Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Last Friday evening saw the official start of Christmas in my house - a ritual that's always been a highlight of the whole season. I've always put the tree up as sooon as possible; many years ago when my step-children were small and we did the 'every other weekend' thing I liked to make sure they saw the flat 'all christmassy' for at least two visits. It seems hilarious now I have my own children that my tree then was themed 'pink' or 'feathers' or 'glass' and of course I vowed my OWN children would NEVER have an advent calendar with chocolate in, oh no!

The children crowded around the ladder to the loft and excitedly helped their father pull down the boxes of Christmas paraphernalia; treasure troves of family history - I marvelled at the children's handmade decorations from previous years, we put up the fake tree in the front room, set aside the best ornaments for the Real Tree to be put up in the other sitting room on Sunday. Forgotten Christmas books were pounced upon - what a difference a year makes - my six year old can read them all to himself. A glass of wine for mummy and daddy, bed-time glass of milk for the helpers.

What a difference a year makes, indeed. Their father, my husband, offically moved out the next morning. This is something I want and instigated one balmy humid night, what feels like years ago, in August. On Saturday night (comfortably numbed by the bottle of Sancerre Best Friend Forever had insisted I neck) I arrived home in a taxi from London, the driver helped me carry my sleeping babies into an empty house. For the first time in 14 years just me, and them.

I'm looking forward to a day that I won't wake up feeling I might be sick. However, when I can bear to look in the mirror and see the somewhat manic, slightly hungover, terror and despair it's definitely tinged with relief, not regret.

A list of things that are helping

Swearing - saying SHIT and FUCK a lot really helps
Hugs both real and virtual
Cuddles - I was even nice to the cat the other day
The fact that the weather matches - suitably cold, dark days
Sneaky fags
Red wine in ABUNDANCE
Dancing around kitchen when a bit drunk - Black Eyed Peas mostly
Finding a stash of Estranged's diazepam yesterday meant some SLEEP
Sobbing (yes showing emotion, me! wtf)
Unintentional weightloss (I'm a shallow creature)

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The Towering Inferno

I'm not very good at angst. Weeping delicately into a handkerchief is really not my style and a tendency to see the funny side* of any situation may give the impression that I am being glib and flippant about a momentous decision; that of ending my marriage of nearly 13 years.

'Ending a marriage' sounds so calm and measured but let's be brutally honest - in doing so I am irreversibly changing the course of my children's lives; destroying the world of a good, kind, decent man. Dismantling the lives of those closest to me - for what? Pursuit of my own happiness - or more accurately - a release from my unhappiness. If I wasn't me I'd slap me. Stupid cow.

With only the tiniest bit of hindsight, I can best describe my marriage in recent years like being trapped in a burning building. As the flames of misery & despair start to burn (yes it's one of those corny, crap analogies) I've made my way up to the next floor (a bigger house, another baby, a holiday perhaps) where the air is clear and I could still breathe for a little while.

A week ago I reached the top of that building and guess what - there's nowhere to go. My choice - slow & painful or quicker but very messy. I know I had to jump but nothing prepared me for the horror of it all. Never before have I felt physically sick with the sheer terror of the unknown. I look down, into the future. There's no-one to catch me, no safety net; just other people milling around as best they can - friends and family looking up at me 'WTF is she doing?' written all over their faces.

So, if you see a 42 yr old mother of two face down on the pavement, splattered with self-doubt and self-loathing, that'll be me. If you see me on Twitter talking my usual rubbish it's not that I'm not desperately sad; I'm just distracting myself from the undoubted wretchedness the next few months will bring.

*My favourite post-Armageddon comedy moment so far is a text from a wonderful friend who expressed her shock, concern and love followed by the words 'you've really fucked up our dinner party seating plan though'. Brilliant! Made me laugh out loud and helped me ignore the huge hole I've bitten in my lip to prevent myself collapsing in floods of tears in the supermarket.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Don't get me started on Boden...

For reasons completely unknown to myself I always seem to have something derogatory to pipe up with whenever anyone mentions Boden.

I've thought about it for a while and can now pinpoint exactly why Boden fills me with such loathing.

It is most definitely not the clothes themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the clothes. They are well made and appear to be of ethical manufacture & good quality. People who purchase Boden because they like the design and colour of the clothes are quite within the bounds of taste. Naturally, like any label from Versace to Levi's - should NEVER be worn head to toe.

My derision of Boden is not based totally on the style of the catalogue either although that is incredibly easy to ridicule. The models are photographed either in style of

1.Off duty nun cycling through the Dordogne to a lesbian assignation; or Stepford wife skipping through a meadow fighting with squirrels for nuts & berries to cook up for children's supper.

From a personal styling viewpoint, neither are particularly aspirational figures for me, or anyone I know.

This brings me to the realisation it is the aggressive and cynical marketing technique that REPULSES me so. Somehow, I have been identified by their oh-so-thorough market research as being right up their demographic strasse, so to speak. Home counties, 2 children, 6 figure household income. Already proven a keen online shopper - Amazon regularly, Net-a-Porter even. Boden, it seems, will not rest until I have given in and bought into their 'lifestyle' and this is why I receive communication via email, brochures in the post, entire catalogues, money-off vouchers - off comes the plastic wrapper and plop, there it goes straight into the recycling.

When I look at the women I know who wear head to toe Boden, I can't help but feel it is because they can be identified by it. "Ooh - is that Boden", also means - you too have been 'chosen' as someone who has the 'taste' and income to be one of 'us'. Or is it 'them'?

It is not just Boden Limited who are after my hitherto elusive first order. Mr Johnny Boden seems to have set himself a direct challenge to entice me to 'the tastefully embroidered bias cut skirt/spotty cardigan dark side' and it is the tone of these 'personal' missives from 'Johnny' that enrages me.

Hi, it's johnny....."
I know you weren't expecting this email. In fact you probably had other things on your mind; your unwritten novel, say, or that last biscuit languishing in the tin. But while I have your attention I'd like to introduce you to the fabulous Boden Summer range, replete with beautifully cut swimming costumes, lightweight cover-ups and dazzlingly good looking accessories.

See what I mean. Hold my hair back while I vomit please and bear in mind I have been receiving such messages for about 6 years now. Give it up 'Johnny'. While I admire your tenacity, I am never going to give in. I may very well be a smug middle-aged, middle-class twat, but unfortunately for your profit forecasts, I don't really want to look like one.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Camping - the issues.

It is with some trepidation 'THE CAMPING TRIP' looms. We are going with 4 lovely families and I am sure it will be lots of fun (non-sarcastic).

However, as with any activity involving grown-ups with mortgages, their children and travel there are ISSUES. What we say and what we are thinking are generally poles apart.

Said: The campsite looks nice B, thanks for booking it. How much do we owe you.

Think: What the fuck is that. A lake in the middle of the campsite. A busy road to the left. So, not only do I have be on constant guard in case the children are abducted by some predatory paeophile; there is a huge likelihood they will be either be drowned or run over by the end of the weekend. Fucking brilliant.

Said: So, anything your kids DON'T eat?

Think: Please GOD will they eat the food prepared by other parents and pretend they like homemade as much as shop-bought. Please, if (when) we do visit a pub, will they behave as though having lemonade and crisps is a HUGE treat reserved for birthdays and holidays only.

Said: Hope the weather is good.

Think: It's bloody Norfolk in May - it will either be pissing down in which case we're out of there faster than you can say M11; or, by some miracle, it might be sunny, therefore too hot for the children to sleep in the tents. They'll all be crotchety and fighty and tearful the next day and I'll have to start on the gin EARLY in order not to argue with husband.

Said: How much booze are you taking? Oh, just enough for perhaps a G&T in the afternoon, if it's sunny; couple of glasses of wine with dinner; something for round the campfire later.. what about you two?

Think: Holy shit, what if we run out of wine. Shall have to have stash of red wine in the tent as may need to get totally rat-arsed before sleeping on the ground. Then all our friends will know we drink MUCH more than them. Oh dear.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, 18 May 2009

I often wonder what happened to Muhammad Ali.

Lets go - to Bahrain, 1992. Me, newly qualified dolly of trolley. Resplendent in my peach 'hatlet'. I'd hoped to have a photo but can't find.

One afternoon my doorbell rang. On opening - a slight figure, smiley face, eyes twinkly and kind.

"Madam, my good name, Muhammad Ali. No, not heavy weight champion of world. Houseboy. Are you in need of houseboy madam... cleaning... ironing?"

Indeed, I was. So it came about that Muhammad Ali would attend Flat 13, Bu Hamood Building, Exhibition Rd for 2 hours twice weekly to do whatever it took to bring semblance of order and hygiene to my life.

Logistically, this wasn't difficult. I was in the country for 8 days out of 28 and the kitchen was only ever used for the making of cups of tea and the chilling of duty free's cheapest. Muhammad, enterprisingly, found other tasks to fill his time. Arranging my bras by unknown criteria - age perhaps. Leaving Dhal in the fridge, hurrah! Gradually, just as he brought physical order, he began to assume responsibility for my emotional life. Thus, it was Muhammad Ali who sat at the end of my bed on return from 10 day Singapore/Melbourne and broke the news that (then object of misguided affections)..

"Captain Ibrahim, Miss Clare, he is a bad man. I have seen him visiting the apartment of Miss M......"

Aaarghh. M. French. Famous for eyes of Bambi (8 coats mascara, apparently). Infamous for wearing stockings and suspenders while the rest of us battled our way through life in BHS American Tan tights. As tears welled, for the removal of doubt, he took my hand and imparted in a low voice...

"Miss Clare, I am very sure he make f#cky-f#ck with that lady". Er, thanks Muhammad, I kinda got it the first time.

As he immersed himself in mine, I, too, politely enquired of his life. He was Keralan, married, a father of two. One of his children he had never seen - she had been conceived on his last annual trip back to India. Even my 24 year old bimbo-head full of nonsense realised he was not a simply a young man working his way around the world to 'widen his horizons' or on a 'gap year'.

Muhammad was far from home because he wanted his children, both born and unborn, to have better food and shoes and books and a house. He explained that, being from a farming background, there wasn't enough work for all of his brothers and their familes. Therefore he had chosen to come to the Persian Gulf to work, in order to send money back for everyone. His sponsored main job was nightwatchman and, rather than sleeping during the day, he worked as a houseboy for whoever would employ him.

One day, I came home to chaos. Muhammad hadn't been. The flat was as I'd left it. Tea bags, pizza boxes, towels on floor, remnants of bottle of perfume smashed against wall by me in a recent hissy fit of 'woman scorned'. I never saw Muhammad Ali again. I could vaguely recall him telling me about a 'walkman' he'd been given that he feared would lead to accusations of theft. Sadly, I assumed he'd fled or been deported. I wondered for a long time but had no way of finding out - any queries to 'the authorities' would have been futile and perhaps led to more trouble for him.

Regrettably, I never told Muhammad Ali of Kerala what a good man I thought he was.

I still visit Dubai at least once a year to spend time with my best friend and my two beautiful god children who, as a family, always conduct themselves with respect to everyone around them. However, now, as then, there are still hundreds of thousands of workers (labourers, domestic servants, hotel staff) from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Phillippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka who work and live in conditions ranging from acceptable to appalling.

Now that I am a parent, I am amazed by the women who leave behind their husbands, children and safety to take jobs as 'housemaids'. Imagine the utter agony of feeding, bathing, tucking in someone else's children into bed with a story whilst desperately wanting to smell your own little one's hair, to bury your face into their necks. No kissing away tears, no tickles; just a constant dull pain of longing. Is there any greater sacrifice? Probably, but I can't thing of many others so unsung. Selfless acts of heroism in a ridiculously unfair world.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Utterances Imagined

Debating the various options while booking flights for a girly pink glittery weekend escape with some friends, my husband texted me:
"After all, you are too old to travel in Economy" Hmmm. Compliment? Insult? You decide. I couldn't.
Reporting this on twitter, Mrs Trefusis pointed out that it was probably one of the top 5 things a woman would like to hear. Here are some more.
A List of
The BEST THINGS Husbands and/or Boyfriends
(oh, are they mutually exclusive)
Could Say. But Don't.

  1. Your bum looks tiny in those jeans, you should get them in every colour.

  2. Here's your tea & toast darling, and the papers. Why don't you stay in bed, I'll take the children to the park for the morning.

  3. You're so rubbish at loading the dishwasher, from now on, it's my job.

  4. Oh, is Cindy Crawford the same age as you.. I always thought she was MUCH older.

  5. I'm just ordering some computer manuals from Amazon, why don't you have a look and order anything you want.

  6. Don't worry darling, it's perfectly normal for a woman of your age to stare at very handsome young men.

  7. You're right, shiny gold strappy sandals aren't quite right with that outfit, you should try to find some slightly matt gold strappy sandals. And matching clutch, obv.

  8. Oh, sweetheart, you look like you've got a terrible headache. Try to get a good nights sleep.

  9. I find those very toned, flat stomachs so unwomanly.

Any more..... ?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

I'm it!

Have been 'tagged' by MTFF and Katherine to answer the following. Anticipate yawnfest but it's all good practice for this blogging lark which seems to be, in essence um... talking about myself.

1. What are your current obsessions.

Realise have obsessed for 28, yes TWENTY-EIGHT years over weight. Loss. Gain. Whatever. Bane of women's lives. My 5 year old's current obsession is much more interesting. He is collecting empty Monster v Aliens yoghurt tubes. He washes them when empty and sellotapes them above his bed. A yoghurt tube installation!
Makes me pine for babyhood when he was tiny mouse in bib and highchair being fed Petit Filous from mustard spoon.

2. What item from your wardrobe do you most wear.

Sunglasses. Big silly ones mostly. Good for hiding tears/crows feet/hangovers. Have bad habit of using to control hair in form of alice band when windy. Nuff said.

3. Last dream I had.

Turgid. Pornographic. Maybe it will return tonight.

4. Last thing you bought.

Stripy tunic top in French Connection. The sort of thing my mother would say 'ooh you could make it for a fraction of that'. She doesn't actually say it out loud anymore but I hear her.

5. What am I listening to.

On my ipod, the new Lily Allen album.

As I write this, The Wire/24 coming from Husband's office.

6. Fave holiday spots.

Not holidays but places I will always love are: Fiji (sister's wedding); Mud Brick Cafe for long lunch (Waiheke Island, Auckland NZ) My best friend's house in Dubai; Koh Samui in 1995 prob awful now; Marylebone High St, London ( when newlywed lived above Afghan restaurant in nearby Paddington St)

7. What are you reading.

The White Tiger but it's dragging if am honest. The Secret of Scent by Luca Turin. A post by mrstrefusis inspired me to dig out old Uni text 'Contemporary American Poetry' which is so old the UK purchase price on the back is £1.75 (for a book, not half a coffee!) Revisiting Adrienne Rich. Frank O'Hara. Denise Levertov.

8. 4 words to describe you.

Generous. Resilient. Funny. Wicked.

9. Guilty pleasure.

Trashy Magazines. Perfume. Stinky cheese. I occasionally 'forget' to turn off Jeremy Kyle in the morning.

10. If you were god/goddess who would you be.

A mixture of Circe & Aergia

11. Who/what makes you laugh until you are weak.

Best friend only has to say 'my darling... lets consider our options' and i'm off. Guinea pigs crack me up.

12. Fave spring thing to do.

Cook roast lamb for family and watch them eat it all up with gusto. And rosemary gravy.

13.When you die what would you like people to say about you at your funeral.

She was a young soul until the end. With very shiny hair.

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?

After 10k run, Ham Hock Terrine, Seafood Linguini, bottle Sancerre and & half bottle Chateauneuf du Pape tasted pretty damn good.

15 When did you last go for night out?

As night follows day, long liquid lunches become evenings out.

16. Fave film ever.

Gone with the Wind. Definitely was corseted heroine of bodice ripping yarn in former life.

17. Share some wisdom.

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

18. Song you can't get out of your head.

Lily Allen - Fuck You.

19. Thing you are looking forward to.

First thing tomorrow, seeing children's faces, as they crawl into bed for a cuddle.

20. What cosmetic artifice can you not live without.

Full warpaint. Most days.

Perfume. Always.

RULES of game. Respond & rework. Remove one question & replace with one of your own.
Pass to six other people (only have 3)

Really should know better

Little Brown Bird


Razor Kitty