Thursday, 23 August 2012


I have been led to believe by other mothers - including my own mother -  that when your kids go to school, life gets easier. 'Oh, it'll be fine when he's at school!' they say, cheerily, when I complain about my stuttering, collapsing clown car of a career. 'Don't worry, he'll knuckle down and grow up when he goes to school!', they say, when I catch him sticking a pencil in his ear. 'You'll have all the time in the world - you can write novels and paint delicate watercolours and ride a dappled horse on a moonlit beach when he's at school'. And so on and so on.  But since he started his first half-day sessions on Wednesday, I am alternating between being busy, overwhelmed, bored, depressed, proud, happy, frustrated and having no idea what I'm doing. Here is a list of things that are freaking me out, in real time, right now.


1. First off, you've got to get up early EVERY DAY. No more putting on a Spongebob DVD and then returning to that brilliant sexy dream you were having about Paul Rudd. Did I say Paul Rudd? I meant, my husband* (*my husband, Paul Rudd). By the way, here's a clip of him and me, earlier.

2. My son's school appears to be obsessed with making them wear shirts and ties and smart trousers and having their picture taken constantly. Oh, the ironing, the sorting, the name tagging, the straightening and the fussing. I feel like a wardrobe assistant on Newsnight. ('Get me Clegg's trousers. No, not the grey ones - the GREY ones!')

3. It requires social interaction with adults in the morning! When you haven't even had your second cup of tea! Attempting to be funny! Making small talk! Asking after people! Remembering what they say! Gaaaaah! What am I? Graham Norton?

4. Where I live, there is a settling-in period at school, which means half days for 2 and a half godforsaken weeks. Half days of pain. Of teeny weeny rushed mornings, followed by tired tantrummy trauma and long, long afternoons. God knows how I find the time to write rubbish moany-arsed lists like this.

5. The trauma of change. I didn't cry in the playground, and I managed not to have a total meltdown in the school outfitters shop, or in the hairdressers, and I didn't even blub when I saw him for the first time in a pair of school shorts and his shiny new school shoes. But that doesn't mean I'm not deeply traumatised. I don't like change. I don't even like it when someone moves a piece of furniture, or I don't have my special pizza in Pizza Express, or they've run out of Frubes at the Co-op.

6. My child has started pretending he's a teacher. That means when I'm writing anything he asks me: 'do you do it this way?' *penetrating look* 'Or this way?' 'Do you start from the top, or from the side?' 'Very good!' It's weirdly instructional, like a junior Christian Grey. 'Would you like to come into my red room of Jollyphonics?'

7. Oh yeah, they do Jollyphonics. I will jollyphonics yo ass. That's A (apple, ant) S S (snake movements). My kid doesn't know whether he's learning to read or whether he's a reptile.

8. Then there's the letters to the parents. So many letters, all in COMIC SANS. Oh, my eyes. I am font sensitive, people. I'm going to lobby the parent council to get them to switch it Arial as a matter of the utmost urgency.

9. I have a problem with authority. In that I'm obsessed with pleasing authority and not getting into trouble. This leads to much stressful faffing, trying to please a teacher who is about ten years younger than me and probably couldn't even beat me at a cut-throat game of Connect 4.

10. Did I mention the Comic Sans? 

Anyway, I'm sure it'll all be fine. I am in a period of flux. I'm sure I will get used to the rushing and the fretting and the letters and the homework, and when he gets to do full days, I will be on easy street, hanging out with the other mums, drinking Lambrini at the gates. Make it happen soon, though - I can stand any more worrying about creases in all those identical grey pairs of trousers... 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


Now we're full on OlympicaddicksTM, there's never been a better time to feel shit about yourself because you've not spent the last 4 years running 150 miles a day in the rain with torn ligaments and tears of pain in your eyes. You don't have a xylophone midriff, you will never know glory, and the closest you'll get to gold is a box of Terry's All Gold from your Aunty Pat at Christmas (if you don't like the strawberry creams, I'll have them - ta).

As a result of the sheer emotional drama of the Olympics - which according to my Olympic Emocalculator outnumbers Cowell's singing dogs and the tearful journeys of X-Factor contestants by about 18,000 to one - I've noticed a seismic shift. A large amount of impressionable people have started Ostentatious Running. Whereas two weeks ago they were just running to tick off a lifestyle box and make themselves feel better about eating a large pie, joggers everywhere are pushing themselves, aping The Ennis and getting arse cramp. People with no previous interest in sport are throwing themselves over sandpits willy nilly. My own husband has taken up tennis, which is HILARIOUS. It's like the 'before' bit at the beginning of Casualty featuring cheerful builders putting up dangerous scaffolding as a baby goes by in its pram. It's like an Eastenders party. 'Bad Idea' is written through it like a stick of dangerous pointy rock.

Of course, by extension, the Olympics will also influence parents to force their useless, talentless children to practice a variety of sports against their will. This 'inspire a generation' line, cooked up by copywriters (who do nothing but sit in front of Macbook Pros listening to 'Tea Time Theme Time' on BBC 6 music and making up Lolcats captions) has put ideas into the nation's heads. Soon, children will be marched to velodromes and forced to train for hours going round and round on little Thomas the Tank Engine bikes, to the booming accompaniment of 'The Boys Are Back In Town' -  while Paul McCartney waves a Union Jack and gives two thumbs up.

Perhaps before we embrace this whole idea of Inspiring a Generation, we should have a good look at ourselves. We might like pretending to be an athlete when we go running, but we will never possess the skills and commitment to be one. It's a fantasy, a happy fantasy that might create a few good health benefits - or bad ones - but a fantasy nonetheless. I used to pretend to be Tracy Austin by batting a tennis ball against the back of the house because I LIKED HER EARRINGS - does that make me an athlete? No, sir, it does not. (Her earrings were totally awesome diamond ones, by the way, and they went really nicely with her tan). What we really need is more realism. Why don't we just set ourselves a goal we can stick to? How about 'Inspiring a Generation To Do A Tiny Bit More Exercise Before They Go To Greggs.'?

Equally, we really shouldn't get carried away and push our children towards disappointment. Not before we ask them what they think, anyway. My child is by no means swept away by the emotional and physical dramas of the Olympics. His attitude is both world-weary ('not watching the lympics AGAAAAAAIN') and slightly arrogant ( 'I can do that' he shrugged, as he watched Usain Bolt run faster than a comet). Occasionally, I can see a glimmer of inspiration, like when he pretends to go up on starting blocks and runs wildly out of the room and into a chest of drawers. But I'm not going to kid myself I have a Little Mo Farah. Like his Ma, he prefers to watch the telly and make sarcastic comments. It might not win him any medals, but we can still have a good time. As long as he keeps his hands off the strawberry creams.