The Ordinary Olympics

I did a very brave thing yesterday.

I drove into Birmingham City Centre with the children, and parked in the Bull Ring.

I know this might seem like nothing to you. For me, it was huge.

I am not brave. I am not adventurous. I admire Bear Grylls from a distance. I would never think of say, climbing Ben Nevis, as a fun half term activity.

I have my own demons to conquer.

Some days these demons are merely things like the ability to get out of bed without crying, and put my clothes on the right way round. Other days I set myself more complex challenges.

Today, for instance, I am attempting the post office. For those of you who are ‘normal’, the post office might seem like a mere bagatelle. For me, it can be a massively stressful experience. One that seems to become more stressful as time goes by. I think it’s ever since they introduced that thing where the sort of envelope you have chosen matters as much as what’s inside it. I find the whole experience incredibly taxing. I have to steel myself to do a post office run. Today is the day. I am buoyed up by the successes of yesterday.

I do not understand why people admire other people who hurl themselves off of mountains or go paragliding, or bungee jumping. I mean it looks way more interesting on film than working out which bus is going to take you into town and not to the outermost ends of the earth, and having the right change so you don’t get unceremoniously ejected before you even start, but to me, they’re very similar in terms of stress levels.

Also, you don’t have to throw yourself off a bridge tied to a bit of knicker elastic, but sometimes you do have to get on a bus, so to me, to be able to do all this calmly and without just going home and climbing under the duvet should be rewarded.

I think people should acknowledge, and probably even celebrate the small, but monumental achievements that people do every day, but which are nonetheless, quite terrifying (some of the time – on a good day it’s all gravy, baby).

I think I will invent an ordinary olympics in which people compete against each other to conquer the every day mountains.

Events would include:

Planning a week’s worth of meals that will satisfy every member of your family in some way or another, shopping for them, and then cooking them, all with a toddler clamped to your leg.

Filling out a passport form, and getting the correct photos (for a toddler – oh hai, photo booth of doom), and taking it to the post office to be checked and sent off.

Parking in a Seventies built multi storey car park where all the bays are just that little bit too small, and they thought it would be a good idea to curve all the ramps between floors just to make it a bit more interesting. They too, will be slightly too small for the modern car.

Going for a smear test during the school holidays, and finding some way to distract your children, who have been forced to accompany you because everyone else is on holiday (see previous post).

Going for a smear test at any time.

Going to either a) Birmingham or b) Coventry and driving to a specific point in the city centre, using only your Sat Nav and no local knowledge for guidance. Both of these cities employ an inner and outer ring road which at times criss cross each other, and at other times run parallel to each other, but stacked on top of each other, thus making it impossible for you to know which road you should be on, or indeed, which exit you should get off of. Extra points will be given if you travel with passengers who all have differing opinions as to what you should do in the midst of this journey, and who shout over each other at critical junctures.

Changing a super king duvet cover solo.

Driving for more than ten miles with three, bored children in the car and not killing them, or going mad because you’ve listened to the Macarena as sung by One Direction forty seven times already and nobody but you is bored by it.

Finding a way to wear a beret that makes you look as stylish as that woman in the photo, and not like Michelle from the Resistance in Allo Allo, crossed with a potato.

There are hundreds of other things I could suggest, but I have to go to the post office, so, you know, feel free to pop your suggestion in the comments box below for other ordinary olympic events.

P.S. It was worth driving to Birmingham. We spent the day with my fabulous friend Gina, eating at Wagamamas, visiting the Grayson Perry exhibition (The Vanity of Small Things), trying all the perfumes in Jo Malone, eating cake at Patisserie Valerie, drinking milkshakes at Ed’s Diner and talking until our jaws actually fell off. I doubt there will be this much reward for braving the post office, but one can hope. A bronze medal perhaps?

13 responses to “The Ordinary Olympics

  1. Thanks for recognising real life .i have experienced most of these and more too xxx

  2. Currently trying to help with age ten homework with explaining complicated logic and occupying toddler.

  3. I love the concept of the Ordinary Olympics. I think getting school sports bags/book bags/musical instrument bags ready with the right kit in them day in and day out should be added to the list. As should figuring out how to get a Sky box to work.

  4. Brilliant post! I’m all for replacing these utterly boring skiing contests with your version. Would not dare to attempt äny of the challenges mentioned by you, except for the duvet cover, might be in with a chance there: 1. Turn cover inside out. 2. Stick hands inside cover, gripping upper corners from inside as if playing crocodile puppet. 4. With these improvised jaws bite into duvet’s corners, then 4. give mighty heave with both arms.
    My challenge: changing car insurance company (without losing bonus points, obv.) just after you’ve inherited your stepfather’s ancient vehicle, with ownership (and therefore bonus points) going via your 87-year-old mother.

  5. Yes, yes and yes.
    You can add trying to budget a months salary into individual weeks, when you are paid in calendar months.
    And getting a McDonalds TO EAT IN during the school holidays. Fuck me. I am surprised more people don’t just drop down dead from heart attacks in there.

  6. Trying to cut the lawn while your child/dog attempts to bite through the lawnmower cable

    Cooking dinner for umpteen while every person under 10 in the building fights, screams, and runs around your kitchen pretending to be something extremely noisy – and their parents sit in the other room drinking and watching the effing rugby

    Trying to understand what the hell your elderly mother is going on about as she tries to read you some totally incomprehensible letter from the Council about her Council tax, while you are at work – and, you know, actually supposed to be working.

  7. lawn mower cable sounds terrifying.

    Council tax thing. Oh yes. I hear you.

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