Friday 23 December 2011

Horrormoanal Twelve Days of Christmas Humbug

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Some bobbly long johns from Marks and wynciette pyjamas from Primark wot have faded in the wash and lost a button.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Some Nectar points for paying the gas bill, a new pack of anusol for the piles and a bic razor for the thorny Kevin Keegan legs.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Iboprufen for the back that I pulled out whilst removing a shoe and corsodyl to gargle away a furry tongue.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
A bottle of Jolt so I can stay awake for ten minutes past water-shed: long enough for a festive fumble.
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Six mystery dented tins from Asda, a pile of yellow stickered veg and a tub of on-the-cusp-of-going-fizzy yoghurt, hold the fois gras.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
A fifteen year old Christmas tree from Woolworths and a load of plastic baubles from Asda that are too shit to fit on the tree properly and spend a fortnight falling off and rolling round the back of the radiator.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
A failing metabolism that deposits five tonnes of lard on my inner thighs just from looking at Morrisons’ mince pies and a load of ensuing wind that makes me smell of forgotten sprouts.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
An argument with my mother about how snotty the veg should be on Christmas Day and how the in-laws’ presents for the kids are WAY shitter than hers.  Aren’t they?  AREN’T THEY?  And when I don’t answer because I wish to be diplomatic, I’m a disloyal bastard, naturally.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Some slightly undercooked meat at my in-laws that gives me the trots, some crap Swedish card games that make my brains pickle themselves in their own despair, monster back ache from sleeping in a bed that hasn’t had a new mattress since 1964 and hayfever from sleeping in a room with carpet that has never ever been replaced, since the time when carpets were first woven out of man nasal hair.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
A pile of Christmas presents that demonstrate clearly that despite my being a tight arse, everyone else has actually spent a lot less on me, three non-matching pillow cases and four hours of competitive old person Scrabble.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
Two bickering children, pretending they’re actually wild cats in the back of the car during a five hour journey back up north, scratching each other, dropping crumbs from bad bendy peanut butter sandwiches that have started to smell of plastic bag and a bladder that can’t decide if it does or doesn’t want a wee.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
A load of shitty repeats on telly, no Uncle Buck with John Candy, yet another New Year’s Eve spent in the company of that dorky tit, Jools Holland n pals, the sense that there’s nothing to look forward to until the cherry blossom is out and the spectre of yet another January spent water-skiing through horizontal rain to work in a basement office where people regularly and mysteriously leave perfect arse-shaped prints on the toilet seat.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Professor Brian Cox: thinking woman's crumpet

I think it’s a fairly commonly held view that Professor Brian Cox is every thinking-woman’s DILF.  (Dad I'd Like get the drift)  He has hair.  Lustrous brown hair like a nice pony or a wig.  It’s thick and stuck to his head, unlike most men of 40+, where the hair has migrated downwards and reappears in the nostrils, ears and foothills of their burgeoning bellies.  And he has teeth.  What teeth!  Truly a Wonder of the Molar System, like glistening giant windows on the world.  And he has legs.  Well, you know, I could go on but the main thing about Brian Cox is that he talks like an ordinary bloke and he saunters around like a bit of a dick and he comes out with bonkersly clever stuff in a really accessible way.  We love him in my house.  My 9 year old daughter, in particular, puts him on a pedestal and announced when Wonders of the Solar System first shone out of our telly that she was going to be an astro-physicist and go to Cambridge University.  Ahhhh, what a child!  

I think her aspirations are brilliaaaant, as Brian Cox would say.  Why?  Well, because her parents are a pair of over educated duffers who chose utterly useless subjects to study at university and consequently ended up in the most random and boring careers known to humanity.  Who the fuck needs to be fluent in medieval Dutch epic poetry and slightly conversant in Kafka?  Anyone?

If ONLY I’d paid attention in maths.  If ONLY I hadn’t sat through physics trying to sniff the Bunsen burners when I should have been listening.  If I’d scored more than 2/40 in maths, I could be generating the Higgs boson now by chasing very fat people on their mobility scooters round and round the crisps aisle in Lidl and forcing them to smash into each other underneath the rack of “Imperial Spirit” and eggnog-flavoured drink.  I could have been in Cern, creating quantum Black Forest Hole gateaux that bends time and is only 14 calories per slice.  

Sadly this was not a requirement for GCSE algebra
But I didn’t.  At school I had a physics teacher who gave the term “fart-faced old wassock” new meaning.  You had only to say the word “God” by accident and she would expel you from the lab for blasphemy.  She was one boring bastard.  I should have tried jumpstarting her during the classes on circuits and electricity.  Then the chemistry teacher had no chin.  Say no more.  Add to this the fact that I am fundamentally stupid and my only grasp of maths involves spelling rude words upside down on the calculator, and you’ve got...well, you’ve got an arts student, haven’t you?  On a career path to nowhere.

So feeling like I wanted to encourage my brainiac daughter all the way to Cambridge, I queued in Waterstones in Manchester to get my daughter’s copy of Wonders of the Solar System (the book) signed by Professor Bri.  I fancied a good gawp at the Sublime Overlord of all Dorks – yes, that includes me.  I’m a dork too - and even put my lipstick on to give the impression that there is more to me than my anorak.  But then I had to buy his new bloody book on quantum physics which, no doubt, I’ll end up wedging the bathroom door open with because it has hardly any pictures in and the words are in small print.  

When I got to the front of the queue, Lord Bri was charming and obliging.  But you know what?  I felt like Borat trying to put the marriage sack on Pamela Anderson in a book shop.  Click on the link if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  I couldn’t stop grinning and gabbling.  What a complete tit!  Really, I shouldn’t be allowed near celebrities.  So now I’m waiting for the restraining order to come through the post.  Waterstones are surely going to ban me from book signings, unless they’re my own.

But the point of this is not that I went to letch at old Bri (well, I sort of did).  I went because I want to encourage my daughter to do science because I don’t want her to fritter away the first twenty years of her working life, as I have, hating her bullshit accidental career and waiting for a vocation to happen to her.  If Brain and his soporific Oldham twang can chivvy her down the path to her own scientific discovery, then it’s worth feeling like Borat.  Wa wa wee wa.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Funny Rollercoaster

Like many writers, I observe people very closely and take inspiration for my writing from what I find.  Occasionally, I find beauty and greatness.  Sometimes, I find shallowness, conformity, bigotry, one-upmanship, ignorance, chippiness, lack of charity and absence of humility.  Mostly, I find a combination of good and bad.  Sometimes, what I see disappoints me but I do see the humour in the layer of bullshit at the bottom of life.

Personally, I don’t like to boast publicly about the good things in my life because there will always be someone out there who’s got a shittier deal than me to cope with.  So I moan and generally try to take the piss, make people laugh, expose the ridiculousness of everyday life and some of the flaws in the people I see.  This is the writer’s way and having seen Ed Byrne perform last night, this is the comedian’s way too.  

I have been a fan of good quality stand-up comedy for decades.  When I lived in London, me and the husband used to go to The Monday Club at the Tattershall Castle.  This is a big old boat moored on the Thames.  There, they host a comedy showcase night, where up and coming as well as established talent cut their teeth and new material on an experienced audience.  Over the years, I saw Ross Noble, Shappi Khorsandi (she was bloody terrible twelve years ago but has greatly improved since), Stephen K Amos and many others who have since become household names and there were also some comic greats like Andrew Maxwell, Daniel Kitson, Jeff Innocent and Ian Stone who unfortunately haven’t.  Think Ed Byrne looks fresh-faced?  We went to see him do a gig in Reading about twelve years ago and then I saw him again last night.  He’s a consummate performer.  I’ll also never forget (although I try) the time Jimmy Carr was a new name, supporting Daniel Kitson at an Edinburgh Festival warm-up gig in Clerkenwell’s Comedy Cafe.  Carr was bloody terrible and although I think he’s great as a TV show host and ad-libs very well, I still can’t stand his 1970’s style Bob Monkhouse-esque one-liners.  So stiff and formal!

In any case, I feed off comedy intellectually and I try to make my own writing for children as funny as possible.  Making people laugh is such a tricky and skilful art.  It requires great discipline and most importantly, requires a truly miserable bastard to do it properly.  Only the brutally honest, anti-social arsehole can sit as an outsider and find the funny in everyday things, the woefully crap and irritatingly ghastly.  You have to have the troughs of the emotional rollercoaster to see the negative and turn it into comedy gold and then you have to have the heady peaks to perform or write it with enthusiasm and energy.  I’m not talking about the rollercoaster of the bi-polar here.  I’m talking about the full range – both highs and lows - of normal adult emotion. 

At the weekend, I had a debate with someone about writing critically about life.  And my thoughts are this: nobody wants to hear streams of tambourine smacking, flag waving, evangelical bullshit about your life.  If all you do is boast: how brilliant you are, how fucking genius your children are, how immensely gymnastic and fulfilling your sex life is, how firm and fragrant your turds come out, how fast and quality your car is, how well paid your job is, how lucky you are to be God’s chosen Alpha Male or Female and how gorgeous you are, inside and out, then people are going to want to punch you.  You’re lying.  Plain and simple.  And nobody wants to hear that shit.  Life just isn’t like that.  Optimism should always be tempered by healthy cynicism.  And for those people who do only see the anodyne, the bouncy and the fluffy in life, perhaps you are emotionally crippled or on valium.  

For me, it boils down to this: Should I report to you in this blog that my car is sparkling clean and howls like a rabid beast down the road, inspiring envy in all?  Would that be entertaining?  Would it be truthful?  NO!  The truth is, my car is OK, but the interesting aspect of it is the litter all over the carpets.  I call it kid compost.  The fact that the interior smells of farts is also more interesting because as a family, we are prodigious farters.  Should I boast about my 9 year old daughter coming top in science and having great bone structure?  NO!  The truth is that she can lay claim to both of those things but it’s more interesting to report that she is an untidy little fecker, whose bedroom is carpeted wall to wall with dirty tights and knickers.  I expect her to start her own Dale Farm community in the back garden any day now.

So really, in the yin and yang of life’s experience, should I write only about the happy, sunshiny bits that are intensely personal and that might make some other fucker, worse off than me, feel like a piece of shit?  Or should I write the stuff that everybody recognises?  The spots, the flab, the bald patches, the embarrassing smells, the irritation, the angry outbursts, the mortifying faux pas?  Should comedians just come onto the stage and talk for two hours about how great life is?  Would that be funny?  Would it air on channel Dave for the next ten years, if they appeared on Mock the Week, praising the positive aspects of the current Governments’s fiscal policy?  You, the reader, can decide...

Thursday 17 November 2011

Make up: You can't polish a turd

The Horrormoanal Woman is guesting today on up-and-coming film director, Vicki Psarias-Broadbent's blog, Honest Mum  Please do pop over and have a read if you fancy a giggle.  It's got a picture of Angelos Epithemiou on it, so well worth a gander.

Normal service will resume on The Horromoanal Woman's blog later this week, so stay tuned.
Love Marnie

Friday 4 November 2011

Head Lice Suck

OK, so what did I say the other week?  I said my fragrant offspring don’t have nits, didn’t I?  I BOASTED this.  In my blog.  In public.  Like the stupid, smug cow that I am.  And all the while, in a bid to make mummy look a numptee and a liar, my boy child was hatching an army of head lice from infinitesimally small eggs in secret.  The DIRTY...LITTLE...BUGGER.  Suddenly I find I am hostess to new family pets that I am inadvertently feeding and housing using my child’s and my own head.  Eeuw.  

Small boy-child cultivated a lot of these bastards.  He has a very hairy head.  Plenty of room at the inn.  Then, because children are loving and giving, he donated three of the crawly little fuckers exclusively to me.  Thanks, Nitty Norman.  Your Horrormoanal 40 year old mother has inadvertently taken three head lice on a free holiday to the other side of the world.  I don’t know if I should be angry that I have been infested or pleased that I got three extra passengers to go on an all inclusive holiday for nowt.  Mind you, they didn’t eat or drink much apart from my blood but they did get to go swimming every day and dance to Kool n The Gang at the hotel disco.

Perhaps some of you reading this will have been through Nit-gate yourselves, but I’ll guess you’ve never had to cope with this affliction while simultaneously having a rampaging kidney infection.  It was my weekus horribilis.  I, ill person with failing vital organs and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, had to bend over (ouch) to delouse an unwilling six year old, who HATES having his barnet interfered with at the best of times.  For an hour and a half I tried to sort through his long and lustrous locks and pick the eggs out by hand because the tines on my nit comb were too far apart to pick up the grotty appendages with combing alone.  He cried and struggled.  I gave him the finger when he wasn’t looking because I felt bad about telling him to fuck off and sit still but I still really wanted to.  I was ANGRY.  Mainly at the lice for infesting my furry baby child.  How DARE they?  But also at the boy for bringing this shit into my nice clean house when I’d warned him not to rub heads with other children at school.  Why does being a boy have to be a contact sport?

We bought Hedrin and did the greasy overnight thing.  I nitcombed the rest of us with the rubbish comb.  Where the comb failed, my eyes, which work with the help of strong spectacles, told me who was OK and who wasn’t.  Fortunately, my daughter, who is like cousin It from the Addams Family, and my husband, who nowadays has only slightly more hair on his head than on his knackers, were both nit free.  I trusted my judgement.  Dismayed, I knew the small boy still had eggs that I couldn’t get to with my fat fingers and I knew, having had 3 live lice, that I probably still had nits.  But I had to rely on my husband to nit comb my very curly, lacklustre locks.  He is not a very fastidious man.  When he said I was in the clear, I knew he was talking shit - like when I ask him, “have you emptied the kitchen bin?” and he says, “It doesn’t need it,” and all he has done is squash the contents of the very overloaded bin right down so there’s a free inch left on top.

It'd better bloody work for a tenner!
Just when I thought we were all doomed to permanent infestation like a cheap B&B in Blackpool, a friend recommended the Nitty Gritty Nit Free comb.  Now, let’s get one thing straight.  This isn’t a sponsored blogpost.  If I say something’s good, it’s because I think it is good.  The Nitty Gritty was the only thing to pick the tiny eggs out of our hair.  It cost over a tenner at Boots but it was worth it because now I think I can get on top of this embarrassing affliction, which is surely worse than the time I got scabies from falling down a pothole in East Anglia.

So if you find yourself scratching like a stag party in Amsterdam, you know what to do now, don’t you?   Don’t say the Horrormoanal Woman doesn’t do you any favours!

Saturday 29 October 2011

Frankly Mr. Shankly

Nitrofartypantidril.  Yes, I’m knocking back anti-biotics that turn your wee green.  Jealous?  Think I’m cool?  Wish you could score some of these yourself?  Well, their street value is higher than a cheese and onion pasty or a chunky KitKat but I was prepared to dig deep for these babies.  I paid my vial of cloudy wee up front and I’ll pay the balance of tripe tongue on completion without batting an eyelid.  This is 40th birthday PARTY TIME!

Almost immediately after the Great North Run, my body had started to protest with a bout of hurty wee.  You know the kind?  The stuff that feels like someone has shoved a bottle brush up your flue and given it a good scrape.  That kind.  But I downed the usual foul-tasting crap in sachets, chugged a few gateway anti-bs and put it down to dehydration.  I had a holiday in a far flung destination planned.  All four of us were going on Emirates like posh people to a place with real sun, no pensioners called Elsie and Bill, reeking of stale whisky breath and Bensons at 8am, and no syringes or poo in the sea!  Not Salford Airlines for us.  No Siree.  We were going far far away to celebrate my initiation into the realm of the wise - my 40th birthday – and I wasn’t going to let a piffling UTI get in my way.  

So I got on the plane with throbbing kidneys and a week’s worth of Trianythingonceoprim to see me through.  I was uncomfortable but not uncomfortable enough to reject my in-flight meal.  I was supposed to avoid alcohol but sometimes, alcohol is just unavoidable.  Yes, perhaps that gin and tonic really would numb the feeling that I had been kicked in the back by a donkey.  And who could resist that spicy curry, so elegantly packaged in plastic and tin foil...?

By the time we got where we were going, I had sat for almost 24 hours like a banana in various vehicles.  I hadn’t slept.  My breath smelled of dog fart and my kidneys were tap-dancing along my back in hobnail boots.  I was sure I was going to die melodramatically in Morrissey style, speaking Frankly, Mr. Shankly in flippant Mancunian iambic pentameter about never quite having been creatively fulfilled in life.

Me in the sea: Bikini from Asda, body from Lidl
Incredibly though, things improved.  The holiday passed in a state of deep pleasantness, except for that time we went kayaking and got swept out to sea on a riptide and had to be towed back by motorboat...oh and that time the fusty older childless people got annoyed that our kids and another couple’s kid were screaming and shouting and running riot, happy-slapping all the genteel elderly French guests and nicking their false teeth.  Even my kidneys seemed to be on the mend.  I, horrible Queen of Moan, was enjoying myself.  I didn’t even get diarrhoea.

So I thought it was prudent to test out my newly recovered vital organs with some booze.  I drank a full bottle of wine in the space of two hours IN THE AFTERNOON with a new bride from Banbury who knew one end of a sauvignon blanc from the other.  I dumped the kids on my husband and talked crap loudly enough to make people clutch their bags to their breasts and move further away from me.  It seemed like the decent thing to do.  This was, after all, my 40th celebration.  Big mistake.

Vertigo, hangover, renewed kidney infection, loudly ticking landmine inside the head.  This was the price I paid for my misdemeanour.  This is what happens when you try to do youthful, silly, fun things to an ageing body.  Even the comedy flight home, where we shared a plane with many hundreds of squabbling pensioners going to Mecca (and given that there were no rollers or fluffy slippers, I was fairly sure they weren’t off to the bingo), was not enough to talk my body into behaving and making nice for my 40th.

So I’m back now and my whole big day has been overshadowed by knackered organs, almost certainly caused by the Great North Run, which I pushed myself to do, despite injury, because I didn’t want to let Cancer Research down.  The tragedy of making yourself ill in a bid to make others better is something even Shakespeare didn’t dream up (well, he might have done but I was busy scratching The Cramps on my desk with a compass when they were teaching us that sort of stuff at school).  Karmicly, this is a sum that doesn’t add up and I’m praying the nitrofartypantidril does the trick.  The next step, if this infection doesn’t shift, is to scan my kidneys.  Not good.  This horrormoanal woman is panicking. 

So, until I’ve finished my course of disembowling tablets and I know what’s what, the immortal words of that old whingebag, Morrissey waft around my head.

“Frankly Mr. Shankly, I’m a sickening wreck,
I’ve got the 21st Century breathing down my neck,
I must move fast, you understand me,
I want to go down in celluloid history, Mr. Shankly.”

Except in my case, it’s literary history.  Even Shakespeare never got it that on the nail, proving that it takes a Mancunian from the land of perpetual rain to moan with real aplomb.

Friday 7 October 2011

Buckling under the guilt

This week saw me punching the air triumphantly in a style normally only seen in schmaltzy 1980’s films like Top Gun.  No, in fact, I didn’t just punch the air.  I whooped like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (except in that film, Julia Roberts said her legs were 44inches long and I look more like a celebrating hobbit.  Also, I’m not a prozzy unless you count the time I gave my husband a Popozogolou to get him to fix the shower door).  

I was celebrating because my agent decided that my manuscript, Zeeba Marple, which is for children aged 9+, was finally ready to go off into the blue yonder into publisher land.  I have been working on that bloody novel since last November, so it’s almost a year’s labour.  It has been lovingly crafted with as much fun and imagination as possible.  It has been written and rewritten and rewritten until it’s so polished, you can see your chins in it.  It has had feedback from the savviest minds you can imagine and I’m proud of it.  I’m proud that I managed to pull my ravaged mind through the dark pureed-Weetabix years of drooling with my children in front of Teletubbies and Mr. Fucking Tumble back into the sunlit lands of intelligible adult conversation and hummus.  I am a creator.  I am an author.  I am more than my empty holdall of a belly and bingo wings.  More than just Mummy.
But there lies the rub.  I am WRACKED with guilt.  I am CONVINCED I am a slightly shit mother.  Why?  Well, I think there’s some kind of evolutionary burden of guilt for women who try to juggle quality parenting with professional success and without the luxury of hired childcare.  If you’ve tried to burn this candle at both ends, you’ll know that I’m telling the truth.  This is how it happened to me:
Four years ago, my writing passion was reignited, after more than a decade on the shelf.  I had been renovating two houses – a great career if you’ve got kids who see the fun in playing in building sand at Jewsons - but work had finished.  The housing market had collapsed and so had my intentions of being Sarah Beeny Mk II with more disappointing boobs and a rubbish accent.   Feeling at a loose end and not yet ready to go back to working in an office, I wrote a simple fairy story for my daughter.  She loved it and so did I.  I became quickly addicted to the creative fix that writing offered.  It was like hobnobs in crack cocaine form.  Better than that.  My brain was thawing out and it had survived its cryogenic-hibernation-through-having-babies intact.  Cue Julia Roberts whooping.
But I was skint.  So I went back into an office part-time, reluctantly resurrecting my fundraising career, which I thought I had successfully killed dead and replaced with power tools and the ability to talk Plasterer fluently.  Suddenly, I was balancing a three year old, a five year old, a part time job WHICH I LOATHED and my new obsession.  I was DEFINITELY going to be a published children’s writer.  This was it.  Definitely me.  I was going to show my children that with hard work, you can achieve anything.
But gradually, the more into writing novels I got, the less I could pay attention to my children as they clambered all over me, talking gibberish and smearing marmite on my dreams.  I was in the room physically  – perhaps more “there” than most parents but my mind was travelling through the Frankish Empire and flying with big bat wings through fantasy landscapes.  I was in the tunnel.  If Sid on CBeebies wanted me to pay attention, he was going to have to get his man-meat out on national TV for me to notice.
And so it has continued, this sub-standard parenting.  I must be doing something right, of course, because my children haven’t got nits.  They’re loved and can walk and eat vegetables.  But they still talk shit at me at high velocity and volume.  Now, more than ever, as my writing career really steps up by several notches, I am forced to triple-glaze over when they try to zap through to my tunnel with their laser-attack of spoken bollocks bullets.  And the guilt: it’s getting far worse.  Soon there will be book tours and possibly trips all over the world.  I will have to leave them to eat Daddy’s poisonous cooking overnight or longer.   He may not check that they’ve wiped their bums properly.  But it’s kind of...tough shit.  I have to relinquish control just for a while and the very fact that I think that kills me too.
I have no solution to this common problem of juggling.  I am going to keep writing as well as I can.  It’s who I’ve become.  And of course, I’m going to keep trying my best at mothering.  My children are still at the centre of my world, even if I do wish they’d shut it when I’m editing.  I would rather shoulder this burden of guilt and be an excellent writer with mildly neglected children than be an excellent mother with neglected dreams and a heart full of regret.

Friday 30 September 2011

Sh*tting gold bricks

Normally, I avoid news. I have a tendency to overreact to it. When a chicken farmer got bird flu in Thailand, I banned poultry in our house for two years. During the swine flu epidemic, I went to Asda and stockpiled beans and dried chickpeas in the hope that my family would fart its way through Armageddon and come out the other side unscathed, if a bit soiled. You can see the theme here already. I’m a hypochondriac with an overactive imagination.

But news does fight its way through the cake-thoughts into my brain thus: My husband has a dadly Sunday routine. First, he leaves his undercrackers on the floor NEXT to the washing basket. Then he goes for a poo, which involves leaving the toilet door open so we can all enjoy the aroma. And like all men, he sits on his throne, reading the Sunday papers. It took me a good ten years to work out that reading the paper in this way is a form of silent protest for him because when he’s obsessing over the sport section, I am usually stood in his wake, holding my hand over my nose, shouting “CLEAN THE FUCKING WINDOWS!” repeatedly. I’m guessing he thinks that having a large paper barrier between us means that he is immune to my domestic demands. So that is how I absorb news. From a safe distance and vicariously through my crapping husband.

Now, financial meltdown has been in the news a lot this week and I made the mistake of watching this smug turd on YouTube. If you are of a paranoid disposition, look away now:

For those of you who can’t be bothered watching his utterly compelling, two minute doom-fest, this independent trader looks like a contemporary Gordon the Gecko and talks about the collapse of the Eurozone and how we should all be investing in treasury bonds and gold and frankincense and a lifetime’s supply of incontinence knickers. I thought to myself, That’s all very nice, Gordon, but what the hell is a treasury bond and apart from stealing and melting down my family’s Elizabeth Duke jewellery, which is possibly only about 0.3% precious metal, where can I get my hands on gold?
I’m already thrifty you see. Everything in my house is second hand crap, ex-display or salvaged from junk yards. I buy food out of the going-off cabinet in Asda. I rugby tackle old ladies to get to the dented tins first. I even buy the really mashed up shitty bananas that they bag separately and sell for -30p a tonne. They make great banana loaf. I would call this thrift rather than greed. Don’t get me wrong: I do admit to having a BMW but I grew up on a council estate and have chav needs. It is also ageing and second hand. By dint of the fact that it contains a fine layer of kid compost, a plastic bag of mystery, rotted thing in the glove box and the obligatory birdshit paint job, this officially relegates the car to the status of a 1986 Lada Riva. And I still don’t have enough spare to invest in gold, even from Argos.

I worried about this for some days. I was literally shitting a brick about my family’s future. I was eyeing up local pets as emergency food sources. Then some existential maths occurred to me: In the event of fiscal meltdown, tinned pulses=hard currency and ensuing farts=renewable energy. Good. I was thinking outside the box. Then I realised that maybe I’m being thrifty in the wrong way. Maybe I should speculate to accumulate; upgrade and aspire to more. And then I had the perfect equation and I’m going to share it with you: Waitrose free range sirloin lobster + organic diamond dusted bran flakes + fair trade saffron infused prunes = shitting gold bricks. Eat posh: get rich. Da daaaaa! Problem solved. And you can take that advice to the bank.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Flighty Birds

Nobody likes wet socks. Right? And nobody really hankers after freezing their tiddies off. Do they? And it definitely makes sense, in the event of having to walk a mile through horizontal rain, to wear an anorak and put the hood up. Or is that just me? Utilitarian Woman. Thelma from Scooby Doo.
Lately I have been feeling aggrieved at the regular sight of what my mother calls Flighty Birds – young and pert women trotting with bouncy hair through the daily downpour, wearing high heels and almost invisible skirts. I hope they’re going to work. I would feel better if I knew they were just another office drudge like me. But I strongly suspect they might be going shopping to Harvey Nicks, where they will max out Daddy’s or Hubby’s platinum card on a load of designer crap. They are like colourful birds of paradise in an urban, grey jungle with their stick legs, yellow hair and orange faces. They look sort of nice in a highly groomed, designer label-clad, conformist way.
Cowbags. How dare they? Am I the only sour old bastard that looks at these extraordinary creatures and thinks, how come your feet don’t get bloody wet in the rain? How is it that you don’t feel the 11 degrees of cold and can wear a waist-length flimsy jacket, flashing your flat stomach and gravity defying arse? And here I am, dressed up like Nanook of the North in my sensible Goretex walking shoes. I catch my reflection in windows of smart shops that contain mannequins dressed just like these show-ponies but instead of seeing hot totty, my reflection shows me Ranulph Fiennes with droopy tits, a sodden handbag and slightly more toes.
Why? Why are these women different from me, with their impeccably trowelled-on makeup and perfectly coiffed hair? I have makeup but the school run and herding children always stands in the way, leaving me with no energy to put it on or take it off. My hair is so unruly and crap that I stopped bothering forking out on a real hairdresser fifteen years ago. Instead, I have a man called Stan who comes to the house and gives me a dry trim for £6. He tells me that my crowning frizz is “like fanny hair but not as nice”. I’m in fairly good shape too because I run a lot but whereas these flighty birds look like gazelles in leggings, I manage to look like Samwise Gamgee in drag. I only ever buy skirts to hang in the wardrobe “Just in case” because, let’s face it girls, who the fuck fancies a Force 10 gale blowing up their woo woo when they could be armoured against the elements in trousers?
But this thing with the flighty birds: it was ever so. At college, twenty years ago, they had the lads queuing up to worship them. They always had tresses of long hair which they would flick with panache at the men, marking their territory like a dog peeing on a lamppost. These girls cried a lot in public and simpered. I thought they had hairspray between their ears and nothing more. But the lads were intoxicated by their ability to wear hot pants and high heels in the snow. They would walk to the ends of the earth for these girls just because their fanny was a bit visible through their leggings and they had really long hair. In later life, I see these girls as women in their late thirties, pushing expensive three-wheeler prams, still perfectly groomed, wearing Uggs and beatified grins and coaxing their fragrant, Jottum-clam offspring in gentle musical tones to the Audi Q8, whilst the rest of us drag our ketchup-stained, mouthy Borstal Bills to the cruddy finger-marked, bird-shit splattered crapwagon, where they will kick chunks out of each other all the way home because of a badly divided chocolate biscuit.
So there you have it. Women like me with strong characters and sound minds can earn our own dollar, tile a bathroom and make a good dinner from scratch. We make our own beds and notwithstanding the odd forgotten, half-eaten sandwiches, we lie in them happily. But these creatures, these 24/7 Barbies, in a box-fresh state of perfection with real plastic and space on the inside of their heads are actually the alpha females. They move through life effortlessly on a cloud of whimsy and want in their high heels and sheer tights, impervious to all weathers and with almost visible muffery. And when their arches finally collapse, they will be carried onwards by a throng of adoring men who would always rather settle for Daphne than Thelma out of Scooby Doo.

Monday 19 September 2011

Snogging with tongues

Just over ten years ago, I was a committed smoker. I loved a fag. One for each lung, 20 a day, chimney on my head. That was me. Rock and Roll. I knew that smoking was bad for you. After all, I awoke every morning feeling that I had a breeze-block on my chest and of course, I used to get black snot. I blamed this on the pollution in London, where I lived at the time. But it wasn’t diesel fumes. It was just fag muck. So when my best mate’s Mum died prematurely, after having held off breast cancer for 5 years, I thought, “What the hell. I’ll do a standing order to Cancer Research in her memory. I might be glad of it one day because I’m a smoker and my Mum’s a smoker too. It will be like an insurance policy.”

My mum was the worst out of us both. She’d been on the Bennies for fifty years, rattling through about fifteen a day and smoking the dimps, even when there was hardly anything left. Her breath always smelled of dog fart but she was trim and looked fit on the outside at the age of 60. She had markedly less bingo-wings than me. But I wasn’t daft. Despite her protestations that she knew people who smoked all their lives but still lived to be 200, I knew the ciggies were doing me in. I gave up. Frequently. But I could never stay stopped. Problem was, whenever I tried to give up, Mum would wave a brand new packet in front of my face and say, “Go on. You know you want one. You’re a pain in the arse to live with so why suffer?” I guess she didn’t want to be alone and I did love them.

I didn’t smoke during my pregnancy with my first child but I restarted soon after she was born because the other mothers in my post-natal group also smoked and liked a drink. We felt we were members of some smug, invincible rock n’ roll mums’ band. My husband has never smoked but also never complained. I just didn’t do it indoors and it had been years since we snogged with tongues. I never questioned it.

Then my Mum had an unshiftable chest infection. They x-rayed her and found a shadow on her lung. It was a stage 1 tumour. She was lucky. The specialist had caught it soon after the onset and the surgeon at Wythenshawe hospital just chopped half of one lobe of her lung away and that was that. I gave up smoking forever the day they spotted the shadow. Even Mum gave up. That was it. We’d had it with fags. She survived and has been clear for about 7 years now, thankfully. But I’ll never forget the sight of the others on her ward who had also had major surgery for lung cancer. I think all of them, apart from my lucky lucky mother, had left it too late. They didn’t look so cool or rock n roll, shuffling around the ward, carrying a pot full of their own lung fluid as it drained off their rotten chests. They were dying. Because of fags and because of Cancer. The Big C.

So, I’d been into running since I was 17. Almost losing my Mum and seeing the photographs of my son’s first birthday party, where I looked like a happy heffalump, gave me the impetus to lose my wobbly jawline and get fit. Really fit. And to start running further with my newly cleansed, fag free lungs. I wanted to raise money for Cancer Research so that other people like me didn’t have to say goodbye too early to their loved ones because of The Big C. I had been right from the outset. Starting my standing order to Cancer Research really was like an insurance policy against grief and loss. And now, of course, I had kids – all the more reason to look after my health.

I stared with a 10K and soon progressed to a half marathon in aid of Cancer Research. The pain of running 13+ miles on stumpy, varicose veined, Kevin Keegan legs – I’m no gazelle – was worth it when I poured almost £1000 in the charity’s coffers. I felt like I was putting my karma account in the pink. After that first half marathon, I swore never again to do such a long distance but when I couldn’t shift two homemade Christmas cakes from my haunches last Winter, I thought sod it, I’m going to sign up to the Great North Run. I can get rid of all those glace cherries and raise money at the same time.

So today, post race, I feel like shit. I’m walking like a crippled penguin and my cheeks are so burned from the salt that remained plastered to my face until 8.30pm, that I look like a German farmer. I have chaffing just about everywhere from ill-fitting underwear – even on my underboobs - and my foot is utterly knackered. A wise friend said I was a bit of a moron to be running on an injured foot but do you know what? He was only 50% right because I made it to the end in a reasonable time for one of my hobbit-like stature (you should see the hair on my feet) and I can feel that my karma account is in credit. That feels bloody great. Better still, as I ran past a bunch of Geordies who were watching the runners with pallid, expressionless faces whilst having a fag, I thought to myself, “These bastards are going to thank me one of these days and they’ll only realise that when it’s too late.”

Best of all, though, as a writer I have trained my mind to endure the marathon as well as my body – always a plus when you’re writing a novel. And I’ve set my children a great example of what it is to be a good person. Sometimes there is great reward to be had in living through shit for the betterment of others.

Oh, and I now regularly snog my husband with tongues.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Unflushed toilets

Is it really all those months since I last blogged? Hardly a decent blogger, am I? I've been neglecting your need for schadenfreude. I think it's high time I remedied the situation and with my 40th birthday only round the corner, never has there been a better time to put fat fingers to small keyboard and write a load of mildly diverting bollocks about the onset of middle age. Warning: the following ramble is suitable only for adult consumption and contains strongish swearing and references to bowel movements and piles.

Well, August was a shit month. Literally. I've had the kids at home. I love them to bits. They're very sweet and sparkly eyed and squeaky and that but will they flush the bloody toilet? Will they buggery! If I'd photographed every unflushed child turd, camouflaged by loo roll and lurking halfway down the pan in a state of harpic-resistant semi-decomposition, I could open an art installation at the Tate Modern and give Tracey Emin a run for her money. I spent a week in a Kentish seaside town with the family in my in-laws' flat. That was a mistake too. It rained. And it blew. And I had to clean the flat through before we'd even unpacked because the toilets contained...more art installations. Cleaning up after other people: story of my life. But there is something slightly glamorous about those long, yellow rubber marigolds. Amongst the eau de cacka lurks the ghost of 1950's Audrey Hepburn in long gloves...

Then there was July. Don't get me started about July! I wrote a novel. I polished a novel. Then I got some "close but no cigar" feedback and I polished the novel again. And again. It was like a bad literary groundhog day and I'm still not finished. In the meantime, the ironing stacked up on my "Dad" winged armchair - the kind that looks like it should really be upholstered in vinyl and placed in an old people's home. The ironing lurked for weeks like an unwelcome visitor and now that the ironing has gone, the chair smells inexplicably and strongly of wee. There's definitely a theme here. Then a child bullied my child and I moaned bitterly about it on Facebook and a man who took himself to be the bully's father wot I was referring to threatened me with libel action. That was the pinnacle of July, I think. So by this point, I had the position of mute, censored Chair of the Excretion Excavators' Union of Workers (EEUW) all boxed off.

And June was cack. What happened in June? Haven't got a sodding clue. I think I wrote a lot of stuff for TV and it went precisely nowhere. And May? May was crapola too. More writing, more striving to get my career on track. More hopes, at that point, not yet dashed. I went to a BBC event and had to pull out for the second half due to a vomiting child. So, yet again, my pursuit of happiness and balance was disrupted by other people's bodily functions. My mother complained that I was a heartless cow because I moaned about having to mop up barf from the cream wilton carpet at 2am but last time I checked the yummy mummy's inner circle manual, enjoying mopping up puke was not an entry requirement.

And April? Oh, I went to Mexico in April. That bit was good. But you don't want to hear about the good bits here, do you? I ate a lot of salsa and drank a lot of gin and didn't clean up anyone's poo. But I did end up babysitting a load of semi-abandoned kids who strangely appeared tacked on the end of our family party of four. I don't know whose kids they were but I didn't wipe them down or water them at all, so if you've lost your child and you come across a very soiled, shrivelled small person, it's probably yours.

So...the Spring and Summer have passed in a whirl of school, work, dreams in aspic and splatter patterns in harpic. I turn 40 at the end of October and still have no sense of getting anywhere with anything. And yes, my piles are giving me jip because gravity and age seem to be winning the war on muscle control, skin tone and bodily functions generally. Chaos abounds. If I flap my bingo wings in Manchester, there's a hurricane in Queensland, Australia. And every time I click my fingers, an unflushed turd appears in a toilet somewhere in the UK. This was the summer of the Horrormoanal Woman.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Wotcha, all 3 mates who are subscribed to this feed. Happy 2011! I can't believe I haven't blogged since October but better late than never, eh?

Well, last time I posted, I was feeling pretty bloody miserable. And guess what, I'm drowning in a tide of chest pains and Woody Allen style paranoia, ergo...get blogging! There's something about being slightly fecked off that makes you want to write a journal-style moan, isn't there? Cathartic. I think that's the word.

Oddly, however, I'm not really fed up at all. Since I last moaned publicly, I've been signed to a leading literary agency to write a detective series. How fannytastic is that? And my agent is just wonderful. She's posh, she swears, she's funny and she loves shoes. Brilliant. I've also written a pilot for a TV drama series. It couldn't get better... apart from getting a commission AND an advance and suddenly finding myself in possession of a nice lump sum - minus 15% of course. I could spend 80% of my time staring into the fridge and 20% writing best-selling this, that and the other, instead of sitting in a darkened subterranean office, picking my nose and getting double vision as I complete fundraising applications that I feel certain will fail.

The kids are well (touch wood), the husband's hair is still thinning but I've come to terms with it. He's still a looker and I can always superglue some cotton wool to his head when he's asleep. My mother is behaving reasonably well. I haven't had to throw her out of the house during dinner for...ooh, about three weeks. So why have I got chest pains? Why is the hypochondria taking hold? Is it hypochondria? Maybe I'm genuinely ill. I have a furry tongue. Is that a sign of heart disease? The doctor felt my boobs and said they were fine but the pain's still there.

This is the test of time: I'm training for the Great North Run in September. My agent, who is also a keen long distance runner, reminded me that people die on the Great North Run. So I'm thinking, if I don't kark it in the next six months whilst I'm training, it was probably happiness-induced paranoia - the fear that good times will be snatched away from me and replaced with death and decay - and not heart disease or a tumour. I'm getting anxious just thinking about Brian Cox's observations in "Wonders of the Universe" that the cosmos is dying...

OK, on that pointless whingeing note, I'm taking my kids to a disco in aid of a charity to fund research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Perhaps next time I blog, I will have solved the riddle of the chest pains or else I'll be dead and blogging from the other side. Happy times!