Two burst pipes, one flat tyre and a partridge in a pear tree…

The Big Freeze UK

The Big Freeze UK (Photo credit: niOS)

Two burst pipes, one flat tyre and a partridge in a pear tree.  Yes, it has been a truly fabulous week and to top it all, we’ve woken up to snow….again.

This has been a landmark year in my relationship with snow.  In the past, I have always greeted the white stuff with great affection and childish excitement.  In fact, nothing at the grand old age of 40 has the ability to roll back the years to childhood more than pulling back the curtains and seeing snow.

However, relations have got a bit frosty this year.  This morning I pulled back the curtains and my heart sank.  It is two days after the first official day of Spring and yet again my world is shrouded in white.  It is not right and I’ve got this feeling that the snow and I are going to fall out this time.

The children didn’t even bother to look up from the TV when I announced the snow’s arrival this morning.  Seen it all before. I guess the only positive from their snow-weary response is that no-one has yet suggested that we must go sledging.

Now don’t get me wrong – I understand how magical sledging is for children but the magic has sort of worn off by the age of 40 for women.  I say “women” advisedly because in my experience men turn into 5 year old versions of themselves when they get within a metre of a sledge.

A woman’s experience of sledging is very different to that of a man.  First you have to find all the winter clothes, dress three children in winter clothes, take all the winter clothes off again when they need to go to the loo.  Finally you get out of the house, usually to be hit full in the face by a snowball thrown by one of the children who inevitably finds this hysterically amusing, whilst you are at this point just mildly hysterical. You then have to haul the kids on the sledges to the slope of choice and stand for approximately 2 hours in the freezing cold whilst they go up and down, only moving to tend to the inevitable first aid crises and to extricate at least one child from a close encounter with some brambles. Of course there is the added dubious “entertainment” of watching grown men flinging themselves down a slope on a small piece of plastic designed for someone a fraction of their weight. Then it is off home again, at least one child now whinging about how cold they are and refusing to go any further.  This whole experience then has to be repeated at 3 hourly intervals until the snow has either disappeared or one child has injured themselves to a point where sledging is now inadvisable.

I know I am sounding very ungrateful for the joy that snow brings to children but frankly I’m sick of it this year.  It has made me realise that I’m not sure that I could live in a country where snow is a permanent winter fixture.  Obviously the UK’s inability to cope with more than a centimetre of snow doesn’t help – for goodness sake, they even shut Sellafield yesterday not because of some “incident” but just so the staff could get home safely!

I think perhaps my antipathy towards the white stuff is less about the snow itself and more about a yearning for this interminable winter to end. Maybe it is an age thing, but this winter has gone on for far too long.  In part, the problem has been the lack of blue skies.  I don’t mind the cold as long as the sun is out but this winter in the UK it would appear that the sun has taken a sabbatical.

As is the norm in the UK, we have been bombarded with weather statistics by the media.  This weekend is apparently the coldest March weekend in 50 years. The media are revelling in compounding our misery by showing footage of people sitting in daffodil filled Hyde Park this weekend last year where temperatures soared above 20 degrees.  No country talks about the weather more than we do but ironically no country is less prepared for any extreme  weather (and really it is not that extreme is it?) than we are.

I’m off now to hide the sledge and put all the snow clothes up in the loft….just in case, my children get some misguided idea that going sledging would be fun.  Then, I’m going to pull myself together and stop whinging – I’m starting to sound like one of my children on the way back from the toboggan run – and try to enjoy what is hopefully the last blanket of white for several months.

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The Meaning of Shoes

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm stiletto heels. Category:Shoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little while ago a reader of my blog asked if I could blog about shoes.  Many people might think that a bit strange – shoes, what about them?  A shoe is just a shoe, right – wrong, very wrong.  For the first 30 years or so of a woman’s life, shoes are just shoes.  Then quite suddenly they take on a whole new meaning, shoes become SHOES. For a lady of a certain age shoes become an all-encompassing obsession.

My personal epiphany, my moment of shoe enlightenment, happened in my mid-thirties when I was given my first pair of truly desirable shoes. Up until that point, shoes were just those things I wore on my feet – a necessary clothing item which I tried somewhat inconsistently to match to the rest of my attire. In fact, I didn’t even like new shoes – I hated the “wearing-in” process – I would happily have paid someone to wear my shoes in for me and then pass them back for me to wear.

It took a major shift for me to appreciate shoes and I am not for a moment suggesting that it is the cost of a pair of shoes that focuses the mind (although in my case, as the queen of bargains, it certainly helped, and with my lack of shoe interest it was going to take something quite dramatic to convert me). My moment came when I was bought (by my very generous husband) a pair of shoes with a red sole (can I add that this was very much a one-off) – now you know how significant that red sole is?  That sexy little flash of the red underside of your impossibly high-heeled shoes which signifies to all present – especially all other women – that yes, you own a pair of Christian Louboutins. You understand the power of shoes. It doesn’t matter that they are hideously uncomfortable or that they have cost more than a month’s grocery shop – you have your place at the top of the shoe hierarchy assured.

An aside – it reminds me of that apocryphal story of the lady who took her beloved Louboutins to a shoe repair shop to have some new heel tips put on and when she came to pick the shoes up, the repair man said “I noticed that the red bottoms of your shoes were wearing away and looking rather scuffed so I’ve replaced them with some of ours” – now that is tantamount to treason.

So what is this obsession with shoes all about for women of a certain age?  It has nothing to do with the fact that men apparently find women’s ankles sexy – any old high heel will do for that purpose unless unfortunately you have “cankles” in which case, apart from radical cosmetic surgery, there is nothing you can do.  It will come as no surprise to you that I have my own theory which I’m sure probably does not stack up on any deep, psychological level but here goes: put simply rather than draw attention to our increasingly leathery faces, we would rather draw the eye to the leather on our feet.  Put bluntly, you can’t really tell the difference between the ankles and feet of a 20 year old woman and a 40 year old woman, whereas the same cannot be said for faces.  Hence the “shoe epiphany” – I can’t really do that much about looking older at eye level but I can wear a damn sexy pair of beautiful shoes and that will make me feel a whole lot better, and it does.

I am not saying that you have to spend a fortune on ferociously expensive shoes – far from it – but the shift is more the realisation that shoes have the power to make you feel great about yourself.  Just because I am forty and no longer ( for public decency’s sake (and my children’s)) going to wear a micro-mini skirt, a boob tube or a backless, strapless little number, does not mean that I can’t wear a pair of utterly gorgeous, actually very classy (well-heeled, if you like), fiendishly sexy pair of shoes! If I am teetering towards middle age, I am going to do it in a well-shod way.

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice…

Male and female gender symbols based upon work...

Male and female gender symbols based upon work by User:Edbrown05 on the English Wikinews project. Original file was/is here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s get one thing straight, I adore my boys – I really adore them but I don’t get them. if I’m perfectly honest, as one of three girls myself, they are like little aliens to me most days. Occasionally I get one of those breakthrough moments when I think I’ve finally understood them and then out of nowhere, one will cross the room and nonchalantly kick his brother for no other reason – that I can fathom – than he can.  I know what you’re thinking – there really isn’t very much to understand: boys are not complex.  There is a lot of truth in this and I have lived the last 9 years of my life according to the maxim that boys are very much like dogs: feed them, water them and exercise them and all will be well with the world.

My two boys are very different in character but they also share common characteristics: the ability to wind the other up incessantly and the ability to wrestle any time, any place (preferably in a supermarket aisle in front of a tutting crowd of people without children and smug MOGs (Mothers of Girls).  For a while I put this insatiable desire to be in physical contact with each other in some way 24/7 (usually in some painful-looking, totally unnatural wrestling hold) down to watching too much TV and particularly the ghastly WWE wrestling to which my elder son appears addicted (no, before you ask, I don’t let him watch it, but he’s clever, he’s cunning and he seems to find a way to outwit me…), but I don’t think this is the case.  This is just the nature of boys.  For the first five years of motherhood, I watched my boys with a growing sense of horror – what had I created?  Rough and Tumble, they call it, no **** – that’s putting it mildly.  Sometimes I can barely bear to watch and I am constantly amazed that they never seem to really hurt each other (well, not too badly). I don’t really intervene much these days, I let them work it out.  I am resigned to the fact that this is how boys operate – it’s King of the Jungle stuff and I am not going to pretend to understand it. The fighting aside, I love my boys totally and I can only hope that the fisticuffs they indulge in now with each other will recede as they mature otherwise I shall be spending an increasing amount of time visiting the local nick.

I have to admit that due to the unruly behaviour of my boys on occasion (NB understatement), I did at times really question my mothering skills.  I had deliberately ignored the Gina Ford route with mine – I realised very early on that I had already failed by her standards by 7am as I had not pulled up the black-out blinds, changed baby, had a shower myself and eaten my toast and marmalade. I didn’t think that feeling a failure so early on every morning would be particularly good for my confidence levels (which we all know are not exactly rocketing in the early days of motherhood). I found myself naturally gravitating to other “MOBs” (Mothers of Boys) because they understood that there was no way my children were going to sit at a table for half an hour, colouring, gluing and sticking (not unless they were able to do all those things to each other or one of my more prized possessions).

Then suddenly three years ago, I found myself with one foot in each camp – I had a little girl. Over the last 3 years, it has become obvious – it’s not about nurture (well at least not largely) but it is nature.  I have done nothing to encourage her in any direction different to the boys but she naturally loves pink, plays with dolls, dresses up, watches me put on make-up in a rather disconcertingly fascinated manner and basically behaves in the stereotypical “girl” way. I have to add that at the moment she is proving an awful lot easier than the boys at that age.  Yesterday, she had a playdate and I did absolutely nothing for 2 hours whilst these two adorable little girls dressed up, tottered around in little heels and played “Mummies and Babies” (where’s the Daddy you may well ask?! Is this a sign of the times?).

The biggest relief to me with a foot in each camp is that it is not my mothering skills that are at fault – they are as good or as bad as the next person. No, the simple fact is that boys and girls are fundamentally very different from birth and I would wager that boys are harder work in the first ten years of life (although enormously rewarding too) but I am under no illusions that come the teenage years, all those hours of my little girl watching me put on make-up and tottering around in my shoes is going towards creating the horror of “teenage girl”.  I know at that point I shall probably be  saying to my boys that they were hard work when they were younger but that their sister’s behaviour now is a whole new ball game and I shall be looking back fondly at the days of my “rough and tumble”, uncomplicated boys.  However, for now, there is truth in the old ditty that girls are “Sugar and spice and all things nice” and boys are, well, fabulous, physical and sometimes just a little frustrating!