Archive | June, 2010

Another One

30 Jun

I was updating my poetry file when I came across this one I wrote last year.  It ties in with the POW prompt but I think it’s too easy (for poetry lovers, at least).

Naturally The Nation Will Bear With Your Excesses

because you are the famous librarian-poet
whose smug racism and sordid life
were reduced to a one-off tv drama and the
occasional, ‘Oh, he was the one who swore
about his mum and dad; he was a
miserable git, wasn’t he?’

Today is My One Year B***********

30 Jun

The Doctor was beginning to regret getting so many pets….

*

Today is my one-year *l**********.  When I told the Hub, he insisted that I can’t use the word ‘**o*********’ because it’s just too naff and he doesn’t want to be known for having a naff wife using the word ‘***g********.’  As this blog is mostly about him, I had to listen to his argument.  Especially as he had me pinned to the floor with a knee across my larynx at the time.

I decided to celebrate my ****i******* by taking a look at my statistics (as if I don’t look at them every day, drooling with excitement that three people linked from Writer’s Island and the two-hundred-and-eighty-ninth person accidentally found me by typing in ‘your old as woman feel’) .   I would tell you all about it but I can’t help feeling that a) it’s dull and b) it would be rather like swapping salary stories; I just don’t think it’s the done thing in the blogosphere.  I can tell you, because I have a little stat counter on my home page so it’s something you can check for yourself, that my target of 10,000 hits for the end of the year – 2010; not the year since I started blogging, which is today.  Did I mention it was my *****v******? – will be reached sometime in the next ten days.  I hope.

Now I have to set a new target.  That involves looking at statistics.  Umm…  2782 in my first half and 7016 in my second half which is an increase of something percent so if I factor in my poor maths skills and multiply that by my one year *****e*****, take away the number I first thought of and stop for a chocolate break, my new target will be 17,000 hits by 31 December.  (Don’t let the science fool you; this is what’s technically known as a ‘thumbsuck figure.’)  And look at that!  I finally managed to legitimately pull together three punctuation marks.  Go me!*

*

I have a bit of a problem: I set myself today’s target of writing the word (though it’s not really a word and in the opinion of the Hub is a bit naff; did I say that already?) ‘*******r****’ twelve times in this post so that anyone who’s a bit clever, like, could crack the code and discover for themselves what the word is (it’s ‘********s***’).  Thus, I would be obeying the Hub’s diktat not to say ‘*********a**’ but subverting it at the same time.  I’m too smart for him.  Trouble is, I’ve run out of things to say.

Oo!  Oo!  Just had a **********r* flash of genius – isn’t it ironic that the first anniversary of a blog (wink wink) – an electronic media (medium?) – should be paper? Why?

*

Today is Rallentanda’s POW prompt day.  The prompt is to write a Who Am I?  poem.  The first was written in response and is easy; the second was written about eighteen months ago and is more difficult if you are not interested in Royal history – which, inexplicably, many people aren’t. 

Answers on a postcard please; or in the comment box.

*

Who Am I?

I’m craggy but handsome; fecund but cute. 
I look good in blue or my birthday suit. 
I act; I direct; sometimes I produce. 
I had a great wife but I played fast and loose. 
Dad wanted his son to avoid Vietnam:
I’m Aussie; I’m Yank; I don’t give a damn.
Famously Catholic, I’m hypocritical. 
I’m occasionally drunk and anti-semitical. 

Who am I?

*

Mother Knows Best

There is so much angst at home
when your Mum sits on the throne.
She says it is my duty
to wed for State, not booty.
I know that I can’t fight her:
she’ll pull her corset tighter
and declare she’s not amused;
I must consent to being used.
Avoiding war is wiser:
I’m off to raise a Kaiser. 

*

 

 

*Sorry, I’m excited.  Today is my ***********y.  

 

Ha!**  You thought I couldn’t do it, didn’t you?   

 

**Will somebody please close the exclamation mark factory door before I overdose?

 

 

Tell Your Story

29 Jun

I want to share the Aviva Tell Your Story campaign with you:

Tell Us Your Story is giving people the opportunity to recognise and reward others who have made a positive impact on their lives or in their community over the past year. Entries are submitted online at http://www.avivatellusyourstory.co.uk/

Launched by Aviva, for every entry they will donate £1 to the Street to School Programme – a global initiative with the aim of reaching 500,000 children worldwide, helping them get off the streets and back into education.

A weekly prize of £1000 will also be awarded to the local hero that captures the hearts of visitors to the site and receives the most votes.  One overall winner will be chosen by a celebrity judging panel for a prize worth £10,000.

Please think about sharing your story.

Further Information:
About Street to School:
Railway Children is the UK charity partner for the Street to School programme.
Railway Children is the only charity working across the UK with vulnerable children.
Every year in the UK, 100,000 children run away because they’re unwanted, unloved or abused and many are never reported missing.

With Sincere Apologies To Viv

28 Jun

After years of tolerating the Hub and his tropical fish, I have finally succumbed: my name is Tilly and I love my goldfish. So, apologies to nephew David and his lovely wife for messing you around, but I’ll see to Bill myself, thank you very much.

And Betty, of course; she’s the companion we bought for Bill. Or HE’s the companion: turns out the Hub is not as good a sexer as he thought; on reading the book that came with the new fish tank we bought because the original was plastic, cracked and too small and the plants we bought took up all the room, he learned that his method for discerning the sex was faulty i.e. he had no idea what he was doing and might just as well have held a wedding ring on a string over the tank and decided that male was right twirl and female left.

Then came the accessories, donated by a kindly Freegler. Freegle is the English independent breakaway offshoot of Freecycle; a sort of retaliation for 1776 – no authorisation without representation (no money changes hands so it can’t be taxation).

Bill & Betty now have a castle and some slate tunnels and it’s my bet the Hub is thinking that as soon as Callie the Eternal Gerbil pops her clogs, he’ll have a use for her giant tank and the seventeen other fish castles now residing in the garden in an old carrier bag. I’m sure it has been his plan to get me to keep Bill & Betty all along; he’s always liked owning fish. He has asked me almost every day if I had decided to keep them and I finally said ‘yes’ this morning. He had me out of the house and into the pet shop before I could say ‘I’ll have some chips with that’ and we now have Bill & Betty & Jock & Viv.

Jock & Viv get their names from my good friend Vivienne, who always leaves complimentary comments on my posts, and her husband, who once gave the kiss of life to a goldfish and inspired a poem. I won’t post it again because I’ve posted it twice already, but you can read it here. It was one of my favourite poems I have written and I was really touched by Jock’s heroism, and Viv is just lovely, so I can’t think of a better tribute to them. I hope they forgive me.

We now have a dog, a gerbil, two kids and four fish. We may be getting another dog because Toby is still nervous around them and it would help socialise him. We will definitely be getting two more fish because the boys want one of their own now that we are keeping them; but I draw the line at having any more gerbils or kids in the house.

Which reminds me: I am really looking forward to having my niece and nephew staying for a couple of weeks in the summer holidays. Someone’s got to look after all the pets while I have my nervous breakdown.

The Reason I Don’t Do Housework…

27 Jun

…is moths. I don’t do mops because of moths; I don’t do cloths because of moths. Moths are just nighttime butterflies. I saw a daytime butterfly (aka, ‘a butterfly’) last week; it was minute, about the size of my little fingernail. If you saw my delicate hands you’d be impressed with just how small this butterfly was. It was tiny. I said to the Hub that it must be a baby butterfly and he agreed with me. In his defence, he wasn’t really listening. It took my fourteen-year old son to remind me that there are no baby butterflies; well, there are, but they’re called ‘caterpillars’.

I’m not afraid of moths. Apart from the monster ones dressed in metal that we met while driving through the night from Jo’burg to Durban. It was Margate really, but if I wrote Margate you’d wonder how we got from South Africa to England overnight by car and it would be one of those enduring mysteries, like how did Frankenstein’s Monster travel weeks by ship without being detected despite being eight feet tall and made of spare body parts? Then I’d have to explain that there is a Margate in South Africa, probably named after the British Margate, and that would take too long.

Moths are despised because they fold their wings; they tuck them neatly away. Butterflies basically prop their wings up like unused skis; and have you seen the way they discard their winter coats? Our house in South Africa had stipple on the outside walls and the caterpillars would crawl up to rub themselves out of their skin. V. untidy.

So, butterflies are sloppy little bugs and everyone loves them. Moths keep themselves nicely presented and get squashed to oblivion by nervous slobs wielding bulky newspapers. Not wanting to be slapped around the face by The Sunday Telegraph unless I’ve had a cracking good row with the Hub and I have a telephone directory in my hands for retaliation, I decided dirt was the safer option.

*

I’d like to thank the moth who visited me in my bathroom tonight for this post. I couldn’t have done it without you and I’m sorry I accidentally flattened you when I shooed you out of the window. At least butterflies keep sociable hours.

I’d also like to clear the Hub’s name: he is far too scared of me to raise a paper to me.


Writer’s Island Prompt Number 9

26 Jun

I Don’t Recall

I never had a flirty day in Frodsham
with an owner of the red album.
I did not visit the Everyman;
never got free tickets;
could not have attended
the last-night cast party
or met the beautiful half-Greek
love child of a boxing legend.
I don’t recall a walk to school;
a white December day;
a shocked discussion;
a cute boy in a trendy coat.

No mad man.
No bullets.
Imagine:
no John Lennon.
I can’t.

*

The prompt was ‘Imagine’. I imagine many of the Islanders will immediately hear the Lennon song, just as I did. I thought about the funny ways music and musicians touch our lives though we never meet, and remembered moments from my own life that would not have happened if Lennon had never existed.

The visit to the Everyman in Liverpool was to see a play about Lennon’s life.

I’m A Gleek

25 Jun

and I hope to get the t-shirt to prove it. I already have the music and I’d better get the dvd for Christmas or come December 26th I’m offering my whole family on Freecycle. Don’t stop believing it boys, because I mean it: what a girl wants, she better get.

I absolutely LOVE Glee (it won’t surprise you to learn that I also adored Fame in the Eighties). I thought Lea Michele singing Don’t Rain On My Parade was the best moment of the series – though Chris Colfer and the football team singing Single Ladies comes a close second – and I have hurt my eardrums by playing it over and over at full blast on my MP3 player.

I never saw the point of an MP3 player before the Glee albums, despite having one of the first to come out (though in those days it was known as a ‘Walkman’), but now I don’t go anywhere without it. Unfortunately, I can’t concentrate on anything with all that music blaring so I have to find something dull to do. This has led to me frightening the Hub, who is not used to me doing housework voluntarily, but I just take a bow and carry on.

I also spend a lot of time dancing with myself; I might look stupid, but it should even out the chocolate intake. And the Hub is so sweet: when I am ready to drop after all that dancing and cleaning – think Mr Myagi and ‘Wax on; wax off’ on dirty cupboard doors – he tells me, ‘I’ll stand by you; lean on me.’ And I tell him, ‘My life would suck without you.’

Who knew that a cheesy but incredibly fun tv series would reveal our endless love? It’s not a bad romance, really; even after twenty-eight years. Maybe it’s a man’s, man’s man’s world, but I’m a funny girl and he’s the one.

If you are wondering by this stage what I’m rambling on about, here’s something to help you; it might cast a little ray of light:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_in_Glee

My Work Here Is Done

25 Jun

My four-week work placement ended yesterday, so now I can give you all the gossip: they were three lovely people who made me feel a part of the team and bought me chocolates and a 50 books you must read before you die bookmark as a thank you.  Sorry, I don’t do gossip; I’m too busy talking about myself.

I had a great time; I learned a lot about Excel; and I know that I can go back to work after twenty years without too much adjustment.  But for now, until a job comes along, I can go back to doing what I do best: eating Maltesers and playing on King.com. 

I’m giving myself next week off and then I am going to paint the downstairs toilet.  As this will be its third outfit, it is officially the most-decorated room in the house.   It needs to be, as it has played host to many a guest, including a rat (uninvited) and a postman (self-invited).  There was a hole near the pipes and a rat came up for the winter and squatted in my house.  The council exterminator did his job but the rat must have crawled inside the wall instead of doing the decent thing and throwing himself into the outflow, and the house stunk for months.  We spent half our grocery budget on air fresheners but we saved loads on the heating bill – no point warming a house that has every door and window open for three months.  No cold came in through the toilet, though: the Hub made sure to cement that hole.

I still feel guilty about that rat – what is it with me and rats? – who was just doing what rats do; I sometimes wonder if future archeologists will excavate my home and find a four-legged skeleton next to a paw-written note in the dust: I was poisone…

The postman was a less troublesome visitor.  Our regular postman was away and a temporary postman knocked one day, to deliver a package too large for the post box.  He was young, new and nervous.  He was fumbling through his bag, talking all the time, trying to find our parcel.  He finally located it tucked under his arm.   I only knew he was a postman by his bag, because he was wrapped in a huge black parka, fur around the hood and all I could see were his eyes until he smiled.  I heard his accent and asked if he was South African.  Imagine a strong accent: ‘No, I’m from Ghana.’  I told him we had lived in South Africa and he took my hand and shook it warmly and lengthily. 

Still holding my hand, he asked, ‘Can I urinate here?’  I have always wondered what postmen do when they need to go, and now I know.  If you live long enough, all questions will someday be answered.  I replied, ‘Yes, of course.’  What else could I say? 

I opened the toilet door, switched on the light, and he went in, unzipped, and did the business.  I know this, because he didn’t bother to close the door while he did it.  He must have really needed it because he was ages.  He came out without washing his hands, shook my hand again, asked for directions to the next address, and left me to clear up the puddle on the seat and floor. 

What a nice young man.

At least he wasn’t a dopey young man, which is my clever segue into the saga of Son of Dozy

Bad Heir Day

Spud was out playing football at the park downhill from the house, when the dog decided he wanted another walk.  He mithers and mithers and it’s just easier to do as I’m told.  As it was cooler, the Hub offered to come with me up to the park at the back of the house.  The Hub went on ahead while I locked up and it was just then that Sulky Spud arrived, furious to have lost his £15 World Cup Football (paid for with his own money, hence the fury).  He and his friend had spent forty minutes looking for it in the mass of bushes where he had kicked it.  He was quite upset and when I told the Hub, we decided to take Spud and go look for it with him.  The Hub waded into the bushes and found it within a minute, uncharacteristically forbearing to admonish his silly son for searching with his eyes closed.  Spud had a kickabout while the Hub and I chatted to another dog owner; the Hub then gave Spud some advice on back-heeling the ball; had three touches and a heart attack; and we meandered home.  Poor Hub: it was uphill all the way.

We had just arrived back when Spud clutched his pockets, anguish in his face and cried, ‘Where’s my phone?’

He was ordered back to the park with my phone to call his phone to locate it and every ten minutes called the home phone to report that there was nothing to report.  Making unnecessary phone calls is what teenagers do best.   The last call reported that there was no money left on my phone, so the Hub and I were ordered to come down to the park with the Hub’s phone.   I insisted that the Hub drive down this time as he would never make it back up the hill, and Toby couldn’t believe his luck at going out for a third time that day, especially in the car, which he loves.  Alas, the Tobester was destined to be disappointed; we had just pulled out of our road when we saw Spud running and waving his phone.  He couldn’t call us to tell us not to come because making necessary phone calls may not be what teenagers do best but they need credit on their phones when they do do it.

At least he ended the day in possession of the things that matter most to him: phone, ball, dog and doting parents.  He was most grateful but I wouldn’t bet on him remembering this day next time he’s mad at us.  Being mad at parents is what teenagers do best.

*

I have been so busy this week that I haven’t had much time to write, though I did manage this reverse senryu for Writer’s Island.  The prompt is ‘change’.

Afghanistan, 21/6/10

Three hundred dead, and counting:
no change there, then.  Brave
men, women, all: no change there.

*

I want to end on a sunny day note so here is something someone posted on Facebook that I thought you might like:

I Promise You A Real Post Tomorrow

24 Jun

And Now For Something Completely Different…

23 Jun

Today sees a new departure for me: I’m going to let somebody else do all the talking. I have a guest in my blog, American author Sherry D. Shumard. Sherry is the author of Heartbroken Promises 1 & 2

Heartbroken Promises 2: Vicky Wainright decides to visit Jake’s Island so she can be close to her sister Miranda. She is offered a nanny job by Jordan, a handsome bachelor who is raising his son alone. She meets waiter Noah, and is quickly torn between loving him and Jordan. Miranda is kidnapped and her sister believes that Noah was one of the kidnappers. How will she feel about Noah after she finds out the truth? Will Miranda be rescued or killed?

Welcome, Sherry. Please tell us a little about yourself. 

I love to read and write books. I’m the published author of a series of books titled: Heartbroken Promises, Heartbroken Promises 2 and I’m currently working on Heartbroken Promises 3. The books are available on Amazonbooksamillion.com, and Barnes & Nobleto name a few. I plan on writing many more books since I have a lot of ideas I want to write about. My dream is to someday soon see my books come to life as a movie or a television series – that would be great.

I’m married and have three children and two pets.

Do you have friendly critics who read your early drafts, and how difficult is it to hear constructive criticism?

I have had friendly critics who read my early drafts and it is very helpful. When I hear constructive criticism it can sometimes be hard to take in. I’ve learned that it isn’t about me personally when I get negative feedback about my writing. I will take all suggestions and apply them in my writing if necessary and I will only become a better and stronger writer because of constructive criticism. When I got non-biased reviews recently yes, the negative feedback did hurt at first but now I know what I need to do in my third novel. I need to have more character development so that the reader will get to know them on a more intimate level. I will also make the story longer and not have it so fast paced. One of the reviewers said she likes to linger in the story so that’s what I will do – take my time in writing and have the events play out longer. One of the reviewers loved the passion and the drama in my second novel.  In my third novel I will take all of the suggestions; this next book will pick up where the second one left off and it will be full of drama and passion, so that the reviewers will be shocked and pleasantly surprised. Overall, the reviews weren’t that bad. One of the reviewers said that the passion was so thick that you couldn’t cut it with a knife. I will try to top that in my next novel.

Do you believe in the existence of writer’s block and, if so, how do you combat it?

I think that there is writer’s block. Sometimes I have to take a break when I write if I feel like I’m too tired or the story isn’t going where it is supposed to be going. I don’t use an outline when I write so who knows until I start writing what the characters are going to be doing? The best thing for writer’s block is to take a break and come back refreshed and then start again.

Do you believe that sites like iUniverse and Lulu are the future of publishing? 

I do believe that sites like iUniverse and Lulu are definitely the future of publishing. With so many readers online it is perfect to have books accessible for them to order and download. I’m already a published author with iuniverse.com with my first novel.  My second novel is published through PublishAmerica.

Where do you write? 

I write in the front room on a computer or on a laptop outside, either on the front porch or back deck. Sometimes I will write down story ideas on paper at a park or wherever I may be at. I think it is easier for me to be at a computer or laptop because I think that it is less work to just type the story. If I write them down, then I have to also type them later. That’s just my writing style.

How do you write? 

I don’t use an outline when I write my chapters. I just visualize my characters in my head and write down what they would say or do as I go along. I can just picture them on Jake’s Island – the setting in my story – and it is so easy to write that the story just flows along. I just have to use the available time that I have to write because I have a very busy life.

Why do you write? 

I love books and I love to create characters and drama and mystery for my readers to enjoy. It is exciting seeing my name and the title of my books on the covers. I have so many ideas on books and I wish I had more time to write. I’ll just have to keep writing because it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and I love to throw my heart and soul into the storyline and give the reader an escape from their normal lives. The Heartbroken Promises series is set on Jake’s Island, a fictional island; but in my mind it is really Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia.

Thanks for your visit, Sherry; and good luck with the book.

You can read more about Sherry at http://www.sherryshumard.com/blog.html 

 

 

Fully Booked

22 Jun

This is the fourth and last week of my work placement. I have enjoyed it and I have learned quite a bit as well, especially about Excel. I have also experienced new jobs like diary-keeping and I think I’m rather good at it.

However, it is possible that all of that thar noo larnin has addled my brain, if yesterday is anything to go by. My good friend J and I and some of our writing buddies are trying to set up a writing group at the art gallery. It’s a long story that I will share with you another day. J has been trying to organise an evening meeting for tonight that everyone can attend but I can’t go because I’d arranged to visit my blonde friend. When I was doing my back-to-work course at the same place as my work placement, she and I met once or twice for breakfast beforehand, so I suggested that we do that yesterday morning. She emailed on Sunday to say she could make it, and we arranged to meet at nine.

Being so busy on Sunday, with ironing and gardening and shouting at the Hub, I forgot to tell him about it. In fact, I forgot all about it myself until I was dropping off to sleep and suddenly sat up in bed when I remembered. I wrote myself a reminder note and fell asleep. Do you ever have those dreams where something is not quite right and it niggles at you but you can’t work out what it is? At five-thirty in the morning I startled myself awake by shouting, ‘Nine o’clock!  Nine o’clock!’ Nine o’clock was when I breakfasted with J before starting my course at ten o’clock; nine o’clock is also the time I have started work every morning for the past three weeks.

I emailed J as soon as I got up, passing the post-to-be-posted in the hall as I staggered into the lounge at six a.m. and reminding myself to take it with me when I went out. I thought I would text J in case she didn’t read her emails before she left, and at six-thirty I managed a jokey message and tried to send it to her. That’s when I realised I didn’t have her number. Well, I did; but it was on the phone I had previously run through my washing machine’s hot cycle and therefore lying in a landfill on the other side of Stockport.

Thus, at six-forty-five I was rifling through notebooks 15 to 26 in the hope of finding her number written down; but it was not to be. Panic set in at about six-fifty-three: can’t leave J sitting in a café with a coffee, a tea, four slices of toast and an ‘I’ve been stood up’ look on her face. Can’t be late for (unpaid and with no job at the end of it) work. What to do? What to do?

I emailed J with a brief explanation (she had it luckier than you) and asked her to text me if she received it; and would she like to meet for lunch instead? My plan was to go to the café if I didn’t hear from her and grovel an apology before abandoning her. I usually arrive at work with ten minutes to spare and she is always chronically early so I thought I could abase myself and still get to work on time.

The bus chose to be late; so late, in fact, that it arrived holding hands with the one that comes thirty minutes after. This was highly unsatisfactory to the student at the bus stop who complained to me that she would miss her exam which was a re-sit because she failed the last one and she knew she had it from May 31st so she had weeks to revise but she still managed to forget so now she was going to be late for an exam that she couldn’t pass last time and wouldn’t pass this time because Geography was so hard and they wanted specific answers and it was so hard to write exactly what they wanted and it was all too much and she had waited for the stupid bus since ten-past-eight and it was now ten-to-nine and she wasn’t going to make it because it was all so hard life was so hard. When she paused for breath I filled the gap by asking her what she wanted to do after college. Her reply? You couldn’t make it up: ‘a counsellor.’

She phoned for a taxi and when our two buses came she decided to forego both and wait for her cab. The last I saw of her, she left her giant blue handbag on the wall of her house, went inside and closed the door. I’m betting she never made her exam. I did make it to work on time, however; the marvellous J read her emails and texted me just before my stop.

I had a nice morning at work and then phoned the Hub to tell him that I was drawing money out of the bank to pay for the postage and to ignore the note I left him because I wasn’t meeting J for lunch because she couldn’t make it. He was a bit short with me but he was still cleaning grass from his teeth so I didn’t think much of his, ‘What happened to us going up to the post office at Edgeley and then taking the dog to the park like we arranged?’ But he had left the post for me, hadn’t he? It was only after I hung up that I remembered that on Sunday we had, indeed, made plans to go up to the post office at Edgeley on Monday and then onto the park with the dog, and I was still on the timetable we had planned before the new plan and the post-to-be-posted just happened to be sitting in the place where the post-to-be-posted always sits.

Having grovelled to the Hub in lieu of J, I thought that at least I knew I was safe on Tuesday, visiting my blonde friend just after seven in the evening, and I turned to my diary for comfort. That’s when I noticed I had pencilled in a meeting for those adults involved with the church holiday club… at seven-thirty.

So, I ditched my husband in favour of my friend; I ditched my friend in favour of work; and I ditched another friend in favour of strange children. I think I might have to take ‘excellent diary-keeping skills’ off my CV.

How One Dad Made Us Spend His Day

21 Jun

Yesterday was a big day; one Spud and I had looked forward to with real dread: annual gardening day.  Every year there comes a point in the Laughing Housewife’s household when we open the back door and find ourselves re-enacting The Day of the Triffids. It is the day we realise that if we let Toby out to do his business, we may never see him again. In a post-apocalyptic future a modern Livingstone will be hacking through the jungle that is our tiny back yard and come across a forlorn four-legged skeleton, clinging to a weed and with scratch marks on the grass around him, as if he was desperately trying to find his way out and failed somewhat.

It being the third sunny day of the year and Father’s Day, and the Hub being the Father of the house and thus claiming seniority in a feeble attempt to wrest control from my delicate hands, he put his foot down with a firm finger in the direction of Stockport’s equivalent to Birnam Wood and declared that it was No Longer Need To Feel Ashamed At The State Of The Garden Day, and made us clean it up.

I say ‘us’ but he got stuck in as well. Trouble is, he will insist on being in charge and that leads to a few cross words and a few bundles of weeds being chucked across the garden and into his face. His CFS/ME means that he can’t do as much as he’d like to and he has to stop; it makes him frustrated and irritable with Spud and me. He knows – and we know – that he could do things better if he could do them at all, but that’s how he ended up getting ill in the first place. No danger of that for Spud and me, who did what we had to do but don’t care enough to do it to the Hub’s exacting and illness-inducing standards.  Particularly once the slugs showed up.

That reminds me of my Mum and her first garden; she had always lived in homes with no gardens until she was 37 and we moved to Runcorn. It was a small garden but she was excited to get out there. She bought herself some little tools and a hat and bubbled over with the joy of it. We watched her dig happily with her little trowel for a while, then went to watch telly. A few minutes later, Dad found her standing in the kitchen with her trowel, looking around as if she didn’t know what to do. ‘What’s the matter?’ asked Dad. Mum blushed a little then said, ‘I found a worm.’ She had run into the house in a panic, and never gardened again.



There Were These Two Peas…

20 Jun

I have Tory Boy’s permission to talk about Tory Girl.  My lips are at last unsealed; I’m so glad because the zip was stuck and the tongue trapped in it.  It’s hard to eat a Malteser without a working tongue.

When he came home (way) after Easter, he mentioned that he had been seeing her for a while.  Don’t feel put out – it has taken me only two months to mention her to you: Tory Boy left it six months before telling his devoted parents he had found a special someone.  He brought her to see us on his last visit and she is lovely.  I have always been determined that my boys would never know if I disliked their partners because I want them home for Christmas, but she made it easy by being nice and fitting in with what I can only describe as a loud and opinionated household without being loud and opinionated herself (but we’ll soon knock the politeness out of her).  I am particularly pleased that she is taking a maths degree: I want smart grandchildren.

But that is way way way in the future (are you listening, son?); for now he has the summer to contend with.  He has two choices: come home and argue with his father for eight weeks or take up an internship at the Houses of Parliament.  I know which one I’d choose but I’m not really interested in politics; I think TB should go to geek camp. 

Sadly, there’s a hitch: it was all arranged and then his accommodation fell through.  He would get a food and travel allowance but nothing for accommodation, which seems an odd arrangement to me because interns surely can’t be expected to live on the street like Will Smith in Pursuit of Happyness [brief pause for yearning sigh and continued puzzlement over that spelling and that hair…  still, it could have been William Hague and no hair, or worse – Robbie Williams and hair of the dog].  As he is a student he has no money for accommodation, and we are not in a position to help him.  I looked at hostels and the prices are unbelievable – £35 a night, no food included!  I can feed a family of four for a week on £35.  I could cry for him missing this opportunity.

He says I mustn’t worry because the offer is open for every holiday, but I’m a mother; worry is what we do.  And it’s all right for him – if he doesn’t go, he won’t be the one refereeing a two-month Shrek vs Son of Shrek match, will he?

 

Of This And That

19 Jun

It has come to my attention that not everyone knows the sound of a vuvuzela – you lucky, lucky people – so here is a sample for you:

There have been a lot of complaints on this side of the planet that they shouldn’t be allowed at the World Cup tournament but I think that’s a bit of a cheek: we wouldn’t like it if everyone came here and said our fans can’t hurl abuse at the players on the pitch, would we?  It’s a Great British Tradition.

*

Re the BP oil disaster: what’s the bet that when they make a movie of it, Michael Sheen plays villain-in-chief executive Tony Hayward?  You heard it here first.

BP Chief Executive officer Tony Hayward said he will not quit and BP will stop leakMichael Sheen Picture

*

It suddenly occurred to me that in all this talk of book launches and bad shoes, I haven’t shared the actual poem with you.  Here it is:

Find A Solution 

Infants once played in this
ruptured field. 
Now, each night is Kristallnacht,
bottles broken over
foreign heads. 
Adolescents scorn childhood friends,
despise them like yellow stars
on skeleton men in
some other holocaust. 
Stolen cars churn dried
blood and grass
like Nazi ash. 
In overlooking houses,
faces turn to
safer sights and latent
Adolfs beat their wives;
pride in their little Reichs.

*

The Hub just asked my why I’ve got a picture of Andy Serkis on my blog, so there’s another option – you heard that here first, as well:

 
BP Chief Executive officer Tony Hayward said he will not quit and BP will stop leak

A Pain On The Train

18 Jun

I was so tempted not to post yesterday and let you all wonder if I had been mugged on the bus, but I’m not that mean.  Then I saw the Madam & Eve cartoon and had to post anyway, so I killed my own joke.  I had another busy day yesterday, compounded by the effect of drinking a whole glass of martini & lemonade the night before.  I felt like I had a hangover; that’s what late nights do to me – I was out until ten on Wednesday.

I went to the Best of Manchester Poets book launch and had a blast. Standing with a martini in one hand and a poetry book in the other is like a little piece of heaven on earth; all I needed was a Malteser and I could have died at that moment of utter joy. The ice-cube in the drink was listening to some excellent poetry read out by real performance poets. A fabulous night.

Getting there was a bit of a performance – well, not getting there so much as preparing to get there. It took me over an hour of trawling the GMPTE website to discover, first, it would take three buses and a train to get there and, second, that it wouldn’t.

Studying maps of the centre of Manchester, the Hub decided that I shouldn’t walk 700 metres up one street in a sort of unfamiliar city (I’ve been there only for tutorials and exams and summer school and the occasional foray into Primark) and persuaded me to get the train instead, which would bring me out much closer to the venue, the Green Room.

I never need much persuading to take a train, but I wanted to save some money: one of/the only perk of my work placement is that they pay £7 of my £11 megarider, a weekly bus ticket. I thought I might as well use it to go into Manchester but the Hub encouraged me to waste our hard-earned £5 nest egg instead. You think I’m joking about the nest egg?  Last year, I decided in January to save all my spare change and use it towards Christmas Dinner. I gave up in August when I had a total of £3.72 in my jar. I bought us all an ice cream instead.

It wasn’t just deciding on the best mode of transport for my perilous undertaking; there was also the matter of the correct attire for an evening literary engagement:

dress/skirt/trousers?

 Trousers.

top – black/white/black & white/short-sleeved/long-sleeved/tucked in/left out?

Tory Boy & Spud Bud, look away now!

That took some sorting and included a raid on my sons’ wardrobes to see if they had anything that might fit me (they didn’t) and a jack-in-the-box bra-fitting impersonation as I tried on black top (needed a black bra), white top (needed a white bra), black top (black bra), white top (white bra), black & white top (hysteria began to set in).

Okay boys, it’s safe again.

There was a frantic rummage through my jewellery boxes for my graduation brooch (a story for another day) and then it was just a matter of choosing shoes. There was no choice, really, because my state-sponsored tap shoes are too uncomfortable to wear without a carpet underfoot. I have taken to going to work in the Hub-and-my trainers (black with velcro straps; the Hub bought them for himself but has yet to feel how comfy they are because I keep them on my shoe rack and snarl if he tries to borrow them) and changing into the toe-cripplers before I start. It’s an idea I got from Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl, before her trout pout and Alex Baldwin was famous. I didn’t want to be tramping on and off trains and around Manchester in pain – the medievally-tortured face is so last season – so I put on my faux-Cat beige boots and promptly took them off again, opting for pain and aesthetics instead.

The look complete – black pants, black shoes, blood-red feet, white blouse (the first item I had tried on and discarded) and white bra (though nearly…), the Hub and I were getting into the car for the station as Spud said, ‘You do know your top is see-through, Mum; don’t you?’ The Hub was having none of my reasonable panic attack and ushered me in to the car with all the finesse of a long-time cop arresting a particularly nasty serial killer who first ties the tongues of fourteen year old tactless sons into slip knots before topping their crazy mothers.

I hobbled onto the Manchester Piccadilly train and hobbled off again seven minutes later, thinking that was £1.30 well spent – for a return ticket as well.  It costs me 20p more for a single journey into the centre of Stockport, which I can walk in twenty minutes (or two weeks, depending on the shoes).  Manchester is quite a bit further on.  However, my penny-pinching soul’s joy was short-lived because I was later charged 50p for a slice of lemon in my martini.  Hmmph. 

The train was packed but I found a seat and squeezed in, then squeezed right out again before the seat had time to sag when I noticed the First Class signs posted all over the windows.  I tried to go through to the next carriage but couldn’t get one of the connecting doors to open and bashed my head on the glass.  It wasn’t until an hour later that I discovered, when the people I thought were staring at me in the bar because I had a poem in the book, that they couldn’t take their eyes off me because there was a backwards ‘Out of Order’ imprint on my forehead. 

I didn’t mind standing in the train corridor and being squashed against the toilet door because it gave me the opportunity to overhear the following conversation:

Woman 1: Put her in with the cockerel.

Woman 2: No, she’ll regenerate like the TARDIS.

I am so sad that I never heard the end of it but it was my own fault because I suddenly noticed the emergency medical kit glass looked cracked.  Don’t ask me why I decided to test it, because I don’t know.  Thank goodness the glass fell quietly inwards instead of tinkling to the floor of the train.  I hope there was no cctv on board.

I changed at Piccadilly for Oxford Road, an uneventful two-minute ride, and popped into the loo when I arrived.  It was at that point that most people would have noticed a forehead covered in ink, but I was distracted by the fairground effect caused by the aluminium that masqueraded as a mirror.  I also had to deal with the conundrum of the toilet roll: imagine a ship’s life belt stapled to the back of a toilet door and you can’t even begin to imagine how big this thing was.  I had to decide how much I would need before I sat down.  I had a nervous stomach because of the event but I wasn’t sure quite how nervous it was: take too much toilet roll and I had the problem of what to do with the leftovers; take too little and I was stuck in a public toilet for the night.  The ideal solution would have been to unravel some and then sit down with it, gently tugging at it until I had enough for my needs.  Pity I’ve only just thought of the ideal solution two days later.  I’ll gloss over what happened next.

The Green Room is just around the down hill corner from the station.  I’ve told you I had a great night.  The award-winning performance poet Dominic Berry hosted the evening.  I’d like to say I’ve heard of him, but I haven’t.  He was excellent, though.  We poets were all given our free copies when we arrived – it’s a proper paperback with an ISBN number and everything!  Available on Amazon, by the way.  An editor was chatting to some of us and she said that almost 600 poems had been submitted and only around sixty had been accepted, lots of them by new poets like me.  It was alleged that quite a few well-established poets had been put out by not being accepted, but all submissions had been read anonymously.   I did notice, however, that each of the editors and the publisher had at least one poem in the book…hmm.  This particular editor must have thought me rude and discriminatory because I gave her funny looks while she was talking to me; but it wasn’t because she was disabled – she had a bit of dirt stuck to her eyelash and it batted against her glasses and freaked me out.  I wanted to pass her a wet wipe but thought she might take offence.  I wonder if it was better that she believes me bigoted than critical of her personal hygiene?  Some days I am terribly British.

Dominic Berry talked about the Manchester poetry scene being a natural successor to the Mersey poetry scene; it was interesting, then, that the first five poets to read were from London and Wales.  I am from Liverpool but I didn’t read – not with this voice.  In church the other day I twice had to say the phrase ‘her hair’; with my accent it sounded like ‘hur hur’.  Twice.  I wouldn’t mind, but it wasn’t even my turn to read the lesson; I had been asked to swap.

I left the Green Room just after nine, having heard some wonderful poetry and sucked the life out of my fifty pence lemon slice so they couldn’t re-use it and charge some other mug for the privilege.  I crawled up the hill with my chánzú feet and straight onto a train bound for Piccadilly.  It wasn’t worth sitting down for such a short ride; I stood at the door holding onto the granny bars with both hands in case the door flew open en route and I fell out and was crushed to death by a train or electrocuted by the live rails, and looked down at the city, contemplating that train is the best way to travel, ever, when the driver announced that there had been a signal outage at Burnage and all services had been severely disrupted and  this train was terminating at Piccadilly.   The petulant student who had bruised me with his skateboard as he struggled past me with his humongous rucksack and massive suitcase was not pleased, and phoned his Mum to tell her so.  It was ridiculous: after all, he had arrived in time to catch this particular train.  What was the point?

I dismounted at Piccadilly and walked on my hands to the next Stockport train, which was Birmingham-bound.  Climbed aboard; was pushed back by the rush of passengers ordered off that now broken train in order to catch the one behind; boarded the one behind and sat amongst the detritus there must have been no time to clear away before it was called into service; and watched people fall over my feet, which were three times larger than my stomach and just as pretty.  I remember looking at the symmetrical moles I suddenly noticed and then realising they were shoe buttons. 

The seven-minute journey took fifteen but the glorious Hub was waiting for me as I staggered out of the station on the back of a stranger I had requisitioned to carry me, and within minutes I was in my bathroom, feet in sink and warm water schmoozing contented ooos from me.  I was desperate for my bed so I thought I might as well brush my teeth while I was there, but I didn’t think it through: where to spit?

Well, it must have taken you as long to read this as my entire night out.  I bet you wish I’d taken the bus after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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