Insomnia (and teenagers) are not for the weak

I am not sleeping. I haven’t been sleeping for many months. To be fair, I’ve always been a night owl, with my best hours being between 8pm and 2am. Apart from when the kids were babies of course. Then I became a ‘small section of the afternoon’ owl, with my most alert time being between 2pm and 2:03pm. But historically I’ve always been ok with not much sleep. Now however, I seem to be speedily evolving into a creature who is both nocturnal and diurnal (yes I did look that up). Not so much ‘survival of the fittest’ as ‘scraping along of the debilitated’.

Naturally, I am not helping myself. I need to eat better and exercise more, which I would absolutely do if I had the energy to do it, or even to appreciate the Catch-22. I also have three different chronic pain conditions, none of which are serious in any way, but nevertheless make it tricky to relax.

And of course, I have a husband. Who snores. He says that I snore sometimes too, and he may well be right, but given that I am nearly always bloody awake, I’m going to go ahead and assume that it doesn’t affect him too much. Him on the other hand…I have lain in bed wistfully imagining how much quieter it would be to sleep next to a revving motorbike in a thunderstorm. I have had jealous thoughts about people who live under flight paths and next to railway stations, and I have considered going to all-night raves and snuggling up next to the loudspeaker, just to get a bit of peace and quiet.

I wish I could be like those people on the adverts, inserting their lovely new earplugs and settling down to a blissful night’s sleep. Instead, I lie there listening through my earplugs, to decibel levels on a par with a space shuttle launch, imagining where said earplugs might better be inserted. It would definitely wake him up.

Having said all that, it’s not really about the snoring, or I wouldn’t have slept for the 20 years we’ve been together. Whatever it is, I need to act fast. I downloaded an app the other day which allows you to ‘meet your future face’. I thought it would be a bit of fun so I uploaded a photograph of myself to see what I might look like in 20 years. The app decided I was currently 60, and proceeded to show me an utterly horrifying picture of a corpse that will apparently be me at age 80. It also gave a brief description underneath, explaining that because I clearly have no self-control, the ageing process has begun early, but don’t worry, I can reverse it all immediately if I just get some good sleep.

After a few brief minutes of wondering what kind of material within my reach might make the best noose, I had a brainwave. I uploaded a photo of my cat instead. The app told my cat that although it might currently have a young and active appearance, it would likely start to feel old soon if it didn’t do something about its unstable mental attitude. I felt a bit better after that, although I did immediately Google ‘is therapy for cats a thing?’ so I’m not saying I’m out of the woods just yet.

With a view to helping my sleep, and our general health, we have decided as a family that we need to do something about the amount of time spent on our phones. And when I say as a family, I mean that the children were against the idea in every conceivable way, but were overruled.

We thought we would make Sundays a family day, that would also be phones-free. We pictured warm scenes of family bonding, laughter and memory making. What we experienced was in fact World Wars 3, 4 and 5, followed by a dog walk peppered with sighs, eye rolls and moaning, and finishing up with a subdued board game with our youngest, while our teenager sat in her room and stared angrily at the wall for two and a half hours.

Not that the day was without enjoyment. We enjoyed being compared to prison wardens, kidnappers and psychopaths. I was informed by my 15-year-old that no other parents on the planet insist on spending time with their children. I mildly pointed out that she sees her friends all week at school, on several midweek evenings, on Friday nights and all day Saturday, and that we thought it would be nice to catch a glimpse of her at least one day a week. Her response was that frankly I needed to just accept the fact that it was normal for teenagers to want to be with their friends, and I should expect to spend time with her again from about the age of 20.

I’m pleased to say that the matter is now resolved. Once I had my phone back on Monday, I checked with her friends’ parents and confirmed that they spend their Sundays in a similar way, and in fact request more family time than we do.

Now that she no longer has to worry about fear of missing out, she is on board with the idea of existing in a family that might want to speak to her every now and then, so we can all relax. Until one of us actually speaks that is.

Bring on Bedtime!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Rather than attempt to describe the last week, I thought I’d just share with you a list of some things I won’t be doing next Christmas:

Number 1)

I won’t be absent-mindedly buying a Christmas tree so tall that not only does it not fit into the lounge, it can’t even be cut to size without looking like a shrubbery.

Number 2)

I won’t be refusing to immediately return the ninety-eight foot Christmas Tree, but instead deciding it will be fine in the conservatory next to the lounge, where we can at least still see it. I hasten to add this is not a lovely conservatory with nice furniture, lighting and heating that people can actually sit in. That was the original plan when we moved in when I was six months pregnant with our first. But then we had the baby and proceeded confidently onto plan B, which was to do absolutely nothing to the house ever again.

It is therefore a conservatory that houses the kids’ bikes, the tumble dryer and one old armchair covered in dog hair. It’s pitch black at night, freezing cold all the time and the only time any of us uses it in the winter, is when we dance through it, hopping from one icy bare foot to the other in order to let the dog out.

The dog has, not unreasonably, decided that since it’s in his territory it is therefore his Christmas tree and he is absolutely delighted with it. It’s fast becoming his very special friend, if you know what I mean.

Number 3)

I won’t be having anything to do with the Christmas tree lights. Last year I googled how to properly wind the lights round each other so that they don’t get tangled. For once, I had no sense of impending doom when lifting them from the box of decorations. I’d even go so far as to say I was quite smug.

If only I’d been able to see 90 seconds into my future, I would have seen myself standing in the centre of an enormous nest of wires, the air blue with expletives, trying to pinpoint my primary emotion out of a choice of hopelessness, desperation and anger.

My husband made the gravest of errors while this was going on. Several actually. Firstly, he approached me. Secondly, he stood too close to me, in clear breach of the invisible anger barrier that grows around me in these situations. And finally, he spoke. And what’s worse is what he said. He a) offered help, and b) reminded me cheerfully that the lights wouldn’t go round the whole tree this year because I’d accidentally ordered a giant tree that would make Jack’s Beanstalk look like a pot plant.

Number 4)

Last but not least, I won’t be going anywhere near an ice rink. Ice rinks are for people who have abilities. Abilities such as balance, confidence and spatial awareness. An understanding of gravity is pretty useful as well. Still, I managed to make my family laugh until they cried.

Apparently watching me sitting on the ice, clutching the sides of my skull in a panic-fuelled bid to hold on to as many remaining brain cells as possible, cheered my loved ones right up. Even more so when the young lad working at the rink took pity on me and offered me one of those plastic seals they give to toddlers to cling onto.

Despite all the above, I’m really looking forward to Christmas. It’s taken me ages to feel ‘Christmassy’ but now I do. I’m sitting here looking through the patio doors into the pitch-black room next door at my beautifully, if sparsely, lit Christmas tree, with loads to do and nothing wrapped. But my husband has just handed me a glass of red, I can hear my girls upstairs laughing together, and I know just how lucky I am to have them all here with me. And if it weren’t for them, my world would be an unhappier place.

And of course, if it weren’t for them, many many vineyards would have gone out of business by now.

Merry Christmas! Hope you all have a happy and healthy one

It’s a dog’s life

Has anyone else been to the loo, then accidentally wiped themselves with a face mask? No? Just me then. In my defence, I had noticed it sticking out of the back pocket of my jeans as I sat down, so I grabbed it and sat there holding it for reasons which I still don’t understand. And since I usually get the loo roll ready in advance, and sit there holding it until required, you can see where I got confused. It could have been worse though, at least it was a number one. It could also have been far worse, since it’s often my phone I have to rescue from my back pocket.

The only other witness to this horror was Bungle, our Labrador. He follows me everywhere, even into the bathroom. I think he might believe that since he likes to stare at people while he does his business, that he is simply returning the favour. Either that, or he hasn’t yet worked out that it’s an unlikely place for a handful of treats to be forthcoming.

Unpleasant experiences aside, the week has begun pretty well. My twelve year old was back at school yesterday for the first time since having Covid over the last couple of weeks. She didn’t have a particularly easy time of it, and is still exhausted now, but thankfully she got through it ok.

Her brief illness has shown me once again what a very determined person she is. For instance, she refused to let her complete inability to taste anything except salt, get in the way of demanding chocolate every twenty minutes. She was resolute in her refusal to get into the shower until we pointed out that even the dog would no longer sit beside her, and she realised that loss of smell is indeed a symptom. And she remained utterly convinced that the best way to concentrate on the schoolwork set for her, was to have both the tv and her Spotify playlist fighting it out for attention in the background.

So far, the rest of us have managed to escape the virus. I suspect my teenager has kept it at bay by using the same techniques she does with us – rolling her eyes, refusing to go near it, and telling it she wishes it would just leave her alone for god’s sake.

Speaking of teenagers, another reason why yesterday was a good day, is that my older daughter turned 15. Someone please tell me that 15 is the year they start to turn back to your normal, affectionate, enthusiastic pre-hormonal child? And if you can’t, just lie to me.

Birthdays are different though. She does at least still get excited about the day, and genuinely wants her family around. I even witnessed sibling kindness. On more than one occasion. I looked around wildly for my camera, but it was too far away and, just like David Attenborough himself, I didn’t want to disturb the wildlife and make them flee.

She is seeing her friends this weekend, so last night was a family gathering. It all went very well, although we nearly had a disaster at cake time. Unfortunately, Bungle thinks that the ‘Happy Birthday’ song is dedicated to him. It all started one August. My husband’s birthday is on 20th, mine is the day after and my mum’s is a few days after that. We were all together on holiday for that birthday week, and had brought the dog with us.

By the end of the week, Bungle had learned that every time someone sings happy birthday, there is laughter, hugging and of course, food. Basically all of his favourite things, minus sticks and tennis balls.
It’s now his favourite song and he gets hugely excited whenever he hears it on tv, and zooms around the room in circles, regardless of what might be in his way. If he could access a jukebox, he would definitely play it on a loop. But we refuse to give him the cash.

Last night, I carefully lit the candles on my daughter’s cake, carried it into the room and got as far as ‘hap…’ before I was set upon by a hulking black Labrador eager to assist. He jumped up, nearly knocking me for six. It was only thanks to some serious acrobatics on my part (which I learned one winter when I unintentionally did the splits after slipping on some ice) that I escaped without injury, and more importantly, saved the cake.

So a good day was had by all, especially Bungle, and I thoroughly earned my wine that evening.

Bring on Bedtime!

Wine flies when you’re having fun

It’s almost a month since I posted that I was away for the weekend with some of my closest ‘mum friends’. It’s no coincidence that it’s taken me this long to write another post, since I have only just come through the recovery process.

Gone are the days of being seventeen with no hangover, or twenty-five and curing a mild headache with a McDonalds and more beer. Or even thirty-five and suffering for a day but by the evening knowing that a nice glass of wine will sort it all out. At the age of forty-seven, my brain has passed on an unwanted message from my body, which amounts to ‘By all means drink for two nights in a row. Just know that you will spend the next two days keeping Boots in the headache tablet business, followed by five more days of the bone-crushing tiredness normally associated with the slow approach of death’.

At the end of the weekend I announced my resolve to never drink again. Which was greeted by a certain amount of snorting, and ‘yeah right’s, and a large amount of advice. The advice boiled down to ‘you actually need to drink more, because you haven’t been training hard enough’. My friends, ladies and gentlemen. In an age of increased awareness of the long-term damage that alcohol can do, and at a time when people are trying harder to achieve a healthier lifestyle, their sound advice is to ‘drink more and power through’.

I do joke about it on here, but actually I don’t really drink that much. Don’t get me wrong, since my daughter became a teenager, the urge to drink is present during 99% of our interactions. Sometimes more. And sometimes I get a hankering for a vat of wine when she’s not even there and I have to enter her bedroom and god forbid, look for something under the bed. I realise this is becoming a running theme, but genuinely last week I found sixteen Wotsits, a pile of sand (don’t ask), a broken photo frame, three odd socks and a bulb of garlic. I don’t know why the garlic was there. Honestly, I don’t want to know. At least I know she’s not a vampire – concerns had been running high at one point, since we see so little of her during daylight hours.

Hormone levels have reached crisis point lately. I’m very much looking forward to the time when my first-born, one of the lights of my life, centre of my universe etc. doesn’t greet me with an eye roll because I have dared to put my face into her line of vision. Conversations often run as follows:

‘Sweetheart, can you please put your towel back in the bathroom’

‘In a minute’

‘Ok, but…’

‘Oh my GOD, I SAID I’d do it in a minute. You don’t trust me do you?’

‘I do, it’s just that you’ve said that the last eighty-five times I’ve asked, so the hope of seeing it done is waning a little’

‘I’m DOING SOMETHING’

‘You’re on your phone’

‘I’m researching something for my English homework’

‘Since when did your English homework involve googling ‘hottest Korean boy band member 2021’

‘I can’t believe you’ve been SPYING on me. You’re the worst mother in the world’

The fact that it was a lucky guess on my part is something she doesn’t need to know about of course. I prefer her to think of me as omnipresent, and since she is already exasperated by my very ability to breathe, I’ve got nothing to lose really.

You really do have to develop a thick skin as the mother of a teenage girl. I don’t just currently hold the title of ‘worst mother in the world’ by the way. I am also credited with not understanding anything about anything, hating fun, being too old to know what I’m talking about, and of course deliberately trying to ruin both of their lives. I’m considering investing in a trophy cabinet.

Yet just when I’m in the process of googling ‘where on a teenager’s skin might you find the 666’ or ‘alcohol delivery within an hour, UK’ she will come and say that she didn’t mean any of it, and she loves me, and I will forgive it all, because for one whole minute she will drop her ‘don’t come within 10m of me’ restrictions and I will be allowed a cuddle. And I have my girl back! Until the next time I’m looking for the towel that is.

But it’s ok, I can cope with anything now that I have a simple mantra to live my life by. And that mantra is ‘sobriety is not for everyone’.

Bring on Bedtime!

School Daze

My youngest has now completed her first three weeks of secondary school. She has found her way around the maze of corridors, and is getting to know people. She is even confident enough to leave far too late every day, purely so that she doesn’t have to walk to school with her sister and ‘risk people thinking we’re related’ 

Sadly for her, the teachers are all far more interested in the concept of siblings than any of the children are. They have all asked who has older siblings, and when my daughter has grudgingly admitted to having a sister, replies have ranged from the rather worrying ‘Oh my God!’ to ‘Of course! You look just like her!’ to one of the teachers actually stopping my older daughter in the middle of the corridor just so he could excitedly inform her there was a smaller version of herself wandering around the school somewhere, as if this were the first she was hearing of it.

They don’t mind it really though, and they both seem to be settling into their new school years quite well. Not that we haven’t had setbacks.

There was the time my 14-year-old casually asked me one Monday morning, whether she had any homework due in that day. I was forced to (less casually and considerably more loudly) point out that it wasn’t my job to check for her homework, and did she really think Monday morning was the optimum time to do this?

She discovered she did in fact have a piece of homework due in that day, but don’t worry it was fine, she would do it between lessons and before her teacher arrived in the classroom. She then very wisely left the house immediately, leaving me to wonder how on earth she could have turned out so like me at her age? Especially when I’d done absolutely everything in my power to lie through my teeth and pretend to be organised? I guess nature won over nurture with this one.

Other setbacks have included illness. They have both come down with The Worst Cold In The World thanks to so many months of isolation and nothing to test their immune systems. I’ve been testing them what feels like every five minutes, but luckily they have escaped Covid so far. They have also been informed that there are only two reasons for being off school: 

  1. Having Covid 
  2. Being Dead 

Knowing this, my youngest did try to pretend to be dead one morning during the second week, but Bungle (our Labrador) gave her away by jumping up on her bed, therefore forcing her to admit that not many dead people shout out ‘eww Bungle, your willy is on my duvet’. At least, none I’m aware of anyway. 

If and when they finally make it into school, the children can earn both good and bad behaviour points, and are rewarded or punished accordingly depending on the number of points earned.  Thankfully it’s all been good so far, although I think there is room for interpretation with some of the comments. For instance we’ve had: 

Drama – very good at directing (bossy as hell) 

Food Tech – wonderful enthusiasm for the subject (ate all the sample cakes) 

Science – good understanding of safety procedures (able to put out the fire she started) 

Modern Languages – great knowledge of why languages are important (hopes to one day chat up Giovanni or Aljaz from Strictly with relative ease) 

Nothing for history yet, but given that she recently asked me whether make up had been invented when I was a girl, this comes as no surprise. When I pointed out that the ancient Egyptians used it, she asked if that was why I only had black eyeliner. It’s no good arguing. Whatever I say, she remains utterly convinced that my existence began several thousand years BC, and that I have spent these last few millennia carefully honing my nagging skills. 

My older daughter agrees. Apparently it’s unreasonable of me to expect my child NOT to stand on a stool, put a selection of half-eaten food at the back of the highest shelf of her wardrobe and then leave it there for 11 months until we finally locate the source of the heinous stench.

It’s also a massive overreaction to insist that she take down the bed she has made for the cat under her desk (using every single towel in the airing cupboard, lovingly wrapped in her school blazer and several pairs of tights). It’s futile anyway and she knows it, because there is only one place the cat will ever sleep. Which is on her pillow, lying across the top of her head, occasionally getting irritated and smacking her in the face if she dares to fall asleep and stop stroking him.

I told her she hasn’t known sleep deprivation until she’s slept with a man who snores louder than a wild pig with a heavy cold, holding a megaphone. And that I’m not above employing the same methods as the cat, to get him to stop. So with that in mind,  

Bring on Bedtime!

Poetry for beginners

I thought some might like to read the poem I wrote for my youngest yesterday, on the eve of her big day at secondary. I’ve put asterisks instead of the school name but it does rhyme with ‘say’ 😂

I am most certainly no poet, and know nothing about the proper way to write one, but it’s from the heart.

And for those of you who may find it too saccharine, just know that life continues as normal here with me trying to lock my front door by pointing my car key at it. Here goes:

To our daughter

Tomorrow is a first for you
Day one at ***
Before you walk out of the door
We’ve got some things to say

You need to know we love you
And are proud no matter what
We saw you win at primary school
And watched you learn a lot

You worked, you played, you laughed and cried
You joined in all the fun
You made mistakes, and learned from them
You showed us how it’s done

From author days to O2 choirs
You really tried your best
You smashed it when you learned from home
And made deputy head girl, no less!

And now you’re on the cusp
Of your career at secondary school
And though you might be worried
There is really just one rule

Just be yourself, and all the rest
Will fall right into place
You’re bright and kind, and work so hard
You’re loved by all your mates

And if you carry on like this
With a smile upon your face
And hold your head up high my love
You’ve already won the race

So take a big deep breath right now
And go out there with pride
And know that in our thoughts at least
We’ll be there by your side

All our love,
Mum and Dad

Summer’s Out For School

The summer holidays are nearly over and the new school term is almost upon us. My preferred method of dealing with all the back to school organisation, is as follows:

ONE

At the start of the summer holidays, put it all right out of my mind, relaxing in the knowledge that I have weeks and weeks before I need to do a thing.

Later that day, miserably leave the uniform shop after a ‘successful’ visit, having spent a small fortune on piles of clothes that I am going to have to individually and angrily label at the last minute. All while knowing full well that they will lose everything within the first three days of term, and we won’t see any of it again until Christmas.

TWO

One week before the start of term, remember that my children own feet. And unless the school are planning a theme of ‘caveman’ day for the first day back, there’s a good chance that shoes will be required. They have both been blessed with the wonderful combination of very small, yet extremely wide feet, and one of them additionally has an arch to rival the Arc de Triomphe. What this means in real terms is that every year, we are forced to embark on a long, arduous and sometimes painful quest for school shoes that fit. 

We walk into the first shoe shop, and take a ticket for the queue with a bizarre optimism that belies past experience. Ninety minutes later, it’s our turn. I’m already exhausted having spent half the waiting time berating myself for forgetting to make an appointment for the sixth year running, and the other half trying to convey just how angry I am with my children’s behaviour, through the medium of hissing.

The shop assistant kindly waits while the girls physically fight over who is going to go first.  When the least bruised child has emerged victorious, they then get on with the job of measuring, while we place bets as to how long it will be before the words ‘small’, ‘wide’ and ‘arch’ are mentioned. The assistant will then cheerfully disappear into the store room for twenty minutes, only to reappear looking pale and confused and holding one box, already explaining that they’ve had to go up three sizes but it might still be fine.

My child will then fall deeply in love with whatever they bring out. They will either be so narrow they could give Cinderella a run for her money, or so large that they could house both feet in one shoe. No matter what I say about growing feet, comfort, etc. the pleading begins. ‘I’ll walk on tiptoes’ or ‘I’ll wear my slippers inside them’. The firm ‘no’ is finally and begrudgingly accepted, but only once I have been provided with a carefully thought-out list of ways in which I’m a terrible mother that knows nothing about shoes.

This process must then be repeated in at least two more shops, until finally they are both kitted out with school shoes which they hate with a passion, as well as PE trainers, and I am several hundred pounds poorer. We then leave the shop with me issuing strict instructions that under no circumstances are their feet allowed to grow for at least 12 months.

THREE

Three days before the start of term, enter the war zones that are my children’s bedrooms, and ask to inspect their pencil case. To which the reply is always ‘what pencil case?’ and this is when I discover that they’ve either burnt it, sold it or cut it up for craft purposes. As for the contents, half of it was put in the bin weeks ago and the rest was handed out as presents to friends because ‘Sarah really likes my pencil sharpener, and Lucy didn’t have any of her own stuff’.  With the exception of the glue, which has been used to make slime and is now stuck to the underside of their desk along with a year’s worth of the contents of their nostrils.

FOUR

The day before term starts, let the labelling commence. My family have learned to their cost, what will become of them if they approach me on labelling day. They stay happily away while I think murderous thoughts and make unachievable promises to myself that next year will be different.

And this year, my youngest will walk out of the door on Friday morning and head off to her first day of secondary school, full of excitement and nerves.

As for me, after ten years of ferrying first one, then two children off to school, there will be no more turning the car round to go and get the forgotten lunch box, no more parking five miles from the school and being pleased to have got a space so close, and no more trying to think up original yet realistic lies when entering a ‘reason for lateness’ in the school office register. And in traditional rose-tinted spectacles style, I will miss it all.

Instead I will be shouting about homework to two children instead of one.  I will be defeatedly observing their inability to follow the simplest instruction. And I will be deeply suspicious about assurances that they have washed. I say bring it on!

But also… Bring on Bedtime!

Medical Marvels

As we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ve been intending to write for weeks now (I think this is the longest gap between posts that there’s ever been), but unfortunately life has got in the way of me writing about life.

We’ve had quite a few trips to hospital with various family members over the last few weeks, some planned and some not. Nothing too serious thankfully. I am always wary of going to A&E, and I only ever go if 111 have recommended it. Some of my reasoning is down to not wanting to waste anyone’s time, if things can be sorted another way. However, I can’t claim that it’s entirely down to community spirit. I mostly try to avoid it because I’m convinced they still remember me from a few years ago, when I was in there five times over the course of ten days.

The first time was fair enough. My youngest, aged about 4 at the time, had a febrile convulsion and needed treatment. The second time, the same child was apparently well enough after 3 days to climb up to a high cupboard (doing some pretty spectacular gymnastics along the way) and also clever enough to work out how to open the locked medicine box and take some tablets she shouldn’t have. She was fine, but at this point I began to be viewed with some understandable suspicion by the doctors at the hospital.

My resolve to never enter into the building again, petered away when my other daughter, obviously feeling left out, decided to see what would happen if she inserted a bead up her nostril. What happened was that she was delighted with herself for quite some time, until it dawned on her that getting it out again wasn’t going to be quite so easy.
So back we went, only to find that the doctor couldn’t reach it either. He advised us to come back the next day for another try, otherwise surgery would be required. Thankfully it came out the following day. I like to think the bead somehow heard me when I explained to my daughter in some detail where it would be inserted next, should she repeat her actions.

A few days later, life felt safe again and normal activities resumed. Then one day I knelt down in front of the washing machine to get the clothes out, only to discover upon standing that I was suddenly and badly bruised from my knee down to my foot.

Back I went again, this time to have an x-ray of the knee. Which leads me to one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever uttered. The radiologist asked me if there was any chance I could be pregnant. I totally misheard him and answered ‘I don’t see how, all I did was kneel down on it’.

I was naturally mortified once I realised what he was actually asking, yet he remained entirely serious and straight (some might say po) faced. In case anyone is wondering, it turned out to be ‘housemaid’s knee’ which is deeply ironic given my unceasing efforts to avoid any and all housework wherever possible.

Ever since that week, I’ve steadfastly avoided A&E whenever possible. I was pretty sure at this point that they had my mug shot up on the wall. Ok, there was the time I cut my foot badly on some glass. Our parcel delivery driver had tried to deliver something but realised we were out. He could have gone for option a) leave it somewhere near the door, option b) leave it with a neighbour, or option c) take it back with him.

He actually plumped for secret option d) force it through the top kitchen window, break my blind and let it fall, knocking a glass off the kitchen counter and smashing it on the floor. All of this unbeknownst to us, or to my bare feet when we finally got home. And of course there was the time I nearly set fire to the entire house, but that was actually my fault so the less said about that, the better.

Anyway, since then we’ve managed to avoid A&E for a really long time, and as I said, I never actually go unless told to by the powers that be. Unfortunately this month has proved to be another one of those months. In addition to an episode of cellulitis with one of my daughters, and a couple of standard hospital appointments, I went in recently with an elderly relative, on the advice of his GP. I was only allowed in with him because he’s hard of hearing and needed someone to translate (the fact that he’s hard of hearing because he simply won’t wear his damn hearing aid is neither here nor there).

And translate I did. I spent seven hours carefully translating exactly where the doctor would be putting her two fingers, and why. Loudly. And repeatedly. Further explanations had to follow, and I found myself standing in the local hospital screaming at my loved one about bowel movements, with nothing but a thin curtain to prevent our entire town knowing the literal ins and outs of his situation.

We’re hoping that this week, all we have to face in terms of illness is the tri-annual ‘end of term-itis’, symptoms of which include slamming doors, rolling eyes and regular meltdowns. Don’t worry about me calling 111 for that though, I know exactly what to do. Largely because I already called them last year and they prescribed wine, and lots of it.


Bring on Bedtime!

Going for Bronze

My teenager is embarking on her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award. She has to learn a skill, and she has chosen to learn Korean, since she’s been trying to teach herself the language lately anyway. Does this stem from a burning desire to travel the world and understand other cultures, I hear you ask? Or from a wish to challenge herself in the strongest way possible?

Well, it stems from a desire to one day meet and hopefully snog the Korean singer she fancies, which is as good a reason as any in my book. I’m not sure it’s quite what the Duke of Edinburgh had in mind when setting up this scheme but you never know, he may have approved.

She also has to do volunteer work. I had to smile at that, because the closest she’s come to volunteering so far is angrily muttering ‘why do I have to do EVERYTHING?’ under her breath when asked to come and collect her own towel from the bathroom floor and hang it back on the hook. Still, she’s off to a flying start helping a young girl with her reading, and according to the child’s mother she has shown amazing organisational skills, and a wonderful level of patience and concern. The fact that she came home afterwards and kicked her sister in the bum because she was ‘breathing too loudly’ is neither here nor there.

The third part of the scheme is physical activity and she has opted to go running with a friend. She’s done pretty well so far. They ran for 30 minutes and at the end of it, her friend was cool and calm and had successfully managed to remain a normal colour. Unlike my daughter who, after 15 seconds of gentle warm up, had turned a vibrant shade of lobster. Which is my fault because she inherited that from me. I can’t help but feel a bit impressed with myself that I managed to annoy her from several miles away without even the use of a phone to help.

The final thing they have to do is an overnight camping expedition, learning how to set up a tent, use a compass, fend for themselves etc. I had lots of questions about the trip after my daughter attended the meeting about it. When was it? Where would they be walking? Would they have to provide the tent? How much will it cost?

She couldn’t tell me anything about any of that. I asked her if she remembered ANYTHING important from the meeting and her eyes widened excitedly as she recalled something vital to her, which turned out to be ‘we get to bring super noodles’.

In other news, my youngest is counting down the days until the end of primary school. The government has cancelled the SATS, the exams they take in year 6, so she has had her work cut out to find something else to moan about. She’ll do it though, I have every faith in her.

But she won’t be moaning for long because from Monday she can hug her friends again! And people can go to each other’s houses again! Which means I might have to start cleaning properly again! Damn. Someone pass me the hoover. Or the wine, whichever’s closest.

Bring on Bedtime!

The difference a year makes

The last time I went out of the house to work was in late February last year. It came after a long period of working from home, so I was a little nervous to be heading back out into the world. My youngest gave me the following stirring pep talk:

‘Don’t worry Mummy, the absolute worst that can happen is you forget literally everything you know about work and get fired, or you might accidentally set fire to the building. But both of those are really unlikely so just remember you are safe and loved’.

With those words of wisdom ringing in my ears I set off, together with the unexpected new fear that I might be spotted on the news later that day in front of a burning building. I did a couple of weeks and then that was that. The famous Woody Allen quote ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans’ has never seemed more apt.

And we’ve all quickly got used to a new way of living over the last year. I’m not sure much would surprise us anymore. If they announced that from now on before entering a supermarket, you had to first strip naked and stand under a shower of disinfectant at the entrance, we’d all pack a shower cap along with our mask and gel and ask whether towels were provided.

But now we get to see family again! It’s been wonderful, and who knew the level of joy that could be experienced from sitting in a garden wearing thirty-five layers of clothing and listening to small people moan about how freezing they are? All my fault of course. If only I had tried more than ninety-seven times to get them to bring a coat, instead of allowing them to fall about laughing, point at the sight of the sun in the sky and announce it was tropical outside. Why didn’t I realise when they were calling me old and saying I worried too much, that they were secretly hoping I’d bring a spare jumper or two?

That said, it was still wonderful just to be able to spend the day with the people we love. And something that at the moment we definitely aren’t taking for granted, because a much-loved family member died recently. He’d been shielding for over a year and we hadn’t seen him except over FaceTime, so for us, it’s taking a bit of time for the news to sink in. He was funny and kind, incredibly strong emotionally and a big tease as well. And even using the word ‘was’ to describe him feels wrong. I won’t say more than that, except that he will be deeply missed by so many people, and I wish that we had known at the end of 2019 that we were hugging him for the last time, but I’m also very glad that we had no idea.

As a stark reminder of how life goes on, we’ve been making plans for the future. We’re really lucky that my youngest has been offered a place in September for her first choice of secondary school, so we are thinking ahead about induction days and uniforms and the last day of primary school. It’s all very exciting for her, and she’s happy that after three years she will be back at the same school as her older sister.

We think her older sister is pleased too, but it’s hard to tell these days, because not only is she fourteen, she’s exceptionally good at being fourteen. She hasn’t seen a morning since the schools broke up for Easter. Occasionally we think we catch a glimpse of something human-shaped coming out of her room, but by the time our eyes have adjusted to the sight, and our brains to the shock, she has got her food and is back in her room, the door firmly slammed, and we can never be fully sure it happened.

We’ve taken to switching off the Wi-Fi every now and then, just so we can double-check she’s still alive. It’s reassuring to discover that yes, she is still with us, but equally harrowing because we have basically poked the beast and then have to face the consequences. It’s a shame she spends so much time in her room these days because honestly, I had no idea how clever teenagers were until we had one. They literally know everything! More than both parents and all their teachers put together, they have a full and complete understanding of how the world works.

What a shame that instead of getting out there and teaching world leaders a thing or two, they opt to use their higher intelligence to heap scorn on their parents’ very existence, whilst simultaneously asking for money. What she isn’t quite clever enough to realise though is that there will never be any spare money, because of the Catch-22 situation that requires mothers of all teenagers to spend it all on wine.

Bring on Bedtime!