Friday, October 30, 2009

In which it all goes to my head

State of mind: Smug, but ready for weekend
State of head: Scary
Trick or treat: Um, can I have both?

Am dynamic, productive Mum of action. Signed off latest magazine proof, wrote new website text, cooked nutritous chicken dinner for menfolk, baked cupcakes (which menfolk hoovered up like locusts in a wheat field), whizzed up 10 litres of curried pumpkin soup - and turned head into imitation of a black cherry flavoured lollipop (albeit lolly on a rather voluptuous stick).

Bored with the toned-down orange base and blonde highlights I had done for the summer, decided it was time for the Return of 'Big Red'. That meant grabbing a pack of dye from supermarket shelf, mixing up a series of odd smelling chemicals, slapping the gloop on my head (trying not to redecorate bathroom in the process) and waiting half an hour for the transformation to magically take place.

And take place it did - though the result is a little closer to 'Psychadelic Copper Beech on Acid' than the demure-sounding 'Light Auburn Brown' the packet claimed. Wanted to add some colour to my lately washed-out overall look, highlighting colour of my eyes. Well, I certainly acheived that. Now an electric blue gaze peeps out from beneath a fringe of shocking burgundy.
Oh well, it'll fade I s'pose (hope?).

No.1's response when he arrived home from school?
"Urgh - your head's scary, Mum!"

(Good, just in time for Hallowe'en - cue evil cackle).

OH arrives home looking like wet rag. Too deflated to even make sarcastic remark about scary head (now that's bad - when I first went redhead from natural blonde, he quipped "Oh look, artificial intelligence". Har-bloody-har.). He had to fire someone today - probably the cruellest form of torture for a People Person like him. I wear my sympathetic wifey face and offer plate of home-baked cupcakes. Turn kettle on for a cuppa and come back to... empty plate. He's scoffed the lot! Who'd have thought being ruthless middle manager works up such an appetite?

OK, had enough. Gonna take my scary head and empty cake plate, and watch Jeremy Clarkson being sarcastic on Top Gear now.

Happy hallowe'en, ya'all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fishcake fanfare

Hunger factor: Off the scale
Cupboard status: Old Mother Hubbard bare
Jamie Brownie points: 1500!
Mood: Accomplished

Am Queen of the kitchen. Nigella, Jamie, Gordon and Marco-Pierre wotsisface (not to mention Mummy Dearest) would be proud. Have turned the pathetic end-of-month/waiting-for-PayDay contents of my larder into a quick, tasty and nourishing meal.

Today was a National Holiday. Greeks took the day off every 28 October to mark the famous "Oxi!" ("No!") that was their PM's reply when Mussolini's government demanded he hand over the country in 1940. Cue patriotic parades of schoolkids, scouts and aged Resistance veterans in every neighbourhood around the country. Also cue the same-old TV fodder that has played on this day every year for the past 40 years - fuzzy black & white documentaries and movies (of which everyone knows every last word of dialogue) celebrating how the brave Greeks snubbed their noses at the Nazis.

I left OH and the in-laws to chat patriotically on the sofa as they watched the last of the coverage of the biggest official parade, and hoped that No.1 would soak up some of his grandfather's reminiscences and regurgitate it when he has to write a essay in his History class some time in the future. As a foreigner, I can't reall contribute much, so I set about fixing sauces and boiling spaghetti (kinda ironic considering today celebrates a rejection of all things Italian).

After stuffing our faces with pasta, we settled down for a quiet afternoon of No.1's homework and preparation for tomorrow's Biology test while OH & I got all cultured listening to Bach and opera highlights as we checked our emails. I was even humming Tocatta & Fugue to myself as I went out for my daily hour's stomp round the neighbourhood.

Then, at about 7.30pm, hunger struck. Big time.

No.1 & OH are pasta addicts. If incapacitated, they'd simply have vermicelli delivered intravenously with a sprinkling of parmesan. By the time they had descended on the leftovers lovingly placed in the fridge for tomorrow, there was precisely nothing left for Yours Truly.

Fine, you might say.

Not fine, I roar in reply. I was HUNGRY. I wanted to eat.
But what was there in the house? Quite literally, not a sausage. Just two small potatoes, a slightly wilted onion and half a piece of left-over fish.

What to do? What to do? Then, inspiration struck! Fishcakes. Never made 'em before, but how hard can they be?

As it turns out, not hard at all. Peel spuds, boil 'em with chopped onion, mash it all up, flake fish, add a pinch of chilli, salt, pepper, a smidge of fresh basil and mix it all up. Shape into burger sized rounds, dunk in flour, and fry lightly. Serve with a splodge of leftover tom-basil sauce for dipping, and eat.

Yum! Big Brownie points to Mandi from the school of eating well with bugger all in the larder.
Even better, OH and No.1 turned their noses up at my offering (Greeks are rightly proud of their cuisine, but can be dismissive of anything beyond their comfort zone). No prob. Their loss - and more for me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In which I grovel

Dear Diary,

Yes, I know. I've neglected you in the most unforgivable manner. If you were my child, you'd be wandering the streets barefoot, in threadbare clothes, with a hunk of week-old bread in one hand and a carrier bag containing a bottle of Strongbow and 20 Marlborough in the other.

I'm sorry, right?
But it's only today that I have emerged from a four-day-long migraine. A marathon of skull-crunching pain that rendered me all but useless except for going through the motions that pay the mortgage and dishing out some kind of sustainance to feed the family.

The prospect of writing a single syllable that I didn't have to in order to justify my salary just wasn't on the agenda. Sorry.

But today, I woke up with a head as light as a feather and free of the sense that there's something desparate to burst out of my frontal lobe in a way reminiscent of John Hurt's best-remembered scene in Alien. So I promise I'll do better.

Now all I have to worry about is the fact that I'm apologising to a cyber book of mostly empty pages.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Idleness 1-Work Ethic 0

Caffeine intake: 4 coffees (inc. 1 coffee-coloured concoction served by man with dodgy hair-weave in Starbucks)
Work output: 20% capacity (should feel bad, but don't)
Chocolate craved: 2 brownies, 1 Kit-Kat & big bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk. At least.
Chocolate consumed: I small chocolate wafer (pretty restrained, considering what craved)
State of mind: In free-fall

Have been a lazy old boot today. Did just the minimum required work (after making sure all deadlines were beaten earlier in the week), made my presence felt and went through motions of looking busy. But - if honest - must admit spent most of the day fiddle-arsing about.

Tell self I deserve a break. I work beyond the standard 9-to-5 most days, then come home and check emails for another hour or two. Who's gonna give me a hard time for one day of idleness?

Me, that's who. My cursed in-bred Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) keeps kicking against logic and trying to re-awaken my guilt gene.
Well, PWE can kiss my lily-white backside. Am entitled to little bit of idleness now and then.

Now, if you don't mind - dear Diary - I really can't be arsed to write any more...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Easy on a Sunday morning

Strange sense of serenity has settled over me.
(Should I worry that aliens have taken over my usually slightly frantic & burbling brain?)

No.1's room update: all done bar the shouting and some spotlights. Big sighs of relief & satisfaction.

Men in my life out, being macho at some Sports Expo.
House clean & tidy (at least for now) - and quiet (bliss!). No shouting. No sudden animal shrieks (yes, I know we don't have pets any more but we still have residual beasty noises). No attacks on electric guitar with amp turned RIGHT UP. No arguments about homework or excessive TV or video games.

Just gentle tap of fingers on the keyboard, Radio 4 on laptop (Radio 4 was made for Sunday mornings), and Sunday soups (beef & veg broth for carnivores, spicy meatless minestrone for me) bubbling away on stove.

For once, brain not racing or digging into 'might-haves', 'could-haves', 'should-haves' or 'what-ifs'. Just the splendid isolation of few hours to myself.

Dear God, am officially an old fart. But don't care.

Time for another cuppa and wander onto balcony to check flower boxes. Just call me when my pension check and crossword arrive.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Flat Pack Queen gets busy

Glamour quotient: Minus 5,328 (bloated, no make-up, hair akimbo, etc. – waddya expect?)
Caffeine intake: Cups of tea: 12. Drunk: 7 (keep losing ‘em)
Accomplishments of the day: IKEA wall-mounted desks & zigzag shelves for No.1’s room assembled (am Queen of the Flat Packs)
Unfinished business: Desks & shelves to mount, curtain to hang, rubbish to dump, sanity to retrieve.
State of house: Utter chaos
State of mind: Ditto

Am complete piglet (diet went bye-bye this week). Looking round, I see that we do indeed live in a sty. That figures. Other stye threatening to take up residence at inner corner of my left eye.

And yet, feel strange sense of achievement.
(Note to self: Consider merits of behavioural therapy. Is it covered by Greek state health service? NO!)

Spent most of evening screwing with OH.

Screwing bits of wood together, screwing up eyes trying to follow strange Swedish instructions, screwing up and throwing instruction sheet away in disgust (then screwing up nose as I retrieve it from rubbish bin).

Plan was to have bounties of IKEA all in place ready to delight No.1 when he returned from evening with his mates. But the best-laid plans of mice and men (esp. GREEK men)… well, you know the rest, Dear Diary.

Reality is that OH and No.1 are now off to bed in our room. I get to sleep on sofa (it IS my turn - OH was on sofa duty when paint fumes rendered No1's room a no-sleep area last week). No.1’s new bed is a mess of power tools, Allen keys, measuring tapes and screws.

And cardboard boxes – lots and lots of cardboard boxes.

But come tomorrow, as day breaks and the power drills start whirring again, we’ll finally be on the home stretch to having the coolest pre-teen bedroom in the world (well, in our street at least).

It doesn’t take much to make me happy these days…

Ain’t domestic bliss grand?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blame it on the crumble

Caffeine intake: 6 cups of tea
Earth Mother Brownie Points: 27 (homemade apple crumble, 2nd time in a week!)
Calories consumed: 58,973 (blame it on the crumble)

Wonder Woman's got nothing on me.
Spuds peeled, bean stew made and apple crumble prepared - all BEFORE 9am. Then, chained to laptop, tap away and clear a slew ot items from the the dreaded TO DO list. Just a few breaks for tea, pee and feeding No.1 once back from school.

No.1 seems impressed. In a voice more English than Stephen Fry waving the flag on St George's Day declares "Mummy, you're a proper English housewife."
(Hmmmm, think it's first time ANYONE has called me that. Not sure how to feel about it...)

Autumn has arrived in Athens - piddling down. May have to put off today's daily stomp and do housebound stuff instead.

Plenty to keep me busy at home. End in sight for the revamp of No.1's room. IKEA raided, credit card muscle flexed (and sprained), house now littered with flat-pack boxes of stuff waiting to be unpacked and assembled.

OH promises to get all manly with power tools tonight, but first requires Obedient Wide (that's me) to clear the debris and chuck out recyclable rubbish.

Hey ho, I'm sure it'll all be worth it in the end.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Emerging from the slime

Caffeine input: Minimal (due to invalid status)
Earth Mother Brownie points: 78 (I made pudding, for gawd's sake!)
Pudding consumed: 1 serving (v. restrained)
Hours slept: Nowhere near enough

Urgh. Feel like a slug emerging from the primeval slime that first gave birth to life. A slug that takes one look around it and thinks "Don't think much of this. Can I go back please?".

Since Saturday, have had all the energy of a heavily pregnant three-toed sloth. And on Sunday the mother of all migraines took up residence in the left hemisphere of my noggin. You know the sort of thing - when you feel like someone has stuck your head in a vice and every now again comes along and tightens the grip a few more notches. But being the super-mummy that I so want to be, I just keep going. There's work to be done, dishes to be washed, mouths to be fed...

Think the pain is fading a little, or perhaps I'm just used to it now. Or maybe last night's apple crumble and home-made custard (from scratch, if you please!) did its magic. Amazing what the combination of a sense of acheivement and comfort food can do.

Took advantage of dark glasses worn on train to sneak a quick kip this morning (good thing about working at the end of the line is that you can't miss your stop). Think fellow passengers may have rumbled when I started snoring gently (woke self up - v. embarrassing).

As I walk to office, head is not throbbing and nape opf neck does not feel like Mr Spock has put the Vulcan vice pinch on me. Maybe I'll be able to work through the red haze of my headache, after all?

Whatever happens, one thought keeps me going:
There's more apple crumble and custard waiting in the fridge...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Confessions of a harridan housewife

Am trying to be v. patient, compassionate & understanding.

Am trying, but failing. True nature of impatient harpy won't tolerate Stepford Wife behaviour, no matter how hard brain tells me it's a good tactic.

Poor OH is in pain. Has been since our home decorating marathon at the weekend (must have pulled a muscle watching me paint - can't be anything else as he just faffed about for a day and a half with 'prepatory work'). Now he's taking every opportunity to remind me of his lumbar agony.

Sheesh! Good thing men don't get pregnant! Or periods.

Meanwhile, revamped room stands in suspended animation waiting for covers to be put back on light switches & plugholes, and painted cupboard doors screwed back in place. Dare to express humble opinion that I can do it, but OH comes over all masterful and manly to insist I can't possibly do it and so must wait for him.

Oh goody, the Waiting Game. My favourite.
Looks like we'll be weaving our way past cupboard doors waiting in hall til Christmas. Gaah!

In flood of pre-programmed guilt, realise that I am clearly a heartless harridan who should not be allowed within screeching distance of poor, sensitive, well-meaning menfolk.
(But at least I get things done).

Never mind, will wait for OH to disappear and get on with it.
(Imagines triumphant "ta-da!" as OH walks in to find cupboards ready and lightswitches covered - tries to ignore inevitable liturgy of what done wrong and why should have waited).

Sometimes, it pays to be a little bit of a bitch...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Verbal diarrhoea

Word count: Approx. 15 million, not counting swear words muttered under breath
Caffeine intake: 5 coffees, 2 teas (maybe that's why I'm shaking?)
Brain temperature: Kilometres walked: 6 (v.good)
Chocolate craved: An entire chocolate factory's worth
Chocolate eaten: None (v.v. good - am model of restraint)

Words, words, words.... thousands of 'em. And I have to make sense of 'em, and sort them into an order that will make sense to other people. Burble, burble, burble.... welcome to my world.

After weekend up ladder with splodges of paint on my noggin, giving my arm and leg muscles a rest but taxing my poor tired grey matter. Never mind, am dynamic career woman with a way with words. I can do this.

Finding something to write about is rarely problem. Can waffle for my country - as my dear old Dad used to say - on the most mundane of subjects. Problem is cutting it all down to the basics, simplifying the language and still getting message across - without reader switching off and turning on 'The X Factor' before ending third paragraph.

Trouble is, not everyone gets the "less is more" mantra. They think "a way with words" means LOTS of the little buggers. And even when they ask me for article length they should aim for (let's say 600), they'll come back with 2,000 or more.

Spent first years of No.1's life clearing up his poop, and now I'm wiping up other people's verbal (and written) diarrhoea.

Out comes Mandi's ruthless red pencil - and the massacre begins!

Send the slashed, cut and paste revamp (now 700 words) back to author. Miracle of miracles - he likes it! (Unlike other colleague who took offence when I cut erroneous apostrophes some months back.) Phew. Breathe sigh of relief and have another cuppa.

Back home in evening, add fourth coat of yellow paint to cupboard door (damn you streaks, I will defeat you!) and settle to listen to OH grilling No.1 on the paleolithic and neolithic eras. History test tomorrow - first one at new school.

OH in professor mode, grilling young'un and giving tips on how to write tests, make friends and influence teachers (this from the man who free-wheeled through most of High School on a wing, prayer and almost photographic memory, devouring off-curriculum books but nothing on the official reading list).

Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah blah blah. OH & No.1 still rabbiting on. Seems there's no escape from verbal diarrhoea today.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Colour me senseless

Caffeine intake: Gallons!
Hours up a ladder: at least 5
Hair colour: Red-blonde with splashes of white, orange, blue, mauve, yellow, green
Chocolate consumed: Whole bar of milk choc with almonds (v.v. bad, but delicious - and deserved)

Am international Mum of action - a woman wot gets things done.

Am also shattered after three days of sanding, filling, sanding again, washing down, painting, waiting, more painting, cleaning, taping, painting again, sweeping, mopping up spills, removing tape. But it's worth it - No.1's bedroom is well on its way to transformation from primrose yellow/sky blue Winnie the Pooh refuge to funksville for a soon-to-be teen.

And as today was the General Election in Greece, OH was busy with politics - which meant I could just get on with things. Later tonight, we'll know which party will be the new Government (all the exit polls are predicting a landslide of the socialists, who - rather confusingly - have green as their party colour here).

Whatever colour is in power, or fashion or that matter, No.1 will be fine. His room now has white walls, a red doorframe and window casing, and super-cool sort of bar code effects in orange, mauve, green, dark blue, green and light blue.

And it's all thanks to me!

(Maybe one day he'll thank me...)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Toothpicks & rice cakes

Caffeine intake: 0 (excellent)
Green tea consumption: 8 cups (can you O-D on green tea?)
Glamour rating: -57 (a girl needs her sleep now and then, you know)

Tumble out of bed and prop eyelids open with toothpicks. Brain not yet caught up with body after 5-hour proofreading marathon last night. Isn't burning the midnight oil s'posed to make me all Bohemian and inspired?

Grunt "Bye - have a good day" in general direction of No.1 as he leaves for school. Think he had breakfast, though not 100% sure. (Am obviously slovenly, indifferent mother who deserves a good kicking)

Working from home today, so decide to have a health kick (once recovered from sobbing fit after discovering stocks of Sainsbury's English Breakfast teabags exhausted).
Green tea and rice cakes with honey for breakfast.
[Note to self: Check if rice cakes & honey still healthy when you scoff 10 in a single sitting]