SO, how was my holiday? Well I’ll tell you. It started with family I’d not met before picking us up from the airport. On the way to their house, they drove up a street of houses who’d gone to tinsel town with Christmas lights, inflatable snowmen, and nativity scenes.
“Wow” I marvelled, “Back home, if someone put that many decorations up we’d all laugh and call them a word beginning with ‘w’. Us Brits don’t like a show off.” Moments later we pulled up to a house even more brightly lit than the others. It was like staring into the sun. My cousin parked the car and said, “Here we are, I guess I’m a w******?”
We arrived in New York at 5pm on a snowy Saturday evening. We stopped at the first street car we saw. My cousins told me we simply must have a ‘dirty water hot dog’ (the oil never gets changed which makes them all the tastier). He didn’t tell me not to call it a dirty-water-hot-dog when ordering. We had to over compensate by ‘MMMMMming’ loudly as we ate, smacking our lips and declaring them ‘awesome’ which is a word Americans like to use at least three times in a sentence.
Apart from New York taxi drivers. They don’t like to talk. They don’t even like to drive. After piling in with a million suitcases and giving the address, he said “It’s like, two blocks ‘oh-vur’, you could ‘wulk’ there from here.”
“We could” I explained “but we don’t know where it is. Plus, it’s snowing and we’ve been travelling for five hours. It would be awesome if you could take us, please, thank you, happy holidays.” He just sighed at me and said “I’ll get stuck in traffic if I go that way” I looked out the window. Traffic was at a standstill everywhere. The city was awash with yellow cars honking and people rushing across roads, coats turned up against the cold. “Yes, but we will be paying you to sit in the traffic” I said, still trying to be polite “we don’t mind, us Brits love queueing! Sometimes we just get in a line and wait, for nothing for no real reason.”
I think that was the first time I got called an ‘A-hole’ but I can’t remember. The people are their own breed of rude, but my youngest, Bliss was like Buddy the elf in the city. She got herself stuck in the rotating doors at the Empire State Building, knocked over a man skipping along the street and ran into my cousin’s screen door.
We showed the girls the view from the top of the Empire State building, the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway, the Christmas Spectacular at the Rockerfella Centre. What did they like best? The snow. The snow that was also back in Britain and they could have seen for free.
What did I like best? The pizza. The totally awesome pizza. One night, just after I’d ordered two slices of ‘pie’ and a wedge of Strawberry cheesecake the size of my snow boots, my middle daughter declared she needed the toilet.
Where has this cold weather come from? The only thing I like about frosty mornings is that is makes it easier to pick up dog poo in the garden. It’s almost fun. Other than that, it’s not for me.
I’ve had to drag out my quilt with arms that I call a coat and my husband calls the passion killer. My youngest still won’t wear warm clothes. My mum is from Newcastle, she must have passed a gene down to her. Trying to get her in a jumper is like trying to get an octopus into spandex pants (mum daughter not my much and not that I’ve tried).
Putting her to bed last night, I tried telling her Santa is watching and she needs to do as she is told. She said ‘Mum, is Santa real or does dad just go to the shop on Christmas even when we are asleep?’
She said it to me with those big blue eyes staring at me, cold feet on my legs under the cover. It felt wrong to lie to her, but even more wrong to tell her Santa is not real, so I told her Father Christmas is the only true magic in this world. I told her about the elves in the workshop making toys and polishing the reindeer bells. She said ‘But mum, I want a Fingerling monkey for Christmas. You can order them on Amazon and send them in the post?’
What do you do with a kid that smart? I pretended to fall asleep. The other two don’t question Santa. My eldest wrote him a lovely letter that said, “I hope you are well, I only want four things and one of them is a Happy New Year’. I had no idea her other New Year’s had been so bad. She also promised to leave out mince pies and carrots for Rudolf “but don’t give any to the others because they were mean about his nose.”
My middle daughter believes in santa so much she’s sealed her letter and refuses to let me have it. She wants to put it in the log burner because apparently that is how it gets to him, up the chimney. I’ve asked if I could just have it to make sure the address is correct, but she won’t part with it. I’ve had to hide all the logs so we can’t have a fire till I work out a way to steal it from her. Christmas has turned me into a liar and a thief.
I’ve made them do the annual toy clear out for charity. I’ve done the same. I’m day 11 into my diet and have given away the jeans I was dieting to get back into. It’s simply not going to happen. I’ve lost weight alright, but from my face. What good is that? I just look tired and old, and a bit like a horse. Giving up sugar is brutal. It’s like waking up every day thinking it’s Sunday, then realising its Monday morning, and you’re late for work.
‘Rice cake’ is a misleading description. There is no cake involved. Just puffed rice squashed together with no flavour. Cakes are moist. Rice cakes remove all the moisture from your mouth, disintegrate when bitten into and leave an odd smell on your fingers.
So blogger Zoella has had to half the price of her advent calendar from £50 to £25. £25! has the world gone mad? As a kid, I was lucky to get a card advent calendar, and I’d have to beg for one with chocolate in.
Now you can get candles, home accessories, perfume, and gin advent calendars. What next; tiny leaping lords, dancing ladies, milk maids, geese laying eggs, French Hens (probably only available from Waitrose), and a partridge in a pear tree hidden behind the gold plated windows?
Why does everything have to get bigger and better and more expensive? My middle daughter came home in tears this week because she was the only girl in her class who didn’t have a cola scented pencil from Smiggle.
Smiggle, for those not in the know, is an overpriced kid’s stationery shop selling brightly coloured tut that breaks within moment of getting it home.
I swear Smiggle scents the shop with crack-laced Fabreeze. My kids are drawn in like their legs don’t belong to them. Sadly, the wallet belongs to me, and I won’t be sucked in by their sweet, sweet pina colado erasers. It’s an utter con. I want to refuse my daughter, but I don’t want her to be the one kid in the class without a Smiggle pencil. She doesn’t even like the cola scented pencil, but that is the one everyone else has, so that is the one she must have too.
I told her to be a maverick and buy a raspberry scented one. She told me if she did that her life would be over (she’s not at all dramatic).
The problem is, it’s not going to stop at a pencil, is it? Next it will be a coat, or a bag, and soon, to remain cool, it will require things that I can’t buy her from shops. I know this because it happened to me.
When I was about her age my best-friend/only friend of six years told me “I’ve made some new friends, but they don’t want you to be in their group, so I’m not your friend anymore. From now on you are not allowed to sit next to me or play with me at break, or talk to me, ever.”
She was my only friend and I loved her. That lunchtime she skipped off to take her place among her new group, while I sat on the bank overlooking the field and realised I didn’t belong anywhere. All the Smiggle pencils in the world wouldn’t have helped me. My second-hand coat from Oxfam with someone else’s name in the collar probably didn’t help me either, nor my utterly uncool love of poetry that long battle with (highly contagious) ringworm.
I joined the Geography club, just so I’d have somewhere to be at lunchtime, other than standing alone, watching my old best friend play with the cool girls and wonder what was wrong with me.
SO I’ve put my dogs on sharemydoggy.com, a supposed free site that cost me £40 to join. It’s either get time away from my pets or rehome them. We have two dogs and a cat, and a tortoise, and some birds, and a couple of fish tanks. Sometimes I suggest we move house and don’t tell the pets so they are forced to find us, like in the film The Incredible Journey. Hopefully, at least one of them wouldn't make it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my labrador, miniature dachshund, and cat-reincarnation-of-my-grandmother, but add them to my three children and husband, and not a single second goes by when someone doesn’t want something from me.
If the cat isn’t attacking my toe at 4am for breakfast, my husband is, and not just to be fed. If one dog isn’t barking, the other one is. The little one only wants to eat the big one’s food. The big dog wants to eat all the food. You have to referee every meal time with lemon spray and a whistle.
No one wants to feed the cat because it bites as soon as it sees the food come out. The tortoise clomps around in the night, sounding like a burglar, forcing me downstairs where our lack of curtains means the moon falls on me, naked and armed with my daughter’s ukulele, like a crazed but musically advanced cave woman.
The love birds compete with the radio,dogs, and my constant laments of 'You’ll be the death of me’, while over it all the children sing songs from Grease 2 in terrible loud and out of tune American accents. “I wanna coooooooooooooool, rider. A cool cool cool cool rider!” wails the six-year-old, as she thrusts her pelvis across the floor like a mini Michelle Pheiffer.
They used to be such sweet girls. Now when I’m out and about, people ignore my beautiful daughters and my lovely big dog. Instead they all coo and marvel at the dachshund. “Oooooh look him, he's so tiny and sweet.” (Their voices get higher as the sentence goes on).
This exclamation is followed by them kneeling down and patting themselves, hoping she’ll hop on for a cuddle (would you?). I like to wait until she’s licked them a couple of times before I say; “I wouldn’t let her lick you on the mouth like that, she like to eat poo.”
You know how you can buy coffee that has been passed through the bowel of a golden monkey, to make it tastier and more exquisite? Well my dachshund only likes her Pedigree Chum after it’s come out the back end of a Labrador.
She also refuses to wee or poo outside. She prefers to do it on something soft, ideally my jumper, the new sofa or the children’s beds.
SO Building work remains ongoing, and we still have no radiators. I told the husband to go and buy a heater or I was leaving him. He obviously hoped for such an outcome because he bought the cheapest one in the shop. All it does it blow out cold air, noisily.
It’s so chilly in my house me and the girls go to bed at 6pm just to stay warm while the husband claims it’s ‘fine’ and walks round barefoot in shorts.
The latest project is trying to remove white paint from the corrugated plastic roof in the sun lounge. The husband sourced the product and left me and the painter apply it, claiming it’d take five minutes.
Three hours and a migraine later, we were still no closer to getting on an even coat and the paint remover had removed the prints from our fingers. At least I can commit a crime without being caught – like murdering my husband.
We took the kids to see Blondie at the Brighton Centre last night. With their usual, incredible timing, all three claimed to feel sick and tired before the warm up act had finished and demanded to go home. The lights were too bright, the noise to loud.
I claimed to not hear them as Blondie walked on stage, like she owned it and burst into ‘One way or another’. I decided then and there that one way or another, I was not leaving until she’d finished. Two of the kids pulled their scarves over their ears and scowled, while the youngest fell asleep on the floor.
A woman next to me, doing out-of-time, aggressive head-banging sneered “I just don’t know how anyone could fall asleep when Blondie is playing.” I said, “She’s six years old” then enthusiastically pogo’d into her and spilled beer on her.
My dad first played me Blondie when I was seven years old. I still remember the picture on his vinyl record, the way I stepped on his feet as we danced, how we sang the lyrics back and forth to one another “Uh oh, uh oh, what are gonna do?”
Blondie was a gift from him to me. I cried as she played our favourite song, and wished he were there to share the moment with me. He’s not dead or anything, it’s just, since we went to see Bob Dylan and it was awful, he refuses to go and see old people still trying to rock it.
But Blondie was amazing. I could not believe she was older than my mum (no offence mum) as she strutted up and down the stage on massive wedged trainers and a cape that said “stop f**ing the planet”. Forget the saying ‘when I’m old I shall wear purple’ – when I’m old I’m going to dress like Debbie Harry, she’s beautiful, inspiring and captivating. 72 and still killing it. There’s a lesson to be learned there. Join an awesome rock band, wear bin- bags as dresses and don’t have kids perhaps?
I packed mine off to school the next day yawning and moaning, spelling homework not done and hair still in yesterday’s plaits. Am I a terrible parent for it? I don’t think so, nor do I care. We made a decision to spend money on memories, not materials this year. I’ll remember Blondie forever, and so will my children. Even if they didn’t like it, the relief at it finishing will be remembered with fondness. That’s how I feel about family camping trips.
We had parents evening this week and none of the teachers said anything too bad about them. All three of them need to improve their maths. It was suggested that I do more at home with them. I’m rubbish at maths, and said as much. I also said I don’t think math’s is that important. A sense of humour and war time spirit are the best life tools.
Sadly, the teachers did not agree with me, so I’m going to get the girls a maths tutor. I’ve managed to persuade them it will be an exciting adventure – like in a Famous Five book, where the maths tutor turns out to be a thief, who steals Quentin’s secret magical formula plans and runs off with them through a secret corridor behind a fake wooden panel.
Do I feel bad about lying to my kids? Only a little bit. Soon they are going to grow up and lie to me about where they were, who they were with and what they were doing. I need to make the most of being able to pull the wool over their eyes. I like to think Blondie is the first of many gig’s we’ll go to together, but I’ve a feeling they won’t want to be seen out with me in public pretty soon.