Thursday, 31 May 2012

Nigella Lawson, the game is up

Nigella (Saima via Flickr)
I was really looking forward to the day, my first domestic day for months, this year even. It was the a long holiday weekend and there has been a steady slide from the full tilt of normal life. 

It was Easter so we planned visits to gran's, lunch with pals, Cbeebies live and the movies with a gradual slowing down.

I think I might even have found my cooking mojo, tucked between the pages of Nigella's Feast,

Some friends, real people were coming for lunch tomorrow and I'm looking forward to it.

A leisurely breakfast at a table I even had time to wipe and I started my hunt for sunday lunch inspiration with the queen of slurp and innuendo.

I remembered with particular fondness her tasty concoction of pork and prunes.

Moments later I found myself wondering where the best place to put hot cross bun dough to rise and where I might buy live yeast.

Hold on a minute. The first domestic day in yonks and I want to clog it up with the unnecessary creation of a bakery item that can be bought for pennies.

Where did that come from, eh, Ms Lawson?

How come a moderately rational middle aged woman is contemplating such culinary craziness? Particularly when her Aspie son's current obsession with extreme cake icing is providing all the crazy she needs. 

She has done this to me before. There have been fish balls, pastry and mayonnaise. Fruitless visits to shops where staff haven't heard of fresh horseradish much less know where it is stocked. We aren't all within reach of Borough Market, you know. Then hours in the kitchen trying to stop things curdling by will power alone.

But I'm on to you now. Your power lies not in beguiling men with your souffles and veloutes, but in persuading women that making hot cross buns from scratch is a worthwhile use of their valuable time.

I've still not quite worked out your motive in this but, rest assured I know there is one and you won't catch me out again.

And now where did I put that vanilla extract (not essence of course)?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Old McDonald had a fast food restaurant

Feeling blue: A pair of Smurfs
Or another reason why McDonald's leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
On the way to the childminder this morning, Boy Three and I paused our game of Lightning McQueen. He gets to be the racing car while I'm Mater on hand to haul him out of the bushes.

We were beside the white van with the Smurfs cable tied to its grille. Probably not much fun for the Smurfs, but diverting for a toddler.

Van man overheard us discussing why they weren't red, Boy Three's favourite colour. (They just are.)

He came out and gave Boy Three a couple of his spare Smurfs. Result - one chuffed little Chap.

The Smurfs were scrutinised. Boy Three was pleased to identify the golden arches on the label. "McDonald's yummy in my tummy."

Partly I was pleased with an ability to decode that will help him learn to read and partly horrified at what he chose to recognise.

But then.

"Old McDonald had a farm e i e i o,  and on that farm he had a... Happy Meal."

Monday, 28 May 2012

Another bloody birthday...

Boy in a paddling pool
Who needs a luxury cruise for their birthday?
Or how the hell did I get to be 45 all of a sudden?

(Warning: a middle aged navel will be gazed at.)

Another one, lovely as it goes, in the sunshine of my sister's garden.

But really, it is not, cannot possibly be, twelve months since the last one.

They hurtle in now, one behind the other, as life hurries faster and faster.

Inside, it could be 21, 32 or 36 - I particularly liked 36. Year after year, it's just the same - no apparent change, only an increasing breeze created by life accelerating along.

Outside it's a different story. There are days when every single one of those 45 years makes itself apparent around the eyes... and probably elsewhere.

Birthdays, sneaky red letter days, leap out of the undergrowth at me every May 27. They prompt variously reflection, panic, dismay, cake eating, gin drinking.

But what are they really trying to tell me?

Is it hurrah I've survived to another one? Or perhaps, look out. Tick, tick. Get a move on.

Perhaps a bit of both. 

So this year it will be different. I can already hear 46, a long way off, revving up. I no longer have time for farting about and faffing and not being bothered. And for putting up with the irrelevant, irritating and tedious. 

Please remind me of this the next time you catch me travelling in circles around a heap of trivia. 

PS The correct response to this post is: "I had no idea you were so old, you don't look anything like it."

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Silent Sunday

Paddling at Lunderston Bay, Gourock
Silent Sunday

Friday, 25 May 2012

Whats wrong with being a feminist?

I'm not a feminist, but...

Again and again people who espouse the values of feminism are heard to utter this proviso. But why?

If we can more our less agree that treating men and women equally and allowing them equal opportunity is a good thing then what's the problem?

Furthermore, if we can more our less agree that it doesn't happen as often as it should, then surely we must all be feminists?

Here's some other things that feminists can be:

Sexy and straight.
Sexy and gay.
Waxed, plucked or shaved.
Mothers and fathers.
Wearing heels, tights and lacey bras.
Doing housework and looking after people.
Wearing pink or pole dancing.
Funny or blonde.

What they aren't happy to be is: 

Told what they can and can't do on account of their gender.
Made to feel rubbish just because they are a woman... or a man.
Earn less than a man for the same job.
Accept stuff that simply isn't right.

I'm a feminist, are you?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Swearing: Is it time for a new taboo?

Poster for the Angel's Share by Ken Loach
Two things have shocked me in the past couple of days. Not in a rattled-to-the-core-Kerry-Katona-did-what kind of way, but shocked nonetheless.

The first was at the park with the kids. A wee boy - probably about four - was exclaiming about how much fun he'd had on the zipslide. The lad said: "Oh my god, that was awesome."

It made me shudder. More and more "oh my god" is seen as a reasonable expression of any kind of emotion from mild upwards. Volume and pause between words the only clue to depth of feeling. 

It doesn't matter what your faith convictions are, but for reference mine are apathetic agnostic with Quaker tendencies and a smidge of Buddhist. What matters is that people's beliefs - their god - matters to them. A lot. Therefore allow those for whom god has deep meaning to take his (?her/their) name and use it as they will. 

Apart from anything, our language has a rich resource of cursing to call upon. Words earthy and biological when used right tell a colourful story. 

Cunt, for example. The last taboo? It's a nice meaty word for the female anatomy, so what's the problem? 

In parts of Scotland it has become so commonplace it creates no frisson at all. In fact, in Glasgow it has replaced "chap", "bloke" or, indeed, "person". For example "some cunt has parked his car in the loading bay" and "the poor cunt will get a ticket" or "lucky cunt, he got away with it".

So it wouldn't be surprising if social realist Ken Loach's latest film - set in Glasgow - The Angel's Share wasn't peppered with it. 

It was originally, but now apparently there will be seven uses of the word "cunt" in the film. Loach is furious that the, so called, cunt quota has been applied to his 15 certificate movie. Apparently that's how many times the word can be used - so, I suppose, Ken had to decide which of his cunts he'd keep. 

Instead of being brutishly commonplace - as it is in real life - it now makes shocking special appearances. Not the point at all. 

This was the second shocker that censorship could be so proscriptive and nonsensical. I know "cunt" upsets people, but surely they'll be just as upset by hearing it seven times as hearing it 17 or 117. In which case, I suggest they don't watch a Ken Loach film set in the west of Scotland.

Language and its use evolves. Isn't it time censors used their powers to check offensive and careless blasphemy and stopped "oh my god"? Instead let quality swearing - an art form if done right - evolve naturally. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

What exactly is so super about supermarkets?

red grapes
Dear Morrison (but Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury, you might as well pay attention so I don't have to talk to you separately),

I am just recovering from a visit to one of your shops and a few things puzzle me. 

Why is it necessary to have so many types of everything? I'm all for choice, but this is getting silly. Red grapes, for example, savers ones more or less the same price as regular ones, regular ones, posh ones and other own-brand ones whose price I couldn't work out because they were in a different sized box oh, and, help yourself grapes in plastic strangle the hedgehogs mesh bags at some other bewildering rate. 

Why do you scatter produce around so it appears in several places? Bagels, for instance, on a trippy up stand beside the potatoes, then next to the rustic bread and again opposite sliced and above rolls. Dried fruit likewise - next to wet fruit, in baking, beside cereals (healthy snacking!) and round the corner from crisps. This makes price comparisons almost impossible unless I scuttle back and forth across the shop.

Would it be possible have a simple way of comparing the price of your products - in one place - please? 

What is compost doing next to potatoes? I know they share digs (geddit) in the garden, but not, surely, in a shop. 

What, pray tell, is a crispmelt? And why, when there is evidently so much choice in your emporium do you need to make food up?

Why does shopping in your fast lanes invariably take longer than the ordinary checkouts and why, as you need fewer staff to work this don't we get a discount? 

Why would anyone want rice cakes that taste of barbeques? Or salt and vinegar? Or caramel? Or pepper? Or chilli? And why didn't you have any ones that taste of rice cake?

If I opt to Eat Smart, does that mean if I choose one of your other ranges, by default, I'm eating stupid?

If I'm eating stupid, and I probably am, is it still right for you to treat me like I'm shopping stupid? 

I think next time I'll stay at home and use something like that works it out for me. What's that? You're not on that. Oh dear...

Yours etc


PS Is there really a market for a mini-tomato selection box?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Unexpected benefits of the slattern's life

pigs sleeping
Happy as...
It was musical beds in the Palace of Bundance last night and when the music stopped Boy Three and I were in bed together.

We woke up at the same time and spent a few happy minutes making dust motes dance by flapping the duvet. "Pixie dust," he shouted and stirred the air with his legs.

Bored of that, we moved on to watching the progress of a spinning spider on the ceiling. "Where's he going?" Boy Three asked. In the end we decided he was making a spare room for his friends.

They were a few magical moments before his hungry brothers burst. It got me thinking that they wouldn't have happened if I was a more house-proud kind of person. Instead dust would be safely confined to the inside of the Dyson and spiders and their webs banished.

I would urge a little domestic slovenliness into your lives as being in a housework-poor zone has many benefits.

I can always tell when something has been pilfered or fiddled with. A light, but even, dusting of, well, dust means that I know when something has been moved. Useful if you, like me, are a confused combination of lackadaisical and controlling.

There is always a tasty task to give to a mooching child. Sort out the socks, hoover the floor, empty the laundry baskets and put away the dishes. It teaches them either to mooch somewhere else or to pretend they are doing something worthwhile.

It's easier to be serene when another dribble, drop or crumb won't make a jot of difference.

The occasion, in desperation, I needed something to explain how to carry one when doing long divisions, 100 unsorted socks laid out in sets of ten was ideal.

There's an ecosystem or a science experiment at every turn, educational to the last.

It keeps my telly watching to a minimum because there are days the mess in the sitting room is too depressing to tackle, so I just go to bed with a book.

When I do finally make an effort and wipe things, it is much much more satisfying than it ought to be.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

You can help stop your kids from becoming smokers

My cousin Rob sent me an email this morning and asked me to share this film. 

He said: "At present the tobacco industry recruits more than 150,000 new child smokers in the UK every year. The packaging of cigarettes is designed to appeal to children. We are campaigning for a law to force cigarettes to be sold in plain packages that do not appeal to children."

To be honest I hadn't thought about it, but it makes perfect sense. After all, once you're hooked it doesn't matter what the packs look like, you'll buy them anyway. 

But Rob has thought about it a great deal. He's a consultant chest physician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. His passion for reducing smoking levels is from years of seeing the ravages of lung cancer and other nasties caused by tobacco.

While Rob has a wide experience of the subject, I have a very narrow and extremely painful one. If my dad hadn't been a smoker he probably would be alive now. He might have seen his younger daughter get married and got to meet his three youngest grandsons. 

He certainly wouldn't have had a brutal and premature death from lung cancer. 

So watch the film and join the campaign, please. There's an online petition at the Cancer Research UK site called The Answer Is Plain.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Parenting classes: What I'd like them to teach me...

brothers smiling
Minutes before a fraternal squabble broke out

small boy with two ice creams.
This is how the ice cream wars started
David Cameron wants to introduce parenting classes for everyone in England with a child under the age of 5.

"Nanny state gone mad," everyone cries. What does the prime minister know about bringing up kids anyway?

But then I've thought about it and maybe it isn't such a bad idea after all. (Even though I live in Scotland where it wouldn't apply.)

Obviously we all possess that mythical thing called maternal instinct. But, having been a mother for quite a long time now, I'd have to conclude that while it is the instinct to care and protect it doesn't actually include any instinctive wisdom about how to achieve this.

Don't take my word for it though. Look at the sales of advice tomes by ranks of experts. Gina Ford with her routines, Annabel Karmel with her meals in the shape of pirate ships, Super Jo Frost with no kids of her own, baby-led weaning with custard on the walls, baby whisperers and tiger mothers, Spock, Stoppard and even Myleene Klass. Add that to other celebrity role models who look slender, clean and in control and it's no wonder we don't know whether we're coming or going.

We're supposed to have it all, make ends meet, be patient and nurturing as well as make sure we take enough me time during which we plan our sex lives. Ha.

Perhaps then a class, someone to advise us on what to do when real life doesn't fit the scenario in the books might help. I nearly came unstuck when it became apparent Boy Three hadn't bothered to read his Gina Ford homework. Likewise no one told me that baby signing was never going to work in an as-yet-undiagnosed Aspie.

Often, deep down, we do know what we should be doing, it's just difficult in the face of everyday pressures to remember. No where, after all, does Supernanny have a section that says: What to do if you've got an urgent deadline and you need your squabbing kids to shut the fek up for 20 minutes? So revisiting the basics is never a bad idea.

And if a class started with everyone chanting 'I am good enough', 'my parenting is nothing to feel guilty about', 'my child will be fine', then at least we haven't got another stick to beat the mothers with.

Used right, someone available to parents could be a force for good, however, people being people, the danger of it not being used right is running scarily high.

However, if it comes my way, specifically I'd like to know:

  • How to potty train a nearly three-year-old who knows what he's supposed to do, but chooses not to?
  • How to split up squabbling siblings and dispense punishment fairly?
  • Can I forgive myself for being snappy (ok, irrational) through PMT?
  • How to get them to pick stuff up, practice musical instruments and do chores without resorting to howling at them like a mad woman?
  • How much screen time is really too much?

What would you like to learn at parenting classes?

Friday, 18 May 2012

You know you're a blogger when... consider writing about poo because you know it'll be popular. 
You know you're a blogger when you reach for the camera first 

There I was with a saggy Friday night brain considering what I might like to round the week off with. Something on what I've been doing? No, no one cares. A discussion about parenting classes? Maybe, but I'm too tired to do it justice. The Greek financial position? Depressing and a bit dull. 

So I asked Twitter. Lovely people - @cafebebe and @MichelleCPorter - had some excellent suggestions. Then @dorkymum said: "or poo - always good for the stats."

Tweets about poo posts
Hmmm. An agonised account of our, as yet, unsuccessful attempts to make Boy Three un-feral? (Or is de-feral better?) But real poo isn't actually that much fun. Or, whether it's acceptable to fart and blame your nappy-wearing toddler? Theoretically, of course.

But no, here was I - a nearly 45-year-old woman with far too much to do - spending precious time and energy thinking about how I would write about poo. 

Then the light went on, time for another "you know you're a blogger when" post...

You know you're a blogger when you consider writing about poo because you know it'll be popular. 

You know you're a blogger when you know what the whole follow/no follow kerfuffle is all about. 

You know you're a blogger when you can meet people in the flesh for the first time yet feel like you've known them for years. 

You know you're a blogger when the postie starts asking what you're reviewing next. 

You know you're a blogger when you see something interesting and rush to take a picture of it, instead of cleaning it up or sorting it out. 

You know you're a blogger when your wind-down to the weekend now features rather than Gordon's and tonic (although I'm not ruling it out).

You know you're a blogger when sometimes you simply have to blog about it right now. 

How do you know?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Stupid things people say on telly...

Making an ass of yourself
If you can't avoid a cliche like the plague at least stop it going tits up over elbow.

Have you noticed how much tosh people talk on the telly these day?

Utter nonsense that happens when cliches and homilies collide.

What did that pillock on the Apprentice mean when he said "I hope it'll help me in good stead"?

How about the I'm A Celebrity F-lister whose boyfriend promised she would "talk the hind ears off a donkey"?

Then repeatedly our children find themselves bewildered by a continuity announcer who says "there's no I in team but there are three in Team Umizoomi".

Have you tripped over any cracking examples lately?

(pic by Donkey Sanctuary Press)

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bloggers v journalists, unnecessary enemies

At a conference of bloggers the weekend, amongst the general loveliness of it all, there seemed to be one or two notions about journalists and journalism that gave me cause to sigh deeply.

As someone who has, over the years, worked for, among others, The Daily Star, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Expires, The Sunday Express, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Record and The Sunday Mail, I'm probably qualified to share a few observations.

  • I have never hacked any one and neither, as far as I know, has anyone else I know. Hacking is not rife.
  • People are routinely paid for stories but it doesn't mean the stories are less valid than free ones.
  • I have never blackmailed anyone for a story and neither has anyone else I know in an industry I've been in for 20 years.
  • Stories are routinely leaked by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons.
  • Whatever the source stories are checked for veracity.
  • There are so many good true stories there is no need to made anything up.
  • Journalists from tabloid and broadsheet newspapers do the same job, it's the writing style that differs.
  • Newspapers are products that must sell.
  • As with any other profession, journalism has good and bad operators, ethical and unethical.
  • There is a code of practice and most people follow it strictly. Same goes for PCC guidelines.
  • When anyone publishes anything in public no matter where our how, it cannot be unpublished and the author must take responsibility for it.
  • The distinction between the public interest and what interests the public is very blurry. And it has to be entertaining to a degree, after all copy in a newspaper is called a story and the TV news is a show.
  • Journalism and journalists are not the same. Harold Shipman did not affect public perception of all doctors.
  • Journalists aren't generally in it for the money, because there isn't very much.

As most bloggers do it to write, to share and because they think they've got something the world might be entertained by, in many respects, they are no different to journalists. They tell the truth and have no interest in breaking the law. 

I'm not saying "like me I'm a journalist", rather "if you're a blogger you've got an inquiring mind, use it to establish the truth".


Monday, 14 May 2012

Bratlag - or how it's almost good to be home

London railings and the Morgan Hotel
I had time to amble about taking pictures
I've been home for more than 24 hours and I'm just about over mine. How about you? 

I'm talking about bratlag - similar to jetlag only less exotic. It's what happens when you leave your children for any period of time. 

I was in London at Cybher which is a conference for women who blog. (While the event was marvellous, I'm currently pondering whether the concept is sexist.)

For almost two whole days I got to meet splendid new people, catch up with older ones, find virtual pals in the flesh, drink cocktails, learn things, look at interesting stuff and generally please myself. It was heaven. 

I can never quite decide if the state of bliss is because of the intelligent, stimulating and indulgent things I was doing or because no one came to tell me something crucial while I was having a poo, no one wiped snot on me, no one got into bed with me and especially no one got into bed with me and started kicking me, I could have whole conversations without having to referee a squabble and, for once, I could do exactly what I fancied. 

Of course, in the manner of all parents, there's a moment of paralysis when you wonder if you have actually lost the capacity to function in any mode that doesn't have a background housekeeping/caregiving/drool wiping energy drain going on in the background. Then you realise that, actually, you can. It is possible to decide what to do next without thinking about anyone else's need for food/sleep/homework completion/clean uniform for school. And it is sweet. 

Anyhow, sweet and blissful it was. And from this place of content and sufficient sleep I thought of my charming children and how wonderful it would be to be reunited with them. I carefully chose gifts for them in the station, imagining their little eyes lighting up. 

Bratlag takes a moment or two for symptoms to appear, but they usually manifest within half an hour of dropping your bag inside the front door. 

Instead of three shining faces rushing to hug me. One turned up and he had pooed himself. When I found the other two, they flicked their gaze from the screen and grunted. 

Later when they realised presents were in the offing they surrounded me - a three-person kettling system the Met could learn something from. 

And then "Oh," as gift I bought in hope was put down in disappointment and never returned to.

Before long there was violence, squabbling, bogie exchange and someone bellowing through the lavvy door, behind which I'd fled. 

The anguish felt at episodes such as these are what's known as bratlag. Mine is easing as the toddler is finally asleep after leading me what might be termed by a more polite mother "a merry dance". 

Experts (ok, me) are working on the possible cause of this. Current theory holds that it's a form of parental amnesia that causes one to forget how unpleasant one's children can be. This effect increases with distance from the children and time spent away. The bratlag discomfort is simply the amnesia wearing off. 

So far the only treatment is gin although suggestions are welcome. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Hailing Black Cab Wisdom

Black Cab Wisdom Mark Solomon talking at Cybher
Hot foot from Cybher - the blogging conference for women - my head is rather full of things to write and stuff to do.
But where to start? I'll begin with the most frightened looking person in the place.
London cabbie Mark Soloman was shaking when he began telling his story. Not because he had a scary tale to tell, but I think he was somewhat intimidated to find himself behind a lectern in front of rows of women. Perhaps he'd have liked it if we sat behind him. 

But his story... In search of, well, something more he started asking the passengers in his taxi for some wisdom, a quote, a thought, a homily.

He collected them on a clipboard and posted the best on his blog Black Cab Quotes every morning. Gradually he became more and more confident that this was his calling and impressed by the positive reactions he received. 

Only three years on and he has published his first book, been on the radio and in the papers.

But more importantly his blog has improved his lot, it has shown him what his life is all about and opened new opportunities. He surely is blogging for happiness.

Thanks Mark. 

Silent Sunday

Sign showing where Dame Millicent Garrett suffragette lived.

Silent Sunday

Friday, 11 May 2012

Review: Emeli Sande's Our Version of Events

Music, yeah. It's nice, innit? Generally that's the extent of my commentary on contemporary choonz. 

These days, the music is what happens to make it past fairly constant Radio 4 and whatever the kids/Panther of News is playing. I'm just as likely to be jigging around to One Direction singing What Makes You Beautiful on iCarly as I am belting out Do You Hear The People Sing? when I play my Les Mis CD on solo journeys. 

However, I was delighted to accept the only CD - apart from Justin Fletcher's - that I was offered to review. It's because it's Emeli Sande's Our Version of Events. 

The reason I couldn't be a proper music critic (apart from not listening to that much music) is that I am swayed by too many other factors apart from what the stuff sounds like. I mean, the fact that Kings of The Wild Frontier is a brilliant album is neither here nor there compared to the hots I had for Mr Ant in 1981.

So Emeli had my vote before I even started tapping my foot to Next To Me for various reasons. 

She's from Alford, a small town not far from Aberdeen. So not only is she putting a lovely place on the map but she's waving the flag for kids who feel isolated because they are miles from sophisticated cities. 

She's got a Frida Kahlo tattoo on her arm though you hardly see it because the very cool Ms Sande hasn't followed the flesh-flashing fashion of many.

She knows the importance of education, looks comfortable in her own skin and has just calmly got on with the business of making a success of herself. 

But the music... Oh yes. Brilliant. 

The album starts with her single Heaven, which for my money, is actually not so good as the rest of the songs. 

Apart from the wonderful Next To Me, Mountains is probably my favourite track. It's dark with a soul diva's devotion and you know it's an anthem for a doomed love. 

On the other hand Lifetime, is an old-fashioned singalong of deep devotion. 

Emeli might only be 24, but her music is grown-up and bound to be around for decades to come... at least in my CD player it will. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Peer Gynt: a little salve for your soul

Little rant: how Xbox LIVE will try to mug you in your own sitting room

Hamesucken. Wonderful word, it is from Scots law and refers to someone being assaulted in their own home. 

It nearly happened right here tonight, but luckily I think I managed to evade a serious mugging. 

Boy Two had nagged me for days about the new version of Minecraft for the Xbox and could he spend some of his birthday money on it. I put it off long enough and couldn't think of any reason why not so I set about getting it thinking it would be a quick trip to my usual online shop. 

However, it's only available as a download, through the Xbox. Tonight I sat down to make this happen and ended up feeling like I'd invited the Artful Dodger over to consider himself one of the family.

First, the only way to sign into Xbox LIVE (the bit that connects the box to the interwebs) is to use the log in for your Hotmail or Windows something account. That creeps me out a bit - given how we're supposed to be on our guard and all. But, hang on, Xbox belongs to Microsoft, doesn't it? I made a mental note to go back and change security settings and passwords. 

Then, you have to clickety click through screeds of ads for Xbox LIVE Gold. It appears to be a snip at £70 a year for the family version that gets you lots of stuff I either don't understand or seem to have already like films. Eventually the thing gets almost petulant and says "right, have it your way, go free, cheapskate".

So we find the game and opt to buy it. It costs 1600. Yup, 1600. That's 1600 magical Xbox points. Exchange rate 1000 points to £8.50 of our earth money. So we need to get ourselves a pocket full of points. And guess what? You can't buy 1600, just 1500 or 2000 and you can't cash 'em in. Ho hum. 

Faced with the prospect of laboriously posting my credit card details into the brain of this Xbox bandit, I opted to use Paypal because it's more secure, right?

Gulp. The machine swallowed up my log in and password saying "mine now". So now it was set up to shop and with a speed and ease that makes Amazon's one click system seem laborious we were 2000 points richer. 

We have 400 spare points languishing in a machine that is laughing at me, but Boy Two is happy. He's playing his new game that involves building houses and learning to look after yourself and survive in it. Obviously I could have saved him £17 and taught him survival techniques, like avoiding being mugged, and basic DIY but he didn't seem keen. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Is it time for a change?

Alert: Navels may be inspected. 

There's been a little voice in my head for a while. (No, not that voice. I don't like to talk about that one.)

It keeps saying: "It's time for a change. Do something different. Go on. Get on with it."

Then I came across a post at Kate On Thin Ice for mums who want to change. She said: "Ask yourself what baby steps you can take to improve your life."

Not, of course, that there's anything wrong with my life. Far from it. 

It's just that thing where if you keep doing the same thing, the same things will keep happening. 

I've had a look at my Bucket List post. I've achieved five things from around 35. Not the kind of ticking off pace I had in mind. 

So, what does this self-indulgent meandering mean? Erm. I'm not quite sure yet, but just that I know I won't get the next book published, the countries visited or the clothes fitted into by doing what I'm doing. It may be time to leave the comfort zone. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Banished body hair is the (arm) pits

Emer O'Toole
Do you shave, wax or use a nasty, smelly cream? 

I'll wager that if you are an adult woman, you are bound to do one of them. And have done hundreds of times since you first reached the shores of puberty.

I know some of us are inclined to be somewhat lax in this regard during the winter months when our oxters are only exposed for the briefest time between pyjamas and clothes and never, ever outside in public. As soon as the sun shines, or the occasion demands less garment in the sleeve area, it's bald pit time. 

Me too.

But I didn't always. There was a time, some 15 years ago, when I let the follicles of my underarms do their worst. And I loved it. At the time I had lost weight and enjoyed my new shape. I was confident and really enjoyed the little gasp sight of my furry armpits would cause. People were shocked and I was having fun. 

I let all my body hair grow and it was also a damn sight easier not to have to bother with the whole painful, expensive rigmarole. And tufts of soft underarm hair was far nicer than stubble. 

I can't remember exactly what prompted me to return to the razor - perhaps my confidence began to buckle under pressure, or maybe the need to conform was too strong. After a while I found it hard to keep up an air of I don't care in the face of other people's disgust. 

The sight of Emer O'Toole on This Morning looking beautiful as she displayed her bushy pits brought it all back. 

Back then, though, women were still allowed a healthy triangle of pubic hair, they were just supposed to make sure it stopped before the leg of their knickers did. It was in the days before the Brazilian.

Now, I gather, it's normal, preferred even, to get every bit of your body hair whipped off leaving - optionally - an improbably skinny strip of pubes. I am delighted to be too old and too married to have to bother with this nonsensical practice. 

But where will it end? Will girl children now grow up expecting that they must remove every single sprout from everywhere in order to pass muster?

Consider this. Women are hairy. Some more than others. We have hairy labia, hairy mons pubis, hairy stomachs, breasts and armpits. Our pubes don't know they're supposed to stop before they get to leg or buttock, but we pretend they do. 

But because women are so efficient and automatic about the removal of currently unwanted hair, girls are growing up not knowing that we're all at it. I remember as a teenager feeling bewildered and mystified that I had all this hair and, as far as I could see, no one else had it. What was wrong with me?

And in the face of balder bodies visible in more places, surely this must be getting worse and worse. At least then it was possible to sneak a reassuring peep at the ubiquitous copy of The Joy of Sex hidden somewhere in the house.

How about it then? Let's leave off the Bic, the Immac and the wax. We've nothing to lose but our shaving rash and ingrowing hairs. 

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