Sunday, 28 April 2013

Getting lost, pyjamas and predictive text


I’m loving my new car.  And so are my kids – taxi duties have risen by 20%.
          Earlier on this week my kids went to see Pink at the O2.  I was pushed for time on the upward journey, so nervously put my daughter on a train to London. My son, who is in digs in Stepney Green, was under strict instructions to meet his sister promptly at Victoria Station.  But after the concert and gone 11 p.m. there was no way my daughter was travelling home alone.  So I drove to Greenwich to meet my children and told my son I’d give him a lift back to The Black Hole (his dreadful digs which look even more dreadful since being burgled and having all the doors smashed in.  But that’s another story).
          Now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried parking at the O2, but it’s a nightmare.  Well, it’s not so much a problem prior to a concert, it’s when 20,000 people come pouring out and half of them go off to the car park.  So I opted to park not so far away in nearby Sainsbury’s.  My son has a Sat-Nav on his phone, so I gave him the postcode of Sainsbury’s and sat tight.  The minutes trickled by.  After half an hour I was a bit anxious and rang my son.
          ‘Where are you?’
          ‘Going round and round in circles.  We’ve just crossed the same roundabout three times and nearly been flattened by traffic – it’s manic.’
          ‘What the heck are you doing on a roundabout?  And why aren’t you using your Sat Nav?’ I squawked.
          ‘Because my battery is dangerously low and I don’t want it to die on me.  I’d rather be able to stay in contact.  Let me get off the phone, it’s draining the battery.  Text me some landmarks.’
          The line went dead.  A part of me wanted to abandon the car and look for them on foot – they couldn’t be that far away.  However, like a million other late-night taxiing parents, I’d set off from home wearing my pyjamas and didn’t want to get arrested for being an oddball.  Instead I looked around me for some handy landmarks.  Thankfully, there were quite a few.  I was opposite Prezzo all lit up with neon lights.  Next door was Nandos and a main bus stop.  I picked up my mobile and tapped out a message.
          Thank God for mobile phones!  Where would we be without them?  Unfortunately still lost in the case of my children.  For whilst mobile phones are a fantastic invention, I cannot say the same for predictive text.
          My phone rang.
          ‘Hello?’
          ‘Mum!  Where the heck are you?’
          ‘I’ve just texted you my location!’
          ‘It was utter nonsense.  Try again.’
          I hung up and retrieved my text message.
          Important opposite Prezzo, directly opposite hands and a bus stop.
          Y-e-s, I can see that wasn’t very helpful.  Almost as bad as another time I texted my son who was waiting at a different venue and had also asked me to give some friends a lift home:
          Give me a time for Santa to pick u up. And if your arrows are drunk, they won’t be allowed in the car.
          I still haven’t worked out why Father Christmas came into the text or why friends was substituted for sharp spears.  All very odd.
          Anyway, there was a happy ending to this tale.  My children, frozen and wet through from a cloud burst, found their pyjama clad mother and we finally set off.
          Which reminds me.  A blonde was driving down a one-way street when she was pulled over by a traffic policeman.  ‘Lady, do you have any idea where you’re going?’ asked the cop.  ‘No,’ replied the blonde, ‘but it must be pretty unpopular.  Everyone else is leaving.’

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Va-Va Vroom Vroom


Last Saturday Mr V wanted to go looking at cars.  Now it has to be said that I’m rather allergic to car show rooms.  All that mooching around a vast space occupied by hugely expensive shiny objects.  Spotlights in the ceiling positioned just so.  Paintwork gleaming.  Bonnets protruding like women sticking their chests out.  And, typically, any man within spitting distance trying not to drool too obviously.
          Over the last few weeks Mr V has carted me around various dealers.  Audi.  BMW.  Back to Audi.  Back to BMW.  And then Mercedes.  My husband is a man who likes to think things over.  And I am a woman who doesn’t.  If you want a car, get on and buy it.  Don’t um and ah and ponder and scratch your chin and pace backwards and forwards.  It’s a waste of time, energy and – apart from anything else – I have a low boredom threshold.  And last weekend my boredom threshold hit rock bottom.  Which was possibly why, as we drove into the Mercedes dealership, my ears pricked up and my nose twitched.  The moment the passenger door opened, I was off on a scent.
          While Mr V ambled into the show room to um, ah, ponder, scratch his chin, and pace backwards and forwards, I was off across the parking lot where row upon row of cars were available to view.  Ooh, that one was nice – big sporty wheels.  But what about this one?  An M Class.  It only did how much to the gallon?  I swiftly moved on.  This one was more like it.  But wrong colour.  See?  Instant processing of brain, immediate acceptance or dismissal of what the eyes were seeing.  None of this fannying about and pacing over a model with a horrific insurance group.  I ground to a halt.  There, before me, was the car of my dreams.  Well, no I lie actually.  The real car of my dreams was the M Class, but I was more than happy to settle for this one.  The B Class.  Very elegant.  Silver.  Which also meant it didn’t need to go through the car wash every two minutes like other colours (never buy black, looks great until it rains, which is virtually every day in the UK).
          I peered in through the driver’s window.  Automatic.  Sat-Nav.  And several other buttons and controls – way beyond my immediate understanding on account I’d never driven anything so swish before (thanks to owning a moulting dog and kids who drop sweet wrappers everywhere).  But as I stood there enthralled, my mind was made up.  I was having this car.  I strode off to the show room.
          ‘So what sort of deal would you give me?’ Mr V was asking a young salesman.  So young that surely he shouldn’t be driving, never mind selling cars.  I’d heard all these questions before, along with the haggling and weighted silences aimed to tease the salesman.  I stood there and waited for the next pause – which wasn’t long as my husband loves to stretch a salesman’s nerves to breaking point.  I jumped in.
          ‘That car over there,’ I pointed through the showroom’s vast glass windows, ‘I’ll have it.’
          Mr V’s jaw hit the marble floor and I thought the salesman was going to faint.  Never before had he secured such a speedy deal.  And he hadn’t even had to seek me out!
          ‘If you’ll excuse me for one moment,’ Mr V smiled at the salesman before propelling me away by the elbow.  The salesman looked like he was about to burst into tears.  Nor had he ever lost a sale in a nano-second.  ‘What the devil are you doing?’ hissed my husband.
          ‘I want to buy a new car.’
          ‘But you bought a new car only a few months ago.’
          This is true.  But it was a Micra.  There is a world of difference between a Micra that bashes my front passenger’s knees every time I change gear, and a Mercedes.  The only thing they have in common is that they both begin with M.
          ‘I know, but this time I’m going to be utterly selfish and buy what I want.’
          And so I did.
          Meanwhile Mr V is thinking about checking out some convertible sports cars.  Another ten years and he might even buy one.  I'll leave him to it because I’m off for a little drive.  Which reminds me.  A woman told her husband she wanted a new car.  ‘I want something that goes 0-140 in three seconds.’  The husband produced some weighing scales and said, ‘Stand on that.’

Sunday, 14 April 2013

I think, therefore I'm not an MP


You know, I’d have liked to have written a few words about Mrs Thatcher and her passing...but...I’m all too conscious of the vitriolic comments ‘out there’ and the potential for backlash.  Sadly freedom of speech doesn’t seem applicable these days when it comes to politics.  I read about Geri Halliwell saluting Mrs T on Twitter, calling her the first woman of ‘girl power’.  The resulting wrath was such that she was forced to delete the tweet.  In a country like Great Britain?  Come again?  Geez....

When the news first broke of Mrs Thatcher’s death, the thing that struck me the most was that it was impossible to scroll through Facebook’s newsfeed without spotting comments like ‘yippee’ or ‘how wonderful’.  I rarely read the newspapers but on this occasion did venture into the broadsheets where pictures of looters and arsonists and rioters were photographed for anyone who cared to see.  What was that all about?  Supposedly letting off steam about a Prime Minister whose policies they didn’t agree with.  Erm, the only thing is, she’s not lead this country for over 20 years.  These people were simply looking for an excuse to go out and make trouble without a thought for wrecking others’ means of making an honest living.

I’m no political animal and frankly couldn’t care less who is leading the country.  They are all a bunch of muppets as far as I am concerned.  All of them need a damn good shake up and to be force fed a spoonful or six of common sense.  Whether you liked or loathed Margaret Thatcher, I cannot rejoice in her death or that of any other politician – past, present, or future.  She was a human being, a wife and a mother – same as me and every other woman out there on Planet Earth.  Since when did so many people fail to recognise that we should all stop this simmering hatred and start being nice to each other – REGARDLESS OF WHOM OR WHAT WE WERE/ARE?  Bottom line is, we’re all in this together.  So for God’s sake let’s start trying to get on with each other.  And then maybe, just maybe, this world will be a nicer place.

Right, that’s me off my soap box.  Which reminds me.  A little girl asked her father, ‘Do all fairy tales begin with Once upon a time?  Her father replied, ‘No.  Some begin with When I am elected’...

Sunday, 7 April 2013

After 45 your get up and go gets up and goes


So my cuz and I survived a week’s skiing in Les Arcs, with our daughters but husband-free.  There was an unspoken pact to let our hair down and have a jolly good time.
          ‘Shall I pack the Scrabble?’ I asked Anita.
          ‘Certainly not.  There’s a big après ski scene in Les Arcs and we are going to check it out.’
          ‘Right-oh,’ I warbled, and the Scrabble board remained at home.
          We arrived in Les Arcs with a sense of anticipation.  We might be middle-aged...very middle-aged on my part due to being the eldest by five years...but hey!  Age is just a number and it’s all about mental attitude.  They say you are as young as the man you feel.  So when we took a coffee break after a morning’s skiing and had a couple of French guys making eyes at us, we were secretly thrilled to bits.  The fact that the chaps in question were older than us and dressed as women were neither here or there.
          After coffee, we returned to the slopes – and oh what slopes they were!  To put those skis together and just hurtle off...except...hang on...why was I being left behind?  Why were my legs constantly braking every time speed kicked in?
          ‘Stop it!’ I mentally cussed my leg muscles.
          ‘Bugger off!’ they answered back, ‘you think we’re letting you bust one of us?  I don’t think so!’
          And so a pattern was set.  The others would whizz off with me lagging further and further behind.  Since when had I become so cautious?  Was it an age thing?  A sense of self preservation?  And what was going on with my co-ordination?  My body was covered in bruises, but not from falls.  Instead from rows with turnstiles, chairlifts, metal poles and bars.  Never mind, a different sort of bar was awaiting and offering consolation.
          ‘Try a mojito,’ said Anita, ‘it will loosen you up.’  It certainly loosened my tongue up.  I couldn’t stop talking.  And as I gazed up at the mountains from our prime time view on the wooden veranda, I silently declared war on those peaks.  Tomorrow I will ski you like a devil possessed.
          The following day I stood at the top of what looked like a lumpy sheer drop and tried to ignore my heart beating in my throat.  Anita furtively produced a hip flask.
          ‘A drop of Dutch Courage?’
          When I’d consumed more drops of Dutch Courage than was probably sensible, I set off.  Oh yes!  This was the way to ski!  Easy Peasy Jack Daniels Squeezy.  Thrilled to bits, when we later stopped for coffee I instructed the waiter to stick in a shot of rum.
          Anita looked slightly alarmed.  ‘You don’t want to lose control of your legs Debbie.’
          ‘Nothing wrong with my legs,’ I assured.  Until the following morning when I tried to get out of bed.  The legs were as stiff as a couple of ironing boards.  I unfolded them and gingerly stood up.
          ‘Perhaps we’ll have an easy day today,’ I suggested to Anita as I creaked over to my skis.
          ‘Good idea.  And we’ll focus on après ski instead.’
          Ah yes.  The après ski.  So far it had been a bit of a wash out – on account of my cuz and I being strangely knackered you understand.  On the other hand our daughters had no such problem keeping their eyes open throughout an evening.  Anita and I found ourselves walking into a bar, gamely ordering a drink, and five minutes later yawning into our glasses.  What was wrong with us?  Surely it wasn’t because we were a certain age was it?
          ‘Oh look!’ Anita pointed to a games corner in the hotel we were sitting in.  ‘A Scrabble board!’
          We fell upon it like dehydrated nomads in a desert.  So while our daughters listened to the thumpity thump of party music, my cuz and I argued whether EUOI was actually a word and, if so, what the heck did it mean?  Not exactly painting the town red.
          By Day Five we were so pooped from the skiing we didn’t even attempt to do the après ski thing.  We left our daughters holed up with their iPads, mobile phones and music and took ourselves off to bed.  Just as I was snuggling under the duvet, Mr V rang.
          ‘How are you?’ he asked.
          ‘Good,’ I replied, stifling a yawn.
          ‘So what are you up to this evening?  Bar crawl?  Night club?’
          ‘Er, neither.  I’m in bed.’
          ‘In bed?  But it’s only a quarter to eight!’
          So there you have it.  Footloose and fancy free for a week and in bed at silly o’clock.  So much for middle-aged rebellion.  Which reminds me.  Somebody once told me that the good thing about middle-age is that your glass is half full.  The not-so-good-thing is that in a few more years your teeth will be floating in it...