Monday, 2 March 2015

Like a Tortoise Mating with a Drinks Can

As we watch our darlings depart for university with their whole lives before them, many of us mothers are now starting to tango with the menopause.   I thought I should find out more and last summer I attended a seminar.  It was a hot August day and the room was crowded.  Pretty soon, there were a lot of very flushed middle-aged women fanning themselves.  The venue manager grabbed her mike and announced, “The heating is stuck ‘on’ and we can’t unlock the windows, but don’t worry – IT’S NOT YOU!”
One friend who told me how, as she queued to pay for cough mixture while the local pharmacist had a lengthy discussion with a rather deaf old lady, her eye was caught by a novel menopause treatment – magnets. 
Yep.  Magnets for your pants – “Attach them to the fabric to alleviate menopause symptoms.” 
Being game and perhaps just a little bit desperate, my friend bought these and duly positioned them.  She felt a lot better and all went well until her supermarket shopping trip, when she experienced a tugging sensation and discovered that her lingerie was being inexorably attracted to her metal shopping trolley.  Apparently it looked a bit like that YouTube clip of the tortoise trying to mate with the drinks can.

It’ll be some time before she can return to Sainsbury’s.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Quiz Night

This particular annual quiz between local churches has been a fixture in our diary for over a decade.  Church people are usually such nice people, except on quiz night, when they’re not.  
The event has a competitive edge so sharp it could slice steak.
The first time we went to this particular quiz, we had no idea.  We ambled in 2 minutes after the 7.30 start time to find that the questions had begun and that the rest of the team had already completed the table rounds.  I then disgraced myself by drinking two glasses of wine in quick succession which made my general knowledge go all blurry and limp.
Although this happened a long time ago, I have not been selected for our church’s A team since and I have dragged Nigel down with me.
However, I always hope one day to redeem myself, and had even trained this year by watching Pointless while visiting my parents at half term. (It actually turned out to be Two Tribes, but we just thought it was the same programme with slightly different rules.)

Last night, we were one man down as Nigel had a fever and things didn’t look good.  But we came a very respectable second and (most importantly) were a whole two points ahead of our church’s A team.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Super Powers

In Edinburgh Botanic Gardens, resting my Super Powers
At half term I returned to being full-time mother and daughter in a disorienting programme of visits to see my sons in Edinburgh and Bristol and my parents in Cornwall.  On Monday, however, I pinned my hair back into a bun, perched my glasses on my nose, donned a work jacket and returned to being old Dr Hobba the crusty Latin teacher at a local school. 
It’s a bit like being a superhero.  Inside, I find some of the things the pupils say hilarious.  In my head, I use some choice words, when I am thwarted.  But I must keep these super powers hidden.  Pupils like to think that teachers are completely unable to access their in-jokes, and actually probably don’t even know any swear words. 
It’s all about boundaries.  The only time one crosses them is to reprimand a pupil who is covertly (ha!) being mean to a classmate.  At this point, the selective deafness has to break down, rather like one of those old-fashioned hearing-aids which would unpredictably pick up a private aside on the other side of the room.

The pupils look at each other with amazement: it is as if Clarke Kent just morphed into Superman before their very eyes.  Not only did old Dr Hobba hear what they just said, she even appeared to understand it.

Saturday, 21 February 2015


As I've said before, the enthusiasms of your children take you to places you would never have predicted.
So last night Nigel and I attended Fuze 2015 at Bristol, the largest student-led fashion show in the country. 
Perran texted us excellent advice on which were the best seats, but due to his inclusion of an ambiguous comma (hotly debated between Nigel and me), we ended up in the second best seats.  However, they were still pretty darn good, right on the front row.  
Next to me was a friendly young woman representing the D1 modelling agency and it all felt very exciting.  Although when the models stalked on in swimwear it got a bit too exciting as we had an unimpeded gusset view.  Nigel modestly averted his eyes. 
But you would have been proud of me: never once did I say in an over-loud voice “Nobody would ever wear that!” Although one collection which employed not only heavy brocades, but also those tassel trims that you sometimes see on lampshades did look a bit…..curtainy.
But we weren’t really there for the fashion.  Fuze is so called because it fuses catwalk fashion with numbers belted out by local singers and with fizzing dance routines, and the dance included Perran.  He looked fabulous and danced powerfully.  “Your son is so good,” whispered the woman from D1. 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

All Over the Place

With Pascoe in Edinburgh
“That’s a rubbish pentacle you’re drawing,” commented Nigel.
“It’s not a pentacle – I’m plotting my half term journeys on a map of the UK.”
It could be more complicated.  But, since we saw Carenza in Oxford last weekend and Nigel is visiting the Northumberland grandparents next month, all I had to do was visit Pascoe in Edinburgh, my parents and brother in Cornwall and Perran in Bristol.
That’s fine then.
Bristol and Cornwall are by car, and Edinburgh was supposed to be by train, but since the plane was both cheaper and quicker, Nigel and I guiltily broke our own rules and arrived in Edinburgh reeling not from jet-lag but from severe cognitive dissonance.
Some teachers are probably having a rest and a catch up with those bits of domestic admin that never seem to get done, but it appears I’m not, although of course I did mean to. 
The idea of parallel universes came as no surprise to me as I regularly plan several different versions of how I will spend my time without fully acknowledging that I will be forced to choose between them.

My main worry this week is that as I go south west on the motorway, I will peer into a car in the opposite carriageway returning north east, and my own face will look out at me.  I will finally have “met myself coming back”.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Mummy Car

I have to take everything out of the Ford Galaxy.  I find sweet wrappers (expected), old apple cores (suspected), the odd mouldy sandwich (dreaded).  I also discover spare gloves and a bottle of sun lotion – to keep my tribe safe both in winter and summer.  There are road maps so old that the Icknield Way is marked in dotted lines as a road under development.  In the pocket, an audiotape of “Three Men in a Boat” and a Paloma Faith CD.  Next to them is my Latin dictionary. And let’s not forget the strong, leak-resistant plastic bag in case of vomit incidents. 

I put them all in a holdall, these items telling the story of six years of family life, then I heft them into my beat-up Fiesta, and drive away, abandoning the Galaxy at the Garage. 

I have had a nasty prang on the way to work – my fault – and the Galaxy has been written off.
I don’t look back, but I have a lump in my throat. 

The Galaxy has been my mother ship.  The car before it was a Galaxy, and the car before that. Capacious, big enough to separate squabbling children, big enough to take our massive tent (the tent looked smaller in the showroom, I tell you), big enough to shift the children’s junk to university.

But nowadays, there is often nobody in the car besides Nigel and I, so we have decided to put the insurance money towards a second-hand Ford Focus.  Yet again, life has become more streamlined.

Saturday, 7 February 2015


 "If you wish to leave a message for Nigel, Clare, Pascoe, Perran or Carenza, please do so after the tone.”
I was never quite sure about that outgoing message - thought I sounded rather Hyacinth Bucket posh. 
We bought our current phone system at the same time as we moved into our family house. There were four handsets so that we could always find one.  Except we always couldn’t, so in the end we pulled the old phone down from the loft. With the handset attached by a cable it couldn't migrate up to the children's rooms.
Over the years, one handset had been entirely disabled as the result of an inaccurate lob from one end of the sitting room to the other : "It's for you. CRASH."
On the other sets, sections of LCD screen had ceased to function making the numbers we dialled appear like the dingbats round in pub quiz.  One set has lately started wheezing like an asthmatic as it strains to recharge its worn-out batteries.

Did we need to replace the landline phones at all? Well they do provide a last resort for friends who can’t reach me any other way.  So we agreed to replace the phones only to be faced with a new Empty Nest rite of passage. The outgoing message.  If a friend who is fed up of waiting on the doorstep rings now, what they will hear is merely, "If you wish to leave a message for Clare or Nigel, please do so after the tone.”