We are not amused

May 31, 2012

The Queen and I have something in common

We are jetting off for Jubilee week simply because for 3 days leave you get a whole week off.

I have mellowed my views on the Royal Family over the years, having been punkishly anti the silver jubilee in 77 and spending that week in a caravan in Abersoch. Admittedly it was the only way we poor students were going to afford accommodation but a seriously bad move was it being located in a dry county in North Wales. Which means the pubs don’t open on a Sunday. How ungodly is that???

Chaz n Di’s wedding saw me holed up in bed for the day, steadfastly refusing to catch a glimpse on TV. Well, OK, that was the position my BF of the time was taking and sadly I was going along with it although I did find myself sneaking looks at the TV because I am a bloody girl after all and actually did want to see what creation she was wearing. I wasn’t a Lady Di fan at the time though. And have never been able to tolerate Charles. Ugly tree-hugging twat.

Had a grudging respect for Anne and her charitable work and avoidance of the media. Randy Andy and Fergie – nightmares, and Edward just a tosser.

But then I got sucked in to the glamour of Di, the celebrity status, the dresses, the diets, all of it. And someone in the playground got to know her personally so we had titbits too. And then her tragic death. Our 5 year old in tears, drawing beautiful pictures of her to put up by her bed and saving a Daily Mail pull out (the ONLY time I’ve allowed that shite arese wipe of a rag in the house) . Oh, I watched it all unfold.

And then of course the wedding of William and Kate who looked like they were actually in love.

And now London itself is being decorated and with the sun shining it is looking regal and glorious. The Union flag has been reclaimed as an inclusive celebratory mascot rather than a BNP icon and that’s all good.

So although I have never warmed to Betty and Phil, I am no longer anti-Royal. But when someone said today ‘She does work hard though’ I nearly flipped my lid. I do not doubt she generates loads of income for the country in tourist attraction terms. I do not doubt the Royals do a good ceremonial event. But WORK HARD??? Tell that to a miner. Tell that to the toilet cleaners. Or the soldiers in Afghanistan. Lots and lots of people work hard and much bloody harder than Queenie. And get paid a fucking pittance in comparison.

It’s as if the millions they get are justified by their ‘hard work’. I don’t want her job. I’d like her money and houses though. But I’d want to be a miner less. Or a squaddie. Basically I still have difficulty with the simply ‘being born to it’ thing. It’s so bloody unfair. And she raised a completely fucking dysfunctional family. If she were on a housing estate claiming benefit the Daily Wail would be pointing that out. As it is, she has her own housing estates and does claim benefits (where else does the Civil List money come from but the state?) and somehow we are meant to believe she is ‘better’ than us and we should be impressed she works ‘so hard’. I’m just not buying it.


Since walking (and falling repeatedly) in the Lakes, I have been sore and aching. But it escalated out of control after doing a step class last weekend so I thought rest and recuperation would do the trick. But no. Unable to stand or walk without agony, I realised I had better go and see someone so went to a physio in the hope they would sort me out. The falls were likely to have pushed some vertebrae out of alignment making my muscles spasm to protect them and the sheer extent of over use (compared to what I usually do)  inflamed the piriformis muscles in my hip which also trapped my sciatic nerve heightening the pain that was all the way down my leg. So manipulation, acupuncture, exercises, drugs and hot water bottles are the order of the day with a 4 to 6 week recovery time and no real exercise during that period. And no sitting still for more than 45 minutes. All good so far. Still feeling shit, but hopefully less shit.

Nice hot bath this morning and then daughter suggests some deep heat spray. What a good idea I thought. We have three varieties in the cupboard. One expired in 1993, One in 1997 and one in 2002. So we opt for the 2002 version.. Only 10 years out of date. Husband is out doing a 10K so she gets the dubious job of spraying it on my back and buttock. I lie face down on the bed, shirt pulled up, trousers pulled  down a bit on one side, but not too far. She is my daughter after all. I told her where to spray and she did.

Suddenly I realise the spray has trickled in to my arse crack.

‘My anus is on fire!’

I jump up (faster than I’ve moved in weeks)and  as I stand up, more of the liquid trickles down in to my nether regions. I try bending forwards to halt it, and hobble towards the bathroom, legs getting tangled in my falling trousers. Holy shit. Ring of fire has nothing on this. I desperately try to wash the stuff off but water appears to inflame it. It feels like my whole pudenda will ignite. Two ice cold flannels later and things are starting to calm down in the nether regions.

‘It says you have to repeat the spray 15 minutes later’ shouts my daughter in to the bathroom, barely controlling her laughter.

‘Fuck off’.

I am not a great housekeeper. I would love to be, and I admire those who are. I don’t mean those who have houses you daren’t sit down in, but those whose houses are clean, tidy enough that you don’t trip over everything, have food in the fridge and ironed clothes.

I kind of know where stuff is….

I am not bad, just not great. And luckily we earn enough to have a cleaner who comes in and keeps on top of it for us. The joy of freshly hoovered stairs! The sparkling worktop! The sitting room without newspapers strewn everywhere. Unfortunately I can’t let her loose in my office as it looks like a chaotic mess, but it is a mess that I kind of know my way round.

But I digress.

As a medical student some attachments are more interesting than others. Depends what lights your fire I suppose, but straightforward medicine never really did it for me. I loved the sheer variety of A & E (or Casualty as we called it then), the cut and thrust of surgery and the intensity of oncology. But it was always through A & E that we got the most surprises. The things that made your eyes water at the thought, or made it hard to maintain an air of professionalism.

And so it was one day when I was with the registrar, we were called to review a male patient who had come in with a lacerated penis. And lacerated it was. Nasty nasty nasty. Blood everywhere. How on earth had it happened? An angry wife? A startled  blow job? No. Doing housework.

Apparently he had been hoovering in his dressing gown (as you do)  and had gone to switch it off at the plug. But as he leant over, his dressing gown became unfastened and his penis ‘”was sucked in to the nozzle”. Allegedly. Honestly, that is what he said. And who was I to disbelieve him? Unfortunately for him the particular model of vacuum cleaner he was using had blades inside the nozzle at 15cm. Yeeeeowwww!

And so dear reader, think twice before you get out your Hoover Dustette. It might bite back!

Searching the British Medical Journal for something else I just happened to find the paper the Registrar must have written. Great memories!

Ay Ay Cap’n

Parenting is so easy in theory – the number of times I have thought ‘I’d never let my child do that’ only to be that parent I so disapproved of a few years earlier. Writing the Top Ten Things My Mother Taught Me did also start me thinking about the stuff to do with parenting. She wasn’t a baby person, but adored small children and they adored her. I don’t think they ever misbehaved when they were with her. Partly as she was Grandma, but partly that she was great with them. I was in no way a natural parent of babies, but started enjoying it more as they started to say no. I give you this list not to say ‘I was great at this’, but if it helps one exhausted parent avert one distressing temper tantrum it is probably worth it.

So it is with some trepidation I give you my

Top Ten Toddler Tips To Tame Terrible Twos

Obviously all these suggestions are assuming there are no specific developmental difficulties and caveated in the usual ‘every child is different’ and  ‘you have to find what works for you’ fluffy claptrap.

  1. Don’t ask closed questions that have a right/wrong answer. Mum believed that there is no need for temper tantrums and the terrrible twos as it is simple enough to present options to a toddler that only allow him or her to make the right decision. So that means never giving them a yes/no option if one of those answers is wrong as far as you are concerned. Thus don’t say ‘OK, time to get in the car ‘ or ‘Shall we get in the car now?’ as your loveable rogue is likely to say NO
  2. Ask questions that give the child options to choose, all of which are acceptable to you. Two is normally more than enough options or they get confused. Do say ‘Do you want to get in the car now or in 2 minutes?’.
  3. Positive reinforcement when they have made their choices. Give plenty of praise for that being such a good idea.
  4. Also praise stuff that you take for granted – sitting up nicely, smiling prettily, eating their toast, cleaning their teeth….
  5. Remind them how much you liked their good behaviour and show them that  it means they get more of your attention for being good. So, when you have time to sit together to read a story or play a game, start by saying something like, ‘You were such a good boy today when you got in to your car seat all by yourself, it meant we got to school on time so shall we read a story together now?’
  6. Don’t use the N word youself in response to a question. No matter how valid, your automatic NO will be the only word they hear and may be seen as a challenge. So avoid it.
  7. Phrase all responses positively and then supply acceptable options for the child to choose. So when they ask to watch TV, don’t automatically say ‘No, not now’. Instead say ‘Yes that’s fine. Do you want to do it when Katy gets home or after tea?’, thus giving them two options both of which are acceptable to you.
  8. Take the timetabling stress out of life by removing non essentials. Fun doesn’t have to be a separate activity from daily life. Cleaning can be a game. Laundry sorting can be a game. Shopping can be a game. Then it isn’t a stressful hurtle round Sainsburys to get back in time to go to tumble tots; Sainsburys is the game.. Find the baked beans, what colour is that, choose which cheese we buy, hop to the end of this aisle etc etc.,
  9. If the options above fail, and they just start screaming, kicking or shouting , don’t lose your cool (how easy to write!). Get down to their level and hold them tight. Don’t say anything for 30 seconds, but keep them close in your arms (like a substitute swaddling blanket). Then talk quietly and calmly and tell them they can have one last chance to choose between the two options you have given them, and if they don’t then you will choose for them/not let them watch TV at all tonight or whatever. The younger they are the harder they are to ‘reason’ with, but also the less likely they are to go completely mad in the first place, but it is important they derive no benefit or extra attention from you when they do it.
  10. Nobody is a perfect parent all the time. And some people are better at some phases of childhood than others. Some children are better at some phases. So a really good toddler can turn in to a monster teen, or that screaming baby can be a model adolescent. It’s all swings and roundabouts and as a parent all I could hope for was to keep them safe and try to enjoy the ride.


How I remember him as a child

My father was a wild card and I was spellbound by him as a child. I would refuse to say goodbye to him when he left for work, hoping that he wouldn’t go. I tore his forehead when he lifted me up to kiss me goodbye. I was besotted. Always the life and soul of the party, the fun seeker, the questioner, he left it to my mother to play the straight man in their comedy duo. She felt one of them had to maintain some semblance of normality if we were to be brought up properly, and so he left that to her and took all the fun bits for himself. But I didn’t see that as a child.

He went drinking with some friends one evening and didn’t reappear for three days. No word, no mobiles, no idea where he was. He’d got so blind drunk he’d simply collapsed and slept under a couch for two days with a load of struggling artists. So the story goes. But he’d had a ball.

He set up societies wherever he lived as a means of getting people together, having fun and usually raising money for charity. But the primary aim was the getting together.

A massive poetry fan he would read, sobbing, waving his arms around. And of course he was a master after dinner speaker and Ode writer. Every wedding they went to he would do ‘a turn’. And he loved the show of it all, and mother watched and was proud. Very occasionally she would join him for a performance, but rarely. Unlike him, she hid her light under a bushel despite her being by far the better actor. They had met a Chester Theatre Club where she was a leading lady and he had walk on parts, but in life she let him shine.

Top Ten Things My Father Taught Me

  1. It doesn’t matter what people look like or what they wear, it’s what they believe in that matters
  2. Everybody deserves respect
  3. No one is better than anyone else simply by birth or by the nature of the job they do
  4. Unconditional love. No matter what mess I got myself in to.
  5. Its alright to show emotion
  6. Never stop learning, never stop asking questions
  7. Never forget your roots, where you came from and what people sacrificed to let you be where you are
  8. Applause is an aphrodisiac
  9. People matter more than possessions
  10. War is unspeakably horrific

Wedding Day 1955

Having three children under 4 hadn’t been part of the orignal plan. Well, to be honest there wasn’t exactly a plan but that’s a story for another day.

When the children were small I stayed at home and started doing occassional freelancing. But still from home. Whilst they slept. Then we got a childminder one day a week, but basically I was the ever present presence in their wee lives. And we would all look forward to Dad coming home –  sometimes we would drive to meet him from the tube to speed him back to us more quickly, and also as a distraction for half an hour  when things were starting to go pear shaped because it was the end of the day and someone would be getting fractious and grizzly. Usually me.

And so it was that he routinely bathed them and religiously read them stories every night when he was home in time. Which was most nights in those days.  And the children adored him reading to them. When I did it, it was one short book each and absolute refusal to read Rupert the Bear or Thomas the Tank as they were so tedious. Dad on the other hand would regale them with as many stories as they wanted.

And the one they liked best was a Sainsbury’s own picture book called Harry goes to Hospital. Harry was a hippo who worked on a building site and had to go to hospital. Dad made up his own version to tell the story depicted in the pictures and the children just loved it. The hilarity when Harry swallowed a brick! The screams as the nurse told him his feet smelled. It was a joy to hear from downstairs in the kitchen where I would be clearing up the children’s tea or somesuch simple stress-free task.

Eventually it would go quiet and I’d wait for him to come downstairs so we could eat, but sometimes I’d have to go up and find out what was happening only to discover Dad fast asleep sitting on the floor, leaning against one of the beds and all three bubs completely crashed out. Bliss.

I don’t know why I booked it. Our youngest says direction at the National is shit and I think she’s right. But Julie Walters’ name attrated me. And she does give a masterclass. Unfortunately it’s in overacting. Sprinkled with moments of reprising Mrs Overall.

Rory Kinnear and Helen Mc Crory on the other hand gave fabulous performances even when the dialogue was over contrived.

I believed Mc Crory’s tense and controlling daughter and Kinnear’s brilliant drunk junkie.  They were the reason it got any stars. Without them it would be a pedestrian, nay tedious, wander through a flabby story (with shit costumes and make up) about what happens if you have a middle class hippie for a mother.


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