Monday, 24 December 2012

On the off chance....,

....that anyone is still reading Blogs at this ridiculous hour on Christmas Eve when, by rights, you should be grumpily peeling sprouts and wrapping the last of the gifts you bought your other half 6 months ago but forgot about and just found at the back of the wardrobe.  Now all that's left is a patchwork of High Street Musical and Bob the Builder wrapping paper so tough tits, Shah.

As ever, I am struggling with Christmas.  When the distant past only ever produced massive emphasis on the religious aspects and little of material cheer (childhood) and the more recent past the shitty presents that the Shah thought hilarious, can you blame me? 

Anyway, I am trying my hardest.  Far too disorganised to buy a Yule Log when they were available in the shops, daughter and I resorted to making one earlier this evening.  We had a choice of Mary Berry or Lorraine Pascal.  We went with Lorraine - I'm a big fan.  Unfortunately, I am not a big baker and our first effort turned out like a rubber biscuit with a texture that meant it took hours to masticate (steady...) a mouthful.  When it came out of the oven, it looked like this:-
A bit on the biscuity side...
"Never mind," i said to disappointed daughter.  "It'll be fine when we roll it."

So in the bin with Lorraine's effort (and I followed the bleedin' instructions to the letter) and we started again with good old Mary's recipe.  This version is looking more promising:-
This is it cooling.

Then it got iced.
And the final result...
By this time, I had lost the will to live with it all, so the credit should go to daughter's artistic efforts with a fork, roughing up the icing and sprinkling the "snow".

Happy Christmas to everyone who has taken the time to stop by and read my humble bloggette.  Thank you all - see you in 2013!

CQ x

Monday, 17 December 2012

Barney? My Arse.

I've spent some time considering the title of this post.  There were so many to choose from - 'Bottoms Up'?  Or 'In Which the Bottom Falls Out of My World'? or 'The Bottom Line'? 'From the Bottom of My Heart and the Heart of My Bottom'?  'A Bum Deal'? 'What a Bummer!'? Oh the list is endless and provides yet more proof that I have missed my vocation in life and should have been a Sun headline writer.  In the end, I have gone with a touch of traditional rudeness, chosen mainly because it will mean nothing to you, my invisible chums, but it will make the Shah laugh.

This sorry tail tale begins last Wednesday when I missed my footing on a step into the Living Room (Crap Cottage, for those who have missed previous eye-rolling references to it, is very old and there are steps in and out of every room which can become a little hazardous at times). As my ankle gave way beneath me, I fell backwards - and could I just add (because I know what you're all thinking) that NOT ONE DROP of alcohol had been taken. That came later.  As I fell, I managed to land on my well-padded backside on the edge of another step (I told you there were loads).  At the time, I was more concerned with my ankle which, ironically, turned out to be fine.  My poor bum, however, was not.  

Almost passing out from the pain (no exaggeration) I staggered to the nearest mirror and contorted myself to try and view the damage.  There was a slight red line.  Feeling a bit of a drama queen, I assured everyone I was fine and tried to sit down.  Big mistake.  Big, BIG mistake. There followed a sort of a comedy cartoon moment as I tried to stand up again instantaneously - a bit like Tom and Jerry running in mid-air.  I found some mega-strong painkillers that had been prescribed for the Shah for some sporting injury or other years ago and necked one pronto.  It did nothing for the pain but, boy did I have some interesting dreams!

The following morning, a small bruise had appeared.  I took another painkiller and drove to work, perched on one buttock.  And, by the way, I am pronouncing 'buttock' the Forrest Gump way from now on...

Got sent home from work on the grounds that I was away with the Fairies and no good to man or beast.  Got home, pointed butt at mirror.  Such was the swelling and bruising by this time, that I looked like a woman with two arses, one of them purple.

Waited for the Shah to get home to update him on the damage.  As I said to someone the next day, you can tell you've been married too long when you strip naked, bend over and say to your husband "take a look at that!" and he shrieks "OHMIGOD!" and gags slightly.

This is what he saw.....are you ready for this?  Here is the big reveal....take a deep breath....sit scroll down a bit...

OH COME ON!  You didn't seriously think I was going to get my purple arse out on the web did you?  Sorry - but I'm not that kind of gal!  

The Shah reeled from the shock of seeing my one entirely purple butt-ock and other, peripheral bruising and was actually quite nice to me for the rest of the evening.  The following day, he even texted to ask how I was - unheard of - as the minute he leaves the house, he completely forgets that he has a wife, a son, a daughter, a cat etc until he's putting his key in the lock again.  Of course, it wasn't all rosy (haha).  His last text went - "I've got a new nickname for you.  Barney!"  Me:  WTF? Shah:  Barney, the purple arse-o-saur!" He's so happy with this level of wit that he hasn't stopped using it since.

All I can find to say in return is, Barney?  My Arse!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The less said the better

Only 24 hours after the announcement of the Royal pregnancy and I have already reached overload.  I guess we could all have predicted the hysteria that would accompany such a reveal – The Sun's ever-punning headline writers have outdone themselves this morning – and the world’s press is camped outside the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers (to give it its full title) in London’s Marylebone.  You would think (hope) that in the wake of the recent debacle over phone hacking by the UK press and it being demonstrated to be a bunch of sharks, rotters and scum-sucking bottom feeders, it might have collectively decided that the less said the better.  But no.

You have to feel for Kate.  Not only is she feeling like crap as most do in their first trimester, she is having to contend with the incessant, uncontrollable vomiting that is hyperemesis gravidarum and do the whole thing in the public eye.  So while she is talking to God on the great white telephone, the rest of the world is obsessing over whether, if it is a girl, will they call it Elizabeth or GOD FORBID – DIANA!!  Actually, what a hoot if it did turn out to be a girl and they do call her Diana and she takes after Uncle Harry and shags her way round the world, getting herself photographed naked on a throne or two whilst puffing on some suspiciously home-made looking cigarettes….  But please God, don’t tell me we are now in for 9 whole feckin’ months of Kate ‘n Wills baby fever.  Let it be twins, I beg you.  Then at least she’s had an heir and a spare and can safely relax and none of us has to go through the whole horrible experience twice.

So all of this and Kate finds herself in the Royal Family’s hospital of choice when I am damn sure she would rather be ensconced in some swanky private clinic.  Not that King Ed VII is a hole in the ground – far from it – and I should know because I worked there for a spell during my nursing days.  I expect it may have been done up by now, but the skanky nets, still at the windows, tell another story.  There was nothing massively wrong with it – it was a good, safe place with decent nursing care but it was a bit, well, bare.  In fact, probably exactly the sort of cell-like environment enjoyed by the Royals at Balmoral or any of their other draughty castles.  I have memories of few pictures on the walls, no carpet – brown lino instead – and everything being a bit utilitarian. I expect the Windsors feel right at home there.

Mind you, that didn’t seem to stop the great and the good from queuing up to be admitted.  During my time, I looked after the grandfather of a famous journalist, a film director and the odd model or two (usually having their wisdom teeth out to enhance their gaunt faces) amongst others.  Princess Margaret was admitted while I was there, but not on my floor.  I heard via the grapevine that she was very nice but quite demanding.  Didn’t like the hospital food and kept sending out for chopped liver sandwiches.  Bleurgh!

Princess Michael of Kent was also admitted whilst I was there.  She was on my floor.  And the less said about her, the better! 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Christmas is coming...

And the goose may well be getting fat but not round these parts.  I'm currently in denial, having done NOTHING about Christmas yet.  I had intended to get up early on Sunday and shoot off to John Lewis but it seemed pointless when no bugger has given me a Christmas list so I have no idea what to buy.  

On Skype the other night, the Shah informed me that he wanted a Boxing Game for the X-Box (I tell you, he's regressing).  But, I told him, the X-Box belongs to son who is skint having spent 99.9% of his money on Hockey and Lager and wild wild women (this is no exaggeration, I promise).  He is planning to sell it to fund more Lager and more women and possibly skim off a few meagre groats with which to purchase minuscule Christmas presents for his ailing parents and arsey sister.

"Fukkit" roars the Shah.  "Now I'll have to buy the X-Box off him as well".
It's astonishing really that someone who is so financially acute, who works in the big, bad world of banks, cannot recognise a false economy when it rears up and bites him on the jacksy.

I am not a great fan of Christmas.  It strikes me as a load of hard work for very little return and I have previously mentioned the crap presents the Shah has bought for me in the past.

However, son and I were reminiscing about Christmases past on a car journey recently and ended up weeping with hysterical laughter when we recalled his father's adventures one year.

When the children were smaller, they attended a lovely little school run by a kind, caring and deeply religious headmaster.  Christmas was a big deal at this school and the Christmas Fair was hotly anticipated every year.  The parents were a supportive lot and many mums and dads helped out in various roles.  One year the Shah, experiencing an unaccustomed burst of initiative, decided to throw himself into the festivities.

"What will you do?"  I asked.  "Man the Tombola?  Help draw the Raffle?"
"Nay!"  Cried his Lordship.  "I'm going to be Father Christmas!"
"Don't be stupid," I said in a warm and loving way.  "You can't be Father Christmas - YOU'RE BROWN."  Duh!
"So what?"  chirped the Shah.  "The kids won't notice!"

He wasn't to be dissuaded and nobody else seemed to have a problem with it, so the whole horrible shebang went ahead.  It was decided that the Shah and another dad - coincidentally a friend and partner in crime of the Shah  - would share the onerous task.  A small "grotto" (more grotty than grotto) was curtained off, costumes were hired and a couple of very unwilling Year 6 boys were press-ganged into being Santa's Elves.  The Shah took the first shift.  Two small children went in hand in hand.  They came out a little while later looking a little shell-shocked and tearful but clutching a gift each.  A queue was building.  I stuck my head through the curtain to ask the Shah Santa to shift his butt as the natives were getting restless.

"Okay" sez the Shah.  "I suppose I could not tell them to give me a hug at the end?"

"Don't talk rubbish!" retorts the Shah.  "Everyone hugs Santa!"

And he continued and everyone hugged him and guess what?  Yep - nothing.  Common sense reigned.

About an hour in, two small boys emerged, one clutching a water bottle.  "Erm, Santa says please could he have some water cos he's very hot in there?" they said in their little piping voices.  I took the water in.  The Shah was indeed very hot, so much so that he had turned a strange Mahogany colour and, always inclined towards hydrosis, was dripping unattractively with sweat.

Enter the Headmaster.  "How's it going in there, Santa?" he asked jovially.  
"Fine, fine," lied the Shah with great ease.  "I'm hoping Jim will be along in a minute to take over."

Enter Jim.  "Oi veh!" he quips, "Mazeltov Shah!" (Jim liked to camp it up at every opportunity). It was at this point that a slow dawning could be seen on the face of the lovely, kind, Christian Headmaster.

Somehow he had ended up with one Hindu Santa and one Jewish one.  

Shortly afterwards, he was seen winning a bottle of Scotch on the Tombola.  He'd been teetotal up to that point...

Monday, 12 November 2012

Me and Mrs Jones....

"We've got a thing going on...."

If someone said to you, "give me £50 and I'll give you a great day out, let you see and hear many expert, inspirational people in the flesh, feed you gorgeous fodder and then ply you with Prosecco at the end" would you cough up?

Well I did.  And it was one of the best £50 I've ever spent.  Mumsnet Blogfest happened on Saturday and kicked off with the refreshingly normal (and irritatingly beautiful) Miriam Gonzalez Durantez or - for the politically illiterate - Mrs Nick Clegg.  She spoke at length in her endearing Spanish lilt about being a mother - the trials and tribulations and admitted that she often used Mumsnet for some "teeps" for staying sane.  

courtesy of Mumsnet
Breakout sessions with the likes of Tanya Byron (full of good sense, obviously brilliantly clever but I wouldn't want to meet her down a dark alley), Cath Elliott, journalists Eleanor MillsSuzanne Moore and Liz Fraser tackled the issue of trolls.  Other sessions covered 'Finding your Voice' with the unexpectedly hilarious Zoe Williams amongst others, SEO techniques, Social Media, Photography and more.
Zoes Strimpel and Williams courtesy of Mumsnet
Eleanor Mills, Prof Tanya Byron & Liz Fraser courtesy of Mumsnet
Then came a Keynote Panel featuring the much-anticipated Liz Jones of the Daily Mail.  To say she was a damp squib would be a massive understatement.  She is deaf on one side but chose not to sit on the correct side of the Chair so she couldn't hear anything.  This is the woman who reacted to the news of her husband's infidelity by thinking "oh good, I can get a couple of columns out of this" although, on Saturday, she claimed to regret ever having spilled the beans on friends and family because now she has "no relationships".  She followed up her unsmiling appearance (she might have tried once or twice but I think her face was too tight) with a typically snarky article in the Mail on Sunday the following day, littered with inaccuracies and fallacies. There was something familiar about her appearance too - the heavy eye makeup, the orange tan....

Liz Jones

Ironically, the closing keynote speaker was the delightful Caitlin Moran who was hilarious to listen to and forecast that the future of journalism would see the end of snarkiness, so maybe someone should tell Liz.  She responded to one star-struck questioner (who came over all giggly like a 10 year old girl) with "would you like to have sex with me?  I accept!"  She was the perfect choice to end the day.
Courtesy of Mumsnet
Then it was upstairs for a few buckets of Prosecco before staggering off in search of a taxi, weighed down by a very generous goody bag.  Well done Mumsnet.  Sign me up for next year, but maybe we could avoid that thing  with Mrs Jones...?

Thursday, 8 November 2012


The Shah is on Skype.  ‘Hahaha’ he chortles, ‘I read your blog – very funny but not quite accurate.’ 

‘How’s that?’ I ask.

‘I haven’t got 142 episodes of The Big Bang Theory to watch.’

Me:  (hopeful) ‘No?’

Shah: (lols) ‘No!’(triumphantly) ‘it’s 144!!’

That’s GROSS! I reply smartly, but he chooses to ignore my rapier wit.

So here we are with episode two, carrying on from the chaos of half term with a bit more news – some old and some new:-

  • The cat, having (you may recall) deposited the gift of a dead rat by the bed, follows this up by vomiting violently all over the bedroom carpet at 3o’clock the following morning.  He is so surprised by this turn of events (he is not a habitual puker, thank God - unlike cats past but don’t start me on that story) that he runs away as he voms, leaving a trail of semi-digested Whiskas with Lamb behind him.  Fucking brilliant.  It reminds me of those happy days when your children were young and would stumble into your bedroom at night and go “Mummy, I feel... BLEUAAGHH!” all over your bed.
  • At 3.02a.m. I am downstairs, burrowing in the cupboard under the sink, looking for the Vanish carpet cleaner I know is there.  Upstairs again, I have wiped up the majority of the foul smelling mess and try to spray the Vanish foam onto the stain.  Does it work fabulously?  The fuck it does.  First of all, nothing comes out.  Then, slowly, a blob appears and slithers onto the carpet.  I press harder.  All of a sudden, a viscous  jet of chemicals shoots out and decorates the wall.   “You fucking bastard!” I scream and spend the next half an hour scrubbing furiously at the carpet whilst the feckin’ feline sits downstairs stuffing his chops with a refill of mashed-up horsemeat or whatever it is they put it Whiskas.
  • Sleep-deprived and grumpy, I am at work the next day when my phone rings and I see my mother’s number come up.  My heart sinks.  The last time she rang me during the day, it was to discuss the relative merits of a round, red washing up bowl over the square, green one she currently possesses.  I answer reluctantly. ‘HELLO?’ Bellows mama.  ‘HELLO? WHO’S THAT?’  I am irritated beyond measure. ‘Who do you think it is?’ I snap.  Mama ignores my sarcasm.  ‘IS THAT YOU DARLING?’ she bawls.  ‘Yes mum, it’s me.  You rang me, remember?’  ‘YES, YES, THE THING IS I'VE JUST HAD A FUNNY PHONE CALL AND I COULDN'T MAKE OUT WHO WAS ON THE OTHER END.  WAS IT YOU? COME TO THINK OF IT,’ she muses without waiting for my reply, ‘I THINK IT WAS A MAN.  WHOO HOO!’ and with that, she hangs up.
  • When she was staying over half term (and this is the bit I forgot to include last time) I gave both children a warning.  ‘You will NOT swear in front of your grandmother’ I said sternly.  ‘I don’t want to hear one single swearword – it’s disrespectful and I won’t have it.’  The children nod guiltily.  A couple of days later, daughter is talking to her granny.  Granny can’t hear (naturally).  She takes out her hearing aids to see if that helps (yes, I know...).  ‘IT'S NO GOOD DARLING,’ she bellows, ‘I CAN'T HEAR A FUCKING THING!’

I give up.

And finally...last night the bloody cat brought a mouse into the bedroom and started playing with it enthusiastically.  I lost my rag and looked around for something to lob at him.  Luckily, I had not taken the Vanish stain remover downstairs and the lid proved to be a useful weapon.  He vanished (haha) and I finally got to sleep.  This morning, I was up early and stumbled along the landing in bare feet.  You’d think I might have learned by now, wouldn’t you?  Yes.  I stepped straight into the disgusting little pile of mouse guts, lovingly left at the top of the stairs.

And that just goes to prove that there is more than one type of gross.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Something's got to give...

Okay - this is the deal.  If you have no wish to read a litany of self-serving, self-pitying bleating and whining, leave this blog NOW.  Move away from the blog...that's it sir, madam - BACK AWAY FROM THE BLOG...

Half term "holiday" - what type of fucking misnomer-joke is that?  My half term has so far comprised:
  • Welcoming the Shah back home for an extended 10-day stay due to a variety of Eid being celebrated in Kuwait.
  • Lasting 2 days with the Shah before asking when the fack he was returning to the land of sand because I couldn't stand the untidiness, the loo seats being left up, the snoring, the extra shopping/cooking/cleaning and his cheerful announcement that he has 142 episodes of The Big Bang Theory (my least favourite TV show of all time) taped. YES A HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO.  DEAR GOD HELP ME. (I realise that there must be duplicates but he can't tell which are duplicated so he just watches them all...*weeps with frustration*)
  • Attempting to get my A level student daughter to a) return home before 2am on any given day and b) knuckle down and do some facking college work/personal statement/EPQ/article for the college magazine - without success.
  • Realise I am doing something very wrong with my life when a bunch of daughter's friends turn up to get ready for a party.  I am like a dwarf as they all loom over me in their six-inch heels. I admire one pair of particularly beautiful gold trotters. "They're my birthday heels!" comes the happy reply.  "They're from Kurt Geiger."  KURT GEIGER?  FFS!! At her age, I was shopping in Stead & Simpson.
  • Entertain my mother for three days whilst climbing the walls with frustration, constantly having to repeat myself at shriek level (then get told off for shouting), answer the same questions over and over and facking OVER AGAIN; trail her round our local (huge) supermarket at her insistence until she is at the point of collapse; and the incessant worry that all of the above causes.
  • Try to look understanding/sympathetic when the Consultant tells my son that he has just torn the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in the same knee for the third time in a year, when my instinct is to scream HOW COULD YOU BE SO FACKING CARELESS?
  • Attempt to sort out the damage that a friend of the above-mentioned son did by crashing into the back of our car. Friend's dad doesn't want to involve Insurance companies which is fine, SO ANSWER MY FACKING EMAILS YOU PILLOCK. WHO IS DOING WHO THE FAVOUR HERE?
  • Smile patiently (fail) upon hearing either of these phrases:-
    • "Mum, there is like, NO food in the house"  or
    • "What's for dinner?  Eurgh - can I have something different?  I fancy xxx (insert name of impossibly complex dish for which I possess zero ingredients).                 
Sorry.  Quite out of breath now.  Need to go and lie down in a darkened room with a quart of Gin.  And the cat.  No, not the cat.  This is what he left me one morning recently right beside the bed...
Yes!  A lovely dead Rat! Crouched beside my skanky Ugg boots and my (ahem) pricey leopard print onesie.  Yay me!
Naturally, this was before the Shah arrived home, so I was forced to deal with it despite it being a blue job par excellence.  Note the lifelike pose of Rattus. This freaked me right out because someone once told me that Rats can freeze and mimic death to put off their attackers.  I was convinced it would spring to life as soon as I went near it.  The daughter crouched on my bed squealing as I grabbed its tail (using some loo roll, natch) and threw it out of the window over the fence.  Or so I thought. Two days later, I noticed it hanging in a bush.  One day after that, It fell out of the bush and lay in its delightful rigor in the front garden.  The Shah was despatched to deal with it pronto.  He had to fend off the ASBO cat who was attempting to snack on the yummy remains. Hmmm...delish!

And on top of all this, I try and fit in a full time job.  

Something's got to give...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

One Man Two Guvnors

I've already bored you with our New York exploits over the summer here, here,  and here so I'm sorry that I'm about to add to the list.

It was the night of our 22nd wedding anniversary. So how to celebrate? Some discussion ensued. It lasted all of 2 minutes. The perfect solution presented itself.  The Shah and the son managed to get tickets to see the Yankees play the Red Sox.  They kindly invited us along. Once the daughter and I had finished wiping torrential tears of laughter away, we politely declined (are you having a larf?) and headed for the TKTS booth in Times Square.  It came down to a choice between Mama Mia 

and One Man Two Guvnors.  

Some discussion ensued.  It lasted all of 2 minutes.  Given that we had already tried (and failed) to get tickets in London we suddenly discovered that the London cast of One Man Two Guvnors had transferred to Broadway, lock stock and barrel.

Fantastic! we thought and headed back to the hotel for a shower.  The performance began at 8pm.  The theatre was 17 blocks north of our hotel, so we left at 7.30 to give ourselves plenty of time.

And this was where it all began to fall apart.

We stood outside, trying to hail a cab.  Cabs were there plenty but available cabs were there none.  Is this the witching hour in NYC?  Not one of the buggers had their light on - it looked as though they had all decided to head home for the night.  In despair, we began to walk north. We hadn't yet used the subway and didn't think we would have enough time to negotiate it and get out at the right exit.  We kept walking.  We walked faster and faster.  Going uptown means going uphill and it was already a steamy evening.  Small rivulets of sweat began to trickle down my back as we stomped past strolling tourists.  We glanced at watches, the time was ticking by.  We broke into a jog.  The streets were rammed with people and we weren't exactly sure where we were going either. We crossed over several avenues and eventually reached the right street intersection but couldn't see the theatre anywhere.  By now scarlet and dripping attractively, we stopped a passer by who luckily turned out to be a native New Yorker and gave succinct directions.  We tore into the theatre with minutes to spare and then had to climb a million flights of stairs.  Our reward was seats on the front row of the Grand Circle but I didn't stop fanning myself with the programme until the interval!

But about the play....I can't say I've ever been a massive fan of either James Corden or physical comedy but that night changed both of those opinions.  The play is quite farcical but the skill that is apparent in the physical comedy is just outstanding and we literally wept with laughter throughout.  James Corden was absolutely brilliant in the lead role. There is interaction with the audience that is really skilfully executed - to say more would be a spoiler...

We realised later that we had caught one of their last performances as the play closed at the beginning of September and although it is still running in London, James Corden is no longer in it.  That made it even more special and we reeled out of the theatre at the end and after several ovations for the cast.  They had given us a wonderful evening's entertainment and one I thoroughly recommend.  And one of the best things about it was that the cast all looked as though they were having a brilliant time too...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Gift ideas for neighbours and friends

I say this every year but this year, I really mean it.  When it comes to Christmas, I am going to be organised.  Yes - really!

During the Christmas season, the focus naturally tends to be on buying presents for close friends and family members. Generally, these are the types of gifts that you consider far in advance, and spend a great deal of time on. After all, at Christmas, we like to show those closest to us how much they mean to us, and part of this means finding great gift ideas.  That's the easy bit.  However, we still need to think about those people we see often, but might not consider to be close friends. You may want to give little gifts to people in your neighbourhood, colleagues, or even teenage friends of your children. These gifts can be a bit harder to come up with, but really (because I like to embrace the concept of 'less is more') something quite simple will usually do the trick. Here are a few ideas to help get you started. 

Gifts For Neighbours

  • Treats/Accessories - Perhaps the simplest and nicest gift to give to your neighbours might be a set of baked treats, such as biscuits, fudge, etc. Of course, finding time to bake even a batch of cookies can be tricky, our national obsession with The Great British Bake-Off notwithstanding! However, you can make loads at once, and divide them in tins or jars to give to neighbours. You may even want to make the tins or jars part of the gift.
  • Christmas Hampers - If you want a gift that involves less preparation, simply head to Marks and Spencer online and order a few Christmas hampers for neighbours or friends! These lovely hampers are essentially pre-prepared gift baskets filled with anything from selections of fine cheeses or wines, to seasonal treats. They are very convenient, in that you can order them online, ready to be presented, and they are also fab for families to have around during the holidays. And being from Marks and Spencer, you can be assured of the quality.
  • Snowman Kits - If you want to do something a bit lighter, or funny, for your neighbours, consider something like snowman kits! A few sets of black hats, scarves, and fake eyes to set up snowmen can be a fun, charming gift, and one that you might see in the gardens next to yours in the coming days - assuming the good old British weather plays the game. I guess it's not too much to ask that we have a proper, snowy winter having had to suffer the worst and wettest summer weather for three zillion years?
Gifts For Teenagers
  • Christmas Decorations - For the friends of your children, simple, funny gifts usually do the trick. Consider small Christmas decorations, such as a bobble Santa for a car's dashboard, or a musical ornament that sings a joky tune, etc. These presents don't need to be huge, and even teenagers will appreciate these sorts of little jokes.
  • Hot Chocolate - Finally, if you've run out of ideas, there is always hot chocolate - the simplest possible Christmas present - to consider. To make it a bit nicer, you can purchase tins of different flavours of hot chocolate, which will certainly be enjoyed and appreciated - even by the surly teen in your life!
Published on behalf of Marks and Spencer.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Les be friends

Regular readers will already know that the Shah has, for some months, been working in Kuwait - from where he is allowed home for a measly two and a half days per fortnight.  He's just been home for the weekend and was mightily huffy to discover that life goes on and I needed him to chop some wood and do a few blue jobs, not lie about arse-resting all day, watching the Ryder Cup and alternately cheering and swearing.

He also had to do his expenses and that led to more cursing about the expense of life in the land of sand, although petrol is an astonishing 8p per gallon or thereabouts.  YES!  you read that right 8p per feckin' gallon!  After all, they just dig it out of the ground and bung it in the cars, pretty much.  

So we got to discussing our financial situation and how we could improve it.  It was a fairly short conversation.  And it did nothing at all, nix, nada to improve the Shah's mood.  

Then I had a brainwave!

Meet Cecil Chao Sze-tsung:

Mr Chao is a Chinese billionaire of rampant heterosexuality.  So rampant that he claims to have slept with 10,000 women.  A fact which just goes to prove that love is regularly tripped up by its guide dog.  Mr Chao and his over-active trouser snake have taken exception to his daughter's lesbianism and her recent marriage to her long-term girlfriend.  In fact, he is so incensed that he has offered a reward of some £40million to the man who can seduce her and "turn" her.  Oh and he'd quite like a male heir as well, if that could be slotted in, if you'll pardon the expression.

"There you go, Shah" I announced.  "It's the answer to all our problems and every man's dream, surely - turning a lezzer?"  The Shah looks vaguely interested but somewhat suspicious of my motives at the same time.
Gigi Chao and wife
"Look," I continued, "it says here ‘I don’t mind whether he is rich or poor – the important thing is that he is generous and kind-hearted,’ - you can always pretend that bit," I added helpfully.  The Shah narrowed his eyes.

"Take one for the team!" I implored.  "There's 40 million smackers at stake here - are you a man or a louse?   Anyway, you'd better get on with it because apparently offers are pouring in from all over the globe. And it might be nice if you could have a shave first."  The Shah treated my idea with the contempt it deserved and stamped off upstairs to pack his case for the return journey.

The funny thing is that, when I dropped him at Terminal 5 last night, I could have sworn he headed off in the direction of the Hong Kong desk...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mumsnet Blogfest

I have been a member of Mumsnet for a couple of years but, in all that time, I've probably been on it on only a handful of occasions.  I joined up in search of some moral support when the children were younger and being vile and I felt I really couldn't bore my friends with my traumas any longer.  I'm happy to say that support was there in abundance and it was reassuring to realise that most people seemed to think the kids were being normal and that it would all pass (it did).  

After that, my activity lapsed for lots of reasons.  Firstly, I have a full time job and am knackered by the end of most days.  Also, I have a family I quite like spending time with and 'having a couple of hours to ourselves once the kids are in bed'  is in the distant past.  Nowadays, they go to bed much later than us.  I felt that perhaps Mumsnet is aimed at a different generation from mine....there seems to be lots of talk about breastfeeding and nappies and I am (very happily) way past that era now.  Finally, I was quite bemused by all the acronyms that the Mumsnetters employ and kept having to refer back to their helpfully-provided list which was slow and quite irritating but probably something you get used to if you are a regular.  Finally, did I really need to be a member of a website which uses the acronym EWCM (Egg White cervical mucus)?  Yes, really.  Bleurgh.

But last week, someone at work mentioned Mumsnet and I decided to pay my annual visit :-)  The first thing I saw was the ad for their upcoming Blogfest - 10th November - a Saturday!  Whoo hoo - workers can go too!  And an early bird booking price of £50 (rising to £75 on 30th September).  I also realised that Mumsnet has a blogging section which either I didn't notice before or (whisper it) I haven't visited the site since I started this pathetic excuse for a malnourished, pox pitted, scurvy-ridden blog.

The line-up of speakers looks amazing and, frankly, a bargain at fifty smackers but then I can get to London in half an hour and I realise others have to add enormous sums for hotel accommodation and/or ludicrous train fares levied by profiteering bastards train companies.

How about this lot:-

Caitlin Moran (whose star is really in the ascendant at the mo), Jeanette Winterson, Liz Jones (for whom I have a morbid fascination - is she for real?), Professor Tanya Byron and many other freelance writers, journalists, social commentators etc.  It looks brilliant and I am sorely tempted.  If any of you lot out there decide to go, it would be great to meet up and put faces to names.

Somehow remembering my sign-in and password, I updated my profile and applied to join their blogging forum.  Once I pressed 'submit' I got a friendly message, thanking me and saying that they would be in touch once they had had a gander at my blog.

Then I realised what my last post said.  

Oh well.  Some you win...

Monday, 17 September 2012

New York in characters...

No, not letters or digits - I mean real live (and some dead) characters. There are millions of them in New York, much as there are in any big city but somehow, in Noo Yoik, they seem to have that little bit more chutzpah  than anywhere else.  

One notable New York character was 
Dorothy Parker 
who was a renowned wit, poet, writer and depressive.  She formed part of the famed Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York from the summer of 1919 until its demise in the late 1920s/early 1930s.  The Round Table - which also called itself 'The Vicious Circle' for a while (a name I much prefer) was formed of a fairly fluid group of authors, columnists, poets and actors and as well as Parker, the group included at any time (amongst many others) Robert Benchley, 

Harpo Marx 

although he probably didn't have a lot to say for himself.

Parker wrote articles, short stories, plays and poetry.  One poem which may well reflect her suicidal tendencies and frequent depressions is called 'You Might As Well Live' and goes like this:-

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
Drugs cause cramp
Guns aren't lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live

She was equally well known for her witty one-liners - for example when reviewing a performance by the actress Katherine Hepburn, Parker commented acidly that "she runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." Other sayings of hers are "Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves" and "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to. (I couldn't agree more with both of those!)

Anyway, the point of all this is that I have a cousin who has married an American and now lives in New York State with her family. Unfortunately, on this trip, we only had time to meet up for Brunch one Sunday but she said on the phone that she would book somewhere and where would we like to go?  Maybe somewhere typically New York? Sounds good, I said and was thrilled to find ourselves, a couple of days later, sitting at a table at the site of the actual Round Table in the Algonquin Hotel (sadly the original is long gone).  I would like to think my conversation was up to the sparkling repartee of those long-dead New York characters but, sadly, I know my limitations.  I know my cousin reads my blog - so thank you again K - it was an inspired idea to take us there!

The lobby of the Algonquin
And you don't get away without a couple of (slightly out of focus) photos of the place of worship...
The Round Table (after we'd eaten, so a bit messy!) The painting is of the original Round Table membership including St Dorothy of Parker.
Of course, there are probably still literary salons, overflowing with intelligentsia and oddballs  in existence in the Big Apple.  Unfortunately, we didn't find any.  What we did find, however, was a couple of characters who called themselves the Naked Cowboy and the Naked Cowgirl.  This pair of lovelies hung out in Times Square (where else?) and seemed to make their living by getting punters to give them money for photo ops.

I had to sneak a photo of the Cowboy from behind because I was mightily a-feared of a wardrobe malfunction, given that he was wearing just a pair of flimsy budgie-smugglers...

His oppo was even more gorgeous...ahem...

The Naked Cowgirl.  Note the charming finger gesture...
I have to admit that I sneaked both these snaps without paying.  I got the Cowgirl just after a punter had given her the dollar bills that are shoved down her (substantial) cleavage.  There followed this conversation:-

Punter (excited):  Hey - can I take your picture?  I've heard all about you, my best friend, Caesar, knows you really well!
Naked Cowgirl (deadpan):  Caesar Salad?
Punter (puzzled): Erm no.  Caesar Chavez...

She was a sight to behold.  Clearly she had taken to heart of one of Dorothy Parker's more famous aphorisms - "Brevity is the soul of lingerie".

Sunday, 9 September 2012

New York, New York (Part 2, geddit?)

Don't come running to me, whining about the endless New York saga. You were the one who hit the button, lured no doubt by my snazzy headline and the promise of yet more sarcasm and cynicism.  And you won't be disappointed, chums. I'm afraid I took far too many pictures there for you to be able to get away with a single blogpost about it. Sorry about that but I am here to share yet more of our hot, steamy sojourn with you.

So where was I?  Oh yes, something about weird shop windows - LV took the Digestive, frankly.  And then I had to lie down and recover for a long time after the horror of the M & M store.  I forgot to mention that the place reeked.  There is something very, very wrong with American chocolate (that should generate some outrage across the pond) but to the European, used to the finery that is Swiss/Belgian chocolate, not to mention good old Cadbury's, it's just over-sweet, has a vomitorious after-taste and is, frankly, vile.  And the M & M store stank of it.  But let us move on.

Last time I covered shopping - something that my daughter is proving to be exceptionally good at - and I saved this little gem as it is too good horrific to be buried in with other stuff.

My girl has long had a fascination for shoes designed by some geezer called Jeffrey Campbell.  Do, by all means follow my thoughtfully-provided link but do also make sure you have a bucket handy at the time.  Unless of course self-aggrandising twaddle like:

 "Inspiration and design ideas come from everywhere. The “JC design team” isn’t a group of 6th Avenue, corner office executives… it’s you. It’s the JC Girl bloggers. It’s the interns, the assistants, boyfriends, girlfriends and boutique owners around the world, all trading ideas with the JC Team.Because you are Jeffrey Campbell."

... somehow doesn't make you want to lose your lunch.  

But let me take a deep breath.  Apparently, JC's shoes are difficult to source in England and, to get the pair you really want, you tend to have to order direct from the States which costs extra in postage, import tax etc.  So it stood to reason that she would try and get her mitts on a pair while were were over there.  Unfortunately, I was with her when she happened upon a pair of these, erm, boots.  The ensuing squealing and swooning was more than a soul could bear - that and the fact that the Shah and the son were also with us and were already mighty bored and intolerant of girly shops, so I felt pressurised from all sides.

Anyway, the upshot was that, in a weak moment, I agreed to pay for these monstrosities enviable designer duds, on the basis that she would reimburse me, I hasten to add.

Drum Roll please - I give you ...
Jeffrey Campbell Litas

As I said to her, she could probably have got them for free on the NHS because they supply footwear for clubbed feet, don't they?  Then she could just have stuck some stars or something all over them.

Jeffrey Campbell Lite

Yes, I know what you are all thinking.


Yup, me too.  Inexplicable.  But at least she's paid me back.  Until she did, I put them on from time to time and trotted about wearing "my" JCLs.  Cue outraged squawking, which entertained me no end.  Actually, they are surprisingly easy to walk in - even for a legendary klutz like me.

She has paid me back in another way as well.  Like this:-

Oh yes, she has had her tongue pierced.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS CHILD?  To be fair, she 'asked my permission' which is a euphemism for telling me what she was about to do.  Her friends are agog with envy as most of their mothers won't let them do it until they are 18.  What's the point?  What difference does it make whether she does it now or in a few months' time?  She's been banging on about it for ages so the ignore-it-and-see-if-she-loses-interest tack clearly didn't work.

I have huffily refused to have anything to do with it and have taken great pleasure in playing the role that my mother and countless others have played since time immemorial.  "Don't come running to me...."