Monthly Archives: May 2015

Decadent Monday.

What do you think of when you think of decadence?  Perhaps it’s having a fancy sports car, an eight bedroom house with finely manicured land at the back complete with a housekeeper, gardener, round the clock nanny and a cook, or would you be more in line with the super rich city dwellers embarking on basement wars in Chelsea, where their desperate need for indoor waterfalls, huge wine cellars, indoor gyms, spas and cinemas supersedes all common sense and neighbourly happiness.

Since being a mum, I’ve joined in with the popular line of thought that having a coffee by myself and visiting the bathroom alone are all treats.  Nowadays, clothes shopping is dashing into TK Max in desperation because I’ve ignored the indelible stains of life with children on all my tops and the holes in the knees of every pair of trousers, jeans and leggings for far too long, but what if I had time and the bank balance to peruse a clothing shop and try on an item before buying it just because I like it.  Hmm, luxury.

When a contract comes my way, I skip off to work, like I’m off on holiday and am probably in a minority group of people (actually, it’s possible that I’m in this group by myself) that aren’t unhappy at a tube delay because it means I get to read an extra chapter of my own book before going home and reading several books about teddy bears, peppa pig’s latest antics and rehashed book versions of disney films.  I just want to take a moment here to make it clear that I love reading to my children, but daughter number two is currently, inexplicably obsessed with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and i think if i have to read that again i might prick my own finger on a spinning wheel in the hope i get to sleep for 100 years.  I’m very thankful that my eldest is now into Roald Dahl – now that’s a writer!

Getting back to my point, I would have described all this coffee drinking, reading my own choice of book to myself, clothes shopping just for the hell of it as decadent, but one Monday, I spotted something that made me reconsider.  It was a sight that I would call real decadence.  Something that brought back happy, carefree memories of a time long past.  It was 3.30 on a Monday afternoon, a normal run of the mill Monday afternoon – not a bank holiday, and there were three friends sat in the window of a local pub, with a large glass of wine each.  It was definitely social, rather than a work meeting.  You could just see the signs of genuine relaxation, happiness and comfort.

It got me thinking about what it would like to be so carefree i could ask a couple of friends for an afternoon tipple on a Monday.  I was on my way to swimming lessons at the time, navigating a pram which my toddler was jumping in and out of at whim, trying to appeal to my hyper, over excitable daughters to slow down, as they were on track to knock over a few innocent bystanders with the game of tag they’d decided to play on our incredibly busy, crowded high street.  There were swim bags, school bags, a picnic bag, nappy bag and general bag of tricks to keep them occupied in between lessons, all balanced precariously off the pram which was threatening to tip up at any moment, as we powered along the pavement.  So, thank you ladies, whoever you were, for making me smile.

No consequences, deadlines, children to put to bed, school bags to pack, meals to plan and cook, laundry piling up, just a Monday afternoon, with nothing else to do but laugh with friends.

So, I’ve decided to brighten up my Monday, add a bit of glamour.  I’ve found a top to wear that only has one small hole in (trip to TK Max might be looming) and fancy earrings.  That’s me in full decadent Monday glory.  It’s happening, the earrings are in.

There’s indoor waterfalls – and there’s true decadence…

Community spirit will get us through

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thoroughly down in the dumps since the election results.  Everything’s been said, the analysis and new leadership battles will go on – and so will ‘austerity’, which is basically code for the social cleansing.

Every person for themselves – well not here in Tooting!  To cheer ourselves up, we went to a non-political community day at the weekend.  Although nothing at all to do with politics, it did give me that warm feeling of being around people who are willing to give their time just to get a community event going, and all in the name of creating fun for everyone else.  I imagine there was nothing in it for them except a lot of emailing, phone calls, being ignored, more emailing and phone calls, more being ignored, then chasing people up for responses, pinning up posters, organising flyers, being avoided on the street when on the lookout for volunteers, relentless hassling for bits of funding, crowd-funding and lots of donation bucket shaking on the day.

However, unperturbed by these many obstacles, it all went ahead.  It was a story-telling event themed around the Pied Piper and there was a parade to the local common where the main event was happening.  Off we went, with a Maypole, a giant mayor (from the Pied Piper), a storyteller, lots of props for said story, and various brightly coloured, homemade streamers, paper-mache creations, decorated branches and of course pretend rats.  A few of these props got stuck in trees along the way, but most made it there in one piece.

Here’s a few things that I learnt on the day:

1.  If there’s a May Day parade and you have children, no matter how cool or unwilling you think you are, you will be taking part in that parade. (I’m thinking of a few other parents, me and the husband have long dispensed with any pretence that we are cool.)

2. It is impossible not to grin stupidly whilst carrying a streamer in a parade.  Seriously, try it.  Even the sourest of souls won’t be able to resist in this situation.

3.  London drivers really are a grumpy lot.  Whilst waiting for giant story characters, an over-sized trumpet, which needed two people to carry it and lots of happy, smiling children skipping across the road at the pedestrian crossing, the second the lights turned green, there was a great deal of angry beeping.  Really?  Shame. On. You.

4. It is impossible to stand still whilst steel drums are playing.  Impossible.  Try it, but you won’t be able to stop moving.  Many moons ago we lived in a flat across the road from a hall where a local steel drum group practised for three hours every night throughout summer.  It was a relief when their annual appearance in the Notting Hill carnival was over, so we could sit down again in an evening without toe-tapping and shoulder movements.

5.  This was a surprise, but never under-estimate the waiting time to buy a wrap.  They were nice, but 45 minutes was too much of a build up.  Of course, they’d run out of most fillings by the time we got to the front.  Note to self: next year take a picnic.

6. Children can find a great deal of patience and willingness to queue when face painting is on offer.  If only this were a transferable skill.  However, “Mummy, mummy, muummmmyyyy.  Now, mummy!” is a familiar soundtrack to my days.  Hmm, do I need to learn face painting?

7. Once you’ve waited 30 minutes for face painting, at least one child will always desperately need a wee when they are next in the queue.

8.  Even with an African drum and an African trying to teach me to drum, I still can’t look cool – or drum.

9. Despite our very urban geographical situation, Tooting has a troupe of people that know how to Maypole dance.  Adults, not children.  They had clearly been practising, had matching hats with feathers in and sang as well, accompanied by an accordion.  Brilliant.

10. I have the most uncanny ability of choosing exactly the wrong time to take my children to craft making stalls.  We will get there just at the moment they are closing for 15 minutes to clear up.

11.  I now know how to make a paper hat.

12. Finally, a beer tent, complete with hay bales for sitting on, looks very inviting on a warm day.  I was driving and in charge of three small people, so merely took in the view.  That’s fine, I have other treasures.  Really, it’s fine.

The weirdest reason not to vote, that I have ever heard.

This post is devoted to one of the oddest arguments I’ve ever heard for deciding not to vote.

Personally, I’m voting.  I’m looking forward to taking the children to the polling station on Thursday and demonstrating the greatness of living in a democracy.  Respecting the right to place that cross in the box of my choice, respecting the fight of those that lost their lives in the fight for me to vote.  In short, I am strongly pro-voting.  If unsure, I think it’s better to go and spoil the paper than not vote at all.

Not everyone agrees of course and I’m interested by the arguments used by those who don’t vote.  I was listening to a programme on the radio where pro-voters were trying to convince non-voters to vote.  Many of the usual reasons were mentioned for not voting: not believing one vote can make a difference, not trusting the parties, deciding that they are all basically the same, forgetting due to a busy day or just plain old not bothering.

And then, one student who said she wouldn’t be voting because she didn’t know who to vote for, answered that she felt it was better not to vote than to spoil your paper, because that was a bit mean after all the hard work the politicians have put into their campaign.

I stopped and stared at the radio.  WHAT?!?!?!  Did I really just hear that?  An abstention to preserve the feelings of the poor politicians.  Amazing.  Imagine if it worked both ways.  A party without any policies because each one has winners and losers, and they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Do Cameron and Osbourne cry themselves to sleep each night over the plight of those made homeless due to changes in housing benefits, or those finding extra cash for the bedroom tax, queuing up at food banks?  As we know, Clegg is very sorry about raising the tuition fees – but it didn’t stop him at the time, or Labour from introducing them in the first place.

If a student spending three years in an environment of study and debate has lost their need to rebel, stand up and be heard, or manage an opinion of some sort, then I weep for the future of our democracy.  There’s no hope of them fitting it in when they have to juggle a career, rent/mortgage and perhaps a family.  Student Unions seem to have altered since I was at university.  There was always a cause somewhere, I seem to remember not buying anything from nestle being a big deal.

I’m still astounded.  She didn’t want to hurt their feelings or be disrespectful to their efforts by showing a mark to reject all of them.  For one, I think choosing not to vote at all does not show more respect, surely it just says you really can’t be bothered.  However, the parties have spent a small fortune, members have devoted the last few months of their lives to trying to con us into voting for them, and if in all of that rhetoric, manifesto publishing, publicity stunts and general desperation, they still haven’t found anything to hook you in, then they deserve a spoiled ballot paper.

People fought hard, some with their life, just so you have that right and so no matter what your political leanings, please vote tomorrow – even if it means hurting someone’s feelings.

A life in boxes.

So, it struck me recently that I’ve spent an awful lot of my life packing my things into boxes and moving them places.  Even though, we’ve lived in the same place for nearly a decade, this still keeps happening.

You see, we’re having a sort out.  Not just any old sort out, but a massive home overhaul.  This is due to turning our loft space into bedrooms and having to face the reality of the small village we’ve managed to put up there, piece by piece over the years.  I’ve been a bit too well-trained by my grandma’s post-rationing need to hang onto everything in case it comes in, and my OH, well let’s just say he’s not one for throwing things away, either.

We have accumulated five spare wardrobes, four beds, four prams, two cots, too many toys to list (but they fill one of the wardrobes), three car seats, two tables and roughly nine sets of shelving, a large amount of old computers or bits of them anyway, a friend’s printer which I’m assuming they’ve forgotten lending us, a huge fan, boxes of cables and lots of cutting edge technology from previous decades such as old video players, tape recorders one of those CD players that you could load 25 CDs into, a ball-bearing clock and a machine that plays something called a mini-disc.  How very useful.  That’s before we get onto The Hi-Fi.  A multi-decked towering item, circa 1989, standing almost a metre high with a record player, duel cassette deck, CD deck and a no expenses spared dashboard of graphic equalisers.  It also has two speakers each a similar size to The Hi-Fi, standing proudly beside it.  To be clear, this isn’t mine.

There’s also a spare clothing rail, and boxes and boxes of stuff.  Boxes with more boxes in, boxes of bits and bobs, boxes of ‘desperately important’ memorabilia, that neither of us can throw away.  Too many happy memories and proof there was once days without the school run, nappy changing, tantrum placating, sleep and potty training, laundry, food shopping and cooking.  Ok, i suppose I’ve always done the last three things on that list, but it never took up so much time looking after just me.

During the building work, we managed to fill a storage unit the size of a small garage with all these treasures and are now having to empty said storage unit – and fast, before it bankrupts us and we have to sell one of the children.  It’s an expensive business having too much stuff.

For years, each time another item was made redundant, it went into the loft, for when it ‘came in’, or we had time to fix it.  I have too many well-intentioned ideas for the thrifty re-use of items, but with three small children, work and a house in constant chaos, it’s possible that most of it will disintegrate before I get round to making these wonderful new pieces of furniture, that I’ve created in my mind.  The dust was so thick on some stuff, it took sometime to work out what it once had been.  Now, we just have to face facts – it’s all got to go.

Would it be very wrong to invite people round, sneak off with their car keys and shove a load of stuff in their boot when they weren’t looking?  Drop a few items into the bags of unsuspecting visitors that have come on foot?  Yes, it probably would be.  I suppose.  But…tempting.

Or, perhaps the next time a party candidate comes knocking on the door for our vote, I’ll just say ‘yes’ i’ll vote for you, just take this wardrobe away.  Oh, you’re UKIP – sorry this is all foreign imports entering the country via IKEA.  Next!

And so, at the end of a bank holiday weekend spent entirely at home sorting through our impressive collection of important junk, we are nearly there.  We still have a loft space, although greatly reduced in size and so we’ve had to be ruthless, yet it’s funny the things that get kept.  There’s a few boxes full of files from my degree, that I can’t bear to part with – when am I ever going to need to know what i thought of Pinter at the age of 21?  It doesn’t matter, it’s staying.  Also, a bag of cheese cloth skirts (don’t ask, but they were so important that I’ve kept them in a box in the loft for 15 years and still haven’t thrown them away) and finally, my beloved old DMs.  They are staying with me for the long-haul.

There’s actually a bit of space left – we’ve obviously thrown too much away…hmmm, maybe I should go back through it all and see what else i need to keep.