Man Flu

Man FluThis week I have had Man Flu.

Not a trans gender announcement or, in fact, actual flu.  Just a heavy cold and sore throat blown up beyond all proportion.

I have quite enjoyed it.  I have spent the days dragging my listless body from A to B leaving a trail of tissues behind me.

I have lain on the sofa declaring myself too ill to eat before downing a family sized fruit and nut without removing the wrapper.

I have sneezed all over everything and everyone and had regular, prolonged coughing fits.

When I have managed to bravely string a sentence together it has been uttered entirely through my nasal passages like the chap from the Tunes advert circa 1985.

All strangely satisfying.

The only man flu essential missing has been a willing servant to attend to my every whim.  You know, make tea, serve food, make endless sympathetic moue and offer to phone the surgery for an emergency appointment.

My then husband once rang me from his man flu bed pit to ask (in a weak and lamb like quiver) could he please have some hot honey and lemon?

I was in the kitchen at the time and we were talking a two bed cottage not Downton Abbey.

Maybe I should advertise for a man flu partner.  Like a dating profile but with added phlegm.

Single Man Flu Female Seeks Slave Partner

Must have endless patience and no other calls on their time

Chicken soup and sweet tea skills essential

Good level of fitness required as many trips up and down stairs involved

Anyone who thinks they have ever been equally unwell need not apply (as it is patently obvious that NO ON has EVER been as ill as this)

What do you think? Any takers?

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year. Bonne année.  Ein glückliches neues Jahr.  Godt NytÅr.  Hauoli Makahiki hou.

Etc.

It is not because I am so behind on blogging that this post is a month late.  It is because I have decided that from now on 1 February is my New Year.

My loathing of January is well documented but it has taken me 47 years to realize that it is futile to fight it.

Up to now I have embraced Jan with the best of them.  New diet, new fitness regime, green smoothies, Facebook ban, pelvic floor exercises, gratitude diary – the whole self-help shebang.

I have even jumped on the Dry January wagon in the past.

And without exception I have spectacularly failed at everything every single year.

So on top of being cold, deprived of sunlight and vitamin D, and stony broke from Christmas; I have also been starving, muscle sore and guilt ridden for the large glass of Sauvignon I inhaled at 6.01pm on the first Friday of January.

2017 brought an epiphany.  I DO NOT NEED TO DO ALL THAT!

It is only 31 days after all.  The world will not end if I hibernate for 31 days.

So that is exactly what I have done.  Since the last firework died over the Thames on New Year’s Eve I have officially been in January purdah.

Eat, sleep, work, watch catch up TV, repeat.

That has been my month.

I have not been running since 2016, my sugar and alcohol levels almost remain at their Christmas levels, I am fully up to date on all the TV series and box sets on my list and I haven’t had a whiff of anything remotely resembling a Kale smoothie.

And I have made it through to February.

I am emerging, five pounds heavier but triumphant, ready to tackle 2017 and all it throws at me.

Bring it on.

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Rock Choir

Regular readers will know that I do not do well in the bleak months of winter.   Given the choice I would probably go to bed on New Year’s Eve and set the alarm for somewhere around the 1st March but as this is a bit impractical I have to find some other coping strategies.

My January mission this year was to try something new that is not connected to either work or parenthood.  I hate the expression but, for want of something better, let’s call it the dreaded ‘Me-Time’.

Option one was the new Clubercise class at the gym.  Leaping around to dance tracks in a dark room waving glow sticks?  Yes please.  Only problem is that all the super keen January gym bunnies have taken the spaces and it is fully booked for weeks ahead.

Option two was Rock Choir.

If you are not familiar with Rock Choir it is the current extra-curricular activity du jour for the Great British public.  Six or seven years ago the menopausal masses were flocking to Zumba classes, evangelical about the new found freedom of shaking their cellulite to the Latin beat.  These days it’s Rock Choir that commands the attention.  You can barely walk down a UK high street without having to fight your way through a flash mob belting out a tune in perfect harmony.

I am not a big fan of Gareth-patron-saint-of-all-choirs-Malone (irrelevant really as he has absolutely no connection to Rock Choir) and this, combined with the general flash mobbiness had put me off having a go in the past, but over 20,000 members can’t be wrong.  Right?

Also, and not to be sniffed at, is the well documented research that shows singing in a choir lifts you mood, creates a sense of well being and even strengthens your immune system. 

So off I trotted to a taster session at my local group.

Masses of people!  Everyone was very focused on finding their chair and this made sense when someone explained that you sit according to your voice range from bass at one end of the room to high soprano and the other end.  I sat in soprano as I had a friend there but it was bit high for me in bits, think Barry Gibb on speed, so I think I’ll be moving down the hall.

The session was led by an amazing instructor who was so full of energy and smiles and enthusiasm that even cynical old me was totally swept up in it.  There is no music to read, all done by ear and by the end of the hour and a half session we were belting out the first half of UpTown Girl and sounding pretty good!

The hardest thing was remembering which part of the arrangement you are supposed to sing, I kept getting carried away and leaping in at the wrong bit.  You also need to focus on hearing your own voice; several times I was thinking “Blimey, someone is singing way out of tune” only to realise that it was actually me.  Bit awkward.

So I have signed up for the term.  I’ll report back at Easter and let you know if my mood is lifted, immune system strengthened, and if I have managed to sit in the right chair and stay in tune.

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Does Thin Equal Happy?

When I was about 12 years old my mum came home with a new recipe book called “Cooking to Make Kids Slim”.  The front cover was a photograph of an unhappy looking plump-ish child dressed in tight shorts and a straining t shirt, standing on a set of scales.  As the podgy girl who always got picked last in PE I completely identified with this picture, it sowed the seed that fat=sad and thin=happy and marked the beginning of my dieting journey.**

Thirty four years later and I am still trying to reach the thin=happy part of the equation.  I have been on some sort of diet for most of my adult life; from mad ones that precluded all foods apart from tomatoes and edam cheese, too good to be true ones that allowed cream, chocolate and wine, to highly expensive ones that involved weekly visits to a suspicious looking ‘clinic’ somewhere off Great Portland Street.

I have been a size 8, a size 18 and spent my entire adult life madly yo-yoing between the two.

The problem is twofold.  Firstly, I love food.  Not just because it is food – I am not gratuitously mainlining Dominos pizza and Krispy Kremes. I also love all the happy associations that come with the stuff on my plate.  Family mealtimes, great nights out with friends, new tastes in another country, or simply the comfort of a bar of Dairy Milk in front of a good film.  Definitely what you would call an emotional eater.

I am fully informed.  I know that to lose weight I have to put less in and expend more, there is no magic solution to shedding the pounds.  The only real value that the bonkers diet plans hold for me are the change in routine and break in habits and, with something like Weight Watchers, the weekly weigh in of shame – nothing like the disappointed sigh from your WW leader to focus the mind.

I know I am not alone, I don’t think I have a female friend who is not on perma-weight-alert, so why do we do it?  I don’t have a burning desire to look like a particular celebrity, I am not medically obese and in a ‘diet or die’ scenario.

Do I think that if I was my perfect weight then everything else in life would fall into place and be perfect?  To be honest?  Yes, probably a little bit.  Because the self-esteem demon that has a cosy home in my brain’s frontal lobe keeps telling me so.  If I was thinner I would be happier, more successful, more liked and loved.

I will never actually find out if this is true because I will never feel that I am thin enough.  I have a postcard that someone sent me once that says “I wish I was as fat as I was the first time I thought I was fat”.  This about sums it up.  If we took a straw poll of 100 women I wonder how many would answer yes to the question ‘are you at your ideal weight?’.  And of those who answered yes, would they also answer yes to ‘has it changed your life and made you happy?’.

So as I embark on a six week pre-summer diet jaunt (giving Slimming World another go, haven’t tried them for a few years) wish me luck and, if you have the answer to the thin=happy conundrum I would love to hear it.

**Disclaimer – this is not an exercise in maternal guilt, I’m pretty sure I nagged her to buy the book…

 

Feeling Overwhelmed

The past couple of weeks I have mostly been feeling overwhelmed.  Not overwhelmed in a good way (A surprise party!  You guys are amazing!  I don’t know what to say!) but in a suffocating, life-can-be-quite-hard-work-and-also-a-bit-shitty-sometimes sort of a way.

It feels like all the points on my many and various to do lists have merged together and risen up in one giant wave threatening to totally engulf me in a metaphorical wipe out.  This isn’t just a single parent rant, I am well aware that there are many happy couples out there who are feeling the stress just as keenly, but having to shoulder the responsibility of everything on my own is almost certainly a contributing factor.

The worst part about it is that, no matter how much I achieve there is always more to be done waiting around the corner; work, house, children, blog, self, there is never the opportunity to sit and reflect on tasks completed or problems conquered before gearing up to fight the next battle.

Teen 1 gets frequently exasperated and points out that I am, in fact, my own worst enemy.  There are many things that I struggle to fit in to a day that she views as unnecessary and, while our benchmarks of necessity are vastly different (when you are 16 years old cleaning the bathroom and running the hoover round do not feature highly on a priority list), I do know that I tend to fill every minute with activity in a slightly manic way.  Any self-help junkie worth her salt knows that occupation is the enemy of depression, time spent re-organising a kitchen cupboard is time that could otherwise be lost to dark thoughts and naval gazing.

The trick to getting a better balance whilst still keeping busy would be to master the art of filling vacant time pockets with things that benefit your mental state.  Swap weeding the garden for a yoga session, replace cleaning the oven with a twenty minute coffee break and a couple of chapters of a good book.  All very good in theory, and some people I know manage this very well – I am nothing but envious.  I have tried to emulate the method but the hairy guilt monster lurks so fiercely over me for the duration of the yoga/coffee/reading whatever session that any benefit is outweighed by the thoughts of all the other things I really should be doing.

So, in an effort to try and release some of the pressure I think the answer for someone like me is to try and ‘re-brand’ a few of the things that are on life’s to-do list.  Scrubbing the loo is always going to be a rotten chore so no point trying to alter those kind of duties, but there are other activities that have become a burden that need not to be.  Walking the dog always feels like a pain in the neck that eats into every day when, in fact, it is a fantastic opportunity to breathe fresh air, stretch muscles, and chew over thoughts and ideas uninterrupted.  Writing this blog should not be a task that hangs over me demanding attention but a brilliant hobby to be savoured and enjoyed.

I put this theory to the test this weekend.  Teens 1 and 2 are away and the prospect of two whole days with no meals to make or taxi duties to perform made me concoct a massive list of tasks that I wanted to get done.  Everything was on there from tidy and re-organise the garage to cleaning all the windows to spring cleaning the goldfish bowl.  I screwed my courage to the sticking post and chose one thing – shorten the pair of curtains I got on Ebay so that they actually fit the window.  I fired up the Iplayer and found a couple of engrossing plays on Radio 4 and got to work.  The job took longer than expected (don’t they always) and actually took all day but, do you know what?  It didn’t matter.  I had a happy and relaxing time pinning and sewing, lost myself in some radio drama and at the end of the day had completed a task that has been bugging me for months.

The re-branding experiment was a success.  It remains to be seen whether I can roll out the pilot scheme into everyday life, I suspect it might be a work in progress, but for now at least I have built a temporary dam in the fast flowing river of pressure that was threatening to sweep me away.

Feeling Overwhelmed

Why I Am Not Like Kate Winslet

Kate WinsletOK, I am obviously not a peachy skinned, hour glass shaped, Oscar winning household name but that is not what this post is about. It is about parenting and why I am not, and never will be, the parent that Kate Winslet is.

On BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ on Friday, Jenni Murray interviewed Kate Winslet about her two current movies, The Dressmaker and Steve Jobs. It was very easy listening and made me want to go and see at least one of the films so ticks in the boxes for both the publicity department and for Kate who delivered a faultless series of answers to Murray’s questions. Her combination of thespian luvviness and ‘I’m really a normal woman just like you’ is polished to perfection, and she sounded fresh and perky, not like she was on her four hundredth press junket and sick to the back teeth of talking about both films.

So far so good. Then Murray moved on to more general topics (her womanly figure, her work life balance etc. etc.) and she touched upon the recently reported fact that Winslet does not allow her children to use any form of social media. When pressed on the reasons why, Winslet embarked on a fairly lengthy homily about children being children, precious years and old fashioned values. She wants her kids to be out climbing trees and dancing in the rain not sat with their thumbs moving at lightning speed over a small but all powerful screen.

Well – duh – that is, of course, what we all want for our children. Few people embark on parenthood with a manifesto that states every actioned shall be selfied, every thought be broadcast. We all have visions of Pooh sticks and camp fires, picnics and tree houses but as your children get older it quickly becomes apparent that the Enid Blyton regime is just not practical.

Obviously KW is perfectly entitled to her own opinions and parenting style and I fully respect both. BUT, I do have two issues with the sermon that was delivered on Woman’s Hour. Firstly, few children like to be different to their peers. Do you remember the kid at school who didn’t have a TV? How weird! For teenagers especially it is vital to be perceived as the same as your friends, not stick out like a sore thumb. If, however, you are the children of a world famous movie star then you are already different. Your life is, by default, nothing like the life of the person you sit next to in Maths so to be the teen without social media just adds to your mystique rather than make you a laughing stock. My point being that yes, dancing in the rain sounds lovely but for those of us operating in the real world how practical is it to enforce on our children?

My second gripe is that although we all hate the tyranny of Instagram and the like it is, unfortunately, part of modern life. What feels like a digital tsunami to our generation is the norm for our children and whilst we can do our best to limit exposure is it the right thing to try and ignore it all together? Rather than modelling ourselves and our parenting on a 1950s cereal commercial, surely it is our role to teach and guide our children in the safe and correct usage of the social media that surrounds them every day? I’m all for climbing trees but, in terms of life skills, it’s got to be on a list that includes being internet savvy or my role as a 21st century parent is incomplete.

Fancy A Game Of Teen Bingo?

I no longer have a tween in my family.  Last month’s birthday celebrations (and I do not advise having children born only three days apart, it makes for a very hectic week every year) meant that not only has the teen turned sweet sixteen, but the tween is no more!  We now have a household of three females, 13 years, 16 years and 45 years – you can smell the hormones from four streets away.  Seriously, you do NOT want to be anywhere near our place when there is a full moon.

The tween-that-was is a slightly reluctant teenager.  She has always enjoyed the role of being the youngest and is quite vocal about not wanting to grow up.  Mainly, I suspect, because with growing up comes more responsibility, more chores, less opportunity to lie around the place saying ‘but I’m only…(insert age here)’ when asked to do something.

So, where turning 13 is usually much anticipated and celebrated, in our house it has been the elephant in the room, no mention to made, strictly verboten. We have also been issued with rules.  We are not allowed to:-

  • Tell her she is a stroppy teenager every time she gets in a bad mood.
  • Look exasperated and say ‘for goodness sake you are nearly 14 years old’ whenever she forgets her lunch box /PE kit/ own name.  This much hated tradition of rounding up to the next age usually begins the day after the last birthday.
  • Remind her repeatedly of the things that her older sister did or didn’t do when she was a new teenager.
  • Get cross and tell her to wash up/tidy her room/put her shoes away because she is ‘not a little girl any more’.

I am doing my best to follow these instructions but the plain truth is that I am now fighting a solo battle against two teens who have me surrounded in a pincer movement of angst, frustration and growing up-ness.  So, to pass the time and lighten the atmos I am indulging in regular games of Teen Bingo.  A game for 1-100 players but only fully appreciated by parents who are currently navigating the post-child, pre-adult minefield.  If that is you then stay strong, I feel your pain.  Keep your bingo card in the cutlery draw or the bottom of your bag (or, for some real fun, on the fridge door where the teens can see it – that will really make them mad!), I guarantee you will be shouting ‘House!’ before you know it.

Teen Bingo Card2

Textiquette – The Maze of Modern Manners

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I wish I had invented the word ‘Textiquette’. For about 30 seconds I actually thought I had until a quick Google proved that, of course, it is a well-used noun that has been around since the dawn of, well, of texts.

It hasn’t quite made it into the grown up dictionaries yet but there are many definitions floating around, all basically describing it as the manners that should be employed when texting.

I love texting. It is succinct, to the point, avoids tedious conversations, provides an olive branch if needed and is the perfect opportunity for safe and gentle flirting. However, as the parent of a teen and a nearly teen, I am under constant ridicule for my texting style.

Firstly, I am incapable of the two thumb text method. I have tried and tried but my thumbs are just not right, ergonomically speaking.  Even with auto correct switched on I still end up with a typed message that bears no resemblance to what I actually want to say. So I use my forefinger to type. Just one forefinger which apparently makes me look like a mad, blind old women. Great.

Secondly, I mostly use WHOLE WORDS, and, I usually start the message with Hi…(insert name), even though I am sending a message to their own personal phone so the name bit is really not necessary.  It just seems more polite somehow.

I don’t really hold with all the abbreviations, I love words too much and I generally find that once you reach a certain age you get the text lingo wrong anyway. We all know people who insist on signing off LOL thinking they are sending fond love not laughing in your face.

Despite these text faux pas, I do use the medium a lot and quite often have a Textiquette quandary that has my forefinger hovering over the keys before I press send.

E.G. – when do you put a kiss at the end of a message? My general rule is that for friends and family a X is standard. Sometimes a special friend might get XX after a particularly warm exchange of messages. But texting an arrangement to a parent you don’t know well or have never met – no kiss. Then they send you a kiss on their message and you feel like an ice bitch but it goes against the grain to send one back so you are stuck in a total Textiquette nightmare.

The kiss question is amplified when exchanging messages with members of the opposite sex. Unless you both use a X from the off, in some sort of unspoken ‘I always put kisses to be friendly, it doesn’t mean anything’ type agreement, then you are basically in a kiss off minefield. If there are usually no Xs then the sudden appearance of one becomes laden with meaning, even if it not! And then you have whole ‘how do I reply’ quandary all over again.

I’ve got a male friend who is totally guilty of this. We have a happy text friendship and from the outset the unwritten no kiss rule was agreed. BUT, whenever he texts me late in the evening after a few drinks a rogue X appears at the end of the text. So I reply in kind because it seems polite and then in the cold light of next day a plain no X message appears leaving me hot necked and flustered thinking I’ve sent the wrong message – in every sort of way. Aarrgghh!!

Occasionally, if I am driving or cooking or just lazy I will dictate a text to the tween who will be my cyber secretary and type it in for me. This is generally a cunning plan but last week I realized that I must always check her work before she hits send. This is what was despatched to the mother of her friend as a message from me

Hi Karen, could Bella come back with us after school on Wednesday so they can get their stool together for the summer fair? Thanks Clare xxxx”

Not only have I implied that they will be undertaking some sort of faeces related activity rather than bag sweets for the candy stall, there are also FOUR kisses on the text!

OMG dat wiL teach me 2 delegate LOL…

I’m Back In The Room

My poor neglected blog!

All my blog shaped time holes have been taken up with the PTA Summer Fair which took place on Friday.

Despite many late nights of ranting and wailing – generally along the lines of “Why in God’s name did I agree to this?” and “This is it, never EVER again”, the fair passed off quite smoothly.  I developed an unhealthy obsession with the Met Office app and did a little happy dance when the day dawned with no rain forecast.  British summer time soon put me  in my place by whipping up a small hurricane that sent gazebos flying over the sports field and tombola tickets scattering like a New York  ticker tape parade.

The man blowing up the bouncy castle nodded his head sagely and told me to relax – apparently the wind would die down by the evening (the fair ran from 6 -8 pm) and all would be well.  Something to do with warm air coming off the sea and having a windy battle with cooler air I think.

Turns out he was right and, eventually, the wind did lose some power and we no longer had to hold on to our cowboy hats (it was  a Wild West fair – not a strange Dorset hat obsession).

People came, they spent money, had fun, smiled.  There were no major disasters and all in all I was satisfied.

We were finished and cleared up by 9.30pm and almost immediately, like the hormone-high new mother straight after childbirth, I had forgotten the pain and agony of organising the event and was pondering what theme to try next year.  Somebody stop me?!

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The bouncy castle man knew his weather

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The teen did a great job running the Panning for Gold game.

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A new addition this year – everyone loved the Rodeo Bull

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I was SO over excited to have a fire engine on site! Thank you Dorchester Fire Station.

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The pupil run stalls were the best – the tween and her friend sold bags of Cowboy Candy.

   

More Skipping Please

Sitting at the traffic lights yesterday waiting for them to turn green and a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, skipped past the window. She was just skipping, because she was happy, because she wanted to, I don’t know why, maybe just because she could.

It made me wonder how old we are when we stop skipping. At some point it no longer becomes a socially acceptable way to get from A to point B, but when is that point? I certainly don’t remember my 7, 8 or 9 year old self making a conscious decision – “sorry skipping, but that’s it. You and me are OVER”.

It must be a more gradual process, a slow seeping of self-consciousness.  Lengthening limbs that suddenly seem unwieldy, the dawning realization that, not only do other people have opinions about our behaviour, but we actually care about those opinions.

Teen was in the car with me as I was musing on this and I asked her why she didn’t skip any more. She rolled her eyes and tutted “Because if I skipped down the street people would think I was ‘special’” (yes, she did do the quote marks in the air with her fingers).

“Well” I said, in my best Jean Brodie/Joyce Grenfell voice “If that is the case then I think it is jolly sad, and a horrible reflection on society and people’s attitudes to…well, to skipping”.

Teen put her earphones back in and the lights turned green.

She is probably right. Society is not quite ready for a full scale adult skipping revolution, and while I would like to imagine myself as Laura Ingalls scampering across the prairie, I think the reality would be more farcical than whimsical and probably best avoided.  So I am going to indulge in some mental skipping. Whilst I sedately parade down the high street like a middle aged matron of the Parish, in my head I will be tucking my skirt into my knickers and galloping past Marks and Spencer without a care in the world.  Want to join me?

More Skipping Please

The Time Thief

You are sneaky and stealthy and you never get caught. You live in my house but I never actually see you. Every morning I wake up with a fresh, new delivery of time.

24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds.

I spend my day trying to escape you but you are quick and clever, snatching minutes here, seconds there, stuffing them into your swag bag and rubbing your hands with joy.

You are not random in your thieving. You don’t snatch hours when the mood takes you, the police would not call you an opportunist. No, the time you take is only the time that is precious to me.

You take the time that I could use to phone a friend but leave the time to clean the bathroom.

You take the time when I could sit chat to my children but leave the time that I am working late in the office.

You are never happier than when you have snaffled the time it takes to read the Sunday papers, but you turn up your criminal nose at the time used to tackle the ironing mountain.

I have spent most of my adult life trying to catch you. If I knew how to do so I could share it with the world and be richer than the richest gazillionaire.

Sometimes I can hide from you, just for a while. I’m doing it now, hunched over my laptop looking over my shoulder, listening for your footsteps.

Blogging time is one of your most favourite hauls. Your clock shaped lock-up must be full to bursting of half-baked posts and un-finished articles.

If you ever feel like a change of MO, please feel free. The insomnia hours from 3am are yours for the taking, I’ll happily look the other way. Fancy that time I’m doing my accounts? Fill your boots.

In the meantime, watch your back. I’ll never stop hunting you down Mr Time Thief. This is war.

The Time Thief