Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for July, 2011

Neighbourly Unease

My neighbour is killing me!

Don’t get me wrong he is not a pathological killer or a mass murderer or anything like that but he is bending the law and generous spirit of those around him to breaking point.

We live in a small courtyard off a spur on a large rambling rabbit warren of shoddily (in my opinion), built George Wimpey homes (another story!).  Four homes surround this courtyard, three inhabited by young children who play out and mix very well together.  The fourth property, a badly designed flat lies above our four garages, the windows, instead of looking out of the back across the rolling hills of Dorset, open over the courtyard.  The incumbent tenant is middle aged and very much unattached.  He also works from home and there is not an ant that crosses the courtyard without his beady eyes picking it out and commenting on or to it.

Remember Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping up Appearances, she could learn a lot from my neighbour and his neighbourhood watching.   During the term time it is easier to suffer the continual interruptions and comments on how to bring up the children.  He being the expert; having fathered and brought up precisely, no children!

Now the summer holidays are upon us and the children have days stretching out in front of them to play and argue and learn their social skills.   What they do not want is some “Old Man”; a term I use hesitatingly, as he is not that much older than the parents of these children, commenting on their every movement.

They, in my mind have a right to grow up and learn by themselves.  I know my children are far from angels some of the time, but it is in a child’s nature to stretch the boundaries of truth and temptation to the limit.  I don’t want or need my neighbour explaining the ins and outs of the children’s arguments.  I want my child and his friends to learn by admitting the truth, discussing the consequences and agreeing together, which they are more than capable and happy to do.

I am lucky, having a husband, so the attention I get from our neighbour is tempered.  However another of our neighbours isn’t so lucky.  She is on her own and has a young son who is well looked after, well fed, very happy and neither of them suffer for lack of a man around.  No 1 son sometimes babysits while we have girlie nights out; we have a wonderful reciprocal arrangement not only on babysitting but feeding the animals whilst the other holidays.

Our neighbour pays special attention to her; his hearing acutely tuned to the tone of her car entering the estate.   He miraculously materialises as she turns the engine off, he hauntingly emerges from his door as she leaves her house and aggressively questions every visitor venturing past his windows; particularly male visitors.   The window cleaner makes a big thing of announcing his presence by doing ours first so he is allowed past.  The postman dashes through the courtyard so as not to be questioned on what he is delivering.    As for the recent plumber, who was interrogated as to what he thought was wrong and how to go about fixing it, I think he will not be returning in a hurry.

Once upon a lifetime, it was common practice for neighbours to just enter each other’s houses; but they were usually women popping in to check on something. They also had an open invitation.   We no longer live in that kind of open society and walking through the garden into someone’s kitchen without invite is pushing the bounds of neighbourliness to stalking, don’t you think?

Magnanimously, I could, almost accept this in the spirit of neighbourliness however, what I do object to is his business.   The four garages are each owned by the four houses within the courtyard.  He has the garage next to his front door and from there runs a business; industrial painting.      I don’t have a problem with people who work from home; many businesses particularly in the beauty or alternative medicine sector have their consulting rooms at home.  I myself write from home and in a previous existence ran a property management business from my home.   I would guess the, difference with all these are they do not inflict on people outside the house whereas painting does.

He opens up the garage and appears clad alien-like in a World War 2 gas mask for protection.  Wearing over large protective gloves to accentuate the need for safety, he takes out the spray gun.    Apart from the fact that my once dark blue car is now officially dappled blue, as we are unable to remove the specks of grey, white, gold and silver from the bodywork.  It is the smell of those pungent toxic fumes that I strongly object to.  He only needs to be out spraying for about 10 minutes before the tang of toxins pervade my home and my nostrils.  Maybe more than most, but I am directly downwind ; I react strongly to them suffering headaches, nausea and incredible muscle lethargy.

So, if this paint makes me feel so lousy, my neighbour feels the need to dress up in quite so much protection, is it safe to be spraying while there are children playing in the courtyard.   Personally I do not think that it is a safe industry to be carrying on in any residential area.

So what do I do?   He says he couldn’t afford rent on commercial premises?   If one of my children becomes ill he will not be able to afford the compensation or lawsuit either.    We have implicitly implied that it is not appropriate to work while the children are on holiday but he says he needs to work while the work is available.

I have looked up industrial paint on the internet to be told that once it dries it is safe.  As soon as the paint is dry he disperses the now newly painted and safe apparatus to his clients.  I seem to be fine with the dry paint.

I am in a quandary; I do not plan to spend six weeks with a headache, but also do not want to upset the delicate balance of tolerance we all enjoy.  Here’s hoping no new big orders come in!

Suggestions are welcome! Please.




Public Inconvenience

Cleanliness comes before Godliness, Happiness and MRSA.

Unfortunately, I was caught short at the supermarket this week and had to use their facilities.  Leaving my half filled trolley at the end of the milk aisle I made a dash for the front of the shop.  It was a slight shock to the eyes as I burst through the door to encounter a rather rotund mature lady sat in a cubicle with everything on display; I take it she had forgotten to shut the door.   Acutely embarrassed, I not her; stood back with my eyes averted blocking the entrance door to prevent any other unsuspecting customer rushing in.

This was not the episode that stirred my emotions; after all, I do hope to reach that age of forgetfulness some day in the distant future.  Public conveniences are not terribly large and shutting the door may have been too tricky with her bags, walking stick and bulk.

My equilibrium was thrown into turmoil as she finished, and without flushing, she hauled herself out of the cubicle to gather her bits.  Grunting at me, she pushed past and walked through the door I was still guarding.

Reeling from the shock of being grunted at and pushed, the realisation that she had not washed her hands pervaded my mind passing through the rest of the body with a shiver. Tentatively, I moved forward slowly to enter the now vacant cubicle. The other cubicle door opened and a youngish (my sort of age so very youngish) lady in a stylish well cut coat stepped out, passed in front of me, to leave through the same door.  She too had forgotten to wash her hands.

I am not a paragon of virtue and as Sexy Sporty Dad will testify; our house, most of the time looks as if a bomb has hit it, in fact a bomb would most likely leave it tidier.  There in, lies the difference; my house is clean if not tidy.   I am in some respects OTT about some things being clean, much to the hilarity and despair of the family round me.   I not only clean with copious amounts of fairy liquid and running water the meat board following a chopping session, but then insist on it being added to the dishwasher for a final sanitisation.    Rugby or Football boots; be warned a hissy fit of volcanic proportions will follow if any of the family dare to use my kitchen dishcloths for their muddy smelly shoes.  They take their lives in their hands if they dare to use my towel; when we each possess a different colour set of our own, (or my toothbrush for that matter).

Having used the supermarket facilities, I washed my hands thoroughly, in fact twice to make up for the previous two occupants.  I continued shopping but even a squirt of the bacterial gel I keep in my bag, could not remove the feeling of internal repulsion that shivered through me as I chose pre-bagged vegetables over the choose your own.

I wonder how these ladies would feel if they were in hospital and the nurse didn’t wash her hands.  How quickly would they point a finger if they contracted MRSA from a few seconds’ lethargy?   A wave of nausea passed through me when I recognised the well dressed lady at the end of the bread aisle.

There are “now wash your hands please” signs up in the store,  the basins and free soap are all available and clean but if someone wishes to ignore this common ritual what can the store do. Changing supermarkets is an option but I suspect the problem is not isolated to that particular store.  I will in future wash my vegetables a second time, or possibly a third before venturing to feed them to my family; tea may be delayed, but at least I will feel I have done my best for them.

In future, rather than change supermarket I must try and limit my use of public amenities following another little incident that happened a few weeks ago.  I attended a conference for school secretaries at a rather elegant converted mansion house. Returning from coffee my colleague and I popped to the ladies.  We joined the shorter queue downstairs.  A lady came out from the disabled door, so I urged my colleague to use that one.

Being now last in the line I barged through the main cloakroom door, to be met by two ladies drying their hands who kindly pointed me to the cubicles.  Having finished my business I stopped at the basin.

“Oh how embarrassing” came a very deep voice from the corner.

Turning round I found out that not all the male visitors were aware of the change of use for men.

“Oh I am so so sorry” I sort of stammered, pulling my eyes back; not to the mirror but the basin, the soap, the colour of the floor tiles, anything!

The voice came up behind me and quietly in my ear I heard “you can tell them you spent a penny with the headline speaker”

His speech, a harrowing account of his kidnap and torture was incredibly informative but also extremely entertaining; and bless him; there was no reference to our earlier meeting.  I however, was still too embarrassed to stand up and ask any questions during his Q&A session!





Party Planning!

As I approach and agonise over the speed of time passing and my next milestone birthday, I try to plan how I should mark the occasion for myself.  Thankfully I have a couple of years to plan it but with each week, then month, a year will follow on closely behind.  It is not just the planning but the financing to be taken into account.

Looking around for inspiration I am aware that this year sees a spate of significant birthdays; none more so than Brother-In-Law (BIL) who with much aplomb celebrated a half century this weekend with a Glastonbury style bash.

Glasto like, with many guests opting to camp in the field, rather than make their way home in the wee small hours.  An excellent band entertained us during the evening, after a close friend opened proceedings with a fantastic rendition of the quintessential “summertime”.  No mike, her audience surrounded her as she stood on the lawn in the sunshine (which finally deigned to join us), pimms filling our glasses, she serenaded us acappella.

Before the disco began BIL did make a short speech before inviting his niece, my Goddaughter to the stage where she sang a beautifully in tune and strong performance of Keane’s version of “somewhere only we know”.    Not a dry eye in the marquee!   Her mum did not breathe for the whole three minutes and suffered all the agonies you can imagine whilst willing her daughter on. Goddaughter captivated her audience as if this was a regular gig.  Move over Keane!

Beer and wine on tap saw many youngsters stretching the bounds of limitation past the limit, not to mention a few adults.  BIL will awaken to a huge dent in his bank account, a serious hangover and a resounding memory.  The memory that will stay with me, was the following morning, after the bacon baps and help yourself to tea and coffee urn.   A progression of classic cars left the house to take part in a rally; organised by his fellow car enthusiasts as a final treat for his special occasion.

Ready to Rally!

I am not sure that this kind of party is very me; I would spend all night worrying so much that everyone else was enjoying themselves that even the idea fills me with sleepless nights and disturbed thoughts!

Grandad of course has just had his significant birthday and memories of that stressful holiday still haunt my dreams and waking moments.   Gathering several members of mine and Sexy Sporty Dad’s relatives together for a week is not on the cards either.

A close friend of ours has also just celebrated his half century.  He and three close friends hired a VW campervan and took it to Glastonbury for the long weekend.  His family camped at the festival and at times they met up; but the family never found the campervan.   Unknown to him his family also had a treat in store; they took him to Silverstone for the Grand Prix, three weekends later.   Unfortunately for me having a winter birthday means Glasto is definitely a no no and to be honest I would rather Wimbledon than Silverstone.  The idea of the campervan and friends is a possibility!

My best friend reached the “life begins at” age of 40 some years ago and her husband spent a long time rummaging through old address books and past Christmas cards to arrange her secret party, which she thought she was hosting for their eldest daughter who reached 21 two weeks later.    Yes! She was a child bride and yes it has lasted the course.   The idea of Sexy Sporty Dad fumbling through my history to drag out childhood schoolmates that I would rather forget is not that appealing either.  Although the possibility of him sharing a birthday with No 1 son is more likely as there is exactly 30 years and two months difference between them.

Talking of which; for his last milestone I whisked him off to Rome for a weekend.  It would have been a complete secret had there not been an important meeting he tried to organise on the Monday; he could not understand why his wonderful secretary had booked him holiday that day.    She argued valiantly that it had to be kept free, until finally in desperation, she suggested he speak to me.  So a week before we flew he knew something was happening involving a flight and days off work!    I am too much of a control freak, like BIL, I would not allow anyone else to plan my revelry for me.

My ideal plan was to take three to six months off with Sexy Sporty Dad and three boys and go on a long world cruise, stopping at all the places I would love to visit, but know I will never get the chance.   Money of course comes into it.  Taking the three boys out when they will all be at critical educational points in time will, I fear, be the final nail in that plan!   No 1 Son will be in the middle of A ‘levels and doing any AS levels he might choose to take.  Middle Son will be taking his GCSEs and Mini Son right in the middle of SATS, if his school continue to take part.    Not good planning really to allow me to take any time off with them.

Happy Birthday BIL! Appropriate greetings; to those celebrating a special event this year.  I will head back to the drawing board and contemplate a quiet retreat in a spa hotel with good wine and good food and a handful of my best friends!  The local airfield takes adventurous passengers on flights over their houses as they acrobat around looping the loop before trying to land again.  Not sure the body is, or will be, still that adventurous!


For the Greater Sporting Good

I spent Sunday cooped up in a boiling car, with the family travelling to and from Bristol.   No 1 Son got out of it by ironically attending a First Aid Course for his Duke of Edinburgh, despite his apathy this I believe to be a necessary life skill.  You are quite entitled to ask why the rest of us wanted to spend the day in the car?  So would I, so do I!   Sexy Sporty Dad was in the Bristol Triathlon along with what seemed to be thousands of other people.

I have nothing against Bristol as such but to me it brings back fearful memories of trips and stays at the Children’s hospital which would rather remain hidden.   It is not a town I would contemplate living or working near for that very reason.

All weekend Sexy Sporty Dad was having reservations about taking part; the drive, the heat and this time it was not a little village attempt.  This was going to have Olympic trainees also in attendance albeit attempting to go twice the distance. When it came to it, if we went to give support then he felt obliged to attempt it.

I cannot say for one moment the journey was in the slightest bit enjoyable; squabbling children, overbearing heat and never ending traffic jams.  We arrived with minutes to spare; Sexy Sporty Dad leapt from the car and sprinted down to the registration tent.  I was moved on by the marshals.   It took another 45 minutes for us to meet up again to deliver his bike and kit.   As I rejoined the carriageway the road led into one of the many ring roads out of Bristol.   Try as I may, I could not get back.  Middle Son and Sat Nav were doing stirling work directing me back but each time we got near, the road was blocked due to you guessed it; the Triathlon.

There were differing groups and we watched the beginning of his swim.   50 eager wet-suit clad middle aged men climbed down into the oil filmed dirty brown water of the harbour. A klaxon sounded and they were off, fifty white swimming hats bobbing along towards a blown up bouy in the distance.     We watched as they began to arrive back.  One man was dragged from the water; paramedics helping him to sit up and breath as they unzipped his figure huggingly tight wetsuit.  He wasn’t going to finish.   We waved cheerily as Sexy Sporty Dad came out of transition and set off for 11 gruelling miles around Bristol on his bike.

Horror set in as we watched two cyclists come together, their bikes and bodies intertwine as they somersaulted together in the air.  The action slowed like in the films, as the scene played out in front of us; there was nothing we could do to stop the inevitable.  Marshals and paramedics flew to their aid and began unravelling the intertwined bodies and bikes. One of the cyclists finally got back on to his bike and wobbling precariously set off to face the struggle ahead.   The other after much attendance by the medics was removed by St John Ambulance crew either to hospital or the start, his bike walked back to the start by a marshal.

Wandering around at the end of the race amidst spectators and competitors alike, there were competitors who had completed the race, radiating bright red faces, bent over trying to catch their breaths having expended their final calories.   Some were being forced to drink to combat the hallucinative effects of dehydration.  There were upper bodies bared with open weeping grazes covering the whole back, shoulder and upper arm.   There were competitors with their legs and arms with new bandaging protecting injured limbs.   Sexy Sporty Dad reported passing fellow competitors who had just stopped still, unable to take one more step; one person bent over vomiting on the side of the road incapable of moving another inch.

All this in the name of sport!   How many of the many hundreds who took part will be off sick today from injured body parts or worse still stomach upsets having swallowed even just a tiny bit of that water.

I have spent many a Sunday afternoon and night in casualty followed by the children’s ward at hospitals following a game of friendly rugby.   I take the children in and go through the usual question and answer session.  “Oh you have been before, yes we have your son’s name on record.”  You can see their minds working with suspicion.

“He plays rugby” I hastily explain.  Suddenly they understand and I am a kind hearted concerned mum; no longer a potential child abuser.  My child is suffering these horrific injuries for a game.    It is OK for me to allow my child to put himself into danger each weekend for a game of rugby or bmx biking; as long as it is considered sport.

What of the poor spectators who are not taking part but cheering their loved ones on.  In Bristol we found the lakeside cafe who gave us tea, coke (the drinking variety although others may have been passively filling the air), tiffin to die for and ice-cream.  The lad serving said they had not stopped all day.  I also noticed the pub opposite the start of the swim had people bulging out onto the road with pints in their hands raised in cheer towards friends or family in their efforts.    St John’s ambulance was out in force administering water and the like to dehydrated onlookers who hadn’t had the pre-thought to bring a drink with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a walk or a family bike ride but we seem to have the two extremes in this country.  We either go all out, suffering for sport or we support with a raised glass and a snack.   Nadal and our own Murray suffered injuries on the way to their final departure from this year’s Wimbledon but did they give up?  No they pushed on; possibly doing more incurable damage rather than feel a failure which neither can really claim to be. Is it not a better thing to enjoy playing a game or taking part in some form of activity, rather than pushing ourselves to the limits.  Has the greater good gone to far. Have we taken the Governments warnings on obesity to obsession!

So, to all those triathletes who competed in Bristol this weekend, WELL DONE.  For those who make it into work an even bigger WELL DONE.  To all those supporters: I hope your loved ones come and cheer you on next time you take part in your chosen sporting activity!  In my case Sexy Sporty Dad can join me on a gentle bike ride to the next village’s coffee shop, or have the children when I attend my pilates class or Zumba.


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