Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday night randomness

I'm currently involved in a bidding war on eBay for a 1980 something Barbie Doll. That single sentence probably tells you everything you need to know about me at this stage in my life.

My mother recently informed our neighbour that I'm an alcoholic. We were walking home after a particularly enjoyable dinner at which I had imbibed the dangerously excessive amount of two glasses of red wine, and a small port. The port was a freebie from the Portuguese restaurant manager, and who was I to say no to port? Or a freebie for that matter? I mean, we are in a recession here no?

Anyway, so my mother and I are walking back from dinner. And by that single sentence you will know that we were not in South Africa at the time. No anecdote, set in South Africa in this decade, would start that way unless one were setting the scene for a crime story. But I digress. It was here in London and we were on my street. It was around 11.30pm and it was freezing cold. So cold that there was actual ice on the pavements. So I was holding onto my mother and slipping and sliding thanks to the ice. And we run into our neighbour who is walking his exceptionally small dog. This, despite the port, I found suspicious because they have a garden as big as a football field, and this dog, being the size that it is, could get sufficient exercise on a hamster wheel, but there you go. So my mother sees him and we greet each other and she thinks it's funny to yell out, 'Hello there, I'm just coming home with my daughter the alcoholic here!'

Anyone that drinks more than a glass of wine is an alcoholic in my mother's eyes. I probably don't need to say that she doesn't drink, at all. Another fact about my mother is that she thinks that everyone sees the world the same way that she does, and therefore finds the same things funny. This can be problematic, especially as she is fond of delivering these particular kinds of 'jokes' with a straight face. And the fact that they are often not particularly funny, well, not on the surface anyway. So here's my neighbour looking at me with a new found sense of caution in his eyes, and my mother is laughing her head off. I, as it happens, am a bit tipsy thanks to that free port on top of the two glasses of wine, and I'm laughing too and trying not to slip on the ice, and yelling back, 'No no, I'm not an alcoholic, really I'm not.' And in the middle of all of this, he takes the opportunity to slip into his house with his absurdly small dog.

Me: Mom! You can't be telling the neighbours that I'm an alcoholic. (This is especially true of this guy as he indirectly employs my husband. Oh, and even more importantly, he regularly sees me with a small child in my care.)
Mom: Don't be silly. He knew I was only joking!

Yes, of course he did. Having never met her before in his life, and seeing me slipping and sliding like that, and both of us laughing our heads off like maniacs. My mother doesn't need a drink to come across as drunk at times. She's naturally gregarious, full of energy and fun and, to be frank, is a bit nuts. But then aren't we all?

I am convinced our neighbour and said small dog is now avoiding me. Thank you mother.

I bought a pair of shoes yesterday for 17 pounds, reduced from 60. That's what a recession combined with the pre-January sales does. As in, things get sold for their actual worth. Brent Cross was absolute Bedlam today, and I did wonder: What recession? But with shops selling things reduced by 50 and even 70 percent, nice shops that is, I can understand why people want to stock up while the going is good. Hell, I wanted to stock up too, but I was under the watchful eye of Roberto who's patience is extremely limited when it comes to shoe and handbag shops that are filled with sale-crazed women. I know, downer huh?

Julia has started feeding herself. Not just holding the spoon and putting it in her mouth, but the whole scooping up of stuff and putting it into her mouth. Today, for the very first time, we went to a restaurant for lunch, ordered her something off of the kiddies menu, and she sat at the table with us and we all ate together. I don't know much about children, but this strikes me as rather grand for a one-year-old. Since we've been encouraging this new-sense of culinary independence, she's gone from a little kid that turns her head and resolutely refuses the spoon you are offering her regardless of what's on it, to hungrily enjoying her food. Evidently she craves a sense of autonomy, something which increasingly appears to be the case.

I'm sounding all-knowing here, but it was actually reading a passage in Gina Ford's 'The contented toddler years' that tipped us off that Julia's refusal to eat may have something to do with her wanting to do it herself.

I love Gina Ford. She has saved my arse three times. The first was in the form of an amazing Gina-Ford versed maternity nurse called Elizabeth who taught us how to care for this tiny, strange, lovely, disruptive person who came into our lives. The second time was when I randomly read a passage in Ford's baby book about what to do when your baby is choking, and later found myself in a frightening situation where I actually needed this information. And thirdly, this whole thing about why your 12-month-old may not want to eat and why every meal becomes this massive battle of wills. Seriously, meal times have gone from something I absolutely dreaded to moments that fill me with pride and joy watching my daughter feeding herself with relish.

Gina has got a lot of stick, mostly from people who have never read her books. Funny that? We went online to buy one and there was this review by a person calling herself a child health worker and she was going on about how wrong GF was about this, that, and the other. It had potential to be a convincing argument until she admitted that she hadn't even read anything Ford had written. The fact is, even if you don't buy into the whole routine method, this woman has been working with babies and small children long enough that she has learnt a thing or two. And pretty much everything she has suggested or recommended has turned out to be the case with Julia.

Anyway, it's almost New Year's and I'm already thinking of a few resolutions. One of them is to be better at responding to emails in a timely fashion. The other is to convince our neighbour that I am not alcoholic. Evidently I have my work cut out for myself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Festivities and all that jazz

Jordan and Peter Andre are on this week's cover of OK! Magazine once again prostituting their children posing with their family in some weird medieval getup. Junior, who is about three and a half years old, looks like he has had highlights put in. How the hell do you get a three year old to sit still for foils? I can't even sit still for foils.

Anyhoo, they say a bunch of inane crap as usual, and as usual you read it and think, 'Why the hell did I buy this magazine anyway?' Suckers, all of us. OK, maybe just me.

OK, so now it really is almost Christmas. I have done practically all of my Christmas shopping. Roberto has been dispatched to the arcades of St James's to do last minute bits and pieces, but praise the lord, we don't have to hit Oxford street. The only thing Oxford Street should be hit with is a large stick. I hate it with a passion.

I went to London's Transport Museum in Covent Garden yesterday to meet up with my friend Lucy and her two children. It was a lot of fun for the kids, and a fairly impressive display. A visiting foreigner may even be fooled into believing that our transport system is pretty amazing. OK, I'm being sarcastic, it's actually not that bad. That is when you aren't waiting for forty minutes in the rain for a bus to arrive, or sat on a stuck tube next to someone who smells of raw meat. (Something that actually happened to me). On a trip to Japan a few years ago, Robert and I were amused at how the Japanese were tut-tutting and looking at their watches with scornful expressions when the Shinkansen (bullet train) was 40 seconds late. Seriously.

I used to love Christmas as a kid, even though I never, ever, got what I asked for. My parents believed in getting us what they thought we should have, rather than what we really wanted. This may sound like a middle-class problem to have, but as we only ever received non-essentials for our birthdays and Christmas, a year of waiting could often yield significant disappointment.

I don't even think money, or lack thereof, was the sole motivating factor either. For example, one year I asked for a Barbie Doll (I asked for a Barbie Doll every year and failed to get one) and received a Donkey Kong handheld game thing instead - not exactly an inexpensive gift. I had never displayed a remote interest in one, and wasn't even sure what it was initially, but there you go. It turned out to be a rare and happy accident and I enjoyed it immensely and got rather good at the game. By the time I did get a Barbie my friends and I had largely moved on to more interesting things, namely boys. But I loved her regardless, and can still remember the smell of her which reminded me of her namesake, 'Peaches and Cream.' (PS: Finding this link gave me a big lump in my throat. It is this exact doll that I got given).

Julia isn't aware of the full capitalist magnitude of Christmas yet. She enjoys removing things from the Christmas tree and looking at the lights, and occasionally she will attempt to chew a tag off of one of the presents, and that's about it. I've been told to enjoy these moments, because even the most saint-like children can become consumer-driven demons at this time of the year.

If I don't manage to blog before, then I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas. Let's hope the coming year will mean a safer, cleaner world for everyone and a nice full tummy at the end of each day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Almost Christmas

Julia had her very first birthday party on the weekend. We invited everyone and it was a great success. She didn't really know what was going on except that there was a big fuss and the next day she got to unwrap a whole lot of cool stuff.

I can't believe she's a year old already. A year that has gone by insanely quickly. Last year this time I resembled the Michelin Man and had trouble walking. I was frantically decorating the Christmas Tree in anticipation of going into labour and not having that done. At the time that seemed strangely important. Then, just a week later, our lovely little girl came into this world and life, as we knew it, changed for ever.

We have put our tree up again this year, and Julia is very intrigued. She is keen on examining the decorations close up, sometimes with her teeth. Naturally this is discouraged.

It's odd doing Christmas shopping this year. The recession hangs in the air like a grey blanket, which, admittedly, takes a lot of the fun out of things. But certainly there are a lot of people without jobs this Christmas and indeed homes, so having to spend less on presents doesn't seem like such a big deal by comparison.

On the plus side the posh shops on our high street are always having sales, it seems like every week there is a different one. It's bloody good seeing nice shoes selling for 45 pounds again. It's been a long time since they cost that much in this country.

I know I've not posted in a while. The truth is I got terribly upset by the case of that little baby P that was murdered by his mother, her boyfriend and her lodger, and I just couldn't bring myself to write. Julia, and a lot of the children at the community center we go to, are at a similar age to that little boy during the time he was so severely abused. They are so incredibly sweet, vulnerable, loving, and fragile at this age, and it is so utterly beyond my comprehension how someone could hurt them, especially so systematically and so brutally. There is a line from the film 'Parenthood,' which goes something like, 'You need a license to own a gun, and a license to own a dog, but any arsehole can have a kid.' Too true sadly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Demotix and moisturiser

Yesterday I went in search of a new moisturiser. Having finished every single sample I'd ever been given (let it not be said I am not doing my bit for the credit crunch), it was time to get something new.

I made the mistake of saying, "Well, I'm not really loyal to a particular brand when it comes to moisturisers, and I'm happy to try something new." The salesperson licked her lips and then ushered me over to a section of the shop that had some really expensive looking stuff, "This", she said, looking as though she were holding a golden chalice, "will not only give you 24-hour moisturisation, but it also acts as a natural botox."

? Who the hell said anything about botox? Do I look like I need botox?

She continued, "And, you can use it as a day and night cream and around your eyes." She was selling hard.

I'd been taken like this in the past - romanced into loving something only to get to the counter and find out it costs a fortune, by which time I am too in love with it/too embarrassed to pull out of the deal. I wasn't going for it this time.

"How much is it?" I asked. "93 pounds," she said casually, for 50ml. Yes, forget the oil business, cosmetics is where it's at if you want to fleece people and make a fortune.

Unsurprisingly I didn't go for it. In fact, I was pissed off that the first thing I get shown is probably the most expensive product in the shop. That, in my mind, is also not good salesmanship. Rather, she would have been better off showing me a less expensive yet effective brand and I would probably have got a few things, were we not in a recession that is.

I walked out of there with something a lot cheaper, and can happily report that the sun still came up this morning, well, not visibly, and my skin looks pretty much how it always does. But moisturised.


There is a great website called Demotix, which is kind of like a You Tube for news from around the world. People send in images, film clips and stories from their respective necks of the wood, be it Iraq or Fiji, and it's uploaded. News for the people by the people. The creator is a guy called Turi Munthe, who is the grandson of Axel Munthe of 'The story of San Michele' fame. My friend Patrick will get a kick out of this I'm sure.

You can write anonymously if you so choose, and they even have a way of scrambling encoded image data to protect the identities of people who send stuff from countries where the police hack into your account and are a little too eager to knock on your door and beat the crap out of you for showing what's really going on. This kind of democratic unbiased form of reportage really appeals to the champagne socialist in me.

Check it out here Demotix

Monday, November 24, 2008

Iranian Girls

"Hello," I said. "I am Rory. I come from Scotland."

The headmistress interrupted, "tell the class how you have come to Hamadan."

"I walked here from the Turkish border."

"Class, Rory has spent the last two months walking across Iran, only on foot, not using any transport." She turned to me. "Iranian women are not free. They only think to get husbands with nice clothes and a nice job. That is why I will ask them whether they would marry a man like you." She looked at the beautiful 14-year-old on my left. "Would you marry a man like this, Aisha? One that is walking all the time. He cannot give you a car. Well, what do you think?" Continue reading
(Source: Prospect Magazine, November 2001)
LinkThis is an extract from a piece entitled, 'Iranian Girls' by Rory Stewart. Stewart is an author of multi-award winning books including, The Places in Between, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, and Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq, a journalist, and CEO of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a not for profit, non governmental organisation whose mission it is to regenerate Afghanistan's traditional crafts and historic areas, creating jobs, skills, and a renewed sense of national identity. (Source: Wikipedia)

His life reads like that of a modern-day adventurer, and although he is only 35-years-old, he has done some truly extraordinary things. These include having worked as the deputy governor of the Iraqi province of Maysan and Senior Advisor in the province of Dhi Qar shortly after coalition forces entered Iraq, and having walked across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey of 6000 miles, done in two stages without leaving Asia.

He speaks a dozen exotic languages, is respected by the local people, has a reputation for his sassy sense of style, and is reputed to be fearless, except when it comes to women. Apparently they scare him.

The world needs more people like him. People that instead of making alarmist and ignorant generalisations from the safety of their armchairs, are out there, venturing into places most of us wouldn't dare, and through helping and making a difference, educate the rest of us that ultimately, people are people, wherever you go in the world. With a lot of the same concerns, fears, hopes and dreams as the rest of us. His literature and journalism is truly eye-opening and essential reading.

There's a good article about him here, entitled, Stewart of Afghanistan by Aryn Baker

Further articles by Stewart can be found here

Photo c/o Time Magazine by Zalmai

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yes you can!

Own one of these Obama figures that is. Check it out here. Not sure about the ears.

Thanks to Chantell for the tip

Pics c/o

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baby P

I am so stinking steaming mad. I know I shouldn't read about it because it just upsets me, but the case of the 17 month old baby P that was murdered by his mother, her boyfriend, and lodger gets me so angry and emotional that I just had to vent on here.

Why the FUCK did social services not take that child into care. 60 yes SIXTY visits to his residence amid concerns about child cruelty, and they still thought it was a good idea to leave him in the care of that fucking woman. I am not a violent person by nature , but people like this, well, put it this way, it would not be a good idea for me to encounter them on the street.

This little boy was systematically abused and tortured and eventually died having suffered more than 50 injuries including a broken spine and 8 cracked ribs. What kind of person does such a thing to a little child that is incapable of defending himself? What kind of mother participates in and allows such a thing to happen to her child?

People are calling for the head of Haringey social services to be sacked. Sacked? Really? I think everyone involved in this case that failed to act should be prosecuted for negligence leading to his death. As for those directly responsible? Well, lets just say it makes me rethink my feelings on the death penalty. Yes, that's how strongly I feel about this.

More about this case here.

Picture c/o The Telegraph

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why I like box wine

OK, so this post isn't really about why I like box wine, which, as it happens, I do. Yes a terrible admission, but there you go. You can get some pretty decent stuff, especially some of the South African wines. I find it far easier to stick to just one glass, and it also saves me the frustration of trying to reach my husband when he is travelling to find out if the bottle I am about to open to enjoy while watching America's Next Top Model will jeopardise the future of our marriage.

I was in Starbucks yesterday afternoon and there were a lot of teen and tween kids in there excitedly planning their weekends. I remember that time well. Talking about who's having a house party, what you are going to wear, if a certain boy will be there, and how you are going to act really cool while still appearing vaguely interested. If your spot cream will miraculously work in 5 hours, and whether or not your parents will notice that you are wearing makeup before leaving the house etc.

I mused on these long ago memories while juggling other more pressing thoughts such as, will I make steak for dinner? Should I get some mushrooms and salad to go with those? Are mushrooms carbs? Will we watch an episode of the American Office, or should we eat at the table like adults with civilised conversation? Yep, that's Friday nights these days.

I had a cell repair facial today. You know you are getting to a certain age when your beautician starts recommending those. She asked me if I would like her to apply the nourishing mask (thick cold stuff that had the consistency of Plaster Of Paris) to my eyes too. I was like, yeah sure, go ahead. Until she stared that is. It felt like there was an enormous weight on my eyelids and then she told me I could not open them. Cue mini panic attack. Amazing, I had no idea you could get claustrophobic just from having your eyes covered and being unable to open them. I took a few deep breaths, and she, lovely woman that she is, said, 'Just relax, I am here. I'm not going to leave the room, and let me know if you want me to take it off.' And it was cool. Soon we were talking about thyroid problems, taxes and insurance on small businesses in Poland, and Chernobyl. Relaxing stuff.

It reminded me of when I had an epidural for my C-section. You get completely numb from the waist down and your first reaction it to have an overwhelming urge to move your legs or wiggle your toes, and of course you find you cannot. It messes with your head something bad, until you tell yourself, 'OK, this is fine, this is OK, this will wear off.' Kind of like talking yourself down from a bad trip. Not that I would know.

I'm watching 'America's Next Top Model Cycle 10', and they have Paulina Porizkova as a guest judge. I'm surprised Tyra made that decision, because I get the feeling that it's all about Tyra and Tyra don't like no one messing with that shit. Especially someone like Paulina who is quite breathtakingly beautiful, intelligent and articulate, and a good addition to the show I think, unlike Twiggy, bless her, who was a bit of a wet blanket. But, and this is a big but, Paulina doesn't have a lot of tact. In fact, I think some of her comments are outrageously rude and inappropriate. On a couple of occasions she has made comments to one of the Polish/American contestants about not looking like a Russian Mail Order Bride, and Eastern European trashiness.

It reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where a guy converts to Judaism and then feels he's entitled to make bad Jewish jokes. Only in Paulina's case she is Eastern European by birth, and therefore appears to think it's OK to spout these horrible stereotypes. It's rude and it's wrong, and I'm amazed they didn't cut it out. Tyra was probably too concerned with how fierce! she looked in the shots to notice.

And finally, just when you think the US courts are up their eyeballs in stupid waste of time cases, a rare and worthy one comes along. According to Michael on Dlisted:

Today on one of my favorite serious legal shows "Judge Alex" they had a case about something that is near and dear to me: eyebrows! Sharon Rivers was suing Joy Tran for emotional distress for f***ing up her eyebrows. Sharon paid Joy $180 to tattoo some "dreamy" eyebrows on her beautiful face. But Sharon claims Joy f***ed it up by making them purple and lopsided. (Continue reading. There's even a You Tube clip!)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A fond farewell to Kerry Katona's OK! diary

I was absolutely gutted to discover that Kerry Katona's weekly literary masterpiece, her 'column' in OK! magazine, will be no longer. In this week's issue the magazine issued a sort of farewell statement saying that they'd had a long and successful relationship with her, been with her through the ups and downs blah blah blah, and that she won't be a contributing columnist any more. This stinks of: Kerry is checking into rehab, but they didn't say so.

There are clearly some issues in the woman's life, like an unsuitable husband for starters, but what I don't understand is why the press and public are so consumed by it. Even stories about Amy Winehouse fail to interest me these days. I think there's just too much of this shit going around and we've all become a bit bored with it. I hope Kerry and Amy get help and back on their feet, not least of all because Kerry has kids, and Amy has Blaaaaaaaake. Do I want to see another tell-all book about a celeb hitting rock bottom and then courageously picking herself up to see another OK! Photo-spread day? No, please god no.

Julia has started walking again. I say again, because she did it a couple of weeks ago and then seemed to lose interest. She's back at it, and has also sussed out the door handle in her bedroom, and just an inch or two more in the height department means we're in for trouble. We took it as a cue to install stair gates, which, I hate. I know they are necessary, but they also represent endless tripping and breaking your neck opportunities in my mind, especially in the middle of the night. Plus there's the whole thing about needing two hands to open the ones we have, which is a bitch when you also happen to be carrying a toddler.

Roberto reckons they will also be good anti-burglar devices. That most likely being because they will be too busy tripping and breaking their necks on the damn things to steal anything.

We went to a costume party on Friday night at Home House, a private member's club in London. The theme was fantasy/fairytale. Some people evidently spent a good deal of time and money on their outfits and they were spectacular. Others had an interesting interpretation of the 'fantasy' part of the theme, and their getups more closely resembled something you might pay them by the hour to remove. One such woman was dressed as Captain Hook, only the belt was also the skirt, and the top was actually a bra. She was thereafter 'Captain Hooker' to me, which I personally thought was genius, pity no one else agreed. That being because they were trying to pick up their tongues off of the floor no doubt. That's the trouble with keeping company with men at parties, that and the fact that they are useless at bitchy banter.

And in the news:
On a final note, a HUGE congratulations to our friends on the birth of their beautiful baby girl Hannah.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A new day

Yes he can, and indeed, yes he did! Obama is the new president of the USA. Here in little old England we got quite swept up in the fever of the American elections. It was hard not to. It was equally hard sitting back and hoping and praying that something you had no control over would come to pass.

A friend of mine, a self confessed cynic, got annoyed by what she described as Obama bandwagonning over here by some who didn't even know what his policies were. That may or may not have been the case, but what is certainly true is that it does matter to us who runs America, even if we weren't able to help make that decision. It maters to the whole world, not least of all because we get effected by decisions that are made over there. Just look at all the men and women we have lost fighting in a war we should never have joined. Indeed a war that should never have happened in the first place. Bad choice on our part too granted.

Likewise things like their decisions on nuclear testing, energy including oil relations, and their stock market - these things have a direct effect on the UK and the rest of the world. So hell yes, I care about who runs America.

Obama has a hard job ahead of him. Running a country as large and diverse as that is never going to be easy. Plus, once you are in office and faced with the extraordinary complexity of the job, I imagine it's going to be tough to deliver on all of those campaign promises.

But on a positive note I think he is the right man for the job and is hopefully going to lead the USA well and they and the rest of the world will benefit from some long overdue intelligent choices.

Bad luck to McCain. He put up a fight, and he lost. But come on, I mean, the guy totally sabotaged his chances by choosing that nut job Palin as his second in command. What was he thinking? That her straight (read crazy) talking folksy appeal would work on middle America? Even a certified god fearing gun toting voter can see crazy when it's standing in front of him/her.

And onwards...

Picture c/o

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ruby Wax, atheism and Obama

I spoke to Ruby Wax in Starbucks today. Actually spoke is probably an exaggeration of what we did. I said hello as we were both leaving, she looked thrilled at being recognised (no one else had done so), and simultaneously made a frantic motion as if to say she had to be somewhere. I asked her if she was doing any journalism at the moment, and she replied over her shoulder, 'Yeah, for the Telegraph,' before beating a hasty retreat.

Did I have bad breath?

The local church have a Thursday morning mother and baby/toddler thing. The notice reads: Are you a parent to a young child? Check. Would you like to have fun with your child and meet other parents? Check. Is it important to you to raise your child with the Christian faith? Er...maybe not.

The upside is that it's something to do with Julia once a week that involves free coffee. Kind of like AA meetings, except you can't smoke. Oh, and there's mothers and babies instead of addicts. At least this is how I sold it to Roberto who is a certified atheist. In fact he is more than an atheist - he told me he wants to start a charity which spreads the word that god does not exist.

I blame it on Richard Dawkins and his 'God Delusion' book. I have no problem with the premise except that everyone I know that's read it is a bloody pain in the arse about how great it is and how you must read it, and even going so far as buying you a copy. Not so dissimilar to the bible pushers themselves. The only thing that distinguishes the one kind of zealot from the other is their choice of literature, as is so often the case.

Roberto just pointed out that he has also read Christopher Hitchens's 'God is not great,' thank you very much. OK, so I apologise: there are two books you can purchase if you want to convert to non-faith.

So, the big election in the USA tomorrow. I'm an Obama person myself. I saw an interview with him very early on in the democratic race and he struck me as being intelligent and self deprecating, which happen to be two of my favourite qualities in a person. Oh yes, and he has a sense of humour too - essential if you are going to be running a country like the United States, or indeed any country.

To all my American friends and readers (all three of you) please remember to vote, I'd rather like to have an invasion-free 2009.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday night yada

The kids in our neighbourhood have evidently been told that saying 'Trick or Treat' is no longer PC. Instead last night we were greeted by various motley groups wishing us a 'Happy Halloween,' while their parents teetered in the background wearing overcoats and clutching cups of Starbucks.

One kid, about eight-years-old, asked me, 'How many sweets did you just give me?
Me: I don't know
Him: Roughly how many?
Me: I dunno, a handful?
Him: Approximately?
Me: OK kid, off you go

I think he was competitively tallying up his spoils to compare with the other children in his group, and for a brief moment it was as though I were looking into the face of an eight year old Roberto.

Julia was unwell this week and the doctor instructed me not to take her out of the house, for the whole week. Not being able to leave the house is like injuring a limb. You don't appreciate just how much you need it until it's out of action. My mum came round to give me a bit or respite on Wednesday and Thursday and I practically ran out of the front door.

Things seemed so much more vivid than I remembered them. The reds and browns of the fading leaves, a smell of a passing young girl's perfume, the beautiful stillness of the church yard that I walk through on my way to town, the feel of a hot Starbucks paper cup against my bare hand, and the sting of having to pay bloody two quid fifty for it.

We've been invited to join a table at a Human Rights charity dinner. I'm very excited to be going to and event of this kind, i.e. an elegant adult thing that doesn't involve me on the sofa wearing sweat pants covered in baby food. It also raises a few questions though, like, what do I wear? Will anything that I already own actually fit me? Do I bare my upper arms? And what good will me sitting around eating posh food and pretending to know what the person next to me is talking about do for the people in the Republic of Congo that are homeless, starving, being attacked and raped, and god knows what else.

I support a few charities but I always wonder what with politicians and armies often stopping aid from reaching the people that need it most, if it's really doing any good. Of course I'm being cynical, but the world genuinely seems so screwed up that it feels as though we've just put out one fire when another one starts up. God only knows how it feels for the people and children that are in the thick of it. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

We've started recycling. I have a big box in the kitchen that I chuck stuff into instead of the bin. I didn't realise until I started doing it that practically everything is recyclable, and the pile in our box is actually loads bigger than the amount of trash we are throwing away. OK, so it's not saving any lives, but I guess it's doing our small bit.

OK, and on to more cheerful topics:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Driving, the French, and kids TV

I had a refresher driving lesson last week with a man called Desmond. Desmond was in his late sixties and from Jamaica, and had been teaching driving for 30 years. He was a laid back but no-nonsense sort of person, frequently placing his hand on my steering wheel so we avoided colliding with the curb, while simultaneously talking about a craving for chicken soup.

He had a passionate hatred of the police and told me it was commonly known that should any of the three or so policemen that lived in his neighbourhood find themselves in peril with only Desmond to save them, they would certainly die. The idea of being the only person that could help them but instead letting them suffer a slow horrible death appeared to be something he relished.

Desmond's son died at the age of 36. A strange case of the young man being found dead in his flat with no obvious cause of death. According to Desmond, despite the doctor that declared his son dead instructing them to do so, the police failed to classify the circumstances as suspicious and conduct an investigation. He said in his opinion the case was written off as just another black man involved with drugs, even though the autopsy revealed no traces of drugs or alcohol.

Clutching the steering wheel I prayed to god that we didn't have an accident. I worried for the attending officer's safety.

I had a tough day today. Julia is teething which means she's not sleeping very well. This in turn means she woke up a lot last night, didn't have a morning nap, and only slept for half an hour at midday. Happy to play the one minute, crying her little heart out the next. After a (very) long day of dealing with such manic depressive behaviour, I wondered how single parents do it alone. At least when Roberto gets home I can hand her over, and in a very calm controlled voice say to him, "Hello darling, here is your daughter. Please take over while I walk downstairs, open the front door, step outside, and scream. Thank you."

Having children is interesting it terms of what you learn about yourself. I consider myself a fairly calm and even tempered person, and make a concerted effort not to have Julia bear the brunt of my moods. But when you are dealing with someone that is so consistently irrational, it can be trying. It's one of the reasons I cancelled my account with Vodafone.

I bought Julia a couple of vests for a hefty sum from Petit Bateau the other day. The French sales person who had the waistline of an 8-year-old boy said to me, "You need to buy beeg, French sizes ah small." I looked at her and then down at Julia, who is in the 25th percentile in terms of weight, and, as our paediatrician is fond of saying, 'Not going to win any heavyweight divisions.' Bloody French, I thought, always superior with their small sizes and 8-year-old boy waistlines. Anyway, I took her advice and got 12 months (Julia is 10 months), and dammit if she wasn't right, it's a snug fit.

Compare and contrast to the stuff I bought from Sainsburys today. I thought I'd do my bit for the credit crunch and got her some sleep suits from there. I got the 9-12 months size thinking I might be taking a risk with them being on the small side. Well, no risk there. They are big enough to fit a hefty three-year-old. Seriously, wtf? I have never seen such big sleep suits, certainly children that are that size are old enough to get out of bed and put on socks if they get cold at night.

I've been watching some children's television lately. Having worked at the BBC as a temp I can swear some of the scenes are shot in and around the BBC building. Once programme is all about problem-solving numbers (yes, yes I know), and there's always a man mopping (cue BBC corridor) and someone in a cafeteria (cue BBC cafeteria). Those guys are clearly doing their bit for the credit crunch by saving on location costs.

Yes, kids TV. I look at those 20 to 30-something-year-old presenters and wonder how they switch over from doing all that fake cheerful crap all day to their personal lives in the evening. I kind of have this Crusty the Clown fantasy about them. Like the minute they get out of there they light up a fag, take a swig from a bottle of Jack Daniells, and say stuff like, "I was so much better at stage school than that bitch Keira."

And as a parting gift, here is a picture of Jodie Marsh and her girlfriend Nina. Nina's face says it all.

Update: I forgot to add, god, I can't believe I forgot this: Julia took her very first steps last night at 10 months and 1 week old. Well done Julia! And I'm looking forward to the weight loss on my part. God knows I need it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another day, another Vodafone f**k up

So Vodafone eventually stopped calling me in the hopes that I'd change my mind and not leave them. Although I did get a call, once I had closed the account, from a young guy asking me if I was aware of their latest deals. I asked him if he was aware that I had closed my account. It was an embarrassing exchange. And I eventually got a very nice leaving letter from them with my PAC code in it. I'm now an O2 customer, and can I just say, the 3G iPhone they do rocks. But that's another story.

Anyway, so I got my final bill from Vodafone yesterday, and guess what? A total of £366.93 pounds. Yep, and those of you that know me, and know how much I hate using the phone when there's the passive aggressive medium of email available, will know there's no way in hell that was me jabbering. Nope, those were 'data' costs. You know, the costs they were supposed to have deducted from my second to last bill because they sold me a data package which they didn't implement because it turned out my existing package was incompatible with it?

I opened that bill at 11pm last night on my way up to bed and went from being dead on my feet tired, to dead on my feet tired and irate. Filled with rage, because I knew that this morning I would have to call someone up at Vodafone and explain a very long and complex story that featured their company's incompetence as the lead protagonist.

Fortunately, and there really is a lesson to be learnt here about getting stuff in writing, I had an email from the chap I spoke to last month confirming that they would credit my account with that massive data charge. And fortunately still, the woman I spoke to today, a lovely woman called Rachel (a beacon in a sea of stupidity), 'got it' without me having to waffle on for too long, and subsequently sent me another email stating that they are going to credit me a whopping £278.85, which means my final bill will now only be £88,08 as opposed to £366.93.

I'm going to call today and pay my final bill by credit card, but have a nagging feeling this shit is going to come back and bite me in the arse in the form of another outstanding bill for the data costs. I mean, if the sales people don't even know what their colleagues are doing, how can we expect there to be communication between sales and accounts? Certainly that is far too much to ask. Watch this space.

It won't surprise you to know that Rachel told me there were no notes on my account referencing the previous credit note or anything about the wrong data package being sold to me.


On a separate, much more positive note, I saw the woman I'd met in Starbucks that was in a wheelchair after being hit by a car in Hampstead. The good news is that she's in hydrotherapy (which she says is fantastic) and is walking with the help of a walker. She reckons that in a month or so she will be walking unaided. Fantastic news.

And on a random note, if you use
Lancôme's Eau de Bienfait Clarté (their fantastic cleanser and toner in one), and are as confused as I was as to why you can't find it anywhere, that's because they've re-branded it. It's now called Eau Micellaire Douceur Express cleansing Water Face, Eyes, Lips, or so I was told my the overly made-up Lancôme person at the Boots in Brent Cross. Mystery solved. Although someone should probably tell the Lancôme UK website, because they still feature it, though when you try and buy it it doesn't get put in your basket.

Over and out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McDonalds, Lesbians, and Love Affirmation Ceremonies

There are some role play toys that inspire future greatness in children. A doctor's kit for example, a fire fighter's outfit, a Lightsaber. Then there's the McDonalds Drive-Thru play center I encountered on a recent visit to Toys R Us. Wtf? If this is as high as the kids of today are aiming, it worries me. There is no way in hell Julia is going to work at a McDonalds! It's Gourmet Burger or nothing, she's been warned.

In this week's issue of OK! magazine, the perma-tanned Jordan aka Katie Price, and her husband Peter share their photo-op intimate 'Love Affirmation Ceremony' pictures with, well, everyone. Very intimate indeed. Katie also tells readers that they are NOT GETTING DIVORCED, no matter what you may see in the magazines. Sorry guys!

The copy reads, 'In keeping with the natural surroundings they decided to forgo the extravagance of their wedding day, exchanging a fuchsia-pink, rose-oil infused, Swarovski crystal-encrusted marquee for the wild expanses of Africa, and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of wedding ring diamonds for simple leather bands which they plaited themselves.' (OK Magazine October 21 Issue 645)

That single sentence pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the couple.

Yes, and they really did forgo any extravagance this time round and beautifully blended in with the understated yet breathtaking African bush. But forget simple white cotton kaftan's or whatever it is people think white folks wear in Africa, Katie went one further by sporting something between a strippers outfit and a ball gown. The sequenced bodice open to the belly with an enormous amount of cleavage on display, and a ten ton tiara fit for a drag-queen. Peter is wearing an all white suit (with white tie), but fortunately for him, the shoes are at least tan.

What I wonder, seriously, is whether or not they are having a laugh (all the way to the bank), or if this kind of chintzy camp crap is really what they're about. And what's worse, the fact that this stuff appears in OK all the time and sells a shit-load of copies makes me think that perhaps it must be, in some way, aspirational to or representative of at least a segment of the English population. Worrying.

I've found a babysitter for Julia. Yep, praise the lord. I thought I would be a lot more relaxed about it, especially after our wonderful initial experience with our maternity nurse Elizabeth. But unfortunately I succumbed to parental paranoia and found the idea of entrusting our daughter to someone else, even to watch her sleep, quite simply frightening.

I suppose this is a good thing in some ways, but it also doesn't bode well for one's marriage. You need time together as a couple outside of the house at least once a week, minus clothes that have Petit Filous on them. Roberto is over the moon, and we've set up a standing one night a week with our sitter. That, along with going out once a week each (while the other stays in), means we're pretty much back to pre-baby socialising.

Well, pretty much, except of course for the hangovers. I don't know why, but it's just not kosher to be a mum that goes out on the lash and drinks her own body weight in vodka. Also, there's only so long you can get away with, 'Mummy has a migraine' before your toddler starts cottoning on. Kids of today are far too smart for their own good.

And finally, for those of you that got excited about the fact that Jodie Marsh's 5 minute wedding is no longer, I'm afraid I have bad news, she's still off the market. Jodie is now very happily in a lesbian relationship with her hairdresser, Nina. Same sex couples everywhere that have long struggled to have their lifestyle's and choices accepted and respected will be overjoyed to hear Jodie's own proud and heartfelt testament, 'If I'm going to watch porn, I'll only watch girl on girl - 2 girls together turn me on,' according to Now Magazine. If that's not gay pride, then I don't know what is.

Of course it's not enough for Jodie to just get on with the business of eschewing men and have a relationship in private, she has to snog the poor woman in front of the paps to ensure we all get the point loud and clear. I could be completely wrong here, but I'm getting a very strong shock factor vibe from all of this and have a feeling Nina is going to get chucked on the pile with the rest of Jodie's exes, accompanied by a venomous blog tirade of course.

Thank god for date night, from the subject matter of this entry it's evident I need to get out more.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Just another morning in suburbia

Yesterday morning my doorbell rang. No big deal, except that I was just stepping out of the shower, and as I'm expecting Julia's birthday present (we ordered early), I ran downstairs and snuck my face round the opening, while clutching the towel. I came face to face with a rather portly man in a T-shirt and jeans, his large open-back truck parked behind him in the street.

Him: Alo, I'm here with your mulch
Me: What the crap is mulch, I mean, sorry, what? What is mulch?
Him: The stuff you put on your flowerbeds, back and front. You can pay via cash or credit card
Me: What? I mean, I didn't order anything? Are you sure you have the right house (stating the house number)
Him: Yes, (stating the house number). Don't you remember I was here last year?
Me: I only moved in two months ago
Him: (Faltering) OK, well, it was ordered
Me: By whom? Paul, our gardener? The managing agent?
Him: Um, yes
(Julia begins to cry on the monitor - I've just put her down for her morning sleep)
Me: Let me just get dressed and see to my daughter and I'll be back
Him: (Hopefully) OK

I go upstairs, irritated that the managing agent or gardener has ordered something without telling me, settle Julia, and get dressed. I call both the managing agent (who doesn't answer and has still not returned my call) and the gardener, Paul, who tells me this bloke is a regular swiz artist that relies on the maids and housekeepers in our street not knowing what's going on, and then dumping his crap on their flowerbeds and presenting the house owners with a bill.

All this time I'm talking to Paul, I'm stuck on the fact that this guy might have thought I was the maid or housekeeper, and strangely, it bothers me. But what maid or housekeeper is running around a house in a towel at 9am? What kind of street am I living on?

Me: (Expecting some kind of confrontation after seeing he has indeed already dumped this crap on our front flowerbed) I just spoke to the managing agent and the gardener (half true, I spoke to the managing agent's voicemail), and no one ordered anything. This isn't for us. Not this house.

Him: OK.

OK. OK? That's it? Evidently he was expecting me to get pissed at having caught him out at his game, and he looked relieved that I didn't. So off he drove, rather quickly, and I now have something that resembles soil with some hay pieces and other rubbish sticking out of it on our front flowerbed.

And on the subject of trash, I just want to comment very briefly on the Jade V Jordan spat. For those of you fortunate enough not to know what's going on, just skip this bit. For those of you bored enough to care, Jordan (Katie Price) has been saying that Jade Goody has a case of bad taste for selling her cancer story to the magazines and newspapers.

WTF? Sorry, but this is Jordan that not only publicizes her every waking moment, but prostitutes her children to the pages of OK magazine, talking about bad taste. She poses provocatively in her underwear, or is it a bathing suit (who can tell?) in nausea-inducing photo-shoots with her kids. Bloody hell, talk about pot and kettle.

I don't much care for either of them, but in all fairness to Jade, she is effectively a single mother (financially speaking at least), and she is very ill indeed. The prognosis is not good, and she is doing whatever she can to make money to ensure her boys have a future, and freely admits to it. If I was her I'd milk it too.

Also, going through cancer and indeed something as frightening as the kind she has, and being so willing to candidly talk about it, is admirable in its own way. There are a lot of people suffering from this illness and it's good that it's brought into public awareness in such a personal way. It may even go towards raising more money for cancer research, which is never a bad thing.

What I did think was in very bad taste however, was this week's OK interview with Jade. The interview questions were beyond stupid and insensitive. These included:

'Do you believe in reincarnation - if so, what would you like to come back as?'
(Jade makes some weird comment about her mother believing her grandfather came back as a bumble bee and that she wouldn't want to come back as one)
And the interviewer then asks,
'If you did, who would you sting?'
Followed closely by
'Would you come back as a ghost?'

These are questions being posed to a woman who has stage three cancer and is planning her funeral.

And your question would be 'And why do you read this shitty magazine?'

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Holy Cow!

I'm not in the habit of plugging restaurants. Or rather, I'm not in the habit of plugging restaurants that do not send me vouchers for free meals to do so. Last night, however, I had the best Indian food I have eaten since coming to the UK eleven years ago, and I am compelled to sing its praises.

Let me just say, I am not a huge fan of Indian food to begin with. Mainly, I suppose, because I can't really partake in particularly spicy food, which tends to leave me with a very narrow margin of choices, chicken korma being my preferred among these dishes. And I often get the feeling chicken korma is considered such a Westernised wus dish that it's never really prepared with much enthusiasm by any self-respecting Indian chef. The korma's I've had over the years tend to range from being artery clogging creamy and coconutty sweet, to somewhat bland and fairly tasteless. Oh yes, and once the cream used was sour.

This week we got a door drop from Holy Cow, a restaurant promising 'fine Indian food'. Roberto starts getting withdrawal symptoms if he doesn't have Indian food once every two months or so, and I thought, what the hell, I could do with something other than deep friend Chinese food for a change. Holy Cow also have a very cool graphically designed takeout menu, and I'm a sucker for good typography.

We ordered their chicken korma (they call it Murg Korma), lamb rogan, and aloo palak (aka sag aloo aka potato with spinach), pilau rice, and a plain naan bread.

My god, it was bloody good. That chicken korma, I mean, murg korma, was out of this world delicious. Even Roberto, who prefers the spicier stuff, had half of mine - grrr! It was 'using the naan to mop up the remainder of the sauce and fighting over who gets to do that' good. In fact, all of the food was just superb, and Roberto, a bit of a curry aficionado said, 'And not oily!' This morning I woke up not only smelling of curry, but wanting more! A first.

Yes, it was that good. They have kitchens in Kilburn, Battersea and Balham, but evidently deliver further afield than that. That's Holy Cow - Check them out here.

And on the subject of door drops, we got another one, advertising in bright red and black capitals, 'ANY JUNK CLEARANCES, 7 DAYS A WEEK. RELIABLE AND FRIENDLY SERVICE. SUPPORTING CHARITIES. RECYCLING.' Plus a telephone number. And if you could capitalise numbers, I imagine those would be too - for the purposes of keeping with the overall design look of course.

This looks good no? I mean, we have a bunch of stuff leftover from our move that needs taking to the recycling center, one thing being a rather heavy and large electrical item that Roberto and I cannot lift on our own. Turn the card over however and the guy's prices are three times more expensive per hour than a New York based Freudian psychoanalyst. 70 quid for ten minutes of work, I kid you not. The service may well be friendly, but those prices aren't. I wonder if this guy actually gets any business.

Roberto's creatively named 'Eyeclops' night vision goggles arrived. The box has pictures of people in a greenish light playing pranks on each other, another of a badger (wtf?), and one of a man leaning over another who is asleep on a sofa. A gay reference perhaps? Some person evidently thought these things were so alluring that they should feature them on the box making someone, like my dear husband, think to him/herself, 'My god, I just must have them!'

I put them on and I have this much to say: Peripheral vision is zero, ditto re. depth perception. Also, the night vision thingy only works out of one eye, so I don't know how much reading in bed Roberto is going to do before developing advanced single-eyed myopia or a rare form of epilepsy. Either way, I'm hoping fear of these will be a deterrent for him doing so.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The rod and rat

According to a recent survey, one in five teachers in the UK said they would like corporal punishment to be brought back to deal with extreme cases, i.e.spawns of the devil.

I think teaching the kids, some of whom are of a violent inclination already, that violence is a solution to a problem, is a mistake. I reckon they are better off getting Harvey, from Celebrity Fit Club, to make them drop and give 50. I'd go one further and say instead of detention they should train them up to be a lethal fighting machine. Channel those anti-social tendencies and have them do work experience shadowing prison wardens. It's a win win situation, on the one hand they see what the fruits of their criminal labours will lead to if they don't curb their ways, and on the other they get to see the very rewarding side of dealing with violent unruly types on a day to day basis.

For less violent more intellectual types. i.e aspiring criminal masterminds, there's the computer science department. Expert hackers are always in great demand. And for the less ambitious and merely aspiring thugs, there's work in the school fruit and veg allotment.

Bring back the rod indeed.

I visited my stylist yesterday for my regular six week appointment to maintain my natural blondness, as you do. I asked him if the salon was feeling the effects of the credit crunch. I ask everyone this as I'm really interested to know how people are being effected down the line from the big banks. And just a quick aside, people who view the downfall of the big American banks with the attitude of 'They were fat cats and they deserved what they got' are shortsighted. It starts with these guys and then it effects business that are associated with them, which eventually effects the man in the street. So big business losses like this are never a good thing, regardless of your feelings for the people that work in them.

Anyway, I digress, my stylist told me that business has in fact been better than ever (it's a new salon) and last month was one of their best ones.

Winter is creeping up on us, and I hate waking up when it's still dark. It feels like the middle of the night to me, and as though I am the only person alive that is walking around fixing bottles and changing nappies at that ungodly hour.

Our rat situation hangs in the balance. Rentokil have to come round and do their third and final visit. This should have happened ages ago but we went on holiday, and then I procrastinated for a couple of weeks, and now Adam, the Rentokil technician, is on vacation. I can still smell a faint odour of ammonia (i.e. rat urine) coming up from the drain in the kitchen, accompanied by another sweeter perfume (Adam's smelly sachets used to mask the stench).

I am reading a fantastic book right know, called 'Holidays in Hell' by P.J O' Rourke. Featuring chapters such as 'A Ramble through Lebanon' and 'Christmas in El Salvador'. I love this kind of gonzo-journalistic travel writing, and done with a such a brilliant sardonic touch. I'm thinking of writing and pointing him in the direction of Centre Parcs - there may be an interesting chapter in that should he ever do a follow-up book.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Breaking News: Fusionman doesn't die

Yves Rossy aka Fusionman, flew across the English Channel with a single jet-propelled wing strapped to his back, and amazingly, survived. Definitely not something to try at home.

Here at home Roberto informed me he has purchased a pair of night vision goggles. I kid you not. I asked him what the hell for, and he replied so he could see the pacifier in Julia's crib to replace it in the middle of the night, and to read in bed while I am asleep. I told him that if he knows what's good for him he had better not wear those damn things in bed next to me. God knows I have bad enough dreams without waking up from one of them thinking I am next to Jame Gumb in the 'Silence of the Lambs'.

Men and their bloody gadgets.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Starbucks exchange

People often say, when musing how they should stop procrastinating and write their book, or quit that job they are unhappy in, or leave that destructive relationship etc, 'You never know what can happen, tomorrow you could get hit by a bus!' Basically that life is unpredictable and short, and that one should make the most of every moment, because you just never know what's going to happen.

Well, this evening Roberto and I actually met a woman this happened to. Only it wasn't a bus. Rather, two and a half weeks ago in Hampstead, she was hit by a car and thrown 15 feet, while stepping out from between parked cars. She spent two weeks in hospital, and is in a wheelchair awaiting test results to see what the damage is.

We met when Julia crawled up to her wheelchair in Starbucks and used one of the wheels to lift herself up into a standing position. The woman apologised to us, for some bizarre reason, and we were like, "No, no, it's us that should apologise to you." Anyway, the short end of it is that we got talking and without us even asking she came out and said, "You know on the 8th of September, after dropping some clothes off at Oxfam, I was hit by a car and that's why I'm in this wheelchair." She was very eager to talk about what happened and moved between almost non-stop talking and quietly tearing up. She was clearly, and quite understandably, anxious.

She told me the weird thing is that at the time it happened, her biggest concern was the fact that she had booked a cab to pick her up from home at 11.15 that morning to take her to a meeting, and that it would be waiting. It made me think of that line from the John Lennon song, 'Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.'

We tried to be upbeat and said that the fact that she could wiggle her toes and that she had some feeling in her legs was a good sign, but what the hell do we know right? I asked her what it was like sleeping at night, and she said it was terrible, "I'm unable to move from lying on my back, and I hate being in that position." She was incredibly hard on herself and kept looking over at her sister, over to help from America, saying, "I just feel sorry for Deborah here, having to do everything for me. I don't know what I would do without her." Her sister, a warm generous woman, didn't look as though she minded at all.

I imagine going from being a completely independent person in all senses of the word to being dependent on other people is hard for anyone. The whole thing was an incredibly vivid reminder of just how random these things are. I mean, the one minute she's running some chores in town, and the next, well, she's facing a possible future in a wheelchair. "I used to run marathons," she told us, "and now I don't know if I will ever walk again."

Let my people go, Vodafone

Vodafone have become my nemesis. Since shutting down my account with them, or at least thinking that's what I had done last week, I mean, 'I want to shut down my account,' is pretty self explanatory right? I've had two calls and two missed calls from their account closures department.

The first one caught me unawares while I was walking past Keats's house in Hampstead. An ominous sounding voice asked me to confirm my name and first line of my address. He then went on to ask me why I was closing my account. This was a golden opportunity to vent all my pent-up rage, and boy did I. He listened patiently and then, with no emotion in his voice, asked me if there was any way they could change my mind.

The conversation went something like this:
Me: No, I'm sorry
Him: Are you sure, I mean, is there any way we can keep your business?
Me: Listen, I'm sorry, but you guys, OK, maybe not you personally, but the people in your company are incompetent
Him: I'm sorry to hear that, but you've been a good customer is there some kind of deal we can do to keep you?
Me: Thank you, this really is the last time I'm saying this, but no. I am not interested, but thank you for your call OK?
Him: (Sounding sad and despondent), OK, thank you.

So I thought that was that, and I'd have my PAC code by now. But no, yesterday I see not one but two missed calls from that same account closures department. I didn't intentionally not answer, just happened to be busy with Julia on both ocassions.

Then today I got another call from someone called Daniel. Daniel asks me to confirm my name (which happens to be my pre-marriage name that they should have changed but never got round to doing), and the first line of my address.

The conversation went something like this:
Him: Hi there, I'm calling from the Vodafone account closures department, and I just wanted to ask you why you are closing your account with us?
Me: Jesus, are you people for real? I just spoke to your colleague on Monday. I mean, do I really have to go through all of this again?
Him: Um, well, is it because you have found a better deal elsewhere?
Me: Listen, you people are inept, as I told your colleague on Monday, and I have no interest in keeping my business with you.
Him: But...
Me: I've bought a 3G phone and as soon as you send me my PAC code I am going to use it. I do not want to use your company any more OK?
Him: OK, well, um, thank you

I realise that Daniel got the shit end of the stick, but the irony in all of this is that him calling me after I had spoken to two other people in his company unequivocally stating my decision to close my account and indeed believing it had been done, is exactly why I am closing my account. They evidently do not make notes on the accounts following phone conversations like this, or if they do they ignore them, and the result is that none of them know what the hell is going on.

I feel as though I'm trying to leave the Mafia or something. Just let me go already, and send me my god damn PAC code while you're at it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Mascara, Vodafone, and meth

I think mascara commercials, both print and television, are the best examples of false advertising. No one, except Julia of course, has eyelashes the kind you see in these ads. Basically three feet long and about a hundred per lid. I mean, who do they think they're kidding? You buy the stuff imagining you're going to get home, apply it, and not only get beautiful thick lustrous lashes, but a great body and a fabulous lifestyle too. And instead all you get are panda eyes from putting on too much, and disappointed at the fact that you didn't wake up with Jessica Biel's body.

Only recently I saw a Boots ad having the courage to include a subtitle which reads, 'Lashes styled using infills.' Thank you, thank you Boots for your honesty. I was so impressed I decided to go straight there to buy my next mascara. Only I saw another ad with a gorgeous celebrity and her impossibly long bushy eyelashes and got distracted. Reality, who needs it right?

I settled on the new Loreal mascara, featuring the impossibly beautiful Aishwariya Rai and her impossibly long thick eyelashes, called 'Volume Shocking'. I had a tough time choosing because they also had, 'Lash Architect', 'Lash Architect Midnight Black', 'Lash Architect Carbon Gloss', 'Double Extension', 'Double Extension Carbon Black', 'Panoramic Curl', 'Voluminous X4', 'Voluminous X5', 'Volume Shocking', 'Volume Shocking Exact Brush', 'Telescopic', and 'Telescopic Clean Definition'. And then men wonder why women take so long in Super Drug.

'Volume Shocking' does, and I can't believe I'm saying this, deliver the goods. It has this double wand thing so you have to read the instructions before using it. Yes I know, like I have time for that in the mornings. But it seems to work by coating the crap out of your eyelashes with two different types of stuff and therefore they do actually come out looking thicker and longer. I won't go as far as saying I put it on and people in the street stopped me and said, 'My god, we're shocked at the shocking volume of your eyelashes!,' but they were noticeably, well, noticeable. (I wish I could say this was a paid for plug, but unfortunately it isn't. If anyone at Loreal is reading this however, feel free to send me free stuff OK? I'm a total prostitute when it comes to cosmetics.

I ended my long term relationship with Vodafone today. I received a bill for 141.60 quid for 'Messaging, mobile browsing + data', this after signing up for their seven odd quid internet browsing deal (per month) in August. Apparently the guy selling me the plan failed to notice and indeed mention that my current plan was not compatible with that particular offer. So after getting a text assuring me it was now safe to inexpensively (don't get me started one what they charged me before) surf the net on my phone, I did so with reckless abandon, only to get hit by this bill.

So I called Vodafone. The short end of being transferred to and explaining the situation to about five different people and being put on hold for so long that I was able to make Julia's dinner and feed it to her while waiting, is that the mobile browsing and data amount is being credited to my account and I have closed it. It's not the first time they've managed to incur my wrath and it genuinely seems as though they have some people working there who don't know what the hell is going on.

The call centre guys have clearly been on 'Irrational Rage-filled Caller Training'. All the people I spoke to remained calm and professional, which was a bit disappointing really. I was chomping at the bit for a fight, even an argument, but no one went for it. I started off by shouting, 'What the crap are you people doing, I'm holding an enormous bill in my hands???!!!' And by the time I spoke to the 5th person I was like, 'Yeah ok, big bill, need refund and, oh yes, want to close account.' I reckon this business of transferring you from one person to the next is part of their plan to wear you out. Also, someone should do research into the subliminal anti-rage properties of bad wait music, I reckon there's something in that.

Ryan O'Neal and his son were busted with meth in LA recently. That's embarrassing. I mean it's one thing being caught out as a drug user, but quite another when it looks like you and your kid use together. There's something quite bad taste about the whole thing, not unlike having your mother cheering along to the stripper at your hen night. I don't have enough battery power in my mac to elucidate how much that notion creeps me out.

And finally, a Roberto quote of the day (after showing him a picture of Zac Efron on Dlisted and asking, 'Honey did you ever have these side stomach/groin muscles?')
"I have those muscles. They're just not visible!"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Things do to with under 5's in NW3

If anyone asks me what the hardest thing I've found since having a baby is, the answer it not lost sleep and having to give up absinthe, as one might imagine, but rather finding ways to entertain my child, and likewise myself.

There's only so much Oprah you can watch, and when you child starts to crawl, even that goes out the window. Now you have to switch your attention from the TV to your child who is about to walk into the sharp edge of your glass coffee table. It's exhausting, and the best thing for it is to chuck em on the pile with other little people in a soft safe environment, so they can get on with it. And so that you can meet other parents. And believe me, no matter how much you like your own company, when you have a kid, other parents become beacons of sanity. Babies, for all their loveliness, are not great conversationalists, and you find yourself quite literally craving a good natter.

Anyway, I had a complete nightmare trying to find activities in my old area, so when I moved here to Hampstead I decided enough was enough and started accosting other mothers on the street asking them where I could take Julia. I got pointed in the direction of the community center, which has been fantastic. But that's only three mornings a week, what about Mondays and Fridays? What about the afternoons? I was desperate. And then, queue heavenly music, today someone told me about the website.

It contains a thorough list of things to do with children under the age of five in the NW3 part of London, categorising activities into such things as playgroups, singing, rhymes and stories etc. It even has bus routes and directions to help you get there. A real gem if you live in this neck of the woods. I emailed the site creator to thank her, who as legend has it, is some kind of super mom who took it upon herself to do this - god bless her. She asked that if anyone joins any groups on the site to please let them know they found said group through the site. Apparently it helps with the advertising.

I think every area should do this to help stop parents from becoming isolated. God knows I've been there and it sucks. So spread the word people.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Business Time

This is absolutely hillarious! A big thanks to the lovely Roberto x

Friday, September 12, 2008

Our wedding revisited

Today we took Julia to see where we got married, and then later, where we had our reception. Our wedding venue, the gardens of the Chevre d'Or in Eze, are not looking as beautiful as I remember them. The lawn is a bit overgrown and the flower beds need some tending to. My view may also have been tainted by the fact that we were accosted by the hotel porters on two occasions demanding to know if we were guests.

Having little to no French on our part didn't help, matched by their incomprehension of English. So explaining that we had got married there two and a bit years ago and we were bringing our baby to see it, and that we had permission from the people in reception to do so was futile.

Thug, I mean, porter: You guest of ze otel?
Us (attempting to answer): Well not exactly but ...
Porter (interjecting): No!
Porter: You are not supposed to beez ere!

We mentioned the name of the events organiser and got some glimmer of recognition in what was otherwise a blank merciless glare, and were eventually left to our little walk down memory lane.

I was also a bit put out by the fact that they so quickly made up their minds that we clearly weren't guests. It's true that as the hotel is a part of the village, they get a lot of confused tourists who accidentally wonder into the gardens which are for guests only. Also, as it's a small hotel, there may be a chance that they knew who was staying there, and we clearly weren't it. But what if we were new guests that had just arrived?

Perhaps, and this was something I was not willing to face, we looked as though we weren't dressed smartly enough to be staying there. Roberto agreed that we did look a bit scruffy. "Speak for yourself," I said, "a bit of baby food on my shirt does not count."

Later we went to the Villa Kerylos and asked someone to take a picture of the three of us to sort of recreate one of our wedding photos. It was a complete failure, and only the location is the same. Roberto is squinting against the sun, Julia is looking confused and gripping my lip, and I'm trying to art direct the shot and maniacally grin at the same time, while enduring the pain of my lip being pulled off of my face. It wasn't a success, but perhaps in its way, a telling portrait of how children change your life. In a good way of course.

And in the news:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This is not a comparative post

We are staying in Cap Ferrat in the South of France. Whereas Longleat Forest (Center Parcs) was coldish and rainy, here it is 28 degrees today. Although it has mostly been cloudy, it's wonderfully warm and balmy, which is almost perfect weather for babies and red-headed husbands who burn easily.

The two holiday venues are completely different, but then, to be fair, they are two completely different types of holiday. One of them does sell Prada in the lobby however - always a beacon of unaffordable civilisation if there ever was one.

Yesterday evening we went to eat at one of the little local harbour-side restaurants in St Jean Cap Ferrat. I had an assortment of fish, pot roasted with vegetables, and french bread. Roberto had cod with garlic mayonnaise, and we had a half bottle of wine and a bottle of water between us. All of this was a fraction of the cost to an equivalent dinner at, say, Cafe Rouge in Longleat. Also, it was freshly made and finger-licking delicious. I actually lost weight at Center Parcs, which, admittedly, is not a bad thing in terms of the size of my backside these days, but not exactly a testament to the fine dining on offer either.

Julia has a cold. This she could have picked up on the flight, or it may be from Longleat - there were quite a few people sneezing and snuffling. Well, cycling around in that kind of weather, and what do you expect? Last night I was up with her most of the night keeping an eye on her temperature and trying to keep her in a more upright position so she could breathe more easily.

At around 3am Roberto took over and I got some sleep. Till 6.30am that is when she decided it was a good time to wake up and welcome the day. I was just so relieved that her temperature (which fortunately had never got high enough to call a doctor) was down and she was chipper. A healthy, happy child following a night of illness is a gift from the gods and worth every minute of lost sleep, regardless of how many tubes of Touche Eclat one has to get through to look presentable.

We spent today at the pool where we had another delicious meal of grilled sole with lemon butter sauce for lunch. This time it was expensive, but as our hotel is favoured by Russian oligarchs, it's to be expected I guess.

Being happy, well-fed, and dry, probably means I won't be blogging to the same extent as I was at Longleat. In an unfortunate and ironic twist these things tend to have an adverse effect on my venting spleen literary juices.