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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Light's off, Nobody's in

“We do charge, but it’s only a couple of pounds,” said the vet ringing up £4.70 on the till; her couple of pounds not chiming with my idea of same. Were the transaction being reversed, the Eyeore in me could expect around £1.20.
“And if it’s returned so that we can re-use it, we’ll refund you.”

Why on earth wouldn’t people return to have it re-used and be refunded, I snorted to myself edging Lolly into the truck-battered car. How lazy is that. How rich must they be.

I was feeling a little chastened, truth be told, for when the vet had asked if Lolly had been licking her stitches following her recent spaying, I had answered in the enthusiastic affirmative, expecting vicarious praise for this intuitive self-healing, which I had assumed would reflect well on me, fine mother of fine dog. Not for the vet to frown at fuckwit mother, mutter expensive-sounding things like “infection,” and rustle in a cupboard for a clear lampshade thing that is fated to keep Lolly from her bits for the next ten days.
“Just slide it onto her collar,” she said, “through the little loops.”

Once home, I snapped it on (with some difficulty I must say: never be conned by an instruction beginning “Just …” anything), patted her head, fed her a biscuit and went upstairs to stare at the study which would be prelude, in efficient households, to making a start on tidying it, and not mere introduction to several hours of blank inactivity.
Within scant seconds, and rescuing me from my torpor, I feared that we were having our second earthquake in 12 hours.
Much as the house shook last night, rocking our sturdy sleigh of a bed til I wondered if I were being auditioned as a Bucking Bronco Mother Santa, so massive thumps now resonated through the floor, and the stairs, and the ceiling, and I ran down to find that Houdini Lolly had managed to do in reverse in seconds what had taken me some cross minutes of finger-snapping pain (recalling Dyson belt issues). Namely, thrash around with sufficient violence to shake free her plastic prison.
I found it hurled like a Frisbee about 20 feet away, an item already well the worse for having been in our temporary ownership for about half an hour and making me fear for my £4.70. Shoddy plastic rubbish.
Meanwhile, well pleased with herself, Lolly looked, very much: That’ll be the end of that little episode. Very much: Get you, Mummy.

So I had to fix it back on again, but this time with no more Mrs Nice Guy tenderness. Delving much deeper into choke rate on the scale of Dog’s Chances of Living til the Weekend, and since then she has sat, as humourless and posed as Whistler’s Mother, dazed and confused and imagining a wax doll with my face on it which she could bite. Staring into a middle distance where life was good and the recent past hadn’t happened. Reminding me in essence of myself, frankly, following ten minutes at a Slide’n’Splash.

A friend (slim, gorgeous, athletic) had told me What Fun this evil dump was and I was fool enough to believe her. So, when we went to Portugal, I was happy enough to line up with E and the nippers and take my turn swooshing down some fabricated spinning tunnel of hell perched atop a greasy tyre before being plonked deep in a soup of fetid water rich in other people’s sweat and spittle. On landing, at neck-snapping speed, hard, in a slap on my back, to be immediately engulfed by a wave of grimy germs, piss and chlorine, with my straps in jeopardy and what the children call a wedgie happening down below, I could only wonder, in all seriousness, whether I had actually died or not. Whether that had been it. And whether I minded much.

Then I had to sit hunched, under a towel-for-a-blanket, all but catatonic, rocking slightly, while E and the children merrily continued sampling all of the other rides in turn, sometimes more than once; which took about four hours.
The stripping of dignity conferred by motherhood frequently makes me weep metaphorically, but this time it was almost for real.
With E, we are merely married: our connection is but a happenstance of chance with a little love thrown in, so I can ignore his hearty joy at the place, but the children share genetic material with me. How can this be so when not one jot of empathetic understanding passed their faces or informed their chat with me. Indeed the little buggers tried to cajole me into having another go Because I Might Enjoy It this time.

Sometimes you can only marvel at how little you are known.

Something similar inside Lolly is telling her that life has gone truly awry. Worryingly still, she sits, urging the two or three neurons which constitute her brain to re-position the broken pieces of her jigsaw. She needs her touchstone back.

That time in the Algarve, I at least knew that Things Would Get Better and, if the dog would only hurry up and learn English, I could take the opportunity to lard this occasion with a little stuff about gratitude, and taking for granted, and Mother is Best.

All she knows is that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. And she doesn’t even really know that because she is a little bit thick.

It’s going to be a long old ten days for both of us.

Of course, “us” is “her.”
I’m fine.
As long as I get my £4.70 back.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Famous Five

(this was originally put up Over The Other Side - purplecooers will understand - and is here at the request of Mags):

F8 is reading the Famous Five and Hoorah for that.

But apparently “they” are changing Enid Blyton. Presumably to make her “relevant” to Today’s Kids.
This can surely go one of two ways: it depends on who’s in charge, and quite how “relevant” “they” wish to be.

Either way, there will be no more Fanny, no more Dick. No more filthy gypos or queer-looking folk. No more lashings of ginger beer, and an end to JoJo the House Boy. No more, “I say, my man” from uppity ten year olds lording it over the feudal classes (forever chopping sandwiches and baking cookies in numbers sufficient to make that old table groan).

At Kirrin Avenue, the new children will be on eating plans devised by a nutrition expert, one of many specialists Ma has bought in to give her kids the edge over everybody else’s, causing them to follow closely orchestrated regimes with not a minute over to discuss rum-looking fellows or wonder for whom Cookie’s staggering out the back door with an apron full of leftovers (“Hmmm, tantamount to theft, that,” mused Julian, rubbing his chin, “I saw her with my own two eyes. Wonder whether I should inform Father. Get the woman sacked.”). It’s hard to imagine that any Five Find Outing, or Secret Societying will be squeezed into the all-encompassing schedule of Conversational Japanese, Karate and Chess.

Amarinta, Jasper, Delius and Georgiana have enrolled Tiberius in Fruit and Vegetable Tasting Class. Licking plates clean is so not hygienic. Besides there are three dishwashers for that, one of which is called Magda, the other two Miele.

Amarinta has a nut allergy, and none of the Brood like the gluten free goji berry thins Magda is forced to make. Neat cranberries are disturbingly bitter. They snack wretchedly, dim shadows of longing for groaning tables awake somewhere in their collective psyche. Then they have to go and brush their teeth. Even this is timed.

Georgiana is on BabyProzac. Her mother, Aunt Flick, is truly absent yet ruled by Health and Safety. She insists on Risk Assessment forms being e-mailed to her across the world if Georgiana is to undertake anything more dangerous than being driven the mile – one hour in standing traffic – journey to school.

Jasper threatens with burn-out. Captain of everything going, (everything that matters anyway, "Who cares about *loody lacrosse!" bawls Pa, purple with rage when he heard) Jasper strides around with the haunted look of that rabbit in front of those headlights. Choice paralysis is setting in. He’s just so good at so much it’s exhausting. And still Ma insists he runs through his scales last thing at night, when he really should be getting on with his Make A Friend Of A Senior Citizen project (so good for the CV).

Delius doesn’t talk yet, but that’s fine, hey, everyone’s different, don’t judge. He’s just in touch with his inner baby, that’s fine, too. For now, he expresses himself through juggling. He’s really really good. Ma thinks he could be running Gifford’s Circus before long. She longs to call Totti and run it past him.

Or maybe new Enid will be made to feel welcome in Britain’s Mean Streets. Here, the disaffected denizens sport Scrabble names, filched from Jeremy Kyle. Ana, Joolz, Devvon and Gyzel sneer at each other while Tyson prowls in a studded choke collar. Arright?

Ana’s chief utterance is “wha’evah”, and her “My Best Friend Is A Bitch” t-shirt is, by all accounts, minging. There’s never any washing up to do, the cupboard is bare – does she feel an inexplicable primeval twinge at the lack? Possibly not. A sly look does little to animate her bland features. Generally strung out on E-numbers and nervy from a diet of Bird Flu Sticks and chemical-heavy blue liquids masquerading as drink, she has hit a low and is shivering from lack of sugar.

Joolz mooches. His legs splay wide when he sits hunched in front of the Playstation, meaty hands dabbing at consoles, killing things on the screen. Heavy with bling, and vaguely anxious that his low-slung trews might do what gravity and excess material combine to do and hit the floor – innit – he flouts the terms of his ASBO by failing to observe the 500 metre invisible cordon placed round the scene of his latest tracked misdemeanour. Ie: he’s still sleeping with the girl who got him banged up for assault. He didn’t do it. Besides, it was only once and she arxed for it. Silly cow.

Devvon only attends Youth Rehab Program to blag tranqs from the back office. His kids don’t like it, but *uck ‘em. Devvon has Anger Management Issues. “Safe,” he says, pimp-rolling down the street with his hooded crew.

Gyzel, after a misspent infancy on the bottle, is rueing one particular Vicky Pollard session de trop, which resulted in a Little Surprise. She hopes that she and Cyd pass as sisters when they go clubbing together.

Tyson licks the takeaway foil containers clean.

Comfortingly, there are similarities a-plenty twixt old, new and each other.

In both new, improved, relevant versions, the children suffer a recognisable degree of neglect chiming with the original.

In neither will Father have to make much of an appearance, nor will Mother have to shift her little tush to show much interest in her young uns’ whereabouts. So if they could but stumble upon a disused lighthouse or just hook up with an abandoned caravan, then it’s Business As Usual.

For, over at Feral FilthBucket, Mum is down the tattoo parlour while the various Dads not being looked after by Her Majesty’s finest, have long since idled off leaving the ‘yout’ to dabble with drugs and find somewhere to stash their weaponry.

And up at Kirrin Avenue, Pa’s simply never there. Money to make, golf to play, someone else’s wife to sleep with. He slings the Beamer in the drive purely for the vampire hours and is away again by dawn to nab a seat on the train, elbowing the lower-paid out of his expensive way, and barking on his blackberry.
Ma would like to be a colour consultant and prance around with mood boards and swatches, but there simply isn’t time. When she isn’t at Pilates, she is busy lunching on a communal carrot with her Girlfriends, an identikit group, bearing:
as much excess adipose as butterflies
must-have handbags
and humourless laughs, the sort not to trash their features.
There will be one fat friend, a size 12, for them to patronise. Besides, marvellous Magda from Croatia has the whole thing covered back at the ranch, and The Brood is surely too busy with Kumon to contemplate sleuthing?

Until that happy day, when The Famous Five and co are dragged depressingly, relentlessly into the bleaker bookends of the twenty first century, I am happy to let my children enjoy the nonsensical, rampantly unPC Enid Blyton as I did and as so many of you did.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Going Downhill Fast. Again. But in France

I’ve put the wrong thing in the chilli and it smells weird so am up here in denial.
We can blame a jar of something that needed using up (by which I mean throwing away about a month ago). And when I say we, I mean me. For I fear I’ve spoiled it, and since I am being good, and not drinking in the week, I can’t even slather my palate with vino and not give a damn-o.

Suspect housewifery made so much worse by our having returned from France on Saturday after a fine week’s skiing.

My prowess recedes each year and I am possibly as good now, after a total of 8 weeks on skis, as my eleven year old was after just his second day, back when he was 5.
Both the children are horribly good, tipping themselves down black runs like James Bond villains while I, the Nan of the piece, wobble and fret and nurse my joints, shaking my poles at snowboarders. It comes of starting too old and indeed I can only really bank on being better than learners on their very first day.
But even the cat needs someone to kick and a most cruel pleasure I take, I freely confess, in swooshing past those timorous souls clinging to the slopes and so very obviously hopeless, scared to their inner core with “I Am New To This (and I wish I were at home…).” There is always a black day – or several when you are actually learning to ski – where your soul comes up against your resolve and both are found wanting, a depressing glimpse of unpleasing character. A form of schadenfreude exists, mefears, where it is not enough, to be a little bit OK at something but there must be serried, too, the ranks of the truly inept. And they must watch you fly past, and something approaching awe must cross their desperate faces. God, it’s good. Not too, too close. I stopped short of quite slicing over the back of their skis lest my guardian angel took umbrage at such boastful folly and made me tumble, a yahoo thing in padded orange, arse over tit and firmly put in her place. Couldn’t have that.

So by day it was early rising, and practising being old.
A kindly physiotherapist at our chalet lent me a serious knee brace: part Hannibal Lecter rubber and part scary metal. It took some hauling on and left parched summer river bed creases deep in my chubby leg come night time when finally it was peeled off. My left knee gained a renewed and cocky juvenilia while my right knee sulked and took refuge in envy. Other limbs and joining bits, elbows and things, creaked and all the myriad moves of the day before replayed in reverse, the stretches and leaps and thigh-trembling horrors cruelly recalled in the reduction of movement remaining now. Walls were clutched to steady the progress down to breakfast. Chairs were hard to sit on without a sudden collapse through the last free-falling inches.

Skiing occupied each morning. After the laying on of the necessary armour: the imprisoning of each foot in brutal ski boots, the zipping and tucking in and velcroing of layers, the snap of the goggles, the bustling with hats and straps and tugging on with teeth of gloves, the cumbersome underwater movements, the doing the same for your children, one is almost too exhausted to stamp into skis and take off.
Mindful of the pleasure to come, and the emptying of the bank account to have got there at all, one does shift arse and get going, but it’s tough pursuing unnecessary enjoyment and I expect pity.

Lunch was basically raw meat which T11 and I tore at greedily, choking down the iron of blood, all but snarling as we grappled with our salad and chips while E winced painfully, delicately, at our primeval excesses and sipped virtuously on some grim vegetable soup, which he felt duty-bound to declare delicious. Ie: wholesome, ie: disgusting. F9 ate compulsive pizzas, skinny and stretched and clearly moreish. The coke of both wobbled on too-small tables.

More skiing in the afternoon, made marginally more reckless fuelled by a steadying petit pitcher du vin blanc. Reward for survival.
Moments perched perilous high on chair lifts swaying from their cables when stopped without warning. Metallic shrieks of untrustworthy machinery and the buffeting of alarming winds to contend with before the relief of the take up of speed again as inexplicable as was the stop. We could picture poor souls (bungling variety) in a heap of poles at one end or other of the chair lift: we’ve all been there, glamorous it ain’t.

The lifts begin closing at 4.15 and there is a final rush to time it all right: to maximise their use without stranding oneself the wrong side of a mountain and a hefty bill charged by a taxi driver. And then home to shortbread and a cup of brown liquid, called in misplaced optimism, “coffee.”
Somehow the next three hours are what it takes to change, to transform oneself from ageing, shagged-out teletubby lumbering in unseemly quilty infantile clothing into something which can be tickmarked adult human, where legs are shown, and faces revealed and hair sort of brushed. To shower in a tiny enclosure, to knock back a comforting glass and to slide into a chair and chomp on surprisingly delicious food, chalet food generally being an unreliable thing.

Too much wine later was bed time and an unfolding of the thing called our bodies onto small hard beds to dream and feel the swoosh continue through the soles of our feet before morning came too soon.

Morning actually came in the middle of the night on our final day, at 3am when we woke in haste to catch our coach. But snow in the night had caused a domino effect of trapped coaches up and down the mountain road and we were abandoned to the limbo of a hotel seating area, anxiety about catching our plane gnawing slightly at the tiny bits of us which were awake. Apart from the children who just quarrelled over their Nintendos and were horribly hearty.
Rescue came, late, in the form of a delightful girl, very ra and very rude and very un-pc, who cannoned us down another road in her Kanga van-cum-car and thence to another bus which confidently started driving us to the wrong airport. Mercifully I said something. Usually, I wouldn’t have bothered, having an utter trust in the competence of others, particularly with regard to things useful like driving buses. I hazarded a query. Which the bus driver ignored but when I repeated it again, she reacted insofar as to flounce and roll her eyes and stab at her phone buttons and nod a lot, and then turn round.

Can I say it’s great to be home?
Let’s consider the evidence.
There: sun, snow, a feeling of achievement, staff.
Here: boiler going haywire, endless laundry, house a tip, bills rolling in, week-time wine a thing of the past, Lolly still bald as a pipe-cleaner, the chilli in chaos.
Whaddya think?