Saturday, 29 March 2008

I Heart Swedish Meatballs

So yesterday being Friday, husband was working from home. It's my day off too but I am not supposed to interrupt him, though obviously I do if at all possible. His study door stays firmly shut with a "Do Not Disturb" notice hanging from the doorknob. I view this as a challenge to get in there and cause havoc, my excuse being that as he is working away so often when I do have him at home I can't leave him alone for long. It drives him crazy.

The good news is that in the aftermath of last week's home improvements debacle, he is rapidly going off the idea of strapping on his toolbelt and getting stuck in personally. My subliminal put-off lines have been seeping into his subconscious mind throughout the week and now I think we've reached a stage where he too can't be arsed with the hassle of DIY. So, wishing to strike whilst the iron is hot, I needed him to come with me to one or two kitchen shops and view some units. With fridges. And sinks. And of course, cookers, or more specifically range ovens, with those trendy chimney thingies instead of the old-fashioned cooker hood that we currently have which threatens to put my eye out when I lean forward to stir the gravy. And I need his input re worktops - Formica, wood, marble? And of course, tiles.

Now I've discovered the only way to do anything as hideous as this is to suggest it whilst he is doing something else even more mind-bogglingly boring than looking at kitchens. Yesterday he was doing his expenses, a task so mundane that he needs multiple coffees throughout the morning in order to stay awake long enough to get the stamp on the envelope to Head Office. Coming up to lunchtime so bored is he that he's usually desperate for diversion, so if I want to distract him at all that is the best time to do it.

Coincidentally, my daughter is off work too. She has had a vile affliction called labrynthitis which brings with it dizziness, nausea and general debility. She's had this for a while but is now on the mend, thank goodness. It's ages since she's been out and about so she was getting a bit stir-crazy - there are only so many episodes of Bargain Hunt one can tolerate before madness sets in, so I asked her if she'd like to come along for the ride and look at kitchens with her Dad and me. Being so desperate to get out of the house, she said yes.

So off we go, visit a few showrooms and stare at a lot of kichens. The range is mind-boggling and very, very expensive. I'm not sure we're up for that sort of outlay, so Daughter comes up with an idea and suggests we go to Ikea where kitchens come in kits with cute names such as Ulriksdal and don't tend to cost as much as Third World Debt. And hey, it's Ikea, so what's not to love?

Now it's quite a long time since we've shopped at Ikea. Back in the days when our kids were small we kitted out bedrooms galore with Billy bookshelves and Leksvig beds, but we haven't been there for years despite the fact that a massive Ikea (is there any other kind?) is about half an hour's drive from home, so I don't really know why we've been away so long.

I LOVE IKEA. I love the fact that someone really clever can design a whole flat pack living area, including kitchen, bedroom, lounge and bathroom in the space of a double garage and it can still look incredibly trendy and welcoming. I love the way you get drawn round the winding walkways with lovely goodies either side, room settings containing stuff you don't need but which demands to be bought. Can anyone walk through and Ikea and buy nothing? Not me, for sure.

So impressed were we with the ingenious drawer dividers, the pull-out breakfast bars, the subtly lit glass shelved cupboards that we almost failed to notice Daughter looking a bit pale and wan. Her vertigo had obviously kicked in and her internal gyroscope was throwing a bit of a wobbler, making us wonder if this trip was just a step too far in her recovery process. She sat for a while on a sofa called Ektorp while I fussed around her. Shall we go home straight away? Was she hungry? How about a piece of chocolate cake to raise the blood sugar? She took one of her tablets and said that maybe a cup of tea might help. So off we went to the Ikea Cafeteria trailing a drugged-up daughter who was weaving around looking like she'd OD'd on tequilla slammers.

I've got just one thing to say to you about the Ikea Cafeteria.

Swedish meatballs with cream sauce, lingun-berry "jam" and thin fries.

Despite the fact that I was obviously concerned about my little girl's health and welfare (she is only thirty after all), I couldn't help but be distracted by the pictures of very appetising looking food at very reasonable prices displayed around the servery in the cafeteria. I checked again to see if she was hungry, but the mention of meatballs in cream sauce made her go even paler than before, and anyway she was feeling better now, courtesy of a very sweet hot chocolate. She was fine and ready to continue. And no thanks, she didn't want anything to eat, at all. No Mum, definitely not. Couldn't face it.

But I just couldn't get those meatballs out of my mind, which is very strange for me because I am usually a bit sniffy about factory produced processed meat-products, especially frozen ones, declaring this type of food "nuclear waste" and refusing to have such spawn-of-the-Devil in the house. (If you've ever seen those programmes about how such meat is "reclaimed", you'll know exactly what I mean). But husband assured me that, being Swedish, the food standard would be high, the ingredients would be wholesome and the meatballs would be great. Apart from which, he fancied them too.

So in our large blue recycled Ikea carrier bag, alongside the kitchen brochures, we had one manly looking apron, one matching oven glove, one three way plug adapter with timer, twenty-four Dime bars, 1 kg of frozen Kottbullar Swedish meatballs, two packets of Graddsas cream "gravy" mix and a jar of Lingonsylt lingunberry jam - all for less than fifteen of your English pounds.

And even better, husband says he'll cook so that he can use his new apron and oven-glove, while I browse through the kitchen brochures.


Monday, 24 March 2008

Getting A Man In

Despite the snow, icy winds and mini-tornados I think Spring is definitely on the way. How do I know that, apart from the tiny lime green shoots of hope that are begining to unfurl in our weather-worn gardens? I know that Spring is here because, instead of a young man's fancy turning to thoughts of love, my old man's fancy is definitely turning to those of DIY. Now to those of you for whom DIY equates with getting all those niggly jobs done in the house, let me fill you in on the horror of DIY, Swearing Mother style.

First of all, we must identify our project. Cue for a couple of hours' depressing discussion from breakfast till coffee time, where we come up with a list so long we just stare glumly at each other. Husband comes up with some really outlandish ideas, I make a few snidey and sarcastic comments about the last time we took on such a project and just look at it now. We have another coffee, eat a few biscuits and calm down a bit. We start to talk constructively - OK, shall we finish the terrace/deal with the rotten kitchen window/sort out garage? The list seems endless. How to choose? It has to be a new project to capture the imagination of him indoors; bringing up the subject of finishing previously started but abandoned projects is viewed as not playing the game and any mention of them by me is, apparently, nagging. To hell with the fact that my ten year old kitchen still has a piece which was never fitted, that's old news now and therefore those little niggles have long since become invisible. Ditto some ungrouted tiles, the odd unpainted door, a helluva mess in the garage and a new fuseboard which remains stubbornly unfitted, celebrating it's fifteenth birthday under gardlands of cobwebs in the electricity box. I could go on. And, believe me, I do, at length.

So eventually we decide on a task. This usually means a protracted trip to one or more of the hideous DIY sheds along with the rest of the local walking dead who have been drawn out of their crumbling homes to view mass manufactured shit, cunningly got up to look like the really useful stuff you need rather than the total crap that it actually is. This weekend top of the list are some additional kitchen units and worktops because the ten year old (as yet unfinished) kitchen is now sadly needing a refit and a new fridge. I know this doesn't strictly come under the heading of DIY, but the thought of embarking on this kind of disruption fills me with dread, especially as husband thinks he can probably do a lot of the work himself (cue hollow laughter from moi) but I want to get a man in.

Now the phrase "getting a man in" is probably one of the most emotive things it's possible for me to say to my husband. It carries with it all sorts of inferences, i.e., an implied lack of commitment on his part, or lack of ability, lack of drive, confidence, expertise - you name it, "getting a man in" is almost tantamount to infidelity in our house. For a husband who is pretty damned good in the, er, household maintenance department given the time and opportunity, to him my wanting to get a man in is the ultimate betrayal. Like reading maps, bleeding radiators and going to the tip, this is HIS job and he doesn't want another bloke poking his screw-driver in where it isn't wanted.

So we reach an impasse. I don't want the chaos of infinished work bugging the life out of me for aeons, husband doesn't want some strange bloke getting his hands on my hanging units. Guess it's a territorial thing.

So now I'm on to the gentle wheedling campaign. I'm casually mentioning the fact that, really, it's a false economy to do such major work ourselves when we are both so busy, time is precious, we could be doing so many other more enjoyable things and letting someone else do the work. And then as the weather is getting nicer, we could be driving out to country pubs, taking a weekend trip to Barcelona, doing a bit of shopping in London. Whatever. Let's leave the big jobs to the professionals and just do the little leftover tasks ourselves. What do you think? Yes?

But the rot has set in now. I've caused a total distraction from home improvements and now we're doomed, the place will fall about our ears. We will neither get a man in, because husband doesn't trust him, nor DIY because I can't face the fuss. The little niggly jobs can go hang.

Stupidly, I've mentioned weekend trips, pubs, London, fun.

No wonder we never get anything done in our house.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Just Let It Be

I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the effect I have on other people. Have I been mean to someone? Was I a bit sharp? Am I being unfair? That kind of thing. I have a dread of saying something a bit too near the mark (apart from swearing of course) and upsetting someone, or being unfairly critical or hurtful. I don't like that in others, so hate it in myself. But I know I occasionally do it even so.

The problem is, I am a real bitch when riled. Or even when moderately annoyed. Or mildly cheesed off, come to think about it. I regularly give myself a good talking to about that. Having the ability to answer back, to always think of the killer put-down and never be lost for words is something of a curse if you happen to have a conscience about what you say, but an inability to stop yourself saying it. I really wish I was a nicer person. I would like to be able to see something really irritating happening and not feel compelled to comment about it, to just shrug and sigh and walk away, maybe sagely nodding my head. But it just ain't happening. I always wade in, fight my corner, your corner, anybody's corner, whoever. And you know what? I'm getting a bit tired of myself. I need to change, I want to be sweetness and light, I'd like to just let stuff wash over me, my feathers remaining unruffled. A new serene me.

And what has brought about this epiphany?

Well, have you seen how ugly Heather McCartney looks in all the papers this week? The more she rants and raves, spits venom and chucks water, the more unattractive that girl is looking (which is more than can be said for Sir Paul's divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, who looks so much better soaking wet than dry). Everyone is laughing at Heather and she still doesn't know why. All in all she's made a complete fool of herself, but still argues on and on and on, despite the fact that she has been well and truly rumbled. The girl just doesn't know when to shut up.

So, as I was looking at her pictures in the papers this week and wondering why, if she's got so much money, she doesn't sort her eyebrows out (and yes, that was my bitchy self speaking, I haven't quite got it under control just yet) and noticing what anger, vengeance and greed can do to a person, it occured to me that getting so emotional can't be all that good for you. Perhaps sometimes it is true that you can't always get what you want, and not getting it is maybe good for the soul or something like that.

Anyway, from now on expect a cool, calm and collected Non-Swearing Mother, who never says anything remotely bitchy or offensive (at least until the end of this week). After that let's see how long it lasts.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Stone Me!

~The ticket saga continues: Gave up on the phone, gave up on the internet, went off and made myself some beans on toast (comfort food) and watched Cash in the bloody Attic or whatever tripe was on day-time TV. Had a bit of a sulk. Bloody phones, sodding internet, useless piece of junk that computer, anyway. And that website! Makes you enter your life history and then, just because you've not ticked a box which asks if you've got a mole on your left and/or right buttock it clears out all the previous boxes you've filled and makes you start all over again, just to teach you a lesson. Then it times you out because you've taken so long. Well sod it. I will not play any more. So there. Stamp, stamp, huff, huff, slam.

Made a cup of tea and decided to forget the whole silly episode. Stupid, stupid, stupid sodding internet and bloody, bloody, bloody automated phone services. To hell with the lot of them. What was I thinking anyway? Why was I trying so hard to get tickets for a film preview, when only a couple of weeks later we could go any time we liked and for far less money. So just what is the big deal about seeing a film on the night it's released? Probably crap anyway. And you know damn well you'll end up sitting in front of some fifteen year old texting chav eating a tomato ketchup filled donkey-burger which squirts down your neck as soon as the film starts. Bollocks to it. They can keep their stupid tickets. Pah!

So that was it then. Made up my mind to give up and do something else. Got out the ironing, hell knows it needed doing. Told myself to stop wasting time on the phone or thumping seven shades out of the computer. And stop bloody swearing, it was scaring the cat.

But then a taunting little voice in my head said "You going to give up that easy? That's not your usual style. Going soft?" and before I knew it, the bloody sodding computer was back on, I was filling the online booking form in, absolutely no problem, and KER-CHING!! Scored four tickets!!! How and why it was so easy this time, I don't know. Maybe I'd just shown the damn thing who's boss. Ha!

Which would have been absolutely fantastic if I hadn't immediately had a call from the husband to say, "good job you didn't get those film tickets, I've just heard I've got to be in Italy on that day anyway".

Oh bloody bugger and bollocks.

Anyone fancy a night out with Swearing Mother?

Friday, 7 March 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Don't know if you're a Rolling Stones fan or not, I am. So is my husband. We met at a disco (which would now be called a club) and fell in love whilst Mick Jagger strutted his stuff, wiggled his skinny hips and puckered those famous lips. At the time we did a huge amount of lip puckering of our own, quite a bit of strutting and definitely went in for hip wiggling, big-time. Sad though it is to think about it now when my hips have expanded to a size where they don't so much wiggle as wobble, back then we thought we were quite cool, actually, and looking back at the photos of us then, I think we really were. Years later we're still Stones fans, cavorting about behind closed doors to Brown Sugar or exacerbating our tinnitus by listening to Honky Tonk Woman on the car stereo way, way too loud, even though now we're supposed to be old enough to know better. But it's so great that the Stones are still around, carrying on regardless and doing their own thing as ever. I so identify with that. And, what's more, they're even older than we are.

All in all we feel that band is, somehow, ours.

So last night, the day before preview tickets for Martin Scorcese's Rolling Stones film "Shine A Light" were due to be released, I spent hours cruising the net trying to find out how to get tickets for the advanced simultaneous showing of the film at one of the selected cinemas across the UK. This is going out on April 2nd via satellite at the same time as the rich and famous will be seeing it in London, and is probably going to be the nearest we ordinary folk will ever get to going to a film premiere. I know it won't be the same fetching up at the Erdington Roxy, or wherever, but in spirit I'll be walking down the red carpet at the Leicester Square Odeon, should I be lucky enough to get some tickets. I'm already planning what I'm going to wear.

But I'm not experienced at booking this sort of thing, I just couldn't find a "how to" or "where to buy" site, however hard I looked. I've even registered with the film company website, hoping that this will give us a chance if there's a lottery type draw for tickets. Fingers crossed. But how frustrating.

Then suddenly, whilst I was writing this post, I took a quick look back at the website and, bloody hell, there was a new web address where I could get tickets, so I logged onto that only to be told that the cinemas listed in our area don't accept internet bookings for this one-off preview event. Bugger. They did however give the booking line phone numbers, so I rang and got put through to an automated phone service which bounced me round the various options until my ears bled. None of them were what I wanted, so I went round a second time, and then a third. Finally, when I got tired of shouting obscenities at recorded voices that wouldn't answer back, I decided to ring the cinemas direct, whereupon I was told that they couldn't do a credit card transaction over the phone, but I could either a) pick up some tickets in person (how quaint), or b) try again to get them from a different internet address. Great, back to square one. At least this time the voice at the end of the phone had the decency to sound shocked when I let loose a string of expletives which would have made a docker blush.

If there's one thing I can't stand it's being buggered about by automated phone services. If I'm going to be messed about with, I'd much prefer to have the satisfaction of being able to yell at a real person, not a machine. At least they have the decency to fight back.

So, once more into battle.

Press 1) if you'd like to hear a list of films you don't want to see.

Press 2) if you'd like to book tickets for a film you don't want to see.

Press 3) if you'd like to hear perfomance times of the film you don't want to see.

Press 4) if you'd like to send a band of drug-crazed machete wielding miscreants to beat our absolutely infuriating automatic phone service into a trillion smouldering pieces.

All in all, I can't get no satisfaction.

Oh no, no, no.