Monday, 30 June 2014

Ode to Best Friends - Mine, in Particular

Friendship is a strange beast – it comes and goes throughout your life – more so in the early years, it seems, and with more passion in those years too. Nowadays, meeting people and making new friends tends to be all about the school run and you children’s classmates. No one has a proper identity in this friendship world, you’re just so-and-so’s mum. Your opening question isn’t ‘what do you do?’, it’s ‘how old is so-and-so’? You hope that you’ll meet someone who you actually like and want to hang out with, but even then it can be a slow road – first, a coffee, then maybe a play date, if you’re feeling it – maybe a dinner with the partners further down the road and this is when it gets properly interesting, when bits of yourself start to come out, rather than just mum-you. And then you just hope the real you and the real them still get on (will they still like me when they know my secret passion is Morris Dancing?). Making friends is definitely not like it used to be.

Even as an adult, I’ve made some brilliant friends who I’m really close to – but this has mostly been in extreme circumstances. I joined a tough, inner-city London primary school as an NQT the same time as four others NQTs and, my God, that’s a bonding experience. We were instantly thrown together, at the deep end – one of first training sessions was on how to safely restrain pupils – oh, how we laughed. We shared many tears (he threw a chair at me in the middle of my observation), laughs (What? She actually pissed herself on the deputy’s lap?!) and trips to the pub in our effort to survive. I know for a fact I would not have made it through that year, and the ones that followed, without these women.

When I was pregnant with my first, I went to an NCT group, dreading what might be waiting for me, having heard horror stories of hideous people in hideous groups. I totally lucked out, my group was brilliant – with not a hint of hideous. Talking about your fears of childbirth, practising birthing positions together and spending far too much time concentrating on your vaginas and what is soon to come out of them, makes for firm friendships too. And then, of course, the months after, when you’re reduced to a fraction of yourself and can’t think straight, let alone put a proper sentence together. “Does yours sleep?” “What colour is his shit?” “Does that constant crying and stressing and bad nappies and irritability mean he’s teething?” (I shudder just remembering this).

Going through the same experience, letting people see you, and help you, at your worst – these are what makes good friendships. I was very fortunate – all these people also happen to be some of my favourite people ever.

You might not find good work colleagues, and you might have had a hideous NCT group but, if you’re very lucky, you have a best friend – someone who knows you better than pretty much anyone, someone you can totally trust to tell you it how it is, someone who’s there to enjoy the good times and coax you through the bad. Someone who has seen you grown and develop into the person you are today and doesn’t hold any of the many moronic things you’ve done in your past against you.

I am very lucky – I have a best friend, and she kicks ass. Our journey is a bit like a romcom love story, but for friends – we met in our first year of secondary school – on the first day, to be exact. I saw her across a crowded hall and instantly decided I wanted to be her friend – she looked cool and relaxed (which is pretty hysterical as she isn’t know for being either of those things). We went through a few failed best friend relationships, as you do at that age, before we ‘found each other’ and, apart from a brief lull when I went to a different sixth form college, we have remained insanely close. We’ve survived location changes – (Manchester, London, Oxford, Isle of Wight) – bad boyfriends and boyfriend changes – (a certain ‘frying-pan-in-the-face’ boyfriend springs to mind) – career changes, dumping, being dumped, trying for babies, having babies and all that comes inbetween.

I know some women who are so close to their best friends they help them wax – Judys and all - and have baths together a la Girls. D and I aren’t quite like that – we have had a bath together, but it was at school, in full uniform and we did it thinking it would be funny, which it was, for about 4 minutes and then we were just wet and cold and in a lot of trouble. We used to hide ourselves in cupboards with our stash of ‘tuck’ – which ALWAYS consisted of pickled onion Monster Munch (all very Mallory Towers, I know) and moan about dorm-mates who were pissing us off. We had food fights, talc fights, secret cigarettes, illicit trips to the pub and everything else you do with a best friend at school. I’ve recently found my diaries from school, which make me blush and cringe and nauseous all at once – I was vaguely surprised to see that on at least every few pages there is some kind of reference to D along the lines of ‘I don’t know how I would survive this place without her’ or ‘Thank God for D, she’s the only person who really gets me’. Only surprised, by the way, that I did actually appreciate her properly back then (although I’m sure I rarely showed it).

At university, (we happened, without consultation, to go to the same one) we moved into a new era. More drinking - this time not illicitly - more dramas, more new experiences. We moved away from locking ourselves in cupboards – that would just be weird - and instead embraced the Chinese meal. This has now become our ritual. We don’t approach it as a normal Chinese meal – for us, it is an epic. We’re talking 4-5 hours, 4-5 bottles of wine, lots of food, shithead inbetween courses and much much much talking (too loudly) and laughing (too loudly). We have had many dirty looks from staff and customers alike at many different establishments over the years. It’s like my therapy – if we haven’t had a Chinese for a while I get twitchy and irritable and grumpy. When I once got dumped by a long-term boyfriend, D did a mercy mission up to Carlisle, where I was staying with my sister, for a Chinese therapy session. That was a particularly big one. I think we were the first and last people in the restaurant and disturbed everyone with our crying and laughing and sex talk (there’s always sex talk). We ended up lost on the way home, walking along the M6 very late at night and decided, in our wisdom, to call D’s housemate who was from Cumbria somewhere and therefore MUST know where my sister lived. Not surprisingly, he didn’t.

Since all of that, of course, there have been husbands and now children – 3 on her end, 2 on mine – children, not husbands. D got pregnant first which proved to be amazing as she could fill me in on all things pregnancy-related. Her mother is a midwife and had informed D that nearly all women shit themselves giving birth. We had no knowledge of this and were, obviously, horrified – we spent our days fretting about the possibility and thinking up ways to avoid it. I visited her in hospital after she had her first and she visited me at home after mine so we’ve both seen each other’s children within hours of them being born.

Nowadays, our meet ups are less regular and a God-send when they do happen. We text a lot now – about 20-30 times a day, with content that ranges from serious to venting to silly and surreal.
Some recent examples:

Me: It’s really unfortunate but whenever I do a hot fart I think of you.
D: But why? That is a hideous association.
Me: When we went glamping – I said I’d done a hot fart and you said you’d never heard of that, and how could a fart be hot. Now whenever I do one, you come to mind!
D: That was meant to be Ha! Not a cool street abbreviation.
Me: MBA! I like it. You’re so street.

This text conversation happened while watching an England match:

Me: I never can tell when the ball has actually gone in. I thought that free kick had gone in for a minute then. I didn’t jump up in excitement though. That would just be embarrassing.
D: I straightened my back. I think that is the middle-aged equivalent.
Me: Ha! I actually just lolled!
D: Please tell me you have more than gin to consume. I can’t drink alone.
Me: I have more gin? I can picture us in a film with a split screen scene – both watching the football and drinking alone.
D: I don’t think we would make the grade in Hollywood. Sadly.
Me: But neither of us can act so we would be played by American superstars. Me – Jennifer Anniston, you – Barbara Streisand.
Me: I was trying to be funny but couldn’t think of anyone on the spot.
D: I am desperately trying to think of a better match. I can’t.
Me: Claire from Steps (the not too fat version), scrunching her nose.
D: I think I will stick with Babs.
Me: You are SO not a middle-aged, Jewish New-Yorker with a good voice.
D: I accept I am not a Jewish New Yorker – but the rest is a good fit.
Me: Lolled again. As if.
D: I am a little comedy genius tonight it would seem. Splendid.
Me: I am watching the football, desperately trying to think of a better match for you than Babs.
D: What about…Penelope Keith.
Me: OOOOOOOOH – poss, poss.
D: I can totally see that – either as Margo or whoever she was in To The Manor Born. Prudish, uptight, slightly overly posh, middle aged numpty.
Me: For the record, I in no way think Jen An is a match for me. I was using it for not-so-comedic value.
D: I was chuckling to myself about you as Jen. Who would be your match?
Me: The Uruguay ians tops are very right. Nice to look at but I imagine they may be uncomfortable to wear…
D: Tight? Yes. Bit like cycling gear.
Me: oh yes, ducking auto-correct.
Me: I just lolled at my own joke. I’m such a twat.
D: Ha! Sally Fields?
Me: Me or you?
D: Me, I think. Originally popper into my head for you, but then decided she was too conservative.
Me: Poppered into your head?! I think you def need someone English and posh for you. Hyacinth Bucket?
D: Nooooooo!
Me: I love the way in which we are ‘watching’ this football. We are totally going to miss any goals.
D: Sssssh. I am watching an important part.
Me: I think you Penelope Keith, me the little annoying one – although I’m far less hippy and have much less fun.
D: Kendal woman?
Me: Yep.
D: Yes, I accept.

This keeps me going in between our meet ups, and, as I thought at school, I don’t know how I’d survive without D.
In a world where someone’s always asking something of me and I’m constantly dealing with shit (literally) and mundane housework, and not knowing what I’m doing with my life, and only meeting people who ask about my children, not me - seeing D makes me feel like me again. And that’s what best friends, mine in particular, is for.

Thursday, 5 June 2014


I cringe a lot throughout the day – I have much to cringe about. I have had many embarrassing experiences that literally make me shudder – or hum out loud – when I get flash backs to them. I say ‘embarrassing experiences’, that makes it sound like slipping on a misplaced banana skin or my skirt getting caught on a door and flashing my knickers, a la the Tena lady ad. What’s more accurate is, times when I’ve been a dick. And there seem to be a lot of those.

A while ago – a long time ago now, I guess – I met up with some friends from my sixth form college when we were all working in London. I’d got my first proper job in TV, it was going really well and the whole thing was like a dream come true. We’d have idea meetings in the pub and the producer refused to let runners pay for drinks as we earned so little so basically we got free beer while working! I’d just been told I was going on the shoot to the States and I was super happy. I felt like a rock star and think I may have tried acting a bit like one too.  I don’t think I did anything majorly ridiculous, but looking back it does make me cringe.

I keep thinking about getting in touch with those friends and trying to arrange another meet up – it would be great to see them, and it would be a bonus to show them that that was a passing phase and I’m actually much more decent now. But then I wonder – am I? Really? Has the dick phase properly passed?

You’d think that having children forces you to grow up a lot, and focus on what’s important in life. They act like an anti-dick shield. Or at least, they should, but I’m not really finding that. I still don’t feel like a grown-up – I feel like a teenage imposter (with ever-increasing wrinkles and saggy boobs), pretending to be a grown up, pretending that it’s okay that I’m responsible for two actual people. I remember the first time I was left alone with Boy No 1 (H)– it felt so bizarre and scary and a bit wrong that I was responsible for everything to do with him – keeping him alive and stuff.

I still don’t feel, or always act like, a grown up and, while I’d like to think my dick tendencies have decreased even a little bit, they still like to come to the surface every now and again. Having children probably makes it worse for me as when I do get a rare night out/away I get totally over-excited and regress.
Recent (ish) examples include:

Falling arse over tit at a very fancy wedding, skirt round the ears, before getting up, sitting on randoms’ laps, falling over again on the dance floor (it was Kanye, I couldn’t help it) and then being sick in my bag on the bus back down the hill.

Having people over for dinner, ordering them around to make the dinner before promptly falling asleep upstairs trying to calm Boy no 2 (C) down (who then came downstairs while I was sleeping).

Drinking far too many margaritas, standing in my knickers demanding my husband (who was with a work colleague at the time) tell me where they’d been (FYI – they’d been trying to locate the colleague’s luggage, which they’d told me they were doing).

These are just the tip of the iceberg – too many others I am too ashamed to have on written record. And others that I have, thankfully, forgotten – luckily, I have an appalling memory.

The only joy I have in my dick-stories, is that you have to remember there is always someone worse out there. When I was teaching, we used to go the pub a lot after work. I once (!) made a fool out of myself by insisting, to the Deputy Head, that she was having a relationship with the Headteacher – a claim I followed up with the ‘evidence’ I had gathered. I’m pretty sure this was at about the end of my first week working there.
BUT, even better, at the end of term party, a teaching assistant got so drunk, that while she was sat on the Deputy Head’s lap, she peed herself. She later passed out and had to have an ambulance called.

See, there’s always someone worse.

And don’t get me wrong – this isn’t totally self-deprecating, I’m not down on myself. I’ve just learned to accept my strengths and weaknesses. I have lots of strengths – I’m very good at relaxing, I could win prizes for my napping ability and I’m getting better at drinking – to name but a few.

So, if maturing, and growing up and not acting like a dick is like evolution, I think I’m still at the scraping-my-knuckles-along-the-floor-and-grunting-stage. But I’m hoping one day soon I may be standing upright.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Things I've Said...

Let me set the scene – it’s dinner time, my kitchen is a mess – every surface covered with pots, pans, bowls, crumbs, sauce and spillage (and this is just me conjuring up fish fingers, pasta and peas).
Since coming home from school an hour and a half ago the boys – H, 5 years old and C, 3 years old – have been wrestling, scrapping, shouting, crying, poking, prodding and telling on each other – lots of telling on each other. Finally, despite regular dashes to the living room/den/toilet/bedroom to referee the latest spat, dinner is ready. I shout through to tell them to wash their hands. And then shout through again. And then walk through and tell them. And then tell them again. When they’re sat at the table I ask what they want to drink and when they both reply with a demanding “water”, I add please on the end. As I always do.

And so, in Carrie Bradshaw style (but without the style, the wardrobe the sex or the city), I got to thinking about the things I find myself saying ALL THE BLOODY TIME since having children. And equally, the things I hardly ever say anymore. This is what I came up with:

1. NO
This is possibly the word I say most in my life and can be used in many contexts. Some that spring to mind –
·      No, you can’t have a sweetie before breakfast,
·      No, you can’t watch X-men, you’re 5 – what’s that, Dad’s let you watch it before?
·      No, you can’t get down from the table yet
·      No, you can’t have another ice lolly
·      No, your friend ______ can’t come round to play right now
·      No, you can’t have that Lego set/car/transformer

And of course, it’s also used a lot even when not directed at the children –
·      No, I can’t go to the pub/restaurant/party/festival/holiday
·      No, I don’t have anything smarter/without stains
·      No, I haven’t got round to the washing up/hovering/laundry/food shopping/cleaning up the cat sick
·      No, not tonight, I have a headache.

Generally, any form of reminding them to use their manners. This tends to be at the end of most sentences and becomes most enthusiastically done when other people are involved i.e. any present receiving experience. The embarrassed smile and nudge you have to give when your child rips open a present and says loudly and grumpily, “But I didn’t want this”, reminding them that what they should say is, “thank you very much, I love it” – even if it is a second hand Barbie with an arm missing.

I’m quite ashamed of how much of a role poo has taken in my life. I know the joke is that new mothers always discuss their newborn’s poo – which is totally true (“it was really green today – does that mean he’s ill?” “He had some runny poos and a sore bum, he must be teething”) – but no one tells you it carries on.
·      Have you got a poo?
·      Do you need a poo?
·      Who pooed in the bath?
·      Whose poo is on the wall?
·      No darling, I don’t want to come and look at your poo, I’m sure it’s fine.

Obviously, poo and fart are pretty much interchangeable. And of course, none of this even touches on the hilarity that all this generates. There’s nothing funnier than a clear-as-day, noisy, smelly fart. Apparently.


After having children, sleep takes on a mystical, elusive, golden-fleece like quality. There’s talking about their sleep –
·      He slept for 45 minutes, then was awake for an hour, then 45 minutes, then awake for 2 hours, then 45 minutes (I’m not even kidding – in his first few months, H only ever slept for about an hour in one go).
·      When will he sleep through the night?!
·      He slept through the night!
·      He has to have his sleep, then I can leave the house.
·      I need to make sure I’m back by 11 so he can have a sleep.

And then, more importantly, your own sleep. I was constantly tired and not sleeping well before I had children – now I am exhausted and broken and have given up on sleep.
·      I’m so tired. (I say this so much it could almost be my catch phrase)
·      I’m too tired to go out / make dinner / tidy up / have sex

Sleep inevitably takes on an Olympic-like competitive nature with your partner. The taking turns for lie-ins (i.e. staying in bed past 6.30am) seems like a good idea but it never works out fairly – he’ll get the one day they decide, miraculously, to sleep till nearly 8, when on you’re day they were up at 6. And then the night-time wake ups. If you get up with them in the night, does that make his lie-in null and void – or do you have to get up with them more than once, or between the hours of 12-4 for that to happen?  Over-used phrases go something like this -
·      Ugh. Is that a cry?
·      It’s your turn.
·      But I got up with them in the night.
·      It’s my lie-in.
·      Why are you tired? You had a lie-in.
·      I need a nap.
·      Sleeeeeeeeep.

This can’t be helped, obviously, but I wish there were a way of controlling it. We’ll go out on extremely rare, longed-for dates and often spend most of the evening talking about the boys – how sweet they are, funny things they’ve done, do you remember when…
This also seems to occur much more when aforementioned children are in bed, asleep – that is when they are usually at their sweetest and, as you sit on the sofa, drinking a glass of much-needed wine, relaxed and recovered from the torments of the day, they don’t actually seem all that bad.
Until they wake you up at 5.30 having shat the bed.

Things I Haven’t Said Enough Since Having Children.

This is a lot simpler.

1. YES (yes, I can go out, yes, I’ll buy that dress, yes, let’s go on holiday etc. etc.)

2. HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEW ALBUM BY / READ THE NEW BOOK BY / SEEN THE NEW FILM/PLAY…. Anything to do with culture – post-the-date-you-had-first-child.




Tuesday, 20 May 2014

We'll Always Have Paris

Another little bit of starter writing from the group. The title this time was "We'll always gave Paris". It's silly, but hopefully fun : )

"We'll always have Paris"
That's what he said,
Lighting a cigarette,
Sprawled on my bed.

Glistening with sweat,
His muscles like rock,
A thin trail of hair,
Leading down to his -

"You like what you see?
Are you up for some more?
One last time baby,
Hop in, shut the door"

My God, he's an arsehole,
An arrogant prick,
A vain motherfucker
Who thinks with his dick.

We'll always have Paris?!
I remember it well,
Him eyeing up women,
Gee, it was swell.

And the night he disappeared
With a woman called Pam,
Said he'd fancied a walk,
Went to Notre - Damn,

He's an arse,
He makes me see red,
Without thinking, I grab it,
And head to the bed.

His smirk disappears,
He soon starts to cower,
A firm blow to his head,
With my souvenir Eiffel Tower.