I was quite a hit in parent’s rural village. Being under the age of eighty, and not having a beard, made me quite a sensation. I felt like Jessica Rabbit when I walked into the local bar and all the men stopped talking to stare without shame and make crude French jokes that I understand well enough to gag over.
One man, named Napoleon, (after the homemade hat he wore, day in and day out) took a particular shine to me. When my dad introduced us (like I was a debutante), Napoleon asked if I was married, and dad, who covets Napoleons’ trailer, stayed quiet. Smile nicely’ he told me, while Napoleon wrote down his phone number, ‘I might be able to do an exchange’.
Later, me clad in a 1970’s ski-knit belonging to dad’s 80-year-old friend, we went up the mountains, where French toddlers whizzed down black runs and trendy snowboarders smoked Gitanes in orange googles.
When I was a kid, skiing was for the rich, and we weren’t, and I have no desire to learn now because I know it’ll involve making an utter fool of myself. Instead, to celebrate her turning 70 I pushed my mother down the kid’s slope on a round sledge we found in the garage that was impossible to control. She came spinning down the middle, taking out kids left, right and centre, while their parents shouted ‘Zut Alors’. It looked so much fun I had a go myself, and then we stood watching people falling off the ski-lift. Later at home, we played ‘swearing scrabble’ and I ate baguette after baguette.
Saying goodbye was hard, as was trying to cram my handbag into my suitcase after being told ‘one piece of carry on luggage means one piece of carry on luggage’ by an Easy Jet Umpa Loompa.
Obviously, when I opened my suitcase, my tiny training bras and giant knickers all pinged out. Obviously, as I was going to see my parents, I’d packed my comfiest/ugliest underwear. Had I known I was going to show Gatwick my gussets I’d have dug out my best.
After trying and failing to zip up my case, I was forced to try and flirt my frizzy and frazzled way out the situation. ‘Ooh, you look nice and strong’ I cooed to a man near me, ‘would you like to come and sit on my suitcase’. ‘No, he wouldn’t’ his girlfriend said, before he could reply. She then stood watching me as I bounced up down on my ‘International Traveller’ swearing/sobbing.
All I wanted was a cup of tea, but I’d forgotten to retrieve my wallet, and I daren’t risk opening the suitcase of shame again, so I spent the flight watching the person next to me drink a cup of Clipper, just how I like it and eat a croque monsieur.
The husband refused to admit he struggled without me. I might have felt unwanted were it not for the constant stream of texts from my youngest daughter, claiming her heart was broken without me and that I was the sea and the stars and the sun. How I missed waking up to her face, her bluer than robin’s eggs-eggs blinking at me sleepily.
Being away from my children is an odd mix of arm-room and stomach-ache. When I finally got home, late and filled with longing, they were standing in arrivals, clad in jim-jams, smiles lighting up their faces like glow-worms. I wanted to leave them all over again, just to get another grin. Just to feel as magical and important as I did in that second, when they threw their arms round me and sniffed and snuffled my skin.
School got cancelled on Tuesday as the boiler burst. On a whim, my friend and I decided to take seven children into Brighton to the museum and Pavilion, where I tried so hard to give them a day of culture. We took them into the Egyptian room and taught them about scarab beetles. We looked at paintings and decided why we liked them. We looked at fashions through the ages. We looked at furniture and tea-pots.
We had a slightly awkward moment in the ‘sex change’ room, where a man donated everything from his pre-operation notes, to his breasts. They sat, floating and nipple-less in two glass Kilner jars, alongside his hospital gown and his anti-clotting socks (slightly worn).
My party squealed and claimed they were ‘disgusting’. I tried to explain, to seven children high on hot chocolate and an impromptu day off school, that there was nothing disgusting about the yellowing flaps of flesh. At all.
Hideously aware I was probably alongside many LBGTQ people, keen to lynch me if I said anything non-PC, I claimed they were ‘art’ and chivvied us along to learn about Minnie Turner, Brighton’s own Suffragette.
She ran a rest house for her fellow WSPU to recuperate in after a stay in prison and had herself had a stay in Holloway for breaking a Home Office window. I found this fascinating. My daughters claimed to need a wee.
Five hours and an overpriced cup of tea and slice of cake in the Pavilion later, we gave up and decided to go home.
As we stepped out of the museum shop, pencils and rubbers in hand, a man crawled past us. I can’t tell you why he was on his hands and knees, scouring the pavement for bits of metal, nor can I tell you why he was doing it with his trousers down round his knees and his crown jewels and buttocks hanging out.
Some of the children squealed. Some wanted to stand and stare. All of them wanted an explanation I couldn’t give them. My friend said, ‘He’s fallen on hard times’ and my youngest said ‘yes but why is he doing it with his willy out?’ I had nothing to offer her.
When we got home after an exhilarating bus drive, the husband was waiting. ‘Well girls’, he said ‘how did you get on?’. Forget the Nile and Millie and the Paintings and the Music room at the Pavilion, what did my children tell him about their day out? ‘Daddy, Daddy! we saw a man’s willy!’
In other news, it’s my mum’s 70th birthday this week. I’m going to France to see her. My brothers are not going, so I’m currently the favourite child.
It’s an exciting start to 2019 with China landing on the dark side of the moon. I never liked the ‘must have’ album by Pink Floyd. The blurry photo of a rocky surface is far more exciting. It might be fake, and it’s still better. China plan to have a space station up there by 2022. They are all obsessed with the moon because they think it’s a potential source of minerals and oil.
When I think of the moon, I always imagine it’s made of cheese and inhabited by people with saucepans on their heads and wooden spoons for arms. This is why I am not a scientist. I’m still not sure what I’m going to be when I grow up. After a row with the husband in Wickle, Lewes, over a seven-pound leather bookmark of two people kissing, which I claimed was essential and he claimed ‘frivolous, unnecessary and a sign I’m forgetting my working-class roots’ I announced I was ‘going back to work.’
I spent the stifled car drive home (lots of traffic of course) steadfastly gazing out the window in the classic ‘mum/wife is in a mood’ pose, while the children came up with suggestions for my new job. They included cutting sheep’s fur, cleaning people’s sandals (Like Jesus, who didn’t want to be posh) and taking down people’s Christmas decorations. The husband snorted with glee.
We wait all year for the Christmas break and then, a few days in, we realise we are not used to spending long periods of time with our spouses and being at home, doing nothing, is a bit boring.
We went for a bike ride on New Year’s Day and every other person in the village had the same idea. The underpass looked like Oxford Street, with everyone sporting a new Christmas scarf, or some shiny trainers. The mums all looked tired and the dads looked glum. I’ve seen more than one of my neighbours outside cleaning his car on his Christmas holiday. We long for time off and then when we get it, we don’t know what to do with it. Is this what we go to work all year for?
I watched ‘Birdbox’ after everyone raved about it. It was rubbish and not scary at all. I went to see the new Mary Poppins and didn’t enjoy that either. Dick Van Dyke dancing on a desk aged 93 was pretty cool though. I wasted a whole day trying to build some Star Wars Lego, aged 9-14, before giving up, much to my husband’s delight. Had I been good at it, I could have started my own Lego building business and brought as many leather bookmarks with people kissing on them as I liked.
Most divorces happen in January. Now I’m not saying I want one, but I do find it interesting that spending two weeks with family is the overwhelming tipping point for people to realise ‘I can’t do this anymore’.
I know I should write about May’s vote of no confidence in the Brexit deal and how she is embarrassing herself and us a country, but what is there to say? She looks like she gets dug up each morning to do her job. Why can’t she just admit defeat and go for a lovely nap? There’s nothing wrong with putting your hands up and saying ‘Seems I’ve made a bit of a cock up..sozzles’ and cracking open a box of biscuits. I don’t understand why some people can’t admit to being wrong.
As for Michael Gove using a Game of Thrones reference to scare people into backing May’s Brexit plan…. I don’t even know where to start. If I was George R Martin, the author of the books, I’d be straight on Twitter to confirm ‘I never meant it to be used that way. Please never, ever reference my books to Brexit again.’
Being a simple soul, I can’t help but hope that if we don’t agree a deal before the March deadline, Brexit won’t actually happen and we can just brush it all under the carpet and never, ever, dig it up again.
I obviously have no idea how the ‘real’ world works. I still don’t understand why the government doesn’t just buy a printing press and literally make more money. Life is not monopoly though, or a fantasy novel with dragons and zombies and ‘get out of jail free’ passes. It’s not a game at all, although the way politicians behave, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was.
I wouldn’t want May’s job. I’ve never understood power hungry people. I’d like control of the TV remote and the temperature in the car, but that’s where my ambition ends. I don’t know what it’s like to lie awake at night and plot to take over the world. I lie awake at night and wonder if I locked the door.
So, did everyone get the Christmas they hoped for? Was your turkey neither too raw nor too dry, and did the sprouts you tried to snazz up with bacon get eaten?
Were the presents you’d hoped for under the tree, wrapped up in a shiny bow? Did the children spend an age marvelling over each present before placing it carefully aside (putting the wrapping paper in the bin bag provided) and eventually move onto the next?
I hope your novelty jumpers were not too itchy and the mince pies you left out for santa didn’t get eaten by the dog who had to be rushed to the vet.For all of you who posted pictures of a spotless house and a perfectly laid table, I hope there is a room, somewhere in your house, full of crap that you hid before getting out the camera. For those who made yourselves ill trying too hard to make it magical, I hope you are getting a lie in with some Lemsip.
For those of you who couldn’t possibly have what you wanted for Christmas, because reincarnated friends and family wrapped up in bows and laid under the tree can’t happen, I know how you feel. I’d love to have unwrapped my Aunt, alive and cross that I had the heating, and the log burner on at the same time. No matter how many people I fit round my table, there are always empty seats.
I always feel a bit sad the day after Christmas, when another year went by and I didn’t feel the magic of it all. It’s hard though, when Christmas eve is all about getting the kids to sleep so you can sprinkle flour round the house then tread through it to make snowy footprints (that you will later have to hoover up, maybe, if you are lucky, with the new Vac you got for Christmas, you lucky, lucky, lady). Then you have to write a goodbye letter from the Elf on the shelf (Whoever started this trend, I hate you) and retrieve all the presents you hid so brilliantly, you forgot where, and try to remember which one belongs to who.
Of course there is magic in seeing their little faces on Christmas morning which makes it all worth it. So is the seven minutes of silence the Christmas lunch brings you, before the two-hour cleaning up stints commences, where you sing along to ‘So this is Christmas’ while picking bits of giblet and soggy carrots out the plughole. Then comes the inevitable argument over what to watch on the tv, before everyone falls asleep.