Saturday, 17 February 2007

Ho Hum, Valentine.

Valentine’s Day was a wash out. Flowers that Hubby had sent me arrived at 6pm, far too late for me to be in a any good frame of mind to receive them, assuming that, as the day was almost over flower-delivery-wise, he’d forgotten me especially as the card didn’t materialise until two days later and what a shocker of a card it was. Now it is not as if Valentine’s Day comes as a surprise, no sooner has Boxing Day been and gone that supermarkets are decorating their stores with rose window stickers and filling their shelves with anything pink or Easter eggy – so why oh why, did the card I receive happen to be an amateur, handmade one with a teddy on it that looked at though its fur was purloined from matted pubic hair. I have never been a girly, teddy type of person – so that can only indicate one thing i.e. that Hubby has given up trying to romance me and that any card in the shop will do. I know he’s busy and that that careers of every junior logistician in the RN is his number one priority and that keeping the wife sweet on a few important dates in the year low on his ‘to do’ list but really…
Anyway, if I was feeling unloved, then my poor son, who has fallen in love for the first time, has had his heart broken. It seems only a few hours ago that the waft of teenage perfume, the flick of pretty highlighted hair, and the skinny jeaned legs of a siren was languishing on my sofa, my son not inches away from her, hanging on her every word - when he wasn’t kissing the breath out of her and now – in the cruel vernacular of teenage parlance - he has been dumped.
He went, oh so full of beans to Plymouth on Valentines Day ready to spend the day with her, on his person a well chosen gift and an excellent card – poem included, which whilst not written himself then at least researched on the internet. Hours later I received a call from him with the bad news. As anyone who has suffered at the mercy of unrequited love would know, I could have howled for him, coupled with the fact that it was my darling boy who was in pain. It was torture waiting for him to arrive safely home. Unfortunately I couldn’t even go and get him because it is half term in Plymouth but not Cornwall thus I was attending to my various charges – being the only stay at home mother I provide quite a service to friends whose children are on holiday and who don’t have anywhere else to go. So I was stuck between the needs of - on the cusp teenage girls and the school run for 5 year olds.
When eventually my boy did return, he shut me out. I think that was the hardest thing of all to deal with. For the past fourteen years I have salved his pain, doled out the Calpol, stuck on a plaster, kissed his ‘ow’ away and made it all better but now I just couldn’t reach him. “I don’t want to talk about it”, he said resolutely, shutting his bedroom door firmly and later, when I went to bed and turned out my light I could hear his sobs from the other side of the wall. It was agony for us both.
The following day, friends of his came and gathered him in their collective bosom and took him out, leaving me only to fret. Hubby of course is also most concerned, “Bless, I’m not surprised he’s upset, she was quite a looker”.
“For God’s sake it went deeper than that”.
“Hmm”, he said distractedly, “Listen Alice give him a hug from his dad, I’ve got a problem with my plot. Later”.
Sighing I put the phone down and weighed out the measurements for a batch of flapjacks – when all else fails I take Nigella’s lead and use the smell of warm cakes as therapy. It must be something to do with our olfactory system and the fact that the aroma of baking returns us to our own childhood and of a kitchen and a mother and a grandmother. Anyway, no sooner had I poured the molten syrup into my rolled oats than Mags and her sister Lucy, “Coo-ee’d” through the front door. I hadn’t seen Lucy for some time and had forgotten how formidable she was. A Home Counties dweller, she has a go getting career that has been facilitated by a succession of no-nonsense nannies. Her daughters - young teenagers, are what’s referred to these days as, ‘princesses’ and what these little princesses want, they have. For instance a stretch limo took them and their little friends to Pizza Express in the West End of London when they were nine, leaving little to the imagination now they are approaching seventeen. Consequently, Lucy has spawned a couple of monsters who must now be bought 50 quid knickers, be supplied with their own credit cards and for Valentine’s Day, it transpired over warm flapjacks and a cafetiere of coffee, their gifts from their boyfriends were Tiffany knick-knacks. These baubles were not saved up for by the boyfriends after a hard year’s paper round – oh no, Lucy’d bought them for the boyfriends to give her little darlings because “they have very high standards”. Crackers.
Normality of a sort will be restored on Monday when the two eldest ones return to school and when double chemistry will hopefully take my son’s mind off his angst. With the advent of Cornwall’s half-term it’s round two for me however and I am taking the little ones to London on the train for a couple of days. Should anyone see me, frazzled and attempting to keep control of two spirited little girls, please, don’t hesitate to help.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Salsa Lessons

Hubby, frustrated that his wife is yet again under the weather has given me an ultimatum, “Alice you better be up to speed next weekend”, he complained, when after getting under the duvet with me he had to remove a pile of snotty tissues and a Vicks inhaler before he could put his head on the pillow, “Or I shall spend next Saturday night salsa dancing with other, less contagious women,
“Sorry” I groaned, wheezing and snuffling, “I don’t intend to catch a cold midweek just to thwart your prurience. In fact I can hazard a guess that I am far more cheesed off than you are”.
Unfortunately, another week has passed, Hubby is home again and my sinuses are still more congested than central London. In a few hours time I have to apply make-up to a red chapped nose, split lips and take enough tissues with me to ensure that, when I am getting my groove on, I am not hindered by an unattractive snout, emitting mucus.
Hubby ever the subtle soul declared, “Good God Alice love, I’ve seen you look better. Are you sure you want to go out?”
Well, as I’ve been looking forward to a night out for ages and as the last couple of weeks has seen me in bed with a Lemsip by 8.30, this is not what I want to hear, especially as the friends we are going dancing with are slim, gorgeous and supple – as Hubby endeavours to point out, “Alice is as bendy as a step ladder.”
To be honest my self esteem has taken a battering this week, spurred on by a visit to the rheumatologist. My back, knee and toe have been playing up for so long that visits to various consultants are now a regular thing. The knee chap, after a little exploratory surgery last Easter – washed his hands of me and handed my case to the rheumatologist. Of course, the NHS being what it is I had my first meeting with him just before Christmas, when I had no choice but to take the 2 year old with and where, predictably, she created havoc, although even I didn’t foresee her playing with all the vials of formaldehyde and thus ensuring that the nurses abandoned me to take the toddler off to be surgically washed.
This week I went alone. It comes to something when a couple of hours spent alone in a hospital waiting room is akin to ‘me time’, but to be honest, sitting in a plastic chair, with a Klix coffee in one hand and a two year old copy of Horse and Hound in the other, is my idea of rapture. I was alone, no-one to read stories to, no noses other than my own to wipe. Basically, no one to entertain other than I and all that takes is a little peace and quiet. By the time my name was called, I was feeling quite serene and with a skip in my step I entered the consultant’s room. He is a dour man, with little facial expression. He nodded in my direction and rifled through my notes, then he scratched his head.
“No doubt it will come as no surprise to you that your x-ray results have not been forwarded to me”.
“None whatsoever”, I replied cynically.
“Your blood tests have though and as far as I can see, there is nothing to indicate anything degenerative”.
“I must admit though that you are very fat. And the enzymes in that fat are like parasites attacking your joints”.
“Well”, I answered, rather winded, “Thankyou for your brutal candour”
“No point beating about the bush. Do you exercise?”
“I would like to but with four children it is very hard to get out regularly?”
“Navy wife”.
“Also, I am very aware that I am in a lot of pain and the idea of my sacrum being pounded on an exercise mat makes me despair.” What he said next though made me want to retreat to the inner depths of a cave and stay there until I had starved myself to the current, mythical media size zero
“The thing is I’d like to suggest that you go swimming, but of course you’d be far too embarrassed to do that”.
I’m quite a bold person –not really much of a wimp, but even I reeled at this diagnosis. My head started to spin. Good God did I really look that frightful? Should I not go out now, or if I do, should I cover myself in a shroud?
I retreated to my car, my tail firmly between my legs but after a couple of miles of figuratively licking my wounds I got very cross. How dare he make the assumption that just because I am over-weight I feel too disgusted to be seen? Surely weight and body image are two different issues; besides there are plenty of ropey looking skinny women at Luxe Park pool as well as those, bigger fatter and older than I. Now I’m not suggesting for a minute that I have the confidence to stand there in my cossie and call out “Coo-ee! Here I am” to all and sundry, but neither would a fat arse and jelly belly stop me from going swimming with my kids.
Of course a cold compounded my unattractiveness and as I said, later today, I somehow have to elicit a sexy poise and self-assurance as my husband twirls me around the dance floor to some Latin American vibes.My son, recently safely returned from Snowdonia is keen for me to go out. “You look smashing mum. It’ll do you good, don’t rush home”. I can smell a rat a mile off, especially a teenage one, which is why when I’m out dancing and he and his lovely girlfriend are here- his sisters, their DVD’s, their Barbies and their Playdoh will be the chaperones. I’m not daft.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Bollywood Birthday

Dear Hubby, so terrified is he that when he leaves his beloved Royal Navy- which God help him isn’t a hundred years away - he won’t be able to pay a crucifying mortgage, put two kids through college and pay for the other two’s lifestyle stipulations that, on top of his busy job, he has taken on the onerous task of an M.Sc. degree. I do my best to sound interested and supportive but sorry, it really is very boring. Now when I did my degree in English Lit, my essays discussed sexual repression, intrigue, gothic erotica and other fabulously diverting subjects but, when I ask Hubby what he’s studying - and bless him he’s so ready to impart the information - within a sentence not only have I lost interest, I’ve lost the will to live, but then how the hell can strategic positioning sound sexy?
So last weekend, having put my beloved son on his bus to Snowdonia, Hubby came home, got his books out and, with furrowed brow, ploughed through the first chapter. Having been without him all week, this is not what I needed to see, especially given there were several little girls due to arrive in a few hours for a Bollywood bash. The five year old, who had been up since 6.45 was already dolled up in her Salwar Kameez, gold bangles jangling up her arm, jewelled flip flops adorning her feet. Her little sister, never one to be outdone, had on a toddler sized sari and was equally impatient for the festivities to commence.
“Could you give me a hand?”, I asked pointedly, as I balanced precariously above Hubby’s head trying to stick balloons around the ceiling.
“Hmmm?”, he answered, evidently elsewhere.
“We are having a birthday party here today. Up until now I have not troubled your pretty little head with the minutiae of its arrangements but suffice it to say that there is still quite a bit to be done”.
“Not the Bollywood thing surely?”
“Yup, there is not a Wotsit in sight. So whilst I go and rinse the basmati rice, could you please sort these balloons out, wrap up the pass the parcel, lay the table and sort out the soundtrack?” Sighing and with great dramatic gestures, Hubby shut his tome of a text book with an almighty thwack, flipped the lid shut on his lap top and removed his briefcase from the path of any stray onion bahjees.
The afternoon was spent in a frenzy of activity. Decorations were hung, incense sticks lit, rice cooked, curry made, onion bahjees, samosas and poppadums removed from their wrappers. Naan bread was heated up and raita swiftly mixed. Mango chuntey, Bombay mix and Papaya juice were set out, along with the plates, cutlery and cups. Last of all I had to put together the party bags – which this year, were a real winner. Mags had taken me the previous week to a fantastic Indian shop in Totnes where we found wonderful little shoulder bags big enough for a wooden elephant, a bangle, a ring and a jewelled tea light holder. Hubby was apoplectic.
“How much money have you spent on this party Alice? We’re not the bloody Beckham’s”. Mags walked in at that point.
“Oh don’t be such a kill-joy”, she said soothingly to Hubby, kissing him on his bindi. “The place looks and smells great. Good job Alice. Anything I can do?”
I pondered what was left to do. The children were ready; the eleven year old looked fabulous, tall and slim in her green and silk sari, jewellery up her arm, knock-out earrings dangling from her lobes, her dark brown glossy hair almost skimming her bottom.
“Wow look at you”, I exclaimed as she walked into the dining room, “You really do look as though you’ve walked off a movie set”. She was thrilled and without prompting organised the music for the pass the parcel game. Even Hubby in his white linen Nehru shirt looked very handsome. I only had myself and Dad left to dress. My hair, which I hadn’t had time to wash was scraped up into a slide, I threw a green kaftan on and ran back downstairs. Dad, who was sitting on the sofa being attended to by Mags, looked bewildered. She was tying a turban around his head and my daughter had my red Chanel lipstick in her hand and was applying a long male bindi.
“I think we may have our religions mixed up a little. Seikh’s wear turbans and Hindu’s a bindi. Besides, given the length of that bindi Grand-dad looks more like an old, Seikh Harry Potter!” and handing him one of the two year old’s wet wipes, he hastily dabbed at his forehead. Immediately the door bell rang and within ten minutes all the little guests had arrived. They looked incredibly lovely – all their mums had made a sterling effort regarding their costumes and while they played the first game, I re-heated the curry and brought it to the table.
“Grub’s up”, called Hubby and squealing, as only 5 year olds can, they ran to the table and eyed up their dinner suspiciously.
“Do you have any chips?” asked one, whilst another started to cry, “I don’t like that”.
Luckily, a friend and neighbour who is a dab hand with a deep fat fryer had been instructed to produce a ton of chips and chicken teddies and just as the little girl’s sobs were becoming intensified, the chicken and chips arrived.
I daren’t look in Hubby’s direction for, had I seen an expression of “I told you so”, written on his face, I’d have smashed it.
Later, after the mothers collected their little darlings, overjoyed with their prizes, henna tattoos and bags – the god-mother’s and their husbands stayed. Having washed up and cleared away, they felt entitled to a little liquid compensation. The following morning, I found Hubby looking every inch the student - nursing Alka Seltzer in one hand, an academic book in the other.