Sunday, 31 December 2006


Well quite a bit has happened over the last few days.

I've taken advantage of an old man's generosity.

I, together with my husband, have been completely forgetful and chosen to blame my husband entirely.

And I discovered my brother wants to move house. He's found a house he wants and has put in an offer which has been accepted and all he needs to do is sell the house he owns currently. And that's what is a bit strange for me.

Ian and his family live in the home in which I grew up. I know they've redecorated, extended and improved the place a million percent but it will be strange to say goodbye. Dad sold it to Ian for a bargain price after Dad remarried at the age of 69 (six months after Mum died - long sad story).

I moved into the house in the early seventies and remember things like the veggie plot at the bottom of the garden, long since gone. It wasn't very well tended but nonetheless provided blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, tomatoes and runner beans.

There was badminton and boules on the back lawn, Angus the Skye terrier who lived in the back garden, the rabbits: Cheeky and Rambo and the guinea pig Peanuts (known affectionately as Neaputs), the Puffin dinghy that was hardly used and was suspended from the garage ceiling, the Mirror dinghy that had a home at the side of the house and so on and so on. More memories than I could ever write down but I guess you'd expect that for 12 years.

There's my old bedroom where, if I sat on the windowsill, I could just see the Blackwell's house and I used to imagine that Ian Blackwell might have the room that faced our house.

But all these memories won't be sold with the house. I'll keep them.

And I'd like to provide a decent link so you can view the property details but the estate agent isn't that obliging. The house is in Abbotskerswell and is being sold by Woods in Newton Abbot:
Woods website. 4 bed detached and yours for just £345,000. My Mum and Dad paid £16,000.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

To bra or not to bra

Did I tell you about the dinner thing I went to with the bra incident? It's just that I was having a conversation with someone today about going commando and this came to mind.

Now this wasn't an evening when I was commando, just so that we have context correct right at the start.

But I was wearing nice evening dress and before I went downstairs (dinner was in the hotel we were staying in) I had a dilemma: to bra or not to bra?

Now I don't like the visible bra look. It works for some people, but I don't like it on me. Well under this particular dress, if I was standing up and the dress was sitting properly on me, the bra didn't show so I opted for bra.

During the starter I kept looking down and seeing the bra. I was becoming paranoid about the bra. It was time to do something about it.

I told Dave what I was going to do. I planned to nip back to our room, remove bra and nip back down. If I was quick I could be back in time for the main course. I don't quite know why it was important for me to be super quick but I guess I didn't want to have to explain my absence.

Our room was on the 9th floor. I got out to the lifts and once in the lift on my own, I thought I'd multi task. I thought I could remove the offending item (bra) and travel in lift at the same time. There was a part of me that thought "what if someone wants to get in on the 4th floor?" but I took the risk.

Well every girl knows how to remove a bra without removing any other clothes. So I started to, and then the hooks at the back of the bra got caught on the dress and I couldn't remove the bra. The ninth floor was quickly approaching. I knew the doors would open at the ninth floor and I was wrestling with a bra and a dress.

Just before the doors opened I shoved the bra down inside the dress. I rushed to our room, unhooked bra, made myself presentable again and rushed back to the lift. I thought that I needed to show some change to explain my absence so I thought I'd reapply lipstick in the lift on the way down.

So in lift on way down I'm applying lippy thinking it wouldn't be ideal if the lift doors opened on floor four.

So having gone through this trauma, I appear back at the table (a little less supported maybe) looking unruffled.

I explain to Dave in a whisper about my escapade and his response "You're such a chav."

Monday, 25 December 2006

The true meaning of Christmas

Not only will I survive, I did survive Christmas lunch and even more amazingly Christmas lunch was delivered, to plan, at one o'clock..

I was going to take you through the whole pretentious menu derived from hours of recipe book research but I won't bore you with gory details.

Anyhow we were trying to get the kids to take a post lunch nap, something to which they were very resistant, and it was all I could do to stop myself from collapsing into bed myself. Well actually I did. Ethan and Hannah got out of bed and kept coming back in to see me in Ethan's bed, saying "night night Mummy." I was found out by Dave who wondered why he could still hear children and why I hadn't appeared back downstairs. He went upstairs to investigate and found me in a semi stupor and the kids running riot.

I think that's what Christmas is all about – torpor: the state that one falls into when one is overfed, over-boozed and overindulged in everything.

So never mind the 'true meaning of Christmas'. I think it's a time for the body to have an excuse to shutdown.

Except I wasn't allowed this afternoon, but I bet I sleep well tonight.

Merry Christmas everyone. Ho ho ho.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Domestic goddess

There is something satisfying about properly cooked food.

I often make stuff from scratch but it's usually throwing things together. For Christmas I've been trying a little harder and I've been using recipes:

­ - Cranberry sauce – how easy is that!
­ - Bread sauce – ditto
­ - Austrian red cabbage – bit of a strange concept but very festive, very easy and yummy.
­ - Mega uber chocolate torte thing – joint effort between hubby and me but again, easy peasy.
­ - Lamb shank thing currently getting yummier by the minute in the fridge ready for tomorrow, very easy so far.

I could almost become a domestic goddess without the keeping the place clean and tidy bit and without the goddess bit. I could definitely quit work but would still need some kiddie free time (just for sanity).

Friday, 22 December 2006

Barking Bonkers

Well I've done it. I've been thinking about it for a while. Last time I did it was when we were living in the States. Money wasn't a problem then. Money isn't really a problem now. I think having one of those damn offset mortgages just makes you think twice before splashing out.

So I've splashed a wad on annual gym membership and persuaded Mel to do the same. It pays for itself if we go about one and a half times a week unless you consider the time value of money in which case we'd have to go a bit more frequently. I failed accountancy courses so I won't be considering the time value of money.

So we're signed up to Grottsville gym. It is very skanky but it's cheap – although not as good value as some other gyms (Nick – yours is better value).

And we've only signed up for the gym. All other stuff - pool, squash (as if – I looked like a beetroot after my one and only squash game when I was 17), tennis, football, trampolining, etc – is extra.

And they had the nerve to tell me I got a free gift, a rucksack nonetheless. I am thinking of involving Trading Standards. Since when does a gym bag or gym sack (terminology acquired from Argos website) constitute a rucksack? This insult they've given me has no substance and is not a rucksack.

Rucksack : noun a bag with two shoulder straps which allow it to be carried on the back, used by hikers

This thing has string not straps and would not be used by quality hikers. It's the kind of bag into which a small child would put plimsolls (do small children still have plimsolls?)

Do you think I have a case or am I, to quote my son, "barking bonkers?"

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Dear Santa

I'm a bit late with my letter to Santa, but thought you'd like to see a copy.

Dear Santa,

I've been a good mum all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the utility room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my Christmas wishes:

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze; but are strong enough to pull my screaming child away from the chocolate, crisps and cake aisles of Sainsburys.

I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music; a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals; and a refrigerator with a secret compartment where I can hide to talk or text on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mummy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Don't hit your sister," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the cat.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being reheated in the microwave eight times.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season.

Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely.

It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the tumble dryer has finished and my son saw my feet under the utility room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold. Help yourself to mince pies and beer on the table but don't eat or drink too much or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always,


P.S. The next time you want a kiss under the mistletoe, please make sure the kids can't see us.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Last day

Last day at work before Christmas.

Kevin's last day in the department.

Last day for Hannah and Ethan at Nursery before Christmas.

Last day ever for Hannah at Nursery. I did cry and I don't think it was because I'd just had my appraisal at work before doing the school run although that may have been a contributing factor.

Hannah has gone to the Phoenix Day Nursery from the age of 6 months. Mondays to Wednesdays and a brief spell of Thursdays as well. That's 4 years of her little life.

Now if I leave a job after a couple of years I get all emotional about leaving people. For me, it's always about leaving the people, never about leaving the job. Naturally being a hard nosed business woman (as if!) I don't show these emotions because that would be viewed as weakness. Actually it's just I'm just not prone to tears very often.

Today Hannah knew it was her last day but it didn't phase her one bit. She was happy and carefree and not in the slightest bit upset.

I just remembered all of the things she's done, all of the wonderful staff she's been lucky to have and all the love they've given her. They have loved her so much and it seems to me so sad that in 15 years time she probably will have vague memories about this time, and won't really recollect whether they were good or bad times.

It also dawned on me that I won't have my little girl at home with me on Thursdays and Fridays anymore. My little girl will be at school and I want to wind the clock back and make better use of the time we had. I want to take back all the times I was in a hurry and raising my voice (OK yelling) to make people get ready more quickly. I want to take back all the times when I was too busy to play. I just don't want my little girl to grow up.

I know she has to move on and develop but there will be a day when she doesn't need me and that just upsets me. Other parts of her life will become more important, and mummy will become less important.

Of course, there is a solution - have another baby. But that would lead to insanity (me, not kids) and who'd look after the children then?

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Non work related stress

I'm losing what little organisational skills I had.

It's Hannah's last ever day at Nursery tomorrow. I have known about this for a while, probably six months. And for four years I've known there will be a last day.

So given it's a known you'd think I'd plan for it and I sort of have. There's a card and something for all the staff to share. There's a gift for her 'teacher' and there are the obligatory treats for the kiddiwinks in her class.

So far so good.

But it's also her last day at school before Christmas and I have noticed the other mums with gift bags at the school gate. Now I have thought about this, and I did have ideas – I just didn't get around to sorting anything out.

Well we have sorted Christmas cards and we've struggled to get Hannah writing about 35 cards for her friends and teachers – she's only four years old and we didn't bribe her with sweets, unlike some other mums I could mention.

But the gift thing never happened. So I'm now thinking, what have we got in the house that will do. And the only thing I can think of is booze. She has two teachers and a teaching assistant – a bottle of wine each? And I don't have any gift bags, is wrapping paper OK?

And then there's the lollipop lady. Now she deserves something because it's a shitty job. She has to be there in all weathers and on Friday I heard some obnoxious teenagers giving her abuse. It took me a while to realise what was happening and I didn't have time to do anything. If I see that happening again I'm going to give the kids a piece of my mind, and my kids will tell you that when mummy is mad, steer clear! So bottle of wine for her too? Where is she going to store it while she's in the middle of the road? And if she leaves it on the pavement will the nasty kids steal it?

And then, there's the after school club which, to be fair, I hadn't even considered. And there are so many members of staff and I don't know all of their names, I don't know what to do.

And I need to sort this out tonight, before I go to bed.

Monday, 18 December 2006


Today my blog was accused of being boring. Sorry, but if it's so damn boring, why are you here?

OK the criticism was actually "You say lots and bare your soul about everyday stuff but not sure you give away much else" (Thanks Denis) which I took as condemnation.

So here's your opportunity to tell me what you want to hear about. If I hear nothing I shall continue along the 'merry ramblings of a slightly unhinged mother, wife, friend, employee' line. If you give me constructive feedback that I can act on, I will (you can tell it's appraisal season at work can't you.)

Oh, one last thing. This blog is for my benefit too. It's cheaper than therapy. So all proposals will be reviewed with this in mind.

Sunday, 17 December 2006


I've just entered into a new relationship.

It was love at first sight but the love didn't last. Frustration turned the love sour.

Patience was the answer and, with time and understanding, the romance is back on track.

So after the initial hiccough or two the relationship is in its first flush, the time when everything is rosy and the focus of my attention can do no wrong.

It's taking me a while to become used to foibles and idiosyncrasies but I love my new phone.

It took a while to become accustomed to its menus but we're an item now.

We're still learning about one another, discovering unexplored depths (the two cameras), encountering the inevitable character flaws (too few menu shortcuts), but I think we're headed for success.

It's only been a few days now but at the moment 'it's all good'.

Saturday, 16 December 2006


Hannah told me that there's more than one Santa.

I asked her what made her think that. "Well they've got different voices." she said.

She's seen a few already this year. There's the one at the party we had with friends (Kirsty's dad), there's the one at the school party (I'd really like to think this was Father Bob because he's got a white beard and the last thing I imagine he'd be comfortable doing is pretending to be Santa), and there's the one at the Nursery party (someone's uncle).

I tried to suggest that they might be Santa's helpers but the fact that they all had beards was her logical argument against this. I tried to suggest that having a beard might be a pre-requisite for the job of helper but she remains unconvinced. Her explanation is that there's more than one Santa, and that's that.

I'm not quite sure what to do. The myth must be easier to prolong if the belief is that there's only one. Maybe remaining vague about it is the best policy.

Strange that I'm more enthusiastic about retaining faith in Santa than in God, or maybe not that strange.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Messy hair

I might have been a little bit drunk last night.

Drinking started at 12:00, although Kevin, Dirk and Vish got a head start by starting at 10:00.

Drinking finished about 10 hours later.

I enjoyed the company. I'm grateful for the lift home. I need lots more sleep, paracetamol and water (not necessarily in that order).

Oh, and I think I was accused as person behind five secret Santa gifts.

Head's been a bit furry and fuzzy all day.

Oh, and apparently my hair looks good messy.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Away in a Manger

I went to see Hannah's Nativity play yesterday. And it was sweet, and endearing, and I almost had a tear or two.

But it's not like it is on the telly.

Is that a cruel thing to say?

The kids were normal. And the costumes were home grown in a sort of very home-grown way. And the grown-ups were crammed into a classroom, most insisting on standing rather than sit on the seats because if they sat down they wouldn't be able to see their little darlings. And the room was full of the clicks, whirs and beeps of digital cameras and video cameras. And the singing wasn't in tune. And the kids didn't always remember their words or actions. And the coffee afterwards was instant coffee. And the mince pies were tiny. And I ended up talking to Father Matthew. And the room was so hot I nearly fainted (slight exaggeration – I have never fainted.) And the damn teacher is too pretty and too young. Actually she is perhaps the only thing that could have lived in Tellyland. And Father Bob was complaining he has to sit through 17 of these plays and by the end he's sick to death of Away in a Manger.

[Talking to Father Matthew got a bit sticky when discussing the church car park lack of capacity on a Sunday morning as it's not something I know a lot about, oops. But actually, as vicars go (am I'm not saying I know whether this one does go or doesn't), he was OK company.]

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

I never knew that

There are lots of things I don't know. I used to know everything when I was a teenager, but I digress.

I went to the gym today a lot earlier than I normally do and the choice on the tellies in front of the treadmills/crosstrainers was a bit different.

Instead of the diet of soap I was treated to children's TV.

Now, people of a certain age will remember Tony Hart and Vision On. Well there was a programme on tonight called Smart but it should have been called Vision On. The show was all about art and they had a gallery, and when they turned to the gallery they played the Vision On music and the icing on the cake was a Morph short.

I never knew that.

There's something satisfying about the knowledge that the TV that was good enough for you as a child, is still good enough for today's kids.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Shopping, then more shopping, then more...

Had a day off today. So after a morning in the office....

After the school run at lunchtime is when my day off really kicked in.

And something weird has happened. It used to be that weekends in the run up to Christmas were murder and Christmas eve a disaster.

I remember a Christmas eve in Devon which was a nightmare. I'd taken my dad's bright orange Mark II Escort into Newton Abbot for some last minute present buying and the traffic was horrendous. The car didn't fare too well and the rad decided to pop a leak in the car park. I don't know quite how I had the presence of mind to deal with this given the panicked state I was in, but I do remember going to Halfords and buying something called Radweld or similar, and a bottle of water or two, which gummed things up for the traffic jam and journey home.
Anyway nowadays it's the evenings that are to be avoided.

I went to Lakeside this afternoon and planned to get home to help Dave with the kid's bathtime. Shopping wasn't overly productive but I did make a dent in the Christmas list and I spent a lot of time checking out the merchandise for future trips out. As I left, traffic was at a standstill in every direction. I tried to fight my way out but then Mel phoned and persuaded me to return to the shopping fray.

So whilst waiting for her to join me I dipped into Ikea. Bought a load of things I didn't need but that will brighten the house over Christmas. Grabbed a hotdog, and I later confided in Mel that there's something very satisfying about junk food. Then it was over to Costco.

We shared a trolley and joked with some staff on the way in that we call it the £100 shop because even if you need nothing you spend £100. They replied that it was now the £200 shop. How we laughed, until at the checkout we realised "many a true word..."

So lots of cash later....we left. I mainly bought booze. Mel mainly bought booze. Mel was buying it for other people. I wasn't.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

100% cotton

This is how I spent my morning. Photo courtesy of husband.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

And then there's Ethan

Did I mention Ethan has 'teachers' at Nursery too?

Joys of...

This is taken directly from the e-mail of a friend because I know exactly how she feels:

"So, this was my morning - went into town, which is just a huge hassle in itself as I have to get 2 kids dressed in millions of clothes. Got into town, Isabel was unhappy in her pushchair so stopped off in Cafe Nero to feed her, this was all fine - but then Isabel was tired so she cried everytime I stopped, to get milk, cards, etc, etc - lots of 'friendly' old ladies going 'oh, someone isn't happy' - FUCK OFF, she's just tired!!

Went to Sainsburys, bought shopping, left Sainsburys and oh joy, it started raining, didn't have rain cover so got soaked walking up HUGE hill, during walk James dropped his snacks on the floor so was whnining all the way home.

Got home, Isabel woke up so started crying, got pushchair in door, got James out and he fell over - so, Isabel crying, James on floor crying and I needed a wee, so left them both to pee!!

Unpacked shopping and found out............... I hadn't paid for my pasta sauce! I'd put in it the top of the pushchair and not taken it out! So, am now a thief. Fantastic!"

Motherhood is wonderful. Don't let us put you off.

Friday, 8 December 2006

The "do me" button

Do you ever surf for one thing and get sidetracked? Well I'm sure you do, that's why the internet is so addictive.

Well the other night I was looking for NLP, or Neuro Linguistic Programming. Why was I looking for it? Well someone mentioned it earlier in the day and I'd heard about it before but still didn't know enough to talk knowledgably. Well I still don't because I got sidetracked.

My Google use is aberrant. I often click to 59th page of results or another random page. It's a mild user led revolt against the way that Google serves up results. I saw a presentation by Google and they said 98% of people don't click beyond the first 3 pages of results. They thought my usage pattern was most strange, as did everyone else in the room.

So whilst clicking onto page 73 of results I happened across the weirdest weirdo site ever. Someone who claimed to be an ugly, misshapen man, or similar, was flogging an NLP technique that guaranteed men success with women.

From memory, the site was just one page, but it was a very long page. I never made it to the bottom of the page.

The stuff I did read was bizarre. This guy reckoned he'd developed this technique that enabled the ugliest, unluckiest men to sleep with the most attractive and gorgeous women. He used NLP to unlock a woman's "do me" button.

I'm not kidding. This guy reckoned he'd unlocked a woman's "do me" button in just 16 minutes and that he had consistent and regular sex with women that he acquired via this technique. The worrying aspect (well OK the whole site was worrying) of the site was that the author claimed to use hypnosis before he found this technique.

At this point there's a part of me that's thinking "OK, I don't want to know about NLP – it's something for freaks" but another part of me is thinking "I'm curious. This sounds like a technique that could be put to a host of uses…"

The first part of me won which is why I still know nothing. And if you don't believe me, this site exists: .

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Who needs Trinny and the other one?

I was caught unawares today. I went out with kiddiwinks dressed in winter garb: coats but not waterproofs. On the way back home the heavens opened and we faced driving rain mixed with sleet and a vicious, cold, biting, wind.

We got soaked. Kids at least had hoods on their coats but I was less protected.

So I was a drowned rat, as were children. It was clothes off and central heating on when we got in followed by nice hot lunch.

I didn't have time, or the inclination, to fix my hair, which had become unfixed by the weather. I looked like a bedraggled and unkempt mess. Still I was only doing the school run and catching up with good friends.

I'm not a competitive school run mum. I don't make sure my make up is immaculate and my clothing just perfect. I wear what I wear and make up is merely a factor of whether I could be bothered. Manicures and pedicures are nice to haves but frankly I don't have the time. Facials would be great but I think my skin is beyond saving.

And good friends accept you as you are. They don't judge you because of your appearance.

So it was a surprise when Lou and Janet said "I like your hair" and they weren't joking. They liked the waves rather than the straightened hair they normally see.

To my mind my hair just looks messy today. But if it's an improvement then maybe I should just go with it. I'm just not sure how to recreate the look. I'm not going to find a hailstorm every morning.

So if you see me with messy hair – you'll know why. It's a new look I'm trying out.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

How very dare they?

I was the first to reject the concept of the "Fast track" checkout. You know the ones. You scan all of your shopping as you put it in the trolley with some kind of gun thing. You take everything to the checkout and pay for your goods once they've downloaded the information about what's in your trolley.

I thought it was an outrageous attempt to reduce staff numbers so, since the introduction of Fast track, I have refused to sign up.

I've ignored the fact that the fast trackers have zero queues and I've stuck with plain, relatively old fashioned, checkouts.

Well this evening I came across the next level. I read about this in someone else's blog but I didn't quite believe it.

Customers take their items to a checkout. The shopper has to scan them and pack them and all the while there's an annoying computer generated voice giving you inane instructions.

And then the customer has to pay, a machine, either inserting card or cash. And the machine spits out the card, or change, and a receipt.

How dare they get rid of people? It's not like these people were working in a soulless manufacturing environment in isolation, they were in a social job, helping people.

Anyway – I won't be shopping there anymore.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

I'm a nutter, what are you?

I had a really nice day today .. and I was at work too.I know I've been whinging about workload and stress and I do have too many bloody things that need doing before year end and no days in the office in which to do them. I think a lot of the guys in the team suffer the same stresses and I think boss man realises that so he sorted a time out day.

We went away from the office, discussed the good things we'd achieved in 2006 and discussed some of the challenges facing us for 2007. When we discuss things as a team it isn't one way, it's a free for all and it's a nice relaxed environment where everyone feels they can contribute.

After all of the business stuff we went through a process of trying to put ourselves in boxes. Not literally you understand, although that could probably be found on some team building management course somewhere. And actually depending on how many people and how big the box it could be fun, but I digress. We all did a personality test. The thinking was it would help to understand the working personality styles of our colleagues.

I don't think any of us were particularly surprised by our results. We're all fairly mature if not in age, then in outlook. For some of us we're mature in age but not in outlook, for others it's the other way around. The test we did was Belbin. I couldn't find the test accessible online because the originators want to make money from their idea but it's just like most other tests. You complete a whole bunch of questions and, with a bit of magic jiggery pokery, you are presented with results that tell you what you already know.

So I know what I am, here are the categories: Take a guess. What do you think I am?

So after we'd had an interesting time naval gazing, we headed for the pub. Now, quite often I agree with Karen, pubs are stinky places with nowhere to sit and where, when crowded, you can't hear a thing. Well we didn't pick the best pub, but we had seats and it wasn't too noisy. And actually I can usually put up with the environment if the company is right. And it was right. Good conversation and a great mood. Shame my evil husband made me leave before I wanted to.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Pants on fire!

When was the last time you told a lie?

I don't consider myself a compulsive liar but I do lie quite a lot. I don't lie about big things, so there's no fraud involved or criminal activity. It's the small things that lead me astray.


"Nice coat Ann." Would provoke "Oh, this old thing, I've had it ages" or "Oh, this….yes, it was a bargain in the sales." When in fact it cost a fortune and I bought it last week. Actually that's a bad example because I have had my coat ages and it was a bargain in the sales but you don't expect me to own up to the real lies do you. What would be the point in the initial deception?

Another, although this may be closer to the truth:

"Dave, I'm off to Bluewater to do some Christmas shopping." When in fact I am doing some Christmas shopping but I'm indulging in other activity too. I mean if you're in Bluewater walking past all of these lovely shops it's really tough to keep to just Christmas shopping. I'm telling you this because I think Dave secretly knows the truth.

Having started this with the intention of providing a whole host of examples, I now find myself reticent, unwillingly to bare my dishonesty.

I want to tell you the classic "Your hair really suits you like that" which is said to the insecure person asking for a second opinion. Now if someone is insecure I believe they need a confidence boost, so of course I'll tell them it looks great. (Karen – your hair does look great and you're not lacking in self confidence.) You see this can all get a bit tricky, because a lie used for one person isn't always appropriate for another.

So any liars out there or is it just me?

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Things happen for a reason

We are cursed. Weekends away sans enfants are clearly not meant to be.

We missed our train. How dumb and unlucky is that?

The trip to station should only have taken an hour so we allowed a buffer of an additional half hour plus the buffer of check-in time, another 30mins.

We were delayed by exactly an hour, meaning we arrived just as the train was departing. Only a four hour wait for the next one….great! (Well it sort of was great really – more later.)

Finally we're on the Eurostar and it's delayed. When we make it to Brussels station we find it's a bit of a mess but we just made it to the next train to Bruges, despite the fact that there were no signs indicating what trains were leaving from which platform.

On the return journey everything seems to be going well. We've decided we have the time so we'll have a pleasant walk to the station rather than catch a cab. That way we get to see parts of the city we didn't see during our stay.

This strategy was fine until we were hit by the gusts of wind and driving rain which seemed to have come from nowhere.

So, a little bit soggy, we get to Brussels station and we catch the Eurostar train in good time. The rain earlier wasn't enough though. When we arrive in Lille there's an announcement "We apologise but the train is broken and we need to mend it."

A little later came "We apologise but the train is broken and we are trying to find a different one."

And then there was "Could you please get off the train and wait, and when we find a replacement train, please get on it and sit in the same seats."

So after an hour of hanging around we swapped trains with the people on the next platform. I didn't quite understand what made our train OK for them but not for us. Someone had heard that our train was OK, it just couldn't go through tunnels. What, it was scared? It's headlamps didn't work? It had a claustrophobia?

Anyway, although I'm not sure I believe in fate, it could be that things happened for a reason. It could be someone telling us not to go away without the children or it could be that other opportunities present themselves.

You see in the four hours we had to kill while waiting for our train out, we went shopping. It was the first time I'd been to the Ashford designer outlet shopping centre. And I found, and had to buy, some gorgeous leather boots and they were such a bargain.

I think Dave was less impressed at starting our romantic break with shopping for boots (although they are very sexy boots…)

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Any ideas

So does anyone have any ideas for 11th Anniversary, steel, presents?

Some ideas provided so far: Champagne, BBQ tool set, Watch, Toaster

Things I've bought so far: ....

I'm hoping we see something this weekend. If we don't he'll have to do without.

Normally we're both bad at remembering our anniversary but because we're going away it's difficult to forget, no matter how hard we try.

So any great ideas - let me know smart-ish.

I did think about buying and wearing a bow and saying he could have my heart because it was made of steel, but that didn't seem very anniversary-ish.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Second chance

I'm going away this weekend. It's always reassuring when you can find the hotel you've booked in a guide book.

I've bought two guide books. I'm not reassured.

A friend has recommended a restaurant. That isn't in the guide books either.

We're going away because it's our wedding anniversary – 11 years of suffering (his not mine). I don't want you getting the idea that we're a romantic couple who use any excuse to go away for the weekend.

I think that last year was the first time we went away for our anniversary. We felt after 10 years we'd earned it, plus Dave's parents offered to look after the children.

Last year the venue was Lille, which I can thoroughly recommend, especially near Christmas. We booked a fabulous hotel and had a great time until we got the telephone call from Dave's Mum telling us that Ethan was being admitted to A&E. This isn't the greatest thing to happen during a romantic weekend away. Needless to say we were on the first train back and, instead of a 4 star hotel; I spent the night on a camp bed next to Ethan in a hospital. He was fine the next morning, almost entirely recovered from his nasty chest infection.

So this year, Dave's parents asked if we wanted another chance, not necessarily in Lille, but the chance to go away somewhere. Given our form I didn't think Dave would be interested, but he was. So we're going away this weekend with two guide books that don't even mention our hotel. At least last year our hotel was in the book.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006


I am an idiot.

We had our second monthly marketing meeting of the year yesterday. Monthly is clearly a misnomer, biannual would be more appropriate.

One of the agenda items covered was Pulse. Allow me to explain for the uninitiated. Pulse is an employee survey conducted annually to test the mood of the workers.

Anyway, boss's boss explained some of the results by way of graph comparisons but made it clear he wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the reasons behind some of the scores. He recognised people may not want to open up in such a public forum and said he'd like to hear from just one or two people.

This is when I opened by big mouth (readers who know me will recognise my inability to shut up).

I suggested it might be helpful if we met in our work groups and then provided feedback on a one to one basis.

This morning following our team meeting we met, discussed what our input should be and decided on the person pulling together the presentation and presenting it. Guess who?

What a muppet. I have been bitching and moaning about workload, e-mail overload, inability to cope, losing control, losing the plot etc. And because it was my bloody stupid idea, I get the task.

So on Monday, which for the record is a vacation day for me, I have scheduled a meeting with the boss's boss to provide some upward feedback. Because I am stressed, overloaded etc, the only day I can make this fit, is a vacation day.

Idiot, idiot, idiot!

Monday, 27 November 2006

Catch up

Caught up with the girls tonight. I know a school night - what were we thinking. Well we don't need booze (although there was a bit) and we don't need a late night (I was home by 10:30) but we do need somewhere to chat.

The stories we share always amaze me and make me laugh.

Tonight my favourite was the grandad who fakes dying for attention.

Aimi's grandad live's with her mum in a granny flat, or perhaps it should be called a grandad flat. Anyway he's 90 and exceptionally bright, lucid, with it. His weekly shopping frequently includes items like mussels and champagne, far more sophisticated than my shopping.

Anyway at home he wears an alerter so that should he be taken ill and be unable to dial 999, all he has to do is push a button.

In the summer Aimi's mum nipped to the local shop and while she was out grandad pressed the alerter. Aimi got a call saying "Your grandad's been taken ill." To which she responded "He can't have been - I've just seen my mum go past our house to the shops." So, convinced that all was not well, Aimi dashed out of her house in pyjamas, to her mum's house to find grandad complaining he was unwell and had trouble breathing. Aimi phoned for an ambulance.

Well by the time the ambulance staff had finished discovering that nothing was wrong, one of the crew fetched a Guinness from the fridge for Grandad.

This wasn't the first, or last, time Grandad faked it. Apparently just recently he faked it again.

This time Aimi and her mum rolled their eyes and said "Grandad, you're not having an ambulance." Eventually they wondered whether he wasn't faking it and they called an ambulance and Grandad was taken to hospital at 11pm.

Aimi's Dad missed a flight to Dublin in the morning after a night on a plastic hospital chair by Grandad's bedside.

At 6am Grandad was seen by doctors who could find nothing wrong and packed him off home.
Aimi's sister called at lunchtime to see how he was and he said "On your way over, could you pick up a cod and chips from the chippy."

Aimi called round in the evening and said "Grandad, if you want a night out, just ask us. You don't have to call 999."

Sunday, 26 November 2006


I'm not proud to admit that I had a bit of a 'gover this morning.

Champagne, wine, Drambuie, G&T does not a happy head make.

Consequently I've been a bit slow today.

Was annoyed this morning to notice that in our hotel room the sink was blocked. I'd noticed it was slow draining last night but at 1:00am, full of booze, the last thing I wanted to do was wait for hotel maintenance.

I didn't understand why it had gone from draining slowly to blocked during the night. Mentally I was drafting my letter of complaint.

After I told Dave, we decided we'd ask the hotel to fix it while we had breakfast. Then I realised the soap for the basin was missing and I put two and two together. Sure enough the soap was covering the plughole. Mentally I screwed up my letter of complaint into a tiny ball and threw it away.

Friday, 24 November 2006

A child's view

As I'm going through the appraisal process at work I wondered if some of the principles could be applied at home.

So this morning I asked Hannah for some 360 degree feedback.
I asked her for three things I don't do very well and need to improve and three things I do well. This is what she said.

"You're not very good at tidying up." Too true.

"Daddy needs to be better at not giving me too much food."

"The floor cleaning - look there are two dirty bits." OK, she's right again.

I asked her what I was good at. She said "Everything, apart from the tidying and the floor cleaning."

I love my daughter.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Not again

I hate having to do my own appraisal. It's past 11:00pm and I'm failing dismally to conjure the words for a third "key strength" and any "areas for improvement."

There are a gazillion areas for improvement but the secret is to find the biggest.

I have such crappy take home pay after childcare and tax, any pay increase is almost irrelevant. What I mean is that to have a significant impact on my take home pay, any pay rise would have to be huge in percentage terms.

Can't see it, can you? When Union agreement for salaried staff is 4.25%, that'll likely be the average for us. A few percentage points either way isn't a fortune (but is better than average of 1.something% last year).

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

How not to....

How not to do corporate travel.

Firstly, and one of the more important elements of the today, was the departure form the house at 5:45am. This is not something I recommend.

Karen had to leave the house 30 mins before that to get to my house and we agree that this is not a good thing to do to the body.

Whenever an alarm has to be set earlier than the norm, particularly if there's a deadline driving the alarm call, the body goes into panic mode. Karen and I agreed that neither of us had got anything like a decent night's sleep because our minds were worrying about missing the alarm.

So, bleary eyed, I opened the door to Karen and she transferred to my car and I drove to Southend to catch a flight to Cologne.

At this point I should probably own up to getting lost, despite handy map, and driving around the Aviation Business Park for about 10 minutes before figuring out that it didn't contain an airport.

Eventually once Karen and I had put our blonde heads together we found the airport and then we panicked because we were still waitlisted for the flight. Then, when I got called to check-in and Karen didn't, we started to hatch a plan for just in case she didn't get on the flight. She could get a lift back to Dunton, Dave could give Karen a lift back to our house (via nursery and after school club to pick up the kids) so Karen could pick her car up.

Fortunately we didn't need to worry. Karen and I boarded the plane and were able to sit next to one another and we settled down for a chat, as girls do. Along came Mr Somebody who did that thing when people get on planes and they think you're in their seat. He hovered, and looked at us, then looked at his boarding pass stub, then looked at us again until it became embarrassing and I had to say "oh, is it assigned seating?" Turns out I was in his seat. As if it mattered. Karen whispered "shall I ask him to swap?" I didn't think he was the type, so we left it.

We got the coach from Koln airport and arrived at our destination. Denis had warned me we might face a 10 min walk to the offices we were visiting. We soon realised we needed to get visitors badges. So we filled in a form with name, address, passport number – I kid you not. And then they wanted another form for the laptop. I was starting to get annoyed. I don't do bureaucracy very well.

The woman behind the security desk asked us where we were going and laughed when we told her – not an auspicious start. She then said she'd call for a shuttle bus. All of this made sense as Denis had said it was a walk away, so we sat and waited, and waited, and waited for about 30 minutes.

This made us late for our meeting and I hate being late for anything. Not a good start.

Lunch was followed by one meeting, then another, then a sort of free for all exchange.

It was a good day for meeting people. There are loads of people in the Cologne offices that I talk to, e-mail or have heard about and it's always very helpful to put a face to the name. We haven't got webcams at work but I wonder whether webcams would give the same benefit as a face to face meeting. I know communication is 90% non verbal but I get the feeling that a fuzzy image of a face doesn't really count.

There was only one thing about the return journey that stood out as unusual, and exceptionally unpleasant.

The stench of sweaty men as we got onto the plane was vile. I should point out that of the 86 seats available only about 6 were occupied by women.

Fortunately by the time food was on offer the smell had subsided, presumably on account of arms not being raised putting things into overhead lockers.

I think there's clearly a good case for the return of smelling salts.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Riding the rollercoaster

Motherhood has its ups and downs.

Not so long ago Hannah was going to be Mary in the school nativity. That was an up.

Today Hannah advises she's not going to be Mary anymore. That's a down.

I know that it shouldn't matter to me, and I haven't made a big fuss about the change, but I did ask "Why's that then?"

Hannah tells me she didn't want to be Mary anymore and it seems her accommodating teacher has acceded to Hannah's wishes.

It transpires that Hannah was required to look surprised as part of her role (maybe at the idea of an immaculate conception – I know I'd look surprised if I hadn't had sex and found myself up the duff) and she didn't want to look surprised, or felt she didn't know how to look surprised.

I tried to demonstrate that looking surprised wasn't as challenging as Hannah thought but I didn't dent her resolve. It seems it's irretrievable anyway as Millie is the new Mary and Hannah is merely a traveller en route to Bethlehem.

Maybe they knew we were atheists and were just looking for an excuse, or maybe they were just trying to "out the ginger." Either way, I'm heartbroken (and I don't know quite how I'm going to break the news to my mother-in-law.)

Monday, 20 November 2006

Smelly, smelly, smelly

Calling all budding lawyers (specialising in Health and Safety legislation) or maybe any Trade Union representatives who fancy their chances against a big corporate.

Over the weekend we had a bit of an accident at work. I don't know exactly what happened but there was evidence that something nasty had occurred.

The ceiling had collapsed in the area next to my desk and I say collapse but melted or dissolved could be better words. I think there must have been some kind of leak of some sort of liquid. There were dubious splatters on my desk and the floor. The area right under the leaky ceiling was sodden.

We had a couple of evacuees who decided they didn't want to get their feet wet.

At about 3:00pm I couldn't take it any more. The damp stench was overpowering. I called Facilities and said "This office smells." Lesley asked me where I was and explained carpet cleaners would be arriving at 5:00 to deal with the problem. I did consider asking if they had any Shake 'n' Vac but thought a) she may be too young to know what the hell I'm talking about and b) she might think I was a bit mad.

But it did occur to me that there are some rules about working environments and laws and things. Could I call for a walkout on the basis of an obnoxious, obtrusive smell?

Anyway the main reason I'm telling you this is that I'm worried about Denis. "Why?" I hear you cry. Well there are a plethora of reasons but the one that popped up today is perhaps more worrying than most.

Denis and I were discussing the stink of wet carpet tiles and Denis said "It smells like old men's pants." I said I wasn't in the habit of smelling elderly gentlemen's underwear so I wouldn't know. So he continued with "but you know what I mean…" and I said "Er, no." I think it probably smells like a wash you've put in the washing machine which has been washed but left in there, damp, for too long – take that smell and multiply that odour by about 40.

So does anyone know – does that smell like old men's pants? Oh, and can I sue for the physical and emotional distress caused by a) the stink and b) the implication that I know about elderly gent's undies?


It's blinkin' 4:00 o'clock in the blinkin' morning and I can't sleep.

I have the same stinking cold I've had for the last month, I'm stressed about work and I'm stressed about home life.

To remedy the cold I have a Lemsip brewed although I know that merely masks the symptoms.

Work stress is harder to deal with. That's the perennial too much work, not enough me but it's compounded by a meeting that will chew up Monday morning and the fact that I have a trip to Germany on Wednesday. The Monday thing is just eating into productive time. The trip is less of a problem for that because it might help sort a few things out. It's just that it's probably 5 years since I visited our German offices and I have no idea where I'm going. I have a sort of nightmare that'll I'll get the flight over and then I'll just spend the day walking around in circles getting more and more lost. Additionally it means getting up early, probably 5:15am which is just anti social, especially when I'm feeling run down with cold anyway.

I could start a rant about the new procedures that have been issued at work to help supervisors deal with sickness, but I won't, because I want to feed the good wolf (see yesterday's post).

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Feeding wolves

I read this today, bizarrely in Trinny and Susannah's Survival Guide (a birthday present - what are people trying to tell me?).

Clearly I would like to run my life feeding the Good wolf. Based on yesterday's experience (see blog) and also the way I've been a bit (understatement) of a monster today, I think I actually feed the Evil wolf.

As proverbs go, I quite like this one.

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a "battle" that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Friday, 17 November 2006

Grumpy old bugger

I discovered something about myself today, and I didn't like what I uncovered.

I don't like Sainsburys. There are a number of reasons.

Parking is often a nightmare with many occasions of car park rage apparent.

It's difficult to find a suitable trolley (kiddie two seater), and once you find it the trolley is a nightmare to insert and extract children (shoes get stuck).

The whole store is less than 10 years old and it's falling apart. They have paper towels at the bottom edge of the fridge displays because they leak – yuk! The toilets are gross. The car park has signs that look they've been hit by a truck.

The store is poorly stocked which means I rarely go around the store and manage to get everything on the shopping list.

So when I'm doing my weekly shop with two children in tow it's not the most stress free experience. When I find something out of stock I vent my frustration by talking with the children. Usually along the lines of "Hannah, how many times have I said that I hate Sainsbury's?". "A hundred million Mummy." Or "How many weeks should we give Sainsbury's before we write and complain they haven't had this thing in stock, 12 weeks?" "8 weeks Mummy."

Now I don't want you think I don't ever approach Customer Services. In the few weeks within memory I've taken back yoghurts, oranges, grapes and strawberries that have been cultivating penicillin before the expiry date. I've also taken back milk bottles than have pissed milk all over my passenger seat.

Anyway, today after I'd vented some angst with Hannah, I overheard a woman talking to an assistant saying how terrible it was that I was just complaining without doing something constructive about it. I went over and joined the chat. Eventually the assistant asked what it was I wanted and, when I explained, she was able to demonstrate that they not only didn't have it in stock, but that they'd stopped stocking it. Now part of me wondered how the hell that helped me. The other part of me wanted to cry.

I realised it was probably true that I'm a bitter, twisted, miserable, old cow. There's always one woman like me in any neighbourhood. The kids in the area have a rumour that she's a witch and they're usually too scared to knock on her door. Er, that's me and I've only just realised it. I can be a right grumpy bugger.


A warning to all of the motorists who were inconsiderate to me today:

I will use my car instead of walking.

My car will contribute to greenhouse gases and will emit carcinogenic particulates. It will kick out stinky smoke every time I accelerate, contributing to both the number of asthma attacks and the increase in childhood asthma.

I will be in that traffic jam in front of you and it will be people like me that will be causing the traffic jam because we're only there because of you. We'll be the people you curse because we're doing the 'school run'. In fact I may change my car and get a 4x4 to further your contempt.

Why would I do this to you? Let me explain.

You see a mother pushing a buggy transporting a toddler and you can see she has an older child in tow. It's raining. What goes through your tiny brain? Well it doesn't seem to be "how great to see someone still walking even when the weather is inclement." No, it seems to be much more like "I can see a big puddle in the gutter. If I drive really quickly, really close to the pavement, then I can spray loads of filthy, muddy, skanky water all over that daft bird and her kids who aren't in a car."

I think I should be walking when I can with the children to teach them that the car doesn't have to be used for every journey.

From now on my mantra will be "Screw the environment. If there's a chance someone's going to ruin my day, I'll take the 4x4."

Well I'd like to have that attitude but I know I'll still walk, because it's the right thing to do. Sometimes I hate myself.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006


Go and see the new Bond movie.

It's good, although I do think Daniel Craig pouts too much and there was a bit too much nasty hurting people and an excess of lovey dovey stuff.

Note to self - ideal time to flog Casino Royale branded money clip on ebay.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Have a heart?

I had a chat today with Reiner who was going for his pacemaker check up.

Reiner lives in Germany where the healthcare system is a little different to the UK. I'm guessing pacemaker checks in Germany happen every 6 months or so. In the UK it might well be every couple of years. Am I being unfair the National Health Service? I don't think so.

I have a friend who's just moving to Germany. She's Swedish but her family have been over here in the UK for at least the last 5 years. She has lived in Germany before (her husband is German) and she was used to the German healthcare system before moving to the UK. She used to have smear tests every 6 months because that was what the German healthcare system advised to catch cervical cancer as early as possible. Before she moved to the UK she was told by her doctor that in the UK smear tests happen every 3 years. Why the difference? Well the doctor's view was that it was cheaper to do smear tests every 3 years and pay for the treatment of cervical cancer, than it would be just to pay for the higher cost of smear tests every 6 months and the reduced cost of less advanced cervical cancer. I hate the fact that this sounds plausible.

Anyway, I knew very little about pacemakers before chatting to Reiner but I know a bit more now.

Did you know?

- Pacemakers are fitted using a local anaesthetic.
- They aren't fitted in the heart, but just under the skin, with wires linked to the heart.
- Batteries don't last very long (just a few years), and when they need replacing it's the whole unit that's replaced, not just the batteries.
- The pacemaker collects data on the heart's performance which can be uploaded wirelessly to a PC.

Monday, 13 November 2006


Today I received a request to approve something at work. This isn't unusual as I'm the business owner of an IT application so any changes need to be approved by me.

Now normally when I'm approving changes there are two stages. An approval for the launch of the change and a later post launch approval to demonstrate that I'm happy with the changes.

This process is defined by the IT Policy Manual (ITPM to the IT crowd).

Usually when I'm approving something there's something to look at, a preview link that shows me the impact the change will have. To me this is logical: there's something to look at and something for the basis of an opinion.

Today, however, I was presented with something that wasn't logical. Along with an approval request I was advised that the change, the basis of the approval request, was invisible to me. There would be no preview link that I could look at to check anything. Additionally there would be nothing in the back end of the system that our agency could check.

So I was approving something that I couldn't check or verify. Does that seem silly to you? It seemed completely bonkers to me, a waste of everybody's time.

So along with my approval of thin air I questioned the whole process and unsurprisingly I was told that it was a stupid scenario but we had to go through it because it was in the ITPM. I don't respond well to this kind of scenario. I have a little devil sitting on my shoulder saying "It's not right. It's silly. Don't roll over. Policy shouldn't be written in stone. This needs changing." I am aware that the reality is "One doesn't mess with the ITPM." I know my little outburst will change nothing, but it makes me feel better.

But what if, next time, I just say "No!"?

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Sunday mornings

Sunday mornings have started to have a routine.

At about 6:30 Dave's alarm clock wakes him (and usually me) up. At about 7:00 he's all set to go for a bike ride. He usually plans just over two hours of riding and I think the route covers 30-35 miles.

My plan while he's out is to attempt a lie in but somehow Hannah and Ethan (particularly Ethan) have a sixth sense and their body clocks wake them up, usually before Dave has even left the house.

I usually resist getting out of bed until Ethan's refrain of "Ne ner ner ner ner ner ner ner, ne ner ner ner ner ner ner ner, ne ner ner ner ner ner ner Batman!" becomes too insistent to ignore.

I drag myself downstairs, fetch milk in beakers and return back upstairs to wake the children. Wake is not quite the right word because they're already awake but I consider I'm giving them permission to be awake.

After reading a few books we decide it's time for breakfast, a decision that's usually greeted with a "Yehay!".

After breakfast they're allowed to play in their pyjamas. This morning Ethan decided to colour his face and a table in the dining room with blue and green pen. Fortunately it a small play table and the ink was washable.

After clearing up the mess that results from children eating anything, I start to think about breakfast for the grown ups. I have got into a habit recently of making a cooked breakfast for Dave as a reward for the bike ride and to fill the resultant energy gap. It's not an entirely selfless act. Let's face it, it's just as easy to do two cooked breakfasts as it is to do one.

So hopefully when Dave crawls in through the door he has a nice hot breakfast waiting for him and most of the washing up has been done.

But, nobody is showered, washed or dressed....he can't expect everything, can he?

Saturday, 11 November 2006


I went to buy something today.

The sales assistant said, referring to a price list, "We're doing a special offer this month. There's a 30% discount if you buy 6." I could see the same sheet of paper that she was referring to, and I could see another column next to one headed 30%. It read 50%.

So I asked "When are you doing a discount of 50% if I buy 6?"

"Er, I need to check with the manager."

A few minutes later:

"This price list is out of date, we don't do the 50% discount anymore."

I didn't buy.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Parental pride

I'm in shock. Hannah tells me she is going to be Mary in the school nativity play. I'm sooooo proud. Admittedly this story requires verification.

She started by telling me that she was going to be an actor in the Christmas play but she couldn't remember who. I admit I prompted her asking whether Miss Cleminson had said she was going to be Mary, and she said "yes". Now she also knew that Thomas is going to be the Innkeeper, and she swears that she is going to be Mary so I'm inclined to believe her.

Now there are a few things that surprise me about this news.

Firstly Hannah has red hair and we're not talking strawberry blonde, we're talking beautiful rich red hair with natural blonde highlights. Now I've seen many pictures of Mary and she has never ever been portrayed with red hair.

Secondly, we're atheists. Hannah goes to the most holy of Church of England Schools. Honestly, it's so high church it's virtually Catholic. The application form required a whole section to be completed by Father Bob. This section was omitted on our form because we wouldn't know Father Bob from Father Ted. Hannah got in because we happen to live near the school.

There are a few things that don't surprise me about this news: Hannah's teacher seems to think Hannah's very bright and a "lovely girl" and Hannah is usually well behaved. She also has an amazing memory, so learning lines wouldn't be a problem, although maybe Joseph has more lines because he's the one who talks to the Innkeeper.

So there's a huge part of me that's massively proud because when I was at school I was only ever a shepherd. There is another part of me that's thinking about the costume, and I've already been on the phone to my mother-in-law who thinks she has an old blue sheet, suitable for adaptation. We're thinking of meeting tomorrow at Bluewater to do a handover so that I have enough time to get busy with the sewing machine. I know you think it's sad I have a sewing machine but curtains and school plays were my reasons for buying.

I wonder if Woolworths sells Mary outfits?

Thursday, 9 November 2006

If you do that again....

On Thursdays I help another mum out by transferring her son from nursery to school. It makes Thursday lunchtimes a bit hectic but she helps me out on a Tuesday so it's worth the pain.

I was chatting today to her son and we talking about being good or naughty. He explained his parent's discipline system.

For his first offence he gets a yellow card. And from what I could tell, the only bad thing about a yellow card is that it means you've run out of chances.

For his second offence he gets a red card. Now the red card seemed very serious indeed because if he gets one of those then he gets taken to the children's home. I figured that was a threat that parent's wouldn't follow through on but it made me curious – what do you do when a child pushes the boundaries and gets a red card?

Well he told me he has been to the children's home and he told me stories about all the bad children and how he fought them and pushed them into prickly bushes (we were walking past bramble at the time).

You see I know the truth. His parents have bundled him into the car once and taken him to the children's home (in reality an old people's home). But once outside the children's home he saw sense, apologised and promised to be good.

What would they have done if he hadn't?

It's an interesting approach and one I wouldn't use. My children know I'll follow through with whatever I threaten, and Supernanny's naughty step seems to be a winner so far. I couldn't threaten them with a children's home for two reasons. Firstly I don't want them thinking I could or would do that and secondly I don't want them thinking that children in care are naughty.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Bra as universal storage

I am perhaps unique in this regard - do other women use their bra as a storage location?

I find it can be used to hold a multitiude of items. Some of these, I think are not too uncommon, for example a spare tissue (in my case for emergency child nose wiping). Such an item can be secreted into a cup and easily removed at speed when needed.

Many other items too can be held safe in this warm and secure location.

But I'd like to explain why I use this in preference to other places. Increasingly clothing doesn't have pockets. Most of the skirts I own don't have pockets and the same is true for some of my trousers. Tops, blouses and shirts hardly ever have any pockets either so it's not uncommon for me to find I am pocketless. Although sometimes even if I have a pcket I don't consider it secure enough. Some pockets aren't designed to hold things, they're designed for hands, so these aren't suitable for storage.

So what do I store in my lingerie, apart from the obvious?

Well train tickets are an obvious one because I need to be able to whip a ticket out quickly and store it just as fast. Handbags and purses are all very well but they require thought, effort, co-ordination, and placing anything there and wanting to be able to find it again quickly is usually a two-handed job, not the easiest when negotiating a crowded train or tube.

Money might not seem so obvious but if one is popping out without a purse or pockets where should one stash a tenner or a twenty? And don't say stocking tops.

A shopping list or other note is another easily referenced item if stored in the right place.
Lipstick is a tricky one and usually has to be stowed in the middle, if you know what I mean. I have been known to grab a lippy, stash it and take it to the powder room for a touch up (I realise that could sound rude, but it's not). Saves taking a handbag or a coat.

And the last item that springs to mind, which I don't recommend for reasons which will become apparent, is a small mp3 player. I did this yesterday in the gym. It needs the same method that one would apply for lipstick - sort of wedged, but it's not a reliable system. On the cross trainer after about 15 minutes I realised it was slipping and I ended up with my mp3 player dangling by the earphone lead, banging around near my knees. This is not cool.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Call me evil!

I did something a bit naughty today. And Dave reckons there will be consequences.

We have an unwritten but frequently spoken rule in our team at work: if you miss the team meeting, you will be allocated tasks.

Now I think that's fair-ish but that's because I usually try to be in the office on a Tuesday morning so I can attend the team meeting. It's less fair for the folk whose job it is to liaise with offices in Europe. They have to travel and it's not easy to arrange these trips to avoid Tuesdays.

Today we had a few people who couldn't attend. I don't really know why Denis wasn't there, especially as he turned up fairly soon after the meeting finished.

Anyway, I couldn't resist a little wind up. I told Denis that because he hadn't been there he had been nominated to pull together a presentation for our manager's manager for probably the end of the month. I told him that the format and date hadn't been agreed but that we'd discussed a few options. Tracey realized what I was doing and joined in with a few exaggerated ideas on the format for the presentation.

Well Denis didn't take this very well. I had anticipated that he might be a bit fed up, but his reaction was more than just upset.

I went around to our manager's office to confess, because I figured it wouldn't take long before Denis went in to Brendan's office to vent his displeasure. Well Brendan wasn't there so I nipped back to my desk and sent him an e-mail. I had offsite meetings in the afternoon so this was the only way I could pass a message on, a post it note would have been too risky.

My e-mail was titled "Call me evil!" and the reply came back "Evil". So this is a test. I know people in the office read this, but I don't think Denis does. If he does read it, his reward will be to learn that we were winding him up. If he doesn't then I consider this to be revenge.

I thought Denis and I got on. We sit next to one another, exchanging friendly teasing office banter and I'd not been aware of any problems. Well, seems I was wrong. Now we are different personalities. I'm noisy (friends reading this are thinking this is an understatement), Denis is quiet. Well he's trying to move. He doesn't want to sit next to me. He's had enough. And this was before I wound him up. Therefore, wind up = revenge.

Dave reckons I'm due payback. I'm not sure.

Monday, 6 November 2006


There must have been something in the air today or I must have been giving off unusual signals (or maybe they're normal for me, I don't know).

First thing today I had an e-mail telling me about a mandatory online course I needed to complete, subject: Integrity.

Now I've done these before. I think it has to do with some American law and this helps us cover our collective arse. Anyway, you can't cheat and jump straight to the quiz at the end, they know you haven't read the content. I've also tried opening the content pages and moving on very quickly to the quiz. The system isn't dumb; it knew I hadn't spent enough time reading content.

Now I have no problem with proving that I have integrity but I do object to the assumption that I need training to know what behaviour is appropriate. So I may have let slip a few expletives. Not too unusual in an office environment I think you'll agree. The next thing I know, Denis is suggesting I'd be really good at working on adult chat lines. Frankly I don't see the link, but that was the start of my day.

So having completed the Integrity course and quiz, and achieving 100% (demonstrating integrity clearly isn't a problem for me), Julie pipes up that I must have slept with my computer. What? Now actually, if I'm rational about it and if you think about it, I am wedded to my computer but we do have separate bedrooms.

And then there was the coup de grace. I can't remember what prompted Kevin's contribution to the day but he suggested I had slept with my boss. Now Dave and I don't have red hair, but Hannah does, and so does my manager, Brendan. I don't want you jumping to conclusions but I can assure you that Brendan was not present at Hannah's conception.

So there have been several slurs on my character today and I'm not sure any were deserved. Now Ford does have an harassment hotline for employees. Do you think I should call or wait to see if the attacks continue?

Sunday, 5 November 2006


I'm a sucker for a gadget.

A while ago we bought, OK I bought, a leaf blower. Our house has, and is surrounded by, trees, most of which lose their leaves around now. I hate clearing leaves and the concept of a gadget that does all the hard work seemed like a good one.

The thing has been used less than 10 times. It hurts me. It's so long ago I can't remember which bit is the source of pain.

It's got a vacuum function and when it's in suck mode it chews up what it hoovers up and then dumps the chewed up bits in an outdoor vaccum bag. There's some kind of whizzy blade thing that does the chopping. It might be a side effect of the whizzy blade spewing out little bits of stuff at hight speed that inflicts injury.

In blower mode it's fairly aggressive and it could be that it's this mode that causes me problems. It's supposed to just blow leaves I guess but it also blows small stones, and maybe it'sa these that end up hitting my legs and forcing me to suffer.

I must have used it last in the summer, although I can't think why, because I know that I was wearing shorts, which I now know I shouldn't. It's a bit like the strimmer, another gadget but we do use this one (although I hate it), in that it hurts me, especially when I'm in shorts mode. It strims things which is chopping them at high speed which have been known to be flung in my general direction at a high velocity – ouch.

Actually the more I think about it I think it's the suck mode that sucks. I think the whizzy chopper flings things at the vacuum bag with such force they hit my leg which is right next to the bag.

So don't buy a leaf blower sucky thing. But do buy something much cheaper which is fantastic: big hands. Well they're not sold as "big hands" but that's what they are. Two big bits of plastic with a claw edge and a strap to hold them to your hand. They might be called leaf grabbers, or something. Anyway they don't cost much. I can't remember exactly how much, to me it was just another gadget, but they were less than a tenner and they are brilliant. They're great for moving leaves around and for scooping them up.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Beware children bearing books

Conversation in the back of the car:

Ethan: "I want to get out." Actually this was more like "get out" but I can translate.

Me: "You can't get out, we're driving."

Ethan: "I want to get out"

Hannah: "Do you want to get run over?"

Ethan: "Out"

Hannah: "Do you want to die?"

Ethan: "Out!"

Hannah: "Do you want to come home in a box?"

Ethan: "OUT!!!"

Me: "Hannah, where did you get that from?"

Hannah: "A book at nursery "Sunshine Cat" where the cat got run over and they put it in a box and the children all wrote in a letter and the box was buried."

Ethan: "OUT!!!!! OUT!!!!!"

If ever you come across the children's book Sunshine Cat, then beware. You will need tissues. It's so sad. Some of the nursery staff can't read it without blubbing.

Friday, 3 November 2006


Halloween has come and gone but the left over candy remains. I bet every household does this, apart from the people that go out on Halloween rather than stay in for fright night fun. You buy in sweeties and chocolate and you get lots, just in case the whole of the town knock on your door. The last thing you want is the local neighbourhood thinking you're tight because when they knocked on your door the cupboard was bare.

And then the night comes and maybe there are only a couple of knocks, or maybe none at all. But regardless of how many times you're summoned to your front door, you're never quite sure whether there will be more people. So to be on the safe side you always make sure there's a decent amount of the sweet stuff available for whoever might turn up.

And then on the morning of November 1st there's the dawning of the realisation. There are a lot of sweets in the house. And this is where you have choices:
- Give it to the children and watch slowly as the sugar takes hold and turns your little darlings into hyperactive monsters from hell, who won't sleep a wink or eat a decent meal until the mountain of sugar has been consumed.
- Eat it yourself and feel the guilt, the sugar buzz and the inability to sleep.
- Throw it away.

I'd like to think no self respecting person does the latter because that's just not normal. And whilst I have some sympathy with the people that give it to their kids, that's not me. I like sweets. Actually I don't like all sweets, so, for future reference, here are some of the sweets I like:

Jelly babies
Fruit pastilles
Those sherberty lollies (just looked them up – Mega lollies or Double lollies)
Space dust, but not too much
Revels – but not peanut
Dolly mixtures
Candy necklaces (not tried candy thong or bra but I know they're available )
Marshmallows, especially dipped in chocolate

Available from:

But the best sweet ever…..Lovehearts I love the fact it's a yummy sweet but it's fun too. And it's kept up with the times, Lovehearts now say e-mail me among other more modern suggestions. I think Lovehearts are more romantic than chocolate and sexier:

Thursday, 2 November 2006

I'm not old!

You know you're old when:
- You mention it's hot and there's a chorus of "Hot flush dear?"
- Your platinum highlights are natural
- Your two year old son calls you Grandma and nobody who hears him bats an eyelid
- You're the only one in the gym on a Sunday night
- The gym's a 10 minute walk away and you drive there and back
- All your friends know about magic knickers
- When you ask a chemist for help with wrinkles/dark circles around the eyes and she says "Too much wine, not enough sleep?"
- You drink half what you might have done at age 18 and you're making a fool of yourself on a dance floor and have to leave early because you're feeling very ill
- You really can't remember a lot about anything
- People at work are talking to you about the early retirement because they think you're eligible
- When you look at the Alumni for your schools and colleges on MySpace you're the oldest one there (OK Darryl and Nick – you beat me but not by much )
- People use the words mid life crisis when they hear you've been doing pole dancing for exercise.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Going down

Apparently MySpace is on the decline. Numbers of visitors are down month on month.

Now I'm sort of late to this whole MySpace thing, but I'm not going to be impressed if a year from now MySpace is so naff it has just a million or so users.

Something like that could happen very quickly and it wouldn't surprise me if something bigger and better did supercede the current MySpace phenomenon.

I think that websites that make it big and then fail generally do so by becoming too corporate.
MySpace is already doing something to prevent uploading of copywright content, well for a whole bunch of users that's their reason for being here.

MySpace is also becoming too open to fraud and spamming. I'm fed up with Friend Requests from people or groups that are solely interested in publicity. Roger by the way is an exception which just goes to show that spam is only spam if it lacks relevance, ditto junk mail.

An individual who has been surfing through profiles, found mine and thought "she's interesting, we have something in common" is what I consider to be a genuine request.

A group or organisation that uses software to blast profiles is simply a cynical abuse of a community space. Worst still are the people or organisations that seek to extract e-mail and password information for fraud.

I think MySpace should be investing time and resource in preventing spam and fraud. So get on it Tom. If you don't act now you will alienate your fickle users and they will leave, in droves. If this happens then I'll leave too, because I'm like the rest of them. It's a herd mentality and we all go where the the masses go. We'll all leave to the next community space that offers the same as MySpace but more. I don't know quite what the more is yet but that's for the next generation of billionaires to figure out. I don't know what extra funtionality I want or need. I need someone to show me.

Tuesday, 31 October 2006


So did you go trick or treating? We did but to a couple of neighbours that we know (one of whom had to be primed in advance with a stash of sweets.)

We could have knocked at a few more doors but the kids were new to the exeprience and it was more scary for them than it was for any householder.

Despite the fantastic pumpkin in the porch, see post "Pumpkin part deux" for picture (Karen, who has seen the real thing, says the picture gives the impression it's bigger than it actually is), we only had two groups knocking at our door. I think our house might be a bit scary. It has got a load of scaffolding at the front at the moment, it reminds a friend of going to the dentist and two more friends reckon it's haunted. And it is haunted.

A locksmith who fitted some window bolts for us told us he used to live in our street and he remembers seeing a report in the local newspaper years ago about a ghost residing at our house. Apparently a local celebrity (whatever that means) used to live here and it's their ghost that haunts the place. We've seen and heard nothing except creaky old house noises. Yes, my house and car keys do go missing on a regular basis but that's just me and the fact I foget where I've put them. Dave, who is a million times tidier than me, never loses his keys, unless of course I've borrowed them.

So when two friends admitted they always "felt a presence" in our house, I checked the local newspaper archives for tales of spookiness. I couldn't find anything but the archives didn't go back too far so I wasn't that surprised. My next step was to contact the paper, and I asked the old timer reporter, who used to do the "I've got a potato that looks like Tony Blair" stories, whether she remembered anything. She didn't. So I think I believe the locksmith but I have no evidence.

Do any of you have any ideas as to where I might get more information? Please don't suggest the Spiritualist church – I don't think so!

You're going to think I'm making this up, but as I've been typing this it's become very cold. It's as though I'm sat in a draught. I need to investigate.....

It's because the window is open. Either because we have a decorator painting the house, or we have a ghost with a sense of humour.

Monday, 30 October 2006


I was supposed to be going out tonight. It was going to be a fancy do in a fancy club in the West End: The Cuckoo Club ( - only visit this website if you are infinitely patient as it's flash based and very slow).

What was it in aid of I hear you ask. Breakthrough Breast Cancer were having a celebration party. They'd just completed 10 years of the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer (FTBC) campaign and wanted to thank all of their supporters.

I was invited as a representative of one of their corporate sponsors who supported several years of the FTBC campaign. We don't work with Breakthrough anymore but we do sponsor Champions League football. I'd say we have our priorities straight, wouldn't you?

I wasn't the only invitee representing the company: Ruth and I have both worked with Breakthrough for quite a number of years.

We were a bit apprehensive about accepting the invitation because of the stipulated dress code. Everyone is used to dress codes such as Cocktail Attire, Black Tie, Casual etc. and if we weren't too au fait with what to wear then there are even websites to guide us: But the dress code for this event was just a little more challenging: Glamorous.

Now I could see a picture of someone and decide whether I think they are glamorous but if they are, it's probably a combination of what they're wearing, and how they're wearing it. They aren't going to be glamorous if they look like a bulldog chewing a wasp. I don't think I look like a bulldog chewing a wasp but "Glamorous" is still something that I think is difficult to attain because it isn't achieved through clothing alone. Someone wearing jeans could look glamorous. The famous naked Sophie Dahl advert could be considered glamorous:

Well I wasn't going to wear jeans, and I certainly wasn't going to turn up naked. So I had an outfit selected which I thought might get the clothing bit right, but there was still the problem that it was me in the clothing. I was going to live with that problem because there was little I could do about it.

Anyway, to cut an overly long story short I didn't go. Ruth phoned this morning and between us we decided we were too old to go out and stay out late on a school night. Plus we also agreed we were worried about the dress code. And we didn't phone to say we couldn't make it, we e-mailed. Actually Ruth e-mailed.

A tiny part of me was sad not to be there because I wanted to see what everyone else was wearing. But mainly I thought it was probably the right decision. We don't work with Breakthrough corporately anymore and, whilst we have made a contribution in the past, it's perhaps right that those people celebrating have continued their relationship.
This week though you may see me buying a copy of some of the gossip mags just to see what people were wearing.

Sunday, 29 October 2006


Is it wrong to gauge the quality of a place by it's clientele? I'm guessing you'll say "No, that sounds reasonable".

Is it wrong to gauge the clientele by how many of them smoke, especially near children?

You're probably divided on this. Non smokers with children will probably think I'm reasonable. Single smokers will probably stop reading now. Actually, they probably stopped a few sentences ago.

I don't smoke, and for someone who hates the foul weed, I have tried to start smoking more times than I can easily remember (usually after too much to drink). Anyway I can't smoke. I really have tried but I'm useless at it.

But being a non smoker I think I'm probably towards the extreme end of the anti-smoking lobby. I noticed one of the contestants on 8 out of 10 Cats (Fri night Ch 4) proclaiming that all smokers should be shot. I probably wouldn't go quite that far but I would make it prohibitively difficult for people to continue the filthy habit.

I've long maintained that cigarettes are too cheap, but my draconian methods for smoking prevention stretch beyond fiscal control. I believe smoking should only be permitted in underground concrete bunkers that have no ventilation. These bunkers would be accessible only by buses that would run only a few times a week. To reduce access to cancer sticks I'd make people pay extortionate fares on this bus route too.

So now you know I'm fairly "anti". But I hate seeing people smoking around children. Don't they know the harmful effects smoke can have on a child's health? A parent, who smokes, increases a baby's chances of cot death. Passively inhaled smoke that is inflicted on children, who have no voice, should be stopped, although I'm not sure how other than the concrete bunker idea.

So this means I have a fairly negative view of smokers, particularly those who smoke around their children, or anyone else's children. And if somewhere has a high proportion of customers who are parents who smoke, then I don't rate it very highly and I won't recommend it.

My advice to Paradise Wildlife Park near Broxbourne - instigate a no smoking policy.