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I’ve just spent a week in the Turks and Caicos. I know, jammy jammy jammy. And even more jammy is that I managed to work whilst I was out there. Lying on the beach with my laptop. And what a beach it was. The whitest, finest, flour-like sand and the warmest, calmest most azure sea. But that’s why I’ve not posted much over the last couple of weeks. Too busy. When I wasn’t working, I tried a massage instead of spending time writing a blog. I won’t be doing that again…

Anyone who knows me in real life knows I can’t be doing with massages. Even my manicurist has given up trying to give me the complimentary hand and arm massage that everyone else loves. No, I just don’t get it. What’s it for? I haven’t got time for this. I’m relaxed enough thanks.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate good physio, which may involve serious massaging. Pummelling, pushing, and generally creating agony. But that’s all in a good cause so I can do that. But the lie back for an hour and be rubbed in exotic oils? No thanks.
I’ve tried. Believe me. I live with a massage addict. We go away to wonderful places and they have spas. Would madam like one? No thanks. But hubby will. Every day given the chance. So occasionally I give it a go. And today’s essential shambala signature massage for sixty minutes was free with the booking, so nothing to lose.
The last massage I had was in a wonderful hotel in Italy where hubby had been carted off daily by gorgeous young things who rubbed him down. I thought I could manage a bit of that.

But no waif-like smiling model for me. I got Big Bertha the German lesbian who took great delight in massaging my chest and inner thighs. Not being an officionado of massages I lay there pole axed . And haven’t had another massage since.

Until today.
Would Mrs like a relaxing massage or deep tissue? I am tempted by the latter as that feels useful, but opt to have the relaxing as this is what they recommend. It involves “long strokes and rocking” apparently. Best done with no knickers. WTF? But I roll with it.
My masseuse is Siki, a small Malaysian woman with splayed feet and firm hands. My God those hands are firm. I am intensely grateful I have not opted for deep tissue as this is like post-injury physio. I feel the knots and keep breathing deeply to try to relax. The sodding water music burbles on and the oils waft heavily. Those thumbs drive in to my sacroiliac joints. Mmm this isn’t quite as relaxing as I’d thought, but I feel it is probably doing me good.
After an hour she tells me it is finished and that my back is very tight all over. Apparently an Indian head massage would be good for that. Forget it. There’s no way I’m having an hour of pummelling to the head and paying $200 for the privilege. I’d prefer to sit bent over the computer writing this drivel – I feel far more relaxed and no painful after-effects.

I need to get out more

October 18, 2013

I am disgusted with myself. You know they always mock politicians who don’t know the price of milk? Or a loaf of bread? I discovered last night I have become so out of touch with reality or perhaps normality that I simply could not believe the restaurant had got the bill right. Surely they have forgotten to charge for the wine? Or missed off the desserts? But no. Thirty quid a head covered three starters, eight street food portions, four desserts and three bottles of wine. How fucking poncy am I ? To think thirty quid is too little for a midweek meal out? I really need to climb out of my Addison Lee  cab and start walking on the pavement…

The four of us were stuffed and OK so the food wasn’t gourmet but some of it was incredibly tasty and all of it  in a great buzzy atmosphere that was loud enough to make you feel you were in a vibrant place but not so loud you can’t hear anyone speak. And Elisa our waitress added to the ambience with her easy style and humour. And the fact she kept refusing to bring us any water which endeared her to me.

Not to mention  glorious cocktails beforehand (mine was the Wahaca mule – highly recommend) . Wahaca Charlotte street is definitely worth a visit.

I was born to the strains of Radio 4, had graduate parents , am a qualified professional, went to a privileged boarding school in the sixth form, love goats cheese and caramelised onions, have a Mercedes and a “runaround”, a flat in central London, love the theatre and think Marks and Sparks has gone downhill but still love John Lewis. Believe me, cut me and I bleed  a nice Rioja like the  middleclass stereotype I am.

But what the Hell gives middle class women in Ealing the belief that they have the God given right to park right next to the door in Waitrose.? They aren’t going to walk any further than they can possibly help. Oh no, they will turn in and SIT there, letting the queue build up back in to the road behind them as they wait for someone to vacate a space in the first row.

I have to say the car park is one of the most badly designed I have ever seen (second only to Harry Tuffin’s multistorey in Knighton ) as the entrance is at the door to the shop so then one has to drive away from the shop to find a space. Psychologically this is mortifying for those who do not want to use their legs. It would be much more sense to enter as far away as possible and move towards the shop. But the design is what it is. And the twatty women with their bobbed hair in their big Mercedes roar up and halt, blocking the entire entrance to the car park and not allowing anyone else to move. They’d rather wait for 5 minutes in one spot than park 100 metres away and have to walk.

Horns usually start going but it is pointless because everyone else in the Waitrose car park can’t fucking drive either.They edge forward, desperate to see a spot that won’t mean they have to put one foot in front of the other for more than 20 meters.  I mean, they’ve worked hard for the privilege to be able to get the best spot in the car park. Surely there should spaces  designated specifically for them? Like parent and baby or disabled there should be one marked “Nice part-time working Mums in a bit of a hurry to get to their facial”.

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Choosing schools

October 8, 2013

The school photo from the year they were first all there - 1996

The school photo from the year they were first all there – 1996

Oh the agony of choosing the first school. The angst. The middle class class stress of already thinking will it get them to Oxbridge. The leftists stress of is it abandoning principles if we go private? The liberal stresses of is it being racist if we don’t want to go to a school where they’ll be a minority? The right wing stress of wondering if all the council-estate children will be doing drugs.

Ah yes, we do well to be reminded of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot for daring to go to school. We West London middle class parents get het up about minor fluff,  – the possible differences between two or three reasonable schools – whilst others have no education at all.

But of course that counts for nowt when you actually come to put your darling first born’s name down for a school. Which one does one choose? I had been to two primary schools; one in Scotland, one in Wales. No more than 100 pupils in either school. No dark skinned faces. Everything was pristine in 1960s rural primaries.  And so it was that I walked in to the local school that was apparently where lots of nice people sent their children. Being able to walk to school was one of the key requirements of a primary school for me so that once they got to 8 they could walk home on their own and start getting some independence.

The first school i went to see  was easy walking distance but a bit further than the not-so-nice-a-bit rough-round-the edges-one that was just round the corner. I felt at home straight away. It felt like where I had been to school. And I had forgotten how small the desks and chairs are. It was like walking in to Gulliver’s Travels.

I had got no further than the hallway as I tried to find the school office when a teacher came bustling towards me. “You can’t come in here with them,” she told me, “You’ll have to leave them outside.” You might be thinking I had brought a couple of Alsatians with me. Or some exploding fireworks or other health hazard, but you’d be wrong. She was referring to my two children who were with me. One aged two (as we were looking for him to start Nursery at 3) and his baby sister who was one. “We’ve come to look round the Nursery,” I explained. “I did call ahead and was told to come now.” “Yes, but you can’t bring the children. Have you not got someone you can leave them with?”she asked,

I didn’t really feel there was much point in going any further. I couldn’t believe it and took against the school in that instant. It seemed children were not the number one priority and she would have been happy for me to leave our children unattended outside whilst I was allowed to come and see the Nursery. No thanks. Hubby did go to the Parents Q and A evening which only confirmed our decision not to apply there as he said there was far too much emphasis on private tuition and homework for these tiny bubs. He didn’t think we would find it reflected our vision of school being about having a good time in those first few years.

In contrast, I went to try to visit the rough school round the corner and walked in to a building. Two children came up and asked me if i needed help and directed me to the Headteacher’s office. Another child held the door open for me on the way out. There was noise and laughter and a lot of brown faces. It seemed like this would be good enough and it’s where they went.

Bad Hair Day circa 1997

Bad Hair Day circa 1997

Yes, it wasn’t the best school ever but it did have its strengths in some great teachers a a celebration of diversity.

Bangra dancing

Bangra dancing

nursery 1991/2

nursery 1991/2

Christian celebrations

Christian celebrations

oct 064

Nursery performance 1995

They all learnt to read and write and did songs and poems and plays. And we met lifelong friends there. All of us, not just the children.

I still think home is the most important factor during those early school years. The advantage of having parents who read with you, or talk to you can’t be underestimated. The early years at school are as much about socialising and conforming as they are about reading and writing. And I think if you get a good feel for the place when you walk in; that the endeavour is right and it has a heart, then that’s half the battle. Where it is in the league table may be more a reflection of its intake than the ability of the teachers.

And anything they don’t learn at primary can easily be caught up in the first few years of high school if you are above average intelligence. Which, you may remember one of ours was not thought to be. ,

Ready for bathtime

Ready for bathtime

In the last couple of posts I have related how I traumatised the girls at various points by my less than perfect parenting. But of course the eldest didn’t get off scott-free by any means. In fact he bore the brunt of it as I learnt, slowly and painfully, what it meant to be a parent.

I went through the Top Ten Physical Traumas I put the children through here , and my tipping him out of the pram and dropping him so he knocked a tooth out are already listed. But one that isn’t in the previous post probably shows me in an even worse light, but unfortunately it shines a ray of truth on what it can be like with two under two. There is just over a year between the first two and so once the newborn could sit up by herself, bathtime was much easier as I plonked them in together. They both enjoyed the water so it was not a tearful or difficult time usually.

The airing cupboard was in the hallway outside the bathroom and one evening I had got eldest out of the bath and wrapped in towel and realised I didn’t have a towel for darling daughter. So I popped out of the bathroom for one second your Honour. The airing cupboard was literally opposite the bathroom door. But as soon as my second foot had left the lino the son slammed the door and locked it. It was one of those locks that has a thumb dent in it that you just slide across. I didn’t know he knew how to do it. And sure enough he couldn’t undo it.

Trying not to panic, I asked him if his sister was alright.  He could barely talk, was only just walking and his sister is six months old sitting in a bath of water. This was a nightmare. He just couldn’t open the lock. My biggest fear was his sister drowning. All it would take would be an overbalancing and that could be it. So I asked him to pull the plug out of the bath. I could hear his sister gurgling  and splashing so all was well as far as I could tell. And good lad that he was he pulled out the plug. I heard the water going down the plughole and hoped to God he hadn’t put the plug back in before it had drained completely.

But he couldn’t unlock the door. I couldn’t break in from outside as partly I was terrified of knocking the lad out on the other side and i could hear they were both OK so didn’t feel the need for ultimate heroics. But I couldn’t leave the hallway to go and get help as that would have meant leaving the children. And of course there were no mobile phones back in the day.

The baby was probably cold but at least she wouldn’t drown in an empty bath. Luckily it was not long before Superhero Dad came home and he did force the door open (relatively easily as I remember) and all was well with the world. Hubby disarmed that lock and put one up high out of reach of small fingers so that it couldn’t happen again. Not that I would have been stupid enough to make the same mistake twice.

But really that wasn’t just me traumatising him. He had a part to play in it by locking the door. And to be honest it was more my angst than his as he was seemingly  oblivious.

But there was another bathtime that left him scarred for life. Again with his baby sister and they are happily playing when suddenly a huge turd emerges from the deep and floats on to the surface next to him. He jumped up yelling and pointing  “Georgina! Poo!” as it moved towards him like a monster. She was smiling with that satisfaction a good dump brings.

It took him a long time to trust her in the bath again.

No harm done

No harm done

Every Friday our kids would go round to their best friends’ house after school and their Mum would childmind them. It was ideal for me knowing they were in safe, capable and loving hands whilst I went to work. And every evening I would knock on the door and be greeted with a swift rum and coke and likely have to be entertained by some dance or show or whatever that they had been rehearsing for hours beforehand. It was usually just the girls but occasionally the boys would join in too.

It was a lovely era where the kids were all at primary school, all being fed around the kitchen table and I just waltzed in and would have a chat with my mate and a drink until it was time to take them home. As it was every time I did it, i would pile them all in the old Merc estate and drive off. The car was great. It had been our next door neighbours’ and hubby bought it for me as a birthday present. It had about 200K on the clock and went like a dream. And it had little seats in the boot you could put up to make it a seven-seater. Perfect when each of your kids wants to bring along a mate. But of course not needed when it was just me and the three. But they loved them as they sat staring out at the traffic behind.

Anyway, one Friday I called round to Coldershaw road as usual and after another blistering showstopper, hurried the kids out to get home. I think I may have been going out later or have people coming round so was in a bit of a hurry. The kids were probably aged about 5.  7 and 9 and well able to get themselves in the car. The doors slammed and I drove off. Only to hear the two eldest shouting “Mum, Mum, stop! Natalie’s not in!”.  I couldn’t compute. I’d heard the doors shut. How could she not be in? But sure enough, I looked in my rear view mirror and there was my baby, thrown out on to the road as I had driven off. She’d been climbing in through the boot and was  about to sit down and pull the boot down on herself when I’d accelerated away. Whereupon she’d gone flying out backwards.

Luckily she wasn’t hurt, Only shocked and completely incredulous at my negligence. They still remind me of it to this day.

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