Monday, 22 March 2010

Right About Now, Funk Soul Mutha

Monday, 22 March 2010
Anyone got any money? Like, lots? Fancy giving me a substantial amount of it?

I’m in a real funk.

And I know exactly why. I’m trapped.

Trapped as a full-time working mother.

This post is not for the faint hearted – you are about to read an astonishingly elaborate self-indulgent whine about the fast-approaching end of my maternity leave.

Yes, it’s true -- I have to go back to work soon. In fact, technically I already have gone back to work and I’m currently on holiday. And let me tell you, I’m rrrrrrrrreally bitter about it. Before you know it, these final precious days will be over and I’ll have to hand my beautiful Jude over to someone else for nine hours during the day. NINE HOURS.

He’s only awake for 12 hours... so I’ll hardly see him. And I’m so, so sad.

Not to mention the fact that Ben - who has been used to his school day lasting from when I walk him to school at 9am until I collect him at 3pm – will now have an extra 3 hours tagged onto his day (an hour for the school’s breakfast club and 2 hours after school) to facilitate my going back to work. Poor kid. I’m trying not to think about what kind of disruption THAT is going to bring to his little world.

Depressingly, this back-to-work scenario is consuming my every waking thought; I feel positively wounded with it. I know, I know... I’ve had a lovely long maternity leave, and had some magical moments with both my kids – and Jason, come to that – since I’ve been off. And I knew this day would come... but I was so happily going about the business of being a new mother again and getting into a really lovely routine of being ‘Stay At Home Mammy’ that my looming return-to-work date has REALLY crept up on me. I’m bereft. Breathless.

I wish I could afford to stay at home and be a Mammy. But it’s just totally out of the question. Oh sure, women with children have the legal right to request flexible working arrangements, but any reduction in my working hours would hit us badly, financially speaking. We both need to bring in full time money to make things work.

Do you know, this year it will cost just slightly less for me to pay for my baby in nursery for one year as it does to obtain a full undergraduate 3year degree at Oxford university? Know how I know this? I TOTALLY CHECKED. Happy thought, eh?

After careful consideration, and without further ado, here are my options:

1.  Increase frequency and monetary contribution towards the purchase of lottery tickets in the next month or so.

2.  Go on benefit, default on all my bills, live on baked beans and move to a squat... in the next month or so.

3.  Finish writing, secure a literary agent, agree publishing contract and receive sizeable paycheque for my first novel... in the next month or so.

4.  Happen upon the as-yet-undiscovered branch of my family tree wherein I am the sole and direct descendant of someone with untold fortunes who is about to peg it... in the next month or so.

5.  Begin clandestine (and really steamy!) extramarital affair with Premiership footballer or rock star** or similar and be a ‘kept’ mistress... in the next month or so.

6.  Fnd enough money to finish university degree and get a job in education somewhere, so I don’t have to scramble around like a mad thing arranging childcare during half term and other holidays... in the next month or so.

7.  Suck it up, stop whining and go back to work. No points for guessing when that might commence.

**Have already consulted with Jason about this item, who says that gentlemen of either profession would be acceptable for any opportunity for adulterous activity; his credibility as a ‘dude’ would improve exponentially amongst his circle of friends if he became ‘the one whose wife had a fling with [insert name of famous footballer here]’.  So, you know... no worries there -- it’s all good.

But what really stings is that I’m faced without any element of choice in the matter. Isn’t it cruel how times have changed? Women in, say, my Grandma’s generation got married, had kids, stayed at home to raise them and rarely had jobs outside of the home. My mum’s generation was more of the same... but they could choose to work, or choose to not work. No biggie.

And now the tables have completely turned – while mothers and women in general are enjoying a better balance of equality in the workplace, many of them in my acquaintance these days find that they don’t have a choice – they MUST work, in order to keep their families. This is my hellish Catch 22: I chose to have babies, but I’m forced to pay someone else to raise them.

Jude was really unsettled tonight going to bed; I’m starting to worry that he can sense my anxiety about going back to work. I look at his little face, his little perfect face with big blue eyes blinking beseechingly at me to pick him up. And I wonder... how the hell am I going to hand him over to someone at the nursery next month and get in the car and take myself to work? Could someone please tell me, how the hell am I supposed to do that?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Morning Dialogue

Monday, 15 March 2010
We leave the house to walk to the school at 8.55am every day.  To my daily horror, there is a spider which lives in the gap between the shrubs in the front of our house.  It's about the size of a Fiat Panda (I'm not joking) and even though I know that the unusually harsh winter this year has killed it off, I still RUN (thankfully, I'm steering the pushchair or it would be an arms-flailing girly-squealing extravaganza) past said shrubs lest one morning it finds itself come back to life and decides to jump out into my face, or worse, crawl stealthily onto my shoulder and nest in my hair or ear or something.

What unearthly creature from the depths of Hades wove this web of terror, I ask you?  A FIAT PANDA SIZED ONE, dude.

SHUDDER.

Anyway -- the other morning we were on our way to school and, presumably for comedic effect (he knows about how the spider gives me the willies) Ben wove zig zag style through the shrubbery, as I navigated the pushchair out of the front door and locked the house up behind us.

"That spider'll get you," I said, trying to sound matter-of-fact when really I was trying not to puke in my mouth a little bit at the thought of it really happening.  He just laughed, brazen.

Two minutes later, I thought I'd freak-out-fake-out him, and pointed at his back screaming, "IT'S ON YOU! IT'S ON YOU!" and he began to gesticulate wildly, trying to see behind himself like a dog chasing its tail.  Of course (loving mother that I am) I burst out in a fit of giggles and he soon knew that I was pulling his leg.

He walloped me with his packed lunch bag.  "Mammy!  That was NOT funny!"

"Oh, Benny... it was just a little joke.  I thought it was HILARIOUS," I chuckled.

"What does that mean?" he asked.

"It means when something is really, really, extra super funny." I told him.
He gave a bit of a shiver, shaking off the last remnants of the memory of the phantom spider that so nearly crawled up his neck and down his collar.  "Well, DON'T DO IT AGAIN!" he said, telling me off with a lilt to his voice that was spookily similar to my own when he is three seconds away from a session on the 'naughty step'.

"THOSE kinds of jokes," he chastised, his little brow furrowed crossly, "are not funny.  They are not FALARIOUS at all."

Friday, 12 March 2010

Fortissimo Fridays - Adam & the Ants

Friday, 12 March 2010
I credit this band (and my Auntie Lisa, who loved Adam & the Ants WAY more than me) for starting me off as a music nerd. When I was 5 (1981, y’all), off I went to Canada with my Realistic (TM) Portable Cassette Recorder, and as a ‘going away’ present, Lis bought me Adam & the Ants platinum selling “Prince Charming” album. Well, she SORT OF did – she gave me the tape and kept the liner notes to pin up on her bedroom wall, convinced as she was that one day she might not only be my Auntie Lisa but Mrs Lisa Ant!)



Anyway, I implore you to have a careful listen and try not to be distracted too much by the videos – they are as mad as a box of frogs, make no mistake – but the innovations he makes especially in the depth and layering of the vocal harmonies is something truly special. Behind that pretty boy facade, Ant has a prodigious grasp of musical structuring, put together in an undeniably unconventional way that yet somehow makes you want to hit ‘repeat’ and listen again.  And also?  TWO drummers?  Wha-hoo!

Lots of people look back on Adam & the Ants with a great deal of scorn. All that lip gloss and hairspray and proclivity for asymmetrical hairstyles and it’s easy to dismiss them as “that early 80’s boy band”. Further still, Adam Ant’s well documented struggles with bi-polar disorder in more recent years lend a tendency to lose track of the most important thing – the music he wrote. Listening to this stuff with my (almost) 34 year old ears? It’s bloody brilliant! What do YOU think?  Do you like it, or am I actually as mad as a box of frogs?



Happy Fortissimo Friday, dear readers.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Dear Diary - When I was 21...

Thursday, 11 March 2010
When I was 21, I was such a moody cow.  All I did was stomp around and complain about being single.  With the benefit of 10+ years of hindsight, with entries like this I ask you:  is it any bloody wonder?  :-)


Friday 4th April 1997.

I picked Panic up from the vet today – he got neutered and declawed. He’s a little groggy and stumbly-aroundy... it’s really funny! He smells a bit funny, too, but other than that he’s fine.

Went to the Trash last night, went looking for cute boys. I saw two (count ‘em, 2!!!) “potential life partners.” Hahaha. One was absolutely beautiful: short, black hair, tattoos, sexy boots, black pants. Sat in the corner watching everyone dance all night, all broody and adorable-smouldery. And then the other was a big, tall, sweaty-from-dancing huggable-lookin’ sort of fella. Yum. But he seemed a bit up his own ass. Whatever – it was a lot of fun; they played some really good tunes last night and I danced like a crazysonofabitch.

I did nothing all day today, except make a mix tape. Actually, I made two – I’m on the second one right now. I’m starting to make a bunch of them for my trip to England so that I won’t have to take five million tapes with me. Just a handful. TEN, tops.

Oh my god, guess what just happened? Someone just called from a flower shop and asked if I’d be home to accept a delivery. Obviously, hungover slob that I am, I had nowhere to be or no-one important to be with... so 15 minutes later, some guy comes to the door with this absolutely gorgeous flower arrangement – champagne roses, carnations... it smells and looks FABULOUS. I nearly piss my pants with excitement as I practically destroy the thing looking for the card to see who they are from. The first time I’d ever, in my entire life, received flowers for no reason from someone, and who are they from? I’m not even going to write his name, you know who I mean. I mean, he’s really sweet and kind but, just... he never says anything interesting.  Like, ever.  And besides, I could never love a Bon Jovi fan.  And now (fuck's sake!) I have to call him all gushing to say thank you. My first big elaborate bouquet isn’t supposed to be from HIM. (whiiiine)

And now? The punky-happy-dancey-holiday mix tape I was making has taken a depressing turn -- because of the Flowers From the Wrong Hottie episode, the last three songs are:

Bloody men!

Friday, 5 March 2010

National Book Day

Friday, 5 March 2010
National Demonstrate Parental Ineptitude Day, you mean. The school noticeboard invited us all to send our kids to school on 4th March dressed as their favourite literary character. A fact which I recalled at approximately 8pm THE NIGHT BEFORE.

Oh... fuuuuuck.

Ben was already in bed. This is a good thing – entering into a debate with him about which character from which book in his library would have surely defeated me so close to my own bedtime, so making the decision on his behalf was something I was more than happy to execute.

I think about his favourite stories, and then start a slow, downward spiral into blind terror and panic, mixed with equal parts self-loathing because oh for the love of effing Christ HOW DO I MAKE A GRUFFALO COSTUME OUT OF SOME TINFOIL, DUCT TAPE AND TUPPERWARE LIDS which is all I happened to have at hand at the time.

In the end, I totally (and predictably) wimped out and mashed together a Harry Potter costume. I was going to say ‘haphazardly mashed’ but there was nothing haphazard about it – it was pretty impressive from where I was sitting. The irony is, my kid has never shown an iota of interest in Harry Potter (he is, after all, only five, and perhaps a little young for all that wingardium leviosa-ing) but be that as it may, desperate times call for desperate measures, etc. etc. and before long, a black skirt of mine became some wizarding robes, a pimped-up bendy straw became a magic wand and some cardboard and black electrical tape made a fine pair of Harry Potter spectacles. Add one stolen-from-website-and-printed-on-card Gryffindor badge later and behold the transformation:

Enthusiasm, anyone?
Thursday morning he woke up and I told him he’d be going to school dressed as Harry Potter.

“But Mammy, “ he puzzled. “Harry Potter isn’t from a book, he’s from a film and a video game. Can I go as the Hungry Caterpillar instead?”

Er, no. I had to get the book out and show it to him before he’d believe me and he still wasn’t keen. This loaned itself to an irritated reluctance (in the form of a near wrestling match) to let me draw a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead with my eyebrow pencil which was luckily dissipated by the shameless bribe of including a chocolate biscuit in his packed lunch... (exhale!) ... and off he went to school. I watched as he zipped his way into the classroom to take his place amongst the rest of the kids in fancy dress and stopped to admire some of the other costumes.

But wait, what’s this I see? How did I miss the TRANSFORMERS in the collected works of Enid Blyton? Was ‘Ben10’ a protagonist in one of Aesop’s Fables? Did Roald Dahl invent Spongebob Squarepants?

YOU MEAN TO TELL ME I COULD HAVE SENT HIM TO SCHOOL IN LAST YEAR’S WALL-e HALLOWE’EN COSTUME AND SAVED MYSELF THE TURMOIL?

(sigh)  Where's my corkscrew?