Tuesday, 28 June 2011


My first born decided he wanted to celebrate his twelfth birthday last Saturday with just me and his dad. I understood, last year he ended up feeling cheesed off as 10 friends took over the show at his dad's. Several litres of Coke; a pile of junk food, a hot tub, water bombs, trampoline - you can imagine the consequences.
"I want to go quad biking in the morning with dad, and out for a meal with you and dad in the afternoon".  I agreed to it straight away, though didn't relish the idea of making small-talk, eating a gluten-laden meal and waltzing around Cardiff Bay with a man I have nothing to say to. I did, however, perfectly understand the request and found it quite sweet that something so simple was all my son wanted.
On the Friday, there were  reports of dad's man-flu threatening to jeopardize the whole celebration, I felt sorry and hoped he'd 'get over it'.
The quad biking took place, but lunch was cancelled last-minute; "too ill, I'm dying, need to sleep".
We went for a meal, just the two of us, to 'Frankie and Benny's'. It's very dark, loud, busy, over-priced, soul-crushingly mediocre there. I whine about prices straight away and then remind myself that this is a birthday, a rare chance for just me and my eldest to spend time together. The heavy, yet fine rain didn't stop, in the weeks before I'd envisioned bright blue skies, sunglasses and al fresco dining. We huddled around a very small table, constantly kicking each others' feet.
My bag housed a very small birthday cake, I foolishly handed it to the waitress. I scanned for the cheapest meal, but it was hardly worth trying to save money now, I ordered a burger with blue cheese, he wanted scampi and chips. The family on the next table, a young couple with two girls, seemed to be celebrating something. An elderly man was with them, his collapsible zimmer frame was propped up by his side - he was there in body but not spirit. Another family comprising 3 couples of various ages and one spare part in the form of a bored and uncomfortable looking young man, were celebrating something too.
I'm not very good at sitting and waiting, I started behaving like a child, grabbed a balloon and sucked the helium from it to (irresponsibly) entertain myself, and managed to get the first belly-laugh from my 12 year old I'd heard in ages. A glamorous couple entered, both over-tanned, his over-trained muscles and her over-dieted frame were a good match. They 'stormed' out after hearing there would a 15 minute wait for a table.
Our meals arrived and my first thought was how pointless the mint green-coloured limp teaspoon of rocket was. Surely rocket is meant to be dark green, robust and fill about a third of the plate if it's to have any effect? The scampi was the colour of rusty iron, obviously either deep-fried in filthy oil, or for too long. I was about to complain, but my 'starving son objected, said it looked just how he wanted it. The scampi was too spicy -  the batter was full of cracked peppercorns and took your breath away. I forgot about the blue cheese until I gulped down a sizeable wedge of it, leaving me feeling as though I'd eaten a lump of congealed vomit.
After the meal, we sat feeling rather disappointed and said we wouldn't come here again. The waitress took the plates and didn't look surprised that we didn't want dessert or drinks. The music went off, out came the small cake, twelve candles flickering, all eyes on us. I felt sick from the cheese and sick at the spectacle about to take place. "Happy Birthday" song kicks in, too loud, too cheesy and completely ridiculous. The bemused waitress mouths the words sheepishly, wondering where the hell the rest of the family and my son's friends are, no doubt. Cliff Richards' 'Congratulations' next, more embarrassment, "make it stop!" I scream silently. My cheeks burn with the glare of puzzled diners before me, "poor kid" they must have been thinking. Mortified, my son blows out the candles before hanging his head and waiting for the cake to disappear, A knife is presented to me, along with two napkins, we decide to eat a slice each and run.
Walking towards the door,  a sense of relief washes over us, laughter erupts, we can't stop laughing. I tell my son that 12 years ago it was a boiling hot day. I tell him about lying on the bed with him in my arms, and stuffing my face. I ate 2 baguettes, a whole box of Roses chocolates and 3 packets of crisps (I blame the shock). "Where was daddy" he asks, I tell him; "at the pub".
Just me and my boy, we walk to the car, it always was just the two of us and I always knew everything would be OK in the end, (even 12 years ago when everything wasn't OK). We smiled and decided in another 12 years, on his 24th birthday we will sit together, eat like pigs and share a cake again. In the car, he said "I've had a lovely day". I had a lovely day too, just as I had 12 years ago, sitting up in bed holding my newborn son and feeling exceptionally proud. Everything, yet nothing has changed.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


The last few days have been very different for me, throwing my routines and ending the Groundhog Day feel to life.  My mum in law had the 2 year old from Thursday 2.30pm until Friday 7.30pm. A swap took place on Friday, 3 year old went to stay for two nights. My eldest celebrated his twelfth birthday on Saturday.
I found myself locked in a narrow world of mild depression last week, fully aware of my self-absorption, fatigue and inability to move much. An awareness that this phase would pass quickly helped me to make an allowance, to wallow and refrain from trying too hard to emerge from the pale grey cell I was confined to.
Loud noises, fast movement and unexpected physical contact set my nerves on edge (so with 3 clumsy boys I was on edge quite regularly). I *jumped* at the chance of having a whole day to myself last Friday, the co-incidental timing was perfect. Charity shopping, all day, that's what I'll do. Maybe a cup of coffee half way through the day, perhaps some craft therapy in the afternoon, pure indulgence.
I waved the 2 year old off on Thursday afternoon and would have gone straight to bed had I not had the school pick-up to do. Instead, tea and 20 minutes cutting up paper, so very therapeutic for me.
On Friday morning, breakfast was civilized, I chatted to my eldest without interruption, there was no porridge splashed around waiting to set like concrete. I felt my breaths getting deeper, waking me up, energising me. Straight into town after school drop, the children's hospice charity shop first. Colour coordinated rails of clothes -  I do not approve of this display method. I look at everything many  times wanting to buy lots but knowing I would end up giving everything back to charity very soon,
People everywhere, noisy, smelly, full of shit. An old lady moans to the volunteers about her health problems, they don't listen or care. The weight of my imagined load drains energy reserves, I long to escape from myself. There are people sitting outside 'The Patriot Bar', a vile small public house, the devil's waiting room. Briefly, I envy their lack of decorum, responsibility and self-preservation instinct.
I cut my charity-shop binge very short, the poorly lady is making her way through the shops at the same rate as me. Hearing the same story three times is too much for my fragile brain, I start to see things happen which aren't happening, time for home.
Craft and solitude save the day, I refresh myself and make a mess with paint, paper, glue and shiny things, my 'basket weaving'. Maybe I'm over-tired, a bit run-down, under-nourished but over-fed. I try to remember  last year, does the week leading up to my eldest son's birthday stir painful memories, perhaps? 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

I spy something beginning with 'C'

A broken pushchair meant driving to school this morning, and people watching from the safety of my car. A troubled looking man, underweight, black trousers with white trainers drags hopefully on his cigarette. I wonder if his tension will visibly ease once the butt is discarded. A group of pensioners alight the bus, cigarettes poised, lighter in hand. The journey from the valleys to our 'gateway town' perhaps buoyed by the anticipation of 'that' moment when the flame touches the paper, igniting the tobacco. To my right, a lady on the wrong side of the road, walking on a narrow cobbled stretch, heading for a dangerous place to cross.  Her heeled shoes make for a clumsy stride, the cigarette helps to distract me - voyeur, and offers something for her to focus on. Mums head to town from their school-run, one pushes an empty neon pink pushchair with her left hand, her right hand is busy with a freshly-lit 'fag'. As she multi-tasks a man in a rush tries to navigate the fag, pushchair and her generous girth. I see her smile apologetically as he finally overtakes, but he reaches the pedestrian crossing and is soon joined by her again.  
A final right turn before home, two lads in  oil-stained overalls light up after throwing the plastic wrapper and paper foil packaging so it falls just shy of the bin. I think of Charlie Bucket as he feverishly searches for a golden ticket in his chocolate bar. I pull up outside my house, I spy a neighbour on the way to the shop. I go back to the car to get the coats, she's on her way home, grinning, as she passes she leaves a trail  of smoke.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Past, present, future

I was rifling through one of my many boxes filled with paper goods and discovered a class photograph circa 1984. The girls sat on benches at the front in two neat rows, behind; two rows of standing boys. We all needed a haircut, and uniform hadn't been introduced. One girl, who had the rather amusing (at the time) name 'A. Bird', is sporting a delightful Boy George sweater, pleated skirt and patent shoes. Another girl who I played an imaginary game with for 3 years featuring horses (of which I'm allergic and very cautious around) is wearing a velvet royal blue dress with a satin crimson pussy bow neck tie (imagine an 8 year old wearing that now!). My favourite outfit is a crushed velvet fitted, short red dress, knee high socks and cheap white trainers. This girl was STRANGE, she kept slow worms as pets, cut her knees purposely most days with seemingly blunt stainless steel scissors, and enjoyed  stemming the flow of blood with blotting paper. In the photo there is evidence of self-harm in the form of two unsightly gashes. The last I saw of her was in a real-life magazine, she was show-boating as she'd been to Turkey for liposuction and a tummy tuck.
With a few exceptions, we're all mums now and most live within a 10 mile radius of our childhood home. I regularly see one of the girls from the photograph, she comes over for coffee (never tea) every other Wednesday afternoon. I have little  in common with her 'on paper'; she is childless, lives with her mum and is very good at all the things I'm not  very good at. We lost touch for a while when she went to uni, then lived in various locations for a few years after.  Getting back in touch was easy once we both ended up living within 5 minutes of each other. I like having contact with people whose lives are different to mine it's exciting watching her future unfold fortnight by fortnight.
I think of all the things I wish I had done more of before I had children, and urge her to do these things. Travel! Revel in self-absorption, do things alone, don't wait for an accomplice.  Go to parties, meet people, stay out really late and sleep all day.  Study now if you want to better yourself, don't live a life of financial hardship, capitalise on your talents.
This advice is pretty rubbish. All anyone seems to want to do eventually is settle down and have a family. I recall getting fed up of nights out when I first bought my house and my eldest went to his dad's at the weekend. I couldn't handle the solitude if I stayed in, yet felt uncomfortable and lonely when I went out with friends to pubs. I'm not one for TV so if I stayed in, I'd spend a bit of time on the computer, then 'pace' the house like a caged lion. I had one great party which I tried to re-create, but as   is often the case, round 2 was a flop (I supplied too much alcohol; broken glass, a river of wine and several unstable revellers trying to dance - treacherous).
Now, I often crave solitude, just one weekend all to myself. I don't know what I would do, maybe sit and soak up the sound of the freezer whirring. Perhaps spend guilt-free time online. I'd look around all the charity shops, go to a cafe and read the paper.  I would eat a meal slowly, follow it with a cake I don't have to share. I'd paint my nails, pluck my eyebrows. Read, but end up feeling restless. Do you know what? I'm already bored just thinking about it. I only have myself to blame for ending up with a home bursting with noise, activity and chaos.
What would you do if you had a whole weekend to yourself? And those who can look back to the point I am now at in life - what advice do you have for me?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Toaster and towel bale please...

In this post, I ask my esteemed readers to re-assure me that getting married is a deeply personal,  unique, intimate experience. Indeed, I also ask for proof that getting married is worthwhile, and  recommended. We have 3 surnames between the five of us, I don't like that. My parents have been happily married for over 40 years, but aren't in the least bit bothered about my brother and I marrying our partners.  I have no reason to be cynical about marriage, but here is my sarcastic and exaggerated take on 'weddings' . No offence is intended, I just happen to have a house full of crap which I'd love to have replaced with new (or thrifted) items which remind me of special people every time I use them. I think the days of the cutlery service and bone china tea set wedding gift are long gone, and feel a bit sad about that.
Most of the weddings my family and I have attended in the past few years have included a poem with the invite. The bride (always the bride) will have Googled the poem, there are a few different versions, but they translate as " DO NOT BUY US A GIFT, GIVE US MONEY". This is fair enough, if it's a first marriage for a well organised comfortably-off duo, the chances are the wedding comes in the middle of their five year plan, which begins with 'buy a house and fill it with stuff' and culminates with 'have a baby'. If it's the second or third marriage, you can pretty much guarantee the couple have enough wine glasses and picture frames to set up a shop.
I'm sure most guests find this easier, and it beats having to choose something from a gift-list and go to collect it. Stuff some money or a cheque into a card, a lovely card which costs upwards of £3.50, stick a fascinator and some lippy on, your OH can pour himself into the shirt and suit he wore to every wedding, funeral, job interview and Christening  since you met, and off you go. Sit through a 'touching' ceremony, 'aw, look at his face', sit and wait hours for a lukewarm meal, listen to some 'hilarious' speeches. Discover that the groom was wild, had no direction and was fond of getting drunk all the time 'til he met his miracle-weaving bride. The bride will look beautiful, even if deep down you're thinking "hmm, that back-fat oozing out of the dress...not a good look', she will still look radiant and erm... beautiful. After the meal has been swallowed in large unchewed lumps, it's time to knock back large quantities of mid to low range wine. Hopefully, the DJ (who is undoubtedly a veteran) has fired up the lights and speakers by 7 pm. After stumbling uncomfortably to Snow Patrol's 'Cars' or any other vomit-inducing smoochie record,  it's time for the suitably 'refreshed' guests to throw polygamous shapes to Abba, Kylie, and Take That. All of this frivolity will be caught on camera, and boy will you be the talk of the day if you get too drunk (talking crap for hours before lying under a table Lucy, remember?).
The bride and groom will say it was the happiest day of their lives, and add that they wish they could do it all again it was so much fun (good news, chances are you will be lucky enough to do it all again if the statistics are anything to go by). Next day, you'll be having a really bad hair day, a really bad hangover as a souvenir, and be laughing out loud as you scroll through the digital camera footage. During the next week or so, unless you're on Facebook, you'll miss out on hundreds of snapshots of the day.
The bride and groom will return from honeymoon eager to click their way through  endless amateur photographs until the official book arrives with all the stiff looking forced-pose high-gloss pictures.
Their home will be void of any physical, practical gift items which bring the guest to mind, the mugs they sip from will be part of a set bought from Argos/John Lewis/Ikea ages ago. The 'official' photograph displayed will be just of the bride and groom. The groom may be gurning, but it will be the most flattering shot of the bride. The inappropriate antics of the well-oiled guest will soon be forgotten. There is another invite on the mat for a wedding, the poem reads "having you there means more to us than anything". And where will the evidence of this be, exactly?
I like the idea of being married, the wedding - less so. Please share your story, and I LOVE long comments, so don't worry if it turns into an essay, I have opened a debate...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Contentment or Apathy?

I caught the last half of Don't tell the Bride yesterday. My OH and I  rolled our eyes in unison when the tears started to fall. Mum HAS to cry when she sees her daughter emerge from the changing room in her dress, it's the law. Both bride and groom have to 'fill up' or blub when their eyes meet on the big day. Tears are a big part of the whole emotional roller coaster that is a union of two people in holy matrimony.
Birth of a child - tears please (everyone). Funeral - whatever noises made related to crying/sobbing no matter how disturbing are always acceptable. Who am I to argue, crying about such life-changing events is a natural way to release tension, adrenaline, excitement, grief and a whole host of extreme emotion.
Me? I hardly ever cry, and these days I don't even get a lump in my throat. I worry about where these pent-up emotions are storing themselves. Squealing; never done it no matter how excited I am (and you can guarantee unwrapping a pair of over-priced shoes would be more likely induce a groan). Cry about a soap storyline? Forget it.
The headteacher where I used to work was famed for making the female staff cry, I was warned about her powers from day one. For years, I managed to avoid all situations where she'd get an opportunity to give me a good 'dressing down'.   I saw countless staff emerge from the tear-jerker's office looking like they'd been told there's no such thing as Santa, your husband's having an affair, your son has been arrested and your new haircut makes you look old all in one sitting. I always knew my time would come, and I knew she'd do her best to get me to the point of waving the emotional white flag. Salty water dripping from my eyes in response to basically being told "I'm in charge, you're right but I don't give a shit, piss off".
My day came, and in all fairness, it was out of the blue. I had no time to prepare and she'd buttered me up the week before by making me feel she was on my side. Boy, that woman tried her best, it was an epic breakdown of my character, I was reduced to feeling 9 years old. Tears? They didn't come, but another emotion I rarely feel and it's even more rarely do I display it - fury, raw fury bubbled and
erupted. Ten minutes later, I calmed down and forgot about it, I was annoyed I'd let her lull me into a false sense of security and just took a valuable lesson from the whole pile of nonsense.
Some of the staff cried at the drop of a hat, every week there'd be a really minor incident blown all out of proportion. Joan's catologue bill, Zoe's cancelled date, Alison's 1lb gain at Weight Watcher's, Dawn's divorce 6 years on... tears, tears and more tears. I don't know how to handle a crying lady, so I would keep a wide berth. I was labelled 'hard' 'cold' 'cynical' and all sorts of things for not seeming to care. Give me a kid with a nosebleed, another two vomiting, another screaming because the Beauty and the Beast DVD isn't in the right case and 5 cups of tea to make - I'm there, sorting it all out. Tears over "she said to me, I said to her, she turned 'round and said this...." and I feel like saying "shut up, grow up and get on with your job".
There are things I'd love to cry about, to show I am a person with feeling. Happy occasions, they seem to be made all the more poignant with a few carefully lined up tears. "You've passed your driving test?!" Great time to 'fill up'. Best friend pregnant, been trying for ages, excellent 'Kleenex moment'. I can cry, and I have cried a lot in the past. So why don't I cry anymore?  Is it that I don't want the attention? Why not cry alone, then?  Am I apathetic, or just content? I reckon there is a chemical and scientific build up to crying which I have managed to control. As for the almost staged, attention seeking, ulterior-motive led, or crying so others feel sorry/guilty/stop what they were doing...not my style.
So, who is a real blubberer? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Anyone else like me, just pretty neutral most of the time and not prone to extremes of emotion. Anybody who just can't help themselves from crying, but wishes they could? Am I missing out on a bonding experience with other females, am I abnormal?
One of my favourite crying stories was when my mum's neighbour sat bawling his eyes out because he'd had an operation and couldn't clean the house, The house was immaculate and his wife was able to do it. I like that tale because I can't think of something I'd be less likely to cry about than not being able to scrub the floors.
I look forward to your 'sob stories'.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Driving Miss Crazy...

My parents' neighbour, Rita, is nearly 80. Rita has one son who went to university and never came back, her mum pretty much brought him up. Widowed at 58, she spent the best part of the next  two decades enjoying herself and spending lots of money. My family liked Rita and found her a pain in the arse in equal measure. Some people (like Rita) are not capable of doing anybody else a favour, yet demand regular favours from others.  My mother once contracted lead poisoning from some second hand eye make-up and could barely move. My brother and I were under 8 and out playing, mum asked Rita if she would call us in, she refused.
We all get old, we all will need help one day and so on, but Rita milked every opportunity to get us running around for her. Shopping for her with a giant list of things to get from different shops, milk from 'Kwik Save'  bread from Somerfield, ham from M&S. We'd have to do her shopping every time she had so much as a runny nose, or a bout of passing 'loose stools', which was a regular occurrence. In her defence, she was funny without ever trying, and came out with some classic phrases such as "Roy? He hasn't worked since the small beer strike" in reference to a local unemployed gentleman. I have some incredibly fond memories of Rita, and used to love looking at her garden which was festooned with gnomes, swan planters, windmills and flowers of  every colour in the rainbow.
Yesterday, Rita must have been spying, ready to pounce. As I left my parents' house, she appeared and exclaimed "Luce, take me to town will you" this was not a request, it was a demand. I tried fobbing her off by suggesting I deposit her near town, but she was insistent that I drop her off by 'Caddy's' (a pet shop which closed down in the late 80's). I explained to Rita that it'd be impractical to drop her by Caddy's as there is nowhere to park, but she's gone a bit senile and didn't listen. I tried a little light small-talk (I'm a bit of an expert at small talk) but all I got was the odd grunt and a few belches back from her. Halfway to town: "turn 'round Luce, I forgot my bank card". I was not amused, but followed her order, knowing deep down that it was in her bag and she'd spend ages looking for it.
Try again, head to town, explain I'll drop her IN TOWN meaning I'd have to drive past town in order to turn around, that's the way you have to do it, unless you're driving a taxi or bus. Rita assumes I am a taxi, and is quite angry with me for not turning right at her request. Next, I'm aware we have a flat tyre. My heart sinks, and I tell Rita (who assumes I can still drop her off by the non-existent Caddy's). I pull over near the park, which is right in the heart of town, and suggest Rita gets out. "No! I want to go to the chemist, I can't get off here". I offer the alternative of waiting in the car whilst I change the tyre, hoping she'll change her mind and get out. No chance, I'm stuck with a tired, hungry 2 year old, a 79 year old misery and a flat tyre.
I open the boot, it's choc-a-bloc; pushchair, holdall rammed with blankets, black bag full of clothes for charity, buckets and spades... in my head I'm Tony from Bullseye reeling off the prizes "that's red, number 5, it's the golf umbrella". 2 year old is running out of ideas to gain Rita's attention, he's tried cute, tried shouting, now he's throwing polystyrene from the car seat at her. I realise I'm going to need help to change the tyre, so it's time to do my best impression of a damsel in distress. I spy a man my dad's age, looks just the ticket, and he's only too happy to oblige (until he sees there isn't a handle for the jack). It takes him ages to lift the car, especially with Rita weighing it down, but in all fairness, he was efficient and didn't complain.
Back in the car, I'm desperate to lose Rita now, she is draining the small reserve of patience I'm left with after years of being surrounded by challenging kids. It's not easy though, Rita has a new plan: "Lucy, I'll give you my prescription, you can hand it in"...NO WAY. You may be nearly 80, but you're fitter than a lot of people half your age, you have all the time in the world, and an umbrella.
"I'll drop you off opposite the doctors, OK?"
Rita and I come to blows between now and dropping her off, she refuses to get out of the car on the brow of a small hill, meaning I have to pull over on a busy main road, causing chaos. My blood starts to boil, I have little sympathy for her unfortunately (because I know so much about her life of self-absorption).
As she gets out of the car I roll my eyes and mouth some obscenities. A horrified onlooker gives me a look which says 'heartless bitch'. I glance into the mirror and see Rita toddling, her limp grey hair which used to be coiffed to auburn perfection, a dowdy mac and shopping bag have replaced her immaculate jacket and handbag. It's a sorry sight, I calm down instantly, and yes, I feel a bit sorry.
Sorry for the next person who has a day like mine with lovely Rita.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Inspired by a stranger

I used to drive to work the 'long way' avoiding a dual carriageway and managing to squeeze in a bit of peace between two sets of chaos. Llantwit Road, long and winding, trees lined both sides; turning the road into black lace as the sun shone. I listened to the same few albums, full volume, often repeating my favourite tracks, and holding on to the tiny part of self-absorption my day allowed. Sometimes I'd spy a colleague waiting at the bus stop en route, music down, daydream over, "jump in".  Talk about the weather and staff shortages all the way to work.
For four years this was my routine, and I saw the same people at the same stage of their work commute for most of that time. I like to be early, or at least on time for appointments and work, being late leaves me feeling ashamed and guilty all day (and that's no exaggeration). One lady would be walking along the road, embarking on her journey as I came to the end. It used to puzzle me, where was she going, there wasn't a house or bus stop for a couple of miles? This lady was what could be described as 'morbidly obese'. Headphones in, sweat pants and t-shirt on, with a jumper around her neck in Spring/Summer, rain mac in winter, she looked worn out but determined. 
As the years went by, I saw this lady every time I drove to work, and things began to change, slowly but dramatically. First, I noticed she had upped her pace, there was a spring in her step, arms like metronomes. Weeks later, I realised I was passing her in the middle of the road, not as she embarked on the journey.  Eventually, she jogged. Red-faced, pained, determined - she exuded will-power and focus as her breasts bobbed freely under a pastel t-shirt. I wondered what music was helping her along and imagined it being Tina Turner or Meatloaf. A shadow of her former self, she was getting close to the end of the road as I drove past.
The bus-stop colleague shared my interest in this lady's progress, she had anorexia and loved nothing more than to discuss exercise, food and weight loss. When I left the job, I wondered if she kept a keen eye on the jogger's progress. 
The road now forms part of a by-pass, which joins onto the 'short way' route. I would miss that drive if I still worked at the school, I would miss seeing the shrinking jogger,  I would not miss, however, having my journey interrupted by a colleague.
I recently took up running; I struggle along the main road gasping for breath as my asthmatic chest tightens. I think about that look of dogged determination, that shrinking woman and I keep going.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A duck, a frog and some Welshmen

Straight into town after the school drop, stopping at a charity shop before the park. I spy several items I'd like to buy, but they  are over-priced. My 2 year old son spots a grotesque frog stuffed toy, he simply MUST have it. I leave the shop, £1.99 lighter and imagining what fun the dogs at Rhondda Animal Aid are going to have tearing frog and around 85 other teddies to shreds (when I eventually bag them up and donate them).  I meet a friend and her daughter, we discuss childbirth. My sister in law gave birth to her second child early yesterday morning in the bathroom. My friend is pregnant with her second child, so she was fascinated by the speedy delivery of my niece , and marvelled at the lack of medical intervention required.
A grandfather who regularly frequents the park and cafe circuit with his toddler granddaughter starts chatting to us. His comments were a series of minor rants about the 'useless council' 'foreigners' and a cringe-worthy anecdote about arriving at a French camp-site and being refused entry because the owner thought he was English (and naturally, upon correcting him "je suis gallois" he was welcomed with open arms).  Neither my friend or myself were able to pretend we were interested or amused.
I took my recently toilet-trained son to the Ladies, it was dark (useless council). A stout elderly lady entered, face full of tension and announced to an imaginary audience that she wouldn't be closing the door, "'fraid of dark I am, bloody toilet, bloody lights, door open, OK?". My son attempted to play 'peek-a-boo' I dragged him out at lightening speed.
After parting company with my friend, I went to another charity shop. A regular customer who seems to be lonely was in there talking loudly, not holding a dialogue with the staff, just making brief statements "bus fare gone up, fags gone up, gas gone up, good job I'll be dead soon". The man working at the shop looked very tired and worryingly malnourished, he scanned the shop as if he was looking to be rescued. I pass the vociferous regular, a sickly odour was emanating from him, not unlike 'bin soup'. This particular charity shop (Wales Air Ambulance) is full of bargains, nothing seems to be over £2. I picked out some items and moved on to the toy section. "Mum, duck. I wan't duck please." A bath toy priced at £1.50, I let him hold it and plan to sneak it back on the shelf. A few moments later, I quietly tut, assuming the three young girls who'd entered were playing crap music from their phones. It was the duck. A blinkin' bath duck radio, only in a charity shop. "Mum, I like ducky, dance". Son is 'bopping' and entertaining the whole shop (with the exception of the ranting regular who is oblivious).

I buy £6.61 worth of items and leave, music is blaring from the duck now the  volume dial has been discovered. Lots of stares, many people seem impressed by the music, one song was Tom Jones' 'Help Yourself' (apparently it's his birthday). I spot an opportunity to distract my son from the duck, he loves 'posting' things, and there's a lady ahead collecting for the Salvation Army. My plan worked and he now had a pamphlet instead of a duck. We  head for the last row of shops before the journey home, I want eggs from the 'Wholefoods and Homebrew' store. I ask myself if I can face it, the owner is a chatterbox and he tells me the same story every time. I need eggs more than I need a break from the Hungarian teacher who makes a lovely cake with my eggs story, so I brave the story and head home. It wasn't so bad, this time -I have the recipe.
I look forward to ranting, repeating myself and weeing in full view of everyone, I hope I live to get old.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Take that! Take That...

I walked to  Zumba class this morning after the school run with two other mums. They could be described as 'lovely' people. Both have gentle clear voices, grace, poise, and I bet neither of them belch loudly and blame the kids. It only takes us five minutes to walk there, so conversation is light and frothy. Today was the first day back for the children after Whitsun so it was "did you have a good week?" and the like. Going out for lunch, weekends away, and going to watch a 'show' are highly prized activities for a lot of mums, I notice. Great, you work hard (notice how everyone who has a job 'works hard'?) and deserve a break, a treat, something to look forward to (though even when I worked hard, these things didn't happen-woe is me). So, I am admiring the sensible nature of my companions, they went to Uni, met 'the one' (I despise that phrase, along with 'my rock' and 'soulmate' eugh). They got great jobs, went on exotic holidays, got married, had kids (did everything properly). My sense of inadequacy almost smarts, an inferiority complex begins to rear it's head.
An announcement is made, complete with raised excitable voice, jazz hands and cheesy grin. "I'm going to see Take That next weekend"!! Cue jealous "oh lucky you" response (not from me). I'm aware that my expression has remained deadpan, and I say "that'll be fun".  My sense of superiority begins to rear it's head, I suddenly feel quite pleased to be me. I am the youngest of the three, yet I still remember being completely repulsed by Take That. I never understood the appeal back then, and I'm puzzled as to the resurgence of their popularity.  Perhaps there's a music snob element to my distaste, but it's not JUST that. It's the whole formulaic lifestyle package so many women around my age plump for, the company of friends just doesn't seem to be enough.. I may seem a bore, yet I like fancy dress parties, I like a good time in the company of women and it's something I rarely get to experience (pretty much all male family, including my female relatives who are more masculine than the men in a lot of ways [joke] and friends who I tend to keep separated). But meals at franchise restaurants, dreadful musicals, Take That concerts... not for me. Why then, do I feel almost envious of people for whom these events hold so much promise?
My quest to either 'fit in' or be a proper quirky 'individual' will be infinite. I battled with this as  a teen and the battle continues. Maybe I'd thoroughly enjoy a Take That show, perhaps I don't know what I'm missing? Or am I just not at all suited to planned fun? I never did like the idea of looking at a diary and seeing 17th June: fun starts at 5pm, Nando's  for lunch with girls! Yay! *squeal* (or whatever latest buzzword is to convey excitement). Oh, shut up Lucy you miserable, bitter cynic, I have heard quite enough from you, and 'you're not even talking!

Monday, 6 June 2011


I spent last week at my parents' caravan, with limited internet access. One of the posts I managed to read was Jem's at Beautiful Clutter, where she decided to offer a sneak-peek of her good self. It really got me thinking, especially after my post about anonymity/meeting 'idols'.
I loved what Jem said about photographs not looking like her.
OH had fallen asleep putting the boys to bed, I was at a decidedly loose end. The fridge offered scant appeal, as did the lacklustre selection of reading materials.
I started taking pictures of myself on my phone, resulting in shockingly inaccurate representations.
OH reckons NONE of these snaps look like me.
Apologies for the rather self-indulgent nature of this post, Jem-I blame you!   Here is my evening of boredom turned into a Dear Deirdre's Casebook style strip...