Thursday, 27 September 2007

The Happy Couple

I'm going to say the unsayable because I've been thinking the unthinkable.

I have a problem with Hillary. It started back when Bill was running the first time. Not during the "60 Minutes" interview when she said she was no Tammy Wynette standing by her man (though she quite obviously was). It was later on during the campaign when I saw her face on the cover of McCall's magazine touting her recipe for chocolate chip cookies. That grated because she so obviously is not a baking type and why should she pretend to be. I remember seeing it in a bookstore and scoffing at it. A woman standing next to me (who resembled Hillary in her glasses-wearing days) glared at me, as if to say, "You Republican Whore Scumbag. How could you possibly diss Hillary!"

I am not a Republican, for the record, and never have been. I came of age during the Reagan years and could never bring myself to vote Republican.

But could I vote for Hillary? No, and it's not just that she whores herself to get her husband elected. It's that of the two, she is the pragmatic Machiavellian. Apart from Monica Lewinsky, she was behind every scandal that tarnished the Clinton name. Let us not forget that she also voted for the war in Iraq. Her own campaign has been marked by underhanded (though denied) maneuverings designed to drag her opponents through the gutter. And here is her latest action: getting the American GQ magazine to ax a negative article about her campaign by threatening to block access to her husband. .

The day after Clinton moved into the White House, Jim Carvill allegedly told reporters phoning up for interviews: "We don't need you guys anymore." Apparently, in the Clinton camp, that one-way relationship with the press continues. They didn't learn their lesson the first time. Because the Clintons do need the press and will need the press. And hopefully the news media won't roll over and play dead anymore after the nightmare Bush years.

I like Bill, have a lot of respect for him above the waist, think he'll be ranked among the top 20th-century presidents in future years. He has charisma, brains, a heart (or at least can pretend to have one).

Hillary has ambition. Loads and loads and loads of it. It's probably what attracted Bill to her in the first place. It certainly wasn't those glasses. I have a theory about those two. He was Big Man On Campus. She was Geeky Smart Girl in Glasses. He was attracted to her brains. She was attracted to him. She satisfied his intellectual lust, but not his physical lust, hence the affairs. She forgave him in the early days because she loved him. She ignores them now (and the rumours still fly) because she needs him. And he needs her to keep quiet.

I prefer Barack Obama, someone I think I can respect. And I'm so upset that he's that far behind Hillary. Did Hillary pay Jesse Jackson to say negative things about Barack? I wouldn't put it past her.

But my dilemma will be who do I vote for if Hillary gets the Democratic nomination? Certainly not any one of those Republicans. But I don't like Hillary. And that is the unspeakable and the unsayable. I am a traitor to my sex because I don't like this woman.

My Future Son?

I think I'm falling in love. Daughter, Son, and I like the lad on the left. He's Welsh so I think he needs a Welsh name. Like Huw or Elwyn. No one else agrees. We're going to see them tomorrow after school hopefully.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Don't Look in the Mirror

Now here are two faces I'm glad I don't have to see first thing every morning. Plus I'd have to wear jewelry from QVC. I have a friend who bought a brooch from QVC (actually she buys everything from QVC; she watches QVC for relaxation). Anyway, this brooch is a monkey with a ring round its neck that reaches across her chest. It is the most repulsive thing. Just thought I'd share that. I don't know what made me think about Joan Rivers, but on YouTube there's a hilarious interview she did with Brigitte Nielsen.

Yesterday I posted that the rotten correspondent had very kindly bestowed the Blogging that Hits the Mark award upon me. I'd like to pass it on to Pixie, Queen Vixen (who wrote a very original post comparing her blog friends with cheeses. I'm Brie, I think, which is a good thing because I love Brie), Lady Macleod, and DJ Kirby. I love these awards. Don't know what they stand for or if they stand for anything, but it's fun to receive and pass them and see them passed on by the people I've passed them on to (are you still with me?).


No, I don't have one yet, but hubby seems to have finally come round. I explained that I realised I would be the one with the primary responsibility and I mentioned some breeds, well one breed -- border collie. "Oh," he said, "those can be lovely dogs." (I'm no fool, members of his family have had border collies.) Deal done. I thank all of you who voted in my poll. Interestingly, not one person voted "No, your husband will run away."

Monday, 24 September 2007

Monday Moaning

Well, I've been kicking around an idea for Monday posts for a while. Having been inspired by DJ's Wordless Wednesday and RC's Thursday Three, I decided to come up with Monday Moaning. The idea is that if you're going to have a bad day, it's probably going to be Monday, what with going back to work, school, etc. And if you just have a bit of a moan about whatever it is that gripes you, you can move on. I'm even going to attempt to come up with a button for it once I visit the site recommended by british national party (who I'm sure isn't a regular visitor). If anyone else has ideas for where and how to generate the button, I'm open to them.

So I'll get the ball rolling. Here's my Monday Moaning: I stupidly allowed my daughter to have a sleepover last night since she doesn't have school today. I warned her that her dad has to go to bed at 8 p.m. and get up at 2 a.m. to drive back to London, and the girls need to keep quiet. I then stupidly rented The Grudge for them all to watch, then had to watch it with them because they were screaming with fright. I then was awakened by them at 2 a.m. (after going in and telling them twice to keep it down). Now I'm bleary eyed, it's raining, hubby won't be back till Friday night (he usually comes home on Thursday). I have 7 girls to get breakfast for. Oh, and I finally made jam yesterday with the blackcurrants I picked and froze in July. It was taking so long to set that I thought I'd just check out some puppies on the internet and rang one woman about rough collies (Lassie dogs). Then I smelled something. The jam was burning! I still managed to get about 5 slightly burned-tasting jars but the bottom of my BRAND NEW AND NOT INEXPENSIVE jam pan is covered with industrial-strength burned blackcurrants. DAMN!!! And I teach Sunday School (don't laugh) on a rota basis. If someone can't make it, they arrange to swap with someone. I have filled in any number of times for people, but the one time I can't do my day, NO ONE was available to bail me out. I practically had to threaten to quit before someone would take my place.

There. That's my Monday Moaning, and I feel so much better. Your turn.

UPDATE: I won DJ Kirby's Wordless Wednesday last week. Hurrah! Here's my button:

I also received an award from RC, which you can see on the right. I'll post tomorrow about that.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Blog Family Tree

I am sitting here feeling very damp after a couple of hours at an un-air-conditioned gym. I smell not too fragrant, and I should get a shower. But the washing machine is on, and in my house you can either shower or wash clothes, but not at the same time.

So I thought I'd catch up on some blogs. I find it interesting that this blogging world is so large, yet so small also. When I met Pixie for lunch, we talked about blogs we read, of course. She and I both read Darth Sardonicus, but we found him in different ways. She found him doing a random search of blogs. I found him through Lady Macleod. I found Lady Macleod (or did she find me? can't remember) through Wife in the North. I read about Wife in the North in the Times. Lady M. was the first person to comment on my blog, though I don't know if she visits that regularly anymore. She is a busy woman, though, and much in demand.

So I found Pixie through Darth. I found Queen Vixen and Vi through Pixie. I found Snuffleupagus through Lady Macleod, I think. And Debio as well. I think I found Stayathomedad and Omega Mum through Wife in the North or Lady Macleod. Mind the gap found me, but I found Enidd through her. I don't remember how I found Jenny, but I think I found Bossy either through her or Darth. I never comment on Bossy's blog but love to read it anyway. I don't remember how I found Crystal Jigsaw or Kelly. I found Queeny through Snuffleupagus. I found Snickollet and Rev. Mom through a random search. I think J. found me. Marymaryquitecontrary seems to have retired her blog for now.

I may have found DJ through Pixie. I don't remember how I found Laurie, but I found Kaycie and the rotten correspondent through her, I think. After a while, I forget because a lot of us comment on the same blogs.

What started me thinking about this was a comment Laurie left saying she commented frequently on Enidd's blog, which I knew. And I wondered how she found enidd. Sometimes I visit a blog and have the best of intentions in keeping up and following it, but forget the link or how I found it. If I don't add it to my blogroll immediately, it can be lost forever. And most of those I've added are people who have commented on my blog at one time or another. Some seem to visit for a while and then move on. Others have become firm friends.

And that must be the beauty of blogging. There's no obligation of friendship, necessarily, though it's great if that happens. And I like to think of all of you as friends, some closer and some further away, but friends nonetheless.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Update on Awesome Dude

And now I've had some time to think about it, here are my selectees for the Awesome Dude Blogger award:
1. Debio, because she writes about her life in Dubai so well.
2. Darth Sardonicus, because he IS an awesome dude.
3. Enidd, a new addition to my blogroll, because she is a hoot, even when she's coping with awful things like getting mugged.
4. Snuffleupagus, because she persists in the face of so much adversity in trying to give her pupils a fair chance and good education;
5. VI, because she is my yang, meaning her life is completely different to mine, but it sounds like so much fun.
So go forth and spread the joy, guys.

Moving on

OK, enough of the Jill saga. It really drained me to write it, and I suspect it might have drained some or all of you to read it. Still, I'm glad I got it out. Time to move on.

So, to catch up: The always lovely DJ has bestowed an honour on me -- The Awesome Dude Blogger award -- because, she says, what I write always makes her stop and think. Thank you DJ. I shall give some thought to my next recipients, though I have some ideas.

Pixie put a questionnaire on her blog, which I'd like to do and pass on to those of you who are interested in answering the questions.

1. What is your all time favourite book, from childhood, as an adult?
2. All time favourite movie as above?
3. Favourite type of chocolate, and how much of it do you eat a week?
4. Favourite drink, non alcoholic and alcoholic?
5. Where is your all time best holiday destination?
6. Where is your dream holiday destination?
7. Which is the best Beatles track of all time?
8. What are you most proud of having achieved (having children doesn't count)
9. What would you want for your last supper ever?(assuming it's food you like now and not liquidized mush when you are 90!)
10.How old were you when you had your first snog, name of snoggee if you dare?
11.Do you have an unfulfilled ambition?
12.If so what is it?
13.What yer gonna do about achieving it?
14.Describe the outfit that best describes you as you are.
15.If you were on Desert Island Discs which one piece of music would you want to keep?
16. And what would the luxury item be, as in no use at all, on a desert island?
17. Outside of your partner, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Beyonce Knowles, J-lo who do you fantasise about?
18.Describe the contents of your purse/wallet, ie receipts/ bus tickets/ plastic you never use/ and if your lucky enough money.(English use of the word purse here)
19.Outside of the family what item would you save from the inferno?
20.How much would you like me to stop now.?

And here are my answers:
1. All-time favourite book from childhood has to be "Little Women" followed closely by "Little Men." I'm a huge Louisa May Alcott fan. I have a few favourite books from adulthood, depending on what stage I'm in: "Catcher in the Rye," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Nicholas Nickleby," "Alias Grace," "The Corrections," "The Shipping News" to name a few. I have gone through phases of reading lots by one particular author, though not for a while.
2. All-time favourite movie is a hard one. There are some I watch every year: "White Christmas" and "It's a Wonderful Life." There are some I welcome like an old friend into my life from time to time: "Sound of Music," say. There are some I watch that i find quite powerful but don't necessarily need to see again or that frequently: "Million Dollar Baby," "The Deerhunter," "Apocalypse Now," "The Godfather" series. So I can't say I have one particular favourite.
3. I try to be good and save chocolate for special occasions. I find dark chocolate to be particularly comforting these days, the bitter and the sweet combining for a satisfying tastebud experience.
4. My favourite alcoholic drink is a nice dry martini as made by my dad. No one else makes them quite so good. Non-alcoholic? Well, I drink a lot of water, coffee (natch), and iced tea when I'm in the states.
5. My all-time best holiday destination? I had a super time taking a cruise to the Bahamas when I was a senior in high school. I loved Tremblant in Canada the first year I skied there. I honeymooned in India, and despite getting food poisoning really bad (lost 10 pounds in two days), found it to be a wondrous country. Right now I have to go to the States every year to see my family, but I look forward to a time when I can explore the rest of the world.
6. My dream holiday destination involves the beach and mountains, but I don't have a specific place in mind.
7. The best Beatles track of all time is "Here, There, and Everywhere." So says me.
8. I am most proud of achieving 15 years of marriage to the same man.
9. My last supper would be a salad full of vegetables grown by me, chateaubriand cooked to perfection, and Key Lime pie as made by me for dessert. With champagne (Cristal please, now that I've tasted it) to wash it down with.
10. I was a mere 5 when I had my first kiss and it was by Andy Garcia (not THAT one), with whom I was desperately in love.
11, 12, 13. I have many unfulfilled ambitions, one being to write a book. I have done nothing to achieve it, other than think about what I'm going to write. I might copy other bloggers and create a blog with chapters to help me.
14. If outfit means clothing, it would have to be a slinky black dress with a plunging neckline to show off my (non-existent unless I wear a push-up bra) cleavage. The dress would go to the knee and be tightly fitted on top but more flowing from the waist, the better to dance in.
15. I think if I were on a desert island and had only one piece of music to listen to, I might grow to hate it with a passion. One of the joys of music is that there is so much of it and so many genres.
16. Luxury item? Well, at heart I'm a practical person so it would have to be something useful. I know. An unlimited supply of desalination tablets for water.
17. I fantasise about Woody Allen. JUST KIDDING!!! I fantasise about lots of people: sometimes it's the postman, sometimes it's my golf pro, sometimes it's a friend's husband (sshh, don't tell), sometimes it's the dishy dad at my kids' old primary school (though he's gone quite hairy now), sometimes it's even my husband.
18. My wallet is a mess of library cards, kids' photos, top-up cards for mobile phones that aren't used anymore, one credit card, one ATM card, Costco membership card, some loyalty cards, insurance card, dental appointment cards. Etc.
19. If there were a fire, I save my kids first, the cats second. Or maybe the other way around, depending on the day and my mood. The rest of it can burn, baby, burn.
20. I'm finished, now it's your turn.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Crazy Jill Part Three

In the weeks following The Outburst, the other two mums volunteered bits and pieces about Jill's increasingly bizarre behaviour. She had called one woman in the middle of the night a few months previous and said she'd taken an overdose of pills. The mum lay awake in bed all night wondering what to do. Did Jill indeed take an overdose or was this another of her attention-seeking gambits? If she had taken an overdose, wouldn't her husband be able to do something? The woman did nothing. The next morning Jill seemingly had forgotten about it.

We had learned to gauge Jill's mood by her appearance. Dishevelled hair and heavy walk meant hysterical tears in the playground would soon follow. Combed hair and walking on the balls of her feet meant she'd be whirling around like a dervish.

I thought that would be the end of Jill in our little group, but the two mums had gotten together and decided that the best way forward was to pretend that nothing had happened. So they feigned cheeriness at the sight of her and would engage her in conversation. I stayed on the periphery because I couldn't feign that I was happy to see her and talk to her. Jill, sensing this probably, would make many efforts to trap me into conversation. I learned to keep moving and speak to her over my shoulder. I was uncomfortable with Jill for some deeply personal reasons. She unearthed feelings I'd not had since I was 15 and my mother had had a nervous breakdown.

Within a few months, they talked about inviting her out with us again. I put my foot down and said I could not go out with them if she was going to be present. I don't know if they had starting meeting her for coffee again because I certainly wasn't invited. The Outburst was in January. By June Jill was still desperately trying to be back in the group's good books. One morning I stood in the school's lobby, waiting for the little boy I did reading with. He was always either late or absent. That was on my mind when Jill saw me standing still and asked me if I'd seen Sandra. I had no idea who Sandra was and mumbled something like "I don't know." It wasn't what I said that set Jill off. Apparently, it was the look on my face. My children often ask "What's wrong?" based on the look on my face. Nothing is wrong. I just have a look on my face. But Jill didn't know that.

I did the reading and went about my business. The next day I went to the gym. When I got home, there was a letter with no stamp waiting for me. It was from Jill. It was a bit confusing, saying things like "we both like the school so why can't we get along?" I didn't know what to do about this letter so I did nothing. I went to a meeting at the school about vertical streaming that afternoon. Jill sat in my row and kept leaning over and looking at me. I ignored her. Afterwards, at pick-up time, I mentioned the letter to the other mums. One, who my husband called the Swiss Ambassador because she is Swiss and not prone to discretion, said, "Oh, she phoned me last night and asked me if I thought she should send it. I told her not to."

I turned and practically shouted at her: "You knew she was going to send this letter and you didn't warn me?"

"It's got nothing to do with me," she replied. That would be an attitude I would encounter over and over from that group.

I got home, made my son dinner, got ready to go to my dress rehearsal for an amateur dramatic production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" I was appearing in. I had to be out the door by 5:30. At 5, the phone rang. I answered it. It was Jill. She asked if I'd read her letter and what I thought of it.

"I'm not interested in friendship with you, Jill," I replied.

"This isn't about friendship. It's about the way you treat me, like I'm something on the bottom of your shoe," she spat. She ranted on. "I'm not going feel uncomfortable in my daughter's school. It's not appropriate."

"YOUR daughter's school?" I shot back, my voice getting louder.

"And your daughter's school, too. It's not appropriate." She ranted some more. I said I had to go and put the phone down. I left the house, dropped my son off, went to my rehearsal. I phoned my husband and told him a bit of what happened. When I got home, I told him some more, then went to bed. And sobbed silently.

The next day another letter appeared. This was getting ridiculous. At the time there were roadworks directly in front of my house. You really had to want to go to my house to get in. She obviously did. The tone of the letter was more measured than the phone call, but confusing and disturbing nonetheless. There was no apology about the phone call, though she did say she'd been a bit "dramatic" on the phone. I didn't know it at the time, but apparently Jill was phoning the others as well. I phoned one of the mums she'd harassed in January. "I'll tell you what I told Jill," she said. "This is between you two and I'm not getting involved." Another mum said basically the same thing. I was deeply hurt and disappointed. Where was the support? Where were the coffees and lunches, like they'd had during their crisis with Jill? Only one showed anything like support, leaving a card and flowers on my doorstep one day. But they continued to speak to Jill and in front of her acted like nothing had happened. Jill, for her part, had stepped up her campaign against me. She phoned the school secretary, no longer being able to talk to the head, and others, saying that I was bullying her.

Jill called me again after the second letter. She didn't sound as combative, but I wasn't taking any chances. I told her not to call me again and hung up the phone. I decided not to answer the phone anymore and instructed my children not to do so. Because she did keep calling. A few days later my husband came home while the phone was ringing and started chastising the children for not answering it. I explained that I'd told them not to answer it. He decided that enough was enough and that he was going to write her a letter. I'd thought of writing one myself, but he insisted that he should be the one to write it. In it he asked her to leave me and our children alone and to stay away from us and to not send me any more letters or phone our house. If she couldn't abide by this request, he (we) would seek legal recourse.

He said he wanted to nip this in the bud and stop her behaviour once and for all. I knew the letter would do that, but I also knew that if there were any repercussions, I would feel them. All week I'd stayed away from the school and had my children meet me by the railway bridge. My husband went in to the school and showed the head the letter. She agreed that this was our only option in dealing with this woman. She took me aside that day and expressed her support and sympathy, as did the school secretary and PTA chair. But not the others in the group. Jill did stop calling and writing letters. She phoned the others and read them my husband's letter. She said she would do nothing for three years (when my son would leave the school) and then she'd go to her lawyer.

I tried to understand why these women were so unsupportive. Was it because they'd already been through a crisis with Jill and didn't wish to have another on my behalf? Did they believe I had bullied Jill? Was it because they had children in Jill's daughter's class and felt they had to remain on good terms because of this? I don't know. It was never discussed. Jill and I avoided each other if at all possible. She dropped out of the PTA, as did I a year or so later. She would stop and chat the others at pick-up time. I would wait to one side till she moved on before I joined the others. There was no more talk of including her in the group. I found I could cope in the open air with Jill nearby, but locked in meetings with her I would struggle to breath and feel sick to my stomach. Mini panic attacks, I realised later. Eventually, Jill stopped trying to talk to these women. She seemed to find others eager to rescue her from her tragedies, but none seemed to get as involved as the two mums in our group had. My friendship with these women limped on for nearly three more years, but I'd been on the sidelines for so long that I couldn't get back into the center of things. Finally, in April this year, after one snub too many, I decided to call it a day with these women. Our daughters had moved on to secondary school and other friends. There really was no need to continue what for me was an empty friendship with no heart at the center.

And Jill? She's still around. I see her from time to time riding her bike. My malice toward her has softened. I even feel sorry for her. A bit. I do believe she is a victim -- of a health-care system that doses its patients with pills rather than taking the time to find out what truly is wrong, of an overindulgent husband, of friends so interested in looking like "good" people that they excuse her bad behaviour far too much and far too long. But mostly she is a victim of herself and her mental illness. I spent some time on the internet trying to diagnose her. Bipolar with some personality disorders thrown in. But that's just my amateur opinion.

I finally sorted out what it was about Jill that disturbed me so. She made me feel vulnerable, as I did as a child when my mother would have temper tantrums and rants. I have spent my entire adult life trying not to feel vulnerable. I don't like it, and I will walk the second someone makes me feel that way. And I will do my best to never have another Jill in my life.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Crazy Jill Part 2

As Jill became more comfortable within our group, her behaviour became more outrageous.

We went to see the Vagina Monologues. In a theatre full of raucously laughing women, Jill's laughter stood out as even more raucous. People turned around to find the source of this laughter. Some members of the group began to give each other knowing looks. When we dropped Jill off, she kept us outside her home for 20 minutes, regaling us with tales of her and her husband's sex life. The laughter, mostly hers, rocked the car.

The PTA went out for a Christmas meal and disco, and of course Jill was invited. She had the vegetarian option because that's what some of the others were having. After the meal, we all got up for a dance or two or three. Jill gyrated and bumped and grinded. During Jumping Jack Flash, she actually went up on stage, climbed on top of the DJ's loudspeaker and jumped down behind us. A few of us stopped dancing and just looked at her dumbfounded. She danced so hard and so long, she developed a damp patch on her trousers. Afterwards, while waiting for the taxi, she treated us and the neighborhood to a serenade (she took singing lessons, remember).

She went up to the husband of one of the women in our group one day at pick-up time and in a manic way told him she was taking singing lessons and would he like to hear her sing and began singing before he had time to register what she was saying. He stood tranfixed, mortified at the public display.

My husband, who was treasurer of the PTA, dubbed her Twitterer for her long, pointless monologues during the meetings. He didn't go to many meetings because he has a day job, and the PTA chair and head teacher preferred to have the meetings during the school day. Our relationship with the PTA was a bit fractious. It had been run by four women for years. They moaned that no one would ever help out, but they didn't exactly make it easy to join. When my daughter was in her first year of school, I found out when they met and told the others. The five of us infiltrated, and the four others begrudgingly welcomed us. Then I was asked to head up an effort to raise funds to improve the school's playground because I appeared to have the most time on my hands. I approached this task with gusto, trying to get non-PTA parents involved as well. The Fearsome Four, and the elderly gentleman who was then the PTA treasurer, weren't happy. "Why aren't we doing the fund-raising?" they complained to the head. And the head told me that the PTA should do the fund-raising. I conceded, with much grace, I thought. I still was included in meetings because of all the work I had done.

Jill started to attend these meetings. I don't know how she found out, but I suspect the head teacher or school secretary told her. As usual, her input was time-consuming but minimal.

I don't know when exactly I began to suspect she was mentally ill. I found her behaviour annoying. But something more than that put me off her. For her part, she didn't exactly seek me out. If none of the others were there at pick-up time to talk to, she'd sidle over to me. Then, as the others arrived, she, and they, would ignore me. I suppose I found this hurtful. I wanted to be friends with the others, though, so I thought I had to try to be friends with Jill. I would invite her if I had a party and I was inviting the others.

Eventually, the others would exchange looks when her name came up in conversation. They dropped hints about her mental state, how she was on anti-depressants, how she would call them at night and keep them on the phone for hours. How they managed this and fed their families and worked (one of them is a music teacher with pupils who come in the evening), I don't know. One of the PTA's Fearsome Four, also a governor, became quite vocal about Jill's monopolisation of the head teacher's time, for Jill was still visiting the head on a daily basis. This woman and the school secretary began to run interference for the head. Jill retaliated by rushing to the toilet, which is located opposite the head teacher's office, every morning. The head, realising at last that she was in over her head with this woman, suggested she seek professional counselling. Jill was no stranger to counselling. She'd had a lot of it over the years to help her cope with her grief. She even had committed herself to the local mental health ward for a week. She went home when they told her nothing was wrong with her. So we were told.

Jill went to her GP (Jill had had a lot of GPs over the years, we learned. Either they would not allow her to come back or she would switch in disgust over how they treated her). He referred her to a psychotherapist. Jill went weekly, and would show up at pick-up time an absolute wreck after each session. This psychotherapist, Jill told some of the others, had suggested to her that the head teacher had behaved inappropriately (remember this word, it comes up later) toward Jill by "counselling" her and she should make a formal complaint to the governors. We don't know if this is actually what the therapist said because Jill was quite skilled at twisting people's words. The two women she told this to panicked. If Jill made a formal complaint, the governors would have to suspend the head while they investigated. The two women didn't feel the head deserved this, and they didn't want their children going to a school where the head was suspended.

They told Jill in no uncertain terms that they did not support her in this, that they felt obliged to tell the head what she had told them, that the head had given her time to Jill out of the goodness of her heart. Jill responded in a frightening way. She shouted on the phone. The women would hang up. She would call back and hurl more abuse at them. This went on all day. Where was her husband during this crisis? Did he take the daughter out and leave Jill to her verbal abuse? I don't know because I was a having a party at my house that night to which all three of these women were invited, and I was completely oblivious to what was going on. Jill found time to phone me in between phoning them, and told me she wouldn't be coming that evening because she had a fever.

The other two showed up late, shaking and on the verge of tears. I gave them each a large glass of wine and we all discussed the day's events and what had happened and what to do. It was agreed one of them would phone one of the governors, whom she knew quite well, and explain the situation. This governor could then inform the head of what was going on.

The next day Jill phoned the two women again, more contrite and in control this time. She wrote them letters, which she hand-delivered. One of them refused to see her. The other, in her jolly hockey-sticks way, told Jill she doesn't do "atmospheres." She also told her she'd already phoned the governor. Jill panicked. She phoned the governor. She wrote her letters. She wrote the head letters. She tried to see her, but the school secretary said she was unavailable. Eventually, the head herself told Jill that she would only speak to her on school matters pertaining to her child(remember the girl?).

I stood back, mouth agape during most of this. But part of me felt "I told you so." I tried to show my support for these two traumatized women. We met for coffee. We met for lunch. And I realised why Jill disturbed me so. I told the women I'd never taken to Jill. I should have kept my mouth shut, for in a few months the upset would be all but forgotten by them. But not by me.

To be continued.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Crazy Jill

I can't remember the very first time I saw her. But I do recall our first conversation. It was in September, her daughter having started in Reception just a few weeks earlier. I knew her by sight because her daughter was in the same class as my school mum friends' younger children. With her small stature, she seemed like a lost, little waif. As I passed her in the hallway one morning on the way to deposit my own children, I asked her how she was.

"Not so good. I've got to go to the GP today. I found a lump in my breast. My mother died of breast cancer, and I'm really scared," she said.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I hope it goes well for you," I replied, rather weakly.

I saw one of the school mum friends, and I repeated what Jill had just told me. She went up to Jill immediately and offered to go with her to the appointment. "I should have done that," I thought. But I was relieved that someone would be with her.

Soon, Jill started to appear at the PTA meetings, encouraged by the head teacher and the other school mums. At her first meeting, she appeared clutching a photo album to her chest. This she passed round the room. The photos were of her son, who had been born severely brain damaged but managed to live, with a lot of medical intervention, for three years. I was surprised by the change in her appearance in what I thought was just a couple of years.

I was later informed that those photos were 15 years old.

The other school mums in my crowd took her to their collective bosom fairly quickly. They had her round for coffee frequently. Weekly soon became daily. I was rarely included in this but then I didn't have a child in the same year as Jill, and they did. Jill became a familiar sight at the school as well, loitering in the lobby next to the head teacher's office.

Jill's had a lot of tragedy in her life, it was repeated to me in low tones. First, the boy, who had to be resuscitated after birth several times and never could go home in his short life. Then her mother died. Then, finally, the birth of a daughter but she too had a congenital birth defect -- a withered hand and arm that were operated on numerous times in her early life.

Poor thing, we would murmur. "She's like a wounded bird you just want to scoop up in your hands and nurse back to health," one of the mums said. And so they all tried to heal her. She'd never had friends like this, she told them. She'd never had anyone to tell all this to before, all the feelings of loss and bereavement, she said.

She told the head teacher this as well during what were becoming daily visits to her office. The visits at first were supposed to be about how her daughter was settling in and all her fears for her. The head reassured her, and Jill found the visits incredibly reassuring. Soon, Jill was telling her about the boy, the mother, the girl's operations as well.

In December I'd arranged a lunch for our group of five. I bumped into Jill on my way to the restaurant. "Oh, are you going too?" she asked. No one had bothered to tell me they'd invited Jill. I was a bit annoyed, but managed to forget it. Jill, with her loud laugh and shrill voice, could be good fun, they said. And she was, in a loud, shrill way.

Soon, Jill had insinuated herself into the group completely. Each night out had to be planned with Jill in mind. "Jill can't make that night. She has a singing lesson." "Jill is feeling a bit down tonight. It's the anniversary of her son's death." "Jill isn't too good. Today would have been her son's birthday."

When Jill did come out with us, she would insist on having the wine bottle at her side. On one night out, she loudly asked me to pass the bottle and to stop hogging it. I was actually tee-total that night and had had none. The others would laugh. "Isn't she fun?" they would say. And between the lines, "Isn't she brave to laugh after all she's been through?"

I began to feel relieved when she couldn't make it, though I wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was the too-loud laughter, the too-shrill conversation. She was trying too hard, and it made me uncomfortable. I said none of this to the others. They didn't seem to think there was anything strange about her.

I would moan inwardly when she appeared at the PTA meetings. Somehow she always managed to get the conversation off the particular item of discussion and onto herself. She did this at school meetings as well. When school fairs were being set up, she would make an appearance but not do much. Just chat to the other mums, who also wouldn't do much after she appeared. At times she appeared to be bouncing off the walls, pirouetting on the balls of her feet.

And the other mums in our group would laugh. "Isn't Jill fun?" they would smile.

To be continued.....

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Heeeeeeerre's Johnny!

OK, so I'm thinking about what to write today or if I'm going to write today. I was going to write about the scary moment last night when I thought Crazy Jill was back in my life making harassing and disturbing phone calls. But that's a very dark subject, one I'm not sure I want to write about yet.

So I was visiting some of my blogpals' sites, catching up, trying to find inspiration. And I got it -- from the Rotten Correspondent, who by the way is hilarious. She wrote about her top three scary books. I have read only one of them -- the Exorcist -- and decided I'm not a scary book person. I am, however, a scary movie person.

Sometimes when we are out somewhere and my kids start to get bored, I entertain them by telling them synopses (yay, I know how to spell the plural of synopsis) of scary movies I've seen. I did this in February while driving to the airport in Montreal from Tremblant after skiing with friends. I evidently scared the bejesus out of my friend's psychopath son. I now know how to keep the little shit in line.

Anyway, without further ado, here are a few of my choices for Scary Film Week:

1. The Shining. An absolute classic. My husband has never see it all the way through but I keep telling him he must, then he won't be so scared.

2. The Omen. I've never seen this one all the way through.

3. Rosemary's Baby. And didn't Mia Farrow look so innocent and young?

4. Cape Fear. The one with Robert DeNiro. My husband practically sh**t himself while watching this.

5. Open Water and Jaws: When I saw Jaws as a teen-ager, I never felt the same way again about swimming in the ocean. Open Water just confirmed it.

6. The Exorcist. Turned me off to pea soup forever. And peeing on the carpet.

7. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? If Bette Davis doesn't creep you out in this film, nothing will. Actually, my friend I went skiing with, the mother of the psychopath, is beginning to look like Bette Davis in this film.

8. The Silence of the Lambs. I went to see this on my own when I was between husbands. I tried to get two male friends to go, but I think they were afraid of me.

9. Mothman Prophecies. This came on late one night on TV. I knew nothing about it. Good thing.

10. Seven. I was pregnant when I went to see this. Not a good state to be in.

I didn't include Scream or Nightmare on Elm Street or some other classics because I can't watch them. What are your favourite scary films?

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

And the winner is

When I was a little girl, I loved watching all those beauty contests: Miss America, Miss Universe, Miss World. I loved seeing these glamourous women (they were all glamourous in the 60s) dressed up in their evening gowns. Hearing the strains of "There she is, Miss America" made me dream of one day being a winner. Not necessarily of a beauty contest. Just a winner. Now I'm beginning to sound like a loser, and that is not what I am. But I've never been a winner either. Or not very often.

So when I read other people's blogs about all these awards bestowed upon them by their fellow bloggers, I think "Oh yes, that's very nice. Yes, that blogger definitely deserves that."

But a wee bit of me thinks, "Well, that's another award I haven't won."

I know, LOSER for even thinking about it. But at least I'm honest.

But today I visited annie's blog, and much to my surprise, I found I'm a winner. Annie, bless her heart, has bestowed the Nice Matters Award upon me. Thanks so much, annie. I don't know why it looks so wonky on my page. If anyone out there knows and can tell me how to fix it, please do.

To pass it along, I nominate, in no particular order (the envelope please) (drum roll) Lady Macleod, Chantay, DJ, Crystal Jigsaw, Pixie, Kelly, and Kaycie.(Wild applause). You're all fantastic, and I'm so glad I've been able to meet you through this blog. Just reading what you have to say brightens my day.

If you don't know how to get the award on your blog, DON'T ASK ME. I was lucky to get it on mine at all.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

If I'd Had a Blog 6 Years Ago, What I Might Have Written

Today I saw something on TV to equal or surpass Pearl Harbor or any other aggressive declaration of war. I had just gotten home from Tesco when the phone rang. "Do you have the TV on?" my husband asked. "Turn it on now." I saw a beautiful autumn day in New York and the World Trade Center on fire. The news presenter said it was a plane. No one was sure if it was an accident. As the news presenters were speaking, another plane appeared and flew into the second tower. Then a news flash: another plane had flown into the Pentagon. I called my husband back. "They're trying to destroy America," I cried. He couldn't or wouldn't stay on the phone. I went back to the TV, watching in disbelief, tears streaming down my face. It was almost time to pick the kids up from school. What do I do? What do I say?

I wore my sunglasses to cover my red and puffy eyes. When I got the kids in the car, I explained that something terrible had happened to those tall buildings we'd seen just two weeks earlier. When we got home, I turned the TV back on. The towers were collapsing. I cried when I saw a black woman turned completely white by the dust. My 5-year-old son laughed. "Why are you laughing?" I asked. "I've never seen a woman cry before," he said.

I turned the TV off. I didn't want the kids to get upset by all the coverage or by seeing me all upset. Several friends called to see if I knew anyone. When my husband got home, I asked him to hang my American flag outside. I'm not a flag waver, but it seemed appropriate. How many survivors will there be? My husband doesn't appear to know anyone directly who was in the building but he knows someone who knows someone who was on the phone to one of the Cazenove guys when the plane flew into the building. He also knows someone who worked in a building right next to the Twin Towers.


That American flag was stolen from in front of my house two days later. I have never put another one up since. I went to church on the following Sunday. The vicar's sermon was about how the West deserved this. I walked out and never returned to that church. There have been a lot of TV programs about 9/11 over the past week. I've allowed my children to watch them, disturbing and upsetting as they are, because real life in the wake of 9/11 is disturbing and upsetting. I wish all the madness had ended on that day. It has not. This war on Western civilization is wrong, wrong, wrong -- sinfully, hell-making, furiously wrong. I don't understand Muslims not standing up and telling their murderous brethren that they are all going to hell for their actions. But I also don't understand George W. Bush waging war with the wrong country for the wrong reasons. He will go to hell for his actions as well. It is America's great misfortune that it had one of the stupidest, most inept presidents in its history during the worst attack on its soil ever.

My son does not laugh now when he sees the images from that day. He understands now what it was all about. He understands why we have to stand in lines at airports and take off our shoes and belts and coats. At least they no longer make me lift my shirt to show my underwired bra.

I still cry when I see the images of that day, read the stories of the widows, the survivors, and the dead. I will always cry.

Monday, 10 September 2007

My Secret Garden Fixation

Yesterday, I tackled some weeding chores in the garden. My son, who shows more promise as a gardener than his sister, asked me recently which are weeds and which are plants (perhaps hoping to avoid his earlier mistake of pulling up the broccoli). My answer: anything I don't want where it is is a weed in my book. So the weeds in my garden are these: campanula (a little bit has gone a very long way), a type of geranium (happily thrives everywhere), the herbs sweet melissa (which does NOT smell sweet) and sorrel, periwinkle, heartsease, California poppy, red hot poker, and mind your own business (a small-leaved carpet-like plant that loves damp conditions, my lawn, the house, and anywhere it can sink its tiny roots into). I wonder how mind your own business gots its name because in the plant world I would say it minds everybody else's business. I also have dandelions, couch grass, toadflax, spurge, thistles, brambles, groundsel, goose grass, shepherd's purse, chickweed, buttercups, and ivy. I have just about tamed the ground elder into submission after several years of digging up and assiduously disposing of the roots. I throw nettles onto the compost bin because they supposedly help the composting process.

I have had four "gardeners" since I moved into this house nine years ago. The first, Rob, turned out to be a psychopath, but he was the best gardener. Very rough, and as I said, totally psycho, but he knew his plants. And he kept the weeds under control. The second, whose name escapes me, had graduated from horticulture college so I figured he was worth the extra money he charged. WRONG! For he did not deign to weed my borders, trim my shrubs, and mow my lawn. That he left for his hired hand, the moronic alcoholic, to do. And my bulbs and annuals were savagely dug up. The third gardener, Colin, was in the process of attending horticulture college. He was an amiable bloke just out of the army who got me into composting. But he hadn't learned how to tell a weed from a plant yet, and he ripped out some ferns I had planted. The fourth gardener was hired for the purpose of keeping the garden looking lovely while the house was on the market. Jerry, who we knew from our pub-crawling days BC, had been our gardener for a time at our last house while I was pregnant. Jerry could make the grass grow green and tall, when he showed up. Which was becoming more and more infrequent. Remember, we met him at the pub. I think that's a very big clue about Jerry. He last came in early December, promising to remove a tree limb later that week. He left his ladder and harness. The January storm destroyed the tree, but we held onto the ladder and harness. Till March, when Jerry remembered where he'd left them and called to collect them one day as I was going out with the children. He offered to take down the tree limb, but I informed him the storm had done the job for him.

In between each of these men (and not one like Mellors out of Lady Chatterley's Lover, but he was a gamekeeper anyway, wasn't he?) I have taken on the gardening chores. I have attended the odd gardening courses to try to learn a bit more. I enjoy gardening and possibly could do it full time except for the weather and my bad back. But maybe I should go to horticulture college. After all, if they could do it, why can't I? But I need to take some painkillers right now. My back and shoulders are killing me.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Priceless Pixie says I'm a Highly Dorky Light-Weight Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

I visited Kaycie's blog and this is what I brought home.

Yesterday was a landmark day for me. I met my first blogpal in the flesh -- Pixie. What a delight she is. We had such a good time together (I hope you did, Pix). We laughed about what we feared each would look like. Though Pixie has posted pictures of herself on her blog, I still worried that she would turn out to be the elderly woman who seemed to be following me around the Met Quarter in Liverpool. She wasn't.

Pixie lives up to her name, with sparkling eyes that light up with mischief and humour. We exchanged confidences because we aren't really strangers. We have been commenting on each other's blogs for months now. We ate the same thing for lunch -- soup followed by king prawns (and the mess that entailed) and drank two white wine spritzers each. We went window shopping. And we set about rounding out each other's knowledge of ourselves. Pixie did a tarot reading for me. She is wonderfully intuitive, which probably makes her a very good counsellor. I could have spent many more hours in her company, but family obligations for both of us beckoned.

We are of the same generation. We have loved and lost and lived and cried and had lives that brought us together at this point in time. We both marvelled at the invention of blogs that has brought so many strangers across the globe together. Some bloggers become very cliquey, which is human nature, I suppose. Some become very popular, and in that popularity lose touch with some blogpals. Again, human nature. For both of us, though, blogging is an intensely personal experience. We have written of feelings and experiences that are very meaningful to us, and our blogpals have come to mean a lot to us as well.

We plan to see each other again, probably in November. And Pixie is having a Christmas party for her blogpals on Dec. 1 at her home. You're all invited. Just keep visiting her blog for details.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

A Holy Experience

This is just too good not to share. We Americans are very good at recreating the rest of the world so we don't have to visit it (witness Las Vegas). I predict this will outsell Disney.
Experiencing an excursion to Holy Land
Dewayne Bevil

Theme Park Ranger

August 31, 2007

Where two or more are gathered, and the topic is Holy Land Experience, there are a few standard responses.

"I've always been curious about that place."

"I want to go, but I don't want to give them money."

"I want to go, but I'm afraid I'll burst into flames."

Then there are the easy-target stand-up comedy routines. Do they have a Holy Roller Coaster? Is Christ on the cross six times daily? Is there a rock show called "Jumpin' Jerusalem"?

For the record: No, no, no.

But Holy Land Experience does have similarities to its bigger theme-park brethren. It sports stage shows, miniature re-creations, perky employees (very "Shalom!"-happy), turkey legs and even statuesque greenery. Holy Land bushes spell out "HE IS RISEN" and are within eyeshot of a 7-Eleven. Insert your own "Thank Heaven" joke here. See? It's hard to stop.

The musicals and live presentations feature hard-working performers in multiple roles. The women in the "Moses" musical -- which ends with a remarkable duet by Moses' birth mother and his bulrushes mother -- appear scant moments later in supporting roles in "The Ministry of Jesus."

That's when things become interesting. I semi-smirked when the line "Look, it's Jesus!" was delivered. But sure enough, an actor arrives in his best Johnny Depp 'do.

Jesus is the rock star of Holy Land Experience.

The crowd strains to catch a glimpse and achieve a good camera angle. For the next 15 minutes, it's a mash-up of Jesus' greatest hits of miracles and teachings, including, but not limited to, giving sight to a blind man, preaching about rich men getting into heaven (that camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle thing) and gathering the little children around him.

"Ministry" is well-staged with the other actors, geared with Janet Jackson-style microphones, around the outdoor venue. This allows Jesus to mingle with his peeps. The man has charisma.

Holy Land Experience distributes an excellent schedule, presented chronologically. It is sprinkled with historical presentations about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the temples of Israel and "inspirational insights." These fall somewhere between lecture and sermon. There is not much overlap in the schedule, and some presentations are one-time only.

It's impossible to distinguish the Christians from the merely curious amid the visitors, but you have the feeling that they're preaching to the choir at Holy Land Experience. Many an "amen" and "hallelujah" come up from the spectators. A contemporary Christian music segment of the "Praise Through the Ages" show rocks the house. A woman behind me in her Sunday-best hat stands up and breaks into harmony. Of course, it stands to reason that today's hits score better than the earlier Gregorian chants.

Other highlights include the Scriptorium, a vast, well-designed display of Bibles through the centuries and ancient artifacts; the Temple Plaza (the white building visible from Interstate 4); and KidVenture, a cute, interactive telling of the story of David and Goliath.

The park closes with "Behold the Lamb," a musical drama that graphically portrays the Crucifixion and ensuing Resurrection. It's emotional and intense -- I worried about my inner child, and the actual children nearby. But cameras were out in full force again.

Holy Land has done a decent job resisting tacky souvenirs. There's shopping to be done, but the bulk of it is along the lines of biblical and inspirational goods. It's mostly reverent, although the Oasis Palms Cafe serves a Paul's Platter along with King David's Desserts.

Best of all: no spontaneous human combustion. Shalom!

Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

A Big Day

Today, my son started Grammar School (and I remembered to get up). He looked so handsome in his blazer and tie, but he was so nervous. He came down at 6:59, complaining of a stomachache and saying he was finding it hard to breathe. I made him do a couple of deep breaths with me. As I was still bunged up, my deep breathing sounded more like snoring. He said he didn't feel better, but I sure did. I made his breakfast (waffles) and went up for my shower as Daughter came down to make her breakfast (scrambled egg and toast). I often complain about my daughter. Not today. Or last night.

Last night I went to my salsa dancing class, which went on longer than I thought it would. As my friend dropped me off, I saw that the lights were off in Daughter's room. I went upstairs to check on her. She'd made sure her brother had had a shower, brushed his teeth and was in bed by 9 p.m. By 9:30 she put herself in bed, cat at her feet to keep her company. I came home about 20 minutes later and we chatted amiably for about half an hour. This morning she said how much she'd enjoyed our chat. That was after she'd sat next to her brother to make sure he ate his breakfast. She talked to him about what he would have for lunch and tried to take his mind off his stomachache and nervousness. It seemed to work.

There is only a 20-month age difference between my children but sometimes it seems much larger. Daughter has taken on a motherly role since we brought Son home from the hospital. I remember her dancing around him that first day as he slept in his car seat and showing him pictures from her favourite book. Yes, they have their spats and sibling jealousies, but for the most part they are good friends and companions. I am so happy for them because my brother and I didn't get along at all when we were younger. My sister, being 10 years older, has always been in a different phase of life to me. I don't feel we have that much in common other than that we're related.

Hubby, hearing about the progress made in the birthday celebrations, is not happy. He thinks I'm spoiling Daughter, but this party will cost less than many others we have had. And I think Daughter deserves it anyway for being so helpful with her brother and being so organised and grown-up when sometimes it's obvious she would prefer not to be. I think Hubby had had a bad day, what with the Tube drivers on strike and all. But he will have to get used to the party idea.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Not-so-good Vibrations

I am a bad mother. I am a bad mother because today is my daughter's first day back at school and I was supposed to wake her at 7. Instead, she woke me at 8. Yes, I'd set the alarm. And, yes, it went off at 6:30. I turned it off and told myself to get up in 10 minutes.

But I have a reason for my laziness. Ultimately, I blame my daughter. At 2:45 this morning I awoke to a vibrating noise (not THAT kind of vibrating). I lay in bed trying to figure out what it was. Did we have a poltergeist somewhere in the house? Was a cat stuck somewhere? No, the noise was too regular and consistent. Every 2 or 3 minutes a percussion of 6 beats. Was it the pipes? I did have the heating on briefly in the evening. But the heating was no longer on. Was something left on -- PlayStation? TV? Something in the bathroom?

After half an hour, I decided I had to investigate. I turned the light on, ventured out into the hallway, turned another light on, stopped to listen. All I could hear was the churning of my stomach, not happy at being awakened prematurely. I went downstairs. The vibration grew fainter. I went upstairs, past my son's room, his bathroom, the guest room, the playroom. All looked serene and quiet. What the hell. I decided to go back to bed. The vibration started again. I decided to ignore it. I'll get the kids to figure it out tomorrow, I told myself.

I turned out the lights. Bloody hell, that vibration is happening again. It's not my dodgy hearing, is it? I turned over to my "good" ear. No difference. Where would it be that I could hear it clearly in my bedroom, but not anywhere else? In my bedroom, of course. But it wasn't. What had I heard before the vibration? Some sort of music. And what would be the source of the music? Not a poltergeist, but maybe a phone. And what room is directly above mine? The playroom.

I turned on the light, got out of bed, went up to the playroom and investigated the PlayStation (it still being my main suspect). Then I heard a noise, but not like the vibration. I saw a phone. My daughter's mobile. When I'd kissed her goodnight some hours earlier, she'd said, "I must find my phone." Someone had texted her at some point in the night. Since I'd found it for her, I decided to leave it by her bed. That way she could be the one disturbed by the vibrations.

And back to bed I went. But I didn't feel sleepy. So I read. I did sudoku. At 5:15, I decided I'd better try to get some sleep. I thought, as I always do in the middle of the night, about relationships gone sour, books I've had that I must read, recipes, what I'll have for breakfast (my stomach being permanently awake by that time), how my son reminds me of Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes, and I must find that book I've had forever, but, wait, I think I gave it away ages ago.

So, not a good night. See, even when they get older, kids still keep you awake at night. Just in different ways.

P.S. Don't forget to vote in my poll on whether we should get a puppy.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

How much is that doggy in the window?

Oh how I hate this time of year. September means back to school. It means the nights are starting to draw in. It means grey, drizzly days are just around the corner (and we've already had a summer of them). It means my daughter is planning her birthday party. Or parties.

Daughter is 13 this year, on the 13th of October. That calls for something special, she decided. A limo for some of her friends. Gulp! And a bouncy castle for the other friends. Gulp! I didn't ride in a limo till my 40th birthday, I reminded her. If you have all this now, what do you have to look forward to, I tried to reason with her. And inside I wondered if I've created a monster. Finally, she came up with a compromise. She and another friend would share the limo party. Six of them will go bowling, then come back in the limo to a party hosted at either our or her friend's house. The other mother is on board, the girls have priced the limo and bowling, and it works out cheaper than a lot of other parties I've shelled out for.

Now, onto the presents -- or present. She is forgoing her request for GHD straighteners in order to get -- A PUPPY!

Hubby doesn't want her to have a puppy. He thinks it will stress the cats too much and they'll run away. Hubby is not a natural animal lover so I don't quite believe he's that bothered about the cats. He also doesn't want the mess or damage a puppy can create. I hear him on that.

I'm sort of in limbo on the idea. I like the idea, but the reality, I fear, will be far different. It will be my responsibility ultimately to look after this puppy, I predict. And what kind of puppy to get? I don't want a big dog because they make big messes. I don't want a little dog because they don't seem like real dogs. We (daughter and I) have been on the internet looking for dogs. Purebred or mixed? Breeder or shelter? Some of these purebred dogs cost an absolute fortune. I don't want to pay more than £200. A puppy would be better, I think, for the cats, who will have their noses seriously put out of joint.

I have had dogs before. I have introduced dogs to all-cat households before, with mixed results. I don't want to get the puppy just yet because the cats are still getting over their three weeks at the cattery they've gone to all their lives.

So, what to do? I decided to let you guys help me decide and created a poll. Please help me by voting.