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Sunday 30 May 2010

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

London City Mum mentioned a book on Twitter recently that had just read, but wishes she had not. To say her review of said book was scathing is a bit of an understatement. (apologies, name escapes me - probably should have noted it!). It got me thinking about the worst book(s) I have ever read.

I very much enjoy reading - I think it is fair to say I will give most things a go, although I do have a particular fondness for crime fiction if I have to express a preference (something I apparently share with lots of women - there's probably another post in the psychology of that!).

When the Borders chain went into administration in the UK last year, our local store had a huge sell-off event. As it was only down the road from where I work, a lot of people were waxing lyrical about the bargains to be had. So one Saturday, we decided to take the kids and see if there was anything worth buying. This of course was the first mistake. I had visions of the children sitting quietly perusing the kids' section whilst we leafed through the many bargains.

I really am not sure what I was thinking. Firstly, it is impossible to take my children shopping anywhere, without them literally running around a shop causing havoc. This usually means that one of the adults spends their time chasing after them, whilst the other one of us scans the shop for anything worth buying, in record speed, under extreme pressure. Secondly of course, "sales" are never relaxing shopping experiences anyway, as everyone scrabbles for bargains, jealously eyeing up the last scraps.

I got a couple of cookbooks, we chose a couple of children's books, and then I made a beeline for the fiction. I was shortly due to fly out on one of my regular trips to Dubai, and I was looking forward to getting some time to read a novel in peace. By this point, the children were thoroughly bored, and were threatening to escape to the playground outside. I therefore grabbed the first thing that seemed vaguely interesting. The jacket mentioned vampires on the back, but didn't really give much else away. The book was based in Paris, which sort of interested me. I threw it in the basket and thought no more about it.

When I got on the plane a couple of weeks later, I opened the book and settled down to read. It slowly dawned on me that this was no "ordinary" vampire fantasy (if there even is such a thing). It appeared I had bought one of a series that had already had one or two novels preceding it. This annoyed me, but not as much as the absolutely awful prose. I don't pretend I am a great writer myself, but this was someone who had been published! It was badly written and full of clich├ęs.

'"They will be hounding you for days", my angel growled, his back arching and his head tossing, his glorious hair scything a black arc through the air.
"Yes", I grunted, my nails piercing deeper the flesh of his lower back.
"And so every moment beween, you are mine." He rocked forward, causing my head to slam into wood yet again.
"My...ass..is...yours?" My fangs punctured my lip.

You expect a bit of sex in an adult vampire novel. I get that. This, however, was something different. It was full of references to drugs, and the sex was definitinly of the homosexual variety. It dawned on me that I was taking drug-induced, gay vampire porn into a Muslim country! I shoved the book into the bottom of my hand luggage, and hoped I wouldn't be searched on the way in to Dubai.

To this day, the book still sits on our bookshelves. Every now and then I like to look at it and smile. It's certainly taught me to look more carefully at what I pick up in a bookshop.

So, what's the worst book you've ever read?

Saturday 29 May 2010


I may be a little pre-occupied over the coming few weeks. Project "new garage and garden redesign" starts on Tuesday. Yay! As you can see, it is long overdue:

All this is coming out, with a nice shiny big double garage across the back of the garden. It is a little sad in some ways, as we will lose quite a bit of the garden, but given that on-street parking is not really the best option with small children (plus the fact that it is nigh-on impossible to find a space), it is totally necessary.

Friday 28 May 2010


Today, I am very excited to be able to bring you the first guest post on my blog, by Laura, from Are We Nearly There Yet, Mummy. I'm guest posting over on her blog too, so pop over there and say hi - and please, please check out the rest of her blog while you are there, it's definitely worth a read.


On Saturday we went to Liverpool to get the 5 year old's passport renewed. Last Minute Laura struck again. I left the application till 2 weeks before we travel to Italy, her little 4 month old face smiling out of her passport, looking nothing like the 5 year old, long legged girl I was sitting next to. Still the eyes were the same, all sparkly and mischievous.

We had the pictures done at a booth in the Co-op. We laughed when the first photos revealed just the top of her head. We spun the stool round so that her little feet couldn't touch the floor and then tried again. We had to do them over and over again because, her little face kept cracking a smile. The new rules for passport photos are 'DO NOT SMILE'. The result? A child who looks like she's being kidnapped.

When we came out of the passport office The Husband had an outburst... I can't even remember what it was about, but as we were all getting into the car he said "SHIT" very loudly. As I glared at him and made sure that the children were strapped in I thought that perhaps they hadn't heard, they were too busy discussing the finer points of ice cream Vs lollipops. Then I slapped myself about the face with a virtual fish and realised that although they weren't registering it now, somewhere in their brain the word was being stored for future use.

Roll on Monday night ... the children are playing in the front garden with some friends from school who live just round the corner. The children are taking it in turns to tie the second youngest boy to the silver birch tree with some rope. He is not protesting.

I am upstairs folding laundry and the husband is watching the French Open.

The 5 year old comes in the front door and shouts up the stairs "Muuuuuum .... can we go and play on the grass?"

The grass is an area over and down the road which some of the older children are allowed to play on alone. My children are not allowed on 'the grass' yet.

Me "No, you can't, and anyway, it's tea time soon."

At the top of her voice she shouted "SHIT" and then walked back out to the garden.


I spent the next few minutes asking the Husband repeatedly "Did she really say what I think she just said?"

I resisted the urge to go absolutely ballistic, for fear of making the word even more exciting, and have now decided that as she is nearing six it is time to discuss words that we can say and words that we can't. Maybe I should have a similar chat with The Husband.

... later that evening when I couldn\'t get the loud 'SHIT' out of my head I cast my mind back to the little 4 month old face in the passport and remembered when life was easier and she didn't swear like her father.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Sunshine Award & HandbagContents - 2 Memes for the Price of 1

I have been tagged by Beth over at It's My Good Life with the Sunshine Award, as well as with the Handbag Meme.

The rules:
Put the Logo on your sidebar, or within a post.
Pass the award onto 12 Bloggers.
Link the nominees within your post.
Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

The Handbag Meme basically involves parading the contents of your handbag for all and sundry to see.

I'll be honest, I came to handbags relatively late. I have had a weakness for shoes from a very young age, but for a long time resisted the lure of the handbag. My husband still pokes fun at the fact that I used to proclaim loudly that I "didn't see the point" in having more than one bag, as it was too much hassle making sure everything was transferred from one bag to another each time. Even now, I probably subscribe to this view - I have just come to recognised covet them more for their aesthetic values.

Since the beginning of the year, I have been desperately trying to find a suitable cross-body bag that I could use day to day when out and about with the kids. I then became aware of the Mulberry Alexa, and have been hankering after one since it came out at the beginning of the year. While I continue to save up, I am using this leather bag that I picked up at TKMaxx as my everyday option:

It's a cheerful sort of colour, just the right size, and a nice handsfree option useful when running around after the kids.

There's nothing of great interest inside it, just the usual day to day stuff - my phone (a Motorola Milestone - fab Android phone, don't know how I managed without it, and the single biggest reason for my twitter addiction), my purse (I guess you would now call it "vintage" Gucci!), sunglasses and an umbrella (how very British!), my keys and a packet of tissues.

I am so thankful that I no longer have to carry nappies or spare clothing anywhere with me!

I'd like to pass this one on to the lovely ladies who blog at:

Apologies if you have already done this one.

Monday 24 May 2010

Rebel With a Cause?

Deer Baby's latest post "'Snot Fair" about how she perceived her parents treated her and her sister differently, mentions her act of rebellion at age 13, when she decided to pierce her own ears.

This reminded me that my own earrings were also the act of my greatest teenage rebellion at the age of 16.

My mother has never had her ears pierced, and from a young age she made clear her disapproval. Whether this had anything to do with the fact that her mother used to wear great, heavy gold hoops I don't really know (strangely I have inherited said hoops, but do try not to wear them too often as I can't do so without thinking of my grandmother's stretched and drooping earlobes).

Of course, all my friends wore earrings, so a certain amount of peer pressure used to prompt me to regularly ask for pierced ears when birthdays or Christmas came around, but without success. With hindsight I do wonder whether it was all a cunning plan by my mother to focus my act of rebellion on something that was relatively harmless. I must make a note to try this parenting strategy on my children sometime. Either way, it seemed to work. I was a studious teenager, academic and one of the geeky crowd. I didn't hang out with the cool kids who drank and smoked.

I almost couldn't believe it myself when my friend F took me to the jewellers in the big city - I'll never forget that weird staple gun and the little packet of sterile swabs I was given.

The look on my mother's face when I came home and showed her, was a mixture of disapproval, disbelief... and I thought I could also detect the hint of a smile. She had been a bit of a wild child when younger. She would never have admitted it, but I think somehow she was secretly pleased...

Saturday 22 May 2010

More Alastair Darling than George Clooney

(This one's for you, A x)

So, OH has finally read the blog. It was bound to happen sometime - as I have mentioned previously, secrets are not really my strongest point. I've been fairly open about it, the link is in the browser history, and I've previously mentioned the name/URL in a very boring techy discussion about platforms vs self-hosting. Would he have read it if I had made a big deal about wanting to keep it private? It doesn't matter now.

So, what did he think...

- He smiled in recognition a few times, even chuckled once or twice
- He laughed at the description of his hair being "George Clooney grey" and pointed out it was closer to Alastair Darling than George Clooney these days
- He said he could see a definite improvement over time from the earlier posts, which he described as a bit "Sex and the City". By this he means the rather blatant ploy to try and get comments by just sticking a question at the end of the post.
- He was impressed with my apparent technical skills
- He was amazed by the number of comments (thank you all!)

So, that's it - I was very daunted initially, but mainly now I'm filled with a sense of relief. One less thing to worry about I suppose!

Friday 21 May 2010

Have You Ever Fancied A Bit On The Side?

Have you ever had an affair, or been tempted, or do you know someone who has?

Infidelity by F. Marq.

I was chatting with a colleague yesterday, who is off to the US with work in a few weeks. She was telling me about how her husband had remarked that he thought it was odd that she had to make an appointment with the beautician for a pedicure and waxing before she went. She told me she thought he was implying that she did not make such an effort normally. Upon which I retorted that maybe he thought she was visiting some kind of fancy man out there.

I can see where she is coming from. Going somewhere away from the norm does make you want to make an effort. For some reason, every time I go on my quarterly trips to Dubai, I feel the bizarre urge to use stick-on fingernails, despite the fact that I would never dream of wearing them "in real life". Read into that what you will.

Of course, part of it is the fact that it is nice to make a bit more of an extra effort when you go somewhere different. What if is was something more though? What if I was using work trips to have a "bit on the side"?

(Before I go any further, I feel the need to add some kind of disclaimer at this point. I am NOT having an affair, and I have NO desire ever to do so. After all, there's making an effort and then there's making an effort, IYKWIM. Besides, the subject of infidelity brings up ghosts of boyfriend past, so I have experienced the hurt and pain it can cause first-hand. I have, however, been propositioned in the past - a good few years ago now.)

I understand why some people do it - the thrill of a new partner, that feeling of being desired anew, the illicit rendezvous, the furtiveness of it. It must be extremely exciting - especially if your home life is not far from thrilling.

However, I can't the only one that wonders how people get away with it longer term? In some ways it would be incredibly easy - especially if you did travel a lot. You meet someone through work, or on a social network... Would your partner ever find out? I for one am pretty useless at keeping secrets, and I am sure any guilt would be written all over my face. To be honest, I don't think I could cope with the stress of it all.

So - no thanks. I don't think I'm the girl for you.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

The Gallery - Self Portrait

This week's Gallery prompt is "Self-Portrait". I've come tantalisingly close to revealing myself a couple of times, but this time I have finally decided to bite the bullet.

However, you didn't think I was going to make it easy for you, did you?!

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Stupidly proud of my handiwork

I have always loved baking. My cakes normally taste great. What I am not so good at is cake decorating - despite my best efforts.

DD2 was 3 over the weekend, and she had seen a giant cupcake mould in one of the catalogues I had through.

To cut a long story short, I gave it its first outing for the birthday party, and I think it turned out rather well for one of my efforts!

Saturday 15 May 2010

Grumpy Meme

I have been tagged by both Becky at Single Mummy and London City Mum to share with you the 7 things that make me grumpy.

Despite the fact that my husband tells me I am becoming more and more of a grump in my old age, I really did struggle with this one. I have started to realise that I am good at general grumpiness, and don't necessarily always need a reason!

Anyway, here goes:

1) The fact that my children need to be woken to go to school/nursery during the week, but are invariably up at 6am at the weekend. Not funny.

2) Road Rage. Julia summed one of my pet hates up perfectly, namely inconsiderate drivers. This grump, however, goes out specifically to the driver of the black Honda Jazz who last week not only cut me up once on a roundabout, but managed to do it a second time, and be completely oblivious to the fact that she had done so, as she was too busy talking to her son in the passenger seat.

3) The fact that I can't remember the last time I went to the toilet in peace. The one time I try and sneak off is guaranteed to be the time that my daughters start squabbling and pulling each other's hair, one of them will suddenly be standing outside the door shouting "mummy, I need a wee, NOW!", or they will just decide that they desperately need to tell me that the dishwasher definitely uses more water than the washing machine. Sigh.

4) Office Politics. Too many fragile egos around at the moment. The less said about that in a public forum the better.

5) The list wouldn't be complete without mentioning OH's bad habits. We all have bad habits, myself included, but I suppose a partner's are just more constant and therefore liable for increased grumpiness. The two that make me particularly grumpy are wet towels on the bed and leaving every single light on in the house - thus forcing me to run round turning them off and cursing.

6) Stupid shopping substitutions. I do a lot of my grocery shopping online, and occasionally items will be out of stock. These might be substituted for something else. This always seems to happen to me when there is a really good offer on. Why would I want to pay full price for 2 items, when it is obvious I have only bought them because it was BOGOF?

7) The fact that it is so fricking cold at the moment. It is MAY, for God's sake!

And on that note, I would like to tag the following:

Metajugglamum - I am hoping that a good vent will help with some of her recent grumps.
Tattoed Mummy - who I am sure will be grumpy about far more interesting things than me.
Shouty Dad - does Shouty = Grumpy?
Drop4Three - although this is a little different from his normal writing, so am interested to see if he will take it up.

Friday 14 May 2010

You Shall Go to the Mall!

What do you think of when you think of Dubai? Beaches?
Endless shopping malls? WAGs? Amazing skyscrapers (including the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa), logic defying tourist attractions (skiing in 40 degree heat, anyone?)

I have now been there a total of 5 or 6 times over the last 18 months or so, each time for work purposes. Despite my best intentions, I have never managed to get round to taking any time off to really see much of the place (there goes that working mother guilt again), but thanks to various colleagues at least feel like I have managed to experience enough of the bars and restaurants that make up a lot of the vibrant nightlife. This time, I even managed to spend an evening at Dubai Mall, drooling at the Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks, and putting into action a little part of my continued wardrobe workout (post on that one to follow, I think).

If I really wanted to, I think I could probably move out there tomorrow. Everyone who is "anyone" in my division currently seems to be relocating there. I have certainly contemplated it. It is hard not to be seduced by the sunshine and the vibrancy of the place.

I then have to remind myself that going somewhere for a week's work is in no way the same as living there full-time. The weather is pretty much unbearable for my pasty Northern European complexion for 6 months of the year. (We went out to a beach bar on Wednesday night, and when we left at 11.30pm it was still 38 degrees C.) My children would not be able to play outside. I would not be eating out in fancy restaurants, and I certainly would not be frequenting bars every night! What would my husband do? Most of those moving there so far have been men, with wives that either do not work, or seem to be able to give up their jobs easily. I can't see OH joining the expat wives club.

So, for now, I will enjoy my regular trips over there, and use the chance to occasionally pretend that my single, work hard, play hard days are not far behind me...

Friday 7 May 2010

Off for More Sunshine!

Dubai Skyline by Tom Olliver.

Apologies if this blog has been a little "bitty" recently. Seem to be madly rushing without going anywhere.

Well, this Saturday (assuming the ash cloud doesn't creep back over Southern England) I am off on my quarterly work trip to Dubai.

I will try and post a blog or two with my impressions while I am out there if I get the chance, but realistically may not have the time, inclination or technical facilities to do so. In the meantime, marvel at the ridiculousness/wonder* (delete as applicable) of the Dubai skyline.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Having an Election Day Holiday

I hope you're all out busy voting today?

Personally, I've decided the campaign has all been a bit too much, and I need a little holiday. I've therefore popped over to Spain. Catalunya to be precise. So join me over there, where I'm guest posting for the Very Bored Housewife while she's back in the UK.

My Photo

Monday 3 May 2010

Review - Official England World Cup Cake

The lovely Carol at New Mummy recently sent out a tweet asking if there was anyone out there that fancied reviewing some cake. Well, call it the novelty of never having done a review before, or just the fact that I can't resist cake, but I simply had to volunteer.

The kids were absolutely thrilled when the postman brought a parcel on Saturday morning to discover an Official England World Cup Cake inside (licenced by the FA, no less).

As you can tell from the photo on the left, they couldn't keep their hands off it, even as I was busy trying to take a pic.

The cake comes with the added bonus of a strip of stickers with pictures of various members of the England team. Some of the more well-known members of the team are pictured on the icing on top of the cake.

Inside is a sponge cake with strawberry jam and buttercream filling, which were very tasty. All colours and flavours are natural, and I must admit the taste did not have that synthetic hint about it that you sometimes get with mass-produced cakes like this. The only thing I would say is that the sponge could have been a little moister in my opinion, but the kids hoovered it up (it is supposed to serve 14, but the two of them could quite easily have eaten the whole thing had I let them!).

I will leave the final word to them:

"Mmmm, lovely"
"Mummy, this cake is delicious"

If you have football-mad children, I'm sure this will go down a treat. It would make a great birthday cake, or centrepiece to a World Cup party.

The cake costs £6.99 (very reasonable for a cake this size, in my opinion) and is currently available at selected Tesco's and Morrison's .

Sunday 2 May 2010

Bank Holiday Blues

Are you having fun?

It's a bank holiday weekend here in the UK. That of course means it is pouring with rain. Traditionally for us, bank holidays have generally meant get-togethers with friends of one description or another. Somehow, this year that doesn't seem to have happened. This weekend we were suppose to be emptying our ramshackle, prefab single garage, in preparation for the fact that it will soon get knocked down and a shiny new double erected in its place. To say it's not the best weather for it is an understatement.

Instead, husband and I yesterday took advantage of his mum staying over in order to pop off to Toys 'R' Us to buy DD2 a present for her birthday in a couple of weeks' time. (We never take the children with us - they are completely ignorant of the existence of this idea of adult hell, and we'd like to keep it that way! It's bad enough trying to wrestle them free of the Early Learning Centre)

Of course, said Toy Superstore does not just sell children's toys. Oh no. There are also toys for grown ups boys. We have been toying with the idea of getting a Wii for a while now, and hubby got a reasonable bonus from work this year, so was allowed to go and spend it on a toy (mine will be going on a handbag I think - hurrah!).

So, whilst not clearing out the garage, clearing out my clothes, playing on the Wii and attempting to keep the children sane whilst staring at the rain normal service has been temporarily suspended.


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