Sunday, 24 January 2016

Oh, bop, do do do do do do do do Fa-fa-fa-fa-fashion

I love to shop. I love clothes. The combination is a fatal one. It kills my bank balance and the death of my wardrobe is imminent as it threatens to pop at the seams - the day is fast approaching when the doors will fall in on me  and the back will drop down into Narnia.

But what does my love of fashion teach Nipper? She's already saying things like "that's not very me," and her unhealthy obsession with things leopard print remains undiminished.

My love for clothes and shopping contributes to landfill and although I try really hard to be aware of what I source and from where, no doubt at some point a child has made an item of clothing that I wear. This thought sickens me.

In an attempt to re-educate myself and to prevent  Nipper catching the full blown strain of my shopaholica, today I pledge to forgo buying clothing for myself for a year. I might go for longer, but I'm starting with 365 days.

This isn't as virtuous or minimalist as it sounds. The Guardian won't be sharing this blog. I have a lot of fabric in my wardrobe. If I forgo knickers, I've got enough clothes to wear an item a day for the next 6 months without washing a thing.

If I laid my mini skirts end to end they'd reach the end of our street.

A quick inventory revealed:
76 mini skirts
15 pairs of jeans
10 pairs of trousers
10 pairs of shorts
52 dresses
23 hoodies
And 28 pairs of knickers.
I'm not going to attempt to count tops t shirts and blouses (I'm of an age where I've started to buy those too!)

I'm an economic disaster. I have invested in fabric when I would have been better off investing in oil and we all know that oil too is on its uppers, knickerless and without a pot to piss in.

Nik has suggested de-cluttering first and also suggests  I work out what is useful by labelling my clothes with the date I last wore them. I listened, then concluded there's a special kind of madness associated with 'order and reason'. Another two things I won't be investing in.

Instead I'm investing in the future joy I'm going to experience from creating new and diverse looks from my old items. Nipper and I are going to make a Look Book. We can also alter and add embellishments to some of the more tired items.

We are  looking  forward to the No Shopping For Clothes Year.

And to the lady who passed us in the street the other day and said to me "I like your costume!", I say "you ain't seen nothing yet." X

Ps. If you want to join me in the 365 day quest do let me know.... There will be dark days but together and with the help of sequins we can get through it, we might even find we like it.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

A boy for a day

"I want to be a boy for a day" she announced "but without a willy - that would get in the way."

I wanted to ask my daughter what it would get in the way of, but didn't want to restart discussions on the male appendage, discussions which had lasted for the whole week of half term after a naked German swam towards us in the hotel pool bellowing "Guten Tag!!"

"Why do you want to be a boy?" I asked.

"Because they just play, they don't argue like the girls," she replied.

I tried to imagine my petite daughter, with her fear of mud, as a boy for the day. This was a girl who could be reduced to tears by mud on the toe of her wellies. 

"You'd probably have to play football" I warned. Hmmmm I could see her processing the thought of running to and fro with other red-faced laughing boys.

"And you might even have to header the ball...." I added.

"I could do that" she answered grimacing.

"You'd have to pretend to hold guns and throw grenades and make a POW sound."

"POW? No one says 'POW' Mummy! It's  "peeeyouuu.  I can do that."

I was lost at this point and flicked quickly through the stereotypical images in my head listed under the heading of "boys".  Nerf guns. Dirty knees.  Boggies. 

She interrupted me before I could get to Smelly Farts: "If I get to be a boy for a day, I'd show my new boy friends how to play the 'fashion game'.  I'd show them how to make clothes and walk down the catwalk and we could put on events and sing and dance..."

"You could do that with your friends whatever sex they are."

"Mummy!! You're not allowed to say that!!!"

"Of course I can, we are all equal and can play whatever game we like - girls can play football and boys can design dresses."

"No Mummy!!! You don't understand, you can't say S.E.X!" She spelled the three letters out with emphasis. 

Apparently there are lots of words I can't say including the 'F' word (fart or fat, depending on the context) and "God!" (that's rude).

"If you want to be a boy for a day then you want to change sex Zoe."

Zoe stopped tying her shoe-laces and looked at me "I can't CHANGE sex Mummy - I don't know how to make it."

That was the moment I decided that the next time she announced she wanted to be a boy for a day, willy or no willy, I would just say :"Great idea - pass me the Nerf gun!"

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The School Run

“Get up! Get up! Get up!”

Muffled “URGGGGH!” from under the duvet

“Get up! Get up! Come on get up - I’ve been in to your room three times to ask you to get up and you’re still not up and dressed!” my daughter then turns on her heel and, already fully-dressed, stalks out of my bedroom. 

She’s up with the lark (or the stars if they’re still out at 6am) while I wait until the very last minute to rise like Lazarus, and every morning I make a promise to go to bed earlier tonight.

If we are to make it to school on time then we have to leave the house by 8:36:07 at the very latest.  Working together, we have calculated this exact timing with the help of  trial and error.  It’s taken two years to hone it down to the last second, but we can do it if I make it out of bed by 8:01.  Not a second later.  

On a good day: Mummy is in the shower by 8:01 and 20 seconds. Out by 8:05 washed and shampooed, dressed by 8:07, hair dried by 8:12. Downstairs and cereal in bowls by 8:15. There’s time to listen to David Walliams reading his book or Shaun Keaveney (my choice) on 6Music. 8:25 back upstairs to clean teeth and pull hair into a ponytail (trying not to pull too much out of her head) then downstairs 8:30, shoes on, coats on, alarm on, out of the door 8:32. Turn back at 8:33, unlock door, turn off alarm, run through to the kitchen, rinse out dirty water bottle from day before, refill, turn alarm back on, lock door, leave driveway by 8:36.

On a bad day: “Come on! Stop looking in the mirror and come downstairs, you’re making me late again Mummy!” 8:32 and there she is, my fantastic little girl, fully dressed, coat on, hat on, shoes on, school bag across her chest frowning up the stairs at me and jabbing her finger pointedly  at her wrist (I wouldn’t mind, but she doesn’t even wear a watch). 
"Where’s my phone? 
"Why are all my socks odd? 
"Where are my glasses?” 

“They’ll be where you left them Mummy” she shouts up the stairs.  I know where she’s picked that saying up - from the man who left the house in a smooth trajectory, wearing matching socks, forgetting nothing at the ungodly hour of 7:15 with plenty of time to calmly buy a ticket and make his train. 

8:35, I fall down the stairs wearing odd socks and a Hallowe’en hair-do, I look up to see her writing careful words in a tiny white notebook.  “You’re in the late book again” she says with a half smile. “Sorry,” I reply and then go in search of the sodding water bottle (it’s never where we left it) to half fill it so we can carry it down the road, place it in the class trug and collect it, untouched at the end of the day.  Hat, coat, shoes, alarm.

Each half term that passes, another line is added to my already heavily lined brow. What I need is a lie in….if my calculations are right I should get one in 2 years time. 

Come January 2018 “one sugar in my tea please Zoë and can you please slice the banana a little thinner on my weetabix today?” I’ll shout down the stairs to my fully dressed, fantastically organised girl. I will rise refreshed at 8:15 having enjoyed breakfast in bed.  

Until then, if you see me on the school run in odd socks you’ll know it was a bad day.

And to Zoë; I pinky-promise to go to bed earlier tonight……..

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

Last week when I was standing in line at M&S in the town doing my annual trick of hanging on to my child’s middle finger as the weight from my dangerously over-stacked basket turned my knuckle white while simultaneously balancing a box of crackers on my head and clutching two tins of Roses in my armpit, the kindly lady next to me suggested I “needed help”. My daughter replied on my behalf and said I could “write and ask Father Christmas for some as he always likes to know what we want for Christmas.” 

She tells me you have lots of little helpers, do you think you could pop one of those under the tree for me, and when you’re down there, can you run the hoover around because the non-drop tree has dropped all over the rug and the cat’s been picking needles out of her paws for weeks now. 

I’m in a mess with the presents too.  I bought some back in July, in an attempt to get organised but I organised them away somewhere in a cupboard and can’t find them now.  I’m not sure but I think the Doodle book that my daughter was scrawling over this morning was meant for Cousin Emily, who, by the way, is coming this weekend!  My daughter  is adamant that she “found it” under her bed.  I’ve looked and there’s nothing else under there (other than half a Peppa Pig and a rotten apple core), so the other presents aren’t there, but I have no idea where they are.  

I had a list somewhere too.  My Mum always told me that making lists was a good idea, that way I’d know what was coming next, or what I needed to do.  I know I need to buy food, possibly a turkey, a pudding and lots and lots of booze.  But what order do I do these things in?  And what about stockings? Actually, scrap that, it’s been years since I wore stockings - I just don’t have the time to fiddle with suspenders. 

I’m sorry to trouble you with all of this, I know that you get a lot of letters at this time of year, but my daughter is sure that you can help, she’s also very sure that you are going to bring her a “penguin that talks”.

I’m finding it a bit tough at the moment.  The days are shorter, the nights are closing in, I have to make a mouse costume for the nativity, stick the pound shop paper chains back together again, bake the Christmas cake (I know, I know, I should have done it in July) man a stall at the Christmas Fete and help promote the Hunt The Sausage Calendar for the church, 

If you could find the time to write back, email, text or drop me a message on Facebook, I’d be really grateful.  And please don’t forget to find the talking penguin.  Zoe is sure that there are “loads in Iceland”.  I think she means where you live, and not where I will be shopping for a turkey on Christmas Eve. Again.

Love and kisses (and apologies in advance for the mouldy carrot and bought mince pie)

Vikki x

*First published by vine as part of The Mumblings series*

An excerpt

By Margaret Rimmer

There's a tap on my shoulder and a voice calls softly: 'Margaret!' I freeze and then slowly turn my head and look up straight into the beautiful green eyes of a very tall lady bending over me. She has black hair, topped with a white frilly cap and is wearing a dark blue dress.
'Who are you?' I quiver.
'Don’t be frightened, me darling,' she murmurs soothingly, 'I’m Sister O'Donovan.'

Every morning Sister O'Donovan helps me to wash and dress and then, whilst she's brushing my long blond hair, we sing nursery rhymes. When Sister has time she sits with me and tells me stories about pixies and gnomes in Ireland, where she was born. 
I like the evenings too because a quiet, considerate man always visits me. He's not very tall, has nice brown hair flecked with grey, but best of all he has lovely twinkling green eyes. They look sad most of the time but I made him laugh today when he asked me what I’d be doing and I said: 'We played ‘Ring a ring a roses,’ but I hurt myself when I fell down.' He acts as if he knows me and greets me with a kiss on each cheek, but he’s got quite a big nose and every time he does this he nearly knocks my glasses off. His name is David but I don’t know anyone with that name.
A head pops round the door and says: 'Hello, Margaret. How’re you feeling this week?'
'I’m fine,' I reply automatically, desperately trying to cover myself scantily clad body with the sheet. 'I’m sorry about my revealing attire but I wasn’t expecting anyone.'
'Not to worry,' he grins, 'You do know I’ve been visiting you for the last few weeks nothing’s going to surprise me now.'

'Oh, my God,' I blurt out, 'have you really been to see me before? I don't remember.'
'Yes, I’m your local rector, Denis Sweetman. I look after the three churches of Eynsford, Farningham and Lullingstone.'
'Oh, my God,' I can't help repeating myself. 'Really.... how nice.'
He smiles: 'They’re beautiful, actually.  You live in Eynsford, almost opposite St. Martin’s Church.'
'Do I?' I look at him in bewilderment.
'Yes. You had a baby in July, a boy, do you remember?'
'No.....' I can't believe what he's saying, 'what month is it now then?'
'It’s the end of August, but don't worry your mother is caring for John, that's what you called your son, and your little girl Victoria.'
'Oh, dear, I have no recollection of having a little girl either,' I cry. 'What's the matter with me?' 
Forty two years ago I gave birth to my beloved son John, and due to a hormonal imbalance during pregnancy, I suffered amnesia and reverted to my childhood.  I was a mother of two, but I didn’t know it, as far as I knew, I was a child living in a strange place that smelled of school dinners.  In actual fact I was in Stone Mental House in Dartford, my two children were being looked after by my mother and my husband was alone in our little house in Eynsford.  
It took me close to six months of treatment, including long courses of ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) to regain my memory and come home, but it took me a lot longer to build my confidence and feel like a real Mum again.  My friends in the village and walking with our old pram around Sparepenny Lane and under the viaduct to Lullingstone was a great tonic, as were the fetes and village get-togethers.  Ultimately it was the love of my family that brought us back together.  The local vicar recovered after seeing me in my negligee in the hospital enough to support me through my recovery too! 

The full story of how Margaret regained her memory and returned to her family in Eynsford ‘I Know Who I am’ is for sale for Kindle at  Twitter @MumBooks

Musical Tots

Driving along in my automobile, my baby beside me at the wheel….actually she’s behind me and safely strapped into her third stage booster seat, but you get the picture.  

And, for a while, it was just pictures she was keen on enjoying from her elevated position in the back.  Pictures of Princesses to be accurate.  We had CD’s too which shared with us the stories of Ariel and her undersea kingdom,  Cinderella and her ugly sisters and Snow White and her little acquaintances. Then last week, something changed.  She was bored with the Princesses and wanted music.  

“Please Mama, can we have some of your music?”  

After four years of nursery rhyme CD’s, and the  Zingzillas I had to check I was awake and not dreaming.  

I rifled around in the glove compartment and found 4 CD’s:  Jay Z’s Black Album, Eminem’s 8 Mile (about 7.9 miles too long), The Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Majic and The Very Best of The Smiths.  Choices, choices.

Now, I love The HOV, and I do believe, like Jay Z (note to sub - he dropped the hyphen last month) that, even though I was born in Dartford and not Brooklyn, I was born to hustle.   And as I ummed and ahhed, turning the 4 choices over in my hands I knew that although Jay Z’s music may speak to me, it probably shouldn’t speak to her….just yet.  

Putting the god of hip hop to one-side, I looked Eminem straight in the eye: my little girl enjoys a good tale and he is a good story-teller, but the story of a murderous stalker isn’t the best soundtrack to our lives at the moment.  So it was a toss up between Anthony Kiedis’ sock-wearing mob and Morrissey.

If I slid The Chili’s in the slot, and pressed play, then I knew memories would come flooding back, memories that might tempt me to tell all to Nipper about the time Auntie Wendy and Mummy went to see them at The Brixton Academy in 1991.  And while these memories will serve their purpose in ten years time during my lecture on the ills of drinking, I don’t think she needs to know about Auntie Wendy’s black eye sustained in the mosh pit during ‘Funky Monk’. Or how Mummy lied the next day for Auntie Wendy and told the University orchestra leader that the reason Auntie Wendy had missed practice the night before was due to a sickness bug.  Or how I’d explained that it was a  bug so violent and ferocious, it  had caused her to head butt the toilet seat, resulting in a black eye and a face that one would normally associate with a hang over…...

Morrissey it was then.

I was ready for her questions about the vicar in a tutu and shoplifters of the world uniting, but instead there was an eerie silence.  Perhaps the lyrics to Girlfriend in a coma were decipherable after all to a four year old and she was in trauma?  I looked in the rear view mirror……. her eyes were tightly shut, her mouth was open, Johnny Marr’s beautiful guitar had sent her to sleep and she was snoring gently to the dulcet tones of Stephen Patrick Morrissey. 

So it would seem, our audio experiment has unearthed an extraordinary finding - if you’re looking for a lullaby, then forget the nursery rhyme CD’s, the Tweenies-at-bedtime and Tinky Winky,  Marr and Morrissey are your men.

*First published by vine as part of their 'Mumblings' series in 2013*