You get what you pay for…


I have noticed a fact about life, that when you are feeling your most shitty and vulnerable, everyone around you appears gorgeous and in control. When you are about to be operated on, this is a good thing. Ana breezes into my room, Spanish, bubbly and lovely. She asks me to pee in one of those pots you get chutney in with your take away curry – to make sure you’re not pregnant, she said with a smile. I fell about laughing and told her I have enough already. How many have you got? She asked. Oh yes, that is enough, she replied when I told her.
Next the anaesthetist shimmyed in: suave and swarthy in a white open shirt and smart trousers. He went through my form. 3 glasses of wine a week, he commented, liar! I tried to explain that I’d written 3 glasses 3 times a week, but he remained sceptical. I decided to stop explaining, as it was a lie anyway. He proceeded to tell me in great detail what he was about to do to me with his blunt instrument- it was him who emphasised this, not me. In case I hit a nerve, he said and there’s a 1 in 10,000 chance you’ll die. Any questions? It seemed unimportant after his final statement but I asked if I could have a glass of wine that evening. One of your three, he laughed and with a wry smile on his face, he shimmyed out.
In came the physio, petite and pretty. Can this hospital possibly parade someone in front of me who looks as crap as I do (by now I was wearing the sexy, white support stockings and feeling like shit). She told me that I would need lots of drugs after the op: the pain will hit you when you wake up tomorrow morning, bang!
The surgeon was next in to see me. At least he was in his gowns, so looking as fashionable as I was. It’s the left shoulder, isn’t it? he said. I presumed that it was a rhetorical question, as I’m (mum’s) paying £5000 for the privilege, but he looked at me wanting reassurance. I confirmed it was and while he was scribbling all over my arm, where I felt a small X marks the spot would have sufficed, I asked if he did bogofs, as both shoulders need repairing. He laughed and breezed out, still brandishing his marker pen. I was left imagining the pen transforming into a scalpel and looked down at his scribble, hoping they weren’t the lines he was going to follow.
Next thing I know, my bed is on the move. My driver asked if I had kids. Can’t be bad, he said. They go to school this morning and mum’s taking class A drugs! The suave anaesthetist was there to meet me – looking less metrosexual in his overalls. As he put me to sleep, he was telling his colleagues about my wine consumption: three glasses, he was chuckling to them and with that, I was gone.
I awoke to an male Irish accent- wow – you really do get what you pay for here, I thought. I was shaking uncontrollably, so he warmed me right up…by placing a lilo over me and blowing hot air trough a a large tube under the covers. It worked.
Back in my room I had what tasted like the best cuppa ever and a packet of biscuits was staring at me, so I attacked the packaging with my teeth. In fact, my only complaint about my private hospital experience, was that they hadn’t thought to open the biscuits for me.
I thought it would be churlish to write this in the feedback questionnaire. So I just put that everyone was wonderful and beautiful and kind and wondered what experience the right shoulder will have on the NHS…if the waiting list ever moves.



Neenaw, Neenaw, it’s a Medical Emergency!

Hands up who saw Heidi Alexander’s response to Jeremy Hunt’s statement on junior doctors in the House of Commons? If you didn’t and you support the junior doctor’s, or fuck it, even if you don’t, it’s really worth watching and to make your life a lot easier than theirs, here’s the link:

Brilliant. It reminds me of me telling off one of my daughters. They do something that really bloody pisses me off, but I know that the only way I have a hope in hell of getting through to them and even then it is really simply an exercise in: you are going to bloody well listen to what I’ve got to say, is by remaining calm. I’m talking at them. They are looking anywhere but at me. They are even looking at the garden, if there is a window nearby. They never look at the garden! I try to remain calm throughout the grilling. I am desperate to get my point across to them, but I don’t want to loose them – I don’t want this to be yet another exercise in door slamming. So I place layer upon layer, almost gently, but my line of thought is anything but a tea dance. My message is heartfelt and passionate and I have to get it through to them. I realise that I am sort of winning, because they haven’t moved. I very much doubt they can hear much beyond: bla, bla, bla, but I am on a roll and I am in control.

Does my approach change anything? Sometimes. Did Heidi’s? Time will tell. Of course she, just like I will never know whether it was our influence, our carefully chosen words that made a difference.

I’m sitting in a hospital room as we speak, so this is all the more poignant. I’ve (my mum) has paid £5000 for the privilege. I get an en suite. I can remember after having daughter 1 as a medical emergency, dragging myself down the corridor, bleeding and sore to a toilet where other new mothers had been evidently bleeding and sore. Leaving my newborn daughter in her crib, alone and shuffling back, as fast as my stitches would allow. I’m no political animal, but I am not so ignorant that I can’t see that we need change.

I can see that many politicians have not yet reached their teens. They are still petulant, ego-eccentric toddlers, who throw tantrums when they don’t get their own way. I used to ignore this kind of behaviour when the girls were young, but what is the parenting method that will make these people listen?

Meanwhile, I will sit in my private room, frustrated, but eternally grateful to my mum.



Knees Up Ladies! (Pee first)

fitness, sport, training, gym and martial arts concept - group of women working out and fighting in gym Stock Photo - 46993377
I love our Wednesday morning ladies’ class – for all sorts of reasons. You get a group of women together, whether it’s in an exercise class, on a hen night, in a nightclub toilet (back in the day) and they will have a laugh. There’s a feeling of camaraderie that is bound by the euphoria of there being no kids around, to the hilarity of the pelvic floor. Classes delayed because yet another one has rushed to the loo for an essential pre-class piss. Into the warm up and the bones are creaking and clicking away…and that’s just mine! I know that as soon as I mention it I’ll have a chorus of others agreeing, because that’s what women do best. We empathise. One of our ladies gate crashed my class last night, bringing fresh, hot bread, straight out of the oven for partner, as condolences for Harry (partner got two slices, rest of the house polished it off). This morning she came to class to be presented with her new belt that she had achieved at the weekend and then buggered off to get her oven cleaned. I could hardly say no, when she’d baked us the bread!  Kneehab lady had her teenage son with her, as he’d thrown up the night before. Is this the old ladies class? he asked her. Well, in the spirit of, ‘age is a state of mind’, those ladies kicked the shit out of the pads today. Husband’s faces mentally fit on the round pads a treat. Straight wrists ladies, I try to remind them, as they’re giving those pads merry hell. Easy does it Jean, as she swipes through the air at a hundred miles an hour. He can’t have pissed you off that much! Get your knees up ladies, turn that standing foot! Thwack! Another poor bloke just mentally got his bollocks crushed.
It’s not all about man bashing though. Of course, partner is there, rolling his eyeballs at another crude comment, bringing a little balance to the oestrogen fueled session. He lives in a house so full of oestrogen he’s becoming hard wired to just agree with whatever we say and then go and bitch about us all to the two male dogs.
Getting into the banter at the end of today’s class, partner shouted: right you old ladies, let’s do a stretch!  I looked at him with absolute horror. YOU can’t call us that, I said. Only I can say that! He looked confused and shook his head. Later, I heard him telling the dogs.

A letter to my girls about our dog walk


Dear girls,
Thank you for coming on the dog walk today. It was fun. That is, until it ended in you getting cross with me. I refused to come into Waitrose because supermarket shopping with you is stressful enough, let alone when you’re already cross with me and I felt it best to bail out. I did still trust you with my contactless credit card. You see dear daughters, I do trust you. I trust you, even though on the walk you told me that when I gave you train money in cash that you hadn’t spent, you pocketed the change each week. I choose to just see that as me helping you to save your pennies and put it towards a good cause – like more clothes for your summer holidays. We laughed when you told me that you are working on your turkey body. I wondered why you wanted to look like a turkey, until I realised you meant the country. I reminded you to walk into your buttocks – a favourite phrase of mine when we’re walking the dogs. It’s normally partner who hears it, but today, dear daughters, it was you who got the benefit of my wisdom. All that work you are doing at the gym and a dog walk can also give you the buttocks you desire. Both of you complained that your wellies itched the whole way. I told you it was the leggings reacting with the plastic, so you pulled your leggings down and hoped no one was watching – only me, laughing. You commented very sweetly how kind the river looked. I was struck by how lovely that phrase was. I laughed when you asked me if we were getting closer to the rec and I thought you said Iraq, as we crossed the airstrip.
Dear girls, I love spending time outside with you walking. It’s when things get talked about that normally get passed over, unsaid, thought of as unimportant so not bothered about. But the things we talked about on our dog walk today are the things that make you, you. The details, the throw away comments, the heartfelt words. The things that touch my heart, but you would not understand why. Like you chatting about the new skirts you are buying from American Apparel, from China. What size to get? You are both getting the same skirt and your cousin too. It makes me smile because you fight over clothes all the time, especially when one of you buys the same item as the other, so I loved hearing you chat about the same skirt together.
So thank you girls, for being so refreshingly you and for sharing yourselves with me on the dog walk this morning and for not taking the piss with my credit card (although Greek yoghurt with honey and fresh pasta were not on the list).
Much love,
Mum xxxxxx

Fear and Intimidation in the Playground (not the kids)

Empty playground swings in a row Stock Photo - 3146935

I’m going to share with you a truth. It’s one that I struggled with for ages and I know that some of you struggle with it too. I’ve seen it in your faces, or heard it in your voices: I hated picking up my children from their primary schools. I hated that time when we weren’t allowed into the playground, because the gate hadn’t been opened. I felt anxious as I approached, seeing the groups of mums who all looked engaged and happily chatting and I had no idea where I fitted in. I felt like an outsider and I felt awkward, just like a child might feel when they don’t have anyone to play with. I would approach a group where there were the most people I knew on a day that I felt I had it in me to do so and on other days I would wait in the car, until the gate opened.

Once open, I had to leave the safety of my car and brave the playground, as my kids could be released from their classrooms at any time and I never wanted my hate of the situation to mean I wasn’t there for them. So I would go and hover. There was nothing to distract me from the awkwardness, so I would focus on the notices that were pinned to the classroom window. Some days, if the girls were let out late, I would have read these notices twenty times, but if you’d asked me what they said, I couldn’t have told you. I could see that I wasn’t the only person who did this nervous hover. I can’t tell you how self conscious I felt, every day.

Every day I and many others, had to repeat this ritual. I’m making it sound dramatic, aren’t I? Those of you who I would see chatting and laughing with other parents may not understand how anyone could possibly feel like this. It was no-one’s fault, except my own. I needed to be braver, to be more sociable, to make more of an effort. But I really struggled with it. I struggled with it in a way that I don’t struggle in any other social situations and that made me feel even worse.

The last day I had to pick my last child up from primary school, I didn’t cry like other mums. I didn’t get sentimental about the 11 years I had spent doing it. I didn’t feel an ounce of sadness that their time there had come to an end. For the first time in all those years, I felt free.

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From Sex to Secondary school

You piss on the stick – two blue lines…omg! Omg! Omg! You go and buy another test, as the first one you bought was Boots own, but you think you should buy one at double the price, in case the cheap one is wrong. You piss on an expensive stick…the line is even more blue! You knew it was worth the extra money. You tell your partner. Are you sure? he says. It’s a rhetorical question, but it prompts the desperate urge in you to need to triple check. You look at the tests on the shelf, all with slightly different claims. You go for the middle priced one. You insist on pissing on the stick with your partner actually there, so that he can verify its authenticity. Still two double lines – yay!!

That’s pretty much how it all starts, after having sex of some description. (In my case: Daughter 1 – Honeymoon, daughter 2 – ovulation kit, daughter 3 – can’t remember as there was obviously so much wild sex going on at that time with 2 kids under 2 in the house that it all merges, daughter 4 – Spain).

So how have I got to the point where they are all at big school? How the hell did that happen? How do I find myself in a position where people are coming up to me and asking what I think of one of my daughters’ schools, because they are thinking of sending their child there? As they approach, I’m thinking to myself, don’t ask me, please don’t ask me, because I’m shit at the whole school thing. I don’t know the names of all my kids’ heads. I get confused with all my Parent Mail accounts. I actually don’t know which Parent Mail goes with which school, without referring to past e mails, that I usually spend half the evening frantically searching for and then can’t remember the passwords. However, none of this stops them asking. Are you finding your child is coping with the pressure of a grammar school? they ask in a perfectly reasonable way. A cold sweat comes over me. I desperately try to think of any examples of my daughters showing undue signs of stress…erm, I get flashing images of doors slamming and daughters screaming at each other…no, I don’t think so, I reply, scanning the questioner’s face, looking for signs that they will be appeased by this and will bugger off and let me forget how crap I am… but they never do. There’s always more in this earnest parent’s fuel tank of questions. Are you happy with the teachers? They say this with a sweet smile on their face and head slightly cocked to one side. They’ve seen I’m shit at this, I think to myself. They are testing me now. I think back to one of the four parents’ evenings I have attended in the past 6 weeks. Under pressure they merge into one. Get the right school, I think to myself. Don’t make yourself look like a prat. Yes, the teachers were all lovely at parents’ evening and very professional, I reply, forcing a smile back and then, it must have been the stress of the questioning, but I find myself talking about the sperm cake. Yes, the one daughter 4 made for a science homework. The sperm cake she made when they had to produce a model of a seed and no-one else did a sperm, or a cake. My interrogator looks at me and cannot hide her shock and disappointment. The bloody sperm cake has gone and blown my cover. I feel I should wrap this whole ordeal up: I’m sure your daughter will be very happy there, I say, rather pleased with myself for drawing a line under it. The mother is backing away, but holding me firmly in her sights with a glare: she’s got options, she snarles at me, clicks her heels, turns with a swish and hurries away.


I love the new Parent Mail system used at daughter 3’s school, as every e mail begins: ‘regarding Josie’ written in italics. It’s like they are saying: you know – JOSIE… The one who likes football, strawberry jam on bagel and hates dresses, remember? THAT Josie. Capish?      

I need this sort of guidance.

My Fruit Bowl

G&T Home

Cake and Wine Therapy

The diet, that we were supposed to start two weeks ago, has taken several wrong turns. It all started on day 1, when daughter 1 decided to break her own rules and bake chocolate brownies and granola.


On day 2, daughter 3 wanted to bake cookies for a friend’s birthday. I hesitated. They’re not for us, she pointed out, so I relented, but only after insisting that she baked a few extra – for us. By day 5 I was actually ringing daughter 1 on my way home from work, asking her if she fancied making a cake. That was last week. Then Harry went missing and all thoughts of a diet went missing with him. I think it’s called cake and wine therapy, or something like that. Since we found out that Harry’s spirit had been set free, we have had many lovely messages of love and sorrow and a cake given to us – a whole, yummy anti-diet cake. More therapy. This isn’t Weight Watchers, this is Cake Watchers and I’ve got the non-slimmer of the week award! When I got in from work tonight, I allowed myself a slither. Then it needed tidying up, so I did that. Then I had another slither, because it’s only a slither. Within 5 minutes I’d slithered the hell out of that cake. Partner came home and went to cut himself a piece. Woah! Where’s all the cake gone? he asked. I felt guilty, as it was mostly his and Harry’s cake, so I blamed dog 2. I shamelessly said that dog 2 had licked the cake and that I’d had to cut a large slice off it and thrown it away. What a waste! I exclaimed for effect. He looked at me suspiciously. You’ve got icing on your chin, he said. Damn, I thought. I bet Harry’s having a right laugh at this.

I sat down at my computer, telling myself that I must get a grip on this diet at some point. My bikini bod must be ready by the end of August. I reassured myself that there’s plenty of time. I looked at my e mails, there was one from Tumblr. I’ve heard of Tumblr, but I’m like an old person when it comes to all this shit, so wasn’t sure what it was about. I opened it and the subject read: Account notice: Your username needs attention. Hmm, strange I thought. I don’t have an account with Tumblr and then I read the e mail:



At first, I couldn’t read the long word and I read it something like: humon gous peng dreamer. Wtf? Then I reread it out to partner and I realised what it said: humongous penguin dreamer.

Well, I thought to myself. I’ve been referred to by a few names in my 45 years of life, but never a fat dreamy penguin.

I carried on reading down the e mail: if you’re still interested in using the username humongouspenguindreamer, just hit this button. There it was, as clear as anything. Highlighted in blue; calling me to just hit it. Goading me to agree to the name: I’m still a humongouspenguindreamer. And you know what, I almost hit that button, as the way the past two weeks have gone a fat, dreamy bird pretty much sums up how I’m feeling.

Because of Harry…

As many of you will be aware, partner’s cousin Harry is no longer with us, but his spirit lives on. When he was missing, everyone was upset and when you are upset, different rules seem to creep in to your life. Some of these are good rules, like I can’t be fecking bothered to get worked up about my ex. There’s never any point in this anyway, so this is a step forward – thanks to Harry. Other things, however, got lax. For example, I didn’t seem to have that voice in my head, that tells me to stop hunting in the cupboards for cake. That voice was now telling me that it is fine to look for cake, eat all the bloody cake you want, because of Harry. The other morning the girls were taking conversational lumps out of each other. Rather than calming the situation down, (only for the neighbour’s sake), I just sloped back upstairs, to think about Harry. They’re just tired, I told partner, and they are worried about Harry.
Now Harry is gone, but of course he is continuing to affect our lives minute by minute. His calm, tender, intelligent spirit is touching us: the sun seems even brighter today, because of Harry. I am noticing every beautiful line and curve on partner’s face, because of Harry. I’m feeling other people’s warmth more intensely, because of Harry.
I kiss partner’s trembling bottom lip as I go off to work. I would rather life stopped for a moment so that I can hug him and cry and talk about what’s happened and feel upset that it’s one of the good guys that has gone and not one of the shitheads who walk on this earth, but life goes on. I have 13 3 and 4 year olds waiting and baying for my Taekwon-do instructor blood and they don’t give a crap about some bloke called Harry. We’ll open a bottle of wine tonight, partner says. I look at him with that, ‘on a Wednesday?’ look and then I say, ‘sure’, because of Harry.
The huge, aching hole that Harry’s death has left me with fills up with tears like a well. I have a feeling, however, that Harry’s spirit will use that water in the well to grow some bloody amazing veg and some other sustainable food sources that we can all eat and as we’re munching on a huge courgette, we’ll say that the world is still a better place, because of Harry.


A wet and wild walk with Harry and his Uncle Rob



Harry planting and watering those courgettes


Harry, you shall truly dance ❤️


“Bare Hug” a sculpture by Judy Greaves, Harry’s aunt

“I call you to remember
The quiet glance of the doe.
The peace of the boar in the deep trees
And always the hearts of those
Who light up this world.”

By Harry Corder Greaves

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance

Harry, you touched my heart. You made me look at the world in a different way and your smile…oh your smile lit that world up. RIP Harry, with love and hugs xxx