Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas, Everybody!!!!!!!!!

And a very Happy New Year!!!! I'll blog when I can.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Of Boyfriends Past

Laurie got me thinking about boyfriends past. I've had a fair few of them, most not very acceptable. But some made more of an impact than others.

There was my College Boyfriend (CB). I met him on a night out with girlfriends when I was 17 and a freshman. He was 21, with wiry, prematurely gray hair and a mustache (I had a thing for facial hair when I was younger). I was very drunk. He took my number and I really didn't think I'd hear from him.

He did call, two days later. I was completely infatuated and started spending lots of time at his (unheated and this was December) apartment in the student ghetto. He was funny. He was smart. He also had another girlfriend in West Virginia. She was in law school. He was studying political science. He came into my life at that stage when I was a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

But he was Catholic, from a large family with an alcoholic father and lovely mother. Though he didn't practice his Catholicism anymore, he retained the guilt. And he felt very guilty about the other girlfriend, who knew nothing about me. He would make comments about me, comparing my body, my mind, my whatever to her. The Christmas break came, and I went to visit my mother in Wyoming, where I met a gorgeous cowboy. We had a fling, but I couldn't get CB out of my head.

After the Christmas break, he moved and broke off contact with me. I got the flu really bad and couldn't get out of bed for a week. Then the depression hit me. I looked for him everywhere on campus but never ran into him. Till it was almost Spring Break. I saw him or he saw me walking. We spoke. He took me back to his new apartment and introduced me to his new roommates. We resumed our relationship. His girlfriend still didn't know about me. I stayed on at college that summer to be with him. Gainesville, Fla., is not where you want to be in the summer. Except I wanted to be with him.

I went to my dad's for the break till the next term started. In that time CB moved again. He was supposed to call, but never did. Finally, I tracked him down. His old girlfriend had been visiting, and his new roommates thought she was fantastic. Still, we didn't break up. He introduced me to his new roommates, who never did take to me. Neither did his family.

The longer we were together, the more determined I was to be the girlfriend who won. It took me over a year. No one I knew liked CB. Not my family. Not my roommates. Not my friends. I didn't care. I wanted him. Finally, I wrote him a letter telling him that I couldn't take being second in line anymore. That did it. He broke up with the other woman.

And he turned into a possessive maniac. He didn't like me to wear makeup. Or revealing clothes. Or to talk to any other guy. We had a huge fight in McDonald's once because he'd seen me talking to a guy in one of my classes. He made me cry. In public. He also cheated on me at least once. And I cheated on him. We broke up once. I lost loads of weight. Then we got back together. I needed him. Somehow he was my security blanket. He disliked the major I chose, journalism, because he had contempt for all journalists.

Finally, he graduated and went to another university to get a master's in public policy. I drove two hours every weekend to see him. But I was starting to feel my independence. I got an internship at a paper. I started to work at the college newspaper. Other guys showed interest in me, and I was interested in them. I had a fling with one of the reporters on the college newspaper. When I graduated, I got a job at a newspaper in Fort Myers, on the copy desk. I lost loads of weight again and got loads of male attention. Finally, I could no longer keep up the double life.

CB and I had talked about getting married, but had never officially become engaged. It was just an understanding. I broke up with him on the phone. Cowardly, I know. He said lots of mean things to me, which I shrugged off. It didn't matter because I'd met someone new.

I moved on with my life. A few years passed, and in the middle of the night the phone rang. It was CB. He'd been drinking with his dad and got nostalgic and tracked me down somehow. My then-husband was not pleased. He had nothing to worry about. The next day I called CB. Was he OK? Yes, but his mother had been killed by a robber at the convenience store she'd had to get a job at. He'd married his next-door neighbour, a nurse. They raised dobermans and had a couple of kids. He worked as a rep for a drug company, never using the master's he had completed.

And that was the last I heard of him. I wish him well, but he's not someone I would want back in my life. Unlike the next boyfriend.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listening?

As I look out upon my frosty lawn, I start to feel more in the spirit. I have been on a cleaning spree. No particular reason other than it's nice to have the place looking clean, if not tidy.

No relatives are descending upon us this year. Usually, I invite the outlaws, but this year I didn't. So no need to clean the guest room or get in extra food or have any extra worries. The house feels a bit empty, but we're making up for it with a couple of parties. Once again I gave in to daughter and have allowed her to have a party this Saturday. There will be no food, though, so no chance of it getting thrown around like last time. Now, you'd think she'd be sucking up to me every chance she gets. You'd be thinking wrong. My 13-year-old has changed in the last couple of weeks. No kisses or hugs at bedtime. No goodbyes as she leaves the house for school. And son informed me he wants to go to the town centre with a friend and his "girlfriend." I said no, unless I or another parent takes them. Daughter isn't even allowed to go on her own with her friends yet. He wasn't pleased.

I'm having another party on the 27th for friends and their kids. So yesterday I did the mega-shop at Tesco (which did my shoulder no good) and have planned menus for Christmas Eve (my traditional lamb stew), Christmas (Ballotine of duck, chicken, and turkey, courtesy of Marks and Spencer's), Boxing Day (Gammon), party (poached salmon and pork roast), and New Year's Eve (individual Beef Wellington's). Not bad, eh? I always feel better when I feel more in control and on top of things. I AM a Capricorn, after all.

And I'm fitting in hour-long walks with Jake. I've discovered a local park that seems to be doggy paradise. All the dogs I've come across have been well-behaved, and it's good for Jake. Although he can be a little monster at home, he's quite timid and submissive around some dogs, particularly those that bark a lot. He barks only when he has a reason. So he needs more socialization. I've had a trainer come round twice to assess him. His biggest problem is pulling on the lead till he chokes himself. A friend gave me a harness, which we used till he grew out of it. I then got him a Halti. Actually, I got two, because the first was too big. He's chewed the second one so much he's shredded it. So I'll have to get another one. In the meantime I'm doing the tried and true method of stopping every time he pulls on the lead and only going forward when he allows slack on the lead. He's a smart dog and seems to be catching on slowly. I just let him in and he's jumped all over me with his muddy paws, leaving a big black paw print on my cream slippers. What is he like!

I must go and figure out a last-minute gift for hubby. Men are so hard to buy for. At least he gave me hints this year: coat and watch. That's it. No clues as to what kind of coat or watch. So he's getting a coat and a watch and if he doesn't like them he can take them back.

It's a beautiful day here.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Tags and Blawards (blog awards, my new word)

I haven't been writing here much which means I've been catching up on Christmas, trying to get out of my Bah Humbug mood, and trying to get over my shoulder pain. I'm sort of achieving all three.

So to catch up: The lovely Pixie has awarded me the Best Blogging Buddies award. I love the design of this award as much as its meaning. A year ago I never knew anything about the blogging world or how it could open up a whole new world of friendship and thought to me. But it has. Now I must pass it on to 7 other blogging buddies. I nominate Queeny, Kaycie, Laurie, Kelly, Flowerpot, Debio, and Lady M.

I've also been tagged by DJ Kirby.

I'm supposed to:
1. Link back to the person who tagged me. DJ, I'm not sure this will be easy. In fact it's going to be bloody difficult.

2. Imagine you could send a letter back in time to yourself, when you were 13 years old, what would you write to yourself?

3. Tag 5 people to inflict this on.

Dear Wakeup:

You have just become a teen-ager. Congratulations! You will be a somewhat difficult teen-ager, but it won't all be your fault. In two years you will grow up in many ways, many ways that just won't be that necessary. You will experiment with drink and drugs. You will be very susceptible to the opposite sex, particularly when you mix the drink and drugs. Your parents will cause you much heartache and sorrow through their own selfish needs. Your teens won't be your best years; you will make a lot of duff choices, but you will learn from your mistakes.

In your 20s you will start to enjoy yourself more and become more confident. You will discover ambition and career. This will take over your life and will cost you a marriage. But it won't have been a good marriage anyway.

As you enter your 30s you will worry that you will never have what you want most in life -- a family and stable marriage. Don't fear. Happiness is around the corner for you. By your mid-30s you will have achieved your family goals with a husband and two children, and career and ambition will take a back seat for the foreseeable future. Becoming a parent will help heal the hurts inflicted on you by your parents when you were 15-18. You will move to states and countries that you never even dreamed of doing at 13.

Your 40s will be, if not an awesome decade, at least a comfortable one. You will mature in many ways, including a menopause that sneaks up on you. At 47 you will grieve for the loss of what you considered your womanhood, something that had been with you every month since you were 9. But HRT will replace that, at least until you're 50. Physically, you will be both at your best and worst. You will have the time, energy, and desire to improve your fitness. You will overdo it, though, and end up with injuries.

As you approach 50 and look back at the girl who was 13, you will recall tears, fears, but also laughter and joy. For you are and always will be a person who feels all the emotions that are out there, and you should never be ashamed of that.

And now I have to tag five people, and those five people are Darth Sardonicus, Jenny, crystal jigsaw, Pixie, and VI (for when she has a chance while in Australia or when she gets back).

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bah Humbug

I got tagged by Queeny, oh about a million years ago. Sorry it's taken me so long to pass this along, Queeny.

Here it is:

When you get tagged, you have to add your name next to the person who tagged you and by doing so you are letting the list grow.
Rachel’s Soulful Thoughts
When Silence Speaks
Dancing in Midlife Tune
Underneath it All
I am Dzoi
Hobbies and Such
moms.....check nyo

Now, I'm going to pass this on to some more of you: annie, kaycie, laurie, the rotten correspondent. It's easy enough, and requires absolutely no soul-searching whatsoever.

Onto other matters, here's another list:

Number of Christmas cards I've written: 0

Number of presents I've bought for family in the UK: 2

Number of presents I've bought for family in the UK that I have to take back: 1

Number of times I've heard "Merry Christmas Everybody" by Slade this year: 2002

Number of mince pies I've eaten: 2

Number of mince pies I've wanted to eat: 0

Number of times I've felt in the "Christmas spirit": 0

Number of times I've felt like throttling someone in the past week: 10

Number of people I've felt like throttling: 10

I'm sorry. I'm just not in the Christmas spirit and people like Martyr, who came round to my house the other night to discuss the narrative for the 12 Days of Christmas for our church's crib service, just incense me.

According to Martyr, she has singlehandedly produced our crib service for about the last 9 years. For at least 4 years I know I've played a significant role in helping her. But she fails to acknowledge this, and goes on and on and on about how no one ever helps her, blahdeblahdeblah. She also keeps saying how her children would much rather attend another church in our village, which has trained youth workers. I'm thinking, why don't you go there too then.

Anyway, this year the older kids and I came up with our own version of what the 12 Days of Christmas represent. I went through it with Martyr and the other woman who is "producing" the crib service. Martyr sighed and kept saying, "Why did you say that?" "What does that mean?" "I think it should be this." Finally, in frustration, I said, "I don't know why I've bothered doing anything for this if you've already made up your mind as to what it should be." With that, she backed down completely. She even backed off having her son, who attends the other church now, be a narrator.

I feel guilty for being pissed off about this. It's a crib service. We're supposed to be celebrating Jesus' birth. We're doing it for the people of our community. But people like Martyr just suck all the joy out of me. She also had a great big moan about the school my son and two of her sons attend. It's an awful school, according to her. Well, we've had a different experience. In fact, I'd say this school has been the best thing to happen to my son.

Recently, there was a meningitis scare at the school. Two Sixth Formers (17, 18-year-olds) got it. A third went to the hospital with similar symptoms, but because the lumbar puncture failed, they couldn't say it was meningitis. They gave the girl antibiotics and by the time they could do a lumbar, there were no meningitis markers. The school never came out and said this was a third case, nor did they say it was a suspected third case. Martyr thinks the school was irresponsible. I don't. I think they were trying to avoid a mass panic. Also, the decision-making was actually out of their hands. It was up the the Health Authority to decide what to do at this point. Needless to say, Martyr and I disagree.

I've known Martyr for 11 years. We've been almost-friends for that time. Now I can see clearly why we will never be friends. She just bugs the shit out of me. Nuff said.

Number of pain killers I've taken for my shoulder pain: lots

Number of pain killers that have worked: zero

Number of times I've felt panicked about Christmas this year: 20

Oh, I'll just go take a Valium and maybe it will all go away.

Just kidding!

Monday, 10 December 2007

City of Hope and Dreams

In addition to the cold I've had, I now have pulled a muscle in my shoulder. The pain radiates round to just under the left breast. Nothing I've taken even touches the pain, and I feel sick to my stomach with it. I've spent 13 minutes phoning and phoning my doctor only to be told there are no appointments left. I'll have to wait till this evening to go to the out-of-hours clinic. I'm almost in tears with the pain. This just sucks!

Thank God for Cranford. I so look forward to watching it every week. For those of you in the States, look out for it on PBS. It's as good or better than the Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.

I also watched the Royal Variety Performance Show last night, held for the first time in Liverpool. I felt so proud of this city that I've come to know since moving to the UK. The Empire Theatre never looked better. In fact, I'd say it puts many London theatres to shame. My one complaint is they had Bon Jovi singing Beatles songs. Why didn't they get the two Beatles still alive on the stage? After all, the Beatles, more than anyone or anything, put Liverpool in the international eye. Mention Liverpool to most of the world and the Beatles is the connection. Paul McCartney started LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). He still has family and property around Liverpool. He should have been there. And why close the show with Let It Be?

For anyone wanting to read a book rich in Liverpool history, "Sacred Hunger" by Barry Unsworth is a must. It shows the effect of the slave trade on Liverpool, which certainly profited from it. It's set in Liverpool's heyday, in the 18th century. In fact, stroll around Liverpool and you can see the remnants of its onetime wealth. It has more Georgian buildings than any city outside London. Across the water in Birkenhead, where all the wealthy ship owners used to live, you can also see its onetime glory in its buildings. Birkenhead is a shadow of its former self. People only live there now because they can't afford to move out. It's earned a place in the Top Hellholes of the UK to live in.

My husband's father's side come from Liverpool. Actually, they came from the Norfolk/Suffolk border. A housekeeper had three children by her employer. He never married her because she was already married to a man who was in a mental asylum. There were two girls and a boy. The boy inherited land and wealth from his father's brother, but lost it all by a very early age. My mother-in-law and I have speculated that perhaps he gambled it away. However, there was a mini-depression in that area among farmers at that time so perhaps that is what happened. In any event he left his wife and children with relatives and made his way to Liverpool with the intention of getting on a boat to America.

That never happened. Perhaps he lost the money for the fare. He stayed in Liverpool and got a job on the docks. He sent for his family eventually. By that time, though, his wife had died. His two daughters and son joined him. One of the daughters married a widower who lived across the street. Inexplicably, this widower lied about his age on his marriage certificate.

The son had two sons, one of whom moved to Australia, the other stayed in Liverpool and did quite well for himself. The Australian branch was lost to all until two years ago when I did a google name search for my husband. It's an unusual name because of the housekeeper merging her employer/lover's name with hers for her children. Anyway, up came a search on one of those genealogy websites from a man in Australia for any descendents of the fellow who moved to Liverpool. I passed the info onto my mother-in-law, who made contact, and the rest is family history.

She and my father-in-law went to Australia last year for a giant family reunion, where my father-in-law was feted by all. My mother-in-law was a bit unhappy because she'd done so much work to find these people and was not acknowledged at all. I was a bit unhappy because I was the one who actually found out about the Australian side first, and my mother-in-law didn't even bring me back a pine cone from her trip (she had gifts for everyone else). Ah, such is family history.

The wealth of the Liverpool son didn't get passed on to even one generation. His grand house in Liverpool has been torn down to build some really crappy public housing. His son, my husband's grandfather, ended up living on a council estate, where my father-in-law was born. My husband's grandfather was by all accounts a miserly curmudgeon. He used to go to sea, then retired to become a decorator. A fall off scaffolding crippled him for life, but he still managed to be a night watchman at a hotel. His wife was a lively woman who must have been stifled by the man she married. She would kick her heels up every night after her husband went to work. She ended up being one of those genteel alcoholics who put whiskey in their tea but forget how much so keep adding some more. She loved cats almost as much as her whiskey and cared for many a stray. She developed dementia in her later years, which was a shame. It clouded the memories of those who loved her. When she could no longer care for herself on her own, my mother-in-law put her in a rest home. She thought it was a hotel, a lovely one at that.

The vista of Liverpool has changed dramatically since I moved here 15 years ago. I used to drive down Scotland Road three times a week to visit my cats in quarantine in Aintree, which is where the Grand National horse race is held. Scotty Road was and is a hellhole. I used to try to count all the pubs along the way but always gave
up. But the Liverpool city centre now is a maze of cranes as it prepares to become the 2008 European City of Culture. I want good things for Liverpool and its residents. It has been a city in decline for so long but deserves so much better.

I'm going to have to go to the pharmacist for some pain killers now. I won't last the day otherwise.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Grey Skies are Gonna Clear Up

First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who commented in the previous post or has ever commented on my blog. Your comments mean so much to me, and help me get through the hard times.

Now, let me update you.

First of all, the skiing: the guy from the company phoned me yesterday morning to reassure me that yes, they have the cheque, and we are all square. An American friend is meeting us there and she's been in touch with the guy. For some reason, I'm not getting any emails from him. But all is well. Whew!!!!!

Secondly, Friend No. 2: After spending a restless night in which I cried, raged, thought about what I was going to say or write, I decided not to say, write, or do anything. Friend No. 2 is just like that, and nothing I do will change it. Our lives are too entwined for me to dump her, as hubby suggested I do. I decided that I'd far rather spend New Year's Eve with the people who matter the most to me -- my hubby and kids -- at home than in the house of someone who doesn't really want me there with people I hardly know. So I'm going to buy some very nice champagne, cook a very nice meal, get the chimney swept so we can have a roaring fire, and play board games with hubby and kids. Sounds ideal. And the rest of them can go fuck themselves.

Last night we went to a black tie dinner dance. I got a spray tan so I don't look like death. I went to my wonderful hairdresser yesterday and told him my tale of woe. He said, "Right, we are going to make you look fantastic." And he did. He curled my usually straight hair into a Charlie's Angels hair style. Farah Fawcett, eat your heart out. Friend no. 2 and that other frenemy were there. I told my hairdresser I don't get mad, I get even. So I walked in like I owned the place and pretended I was not the least bit bothered. I boogied (but didn't drink too much because I'm still suffering from drinking too much last week with my Frenemy). Hubby did drink too much and did his trick of falling asleep. But not before he told everyone how lucky he is to be married to me. The husbands of Friend No. 2 and the other frenemy weren't even there.

Back to my hairdresser. I've gone to him for 10 years. We always have a good laugh, but we had an even better one yesterday. He recently decided to open his own salon, but is suffering financially at the moment so he's put his house up for sale. But despite his worries, he is such good company. We had each other in tears of laughter with the voices we do for our animals. He has three cats, including a real bruiser named Jake. I, of course, have two cats and Jake the puppy (who's getting huge, by the way). His Jake is a big hunter who delights in leaving "presents" all over the house but especially in the bed. And his Jake would live off takeaways if he could. My Pearl, the Maine Coon, loves broccoli, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, peas, etc. She and my Jake have bonded over food.

I left the salon in much better spirits than when I arrived. Amazing how one person can make a difference. Laughter: the best medicine there is.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Friends and Frenemies

You ever have one of those days that just gets worse and worse? Where all your best-laid plans fall apart? I've had one of those, which is why I'm burning the midnight oil writing this.

It started with the rain. Hey, it's England. It rains a lot. I know that. But there's rain and there's rain. Then I arranged to go dog walking with a friend in the woods behind her house. We hadn't gone very far when I noticed I hadn't seen Jake for a while. Normally, he stays very close to me. So my friend and I then spent half an hour shouting his name and wandering around looking for him. My imagination took over, and I envisioned spending the whole day looking for him, phoning vets, telling the family he was gone. Then my friend called her house. He was there! He'd run back when he couldn't find me. Clever boy!

Now this bit gets complicated. My dog-walking friend is going to Disneyland Paris for New Year's. I thought another friend was having our family for New Year's. The dog-walking friend said she'd heard from another friend that dog-walking's frenemy (not the same as mine) was hosting a dinner party on New Year's. Hmm, I thought. Friend No.2 is very tight with dog-walking's frenemy. Does this mean she's dumped us for the frenemy? I saw Friend No. 2 later in the day. "What's happening with New Year's?" I asked. "Oh we're going to frenemy's for a dinner party," she replied. She said her daughter told her we were doing something with some friends for New Year's. "Yes, you were the friends we were doing something with. Remember, I said I'd do something, but you said you wanted to." She brushed me off. I was -- and am -- really upset and would have cried except I'd had a spray tan earlier and didn't want to ruin it. So we're high and dry for New Year's. It's too late to organise anything, and it would -- and does -- look like we're Billy No-Mates.

What really bothers me is that in the past Friend No. 2 has asked to come to mine for New Year's, and I've obliged. I also oblige when she asks if I can have her kids while she goes out, as I am tomorrow night and on the 22nd. I think it might be time to reassess the friendship, which will be hard because my kids and her kids are really tight. And I go to salsa dance class with her.

This brings me to the third shit part of the day. My kids and I are going skiing in February to the same resort as Friend No. 2. Except that I can't get any confirmation from the company I've booked it through that they've received my cheque. Hubby has gotten me all worked up about this, and I'm really worried that I'll be left high and dry again. But in a way, it might work out. I'm so upset with Friend No. 2 at the moment that I don't want to go skiing with her. But my kids were looking forward to going with her kids. Oh what a tangled web.

If only I had some legitimate problems to moan about. At least Jake is all right.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

I Just Can't Be Bothered to Be Articulate

The cold that everyone else seems to have had a month ago has finally caught up with me. I can't breathe. My eyes feel like they're bulging out. My muscles ache. I feel BLAAAAAHHHHHH! This always happens at this time of year when I should be writing Christmas cards and buying presents. At least it should be gone by Christmas.

Onto to other gripes: I am finding it hard to get onto the computer these days between hubby and the kids. "I have homework to do," they whine. So I sign off. And when I check on them, they're on MSN or some computer game. And hubby has work to do, which he updates me on every five minutes. Well, it's not like I HAVE to be on the computer. I mean, there's only my blog and my Amazon shopping and maybe a few emails. And I need to check the other blogs I follow (which since we got the puppy I've been very remiss about). And how about a Sudoku to calm my nerves? And what's going on in the world? Oh yes, I could easily be on the computer all day long. Who cares about clean bathrooms or floors or food shopping or real life? Not me!

The good news is I won DJ Kirby's Wordless Wednesday last week. Thanks, DJ, and I need to put the award on my blog.

What I really need now is a nap, but Jake needs a walk. And I have to work on the things the dog trainer suggested for me. Yes, I got a dog trainer to come over last week to assess me and the dog. He's great. I could do with some improvement. Jake is a nipper, which can hurt, believe me. He also gets excited and jumps up on people. And the worst is taking him for a walk. He strains on the lead so badly, I'm afraid of choking him. I got a harness, which he has now outgrown. I got one of those Halti things, which he hates. He and I work on the lead every day in the driveway till he gets really frustrated and attacks my leg. But Rome was not built in a day, and Jake is an intelligent, if stubborn, guy. Well, so am I, Buster, so watch out! He is awfully cute, and one day I will post pictures of him. It's amazing how much he's grown, and how he's changed our family dynamic. Hubby, so opposed to the idea of a dog, values his time with Jake, using it as therapy almost. Daughter has been good at training him. Jake sees Son as his equal, so we need to work on that. The cats have settled down somewhat. I never knew that cats could eat and growl at the same time but Minnie does. Pearl, always the dominant cat, has rolled over and played dead practically. At Thanksgiving, hubby gave Pearl some turkey. Jake snatched it from her mouth. She has the claws, she just needs to learn how to use them.

I shall leave this mishmash of a post now to take Jake for some exercise. And remember, tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Britney and Amy and All the Rest

No they don't look alike, but they are alike. Two talented young women throwing it all away. And for what? Drugs, booze, inappropriate choices in marital partners. Their type has been around before. Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin come to mind.

What is with this self-destructiveness? Are they so spoiled they can't see how enormously fortunate they are? What will it take for them to see it? Losing custody of her children didn't make Britney wake up. A drug overdose and arrest hasn't made Amy wake up. My daughter asks me difficult questions about these two. Why do they behave that way? What will happen to them? Do I think they are talented? I only know the answer to the last question, which is yes. I think they are tremendously talented. But talent is no excuse for bad behaviour. And these two are the poster children for Bad Behaviour.

They make me angry because they remind me of another once young woman I know who lost her life to drink and drugs: my stepsister. (Welcome to another post about my vastly dysfunctional family.) My stepsister didn't have the talent of Britney and Amy, but she certainly has had the advantages. She went to six (!!!!!!) colleges and still doesn't have a degree. She married a man who had cheated on her with her roommate. When they made up and he got her pregnant, both families forced them to marry. He then was sent to rehab by his parents and wasn't around for the birth of their first child. Neither was very disciplined about money and they ran up enormous debts, which they couldn't pay because they didn't work (except sporadically for his parents). He went back to rehab, she went to rehab, he got out of rehab, she got out, they had another child. They had lots of help along the way with their dysfunction by both sets of parents. They split up but never divorced. He would resurface in his children's lives from time to time, then leave as quickly. Their kids went to live with my stepbrother, and hopefully won't fall into the addiction vortex. Stepsister is currently back in rehab after leaving her wildly inappropriate boyfriend (on the sex offenders' register). Her husband is in jail awaiting trial for stealing from a relation of stepsister. (You would think we were from a low-income, poorly educated background. We are not.)

So Amy and Britney, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. You are role models for our daughters, and you are failing abysmally. Make something of your lives besides a mess. Insecurity is not an excuse.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Aaarrggggghhh! My Sister!

I had a rather upsetting conversation with my mother last night about my sister. Apparently, my mother sent her some money to buy a digital camera for Christmas. My sister's oldest son, 34, unemployed, single dad who lives with my sister along with his two brothers and his daughter, called my mother and told her my sister used the money to pay her electricity bill.

I think the most upsetting part of this is that my sister, 57, still has to use money from my mother to pay bills.

We're not very close, my sister and I. My sister doesn't believe that I can begin to understand her problems. I don't want to begin to understand her problems. They began when I was 11 and she was 21 and moved in with the man who became her husband. That he was a ne'er-do-well was apparent even to my innocent 11-year-old eyes. He blatantly cheated on her but stuck around long enough to father four children with her (and a couple in between with his girlfriend Mimi). They had financial highs. My dad begged my sister to put away money for her children during that time. She swore she had. That was the beginning of her lies and deception. When the financial lows followed, she relied on money from my mother, sent three of her kids to live with her for a while, and when my mother remarried, sent her children to stay with her all summer every summer.

My sister's children inherited her ability to massage the truth. She has played the single mother card for a long time. She has moaned that the whole world is against her and her kids. She HAS worked hard, but I think work has been an escape from her home life.

I used to fall for her stories of woe. I sent money and gifts to the kids, though they were never acknowledged. I gave my niece my childhood rocking chair. It ended up in pieces. I offered to have a nephew come visit me when I lived in New York. My sister neglected to tell me the date he was arriving. He spent 10 hours alone in La Guardia Airport because my sister neglected to give him my phone numbers. He was only 12, scared and angry. I tried to make it up to him, but he took it out on me by getting lost in the Museum of Natural History and stealing from me. I had planned to have the others come stay with me, but that visit scuppered those plans.

My sister's kids are all grown now, and I see the dysfunction continue into another generation. As I said before, her three grown sons live with her. One works for her. The other two are unemployed. The girlfriend of one has just had a baby but refuses to live with him until he gets a job. My niece, the one who visited my mother in the summer and suffered from Harry Potteritis, then gastroenteritis, is stuck in a bad marriage to a control freak who is addicted to Valium and prescription pain killers. The control freak has a bad back (as did my sister's ex-husband) and can only work intermittently.

My sister thinks my husband and I look down our noses at her and her family. If only that weren't true. But it's not for the reasons she thinks. I have gotten caught up in her family dramas in the past and been burned because she is frugal with the truth. I would listen to her cry about her ex-husband cheating on her, then see her act as though nothing were wrong when he was around. She has been involved with a man for the past 14 years. She used to harbor dreams of marrying him, but his children hate her and he will never marry her. He also has cheated on her. She used to call me up and cry about how badly he treated her. My daughter was a baby when this happened the first time. I was so worried about my sister I called her the next night to check on her. And guess what? Everything was hunky-dory again and they were going out. THE NEXT NIGHT!

Her kids have been involved in drugs, have been sent to jail for assault and concealing weapons, have run away, have been put in secure mental health units. And none of it is their fault. When the going really gets tough, she sends them out to my mother's. One of my nephews was sent out there a couple of years ago because he owed a drug dealer money and needed to get out of Florida for a while. But that's not what my sister told my mother. She sent my niece out there last summer, hoping my mother would help her sort out her marital problems. My sister totally ignored the fact that my mother was going through her own crisis. No one else's problems ever come close to being as bad as her and her family's.

We can't choose our family. I really wish I could be closer to my sister, could offer support to her. But I can't and I won't. It's a one-way relationship and a web of lies and deceit that I don't wish to get caught up in. So in this Season of Good Will, I'll send her my best wishes, but I won't send her money.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

They Just Want to Curl Up and Die

I've discovered a new method of getting information out of my children. Call it parental bait and switch or surprise attack.

It came to light last week. We were on our way to test-drive a new car. My son was showing my daughter a picture of his girlfriend on his phone. Being the nosy mother I am, I wanted to see too. I asked him to show me. He stalled and stalled, couldn't find it, etc. So I decided it was a good time to have a general sex and growing up discussion.

"So," I asked, "do you have any pubic hairs yet?"

Son nearly choked on his tongue.

"Mum, that's not a question you're supposed to ask. It's none of your business."

"I just want you to know you can always come to me if you have any questions, or even your dad. Do you have any questions?"

The phone was presented immediately with the picture of the girlfriend, who is cute, by the way.

The other night I was taking a break from ironing and watching music videos with daughter. There was a certain dance move I wanted daughter to show me. She was covering her face with the newspaper to avoid seeing my hopeless attempts. Aha, I thought, I'll embarrass her even more.

"So," I asked, "have you kissed any boys yet?"

There was a long, uncomfortable silence during which daughter seemed riveted by the TV. Obviously thinking about her answer, she finally replied.

"Yeah, in Year Six, but you know about that."

Hmm, did I?

Daughter decided to show me the dance move as I was about to probe further.

I picked son up from school yesterday. Knowing that he and his sister exchange secrets sometimes, I asked him who daughter had been kissing. He immediately came up with a name.

"Did she tell you that?" I asked.

"No, but he's really nice to me and talks to me and always tells me how nice my sister is."

"Does he say she's fit?" I probed further.

"That's not something you say to a girl's brother," he said.

Oh. Fit obviously has a different meaning these days.

Ah, this teen phase could actually have potential for fun. I can't wait to embarrass them some more.

Monday, 26 November 2007

On Poo and other Scatological Topics

Now many of you know what a big fan of Amazon I am. I'm letting my fingers do the walking for a lot of my Christmas shopping. And I've been wondering what to get Jake, the dog who loves to eat everything.

Snails are a particular delicacy. However, he has been known to try the odd leaf or nugget of cat poo. The other day I took him to the beach for a walk. He started chewing something that looked like seaweed. Upon closer examination, when he allowed me to get close enough, I discovered it was horse poo. Yuucchhh! Then I made a foray into the garden to scoop up what poo I could find. And there before me were the remnants of the horsey poo. It struck me as quite funny that that hay had been excreted twice from two different animals.

Anyway, back to Amazon, I was looking for certain things for Jake and found something called a Dri Dog Bag. From there I found the Clean Green Dog Loo and from there I found the wonder product called Poop Freeze Spray. Intrigued, I read further. This freezes the poop, making it easier to scoop. Now, you know I like to see what people who bought this product also purchased. Here's what they also got: Lesbian Sex! card game and The Book of Sole: Incest, Buggery and Rape. And here's a review of the Poop Freeze Spray:

By Wayne Redhart (UK) - I must say that I was a little disappointed with this product. It does an excellent job of freezing the exterior of faeces- preventing unpleasant smearing upon harvest. However, the spray cannot penetrate beyond the surface. I like to place my stools in the fridge's freezer-compartment to finish the job.

I think it's safe to assume Mr. Redhart also purchased The Book of Sole.

They F*** You Up, Your Mum and Dad....

I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Anyone remember that Alka Seltzer commercial? I didn't do too badly though because I still lost a pound this week.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of six weeks of family agony for me. Many years ago when I was almost 21, after being put in my place very rudely by my stepmother's father one Thanksgiving, I decided life was too short to spend holidays with my family. And except for a couple of rather disastrous ones, I haven't since. That doesn't mean I don't think about them and don't want them to think about me, though. A phone call or even an email is always welcome. This year I got neither. My sister seems to be suffering from memory loss. That is, she claims she can't remember my email address. She DID remember it up until the crisis with my mother last summer. She never calls me, and I stopped calling her because she would spend an hour talking about herself and her family. It goes without saying that my brother doesn't keep in touch. My dad and stepmom, after many, many years of being so self-involved they'd forget to call me, were doing pretty well but not this year. My mother did call yesterday.

So why don't I call or email them? Because I'm tired of the one-way system of our relationship. They have no idea what goes on in my life because they don't ask. I haven't told them about Hubby's job going in January. I haven't told them about Son's cross-country success. I haven't told them anything about Daughter. My mother hasn't visited me in 8 years and I doubt she will again. My sister and brother came for my wedding (I cashed in my 401K and paid their way). My dad and stepmom are having financial difficulties apparently (though they seem to have money to do up their house) so I won't be seeing them over here anytime soon either.

These are people who would call me at 11 p.m. on Christmas Day, my first Christmas after I split from my first husband when I was all alone, and say "Oh, we forgot all about you." That was my stepmother, never a sensitive person. And they used to have a system of pulling names out of a hat for Christmas presents. That year I got nothing because my brother, who pulled out my name, decided not to give me anything. Or they would call on Jan. 9, the day after my birthday, and sing "Happy Birthday" and wonder why I wasn't thrilled to hear it (my dad and stepmother). Or actually bother to come see me on Christmas, then pull a martyr act (my mother). And back to that Thanksgiving: My stepmother's father was an ignorant oaf who delighted in putting people down. Do you think my father stood up for me? Did he hell!

I MIGHT send them an email, but I'm just a bit too pissed off at the moment.

I have been inviting my in-laws for Christmas for the past few years. However, I haven't done so this year. Last year I was held hostage in my own kitchen by my mother-in-law, who has verbal diarrhea (I can't spell this the UK way), while everyone else drifted in and out and did their own thing. I'm using the dog as an excuse. The kids are a bit upset, but frankly it's their own fault. They should have been spending time with their grandparents instead of leaving it all to me. And Hubby didn't want to invite them in the first place, he said.

At the back of my mind I wonder if my kids will feel this way about me when they and I get older. Of course, I would never have my head up my ass so far I'd forget to call them at Christmas or Thanksgiving or their birthdays. I remember my stepmother telling me one year, "I finally figured out that it matters to you to be remembered on your birthday." Well, yeah.

Am I any different from any other human being?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

It's the start of the Eating Season. Let the eating begin.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Gobble Gobble

Aarrrgh! It's that time of year when all my procrastination comes back to haunt me.

First, I've got to decide on my Thanksgiving menu. Thanksgiving is tomorrow officially but since I've lived in the UK I've celebrated it the Saturday after. I've got the turkey and know what dessert I'm making: chocolate pecan pie. And maybe something pumpkin though no one in the house is a fan of pumpkin pie. Then there are the veggies and stuffing to sort out. Usually I make a cream cheese-butter-herb mixture to slip under the skin of the turkey to keep it moist while it cooks. But being that I'm on VI's diet, I'm wondering if I should go low-fat. I'm thinking of going all-out traditional and making green bean casserole and candied yams or sweet potatoes (maybe with marshmallows on top). My daughter wants me to make either au gratin potatoes or chantilly potatoes (both with cheese). I'm thinking of a wild rice casserole or stuffing.

Anyway, I've got to get my act in order. I also need to start on the Christmas shopping, which thanks to is a lot easier these days.

So I'd better get going. And Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Tuesday Twins

"HUH???" I hear you all say. What's all this about then? Well, a little-known part of my life is that I help out at the local Church of England Sunday School. I hesitate to say I'm a Sunday School teacher because I don't feel like a teacher.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, my life is full of contradictions. And I'm a total hypocrite. But back to these pictures. Here's the connection: our theme for this year's Crib Service (on Christmas Eve) is the Twelve Days of Christmas. Now, some time ago, someone started a rumour that the Twelve Days of Christmas was written in Tudor times as a way for Catholics to celebrate Christ's birth. Henry VIII, as you may know, persecuted Catholics when he decided to get divorced and break away from the Catholic Church. In this country it was illegal to be a Catholic for the next 200 or so years. So each verse supposedly represents something biblical, with the partridge in a pear tree being Jesus.

Except when you start thinking about it, it doesn't make sense. Catholics wouldn't be punished for believing something all Christians believe. And so in the first meeting I attended, I started to ask a lot of questions, and found the answers here: But the other women paid no mind. The decision had been made already about the theme. So now I'll be working with the older group to come up with what symbolism they think all the verses could have.

Helping out at the Sunday School, particularly the Crib Service, has become a real chore. I did it for my kids to begin with. I'm no Holy Roller, but I do have a religious foundation and curiosity. My atheist and agostic friends feel uncomfortable with this side of my life. My reasoning is this: We live in a complicated and difficult world. Understanding religion is a key to understanding different peoples, and you can't begin to understand others' religions, I believe, unless you have a belief system yourself. I am providing my children with one. If they choose to reject it when they grow older, that is their right. However, it is something to come back to if they ever need or want to. And at least I've given them something to reject. It is easy to not believe in religion, lazy even. You can pick apart all religions and find flaws because they are communicated to us by other humans. But through all the ages of humankind, religion in one form or another has survived. We have a basic need for a belief system, for a sense of community that religion brings us, for a structure of rules. Even if that belief system is to not believe.

But back to the Twelve Days of Christmas, I'm actually looking forward to it now. Some new people have come on board and diluted the overbearing martyrdom of one woman who thinks she's the only one who ever does anything. I'm sure you've met this type before. They usually belong to PTAs as well. She always goes on about how she's the only one who ever does anything and it cuts into her Christmas Eve with her family, yaddayaddayadda. No one else has a family, it seems. And she always forgets that for the last three years I've helped her. She did it with another woman before that, but she tragically died of cancer. And maybe that's what's behind the Martyr's complaints: she misses her friend, whom she never talks about. Or maybe she's just one of life's complainers.

I'll let you know how we get on. It could be interesting. It could be, dare I say, fun!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Oh, the Drama!

What can I say? Life goes on. I didn't get to speak to Hubby till Thursday night because he'd dropped his mobile phone and someone stood on it Wednesday night. Pretty bad day all the way round for him. His firm say he has to raise £10,000,000 for his fund by the end of the year or they will shut it down in January. Hubby says they were still dithering in the meeting Wednesday so he just walked out. They wanted him to work Christmas Eve and he told them they could forget that idea.

Worst case scenario (which could get worse, you never know): Hubby gets three weeks' redundancy pay and can't find another job for at least a year. He doesn't think that will be the case though. He's also looking in different directions as well. He's hoping they will give him six months' redundancy, but you can never count on these people to do the right thing. In any case Hubby has decided the time is right to move on.

Shame, really. This job made our home life topsy-turvy. Two and a bit years ago he was being wooed by all sorts of headhunters and was set to go with one firm, till they let the cat out of the bag and he got pissed off and cancelled it. Then this firm called up out of the blue. He thought he would fit in, and it gave him the chance to work with different people. In many ways it expanded his career horizons but it cost him personally. He would leave for London on Sunday evenings, returning home on Friday nights. We got about 36 hours with him, and most of those he spent decompressing then getting wound up again.

The kids and I were going to move down south. That was always the plan. But we had to finish doing up our house before putting it on the market. That took about a year. Then last year we put it up for sale. And had exactly four viewers in six months. The longer it went on, the more I realised I didn't want to move at all. My 47th birthday really cinched it for me. It was an awful birthday, one of the worst. I felt so depressed about everything. Hubby and I had been arguing for a fair few months in a way we'd never argued before. He had put the whole responsibility of this new job on my shoulders in one spectacular argument. He started drinking more. I would try to confide in my daughter, who didn't want to know, and who can blame her. Finally, Hubby agreed to a compromise. He would work from home on Fridays and go back at 2:30 a.m. on Mondays. Still not ideal, but better. The arguments ceased; I went on HRT and felt a whole lot better.

Most likely Hubby will remain in London with any future employment. It's the hub of activity for his profession. We will remain up here because we like it here. I think Hubby has kicked himself for making this move, but there are no guarantees in life. And you can't not take chances just because it might not end up the way you'd like it to. I felt incredibly lonely the first year, as did Hubby. But I got used to him being away. I might have to get used to having him back. How will I write my blog then? I'll have to tell him (and then delete all references to him).

On the plus side, we found out last night that son has made the county cross-country squad. And last night I watched the first episode of "Cranford." All you Americans should look out for it on PBS someday. Dame Judy Dench and many others are in it. I remember reading the book (a collection of stories really) by Mrs. Gaskill for the book group I belonged to at the time. So highly entertaining. And the series looks to be just as good. You can't beat a good costume drama.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

There May Be Trouble Ahead

So, Amsterdam is in the past. And there appears to be a nasty surprise on the horizon for my hubby.

His employers, who two years ago were all over him, have informed him that his new year won't be so happy as they plan to let him go.

Merry Christmas, fuck you too.

He keeps things to himself, does my hubby. He must have known about this over the weekend. He said not a word though he appeared to be distant. He sent me an email about it. Not the best way to communicate. The kids read it over my shoulder. I didn't want them to, but they were in here when I opened the email.

Hubby has never been let go before. Another new and exciting experience, I guess. We can keep the wolf from the door for a while. It might be time for me to dust off my CV (resume) and see about some employment. Though I don't know what I'll do. I haven't worked, for money at least, in 15 years. Yep, I've been the stay-at-home wifey and mother. That might need to change. If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

I can't believe I actually allowed myself to get into this position. I vowed when I was 16 that I would always work and never allow a man to support me. This happened because of a humiliating experience at Gayfers department store in Tampa, Florida. I was shopping with my mother. She gave her credit card to pay for the purchases. Oops, sorry madam, that credit card appears to have been cancelled. She gave another. Oops, sorry madam, that one has been cancelled too. My dad cancelled the credit cards after he left my mother without telling her. My mother was too drugged up at the time on prescription meds from the psychiatrist to fully appreciate the humiliation. But I wasn't. I never darkened the door of a Gayfers department store again after that.

So hubby has learned what life in the Big City is all about. It's what have you done for me lately. It's let's set some impossible targets and not give you the proper sales support and watch you fail. It's your fund hasn't performed as well as we thought and that means we don't get as much money as we thought. It's a jungle, and Tarzan got eaten by the lions.

For the handful of you who still read my blog (I fear my Amsterdam experiences may have put some of you off and I also haven't been very good myself at commenting on other blogs lately), I apologise for being so maudlin. I don't mean to be, and maybe tomorrow I won't be.

But it's almost Christmas, goddamit.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Amsterdam: Going Home

All that was left to do was shop. And deal with Mr. Not Gay Sweater. He turned up in the morning with his colleague. They inspected the damage, which had miraculously disappeared overnight. At first they accused us of causing the flood. Then Mr. Not Gay Sweater leaned out the window in Frenemy and C's room and discovered the cause: a blocked drain. He assured us we would receive some compensation, though probably not a lot in view of the fact that none of our belongings had been damaged.

C wanted to get rid of her marijuana before we left and gave it to Mr. Not Gay Sweater and his colleague. We set about packing and cleaning, then decided to go out for lunch. Once again Frenemy and D went off together after lunch. A, B, C and I set off to find a sex shop (not hard in Amsterdam). We were rendered speechless by the various wares for sale. The shopkeeper kindly offered to demonstrate some things for me, which I politely turned down. We still had some time to kill so went to the Sex Museum. An education in itself. I didn't know people did things like that in that way. B and I went off to more mainstream shops to look for something for her son and daughter. A and C went for a cup of tea.

Eventually, we went back to the house, gathered our things, took some photos and boarded the van for the ride to the airport. The mood was subdued. Frenemy must have known she'd pushed some people to the edge of their tolerance. At the airport, A told me that Frenemy made her very weary sometimes. B never said a word about her.

When we got home, we remembered the fun times, most of which didn't include Frenemy. The so-called incriminating photos looked anything but when taken out of context. We told our husbands most of what happened. Mr. Not Gay Sweater's employers never came through with the compensation despite letters from Frenemy and me. A can now truthfully tell her daughters if they ask that she has tried marijuana and "it wasn't a happy feeling." Frenemy now regards B as a very good friend to have because her son goes to the same private school as Frenemy's psychopathic son. B's son hates Frenemy's son. B laughs about Frenemy, which is probably the best attitude to have. On that trip I began to feel sorry for Frenemy. Why treat your friends so shabbily? Why is she so afraid of letting people get close or of showing a vulnerable side? Because she's actually a very sad, mixed-up individual. And truth be told, our Amsterdam excursion wouldn't have happened at all if it hadn't been for Frenemy.

My weekend in Amsterdam allowed me to be 17 again, carefree and breezy. My friends saw a side to me that hardly shows anymore. They also realised, if they hadn't already, that I am here to take care of them, if they need me. I seemed to do a lot of that in Amsterdam, despite my dabblings in coffee shops. I enjoyed the calm feeling of being stoned, but don't necessarily feel I need to do it again. I had gone 20 years without it and could easily go another 20 or so.

So the escaped mums are back in their cage -- till they escape again.

Amsterdam: The Flood

By our third day we'd had enough of the cakes. The ones Frenemy and D had bought the day before sat on the kitchen table, untouched and stale. We still hadn't visited any museums or sex shops, the other two reasons for visiting Amsterdam. We decided to remedy that on our last full day.

We headed to the Rijksmuseum plaza. The line to get into the museum snaked around the building so we went to the Van Gogh museum. Why do the British pronounce the name as Van Goff? A bit like leftenant (lieutenant), I suppose. Anyway, we wandered through, viewing some of Van Gogh's lesser known works. I had visited this museum before so could actually hold a semi-intelligent conversation about the paintings. Frenemy and D headed for the shop. Afterwards, we bought some souvenirs for our families in the kiosks on the plaza.

Then we went to the Ann Frank Museum. This is quite a moving experience that grows in intensity as you progress through the house. Frenemy seemed suitably moved, then headed for the shop where she bought some heavy books. After this, A, B, C, and I wanted to go back to the house to get changed to go out for the evening. Frenemy and D wanted to stay out and start drinking then. We decided to split into two groups. Frenemy shoved her bag of heavy books into my hand and asked me to take them back to the house. There was a lot of unspoken, but undeniable, tension at that point. But A, B, C, and I decided not to allow ourselves to get too bothered.

Back at the house A and I changed, while B showered. C was down in the kitchen. Suddenly, the heavens opened up and rain beat down. I was doing the finishing touches on my makeup when I heard screams from the floor above. I raced up the stairs to find water gushing down from the skylight. I ran down to the kitchen and opened up the cupboards to grab every receptacle I could find. Then I raced back up the stairs. By this time the water had made its way to our floor. I ran back down to the kitchen to grab more pots and pans. By then it was pouring from the light fixture in the sitting room. I switched all the lights off. Then I heard shouts from below. The kitchen was now flooded. C was standing in six inches of water, swabbing the floor with a mop she'd found somewhere. This couldn't have taken more than five minutes.

We laughed in that hysterical way you do when there's a catastrophe and nothing you can do about it. We decided to call Frenemy and tell her all her designer clothes were ruined. We also needed the number for Mr. Not Gay Sweater. Frenemy didn't believe there had been a flood. We assured her that, yes indeed, there had been.

We didn't know then that Frenemy and D had had a rather busy afternoon themselves. After stopping at a pub for a drink, they decided to visit a sex shop. Frenemy proceeded to buy herself a remote-controlled vibrator (I guess so her husband could watch the football and please her at the same time). Anyway, after much haggling, she took her purchase outside and opened it to see if it worked. It didn't. She made D take it back to the shop to get her money back. The shopkeeper didn't want to give the money back. I guess he thought it had been USED. D had to get assertive, which is unusual for D.

Where they ate, I don't know. Back at the house, we all changed again and headed out to an Argentinian steak house for a late meal. Mr. Not Gay Sweater said he'd come the next day to view the damage. Somehow Frenemy and D found us. They stopped at our table, Frenemy ordered a bottle of wine, then they decided to go back to the house before the wine arrived, leaving us with an unwelcome bottle of wine. Steam was coming out of C's ears by this point. A wasn't too pleased either.

After our meal we decided to find some nightlife in Amsterdam. There was a bar near the house that we'd passed several times. It seemed quite lively so we stopped in. It was lively all right. A man wearing an obvious toupe was singing some of the corniest songs ever written. When the first notes for the theme from "The Love Boat" sounded, the women in the bar swooned. Now about these women: they looked like retired hookers, with fake boobs, hair, tans, and lips. All the other men in the bar looked like the singer. When they started looking our way, C and I decided to leave.

In the kitchen we lit up a joint and set the world to rights. I don't know where Frenemy and D were, perhaps asleep upstairs. That night C and I formed a bond that lasts to this day. We promised each other we'd go back to Amsterdam again. We haven't yet, but there's still time. A and B finally returned from the Love Boat Bar. They'd tired of getting chatted up by the men in toupes. It was our last night, and the four of us drank cups of tea and laughed about our afternoon.

Tomorrow: Going Home

Monday, 12 November 2007

Amsterdam: Mike's Bikes

The next morning Frenemy arose first and made breakfast for us all. B had booked us all in for a tour of Amsterdam by bike for the second day. We were to meet Mike of Mike's Bikes at the park by the Rijksmuseum. First, I pulled out the surprise I'd bought everyone: a pink T-shirt that had escaped mums printed on it. We all wore them to show our solidarity.

Mike appeared at the ordained time. His co-worker, a Nordic god, also showed up to take another group. DAMN! Mike was a nice, shortish, fattish, baldish American. So NOT a Nordic god. We all walked back to the warehouse where the bikes were. Along the way I chatted to Mike, who told me his mother and her friends also go off on girlie weekends all the time. My ego deflated like a worn inner tube. I slunk to the back of the group.

At the warehouse the rest of our group were waiting: a South African Stag party not exactly dressed for bike riding, an American lesbian couple, and another American woman on her own while her husband was at a business conference.

Mike sized us all up and chose bikes to fit our frames. A, B, C, D, and I couldn't help but chuckle when we saw the bike he chose for Frenemy. With a very low seat and very high handlebars, it looked like the chopper bike I got for Christmas when I was 8 years old. And Frenemy looked about 8 when she got on it.

We all set off. Frenemy hadn't been on a bike since she was about 8 and forgot how to change gears. Consequently, in one of the flattest cities on earth, she had to get off and walk up any slight incline. This meant everyone behind her had to get off and walk too. Finally, in frustration, I passed her. Then she managed to pass me. We spent much of the day passing each other.

Mike had told us to use hand signals to indicate if we were turning left or right. Frenemy couldn't remember them, and would just shout out in her Scottish burr, "I'm turning left." Even if it was right.

For lunch, Mike had arranged a ride on a canal boat. We locked the bikes to a pole and boarded the boat. The only beverage available was Heineken beer-- lukewarm Heineken beer. After we'd finished our sandwiches, some of the South African guys went to the back of the boat. They were joined by the lesbian couple and C, and they all shared a joint or two. I took a toke, but didn't really want to get high when I had to ride a bike again. C continued smoking after the other three had returned to their seats. Then she went and sat by herself. She was shaking uncontrollably and didn't look too happy. I went over to check on her.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"I can't get off the boat," she said. "You'll have to go on without me."

"No, C, you can't stay on the boat. We all have to get off the boat. I'll help you off the boat," I said.

It took a lot of cajoling and pushing and pulling, but I got C off the boat. She immediately hugged a lamppost for support once ashore. Frenemy burst into raucous laughter.

"That'll learn ya," she declared before reboarding the boat to use the lavatory.

While trying to extricate C from the lamppost, I heard shouting. Frenemy hadn't reappeared from the lavatory and the boat was about to leave. D stood on shore shouting to the boat captain to rescue Frenemy. Somehow she'd locked herself in. Once she'd regained her composure, she found her camera and started snapping photos of C as incriminating evidence.

I helped C to where the bikes were, freed her bike from the lock and helped her get on it. I got on my bike and started to ride. She didn't move.

"C'mon, C," I said, "just pedal, just put one foot down, then the other."

"I can't do it," she said. "You go on without me."

The others, including Frenemy, had all pedaled off.

"I can't leave you here," I said. "We'll just have to walk."

B circled round and asked if something was wrong.

"Tell Mike we have to walk the rest of the way," I said.

Mike came back. I told him C had overindulged and we would walk back. He gave me directions back to the warehouse, and I told C to follow me. When we got back, there was the Nordic god again. He reminded me of a surfer named John I'd had a massive crush on when I was 13: tall, long, blonde hair, handlebar mustache. I amused myself with what I'd do to him while waiting for the others to reappear.

When they did, Frenemy and D were ready to party. And they wanted me to go with them. Mike had pointed out a few coffee houses along the way that he declared were good value. And some that were good for magic mushrooms. Frenemy's eyes lit up.

"Mushrooms? Should we try those?"

Mike looked at me and shook his head.

"We'll try those some other time," I said.

We walked a block or so till we found a coffee shop. D and Frenemy pushed me to the front. We went to the counter and purchased about half a dozen cakes.

"Be careful," the woman selling them to us said. "They are very strong."

We found a table, and D and Frenemy sat next to each other with me facing them. We divided one cake into thirds. Once I'd had my third, I went looking for the restroom. When I returned, D and Frenemy looked like squirrels saving up for winter. They'd each had another half a cake and stuffed it into their mouths before I came back.

"You know, the woman said to be careful because these are strong," I warned them. They scoffed at me.

A and B had taken C for a cup of tea in the meantime. She was starting to return to normality. We found them on our way back, thankfully, so we didn't get too lost. Once we were back at the canal house, I decided I'd better shower and get ready to go out before the cake took effect. I was just about finished when I started to feel it, so I hurried as quickly as I could. I managed to get jeans and makeup on before developing an intense fascination with the pores on my skin. Frenemy was a vision in turquoise as she wafted through our room down the stairs to the kitchen. I somehow got myself down there eventually. What a sight awaited me. Frenemy was speechless for the first time in her life. C took full advantage of this, getting back at Frenemy for all the things she'd said while C was similarly indisposed. Frenemy would try to respond, open her mouth, but nothing would come out. Eventually, she decided to lie down. C helped her up the stairs to the sitting room and got a duvet to cover her with. I also felt like I wanted some time with just myself and made my way back to my bed. D was already in her bed.

A and B were at a loss as to what to do with us. A insisted D get up and go out with them for something to eat. D is diabetic, and A was worried she'd go into diabetic shock if she didn't eat properly. I told A I'd stay behind and look after Frenemy (as if!). What I really wanted was to listen to music. I love that feeling of music echoing in my head when I'm stoned. There was no music, so I imagined it. I also had some deep, philosophical internal conversations that I sort of recall.

By the time they'd returned from their meal, Frenemy had recovered the power of speech. She regaled us with the story of the "trip" she'd had while stoned. She said she felt like she was the lady of the house and we were the servants downstairs. Well, of course that would be Frenemy's "trip." I never told her that people smoking or ingesting marijuana don't usually have "trips." It was her fantasy, and I let her have it. Oddly, I wasn't hungry so didn't eat the Chinese food A and B had thoughtfully brought back for us.

The cracks in the friendship had started to appear on this day. Frenemy and D had paired up and were talking savagely about everyone else. While in the coffee shop, they'd tried to get me to join them. Frenemy had a bee in her bonnet about B, who has a phobia about birds. Because of this we didn't stop at any outdoor cafes, which annoyed Frenemy enormously. I was uncomfortable with this. B is A's best friend from back when they were 13. She is a lovely, kind person who never has a bad word to say about anyone. I also thought Frenemy's treatment of C while she was stoned was unfair and unkind. Could the whole friendship fall apart?

Tomorrow: the Flood

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Amsterdam Part One

It all started in A's kitchen one drunken Bank Holiday afternoon.

"I want to try drugs so I can tell my kids I know what they're like and they shouldn't take them," she said. Or something like that.

"Why don't we go on a girlie trip to Amsterdam then? It's legal there," B replied.

"Right. I'll find a place for us to stay and email you!" Frenemy declared.

C and I just sort of drooled in the corner. We were the only ones in the group who actually had done drugs -- from marijuana to LSD, in C's case. And the prospect of trying them again, and legally, was almost too much for our wine-sozzled minds.

A few days later the email arrived.

"I have found a canal house that sleeps six. I've put down a deposit for the first week in June. I'll book the flights with EasyJet and let you know how much you owe me."

And that's why we're still friends with Frenemy. Her organisational skills can be frightening.

I'd been running 5K three times a week in preparation for the Race for Life. I was a lean, mean running machine, in good health and ready to get stoned.

We all arose around 5 a.m. for the taxi that C had organised. Groggy but in good spirits, we joined our fellow passengers in the departure lounge -- the middle-aged couples, the Hen Party, the Stag Party. We all milled around till the flight was called. I sat next to B and D, neither of them good fliers. We passed around magazines. D clung to my arm and B clung to D's as the plane lifted off. Frenemy was ready to pop open some Champagne, but it was a bit early for the rest of us.

When we landed at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I joined the immigration queue. "Wait for me," I called to the group, and, amazingly, they did. This was a good sign. It meant I didn't already feel like the odd one out. It meant solidarity. It meant we were headed for a good time. We collected our bags and found the van awaiting us outside. As he pulled up next to the canal house, the booking agent was waiting for us.

"He's cute," Frenemy declared.

"He's gay," I countered. "Look at his sweater."

"You can't tell if he's gay by his sweater!" A insisted.

"OK, I may be wrong, but he's gay."

Mr. Not Gay Sweater showed us the canal house. The kitchen was on the bottom floor. You had to walk down three steps to get in it. The sitting room was on the next floor. From street level, it was six steps up. On the next floor was the first bedroom, which D. and I shared. Up more stairs was the bathroom and A and B's room. Up a ladder was C and Frenemy's room. If you looked out the window in their room you saw part of the roof. There was a skylight in A and B's room just outside the bathroom. The canal house was narrow, as the houses in the old part of Amsterdam are. The steps were extremely narrow. Over the next four days, every one of us would fall down at least one flight of stairs once. We helped each other with our bags up the numerous steps. Then we decided to go buy some wine and food (for the munchies we planned to be having later.)

At the corner shop, Frenemy purchased 10 bottles of wine and five bags of crisps (potato chips), eggs, bread, orange juice, milk, tea, and coffee. I bought an umbrella because I'd managed to lose the one I'd borrowed from the house.

We put away our purchases and set off to find somewhere for lunch. Emboldened by a bottle of wine, Frenemy suggested we find our first coffee house. I'd done some research on the internet on which coffee houses were the best, but Frenemy wasn't interested in quality. A, B, and D wanted to do more shopping, so C, Frenemy, and I headed for the first coffee house we saw.

It was a Jamaican one. I stepped through the door to find three Rastas playing pool and a young girl behind the counter. Should we buy readymade spliffs or roll our own? C, Frenemy and I started to argue over this. C bought some pot and rolling papers, drew out a cigarette from her bag, tore it open and mixed some of the tobacco with the pot and rolled a joint. I stared speechless.

"That's not how you roll a joint," I declared when I regained my voice.

"Yes, it is. Everyone mixes pot with tobacco. Don't they?" she looked at the girl. The girl was impassive.

"That's not how we did it in Florida," I insisted.

But I smoked it anyway.

While we were arguing and then smoking, we didn't notice the poor Rastas trying to play pool. As I waved the lit joint around I nearly stabbed one in the eye. They politely asked us to move so they could continue their game. A, B, and D returned from their shopping, and we decided to move on to another coffee house. This one was done out like a Moroccan souk. We decided to order the marijuana-laced cakes. I remembered from my younger days that ingesting it can take longer to feel the effects, but then it's a stronger high. We walked back to the house and sat round the kitchen table, waiting to feel high (I already did thanks to the Jamaican place).

A felt it first. She got up to boil the kettle. Then forgot what she was doing and sat down again. Got up. Sat down. Got up. Sat down. She started to giggle uncontrollably. We all started to giggle uncontrollably.

"This isn't a happy feeling," she wailed between giggles, tears streaming down her face. Someone took photos, thinking they might be incriminating.

Somehow we pulled ourselves together to go out and find a place to eat. It wasn't easy finding a table for six, and we ended up at an overpriced, decidedly mediocre restaurant. Frenemy pulled out a joint and started to light up at the table. We all told her to put it away NOW.

"What's the matter? It's legal here, isn't it?" she asked.

"But there's a time and a place," we told her.

We'd all agreed we weren't going to tell our husbands about our coffee house experiences. But Frenemy of course immediately rang hers.

"Guess what I've just done!"

So we all had to phone our husbands and tell them before Frenemy's husband did.

After our meal, we went back to the house and gathered round the kitchen table again. C and I ate our body weight in crisps. A made a nice cup of tea because she didn't like the unhappy feeling of being out of control the cakes gave her. Frenemy drank a lot of the wine. The others remarked on how laid back I was. And I did feel remarkably relaxed and self-contained.

Soon we all decided to turn in. We slept very soundly that night.

Tomorrow: Mike's Bikes

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Oh the agony, but it's done

This has been a very hard post to write. It's taken me days. I was tagged by -ann to write these 8 things.

8 things I'm passionate about
1. Reading -- something I must do every day, even if it's just the newspaper
2. My family (my kids and husband)
3. My animals
4. Exercise -- I need some form of it just about every day or I'm not fit to be near.
5. Golf--I'm turning into an old fuddy duddy. After the British Open last year, which was held just across the street from us, I really got into it and now take lessons.
6. Learning something new. I'm a scholar at heart, I think, and enjoy learning for the sake of learning.
7. Singing, even if I do sound bad.
8. Blogging. I wasn't going to put this in because I think it shows just how sad I really am. But it has become a real passion for me and I have to be honest.

8 things to do before I die
1. Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
2. Revisit Rome (I was unwell the first time and stayed in the hotel mostly)
3. Compete in a triathlon (of course I'm not in shape, but I can dream)
4. Write a best-seller
5. Get to know my (hopefully) future grandchildren
6. Get over my fear of skiing black runs
7. Start and run a successful magazine
8. Travel around the world

8 things I say often
1. Good morning, Jakie Sunshine, how are you today? (actually I sing that)
2. Time to get up, kids.
3. Have you brushed your teeth?
4. Are you sure?
5. Do you have any homework?
6. Are you sure?
7. What has your dad done with (whatever)?
8. Time for bed.

8 books I've read recently
1. Until I Find You by John Irving
2. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
3. Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians by James Welch and Paul Stekler
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
5. Falling Man by Don DeLillo
6. Tryptych by Karin Slaughter
7. Tokyo by Mo Hayder
8. Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor

8 songs I could listen to over and over
1. Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol (reminds me of dogs)
2. Layla by Eric Clapton
3. With or Without You by U2
4. My Baby by Nina Simone
5. Sweetest Goodbye by Maroon 5
6. R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha Franklin
7. Angel from Montgomery by Bonnie Raitt
8. Sweet Melissa by the Allman Brothers
Shows my age, doesn't it.

8 qualities I look for in a best friend
1. Sense of humour (or humor). You may not know it from my posts, but I love to laugh.
2. Loyalty.
3. Honesty.
4. An open mind and heart.
5. A willingness to party. Not in the same way I did when I was younger, but still with some get-up-and-go.
6. A willingness to listen
7. The ability to be quiet sometimes
8. And the wisdom to know when to listen and when to talk

8 people I'm passing this on to
1. Pixie
2. Vi
3. Kelly
4. DJ Kirby
5. Annie
6. Lady M
7. Debio
8. Darth Sardonicus

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Everything Old is New Again

I came across this photo of Christina Aguilera and thought, "She reminds me of someone." And it came to me. Blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, of course. I also found a very macabre website: If you ever had a burning curiosity to see photos of a dead James Dean, well, they're there.

Here is something I never thought I'd be saying.

Me to daughter: "Pull up your jeans. Your thong is showing."

No, I didn't buy her the thong. She got it on a shopping foray with a friend and her mother.

When I'm not looking for dead people, another website I visit frequently is I discovered a year or so ago that I can buy prezzies for the family in the U.S., have them wrapped and shipped for less than buying them here and shipping them over.

My dad's 81st birthday is Saturday so I was perusing the amazon site for something. I mean what do you get an 81-year-old man who doesn't seem to need or want anything? Since he's a gadgety, tooly kind of guy, I got him a flashlight (torch). But not just any flashlight. This one turns red, blue, green, and white for different uses. Looking for further ideas, I looked at the Those Who Bought This Also Bought section. Amazing. Someone who bought that flashlight also bought a copy of the Koran. Someone also bought a Garmin U.S. maps device. And a copy of Ultimate Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. And lots of knives. Need I tell you my overactive imagination went wild with the possibilities of finding terrorists this way? It does make you wonder, though, doesn't it?

Monday, 5 November 2007

I Hate My Body

I've been participating in VI's diet trial for a week now, and had been doing superbly despite a few hiccups. When I weighed myself Saturday morning (which I really wasn't supposed to do), I had lost SIX pounds. I've never lost that much weight in one week ever.

I credit the diet blog, which makes me think about what I eat and why (lots of bread), and walking the dog. However, I had a busy weekend, with lots of eating and drinking. And I let hubby walk the dog on Saturday and Sunday. And in my HRT cycle, I'm on the week that if I were still pre-menopausal would be pre-menstrual. (Does that make sense?)

Anyway, I also woke up this morning feeling like I'd been hit by a cement truck. I could be getting son's cold. I have a scratchy throat and just feel really down.

And I'm wondering if I should follow up my encounter with the head at my daughter's school with a letter to the board of governors. Not to complain about the head, but to make suggestions as to how they could better implement their Health and Safety policy when it comes to school discos. After all, they are about to become a grant-maintained school, which means among other things that they will be paying for their own insurance. Surely, they will want to ensure that there is absolutely no room for culpability in the case of fire.

But then again perhaps I should just let things lie. Bskove's comment on my previous post, while a bit annoying and maybe even unnecessarily harsh, did make me think twice about my further communications with the school. There are always those with a different point of view, and it can be useful to consider them.

I also have a million things to do, and hardly any time, it feels, to do them. Considering I don't have a job, I sure am busy. Way too busy to clean the house, for example. Or to take my car in to have the tires checked (I know, I know). I'll have to find the time for the tires. I just hate hanging around places like that. And I haven't had time to catch up with my blog pals either. I'll wait till the kids are in bed and the ironing is done, I guess.

And have I mentioned I hate my body?

Friday, 2 November 2007

Warning: This post will contain profanity

Where should I start? Ah, yes, the Stupid Fucking Bitch, otherwise known as the head teacher at my daughter's school. Her real name is (I've removed the name of the head and school on Laurie's advice). But to me she's Stupid Fucking Bitch or SFB. What inspired this nickname? Well, yesterday was the Year 7/8 Disco at daughter's school. She bought her ticket on Monday. On Tuesday we bought the outfit. Yesterday she had six friends round to get ready. They all set off walking to school in high spirits.

Meanwhile, son got ready and I took him and a friend to the disco, then came home to get ready to visit a friend who's ailing in bed after a serious back operation. Then the phone rang.

"Can you come pick me up?" daughter said tearfully.

"Why?" I asked.

"I lost my ticket and they won't let me in."

I drove round, picked her up, heard more of the story. Apparently, one of the PTA mums was going to let her in, but SFB butted in with her enormous fat ass and said no, she couldn't go in. I told daughter I would retrace her steps and look for the missing ticket. She waited at home for my friend who was due to pick me up in minutes. As I walked along, kicking up the leaves, picking up every piece of paper I saw, I got angrier and angrier. Have I mentioned I can have a T-E-M-P-E-R when provoked? My friend found me and suggested I get in the car and she would drive me to the school, for by that time I'd decided to confront SFB.

I got out with both guns blazing, found the SFB and tapped her on the shoulder.

"You wouldn't let my daughter in because she lost her ticket."

"That's right. How am I to know she actually bought a ticket. I have to think about Health and Safety."

"You're calling me a liar. Why would I come down and make a scene if my daughter hadn't had a ticket? Look, I'll pay 20 quid for another ticket."

"That's not the issue. I have 220 children in there and if there were a fire you'd be coming to me saying I hadn't done my job."

"You don't have 220 children in there. You have 219 because my daughter lost her ticket. Were you never 13? It isn't like she lost a school assignment."

"How do I know your daughter actually bought a ticket? Last year we had 20 children say they'd bought a ticket but hadn't and were 20 over our legal capacity. I can't risk that."

At that point I stormed out because I would have hit her otherwise. Lots of PTA parents and teachers witnessed the scene. I'm probably known as Psycho Mum now. And yes, perhaps she had a point. But so did I. If she'd looked at it logically, she'd have seen my daughter had taken the trouble to dress up like her friends as a fairy. Why do that if you hadn't bought a ticket? Why would I as a parent risk humiliating myself and my daughter by causing a scene if she hadn't bought a ticket?

But she chose the Hard Ass route. These are the rules and I'm sticking to them. And that's probably why she's gotten as far as she has. Certainly couldn't be her teaching abilities. If she were so very concerned about Health and Safety, why not write down the names of each and every child who bought a ticket and tick them off as they went in so they had a record of who exactly was in there in case of fire? I don't think she actually knew exactly how many children were in there. She was making a stand by refusing my daughter entry. And meanwhile I had a distraught 13-year-old waiting at home.

I walked home, still looking for the ticket. When I got in, I found the Halloween candy and said to daughter, "There are times when you just have to have chocolate." And wine of course.

I'm not one of those parents who never thinks their child is in the wrong. She knows and I know that ultimately it was her fault for losing her ticket. But sometimes you need to cut a person some slack. And I think this was one of them.

I hope my daughter wasn't too horrified that I created a scene. I hope she realises that I am on her side and will fight her corner even when the odds are stacked against us. As for SFB, she can take a flying, fucking leap into a great big pool of shit as far as I'm concerned. I think she was hiding behind Health and Safety, but that's what people in Education seem to do these days. By the way, I'm not the first parent to have confronted her and been fed a load of shit. And probably won't be the last either.

As an addendum, son had a great time at disco (and of course I had to go back and pick him up) and landed himself a girlfriend. I've considered writing an apology to the head but will do so only if she takes my outburst out on my daughter.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

The computer ate my post

And I just can't be bothered to recreate my perfect prose.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


I find that sometimes I blog a lot about something, then move on without leaving any explanations. I'll try to amend that today.

First, there's Jake. He'll be 12 weeks on Friday. He's fully immunised and has had a couple of play dates with friends' dogs. I think he'll be a beta dog. He tends to be submissive when he meets up with other dogs. I walk him down to the beach, where I take him off his lead. He's very good off the lead. He'll run ahead, then stop and look for me. If I've gone a different direction, he'll run after me. He obeys the sit command fairly often. We need to work on Stay and Come. He gets tired and starts whimpering so I don't take him too far. When he's on the lead, he's a different story. He strains, trying to go faster and faster all the time. I try to control him and keep him on my left at all times. When he gets a bit out of hand, I stop. This forces him to stop. I then tell him to sit. I won't move until he does sit and I'm trying to teach him that he doesn't go again unless I go again. I also make him stop each time we come to a street we have to cross. He gets scared by the traffic and big trucks (lorries) and I'm trying to get him used to the sound of the traffic.

At home, he can be a little stinker. Literally. The other night he got into some onions and decided to have a snack. He's chewed on some furniture a bit, but nothing drastic. He still jumps up and still nips a bit. I tried the spray bottle suggestion from Laurie. Turns out he loves to be sprayed, and would open his mouth the second he saw the bottle. So now we try ostracism. Either he goes in another room or outside or we leave him alone. But then he gets into onions.

I've promised pictures, but my daughter doesn't know how to upload them from her phone (or can't be bothered) and the only photo we got before my husband's camera packed in is an out-of-focus one with the kids.

Now, my mother. As you might recall, there was a bit of a crisis with her in the summer before I went to visit her. She had hurt her knee pulling my stepfather out of a chair. She was depressed and fed up and ready to move in with my sister. Then my nephew and his daughter and my niece and her three daughters came to visit, and everything got worse. By the time I got there, my mother was exhausted. I got a woman from Social Services to come out and talk to my mother and stepfather about what services are available for them. They each got a personal alarm ("I've fallen down and I can't get up.") and a cleaner comes twice a month now. My mother's knee has healed, she sounds so much better on the phone, and she is NOT moving in with my sister, who doesn't have the room anyway as her three sons, one son's girlfriend, one granddaughter and one grandson-to-be are all living with her now.

About my son: I had a lot of angst over the past year about my son. Where we live, children can take an exam called the 11-Plus to determine what secondary school they go to. If they pass, they get a place at a grammar school, which tends to be single-sex and more academically oriented than comprehensives, which are co-ed, all-ability schools. In primary school my son hadn't exactly shone. He was always a borderline pass, at best. But he did pass the 11-plus. He has proved himself to be organised and confident. He ran in an inter-form race in September. The first week he finished 33rd out of 150 boys, with no training whatsoever. The next week he finished 7th. The night we got Jake, we also got a phone call from the man who heads the cross-country team at his school inviting him to join. He did, and has made decent finishes ever since. I don't think I have enough words to express how proud and relieved I am.

About my daughter: We survived the birthday party. She continues to be self-engrossed, which is probably par for the course for a 13-year-old.

If I've left anything out, please let me know.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Tuesday Twins Again

I've been thinking about how some celebrities just aren't aging well at all. Here we have Keith Richards (on the right) whose resemblance to a Halloween ghoul is uncanny.

And then there's poor, sad Melanie Griffiths, who has managed to mangle her face in an effort to look younger.

Another one who I think is aging badly is Alec Baldwin (who should also win Bad Dad of the Year award). He used to be HOT. What happened?

And what about Tom Cruise? I loved him in Risky Business, even Top Gun. But have you seen his latest haircut? Not a good look. His fellow Scientologist, John Travolta, has blown up like dirigible.

I suppose it's not pleasant to have to grow older in front of the world. Still, they have a pretty good life, don't they, if their only worries are looking good in front of a camera.

And here's me, almost 48, mistaken for 32 by a drunken flirt at the weekend and feeling really good about it. Eat your heart out, celebrities.