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Pretty Girls Make Gravy
Tuesday February 19, 08
I wandered lonely as a cloud
Continuous as the stars that shine
The waves beside them danced, but they
For oft, when on my couch I lie
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (1804)
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The children are on their half-term holiday from school this week and, thanks to the beautiful weather, we are busying ourselves getting out and about in the sunshine!
Blame the state of the planet...the deterioration of the ozone layer...global BLOODY warming...blame whatever the hell you like...but spring has most definitely sprung early this year here in dear old blighty...and it's beautiful!
You know Mr Wordsworth was so right...nothing sums up a British springtime better than a nice bunch of daffs!
Love Alma xxx
Sunday February 10, 08
"Once you've seen one penis you've seen 'em all!"
How well do we REALLY know our neighbour?
I ask this because I thought I knew my Polish neighbours in the house opposite pretty well. They are in their mid to late fifties I guess and are a quiet unassuming couple whose passions seem to be gardening, God and their pet cat (although not necessarily in that order)
I base my deduction that they love gardening on the fact that they have a beautiful, well maintained garden and well manicured lawn and spend hours outside tending their plot. Mr Poland takes his gardening very seriously if his vast array of tools and gardening equipment are anything to go by…hell he even has a leaf blowing/sucker-upper thingy…and he ain’t afraid to use it! I have even known him to be out blowing and sucking leaves at 10 o’clock at night dressed in nothing but a pair of shorts and a smile…always a smile!
I am sure they are religious too. You see it is only on a rare occasion that I manage to haul my lazy arse out of bed on a Sunday morning for Mass but when I do they are ALWAYS there…ALWAYS. I remember particularly the Sunday after 9/11 they were there at the front of the congregation. I remember this vividly because Mrs Poland was crying throughout the service and Mr Poland was her rock…his arm lovingly around her shoulders supporting her as she wept silently for those who had been lost. I wondered at the time whether they maybe had family or friends involved in the tragedy such was the power and strength of her reaction.
Then, when Pope John Paul died, the pair of them hot-footed it over to Rome for the funeral. They had knocked on our door very late in the evening and said “we are going to Rome to say goodbye to the Holy Father…could you possibly look after the cat?” I BLOODY hate cats but how could I possibly say no? (my first instincts proved with foundation when Tibus got stuck up a FUCKING tree when they were away leaving me and the Sarge trying to coax the moggy down for hours in our BLOODY pyjamas and the Sarge eventually climbing the tree in the dead of night to retrieve the daft ball of hair!) Mr & Mrs Poland were very grateful to us for stepping into the breach though and brought me back a lovely picture of the Pope in a simple wooden frame which is to this day in the glass cabinet in my dining room.
Mr & Mrs Poland love Tibus. They don’t have children as they married late in life and Tibus is their baby. They actually take that BLOODY cat out for walks…on a lead...which strikes me as a little odd! They pass by other neighbours out walking their dogs and say “hello” with Tibus at their heels in his red velvet collar (with bell attached) and on his little lead!
The other weird thing about Mr & Mrs Poland is that they both wear clogs! Mrs Poland has pink clogs and Mr Poland white. You always know when they are out gardening or walking the cat by the clip-clop clip-clop of their matching clogs on the pavement.
In all the years we have been neighbours I have probably only spoken at length to Mr & Mrs Poland a handful of times apart from the habitual “hello!” when our paths cross whilst out getting the dustbin round or cleaning the car. They send us a Christmas card (always a religious one) and we send them one in return (NEVER a religious one) To my mind they are great neighbours…quiet…tidy…friendly (without being over familiar) They get on with their lives and we get on with ours and we live side-by-side in perfect harmony…PERFECT!
I saw Mrs Poland the other day…out walking the cat…in her clogs! I was on my way to the library to return some books for the children and in no particular hurry so I stopped for a chat….
I bend down, stroke the cat, and turn my attention to Mrs Poland...
“How are you?…isn’t it a beautiful day?"
Mrs Poland looks very pleased with herself and bursting to tell me something. Tibus is happily sniffing her clogs!
“Oh I’m great…we have just brought a beautiful apartment in Spain!”
“How exciting!…well we know where to come now when we fancy a week in the sun!”
“Oh…I don’t think so…it’s on a naturist reserve!”
I try (and fail) not to look shocked…”come on Alma…hold yourself together…take this revelation in your stride”…I feel my face reddening…I decide to take the jovial approach….
“Ewwww!...maybe we’ll give it a miss then…not sure I could face eating my breakfast with naked strangers roaming about the place…quite put me off my cornflakes it would!”
Mrs Poland smiles a quiet unassuming smile…
“Oh Alma…once you’ve seen one penis you've seem ‘em all dear!”
So there you have it…my quiet, devout Catholic, clog wearing, cat obsessed Polish neighbours are nudists! You think you know people…but you don’t…we are all full of surprises it seems. I don’t imagine for one minute that they indulge in wild wife-swapping parties….car keys in the fruit bowl…swinging and the like…but who knows? I just hope Mr Poland is careful where he points that leaf sucker-upper gadget on his holidays!
I told the Sarge about Mr & Mrs Poland…we discussed it over dinner and giggled like children till our sides hurt. The Sarge said…
“I wonder if they keep their clogs on?”
and we laughed some more!
They are a lovely old couple…and PERFECT neighbours…but I really don’t know if I will ever be able to think of them in quiet the same way again…
So…how well do you REALLY know YOUR neighbours?
Love Alma xxx
Wednesday January 30, 08
"You know I Couldn't Last"
“I realize I am placing a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Morrissey but I need him to “save me…save me…save me” like never before…and he will…just like he always does.”
I am not normally one to quote MYSELF but it seems wholly appropriate on this occasion…well…how wrong can a girl possibly be?!
It had all started off so well too! Although this is hardly surprising when you consider that my night at The Roundhouse had been planned with the precision of a military operation…the Normandy Landings were, quite frankly, utterly shambolic by comparison!
Myself and my dearest friend Anais had set off for London as soon as I had hung up my whistle after playground duty last Friday. By 2.30pm we were enjoying a gourmet packed lunch (brie, watercress and cranberry sauce sandwiches, a bag of “posh” crisps, double chocolate muffins and a decent bottle of rose) on the train to Waterloo. We scoffed and chatted and drank and chatted and whooped with delight all the way to giddy London and the date with our hero that we had been anticipating for many a long week. As girly adventures go they really don’t get much better that this!
Just a few stops on the underground found us in Camden and would you Adam & Eve it? We were FIRST in the queue…FIRST…brilliantly, spectacularly, fantastically FIRST! Victory for the “day-trippers”, even beating the purple wrist-banded six-day pass hard-core brigade into a sorry SECOND place! In the words of Sinatra “a number one…top of the heap…king of the hill…top of the list…” etc etc. (I suppose I should have guessed the only way to go from THERE was DOWN!)
The queue was fun! I met some great new people and got reaquainted with some old ones against a backdrop of excitement so real you could almost touch it. Just before we made our way into the venue I realised that I had horribly over-catered for the event and went down the line distributing sandwiches and muffins to the cold and hungry masses. Most were very grateful for the gesture and tucked into the veritable treats on offer with gusto...a couple did ask if I had a vegan option! Cheeky bastards..."It's cheese duckie...like it or lump it!"
Once inside The Roundhouse our military style assult continued to reap it's own reward as we found ourselves stood one row back, stage left...the vantage point of dreams in our world!
Morrissey took to the stage and without over-cooking this whole tale I can honestly say (hand-on-heart) that our boy has NEVER looked better. As ever his skin was fresh and flawless, his jaw strong and eyes sparkling the bluest shade of blue..."they're just gelignite, loaded and aiming right between your eyes". His hair was beautiful too...much more grey than last year...wonderfully sculpted...a quiff of complete and utter perfection. Most spectaculary of all he had jeans on!...WOW!...I do love Mozzy in a nice bit of denim! The blue of his shirt made his eyes seem even brighter and he had an aura about him that is almost impossible to put into words...like if the lighting had failed it wouldn't have mattered a jot...he would have been illuminated anyway...in a spot-light of his own making...man he shone!
What better start to a show could there be than a Smiths classic? The thing is I was just so glad to be there and to be able to gaze at this vision of wonder and delight I almost failed to notice that singing "Please, Please, Please..." was clearly a struggle vocally. It wasn't until I found this that I fully appreciated the inevitability of what lay ahead....
Another clue to our impending fate came when he made some quip about anti-biotics "all being a waste of time" or some such marlarky before launching into "Something Is Squeezing My Skull". I had purposely avoided hearing this new song in the run-up to the show...a very good decision! It was brilliant...really grabbed me on first listen...not what you would deem a "grower" in my world. I sensed Morrissey was very proud of the song too...he attacked it with the confidence of a boy who knows he's done good....and he had.
He introduced "Last Of The Famous International Playboys" muttering something like "and so back to the mental asylum" which was entirely appropriate as the crowd went FUCKING mad! The crush was almost unbearable and I very nearly bailed out...arms were flailing...all were singing...and for a few minutes we were all (men and women alike) FAMOUS...and INTERNATIONAL...and PLAYBOYS! (yes...even me!)
So to "I Just Want To See The Boy Happy"...and you hardly needed to be Columbo or Miss FLAMING Marple to work out that the evening was about to FUCK up BIG TIME! First came a telling lyric change...from "because soon I will be dead" to "in ten minutes I will be dead". Then he started missing out whole sections of the song...then spraying his throat with some kind of spray that filled the air like mist on a cold night...this didn't look good people...it didn't look good at all! Finally he lifted the lid from a cup of what appeared to be a hot drink of some kind and took a huge gulp. I hoped that cup contained some kind of magical potion circa Harry BLOODY Potter..."eye of newt...toe of frog"...it didn't! It was over...
There was confusion all around...girls crying...men angry...lots of moaning about the expense of the aborted evening...it was pretty ugly in there for a while. And there we stood...me and Anais...almost unable to speak. The shock of Morrissey's "early bath" didn't really hit us straight away. To be honest we were still reeling from the jeans!...the seductive way he had run his hand down his denim clad thigh inches from our faces...the way he had pulled his shirt open and revealed and stroked his left nipple...
Enter stage right Jonathon Ross (prick) David Walliams (of whom I have no opinion whatsoever) and the glorious Russell Brand who, as much as I love, was up against it from the start...it was like sending a boy in to do a man's job and even his wit and undeniable charm failed to appease the crowd who were at best inconsolable...at worse baying for BLOOD!
Alright...so I did go to the show "dreaming the impossible dream"...that Morrissey could somehow take an eraser to the last few weeks and refresh and renew my life...well he couldn't...and he didn't...he is only a man for Christ's sake...what the hell did I REALLY expect?
As you know though I am ever the optimist and can see only positives in this whole sorry episode now...
* I will get a rescheduled date to see Morrissey
* Because of this I haven't had the awful and
* I also got four songs...which is infinitely
* The rescheduled date will mean another adventure
* If our military style planning was impressive
* He had his BLOODY jeans on...for which I will
On Saturday afternoon driving Anais to the station to get her train back to her rural idle we mercilessly took the piss out of the Sarge's choice of radio station. He favours a little local station as he likes to keep abreast of local news (for work) and the local sports news (for leisure) and the traffic situation (just because) We got to the station and dropped off my Mozzy-partner-in-crime and waved to her as she made her way to her train, sad but safe in the knowledge that she will be back soon!
Me and the Sarge get back in the car...SHITTY FM back on the radio...and then they play THIS CHARMING MAN...how wierd is that! What are the chances? And there was me all ready to hang the DJ!
It neatly drew a line under my adventures at The Roundhouse...like going full circle...one day I am in the presence of Morrissey and listening to a fantastic new song filling me with excitement of what is still to come from our boy...the next I am back where it all began...being reminded of the start of it all over twenty years ago. I may be older now..."but I'm a clever swine!"...and my hero may be greying and whip his mic lead a little less than he once did...but the excitement and anticipation are still there...still the very same as they always were...
Yes Friday was a disappointing end to an adventure that had promised so much...but will we be back for more?...well yes..."because we must"...
Love Alma xxx
Wednesday January 16, 08
MUNDANE (adj) common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative
Following the cruel emotional blow I was dealt pre-Christmas I have dusted myself down and am just busy getting on with life I guess….well what else can you do? I would describe my current status as “stable” but with the odd little “wobble” along the way…strong in the main but a few silent tears at the kitchen sink whilst peeling the spuds about sums it up! Complete and total well-being is still a world away…but I’m getting there. I’m trying to be philosophical about the whole sorry episode now…well who hasn’t had their balls firmly kicked on occasion? There are a few exciting adventures on the horizon which should serve as welcome distractions but in the meantime I am finding joy in the simple pleasures of life. To quote the wonderfully brisk Deborah Meadon in BBC’s excellent Dragon’s Den…”let me tell you where I am!”
This is my second week in my new job as a playground assistant at a local primary school and I am loving it! I have a whistle…and I’m not afraid to use it! The power of the humble whistle is incredible…I blow it and the children instantly FREEZE! I am trying not to let the power of my new found whistle blowing status go to my head…but it ain’t easy! I love the time I spend at school each day more than I ever could have imagined. The children are amazing…so full of exuberance…their horizons so small and uncomplicated…their company bliss. I have a little fan club of children who run to me as soon as the bell rings and want to hold my hand and walk around the playground “helping” me…big ones…little ones…cheeky ones…pretty ones…dirty ones…bright ones…funny ones…these little unique bundles of wonder! It’s a far cry from my days of office politics and paper pushing and to be honest it doesn’t feel like a job at all. It’s like being paid to have fun and I think I would happily do it for free (but don’t tell them that!)
The only thing that bothers me about my new job infact is WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I DO IT SOONER! I am finally, after 20 years of going through the motions, in employment HEAVEN…a most wonderous place to be! On the employment front at least it seems 2008 could be a very good year indeed! Ok…so one of the older boys called a college a “fucking bitch” yesterday…but nobodys perfect…and she is a bit of a bitch actually! You can’t blame a kid for being a decent judge of character now can you?…quite a skill in one so young I reckon and one that will serve him greatly as he lurches toward impending adulthood. When I left work he was sitting on the “naughty chair” outside the office awaiting the arrival of his Mum to face an audience with the Headmaster looking all forlon and full of regret. I somehow resisted the urge to throw my arms around him in a show of support and sympathy for the inevitable punishment that lay ahead. He is quite a cute little kid…despite his somewhat “colourful” use of the English language! “The teachers are afraid of the pupils”…but this dinner lady sure as hell ain’t!
It’s only a few days now until I will join the merry throng at The Roundhouse for a date with our boy and excitement is reaching FEVER PITCH! In the entire history of my Morrissey fandom I have never needed an audience with my hero more than this one. The prospect of totally loosing myself for an hour and a half with nothing in my head but Morrissey is delicious right now…to switch off from the world for a while and forget the complications and disappointments of life and focus only on that which is good and exciting and perfect. I realize I am placing a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Morrissey but I need him to “save me…save me…save me” like never before…and he will…just like he always does. I will report back my findings in this regard in due course!
A few days after my audience with Morrissey I will, after much organizing and many a geographical headache, be venturing back into London. This time to attend an audition for the BBC quiz show Eggheads with Morrissey Solo’s very own team! Sounds like it should be a fun day out if nothing else. The Suedeheads will film a small piece to camera in which we individally introduce ourselves. After that the cameras will stop rolling and we must sit a general knowledge test to establish whether we are reasonably bright afterall…or as thick as the proverbial pig-shit! The final part of the audition will be the playing of a game of Eggheads against another would-be team. All quite painless it seems and a brilliant excuse for a post-Roundhouse Mozzy get-together and a session in the pub thereafter! I admit I am starting to get a trifle nervous at the prospect of getting my intellect tested on national TV…or at least I was…until last night!
On last nights edition of Eggheads there was a team of beauty queens playing. They had clearly decided that appearing on the show may finally dispel the myth that the kind of women that enter beauty pagents are sadly lacking in the brain department! Somewhat predictably their decision to take this route towards proving their point proved horribly misguided and they FUCKED up BIG time! They failed infact to get a single glamour-puss through to the final round. Impossibly gorgeous?...a matter of opinion I guess but generally yes (the presenter Dermot clearly thought so and flirted outrageously with all of them...the wily old fox!)…as thick as shit?...yes siree! So my nerves are in check now based on the notion that as crap as The Suedeheads may do there is no way on God’s earth we can possibly be as stupid as THAT!
Apart from the new job and the upcoming adventures in Morrissey-Land it’s been pretty much “business as usual” at Chez Alma…not a lot happening…but I like it that way…well you know where you are with tedium don’t you?
It’s been raining here almost endlessly for days now…weeks infact…and our walks to school have been very sludgey soggy affairs indeed! It was on such a morning that Dan complained of sore feet and it suddenly struck me that the poor little mite had clearly outgrown his wellies. I promised him new ones and he eagerly requested “blue ones…or red ones…with pictures on!” Wellington boot shopping is not exactly my idea of high octane excitement…but needs must and all of that. The problem was try as I might all the wellies I found were entirely unsuitable…lots of green ones with pictures on…lots of red ones but without pictures…and a few blue ones with pictures BUT NOT IN SIZE 11! When I did finally find a shop with lots of wellies in the correct colour AND size AND with pictures the BLOODY pictures were the problem! Dan is six now and reasonably grown-up for his age and as such can no longer be fobbed off with Thomas The Tank Engine or Postman BLOODY Pat…oh no…his wellies needed to be COOL…super-COOL infact!
The search seemed endless and the shops crammed with January sale bargain hunters but just as death was beginning to loose it’s sting I spied them…a pair of BLUE wellies in SIZE 11 with pictures on…Dr Who wellies no less emblazoned with pictures of darleks and cybermen…PERFECT! Just a pair of rubber Wellington boots to you and me maybe but to Dan they represented THE WELLIES OF HIS WILDEST DREAMS!
To say Dan was thrilled with his new wellies would be a gross understatement! When I got back from the shops just before lunch he opened the bag, described them as “completely fantastic” and put them straight on. He wore them for the rest of the day around the house. He ate his lunch in them…and his dinner! After dinner he changed into his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pyjamas and put his wellies back on and wore them till bedtime! I wrestled them off his feet after his bedtime story and his socks were ringing wet with sweat. Had he worn them for a moment longer I feel sure trench foot would have set in and he would have ended up walking around on stumps. His feet didn’t smell horrible though…quite pleasant infact…you know that lovely new plasticy smell that leaves you taking numerous sniffs and still wanting more…like a new pencil case…or a new paddling pool….or a bicycle tyre. When Dan finally got into bed he left his boots next to it so in the morning he could “slip his feet straight in” as soon as he awoke. He did too…he climbed into my bed in the morning in nothing but his underpants and his new wellies. It rained that day but Dan didn’t want to go out for fear he would get his new wellies dirty and wet (surely the point of wellies?) and then wouldn’t be able to wear then indoors anymore! He has worn them indoors almost non–stop since he got them…they go straight on when he wakes up…off for school…and back on after school till bedtime! Now I may not be the brightest spark in the world but if the lovely Dermot asks me on Eggheads “does your son like his new Dr Who wellies?” I think I can answer with some degree of certainty “Yes Dermot...I think he does!”
The sight of your six year old dressed in nothing but a pair of Spiderman Y-Fronts and a pair of Dr Who wellington boots is quite the tonic for a somewhat down-at-heel Mummy I can tell you…but I have found another cause for pleasure of late…onions! Not just any old onion's though…those lovely sweet little red one’s. It’s not the taste of them so much (although they are delicious)…more the look of the little oniony blighters. When you peel off the rough papery skin what you reveal is a little jewel of lovliness…the most beautiful shade of red and so glossy and shiny you can almost see your reflection in it. Then when you slice it the underside of the skin is the whitest of whites you have ever seen contrasting with the deepest of reds. To me they are like rubies and I simply cannot peel one without marvelling at the beauty of its form and the sharp crisp sound you hear as you slice it. I have never in my life been quite so BLOODY excited about a vegetable…red onions are as pretty to me right now as flowers in a vase (although I guess that should the Sarge present me with a bunch of onions as a romantic gesture I may be faintly disappointed…but only faintly!) I know peeling onions is supposed to make you cry but all I can do is smile…a bit strange I guess…so I have a red onion fetish bordering on mild obsession?…well there you go! *SHRUGS SHOULDERS*
Onions aside family life rumbles on….actually if I was a bit sharper I’m sure there would be a nice neat way to link this next bit to my new found joy of onions! Actually I guess that I can…you see life can be a bit like the rough papery skin of an onion…boring and “everyday”…but look just beneath the surface and there is often something beautiful to be found….something special….a buried treasure you might say….
The other evening the four of us were on the sofa cuddled up together in the front room…two vacant armchairs…yet a sofa wedged with a sea of tangled arms and entwined legs! We were together in a physical sense but each of us had drifted away and was doing our own “thing.” I sat at one end of the sofa with my back on the arm rest and my feet in Rachel’s lap reading the newspaper and drinking a glass of wine. Rachel was reading too….as usual!....a book she had borrowed from the library called “Vile Victorians” (her thirst for all things historical is almost unquenchable) whilst leaning on her brother. Dan was playing with his Super Monkey Balls! (No!...not his genitalia!…the Nintendo DS game Santa gave him at the police station children's Christmas party) with his head nestled into his Daddy’s chest....and his wellies on...obviously! The Sarge was at the other end of the sofa watching a football match on the TV whilst holding an ice pack on his arm nursing his latest gym-related injury sustained in pursuit of the peak of physical fitness (his “thing”)
So there we were…the rain falling hard outside…all cosy and safe and content...
I looked down the line at my family…the children in the middle and me and the Sarge on the ends like two bookends protecting the fruits of our marriage from the harsh world outside. Looking at the three of them, all lost in their own little worlds, I thought to myself that at that very moment there was nowhere in the world I’d rather be or nobody I’d rather be with than these three remarkable human beings…they are my entire world…Rachel, Dan and the Sarge. Events of recent weeks may have made me question many things about myself and those around me but at that moment I finally began to feel the cloud that has rested over me begin to lift and for the first time in ages I felt truly happy again.
Rachel looked up from her book…..
“Mum…what does MUNDANE mean?”
“Oh…kind of ordinary…everyday….not very exciting…a bit boring I guess...kind of like the four of us sat here on the sofa doing not very much at all!”
“Oh I don’t think this is in the least bit MUNDANE Mum!”
“No mate...neither do I...why don’t you read to me for a bit?”
And she did...and all was well in the world...
“The life of a Victorian child was very mundane……………”
Love Alma xxx
Thursday December 27, 07
Nightmare On Alma Street!
There are lots of things that just don't mix...oil and water being the most obvious examples of the anti-mixing genre. But there are two things even more unmixable (in my opinion)....and they, my friends, are OCD and CHRISTMAS!
HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone...See you all (metaphorically speaking) in 2008!
Love Alma xxx
Sunday December 23, 07
"Everyday I Write The Book" ELVIS COSTELLO (1983)
Well the time has almost come to close the book on 2007 and file it away in the library that is life!
The question is where to file it? Shall I place it on a low shelf where it is easily accessible so that I may revisit it often and relive the adventures of the year gone by? Or shall I place it high and at the back where it will quickly become dusty and covered in cobwebs and forgotton amongst chapters past?
I guess you could say that, thanks to this journal of mine, my life is an open book and I have enjoyed sharing my life with you all over the past year...the ups and the downs...the peaks and the troughs. The beauty of documenting your life in this way is the ease at which you can revisit the past and remember the events that have made up your year....even the smallest insignificant detail preserved in the annals of time...
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The JANUARY sales saw me purchase a rather dubious new coat that the Sarge and the children said made me look like a dead-ringer for Kermit the Frog! Fashion-wise hardly my finest hour but I never was one to resist a bargain. The thing is it wasn't actually a bargain at all in the end as it has long since been dispatched to the local charity shop unworn...and I have a sneaky suspicion even they couldn't shift that BASTARD! JANUARY also saw Rachel studying the Romans in history and producing a Morrissey-inspired Roman shield. It was such a BLOODY masterpiece it lead to me finally working out how to attach photographs to my journal...and the rest as they say...IS history! It has been great sharing our family snaps with you all and hopefully bringing the old journal to life before your very eyes!
FEBRUARY found me in familiar territory...RANTING....this time about household waste and the veritable recycling centre that has invaded my small garden. We also had our first real snow of winter and my new found photographic know-how saw photos of the children building a snowman gracing my journal. Later in FEBRUARY Dan sent his paper FLAT-CAT on a journey deep into the English countryside for his Geography project and he popped up here too visiting the Roman Baths with my dear friend Anais and the family Nin! Valentines day came and went...sadly lacking in romance but for a midnight snuggle under the duvet with Dan as the Sarge worked the night-shift.
MARCH was Rachel month! My little girl got all creative learning to sew as well as producing a rather splendid MOZ-iac from just a few of the many scraps she had hoarded over the year. It wasn't a month without disappointment for the little lady though as she failed in her bid to become a member of the school council having been knobbled by the class bully and a rather large bag of sweets! The end of MARCH saw me writing my 100th journal stopping briefly to lament my own childhood along the way.
If MARCH was about Rachel then APRIL belonged to Dan who had a DINO-TASTIC month finally getting the dinosaur themed bedroom of his dreams...rrroooaaarrr! Two rather fabulous things happened to me too...firstly I got hold of a bootleg of Morrissey at Wembley after much cloak and dagger style wheeling and dealing allowing me the opportunity to relive the experience from the comfort of the sofa....LUSH! Then a little more wheeling and dealing saw me take delivery of my wonderful shiny new car (although by MAY a BASTARD bird had seen fit to take a huge SHIT on the bonnet and my over-zealous attempts at SHIT removal saw me scratch the FUCK out of my new pride and joy...aaarrrggghhh!)
MAY was a pretty up and down month really. As well as bird-shit-gate we said goodbye to our dear Uncle Ron. Opening the Christmas card from Auntie Chris the other day served to remind us all of Rons passing and that the festive season isn't a time welcomed by those of us who have loved and lost during the year and are alone at Christmas. On a brighter note MAY saw us celebrating Dan's 6th birthday with a day out hunting for dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum in giddy London as well as taking a family holiday in sunny Spain.
Along with the inevitable holiday report JUNE found me FINALLY replacing the family china, writing of Rachels lack of physical prowess on the school sportsfield, and then making it up to her by publishing some of her amazing poetry!
When JULY hit I started my 40th birthday countdown by taking stock my life, deciding being "half a person" totally sucked, and taking the rather controversial step of making myself unemployed! Time to put the children first I figured...and it was entirely WONDERFUL! Skint...but 'appy! We spent the remainder of JULY camping in our newly aquired two-man tent in the garden and playing bubble-tennis with our bubble-making machine in the hot summer sun (although I did take a brief respite to have a RANT about the smoking ban!)
AUGUST was FUN! We welcomed, after a few rather devasting false-starts, two new members to the family. Our goldfish Elvin and Angela are continuing to thrieve and have grown to twice their original size. We have had them over four months now...a Matters family record! Morrissey gave us all a bit of a scare in August with talk of retirement which found me playing the lottery in the hope of a trip to America...and failing miserably! Still...it WAS all talk...he has finally realized that "America is NOT the world"...and I will be at The Roundhouse come January...phew! I celebrated this with a memorable night-out watching The Smyths (I say "memorable"...but I can't actually remember it at all...but you know what I mean...binge-drinking-wise it truly was my finest hour!)
SEPTEMBER started on a low but ended on a high! Our dear Nanny Olive was attacked and robbed in the street and is still fighting to fully recover from her ordeal...it was a heartbreaking time for us all. Cue one rather welcome distraction in the form of my 40th birthday, mine and the Sarge's 10th wedding anniversary and a much anticipated trip to Disneyland in Paris! We had the most amazing holiday...made memories that will last forever...and the sting of getting old was well and truly eased as, for four days only, I became a child again!
I finally took delivery of my birthday gift from the Sarge in OCTOBER (well better late than never!) and was suitably surprized and thrilled by the new armchair he gave me for my kitchen...the boy done good! Wasn't quite enough to stop me RANTING though...this time about carrier bags, Foot and Mouth disease and the hell that is Trick or Treat! Oh...and the children formed their own pop band too which saw me reaching for the ear defenders with a certain amount of gusto!
And so to NOVEMBER and an invasion of headlice which saw us itching for all we were worth as well as scratching around to make financial ends meet here at Chez Alma! Rachel took her first steps towards womanhood trading in her vest for a crop-top and developing her first REAL crush on a boy...heaven help us all! I got a new job too at a local primary school...but sadly no whistle...and no tabard!
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
So there you have it!....now what to do with the 2007 chapter of the book?
If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago I would have filed it on a low shelf easily in reach and have revisited it often...a pretty good year. But then something happend that changed EVERYTHING. It is both too personal and too difficult to speak of here (not such an "open book" afterall) but suffice to say somebody close to me has hurt me in such a way as I could never have imagined and left me in the kind of pain that you would not wish on your most mortal of enemies. Funny how life has a way of lulling you into a false sense of security and then kicking you squarely and firmly in the BOLLOCKS (I know I don't actually have any BOLLOCKS...but if I did I think I would be correct in declaring them well and truly kicked) So I may not even place this chapter in the library of my life at all...sadly it is a year I would now much rather forget.
If I was to try and sum up my current state of well-being whilst neatly drawing upon the festive season for inspiration I would liken myself to a Christmas star that has lost its sparkle. But I WILL get through this and I WILL get my sparkle back and shine again. Who knows?...I may even shine more brightly than before! Life's funny like that...not funny ha-ha...funny peculiar...
Anyway...I came here today to say that I hope you have enjoyed reading my journal this year as much as I have enjoyed writing it and to wish you ALL a VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS and a 2008 that leaves you tickled pink and with memories for YOUR book that you will want to reach for and remember forever.
Love Alma xxx
Monday December 10, 07
It's been four months now since I quit my job to be a full-time Mummy again and it's been fabulous! I've loved being HERE for the children at weekends and during the holidays....no more rushing to squeeze working for a living into my already hetic day's spent nurturing the Matters children, feeding and watering the Sarge and keeping the nerve centre of Chez Alma together...my house has never been cleaner or more organized! We have been eating better too...more healthily...due to the time I have to prepare PROPER meals. The children haven't consumed a single chicken nugget or fish finger in months! Quite simply my return to full-time motherhood has been quite the best decision I have ever made. BUT...(well there's always a BUT isn't there?)
I thought I might miss adult company and the camaraderie of office life...I don't! I thought I might miss the challenge of work...I don't! What I do miss is the BLOODY money! This is the first time in my life that I haven't actually had any money to call my own and I like a decent moisturiser, good quality hair products and a nice mascara as much as the next girl (not to mention a decent bottle of wine from time to time!) In short I NEED SOME BLOODY POCKET MONEY!
I spoke to the Sarge about this and he was, as ever, supportive (although he never has really understood the value of a decent mascara or lip gloss...and even less so now he is paying for it!) The thing about the Sarge is that he is a wise man and gave me this advice...
"You need to find a job that really suits you...you don't want to end up in the same situation as last time...you should make a list of the things you really want and stick to it...don't make any compromises!"
So I did...
1. I don't want to work at the weekend
So that's what I wanted and decided to take the Sarges advice and stick to my guns...no compromises!
My next problem was my complete and total lack of any skills outside of paper-pushing WHATSOEVER! I was lamenting my unsuitability for any worthwile job one evening over dinner when Rachel said something...
"Well....you've got really good Mummy-Skills!"
I have always quite liked the idea of working with children. I ran the idea past friends and family who were united in their support saying "Oh Alma...you could do a job like that standing on your head!" (quite why I would want to do it standing on my head I don't know!) The thing is I didn't see it quite like that...I have always thought that caring for other people's children is a very difficult and challenging job and that only certain "special" people can really do it...and I don't know if I'm really "special" enough (despite what Rachel may think) What I do know is that like most things in life there is only one way to find out if you can do something...and that's to roll your sleeves up and give it a go!
So I visited the website of our local education authority and checked out the job section. There were two jobs on there that caught my eye...
The first was for a Teaching Assistant at a local Primary school and would involve being a mentor for a little boy with "special educational and emotional needs" I quickly dismissed this role as it seemed a huge leap from the kitchen-sink to the classroom. I'm all for diving in at the deep end but I didn't want to risk selling the little boy in question short. He sounded like he needed somebody with more experience than me (well any experience at all would be good!) I also didn't want to risk taking the job, realizing I wasn't up to it and letting him down...being there one minute and gone the next would surely be very unsettling for the poor lad and I just didn't want to risk it. I don't think I could sleep at night if I did that!
No...the second job was more me...
1. No weekends...check
PERFECT...not a single compromise to be had...so I applied for it on-line just making the closing date for applications of twelve noon one Friday afternoon by the skin of my teeth! At 4pm the school phoned me to invite me for an interview the following Monday at 12.00pm...eeek!
I had the interview at 12.00pm on the Monday with the Deputy-Headmaster (Mr Double-Barrelled- Surname) who said he would be "in-touch by telephone to let you know whether you have been sucessful but I do have other people to see"...blah...blah...blah
I got home from the interview and the Sarge asked how it went...
"Good...I think...but there were BLOODY kid's everywhere!"
"Well what did you expect Alma...it is a school afterall!"
At 2pm that same afternoon Mr Double-Barrelled-Surname telephoned me and offered me the job, which I hastily accepted, and you are now looking at...drum-roll please...the new PLAYGROUND CONTROLLER of a local Primary school!
I will be working each weekday from 11.45am to 1.15pm, have all the school holidays off with my own children and be doing something worthwhile and for the common good of the local community (and will have a couple of hundred pounds a month for mascara too....FABULOUS!)
My duties will be to ensure the safety of the children during lunchtime...deal with any playground skirmishes that may arise...initiate playground games....and,the way I see it, make sure the children are happy and having fun! I guess there may be some soggy knickers and vomit involved but what the hell...I'm a Mummy...that's my job!
I haven't totally given up on the idea of one day ending up in the classroom...infact Mr Double-Barrelled-Surname was most encouring in this regard...but it seems like the perfect place to start...to dip my toe in the water...to see if I am "special" enough afterall! The way I see it I really can't lose...
* If I hate it and decide a career in childcare
* If I like it but decide that I don't want to
* If I love it then it will be great experience
There is infact only one downside to my new job! When I applied I had my fingers crossed that I would be issued with a whistle!...and a tabard!...always quite fancied myself in a tabard...
But alas it was not to be!...Mr Double-Barrelled Surname must surely have sensed my disappointment when I enquired about the tabard...I REALLY wanted one (but sadly only the dinnerladies get to wear one...shame!)
Didn't get a whistle either...gutted! You see there isn't just one playground at the school. There are several different themed play areas kind of wrapped around the school building (a football/basketball area...a nature area...a quiet area for reading...an activity area...a climbing area) and it seems a humble whistle just doesn't cut the mustard!
Still...who needs a silly old whistle anyway?...not when your getting a WALKIE-TALKIE! How cool is that? Dan is VERY excited and has been helping me practice by making a "ccccrrrr" sound when he speaks to me and ending every sentence with the word "OVER"...he thinks it's BLOODY hilarious!...and it was...the first FIVE HUNDRED times...
"Mum...cccrrr...can I have a drink please?...OVER!"
"Mum....cccrrr...what time is it?...OVER!"
"Mum...cccrrr...I've done a poo!...cccrrr...can you wipe my bum?...cccrrr...OVER!"
There is one final brilliant thing about my new job...even better than the walkie-talkie (if that's even possible in the wonderful world of Dan) You see I don't start till after Christmas...so a few more weeks to indulge in full-time Motherhood...but guilt-free (not that I ever really felt guilty anyway!) as now(technically) I am back amongst the ranks of the gainfully employed...still would have liked a tabard though....
"I was looking for a job and then I found a job....cccrrr....OVER!"
Love Alma xxx
Wednesday November 28, 07
The signs have been coming thick and fast for ages now...subtle at first...now not so much! My little girl is growing-up..."and I do NOT...and I do NOT...like it!"
It all started back in August I guess when Rachel asked me for an MP3 player for her 8th birthday. I don't mind telling you I was BLOODY gutted that she had asked for such a grown-up gift! No more Barbie dolls or jigsaw puzzels for her. It was my own fault really as I had done nothing but encourage her love of music and she has been listening to Morrissey since she was in the womb! I had made my bed and now, it seemed, I would have to jolly well lie in it!
She got an MP3 player of course...a snazy pink affair which she loves...and as well as listening to it almost constantly she has mastered managing her own music library and playlists on the computer with relative ease. Her most played track is "To Me You Are A Work Of Art"...a very mature choice for one so young!
* * * *
The other morning we were saying goodbye in the school corridor at the beginning of another day and I was fussing about things (us usual)...
"Have you got your PE kit?...don't forget to hand in your homework...and the money for the school trip...and make sure you wear your coat at playtime....."
By now I was yelling as she was half way to class so she turned round and yelled back...
"You just worry about yourself Mum!"
Well that told me!
* * * *
The next sign of her impending womanhood came one evening after school when I was helping her get undressed for her bath....
"Mum...don't you think I'm getting a bit too old to wear a vest?"
I started pointing out that it is far to cold to go to school without one in November and so forth....but I was barking up the wrong tree entirely! It seems that she is the only girl in Class 4B who still wears a vest to school with all her friends favouring a CROP TOP under their school blouse...a BLOODY crop top! Rachel had become embarrassed when getting changed for PE that her underwear was a bit "babyish" and longed to be like her friends. Cue a quick trip to the local department store and a hasty purchase of some of these....
Sort of a half-way house between a vest and a bra I guess which she has been wearing with pride to school each and every day...and walking somewhat taller it seems to me! Whilst her first bra is still many years away this dawning of a new era underwear-wise has still made me a bit sad. I guess it's only a matter of time now before her huge belly-hugging knickers are replaced with more brief affairs and her childhood will start drawing to a close!
* * * *
On top of all this she has started to take a keen interest in boy's too...well not boy's as such...a particular boy! She has had a crush on Liam for weeks now and tell's me he is "good looking...smart...funny...and good at sport" sounding just like me describing the Sarge to my Daddy all those years ago!
I was pretty sure this crush was just a passing thing that would disappear as quickly as it had begun. I was wrong!
Yesterday she was working with a group of children that included Liam and his best mate Marcus on a history project on ancient Egypt. It seems Rachel put forward a suggestion for the project and Liam piped up with...
"That's a brilliant idea Rachel!"
Rachel said his face went red immediately that he said it and then Marcus said...
"Your only saying that 'cos you fancy her!"
Then Rachel's face went red too and Liam said "Marcus!" in such a way as to mean "you weren't supposed to tell her that!"
At the end of term whilst the smaller children, Dan included, will have a Christmas party complete with a visit from Santa the older children will be having a disco in the school hall and Rachel is convinced she could well have her first proper date!
The Sarge will no doubt deny this profusely but when she relayed this tale to us over dinner last night I swear his eyes went sort of watery! It seems I am not the only one feeling sad that our baby is a baby no more!
* * * *
We were watching a quiz show on telly the other night and the question master asked who wrote Black Beauty. Before I even had chance to shout out the answer Rachel yelled at the TV...
"Anna Sewell...I saw it in the Sunday Telegraph...or maybe it was the Sunday Times!"
My mouth fell open in disbelief....
"Since when did you start reading the broadsheets Rach?"
"Noooo!...I saw it on an advert on the telly...free inside the Sunday paper was a DVD of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty!"
* * * *
My final piece of evidence came the other day when I reached inside her school back-pack for her English homework and found this....
Check out that quiff!
I clearly remember writing Morrissey's name on my exercise books when I was at school! I would stare out of the window and dream of him and doodle his name and now my own daughter is doing the very same..."like mother like daughter" I guess! Suddenly I feel very old but can at least take solice in the fact that her spelling is impeccable....a lot of grown-up's can't spell MORRISSEY! Funny how life has a habit of going round full circle...the "circle of life" you might say!
* * * *
And so rests the case for the prosecution...my little girl is quite the young lady of late and I feel all at sea! Don't get me wrong...I am looking forward to watching her grow and develop and to doing girly stuff together like shopping for clothes and going to watch chick-flicks...I just didn't expect it to start happening quite so soon! I want my baby back..for a while at least!
What I needed was a sign...just a little something to cling to in my sea of despair...and I got it too...well almost....
We were discussing Christmas the other day and I asked Rachel want she might like from Santa. Her reply made my heart positively leap with joy!
"What I would REALLY like would be a doll's pram!"
WOW!...a sign if ever there was one...thank you God!
I am so happy that she has asked for what I consider to be the toy of a little girl having half expected her to ask for a telly for her room or the like! I will get her a doll's pram of course...or rather Santa will...a really smart one at that with a matching rain cover and pretty parasol and a handy shopping basket underneath...
So Rachel goes upstairs to plug herself into her MP3 player and I start the dishes smiling to myself...happy to have my baby back from the brink! Then she yells down the stairs...
"Mum!...you won't tell any of my friends about the doll's pram will you?"
"No mate...your secret's safe with me!"
*WINKS* and *SMILES*
Love Alma xxx
Sunday November 25, 07
What a knit!
From NITS to KNITS......
When the Sarge's Mum said she was knitting a new hat and scarf for Rachel for the cold winter months ahead I admit I was more than a little sceptical. Hand knits are a bit "hit & miss" if you ask me! I had visions of a rather dodgy bobble hat and scarf combo complete with pom-poms which, out of politeness, my little girl would be forced to wear and face almost certain humiliation from her fashion conscious friends in the school playground!
Needn't have worried though! Rachel is now the VERY proud owner of a rather "jaunty" beret with matching scarf and looks as pretty as a picture. Infact she can't wait to go to school tomorrow where she is certain she will be the envy of all her friends! As she herself said..."nobody else in the whole WORLD has got a hat and scarf quite the same as mine Mum!"
She would look quite at home on the front of the knitting patten I reckon!
Seeing her in it makes me smile...she looks so warm and cosy...and it reminds me that Christmas is just around the corner. This is such a special time of year for children....all the excitement and anticipation of what is to come...hope we get some snow!
So after worrying that I would have to bribe her to wear her new "winter warmers" I am mightily relieved...she is as pleased as punch and has scarcely taken them off since her Nanny gave them to her yesterday...last night she even wore them to bed!
After last weeks little headlice fiasco it's great to see her with something nice on her head... that doesn't itch...OR lay eggs!
Love Alma xxx
Wednesday November 21, 07
"Money Changes Everything" THE SMITHS (1986)
"There's something I wanted to tell you
I guess it was inevitable when I gave up working for a living back in August to be a full-time Mummy again that it wouldn't be long before me and the Sarge began to feel the financial pinch...well OUCH!...we are now suitable pinched!
Before you all start reaching for handfuls of cash, stuffing it in envelopes and posting it to us here at Chez Alma I should say we are not exactly destitute...not yet anyway! You can send cash (or cheques) if you want to of course...but it's really not necessary!
We CAN still pay the bills and we DO still have food in our bellies...life's necessities are covered...just! It's life's little luxuries that are in short supply right now. No more clothes shopping on a whim...lights are switched off when not in use...and no more organic veg for us...oh no...we are pulling on the family purse strings good and tight!
We used to save a little cash each month "for a rainy day"...not anymore...we are spending all that we earn now...and reaching for our umberella's!
Most notibly in our quest for financial survival I have had to curb my spritzer consumption and now only indulge at the weekends. This is probably not a bad thing from a health perspective I guess...but it sure sucks from a fun perspective!
I have for a while now had a little bare spot on the kitchen wall crying to be filled with a picture of some kind. This would of course be classed as a "luxury item" and is way down on the list of financial priorites right now! But there are no problems...only solutions. I was mulling over this particular dilemma on the way to pick the children up from school last week and the answer presented itself to me as soon as Dan came bounding out of his classroom, painting in hand! He had with him a crumpled picture of fireworks he had painted on black paper in beautiful iridescent paint which, after a quick visit to the local thrift shop for a five pound frame, now has pride of place on the bare spot in the kitchen.....
PERFECT! A piece of "original" artwork that didn't break the bank!
Another financial dilemma has surfaced in "kettle-gate!" Our kettle is five years old now and well and truly "on the blink!" It has in recent months become super noisey and when I switch it on to make a cup of tea the racket is like the taking off of a jet aircraft...this is more than a little annoying when one is trying to have a conversation (I have to yell above the din) or listen to the wireless. It is also refusing to switch itself off when the water has boiled and bubbles and spits at me like an angry cobra whilst I play russian roulette trying to switch it off at the wall without a serious scalding incident taking place. I simply can't afford a new one...but it is saving me a BLOODY fortune in tea-bags I guess!
As I said..there are no problems...only solutions. So when my Mother-in-law telephoned me last week to ask me what I wanted for Christmas I excitedly asked for a new kettle! I picked one out too...it is the grand-prix of kettles....£35 pounds worth of "quiet boiling" wonderfulness! Problem solved...if I can just make it to Christmas without a trip to the burns unit at the local hospital!
It is against this backdrop of penny-pinching and of making-do that our Morrissey has decided to "Come Back To Camden"...I want to go...of course I do...but I really can't afford it or justify such an extravagance...the ticket alone will be at least £35...then there's the travel...another £20...drinks...and lots of them...a T-shirt maybe....aaarrrggghhh!
In my dreams money would be no object for myself and Anais and we would purchase a coveted six day pass and wear our wristbands with pride. We would check into The Dorchester and spend our days wondering around Bond Street...maybe take in an exhibition at The Tate...a visit to the V&A maybe...take afternoon tea at The Ritz or Claridges...then after dark we would go on the Moz rampage and then sleep off the excesses of the night before in our luxury suite with breakfast served to us in bed on a silver tray. This isn't going to happen of course. It really is the stuff of dreams. We are two stay-at-home-Mummy's with budgets to match!
Maybe we could do it on a shoestring...a flea ridden hotel and a semi-nomadic life walking the streets till show-time. This won't happen either. We have our famailies to consider and there is no pause button on our lives to press. Quite apart from our financial constraints we have the hell that is "Mummy-Guilt" to deal with too.
I remember the morning after our last Mozzy-outing at Wembley last Christmas all too clearly. We were sitting in my front-room...Anais on the arm chair and me on the sofa...dressed in our pyjamas...mugs of tea in hand. We both had the emotions of the post-show blues to deal with...and I had a monsterous hangover too. The fairy lights on the Christmas tree were twinkling...we were not. We were racked with guilt...not at the money we had spent...but at the desertion of our families to follow our dream. We both hated leaving our children (even though both of our husbands were more that capable and very willing to take the helm without us) and we shead a tear or two at the way we had dropped everything and walked away from our responsibilties. When we were watching Morrissey we hadn't even thought of them...not once. We were filled with self-loathing and with guilt. Rightly or wrongly that's how we felt. At that moment we wanted more than anything to have our children in our arms again. Being a Mummy changes everything....forever.
So there will be no wristbands and no six-day passes for us. Morrissey may be taking up residency at The Roundhouse...but we will not! We will go and see our boy of course...but we will go once...and only once...on Friday. It won't be easy sitting at home night after night whilst Morrissey sings in my own backyard...but it's just how it has to be....
We have chosen Friday as we figure that most people will be at work thus giving us "layabouts" the strategic advantage! Whilst the workers will be in their offices and the students at their desks we will be free to queue from lunchtime, thus ensuring a prime position for the event. We usually go for stage-left...the side of the stage Morrissey tends to favour...and will elbow the elderly and infirm out of the way in dogged pursuit of our goal. Having looked at the Roundhouse seating plan though we are in a spin....
Well...it's not called The Roundhouse for nothing!
All we can do I guess is try for tickets in the BLUE-zone and then take our chances position-wise. The worst that can happen is that we will have to spend an hour and a half with Morrissey's bum in our faces...and I can think of worse plights! Quite how Morrissey will choose to work "in the round" I don't know...he will be like a gladitor in an arena of dreams!
Just the question of funding this little adventure to sort out now...there are no problems...just solutions....cue one rather frantic telephone call to my Mother-in-law very early on Saturday morning....
"Have you gone out to get my kettle yet?"
"No...I was just putting my coat on...."
"oooh!...oooh!...Can I change my mind?...can I have a Morrissey ticket instead of the kettle?"
"Well if that's what you want dear!...I guess you'll be wanting a babysitter too?"
So I'll have to put up with an unpredictable kettle as loud as a jet engine for now and risk getting scalded to death when I fancy a cuppa I suppose...and if it does explode I'll just have to boil water in a saucepan on the stove like my own mother used to do. The important thing is that I WILL be reeling around The Roundhouse come January with my Morrissey-partner-in-crime at my side. I may even try and stay (relatively) sober this time....
"Come back, come back, to Camden
Love Alma xxx