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Valentine’s Day, as you know from previous postings, is somewhat of a let-down in the House of Pig. The Man-Hog is a conscientious objector to the one day per year he can be openly and mushily romantic. Every year I suffer the hideousness of being Britain’s Most Unbeloved. Well, I’ve had enough. So I thought I would write my own Valentine poem for all those women who, like me, expect and get nowt!
A Pig Scorned…
Roses are red? Sent by lovers in bliss.
“Sod the flowers!” Says the Man-Hog. “I’ll just give her a kiss!“
But roses are pretty! “Nah, expensive and boring.
I’ll make us some chips, that’ll send her heart soaring.“
Roses are romantic. “Pfsh. A total waste of money.
After all of these years, she knows she’s still my honey.“
They tell her I Love You. “Such piffle! No Way!
She gets to live with me – what more can I say?“
So before all those florists start counting their chickens
The Man-Hog’s determined to slim down their pickens
He won’t buy a bloom, nor a choc, nor a ring
You can’t tell him when to buy or say anything!
But the last laugh’s on me – Love’s Most Unfêted -
Off to Valentine’s dinner with one I once dated!
Suck on that, Man-Hog! Eat chips by yourself.
Next year I suggest you buy every bloom on the shelf.
(OK so I am not really going on a date with an ex but – come on! – I have to do something to shock him. It’s either this or a well-placed defibrillator.)
Poem by Pigletinapoke i.e. ME!!
Picture credit: http://www.justourpictures.com
Dear Fragrant (But Not In The Good Way) Office Colleague
I have tried with much heavy hinting to encourage you NOT to invade my personal air space with your undeniably stinky home-made broths of a lunchtime. You have failed to acknowledge any such hints, despite each being as subtle as a blunt trauma injury, and continue to perfume – though this is hardly the word – the general desk space with your evil fish and spiced muskrat potions. Your tenacity in the face of such blatant sarcasm would be admirable, if only you were not such a fan of all things rank-smelling.
Please, for the love of fresh air, stop! My newly washed hair, clean clothing and olfactory organs can no longer take such a sustained daily assault on their persons. The office microwave has developed a permanent aroma of rotting wildebeest. Clients entering the office are struck speechless for several minutes as they try not to gag in the warm chilli fug that summarily greets them before I ever can. Delivery men leave the room retching into their handheld walkie-talkies, unable to re-mount their mopeds effectively until the waves of nausea have passed. Enough is enough.
Worse still are the used plastic containers left unrinsed and pungently reeking in the kitchen sink. At least if you are going to make such god-awful smells, have the decency to keep them temporary during lunch, not continuing throughout the rest of the afternoon too. Entering the kitchen is akin to diving headlong into an overflowing landfill of sardines.
Consideration for your fellow workers costs nothing and will ensure you don’t receive the lemon-and-lime-flavoured condoms in the Secret Santa at Christmas. Maybe an air freshener or ten? I have tried wearing a peg on my nose but my clients think it odd and have been known to withdraw their patronage. Your fetid food odours are therefore bad for my business as well as damaging to my environment.
Let this be an end to your fart-tastic brews and perhaps, if you feel the need to always spice up your lunches, you could eat outside of the office? I will even pay for that to happen. Anything. Just go already.
Yours sincerely ( and I do mean sincerely)
Someone Who Wishes to Remain Cotton-Fresh
Photo credit: http://mideats.com
A little something I wrote to amuse myself while the stock markets continue to play havoc with my working day!
Todd’s head shook in disbelief as he watched. Had it really taken so little time, so few seconds, for the numbers on-screen to bleed from the healthy blue lake of profit to the sinkhole of dark, red despair that now reflected back at him? He reached a forefinger into his collar; tugging, loosening, desperately trying to dampen down his hysteria and regain rational thought as his mind struggled to accept that his entire portfolio – his whole net worth – had just sunk without trace in front of his eyes. His palms were clammy; beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. His hand fluttered uselessly over the keyboard: uncertain; unguided; unable to do anything to change the horror of what he was seeing. The nightmare, it seemed, had actually happened. The thing he feared most had come to pass. He felt utterly helpless in the face of such brutal loss. His useless hand sank back to the desk and he in turn slumped back in his seat; his other hand covering his eyes, shutting out the blinking red disaster that was his life. His thoughts flashed wildly: what would he tell Ruth – his wife, his love? A forlorn and fleeting hope: was this some sort of computer glitch? Then epic dawning that there was no way out of this. No happy ending, no golden retirement fund, no paid-off mortgage and childrens’ trust funds. No well done back-patting and a sense of smug self-satisfaction. He was forty nine, a father of two, and his financial world had collapsed. No home; no money; no security. Nothing. He’d bet the farm – including the parts he didn’t yet own – and had lost the lot.
He rose shakily from the chair, burdened by a ton of concrete failure strapped to his shoulders. Unnoticed by most, one assistant did pick up on his pallor, his hopeless demeanor and zombie-like stumble away from his desk. She glanced up at him as he passed, wondered vaguely if he was OK but then resumed her personal call, gum rotating slowly in her mouth as she languidly discussed the relative merits of heels over flats for her night out.
Todd’s slow progress sped to a faltering run. Bile rose within him in waves, propelling him forward and away from the cruel sea of red numbers he had just witnessed. He slammed out through the office door and into a hexagonal hallway. Wooden portals to other firms stared in blank indifference to his entrance. He flew through the door directly opposite into an austere white bathroom where he only just made it to the cubicle on time – throwing up and up, his stomach heaving and retching its sorry contents out in sympathy with his wretched situation. Snot and tears flowed in equal measure down his face as he allowed the fear to overwhelm him at last and gave in to the sheer horror of it.
Slumped down beside the toilet, his chin smeared with his own vomit, he tried to stifle the painful sobs wrenched from within him. He knew it was over. He was finished. He was a useless, careless, reckless bugger and he’d got his comeuppance. Serves him right. Arrogant arse, thinking he would be the one to get the golden goose. A weird tingling down his left arm matched a sudden crushing pain deep in his chest; his breathing rapid, shallow. His jaw tightened and clenched. Something worse was happening, infinitely worse. His last thought before his over-stressed heart spasmed its last: It was only money…
I don’t really do femininity. I love being a woman and am comfortable in my own skin but I’ll admit there are certain aspects of being a girl that have completely bypassed me. Pink in any form, for example, is neither pretty nor acceptable within a 50-mile radius of me. Flounces, frills, frippery and finery leave me completely cold. I am partial to a nice shoe or handbag, but that is about as far as it goes. I don’t wear much make-up, I rarely bother with perfume and yes, the stubble left languishing on my barely-can-be-bothered-to-shave legs is occasionally responsible for the scarring on the Man-Hog’s calves and the tears in his manly eyes.
Hence the past few months have been a trial to say the least. The Teen has a prom to go to in July. A rite of passage must in the Teen’s social calendar. It all began back in February when said Teen announced it was going in a long dress and “Oh, by the way…” you’re buying it, Mum. Hours spent searching the internet (instead of revising for one’s GCSEs) resulted finally in a dress that the Teen thought was acceptable and I didn’t think looked like she’d gone on the game. We agreed on it, I ordered it on-line, slapped down my credit card details and that was supposed to be that.
Of course not. How silly of me. I should have realized once the email arrived from the very perky and completely unintelligible Nancy Lee “confirming order for dless in plurple size ate”. This was the first clue that all was probably not what it seemed. The second clue was that the same dress appeared on multiple similar websites – something the Teen had failed to mention. My only comfort was that I had paid through PayPal on-line and was therefore hoping that my fears of fashion fraud were unfounded and the site was entirely reputable.
How naïve can one 45-year-old non-girly woman be? Three months on and with no delivery in sight, I sat on-line for over an hour waiting for a live 24-hour chat operator to be with me shortly. As the clock ticked towards the second hour it was clear the operator was not live. In fact, dead was probably nearer the mark or at the very least tied to a chair with a sock in her gob because it was clear that no-one was coming to the party to chat with me. I hung up and then sent a frustrated email to my old friend Nancy Lee, also to the address on the website and to one random email I found on my receipt from PayPal. You guessed it – nil response from all three. The end result was a complaint raised with PayPal and a reimbursement of my money. That was the good part.
The bad part was the Teen frothing at the mouth as July is around the corner and she had no dress. Pressure was mounting from her prom date who had apparently bought a tie in “plurple” to match her Chinese creation that was now never arriving. I had no choice – I had to take it shopping. Next to pink dresses and daily skin care regimes, shopping has to be my least favourite activity. I would rather mud-wrestle multiple Chinese chat room operators in a live on-line paddling pool for days on end than go shopping.
Probably not best to choose the day following the riotous, amusing yet completely pointless Netball Awards night, then. The day when I woke up with a hangover and a mouth like the just-raced crutch of Usain Bolt’s lycra shorts. A day when all sensible people except me were lying horizontal until their heads stopped pounding, their nausea faded and someone had produced a hearty fry-up to aid their recovery. Not me. No. I was on a train to London in 30 degree heat, rattling with paracetamol and sweating hideously. Oozing the smell of last night’s Chinese into the garish seat cushions and cursing all things oriental that had brought me to this point. The Teen was attempting to jolly me along with a proposed route plan for which shops we would visit first. All I wanted to do was lie down quietly in a pool of my own sick. Not only that but I had to suffer the wholly inappropriate chirpiness of the Man-Hog and the Mini-Pig who came with us as far as London en route to visit the Science Museum. My only comfort was that during their trip they might actually find a scientific answer to the god-awful gaseous gut explosions which seem to accompany any hangover I have these days. To anyone who was on that train with us, I can only apologise.
London. Sweltering heat. A tumult of Jubilee fetishists and early Olympic tourists to add to the usual summer contingent of gigantic Middle-Eastern women piling en masse into Selfridges. The Teen forged ahead in search of fashion Nirvana. Me – I weaved tearfully behind her through the make-up counters, trying desperately to escape Sandra from Yves Saint-Laurent who wanted to pounce on my ageing skin and rub me free of blemishes. I told her exactly where to stick her Touche-Eclat and I sincerely hope it hurt when she did.
Three stores, seven dresses and a nervous breakdown later, we had bought a dress. It was not plurple, it was pleacock-blue. Actually very nice if you like all that girly crap. But by then I was slumped into a corner of the changing room, gibbering slightly with eyes rolling like a maddened horse. Not one person offered me a medicinal gin and the Teen showed even less empathy by demanding I sit up straight and take some mobile phone shots of her in the dress. For the love of God, why? Did she not realize I was one vapour attack away from A&E?
But thank the Lord! – the dress is purchased. And it was 20% off day which was a bit of a result. As we were leaving London accompanied once again by the Man-Hog and the Mini-Pig fully scienced up and having displayed what I firmly believe was the patience of a saint, the Teen casually mentioned that her date for the prom is quite challenged in the height department and she didn’t want to tower above him, so could we go again next week and look for some flattish shoes? Grabbing her by her pink and flowery shirt, I pulled her across the train table and hissed “Don’t…even….think about it!” through gritted noodle-stained teeth. I think she’s got the message.
It may well be that I have too much time on my hands. That perhaps the weather prevents me from interacting socially in quite the way I would like and I therefore seek alternative diversions. Reading being one of those. Current affairs, showing an interest, and generally keeping an eye on the world at large being others. Yet I am confused and befuddled with the amount of clap-trap on display in the average daily paper, purporting to be “news” items. In fact, I have seen so many of these today, I am declaring Wednesday 9th May 2012 as the official “Non-News News Day”.
I try to read a broad cross-section of papers most days in order to get a potted view, so to speak, so I cannot be blamed for only having scanned the red-headed handy-size papers such as The Sun where one could, arguably, expect to find a high number of non-news items in a single sitting. Today’s headline gems from that particular receptacle of things we never needed to know scream out:
- Busty Christina Aguilera boobs on US TV show The Voice (The Sun) – STAR nearly spills out of her ill-fitting frock during duet
- Nicole Scherzinger nearly falls victim to wardrobe malfunction (The Sun) – SINGER’S cleavage nearly makes a bid for freedom
So you tell me: where is the news in these headlines? Surely if said boobs had ACTUALLY left the fabric instead of nearly leaving then, yes, that would be news. Or if this was a well-researched statement on the state of the dress-making industry and/or the odd shape and sheer pneumacity of a celebrity’s mammary glands (ew) – well, fair enough. But here is actually no news at all since the boobs stayed exactly where they should, the dresses remained intact and the shows went on.
- Lineker gets her tatt out for a dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – DANIELLE flashes her tattooed ribcage at a posh dinner with Kate and Wills (The Sun)
Same with poor old Mrs Lineker – after all, she didn’t lay on a table and have Wills inscribe the tattoo on to her with a set of heraldic cutlery and a set square, did she? That would have been worth reporting, if you had been there to witness it. So I wonder: Is the headline suggesting that Kate and Wills were shocked, nay, horrified and foaming at the mouth to see such a thing? To be honest, I doubt they even noticed. There is, in fact, no news in this item whatsoever other than Mrs L’s got a tattoo to those who care about such trivia. Perhaps more interesting a headline might have been: “Gary bares unfeasibly large lug-holes at future Queen”? They’re just as noticeable and frankly in my opinion more offensive yet, sadly for Gary, clearly un-newsworthy today.
Similar inane non-celebrity scoops appear randomly elsewhere on the internet today:
- Michelle Collins denies reports she’s quitting Coronation Street (Daily TV)
She’s apparently not leaving. She probably never said she would leave. She is still doing what she was doing yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that…..So, no actual news to report there then. Honestly, who cares?
Via a tenuous “care” link – even the stalwarts of English Rugby are in the non-news today:
- Care: not drinking in bid for England call – Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care feeling fitter after cutting out alcohol as he looks to get England career back on track. (Telegraph)
I expected better of The Telegraph. Is it really news that Danny hasn’t had a pint for a few weeks and – lo and behold – he feels better for it? The Man-Hog and I abstain regularly yet the local news has never yet felt the need to pick this up. Are we supposed to applaud and say “Well done Danny, clearly this is ground-breaking stuff that you’ve managed not to guzzle down an entire keg of Harvey’s during May. You’re a true sporting hero.” Such non-news only serves to confuse me, the reader. I have no idea what my response to this nothingness should be.
Sport in general appears to be a veritable tumult of non-news:
- Blackburn manager Steve Kean says owners Venky’s ” not going anywhere” and he is “not going anywhere” following relegation. (Telegraph)
A classic statement that even I understand, yet clearly non-news of no import whatsoever on the footballing world. Surely the headline should just have read “Nothing happened today at Blackburn today”. At least more honest. Hm?
Business and politics fare no better, if you look. Here’s one I puzzled over earlier:
- ITV expects summer advertising surge (FT.com)
And? It hasn’t happened yet, so not really news is it? There’s no specific date given for when it will happen, so it is not an announcement of intent or an order confirmation which might conceivably count as news to their profit and loss account and therefore their shareholders. It is….you guessed it….more non-news. Are they hoping their share price will go up simply because they are feeling jolly hopeful about stuff? Ambition should be made of sterner stuffing, shouldn’t it?
In conclusion, there’s a lot to be said for well-researched, factual and informative articles in the papers – articles that explain, stimulate discussion and challenge our opinions. Articles you can beat the kids over the head with to make them view the world as a cornucopia of information and action to be explored and digested. Yet there’s nothing at all to be said about non-news that has no teeth and seemingly no point to it. Just blurb on a page to fill up the white space. Nonsense. Nothing. A bit like this blog but worse. At least I don’t charge you to read it!
Poor old Fernando Torres. As die-hard Chelsea fans we could be forgiven for being a little…disgruntled…at his goal tally to humongous price tag ratio. But as a mother, I can feel great sympathy with his situation: a combination of insane pressure to perform from those that pay his salary; an increasing psychological barrier to performance manifested in a huge loss of self-confidence; and, the outside world – that bastion of armchair experts – with their opinions on everything about him from his choice of hair clips to his ball skills and even, sometimes, whether he’s a good kisser. (He is, so it would seem but Tevez is not. No surprises there.)
Parallels can be drawn with Tozzer’s Footius Horribilus. As mothers, we are expected to meet every parenting challenge wearing our natty pink-dotted “Perfect Parent” onesie, despite the fact that inside we are still 14 years old, scared, confused and unsure what to do with these balls of demanding flesh produced from our own interiors. We are supposed to cope with everything life with babies and kids can throw at us and are not supposed to get it wrong – there are children at stake here!
But I do slip up – often – and regularly fail to be a perfect parent or even a slightly lame one. It could be something huge like losing my rag with Whingey Teen Pig’s catatonic earphone-clad, Blackberry-toting state. Pea-hen screeched threats of boarding school, borstal or permanent adoption by people resident in Belgium are not an advert for good mothering. Or minor things, such as neglecting to give the sufficient time and effort required to chopping the smallest Pig’s mushrooms for his spag bol so microscopically small that they are undetectable to the human eye. Lumpy mushrooms = Bad Mum.
This week has been a particularly torrid Torres-esque week of mothering. Not in an earth-shattering, life-limiting way, but you know me by now – miniscule dramas are my life. Simply consumed entirely by the search for the perfect prom dress, talking about prom dresses, applying for prom tickets, attacking me with dress print-outs, hair up-dos and shoe price tags the minute I open a sticky eyelid in the morning and so on, and so on. You get the picture. Poxy prom! I’m sick of it already and it’s not until May. When I grumbled slightly at such intense subject focus and claimed immunity from shopping, online or otherwise, on the grounds I don’t really give a stuff, I was growled at, screamed at and ignored. Phrases such as “For God’s sake, all my other friends’ mums are interested – what’s wrong with you?” were muttered incoherently from behind a sneering top lip and the iPad where yet another http://www.effingfluffycrappypromdresses.com site is being researched.
Alongside this, the Boy Wonder was having a little crisis of confidence of his own. Having always been challenged in the height department, he’s currently feeling it acutely as his compadres go through a sustained growth spurt that we know he has to wait at least 6-12 months for – the pattern of his growth to date. He blames this “growth lag” for his presence on the subs bench at footy for the past few weeks where tough games have, ostensibly, required greater physical size and “strength” than he would appear to offer in his somewhat smaller package. Now, as a perfect parent I should boost his self-esteem with chats about strength of character, showing skills count as much as size, growing his desire to win, and rising above one’s physical limitations (see what I did there?). As the rubbish slack Mum I actually am, I’ve let him talk me into Maximuscle whey powder milkshakes which he is convinced are going to transform him into Sussex’s very own Charles Atlas. Fingers crossed he grows all over, and doesn’t just sprout a massive earlobe or an unfeasibly long big toe.
Whenever such challenges arise, I know I am supposed to grasp them in a smooth nettle-like manner and not allow parental perfection to slip through my Mum-fumbling grasp. Rarely happens and I usually upset someone, ruin something or bury my head in the woodpile until it all goes away. Result? I leak self-confidence. First in myself and then in motherhood itself. It oozes from my pores and evaporates into thin air. “Who do I think I am kidding?” says my inner Slacker. “I can’t do this job for the rest of my life – it’s full-on, constant pressure to perform while being watched by unsympathetic bystanders.” The world views mothering as natural and we women that enter into it as perfectly suited and up to the task. Crap. Crap. And more crap. I find it really hard work sometimes on top of a full-time job which, given the Texan boss’s inability to deal with a single minute issue, is tantamount to double-parenting: work as well as home.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore my children more than life itself – the loving them part is easy peasy. I walk it and gain enormous pleasure from giving that love and receiving it back, albeit in a haphazard fashion linked to my overall mothering performance. But mothering – the job – that’s not easy at all. What other job consumes a person so entirely 24 hours a day forever without monetary or seemingly any other gain or upward momentum? In modern society, such servitude is illegal, surely? And where is the end goal? The pinnacle to aim for? You think once you’ve managed the standard set tasks: getting them to pee in the loo and not in the corners of the rooms or on each other; eating without showing everyone what’s in their mouths, etc.; that you’ve “achieved” something. That you are now, officially, a parent. Not true. There’s always another hurdle to overcome; another parenting conundrum to solve; another way you can screw things up without even trying. Almost 17 years into it, I’m still waiting to score a sweet, perfect parenting goal!
So, Fernando, I see your dilemma. I feel your pain. To some, it’s only scoring that goal – an insignificant elusive little goal. In my case, it’s remembering to include a vegetable in the kids’ meals at some point during the week and not send them to school with pink-dyed shirts. Minor in the big scheme of the world but not achieving these seemingly simple things is enormously pressured and smarts like a smacked arse. We both know that our respective jobs just aren’t that easy. Ask your Mum – she’s bound to know, isn’t she??
Yes, the Man-Hog has asserted himself once again. The latest is: “I don’t DO Valentine’s Day”, said with gusto and a firm smack on my rump. He continues: “I won’t be told when to tell you I love you. I’ll tell you when I want to tell you, as I have done for the past 25 years.” Yes, dear, so you tell me every year.
What he fails to understand is the shallow nature of my desire to be fêted on this seemingly ordinary February day. It is not about love itself, it’s about the visual manifestation of that love to others; the one-up-manship of appearing to be most beloved of someone in a public place – in my view, at least. Valentine’s Day is the one day he can display as much mushy sentimentality as I want. Anonymously, if that’s his bag. In fact, anonymously works for me too – mystery and romance, what better combination? Yet every year, I am doomed to be the only one sitting here at a desk bereft of any flowers, chocolates or cards bearing smudged question marks written by nervously sweaty mystery hands. It is my own fault, I suppose, for having married at birth. Romance for the majority of my life has been left to the one man on the planet that refuses to engage, leaving me exposed to the pitying stares and smug contentment of those with less recalcitrant, more publicly demonstrative soul mates. Bugger him. I shall do as I do every year and drift for a minute into the misty past, a time when one Valentine’s Day in particular stands out amongst all others……
I met J while in my last year at school. I was too young for the Man-Hog at this stage with our now-not-important-at-all age gap and so, while we were friendly, we were not – ahem – romantically involved. So I dated a tiny bit amongst my peers, and J was the chosen one for a while. Not a romantic on the surface, he did have an inner Cupid. He worked every weekend washing up pots and pans in a restaurant kitchen for a mere pittance. As Saturday jobs go, it was pretty low on the cool ranking scale. Almost as bad as my own spent in the staff kitchen of a local mental hospital. Part of my duties was delivering meals to nearby wards on an erratic electric trolley. Food that had to be passed necessarily through metal grills to the staff; entry to the wards restricted to nurses wearing chain-mail and who were dab hands with a dart gun. Not your average depressive or dementia patients, these. No, these were ones that even the prisons couldn’t handle – that threatened to bite off your nether regions if you so much as breathed near them and, given the opportunity, actually would. If I even so much as heard a bang or a muffled scream from behind the grills, I would drive that Benny Hill trolley so fast in the opposite direction, any lasagna left on board soon became mince milkshake. Anyway, lousy teenage jobs aside, J and I met whenever he could afford the two-stroke or whatever it was that fired his motorbike up enough to make the 5 mile trip to my house. Each time, he would bring some of his hard-earned wages, usually in 50p pieces, and we would place them reverently in a jar to save towards the Holy Grail of our fledgling relationship – the moment we would actually go out together in public and have a meal.
Valentine’s Day 1918 dawned (no, not really, but it was a long time ago) and the pop-pop-fizz of the boyfriend’s motorbike was heard at around noon. J came dressed in trousers, not his habitual jeans, and wearing a shirt. I thought he had been arrested and was off to court, but no. He encouraged me to leave off my Dexy’s Midnight Runner dungarees (terribly fashionable round our way at some point in the 80s – I blame Bananarama) and don a SKIRT and SHOES, both borrowed shamelessly from my older sister’s wardrobe. He then took my hand, led me solemnly to the garden, wrapped the brimming jar of 50p pieces in a towel and proceeded to smash it with a hammer. Quite why this was necessary bypassed me, since the jar had a perfectly good lid, but I suppose it was his inner Cupid going for the grand gesture. We had managed to save £28.50 as I recall. With this heady sum, we headed for the train to London and to that gastronomic enclave that was the Aberdeen Steak House in Covent Garden. J was positively bursting with pride as he pulled out my chair, beating the waiter to the punch. He then proceeded to order for me – I had been momentarily struck dumb by his sudden manliness and the sheer amount of red velour coating every surface in the restaurant. We ate steaks, drank a glass of red wine each (wow!) and stared into each other’s eyes whispering sweet nothings for over 2 hours as the waiting staff no doubt ached to pelt us with stale profiteroles. Talk about feeling like a million dollars. There was even a sunflower, my favourite bloom, produced from his unfamiliar jacket pocket at the start of the meal. I felt like the only girl in the world that night, as special as a special thing in Special Land. He had worked for that money, bore the chafed and reddened knuckles to prove it, had saved it up and then proudly arranged this special evening – in public, in front of everyone. Aside from wearing a hat that said “She’s Gorgeous and She’s With Me!” there wasn’t much more he could do to display his innermost feelings that night. Aah. Young love, eh?
It was THE singular most romantic evening I have ever had, bar none. Despite that, we were not to be. Sadly, J and I split up when the tax ran out on his motorbike and they simultaneously suspended the bus route that would have brought us together in the middle. Such hurdles were insurmountable at sixteen. I also discovered a George Michael look-a-like at around the same time and, fickle floozy that I clearly am, was all too willing to be consoled for many hours by “Careless Whisper” serenading me in the very uncomfortable front seat of a red TR7. That didn’t last long once I discovered that George Michael expected me to blow-dry his hair every time we went out. He took longer to get ready than I did. Ew – manly, NOT. So, I bumped into the Man-Hog at a party not long after and the rest, as they say, is history.
Happy as I have undoubtedly been, Valentine’s Day since then has been somewhat of a let down to say the least. No matter how much I sulk, cajole, bribe, scream, shout or deny conjugal rights – nothing has ever materialized on this one day of the year. It is not to say the Man-Hog is not romantic – he can be extremely and I can honestly say that I don’t doubt for a minute that when he says he loves me, he means it. It is just that he refuses to do any of those wonderfully romantic things on this particular day.
So how do I deal with this? Mature and responsible? Nah – childish and pathetic, of course! Following his announcement yesterday, I asked him how he liked our sofa. It’s great, he said, why? Because you’ll be sleeping on it until I decide otherwise. Suck on that, Cupidless One.
Resentment is a wonderful thing. Stored resentment over many years is even better – it’s the gift that just keeps on giving. He’ll be paying for this in so many ways!
Photo credit: http://dadcando.com
Moving house is acknowledged to be one of the five most stressful experiences in the average human life. Right up there with death, and we all know how that ends. As I write, I am sending hopeful prayers to the god of British estate Agents, asking him to unearth their good natures which I know must lurk somewhere beneath their seemingly rhino-like hides and have them do their jobs properly for this little family. No more, no less. Sell my house, help me find the new one and then slip quietly away clutching my hard-earned in their paws. Simple. Stress is not something I wish to invite willingly in to my life. I am not very good at it; I tend to over-react and have been known to bite people. Literally.
So why have we made this decision to up sticks and slink West by over 200 miles? A decision that will, inevitably, lead to more than a little over-crowding in my tiny stress pouch? Why would we willingly put ourselves through it? Staying put is the obvious solution, isn’t it?
I want to move. I’m done with the current status quo. For many of the usual reasons – changes in the local neighbourhood, changes in our lifestyle as a family, a general yearning for sea air, beautiful walks, friendly locals, more sailing, alternative opportunities for the kids, etc etc yawn yawn. Most of which I already have and will be sad to leave behind, but which I hope we will find again. We have made some truly great mates in our nine years in this locale, and we will miss them all horribly. Coupled with this, we know we are lucky to be thinking about moving at all at a time when many people are just looking for some job security, extra income or someone to even give them a mortgage.
So why else? The simple fact is that I need to go. Some other, less conventional, reasons are also behind the decision. Not the least of which is the hole in my home and my life since the demise of my gorgeous labbie back at the end of last summer. The house, that haven of happiness after the hellish working day, would greet me with jolly children and a waggy-tailed pooch. All that has changed since his demise. Now I come back each day – we are talking almost seven months on – and there is no joyful canine greeting, no excited yelping, no-one to sit by my side at the dining table puffing biscuity breath into my face until I take him for a walk. No stench of dog or filth underfoot either, of course, which I acknowledge to be a minor upside but not enough to overcome my sadness and sense of loss.
That’s just the inside of the house. Outside is even worse. I have tried to walk the paths of the beautiful local estate lands three times since Fred shuffled off this Earth. Each time the lack of crunching feet behind me, or a black rump in front of me snuffling through the woods, has seen me return crying my eyeballs out. I don’t do crying, I promise you. Clearly, now, I don’t do walking either. If even the gorgeous local countryside no longer holds an attraction for me, then I am as they say “stuffed”. I know there will be those among you who think I have lost my mind – he was only a dog after all – I’ve lost a lot more significant others than that. But grief is a funny thing. You can’t plan it, you can’t even really understand it. You just have to acknowledge it is there, and that things have changed irreparably.
Another reason, perhaps even more non-sensical to the majority including the Man-Hog, is my panic that life is passing me by. Too short all together when looking at my parents – surely my best source of genetic life expectancy calculation - who both sadly croaked fairly early on into retirement and with so much still left to do in their lives. I don’t want to be that person – waiting and waiting for retirement, for the perfect time, whatever that even is? I fear “not getting it all done”. I want to go while I have such a desire, some sort of means to pay for it, and the determined will to change things for everyone in my family for, hopefully, the better. The Man-Hog is lonely at home, the kids are great but too pale and chesty, and I am craving fresh salty air and a change of pace like my own personal crack habit. I want to get on with it.
There are many more, very personal, reasons why we want to go but I shan’t bore you with them. Suffice to say it has taken two years to come to this decision and I am so glad we finally have!
Amazingly, we have the support of our two children for this move. Upping sticks as a teenager is not an easy issue for most to come to terms with. The Mini-Pig girl has GCSEs to contend with this summer, something we have to factor in to the overall move plan somehow. I know about enforced moves, I had to do it at the age of 18 and I couldn’t wait to turn my back on my parents and hightail it back to where I came from. Luckily, the Man-Hog (the boyfriend du jour) was in situ back in the former homelands and it all worked out very well. But I remember the feeling of doom, of panic and of powerlessness. I have never wanted that for the children and if they had voiced any dissent for this plan, we would likely have re-considered. My kids positively embrace the idea. They are just as eager to get on with it now that any prevarication between the parentals has ended. I cannot count the number of times people have told us how lucky we are that the children are enthusiastic for this new era – I would be shocked except I am conceitedly proud of them and their ability to adapt. Living with a mother like me – the original Mrs Ants-in-her-Pants-Let-Us-Chuck-Ourselves-Off-A-Cliff-Today – it should really be no surprise. It is one less stress to have to deal with.
So, the house is up for sale – I have smiled winningly at the estate agent and am praying I had no poppy seeds in my teeth at the time! The Man-Hog and I are venturing West hand-in-porky-hand on Friday for a nose around properties in our price range at the other end. All we need now is a fair wind and some good fortune. Oh, and estate agents that do their jobs. Watch this space.
Photo credit: http://businessinsider.com
Happy New Year to all you lovely, lovely people. I hope you all managed to have a brilliant time and got some actual R’n’R in there as well for good measure.
Having finished in the office on Dec. 16th, I returned to work today. Without doubt, a massive shock to my system. The alarm clock going off for one thing – that hasn’t happened in a while. My boy has a Pac-Man alarm clock that chimes with all the subtlety of a siren announcing all-out nuclear war. Today, it is entirely appropriate as the weather outside appears to indicate the world is indeed ending. Well, the Mayans did say it would happen in 2012, didn’t they? They’re up there now, somewhere, jigging about on their little moccassined feet chanting “Told you so!” and whipping their ancient plaits back and forth in glee. The weather is forcing droplets into my already beleaguered roof – the “plink, plink fizz” noises have nothing to do with the number of Berocca tablets I consumed over the holidays and everything to do with the slowly dissolving ancient lime plaster holding the roof up. The wind and rain buffeting around my office – which, it has to be said, is London’s very own version of Tan Hill – is testing even the Everest-approved windows and attempting to dislodge the building all together. God forbid someone releases a helium balloon over in Hyde Park – at best, a hapless tourist maimed as it whisks down Piccadilly slapping faces at breakneck speed; at worst, all mobile phone masts downed within a 50 mile radius.
Armageddon aside, I want to unburden myself of some embarrassing Christmas moments – everyone has them so don’t go getting all holier-than-thou with me. My tale of woe begins in Cumbria two days before Christmas and, luxury of luxuries, with separate hotel rooms for us and the Mini-Pigs. The Man-Hog was in a state of priapic frenzy during the drive up at the mere thought of potentially 8-10 solid hours of my undivided attention. That, or he’d left his wallet in his front pocket again. We arrived at the hotel in the early evening, checked in and mounted the stairs to our respective rooms. The kids were almost as ecstatic as we were and darling daughter shooed us out of their room and announced she was taking over mothering duties for the evening including baths and bedtimes, leaving the parentals free to….talk. Such was our involvement in the…talking…we did not realize until later that the ma-hoo-ssive elderly coach party we had seen occupying every chair in the lounge on our arrival had, in fact, decamped to a function room for a chess tournament immediately below our room. Our unmuffled…discussion…did not appear to have disturbed Flossie and Enid locked in mortal “Knight 2 takes Bishop 5” combat beneath us, but nevertheless we quickly dressed and went to the hotel bar to establish an alibi. Sadly, every smirk on the faces of our fellow bar-hoppers was ill-disguised proof positive that we had got away with nothing. I suggest the hotel beefs up its sound-proofing, or invests in honeymoon villas. “Discussions” are, after all, private. Either way, I couldn’t wait to leave the next morning.
We carried on to Scotland to my brother and his lovely family near Perthshire, and were joined by my nearby sister and her family for Christmas and Boxing Days. It was so great to see them all and despite having to seat 22 of us for dinner somewhere, we all had a wonderful time. The very best part about my family is the genuine love for each other’s company we have without having to try at all. Despite not having seen my bro or sis in over a year due to distance and work commitments, spending time all together was as easy as slipping on a comfy dressing gown. As effortless as sliding into cashmere bedsocks. As enjoyable as a round of peanut butter toast eaten in the bath. Fantastic. Until…
I blocked the main loo. Not just blocked it, but bunged it up an absolute kipper. My worst nightmare come true. I railed silently against unfairly oversized portions of bubble’n’squeak, ranted inwardly about forced consumption of Yorkshire puddings, of the availability of cheeses galore together with copious jars of onion marmalade. In the end, though, I had to call the Man-Hog to assist as nothing I did was working. He, being of a delicate disposition, cannot trifle with such issues without a biohazard suit and several stiff gins so he called in my brother. Oh, the shame! Bro couldn’t sort it either, so he called in senior brother-in-law. At this point, we’re talking three grown men standing in the bathroom and examining the by-product of my too-good festive frenzy while I apologized frequently in abject misery from behind them. I don’t think I will EVER live it down. Buckets were deployed and carried openly through public spaces where, of course, everyone else was gathered still enjoying stollen and Christmas cake (they’ll regret that combo as I did – ha!). At one point, a rodding eye was threatened but I became tearful at the sheer mention and the threat was withdrawn. I can still hear them all now, laughing themselves sick at my expense. The shame, the shame.
Needless to say, we left hurriedly the next day – if I was going to block anything else, it was going to be on a motorway in complete anonymity. I even left a dress and a couple of Christmas pressies behind, such was my packing haste. This was all aside from the Man-Hog’s humiliating police incident on Christmas Eve, the blobs of turkey curry subsequently discovered down the front of my new Christmas dress that NO-ONE had mentioned at the time, and the head-crushing amount of some shameful 80s Malibu cocktail consumed by yours truly on New Year’s Eve. So, that was Christmas 2011. Perhaps next year, I can wander naked through an Edinburgh street sporting only one eyebrow or discover that I have, in fact, had the word “Prat” printed in lipstick on the back of my coat for several days. There’s surely not much else embarrassing I can do, is there?
Photo credit: http://noveltp.com
Apparently Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat (big old goosey porker – he’s being dispatched to Weight Watchers first thing in the New Year). The working year is drawing to a close and as usual, the last week is dragging by like a snoozing grizzly on an Evostick sled. Is it only me that finds the last working week pre-Christmas a complete waste of time?
I am sitting here busily working out excuses for avoiding the “Outer Office” Christmas do tomorrow. They’re going to the Playboy Club. In God’s name why would I want to go there? Unless it was their intention to play “Whack a Bunny” complete with huge rubber sledge hammers or “Pin the Flick-Knife on the Bunny” then honestly, the experience leaves me less than thrilled. Of course, the Outer Office is 99% male, hence the venue choice. The only other female in the Outer Office has a cough similar to a crack-smoking homeless man and is currently eating something packed with Echinacea and Peruvian mouse droppings to try to cure herself before tomorrow’s party. It smells like rancid Chilli Con Dog Poo. Frankly, I’m just not up for any of this. I feel a stomach flu coming on that will render me unable to attend. Sorry Bunnies!
The trouble is, I am just not feeling festive. I’m not miserable, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not feeling….Christmassy. This is so not like me – I practically AM Mariah Carey in a too-short Santa outfit warbling for all I’m worth as people cover their ears and weep silently. I’m not sure if it is the internet Christmas shopping I did as opposed to the usual racing around the streets style. Has the disengagement left me feeling a little….disinterested… to be honest? Could it simply be that the kids aren’t little any more and buying for them is a) supremely expensive, b) technology or fashion-based – ugh! or c) no fun now that “The Myth” has been dispelled. It just seems like another job to have to do – all the jolly jingles and George Michael replays in the world are not lifting me into my usual Christmas mode. Nothing was helped by the Man-Hog being a complete plank and using our joint account debit card to buy my presents. Internet banking reveals all – I now know precisely what is under the tree, where it came from and how much it cost. There are no surprises to be had except, possibly, me running away to become a Playboy Bunny on Christmas Eve just for shits and giggles.
Is it just that the usual trials and tribulations of life have not yet suspended normal service? The unseasonally stormy weather has wreaked havoc with Crumbly Mansion, for example. The roof is leaking in a running total of five places so far. The new roof. The one that cost us thousands to replace just over a year ago. That one. The wind has also managed to seek out any tiny pinprick in the ancient windowframes and send gushing torrents of water into them. We fall asleep to the dulcet sound of plips and plops splopping into strategically placed plastic cups. Like a half-arsed glass harp. So tempted to empty them into the Man-Hog’s vibrating Snore-Chasm but then I remember I am supposed to be in love with him. This holds me back – just. This morning, Mini-Pig announced he has managed to lose his entire PE kit two days before the end of term – grrr! Not a small loss – we are talking the entire contents: astro boots, rugby shirt, shorts, socks, the lot. A mere £100 or so to replace. He’ll be cleaning chimneys and taking out the rubbish for the next fifty years to pay that lot off, the little blighter.
The Texan boss tried to enthuse me with his alternative Christmas do involving steak with green butter sauce followed by a theatre trip. The play, the 24,606 performance of The Mousetrap, was actually great and the acting was fantastic. However, having pre-filled his useless cowboy tum before the performance, the Texan proceeded to snooze his way through it, complete with head-bobbing and the odd “What?” at the top of his voice as I elbowed him continuously in the ribs. Great! Either I’m the most boring companion since Eastenders’ Ian Beale or too many years working together has bred the sort of comfort level that indicates that I would think slumping into an afternoon zed is perfectly all right and not at all rude!
But, dear friends, all is not lost. There are ten days to go and work finishes tomorrow. Next week I shall begin to wrap said internet presents as well as gaudy tinsel around various bits of my body. I will drape twinkly lights from the soon-to-be-released-from-school Mini-Pigs and attach baubles to anything that sticks out horizontally on the Man-Hog. Wine will be mulled, pies will be minced and with any luck, the famously irritating Stratton Christmas spirit will wake from its slumber and get on everyone’s wick. Because all I want for Christmas……..is me. Enjoying it again.
Watch this space. x