Sunday, 21 December 2008

Glad Tidings

My loves, I bring you glad tidings - there is a Father Christmas! Yes, as unlikely as it seems, the Jolly Red-cheeked Rotund One is alive, kicking and bringing in, I do hope, a decent wage - at Southwark Council! I know this because I have just been let off a parking fine and there is no other rational explanation.

The story started way, way back in the summer - remember, those times long ago when hedge funds were something only impoverished gardeners talked about and you could pop into Woolworths any day of the week for pick 'n' mix, without being coshed over the head by rabid grannies desperate to get their mitts on the last Best of Val Doonican CD in civilisation.

It was in these halcyon days that the treasures and I zoomed to delightful Peckham to watch Wild Child, which, if you have any sense, you will have given a wide berth to. Ostensibly, I was going because one of the daddies from Child One's long ago NCT group had a part in the film - Jason, you were fabulous! - but of course, in reality I was taking the dears because I have a very soft spot for any old junk movie. I shall be off to see Twilight with them in a minute ...

Anyway, we parked as near as we could to the cinema, which involved broaching a carpark of unparalleled dankness. In adorable Peckham, you would have thought, car park owners would invest in the odd light and would splash a bit of paint around. But no. The place was dark, full of looming concrete pillars and matching menacing shadows, even on a summer's evening. Not the place to linger with tender young children around. I got a ticket - but the machine cut off the time at 7.30 pm, even though I was still merrily shovelling in coins. I tried again, knowing the film would finish late - and the machine cut off again at 7.30. Oh well, I thought - any warden will know I tried my best and paid over the odds, and the machine is clearly faulty. I didn't investigate the dark corners of the carpark for other machines as I had no wish to disturb the dear crack addicts/muggers/stabbers as they went about their business.

Sure enough, when we came back after a wonderful evening's entertainment, a parking fine, or Penalty Charge Notice, adorned my windscreen. I did not do my usual act, of falling to my knees, wondering why God has cursed me, and beseeching the fates to take my soul now this minute, as I had no desire to alarm the children over-much and, besides, the ground was filthy and would have ripped my tights.

Many exciting letters to and fro with dear Southwark then ensued, with them inviting me pressingly to the county court to settle the matter, while I declined with regrets, and referred them to their tiresome statutory duty to provide working ticket machines, rather than spend their every waking minute arguing with me. Ah, all those hours closeted with lawyers have certainly paid off. And certainly helped.

And now, just when I need it most, Santa himself has stepped off his sleigh at this busy time of year to cancel my PCN. Thank you, thank you, Santa, and I was always sure that it was really your reindeers' footprints in the butter.

By the by, Child Two asked me the other day, as I opened the post, 'why do you get so many Christmas cards from lawyers, Mummy?' Sigh. My little ones do ask good questions. My resolution for 2009 is to have fewer cards from lawyers, and more from people.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Peckham Puma update

My darlings, just a quickie today, as True Love used to say (sniff, sniff, sniff ....). I thought you might like to see the very responsible coverage the Streatham Guardian gave of the ravening beastie in my back garden:

Do have a look, my dears. It comes complete with an adorable action shot of dearest Jumbo, doing his utmost to protect us from the hound or whatnot, and exciting quotes from one of the neighbours, Madeleine, though personally I think it's naughty of her to hog the limelight, as it's my puma, not hers. And she seems to have a rabbit, too ...the cheek!

I'm a bit tangled up in wrapping paper just now, but a new post will be along in a minute ....xx

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Abercrombie and Fit

Well, my dears, last weekend I finally decided my babies were grown up enough for Abercrombie and Fitch. A sensitive moment in any mother's life, this - a passing of the baton, if you will. Though of course I didn't take the treasures to the shop. Oh no, after the stories I've heard, I thought I'd better check it out myself first.

Off I went, and by the time I'd finished searching for other essentials (all right, I admit, the odd little nugget of choc might have slipped into my bag from nearby Fortnum and Mason ...) the skies were inky black and the shoppers were getting restive. There may be a crunch on, but tell that to 4,000 disgruntled shoppers, none of whom have factored in the 3,999 other shoppers getting right in their way.

I veered off Piccadilly in search of Burlington Gardens, and trawled along past various swanky stores, noticing vaguely that there seemed to be a commotion ahead. Gradually, it dawned on me that the commotion was the Abercrombie and Fitch shop. The road seemed to be blocked off by great swarms of teenagers. Outside the premises was a red rope barrier, like those guarding swanky nightclubs, complete with menacing looking bouncers, all dressed in black with strange bluetooth headsets clamped to their shaved craniums. In front of the shop and snaking all the way back onto Piccadilly was a queue of sighing girl teens, a cloud of Impulse and hairspray destroying the ozone all around them. Meanwhile, posturing before the doors themselves was a half-naked teenage boy. Yes, with his shirt off, displaying - I'm afraid I did notice - a perfectly toned, evenly browned, slightly sheeny carcass. Yes, more than a bit like the turkey we Mummies fantasise about yanking out of the oven on Christmas day.

A very strange business indeed. This half-clad lad, it turns out, is a sort of human billboard for Abercrombie and Fitch. Buy the hoodie, get the body, as it were. See the logic? No, me neither. But at least the nation's teens will be wearing nice warm sweatshirts as they slump in front of their tellies, convinced they now have washboard tums, if A and F have their way.

Back to the shop, where I was still puzzled. Were the girls queueing to meet the half-naked boy? Or to get into the shop? If it was the latter, there was no way I was going to join in the wait. I pushed past the bouncers and stomped into the premises, already annoyed. Once inside, I looked around, blinking in the half-light, wondering what on earth was going on. Either A and F are incredibly energy conscious, using even lower wattage bulbs than Ikea, or they are purposefully trying to extend the nightclub conceit even inside. Of course, as soon as I started trying to locate Christmas gifts for the treasures, I saw the problem with this. Apart from being irritating, it also renders it virtually impossible to choose a ridiculously over-priced sweatshirt, as you just can't see the colours. But, by this time, I was almost past caring, and determined not to come back. Ever. Did I mention the thumping pop music? Or the great gaggles of dimwitted teens clogging the place up so you can barely move? It was now or never. I grabbed two hoodies and asked a perfectly toned and turned-out assistant where the till was. 'Turn right at the naked man and join the queue,' the child smirked. 'Would you like your photo taken with the naked man?' he asked. 'Not even, ' I said, with all the dignity I had left, 'if he begged me.'

With that, I pushed and shoved my way to the till queue, obediently turning left at another perfectly basted specimen of muscled boyhood, waiting ten minutes in pulsatingly loud semi-darkness, for the privilege of being ripped off to the tune of £70 each for the hoodies! My God, I've made some sacrifices for my children - my body and my career spring to mind - but this may be the ultimate. I just hope they're happy on Christmas Day. Sniff.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Playing tag

Huge thanks to the lovely Rosiero for a yummy Kreativ Blogger award (why is it spelt like that, I wonder?). Such a delight to be given a pat on the back by a fellow blogstress, and especially Rosiero, whose blog is such compulsive reading.

Part of the award is to reveal six fascinating facts about myself. And Hadriana's Treasures also tagged me a while ago, so I shall kill two blogtags with one stone.

So hard to pick those little snapshots which will give you a fuller idea of the life of the Dulwich Divorcee. But, as ever, I shall try my hardest:

1. I had a photo taken yesterday for the jacket of my book, to be published this summer. Now this, I had always fondly imagined, would be just total bliss - people preening me until I looked my absolute best, arranging me with my finest angle facing forward, and taking one killer snap. In fact, it took forever, because, without my realising, I have changed. I suppose I still have a mental picture of myself as a 20-something sylph (never mind the fact that when I was actually 20, I was crippled with doubts about my appearance). Alas and alack the day, I have somehow morphed into a 40-something woman, with a number of chins and a wrinkly neck. And, frankly, I am quite chunky. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Never mind, there is a thing called Photoshop and, once I'd slipped the photographer an extra note or two, we managed a half decent result. I think. But maybe I am just deluding myself ....

2. I am now working four days a week at a local paper, which is great fun. Office life is very much the same as I remember it from pre-children days 400 years ago. For the first couple of days, I went around telling everyone what a wonderful atmosphere there was. Then they started to tell me how much they all hated the reporter with the squint. Then one of the lady journos was made redundant. Now I find out that someone else is about as popular as Osama bin Laden, and as easy to find after lunch. They've asked me if I want a job. Yay! Of course I do!

3. True Love started to read this blog. That's why I barely mention him any more. I don't think he's still reading it, but just in case ......

4. I'm starting to write book 2, but finding it very hard going, what with work, the children and Other Things.

5. Mr X and I sometimes surprise ourselves by getting on all right. I think all my divorce-experienced friends are right, and we will end up being on good terms. Well, I hope so.

Friday, 28 November 2008

A taxing business

My dears, I simply must tell you about this clever wheeze. It's called Child Tax Credits and the government gives it to you - for having children! Yes, it really is that fab and simple. I was told about it by my lovely friend, Slippers, who is also a single mother, but apparently married people can get it too. According to the website, 9 out of 10 families are entitled to something - though of course you never hear a thing about it. Anyone would think that naughty Gordon Brown was keeping it a secret! Anyway, I don't see why he should have it all to himself, do you?

It's in addition to Child Benefit, by the way. If you have a look on the website, there is a clever little whatsit which works out whether you are entitled, and what you might be entitled to. Have a peek and tell me what you think.

I hope that's going to help everybody in these nasty, credit-crunchy times. Just call me Mother Christmas!

Otherwise, there's little to report - except that I am working in an office!!!! I shall have to tell you all about it another time, though, my dears, as it's my turn to get the tea. But, just to keep you in the picture, a quick update on some of my pressing issues:

1. Jury Service. A nice letter came from the Coroner, saying that he was 'sympathetic' to my situation. I wasn't sure whether this was a response to my assertion that I knew way too much about court proceedings, having been given a DVD of Kramer vs Kramer by Mr X some years ago, or whether it was due to my other rambling excuse, that I had no childcare, could get no childcare, and would never be able to afford childcare, which is, of course, true, despite the wonder of Child Tax credits. Anyway, I don't have to go. And now, of course, I feel rather cheated. Why does life work like that?

2. Moths. Not one has been sighted for months now! I put this down to assiduous bleaching and the best efforts of Mme Bovary, the cat, who loves eating insects. Yeeeeesh.

3. Mr X. Slightly less vile! Is he planning a further outrage? I'll keep you posted.

4. True Love. No change! Sigh.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Secondary thoughts

Ah, the joys of the Secondary Transfer season. This just has to be the best spectator-sport available in the grim winter months, as all the parents in the village get themselves in the most almighty tizz, trying to crowbar their darlings into the school most likely to put them on the optimum dinner party list in 20 years' time.

The first sighting of a cuckoo - that's deranged parent, not pushy bird, you understand, though come to think of it they are often one and the same - came this morning when, to my delight, I was told of a mama who'd asked if there would be internet access at her daughter's school interview, as she'd like to bring her laptop. The child had worked on a presentation on why the school ought to accept her. Of course, for 'child,' we all know we have to read 'mama'. No doubt she has forsaken several promotions while putting the final touches to the power point to end all power points - with just the right number of adorable mistakes to make it feasibly the work of a ten/eleven year old. It reminds me of handing in a recent school project, when one of the parents in the playground actually came out and said, 'phew, thank God that's over, I was up till 2am finishing it,' and no-one batted an eyelid.

Am I the only parent too lazy, erm, busy, to 'help' their children in this way? I don't know how anyone finds the time to cheat all this stuff, quite frankly. In between Pilates and plucking, I scarcely have a moment to myself these days.

Of course, what most people round here do is make the au pair do the work. One family always produced the most amazing decorated baskets for the Christmas Fair - until their au pair was deported, when a dog-eared old carrier bag eventually limped into school.

Mind you, au pairs can be scary. Unless you specify that handicrafts and an expert knowledge of fossil formations are de rigeur, you can easily be stuck with a girl with two left thumbs who can't even knit the child's offering for Craft Club. But, as with everything in Dulwich, you can over-do it. One friend recently spotted her au pair lugging back an enormous stack of books from the library. The complete works of Sophie Kinsella, my friend assumed, idly looking at the cover of the top tome. It was a chemistry text book. 'Why are you getting out these books?' she enquired. 'There are some gaps in my knowledge,' came the chilling reply.

Well, Child Two's interview for the secondary is tomorrow, and I am remaining calm. She is as bright as she is beautiful.

Friday, 7 November 2008

A rose by any other name

Have my darling children and I not suffered enough? Have we not been buffeted sufficiently by the move from Abroad and the reign of terror of the Puma of Peckham? And all that's without even mentioning True Love and his antics. Huh! Well, you might feel we've been through traumas aplenty. I certainly do. But someone Up There clearly feels there are hedges we have yet to be pulled through backwards. Let me tell you all about it.

My treasures and I popped to the vet to get poor Mme Bovary a flu jab, and we decided to take young Jiffy along for the ride, to have a little manicure. Her toenails have been inflicting three-inch scars on poor Child Two for long enough.

All went well, in that we spent a happy couple of hours chasing the cat and rabbit around the house - I do feel that children should get plenty of exercise during half term, don't you? - and we finally slammed them into a couple of bullet-proof pet-carriers for the five minute walk to the vets, which we decided to accomplish in the car, as we were all feeling unaccountably weary by this point. After the statutory wait at the vets, with the poor cat whimpering as her cage was sniffed unnecessarily thoroughly by several sick Dobermen and a sad-eyed spaniel, we were in, the cat was swiftly injected and the rabbit was lifted out for inspection.

Had we thought of getting her neutered, the vet asked me. Sensing that the wrong answer would set me back at least £50, I prevaricated. 'She doesn't have any rabbit ....friends,' I said, hoping the children would not get wind of a discussion of S-E-X, which brings out sniggers in one and blushes in the other. 'Ah well, 80 per cent of female rabbits get ovarian cancer, you know .....which won't be a problem in your case,' said the vet, as she rummaged around in little Jiffy's furry knicker area, and suddenly unearthed a vivid pink object. My goodness, I thought to myself. Either that rabbit has a stunningly large clitoris, or ......'yes, she's a boy!' said the vet, with the air of a magician pulling, well, a bunny from a hat. The children looked on in stunned silence, as I said, 'Are you sure?' 'You can look at it again if you like, but I assure you he has all the equipment ....' said the vet.

I clamped a hand over Child Two's eyes, backed away from the table, and confirmed that we would not be requiring another glimpse of the rabbit's shiny new appendage. Poor Child One looked as though she was going to burst into tears. My first - or second - thought was of the lovely B, who had asked for Jiffy's hand in marriage to her own adorable bunny Dill. 'That means the wedding is off!' I said to the vet, horror-struck. 'Nonsense, you can always have a nice civil ceremony these days,' was her enlightened advice. But somehow, I don't think that would wash with B.

Child One was very silent all the way home. She didn't even perk up during the renaming process, where we wrote out several boy name options on bits of paper, and waited for the rabbit to hop to the moniker of his choice. Somehow, it seemed strangely fitting that he chose the name Jumbo.

'I feel as though I've never really known him at all,' said Child One mournfully that evening, as she fed Jumbo a bit of carrot.

Ah, but how well do we really ever know anyone - even our nearest and dearest? There are always surprises in store, it seems.

Monday, 20 October 2008

A better place

Well, the inevitable has happened. I am sad to report that our little bunny, sweet, innocent Jiffy, who has been menaced for weeks by the Puma of Peckham, has finally gone to a better place.

The spare room. Unfortunately.

As you know, I was never keen to have her in the house. Or, indeed, the garden. The pet shop seemed like a perfectly fine place for her to spend her days, frankly. But Child One and Child Two were not to be gainsaid and, as usual, guilt got the upper hand. Was I stunting their development by refusing them to care for a small furry creature (though what about the cat we've already got?). Was I just the meanest Mummy on earth? And could I stand the nagging a moment longer?

No I couldn't, and thus we became proud bunny owners.

Already, it's getting a bit frosty here in Herne Hill. And the Puma has stepped up its attentions - the second gardening glove was left abandoned on the lawn last week, in a similar grisly state to its twin. As True Love said, down a crackly phone line, it does make you wonder what happened to the gardener.

All this meant that, at the weekend, I found myself wandering miserably through Pets At Home, looking at delights like dried pigs' ears (apparently dogs like to chew these, yeeesh!) and a million different flea products. The joy of pets! Sixty quid later, we had a spanking new ghastly plastic cage for Jiffles, and plethora of dried sweetcorn cobs, looking a little like those shrunken cannibal heads, to garnish it with. Harumph. I tried not to think of the lovely cardi I could have bought in Hobbs for more or less the same amount, give or take a hundred.

Still, it was worth it as Child One snuggled up that night to sleep with little Jiffy in her cage at the foot of her bed. Though I did revise my opinion at 1am when Child One insisted I remove the bunny as it was chomping its hay too loudly. Jiffy was despatched to the spare room and everybody was happy.

Except, apparently, the Puma. This morning, we found a horribly dismembered sports sock on the lawn.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Jury's Out

A nice white envelope drops onto the mat, with the address all beautifully written in black ink. Things are looking up, I think - certainly a lovely change from all those horrid beige bills. I rip it open, only for an official Summons to leap out and bite me.

Yikes! The Coroner, Mr John Sampson, to whom I have not even been formally introduced, is demanding my presence at Southwark Coroner's Court next month. For a moment, my mind goes blank. Have I accidentally killed Child One during one of our spats over why the correct position for school uniform is not on the shower room floor covered in shampoo? Did I run over Child Two by mistake when pretending to leave for school without her in a flurry of rubber? Well, no. They are both still present and correct, despite enormous daily provocation. Even True Love is still living and breathing somewhere, I do believe.

Why on earth does Mr Sampson want me, then, if not as a defendant? I'm definitely not a lawyer - by some ridiculous oversight I forgot to get the training and become filthy rich.

Aha, further down the horrid summons I see what it's all about. I am to become one of the twelve 'good men and true' - and sit on a jury.

Well, of course I can't do it. I'm a woman for a start. A divorced woman, with no childcare in place.

And, the thought strikes me, a journalist. Aha, this is how I got out of it last time - claiming that I had privileged information about the way trials run. We hacks in the know, the theory runs, can tell the way the evidence is stacked by the angle the barrister wears his wig.

So I make a mental note to Google coroners' courts proceedings the moment I have the time, scribble down Professional Journalist on the 'pathetic excuses' portion of the form (how all my employers would laugh!), send it off, and keep my fingers crossed. Later on, I pop round to see the lovely B, who is icing the most gorgeous birthday cake for one of her adorable, talented offspring (the type, naturally, who would never smear their uniforms in shampoo or keep their mummies waiting). 'Jury service? Oh, I got off that once,' she says airily, putting the finishing touches to a plate of party sandwiches, shoving a lasagne in the oven for her husband, making a batch of fairy cakes with her right foot and supervising the (rather handsome) gardener with her left eyebrow.

'How?' I say idly, thinking she can't possibly top my years of non-training as a feature writer. My last piece on education in Europe alone ought to convince anyone I couldn't possibly sit on a jury. 'Oh, I just said I was depressed. Mentally incapable,' smiles B, filling divine little party bags with sweeties and lining them all up just so. Sometimes, I could swear she has a magic wand.

There is no-one more mentally capable than B. Why on earth didn't I think of doing the same? I sit there, mired in gloom, reviewing my shortcomings one more time - a lengthy process these days - then realise the wonderful truth. I really am depressed! Yippee, they can't make me a jury member now. Can they?

Monday, 6 October 2008

Armless Fun

Pandemonium at Child One's school. Girls weeping at the gates, and a rather ominous ambulance stationed outside. Obviously business as usual, I think - until Child One herself staggers out onto the pavement, clutching her arm.

'It hurts, it hurts,' she yodells, causing every pigeon in the vicinity to shoot upwards into the air and scattering my posse of Mummies. I am slightly irritated. We had just been having a very serious discussion about handbags, as lovely JAGS in the Village has a new consignment in. I take a deep, healing breath. There have been times - rare, I admit - when I have wondered whether my first born has a slight tendency to drama queenism. Could there be the faintest tinge of divatude lurking here? And if so, where on earth did she get it from? A complete puzzle.

But back to the grievously wounded child. 'What's the matter, my precious?' I coo, though I might as well not bother, my dulcet tones are so drowned out by wails. Child One mumbles something indistinct into my shoulder - she is so tall these days! - and I gently ask again, like the devoted Mummy I am, 'just stop that noise and tell me what's going on this instant!'

'Don't you remember, Mummy? I told you 50 times!' This mantra, I need hardly say, never works. I need to be told 51 times, at least. I look blank.

'It's Injection Day, Mummy,' she says, raising her eyes to Heaven. Ah yes, I do now dimly recall Arm Against Cancer, the government's clever scheme to innoculate all Year 8 girls against cervical cancer. This has caused heated discussion amongst the Mummies during our regular foregatherings in Cafe Rouge, sometimes even elbowing the handbag topic out of play. The injection has to be administered three times, and protects against the two viruses responsible for 70 per cent of cancer cases.

Government propaganda on the jab says there is usually only 'mild stinging' as a side-effect. I really think they should have told the girls this. Child One continued to clutch her arm for three days, yelping away. Someone fainted right next to her in the queue - before the injection - and several of her friends had to be held down by three or four nurses each. One girl got an instant fever. And a lot had aches and pains. And they asked them all before the injection whether they were pregnant. Arg! And the next injection is at the end of next month. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Careers advice

The children and I were chatting idly about life and stuff the other day, when Child Two piped up. 'I want to find a nice boyfriend at university,' she confided.

Fair enough, I thought, and not at all difficult to achieve. University was, I dimly remember, a place uniquely well-stocked with potential boyfriends in my young day, several millennia ago - though, looking back on it, I'm not sure how many were nice.

'Why do you want a boyfriend?' Child One asked her. Child One has already informed me that my example has put her off men for life.

'I want to get married straight after university, so that I'll never have to get a job,' said Child Two blithely.


Has it come to this? And what have I done? It's all very well for Child One to forswear men - frankly, it's a relief, as she is already ridiculously gorgeous and I am not looking forward to the succession of ghastly pimply suitors who will inevitably besiege Divorce Towers, as not one of them - NOT ONE, do you hear - will ever be good enough for my perfect, lovely girl. But for Child Two to be hoping to lasso a mealticket when she is still just a speck of a thing is, quite honestly, extremely disturbing. Was it for this that Emily Davison threw herself under the king's horse at the 1913 Derby? Did the Pankhursts chain themselves to all those horrid cold railings in vain? Was Andrea Dworkin strapping on those dungarees for nothing??

But, before asking those big questions, I had to check something with Child Two. 'You do know that Mummy works, don't you, darling?' I trilled. Well, it's true. In between surfing eBay, writing this blog, fretting about my dearest darling True Love, ferrying the little dears to their bassoon classes and searching in the undergrowth for imaginary pumas (see Beast of Herne Hill and Guardian Angels entries) I have been known to knock out the odd thought-provoking article.

'Yes, I know you work,' said Child Two, in 'more fool you' tones. 'But lots of Mummies don't. Like X, Y and Z. And A, B and C. And they seem to have a really nice time. They shop,' said Child Two wistfully.

'I'm sure they do, darling. But it's nice to do something really useful with your life, too,' I said, bracingly, as I juggle my eBay bids. I have two promisingly cheap indoor rabbit hutches on the go.

'I think shopping is very useful. Isn't everyone sad because no-one is shopping enough at the moment?'

I cannot fault this excellent analysis of the current economic downturn - so much more concise than any of those endless economics editors on Newsnight. Ah well, if I can see my darling Child Two as the saviour of the British economy, I suppose I can reconcile myself to her total lack of interest in anything even resembling a career.

But it does bring it all home. I so don't want my babies to start dating. Love can be a painful business. I'm not sure I can sit and watch my own dear treasures making this discovery for themselves. I make a mental note that I must start laying in stocks of Kleenex for the darlings - and, for their swains, a nice big Khalashnikov.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Guardian angels

Well, thank goodness for the Streatham Guardian. This public-spirited paper has taken it upon itself to ensure that the good folk of Herne Hill can sleep easy in their beds at night, with no risk of waking up with ginormous teeth-marks in their ankles, or indeed in any footballs, bikes or scooters left in their gardens.

I have told the whole story of the Beast of Burbage Road to an intrepid reporter, who blanched at the thought of the horrors we had been through. Well, actually, we were talking on the phone but I could tell from his voice that he was blanching. It's a gift I have.

When I had run through the catalogue of gnawed Croc shoes, slashed gardening gloves and balls bitten to shreds, we both agreed that there was no way it could be a fox. 'What do you think it could be, then?' I asked tremulously. 'Sounds like ......a puma,' said Intrepid. A puma! The Puma of Peckham! Of course it is.....oh my God, I've been so brave!

A photographer shot round immediately to document the evidence. Unfortunately, I have thrown away the gardening glove, mangled Croc, Ikea cat tent and two of the balls. Well, you can't have OCPD and a well-preserved collection of artefacts chewed by unsanitary beasts, it just isn't possible. But I had kept the disembowelled Moomintroll softball, bought in Sweden, to show to True Love, who was there when I bought it. Luckily, I had resisted the temptation to bleach it a bit and sew up the gouge marks, so it was in authentically mangled condition and the snapper was perfectly happy. He then took several shots of the delightful Jiffy, brought out of her cage to scamper on the lawn, looking suitably terrified at the idea of the Puma of Peckham and carefully showing her best profile at all times, like the superstar she is.

It should all be in the paper soon, probably with quotes from various wildlife experts praising us for extreme sang froid in the face of peril, and a picture of our softball. If that doesn't scare off the Puma of Peckham, I just don't know what will. But I think I will put a couple of extra padlocks on Jiffy's cage just in case.....

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Hound of Herne Hill

The other morning, when I woke up Child One to get her to school (now no easy process, as she bought her one-way ticket to adolescentville some time ago, and sleeps like a gorgeous hibernating bear) I threw back the curtains with my usual gusto. And stopped. And stared.

On the lawn was a ghastly, hunched, black shape. Not moving.

My first thought was little Jiffy, our lovely little bunny. Could she somehow have got out in the night, and squished herself into a weird - very weird - position? Had Mme Bovary, our catty, finally got the better of the jumped-up snack, something she has been casually threatening for some time?

As the sky grew less grey, and I peered anxiously out, I could see that the shape, while still mysterious, did not, thank goodness, resemble eviscerated bunny rabbit. I moved on to waking Child Two, chivvyed both downstairs and did my utmost to forget the whole thing, assembling breakfast, nagging about lunchboxes, finding gym kits and generally distracting the treasures from the potentially grisly object, which, I decided, I would investigate much later - if at all. Maybe it would just go of its own accord! Then True Love sauntered downstairs (I do love him so) and said, 'What the hell's that out on the lawn?' Before I knew it he was out there on the grass, poking the object with a stick and then bringing it back in triumph.

It was, dear readers, an enormous blackened old gardening glove - ripped to shreds. By some very big teeth.

Since then, the Creature with the Big Teeth has slashed its way through one Croc shoe and an Ikea cat tent and then, yesterday, the lawn was covered with big white blobs when we woke up. Cotton wool? Gulp - feathers??

It wasn't until I'd taken my courage in both hands (TL was not with us. Don't say a word please!), several hours after the school run was done, that I discovered the white stuff was, in fact, the innards of a particularly fine softball we'd bought in Sweden, which had been shredded by, yes, you've guessed it, some incredibly big teeth.

The strange thing is that the Creature never disturbs me at night, though I am the lightest sleeper since the Princess of pea fame. Who is it? What is it? And what does it all mean for Jiffy, who has firmly been declared a Garden Bunny and is scheduled to winter outside?

I don't have the answers. All I know is that Jiffy is looking anxious - and Mme Bovary is smiling her lovely furry catty smile.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Merci buckets

Just in the nick of time, gorgeous Tarte Tartan has stepped forward and saved me from despair with her too, too sweet I Love Your Blog award. Je t'embrasse, TT, if that's not too forward, and I'm only sorry I can't award it straight back to you as it is so richly deserved.

Instead, I have the fun of conferring this tremendous honour on other lovely blog friends, Goodbye to All Fat, Hadriana's Treasures, Potty Mum, Nunhead Ramblings, Alcoholic Daze and Very Lost in France. I shall be dropping little messages in their postboxes forthwith. Enjoy!

Wilful neglect

My darlings, I'm so sorry I have neglected you. Needless to say, various shenanigans have occupied my every waking moment, to an extent which makes any other threads of rational thought a near impossibility. Normal service will be resumed soon. I hope.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Bundle of Joy

Let me tell you about a new addition to the family. The treasures and I are the proud owners of our own little baby rabbit, Jiffy. She is a teensy-weensy black bunny, bought from the shop where we found our lovely cat, Mme Bovary. Poor Mme B is now in high dudgeon, failing to understand why she is being upstaged by a creature she regards as little more than a snack. But who could resist the downy-soft fur of a ten week old rablet?

Quite a few people, apparently. Linda, the petshop owner, said that all Jiffy's brothers and sisters were snapped up long before her - because she is black. Honestly! Discrimination, in Forest Hill of all places. We are all shocked, and mightily protective of dear Jiffy as a result.

We are now on Day Two of rabbit ownership, and already I see the parallels with an insane love affair, not unlike mine with TL. Yesterday we were struck with love-at-first-sight, then our love was rapturously returned as Jiffy snuggled happily in our arms. Now Jiffy is showing the first signs of rebellion. We've had a bit of scratching, excused as she can hardly help having long toenails, can she? And then, 50-odd hours into the relationship, the first definite cracks - she has bitten Child Two.

Already, I am tempted to scurry to the Internet to look up the lifespan of Netherlands dwarf rabbits. For that is the other thing about Jiffy - she is a purebred pedigree bunny. Another highly-strung female in the house, as TL would no doubt say. And she cost £35! Or the price of a full trolley at Lidl! This is a fact that the petshop owner failed to reveal until both the children had had a go at holding her, of course. Sigh. Mme Bovary may have a point.

Monday, 18 August 2008

No rest for the Wicke-d

It is exactly 22 years since I last went out on the trawl for a man. So, when I put the keys in the ignition on Saturday, there was a certain set to my shoulders, and I admit I'd sprayed on an extra whizt of scent. My destination? Wickes. My mission? To get a man to carry a bag of sharp sand and two tubs of grout for me.

If this sounds like footling laziness to you, then you've never tried to heft a bag of sharp sand around. I tell you, they are heavy. And grout? Please, don't even attempt it. It says on the tub that it weighs 11.5 kg, but it might as well be 11.5 megatons. Even getting it off the shelf is a major enterprise, and it is pointless, since once it's off the shelf, it's truly impossible to hoick onto a trolley. Plus you don't get any extra points for getting all sweaty and befuddled trying to do these things on your own. Really, this is what men are for.

So I was rather pleased, after only a few minutes in the store (and by the way, don't go to Wickes unless you are having major decorating done at home, it is the most boring shop in the universe. There isn't even a single cushion to be found. Could this be the reason it is full of men?), to have made the acquaintance of Riccardo, from Bologna. I loved the way he abandoned his own trolley to push mine around, and took me from till to carpark, putting everything very neatly in the boot, finishing off with a flourishing bow. Thank you so much, dear Riccardo.

It was only when I was seeking a human forklift truck that I realised something no doubt everybody else has always known. I look for a man every 22 years. Men, on the other hand, are always looking for women. I now see that various other odd encounters I've had recently - the guy in the Tescos queue who suddenly struck up a conversation about wine, the helpful chap in the garden centre - are not just random outbreaks of garrulousness, but perhaps responses to my ringless state. How interesting!

And the occasion 22 years ago? It was after my break-up with True Love, when I decided I'd better cheer up and get another boyfriend. But that's another story!

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Wasteland

I was going to write a long post about the pain of missing my children. They're off on holiday with Mr X, and I'm certain they're going to have a lovely time. But it's a lovely time without me. Very hard. The trouble is, like labour pangs, it's either the sort of pain you already know, because you have children, or you don't - and won't be able to imagine. There was a cartoon by Steven Appleby in last Saturday's Guardian (yes, I do read it, whisper it softly in the Village though) which summed it up. The first bunch of frames were about the chaos of living with children - sticky kitchen floor, toxic substances down the side of the sofa, toothpaste on the computer, etc. The last had a man sitting in a pristine flat, alone, with a little caption saying something like: 'I know where my TV remote control is. But if I have a heart attack, it could be three weeks before they find my body.' I suppose I feel like that without my little dears. I am empty. I am pointless. Life is bleak. But at least I know that, if I died, it wouldn't be three weeks before I was found. They're back in two.

Thursday, 17 July 2008


Finally! A moment to myself when neither Child One nor Child Two is MSN-ing, playing the SIMS or checking their endless emails, which are mostly chain letters which anyone over the age of 12 would delete. It's not that they're on the computer all the time - no, mostly we're out having good, clean, honest holiday fun - but when we're all in the house together, everybody wants to be on the computer at the very same moment.

A lot of people would say to themselves that the time had come to invest in a second computer. These people, however, have probably not just had their paying careers wrecked by their ex-husband. I don't think I could afford a spare set of Scrabble letters at the moment, so a laptop? Ha! No chance. Plus I feel it must be like the motorways argument - if you build more roads, you get more cars. If we had more computers, there would be more grumpy children hunched over strange virtual reality games which seem to consist of tidying up houses - why they can't do this for real in lovely Divorce Towers beats me.

Arg! I hear the stampede of tiny feet coming down the stairs. Time for another airing in the park, followed by playing for them and a coffee with a Mummy for me. It's all lovely, but what I wouldn't give for a bit of silent contemplation in front of my beloved screen, rather than yet more anguished debate on school fees (up, up and away) and house prices (down, down, deedle-um down). See you soon - I hope.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

You Really Shouldn't Have!

My lovely fellow South London blogsister, Goodbye To All Fat, has sweetly awarded me this adorable Arte e Pico thingy. Isn't it gorgeous? And don't you just love her dress? I confess that, apart from the deep honour, I'm not a hundred per cent sure that I've grasped the full import, but I do know that I must now pass the flaming baton - so like the Bejing Olympics! - to five other bloggers. I would like to nominate Rosiero at Alcoholic Daze for a blog so honest and harrowing it never fails to distract me from my own ridiculous woes, I Want Slippers for her sweetly optimistic tale of adultery, in the hope this will encourage her to get back online after being scared by a lawyer (how I know that feeling!), Rural Villager for a blog which is a healthy blast of fresh air for this jaded city girl, Fiction Fobic for quirky book reviews which everyone should read, and (Very) Lost in France, for anyone still toying with the idea of buying their own chateau. I would have nominated Potty Mummy but she seems to have hundreds of awards already, as does splendid Dulwich Mum, and next time I'm going to nominate the very lovely Tarte Tartan and Cat Calls, not forgetting dear Married with 4, who sadly seems to have stopped blogging. Nunhead Mum of One would have been on my list, but the award originally came from her, and of course Goodbye To All Fat deserves it more than anyone - but has already got it.
Phew. It just remains for me to thank my astrologist, my florist, my team of lawyers and, of course, Mr X, without whom none of this would have been impossible. And anyone else who knows me! Mwah to you all xxx. Ooopsie, think I've torn my frock getting off the podium ....

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Only Divorcee in the Village

There are one or two advantages of being The Only Divorcee in the Village. Well, actually, I can't think of two, but there is one - I am in great demand as a last minute dinner party stunt guest. Everyone knows that, since my husband got custody of our social life, I am available before a hat has even dropped to make up numbers, should anyone legitimately invited be struck down with botulism at the eleventh hour.

I have many advantages as a stunt guest. I have a full wardrobe of suitably swanky outfits, acquired Abroad and scarcely worn. I know my lobster crackers from my asparagus fork, and rarely, if ever, mistake the finger bowl for a particularly watery chinese soup. And, most importantly, like Red Adair, I can be airlifted into the most dangerous inter-guest situations and get them under control in moments. Marital discord threatening to errupt over the nibbles? No problemmo, I've seen it all and I've got the injunction. Political differences leading to raised voices over the starter? I can change the conversation quicker than the hostess can change a nappy. Widespread gloom over housing prices casting a pall over the entire proceedings? My amusing tale of how I sold up for peanuts will have everyone enjoying the warming glow of schadenfreude (there, and I always say I know no German!).

A few samples of my recent conversational wares will give you a fuller feel for my suitability for this role. 'Isn't it awful about this credit crunch. They say chemists in the city have run out of neurofen, there are so many people taking overdoses. Ah .... you're in hedge funds, are you?' 'It's always such a shame when children have to leave their schools when the parents can't afford the fees any more. Oh, so yours are starting at the local comprehensive in September? I'm sure they'll just love it'.

Is it any wonder that my diary is fully booked until ....oh. But then, it is the holidays, isn't it?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Guilty Pleasures

The fabulous thing about being middle class is that there's always something new to feel guilty about. Of course, no-one wastes time feeling bad about the essentials that gave us entree into this class in the first place - the huge privileges of education, and the subsequent income that this confers, both seen as our birthright. No, we much prefer to feel guilty about going to cheap supermarkets.

First, I saw an article in the Guardian saying that it was possible to go to places like Aldi and Lidl and emerge with your accent intact. Then I heard people in Crystal Palace singing the praises of Lidl's take on kettle chips. True Love came next, reporting the check-out man in Sainsburys had said he never shopped there himself, and much preferred Lidl. Finally, yesterday, I found myself scurrying into the Sydenham branch of Lidl, not quite with a paper bag over my head, but certainly with a backward glance and a furtive gait.

My trolley was very reluctant to disengage itself from the pack, and kept listing back towards its friends throughout our journey round the store. But this inconvenience was soon forgotten as I hoovered up the delights, starting by marvelling up at an uncompromising banner hanging over the entrance: 'Wow, that's cheap!' it read. Wow, that's .... frank, I thought. You'd never catch Mr J Sainsbury admitting his stuff was cheap. On special offer, maybe. On bogof, (buy one get one free) perhaps. But cheap? Darling, perish the thought. Sainsbury's main aim in life is to get us to buy their 'taste the difference' range. Now I've always found this range annoying, as it only promises to be different, not better. And it's always more expensive. What's the point of that?

Maybe I am a Lidl girl after all, I thought, feeling like Dorothy on the yellow brick road as I snaffled up a bouquet of gorgeous coral pink roses for £1.99 (hoping True Love would think they were from my Imaginary Secret Admirer), bagged a vast mango for 37p - yes, 37p, and generally hurled stuff into the trolley as though I was on my own special version of supermarket sweep. I left the shop having forked out £40 less than usual (though perhaps that was because I just couldn't quite like the look of any of the meat) and with my arms beautifully toned from hauling my trolley hither and thither.

And the proof of the pudding? B-who-lives-the-dream came round for a light ladies' lunch and declared that my melon was better than hers. Did I admit its provenance? Did I hell! And I hope she hasn't got her reading glasses on now or the cat is out of the bag. Went round to another dear friend's for drinks and did, sheepishly, admit that my offering of salted almonds was from That Shop, as the conversation had turned to such matters. Apart from a sharp intake of breath, I think I more or less got away with it.

Of course, it won't be possible to enjoy Lidl for long. It'll be another Primark. One minute we're revelling in cheap T-shirts, the next we are, quite rightly, flaying ourselves over sweatshop children in Asia. The stories will start coming out about just how they get mangoes for 37p, and then one simply won't be able to say Wow, that's cheap without knowing, Wow, that's total exploitation. Until then, I think I shall keep slinking in there. Well, with so many hungry lawyers to feed, I don't have that much choice. And I can't resist just a Lidl bit more.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Signing up

A very exciting moment this week when an adorable contract dropped through the letterbox from my German publishers, the incredibly discerning Ullstein Verlag. This was full of baffling clauses about rights and royalties and other stuff which didn't even ruffle my coiffure as it whizzed so far over my head. Naturally I didn't stop for a second to read the small print - I couldn't even begin to understand the big print in 24 point bold - and just whipped out my favourite ink pen, given to me by a lovely friend Abroad for my fortieth birthday party some years, ahem, only a couple of days, ago (I never know whether people want their names mentioned but think it's safer not to (Mr X! Shudder!) unless given express permission). She said then that the pen would help me write my name with a flourish at booksignings and, though I tried to be insouciant about such a dim, distant prospect I was utterly thrilled at the idea. Now it's moved a step closer! Yippee! The book is called Hot Chocolate and will be published in the Autumn of 2009. Everyone order your Linguaphone courses now - and cross your fingers, please, for a UK publisher too!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Dog's dinner

Little clouds were being chased across the sky by a bossy wind, the odd aeroplane swished silently over us and we noshed away on a delicious picnic, under our favourite tree in Brockwell Park on Sunday.

When we first moved here, I was somehow under the misapprension that it was called Broccoli Park, not Brockwell, and once the error was corrected by a hooting friend, some of the charm of the place was destroyed forever. But it's still our favourite picnic spot, partly as it's downhill all the way and you can stop in at the little Herne Hill Sainsbury's en route to get all sorts of stuff that the children crave, which are normally on the banned substances list. They have discovered that I am softened up no end by the trek down the road carrying a picnic bag, rug, sandwiches, juice etc and, by the time they get me into the shop, I'm too knackered to remonstrate as they hurl apple and blackcurrant squash (yuck!), crisps (shudder) and biscuits (too, too yummy) into the basket.

This time, we'd picked up an enormous tub of humous and some crudites for dipping as well as the usual nasties, so I felt we were still on the wholesome end of the scale as we tucked in to the whole lot on our rug.

Just then, something big, beige and furry blocked out the light. It was a huge golden retriever, which had bounded over for a nice pat, I thought. How sweet. The children love animals and there were instant 'ahhhhhhhhs' - which then turned rapidly into 'arghhhhhhs!' as the dog ignored our attempts to stroke it and fell, instead, upon our picnic in complete ravening beast style. Within seconds it was tearing into our chicken sandwiches, hoovering up the salami and finally, outrage of outrages, sticking its vast hairy beige chops into our humous pot and scarfing up the lot!

By this stage, I had staggered to my feet and was shouting 'off, off' and being completely ignored by the beige eating machine, who had finished the crudities and was about to tear open the biscuits. The children, meanwhile, were whimpering as all their food disappeared into its slathering jaws. It turned its nose up at the apple and blackcurrant squash (even mad dogs have some standards, apparently) but everything else went - in moments. Then, as suddenly as it had bounded over, it raced away over the hill, wearing a Sainsbury's bag round its neck, dragging the silver foil sandwich wrapper with it, and scattering the remains of our feast to the winds.

I looked down at the children, sitting in dog-slobbered debris, with their little bottom lips a-quiver. Right, I thought. The owner of this dog has it coming. It's not the dog's fault, of course - dogs are dogs, picnics are picnics and I know better than anyone that you can resist anything except temptation - but the owner should have kept a wild dog like that under control, on a lead, I fumed. It had snatched the bread out of my children's very mouths!

I glared about crossly, scanning the horizon for signs of a mad sandy-coloured beast with a feckless human in tow. Finally, I spotted them - recognising the dog by its 'I've eaten a hundred chicken sandwiches and a pot of humous' bounce - and I strode off in martial mood, practicing terse complaints under my breath, like 'you do realise your dog has eaten my children's food. Can't you keep an eye on it?' My feisty moment lasted until I got within twenty foot of the owner, who'd sat down on a bench and was putting a complicated harness back on the dog. He then stood up, took hold of the harness, and picked up his white stick, which he'd propped against the bench for a moment. Then the two of them walked past me, the owner striding confidently with his trusty dog by his side - while the retriever stared right at me and gave a big, wide, doggy grin.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Upsy Daisy

When you find yourself on the floor after a good kicking, you have a choice. Get up, get on and get even - or lie there and moan piteously.

I must admit my natural inclination is to lie still and not even bother with the moaning, though I might work up to the odd faint whimper now and again if left for long enough. But, thank God, I have children, and luckily they are bolshy types who know when my mind is not on the job and have now insisted that enough is enough and that I must stop flopping around the place like the before picture in a plastic surgery ad and do something useful. So up I get, wash the boot marks off my face, shrug my shoulders and straighten that spine.

Things are going to change around here. No more concessions, no more conciliation. No more guilt. No more .... er, income. And what on earth do I do next?

I'm rather off The Secret after recent events. The Louis Vuitton handbags seem to be as firmly stuck in the post as Winnie the Pooh was in the rabbit hole, and other events seem to have shown me little of the universe's abundance, unless it is an abundance of crap, and a surprising absence of cosmic loo paper to clean it all up with.

But I have my lovely children, cat and house, which are all anyone could really want, and on top I've still got my book being published, which is as gorgeous as possible. Nothing Mr X can do about that, ha! Although perhaps I shouldn't say that, no, I must think positive. I really, really don't think he can stop it happening. Fingers crossed. And I've got plenty of material for another book, as my lovely cyberchums have pointed out. Thank you so much to everyone for your comments, which really have kept me going. True Love is also leaving me lots and lots of time and space to write hundreds of new books in and generously, if inadvertently, providing tons of inspiration, too.

And there are other hopeful little signs of regeneration, like the writing club I've just joined, with a cast of characters who are all too delicious not to write about.

Of course, I wouldn't be able to see any of this if I carried on lounging around in the gutter. No view at all from down there, I've noticed. So there's really no choice. Up I get. On I go.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

My ideal mate

I suppose I might as well admit it. I am a little less heartbroken these days - because I have spent the last week and a half with the perfect male. He never grabs the remote, he is happy to eat any old thing, he looks at me with the most adoring eyes and he never, ever interrupts. He has listened to my Secrets CD without making a single negative comment ( a massive feat) and was very supportive during the duvet crisis. He is warm, funny, and, not that I want to give away the secrets of the boudoir, lovely to cuddle up to at night.

On the downside, he is really a tincy bit whiffy, and the eating anything bit encompasses trying to nibble the cable on the children's Wii (bought by their doting uncle, I wouldn't have got one in a million) and a bit of Child Two's arm.

Yes, he is none other than the lovely Dill, my glamorous friend B's rabbit. As you know, I was braced for a terror and, while he does have some problems in sticking rigorously to his rabbit diet - and who wouldn't, his food is rock hard little pellets that really don't look that different from the rock hard little pellets that come out of him at the other end - in all other respects he has been the ideal guest. Even when staying for a few days at Mr X's, he behaved impeccably, possibly because he was shut in the bathroom. Not that I was hoping he would eat X's comfy chairs or ravage the wedding china, oh no, because I am sooooooo not like that.

It was with a heavy heart that I handed Dilly back to B, when she stopped in briefly between returning from the South of France and jetting off for a break in the Caribbean. She has other rabbit sitters lined up to cover her latest holiday. Indeed, there is something of a waiting list developing for Dill's soothing, supportive male presence. With Euro 2008 looming, why am I not surprised?

Friday, 6 June 2008

The Reckoning

Time for a little refresher on how things are going, since I discovered The Secret:

1. Weight loss. You may recall that my half term stupor had left me with an attractive brontosaurus neck, thanks to ingesting several hundredweight of Tescos chocolate peanuts and raisins on the sofa. Well, thanks to concentrating on Thin Thoughts, the neck has deflated slightly! Before you even say it, dearest Goodbyetoallfat, this may also have had something to do with my horrific cold/sore throat, which has prevented me from staggering to the fridge in the odd moment when I am not required to drive my darlings to their violin, ballroom dancing and bassoon lessons since school started again.

2. Handbags. Strangely, the Louis Vuitton handbag hasn't arrived yet. I expect it's just held up in the post.

3. Huge cheques. These haven't come either. Tsk, that post really is appalling.

4. Newspaper column! This is obviously fabulous - but I did hear about it before I started listening to The Secret so I don't think it can count. And, unfortunately, it does seem to have become a bit of a misogynist magnet. Honestly, men!

5. True Love. Despite my valiant efforts to think happy thoughts and project a future where we are together in blissful harmony, all I've had for my pains is a text saying he is getting to the bottom of things. Yes, but whose bottom, that's what I want to know! Sniff.

6. Blessings. Part of the Secret is counting these, and I must say this is no struggle. Here I am, living in lovely Dulwich, with lots of friends, both corporeal and cyber, my gorgeous children, a slightly dysfunctional cat, a plentiful supply of chocolate peanuts, no, I'm going to slam the fridge door now ....and ....oooh, is that the postman I hear?

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Secret

There is only one way to get over the duvet debacle, and that's to change my entire life and everything in it. Apart, of course, from my darling children, my house, my cat, my friends and the car that I have become quite attatched to (both because I can't turn the seat-warmer facility off and tend to stick to it, and because otherwise I'd have to walk).

Luckily, my lovely sister-in-law sent me her CDs of The Secret about a year ago. The Secret turns out not to be the address of the Louis Vuitton clearance store, as I'd dearly hoped (please don't tell me this doesn't exist, a girl can dream and I don't look good crying as True Love can testify). Instead, it is a motivational slash thought training programme to turn life's losers - like me - into all-out, glossy, permagrinning winners. This is very tempting and I must admit, after initial resistance to the sound track, which is part African drums, part spooky chanting, I settle down obediently to have my life changed.

The Secret itself, confides the Australian lady authoress in soothing tones, is the Law of Attraction. I suppose it says little for this Law that it took a year or so for me to be attracted to the CDs in the first place - but she would probably say the fact that I am now listening means it does work, and that I am just a bit slow. The Law means that you get what you ask for - if you think constantly about debt, misery and revenge (guilty) then that is exactly what you will have. If, on the other hand, you think non-stop about Louis Vuitton, wads of cash and romance, then the universe will provide. Irresistible, huh?

Some bits of the philosophy are worrying - for instance, people killed by deranged dictators must have wanted to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hm, surely not. And, on weight, the authoress is positive that people 'think themselves fat'. Silly me, I thought it was something to do with chocolate. After half term, I really should know - to succour myself I have taken to eating my own bodyweight in chocolate peanuts and raisins every night and, as I discovered as I was passing the mirror the other day, even my neck has put on about half a stone.

Well, I am very happy to put it all to the test. Thinking thin suits me an awful lot better than going to the gym! Wish me luck, wish me skinny and I'll report back soon.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Duvet days

Once upon a time, four child-free days would have been a dream come true. Nowadays I dread sending my little dears off - it happens much too often and gives me much, much too much time to think. A friend in a similar leaky boat told me the secret is to keep busy, so I have drawn up the following lists:

Things I would like to do while the children are away

1. Go on a holiday mini-break with True Love. This would involve poking around a scenic medieval capital, browsing the art galleries, having a few delicious dinners under warm, starry skies and generally gazing into each other's eyes in a way guaranteed to sicken any passers-by.

2. Do huge quantities of work, thus enabling me to invoice up a storm, get paid on time and remove the giant albatross of my Visa card from around my neck.

Things I have actually done while the children have been away

1. Realise that 99 per cent of my friends have children on half term and are busy going on family hols/doing creative Mummy stuff all week long. Remember that, thank God, I do have a great friend who is also man and child free, and make ambitious plans with her for four full days of entertainment of the non-PG variety. Spend last moments with children frantically applying nail varnish, waxing legs and plucking eyebrows, much to their bemusement.

2. Receive a call from friend on first day saying that she has the flu to end all flus, and is effectively bed-bound throughout the whole half term.

3. Panic.

4. Go to Peckham to distract myself from wasteland that is my life, and idly pick up a pack of Dylon Amazon Green fabric dye in Woolies. Only a fiver-ish, and will transform the old duvet cover at the back of the linen cupboard which, beautiful in its heyday and costing a fortune from the Conran shop, could really do with a revamp. What a clever idea, and will hardly add to the ghastly debt mountain at all. Decide that, as I recently dyed Child Two's duvet (French lavender, gorgeous) I am an expert and do not need to read the instructions.

5. Take duvet out of machine, hideously blotched in vomit green and bile yellow. Now I read the instructions. I should have spent five minutes damping the material first. Panic.

6. Drive back to Woolies to get pack of pre-dye colour stripper, around £4.

7. Follow instructions rigorously but drip stripper all over new outfit from Hobbs (£200) which I am only wearing to cheer self up. Wash dry-clean-only Hobbs kit in sink and watch it shrink before my very eyes. Duvet cover comes out of 95 degree wash looking even more vomity than before.

8. Drive back to Peckham for more pre-dye stripper, plus more Amazon Green dye and go for Ocean Blue as well - aiming for a pale, wafty turquoise this time. Hand over £16-odd quid to assistant, who eyes me strangely.

9. Go through colour stripper routine again, taking all clothes off first to avoid dreaded drips. So that's why they call it stripper!

10. Duvet comes out still in patches, though admittedly paler than before. I grit teeth and shove both the blue and green dyes into the machine, throw the duvet on top - it is now beautifully damp, hurrah - and press 'on'. It will work, it will, it will, it will ......

11. It doesn't. Retrieve duvet, now in splotches of darker green and blue. Pretend I was going for a sea-scape look. Know full well, in my heart of hearts, that it is the type of unsuccessful tie-dye look even a 70s hippy would snigger at. Acknowledge that, if I should ever date again (very unlikely), one look at this duvet cover would have any sensible man fleeing forever. Try not to remember passing stand of quite nice duvet covers on sale in Woolworths. A double was £10.

12. Friend rings me to say she is all better, and ready to play. By this time I have a raging sore throat. Retreat, alone, to hideous tie-dyed bed for rest of half term. Pull covers over head.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Three Little Words

Three little words just aren't enough these days. I remember a time when I thought that they would always cover every possible emotion and say it all for me. Until my stepmother rang yesterday and told me she was going to start reading my blog.

Oh My God!!!

See how inadequate that is? I really need some sort of primal scream, wrenched from the very roots of my being. Let's try. Imagine, if you will, an ear-splitting yodel, enough to raise every lazy, croissant-engorged pigeon from the roof of Dulwich College, and you'll be getting somewhere near the very beginnings of the sound I would like to make, if I had the energy/lung capacity/will to live.

I feel as though I have been caught behind the bikesheds, and that really isn't nice, at 40-ahem-ahem. 'How do you even know I have a blog?' I said, starting my objections at an oblique angle. 'Oh, someone at the bridge club reads the Telegraph or something ....' she said. Well, that lets my brothers off, anyway. I was worried that they'd revealed a detail under torture, and gone back on the normal family rules - nothing, ever, ever, ever is said to the parents, on the simple grounds that they don't need to know and wouldn't understand even if they did.

I remember X once laughing hysterically, when I said that I came from a close family. He pointed out that we three children all lived, at that time, on different continents. Well, yes, I admitted. But we're close. And you hardly ever speak to each other, he continued. Or see each other. Or ....Well, ok, but we're still close, I insisted, and I think that holds true.

But my stepmother? Reading my blog? Really, there is no need. Her worst fears about me have already come true - look, I'm divorced! My life is messy! I'm attempting (very badly) to support myself and my children (though doubtless both Mr X and True Love would laugh very hollowly at this)! Really, Joan, it can't get much worse.

And, in the course of that telephone conversation, she not only told me she was going to start reading the blog, but also threw in that she'd been to lunch at a friend's daughter's house and the garden 'was as big as a park,' someone else's daughter was having a big wedding anniversary party, and yet another woman who had had the appalling bad taste to inflict a divorce on her family had redeemed herself in the nick of time by getting married again, to a fabulously wealthy and reliable man. Oh, and did I know that Fiona Bruce was coming to Dulwich with the Antiques Roadshow?

Fiona Bruce, I should explain, was briefly in my class at school, before soaring off into the BBC stratosphere, and was lovely, super-intelligent and obviously destined for stardom even then. Ever since, my stepmother has obsessively followed her career and used it to beat me up with on a regular basis. Did I know that Fiona was on Crimewatch? Had I seen Fiona on the News? Oh, look darling, now Fiona's doing Call My Bluff .. In fact, even my stepmother has had to give up on this as Fiona is on everything and you'd need some sort of 24 hour TV monitor to keep track of her. But yes, I am aware of the impending Antiques Roadshow, as Fiona's lovely face is plastered all over leaflets in the Picture Gallery cafe, thanks, Joan. Yes, and I do get the point that she is successful, has children, looks fabulous and, most importantly, is Still Married. No pressure, or anything.

There is one tiny ray of hope, as I contemplate either ending it all or a life of rigorous self-censorship in the future. My stepmother still hasn't got the hang of ringing my mobile phone ('So many numbers .....'). There is real hope that the computer will defeat her. 'You will show me how to get onto this thing next time I'm over, won't you?'

'Oh yes,' I say, airily, going on to mention casually the extraordinary power surges which sometimes leave Dulwich without an Internet connection for hours, nay days, at a time. 'But of course that hardly ever happens .....'

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Summer of my passions

Ah, to be in Dulwich, now that summer's nearly here actually rather a pain. Much as I adore the general scenic leafiness all around, as Dulwich's premier (only) divorcee, I can report that there is not a single, single man to be had anywhere in the vicinity. Of course, this mattered not a jot, when I bought my cosy cottage with True Love by my side. A couple of turns of the clock later and things are rather different. Time has moved on, so have we, and concerned friends tell me that, should I ever venture into the relationship fray again, I might have to go as far as Sydenham or even (delicate shudder) Crystal Palace to get a date.

Of course, there's always the Internet, but could I really imagine myself clicking with someone I'd clicked on? Let's not answer that, and skitter onwards, to brave friends who have already hiked this byway of the information highway. 'It's all fine,' reports one. 'Just as long as you bear in mind that all the men on-line are .....odd.' So, pretty much like ordinary men out there in the real world, then? 'Er, no,' she says gingerly. I can hardly bear to prod her for details. But, of course, I do. She tells me of the top banker (no rhyming slang intended) who insisted that his old teddy be kept in the centre of the bed throughout proceedings. The doctor who had to ring his mummy half way through dinner to ask if he was still allergic to shellfish. The academic who couldn't get her La Perla bra off and simply tore it to bits. The .....No, after the bra story, I just can't listen to another word.

I shall have to accept that, like the property market, the love market has pretty much gone flat. In a way, it's a bit of a relief. Just as it's exhausting, when selling a house, to keep the cushions plumped (particularly now that my OCD compulsions are waning slightly) so the nightly effort to stave off the ravages of time seems more than I can be bothered with these days. So what if I'm declining from 'immaculate condition' to 'needing refurbishment'? I'm still a des res with 'plenty of character', aren't I? Oh poo, I forgot. It's only men who can get away with that one.


Off to see B, who lives the dream, with a tall handsome husband, three gorgeous well-behaved children and a beautiful house containing a dog, two cats ......and a rabbit. Into even the most well-ordered lives, the odd wrinkle must occasionally intrude and, as far as I can see, the wrinkle in this case has a cute little pom-pom tail and whiskers, and answers to the name of Dill.

Dill lives upstairs in a hutch with en suite bathroom, or, more accurately, in en suite bathroom. A near death experience at the jaws of the dog meant downstairs was no longer safe, so he has taken up residence in B's most recently done-up convenience, a dreamy room which looks as though it has been cut and pasted wholesale from World of Interiors. It is all freestanding, state of the art bath, Paint Library walls and clever tonal artworks. Apart, that is, from a large scattering of straw, a makeshift barricade, a big plastic cage and a generous helping of rabbit poops, plonked right in the centre of the room.

Here, if you are quiet, you will be able to catch little Dill, sitting looking all innocent, fluffy and beige, like the most delicious sort of cashmere coat - but much smaller, obviously. What harm could this adorable creature possibly do?

Plenty, says B. If he is sitting peacefully in one place, it's simply because he's exhausted, having escaped his prison with all the elan of a four-footed Houdini. His speciality is rampaging all over the upper reaches of the house, chewing up the bespoke carpet, hand-loomed in the Outer Hebrides, munching through the plasma screen cable, gnawing B's favourite antique quilt or sharpening his teeth on every freshly decorated corner. He once, particularly famously, got onto a pillow during a sleepover and pooped all around the tousled locks of the child sleeping there.

B, understandably, is losing patience with Dill, but has thought of a brilliant way to utilise his unique talents. She is going to hire him out to parents whose offspring are hankering after pets. He will then effortlessly confirm all the parents' worst fears but, much more importantly, will also put the children off the whole idea too, by pooping madly and eating all their favourite stuff.
If you would like to avail yourself of Dill's services, let B know via my comments section.

Dill is already booked to come to us for half term. Child two has longed for a rabbit for years - since the last one pegged out, in fact. She did veer towards tortoises recently, and was not impressed when I suggested that she paint two eyes on a rock and have that instead, as a more interactive pet option. But now I can't wait. In little Dill, it looks as though I've finally found a male I can rely on to get the job done.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Dog rage

Ah, summer. It was balmy and warm like this in those far off days (two years ago) when I was house-hunting in Dulwich, with True Love at my side. The tales he would spin me of the life in store! The things we would do, the places we would go .....actually, there was none of that even then. He really only wanted to go to one place with me, which was absolutely fine at the time. Now that he prefers to be in a completely different spot, enjoying plenty of solo contemplation apparently, I must admit I am staring rather crossly at the park's beautiful rhododendrons as though it were their own personal fault that my life is such a mess.

Still, there is nothing like being out and about to open up one's perspective - or so everyone assures me. This morning, the sound of furious barking, so out of place in this park where even our canine friends are well-mannered and restrained, was enough to make me jump out of my skin. I rounded the corner and came across my first Dog Rage incident. It was all wonderfully Dulwichian. Two pink-cheeked Dulwich ladies, both wearing regulation Juicy Couture jogging ensembles, were tugging ineffectually at leads, at the end of which snarled, respectively, a King Charles spaniel and a chocolate Labrador. I must admit I've never seen a Labrador snarling before, so it was worth a gawp just for this. The spaniel, though, was really going for it full pelt, with bared teeth, furious yaps and the occasional low growl.

In the normal world, someone would just have poured a bucket of water over the dogs, and we would all have gone on our way. This being Dulwich, there was nothing as vulgar as water to be had, though I did gamely offer to pop to the cafe for a bottle of lightly sparkling mineral brew flavoured with melon. Alas, my kind proposal was scarcely heard over the frantic apologies of the women, 'I'm so, so sorry,' 'No, I'm much, much more abject, really ....' I left them to it, realising the whole thing could go on for hours.

And what were the dogs fighting over? Simple. The ladies were wearing similar jogging suits. But the dogs were wearing exactly identical leads. Big mistake. I blame the owners.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Go Faster Stripes

True Love assures me of his eternal devotion, from the safety of his bachelor pad on the other side of the South Circular, but I confess I have spent the past days musing more and more often on the interesting topic of Lamborghini Dad at school.

I've never been the type to show even a moderate interest in cars, probably because I've never had the money to buy a nice one. I've always, even, looked down my button nose rather at those who spend forever discussing the wattage and circuitry and so forth of their vehicles. A car, I always held, is just a means of transport, and it would be silly to spend more time worrying about it than one spent thinking about a bus or train.

I now see that was a bit sweeping. A car, really, is just like a travelling house, and I completely see the point of having a nice house. Not that I am suggesting one should get curtains or cushions and install them in one's car - though a nice red gingham check would look fresh and appealing - but one can spend time and trouble getting a pleasant car and looking after it, without being a total dork.

Which brings me to Lamborghini Dad. His car might be stretching the description of 'nice' a bit - it is a low-slung, shiny beast with a thunderous exhaust - but it certainly cuts a dash in the dusty streets around the school. Best of all, despite the fact that it is a bare inch above the ground and looks as though there is scarcely room to stow one leg of an anorexic supermodel, there seems to be a tardis-like amount of space for his two adorable little girls and their assorted swimming bags, violins, book bags, a trumpet and other school thingybobs.

Of course, there is hardly anything on the planet more appealing to women than a man who takes good care of his children. And a rich man, however unattractive physically, need never find himself short of company. Need I say Donald Trump to you? A Lamborghini, my kind friends tell me, retails at considerably more than a Ford Escort. You can see where I'm going with this.

Mrs Lamborghini need have no worries, though. My homewrecking days are so, so so over (naturally, TL did tell me there was no home to wreck, but I suppose it was stupid of me to believe him). The point is that I think it's a very good sign that I am showing a flicker of interest in the outside world, in cars, and in life outside my own sorry tale. Progress!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Life Replacement Therapy

Off on a school trip with my adorable child number two, who is still, bless her, of an age to be enthusiastic about my accompanying the class - though she did, at one point, turn to me and say, 'Mummy, you're shouting.' After that, I know that my days of 'helping' the teachers (by chatting with the other mums and scoffing all the snacks) are sadly numbered. While this knowledge comes with a great stab of pain - my baby girl is moving off into the vortex of teen hormones which has already claimed so many others - there are also advantages. I think Dante would have struggled to describe the very special circle of hell created by thirty-seven children in a closed off lunch room.

Still, these trips are always educational. Obviously I don't mean in the sense that anyone learned anything about the Tudors yesterday. The girls rushed past all the exhibitions at a dizzying speed, the better to get to the few crumbs of snack we'd left, and run about whooping in the grounds. The teachers pretended to be discussing who was going to get a star for the best question, but they had that glazed look of people allowed out of prison for a day. The mummies and I had hard-core discussions about life.

I can't divulge a lot of this stuff, as it's on a need-to-know basis. I will just say, though, that I never thought I'd listen quite so breathlessly to a description of the benefits of HRT. Forgetfulness banished, irritableness soothed, aches and pains wafted away, skin cleared up and hair crackling with health. Why aren't I old enough yet? Mind you, it doesn't seem a minute since I was dithering about my outfit for my first ever disco - rather nice grey and black dress, a lot nicer than it sounds, teamed with, gulp, bright red over the knee socks, a lot more horrible than they sound, and that's saying something. Now it's quite the other end of life looming up. Never mind, just give me the drugs, I say.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Fool on Herne Hill

As Dulwich's foremost expert on divorce (as you know, I am actually the only person in Dulwich who is divorced, the rest of the place being stuffed with ridiculously happy couples) I expect you have all been waiting for my pronouncement on the recent McCartney split.

In fact, I find it quite hard to be sympathetic to either side. Poor Sir Paul seems to be fulfilling a reasonably useful function as a one-man demonstration of the truth of a whole raft of cliches - there's no fool like an old fool, a fool and his money are soon parted, the fool on the hill, oh no, that's not one - while I suppose Heather is doing her best to be even more of a cautionary tale than me. Uppity blonde decides to dump man and gets more than she bargained for? Crime doesn't pay, except that, whoops, it actually pays £24 million? Hell hath no fury like a woman who has to cook too many chops?

Well, one thing is clear - Heather has been fleeced. She won't get many meals in Pizza Express for little Beatrice with that paltry sum, and that's without even calculating the cost of birthday parties at All Fired Up for the next ten years or so. Worse still, there is unlikely to be a succession of eager millionaires trooping their way to her door, keen to be the next ex-Mr Mills. Particularly not ones with dyed hair and a drug problem.

Looking like a woman out of control is very unattractive, and I should know. Part of the point of lovely Heather was that we could gaze on her beautiful face, and think how wonderful she was and how she had refused to let her disability get in her way. Now we are all too well aware of the struggle she goes through and it's just too much like watching the swan's legs - sorry Heather -paddling madly away, when all we want to see is that pretty white creature gliding through the water.

There is just no easy way to be a divorced woman, or a woman at all, come to that. I think the truth is that we all deserve £24 million, and I'd like mine in a combination of Louis Vuitton vouchers, Neuhaus pralines and Armani separates, please.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Good works

Off to a coffee morning with a friend who frets beautifully about her carbon footprint. This is something I can't really get the hang of at all - I just cannot be arsed about where my baby sweetcorns come from, and whether they flew, came on a bicycle or simply showed a lot of firm pale yellow thigh and hitched a lift to Mr Sainsbury's lovely shop. Mention of footprints just reminds me that all my boots need reheeling and, having shelled out £28 for True Love's shoes to be redone, I have vowed never to go to a repairers again. Plus the fact that Child One has to have new orthotic insoles soon at £350 a go pay I shall have to lose the lawyer's latest bill down the back of the sofa, then she will sue, then I will be in Big Trouble now you see why I hurl the sweetcorn into the trolley without a backward glance.

But my friend being my dear tender-hearted friend, the coffee morning is not just a case of drowning my sorrows with a nice strong cup of Earl Grey. No, there is a Cause. In fact, I even overhear two mummies asking each other, 'What is the Cause today?' I recognise them vaguely from a Fair Trade coffee morning last week, and realise with horror that I am now on a Lady Bountiful merry-go-round. Today we are patronising Fine Cell Work, a charity which teaches needlework to prisoners and then sells their products. I was talked through it all beforehand, and I had a rather nice picture in my head of a menopausal lady prisoner, who'd been overcome by strange impulses in Waitrose, done a bit of light shoplifting and been banged up by a judge she'd once turned down at a college ball. It could happen to anyone.

But as we toured the amazing display of cushion covers, patchwork cot blankets and hand-embroidered bags, it became increasingly clear that a lot of the work had been done by men. Not many women would painstakingly embroider a cushion with a petit-point design of a smoking gun, I think. And, somehow, once the idea of a big male prisoner had elbowed out my distressed gentlewoman, I started to like the cushions rather less. By the time it had occured to me that I might end up sitting on a cushion stitched by a paedophile, I was really not very keen on the whole shebang at all, rehabilitation or rehabilitation.

When I talked about it all later with another chum, she was incandescent that criminals should sit about embroidering of an evening at all, instead of breaking rocks in the hot sun or sewing oakum bags, whatever they are. And what about paedophiles, she said? 'Well, you could get the cushions dry cleaned,' I suggested. 'It would take more than dry cleaning. These coffee morning ladies are too ....cushioned!' she sniffed.

She could be right. But, as Child One limps home in pain with her dodgy feet, and I make an appointment with the podiatrist, stuffing that lawyer's bill under the sofa, I know I shall shortly be contemplating a spell in debtors' prison myself. Embroidered cushion cover, anyone?

Friday, 14 March 2008

Moth eaten

As I hurtle across the sitting room sofa, tissue in hand, to splat yet another moth, it occurs to me that there are several things I am currently doing wrong. One is, undoubtedly, approaching the moth from this angle. It can end only in the escape of the insect, or a broken leg for me. The trouble is that I don't really like killing things - either the moths currently leading me such a merry dance, or my marriage.

You might say, of course, that I've left this discovery a bit late. The moth is now wise to my semi-homicidal impulses, and has taken refuge on the very top of the curtain pole. The decree absolute is in my filing cabinet, in black and white, and stamped by the court. Official.

It is not as though I want to have moths, or be married. But I just can't quite bring myself to be the one responsible for terminating either state.

Besides, aren't these moths mothers, just like me? All they want is a quiet corner to lay their vile, disgusting eggs, and propagate their truly repulsive larvae. Now that the kitchen cupboards are permanently dripping with bleach, and empty of all but the most ghastly cereals (surely even moths won't eat True Love's Grape Nuts?) they are searching farther afield, venturing into the virgin territory of the coat corner and the sitting room. Normally, there would be slim pickings here - we have a strict no-eating-except-in-the-kitchen policy in force, and pantry moths don't appear to go for wool like their jumper-noshing chums. Alas, I have been so busy OCD-ing the kitchen, that I have taken my eye off the rest of the house. The treasures had their little friends round on Monday for Movie Night, which involves eating shedloads of normally banned foodstuffs like crisps and pizza in front of the telly - and I haven't hoovered! The pesky moths have tied napkins round their little chins and have chowed down too.

And, all this time when I've pounced on a moth with my tissue, I've thrown it straight in the bin, averting my eyes from the mangled little corpse. Big mistake. Yesterday, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one gather itself up, Lazarus-like, and fly off. This led me to suspect, in a madly optimistic moment, that I might just have one moth, that I keep chasing, attempting to squish, and inadvertently freeing. Then I saw two hanging out together and - yuk - possibly mating. How could they? That's it. I absolutely draw the line at free love in my sitting room. What if the treasures saw? We've only just got over the Growing Up science topic. We really do not need demonstrations from the natural world on the rug in front of us. The marriage is already toast - now those moths really do have to go.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Lipstick is power

A text bleeps its way to me in the night. It is my dear friend L, with sad tidings. On our last shopping trip together, I cunningly identified the perfect lipstick for her in lovely Space Nk Apothecary in Richmond. Would she buy it? No, the sun was in the wrong part of the heavens, the wind was coming from the West and there was an R in the day, therefore she couldn't get it right there and then like any sensible person would. Instead, she waited until it was out of stock. I sent her a link to buy it on line, but she was still unable to commit. She then hung about until she was invited to a swanky do and needed the lipstick as a matter of the utmost urgency. It was, naturally, still out of stock so she bought a rough equivalent.

Of course, my dears, we all know that there is no such thing. A lipstick is either the right lipstick - or the Wrong Lipstick. Inevitably, so the sad text told me, the replacement lipstick was definitely a mistake. The party was a dead loss.

Naturally, I have stepped in to salvage the situation before a real tragedy occurs and the rest of L's life is blighted by an unfortunate lipstick choice. It could so easily happen. But a wave of my magic wand, and the right lipstick is on its way over. A girl has to get her priorities right.

Monday, 10 March 2008

News from the trenches

Well, my dears, six moths in the cereal cupboard this morning, and one larva clinging to a bag of mixed nuts. What on earth have I done to deserve this? Please don't answer that. I am beginning to believe each moth has been personally hired to torment me by Mr X. I can imagine the scene. X sitting at a desk. A small moth perching across from him, looking up, wings aflutter. X saying, 'now, I don't want you to leave until she's gone completely nuts, do you understand?' The moth replies, in a thin, piping voice, 'is that mixed nuts? Or assorted cashews?' Then they both start doing that horrible 'ha ha Ha HA' mad-dictator-world-domination laugh.

The scene changes. It is the crack of dawn. The preciouses are still tucked into their beds, dreaming of the enormous Easter eggs to come. I am downstairs, thinking of eggs of quite a different type. Thanks to dear Potty Mummy, I am now fully clued-up on the Pantry Moth, a dastardly beast that will scoff your flour as soon as look at you, and dump its larvae all over your breakfast cereal. At least I'm not dealing with panty moths, I suppose. My weapons, as suggested by sweet Nunhead Mum of One, are my trusty vacuum and a multitude of cleaning sprays. Unfortunately, I've just finished my last drop of lovely Illicit Bang, and am down to the stuff I bought before I discovered it, like Sainsbury's multi-purpose kitchen spray (v dull) or my latest, slightly disappointing acquisition, Mr Muscle Frozen Lime and Vinegar. Hm, now why on earth is it that I am strangely drawn to cleaning products with a whiff of sex or masculinity about them? I just can't think ......Anyway, NMO has recommended using something with bleach. I don't know what Mr Muscle has in him, but I fear it's not bleach and it's certainly not frozen limes. Oh well, I'm as ready as I'll ever be.

I fling open all the cupboard doors. Nothing stirs. And then, the faintest flicker of a wing. It's mayhem for an hour. I am completely sickened by the knowledge that my children have probably been ingesting moth larvae along with their cornflakes for months. Finally, I subside into a chair as Child One and Two troop into the kitchen. 'What's for breakfast, Mummy?' they ask. 'Er,' I say, scanning the bare - but incredibly clean and shiny - shelves. 'How about some nice..... yoghurt?'

Thursday, 6 March 2008


I have unwelcome visitors! This is serious. In fact, it's rather biblical. My kitchen cupboards have become home to a seemingly endless tribe of moths.

Not those rather pretty, silvery-goldy things which flutter about sweetly and then munch all your cashmere jumpers on the sly. These are mysterious, pale brown creatures, with the odd fleck of black, and I am not at all sure what they are up to. Why are they in my cupboards? How did they get there? What are they eating?

Actually, I know the answer to the last one, and it's rather revolting. They're eating everything - the flour, the sugar and, on one unforgivable occasion, the M & S Belgian chocolate-coated raisins. True Love even spotted one in my Ancient Grains breakfast cereal a few months back. Naturally, I pooh-poohed him. This was when I was in deep denial. I'd see a moth fly out every time I opened the cupboard, and I'd just ignore it and shut the door quickly. I've never been one for tangling with wildlife. After all, what are husbands for? I'll say something for X, he was always very good at manoeuvring spiders out of the house, using that old glass and sheet of paper technique.

Now, I've entered a new phase. I have realised, at last, that there is no husband around to deal with the crisis. True Love flits in and out, rather like a moth himself, and I somehow cannot ask him to take on this heavy burden of responsibility, though he did once remove a spider which was in dire need of Immac after I had shrieked the place down. But I can't go around yelling every two minutes, particularly if there is no man around to hear and act. I'd only freak out the offspring, not to mention get a sore throat. I have to handle this myself. I must sort out my own moths.

So, from being an insect avoider, I am now walking insecticide. I spot a moth, I take a tissue, I scrumple up tissue and moth together, and I throw the lot in the bin without anything more than a feeling of triumph. I have become a murderess. There are many moth souls on my conscience, or the place where my conscience ought to be. If I feel faint-hearted, as I did this morning when opening the cereals cupboard and finding four moths hanging out on the shelf, I remind myself of my beloved choccy raisins and I swoop. I am also constantly distracted in my conversations with the preciouses about their homework, as I scan the ceiling for signs of - deep breath - tiny creamy moth larvae wiggling across the ceiling. Yes, these yucky little beasties make a steady, vile progress from who-knows-whence to a secret spot, where they mutate into moths, insert themselves into my cupboards, and fly out at me every morning.

This is why, at the crack of dawn today, I found myself standing perilously atop my kitchen worksurface, vacuum cleaner curtain attachment in hand, frantically hoovering the tops of the cupboards. Thank god for OCD, which makes it all a grim sort of pleasure. But if that doesn't do it, I don't know what will. Any suggestions very gratefully received.