Thursday, 31 January 2008

Illicit Bang

I have found a new love. Well, of course I have True Love, or the odd sighting of him, but now, thank God, I have a bit on the side as well. It happened quite by chance, as I was doing my Sainsbury's trawl, forgetting all the stuff I needed like kitchen paper and getting bewitched, as usual, by non-essentials like a Frenchy rub-thing for beef costing £2.95. Ridiculous, I know, as I could have bought the spices separately for half the price, but somehow it ended up in the trolley.

Anyway, I wandered almost by chance into the cleaning aisle and there he was - just the type we've all been warned about. Strong, powerful, positively dangerous, he radiated menace. And I just had to have him.

So I put the bottle of Cillit Bang in on top of the herb rub thing and scuttled off to the check-out, hoping no-one would see my act of eco-crime.

You see, these days, post-divorce poverty has forced me to do my own cleaning. As the trauma of the past few months has opened up a rich, hitherto unsuspected seam of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this actually suits me much better than you might expect. I spend hours polishing the stainless steel oven and, yes, I admit it, dusting the tops of doors, while mulling over legal letters or, preferably, not thinking at all. I lug the vacuum up and down the stairs (of course, this is an economy-sized property with two and a bit floors, not like the five storey mansion I left behind Abroad, whinge moan), I mop floors, I clean the loos, for God's sake, and I generally get my lilly white hands dirty. And, of course, I started off with the intention of doing all my cleaning without leaving even the daintiest trace of a carbon footprint. I bought a vast collection of those eco-cloths, I eschewed chemicals, and I spent forever buffing things with the microfibre pads designed to be smear-free.

And guess what? They don't sodding work. I bet you didn't know that, as you probably pass them to your au pair and are then annoyed when the incompetent lass leaves everything vaguely dingy. Well, it's not actually her fault. Eco stuff basically doesn't get anything clean at all, unless you spend all day on your hands and knees scrubbing. And life, even for OCD me, is just too short.

That's where my lovely, gorgeous secret Illicit Bang comes in. He really does work just as masterfully as he says on the label. A tiny spray, and it's all done. In fact, you really don't need to leave it on for longer than a minute before the whole area is fizzing in a most satisfactory way. The only drawback? Well, um, don't forget to take your diamond rings off before you start using him. Like I said, he really is dangerous. And don't, on any account, let yourself get spotted making the purchase. Chemicals these days really are terribly non-U - unless you're injecting them into your face, of course.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

To Boden or not to Boden

ONE of the chief benefits of my life Abroad, apart from the Philipino cleaner, free house, car and school, was that no-one else got the Boden catalogue. That meant that not only did my children and I get credited with a certain effortless English elan, but also that we didn't have toe-curling encounters with the same outfit every time we went to the supermarket.

Oh, how different things are in Dulwich. It isn't just that I miss all my old friends dreadfully. It's also that I hate not being the only Mummy wearing Johnnie's double-breasted velvet coat. Call me manically possessive, but it's mine, mine, MINE I tell you, and does not belong to Pushy Mother or any of her cohorts who have taken to swanning around in it on the same day that I do.

Mind you, Bodenitis can sometimes be useful. Come new catalogue time - and the Spring one has just sprung, as I'm sure you know - and the playground is awash with pensive mummies. Are they stressing about how to get little Henry's powerpoint presentation on the Three Little Pigs finished on time, when he also has to practice for his Grade Three harp exam? Well, yes - but they're also fretting about what to buy from Boden. Give it a few more weeks, and the first brave new shoots will start to appear. A Favourite V Neck Cardigan in the new pink melange here, an ill-advised Printed Swishy Skirt there, and then bam, the playground will be knee-deep in Merino Henleys.

This is frightening, but can be handy. You see, I can be dithering about an item for ages, then I suddenly see it walking through the village and achieve total closure on it - yeeeesh! Another lucky escape. There's something so enticing about those jumbo prints when draped on a stick-thin model which has never, ever translated successfully to my more complicated personal topography. On the other hand, these sightings can twist the knife exquisitely. The velvet coat, you see, was another case of the dithers. I hummed and ha-ed, my finger poised on the 'buy' button, for just too long. The purple I wanted was sold out, and I comprised on a fawny sort of brown. Which is ok. Well, it's fine. No really, it is. Except that Pushy got the purple one.

I know this is sacrilege, and I feel awful even asking, but is there anything else out there? I don't, of course, mean an actual shop, but a nice online thingy where I can press a few buttons in between whiny blogs and the odd jot of work. I'm not sure I could actually bring myself to be unfaithful to Johnnie, but surely it wouldn't hurt to look ....

Monday, 28 January 2008

By the book

Nice Mummy bounced up to me in the playground the other day at collection time. 'Chloe's just finished her entrance exams, so do you want her past papers?'

Having recently (last year, but it often seems like a minute or two ago) moved back from Abroad, this sentence meant nothing to me. I knew, from the kindly smile bestowed on me, that an incredibly generous offer had just been made. I could also see that a response was urgently required, but I wasn't sure what on earth it could be. Luckily, other nearby year 5 and 6 Mummies, sensing action, zoomed in. 'The exams! How did Chloe get on?' one asked Nice Mummy in tones of deep concern, as though the poor girl had an incurable illness, with hours, not days to live. 'And how many did she do?' Just then, Pushy bustled up. 'Well, if you don't want the past papers, DD, I'll have them for young Sophie, she's doing the exams in two years' time.'

That decided it. Of course I wanted the papers, and I wanted them now. Whatever the hell they were.

The next morning, Chloe staggered over to me. 'Mummy said to give you this,' she panted, and she dropped a huge sack at my feet. 'Er, thanks,' I said, hefting it over my shoulder and tottering back to the car. On the kitchen table, later, I spread out the contents. Book after book of practice papers, mock exams in English and Maths, extra-curricular project ideas, rafts of guides on punctuation and spelling .....

Excuse me, but isn't my ex-husband shelling out a fortune every month to the school to teach my child and drag it through SATS? And shouldn't said child, therefore, breeze through entrance exams to other schools, assuming I can get it together to fill in the forms (by no means a certainty) and square it with the ex-husband that the child may move to a more expensive school (almost definitely a negative)?
What on earth is going on here?

Of course, it didn't take me long to find out that Nice Mummy, whom I for a second or two started regarding as an insane hot-houser, would actually be considered incredibly lax by almost everybody I know. What I should really be doing, or should have had in hand months ago, is additional tutoring, at vast expense, in any weak spots. Trudging through books is so the easy option.

When we arrived home later, the books were still there, in threatening piles. 'Are you seriously expecting me to do any of that stuff, Mummy?' said the child in question. I hummed. On the one hand, most of me was screaming no. On the other, a little part of me was thinking, when in Dulwich ......'We'll have to see,' I hedged. The child gave me a look of deep loathing and went off to fry its brain in front of the telly.

Next day, Nice Mummy confided that Chloe had been called in to do an extra test for a scholarship, for a delicious ten per cent off the fees (which is a vindication of the books method, versus intensive individual tuition, I might add). There had been 20-odd nervous girls there, including a handful from the junior school, and she had been one of the first called in. 'She breezed out when she'd finished and headed straight for her friends, still waiting to go in, and I could hear her saying, 'now, don't worry, the answer to the first question is this and then they'll ask you that ....' Honestly, she was telling them the whole lot. I almost felt like shouting, 'Noooooooooooooooo!' ', she said.

Poor Nice Mummy. But Nice Mummy, Nice Daughter.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

back to business!

I don't know what little bug of curiosity caused me to look up my blog today, but it's the first time I've even thought about it for months. How lovely to find people have actually read it! A really extraordinary, warm suprise. And an invitation from Dulwichmum to do some linky thing! I feel awful now that I've been offline so long. But, my dears, it's been hell. I've now spent £12,000 on lawyers - I'll have to look up how many Smeg fridges that is at John but I suspect even they don't make them in that many shades. Of course the money is just the part that I can sit and count. The emotional toll I don't even want to think about, but I think it's fair to say I look pretty rough. Even though the whole thing was my idea, it really hasn't been pretty.

But I suppose I do now have my crisp white Decree Absolute and the world, and all the horrible men in it, are my lobster.

And that is the trouble, and why I've turned to blogging again. I've been let down ,and I need help, from all the nice people who read my blog before and might read it again.

Dulwichmum, is it too late to say yes to a link?