Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick or sweets?

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I’m all kitted out in black, with thick tights emblazoned with glittery bats. Tres chic. A homage to my goth days.

Ella is waiting until we go trick or treating tonight as she’s far too cool to be seen out and about in her costume during the day. Unlike her mother who has no shame whatsoever.

Did you know that the tradition of dressing up as otherworldly creatures started so that people could blend in when the real spirits of the dead came walking on the earth? Cute. I’m not sure how fitting in with dead people morphed into cadging sweets from your neighbours though.

Ever noticed how the main religious festivals centre around sweets? Easter eggs, chocolate advent calendars, chocolate coins in stockings, trick or treat sweets. Apart from Lent, which is mainly about not having sweets. I think.

I’m off to make pumpkin pie. Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

But Mummy, It's My Wedding Too!

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Ella, my five year old, led a Q&A session with J and me in the car last week. Subject: our upcoming wedding. Objective: to glean as much detail as possible. Result: she realised she won’t be staying with us on our wedding night.

“But why do I have to stay with Daddy after? Why can’t I stay with you?”
(Tense pause whilst my stomach knots and I prepare myself to deal with a tantrum).

“Well, it’s traditional for the people getting married, the husband and wife, to be alone on their wedding night, darling.”

“But that’s not fair, mummy. It’s my wedding too!”

“Er, no sweetie it isn’t actually your wedding. It’s mummy and J’s wedding.”

Before she can protest, I go into Automatic Child Placating Mode, “You know, you are a very important part of the wedding, my darling, and you have a very important job - which is to be a Flower Girl, and to look very pretty, and to help make our day special. That includes being a good girl and staying at Daddy’s that evening. And anyway, you will get your turn when you’re older. You can have your own wedding.”

“But it isn’t fair ‘cos I might not want to get married when I’m older.”

Hmm. She has a point.

“Ella, look at that red umbrella that lady is carrying. Look! Isn’t it bright!”

Phew. Thank god for distraction tactics.

Yesterday, J and I went to the Registry Office to give our notice of marriage. We discussed our choice of vows and whether we wanted a reading. The Registrar suggested we could bring a song on a CD to round off the ceremony.

“What sort of thing can we have?”

“Practically anything. You know, someone recently signed the register to the tune of Bob the Builder.”

“As in the kid’s TV theme tune?!”


It turns out that it was the choice of the bride’s three year old son. And now I’m sure that there must be a mummy out there who has sacrificed her wedding night – and all it traditionally entails – to make their child feel included.

I thank the lady with the red umbrella for my lucky escape.

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Three in a Bed and the Little One Said...

Ella came into our room at 3am this morning, “Mummy, I’ve had a nightmare can I sleep with you?” Half an hour later, hot because I was sandwiched between Ella and J, I decided to slope off to Ella’s bed.

Unfortunately, my sneaking around woke up J who also decided he would be better able to sleep by himself. J got out of bed and went to the sitting room where he attempted to squeeze his six foot two frame onto our two seater sofa (bless).

At 4am, sensing something was amiss, Ella awoke to find herself stranded in our bed and came to find me. “I’m scared and all alone, mummy”. No problem. I went to join her back in my own bed.

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At 4.30am, I went to the loo and realised that J was watching TV, unable to sleep on our tiny sofa. “Honey, I’ll put El in her bed, you go back to our bed and get comfortable.”

I picked El up, very very gently, and snuck her into her own bed. As soon as I’d tucked the duvet over her she opened her eyes, “Mummy, I’m still too scared to sleep by myself. Please can you stay with me?” No problem. I went to join her in her bed. It was quite a squash.

After an hour or so of ineffectual travelling to the Land of Nod, I slipped out of Ella’s bed and went to join J back in our bed.

Tired? Moi? 

Friday, 24 October 2008

Nits just not fair

I discovered lice in Ella’s hair othe other morning. I kept her out of school for the day, took her to the pharmacist and made a few calls to my clients to reschedule my work commitments. 

No problem. As a freelancer, I can de-nit without dropping a stitch.

A friend of mine recently had to take a day off from work with her son so she could treat him for headlice. Her line manager admonished her with ‘when I have children I won’t do a job like this’. 

Really? Does she plan to provide for her future children on a Tesco’s wage then? I know some mothers manage this, but it’s some kind of alchemy that I can’t fathom. Most working mums in professional jobs are there because they need a professional wage.

The morning after her impromptu day off, my friend realised - in the middle of a presentation to a new client - that she had wildlife crawling on her scalp. Poor love. Too worried about what her line manager would say, she dared not cancel her next meeting to go home and delouse. Oh no. She spent the rest of the working day trying desperately not to scratch. 

It sounds like the cruel premise for a challenge on the Japanese game show, Endurance. Surely this is above and beyond the call of duty?

But I know how she feels. We working parents are expected to be grateful for every damned UNPAID day’s leave we take due to child-related complications. The absent mum usually feels so guilty that she’ll do her damndest to ‘make up the time’ by working late or bringing work home...I know. I’ve been there.

However, I must confess that I’m a recent convert to this point of view. In my pre-child days, I scowled at my colleagues-cum-mothers who left work on-the-dot at 5pm, shamelessly eschewing the unspoken rule that any nine-to-fiver worth their salt really should be working from eight to seven.

At the time, being a fun-loving girl in my twenties, I never once thought about my own lack of productivity from coming into work still a bit drunk from the previous night. Oh, and of course the unauthorised ‘duvet days’ to nurse a hangover. Childless people go for After Work Drinks. Even on Mondays.

I also had weeks off at a time with flu and colds worsened by my twenty-a-day smoking habit. Most mums I know stop smoking in pregnancy. And there was the regular morning brain fog due to regular evening spliffs.

At least working parents usually know how to act like grown-ups. If only our childless colleagues could treat us like ones.

Not only do working parents have a better work ethic, we are more efficient. We have to be. How else could we look after our children and our partners, earn money, do all the shopping and cooking AND maintain close friendships and fun hobbies? We alone know how to warp space and time. 

Tell that to your lousy line manager.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Oh What A Night...

Last Friday, my old schoolfriend Sarada left her husband and three kids (temporarily) to paint Reading town red with me. I’ve had a few ‘mum’s nights out’ in my time and they are usually sweet but rather insipid affairs involving a meal, the cinema, a few glasses of wine and some pleasantries about our kids, our shoes and our weight.

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Nice - but a little restrained for my tastes. Still, it’s hard to find other mums who share my penchant for getting on down to techno, trance, hip hop and drum n bass. Sarada being pretty much the only exception that proves the rule.

At 10.30pm, after Sarada and I had downed quite a few vodka and cokes, my darling fiancé drove us giggling girlies to my favourite local club, Plug n Play

It’s a tiny venue that’s a recording studio by day, and a live music venue and nightclub by night. I love it because I don’t feel sad and old when I’m there – it’s full of people in their thirties and forties who still want to enjoy themselves and are besmirching the ‘pipe and slippers in front of the fire’ scenario our parents subscribed to, in favour of the ‘thirties (and forties?) are the new twenties’ motto some of us prefer to uphold.

We were there for Eat Static, a techno/trance outfit born in 1989 out of the legendary Psychedelic 'Space Rock' band the Ozric Tentacles. Having seen them years ago at the world music festival, Womad, I was expecting great things. What I got was a time trip.

The music was the body-shaking, spirit-soaring dance music I was waving my hands in the air to a decade or so ago. And it took me back. To the feeling of freedom, the love of your fellow man (and woman), the rush and connection of illicit chemicals (well, it was the nineties. Don’t tell me you never did…).

My heart sank at 3am when the lights went up (surely it can’t be over?), and fuelled by the memories of wilder times, and the copious amounts of vodka in our blood, Sarada and I leapt at the chance to go to the unofficial ‘After Party’ in a quiet cul-de-sac in Caversham (the posh part of town).

At first, we felt a little awkward not really knowing anyone. After all, we had danced the night away hardly pausing for breath so hadn’t made much conversation with anyone in the club. We found a space to sit, yawned a lot and talked about getting a taxi home in half an hour or so.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that all the best people at parties congregate in the kitchen (near the booze) and so we went there to flex our atrophying social muscles. It was a good move.

In the kitchen I met Sarah, the 38 year old ex-scuba instructor and mother of a teenaged daughter. We talked for a long time about life, love, children and split parenting (she also shares the care of her daughter with her ex). Typical Mum’s Night Out topics I suppose, but covered with a depth and an honesty that is rare.

I also met a Pirate. Well, he wasn’t a real pirate but he certainly looked like one with his wild, curly long hair, his mischevious glint and his bona fide admiral’s jacket complete with gold ringed design at the cuffs. We talked for a long time about life, love, children and single parenting. Oh, and his name was Jack. Of course. What else could it be?!

I met many other lovely people, including one of the Plug n Play organisers who was brought up as a Jehovah’s witness and turned his back on all he knew when he fell in love, and slept with, a girl in the community and realised there was more to life than door knocking and Jesus.

Throughout the night I was struck by how many interesting, older (i.e. not in their teens and twenties) Party Goers there are in Reading – and many of them parents too. I didn’t realise there were so many of us out there!

As early morning became early afternoon, having already fallen into several impromptu dozes on the sofa, Sarada and I called a taxi and left our new friends, hoping to enjoy another large night out together soon.

A few days later, I’m already missing the camaraderie, the hedonism and the enlightening conversations. And yes, Sarada and I have already set a date to go to Plug n Play again.

It’s not until mid-December though.

A big night out every three months or so seems about right to me. Come on, we are in our mid-thirties. And we do have responsibilities – to our kids, our jobs, our livers.