Thursday, 31 December 2009

It's been an eventful Christmas....

Most of the events over our eventful Christmastide have been of the welcome variety - but hey! nobody wants to read about those do they? So let's cut straight to the medical drama....(sound of Casualty theme tune starting up).

Essentially, mama (aged 86 and a half) keeled over in the kitchen one morning. Luckily, I was there to catch her, otherwise I dread to think what would have happened when her head hit the stone floor...

We called an ambulance and did all the right things like putting her in the recovery position. It's amazing how these things come to you in an emergency - also that ad on tv about strokes (like a fire in the brain...) has obviously made an impression on all of us.

To cut a long story short, she came round almost immediately but the Paramedic insisted that she be checked out in hospital. This was not before mother had managed to revive her usual habit of making inappropriate personal remarks. Noticing that the Paramedic had a shaved head, she bellowed "Young man, don't you get cold with no hair?" Thank goodness he had a sense of humour.

We arrived at our local A&E to find it absolutely heaving with the ill and the injured and the bays with the beds in were all taken up with Geriatrics. The staff were, despite being run off their collective feet, amazingly cheerful and competent. Mama had various tests - blood pressure, ECG etc which were all fine. Then they decided to assess her levels of consciousnesss. What's the date today? "28th December" came the unhesitating reply. She also knew unerringly where she was and why and how. The best bit came when they asked her who the Prime Minister was. Clearly warming up and enjoying the attention of a good-looking male nurse, she roared "It's that bastard Gordon Brown!" Cue much laughter all round whilst I hung my head in shame.

Later, they requested a urine sample. "I could do with a widdle," she replied cheerfully. "Do you know, my GP calls it a Pee? Disgusting way to talk to an old lady!" This from someone whose salty language has caused many a head to turn in amazement in the past. Indeed, if you ask TS to do an impression of his grandmother, he is likely to reel around the room shouting "bugger, bugger, bugger!" or alternatively "shittykins" which is another of her favourite oaths.

Another vignette was witnessing my stone-deaf mama trying to communicate with a garrulous Italian porter who was wheeling her at break-neck speed up to X-Ray. Watching two people hold a conversation in which neither could or would understand what the other was saying; but both continued to gabble happily in non sequiturs all the way there and back, kept me entertained, if nobody else!

This all took over 6 hours to accomplish and, at all times, we were treated with patience and courtesy. All was well in the end and I feel I have good reason to say Gawd bless the NHS this time!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

And the Oscar for Best Excuse goes to....

This particular Oscar has to be awarded to the Teenage Daughter. It's been a grind trying to separate the children from their electronic life support systems over Christmas and all suggestions of lovely, family-based activities have been met with a pout or a snarl or worse.

However, on remonstrating with the TD when her phone emitted yet another bleep, signalling the arrival of yet another message, her response was "but Mum - it's an improving text!"

Can't argue with that one really!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Stuff the turkey!

At last Christmas is almost here! Huzzah! You can tell I don't mean it, can't you? Actually, I loathe Christmas. For so many years I approached it light of heart and eager to make it memorable for all....then what happened? Well, when the children were small, one or both would inevitably get a cold/bronchitis/a tummy bug and would be up sneezing/hacking/puking all night long. As they got older and, eventually, discovered the lie that was Father Christmas, so their enthusiasm waned to the point that it is now a herculean task to prise them out of bed on Christmas morning. After a few years of this malarkey, you can see why I wonder why I bother!

Today, I read a hysterically funny (albeit unintentionally so) article in the Daily Mail. It recommended a wonderful new way to cook your turkey. Apparently, we should all cut the legs off it, then bone them and chop the bones into bits which we then make into a bed for Mr Turkey to sit on while he is roasting. Having done that, we should then take the flappy bits that once held the leg bones and stuff them. Yes, you read that correctly.

Now I'm sorry, but WTF? Here is the CurryQueen recipe for the perfect Christmas lunch and one which the Shah and I and our delightful progeny will be following. Christmas Eve: Make a feckin' great vat of your favourite curry (in our case, Lamb).
Christmas Day: Get up at a leisurely pace. Have a light breakfast. Break open the booze and open a few presents. Sit down to pre-prepared curry (which always tastes better on Day 2 anyway). After lunch, open rest of presents. The End. Peace to all mankind.

I publish below a recipe for Christmas cake, recently sent to me. It comes highly recommended - Happy Christmas!!

Ingredients :

* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4 large eggs
* Nuts
* 2 bottles wine
* 2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the wine to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the wine to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the wine and wipe counter with the cat.
Go to Tesco and buy cake.

Bingle Jells!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Killing Fields

Hello again from the killing fields of suburban England. Sorry to keep banging on about animals, but there has been a surfeit of them in my life this week. The body count round these parts makes Agatha Christie look like Enid Blyton.

Since the discovery of the morbidly obese pigeon (see previous post) the count has been as follows:

Large, adult rat (dead) 1
Small Vole (dead) 1
Small Mice - (very much alive) 2

We are currently running at an average of one unwelcome guest per day and, frankly, I could do without it. The rat was particularly unpleasant, but at least it was dead and I was grateful. I was also unimpressed by the Shah (Blue job) picking it up by the tail and offering a discourse on the size of its teeth. I should also mention that all this killing activity takes place overnight and so the discovery of the stiff little (or not so little) corpses happens before breakfast. eeeewwwww

To add insult to injury, I mentioned the rat to TS the following afternoon (he's broken up for Christmas and so doesn't emerge from his pit until gone midday).

"Oh yes", quoth he. "I heard the cats growling at each other last night so I knew they'd brought something in."
"Great", I reply. "So what did you do about it?"
"Um, I ran to bed."

STOP PRESS: One more mouse has entered the building. Shah???!!!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cat amongst the pigeons

A former colleague (now retired and living in a quite beautiful house in Devon which cost about £3.50 - but enough about my bitterness) used to classify household tasks as either "Blue" or "Pink". Blue tasks were, not surprisingly, undertaken solely by boys and pink by girls. This is a classification system I have adopted as I find it extremely useful and, better still, I find it can be manipulated to suit my whims. For example - the sort of task that can be classed as blue is as follows:-

Anything involving poo
Anything involving puke (I can do blood, but I'm not good with vom)
Dead animals
Gizzards of dead animals
Taking rubbish out
Anything heavy
Anything that involves going outside after dark or in the rain

You get the general picture?

To be fair, Pink tasks take in practically everything else and involve a lot of loo cleaning and general drudgery, so I don't feel too guilty. This morning however, was one gigantic blue task.

Tottered downstairs, accompanied by the faithful Paddy who, instead of making for the food bowl, rushed under the dining table. Whoops! Very bad sign. This means that there is a dead mouse or something similar under there which, having ignored it since it shuffled off its mortal coil, he is now licking tenderly and guarding with a low growl. Great. Haul a couple of chairs out of the way in order to gain access and a clear view of dead rodent. Oh no. No dead rodent - just a carpet of feathers and the corpse of what looks like a morbidly obese pigeon. Thanks lads! Do not like birds at the best of times and immediately think of my late father and hear his voice in my ear, castigating me for not disembowelling and plucking it immediately - eeeeewwwwwwww.

Instead, I do the sensible, feminist thing and shriek loudly for the Shah who lumbers down muttering oaths under his breath. Approaches the scene of the crime and concurs "that's one big mother!" Once we actually get the poor thing out from under the table, we start to wonder at the cats' ingenuity at actually mananging to force a 3 stone pigeon through the catflap. Frankly, they must have hired feckin' Pickfords to get it in. "To me - to you. Left wing down a bit, mate."

This has, of course, sucked up a good twenty minutes of my morning and I get out to the car to find that not only have I not factored in enough time for de-icing but a neighbour has kindly parked me in.

Meanwhile, I have inveigled the Shah into taking TD to the local hospital for a minor Orthodontic procedure. Needless to say, we have lost the original letter but (happily) can remember the time and date of the appointment. Consequently, The Shah and TD rock up to...the wrong hospital. Oi vey! It's the other hospital in the partnership! So they hightail it over to the other hospital only to be told that, rather than have the expected procedure performed then and there, this is an appointment to make an appointment to get onto the waiting list......marvellous! For this, she has missed almost an entire morning of school?

Clearly Andy Burnham, the role of Secretary of State for Health should not be a Blue job.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Holidays are coming....!

Do you remember that phrase, chanted breathily (and not a little annoyingly) in an old Coca Cola ad? I have to admit (bah humbug) that the thought of an extended period in the heaving bosom of various members of my beloved family tends to fill me with trepidation rather than festive joy. It's not that I don't love them all to bits, you understand, it's just that, probably because I work full time, I tend to view holidays as a means of getting all that stuff done around the house that otherwise never gets touched.

Unfortunately, few people seem to share my sparkling work ethic and the Shah's idea of a few days off is to partake of what the children like to refer to as "Arse resting" and play mindless computer games. Poker is a particular fave, but sadly he refuses to play for money, so rendering this activity worse than useless in my eyes. As our kids are still school age, our holidays have to fit in around term dates and, during a recent half term, this is a snapshot of the activity chez nous:-

Day 1
ME: Decorate bathroom
SHAH: Does “work” (= plays Tetris on pc)
Day 2
ME: Still decorating bathroom, + fit in proof-reading of Shah’s research paper which is mainly gibberish
SHAH: Plays on Wii. Swanks to colleague on phone re excellence of research paper
Day 3
ME: Clearing up from decorating, do gardening, cooking etc, log on to work email & sort out crap.
SHAH: Plays on Wii
Day 4
ME: Attempt to clear out garage & shed, go to dump. p.m. take kids (inc Shah) to see special holiday showing of Indiana Jones & The Ludicrous Plot. Eat too many Revels out of sheer bad temper. Back home, log onto work again, sort out more crap.
SHAH: Clears out garage, whines endlessly about trips to dump, tells me everything that is wrong with my driving. Plays on Wii. Willingly accompanies family to flicks. Scoffs mega bucket of popcorn, swills 2 gallons of coke.
Day 5
ME: Take TD to visit Jack Wills outlet store. Arrange to have all salary paid directly to J Wills Esq from now on. Queue for TWO HOURS to get out of car park. Will to live long gone. Stagger home after 3.5 hour journey. Want to die.
SHAH: Plays golf all day with son. Arrives home and asks what is for dinner. Looks perplexed at reaction from spouse.

I could go on, but you get the general idea. The other thing that winds me up (Lord, there are so many I could write a book) about spending time at home is the amount of general detritus that the children seem to be able to strew about the house which then, of course, becomes completely invisible to them. A few years ago (in a fit of rage - or should that be another fit of rage) I wrote to The Times to share with their cerebral readers that I had found a novel place to hide my family's Christmas gifts - I was planning to simply stack them on the stairs where they would remain, unnoticed, along with all the other junk that lurks there, waiting to be restored to its rightful place by its rightful owner.

Amazingly, they published it and it sparked quite a response, I had letters and emails from as far away as Florida and Sydney. It's nice to know you're not alone!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Rockin' all over the world

I wasn't particularly well behaved at school - in fact I was spectacularly badly behaved on occasion and damn lazy into the bargain. However, the one thing that really held my attention (and I can remember almost every detail of the lesson, years later) was semantics. Okay, so now half of you are sniggering and the other half are reaching for the dictionary. Let me save you the trouble:- "Semantics; The meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.: "Let's not argue about semantics." I don't know why I found it so fascinating then and continue to do so today - just one of those things, I guess. Why is anyone interested in anything?

I love the ways that the meanings of words change with the times and completely fail to understand people who object. Recently, "vintage" has been used widely (it's actually just a posh way of saying "Second Hand") as has "heritage". The latter is applied to just about anything - Heritage seeds anyone? And on our ill-fated trip to the O2 (see previous post) we passed a shop called "New Vintage" - no word of a lie. No doubt named without a shred of irony.

Also, I have noticed of late, that a whole new lexicon is springing up in the world of fashion. Nowadays, people (well celebrities because this only happens in magazines) are said to be "rocking" a look. For example, I recently read an article about Kristen Stewart, star of the phenomenally successful Twilight series of films, which described her as "rocking the goth look". I'm not quite sure what it actually means, but then I suspect that neither is anyone else; it's just one of those things you say while they're in vogue and then you move on to the next.

The other slightly strange current use of language is "channelling" as in "Madonna was on the red carpet at the Oscars last night,chanelling Audrey Hepburn". I always thought that if you wanted to channel someone, you had to hold hands and think of the departed and it probably involved spooky doings with a Ouija board. Clearly I have led a sheltered life.

Anyway, I'm not rigid in my outlook - I can move with the times. I really quite like the military look that's in at the moment. All those neat little jackets with frogging on the front - lovely. So ...I decided to head to the shops in search of one and entertained happy thoughts of swanning into the office, being admired by my colleagues and saying casually, "yeah, I'm rocking the military look".

I collected three and skipped to the changing rooms to try them on. Disaster. Made me look like a bloke, frankly. This is where the scales fell from my eyes and I realised that I may not be rocking the military look,but I am certainly channelling Captain Mainwaring.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

O2 be in England, now that winter’s here....

Sorry about the appalling pun. It just goes some short way to demonstrate the full horror of last Saturday night when we (foolishly) volunteered to take a car load of screeching teenage girls up to the O2 Arena for Capital Radio’s Jingle Bell Ball.

The journey, which our lying git of a satnav reckoned would take an hour and a half, actually took nearer three hours. That’s three hours of nose to tail traffic through some of London’s least attractive neighbourhoods. Peckham anyone? New Cross? Yum yum. All the girls, except for our own, were restrained and polite, keeping their frustrations to themselves. Unfortunately, constant exhortations from the back seat along the lines of “for God’s sake mum, can’t you drive any faster?” when you are already moving at a scant 5 miles per hour, 2 inches from the bumper of the car in front of you, do not help to contain one’s temper. So we crawled along in the dark, in the horizontal rain, the like of which seems to have fallen every day and night for months on end. Traffic inched forward. Bored drivers looked around themselves for entertainment. Lecherous old men gazed delightedly upon our teenage passengers and the girls, in turn, squealed their disgust, declaring themselves “about to be sick if he looks at me one more time!” I glanced over at one such driver after a particularly loud bout of “eeewwwww – look at him! He’s so old, he’s like, DEAD!” and found the man whose gaze flicked shiftily away from my molten glare was all of 25 years old. It didn’t seem the time or the place to try and explain to the girls that, if they insist on dressing in minuscule skirts and tight tops, people are going to look. Especially as they are a bunch of stunning teenagers, one of whom is already signed to a top London model agency. Ho hum – a lecture for another day, methinks.

To entertain us all, the Shah elected to take on the role of embarrassing Dad with disturbing gusto. Quizzing the girls on the acts they were going to see, he sang loudly along to Lady GaGa, insisted on referring to “Stingy Tider” and “High Ho Cruise” The TD was infuriated. The Shah was doubled up with laughter at his own wit and her discomfort. The girls constantly phoned friends who were already there. “MUM! We’ve missed Jordin Sparks!” Eventually, after a quick scoot through many amber lights (they were green, honest officer) and a vain attempt to admire the attractions of Greenwich as they flew by the window, we saw the dome of the O2 in the distance. Narrowly avoiding getting into the lane for the Blackwall Tunnel, we skidded into the drop off zone and disgorged a bunch of hysterical teenagers who each whipped off their shoes and ran like greyhounds with us calling “Meet us in Car Park 1” vainly at their retreating backs. Having parked (the O2 has spared every expense with the car park and simply fenced off a rough area, chucking a ton or two of cinders down which makes it hell to walk on), we staggered off towards the dome, the better to entertain ourselves for the next 5 hours or so.

Fellow latecomers trailed after us. Another teenage girl, dressed in the uniform of tiny skirt and black leather jacket (sleeves pushed up) sprinted past us like Usain Bolt on steroids. Her mother lumbered along behind weakly calling her back “Loo-say! LOO-SAY! Wait on yer broother!” Sadly, Lucy’s brother was a lumpen twelve year old who wheezed asthmatically as he galumphed after his sister – who was doing a fine impression of Road Runner and was a mere speck on the horizon.

The O2 itself (for anyone who hasn’t been there) is like a small town. More restaurants than you can shake a stick at, an 11 screen cinema and a full size funfair to name but a few of the attractions (I use that word loosely, you understand) not to mention the concert hall which seats a mere 16,000. It transpired very quickly that The Shah and I had different forms of entertainment in mind. He, being film-mad, headed straight for the cinema to see what was on whilst I gazed forlornly at a restaurant, imagining a romantic meal a deux. Fat chance. We ended up grabbing a sarnie from Starbucks and chomping it whilst watching 2012 – one of the worst films I have ever had to endure. Ever. If you haven’t seen it, the plot goes as follows:-

John Cusack is divorced from his gorgeous wife who has remarried and lives with delightful 2nd husband and her two (cute) children by John. Unfortunately, on a camping trip to Yellowstone, John discovers (courtesy of wild-eyed hippy, Woody Harrelson) that the earth’s inner core is melting, causing the crust to shift drastically but manages to rescue said family in a limo and drive ahead of massive earthquakes to an airfield where 2nd husband (a plastic surgeon who also conveniently holds a pilot’s licence) flies everyone to safety. The End. Well, not quite – there’s loads more mawkish shenanigans in between:–

2nd husband conveniently cops it, leaving John to rediscover his feelings for wifey who merely shrugs when informed of 2nd husband’s demise. They find the government has constructed a load of Arks, designed to accommodate the great and the good and survive the tsunamis now threatening mankind. Needless to say, John & co go the long way round, enduring all manner of suffering, to gain access – quite unnecessarily as it turns out as, just before they set sail, the captain has a change of heart and lets the raging throng which has gathered outside on board opining “Gee, we can’t let all these people down” or words to that effect, hand on heart and misty of eye.

Meanwhile, back in the cradle of the universe (aka Washington DC) the President bravely refuses a lift on a passing Ark and spends his final hours tending to the occasional Geriatric who has keeled over in the street. There is more than one Ark, but we don’t get to know anything about the others, presumably because they don’t have any Americans on them. The Arks are numbered – John’s is number 4 – and it’s nice to see, as the climatic catastrophes subside and everyone is allowed to disembark into a brave, new world, that the Ark builders had time to print up a few t-shirts and promotional jackets as an embarrassed-looking Thandie Newton (as well she might be – an actress of her calibre) and a few other bods appear at the doors of the Ark, becomingly attired in t-shirts with a number 4 on them. Presumably some significance in this which was completely lost on me.

Throughout this torture (which, incidentally, dragged on for about 3 hours) I was receiving texts from my good friend, Mrs H, en route to a birthday party, the dress code for which was “Glamorous”. Glamorous? Flippin’ GLAMOROUS? Huh!

Later, reunited with our charges (and several billion others) in the car park, all is forgiven as TD apologises fulsomely for expressing her frustrations so volubly and all of them declare it was “just the best night EVER!” Apparently Lady GaGa was ‘amaaaaaazing’ and Miley Cyrus ‘like, INSANE!’ We got to bed past 2a.m. “Another ten hours of our lives we’ll never get back,” sighed the Shah as his head hit the pillow and the snoring began.