So I was determined the children were not going waste half-term watching You Tube tutorials on how to make slime and eating the contents of the ‘packed-lunch-cupboard’. I took them back to Manchester. Me and my cousin planned a wonderful day visiting museums and galleries. They saw poisonous frogs, thousand-year-old mummies and every stuffed animal you can think of. They stroked foxes and badgers (stuffed but still real) and they made things out of clay. They did an Easter egg hunt and made beaded necklaces. They fed swans and threw pebbles in the Mersey, ate ice creams with sherbert on and piping hot sausage rolls out the bag. I pushed them on a giant swing and bought them things from gift shops (that soon broke).
Their favourite bit of the trip? Standing at the front of the double-decker bus so each time it stopped they smacked their heads against the window. I’d love to say it knocked some sense into them, but it didn’t. I should have just bought a £9 family saver ticket and spent the whole day on a bus round Manchester. My life is like constantly hitting my head against a window, then having to clean it after.
Isn’t it always the way with kids? You try and show them something really interesting, like a crab in a rock pool, but they are fascinated by a boy eating a hot dog. I showed them a wonderful sculpture and they were more interested in a kid who was wearing a similar coloured coat to theirs. The husband is no better. I’ll be telling him about an article I read, and he’ll respond with ‘Why don’t you ever see white dog poo anymore?’
To be fair, I switch off whenever he starts talking to me, mostly because it’s about sports or what colour my pants are. I’ve been wearing beige pants for months now (Marks and Spencer tummy control) and he still thinks it’s hilarious to pretend I’ve got no underwear on and call me ‘kinky’.
He never wears underwear and I wish he would. I do wear it and he wishes I wouldn’t. Maybe this is the fundamental difference between men and women?
All I have to do to make him smile is flash him some flesh. To get me grinning he has to sort the recycling, walk the dogs and replace broken lightbulbs. “But you don’t like doing it with the lights on” he says, trying to weasel his way out of it. I don’t know what his problem is with replacing bulbs. He only put a new one in the bathroom after my dad came to stay and trod in the cat litter on his way to the shower, then cleaned himself with CIF.
I know I could change them myself. I am a strong, independent woman and can do anything, but that doesn’t mean I want to. When my husband reads this, he will remind me I ran out of diesel on International Women’s Day this year and phoned him up crying for help.
This weekend we stopped by a church in Hove. We hadn’t found God, the sign outside said they were selling pancakes, and we were hungry. Inside was a soft play area with a bouncy castle, and a café. “Perfect” I said to the husband. “The kids can go and play and we can sit and have a lovely brunch.” I sighed with pleasure and waved the kids off. “Yeah, I don’t think so” the oldest one said as she kicked the chair leg; “bouncy castles are for babies.” “Yeah mum, what she said” my youngest one agreed, scowling at the scene around her in disgust before popping the collar of her ‘pleather’ jacket and looking like a T-Bird from Grease.
The only one who joined in was my husband. He found some five-year olds to play football with and was genuinely upset when it was time to leave. I wasn’t. I loved that the sessions were being held to raise money for the homeless, but people kept talking to me about Jesus and how it was all good news.
I love good news, but I’ve been involved in a cult before and I’m not going down that rabbit hole again. When I was 15 I joined the local Baptist youth club because I fancied a boy I’d seen hanging about outside. Before I knew it, I was sat holding hands with twenty-strangers in a field begging for a message from God. One girl even started speaking in tongues. When I admitted I’d used a Ouija board they all laid their hands on me and cried. I went home single and smelling of patchouli oil. How is that good news?
Needless to say, I ate my pancakes and left, using the excuse the youngest had a party to go to. When the husband went to collect her up, a mum told him how our darling daughter had started a club called ‘the penis’ gang and all the girls wanted to be in it.
To finish off a bad weekend, my husband pulled her wobbly tooth out over the Easter dinner and my eldest offered to pretend to be the tooth fairy. I said “Why would you write the letter? The tooth fairy does it.” She just looked at me like I was stupid and said, “I was just saving you a job mum. You always go on about how I should help out more.”
The dinner ended with me sobbing that my last baby was growing up too soon, and my eldest no longer believed in fairies while the husband searched through the Eton Mess looking for a tiny tooth among crushed meringue. I’m still not convinced he found it. He won’t let me touch it.
This is the second time he’s knocked one of the girl’s teeth out. Gracie’s lost her when he dragged her through the parent and child race. “Why are you crying?” he asked her at the end, as she stood bloody and missing her front tooth “We won the race!!”
I dreamed of the days the girls got more independent and now it’s here I’m not ready. They’ve started watching Bloggers on YouTube and using words I don’t understand. When I ask the eldest if she wants a cuddle she says “No thanks.”
So I’m going away on my own for a few days and the husband will be left with the children. While I lounge about in bed at my cousin’s house before pootling round museums and art galleries, he will be (trying) to get three children dressed, washed, fed and ready for school. Ha ha ha ha ha.
While I’m away wet towels will fester on the bathroom floor, teeth brushing will be forgotten, as will bath time. I have to force the husband to wash, enticing him into the shower with a sexy dance then quickly turning on the spray and hosing him down before he can run off shouting ‘My hair! My hair will go all fluffy!”
There’s no chance he’ll wash while I’m away, let alone encourage the kids. The children’s hair will remain in the plaits I put them in before I went. Crisp packets will lay forlorn and flapping in the hallway and on bedroom floors. Crushed Oreos will be trodden into the posh white rug and there will be a lot of family computer time and energetic bundles which will only end when something precious gets broken (hopefully not a child). All in all they’re going to have a perfectly nice time, in a perfectly messy house that reflects the fact people actually live in it.
I’m told I have OCD because my house is so tidy all the time. A backhanded compliment if ever I heard one. To look at me you’d never know I cared about neatness or order. I never brush my unruly hair, my jeans are always ripped, trainers muddy and t-shirt stained. I spend so much time cleaning, I don’t leave myself time to look presentable. I just walk through a cloud of perfume and dash out the house.
I don’t get my cleanliness from my mother. No offence mum, but we both know you are curled up in bed reading this, cobwebs dangling over your cup of tea and dust mites rolling across the floor. I’m not judging you. When I’m retired I’ll probably be the same (and I’ll do your cobwebs myself when I come over in the summer as part of my holiday-deep-clean).
I might get it from my dad, who I’m pretty sure drew round all the tools in his spotless garage so he knows where they ‘live’. That there is my problem. How can I ever be free when I think everything has to live somewhere? I’m constantly shouting “The shoes live in the hall! The milk lives in the fridge, wee lives down the loo!”
Let me start by saying, I love Brighton. I came for the weekend when my dad found a cheap deal in the paper. I was 13 and even though I was on holiday, I felt like I’d come home.
Something about the faded seaside glamour excited me. The cracks in the pavement seemed to hold better stories than the staid cobblestones of home. I loved the higgledy piggledy pastel houses and the way the birds rode the wind like it was something other than a nuisance to hair styles and umbrellas.
I came on a wet rainy day, with the pavements stinking of stale beer and staler still urine. I wandered along the mismatched seafront and thought if the Grand Hotel could still look beautiful next to the unapologetic ugliness of the Brighton Centre, maybe I could be beautiful here too.
Brighton fit me like I’d had it tailor made, grimy, alternative and a little bit unbalanced. I root for the underdog and don’t drink alcohol. Growing up in a Tory town that only had pubs to offer didn’t make me want to stay (Yes, I know Rottingdean is also middle-class, but I like to think I’m slowly dragging it into the working-class gutter with my foul language, tattoos and obnoxious attitude).
I’ve always felt slightly smug about where I live now. We are green and 70% of us voted ‘remain’, but coming back from my trip to Manchester, I’ve realised we are missing something, ethnicity.
Manchester is like the song Melting Pot by Blue Mink “Take a pinch of white man, Wrap him up in black skin, Add a touch of blue blood, And a little bitty bit of red Indian boy, Oh like a Curly Latin kinkies, Oh Lordy, Lordy, mixed with yellow Chinkees.”
I was awed by the colourfulness of Manchester. We have a diverse range of tofu, humous and homosexuals, but when it comes to rubbing shoulders with BME (Black and minority ethnic), we’re lacking.
So this time a couple of weeks ago we were celebrating 100 years since women got the vote, (subjective to their class and status of course. Women had to be over 30, and occupiers of property or married to occupiers). Did the women who tied themselves to lamp posts and threw themselves under this Kings horse do it for this, a female Prime Minister bribing MP’s to vote against free school meals?
Her DUP party made sure they were exempt from the new law which will affect a million children. They kept their own were safe, then voted against the rest. The whole situation is so unfair it’s laughable it’s allowed. There should be an Office of Fair Government that oversees biased decisions.
I don’t know how Teresa May can look at herself in the mirror. Has she ever been hungry? Has she ever had to go to her boss and beg for an advance on her wages, or put back shopping at the till because she didn’t have enough money? How, until she has experienced disadvantage or poverty, can she make an informed decision about what is best for people who live it every day? I’ve been too poor for food. I told people I was on a diet, but actually, cereal was all I could afford, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know what pity looks like and it’s not pretty.
An article in the Guardian written by a secret teacher heartbreakingly read; “Friends in nearby schools report that they’ve joined the Brushing Buddies initiative, teaching children to brush their teeth, as their parents see toothbrushes and toothpaste as an expense they don’t need. Others tell of pupils who have to take school stationery home to do their homework, where they share beds with siblings or sleep on mattresses on the floor. A school in Lancashire recently made the news because it’s washing clothes for parents almost every day, and giving many of them breakfast, as well as their children.”
The teachers doing this are no doubt facing cuts to their schools and wages, digging deep into empty pockets to try and improve the life of their pupils.