Thursday, 16 June 2011

Life's Little Unlearned Lessons

Ha Ha! Did you think I'd given up? No, I'm back - a little less stressed with a convenient half hour to write a post. I'm also acutely aware that I'm at CyberMummy in ten days, so clearly need to up my post count pronto!

I haven't been idle tho - I have been mentally gathering a list in my head of all the things I have learned over the years, but still always do. These are the ones I have been getting wrong this month:

1. Do not go to the supermarket in open toe sandals, especially with freshly painted (Dior Aloha no less!) toenails. You will roll your trolley over them at least five times and it is PAINFUL!

2.Do not think that teaching your 3 year old boy to put his socks and pants in the wash is 'job done'. He will religiously do it for four years and then one day simply stop. It's all part of learning how to be a man.

3. Ditto for eating the fat on bacon.

4. Do not allow filthy football boots in the car; always take a convenient plastic bag for said boots and insist that your son removes them before getting in. Also take a pair of plastic Marigolds in order to tug said boots from his feet when your son starts complaining that he can't get them off all by himself.

5. Do not assume there will be plenty of time in the morning for packing school bags/writing the teacher a note about lost swimming kit/creating a French outfit for themed day. There will not, and you will shout at the kids because deep down you know it's your fault (but you knew this didn't you?).

6. Do not send your husband to the supermarket when he is hungry or when you need household products. He will come home with more condiments than you can shake a stick at (something to do with the BBQ effect) and no Parazone. Ever.

7.Do not expect your daughter to take pride in her hair. She will never brush it on her own accord until she is 13. Therefore either keep brushes in the kitchen/car/handbag at all times - or end up shouting (because deep down you knew it was your fault etc. etc.).

8. Always, always return your mother-in-law's phone calls. If she can't get hold of you, she will phone her son - who will return her call. Result = BAD WIFE.

9. Do not ignore the dog's birthday. How dare you be so cruel - and do make sure you make that dogfood cake you promised.

10. Do not get drunk, watch Desperate Housewives and insist that your husband (custodian of the flicker of course) pause/rewind every two minutes so that you can impart rambling rubbish about continuity problems/how much filler the actresses have had.

11. Do not ask your children which questions they got wrong when scoring over 80% in a test. They will hate you.

12. Do not leave washing the spare room bed linen until the last minute - and especially do not turn over the sheet and fluff up the pillows in a desperate attempt to make it look fresh.

13. Do not leave painting your nails until the hour before you have to leave. They will not dry. At least one will smudge, and it will be the one on display when you are holding your wineglass.

14. ...and do not think you can do nail touch-ups/topcoat in the car. It is completely impossible, and your husband will deliberately slam on the breaks at the crucial moment of application.

15. Do not put wine in the freezer because you have forgotten to put in the fridge. If you do, put on the timer, or risk giving your kids an impromptu science lesson on the expansion of liquids when frozen.

16. Do not think your 10 yr old son will be happy running around in plimsolls with 'Mini Boden' emblazoned in lime green on the back.

17. Do not expect 15 little girls to exclaim in wonderment how gorgeous your cupcakes look before destroying them. If you must show off your baking skills (and I must) take a photo and turn it into a party thank you card.

18. Do not spend hours arranging a family holiday in January, scouring the internet for the best deals, only to leave car hire until the last moment and pay through the nose.

19. Do not just wash the outside of your car, and ignore the inside. There will always be that last minute lift you must give Alpha Mum (her perfect feet perched between the empty Lucozade bottles and piles of gravel/leaves from your drive). And do you not think other kids report back about that weird smell coming from your air con?

20. Do not promise yourself (or anyone else) that you will never do the above again.

I'm sure I've only scratched the surface - you must all have your own 'life's unlearned lessons'. Shall I make it a regular spot? I'm sure it will only take me another week to have accumulated another dozen!

What can you teach me?

Monday, 25 April 2011

Hello from my bunker

Here's hoping you've all had a wonderful Easter! Sadly I have had to work most of it - A major report I need to write slap bang in the middle of the Easter holidays has meant being cooped up in my (windowless) office. The poor kids have been farmed out here there and everywhere, and are now entirely accustomed to glimpsing me emerging from my lair with mad hair and staring eyes to throw some food at them before retreating back for further self-flagellation.

I managed to revive myself yesterday in order to make lunch for 13 members of my family, complete with assorted allergies/issues with other family members (present) /intollerances of the weather/drink problems (mine).

Why do I do it to myself? I can honestly say I haven't felt this drained for a very long time. I'm literally adding this post in ten minutes before I go back to the grindstone while the sun continues to bless EVERYONE ELSE outside.

I shouldn't be moaning, because on an up note - I have been nominated for a MAD Award! I have no idea who would be so kind, as I have so few followers, and I'm only posting once or twice a month, but I'm still super grateful!

I shall be back when this blasted report is put to bed and I can breathe again......


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

From Russia with love?

I had 300 page views from Russia last month - why I have no idea! Has anyone else experienced weird stats like this - and if anyone is reading this in Russia - reveal yourselves!

Monday, 4 April 2011

My creativity seems to have vanished by 9pm every night (I'm typing this line after the rest of my post and can't even think of a decent title).

It makes me such a sporadic blogger - I lie in bed in the mornings thinking of witty ( in my half-doze) observations of family life, but the inspiration vanishes by breakfast. Take today. I swear I had a great idea at 7am. Then I got up, made breakfast, moaned at kids, drove 20 miles, hoovered, moaned at Royal Mail for buggering up electric gates, worked, drove another 20 miles, completed Yr 4 geography project, moaned to Mr. G, and by the evening, I've completely forgotten it. Gone.

So, let me bore you with my birthday instead. As I career towards middle age (oh, alright I'm already there), birthdays make me feel slightly subdued, but Mr G. does his best to gee things along, and I'm always hugely pampered. Want to know what I got?

Magimix 4200 food processor - still in wrapping - had no time to play! Mr G. had to be persuaded on this one. He always insists on 'luxuries' for his presents, and thinks this is a boringly functional piece of house-wifery. I don't care. I've wanted one forever, and I can' t wait to whip up my first meringue!

Jo Malone lime & basil soap (identified as a pass-on gift, as there was no ribbon round the box!)

Gorgeous table lamp from my best friend H.

5 bars of Green & Black's chocolate (but no ginger next time please Mr ungrateful am I?)

The Beauty Bible anti-ageing book..... (co-written by the co-founder of the above - who knew?)

The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit - Fab, fab, fab book. (beetroot & horseradish anyone? - delish)

Glittery glass bracelets in hues of blue (from Sam)

Heart shaped glass vanity boxes (from Lily)

Scarf with dangly baubles on each end (very now, apparently)

Subscription to Conde Nast Traveller (one can dream...)

Mr G. made me his speciality cake (see above - so pretty!)- Nigella lawsons 'store cupboard cake' made with raspberry jam instead of marmalade. Divine! He makes it every time. Its name makes it sound a bit dry & dusty, but it's actually satisfyingly fudgy. Here is the recipe:

125g of unsalted butter
100g of dark chocolate
300g of good quality raspberry jam
150g of sugar
a pinch of salt
2 large eggs
150g of self-rising flour

Melt the butter slowly in a heavy-bottom saucepan. When it's almost melted, add chocolate pieces, stir and take off the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, until chocolate has melted. Add the jam, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir thoroughly (it's okay to leave small visible chunks of jam in the batter). Add sifted flour, stir and pour into a buttered and floured 20-22 cm loose bottomed cake tin or 2lb loaf tin. Bake at 180˚C/350.F/Gas 4 oven for 45-50 minutes, until the cake has set (test with a knife or wooden stick). Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Once cooled dust with a layer of icing sugar or drizzle with melted white chocolate.

I know - I'm lucky, lucky, lucky. Then I got spoiled all over again on Mother's Day. This was a big improvement on last year when Mr. G was away. The kids had been given strict instructions on how to give me breakfast in bed, but got the pancakes stuck in the toaster. After I had got up to dislodge them, I went back to bed to pretend to be asleep again for 'Take 2'. I was 'woken' five minutes later by Lily tripping up over the stupid dog and judiciously flinging orange juice all over my entire face...

Monday, 14 March 2011

A lesson in Passing the Buck

One of my pet hates is when a company fobs responsibility onto a retailer when they produce faulty goods. This happened to us again at the weekend. Lily was reading The Borrowers, when having reached page 35, the book started again, and then skipped 50 pages when it reached the next page 35.

No worries, I said. Let's write an email to Penguin Books customer services, and I'm sure they will replace it for us. She spent quite a while composing it. To their credit, she received a reply today, but which flatly refused to replace it;

'Please note, Penguin cannot replace books purchased from bookshops. This
is because we sell our stock to the bookshops and they are then
responsible for dealing with any faulty products in accordance within
their own returns policies.'

Now, I can understand this approach to a degree, as it takes a lot of admin out of the business etc. and I honestly would do that if I knew where it was bought and by whom! This was a book given to her at xmas, along with various others, and I honestly cannot remember who it came from.

Well, I've replied with this information, and hoping for a (cue drum roll...) Exception to the Rule!

What do you think they will/should do?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Picture the rare scene at 8.30 last Sunday morning:

- whole family lazing smugly around in cosy White Company bathrobes.
- sun filtering through windows for the first time in months.
- kids being pleasant to each other.
- Mr & Mrs G being pleasant to each other.
- croissants gently crisping in oven.
- warm smell of coffee filling kitchen.
- virgin Sunday Times waiting to be lazily perused.
- dog snoring contentedly on bed
- phone call to say football canceled.
- only one job on the list: to change water filter under the sink...


- water gushing out of filter in all directions.
- said water filling kitchen at alarming rate and creeping quickly towards new Designers Guild rug.
- Mr G. desperately trying to stem flow and screeching for buckets.
- Mrs G frantically turning stop-cock under sink to no avail (White Company bathrobe and blow dry now soaking wet).
- Lily standing in the middle of kitchen, sobbing loudly.
- dog running round in demented circles
- Sam hopping about in a Rumplestiltskin panic.
- smell of burning croissants.
- drenched Sunday Times.


- Mrs G tearing down driveway in sopping, flapping bathrobe and wellington boots while flashing lady garden to BT man up a telegraph pole as she leaps over giant muddy puddles.
- Mrs G desperately scrabbling around in dirt to find water meter lid.
- Mrs G realising that BT van is parked over water meter.
- Mrs G yelling at BT Man to please move his van and get out his screwdriver to help open lid.
- Mrs G inserting entire arm into meter hole full of muddy water to find valve and turn off water.
- Mrs G tearing back up drive to see if water had stopped, dragging BT man with her, as if Knight in Shining Armour.

- Mr G and Sam (having found a role) still bucket filling and emptying while Lily stands in 1 inch of water, sobbing loudly.
- Mr G shrieking at Lily to empty the towel cupboard to soak up water.
- Mrs G frantically looking up Thames Water emergency number while BT man mumbles something about stop cocks.

- BT man reaches under kitchen sink to turn stop cock. The other way. Water stops.

- awkward conversation about how strange it was that it didn't work the first time?
- BT man leaves looking very confused - did he just imagine that?


Mr & Mrs G laugh like drains for rest of the day.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


My daughter has started a new school, and along with other pressures comes the need to be seen as ‘a good mum’.

Last Friday she announced she needed a blue nose. A request like this usually implies an entire costume is required at breakneck speed for an assembly or charity day.

‘What do you need it for? I’m not sure I have a blue eyeliner…’

‘Not a blue nose Mummy! A Blue Nose! It’s an animal with a blue nose – everyone in my class has one, but Emily says if you don’t want to, she will ask her mum to get me one.’

Okaaay. I look slyly at Lily. Does she realise she has just performed the most perfect piece of pester power on me? She smiles sweetly, ‘It’s true – she says she won’t mind!’

Five minutes later we’re at the toyshop. Bluenoses are ugly, unimaginative ‘plush’ creatures with dead eyes. I know it, she knows it. She keeps glancing furtively at the Sylvanian Family section. She’s wanted a Dalmatian baby for a while now….

I suggest a Blue Nose key ring – visible the whole time on her bag but only £1.99. She accepts and I then buy her the Dalmatian baby anyway simply because she didn’t ask for it – bizarrely the second most perfect piece of pester power.

The reason I seem so weak is because I actually don’t have a problem with school crazes – they’re part of school life, and more often than not, they occur organically rather than are brand driven. I’ve asked around – the passion for Blue Noses isn’t replicated at any other schools around here – nor was the obsession with Mighty Beanz last year in my son’s class. Yes, they are designed as kid’s collectibles, but I think it just takes a couple of kids to kick-start it - and the herd follows.

But what happens to my point of view when a pester is clearly brand driven – usually through advertising or a website? I feel my shackles rising. Nothing annoys me more than a request for an obscure item that I must then go and research – only to find more stuff aimed at seducing kids. So how am I feeling about the brand now? What emotions am I attaching to it?

Ultimately, I still hold the purse strings, and nine times out of ten I will say no on principle. Yes, I know I’m tough, but I’m sure those parents who give in do so under duress rather than through warm feelings towards the brand.

By all means talk to the kids – but talk to the parents too. At my agency (1000heads) we go further than that. We will not target kids under 16 at all. [] We speak to parents, communities and schools – in a language which seeks to inform, stresses the benefits and ultimately results in a positive attitude towards the brand. Instead of a one-way pester, you get a two-way conversation.

It’s an ethical decision – but a smart one too!