Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Let me take you back to Day 1 and the Rules

The Rules. I've reread that first piece and worked out that since then (2 weeks ago) I have drunk approximately 6 gallons of wine. I have, however, blogged when possible so I will award myself a respectable 5 out of 10. Now for the tough one. The drinking.

I have no ambitions to abstain from drinking altogether. I did that once, about 8 years ago, as an experiment. I lasted 15 months and frankly they were the dullest 15 months of my life. I read a lot, and embroidered six cushion covers but I felt as if I'd aged 20 years and lost my best friend. I really missed the girl who got pissed on Tequila, lost her footing and fell out of the boat and into the sea. I missed the girl who was always the first on the Bucking Bronco at the party. I missed our private Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society meetings at the kitchen table when Darling was sitting through another repeat of Miss Marple.

Eventually, one day I felt like a gin and tonic, with a slice of lime, so I had one. Every atom in my body cheered when I swigged at that gin and whilst I suspect I have only had, perhaps, 10 gin and tonics since then (all on one evening funnily enough, with a former editor of The Scotsman who doesn't drink gin either) and my atoms are still cheering. Well, all except the ones in my liver who are a bit taciturn. They remind me of my husband's Grandmother in many ways.

I also gave up booze for Lent last year but I only survived three weeks. Who would have thought forty days could last so long? Jesus!

So new rules. Louis, who has recently become elevated to high ranking status in the best friends hierarchy has suggested cutting down. He insists that this is not a criticism, but an appeal for a fill up in the fuel tank of self worth. He thinks that getting sloshed evey night and not eating properly just to see if anyone notices or cares is possibly a bit daft and rather like stretching a piece of elastic to see when it breaks. It will break, and then you will have some broken elastic.

Bloody hell, Darling is ordering a curry on the telephone right behind me, shouting. 'Madrasi Murgh - fairly hot'. I have to go and do a bit of GBH, and then pour myself a large glass of Vin de Pays. Except that I can't drink wine with curry - it has to be lager. Oh well, no curry for me then. Or maybe it really is time to pull the elastic that is me, together.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Snow is forming pie tops on the pots and troughs but I know what the filling is and I am glad I made the effort. I planted about 300 bulbs in the Autumn knowing that if anything would get me through these endless dark, wet, cold, windy, winter days, the promise of emerging flowers would. I am not such a horti-nurd that I make notes or even try and remember what I planted where, but I know there are iris reticula in two or three different shades of purple, almost black tulips (scented), alium in all sorts of shapes and sizes and the finale, orange Turk's Head lillies. The show will kick off in February and continue with raft after raft of explosions of colour and smells through until July, by which time the garden proper will have joined in for the final chorus which it hums away while we pack up the folding chairs and retreat indoors. Just like a Hogmannay firework display, only better.

So, it would appear that the box of frogs that live between my ears are very quiet today. Barely a croak or leap. More Carla Carlisle than Amy Winebox.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Ballad of Lucy Jordan

I woke late this morning feeling as if I'd miscarried my heart. The sun was shining brightly and it took a long shower, two strong americanos and a fast drive with the lid down and the heated seats on to collect Terrier 9 from the kennels to shift the black dog on my shoulder. And then the bovine plod around Tesco. I'd forgotten my iPod so the soundtrack was crap and frankly why the hell does everyone insist on eating all the ruddy time? It seems so self indulgent.

When I got to the checkouts word had clearly spread that heavy snows are forecast and I found myself at the end of a long queue. This not being a great situation, I found the Chief Pig in The Suit gave her a big smile and asked if I might start to disgorge my chosen comestibles onto the currently unused checkout conveyor belt and if she wouldn't mind finding me a checkout buddy? To my amazement she said yes and seconds later I found myself being watched by an elfin boy perched on a chair in front of the till.

One of the many ways I make life bearable is to talk to people. Strangers and sad looking old people in particular. And especially the person with the dreary job of scanning my shopping. I try and make it more fun for us both. This boy is new and to be honest, he didn't look very promising. I opened discussions by pretending to steal the 12 pack of loo paper and then telling him that stealing loo paper is one of my many guilty secrets. He agreed heartily and added that whenever he goes camping in Devon he steals it from libraries, swimming pools and cafes. Cool. Furthermore, it is one of the ways we redress the general balance of injustices. Yes yes.

Next I noticed that the man behind the man next in line is the ex step father of an old friend who is an artist, for whom, 20 years ago, I used to model. It was either that or sluicing down the morgue as I had bought a very fast and expensive car and needed to pay for it. I leant forward and told the elfin lavatory paper thief my next guilty secret, and added that after The Artist started insisting I had supper in the pub with him after the sessions and then got a bit fruity I stopped turning up. And that later I'd discovered that in fact he only painted dogs and horses.

ELPT gave me a big smile, I keyed in my four digit code, and he said 'I do a lot of life drawing. Someone has to be the model'. I laughed and walked away wondering if I'd just been the victim of a great big double bluff. Or perhaps he was just talking to a sad looking old person.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Coming Home Theme from Local Hero

Mark Knoffler

Ok so it wasn't me that sparked the security delays at Inverness airport today but when my buds on Facebook started to discuss settling down in front of the fire and I looked at Darling, cool as hell reading the Sunday Times, I remembered the lighter in my pocket. It crossed my mind that Easyjet might make more effort to get us home if I flicked and lit....Fortunately common sense kicked in and I sat down and chatted to Tick Ma Kennerley, who I haven't seen to speak to for twenty years and whose daughter Char was my bessie for many many years. Wierdly Charlotte turned up on a bleak June day ten years ago, out of the blue. I was bereaved, had broken my foot the day before but ignored it, and had three toddlers and an absentee husband. I hadn't seen her for a few years before that so it was a wonderful surprise. She loaded me into her Mini Metro, we had the foot set in Gloucester hospital, came home and together we worked out a strategy for survival for the next six weeks while the bone mended. I seem to remember the case of vodka at the top of the list was her idea. Once she felt she'd dealt with us she left as swiftly as she'd arrived and I haven't seen her since - until today. Serendipity. Or just an intuitive good friend.

So we did it. We partied hard up north and laughed. We met great new people, ate well, loved our family. Boy 15 and his Aunt 24 admitted that the chundering was revenge for her mother's obsessive clearing up and plumping of cushions. He got away with it this time but I have my BDI on him. Let's hope he hasn't inherited my 'Big Problem, Buy Vodka' gene. And no, the iPhone did not materialise. Birthday in February so plenty of time to nag and whine.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Peaking in Banffshire

I have survived. We have Easy-jetted up north, and hidden our lighters and penknives in my metal spectacle case, and made it. We have stuffed our silly faces with everything under the sun, and drunk ourselves silly. Boy 15 drank all night with his aunt and parked a tiger on the white sofa and stepmother in law, who has been suspiciously texting like a teenager kept a tin lid on it, ish. Aunt 24, who lead Boy 15 into the drinking den,('You're brilliant Aunt 24,' 'No you're brilliant Boy 15') woke up in the dog bed in the scullery. Apparently she'd been waiting for the washing machine to finish so she could sneak the sofa cover back onto the sofa. I peaked after charading War and Peace (three words, first word - I had a fight with myself - third word, I put my head on the dining table and fell asleep - apparently they got it). And that was all in 6 inch killer heels £22 from Poo Look.

I have made a new best friend. Wonderful Irene, whose two beautiful teenage daughters were killed in an RTI in Buckie 18 months ago. She came for christmas supper with her son (13) and delightful friends Alan and Colin. Allegedly I fell asleep on Alan's lap after waking up at the table and deciding pudding wine was the thing, and he was wearing my mink. Irene and I agreed that we live from minute to minute, and we drank to that. Several times.

On top of all that I have climbed the Cullen Bin (1050ft)and walked along Cullen beach and picked up the sweetest piece of blue and white china which will be my lodestone for a while, until I lose it, or give it away.

It's been a great christmas. I have missed my own brothers and sisters, Mum and Dad, but this lot are pretty good too. Brilliant.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Plan A morphs to Plan B then flips to Plan C

So, the christmas presents are all in Scotland, Plan A being that we hop on the Bristol Inverness Easyjet flight tomorrow afternoon with just our toothbrushes and PJ's. But then my Stepmother in law rang to warn us that the airport had been closed, has re-opened but there's a dump alert in place for more snow. Rather than collapse in a heap, or dash out and fill the fridge with festive nosh, I hatched Plan B. Fool.

Plan B. We must ring Inverness airport in the morning. If it is closed, then I must proceed immediately to the shops and fill the fridge. But now it has started to snow here, rather heavily.

Plan C. Christmas Eve. The family will link arms and together we will wander down the steep hill to the nearest town and play Hunt The Last Turkey in the butcher's shop. We will load our haul onto the toboggan and drag it all back up.

Thing's could be a great deal worse. Which is, no doubt where the Evil Bastard Plan D stops scratching at the window and throws a rock through it. I will now go and check the central heating oil level and see how my on line leccy bill paying scheme has got on in my absence. This is more like it. I knew that eerie calm couldn't last forever.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The Shortest Day, St Lucy's Day

Tradition has it that, on St Lucy's day, when I feel a long way from home emotionally and achingly nostalgic for summer, I give myself a treat. It's one I set up in September, when I line dry my favourite bedsheets and pillowcases, iron them meticulously, fold them with dried lavender flowers from the garden to scent them and squirrel them away at the back of the airing cupboard. Come St Lucy's day I make up the bed with summer sheets and know that I am on the long road home to midsummer, the tents, boats and body boards. So job done, to the matter at hand...

It's the shortest day and Girl 13 is due in London for 6pm for a party before a dance at the Ministry of Sound that ends at 1am. Darling has announced that No We Can't Spend Two Nights in London because he is Too Busy. I move the theatre tickets from Tuesday to Monday, cancel one, cancel the bed spaces booked, take the dog to kennels anyway and off we go at 10am picking up Girl 12 on the way after her dance. The day already feels too long and the atmosphere in the car is tight lipped and frosty. Boy 15 looks especially like he would rather have been left behind. I love it when my best laid plans get shot out of the water like a decoy duck being hunted by a load of hooch fuelled rednecks.

SatNav is clearly more intelligent than me and having spent her youth kicking about in Chelsea she knows that parking four streets away from where I tell Darling to park is The Thing. So we do just that and walk the 10 minutes, in freezing slush to find my favourite restaurant is closed for a private party. Divert to noodle bar, good lunch, warm up and dry out a bit. Girl 11 sits and counts Golf cars out of the window... we worry for her.

Post lunch last minute Christmas shop. It's not looking good for the nephews but Darling has a huge grin on his face. He has found what he always wanted... an Ice Cream maker - half price! Yippee. Perfect for the time of year and great to carry about too. By the time we re-emerge onto the mean streets it's dark as Hades and there is a significant layer of snow on the cars and road. People are sliding about. Grand old ladies are teetering precariously in their patent Ferragamo court shoes between making it back to their warm gassy flats and adoring poodles and a free ride to the hospital and a new hip joint. Back in the car we slip and slide our way up to Kensington, past St Mary Abbots, where there are paperwhite daffodils in flower around the war memorial. It's all I can do not to burst into tears for some reason. Girl 13 delivered, we stock up on emergency essentials for snowy weather. Salami, cheese, bread, chocolate. This could be a long night. We still have the theatre, post theatre supper and picking up the one we just dropped off in W8, in

In brief, The Woman in Black was scary. Well it was for me, I fell asleep and woke up in a room full of screaming strangers. Dinner in Sarastro was hilarious. None of us have eaten such disgusting food outside of an institution.

SatNav takes us to the Ministry of Sound, I stand at the barriers and wait for Girl 13 to emerge in the dress I had made for her. She is one of the last to come out and I assure the Security Gorilla that she is mine and she is released. I leave, saying goodbye to the friends from 30 years ago who I knew would be here, but not in such numbers. I have been standing laughing and smoking with young friends wearing old faces. The one I was really hoping to see, the one I really nearly married isn't there in spite of telling me ten days ago that every year he organises a party of teens for his Goddaughter and her friends. And then of course, I realise that I am the fool again. I couldn't marry him because he couldn't tell the truth.

Girl 13 announces that she was totally overdressed and that everyone hates her because they thought it really WAS the £800 Jack Wills dress, not just a knock off.

Boy 15 has had a good time standing there with a load of mates from school also picking up younger sibs, sneering at how infantile the whole thing is and ogling the girls. It is now 1.30am the forecast is appalling, snow everywhere, motorways closed, and we have 200 miles between us and our scratchers. So much for the shortest day.

Over the years Darling, the picininies and I have spent 4 nights sleeping in snowlocked cars. It's not something I would ever choose to do again but at least I know we have a classic skiers picnic on board and water - unlike one time. I snuggle down into my fur coat, say goodnight to the babes and let Darling relive his James Bond fantasies as he gets us home through the snow. It is 3am when we finally arrive. The shortest day is done. We have hot chocolate and scoot of up to bed. The lavender smells wonderful, the sheets are crisp and cold. The smoke alarm battery has obviously run out and it peeps, loudly, every two minutes all night.

I am woken at 5 hrs later by the telephone. Father in Law. Inverness aiport is closed by snow. Revert to plan B (ie nip out and buy a turkey Luce) and don't worry, we'll get the children's presents back down to them in the new year.....

Decoy duck, hooch, red necks.....

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The High Wire.

When I was a child, I lived on a dairy farm in a large family. We children were often sent off, on rubbishy old unmaintained bikes to get the milk from the farm buildings half a mile away. We used a gallon cannister to dip into the bulk tank and had to switch on a huge electric paddle to agitate the milk so you didn't just get cream. While this sounds all very ooh ahh and Lark Risey the reality was far from hilarious, particularly if you had the daily newspaper tucked under one arm as well. The bike ride back could forever and involved lots of wobbling,stopping, adjusting the cannister and setting off again. Dangerous and quite scary.

I sometimes wonder if my parents were really training us to be clowns and ride the high wire. Sometimes, I wonder if, in my case, that's exactly what I ended up as. Bowler hat, red nose, water pistol in one hand, cycling all wobbly, along the high wire. Today felt just like that, but in rehearsal. There was no one else in the Big Top, and I was just trying to perfect the act, in private. No lights, no stink of sweat, greasepaint and sawdust. Just an icy wind sucking and blowing the canvas.

The knife throwing act was a load easier.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Wedding Anniversary

Double darnit... he remembered. Back in the good old days when Darling didn't know better, forgetting birthdays and anniversaries was the norm. This would result in knife throwing that would have earned me a job with the circus until I knew for sure that he had noticed me. Today was different. Tea in bed and an over generous, carefully chosen present. Then coffee and a bacon sandwich and I was allowed HP sauce on it. He didn't even raise an eyebrow or make chundering noises at that.

Now I discover that the utter bastard has booked a table at the good pub. This is fighting dirty and I don't quite know how to react. It was all so much easier in the forgetting years. Even worse, I have been completely caught out, and done nothing. No card, no present.

Time to slip on a party frock the killer heels and be every way. Lick your lips, pout and party...

Friday, 18 December 2009

Nothing happened. Well, that's not strictly true. Crazy Amy, who deals with my ever changing hair decided she can't stand the winter anymore and has resigned from the salon. She is off to Thailand, bitch. This is not good because she is the only person (No Graeme you were OK, but she is better)who I could talk to. I spent hours waiting for colours and cuts to be finished reading my book before I met Amy, wishing it was all over. All over. Not just the hair. But Amy and I had fun. We compared verbal notes on love, madness, fatness,music, Facebook, sex and her house rabbit and it was fun. (The sex/house rabbit thing were not connected, she has a pet rabbit called Charlie). Fortunately my guilt trip thing worked and we are having a last session together on Sunday. It's goodbye Camilla Parker-Bowles and back to Billy Idol time. The final Rebel Yell. Lets hope the dead man's head in the hole in the side of the sunken boat doesn't appear when I look in the mirror.

And then my internet connection died when I had four hours to wait for Girl 13 to get back from a party. And I don't watch telly (baby's dummy, suck on it as much as you like, you aren't going to get anything). I was impotent with rage and injustice and found myself scooping teaspoons of dijon mustard into my mouth and swearing like my Irish friend Grania, spitting mustard grains all over the screen. I developed a blister on my finger from diagnosing the connection problem and chipped three nails stabbing at the keyboard. I even texted Louis in South Portugal as he is my best ever nerd - but as he claims that trying to help me sort out my computer problems is like 'herding cats', it came as no surprise when he didn't ring.

So the perfect storm, in the great scheme of things, never really materialised. It just felt like it at the time.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

It is eerily quiet. I have finished the ironing, posted the cards and parcels, paid my credit card bill in full before the due date and shut the hens up. So what IS about to happen, because this feels just like the bit in Jaws just before the dead guy's head floats up to the hole in the sunken boat?

Yesterday's tantrum seems to have worked too. My elves dusted and polished, mixed and tasted, laid and cleared and observed the pre-four o'clock telly ban.

I am not comfortable with this at all. Something is very definitely up.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Day three

Day of guilt. Took Boy 15 to the station for a 5 hour train journey to Lockerbie to go to a party. As I gave him a goodbye hug his three female companions arrived with picnics. I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. He laughed and said 'It's fine'. They looked at me as if I was thick and inadequate and handed him his picnic.

Back just in time to give Father in Law lunch and the shoddily wrapped presents to go to Scotland. He parried and gave me the number of a psychiatrist he thinks I'd get on with in return.. This fellow wears three piece pinstripe suits and has a leather sofa.... cool. I think.

Finally drove Girl 13 to Olga the Polga to pick up her dazzle'em Ball Dress for Monday nights do at the Ministry of Sound. Mentally added up the cost and tried to erase the number just above the two black lines. Back in the car she asked 'What do you think I should wear for the Wild Rock party tomorrow?' Oh God. I morphed straight back into Mrs Rochester. By the time we got home she was feigning sleep just to try and stop me ranting. This is not brilliant, it's not even good.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Day 2

Up and at it today - well, ish. I went down and made a tray of tea as Darling left for London at 5am (no idea?) and then because it is so cold in this house, took the tray back up to bed. I have one of those beautiful wicker bed tables with legs that double up as book holders which enables me, if I am in the mood, to sit there looking not one tiny bit like Barbara Cartland and write letters. Today it was christmas cards, which was a major error. I was stuck there for two hours, the tea went cold, there was hail lashing against the windows, the (internal) shutters were banging in the draught, the room smelt of dead mouse and the whole experience left me utterly dazed. The full scale of what I have failed to achieve on the christmas expectations front hit me right between the eyes. I decided it was all someone else's fault and picked on my GP and wrote him a rude letter which contained the line 'like offering someone who has just stepped on a landmine an elastoplast' which I quite liked.

So,I abandoned the christmas card chore and went to let the hens out and hoovered up the deep litter Quality Street wrappers in the sitting room. At this point my pulse was racing. I had half an hour left of the morning before I was due at another celebratory lunch and I was still in my jim jams and there were no black lines through the list of Things To Be Done. And then my Father in Law arrived. My Father in Law is remarkable. He is kind, he is generous, he has an infantile sense of humour and dresses and speaks like David Niven and he was clearly little surprised to see me still in my PJs. I decided it was best ignored so made no reference until the purpose of his visit was revealed. He was just leaving (now) for Scotland, where we will be joining them by EasyJet on Christmas Eve with one 32 kg bag so could he take the presents with him? Total meltdown. I haven't bought 'the presents' let alone wrapped them up and and and and I was due out to lunch NOW! Child 12 says I shouted 'Feel my head' at him... I wonder now what I expected him to feel? The madness?

Kind man is returning at midday tomorrow. I have a 24hr extention. It was a wonderful lunch. Quite brilliant, in fact.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Ok so there are new rules in place, and this is one of them. I was told at lunch today by someone I respect, that I need a 'creative paradigm', and that this should be it. I was warned that, done properly, this might result in me waking up one morning and finding that a million and a half people want to know what is going on in there. This is just what I am looking for. Another kind caring friend told me today that one bottle of dry white a day is enough for someone my size. Lets just see about that Louis (pronounced Lewis), one day at a time. Be aware though, my space bar is fucked. I may not be slurring. Necessarily. More about Louis later.

The fuel is the Vielle Fontaine. Its about 3 quid a bottle from Tesco direct (delivered) and quite a lot of it arrived on Saturday. The euphemism for drunk is brilliant... based on the regularly delivered comment 'Oh God I was awful last night' which is invariably negated by Darling (17 years marriage on Saturday but for God's sake don't tell him... its a tradition now, he forgets, I go even more mental) saying 'No my love,you were brilliant'. Of course, I know I was vulgar, seedy and out of control, but by saying that he saves us both a whole load of bother.

So, in the style of Robbie (ah, Robbie) let me, entertain you. I am a forty five year old mother of four (Boy 15, Girl 13, Girl 12, terrier 9) living in bosky Gloucestershire. I hate winter, wake up and dread the day, presently eating nothing, drinking like a fish and getting myself into a right old tangle on Facebook. Today I woke with the mother of all hangovers after a brilliant day yesterday during which I got up, cooked Sunday lunch for 9 (pathetic at this time of year I know, 22 was the average at the girl's lunch earlier) and then went into meltdown which ended with me being locked out of my hotmail account, giving my children my facebook password (o.f.f.s NO!) and leaving the cold water tap running all night after cleaning my teeth (award self house point for at least managing that). This is how it is round here guys. A bit of a mess. Laters. x