Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Annie Hall.

I think it's in Annie Hall where there's a split screen and on one side there's Woody Allen talking to his therapist, while on the other there's Diane Keaton talking to hers and the therapist says to both: "so how would you describe your sex life?" and Woody Allen says, "Oh, terrible, we only have sex two or three times a week,” and Diane Keaton says, “Very good, we have sex two or three times a week.” 

Well, I was reminded of that this week during a conversation with husband...

Me: “For some reason my girlfriends seem to think we have a fantastically active sex life. I’m not quite sure how that's happened."

Husband: “It will be because you have given them that impression.”

Me: “Have I?”

Husband: "Yes. Remember that time you told them you were instigating a one night on, one night off regime?”

Me: “Oh yes, I did tell them that, didn’t I?”

Husband: “Yes, I think you did.”

Me: “Well, it’s true, I did suggest a one night on, one night off regime, so I would know when I could read my book in peace.”

Husband: “Yes, it’s true that you did suggest it, but I don’t think you followed through.”

Me: “I'm sure I did for a while.”

Husband: “Well, maybe just the once... But I'm pretty sure that was on a night off.”


Monday, 26 November 2012

Steak and chips.


I’m writing an article in a hurry and need to put wash on and order some food because we have people coming at the weekend. I grab the bedding from the guest bed and hurl it in the machine and then I do a quick Ocado order, all between paragraphs. That’s the beauty of working from home.

What shall we give guests? Steak? Great. The boys love steak. I’ll get some frozen chips to go with it too because I’ll be going out on Saturday night and husband will be cooking for his brother and brother's girlfriend. Frozen chips will be easy.

So, I do a huge food order: lots of meat and veg and tins and things to stockpile in the basement because we never seem to have enough of anything – and steak and chips too, of course, for Saturday night.

It will all be coming on Friday afternoon. Two of the boys will be at home because it’s an inset day – which I had forgotten when I agreed to write the article – so even if I do manage to nip out to help a friend celebrate her birthday Friday lunchtime, there will be someone there to receive it all.


And I do manage to nip out to help a friend celebrate her birthday Friday lunchtime. The article is going really well. I’ve interviewed eight people and have a draft of 1,600 words by the end of Thursday, so Friday is polishing day. While I’m out there’s a text from helpful child.

“Food has arrived early. Where do things in the red bags go? Freezer?”

“I think so,” I reply.

“But there are five red bags.”

“Really? Can’t all be freezer then, just leave until I get back.”

I collect Youngest from school, along with friend who’s coming to play, and when I get back home I dash up to the office to carry on writing, and polishing, and when I finally get downstairs to put stuff away and check out the fridge I can’t find any of the meat in there at all…

“Where’s all the fresh meat?” I shout out to helpful child. 

“I put it in the freezer,” shouts back helpful child, “like you said.”

“What? All of it!”

So, I remove whole fresh chicken, sausages, bacon, ham from the freezer - but there's no sign of the steak.

“Where’s the steak?”

“They didn’t bring steak,” says helpful child, “they said they didn’t have any. It was the one thing they didn’t have.”



So on Saturday night when we have guests we give them roast chicken, and then I go out. 


On Sunday husband cycles down to Waitrose to get steak - because we already ate the chicken and we all really fancy steak now - and a bit later I put the oven on to heat up and go down to the freezer in the basement to fetch the chips - except there aren’t any. 

They hadn’t delivered those either.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Jesus Christ!

Wednesday afternoon after my TV appearance and I have work from the Daily Mail again, so I'm busy.

"Look..." I say to Middle One, who has just come home from school and strolled in to the office to set up his usual camp at the other desk where there's a second, older, iMac computer. 

It's his routine to play music while having tortuous pedantic arguments on Facebook with friends he has left behind at school barely half an hour ago. 

"Playing music all the time in the office when I'm trying to write is one thing, but you will have to turn it off for a moment and keep quiet now while I make this important phone call to the editor. Do you understand?"

"Yeees..." says Middle One in an exasperated tone, putting his feet up on husband's desk.

"Good." I say, and I turn back to my own desk and punch in the number and proceed to have a detailed conversation about exactly what they want me to write by the end of Friday while attempting to sound competent, but most of all, seasoned. 

And I'm just in the middle of talking about the fee, employing the most professional voice I can muster, when suddenly Middle One jumps up and shouts: "Jesus Christ the computer has just died! Look! It's just died on me! Oh my God!"  And so I completely miss the last thing the editor says and now I have no idea what they are paying me. 

But I hope it's a lot because I think we may need a new computer.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

My TV debut.

My TV debut! On Lorraine, ITV, Wednesday 21st November 2012.

Available to view on ITV Player. On at around 8.40 am. 

Hope it works if you click on the link...

Was terrifying...

Writing about exam stress in 10/11 year olds today. For Femail again. Anyone with anything to say do contact me.

Will blog again soon, more about being on Lorraine and writing this article...


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

On Lorraine, ITV, today.

I'm just back from appearing on Lorraine on ITV to talk about the article I wrote for Femail in the Daily Mail about stay-at-home mums. 

It's a live programme and will be available to view on ITV Player later today or tomorrow and when it is I will include the link here.

In the meantime I've written what the experience felt like. 

It was something like this...


Turn pillow, fluff duvet, spin round, resettle, brief oblivion. Turn pillow again, fluff duvet again, spin round, resettle, brief oblivion. Turn pillow once again, fluff duvet again, spin round again, resettle, brief oblivion. Then alarm.

Hot shower.




and cold.

Taxi, pressing through drizzle.

The Westminster Clock Tower.


A loud television in reception.

A long corridor.

Smiling people.

Sit down and chat.

A form.

The greenroom.

Froth on a cappuccino.

More blaring television.

Another corridor.

A chatty girl in make-up.

A man does something to my hair (not good).

Another corridor.

Another person.

The greenroom again.

Another corridor.

The loo...

with a mirror...


Another corridor.

A microphone attached to my bra... 

in a corridor.

Then more corridors.

And then more people.

A hush.

A sofa... 

smaller than I thought.

A darkness - out there - beyond, where cameras and auto cues lurk...

and more people.

A serious face: familiar and yet unfamiliar.

Some vox pops.

THE THING: one hundred miles an hour. Voices, mine and then hers and then hers and then mine and then a smile and then some other people and then a photograph and then a thought and then another thought and then a movement, perhaps a hand, perhaps mine, and then a pause and then a number and then a comment and then another idea and then a face and then a smile and then it's over.

More faces.

More chat.

More corridors.


Another taxi.

More drizzle.

My iPhone.


A conversation.

An empty house.

A quick wipe round.

Another conversation.

A pile of washing.

More messages.

A blank computer screen...


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Today I am...

Pitching ideas and trying to write in nice sentences but feeling tired (bad night, anyone else?) and not able to spell so relying heavily on Mr Collins here. He's my right-hand man.

Effing and blinding round the office wondering where the pens have gone. I have forms to fill in - loads of them. Does someone EAT pens in this house?

Ignoring all the boring looking post that is piling up because I never open it.

Picking up clods of soil from all over the floor. WHO BROUGHT THAT IN?

Trying to think of something wonderful/delicious/easy to cook for dinner AGAIN.

Panicking about what I'm going to wear when I GO ON LORRAINE ON ITV TOMORROW MORNING! Yikes. As Tim Dowling would say, they have obviously never seen my face move - but then neither have I.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

John Lewis Vouchers.

Eric Johnson - all will become clear...

How am I going to nip out later to a mums' knees-up in wine bar to give a friend the John Lewis vouchers I have collected for her birthday, when it's Middle One's birthday today too? I'll have to see how it pans out later after the party...

I think the quid pro quo has been good: we dished out a load of cheap pizza to twelve teenage boys who came round to celebrate ("it's not a party, we're just hanging out") along with what husband rather charmingly likes to call ‘pop’, all from Lidl, and they each give Middle One a tenner. 

At least, the quid pro quo is good for Middle One. He now has £120 in addition to everything he wanted from his Amazon wish list (all procured by loving mother), including the wretched Eric Johnson CD and DVD. Eric Johnson is a guitarist, by the way, and I'll get be getting back to him later...

On another matter entirely (but there is a link I promise, albeit tenuous), I’ve decided to make a virtue of the fact that I’ve never seen Homeland or The Wire or King of Thrones or Breaking Bad and I now have to add The Killing, series 3, (as well as 1 and 2) to the list. We don't even have the box sets.

In my defence it's not my fault. I’m married to someone who doesn’t like watching TV unless it's University Challenge or Mastermind or a documentary about Hitler and/or railways and also of late, inexplicably, Strictly Come Dancing. (Maybe it's not so inexplicable, it's the scantily clad ladies.) 

I'd love to watch all of The Killing etc, preferably in one sitting having escaped to hide in a motel room somewhere in the middle of nowhere for a week with some nameless hunk (okay not nameless, it's Brad Pitt, as in Thelma and Louise). But then, I suppose, if I was with nameless hunk in a motel room I wouldn't be very interested in watching a load of box sets...

When I do get to sit down and watch something on TV in that precious 9.00 - 10.00 pm window, by which time I am an inert lump, it’s invariably with Middle One after husband has fallen asleep, Youngest has gone to bed and Eldest has escaped to his room, saying: “I don’t want to be with you people,” and it's usually QI or The Big Bang Theory. But there are some programmes we agree on: anything involving cookery or a documentary. 

Consequently I could tell you anything you want to know about quantum physics, the Vikings and Victoria sponge - and I’m sure there’s some clever link I could make here between the three but I just had a load of 14-year-old boys in the house and then (spoiler alert) went to a wine bar so I don’t think my synapses are firing quite as they should.

Oh, and the other thing he'll watch, and we can sort of agree on, is any of the Jeeves and Wooster episodes we have from the box set (I'll watch Hugh Laurie in anything) or Sherlock Holmes, preferably the old Jeremy Brett ones (how camp is that man!).

But this evening, Saturday, still technically his birthday, when we flop in front of the telly, Middle One wants to watch his new Eric Johnson DVD, "live from Austin, Texas", that some twerp bought from his Amazon wish list and which is, sadly, his prerogative. 

It's so dull as to be inducing a hypnotic trance so I plead friend’s birthday and the necessity of delivering said vouchers and ask if he doesn't mind me popping out (it is 10 pm) and he says he doesn't. Hooray.

Unfortunately I leave the John Lewis vouchers behind on the hall shelf because, as I say, my synapses are not firing.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Breaking news...

Breaking news this morning in priority order:

1.) Middle One's 14th birthday today - we love you Middle One!  We have huge mob of teenage boys coming over to hang out in the basement and watch Hot Rod. Whatever the hell that is.

2.) Eldest's first ever paid babysitting assignment turned into a free trip to see The Killers at the O2 last night when the child he was meant to look after set fire to his trousers (he's ok). That was before Eldest was in charge, I hasten to add. The mother didn't want to go to the gig after that and so gave Eldest her ticket. Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.

3.) And my tweet makes a tiny mention in Tim Dowling's column. (I could have put money on it).

There's enough there for about twenty posts. What a waste.

And don't miss the post from yesterday - below - about going on the telly...  

My, but how they grow! Middle One... quite a while ago now.


Friday, 16 November 2012

Lorraine ITV

I've been rowing in the basement so I'm all hot and sweaty. It's my regime to fight middle-aged spread. Husband bought the rowing machine second hand on eBay, it's a Concept 2, pricey, but worth every penny - especially when compared to annual gym membership which is exorbitant and the preserve of banker's wives round here - and we've had that machine for yonks.

It's SUCH a convenient way to exercise. I don't have to book an appointment, I don't have to liaise with friends, I don't have to get shouted out by some demented, lycra-clad, Zumba-loony jumping up and down in a grotty room above a pub on the High Road. I only have to get the dinner going at about six, whack on some trackie bums, nip down to the basement and slide backwards and forwards for fifteen agonising minutes as something bubbles away on the hob. It's done wonders for my bum. And no, I'm not going to include a photo to prove it - although it is quite tempting.

Anyway, I digress. So, I'm just coming up from the basement after rowing, with a risotto on the go, and happen to check my iPhone for texts/tweets/emails - as you do - and there's this email, subject heading: Lorraine ITV:

Hi Elizabeth,

my name is ****** and I'm a producer on Lorraine on ITV, we read your article in the Mail online, and I'm just putting feelers out to see if you might be interested in coming on the show next Tuesday to discuss this issue?

We are considering stories for next week and this seems like a topic that might resonate with our viewers.

Thanks so much

Oh my word. So I immediately ring my mother. As you do.

"Helloooow?" she says, in that unmistakable way that means: why are you ringing me again now when we spoke only this morning? So I have to remember to be polite... 

"How are you?" I ask.  And so she tells me.

"Thanks for your email earlier," I say, "I was really touched."

"It is so important for people to say they are proud of us," says mother, "isn't it?" 

"Yes it is," I say.

"I love it when you say you are proud of me," says mother.

"I am proud of you," I say.

"Oh good," says mother.

Right. Well. With all that out of the way, now I can tell her my news. So, I tell her what the email says and she puts me on speaker phone so my father can hear and I repeat it all over again.

"Are they going to pay you?" calls father from the background.

"Oh, gosh," I say, "I didn't think to ask that and it might not even happen."

"Well, if it does you should find out and check that you're not just going to be in the audience, that happened to me, they asked me on this programme, I can't remember which, to talk about religion (father is an academic) and then they put me in the audience and I only got to say one thing."

"Oh dear," I say. Then I think for a moment. 

"Do you know what?" I say, "even if they don't offer to pay me I think I would still go, and even if they do just put me in the audience I still think I would go because... (I'm thinking again) it will get me out of the house."

"True," says my father. 

And then I have to dash off because the risotto has completely dried out.

Then this evening, after a few friendly emails back and forth with ****** from Lorraine ITV, there's another one, quite late, to say they're sorry but they won't be needing me on Tuesday next week after all, but they will get back to me to run the story soon. Probably.

So off I go to ring my mother again. As you do.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Article in the Daily Mail today.

"What!" I shout at my laptop, while sitting at the breakfast table reading the Mail Online. "I didn't write that, I wrote Nick Clegg's admirable plans, not controversial plans. It's completely different."

"For God's sake Mummy," says Middle One, "What do you expect? It's a Tory newspaper."

True, I think, and there are more important things to worry about - the eye-make up is terrible, where are my lashes?

If you read it, do let me know what you think...


Sunday, 11 November 2012

The best chicken recipe.

I am not going to latch, I think, or allow anyone to latch onto me. That’s rule number one of going to a conference where you don’t know a soul. And this is exactly where I am, let loose at the Mumsnet Blogfest on a Saturday morning at Altitude Millbank where key speakers include Miriam Gondalez Durantez, Zoe Williams and Tim Dowling and, wait for it, I can hardly believe it myself because this means I will actually be in the same room as this sexy, clever, witty woman, Caitlin Moran.

So I’m going to be cool. I’m going to observe "in manner of hot shot journalist," as Bridget Jones might say. Which is why when nice, blonde, slightly older lady, sitting next to me near the front row of the auditorium, strikes up a conversation, I am friendly but not too much.

This is like freshers' at uni. She might seem lovely but any minute she might attach herself like she’s my NBF and follow me to the toilets, saying thing like, “Shall we go grab lunch now?” before stalking me on Twitter.

I therefore answer her polite enquiries rather smugly with: “I’m a journalist,” (ha!) and then, “my blog is I Don’t Know How She Doesn’t Do It,” and then I ignore her.

I bet she’s impressed, I think, when I raise my hand and ask, in tremulous tones, what I later realise is a stupid, half-arsed question. If I’d read the programme properly I would have known they were going to cover the issue of blogging, privacy and children later.

Nice, blonde, slightly older lady, leans in to tell me her twelve year old daughter doesn’t mind being blogged about but that she is anonymous, which helps, and she changes the child’s name anyway. I read her lanyard, Eliza Gray, it says. I smile, patronisingly.

For the rest of the conference when I am not happily engaged either eating - there is loads of food and it’s all fabulous - or peeing, or pretending to need to pee so I can go in the loo and sit down and have a quiet five minutes to myself away from all the oestrogen, (actually, there’s probably rather more oestrogen in the loos), or staring out of the window at the view, I fiddle with my iPhone a LOT and constantly update my status on Facebook.

In this way I hope to look like an unflappable swan gliding serenely around, albeit in skin-tight tartan leggings, making clever notes, while beneath the surface my yellow gangly swan’s legs flap madly (stick with the metaphor here, I know it’s ropey), as I make hysterical comments on FB: “Miriam Gonzalez Durantez! Wow!” “Suzanne Moore!” “Eleanor Mills!” And my pièce de resistance: “Caitlin Moran!!!!!!!!!”

So I feel a bit of a prat when nice, blonde, slightly older lady turns out to be successful mum-blogger of '50 is the new black', and is up there under the lights on stage flirting with Tim Dowling during the closing session. Just think of the tips I could have got from nice, blonde slightly older lady. 

Never mind. There’s a great goody bag which includes Caitlin Moran’s new book and a Boden umbrella. Neither to be sniffed at. And now I can stalk her on Twitter.


P.S. If you’re wondering why I’ve called this, The Best Chicken Recipe it’s because it's one of the most googled phrases ever, according to blog clinic man. So here’s mine: brown onions, add garlic, bit of chili, whack in your chicken, brown it, add chopped peppers, lots of chicken stock, herbs, S&P, leave the lid off, add crème fraiche later if you want it to thicken.

Friday, 9 November 2012

This blog is a lie.

This blog is a lie. The thought suddenly occurred to me when I burnt the dinner on Monday night because I was writing for the Daily Mail.

It all started because I was bored - the blog that is - and because I felt like a failure. I wasn’t a frantically busy working mother successfully juggling all her balls in the air. I was more, ‘she doesn’t do very much at all,’ than ‘I don’t know how she does it,’ and I wished I did do it, or at least a bit of it. Sometimes.

But every now and again, and increasingly often of late, I do feel like one of those mothers - hooray! I think. 

And to be perfectly honest, although stressful and challenging at times, it’s great. Example: making dinner at the same time as writing on a tight deadline.

Okay, so it was a tad frustrating to have arranged for children to come and play with Youngest all day to keep him occupied as I worked (it was an inset), only to finally get ‘marks’ back from the editor at 5.30 ("more about you, more colour, more anecdote"), when the playmates had all gone and the family needed feeding and we were about to set off fireworks in the back garden because it was bonfire night.

But running up and downstairs between the kitchen and office, chopping onions, putting the oil to heat, running back up again and writing another paragraph, running back down and throwing the onions on and running back up to write, before running back down and adding garlic and ginger and chilli, (it was a chickpea curry by the way, not that we’re vegetarian you understand, it's just that I’d spent a lot of money on meat at the weekend so thought I’d better economise and cook something healthy), anyway, it was really all rather enlivening, fun even, taking multi-tasking to the limit.

What was annoying was that despite all three sons being in the house, two of them an age now that I was when I helped my mother with dinner, sometimes even cooked it myself, not one of them helped me. Nothing. Zilch. Not a sausage. Or rather, not a chickpea. And I was calling out every five minutes…

“Can anyone chop these onions for me?”




“Where are you all?”


“I’m writing something in a hurry!”


“Could someone turn the gas down on the hob? Hello! Are you in your bedrooms?

More silence.

I was on too much on a roll to stop and go and search for them, and got rather engrossed in my work...

So when husband arrived home, just before seven, expecting his delicious home-cooked supper to be sitting on the table for him as per usual, he marched straight into a smouldering Mary Celeste of a kitchen.

“What the!” I heard him shouting from below as I was mid-sentence, writing: “…so when I called wrap on a shoot in south London sixteen years ago, I had no idea that

“Oh my God!” Husband again.

Concentrate, Elizabeth, concentrate, blot it out: “ idea that I would never…”

“What the hell is going on here?"

"...that I would never..."

"Where’s Mummy!"

" as a children's TV director again because..."

"This dinner is burning dry!"

“You’re bloody lucky to get any dinner!” I shouted back, abandoning the sentence mid-flow. “I have to work! You can cook it yourself! The lot of you!”

Which is, perhaps, not a very wonderful homecoming and just goes to show that I don’t do it after all. So this blog is not a lie. 


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