Parenting, profundities and humour

Ear…ear… — August 2, 2019




So here we are in sunny France. Day 6 of our 2 week sojourn to the Vendee on the Atlantic coast.

It’s actually Day 7 but I refuse to count Day 1 as it consisted of getting up unfeasibly early and driving for hours and hours before having to speak broken French in tabacs and supermarkets, cook pasta, unpack and try not to shout at the kids before falling into bed in an exhausted heap… “let’s make the journey part of the holiday” some smuck said. No let’s forget it ever happened and enter complete denial until Day 15 when we do it all in reverse with nothing to look forward to except those 4 bananas I am certain I left in the fruit bowl….

Sorry I digress.

Day 6/7 then. So far days 1-5 have involved us in unbridled fun. Body boarding, swimming, jacuzzi-ing (even a word?), sandcastle building, reading, sleeping and yesterday a day at a water park sliding and getting an adrenaline fix.

Time today, therefore, for something different. It began at 12.30am this morning when Middlest stumbled into our bedroom complaining of ear ache.

Middlest really did stumble too. The shutters here, which resemble shop shutters but are automatic, let in very little light so it is pitch black in the night. This sees me regularly waking up in what I consider to be the middle of the night but is actually 9am. This was especially confusing during Days 1 to 3 when I could not work out how to alter the time on my Fitbit and so had to manually add on the hour myself. Which my brain seemed incapable of doing in the middle of the night/ 8am/ 9am.

I groaned, I like to think inwardly but it was probably outwardly too, and stumbled into the other bedroom (husband and I currently occupy 2 as the one we started sleeping in at the end of that exhausting Day 1 had a bed so hard my left arm went numb so we turned Middlest out of his twin to share with Youngest so we could sleep with full feeling in all our limbs. This sees our clothes, toiletries and the medicines in one room and us in another) to retrieve the analgesics. I bunged him an ibuprofen and went back to sleep and dreamt of doctors and giant ears.

And thus Day 6 has been spent dealing with the french medical system.

Middlest and Youngest have ear ache form. They first got raging ear ache in Portugal during our 2016 summer holiday. Please read Why are there No Aspirin in the Jungle for that particular tale.

They then both got it again on 2 holidays to the Canaries.

With our own private pool here we hoped we might evade the dreaded ear infections but, no, either the pool contains remnants of previous occupants or it was yesterday’s water park that was the culprit….

We spoke to our rep who suggested a pharmacy. So off I drove to the nearest town having readied my script which consisted off: I am English. I speak a little French. My son has ear ache. Is there something you can suggest?

Day 6, it transpires, is market day. The place was rammed. I drove futilely round 2 car parks, pulled the wrong way up a one way street, reversed quickly before anyone caught on and finally parked up at the supermarket.

We made the pharmacy. The assistant understood my french. Unfortunately I did not understand hers. I caught the word doctor and interior and ear and guessed she was saying I needed a doctor.

Back home we drove. Husband called the rep back. She found a doctors open to people without appointments in the same town we had just left open for just another 30 minutes. Back we raced this time with husband to drop us off seeing as time was limited. The surgery was rammed. There was no receptionist, which was in part a relief. No need to speak broken French to someone who may or may not have been from the same mold as British doctors’ receptionists. I will say no more.

People disappeared into the 2 doctors’ rooms and never came out. This was slightly disturbing. Anyway our turn came. I gave the same speech. The doctor asked me something in French. I looked blank. She asked it again in quite good English. I gave the answer: “His name is Middlest”. About this point I decided, not for the first time, that I really need to learn how to listen to French. I can read and speak it to a useful level when holiday but I am totally incapable of understanding it when spoken. Even something as simple as “What is his name”….

Anyway she got the details she needed. I managed to convey his penicillin allergy. We got a prescription. We paid the 30 euros (frankly that is cheap compared to Spain and Portugal) and left through a second door….ahh now we understood…

Back to the same pharmacy. The previous assistant smiled and said “Ah antibiotics”. The male assistant had less English. We managed with hand signals and my occasional French word of agreement and me deciding to just say ‘Oui’ and decipher the French instructions when we got home. He was concerned, I think, that he didn’t want me to think he was ripping me off as he had to sell me two packets of ear drops. Frankly I would have paid a lot more than the 10 euros to just get the whole sorry mess over with.

We drove home. Middlest had been feeling bad that he was ruining the holiday. So we span it as a worthwhile cultural experience.

No holiday would be complete without a trip to the doctors. This one has the added advantage of not even being worth a travel insurance claim. Less paperwork. Result.

Slightly taxing…. — January 7, 2018

Slightly taxing….


Here is a thing about me. I am very efficient. I do not like stuff ‘hanging over me’. Occasionally this back fires.

Just over a year ago I was offered some one off consultancy type work. I can’t really tell you what this was all about but once I had got over my initial feelings of panic and allowed a little bit of ‘wow maybe I am still someone whose brain has not been sufficiently addled by years of child rearing and house keeping that someone thinks I maybe useful for something vaguely important’ to set in I decided to accept.

Being my usual efficient self I registered as self employed with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in case I needed to pay tax.

I am not a stranger to the HMRC as I am a registered Agent. This may surprise you. I do get a gentle frisson of excitement every time I get an invitation to join the Agent’s Forum or receive incomprehensible e mails updating me on the complexities of Corporation Tax. But really it is just a way for me to do my husband’s and mother’s  tax returns for them. Because I am slightly money minded. And enjoy form filling.

Mother no longer needs a return doing now she is no longer a property magnate. Well since she sold her rented one bed flat anyway. And so my Agency duty consists of copying figures from my husband’s P60 and P11D and informing the HMRC of the laughably low amounts of interest he earns on the money we haven’t yet squandered on electronic devices for the offspring.

To be honest I was quietly looking forward to the challenge of completing a return for myself. ‘Self employed’ is a whole new form which I had yet to tackle. I love a challenge me.

Anyway for reasons I won’t bore you with I never got paid for that work. I did it but not for cash. That sounds slightly seedy but I can reassure you it wasn’t, in any way.

No worries I thought to myself I will simply deregister with the HMRC. Ah unfortunately not. Having registered I have to do at least two years of returns before I am able to deregister.  Bummer.

Anyway for those of you not in the know the deadline for UK self assessment on line returns is the 31st January. Historically I have been much earlier in my submissions. This is because one of my clients (my mother) used to nag me to get it done. My other client doesn’t. Nag me. Which it now transpires is a shame.

Anyway Christmas is over. I can no longer put off all those things I have been putting off since October when Preparing for Christmas took all my energy or at least was an excuse I could use to put off all those things. All Those Things only really consisted of those tax returns. You will remember from paragraph one that I usually do not like things hanging over me. Apparently things that will land me a large fine are…fine though. I should really explore this part of my psyche at some point. Not now though. More important things to do.

And so yesterday on the 4th Jan I decided I needed to tackle those tax returns.

It probably won’t surprise you to know that I have a spreadsheet of all my savings accounts. This makes me sound a bit like Rockerfeller but I really don’t want to give you that impression. Most of the accounts are legacy and have tuppence ha’penny in and are a result of expiring ISAs from when I worked and had no children and had a bit of spare cash. Some are proper accounts from a similar time. Some I opened to take legacy funds off my husband to avoid tax as I am/was/still am but now have to prove it due to my damned efficiency a non tax payer. Some are newer and opened when I had a hotline to Martin Lewis the self proclaimed money saving expert and was trying to get a decent rate of interest on these funds. It has been impossible to get a decent rate of interest in the UK for several years whilst base rate has languished unloved below 1%. As such I have somewhat given up moving my small amount of savings around.

The mess of my savings accounts is further compounded by the fact that over the years a lot of those accounts have changed hands. So what started off as an Egg has hatched into a northern building society etc. I dutifully kept all the letters informing me of such things unread in a file which would be marked ‘stuff I should have probably read and got round to before the deadline for my completely pointless first ever tax return was upon me’ if I had the gift of foresight.

Anyway I trawled through the spreadsheet looking for taxable savings accounts and made a list.

No one sends out paper to customers anymore. Although I applaud this from an environmental perspective it meant that I had no tax based certificates from any of my savings accounts except for a midlands based building society who still kindly do write every year telling me the interest I have earned on my entirely tax exempt ISA. Thanks. I do often wonder what I should spend that fiver on.

Incidentally this also makes proving one’s address quite difficult. I no longer have utility bills less than three months old showing my address as no one sends them. Well the Water Board do but only every  six months and the Council Tax annually. This was an issue when I wanted to redirect my mail when we moved house, as my address proof was over three months old. It got quite problematic. I did at one point suggest that the postman who had been delivering to me at my address for around 5 years could call randomly one day to check I actually lived there. But they weren’t having any of it. I can’t remeber how I got round that one now, possibly a waiver, signed in blood.

Sorry I digress. Now I just had to get my hands on tax certificates from those relevant institutions.

This meant I had to go into the drawer. I expect everyone has such a drawer. It is full of passwords and user names for a myriad of on line accounts which I should have committed to memory. No one has the ability to commit such a large amount of stuff to memory. Do they? It also contains pass cards and readers for banks. Notes of my memorable answers to memorable questions. Which I cannot remember. And such like. One piece of paper from one bank had the words ‘kiwi’ and ‘tree frog’ cryptically scribbled and then highlighted by my own hand. I looked forward to finding out what the bejeebers that was all about.

I managed to get on line to a few of those financial institutions. The last time I did this was probably last year when I updated the spreadsheet with balances after the annual round of interest payments had been made. Still thinking of ways to use those fivers.

Anyway I managed it with a few. I was on my last one. I had saved it for last as it is like getting into Fort Knox as it requires a 9 digit customer number (in my memory obviously) a passcard and reader with another 6 digit code. Again committed to memory, obviously.

I found the customer number. I got to the card reader response stage and entered the PIN which was accepted. A number was produced which I entered. Then I got the failure message. My card had expired. I needed to ring up. Not to worry I had another customer registration number and PIN for the same bank for their telephone banking service. The PIN was missing from the tear off letter. I emptied the drawer and found it attached to the bottom of my old calculator which no longer works but which I keep for sentimental reasons as it got me through 2 O levels and 2 A levels in maths. If only those qualifications in maths were of help now. But no a degree in cryptology and a much, much better memory would be of more use. I stuck the PIN to the letter with sellotape. I was not going to be caught out that way again. During this process I also found about 15 plastic documents wallets, some address labels, some A4 manila envelopes and an on line banking letter from another bank which I also needed for my husband’s return which had fallen down the back of the drawers. Result.

I braved the telephone system. Once I had negotiated the customer registration number and PIN entry I then had to say in a few words what my problem was. A few words are never enough but not to mind I said “my on line banking authentication card has expired”. This was clearly too many words as the system only heard “card expired” and put me through to the Card Centre clearly thinking I needed a new debit or credit card. The menus then bore no relation to my issue. No matter I thought I will simply enter numbers or say words that will lead me to an actual human. What it led me to was them hanging up on me.

I tried once more from the beginning. This time after listening again to how much the phone call was costing me (perhaps not the best way to spend those fivers) and re doing the reference number/PIN combo I said “on line banking”. This time I got through to a human. In India.

I don’t have an issue with people from India. Except that they can’t understand me. To be honest I have this issue with call centres in Liverpool. What I really need is a nice middle class call centre in the Home Counties. Anyway after what seemed like an age and me desperately imploring my customer services advisor not to put me back through to Card Services I thought he got the gist of what I needed. He went away to take advice. And then he came back to say I needed to go into a branch with 2 forms of ID, one with proof of my address less than 3 months old, to order a new card. I am not in a good place water board/ Council Tax cycle wise and so this seemed like a very bad idea. Indeed.

Moreover I have been burnt by customer service telephone banking teams telling me to do this before. You dutifully go into a branch and try to explain what you need and they look at you all blank as if you have just landed from an alien planet. Then they tell you to call the customer services team. In short they cannot help you. They can, however, sell you a mortgage.

I decided to just order the Tax Certificate and cut out myself as middle man and tackle the expired on line authentication card at my leisure. My customer services advisor went away again and came back to say, thankfully, that this was possible. He asked me to confirm which account I needed it for. I have several. Mostly expired ISAs and terrible savings accounts they opened for me when I failed to deal with my expired ISAs. I looked down the list of accounts which had been sent to me when those accounts moved over from the previous institution I had actually opened the accounts with (which from memory had much easier on line security) and provided an account number which he seeemed to recognise. He assured me that the certificate would be with me in about  3 days. I hung up.

I then looked more carefully at that letter which I had got out of that file of stuff I should have read before my first ever and completely pointless tax return was upon me and realised there was another account I needed a certificate for. It had also occurred to me that maybe I should have been sent a new authentication card and that maybe I had never changed my address with them. Such things are possible.

I called back. Same painful process. Different customer services advisor. Same going away and coming back again. I provided the other account. Was assured my address was correct. Ordered the tax certificate. This one would take 5 days. Fingers crossed.

This whole process had now taken about two hours. My floor was covered with stationery I had retrieved from behind the back of my, let’s call them my password, drawers. The dinner was beeping urgently at me. I decided to quit.

I tried to forget that husband also had an account at this institution and that he would have to go through the same painful process himself.

The next morning galvanised and refreshed I logged onto the HMRC website to start off my husband’s return. And found I could not get past my Agency home screen. Too much traffic. The site had crashed.

I can only hope that my documentation arrives within the three or five days promised and that the site is accessible at some point. Some forums suggest before 8.30am. That sounds like my best option once the kids finally return to school next week. Apparently about 9000 people did it on Christmas Day and Boxing Day this year. They don’t seem so stupid now.

I am never ever leaving it this late again. Promise.


Middle Class Pitfalls… — July 25, 2017

Middle Class Pitfalls…


So here is a thing about me. I hate ironing. I think I may have mentioned this before. Several times.

It is odd really as my mother quite likes ironing. And taught me to iron well. It is also true that quite a lot of my friends and acquaintances will list ironing quite near the top of their least despised chores list. It is at the bottom of mine. Down there with cleaning the kids’ bedrooms. Even below cleaning shit stains off teenage boys’ toilets.

I am not sure why really. I know some take satisfaction from the transformation of creased articles into uncreased ones. Some people like to do it whilst watching TV or listening to the radio. Others like to stick a flag in their ironing mountain. Maybe some like the mini sauna involved.

Me? I don’t get it. It makes my arm ache. It never ends. And it seems utterly pointless.

Cleaning, which I also hate, has a point. A hygienic point. Laundry has a point. Cooking and shopping have a point. Ironing in my view doesn’t. And so I don’t do it. At all.

My husband has an unfortunate preference for expensive work shirts. And I have found that the more expensive the garment the more ironing it needs. For instance my kids’ school shirts come in a pack of 2 for a tenner, they don’t need ironing, his cost a lot and do.

I like laundry and have a great routine which never sees non iron shirts crease up too badly as they move from washer to line and straight onto hangers. I actually believe a lot of creasing comes from clothes sitting at the bottom of that ironing mountain.

So the only things that get ironed in this house are those ridiculously expensive work shirts.

When the kids were young my husband therefore spent a large proportion of his Sunday afternoons ironing rigid creases into the sleeves of his work shirts. I used to get perversely annoyed as it took him away from helping me with the kids for a good two hours. I was at that stage when I had three kids under 4 at home with me all day every day and wanted any opportunity to off load them onto someone else. I couldn’t do that to a man in charge of a hot electrical item.

So it was a sore point. I look back now and think ‘you unreasonable bitch’. But then that unreasonable bitch was a sleep deprived nutter clinging onto the edges of her sanity.

To sort this sore point out we decided to send out his shirts to an ironing lady.

That was probably ten years ago. And since then on a fortnightly basis his shirts have been collected and returned neatly pressed for a small fee. It is my main indulgence. When I am feeling extremely decadent I will bung in a pair or two of my linen trousers (only in the summer months) which probably do need ironing but mostly don’t get it.

This system works well. I leave his shirts and an appropriate number of hangers in a green and white striped laundry bag on my doorstep on a Tuesday every other week and on the Thursday they are returned on hangers. The lady has a key so she can let herself in and hang them off my cupboards if I am out. It is bliss. They smell great. She does a better job than me and aside from remembering to wash and dry them all in time it saves me a whole heap of pain (in the arm).

The only thing that has gone wrong in those ten years was when I forgot to not set the house alarm on delivery day and I got a panicked phone call during my exercise class during which I could hardly hear my ironing lady over the racket of my house alarm going off. We sorted that one.

Very occasionally I get someone else’s shirts back and they get mine. But again that is easily sorted. Especially as I am friends with her other ironing client. So nothing has really gone wrong. Until today.

Today I put my bag on the step as usual.

My children and I went out to meet a friend and her son for a coffee and catch up.

I got back and the bag was gone. All good it had been collected.

During lunch there was a knock on the door. It was my ironing lady asking for the whereabouts of my ironing.

So the bag had gone. But not to the right person.

My immediate reaction was that I hadn’t actually put the ironing out. Despite being sure I had. We searched the house futilely. We stood around wondering who in their right mind would steal a bag of someone else’s clothes and coat hangers.

My ironing lady left. I searched around futilely a bit more.

I then considered that maybe a charity clothing collector had taken it by mistake. I posted on Facebook. I drove to the Parish Council to see if they had a schedule of approved doorstep collectors. I drove round the village hunting charity vans and bags left on others’ doorsteps to provide a clue. I got mildly excited when I spotted one such van and nearly caused an accident screeching to a halt to investigate. They were merely out collecting a specific piece of furniture. I glanced futilely in their van just in case.

I emptied the contents of my kitchen bin searching for a discarded collection bag. That was fun. Not.

Someone suggested I call my household insurer. That phone call would be up there with the one I made to my car insurer when I ran into my own gate post. Humiliating. And I suspect ultimately pointless in this case. I imagine I am not covered for items left unattended in an insecure area. And anyway I have no receipts. I am just not going there. I am not.

In the end I gave up.

I told my husband who wasn’t as pissed off as he could have been. I closed my brain off to the cost of replacing the shirts. And the two pairs of linen trousers I had extravagantly bunged in last night that I need for my imminent holiday. They are so old they don’t owe me anything anyway. The shirts on the other hand. Ouch.

I am trying not to think about the possibility that the bag was stolen. In broad daylight in my lovely middle class village across my noisy gravel drive with both sets of neighbours in. It makes me feel slightly sick.

But mostly I am trying to fight that niggling sense that this is all my own fault for being quite so bourgeoisie as to send out my ironing.

Lesson learned.





Being Brave…revisited… — June 8, 2017

Being Brave…revisited…


Some of you may remember my previous entry Being Brave…

I was brave in a particular way that I hoped might be a small inspiration to my kids.

Well today it paid off.

I have introduced you to my daughter before. In case you are new, or inattentive, here is a bit about Youngest.

Ever since she sailed into the world Youngest has been a determined and hard working individual. At age 18 months she was insisting on dressing herself and doing up her shoes. This was a shock after two boys who would probably still let me lace their shoes for them now, in some sort of slightly weird servant fashion, given half the chance.

Youngest is perhaps the least academic of all my children. School work has never come as easily for her as for Middlest and I have had less time to spend with her than I did with Eldest. But what she lacks in natural ability she more than makes up for in effort. She is the hardest working of all my children. And that is saying something as Eldest has an amazing work ethic.

Since she was three years old she has been athletic. Taking to every sport put in front of her with aplomb. I remember her coming home from her first taste of football at preschool literally bouncing off the walls. She did it in a pinafore and wellies but already the love for the sport was there. She had done well. Even for a three year old. In wellies. So yes she has bucket loads of natural ability.

But this is not to belittle the effort she also makes in all her sports. I often worry that teachers or coaches will believe she just relies on her natural skill when nothing could be further from the truth. If she is not at training for one sport or another (in the football season twice a week plus matches and then once a week after school for whatever other sport is being played in that term) she is in the garden or up the local field practicing.

If the weather is bad she boots her baby ball around on the landing, driving me mad with the bell inside….

Nearly every Saturday she either plays for school or her football team. In fact in the hockey season there were at least two occasions when she played a league football match in the morning and a school hockey fixture in the afternoon.

In the off season she runs park runs. She managed to compete ten 5k runs last summer and earn her ’10’ T shirt. During the end of this season she has turned out to some Junior Park runs on Sundays as she had no other sport on that day so thought she may as well. She actually hates running but knows that in order to get a flying start for footie and hockey in September she needs to keep her fitness up and so off she goes.

She recently ran ten miles in under an hour and a half whilst crossing off bridges in the sponsored Cub Scout bridge walk. The determination to do that would elude most adults.

In short although my daughter clearly has natural talent in sport she also works her socks off improving her skills and stamina. She is determined. Immensely so. She wants to play football for a living, if such a thing becomes possible for women, and understands that to achieve that she has to work and work.  And she also knows her chances are slim but that doesn’t stop her determination to give it all she has.

To balance all this sport I was keen she do something else too and so along with her brothers she has learnt the piano since Year Two. I play and have since that age and still enjoy  murdering the odd bit of Chopin and it comes in handy at Christmas. I was adamant she carry on even as her sport commitments ramped up.  In fact she recently had to turn down attending swim squad training to keep learning, I couldn’t fit her lesson in on any other day.

She doesn’t have anywhere near the natural talent in it that she does in sport. And so again she works very, very hard at it practising every morning before school and as a result she is making steady progress.

Today was the school music prizes. She entered herself with one of her grade two pieces. She has practised and practised.

She finds playing in public immensely scary. I empathise. It is very hard to control one’s nerves enough to be able to physically play. Her legs turn to mush and her arms shake.

She has often had to be brave in sport. She regularly comes up against opponents much bigger then her, often male. She runs up for her Year so tomorrow she will be attending an athletics meet, running a distance she has never run before, on an athletics track, again a first, and she will be one of only two Year 5s going from her school. But although she will be nervous her natural skill and competitive streak will kick in and help her.

She can’t rely on this in music. This morning she was almost actually sick with nerves and ended up sobbing that she was going to pull out.

We had the bravery chat. That cliche of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. That even if the worst happened and she ‘went wrong’ she could still feel proud of herself for trying. That you have to be in it to win it. I told her everyone would be feeling nervous. I reminded her of me singing that solo and how proud she was of me. And how sickeningly nervous I had been. She decided to go ahead.

And then quite unexpectedly she went and won.

Bravery quite literally paid off. But even if she hadn’t won the prize she still would have won in my eyes. All those competitors today are winners as far as I am concerned. Doing such a brave thing at age 9, or indeed any age, is something to be very proud of.

Well done all.

Do Tell…. — May 22, 2017

Do Tell….



There are many imponderables in the world. Such weighty issues as global warming, the general inhumaneness of human kind, the existence or otherwise of alien beings, whether there is an afterlife. Etc.

The main imponderables in my life, however, are slightly more mundane. Here is today’s list.

  1. Who left the used tissue in their pocket? Again. Thus ensuring a liberal coating of white bits all over the fresh laundry. This imponderable is a regular occurrence. Of course no one ever claims responsibility. Eldest has hay fever. Middlest has a cold. And Youngest watched a particularly sad episode of Monkey Life last evening. Thinking about it I was in tears too at the demise of Aris the 4 year old orangutan. So it could have been me. We had become very attached to Aris who had an endearing personality and so to see him being put down was tear jerking to say the least. The culprit remains at large. Of the used tissue. It’s bloody irritating. It’s not so bad when the washing goes straight outside on the line. The birds pick up all the ‘shaken off bits’ to line their nests. Unfortunately Eldest’s hayfever precludes his washing going outside so the kitchen floor also gets a liberal coating. No helpful birds there. Sigh.
  2. Why was Eldest on the second of 2 buses back from the school trip to the seaside. And why was that bus over half an hour later than the first bus. And why had they been given the same ETA. Necessitating me sitting in a baking hot car for over 45 minutes.
  3. Which annoying male member of my family has stolen from the kitchen one of the two Apple charging leads? And why has my husband started charging his Apple device there when he is in possession of at least two such charging cables in his personal charging hub in the spare room? Which must not be touched on pain of death. And why will I get it in the neck tomorrow when the boys’ phones remain uncharged?
  4. Why is going to be baking hot tomorrow when we will be spending all day on a football pitch and then ‘break’ on Sunday in time for our mini break to the coast? Actually this isn’t really an imponderable. Just Sod’s law. And normal for the UK. Of course I have packed today in 29 degree heat (again I could have done with the heat break today) and so will probably spend our mini break freezing due to inappropriate packing. I also spent a small fortune on sun cream. Should have checked that weather first….
  5. Why has Youngest been split up from her very best friend in next year’s classroom reshuffle. Total lunacy. I will be checking extra hard for used tissues tonight…
  6. Why, after extensive fruitless searches, did I today find my husband’s prescription sunglasses (£400 a pair- he has bad eyes and expensive tastes) hanging from the handle bars of Middlest’s scooter. In the garage. At least this time I found the lost item before it was replaced. Now that really would have been Sod’s law.
  7. Why do duvet covers eat other laundry in the machine but not all of it? And how do they turn inside out? I often ponder that. It must have a scientific explanation? No?
  8. Who thought up cricket whites? Just that really. Grass stains. Mud. Unidentified food or beverage based items. All these show up spectacularly and are devil to get out. Whoever did, invent them that is, never did laundry. Which I suppose when I do ponder on it makes sense. As it is a gentleman’s game. And they had servants. Middlest has me. There is a similarity there. I don’t like to ponder that. Much.

So there we have it. Today’s imponderables.

There are quite a lot of laundry related ones I note. Hum.


Being Brave… — December 20, 2016

Being Brave…


Recently I was given the chance to be brave. In my life there are not many opportunities to live that cliche oft spouted on inspirational posters and face book walls and old episodes of The Apprentice:- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. My life is fairly humdrum involving many, many tasks none of which are particularly difficult or scary. Hard work for sure but not seat of the pants type stuff.

In the dim past when I was working most of my days were full of stuff that scared the living daylights out of me, presenting to clients, picking up the phone and cold calling, meteing out difficult decisions, lending millions of pounds and hoping it would be repaid and the like. But since leaving and having kids those sorts of activities have kind of gone away.

Yes I have had to be brave at certain times. Because life was shitty and the ill health of myself or others needed to be borne and soldiered on through. But that is a different sort of brave. That sort of brave is a braveness of necessity,  I am thinking here of optional bravery. When one puts oneself out there. But didn’t have to.

In fact this blog is the scariest thing I have done in sometime. Writing personally for the hopeful enjoyment of an unknown readership. But it is not an immediate type of scary. It is a ‘help only 3 people have read it today’ type of scary. And anyway in the scheme of things does that actually matter? Especially when one is up against Strictly Come Dancing The Final….

This sort of ‘optional bravery’ is all the more pertinent to me because my kids are often very brave in that sort of way. And often I am not all that understanding of what they are going through. In fact I may actually put them in situations they would rather avoid because of the bravery involved. I think I am helping them build their characters and so I encourage them to enter festivals and music competitions and reading competitions and sports competitions and….

And so often my boys are performing with their instruments such as at last week’s Christmas concert, or my Youngest is taking to the pitch as the only girl on the field, or one is playing piano in assembly, or singing a solo as Joseph age 9 (that was Eldest still one of my proudest moments as a mum), or playing an amazing violin solo at a small concert (Middlest age 10, OK Joseph is only joint proudest moment…). Etc. Last week Eldest gave a speech in the end of term Assembly in front of the whole of Years 7, 8 and 9. To be fair I hadn’t ‘made’ him do that, his form teacher had, but still it was a big ask for a 12 year old.  And every year they are all in the church Nativity Service on Christmas Eve when the whole village turns out to watch. They take music exams which I remember from my childhood made me feel physically sick.

And yes just before their performances I too get nervous, experiencing that butterfly in the stomach feeling on their behalf hoping they don’t muck up and make themselves feel bad. For although the cliche goes that it is doing it anyway that is important succeeding is also quite a biggy. Even if succeeding is just getting through it.

And so when my choir mistress asked me to sing a solo at our concert yesterday my immediate reaction was ‘Not on your nelly!’. But she asked me to think about it. So I did. Other than the fact that I was very flattered that she had asked me and therefore had faith in my ability to do it at least some justice, I decided I needed to ‘live’ that advice I often give my kids, that a little bit of bravery can deliver all sorts of rewards in terms of self esteem at a job well done.

I didn’t tell anyone beforehand. Mostly because my children have extreme versions of my ‘sympathy’ nerves and would have worried about me. Middlest was very nervous watching Eldest do that speech in Assembly last week. I didn’t want to put him through that too early in proceedings.

So they only knew when they turned up to watch.

And yes just before my slot my bowels went to liquid and my thighs got that awful achy, dead sort of feeling (which incidentally I also get when I drink alcohol which is why I don’t) which meant I felt like I might fall over, my stomach was doing somersaults and it was hard to catch my breath (not great for singing). But I got my note, breathed in deeply and went for it.

Afterwards everyone was very kind. One lady asked me if the kids on the front row were mine. When I told her that they were she replied that she had guessed as much because they had looked so proud.

And so I guess that is why I did it. To prove that bravery of that sort is for everyone. Even if they are 46. And I hope next time they need to deal with their bowels and thighs and stomachs and breath they might remember their mum singing alone in front of 250 people and decide it is worth the risk.



Things What Make My Life Easier… — October 9, 2016

Things What Make My Life Easier…


This is a piece about first world problems. There is nothing deep and meaningful here. Sorry.

Last week I took delivery of a new dishwasher. Those of you who count yourselves amongst my oldest and most loyal readers will know from a blog entry back in the depths of time (well Summer 2015) that my old dishwasher was, well, pants. If I could be bothered to trawl through my old posts I would give you a link here for those that are keen. Or at least keener than me. But I am not. Bothered that is.

We inherited this dishwasher from the previous owners of the house. Along with dodgy electrics and a leaking downstairs loo. A couple of viewings and a survey are never enough are they? To fully identify all those little ‘quirks’.

Anyhoo it has never worked. Quite how bad it was has only really become apparent since I took delivery of my new dishwasher.

I bought it from a local Euronics dealer which my children call ‘the plug shop’ as it has a giant smiling plug on the roof, which lights up at Christmas and is joined during the festive period by a blow up snowman and Santa. As such I already liked this shop before I even set foot in it. I like shopping local. And independent. And they were happy to provide a man called Steve to fit the dishwasher in for me. There was no way I was going to rock up at some appliance superstore and buy one to fit myself. No siree. We don’t do things like that here. I will plumb in washing machines if I must. But I draw the line at integrated appliances .

It being an independent retailer the brands on offer included some I had never heard of. I was still in mourning for my Miele dishwasher which I left behind at my old house in favour of my current piece of built in crap. But they didn’t sell those. The salesman said he had something almost as good. At around half the price. And it had a cutlery tray. One of those things that makes life easier. Is there anything more horrible than trying to drop food encrusted cutlery handle down into a cutlery basket? Well is there?

I had never heard of the make- Blomberg. I have heard of Bloomberg and was momentarily confused until I spotted the missing ‘o’. The company is apparently German. Always a good start. I know, I know I should buy British. But really one cannot beat a German appliance. Plus it came with a 5 year guarantee as these missing ‘o’ people are so confident in the durability of their product. They haven’t met my kids yet.

We went for it. I balked at waiting 3 weeks for the lovely Steve to be free to fit it. Until husband pointed out that we had been living with ‘top basket falls out when pulled, smells constantly of curry, moves dirt from plates onto glasses, sounds louder than a Jumbo jet’ for over a year. Fair point.

Anyway Steve over delivered and turned up 3 days early. I could have kissed him. But that would have been a bit ’50 Shades’ and also embarrassing if I had to call on that missing ‘o’ 5 year guarantee. I could just imagine all the chaps in the shop laughing over him having to return to ‘so excited about getting a new dishwasher three days early she kissed him’ woman. So I restrained myself.

It was a good idea I did get this lovely chap (and he was quite lovely) to sort the fitting for me as as soon as he tried to remove the old dishwasher things started to get a bit hairy. In such a way as the ‘cupboard’ door it was attached to was ‘not right’. The side panel of the end run of my units was actually glued to the side of the old dishwasher. The cupboard next door was a bit rotten and so had extra longs screws holding on the hinge which would have scratched my new lovely dishwasher and needed replacing. With a bolt. Etc. God I hate this kitchen.

Steve was not happy with the outcome of his fitting. The door levels are uneven. I have no side panel anymore. The kick thingy doesn’t stay on very well. I couldn’t care less. The new dishwasher is awesome. It easily rivals my Miele. It has passed the ‘porridge stuck to bowls left in it all day’ test. It has passed the ‘mashed potato’ test. It has even passed the ‘reheated macaroni cheese dish’ test. My glasses sparkle. It has reduced the amount of hand washing-up exponentially.

It has really made my life easier. And more joyful. I actually look forward to opening up the door, once the little red light projected onto the floor has gone out signalling the end of the (very long) wash cycle, to discover how it has tackled my latest challenge. And, yes, I love that light. It is so cool.

This got me pondering on other things I have discovered that make my life easier, more joyful, better. So here you are. In case you are interested.

  • Baking parchment circles. Before I discovered these little circles of loveliness, and once I had returned them to the store and exchanged the 9 inch ones for 7 inch ones, who said men are the only ones who over estimate size?, cutting out rounds of baking parchment to line cake tins was my least favourite baking step. No more! I merely smear my insides liberally with Stork and pop in one of these beauties and get onto mixing. Genius.
  • Not ironing. Nothing is ironed in this house. Well that is not strictly true. Husband occasionally irons something. I have been known to iron a Beaver Scout necker before life got too hectic to care about the state of one’s scouting children’s neck ware. But generally nothing is ironed. I hate ironing. It hurts my arm. I send out my husband’s shirts to a lady who does like ironing , for cash (my god that makes me sound SOOO middle class, but hey I am so there) and everything else is merely hung up straight from the washing machine to dry. No one ever comments that I or my children look unkempt. Maybe we do but if no one says it what do I care? Life is quite honestly too short.
  • Cutting chicken breasts with scissors- I know it sounds nuts. This was my little brother’s idea passed on to me via my mum. Cutting up chicken breasts, to make a curry or some such delectable dish that at least two of my family will love and two will declare inedible, with a knife is a ball ache. Well not actually, as I don’t possess testes, but you know what I mean. It could have something to do with the sharpness or otherwise of my knives, but even so. Bro suggested using scissors instead. It has revolutionised my life. Again not quite but it certainly makes butchering more bearable.
  • Avoiding moving dust- you can’t see it unless you move it. Or the light is unkind. As it is when it shines on my (annoyingly badly installed) kitchen black granite worktops. But in dimly lit spaces unmoved dust is virtually invisible. Giving me back hours of my life.
  • Delay timed washing machines- I love my Miele washing machine which I consoled myself with when I had to leave my Miele dishwasher behind and my old Bosch died in the move. It has a delay timer. As do a lot of models. And so every morning I wake to a drum full of freshly washed laundry ready for the line. Simples.

So there you have it. Some solutions to my first world problems. Try some if you like. Especially the no ironing one. Go on I dare you. Or at least stop it with the underwear already. OK?




Fiscal Policy — July 22, 2016

Fiscal Policy

piggy bank

So today we hear that the UK Purchasing Managers Index is down to its lowest level in seven years. So no-one is buying stuff. In the aftermath of Brexit. Am I surprised. Nah. The Chancellor is planning ‘something’ in his Autumn Budget statement. When he reviews fiscal policy.

The fiscal policy in our house has also come under scrutiny today. This is how the land lies.

I don’t give my kids pocket money. It is something we have never got round to ‘negotiating’. We provide them with all their needs. And in my opinion their wants are more than catered for. They have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff really. So to my mind they do not need pocket money to spend on sweets or whichever collecting cards are currently in favour. We have many sorts of these cards on bookshelves. Pokemon, YoGhiOh, Match Attacks etc. The get used for a few weeks in the playground and then they lie discarded on surfaces around my house. Causing a dusting hazard.

And anyway every birthday and Christmas they are usually in receipt of a fair amount of cash or vouchers. Party invitees slip tenners in envelopes. Family are generous.  Sometimes vouchers can be problematic but I will redeem them for stores they won’t use at face value. As long as it is a a store I would be buying stuff at in any event.

Youngest has just had her birthday. And is therefore in possession of a lot of cash. She spent some of it on shoes which were over my ‘ceiling price for a piece of footwear for an eight year old’ but still has quite a lot left.

Edlest had his birthday in January. An unfortunate incident with his phone (please see The Cost of Everything, The Value of Nothing if you need a recap) saw his cash stash all but wiped out.

Middlest’s birthday is in a little over a month. He was down to his last fiver.

On our shoe shopping spree a couple of days ago we nipped into a well known toy store for a browse. I had found some old vouchers and the kids wanted to spend them on water guns. Unfortunately the vouchers had gone out of date. So Eldest spent the last of his cash on a water pistol and Middlest spent his last fiver and wrote me an IOU for the remaining £10. It is taped to the fridge.

I considered allowing an IOU reasonable taking into account the short time frame until his birthday money comes in. Eldest asked for the same treatment. Err no I am not waiting until Christmas. Think again matey. He is not a good bet, lending wise. No collateral. My kids really need to learn that I used to bounce cheques and turn down car loans for a living…

Yesterday a series of events which I will not bore you with but which involved Pokémon Go, whining, and multiple warnings, culminated in me threatening to remove Eldest’s phone for a week. He claimed not to have understood the ultimatum. The other two heard it loud and clear though. He ended up phoneless. I don’t go back on my threats. Ever. It. is. Very. Bad. Parenting. To. Go. Back. On. One’s. Threats. If one goes back on one’s threats they then think they have won. I am the alpha here goddamit. It is a position I am keen to maintain at all costs.

He is so bored he has resorted to helping his sister with her colouring in and now fancies one of those adult colouring in books for himself. When I say adult I mean intricate not the other thing. Three pounds was the cheapest he could find. I asked him if he had three pounds with which to buy the book. No. No book then, sonny Jim.

I explained that I was happy for them to earn cash by doing chores. The going rate here is £2 per bathroom clean. It is a job I hate, they do it quite well, at least better than it not being done at all.

The boys hatched a plan to clean all three bathrooms and thereby glean £6. Youngest wasn’t having any of that and pulled rank to be allowed to clean her own en suite. I agreed even though she has no need of the £2. They set to.

The whole process was loud. Middlest donned his old school art apron to tackle their toilet. It is a full body PVC affair. With sleeves. When I asked if it was strictly necessary he reminded me that daddy uses that toilet. Fair enough then.

It took them about an hour. They did an ok job.

I doled out pound coins.

But not to Middlest. I merely reduced his IOU to £6. He wasn’t best pleased. And stormed off.

But fair’s fair. Three more bathrooms and we will be even.

It’s a harsh life lesson. But one I think it important to learn.

House Poetry anyone? — June 17, 2016

House Poetry anyone?


So Eldest is in his first year at Senior School. That is First Form in old money and Year 7 in today’s new-fangled counting system.

The school has a very active House System. There are 6 houses named after Old Boys of the school. Eldest was very happy to be placed in Bell. Not because of the accomplishments of its namesake, of which Eldest can tell me very little, but because their house colour is purple. His favourite. And so his tie has a purple stripe. And if he makes Head of House in Year 12 he will get a blazer with purple trim. This is now his aim. Purely for fashion reasons.

All his form are in Bell. He was elected Year 7 House Captain and gets a , yes you guessed it, purple lapel badge.

There are numerous House Events. The usual sport, music, drama, debating. But also some more unusual ones. So far this year he has been House Ten Pin Bowling, House Water Sporting and other such fun activities. He gets to mix with the older years and generally have a ball.

Bell have been ahead all year. According to Eldest this is very unusual. They have not won for five years at least. I like to think their Year 7s are particularly strong. But I may be biased. At the end of every term the leading house has its house colours suspended from the flag pole. Photos have been acquired.

So over all we are fans of the House system. And then Eldest came home with an instruction to write an entry for House Poetry. He wasn’t best pleased. The poem had to start with one of three Shakespearean lines. And had to be between 12 and 30 lines long. He stormed and riled against it. It hung over us all through half term. And then on the last day he dashed off the poem below. I think it is quite good for a 12 year old. Again biased.

I had written one for him to ‘pretend’ with in a worst case scenario. But his is better to my mind.

So there you are. Sometimes it is good to be forced to do things that one finds difficult. You might just surprise yourself.

By Eldest

When I consider everything that grows

I think of the smallest of creatures to the largest

I think of the loudest to the quietest

The predator to the prey

The oldest to the young


The different places with life

Africa to Antarctica

The varieties of animals

The difference in types

Prehistoric to the modern day


When I think of life

I think of myself

How I have grown up

Mentally and physically

All the memories I have embraced.



Just a Quickie… — March 10, 2016

Just a Quickie…


So Eldest is revising for his next science test. On reproduction.

The topic started off quite benignly with pollen and wind assisted fertilisation and stamen. There were pretty pictures and bee attracting strategies.

The life cycle of a frog was mentioned at dinner one night.

And then things went quiet. I think they had started on human reproduction. Not something Eldest cares to discuss over meatballs. And who can blame him.

So tonight I was helping him fill in his key word sheet. They have one for each topic and it helps revision. This one didn’t hold any punches.

We meandered through the gamut of sexual organs, menstruation, hormones, birth, placentas and such.

I corrected some misapprehensions. For instance that the cervix is the gap between the vagina and the anus.

That in-vitro fertilisation is ‘how frogs do it’.

That the process of labour is like having leg cramp in a ‘delicate’ area. Well his teacher is male and I guess this is the nearest men can get to understanding it.

That Urethra Franklin was not a soul singer. OK I made that one up. Because I can. Ha ha.

But overall I was quite impressed with his knowledge and lack of tittering. Although it wasn’t completely absent. The tittering that is.

There is a diagram of the female reproductive system hastily drawn by me on the dining table. Without an anus. But with a cervix. To clarify it is on a piece of paper on the dining table in case you were worried.

And my son now understands that his parents had sex at least three times. He is grossed out.

Ha ha-er.





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