Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for October, 2011

Big Cook Little Cook

The nature of being a mother, as all mothers know, is that when the unthinkable happens and we actually do not feel well, we lack the ability to pull off “man flu”, or sit around the house moping as if we didn’t want to be there; whereas, in point of fact, we are lapping up the attention.   With mothers, it doesn’t happen like that and despite all ailments life throws at us we still have no choice but to carry on.

Schools are a breeding ground for bugs and viruses whose parasitic life cycles evolve and feed on the wonderful close proximity of children.  Parents sending in their ‘under the weather’ children when maybe they shouldn’t; scared to keep them at home for too long lest the school chases them up.   Time off sick now will go against them if later during the term they wish to take a holiday.   As the children grow older the work they miss never really gets repeated and they do struggle to catch up, but the biggest reason for returning the child to school too soon is that mums these days have to get back to work before her boss creates a fuss, and childcare for poorly children is not always readily accessible.

The worst people for returning early to school before they are ready are staff themselves, who lack children’s rapidly repairing ability to get over things quickly.  Staff struggle back to work determined not to let their colleagues or the children down, some with lack of voices, some struggling for breath and some just not sure what they are doing.   Inadvertently they exhale still festering germs over their friends and charges reintroducing the mutating bacteria and triggering yet another cycle of illness and poor health.

I have been attacked from all sides at work: colleagues, children and even their stricken parents as they coughed their apologies over me.  At home I have struggled to keep us virus free but tell tale coughs and sneezes tell me that we are not quite succeeding.  Dosed up with Echinacea and Vitamin C I have managed to reach half term, albeit with my voice 2 octaves lower; some might say sexier, I say struggling, sneezing fits that render me completely useless where ever I can collapse, a train thundering through my brain passing through every station without braking and my eyes and nose crying without cessation.

I don’t need sympathy, I am a mother and no matter how bad I feel the house still needs to function with me at the helm.    It was with trepidation I mentioned to Middle Son that, it would be great if he could finally use his GCSE cookery skills and create a meal for us on Saturday evening, allowing me to wallow in self pampering and medication.

“Take away Pizza” came the eager reply.

Not quite what I had in mind.

A little coercion was required I admit, on my part.  He was permitted to work through my new cook book bible: Indian Superfood by Gurpareet Bains.  In consultation with Sexy Sporty Dad he settled on ‘Best Ever Chicken Tikka Masala’.     As I cook from this hallowed book at least once a week many of the spices and condiments are already in the cupboard but we needed chicken, more ginger along with coconut milk that I seem to have run out of.   An ingredient that no-one in the house except me likes: coconut.  They would be horrified to learn how often the creamy texture of Indian or Thai food has resulted from the dreaded coconut milk.  The cats had also dug up my coriander from my herb garden; I am not sure if that means they liked it or they hated it but it did mean I needed to buy more.

I was unimpressed when Sexy Sporty Dad handed him a jar of tikka mix at the shop, time saving was not the idea; creativity and taste were what we were going for.   Thankfully I had gone with them, lousy as I felt, but able to steer them in the right direction we bought all the outstanding ingredients and unloaded them ready for use around the kitchen.

Middle Son then carefully peeled and chopped onions, peeled and grated ginger, finely chopped garlic, chilli and skilfully crushed the cardamom pods releasing their pungent aroma into the room, which he was not as enamoured by, as I was.  He slowly cooked off the spices, filling the house with the warm heady perfume of true Indian cooking.  Sealing the chicken pieces and adding water he placed it all except the coconut milk and coriander in the slow cooker where unhurriedly, leisurely and deliberately the spices and herbs infused the tiny tendons of melting meat.  Shortly before serving he threw in the can of coconut milk and chopped coriander leaves.  Unable to cope with the trauma of homemade naan on this occasion I had relented and he warmed the shop bought naan bread serving it alongside the curry and rice with a flourish.

Middle Son complained that it didn’t taste like the curry he gets from the take away.   I would agree with him on that point.   The chicken melted in the mouth, tantalizing the taste buds with hints of the strong spices, never too hot or too overpowering to detract from the creamy rich indulgence of this most definitely best ever tikka masala.   Fantastic, out of this world and absolutely delicious probably do not accolade enough, and I hadn’t cooked it, that in itself was a treat I will savour along with the memory of that superb dish.

Last night I joined him as he watched ‘Jamie at Home’, preparing yet more delicacies, with the promise that we could look up the recipe for carrot and avocado salad and even, dare I hold my breath, cook it sometime this week.

As long as this may last, I will enjoy and appreciate each delicate meal prepared lovingly or under duress, but if he can produce meals like this at home I trust the same can be expected at school for his course.

Sausages for Tea

Tonight, in the absence of his brother Mini Son joined me in the kitchen where he set about cooking sausages, jacket potatoes and baked beans for his Home Help badge at cubs, different but equally delicious.  I could easily become accustomed to this wonderful state of affairs with all the family offering their cooking skills, long may it last.


Following last year’s attempts The Readers Digest are asking for this year’s entries to their 100 word story competition.   I hope to find some inspiration and send in at least a few entries, I will also persuade Middle Son to try and emulate or better his endeavours from last year.

NANOWRIMO month is upon us in November and despite the comments of insanity, madness and lost your mind, I do intend to try and complete ‘write a novel in a month’.  I am much more prepared this year than I was last, to begin with I have an idea of what I might try and produce: a mystery aimed at teenage boys……   best read up on some Michael Morpurgo or Antony Horrowitz novels this week.


Techno Dependent

I am struggling this week, swimming in a sea of uncertainness and floundering in life’s flotsam without a float.   You may well wonder what could leave a normally together, organised and some might say, efficient person in such a state of disarray.   It was just a little accident; Mini Son did not mean to do it but as he rummaged for some now unknown item he knocked my Iphone into the tumbler of tea I was making my way through.

Mortified by what he had done, he stood transfixed waiting for the whole of Hade’s underworld to engulf his young being.  There is not a malicious bone in his body so how could I be cross.  I did react; not with anger, flames or any other kind of explosive exhibition of emotion.  Instead in a swift cool, calm and collected show of control I fished it out of the cup and began wiping it dry.   One thing I felt were in my favour at the time; the tea was half empty so the phone had only gone in part way.

It took me some time longer to register that I should take the protective cover off and check no liquid may be lurking underneath.  Realising too late, when I did check, tea had seeped in and the phone itself was wet.

The phone deteriorated as tea meandered through the mechanism until I was no longer able to turn it on; well strictly speaking it was already on and I could not turn the device off.   The screen was blank and there was no response to my touch or voice control.

I googled, ‘what to do with a wet iphone’.  The replies are bleak, but putting it in bag of rice was one of the consenting ideas.   For the remainder of this week the phone has lived in a bag of rice, not in my pocket.

All week I have been leaving messages of how to contact me in an emergency with the children and their schools.  I have been ringing people to check that I have not missed appointments.   I did have a dental check-up this week; thankfully they send a SMS reminder to my home number.

You cannot imagine how dependent I have become on that tiny rectangular appliance.

My diary with warning alarms, contact details, notes of what I must bring is on there.  All my phone contacts, many with email addresses I don’t need all the time but when I do they are all stored safely away.    I didn’t realise how often I check the weather, my facebook, my twitters from school.   It was just a gimmick when I downloaded “my weight” and I only weigh in when I am feeling strong enough to cope with it telling the truth: “no weight lost” yet again!  How many times have I weighed myself this week?

I have sample books in my bookstore to see if I want to buy the hard copy later and my weekly menu is stored on notes with a shopping list that is updated as I amend my menus. What of my cycle-ometer?  I can download it again but I will have lost the accumulated trips that I so courageously struggled to complete.  My alarm that gently summons me from slumbers doesn’t go off anymore and I am waking so early in case I oversleep.

I actually feel like the storage part of my brain, where I offload all my baggage to be remembered later, has been cut off from my very being and I am struggling to cope.

Fortuitously, I happened to be on a course in the town where Sexy Sporty Dad bought me the phone as a present last year.    Taking the opportunity to call in at the very shop I asked them to take a look at it.

“Is it still under warranty?”

I couldn’t quite remember the exact date.  It wasn’t an anniversary present as Sexy Sporty Dad is not that romantically inclined but it was certainly around that time as I, in my rose tinted world,  treated it as such.  Our anniversary is on Saturday.

“Whose name is on the account?”

That will be Sexy Sporty Dad as he paid for the handset outright and continues to pay the contract for me.

“I am sorry we can’t do anything without him here”.

But it is my phone and my number.

“Without him we can do nothing; I can’t get past the first page without his authorisation.”

She was unable to tell me when the phone was bought, how long I had left on the contract, if it was possible even to send away without Sexy Sporty Dad giving permission.  I suggested ringing him and dragging him out of his important meeting I knew he was in that afternoon to give permission for them to deal with me.

“He needs to speak to customer services and go through the forms and then they would update his status which would show within 24 hours hopefully.”

Twenty four hours was no good I had parked for 1 hour; that in itself was a problem, having used all my change to park for the course, normally I ring Ringos: the nationwide parking company who run some of the machines.  They have my account details triggered by my calling on my phone and car details.  I just park, call them, it is all automated and I don’t worry about small change. My phone was broken; I couldn’t ring.

Desperate and teary, not sure what I was going to do.  I stumbled over a thank you and left hesitating long enough to ask the name of the manager of the store.  Unsure what I would do with this information as I hadn’t even demanded to see him, and they had not been rude just unhelpful.

The next thing I knew the manager was there; how could he help, obviously he could not divulge any information as it was not my account but let’s have a look.

“Ahh the phone is just out of warranty, by 10 days.  The warranty did not cover water damage, however we could send it away for me and it would cost £150; we would have to discuss any repairs with your partner.”

He is my husband and £150 sounds a lot, couldn’t I get a new phone for less?

“Well yes, surprisingly you are entitled to upgrade the phone, it would cost £59.  Just let me check,  oh yes the faulty handset we will pay you £49 despite it being faulty.”

What were we waiting for?

“We can’t do that, we need your partner here to authorise it; it is his account.”

My husband!

The manager did kindly write everything down as I was not confident at remembering all the details I needed to quote to customer services.

We rang the number, queued forever, while waiting to be answered.  Finally we gave up;   Sexy Sporty Dad promised faithfully he would phone again tomorrow.

Disappointed, I, who does everything online these days, went in to check his account for which I have the access.  I could upgrade the phone and account online.  It took moments to decide which phone to order and to shorten my contract to 18 months for only £5 extra a month. I did inform Sexy Sporty Dad he would be paying.

My new phone has arrived, my baggage store is filling up and I am already feeling back in control.   Will I limit my dependence on this new one, I doubt it. Will I keep it away from tea and any kind of hazard in the future, yes, if for no other reason but for the sake of my marriage! (Says Sexy Sporty Dad.)


Public Dilemmas

Sexy Sporty Dad and I were invited to a pre-pub opening this weekend.  It was an honour to be invited; there was never any question, of us not going but it led to some difficult dilemmas.  The first of which is obvious: dress code. We don’t go out very often and usually if we do, we go with friends or family, the dress code is very precise.  But what do you wear to a special invite to a pub opening.  Mallyshag Ltd the newish owners and friends of ours were showing off the pub following a long extensive refurbishment where advisors, close friends and supporters were invited;

I trawled through my inappropriate wardrobe and found nothing even remotely suitable.  I wandered around a few shops and found even less suitable attire.  What is suitable?  Time was galloping away while I luxuriated in the shower rather than make a decision.  I began mix and match my eye makeup and realised it was imperative I come to a conclusion.    I chose a dress with streaks of differing colours and voluptuous folds so I could get away with spilling my drink or dropping a canapé down it unnoticed.  It was comfortable and allowed for plenty of indulgence of the aforementioned canapés.  It also turned out to be suitable; there was a wide range of outfits and I was not out of place.

It has taken a long time to have the courage and trust to leave all three boys at home unsupervised. At nearly 16, No 1 Son goes off to babysit for friend’s children, he is certainly old enough and probably sensible enough to be left at home.   Middle Son is quite self sufficient; he prefers to stay home at the weekend; goes to the shops to fill my fridge with pizzas, cheese and ham croissants and high energy drinks; not that he needs any.    He will cook all this as and when he feels peckish and can entertain himself playing God of War on the PSII for hours as long as no-one disturbs him.  He will be totally domesticated when he leaves home although his financial thriftiness may well delay that adventure for many years to come.   The most sensible of the three; Mini Son is deemed by his age to be too young to leave at home alone.

I have relented and now leave all three for an evening but with very strict instructions, which I am sure they all agree to until the car has driven round the bend and then completely ignore me.   They don’t realise they are left with a huge amount of trust; they do understand the threat of a babysitter, if they misbehave, looming over their heads.  Mini Son also has a get out clause and there is always a neighbour aware they are on their own if he feels assistance is needed.

This has worked well so far and I have toned down my calls back home now, not even reminding them that bed time has passed.   They are more than capable of being on their own and probably far more reliable than I am prepared to give them credit for, but however old and independent they become I am their mother and it is my right to worry about them.

There was however the added complication of the carnival being in town; bad enough as that may seem but the fun fair cleverly attaches itself to the carnival and relieves the townsfolk of all their hard earned cash.  The older boys had their social lives cemented firmly in the spiral that surrounded the carnival and were not prepared to stay in and babysit.   Fleetingly I did consider allowing Mini Son to tag along behind one of his brothers but it was very brief.   Horror images flooded my mind; him being left on some unknown float full of aliens and monsters, Harry Potter throwing an unforgivable curse in his direction, or his brother dragging him on to the screamer, I don’t even know what the screamer does but the name conjures up too many horrors.

My friend Natty mercifully not only offered to have Mini Son, she offered him a bed for the night, allowing us the freedom to return when we were ready guilt free about a babysitter who had a time restriction.   Mini Son went over with a bag of drinks and snacks for a midnight feast which they started about 8pm and concluded the following morning for early breakfast.  He took his DS for the challenge that would happen, barely managing a goodnight as I left him already battling Pokemon with Natty’s son.

Sexy Sporty Dad and I did go to the ball or rather the pub opening and we were very impressed.   We arrived and there was no where to park, the car park full to bursting with newly plated number plates.   Sexy Sporty Dad left me at the door while he hid my little battered car somewhere he could find space, out of sight.   Noise and laughter tumbled out of windows and door as I stood counting the seconds until he returned and we could walk in together.   Naturally like any good party, you dread going in, not sure if you will know anyone.  We were greeted instantly by our friends who insisted on champagne and a personalised tour.   We knew many of the others through our various walks of life.

Exquisite interior design has taken the old listed building, completely refurbished it in a fusion of

The Fontmell, Fontmell Magna, Dorset - 01747 811441

period and contemporary furnishings, blended with the natural stream running between the dining room and the bar.  We threw coins to wish them good luck and also to ensure we return.  The bite sized canapés that came round were taken directly from the more formal menu combining exotic, expensive and everyday ingredients in mouth watering morsels.  There will also be a bar menu for those who just want pub grub.   Plied with champagne we were led upstairs to admire the bedrooms with their modern en-suites and imaginative use of historic feature blended with extra touches to make the stay memorable.

Unfortunately the pub is too close for us to justify staying overnight unless some willing or maybe not so willing family member wanted to entertain three adorable, well behaved and incredibly endearing boys overnight.   Next time we have an overflow of guests we will definitely be suggesting they stay at the Fontmell, just maybe I can contrive to have dinner there first.

We will be going back now that the pub has finally opened, probably again and again, already I am looking through my diary for an excuse to be taken there.

My Writing

I have an update on my article for the local paper.   The RFU have published October’s issue of their magazine Touchline; also available online.  I couldn’t find it at first until they published another October issue and I realised I was looking through October 2010.   Under Clubs on page 8 is my unadulterated report with the full picture of No 1 Son leading a charge on some unsuspecting opponent.

Another piece added to my growing portfolio, now maybe I need to start making some money from all these publications before Sexy Sporty Dad sends me out to work full time, particularly if I wish to stay at the Fontmell or even visit regularly.


Wicked Mother

That is me not my mother; just in case you were wondering, in the eyes of my children.

I feel that I am quite defensive and proud of my children but there are still times when we do not see eye to eye.  My idea of “For the greater good” is not necessarily their choice of pathway.

Mini son was once an athletic socialite, who could not stay still for one moment.   A footballer for his local team, Saturday mornings would see me drive miles for his matches.  I have stood in pouring rain and sleet cheering his school team on.    He progressed through the levels in swimming not wanting to move from his fabulous teacher who has advanced his confidence as well as stroke.  He is the proud owner of the under 7s “player of the year” rugby trophy which adorns my kitchen unit, and had me again driving all over the county each Sunday morning to watch him tot up tries as he outran all opposition.

In July it all stopped.

We were busy, summer holidays were full of activities to keep him occupied and I was not too upset if he chose to sit out these past times.

September arrived upon us all too quickly and with it Mini Son announced he did not want to do anything.  Now he is happy to miss football training, content to pass up the chance to play rugby and battling valiantly to avoid his swimming lesson.  What has changed?

We did; we finally succumbed, to his pleas and desperation.  He is not a child who wants for much but, he did want a DS because, all his friends had one, both his brothers had one and he was always left out.  The benefits, we thought,  to a long journey if each child has their own entertainment are immense, so it seemed a reasonable request and we acquiesced; buying him the latest model and a couple of games for his birthday.   Since that day in July he has spent a considerable amount of time on his toy.  Naively I thought he was rushing out to play with friends and he was; on his DS which has a link feature and he plays his team games sat on friend’s sofas surrounded by DS playing chums.

Evil as it may seem, particularly if the tears and “I hate yous” are anything to go by.  I have banned him from his beloved DS.   There is however an “unless”; he has to earn the time through some kind of activity, I have not specified which; he can choose.  This week he has joined in with Tag Rugby Club and Simply Football Club after school and splashed and dived for half an hour proving to his teacher he needs to be moved up.  I am happy for him to now play on his DS for the weekend.    He is after all in the school football team for next week’s match.  Not one to gloat too much but the grin on his face as he returned from the clubs and the smile as he once again was allowed without argument to resume his latest DS challenge proves that maybe I am not so horrid.

When are you justified in doubting your child’s motives?

The other day was not really a good day to be stuck indoors learning while the sun was out and the teachers droning on about their boring subjects.  So when I got a text from Middle Son saying he had a headache, I confess I was suspiciously unsympathetic “have a drink” I responded harshly.   The conversation continued via text on the phone he is not allowed in school.  “Come and get me – I will just go to bed”.

I can’t just turn up at the school and say I want to take my son home as he has a headache, and following a few weeks of trying times with some verbal bullying I had my slight doubts as to the severity of the headache.   To be fair he has inherited my propensity to suffer migraines and with the heat and closeness of the atmosphere not only did I too have a headache, I had already sent three children home from my school.

The school phone rang and I answered it.   It was his school, laughing I told her I already knew what she was going to say.  Perfidiously, I asked if she thought he really was ill.

“I have checked his timetable and he doesn’t have science this afternoon, he has just had PE”.  Guilty as I felt, the school were ahead of me and had already checked his timetable; science being the subject with the bullies in.

It made sense that having done PE he probably hadn’t drunk much and probably did have a headache; borne out by him coming home and sleeping all afternoon while his wicked mother went back to work having given him painkillers and penitent sympathy.       Thankfully sleep and quiet is a great healer and he was miraculously recovered when friends came to call after school.

There are times in life when your children make you immensely proud and there are times when you do something to be proud of.   Sometimes they even link together although both of you may not be on the same wavelength.

No 1 Son has been through a long harrowing and painful year of major injury.  His whole life revolves around his rugby and it is a bitter pill when he is unable to play and train with his team.  He has been very brave and patient as his team developed their game and gained success last season.   Towards the latter part of the season he was joining in with the training and even playing the odd training match, but his horrible mother did not relent and allow him to play a proper match.

His consultant finally agreed to allow him to return to his cherished pastime so reluctantly I had no choice but to permit him back on to the pitch.   Under my very protective eye and vocal protestations he played a full match against an unsuspecting opposing side.  I would hope that as he walked off that pitch he felt as much pride as if he had scored the winning try in the world cup final; not because he helped his team to a 40:15 win but because of the personal battles he had overcome to get to that point.

With a relief that only a mother can even begin to imagine I walked away, full of pride and the germ of a story for the local paper.  Pen to paper and some consultation with my new found friend at the RFU and I was able to produce a press release charting his triumphant return to the game.

A child waiting for Christmas day could not have outweighed my anticipation as I waited for the paper to drop through the letterbox on Friday morning.  In my excitement and fear I nearly ripped the paper apart to find it.  Page 105 was a long way through; I should have started with the rugby and sport pages really.

It was there, my article and my photo for the whole of the world to see.

Leading the Tackle

Ok, so they had changed a few words and described his injury in lay man’s terms, added a few extra bits and left out some of my carefully crafted copy and the worse thing of all added a typo to a sentence they added but; it was mine.  They also forgot to credit it to me as they don’t credit any of their stories but I was on top of my world.

I woke Sexy Sporty Dad up as I danced into the room flinging the page at him.  He reluctantly obliged by opening his sleepy eyes, reading and commenting favourably on it.  I forced it under the nose of Number 1 Son who was less than impressed, even to the point of acutely embarrassed.

I was over the moon, another piece to add to my slowly, very some might say, growing portfolio of published writing.   More was to come, my new best friend from the RFU has asked if she can send it into their own magazine “Touchline” for publication.   Do you really think I turned her down?

A wry smile crept over No 1 Son’s face as he told me he was asked “what it is like to be famous?” the following morning at the rugby club.

We sometimes don’t walk along quite the same pathways but parents only do what they see is best for their children; hard and wicked as it may seem in the eyes of their offspring.


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