Thursday, March 26, 2009

Xena: Warrior Bug Princess

For those of you who were doubting the validity of the humongous bug - here is the evidence. If I had any David Bellamy genes in my DNA (which I clearly don't) I would have positioned a ruler or a small child next to it, so you could really appreciate the scale of its bugtastic self before morphing into Xena the Warrior Bug Princess to tackle the problem.

I was hoping that Captain Underpants or Johnny Drama would step into the breach - demonstrate all their testosterone wonderfulness by capturing the bug and flushing it down the loo or burying it in the pots on the deck. But no such luck. They are clearly bigger girls than I am.

I didn't have a plan as such. There was this idea, lurking at the back of my mind, of a potential solution that involved launching an unsuspecting Johnny Drama into the bath, directly onto the bug. Johnny Drama is a solid little chap and - even given the bug's impressive proportions - I was calculating that the general advantage in his girth and weight would be sufficient to squash the bug pretty flat. But I wasn't confident in the accuracy of my aim or even that I would be physically able to both lift JD and then actually throw him, so I was ultimately forced to discard this simple and appealing idea.

We all went gingerly upstairs. Each donning our own preferred brand of armour to wrestle the beast. Both boys were brandishing light sabers, Johnny Drama was wearing a bike helmet and Captain Underpants had a colander on his head (we were a bike helmet down and it was the best I could do in the urgent circumstances). I was armed with rubber gloves, a long handled broom and dustpan, a kitchen roll and pair of sunglasses. I had an idea that the last accessory would dull my vision and reduce the bug's glorious hideousness...but no chance. At this point in the 'game' I was still hopeful that the boys would exhibit a combination of curiosity and courage that would enable me to yell instructions from the relative safety of the bedroom door, whilst they chased the bug around the bath, captured it in whatever form necessary and dispose of it in any violent fashion they deemed fit. Nope. They simply exhibited an obviously inherited tendency to scream like a girl and run from the room, never to be seen again. Big help.

I took several deep breaths - nearly knocking myself unconscious inhaling toxic levels of stale sweat and grime fumes - and knew at this point but I had no alternative but to continue. I can do this...I can do this...

I rolled up a massive wad of kitchen roll and approached the bath - then threw the huge white wad in the general vicinity of the bath and ran out of the room shrieking. Oh, very impressive. What I had expected from that feeble maneuver I'm not sure. That the bug would climb into the middle of the kitchen roll and then propel itself out of the bath and into the waiting toilet bowl, flush the chain and disappear? I crept back into the bathroom and peeked over the rim of the bath. Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph...the bug, having been dormant for the past 48 hours, was now sprinting circuits around the radius of the bath - obviously building up the necessary energy to leap from its porcelain prison, grab me round the neck and choke me to death.

Okay. This was it. Time to take charge. Time for definitive action. I took another deep breath (when would I learn?) and stepped into the breach, alone but armed with a steely glint in my eye and a broom. Mr bug was still practising his 400m dash around the perimeter of MY bath. Not for much longer. I stifled a girly eek and reached into the bath to turn on the shower. Then closed my eyes and gingerly waved the broom in a sweeping motion towards the plug hole.

I squint sideways to see how effective this approach is. The bug has paused, turned to face its adversary and is clearly ready to pounce on the bristles, rush up the broom handle and dive into my right ear. We begin to wrestle for possession of the broom - well, this is how it appears through my squint - and finally the combination of flood, bristles and a gaping hole into a sewer abyss is too much for my unwelcome visitor. Bye bye bugee man. I win! I win! I win! Yeay, for Xena the brave Warrior Bug Princess. I leave the shower running for a minute or so to make sure he is truly no more and then return triumphant downstairs to get on with making dinner.

That should be the end of the story. But of course it isn't. About half an hour later I return skipping lighthearted and carefree up to the bathroom for my long awaited shower. And he's back. Just sitting there looking at me defiantly. The super hero of bug land. Still languishing in my bath. You ain't getting rid of me that easy, amateur bug lady. Oh, and do me a favour. Have a bath will you love? Cos you bloody stink. This time I am taking no prisoners. I instantly put the shower on the highest temperature - I will scald all of your evil little legs off, if nothing else, you bastard. I grab the shower squeegee and lunge with the speed of a ninja towards my opponent. Hiiiiiiiii-YAAAH!! In an instance he is a whirling dervish of frenzied activity but I am not backing down like a wimp this time. Hiiiiiii-YAH! Hiiiiii-YAH! And yet again, Xena the Warrior Bug Princess reigns supreme.

This time I leap in the shower for the few minutes that I can guarantee it is bug free and wash layers of dirt from every orifice. I am clean. I can re-enter society once more without the sound of surreptitious sniffing and face scrunching all around me. I do not let my guard down once the whole time I am standing in the bath. I am beginning to get a glimpse of what this bug could be capable of and do not want to take any more unnecessary risks. As soon as the shower is done I close the plug hole (why it hadn't occurred to me to do this the first time I don't know. Probably because I am stooopid.)

But I am still not convinced that is the last that I have seen of him.

The Confession

Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been a lifetime since my last confession since I am not Catholic or even vaguely religious, but I am hoping that the many inebriated sessions with girlfriends over the past umpteen years whilst consuming many a bottle of (red) wine counts for something.

Confession 1

My Florence Nightingale intentions upped and left at some point in the middle of yesterday's debacle which masqueraded as dinner time. Therefore there is a 5 year old in school today still recovering from pneumonia and coughing up a lung every half an hour or so. Hopefully his teacher and his class mates will do a better job of tolerating his incessant hacking than I can. I wish I felt a smidgen of guilt about it but I am too busy luxuriating in the first day of blissful silence this house has experienced in 6 days.

Confession 2

Despite watching episode upon episode of Supernanny and Little Angels my talents at discipline remain purely in the 'theoretical' stage of development. The kids are taking over the asylum and every single moment that they are in my solitary care the scene is reminiscent of a madhouse, where I play the role of a deranged person of indeterminable gender - wild-eyed, hair on end, clothes askew and taken to weeping in the corner rather than bring order to the terminal chaos. The boys' behaviour right now is constantly loud, destructive, disobedient and verging on feral. Mealtimes are an absolute joke. The sofa is regarded as a giant inflatable and toys and clothes are regularly thrown with wild abandon over every surface. There was a point in time when I had the energy to coral this behaviour but the impetus seems to have left me and I have no confidence it will ever return.

Confession 3

I haven't had a shower for 2 days and it is likely this unhygienic trend will continue as long as there is a bug the size of an anteater, but not half as adorable looking, lurking in my bath. I know I need to suck it up, put on my gardening gloves and deal with it. But every time I peek with trepidation into the bath and spy it there, winking at me, I get a seizure of the heebie-jeebies and it is all I can do to back away slowly, close the door quietly and sprint at Olympic speed back down the stairs where I can no longer hear it chuckling with malevolent intent. Not only is this bug HUGE (at least 3 inches from top to tail and that is without its various antennae thingys, which add at least another inch to its hideousness) but I am pretty sure it is the only guaranteed meat eating living organism currently residing here apart from my good self. I am fairly certain it is going to eat me alive if I even attempt to approach it within a 2 metre radius. At this point in time I would have more confidence, and probably more success, tackling a rabid sabre-toothed tiger out of the bath. Smaller teeth you see.

In the meantime I will continue to do the best I can with a packet of wet wipes to remove the fetid stink from my various crevices - and keep donning a variety of caps (thank God I live in America where this type of head wear is not a huge fashion faux pass) to hide my greasy, lank locks.

Confession 4

I am the most woefully ill-informed adult that I know. I haven't read a newspaper since living in Chicago and apart from being able to rattle off the various indiscretions and wardrobe highlights and horrors of every A, B and C list celebrity I have no idea what is going on in the world. I read other blogs which regularly reference current affairs, eloquently expressing researched opinions of importance and magnitude - with a dull ache of ignorance. I am not sure how this happened to me. I think it is a reflection of the lazy slack Alice attitude I have adopted since becoming a mum, where everything apart from the superficial and banal just feels like way too much work to keep on top of.

This state of ignorance has been amplified since I stopped living with ex. Ex is the fountain of all knowledge. Well, not all knowledge (like how to maintain a successful marriage) and not necessarily knowledge that I had any real interest in (the current state of the space programme at any given second of the day or the latest political shenanigans occurring on Capital Hill). But at least it was knowledge and it was freely dispensed - and quite frankly whilst I found it a source of extreme irritation at times, now I really miss it. What is going on with the Space Programme? I lie awake wondering at night. Is the probe back from Mars with more space dust and photographic evidence of previously unseen red craters? I have no idea. Who is that new man with the big ears on Capitol Hill? It was like having my own free verbal news ticker tape, constantly running as background noise in my life. Now I have nothing and I am back to being stooopid.

Confession 5

Despite having a severe bout of bronchitis recently, which until it was diagnosed I was certain was lung cancer, I am still smoking. I did give up. I really did. For 5 days - which felt great. Then I got all emotional dropping the boys off at their dad's at the weekend and I went and bought a bottle of wine and some more fags. It's always intended as a Fuck You gesture (this was how it all started 3 years ago when my little white picket fence started tumbling down - ex is an avid anti-smoker) but I know ultimately if this bad habit continues it's just going to end up with a Fuck Me result, as the bronchitis already testifies. It's so stupid, because I really hate smoking. I hate being a smoker and it is the thing that I despise most about myself. It is shameful and the most disgusting habit I have (although if the bug in the bath lives for very much longer I am guessing my personal hygiene, or lack of, might start to have a competitive edge).

I do have certain rules (absolutely no smoking in front of the kids or in the house) and I try to keep the habit to between 5-10 cigarettes a day. But I don't really understand why I am doing this to myself and why I don't have the strength and motivation to stop. I told my closest friends I had stopped smoking last week and am now trying to keep up the pretense, whilst sneaking a quick drag every few hours. The hacking cough is persisting (go figure) and after several hours of no nicotine fix, when I am gasping for a fag, I 'reward' myself and then end up literally gasping for air...but still going back for more a couple of hours later. I do want to stop. But I guess I just don't want to stop enough. It is a crutch - a pathetic crutch, yes, - but mine nonetheless.

After reviewing this post is seems obvious that all these 'confessions' could be easily resolved if I stopped being so gormless and aimless - and just directed a little more energy to the important things in my life: my kids, my hygiene, my health, my intellect. As my mum would say 'Don't dither - do it'. And I guess that is just the thing that I have to do. Stop whinging about it. Stop being so bored with it all. Stop procrastinating and finding everything so bloody difficult - and just get my arse into gear and sort it all out! Oh my. Think I have just saved myself a fortune in therapist fees there. Right, hand me a wet wipe cos my underarms could do with a quick scrub before I do the school run. And if I'm quick I'll have time for a quick cigarette before I go...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It Never Rains...

Okay, so the gloom monster has been successfully tackled, shackled and shoved kicking and screaming into the back of the cupboard, where it is sitting menacingly gathering energy for its next possible onslaught. It has been replaced by the verging-on-constant-hysteria monster, whose catch phrase is 'well, you just gotta laugh'. So the dissolving into tears at any given moment has stopped and has been replaced by mirthless cackling. I'm not sure which is worst to be honest but at least the cackling isn't accompanied by puffy eyes the size of golf balls, which has never been my best look.

Here's the last 2 weeks in a nutshell...

- Oprah was great fun but I didn't end up being featured, so no chances of a bevy of handsome men battling for my affection on the doorstep for the foreseeable future

- Money is officially the root of all evil which is easy for me to say because my ex is now hoarding all the money in his sole accounts, leaving me to panic over every last penny

- I went out to see the band Razorlight and ended up being invited to join them at a local bar for a drink

- The house is as toxic as the bubonic plague. First I had bronchitis followed by flu and now Captain Underpants has pneumonia, which isn't helping my recovery

- I was offered a job filming a new fitness dvd for PowerPlate, but the offer was then retracted and given to a girl in the UK due to lack of US funds

- I lost my other teaching job yesterday so am now unemployed, but haven't had the guts yet to tell ex

- I have lost all energy for tears and can't help laughing at the universe's attempts to keep trying to trip me up. Oh bring it on. I've got through worse.

Here's the long, drawn out version of events to bore you all rigid with...

Thurs - Oprah Sm'Oprah

The Steve Harvey Show was aired yesterday. What can I say? This was apparently not my opportunity for international fame. I was on the show though. Just. During one of the early camera pans of the audience you can vaguely see a pale faced, limp haired woman clapping wildly like a deranged chimp and dressed in a tunic which appears to have had a multi-coloured ice-cream sundae thrown all over it. It was blindingly obvious from the moment that we arrived at the show, along with the other 298 audience members, and stood outside for 45 minutes, freezing our skinny-jeaned selves along with the rest of the rabble, that we were unlikely to be having a televised heart-to-heart with the Queen of Daytime on this occasion.

After finally making it into the studio and taking another 45 minutes to go through the security rigmarole, we were positioned fairly close to the stage. However, out of the 300 women in the audience there were at least 200 who were determined to do whatever it took to get camera time. Dressed in day-glo jewel toned jumpers, and leaping up and down in their chairs waving their arms above their heads like jack-in-the-boxes on speed, it was like observing a Mexican Wave gone astray. Maybe it was my British reserve. Or maybe it is just a reflection of my own personal psyche - but I was much happier to sit there anonymously and judge indiscriminately rather than hold myself up for public scrutiny.

The show was filmed for 2 hours and, to be honest, only a couple of questions from the audience were ultimately featured. Steve Harvey was hilarious but my enjoyment was hampered somewhat by the agony of trying to sit elegantly and smile photogenically for 2 hours straight. It took 3 days for the ache in my hips and cheeks to subside.

However, I did get to meet Oprah and Steve briefly at the end of the show. We didn't really chit-chat in depth and no phone numbers or email addresses were exchanged. I can't fool myself that it was a deep and meaningful personal moment for either of them particularly. But it was great to meet her face to face, to shake her hand, to exchange brief pleasantries and talk for a couple of minutes about her fantastic shoes (dark red peep toe Christian Louboutin) and the medical status of her sick puppy Sadie (at the time she was extremely critical although you will be relieved to hear that she is now on the road to recovery).

Fri - Penniless

I woke up to discover that my ex has transferred all the money out of the joint account into his sole account and I was effectively penniless for 24 hours. Not only was I penniless I was in fact overdrawn, which meant that I couldn't use my bank card at all. I can't describe how furious I was. I screamed and ranted down the phone at ex, who was travelling on business, bursting into helpless tears in front of the kids. Apparently he had told me in passing that he was going to re-organise the finances. Hmmm. Funny how he hadn't clarified the means of 're-organisation' in writing. I felt absolutely sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with fear and suspicion. All sorts of crazy, terrible thoughts occupied my head all day. But I emailed ex in a calm manner, apologising for the hysteria and asking him to continue with our agreed principle of financial transparency. And he responded with an apologetic phone message, promising to transfer all the money I needed as soon as he arrived home and with assurances that he would continue to be fair blah blah blah.

I felt a little better - and the money did get transferred. But it has highlighted the fact that I need legal advice. The money I receive right now is purely at ex's discretion and whilst I don't want to be a money-grabbing bitch I'm not convinced that the current financial allocation is fair. It would help my peace of mind to secure financial stability. But the thought of taking this step is daunting, because it could be the straw that breaks the amicable camel's back. Plus any legal representation over here is going to cost a fortune and I can't bear the thought of having to spend all that money, when it could be put to much better use.

Sat - Rock Chick

One of the greatest advantages of living in Chicago the past 9 years has been seeing great British bands. And on Saturday night I headed off to a little dive of a place to see Razorlight. Now I wouldn't say I was a huge fan of their music but I am rarely disappointed by seeing a successful band perform in a small venue. And there is something so special about supporting British bands who are relatively unknown in Chicago. Most of the people there were Brits (including half the teachers and parents of the British School of Chicago - all studiously trying to ignore each other) and it was nice to exchange smartarse comments with a bunch of strangers with similar accents for an hour or so. Razorlight were fantastic live and after the gig, while we were hanging out at the bar, we spotted the band. Usually I would eye anyone famous from a distance - playing out an imaginary conversation in my head before sloping off, full of regret that I didn't have guts to say 'hi'. Not tonight. My friend and I marched over and introduced ourselves - and before we knew it we were talking baked beans (I wish I was joking about this but it is sadly true) and had been invited to join the band at a nearby bar for a drink.

And after many years of gigs I was finally to hear the immortal words...'yeah, let her through. She's with the band...' Only in Chicago. Roll on April because I have tickets for the Ting Tings, Lily Allen, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.

Sun - Bambi on Ice

I had the kids on Sunday but ex suggested we all meet up and go ice-skating in the afternoon. We had taken the boys to see the ice hockey the previous Sunday with Captain Underpant's class mates, and this would be our last chance to skate at the outdoor rink because it was closing that very day. Tension between ex and I was still running high following the money debacle. I was starting to harbour sad thoughts of regret about our split, which caused me to alternate between flirtatious high spirits and emotional doe-eyed blinking back of tears from minute to minute. However, that all abated for a few brief minutes when I stepped onto the ice with Captain Underpants. It was just like trying to stabilize Bambi. The more I giggled and attempted to help him get both feet directly underneath him, the more his legs skidded about in every which direction. I ended up howling with laughter - along with all the spectators along the 3 or so metres that I managed to propel us both. I wish it had been captured on film. But even thinking about it now I can remember how my belly ached from laughing so deeply and so freely. Bambi on Ice (aka Captain Underpants) was not amused.

Mon-Fri - Flu Coma

After battling bronchitis for 2 weeks and generally feeling very run down and emotionally fragile, I finally succumbed to full blown flu and for the first time in years had to stay in bed for 3 days to recover. I didn't even have the energy to read or watch daytime television, which I had never considered being activities that had particularly required energy before I was sapped of every ounce of it. On Wednesday I did venture out to the hairdressers. Vanity got the better of me, because I had been asked to film a fitness dvd the following week in Portland and couldn't bear the thought of turning up with an inch of grey roots. This proved to be a bad move when I fainted half way through the application of the colour and it took all of my remaining strength to persuade them not to cart me off to ER. I managed to maintain consciousness whilst they hastily finished off the colour and cut and packed me off home. Of course, I arrived home, exhausted and with a less than impressive new 'do', to a message that the fitness dvd had been cancelled and my services were no longer required. Aaaarrrgghhhh! Usually I would have been fuming at this turn of events, but I was too sick to muster sufficient energy for even a mild case of frustration and just went back to bed and hid under the covers for another 2 days to recover.

The weekend - Captain Underpants seems a bit peaky

I spent the whole weekend double dosing Captain Underpants with every known pediatric pain killer, convinced that his fever was a 24 hour inconvenience that a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen would cure. This then became a 48 hour inconvenience. Then a 72 hour inconvenience. Oh for goodness sake - trust me to buy some duff bottles of medicine that were seemingly incapable of dealing with the common cold.

Monday - Receive Medical Confirmation that I am in fact Worse Mother in the World

Finally resort to taking Captain Underpants to the doctors, who tells me in no uncertain terms that he has pneumonia and is highly contagious (oops - guess all those playdates to stop mummy losing her marbles at the weekend were a bad idea then). It is clear he needs to be adopted by a mummy who cares slightly more about her child's health than when the next possible child-free opportunity might arise so she can update her blog again. Mummy slopes off home, tail firmly between her legs, determined to replicate the care of Florence Nightingale from this moment on if it kills her (which it probably will).

On the way home, I receive a call from the gym I have been working at since October last year telling me that they can no longer afford my services and not to bother coming back to work. Fan-bloody-tastic. I feel that sick sense of 'oh shit' in the pit of my stomach. Which then abates a little when I realise that I really hated that job, it earned me pittance and it really wasn't going to be any great loss. Yes, the $100 or so a week was handy. But hardly life saving. Now I could focus on getting everyone in the household back to being fighting fit, including myself, and really start to concentrate on what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life.

No ideas as yet.

I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Abyss

I am really struggling right now. I knew the separation would be difficult but I didn't expect to be facing a future which, any way that I look at it, resembles an abyss. It's hard not to keep walking towards the abyss. The darkness and futility of it is so appealing. All this creeping around the edges of it is exhausting. On many days the lure is so strong I want to plunge into it headfirst and just get all this angst and sadness over and done with, once and for all.

So not the light, happy post about Oprah then.


Or the exciting Rock Chick post about going to see Razorlight and then meeting the band afterwards and getting invited along to the bar for drinks with them.

No. None of that.

I am the gloom monster.

I'm just not sure where I meant to get my strength from right now. I want everything to be amicable. And I want everything to be fair. But I think my ex wants to play by different rules. He holds all the purse strings and our agreement for 'financial transparency' appears to have gone by the wayside. I'm not sure I have the will for this fight. I am dreading the potential repercussions. And of course, if the abyss isn't an option then all I really want to do is take flight and go home. Take my boys and start again in the UK. But that isn't an option either.

It's a really, really hard week.

I do know it isn't the end of the world. I am making an effort to keep a perspective on it. It's normal to be sad when a marriage is over. It's rational to be scared when you're financially vulnerable. And it is only money. Although I have been in bed sick with flu the past 3 days, I do have my health. I do have a great life. A great life. A happy life.

So why all the constant tears??? I am a broken, leaking faucet right now. I honestly thought I had no tears left after all the sobbing I have done over the past 3 years. But here they are again.

I will get a grip. But right now, I just want a hug. Oh. And some cash. That would take a weight off my mind too.

Normal, lighthearted profanity strewn ramblings will resume shortly. Promise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Here Goes

So Johnny Drama is still sick...but an incredibly kind friend has offered to look after him for the day. Phew. Plans not foiled just yet.

Have spent HOURS trying to beautify myself. Have more slap on than I usually wear the whole year making me look more like BoBo the Clown rather than a sophisticated man magnet 40-something. Am wearing the 6th outfit that I tried on, which I actually thought was pretty impressive. The bedroom is like a bomb's hit it. Clothes laying strewn over every surface. Shoes higgledy piggledy all over the floor. Have decided to wear jeans with a bright tunic that looks like it was cobbled together from the remnants of a 1970's pair of curtains. I have only been wearing it 15 minutes and it is already sporting massive sweat stains. Reminder to self: keep arms pinned tightly to my sides at all times.

Am waiting for gorgeous guest girlfriend to arrive (only 25 minutes late so far). We have spent the morning on the phone and texting each other at 3 minute intervals during the getting ready drama (which probably explains why my eye makeup in particular looks like it was applied by a visually challenged chimp).

Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God!

My stomach is churning so much I'm not sure whether I want to throw up or just shit myself. The tunic can definitely handle throw-up spillage - it's such a kaleidoscope of colours I'm fairly confident no one would notice.

At last. She is here. Off I go...into the breach and all that. Pip, pip, tally ho. Christ, I could have really done with that shit...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Act Like a Bitch, Think Like a Sleep Deprived Zombie...

So the big Oprah day is tomorrow and although I would like to kid myself I am not nervous I hardly slept a wink for the past 2 nights and kept thinking I was having some form of tachycardia attack, my heart was racing so fast.

And matters weren't helped last night when Johnny Drama decided to fall victim to a raging fever. He woke up at 2am and his torso was so hot I felt I was in danger of getting singed more than once. I felt for him. I really did. But as I mopped his fevered brow and stroked his back to help him sleep I thought, 'what are the chances? what are the bloody chances that one of the kids is sick now? I have no babysitting coverage on Thursday and if he is not well enough to go to school I won't be able to go'. And imagine how devastated Oprah would be if I couldn't be there?

I had spent the evening responding to an email from the Oprah Show asking me to submit questions for Steve Harvey - 'He would like your most hilarious, outrageous, unbelievable dating or marriage questions. Do you have some ridiculous stories from your dating days? Have you been completely unlucky in love and you are still looking for Mr. Right? Have you been married for years and you are STILL trying to figure out why your husband does a lot of the things he does? Are you new to dating and trying to figure out the rules of the game?'

I had speed read the book in a couple of days, which wasn't difficult because it was an entertaining read, but had no idea that I would have to submit my questions in advance. I had a couple outlined in my head but thought that I still had the luxury of another 48 hours to formulate something worthy of Oprah. Anyway, I guess the unexpected and tight deadline was a blessing in disguise. I could have ruminated on the questions for every waking minute of the next 48 hours and still not had anything more original and entertaining to say. Knowing me I would have been sitting looking at a blank piece of paper while sitting in the studio car park.

So here is, on reflection, the 'best of' said email. Which isn't really saying much. I am so screwed. Pass me the dark glasses and head scarf everyone. I am not sure I am going to be out in public from Thursday onwards without a disguise of sorts. (All donations welcome. Make sure you send them Express.)

1. I have been told by men that I am confident, smart, sexy, fun, outgoing - the sort of woman any man would thank his lucky stars for. Recently I have met men who have acted like they have been 'dazzled' by me. 'Oh my God, you're so beautiful. You're funny, You're incredibly smart. You are the sexiest woman I have ever met.' Hmmm. Really? Because despite all this attention, it hasn't led to a man being interested in dating me properly. Why would they say all that and not act on it? What is going on?

This was the original angle presented by my friend that the producer was keen to use...but my God, I hope they don't. I haven't slept for 48 hours and by the time of the show it is likely to be 72 roots are showing and I am looking like the most haggard version of myself possible. No-one - NO-ONE - is going to believe this of me and I am going to end up looking like a deluded has-been - living in a fantasy world with just her over-inflated ego for company.

2. I am in my early 40s, recently separated and a single mother to 2 young boys. There are so many incredible women out there. Is my competition young, gorgeous professional women in their 20s? No strings? No kids? No wrinkles to speak of? Oh - and bigger boobs?! If so, what am I meant to do? I can't reverse time. And I don't believe in plastic surgery!

3. Why do men just want to 'devour the cookie' a lot of the time - without nibbling around the edges and savouring the flavour before heading straight for the 'chocolate chips'?!

Steve Harvey is far too much of a gentleman to call sex 'sex'. It is 'cookie'. So you get the gist.

I also included a couple of more serious and long-winded questions but honestly, you don't deserve to be bored to death to that degree. (Degrees of death..? I told you I was tired.)

The next 3 questions were submitted from Kabbalah Rookie so I have blatantly stolen them.

4) Do men have an inbuilt sensor that detects the 'neediness transmission signals' from women, and if so, how can a woman disable it without causing actual bodily harm?

5) Why are men so hopeless at saying "I'm Just Not That In To You" - with a constructive list of reasons why not - given that it is common knowledge that us women turn blatantly neurotic when forced to guess?

6) If two people are destined to be together, what difference does it make to the man's way of thinking if the woman 'puts it all out there on a plate' right from the word go?

The next two questions were suggested by Home Office Mum (Thanks HOM - I will happily give you credit here but please do not expect any on National TV...cos I ain't gonna happen).

7) How is it that men are able to sleep through a baby crying?

8). Are men actually allergic to the magnetic force field surrounding dishwashers which prevents them from putting plates into it, instead of on top of it?

And here are the questions submitted on behalf of my 'guest', who I am guessing has spent most of the day pruning and preening and laying out half her wardrobe on her bed. Neither of us still has a bloody clue what we are going to wear. All options seem to scream either 'Matron', 'Sloven' or 'Slapper'. Decisions, decisions girlfriend...we can't turn up naked.

9) If a married man has not been interested in getting the cookie at home for a long time - but is adamant that he is not getting it elsewhere and it isn't that important to him - is he lying or is he the exception to the rule (ie. a freak??)

10) Why is it a man can sometimes see all the great things in a woman's friends - admire their looks, their intelligence, wit, etc - but he no longer sees these same qualities in his woman, even if she has them in spades?

11). So if a married man is no longer showing any indication that he wants to profess, provide, protect then does this mean the marriage is over?

After wracking my brains, I also unearthed my only disastrous dating story (you should know that I am afflicted with selective memory syndrome combined with the early stages of Alzheimer's, so 'only' is probably a lie but one that I am sticking to). I have embellished the telling of the story a little - I thought it wise to omit a few (ie many) incriminating details in the version submitted to Oprah, given that it is intended as a family show and is being co-hosted by a man who is a fervent Christian, teetotal and refers to sex as 'cookie'.

Disastrous dating story:

Many years ago I was out in a bar with a girlfriend, getting totally wasted on pitchers of Long Island Iced Tea (they seemed to be all the rage 15 years ago, when this story took place. You could always tell the quality of LIIT by just how diluted the coke was - and these pitchers were virtually transparent.) By the second pitcher we were legless and shameless, but under the impression we had morphed into the wittiest, most gorgeous version of ourselves and were flirting outrageously. Just as we were leaving, I attracted the attention of a really good looking guy. When we left the bar and went to eat at a restaurant nearby he followed us, joined us for a drink and then paid for our dinner and drinks before getting my number.

Truth be told this guy was a bit of a Lothario and I knew it. He was a set designer for Pinewood studios, which I thought was incredibly glamorous (but on reflection he was probably standing around waving a paint brush over various shapes of MDF all day). We went out on a couple of dates and he seemed incredibly smitten. Lots of chemistry. Lots of gaze-holding. This was July and the guy started talking about how he would love me to come and spend Christmas with his family for heaven's sake. He got me hook, line and sinker.

One Saturday we planned to meet in the afternoon after he finished work. He arrived at my flat 2 hours late, said he was exhausted and could he please use my shower to freshen up because it would take him too long to go home and then return. I was a little taken aback and agreed. (Just incase it isn't obvious - we hadn't had sex at this point, unless you consider frantic dry-humping sex, of which there had been plenty). After some time I went to check on what was going on because he hadn't returned to the living room. I found him fast asleep on my bed, dressed only in a towel. I was stunned. I went back to the living room, fixed myself a stiff drink and started watching television. After another hour or so I began to get seriously annoyed and went to wake him up to find out if we were still going out. At this point 'one thing led to another' and he got the 'cookie' (see question 3.)

He ended up staying the night and left for work the next morning, promising to pick me up in the afternoon to go to a family barbecue. 'I can't wait for you to meet my sister - I think you're going to get on like a house on fire' were his parting words. I was all 'aglow'. I took my time getting ready and, of course, he doesn't show up. Not only does he not show up but I never hear from him again.

This could be the end of the story but I was really angry to the point of wanting to castrate someone. I had never had Fatal Attraction bunny-boiler tendencies before but I really wanted to find some way to exact my revenge. So I hatched a plan. A few weeks later the friend I was originally out with called this guy, pretending to be a nurse from the local STD clinic. She asked if this was a good time to talk and whether or not he could speak for a few minutes in private. She then went on to say that they were treating a young lady and were in the process of contacting her recent sexual partners. She would highly recommend that he come in for some tests and possible procedures - just as a precautionary measure. (This was in the height of AIDS media attention, where we were being led to believe it had the contagious properties of the bubonic plague.) Of course, she couldn't reveal the young lady's identity, due to patient/doctor confidentiality, but there was a high chance he had been exposed and needed to come in to be cleared as soon as possible. The guy was speechless. He asked some stammering questions 'how serious is this exactly? how soon can I come in?' He made an appointment to attend the clinic there and then (we had researched the opening times and were able to give him directions) and sounded absolutely terrified.

Who knows whether or not he actually attended the clinic. I couldn't care less either way. It was a far more satisfactory ending to our dating experience than the one he originally left me with.

So there we have it. Still have no idea if Johnny Drama is going to be well enough to go to school tomorrow. He has been dosed up on the US version of Calpol all day and leaping around in his usual ant-in-the-pants way. I can only keep my fingers crossed that I still get to go. Although given that you have now seen the majority of my 'contribution' (ha!), his illness and my subsequent non-attendance could be a blessing in disguise.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man

So it has been quite a week. More downs than ups but just when you think it can't get any worse a friend rescues you and...before you know it you are invited to be on the Oprah Winfrey show.

YES! The Oprah show! Me. I am going to be filmed on the Oprah show on Thursday and it is freaking me out. And I need your help.

It all started on Wednesday when my friend had a ticket to be in the audience and at the end they were promoting a show due to be filmed next Thursday with Steve Harvey, where he would be taking questions regarding his latest book Act Like A Woman, Think Like A Man. So my unselfish friend, without a thought for herself, queued for an hour to talk to the producer and then she offered my services. The producers wanted to feature questions from women for men and Steve was going to do his damnest to answer them.

Apparently the majority of the women in front of her all had questions revolving around the same angle, the gist being 'why are men so threatened by my feminine power?' (I kid you not.)

My angle (apparently) is 'why do I constantly get male attention and get told I am funny, smart, beautiful and the sexiest woman they have ever met (snort) and then nothing happens?' I feel she is elaborating somewhat but hey, this is a chance for TV fame so nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So now I have spoken to two producers and have been invited, along with a friend, to attend the show and have to be prepared to ask lots of questions. FUUUUUCCCCKKKKKK!!!

For a start, God only knows what my ex is going to think if he ever finds out I am talking on International TV about my issues with snaring a man. I am obviously going to keep stum and hope he never finds out.

The other issue is what the hell am I going to wear? Is anyone going to help me with my makeup or I am going to have the bare the embarrassment of telling everyone in the Western world that men tell me I am the sexiest thing on 2 legs...whilst looking like a complete troll?

And then of course, the real area where I need your help. The questions.

Two guys I have met and been out with in the past 3 months have given me the whole 'wow, you are lovely, sexy, any man would give his left arm to be with you' spiel before they hotfooted into the distance, never to be heard from again. So there is the original angle. I am also considering the 'am I in competition with young, hot 20 yr olds with no baggage, no kids and bigger boobs?...if so, I am so screwed' angle.

Whilst this is all a bit of a laugh, and I can't really believe I am about to have approximately 2 minutes of cringe-worthy fame, I am also a little intrigued by what I can learn. Ultimately, I do want to meet an incredible man and be in a relationship that might hopefully last the rest of my life. Being in the (outskirts) of the dating scene right now really does highlight how I just don't have a clue how men think. I don't want to be making the same mistakes over and over again in my 40s, possibly 50s and beyond (heaven forbid). I am really fucking lonely and need to know that this isn't going to last forever.

So c'mon everyone - help a girl out here a little. Do you have any questions that I can beg, borrow and steal for the show? What would you ask Steve, if you were in my position?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The biggest thank you's

I have been an incredible slack Alice in not thanking people for the two awards I received a couple of weeks ago. I hope this isn't interpreted as any form of ungratefulness or noncholance...because I couldn't have been more thrilled and delighted.

It was more a case of illness combined with exhaustion combined with blind panic - oh no! How the f*ck do I add one of those pretty logos into my blog?? You can probably tell from the blog and it's lack of pretty pictures that I am a complete novice verging on retard with regards to these matters. I would love to make my blog more visually appealing but I wouldn't have a clue where to start and I already spend so many hours either reading blogs or attempting to write mine, that to add anything more complicated into the equation is simply asking for trouble in my book.

But lookey here! I have done it!! And it only took me 45 minutes of phaffing about to insert these logos. Piece of cake. How I actually get them to appear permananently into my blog is a whole other ball game. I have decided not to get too carried away and attempt that just yet. I already feel the need for a quick lie down because my brain is starting to ache from the stress of it all.

This first adorable award (the one above - please don't hold it against me for not placing the award next to the accompanying text - the fact it is on the page at all is a feat that has taken nearly 2 weeks to achieve) is the Love Ya award from the wonderful notSupermum (although we all know that she really is).

And here is the meaning behind the award...

“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you notSupermum! This is a lovely award - although I think the fact that I have appeared to ignore it since it was awarded at least an eon ago is not the greatest mark of friendship I could have reciprocated...

This second award (gosh, I am feeling a little Kate Winslet here - 2 awards in one week? Whatever next?) is from Almost American, who has been so supportive since I started this blog in January. The blurb to accompany this award goes like this...

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers!"

Hmmm, the wording sounds a little familiar, don't you think? And I certainly appear to have you all fooled with the friendliness ploy.

Anyway, as courtesy demands I now forward both awards onto a small selection of other bloggers that I follow avidly and that have been so welcoming in blogosphere land:

Life in the One Percent, Soapbox Mummy, More Than Just a Mother, I promise that I will do my best, Are we nearly there yet mummy?, Sticky Fingers, Wahm Bam!, Not Wrong, Just Different, Rosie Scribble, Jo Beaufoix, Potty Diaries, Belgian Waffle and I also have to say, right back atcha Not Supermum and Almost American.

Phew. It is done. Now for that lie down...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Time Traveller

I was travelling last week. To most people it might appear that I have just been on a short business trip to Vancouver. But to the more vigilant observer among you it is obvious that I did in fact travel back in time...back to those heady hedonistic far away days of going on a trip without children.

You cannot truly appreciate the bliss of pure adult travel until you have spent several years having to supervise the relocation of little humans, and all their accompanying paraphernalia, every time you step outside the front door.

There's the simple matter of packing, for starters. And believe me, it couldn't have been less complicated. I started to think about what I was going to pack about an hour before I needed to leave for the airport. Instead of my usual copious list of 'essentials' that takes longer than the trip to assemble, I knew as long as I had fresh contact lenses and remembered the computer and projector, I would get by. Everything else that made it into the holdall was a bonus. Before I had kids I would pack clothes for every eventuality and enough toiletries and makeup to re-stock Boots. With the kids I tend to pack every single item in their wardrobe. Far be it from me to arrive at my destination and for the weather to throw me a curve ball - I have been prepared for snow in Mexico and blistering heat waves in the UK winter. I haven't been a Girl Guide for more years than I care to calculate but never let it be said that I am not prepared. Then there's the armfuls of their 'favourite' toys, which tend to take up a whole suitcase in themselves, followed by every known children's medicine to counter ailments ranging from a sniffly nose to an amputated limb.

At least the main luggage is straightforward with kids - anything and everything. It's the hand luggage that always gets me. Games, books, snuggly animals in case they want a nap, snacks upon snacks, drinks, fresh change of clothes because you know at some point there is going to either be a spillage of drink/snack combo or, worse, vomit and/or poo - making the outfit they arrive at your destination in a stinky sodden mess. Both boys have their own rolling backpacks, because it stands to reason that now they can successfully coordinate all their limbs in a fairly adult fashion they can now wheel their own hand luggage through a building and onto a plane. Well, that's the theory. Of course, the backpacks get gleefully wheeled approximately 100 paces before being abandoned directly in the path of someone who doesn't have kids and mummy is then expected to morph into a Sherpa for the rest of the journey, with bags hanging off shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. It's usually at this point, before we have even reached the check-in, that I am woefully regretting ever leaving the house.

So it is somewhat delightful to discover that now, left to my own natural tendencies and with only myself to think of, I am in fact a bare minimal packer. It feels liberating to waltz into the terminal with the smallest of holdalls and a handbag. I feel chic and unflustered and a completely different version of the usual me. Nothing can phase me and I glide effortlessly to the check-in.

The first hurdle of the journey is presented with the automated check-in. It is here that time travel advances and I suddenly age 30 years and become as in-ept as my mother in operating anything more complicated than a kitchen appliance. I read the instructions as though trying to decipher hieroglyphic code. I then have to rustle through handfuls of paperwork in an attempt to distinguish a confirmation code from a booking code, a registration code from a never-going-to-find-it-completely-irrelevant-just-there-to-mess-with-you code. I stab at the screen, which is as responsive as a house brick and refuses to acknowledge the validity of any of the information I am attempting to enter. I resort to a combination of profanity and extra force with the finger punching and after much consideration the machine consents to spit out a boarding pass. I breath a sigh of relief and count my lucky stars that I only have to endure this torture once and don't have to repeat it a 2nd and 3rd time, whilst simultaneously doing the 100m sprint from one end of the terminal to the other to rescue two midget run-aways.

In a flash I am back in glamorous, poised, no kids mode and saunter to security.

Oh the unadulterated JOY of going through security without having one hand trying to retain a semblance of grip on 3 boarding passes, whilst simultaneously disrobing practically down to my underwear and loading trays with bags, backpacks, coats, belts, shoes, toys, food...whilst the other hand is desperately trying to prevent two boys from scrambling like commandos into the machine alongside their belongings.

Whilst others struggled and tutted and huffed, I was an oasis of calm. This procedure was effortless - having a pair of hands almost seemed overkill. I resisted the temptation to perform the security ritual with one hand behind my back, hopping on one leg because I didn't want to appear too cocky. Everything was moving at a snail's pace. Oh. No wonder. The detector has identified an unknown and potentially life threatening item. The sealed bottle of water that I had quickly purchased without thinking in the shop adjacent to security was being thoroughly scrutinised. Red Alert everyone - the offending item is carefully removed with latex gloves under the supervision of at least four armed personnel and ceremoniously emptied into a huge bin.

Phew. That was a close call. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as another major terrorist threat is successfully averted by these highly trained and auspicious individuals. And I leave security to go and spend another $4 on non-terrorist liquid refreshment. Oh what to do next? Should I mooch about in the bookshop for an hour, reading the covers of books that catch my eye and the contents of all the celebrity gossip magazines? Or just sit and sip an extra hot caffeinated beverage while eating chocolate and cake? All these options are suddenly available to me and it is intoxicating. Because I have no one else to please and cater for apart from myself I do them all and in no time at all it is time to board the plane. Of course there is a delay - but tish-pish, am I bovvered? I sit back in my chair and just revel in the knowledge that I now have more time to read my book, eat my treats, listen to my iPod and, most importantly, doze. Oh the luxury of the in-flight doze! When you haven't had the opportunity to sink into that lulled, open-mouthed, drooling slumber for several years, the opportunity to loll unattractively against the window and close your eyes whenever you choose is akin to nirvana for me. We reach cruising altitude and I glance down at the picturesque white fluffy clouds below - it is official. I am in heaven.

By the time the plane lands in Vancouver it is late and I am a little groggy. I have to get a hire car and drive to the hotel - it is pitch black and chucking it down with rain. I have to wait in a queue, which is a little tedious, but I am just so thankful that I am not having to chaperon two over-tired and therefore completely hyperactive children. I haven't spoken to anyone in 5 hours and it seems a little strange not to have heard the sound of my own voice issuing instructions or barking like a Sergeant major every few seconds.

Now I am at the front of the queue the guy confirms all of the cars with GPS have been hired. I am aghast. I stare at the guy with horror and disbelief in my eyes. He doesn't seem duly concerned and hands me a map. I don't even bother to reach out a hand to take it - unless this map is going to magically animate once in the car and stand on the dashboard singing directions at me, a la Dora the Explorer, I am screwed. I have no sense of natural direction to speak of and probably the only guaranteed talent I have which everyone will agree on is my inability to map read. For heaven's sake, I am the idiot that still gets lost, confuses her left from her right and takes wrong turns even with the simplest of instructions provided from a GPS.

Luckily at this moment in time I am not distracted by children hanging themselves from the rope line stands or causing a disturbance by jumping onto the mat which activates the automatic door every 2 seconds, so I am able to coherently and flirtatiously explain my predicament without appearing like too much of a div. And lo and behold a car with GPS is laboriously found, cleaned and presented (it turns out the GPS is only equipped with maps from 1985, which causes a whole new predicament the following morning when it is unable to locate the training studio...but that is a whole different story and not one worth bothering you with).

Once behind the wheel I instantly morph into my mother yet again and tentatively plug the hotel destination into the GPS, leaving the airport at a snail's pace. If truth be told, I could have walked quicker to the hotel given the speed at which I drove there. I sat hunched over the wheel, both hands clenching it so tightly my knuckles were white, my nose just an inch from the windscreen. I would like to pretend at this point that it was because it was dark - very, very dark - and raining which caused my driving to regress steadily from mother to grandmother mode. But even in broad daylight I probably would have been inching along the strange roads, in this strange unchartered territory. At least under the cover of darkness I could remain anonymous to the other cars whizzing past my 20 mile an hour amble. I was going so slowly that even the GPS got frustrated. It kept repeating directions in an even shriller tone - 'turn right in 1Km...........turn right in .9Kms.......approaching right turn in .85kms'. In other words - hurry up you numbskull, you should have made that turn by now! If you go any slower you will be in reverse. Step on it.

Finally - FINALLY! - made it to my hotel.

Went to luxuriate in my hotel room and set my alarm. No 5am alarm calls for me for the next 2 days - no sirreeee. I set the alarm for 6.45am and within 10 minutes of entering the room, was unpacked, ready for bed and already fantasising about my morning lie in. I dreamt of a life very rarely experienced by me these days - where most of the time I can give 100% attention to whatever it is that I am doing, without interruption. I can eat and drink what I want, when I want, without having to surruptitiously hide forbidden food or beverages behind computer screens, fridge and cupboard doors. I can read books, watch anything on tv that I fancy, listen to my choice of music. It was a very peaceful dream. But I have to's only a life I can truly appreciate and enjoy for short periods of time because mine is typically the polar opposite.