Friday, 27 May 2011


I am not good at comforting an injured child, not good at all. The thud of the banged knee followed by over-long, exaggerated boo-hooing leaves me cold; I’ve done my time staring at little scratches (‘You brave brave girl!’), moaning in sympathy while snatching a look at my ‘to do’ list. It’s OK if there’s some actual blood so I can get a plaster, but otherwise nowadays it’s ‘oh dear’, and I’m changing the subject. The children complain bitterly of course: ‘Mummy comfort me! Don’t just say ‘oh’ and carry on with what you’re doing – don’t you care?’ So I make a joke of the performance expected of me (callously in their view) and thunder across the room, arms outstretched to cuddle and cosset, ‘What happened, darling?’ I groan, seeking out the invisible knock, to shower kisses upon it. Kills me!

Well, we had a real accident at the weekend; my fault, because leaving a thirteen year old and a ten year old home alone with a new Ipad for entertainment was clearly going to end up in Accident and Emergency...If I’d had half an ounce of common sense I would have foreseen that Maddy would promise Alfie a go on the Ipad, but then – haha! - close it down! (‘Daddy said I must’). And it was perfectly obvious that Alfie would wallop Maddy’s head with a pillow,into the edge of the Ipad. But there you are – I just didn’t think it through - too busy swanning around in Crouch End buying a new mop head to think of fitting the children with protective clothing before venturing out for such high jinks.

I also forgot my mobile phone as usual. And since Alan was speeding happily towards the golf course (‘I never get to play’) when the Ipad lid sliced Maddy’s head, it was neighbour Jess who had to deal with the screams, the buckets of blood, and all the panicky life threatening stuff; calling ambulances, doctors and all our friends and relatives (that’s two calls) trying to locate Alan and me, to please get the hell home and act like proper parents.

In the aftermath, my instinct was to be Ogre-Mum: ‘Rrrrrrrrrrr! THIS IS MONSTROUS. IT MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! GO TO YOUR ROOMS AND STAY THERE TILL NEXT YEAR!’ but Liberal-Mum had the right to be heard too, and she understood that it was natural for children to vent their anger, and be foul to each other, even if they ended up dead: ‘Hey guys, you and your arguments, you kill me - and you nearly killed each other! boom! boom! Next time sit down and talk it through, OK? Cool’.

‘We should learn from this’ I began ponderously. ‘What should we learn? That you are animals. That sixteen years of ‘Careful – that is dangerous/ Say sorry/ Be kind/ Think about other people’s feelings/ Use words not fists, has come to a great big NICHTS. I’m taking the dog for a walk’.

Friday, 20 May 2011


I have not had a good weekend with technology. First, the blogspot, so gaily named, had it in for me. It has been unhelpful for some time, refusing to accept corrections to my blog, so every time I make a tiny mistake I have to start all over again from the beginning. This is quite annoying not least because your average dimwit would sit down and work out what was wrong but no, I have to put up with it for weeks and weeks because I AM TOO ANGRY TO TRY AND FIX IT BECAUSE I KNOW I WON’T BE ABLE TO AND THAT WILL MAKE ME MORE ANGRY. I hate computers.

This weekend Mr Blogspot Esq would not save my blog at all, so being a patient philosophical kind of guy I carried out the remedial action required which was to press all the same buttons millions of times accompanied each time with fouler and fouler expletives, ultimately concluding ‘right that’s it I won’t do the sodding blog any more’. Of course, there was a simple explanation: I’d forgotten to post the blog on a day with ‘u’ in it, so the next day it worked - I’ll know for next time.

None of this was helped by Josie slopping lemonade over the keyboard so the keys stuck down and had to be yanked up as soon as they were pressed, otherwise your script would look like tttttttthhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiissssssssssss. ‘I cleaned it all up’ she said ‘but I need to focus on my revision now’. The only method that really shifted the lemonade was licking the keyboard then sucking hard – remember the tip!

And the mouse was on a go slow. So I’m sat there going click, click, CLICK DAMN YOU but nothing happens because the mouse is still hovering over the icon you aimed it at half an hour ago. I’m swishing to the right, swishing to the left, shaking it all about, tap tap, and then smashing it on the table with a force not suitable for delicate electronic instruments. How was I to know Alan would tiptoe into the room? ‘Banging it on the table isn’t going to help’ he said, flinching, but he agreed to take a look (not straight away – after he’d got dressed, and read a bit on the toilet). ‘There’s often a simple solution to these problems’ he said, after examination, holding the mouse up (‘Exhibit A’) and looking at me as he said ‘simple.’ ‘There is a speck of dust in the hole on the underside of the mouse (pointing to the hole ‘Dust in the hole’ I repeated after him). ‘It just needs a quick blow – poof!’ he said, blowing it so I knew what he meant, ‘and it’s right as rain!’ He straightened his tie and smiled at himself in the mirror (one helluvaguy) and marched off to work, leaving me and the kids blowing – Poof! Poof! Poof! – at the hole on the underside of the mouse, which had stopped working again.

At least we’ve said goodbye and good riddance to our craptop whose mischievous side drove us all nuts closing down randomly mid-Tesco shop, but refusing to close down when actually instructed, unless we pulled the plug out the socket and waited for two days. Monitoring the use of just the remaining computer has been a piece of cake, but it was too good to last; there was a knock at the door this week and a snazzy new laptop joined the family! According to Alan Grant we need it to reduce pressure on computer 1, so he can do his work emails (check the football scores on the hour) and I can get busy after school swatting children off two computers, wading through thickets of lies, deciphering who really does need the computer for homework, who is entitled to use it for relaxation because they worked so hard all day they’ve completely forgotten what lessons they had, and who is entitled because I promised them they could for eating a small lettuce leaf. Great!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Yellow Bananas

A blood-curdling scream. ‘AAAAAH!! ‘SHE BIT ME! MUMMY WHERE ARE YOU?!’ I thanked the Lord I was at the top of the house so I could say I hadn’t heard, and shut the door quietly. I was supposed to be shuffling debris around in Josie’s room, but was mid-reverie, re-playing a scene from that morning when I’d tripped backwards over a paint-water pot on her carpet and landed on her waste paper basket, squashing it flat. (The table that I bragged about fitting into her bedroom last week is now buried so she’s painting on the carpet again). Anyway, while I was blustering about the paint-pot, she had wagged a finger and smiled knowingly: ‘You’re a real visual learner Mummy,’ she said. ‘That’s why you want everything in exactly the right place!’ Like I was a real weirdo or something.

The door swung open. ‘MUMMY, MADDY BIT ME! DON’T YOU CARE?’ Damn, the game was up. ‘What did you say, Bonnie? She bit you? That’s terrible! Why?’ (There could be a good reason). ‘Because I said I would tell you she was drinking coke unless she gave me some’. Now I was interested - drinking flat coke with breakfast whilst lying on the sofa watching crap TV breached my relax-it's-the-Easter-holidays boundaries and warranted a rant, whereas biting Bonnie I could understand...

I stormed down to deliver the rant: ‘Coke at this time of day, Maddy? That is revolting!’ ‘It’s only a bit of Coke, no big deal’ she replied, bolting the rest. ‘Have a fruit if you want something sweet!’ I whined, bored to death. ‘You just think I’m fat’ said she, to throw me off balance. ‘No I do not!’ I screeched, overreacting ‘I’m thinking of your health...why don’t you have a lovely banana?!!’ ‘I only like yellow bananas’ she said, ‘yours are always rotten’. I decided not to say again that markings on bananas mean they are RIPE, and later in the day I purchased yellow bananas for her to not eat, carefully placing them in a controlled and cushioned environment offering uniform humidity, temperature and light.

I devised breakfast the next day in the Scandinavian tradition, casually laying the still yellow bananas on the breakfast table. ‘Would you like yoghurt today?’ I yodelled. ‘Or some yellow banana sliced over your Special Flakes – like the picture on the cereal packet!?’ I grasped a banana and a knife, and noticed I was kind of shrieking. ‘Ugh, no way’ she said. ‘But there are raspberries in the picture too - have you got any raspberries?’ (like I kept raspberries in my pocket) ‘No, I have not. I have got bananas’. Don’t get cross.

Maddy’s lunch box was enormous, because although I made the sandwich miniscule in order to starve her into eating her banana, I had to wrap the banana in layers and layers of paper towel and float it in its own special box in case of bruising. We’ve done banana cases - too embarrassing.

‘Did you eat your banana?’ I said, when she returned from school. ‘I’m not sure’ she said, and I knew what that meant. ‘I wasn’t hungry..’ she said, a crisp packet falling out of her pocket.

Time was running out; there were very faint black dots appearing on the bananas. We had tea. ‘Nice banana for pud?’ I was jolly. ‘I’m quite full actually’ she said. ‘Just have a half - ’ I said, ‘ - go on - I’ll slice it up!’ as if this would transform it into a Magnum. ‘Maybe later’, said Maddy, half out the door.

Then I lost it. ‘COME BACK HERE AND EAT A FRIGGIN’ BANANA FOR CHRIST’S SAKE’. ‘It’s got black spots’ she muttered. ‘It’s rotten.’ ‘IT IS NOT’. I grabbed a banana and peeled it under her nose to illustrate. I took an angry bite. ‘There! Delicious! Perfect ripe banana! Someone has grown this lovely banana’ (talking with my mouth full) ‘picked it, put it in a lorry, driven it to a ship, across the world, to London, then I (poor me, poor me) have slogged over to Woodgreen at your request...’ She paused and watched me in my madness. ‘So bananas have a high carbon footprint and are bad for the environment. Raspberries are grown in this country. Why don’t you get them instead next time?’

Sunday, 8 May 2011


‘Mummy! I’ve done loads of development work but no refining!!’ It was Josie. It was the Art. I clapped my hand to my mouth and did my I’M SHOCKED! look, though I had no idea whether this was brilliant or terrible news. ‘Cup of tea?’ usually covers it. ‘I can’t eat, I can’t drink’ she panted, ‘I have too much work to do. I am in crisis.’

She is doing a PhD in Art – cunningly described as a GCSE - entailing about six hours of work daily, responding to this, developing that, describing the journey ya? from eye-balls to ice-cubes, dunes to decomposing apples, culminating in – tada! – the Final Piece, all for one measly GCSE. I am not thinking about what is expected in the A Level - the Podium in Trafalgar Square?

First it was the working space; her tiny bedroom was rearranged and a space for a large table magically tessellated (by me), only downside being you now have to take a running leap over the table to reach the wardrobe. This was cutting off my nose to spite my face since I’m the one who picks the clothes off the floor and puts them back in the wardrobe, which I think I’ve probably winged about before. The arrangement is doing wonders for my high-jump.

Next, my purse and I were invited to Cass Art in Islington for materials – parking impossible of course, so it was queuing in Sainsbury’s on a Saturday afternoon (clever) in order to spend ten quid for ‘free’ parking, thus missing home delivery of the Tesco shopping I did want...but at least the materials for the Final Piece only came to £60, including a canvas for Bonnie (‘I’ve always wanted a canvas - how come Josie gets all the cool stuff?’) on which she has painted one eye, then left as a catch-all on the kitchen table with the general debris.

Josie’s Final Piece was an extravaganza of silhouettes, windows, styles from different decades…the theme was similarities and differences (you knew that) and the whole thing – why not? – was to be lit up from behind. I knew she’d request my technical assistance with the illuminations, it being a bit hot and tiresome lugging florescent tubes home from Homebase, but I was pleased to help, though I would have been more so if it had not been 8pm the night before show time. But when I staggered in with the pile of wood, florescent lights and screws (£50) I did have a sense of satisfaction; ‘Good old Mum saves the day again!’

...which lasted for two minutes, for when we opened the lights we realised that florescent lights need to be screwed to a ceiling and connected to an electric circuit in order to produce light – sticking them onto the frame and crossing your fingers like a dummy wasn’t going to do it. ‘You want to use push-on LED lights’ said Alan, from behind the paper. ‘They’ll be much better for the job and you can get them anywhere!’ ‘Thank you so much for your timely contribution’ I said, thwacking him over the head with a four foot florescent. I did some shouting at Josie too about everything always being at the last b----y minute which may have ruined all my good work with the cups of tea, but made me feel a lot better about rearranging the next day, to fly around north London sourcing push-on lights (‘get them anywhere’ my foot) as she sat her exam, and delivering them to her at school asap, Sa!