Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sand Wars


I SEE the OH putting on his shoes. We are expecting the son and his family to arrive for lunch at any minute.
“Are you going out?” I ask.
He explains that he is going to move the sandpit from the patio to the lawn and fill it up with the two big heavy bags of play sand he bought yesterday.
"Why?" I wonder. 
I say: “If it stays there all summer it will leave a big bare patch on your lawn.“
(He has spent a long time scarifying the moss with a machine he found in my late uncle’s shed when we were clearing his bungalow prior to its sale. The moss may be scared out of its wits but the baby’s tears shows no signs of surrender.)
“If they fall out they will hurt themselves,” he says, referring to the toddler and crawler. “Or scrape their knees on the patio.”
“And. “ he adds with the air of someone who is always right, “we've always had the sandpit on the grass.”
I bite my tongue. In the days when our own offspring were building sandcastles of their own, their sandpit was on the patio. He was mostly at work. Not much involved with toddler play.
Since we have had grandchildren, their sandpit has always been at the bottom of the garden on the decking - only we can't have it there any more as the decking is rotten and he hasn’t started his garden project yet.
He obviously senses that I disagree with him although I say not a word.
“It was on the lawn last year,” he insists.
“Yes,” I concede. “When we bought the new tortoise one because the lid of the boat one had broken and the sand was disgusting and full of creepy crawlies we put it on the lawn. But we only put a little bit of sand in so it was easy to move around.”
“Why do you always have to have an argument?” he says, slamming the kitchen door as he exits.
Later I look out of the window and see the sandpit. On the lawn.
Just don't ask me to help move it, I think.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I'm a little teapot

GRANNY duties are lovely but heaving a two-stone toddler in and out of a car seat has made me think that I need to do a little bit more to stay strong and supple than occasionally walking home from the supermarket with a bag-for-life full of groceries. But what?

I did join a gym once, I even had a personal trainer. Suffice it to say that I felt like a fish out of water in the weights room and when the OH (who had been scathing about the whole project) said he had noticed no improvement in my fitness or my figure I hung up my trainers with a sigh of relief.

On the other hand, I had fond memories of the QiGong classes I’d taken, back in the mists of time, and although a trawl of the internet failed to locate any local classes it did throw up a beginner’s Tai Chi class.

When I told the OH I was going he insisted he wanted to join me. “It will be good to do something together,” he said.

The class was held in the early afternoon in a local church hall.  Parking nearby was impossible and it was too far to walk so we went by bus, a mode of transport the OH does not enjoy.

Suffice it to say that we were not the oldest in the group by a long chalk. Most of the attendees were female and the instructor said that when it came to the movements we could hold on to the back of a chair if we needed to.

I sensed, at that point, that this was not what the OH had in mind.  So I was not surprised when, the following day, he announced he had found another Tai Chi class that he thought we should try.

My main objection was that it was held on a Monday evening: in my experience it’s all very well signing up to evening classes when the days are getting longer and warmer – but enthusiasm tends to wane as the nights close in and the weather turns inclement.

The OH was not to be deterred.  He showed me the website.  It said:
‘QiGong is a practice that has its focus on cultivating, circulating and harmonizing Qi. The idea is to first balance the body itself as a whole, and then balance the body within the backdrop of one’s environment.

‘Tai Chi, although related, is fundamentally a martial art. Some forms of QiGong do promote physical characteristics useful for martial arts, but in comparison, QiGong lacks the attack and defense principles contained in the Tai Chi postures.’

I could see that he was channelling his inner Bruce Lee.

Six weeks later he is still enthusiastic. I suspect it helps that the class is a mix of men and women, of young and not so young – and that beginners are taught alongside the more experienced. There are no chairs.

I made the mistake of wearing a turquoise T-shirt the first week: everyone else wore black. I also have a tendency to giggle at the names of some of the movements – such as parting the horse’s mane. (To me, it’s ‘I’m a little teapot’.)
And yes, the instructor does talk about it being a martial art.

To be honest, I hate it. It reminds me of the holiday I once had in Corfu when I failed to master the Kalamatiano – saying oops more often than opa!


But there’s no escape. I have no desire to live in a House of Flying Daggers.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bang go my resolutions

If anyone has been wondering why I have been silent so far this year, I can reveal that the only one of my New Year resolutions to last until now has been the one about being less critical of others.
That is just about to go out of the window, too.
So far this week the husband has been up to a succession of things that would have tried the patience of a saint.
I will draw a veil over the brief trip to Spain, when we didn't take maps (I've got maps on my phone, he said) and then ended up going back to Barcelona airport twice, twice!, because we missed the right turning for the motorway. 
But since we have been back he has insisted on catching up on all the tv programmes he missed with the sub titles on and the sound still up so loud you can hear the dialogue word for word upstairs.
He has also disregarded all medical advice about pacing himself, spent more than three hours in the garden (where the grass had not been cut since last autumn), and is now in so much pain with his neck that he can't sleep and is like a bear with a sore head.
Meanwhile, we have invited old friends for supper tonight. We discussed what to give them and agreed on a casserole and a crumble. Simple family fare. 
I assumed we would eat informally at the kitchen table - I was prepared to remove what another friend calls the Siege Perilous (the clip on baby seat) and the zoo animal tablecloth much loved by grandchildren, but no. 
The lord and master has decreed that we will eat in the dining room. Moreover, he instructs me to put out soup spoons as, alongside his carbonade de boeuf, he will now be making a potage of some sort (he has come back from Sainsburys with celeriac, so that would be my first guess). 
He also wants side plates for bread. He has bought cheese and biscuits. 
It will be a veritable feast.
Perhaps I read too many Phillipa Gregory novels when we were away, but it feels as though he is turning into Henry VIII.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas miracles


So that was Christmas. The lunch with friends passed without incident – the OH’s truffles were suitably admired (especially by an eight-year-old who managed to eat most of them while the adults were otherwise occupied with chitchat and coffee) and in the Secret Santa lottery we came away with a home-made shopping bag and a jar of salted lemons.


The bag has already been pressed into service at Sainsbury’s. The salted lemons are sitting in the fridge while the OH decides what to do with them.

It was lovely to see the latest grandchild and his parents later in the day. They stayed overnight and for lunch on Boxing Day.

I do sometimes wonder if my son is turning into Goldilocks – the bed was too soft, the room was too hot – but at least he had enough common sense to wait until his father was occupied in the kitchen before attempting the traditional parental Christmas task of assembling various items given to children by fond relations. 

Indeed, he managed to put together the push-along trike with only the advice of his wife and his mother and without losing his temper. Truly, a Christmas miracle. 

There were other wonders. The OH (who once bought me an iron for Christmas and has never been allowed to forget it) gave me a smart red handbag which was even smarter than the one I had been coveting in John Lewis. Thank you Google and cookies

And thanks, too, to Facebook and Instagram, whereby we could see that Father Christmas had managed to find our other grandchildren on an island in Thailand (even if it was rather hot for the reindeer).  


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Rocky Road


This year we are not having the Family Christmas Lunch. The children and grandchildren are variously in Wales, Thailand and another part of North London and, although a little sad not to see them all, part of me was secretly looking forward to a meal where we could eat what we fancied instead of having to remember who wouldn’t or couldn’t eat sprouts/chestnuts/Christmas pudding etc.

The OH, however, clearly felt differently. (He likes company, an audience for his jokes and his stories – I’ve heard them all before.)

So when one of his mates suggested we join him and his family, plus a famous actress friend and her family, plus some other friends the OH had known through his work a while ago, he jumped at the chance. 

‘Don’t bring anything,’ said the friend’s wife, another former colleague. ‘Just something for the Secret Santa. We just do a craft thing, something home made.’

As far as I know, the OH has never taken part in Secret Santa but, channelling his inner Heston, he came up with a plan. An elaborate foodie pun.

He would make some chocolate truffles, then present them on a half a wooden log with ‘earth’ made from crumbled chocolate biscuits. 

So far he has spent some time sourcing the right sort of biscuit. (I have refrained from pointing out that a true chef would have made his own.)

He has bought all the ingredients for the truffles but has abandoned his idea of presenting them on half a log as the log pile outside is too wet.

This morning he asked me if I had a small box he could use instead. When I found one he said he didn’t need the lid. Foolishly, I asked what would happen if we had to put our gifts into a Secret Santa sack.

He is now not talking to me. I am not sure if he will still go ahead with any part of his plan but luckily I have a secret supply of amaretti, marshmallows and glace cherries in the cupboard in case of emergencies.

Just right for a Christmas rocky road.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hear, hear


When the OH and I were both gainfully employed full-time we saw far less of each other in the course of 24 hours. 

So we talked less to each other. And we seemed to annoy each other less.

We clearly have a problem – but I’m beginning to think it’s less about character and more about communication. More specifically, about hearing.

Take this recent exchange for example.
Me: Your phone pinged.
Him (looking a little insulted): You’re a penguin? 

The OH insists I mumble. That I need to speak more clearly. That I DO NOT NEED TO SHOUT.

The other evening he came back from the pub where he had been having a pint with two of his mates. One of them has recently had very expensive hearing aids fitted because he has suddenly and inexplicably become very deaf. There seemed to have been a fair bit of discussion about wives and being able to hear them (or not).

Apparently, the OH said triumphantly, we ALL lose the ability to detect really high-pitched sounds as we get older – so the problem was not husbands getting deafer, but wives speaking in high-pitched voices. And clearly the answer was for me to speak more like Mrs Thatcher. And not to speak to him when he was in another room. Or with my back to him.

Today the OH thrust a newspaper under my nose.
‘This is what you’ve got,’ he said.

I skimmed the article which said that scientists had demonstrated that inattentional deafness is a genuine phenomenon. This explains why a person can be so absorbed in a book or a crossword they become deaf to normally audible sound.

The OH looked triumphant. I think he said something but unfortunately I was concentrating, so I didn’t hear him. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Testing, testing


The phrase ‘three little words’ used to mean ‘I love you’. These days they mean income draw down.

Flushed with excitement now that he is getting his hands on some money, my OH has decided to replace his much loved Jaguar - or as he put it: “What we need is a new family car.”

His original plan had been to keep his special edition Jaguar XJR until it became a modern classic and shot up in value. 

Now he is suggesting we sell both the Jag and my Ford Focus (the car used for essentials of family life such as collecting Christmas trees, making journeys to the tip and ferrying grandchildren around), then buy one car that we can share.

I am not entirely convinced that this is a good idea. Apart from one brief period in the past when mortgage rates were running at 12 per cent we have never had a ‘family car’. We had his and her cars.

His was the big shiny one that impressed clients and was taken to the car wash every week. Mine was the scruffy little one full of empty crisp packets, used baby wipes and CDs of Paddington Bear and Stig of the Dump. (Thanks to grandchildren, it still is.) 

Besides, his idea of a suitable family car and mine are completely different. We have already had a test drive in what he laughably refers to as the little Jaguar. And we have looked at a BMW 3 series 340 which is - apparently - superior to the BMW 3 series 320 (although not to the naked eye).

The test drives, it seemed to me, were all about 0-60 speeds, and the handling round corners and technical issues like that. The salesmen laughed when I observed that the real test would be whether I could manoeuvre the car into one of the miniscule spaces in Sainsbury’s car park. The OH was not at all amused.

He is now insisting that some of the cars he has his eye on are actually narrower than my Focus and only a few centimetres longer. I suspect we will never agree. 


  1. His earliest memories of family cars include his father's Ford Thunderbird. My Dad’s pride and joy was a Ford Anglia!