Thursday, 26 May 2016

Showing Restraint...

Do you think it's possible to take out a restraining order against your own kids? If so, I'm thinking about applying.

My kids have a perfectly pleasant middle class existence. They live in a nice house with a garden which is just around the corner from the park. They each have their own room, the 3 year old is having a new exciting bed delivered tomorrow. They have three solid meals a day including pudding, snacks and juice. They take part in activities such as swimming, tennis and lacrosse. Grandma is taking them to Blackpool for the weekend tomorrow and they even have their own annual passes to Legoland.

But apparently, this isn't good enough.

After having a (jokey) conversation with hubby about how I'm the only girl in the house and think it's about time we finally get a lock on the bathroom door, I waved him goodbye to a fun filled evening at a Radiohead gig in London. I imagined a peaceful evening of reading, writing and a cheeky glass of wine.

How wrong could I be?

Firstly, the 3 year old took great exception to leaving his friends house and so decided to jump on the furniture and generally act like a little sh1t (this is mum code to use around kids who can't spell...) Neither the threat of the naughty step or going on amber worked - in fact, both options seemed highly hilarious to him. After finally dragging him out of the house, somehow managing not to drop him on his head in the process, it then took me another five or so minutes to strap him into the car seat.

There I was, arse hanging out of a fully opened car door trying desperately to prevent myself getting kicked in the head with a plastic minion shoe. When I eventually got them off his feet he took to throwing them at me instead. As cars sped past behind my behind I idly wondered whether spending the evening in hospital would be a better option...

The 3 year old kept up the tantrum for a good hour, demanding to be driven back to his friends house long after we had arrived home and the door safely locked behind us. 

In the meantime, the 8 year old needed feeding. I hastily threw together the most random tea ever (a cheese sandwich and sweet potato tagliatelle if you're interested) and plonked it down in front of him to go try and reason with the 3 year old. Two minutes later, "Mum, can I have pudding?" 

"One, two, three..." I counted to myself very quietly, placing a pot of rice pudding in front of the 8 year old. "This isn't what I had in mind," came the reply.

Up until this point I'm not sure I understood that phrase about the red mist descending...

Thus followed an incredibly dramatic performance from the 8 year old worthy of one or two BAFTA's. Apparently I should stop buying rice pudding, it's the worst thing ever, why can't he have something else, it's not fair, you're always doing this to me, scream, shout, kick, stamp etc. etc.

Needless to say this went on for some time. The only positive thing to come from this was that the 3 year old found the whole thing so amusing he cheered up, agreed to get dressed for bed and settled down with some milk. 

After several failed attempts at apologising to me, mainly because each time he immediately asked for a biscuit and milk and stamped and screamed a bit more each time the answer came back as no, the 8 year old finally cried himself to sleep.

Now, it's at this point that I start to feel guilty. Chastising myself for not handling the situation better, after all I'm the adult etc. But after assessing the fridge situation it became apparent that the only thing for tea was a vegetable stir fry and there was no wine in the fridge.

So here I am, venting my frustration at you after a thoroughly disappointing plate of veg and no wine. 

The only consolation? I'm drinking hubby's beer!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Excuses, excuses...

Writing has taken a bit of a back seat recently. When I first got going a few months ago I was writing every day. Knocking out blog post after blog post, entering short story competitions, planning my debut best seller.

Now it's excuse after excuse to justify a distinct lack of writing activity.

This morning I packed a note book and pen in my gym bag fully intending to spend an hour writing after class. 

After forty-five minutes of press ups and weights I decamped to Costa (other coffee shops are available) and that's when the excuses began.

First of all, I couldn't get comfy. 

My usual coffee shop (Costa in Waterstones) has closed down awaiting a refit and re-brand so I was forced to use the Costa literally 10 strides away (possibly the reason for the Waterstones branch closing down was its proximity to another of the same brand...) 

But this Costa just doesn't feel right. It serves the same coffee, offers the same variety of tasty treats and snacks - but it's just not the same. 

I chose a seat next to the window upstairs and that's when the second excuse hit...It was too cold. 

The air conditioning was turned up way too high and I was shivering despite wrapping my hands around a large cappuccino. 

So I moved to another table. I sat staring into the middle distance, an open note book and pen laying in front of me. Then came the the third excuse...My arms hurt.

After attending a class aimed at toning the upper arms I decided that my puny arms couldn't possibly cope with lifting a pen as well as a cappuccino and I reasoned that the cappuccino was more important. 

After a fair amount of people watching I figured I could either pick up the pen for twenty minutes or have a quick trawl round the shops...and as everyone knows, you can't get anything done in twenty minutes, so off to the shops I went.

Twenty minutes later equipped with new foundation, primer, a blusher brush and a strapless bra I set off to pick up the youngest from nursery confident that I'd done everything possible to kick start the writing habit this morning and maybe I should try again tomorrow.

Now if you'll excuse me I have a sudden urge to scrub some bathroom tiles...

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Survival of the Fittest

Good news. We survived the camping trip!

There may have been an incident with an incredibly big knife (anyone remember that scene in Crocodile Dundee??) but there were no hospital trips and the number of cuts and bruises were minimal...although I knew the antiseptic wipes and minion plasters would come in handy.

Soon after arrival the kids decided that the toilets were quite a long way away and insisted on using nature for...well, the call of nature. Mums turned a blind eye whilst considering how to prevent the youngest from peeing behind the Wendy house in the nursery playground on the return to school while the Dads happily joined in. Although in their defence, the boys toilets were apparently, "too grim for words". The bog in a bag also got a positive review at 2am...

After realising that I'd packed 2 sets of PJ's for the 3 year old and none for the 8 year old we finally got the kids off to bed and secretly toasted the first batch of marshmallows whilst sipping Prosecco from proper glass champagne flutes - cos apparently that's how camping works these days.

At almost 1am we retreated into our sleeping bags and suddenly realised we were camping next to an incredibly busy A road...we'd been having far too much fun and making too much noise to realise before that. 5 or 6 hours later with absolutely no sleep between us, we crawled out of our sleeping bags secretly regretting that last glass of Prosecco and wishing a horrible death on the noisiest flock of birds ever to grace a field in Cheshire.

The threatened storm finally made an appearance around 8pm on Saturday. Kids ran around shrieking whilst adults attempted to batten down the hatches as fork lightning lit up the sky. It was at this point that the group split into three distinct groups; the 'retreat to the bar' posse, the 'grin and bear it under the gazebo' posse and the 'this is a great opportunity to put the kids to bed' posse.

I fell into the latter. Whilst the 8 year old stayed up with the men-folk to tend the fire, I happily snuggled into my sleeping bag with the 3 year old, listening to the rain and having some one-to-one time with my Kindle. Heaven!

The 8 year old finally changed out of the clothes he'd been wearing since leaving for school on Friday morning on Sunday, having slept in them for two nights. 

Having spent all weekend trying to get the kids to stop snacking we now force fed them all the food and snacks left on site to prevent having to pack it into the car. 

With multiple coffees and bacon/sausage/egg butties out of the way (courtesy of the most comprehensive camping kitchen outfit ever seen) the tents were finally packed away, the cars loaded and we went our separate ways; some to the local pub, some to a rugby match, some simply to the comfort of the sofa.

So, will we do it again? We're already planning the next trip!

Friday, 6 May 2016

To Camp Or Not To Camp...

To camp or not to camp? That is the question...

I'm not a huge fan of camping (being more of a luxury 5 star hotel and spa kind of gal) but a group of us decided to try a group camping trip last year and we had an amazing time...apart from the middle of the night trips to the toilet blocks to throw up as I managed to pick up a delightful stomach bug on the first night. But the least said about that the better.

So, we've decided to go again, and this year there are more of us! As 14 adults and 17 children descend on the unsuspecting camp site this weekend I'm wondering what the weekend will bring.

A week ago we were contemplating cancelling the trip as the prospect of spending two nights in a tent with hailstones the size of golf balls falling on us started to lose its appeal.

A few days ago we got excited about the potential heatwave and scrambled around buying outdoor toys and sun-cream.

Today the BBC weather forecast has updated to the following:

Whilst the majority of places within this warning area will see a dry and very warm Saturday with a good deal of hazy sunshine there is a a very low likelihood of isolated intense thunderstorms developing during the afternoon and evening.

Please be aware that if these occur they are likely to be associated with torrential downpours as well as frequent lightning and hail leading to disruption to travel, outdoor activities and potentially flooding or temporary power disruption. Some very localised strong and gusty winds are also possible.

So, now we’re packing sun-cream alongside brollies, flip-flops alongside wellies. There’s even the promise of a bog in a bag from someone slightly more prepared than I will ever be!

So, will we survive? Who knows? But if hailstones the size of golf balls (or petit pois for that matter) are falling at any point, chances are you’ll find be in the on-site bar!

Monday, 2 May 2016

It's a Classic Part 2...

In my previous blog post 'It's a Classic' I contemplated whether I should broaden my reading horizons and branch out into 'classic' fiction rather than simply contemporary. I figured it was time to give the old guys a chance...although I have to admit I cheated a little.

Instead of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights or Bleak House, I opted for The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. Two of the 'three perfect books' in American literature according to the critic Adam Gopnik, the other being The Adventures of Hucklebury Finn. (

There's something that appeals to me about American novels set in this time period. Full of hope and excitement rather than despair and gross inequality. The streets are paved with gold rather than mill soot and there's a bit more intrigue to them than 'will she marry for money or follow her heart and stick with the stable boy?'

I can feel you all shaking your collective heads despondently. Such a negative perspective, you say, and I would have to agree. But it's quite a difficult one to shake off.

I grew up in a former mill town in Yorkshire, not poor but certainly not rich. A traditional working class family with hard working parents trying to make something of their lives. I grew up with a book in my hand and quickly established a preference for pure escapism.

America may as well have been Mars as far as I was concerned. An exciting land millions of miles away full of exciting people with shiny teeth. 

Anything that involved the 'so called' lower classes doffing their hats to the 'supposed' upper echelons made me see red. An entire novel based on whether some privileged young woman would spend her life sewing/playing the piano/reading to elderly relatives in one drawing room or the one on the estate next door was not my idea of a good time. 

Anyway...I enjoyed The Great Gatsby (and the recent film even more than the book *gasp*) but The Catcher in the Rye did absolutely nothing for me...because nothing happened. Here was a book that many have cited as changing their lives but after turning the last page I was left thinking, 'Was that it?'

I'm guessing I was supposed to identify with the main characters social awkwardness, with his attempts to understand the world around him, with his battles against the perceptions and privileges of those he was required to deal with. But, how does a girl from a Yorkshire mining town identify with a teenage boy who can afford to leave his private boarding school early to spend a boozy weekend in New York hotels?

I am acutely aware that I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to class and social status...and with the current state of politics the chip is starting to turn into a full-on wooden plank...but reading for pleasure is essentially that. For pleasure.

I choose to read books that transport me, whether that's physically transported to fantastical lands and alien civilisations, or emotionally transported into lives that I find engaging.

Sadly (or not?) I'm still not convinced that the race to bag a rich husband is my cup of tea. Although, I promise to give it a go one day. Honest...