Slam dunk!

Thursday 21 February 2019

One definite advantage of single parenting is that you are always learning new skills. This week it was assembling a basket ball stand…

Small Boy ordered the stand in question with his birthday money, and it is delivered at the start of the week. It’s quite a large parcel to arrive in a house already coping with decorators. By the end of Tuesday, we all bear the scars of at least one encounter with a sticky doorway and Small Boy holds the record, with gloss paint on his feet, his arm and his bum! In addition, we have the daily challenge of rehousing the contents of whichever room the decorators next plan to whip back into shape with their rollers and brushes. In the middle of this interior upheaval, it seems perfectly sensible to ask Small Boy to wait until Friday for his hoop to be built.

Friday is going to be dry‘ I reason, ‘We shall be able to put it all together outside‘ 

Small Boy however is a third child, and he has learned to ignore parental procrastination if he ever wants to get anything done. And so it is that I return home on Tuesday night, from top night out of cocktails and catching-up , to find not only the entire contents of the lounge in my kitchen but also a semi-assembled basketball stand!

I decide to bow to the inevitable. Next morning, with two of us on the job, we make quick work of the allen keys, nuts and bolts and presently the only job remaining is sand, to weigh down the base. I head out to Wickes on this seemingly simple mission but soon find myself gazing in bewilderment at an unfathomable array of choices for our ballast. Who knew that there were such things as ‘sharp sand’, ‘tarmac sand’,  ‘flagging sand’ , ‘yellow’ and  ‘grey’ and ‘silver’ sand  in this world? Thankfully, a very helpful woman points me towards the ‘Building Sand’ shelf and I am soon staggering back to my car with two 25kg bags clearly up to the task of ensuring that our basket ball stand, once filled, will never move again!

Back home, despite the grey gloom and drizzle, Small Boy and I wheel the stand outside and now face a whole new challenge. How on earth do we get 50kg of heavy wet sand into the tiny aperture available on the plastic base? Small Boy is an inventive child and fashions a few funnels out of paper and card but none of them are a match for the sand and eventually we are just scooping the stuff up with an old kitchen jug and ramming it through the hole. Our hands and clothes are covered in soggy red sand, we see the decorators chortling away from an upstairs window and we thank the Lord that next doors’ builders had finished their tea break before we began. We brave it out, as a team, to the very end. Triumphantly we wheel the completed stand into place and high five with gritty hands and grubby grins. 

Not the prettiest of jobs but we did get the job done and it feels great.  As Small Boy happily heads out for a few slam dunks, I do feel like a half decent mum….

Spring time spruce up!

Tuesday 19 February 2019
Marie Kondo eat your heart out!

Half term has met Spring fever and we are clearing out and sprucing up with avengeance. A seemingly endless array of outgrown, sometimes never worn, teenage clobber is tempting buyers on Ebay. Kitchen and lounge cupboards have been ruthlessly cleared and we have made several satisfied trips to the Charity Shop and the tip. But best of all, decorators are in my house…

Three years ago, I did naively take on the task of decorating all three of the kids’ bedrooms myself. It was a week of untold misery, chaos, back pain and as, one by one, my initially enthusiatic trio of helpers trickled away, isolation from the world. I got paint on the carpet, on the furniture, on the bed sheets and I swear some of it is still in my hair. ‘Never again!’ I vowed by the end and have been saving up,  since that day, to get other rooms done by a professional. That day has arrived and it’s a whole new world. I sit sipping coffee, taking a breather from our Spring clean fest,  whilst Soft Taupe brings warmth to my lounge and Goose Down’ grey, adds pazzazz to the kitchen. I have nodded sagely and I hope convincingly, as the the decorators have talked a new language of  ‘filling cracks and holes’, ’emulsion’ and ‘primer’. I have certainly made them plentiful cups of coffee and think that tomorrow my gratitude will extend to a plate of biscuits too!

But that can wait for tomorrow because tonight I am out with a friend exploring some of the newest  bars in our corner of the North West. Which means, even though there’s no paint under my nails, I better start getting  myself spruced up…

I have no words…

18 February 2019
Prom-dress daughter is safely back from her school History trip to Krakow. This time the pick up is 1am and when we get home we make two drinks and sit on her bed to look at her pictures.

I see the photos she’s taken in the Jewish Quarter and those she’s been allowed to take at Schindler’s Factory, Auschwitz and Birkenau. It is deeply shocking and …. I have no words….

Book Club

Friday 15 February 2019

Book Club

Dropped my middle child, Prom-dress daughter, off at 2:30 am this morning for a school trip. Not wearing her prom dress, I hasten to add, rather sporting a new Top Shop jumper and very excited. I found the ungodly hour a little harder to cope with and the 6 am work alarm, chirping into action after only a few hours of snatched sleep, particularly tough. Somehow I made my way through a busy and productive day but I am now fading fast and relishing the thought of curling up in bed with ‘The Lover‘ …this month’s Book Club read!

Inspired by last Summer’s holiday in Sligo, and a trip to the Yeats Visitor Centre, I joined a Book Club a few months ago. If you don’t know it, the Sligo Yeats Visitor Centre is a pretty inauspicious building and I’d probably have seen off the display of artifacts and extracts in under 10 minutes, had it not been for the tour guide. Brimming with enthusiasm, knowledge and a whole ton of Irish charm, this man brought the world of Yeats, in an era of political unrest and a thirst for national self-determination, to life. Suddenly I was reading every word in the place with fresh eyes and a brain stretched completely out of its comfort zone and I was converted. Converted away from the ‘easy read’ drivel clogging up my Kindle and back to a world I’d once loved of challenging, beautifully crafted literature, steeped in the culture of its time that stirs your emotions and sometimes makes your head hurt with questions and conflicts. I did think seriously about signing up for some OU literature course, but looked at the calendar, had a reality check and have put that one on hold for a few years. Small steps then, I’d start reading better books and discussing them with better minds than mine. I’d join a Book Club. 

After a fair bit of searching I found one. We meet each month in a local pub. It’s actually the pub of my teenage years and I do often giggle inwardly, wondering what my teenage self would make of our room of middle-agers, nursing our drinks, and talking books! That is …when we do talk books! A little like Yeats himself, who, I learned last Summer, found time not only to discuss matters literary but also to talk politics and pursue affairs of the heart, we can often wander from the plot of the book.  Current affairs, personal memories, stirred by a setting or a story-line, and even Piers Morgan have all been topics of debate but that’s the joy of a good book; you never know quite where the journey will take you! And the books have been good. I’ve read more and read better in the last 4 months than I have in the last 4 years. Much as I would recommend running as the physical exercise of choice for any parent, but particularly us doughty single parents, I’d go for reading for the mind. For me it’s affordable, it fits into any spare moment and it’s a total brain stretch, sparking curiosity, overtaking my thoughts and just transporting me away from the every-day grind for a few precious moments each day. 

But enough blogging for tonight, ‘The Lover‘  is calling this weary woman to bed …

The pen is mightier than the sword!

Thursday 14 February 2019
This week Top Shop and I went into battle over the case of the ‘Missing Parcel’. I followed the suggested Customer Service channels, only to be fobbed off with standard replies about 48 hour response windows and nobody taking responsibilty for anything. The thing is, I’d paid for next day delivery, because I didn’t have 48 hours to spare. And, I’m a single mum who is used to fighting her corner, so I abandoned politeness and patience with their incompetence and wrote this review on Trust Pilot.

The parcel that still hasn’t arrived.
Ordered online from Top Shop on 10th Feb and paid £6 for next day delivery. Received a confirmation email from Top Shop on 10th .
That was the last I heard from Top Shop until, by the end of 12th Feb, we wondered where our parcel was. No emails and no texts from Top Shop but, on my account, a tracking message claiming that my parcel of 4 winter jumpers had been delivered ‘through your letter box’. I contacted them to say that we had no parcel and that fitting jumpers through my letter-sized letter box was unlikely. Thereupon, they suggested checking with ‘neighbours’ and in my ‘safe place’. I did check the shed and the bins. I even knocked on a few neighbours’ doors before I came to my senses and thought ‘What are you doing? You have paid for premium delivery, not to be out after dark scouring bins and randomly knocking on doors!’
Contacted Top Shop on 13th requesting a call, no call came so I called them. I now have to wait for 48 hours for them to contact Yodel. I have no parcel, a £75 hole in my account, and no confidence at all that Top Shop will ever resolve this. Learn from my mistakes and AVOID this store!!

Lo and behold, within 12 hours of the review being published, the parcel arrives!  (Along with a 10% discount code.) Will modify my review when my delivery charge is refunded, but until then it’s a celebratory cup of tea raised to that old adage,  ‘The pen is mightier than the sword!’ 

Birthday Season!

Saturday 9 February 2019

The Birthday Duo – many years ago!

Oh dear, it’s been a truly, terrible week and I’ve spent much of it feeling like the worst parent on the planet. My head has been overloaded with deadlines and difficult decisions at work, and overloaded at home with demands for my time, the mum taxi and my wallet. My body is exhausted with day-in day-out drudgery. If only my big mouth could have been too weary to make an appearance this week. But alas no, feeling the stress, it has been guilty of firing out stupid, and at time awful, comments at the people I work with and live with. With horrendously bad timing, this has hit Birthday Week for two of my children and so, in move to drag myself away from the whirlpool of gloom that is threatening to submerge me, I have decided to concentrate on them, worry about everything else later. So here is a paragraph about each of my Birthday duo.

I’ll start with ‘Small Boy’ my youngest, but tallest child who continued to march through the teenage years this week. Described by one teacher, at a recent Parent’s Evening, as ‘remarkable’, he really is a remarkable bundle of creativity.  He tootles away for hours on the piano my mum gave us, re-creating and then rearranging his favourite rock and pop tunes, he’s just teaching himself the guitar and already does a brilliant rendition of Phoebe‘s ‘Smelly Cat’  (from Friends) and his writing is so amazing, I once accused him of copying his English homework from a published novel!  He’s witty, he’s clever, he’s unbelievably good company. More importantly he is also incredibly kind and thoughtful, gets spiders out of rooms, takes his Nana on day’s out, always gives money to people begging on the streets and once called the RSPCA to rescue an injured bird in the garden. He also does an amazing job of coping, as the lone man,  in our home of females. We may all shout  ‘Shut the door!‘ whenever music from the piano or his latest vinyl starts to fill the house, but the truth is ‘Small Boy’ rocks our world!

My eldest child also celebrated her Birthday this week. She is an unstoppable force who just takes our breath away. When my girl sets her sights on a goal, her drive, determination and discipline kick in and she grafts her way to glory!  But, while we all marvel at her achievements, we all love her because she is just beautiful on the inside and out. Day to day, she quietly tries to make my life easier by doing jobs around the house, but in a crisis, such as the time Small Boy cut his eye open and I passed out, or the time I forgot to collect him from the school Panto, she just takes over and completely comes into her own. When the chips are down, there’s simply no-one alive I’d rather have by my side. We may all groan as she launches into her latest scientific fact at mealtimes, gets potassium into a game of I-spy, or insists on sharing a pack of Smarties into equally coloured as well as equally sized portions, but the truth is she is our oxygen, our carbon, our hydrogen, our nitrogen, she is the essential element in our lives and we would not survive without her.

Well…. that was good therapy as it goes!  I feel much better and thinking about how wonderful and unique all three of my children are,  I conclude that whilst there are many better in this world, I am possibly not the worst parent on the planet after all.  Hopefully by Monday I might even be up for ‘Smashing’ this single parent life again…

February Finances

Saturday 2 February 2019

You could call February my momentous month. Two of my children have February birthdays, it’s the month I bought my current home and, many moons ago, my first ever car. Alternatively, as birthday plans collide with car and home insurance renewals, you could just call it a month of financial catastrophe… and this year I also have to throw a Prom dress into the mix!

Saturday is earmarked for our first foray into the wonderful world of Prom dress shopping, with an appointment booked at a local boutique. However my Saturday morning run is interrupted by a frantic call from the shop. Our slot has been booked at a time when another girl, from the same school, is on the premises… and apparently this is a ‘Disaster!’

No no no!” a woman gasps in horror down the phone, “The girls can’t have anyone else seeing their dress before the ‘Big Day!'”

I long to shout ‘Are you for real?’ down the line but instead I keep my opinions to myself and calmly book us in for the following weekend, because it will keep the peace in our household. Keep the peace because, though I may join the ‘No prom in my day!’ brigade in finding the whole thing a complete palaver, I accept that ‘The Prom’ is now an important date in the school leaver’s diary? Not really! It will keep the peace because of parity – the golden rule of family life. This is my second prom-ing daughter. Last year this shop was on our Prom-circuit and that means we go again this year… end of discussion.

The upshot however is that Saturday afternoon is now free and my other two children, the February birthday duo, spot their opportunity and swoop in. Their birthday gifts this year are phone upgrades and so we find ourselves off on a family trip to take on the might of the mobile moguls and root ourselves out a good deal. It doesn’t start well, I disgrace myself in the first shop by confusing storage with data and having to ask what an ‘XR’ is and all three kids are rolling their eyes and making furious ‘keep quiet mum!‘ gestures in my direction. However, by shop 3,  as we start to talk money- numbers, I come into my own. My arthimetic is quicker than the computer and that throws the salesman off his stride. When I also produce bits of paper with comparative deals on, he is putty in my hands and we are soon offered extra discounts and extra data to beat the very best deals we’d researched in advance …I think even the kids are impressed! They are certainly very happy with their new phones, even if neither of them comes close to being an XR!  

Back home I feel I’ve well and truly earned my Saturday glass of wine. Just the small matter of home insurance, car insurance and a Prom dress to squeeze out of my monthly salary now… oh bring it on!!!

February 2019

Friday 1 February 2019

When Dry January comes to an end!

Wow made it through January and as this cartoon pops upon my social media, whilst marvelling at the will power of those stoics who have made it through a dry month, I am compelled to wonder, 
‘If that’s what the end of Dry-January looks like, what on earth am I supposed to be doing to mark the end of No-Manuary?!!’

Should it be flirty-February? Our Book Club read for this month is the tantalisingly titled ‘The Lover‘ and I wonder if it’s an omen. Fitting a few first dates into the weekly chaos would be a challenge,  but it could be fun to try! On the other hand,  do I enjoy another luxurious month of balancing fabulous family time with time for me and doing the things I really enjoy?January was hectic but very happy. Perhaps I’ve found my perfect formula and there’s no need to change it? I guess time will tell…