17 October, 2015

Things We Argue About

Driving down to Bristol for sister's wedding. We pass an estate agents window which has little model houses in the window like at Bekenscot.
Me: Laura, look at the cute little houses. Which one would you live in?
Laura: I can't really see them.
Me: I like the white one best, but the green one has bigger windows.
Laura: oh those houses. I thought you meant the houses they were advertising in the window. I was wondering how you could possibly see them.
Chris: I thought you meant the ones in the photos.
Alice: so did I.
Me: how could I possibly have seen the ones in the photographs? What, have I suddenly developed super eyesight?
Chris: that's what I thought. So I thought you must be talking just for the sake of saying something.
Me: when do I ever do that?
Chris: exactly. So I thought you must have gone mad.
Me: so you'd rather ignore everything you know about me and assume that I'd gone mad, rather than entertain the possibility that I might have been talking about the cute little model houses, which only that estate agent has, rather than the photos of houses, which every estate agent has?
Chris: I didn't think they were cute.
Me: surely it's more plausible that I meant the model houses but that what I think is cute is different from what you think is cute, rather than that I'd suddenly developed super eyesight and also lost my mind?
Chris: your position is indefensible
Me: my position is defensible. I am defending it, unfortunately I appear to be dealing with a bunch of dopes
Laura: we can't all be dopes
Me: well, apparently you can
Laura: the families in cars in adverts are never like this

14 October, 2015

Fall Out Boy

I'm in the grip of several slow-burning obsessions at the moment. Fall Out Boy, for one, I'm sort of crushing on them collectively. What a difference a live gig makes! It's hard to say why as most of the time you had to watch them on the big screens (and why is that different from watching them on YouTube?), but that is the mystery of human presence. Being there, in the same air as people, makes a difference. Why? Maybe they seem more real. Maybe you see everything, not just what the cameraman directs you to see, which helps to fill in the reality of someone.

Then I've started my new Elena Ferrante book. I wonder if a Lila really existed, or if the author is simply applying herself into two and writing about both halves. I wish I could get the girls to read it: it's such an eye-opening validating piece of work, especially for women. Some woman in the paper was worrying that it wasn’t really literature. Why? Why not? What is
unliterary about it? The fact that it’s enjoyable? The fact that it acts as
though what two young girls in Naples in mid-twentieth century thought or
felt is important? I don’t see how you could find a book more serious intelligent and authentic than these novels are turning out to be.

On a more trivial note, I've been reading about Kate Moss’ new squeeze in the Telegraph: Nikolai von Bismarck, who from a quick piece of deductive work via Wikipedia, must be the second nephew of Gottfried von Bismarck (the first cousin of Nikolai’s father Leopold, who was the younger brother of Gottfried’s father, the
Prince von Bismarck). I knew Gottfried from Oxford when we were both in a
Ionesco play, The Lesson, being directed by an acquaintance from New College. I didn’t really know Gottfried, what with him being such a posho, but he seemed perfectly nice. He moved with the Olivia Channon set and died himself a few years ago, essentially from his lifestyle (drugs, gay orgies etc). All rather sad: gilded youth! This was all post the ITV Brideshead craze. Little did I think, as I was living through it, that people would be looking back at the eighties in a haze of nostalgia.

At lunch I went out and bought some Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum because it
was on a Guardian list of best skincare products and I’m running out of
face cream. I don’t even know how to use it! It was £5 off. I wonder if it
will have any detectible effect on my skin, that wouldn’t be just as well
achieved with a £5 pot of generic moisturiser. Anyway, when I went to pay,
instead of the self-service checkout asking whether I wanted to buy a bag,
there simply were no bags. There was only a little Boots man wandering
around with a handful of bags. I told him I wanted to buy one, but I had no
change. He shoved a little paper bag into my hand and whispered, “Go, go,
run away!” which I promptly did. Hilarious.

31 July, 2014

Home from the Holidays

Home from Malaysia, after an epic 36 hour flight back on Emirates. KL to Dubai leg was fine. Then we boarded the A380 at Dubai at about 3.00 for the 3.45 leg back to London. At 5.45 they took us all off the plane, having been delayed (1) by customer who had checked in, then never boarded, so they had to find their luggage and take it off the plane (2) then there was a problem with the plane's computer, which they tried in vain to fix, but no joy, so got a new computer, but also didn't work. So eventually they disembarked all of us and we sat around in the airport until about 9pm, after which they said we would be leaving at 7am in the morning and would be taken to hotels. Then we queued 4 times in total for the hotel vouchers, with each counter performing one small task on the hotel voucher. Each queue took about 30  minutes. In the end, I gave up on the last queue (which for the 10 minute bus ride to the hotel), where they were using just 1 10-seater minibus to transport about 200 people, and got some dirham from the airport ATM and took me and the kids to the hotel in a taxi. One good thing about DBX - they have a special woman taxi driver queue for women travellers, which I did feel much reassured about using, compared with having to drive off into the night with a male taxi driver in a strange place that you'd never intended to be in, in the first place. Another queue at the hotel to check in, where I had to throw a wobbly because after queuing for 15 minutes to get to the head of the queue, the guy at checkin promptly went wandering off without a word of explanation. Got to the rooms, the door cards wouldn't work, so had to go back down and get them both reset. Got to bed at midnight, fell on the bed and slept till 4am, then got the kids up and were on the 4.10 bus back to the airport. Entire flight fuelled by Burger King and McDonalds. Moderate throwing up by Sam and me. Very very glad to get back to UK. There were people on that flight coming from NZ, who had already been travelling for 33 hours BEFORE the delay in Dubai. With young children. The horror.

Now busy digitising the whole of my father-in-law's CD collection, which C is gradually transferring over to our house from Wolverhampton. He is in Wolvo today, helping MIL to clear out the house, prior to her putting it up for sale and moving back to Nottingham, after FIL's funeral.

Reading Talleyrand's Memoirs and Little Dorrit. Watching Series 1 of Merlin. Listening to Moby. Planning trip to Galways to see Smiggle and fulfil girls' fantasies of riding ponies along deserted Irish strands.

05 June, 2014


Today I said to my daughter that I was instituting a 100% patience policy when on the roads. From now on, people can do absolutely anything - cut me up, undertake me, beep me for slowing down to avoid a cyclist, refuse to give way even when they don't have right of way, go through red lights, stop their car in the middle of the street for 5 minutes so they can chat to their friend, stop on a double red light during rush hour while they pop into a shop and think that they make it OK by putting on their hazard lights, beat the queue by going in the filter lane and then barge in at the top - and not one snarky word will pass my lips.

She snorted in a manner that I can only describe as derisive. And added, "I give you one week tops."

03 June, 2014

Mouse and university

The Mac is doing that thing where it randomly disables the left click button on the mouse. Then in order to fix it, you have to somehow manoeuvre yourself to mouse settings, using only whatever options are available to you by right-clicking, switch the left/right settings on the mouse, which reactivates the left-click button (but only with right-click functions), and then go back and switch the left/right settings again, back to the normal settings. Can I just say that this never happens on my crappy old Asus netbook that everybody scoffs at because it takes 10 minutes to wake up in the morning.

Well, I 'm back after a titanic struggle involving two different mice and hopeless attempts to execute functions on the Mac using only the keyboard. Why on earth do they make this so difficult? There should always be something that enables you to do most of what you want, using the keyboard alone. If the mouse functions aren't working, how on earth are you supposed to rectify it when the only way you can switch the mouse buttons is by using the mouse? Gah!

Reading that thing in the Guardian all about how Kirstie Allsop is right out of line for daring to suggest that maybe girls should have babies first and then go to university. I can kind of see what she means. I actually think that everyone, male and female, should leave school after A levels and work for five years before they go the university. Apart from people who already have a very clear idea of their vocation and need to train for years to do it, like doctors. For everyone else, if they'd already worked for five years, they would really appreciate university when they get there and have a lot better idea of what they want to do for a living, having been obliged to live in the world for a bit, rather than spending all their time at uni boozing and acting like arseholes. Mind you, tuition fees are probably changing that scenario.

But setting that aside, the problem with Allsop's suggestion is that if girls effectively don't finish uni till they are 30, because they have been off having babies, they are going to be competing with fresh young male graduates and even though an experienced worldly wise young mum is actually going to be more useful and mature than some callow male doofus, our society is set up so that the callow male doofus is the one who will get the job. For Allsop's suggestion to work, society will need to be remodelled so that women who have the baby first and then join the work force and focus on their careers are not disadvantaged relative to the chaps. Maybe that's not easy, but it's a heckuva lot easier to change society (even though it is not easy at all) than to change Mother Nature - and Allsop is quite right, the body clock is ticking and you've got a lot better chance of having a healthy baby and a healthy mum, if she has the baby in her early twenties. I speak as someone who had my kids in my 30s and had the successful career, but my setup only worked because the husband was OK with being the homemaker, while I went out and brought home the bacon.

Anyway, off out to post the direct debit form for St Paul's school fees (argh!) and buy some deodorant. And the house will be safe, because I just had proper locks fitted to all the sash windows by our lovely lovely local locksmiths Oakleys at Southfields. Before today, if you'd been so inclined, you could literally have slid open our ground floor sash windows from the outside, walked in and helped yourself to our precious valuable collection of 5 year old malfunctioning Macs and netbooks and our displays of housedust and half-used pots of Dulux brilliant white gloss.

01 June, 2014


Sofa guy didn't turn up. Does nobody want our sofa? It used to belong to a scion of the Earl of Minto! Are there no raging snobs out there any more? To go by Balzac, I'd do better to be trying to offload it in France, which seems to be full of raging snobs.

Unfriendly girl turned up and took away the Country Lifes. Seemed very standoffish, as if she thought I might have lured her to our house in order to murder her.

Attacked the Virginia creeper in the garden, which is starting to get above itself again.

Kung pao chicken for dinner. Fungus helped with the cooking. I think she's starting to get to be quite a dab hand in the kitchen.

Watched Mean Girls with the grils, which I have never actually watched in its entirety. At last I have found a film that I like Amanda Seyfried in. Then girls went to bed, Welsh Anne came home and we watched the rest of The Rebound with Catherine Zeta Jones, who is just so beautiful. Frankly, Michael Douglas should consider himself privileged to be permitted to service her orally, not go around casting aspersions on her lady parts. Then cracked open the chilled rose and watched The Makeover, with Julia Stiles, who is just lovely. She should actually run for Congress. I would vote for her.

Asked the girls whether they wanted to go and see Richard Armitage at the Old Vic in the Crucible. On the one hand: it's Richard Armitage! On the other hand, I don't want to see something about the Salem witch trials. Ever. Hashtag firstworldproblems.

Sent a protest text to Amnesty re that poor woman in Sudan who's been sentenced to death for apostasy. Two hours later, it was announced that she's being released. I like to think it was my text wot done it.

30 May, 2014

Passing On

Woke up this morning to an email from my husband, that his father had died in the night. His brother has driven over from Nottingham to be with his mother. He was 80-something and had not been well for a long time - heart condition, diabetes and some sort of cancer also diagnosed earlier on in the year, so I guess it was not unexpected, but still very sad. A blessing though that he went quickly, without suffering or lingering on, at home with his wife of 50 years, entirely lucid and himself right to the end. I guess that is the way most people would prefer to go. The thing that makes me sad, as with my own father, is wishing we could have seen more of him, more recently. It is a great shame that families nowadays live so far apart.

Not much else to report. Anne came up from Somerset for her usual shifts, but apparently the newspaper is getting rid of all its casual staff by June, so she has already started looking for a new job - she seems to have quite a few prospects - and at better newspapers too! She's also thinking a lot about her mother in Merthyr, who is ailing and how they can work it out so she can take care of her at home.

Went up to Clapham Junction to pick up Lol's shoes. Bought the girls steak bakes from Greggs and raspberries from the fruit stall, forgetting there was leftover spag bol for lunch.

Tried to use coupon for discount on Guardian at Tescos self checkout. Failed to work. Eventually the guy had to just give me 60p from the till. Honestly. These coupons are more trouble than they're worth. Since you have to swipe your Tesco card anyway, why don't they just automatically deduct the amounts or credit you with the points without your needing to scan the coupon?

Gave the old kid booster seat away to a tanned old lady on Freecycle.

My Glen Campbell Greatest Hits 2nd-hand CD arrived today. Loaded it up onto the cloud. Galveston! Oh Galveste-on!

Trimmed the lavender border and planted some peas and rocket in a spare bit of the back bed.

Accosted by young chap who seems not all there, while was out walking the dog. Harmless, just kept on repeating questions about the dog.

Spoke to someone at National Power about getting the meter moved. Weird accent from somewhere up north, I think. She was actually really helpful and got it sorted, even though I was pretending to be my own husband, as he is the accountholder. Luckily he has the kind of name that could be either gender and I have the kind of voice that ditto, especially over the phone.

Dhal, okra, mackerel and rice for dinner, ably assisted by my lovely sous-chef Fungus, followed by She's the Man on DVD, which was strangely enjoyable, even though it starred Amanda Bynes, who is now off her head, and Channing Tatum, whom I can never recognise. Dog got a bit uppity at dinner, kept on barking and bouncing herself off my thigh in a bid for titbits, even though Fungus had already given her a bit of mackerel. In the end I got so fed up with her, I shut her out of the living room. So then she went out the back door and re-appeared at the living room window, looking in wistfully.

And so to bed. As Samuel Pepys would say.