Archive for May 2012
It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was a trendy young thing, thinking that bed by 1am was an early night – then kids happened and, well, now I find myself dying my grey hairs, falling asleep on the sofa by 9 and having conversations about cruising with complete strangers.
Cruising on ships, I mean, of course.
For DH and I will be about half-way through our first ever cruise this time next month (assuming the ship hasn’t sunk of the coast of Corsica). And, to be honest, we’re slightly embarrassed about it – a fact that’s not helped at all by our dearest friends, who find the thought of DH and I going on a cruise both utterly hilarious and deeply appalling in equal measures, and never fail to remind us of that when we see them.
Aside from the fact that cruising is traditionally the vestige of silver-haired, empty-nesters and desperate spinsters, they can think of nothing worse than being stuck on a floating city of a ship with a load of American package tourists, stuffing our faces with mass-produced, all-you-can-eat buffet food.
And they may well be right.
But today I met a lady who looked to all intents and purposes very nice. She was about my age, had a child about the same age as DD and was – get this – going off on a cruise tonight. Furthermore, it wasn’t her first! Within seconds of meeting her, the two of us were on a roll, discussing the merits of stateroom categories; kids’ club offerings; Mediterranean itineraries versus Asian itineraries; and, of course, the joys of “Family Time Dining”.
“Oh my god, it’s just amazing for the kids,” she bubbled, her eyes shining with excitement. “They’ll have the best time – and so will you!”
And, with four weeks to go till departure, I’m still not convinced. But, if all else fails, I’ll spend the week sitting on my stateroom balcony, G&T in one hand and book in the other, gazing wistfully at the ocean and planning a novel about what happens to a young couple who get sucked unwittingly into cruising before their time…
“Mummy, did they use the cane when you were at school?”
Given that they phased out corporal punishment while I was at school I thought that was a very good question from DD.
“And did they have the Dunce hat?”
“Yep.” I went to a Grammar School that was big on punishments. The cane, the slipper, the ruler, the Dunce hat, lines, essays, detentions…
“Did you ever get it? The cane or the Dunce cap?”
“Not the cane, but yes, I had to wear the Dunce cap once.”
“It’s a long story…” [I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice to say it still amuses me to this day].
“Wow. And what about slates? What was it like writing on a slate?”
“Well, it’s just that we’re learning about Victorian times and you didn’t have paper and pens at school then, did you? I thought you had to write everything on slates with chalk…?”
Oh yes, that’d be right: Victorian times.
Every parent hugged their children a little tighter this morning as we read about the 13 children – all younger than four – their teachers and the two brave firemen who died in the fire.
How does a parent get through something like that, especially the Weekes family, who lost triplets who were just two years old?
It’s every parent’s nightmare that something happens to the children while they’re supposed to be in a safe environment. We check nurseries for cleanliness, for English-speaking staff, for a good curriculum and bright, child-friendly facilities – but I, for one, have never asked about evacuation drills, nor checked for sprinklers and fire exits.
But, as stories of collapsing stairs, defunct sprinklers and badly marked exits start to emerge regarding the Doha tragedy, I doubt I’ll be the only one looking at my children’s school and nursery with fresh eyes tomorrow morning.
My thoughts are with all those touched by this tragedy.
Sometimes I find myself envying mums of older children.
Stuck as I am in the physical drudgery of motherhood, it seems to me that mums with kids who are, say, 10+ are on a winning streak: They can take their kids on adventurous and exotic holidays; their kids can do homework without constant supervision; the mums have time and energy to have hobbies; and, most importantly, they get good sleep because they’re not being woken up in the night by dreams about witches or urgent toilet crises, neither are they being woken up by small people at 5.45am saying, “My clock’s still blue! Come and look!”
But if I talk to mums of teens, they say it’s just as bad, but in a different way. The worries change, of course – to things like walking home alone after school; crossing roads; being passengers in other teens’ cars; drinking and drugs; driving; staying out all night; and exam pressure.
In fact one friend I know whose kids are now in their 20s looks back fondly to the stage I’m now at. “They were the best years of my life,” she tells me misty-eyed, before zipping off to Istanbul, Goa or Singapore for the weekend, footloose and fancy-free.
And sometimes I wonder if she’s right. At the moment I’m excused from working full-time because I’m being a stay-at-home mum, which is something DH appreciates massively (in fact, every time I consider a return to work, he asks what’s the pay, then says he’ll pay me double to stay at home).
So, instead of sitting in an air-conditioned office, my days are spent dealing with tradesmen, running errands and dripping about in the heat. Yes, there’s a lot of drudgery, cooking and school runs, but there’s also something quite lovely about listening to the little ones chattering about their day in the back of the car.
And, when the tantrums and the sleep deprivation get out of hand (and that’s just me), I try to see the advantages of staying at home with small children:
- · Spending the afternoon sunbathing in the pool while the kids swim.
- · Having “playdates” with my friends on the pretext that our kids like each other.
- · Doing fun, “kid” activities, like ice-skating, all over again.
- · Taking the kids for dinner at cocktail hour and enjoying a nice glass of wine while they eat.
- · The feel of a squishy little hand in mine.
- · Lovely little full-body cuddles.
- · Being on the receiving end of all the love of a small child has to give.
- · The sweet, biscuity smell of children pre-puberty (I’m dreading the acne and BO).
- · Those throaty chuckles that I really should be taping.
I don’t know how your mornings are, but mine are a slick operation, especially if I’m trying to get to my 8.30am yoga class. (I’m slightly bewildered by those with no children who turn up late to this class – how can you be late when all you have to do is get yourself up and out?)
Between getting up at 6am and getting DS to school at 8.15am, I’m a whir of multi-tasking activity, inhaling my own breakfast while whizzing round the kitchen like a six-armed robot, preparing breakfasts, lunches, hairdos and school bags in order that everyone’s day goes as smoothly as possible.
Once DD is out of the house and I’m showered and dressed (itself an exercise in speed), I throw DS into the car and drive smartly to his nursery, where I grab his lunch box, water bottle, swimming bag and him, and jog to the nursery gate.
For the past two hours, every fibre of my being has been concentrated on getting to this point at this point in time. I have three minutes to get DS into class and be back in the car – and then I meet her: Slow Mum.
Slow Mum does not have a slick morning operation going on. The highlight of her day is dropping off snotty little Veronica Verucca at the nursery before she goes home to pick fluff out of her belly button and watch daytime TV on the sofa.
Furthermore, Slow Mum has a large bum, which blocks the entire gate. And Slow Mum can’t even imagine that anyone else may be in a hurry.
Oh no, Slow Mum wants the world, his wife and every nursery school teacher in the vicinity to greet Veronica Verucca with kisses and hugs, while her large bum brings everyone else’s drop-off shuddering to a halt.
“Oh, Veronica Verucca, have you got a kiss for Miss X?” she tinkles in a baby voice while the speedy-morning mums and the working mums with 20 minutes to get to DIFC pile up behind her, like an apocalyptic disaster on the Emirates Road.
Veronica Verucca clearly doesn’t want to kiss Miss X, but while the wheedling’s going on the rest of us are bouncing on our toes, eyes boggling with disbelief, desperate to push her fat bum through the gate.
“Excuse me, please, can we just squeeze through?” one of us squeaks, trying to disguise the frustration as we edge past the bum and make a break for the second gate.
But no. Veronica Verucca gets there first and Slow Mum heaves her lardiness in front of us once more, blocking the next gate and causing another pile-up. “Hee hee,” she giggles. “Veronica Verucca wants to go to Big Class today! Aww!” She rolls her eyes at us. “She’s so cute!”
Slow Mum, I’m sorry: Your daughter is not cute. It’s hot and we’re in a hurry. Tomorrow, we may not be so polite.
I had my teeth whitened yesterday. I thought I’d looked into it quite closely given it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for the past seven years.
But, after I’d endured the misery that is sitting in the dentist’s chair with my mouth clamped open for the best part of an hour with the order not to move a millimetre lest the laser burn off my eyebrows, the dentist surprised me with two statements:
1) “Don’t eat anything for two hours.” Which is not what you want to hear at 12.45pm.
2) “Don’t eat or drink anything highly coloured for a week. Coffee, tea, red wine, tomato sauce – anything with dense colour.”
To be honest, I was vaguely aware of the “pale food” diet, though I thought it was only for a day or two that you had to be careful. No wonder he asked me if I could do without red wine for a week; I’d thought he was just checking to see if the alcoholic rumours were true.
So was it worth it?
For a start, it didn’t hurt at all. It took me seven years to pluck up the courage to do it because I’m not even as brave as the Andrex puppy when it comes to dental pain, and the internet is full of reports of post-treatment sensitivity that causes “shooting, burning pains” for 24 hours after treatment.
But, after two painless if tedious 15-minute sessions, my teeth only lightened by one shade, if that – I’m not a smoker and, to be honest, they weren’t heavily stained. Furthermore, the whitening revealed some dark patches of “damaged” enamel, so, while the overall effect is of clean and sparkly teeth, the front teeth actually look slightly mottled now. I guess, with hindsight, no amount of peroxide will make tooth enamel whiter than it’s naturally capable of being.
Next week I’ll be getting a custom-made home-whitening kit, also included in the cost, which the dentist says will continue the process and perhaps remove the mottling.
But what did the all-important man in my life, DH, think? He barely noticed. All I can say is, with a seven-day ban on red wine, I’m jolly glad gin’s transparent.
Cost: AED 2,000
Value for money: 5/10 – may increase after using the home-whitening kit.
I nipped out of the house today to pick up yoghurt as part of my “white” dinner (more on this tomorrow). A trip to the local shop here is about as exciting as waiting for DS to vomit, which is what I’d spent a large part of today doing, so I didn’t bother strapping on the gold Jimmy Choos, as I’m sure you can imagine.
But, as I walked out of the shop, a pot of low-fat yoghurt in each hand, I heard a strange rumbling sound, which heralded the arrival in the car park of a most unusual-looking car driven by a rather nice-looking young man. Being something of a secret petrol-head, I had a split-second thought about going over to ask him about his car. Maybe he’d even let me sit in it!
But, then I remembered.
Having popped out from my vigil by DS’s sick bed, I was in no fit state to be seen by handsome young sports-car drivers. I was a 41-year-old housewife on a down-day. I was wearing GAP khaki shorts that only just covered my cellulite (no mean feat given that can extend, on a bad day, to my knees) with an unremarkable white t-shirt and flip-flops that have seen me through two pregnancies in their eight-year lifespan.
To top it all off, I thought, as I moped quietly back to my family four-wheel-drive, I’m not even blonde anymore. Who was I kidding?
I’m not a royalist, by any stretch of the imagination. But I don’t hate the royal family either – I was never above having a look at magazines with Diana in them; nor am I above clicking on the odd Prince-Harry-playing-polo-pix (phoar); nor seeing what Kate Middie’s been wearing on her latest outing to Waitrose.
I didn’t particularly like Middie’s wedding gown (it was a bit too frumpy and a bit too pointy about the boobs for my liking); I didn’t rush out to buy the blue Essa dress in which Middie got engaged; and neither did I buy the rip-off “Pippa” bridesmaid dress that Debenhams came out with.
However, slowly but surely, I do believe I’ve been a little Kate Middie’d. Nowadays I look a little longer in the window at Reiss than I ever used to (still not a fan, though). I found out what colour lipstick she wore at her wedding and tried it on at Bobbi Brown. And now I believe I’m about to make my first ever Kate Middie purchase: Those pale-gold Jimmy Choo platform sandals.
But, while the Duchess wears them as part of her “night-out” kit, teaming them only with floor-sweeping, designer evening frocks, I live in Dubai. Here, they’d be casual daywear. I’ll be wearing mine with jeans on the school run. Up your game, Middie, up your game.