I'm sure you wouldn't, but:

Protected by Copyscape Unique Content Check

Monday, 30 January 2012


Some of F13’s class were on the front page of the local paper last week, beaming quite convincingly over some Haggis they had made in class. One can only assume they'd not yet put fork of same to mouth. What remained of F13’s sat untouched in the fridge awaiting loin girding. I've had haggis once. Never again. It had been badly closed up, the box it came in because F13 himself had closed it, and had splurted and spattered sheep stomach stuff inside his new backpack. Gagging, I’d cleaned it, scrubbing at the gummy zips.

“Why weren’t you in the picture?” I asked, raw of hand.
He shrugged.
“It would have been lovely to have had a picture of you.”
“Why?” he said, “you can see me any time.” A literal child can be a tedious thing.
“I could have sent it to people,” I said, wading further into pathetic land.
“People who want a picture of me already have one,” he said. “Besides, the paper came during lunch time.”
“Ah, so you chose to stuff your face rather than get in the photo?”
“I have to eat –“
“Everyone has to eat. You can eat anytime.”
“I’m a busy man; my lunch takes ages.”

His lunch is barely liftable. I get his point. I do do good lunch, I like to feed my little men up, and sometimes feel a bit Witch to their Hansel and Gretel, but still my children are skinny. They would remain in the cage and I would stay hungry were I in the business of fattening them up for the pot.
But in a week when a smartie sandwich was in the papers, I can be relied upon to be smack-worthily smug about the worthy little pots of olives and chicken rolls, homemade brownies, yoghurts and fruit that are stuffed, holiday-suitcase-ful, into my boys’ lunchboxes.

When I did a stint as a dinner lady at their primary schools (strictly on an opening packets of crisps basis, and saying, “Eat nicely, Benjamin”: no hairnets, no ladles, no twizzlers), there was one family. I rather liked them, a travelling family permanently outgrowing their static caravan, as child after child was born to join the wild straggle of siblings and cousins.
The children were sweeties and so were their lunches. A typical offering comprised a mini packet of sugary cereal, a box of tic-tacs. Maybe a bald piece of steamed dough. “Our” children were not allowed sweets, or chocolate and glared droolingly at the Haribos constituting these children’s meals, the lone slice of toxic pink penis masquerading as meat, the chemical crisps.

I hesitated, but spoke to the Head about it. It was heartbreaking seeing them eat such crap, their building blocks being E numbers and fat.
She made a brusque cutting swipe with her hand. “Racial,” she said, “Can’t do a thing about it. Oh, and that reminds me.” She’d bustle off, and on days such as that would a letter come home from school regarding suitable lunches.
“It has come to my attention,” the Head would megaphone, “that some parents are still sending in grapes unhalved. Choking constitutes a real problem with grapes unless halved. And may I remind parents that as well as operating a strict no nut policy, we have also banned kiwi fruit on health and safety grounds. Your cooperation is appreciated.” I would scan the letter, trawling for spoken, and then unspoken, strictures on supplying boxes of cereal, tubs of tic-tacs and found them missing.

No one wanted the haggis. The fridge door opened, and closed. Evasive action was taken to jiggle it to the back, out of sight, out of mind, to let it rot in quiet until a quiet funeral could be arranged in the bin. I had thought that E might choke it down. He is, when it suits, half Scottish. I was wrong. He evinced minus interest in it and was quite rude.
It served one useful purpose, however, for which much thanks. Food which traditionally might go down badly (fish pie, say) when offered up with a dangling, “Or there’s the haggis…” was temporarily greeted with relieved gusto.
The haggis grew a crust.

The inevitable happened. The dog perked up. She skittered and danced on clattery nails when out it came, eagerly dancing it to her bowl. It had shrunk and sat resentful on its plate but was pounced on with grateful relish by the easily pleased in our midst. She downed it in big, gulping glugs, taking out much of the silver foil too.
She smacked her lips, thrilled, and looked around for more, hoping perhaps even for a box of tic-tacs, a packet of cereal of dubious date, a Haribo. Unconsidered trifles which the fusspots eschew. Giddy days, dog, but not that giddy.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


I bumped into Mrs Lovely.
“Apparently, I’m Uber Bitch from Hell today,” she said. “I’d even rather be out here, with Muffin in the rain,” (she indicated erstwhile perfect hair and both of us avoided taking in Muffin who was busy dry humping this footstool of a dog he favours for stress relief). “They all hate me.”
“More than usual?” I asked.
“I’ve lost the router.”

Modern parenting requires that we let our children go on the internet, “for homework,” and onto games consoles, “because I’ve done my homework,” and then – often while crouched over our own phones scrolling and clicking and somewhat glassy-eyed – deplore the beast that electronics make of our offspring and crossly stride round the house confiscating remotes and controls and, in Mrs Lovely’s case of final defiance, the router.

“I put it somewhere safe,” she wailed. “I only wanted Lulu to do her homework but she wouldn’t get off Facebook.”
“Fatal,” I said. A Safe Place has cost us all dear, and I’ve seen scraps break out between random teens in the library over Facebook so resonance was there.
“And I’m just worried I’ve left it in TK Maxx. But that’d be Melanie’s fault.”

Melanie, good twin, it seemed had expressed a desire for heels.
“So I found some, £89 –”
“£89!!” I squealed, “Are you MAD!”
“Reduced … to … £7!” finished Mrs Lovely triumphantly. “They had a six inch heel and I, well I felt like Prince Charming with Cinderella’s slippers.”
“Jeez, six inches! Is she mad?” Some slutty old Cinderella, no wonder she took a tumble come pumpkin time.
“Not. High. Enough,” said Mrs Lovely.
We were both silenced.
“But I feel too tall for heels at 5’7”,” I said.
“Same here,” she said. “But, no, Melanie wanted 7. Or. 8. So I had to take them back and I’m just wondering about the bag, and the router, and would I have thought that that was a safe place?”

We pondered the tippytoey nonsense of heels of 8” and the folly of safe places which often have to be drummed up at speed and regretted later.
“How tall is she?” I asked.
“5’8”. And the boys are all … so high.” Her illustrative hand hovered around our waists. We had munchkin men and monster girls.
“And what about Lulu?” I asked, needing a quick fix of Lulu. It had been a while.
“Shaved hair,” she said, closing her eyes. “All round here, round the back, up the sides. Floppy bit. You can tell she hates it. But she won’t say a word.”

I thought of all the words we don’t say. And the ones we do. Usually the nonsense ones. Lives lived on a level of exchanging trivia and needing something to laugh at to take the edge off. And that sometimes we take an extra turn around the field, despite the rain and the mud and the dogs being vile just because it provides a beautiful void and is in itself a safe place.