Saturday, 31 December 2011

Twenty Twelve Vision

As everyone else is saying how rubbish 2011 has been I thought I'd offer my own review of a year that has been a bit of a curate's egg. I've watched Charlie Brooker's Newswipe and it pretty much encapsulated the news events for me, so I refer you to that for the newsy / political perspective done far better than I would have managed it.

The year began with a very close friend coming back from the dead. I mean properly actually dying then having the paddles to bring her back (like in the movies). I put it down to a desperate need for attention myself - it had been a few years since she got married and our friends live in other parts of the world so it took something radical  in order to get them to call. Mission accomplished. She is under strict orders not to repeat this so we're all waiting with bated breath to see what fresh capers she has planned…

I had my first Mother's Day as a mother this year. Of course my son was oblivous to the significance of this. In later years he may badly wrap a gift to give me, but for now I'm content that hubbie helps and we kid ourselves he has any idea what is going on. (I have deliberately left this dubious so you can decide who I mean).

In May we sold our house - the first home me and hubbie have owned together. The home we brought our son back from the hospital to. The home we brought Neo from Battersea Cats & Dogs Home to. Of course it took months to actually move (see Oct), but someone came to see it in May and said she'd buy it. Result !

To everyone else August in London was about lunatics in balaclavas nicking TVs from the walls of betting shops. For my family it was all about the "Monsoon Wedding" of my youngest sister complete with a flower strewn Ambassador and bangra rhythms. It was also a chance for Khushbir to dress up in his Bollywood finery and impress everyone by applauding at the speeches.

Having enjoyed a year of playgroups, back-to-back Come Dine With Me and cups of tea with other Mums the time came to return to work and in September I went back to a new location, but the same colleagues. I'm not sure if it just because I had been away and I missed my boy, but going back to work was truly hideous. The only silver lining in all this was that my boy had his first birthday at the end of September and we celebrated with cake and hats and singing so now he knows that the correct response to a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday is to put out his hand for a piece of cake. That's my boy !

After months of frantic phone calls between vendors, buyers, the bank, the estate agents and solicitors we finally moved house in October. We paid to have a company move all our belongings, which I admit does make life much simpler, but isn't entirely foolproof. We had boxes marked as containing curtains with kitchen items and picture frames in. I wasn't sure if this was simply a mistake or an elaborate attempt to make us laugh when unpacking. The final straw for me was having to wear the same two pairs of shoes for weeks until I looked in the box marked "baby's room" which had all my shoes in it the entire time !

In November after weeks of going into work and being pretty much ignored and sidelined I decided to leave. It wasn't the simplest decision, but one that having been made proved to be the best course of action. My work colleagues continued to ignore me and on my last day only two people actually wished me well. If I could be bothered I'd take up a case of constructive dismissal, but frankly being able to spend every day with my boy is the best outcome I could have asked for - regardless of how I came to it.

So we come to the last month of the year when I had already finished going into work and was able to concentrate on preparing for Christmas and more importantly the wedding of our own TOWIE stars. I love, love, love weddings and this one was in a fairytale setting (albeit in Essex) with the funniest best man's speech we've heard in a while.

My year began with a friend's health scare and it ends the same way. A good friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing treatment in early January. She is my age and has a young son. Whatever else happens in 2012 we've already agreed to go shopping for wigs together and discussed how to wear scarves at a jaunty angle to cover hair loss.

I hope 2012 brings you happiness, good health an abundance of love and just enough wealth to not spoil you.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

lip-smacking, gnocchi-making, cheerleading, hubbieman :o)

So I was watching Ocean's Eleven the other evening and while I drooled watching Brad and George it occurred to me that I have very pedestrian taste in the men I lust after from afar. It isn't like I'm the only one to have noticed that William Bradley Pitt is a good looking chap so I console myself with the knowledge that I noticed him first.

It was while watching Thelma and Louise at university (as an example of feminism in film) that my least feminist thoughts came to me about the character of JD. It's mainly that thing he does when he licks his lips - which any girl who has read romantic fiction will tell you is what the hero does right before he kisses you passionately.

Similarly I remember George - before he was considered gorgeous - as Booker in Roseanne, a wholly unlikeable character who dated Roseanne's sister Jackie and was written out fairly early on. I recall thinking he was yummy, but feeling bad about it as he was such a git. So imagine my feeling of joy when years later he reappeared as a doctor in ER and it was ok to fancy him again ! Of course the real appeal of George isn't his twinkly look, it is his complete refusal to settle down. Remember how Warren Beattie was the sexiest man alive and considered untameable, so when he finally did marry Annette Bening his sex appeal vanished. George is far too savvy to risk it, so it gives all of us hope that we might get a go. Well, if Mariella Frostrup and Lisa Snowdon can go out with him then I'm pretty sure we're all in with a chance.

In reality neither of them would be quite considerate enough for me which is why I'm with my hubbie. Ok, it's not the only reason, it's not like I weighed up the odds of ending up with either George or Brad and decided that hubbie was a better bet. He did the leg work and continues to put up with the insanity that is my approach to life. Whether it's the ever changing house rules, "I never use the stripey glass for water." "Can I have some water in the stripey glass please ? Of course it's ok, it's a glass isn't it ?" or my inability to read instructions that come with anything, he is the most patient of human beings.

At the time I met my hubbie I'd been online dating for a while and had met the usual array of weirdos, loonies and men who suddenly realise they are alone and all their friends are paired off so they had better meet someone pretty soon. (Don't worry they say equally lovely things about the women they met). My expectations were low and I was just grateful to meet an intelligent man who didn't mind being beaten by a woman in a debate. When we actually started to go out with each other (I can't say dating, it sounds too american and formal for the carnival of drinking and eating our way round London that was our early courtship) I realised that maybe I didn't have unattainable standards, I'd just been going out with completely the wrong people. We went to an italian restaurant one evening and I fancied gnocchi which I was told they didn't have, so I changed my order. A week later when we were having dinner at his place he cooked me gnocchi and I told him that it was my favourite pasta. Later he confessed that he made it because I'd been disappointed at the restaurant and he wanted to make me happy. Seriously, how often does someone tell you they want to make you happy ?

Now, having been married for five years he has gone from hanging on my every utterance to selective deafness (which happens in all marriages I'm told) and as we live together the element of surprise is pretty non-existent. So you can imagine my delight when I received an unexpected early Christmas present on Saturday. I'd just been on Radio London telling Robert Elms that my dream would be to learn to fly and hubbie and baby were in the other room cheering me along. When the item finished hubbie went upstairs to get something and came back and presented me with the gift of a flying lesson. Apparently when we were out exploring a few weeks back and managed to end up at Biggin Hill I mentioned that I'd love to have a go at flying and he had remembered.

So you see Brad and George, while you are wealthy and famous and good looking and have a special place in my heart, it will always be just below the place reserved for hubbie.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Stressed is desserts backwards - like that helps !

I managed to get the baby to sleep and thought I'd blog a little, then I found a post I hadn't finished and thought that might be fun to share. I must have started writing this in mid-late Sept when the prospect of moving house seemed a distant dream. Now I'm sitting on the sofa in the new house and am in the slightly less stressful process of ignoring Christmas. Oh well it's nice to know that all things (even the stressful ones) pass, so here goes...

--- I'm not sure why it happens, but it just does. All the most stressful things that can happen in life converge at once. The last time I bought a house - as I recall - I managed to get divorced, change jobs, and buy a home in the space of about two months.

As usual my brother drove the hired van, as usual I lost my temper and burst into tears and as usual there was far too much stuff for the space. At the end of it all there was a bed that had travelled with me for many years and a lot of books, but nothing to sit on or to watch or listen to. I surveyed the surroundings and looked at the view of Battersea Power Station out of the window and breathed a sigh of relief. Then I got in my car and drove to my Mother's house.She was preparing dinner and I took a plate out and sat and the table and barely looking round she said "What are you doing here ? Aren't you staying in your own place tonight ?"

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those boomerang children who keep going back home and never want to leave, believe me. I'd gone to university in the Midlands and had even taken a job in Wiltshire to get away from home, however, I had agreed with my folks an arrangement where I'd stay with them to save money and help pay for my home. It had taken so long for it all to work out and happen that I had forgotten that the point of all the hassle was to actually live in the place.

And now seven years later it's all flooding back to me, except this time I have a chain and estate agents to deal with as well as a husband, a baby and a cat.  My first home was a new build and as a first time buyer I had no chain, so I had no appreciation of how mind numbingly tedious and petty the process can be. One evening our estate agent called to ask if we were taking the trees and satellite dish with us. To be honest I felt like saying, "yes, I am planning on digging up the entire garden to take with us - including the new fence - and I will be taking the dish and all the guttering that my husband replaced last summer."Apparently some people take the light bulbs, switches and even plants from the ground when the move. Heaven forbid I add to my already burgeoning loft full of belongings. ---

…that reminds me, now that it's getting colder I need to clear the garage of all our belongings so that the car can go in the garage instead of boxes of things we really don't need. Of course the reason I'm sitting on the sofa now is avoidance. When I could be sorting and finding a place for all the things we moved here with I've decided that blogging is a far better use of my time. The garage and spare room will just have to wait.

Oh and I've now iced the Christmas cake - let the festivities begin !!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

This woman's work

We went to a wedding on Saturday - it was a lovely sunny winter day and I had been really looking forward to it for months. The planning was as follows:

A few months before:
Received invitation so I completed the food preferences section and gave the card to hubbie to hand to the bride-to-be (his work colleague).
Hubbie forgot to take the card in. He promised to book accommodation in plenty of time.

One week before:
I checked where the wedding card was that I'd bought a while back. Also checked what to get as a gift using the invitation I'd kept safe.
Hubbie went online to finally book accommodation that he started looking at months ago (did I mention it takes him 6 months to get round to doing anything ?) - hence we are staying 20 minutes away and not at a closer hotel with transport to and from the wedding as provided by the happy couple.

3 days before:
I made sure I'd received and tried on the frock I ordered to wear and checked the baby had suitable clothing and a change of outfit.
Hubbie remembered his suit needed dry cleaning.

The day before:
I started to pack baby items and made sure the buggy was in the car and that the baby changing bag was loaded up and ready.
Hubbie programmed the sat nav.

The morning of the wedding:
I made breakfast and packed for me and baby including bedding and spare clothes and food. Packed the car and got myself and baby ready to go.
Hubbie moved loft boards (that have been sitting in spare room in front of the cupboard) and took out travel bags. Programmed the sat nav again.

On the way to the wedding:
I set up the dvd player in the car to keep the baby occupied. Got my book ready to read on the journey while hubbie drove.
Hubbie asked me if I had any money for the Dartford Crossing, I said I didn't and he went quiet. I offered to get some money out on the way. Hubbie said nothing. As the motorway sign indicated the Dartford Crossing up ahead I asked hubbie if he had any money and he said he didn't. When I asked what he planned to do he said, "Shall I pull over at the next services then ?" My response is unrepeatable. After a detour to Bluewater and some circles of the car park I ran into M&S and bought some sandwiches, fruit and drinks, got cashback and then bought some mints to make change. Got back into the car - seething.

At the wedding:
One of hubbie's work colleagues makes a comment about me feeding the baby 'crisps' at the table. I smile and tell her they aren't crisps.
Hubbie carries his son around to show off to other work colleagues and receives plaudits and smiles for doing such a good job as a Daddy.

The next morning:
I load up the car as hubbie and baby stand at the window watching me and click the car lock from inside. I check to make sure I have money for the Dartford crossing and programme the sat nav.
Hubbie starts to hold his forehead - a sure sign that he'll take to his bed later 'poorly,' but he'll still go to work tomorrow and expect sympathy when he gets home. I tell him to sit in the back with the baby and rest while I drive us all home.

Home from the wedding:
I unload the car, put the washing into the machine, feed the cat, sort out some lunch and defrost something for dinner.
Hubbie puts the baby to bed and goes for a lie down upstairs.

I can't wait for Christmas !

Friday, 2 December 2011

An Ode to tea

A friend came to visit on Sunday afternoon and I offered him a cup of tea with his cookies, mince pies and cupcake. I opened the cupboard and listed what we had: Assam, Darjeeling, Lapsang Souchong, Yorkshire tea, PG Tips and various herbal and caffeine free options. It was then that I realised my love affair with tea is getting out of hand. Having a variety of teas is fine, rivalling the East India Company is going a bit too far.

It actually started when I realised that I was down to my last few teabags and panicked. As I was going to work I popped into Sainsburys and bought some emergency packs of Yorkshire tea and Twinings Everyday tea. Then the next time I was in Waitrose they had an offer on Twinings so I got some Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey and Assam. There was a free tin with one of them so that was alright. Then I got home and found some Assam and Darjeeling in the back of the cupboard so they came to the front.

So now my daily schedule of tea is thus: PG tips for breakfast, Assam or Yorkshire for morning cuppa while baby sleeps, Darjeeling after lunch while baby sleeps, random selection for afternoon tea. Assam as evening cup and again random for last tea of the day. It's all very bohemian when I throw in a Honeybush or Moonlight Jasmine green tea for a change. It sounds silly, but having so many types of tea has given me a new appreciation for the taste and experience of drinking tea. My palate has become attuned to the slightly tinny nature of Assam, the mild, but ultimately strong perfume of Darjeeling (the champagne of teas no less !) and the sweet comfort of Honeybush caffeine free.

The downside is that now I'm home full time I'm averaging around 6-7 cups a day and before long I'll rival Tony Benn in the tea drinking stakes. Add to this my return to pre-Christmas baking and it is a seriously dangerous combination that ultimately will lead to an expanded waistline and me grumbling that I'm too fat. Hubbie will mumble something about how I'm not and look sympathetic while polishing off the oat and raisin cookies to help me out. It's far too stressful to think about - I'm off for a brew.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

You 'n' Resolutions

In a few weeks time most of us will be considering what to resolve to stop doing on 31st Dec 2011 and what to start doing on 1st Jan 2012. Channelling my inner psychic I predict that there will be a few who will resolve to stop smoking, drink less, lose weight, change job, make money and a few who resolve to move house. Resolutions tend to be a public declaration to do something that we haven't really committed to, but we feel obliged to start a new year with a new set of (old) aims. Of course if you really want to make a significant change in your life any day should be fine - why wait until 1st January ?

In the spirit of doing something realistic I've compiled a list of actions. If you just pick one to do - on any day you like - consider it a get out of jail free card with your resolutions later. Don't send me a Christmas card - even if it does donate 5% to charity - just pick something from the list and give it a go.

1. Register as an organ donor
2. Volunteer in your local community
3. Give blood
4. Make something with your own hands and give it to someone
5. Join your local freecycle group
6. Visit or write to an older person you know (no Santa does not count !)
7. Give away those old clothes / books / bric-a-brac you've been meaning to throw out for years
8. Instead of sending a text message or an email to a friend call them and have a conversation

Let me know how you get on :o)