Thursday, 1 December 2011

My Dream Soft Play

Like most mothers of young children, I spend an inordinate amount of time in draughty, overlit play hangars, cursing God and drinking overpriced coffee that tastes like goose piss. If you've never been to one, think of soft play centres as an amuse bouche for eternal damnation. They are genuinely hellish. In fact, rumour has it that Satan is planning to rebrand Hell as 'Lucifer's Play Barn' and locate it in a hard-to-find industrial estate in East Kilbride.

The frustrating thing about soft plays is that they cost a fortune and are almost always pish - but it would be so easy to make them more bearable. How about some nice lighting? A bar? Some chairs that don't remind you of the interrogation rooms in Red Riding? While you're at it, why not employ staff that don't treat you like a curly dog turd? Yes, it would be simple.

So while I sit there on my plastic Peter Sutcliffe chair, nursing my £5 crappucino and watching my kid helplessly dangling off a 300ft padded ledge, I like to let my mind wander. What would my dream soft play be like? Here are some of my personal fantasy favourites:


Picture this. A large warehouse, just like any other. One side is a fully supervised mega play cage. But the other has a neon sign saying: 'DISCO'. Go behind the velvet curtain and boom - you're in Studio 54 in 1978. Bianca Jagger is riding a white stallion, Salvador Dali is balancing a tangerine on his head, and Andy Warhol looks on, bored to tears. You enter the VIP section, where fashion designer Halston dresses you in a bespoke playsuit with directional shoulders. Cue an afternoon of fabulous excess and hedonism - first one to have a whitey has to get off with
Woody Allen.


Pay to have your child safely and temporarily 'put to sleep' for 2 hours while you read the papers, catch up on your Poirrot box set or sit in a Windsor chair doing a 500 piece jigsaw of a cottage. Occasionally someone will bring you a cup of tea and adjust your cushions, asking 'do you need anything else?' in a soft, soothing voice.


Sometimes the sounds of shrieking kids continually asking if they can have a Ben 10 watch and a Super Mario DS game and the moon on a stick with extra marshmallows can grind you down. At Billy Baboons, your children will be entertained while you indulge in a bit of well-earned sensory deprivation. Go back to the womb in a floatation tank and forget all about the endless responsibility marathon that is now your everyday life. When you get out, you will be wrapped in a fluffy towel and someone will read you a nice story about rabbits.


Rough and Fumble does what it says on the tin. It is staffed entirely by attractive men, who will happily offer their services to stressed out mums without even the merest hint of suppressed horror. Not even a massive expanse of bum crack appearing from the waistband of a pair of Asda jeans can dampen their ardour. You can opt for a relaxing shoulder massage if you're not really in the mood, or go all out for a happy finish. They won't even mind if you cry with gratitude afterwards.

So Duncan Bannatyne, are you up for this? I will need ONE MILLION POUNDS. Call me.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

DECAY. Moral, physical, tooth

WOOP! I always like to start the day with a bit of chat about DECAY, don't you? Would you like some slow inexorable decline on that toast? No? How about a cup of IMMINENT DEATH? Go on, you know you want to! Hey, where are you going? What do you mean Daybreak's on and you want to see whether Christine Bleakley has tears of despair in her eyes? HEY!!! Your death's going cold!

I don't want to get all Liz Jones on yo ass, but last weekend I had what could only be described as bit of 'rough and tumble' with my husband. Not in front of the children, all very above board, nothing wrong with that. Except beforehand, while I was out, some barman had convinced me to sample a whisky called Glenkinchie, which tasted like it had been strained through the seat covers of the Glasgow to Aberdeen megabus. I don't tend to drink whisky, on account that I cannot fucking stand it, but it had the effect of making our conjugal relations slightly more enthusiastic than normal - (normal being 'lying on back thinking about getting a new table lamp'.)

Now I don't know whether it was the shock of this unaccustomed nocturnal activity or just the fact that I was drunk and pushing 4o, but in the night I took a turn. Being the best mother ever (or so I imagined), I stumbled to the kitchen at 3 am to get my coughing child some Calpol, but then started to feel pretty weird and fainted. I came to underneath my husband's bike with a massive streak of oil and a tyre mark across my belly. Somewhere far away, I could hear Lance Armstrong tutting. My husband hauled me into the bed, checked my pulse, asked me my name, and satisfied that I was still alive, let me go to sleep.

'Mummy, why did you fall down in the night?' my innocent boy asked in the morning. 'Mummy got up too quickly,' said Mummy, cursing the Laird of Glenkinchie and his evil minions. But I knew the truth. 'I am a lush,' I said to myself. 'I am no better than a randy Hogarthian crone begging for change outside the gin palace. I need to get my shit together and do something boring with my life, like yoga.'

Since then, there have been other depressing indicators of my moral and physical decay. My teeth look knackered. My hair is dry. My hormones are doing a horrible dance around the kitchen. My legs are dim, my nose is knackered etc. Everything is falling apart and with it comes an anxious realisation that I am getting old and will one day DIE. I either need a trip to A&E or one hell of a Groupon spa deal.

Then the other day, my child came back from the dentist and was told not to have any juice, or jam or anything children like EVER because he had some decay forming on his teeth. So not only am I sliding into decay, but he is too. More guilt! More self loathing! Since then I've been hovering over him with toothpaste, snatching biscuits out of his hand and trying to keep him away from Haribo. I'm a bad mother! I'm a drunk and my wean's teeth are like toffee! The shame! The shame!

God, it's so stressful. In fact, it's enough to drive you to drink.


Thursday, 3 November 2011


My child was born to look at screens. Present him with a glowing square of any size and he'll stare at it for hours, with his expression slowly changing from gormless to animated to gormless again. When Louis is looking at a screen you could tattoo a Numberjack on his arse or audition him for Toddlers and Tiaras dressed as a prostitute and he wouldn't even notice.

For that reason I admit I use the TV or computers quite a lot when a) I'm making dinner b) drinking wine with other harrassed mothers and c) hiding in a corner suffering from exhaustion. It helps me to do important things, like not go mental. So when you're with my child for any length of time, he may sing the theme tune to Hotel Trubble, or exhort you to visit ' forward slash cBeebies.' He's like a little animated TV channel in his own right. LOUIS TV (Sky digital 6715) is a singing, dancing loony station that shows Tweety Pie/Snoopy/Gigglebiz mash ups, interspersed with him trying to describe what happened in Deadly 60 and then having a giant tantrum at 2pm.

I can't pretend I'm completely OK with this. According to the great accepted wisdom of parenting, (ie the Daily Mail) too much screen time is deemed bad. It delays speech, it does something to their neural pathways, it makes them think that Mr Tumble is their Dad - that sort of thing. You hear about iPhone obsessed babies who swipe their parent's faces with a little finger, hoping to change their Mum's miserable chops for a picture of a zebra or something. Instead, kids should be outside, experiencing nature and making forts from cardboard boxes, right? Even though I didn't enjoy doing any of those things as a child, MY child should be doing that, RIGHT?

Now Louis is old enough to play his friend's Super Mario Kart racing game, the amount of time he spends staring at screens is becoming one of my biggest neuroses. Of course, I forget that looking at screens is all everyone does. I check my phone 879 million times a day with my gob hanging open. I'm staring at my laptop now. I watch TV in the evenings, while live tweeting and ebaying and texting. Screens are everywhere! (Charlie Brooker once a very funny article about that here.)

And while being outside and playing with pebbles is OK, a 4 year old is awake for about 13 hours a day with no nap. So they're going to have to be magic fucking glowing pebbles with the voice of Michael Gambon if they're going to entertain them all day. Anyway, mothers can't always be doing imaginative play and swimming lessons and making faces out of peas and mashed potato. Life is boring sometimes. Let them relax, let them veg out, leave them to it. Let's face it, YOU wouldn't want some berk with a timer coming in and yelling 'COME ON! TIME TO SWITCH OFF THE X-FACTOR AND MAKE A CHARMING ROBOT OUT OF EGG BOXES!'

So I'm trying not to worry about it or feel guilty if I feel like cranking up the cBeebies website or sticking on the telly. He's not going to grow up to be an emotionally disconnected, unfeeling potato whose best friend is Pippin from Come Outside, is he? No.

Mind you, at my Nana's funeral the other week, he did look at me with big eyes and say 'Mummy? Can I play Angry Birds?'


Thursday, 4 August 2011


Apologies for my conspicuous absence from this blog - it's starting to look a bit dusty and unloved in here - like myspace. My excuse is I have been busy rearing my baffling, ever-moving, testosterone-fuelled child, who DOESN'T WANT TO and then WANTS TO DO IT MYSELF and then MUMMY I NEED HELP every five minutes until a new circle of hell is formed with me at the centre of it, crying and eating Tunnock's tea cakes.

When it comes to demanding, unreasonable behaviour, it's a truth universally acknowledged that children are worse than any rock star. They want this colour plate, they want that colour grand piano, they won't perform (ie. put their socks on) unless the room is 21ÂșC and filled with Diptyque candles. My friend, who works for an events company, recently met Beyonce, whose entourage consisted of her Mum, bodyguards, and a person who went by the title 'Ambience Coordinator.' This person's job was presumably to ensure flattering lighting, plug in the odd Ambi-Pur and make sure nobody drops a stinky 'Sacha Fierce' in her vicinity, which when you're a billionaire megastar is probably par for the course.

But Beyonce is a breeze compared to any child under 5. They don't just want an ambience coordinator. They want a PR, a manager, a bodyguard, a photographer and an intimate wiper. Someone to carry their stuff, someone to clean up after them, someone to fix their stabilizers, someone to pay for the bouncy castle and someone to read them a story after a day of unforgivable excess and frankly embarrassing behaviour at a family fun day. They demand pink milk like Charlie and Lola, then leave it festering by the telly. They treat you like crap and hit you and stick their hands up your skirt. They even bother you in the night, coughing and spluttering, demanding room service and Calpol cocktails and asking you to leave the light on. ANIMALS.

The other day I read an interview with a woman called Julie Cafritz, who in the late 80s was a member of seminal New York punk band Pussy Galore. This is a woman who has seen it all, then gave it up to bring up her kids. Here's what she had to say:

'One of the things I could never fathom is why anyone would be a roadie. The pay was no good, and you spent your time doing other people's shit. With children, it's like a lifetime of being a roadie. Sippie cups. If you don't have that shit, they yell at you. And you don't get paid. And you try to plan for every variable in as small a package as you can. I got everything in this little bag, and if you don't have something, it's trouble. In between being a roadie for my kid, real work--being a real person--becomes hidden. Because your children have no interest.'

Spot on, Julie. That's what I am. That's what we all are. Whether we're rock stars or rocket scientists in our own lives, to our kids we will forever be humble roadies. Right down to the over-dependence on alcohol and exposed bum cracks.

Anyway, I'd better go. Beyonce - I mean, Louis - needs his baked potato carved into the shape of a swan.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Amen to that

A few weeks ago Tina Fey's Prayer for My Daughter was all over the internet. This elegantly conceived wish list echoed the hopes and fears parents have for their children. In fact, it struck such a universal chord that it's probably being turned into a fridge magnet right now.

So here's my heartfelt version for sons, which may, if it's lucky, manage one re-tweet from @Gazbot23 of Slough. Enjoy.


May a tattoo of Tweety Pie smoking a joint never grace his drinking arm.

Lord, may he never snap after playing Grand Theft Auto 247 and shoot a prostitute outside an off-licence.

When he is asked if he wants to buzz deodorant/graze magic mushrooms in a park in Paisley/ smoke a bifter with cocaine in it on the way to school, may he look upon his father, who has a brain like Swiss cheese, and say no.

Guide him and protect him and lead him away from being a sex pest. Please let him grow out of sticking his hand down my cleavage and smelling it because he thinks it’s like a bum. And, also, stop him from trying to molest shop dummies in New Look, for it embarrasses his mother when she is shopping for £3.99 espadrilles.

Let him get a job which doesn’t include any of the following: fire juggler, painter of Celtic-themed pavement art, accountant, bomb disposal expert, aerobics instructor, roofer, Farmfoods ambient replenisher, bounty hunter, tabard-wearing charity representative, lion tamer, didgeridoo player, unsuccessful writer of ‘funny’ articles.

If he decides to join a band, may he be the sober(ish), shy, self-effacing bass player and not the twatty lead singer with the warty genitals and coke bogeys.

When he gets a girlfriend, please let her be a nice sensible type, and not a thick-as-mince 25 stone McFlurry-scoffing VD-riddled skank with a neon thong and a penchant for wild unprotected sex in car parks.

If he is gay, may he take his Mama out all night, get her jacked up on cheap champagne and show her what it's all about.

Please Lord, if he is successful, lead him not into the temptation to say the phrases 'going forward', 'PDF that to me' and 'get that to me for close of play.'

If he does get his skanky girlfriend pregnant, let him not choose the names Maldives, Ibrox or Aldi.

And finally, if he is insane enough to have children of his own, may he not expect me to help, because I plan to be on a cruise ship in the Aegean, lying insensibly under the All You Can Eat buffet as a swarthy deck hand called Spiro mops the hummus off my orthopaedic shoes.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

How To Throw A Kid's Party

I went to a children's party yesterday, which is why I look like this. This time, the hosts got it right - lots of adults, abundant booze, children of similar ages, and a raffle in which I won a bottle of home-brewed gin which could remove a stubborn Ben 10 sticker from a wardrobe door. But oh, it could have so easily gone the other way. That's why before you throw a kids party, you need to observe these simple rules.


Children's parties are not about kids. They're about parents needing to Get Out Of The House. (Unless you hold the party, in which case they're about Totally Destroying Your House). When you're a parent, you'll do ANYTHING to get out of the house. ANYTHING to avoid that deadening, crushing feeling of being inside at 2 in the afternoon doing a Zingzillas jigsaw. So don't expend too much energy on entertaining the kids. Pass the Parcel is genocide with added sellotape, musical statues are boring as fuck (oh, look, Finn moved! Zzzz) and nobody gives a flying one about where the donkey's tail is. We just want our kids to go and play in another room so we can strap the wine box to our faces like a horse's nosebag.


Did you make these biscuits? They're delicious...where did you get the recipe? Oh, I just found it on the internet. Really? Wow, I just made Nigella's Scrummy Yumptious Smuggle cake - hope I don't poison anyone- HAR! Oh, I'm sure it's wonderful. Everyone's made such an effort. Have you seen this swan carved out of aspic and these cupcakes decorated with angel spit and this homemade vegan onion bhaji in the shape of the birthday girl's face?
Remember, party thrower - before you get all red in the face and start 'making' the buffet - it's not 1953 anymore. Nobody has time for this shit. Go to Asda, buy 60 packs of salt and vinegar cartwheels and stick em in a bucket. Job's a good un.


Remember that dreary cow at your NCT class? Don't invite her. Or anyone who says things like 'Oh, Mordecai can't have anything with eggs, chocolate or joy in it.' Instead, invite loads of hot dads and drunken mums with low self esteem, and maybe the guy in the Co-Op, just to mix things up a bit.


Whenever someone starts to say 'Amelie has been teething' or 'We're having a terrible time with Amstrad - his tantrums are awful', get an air horn and let it off inches from their face. Then, pass around conversation flash cards with the words 'Sex', 'What I Really Think of The Father Of My Child' and 'Weird Perversions' written on them. Pour vodka shots into their eyes and then watch the fun begin.


Goodie bags need to be packed to the gills with a) dangerously bouncy rubber balls b) arse-achingly annoying squeaky things and c) enough sweets to cause diabetes in rats. There also needs to be a warm, squashy shop-bought piece of cake in there, wrapped within an inch of its life in cling film - a piece of dirty, dirty cake you can steal from your child while he/she is getting busy with a packet of Haribo. The goodie bag is no place for rice cakes, Organix snacks, Ella's smoothies or FRUIT. Put fruit in my (I mean, my son's) goodie bag and I will punch you in the canteloupe. OK? OK.


I was passing dusty old lady department store Watt Brothers in Glasgow last week, when I chanced upon this.

I mean, where do I start? Perhaps 'Sex 'IN' The City' is the tale of Kerry Bagshaw, who lives on a council estate in Rotherham and is really looking forward to watching Dancing On Ice on her cheap brown dralon sofa. What other deeply inappropriate merchandise lurks out there? The Sex On The City Haemorrhoid cushion? The Sex Of The City Walk In-Bath? The Carrie Breadshaw Bread Maker? (Actually, the amount of yeast infections she probably got, that's maybe not so outlandish.) Proof, if needed, that Sex And The City has jumped the shark, while wearing a faux Slanket.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

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Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Neverending Tidy

Do you want to hear my personal theory on why Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the gas oven? Because I bet Ted Hughes never did the washing up. Bet he was always wandering around in his chunky knit jumpers, thinking up eerie metaphors about hawks, putting out his fags in the butter, and one day she just went apeshit. You want some dinner, Ted? Want some fucking dinner? Here you go. If only she'd had cBeebies and £3.99 Pinot Grigio, she'd still be alive today.

But even if that wasn't the reason - and let's say, to avoid being sued by Ted Hughes' estate, that it wasn't - I'm definitely beginning to understand a little better why Sylv so pointedly chose a domestic labour-saving device to end it all. Surely her depression must have been exacerbated by what I like to call 'The Neverending Tidy'. The daily, grinding, eternal odyssey of crap jobs that need doing all the time, the picking up and straightening up, the mountain of washing, the fluff under the sofa, the jam on the telly, the perpetually full sink of jolly plastic dishes with congealed tomato-based shit on them. When a woman first embarks on the Neverending Tidy, fresh faced and wet behind the ears, she foolishly thinks that she is 'getting things done'. Ha! Then, she sets off on her long, lonely journey, which takes in such fantastical places as Cillit Mountain, Swiffer Island and The Scary Drawer of Doom. She grows older. Her faces gets vinegary and resentful. Her tights go baggy at the ankles like Nora Batty.

The strange thing is, throughout her lifelong trek, there are no men to be seen. Just odd socks, stray toys and spillage upon spillage. When she becomes weary she drinks from the Blossom Hill Waterfall and smokes the mysterious herb of Silk Cut. Occasionally, she may meet a wise old crone who will look after the kids for 5 minutes while she goes to the shops. But her bunioned feet will keep taking her on the pointless, circuitous route around the house, tidying and tidying until the carpet is as worn out as she is. After years of this, she may one day request that her husband takes the rubbish out and will attain official 'Nag' status, a position that will render her unlovable and the butt of 'her indoors' jokes for the rest of her life. The children will grow older and leave home, but still she'll carry on her endless quest, picking things up and wiping things off. Then, one day, she'll bend down to get some annoying crumbs just out of reach of her J-cloth and....DARKNESS.

Fucking hell, I need a cleaner. It's either that or Gas Mark 6.