Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Anaphylactic shock!

You can't beat a lovely sunny day when you've got a day off.  Especially when two of your favourite friends pop over and you lay about in the garden gossipping and catching the rays.

Now naturally blonde as I am I have skin that refuses to tan. My blonde hair is coupled with the freckliest skin you've ever laid eyes on. So as we're relaxing in the garden my friends are tanning beautifully I'm cursing my mothers side for the Strawberry Blonde hair and my fathers side for the freckly ginger skin.

After a couple of hours of laying about' they look like they're part of the Jackson Five and I look like Michael circa 1997, they go home.  Much as I love them I actually hate their ability to tan so easily.

I go back inside and remember than Joe, my 19 year old has a little pot of 'tan accelerant' in one of the kitchen cupboards. I move things about a bit and find it. If I didn't already know what it was I'd be a bit worried. It's it in a tiny pot and looks like it might be ready to inseminate something, however I know what it is so I'm comfortable with it.
There's a crudely written sticker on the side that says 'Tingle Cream' I have a cursory sniff and it smells OK so I take a lovely big dollop from the pot and rub it all over my chest and arms. I feel a bit of a tingle which I take to be a good sign that the cream is going to do it's job. I'm heading back out to the garden enjoying the tingly feeling the cream has given me when I catch sight of my horribly pasty face in the mirror. Now much as I enjoy being pale and interesting I think it wouldn't harm me to have a bit of colour, facially, you know.

With this in mind I take another big dollop from the pot of tingle cream and slather it all over my face.  I'm in the kitchen at this point with the intention of going back into the garden to relax and tan. The chance of me getting anywhere near the garden diminishes by the second as my eyes start to swell shut.  I'm in the kitchen, in the house I've lived in for 11 years yet suddenly I can't see enough to get out.




I find my phone and jab at the touch screen hoping I'm ringing someone who can help me.  Apparently the Co-op bank can give me an emergency overdraft if I press 1.  I'm tempted but there's the fact that I can no longer properly breathe (I do consider pressing 1 so Phil can bury me in a vintage Westwood dress)  I have another stab at my keypad and get Domino's Pizza this time.  They ask if they can help me and I gurgle back at them.  They say 'Hello' I say ' Nrggghhhhh' They hang up.  Much as I'm probably dying from a massive allergic reaction I'm mildly irritated that they didn't enquire what base I required.


My parents pull up outside with Syd in the car.  I dash outside, much as you can when your head is 3 times it's normal size and  ask them to take me to the hospital. My mother looks irritated because at this point she's had to put up with 40 years of me being over dramatic/utterly ridiculous. I try to tell them I need to go to hospital but because my tongue is massive and I'm practically choking on it I can't make them understand. What follows is basically a life threatening game of charades.  You should try to mime the word hospital when every part of you, from the neck up, is swelling up.

Eventually they get what I'm saying.

At one point I actually think they're enjoying trying to work out what I'm trying to say. This is proof to me that they watch far too many quiz shows.

We finally get to the hospital, I get inside and try to tell the receptionist I'm having some kind of allergic reaction. She asks me my name and I just slobber all over her desk (you want to try and say JOOLS ASPINALL when your tongue is so massive that it's hanging out of your mouth)  She is obviously trained in dealing with 40 year old women with enormous swollen heads and big flobbery tongues because she presses a  bell and 400 nurses appear and dash me to 'resuss'.  (At this point I'm convinced Charlie Fairhead and Duffy are going to appear. Sadly they don't).

Once I'm in resuss they put an oxygen mask on me and cannula's in both hands while asking me what happened.  Are they kidding me? I can't see properly because my eyes are swollen shut, I've got a big oxygen mask strapped to my enormous head and my massive tongue is lolling out of my mouth like a dead slug!

I try to tell them I used tingle cream on my face to help me get a tan.  This is actually what I say:

Hff ooosed inglreem onmafay fotann ammginger avfrecks

Surprisingly they have no idea what I'm saying.  I actually said it and even I'd struggle to understand it.

Then they start to put stuff into the cannula's which seems to help. I can see again but my tongue is still huge.  The doctor who is stood next to me starts talking to the nurse on the other side of me. He's saying that if this doesn't work they'll 'put me under and ventilate me'. I'm outraged at this! Shouldn't someone ask me.  I try to tell them that I don't agree to this course of action and it comes out like 'Unt venthilay meef am fyn ow'

I'm actually surprised they didn't give me a lobotomy at this point.

Thankfully whatever they'd put into the cannula's on my hands started to work and my tongue returned to more of a normal size.  I was relaxing on the bed in resuss when they finally let Phil come in.  I was so pleased to see him and expected him to feel the same. 

Apparently not.

He took one look at my massively swollen head and said

'Hello John Merrick, I'm looking for my wife Jools'


Friday, 29 May 2015

Owning a teenager.

I've noticed lately that my previously mild mannered, sweet 11 year old has started to slam doors and mutter under his breath regularly.  I've obviously been here before with my 18 year old so I'm quite prepared for the years that are about to come.  Then it occurred to me, what about those people who are heading into the teenage years unprepared. What if they really believe that they will handle it because they remember what it was to be a teenager so they'll know how their child ticks.  What if they actually think that at some point they won't fantasise about faking their own death or slamming their head in their car door.

As a parent who has been through these years I feel it is my duty to write a guide to owning a teenager.  I hope it's helpful.


How to prepare
  • Wear everything you own within the space of 2 days.
  • When eating ensure you drop the tiniest speck of food on either your top or your trousers, this must be barely discernible to the human eye but must prompt you to change your entire outfit, including underwear. 
  • Never use the laundry basket, it is cursed. 
  • Always leave your clothes exactly where you took them off, if possible inside out. 
  • If you're out and about don't worry about stains like oil, ink or grease, your mother enjoys the challenge that stain removal brings.
  • If what you want to wear doesn't appear in your hands clean and ironed within 30 seconds of demanding it fly into a rage because 'EVERYONE ELSE'S CLOTHES ARE ALWAYS READY TO WEAR'
The experience
  • Gather up the washing from the bedroom/bathroom/hall floor.
  • Sort into loads. 
  • Treat the stains with expensive dirt zapping power spray. 
  • Realise expensive dirt zapping power spray is a waste of money. 
  • Spend 2 hours googling stain removal and applying increasingly bizarre things to stain to remove it.
  • Realise you are no longer trying to just remove an ink stain, you are now trying to remove vinegar, tomato puree and yogurt and repair the hole the white spirit burned in your teenagers favourite top
  • Try to dry 16 loads of washing by hanging them over chairs/doors/radiators/pets/younger children 
  • Spend 9 hours ironing all 16 loads of washing
  • Take them into your teenagers bedroom and hang up them up/place them neatly in drawers
  • Drag everything off the hangers and out of the drawers and drop them on the floor.
  • Kick them about a bit so they look like they've never been near an iron.


How to prepare

  • Become obsessed with a favourite food.  The more expensive and complicated to make the better.
  • Demand that food for most mealtimes.
  • Wait until your parents have bulk bought that food (ie: 32 salmon fillets/166 bags of risotto rice)
  • Go off that food.  Refuse to even look at it.
  • Tell anyone that will listen that you are forced to eat food you don't even like.

The experience

  • Ask your teenager what they want for tea.
  • Be happy when they answer 'anything'
  • Turn on the radio and cook a family favourite
  • Serve your teenager their meal
  • Continue smiling while your teenager tells you that they are 'NOT EATING THIS SHIT' and 'EVERYONE ELSE'S PARENTS MAKE NICE FOOD'
  • Overhear your teenager on the phone to Grandma telling her that they haven't been fed since breakfast


How to prepare

  • Decide that everything in your wardrobe is either 'gay' or 'shan'
  • Refuse to wear anything
  • Consider phoning childline because 'EVERYONE ELSE'S PARENTS BUY THEM DECENT STUFF'
  • Blame your parents because you didn't ask to be born.
The experience

  • Think about what you would pay for a t-shirt.  Double it and add £35.
  • Ask your partner how much he spent on fuel for the car in the last two months. Spend the same amount on a pair of jeans.
  • Spend 6 hours trailing round sport shops while your teenager turns his nose up at trainers under £70. Realise your £3 pumps from primark have given you a blister.
  • Rip a sanitary towel in half to put on you blister because you can't afford luxuries like plasters.
  • Come to your senses and refuse to pay extortionate amounts of money for a pair of jogging bottoms.
  • Go out and buy the jogging bottoms anyway because you're worried that your teenager is quiet because they're being bullied for their pitifully inadequate jogging bottoms.
  • Laugh cynically when you remember that you were once 'that parent' who said your child would wear what you told them to. 


How to prepare

  • Remember that your parents know nothing
  • Take offence at everything your parents say.  It is absolutely NONE of their business if you had a 'good day at school'
  • Be nice to everyone elses parents, they're much nicer and cooler than your parents ever could be anyway.
  • Slamming a door or rolling your eyes or kicking the dog/your younger brother says more than words ever could
  • Every now and then be nice just to keep your parents on their toes.  Inconsistency is your watch word.
The experience

  • Make friends with a bi-polar Rottweiler
  • Learn not to ask stupid questions such as 'how are you', 'do you want some tea' and 'I notice you're on fire, would you like me to put you out'?
  • Always assume that everything is 'NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS' and unless told otherwise you are either a 'joke', a 'clown' or a 'douche'.
  • When people praise your child's behaviour do not show them 400 photo's of your teenager, demanding to know if this is the person they mean.  When they say it is don't ask if they are 'on glue'
  • If your teenager is nice to you become suspicious and google 'how to tell if your child is on drugs'
  • Resist the urge to bundle your teenager into the boot of the car and drop them off 52 miles from home.
  • Have a recurring dream where you give your teenager up for adoption.  Start to think of it as your 'happy dream'
  • Cry whilst telling your parents what a horrible time your are having and ignore the looks that pass between them.  You know that you were a fairly pleasant teenager.

So there we have it.  A sort of what to expecting when you're expecting your happy child to turn into a teenager. 

I'm sure we were NOTHING like this.  Just don't ask my mother, I think her memory's going a bit!

Friday, 14 November 2014

The streets of London - Part 1

I have recently become 40. Notice the casual ease with which I tell you this.  I'm 40, it's no big deal, at no point recently have i found myself hyperventilating while exploring my face in a magnifying mirror underneath an industrial strength fluorescent tube, or dyed my hair the same colour Claudia Schiffer uses.  (Claudia Schiffer ALLEGEDLY uses, I can't imagine the Swedish one raking through the two for a tenner dyes in Asda in Oslo, while her basket practically bulges with reduced roll mop herring, lingonberry jam and meatballs).  I was a bit panicky (full blown meltdown) but thankfully Phil convinced me 40 wasn’t a big deal (threatened to leave me/have me sectioned).

What I should mention is that we got married on my 30th birthday, so my 40th also marked our 10th wedding anniversary.  I had been planning to up the ante on my usual anniversary present (Pair of humorous pants ‘Caution heavy load’) and buy something more impressive that said both I love you and thank you for the good times (Pair of humorous pants ‘warning choking hazard’ and some white chocolate nipples) however something happened to me that was quite out of the ordinary for someone who is known for their bad luck.

 I entered a completion AND WON!  The only thing I’ve ever won in my life was third prize in a colouring completion, I won a £5 voucher for Rumbelows.  This was 1982 and the cheapest thing in Rumbelows was a £8.99 toaster.  My mother still brings that toaster up to this day:

  • Its hardly a victory when it costs you money Julie
  • We didn’t need a toaster, we had a perfectly good eye level grill
  • If you’d stayed in the lines a bit more you could have won the ten pound voucher and got a nice clock radio
  • That toaster turned your dads head, he wouldn’t settle until he got a Breville sandwich toaster and wall mounted tin opener.
Thankfully this time my win was more impressive.  I won £350 worth of red letter day vouchers.  If you don’t already know red letter days are experiences that you can treat yourself to.  

  • A hot air balloon ride with champagne, hysterical crying and possible urinary incontinence.
  • A helicopter flight incorporating a 25 minute panic attack on the floor of the helicopter
  • A lap in a Lamborghini at Brands Hatch with fainting fit, free trip to hospital and complimentary neck brace

So you see my point, all of the action/daredevil/being up high options are out of the question due to my 213 phobias so that basically leaves: 
-Gourmet dining experiences (have mental image of Phil poking suspiciously at pan fried pheasant with salsa Verdi and a fennel foam  and asking for chicken popcorn and beans and a beaker of dandelion and burdock)

-Wine tasting (can’t run the risk of them making me spit the wine out)

- A short break for two

So the short break is definitely the only option. I’m deciding where when something else amazing happens.  I WIN ANOTHER COMPETITION.  This time its tickets to see Dallas Cowboys play Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley.  I’m not a fan of American football (I’ve got more chance of understanding a conversation with Joe when he's been out 'we mushn't shpeak, s'too quiet, shall we swhisper') but Phil is a fan so I decide that we will go to London for the night to see the football and stay in a nice hotel.

First of all consideration needs to be given to the children, as in what to do with them.  Joe is easy, he’s 18 and as long as I leave him food in the fridge. (and instructions how to get to the fridge) he'll be fine.  Syd however is not as easy.  

The law states that Joe,  at 18 is an adult and is technically allowed to look after a ten year old.  However the last time I left them alone together (45 minutes to morrisons) I came back to find Syd in his bedroom with the dog eating squirty cream out of the can and feeding the dog haribo's and Joe locked in the utility room (he'll deny it but I'm sure he'd been eating dog biscuits and drinking fabric softener, he had a wet nose and meadow fresh breath for a week afterwards)

How a 4ft, 10 year old managed to overpower a 6ft 3 18year old I don’t want to know, what I do know if that antics like that make it  impossible for me to even contemplating leaving Joe with Syd. So I arrange for Syd and the dog to go to my parents (think the dog is a 
necessary precaution, can’t be entirely sure that Joe will remember to feed/water/let her out/not kill her etc)

So its arranged we’re off to London to a posh hotel and an American football match.  I imagine a fabulous combination of glamour and fun. I think my  imagination needs to get a grip.
The train isn’t too bad at all.  There’s a slight commotion when the conducter walks past and gets his ticket machine clicked onto my cardigan and drags it a couple of feet before he is catapulted back onto my knee but it’s generally uneventful and when it passes 12 noon we even decide to have a little drink to celebrate the fact that we’re away from home without the children. So when the woman comes along, heralding her arrival by breaking my elbow with her massive trolley we order a couple of beers (I was trying to sound all cool and American then, we really got a can of lager each) There was nearly trouble when she charged us 8.50 for the two cans, I could see Phil toying with giving them back so I opened mine quickly and took a swig so he couldn’t.

Arriving at Kings Cross was easy and so was getting to St Pancras (pancreas?), well they were in the same building so it hardly makes us London underground experts yet does it.  We managed to get our Oyster cards topped up and headed for the platform, this is where 
we encountered a bit of a problem.


What followed can only be described as pure pantomime.

  • 2 mins of me crouching in a corner crying and telling Phil to ' go on without me ' (heroic Scott of the Antarctic moment ruined by Phil calling me a dickhead and telling me to get up) 
  •  3 minutes of me shuffling back and forth against a wall trying to see how steep the escalators are, while simultaneously taking my scarf on and off because I can't decide whether I can risk wearing it in case it gets trapped in the mechanism of the escalator and decapitates me. 
  • 5 minutes of me walking up to the escalator, getting right up to the edge and then hastily turning round and pushing my way back through the approaching crowd while muttering and sweating, this effect was amplified by Phil following me shouting motivational slogans on the approach (You can do it! Face your fear! Go for it!) and swearing on my retreat.

Phil finally hit upon a genius plan,  I was to pick some people who I thought looked confident and trustworthy and follow them onto the escalator. In hindsight I'm surprised we didn't create a massive security alert as we skulked near the escalators with me heavy breathing and Phil shouting  'Have you seen anyone you want to follow yet?

Anyway to cut a long story short, I managed the escalator by following two old ladies with bulky cases onto it.  (The fact I fell over the smaller of the pensioners at the bottom of the escalator because I still had my eyes shut is neither here nor there,  she was back on her feet in minutes and people were kind enough to step over her)

So a short tube ride later, and we arrived at London Bridge tube, practically in the shadow of the Shard
Me: Isn't it breathtaking,  it's so sleek and beautiful *looks at Phil for his opinion*
Phil: It's very.... pointy.....and tall?

After what should have been a ten minute walk (50 minutes,  I'd switched on car instead of foot on my maps so we were involved in a very complicated one way system for much longer than necessary) we arrived at our hotel and discovered that it had been worth the train, escalator and bus lane fiasco

Because we're very sophisticated and no stranger to boutique hotels we reacted to our room in a very cool manner. So once we'd stolen all the teabags,  coffees, sugars, toiletries,  shower caps, turned on and off all the switches, looked in every drawer and cupboard and bounced on the bed we headed back out to Wembley, NFL and too many Americans....... 

To be continued 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Another reason to be grateful I'm not your mother.

I know I don't look in any way old enough but it's true, I have a 17 year old (was the toast of the Daily Mail having given birth to him aged only 9) and one of the big things about having a child who has just turned 17 is that sooner or later they are going to want to learn to drive.

Well Joe decided that he wanted to learn to drive the second he turned 17. That sadly didn't happen. Having filled in all the forms to order his provisional license and sent the cheque etc they were returned to us. Apparently we had failed on the following points.

(I say 'we' I mean 'me' I was the one who was all clever and cocky: It's a government form, how hard can it actually be. VERY! Apparently!

1) Fill in the form correctly

This does not mean 'agree to fill in the form for your 17 then get involved in Coronation Street (worrying about Hayley and Roy) meaning you only do a half arsed job.  'Date of Birth' clearly meant his not mine. (Apparently Joe is now a 39 year old woman!) Here's hoping he can deal with being peri menopausal

2) Send your most recent passport

Ensure you check which passport you are sending.  Apparently the passport I sent was of a 3 year old Joe (I'm certain they all melted at the cuteness, I know I did when they returned it) and it did not correspond with the photo of the 17 year old Joe. (Still melted but only because I could only see his face and not hear his angry, accusing voice) Found the most recent passport later (sent it off, not quite feeling the melty love I felt about the 3 year old Joe)

3) Get a signature of a 'qualified' person

Hairdressers are qualified. FACT!   Bastards.

So we finally got the provisional through (What do they do at the DVLA? You send a perfectly lovely passport photo and your license comes back looking like you are no stranger to strangling prostitutes behind skips)

So we've got the license and we decide to look into car insurance.  Joe's been saving so has enough for a cheap runaround.  A friend tells us about a 1L corsa which is apparently the best car for cheap insurance. We go and have a look and it seems OK. It doesn't have tinted windows, it isn't lowered, in fact it's a very sensible car.

I call our insurance to enquire about the cost of getting Joe his own insurance.

After answering 12500 questions (will he ever give a lift to a friend whose Auntie owns a brown Labrador and has revolting piles?) She gears up to give me the price. I'm quite hopeful here. We've bonded. I'm going to her mothers for summer solstice and her and her husband and their three children are coming to us for Burns night (I've explained that my Dad is Scottish and promised he'll play the bagpipes and set fire to a haggis)

Insurance Woman Wendy:  I've got you a really great price here

Me: *in the style of Mrs Doyle :Go on....

Wendy: You're going to be impressed

Me *already impressed: Yes

Wendy: £3846 a year


Mental Wendy: Are you still there?

Me:  What did you just say?

Mad Wendy: 3846 a year, that's the yearly cost however if you want to break it down you can pay a deposit of 1400 and a monthly payment of £366 a month.  (sounding like she'd just offered me the moon on a stick) What do you think of that?

Me: *SHOUTING  Just wait!

Lots of mad scuffling while I locate my Texas Instrument Scientific Calculator. (Slice of Pi anyone?)

Me: *SHOUTING LOUDER Wendy?  WENDY??? Are you a glue sniffer Wendy?Do you inhale lighter fuel on your breaks Wendy?  That's 5792 English Pounds a year! You can buy a house in Peterlee for that Wendy!  Do you hear me Wendy? PETERLEE!!

Demented Wendy: I'm still here Mrs Aspinall, there is no need to shout (She can forget Burns night, the horrible robbing cow!)

Me: *calmly now There has clearly been a misunderstanding Wendy.  This is a 1L Corsa!Vicars drive them Wendy, and librarians. LIBRARIANS!!!

Stupid halfwit Wendy: That is the price Mrs Aspinall.

I was about to shout a bit more but at this point Phil took the phone off me and hung up. This upset me as he clearly had no idea how close me and Wendy had become.  I was about to suggest we all holidayed together on the isle of Mann in June.

Anyway as a result of that, and many similar quotes we decided to insure Joe on our car (still expensive but 'Blimey' expensive, not 'JESUS CHRIST' (collapse and void your bladder) expensive.

So at this point he's had ten lessons and his instructor says he's doing really well; and he is. If we're going anywhere he drives us and he's really calm and confident. Unlike me, I'm a horrible driver (that in itself deserves an entirely new blog post). So as I was saying, he's a good driver so after ten lessons and on the advice of his driving instructor he applied for his theory test.


So today Joe had his theory test. I'd told him not to worry about directions because I was having a decent day (yesterday) so if he walked slow, I'd go with him. However this morning was a different story. I woke in complete agony (stupid fibromyalgia for those who don't know) and told him there was no way on earth I could go with him.  He was great about this (he's a really nice lad) and let Phil drop him at the station.

His test was booked for 10am, and he arrived in Middlesbrough at 8.30am. He called me as soon as he got there and I sent him very clear directions a friend had sent me. 


I next heard from Joe (who was following the wrong directions) at 8.40am. He was very angry at this point.

Joe: FFS (we all know what that means, but my parents read my blog so I can't actually say it - yes I am 39 but I get wrong if I swear!) I have no effing idea where I am. I'm in a field with a church in front of me.
Me: Are you sure it's a church
Joe: Well it has a steeple and it's a church so I'm FAIRLY SURE IT'S A BLOODY CHURCH!

At this point I could sense his anger so I re-sent him the directions I'd been given and politely suggested that he'd gone wrong somewhere. 


Another phone call:

Joe: I'm on the A66 (the dual carriageway that runs through Middlesbrough)
Me: Surely you mean you're near the A66
Joe: No, you fool! Your directions have sent me to the A66. I'm on the hard shoulder bit.

At this point I started to panic.

Me: Joe *shouting* JOE!!! Stay where you are I'll send you a postcode. Put it in your map thingy and follow the route.
Joe: OK just hurry up I've only got 55 minutes

At this point I did what I do best and googled it. I found the postcode within seconds and sent it to Joe. He text me back to say he'd got it and it had given him a route to walk

At this point I was quite calm and confident he was on his way (THIS IS PRECISELY WHY NOBODY SHOULD EVER BE CALM AND CONFIDENT ABOUT ANYTHING I'M INVOLVED IN)

Yet another phone call:

Joe:  Mam *getting angry* MAM!!! The app on my phone says I've walked 4 miles, you said it was only 15 minutes away
Me: I'm sure you're nearly there just keep following the map.  What are you near?
Joe: A railway track, and the A66.
Phil: *annoyingly interfering in the background* Jools.....JOOOOOLS (this is the way he pronounces my name when I've irritated him - all the time).....JOOLS...he's no where near the test centre, let me speak to him.
Joe: I can't, I have to cross the A66

At this point he was actually crossing the A66 Which if you're from the North East is tantamount to crossing a motorway. WHICH HE DID!


1)  Play 'Mummies and Daddies'.In our group of friends this would involve drinking too much wine/gin and getting involved in a conversation which involves violent recriminations about the time Daddy looked at a picture of Linda Lusardi for 3 seconds too long or mummy bought a rug off QVC that really wasn't needed. (IT WAS NEEDED, IT WAS A WELCOME ADDITION TO THE HEARTH, DON'T LISTEN TO WHAT THAT ARSE TELLS YOU) N.B Sorry! I've just been defending that purchase for 9 years now!

2)  Eat food off the floor. My children, when they were younger were like rabid dogs, if anyone in our house dropped anything on the floor. Syd at 2 could sniff out an M&M at 60 paces. The dog would still be looking for it and Syd would have snorted it up his left nostril. Things like this are why we're well known at A&E (A&E staff: Hello Aspinall family, who's fallen out of a window/shoved something up their nose/eaten a wine glass tonight)

3)  Write about you at school.  When Joe was six he was asked to write about his 'special place at home'. He wrote about how he was asked to sit in his wardrobe at home when he was noisy. I had no idea about this until his 'open evening' when his teacher voiced concerns that he was 'FORCED INTO A CUPBOARD'.  When i asked the six year old Joe about this he told me he'd made it up so he looked interesting (would have been even more interesting if Social Services had taken cupboard boy into care!)

So back to Joe on his quest to get to the test centre on time. I ring him again.

Me: Joe where are you

Joe: I'm following the directions, I can't talk now, I'm in a bush.


There is clearly something wrong with him, why can't he just stick to pavements like normal people, instead of scurrying through the undergrowth like a demented stoat. (turns out this was also my fault read on...)

At this point it was well over an hour since he had arrived in Middlesbrough and he was not answering his phone.  I was getting a bit panicky when my phone rang; I was Joe

Joe: Mam, I'm totally lost. I've followed the directions to the postcode you've sent me. I've ran most of it and I'm now 8 miles outside of Middlesbrough.

Me: You can't be Joe. I sent you the right postcode.

Joe:  I'm in the middle of an industrial estate.  I've had to cross the A66 four times, it's a miracle I haven't been crushed by a lorry.

Me: Well I don't know what to say......(at this point Phil took the phone off me and spoke to Joe)

Phil: Joe what postcode did she give you (Joe tells him). (Stupid clever Phil-face googles it!)
She's given you the postcode for the TA testing centre, you're near Stockton, stay there I'm coming for you! (At this point they conspiritorily laugh -I make a mental note to blow my nose in their pants/socks before I put them in their drawers)

YES THAT'S RIGHT.  I'd sent the poor lad 8 miles out of his way by giving him the wrong postcode.
Phil spent the next hour driving round Teesside industrial estates looking for him.

Neither of them spoke to me for the rest of the day.....Needless to say I'll be paying for his re-sit!

Anyone need directions?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The fear factor

I know we’re all getting older and there’s not much we can actually do to stop the passage of time however I’m not entirely happy with that as a fact. I should explain.  Phil is 12 years older than me and recently, in March, he turned 50.  50!!! Not 40 or even 45 but 50.  I am married to a 50 year old!  My husband is in his 50’s.


  • Book 5 day coach trips to the lakes with Saga. Stay in a hotel called the ‘Balmoral’ on the banks of Windermere, enjoy a two course meal every evening (soft foods/dentures) then retire to the lounge where Brenda Hetherington from Carlisle plays a medley of ‘songs from the shows’ on her 37 year old Bontempi organ. Go to bed at 9.30 because your 2 halves of stout have tired you out. ·       
  • Browse garden centres looking at rose bushes with names like ‘Diana’s delight’, ‘tender Marion’ and ‘syphilitic Geoff’.  Take two hours to decide which shade of peach will match your orthopaedic sun lounger. Go home because you are ‘gasping’ for a cup of tea.
  • Admire the Royal family.  Feel unable to catch a ‘glimpse’ of the Queen on the news without saying ‘Isn’t she marvellous’ or see a photo of William and Harry without thinking ‘such handsome young gentlemen’ ·       
  • Buy things from the ‘innovations’ catalogue which promise to make life easy now you are 50.  Who’s life wouldn’t be enhanced by the motorised tie holder, some glamour suspender tights (sensual and hygienic apparently!), a combined cigarette lighter and nasal hair remover or a ‘luxury’ wolf fleece.
So I’m already freaking out!  I decide to tell Phil I’m freaking out, because he’s bound to be freaking out too seeing as how he’s the one who has actually turned 50.

Me: (arranging face to look sympathetic, as if talking to a terminally ill labrador) Phil. I need to talk to you. It’s important.

Phil: (hardly able to contain the excitement in his voice) Right.

Me: I know recently you’ve reached a milestone in your life.

Phil: Have I?

Me: Yes, you know (lowers voice so as not to shock him just in case age related memory issues are preventing him from remembering his actual age) that you recently turned 50……..

Phil: Yep

Me: How are you, you know handling it?

Phil:  Handling what? What are you on about?

Me:  Handling being (whispers) 50

Phil: Fine, its no different to being 40!

Me: (getting slightly high pitched and hysterical) Oh but it is, you’re 50 Phil, 50!!! (shout the last 50 to shock him into realisation) IT'S BOUND TO HAVE HIT YOU HARD!

Phil: (walking off) I have no idea what you’re talking about! Have you been electrocuted again.?


 A few years ago the knob that changes the time dropped off our oven coincidentally the same week the clocks were due to change.  I attempted to reset the time by shoving a screwdriver into the hole where the button was (in the way you used to reset a casio watch with the nib of a biro). Apparently poking a screwdriver into the hole wasn’t the most sensible thing to do (apparently I should have remembered it was plugged into the mains) 240v threw me backwards across the kitchen.  I was obviously ok but for days afterwards I was a bit 'twitchy' and odd.  Because Phil is genuinely BLOODY hilarious if I behave in a way he believes to be bizarre he makes a point of checking I haven't given myself another electric shock.  I know! I told you he was BLOODY HILARIOUS!

Anyway back to the 50 thing.  There are two possibilities open to me here. Either:

a)     Phil is in complete and utter denial about the fact he is 50 in which case I need to tread carefully, once he realises, the shock could kill him (especially at his age) Or 

b)    He’s actually alright with it. He actually DOES NOT CARE that he is 50.

I realise I'm going to face the fact that it is probably the second one   I decide I will  join him in his carefree world and decide if he can face 50 head on with no fears I will try to conquer some of my fears. 

Now I know everyone has a couple of things they’re scared of wasps or heights maybe, but I literally have about 2000 fears, some of which are so severe they’re more like crippling phobias than fears.

  • Heights  (Vertigo)  - inability to move a muscle/overwhelming urge to lie on the floor
  • Milk (lactaphobia) - makes me both simultaneously shake/retch (a very attractive look) Have to hold breath and wear big/thick oven gloves to handle bottle.
  • Windfarms (Anemomenophobia)  - Big, silent, threatening/almost certainly going to come to life and take over the earth
  • Motorways/Dual carriageways (Amaxophobia) - Panic attack/bizarre nervous twitch which makes me throw myself backwards in the passenger seat while whimpering and clawing at my throat (yes I'm a dream passenger -7 hours to get to the Peak District because I refused to travel on any motorway or duel carriageway)
  • Bin juice (surprisingly no name) - Compulsion to put my finger in the inexplicable water that gathers at the bottom of the bin and taste it (What in the name of God is wrong with me?) 
I decide that we will have a day out to Redcar. In terms of my phobias it has it all.  Dual carriageway driving.  A massive Windfarm (in the sea of all places) Plus they have a sort of ugly vertical pier thing which is tall and high up and I was going to go up it! Plus as it was Redcar there was a real risk of getting stabbed or carjacked (not currently phobia’s of mine but I could consider adding them to the list)

We set off and everything was fine.  It was sunny, we had the music blaring (uplifting 80s pop). We stopped for lunch.  I was actually feeling quite calm and I hadn't even taken one of my special tablets that make me drool and my eyes roll about in my head like marbles (very much like the special tablets!)

Anyway we'd been on the A66 for approximately 19 seconds and I was secretly congratulating myself for being so calm whilst travelling on a dual carriageway....... I WAS ON A DUAL CARRIAGEWAY!!!!!!!!! The rest of the journey is what could only be described as hell on earth. I squirmed, panicked, flung myself about like a rag doll. While Phil shouted at me and threatened to leave me on the side of the road.  

We managed to eventually make it to Redcar an hour and a half after we had set off.  I was so preoccupied by the hysterics in the car that I forgot to panic about the windfarm.  We came round the corner onto the beach road and there they were in front of me, hundreds of wind turbines, in the sea.  I was going to have another panic but quite honestly I was fairly exhausted from thrasing about in the car for an hour, ,so I just looked at them.  Actually they were beautiful, not at all evil.  This was a break through.  I was standing here staring at them and I hadn't felt the urge to run away or fall over once.  Shored up by this triumph I decided it was time to face the tower of terror. 

We walked along the seafront with me taking the odd reassuring glance at the windfarm  towards the tower.  I’d already googled the details and learned it was 80 ft high and had 7 floors. I know to most of you that would be nothing but this is the person who freaks out at the top of a step ladder so for me 80ft was a really big deal, however I was determined to do it.  

There was a security man standing at the foot of the stairs so I stopped for a quick chat and to ask him some questions, nothing out of the ordinary I'm sure he gets asked them everyday of his life.

'Since this tower has been built how many people have fallen off the top'

'Whats the likehood of the glass barrier around the top shattering because a disorientated seagull has flown into it at the same time there is a particularly strong gust of wind'

'How sure are you that the screws holding this entire thing together are up to the job'

The security guard had a good laugh at my 'joke' questions. I was about to press him for actual answers when the lift doors opened and I had no choice but to get in.  Phil and Syd were first out of the lift into a small enclosed area, I followed them.  There was a door in front of us and to be honest I actually felt really calm.  As Phil pushed open the door I thought to myself 'this is easy this is! I can do this' before stepping outside onto the viewing platform.


I was too high up! Too, too high up!  And I was falling! I needed to lie down! On the floor! NOW!

Phil and Syd had walked to the barrier to look at the view.  I needed to tell them to get back from the edge it wasn't safe but when I opened my mouth all that came out was a strange strangled noise.

I still needed to lie down but I had now manoeuvered myself so I was facing the wall and sort of hugging it, so lying down was proving difficult.  I tried to shout Phil again but what came out sounded like someone had just punched an ostrich in the throat (I'd imagine).

There was an indian family close by who had actually stopped looking at the view and started looking at me.  I couldn't understand what they were saying but judging by the laughter I can only assume they were finding my predicament in some way amusing.

By this point I had sort of turned myself sideways, I still had my hands on the wall but I was now bent double at the waist as I knew I needed to get on the floor.  I was also trying to shuffle towards the door to get back inside while making 'that' sound.

I was in this position when I felt an arm go round my back.  Phil, come to rescue me, thank god!  I twisted my head round (no mean feat as my head was quite near the floor by now) and came face to face with AN OLD LADY.

'Come on pet' she said, 'Are you alright?

She managed to prise one of my hands off the wall, which she started to rub.

'Come on, try to stand up, it's alright!. I was frightened of heights when I lived in Leicester'
 (Nope No idea either!)

Using my hand she then started to drag me away from the wall whilst loudly pointing out local landmarks (look! The chemical works/Redcar Racecourse etc). I was still bent double and clinging to her cardigan for dear life, as she led me past Phil and Syd, who were clearly finding this highly amusing.

I have no idea what this woman was up to.  She must have been able to see how terrified I was, yet here she was parading me about, like some kind of demented hunch back, 80 foot in the air. But.......and this was the truly inexplicable bit, I WAS LETTING HER!!!

Right enough was enough. As we passed the door to go back inside I just stopped dead and made a grab for it.  I was back inside and Phil and Syd had followed me. I literally couldn't get back in the lift fast enough.

All in all I think it was a success!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The perils of proactivity

Friday was my lieu day. Lieu days don’t come often so I always feel like I have to make the most of them. The thought of wasting them fills me with dread yet often I do exactly that, waste them completely, watching day time TV, playing candy crush and snoozing.

So anyway Friday was not going to end up being wasted like all the other lieu days past. I was up by 7.30am, and once Syd was safely dispatched to school I realised I was actually feeling quite tired.

I decided to have a glass of juice and a sit down on the sofa to watch a bit of Jeremy Kyle, but I would only watch one ‘story’. Today I would only find out if Darren (takes crack, been to prison for inappropriate behaviour with a jack Russell) had pinched the child benefit off his girlfriend Courtney (shoplifts, sniffs cilit bang) before sleeping with Courtney’s sister, Donna-Marie (dependent on night nurse and tempazam, touches herself in public)

Anyway I must have reclined further than I intended because next thing I know its half past eleven and I’m being woken by my mother who has brought me some eggs (She is always buying me eggs that I didn't ask for. Do I look like the kind of woman who is incapable of buying her own eggs? Am I likely to pop out for a dozen eggs, find the task too confusing and return with a tin of emulsion and a sausage roll?).

The lecture that followed took up the best part of an hour, during which I regressed to childhood, tutting and biting my nails, I even put in a couple of well placed yawns. I won’t go into all the details however the main points were


      Days off are for cleaning/cooking/ironing/re-grouting your tiles not lying on the sofa looking at the ceiling/sleeping

      She had washed the windows, ironed two baskets of laundry (mine, whoops), prepared and stuffed a chicken and peeled 16 stone of potatoes before 7am this morning

      Despite what I think, you CAN tell my clothes are pyjamas, and I should get dressed as soon as I get up.

      I need to stop alternating between between being lethargic and hysterical because I’m reminding her too much of poor Andy (‘poor Andy’ was my parents neurotic toy poodle who was either sound asleep or weeing himself and biting people – they had him put down in 1978 – I need to be careful)

      My skirting boards are dusty, so are the tops of my picture frames (how upsetting for all my 7ft visitors)

      If I don’t ‘buck up my ideas’ Phil is almost certainly going to leave me for someone who hoovers her curtains once a week.

She only leaves once I promise to wash my paintwork down and repoint the garage.

Actually though, you know what, she does make a valid point. I have already wasted my morning by ‘being asleep’ when I was definitely meant to be ‘being awake’.

I should explain at this point I don’t live in a hovel. My house is clean, I hoover every day, the floors are washed every night, I clean my hob every day, bedding is changed every Saturday etc. However I could probably be a bit more proactive. Thinking about being proactive has given me a headache so I decide to take some paracetamol before I wash the paintwork down.

The ‘medical’ basket in my house is a thing of legend. People speak of it in whispered tones. It is, quite honestly, creaking with boxes and bottles of capsules and caplets. I decide that as my first job as a proactive person I will quickly sort it out before getting on with my other ‘useful’ jobs.

Two hours later and I’m sat on the living room floor and it actually looks like Glaxo has exploded. I started on the dining room table but it was too small (seats 8 comfortably – can only assume furniture ‘village’ is inhabited by smaller than average pixies) so I’ve moved to the living room. Now anyone who knows me and has read my blog knows that when it comes to flaws one of mine is that I’m slightly accident prone. A side effect of having an accident is that it brings with it pain. When you’re in pain they give you drugs. I have a LOT of accidents ergo I have even more drugs.

I have managed to sort them into 6 categories:

·         Painkillers

·         Sleeping tablets

·         Cold/flu/stomach

·         Anti-biotics

·         Miscellaneous

·         Possibly illegal/worth a lot of money

I really think with my medical box I could treat any combination of malady easily and successfully.  I briefly consider becoming some kind of modern day Florence Nightingale and taking to the streets to heal sick and needy.  I would obviously require some kind of ‘scrubs’ as pinafores/bust darts are only flattering if you’re size 10 or Doris Day (I am quite clearly neither)


·         Gout ridden insomniac’s

·         Premenstrual hay fever victims

·         Arthritis sufferers with a fear of gravy

·         Paranoid Schizophrenics with trapped wind

·         Sunburnt narcoleptics

·         Dogs

About the last one. My dog hasn’t been ill, well ill enough to require a visit to the vets in 5 years (relax dog police, she gets her jabs) because I have been treating any illnesses she has had myself from the medical box.  I’ve measured my success by the fact that she isn’t dead!

So the medical box is tidy and I’ve had a tramadol and some benylin just to cheer me up before I carry on being proactive.

I decide the next job that needs doing is cleaning the grout on the bathroom floor tiles. Being proactive I decide that I will not use ‘traditional’ cleaning products I will instead take a leaf out of Aggie and Kim’s book and use ‘store cupboard staples’ to clean the floor.  I google a few recipes while catching another ‘story’ on Jezza. I get temporarily distracted by it. Klayden (silly made up name, snorts vim) has tattooed his face with a compass and indian ink, a week before his wedding to Chantelle (recently arresting for weeing in new look changing rooms, eats her own hair) so she is refusing to marry him and instead threatening to enter into a ‘relationship’ with Chantalle (similar name, puts diazepam up her arse). Jeremy is livid with this lot. Saying ‘Madam’ a lot and demanding people look at whose name is actually on the wall. Anyway back to being busy and practical.

I find an old Tupperware in the kitchen and add some bleach, baking powder and an entire jiff lemon (We’re all organic round here!)  I’m very impressed by the fizzing, something that fizzes that much must be excellent at cleaning. I have an experimental sniff and for all its bleachy and lemony, it doesn’t smell like it might actually ‘ZAP’ dirt. I need an extra ingredient. I have a good scout about and find a full bottle of white wine vinegar give it a mix and have a good sniff...AND GO BLIND!

I can’t breathe! I’m choking! I think the Tupperware is melting. I might have already killed the dog.  I try to run but I can’t see and run into the fridge.  I finally make it through the living room into the street. I’m not sure but I don’t think there is skin on my face anymore. I have just basically waged chemical warfare on myself.

That is absolutely the last time I am being proactive.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Re-light my fire!

Lately I have started to become aware of a new phenomenon.  As new phenomenon go, I find this one a bit creepy.  A bit like dressing animals up in human clothes or naming your genitals ‘Big Roger can’t wait to see Priscilla!’

This latest craze is something that seems to be happening everywhere, between couples who have been together since Madonna was still a woman.



That’s right!  Date night.  Going on a ‘date’ with your other half.  A date!  Imagine that!  Leaving the house, to go somewhere that isn’t work/the supermarket/the school run.  All alone. Without children, or dogs or children’s friends or random family members. 

As a lot of people I know seem to be jumping on the date night bandwagon I decided to do a bit of research into it.  The first thing I notice are the pictures of the couples accompanying the ‘date night’ articles.  These people are sitting on picnic rugs, and gazing into each others eyes, or leaning into each other in candlelit restaurant in a gesture that implies intimacy.   The last time Phil gazed into my eyes was to see if the stye I had was turning septic.


If what I’m reading is to be believed ‘date night’ will ‘rekindle all the romance we felt in the early days’.  The woman who wrote this article has clearly never met Phil.  The first time I invited him round for supper he brought me 8 cans of Stella and a pirate copy of reservoir dogs which had the backs of people’s heads getting up to go to the toilet every 2 minutes. Then he proceeded to pick every kidney bean out of the chilli I'd made before trying to shove his hand up my top.


However I’m obviously in a highly suggestible mood (I blame the cilit bang, I’ve noticed the fumes make me hallucinate) because the more I read the more I start to believe the hype.  I start to realise that I simply have to try a ‘date night’


I start to plan the date night (I have not told Phil about the date night.  I might not actually! I can’t find anywhere that actually says that you have to take your own husband on date night) 


I notice that there seems to be a certain format you have to follow if you want to have a successful date night.  If I follow the simple instructions I’ll be putting the ‘cherry on the top of the date night sundae’.  Somebody actually wrote that, they used those words. I consider explaining it to Phil in those exact words but I know he’d probably set the dog on me or leave me on the M1.


Laying the groundwork.

Apparently there is a lot to arrange, but first I need to invite my husband on said date night. I find him in front of the telly.  I sidle up to him in a way I believe to be seductive and he flinches.

When I ask him why he flinched he tells me he thought I was going to hit him.  HIT HIM! He thought I was intending to attack him!! Bash in his brains like Tracey Barlow! My first attempt at seduction and he behaves as if I have just come at him brandishing a lead pipe.

I decide he doesn’t deserve my subtle seduction skills and brusquely tell him that on Friday night we are going on a DATE and it will be ROMANTIC and he will ENJOY himself.  I take advantage of the fact that only seconds ago he was scared and use enough menace in my voice so he can’t refuse.

What to do on ‘date night’

Again I turn to the internet for suggestions.  Apparently the date itself doesn’t need to be a ‘date’ in the traditional sense (meal/too much wine/violent recriminations about the time he looked at your friend for 3 seconds too long) nor does it need to break the bank. I am encouraged to be creative and look for something fun and different.


The second website I find makes me laugh. I find each suggestion more hysterically funny than the last. I am literally hyperventilating with mirth and wishing I was only half as funny as the author of this article when suddenly I realise.


Jesus! It really is! It’s serious, and it’s suggesting that once a week (prescribed frequency of date night) myself and my husband set some time apart and do one of the following:


  • Throw a slumber party and have dinner in bed. ‘Have each other for desert’ (have visions of Phil in tiny silver underpants, holding two glasses of ‘fizz’ and calling me ‘bee-yooo-ti-ful lay-deeeee)
  • Attend a concert. Dance together and sing out loud to each other. (Oh goody, I’ll get us Lindisfarne tickets shall I?)

  • Sit face to face and draw sketches of each other, really study each others’ features. (I’ve played Pictionary with Phil. I already have a low enough self esteem without spending the days after he reveals my sketch believing myself to look like a shoe with eyes)


Another article tells me to ‘surprise him ‘as this might lead to ‘sexy results’.  There is clearly something seriously wrong with me because when I hear the words ‘sexy results’ I think of Frank Bough reading the pools naked.  Anyway....

I am urged to:

·         Slam him against a wall and give him a ‘deep French kiss’ -This is out of the question as I know he has a lose filling which I’m bound to end up swallowing.

·         Send him a rude text – Is ‘sometimes on a morning your breath smells like a drain’ rude enough?

  • Leave your bra off and give him a sexy glimpse of breast.  If I leave my bra off he’ll get a ‘sexy’ glimpse of nipple – from out of the bottom of my top. 

In the end I decide to do what the most sensible website I find suggests and go for food and do an activity.  Within minutes we are promised to be giggling like romantic teenagers unable to keep our hands off each other.


So on Friday we’re having mackerel sandwiches in Morrison’s Car Park before going cow pushing.