Sunday, 30 December 2007

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want From 2008

A bit like Elvis, my son has now left the building. In his wake he leaves a smoking ruin of a house, a sentimental weeping wreck of a mother and an empty fridge. It's been great, but he needs to get back to Uni-land to take up where he left off. There's work to be done, people to see, Wii games to play and lager to drink, so there's a lot of catching up to do. Not to mention he has a hot date for New Year's Eve. Oh yes.

Me? Well, I'm wandering from room to room surveying the chaos. I haven't done a single bit of housework since before Christmas and, believe me, you can tell. The tree which looked so lovely only a week ago has become a target for walnut and satsuma throwing miscreants (OK, I did it too, but only when drunk and egged on by my naughty children), so most of the needles are now firmly embedded in the carpet and the fairy looks decidedly pissed. Every gold-rimmed plate, dish, crystal wine glass and trifle bowl is washed but stacked in the kitchen, waiting for someone to be arsed to put them away until next time. And right now, that isn't going to be me.

It's going to take me a bit of time to get back into harness, even if I can find one that still fits me. I've stuffed my greedy face for a week, drunk myself silly and grazed continuously 24/7 since Christmas Eve. I've so enjoyed having the family around me and have gone native to a degree which has astounded them as much as me, given that in the past I've had a bit of a reputation for my Hyacinth Bouquet tendencies. I was once called "Mrs. Clean" by an ex-friend. Note the ex. But I haven't once dusted, polished or brought out the 1001 carpet spray, which is a bit of a first for me, given that I usually like things to be just so.

So it's not impossible to change, is it? We can all get a new perspective on life, however many Christmases and New Years we've lived through. We don't have to be shackled by the past, repeat our usual mistakes, run on the same rails as we've always done. Things cannot remain the same if we are to grow and flourish.

If blogging has taught me something, then it's this. Reading about other people's lives, the good and the bad bits, the random and sad bits, has shown me that there is no such thing as "normal" or "standard". Blogs have made me laugh out loud and even cry sometimes, I've ranted and raged occasionally, but some things have been constant - my enjoyment, involvement and interest.

Next year my target is to find a magazine or newspaper editor who will let me write an occasional short column or even contribute regularly in some way. I am starting to collect material for a book, and I've submitted another short story for consideration. I've realised that I just need to write. Don't let me give up, I'm counting on you to give me a swift kick up the arse if I look as if I'm going off the boil, and any suggestions about how I go about reaching my goal would be welcome. If you think I don't have a cat in hell's chance, please be gentle with me as my self-belief is delicate, but I am open to constructive criticism and suggestions.

In the meantime, give me your own aspirations for 2008, I am sure they are going to be impressive given what I know about a lot of you already.

Happy New Year everyone.

x

Friday, 28 December 2007

Food Glorious Food

I am getting stir crazy. I don't want to do battle in the shopping mall but I am definitely thinking of excuses to get out of the house - a walk to the pub or park or a gentle wander down to Waitrose for some fresh salad stuff is on the cards any minute now. My body is screaming out for anything not covered in icing, double cream or gravy, at this point I wouldn't give a stuff if I never saw another mince-pie, and I've just completed my favourite recipe for leftover turkey which involves opening the bin and throwing the bloody thing in it.

We've still got half a baby Stilton, an appallingly odoriferous Brie, two tons of chocolate and a tree with no needles left on it. Oh, and half a sherry log. And a ham. With Nigella Bloody Lawson's spiced peaches, which were very nice actually once I'd got some jars, but right now even the smell of cinnamon is enough to make me gag.

Enough already.

The foods which seemed to be so vital and jostling for pole position on my "must have or your Christmas catering will be rubbish" list are now lying wilted and tired, unopened at the bottom of my decimated fridge, pointing withered fingers at me and laughing mockingly. I am trying not to think about the money I've needlessly spent but cannot stop myself feeling bad about such a terrible waste of food. Remind me next year not to be so silly. Yes I know we should be eating it all up, but frankly I couldn't face another sausage roll to save my life.

Meanwhile, I've got nothing for dinner.

I could kill a curry.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Retail Therapy? No Ta.

There are two sorts of people in this world. Those who will get up at four in the morning and queue up outside Next to buy a half price sweater, and those who simply can't be arsed. It may not surprise you to know that I'm of the latter persuasion. Right now I just can't imagine wanting any material thing enough to drag myself out of bed at some ridiculously early time in the morning on Boxing Day or the day after, probably with a well-deserved hangover, simply to go shopping again. And quite frankly, that's not something you hear me say all that often, me being the career shopper that I am, however much of a sucker I am for a bargain.

But after the excesses of the past few days and the weeks of pre-Christmas shopping frenzy that we've all been through, who can be bothered to do it all again so soon? There just can't be anything left in the shops to warrant that kind of effort, can there?

Round here it's still Christmas, and we've still got a whole lot more lounging about to do. I am so not ready to get back to normality just yet.

But give it time......

Monday, 24 December 2007

A Very Merry Christmas To All


Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to everyone, and thanks for visiting my blog during 2007. As I've said before, I don't quite know what I was expecting when I began, but it's been a real pleasure to meet all of you and it's been great reading your blogs and also your comments on mine.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are and whatever you're doing. And I wish you all a happy, healthy and chatty New Year.

Take care, speak soon!

xx

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Home, Sweet Smelling Home.

For some obscure reason, I am driven to spring-clean the house from top to bottom in readiness for Christmas and my son's return from university, where he lives in studenty squalor and frankly wouldn't notice or care if I didn't bother to clean here for the next two years. But that's not the point, although I'm not quite sure what the actual point is. I just have to do it. In the same way I have to stack the pantry and fridge to maximum capacity in an effort to make up for all the times he's existed on baked beans, getting the house clean and welcoming for him just seems the most important thing to do right now. I guess it's a nurturing thing, and I don't get to do it often enough these days.

My husband thinks I'm slightly mad to go to these lengths, because in about three hours' time the hall will be full of son's manky washing, kicked-off boots the size of boats, coats over the bannister, keys, small change and general rubbish scattered to the four corners, lost until it's time for him to go back and we clear it all up again. His bedroom will once again become a no-go zone and we'll run out of lager.

Although underneath the chaos the house will be clean, with help from the rest of the family over the Christmas holidays it's going to degenerate into a total, shambolic mess.

Bring it on.

I can't wait. I just want him home.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

So I thought I'd join in with this whole cookin' shoppin' and preparin' lark, and having watched Nigella making whoopie with four cans of cling-peaches last night on TV (anyone know why they're called "cling" peaches, other than in solidarity with Ms Lawson's skin tight sweater?), I called into Waitrose on my way home from work to buy the stuff I needed. After a day flapping around like a clairvoyant turkey, I felt a little bit of festive cookery would be therapeutic, and what's more I'd downloaded the ingredients list from the internet. That's extremely organised for me, so please be impressed.

White wine vinegar, check. Two sticks of cinnamon, check. Chilli flakes, er what? Will these crushed ones do? Yes, of course they will, bung them in. Check. Four centimetre piece of fresh ginger. Check. Tinned peaches? Yes, I said peaches. Please. You know, those hairy yellow things that used to have a stone in the middle but don't any more? In a can? In syrup? C'mon, you must know what I mean. Sold out? Oh, silly me, of course they're sold out, I should have realised - it's 5.00 p.m., on the day after Nigella showed us how to make hot 'n sexy Spiced Peaches to go with our cold gammon, so why on earth did I expect Waitrose to have any sodding peaches left? Or gammon, come to that. Every aspiring domestic goddess in Britain has obviously had the same urge as me - and it's not often I can be bothered to do anything that involves chilli flakes or cinnamon, I can tell you. Let alone tinned fruit. Oh bugger.

So I set about making a right nuisance of myself until we found some, and after a bit of serious shelf rummaging, I finally managed to assemble ALL the ingredients so off home I went, triumphant. Well, I thought, that's my evening planned. A quick supper, put on the apron, a bit of lip gloss, a gin, some background music (Led Zeppelin actually, not very seasonal but absolutely fantastic nonetheless) and away with the mixer. Festive food prepared Swearing Mother style. No problem. Move over Nigella and let a real woman in.

And it was all going so smoothly until the end, when I discovered some missing but vital ingredients. Why didn't anybody remind me to get some jars to put the bloody things in?

Fuck.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Busy, busy, busy.

Like everyone else who is on a marathon pre-Christmas orgy of cleaning, shopping, cooking and working, I am rapidly disappearing up my own exit, so instead of maintaining a sinister silence I'm posting something that has been doing the rounds in the office. So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun......... yet another definitive list of Venus/Mars observations which I found to be quite amusing. Hope you do too.

Cats:
Women love cats.
Men say they love cats, but when women aren't looking, men kick cats.

Future:
A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

Success:
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

Marriage:
A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.

Dressing up:
A woman will dress up to go shopping, water the plants, empty the bins, answer the phone, read a book or get the post.
A man will dress up for wedding and funerals.

Natural beauty:
Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed.
Women somehow deteriorate during the night.

Offspring:
Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favourite foods, secret fears, hopes and dreams.
A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in his house.

Selective Hearing:
When a woman says: C'mon.....this place is a mess, you and I need to tidy up. Your trousers are on the floor and you'll have no clean clothes if we don't do the laundry now.
What a man hears: C'MON ..... blah, blah, blah YOU AND I blah, blah, blah, blah, ON THE FLOOR blah, blah, blah, NO CLOTHES blah, blah, blah, blah, NOW.

Nicknames:
If Laura, Suzannne, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Suzanne, Kate and Sarah.
If Mike, Charlie, Dave and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla, Shit-Head and Four-Eyes.

Eating Out:
When the bill arrives, Mike, Charlie, Dave and John will each throw in £20, even though the bill is only £32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will actually admit they want change back.
When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.

Money:
A man will pay £2 for a £1 item if he needs it.
A woman will pay £1 for a £2 item that she doesn't need, but it's on sale.

Bathrooms:
A man has six items in his bathroom - toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap and a towel.
The average number of items in a typical woman's bathroom is 137. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.

Arguments:
A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.

And finally......

Thought For The Day:
Any married man should forget his mistakes. There's no use in two people remembering the same thing.

Dont'cha just love wild generalisations? Please feel free to add anything that tickled you over the past week to my comment page, I think we all need a laugh!!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Ready For Christmas?

Me? Ready for Christmas? You must be kidding.

If there's a phrase specifically designed to get many of us breaking into a cold sweat, it's that one. This is the time of year when hairdressers throughout the land switch from "been anywhere nice for your holidays?" to "all ready for Christmas, then?" and it's the one question which can engender feelings of woeful inadequacy in some people, sheer terror in others and put most women into a bit of a spin. I go in for all three, obviously.

In our house things follow a well-trodden path. Around now I start asking my grown-up family what delightful little prezzie they would like from Mummy and Daddy. The answer these days is usually, "dunno". They will let me know. At this point I often reminisce about how lovely it used to be back in the good old days when they sent letters to Santa (or Father Christmas as we used to call him), written in wobbly crayon and entrusted to me to dispatch to FC by means of lighting the note and letting it float up the chimney (a dangerous practice I know, and one the Fire Brigade used to condemn on a regular basis when they turned up to deal with our chimney fires, although I must admit they always used to enjoy the sherry and mincepies. I really miss those boys). But those innocent days are long gone, and now gifts get to be ordered direct, from source, i.e., John Lewis, Amazon or Argos, bypassing Santa and his little elves completely. How sad.

Husband is similarly "not bovvered". He is a man with everything, he says, and has the receipts to prove it. He tells me he honestly can't think of anything he really wants, which is nice in one way and sad in another. Of course, this feigned apathy will last right up until the day before Christmas Eve, when having given it a coat of thought he will decide, at the very last moment, that what he'd really, really like would be some obscure, out of print book, written by an obscure out of print author forty years ago, which gives me no chance at all of finding it before the big day. There won't, of course, ever be an ISBN number, just a vague description of the plot and what the front cover looks like. Really useful.

But me, well, I've always got a list. A long one. It's usually random, varied but never boring, and doesn't contain anything remotely useful or domestic. I'll ask for a bottle of Chanel No 5, but never an egg poacher. I like orchids in pots, or hyacinths in baskets, but definitely not gardening gloves. Slippers are a no-no especially if they look like they've escaped from a tart's bedroom, anything thermal will get the giver a thick ear rather than a thank-you note, and I absolutely hate gift sets. Apart from that, I am easy to buy for. It's everyone else who's the problem.

But when it comes to festive food, for me that's where the real potential for panic lies. Questions such as "made your puddings yet?" are enough to make me want to lock myself in the pantry until February. No, of course I haven't made my pudding yet, or ever will as long as I can buy a fantastically delicious one from our local deli at less than it would cost me to make it. Ditto quiche, paté and ham. And have I done my stuffings? Are they nestling in cling-filmed smugness alongside the home-made bread sauce in my giant size freezer? Bugger off, this is me you're talking to. Don't forget who reminded you that "life's too short to stuff a mushroom". In my case, that extends to peeling chestnuts or arsing about with breadcrumbs too. There is one thing I've ticked off the list, however, and that is I've orderd "the bird" - or more accurately I should say "several birds" because this year (if you're vegetarian, please look away now) we're having a turkey, stuffed with duck, stuffed with chicken and I think there's a partidge in their somewhere. Gross really. A sort of festive, poultry pile-up, as if the whole lot of them had been travelling in convoy across an icy farmyard and then suddenly, oops, the lead bird (the turkey in this case) had slammed on the brakes, not giving the following traffic time to slow down. A rear-end shunt of gourmet proportions. Come to think of it, that's not very nice really. Especially for the birds.

Actually, on reflection, I might change my mind about the turkey et al, now I've described it in terms of road-kill. It's put me off a bit. But now that means I've done nothing, absolutely nothing, to get ready for Christmas.

Apart from buying a sparkly frock, booking my hair appointments and getting my nails sorted, obviously.

Doing anything special for New Year?

Sunday, 25 November 2007

We've Got Your Number, Alright?

I am definitely turning into a grumpy old woman. No doubt about it. This week has been one of rants, complaints and mutterings. "I don't believe it" has figured greatly in any and all conversations I've had for the past few days, along with "is it me, or was that totally thick/ridiculous/bloody dense/a complete waste of time?" etc., etc. Rant, rant, moan and grumble, ridiculous, stupid and crap. Like the village of Trumpton (old kids' TV show), my world seems to be populated by a load of wooden-heads.

It all started off when I ordered some train tickets over the Virgin trains automated telephone service because I couldn't be bothered to go down to the station in person (it was raining) or struggle with the internet (don't ask). Eventually, after negotiating the seemingly endless pre-recorded voice messages I was put through to a call centre probably somewhere considerably hotter and much further away than the UK, spoke to a charming but clueless person in Bangalore or wherever it is, and ordered two return tickets from Birmingham New Street to London Euston for this Saturday. The idea was to take in a show, have a nice meal, enjoy a relaxing wedding anniversary treat. Simple.

Or so you might think. Several days went by and nothing turned up. Then an enveloped which looked a bit like train tickets arrived but was addressed to my husband. As he was away on business (and I don't routinely open his post unless it looks really, really private and smells of perfume) it just got chucked in the pile of bills awaiting his return, lucky man. Over the next day or so nothing arrived addressed to me, so I looked at the letter again, decided it definitely felt a bit tickety, so opened it. Despite the fact that I had bought the tickets in my name, paid for them with my own credit card, for some reason they had been sent and charged to him, which was annoying as this was supposed to be a surprise treat. Now I don't know what you think about that, but I feel it's a security problem if one person can order something and it can be sent to someone else and charged on their credit card too. If only I could do that with clothes, handbags and shoes, my wardrobe worries would be over.

So I rang up and explained that this was just not acceptable, that I was the customer and not my husband, asked how and why they'd used his credit card details instead of mine and how they'd got them. I just got a blanket "we are sorry for the inconvenience" rather like I was on platform 10a waiting for the train to Coventry which was going to be a bit late. Bloody infuriating. No proper explanation was offered, the "operative" said that if I would hold on, he would put me through to a supervisor. I waited for a good fifteen minutes and then the line went dead. So much for customer services, Virgin.

But now it's got me thinking about how safe all our details really are, whoever's hands they are in, not just those held by half-soaked Civil Service numpties. After this week's fiasco at HM Revenue we are now only too aware that some Governmental departments are having a laugh when they tell us our personal files are secure, but I was really hoping that commercial transactions over the phone or the internet were less risky given the volume of business that depends on it. But now I am not so sure, and am wondering if anything other than face to face good old fashioned shopping is unwise. With cash, obviously, if we can all remember what that actually is.

Apart from the obvious ID fraud situation (my husband has always said that it would be a relief if my credit card was stolen as the thieves would probably spend less than I do), can you imagine the consequences if you were trying to get away with something a little bit naughty or secret? With someone other than your partner?

For instance, you've probably seen that credit card company's advert:

"Two First Class train tickets to London: £150.

Tickets for a West End show, with dinner: £180.

Illicit overnight nooky-fest, posh hotel, champagne and chocolates: £375.

Accidentally charging the above to your other half's credit card and thereby dropping you in the shit:

- PRICELESS."


Told you before, you can't get away with anything these days.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Big Brother Goes Postal

Unusual as it is for me to write anything topical, tonight's news that several million people who receive Child Benefit in this country have had their personal details put on disc by the Revenue, mailed out and subsequently lost, has drop-kicked me out of my usual after dinner sofa-coma and forced me to post something of my own. To say the least, losing a third of the population's personal information (including national insurance numbers, bank and savings details, along with those of their children) with the worrying prospect of this stuff getting into the wrong hands, is a cock-up of huge proportions with the possibility of dire consequences (ID fraud and theft being just two). It adds to an already long and varied list of cock-ups made by governmental departments within the UK. Heads will no doubt roll, arses will inevitably be kicked. And rightly so. The shit is certainly hitting the fan, and frankly so it should. It comes to something when we can get a more secure service from Amazon when ordering an Amy Winehouse CD over the internet than we can from HM Revenue and Customs.

But will the right heads roll, and the correct arses be kicked? The Chairman of the Revenue has resigned, apparently, not even waiting to be given the slow hand-clap, (or would that be the golden hand-shake - I can never remember which one it is that senior figures get when they've bolloxed things up and have to leave), but in isolation what good will his departure do us? Probably none at all because he, no doubt (like many other people in charge of huge organisations) had absolutely no bloody idea of what really goes on at less exalted levels, and was probably blissfully ignorant of how or why certain things were being done or by whom. OK, maybe he can be blamed for that in itself, and morally I suppose that as the head bloke he may feel that falling on his own sword is the honourable thing to do, but you have to ask yourself this.

Who really ordered such sensitive information to be downloaded in the first place (and how was that possible, given that computers can always be programmed to say "no" if asked to perform an "illegal" task?), and which blithering idiot stuck the discs in the post, not even sending them recorded delivery? And who's idea was that? Not the Chairman's, I'll bet, yet he must carry the can.

There is, however, a silver lining of delicious irony to this particular grey cloud of institutional ineptitude - whoever finds those CDs might well find themselves in possession of the personal and banking details of some very important people, including government officials and even extremely senior cabinet ministers, and that would never do. Unless of course the security services find them first. Or have I been watching too many episodes of Spooks?

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Crazy Eights

The lovely Amy over at Blog To The Bone has tagged me for Crazy Eights, so don't blame me, it's all her fault. Go over to her great blog and give her a bollocking if you're too bored to read any more of my lists. In my own contrary way I am doing some eights, some fours and an occasional five, so here goes:

Eight Things I Am Passionate About:

My husband and children.

My family and friends.

My home.

Justice and fairplay.


I'd like to add: Sex, gin, chocolate and shopping but fear it would look a bit shallow, so I shall stop at four.


Eight Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die:

Make a disgrace of myself at my grandchild's wedding by chatting up the bride's or bridegroom's Dad, whichever one I'm not related to. (I don't have any grandchildren yet, but there's always hope).

Invent an elixir of eternal youth and remember to patent it.

See my kids happy and settled with someone who loves them even half as much as I do.

Do something spectacular, or even bloody damned good.

Find an enjoyable way to earn enough money to have a wicked retirement.

Travel more, and stop making such a fuss about it.

Have more good times, and stop feeling guilty about it.

Discover what I am here for.


Eight Things I Say Often:

Fucking hell.

Sorry.

Wouldn't it be great if...........

Do I look as if I've put on weight?

I'm hungry.

I'm giving up this writing lark.

Hang your bloody coat up.

I am NOT nagging.


Eight books I have read recently or am still reading:

The Bible (now that shocked you, didn't it? Ha!)

The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

The Girls by Lori Lansens

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith

Daddy's Girls by Tasmin Perry

Sharon Osbourne's Autobiography

Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka.


Eight Songs(out of hundreds) I Could Listen To Over and Over:

Anything at all by the Beatles, except Yellow Submarine (sorry Ringo)

Waterloo Sunset by the Kinks

Simply Irresistible by Robert Palmer

Grapevine by Marvin Gaye

On The Road Again by Canned Heat

Filthy Gorgeous by The Scissor Sisters

Sweet Soul Music by Arthur Connolly (I think)

Let's Stick Together by Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music


Eight (yes, I know I've only done four) Things That Attract Me to Friends:

Sense of humour.

Capacity for fun.

Loyality.

Understanding.

It helps if they are fatter than me, obviously. (kidding).


Eight (as in four) People Who I Think Should Do Crazy 8's who haven't been tagged already:

1. Norman over at Thole Man.

2. Knifepainter.

3. The Grocer.

4. Travelling But Not In Love.

Now these are all chaps, and I don't want you to think I'm a flirt, but hey, why not?

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Cheers?

I was sitting in the hairdressers waiting for my high-lights to cook, as you do, and leafing through an old magazine when I came upon an article about the "alcohol epidemic" amongst young drinkers in the UK. Frightening facts and scary statistics regarding alcohol induced illnesses, violence and deaths. Very worrying stuff.

It got me thinking about our current attitude to alcohol and social drinking in this country. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-alcohol, I like a glass of wine or a gin as much as the next person (and occasionally more so, depending on the circumstances and who's driving), but I began to think back to my own youth when the object of going out on the town was to enjoy ourselves, maybe meet a nice chap, dance our arses off in some club and along the way have a few drinks. Just that, and in that order. We didn't go out with the express intention of "getting trashed". If we occasionally "had a little bit too much to drink" (as it was quaintly called then) it was just a by-product of having a good time, not the sole reason for going out in the first place. We suffered the hideous hang-over consequences, got a real good telling-off from our Mums, were laughed at by our work-mates, and vowed never to do it again. Or not often, anyway, and for several reasons - we couldn't afford it, for one, but also because puking over your brand new Faith platform boots (or even worse, someone else's) wasn't a requisite component of a good night out, just the occasional and embarrassing consequence of it. And, of course, lying in the gutter wth your skirt over your head wasn't considered a good look in those days.

So what has changed over the years? Obviously, a lot of younger people earn more so have a bigger disposable income with which to buy their fifteen pints of lager and ten Tequila shots (each) per night. In the interests of equality, girls have become more like lads in their capacity for drinking. But when did it become a foreseeable outcome, or even obligatory, to get so drunk and incapable that you don't know what you're doing any more, when did falling over pissed become the high spot of a night out, and when did putting yourself in such frequent and chronic danger become so acceptable, or even desirable?

And more worryingly, how have things come to this, and why? Why has drinking yourself into oblivion on a regular basis become de rigueur with the young? Walking down most main city streets on any weekend night will reveal to anyone in doubt that it's time for an attitude change on social drinking. So what is the solution and how can it be achieved?

Let me have your views on this, and reassure me that I'm not becoming a cantankerous old bag.

And please, don't even START me talking about drugs, one worry is enough for this week.

Monday, 5 November 2007

All Right Now

OK you lot, I'm back. And what's more, I'm back with a f*cking vengeance. Forget chocolate, wine or (in my case) gin, forget staring into the middle distance obsessing over the past and worrying about the future. This is it. I am over it and I am going for it, whatever "it" may turn out to be. I am sick of being a bit miserable, I've decided that from now on I am going to be either, a) happy and content, or b) an absolute hag-bitch from hell, depending on the prevailing events at the time. But sod miserable, I've done it and it was boring.

So, you may ask, how is this change of attitude going to affect my everyday behaviour? What difference will it make? Well, I'll give you an example.

Yesterday, for instance, we took my young nephew and niece out for lunch to an American-style chain restaurant, (maybe I'd better not say which one to avoid giving unnecessary offence or risk getting sued, so it shall remain nameless) some miles from here in between their home and ours. I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn't anywhere near as good as our local TGI's (oops) which is, of course, incredibly posh and trendy. It goes without saying that I am also incredibly posh and trendy and live in an incredibly posh and trendy neighbourhood. Obviously. So the Hyacinth Bucket in me was a bit shocked to encounter sticky tables, manky floors, wild-eyed people in low cut sequinned tops and knicker-skimming mini-skirts (and that was just the men) inhaling food at breakneck speed as if in some sort of suicidal pie-eating contest, and a general air of hungry desperation pervading the atmosphere. Service was, to say the least, a little slow. Cheerful, but slow. But bloody hell, the food was dire. It's the only place I've ever been where you could take a person's eye out with a fossilised chip (sorry, that would be "fries") so overcooked and brittle they would shatter if dropped, showering potato-based shrapnel over the entire area. And I've never before seen a pot of baked beans covered in such a thick skin that you could turn them upside down and they still wouldn't spill. Like they were hiding under a heavy blanket in an effort to keep warm. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out.

But did I say anything? No I didn't. Did I complain or cause a fuss? No, not me. And why was this? Because I was relaxed, happy and tolerant. And no, it didn't have anything to do with mind-altering drugs or artificial stimulants of any kind, not even a recreational Yorkie.

So what achieved this Zen-like state of total wellbeing for me? Well, several things actually. I could lead you to believe that it might have been the aforementioned chocolate, wine or gin. Or that I may have indulged in a bit of girlie pampering, a little retail therapy or even had a bloody good seeing to (I sincerely hope my kids never get to read this, they still think we only ever did that for procreational purposes, and then only twice). But the truth is, apart from any or all of the above, counting my blessings and a generally lovely weekend, I can hazard a guess at what really dragged me out of the slough of despond.

As Crocodile Dundee once said when his girlfriend told him about someone she knew who was seeing a therapist, "Therapy? Why would she need a therapist? Hasn't she got any mates to talk to?"

Well, I've got mates. Lots of them, and I thank you all very much indeed for listening to me.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Life, The Universe and Everything

Well, here I am, but frankly I don't know what to say. It's been a funny couple of weeks, not sure how to describe them but, you know me - I'll always have a go.

There's nothing dramatic to report really, just a general melancholy which came on roughly about the same time as we put the clocks back. Not having had much summer it made me feel a bit sad about the winter being nearly upon us, and even though these lovely autumn days were unbelievably beautiful, it's just made me think dark thoughts.

This time of year in the run up to Christmas, I always miss family members who are not with us any more. Baking a Christmas cake to my lovely mother-in-law's recipe, written in her own handwriting on the back of an old greetings card covered in splats of cake mix, always makes me yearn for a hug from her and Grandpa. I miss my Mum, Dad and brother. Talk of Christmas dinner, Boxing Day parties, prezzies and shopping makes me realise how very small my family gift list has become.

But I will snap out of it, always do. There's plenty to do, hopefully our little family will be together, we'll eat too much, drink too much and fall asleep in front of the TV as usual. Wouldn't have it any other way, except of course, for the things we can wish for but cannot have.

Sorry. It's this time of year. Will be better soon.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Warning: It's All About MEME.

Well, bugger me, I've been tagged. Not electronically, thankfully. Manic Mother of Five (MMOF to her fans) has chased me round the playground and declared that I am "it". Apparently I have some explaining to do, so here goes.

Initially, having spent too many lonely nights with husband working abroad and me suffering the chronic insomnia often experienced by us vintage chicks, one night in the wee small hours I happened upon the blogsite of Wife In The North. I'd read about her in our Sunday paper and thought I'd have a look. From day one she had me hooked. I loved her writing and read her every post, commented regularly, and often at great length (who, me?), so eventually it seemed the only decent thing to do was to start my own blog where I could drone on without clogging up someone else's site. She'd written a post about her husband (who works away a lot of the time) banning the children from watching TV for a fortnight because he'd heard one of them swear, and then promptly clearing off back to work in London leaving her with builders, new baby, children on school holidays, no TV etc., etc. There was some discussion about children, swearing and mothers. Indeed, in the comments there were a lot of mothers, and most of them were swearing, including me, amazingly. I was furious for her and remember saying something like "in solidarity with you, I am going to start my own blog and call it Swearing Mother".

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Being a total technophobe I had no idea how to do it, no one to ask as I didn't particularly want my family to know my guilty secret in case they laughed at me, hence my blog is very plain, I don't have any links, many photos or any fancy gizmos. Just lots of swearing. And the thing is, sometimes I don't even feel like swearing but then how can I go on calling myself Swearing Mother? Maybe we need to change it to I Used To Be Swearing Mother But I Am A Reformed Character Now? Not very catchy.

About Me:

I am very, very old. Or extremely young looking for my age, depending on the amount of maintenance I've undergone when you see me.

I am struggling to find a creative outlet, and would like to write short stories or articles for a magazine or newspaper. At the moment I am an NHS wage-slave with attitude.

I have a small but beautifully formed family (this should have come first really) who mean everything to me.

I am an Olympic standard worrier.

I decided when I was 14 that as I didn't seem to be shaping up to be a stunner, at least I could have a personality. Character, they called it in those days.

I am passionate about stuff, verbal, hot tempered if riled, sensitive about other people, intuitive, a bit of a control freak, obsessive, compulsive, hard-working (most of the time) and high maintenance. I don't have to tell you about my weird sense of humour, you've probably already noticed.

I drink too much, eat too much, and swear too much. But I am trying to cut down on the eating and drinking.

And that's it really.

Oh, one more thing. The response I've had to my blog has really surprised and delighted me. I don't really know what I was expecting when I began, I just kept on going because I enjoyed writing it and reading everyone's comments, visiting other blogs and leaving my comments there. It's become a bit of a way of life, and cheesey though it sounds, I'd miss you guys if we stopped now.



Ooops, nearly forgot to nominate a MEME tagee - I'd like to nominate Laurie (Three Dog Blog) who has been with me from the start and given good advice whenever I've asked for it.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

This week I did a really naughty thing. I pulled a sickie. Played hooky. Went AWOL. In my defence, it wasn't premeditated, it just sort of happened. It started off like any other day. I woke up, had a shower, did my hair and make-up, dressed, packed up my diet lunch, got in the car and drove to work. Nothing unusual there. It was a lovely, lovely day - crisp, autumnal, sunny; the sort of day when you ought to be out, walking your dog in the park, kicking up the leaves, just happy to be alive. The sort of day that, if you had one, you should to be hammering down country lanes in your open topped sportscar, enjoying the autumn sunshine, catching a whiff of woodsmoke as you wend your way through pretty villages in search of the perfect pub for lunch. The sort of day that you shouldn't spend caged up in an office, staring at your computer screen like some sad little budgie gazing into its mirror, wondering if this is all there is to life.

So there I was, waiting at the traffic lights, and suddenly a renegade idea came into my head. Bugger it, I thought, I really don't want to go into the office. So I didn't. I pulled into the carpark, did a swift U turn and drove straight back out again, stopped the car half a mile away and phoned in sick. I can't believe I actually did it, and to be honest, I'm still slightly shocked at myself. I don't usually do things like that, but I've rationalised it now - they owe me so much time I could take the rest of the year off and still have change, and my colleagues, who suspected that "things were getting on top of me" were OK with it. And somehow I just needed it. So it was a done deal. I was taking what is known in some countries as a "mental health day" or, to put it in Brummie vernacular, I was skiving a day off.

My next phone call was to my husband who was supposed to be working at home.

"Fancy going out to lunch with me, in the country?" I already knew the answer to that one. He's always been easy to lead astray.

"Have you got the sack?" he asks, shocked that I am not already in the office.

"Not yet, but I'm working on it" says I, tossing the phone in my bag and heading for home.

After a brief pit-stop to pick up husband and get changed into my casual gear, off we went, heading out into the Staffordshire countryside. Apparently, the autumn colours in the UK this year are even more spectacular than the trees in New England, and driving down those country lanes I can quite believe it. What a fabulous sight. The sun shone through the golden leaves as they drifted down to the ground, the roadside red berries looked vibrant, the creeper covered walls positively glowed, there was a nip in the air which brought the colour to our cheeks. We found a wonderful pub, sat in the stone-flagged bar in front of a crackling log fire, husband ate game pie, which he said was delicious, and I enjoyed venison sausages and tried not to think of Bambi. After a nice cup of coffee and a walk around the village, we took another picturesque drive home. An entirely fabulous day, a totally unexpected but necessary soul-restoring treat.

And did I feel guilty? Yes, a bit. Did I regret it? No, not at all. Are my batteries fully recharged? Yes, yes and yes.

Life, as someone once said, is too short to stuff a mushroom. Or let glorious autumn days slip by unappreciated.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

You Just Can't Get The Staff

People are seriously pissing me off. To the point that I have actually said something. Shock! Horror! Probe! “Seriously Pissed Off Woman Actually Says Something!” What I mean, of course, is that someone's annoyed me so much, I’ve actually said something TO THEIR FACE, rather than muttering to myself, or just giving a silent “tut” and looking up at the ceiling with pursed cat's-bum lips.

The thing is, I am usually quite a nice person. A bit scarey when riled, but then I was born to be riled, so everyone’s used to it by now and takes no notice. But I’m not usually downright mean, or if I am I really don’t want to be. I’m the sort of person who might think “sod it, I’m actually going to put the boot in this time,” but I rarely do in reality. In my head, now that’s another thing, in my head I can bollock people to infinity, could turn even Jeremy Paxman into a quivering jelly of angst, probably make him cry even.

But I don’t like to hurt people and my biggest worry is that if I actually do vent my spleen on someone, I may later find that I am wrongly accusing them, or they will turn out to be the very person whose dog has just died, or has a child in hospital, their husband’s gone off with their best mate or they’ve just been told very bad news re a dear, dear friend. And then I'd feel like hanging myself in pure remorse. For all I know, they could be making up their hard-luck story in an effort to get the sympathy vote, but it would probably affect me just the same. I would feel an absolute git, and that’s an end to it.

Unless, of course, they GO TOO F*CKING FAR and then, sorry, it’s goodnight Vienna. With bells on. My fuse is long but there is, unfortunately, a nuclear arsenal at the far end of it.

Like today for instance, when a receptionist muddled up some fairly vital medical papers and gave the wrong information to the patient's specialist. I can't really go into too much detail because if I told you I'd have to kill you, but basically it could have potentially been the MOTHER OF ALL COCK-UPS, had it not been so quickly discovered, and she was clearly at fault. As the person who had spotted the error, it was up to me to tackle her about it and help put things right.

So I had a quiet word and asked her to join me in a mutual effort to sort it out. How could we prevent this from ever happening again? Did she have a problem understandng how the system works? Could I help in any way? That sort of thing. Touchy, feely, softly, softly approach. All non-confrontational stuff. Whereupon, she promptly adopted a glazed expression, twiddled her hair, chewed her gum, gave a bit of a nonchalant shrug and left me to get on with it. Was she bovvered? No, she was not. Did she look bovvered? No, she did not. I definitely got the message: She. Ain't. Bovvered. Not her problem, apparently.

Now I am used to clearing up other people’s messes (of the administrative kind, thankfully. I would never have made it as a nurse) but I usually find that when a clerical balls-up such as this is discovered most people have the humility or decency to realise that they could have caused someone, somewhere, a lot of trouble. Or pain. Or anxiety. Or even harm. Usually they are very, very sorry and want to put things right as soon as possible. But not this girl. She just didn’t give a shit.

Now that really annoyed me.

Anyway, I won’t drone on about it any more. I am sure you can fill in the blanks. Just let it be said that she had her chance, she heard the four minute warning but chose to ignore it. Apparently the radio-active half-life of a nuked couldn't-care-less receptionist is about two trillion years, but frankly I think I’ve done humanity a service today if anything I said to her meant that from now on she’d be A BIT MORE BLOODY CAREFUL or, better still, go and work at Sainsbury’s. But somehow I doubt it. To borrow a phrase from a fantastically foul mouthed friend of mine, I think it would be easier to push butter up a porcupine’s arse with a red hot needle than get her to understand the enormity of the potential disaster her carelessness could have caused today.

Of course, tomorrow, someone’s going to tell me that she’s got terminal Shit-for-Brains disease or something similar, and then I’ll feel really, really bad.

Though, to be honest, I think I'd already guessed.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Back to work, work, work.

Hmmm.... not sure I like this full-time working lark any more. Having had a taste of freedom in France I am finding it incredibly difficult to get back into the swing of things here in good old Blighty. And having experienced a distinctly different pace and priority of life whilst away, with shops closing at 12 noon for lunch and opening again at 3-ish, (maybe), office workers taking their breaks in a pavement cafe, le weekend feeling lasting until Tuesday and starting up again on Thursday, I discovered that we work far too hard over here. For far too many hours, too.

I am increasingly wondering what it's all about.

Work to live or live to work?

Give me your take on that one?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

A starry, starry night.


There’s something about the light in the South of France which intrigues me. Things which look dull and ordinary back in the UK take on a different character, brighter and more alive. A view through an open gateway suddenly reminds you of a famous picture – you may not be sure which one, but you know you’ve seen it before somewhere. The sight of the waiter bringing lunch, weaving through crowded tables, tray held high, makes you do a double take and wonder why this scene feels so familiar. A badly maintained front door, instead of looking scruffy and in need of attention, suddenly makes you want to paint it. And I don’t mean with two coats of Dulux, either. Everywhere you look, something is begging to be immortalized on canvas, and it's very likely that someone already has.

So although we’re not very au fait (get that, I can speak French now) with art history, I suppose the phrase “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” could apply to husband and me. We both enjoy a bit of culture so along with the other essential holiday activities of relaxing, swimming, reading, eating and drinking we usually like to visit the odd art gallery or two, visit a historically significant site or just tour the area, sometimes stopping where the fancy takes us rather than making a proper plan. There's something wonderful about being able to call in at Renoir's house (he wasn't in, by the way), visit a world class modern art foundation or look out to sea from the same studio window that Picasso gazed through, all within a few minutes' drive, and still be back to catch the last of the afternoon sun by the pool.

So, after a tense start to the holiday (see previous post) I began to relax deeply, and was surprised to find myself awake at 3 a.m. one night, restless and fretful. Too much coffee after dinner, with a killer Cointreau on the rocks, was no doubt the problem. I lay in bed for a while, trying to get back to sleep, thinking about all the things we'd seen that day, mulling it all over. But it was no good, now I was wide awake with no sign of sleep coming my way. Getting out of a strange bed in an unfamiliar room in the dark, I tentatively felt my way to the bathroom to get a glass of water and, feeling a bit too hot, carefully opened the shutters to let in a bit of air. And what a surprise I got. Framed by the tiny bathroom window was the most wonderful night sky I have ever seen, the stars twinkling like a handful of blazing diamonds scattered over a cloak of inky blue velvet. I stood for a very long time just gazing upwards, totally in awe, thinking of one of my all-time favourite paintings by Van Gogh. It was absolutely stunning.

Like I say, everywhere you look, there's a masterpiece waiting to be painted.

I filled my glass and raised it to drink.

Here's to you Vincent.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Holiday Maker From Hell

We were booked on an early flight to Nice, so having washed, ironed, selected capsule wardrobe*, packed, unpacked, repacked, burst into tears, decided I couldn't be arsed to go, had a row with my husband whilst simultaneously clearing out the fridge - I lay awake all night worrying about, well, just about everything. I may have told you before that I have managed over the years to turn worrying into a transcendental art form akin to tantric sex - the build up takes hours and hours culminating in one almighty explosion, not of ecstacy but of angst. Don't know why, but going on holiday, dinner parties and Christmas have roughly the same effect on me. Total panic. I am obviously a raving nutter.

Anyway, having worked myself into a frenzy and my husband into a fury, ("Bloody Hell, I'm taking you to the South of France, not the frigging guillotine") I finally flopped, exhausted, into bed at around 9 p.m. so that we would be awake and ready for 5.30 a.m., when our airport taxi was booked. Whose bloody stupid idea was it to get such an early flight? Not mine, obviously. We used two alarms, just to make sure we'd be up, but needn't have bothered with either one of them as I proceeded to lie awake all night long, wide-eyed with terror re the awful prospect of going away. Poor me.

But, with the true stoicism of a man who has lived with a very strange and infuriating woman for over thirty years, my husband just quietly carried on regardless, getting me a cup of tea and a piece of toast at some ungodly hour, reminding me how lovely it was going to be, that everything would be alright, there was no need to worry etc., etc., in a similar way to someone reassuring a loved one about to undergo a major operation. Without an anaesthetic.

That man deserves a medal.

But why do I do it? The only reason I can think of (apart from the fact that I am a bit mad) is that I am a Taurean, a person who is worried about change and not very adventurous at all, who given the chance would probably choose "home" over any other destination. Boring, but true. Plus, I am shit-scared of flying. I'm not particularly concerned about the prospect of crashing (though I would prefer not to, obviously), it's the whole claustrophobic airport experience I hate, from the anxiety of having my suitcase weighed right through to the clanging shut of the aircraft doors. Shudder. I have to be going somewhere really good to make it worth the effort. But the problem is, you don't know how good it's going to be until you've been, do you? What we need is more hindsight, sooner.

Anyhow, we got there in one piece, it was hot, it was wonderful, it was La Belle France. Having left the wet and chilly UK so early, by 1 p.m. we were sitting in the sun, eating lunch in the town square of the medieval perched village of Tourrettes, (yes I know about the syndrome, but for fear of causing offence I am not going to make any wisecracks about it being the ideal holiday location for someone who calls herself Swearing Mother).

"Ah, this is just SO lovely" says I to my long-suffering husband as we clink glasses. Breakfast in the UK and lunch in the South of France. What a good idea that early flight had been. Hadn't I said so all along?

He looks at me for a long moment. I am sure he is fighting the urge to push me face first into my salad Nicoise, and who can blame him?

But he just smiles and says "I am saying absolutely nothing."

Good man.



* for anyone not familiar with the phrase "capsule wardrobe" it's a term used to describe the clever selection of the minimal amount of co-ordinating clothes required to provide the largest number of different outfits possible - in reality it means that by day three of your holiday, everything smells or is covered in bits of food or wine stains, and you're bored with wearing navy blue and white anyway. Especially if you've accidentally packed brown shoes.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Women and Cake

In a week's time I will be on holiday so today I continue on my diet, trying to lose a couple of pounds of excess blubber which are currently hugging my middle, spoiling the line of my new swimsuit (gave up on bikinis a long, long time ago), so this morning with true resolve I strode into the office carrying a bag with all the food I intended to eat today. It contained:

One banana.

One low fat yoghourt.

One can of low calorie, low salt, low taste soup.

One piece of crispbread with a thin film of low calorie spread.

Two satsumas.

A large bottle of water.

And that was it. That was definitely all I was going to eat today until dinner this evening.

And then I remembered it was someone's birthday today. In our office that means only one thing:

Cake.

Now, I have been known to be able to resist shop bought factory produced cake. Mr. Kipling does not tickle my (French) fancy. Swiss roll can keep on rolling for all I care. I can take them or leave them, more or less.

But not these cakes. They were home-made. And there were tons of them.

Flap-jacks, chocolate layer cake, strawberry Pavlova, lemon drizzle, carrot cake and Bakewell tart, to mention just a few. The birthday girl must have been baking all weekend, bless her. Within minutes of unveiling the wonderful spread, every woman in the place was clustering round that table, plate in hand, like it was the first day at Harrod's china sale.

So now my food list for today includes:

One piece of flapjack, plus the crumbs from the flapjack plate (these don't count, I was just tidying up).

Two very, very thin slices of lemon drizzle cake, then another bloody great huge one.

Only the strawberries from the Pavlova because I am on my diet. The meringue and cream just happened to be stuck to some of them.

A wafer thin piece of chocolate cake. Honestly, it was just a shaving.

Half a piece of carrot cake, no topping. Then the other half plus the topping from the first piece. But they were only very small, so that's OK.

A tiny piece of Bakewell tart, leaving the pastry edge because pastry is very fattening.

As you can see, I am a woman of true resolve and determination. It would have been so easy to have fallen off the wagon in the face of such temptation, but tonight for dinner we are having a salad because I am, as I said, on my diet. And I intend to stick to it.

Can't wait to see how much I've lost.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Baby You Can Drive My Car. Maybe.


Holy shit, I've bought the little grey sportscar!! It was done with more than a small amount of help from my husband whose negotiating skills were sorely put to the test on Friday when we gave up and retreated, beaten by an intransigent salesman and my big gob. But what do you know, today OH sneaked off into his study whilst I was out of ear-shot (or more importantly, mouth-shot), phoned the car dealers and had another go. And guess what? The guy we tried to deal with before was out of the office, and could someone else help? So husband made an offer that could easily have been refused, but wasn't. Result! My hero! I am now the proud owner of one metallic charcoal grey MG covertible, including total valet and detailing, one year's free warranty and a full tank of petrol. I cannot believe it! After all my dithering, we've actually been and gone and done it. Fantastic. I am SO excited.

Husband's face was a picture when he delivered the news. "You will let me drive it, won't you?" he asked, after I'd released him from a bear hug and he'd had chance to breathe again.

"Of course I will" said I, once I'd put him down and stopped screaming with glee, "any time you like, darling."

That is, when you can find where I've hidden the keys, of course.



P.S. The old bat sitting in the car isn't really me - apparently one minute she was at home doing her ironing and the next she was sitting in my new car. Didn't even have time to re-do her lippy or brush her hair properly. Who the hell is she? Bizarre.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Deal Or No Deal?

The sports car saga seems to be rumbling on and on, showing no signs yet of running out of fuel. Yesterday OH and I went back to see car number two (graphite metallic, yum) and took it for a test drive in near perfect conditions – lovely sunny day, roof down, did a bit of town driving and then out on the open road. Perfect. To be honest, it was pure magic. Apart from the bits where my husband was driving way too fast (lead foot) and I was shrieking “don’t scare me” the whole thing was a dream. He drove for a bit, stopped, we swapped and then I drove. We stopped again, took the hood down and I got out to check how good it looked. Foxy. He drove, stopped, and looked at the engine (oh, yes, check the engine, that’s a good idea). It had one, so that’s OK. I drove, stopped, played with the stereo and adjusted my sunglasses while he looked underneath the car. He drove again, this time finding a road away from the speed cameras and really revved the engine. I checked the makeup mirror and handbag storage. The conclusion of this exhaustive testing being: I WANT IT! WANT IT! WANT IT! WANT IT! Please.

So now to business and back to the dealer to haggle over price. We’d previously decided between ourselves that we wouldn’t make a decision there and then, we’d go home, have a cup of coffee, talk about it sensibly and then make him an offer. Play it cool. But now? Sod that, give me the keys and get out of my way, I WANT THIS CAR. Any luke-warm, wishy-washy, namby-pamby “I’m not sure if I should spend the money/do I really need it/will I look silly in it” thoughts have now evaporated with the blip of an accelerator pedal. It has now become a lerve thang. I don’t care about the money now, the car had me at “vroom vroom.” We are meant to be together.

As we drive back into the dealership forecourt I try not to look too keen, but it’s not easy as my face is flushed, my hair standing on end and I’m grinning widely, ear to ear.

“Wipe that smile off your face” says OH*. “You’re looking too keen. You’d make a terrible poker player.”

“OK, I’ll think about ironing” says I, looking glum instantly. I am not going to show my hand too soon.

We come to a smooth stop and the dealer swaggers over. He takes one look at us and it’s immediately obvious that there’s absolutely no bluffing him, he is reading me like a hand of marked cards and already has my number.

“That car really suits you” he schmoozes (he might as well have added “l’il lady”) and starts talking about warranties and delivery as if it's all a foregone conclusion and it's now just a matter of paperwork. By prior agreement, I am supposed to leave the financial negotiations to my husband as I am well known for being reckless when in love and tend to agree to anything, so I give him a look which says “well, go on then, get on with it.” I make a pretence of looking round the car, under the car, in the boot, etc., etc., while covertly watching the two men square up to each other like Wild West gunfighters settling a score.

“Well” says OH as an opening gambit, “we like it but there are one or two things that need attention. Can we negotiate on price?” Ah, how polite he is. But masterful. This is going to be easy. He'll win the contest without a shot being fired.

“Not really, it’s in immaculate condition and the money is about right” says dealer guy, lighting a cheroot and spitting on the ground. Ok, so he’s refusing to be drawn and is going to prove more of a challenge after all. This slightly surprises me.

“No room for a bit of negotiation then?” husband asks through narrowed eyes, gazing into the sun. We have already done our homework and know that they are asking top dollar and then some. Especially as it’s been such a terrible summer, it’s now nearly autumn and who but a total nutcase would buy a convertible at this time of year, apart from me of course.

“I don’t think so. We’ve had a lot of interest so far and I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting the asking price, so no. Sorry.” The dealer is standing his ground and not wavering at all. My husband just nods and shakes his head a little bit. So is that it then? They just look at each other in silence. A cold wind starts to blow and a ball of tumble weed drifts across the forecourt. Somewhere inside, there’s a guy whistling the tune from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. It’s not looking good.

They continue circling, getting ready for the next shot at each other, but say nothing. Like most women, I find silence is oppressive and needs filling. I cannot stand the tension any longer, despite our earlier agreement for me to let OH deal with it - I don’t like the way this is going along and am finding it impossible to hold my nerve . So, like a bar room floozy from the Last Chance Saloon who should really have stayed indoors and let the cowboys fight it out, I get in between the two of them to bring things to a head. Move over and let a woman in. Oh dear.

“Let’s cut to the chase shall we, we all know I like the car, so just how low are you willing to go?” They both look at me as if to say “Miss Daisy, git outta the way or you’ll durned well git hurt” but it’s too late, the damage has been done. I've upset the balance of power. It’s obvious I have annoyed the bloke and now he’s telling us that this is his price, take it or leave it. My husband won’t agree to that, so now we’re stuffed. Me and my big mouth.

So now neither of them are willing to back down and the only thing left is for OH and me to saddle up and head out of town, empty handed.

But I’m not ready to throw my hand in yet. I love that car.



(* Other Half or One's Husband, depending on how posh I feel at the time of writing).

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Too many miles on the clock?

Went to look at the bright red sports car yesterday. It was lovely, but I am having doubts about the appropriateness of the whole idea. Not chickening out completely you understand, just having second thoughts.

I was fine with all aspects until I actually went to the showroom to test drive it and noticed a few things going on with other potential buyers which I'm not sure I can live with, even to be the driver of this particular type of car.

For example:

1. My jeans do not reveal my bum crack. Or a thong. Or a tattoo of my boyfriend's name.

2. I don't have long blonde hair to riffle my hands through at traffic lights when I've got the roof down. Or a pierced navel.

3. White high heels would kill my feet.

4. I am at least twenty five years too damn old.

5. I look absolutely shit in a baseball cap.

That said, husband was still determined to get me to have a go in it.

Now, years ago I used to drive an Austin Healey Sprite, a sweet little sporty number, low on the ground, you had to lie down to drive it, so I know how to get in and out of a car like that with some level of decency. But back in those days, mini-skirted and in white PVC boots, I wasn't self conscious about giving any bystander a flash of leg. But now? Well, let's say I'd want to be a lot more careful and can I really be bothered? Am I now built only for comfort? Maybe.

I needed the advice of a man I can trust.

"Give me your absolutely honest advice. I promise I won't go into a sulk" says I to husband, who is really keen for me to buy a sports car again so he can drive it.

"Did I look stupid in it?" I ask.

"No" he replies, as usual a man of many words.

"You know, like those sad old bags who think they're still twenty-five or something?" I persist.

"No, you bloody-well didn't. You looked good. I think it suited you." Ahh, you can see why I love him can't you?

"But what about when I'm getting in and out, wearing a skirt? Would I flash too much flesh? And what about my varicose vein? Hardly goes with the bright red sports car image, does it?" Lots of negatives are popping into my mind now, I am depressing myself and need a bit of reassurance so I'm asking him every spurious question that comes into my head. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. Doubts are definitely setting in.

"Only you would even think about that" he looks at me, totally mystified. He doesn't want to give up on the car, he can just see himself bladdering round the countryside with the roof down, listening to his Top Gear driving music CD, Ray-Bans on. So he persists and asks "and does it really matter, anyway?" Fair point I suppose. But I am increasingly talking myself out of it.

"Well I don't want to be silly about it but it's hardly an image I want to portray - y'know, bright red sports car, silly old woman driving it sort of thing?" The truth of the situation is beginning to dawn on me. Too damn old. And silly. And veiny. Bugger, bugger, bugger. My bottom lip is now so far out, you could rest a tray of drinks on it.

He has another go at reassuring me, bless him, but he's getting a bit fed up with it now. Understandably.

"Only you would come to test drive a sports car and then end up worrying about your sodding varicous vein." He thinks that this is reassuring, but to me it isn't. He himself has actually said the V. V. words and now we are DOOMED. Oh dear, this is all going to hell in a handcart, let alone a sexy little two seater convertible.

He gives it one last try, desperately trying to find his way out of the hormonal minefield he is inadvertently walking through. Carefully does it, one step at a time, mind where you put your foot......

"And anyway, who cares if you've got a varicose vein. I love your legs. And blue goes with everything, after all."

CABOOM!

Will let you know what's happening re the car when the smoke clears.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Mommy Dearest

I think there’s something funny going on with me at the moment and I don’t quite know what it is. Whereas at one time I was content to be the eternal provider of all things domestic,(see previous post), these days yet another strangely different mind-set has begun to take over which I think would be best described as the “Me, me, me” syndrome. Perhaps it’s hormones. Although at my age I was convinced that they’d packed their bags and gone on a permanent holiday, I still get the occasional postcard from the edge to mix things up a little. If you are a women of, ahem, a certain age (how I HATE that phrase) you may know the sort of thing - one minute you have absolutely no confidence at all, don’t want to go out because you look such a mess (too fat/crap hair/nothing to wear/in a mood/would rather watch Eastenders, etc), then within the blink of a slightly wrinkly eye-lid you're suddenly hot to trot, a bit of a babe really despite the fact that your bus pass is looming ever nearer. Norah Batty versus Helen Mirren kind of stuff. (I'm not sure if blokes have similar age-related crises. Maybe they also suffer but just don't go on about it like women do. Too busy cleaning the Harley or something, I dunno). Confusing? I think so. Times they are definitely a-changing, and no more so than my attitude to life, the universe and everything. It’s quite exciting to discover the "sod the consequences, let's have fun" characteristic that I thought only the young and/or foolhardy possessed. Quite refreshing actually, and a bit of a surprise.

So what is all this leading to? The thing is, I've seen a bright red sports car and I quite fancy it, but there are several questions worrying me: Can I really justify it? Am I too old for it? Should I save the money and spend it on the family? And, most importantly, will I look good in it (told you I was shallow). I know you can't help me with the last question, but maybe you have a view on the other three.

I know I don’t have to justify being a bit self-indulgent after a life-time of working and taking care of a family, and I sure as hell don’t intend to be one of those grannies who live on fish-paste sandwiches, with no heating on, so that they can leave every penny to their kids who immediately go off and blow the lot on a state of the art B&O sound system. If anybody's having one of those, I want it to be me. But try as I might to rationalize this newfound selfishness, the old guilt trip still has a ticket with my name on it. Why do I still think that SELF is such a difficult four letter word (especially when I have so little trouble with all the others)? Maybe as time passes I’ll get used to it, but my conditioning has been life-long and a difficult habit to break, although as you can see I'm giving it a bloody good go.

Anyway darlings, it's been lovely chatting to you but must dash - off to SELFridges for lunch and a bit of light shopping. Via the hairdressers, obviously. Will worry about the self-indulgence aspect later.


And let me know what you think about the car?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

It's Not All Rock and Roll, Believe Me!

I was reading through my blog archives recently (how sad can a person get?) when I suddenly realised something. Apart from my obvious penchant for bad language (sorry about that) and habit of making an arse of myself, my posts do appear to reveal something else which made me wonder if I’m giving the right impression here.

First of all, I don’t actually spend all my time shopping, going out for meals and getting disgracefully drunk at parties and ROCK concerts. Oh no. It just looks that way. I also go to work (full time), do the laundry, shop for food and clean the house. I have been known to do a bit of gardening, although I absolutely draw the line at cleaning the car. That’s men’s work. And of course the ironing – who could forget that? It lies tutting and brooding in an ever increasingly crammed basket (in fact, I’ve got two baskets, which frankly is a big, big mistake) until we run out of clothes or husband is off on a business trip and begs for “work shirts”. I usually tackle it all on a Sunday afternoon (unless we’re out for lunch, of course) dashing away with the smoothing iron whilst watching an entire Eastenders’ Omnibus, a crappy old movie and, if I’ve really let it pile up, the Antiques Road Show too. And then we go out for dinner.

I wasn’t always like this, honestly. When the children were at home everyone regularly took the proverbial pee out of me for my diligence in all things housewifely. I would never go out until everything was clean and tidy, washing on the line, casserole in the oven and cake in the tin. I used to clean my skirting boards weekly. Frankly, it makes me tired now to think about it. And to be honest, a little bit bored. I definitely needed to get out more.

I suppose it’s inevitable that after several decades of caring and nurturing, my selfish gene has finally surfaced. The trouble is, it’s brought with it another one called guilt, so now instead of being driven by the need to scrub, cook endless meals and tidy up after everyone, I really can’t be bothered but I still worry about it. Husband constantly reminds me that the house still looks OK, we don’t ever starve and occasionally we get to wear crease-free clothes, so what more can anyone ask? Tell me, how can I stick to the straight and narrow with a partner in crime like that? It’s impossible, thankfully.

But to be honest, I actually like this new and liberated attitude to life which I have so recently discovered. I don’t quite know where it came from but I suspect the seeds were sewn when I stayed in my son’s student house for a week earlier this year. It was a tip. My fingers itched to clean it, and I did, just a bit. But then this sort-of attitude change hit me. Why clean the kitchen floor when you could be writing a blog or reading a book? Or sitting in the sun talking to your mates? Or watching Masterchef on TV? Now, I’m not saying that I can happily live in squalor but it did suddenly occur to me that there’s more to life than worrying about housework.

Like shopping, going out for meals, getting disgracefully drunk at parties and ROCK concerts.

OK, you got me there.

Monday, 20 August 2007

I Wish To Make A Complaint

I guess we’ve all done it at some time. You're in a restaurant having a nice glass of wine or a gin and tonic, waiting for your food to come. It's taking ages but you console yourself with the thought that it should be worth the wait. Eventually, the meal arrives on a plate the size of a dustbin lid, the artfully arranged tower of chunks teetering in a shower of green dandruff (sorry, would that be herbs?) drizzled with jus and presented with a flourish. So far so good. A feast for the eyes. But how does it taste?

To be honest, it’s usually disappointing isn’t it? The build-up has led you to expect some sort of gourmet masterpiece, the massive size of the plate hints at culinary grandeur beyond your wildest dreams, and the price? Well let’s say you expected Gordon Effing Ramsay himself for that kind of money. But in reality it’s just reasonably OK food stacked up to look trendy and squirted with some brown stuff out of a squeezy bottle. Not exactly ”muck on a truck” but nothing special. Let’s face it, you have, in fact, been conned by an over-effusive description on the menu and the candle-lit gastro-pub decor. Better order another seventy-five quid bottle of wine to cheer yourself up.

So over comes the waiter and asks if everything’s alright with your meal and you of course just nod, your mouth being full of food at the time. His timing is immaculate but it doesn’t really matter if you say anything or not, the question is purely academic. No one ever complains here. When the bill eventually arrives you reflect that a family of four could be fed for a week on that amount of money and still have enough left over for a fish and chip supper. But not in this restaurant, obviously.

Compare and contrast, my fellow gourmands, with what we expect from a different type of eating experience – the “Sunday Lunch £8.99” offered at most pubs throughout the land. Are the potatoes properly roasted or merely deep fried? Has the meat been freshly carved, or pre-sliced and stuck under a hot lamp? Are the Yorkshire puddings soggy? Answer yes to any or all of the above and what do we do – we complain! After all it is nearly nine quid when all is said and done!

There seems to be a rather strange sliding scale of complaint to cost ratio going on here. My dear old Dad used to call it “The Emperor’s Suit of Clothes Syndrome” and you know what, I think he may have been right – the fancier the restaurant, the more intimidated we feel and the less likely we are to show ourselves up by questioning the quality of what we’re eating. But down at the pub for a bit of Sunday dinner? It had better be as good as we get at home, or else!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

I Saw Her Standing There

Went to a Rock Concert the weekend before last (did you notice how I said that SO casually, like I do it all the time?). Yeah, anyway, went to a Rock Concert two weekends ago (although husband says that, strictly speaking, it wasn’t a proper Rock Concert, more a Pop Concert, but I’m not letting him spoil it for me). So, as I was saying, went to a ROCK concert recently, but didn’t really want to go if the truth be told. I just felt a bit out of sorts one way and another – fed up with the rain/ got a bad back/ can’t be bothered/ what if it isn’t any good - that sort of stuff. The venue was Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire and there were Beatles, Queen, Commitments and Blues Brothers tribute bands on the bill, which was definitely our thing, so I don’t quite know what my problem was. As we say here in Brum, I’d just “got one on me”.

But you know how sometimes when you’re not looking forward to something it can turn out to be fantastic? Well this did. For one thing, it was sunny! Not bad for August. We took a picnic, not the sort where you prepare everything yourself and lovingly pack it and stack it into Tupperware boxes. Oh no. This was no ordinary home-made scotch egg and ham sandwich picnic, this was an M and S custom-built, posh music festival, rock ‘n roll type picnic - smoked salmon and cream cheese mini-bagels (OK but a little bit boring), chicken kebabs (delicious eaten hot or cold, apparently), frittata (not at all delicious eaten cold, believe me), sun-blush tomato and ricotta tartlets (yum) with a little pyramid of profiteroles (chocolate, and therefore can do no wrong) and a rustic cheese selection to follow (interesting). With grapes, obviously. Oh, and wine – lots of it, with a chilled bottle of champers to start. My friend and I had mounted a dawn raid on Marks and Spencer's Food hall early that morning having decided that we just couldn’t be arsed to DIY, and the most effort we wanted to put in would be ripping the tops off pre-packs. She is SO my kind of girl.

So there we were, not exactly Glastonbury but about as near to the mud, wellies and shorts experience as I really want to get. This was definitely the sophisticated side of outdoor music events, and as the sun set in glowing streaks of pink and dusky blue behind the looming grey of Shugborough Hall, and the music grew louder and louder (and we got more and more “relaxed”), any doubts I’d had earlier just melted away like butter on a hot waffle. Lanterns were lit, sparkly twinkly thingies were waved. First up was the Beatles tribute band who were FAB. Having drunk the champagne, a glass or two of dry white wine and now enjoying a rather pleasant red, I was definitely feeling no pain. My back began to feel much, much better. I tried to persuade husband and friends to leave their seats and come down to the front with me, to get a closer look, but they wouldn’t so I went on my own (sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do), weaving my way through the throng like a salmon swimming upstream. At first I stood on the edge of the crowd way back from the stage, gently swaying and singing along with everyone, but bit by bit I got closer until eventually, there I was, right at the front, just a short distance away from the band. Magic.

I looked around to see if either my husband or friends had followed me, but no. Ah well, I thought, it’s their loss. I was on my own in a huge sea of people, totally anonymous, and it suddenly occurred to me that no one in this crowd actually knew me and I was hidden from sight from anyone who did. And what a fantastically liberating feeling it was. So what did I do? What would any red-blooded, slightly pissed, middle-aged, off-the-leash woman do? Asked the two lads next to me if they’d dance, that’s what. Sang until my throat was sore, waved my arms in the air, staggered and fell over, that’s what. Made a complete and embarrassing fool of myself, that's what. But who knew me? No one. It was brilliant.

I was just thinking that I should really get back to our table before they all got really annoyed with me, when suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see my husband who’d come to find me.

“Sorry I’ve been down here so long” I shouted into his ear. He didn't look at all annoyed with me but I felt I had to apologise. “I just couldn’t resist. You must have wondered where I’d got to. Sorry about that. You been looking for me for long?”

“No, came straight to you” he smiled at me, looking highly amused. “We knew exactly where you were.”

“Ah yes, everyone knows I’m a Beatles fan. Where else would I be?”

“No, it wasn’t that. We’ve been watching you on the big screen."

”What big screen?” I felt the colour drain from my face. He pointed to the side of the stage behind me. Shit. That would be it then, about twenty feet high, with a picture so big you could probably see it from outer space.

Bloody hell, you can’t get away with anything these days, can you?

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=4s-R6b5h9Ns

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Ten Things You Ought To Know About Me:

I love chocolate.

I hate escalators.

I can worry myself into a state of total immobility.

I swear a lot (no shit, Sherlock).

I was once told by someone that I was “frightened of my own potential” but was too scared to ask her what she meant by that.

I love, love, love clothes. And shoes. And having my hair done (I know that’s three things but they are all related). And another thing. I can be totally shallow. Yet somehow deep. Oh bollocks, who am I kidding?

I’m very observant and intuitive.

I really, really want to write magazine articles but no one will let me. I’d even stop swearing.

I have a very long fuse, but there’s a nuclear arsenal at the end of it.

I look a bit like Barbra Streisand, already.


Now, let’s talk about you shall we?

Monday, 13 August 2007

People Who Talk Loudly in Restaurants

Picture the scene. Sunday lunchtime in a lovely country pub, tables outside in the sun, charming views across the village green, cool music in the bar. Perfect. We go inside hoping they can feed us, having just driven back from Lancashire where we’d been to yet another friend’s fantastic 60th birthday party, and we are pleased to find that yes, they have a table for two available immediately, which is a very good thing as we’d been too hung over to eat breakfast and we are now STARVING.

We’ve been to this pub before, it has good food, trendy interior, friendly staff and very importantly, no riff-raff. Now don’t take issue with me here, I like a bit of riff-raff when it suits me, and in fact I possess many riff-raffish tendencies myself, as you know, but sometimes you just want to chill, don’t you? So no screaming babies, no kids roaring around pretending to be Spiderman or whoever, no blissfully unaware parents ignoring the little swine while they themselves enjoy their own meal, no football on Sky TV. Just a quietly sophisticated English country gastro-pub. Nice.

So we get our drinks and sit down, order our free range, organic, chef-cooked Sunday lunch and sink gratefully back into the soft brown leather chairs to wait. What a perfect way to round off our lovely weekend. I even take off my shoe and play footsie with my husband under the table, such is my total contentment. He is so relaxed he even lets me. Wonderful.

And then, in they come. One by one I clock the immaculate Sloaney clothes, the Berkin bags (tan of course, it IS summer after all darling), the perfectly ironed slacks, cashmere sweaters casually knotted around the shoulders, shirt collars turned up – yes, dear friends, it’s the invasion of the Hooray Henries and Henriettas.

What is it about some posh folk that makes them think they are the only people in the world who matter? That it’s OK to talk at a million decibels louder than anyone else? Or to continually lean back on the chair of a total stranger (aka my husband) who is trying to enjoy his lunch, and keep elbowing his head because they are standing TOO BLOODY CLOSE, whilst “entertaining” the whole bar with tales of how they’ve been out shooting and had “blown the bloody head right orf” a partridge, or skinned a rabbit with their sodding penknife. Big deal. I’m as interested as the next person (probably a bit more so, to be honest) in other people’s conversations but not when it totally puts a stop to everyone else’s within a five mile radius. And actually, Tarquin, I don’t really want to hear how annoying it is that your au pair won’t clean windows or how your holiday in Tuscany was such a bore this year because Jemima didn't like the heat, and by the looks on their faces neither do the rest of the pub either. The fact that the well behaved children of the family next to us are looking a bit worried about the rabbit skinning story seems to have escaped you. Which upsets me, quite a lot.

We eat the rest of our lunch in silence – well, I say silence but what I really mean is that the H.H’s are so brayingly loud that husband and I get fed up with lip-reading in order to communicate between ourselves, so decide to take our coffee outside. How bloody rude are they? The waitress comes out to ask if we’d like anything else and I resist the temptation to order a twelve-bore shotgun and a spare box of ammo to take back inside with me. That would sort the buggers out, and show them how the partridge must have felt at the same time.

We pay the bill and walk to our car which is now surrounded by open top Mercs, BMWs and Audi’s. Jealous, I am not. Furious, I am. My husband tells me not to over-react but they’ve spoiled our good time, and if I could rub a magic lamp at this very moment, you know what I’d wish for?

A particularly scarey chapter of Hell’s Angels to turn up, starving hungry and looking for trouble.

Oh yes.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

A Sincere "Thank You For Not Smoking"

At the risk of opening up an entire catering pack of worms, not just the one solitary can, I want to talk about the smoking ban. OK, OK, OK – don’t throw things at me, please - I know that over one month into it you’re probably sick and tired of the subject and so am I, but the heated debate seems to be smouldering on and on. The smoking population still think they’re being persecuted and anti-smokers are continuing to wave two non-nicotine stained fingers as if they were the victors at Agincourt. Both sides think they have rights, and neither can understand the other’s point of view, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that there has been the occasional punch-up between the two factions. As a person who can resort to violence if someone pinches my last Rolo, I know all about addiction and how difficult it is to live without something that gives you pleasure. However, I have noticed a lighter side to all of this.

Firstly, it makes me smile every time I go past a “Thank-you For Not Smoking” sign because it’s usually surrounded by a sea of fag-ends in an “up yours” kind of way. I’ve also noticed that there’s often far more frivolity going on inside those “designated smoking shelters” than there is inside the pub. Does this say something about smokers? Are they more fun? Or are they living fast and loose because they fear that their nicotine habit might eventually do for them, so time is short and they’d better make the most of it? There’s a kind of camaraderie developing among the shunned partakers of what non-smokers sanctimoniously call “the filthy weed” and a bit of bravado is definitely creeping in. Whereas at one time rebels without a cause needed a black leather jacket, white t-shirt and moody look to establish their chosen identity, now all you have to do is put a Silk Cut in your mouth and, hey presto, YOU ARE A DOWNRIGHT FILTHY RENEGADE. Job done. And you don’t even have to light it.

I know the very serious side-effects of smoking aren't a joking matter and cannot be ignored. You only have to look at the sad crowds of smokers cowering in the rain outside hospital entrances to realise how strong their dependence must be if it can force people to hang around outdoors in their nightwear, attached to drips or in wheelchairs. But whilst some of us are rejoicing because we can now spend an evening in the pub without our clothes, hair and skin stinking of fags and are victoriously going on about how thrilled we are that we’re not being forced to passively smoke other people’s cigarettes any more, I think it needs to be acknowledged that this has been achieved by denying the pleasure of another group of people, and I for one appreciate that.

For us non-smokers, there is just one unexpected downside though. Has anyone noticed that now smoking is banned, all the pubs and clubs smell of stale beer, drains and BO?

Maybe I’ll take my drink outside.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Downloading My Head:

There are two sorts of people in this world, those who read instructions and those who don’t. It may not surprise you to learn that I am one of those who don’t, hence my exclusion from the finer points of IT, fancy features on my mobile phone, digital camera and blog. I also have a bit of a thing about iPAQs. And iPODs, come to mention it.

To be honest, to start with it was a bit of a statement – I think I was making a stand for those of us who still use a paper diary and pen, who add up and do percentages in our head and can find our way home without a sat-nav. For my generation, TomTom meant a set of drums, not a high-tech method of finding out how lost we are. Of late, my technophobia has become a real pain – I realise that however resistant I’ve been to change and hated being dragged kicking and screaming into the technological age, I really do need to get to proper grips with it all and I am now making the effort to learn. So I give in. I was being silly. But there are still times when that little renegade voice in my head makes me behave like a total technophobe and it’s usually when people are being patronising to me that my awkward gene kicks in, big-time.

A young IT engineer visited my office yesterday and along with other things which horrified him about my lack of computer literacy, he was stunned to find that I wasn’t using the electronic diary on my computer. He looked about fourteen years old, cocky and confident, and obviously didn’t realise that diaries don’t always come with batteries or a three-pin plug. Bless him.

“How do you manage to get to your appointments on time then, if you don’t use the diary facility?” he asks in a shocked voice with a scandalised expression on his face.

“I use my own diary facility” say I, waiting for the usual reaction. I’ve been here before. In a household full of technical whiz-kids I am the family dinosaur. I am used to being mocked, but I can handle it. I fix a smile and the thought “don’t mess with me, sonny” wafts across my mind.

“But there’s nothing in your diary.” He might as well have added, “you stupid woman” and he’s shaking his head.

“That’s because I use this diary instead.” I scrabble in my bag and drag out a small, stylish (of course) brown leather diary with a tiny little pen. It matches my bag and purse, obviously.

He looks as if he’s viewing an Egyptian artefact exhumed from the tomb of a long-dead Pharaoh. The guy is shocked. He has never seen anything like it in his life.

“It’s made of paper” – there’s no getting past this bloke, he is observant.

“Yes, I find it easier.” I know what’s coming next. He is shaking his head again and I can almost hear him thinking ‘Poor old girl. She should be at home watching day-time TV and sucking humbugs with her feet in a big slipper.’

“But what if you lose it, how would you know what you’re supposed to be doing then?” he challenges, triumphantly slapping down what he thinks is his trump card of computer logic.

“The same thing I’d do if the the computer system went down (I am thinking "which it does all the time, YOU CONDESCENDING LITTLE TIT") - I'd use my onboard computer." I am definitely getting tired of explaining myself to him.

“Your onboard computer?? Where’s that then?” Is he patronising me? Was that a snigger I heard? Is he actually laughing at me? I can feel my hackles rising.

“Here, in my head” says I, tapping my forehead and smiling benignly, somehow resisting the temptation to unleash my inner Rottweiler.

He is now totally confused, and is obviously getting a bit worried that he’s dealing with an escaped mad woman or someone who’s been in a coma for the last twenty years and has just woken up in this office, dazed and confused. I can almost hear him thinking “I’ve got a right one here, can’t wait to tell the lads back in the Department. Oh how they’ll laugh.”

“So you keep all your appointments in your head?”

“No, in my diary. My paper diary.” I’m definitely thinking of savaging him.

He looks at me and wearily shakes his head, obviously relieved that although very odd, I appear to be harmless. “You really need to transfer all of that stuff into the computer. What would happen if you were off unexpectedly and someone else had to cover your job?”

“They’d look in that big desk diary, the one your coffee’s standing on?”

“I see.” He obviously doesn’t, but is humouring me. “Would you like me to transfer those appointments into the electronic diary while I’m here?” He’s definitely not giving up and maybe he has a point. Perhaps it’s time for me to conform.

“Ok then, that’s fine. Carry on. Thanks.” He had better not be smirking.

He taps away furiously for a few seconds, the whizzing mouse tracing crop-circles on the mat. He looks confused, worried, exasperated. He phones his Mothership, the IT Department, has a conversation in an alien techno-language I don’t understand and slams the phone down. He looks a bit sheepish.

“Got a problem?” I ask, trying not to sound triumphant.

“System’s down, I can’t get into the right screen. They say it’ll be off for another hour or two. I’ll have to come back later. How about 2.30?”

I open my little brown leather diary. The irony of the situation is not passing him by. “Yes, that should be fine, but I have to be out of here by 4.00 for an appointment.” – I wanted to add “which I have here, on paper, written in pen, accessible to me instantly. Right now, as we speak” but you’ve got to know when to back off , haven’t you?

With a face like thunder, he picks up his coffee mug, armload of electronic gadgetry, briefcase and pen. Exit one extremely annoyed IT engineer, stage left, muttering something I didn’t really want to hear. I can just imagine what he thinks of me, but I'll get over it.

I put my little leather diary back in my bag and get on with my work, humming a happy tune. Oh, but life can be so sweet sometimes.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Here Comes the Sun?

If the sun shines today, please thank me personally, for yesterday dear friends I bought a mac. From M and S, reduced from nearly a hundred quid to twenty-nine, it’s black and white check and very stylish (obviously). I look quite foxy in it, for an old bird.

The reason I’m telling you this is because me buying a mac is the sartorial equivalent of doing a rain dance in reverse. In the same way as it's all my fault we’ve had weeks of rain because of several sleeveless t-shirts and a wrap-over linen dress bought at the beginning of July (sorry about that) since when it has persistently pissed down, and if my previous history is anything to go on, buying a showerproof coat now should certainly put a stop to this hideous wet weather. I'm hoping I won’t need to wear it but I’m not taking it back for a refund until we’ve had a bit of sun.

So while you’re out walking the dogs, pottering in the garden, or sun-bathing in the park with your iPOD earphones plugged in – just send me a vote of thanks. And a quid towards the mac.