Maturing with Age

>> Tuesday, 6 October 2015

So here's a thing; I was reading the comments on a post written by a bloggy mate (one of those who I count as a real friend, even though we never got it together to meet up in Real Life), and she and some other longstanding bloggers (who fall into the same category) were discussing whether or not to have a fortieth birthday party.

I remember that discussion, in our house.  It was getting on for 9 years ago, mind you, but feels as if it were yesterday.  Now, Husband and I love to entertain.  We have form in this area and have thrown some epic parties, if I do say so myself.  But this time, I wasn't sure; to party for my 40th, or not?

So I considered it.  I agonised over it.  Then I fretted some more and finally I decided; no, I was definitely not going to throw a party to celebrate my fortieth birthday.  I mean, forty is - well, FORTY, right?  Nothing to see here, look away from the forty year old woman.  Move along, please.  She's just going to retire into a corner, bemoan her loss of youth, and quietly sink a bottle of her favourite red and hope nobody notices...

But then, I met up with one my best friends.  She asked me about the forthcoming Big Birthday, and how I was going to mark it.  On hearing that I thought I might just let it pass, she said something that stuck with me.

"But you have so much to celebrate!"


She was right, of course, and suddenly I could see that.  What the hell was I thinking?  Forty was - well, just forty.  Was I never going to celebrate my birthday again?  Because every number after that was going to have a 4 in front of it - until it had a 5, then a 6 and - oh, you get the picture.  Was I not allowed to go for it simply because I wasn't in my thirties any more?


Fuck that.

So I bounced home and informed Husband that my plans had changed and we ended up having a party which I have to say was one of our best ever.  (Until our next best ever, but that's a different blog post).

So what I would say to my blog buddies unsure about whether or not to mark their fortieth birthday with some kind of a celebration, be it tea and cake with your family, a drunken evening with your bezzies down the pub, or something grander, is this: screw any codswallop about getting older being something you should sweep under the carpet.

We should forget any of the restrictions we might feel are being imposed on us by Society simply because we aren't in our twenties or thirties any more; if we want to we should party, ladies, whilst we still can.  Mark this birthday, celebrate it - and then do the same with the next milestone.  And the one after that, and the one after that.  I'm certainly going to...

(This is where my Husband shakes his head sadly and starts worrying about my plans for my fiftieth sometime in the next couple of years.  Don't worry darling.  It will only be a little celebration.  Just like the last one...)


Take it to the Judge

>> Wednesday, 30 September 2015

At breakfast this morning, Boy #1 and I became entangled in an 'I said, you said' moment.  You know the ones; where you absolutely, categorically, positively know what you heard your child say, and where they absolutely, categorically, positively know that they said something different.

This morning's contretemps involved numbers (when doesn't it?).

I knew I had heard Boy #1 say '530'.  He knew he had said '540'.  This bounced back and forth for a couple of minutes, neither of us willing to concede that the other was right.

Finally, Boy #1 decided it was time to bring in an adjudicator and appealed to his brother for help.

"Boy #2, what do you think?  Who's right?"

Boy #2 tuned back in to the conversation (spreading jam on toasted muffin* is a serious business and not to be taken lightly) and considered the matter for a moment as he took his first bite.

Boy #1 was impatient to be proved correct.  "Boy #2, who is it?  Who's right?"

His brother sighed, and in a tone of voice that clearly asked how we could ever think otherwise, replied.  "That's obvious.  I am."

*That's English Muffin, for those thinking of the other kind.


Here be dragons...

>> Monday, 21 September 2015

'Summer is coming' said Husband, sitting back with a contented smile as he watched Daenerys Targaryen lead her freed Unsullied army out of Astapor after they had killed their former masters, and her dragon had burned Kraznys to a crisp.

(He and I are only now getting around to watching Season 3 of 'Game of Thrones', and this comment was made as the credits rolled on Episode 4).

I looked at him in disbelief before remembering that he has never read any of the books.  Poor soul, he's never even heard of 'The Red Wedding'.

'Summer is coming?' I repeated, deciding to go easy on him.  'Darling, the book in which summer is coming hasn't been written yet...'

Apologies to any readers who have no idea what on earth I'm talking about...


More things I have learned since moving back to the UK -

>> Monday, 14 September 2015

or, if you wanted to use another title:

'Oh Shit, Did I Just Hear That Door Slam Behind Me?'

In the part of England that we've moved to, recycling is a civic necessity.  Not only glass and tins need to be recycled, but so does paper, plastic, card and most crucially for this story, food.  Any left-over food goes not into the normal rubbish bin but into a special plastic box supplied by the council and is collected weekly to be recycled.  Just think of it.  A whole week for your unwanted food to ferment and rot in a box by the door.  It's not pretty - and a great incentive to make sure that there is as little waste as possible.  Unfortunately it doesn't matter how hard you try, there are always things that don't make it back onto the table and need to go into the Bin of Shame.

Which is where this story starts.

When we moved into our rented house back in the UK a couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of opening one of the two food recycling bins left behind by the previous occupants of the property. I should like to stress here that there are especially designed liners to put into these bins, ones that bio-degrade and can be disposed of with the food inside them.

Turns out the previous tenants didn't use them.

Jesus.  Gagging, I hosed out as much of the residual mulch as was possible (desperately trying not to dwell on the fact that there had also been a big dog living in the property which would account for some of the appearance of what I had briefly seen) and resolved never - NEVER - to open the second box.

Except, today, for various shameful reasons associated with needing to throw away more food than could be recycled in one bin, I had to use the second box.  And guess what?  Same revolting contents, so same necessity to deal with them.  Steeling myself, I girded my loins (for which read; found my sturdiest pair of boots), and stepped out of the back door to access the hose and the drain once more.

And then, dear reader, just as I thought 'I probably should put that lock on the latch' the door slammed shut behind me, leaving me trapped in our walled back garden; no key to get back into the house, and no key to get out of the garden door into the lane behind.  I knew that our neighbours on both sides of us are away, so even if I did manage to scale the wall I wouldn't be any better off.

I knew where my mobile phone was, of course; I could see it, through the window, on the kitchen table.  And even if it had been stuffed in my jeans pocket, I wouldn't have been able to call Husband for help as he is out of the country until the end of the week.  There was my family, who don't live that far away and do have a key but of course even if I had access to a phone - which I didn't - I can't remember their numbers off-hand.

To cap it all, the basement door at the front of the house was wide open (which was what had caused the draft that had slammed the back door behind me).  This might have been a help if I had heard anyone walking past in the lane out the back, but not only was it quiet as the grave out there, I wasn't sure I fancied the thought of hailing a passing stranger - sight unseen on the other side of the wall - and asking them to walk down the road, round the corner, and back again to our front basement to then walk through our house to let me back into my own home.

Tick, tick, tick, went the clock, counting down the minutes until I was due to pick the children up from school. (Or rather, I assume that it did, since I wasn't wearing my watch - currently in for a service - and didn't have my phone to check the time).   And since they've been at their new school only a week and we don't really know many people here yet, there was no support structure in place in the form of some helpful friend to scoop them up if I didn't make it to the school gate in time to collect them.

Standing trapped in the back garden and realising that the alternative response was to burst into tears, I began to laugh, and thought to myself 'Could this GET any worse?'

Silly me.  Of course it could.  Because it's been a little bit rainy here in my part of England today. (Please note; when I write 'a little bit' I am relying on you to pick up on the heavy irony implied.  Monsoon-like would be a better, if less British, description of today's weather.)

So of course that's exactly what it did; it started to rain again.

Now obviously I am not still locked in the back garden, since I'm sitting here writing this post; I did make it back inside.  And I didn't have to accost any strangers through a crack in our garden gate, or scale any walls to get out - although I must admit to climbing up on a raised flower bed to consider the prospects for a soft landing on the other side of the boundary (not good, I have to report).

I have - thank heavens - made it back inside.  And I'm not going to tell you exactly how I did make my Houdini-like escape, other than to say that the gentleman from the rental company who told me that the property was absolutely secure on the ground level had overlooked one very important entry-point (which I have now made safe).  Yes, there were spider webs involved.  Yes, there was an undignified climb and a bit of a scramble.  That's all I'm going to say on how I got in.

But in the spirit of silver linings, what have I learned from this jolly experience?

1.  Never create more food waste than will fit in one recycling bin.

2.  Always put the door on the latch.

3.  Always take an umbrella with you when you go into the back garden.


Things I have learned since moving back to the UK...

>> Wednesday, 9 September 2015

  • Never underestimate the value of a good airing cupboard in England's damp and humid climate.  It's price is beyond rubies.  (A 2- step drying process, friends; it's where it's at...).
  • Never underestimate the value of a humid climate.  Sod the fact that clothes left on an airer for 24 hours still feel just a little bit damp; on the plus side, that just-moisturised feeling on your skin really CAN last all day... (silver linings - also where it's at).
  • Never forget to count your blessings about the fact that your hair does not suffer from frizz in said humid climate...
  • Never over-estimate the generosity of your new landlady.  Because who needs more than one smoke alarm in a property, anyway?
  • Never underestimate the lengths said landlady will go to avoid using the word 'damp' when referring to the mysterious patches of moisture appearing on the walls at the bottom of the stairs.  'Hydroscopic moisture' is the correct terminology nowadays.  Apparently.
  • Never discount the sheer pleasure that comes from walking into your local supermarket / clothes store / hardware shop / you name it, and having a conversation in which you can easily be understood.
  • Never forget to remind your children that they can now be understood by everyone around them, and especially by the person they have just loudly labelled as 'very short'...


Dear Six-Years-Ago Me...

>> Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dear Six-Years-Ago Me,

I've been unpacking this week; unpacking all the stuff that you put into storage when you left for Russia six years ago. It's been an interesting couple of days and I have a couple of questions for you because for the life of me, I'm not sure what you were thinking on a couple of points...

1.  I just un-boxed the china that we were given for our wedding and which we used maybe 3 or 4 times before we left London back in 2010.  Now, dear Six-Years-Ago Me, I know you weren't responsible for this; it was Fourteen-Years-Ago Me who made this screw-up when compiling that wedding gift list, but you're closer to her chronologically speaking and your memory might be in better shape than mine, so I wonder if you can tell me; you don't drink coffee.  I don't drink coffee.  And Fourteen-Years-Ago-Me didn't drink coffee, either.  So why, in god's name, are there not one, not two, but TWELVE coffee cups and saucers in your wedding service?  Only four tea-cups and saucers, but TWELVE coffee cups.  For goodness' sake, Nespresso machines had only just been invented back then!

WTF were you thinking?

2.  Don't take this the wrong way, Six-Years-Ago Me, but I'm not very impressed with your standards of cleanliness. I mean, it's one thing to live with an accumulation of crumbs at the bottom of the toaster and a kettle that hasn't been de-scaled since heaven knows when, but it's quite another to pack them away into deep storage, only to have to clean them when you take them out.  Husband thinks I'm being too hard on you; it was a stressful situation (we were moving to Russia, I suppose), and you did have a 3 year old and a 6 year old to tend to after all.  Still.  Could Do Better, I'm afraid...

3.  And whilst I'm at it, where did you put the cutlery, Six-Ago-Me?  And the day to day china?  Because all the packing boxes are now empty and I have still to come across them.  Don't get me wrong, it's very nice to eat my breakfast cereal from a Royal Doulton bowl but given my butter-finger proclivities it's only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down (quite literally) and I would much prefer that in that case, it's Ikea's finest in smithereens on the kitchen floor.  So please, where on earth did you (or the packers?) put it all?

4.  But I don't want to end on a negative note, Six-Years-Ago Me, so I just wanted to tell you one last thing; I found that series of pieces that you wrote for that estate agent's magazine when you were living in London.  You know, the ones about being a West London mum...  You were pretty funny, Six-Years-Ago Me.  Respect.  How on earth did you find the headspace?  What's that?  The time I spend cleaning and tidying is the time you spent being creative?  


PM x


On living with Boys...

>> Monday, 27 July 2015

At the lunch table today I was not really concentrating on what Boys #1 and #2 were talking about, when suddenly:

Boy #1:  "No, I didn't do that.  I fighted."

Boy #2:  "Fighted?  What are you talking about?  You mean 'fought'.  'Fighted' is something a Boove would say.  Your grammar is as bad a Boove's!"

Boy #1:  "Yes, of course.  I was trying to sound like a Boove."  (He so wasn't). 

Me (not really having paid much attention up until this point):  "Hang on - what did you say, Boy #2?  Did you say Boy #1 sounded like a boob?"

Both Boys fell about laughing.

Boy #2:  "No, mum.  I said Boove.  Like in 'Home'.  Not boooooooob."  He paused for a moment, considering.  "Although, boobs have terrible grammar too.  All they do is sit there and look at you."

Me (what?):  "What?"  (We're not overly modest in our family but, apart from mine from time to time, when had he actually seen that many boobs?  And I didn't really want to think too much about the 'sitting there and looking at you' comment - that's the stuff nightmares are made of and which helps therapists pay their bills...)  "Which boobs are you talking about?"

Boy #1:  "You know, Mum.  The ones we saw in the shopping centre this morning."

I blinked.  Boobs?  In the shopping centre?  Again, what?

Me:  "Where was I when you saw this?"

Boy #2:  "Looking for shower gel, I think."

Suddenly it clicked.  They were talking about a large ad for Agent Provocateur perfume on the front window of a beauty store I was visiting.  But whilst it was a provocative image (the clue's in the brand name, I guess), I didn't remember any actual breasts on display, and I certainly hadn't paid much attention to it.  Then again, I wasn't an 11 or a 9 year old boy...

Me:  "Oh, ok.  But it was no big deal - she was wearing underwear."

Boy #1:  "Yes, but you could see the edges of - them..."

Me:  "Well, fair enough.  But it didn't really show her Booves.  I mean boobs.  Did it?"

Boys #1 and #2:  "Hahahahahahahaha!  You called them Booves! You meant boobs! Booves, not boobs!  Hahahahahaha!"

Reader, it definitely was not my slightly hysterical laughter that echoed theirs as I considered the imminent onset of my sons' adolescence and all the joy that it will bring...


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