Tuesday, 27 May 2008


I would like to be able to say in a few months time when I am svelte and slim that it was all my own hard work, that through gritty determination, a rigorous diet, some serious self-denial and sweaty, mind numbingly boring exercise that I achieved this killer figure. That would make me a terrible liar though and whilst my faults are myriad; being honest and candid isn’t one of them. So I hold my hands up and confess that I have taken myself off to the doctor where he immediately directed me on to the scales and before you could say clinically obese, I was handed a prescription for some diet pills.
It’s a shocker to tell you the truth. I knew I was overweight and bits of my anatomy were wobbling with more gusto than a row of jellies at a birthday party but still, obese? The very word conjures up families as seen in Disney World, turning puce whilst waddling in the Floridian sun. Believe me I’ve seen them.
I slunk out of the surgery the ‘o’ word spinning in my head and headed to the chemist where I duly handed in my prescription. I was never more ashamed than when I self consciously handed over my contraceptive pill prescription when I was a teenager. It’s a small town and I was convinced someone would meet my mum in the street and declare,’ Oh, so Alice is having sex then’. The irony was though that I wasn’t doing you-know- what but, ever the good Girl Guide, I wanted to be prepared.
I hung around the chemist waiting for my pills and as the girl handed them over to me, she smiled and said in a loud whisper, “Don’t worry. You don’t look that fat”. I grabbed the bag in mortification and fleeing, ran head first into Mags. I pulled at her sleeve and dragged her outside.
“Oh my God Mags, you wouldn’t believe it, I’ve just been to the doctor to ask for help to lose weight and he told me that my BMI was clinically obese. So here I am with magic pills which should have the effect of transforming into a subject from a before and after Channel 5 shocker”.
“Bloody hell Alice”, Mags said grasping me to her pert, pointy chest, “Poor you, let me just get my vitamins and I’ll buy you lunch”. Walking to a restaurant was hardly the kind of exercise the doctor had in mind but I was feeling down in the dumps and a good meal usually has a positive effect on me. Not so today. As Mags sat down to eat her pesto and mozzarella baguette, I picked over a ham salad.
“D’you know what’s missing from my plate?” I asked her gloomily.
“Olives?”, she suggested. I shook my head, “No, chips”. She laughed and choked on her baguette simultaneously and I fished my new wonder pills out of my bag.
“Let’s read the side effects”, I said pulling out the leaflet before muttering, “Oh dear God”.
“That bad?”, asked Mags.
“No I can’t read it. I need my glasses”.
“Bloody hell Alice love”, Mags said for the second time that day, “You haven’t got much going for you”.
“I’ll choose to ignore that remark”, I said, positioning my specs and reading the leaflet. I sniggered, “Well the first side effect, fortuitously, is loss of appetite followed however in quick succession with constipation, hot flushes and anxiety”.
“Nothing new there then”, replied Mags dourly.
We finished our lunches and came home to my house for coffee, picking up the Red-Head who’d been to play with a friend on the way.
The mother of the child looked a little nervous and very apologetically said, “I’m afraid that while I made their sandwiches your daughter went to the bathroom..” but before she could say any more, the Red-Head came hopping out, only no longer a Red-Head, more Raspberry-Head.
“Hi mummy, I look like Stephanie from Lazy Town don’t I?” and before I could say a word she launched into a very loud and very repetitive rendition of the theme tune.
“I’m so sorry”, said the mother, “They were only alone for a matter of minutes but she got hold of a sachet of my teenager’s punk hair dye. I just can’t understand how a three year old could have opened the sachet”.
“But I’m very good with my scissor skills, they told me at play school”, quipped my daughter, pausing for a moment only to start singing again.
“It’s a wash out dye if it’s any consolation” added the mother.
Arriving home I sat my lurid daughter down firmly with a large jigsaw puzzle before making the coffee. When I walked back in Mags was playing with my Nintendo DS. “Beat that”, she said punching the air triumphantly, “My brain age is 30”.
Feeling fat and old and discouraged, my mood exacerbated with having an unruly child, the last thing I needed was any more corroborating evidence that I was totally past it and to honest and I was about to decline. Instead a fighting sprit came over me, “Hand it over then” I said. With stylo poised I quickly did a series of random tests and minutes later a fanfare played flashing the brain age of 24. I was delighted.
When Hubby came home later he found me in the kitchen, the radio on loudly, accompanying Guns’n’Roses rather wildly with a mean bit of air guitar.
“Good grief Alice, do you have any idea how ridiculous you look? What's the matter with you?”
“I feel like a girl” I shouted, “Mags came round. We did the Nintendo thing and she was amazed that I had the brain age of a 24 year old”.
“What did she say about your 45-year old arse?”
“Your name never came up,” I replied.

Thankyou Yvonne for inspiring me.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Clever Clogs.

My family is very disdainful of my general knowledge. Hubby started the other night when, after a very busy day he demanded to know what ship he was ‘riding’ the following morning. Now God bless me, try as I might to keep up to speed with his comings and goings I really cannot recall every HMS Frigate and Destroyer our beloved Queen possesses and so I hazarded a guess, “H.M.S Euryalus?”
He quite literally guffawed on a mouthful of dry roasted peanuts that he’d thrown cockily into his mouth, a la some Hollywood cowboy. Some divine Karma gave me a reprieve for a minute as his lungs did their damndest to cough up the offending particles and he thumped at his chest. “H.M.S Danae then?”, I suggested.
“For God’s sake Alice”, he snarled, blowing his nose noisily, “What decade are you living in?”
“Oh I don’t know then, put me out of my misery”.
“Would that I could”, he answered, drily.
“Charming. Honestly darling, I find it hard to remember all these ships. You seem to be on a different one every day”, I replied.
“Well, that’s maybe because I am on a different one every day. There are those wives who take an active interest in their husband’s careers you know”.
“Are there dear?” I answered facetiously, “Of course I’ve had nothing to do with yours at all, just forsaken my own that you may pursue yours. In the paper this week it said how much it would cost to pay the average full time mum just for the childcare, and this isn’t even including laundry, chef, chauffeur and sexual contributor”, there was a pause, “Well it’s £60,000 if you must know”.
“I’m getting a bargain then”, he answered, “Besides this is getting off the point, tomorrow I’m on a German ship. Strike a chord now?”
I vaguely recalled something but heaven knows what the name of the ship was.
“To jog your memory all German ships are named after German provinces” he explained, although the vacant look on my face suggested geographical clues were not going to be of much help to me.
“Look love”, I answered impatiently, “ I barely know where Bavaria is, so I can assure you that I do not have at my disposal an encyclopaedic knowledge of German provinces. Sorry about that”. At that point my 12 year old daughter, who is au fait with seemingly endless facts on any given subject, walked in.
“Don’t waste your breath dad; mummy doesn’t know her Schleswig-Holstein from her Lower Saxony”. They both giggled.
“Oh ha bloody ha”, I grimaced, “Look I’m only too happy to be the butt of all jokes in this house, but as my role is that of mindless dogsbody and not ravishing intellectual, would either of you be kind enough to carry this food into the dining room and call the rest of your family to the table?”
Dinner was no academic amnesty however and no sooner had I had down to eat my baked ham than my son started. There’s a lot to be said for families sitting gormlessly in front of the TV as they eat. Far less intimidating, especially when one’s children are seemingly far brighter than the mother. I feel sometimes as though I’m in a D.H Lawrence novel where educated children return to the family only to feel ashamed of their dim-witted parent.
“So what did you do at school today son?” asked Hubby. I was concentrating on cutting up my three year old’s cauliflower cheese and getting her to stay at the table.
“Oh we had history today. We’re studying the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s very interesting”.
“I’ve read a book about that” added his eldest sister. Their father joined the conversation and whilst I tried desperately to keep up, the six year old needed more brown sauce, the youngest a wee and so on until finally they turned on me.
“So mum, did you study the Cuban crisis?” A low grade snigger went around the table. I put my knife and fork together and lay them down then sat back in my chair.
“Is that the same Cuban Missile Crisis in which President Kennedy on the 22nd October 1962 spoke these words and I quote, ‘It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union’?”
You could have heard a pin drop, I continued, “You mean the same Cuban Missile Crisis that was instrumental in the Cold War. The same cold war that the late and great Peter Ustinov wrote a play about, albeit a comic spoof? The one set in the small mythical mid-european country of Concordia, whose leader is wooed by America and the Soviet Union each one wanting him as an ally? If I remember rightly, Russia's ambassador, a member of the Romanoff family, has a son called Igor who falls in love with Juliet, the daughter of the US diplomat. The two opposing families, one communist, the other capitalist, represent the warring Capulets and Montagues of Romeo and Juliet? Is that the one you mean? Finish off your roast potatoes darling”, I leant over and stabbed my six year old daughter’s spud.
My children looked appropriately mortified; Hubby rather discomfitingly, just looked stunned.
“Baz Lurhmann, ‘F.Y.I’ young lady, is not the only one who has dallied with the Bard. There was life before Leonardo di Caprio you know”.
My six year old, who had been listening attentively, was intrigued by the shift in power around the table and instead of asking her father turned to me, “What do you know about Africa mummy? We are having an international week at school next week”.
“It’s very hot and very big, now finish your dinner”.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


“Alice, for the love of God, I’m getting up at five to go to sea, please get rid of them”.
“They’re still breastfeeding”, I mumbled into my pillow, “I’ll try and settle them”. I dragged myself out of bed and sat on the carpet attempting to scoop up three nocturnal kittens who were hell bent in keeping us awake by their insistence on scritch-scratching their way up our divan bed.
I didn’t get very far as no sooner had I collected them and replaced them in their cardboard box, than they escaped and scampered around my feet, making me terrified of moving in the dark lest I trod on one of them. As quietly as possible I whispered “Puss, puss, puss”, in an effort to get them to move out of the way. Vague shadows ran along the carpet.
“Alice puh-lease”, groaned Hubby from the depths of the duvet, “I can’t stand it. My alarm is going off in an hour and with some authority I must engage with the Belgian Navy soon thereafter. I cannot do that with any conviction if I am yawning my head off”.
“Bloody long sentence for four am”, I so wanted to say, but didn’t. Rowing in the very early hours is not good for one’s soul.
“Sorry darling”, I said instead, “But I don’t really know what to do with them. They are still too little to put downstairs, besides their mother must have access to feed them”.
“Just keep them quiet then”, was the muffled reply, before sonorous sounds emanated from under the covers.
Excellent, so Hubby was once again asleep and there I was in nary a pair of knicks, on my bedroom floor with twelve sharp little claws, climbing me, crampon like. I was most miffed. I pulled my pillow down from my bed along with my dressing gown and tried to get comfortable but within seconds a high pitched scream came from the direction of my youngest girl’s bedroom.
“Mummy!” Wearily I extricated the claws from my skin and heaved myself off the floor and cocked a leg over the makeshift gate that we have put across our bedroom door to stop kittens escaping. I sat down heavily on my three year old’s bed and stroked her red hair. “What is it sweetie?” I asked soothingly. Anything to keep the drama to a minimum and allow me back in my bed, ASAP.
“There are frogs all over the floor”, she sobbed, grabbing my arm and literally climbing onto me. “Take them away mummy, take them away”.
“Shush now darling. It’s just a dream, there are no frogs anywhere”.
Unconvinced, she jumped off my lap and onto her sister’s bed, screaming, “They’re everywhere! Get rid of them!” The bigger sister, it goes without saying, woke up immediately and started to cry, “What’s happening mummy? I’m tired. Why is she on my bed?”
“There, there” I continued with my soothing voice, “Your sister is having a bad dream, that’s all. Turn over”. I cradled the younger one, allowing the elder to go back to sleep, then after a quick lullaby, lay down with the youngest on her single bed. Finally her sobs subsided and nestling into a very uncomfortable niche in my lower back, she went to sleep. As I lay there, contemplating on how long I’d have to lie in such an excruciating position before getting up, Hubby like some naked apparition, appeared before me, “Oh there you are Alice. They’re at it again”.
All efforts to keep quiet and clam were now surrendered and I rose from the bed with the ferocity of an enraged viper.
“Look I know that your life is far more important than mine and that as such I should be the one awake all night but right now sleep is as elusive to me as it was to Macbeth and equally I am likely to do something murderous”. The Red Head was now awake again babbling once more about invisible amphibians.
Hubby, illuminated only by the dim light of a Barbie night light, looked hurt and confused.
“Don’t be like that Alice but I really have to be on the ball tomorrow” before adding, as he ruffled the Red Head’s hair, “is she on LSD?”
“Not that I’m aware of”, I replied standing up now and rocking a surprisingly heavy child. “Why don’t you go and sleep in the spare room?”
“Fine”, he replied sulkily and with as much dignity as is possible when one’s crown jewels are swinging unfettered, turned on his heel and went downstairs. I in turn carried my youngest onto my bed and put her in the spot her father had recently vacated. The kittens, ignorant of the dawn dispute they had created were now huddled together in one oblivious fluff ball.
The light of the day was seeping under my roman blind and I pulled a pillow over my head. Within minutes it seemed, the bugling sounds of Reveille, which Hubby, in his inimitably anchor faced way, uses as an alarm call, sounded from his mobile phone which was by his side of the bed. Shattered, I leant over the Red Head and turned it off with every intention of going downstairs to inform Hubby that he needed to get up. Only I didn’t. I just momentarily lay my head back on my pillow and was woken by his mobile phone again. Only this time it wasn’t the alarm, this time it was the ringing tone.
“Hullo?”, I said guardedly.
“Can I speak with Commander Band?” Commander Band, on being informed that he was late for work was not in a happy place and I was told in no uncertain terms as he left the house in a flurry of shaving foam and foul language that “Homes have to be found for those bloody cats or else...”

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Dark Skies.

It’s been one of those weeks were the weather has reflected my mood. One minute sunny and bright, the next grey and dark with the odd tempestuous outburst thrown in with barely a warning. It all started with my poor brother being made redundant. Is there anything worse than watching a member of your family suffer stress and anxiety? Hubby and I feel so helpless as unfortunately the elusive magic wand of megabucks is exactly that. I have bought a couple of scratch cards and a few lines on the Lotto but to no avail. I did hold my breath when I scratched away two £100,000 numbers only to win a quid. At least I got my money back.
The whole economic outlook is so gloomy it is very hard to be happy-go-lucky. I saw an ordinary sliced loaf of bread in my local supermarket this week for £1.86. For a loaf of bread? Unbelievable. Hubby has me on a tight shoe string. He made me do my weekly grocery shopping online this week so that my eyes didn’t buy anything on impulse, “Like DVD’s and anything in the ‘seasonal aisle’”
“Like what?”, I demanded hotly.
“Oh like a wooden deckchair last summer and six blow-up beds, not to mention a parasol with fairy lights and solar powered patio lights”.
“They were all a massive bargain”, I protested.
“That’s as maybe but we didn’t actually need any of them”. He then pulled up a chair and sat at my shoulder and supervised.
“Look at that! A bargain, buy one get one free”, he interjected cheerfully.
“But nobody likes corned beef”, I said sulkily.
“Like? This isn’t a question of whether we like it or not. These are hard times Alice and we must make do. You must learn to make things last two meals, beef one night can be mince the next. Roast chicken one night, risotto the next, soup the next and so on”. I hate him so much when he lends that air of condescension that I could stab him. Repeatedly.
“And what do you suggest I do with sausages once baked?”
“Put them in a pot mess the next day and add baked beans to it for filler. It’ll be tasty and nutritious, or make it into a shepherd’s pie”. My God you can tell he’s been a caterer in his past life.
So when the delivery man arrived I was not as excited to see him as I am when occasionally I have used this service before and know that I have ordered speciality breads and all sorts of delicious little thing in pots from the deli. Instead I miserably put my corned beef away with the tinned stuff along with pulses, soup and canned tuna. My sausages, mince and chicken went in the fridge along with value spuds and carrots. My kitchen is a mangetout* free zone. Hubby’s only concession to extravagance was a couple of bottles of good red wine which had 50% off along with some Jaffa Cakes and a string bag of satsumas.
Not convinced that swapping pork fillet for pork sausages was the answer to my stringent household budget I was even more cheesed off the following day as I awaited the heating engineer. Now anyone who knows me well would agree that skilled workmen and I do not go hand in hand. Something always occurs just to ensure that the experience is never mutually beneficial. I therefore did not hold out much hope for the man I had finally chosen for the job, however polite and reassuring he had seemed.
Well I needn’t have worried. He and his lovely Welsh sidekick arrived before I’d even put my drawers and were still there at 7.15 that night having only had a twenty minute break for lunch. They worked like troopers all day, efficiently and calmly. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. In the past when things haven’t exactly gone my way and I have felt the distinct need to throw a small tantrum, Hubby has always reciprocated with his infuriating old naval adage of ‘adapt and overcome’. Generally this heightens the tantrum and makes me spit feathers but here indeed were two men who seemed to live by that motto and thus any little hiccup was dealt with without any scratching of heads or sucking of teeth or indeed shaking of heads or more importantly the need to involve me. A flue was inserted into the roof without so much as tile cracking; the old boiler was picked up by a man, quite literally with a van. Pipes were exchanged and sexy, digital thermostats fitted. Carpets and floorboards were lifted and replaced and I just provided the tea, lots of it and Bob’s your uncle, job done! My chap even came back the following day just to give me a tutorial on how to work my new boiler’s controls. How about that for service? Very highly recommended.
Hubby returned home from work and was delighted, “Bloody hell Alice, you chose well. This boiler’s going to save us a lot in energy bills” and he kissed the top of my head. My dad is delighted too, not so much perhaps in splashing out three grand but by the fact that I have shut up about boilers at last and more notably, the chances of his grandchildren being poisoned by carbon monoxide as they sleep, has significantly reduced. My brother, God bless him came round and made all the right noises about my new toy but his heart wasn’t in it. “Thing is Alice, aside from the chest crushing anxiety of not having a salary I really like working there. I’ve been there ten years. I enjoy my job. My colleagues are my friends”. A heavy, black cloud came over the house and deluge fell outside. I gave him a hug. Car salesmen they say are ruthless. Well this one, believe me, ain’t.