Thursday, 30 August 2012


We like puns in our family, Middle One especially, he says they’re punbelievable. He loves the comedian Tim Vine, he's King of the pun, Pun Slinger, in fact. Here’s one of his: So I went to buy a watch and the man in the shop said, "Analogue?" I said, "No, just a watch."

I like making a nice pun myself. When we were at the Greenwich Observatory the other day, we were making our way to the cafĂ© and I said the prices would be sky high. I was pleased with that. 

When Lovely Uncle, who also loves a good pun, was here for dinner last night, he said he nearly read Marine Biology at university… they offered him a plaice. I said in that case he had been shellfish not to take it up. Middle One said I should stop being Sharkastic. 

Then L U told a story about a translator who couldn’t remember the name of the fish he needed to translate during the middle of an important international fisheries conference. I said I bet he haddock on the tip of his tongue.

That’s the thing about puns, a good one is its own reword. I mean reward.

Let us know any good ones...

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Sunday, 26 August 2012

Two lists

What we just left behind...

I'm sitting on the horrendous Ryanair flight home from holiday typing this on my lovely MacBook Air. I can't sleep because of hideous child screaming his head off... but at least he's not one of my own. The way his father is jumping up and down in the aisle with the child in his arms is making me nervous. The whole aircraft is shaking. Do you think you can actually dislodge a plane out of the sky doing that?

More of what we left behind...

Twelve things I love about family holidays...

1. Being together as a family for two whole weeks.
2.  Being woken by goat bells, cicadas and bright hot sunshine.
3. ,Staring out at the stunning view from the terrace.
4. Not having to tidy the house.
5.  Not having to cook (much). 
6.  Not having to get up to take the kids to school.
7. Not having to put a wash on all the time.
8. Swimming in the beautiful Hockney-blue pool and/or reading tons of books next to the Hockney-blue pool.(You've got to read Me Before You, btw. I sobbed. So fantastic.)
9.  Hanging out with lovely friends.
10. Sightseeing.
11. Night sky (including meteor shower).
12. Having absolutely no clue what’s going on in the world.

Twelve things I don't love about family holidays...

1. Being together as a family for two whole weeks.
2.   Bloody loud cicadas waking us up in the morning.
3. Noisy family in the villa down the hill (the way they scream at each other makes us look like the Waltons).
4. Eating out too much (plays havoc with digestion).
5. Driving (it's the wrong side of the road/we constantly squabble over directions & parking/Johnny Foreigner is a lunatic).
6.  Not taking kids to school and therefore not seeing mum-friends and being able to bitch about any of above.
7.  Not being able to agree about what to do.
8. Other people’s bloody children.
9.  Our own bloody children.
10. Too hot to sleep.
11. Having absolutely no idea what’s going on in the world.
12. Ryanair. Ryanair. Ryanair. (Never again.)

Even more of what we left behind...

Very clear sea, look - fish!

Back home now. Really miss being on holiday. This is me trying to be positive...

The best thing about getting home from holiday? Despite the horrendous flight back and the cold and the traffic and the drizzle and having to unpack and wash twice my own body weight in beach towels and shorts, and urgently needing to buy food, and having piles of bags and crap in the hallway, which take days to clear, and then having all that dreary post and answering all those emails and watering plants and the garden and dealing with family and friends once again, and appointments and admin and then, of course, some work perhaps... there is at last my own glorious, beautiful, comfortable bed to crawl into and fall asleep in and start dreaming about the next one.

So, where shall we go for two weeks, August 2013? 

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Friday, 17 August 2012

So wrong

Middle One is wearing a beach towel around his waist. “It’s a man skirt,” he says. “It’s a sarong,” Husband says. “It’s sarong in so many ways,” I say. I’m so pleased with this that I laugh for ages, and keep repeating it. Which kind of ruins it to be honest.

Only doing my job

Ryanair. The very word is enough to instill terror. Why did we do it? We knew. We all know. They lost our luggage flying back from Rome six years ago. We vowed never again. But here we are, somehow, at Stanstead airport at 6.35 am. It was originally the best flight available, at mid-day, which was why we booked it and the cheapest, which makes it even more ironic that they changed the flight to 7.00 am after we’d paid so we had to check in to an expensive hotel the night before.

We’ve just dashed up to the boarding gate, trailing Youngest, moaning that he is very tired and very hungry, but mostly very tired. We’re all tired. “Is this the priority boarding line?” I ask girl-with-scraped-back-hair-and-too-much-make-up. We thought it was worth paying the extra to make sure we could sit together.

“It was.” She doesn’t look up. There’s an awkward pause. We loiter. She ignores us. They are beginning to let passengers through to stand on the tarmac, passengers who are not in the priority boarding line. This makes me feel anxious. I think girl-with-scraped-back-hair knows this is making me feel anxious. I think this is why she is making me wait. I decide to ignore her remark, we might be a few minutes late but we still paid the money.

“Boarding cards,” she eventually barks, still not looking up. “Pardon?” I say, even though I heard her well enough. She repeats and I hand over the boarding cards. She does whatever they have to do to boarding cards and then slowly hands them back, one by one.

“Passports, “ she barks again, “photo page.” Blimey, she really is extraordinarily rude. I hand her the five open passports and then, just as she is handing them back, with tarmac almost in reach, another Ryanair girl appears. More scraped back hair, more heavily applied make-up: “That case looks too big to be hand luggage.” She is pointing at Youngest’s beloved little Penguin case on wheels, the one his grandmother bought him for Christmas, he takes it everywhere.

“Yes,” I say, “ we were worried it might be, which is why we asked at check in just now, thankfully they said it’s fine.”

“Well it’s not,” says luggage girl, “you have to see if it fits in there.” She is pointing at a tiny wire frame, intending for measuring luggage, there was one just the same at check in, which we were told we didn’t have to use. I am going to refuse to do this, it’s outrageous, but before I can say anything Husband begins cramming the poor penguin case into it at high speed, very roughly. Immediately it starts to crack and groan under the pressure.

“Look,” I say, turning to appeal to luggage girl as the remaining passengers push past to the plane. “It might go in there eventually, with a crush, but it will break the case and we already asked about this at check in, we were told…”

“If it won’t fit, you can’t take it,” she barks and Youngest bursts into tears.

“You’re upsetting him,” I say, my voice rising in tone and intensity despite myself, “we were prepared to pay for it to go in the hold but we were told it was ok. We are here now. We can’t leave it behind, it’s full and it belongs to our little boy.”

As if to prove the point Youngest cries even harder and buries his head in my legs just as Husband gives the precious case one final, violent, whack, pushing it down into the frame. There is an enormous cracking sound and it looks stuck. Very stuck. Youngest wails. The two flight attendants or whatever they are look on, arms crossed, impassive, and now I am cross. Very cross. I open my mouth to let rip just as Husband, incredibly, manages to pull it free. The penguin’s face is scratched but otherwise it looks okay.

We can go! This is it. As a parting shot I need to say something brilliant, something cutting, something really clever and totally to the point. “Well I think you are … horrible!” I manage. Which sounds pathetic. “Both of you.” And I turn to the one at the boarding desk. “You were incredibly rude just now,” and I turn back to suitcase girl, “and you have just completely unnecessarily made our little boy cry.”

Scraped-back-hair girl says nothing, she is a machine. “I’m just doing my job,” says suitcase girl, holding my eye, without a twinge of emotion. Now where have I heard that before?

There is a happy ending to this story. This is it...

Click and collect

John Lewis Girl Half Stripe Knitted Dress, Multi

I’m in a massive hurry. Time is running out and our holiday is looming. I have an article to finish and I haven’t started packing and I need to buy a present for my niece’s birthday before we go away. Thank the Lord for the John Lewis Click and Collect service. If you order online before 2 pm they guarantee delivery at your local Waitrose the very next day, and I ordered everything two days ago.

I’m going to call in on my way back from taking Middle One for his essential pre-holiday, biannual haircut, grab the pre-ordered items, including dress for niece and some food - but there’s a problem. “The girl’s dress, age ten, hasn’t arrived!” exclaims the sales assistant, speaking in a tone that denotes incredulity and, worryingly, a complete absence of responsibility.

I am in no mood for this. I have Middle One’s friend with me, staying for a few days, possibly one too many, and the two thirteen year-olds, standing behind in the fruit and veg section, are beginning to bicker like siblings, which is ironic because I just managed to remove youngest sibling with whom Middle One is more usually bickering. He’s gone to stay with his cousins.

I hand over my driver’s license as proof of identity just as the boys start up their circular debate about the Higgs Boson particle - again - and my headache, which has been threatening to descend all day, like damp mist rolling into a valley, finally settles in. I also feel slightly breathless. It might be stress, I think, or tension. Or both.

As the sales assistant informs me she will try and find out when I can return to collect the dress, (I can’t, I will be on holiday) I roll up my sleeves for battle (metaphorically) and ask the boys to wait outside. This is no place for children, and I have an increasingly strong desire to bang their heads together. Then for the entire time I am remonstrating with various staff I can see the two of them standing in the car park beyond, a manic backdrop to my difficulties, gesticulating wildly, swinging the food bags violently around their legs.

There are so many things I might say to this assistant. I could point out that an apology is in order. I could ask for some sort of solution to be offered. I could refer her to the fact that items are supposed to be available 24 hours after ordering. I could point out that it’s now 48 hours after ordering. I could get cross. But now it comes to it, I can’t be bothered. I must be ill.

Instead, when she tells me it’s nothing to do with her, she’s only “doing her job”, I ask if I can speak to the manager and then, when he arrives and is equally useless, I ask if I can speak to John Lewis customer services on the phone and eventually I tell them precisely what I want: the dress delivered directly to my niece’s address at no extra cost. Amazingly this is what happens but not before I spend forty minutes at the desk sorting it all out.

By the time we get home the headache has transmogrified into a screaming fog horn, Eldest has disappeared leaving all the windows and the double doors at the back of the house wide open to the world, the two thirteen year-olds are desperate for lunch, the ice cream has melted in the shopping bag and an upside down punnet of strawberries has leaked all over everything. But at least I’ve ordered the dress.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Here's mud in your arse

“Could you put the mud on my arse?” says my sister-in-law. I hope she won’t mind me telling you, she’s a very assertive woman (see previous blog). When the beautician asked if we’d ever had this sort of treatment before, I replied a meek little ‘no’ as she simultaneously announced that she had, in California, where she hadn’t had to apply the mud herself, thank you very much. Maybe this was why she was getting me to do it?

So it wasn’t until I was obediently applying the aforementioned to her buttocks that I paused to wonder. After all, you can reach your own arse. At least, most people can, including my sister-in-law. She’s perfectly able bodied. As I could very well see for myself.

You see we'd abandoned the paper pants we were offered because they were huge, I could fit two legs in one hole, and we could hardly wear our lovely swimming costumes, the mud would ruin them, so baring all really was the only solution. It was only the two of us in there.

It was meant to be relaxing, three hours at Center Parcs Spa, but was already shaping up to be a stressful afternoon before I was confronted with my relative’s bum cheeks. There were eggs missing from the kitchen, five, to be precise and I couldn’t work out where they’d gone. It wasn’t until Eldest hit Middle One in the nuts during an argument that all was revealed (it was a revealing afternoon). Middle One, in his rage and indignation, dobbed his brother in it and told me he’d been stealing the eggs and throwing them at trees to pass the time. A new Olympic sport, you might say. I was furious. Incandescent. Very cross. 

This is me: Not the sort of behaviour you expect from a sixteen year-old/a six year-old maybe/a delinquent six year-old/a delinquent six year-old with ADHD perhaps/what do you have to say for yourself? 

This is him: Sorry/sorry/sorry/ sorry/I was bored/I wasn’t thinking/sorry/sorry.

So, off I went to the Spa in a rage, hoping I might be able to bagsie one of those lovely warm waterbeds where I could relax and calm down but spending the entire time (after the mud) wandering from one steam room to another composing a text in my head to Eldest instead, something along the lines: I am very disappointed, you had jolly well better buck your ideas up young man… but less naff. Finally I found a free tepid waterbed and lay on it just as a queue of people arrived waiting to snatch it from me. 

Never mind, I thought to myself, keeping eyes firmly shut, the best thing would probably be to send a kinder text to Eldest, something more understanding... And then I tried to relax, as visions of eggs and buttocks and mud and text messages floated past my inward eye. 

Then my time was up.

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