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 ....to 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 .....so 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.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Oh my dog!

I have been thinking, in these last few days, of getting a dog. Not a real dog with muddy paws and a bone habit, you understand, but a fantasy one. This would be useful in the park in the mornings when I'm getting puffed during the walk. I could pause and pretend my dog was doing that horrid snuffling thing around other dogs' pipi trails. 'Come on now, Humphrey, heel,' I could say plaintively, giving one of those charming rueful looks to other walkers - all right, runners. Yes, I do know I'm the only one who walks. I could also use Humphrey as an excuse to get into conversation with some of those interesting-looking Dulwich Mummies whose children go to different schools, and so under normal circumstances would remain forever on the other side of the social Berlin Wall. And, perhaps most handily of all, when I'm really fed up with all this fitness lark, I could pretend he'd run off and I had to rush away to find him. Hardly my fault if Humphrey isn't to be found on the sofa watching a DVD of CSI Miami, now is it?

The dog would be useful at other times, too. True Love, who is proving to be human velcro to life's waifs and strays, has acquired his own brace of ne'er-do-well car washers. I swished home the other afternoon with the preciouses to find my front door open, my radio sitting on the garden wall, my pavement awash with suds and my lover's car being washed in extremely lack-lustre fashion by a tattooed youth whose hugely pregnant girlfriend was sitting on my kitchen chair plonked in the street.

I stalked inside to tackle True Love. 'Who are those people in our garden?' I asked in my most dulcet shriek. 'They're looking for work. And look at her! Guess how pregnant she is?' About eight and a half months, I ventured. 'Oh. Well, guess how old?' Sixteen, I said firmly. True Love was crushed, but rallied. 'Well, she shouldn't be here, should she?' At last, we agreed on something. She should be in school, learning her French verbs fair and square, so she can get married, have children, get divorced and get a blog of her own. In that order, please.

Of course, the car-washers were ringing my doorbell only a few days later, asking for an advance on the money they were sure I'd be paying them for their next attempt to wash the car. And, inevitably, True Love was elsewhere. It was just me and the preciouses and, charming though the carwashers will no doubt turn out to be, a nice St Bernard would have been a comfort, or the next best thing, one of those chunky, studded dog collars and chains which show you have a large, hard to control beast about the place. Just the job, as I seem to have no husband at present.

I must look up the Louis Vuitton website and see if they do dog leads - there might be one that matches my handbag.