The husband has got a Panini sticker book of the Word Cup. A friend bought it for him as joke and he’s taken it really seriously. Evenings are taken up with him perfectly aligning football players on their special pages.
No one is allowed to help. The children’s plump little star-shaped hands get battered away by his giant paws if they reach for one, ‘It’s so shiny Daddy, please can I help?’ ‘No, go away, you’re creasing the pages.’
The best bit? His ‘swopsie’ partner is a six-year-old called Lucas.
When I told him I was sick of the stickers and wanted us to spend more time together he bought us tickets to Circus Las Vegas and spent the whole time looking at the women dressed up in feathers.
Then ‘Strong Man Wayne’ came onstage looking for a volunteer and decided the husband was the perfect choice to upstage, being quite brawny himself. He was asked to bend a steel rod. He tried and failed, before handing it back to ‘Strong Wayne’ who moulded it over his thigh as if it were a pipe-cleaner while I screeched encouragement from the ringside.
It wasn't for the weedy husband. I supported Wayne, very vocally. No point flogging a dead horse after all.
The husband asked to keep the steel rod and keeps trying to bend it back after reading about ‘techniques’ online. When he fails he goes off to his sticker book, muttering ‘I could bend it, if I had the right shoes.’
So my husband went to New York on a ‘work trip’ to see the boxing. He left me with a fridge full of M&S pizzas and a jaunty high-five. I decided I’d have a better time than he did, just to spite him. It didn’t happen. He sent me a photo of him in a ‘titty-bar’ while I was doing a black and white jigsaw of a badger that my 80-year-friend betted I wouldn’t be able to finish. I told him ‘You are 80. You have trouble finishing a wee, I’ll get this done in a jiffer.’ It was harder than the nipples on the barista in the photo the husband sent me. Finding the nose was the highlight of my weekend, excluding the family sized trifle I ate at 2am after finally getting the children to sleep. Don’t you ever wonder what happened to yourself?
When, exactly, did my hobbies stop being going to gigs and wearing ‘lit’ designer trainers and turned into gardening, jigsaws and code-word puzzles in the paper? I’m only 36. What next, a weekly game of Bridge, bowling on the green? I still wear cool trainers, but I get them off eBay so someone else does the hard work of breaking them in. That’s how old I am.
The husband bought me back some Nike Jordans, which was very nice of him, but he didn’t read my book. It was the one thing I’d asked him to do. I said “All I want from you is for you to take the time to read my book. On the plane, or alone in the hotel room. It would mean so much to me, more than any gift could. Time is the most precious gift after-all.” I let him waffle on about Hooters and Boxing and the millions of commercials he watched on the TV, and the late-night walks he took through Times Sqaure, and then I asked him, oh so casually, what he thought of my book.
I already knew he hadn’t read it. I’m his wife, of course I knew. I know what he’s going to say before he does. When he opens the fridge, I pass him the cheese before he can ask me if we’ve run out.
My middle daughter is struggling with anxiety. I hate everything about that sentence. Being neither the oldest or the youngest and only a baby herself when her younger sister arrived, she’s already fighting for her place in life, and now she’s fighting her mind. She’s listening to the voice in her head that tells her ‘you feel sick’ ‘you can’t go to school’ ‘you can’t make it through assembly’, ‘you can’t sleep alone’.
Watching her battle anxiety is hideous. Not only did I suffer the same as a child, chances are she inherited it from me. It took me thirty years, the sudden death of a friend and my marriage crumbling to finally silence the voices in my head. The ones that told me I’d pass out if I drove on a motorway or went on the Underground. I couldn’t even get bread from ASDA because that aisle was right at the back of the shop. I could only cope in the first two aisles near the door. The cupboards were bare, but we had lots of wrapping paper.
My anxiety started when I was Daisy’s age. I chocked on a chicken nugget. How ridiculous is that? Worse than ‘I carried a watermelon’ even.
I was at school having lunch, a normal kid, laughing with her friends, looking forward to arctic roll for desert, and then suddenly I was chocking. It wasn’t even a big deal. I didn’t need any help, it lasted but a second, but it changed my life. In that moment I thought I was going to be sick, in front of everyone and that was the end of my childhood.
I stopped eating lunch, I stopped eating in front of anyone. I stopped and froze in time. Before long I was skipping school, avoiding assembly and struggling to make it through class without finding an excuse to go to the clock room, where I would sit and cry and hate myself for being weak and curse myself for not being 'normal'.
Anxiety had a hold on me for years, making sure I didn’t do anything outside the safe circle I made for myself, which only ever got smaller. I didn’t drink, didn’t take drugs. I couldn’t handle busy clubs or sixth form. I dropped out of education, I dropped out of life. At my worst I couldn’t leave the house.
So I brought out my second book out last week. No this is not a smug column. It’s the opposite, especially after my interview in the paper received the comment ‘99p to download on Kindle? Daylight robbery’.
A year of work, the dragging up of a past I don’t like to think about, all for 99p. Yes, I probably should just get a ‘proper job’, but no one will have me. I got fired from my one waitressing job for refusing to let go of the plate till the customer said thank you. The saying manners cost nothing is a lie. They cost me my wages.
Anyway, I know mean comments are just part and parcel of social media. People go on facebook to laugh at other people on facebook. I know this because I do it. It makes us feel better about our boring lives that are nothing like the lives we post photos of on Facebook. We all know we do this, but we keep doing it anyway. Facebook ‘likes’ are the ultimate backhanded compliment.
I know when I post stuff about my book, my facebook friends will think ‘Gah, Ericka is banging on about her novel again. No one cares’, or ‘She thinks she’s something special she does’ or ‘I don’t know why she bothered. The last one was crap’.
I know this and yet I do it anyway because if I don’t promote the poxy thing, no one will buy it and then it really will all have been a colossal waste of time. I really don’t think I’m special though, not at all. As Emily Dickenson said ‘I am nobody, who are you? Are you – nobody too?’
Writing a book is like taking off all your clothes and walking round naked saying ‘Look at me, find my flaws. That cellulite on my bum, can you see it? That wrinkly skin on my tummy, my mis-matching breasts, that mole the size of a two-piece coin? yes it has got hairs on.’
It’s like peeling off a layer of skin and rubbing vinegar on yourself. Everything hurts. The sales figures, the reviews. When I re-read the final version, I was so awash with shame I had to put it under my bed, (along with the last one).
My children have become obsessed with making slime and it’s gotten utterly out of hand. Is started, as it always does, with someone at school having some, so they had to have some too.
The problem was, this trendsetter had not bought slime, they’d made it. Obviously my kids wanted to make it too.
I don’t like things that make mess. I don’t like sticky, slimy things, but I think I probably did when I was a kid, so initially I indulged the ‘How to make slime’ videos on YouTube and I bought some cornflour in the weekly shopping.
That was my mistake, I’d given the kids a green light to make slime, and how they embraced it.
They’ve tried to make slime out of flour, fairy liquid, lip gloss and eggs. I go to make breakfast and there is nothing in the cupboards as it’s all been used to make slime. It’s on the chairs when I sit down, it’s on the floor, it’s in the shower, it’s on top of the loo, it’s clogged up the washing machine. It’s inside my slippers. It’s coming out the dogs, who eat the children’s failed experiments. It’s in the girl’s hair, under their pillows, being used as bookmarks and constantly on the table at dinner time.
I know you are thinking I need to toughen up and ban slime. Well, I ask you this; have you ever had to try and rehabilitate an addict? Unless you sit with them every second of the day, they will go off to get their fix.
Realising I needed to get a handle on the problem, I booked them into Artpod in Rottingdean for a ‘Slime making session’ in the half term. I thought they’d make slime there, and then I could put it on the bin while they are asleep. I thought the I had it all worked out.
I was, as I always am, wrong.
My middle daughter, Daisy, was so excited about the slime workshop, and so keen to learn all there is to know about slime, that she won the highly desired role of ‘Slime Ambassador’. (Yes, it’s thing).
She came home with a load of different slimes and a big smile on her face. The other two sulked and cried because that’s what siblings do. They always feel anything a sibling achieved was undeserved and unfair. NB: Mum, why did you invite John to go to Morocco with you but not me? It’s not fair and I’m much more fun.