Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Family Day

Husband works a lot of hours. This means two things. No 1 I don't get that much 'me' time (I don't get out much). No 2 I never see my husband - therefore we get no 'family' time, no 'us' time either. So on the rare days that Husband is off and he isn't a haggard shell of a man - knackered from his vampire like existence - we get to actually spend 'quality' time.

Mundane tasks that families do every weekend become special - just because we are actually doing them together: Sainsburies shops, buying a grate for the fire, taking Sproglet for lunch, going to the park, grabbing a coffee, walking by the canal, etc. Last weekend we had lunch together in a hearty gastropub nearby that is a converted old mill - thus called 'the Old Mill'. Ducks bob up from the water that spills like a fountain in the beer garden. Sproglet jumps when he sees them making his own quacking sounds. I tossed aside my obligatory January diet and embraced bread - is there anything better in life that crusty bread and salted butter?) spuds and sticky toffee pudding with Baileys cream. Sproglet chewed on crusts and chips and then most of my said pudding. Husband flicked through papers and sampled the wine list. It was perfect.

The following day Husband rose earlier than normal and we went to a dull suburban shopping centre filled with the usual high st fare. We moseyed around window shopping, ate lunch and let Sproglet run wild in a book store. Nothing unusual, nothing amazing - but just brilliant.

Life may not be a array of dazzling parties and cultured London experiences (if it ever was) but those little moments make me happier than anything else. I only wish we had them more often...

Movies Movies Movies

So lately I have been back to the movies - woo hoo! Lots. Well ok, not quite the 3 times a week of old (for 'old' see 'pre-sproglet')- but once a week - and that is damn near miraculous for me. I've squeezed in 'Twilight'(is it wrong to be in love with a 17 year old vampire?) 'The Reader' 'Milk' 'The Wrestler' and er.. 'Madagascar 2' (with Sproglet). I can honestly say that going to the movies makes me a nicer person. It does. I think what has spurred me into movie action isn't just the plethora of oscar-bound great films that are on our screens at the mo - but the fact I have found a comfy clean Vue cinema nearby (not like the skanky grimy one in a skanky grimy neighbourhood town). When I dashed in and threw myself into the front row and the lights went down - I felt like I'd come home.

For two hours I don't have to think about shopping lists, potty training (when to start?), the fact my son has taken to flashing his bits at nursery, will my husband ever remember to take out the rubbish, did I unload the washing machine bladdy bladdy blah... I can immerse myself in another world (as long as the damn script is up to scratch) and relllllaxxxxxxxxx. Bliss. On a good evening I'll come out chilled, inspired, uplifted and entertained. On a bad one I'll want to take the staff aside and demand a refund. Recently I went so see some godawful Meg Ryan load of tosh - a chick flick that put the ick in chick - and after 15 mins I'd had enough. I strode out and begged the spotty attendant that I could change screens as 'I don't get out that much - and trust me life is too short for such drivel.' I think I saw a mediocre horror instead - an upgrade I assure you.

Pre-Sproglet husband and I were movie junkies - our favourite Sundays were a double bill and the papers punctuated with Starbucks and a pad thai - and if I am honest one of the hardest things about becoming a parent has been the fact I just can't dash out on a Friday to catch that weekend's opening release, instead having to make a military style plan to get anywhere near a cinema.

For me watching a film on DVD just doesn't cut it. Where is the fabulous surround sound, the picture engulfing you - the theatrics of the whole cinema experience. Plus I like to be able to weep with no one watching. I almost lost an eyeball in 'The Changling' and was relieved no one could see my tear and mascara stained blotchy face. (Child murder? Unbearable to watch at any time - but once a parent - downright impossible).

This weekend is my dear cousin's wedding. I am bridesmaid. Bless her - she has always wanted to walk up the aisle and has met the loveliest man. She couldn't be happier. It will be an amazing weekend. But 'Revolutionary Road' opens, I still haven't seen 'Slumdog Millionaire' and I have a hankering for a bit of slasher 3D in 'My Bloody Valentine....'

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


It never ceases to amaze me how easily a fool and their money can be parted. I make no judgement here - as all too often I have been the said fool. But there is a general feeling out there that all we want in life can be bought - everything merely has a price. I hate this ethos - a bastard distant cousin to the hearty healthy American dream - but who am I to complain - after all, this mentality occasionally throws work my way - when I am paid to teach folk 'how to be a presenter.'

I shouldn't mock the hand that feeds - as I genuinely love this job, and find my maternal instincts take over as I will all the students to do their best - but I can't help it. At a time when fame appears to be the most valuable currency one can have - and naive reality-tv obsessives think that anyone can obtain it - courses that offer the possibility of bringing people one step closer to tv glitter - are being snapped up left right and centre.

I've taught this course a few times now - usually in tandem with another presenter (who still strives for her hey day - and actually bless her, deserves to have it again) - but yesterday I taught a class all by myself! For about one second I had mild panic and then I remembered that a key part of a presenter's remit is to talk bullshit for a living - so I knew I'd get through it ok.

What a motley crew! I swear I couldn't have made this lot up. They were all lovely: enthusiastic, excited and nervous (hanging on to my every word and desperate to make an impression) but an eclectic group to say the least. I give you: an Irish farmer who was 6 foot 4, spoke with thick brogue, wore a dirty jumper and didn't even own a television (!!!!) but somehow was a star in Ireland on a business farming show (with an exciting show in the pipeline where he will teach farmers how to er...'market their chicken huts....'); an ex boyband pop star who was very famous in his day - shame that day was the 80s - who wants to be a serious sports reporter 'because y'know, I love sport, yeah?'; a botoxed to the eyeballs European business woman who had a tenuous link with film yet assumed she would be interviewing Scorsese in the near future; and last but not least a bright eyed and bushy tailed young actress who spent 2 years on a leading teen drama. Where to start?

The idea is - they come in, learn in a mere day how to be a top TV presenter - the following day head out on the streets of London and into a dirty wee studio to film a 'show reel' which will then be edited for them to use as a visual CV. And voila! they assume that a new career will await them... I feel like the wicked step-sister pissing all over Cinderella's ball dreams when I try to imprint upon them that it takes hard graft, endless determination and oh yes - that little ingredient called 'talent' to get them an audition, let alone a job - and some look at me like I have two heads, sure that as soon as they send their hot DVDs to a few TV companies and agents, they'll be snapped up by lunch time and be stars by the time the evening paper come out.

Bless - the ones who usually have the most confidence 'my friends tell me that I'm crazeeee' - are also the least charismatic. They speak in one tone, freeze as soon as you put a camera anywhere near them and stumble over the simplest introduction. Yet - I cheer them on - determined to elicit some performance out of them somehow, lest their spending be in vain. I feel some sort of duty to bolster their egos, write snappy scripts and have them walk out the door feeling a new life is within grasp.

Yesterday was so much fun. Farmer boy wanted to be a business presenter and wrote every script he had to do with a Richard Branson reference - yet balked at the thought of actually wearing a suit. Botoxed lady wanted to do her vox pops on beauty products for men and tried to persuade the farmer to try out a new moisturiser when it was clear he had yet to hear about soap. Boyband man still had the looks but obviously never had a brain - and whilst he was unfazed by appearing at all his screaming wet-knickered women filled concerts - the thought of having to speak in front of one small camera filled him with dread. At the end of the day he asked me where I got my energy from - as the last drop I had spilled onto the carpet and I sank onto a train home. I felt shattered.

Championing underdogs wears you out. Everyone thinks it's all so easy to look natural on camera - be yourself while a gallery of 20 people scream in your ear and your autocue breaks. That is a piece of cake to remember scripts and make it sound like it all came off the cuff. It may not be rocket science I grant you - but not everyone can do it. However, maybe, just maybe, I'll see boyband grown man on Sky Sports one of these days - and I'll feel a swell of pride - even if he's proved my theory wrong - that just cos you can buy your way in - it don't mean you can do it...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The missing 'Mother' gene...

There is an expectation in life that if you have one - you should really just go the whole hog and have 2. It would be wrong not to - after all bairns need company. Family holidays are always for 4. A car fits 4. 2.4 is the national average. So step up, do your bit for mankind and give your offspring a sibling.

I applaud those who do - or who sprog even more - Braneglina style. They must have many hands, much patience and the energy of an Olympic athlete. Folk keep asking me when I plan on no 2 - many presuming that there will be a no 2. Why wouldn't I? Well... I like having a life. My life. Shallow as it sounds, I still have hopes and ambitions in the working world. Things I want to achieve before I die. I'm sure these are achievable with more than one child - but oh my god, how? It is hard enough getting sproglet up and out every day - buckling him up in the car and then dashing to work - never mind the thought of bottles, bibs and calgel. When I pick up Sproglet on an evening I manage a spot of playing and bath time before I collapse on the sofa in a mini coma - imagine night time feeds on top of this - a child with colic or reflux!!!

My cup of admiration overflows for those who have children and manage to juggle all the balls without dropping them. But I drop my basket every other week - partially down to the fact I'm a semi-single parent with Husband's working hours... I see those Moms around me at sproglet's nursery - they know stuff. It's like they went to a secret Mother school and graduated with honours. They know all about the best schools, pre-schools, when names should be down for both; how to potty train in two days; that the nursery should have this or that; their kids sport name tags - handmade!!! sewn in everything (even socks!!!); hold tea parties every weekend and make sure their offspring can swim, dance, juggle and create masterpieces before they can wipe their own bums. I am in awe. And fear.

They don't admit to two glasses of wine before dinner is cooked. Or that they stick on DVDs to entertain the wee one in order to read the Sunday papers. Or feed their hyper over-tired kids a dose of medised to knock them out for the night. They don't say how relieved they were to get to work when their pride and joy kicked off and wouldn't eat/brush their teeth/dress in the morning. They seem to revel in the denial of self and their devotion to their kids. I want to be like that - I swear I do. But I'm not. I had 33 years of just me to worry about and it is damn hard to surrender spontaneity and the luxury of choice on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't swop Sproglet for the world - but do I want to double my already heavy load? I dunno. I don't want him to grow up an only kid - but hell, I did and... I turned out... scrap that. I don't want him to grow up a lonely kid. But do I have the energy and zest to do the night feeds, endless nappies, gooing and gahhhhing stage again? Mmmmmm... not sure.

Dare I say that at times I found parts of motherhood not only isolating but also (whispers) boring? My step-sis once admitted that she wasn't jazzed on the 1st year - but loved it from then on. For a similar remark Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives was almost burned at the stake in the US. She mentioned that after child no 1 she and her husband didn't know whether to give one kid away or have another. I read about an American journo who wrote an article about Motherhood boring her silly - she was vilified to teh degree that you would have thought she had said she loved Hitler. What's wrong with us if we want our own lives too? Men aren't expected to give up their sports, business lunches, pints after the match - are we? Or are we missing the 'mother' gene?

This question haunts me all the time - it intimidates me, unnerves me, keeps me up at night occasionally. I'm not saying I don't love sproglet - I couldn't love anything more. This isn't about love. It's about what comes naturally to some women and others - hell they must just be better fakers. Maybe my own Mother didn't inspire this cosy nesting instinct in me... Motherhood certainly wan't natural to her. She didn't try and hide it either. My opinion is -as long as your child feels like the most important thing in your world - isn't that all that matters? But still people ask about baby no 2 and I still have no answers. Part of me wants to nuture again - to feel the overwhelming l love that I feel for sproglet. The other part of me wants to find a balance in my home/working life - and have time to write a book, see friends... nuture myself. Is that so wrong?

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Friends with money

Have any of you guys seen the movie 'Friends with Money' starring Jen Aniston and Catherine Keener? I remember going to see with with my friend Pocket whilst I was pregnant - and it really struck a chord with me. See Jen plays a poor cleaner type singleton who dates the wrong men (could be real life bar the home help part eh?) and doesn't have a life plan - hell in this movie she doesn't even wear make-up - in fact she steals beauty products from clients. (One of those indie worthy movies that has Sundance award hype and the like). Meanwhile all her mates are rich successful types who have kids and cars and extensions and patios and fancy dinners with matching crockery. Jen doesn't aspire to be like them - thank god, or else I would have slept through the movie - she just moseys on through, not really giving a damn and being treated like a doormat. But what makes it fascinating is how much her friends compare themselves to her - in order to feel good about themselves and their depressingly mundane mapped-out existences.

One great scene has them all at a fancy schmancy benefit dinner - all polite banter and chat about Jen's rather ugly date. They all drive home in their cosy couples and dissect the evening: 'worrying' for Jen's life... 'sympathising' that one couple don't look happy, 'concerned' that another looks like they've put on weight, another may be sending their kids to the wrong school etc etc. Go on hands up - who hasn't done it - compared their life to another person's in order to feel better? It virtually is a sport these days - picking apart who does what and why, in order to inflate one's own fragile esteem. Why else do celeb mags featuring their break-ups, breakdowns and body issues sell so well? When you meet with friends does the topic always stray to other mates - their absence an open ticket to vent little grievances, to comment on their lifestyles, their choices. To feel a bit smug that your choices are much better - that whatever you're doing, at least you're not so and so with their great big whatever it is, and how much did that big whatsit cost - and them with their blah blah blah blah... did you know that they never... and therefore no one but no one wants to go to their whatever event. And on. And on.

Does it make us feel better? Thaw the jealousy, quell the insecurity, hide the frustration that some people have all the luck and others just plod through from one drama to the next? Well yes, sometimes it does. But at the end of the day - it doesn't make a jot of difference to your life who does what where and how - unless they are doing it with your husband/boyfriend/man of the month. And those who judge you - let 'em. They have their life and you have yours. And they're talking about yours. Right Now.

All this ADD (after dinner dissecting) isn't good for the soul - even genuine concern can spill over into judgemental cynicism. So this year - in the spirit of resolutions - mine is to rake over folk's lives less. Going cold turkey will be hard - in fact it makes me wonder what I will have left to talk about with some aquaintances - but I am determined. Hell I may even enjoy myself.