Monday, 15 September 2014

In a bit of a pickle...

I have done things this weekend that I would never have dreamed possible a year ago, including trying to foist a pair of underpants onto a panic-stricken labrador in the dead of night. Why? you ask. Why indeed.


Pickle, the black labrador
Feeling a bit cheesed off...
After months of agonising, we decided last week to have our dog, Pickle, neutered. The live sex-shows outside the school gates (involving a hapless golden retriever) finally pushed us over the edge. So I booked him in for the snip. The course of true love never did run smooth, Pickle.

It's a straight-forward op, the vet told us. Hmm... no mention of having to apply frozen peas four times a day to swollen doggy privates, or of smoothing steroid cream onto itchy patches down under. (When there is a wriggly, under-exercised dog involved, such applications require the accuracy of a surgeon's hand and the patience of a saint.) 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Fragrant dreams

People watching: 
Roja Dove, Master perfumer

I was walking through a National Trust garden the other day when I stooped to smell a rose. The delicate, quintessentially  English scent transported me back to my grandparents' garden when I was a little girl. There I was cavorting under a weeping willow in a frilly frock with brown ribbons in my hair. Magic! 


Roja, Dove, master perfumer
Roja: "Choose your scent wisely"
Such is the power of scent. Frangipani does it for me too. Only this time I'm a teenager in Oman at dusk, full of tempestuous emotions. I long for my freedom and yet I am also frightened of what the world has to offer. For me, the sweetness of frangipani is fraught with danger and temptation.

As the master perfumer, Roja Dove, told a rapt audience last week at Henley's Phyllis Court club: "Unstopping a bottle of scent transports you to a different place. It's like releasing a genie from a bottle."

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mother of the year

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

My voice has gone hoarse. Too much shouting. It's week six and I have cracked. It's a shame cos I was doing so well. Only a few stern words and couple of sarcastic retorts in five weeks. I deserved 'Mother of the Year' and then I went and blew it in week six. Shouting. At the kids. It's official: the summer holidays have gone on too long.

Perhaps it's raining in Majorca?
We were in the supermarket. Middle Child wanted to buy a box of Mini Magnums. I said, no darling - remember we are trying to cut down on sugar, and he said, pleeeese, pretty pleeeese, and I said, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TELL YOU, THE ANSWER IS NO!!! 

I think the guys stacking the trolleys in the car park heard me. It wasn't pretty. The old lady cruising down the frozen-foods aisle with a trolley full of prunes and Bran Flakes gave me a disapproving stare. I wanted to shout after her, "I've had them at home for six weeks for goodness sake! Give me a break! AND my ex-husband is in Majorca right now with his new girlfriend! She's probably rubbing suntan lotion into his back as I speak." But I didn't. I just put the Mini Magnums carefully into the trolley.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Shh! Don't tell a soul...

Want to hear a secret? Damn right you do! When it comes to other people's business, we have an insatiable curiosity to find out more. Or, as Rudyard Kipling called it in his tale The Elephant's Child, a 'satiable curtiosity. And, if that scrap of other people's business is little known, or somewhat juicy, all the better. Many a friendship has been sealed by a shared confidence or a tantalising piece of gossip.


There are also the people who carry those secrets like an albatross hanging around their neck. Rolf Harris, the disgraced entertainer who was jailed for indecent assault, springs to mind. What a grotesque secret he hauled around for so many years, along with his didgeridoo, his jolly songs and his paintbrush. You imagine, perhaps, that a small part of him was relieved to be found out - if only to shed the rotting albatross.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Bottling sunshine

It's hard to believe that the summer holidays are upon us once more. Where did the last term go? In another year, my daughter will have finished primary school - how did that happen? Hardly a day goes by when I don't lament (hand resting on my brow) how my children are growing up too fast. 

Children fishing off a boat
Summer: a time for making memories
As a parent, hemmed in by school timetables, you tend to see the year in a very structured way. Inevitably, the end of the summer term becomes a red, flashing marker for the passing of time.

My children seem to change so fast that I occasionally grieve for the chubby, inarticulate people they once were. In some ways, every day spent is the loss of something intangible. This is compounded by the sense that time is speeding up as I get older (which is possibly a sign of my own mental deterioration rather than any quirk of physics). 


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lessons from nature

I crossed a country road other day and stumbled into a field brimming with white poppies. It was unexpected and joyful. Just rows and rows of them bobbing in the breeze. Their crumpled, white petals sat like cotton mob-caps upon green heads.


A red poppy amongst white poppies
No wallflower

A little further on, my friend and I spotted a single red poppy, amid a sea of white. The metaphor was irresistible: the one that stood out from the crowd. Further on still, we spotted another red poppy, or another free spirit determined to make its mark.

Last weekend, I spent two days with hundreds of bloggers at the BritMums annual jamboree. It was a seething, bubbling mass of blogger-brains, all trying to fit in and each trying to be different. Perhaps this is the dilemma we all face: how to be part of a community whilst hanging onto our individuality.