When Did I Become the Oracle at Bollocks?

The Family Trivia

Confession: I am held together by Post It Notes

In ancient Greece, the area of Delphi contained a sanctuary where Apollo was said to speak through an older woman ‘of blameless life.’ This woman, Pythia or the sibyl, was the priestess of  ‘the Oracle at Delphi.’ She would fall into a trance and her ecstatic ramblings would be interpreted by priests who put them into neat rhyming verses. People consulted the Oracle on all sorts of important matters from the timing of wars to personal and political crises. That Pythia had power…such PowHer!

And I too,  a woman of <cough> blameless life, am consulted regularly by my offspring and husband.  They wait until I have entered a trance-like state fuelled by caffeine and the therapeutic vapours emanating off Liz Earle products (hopeful brand mention, fishing for freebie) before asking me questions of vital importance such as:

“Do I have any clean pants?”

I take a moment to gaze into the small crystal monkey that I won in the school tombola and, before I know it, cryptic couplets just, like, materialize. Enlightenment comes pouring out of my gob. My wisdom positively SPRAYS FORTH like spittle from a cross footballer’s mouth.

“Do you have clean cacks? I’m not sure what you mean,

But there’s this thing in the kitchen called a washing machine.

You put in dirty pants and clothes that you have worn,

Put in soap, turn the dial and press the button orn.”

Or:

“What’s for dinner?”

“I’m not sure, 

it’s hard to discern

But it will be something you don’t like

and very likely burned.”

Or:

Muffled voice from behind locked bathroom door:  “Argghhh…<ruffling sounds> Do we have any more toilet roll?”

 “If the silver roll thing is empty

The answer my child, is no.

When did I become the Oracle at Bollocks?

That’s what I would like to know.”

Etc etc, you get the picture. And so my question is, when exactly did I become the Oracle at Bollocks? The Font of all Shizzdom? When did I become the receptacle of all family trivia? I am like a human fucking cork board. I am the person equivalent of a fridge covered in crappy notes and timetables held on by crappy miniature Eiffel Tower magnets and those ones that say ‘I Love Ibiza’ on them. Post It Notes should come in flesh colour so that  when I stick them on me, from a distance it will just look like I’m one of those really cool women with lots of ‘up yours’ tattoos all over my body when actually I am a walking To-Do List of Trivia.

I’m tracing back the moment in time where I became the Oracle at Bollocks. Ah, there it is. The moment I had a baby. The baby came out of me. My partner was sent home while I, broken yet enjoying the opiates, was left holding her. Yes, my partner went home and ‘got some rest’ and I was taught my first bit of bollocks ~ how to put a baby grow on a wriggly new born whilst still looking sexy.  Women’s work don’t you know.

And I didn’t wholly mind it, for a while. Being the Oracle at Bollocks. When my children were very small. But now, they’re both at school and I have time and a brain. Can someone else hold one of my bollocks now please? I’m tired and I want to do something clever.

15 Things I Want My 7 Year Old Daughter To Know

Our cat eating Barbie

Molly our cat protests at the impossible standard of physical perfection demanded of women which contributes to epidemic cultural body dysmorphia and continued gender inequality…

The Biscuit Thief is turning 7 on… wait for it… 12.12.12. YES she is my magic, alien, mystical baby. In preparation for this milestone, I have been thinking about all the things she is now ready to know:

1. It is awesome that you get yourself dressed for school now, but it’s always good to include pants on the inside of your leggings.

2. An apple is a kind of fruit and a mac is a kind of lightweight coat that keeps the rain off.

3. It is not funny to say “cock” in front of granny even though it appears to make daddy laugh.

4. Barbie is not representative of women. Anywhere. In any way. And the cat was right. (See photo)

5. No, it is not acceptable that, as a woman, you are likely to be paid less than your male counterparts doing the same work. The fight for equality goes on and I’m sorry we still haven’t fixed that for you.

6. The one hour kazoo concert you gave was… unforgettable…and  mummy is REALLY SORRY that she can’t remember where she hid put your kazoo afterwards.

7. Disneyland is closed.

8. The ‘F’word is not ‘fanny’.

9. Shreddies are not really “knitted by nannas”.

10. The Tooth Fairy can do all that stuff because a) she’s magic and b) she’s a woman.

11. The feisty, determined, rule-breaking, wildness in you that is so hard to parent sometimes, is exactly what will make you an awesome adult.

12. It is not going to be possible to meet Rapunzel. She’s a fictional character.

13. There isn’t really such a time as ‘Gin O’Clock’.

14 . Mummy and daddy are not perfect, but we love you very much.

15. Actually, mummy is perfect.

Women with Unnaturally Perfect Hair During Childbirth

Rachel from Friends Giving Birth

Rachel and Ross from Friends demonstrate perfectly coiffured childbirth.

Miranda Sex in the City Giving Birth

Ok, Miranda has one small hair out of place but SJP? A ‘real’ birth partner would be knackered and covered in bite marks/poo.

Christina and Will from Up All Night

Oh Come on… a fugging HAIRBAND? Christina and Will in Up All Night

Blonde Woman in Labour

This is how I thought I looked…but I didn’t

Spotted any more…?

8 Things Every New Mother Needs: Where’s My F**king Medal?

New MotherhoodI don’t know about you, but after I gave birth, I expected some serious adoration, praise, and general worship. A small eulogy on the wonders of my cervix or a small (cushioned) pedestal would not have gone amiss. However, like most women who give birth in hospital, it was quickly made clear that as a new mother I was not, in fact, a goddess, but part of a prime consumer market.

Most rites of passage involve symbolic gift giving, and so it is with hospital birth. You will be visited by men and women in strange outfits who will proffer words of wisdom and hand you … The Bounty Bag.  This is a plastic bag containing a disparate collection of ‘goodies’ supplied by various companies who, make no mistake, do not love you. Sorry, but they just want your baby bucks.

This demented version of the frankincense, gold and myrhh story usually consists of some leaflets about formula breast milk, a free nappy, some leaflets, a pot of Sudocrem, some leaflets, baby wipes and some leaflets.  And just in case you are in any doubt about your new role as Queen of the Laundry, there will also be a sample of washing powder. WASHING POWDER!!!!!! What is this? 1952?

SOD THAT! This is what should actually be in The Bounty Bag:

1. A medal. This should ideally be forged from enough quality gold that it equates to the value of lost income over a lifetime that every mother experiences.

2. A big vat of chicken soup containing all the nutrients a new mother needs. Also, several laminated copies of the recipe to be handed to friends and relatives with the words, “Do not arrive on my doorstep without tupperware filled with this.”

3. Another laminated sign aimed at parents and in-laws that reads, “No advice necessary. You have already shown me all you can about parenting.”

4. A tube of Touche Eclat and the sort of mirror Dorian Gray might use.

5. Gin

6. Some sort of wank machine for your partner, or alternatively some “Closed for Business Until Further Notice” stickers that fit nicely across your newly arranged croissant.

7. An electronic sanding machine to run over your nipples thereby toughening them up for breastfeeding.

8. Gin. Oh God, have I said that already?

What have I missed?

5 Half Term Projects That Cost Less Than A Sausage

[This is a reposting of a blog I did for the Spring Half Term but with a Halloween update… enjoy!]

I’m really looking forward to half term week with my 6 year-old Biscuit-thief, and I’m determined not to watch Cbeebies even once, however much I miss it.

This is my top five list of things we’ll be doing that cost under £1! Yes! These activities cost less than a sausage and yet, are somehow priceless.

1. Do a mind control experiment

I seriously LOVE this experiment and can still remember doing it when I was 7. IT CHANGED MY LIFE and is the best possible way to teach children the power of positive thinking. Literally, mind blowing.

You will need:

  • A packet of cress seeds
  • Some kitchen towel
  • Three trays/old ice cream containers or similar
  • Three labels/stickers
  • Some thoughts
  • Some words

Pad the bottom of each container with kitchen towel then, with a measuring jug, pour equal amounts of water into each tray – just enough to dampen the towel, not soak it. Then, sprinkle roughly the same amount of cress seeds on top of the dampend kitchen towel in each tray.

Make three labels; one that says something nice like “love”, one that says something horrible like “hate” and leave the third blank. Put one label on each tray. Place the trays side-by-side so that they get equal amounts of light and heat.

Now, here’s the important bit: over the next week, encourage your Biscuit-thief to say or think really lovely things towards the LOVE tray. They can say and think equally mean things about the HATE tray and have to ignore the third tray. Every day, they need to pour equal amounts of water into each tray to keep the seeds moist whilst thinking and saying lovely or mean things to the relevant seeds.

You and they will FREAK OUT when, by the end of half term, the LOVE tray of seeds has grown faster with thicker stems than the seeds in the poor little HATE tray. It’s a bizarre, brilliant life lesson courtesy of cress. And watch the penny drop as your sproglets realize the damage they are doing when they call you a smelly fart head.

 2. Colour code the week

On Monday morning, decide with your sproglet what the colour theme of each day will be for example, Monday = Red, Tuesday = Yellow etc. Whatever you do that day, from the clothes you both wear to the food you all eat, there must be an emphasis on that colour.  They can count how many red cars, how many people they see wearing red jumpers etc on that day. The screams when they see a purple car on purple day… you have no idea. Not only will you realize that very few of us can really get away with that pastel orange Top Shop are trying to sell us, it’s also brilliant when the kids get to Friday and realize they have to eat lots of greens. Crafty eh?

3. Play Boredom Bingo

Boredom Bingo
Play Boredom Bingo this half term!

My 6 year-old is never happier than when she has a clipboard and pen in her hand. Maybe she’s going to be a polling officer or telly-offy type person when she grows up. I worry about her love of bureaucracy, it’s as if I’ve taught her NOTHING. Anyway, she makes lists in connection with whatever we’re doing. For example, on a trip to our local corner shop, the Biscuit-thief will make a list of ‘expected sightings’ to tick off like:

  • A woman crying
  • Some dog poo
  • Someone hugging a hoodie
  • An abandoned mattress
  • A really cocky urban fox

Apart from the fact that we REALLY MUST MOVE house, an average trip is transformed from boring milk run to fascinating detective trail. If she spots all five things, she has to shout, “BOREDOM BINGO” at the top of her lungs and wins a kiss from mummy. I really must copyright Boredom Bingo.

4. Make a sculpture from your tears

This is genius because you can turn your nervous breakdown into a science experiment:

You need:

  • A jam jar with a lid
  • Some string
  • A spoon
  • Some water
  • Some salt
  • Some tears

Make a small hole in the lid of the jam jar and put a piece of thickish string through it, tying a knot at the top so it can’t fall through the lid. Fill the jar with warmish water and add a few table spoons of salt. Mix with a spoon and let the salt dissolve. Every time you or your sproglets cry over half term, catch a few of the tears in the jam jar to add to the salt mix. Place the lid with the string onto the jam jar and behold as over the week, the salt clusters around the string to form a gorgeous, crystalline gem. The size of the crystal will depend on how many tears have been shed. BRILLIANT.

5. Make an Ancestor Tree

There is almost nothing that makes the Biscuit Thief happier than full permission to CUT THINGS UP or HUNT FOR STICKS. This timely Halloweeny activity is perfectly suited to her forager tendencies. First you need to find a nice big tree branch. If you can’t find a real one, draw a tree on a large bit of paper with lots of branches sticking out. Then you need to print off pictures of as many of your relations as you can, as far back as you can go, and stick them onto your tree or hang their photos from the branches of your stick. Even if you don’t have photos or much knowledge about your relations, it is amazing to jot down the family myths and stories you have inherited on post-it notes, and stick them all over the tree. It is a great way to engage your sproglets with their roots, bringing an element of storytelling and rembrance to this magical time of year. Obviously, you may need to edit the stories to be ‘age appropriate’. I’m not going to mention Aunty Stella’s over-fondness of gin to the Biscuit Thief just yet.

All This Scratching is Making Me Itch: Are Tights a Feminist issue?

Vintage Stocking Ad

Vintage Stocking Ad image from http://vi.sualize.us

The leaves are coming down which means the tights are going up in our house. While the Teenage Songbird is dressing her shapely pins in skeins of sheer and shimmer,  the Biscuit Thief and I are just plain itchy and scratchy. We, with our highly reactive ‘sensitive’ skins,  practically BLEED with annoyance the entire autumn/winter season because of the brutal and perilous world of tights and wool in general.  As an added bonus, my seasonal look is topped off by a nose that becomes my personal temperature, mood and alcohol gauge from September to February with a neutral setting of ‘shiny, scarlet and dripping’. I spend the chilly months living in fear that the thin, papery husk of skin holding me together might, at any moment, rip open like the Hulk’s shirt, causing my guts to tumble out onto the gum-strewn pavement; the shiny burgundy reds of my liver and kidneys disappearing among the sodden autumn leaves.

Getting the Biscuit Thief dressed for school in the autumn/winter is a confusion of limbs, tears and static. She’ll put on one skirt/tights combination, dance around like a whinging monkey in tin shoes for twenty minutes, then remove the whole lot about five minutes before we have to leave. She then tries on every pair of black trousers she owns until she finds THE ONES THAT AREN’T ITCHY MUMMY. She is anti-tights, anti-trousers, anti any kind of containment really and I feel her pain. Winter is just SO CONSTRAINING. It totally elevates my desire to train as a trapeze artist or pilot to the top of my ‘to do’ list, and I come over all tubercular, pining with empty longing every time I come across an unopened pack of 70 denier. I just can’t sit still while the heating clicks through the pipes and the rain spits the earth from my window boxes for weeks on end; winter makes me figuratively and literally ITCH.

I have yet to find a cold weather solution that works clothes or activity wise and so, I feel, I must move somewhere warm where I can bake my leathery vellum dermis on slow burn all day in just a pair of pants.  I need, frankly, to let it all hang out.  I lived in California for a while and I’ve got to say,  I loved the freedom of  life lived outside all year round, released from the unbreathable layers of textiles required for English living.  However, I did miss the  toasty comfort and nostalgia of the British autumn and the ego-pummeling vehemence of our winters for that is the stuff of tortured poetry. Yes, I missed the conviction of the seasons when I lived in California because I so desperately require structure for my mind, but ah, how my body loved its freedom from fibre.

My grandfather owned a wool mill in Yorkshire and lost his world to acrylics and nylon, so perhaps it’s some kind of ancestral destiny that I should forever suffer the itch, the itch. Apparently there isn’t such a thing as a wool allergy, it’s more that the coarse wool fibres poke into one’s skin causing irritation and inflammation, frazzling the nerves and causing the release of histamines. Wool turns me into an irritable splatter-painting of blotchy crimsons. To wear it feels like allowing millions of ants shod in tiny, heated stilettos made out of needles to perform a Busby Berkley tap dancing routine on my torso leading to the incredibly sciency question, WHY DON’T SHEEP ITCH? I find acrylics, nylon and lycra no less annoying than wool; it’s a case of clothing claustrophobia! Scarves, tights, polo necks, hats, and mittens; these are the moth-luring terrorists of my clothes cupboard and I want them extradited.

Tights come packaged with all sorts of schmexy word kisses like ‘gusset’, ‘denier’, ‘sheer support’ and ‘control’, but this just disguises the fact that they are in cahoots with yeast and cystitis, home to thrush and the peppery sweat of inner thighs. Tights are basically giant acrylic-mix condoms for legs; unsexy, good for one time use only, and prone to holes. And yet leggings, leggings are just wrong, reminding me too much of my own state of permanent indecision. “Are you trousers or are you fucking tights?” That’s what I want to say to leggings. And as for jeggings! Jeggings are in such a state of identity crisis that the idea of them makes me shudder even more than the thought of Jeremy Clarkson leaving a pube hair in the soap.

The important question is, are men doing it? Are men doing tights? Are men doing scratchy gusset torture? They used to, before they realised that it’s pretty hard to rule the world if you are itchy, yeasty or have a raging forest fire in your bladder. These days, the only men in tights are the dancers it would seem, and those playing Hamlet.  And so I leave you with this question, are tights a feminist issue? or do I just need to wear jeans until the bunnies get frisky?