- I am openly happy to see them go back to school at the end of the holidays. I liken the anticipation to that I felt in the run-up to Christmas when I was a child. I am positively jubilant and am completely unable to empathise with those who bang on about how much they are dreading the end of the holidays and how they are going to miss their children hugely blah, blah blah. To my mind they are one of two things: liars or delusional.
- I have manufactured an incurable and deadly allergy to glue and paint to prevent any attempts at “messy play” in my house. Anyway, isn’t that what schools are for? But painting and sticking is fun isn’t it? No, it’s not and frankly depriving my children of this extra dimension to their childhood is not going to keep me awake at night.
- I don’t iron any of my children’s clothes – I fold. I fold very well indeed. Folding is a much under-rated skill which I have perfected over many years of iron-shirking. I don’t like ironing and spending hours sweating over an ironing board is pointless if the person you’re ironing for a) doesn’t notice your effort b)couldn’t care less whether their clothing is creased c)has spilled something down the front of ironed clothing within 2 minutes of dressing. As for ironing underwear…come on, please – surely your time can be used more productively?
- I don’t do nametapes. Well, actually strictly speaking that is not true. At the start of my mothering “career”, I painstakingly sewed on scores of nametapes – pricking my finger on the needle countless times, accidentally sewing the item to my trousers on more than one occasion and wishing constantly that my children had shorter names and that I had married someone whose surname was one syllable of two letters. I gave up sewing on nametapes years ago and moved on to “iron on” nametapes: I refer you to the point I made above – I don’t iron. So now, I employ a much easier method – permanent marker. Not the neatest, I’ll grant you, but marvellously quick and most effective.
- I have started buying mashed potato rather than making it. This slippery slope into culinary laziness started innocuously with buying ready-made fishcakes and chicken nuggets and now has insidiously spread to buying mashed potato and even, on occasion, ready-to-microwave vegetables. I am not proud of this and I can almost hear the gasps of horror from the more wholesome amongst you. The bottom line is this – I hate peeling potatoes and my mash is always lumpy and either too sloppy or too stodgy. Life is too short to mash especially when someone else can do it much better than you at a reasonable price.
- I would often secretly prefer a glass of wine and a flick through Facebook than reading a bedtime story to my children. I don’t believe I am alone in this but perhaps alone in admitting to it. I know reading to children is vital and I do sometimes enjoy it but frankly there are some days when I am ready to lamp Peppa Pig and the rest of her porcine family. I do find a few medicinal sips of wine before reading “Peppa Pig” does help with these irrationally aggressive thoughts and stops the urge to jump up and down in muddy puddles until Peppa et al are completely soaked and begging you to stop.
- I don’t like watching kids’ films or cartoons. So as not to be mean-spirited, I do, on occasion, sit down with the children to watch a film. Most recently, the Minions movie – all I can say is that the parts which I did not sleep or text through were mind-numbingly terrible and I simply can’t understand why my children found it so hilarious and then compounded my misery by shouting “King Bob” endlessly for days afterwards. Watching the Minions movie was two hours of my life that I can never get back.
- I don’t let them win games. Well, I do sometimes but often my competitiveness gets the better of me. Does it matter if I win “Ludo”? Somehow it does seem to. I love Scrabble and there is no way that I am going to let my children win even if it is Junior Scrabble. Pathetic I know. The only game which I couldn’t give a toss about is Snakes and Ladders which is without doubt the most painful, excruciatingly dull game ever invented and when forced to play, I wish fervently that my opponent gets to 100 without encountering any snakes but landing on every ladder opportunity just to stop the monotony.
- I get shouty in supermarkets. Everyone else’s children seem to be behaving absolutely fine. Mine, on the other hand,turn into demented lunatics playing their own version of “Supermarket Sweep” at the expense of any old ladies or food products which are in their way. I get shouty; they behave even worse; I threaten something I can’t possibly carry out – eg no television ever ever ever again; they ignore me.
- I wouldn’t give them my last Rolo. Actually this is not strictly true – I would give them my last Rolo as I don’t like Rolos much but I certainly would not give them my last fizzy cola bottle. No way. I know that I bang on about sharing at least 20 times a day to the children, but sometimes I don’t want to share. The last fizzy cola bottle is one of those occasions. Anyway, sweets are bad for their teeth, right?
Yesterday was a revelation. I sat and watched 8 hours of cricket. No, not the Ashes but an under 9s local cricket tournament. Now admittedly 80 degrees and wall-to-wall sunshine definitely enhanced my viewing experience but I can actually say I enjoyed it and by “it” I do mean the cricket itself. I still can’t believe what I am saying as until yesterday I found the prospect of watching a game of cricket less appealing even than being forced to watch 24 hours solid of Peppa Pig. I would even go as far as to say that the cricket was exciting which is an adjective I am unlikely to ever use in respect of Peppa, George, Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig.
However, before you fear that the summer heatwave we are currently experiencing (Day 17 apparently – no wonder we are the laughing stock of the rest of the world when we count the days when the temperature rises above what many other countries would consider an average day), there are certain things I find bizarre about cricket.
Firstly, a sartorial point. Why do they wear ‘cricket whites’? It seems remarkably stupid to me to wear totally white clothing when you are playing a sport which inevitably involves skidding and leaping around on grass. Yes, earth-shattering news – grass is green, grass stains and it is a complete nightmare to get out (although I grant you this is a point that may have escaped most men as it is women who on the whole have to scrub the whites clean swearing profusely).
Secondly, yesterday I realised that actually cricket is a fairly simple game and it is dressed up to be remarkably complicated in order for men to think they are playing some incredibly sophisticated game. It’s basically rounders with two bases instead of four. Baffling language such as slip, gully and silly mid-off are thrown in to confuse the non-cricketer and to ensure they feel excluded from the cricket in-crowd (sorry, bad pun..in??). Cut through all the nonsense language and there’s not much to it as far as I can see – bowl, bat, run, catch.
Incidentally, this deliberate over-complication is not confined to cricket. Football suffers from the same condition. Nothing illustrates this better than the off-side rule which men always challenge women to explain as a way of demonstrating their inability to understand the game. Well, ladies, the off-side rule is not remotely complicated and indeed nor is football – kick, run, pass and score. Easy.
The only game which seems truly baffling to me and perhaps defies my complaint that male-dominated sports are over-complicated for no good reason is rugby. Rugby seems to me to be genuinely complicated and unnecessarily so. It seems so complicated that for a large part of the game, no-one appears to have a clear understanding of the rules – players, referees or those watching. I know I am going to be accused of totally missing the point but take the scrum for example. Why? To the layman it looks like a group of men with overdeveloped physiques, bundling in and achieving very little – a sort of acceptable group man hug – the ball gets put in and then pushed out again often where it came in. I know that all men (and probably quite a few women) will be shouting at my idiocy at this point but I’m just saying it how I see it.
Back to cricket. It seems to me that cricket suffers from a bit of a PR problem. To my mind, this boils down to one simple point – the game goes on too b***** long. That is not to say that test series are not exciting but to compare international cricket with village cricket is lunacy. There is nothing interesting about watching an entire day of village cricket which is often “village” in standard. Cricket is quite possibly the least family-friendly game and I speak from experience as one who could in the past have fairly called herself a “cricket widow”. I know much has been done to make cricket more exciting – T20 etc – but it is still too long and unpredictable in length. At least with football, much as I loathe it, I know that after 90 minutes it’s all done and dusted.
When all is said and done, I really enjoyed yesterday’s cricket but let’s face it, in this country with our reliably unreliable weather, it would not have been the same if I had been forced to sit wrapped in jumpers and blankets for 8 hours, shivering in the usual British summer temperatures, bathing in the glorious light of yet another overcast day.
Finally, a note to my husband who I am sure will vehemently disagree with me…spending two days at Lords watching cricket is not a justification for the length the game takes to play – I know and you know that you are not just watching the cricket and that there is more than a small element of socialising involved too…
Hello, anyone there…? I’m back. Have you missed me? Deafening silence…
You probably haven’t noticed but I’ve been away for the last couple of weeks and haven’t been blogging. Before you get out the bunting, throw street parties and issue special edition stamps to celebrate my return, I don’t want any fuss, any fanfare – I’m a very modest, unassuming person after all – but it would be nice if someone had missed my blogging/whinging/musings about nothing very much at all.
I don’t think it would be fair of me to bang on endlessly about white sand beaches, azure seas, cocktails and all the other holiday clichés. There all true. I don’t want to alienate my readers – particularly British readers who have endured the most vile of winters. So instead I thought I would share with you a couple of observations about the ordeal which is “travelling” – that time of huge stress which prefaces the white sand beaches, azure seas etc. I don’t know, maybe you are a cool, calm and collected sort of traveller…not me, despite my best attempts, travelling is always rather an ordeal, a case of the end result justifying the means.
Packing is a skill I still have not mastered after 40 years. It doesn’t seem to be particularly intellectually taxing or require any particular dexterity or co-ordination – I just can’t do it well.
I usually get off to a pretty good, controlled sort of start but as the deadline for departure approaches my packing becomes frenzied, bordering on manic . I start packing things I could not possibly have any use for, just in case…for example, on this holiday I took not one but two full first aid kits. Why? Good question. What is the likelihood of me needing the entire contents of two full first aid kits on one 10 day holiday? Remote but as I said, just in case…On this holiday I took enough Calpol to administer to an entire children’s hospital – enough to give each of my 3 children a 4-6 hourly dose for the entire 10 days and still only use 1/4 of my supplies – overcatering, perhaps, but just in case…On this holiday, I took 4 jumpers and 4 cardigans, to a place where the temperature at 3am never dips below about 24 degrees. Why? Expecting a freak snow storm in the Indian Ocean? You never know, just in case…
I can only think that this extreme level of preparedness harks from my Brownie Guide days, motto “Be Prepared”. If only I had known then how much excess baggage this would mean I would be forced to take every time I go away, then I might have reconsidered my promise “To do my best” etc and turned my back on the Brownies while I still could. So those of you with daughters, consider carefully the potential long term effects of introducing your offspring to the Guiding Movement.
Airports make me behave in a very out-of-character fashion. I am not a mad shopper normally – I like shopping as much as the next woman but for some bizarre reason airports turning me into some sort of supermarket sweep shopping freak. I feel like I am in a shopping version of “Countdown” – up against the clock, flight leaves in 45 minutes, got to shop, got to shop, got to shop…I find myself considering purchases that I would never even look at the other side of security – a combination, I guess, of tax-free, holiday fever and that old chestnut, preparedness – what if I can’t buy ‘X’ “over there” – ‘X’ usually being something that I would never ever have use for in this country so I have no idea why I feel it might be of use on a 10 day holiday somewhere else.
Finally, time to get on the plane. Why, please tell me, do people queue at the gate to get on to the plane? It makes me want to scream – “Weirdos, your seats are pre-allocated, no need to queue at this point. We’re all going to get on eventually”. I guess this might be a peculiarly British feature – queueing being part of our national identity?
The days of fervently praying that you don’t get the seat next to the crying child are unfortunately a thing of the past for me. I always get the seat next to the crying child…my child. The first 10 minutes on a plane (assuming you are turning right like me when you get on) are spent apologising…apologising to the poor person who despite their fervent prayers is sitting next to you and your screaming child, apologising to the person sitting in the aisle seat in advance for the number of times you are going to have to climb over them during the flight, apologising for practically knocking a fellow passenger out when attempting to put your bags in the overhead locker, then apologising again for having to climb over the person sitting in the aisle seat in order to reopen the overhead locker and get out the particular Peppa Pig book that your daughter wants right now and only now.
You take off – not before you’ve watched the safety demonstration avidly – as if you have never seen it before. For me this is complete superstition – I could pass the British Airways safety demonstration test (if there is such a thing) word perfect – but I have this horrible niggle that if I don’t watch it, then this will be the time that I have to perform a complicated passing of the life jacket strings around my waist, securing them in a knot, fully inflating my life jacket (after I have gone down the emergency chute, having removed my high heels (?)), then using the little tube to top up the air before blowing pathetically on my little whistle (in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean???). I’m afraid I am also always that person who surreptitiously kicks under the seat just to check my life jacket is there. Goes back to the Brownies again, “Be Prepared”.
Then off you go. Within 3 minutes of take-off, at least one of my children has already asked me twice “Are we nearly there yet?”. Thank Goodness for inflight entertainment. I swear my two boys, once settled in front of the screen, did not blink or utter a word for the next 12 hours. I don’t care whether that is bad mothering – flying doesn’t count, anything goes on a plane, survival is all that matters.
Destination reached – fanatical peering out of the plane windows to assess the weather. Unbelievable, after 12 hours in the air – it’s raining…yes, we’ve travelled several thousand miles, endured so much…to step out into the identical weather we left in the UK, just warmer. Welcome to Paradise…
Update on my “pointless” list – a kind reader has given me my first (and last) onesie – fortunately for me it does not have novelty headgear too – but all the same it is a onesie probably best described as resembling a snow leopard. Now I love the person who gave me this onesie but I can confirm that I look more than faintly ridiculous in it and I definitely look like an overgrown giant baby (not my favourite look). One thing I had not appreciated before I owned such a must-have garment is how flipping hot it is inside one of these onesies. I started to sweat profusely within about 5 minutes – a sweating snow leopard in a babygrow – not a pretty sight! I have to admit to being slightly fascinated by the speed with which these onesies are flying off the shelves this Christmas – who (apart from my friend) is buying them? Imagine if you were an alien arriving on earth for the first time and you were greeted by the sight of giant babies wearing all-in-one, furry, faux animal outfits – I’m fairly sure if it was me, I would turn right round again and return from where I came, very disturbed by the sight I had just witnessed.
On the subject of Christmas shopping, I am also very distressed at the return of that hideous creature the “Furby” – who thought it was a good idea to bring it back for this Christmas season for god’s sake? To add insult to injury this ugly, little monster retails at well over £50. Sometimes I really do think I live in a parallel universe to everyone else. I get Peppa Pig (regular readers will know I am actually a little partial to a bit of Peppa Pig) but Furbies – they are wrong, all wrong.
I’m on a roll now…one last bugbear (bah humbug!)…football kits for kids. My boys support Arsenal. I know nothing about Arsenal – a deliberate ploy to prevent me from ever having to discuss football leagues with my children or worse go and watch matches with them. An aside, the only thing I find vaguely interesting – actually rather pleasing in an odd way – is that the Arsenal Boss is called Arsene – almost poetic. Anyway, my problem is very simple, premiership football teams change their football strip (home and away) every season so I am forced to buy new football strips every season too. These football strips are not only deeply unpleasant to look at but they are also extortionately expensive. In my view, these premiership teams are committing daylight robbery by hiking the prices of these kits way beyond their value because we poor unsuspecting parents, ever keen to encourage our offspring into supporting a team, are forced to buy them on an annual basis (last year’s strip is so passé) in order not to embarrass poor little Johnny in front of his mates.
So there you have it, rant over for the day. You could be forgiven for thinking I complain about everything. Well I do, I guess, but only with good reason, and actually those who know me will testify that I can be nice too!
So I settle down to the weekend newspapers, feet up for the first time this week, glass of wine in hand…the headline on The Times Weekend section catches my eye – “Are you a Parentoholic?”. At this point, I have one of my more “dim” moments – perhaps as I approach 40, a “senior moment” – and I think to myself that this must be an article about some odd medical/clinical condition which means you are addicted to parenting. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my children completely, but I am not some earth mothering, Gina Fording, frankly nauseating example of perfect parenting – far from it!
I open up the paper and it immediately becomes apparent that no, this is not an article about extreme parenting but yet another thinly-veiled attack on middle class, verging on alcoholic, parents, which is the hot issue of the moment for the media. My eyes settle on one of those cosy little “if you have mainly As…” quizzes which I loved so much when I was about 13 in the likes of “Just 17” or “Mizz” which I would use to determine whether the spotty nerd next door was actually my true love based on my personality type. However, this quiz was of an altogether much more sinister type – it was a lose/lose quiz which started from the assumption that you were an alcoholic parent and it was just a matter of to what degree.
Look, I’m not trying to make light of what many consider to be a serious issue but I will say one thing. After a 14 hour day (yes, 14 hour) which starts with one or other child screaming in my ear and ends in much the same vein with a smorgasbord of school runs, cooking, laundry, cleaning, bathing and Peppa Pig viewing thrown in the middle, I do believe it is my prerogative to have a glass of wine at the end of my working day. For me this glass of wine does not represent a decline into alcoholism but more the fact that I am an adult and this precious two hours at the end of the day are in fact my adult time.
Anyway, I am sure this rant is yet more evidence of my approaching 40 angst, but I am going to go now as my husband has just poured me a lovely, large glass of white Burgundy…