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Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The Plot

Last night I went to the Cafe Rouge for a glass of white wine (red wine stains your lips and teeth) with my old chums from the NCT group. We always have a laugh.

Susan is always eager to point out the merits of having a partner who is a school teacher. Michael works in their daughter's excellent state primary school, and so takes the responsibility for school holiday childcare, school drop off and collection. Joan was apparently openly seething with jealousy. Our men were still hard at work in the City of London when we were leaving for our tipple this evening.

'Susan has it all', gushed Joan.

'I would give anything for a man who could sort out the childcare for me - that is just the hardest thing', - she enthused (I can't really see why, Joan is a stay at home mum and has a full-time nanny for her two school age boys).

Susan looked positively smug, and tottered dramatically off to the loo (tipsy again).

'She has it all', cried Joan within earshot of Susan as the door of the toilet slammed behind her.

When Susan had safely disappeared Joan couldn't help herself, and the conversation descended into a bitchfest.

'Get real Joan, your husband is filthy rich, I know which one I would prefer', cackled Helena.

'We can walk to our homes in two minutes from here. Would you really rather live in poverty and squalor simply because your husband would look after the kids?' she bitched.

They both laughed like drains.

I felt nauseated walking back up Alleyn Road with this pair tonight. They remind me of the Head Girl and her evil brainless sidekick, a couple of hungry velociraptors who work in pairs with big claws. It takes me back to my school days.

They began a plot this evening:

'Valentines day is on its way. Lets ask our husbands for breast implants for a gift - and God help them if they actually cough up a 'gift voucher' for the procedure.' suggested Helena.

Joan agreed enthusiastically, 'I'm in, how about you?' she asked me.

I laughed nervously. I feel scared, I don't want to play. The men are dammed if they do, and dammed if they don't. James hates games. What to do, what to do, what to do???????????

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Vintage Cheddar?

What a pace!

I had just about got the hang of email and Google, and even blogging, and now it is all MSN messages. I must admit, I do find it rather difficult to keep up. I don't know one end of an Ipod from another.

But, I do expect to at least keep track of the things in which I have a genuine interest - food and drink - actually coffee really, Starbucks specifically. I was in Starbucks today, and to my horror, I noticed a 'Vintage' cheddar sandwich.

What in the name of God and all of his wonderful saints and angels is that in aid of? Vintage cheddar. Pray no? I must be seeing things!

Mature cheddar - is an appropriate description of a specific type of aged cheese. Vintage wine - a good year - cherished and substantially aged - I understand the concept. Vintage cars - yes this is appropriate also, perhaps looking more like Chitty chitty bang bang, and not yet a Citron 2CV - they are just old, not yet vintage (NEVER a Ford Escort). Vintage clothes - well on everyone else - yes perhaps, for myself? Only really if it was found in the back of my grandma's closet. I have said it before and I'll say it again, I do not intend to catch ringworm off some dead old lady.

If the likes of Keira Knightley et al. are claiming to be wearing 1950's and 60's vintage, they should bear in mind that these luscious starlets were often not very tall, with voluptuous breasts and yes tiny waists - bigger bottoms perhaps too, and that was OK. Perhaps today's stars have copies of 'vintage' made up by the original designer to fit them? Can you really imagine stick insect Keira or Paris fitting into any pre-loved garment of Ginger Rogers or Marilyn Monroe? A handbag perhaps.

Vintage cheddar? No, no, no. Certainly not. That implies that it has been languishing in the back of the fridge for years.

I will not pay £2.70 for a dry old cheddar sandwich. No, it is wrong. Starbucks, you are a fashion victim, you have gone too far. Back away from this idea slowly and close the fridge door.

Monday, 29 January 2007

The beginning

I have always been a very busy person. All through my teens and twenties, I partied hard and was having the time of my life until I read Bridget Jones' Diary - well what a wake-up call that was! I subsequently read an article in The Evening Standard on the way home from work one evening about the phenomena of increasing numbers of ageing career women, alone and childless in London. The following weekend I remember an article in The Style supplement of The Sunday Times, lamenting the increasing age of first time mothers and decreasing fertility due to oestrogenisation of the environment.

The following Monday, I went straight to WH Smith in Victoria and bought myself a copy of 'The Rules', and decided the party was over, it was time to settle down. This was an environmental disaster I intended to avoid.

I was living at the time in Gainsboro Court on Tollgate Drive in the heart of Dulwich. Miss Kate Bancroft (a barrister) and I rented a wonderful old mansion flat, ate at Michelin stared restaurants, attended every corporate event of the season (Wimbledon, Ascot, Henley, Polo), with dashing eligible men. Increasingly the men who were showing us attention, were married to someone else. I would not ever intentionally date a married man, but Miss Bancroft - enjoyed the title 'Mistress' on more than one occasion.

Shortly after reading 'Men are from Mars' I met James at a charity ball. He was a complete contradiction, - he had kind eyes, but he point blank refused to buy me so much as a drink! I was hooked. When I tried my usual line:

'What do you do?,'

- in order to assess his earning potential - he would not play the game, and told me that he worked in 'Comet' selling printers.

'A noble profession' - I purred through gritted teeth.

I decided to marry him there and then. It was love......

Sunday, 28 January 2007


On Friday evening at school pick up, several of the mothers were conversing about how much the little ones hate doing their 'Sounds Book' homework (which is an exercise designed to help them with their reading).

'Tom really hates The Sounds Book - it causes arguments in our house every evening. I really find this piece of homework particularly difficult' - said Sandra.

'Yes, every night at bed time Edward refuses to do his Sounds Book - it is just the worst struggle' - agreed Yasmin.

'At seven pm every night, James does the whole homework, reading and bedtime routine thing' I confessed, ashamed (I have no idea if The Sounds Book is a struggle - I really am a dreadful mother).

The only thing I struggle with each evening, is trying to resist until 7pm - the wonderful noise of a cork being drawn from a bottle. Seven pm, a respectable hour - the sound of children's footsteps on the stairs with their daddy, and I am to be found standing by the wine chiller.

My work is done. All is well. We survived another day in Dulwich.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

The Dentist

Today I took my two exuberant children to see the dentist. He is a sweet young man, but quite over confident if you ask me. When I made the appointment, he assured me that I should not stress - the children would happily open their mouths for him. He after all, sees this situation every day and is a seasoned professional with regard to treating children (he looks about seventeen). Yeah right. I should introduce him to our poor nervous health visitor.

First up, Max in the dentists chair, automatic seat reclined, bib around neck, glasses on, light shining on mouth.

The dentist chirped:

'Max, why don't you show me the noise a tiger makes when he is really angry?'

'GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR' said Max (through clenched teeth).

Children 1: Dentist 0.

Next, Freya in the dentists chair, automatic seat reclined, bib around neck, glasses on, light shining on mouth.

The dentist asked theatrically:

'Freya, why don't you show me the noise a big cat like a lion makes?'

'PRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR' said Freya (with mouth pursed over teeth).

Children 2: Dentist 0.

The dentist was crushed.

'Look kids, what do you want? This is a busy clinic here.'

Freya described the prepared mango from the chiller cabinet in Somerfield while holding her hand over her mouth - and the dental nurse was promptly dispatched with a fiver. The bargain was struck.

I am starting to understand these two darlings of mine quite well. 'Mini Me One' and 'Mini Me Two'!

Friday, 26 January 2007

Lost opportunity

At the weekend, in an effort to relieve the tension of the impending 2nd interview for another prestigious local independent pre-prep for Freya, we decided to go out for Sunday lunch. Along with our good chums Sandra and Alex and their two darling children, we made tracks for a lovely local pub - The Crown and Greyhound in Dulwich Village. Our children have never been to a pub before, but Sunday lunch at 'The Dog' is heralded locally as being the most family friendly venue around and we had a marvelous time. We forgot our stress and had lots of fun with our children.

This morning prior to the assessment at 9.30 am, Freya (Mini-me) made explicit the reward (bribe) she required in exchange for attending the interview. Praise the Lord she was more than reasonable (James had been visualising a trip to Gambado in Beckenham wearing his bespoke Ozwald Boateng suit).

'Can we go back to the Crown and Big Hound for coffee and chocolate milk straight after the sassessment?', she asked.

'The Crown and Greyhound, or just simply The Pub (I corrected) and of course we can darling girl', I assured her.

James and I greeted the Head Mistress with terrified fixed grins, and she kindly endeavoured to put us at our ease.

'What are you going to do for the morning when you have finished here?' she asked Freya, who replied;

'Mummy and daddy are taking me to the pub for a drink'. It was 9.20 am! I kid you not... OHMYGOD!

I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself. It is official, all is lost.

Ah well, we tried our best.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Fashion Victim

I was at my GP surgery this evening, and I happen to have picked up a copy of Gracia Magazine. Well, clearly it's fashion pages have nothing on Vogue, but you should see what they were hailing as the fashion 'must have' for next season.

Apparently, hipster cut jeans have had their day, the new look is 'corset waist' jeans, that go up to under your chest - and they are drain pipe fit too! Really flattering - not!

I starred blankly at the photo for an age - they looked so familiar, and then it hit me! When I was a child, our parish priest wore trousers cut like that - oh dear. I kid you not.

Why not skip in to Top Shop and get yourself some parish priest cut jeans! SEXY.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

My pride and joy

When I woke up on Monday morning, I was genuinely filled with gloom that the weekend was over. I have thoroughly enjoyed being with our little children this last couple of days. I have had great fun being a mum and enjoyed spending a couple of full days with the children. We have had such a laugh. Forgive me, this may all seem run of the mill for you, it is just that it has always been a huge stress for me - being a parent. I must admit I have been exhausted and irritable - for almost six years.

Yes the assessment morning on Saturday at Alleyn's was terribly stressful, but actually Freya's spirited, mischievous and manipulative behaviour gave me an appreciation of the little lady she is becoming. She is a feisty personality, and I really like her. Even if Freya was not mine, I would like her.

Max has been a big burly boy, careering about the drive on his scooter, frightening the heart out of me that the arborculturist would hit him with a falling branch as he removed another of our damaged trees. Yet Max insisted that we had a birthday party for his treasured 'Polo bear' on Sunday afternoon - it was really just a ploy so that we would buy him a cake from the patisserie in the village. Max is bouncy, full of testosterone, but a big softy and still a baby really - with a sweet tooth.

When they were both tots, I felt quite overwhelmed, and I remember feeling that it would never end. Freya stopped waking eight times a night just a couple of months ago. I remember my mother-in-law assuring me from the outset that it would all end soon:

'They are babies for such a short period of time', she said.

Why at seven they become boarders and then you have your home back virtually all of the time'.

I must admit, I have survived most of the last six years by trying to make everything as perfect as possible (the right supplements / foods / stimulation / immunisation). Smiling that glazed drug and exhaustion induced smile at every baby group in the locality. My pearly perfect veneers cost James a fortune. I have been counting down the days and months until Max could go to Winchester just like his daddy did, and then Freya too would be off to boarding school soon after.

It just occurred to me on Monday morning, I wouldn't be parted from these two little scamps - they are the best fun. I think if I could bottle the 'high' those children give James and I we would make a fortune. We laughed so much on Sunday afternoon I was afraid I would be sick.

I have realised just this weekend, that I am actually having fun. I think I have had postnatal depression for five and a half years. Either that or the GP has just got my dose of anti-depressants right!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Shock Horror

Marilyn Manson and his wife Dita Von Teese are to divorce.


Did anyone seriously see those two together?

They look like something from an episode of Jerry Springer. Yes, perhaps they were as compatable as many other 'couples' of convenience - and it has brought both of them a huge amount of publicity.

But please, I ask you? Marilyn Manson looks like an abused whippet who has gone berserk in his owners make-up bag. Dita the 'burlesque star'? Oh yes? And our recent export to America in return was Victoria Beckham the 'singer'. Ha!

Oh, sad lament to the break down of their family life.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Second Interview

I couldn't sleep on Friday night due to the stress and anxiety of anticipating the horror to come on Saturday morning. James and I took a kicking and screaming Freya out of the car and to Alleyn's School for her second interview. She doesn't want to take part, it seems barbaric, but what can we do? Just outside the door to the school she suddenly hissed:

'A full pack of Jellies and I mean a big one'.

James and I were bemused. Shocked, we both instantly agreed to her demand, and Freya's demeanor was transformed instantly. She beamed, danced in the door, took a teachers hand and waved as she was led into another room.

We sat on the tiny chairs at the tiny tables sipping cold coffee and picking at Bourbon creams feeling confused and abused. I stared at James. He recovered from the shock of her sudden change of heart much more quickly than I. James is clearly accustomed to being manipulated by a female!

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Mrs not Ms

Every month I attend a board meeting with the Top Man from our organisation and every other strategic person in the company. We all sit around a perfectly smooth and shiny French polished table keen to give the impression that we know our place.

Every month, at the outset of the meeting, the minutes from last month are scrutinised for flaws. The harassed Personal Assistant to the TM 'jumps to it' with her spring backed note book and her pencil.

Month after month I am referred to as 'Ms' and not 'Mrs' in the attendance list.

'I am Mrs' I have wanted to tell them, but they assumed (I know) that if I am at work, I have left my family behind, and they don't want to know my marital status or that I have children. My family and lovely husband define me - so yesterday - I had enough, and I pointed it out!

'Actually, Heidi - I am Mrs Alleyn-Ruskin-Guinness'.

TM put his nose in the air purposefully, lifted his glasses and asked:

'Is that significant?'

'Yes it is', I said, without justifying myself further.

If he knew the manipulative lengths I took to ensure that James proposed to me, he would understand, but a board meeting is just not the place. Being James' wife is one of my proudest achievements to date and if I feel cheeky enough at one of our various social events, I will tell TM why.

Not only am I a Mrs, but I am a mature, graduate, high achieving aspirational mother - I stress about everything - from school selection interviews, organic vegetables and phonics to fish oils and vaccinations. If I don't turn up for work on time one morning - it is because my family will always take priority over work.

I am one of a newly evolving breed of mum - (hey, not mature) a vintage mum, I suppose a posh mum and part of an international phenomena 'The Dulwichmum'.

Oh dear, has Dulwichmum has hit a nerve?

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Keep it real

God I hate that phrase. I have said it now, it is over. Phew.......

I was sitting waiting for the tube this afternoon, flicking through my new lovely fresh copy of the Boden catalogue. Despite multiple announcements heralding the 'good service' on the tube this afternoon - ten's of minutes soon ticked past. Tree debris is being hauled off tube and rail lines all over London from yesterdays dreadful wind. I began to take in the full glory of my squalid surroundings.

Right in front of me was an enormous poster of Gavin Henson, advertising a food substitute called 'Promax' which the poster informed me I can purchase from Argos - yes the destination of choice when doing my weekly grocery shop, not. Apparently you too can have a body like Mr Henson if you simply eat the same bird seed or whatever.

I met Mr Henson last year at a rugby tournament sponsored by the company who employ my lovely husband. I just love that word 'tournament' it sounds so manly.

We were invited to attend a Wales vs Ireland game (yawn) in Dublin followed by the after game dinner. Naturally I went shopping while the match was in progress (I just love Brown Thomas on Grafton Street). James was destroyed as Wales lost - poor man. At the after match dinner I was left to converse with the Irish players, and met a dashing chap called Brian O'Driscol. The Irish were a fine looking socially skilled group of men.

In contrast, the Welsh team looked like a crowd of mutants. One chap had wiry red hair, dragged his knuckles on the ground when he walked, spoke in a series of grunts and was the image of 'Captain Cave Man'. Most of the team couldn't use a knife and fork properly and would not have looked out of place in leg irons.

Quite remarkably though Mr Henson was the most disturbing looking player of all. He resembled an Elvis impersonator who had been 'Tango'd'. From his mouth up, he appeared to be suffering some sort of injection induced paralysis. Mr Henson should stay away from tanning booths and injectibles and try to 'keep it real'. The man looks like a cartoon character right down to his inky black hair colour.

I wonder if the consumption of 'Promax' results in hypercarotenaemia or liver failure? That would explain Mr Henson's alarming skin colour. I find it amazing that Mr Henson's image is used in an advertisement for anything. He is just the strangest looking man - and that is even apparent in a setting consisting only of very strange looking men. Promax will certainly never be on the menu for my son. No cauliflower ears for Max, I shall encourage him to play golf. If he does insist on playing rugby, the Irish team are altogether a nicer group of gentlemen.

Friday, 19 January 2007


I met the au pair in Patisserie Valerie for coffee this evening in Sloane Square, as the children were going to the theatre with their grandparents. Hilda is as cute as a button, with a sharp graduated bob in her hair and very trendy. As she is leaving in the next few weeks, I thought it would be a good opportunity to buy her a treat and let her know how much we appreciated her hard work.

Hilda is an arts graduate (she studied 'textiles' at university... bless) and has of late decided she would love to become a personal stylist, having watched several episodes of a show which aims to make women look ten years younger. Hilda authoritively informed me this evening, that my look is rather 'staid'. Apparently in her opinion, I should be aiming for a more 'quirky' or 'individual' look.

I smiled at her patronisingly. Elaine from 'Eclipse' will actually provide me with all the fashion advice I need, and as far as I am concerned, LK Bennet is as far downmarket as I am prepared to venture. Most of my work wear is Paddy Campbell or Aquascutum, with the odd top from Hobbs or LK Bennet, or scarf from Missoni.

Poor deluded Hilda danced around Zara, enthusiastically suggesting various acrylic creations to me - in an effort to 'update' me.

I was initially rather offended (whatever makes her assume I would wear man made fibres?). America Ferrera I am not.

Why does Hilda think that I was never her age? She assumes that at her age I did not think I knew it all too. Now I know what suits my shape, and what colours work for me. Clothes are just the uniform I wear to achieve what I have to achieve, nothing more.

Out with the kids - my uniform consists of a Boden top, Levi jeans - vintage looking coat - but not really second hand - clearly not. I don't intend to catch ringworm off some dead old lady.

Out at work - I wear the uniform I described above. How could I command respect or my fabulous salary in a pair of footless tights, gold ballet style flat shoes from Primark, and a metallic blue V neck jumper dress?

I very don't think so darling, that's why I am your boss, and you dear heart are my au pair. I kept the comments to myself and smiled through gritted teeth. I don't want to spoil what has been a wonderful relationship, the last time she was pre-menstrual she lost her boyfriend and that is why she returning home.

Keep it up honey child, and you shall have no reference.....

Thursday, 18 January 2007


My close work colleague Anna, has been reading Trinny and Susannah's work of late, in particular, the advice they provide with regard to a girls choice of underwear. Anna tells me that the correct pants can do wonders for a girls figure.

Pants can apparently (boys don't need to know this so scoot on and read another post please) lift and separate the bum cheeks, and flatten the tummy - temporarily sculpting inches off the silhouette. This morning I noticed that Anna was a rather bizarre shape in her high waisted black pencil skirt. She appeared to have swallowed a net full of grapefruit from the appearance of her abdomen. I tried not to stare, and said nothing - ever the diplomat.

Mid-morning I went to the Ladies to powder my nose, only to hear fits of giggles from one of the cubicles. Anna had just realised that she had been wearing her magic pants back to front. She had been flattening her behind, while lifting and separating her tummy! Bless.

Some underwear, it is just not worth the trouble. That is probably why poor Britney, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan can't be doing with it. It is all just too complicated for them. Poor darlings!

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

The Right Ring

My glamorous Indian work colleague - Rema, has noticed an escalation of late in romantic activity by her partner of 3 years. Raj has been discussing their future while mesmerised by his new baby nephew at a recent family wedding.

Raj has endeavoured to discretely investigate Rema's ring size - much to her horror. Rema knows (as do all ladies of breeding) that long after the champagne has lost it's fizz, and the roses have wilted - a girl will have the rest of her married life (on the labour ward/at the school gates/at the Christmas party from work) to hide an inappropriately modest 'splinter' of a diamond in her pocket.

Every girls nightmare is the presentation of the wrong ring (especially when the Christmas bonus in the city this year has been so generous) which she will be expected to wear for the rest of her married life. There are an anxious few days ahead of us in the office this week, as we seek to ensure that Raj is appropriately educated and does not make a costly mistake.

The form is:

Two months salary (and then some - post generous Christmas bonus - or failing that - post April annual pay review) before tax just for the stone.

The stone and setting must be purchased from Boodle and Dunthorne (who only sell the best quality 'D' virtually colourless stones, and always lazer mark each stone with a special serial number for identification purposes).

The stone must be at least one carat in weight, D in colour (as I said already), preferably brilliant cut (fancy cuts don't seem to hold their value as well) and be of excellent clarity (preferably flawless).

Obviously the setting (if not the entire ring) should be platinum, as it is just the strongest of all metals ensuring a secure 'grasp' on the stone. Also, a white metal accentuates the brilliance of a colourless stone.

'Does Raj know this?,' we have asked Rema. Well, if he didn't - he will soon.

We can't allow his sentiment to ruin the moment, or indeed the marriage. Rema is distraught. We practically ran to Boodle's at lunchtime, to investigate which setting looks best on Rema's hand - should Raj enquire about her preference. Rema favours a contemporary 'rubover' setting. She is off to Raj's house tonight, to rummage for a wage slip which might indicate the price bracket in which she should be shopping.

Now all that is required of her chums, is to subtly inform the gentleman in question, while ensuring that he feels he is making choices himself. I have this down to a fine art, as James and I have been together for nine years. I shall teach Rema everything she needs to know about married life, now she simply needs to set the tone for the marriage by manipulating Raj to purchasing the right ring.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007


This afternoon I had a meeting with some clients at London Bridge.

At the outset of the meeting their 'Big Boss' popped in to say hello. BB is an enormous authoritative man, who likes to feel that he knows exactly what is going on at all times, with everyone.

BB enquired where my colleague Anna was today.

'It's the final day for submission of UCAS forms and she is busy with her lovely son', I replied.

The BB laughed out loud and said:

'Medicine, law or engineering? I realised while still a school boy, that I was not the most attractive boy in a rugby strip, and that the pretty girls are always happy to go out with a white coat, a lawyer or an engineer'.

He gestured to his cowering minions, and turned to focus on me once more.

'You are a pretty girl, what did your husband read at university?'

'Engineering', I replied subserviently.

'That's my girl', he said. 'The pretty ones are not as silly as they look'.

It has been so long since I had a compliment of any description from my lovely busy husband, I laughed nervously with the BB, when I should have beaten him to a pulp with my new shoes - which by the way were tastefully exposing my toe cleavage.

Am I insulted because he slighted me? Publicly shaming me as an air head and a gold digger?

Did he slight me?

Is it in fact the truth and am I simply offended because the truth hurts? I love my husband actually, I always have, I can't argue that I am not an air head though - BB is a big mouthed bully. What does he know anyway? Times have changed, every girl knows that students of architecture, dentistry, accountancy and even veterinary science can make perfectly adequate husbands these days.

Am I actually appalled because I was secretly grateful that a man noticed I still have a pulse? Even if the man in question has the physique of a walrus.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Shoe Shopping

On Sunday afternoon, I trotted into Sloane Square with my best friend Liza in search of a caffeine hit from a cup of coffee at Patiserie Valerie. Starbucks at Sainsbury's in Dulwich has closed for six months, and I can't get a parking space anywhere close to Lordship Lane for my enormous Chelsea Tractor. Cafe Rouge is virtually on my doorstep and therefor no real fun at all. The children would surely spot me while out and about with the au pair.

I poured my heart out to Liza and explained that I am devastated at the loss of our dream home, and have not yet had five minutes on my own to morn properly. James gets so offended if I tell him that I am feeling sad as a result of the sale falling though, I don't hold him accountable, it is just one of those things, I know.

The answer to everything as far as Liza is concerned is the purchase of a stunning pair of new shoes. Currently Liza's hot preference is for three and a half inch block heels with 'toe cleavage'. As a mother of 2, almost 38 years old (again) and unwilling to show any other kind of cleavage in public, it appeared to be the ideal solution.

A pair of sexy heels displaying an appropriate amount of 'toe cleavage' was purchased for an exorbitant sum at Emma Hope. I caught the train to West Dulwich from Victoria, with my enormous crispy bag perched on my lap - feeling as though the world was literally at my feet. Thank the Lord for Sunday shopping.

Liza said it was nice to see me restored to my good old superficial self. All is well. Equilibrium is restored.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Bitter Sweet

On balance, I can't decide if today was a good day or a bad day. I suppose it has been bitter sweet.

We received two letters of note this morning. Both were invitations to Freya (our three and a half year old) from outstanding local private prep schools, for a second interview and assessment. James and I laughed when we read the letters.

I am aware that there are at least fifty sets of parents celebrating the arrival of second assessment invitations for their children this morning - while many other poor crestfallen parents try not to show their disappointment. No child of this age should ever to be allowed to experience any sense of failure in this or any other situation. James and I are unable to celebrate the news. It is not that we are ungrateful for these opportunities, it is merely that we feel powerless to take advantage of them.

Freya is adamant -

'I have had enough sasessments and I am not going', she says with steely determination.

The home we were in the process of buying in the catchment area for the excellent state run Dulwich Village Infants School has slipped from our grasp - the chain has fallen apart at the eleventh hour. Freya is a willful young lady who refuses to attend any further assessments for private or independent schools.

I saw David Beckham on the news last night, discussing in monosyllables the enormous pay deal he has accepted to play football for LA Galaxy in America. Apparently he and Victoria were seeking good schools for their children in the UK, but none were good enough, hence their move to the USA. Yes I am sure the money did not influence the couple at all in their decision (ha bloomin ha).

Could Tom Cruise hope teach this couple to so much as spell 'Scientology'?How do you think Brooklyn would fare at an assessment for the English Independent schools I have mentioned? Not very well I would venture, considering his inarticulate fathers range of vocabulary last night on TV.

Max - our five year old son is substantially more articulate than Daddy Beckham. But David would wave his cheque book, and Brooklyn, Plonker and whatever the third one is called would all get into Eton no doubt.

Sigh, I wish we were rich enough to buy a playing field or music room or something. Freya is sensible beyond her years, she is right to refuse to attend. The whole idea of assessing these little people so closely is unduly stressful for them, and without doubt inaccurate.

Now, where did I put that corkscrew?.....

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Getting Old(er)

Life is too serious. I so enjoyed being a student. I didn't realise it at the time, but those days were just the best fun. Living in halls, having no cash at all.......ever, eating nothing but pasta and rice for weeks on end, and parties - yes lots of parties. Those were the days, when I drank lager - before I discovered gin and tonic, before I became respectable.

In the early days when I arrived at University and was just getting to know my very good friend Lara, what a complete wake up call that was! She was (is) the prettiest woman I have ever met. She has enormous eyes and perfect olive skin, and the shiniest long brown hair, every man just stared at her goofily when we went to The Penthouse Bar on the top of Kings College Hospital. She is one of those physically perfect people, who just sparkles, and is completely unaware of the effect she has on the opposite sex - which is nice, I don't really like arrogant people. Lara is the complete picture of innocence. She has a 'butter would not melt in her mouth' look.

Within the first few weeks of meeting Lara, she appeared to be getting more and more exhausted, eventually, she was almost in a state of collapse, she became incredibly pale with slurred speech. It was all rather early in our careers, I began to think - ?Meningitis ?Diabetes ?plain old exhaustion from excessive study or partying...........? liver failure.

No.............., Lara one night knocked on my door and asked if she could sleep on my floor. The lamps from the hydroponic farm in her room where she was growing her marijuana plants was playing havoc with her sleep.

Lara, that's my girl. Always prepared to flout convention. She turned my world on it's head, never played by the rules, and always got away with it. I have never had the self-confidence to be as care-free as she, but she certainly made London a more interesting place for me when I left home first. I have never joined in with her hilarious/outrageous antics, but my life has been much richer for having the pleasure of observing her and having had her as my friend. Everyone should have a friend like Lara.

I have a dreadful feeling that I have a mini 'Lara' age three and a half, sleeping deeply upstairs right now.

Friday, 12 January 2007


OK lets not put the cart before the horse here, but Freya (our three and a half year old) actually went in for her first assessment (second attempt) at School 1 School today! Hurrah!

The sale of our dream home fell through yesterday, the woman who was buying our house lost her buyer, and we have decided to stay put as a result.

The wind could have blown the roof of the house off last night for all we cared. Freya was refusing to go to School 1 for her interview for a place at their wonderful school, and so nothing else mattered. Not the cost of the legal fees/architects fees/cost of the survey on the new home - all lost, nothing else mattered a jot.

The teachers at the nursery are saints, they pleaded and bargained with her all morning. All manner of gifts from Cheeky Monkey toy Shop were promised, a full pack of Haribo jellies was dispensed, Grandma made a special trip from Wales, Daddy had the day off work, a bottle of nail polish was promised and she went it!

I am a stress magnate so it was best that I had nothing to do with this event. I am elated. I don't care about the new house anymore, everything else pales into insignificance. Freya relented!!!!!

OK, so yes, she probably will not get a place now anyhow, but she submitted to our will and went in to the school for the assessment. Yes she had to be dragged kicking and screaming, and yes she was bribed outrageously, but School 1 didn't phone and tell James to take her home early. She is still quite poorly, pale with pink eyes. Well enough for school though, bored with being home.

One stress at a time please, just one.

Tonight I will arrange to have the tree that fell on our car in the front garden last night removed. I may even arrange to have the roof repaired. The world can start to turn again.

All is well. Hurrah. The sun shines once more. We don't mind if Freya doesn't get through to the next interview at this prestigous school, our baby girl gave in to us, and went for her first assessment and this is huge progress as far as we are concerned.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Dark Days

We despair. Freya is burning up with a fever. The poor baby had no sleep last night. She has a sore throat and a voice like Rod Stewart. Things are not going well if she is to recover by tomorrow in time for a last ditch attempt at the assessment for Alleyn’s school.

Freya has been playing Sudoku on the Cbeebies web-site for hours today, but with a non compliant, 'don't bother me' look in her eye. She says she is too sick to go to the assessment, and she means it. She is only three and a half, why will she not bend to our will? She has a steely determination.

I have promised her a large pack of Smarties, some pretty nail polish from the chemist in the village (she will use nothing but Mavala as she loves the small pretty bottles) and even a (heavens forbid) Fruit Shoot.

'No Mummy, I am too sick' she says defiantly.

I am having palpitations. She is saying no to me simply because she can. I can't abide this, she is getting back at me for all of the times I insisted she went to bed at 7pm, for all of the baths I insisted she took, and for all of the vegetables I compelled her to eat. I am grinding my teeth into powder, while stroking her hair gently and filling the tiny white spoon with antibiotics and Calpol. She is running the house.

Freya doesn't care a hoot, it is her career in medicine she is putting at risk. Long after she has had her fun, she will be repenting in a failing school. Whatever are we going to do?

In the meantime she taunts us by playing Sudoku with ease, and watching French Muzzy DVDs, but not allowing the staff of Alleyn’s to witness it.


Wednesday, 10 January 2007

School Assessments

The school traffic is back on the roads again, all around West Dulwich the traffic was at a standstill this morning. The Christmas holidays are well and truly over today. The local state schools went back a week ago, but the independent schools are a law unto themselves, and take a full four weeks off for the Christmas holidays. How are we supposed to find the time to work in order to pay the fees?

Yesterday morning I took my baby girl to her assessment at Alleyn's School - one of the best schools in the country. Poor Freya is only three and a half, and should never have to go through such an ordeal, but our local state school is a failing one - on several sections of the OFSTED report.

Would Ruth Kelly or Tony Blair send her children there?
No, certainly not.
Are the government going to do anything to put state schools on the right track imminently?
No, once again, our 'Don't do as I do, do as I say' government.

Freya slept all the way there in her pram, and when I woke her up, she cried and would not let me go. The little pudding is normally full of life and eager to play, this was not like her at all. For this reason, she was unable to be assessed, and the school will therefore be unable to consider offering her a place.

Little people of three and a half should not naturally leave their parents and trot off into another room with strangers - even with the encouragement of their parents. Separation anxiety such as this is a sign of normal development. I would not want Freya to behave in any other way under normal circumstances... if only they would let the children stay with their parents while being assessed.

I feel so sorry for Freya. She doesn't want to go to a new school, she loves the nursery she currently attends with her brother, but they do not accommodate girls there past nursery.

When we came home Freya slept all afternoon, and developed a temperature in the evening and now has a dreadful streaming cold. She was under the weather, and therefore 'unable to perform' yesterday.

The poor baby. Why do we put our children through such barbaric ordeals? If the local state school was anything like the little state primary we went to as children, there would be no other choice for us. Freya and Max would go to state schools.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007


I really hate that expression 'twenty four seven', and the other one I hate almost as much is 'Go girl' oh, and calling each other 'Girlfriend' in an American accent. Why are young girls all over the UK suddenly adopting these expressions?

Years ago, to tell someone to 'shut up' was highly offensive - my mother would take the slipper to me for the use of such a phrase, but now, girls are saying it to each other as some kind of exclamation. What is going on?

Hilda (our current Au-pair) told her boyfriend to 'shut up' last week, and she has been crying ever since. Apparently Luke was very offended, and so their romance is over. Hilda is devastated and returning to Norway. We are phenomenally unlucky with Au-pairs.

I tried to tell her;

I said,

'don't watch trailer trash TV, this is no substitute for English lessons and no way to learn the Queens English'.

This is all Ricky Lakes fault if you ask me.

Monday, 8 January 2007

New Years Resolution

I am trying very hard to keep my new years resolution. I do not need to lose weight for once (I have no appetite at all at the moment - very strange for me!), and no, I am not cutting back on alcohol consumption either. No, this year I shall endeavour instead simply to be a better person.

My darling husband James, is so well measured - calm down Tiger, no, I mean, he is remarkably reserved, he is calm under pressure, not a drama queen like me, and never gossips, interferes or exaggerates. We are opposites. He says very little - and as a result people take him seriously, and generally do what he says (not our children of course - but everyone else).

I am trying to become knowing or even dare I say it cerebral and loose the air head image. So I will for the new year - hear no evil, see no evil and STOP gossiping.

Our wonderful graduate trainee Clementine has developed an obvious crush on a client with whom I am currently working. Clementine has begun to flutter her eyelashes at him, and laughs nervously when he is around. Her body language is outrageous, and her skirts are suddenly alarmingly short......... Clementine is in her mid-twenties, and has not yet realised that any unmarried thirty five year old man as good looking as Anthony is clearly gay.

Anthony would never discuss his sexuality at work, but he is outlandishly well dressed (wears only Connolly Loafers and has his shirts hand made in Paris), and has just paid an exorbitant sum of money on a new Kelly Hoppen sofa complete with Nicky Haslam fabric. In my learned opinion, straight, single men are never interested in this kind of upholstery. Indeed, I am convinced that my husbands own refined pallet in interior design, would dissolve into IKEA flat pack mayhem, if it was not for my influence.

I shall not tell her, no, it is not my business, I am ever the professional at work. This is the hardest thing I have done for years. I am poking my fingers in my ears while singing out loud with my eyes tightly shut and not interfering. This will be character building, I am sure.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

The Vicar

I love our Vicar Diana. Quite apart from the fact she is a woman, she is American and has that amazing confident 'all knowing' wry smile thing going on, she is so practical. I remember virtually collapsing due to sleep deprivation and exhaustion one Tuesday morning at the mother-and-baby group in St Barnabas church hall. Diana was so supportive and reassuring, and just so inspiring and wonderful.

She took Freya in her arms, and sent Max away to play with one of the other mums. In a flash Diana organised me a wonderful cup of tea in a china cup from a pot. I will never forget the kind support she gave me - the sort of understanding you could never hope for from a Roman Catholic priest with no relevant life experience. Diana said, 'I know how hard it is' - and I believed her because she is a mother too. She empathised completely, and I will always be grateful to her for that.

She told me -

'We wash our first born in Johnson's baby bath, our second in Superdrug baby wash, our third in washing up liquid, and we don't have the time to wash our fourth baby at all'.

Diana will always have my full attention, because she gave me hers. Two babies were more than enough for us. It's no surprise that my grandmother loved gin. If I had fourteen children I would probably turn to crack cocaine.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Home wrecker

What happened to Anthea Turner? One minute she was a minxy husband snatcher with 'it' hair and no conscience,.... and the next thing she is on a 'trailer' for some obscure TV programme on Channel 5, teaching housewives how to fold bath towels on the floor of some dodgy suburban estate?

The kind of detail she appeared to be obsessing about is entirely irrelevant to the lives of women who have a job, children or sex (you can't really have both) or indeed a 'life'. If you ask me, Anthea's 'Tom Cat' of a husband needs to rediscover Anthea's feminine side or take her to adopt the infant population of a small unfortunate country before her GP reaches for his prescription pad, ... or worse. At the very least - Anthea needs a rabbit - and I don't mean a small rodent who eats carrots!

Clearly I have missed something. Either that, or God has the best sense of humour.

What goes around comes around sweetie.

Friday, 5 January 2007

My Mother

My mother just telephoned me, and now I am depressed. Does this only happen to me? I really cannot win....!

My mother has a valued friend called Mrs Jones. They have a huge amount in common, they are the same generation, both widows, live alone, and are both ruled by the same church. Their partnership has lasted longer than either of their marriages.

Mrs Jones recently had the opportunity to take part in that National Lottery Show, you know, the one with Dale Winton? Well, she was over the moon, a trip to Selfridges with a personal shopper was organised by her daughter, and a new outfit suitable for an appearance on TV was purchased. My mother was a proud (if seethingly jealous) friend. I remember being forced to console mum at the time:

'If you had the chance Mum, we wouldn't let you go. It is all terribly naff',

- that really cheered her up. She loves to feel superior. Anyhow, Mrs Jones had her place in the sun, and the lucky duck won 35K! I asked Mum tonight, how is Mrs Jones? Well, you will not believe the answer I had:

'Mrs Jones has been in and out of The Bethlem Royal Infirmary. She is devastated'.

'Oh my word. Mother, the poor lady'.

Mrs Jones was widowed tragically young with four tiny children, and she struggled on alone, putting all four children through univeristy. She has always been a capable, hard working, sensible, devout person.

'Whatever could have shaken her so?'

Well, according to my mother, "the final mortal blow" - the one thing Mrs Jones could not recover from, was the disappointment when "Dreadful Dale" did not give her a cheque for a million!

"The paltry sum she won had barely been worthy of her taxi fare".

Mrs Jones is not in any debt, she doesn't 'want' for anything. But, she had anticipated paying off her children's mortgages and retiring in extreme wealth to her native County Kerry. I don't know, you just can't please some people. I said to my mother:

'Give me a break Mother, she has her family and her health - surely this was just a little disappointing, I imagine she had never anticipated coming into thirty five thousand pounds, surely she could have a conservatory, a nice holiday and a new car?'

Well, I wish I never opened my mouth. Apparently Mrs Jones no longer finds the church a "reassurance", and my mother is beginning to re-evaluate her own faith.

Some people! GRRRRRRRRRRR..................

Thursday, 4 January 2007


When Freya was just two and a half she was explaining to my good friend Liza:

‘There are no Whales in Wales’.

I just loved that – the innocence of her thoughts and words. Yesterday Freya was explaining to her little friend Ella, that our new au pair (arriving next month) will be visiting us from ‘Chicken’ – she meant Turkey. I found myself panicking and interrupted to correct her, automatically.

I am keen for our children not to offend our new family member or anyone else for that matter. We would hate anyone to ever interpret our behaviour as racist.

Why was it OK for me to laugh out loud when Freya was talking about Wales though? Am I trying too hard not to offend those from far away lands? When Freya could possibly have been offending her father I didn’t take her words seriously or consider them to be dangerous. James laughed too, because we had never noticed the possible expectation of our daughter on her visit to Wales.

Perhaps we should all lighten up and not be so sensitive, everyone, even those from Whales, Chicken and 'Cooking Oil' (Greece) – thanks for that Max!

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Middle Class

A boyfriend once told me that I was

"middle class with working class aspirations"

- I still get annoyed now, just thinking about it.

Richard had a chauffeur, a part-time housekeeper and a man from Paula Pryke who delivered him a flower arrangement each Friday evening for his marquetry hall table. I looked at him in amazement each time the florist turned up on his door step in Chepstow Road, Notting Hill (long before the film) as regular as clockwork. Richard would dash back from work at London Bridge to ensure he was home for his florist to present him with an enormous arrangement in an oasis. God forbid that his bird of paradise would limpen due to lack of moisture.

That is just not quite 'manly' I think, a chap dashing home for his florist to deliver him fresh flowers for his house. We always ate out on Friday evenings - in Mezzo on Wardour Street, so immediately after the florist delivered, we were off, driven by the chauffeur to the restaurant. I was very fond of Richard - but I just had to say something. It was all just a tad "posh" for me. It just seemed a touch too 'Brideshead revisited'. I playfully asked Richard one Friday if his nanny still lived with his parents, now that he and his brother had left home.

Well, I already told you what he said to me - rather aggressively I might add, and so I bounced out the door and took a taxi home, that was the end of that as far as I was concerned.

Would you believe he sent his chauffeur to my house with his florist and some flowers? I must have hit a raw nerve...... mentioning Nanny. Diddums!

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Christmas Presents

What does it say about what my mother-in-laws' opinion of me that she gave me an ironing board cover for Christmas? Yes, it was a Cath Kidston ironing board cover, in a wonderful china blue with big red cabbage roses on it, but it was still an ironing board cover.

I wonder if she is trying to entice me into performing more household tasks myself - through accessorising my ironing board with my favourite designers wares? Or was she simply noticing that I like Cath Kidston, and buying me more of my favourite accessories? I wonder if she thinks I am lazy? I suppose she could be telling me to take better care of her son. I have never washed or ironed his shirts - or anything else of his for that matter - well you don't usually perform that task for flat mates - so why should I do it for James when we moved in together (I am embarrassed to admit that we were married by that time). He has never been great at ironing or washing clothes himself - always preferring to have them collected and laundered and ironed and delivered to his door.

When we were married first, he popped a pair of blue jeans in the washing machine with a pillow case full of my fabulous 'La Perla' and 'Aubade' underwear that I was about to wash at 30 degrees, and the whole lot went chewing gum grey - all the feathers and spangles dropped off too. He flipped the heat control to 90 degrees! I seem to remember him offering me £100 to replace the lot - that wouldn't even have replaced a single item. Poor boy, he had no idea.

No, these complex domestic tasks are best left to the experts - or in our case - our wonderful cleaner Liliana. She is meticulous in her attention to detail. Everything is carefully laundered or dry cleaned, ironed or pressed and arrives back in the wardrobe like magic! Actually, my mother-in-law gave Liliana an envelope stuffed with cash at Christmas, and on reflection, the ironing board cover is indirectly for Liliana too.

I have just realised, my mother-in-law hates me. She would clearly prefer it for James to be married to Liliana.

My father-in-law however, gave me (as usual) a very generous gift voucher for the fabulous jewellers in their village in Wales. I used it in the sale, to buy some tasteful South Sea black pearl earrings - I think that is why my mother-in-law hates me. He bought her a new ironing board!

Monday, 1 January 2007

My Grandma

My grandma was Irish and had fourteen children. She lived in a two up two down terraced house, and when my grandpa passed away, she turned to gin. She was a character.

When we visited her as children, she never knew our names. Each member of her brood had been "blessed" (ha!) with at least half a dozen children of their own, and when we came to visit, so did they - so that everyone would have the opportunity to meet up every year. Aunts and uncles galore from Scotland, the USA, Australia, England - all over, and children everywhere, in a tiny terraced house in Dublin.

Grandma would answer the front door, enormous and rather pale with a glass in her hand, and say;

"Oh God no, not you again" and she wasn't joking.

She would shout:

"Who owns that one, that one with the green jacket/yellow hat/red hair" (referring to her various grandchildren), and further: "Get him"or "her off my dog/off my curtains/out of my china cabinet" etc, with a liberal use of the capital letter "F".

We were in Dulwich Park this afternoon, and there was a small child being pushed along asleep in a pram by a grandparent, with another grandparent behind, pushing along an empty trike, and another pushing along a scooter, and another pushing along a 'Little Tykes' plastic car. Four grandparents, with four vehicles, and one small sleeping child.

When my friend Lara gave birth to her son a few years ago, as both of her parents have remarried, and both of her partners parents had remarried, there was almost a 'set to' at the hospital as all of the grandparents wanted to buy the pram! Eight grandparents! This is true, and not unusual I am led to believe.

Children these days get too much.

My grandma didn't even know our names, and she didn't care who we were as long as we left her dog alone and played quietly in the corner with the matches.