Stringfellows Workout

Every Friday morning, partner personal trains myself and client: lady of the house, in her garage. Most garages are so full of lawnmowers, bike helmets, scooters and pogo sticks that training would be impossible. However, this is an almost empty double garage and doubles up perfectly well as a studio.

This morning we arrive to find builders have moved in to our training space. Don’t worry, lady of the house says, we can use the sitting room. Partner is wondering how this is going to pan out. The sitting room is straight from Homes and Gardens. It is modern, pristine and beautiful and not at all like the garage. We take off our shoes. I am glad I have worn my pink t shirt – I match the cushions beautifully, which is important in this sitting room, as everything matches everything else beautifully.

Partner adapts effortlessly to the new space: asking me to run down the length of the sitting room and perform two punches on the pad at the end. The floor is under heated, highly polished oak. I slide into the pad, narrowly missing the wine fridge. Partner is looking worried.

The workout continues and I’m starting to sweat. I don’t want to drip on the oak. I move to the cooler, more easily washable marble kitchen floor to perform my burpees.

I admire lady of the house’s lights, to distract from my sweat. They create a pretty, holographic glow. We could be in a nightclub, I quip. Lady of the house gives me a disapproving look. A posh nightclub, I try recover the situation, like Stringfellows.

Partner senses that it’s time for a change of mood and a new exercise. He pulls out two dining room chairs. But I’m on a roll. I straddle one of them Madonna ‘Like a Virgin’ style – but I’m clearly not. I start singing. Partner is now starting to sweat. Ok, let’s do the plank, he says in a last ditch attempt at salvaging a rapidly deteriorating situation. And now onto your backs for reverse bridge – his finale. ‘Touched for the very first time’ – I start humming. I can’t help myself, as I thrust my hips towards the beautiful vaulted ceiling.

Lady of the house looks at partner and I wearily, and as she pushes the dining room chairs safely back under the table she sighs, I’ll never feel quite the same about my sitting room ever again…

Parents’ Evening

Number 1 friend and I are discussing her son 1 and my daughter 3″s parents’ evenings, that both took place last night. He’s actually doing really well, she said with complete amazement. Apparently he’s really bright, works hard and is a pleasure to teach. I can’t understand it, she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

Daughter 2 asked daughter 3 how parents’ evening had gone – brilliantly, she said, without a hint of irony. I butted in, erm what about the bit about you being constantly distracted, talking too much and that you could push yourself more, I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

Daughter 2 is incredulous that daughter 3 is allowed to drop all languages at GCSE, whilst her school won’t allow it. I’m even more dyslexic in French, she moans.

She asks me to read the blog to her. No, I say, you read it to me, it’s good for you. She reads a couple of sentences and that is enough. My artistic integrity is compromised, subtleties are lost, words are left out. I can’t bear it any longer. Pass it over here, I say.

I recount the incident, guiltily, to number 1 friend, who was in complete sympathy. I do the same, she said, it just becomes unbearable listening to them. We look at each other and laugh. All things considered, I think our kids are doing pretty well.

Grey Clouds

Daughter 2 has bought white jeans. She won’t let me wash them. She takes them to face time friend’s mum to wash. I’m offended. You turn all my white things grey, mum and these cost me a month’s money. I pull a face. Face time friend’s mum doesn’t mix her whites and her darks, she continues, nailing the coffin.

It is true and I do have a reputation. I admit to representing my country in a pink tracksuit – much to the amusement of the England Taekwon-do squad. As soon as I saw the white tracksuit with St. George’s cross adorning the left hand side, I knew that I was doomed, before even stepping foot inside the ring.

Underwear is a nightmare. I once turned daughter 4’s first bra so grey, that she preferred it to the white.

Back to the jeans and daughter 2 asks me if she can do her own washing from now on. Every grey cloud has a silver lining.

Dartington Crystal and Kale

Yesterday, I went for lunch at big sister’s house. Our house is screaming for mercy under the sheer weight and amount of bodies we are squeezing into it at any one time (it’s lucky face time friends don’t take up any space, real friends are a logistical nightmare: can I have a real friend to sleepover please Mum. Yes dear, of course, if they don’t mind sleeping on your sister’s head). Conversely, big sister lives in a big house, situated on a gated road. I arrived at the gate in my old and very tired Previa, which is also screaming for mercy – cracked windscreen, only one of the sliding doors in operation (we carry a large screwdriver for situations when friends don’t know and we forget to tell them about the door), air con broken and oh the mess, so I don’t really blame the gate for not wanting to let me in. It’s on a slope. I put the handbrake on. The car slides back. Add it to the list! I have a problem – I need to get out of the car to access the intercom so that big sister can let me in. I sit and contemplate how refugees must feel at border crossings.

I ring big sister on my shiny new phone – the one thing that feels dependable right now. Big sister comes flying out of her driveway, brandishing the buzzer, looking rather harassed and wearing, what seemed to be strange attire for lunch. She apologises for her appearance: Pilates, maintenance man, shower, undressed, she gabbles. I wondered whether she is having an affair with the maintenance man.

I notice a large juicer on the granite top, filled with something green. Kale, she tells me proudly and lettuce, sweetened with lemon juice. But lemon juice isn’t sweet, I point out. Defensively, she whips out her January edition of Good Housekeeping, and apple, she points at the recipe victoriously. Oh god, is that massacred kermit frog concoction in that blender my lunch, I ask. No, she said, I had an accident – my glass broke, but I drank it anyway. She showed me the glass with a hole in the side. A Dartington crystal glass, she said incredulously. But, she continued, I knew that you or maintenance man would find me if I swallowed a piece. Maintenance man, I correct her, because I would have been stuck on the other side of the gate – the side that doesn’t drink smoothies from crystal glasses.

A Cock and Ball Story



How did your hair go up today? Partner asks nervously on return from his shower. Looking for a prediction on how today will go. I point to the mirror…

I had decided that the girls need specific chores. I hatched the plan whilst sitting on the loo (of course) in Costa, as I admired the efficiency of their loo cleaning chart. I printed off four copies of the January google calendar and assigned one to each daughter. They are blue tacked to the wall. Each week they must complete their chore and sign it. In order for it to count it must be countersigned by a supervisor – partner or myself. After one or two teething problems (they all forgot to do their chores in week one), the system is now up and running. However, like any system, it is open to abuse when workers start getting more confident with usage. Daughter 3’s chore is the dusting. As I peered into my mirror to do my hair this morning, I found myself staring at, what looked like a cock and balls, squirted in Mr Sheen. Daughters 1, 2 and 4 came in: oh, you’ve got one too mum, they said. I marched downstairs in full supervisor mode, demanding an explanation. I don’t get what you don’t like, says daughter 3, the eyes or the tongue poking out…or the fact I haven’t rubbed it, she adds with a grin.

Crotchless Knickers

It’s not every morning I come to work and find an opened packet of knickers on my desk, but it’s not the first time either. This is due to number 1 friend’s daughter being a knicker fuss.

Surprisingly enough, despite having several daughters, knickers is an item of clothing I have very rarely bought them. I have found, over the years, that despite their growing taller, their bottoms have remained at a constant size. This is the reason why, as I was hanging out the washing this morning, I noticed that daughter 4, who is now 11, is still wearing a strawberry patterned pair of 5-6’s. (Although the type of fruit is so faded it is no longer clear). This, combined with number 1 friend’s daughter’s knicker fuss, means I can put any spare knicker money towards shoes. Added to this, teenage daughters now choose to buy their own, after I bought one packet that I asked them to share.

Thinking about knickers reminded me of a poem I wrote at University:

The French may be good dressers,
Good lovers, good kissers
But they really invented
Uncomfortable knickers

Now, I’m no longer in the market for French knickers, but it got me wondering whether they still exist. When I was 16 a boyfriend bought me a rather fancy, lacy, deep red pair. One evening my mum and dad went to the pub and as dad approached mum carrying the drinks, she asked him what was hanging off the velcro of his red ski jacket. I wondered why the landlord winked at me, he said.

Dog 1 has a penchant for tissues, dog 2 has a penchant for knickers. He steals them off the airer, where there is, at any given time, an endless supply. He then chews away the gusset and discards them, crotchless, on the floor. Yesterday, daughter 2 had a real (as oppose to a Facebook/face time) friend round. We heard a scream from the downstairs loo. Real friend appeared looking rather pale – there’s something on the floor and they look wet, she mumbled. Yes, my knickers strike again!

Loo Brush

Have you ever looked at your loo brush and thought, omg, what does that loo brush say about my life?

Ditto the car. Pre-kids, I travelled in a friends’ car who had a toddler. I was horrified – how could she let things get like this? Perhaps she’s still got post-natal depression? Should I say something about just how bad it looks from my perspective?

Luckily I chose to keep schtum, because now I am so embarrassed about the interior of our car that I even apologise to daughters’ friends, who ordinarily wouldn’t be looking beyond the next selfie opportunity.

When we’re mid-school term and hardly have time to piss, I don’t seem to notice things such as dirty toilet brush holders. Similarly cobwebs and stained carpets are off my radar, because they just seem too huge to deal with. Surface cleaning only until the holidays.

However, the holidays come and I find the job of living in a house in the holidays with everyone else at home, a full time job. So… when do people clear cobwebs and buy new loo brushes? I have decided that the next house I go to I will examine the above, if only to reassure myself that everyone else is slowly sinking with me.

Tales from the Loo

On those rare occasions that I have a millisecond to dream, usually in the toilet, I find myself sometimes wondering whether there will ever be a day in my life when I have got everything done. Not just the thing at the top of the list, but I mean everything. Then I wonder how empty it must feel to have done everything, as I reach for the loo roll and see that, yet again, no one has bothered to change it, despite notices above every loo roll holder in the house: Changing the toilet roll will not cause brain damage. Back to reality – there is always something, a million things, to do.

Every now and again, ever so occasionally, a smug feeling will come across me in a wave – a feeling that I have accomplished just enough that day so far to warrant feeling a teeny bit smug and then, wham! One damn buzz in my pocket and my feeling of smugness is crushed, as the never ending stream of school e mails continues on a pace.

Just like every other parent, by the time the kids have left for school, I’m frazzled and quite often wound up like an elastic band on a merry go round – ready to unravel and ping in a random direction at high speed, but with certainty. By the time I’ve done the dog walk I feel like I’ve been going for hours and by the time I flop down outside Waitrose with my free coffee (sorry Tunbridge Wells), I am gasping for that hit. So it was with much amusement that I listened to Psychologist friend in exactly the same state as myself, when she rocked up at Waitrose cafe yesterday, launching into a tirade about her number 3 son’s complete lack of co-operation and total melt down that morning. And the worst thing about it, she said, revving up for the finale, is that I bet his teacher is thinking: we’ll never ask her to come in and talk to the children about her job. If she can’t manage him, what hope is there for the rest of us mere amateurs.

Bad Hair Day

I have decided that the fate of the whole day can be dictated by how my hair goes up in the morning. This morning it went badly: pony tail secured, lump of hair on top, undo, redo, pony tail too low, undo, redo. Time is running out, daughters need lunches and a tight war is erupting in the background. Re do, make do – something I’m always telling daughters not to do: don’t make do, aim high. I hit my elbow on the banister on my way downstairs and my tea slops onto the carpet. I growl. Tight war stops for a moment, as participants are momentarily distracted by mum’s bad hair day.

In the office, partner shows number 1 friend the blogo (blog logo) he has designed for me. But she looks too frazzled, she told him. She just doesn’t look like that. Partner remained silent, while I beamed. Partner and I get in the van to go and teach a taekwon-do class. His bum had hardly hit the seat when he said: she just doesn’t see you frazzled.

At the ladies taekwon-do class, post-class conversation inevitably turns to kids and specifically kids afternoon napping: those who do, those who don’t any more and the bitter ladies whose kids never did. Even on a 12 hour journey to France my two didn’t sleep, hassled mum says. Crikey, I think, I’ve taken my babies on laps of the Tescos car park at midnight in days gone by, but France seems a little extreme…

Cheap Shoes and False Economies

Dog 2 has eaten daughter 2’s £50 Clarks school shoes. She had only worn them for a term. The dogs had been quiet. Daughter 2 came in to partner and I, brandishing a photo on her phone: look at the dogs, don’t they look cute. I glanced at the photo, then back to the tv after a quick acknowledgement of their cuteness.

Once we discovered the chewed shoe, I ask to see the photo once again. I zoom in. Dog 2 clearly has the tassel of chewed shoe in his mouth. Cute my arse.

I try to convince her that the shoes are still wearable, as one shoe is entirely untouched. She’s having none of it. She face times her friend for support and she too is having none of it. I don’t stand a chance. You’ll have to go to Tescos mum, for some cheap shoes. With so many children with feet, Tescos was the only place I used to go, until daughter 4 developed a foot problem that the doctor said required a ‘proper shoe’. Since then, all the girls want ‘proper shoes’ .

Determined, I search the charity shops for a replacement that isn’t Tescos and success! A brand new pair of brogues from Jones in Oxfam and at £15 they are more expensive than Tescos. They are almost her size – bingo!

A week on I have spent a further £7.50 on special blister plasters, £5 on insoles and £6 on new tights. I am still falling into the trap of false economy.