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.