SO another Halloween has been and gone. Trick or treating is an odd concept. We tell our kids never to accept sweets or lifts from strangers or to go into unknown houses, apart from on the 31st October, when we tell them to dress up, knock on potential abductor’s doors and demand candy.
Teenagers, who’d not even bothered to dress up came knocking on my door demanding sugar hits. They were too cool to even say ‘trick or treat’. I fobbed them off with out-of-date, lunchbox sized ‘Soreen’ malt loaf, then turned off the lights and hid under the windowsill to eat Haribo stolen from my children. I must have looked like Golum from the Hobbit as I held jelly rings up in the moonlit and declared them ‘my precious’.
One of my friends made gingerbread bats to hand out. Inspired, I made a bath of dough to roll and cut out with the kids after school. My youngest ate almost all of it, unbaked. It was seven minutes of ‘stop it, wait, not like that, give it to me, don’t lick that spoon, careful it’s hot, why don’t you listen to me, fine, I give up, don’t blame me when you die from salmonella'.
I always swore I wouldn’t be like my mother, who said all the above to me when we baked together. I used to wish she’d slow down and let me do the messy bits. I can remember sitting on the side licking the wooden spoon (which I never got salmonella from) and wishing I’d had more involvement, vowing I’d be a nicer mum, yet I’m exactly the same with my own kids.
In my head, when imagining a baking session, I see us laughing and dabbing flour on our noses as we roll out dough in matching aprons, while in the background the radio plays ‘Let it Be’ and we all join in for the chorus.
In reality, I take over all the mixing, measuring and stirring, zapping out any possible fun, we all end up crying and my husband comes home to inedible coal coloured biscuits, four sobbing girls and the smoke alarm beeping. ‘When it’s brown it’s burned, when it’s black it’s buggered’ I lament over the charred remains, just like my mother does.
SO, nosy neighbours keep knocking on my door wanting to see what building work we are having done. We bought our house from a semi-famous local artist, who used to teach at Longhill school. Ex-students often stop by wanting to reminisce. To annoy me, my husband ushers them in and says, ‘Welcome! My wife would love to give you a tour’.
“The hallway is just the same!” they exclaim – well obviously, it’s a hallway. Then they go round each room and tell me what used to be there, as if I care. All of them seen slightly affronted I’ve painted over the olive-green walls and dark blue ceilings. I tell them they could recreate the look in their own homes if they like it so much. On their way out, the rook through the skip to see if I’ve thrown away any of his paintings. (I have).
I’ll miss having a skip outside my house. It’s such fun to frolic on the drive. I can’t wait for the house to be finished though. I’m tired of workmen. The electrician my builder hired took one look at the brand-new circuit box we’d paid and arm and a leg for and said, ‘Blimey love, what Mickey Mouse cowboy fitted this?’ It’s exactly what the electrician who fitted the brand-new circuit box said about the one he replaced.
Never in my life has a man come in my house to do a job and praised work done before. The insinuation always seems to be that I’m a simple woman who didn’t know she was being taken for a ride. My thoughts? If I know enough about electrics/plumbing/building to know it was not being done right, surely I could do the work myself – negating the need for a tradesman.
I’ve learnt the correct thing to do while being ‘mansplained’ to (a man explaining something to a woman in a way that is patronising because he assumes that a woman will be ignorant of the subject matter) is shrug, try and look simple, and offer to make the tea, while they tell me how a plug works.
Women don’t knock another women’s work. When I was being stitched up after the birth of my second child, the midwife didn’t look at my previous scar and say, “Crickey love, what butcher did this?”
I wish my husband was better at DIY so we didn’t need workmen, but after that time he tried to stick on a new rear-view mirror, and ended up smashing the windscreen, I decided he was a lost cause. The only way to make him do jobs is to get him angry anyway. If wound up correctly, he starts wiping the kitchen sides, sometimes he even cleans the floor. He doesn’t use a clean cloth obviously, that would be helpful. When the cleaner comes she must look at the kitchen and think ‘Crickey, what Mickey Mouse person wiped this?’
When she comes this week, she may wonder why the house smells like the oil-powered Big Lemon Bus. It’s all my mum’s fault. On a recent visit, she told me my eldest brother just got a log burner and it’s much shinier and nicer than mine, because he cleans it with vegetable oil.
So, a much- loved cat has died in Fiveways, causing an outpouring of grief from the locals. Apparently ‘Wilf’ used to wander into shops and cafes bringing joy, and sneezing fits to customers.
Maybe I’ll let my cat loose in the area to replace him. I loved her until my mum decided she was a host body for her late mother, now I’m thinking rehoming her.
“It’s my mother, come back to see me” mum said in, lost in reverence as my fat black cat lashed out at her, “She’s here with us again, how wonderful.” My dad told her it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard, before locking the cat outside and telling me to block up the cat flap. It’s Friday 13th tomorrow, I’m a tad nervous. I never got on well with my grandmother.
People are complaining about the new recycling bins, which are ugly, unwieldy and block pavements. Of course, people would moan if a unicorn attached to a golden sledge appeared each week to take away their recycling. Until we take work harder to try to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we buy, I guess the bins are here to stay. Note, I say this as a mother of three who cooks as little as she can and is seen every recycling day morning running up and down the street in her dressing gown, fly tipping gin bottles and pizza boxes into her neighbours neat, orderly bins.
Local anti-plastic protagonist Libby Darling says we should use net bags, and buy our fruit and veg loose. “We can’t just say ‘no more plastic’, but single use plastic has no place, like vegetables in plastic trays covered with cellophane – it’s ridiculous. By 2050 scientists say there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Ordering online has become an effective solution for busy families, but the amount of plastic it creates is obscene. We need government backing for things to really change, but it’s not just down to them, it’s up to us to make choices.
There is a lot we can do ourselves to reduce waste and therefore the need for such large bins (made out of plastic). Shop local where you can and take your own bag. Buy things in bulk and re-use the packaging. Get out the 60’s Tupperware, go back to hard soap, instead of shower gel or hand wash. Buy a soda stream to make fizzy drinks, use the Brighton based company, Mooncup, instead of tampons. Choose ‘no bags’ when getting online shopping delivered. It all helps. Charging for plastic bags is working, our beach cleaning teams are finding less and less bags on the beach.”
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.
One of the most shocking things about the shooting in Las Vegas, is that I wasn’t shocked to hear there had been another mass shooting. It’s happening so often we’ve become desensitised. Perhaps the most shocking thing though, is that it is not being called a terrorist attack, because the killer was white. Stephen Paddock was a high stakes gambler. He planned his attack meticulously. This was not ‘revenge shooting’ at Las Vegas because he’d lost money at the tables.
Paddock hid cameras in his hotel room and along the corridor. He specifically requested a room that overlooked the festival, which he named when he checked in. He had 23 semi-automatic guns in the room, which seem to have been modified to maximise the devastation. He had 50lbs of explosives in his car. More guns were found at his home. Las Vegas Sheriff Lombardo said “He meticulously planned the worst domestic attack in United States history. Do you think this was accomplished all on his own, face value?’
A new phone scam is doing the rounds. Fraudsters are texting people, which generally reads something along the lines of: "Hi its Sarah. I need you to do me a favour if possible. I had a small accident and broke my fibula and left elbow. Can you text me back once get this message x" A lot of people have a friend called Sarah apparently, which us why this scam is working so well ‘Sarah’ goes on to ask for £20 of phone credit.
A spokesman from Action Fraud, which is warning about the scam, said: "These messages can quite easily evolve into more elaborate scenarios and are designed to play on your emotions and get you to react quickly without thinking.”
A 71-year old Grandmother from Worthing had all her antique jewellery stolen by thieves posing as plumbers. She was having a nap on her sofa as they robbed her. She woke to find two men in her house who claimed they were checking her plumbing. The stood and admired photos of her children and grandchildren before pretending to check her taps. They walked with treasured rings, necklaces, bracelets and watches, some of which dated back to the early 1900s and were worth thousands. Mrs Knapp said; ‘I trusted everybody but now I’m a nervous wreck.’
In Stourbridge, West Midlands, a man has been sentenced to life after murdering the woman who took him into her home off the streets, and her 13-year-old son. Good Samaritan Tracey Wilkinson first met Aaron Barley when he was begging outside TESCO in a cardboard box. She took him home and fed him, found him accommodation and bought him a mobile phone. Her husband got him a job with his firm. They built him a new life. In return he hid in their shed and murdered them in their sleep. Peter Wilkinson survived the attack. Barley was the product of incest and spent his life in and out of care, battling drug addictions. The court heard had 21 previous convictions including beating an ex-girlfriend 50 times with a piece of wood.
Do we stop trusting in times like these, and what is left of humanity if we all do?