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.