And all I want is a cup of tea in bed….

Back when I was but a mere snip of a thing, I would make my parents a cup of tea most mornings. It probably tasted vile, but this, for me, was an early way of helping out. For my mum had a brood of five, which must have been mind-bending. I have two and my mind is well and truly bent out of shape all of the time.

I suspect my desire to be useful started during my stint in the Brownies. Even though I never made ‘Sixer’ (I was robbed). I don’t know which part of ‘Brownying’ put it into my head that helping my mum out would be A GOOD THING. Whether she liked it or not.

I was, for a time, the household ironer. I’d iron anything, from sheets and pillowcases to my dad’s handkerchiefs. I think I ironed his Y-fronts once or twice, too. I made puddings for our Sunday roast (my eclairs were legendary) and Vesta Beef Curry for tea if mum was too busy to whip up her usual, liver and bacon. I made perfume out of rose petals in a plastic washing up bowl, and tried to raise household funds by selling this to our neighbours. I was very useful.

I peaked one Christmas when my brother Malc and I decided to take the load off mum for Christmas dinner. She was sceptical, but we proudly managed to get it all done and served up on time. And the Brussels sprouts weren’t cooked all to mush. However, halfway through the dinner, Malc went to the kitchen to get the peas, which we’d forgotten. He came back and asked if I wouldn’t mind checking something. In fact, the kitchen was filled with black smoke. Malc, I’ll blame him, had left the bone-handled fork in the turkey when he’d put it back into the gas oven, and it had caught on fire. Suddenly there was mum, stood in the doorway, arms crossed, a smug ‘I-knew-you-wouldn’t-manage-it’ look on her face. Well, at least we tried.

I’m wondering where I have gone wrong with my own children. If I ask them to help, it’s big deal. Even though the chores are minimal – emptying the dishwasher, sorting the plastics for recycling, stripping their beds, remembering to bring the bins in. Walking the dogs seems to be a demand beyond belief. Hey, that used to be the ultimate pleasure for me, escaping the madhouse of my four brothers for a walk with Hawker Siddeley Vicious Smith (also known as Syd) along a stinky stream that often had shopping trolleys living in it.

And I can’t remember the last time one of the kids brought me a cuppa in bed.
Kids these days. They don’t know they’re born.

tea

Underlay

Underlay 2Over the summer we’ve been ‘doing some work on the house’. Hey, we’ve all been there. I decided this would be a good time to update the carpets on the stairs and landing. After all, I could feel (and hear) the perished underside of the old carpet crunching beneath my feet every time I went up or down the stairs. And there has been a massive rip in the carpet at the top of the stairs for about 10 years, after our old cat Ollie (RIP) decided to attack it. That’s not the reason he’s RIP, of course.
Carpets. I’ve never understood them. And I’ve never really understood what underlay was all about. I remember asking the chap who came to measure up last time if it helped noise levels. He said ‘not really’. I replied ‘then I’m not paying for it, thank you very much.’ So none of our carpets have underlay.
This time round, I thought I’d splash out. In the great scheme of things, it didn’t seem that much more to get the underlay. I was going to be broke afterwards, so I decided I’d be broke in style.
Well, what a difference. The carpet is bouncy and soft to walk on. I don’t have to wear my Moshulu slippers when I tread on it. My toes are toasty. A bit of my house is actually quite luscious. As long as you keep your eyes on the carpet and no further.
So now my life is over. The football chant that sounds like ‘underlay, underlay, underlay underlay underlay’ goes round and round in my head. I have learned to appreciate underlay and figure that the end must be nigh. At least when I keel over, I’ll have a soft landing.

Revisiting the scene of youthful crimes – the reunion

Is it a positive or negative thing to take a step back in time and visit old haunts with (very) old friends?

The reunion phenomena has been with us for a long time – in this country I suspect it kicked off with Friends Reunited. With this, of course, came tales of one-time lovers getting back together, ancient enmities finally put aside, and the blustering of the successful over the less successful. “I’m a hedge fund manager and I drive an Alfa Romeo.” “I’m a dustman and I drive a dustbin lorry. (But I have more hair than you).”

Reunionists (new word?) marvel at hair loss, spectacles, wobbly bits and the inability to stay up much past 1am let alone fall asleep in a corridor and wake up in the morning feeling fresh as a daisy. Though in all honesty I don’t think I ever managed the fresh as a daisy bit, I was more of the bottom-of-an-ashtray brigade.

CiderI’ve been returning to Winchester each year for five years, meeting up with student friends from the 1980s. And, in all honesty, every time we get together, it’s fantastic. For a single weekend, the years seem to melt away as we potter around the town remembering sneaking around student halls we weren’t supposed to be in, locations where we were just a little bit naughty (there’s a certain tree I can never walk past without blushing), and moments in time that will never be forgotten. Lost loves, lost hearts, lost hours after too many bottles of Rougement Castle English wine in the student union bar.

The pubs I worked in, the Queen Inn and the Black Boy, have no recollection of a former barmaid who was once the life and soul of the bar, who poured generous halves and often had a small one herself thank you very much. But I don’t care if they don’t remember me, I remember them.

Those days were the best. They were also the worst, but now with the wisdom of age we can celebrate the days before responsibility, before kids, before Specsavers.

Winchester UniQueen Inn

“Somewhere in a field… in Bristol”

Can there be a better way to spend a weekend than with a bunch of old farts in the sunshine at a retro festival? This was the 1980s revisited – my favourite era, when I was a drama student without a care in the world (apart from having to find time to crimp my hair between pints of vodka and lime).

First time facepaintedThere we all were, somewhere in a field in Bristol, the forty, fifty and even sixty-somethings, some dressed in what looked like rambling gear, others in Lycra that really shouldn’t be seen in the vicinity of a muffin top. There were quite a few bald heads going nicely pink in the sun. In the campsite, posh campervans and tents with blow up frames. We were armed with loo roll and anti-bacterial wet wipes – and I got my face painted for the first time ever. Ain’t no stopping us now….Bucks FizzWhat a mix of music! From Bucks Fizz with Cheryl Baker looking distinctly stiff in her high heels, to the Jam (without Paul Weller) who didn’t look any different. And this via Aswad, Betty Boo, Howard Jones, Jimmy Somerville and Nick Heyward. How invigorating it was to realise that most of the performers were older than us. In fact, some of them had their grown up kids performing on stage with them. No grandchildren yet, but give it another couple of years…

Hey – we were bolshie and fought our way right to the front for Chas and Dave. Once there, we were stuck and couldn’t escape the ‘Rabbit’ and some dubiously sexist lyrics. Oh well, what the heck, the simple solutions was to have another drink and sing along. When I say sing, that is debatable. At least we didn’t have the repeat from last year when a bloke turned round and demanded: ‘If you don’t know the words, DON’T SING!”

On the last day of the festival we took a well-earned break from nostalgia, lying back on rugs in the sun, relaxed and happy. Suddenly it was time for the Boomtown Rats – so we leapt to our feet. ‘Leapt’. Hm. We attempted to get up without groaning at the aches and pains in our aging bodies. But hey, we did it, and hobbled off to the arena to see Sir Bob leap around with the energy of an 18 year old. But he still doesn’t like Mondays.The Boomtown Rats (2656 x 1494)

Hormonal Armageddon

Everyone knows that teenage children are hard work. Moods, spots, lethargy. Locked bathroom doors and grunting. Screaming heebeejeebee demands for a new pair of bleached jeans at 10pm on a Wednesday BECAUSE IT’S MUFTI ON FRIDAY! (Thank goodness for Next’s next day delivery).

Try coping with all of this when you’re fighting with hormonal hysteria at the other end of life. This is what we ‘older mums’ are having to tussle with.Trying to hold it all together while our own brains do their best to turn to mush.

Not so many years ago a mum would have waved her kids out of the door by the time the menopause struck – to uni, work or married life. Now we have hormones going barmy in sync. My daughter is 15, my son 13. When we get hormonal at the same time it’s like Armageddon.

I’m not surprised the man of the house is now the man of the shed.

Welcome to my middle-life ramblings!

So, how did I get here, to this middle life? Well mainly through the usual channels: being born, having fun, getting hormonal, getting drunk, having children, becoming sober, getting hormonal (again), reinventing myself. Is this usual? Who knows? We are individuals, unique and lovely or unlovely in our own ways. There aren’t two of me, although people say I look a little like Linda Hamilton who played Sarah Connor in Terminator (I think I look more like her dog).Blog image 1This blog is simply a way of recording some of the many thoughts that pop into my head on a daily basis. At this time of my life, this includes reminiscing about my past, gritting my teeth about my present, and worrying about my future. If that sounds grim, it isn’t. And if you’re lucky I’ll record a few of ‘those’ moments experienced by myself and my friends. If you’re a similar age, you’ll know what I mean.