Sunday, 7 December 2008

So tell me, what constitutes a good party?

Ok, so it would be a lie to say that I don't get invited to parties any more, but it seems to me that I mainly get invited because of my ability to drive my children to the venue and then sit on them to prevent them from damaging anything and convince them to eat the food.

The food at these occasions consists of crisps (good), chocolate (very good) and dinky sandwiches filled with either Marmite or cheese (which mainly end up in the bin). The cake is normally cut into unfeasibly small pieces, left to dry out for an hour on a plate and then ineffectively wrapped in novelty napkins and shoved into the bottom of a dozen party bags. At one party recently my children mistakenly sat down with a couple of poor souls who were being made to eat the sandwiches and the fruit before the chocolate finger plate was permitted to alight upon the table. Needless to say my two left their places in search of richer pickings elsewhere. I convince myself they were developing the skill of circulating. Furthermore, the hostess was forced to hand out the jelly and ice cream by stealth because some partygoers were not allowed it (yes, this really is the world I inhabit).

I could go on about the futility of trying to get under 5's to play pass the parcel and musical bumps, but I'll leave that to your imagination. Suffice to say that I am not at the Bouncy Castle party that is currently in full swing. I managed to drop off my little darlings (and their daddy) and extricate myself from the proceedings to come home and eat a large piece of unsquashed coffee and walnut in peace.

If I were you, I'd repent now because hell is a giant inflatable covered in myriad bouncing 6 year olds. Don't say no one told you.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Am I proud, or should I be deeply ashamed........

.....I have managed to elicit an honest response from an estate agent. Last week the lovely Lesley rings and tells me, 'Basically, Claire, you need to clean your house.' Thanks love, I already knew that.

Anyone who has known me for any length of time will know that my living space usually resembles a cross between a Tracy Emin installation and an experiment into the longevity of unwashed coffee mugs. Since marrying someone who is considerably more tidy than I am (I would have had to go a long, long way to find anybody messier) I have curbed my creative and scientific tendencies, and now we have children I have made an immense effort to ensure my house is not one huge trip hazard. I get tidying: put stuff away; if something doesn't have a place either throw it in the bin or put it in the cupboard under the stairs and shut the door really, really hard. Simple.

So phase one of my transformation from scummy student to domestic diva is almost complete, and it has only taken me 10 years. Now I have brought some semblance of order, however, the dirt is clearly visible. It is here that I become unstuck, and for this, of course, I blame my mother. As a child I asked her how to use the washing machine and she replied, 'It's easy.' Be that as it may, but if you don't even show me once, what chance have I got? I know she swept the stairs with a brush and hoovered a lot, so I started there. I then recalled that a lot of swishing of cloths went on in the bathroom and kitchen, so I have emulated that with some degree of success. Dad used to do lots of ironing, but I still fail to see the point of this and don't even own an ironing board.

In search of further inspiration, I borrowed the book 'How Clean Is Your House?' Not very, is the obvious answer. Apparently, one should wipe down objects such as light switches and door handles weekly. And as for scrubbing the skirting board..... I am sure that if I followed all Kim and Aggie's instructions I would spend more time cleaning than there are hours in the week.

So, shall I take the estate agents advice and spend the best part of the week wearing rubber gloves? No, I figure that it is much less bother to knock £10k off the asking price.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Finding an Oasis in the Blur that is my life

I cannot believe that only 8 years after the decade finished, the 1990's was considered an appropriate theme for a fancy dress party. My disbelief is superseded only by my amazement of how much I enjoyed the event. Surrounded by characters from Pulp Fiction, Father Ted, The Spice Girls and (somewhat alarmingly) Silence of the Lambs, I felt eerily at home. Having toyed with various costume ideas I settled on being a Newbury Bypass protester. As the protests took place in the winter, however, my outer layers were quickly peeled off to reveal my standard 'going to the college bop' attire. I did consider wearing the actual orange vest top I was so fond of back then, but it is horribly faded and saggy and there was no one there who would have appreciated it. I did, nevertheless, wear matching underwear, something which I considered to be the height of sophisitcation when I was 20. I would recommend to anyone donning your old favourite clothes and listening to the kind of music you liked when you were a student - I actually felt almost 15 years younger, and it was a good feeling.

The DJ was a bit pants, but he played all the right tunes and I could have danced well into the early hours, but unfortunately Steve dragged me away before midnight. This was in part due to the fact that he had been up since 6.30, but not entirely unrelated to the vast quantity of coke I had drunk (not snorted). It was a full-on nostalgia trip, and I loved every minute of it. It seems that I have left an important part of my brain somewhere, somewhere in the mid 1990's.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Camping, why?

Never being one to let the truth get in the way of a good story, let's say that we returned to Go Outdoors to purchase another headtorch and returned with a new tent. Steve had decided that our current tent was too small and we should have one with more living space. I was, of course, hoping that we would pitch the little tent, realise we couldn't put all the beds down and come home.

This is one of the downsides of being married to an engineer; he has heightened spatial awareness. He therefore knows whether the sideboard one's wife is about to buy will fit in the sitting room. He also never leaves the house without a tape measure.

Anyway, with new tent (which shall henceforth be referred to as the Marquee de Sade) duly stuffed in the back of the car, along with anything else we might possibly need for the next three nights (and a few things I could have probably lived without, like the viral infection that hitched a ride on our 2 year old) we set off. I nearly did a runner waiting for the ferry to take us over to Studland Bay, but decided against it on the grounds that I might just get a good story out of it.

MdS went up relatively easily - very easily as far as I am concerned because I hid and drank tea whilst the manly component of our youth group assisted Steve. It nearly fell down on Saturday night, however, due to the storm that was raging outside. I confess at this point I sat in MdS weeping, wallowing in self-pity and sending text messages to anyone I thought I might be able to elicit a bit of sympathy from (it worked, the suggestions for improving the situation included singing jolly songs, going to a B&B and drinking gin - how I wish I could have summoned the energy to do even one of those). I should have picked up on the subliminal messages Go Outdoors was sending me - it is more waterproofs and wellies than sunglasses and swim suits. Oh, who am I kidding, I had even bought a cagoul (ooooh I am not even sure I can spell that word) and a pair of wellingtons. I KNEW it would be awful.

There is much, much more I could say. I can already think of a few chapter titles for my book entitled 'Why camping is just wrong'. At least the experience is over for another year and MdS is safely back in the shed (I might just pay a few passing rats to take a nibble). But take it from me, if your nearest and dearest suggest a trip to Go Outdoors, JUST SAY NO!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

ENOUGH about the head torch

Last weekend, in an attempt to make our camping holiday more bearable we spent a jolly afternoon at Go Outdoors. Having added the planned airbed and sleeping bag to our trolley, Steve could not resist the impulse purchase of a head torch. Now, I know that boys have to have their toys, but this one is taking on a life of its own. On more than one occasion this week, I have found myself plunged into darkness as S has experimented with doing things by torchlight. Comments are along the line of, 'It's magic, it's like it's attached to my brain, it knows exactly where I want to look.' He was somewhat crestfallen when, with compost bucket in hand, the realisation that in his enthusiasm for all things Head Torch, he had lent it to SBF, struck.

Now, I can normally count on SBF to side with me when Steve tries to convince me of the merits of his latest purchase, but this is definitely a male/female thing. I would NEVER wear a head torch, but apparently for yomping across the fields after a few too many beers in the Fleur, nothing compares....

I just KNOW where we are going to end up this afternoon; we can't possibly risk not getting the torch back in time for our holiday.

So, if you think that aliens have invaded the poorly lit villages of South Oxfordshire, be more afraid - it's the boys and their torches, and they are probably en route from the pub.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


As a postscript to yesterday's posting, it should be pointed out that SBF benefits from our friendship too - mainly in the food and alcoholic beverage department.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Here comes the sun....

In a fit of 'we-must-have-a-party-it's-a-bank-holiday' enthusiasm, we have decided to have a barbecue this afternoon. Seeing as the weather wasn't looking that promising yesterday, everyone I invited lapped up the opportunity to sit in someone else's house and look at the rain in company. Total number of guests including us is now 10 adults and 13 children. Ever practical - and always looking for the chance to browse round Focus - Steve went out yesterday and purchase a 'party gazebo' (read 'marquee'). This outing was, of course, preceded by much internet surfing and running into the garden with a measuring tape. Having concluded that a 9m long tent would only fit if we began felling trees, the 6m option was chosen and acquired within about 75 minutes. It is now coming up to 11am and the first guests are expected for about 2.30. This is not strictly true as our ever-helpful Single Bloke Friend (SBF) has been summoned to appear at 1.30 to aid with the construction of the 'garden lifestyle space'.

Every family should have an SBF. Not only is he great for cat sitting, child minding and helping out with general domestic tasks, he can also be relied upon to still be up at midnight to receive an emergency phone call to beg assistance with more manly tasks. And frankly, this afternoon I would rather be inside than in the rain wrestling with an unfeasibly large piece of tarpaulin and Steve's fraying temper.

Now shall I do Pimm's or mulled wine?

Friday, 28 March 2008

Keep plants where they belong

I finally got out into the garden yesterday to tidy up a bit of the boarder and introduce H to the delights of eating grass and daisies.You will be pleased to know that the magnolia has performed right on cue and the bargain bag of daffodil bulbs Steve purchased from Wilko's last Autumn has not disappointed - I can hardly see the lawn for yellow, and mowing is completely out of the question (shame!)

I note also that many of the patio pots are looking really, really ill. This is actually a good thing as they contain out-sized houseplants that I have been trying to kill for some time. The Mother-in-Law's Tongue, which indoors was so successful it burst out of its pot like some kind of tryphid, is looking decidedly dead and the weeping fig has wept its last. Unfortunately the Aloe Vera (kindly donated by my mother-in-law, incidently) has revived like a phoenix from the flames. Tempting as it is to douse it in lighter fuel to see if it will survive further torture, I'll resist. It's in quite a big tub and is rather too near the patio door, although if I no longer had a house I would not have to worry about disposing of its flora...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

What has become of my life?

I think Steve realised that there is method in my madness when I suggested he aimed to leave the house at 10.15 to make it on time for the 10.45 jamboree that is Tiny Tune Time this morning. The venue is a 10 minute walk away, but when you have two essentially helpless people (one more deliberately so than the other) to escort, it is amazing how the 20 minute buffer time goes. They arrived just in time and Steve's comment - which I shall take as a compliment - was, 'I am amazed that you ever leave the house.' Thank you, darling, just call me Wonder Woman.

I had promised someone I would write about my weekend away. Think about weekends away pre-children: Too much to eat and drink, talk late into the night and recover with a long, slow and late Sunday brunch over the papers with the Archers omnibus gently playing in the background.

The new horrors of the weekend away: Someone falling out of bed and insisting on not only sharing a bedroom but a bed with you, an argument in hushed whispers over the folly of the weekend away to fill the 2 hours it took to calm down the faller-out-of-the-bed, repeatedly feeding a baby who every time she wakes up is confused about where she is and panics (loudly).

To cap it all, I was wiping breakfast off the floor by 7am. In the end I locked myself in the bathroom with the Saturday Guardian.

A night away with your small people? Don't do it folks!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Enjoying becoming middle-aged

It occurred to me recently as I wandered through Oxford that I wanted to ram into female students with my over-sized pram, knock them to the floor and yell at them, 'You are so young, so pretty and you look so b****y miserable!' And then I realise that I have come to understand the adage 'Youth is wasted on the young'. Having worked through some of my anger issues (!) and come out the other side, I now conclude that however old you are, you will NEVER be this young again. Call it a mid-life crisis, but I have bought a denim mini-skirt and have taken to wearing it as often as possible because, hey, one day I'll be 73 and will want to stop thirty-somethings in their tracks with a carefully placed walking stick and yell at them, 'You are so young, so pretty...'

Monday, 7 January 2008

How did that happen?

We appear to be a week into the new year already. I thought about making new year's resolutions and was quite keen until about 10pm on 31st Dec when I collapsed into bed exhausted, realising that all my resolve had already gone.

Ho hum, my major achievement of the year is that, rather than picking food off the carpet after every meal, I have removed the patch of carpet underneath Ibby's highchair. I had hoped the surface below would be easi-wipe, I had not, however, accounted for how securely the foam from a cheap carpet can adhere to floor tiles...

Perhaps I have merely replaced one problem for another, but then that's life all over, isn't it?