Friday, 29 March 2013

The back bedroom.

I've been kicked out of my office by my children. I've set up camp in the back bedroom with my new glorious 27 inch iMac, bought expressly for the work I'm doing at the moment (an animation, about bedsores, and if you don't know what I'm on about please get with the programme). I've also bought a pretty little Edwardian desk, from local arty furniture shop called Quirky Dovetail, and a cute cream retro lamp from John Lewis and so it's really quite cosy back here.

Okay, so I would prefer to still be in my office where it's warmer and where I have all my files and the phone and a comfy chair and a nicer view out of the window but really, who am I kidding? I'm only being paid to do this work, whereas the children have important things to do when they get home from school. Like play Eric Johnson really loudly while strumming along on electric guitar, or filming themselves dancing Gangnam style dressed as a penguin and then posting it on YouTube.

To be honest I've made my new little corner of the guest room so pleasing that I almost don't mind. The only problem is that I don't have an office chair yet. I've ordered one, in hot pink, and in the meantime I've had to pile a load of towels on top of one another on a low wicker chair and it's not at all comfortable.

Look -

Why have I allowed this to happen? Well, it's either because ...

a.) I am soft.

b.) I am stupid.

c.) I am following the path of least resistance as usual.

d.) I am highly pragmatic and sensible.

Or possibly a combination of all of the above.

The thing is that the younger two boys go straight into the office when they get home from school and commandeer both desks and both computers. I shouldn't let them, I know. I do know. It's all wrong. But it's anything for a quiet life.

Youngest sits at my desk - MY DESK - getting his sticky paws all over my papers, knocking my things onto the floor, spilling chocolate Nesquik everywhere and basically I let it happen.

Middle One says: so don't let him sit there at your desk if you don't like it! 

But he can talk because he's over on the other desk, notionally Husband's desk, with his feet up and his guitar on his lap, playing along to Stevie Ray Vaughan, or some such, at top volume so that even if I did get Youngest out of there, there would still be his racket to contend with.

What's the answer? I don't know. We can't be the only ones with this problem: children hogging all the technology and the best spots in the house. Suggestions on a postcard please...

Shouldn't allow it, I suppose. They shouldn't be on the computers so much. But really, it doesn't seem ALL THAT terrible that Middle One wants to play music, while idly chatting to his friends on Facebook when he gets home. Where's the harm? 

I don't want to come over all Luddite about it. I mean, how different is that from the Good Old Days when I came home from school and slumped in front of Blue Peter and then rang up my mates to gossip about the day's events?

I could put a computer in his room, I suppose, so he could do the same up there instead of in my office. But his room is on the top floor, another floor up from the office and two floors up from the kitchen and living room, and I don't really want him all alone up there where I can't keep an eye on what he's up to. So I put up with it. 

Mostly I can work with the music on. When I'm writing I just blank it out, but I can't listen to audio files and work on an animation or take phone calls with blaring electric guitar in the background. And believe me, I've tried. So I've moved out.

I'm sure a child psychologist would have a field day about the dynamic in our household. The balance of power is all wrong, she would say. I've interviewed a few in my time, for articles, and they always come up with that sort of thing: children shouldn't rule the roost, blah, blah.

I remember when the health visitor came round shortly after Eldest was born and we weren't getting any sleep because we had him in our bed every night, breast fed on demand of course, and were totally beside ourselves, and she sat on our sofa in the living room and sighed. He's the one in charge here, isn't he? she said. 


And that's it, isn't it. He still is. They all are - all three of them. That's why I'm in the back bedroom and they are in my office.

Excuse me while I just re-arrange these very uncomfortable towels...



Thursday, 21 March 2013

A hot date.

We're going on a hot date, Husband and I. I've been nagging for ages, "We never go anywhere." "You're not romantic." "Why can't we go to the movies?" Nag. Nag. Nag. Husband doesn't like going out much, you see. And I do. 

So I'm a bit taken aback when he grabs the bull by the horns (as it were) and announces on Friday morning, as I'm standing in the shower, that he's booked a restaurant and a film for us to go to on Saturday night.

"Booked?" I say.

"Yes," he says, somewhat triumphantly, before turning back to the shaving mirror.

"What? You mean you've chosen the film?"

"Yes," he says, "and booked it, just like you want. Don't tell me you're not happy with that!"

"No, no," I say quickly, "that's fine. That's great. Thank you." 


"What is it?"

He sighs. "The Paperboy."  

"The Paperboy?" I say, despite myself.

"Yes," he says, "I read a review in the Guardian. It said it's good. Nicole Kidman." 

This rings vague bells. Alarm bells.

On Saturday evening we go to the film. We leave Eldest in charge at home. We bump into a lovely old uni friend with his partner at the cinema, in the bar, and have a drink with them. I talk to her. Husband talks to him. As you do. So far so good. But it's not exactly a hot date. Not yet anyway.

We watch the film. It's set in Florida in the 60s. It's about a woman obsessed with a serial killer. It's brooding, slow, menacing. 
There's nasty sex, a gay rape scene, blood on a plastic sheet, graphic throat slitting. We nearly get up and leave halfway through but then we don't. It's not a hot date movie.

At the end of the movie we meet up with our old uni friend and partner in the lobby and commiserate with one another. Turns out they read the same review.

"Where now?" says old uni friend as the four of us huddle together in the cinema doorway, peering out at the rain. 

Perhaps, since we've known this friend for as long as we've known each another (27 years), the thought that we might be having a hot date doesn't occur to him. If so he has a point. 

His partner reads the situation differently. Maybe they want to to be alone? she says. 

I'm torn. On the one hand it would be fun to go for dinner with two lovely friends, whom we hardly ever see. On the other hand it's meant to be a hot date. 

We say goodbye, and as we walk across the road to the restaurant the alternative evening we might have had with the two lovely friends plays out in my head (it was great).

By now it's late and we're hungry and they can't find us a table even though Husband booked one, so we have a drink at the bar. Or two. 
Eventually they find us a table in a corridor, jammed up against a wall, where it's draughty. 

"It's draughty," I say. Husband raises his eyebrows. He thinks I have a 'thing' about tables. This is true, I like to get a good one. This annoys him. 

I spot a better table about to come free nearby. It's also in the corridor but might be less chilly so when it's available we move. 

It's busy at the new table. Waiters are dashing past and keep knocking us. So when another table becomes free, a round one, set back a bit but still in the corridor, sort of, we move there.

A heavy silence descends. This is because Husband is not amused by all the table hopping, we have had two drinks, and we still haven't eaten, or even been given a bread basket. We are rapidly becoming what a friend of mine calls 'Hangry'. And drunk. 

Then I spot another newly vacated table, a really good one this time, not in a corridor, with a banquette. "Look!" I say, "there's a great table over there, not in a corridor, with a banquette!" 

Husband scowls. He's got a no-way-am-I-moving-again look on his face. I slump back dejectedly in my seat just as the manageress swans past and reads my mind. "You want to sit over there, don't you?" she says, "on the banquette."

"I really do!" I say. 

"That's fine," she says, "I don't blame you, that's my favourite table." She moves our cutlery and our drinks for us. 
I snuggle into the banquette. It's cosy and romantic with no draughts and no one banging into us. I'm happy. We still haven't got any food but I don't care. We have a banquette! 

"We just moved tables three times," says Husband.

"I know!" I chirp, "how funny is that!"

He leans across the table, our fourth table, the one 
that's cosy and warm and romantic with no draught and no one banging into us and that has a banquette. He looks me straight in the eye. This is it, I think, this is when the hot date starts in earnest.

"It's not funny," he says darkly, "it's a disease."



P.S. The uni friend we bumped into with was John McNally, author of the Infinity Drake series for kids. Check them out.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Mother's Day.

I'm going away for the weekend with some mum friends. It's a miracle. The last time I went away with friends was... Actually I can't remember the last time. 

Before I go I do my customary Friday morning scoot round the house to tidy up. I run up and downstairs putting things away, picking up empty cups and mouldy bowls of cereal and getting all out of breath. It's a workout as well as a tidying up exercise. Win/win.

I haven't got time to sort all the clean washing into piles and carry to each room and decant into each cupboard so I leave a note asking boys and Husband to do their own. 

Here it is:

On Saturday morning, in a little village in East Sussex, I get up and go out by myself. I walk through the village and down to the river and stand on a white, wooden footbridge. The silted water below looks like milky coffee: fast-flowing cafe latte dashing beneath my feet. But maybe that's just the Londoner in me. 

There's a large old church with a very tall steeple, a few low timber cottages, flooded meadows on either side of the brown ribbon of water, the South Downs rising up beyond the village in the distance. 

It's very still and very quiet. I can only hear birdsong. It's probably been exactly like this for hundreds and hundreds of years.

We have a lovely weekend in the little village in East Sussex. We go for walks. We sit in front of the fire. We eat. We drink a lot of prosecco. We cook a big fry up on the last morning. We drive home on Sunday afternoon.

It's Mother's Day so I'm looking forward to the home-coming. One of the other mums has a long text from her daughter telling her she loves her. Twice. Another is told her two daughters are making her a cake. A third has a text from her daughter saying she took her younger sibling on the Tube and felt like a mum.

I send two texts to the older boys asking how their weekends went. One replies, "Fine" and the other replies, "Good". Youngest sends a message from Husband's phone saying, "I love you Mummy!" But it's only a matter of time.

When I get home Husband looks stressed and dashes back to the kitchen to tend to the dinner. Youngest gives me a big hug. Eldest thrusts two bars of Green and Black's chocolate into my hands, not wrapped and with the price still on, saying, "Here, that cost a fortune and you're always complaining I never get you anything." "Just giving me a card would be fine," I mutter back, "or one of your lovely paintings," but he's already gone. Middle One doesn't come downstairs because he's on the computer.

I go up to the bedroom to unpack. The bag of clean washing I left behind with the note has fallen to the floor and all the clothes have spilled out. 

Like this:

We have a lovely roast dinner cooked by Husband. I have homemade cards from Youngest and Middle One. The card from Middle One says: Happy Mother's Day.

I go to bed. I dream I have four boys and not three and I am pregnant with a fifth. For some reason in the dream I call the fifth one Rafe. I don't even like the name Rafe. Actually it's not a dream, it's a nightmare.


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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Nature's grand impetus.

There's a stirring. Can you feel it? An unfurling and a twitching and a nibbling and a ferreting. 

A growing and a reaching and a pushing and a rising.

From somewhere deep below - like as deep as a Florida sinkhole - up, up, up into the light.

There is joyous halcyon sun and with it there is chirping and cheeping and pecking.

There are little furry noses sniffing down in their burrows. 

A glimpse of Persephone, a piper playing at the gates of dawn, Nature's grand impetus, Dryads in the trees, multiple fluttering of heads in sprightly dance, and just in the nick of time too. 

Just when we thought it might never come back, the earth has turned, the sky has cleared, the soil has warmed, the trees have buds. 
It's spring!

Thank Christ for that. Or maybe thank Gaia, seeing as I'm an atheist.  

On a personal level, as well as a meteorological one, this is good. It means I can forget about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which I was convinced I was suffering from last week. And Eldest will be pleased because I'll stop mentioning the importance of circadian rhythms.

It got so bad; I actually looked up the symptoms for SAD:

Depression. Check.

Sleep Problems. Check.
Lethargy. Check.
Over eating. Not really.
Loss of concentration. What was that last one? Oh yes, check.
Anxiety. Sometimes. Okay, check.
Loss of libido. No comment.
Social problems. What does that mean? Characterised by a wish to avoid people. Oh yes! Check.
Mood Changes. For God's sake how stupid is that!!! Oh, I see, well, yes. Check.
Sudden disappearance of symptoms with the arrival of spring? Yes! Yes! Yes!

I even started to write a list of things I'd achieved each night before I went to bed to lift my spirits. It was pathetic. 

One entry read: did washing, made phone call, cooked meal, talked to children.

But I have to say it worked. It made me feel heaps better.
Then I forgot to write it because I was busy, on Friday and Saturday and Sunday. Work took over, I went to the theatre, people came to stay, we went to the opera, we went out for lunch, more work arrived, the sun came out and now I've forgotten about SAD altogether, which I guess is the whole point.
We are animals. The earth is a living breathing thing: our home, our succor, our friend. Able to make us feel happy or sad or dead or alive. Even, for some poor sod sitting in bed minding his own business in the United States the other day, able to open its pitchy, gaping maw and swallow us whole, like something from a Roald Dahl story. 

I guess we should respect it.

Here's a link to that story about the man in Florida -


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