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.