Friday, November 27, 2009

In Conversation with Kidling Grand

Having kids adds slightly surreal dimension to life, leaving well-intentioned parents bemused, confused... and usually amused. I had one of those conversations with 12-year-old Kidling Grand (a.k.a. No.1 & Only Son) last night:

He: "Ooh Mum, look what's on the telly. The world's tallest man is in Greece and he's looking for a wife."
Me: "Too late, I'm already married and I really don't fancy another wedding."
He: [shooting withering look in my direction] "We should introduce him to Ilias in Year 3 at my school. He's already over two metres tall."

Me: "Um, isn't Ilias a BOY??"
He: "Who knows?" [shoots me a wicked grin, grabs another hunk of bread and scoots off to bedroom to twiddle with leccy guitar]

But this is the same child (does he still qualify as a child with 13th birthday just 2 months away?) who started telling me the story of a Superhero/God named.... Guildford.

He didn't get very far, just looked in amazement as Mum rolled around on floor, in fits of helpless giggles. If I'd stopped to listen maybe I'd have learned something about the Arch Villain Leatherhead, his legions of evil minions (the Crawleys) and the punishments Guildford will mete out to the bad guys he catches (Woking? Climping-by-Sea? Lancing? Epping?).

Oh the joys and all that....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Of soups, smugness & Genghis Mum

Weekend lurking round the corner and migraine creeping up on me. No.1 crushed by disappointing exam results (Home Ec & Religious Studies, so no HUGE tragedy unless he plans to become Jamie Oliver, or the Pope). And NOW learn I have to trot off to local PC superstore to argue the case for repairing broken screen on his notebook under warranty.

Oh goody.

Day started SO well. Super-efficient, having it all, doing it all. By 9am, nutritious family meal was bubbling away in slow cooker, at least quarter of day's work done (thanks to super-early PC switch-on) and cauldron of leeks & potatoes sweating away in preparation for nutritious soup. Even allowed myself luxury of feeling a little smug.

Lesson of the day: NEVER feel smug. Something will always come along and bite you on the bum.

No.1 now three-quarters through first big slew of High School exams. Except for Home Ec & Religion, results pretty good so far - average of 17.5 out of 20 so far (with English yet to come, that SHOULD increase).

"Could do better" applies (doesn't it always?), but still pretty good. Tell self No.1 will settle into more organised study routine, these are the first big set of tests, he's in adjustment period, we have to trust him to make his own mistakes, find his own way, etc.

Hope I'm right. If not, Genghis Mum may have to be called out from inner reaches of my psyche (and believe me, she's HARD work).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh, bee-have!

Status: Busy
Mood: Buzzing

Just by standing on the train, manage to strike panic and horror into heart of woman two commuters away from me. With hand not hanging from her strap, she's making frantic signals and hysterically waggling eyebrows in my direction.

Look behind me. Then, to either side. Flapping and waggling continues.

She approaches, in the same way a damsel in distress might approach fire-breathing dragon. (Am not that scary, surely?)

With trembling index finger, she jabs at a spot just about an inch above my heart. Look down, squinting, and see a brown blob. Too close to focus instantly (bi-focals here I come!), wonder what it might be (please God, don't let it be dried pigeon pooh).

Penny drops as it moves slightly. It has legs - six of 'em.
A bee. In November. On my denim jacket. In an enclosed tube packed with people. Underground.

Am usually of the "don't bother them and they'll leave you alone" school re bees.

Most fellow commuters are not.

Gasps of horror follow as they spot the sleepy striped beast now crawling across my breast pocket. They imagine scenes of epic horror if the unseasonal insect decides to run rampant on the Metro.

First horrified traveller grabs a tissue and grasps Ms Bumble, then hands her to me. "Hold on tight til you get out" she orders.

Spend rest of journey with hapless honey bee scrunched between thumb and index finger, not wanting to crush her, but aware of responsibility to save fellow travellers from their nightmare scenario.

Half an hour later, step out of station and seek out flower bed to place my captive. Hope she likes roses. If not, there might be a gang of her buzzing buddies waiting to wreak her revenge later.

If so, hope they sting me on my right hand, where I have now lost all sensation.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes

It was one of those midnight calls.
The chime strikes dread into your heart. It can only be bad news at this time of the night. What is it? A loved one lost? A late-night rush to the hospital? What?

As it turned out, it was bad - but not THAT bad.

It's Sister-in-Law. A car had gone up in flames in the underground parking area of their apartment block. The place is swarming with firefighters, police - and acrid black smoke. The blaze has been put out, but not before scorching SIL's car and filling every apartment with the scent of a bonfire fuelled by rubber tyres and Lead-Free petrol.

OH clicks into Knight on a White Charger mode and leaps - superhero-like (swoon) - into his car (you can almost see his cape flapping in the breeze). SIL and her hubby have to hang around to deal with the authorities, but we can at least have their girls for the night.

At 2am, I open the door to two sleep-dazed, befuddled and slightly shell-shocked young ladies. Giving them a welcoming hug, I breathe in a heady mix of pre-pubescent anxiety, sweat, and smoke. Usually the quiet one, the eldest (let's call her El, my pet name for her) is calm, collected and doing a great job of reassuring her usually bouncy, gregarious (and aparently fearless) younger sister, Zen, who is in a state of suppressed panic and has cried enough tears to put the fire out single-eyed.

El thinks the speed at which Zen - a notorious victim of severe "Sticky Mattress Syndrome" - got out of bed when the alarm was raised is hilarious. She follows up with a series of impressive wise-cracking one-liners (esecially for a sleep-derived 11-year-old) which I guess is her way of dealing with things.

I lay a makeshift bed for Sir Lancelot (a.k.a. OH), then snuggle up with the girls, telling them the story of how my faithful little Fiat burst into flames with me and No.1 inside three Easters ago. Eventually, we fall asleep with the girls wrapped around me as I perch precariously on the edge of the bed.

Day breaks. I fall, with a bump, to the floor. Check the girls - still smokey-smelling but snoring softly - and drag myself off to No.1's room for early morning hugs.

Fast forward a few hours. Fixing breakfast for the kids. No.1 emerges from beneath the duvet on the sofa with a "Is something burning?".... Quick as a flash, El pipes up: "Again?".

Anyone for extra crispy bacon??

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In which I welcome my weary traveller

Mood: Contented & complete
To Do list: Trawl recipe books for autumn bounty inspiration, nag No.1, pamper OH, pay bills...
Tasks completed: Erm. Can I get back to you on that?

A sweet sense of domesticity has settled on the Transplanted household. Our not-so-holy Trinity is again complete - OH returned from his PR schlep of northern Greece. Trudges in, wrung out but heavy-laden with the bounties of countryside: crates of organic apples & lotus fruit; chestnuts; cosy handmade slippers; and two enormous terracotta crockpots.

Not known for his frugality, my man. Am now swimming in seasonal goodies, but wonder if there's anything left in family coffers to pay bills? Oh well....

Adopt dutiful wife-like creature persona, welcome returning hero with homemade leek & potato soup with fresh sage and speciality cauliflower & leek cheese. Even have left-over apple cake (courtesy of neighbour with superior domestic pedigree) for pud.

And yet.... come 11pm, first rumblings of weary traveller's tummy are heard, accompanied by the phrase "I want pizza". No.1 raises an eager face from TV, nodding "Yeah!" and mouthing order with gusto.

Don serious grown-up I-know-what's-best-for-you face and say "No you don't, darling. And if you do, you know you'll regret it."

OH settles into teenage-style sulk, mumbles something about it all being my fault and toddles off to bed with No.1 in tow. Adults knackered, child still bouncing around like a jumping jack. Time for bed, but kiddo wants to watch rest of movie - and only bedroom TV is in OUR room. Cue male-bonding and Mum sleeping in teenage bed...

S'OK, will catch up on matrimonial hugs later. (Up-side: no window-rattling high decibel snores in MY ear).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Approaching my Sell-By Date?

Mood: Down, down, down.
Glamour quotient: Non-existent
Carbs craved: Mountains of bread, cakes, biscuits...
Temptation resisted: Zero

Urgh. That time of the month. No, not THAT time - the week or so before it. Can expect skull-crunching three-day migraine any day now.

Feeling my age... and then some.
Am frumpy, lumpy, shakey, achey, spotty, dotty, sarcy, narky - and bloated to boot.

Giving up daily walks (no time!) and comfort diet of super-carbs may not be best tactic.

OH is schlepping around Greece doing the PR shuffle for most of this month. No.1 in a stupour induced by first batch of serious at High School exams (fuelled by diet of homemade cakes and nagging). Up to me to be the solid, reliable one, and keep things going on even keel as menfolk navigate semblance of reality.

No.1 calls from north Greece, complaining he feels tired, stressed and 'peculiar' (join the club, sunshine). Cue supportive long-distance wifey noises. Try to sound sincere.

Money worries loom, cupboard is bare and my backside is burgeoning.
Wasn't life suppposed to get easier as you get older?

Fear not, dear diary, it's probably just hormones. I'll be back in Tigger mode soon - probably well and truly on form by the time I hit 45 on 1 December.

45? How the bloody hell did THAT happen? And why do I care?
40 was no big deal for me (despite spending milestone birthday with abcessed tooth, industrial strength antibiotics and face swollen to resemble rugby ball after Twickenham final). But 45? 45 seems so much more.... more than halfway up the hill to 50. Then I'll be 'over the hill' and maybe 'all downhill' from there?

On days like today, I feel like I'm hurtling towards my Sell-By Date.

On bright side, seem to ha ve exorcised creepy mature Midwich cuckoos that gave me the evil eye on bus all last week. They've disappeared - probably in a puff of rank green smoke, for all I know.

See? There's always something to be glad for (ever imagined what 'Anne of Green Gables' was like as she hit middle age?).

So long as I keep up my mantra: "Always look on the bright side of life, Always look..."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In which I resist the urge to strangle my offspring (just)

State of mind: Frustrated & frazzled

Am officially the most hated mother in Greece.
Serves me right for giving a damn.

Spent most of morning having the screaming ab-dabs, trying to get No.1 to put a bit of effort into his school work. He can do so much better, with a little thought and imagination. Am creative wordy type so take it as personal insult when son of mine thinks he can get away with starting essay about his High School with "My school is very nice..." (He churned out better stuff when they wrote "My Day" in first year of Infants.)

Read his first effort, and a red haze descends on me. Loose my cool, rip page out of exercise book and scrawl comments all over it. Explain (sweetly but very firmly) how it could/should be done.

No.1 looks at me like I'm (a) clearly certifiable and (b) have no idea what I'm talking about. Obviously, he considers that woman who has earned her daily bread with the written word for the past 25 years can't possibly know a thing about how to put together an essay.

What do I know? I'm over the age of 20 - and therefore brain dead.

Resist the urge to strangle him and insist, at rate of many decibels, that he re-writes.

After just two hours - interspersed with Saturday morning brain-melting cartoons, scratching at his electric guitar, computer games, corridor football and random animal noises - he presents Crap Essay 2.0.

It's an improvement, but still not up to scratch. Sigh. Take a deep breath and count to 10... then 100... and 1000...

(Just wait til your father gets home, kiddo.)

Now he has English homework and revision for end of term geography test on Monday. Is he doing it? Is he 'eck as like! He's sitting in his room, perfecting his Green Day impersonation. I remind him that he has to do it today. He yells "Yes, I know! You told me!".
Ah, domestic bliss.

I'm plodding my way relentlessly towards senility, and No.1 acts like everything's cool. Little does he know that tomorrow he'll do Crap Essay 3.0 - and I shall snatch back from Cruella DeVille the crown of world's most hated woman.

Oh, the joys of parenthood! The only (unpaid) job whose sole purpose is to render yourself redundant, and at which you don't know if you have succeeded until it's too late to do anything about it.

Just you wait, young'un. One of these days, I'll be old, grey and ga-ga... and then it'll be MY turn to drive YOU round the bend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Middle-aged Midwich?

Caffeine consumed: Not enough, apparently
Illicit substance intake: Zero, to my knowledge
State of mind: Puzzled, and slightly spooked

Seems I have a Secret Detractor (or whatever the opposite of a Secret Admirer is). Come to think of it, she's none too secret either.

Every morning as I get on the bus, am met with the disapproving and very direct glare of one of my fellow travelers. No idea why.

She's a smallish woman in her late 50s or early 60s with grey hair scraped into a bun, thick glasses, no make-up, and a brown duffel coat. Ordinarily, wouldn't even notice her, let alone be spooked. But every day, she's there as I flop down in my seat and open my book - staring malignantly at me as if I had just eaten her entire family for breakfast.

Tried staring back in silent challenge - but no result. Tried ignoring her, but still feel her gaze boring into the back of my head. Want to approach her and look down from my full 5 ft 10 and say "What?!", but fear of public ridicule and lack of caffeine-fuelled bravado stop me.

Is it my shocking red hair that offends her so? Or the fact that I am so obviously not Greek? Perhaps she's decided I'm a wanton strumpet out to devour the cream of Greece's young men?

Probably shouldn't worry - her prob, not mine.

But what does worry me is the fact that... she seems to be multiplying.

This morning, climbed onboard bus and spotted her at the front, twisting round to deliver her daily glare. I turned to head for the back - only to come face-to-face with her clone, also giving me 'The Look'.

Was like a late middle-aged version of The Midwich Cuckoos. Two identical faces glaring at me in mute but insistent accusation.

Flippin' 'eck, how many of them will there be tomorrow?

Just decided, I'll be working from home for the rest of the week...