What a difference a day makes...

>> Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tasks completed on Day 1 of child home sick from school (with a temperature but not ill enough to spend the entire day in bed)

Child spends an extra 2 hours in bed reading instructive literature (OK, back copies of Top Gear magazine, but beggars can't be choosers)
English homework completed
4 sessions of Mathletics completed
Intelligent conversation over lunch
Short session on National Geographic kids website games section
TV switched at 4.00pm due to pompous statement that it shouldn't go on until the same time school would have finished
Mother's Tasks: Laundry, cooking (delicious nutritious home-made Moroccan lamb stew), overseeing entertainment of child.  Writing: grand total of approx 20 minutes.

Tasks completed on Day 2 of same child home sick from school

Child spends an extra 30 minutes in bed complaining about boredom
1 section of 3 of next week's English homework completed
1/2 session of Mathletics completed
Loooooong session on National Geographic kids games section
TV goes on at 11.00am, (Don't judge me: 3 back episodes of Planet Earth 2 watched - I call that a win, under the circumstances)
Conversation over lunch about... I can't remember.  Not sure it was intelligent.
Tantrum over uncharged iPod Touch
Mother's Tasks: Tactical 'forgetting' to recharge iPod Touch, wrangling with child over completion of further homework, complete failure to unload laundry from the machine, and dinner likely to consist of any old veg I can find to serve with chicken stir fry.  Writing: are you kidding?

Tasks likely to be completed if there is a Day 3 of having same child home sick from school

None - because it's not going to happen.

(Better not...)


Most embarrassing motherhood-related experiences #573

>> Monday, 21 November 2016

Went to town on Friday - literally.  When I say 'to town' I do, of course, mean that it should be pronounced in true Celia Johnson styley - 'to Tyne' - and am referring to London.  Husband and I were due to attend a swanky dinner, so I thought I would treat myself to a haircut first.

Luckily - LUCKILY - the lady cutting my hair has known me a long time.  (Parents reading this - you've already guessed where I'm headed, haven't you?).  Because otherwise I suspect I would have been thrown out on my ear just off Regent Street shortly after the following conversation took place.

Hairdresser:  'So, what are doing with this today?'

Me: 'Not quite as short as last time, thanks - I think I like it a little longer.'

Silence whilst she fusses about with clips and scissors etc (technical term, obviously).  Then, a little more silence whilst she closely inspects my hair.  I watch her and wonder if she is finally going to tell me that it's about time I got the grey seen to.  She would be right to - but no...

Hairdresser (in a low voice): 'Potty...'

Me:  'Yes?  Is it the grey?'

Hairdresser (clearing her throat as she ever-so-slightly backs away): 'Um - no.  Is it...  do you think...  could you have... lice?'

Ah, parenting.  The gift that keeps on giving...


And so it's November...

>> Thursday, 17 November 2016

Where on earth did the rest of October go?

Life has been busy here for the still-re-acclimatising Potty family, as I'm sure it is for everybody.  And also, as I'm sure is the case for everybody, most of what's been happening is not suitable blog-fodder; either too boring to share (do you really want to know what I thought of Netflix's 'The Crown?  I thought not - but fabulous, just in case in you do), or too personal to put out there.  Consequently, I'm taking the easy way out and will use this post as an opportunity to share another piece of writing I've done; the prologue to a novel I finished (in as much as you can ever finish writing an unpublished book) in the summer.

It's odd, finishing one novel and starting another, as I have done over the last few weeks.  I find it hard to imagine sharing the latter - it's still too fresh in my mind, I'm too protective about it - but god, I am SO over the former. After so long spent working on it I've lost all objectivity and can only see it's faults;  I can easily imagine sticking it in the back of a metaphorical desk drawer and never looking at it again.  That seems a bit of a waste though, so instead I'm putting it up here - at least then some of it will have seen the light of day at some point!

I hope you enjoy it - and no, this excerpt is not too long. At least, I don't think so... (see? No objectivity...)

Finding Katie (working title)

Prologue: October 1993

I strip down to my swimsuit on the nearly empty beach and look out at the sea, a flat grey in the early morning light.

And I know already that I’m not going to be able to do it.

When I woke alone in the quiet darkness of the caravan an hour ago, my mind was made up; this was the only way out.  As I folded my nightclothes and left them in a neat pile on the bed, I was resolute; this was the only way out.  Whilst I made my way through the dunes, purposefully avoiding any other early risers in case they gave me a smile I wouldn’t be able to return, I was still certain; this was the only way out.

Now though, as I stand shivering in the chilly autumn morning, I come to my senses.  This is a crazy plan.  I can’t just walk into the water and… go.  No matter what I’ve found out, I can’t finish it like this; it will devastate Mum and Dad. 

And my brother.  Oh god, my little brother...  It will destroy him.

The memories come rushing back, one after another, and I think back to when he was tiny, Mum was ill, and it was my job to look after him.  I remember his gummy smiles and warm compact little body, and how used to clamp his arms around my neck and cover my cheek with hot sticky kisses as I hoisted him out of his cot in the mornings. 

I think about him toddling across the living room floor pretending to be a car.  I think about the time I took my eleven year old eyes off him for one minute to read my latest copy of Smash Hits and he walked into the door, cutting his head open on the lock.  I think of how he hardly cried as I held his hand in the back of the car on the way to hospital to get the wound stitched up.  You can still see the faint scar in his hairline now, even though he’s fifteen.
And I realise again that I can’t do it. 

I can still call it off – one phone call, and I can still call it off.  And then, I can just head back home and… 

Oh god; home. 

Shivering slightly in the cool morning air, I pick my way gingerly across the sharp stones of the pebbled beach, and force myself to step into the water.  It’s freezing, and I give a sharp intake of breath as goose-bumps run like an electric shock up my legs but I ignore them; this is no time to be feeble. 

The cold laps around my ankles, then my knees, and I keep right on going until it’s at waist-height.  Then I take a deep breath, plunge in – fuck, it’s like ice – and start swimming, away from the shore.

Because it’s time to stop pretending; there is no other way out.


Flash fiction - or not...

>> Thursday, 13 October 2016

I'm taking an online writing course.  (And yes, I've finished the Great Work, but bear with me on this; we can all benefit - especially me - by being taught by professionals).

One of the tasks we've been given this week was to deliver a piece of 'flash' writing; that is, to use a writing prompt of only a few words to deliver a piece of writing completed in only 15-20 minutes. 

Here's one of mine (and you'll see why it's relevant to this blog - and that I'm still not over Russia - if you read it...)

I’ll never forget my first day in Moscow.

The snow fell thick and fast as we woke the boys that morning, seemingly coming down sideways, and I wondered aloud how we would manage to get them to school without a car.

‘Walk, of course’ Husband said, shovelling down spoonfuls of the sugary cereal that was the only local substitute for muesli we could find, rushing to make the minibus that would take him to the nearest metro station. 

I stopped as I rooted through one of our many over-stuffed suitcases in the hunt for the Weetabix we’d brought with us.  (Never let it be said I’m unprepared on the kids’ breakfasts.)  ‘But – isn’t it really cold outside?’

‘Well – it’s still snowing, so it probably won’t be any lower than -18degC.  You can walk in that.  We’ve got hats for them, haven’t we?’

I looked at him blankly.  Yes, we had hats for the children.  But we’d only got off the plane from London the previous afternoon; in the cliff-face of luggage stacked in the Ikea-furnished sitting room, I had no idea where they were. 

Half an hour later I located them lurking beneath the sitting room sofa under a pile of coats, soaked through after yesterday evening’s walk.  Turns out when you’re 4 and 6 years old, putting wet kit onto a radiator when you come inside after half an hour spent throwing yourself into snowdrifts isn’t top of mind. 

Cursing under my breath I emptied two more suitcases, adding to the impossible starburst of clothes across the living room floor, before finding the woollen back-up beanies I had packed ‘just in case’.  Now we were running out of time; the first day of term started in just 20 minutes and it was at least a 15 minute walk from the house to the classroom door.

I shoe-horned the boys into their snow gear; layer on layer of padded goretex over already bulky trousers and sweatshirts.  Then we crammed on their snow boots, taking care to pull the straps of their snow pants under their feet – wouldn’t want them to get wet socks before they even arrived at school – and tugged the zips of their coats shut.  As a final touch we pulled the ridiculously flimsy-looking woollen hats onto their heads and fastened the Velcro straps of the hoods of their coats over the top, just to be sure.

My London-bred sons looked like nothing so much as little Michelin men in their Moscow winter gear.  Not that I minded; wouldn’t all that padding be an advantage if they slipped on the thick ice that, as I had already learned to my cost, lurked beneath the freshly fallen snow?

‘OK boys, say goodbye to Dad – he has to go to work – and then it’s off to school.’ 

‘Is it far, Mum?’  Boy #1, worried, looked at me with big grey eyes.

‘No, of course not.  We drove past the school on our way here last night, remember?  It was the building like the lighthouse – the one we could see on the corner from the road… Come on, put your rucksacks on and we’ll be off.  And guess what?  You get me to pull you there on a sledge, remember?’

That did it; they started jostling each other excitedly as I laced up my snowboots and pulled on a pair of gloves.  Opening the heavy metal front door – the one with the thick layer of frost on the inside of the lock - was the bit I wasn’t looking forward to, but I knew that the longer we stayed in the too-warm brick-built house the harder it was going to be set foot outside.

At last, layered up and channelling my own homage to the Michelin man, I snapped open the wooden sledge.  Steeling myself – I hated the cold – I opened the door and stepped out with my children into what I can only describe as Narnia.  And against all my expectations, right there and then, I fell in love with the Russian winter

It was quiet, oh so quiet;  Muscovites take their time to get going in the morning, especially if – as on that first day – the snow ploughs haven’t made it to their street yet.  We stood, entranced, surrounded by clouds of glitter; in the yellow of the sodium street lights flakes of snow spun lazily in the still air, floating gently to the ground and settling prettily on the top of the boys’ hoods.  I’d never seen such enormous ice crystals before, their crenulations clearly visible, each different from the last and perfect in their imperfection. 

‘Are these real?’  Boy #2, seated on the front of the sledge in front of his brother, held out an arm decorated with drifts of enormous flakes.  Used only to the rather damp approximation of snow we had back in London, he was fascinated by the way these sparkled, holding their shape on his jacket for minutes at a time in the polar temperatures.

Leaning forward slightly to take the strain as I tugged the sledge along the tyre-rutted track, I nodded.  ‘They certainly are darling.  Get used to them – they won’t be the last you see…’


The Jam Spider

>> Monday, 3 October 2016

It's been quiet on here for way too long.  As ever, this is not because I don't have anything to share, but rather because I have too much, none of it for public consumption.

Kids.  They have a way of stimying (sp) creativity like that.  (And how DO you spell that word, by the way?  Anyone?).

So until I find myself in a position to share my own writing, here is some of my younger son's.  He was tasked last week with writing a poem about an extraordinary discover in an ordinary place.  Of course, he told me he couldn't do it.  It was impossible, he said.  No way, he said.  But we sat, and brainstormed a few ideas, and this is what he came up with.

The Jam Spider

One morning I came downstairs.
I put some bread in the toaster
And readied my tea.
I reached for the jam jar and opened the lid.
As I did so I noticed a little spider
With sparkling red eyes.
It waved a leg as if to say,
'Some privacy please, while I finish my breakfast.'
So I had honey instead.


Escapism, pure and simple...

>> Thursday, 14 July 2016

The summer holidays are here so normal service on this blog has been suspended (even more than usual) for the time being.  To keep things ticking over, however, I'm using a fb exchange between my sis and I from this morning.  I think it's entertaining...

From my sis to me: 

Tory name = first name of a grandparent + the name of the first Street you lived on hyphenated with your 1st headteacher's surname.
Reginald Elvaston-Woodhouse. Sorry Potty Mummy, I bagged it first.

From me to my sis: 

Well, I'll have to be your unmarried sister, Joan Elvaston-Woodhouse. Pillar of the local WI, unpaid house-keeper for Reginald, and still pining for a young accounts clerk, Alfred, who declared his love before going to Tenby on a works trip, falling for a brassy barmaid, and never returning. 

Alfred and Primrose run a sea-side cafe now and he often thinks wistfully of Joan and her bramble jelly as he wipes condensation from the salt-stained windows. 

Joan, meanwhile, is unaware that the local vicar, wounded in some unnamed war and bearing a slight limp as a consequence, dreams of her at night. Reginald knows, mind you, but keeps it to himself, unwilling to lose his devoted sister to another form of affection. And... Breathe....

From my sis to me:

Oh my God. I want to know more. 

Does Joan ever find out about the vicar's secret love? 

Will Alfred leave Primrose to peel the potatoes for the chips and take the bus back to Joan's village for the day, sitting next to the phone box on the village green, hoping for a sight of Joan whilst eating his corn beef and pickled sandwiches? 

And will Reginald take his attention away from the golf course just for one minute, to appreciate Joan's sacrifice?

From me to my sis: 

Don't think too harshly of Reginald. He is holding a torch for the redoubtable widow Verity Ssykes-Winton, a strong-willed lady with a bust like the prow of a ship.

Verity rules society in Upper Moultings with a rod of iron and, whilst she enjoys Reginald's attentions, has no intent - now that she's outlived her aged and querulous former husband Colonel StJohn Ssykes-Winton - of ever submitting to the marital yoke again. So Reginald is distracted, and a little envious of the puppy-dog devotion that his sister inspires in Vicar Edmund Oak-Wooton as she moves around the church arranging flowers and embroidering samplers for the pews...

That's it - for now.  Stay tuned for more inanity from Little Moultings.  (Oh, who am I kidding?  The next post on here is unlikely to happen until the next term starts...)


OK - time to walk the walk

>> Wednesday, 29 June 2016

So the die has been cast; Little England it is.

I'm not going to say it's 'alright'; from what I can see right now what is happening in and to the UK is most definitely Not Alright, but I'm trying to remain optimistic.  To that end, if you voted 'Leave' last Thursday I would really, really, love it if you could explain why you did so.

In fact, I'm begging; please, please, please, tell me why you voted 'Leave' - without using any of the already debunked pre-referendum promises or that load of old toss phrase 'take back control' - and I will listen.

I promise not to judge, I promise not to argue with you.  I am simply looking for positive, realistic, and quantifiable reasons for your vote - surely it shouldn't be that hard to come up with some?


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