Archive for the 'relationships' Category

26
Jul
10

How I am single-handedly saving the planet with my (vast) collection of Bags for Life

According to Friends of the Earth, every household has around 80 plastic bags – including Bags For Life – in their possession.

By ‘in their possession’, I assume they mean ‘stuffed in a drawer’ or ‘rapidly filling the car boot’ rather than suggesting that people carry 80 plastic bags on their person at all times.

That would be ridiculous. I can only fit about 22 in my coat without looking like a terrorist.

Asking for a single-use plastic bag at a shop counter is now only marginally more socially acceptable than lighting up a fag in a pre-school and asking an asthmatic toddler to hold the packet while you open another can of lager.

This man has never, ever used a plastic bag. Or a bar of soap.

If you do forget to scale the Bag For Life mountain before you go shopping, you are duty bound to buy yet another BFL lest you are singled out as the kind of person that chokes birds on the seashore or fly-tips in beauty spots for larks.

Generally, the reason I forget to bring my shopping bags into shops is because I ‘only pop in for a loaf of bread’, only to be utterly hoodwinked by absolutely any offer being advertised in-store. One loaf of bread swiftly becomes a basket full of Buy One Get One Free offers that truly could feed the 5,000 and definitely couldn’t be carried to the car without a bag.

The new bag joins its plastic siblings until the mountain grows so high that even I can’t ignore it any longer. At that point, I take a bag full of bags to a charity shop so they can offer them to customers.

Yes: I use my own profligate bag buying to make me look good. I truly am the scum of the Earth.

The answer, of course, is to carry those jute bags, aka Bags That Smell For Life. I have about 50 of them, too, and the charity shop won’t take them on the grounds that since Mary Portas (ruthless reality TV show retail doyenne), they’ve moved away from selling unpleasant things that whiff and started charging £3.50 for Peter Andre’s autobiography even though you can get it on eBay for 99p.

But that’s another story, and one that makes me look miserly as opposed to selfish, so we’ll save it for another day.

NB: Britons believe that all Americans carry their shopping home in brown paper bags. Is this true? I’d like to see you try that trick with my weekly shopping.

19
Jul
10

Why ‘Girl Power!’ makes me want to climb into a microwave oven with a pocketful of spoons.

News that The Spice Girls are planning a West End musical is a bit like receiving notification in the post that you’re due for a smear test.

You’ve known it’s been on the cards for a while, you haven’t been looking forward to it, but if you just grit your teeth and get on with it, hopefully the pain will be short-lived.

After their disastrous reunion in 2007, Our Ladies of the Hideously Unsuccessful Solo Careers have announced they are ‘brainstorming’ with Mamma Mia! Producer Judy Craymer to create Viva Forever: The Story of the Spice Girls.

Brainstorming with the Spice Girls: there’s a concept.

On the plus side, the working title of the musical isn’t “Girl Power”, a phrase I loathe so completely that when I heard it on Britain’s Got Talent a month or two ago, I had to fight the urge to gouge out my ear canals with a pair of nail scissors so I would never hear it again.

For those of you who might have forgotten, Girl Power involves turning a blind eye to your husband’s infidelities, having eye-wateringly extreme eating disorders which include rooting around in George Michael’s bin for leftovers and hiring witch doctors to perform love spells involving Eddie Murphy’s pants and a pickle jar.

Victoria Beckham's figure is the envy of the world

The Spice Girls tirelessly fought for a woman’s right to wear microscopic hotpants and halter-neck tops – think Emmeline Pankhurst if she’d dolled herself up a bit and stopped banging on about politics.

They sang one feminist-lite song about telling men what they really, really wanted and then stuck to beige love songs and choreographed dance routines – all of which served to make the male svengalis behind the band hugely wealthy. Girl Power!

With the launch of a musical, we can look forward to lots of personal appearances, photo calls and endless interviews about ‘empowerment’ and ‘friendship’.

Of the Spice Girls, only Mel C – dubbed ‘the ugly one’ back in 1996 – and Emma Bunton – ‘the fat one’ – look as if they don’t earn their money hanging around on street corners offering sailors saucy cuddles for a handful of grubby small change.

Indeed Mel C looks positively radiant next to Victoria Beckham, who resembles a Versace-clad preying mantis wearing an Andy Warhol wig and the rictus grin of a cadaver.

Mel B, once a terrifying harpy who looked as if she was only one misjudged comment away from glassing you in the face, now looks about as scary as a bowl of blancmange being gently agitated by Dickens’ Tiny Tim.

Mel B at the height of her sexual allure

One’s ability to terrify mankind diminishes somewhat when your public learn that you’ve tearfully demanded a DNA test from the Donkey in Shrek in order to prove he’s your daughter’s father and taken part in a ballroom dancing competition.

Geri Halliwell, meanwhile, remains the haunted shop mannequin we have grown to know and ignore, a talent vacuum who has completely refused to let a lack of any discernible ability prevent her from describing herself as ‘an entertainer’.

It’s this kind of plucky attitude which would have netted her the consolation prize for village idiots at school prize day for learning to put her clothes on the right way round after PE.

The Spice Girls’ ill-fated reunion was believed to be the result of Take That’s triumphant return to the charts some months beforehand.

What Victoria and clan conveniently ignored was that the secret behind the incredible success of Take That’s reunion and subsequent follow-up singles was due to the fact that the public were genuinely interested to see some old faces again.

Bar the odd appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, or news from my cousin in Manchester that Jason had joined her pilates class (apparently, he was hung like a donkey), we’d heard nothing of Gary, Howard, Mark and Mr Orange for years.

Since the Spice Girls went their separate ways, barely a day went by without at least one of them appearing on a reality show, judging a reality show, writing an autobiography, having a baby, failing to chart or being involved in a love triangle involving a footballer, a Hollywood actor and a woman who pleasures pigs on farms.

The Spice Girls didn’t so much split up, they dispersed.

Scary, Ginger, Baby, Sporty and Posh were what happened when you base your music career on an image and not talent, Take That were what happens when you let the fat one stay in the group because he can write good songs.

We can but hope that the musical is as successful as the world tour – not that that stopped them last time.

15
Aug
09

Mix tapes – the lost art of trying to pull someone at school with a Memorex C90

It’s a terrifying 30 years since the Sony Walkman was introduced and music became portable in a way that didn’t alienate everyone within a 500m radius.

I didn’t have a Walkman 30 years ago, obviously, because they were ruinously expensive and I was only little – I simply didn’t have the strength to carry one.

They started to creep into my consciousness when I was at high school and a fellow student, one of the ones who always had the right coat, bag, shoes and highlights, brought a giant yellow Walkman on a school trip.

It was passed around the coach with the kind of reverence you might expect if you whipped out the Turin Shroud at a convent.

Despite being the size of the Yellow Pages and boasting the kind of sound quality that made listening to music underwater seem crystal clear, it represented an exciting, high-tech future.

Cliff Richard could make anything look cool (nb: leotard-wearing models did not come with standard Sony Walkmans)

Cliff Richard could make anything look cool (nb: leotard-wearing models did not come with standard Sony Walkmans)

Having only just persuaded my parents to buy one of those tinny made-for-teenagers ‘ghetto blasters’, I knew it would be a while before I could tap them up for a Walkman, or rather a Walkman equivalent available from my Mum’s home catalogue.

As archaic as it was, my own tape player had released me from the tyranny of my father, who was somewhat of a stereo Nazi, owning a set of hugely expensive ‘separates’ which made me the only person I knew who had to master a tuner and graphic equalisers before being able to put Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ on the turntable.

Everyone else’s Mum and Dad had a nice, simple Hinari or a Binatone stereo that could have been operated by an earthworm. Mine required tutorials from What Stereo? magazine before you felt confident enough to even switch it on.

On the plus side, my Dad’s technical fascism did mean that I made the most professional mix-tapes this side of the Western hemisphere.

He even taught me how to produce ‘quality silence’, a lost art these days, especially in cinema or theatre audiences when I’m in the auditorium.

In the good old days, if you made someone a mix-tape, it represented a fair chunk of your entire Sunday given over to faffing around with the record player and hovering over the pause button on the tape deck.

(I think, by the way, that that’s a contender for the most biddified, grey-haired, mobility-scooter riding sentence I’ve ever written.)

I would spend hour-upon-hour carefully working out an intricate play list that would fit on each side of a Memorex C90 without cutting Morrissey off midway through ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ or, more likely, Aha off during ‘Take On Me’.

Helped me to seduce older boys with cars and jobs. Although ye Gods, look at this picture. How many shades of wrong? And lets face it, teenage boys are pretty simple to seduce - I doubt I needed Aha: a pulse was enough.

Helped me to seduce older boys with cars and jobs. Although ye Gods, look at this picture. How many shades of wrong? And let's face it, teenage boys are pretty simple to seduce - I doubt I needed Aha: a pulse was enough.

It could easily take eight hours to make one 90-minute tape. An hour of which would be spent making ‘quality silence’ (also known as ‘sulking’ if my Dad was still lurking around trying to be ‘helpful’).

Each tape was compiled with the recipient in mind or, less nobly, as a blatant attempt to persuade the recipient to want to get off with me – those tapes cost good money, and I was keen to see some form of return. Teenage boys being teenage boys, I wasn’t often disappointed.

Hours would evaporate as you tried to cut out the recording ‘click’ between songs, struggled not to put two songs by the same artist in a row, resisted the urge to kill any parent unwittingly walking into the front room and jogging the needle on the record player and then struggled to fit all the track names on the tape insert in felt-tip pen.

After all that effort, keen to get the mix-tape to the recipient, I’d then bike it round, by which I mean I got on my bicycle and pedalled to their house rather than called on an in-house courier (even though I lived in a Grade  II listed house with a balcony AND window boxes, I wasn’t that posh).

These days, I can burn a CD in about three minutes (is it illegal? If it is, when I say that I burn CDs, I refer to music made by my family. On, er, spoons) and email it to someone immediately. It’s taken some of the magic away, frankly.

Equally, I can now have up to 10,000 songs on my iPod and if I shake it, it randomly chooses a new track for me to listen to.

Try that with the Walkman and you’d have been listening to a decidedly old record: your parents giving you the ‘you never look after anything properly’ speech for the gazillionth time before grounding you indefinitely.

NB: I still have some of my Dad’s stereo equipment, even though he went to the big hi-fi shop in the world back in 1992. And it still works, which kind of annoyingly proves his point about quality. Any of you fancy a mix-tape?

**** It’s been many a long week since last I graced WordPress. Lots of work, a lovely dose of swine flu (I didn’t throw a party for others to catch it), the odd weekend away (empahsis on ‘odd’), general apathy and ennui have kept me from posting. I will be visiting you all later to see what you’ve been up to. You’d better have been good while I’ve been away or I’ll know not to leave you home alone again. And don’t think I won’t be checking the phone bill. And the liquor cabinet ****

05
Jun
09

My children love me reading aloud to them. Selfish little sods.

A major new survey of children’s reading habits has revealed that a third of the multi-GCSE owning youngsters of today believe that books are for “nerds” and half think libraries are boring – and that’s despite plans to introduce gay fairytales into the National Curriculum.

Personally, I thought that gay fairytales had been around for years – Snow White and the Seven Co-Habiting Dwarves, anyone? – but thanks to Clause 28, a bill which in my day banned schools from “promoting homosexuality” in case children became gay overnight after discovering that there’s more to love than boy meets girl, I never got to read ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’.

Poor old Jenny caused uproar in the 1980s, when the Daily Mail discovered that the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority had placed copies of the book about a little girl living with her father and his gay partner in school libraries.

 

Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Deal with it.

Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Deal with it.

She was quickly removed, and replaced with lots of staunchly heterosexual books about morally upstanding subjects like algebra, geography and the Cold War. By God no one was going to catch gay from a school library, or if they did, it’d be because they’d looked it up in an uncensored dictionary.

These days, children are so intelligent that they are passing 34 GCSEs each while simultaneously being the least literate generation since we sent nine-year-olds up chimneys or down mines. When pupils from 35 schools were asked what they thought about reading, one wrote: “Reading is the last thing i (sic) would want to do i would rather die.” And that was the most enthusiastic response.

The gay fairytales need to be drafted in quickly before reading becomes something quaint which used to happen in the olden days, like riding side-saddle or smiling at people in the street without being knifed. Who could resist ‘And Tango Makes Three’ about gay penguins who fall in love and raise an adopted child? Or ‘King and King’ about a prince who searches his kingdom for a princess to marry before realising he actually fancies other princes?

I only wish my own children favoured such literature instead of steadfastly sticking to the kind of books which give you newfound sympathy for the unnamed pupil quoted above.

For example: I challenge anyone in full possession of a working brain to read The Scooby Doo Storybook Collection without mentally assessing any nearby beams for their potential to bear the weight of a noose and a swinging body.

Hours of my life have been squandered to that damnable book, clearly written by a revengeful depressive attempting to bring the rest of the world into his dark nightmare, and I will never, ever get them back.

 

Now let me think: where did I put the Scooby Doo Story Collection again...?

'Now let me think: where did I put the Scooby Doo Story Collection again...?'

On the rare occasions that I have been able to hide the Scooby Doo Storybook Collection somewhere so cunning that my son can’t find it (past successes have included putting it in a plastic bag and placing it in the toilet cistern) I am faced with a book about the revolting personal lives of insects.

I say “a book”, I mean one single passage, which I have now been reciting on a continuous loop for several long years. Let’s put it this way – I finally have a specialist topic which I could take to the Mastermind studios.

My boy is endlessly fascinated with the life and times of the Bombardier Beetle, a highly-strung creature which defends itself from predators by firing a high-pressure jet of toxic boiling liquid out of its rectum. 

 

Whos up for some water sports?

Who's up for some water sports?

No laughing yet, you haven’t seen the money shot: if the Bombardier Beetle gets really, really angry, it squirts so much toxic liquid out of it brown eye that it blows its own arse off. Now imagine how much my son, an eight-year-old boy whose idea of highbrow comedy is farting on a leather sofa, loves the Bombardier Beetle.

Personally, I long to hear what other insects can fire out of their arses or whether they can blow off their thorax with a particularly loud belch. But we have settled on the Bombardier Beetle, and I fear we may never turn the page – I should be so lucky as to read the adventures of a gay penguin.

My daughter, thankfully, would rather die than listen to me reading after suffering years of my attempts to emote my way through the latest Spot the Dog potboiler or yet another identically-plotted Rainbow Fairy “adventure”.

Now she disappears into her bedroom with a Harry Potter book which, judging by the slow progress of the bookmark, is less to do with her thirst for literature and more to do with a large bag of sweets she has hidden under her bed (more on H Potter another time. I have much to say about that magical little shitfish). 

Personally, I say bring on any books whatsoever which might capture the attention of children, whether they be about gay princes, co-parenting same-sex penguins or transexual elephants who’ve lost a balloon. Anything bar Scooby effing Doo or the Bombardier Beetle. Even if they start co-parenting together.

**** What can I say? Work has been insane. Apologies for my sporadic posting – I will try and be slightly more productive. Blame my son – that bastard beetle eats up precious time when I could be writing for you and he’s only eight, so most of you (Ram not withstanding) could take him in a fight ****

17
May
09

‘The new baby will fit around our lives’ and other lies you tell yourself pre-children

It takes a brave soul to offer a new mother advice about how to look after her baby – when someone tried it with me, the mood swiftly degenerated into something closely resembling a scene from Saw V.

The other day, while listlessly flicking through TV channels in a bid to bore myself to sleep, I came across a series that aired a year or so back on Channel 4 called ‘Bringing Up Baby’.

I figured that it might just be dull enough to banish insomnia (which is ironic, because insomnia was the last of my problems when I was bringing up babies. Babies bringing up milk in my face, however, was definitely on the list).

The programme tested three different baby care techniques, Truby King, the Continuum Concept and Dr Spock, to see which method is best for children and parents. My own choice ‘The Path of Least Resistance’ has perhaps been left for a later series.

The latter method, Truby King, is ideal for parents who, on the whole, would rather they’d given birth to Sky+ or an iPhone.

Having brought your newborn home, you then set out to ignore it as much as possible so you can start having loud dinner parties at 7.30pm the day after you’ve given birth to illustrate the fact that you’ve given birth to a robot who could sleep through Krakatoa erupting next door.

Truby King nanny Claire Verity, who tellingly has no children of her own, is often hired by the rich and famous for £1,000 a day to practice the method on their offspring.

The technique involves rigid four-hourly feeds, no cuddling during the feeds or at most other times (‘attention seeking!’) and leaving babies outside in their prams for three hours a day in Siberian temperatures so that they can scream themselves knackered enough to sleep through the night.

It lends a whole new poignancy to Tom Jones’ hit, Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Verity’s aim is to restore ‘normality’ to new parents as quickly as possible. As far as she’s concerned, a baby is a bit like a flat-pack wardrobe from Ikea: a nightmare to begin with, but it swiftly blends into the background to the point where you forget it’s even there.

In essence, ‘normality’ appears to involve getting the parents to have a bottle of wine at 7pm every night to prove what little effect having a baby has had on them.

Parents clink glasses and look unbearably smug as Verity lurks outside the baby’s room, muttering darkly about how she refuses to be ‘manipulated’ by a distraught baby who is screaming itself mental in a darkened room.

It’s a definitive guide to the class system: pay someone a grand a day to tell you to get bladdered while your baby screams for attention and you’re middle class, ignore your kid on your own initiative while you down a few cans of cider and you’re working class scum who can expect a visit from Social Services any day.

Using the Truby King method, parents can expect their children to be sleeping through the night from six weeks, goose-stepping by six months and uttering their first sentence (‘who are you again?’) by nine.

Being ignored as a baby never did me any harm!

'Being ignored as a baby never did me any harm!'

Another method on trial in the C4 programme was the Continuum Concept, also known as the ‘Osteopath’s Meal Ticket’.

Parents must maintain body-to-body contact with their baby at all times for the first six months of its life, carrying the child in a sling throughout the day and allowing the baby to sleep in the parental bed at night.

The concept was inspired by the child-rearing techniques of the Yequana, a tribe of Amazonian Indians, who carried their babies continually throughout their first few months and seemed to raise particularly well-adjusted, happy children.

There are many good points about the Continuum Concept, not least the fact that you’re not expected to ease a six-inch lip plate into your mouth like the Yequana in the spirit of authenticity, but the technique has its downsides, mainly the whole non-stop carrying thing.

Just for the record, I’d like to make it clear that I maintained body-to-body contact with my babies for nine, not six, months – I called it ‘pregnancy’.

Finally, there’s the Dr Spock method, which is the perfect baby-raising technique for anyone too lazy, tired or sensible to read a baby manual.

Spock babies are fed on demand, sleep in the parent’s room in a Moses basket and basically rule the roost like miniature dictators without the facial hair (some even have the facial hair – there were some monsters born when I was in hospital).

As a Spock baby myself, I am still feeding on demand, although I am making a concerted effort to cut out the 11pm and 5am bottles thanks to continuing support from Alcoholics Anonymous.

With my own children, I decided that I could either study baby manuals and equip myself with as much information about child-rearing as possible so that I could make an informed choice about which technique to use, or I could spend the time I’d have wasted reading claptrap sitting on the sofa watching Hollyoaks and eating chipsticks.

By the time I gave birth, I knew nothing about child-rearing but a great deal about Chester teenagers and the differing quality of own-brand chipsticks from several leading supermarkets.

As a result, I made it all up as I went along. We quickly established who was boss in the house (the babies) and what kind of routine would work for us (one that involved me not getting dressed for days on end and looking as if I’d recently escaped from an asylum).

Instead of trifling matters like routines and consistency, I concentrated on far more important issues, such as buying really nice babygrows, identifying which jars of Organix baby food caused the much-feared ‘up the back and into the hair’ nappies and honing my withering put-downs for non-parents who dared complain about feeling tired in my ear-shot.

There’s nothing that irritates a parent more than a non-parent telling them how tired they are. Even if the non-parent has plenty of good reason for being tired, parents never accept that it can be the same kind of ‘I just washed up the margarine and put a hair brush in the fridge’ tired that we suffer from.

In turn, non-parents feel patronised when new mums and dads claim to have the monopoly on being knackered.

Of course, both camps have valid points, although you’d think those disposable-income spending, mini-break taking, tidy house owning, wide-awake, well-rested childless gits could cut us a bit of slack now and again.

Yes, you’ve just climbed Mount Everest with a fridge freezer on your back for charity and you’re moving house again, but I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since 1997.

I see your stress at work and I raise you impetigo, head-lice, threadworms and children’s entertainers. Now tell me you’re bloody tired again and I’ll brain you.

As I see it, I am selflessly continuing the human race so that there are enough care workers to wipe the backsides of the people who won’t have any sons or daughter to do it for them when they are old and infirm.

Obviously it won’t be MY children doing that particular job because they’re both going to be architects, but my point remains the same.

The least the childless can do to repay us is to let us have the upper hand when it comes to being shattered.

Oh, and maybe they could babysit a bit more often; say twice a week, preferably on the nights one of the kids has got tennis and the other one has football, simultaneously.

**** I’ve been away. I am going away again. But I’ll always be back ****

25
Apr
09

I’m back, by popular request (well, one request anyway)

One of my friends has recently announced her second pregnancy almost ten years after the birth of her first child.

“I’m not worried about childbirth, sleepless nights or starting all over again with a baby,” she told me, “what I can’t face is the bloody Mother and Baby group again.”

It brought it all back in hideous technicolour.

Twenty women leaking hormones in a draughty church hall with only a packet of shortbread, a leaflet on meningitis and their howling, shitting, puking babies for entertainment; you think it’ll be a place to share stories and swap advice, you discover rapidly that it’s actually a place for Lottie to boast about the clockwork regularity of Merlin’s poo.

Mother and Baby groups are, in fact, one of the most compelling reasons to be born a man, alongside periods, sports bras and netball.

When I had my first child, I made the mistake of going to several such meetings, the high point of which were a grim session where our babies were weighed by a hatchet-faced crone who looked at you accusingly if your baby hadn’t put on “enough” weight.

In between weighing sessions and tear-soaked mobile phone conversations to our partners about being inadequate because little Tarquin had only put on three ounces instead of four, we ruthlessly competed to see which of us had the best baby.

I say “we”, I mean “them”. I didn’t need to compete – I had the best baby.

There is a certain kind of mother who always manages to convince herself that her child is “exceptionally gifted”, despite all evidence to the contrary.

You can spot them a mile off: prone to wearing Birkenstocks, spent her early 20s travelling in India and the next 15 years banging on about it, uses organic tampons, drinks herbal “infusions” and spends a fortune on dressing her kids like miniature Greenham Common protesters.

Little Raphael may only be three years old, but  his paintings are already reminiscent of Matisse’s early work. Jocasta has been reading Trollope since she was 18 months old. Felix the baby sees dead people. 

 

Ok, write this down. He says to increase our investment-grade corporate bond exposure, but that equities represent a stronger return profile over the longer term.

Ok, write this down. He says to increase our investment-grade corporate bond exposure, but that equities represent a stronger return profile over the longer term.

To the outside world – with their untrained eyes – Raphael, Jocasta and Felix are crashingly dull, ordinary, average and normal; to their mother, they represent a trifold manifestation of the second coming. 

Such people, as Vic Reeves used to say, could never let it lie.

If your baby was crawling, theirs was Riverdancing and competing at a county level in the 100m. If your baby had just started eating rusks, theirs were eating bruschetta and asking for stuffed vine leaves. If your baby was saying “Dada”, theirs was quoting Chaucer and pointing out spelling mistakes in the Guardian.

In a very short space of time, I realised that the Mother and Baby group was only serving to make me bitter because my daughter wasn’t bilingual, suggesting uses for the unidentifiable produce in organic vegetable boxes or playing the harp. 

Not even my assertion that she had cornered the market in producing textbook “up the back” nappies, explosive creations which leaked from nappy to hairline and required an entire bottle of baby bath to remedy, was enough to impress my peers.

Unable to compete any longer, I stopped going and from then on had no idea what my child weighed (although she felt heavy enough when I had to physically remove her from the crisp aisle after an incident at the Quavers section in the supermarket some months later).

After a few minutes reminicing about the fun we’d had at Mother and Baby groups, my friend swiftly decided that this time round she’d shun the weekly humiliation at any such covens of competitiveness.

There are some very sensitive digital scales at supermarkets these days – and none are operated by a judgemental harridan with a face like a lemon (or if they are, it’s because the aforementioned face belongs to you).

**** Apologies for my prolonged absence from the coalface. It’s been a mother (and baby group) of a week and there are still many more words to write before I can relax this weekend. Sometimes I think being a reporter is the hardest job in the world. Way harder than sulphur mining, for example. ****

04
Apr
09

Presents not to buy your mother

I wrote this post after Mother’s Day (the UK version) and was going to save it for next year until I discovered that my transatlantic cousins have yet to celebrate this special day. More pertinently, I lost the post in a file on my Mac and have only just discovered it – vintage gold, my friends, vintage gold.

When the best you can hope for is a Mum’s Night Off bucket from Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s a fair bet that Mother’s Day is going to be another wash-out.

Mother’s Day works on the principle that you can treat your dear old Mum like a domestic drudge for 364 days of the year and then wipe the slate clean for the cost of a nauseating card and a bunch of flowers from the garage which have been Mother’s Day-ed up with a sticker that says I Heart Mum.

It’s a bit like your employer spending an entire day being really nice to you – letting you come into work a little bit later, buying you a pot plant
for your desk, making you a nice cup of tea and telling you how much they appreciate you – and then not bothering to pay you for the rest of the year.

Every year the Brits spend around £100 million on Mother’s Day, which coincidentally falls on the same date as Retailers’ Money Spinning Day and Florists’ Mark Up the Price Day.

A hundred million pounds is a lot of money. It makes me wonder who got the rest of my share, taking into account the fact that I got a homemade card with a teabag taped to it and an I Love Mum mug from the 99p shop. Which of course, if my children are reading, I adored.

Oh lovely! A painted pasta necklace AND earrings! Now. Wheres my real present?

"Oh lovely! A painted pasta necklace AND earrings! Now. Where's my real present? Oh."

The market has even worked out how to squeeze a few quid out of people whose Mothers have had the very bad form to die and offered some suggestions to those of us who rather boringly only have one Mum to buy pointless and expensive rubbish for.

According to the frankly terrifying everythingmothersday.com, it wasn’t just our own dear old Mater who we should have been sending a card to, we should also have forked out for our “stepmothers, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers, aunts and even friends who are Mums”.

Fast forward a few years and we’ll be sending cards to every single female we know, including our pets and all those women who are causing a baby shortage in Britain because they selfishly want careers and white sofas without Wagon Wheels welded to the arms (“Happy Respecting Your Right Not to be Mothers Day!).

The answer to all this rampant consumerism is, of course, for us all to rise up as one and declare that we will shun future Mother’s Days and simply be nice to our Mums all year round without prompting from Clinton’s Cards or Interflora.

Whenever I need to shift mucus, Ill think of you.

"Whenever I need to shift mucus, I'll think of you."

But back in the real world, where people genuinely do appear to need reminding that the maid in the kitchen actually gave birth to them, it seems unlikely that we can do away with Mother’s Day entirely.

For a start, being nice all year might cost considerably more than a fiver and secondly if Mother’s Day was outlawed, the retailers would only come up with something even more all-encompassing, which would involve us buying cards and presents for everyone we know, regardless of whether we like them or not. Oh hang on, they already did: Christmas.

But anyway. Mother’s Day is here to stay and with this thought in mind, damage limitation is the only option. So here is a list of the presents you shouldn’t buy your Mum next Mother’s Day or indeed, ever.

1)    Anything remotely associated with the kitchen. Oven gloves which say “World’s Greatest Mum!” are still oven gloves. No one has ever said on their death bed: “I only wish I’d had more Mum-themed kitchen accessories”.

2)    The Mum’s Night Off bucket from Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s a dream come true! A deep-fried meal served in a bucket and eaten with plastic cutlery! I do, however, see a marketing opportunity for KFC – how about renaming the product “Bulimic’s Night Off” and highlighting the fact that the bucket will cut out all those time-consuming trips to the toilet?

3)    One of those huge Toblerone chocolate bars with Mother’s Day branding. Have you ever tried to eat one of these monsters without the benefit of a hammer and chisel? It’s like gnawing on a section of the Forth Bridge.

4)    Oil of Olay Regenerist cream. Whatever “celebrity beauty writer” Nadine Baggott might say, buying her a cream for ageing skin is almost
literally laughing in your Mum’s face. You might as well find a picture of her when she was 20 and paste it inside her Mother’s Day card under the
heading “what went wrong?”.

5)     Purple Ronnie’s Little Book for a Lovely Mum. All tiny books full of cutesy cartoons or saccharine quotations are the work of the Devil. Trees have
died to produce this pointless, fiddly, idiotic nonsense. Adding Purple Ronnie – who is as heartwarming and amusing as a case of leprosy – into the mix is simply taking the piss.

My hatred for Purple Ronnie shows no bounds. Purple Ronnies Little Book of Being an Immense C**t more like. Swearing sponsored by Tannerleah

My hatred for Purple Ronnie shows no bounds. Purple Ronnie's Little Book of Being an Immense C**t more like. Swearing sponsored by Tannerleah

6)    Housework Songs by Various Artists. The very fact that this compilation album was ever made makes me fear for the future of the human race. Anyone who buys their Mother a CD designed to make them get a move on with scrubbing the toilet bowl should feel ashamed of themselves. Ashamed and dirty.

7)    Flowers which cost less than £10 (unless you are an infant and have the paperwork to prove that you have no savings whatsoever). If you had any idea how much giving birth hurt, you would not be buying your mother pollution-flecked flowers from a garage forecourt.

8   A “MUM” sovereign ring. Touching as it is to buy your Mother a present which prepares her for being attacked outside a pub, you might like to think about buying her something a little more subtle. Like a flick knife or a flame thrower.

9)    Any gift which bears a large sticker saying “Perfect for Mother’s Day!” (unless it’s diamonds, Johnny Depp, a vineyard or a self-cleaning house). This rule is especially important in supermarkets, where gifts labelled thus will inevitably involve the presence of Ronan Keating, Barry Manilow or jam.

10) A DIY Will Kit. It’s not thoughtful, it’s creepy. Particularly when your Mother finds the first line of the “chief beneficiaries” section already helpfully filled in.




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