Thursday, 27 March 2014

Three Little Letters

Three little letters that mean so much
Soft spoken words, a tender touch
A smile to chase tears on a sorrowful day
A note to face fears when you’re far away
The laugh that says it will be all right
The way the darkness dissolves in the light
Magic roast dinners, sumptuous pud
Heavy table, laden with food
Washing hanging in the summer breeze
The hot swish of ironing, flattening ease
Holidays long, and so filled with fun
Days crowded with friends, playing in the sun
Baths running, hot water soaked with bubbles
Soothing away all those kiddie troubles
A hug, the warmth, the story at night
A last blown kiss before turning out the light
Kids getting older, the love doesn’t jade
Arguments, blow ups, smiles do not fade
Advice, oft ignored ‘til realization dawns
Staying up worrying, stifling yawns
Becoming a grandmother, the gentle pride
A baby who won’t leave her childs side
The swell in her heart as the first words come
Three little letters, it’s simply

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 BIB awards


Slob Out Time

There is something about just slobbing.  It could be in front of the telly, in the garden, or –my personal favourite – with a good book by a sunny pool side.  It needn’t be for long, but it helps rejuvenate the soul, regenerate the mind and recharge the old batteries.  The problem is, I’m just not very good at it.

But slobbing isn’t necessarily a physical thing, it’s more a state of mind.  It is seen when people watch television, or play an electronic game, or lie in the bath.  It can be seen in the day to day routine of a job, when the body is there, but the mind is sunning itself by the pool side with a good book.  It is Taking Five, or having Forty Winks, without the eyelids closing.  It is a moment in time.  And then back to reality.

When I was younger, and worked in London, I used to commute on the Tube.  This is the epicenter of Slobbism (see, new word?!).  Only on the London Underground can you spend a half hour sitting opposite someone and not make eye contact.  By the end of the journey they have either memorized the entire Tube map, they are walking along that metaphorical beach, or they have a squint. And God forbid if a busker dares to get on and hold an impromptu war time sing along whilst holding out a hat for money.  A male friend and I, both in our 20s, used to, for fun, begin little arguments between ourselves and see who of our fellow commuters would look up.  The trouble was, we would never warn each other when we were about to start, and we certainly didn’t have a clue about the ending and it would get more and more outrageous until one of us just switched into normal conversation as if nothing had happened.  

Our most effective was one morning, when we were crammed into the doorway, both holding on to the hanging handles and chatting quietly.  I then said to him in a loud voice “What do you mean you are having an affair? How Dare you?”  His stunned face said it all, but he quickly recovered himself and threw himself into the role.  By the time we disembarked for work, the whole carriage was full of alert people craning their necks to see what was happening between us, as we fell about laughing on the platform.

Middle Son was off ill this week and sat slobbing in front of the telly.  His poor body was exhausted fighting a nasty bout of tonsillitis. He was lost in the world of Housewives of Beverley Hills, followed by Housewives of Atlanta, followed by Millionaire Matchmaker.  I had to come in and physically switch off ITV2 before he became welded to the sofa.  Two days later, when he discovered Jerry Springer, I decided that he was well enough to go out for a coffee.

He sat in Costa, as I queued to order.  The Barista took the orders with the bored face of someone in mid slob waiting for his break.  Suddenly there was a jab in my ribs and standing behind me was a dad I knew. The teachers were on strike at the school and so he was in charge of the kids who were sitting in a booth waiting for him to order.  We said our hellos and as I was waiting for my coffee, he placed his request for a brownie.  It arrived, and was placed on my tray. I waved my hand at the offending item.

“We’re not together,” laughed my friend.
And then, with a mischievous look, he started.
“I mean,” he spoke confidentially to the Barista, “We were married once, but now we are divorced."  (Entirely made up.) The server began to go red in mortification.

Old habits die hard, even from 20 years ago. I joined in with relish.  By the end of the conversation, not only was the Barista fully woken from his slob mode, but so was the rest of the queue.
We laughed our goodbyes to each other, going back to our respective offspring who were slobbed out over their iPods.

Perhaps slobbing is just a relaxed mind waiting to be awoken – a bit like a standby button on a tv.  Perhaps it is just a way of brain conservation until something comes along to wake up your day.  

Either way, I’m still not very good at it.

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Monday, 24 March 2014

Sleep Deprivation

Every parent will tell you that there are phases in life where you simply get very little or no sleep.  This is the point where you wonder what an earth you did, pre kids, with all of that time.  You wonder how you managed a night out, then a lie in, perhaps surfacing just before lunch – and you marvel at how you wasted time.  Of course, it goes in phases.  You breathe a sigh of relief having gone through one phase, learn to sleep again and wallop – it hits you again and again.  And you are always surprised when it happens.  One of my cousins told me of her Nan, who on her 97th birthday, and with dementia, sat surrounded by her kids, grandkids and great grandkids with a bemused expression on her face.  It was an idyllic picture as the kids rolled round at her feet.  Someone asked her what she was thinking.  She said in bewilderment ‘Someone told me that I had five kids.  I have no idea why – can’t stand ‘em’.

Perhaps if we were more prepared, then our bodies wouldn’t go into shock.  So I have attempted to put together a little list.  Feel free to add more (if you can stay awake)…


No-one can work out the machinations of a newborn.  It doesn’t seem to matter how good you were as a baby carrier for 9 months, as soon as that little red bundle is handed to you, it literally has a life of its own – and a mind of its own.  Despite what all the books and kindly advice says, that baby will sleep when you don’t want it to, and wake when you do.  You spend the first two months see sawing in dizziness from night to day, your washing pile of muslins pile up, not because they are dirty, but because  a) you can’t work out what you are supposed to be using them for, but every bit of advice says to use them, and so you carry them around with you and lose them in every room, and when you find them you can’t remember what you used them for and so to be on the safe side you stick them in the wash and b) it gives you something to do when you wander around in a daze at 3.30 in the morning with aching milk filled boobs because every night since you remembered you have been woken up at that hour, but this is the one time that Baby has decided to sleep through…


So Baby has got into a routine and you have become a Smug Mummy.  Not only have you lost a little of your pregnancy weight due to breastfeeding (yeah right, like that ever really happens), but your baby has now reached that milestone in good parenting – sleeping through the night.  And then all hell breaks loose – your little sleeping angel turns into a gurning, red cheeked drooling devil with a voice that penetrates walls.  Teething.  Cold raw carrots, hard biscuits, chew toys – nothing seems to alleviate your darlings distress, except of course, your finger.  That seems to work.  And as your wail joins theirs, no one sleeps.


Young or old, when sickness (often accompanied by diarrohea) hits the household, no one sleeps.  You pass the days in a hazy fug of washing piles, scrubbing piles, and sick buckets.  Every sheet in the house is just not enough.  Your well intentioned desire to keep an eye on your child by inviting them into your bed means that you sleep not a wink as they toss and turn and snuffle and barf. By the time they have sprung into life again, full of the joys that school insists that they take 48 hours off after being sick, you feel as energetic as the wet rags you have been using to mop their fevered brow.  And then you go down with it.


Your child comes back with tales of friendship woes.  You listen, soothe, teach them coping mechanisms.  They go to bed happy.  You lie in bed worrying.  This will happen in recurrent cycles throughout their lives.  I suspect that this never ends.  Enjoy…


The time when you stay up to collect your teenage kid from a party – so you can’t sleep, in case you miss the deadline you set.  Or even worse, you’ve set the deadline, but someone else is delivering them back, and so you can’t sleep, in case they are late. The most you can do is fall into a half sleep on the sofa.  This means that you wake up with a cricked neck.  Not ideal, as you greet your testosterone fuelled child with your head to one side and squinty eyes a la Columbo. 

I have yet to discover the later stages with my kids – but I suspect that they go something like this:

Parties – you lie awake on your romantic weekend away with your husband, and as he snores in blessed unbroken sleep in your pretty B&B, you are wondering if the kids are having a party (yes) and how trashed your house will be (very).

Weddings – oof, when is the best time to tell your child that you really don’t like their choice of partner?

Grandkids- OMG, it starts all over again…

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Retro Mum

Does anyone remember Constance Carroll make up?  It was in the 80’s and came in the brightest colours of pinks, purples and blues.  When you were 13, it was the best thing since sliced bread (which had only probably just been invented). In those days we cared not of the provenance, or if it was organic, or tested on animals, or indeed if it was any good for our skin.  If it was cheap, we liked it – and boy was it cheap.  In the days when a Curly Wurly was still only 9 pence, a little pallet of Constance Carroll would set you back about 50 pence, and for that you could plaster it all over your eyelids and look simply gorgeous.  It was all down to those Athena posters which were primarily white and always featured red lips, brightly made up eyes and a lipstick positioned somewhat erotically.  Sometimes, to look more exotic than erotic, there was a cocktail glass thrown in, in place of the lipstick.  The New Romantic movement was in with a bang, and men wore eyeliner with pride, ruffled shirts cascaded down the lean bodies of the men in our teen mags (Blue Jeans, Jackie – remember those), and hair was gelled into weird and wonderful quiffs.  As girls in boarding school we lusted after those impossible heroes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet sellotaped  to our walls, overlapping pictures of Toyah and a cute poster of a Woofit (Google it).

And then came the Fame phase – where we all thought we could dance, and even if we couldn’t we still dressed head to toe in legwarmers and cut off grey sweatshirts.  I even had a grey ra ra skirt – much in demand in the weekly swap shop of my friends.  Pixie boots, dungarees, pedal pushers, studded belts , those little Princess Diana court shoes with the bows at the back. And the brick sized mobile phones. Remember those?

And then there was the music.  Techno, pop, garage, house, rave.  Frankie Says Relax. And not forgetting the masters of the 80’s -Stock Aitken and Waterman.  On my 20th birthday in a student house in Leamington Spa, we held the mother of all parties where everyone came as a pop star from the SAW pack.  We had Kylies, we had Jasons, we had Bros (both of them), several Rick Astleys, Mel and Kim, the list was endless.  And in each room we had a different sound system going – where the songs were different but the SAW beat was the same...Ah, those were the days…

What goes around comes around.  And I kind of wish I’d held on to all of my gear.  We’ve seen the dungarees, the ra ra skirts, the Pineapple Dance look, the ballet pumps, the luminous oversize T shirts, the remix of the 80’s and 90’s songs, the Human League wedges.  Our phones have gone from enormous to teeny weeny, to gradually getting bigger again.  And the makeup is bright, and getting more Constance Carroll.

And you know, it’s kind of cool.  We are learning new things every day – where my mother struggled to set the VHS, I now struggle with using the telly. I look in envy at the teenagers modelling what I used to wear, but I wouldn’t wear it again – it’s their turn, and their modern twist. 

But I did find one funny thing the other day.  The boys were in the car waiting to go on the school run, and they were pairing my iPhone with the car (don’t ask me how – I’m still in the land where the car mobile had a curly wire and very little reception).  They had found my music selection and were laughing at my dire taste in sounds.  I sat in with them and basically said ‘My car, my rules’ (I know, pathetic really).  And I scrolled through my music library. And I found a tune that I hadn’t listened to in nearly 20 years, since a brief moment in history when I went a bit Rave mad.  It was Shakawkaw (Stretched- EP) by Infected Mushroom.  For those of you who were never infected by the mushrooms, I highly recommend downloading it off iTunes as in its 7mins 24 playtime you are guaranteed to find one bit of it that you enjoy, I promise.  And so I slammed it on, at full volume.

Little Man immediately began to wave his arms around.  He said excitedly ‘This would be brilliant to do a Contemporary dance to!’  Middle Son, who is the DJ in the house and doesn’t like to be usurped in in car entertainment, started to fiddle with the Base and got it really thumping through the car floor.  His face was blank. Eldest Son’s hand was tapping on his knee.  Seven minutes later, as the music died, I turned to my two eldest.


They looked at one another, high fived and then grinned at me.


And Middle Son pressed repeat play for the rest of the journey.

It may only last a couple of days, but for the moment, I’m so Tomorrow…

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

No MakeUp Selfies

Over the past two days there has been a small revolution by women on social media.  It comes in the form of the No Make Up Selfie, to raise awareness for cancer, and the aim is to put up a picture sans war paint, and nominate a friend or friends to do the same.  At the same time, using your mobile phone, you donate the small sum of £3 by simply texting BEAT to 70099.  A lovely idea – some didn’t get it, what did the no make up thing have to do with cancer?  It would be my idea of absolute hell – I wake up in the morning with bedhead and don’t go anywhere without some tinted moisturizer and mascara. Indeed, that was my reaction initially, until I had a good think about it.
You see, the reality is that cancer is a hidden disease, often coming to the fore unexpectedly, and often with devastating results.  There is something very tangible in the act of stripping away the outer layer that you portray to the world, and baring your face, warts and all, which makes the blasé social media viewer stop and take a second look.  It makes a statement.

In a world dominated by glamorous women on our TV screens and in the movies, it is a sad fact that most of us know someone with cancer, and perhaps these selfies reflect that. On my Facebook page alone I have seen selfies of women ranging from 14 to the late 60’s. And there is an interesting side effect.  You see your friends, in all their vulnerability, in a different light.  Yes, you see their blemishes, you see their wrinkles, you see their worry lines. But you also see, in that self conscious act, how beautiful they really are.
Perhaps we are not as clothes and possessions obsessed  as all the magazines would have us believe.  Perhaps at the root of these selfies there is a realization that no matter what the outward appearance, we are all women, and all at risk from the dreaded C word.

The campaign has raised over £1 million pounds in two days and rising.  What is even more amazing is that CancerResearch UK was caught totally on the hop.  They knew nothing about it, and wondered why the donations were suddenly pouring in.  And they embraced it. And women embraced it.

One day, the word Cancer will not be synonymous with fear.  But until that day, there will always be fresh faced warriors ready to battle it.

And so, here’s my No MakeUp selfie…

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ooh Doctor

I don’t know about you, but I come over all Miranda Hart whenever I go to see anyone medical.  It could be a nurse, it could be a doctor, or on occasions it could be a consultant – regardless of who it is, the metamorphosis begins as soon as I step in the door.  First of all, I start to feel a little hot, and then I crack the one liners – you know, you’re lying there legs akimbo whilst an uninterested nurse rustles behind the curtain to show that she is ‘chaperoning’ and the male doctor attempts to shove a metal speculum into your firmly clamped lady bits in an attempt to get a smear- and rather than the ‘ooh it’s cold’ and giggle slightly self conciously type of reaction that everyone else has, I say ‘I hope to God it doesn’t start to buzz’ and then giggle slightly maniacally.  I know… It gets worse.  Having clambered off the bed, I inform both of my startled companions that I have put my Granny pants on especially for the occasion.  Note I said my Granny pants, not my Grannies pants (that would just be weird).

I am absolutely fine when it comes to the kids being ill, in fact I excel at being the efficient, well informed mother, often trying to point the professional in the right direction, the boys dying of embarrassment. As a result, unless a leg is physically hanging off, my boys would rather not go to the doctor… 

I like to think that whatever medical journey I go on, my little attacks of Mirandaisms spread a little joy in the establishments that I visit. And it is a bit contagious.  A number of years ago I had what is known in the genteel surroundings of Surrey as a ‘little op down below’, and to the rest of us, ‘a hysterectomy’, due to a condition called adenomyosis.  My consultant was a small Welsh man, with the intense attitude synonymous with all consultants and lawyers that I have ever met.  On the post op examination, we got over the whole embarrassment of the internal investigation (I will leave it to your imagination what I came out with once he lubricated his hands with a huge pot of petroleum jelly) and  he pronounced me fit and well, and looked up at me from between my legs with a smile and said ‘Yes, all looks great, people pay good money to look that good in Hollywood’. And then I was dismissed, open mouthed.

Likewise, when G was struck down with what turned out to be gallstones, I gallantly offered to take him to the doctor’s surgery so that she could check him out.  Of course, he is registered at a different place to mine and the kids, mainly due to the fact that he has lived in this area all of his life and never changed it.  So it was with interest that on the 3rd of January this year I sat on a seat in a doctors waiting room, and was the only well person doing so.  G huffed and puffed beside me, with the agony that comes with protracted labour, and moaning softly at intervals.  Old ladies greeted each other with ‘How was your Christmas?’, seated old men nodded at each other over  their walking sticks and hassled mummies rocked buggies of red faced screaming kids.  It was all very interesting.  A rather large lady entered the waiting room – obviously a bit of a local surgery celebrity, several voices raised to greet her. One lady, dressed head to toe in lilac shouted across the room ‘How’s your vagina?’  I started to get that familiar hot feeling under my collar as I stared at the large lady. 

‘Not too bad, not too bad’, she answered gallantly as she slowly made her way over to her concerned friend.  ‘Playing up a bit, and it was really bad over Christmas – spent most of it laid up in bed’.  I looked around wildly – there was no reaction in the surgery.  Perhaps they were all deaf.  I stared…
G dug me in the ribs and hissed, ‘What are you looking at?’  I whispered back.  He looked at me incredulously, his pain momentarily forgotten.

 ‘Angina, she said Angina’… I began to snicker in relief as everyone stared at me.

This week I had to go and see a consultant about a dodgy Achilles tendon that renders me lame at certain points of the day.  I was determined not to embarrass myself.  I turned up early, filled in the form, and sat waiting.  I was called in.  The consultant was looking at my notes, and bade me to sit down. 

Immediately I started.
 ‘Ooh, am I in the naughty chair then?’ He glanced at me.

‘No, it is so that I can examine your foot…’

He was actually a very nice chap, and he diagnosed what was wrong, and said that he would arrange for me to have a scan and what not.  He was treating me like an equal, and I felt quite adult and in control. After then telling me what he was recommending, he then said that he would get it actioned asap, and began to write.  What I should have done was put my shoes on and sat there politely until I was dismissed.  What I actually did was engage in a final conversation.

Without thinking, I said, ‘Oh, so you’re not left handed?!’ No, I don’t know why I said that either. But he looked up surprised, and queried why I would say that.  You know when you start something and you don’t know why you started it and then you start trying to justify why you said the thing that you didn’t know you were going to say until you did?  (Or is it just me?)

Needless to say, he seemed confused. And I seemed to have got over my lameness as I limp-ran out to the car.

It’s probably just me and Miranda, isn’t it?

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Kids Dented Egos and a Nice Cup of Tea

Having been brought up in a family of girls, when I had my first boy 15 years ago, I looked in bewilderment at this small manchild who peed in an arc every time I tried to put a nappy on him and a mum in the ward next to mine said to me, ‘Boys are a gift – they are tough on the outside but very, very soft on the inside.  They need more nurturing and care than you would think.’  Mind you she may have been a little biased as she had just given birth to her third child, a girl, who was born with a full set of milk teeth and I left hospital as she was shrieking at the midwife that there was ‘No  f***g way’ that she was going to breastfeed…

3 boys later and her initial words could not be more true.  Throughout the years from the first stumbling toddler steps and Upsy Daisy moments, to the first little sports day races, to the first sprints on full on athletics stadia, my boys have matured into little men – all tough and muscly on the outside, but very soft on the inside.  And part of that growing up process is dealing with fear, and dealing with failure.  And part of dealing with those, is how you deal with it as a parent.

Whether it is losing at a sporting venture, or your child not getting the academic qualifications that you had hoped for, or your teenager has suffered heartbreak for the first time, it is how you react that determines how your child copes with his very real (even if hidden behind a façade of Don’t Care)sense of failure. And it doesn’t come easy.  And there is no way of knowing if you have got it right or wrong, until it is said, and then it can’t be unsaid.  Does the ‘Upsy Daisy, Get Up Now’ approach from a little toddler tumble, ascribe to the utter desolation of being the one to lose a penalty kick?  Does the ‘I love you because You are Special’ sentiment actually work when all the child wants to do is fit in with his peers?  And does the ‘Just ignore Them if they are being Mean, they’re only Jealous’ statement apply when your child is deliberately being targeted?  When is it time to step in, and when is it time to stand back?

As adults, it seems fairly simple – we have developed our own coping mechanisms, and either vent to our good friends and family over a nice cuppa, set out to prove our detractors wrong, or hole up for a while, licking our wounds until we have come up with a strategy.  It is up to our kids to discover their way of dealing with it, and it is up to us to support them with it.

In my case, last week was a week of very mixed emotions.  Little Man, at 9 years old being the only boy in his dance class, and the only male dancer in his school class, had come back from his weekend of all male dance with the Royal Academy of Dance full of pride in what he had achieved and the fact that he had felt part of a ‘gang’.  His school encouraged him to show off his certificate and talk about what he had done in an assembly.  On leaving the room, some alpha females called him Weird.  In a rugby match later when he was delighted to be moved up from the C’s to the B’s, some of the boys were querying why.  But he said nothing to me as I waved at him from the sidelines, and he threw himself into it with gusto and tackled well, going off with honour and a bloody knee.  It was at the match tea, when someone pushed him out of the queue, that his bottom lip started to quiver, and then the tears began to fall.  The male Games teachers, looking hopelessly out of their league, brought him to me.  Initially I tried the Upsy Daisy method.  Didn’t work.  Then I tried the ‘Just ignore Them if they’re being Mean, they’re only Jealous’ approach.  More tears, because of course all he wanted to do was to belong.  So, as it was nearly the end of the day, I took him home, and we had a cuddle on the sofa, and he had a good cry about maybe he should give up dancing but he didn’t want to, and I held back a few tears.  And then we had a cup of tea.  And then we were laughing. And when he was in bed I replied to his teacher’s concerned email.  And the next day he came back beaming because everyone had been nice to him.

And then yesterday Eldest Son (14) played in the semi  finals of a National Schools rugby tournament in which over 500 schools had taken part.  It was held at Allianz Park, home of the Saracens, and the boys were enormously proud to walk out on to the 3G pitch in front of a roaring crowd.  Eldest Son is the fastest in his team, and is used to sprinting past everyone on the pitch and so plays on the wing.  Unfortunately, the opposition’s fastest man was playing against him.  It became a contest of speed.  Eldest Son lost the battle, and limped off the pitch with two bloody knees and a dented ego.  His team were simply outclassed.  The boys bowed their heads in defeat, utterly miserable and dejected.  The watching dads clapped their sons on the backs and tried the Upsy Daisy method.  Some boys had tears streaming down their faces.  The mums tried the ‘ We love you because you are special, you did really well to get this far’.  The boys carried on walking.  They went back by coach, vented to their friends, and by the time they arrived and we were waiting with carefully blank faces, they were laughing.  They had sorted it out amongst themselves.  They had dealt with it in an adult way.
This morning the carpenter came in to start on the skirting boards.  Passionate about rugby, he had been watching his only son of 17 play in a match at the weekend. He asked how Eldest Son’s match had gone and I told him.  ‘We lost ours too,’ he said gloomily, and we both stared into the mid distance.  I gathered myself. 

‘Cuppa?’ I asked brightly. 
And he nodded, smiling ruefully.

Friday, 14 March 2014

A Story for Evie

This is Evie.  About a month ago she didn’t feel very well and so Mummy took her to the doctors and he looked at her and made her stick her tongue out and say Aaaah which was funny, and then he showed her how red her blood was as he sucked it up in little injections, and then he gave her some tablets.  And the best thing was that afterwards Mummy took her to the café and she had a massive piece of cake and an even bigger hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles.  But the thing was, Evie still wasn’t a hundred per cent, and so she went to a great big hospital in London which was stuffed to the rafters with children and toys and lots of happy smiling doctors who said that they would make her feel better. She had a go at some painting, and learned to play the harp, and all her friends sent her cards and presents and she was very happy even though she still hurt a little bit from all the medicine that she had been given. One day, a nurse sat down with her and her mummy and said that they needed to give her some really strong medicine that might make her hair fall out.  Evie was very upset, but the nurse said that she could choose a wig, made from real hair, all for her very own, until hers grew back.  And her Mummy, who has the longest hair of all the mummies she knew, said that she would cut her hair off to give for a wig for the next child. This is a story for Evie…

The Hairy Fairy

Now we’ve all heard of the Tooth Fairy, and if truth be known, she is one of the bossiest fairies.  She is pretty and blonde and very, very, clean with sparkly wings and a shimmery dress.  She doesn’t carry a wand, because most fairies don’t – they only get in the way of Good Deeds. She carries a little clipboard around with her, and has a big blackboard with signs saying Wobbly with a date underneath for when the tooth is due to come out, and Teething with a date in which a tooth is due to go in.  You see, it’s a little known fact that when you lose your baby teeth, the Tooth Fairy collects the tooth from wherever you have left it – in a pot, under your pillow, on a windowsill – she will find it, because it is all on her clipboard.  And at the end of a teeth collecting night, she goes to her little house in the woods (shelives  by the canal, because she likes to hear the sound of the ducks quacking) and she has forty winks (because even fairies have to sleep) and then she gets up and scrubs and scrubs at the little milk teeth that she has collected. In the afternoons she goes into the houses where all the teething babies are asleep (because they never sleep at night) and she pops a shiny bright tooth into their gums, so that it can be used again.  And then she ticks it off on her blackboard when she gets home.

The Tooth Fairy has a sister called The Hairy Fairy who is a little bit quieter, and a bit dreamy, and not very pretty.  In fact, she doesn’t really look like a girl, even though she is, because she has a beard.  And she doesn’t wear a dress, but likes big baggy shorts, a white linen shirt, and some teeny tiny fairy Timberland boots.  In fact, she looks a bit like Evie’s Uncle Bill (but we won’t tell him that).  Anyway, the Hairy Fairy is very kind hearted, and she is also a bit of a collector.  But she is also a bit disorganized.  Where her sister has pots of gleaming teeth all in different sizes and orders, the Hairy Fairy has bags of hair, all in different colours and lengths, and all jumbled up.  She doesn’t have a blackboard with dates on, and is very haphazard  -that is why, when Evie’s daddy started to go a little bit bald, he didn’t get any replacement hair, because all she could find was orange curly hair, and that would look a bit odd. 

‘What I need,’ thought the Hairy Fairy, ‘Is some help in sorting out my hair bags, and then I will try and be bit more organized.’   All that thinking made her tired, and so she went off to have a cup of dew and a nice sugar crystal (which her sister had banned, because it was bad for teeth).  And I’m afraid to say that she fell asleep in the sunshine.

There were five little elves who had nowhere to live, because a Scout Camp had pitched their tent right on the toadstools which they called home.  So they wandered around, looking for a safe place to start building again.  They came upon the Hairy Fairy, who was asleep outside her house in the sunshine, and they peeked inside her big comfortable home.  The eldest elf, Leo – said ‘What a mess! And Ru, the next eldest looked in and went ‘Urgh!’, but the three little ones, Isa, Cob and Oll clapped their little hands in glee.  Because you see, there is nothing an elf likes more than tidying up, and let’s face it, poor old Hairy Fairy’s house was an absolute disgrace…

Hairy Fairy woke up with a start.  She was late again, and had to do some hair collecting from a hospital from some children.  She scuttled into the house and gave a big scream that woke her pet frog, who started to croak loudly and jump all around the place.  All of the hair bags had been sorted, the house was clean and tidy, and the kettle was boiling noisily on the stove.  Hairy Fairy rubbed her eyes, and looked again.  There were five little elves, heads cocked to one side, looking back.  And Hairy Fairy whirled round and round in the room for joy and hugged them.

‘Thank you so much!’ she cried, and tears ran into her beard.  And the little elves (who had been a bit scared of the big bearded fairy) jumped up and down and laughed and laughed in their shrill voices.

And so you know what they did? They stayed with the Hairy Fairy and they helped her from then on.  Leo was in charge of the new blackboard, and Ru was in charge of the sorting whenever Hairy Fairy came in from carefully collecting all fallen hairs off pillows and sheets, in the corner of floors and from sink holes (she needed gloves for that job).  And the three little elves Isa, Cob and Oll would jump into the piles of hair and roll around in them and have hair fights before Ru got them all under control again.  And they wove themselves each a blanket out of the odds and sods, so that they were warm at night.  And they made a special blanket for Hairy Fairy out of Evie’s hair.  
But Hairy Fairy hasn’t changed too much – and she is still a bit disorganized, and gets a bit distracted.  And that is why, when babies are born, some have lots of hair, some have patches of hair, and some have no hair at all. 

And that is why Evie’s dad never did get his hair back.

If you have enjoyed this story, please use the link below to donate to the Little Princess Trust, who provide real hair wigs, free of charge, for sick children who have lost theirs.  Many thanks.

Little Princess Trust

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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Who's the Daddy?

I make no apologies in this post for going back to my roots where I first cut my blogging teeth in what is now affectionately known as ‘The Muttley Blog’.  For those of you who are interested in knowing more, please look at  .For those regular readers who still follow our madcap household, this is the latest installment.

I came in yesterday after some emergency shopping for G’s impending birthday and in an attempt to get away from some minor decorating work that we are having in the house.  The sound of drilling came from upstairs, and downstairs the floor was covered in black hair.  The carpenter appeared at my Hellooo and accepted a cup of tea.  He nodded to the floor – ‘You can see where I had my lunch’ he chortled, ‘And where His Nibs was sitting…’ Just then a little happy black furry face appeared joyously barking at the kitchen door, drowning out any further conversation.

So, we have a dog called Muttley, and right now he is in the first of two seasons of moulting – one just before spring and one rather inconveniently at Christmas.  He came to us as a 4 month old puppy from Ireland, brought over by a charity who deals in young strays from any part of Southern Ireland where there is a policy to eliminate unwanted dogs.  We hadn’t set out to get an Irish dog in particular, it was more that we liked the look of the dog – and that, as dog and pet owners know, is that.

Over the past year, this black and white mixed breed midsize dog has taken to our family with the same speed that we took to him. He has entertained us with his attempts to speak  (yes, he may sound like Chewbacca, but we kinda know where he is coming from, and wine helps), he has taken us on many walks – where we think he thinks he knows where he’s going, we realise that we don’t, and he then sits down with a look as if to say ‘Well, you’ve only gone and got us lost again…’ as he speeds off at pace, us panting behind him, only to see that he is chasing a squirrel… 

Our house has never been so muddy or hairy.  And our garden is a mass of mangled footballs and shredded dog toys. Our mornings would not be complete without the scit scit scittering of claws pacing up and down on the wooden floor downstairs in readiness for a big Hello when we stagger down for a morning cuppa.  And we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if we didn’t open the door after a few hours out and get knocked down by an enthusiastic talking bundle of fur.

And one of the things about being a dog owner is of course that it has to be walked. And the benefits far outweigh the negatives of tramping through mud, puddles, ice, snow and rain.  Where else would you find an old lady towing a Great Dane on a retractable lead, or a man who had no idea why his dog was so curly until he described his ex wife’s hairdryer that he had been using- and I explained that he was using a diffuser… And where else would you get the barrage of questions and advice that comes with any new ‘baby’ – the main ones being ‘Are you getting him trained?’ ‘Has he been done yet?’ and ‘What breed is he?’  The first two are a relatively straightforward ‘Yes’, but the last is a bit more complicated.  Being a rescue dog, we simply did not know what he was – we assumed Border Collie was in the mix as he has a half ruff and white socks and displays a lot of the collie characteristics – rounding up, circling, intelligence and of course the talking. We were told by the charity that he was also probably either a bit Labrador and possibly Lurcher.   Other than that we had no idea.

Of course, this led to great speculation amongst my fellow dog walkers – one of whom informed me that he definitely had Japanese fighting dog (Akita) in him and to watch him with the kids.  Another one said that if he was from Ireland he most definitely had Lurcher and Staffie in him.  And then one woman said ‘Ireland, he’s from Ireland?  Well, you know what happens over there?  They can be crossed with all things – even wolves…’  I queried as to whether there were any wolves in County Cork, but she brushed it aside with a ‘Well, if it’s not wolves, it’s definitely foxes…’

I was bewailing the fact to a friend of mine, Stevette, and she turned to me in all seriousness and said ‘Well you can always get him tested.’  I looked at her in disbelief, as she reddened a bit, and then admitted that she had had hers done, for nearly the same reasons.  He had been bought as a pedigree Labrador, but other dog walkers had kept querying his origins, and she got so fed up that she had had a DNA test done on him.  I was intrigued.  ‘What was he?’ I asked, leaning forward.  She looked at me somewhat gloomily. ‘A Labrador’, she said.

Anyway, this did not stop me getting the address and it was not long before the pack arrived from and with some trepidation I swooshed around the little toothbrush swabs in Muttleys mouth and popped them back in the post.

The results arrived yesterday.  The chippie was on a tea break and so he sat as expectant as a contestant on the Jeremy Kyle show as I opened the envelope.  On reading it, I started to laugh…

There was indeed Border Collie present. But there was not one iota of Labrador, or Lurcher, or Staffie, or Wolf, or even Fox.  There were a number of percentages of other breeds, including Lhasa Apso (15%), Belgian Malinois (14%) Anatolian Shepherd Dog (6%) Finnish Spitz (5%) and English Setter (4%). But  aside from  Collie, the other main DNA strand that comprises my dog is – wait for it – a Miniature Poodle…

The chippie and I looked at the dog.  He looked at us, yawned, and shook vigorously, fur flying everywhere.


One thing to be sure to be sure, our Irish dog is definitely not Irish…

Monday, 10 March 2014

Cry Baby

G and I both come from families of criers.  When I say this, I do not mean that we all react badly in a crisis, or suffer overtly from anxiety – only that at moments of high emotion the tears roll.  This is usually in the middle of a film, a particularly well written book, a play, a funny story, or even a song on the radio.  G’s dad is a crier, my dad is a crier and both G and I are terrible criers. And it reaches a family peak when we watch any of the kids partake in something of which we are proud.  Thus athletics meets, football tournaments, rugby matches, school plays and even good reports on parents evenings pass somewhat blurrily. And the gene has been passed on – I found Eldest Son a little red cheeked after watching a Save the Children advert.  And Middle Son refuses to stay in the room when an RSPCA ad is on. So you can imagine what we are all like when we see Little Man on stage.

As you are probably now aware, he is a bit of an anathema to us.  He has led us on a little journey into the land of stage and theatre that we have enjoyed, but not pretended to understand.  We watch, teary eyed as he dances and sings in various productions, enormously proud of what he has achieved so far, but with no idea of how he is progressing.  In amongst his personal friends, other than the girls that he has met in his dance school, he stands alone in pursuing the arts – the rest all bundle around like puppies, kicking footballs and charging around the playground shouting.  But at no point have they dismissed his raison d’etre – and make a point of promoting it amongst the outer circles of friends.  This all embracing approach is rather wonderful to see – and shows that there is a chance that the new and liberal future generation will encourage different ideas rather than shame others into conforming, as in the past.

But I suppose we probably didn’t realise the impact that being different was having on him, until this weekend.  I have got used to seeing him, at 9 years old the only boy, towering above the girls in his dance class, and he appears to me to be gawky and clumsy as they trip daintily around the room in choreography.  He is not as flexible as some and has difficulty with some of the moves.  This is not because he is bad at dance, but simply because he has a different physique which does not allow him to move as gracefully as the females. 

A chance came along to attend a two day Boys Only workshop run by the Royal Academy of Dance at the Point in Eastleigh, and it was with some trepidation that I asked him if he would like to go.  He thought for a bit and then answered in the affirmative.  It took 40 minutes to get down there and he walked in, knowing no one and registered himself as I hovered behind him, tears in my eyes as all the other boys ranging from ages 7-17 milled around, all avoiding eye contact with each other in the foyer.  He looked nervous, but determined as he waved good bye to me.  I sat in the car until my eyesight cleared and then drove home.

When I went to pick him up 7 hours later I was early.  Other mums waited uneasily, faces carefully blank, but eyes darting around, belying the anxiety that I know only too well.  It seemed that most of the young boys attending were in the minority in their dance schools, with a lot, like Little Man, being the only boy in their class. The boys all walked out together, dressed in an array of gear – joggers, leotards, t shirts, hoodies -  chatting easily amongst themselves, and for the first time in a long time I saw Little Man looking confident and at home.  It was less a Swan Lake moment and more an Ugly Duckling revelation.  He was amongst his people.

Courtesy of Royal Academy of Dance
The next day the Point were holding a 10 year anniversary celebration of Headstart, a programme specifically designed for male dancers, and in partnership with various local all male dance groups as well as some professional troupes.  The RAD Boys Only workshop were invited to perform, the mayor and his wife attended and it was a packed theatre. In an explosive evening of male dance ranging from contemporary, to street, to ballet, to modern, we saw boys, young, teenagers and some disabled, joining together in a fast moving programme.  This was nothing like I had seen before – no pretty tutus, no fluttering across the stage, no cheesy smiles.  A duet between two boys was more like a choreographed street fight.  Within the groups there were gymnastics, a complicated and clever routine involving Twister with plastic bags and focusing on the repetitive nature of OCD, the list was endless.  And the RAD boys did well with only two hours to learn two routines, they shone in the coordination, the pace and the glee in which they performed.

On the way back home Grandma leaned back in her seat and said loyally (as she does after everything the boys do, regardless of whether they have won or lost, performed well or badly) to Little Man, ‘You were really good darling.’
From the back of the car came a newly confident and very sleepy voice.

‘I know, I was, wasn’t I?’ 

And my vision went blurry.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Road Rage

There’s something about getting in a car that turns even the most mild mannered person into a force to be reckoned with.  Currently there is an advert on the local radio station that advocates us to get cheaper car insurance if you ‘Drive like a Girl’.  This is apparently achieved through a monitoring process with the use of a little box in the car and at the end of a certain period it is then determined whether or not you qualify. I think the overall idea through intensive research into accident stats and so forth, that there is some proof that the female driver is safer than the male driver, and that therefore Womanhood should not be penalized financially for Mankind's need for speed.

 Now this is a bit alarming to me on a lot of fronts.  What if I didn’t pass the ‘Drive like a Girl’ challenge then what would that mean?  That I am a man? Not that I am a particularly unsafe driver, or even a fast driver. In fact I am a pathetic go karter – the boys all cheer as they get out of theirs and  Mum is still serenely mooching round the last lap. There was a time in my youth that I did have a number of points on my licence, and I have had to pay a few speeding fines in my life.  But the advent of kids does naturally make you a more aware driver. 

But I’m pretty damned sure they haven’t surveyed the mummies from Hampshire and Surrey, or indeed any busy mummies at all – after all, how on earth would you get the last parking space in the crowded school car park, or muscle your way into the traffic jam outside school in order to get little Jonny to his footie club, by being girlie?  How would you manage to feed three kids in the car on the way to said club whilst negotiating several roundabouts and pulling in to the shops to get a drink because you had forgotten to bring one because you were rushing to get away from work so that you didn’t have to rush to the football club, but it didn’t matter because you are running late now anyway.  In fact, if I had an annoying little box in my car, I would have ripped it out by now and thrown it out of the window in a very unladylike fashion. (Rather like the fate of the digital box that we had for a while in the kitchen that kept telling us how much energy we were using every time we switched the kettle on.  Once G turned off the heating to save energy, it was just a matter of waving goodbye to the bleeping flashing bit of kit as it travelled off in the bin lorry). 

There is nothing worse than a good bit of road rage.  This morning I was trying to join a dual carriageway from a slip road on the way to school.  Cars were backed up on the slip road, and there was obviously a problem somewhere in the tarmac future, but nothing that we could see.  It was 8.00 in the morning, people sat bleary eyed in their cars, and Lisa Snowden and Dave Berry kept us all amused on Capital FM as we waited, the cars on the carriageway taking turns to let one in front of them from the slip road and it was all going steadily in a true British polite fortitude, until it came to my turn.
In true driving school fashion I indicated right to pull into the lane.  The car in front of me on the slip road was let in by the man in front of me on the carriageway. I attempted to go behind the car on the carriageway, but the man (and yes, it was a man) behind that car on the carriageway was having none of it and barged through into the gap gesticulating wildly (much to the fascination of the boys).  I had to brake suddenly.  All the cars in that lane on the carriageway braked suddenly.  A most UnBritish thing had just occurred!  The man, perhaps realizing the error of his ways, then let in a silver car who had ventured further up the slip road in the melee, as I was offered a place in the lane by the man behind him. 

Middle Son looked at me, waiting for the inevitable explosion.  I looked at him.  I thought, No, I’m going to Drive like a Girl… and so I simply said very sweetly to the back of the man’s head.  ‘Thank you very much, I hope you have a horrid morning,’ and I pulled into the fast lane and over took him.
As I looked in the rearview mirror, I noticed that he had been boxed in by the traffic, and the car he had let in front of him was going extremely slowly, and so he began gesticulating again. I smiled to myself (in a very girlie and charming fashion of course).

Drive like a Snail box anyone?