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Friday, 14 November 2008

less is more

“As long as we’re alright for cheesy footballs, Ian, we can do without Twiglets.” A stout and purposeful arm, clanking with gold bracelets, which poked from a raggedy purple cardigan, stretched forward and toppled 3 tubes of cheesy footballs from the shelf into the basket on her knee, crushing a bumper pack of Wotsits already nestled in the bottom. There was a serious cheese-food-type-stuff deal going on here. This was a woman who knew what was what and was happy to speak her mind. “No-one goes a bundle on twiglets. Not these days. So that’s a no, Ian. Cherryade.”

I longed to linger, and feigned an alibi of interest in the wholesome biscuits on the dull side of the aisle, the one which no-one in our Tesco’s bothers with much.
Mr Wheelchair pusher, Ian, was about to enter the fray. It looked like he wasn’t ready for cherryade yet, indeed that he had a thing or two to say about Twiglets, and their place at the modern party; that, frankly, he was fed up with the whole Empowerment thing. Push your own chair, witch.

But I’ve noticed I’m not so good as I think I used to be at loitering unobtrusively. I’m afraid I stare, slack-jawed in fascination now. That fantastic certainty. It’s only a matter of time before I bring my own chair, or am actually squatting there, begging for the low-down, chipping in my tuppence-worth. My dark glasses are only so good as a disguise, they’re not quite the invisibility cloak I fondly imagine.

While I was down that end of the store, reluctant as I was to tear myself away, I thought I might as well get a present for T12’s friend, whose party it is tomorrow.
Ever the dilemma: to spend absolutely as little as possible while making it appear generous. To this end, I have tempting tussles with unsuitable items which attract but merely fulfil the cheap bit: Teach Yourself Typing DVD, anyone? or, venturing further afield, what’s more appealing than a bumper pack of sellotape for a pound, or value toner for the printer (dented packaging), or who can resist 3-for-2 on ankle socks? So what if they're pink; get over it. Surprising gifties perhaps for today's 12 year old boy, but, hey, I don’t know him. That's secondary school for you. All I do know is that I can’t mention it to Mrs NP since her boy’s not invited (the pressure, the potential for tears) and that this party represents 30 of the 90 miles E and I have to drive to and from Gloucester tomorrow. Rugby take. Rugby collect. Party. Hang around and wait. Sigh. I lament the good old days when all they cared about was the wrapping paper. Tears and tantrums and torn tissue.

It takes hours saving money, steering a path through the dross, but at least I can park. Although now I sound like my grandfather. If he wasn’t showing a touching interest in where we’d slung the motor, he was desperate to know when we were leaving; the two topics segueing into each other at close quarters, clashing clumsily like dodgems, leaving not much time in the middle to validate ones arrival. If we were feeling very cruel, we’d say, “Car? Can’t remember.” His sense of panic was palpable.

The football coach had trapped us at the school gate this morning, banging on about time management. Too late to get away, hampered by politeness, never quite sharp enough to turn a pause in the conversation into a gap big enough to leave in, I stood trying not to catch anyone’s eye. Manners are a pain in the neck.

“Only 168 hours in the week,” he announced, rocking on his heels. “Richard Branson doesn’t get any more. Never has. Doesn’t waste time on the EIRM, the Electronic Income Reducing Machine in the corner, see. The television,” he added, sensing our failure to get with the program. “40 hours a week the average person spends watching TV.”
“Well I do watch ‘Spooks’ AND ‘Top Gear’ on a Sunday,” the kind, dim mother offered anxiously.
He’d been on a course. The coach, not Richard Branson, or, God Forbid, DumbMum. Time Management. Loved it. He must be the only person in Britain happy on courses.

Nice but dim mother was frowning over the 168 hours bit.
“7 days x 24 hours,” I hissed helpfully.
Her frown deepened. “When?” she said.

“It’s all about HPOAs,” he said, warming to his theme.
We all looked blank.
“High Pay-Off Activities,” he explained. “Rather than,” he counted on his fingers, “LPOAs.”
We could all guess that one. Well, apart from the really dim mother, who cocked her head like Lolly.
Lolly was struggling with all this, too, mainly our inability to grasp bollocks when we could be out striding through horse shit, swapping one load of excrement for another. She could spot a Low Pay Off Activity before her nose, see time slipping through her paws. I feared she might start humping me, her idea of time well spent. Since being spayed, she has gender realignment issues. The carpenter suffered greatly yesterday.

“Basically you’ve got to delegate. Sort your goals, and delegate.“
There’s not much delegation goes on when you’re bottom of the food chain, where ‘goals’ boils down to Buy Oranges and Hang Up Washing. It’s chaps what go on courses and who learn to add up that get to grasp the right end of the delegation'n' goals stick. Still, a girl can try.
I mocked a handing over of Lolly’s lead to him, Sassy Welsh Mother from the PTA did the same with her bag of gubbins: 95,000,000 Pudseys to be cut out for Fun Activities this afternoon.
“Can’t hang around here chatting,” he said, demonstrating most admirably both closure and the refusal to be delegated himself.

I settled on a boxset of 3 DVDs for £6. Vaguely Boysy and one of which, ‘Happyness,’ was being sold separately for £8. Bargain. £2 saved, and just the 20 minutes wasted. That’s an episode of The Simpsons when it was on the BBC part of the EIRM.
I stood in the queue near enough to peer over at Ian and Mrs Purple Cardi. Cheesy footballs were spinning on the conveyor belt, jostling with hulking bottles of Cherryade. Despite the triumph of the passable DVD, I was made inexpressibly sad to see that no twiglets had made it.
The Maund is Dite means, of course, The Basket is Ready. Full of cheesy footballs and primed to party.


Edward said...

One of your very best. Slightly spoiled by my being in mid-guffaw when manager approached in full sneak-mode, rendering me entirely unable to come up with an excuse as to why I had tears streaming down my face (he knows, from previous rather snippy exchanges, that I don't suffer from hay fever, nor do I have a cold nor even, God forbid, a "Man-cold" whatever the f*u ck that is. Enjoyed it even more on second reading.

Preseli Mags said...

Great blog. I'm glad it's not just me staring slack-jawed at my fellow shoppers. Too often I've been caught analysing the contents of other people's trolleys (and finding them wanting.) I'd have gone for Twiglets over cheese footballs - spooky innards.

Very picturesque dog and family on the previous post too.

KittyB said...

Oh for a cheesy football, would sort this hangover out a treat. Or a Cheeselet, or even a bag of Wotsits. Mmmm, cheeese food. I feel like Homer Simpson. But with more hair.

LittleBrownDog said...

Goodness, I pop over here to find you've churned out two top blogs when I wasn't looking (pondering the temptingness of cheesy balls V twiglets in my own time-space continuum, no doubt). Excellent, excellent, and so much to comment on. Sounds as though Akela would be in her element in Chelters.

Sounds as though Football Coach was on my business course last week - or one very much like it. Afraid I have to confess to having to scroll back up to remind myself what EIRM was and feel as though I would have been right down there with Dim Mum looking perplexed and trying but failing to keep up with the conversation. Or worse, with Lolly bent on the dark art of excrement perusal.

(Also remember similar mad present-bargain shame last year, in which I stumbled on an expensive-looking animal encyclopedia reduced to £5, only to find the boy in questions had only been given three such tomes. Much to the embarrassment of three shamefaced sets of parents and his disgust. Am now on edge of seat wondering whether Boy will get invited to this year's party.)

Potty Mummy said...

Can you believe I actually worked (indirectly) for Golden Wonder when they produced 'Goalden Balls' for some football tournament for the first time? Oh, the glamorous life I led then...

lampworkbeader said...

As someone who spent at least an hour in Toys aren't us yesterday, I have full sympathy over the present buying business.
Lovely blog, as for the football coach, I swear I know him

Expat mum said...

I had Marmite on my toast this morning (much to American family
s disgust) and it reminded me of Twiglets. I was half way through trying to describe them but gave up. I mean who would believe we ate twig-looking things that tasted of marmite? Yum.

blogthatmama said...

The Basket may be Ready but your Cup is Overflowing. Two blogs hard on each other's heels! I'm going to be controversial but I don't think Laura would win, something's just not exactly right.

Dumdad said...

Hello again. I don't know how you slipped off my blog list but you're back on now. Twiglets - I haven't had those for ages.

elizabethm said...

What a killer blog Milla. I have met the football coach, I am sure I have, time and again at conferences and business meetings. I probably look very like dim mum as I glaze over.
And I have an obsession with other people's trolleys. I saw someone the other day pushing one which contained nothing but six packs of smoked haddock and four jars of Nutella.

Fennie said...

Oh Milla, you do make grumpy old me laugh a bundle, which is most excellent. Why is it that I should laugh at the really dim mother cocking her head, like Lolly? Probably because that is what I should do in the same circumstances, not believing that a clever person who had been on courses could possibly re-utilize the three initials of POA. For all I know LPOA might have stood for Lolly Puts On an Accent, thereby barking in French.

Still you're right about the Twiglets - can't remember when I last ate one and maybe I shall go and buy some, provided, of course, my Maund is not already Dite or more importantly my spare funds are not exhausted for which phrase too, there ought to be, I can't help feeling, some useful medieval tongue-tripping equivalent for you to fox us poor head-cocking folk with.

Mean Mom said...

Cheesy footballs and Cherryade? Did you stray into some sort of time warp?

Speaking of nostalgic snacks, I used to love Potato Puffs and Cheese Snax in primary school. Mmmm... Am I the only one old enough to remember those? Oh. (sigh)

I do have some empathy with kind, dim mother. I think I gave myself the wrong name on my blog. I might change it to 'Kind, dim, DumbMum'! It sometimes seems more suitable.

I'm so glad that I don't live in Purple Cardi's household. I just couldn't live without the odd bag of Twiglets. How about you? ;0)

KAREN said...

Twiglets, cheesy footballs and Cherryade have never made it into my Maund sadly, which means it has rarely been Dite as far as the children are concerned - deprived little buggers.

Plenty of EIRM though, so they haven't done too badly :o)

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Those cheesy footballs get stuck on the top of your mouth and you end up looking like a dog with a toffee stuck on its teeth as you lick, dig, suck like a nutter trying to remove it lest it sets rock hard and remains like a barnacle in your mouth. They should have had the twiglets - hours of fun sucking the Marmite flavouring off.

As for the Sports coach? Someone should have told him that the worst kind of LPOA is talking with a BIWLIWTIIA - Boring Idiot With Low Intellect Who Talks In Idiotic Acronyms and wasting time into the bargain!

Pat Posner said...

Returning your visit to mine, Milla. Your blog looks great and I will have a proper look later. Now... Must. Get. On. With. WIP.

nuttycow said...

Damn you - have such a craving for twiglets now :(

Hmmm.. sticky, marmitey goodness. A must for all house parties.

Sally's Chateau said...

Hysterical offering once again filled with balls and spot on in your observations. On a recent visit to the UK recently I picked up a well known glossy and found the blog page so lacking in any substance it hung languidly in my hands, now a lively little piece like you knock out would be more the ticket.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

All life is to be found in a Tescos, especially the all-night ones.

Amanda said...

Hope you don't mind, I linked you...if you do I 'll remove it...

Mean Mom said...

Psst! Milla! Do you have a few spare seconds? I've got just the post for you. You'll hate it. No, love it, I meant to say, of course. You'll love it. Don't forget to have your speakers on. (snigger)

CAMILLA said...

Oh fab blog Milla, and as for Twiglets, don't mention them, dressed like something out of Searle cartoon I remember being named by horrid tweeny's in that education establishment.

Cherryade, years ago one could slurp it down and take empty bottle back to corner shop and get your money back, oh how times have changed.


Amanda said...

I've been to Paris twice on a dance scholarship, granted I was in high school and not as adventurous. I need a girl trip/destination vacation to enjoy what I want to see. I have a country boy husband (not that there's anything wrong with that),and know the only way I'm going is with someone else. I'm a history nut and would love to see the "beginning of civilization".

Exmoorjane said...

Oh go on, go to Paris with Amanda (leaving country boy husband well at home).....(eek, have just realised that isn't a spam post)....
Cheesy footballs truly revolting and ditto cherryade. Unpuckingbelievable. Who doesn't like twiglets?
I too laughed like a drain at the woman looking like Lolly.
Now skipping merrily to read The Maund is Dite - possibly the best title for a blog yet written.

Pondside said...

Hi Milla - three great posts, one after another. You made me laugh at the thought of you lurking and listening, slack-jawed at the grocery store. I'm always fascinated by what people have on the conveyer belt at the cash - sometimes wonder at my own pile!

Potty Mummy said...

Am sure you're much too busy, but have I've tagged you - twice. I'm nothing if not efficient...

Un Peu Loufoque said...

Find me someone to whom I may delelgate and I promsie to try...wonderful blog as ever...

Angel said...

I have missed your last two blogs. Shame on me!

Fantastic as always. You do realise we always have cheesy balls and cherryade on a Saturday night when we're watching X factor! lol


Fennie said...

Bahoo! Christmas isn't Christmas without a dose of Milla to wasp-up the seasonal fare. I was rather hoping you'd slipped one in between wrapping prezzies and shooting the dog. Give her a cabbage and she'll be happy. Well-ish! Anyway have a Happy Christmas - love to all the family, Lolly included. Fxx

Lucy Diamond said...

Oi, mrs, I'm back at this blogging lark, so where are you???

جبهة التهييس الشعبية said...

Happy new Obama,
He has to see this

He has to see Holocaust survivors

We will not go down without a fight


Blimey, what's with the Arabic sympathiser. Does she or does she not like Twiglets, I ask myself? I wouldn't want to upset her...

Watch yer back, Love


Ps: I hate the party thing. Consumes HOURS of my time. Thank God I mainly have girls to buy for - much easier to pick up bits and bobs of girly crap. But BOYS I have NO IDEA. Don't have them. Don't do boys. Just girls. Pink, pink, pink. Was in WHSmiths today in Macclesfield at 5.20pm, assistant looking twitchily at clock and door locks. Youngest desperate for the loo, legs crossed, eyes watering. They don't have loos in WHSMith. It added dto the pressure. Was going to get boring voucher but spotted LittleBrownDog's very same (I swear) animal encyclopaedia - big, heavy, reduced by £19, yes, NINETEEN POUNDS for God's sake. HAD to snap that up as ALWAYS trying to do the Milla thing and get expensive present cheap. Just call me Budgie. Anyway, after LBD's shame, am now thinking I will add Magnabeads (only Boy present tucked away in Very Efficient Present Store in cellar) just for good measure. I will seem GENEROUS beyond all dreams. Marvellous.

PPS: shoot the coach. I don't do time management.

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