Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Life Out of Pyjamas

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s turning into a busy spring. Which means I am having to spend distressingly long periods of time actually dressed in real clothes and not loafing in ratty – but oh, so comfortable – attire. On reflection, sadly many of my friends might not be able to tell the difference.

I don’t really like clothes shopping; even without Nos.1 and 2 daughters in tow I find it a terrible faff - and I have lived through communal changing rooms, which might explain a lot. But this week I helped out at a ‘Boden’ party. For those who have never heard of this before, the fashion retailers Boden will send racks and racks of their latest lines and a bulk email telling their past customers where they can feel the quality at a local party and not just look in the catalogue. One gets a commission on any sale, which in our case is given to our local school. I fancied some new trousers, good cause and all that. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with a womanly rear (most of my childhood was spent being asked to get off someone’s lap as my bony bum was cutting off their circulation) and so for me if it fits the waist it’ll be bagging lower down and Boden, like most, irritatingly cut for the 99% that have a posterior. But I did splurge on two tops. One is out of stock, the other unavailable for 9 weeks. I can pick ‘em. 

The best thing about the Boden party is that I am always on teas, cakes and washing up; where I can give full vent to long abandoned W I fantasies. Next time I may even wear a pinny and take some knitting. I also crochet and embroider, get me! Last week I made a cat’s tail for No.1’s ballet show – Kirstie Allsop would be so proud.

There will be more costumes soon. No.1’s class is presenting ‘Dick Whittington’ and I am turning up to occasionally give a little light direction. No.1 is playing the title role, which came as a bit of a surprise as I was not holding a gun to her teacher’s head when it was cast. I would like to think it’s the natural talent showing through, however I put it down more to the fact that No.1 is virtually embarrassment proof, unlike her mother, and after hearing that ‘Dick’ has to get married to ‘Alice’, she was the only one who volunteered for the job. Bless her heart; she’s doing me proud, as are they all. Fingers crossed for the perf.

Fingers also crossed for Harry’s biography. It is now back from the printers and astoundingly on the shelf (there is one embarrassing typo – if you spot it you get a prize, that of being smug). More astoundingly it will soon be serialised in the Daily Mail. It will be appearing in the form of adapted excerpts, which should make for interesting reading – for you and me both.

If that wasn’t enough ‘One Cool Cat’ is being featured in this month’s Junior Magazine. If things go on like this I may have to stop spouting and start tweeting. Though I don’t think I could cope with reaffirming my existence on an hourly basis, it’s bad enough getting dressed.

You know, I really should think about changing the title of this blog. Possible forthcoming publicity has reminded me of a favoured journalists’ question. “What three words describe you?”

 “Lives in Pyjamas”


Toodle pip, as we say in the WI…

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It was 50 years ago today…..

…When Steptoe and Son first rode onto our screens. They did so in ‘The Offer’, an episode of Galton and Simpson’s Comedy Playhouse, broadcast on January 5th 1962.

The show had been rehearsed the week before and was recorded on the 4th. During the rehearsal week Tom Sloan, Head of BBC Light Entertainment, had been so impressed he was already pushing for the Steptoes to have their own series. After it went out, the Public agreed with him and a few weeks later Harry and Wilfrid Brambell signed up for 5 further episode that, alongside a repeat of ‘The Offer’, made up the first series.  

It was an instant hit and immediately repeated. By late summer, Harry and Wilf were household names and the Steptoes went on to top the ratings for the next 12 years.

2012 also sees another anniversary, in March it will be 30 years since Harry died.

If only I had got my act together in time and come up with some way of marking these occasions. “Well, (she brightly informs, smugly crossing to shiny oven) here’s one I prepared earlier…”

Having finished the first draft of Harry’s biography last spring, taken the summer to gird the loins and sent it out in the Autumn I can now report that the book what I wrote,  Harry H. Corbett – The Front Legs of the Cow will be published by the History Press this March.

Happy New Year…

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back to life… Back to reality…

What ho troops

And where have you been, slacker? I hear you cry.

It never fails to amaze me how the calendar fills up and the weeks speed by and yet nothing concrete is left at the end. Well, of course that’s not entirely true. Running repairs to the abode do, in fact, include a new piece of concrete. Laid by the Better Half, it makes an easier run out for the ever-increasing number of council wheelie bins. After being shown – repeatedly - I can attest to the incredibly silky smooth action now afforded to the bin wheels.

He’s out there again… either he’s modifying it into a slipway to accommodate a fortnightly ‘bottle over the bows’ launching ceremony or he’s jumping up and down on it and grunting in continued satisfaction at the lack of cracks. I’m considering getting out the old tap shoes and seeing if it can withstand a double time step… I doubt my back can take a triple.

I managed to throw it out again this summer – another reason for being so long absent. I was not lumber jacking, nor crab fishing off Alaska, nor rehearsing a rhythmic gymnastic display…No, I put it out buying shoes… Kids shoes.

At the beginning of the school holidays I smugly bought everything we’d need for the September return - apart from the shoes. By the time the break was drawing to a close we had to gird our loins for the awful event. Joined by the in-laws, who were visiting for a month, we queued and, twelve pairs later, I stooped to pick up a dropped toy at precisely the wrong angle – Ping! By the time we were back home I was listing to port - oh bum!

Being trapped on the sofa couldn’t have happened during the world cup, could it? (Ah, how quickly all of that has been eroded from the memory - better luck next time, lads.) The kids were given instructions to rat out Mummy every time she made a move to get up and sidle off to the computer and away from Peppa Pig. Mummy had to get straight again; Mummy was booked in as a ‘disease of the week’ on Holby City where I would be playing a woman with terminal ovarian cancer.

Holby casts out of the same stable as Eastenders, and potential thesps share a waiting room. It’s always fun to glance around the room at other hopefuls and see what you’re supposed to look like. I thought one might have got it a tad wrong, all low d├ęcolletage and high hem. Not what instantly came to mind through the script. Then the penny dropped. She was up for Albert Square and, as she sashayed off down the hall to meet the director, was replaced by two others competing in the hooker look-alike contest. Those poor women must have been up at dawn to slap it all on. But, if you want the job… As I type the lucky winner is probably being told to “git aht o my pub!”

Needless to say, playing someone terminal (never the best of fun) means I didn’t have to spend an hour ‘silk-pursing’ in the make up chair. It was flatten down the Barnet, pale up the face, rouge the eye bags and away you go. And I didn’t have to worry about a squiffy spine; I spent most of the action in the hospital bed.

They’re a nice bunch on Holby and they work them hard. Episodes 9 and 10 were shooting in one location, 11 and 12 in another, as, at the same time, episode 8 was finishing up. Regular cast have to shuttle between sets and storylines. 11 hour days, not including travelling and prep time, so not a lot of the day left for learning lines or living life. I doff the cap to those surfing such a tight schedule while maintaining not only a welcoming outlook but also credible performances. (You’ll be able to judge my own perf around Christmas time, when the episode is due to air.)

With brilliant timing, I had heard about the Holby audition as we returned from the travel agent, where we had just booked a few days in Disneyland Paris. Getting the job meant shifting the dates into term time. An action the Daily Mail assures would see me sent straight to jail. But the only comment from the Headmistress was “Have a lovely time.” – Stone me!

A few years ago our first foray into Mickeyland saw us catch the Eurostar and stay off campus, resulting in twice daily bun fights to get on the shuttle buses connecting to the satellite hotels. This time I was determined to stay in-park and, avoiding a set time to leave, the Better Half was determined to drive.

Arriving at the Chunnel to an unmanned booth I freaked. There, on the screen was his name and a set of instructions..

“But, but, OhmiGod - How do they know it’s You?!?” I panicked, looking skyward for the silent surveillance helicopter.
“It’s got number plate recognition.” He explained, in his voice for the bewildered.

Shame, I thought (hastily rearranging my face into the bored nonchalance of the seasoned continental traveller for the benefit of CCTV) – I would have preferred the chopper. Though fantasies of Jason Bourne had their work cut out competing with the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid:

Under the sea.. Shoo wal oo wee
Under the sea… Shoo wal oo wee
Jason that chopper
Will come a cropper
Take it from me….
While you uncover all de truth
I’ll still be marvelling at dis booth
Bombs you’ll be blowing
While we be going
Under the Sea

Several hours and many, many Disney songs later, we pulled into a cheap stopover hotel east of Paris. You know the type – wipe down room and shower pod. The wipe down came in handy as we awoke in the night to the merry sound of chunder spattering from a height onto the lino. No. 1 was proving her aversion to travel once again but rallied at the sight of Mecca and the Princesses. All of whom we had to meet and be photographed with.

Now that’s a tough gig. Smiling, posing, chatting and waving as the Royal wranglers ferry another goggle eyed child from the never-ending line for their Kodak moment. Every half hour or so another big-frocked beauty takes to the stage while the original Princess retreats to probably massage their jaw muscles, snort a stiff one and swear copiously.

Three days later, Princessed out, we crawled to the car and began the long drive home – next time Disney Hotel AND the Eurostar!

Back to mists, mellow fruitfulness and reality. Reality TV that is – tis the season of Strictly Ice X Factor!

Go Wagner… my cup runneth over.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Friday’s Flying Fickle Finger of Fate

There is a particular sound that I have come to know and dread.

That awful restrained calling of your name. Pitched precisely to let you know that although something dreadful has happened either the caller doesn’t want you to panic, as they are not screaming uncontrollably, or it means they are too shocked to shout with full gusto.
Either reason, naturally, makes me panic more – present fears and all that.

The caller in question was the Better Half. I heard his cries coming through the study window from the veg patch where he had taken No. 2 daughter and Gargantuan Puppy.

As I raced up the path to the expected scene of carnage, traitorous thoughts raced through the noggin. An injury to the dog would be preferred, one to the Better Half acceptable but one to No. 2 would have been unforgivable.

So it came as a relief, possibly to both of us as he knows my views on lacerations to the children, that I discovered the BH holding out a pair of garden shears for my inspection with the wonderful words, “I think I’ve done something to my finger.” On the end of the blades sat two centimetres of neatly severed finger pad. His powers of deduction are undiminished.

Right-ho… to A & E then.

Dog in house, towels round remnants of bleeding finger, No.2 in car, BH in car, BH dead white, BH out of car, BH returns with bowl to save upchucking on car mats, BH obviously not all there, house locked, severed finger pad washed and now nestled in pot of ice. Off we go.

20 minute drive to hospital. BH has lost all colour in lips and looking a tad glazed at continued gushing of the blood from his mangled digit. I pull over. Hmmm… need something to shove on wound to stop red Niagara. Fortunately have just the right shaped flap of skin on ice. Unfortunately, no longer right shape. Now frozen flap curled like a salted slug. Only one way of thawing it out… Mmm…a tasty treat.
Love is…sucking the ice off your beloved’s fat pad.

Note to self – do not chew or swallow.

Pad slapped back on, pressure applied, blood diminishing, car in gear.

With encouragement from No.2 in back, “Faster Mummy, Faster!” reach hospital. Drop off BH by door, park, grab kid, leg it for the waiting room.

Where the wait was surprisingly short. It’s hard to tell of course, our watches were at home and prudently there are no clocks in the waiting room for you to measure your irritation at the passing time, but in short order we were ushered into a treatment room. The injury to the finger was not their concern. The BH’s alarming pallor was. Still white as a sheet, it would have been rather bad form to have him slump in a heap and cosh his head.

With the BH now reclining, and blood flow resuming to his brain, Katie, the lovely nurse, peeled off the flap, washed and reattached as the BH related how he had managed to do it.

The blades of the shears were bent. He had been trying to straighten them. So, holding them apart by an open blade he had smacked the handle end down on the raised wooden board of the veg bed. The open halves had snapped shut, of course, and…

“I was only holding it lightly”, he said, “I didn’t curl my fingers round the blade, I could have lost one. That would be stupid.” No, no, of course not. THAT would be stupid.

By the time he’d finished so had Katie. The dressings and strapping meant that the BH was permanently ‘flicking the bird’. Oh how we laughed. We laughed again when I sadistically pointed out that it had been at least ten years since his last tetanus. Katie disappeared to get the dose.

With impressive bandage, arm aching from the injection and instructions to return on Monday we were released. I drove to MacDonald’s – just time for some much-needed sugar before we had to pick up No. 1 daughter from school. As I reflected on what might have been, one of the staff gave No. 2 a couple of balloons. So fingerprints lost – 1, Balloons gained – 2. We were up on the day.

No. 1 was annoyed at missing the action. On Monday we returned to the hospital with orders to photograph the gruesome bits for her. As our nurse was not to the lovely Katie but a woman emanating all the sympathy of a deranged Sergeant Major, I thought there would be plenty of photo ops.

Wrong, she removed the outer wrappings of the mummified finger but left the rest in place and retreated to fetch the doctor.

“So, you tried to separate dogs then?” the doctor said as he inspected the damage.
“Err, no, garden shears.”
“Ah, right. So after the shears you separated the dogs.”

Who the mystery dog-separating hero was we shall never know, as we were distracted by the doctor saying, “Well, as soon as the end falls off you’ll be fine.”

Words that, in any circumstances, win the award for ‘least likely to offer comfort.’

When it drops off, perhaps I’ll re-freeze it. Now that I have sampled the forbidden fruit you never know when the urge might strike again. Mwah ha ha ha.

Monday, April 26, 2010

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

Which is just as well, it’s been a busy time round by ’ere.

Efforts in the veg patch are seeing results. Small seeds have sprouted, and will soon bear fruit. The Better Half is so encouraged he gives reports almost hourly. Still it’s a nice change to the hourly reports on the latest election poll. The beloved has dug a new bed for the sweetcorn and is contemplating another to accommodate yet more varieties. His healthy eating parents, who have been with us for a visit, have been egging him on.

The in-laws have also suggested planting vines and getting chickens - a good combination, as I’ll need a drink after keeping the gargantuan puppy and killer cats away from a coop. I can’t see it happening. Personally, I’m starting to think we’ve bitten off more than we can chew – especially when it comes to the row upon row of rocket. All the cultivating makes it hard to get inside to the computer. Sometimes I feel like running to the study, touching a frenzied hand to the keyboard and claiming sanctuary.

The recent fine weather means the study window is now open for business and bugs. It is also open to the cats. I regularly have to break the train of thought to raise the blind and let them in, and then wait until they have settled down on the desk. This means putting up with having cat snot wiped down the knuckles every time I reach for the mouse. But hey, it’s preferable to having them practise their feline burlesque moves in front of the screen or sitting behind me in the chair, never knowing when they will choose to sharpen their claws, or put up with the yowling if I kick them out.

April also coincides with our most frenetic celebration season outside of Christmas. In the same thirty-day period we have Easter, my brother’s birthday, my birthday, the Better Half’s and my wedding anniversary, No.1 daughter’s birthday and No. 2 daughter’s birthday.

There are 12 days between the last two events – I predict many a joint party. Culminating on April 26th 2025, a Saturday falling in between No1’s 21st and No2’s 18th. Gawd help us. Exactly fifteen years to go. I’d like to point out that working out the date is as far as I’ve got – I haven’t booked a hotel or marquee, you understand, but I have secretly imagined the evening.

If I’m spared, and of course invited and not just paying for it, I know I’ll be spending the entire time convincing their father that he really doesn’t need to go up to either of their rooms to check on what they’re doing. If I’m not spared I shall leave instructions in my will for the girls to not go upstairs at all when he’s around and continue to pull the wool over his eyes…..

The most recent joint party was of the bouncy castle persuasion (though that would probably still be a hit in 2025.) It wasn’t meant to be joint, but No.2 is now of the age when suddenly any party or cake has turned into “My”.

Ah the making of the cakes, the one time of the year when I can be assured of an outlet for both creative juices and smug, competitive mummyness.

No.1, being queer for all things Ariel, the Little Mermaid, had her order in early.
No.2, being still catholic in her taste, got a last minute Mickey Mouse.

They teach a good life lesson, kid’s parties. No. 1 is learning that it’s best to make sure the going up was worth the coming down. Her post party blues have been short lived. Exacerbated by the departure of her grandparents on one hand and soothed by new strumming on the other. She was given an outstandingly pink ukulele and has become quite attached; making sure it is in reach on the bed when she goes to sleep.

Unfortunately I too have become attached. I have never laid hands on one before but after tuning it for her, found it very difficult to give back. It just makes you smile. When I contemplated creeping into her room during the wee small to cop a feel of its strings I knew I had a problem. I may have to get my own.

Being officially tone deaf, the Better Half is raising a quizzical eyebrow at this latest infatuation. Before I rush out to get all the gear and no idea I should remember other failed ambitions – The dusty foreign language CDs, the yellowing London Marathon application forms, the rusting ice skates, twice worn ski boots and slack strung tennis racquet. In the end it will probably be a race to see whose interest wanes first, hers or mine…

But who knows. Once Spring has turned to Summer if I’m still sneaking a peak at online ukulele lessons then it might not just be a dream on the horizon.

It might be the start of something small.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

My gast has been flabbered.

A few days ago the phone went. The Better Half answered, screamed and rushed for the remote. Jumping from foot to foot, while making strangled “ack ack” sounds, he flicked through the channels leaving me in stunned silence as to what earth shattering event could be taking place. So, you can imagine my confusion when the TV finally rested on the CBeebies channel. What bomb could they possibly be dropping to cause such an outburst?

Then, a nanosecond before my jaw hit the floor, I got it. The presenter was just finishing up reading ‘Dragon’s Dinner’.

I had no idea it was going to be on – I would have been paused hawk like over the record button had I known. Nor did the publishers, who are sending missives to Auntie Beeb to get a copy as we speak.

Now, I’ve been on telly enough to not hide behind the sofa anymore but this was different. This was the book what I wrote, up there on CBeebies – if it can make it there…

This feeling of wonderment tinged, if I’m honest, with a side order of smugness lasted until yesterday morning when it was topped by the post arriving.

Egmont have sent the mock up of my next picture book ‘One Cool Cat’. This is a ‘floppy’ version with finalised layout and illustrations that will become the blueprint for the hardback edition. It is also a version to take to Book Fairs and other publishing houses in the hopes of securing foreign deals.

There has been much excitement from Egmont on the style of the cover, and now I see why. It is most unusual, and very, very cool. David Roberts, the illustrator, was worth the wait. He has created a matt black cover with the cool white cat lounging between the gloss black words of the title. It would not look out of place in Darth Vader’s Book of Bedtime Stories. Throughout the illustrations David has managed to out do my imagination. I absolutely love it.

You can see some of David’s illustrations on my shiny new website, the launch of which was another first this week– remember to wipe your feet on the way in the builders have only just left.

Such an outstanding purple patch makes me wonder what’s around the corner waiting to balance it out. To keep things on an even keel, as soon as British Summertime officially hove into view I developed a chest infection and threw my back out. When I finish typing this and stand up, the 90 degree angle between torso and thighs will be maintained. But on this particularly Good Friday, as I crawl towards the Benylin, I’ll still be smiling.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Well… I think ‘It’ has finally happened. Maybe… Perhaps… Oh, Please… whisper it who dares but in this small corner of the planet …spring has arrived.

Though I had my suspicions... (you all know the signs, the long since veiled yellow globe is hanging slightly higher in sky of late - meaning I can once again put off cleaning the inside of car windscreen till next winter - and green shoots have now sluggishly emerged from their beds like a teenager before Sunday lunch)…

The arrival of Spring was confirmed for me by the sound of the old faithful lawnmower hacking and cursing into life.

The lawnmower was hacking. The Better Half was doing the cursing. In times gone by it would have been me out there taking care of the large green blobs in the garden – lawns, hedges - but times roll on and so does job description. I am now Officer of Morale and Prettifying and he is in charge of everything else. All that jolly useful stuff in life that I secretly hope my kids will suck in to their brains from either him or the ether, coz they won’t be getting it from me… As prettifying also covers the actual plants in the garden I’m pouring over the RHS handbook hoping some of it goes in.

Yet again I wish I could rewind time to when my mother was trying to teach me the difference between a newly sprouted rare, expensive and delicate plant or a weed. There are many things I would tell my younger self.. a lot of which would contain the words… “it’s just not a good look”.. but on the whole I would take the opportunity to smack me round the back of the head and scream “Pay Attention ya dummy, she’s giving ya pearls!”

Ah, Spring…. full of new possibilities and eternal hope. Hope that the antiquated gardening equipment will survive another season. The lawnmower is hanging on in there. For years it has only had to cope with the edges the ride-on mower couldn't reach. But now it is facing a season of double bubble, as our ride-on is terminal. It is getting beyond repair and embarrassing the snails who can overtake it.

The Better Half was hoping to replace it with the mother of all garden tractors. So with a spring in his step he took me to the John Deere showroom. There, in the corner, hulked a green and yellow behemoth large enough to take a rear mounted swing arm with finger flail to attack the hedges with. A snip at 16 grand. The Better Half was in love. I was in shock, wondering where we would site the new barn needed to house the thing. Luckily common sense and the advice of the salesman, God bless him, prevailed. The BH was steered in the direction of a more conventional ride on that even I could manage, but not before asking if this meant he could now get a quad bike? Deary, deary me…

I’ve only myself to blame, he is a toy boy after all and being under 35 still in adolescence, as opposed to having flipped overnight into mid life crisis. The difference being I am more likely to come home to find a JCB sitting on the drive than I am a low slung sports car complete with low slung floozy – if that ever happens I hope the floozy knows how to garden, we’ll be quids in!

All of the Better Half’s horticultural enthusiasm stems from last year’s foray into ‘grow your own’. Success with beans and carrots has seen us transformed into Tom and Barbara Good. Which over the last few weeks has meant building a huge raised bed and repairing the greenhouse. (The latter coming as a bit of a shock to the cats used to diving through the broken panes to escape the Gargantuan Puppy - Seeing kitty rebound off the newly installed glass is a memory I shall guiltily treasure.) It also means all windowsills are now covered in seed trays and shouts of “It’s sprouted” can often be heard.

To make up for the lack of quad bike I have bought the BH a Japanese Gardening Trowel or Hori Hori knife. If Crocodile Dundee was to emerge from the herbaceous border this would be what he was holding when he said “Now that’s a trowel.” Armed with this new commando trowel BH has set about the bramble roots with fresh faced joy.

I’ve have been fresh faced myself of late. Spring means it’s time to update Spotlight, the actors' directory. All over the land thesps are having new photos taken in time for the deadline. I am no exception. Every few years one goes through the ritual to let casting directors know what they’d be getting. Of course, I have another reason for new photos – I have a new agent, and a new voice agent to boot.

All of the above, including new agent courtships, takes time. So forgive my absence from the blog of late but life got in the way…

It has a habit of doing that and if you go outside and inhale amidst the sea of daffodils you can smell it in the air…. Hold on tight, we’re going round again.