turningtwicetwenty plus one

English: Miley Cyrus' signature Español: Firma...

English: Miley Cyrus’ signature Español: Firma de Miley Cyrus Português: Assinatura de Miley Cyrus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back by popular demand (well anyway thanks to the couple of people who have asked why I haven’t been blogging). The title of my blog is no longer strictly true – I am now turningtwicetwenty plus one. I am now in the less appealing position of being “in my forties” rather than “forty”.  So what has changed in the year since I turned forty…well, here’s a couple of things for starters:

The wrinkles on my face have increased in quantity and depth with an acceleration which is nothing short of frightening.  I am particularly hating the “expression” lines between my eyes which are less expression and more trench.  Frankly, if they are expression lines, then I must spend the majority of my life frowning and looking grumpy which is also rather disappointing as I have always thought, clearly mistakenly, that I was one of life’s laughers.  I have to admit to moving slightly more in favour of the botox approach and I might even be tempted if it wasn’t for the extremely high likelihood of being the person whose face is plastered on the front page of a Red Top with the headline “Botox botch – woman, 41, scares local children”.

Until fairly recently, I felt that I was quite “up to speed” (I know the fact that I have used that expression demonstrates the complete opposite) on popular music but I can feel my grip slipping.  There have indeed been occasions of late when I have found pop music frankly bewildering:  Miley Cyrus and “twerking”, Lady Gaga prancing bizarrely around the X-Factor stage in some seriously unpleasant flesh-coloured granny-bags (large Bridget Jones pants if you’re wondering). Perhaps most worryingly of all, I actually enjoyed watching Gary Barlow perform his new single because it had a good “tune” (something my parents would have said which would have made me cringe and vow never to be like that when I grew up).

This has definitely been the year that I have started to fall behind with regard to popular culture.  I heard on the radio this morning that the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is “selfie”. Now I am not so behind that I don’t know what a “selfie” is (although admittedly the clue is in the name) but I have absolutely no idea why taking random photos of myself and sticking them on some social networking site is something in which I would wish to participate. As far as I am concerned it is quite enough of a shock seeing my face in the mirror first thing in the morning without wishing to share that sight with several hundred other people.  Perhaps it is some form of narcissism, I am  not sure, but it seems at best utterly pointless to me. It is rather like karaoke – I know I can’t sing so why would I inflict my talentless tuneless caterwauling on a bar full of people who are hoping for a good night out without the soundtrack of their favourite songs being mullered?

In terms of my home life, not much has altered really over the last year.  I am still employed on a full-time basis as a mother, chef, taxi driver, laundry woman and cleaner.  If anyting I would say that my duties have been increased over the last year as my bosses have got still more demanding. One of my bosses asked me the other day what I get paid on a weekly basis.  I smiled benignly, ruffled his hair and said that I did it all for love not money (as I reached for that large self-medicatory glass of white wine). Although, big boss if you are reading this, some sort of pay rise/time off would be appreciated. The only slightly concerning change in my personal circumstances is that my youngest child is now at full-time school so I am running out of excuses not to do something worthwhile with my days.  Predictably I can think of a thousand things I don’t want to do but am struggling with that one elusive thing that would “fulfil my potential” blah blah blah.  I mustn’t do myself down, if nothing else it takes a certain sort of person to move seamlessly through as many different careers as I have managed in the last twenty years and still not manage to stick at any one thing for any length of time.

So there we have it – not much change over the last year since I started this blog, just a gentle degeneration…oh yes, and the horrifying discovery of my first ever grey hair – yanked from my head with such ferocity that if I was that grey hair, I wouldn’t be making any sort of re-emergence in the near future without serious consideration of my survival potential. Perhaps I’ll continue with this blogging malarkey – I’m not sure.  What do you reckon?  It’s either that or start perusing garden websites or the daily bargains on Achica…

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It’s not cricket…

google cricket bat & ball

google cricket bat & ball (Photo credit: osde8info)

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…

Dads – they’re grrrrrrrreat….

Frosties de Kellog's, poderosa energía

Frosties de Kellog’s, poderosa energía (Photo credit: frosklis)

Forget Tiger Mums, make way for Tiger Dads.  Forget Tony “They’re Grrrrrrreat” Tiger of Frosties fame, I’m talking about survival of the fittest; who is the King of the Tigers?

Tiger Mums have been getting a lot of negative press recently and to be honest, I think most of it is justified.  This is probably because Tiger Mums make me feel small part inadequate, small part lazy and most part cross.  We all want the best for our children and we all feel proud and rather over-excited when they are successful at something – we have to stop ourselves shouting out – ‘that’s my little Johnny, yes, over there, the one who is so so so good at bla bla bla”. However, putting my children forward for MENSA at age 2, insisting on distinction in grade 8 piano by the age of 4, expecting them to be national squad players in at least 6 sports by the age of 10 is just not my thing.  Anyway, the genes don’t look good for my children – forget MENSA, I can hardly remember my name these days; I can only just about play Chopsticks despite learning the piano for ten years and as for sport, the only running I do now is a bath at the end of the day.

So what about Dads?  Unlike women who often tend to try and hide their “tiger” tendencies – pretending to be all laid back whilst subjecting their children to hour upon hour of extra coaching on the quiet – their little secret – most men are the absolute opposite.  They are competitive and they don’t care who knows it and they are utterly incapable of hiding it.

I am not suggesting that all women are like this, or all men are like that – that’s far too simplistic .  Of course, there are men out there who are pushing their children to extremes – true Tiger Dads – we’ve all read about them – just as there are lots of women who are competitive for their children without being obsessional. However, just as often little boys behave differently to little girls, the same tendencies are played out in adulthood in relation to their children. Actually most men are not really Tiger Dads, just typical Dads.

Take a kids’ cricket match as an example. Forget the competition between the boys playing – obviously that’s there and anyway a bit of competition is healthy.  No, look at the Dads, listen to the Dads.  It is as if they have regressed in age by about 30 years and our living out their former competitive glories through their sons. Like Father, like Son. There is humour and ribbing and an awful lot of chat (and that applies to both the boys and their fathers!)

So why is it that the Tiger Mums get the negative press whereas the Dads largely slip beneath the radar, their competitiveness laughed at and even expected?  Well, I think it is because the Dads’ competitive nature is so much more palatable to the observer – they are very open about it; they take it seriously but there is still much lighthearted banter amongst themselves.  They behave in some ways like the children they are watching – over-excited and noisily competitive – but it feels very natural and not obsessive in the way Tiger Mums are so often portrayed to be.

This sort of competition is healthy.  One of my largest problems with schools and children’s activities in the UK today is this overbearing nannying of our children so that we protect them from ever losing at anything, from ever being disappointed.  Life is not like that and our kids need to experience the reality of life from early on in a controlled and nurturing environment otherwise they are going to have one large shock when they are grown-up and out there in the real world.

We need to teach our children that you win some, you lose some.  We need to teach them that a degree of competition is healthy and there will be a winner and a loser.  We have to stop giving every child a medal just so that no-one is singled out as being successful.  A confident and balanced child will learn in childhood that they can’t be number 1 at everything, that they will come second, third or whatever and that is just the way it is.  They will be secure enough in their own abilities to be able to shrug off the disappointments but also enjoy their successes.  Success has become a dirty word and it shouldn’t be.  It should be something to be celebrated.

So let these “Tiger Dads” be.  I for one find them very amusing and very unthreatening.  Their competitiveness is not unappealing but rather endearing.  They just want their kids to do well and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s entirely normal.  Of course, there are lots of mothers out there who have got the balance just right too. But true Tiger Mums and true Tiger Dads take note, competition is healthy, obsessional pushing is not.

Unpaid Leave

English: Logo for the United States TV series ...

English: Logo for the United States TV series “The Office”. Français : Logo de la série télé “The Office” diffusée aux États-Unis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time in 9 years I am taking unpaid leave from my job.  I am going to Colombia to visit family and leaving my colleague, the husband (strictly speaking my underling as I am Chief Executive and he is my deputy with special responsibility for “financial services and support”) in charge.

Now without wishing to cast aspersions on my colleague’s abilities, I do have my reservations about leaving him to run the “office”.  I am not convinced that he really understands the full extent of his new responsibilities and what the day to day running of this extremely busy “office” entails.  Not only will he have to deal with the administrative nightmare of scheduling but he will also have to deal with three of my most difficult clients for a whole week.  These clients can be particularly demanding and do expect to have someone on call 24/7.  It is not unknown for them to call me at 3 am and expect me to perform a full laundering service or the like.

Of course, being such important clients, it is vital that my colleague and I manage a seamless handover of responsibilities and that these clients are virtually unaware of the temporary change in their client relationship manager. I have warned my colleague not to expect much praise or affirmation from these clients – indeed rather to expect numerous complaints and a regular and often harsh critique of services provided.

Unfortunately for my colleague, the “office” driver, chef and laundry assistant are also away the same week as me so he will have to perform their duties too.  I realise that he will feel this goes way beyond his job specification and I can only apologise for asking him to do the impossible and carry out my job responsibilities and that of three other “office” workers.

I am of course aware that I am asking a huge amount of him.  To this end, I have produced a manual which outlines all the responsibilities and the schedules of our three most important clients.  I have stressed the importance to him of ensuring that the schedules run like clock-work and that our clients will not tolerate lateness or a lack of preparedness.

I am very grateful to the large number of female colleagues in different “offices” who have offered their support in my absence and have provided a telephone tree of emergency numbers in case he should find it all too much. I am much comforted by the thought that there is a strong network of very capable women ready to leap into action if required.

I am very keen to let my colleague find his way on his own, prove himself to me. To this end, I would encourage my female friends in other “offices” to hold back unless strictly necessary.  Examples of situations which do not require intervention: one or more clients dressed in totally inappropriate, clashing-coloured clothing (to be expected), one or more clients arriving at least 20 minutes late for any appointment and one or more clients appearing in unexpected places at unexpected times.  An example of a situation which does require intervention would be if you see my colleague with two clients but not the third – in this situation it would be perfectly acceptable just to ask him where the other client is (just check – in case he has dropped one of the juggling balls).

So I am going to go off on Thursday and try very hard not to think about work for a week (of course I shall be available for nightly skypes with my three most important clients) and leave my job in the very capable hands of my colleague.  Hasta Pronto!

How to tell if a woman is over 40…

a-ha 11

a-ha 11 (Photo credit: thierry.cote)

Do you think she’s in her late thirties or early forties?  How often do we guesstimate someone’s age? All the time.  At my age, the obsession of looking young/old for your actual biological age becomes fanatical.  So to make this job easier, I thought I would devise a little test which will accurately pin down whether a woman is under 40 or over 40. I realise this is of no great consequence nor life-changing in anyway but it’s kept me amused for the last half an hour and on a Monday I’ll run with anything that I find semi-amusing.

So, here goes, a woman is over 40 if…

– she has begun to express a desire to or has actually started to visit garden centres on a regular basis.  The odd trip to a garden centre to buy a ready planted-up hanging basket does not count and should be taken as a sure sign that a woman is still in her thirties. The sign to look out for that this has been replaced with regular and much longer visits is the acquisition of a garden centre loyalty card.

– she suddenly cuts a fringe into her hair.  This budget Botox alternative is a desperate attempt to cover up the wrinkles on the forehead but is almost as obvious an admission of ageing as the inability to raise your eyebrows after Botox.

– she has a glass of water for every glass of wine. This is a combination of middle age sensible, responsible behaviour and a morbid fear of the forties’ hangover. Although largely effective at avoiding the “hammer in the brain” feeling the next morning (and for the next 5 days when you are over 40), it does have the rather undesirable side effect of requiring numerous bathroom visitations through the night.

– she visibly shudders at the mention of wearing little shorts with opaque tights underneath. Never in the history of fashion to my mind has there been a trend which is so not designed for the over 40s. Any woman sporting this trend is either under 40, an ex-supermodel or frankly delusional.

– she knows exactly who Morten Harket and John Taylor from Duran Duran are. Say no more. Enough said.  She also knows who Harry Styles is but is acutely aware that she is old enough to have gone through school, university, two years of a job and then given birth to him.

– she remembers writing SWALK and LOL (original meaning) on letters. She also can’t quite bring herself to writing ‘u’ for ‘you’ and ‘4’ for ‘for’ when texting and always texts in full sentences – noun, verb, object etc.

– she always tries to stay in on either Friday or Saturday night.  The ability to manage two nights out in a row significantly diminishes after the age of 40 and becomes nigh on impossible after 45.  Anyway, staying in with a bottle of wine, a takeaway and Ant and Dec on the TV is ideal, isn’t it?

– she remembers when the Blue Peter garden got vandalised and it couldn’t just be fixed with double-sided sticky tape and “who shot JR?”.  These were her first encounters with crime.

– she suddenly understands the point of a lip liner pencil. Having always thought it was yet another one of those beauty cons, she now realises that without it she runs the risk of being mistaken for a clown in Billy Smart’s Circus.

– Finally, she starts blogging and banging on about it being her time now….