy or difficult about this request but I can count on one hand the number of times my quarter pounder has actually arrived cheese-less.
  9. Those really annoying “puzzles” that appear frequently on social networking sites which ask you how many “faces” or “letter Es” etc you can see in a picture.  You know it’s a trick and you’re determined not to fall into the trap so you waste an inordinate amount of time searching for something that is not even there and then get the answer wrong anyway.
  10. Magazines on shop shelves wrapped in plastic.  Everyone loiters once in a while and likes to flick through a magazine in a shop without buying the magazine – this doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.  You can browse in a bookshop – you are positively encouraged to – so as long as I don’t go in every day in my lunch break and use the magazine shelf as a sort of public library – what’s the problem?

I feel so much better now and it’s amazing how little time it took me to think up 10 things that really irritate me.  I’m sure there are thousands more – I’m not known for my tolerance. I would love to hear of things that irritate you.  Do you agree with me?

Half-term – cash and capers…

Posh & Becks Waxworks

Posh & Becks Waxworks (Photo credit: reveriewit)

Help! Help! I’m haemorrhaging…CASH – yes, it’s half-term this week and next – yes you read that correctly, my little darlings have got 2 weeks for half-term – twice the time to fill, twice the money to spend, twice the number of tantrums, twice the amount of alcohol required by me each evening.

Yesterday it was the turn of Madame Tussauds – or as Boy 2 calls it, “Madame Twoshoes” (which Boy 1 corrects to “Madame Twoswords”).  Facts first – it cost me £55 to get in (after queueing for 40 minutes) – that was the cost for one adult and one child (one child was free because of age and one because I had a voucher).  Approximate time required in the attraction – 1.5 hours. By any mathematical equation that seems to me to be daylight robbery. Enter attraction.  Guess what we are met with….yes, the popcorn and sweet shop – £10 lighter we finally get to see the world-famous waxworks which of course my children are not remotely interested in now that they have a large tub of popcorn to stuff in their mouths and with which liberally to litter the floor.

The waxworks are good – some are very good.  But is it just me who thinks it is deeply weird for adults to be posing for photographs with a waxwork model of a celebrity?  Somehow it is OK in Disney World when your kids clamour for photos with Mickey and friends and at least they are moving, talking, dressed-up people.  Not so here…and most of the people at Madame Tussauds yesterday were adults – maybe I’m missing something here but I can’t think of one reason why my husband and I would choose to spend enormous sums of money going to Madame Tussauds without the children and then take turns to take photos of each other with the likes of Posh and Becks, Boris Johnson, Usain Bolt etc – except, remember, people, it is not Posh and Becks, Boris Johnson, Usain Bolt etc – they are waxworks…sorry, but I think it is very, very odd behaviour.

People walk around “Madame Tussauds” saying in a surprised voice, “Look, there’s so and so…” – again, strange, because there is no-one there that you wouldn’t expect to see in a museum of waxworks of famous people.  Except, perhaps, that is, one Mohamed Al Fayed lurking in the corner of the room dedicated to world leaders – still trying to work out why he was there amongst Obama, David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher…have I missed something?

Today, I tried to keep the costs down – well, relatively – and we went to the cinema to see “Madagascar 3” with some friends.  We had lunch in M&S (cheaper than the pizza places) but unfortunately you need a degree to understand their children’s meal deal – apparently, 2 of the 5 pieces your child chooses have to be “snacks”,so to fulfil the criteria my children were forced to swap their relatively healthy smoothies for  considerably less healthy biscuits and in my daughter’s case some frankly disgusting disturbingly bright pink “yoghurt” (I don’t think so) coated “Hello Kitty” raisins, which we promptly renamed “Hello Sicky”.

Next stop the cinema – having spent a small fortune on popcorn (another bugbear of mine is the daylight robbery that is popcorn/sweets purchasing in cinemas) and bought 3D glasses for the film, the cinema management then informed us that due to technical difficulties, they were unable to show the film.  Tense negotiations followed and I’m pleased to tell you that we got a full refund plus free tickets for future use (if you don’t ask, you don’t get!).  We promptly spent the money we saved on a quite ridiculous “hurricane tube” experience in the cinema lobby – 90 seconds of your children being buffeted by a “hurricane” force wind (basically, a giant hairdryer) – sounds strange, it was strange, although strangely amusing too (mainly for us adults) and it made me return to the thought which I often have – what on earth goes on in some people’s minds that results in such a bizarre product as a “hurricane” experience? Whenever you think people are all the same and we all think the same sorts of things, you come across something so bizarre that you realise that in fact we are all very, very different.

After a quick cup of tea and 8 donuts in Krispy Kreme, I totted up the nutritional intake for my children so far this half-term – popcorn, smarties, McDonalds (at a service station on the way back from Madame Tussauds – classy), “Hello Sicky” raisins, and Krispy Kreme donuts.  I’m not proud of this by the way and I can already hear the audible gasp from you Annabel Karmel types but once in a while it doesn’t hurt and the last two days have been quite amusing and I don’t often say that about half-term with three children under the age of 8.

To B… or not to B…?

Wrinkles

Wrinkles (Photo credit: scoutjacobus)

To B(otox) or not to B(otox) – that is the question? Actually this is a surprisingly easy one for me and perhaps given my tendency to whinge at every possible opportunity about my wrinkles, my answer is surprising – no way, Jose!  Just too scared to shove botulinum into my face and anyway I’m bound to be allergic to it.  Look, I’m as sick as the next person of those sanctimonious people who bang on about growing old gracefully – as if – but equally I’m absolutely certain I don’t want to grow old looking either as if I am perpetually stuck in a force 9 gale or unable to lift my eyebrows more than a micro-millimetre (not visible to the naked eye).

Just because I’ve decided to grow old (dis)gracefully, does not mean that I am enjoying the inexorable disappearance of youth.  Yes, it really narks me when some young whippersnapper on the makeup counter not only tries to sell me foundation which is nothing short of something more usually found on a building site but also suggests I try some fancy new night cream for women in their late forties/early fifties.  “39” I want to scream and as a matter of pride, I ignore her advice and buy the night cream for women in the early stages of ageing (although I  find it harder to ignore her expression which is clearly shouting at me – “too late for that love, more serious action required’).

Talking of building sites, do you remember when you would get a wolf-whistle when you walked past one?  OK, so that stopped a considerable number of years ago for me although embarrassingly for the first few years after it stopped, I still found myself turning round when I heard a wolf-whistle (part habit, part hope), to then have to turn back abruptly, humiliated.  In my twenties, I would hark on about how sexist it was, how degrading – blah, blah, blah…but you know what, I’d be thrilled now if someone wolf-whistled at me – it would put a spring in my slightly less sprightly step.  It’s all symptomatic of the same thing – you never appreciate what you’ve got in life until you no longer have it.

There is no denying that some mornings my face looks increasingly like it has been through a shredder and other mornings, no amount of make-up can disguise the bags (more like over-sized suitcases) beneath my eyes but the truth is I’m actually much more content at this age now and I know this slight obsession with ageing is just a temporary phase for me, a reflection on the past and anticipation of the future at one of life’s landmark stages.

So keep your poison-filled syringes away from me – I’ll take the laughter lines (euphemism for wrinkles) and I’ll keep laughing – there’s no way back now! There’s no chance of ironing out my wrinkles but they are really just that  – a minor difficulty/snag in life’s rich tapestry.

Back to the Future…

English: The logo for Apple Computer, now Appl...

English: The logo for Apple Computer, now Apple Inc.. The design of the logo started in 1977 designed by Rob Janoff with the rainbow color theme used until 1999 when Apple stopped using the rainbow color theme and used a few different color themes for the same design. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I’ve just had Spotify explained to me on the school run – I am, of course, none the wiser although I think I could probably bluff on the subject for about 30 seconds.  I thought I was keeping up quite well, I was giving myself an inner pat on the back when my “teacher” mentioned “streaming” and lost me…

I am finding this is happening increasingly – getting “lost” that is.  I like to think I am fairly up with technology but only yesterday I had to follow the “idiot” instructions from the “Apple automated voice” to find something as simple as the serial number on my non-functioning computer. I then had to follow somewhat complicated instructions from the “Apple human” in order to restore function to my computer and throughout this somewhat painful 30 minute experience, I was fully aware that he was speaking to me much as I speak to my 3 year old daughter.  Speaking slowly and in words rarely above 2 syllables, he talked me through the rebooting of my computer and I wanted to scream…I really wanted to scream….I am NOT STUPID, I am just not 16 any more, that’s all!   So I don’t really know what bytes are, what “streaming” is or what the finer points of the differences between iTunes and Spotify are but I do know lots of other things that I’m sure the “Apple human” doesn’t. Ok, so Latin and Ancient Greek may not be one of the most modern, progressive or even vocational degrees but I am not bad with roots of words and crosswords – so there, computer geeks!

I know that technology is a wonderful, wonderful thing and it has changed our world immeasurably and mainly for the good but I do sometimes wistfully wish that we could go back to the simpler times of my childhood.  A time when there was one BBC computer for the whole school (a large unwieldy machine treated with respect and awe by all); a time when we (illegally) taped songs from the top 40 on a Sunday evening to play on our tape recorders or walkmans; a time when we phoned our friends to ask things rather than text/email them; a time when there was only 3 TV channels and everyone watched “The Generation Game” on a Saturday evening; a time when going on holiday involved sitting on those high chairs at the “Thomas Cook” counter, flicking through holiday brochures and deciding on a holiday based on a couple of grainy photographs and a basic weather chart.

I am not whinging about how life has moved on – I am as addicted to my iPhone, iMac and iPad as much as the next person – look, here I am blogging for heaven’s sake – but in a rare moment of seriousness for me, I do worry that the next generation – my kids – are so technology-saavy, so attached to this device or that device, that they sometimes forget just to be humans, talk to each other and have a laugh together.  On that note, I am going to stop being the ultimate hypocrite, using technology, to criticise over-use of technology and get back to what I do best – procrastination!

CORE blimey…

I don’t think I am going to be alone in this one although I suspect this again is something only relevant those born before 1980.  Am I the only person who is baffled by the command to “engage my core”? Everywhere I go, every article I read about exercise is banging on about your “core”.  This mythical part of the anatomy is somewhere in the middle I guess judging from its name but further than that I can’t really speculate.

Now maybe I’m wrong but I don’t remember anyone talking about your “core” in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s – this is a very modern phenomenon.  As far as I am aware, the human form has not anatomically altered during the last decade (although my own personal anatomical form is not what it was 20 years ago!).  Is the “core” a recent biological discovery?  Call me cynical, but I can’t help think it is yet another of those new-fangled expressions which exercise types like to throw at us to confuse us and make us believe that we are inadequate in the strength/fitness department.  As for “engaging my core” – that just sounds painful and I have to admit when asked to do so, I nod sagely and do precisely nothing – mainly because I have no idea what to do.

On the subject of exercise, I must just share with you my most recent strategy for appearing to be exercising when I am not.  I don’t think this is a particularly radical strategy and I suspect quite a few people I know employ a similar strategy but won’t admit to it.  About once a week I will don tracksuit bottoms and trainers and one of those micro-fleece tops (so beloved of exercise types), not wear any make up and step out to face the world, a fully paid up member of that smug subset of the human race, “sporty (and hence healthy) types”. It amuses me no end that to become a member of this elite group of beings, you need to do nothing else other than look the part and perhaps the greatest irony for me is that in order to achieve this look, you really don’t have to bother much at all with your outfit, make-up etc. Of course the truth is that the closest I get to exercise on these days is crouching down to do up the laces on my otherwise under-utilised trainers.  To make sure that I give the most impact on these days, I do not change out of my sports gear all day hence ensuring that I give off a nonchalant air of casual sportiness to the maximum number of people.  Although if you were to ask me what sport/exercise I was undertaking, you would find that I would answer with the deliberately ambiguous, “sorry must run…”

So next time you see all those women in exercise attire and you feel that pang of guilt at your own sloth, just remember it is quite possible that appearances are deceiving you and that the only thing that these women are engaging are the gears in their gas-guzzling 4x4s and that rather like you, they do not get even close to “engaging their core”.

Curso de Instructor de Pilates

Curso de Instructor de Pilates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking a “gift” horse in the mouth…

Gift Box

Gift Box (Photo credit: Maeflower72)

I hate the word “gift” – I can’t give you any rationale except that I don’t like it – much like I hate the word “doily” (admittedly not a word in everyday use but horrid all the same).  I much prefer the word “present” – altogether more classy.  As someone who has never ever purchased a Christmas present before 1st December, I am most concerned by my recent behaviour – I have actually purchased at least 8 Christmas presents and all in the first half of October.  This seems to me to be yet another sign of my impending forties.  I have always prided myself on my “laissez-faire” attitude to Christmas shopping and, if I’m honest, privately ridiculed (with like-minded allies) those who start shopping 3 months before the big day.

This worrying new trend I am displaying is actually part of a much bigger picture of most concerning 40s-like behaviour.  I am utterly addicted to any number of luxury “sale” websites – scanning new promotions on a daily (scarily sometimes twice daily) basis – Achica, Cocosa, Groupon….and so the list goes on.  Liking a bargain is not new behaviour for me – I am that person who cannot just take a compliment, “I love that new dress you’re wearing” without saying “Dirt cheap, bought it for £20, reduced from £150”.  The new behavioural trend is my determination to buy “giftware” (actually that is even worse than the word ‘gift’) and “knick-knacks” for which I have no use, place or if I’m honest any real desire.

This morning, I took this behaviour, until now just a guilty secret between me, the computer and my credit card, to a whole new level – I visited a craft/gift/floristry wholesaler.  Yes me who got thrown out permanently from her sewing lessons at the age of 12 because I broke the sewing machine 3 times in one lesson (something of which I am quite proud); yes me whose idea of floristry is to keep the elastic band around the flowers I’ve bought so that I don’t have to arrange them in the vase; yes me who hates the word “gift” and ridicules people who shop for Christmas in October. Yes, little me, very uncrafty me, went of her own accord to a craft/gift/floristry wholesaler on her own and found it overwhelmingly exciting.

So thrilling did I find it that I had to share my enthusiasm with someone who would understand – I called my great friend who also loves such places and who, and this is no coincidence, also turned 40 this year.  I just wanted to grab my trolley and do my own version of “supermarket sweep” – grabbing all manner of useless knick-knacks, giftware, silk flowers (why?), candles (you can never have enough) and most bizarre of all, ribbon (there must be a name for people who feel compelled to buy ribbon…?).

I can only hope this new trait of mine is just a passing phase, a blip on my way to 40.  However, I have to admit to being slightly concerned that once this Christmas is done and dusted, I am going to start shopping for next Christmas in the January sales….help me!