Three cheers for the baking soda!

Monday 7 October 2019

It actually works! Windsor no longer smells of stank sour milk. My car smells of … a glorious nothing! And I gratefully put baking soda alongside Anadin Extra as products I would be honoured to advertise for free.

My mum, ‘The magnificent’ is in the house when I get home. Not only is she teaching piano to all three teens and not only has she cooked a delicious pie for tea, but her bicarb has also seen off the filfthsome, foul odour that has ruined my motorised voyages for several days.

I waltz her triumphantly around the kitchen, the teens cheer in joyous relief and that glorious smell of nothing in the car, it seems like the sweetest smell any of us have ever known…

There’s no use crying over it…

Sunday 6 October 2019

I can’t actually pinpoint when I began to notice that Windsor, our trusty Toyota was beginning to whiff a little bit. But it is two days ago that Small boy finally voices what we’ve all started thinking,

“Mum, why does our car smell like poo?”

A rummage around in the boot quickly unearths the culprit, one carton of milk… one empty carton of milk! Yes a full 4 pints of the white stuff, purchased almost 2 weeks ago, must have fallen from our ‘bag for life’ as we unloaded the shopping. It has settled happily into life in the car boot and gradually leaked all its contents over fabric, the folders, the picnic blankets, the emergency jumpers, yes everything single thing in the back of our car. And my goodness does it smell … it absolutely honks !!

And it still does. I have washed lots, binned even more, scrubbed and sprayed like a woman possessed, but nothing gets rid of the stench. I discover that there’s a whole industry of websites and YouTube videos devoted to the dilemma of ‘Milk in the Car’, and I am left befuddled about where to start. Additionally, a friend cheerfully informs me that it is the very longevity of those noxious, sour odours that makes ‘spilling milk all over the ex’s car’ a favourite revenge act for wronged spouses and scorned lovers!

So ignoring the Autumnal nip in the air, we drive around town with the windows permanently wide open. If some unfortunate friend needs a lift from us, I leap from the vehicle when they are still yards away to pre-warn and apologise for the ghastly horrors that await as they open the door! We are getting desperate and I decide that my only option is to throw money at the problem.

On Saturday , after dropping the teens at their morning rehearsal, I postpone my run in favour of a trip to the car valeter. But the professionals are not optimistic,

“It’s milk love, its a killer. There’s really nothing we can do!”

Despondently, I decide to leave the car anyway, downgrading to a £12 mini-valet, and turn my thoughts back to my Saturday run. Suddenly inspiration strikes. I smile. I brush my hair out of my eyes. I tighten my laces. I straighten my running top and I set a course…to my mum’s house.

Within 15 minutes, I am enjoying a coffee in mum’s kitchen and she is a confident reassurance of home grown remedies for any stain or odour that you can mention. Sour milk does not daunt her. No, she laughs in the face of this feared opponent and fills me a bag of ingredients ‘guaranteed’ to send those stomach-churning stenches packing. Now I’ll not lie, running back to the car with a plastic bag jangling with bottles of white vinegar, brushes and pots of bicarbonate of soda is a bit of challenge. The streamlined Strava brigade, I meet along the way, refuse to make eye contact as I clank and clatter past. But I don’t care, it is utterly worth it, because I now have a plan. I know my next step…I have hope in my heart!

So tonight, as I sit mulling over … bathroom sealant (it’s my next DIY adventure!), Windsor is a frivolous froth of baking soda, vinegar and water. Will it work? I guess I’ll know in the morning…

I just can’t get enough…

Thursday 3 October 2019

October arrives this week. As I awake to icy mornings and the central heating clicking into gear, my thoughts turn to the challenge of turning up the temperature in other areas of my life too!

Very unexpectedly, quite out of the blue, I have recently met a rather nice man. It’s very, very early days, but he does make me smile … quite a lot. I’ll even confess that occasionally, as I come off the phone I have even found myself feeling a little dreamy, warm and fuzzy too. Now youngsters, block your revolted ears, but older readers, possibly having to contemplate a new relationship, take heart from my next relevation. Whilst marital break-up isn’t an experience I’d wish on anyone, one upside, of being flung back into world of dating in later life, has been the discovery that love, romance and that initial spark of connection, are every bit as exciting in middle age as they were in my younger years. The reflection in the mirror may well show the ravages of time but on the inside … we are all still in our mid-twenties!

But I digress, back to the rather nice man. We have managed a couple of outings, but I fear, I really do, for our fledgling relationship ever really taking flight … because it is so blinkin’ difficult to meet up as a single parent! With my ex due to visit, this Saturday was supposed to be a night of togetherness, but ex-hub has just called to tell me that he is ‘busy’. ‘Busy?’ I’d like to too busy to look after ‘our’, children until I have a gap in the diary, just once in a while! And my beloved teens don’t help the situation either. Is it just my offspring, or do all children assume that a mum’s only goal and motivation in life is to run them, fund them, and organise weekend life around them and their social lives?

“I just assumed you would be able to pick me up from my party mum!”

was my eldest’s response when I suggested that I might be out on Saturday night.

I put it off, but eventually do call, apologetically, to explain my dilemma and brace myself for the brush off. But the rather nice man, who is very laid back and incredibly considerate simply says ‘Wherever and whenever you can”, as we rearrange our plans. And I am sure that a mid afternoon movie will be great. It’s just that, at the risk of sounding like a complete floozy, I had hoped for a little more from my Saturday night!

Could I invite him here? I think not, far too soon. I have no intention of parading any men around the home and into the teens’ world, until I am sure of how I feel about them. But how do I ever get to that stage? It’s a veritable, vicious circle and I am not sure there’s a way out. I turn to alcohol. I turn to music. And on comes Depeche Mode “I just can’t get enough” ….it speaks to me on many levels!!

The End of September

Monday 30 September 2019

As the sun sets on another September, it’s a good time to reflect upon the last 30 days.

Now I use the term ‘sun’ metaphorically, because the skies have actually pelted us with rain for most of the last 30 days and there are flood warnings in place across much of the UK, as the ninth month of the year comes to an end. I also read that 2019 has been the wettest across the USA as well. Is it a result of global warming and the alarming acceleration in the impact of humankind on the plant? Greta Thunberg would certainly say so, and September has seen this remarkable young woman deliver her passionate address to the UN Climate Action Summit, supported by further waves of, predominantly youth Climate Strikes, across the globe.

Closer to home, my young people have also has a productive month. My eldest has finally completed her personal statement, applied to Uni, started partying with avengeance, as the entire year group begins to turn 18, … and booked her driving test. Prom-dress daughter has made an impressive start to College life, joined the Production, re-joined the gym, signed up for various trips and blows my simple-mathematical mind, as she ponders her philosophy and history at the dinner table. Small Boy has ambled on quietly, possibly a little lost, as the girls have taken up a lot of my attention, but he seems okay.

As for me, well I did secure one new work opportunity but wasn’t successful with the other. So, whilst 1 out of 2 isn’t bad, I search on for a substantial change in my working life. Maybe my fortunes will change in October 2019? It’s a month when Mondays all fall on multiples of 7, which is always a bonus for me. I resolve to apply for at least one new job per month, pour myself a glass of wine and bid a fond farewell to a pretty good September, for the young people of the world as well as three I live with…

“Did somebody say…”

Friday 27 September 2019

“Anyone fancy a Dominoes for tea?” is all I innocently ask at 7am this morning. The house goes wild with joy. Smiling faces appear at usually firmly shut bedroom doors. My eldest starts belting out “Did somebody say…”, the well known refrain to Just East’s ad campaign, at the top of her voice. And before I know it, we’ve all joined in. There are harmonies, there is a congo and there is a lot of volume. Gosh they are easily pleased … or is my cooking really that bad?

Actually .. .it probably is. And I do try. In truth, I feel huge societal pressure to try. It began with the weaning years, when the ‘alpha mothers’, waving their Annabel Karmel bibles, briskly steered me away from those lovely, neat rows of supermarket food jars and persuaded me to embrace the messy, lumpy and thankless world of mashed sweet potato and spinach and potato goo. Ever since then, I have felt a huge pressure, not only to cook for the family ‘from scratch’… but to enjoy it too! And do you know what, “I dont!”

Ooooh, I’ve said it out loud. Might say it again. “I don’t like cooking! It’s a dull, dreary, chore sent relentlessly to ruin the loveliest of days.

“What’s for tea mum?”,

“When’s dinner ready mum?”

Is there any breakfast mum?”

It just goes on and on! One of the worst suggestions I ever listened to was ‘batch cooking’. Now there’s a day, of the Autumn half term of 2015, I’ll never get back! Lasagnes exploding all over the oven, seething pots of curry bubbling madly on the stove, triumphant vegetable bakes, collapsing into mush, as I tried to portion them into tupperware containers. Simply hell on earth! My children never have forgiven me, (and never should), for a hideous creation known as ‘vegetable crumble’. As for my recent pea and mint risotto, well the only place for that bowl of gloop was as the food recycling bin!

Oh, fear not foodies and responsible parents of the land, I will, of course, continue to try. I accept that we cannot survive, nutritionally or financially, on take-away meals alone. But this Friday, which will drag on until 8 pm with various after school activities, I feel justified in casting my cook books aside and joining the teens in joyful song …

“Did somebody say….”

Fantastique Day!

Saturday 21 September 2019

As Saturdays go, that was a pretty perfect one!

The morning sees the resumption of Saturday activities for the teens freshened up with a change of location. And this, in turn means exploring a new run route for me. I swap my well-trodden tracks, through a scenery of urban streets and sassy bars, for parkland and lush greenery. It is glorious in the warm September sunshine, the oxygen coursing through my veins and fuelling my heart with energy and optimism.

The afternoon takes me to a rehearsal for a performance of the dream-like Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. Mine is a small part, the ‘off-stage’ oboe player in Movement 3. I find myself positioned in a dark dusty side room for my solo, with only a partial sight of the conductor and totally hidden from audience view. One of my GC (Group Chat) friends makes me laugh out loud with the comment that this sounds like a metaphor for her life, and I think that it many ways it probably is for mine too. Perhaps all parents feel that, much as they strive to play a beautiful part in the symphony of life, their contribution can feel a little invisible at times. But I don’t feel unappreciated this afternoon. The solo may be written to sound distant but it is so haunting that I absolutely love it and many member of the orchestra are kind enough to compliment my playing very generously too.

The additional bonus, of only appearing in one movement, is that my rehearsal time is very short and frees up the afternoon for catching up with the teens, doing the laundry, sorting out the weekly shop and doing my share of ferrying to volunteering … and to parties. I experience an usual sensation of being almost on top of things.

And tonight I am relishing a chilled glass of white after an awesome concert. My little moment goes well, but above all I am blown away by the Symphony itself, which I hear in full for the first time this evening. It’s testament to a great orchestra , where players commit fully to a truly emotional performance, but it’s also the music itself . Bernstein describes it as “a first musical expedition into psychedelia and it certainly sends me home on a real high.

Feeling ‘fantastique’, long may it last…

Balancing equations….and emotions

Sunday 15 September 2019

Gosh the start of this school year is a brain stretch for me and the teens! And amidst the cerebral stuff, I worry that I miss the beat at little with those trickier heart and soul matters…

As Prom-dress daughter settles into College life, I find that, whilst she may have sailed through GCSE mathematics, I am in sudden daily demand as she faces the mammoth transition to A-level. Now mathematics is very much my thing and, even when I am very tired and ready for a cheeky glass of red and a pleasant hour of Peaky Blinders, I find it quite easy to cast these treats aside for a dose of quadratics or a few fiendish surds!

For my eldest, the focus of half term one, is all about preparing to apply to Higher Education. With medical school as her aim, its already been quite a journey, but this weekend the UCAS form actually appears. We hunt down old certificates, we reminisce about eventful music exams, we check dates and we face the ‘personal statement’. It is quite a task and takes several drafts and many cups of tea, but we finally have a statement that we are happy for her college tutor to review. And again, I love words and writing, and enjoy supporting my daughter in thinking about the best ways to put her thoughts, ideas and motives into sentences.

At least Small Boy appears to be on top of his school work! And indeed he is. But fighting for attention against all this brain work busyness, I learn that he has missed his basketball trials and I feel sad, because this is just the sort of event where my lovely boy needs a bit of encouragement to push himself forward and give it a go. And although Prom-dress daughter may now be more adept at algebra, boosting her confidence in coping with other aspects of new college life has also fallen a little by the wayside. One thing is for sure at the moment, she is definitely not her usual bubbly self.

It’s a parental balancing acts that seems particularly tough when there’s only one of you, but I am veering towards thinking that my main mum role should always put emotional support ahead of academic help. Much as I may love the school work, other people are able to intervene here. A writer for The Conversation UK, echoes my thoughts

Back-to-school time brings mixed feelings, as do most important events in life. Our jobs as parents and educators should be to help with the social and emotional development of those in our care so that they can more easily do the reading, writing and arithmetic that they need as well, not the other way around.…”

So as we start school week two, it’s time for me to let those college tutors do their work and remember that my job is to be a mum first and foremost at home…