Archive for February, 2009

27
Feb
09

10 things your granny never knitted – hail the woollen vagina suit!

You know your friend is taking her divorce badly when she starts ‘crafting’.

One minute she’s acting completely normally – screaming at the children, downing industrial-sized bottles of cider, weeping uncontrollably and burning her ex’s suits in the street – the next she’s sat at the kitchen table knitting cakes and threading beads on to a piece of wire and calling it jewellery.

On the face of things, it’s easy to assume that such a hobby is A Good Thing and that your friend should be encouraged to pursue creativity in the (desperately unlikely) hope that she might actually find some one day. But this is a short-sighted view.

That crap she’s manufacturing on the table? Where do you think it’ll end up? Yes, eventually it’ll be on eBay or at a craft fair full of hormonal women and beardy men selling the kind of pointless tat that deserves to go straight to landfill, but in the meantime? Three words: birthdays and Christmasses. Four words: YOUR birthdays and Christmasses.

My birthday looms in the next fortnight, and one friend has already given me a gift: six hand-knitted cakes presented on what looks like a pile of woollen vomit, but which is, apparently, a knitted plate. Worse, the knitted cakes are stuffed with pot pourri – talk about gilding a turd.

Her ex-husband has a lot to answer for. When they were arguing and living a life of untold misery there was no time for my friend to knit. God, I miss those days.

I have informed my nearest and dearest that if I ever show any signs that I might start knitting cakes, or making menopausal jewellery, or scrapbooking, or decoupaging papery shit on the front of cards, then they can refer to my living will and buy me a one-way ticket to the Dignitas euthanasia centre in Switzerland. It’s kinder that way.

In the meantime, I leave you with my Top Ten Knitted Things That Definitely Aren’t Fucking Cakes:

1) The knitted digestive tract. An anatomically correct representation of the digestive tract in wool. Apart from that green thing – what in hell’s name is that? A rogue sprout? And is it just me, but does this look eerily like a French man wearing a beret (or Field Marshal Montgomery)?

2) A knitted tank cover. A tank top with a difference, for when you simply haven’t got time in the morning to defrost the windows before you set off. I have a feeling that this is an ‘ironic’ work of art and, more to the point, that my taxes probably paid for it.

3) Knitted lady parts suit. Combining, effortlessly, two things I hate: crafting AND fancy dress. Before you tried this outfit on, you just FELT like a massive twat when you went to fancy dress parties.

4) Knit one, curl one. To be used with the knitted digestive tract in a biology lesson when your audience gets restless.

5) My favourite of the bunch. Expectant parents can buy a $137 set which includes a vaginal knitted uterus, a Caesearean knitted uterus and a ‘fetal model’ (sadly not knitted) so they can play out a woollen labour before going through it for real themselves. As the website says: “One of the most effective cervical effacement and dilatation teaching tools ever devised, this knitted uterus model is made of variegated blue acrylic yarns that differentiate the fundus, lower segment, cervix, and vagina (attached with snaps).” If only the vagina was detachable in real life – it would solve so many problems.

6) As I explained in my last post, I failed my biology O level on the grounds that I refused to dissect a frog. If only I’d had this knitted answer to hand, I could have really stuck it to The Man.

7) A miniature, knitted brain. The default position for the crafter: if it’s worth making, it’s worth making in miniature. OMG! LOL! Soooo cute!!! 😉 etc etc, repeat to fade.

8 Knitted Ash from the Evil Dead. Somehow far more honest than a teddy bear.

9) Strike two for knitted ‘irony’.

10) You knew it was coming. Or perhaps you didn’t, because it was wearing this cosy suit. Available in Extra, Extra Large, Extra Large, Large, Medium, Small and OMG! LOL! Soooo cute! 😉 Miniature.

I have not told my friend I hate her cakes. She has enough on her plate. Perhaps that’s why she’s knitting new ones.

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26
Feb
09

Did I fail biology, or did biology fail me?

I’ve often thought that scientists are onto a clever racket.

Most of us, baffled by the mere mention of anything vaguely mathematical or technical, immediately bow to the seemingly superior brains of the scientific, blindly believing any old claptrap they may spout.

Remember the time they purposely programmed every computer to read the year code “00” as 1900 instead of 2000 and then spent years rabidly prophesizing doomsday scenarios where planes dropped out of the sky, the till at Tesco charged you £3 million for a can of fruit salad and nuclear reactors went into meltdown giving us all radiation sickness by 12.05am, January 1 2000?

Or the time they told us they’d found “the missing link” at Piltdown? Or when they said the earth was flat? Or when they claimed cigarettes and excessive alcohol were bad for you?

It was all rubbish. Nonsensical tripe from people who were trying to reanimate roadkill in the attic with lightning and nail varnish remover when their friends were hanging around in bus shelters experimenting with the opposite sex.

Of course the young scientists wanted to experiment with girls too. But there are laws against that kind of thing and besides, it’s difficult to muffle screams when you’re holding a Bunsen burner in your other hand.

Concerned that the general population is as narrow-minded and blinkered as I am about science, the Government has launched a zany new drive to convince teenagers that the subject is exciting and fun, rather than deathly boring, favoured by the kind of people who will lose their virginity to a vacuum cleaner and full of statistics that make your head spin.

There I go again. I need to walk across an inflatable pool containing enough custard to make 875 trifles to illustrate that my weight can be partly supported by starch molecules – that’ll change my damn mind, and change it good.

The custard stunt (there’s a spoonerism if ever there was one) was staged at Edinburgh’s Trinity Academy after research revealed that young people believe science in schools is “geeky and dull”.

“Science is not all about lab coats and pipettes,” said the snappily-named Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, “it’s about finding out how life works and how we can make it better.”

Fiona Hyslop left no stone unturned in her bid to make science sexy for teenagers.

Fiona Hyslop left no stone unturned in her bid to make science sexy for teenagers.

I learned enough in science to know that my brain cells are dying as I hurtle into my late 30s, but even I can remember that there were no giant inflatable pools of custard to walk across when I was at school.

Instead, there was the periodical table to learn, the individual bones in the ear to memorise and three weeks of red-hot flower porn involving stiffened stamens and explosions of sticky pollen to sit through.

The closest we got to excitement was when the classroom had to be evacuated after someone smashed a thermometer sending mercury bouncing across the floor. We all really learned something about science that day – and as a result, far more thermometers were smashed when things got really dull.

One paddling pool of custard does not a summer make. I passed my science O levels (apart from biology, but I managed to reproduce fairly effectively, so IN YOUR FACE, BIOLOGY), so I’m scientifically qualified to say that.

PS My science hatred was fuelled by the below press release I received several weeks ago. I have highlighted the one interesting element of this lecture:

For immediate release

Free lecture on the mystery of bread

Bread will be on the menu at a free public science lecture at the University of East Anglia on Thursday, February 5.

‘Bread, the baked enigma’ by Prof Peter Belton, will explore the uniqueness of gluten in molecular terms. The lecture is the second of three in UEA’s Faculty of Science’s ‘Talking Science at UEA’ programme for 2008-09. ‘Realistic modelling and synthesis of talking faces’ by Dr Barry Theobald from the school of Computing Sciences takes place on April 2.

All events are held in Lecture Theatre 2 at 7.30pm. Admission is free, with a wine reception following each lecture.

Sorry I sent the details too late for any of you to attend. See you at Realistic Modelling and Synthesis of Talking Faces on April 2.

24
Feb
09

Pale Face woman she need Medicine Man

I have an underlying blood condition that makes me, on occasion, a pale shadow of my former self. Quite literally.

If I don’t mainline spinach and yeast extract on an hourly basis and ensure that I pump myself full of bowel-clogging iron supplements (too much information, but proof if ever you needed it that I truly am full of shit) I tend to fall over. Often in public places, although notably once head first into my mother’s compost bin – when I came round, she was picking coffee grounds and carrot peel off my face like an ape removes fleas from its mate.

Anyway, having forgone the usual iron rations, suffered a bout of Scarlet Fever and continually worked the kind of hours that would have made Aleksei Stakhanovite claim for constructive dismissal, I have welcomed back my old friend, anaemia. Frankly, Scarlet Fever was far more flattering to the complexion – presently, I look as if I have recently crawled out from beneath a dank rock, having first doused myself in Dulux’ green-tinged ‘apple white’ paint.

The best case scenario is that I spend several months downing spinach, yeast extract and Guinness smoothies, the worst case scenario involves a blood transfusion.While I am inordinately grateful to those who have donated an armful of claret to the national blood bank and saved my life on at least two occasions, I can’t say that a transfusion is something anyone in their right mind looks forward to. Even vampires prefer the warm stuff, and I can’t help but wish that there was somewhat more of a selection process with blood, like there is with sperm donations. I’d like my blood to be from someone who likes pina coladas and making love in the rain but doesn’t like yoga (and has half a brain), if possible, please.

**Topical reference!! Rupert Holmes who wrote Escape (The Pina Colada Song) is 62 today! Yes, he likes Pina Colada, and getting caught in the rain (etc) **

**Topical reference!! Rupert Holmes who wrote 'Escape (The Pina Colada Song)' is 62 today! Yes, he likes Pina Colada, and getting caught in the rain (etc) **

Having been ordered to ‘take it easy’ (hollow laugh, shaking of head, deep sigh) I find myself working from home with only trips to the doctor’s surgery to entertain me. They have become somewhat of a highlight, with their never-ending supply of ill people just dying (sometimes quite literally) to tell you their symptoms. I include myself within their number.

I have gone from a miserable misanthrope likely to spray tear gas in your eyes if you so much as greeted me in the street to one of those people who, when you ask them how they are feeling, tells you. For half an hour. Minimum. I now purposely try and catch the eye of other patients (not literally, I’m not a gory juggler) so I can tell them in painful detail just how ill I am feeling.

If I’m really lucky, the whole eye-catching-thing will lead to a really gratifying round of martyr’s poker in which I can see the old man next to me’s ulcerated leg and glaucoma and raise him a “funny turn” in the Co-op near my house and an inexplicable and disfiguring rash.

At the very least, the surgery is a place where I can sneeze without benefit of a handkerchief and spread a little of the love in the full knowledge that most people will be grateful for some new symptoms to bore other people to death with.

On the plus side, I will shortly be accompanying Derek ‘Ghost Hunter’ Acorah (apologies to my Stateside friends, I believe Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson are your equivalent) on a paranormal investigation in a ‘haunted’ house and will, I would imagine, provide all the ghostly presence such a venture could ever require. By night vision camera, I would imagine I will be almost luminous. On the minus side, I’m not sure I’ll count as a bonafide ghost – for a start, I actually exist.

21
Feb
09

How to tell if you’re living next door to a cannabis factory. In hindsight.

It turns out that the ‘quiet students’ down the road were actually running a spectacularly successful cannabis farm – and if it hadn’t been for the pesky cold weather, they’d have gotten away with it, too.

It seems that our local law enforcers are trained to look for houses which seem to shrug off a heavy frost or snow; a lack of the white stuff on the roof may well indicate an abundance of the green stuff under it, thanks to the tropical heat such plants require to grow. It may, on the other hand, indicate really poor insulation – but the likelihood is that the boys and girls in blue won’t stop to check your energy efficiency rating before they smash into your house with a battering ram at 3am, so perhaps it’s time to have those cavities pumped full of foam, as the actress said to the bishop.

The police are keen to enlist help from the public in their bid to uncover more undercover factories, and have issued the following handy tips which can help Joe Public discern whether or not they’re living next to a cannabis cottage industry. They include:

(a)  The curtains at the property are constantly closed.

(b) There is a lot of noise when someone moves into a property, but afterwards no one seems to be living there.

(c) There is a strange smell.

These indications are similar, although subtly different, to spotting the signs that you might be living next door to a pikey, one of those psychopaths who “kept himself to himself” while busily burying taping roadkill to his bedroom ceiling, a student or a corpse.

Other signs that you might be living next door to a cannabis factory are as follows:

(a) You have told everyone who will listen that you live next door to a “dream” neighbour who never makes any noise, doesn’t always nick the parking space outside your house and who doesn’t seem to mind that you have permanently borrowed their green recycling box.

(b) Your teenage children shun standing in desolate bus shelters drinking alcopops and laughing at passers-by in order to sit in your garden, inhaling.

(c) The birds on top of the chimney stack next door are singing Bob Marley’s One Love.

(d) You keep meaning to ask the very nice, laid-back man who you saw moving in 10 months ago and have only seen twice since for the secret to his green-fingered success. You kill houseplants in a week, the ones you can see in his back bedroom are six feet tall.

It sounds simple, right? Wrong. I had cannabis growing right under my nose and was none the wiser. Thank God I am a shallow breather and that my addiction to crack has left me so paranoid that I spend most waking hours hiding in an unventilated cupboard to stop the curtain pixies from stealing my freckles.

If you’re still unsure how to spot the signs that YOU are living in the shadow of a cannabis empire, I have compiled the following quiz so you can know for once and for all:

1) You hear noises next door just as you realise you’ve run out of milk. Sensing an opportunity to meet the neighbours and solve your milk problem in one fell swoop, you knock on their door and they lead you through the front room towards the fridge. Do you see…

(a) This:

(b) This:

(c) This:

2) Your neighbours look like:

(a) This:

(b) This:

(c) This:

3) As your neighbours leave their house, you notice that their car looks like:

(a) This:

(b) This:

(c) This:

If your answers were mainly (a)s or (b)s, there is no need to panic. You are simply living next door to upwardly mobile super posh Jemimas and Jeremys who sneer at you the minute you turn your back, or serial killers, or both.

If you answered mainly (c)s, it’s time to put in a call to Her Majesty’s Constabulary. Just don’t blame me if the nice, quiet cannabis factory you used to live next door to becomes the new home to Mr and Mrs Domestic Dispute, their six teenage sons and three dangerous dogs.

20
Feb
09

‘It’s not a fashion show, you know’ and other things parents do to get you bullied

There can be few more compelling reasons for the continual use of contraception than Channel 4’s latest snapshot of the youth of today, Boys and Girls Alone.

A bleak, black-hearted representation of Britain’s under-11s, it should immediately become a compulsory part of sex education lessons, offering teenagers a grimy window on a life spent single-handedly raising a limb of Satan who’d rather gnaw off their own arm – or their mother’s – than raise their obese arse from the sofa to make a sandwich.

The programme charts the progress of 20 children aged eight to 11 who are left to their own devices for a fortnight in two separate houses, one for boys and one for girls. Several of the children are fairly pleasant, harmless creatures who carry themselves with a degree of pride and self-belief. The other 18 bully these children relentlessly.

This is one of the nice kids. Look how much shes enjoying the social experiment!

This is one of the nice kids. Look how much she's enjoying the social experiment!

It’s like Lord of the Flies made flesh, every worst-case scenario that topped the bill at the multiplex cinema inside your brain on school nights, a chilling reminder of what being young was really all about: trying to avoid being the one with fleas and shitty shoes that everyone picked on.

Though it’s fashionable to remember our childhood as a lemon-sherbert flavoured rainbow of joyousness where we danced in sunbeams and played tiddlywinks in the street, the truth is that being a child was relentless rounds of fear, loathing and desperately trying to fit in.

For a start, children are the harshest critics on the planet and nothing whatsoever gets past their cruel scrutiny – they’re like Exocet missiles with their sights firmly trained on any perceived deviation from the path of total and utter normality and conformity.

In adult life, you’re unlikely to give a monkey’s chuff what anyone thinks about your trainers, your bag or your hair colour. When you’re at school, these aren’t mere trifling matters, they’re the very currency of social acceptability.

One shopping trip with a penny-pinching parent of the ‘it’s not a fashion show, you know’ variety can lead to a long, slow term of abject misery spent dodging verbal and possibly physical assaults from herds of burly halfwits wearing designer coats.

In addition to the ruling fringe of insane despots intent on emotionally scarring you for life (school bullies, teachers, career advisers) you also had to contend with the fact that at any one time, half your friends hated you or were talking about you behind your back.

And at the end of the day, where did you go? Back home where the iron fist of parental dogma ruled the day, preventing you from doing 99 per cent of the things you enjoyed on the unreasonable basis that they cost too much money/were perilously dangerous/could result in an extended stay in a young offender’s unit.

Lord, it was wearing.

Having spent two-thirds of your youth desperately wishing you were considerably older, you landed in a disgusting shared house with a group of people you wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire, arguing the toss about who used the last of the milk or left the gigantic floater in the toilet.

Then the terrible realization hit you: that adult life is dreadful for a whole set of new reasons, all of which you have to pay for by direct debit from your account, not your parent’s.

You guys are the best! But just to clarify, after graduation, I never want to see you again. Ok? Cool! Lets steal a traffic cone!

"You guys are the best! But just to clarify, after graduation, I never want to see you again. Ok? Cool! Let's steal a traffic cone!"

The children in Boys and Girls Alone are swiftly realizing that while it may be fun to spend all day engaged in arm-to-arm water pistol battles, wet clothes and muddy knees don’t get the tea on or stop a chunky girl from a terrifying London estate belittling you in the kitchen. Despite being followed by huge, lumbering cameras (and huge, lumbering social workers) the children appear completely oblivious to the fact that their every move is being watched by Big Brother and, more to the point, Big Mother in the viewing suite.

It took about 20 minutes for things to get really feral, and about two hours for all-out turf warfare to break out. What started out as an interesting social experiment quickly became a form of sadist’s bingo, in which we all wondered whose personality would completely unravel first, leaving only a child-shaped, rocking shell where once a small human had been.

Still having the time of my life!

Still having the time of my life!

After two hours programming, viewers could be forgiven for thinking they were watching footage from Camp Delta and Camp Echo at Guantanamo Bay but for the fact that the Boys and Girls Alone weren’t wearing orange hoods and were doling out their own ‘coercive management techniques’ rather than waiting for a prison guard to do it for them.

Watching hateful juveniles dissolve into weeping snot factories is, of course, horribly compelling, although nothing you won’t have seen on countless occasions if you’ve ever hosted children’s birthday parties or visited a shoe shop on the last day of the summer holidays.

As far as I can see, the moral of Girls and Boys Alone is that children are absolutely bloody vile. So, no change there, then.

* The Woman in Black apologises for her unscheduled absence. Too much work and no play makes the WIB a dull girl, although my dull is still a gajillion times more awesome than most people’s.

18
Feb
09

His milky deposits were all over the place. He had to go.

It’s official – I have finally dumped the milkman.

Before those of you born before the 1970s start mentally stockpiling a host of ‘lonely housewives’ jokes, I must point out that nothing untoward ever happened between the milkman and I: chance would be a fine thing; he always turned up about two hours after I’d gone to work.

Not my milkman. Not by a long fucking shot

Not my milkman. Not by a long fucking shot

And therein lies the problem. Like ships that passed in the night we suffered a largely unsatisfying, long-distance relationship: he visited my house at about 9.30am, I was unable to deal with his milky deposits until around 4pm. I don’t regret our liaison, I just wish things hadn’t turned so sour between us.

My flirtation with milk delivery was borne from a desire to lessen the family’s carbon footprint by off-setting the huge volume of party bag/pound shop plastic tat which makes a short stop-off at my house on its way to landfill sites by purchasing milk in recyclable glass bottles.

It was also a result of the milkman knocking on my door and practically begging me to support his round by hinting that if I didn’t, countless old people would end up mummifying in their under-heated homes, bereft of all human company because I’d been too selfish to have my dairy products delivered.

Im not saying anything bad will happen if you cancel your milk order. But it so will.

I'm not saying anything bad will happen if you cancel your milk order. Equally, I'm not saying that it won't.

Or, as the Dairy UK website puts it: “You would be amazed at the important role milkmen and ladies play in the local community, from rendering help and assistance to customers to preventing fires and serious crime.”

And all that at around 10 mph in a large-scale toy car.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some good times, times when milk was delivered before mid-morning and when it was rescued from the front door before it was unacceptably warm or knocked over by ‘Borrowed Time’, the street’s feral yet puny 89-year-old stray cat.

Additionally, my family had grown accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of having our milk delivered; in other words we were used to having either a fridge overflowing with the white stuff or having absolutely no milk whatsoever.

While our rank inefficiency to create some kind of easy-to-operate system of using milk bottles in the order they were delivered was to blame for the majority of the milk waterfall tumbling into the sewage system, it wasn’t the only factor conspiring against the success of our thrice-weekly deliveries.

Nine times out of ten in a British summer, you can guarantee that your doorstep is going to be colder, and definitely wetter, than your fridge.
On the one day in ten that it isn’t, however, you can guarantee that the milkman will be delivering, leaving your pints to slowly roast in the full glare of the sun. You’ve heard of doorstep bread – we had doorstep cheese.

On one occasion, the milk I took in from outside my front door had turned so badly that I had to poke offending lumps of it down the plughole with a Star Wars Lego light sabre. For this time and planet-saving gesture, I was paying around a third more than when I’d just gone to the supermarket and bought milk that could actually be consumed. It was like a form of expensive, milky masochism.

It was at this point that I decided that something had to be done. Quickly.

Four months later, and after many tortured dreams about little old ladies rotting in their hallways because their milkman had been forced to abandon his ill-subscribed delivery round and could no longer check they were still alive, I decided to take action.

A month after that, and unwilling to deliver the cutting blow in person, I wrote a desperately middle-class note to the milkman about how I was dreadfully sorry, but I didn’t think I could have my milk delivered any longer on account of the fact that I’d like to go back to the days when I could eat my cereal without holding my nose.

I apologised, profusely and somewhat creepily, and waited like a nervous lover for his response.

I knew that just one hastily manufactured sob story, one sad tale about lost livelihoods, mouldy pensioners, soaring crime rates and flaming buildings and I’d have relented, reinstated my order and probably added a few pints of orange juice and the Dairy Diary, too.

A week later, I received a terse bill, with the words “BY WEDNESDAY” written on it, despite the fact that I had already wrestled with the firm’s woefully inept call centre and paid in full by debit card (a  process which aged me by around five years).

The milkman then visited on three more occasions, refusing to believe that I’d paid up, his face stony and cold, like fury itself coated in overly-tanned and leathery skin. Harsh words were spoken. He accused me of theft. I accused him of harassment. Breaking up is so very hard to do.

I can’t say I don’t still feel a little bit guilty, but I figure that while there’s no point crying over spilt milk, there’s equally no point vomiting over sour milk you’ve just paid over-the-odds for, either.

*** This dairy-inspired post is dedicated to The Food Here Convenience Store. Hither ye to my blogroll to appreciate the milky deposits of Ram, a true Milk Man ***

16
Feb
09

Christ! It’s half term! Or: ‘how I found glitter in a sealed tampon’

Back in the day, half term used to be about homework, unremitting tedium and Jason and the Argonauts on TV.

These days, half term is about filling your child’s time with so many educational, healthy and fun activities that they’ve barely got time to sleep, let alone spend a nanosecond slightly bored. If you work during term-time, this is your chance to banish the guilt you feel when the Daily Mail/a Government Think Tank tuts at you every day, if you don’t work, this is a golden opportunity to justify your decision to stay at home by waking up each day with a new craft material embedded in your hair.

I fall into the first camp, and therefore plan to spend half term throwing armfuls of money and “mummy time” at my children with such force that they are unlikely to emerge on the other side without concussion. By God, we are going to have fun together if it kills me. And them.

Here follows my week plan (and certain financial ruin):

Sunday: Swimming:

Swimming in public pools is tantamount to drinking a stranger’s bath water. Are the health benefits of taking children swimming not completely outweighed by the knowledge that they are sucking up gallons of other people’s mucus…and worse? On the plus side, neither of the children salvaged any of the buried treasure they’ve raised from the deep before, such as toenails, strips of toilet roll, scabs and old plasters.

Monday: Craft:

Family craft sessions remind us about the reasons we wanted to be parents in the first place, in order to share these special, creative moments with our kids and make memories in addition to really ugly ornaments and pointless nick-nacks. Sadly, the reality is that your child is far more likely to bond the cat’s tail to the innards of a toilet roll than they are to bond with you. There are two reasons why crafting sessions inevitably lead to family disharmony: glitter and paint. Together, glitter and paint are the single most devastating items in any household. For years after an ill-fated Valentine’s Day card making session you will be finding glitter in seemingly inaccessible areas of the house – I once found some on a tampon. A tampon that had been in a sealed wrapper (God, my kids are good). After the craft session you will end up with one passable Valentine’s Day card. You will have made it.

Tuesday: The theatre:

Taking children to the theatre is no longer about broadening their minds. It is now about broadening their collection of maribou feather-trimmed light-up wands, wings, swords and comedy ears, each costing £5 a pop. Sitting in a darkened theatre with an audience filled with tinies, I always fear that the constant strobing lights from the assorted accessories in the auditorium will set off some form of latent epilepsy in cast members on stage. How said cast concentrates is anyone’s guess – they have to spend nearly two hours gazing out at what must look like the combined emergency services from six counties attending a road traffic accident in the dark. Throughout the performance, nearby children will talk constantly, cry, crawl around on the floor and bang their feet against your seat. Challenging this behaviour with the children in question’s parents is as socially acceptable as attempting to kiss the Queen, with tongues, as you’re being awarded an OBE.

Wednesday: Cooking.

See Monday (craft). This is why you had children! This is motherhood! Be warned: children are interested in two aspects of cookery; licking the bowl and making cakes look as if they have been vomited up by a dog which has recently eaten a box of poster paints. Anything in between is hard work, and should therefore be left to mother. If your children are old enough to spoon the mixture into cake cases on their own, their cakes will come out of the oven looking like the sunken nipples of a 900-year-old mummy. You will still be expected to eat them.

Wow! I love what you did there! Is that the plaster you were wearing on your thumb? Cool!

"Wow! I love what you did there! Is that the plaster you were wearing on your thumb? Cool!"

Thursday: Tennis lessons:

Unashamedly, the dream is there: that the boy will make it big on the tennis circuit, make a fortune in prize money and sponsorship deals and therefore allow his mother to live in the manner to which she is desperate to become accustomed to. Talent-spotted at an early age, according to the coach my son is showing signs of early promise. Having (finally) sat in on a tennis session, it turns out that “early promise” appears to mean that he recognises what a tennis ball looks like and knows that one day it might be nice to hit it with that heavy bat thing. Dreams of early retirement, fabulous parties on the family yacht and the purchase of a moated castle have been reluctantly put on hold until the boy manages a serve without running into the net.

Friday:

Slump into a torpor, allowing the television, the DVD player, the computer, the PSP, the Playstation 3, Wii, Pokemon cards and the Tamagotchis to take the reins. Easter suddenly seems perilously close.

Now you must excuse me. I am off to make the felt bird mobile which was in the Guardian Family section on Saturday. Thanks, The Guardian. Thanks a fucking bunch.




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