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.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ode To The Better

Shall I compare thee to a Toyota?
Thou art as wild and as unstoppable.
The pedal of thy love is stuck down fast
To the eternal floor mat of my heart.
I love thy form that never leaves my side.
(So I can’t buy a Valentine’s Day card
Nay, not even when we stop for petrol.)
Methinks our love shall never be recalled,
For when thy parts and warranty have run
There shall be no trade in, no part exchange.
Thou repairs me, thou sorts out all my rust
And will, until I crumble into dust.

So long as wheels can turn, or this downloads,
So long I hope to see you on the roads.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Morlock Tugging

During the run up to my wedding the reception hotel rang to inform that Everton FC had booked out all the remaining non wedding guest rooms.

The thought of sharing one’s nuptials with a squad of premiership footballers did raise the eyebrow of apprehension. But, as it turned out, they were less of a disturbance than a narcolepsy convention. Filing off the team bus, they were chaperoned to their rooms by the trainers and never heard from again. Unlike said trainers who, once their wards were safely tucked up, charmingly joined in the revelries with the rest of the adults until the wee hours.

As we departed the next day, we found the team had tied a pair of Bride and Groom boxing gloves to our car. Bless. And, in view of the week’s hottest story, how apt.

They are a strange breed, footballers. Taken from the herd while young, their God given talent see them apprenticed to a club where a Mother Manager Superior rules any postulants and novices without question. Living such cloistered lives it is hardly surprising they gain the same reputation as ex convent girls when finally let off the leash to get married.

I met one once. I was trapped in a location hotel by snow; the hotel was also the home of that city’s most recent signing. He remains the most desperately bored person I have ever met outside of the cast of ‘The Mousetrap’

Their huge salaries mean they do not have the same worries as the rest of us hunter-gatherers and can fill their free hours with pleasure alone, so it is not particularly newsworthy that one has been caught with his pants down… it would be news if they could find one with them up.

As the pants down mentality seems to be endemic, why Mr. Terry’s suitability as a role model has been called into question is beyond me. The saucy 2009 Dad of the Year would appear to be perfectly suited to the job. He’s meant to score, isn’t he? And why should there be such a furore over team-mates sharing? After all, they are happy to share a bath.

The reports of the ex captain’s financial dealings have also seen squawking over the honesty of the game. If they wanted to be honest why not exchange panties instead of pennants before kick off, and tattoo barcodes instead of loved ones, it would be so much easier when selling themselves to the highest bidder.

But what is to be done? Bromide in the Lucozade? Reverse engineered ‘gay cure therapy’? Ah.. perhaps not. They wouldn’t be caught dead in the away kit. No, that’s as daft as saying ‘don’t pay them so much.’

Then there is the question of why?

‘Why did he do it?’ - Obvious really.

‘Why did she do it?’ - Probably obvious, but I expect to hear reports that she is, in fact, in the pay of world cup rivals who are using new tactics to unman the national side.

‘Why has it been reported so avidly?’ - Well it’s a World Cup year. So that means digging out as many early excuses as possible for when our 110%ers come home defeated after the traditional penalty shoot out. Besides, Wag reporting was very much in vogue at the last shindig, it sells, so it is only to be expected that journalists should seek to plough such a well-sowed furrow.

And finally ‘Why should we care?’ It is just a game about kicking a bag of wind – and so is football.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Normal Service Resumed

Ahh… The Holidays are now but a faded memory; they melted with the snow – the only proof they were here the continuing presence of presents I haven’t found a home for yet.

I am back working on Harry’s biography. Spending any free hours trawling through memories and press cuttings. Which explains my absence from the blog and why I’m back. One of the cuttings made me pause for thought…

In 1965 the fourth series of Steptoe went to the top of the TV ratings. Milton Shulman, the Evening Standard’s drama critic, wrote:

‘The unbelievable had happened. Monday’s episode of Coronation Street had not only been dislodged from its position as one of the most popular programmes of the week, but it was nowhere to be found in the Top Twenty…Could this mean that the TV soap opera, with its continuing characters forever blowing bubbles of petty, domestic strife has finally exhausted the patience and tolerance of its followers. One can only fervently hope so. Of course the giant killers who have brought about this much needed revelation of what the British public actually prefers in TV – as opposed to what they watch out of sheer inertia – are those unique rag-and-bone men, Steptoe and Son…. Just why the erratic doings of a dirty old man and his uneducated son should make the nation catch its breath with laughter is something that will long be argued about by analysts of humour. Almost devoid of the conventional gags and slapstick situations that dominate most TV comedy, these scripts by Galton and Simpson derive their appeal out of a meticulously observed and naturally plotted observation of character. Since the parent – child relationship is one that we all suffer or enjoy by turns, we can get some vicarious delight watching the alternating spasms of love-hate that grip 38-year-old Harold Steptoe as he tries to assert his independence of his wheedling, possessive, cunning crocodile of a father….It is indeed this endearing reflection of life – true enough to make us sigh as well as laugh – that, I believe, accounts for Steptoe’s phenomenal hold on the affection of the nation. And of course, the warm, sure, uninhibited, outrageous comic performances of Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell.’

It made me wonder what Milt would have made of today’s inertia offerings. If he was already cracking under the strain of Corrie in ’65, in his later years I expect his family kept him well away from Big Brother – it could have hastened his end.

And although, in his time, Harry tackled every aspect of show business from Shakespeare to summer season (ok, he wouldn’t have done Holiday on Ice or water ballet), he would have drawn the line at Celebrity/reality shows.

That is not to say he couldn’t have lasted the course. During the war he jumped ship in Australia and worked in the red light district before handing himself in to serve his time in clink, all excellent training for dealing with any cage fighter or closure seeking pneumatic model.

But as Harry repeatedly turned down the genteel ‘This is Your Life’ for fear of intrusion into his privacy, I can’t see him wilfully taking part in the reality genre. I can see him running for the hills in the opposite direction.

Mind you I’m in no place to comment on current reality television, I would have to actually watch it to earn that right. Visiting memory lane means that I rarely have time to watch any television and BB would not be at the top of the list.

Last weekend I did surface long enough to see Murray, the paranoid android, crack a smile in his defeat to Federer at the Australian Open; see enough of the premiership football to notice that Sky was showing matches in 3D (which makes me fear the return of the Long Ball will be encouraged as it would prove a better spectacle for the medium) and catch Ski Sunday’s highlights from Schladming. (Not long now before we see Chemmy Alcott going in the Olympics – though thanks to the British Ski and Snowboard Federation being on the skids, the collection box strapped to her ski poles may slow her down a bit.)

Ah…All that gives the erroneous impression that for me, as for so many others, sport is a religion. I have to say that only the tennis was my choice. The better half chose the football - the skiing was mutual.

Besides, most of the time the telly is tuned to the kids channels. Funnily enough sport is the one thing the sprogs will happily tolerate in lieu of Mickey Mouse, maybe because it is the ultimate in reality television.

Hmmm… Now if one could combine reality TV, sports and religion into one programme you could have a winner. Throw in some well built girls and it could go top of the ratings.

We present “Big Sister” –

Follow rugby playing nuns, The Sisters of Perpetual Conversion, as they take a break from ministering to fallen Hookers to compete for a professional contract with top Premiership team the Saints.

To vote for Sister Agnes call 0870 000 001
For Sister Derrick call……

You wait; it’ll be TV gold.

Monday, January 11, 2010

White Out

One day left until school starts. Spend day sewing name labels into bigger uniform. Tomorrow, will finally be able to get back to work on book. Tomorrow, will no longer be Officer of Morale. Tomorrow, will not have phone call/ shower/ pee interrupted.

School. Hooray. Switch on comp - power cut.
Local overhead line fault, will fix soon. Watched Electricity Company’s helicopter buzz low over house looking for ‘soon fixed’ local overhead line fault.

Used to power cuts out in sticks. Once off for three days over Christmas with all electric cooker and open fire that smoked. If wind in wrong direction, smoke so bad had to keep all doors and windows open, pointless really.
That Christmas cooked turkey in one neighbour’s oven and borrowed small generator from another. Elderly relatives had to choose between cup of tea or telly – Eastenders won.

Now have LPG cooker and wood burning stove. Feel very smug making cup of tea as helicopter buzzes off.
Phone goes – school’s got power cut too - come pick up sprog. After agreeing realise should have said out of county.
Get sprog. During lunch power comes back on.
Heavy snow is predicted so go to churchyard a day early to swap out Christmas wreaths and flowers.

It has dumped in the night. School is closed. No. 1 daughter celebrates.
Build snowman, middle section of snowman too large – looks pregnant.
Pack away decorations. Missing some baubles. Know I will find them now boxes back in attic.

Had new cordless pc keyboard and mouse from better half for Christmas. He rigs them up. New keyboard has many, many new function buttons encased in plastic. Decide to leave plastic on till I know what they are. Mouse excessively fast with intermittent double click. I cannot control it. New mouse is possessed. Wonder if I should call Vatican for exorcist.

Pregnant snowman starting to lean back and to the left. Have christened him Oliver Stone. Better half straightens Oliver then shows me how to reconfigure new possessed mouse – cancel call to Vatican having been assured new settings will only take moments to get used to. Plastic still on new function buttons. Should read manual.

No.1 demanding to go sledging, oblige. No. 2 non-committal. Gargantuan puppy and better half straining at leash. Better half stands on sled to surf downhill. Face plants and is attacked by gargantuan puppy.

Decide not to inform better half he overcompensated on Oliver, the pregnant snowman. Oliver now starting to lean forward dramatically. Looks like he has ignored Government pregnant safety warnings and has been at the gin.

More snow.
School still closed. No.1 has had 2hrs education this week. No doubt too far behind now to ever catch up. Imagine her failing all future exams, no place at college, no university. Will only be able to get job over salting fries or with investment bank.

News says entire country shut. All schools closed – ha! She’s back in the game.

Better half takes clapped out old Land Rover to shops to get food for friends coming with their 2 girls for much anticipated but now doubtful sleepover.
News has also reported dairy farmers having to pour away milk – resulting in immediate ‘panic buying’. Shelves empty. Those with milk now ‘smug buying’ last of bread.

Go sledging again. Takes 25 minutes to get them wrapped up and 15 minutes to get to top of hill
No.2 has to be dragged up. We last 10 minutes. Gargantuan Puppy has to be dragged back.

Mouse still possessed. Plastic still on. Manual lost but find missing baubles.

Friends not coming. Can’t get car out of road. During phone call can hear wailing from their disappointed girls in background, will soon be matched by No. 1. Get in clapped out old Land Rover and go to them. Roads whited out.

Keep wary eye on fat snow falling outside windows as now contented sprogs eye up friends Christmas toys, open a book on how long No. 1 will wait before asking for duplicates. No. 2 not concerned. Too busy throwing herself down their stairs.

During blizzard, go for walk round nearby park. Watch local youfs impressing each other by walking out on frozen pond. While not wishing to be extra in remake of ‘Omen II’, part of me wants to see them up to groin in icy water. Snow getting worse – decide to go home to guarantee of own toothbrush and clean pants.

Mouse still possessed. Better half puts back old mouse with minimal pouting.

Oliver the pregnant snowman is now kowtowing to setting sun.


News informs 8 inches of snow expected.

School informs closed again tomorrow.

I am just going outside and may be sometime.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Where did that decade go?

It only seems five minutes since the millennium was going to take out every computer on the planet…
Ten years ago I was on a beach in Lanzarote - toasting in 2000 by the glow of a burning surfboard… hang ten dudes.

Not my most memorable New Year - that goes to the time I was doing ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ in the West End, Darlings. Screaming Happy New Year to the rest of the cast I legged it for the station and caught the last train home. As midnight chimed, the British Rail guard came over the tannoy and intoned (in a voice that would have you dialling the Samaritans) “Myself and Derek the driver would like to wish both of our passengers a very happy new year…so…. er…. Happy New Year then…the next station stop is Tonbridge. Tonbridge is the next stop… Thank you.”

Oh the glamour…

Fast forwarding on warp speed, last night I said goodbye to the noughties and hello to the teenies watching Big Ben on tv. As fireworks lit up the London Eye the gargantuan puppy went barking mad at the sound of the more localised explosions. The better half rugby tackled her and I went to check on the sprogs. They had slept through it. Thankfully.

The kids are finally reaching the end of the post Christmas comedown. Not made any easier by the relatives departure. As the in-laws left the building, Christmas was truly over, leaving just piles of bed linen and empty toy packaging to remember it by.

I hate toy packaging.

Not because it overflows our Council micro bin – Living in the country we don’t have that problem. We have a bonfire. Well it used to be, thanks to the wet weather it is starting to resemble more of a compost heap. If it ever dries out I’m wondering if we should actually put a match to it. Any trapped methane could see it explode flatulently over the Sussex Weald. An extremely embarrassing way to check out, one that would no doubt make it into the ‘…and finally…’ section of the local tv news – which is not how I would wish to be remembered.

No, I hate toy packaging because on the one day of the year when you might just get away with a bit of a lie-in, safe in the knowledge your kids are too busy ripping apart packages left by Santa to bother you, they have to come in and blast on the light so they can get you to get the damn toy out of the box. An operation that needs scissors, Stanley knife, pliers, Phillips screwdriver, batteries and the ability to focus - all in short supply in the pre dawn Christmas morning after 4 hours kip.

It never used to be like this. Once upon a time Santa’s elves would make the toys easily accessible to all but the permanently bewildered… That was before the incident at the grotto.

It all started one Christmas morning some years ago. While Santa was luckily enjoying a well deserved lie in, one of the elves took Rudolph and the sleigh for a joy ride and got done for speeding by a belligerent copper who had drawn the short ‘on duty’ straw.

Santa had to pay a fine for having a modified reindeer and the elf was sent on a speed awareness course where he met a union shop steward who insisted upon coming back to the grotto to check out the elf’s working conditions. While the union rep agreed that Santa’s ability to bend the space time continuum did get around going over the 48 hr week, he would only leave if Santa installed CCTV so that random checks could be made on the elf tea breaks.

When the man came to install the cameras he was given the wrong ladder - a candy cane one. He fell, badly injuring his shoulder. At first he was frightened of making a claim but Lawyers for Yule got him compensation and made sure that Santa employed a safety officer - Elf Ensafety. The power went to Ensafety’s head and he is now quite, quite mad.

By Christmas morning, when he gets back from the round, so is Santa. Which is why these days he sees the New Year in on Easter Island, it being the last place Elf Ensafety, and irate parents sick of packaging, would think to look for him.

But, after a break, Santa will be back for more of the magic and so will we. After all, it’s the time of year to celebrate birth and like any birth; the pain of it soon fades leaving only the joy. In 9 months time we’ll start to think that doing it again would be a really good idea, conveniently erasing all memories of sleepless nights and dirty washing.

Happy New Year - There are only 358 days to go till Christmas.