Some days you can plan all you like, and then whomp! Life just take you completely by surprise and you find yourself having to roll with the punches.

That happened today. Mostly in a good way, it has to be said.

This morning our water supply got cut off by a water main explosion about three roads away.

As soon as this happened, everyone in the house wanted to pooh.

It is the way of our people.

As I commented to my sister in law, it is a kind of Pavlovian pooh reaction.  As soon as you know you can’t possibly go, you really, really want to. Possibly more than once.  Things got a bit tense.

The girls could slope off to school and avail themselves of the facilities, but just as Oscar and I were about to depart I got a text message to say that the very same water main that caused our dilemma, had shut his school and everyone was getting an extra day off.  This was utterly brilliant news, apart from the wanting to pooh bit, which was becoming increasingly urgent as the minutes ticked by.

Jason appeared and like a magical fairy with a beard and good taste in suits, sneaked us off up the road for breakfast (and a pooh) at a local cafe.  We left much more relieved than we arrived.

The water still being off, Oscar and I were pretty limited for choices at home. I surmised that by the time we realised we couldn’t have a cup of tea, or a shower, or fit in more emergency poohs we would be driven insane.  I called the gym and asked them if I could include refuge for a small boy in my trial membership, and they agreed, which was very nice of them.

We packed supplies; in my case, gym and swimming kit. In his case, a book and his iPad and off we set.

He had a wonderful time, being generally feted by everyone who met him, ensconced in a corner of the lounge with a supply of Fruit Shoots and Hula Hoops and the Wifi code. As far as he was concerned, this was heaven.

I bobbed in and out of various activities to make sure he hadn’t been kidnapped by white slavers and to make sure he wasn’t dancing on the tables.

We lunched together very amiably, and then after I’d had a swim we came home to find that the water had been turned back on so we wouldn’t have to pack up Derek and Tiberius and wend our way to granny’s house for the evening.

It was, after the initial, pooh based crisis, a thoroughly nice day in which, as well as creeping towards fitness, I managed to shovel down sausage sandwiches and read a book about how to be happy in Denmark.  The sun is sort of shining, the ability to make cups of tea is back on the agenda, and I can turn the alarm clock off for the next week.

We have made it.  There were times this week when I thought this day would never arrive, but it has. We are beached on the shores of the weekend, somewhat delirious, sand in our swimming costumes, but here.

Hoo,bloody, rah.

Nothing to be said, really

Last week flew by on the bewinged feet of Mercury.

This week has trudged by like me, stuck in a particularly boggy bog in a pair of ill fitting Wellingtons.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s because half term is so close, and I dream, positively dream, of not being held captive to other people’s time tables, and so the minutes tick by sloooowly, because mainly they are bastards.

Today, for example, has lasted for about 72 hours already, and shows no sign of buggering off.

It has also been one of those weeks where we seem to have had about eighteen Wednesdays, no Thursdays to speak of, and a few more Mondays than is entirely advisable.  It is interesting that we are supposed to be such a rational race, and yet if I say something like: ‘It feels like Tuesday again’, in the playground, there are sage nods, and not one person says: ‘What do you mean? How can that possibly be?’

Tell me. It is Friday tomorrow isn’t it?

Please let it be so.

The Pink Pound

I’m feeling a bit better today.  I can feel the heavy cloud of hormone related misery and illness, slowly beginning to lift. I am less snarky (although my loved ones might ask how one could possibly know this, given generally high levels of snarkiness all year round), slightly less tired, and much less sore and crampy, I do hate being held hostage to my hormones for a couple of weeks every month. It is like having the bus you were happily travelling on being hi jacked by Keanu Reeves and a load of naughty monkeys who don’t know the highway code.

Not fun.

Despite the fact that a movie like Speed, but which replaces the bomb and Sandra Bullock with a load of monkeys that don’t know the highway code, would be a sure fire winner in my book.

Today I have managed to shout less. I have managed to do more. I have managed to have a slightly sunnier disposition.

I think this might partially be aided by the fact that my friend Jenn gave me a very superb lemon meringue pie for lunch. The presence of a lemon meringue pie is always lifting to the spirits.

Anyway. As well as lemon meringue pie I managed to fit in more exercise today. Fifty minutes of swimming, uninterrupted by tutting women, and I have also found a gym that is doing an excellent trial offer for 30 days, and today I went to check it out properly.

I realised, as I arrived, that I was very nervous. Very nervous indeed. The gym is not my natural domaine. Probably because you do not find many lemon meringue pies there.  However, I gave myself a stern talking to in the car park and braved it.

I bumbled about ineptly, but managed to find the women’s gym, which is like a small, pink cupboard full of fierce looking equipment.  There is a much posher gym upstairs, but I figured that while I’m still arsing about I might as well do it in a small, pink cupboard and enjoy a modicum of privacy.

So, I had a go on a running machine. I did not fall off, crash into the wall, get my clothes caught in any moving parts, or cry.  I think this definitely counts as a victory.  I did not run either, but I did have a very brisk walk up a slight incline, and I think that’s enough for my first attempt.

I also had a go on the cycling machine. I was pretty taken with this as I have figured out that I will be able to rest my book on the handlebars and read as I pedal along sedately. No spinning or mountainous climbs for me, thanks. I will picture myself cycling along with a basket full of goodies and a straw hat on, while I read improving tomes.

You can, of course, do all of this on a real bike, except read improving tomes, but I have the added bonuses of the fact that the gym is warm, I’m not going to meet Boris Johnson anywhere, and I’m not going to get wiped up by a pantechnicon on the bypass either.

Today I had to make do with watching Nicki Minaj gyrating around with her unfeasibly balloon animal like derriere. I found it relatively mesmerising if I’m honest, but a book would have been better, and a whole lot less terrifying.

One of the reasons exercising is still high on the agenda, despite me fitting neatly into the clothes I want to wear, is that I have, under pressure from my lovely friend Nicki, signed up for this year’s Race for Life.  I will only be dong 5K, and I will undoubtedly be doing less racing and more hunting about in the bushes for stray lemon meringue pies, but doing it I am, and I need to be slightly fit for it, having realised how unspectacularly fit I was when partaking in the Miranda Gallopathon for Red Nose Day.

So, I am training, in a desultory, lack lustre and probably slightly mad way, but it’s better than not training at all, and if you feel compelled to sponsor me, please feel free to chuck a couple of quid my way by following this link.

There are a whole load of us raising money in memory of the rather wonderful Mrs. Saunt, secretary of the last school I worked in, and which Oscar and Tallulah went to. Mrs. Saunt was the lynch pin of the school, and it’s never been quite the same since she died.  We miss her, and raising money to help other people who still have a fighting chance to beat cancer and doing it in her name would have been something she’d have been particularly chuffed about.

So you can donate on her behalf, or on behalf of someone you love, or you can donate if you just fancy laughing your socks off at the idea of me puffing round a park dressed in pink frills. Or you can just send me your very best wishes.  Whatever works for you.


I have come to the conclusion that I am sorely in need of a holiday.

It is the correct use of the word ‘need’. I do not want a holiday. Actually, the thought of packing and booking and faffing and organising and thinking about who will look after pets and whose permission I should ask for various types of absences, fills me with the horrors.

I do not know who once filled my head with the idea that a holiday should be a simple affair in which you could, in theory, take a credit card and an overnight bag and decide where you’re going in the blink of an eye, but it is an enduring dream.

I have never been on a holiday like that. I have never met anyone else who has been on a holiday like that, but this is the sort of holiday I aspire to. This, I think to myself, as I pack seventeen pairs of children’s pants into the corner of an already overstuffed suitcase, while a child neatly unfills it from the other end,  and I erroneously tick another thing off my ever spooling list of doom, is what a real holiday would be like.

Would it? Is it? Have any of you ever done such a thing? Was it marvellous?

Actually, maybe don’t tell me. I will only be sad for myself if it is as marvellous as I suspect, as the prospect of such a holiday flickers on the edge of impossible/never.

I ‘need’ a holiday because I am even crankier, more impatient and generally up sticks with humanity than I have been for a while. Six weeks of kow towing to a school regime, exams, auditions, recitals and recalcitrant pets, alongside various domestic uproars will do that to a person. I have very little bandwidth for human error, especially my own.

My own errors include having to go to the supermarket three times in one day, just because I cannot remember a list, or even a basic string of simple objects for more than three seconds without it falling out of my brain; trying to pay for petrol with my leisure centre swimming card; driving past three petrol stations thinking ‘I must get petrol,’ and then sailing straight past them; grating all the skin off one knuckle, mistaking my own finger for cheese etc…

This adds to:

being absolutely sick to the back teeth of the fact that Tallulah could not find the cheese slice this morning, even though it was sitting on the chopping board awaiting the slicing of her cheese, and she had walked past it twice.

It was sitting on top of the bread board because last week I caught her chopping up lumps of cheese with my lethally sharp Japanese kitchen knife directly onto the work surfaces, and had decided I needed to perhaps prepare things before she attempted anything else quite so guaranteed to send me into apoplexy, so that the morning could run slightly smoother.

I was deranged by the fact that she also got a new bottle of sparkling water out, even though there was one, already opened, right by her breakfast place setting, because setting the table every morning to avoid four of us all using the same small kitchen work space is another of the things that I do to try and make mornings go more smoothly.

I was rendered speechless by the fact that Tilly thought maybe that her physics exam might over run to such an extent that it would stop me taking Tallulah out at seven o’clock tomorrow evening.

I was dismayed by the fact that Tallulah has exhibited another set of strange behaviours around setting her alarm clock, despite being repeatedly reminded of how to set her alarm clock.

I was bewildered by the fact that when I asked Oscar to get his swimming things together, for today is swimming day at school, that he came downstairs twirling a pair of swimming shorts on one finger and asked ‘why’ he needed them?

Indeed yes? And why not a towel, or goggles, or a swimming hat to go with the casually twirled shorts?

Things did not improve when I arrived dutifully at school to accompany a trip to a local mosque, something I had promised to do weeks ago, when I found out that the trip had been cancelled last week, and somehow the message to tell me this had failed to be delivered.

Let us not go into the shenanigins at the local swimming pool this lunch time where people who were merely chatting, tutted at me repeatedly when I actually dared to try and swim, and were so obstructive that I actually got out of the swimming pool half an hour early to avoid having to murder them in cold blood.

Nor the fact that when asked to help put the washing out this afternoon, not one single child could remember how to hang up a shirt, or a towel, or any item of clothing at all, despite the fact that I do at least two loads of laundry a day and it is one of their jobs to help me.

Perhaps I just need a holiday from today. I won’t even need a credit card and an overnight bag for that.

I suspect I need a holiday from myself. That’s a little trickier to arrange.

The sad and sorry tale of Mr. Butternut

There are some things that you do as a parent that your children never let you forget.  These, let me tell you, are never the things that you think they’re going to be.

You may, like me, have a jar for each child, where every time you do something terrible that will scar their mental landscape forever, like, I don’t know, forget to go to their tuba recital or something, you sling some money into the jar for future therapy sessions.  These are never the things they remember.  It’s always the weird stuff.

In my case, Tilly has never let me forget, for example, the time I threw away the gigantic flying boat that she made out of cardboard.  This is despite the fact that we kept it for well over a year.  Even though I use the word ‘gigantic’ advisedly, and I tripped over the thing for a solid twelve months without saying a word.  Even though we had to get rid of it because we were moving house, and really, it had reached the end of its useful life, and I wasn’t prepared to pay a removal man to guard it with his life as instructed.

Tallulah has never let me forget the fact that I refused to let her spend her entire life savings on 43 small chicks so that she could open a chick hotel in her bedroom.  When I point out the impracticalities of keeping 43 chicks in her bedroom, even to this day, she pooh poohs my qualms as if I were the simple minded one.  Of course you can keep 43 chicks in a small, Scandinavian chalet style, open fronted dolls house, because, you know, they don’t grow, or move or anything.  Of course you can put 43 nappies on 43 chicks, 43 times a day, because that is a mere bagatelle in the world of chick hotel management. etc.

Neither of the girls have ever forgiven me for the fact that I told them that their dad got his bottom bitten by an angry crab when he went scuba diving in Egypt, even though it was a great story. I don’t know why they’re so upset about this. It’s not like it couldn’t have happened, and they had years of happy memories of it before they found out I’d told them a big, fat, lie.

As for Oscar, he’s still reeling from the fact that his dad can’t, as I previously specified, get five Wagon Wheels in his mouth at one time.

I think it is very unfair of him to be cross at me for telling him this, particularly when you think that this is the child who told all his friends in Year 1 at school that his middle name was Pikachu.

We tested out how many Wagon Wheels Jason could actually get in his mouth, by the way. One only.

Disappointing I know.

At the weekend, Tallulah left me a note on a my desk when she was left to her own devices whilst tidying my study (she is saving for an iPad. It is not entirely slave labour).  It read something along the lines of:

‘You are a despicable squash merderer.’ (sic)

I pointed out that if she wanted to leave poison pen letters she should at least learn how to spell.

She said that it didn’t diminish my crimes as a murderer of squashes.

The others joined in, in an accusatory chorus of: ‘Yeah! What about Mr. Butternut? He won’t care if we spell murderer wrong, because he was murdered. BY YOU.’

I shall never, EVER, live this down.

Let me tell you the tale…

I have a complex relationship with the squash. I quite like them, but I have to find ways to disguise them in my cooking as the others are not keen.  I also find them tricky to prepare as they are one of the densest vegetables on the planet. If you have never got to grips with a butternut squash before I urge you to think of a vegetable marrow crossed with a small sack of cement.

Let us roll back through the mists of time about eighteen months.  I had bought a butternut squash for some nefarious culinary purpose, but whatever it was I was planning to make had obviously gone awry, and I had not used it.

The squash sat in the vegetable rack for some weeks.  The good thing about them is that they are pretty solid troopers of the veg world and they do last quite a while before they have to be slung out. My theory was that I would get around to cooking it eventually.

I didn’t.

One day, I came downstairs to find that, inspired by Miranda Hart and her ‘vegetapals’, Tilly had created a butternut creature in much the same vein as Miranda’s own: “Mr. Butternut.’  Ours had features made of paper which she had stuck on to its equine shaped face.  There was a fine, handlebar moustache and a top hat as well.

Mr. Butternut lived on the kitchen counter for some weeks.  I inspected him at regular intervals thinking that eventually he would go squashy, given that he was, in fact, a squash, and even pumpkins, the most enduring of vegetables, do go squashy eventually.  You have to watch them, because they look fine, but tend to moulder from the bottom, so when you pick them up by their stalk you find your shoes have been filled with a fine mulch of rotting pumpkin.  I did not want that to happen to Mr. Butternut. Or my shoes.

Mr. Butternut, however, seemed to be imbued with magical powers of longevity. He was as rock solid as the day he was bought.

He lived for many, many weeks, which turned into a couple of months.  I began to find him quite troubling.  He was, after all, vegetable matter, and programmed to rot.  I wondered if he had been irradiated. I wondered if I was being secretly irradiated too, by a vegetable man in a paper top hat?

I began to be creeped out by him.

One day, when I was cleaning the kitchen, I threw him in the bin.

I felt bad about it. I really did. But by this time I was beginning to feel that his eyes were following me around the room. I was being stalked by a squash. IN MY OWN HOME.

Sadly, I had forgotten the cardinal rule of binning things when you have children, which is that you must either hide them deeply in the bottom of the bin under layers of impenetrable gunk, or take whatever it is that you know you want to destroy, but which will be controversial and saddening to your children to someone else’s house and get them to dispose of it for you.

Mr. Butternut was just lying in the top of the bin when the children got home.

Rookie mistake.

Tilly pounced.  The children wailed.

Mr. Butternut was washed, dried, given new features and resurrected like the pumpkin based version of Jesus.

God help me.

He lurked on the side board for many more weeks, refusing to rot down or give me any excuse to legitimately throw him away, but getting more and more menacing by the moment.

The children were, of course, watching me like a hawk for signs that I might try and kill off Mr. Butternut once more.  There was accusation in their eyes.

Rightly so.

I did, of course, find a time to dispose of him when their backs were turned, and this time I did it good and proper.

I buried him under a motorway bridge at the dead of night, in concrete footings.


I have never lived this down.

I never will.

Bang to rights.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want…

The weekend, so far, has been blissfully free of musical theatre, for which I am profoundly grateful.  It has also been free of exercise, for which I am less grateful. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Despite all the other benefits that I am reaping, one of the things that the intermittent fasting regime seems to be failing me on so far, is any sense that my periods might be getting any more regular or less peculiar.

My period was due last Tuesday, according the the counting back through my diary to the last time I felt really shitty technique that I employ.  As regular readers will know, I fainted on Monday, which was what led me to do the counting back through my diary in the first place.

Since then I have been like a cat on hot bricks, feeling crappy intermittently despite putting the fasting on hold to avoid any more fainting unpleasantness. I have been carrying on with the exercising, because I didn’t feel too horrific, just horribly aware that misery was coming down the line at some point soon.

Yesterday, my intention was to get up and go for an early morning swim before getting on with the rest of my day.  I set my alarm, and then woke up feeling thick headed and physically shaky.  I lay in bed for a while longer in the hope that it would cease, and I could get up and get on.

Instead I gave up after half an hour, and instead of an early swim, went and had some breakfast in the hope that this might stop the shaking.

It didn’t.

I decided that I was clearly not meant to swim, or indeed do many of the other things I had planned for the day.  I did manage to get on with some cleaning and go for a gentle walk, with plenty of pit stops to sit down along the way, but that was about it before my period decided to stop messing around and actually get on with things.

Today I am fit for nothing much of anything at all. I have treated myself to co-codamol and a hot bath, and am using the enforced lolling time to catch up with my reading pile, which is, as ever, massive.

I still hope that if I persist with the exercise and the 5:2 that my lady parts might take the hint and become more lady like and behave themselves for five minutes. It is a glorious dream, and possibly one which is achievable.  I also hope it comes sooner rather than later. I was rather looking forward to torching the chaise-langue of death (TM).

More Tales from the Musical Front Line

My ex husband, who is somewhat of a guru type figure (he has always wanted to start his own religion, in a shed), used to say: ‘What you resist, persists.’

What this basically means is, stop thinking about the things you don’t want, and start thinking about the things you do.  It’s all part of a kind of general ethos of manifesting stuff and things. If you think about stuff, your energy kind of makes it, and then you get it, so it’s better to think about things you do want/like/need, rather than the things you don’t.

It makes sense, really. I think about biscuits a lot, and there are always a lot of biscuits in my life.

I don’t resist them though. No sirree Bob.

Clearly I have not taken this philosophy on board in relation to the world of musical theatre, however, and my worrying about it is paying off in strange ways, i.e. it is proliferating in my life like mould on cheese.

My friends and family think this is hilarious.

Andrea practically had to be resuscitated when I recounted this week’s adventures in theatre to her.  She said, and I quote: ‘Stop telling me any more things. I might need to wee now.’

She then said: ‘You must have been a very naughty beetle in a previous life.’

Indeed, yes.

The anti-christ of beetles.

So yesterday afternoon saw me dashing home from the school run with Oscar, leaving Tilly with strict instructions as regards to tea, and laundry and when Jason would be home, flinging Tallulah into the car and haring off to Northampton for the evening.

I know. This is not my usual haunt or habit.  Let me explain.

My father is a huge fan of musical theatre, and he and Tallulah have been known to go on jaunts together to see shows.  This works perfectly for the most part. They enjoy each other’s company, they have a great time, and they save the rest of us from having to go.

Months ago, my dad booked tickets for the two of them to see the musical, Anything Goes, which is currently touring the country to great plaudits from all those who know about these things.  The show was not coming to Leicester at all, the nearest theatre to us was Northampton’s Derngate theatre, so he booked that, for yesterday evening’s performance.

At the time I did question the wisdom of booking a show on a Friday evening. Northampton isn’t very far (about an hour away), but you do have to factor traffic into the mix, and travelling during a Friday rush hour is not ideal.  My father was adamant that all would be well.

Then my dad wasn’t well.

So he couldn’t go to the Derngate theatre on a Friday evening in May, rush hour or no, and he couldn’t bear the thought of Tallulah missing out on her show, so my better nature was appealed to.

As we know, I struggle to have a better nature. I am not a better natured person. I am a grouchy, ungrateful, curmudgeon of a person who won’t even smile in photographs.

Nevertheless, I thought about my previous existence as an evil beetle, and decided that if I was really good in this life, and embraced musical theatre, maybe someone would let me be an aardvark in my next incarnation. It was a cheering thought, so I agreed.

Hence Tallulah and I travelling towards Northampton yesterday afternoon with as much rapidity as I could muster.  This, it turned out, was not a lot, as almost the entire section of the M1 that relates to Northamptonshire is currently coned off into strange sub-sections of lanes and has an average speed trap/limit of 50 mph for its duration.

Not helped by the fact that it was Friday, nor the fact that for some time I was trapped behind a woman in a Toyota Yaris who insisted on doing between 35 and 40 mph and slamming her brakes on every time someone farted in Tokyo.  I would have overtaken her, had I not been wedged into place by a Romanian truck driver who had a penchant for randomly weaving about the middle lane. By the time we hit the outskirts of Northampton I was a bit sweaty with fear, and more than a bit sweary.

We gyrated around Northampton for some time until I had taken into account one way roads that Sat Navs cannot predict, closed car parks and filter lanes that filtered me into places that the Sat Nav didn’t like.  Eventually we found a car park, and then a bank, because the car park didn’t take card payments, only cash.

Once we had done that, and swapped my theatre ticket from a senior citizen to a full price ticket (I did look haggard enough to be taken for senior citizen by the time we got there, but couldn’t take the risk that they would throw me out of the theatre just as I was about to take my seat, given how much effort it took to got us there) we had just enough time to eat before curtain up. I had thought I might have been overly cautious with regard to what time we left home.


Interestingly, Ruby Wax was doing her show Sane New World at the same venue, and I did think about sneaking out and seeing that instead. I think Ruby could do a lot for me in my current state. Sadly, Tallulah wasn’t keen, so jazz hands it was.

The set was great. The costumes were wonderful. There were some nice touches with regard to humour. The plot was risible (as you would expect) and was basically: ‘Whoops there go my bloomers!’ set on an ocean liner.  Thankfully the American accents were not too bad, although there were a few hairy moments, and the singing was good, and not drowned out by the orchestra, which sometimes happens. The tap dancing was superb, although there is only so much of it you’d want to live with.

It is the songs that get me. The songs drive me crazy. I just don’t like this kind of narrative singing. The weird rhyme schemes, the mangling of metre to fit the music, and the incessant need to break into song every time your heart is broken.

Who does that? Who really does that? Surely you just reach for the gin and biscuits and shout ‘All men/women are bastards?’ into the howling vortex that was once your life, while mascara streams down your cheeks in ugly train tracks?

Nevertheless, we participated in the convention that is the willing suspension of disbelief, and I made notes to book my dad into the Samuel Beckett festival when he is well again, in revenge for the emotional and physical toll the evening had on me.

It’s alright, dad. It’s in Leeds, on a Friday night. Starts at 7.30.  Traffic won’t be a problem.

You’re taking Oscar. He’ll love it.

Nothing to be done…

P.S. Tallulah loved it. Every single, glittery moment.  And we had a voice mail message when we got home that she has got a part in the musical she auditioned for.

I must stop thinking about musical theatre.