Sunday, 26 February 2012

You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks...

This year is a special wedding anniversary.  Special enough that, at the time of tying the knot, Mr V promised he would buy me an eternity ring.  Now like all my sisters of the fairer sex, I’m not averse to the odd sparkler.  Especially a sparkler that has all sorts of official papers declaring quality, clarity, weight, hefty price tag and then – upon the sun shining at a certain angle – frazzling your eyeballs with all that vast sparkly diamond light.

However, there is a recession going on.  Things are tight.  Money is required not so much for diamond rings but astronomical bills.  So I’ve suggested foregoing the eternity ring and Mr V agreeing to me having a second pooch instead.

As it has taken umpteen years to finally drum training into our senior beagle’s head, Mr V is naturally not keen to go through it all over again. It's a bit like having kids. Just when you've toilet trained them, taught them not to scratch their armpits, to cease snarling at you, stop lolling around on beds that don't belong to them and endlessly chastise them for eating you out of house and home...they go and leave you.

We are down to one teenager left in the nest and an ancient pooch. Every now and again we think about downsizing too. Mr V is keen for us to move into a smart apartment and for me to swap country dog walks for running on a treadmill in a posh gym. Having worked out in the gym whilst skiing (thanks to extreme weather and not being able to ski that much) I can honestly say that I was bored silly running on a treadmill after just ten minutes. I've also been idly looking at properties by the sea.  I have romantic visions of walking a dog along a picturesque coastline, watching the sea pounding the shoreline through changing seasons and holing up in a gorgeous attic room that overlooks the ocean whilst writing.

Meanwhile back to reality.  I shall take myself off to the supermarket for the Sunday shop.  And continue to hound (no pun intended) Mr V over a second pooch...

Sunday, 19 February 2012

How To Be A Good Sport – Part Two

Having determined that Mr V is officially a ski drop-out, my daughter and I set off husbandless and fatherless to Passo Tonale.  My suitcase was lined with a pile thermal underwear, brand new salopettes, three new ski jackets (because they were a bargain) and my old faithful all-in-one.  I don’t know what made me throw in the old faithful all-in-one but I am very glad that I did.
Lesson One.  When buying new ski gear, it’s no good admiring your silhouette in tight ski pants and a fitted jacket.  Because when you put your thermal clobber on underneath, you cannot make zippers meet.  Not even a little bit.
Lesson Two.  If you buy ski gear in the sale because it’s a bargain but then end up hanging it in the wardrobe throughout the entire week, it’s a waste of money.
Lesson Three.  By dint of Lesson One and Two it’s pointless clutching your credit card statement in one hand, your forehead in the other, and berating God for inventing sales in Decathlon and extreme weather conditions so vicious you can’t see the mountain in front of you – never mind ski down it.

And so it was Eleanor and I ventured out of our hotel in minus fifteen to meet our ski instructor.  One hour later we were reduced to standing on a nursery slope with a wind blowing us sideways as zillions of ice particles gave us the sort of dermabrasion treatment you pay a fortune for at the beautician’s.  Our hands and feet went numb as the wind chill factor took the temperature down to minus twenty-four.  Eleanor’s lip jutted out and she uttered the words, ‘I think I’m going to cry.’  This is the sort of talk my feisty fourteen year old hasn’t uttered since the age of six.  So cutting our lesson short, we said good-bye to the instructor before going off to thaw in a restaurant.Tomorrow,’ Thomas called after us, ‘drink bottle of red wines before leaving hotels.  Is gooda for cold.’  The thought of knocking back a bottle of red at any time of the day let alone 8.30 in the morning wasn’t something either of us was up for.  Nor clearly that of a French schoolboy who ended up having two fingers amputated due to frostbite.  No exaggeration.

As our extremities came back to life they went through various colour transformations.  Eventually we were able to slurp on a cappuccino – although holding the cup to our lips was precarious.  This was because our throbbing fingers now resembled purple aubergines.  And talking of aubergines, I’m now reminded of our hotel’s menu.
As a vegetarian, the hotel restaurant assured I would be delighted with their meal options.  Aubergine lasagne.  Spaghetti and aubergine.  Aubergine pie.  Baked aubergine.  One day they battered an aubergine and served it with sweet and sour sauce.  Just when I thought it was impossible to do anything else with an aubergine....da-da.... aubergine tart.  With custard.  Don’t believe me?  I have photographic evidence on my FB page!

After a first day of almost non-existent skiing, Eleanor and I retired to our hotel room.  It was nice.  All knotty pine and elegant curtains.  On the wall over the twin beds was a huge picture depicting three naked cherubs gambolling across the canvass.  A previous occupant of the room – possibly bored due to the extreme weather conditions – had taken a biro to one of the cherubs doing a full frontal and artistically added a huge appendage.
The following morning the weather was still cruelly cold, but visibility good.  Thomas greeted us and announced that today – thanks to the 100 mph wind dropping – we would be able to use the chairlift to the glacier.  Hurrah.  We were especially delighted that our chairlift had a pull-down Perspex hood to keep us cosy on the ride up to the glacier.  But not so delighted when, upon reaching the apex, the hood failed to release.  Yes, all the way back to the bottom.  Yes we did bring all the machinery to a halt.

And thus our skiing week got underway, in erratic fits and starts.  When we were too cold to feel the tips of our tongues in our mouths, we would head back to the hotel which was fortunately posh enough to have a Jacuzzi, pool and gym.  Never before have I booked a skiing holiday and found myself spending more time running on a machine that goes nowhere or doing the breast stroke.
Eleanor, a text addict (are their clinics for such addictions?), spent every awakening moment with her fingers pressing buttons on her mobile using the Blackberry Messenger service.  Every thirty seconds the phone would emit a brrrrrmmmm announcing a Status Update from one of her zillion contacts.  This ever so slightly drove me nuts.  If Eleanor could have skied whilst texting, then she would have done so.  Status Update – skiing a red run.  Thirty seconds later  Status Update – Hot boy ahead.
And talking of hot boys, the daughter’s eyes were on stalks.  Oh yes, never before in her short little life had she spotted so many gorgeous lads (Harry Styles look away now).  No sooner had I finished munching my aubergine supper, my daughter was gone.  Didn’t see her for dust.  Fortunately I am a voracious reader, so whilst I did my bookworm impression, my daughter was doing a different type of impression.  That of a doe-eyed helpless female standing in the lobby clutching an iPod that wasn’t working.  Rescue was almost instant.  Instead of a knight on a white charger, along came the most handsome boy in the hotel with an iPod charger.  They went dancing.  They went to the arcade.  They went to the karaoke.  On the sixth night he hugged her.  On the last night he walked Eleanor back to our hotel room.  Eleanor was convinced he would kiss her.  And maybe he would have done had I not unwittingly opened the door as the pair of them were standing there.  I don’t know who was more embarrassed.  Them or me.  Possibly me.  A vision in a Donald Duck nightdress and face cream.
Alas the skiing holiday is over.  Instead of coming home on a high, I feel deflated.  Cheated out of my annual thrill.  But never mind.  There’s always next year...

Friday, 10 February 2012

How to be a Good Sport

In the last two years or so Mr V’s sporting habits have changed phenomenally.  There was a time he’d be out on the football pitch, or standing on the fairway, or skiing down slopes participating in much expending of energy.  He still loves these things – but mostly from the comfort of his sofa.  Exercise is gentler with only the index finger doing push-ups as it connects with the remote control and flicks between different sports channels.  These days Mr V prefers to be a spectator of skiers hurtling down slopes rather than emulating them; or verbally assisting Wayne Rooney on how to pop the ball between the posts.  And as for Tiger Woods – well Mr V has only the greatest admiration for a man whose multi-legovers meant that for many months all Tiger’s balls ended up in the bunker.

It’s a tricky thing to balance when one of you starts to slow down and the other isn’t quite ready to follow.  And so it is, more and more, that I find myself wandering – as William Wordsworth once wrote – lonely as a cloud as I power walk with my aging hound around the village lanes and farmland completely on my tod.  Fortunately my other outdoor passion – skiing – is shared by my teenage daughter Eleanor.  But for how much longer is anybody’s guess. If Harry Styles clicks his fingers and gives her the nod, then I won’t see her for snow powder. However, at least for now I have somebody to share my chair lift with as it cruises over snow-capped fir trees and scenery that resembles a giant wedding cake.  There is nothing like sharing the horror of a black run.  Even if it is on your backside.

So whilst I’m very disappointed that Mr V isn’t joining us in Passe Tonale for the next week, I’m nonetheless very excited to have hauled out the suitcases.  Yes, they are still not packed!  I have, however, whizzed into Decathlon to make the sort of over-excited gasping sounds some women make in the Harrods January Sale...not the End-Of-Season aisle of a sports warehouse.
            ‘Look,’ I waggled a cream ski jacket at Eleanor, ‘look at my bargain!’
            ‘You already have two ski jackets Mum,’ she pointed out.
            ‘But this one is only a tenner!’ I beamed.
 A bargain or false economy?  I mean, do I really need three ski jackets?  I’m a woman.  So the answer is yes.

And having bought all this thermal clobber, a small part of me wonders if I actually need it.  Only this morning on the school run, I had to pull over and shrug off my jacket thanks to being ambushed by a violent hot-flush.  So here I come Italy, to ski down your mountains in minus 14...quite possibly in just a t-shirt.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Indie Author Tag Party

I am taking part in my first blog hop today, its an indie author tagging party.

For everyone who visits from the linky list, please click the links to find my books on or  

Thank you!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sibling Rivalry

My son is home (briefly) from university.  I tell myself that he comes home because he misses his family and relishes having his very own double bed in his very own double room with (because he’s the only boy in the family) his very own en-suite bathroom.  In reality I know home comforts have nothing to do with it and he simply wants me to attend to the vast suitcase he is trailing.  Namely because it contains a fortnight’s worth of washing.  Not to mention ironing.

So I open the front door and yell, ‘Yoo hoo,’ to nobody in particular, ‘Rob’s home.’  Mr V is at work, so obviously no response from him.  My step-daughter Rianna is not visiting, so ditto.  There is a creaking noise from the landing.  The sound of the dog hauling herself out of her basket.  It goes on for a bit.  The hauling that is.  The dog is getting on in years and her waistline gave in to middle age spread years ago.  Eventually there is a thud as all four paws finally connect with the landing.  Seconds later the dog makes a lethargic appearance and dutifully wags her tail at Robbie.  So where is the youngest?  I peer up the stairwell.  Eleanor’s door remains resolutely shut.

Now at this point perhaps I should mention Robbie is nearly 19.  He’s a young man. Independent.  Screamingly clever.  Motivated.  An A* student who knows exactly where he’s going in life. Whereas Eleanor, 14, has freedom hampered by her age, is clever but lazy, and not particularly motivated unless you mention words like ‘shopping’ or ‘Harry Styles’ (who she wants to marry one day).  Is it any wonder therefore that Eleanor is jealous of her brother.

I knock on her bedroom door and tentatively go in.  A sullen face regards me from behind her laptop screen.  ‘Yes?’ she asks curtly.  ‘Your brother’s home,’ I say.  ‘Yes, I heard you,’ she snaps.  There then follows a little chat about the vagaries of being civil, saying hello, making conversation to a family member who now only has his big toe in the family nest.  ‘Why should I say hello first?’ Eleanor demands.  Does it matter who says hello first?  Apparently so!

In due course Robbie finds his sister and says hello.  ‘Hello,’ I hear her mutter.  As he turns his back to walk away I catch my daughter apparently bowing down to Mecca (in Robbie’s direction) and worshipping the floor.  But her facial expression is not one of adoration.  I pretend not to see.

I cook dinner and we eat altogether.  This in itself is a rare event.  Mr V is still not home from work and if we waited for his arrival frankly it would be bedtime.  Usually Eleanor takes her meal to the kids’ room to watch ‘documentaries’.  For this read ‘reality programmes’.  And I take my plate off to my computer where I bash out a few hundred words between mouthfuls.  By the time my meal is finished it is always stone cold.  As we sit down at the table Eleanor’s lip curls into its familiar teenage expression.  ‘I always know when my brother is home because napkins appear and we sit up at the table.’

By the time dinner is served a spat is in full swing.  Finally Robbie snaps. ‘Just what is your problem?’ to which Eleanor rumbles, ‘You, oh favourite child!’ It’s only when I threaten to make free with roast potatoes and collapsing broccoli that the two of them become silent.  ‘I have no favourites,’ I tell Eleanor firmly, ‘you are both unique and amazing people who I love dearly.’  To which Rob smiles and Eleanor sneers.

In due course I clear up and the two of them disappear upstairs.  As I load the dishwasher every single nerve within my body is on full scale alert.  When will they kick off again?  I hear noises.  Gentle at first.  Then rumblings.  And then the sort of din that has me abandoning everything and hot footing up the stairs two at a time.  I fling open my son’s bedroom door ready to break up World War Three.

But instead a joyful sight greets my eyes.  The noise they are generating is one of happiness.  My children are sitting companionably together on the edge of Rob’s bed, half watching a funny clip on You Tube but also gabbling about university life, school life, teasing and taking the Mickey out of each other, gossiping about their friends, telling jokes, roaring with laughter and generally behaving like they are two long-lost best friends.

I guess this is what sibling rivalry is.  A mixture of both loathing and love.  But right now it’s love.  Long may it last...