Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Auto out of office reply

     Evening! Or morning! Or afternoon! Whichever is appropriate.

     I'm off on holiday very shortly. In fact, if I go to bed now, I will get precisely 1 hour and 44 minutes until my alarm goes off. Woo! So I just wanted to post something to say that if you've been led here by fair means or foul, and comment on a post, I won't be able to get back to you for a little while.Nothing personal, I shall just be incommunicado for the next two weeks.

     But trust me, whenever I see I've had a visit to to this page of me rambling on about bollocks, I am genuinely touched. It means a lot when someone notches up another counter on the 'Post Views'. Comments amaze me, and make me do a Renee Zellwegger cheekbone gurny simper of happiness. Gaining new followers on twitter makes me think 'Are you sure? Really? You do know I would willingly do Ed Balls, right?' (an opinion that is vindicated when I see I've lost a follower. I always think 'Oh. They've found *that* post).

     Never doubt your power as a reader. Today has been a wonderful day, and it has all been because of Mumsnet Bloggers and you, wonderful, warm, funny readers. Trust me, every click means a lot. And as for the comments and retweets...I hope I've already replied to you all, because to know that my words reach just one person is MASSIVE. I tap away at the keyboard, alone at home, and suddenly my words take on another life.

And yes, I still have the earworm. And no, I still haven't learnt the words...

Slipping through my fingers...dah dum de dum de dumm dum, something, something, slipping through my fingers, dee dum dee dum dum, keeps on growing...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Slipping through my fingers

     If you are a parent and you can get through that song without your eyes moistening, congratulations. I can't make it to the first chorus without descending into hideous, chest-heaving, light-headed weeping. I just can't.

     Before the blondies came along, I was a fairly emotional sort of person, capable of empathy and sympathy (no, they are not the same thing). Then I became a mother. And all sorts of stuff that previously I would have awarded a cursory 'oh, that's sad', became the type of thing that tugged at my heartstrings, ripped at my mind, and made me a snivelling, tearstrewn mess. Mostly stuff in the news, songs, facebook, twitter, books, friends, complete strangers in the street, a cloud, a dirty spoon... Christ, anything. But especially the blondies. And of the two blondies, it is the eight year old who knows exactly what to do to set me off. He doesn't mean to, he has a way of expressing himself that just fucking. kills. me.

     Probably because he's very like me, in that he is stroppy, sarcastic and cynical. But also sensitive, considerate and thoughtful. People who know me may be surprised to hear that – hey, I never said I acted thoughtfully, I just think, thoughtfully, in a thoughtful way. So when he's upset, I can see my eight year old self being upset. When he's angry about a perceived injustice, I see myself. When he's been wounded by a remark, I can feel that wound.

     So you can imagine my feelings last week, when, exasperated, his father and I shouted at him because he still hadn't put his pyjamas on, after the eighth time of asking. His face turned red, tears filled his eyes and he ROARED 'Stop shouting at me! You're being horrible and I already had people being mean to me at school ALL DAY!' before bursting into tears and running upstairs. Knowing him/knowing me (A-ha!) I said to Alistair to leave it, let The Boy calm down. Which he did. And then he wrote something. Here it is.

     I will provide a translation (his handwriting is almost as bad as mine)

     to dad and mum

     I think I have Anger issues.

     Sad face

     because at school I get angry and can't control my actions.

     Sad face

     If you are laughing now, I can't say I blame you. My reaction was of horrified laughter (the kind of laughter you do when your friend tells you their dog has died, and you are incapable of responding appropriately), followed by tears. I kept thinking 'My boy! My precious first born! What the hell have I done to you?'. And when I told my sister about the incident, she cackled delightedly and said 'HA! You're parenting yourself!' And it is true.

     For example, since The Boy started school I have been dodging questions about God, Jesus, religious stuff. I'm an atheist, but I don't want my beliefs to decide what my children believe. So for four years I have been carefully saying 'Some people believe that, yes.' 'Some people think so.' 'Some people say it's true.' Meaning that I'm agreeing-ish, but not really. Until a few weeks ago, when The Boy announced 'God, Jesus and all that stuff. It's all completely made up, isn't it, Mum?' I replied 'Hmm, why do you say that, darling?' He fixed me with a weary look, and in withering tones, said 'Err, dinosaurs? Dur.'

     Then there is the matter of his sense of humour. I have allowed him cautious access to some carefully selected Monty Python and Fry & Laurie. And he loves it. Cannot get enough of it. He quotes it on the way to and from school, and the shameful part is that I join in. Whereas Alistair had never heard of Monty Python until he was twenty and going out with me (I still cannot understand how someone can lay claim to British citizenship and not know about Monty Python, but that's a whole other story). We giggle together ferociously, heads bent into one another, while the five year old blondie dances down the pavement obliviously, singing to herself (or shouting BOGIES! at passersby (she is self-proclaimedly mad as a box of frogs, I'll tell you about her another time)). Alistair was a bit concerned that I was allowing The Boy access to things that are best left until he's older. I pointed out that when I was eight, I was reading my dad's copies of Viz, watching An American Werewolf in London and could quote verbatim the entirety of Life of Brian. Alistair wasn't so bothered after that, I mean, I turned out ok, right? Right? RIGHT?

     And he loves to read. Anything and everything, he devours books in much the same way Alistair devours chocolate (can eat two massive bars of Dairy Milk in a single sitting). I can remember being such an addicted bookworm at that age that when my mum banned me from reading books at the breakfast table I used to line up the cereal packets so I could read them instead – that's totally normal, right?- and it looks like The Boy is heading the same way.

     And then our joint shopping trips. We don't do it very often (it turns out that not working for three and a half years can have a disastrous impact on your finances), but when we do... This weekend I introduced him to the delights of Head in the Clouds, the UK's oldest head shop, and the place where I spent most of my pocket money from the age of six upwards. The Boy fell in love, instantly, violently, dramatically in love, from the 40p badges, to the skull scarves, the rainbow candles, the rolls of stickers. And when we left, I had purchased red hair dye, and he had purchased blue hairspray (he wants to dye a blue streak in his fringe, and I am being a parental killjoy by insisting on something temporary).

     So we're close, me and The Boy. Very close. Every morning when I drop him off at the school gates we hug for a minute or two, say that we love each other, kiss, hug, wave. Then he always turns around and makes the heart signal with his hands, and I do it back. He's completely unselfconscious about doing it, and will do it in front of his entire class.

     But, and this is what chokes me, one day he won't. One day, he won't want a hug and a kiss, he won't want to be seen with me. He won't giggle at me saying 'Ed Balls', or ask me to pull a stupid face just to make him laugh. He'll shrug off cuddles, ignore requests for a goodnight kiss. We'll no longer compete to see who can hold a silly note for a stupidly long time (I win, always), or leap out at each other shouting 'RAH!' to try to scare the other person. He won't come into my bed when he has a bad dream, or rub his cheek against my arm for comfort. He's getting taller by the day and I can no longer carry him upstairs if he falls asleep on the sofa. He's my little boy, but he's growing up and I'm not ready for it.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Aftermath of a miscarriage

      When I was 14, I got pregnant by accident. Unfortunately for me, I didn't realise until I had a miscarriage. My boyfriend at the time was older, and had gone back to South Africa, promising to return in the spring. Then he wrote to me, telling me he was going away with friends for a while to earn some money. He also told me he'd slept with an ex-girlfriend. Upset, distracted, mind wandering, I'd tripped and fallen down the stairs, but not seriously hurt myself. The next day, something was horribly wrong, and I took myself to hospital.

      I lay back on the bed. This wasn't happening. This was some terrible mistake. I had wandered into the wrong life by accident. I could not be pregnant. I'd been having periods! Light ones, but still. We'd been careful, every time. Apart from once. We'd started, for no more than a minute or two, then L had hastily stopped and said 'Not a good idea.' I remembered his guilty smile as he grabbed a condom before continuing. But that was back in November, not long before he'd left. Surely I must have noticed something?

      Nausea. In early December. But that was because I'd cried so much.

     Tiredness. But that was because I'd been so sad.

    Missed periods. I hadn't, not really. They'd been lighter than normal, but they'd been there.

      Oh god. I put my head in my hands. How could I have been so stupid? Only the most stupid teenage girls got pregnant, everyone knew that. To get pregnant whilst still at school was always portrayed as the worst thing that could happen to you. One girl had left school in the middle of November and  my best friend, Helena. had told me the rumour was that she was pregnant. Stupid cow, we'd agreed. Well, who was the stupid cow now?

     The kind nurse was back with painkillers. 'You'll be able to go home soon.' She handed me a stack of leaflets. 'There's more information here, about what to expect, how to make sure you look after yourself. You'll need to come back in a few weeks for a check-up. Is there someone who can pick you up and look after you? You shouldn't be on your own.'

      'I'll be ok.' I gulped. 'I live up the road, in a' burst of inspiration 'a student house. There are lots of us there.'

      They let me go at three. I walked slowly, my body aching, the cramps slowing my progress. The house was empty and I had a shower, watching blood and clots slide down the plughole. I put a towel on top of the bedsheet, lay down and read the leaflets they'd given me. It was terrible. How was I going to be able to hide this from everyone? These cramps could last up to two weeks? I'd tell Helena. No I wouldn't. She'd tell the school, the school would tell my parents, I'd never be allowed to see L again.

     Oh god. L.

      How could I find the words to tell him? Would he blame me? Would he be happy? Sad? I couldn't tell him. I needed to protect him. He had hurt me, I couldn't do the same to him.

     The next ten days were sheer hell. Somehow I got through it, helped by the fact that Helena was off school with tonsillitis so she didn't get suspicious. Every day I filled my school bag with maxi pads, spare pants and tights and went to the toilet between every 45 minute lesson. Sometimes I had to go during the lesson and would employ the old trick of tucking a tampon in my sleeve to show the teacher if they said no, and in so doing, shame them into allowing me to go. My breasts engorged with milk, painfully hard and tight, were noticeably bigger and I winced when I put on a bra.

     Twice I bled though the towel and onto the sheets. I got up early and got them onto a hot wash before everyone else got up.

      I avoided my mother, nothing unusual in that. I thanked my lucky stars that my stepfather, Hugo, was loaded enough to be able to afford a big enough house that I could flit from room to room to keep out of her way.

     I visited Dad at the weekends, as usual. He got drunk, as usual.

      The one thing I didn't do was write to L. I didn't know what to say. And besides, I didn't know where he was.

      After two weeks, a letter arrived. The trip with friends hadn't been an unqualified success, it seemed. More of an unmitigated disaster. Instead of making money, they'd lost it, wiping out all of L's savings in the process. So now the prospect of a ticket back to the UK was even further away. Brilliant, just brilliant. He was back home now, and had been for over a fortnight, upset that I hadn't been in touch.

      For the first time, I began to feel angry. Really angry. Toweringly angry. Furious in fact. For fucks sake! The stupid, stupid fucking idiot! Go off on a road trip with your friends? Fine. Spend a little bit of money? Fine. But throw a fucking bombshell into your girlfriend's lap, leave her to cope with it, no way of contacting you, spend every penny you've saved in order to get back to aforementioned girlfriend, pissing it all away and then have the nerve, the gall, the sheer bloody cheek to claim you're the one suffering. NOT FUCKING FINE.

      Never mind that your girlfriend was not just dealing with your infidelity, but was also going through a miscarriage, alone. Watching blood and bits that would have been your child, yours and hers, wash away. Little scraps of a person that would never be. A little voice in my head very reasonably pointed out that L had no way of knowing about the miscarriage – I hadn't even known I was pregnant until I miscarried. I ignored the voice.

      What a monumental fuckwit! How dare he? I threw the letter down in disgust and looked around for something to kick. Nothing. I picked up a glass on the table and threw it as hard as I could against the wall. I felt momentarily better as it shattered into hundreds of tiny shards. Like my bloody heart, I thought savagely. Do you know what? That is it. I'm going to ring him right now and tell him what I think of him, the treacherous fucking bastard.

      I thundered down the stairs and grabbed the phone, stabbing out the numbers as I stomped back up to my bedroom. Bastard. Lying, cheating, feckless, cruel bastard. I seethed as I heard the unfamiliar buzzing of a South African ringtone.

      But of course, he wasn't in. He was at the cinema.

      Aaaarrrrghgghghgh! I threw the phone across the room. Disappointingly, it didn't smash against the wall into unfixable uselessness but just thumped onto my pillow, making me even angrier.

      'Aaaarrrggghhh!' Fucking, fucking, fucking hell! Too broke to buy a plane ticket. Too broke to pay for a phone call. Not too broke to go to the cinema, to go to the cinema with your friends, or even, maybe, a girl, maybe, even, her, maybe someone else that he's charming and smarming and drawing pictures for, and making them feel special and loved and valued, not stupid and hurt and dirty and, and, and, used.

      Finally, eventually, I wrote and told him what had happened. His response was...mixed. Horror that he'd got me pregnant. Relief I wasn't still pregnant. Admiration that I had got through it alone. And a promise that he would return as soon as he could. A promise he broke. Oh, he did return. But too late.

     I’d never noticed it before, but suddenly the world was full of pregnant women. Pregnant women in shops. Pregnant women waddling past me on the street. On the television. In books. Magazines. Clothes stretched tight over ripe bellies, they seemed to be everywhere I looked. I stared at them, fascinated by the thought of a new life growing inside them, being nourished, fed, loved.

      I borrowed books on pregnancy from the school library, obsessively charting each developmental stage. The hospital staff had said I was around eleven weeks when I had the miscarriage, the time at which the umbilical cord would have been fully formed and the foetus at last looking human. Now I would have been twenty weeks, able to discover if I were having L’s son or daughter, halfway through the pregnancy.

      I read all I could on motherhood, both technical, practical books and memoirs. Again and again I read how mothers love their children unconditionally, that a mother-child bond can never be broken. But that had never been true in my case. I had no memories of my mother ever expressing any emotion towards me that wasn’t negative. Perhaps that should have told me something about myself, made me realise that there was something intrinsic about me that meant I wasn’t able to be loved. And with distance, L had realised it too. I counted down the days to what would have been my estimated date of delivery, becoming increasingly upset and feeling ever more connected to what would have been our child. I listened obsessively to Green by Joni Mitchell – 'Call her Green, for the children who have made her' – crying as I did so. And Northern Sky, by Nick Drake. And no, the irony of that isn't lost on me. See here No matter how much I told myself that the miscarriage was for the best, I couldn't accept that the baby, our baby, was gone. I believed, with the fervour of a religious zealot, that some vestige of spirit still haunted me, stayed with me.

      It was around this time that I started to have the same recurring dream, night after night. I was alone in an unfamiliar forest, surrounded by tall trees and dense undergrowth. The light told me it was late afternoon in the summertime, hazy sunshine filtered through the leafy canopy above. There was a movement in front of me and I instinctively started to walk towards it. I could make out two people, a man and a child, walking hand in hand away from me. I squinted, trying to see them more clearly and began to follow them, catching a glimpse of the man’s face.

      ‘L! Wait! I’m coming!’ He gave no sign of having heard me, still walking away with the child, gentle laughter coming from both of them. ‘L! Stop!’

      I started to run, crashing through the forest, calling to them, but no matter how hard I ran I never got closer, dazzled by the sunlight shining into my eyes. Then the trees began to become thicker and harder to navigate. I saw fewer glimpses of L, the laughter faded away, and the sky began to darken. I came to a dead end, trees surrounding me on all sides, edging closer to me, encircling me, trapping me. Branches reaching out to me, plucking at my hair and clothes. I would scream for L to help me and then wake with a jolt, my eyes wide open and staring.

      Was that why I’d had the miscarriage? Our unborn child had sensed there was something wrong within me and allowed itself to slip away. It had protected itself in the only way it could.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Purpose of my Life

     This weekend I made an important discovery. I discovered my purpose in life.

     And what is that purpose, I hear you cry? Simple. My purpose in life is to consistently make an utter tit of myself purely for the amusement of others. It’s alarming just how often I manage to do this. For example, I sometimes ditch tights in favour of pull ups, even though I know, without fail, that within five minutes of leaving the house the elastic will fail and I will spend the remainder of my evening fruitlessly yanking them back up, only to feel them ping and slither their way ever closer to my ankles. The triumph of hope over experience.

     Here are just a few ways in which I have shamed myself in the eyes of the world, whilst simultaneously amusing onlookers. 

     When I was 14/15 I had a job in a kitchen which was hell on earth, an absolute torture chamber of heat. This was the summers of ’94 & ’95, which I remember as being unseasonably warm, but the heat was exacerbated by being crammed into a Second World War era asbestos pre-fab with no insulation. The building was hot in any case, and when you added deep fat fryers, four massive industrial ovens and hobs to the mix, the temperatures regularly topped 40 degrees.  My colleagues and I spent our time redfaced, sweating freely, limp hair plastered to our heads, serving up food that reeked of fat, the smell clinging to us until we could escape to a shower.

     We were all quite young and full of high spirits, so the atmosphere was a lot of fun, lots of joshing and practical jokes. Waterfights after work were fairly regular – the person who did the washing up would flick water at someone else, they would respond in kind, cleaning sponges would be wrung over heads, that kind of thing. All lots of childish fun. Until the day I wore a thin cotton dress in an attempt to keep cool. A white, thin cotton dress. With white underwear. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Waterfight ensued, climaxing with me having a bucket of ice cold water tipped over my head in front of a crowd of at least 100 people. So 100 people who knew me as ‘the girl who takes the meal tickets’ would now know me as ‘the girl whose nipples and pubes we’ve seen’.

             Spending a lazy, boozy Sunday afternoon/evening with friends, watching Jackass in the depths of a British winter. I was drunkenly slumped on the sofa, and realised I needed a wee. The only problem was that my friend was sitting on the floor in front of me, so I needed to step around her. My brain worked out that much, and I probably would have successfully managed this, had she not moved at the last minute. I tried to step around her, lost my balance, drink flew out of my hand, I crashed to the side. But not to the floor, oh no. Onto the GLASS inset of the coffee table top. There was a horrified pause from the fifteen or so other people in the room as they saw me sprawled inelegantly on the carpet, glass EVERYWHERE. Then, mortified, I jumped up, and ran to the bathroom (I really needed a wee). Everyone was clustered at the bathroom door shouting ‘Lucy! Lucy! How bad is it? I’m calling 999!’ I eventually emerged, sheepishly, explained that I was fine (miraculously) and was hastened back to the sofa and handed a drink.
Which I then knocked over onto the cream sofa. And the best part of all this? The house didn’t belong to any of us. One friend was supposed to be house-sitting it for their grandparents.

2          I haven’t drunk vodka since 2002. Not a drop. Especially not apple vodka, and especially not apple vodka with apple juice. It was absolutely yummy, and I was out for the evening with some Polish friends who had brought a bottle of this sweet nectar with them. The problem with drinking apple vodka with apple juice is that it tastes like you are drinking apple juice alone. The problem with drinking apple vodka with Polish friends is that they are fairly hardcore vodka drinkers who are pouring fistfuls of apple vodka into your glass, rather than just one or two fingers worth. So you are drinking very quickly, and vast amounts. So you are very, very, very drunk. Fearfully drunk, in fact. And it’s not a gradual realisation. It’s one that hits you between the eyes when you are talking to that unutterably gorgeous chap you’ve had your eye on for a while, who has finally decided to talk to you. The realisation will come to you when you keel over backwards, legs akimbo, right yourself and say ‘surrah, slippeded. Floorswet.’ Before smiling goofily at the object of your desire. One tiny braincell told me I needed to make my escape before shaming myself further. Ten minutes later, having cannoned off everyone in the bar, fallen over several tables and chairs and attempted to leave through the wall, I made it outside and made a stab at walking the 100 metres home. It took whole hours. For every step forward, I staggered at least five back, to the side, the other side, fell over. In the end, I made the lifesaving decision to crawl, although even that was a bit of a strain, and I ended up having to wriggle at various points, rather like a caterpillar. There are photographs in existence of this incredible journey. No, I’m not going to post them here.

     Just to prove that I have been making a pratt out of myself since I was a child, the time that I was talking to my mum about sea creatures. We moved onto giant squid and I made a small, but crucial error. ‘Mum, Mum, did you know that some giant squid have 16 foot long tentacles?’ is what I intended to say. Unfortunately, I substituted ‘tentacles’ with ‘testicles’. It’s been 25 years since I uttered that sentence, but whenever I am reminded of it, I still want to unzip my skin and crawl inside my own ribcage with embarrassment.

     And finally, in my most recent cock up, linking a friend to another post on this very blog. And then remembering, several days later, that I've written some very personal stuff on here, including mentioning that friend. I am shrivelled with mortification. Dying of cringe. And really hoping that they didn't venture beyond the post I linked them to. But knowing they did. Lucy Benedict, you are a complete and utter tit.

Friday, 14 June 2013


     There’s been a bit of hoohar recently about marriage and I’ve had a few arguments with people about it. So let’s just set out a few things before I get The Rage and go a bit ranty.

  1. I am not anti-marriage. I have been to many weddings over the years and shed a few tears to see people I love commit themselves to one another. If you want to get married, I am very happy for you. I will gladly celebrate with you. Congratulations.
     2.      People of every variety should be able to get married on an equal footing.

3         3.     I am not married.

4          4.  I am not ever going to get married.

     Alistair and I have been together for nearly fourteen years. We have two children. We are very much in love. But I am never going to marry him, or indeed, anyone else.

     Because I don’t want to get married. I don’t want a husband. I don’t want to be a wife. I am Miss Lucy Benedict, spinster of this parish and intend to remain so. I have never entertained fantasies of ‘My Big Day’, or daydreamed about which meringue I’d like to wear, despite society telling me that ‘all girls dream about their wedding day’. I just didn’t. Maybe because I wasn’t a girly girl, maybe because my parents had an unhappy marriage, maybe because I just didn’t seem the point of getting married.

     And this feeling seems to offend some people, especially now Alistair and I have children. For some reason, they seem to think our unmarried status means that we aren’t committed to one another. That our family isn’t stable. The Prime Minister certainly thinks so. This is what he had to say on the matter in 2007:

Speaking to party activists in Cardiff, the Tory leader insisted he would continue to promote marriage as the "central institution in a strong society". The Conservative helmsman said he "didn't care" if others thought he was wrong to single out marriage. Mr Cameron went on to warn of the potential damages of ignoring the fact that "one in two co-habiting parents split up before their child's fifth birthday, compared to one in twelve married parents. I think it's time we recognised that family breakdown is the central factor in the social breakdown we see in our country today," Mr Cameron concluded.

     Hmm.  I don’t agree. Let’s start with his assertion that ‘one in two co-habiting parents split up before their child’s fifith birthday’. That is not true. He’s not even being economical with the truth. He is lying. Firstly, the data he is basing this on did not take into account whether or not the child’s parents were co-habiting at the point of conception. So that figures includes:

1               One night stands
2                Relationships that were already on their last legs
3                Relationships where the parents did not cohabit
4           A woman who decides to opt for single parenthood via IVF.
5            Surrogates
6           One unmarried partner who dies before the child’s fifth birthday.

     And probably many other scenarios I can’t be arsed to think of.

     Secondly, Cameron gleefully ignores that people who get married and go on to have children tend to be older, have fewer financial pressures, and more job security – three factors that often have an impact on whether a relationship survives or dies.

     Thirdly, I don’t believe that ‘that family breakdown is the central factor in the social breakdown we see in our country’. I think inequality might be. Poverty might be.  Lack of employment opportunities might be. Intolerance might be. All of which are steadily getting worse in the UK under the leadership of David Cameron. But I don’t agree that not getting married = family breakdown = social breakdown. Last time I checked (ooh, about three hours ago) my family were a pretty strong unit.

      And we are a family. Mum, Dad, Son, Daughter. We are committed. And I find it pretty ignorant and offensive that David Cameron has the cheek, the nerve, the sheer bloody gall, to bang on again and again that marriage is special, that marriage means commitment, that marriage deserves to be afforded tax breaks. That cohabiting parents are, by their very nature, unstable family environments. No, Mr Cameron. A relationship is special. A relationship is commitment. I don’t think the country can afford tax breaks for married couples when half a million people in the UK used food banks last year. It's been eight and a half years since our son was born, hey, guess what? We're pretty damned stable.

     When Alistair and I found out I was pregnant with the eight year old we’d already been together for six years. Having children together was our commitment to one another. I would not countenance having children with someone I don’t want to grow old with. I can marry, divorce, remarry, and my ex-husband will be just that. But the father of my children will always be the father of my children, so he needs to be the love of my life (along with wine, obviously), and someone to whom I am making the ultimate commitment - sharing parenthood.

     Because of all the coverage, the eight year old has been chatting to me a fair bit about marriage (a conversation initiated when he overheard the phrase ‘aggressive homosexual community’ and shouted at the telly ‘There’s nothing wrong with being gay!’ I beamed with pride). And I’ve explained to him that some people get married, some people don’t, and that’s fine.  It’s up to each individual to decide what they want for themselves, but just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they’re lesser. And he piped up ‘But Mum, David Cameron said you and Dad are going to split up, because you’re not married.’ So I reassured him that that was utter bollocks (I may have used slightly different language), and that David Cameron was a twat (again, I paraphrase slightly). And to illustrate my point, I reminded him of the following in his own family:

     Alistair and I – not married, two children, 14 year relationship

     My sister & her partner – married, but not to each other, two children, 13 year relationship

     My brother & his partner – married, but not to each other, one child, 22 year relationship

     Alistair’s eldest brother – married, one child, has not seen wife or child for ten years

     My mum & dad – married, three children, separated (finally) after years of unhappiness that spread throughout my siblings and I, caused huge disruption and emotional upheaval.

     And the eight year old thought about this and said ‘Please don’t marry Daddy.’

* Whenever I type the word 'marriage' I never fail to say it in the style of Peter Cook in The Princess Bride. Every single time.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Lucy Benedict vs The Blue Circle of Hysteria

     I thought I laughed a lot generally. Until  a few weeks ago, when I laughed nonstop and slightly too hard for a good seven or eight hours. Allow me to explain…

     A (actually, it’s really annoying me to keep referring to him as ‘A’, for some reason. So from now on I’m going to call him ‘Alistair’. Which is not his name, but it’s easier somehow to call him ‘Alistair’ than just ‘A’, which makes him sound like an anonymised legal case) is very practical. Excellent at DIY, making things, creating things, fixing stuff.  In our time together he’s built numerous items of furniture and fixed just about everything.  He cannot see a broken thing (or even something that’s not quite working at optimum levels) without fixing it, and is always happiest when he’s got his tool belt on, slaving away at something. It’s great. If anything ever goes wrong, ever, I just say ‘Alistair? The door is…’ and before I know it, he’s serenely fixing it.  His greatest joy, however, comes from A Project.  So we’ve had two kitchens built from scratch. A conservatory he built in less than a week. A treehouse in the garden that went from notion to reality in three days. And last month, he was a bit flush with cash after he got his PPI repayment. There was some talk of paying off credit cards, saving for our holiday, putting some into a savings account. You know, mature, responsible things to do. But Alistair had an idea.

     A hot tub.

     Even with the PPI money, he couldn’t afford to buy one. But, with a bit of knowhow and a lot of his tools, he believed he could make one. Seriously.  So he plotted and he planned, and we measured, and worked out how big it needed to be. Then he got on his laptop and researched and made notes before ordering what he thought he’d need. And for the next two weeks, I was seemingly constantly on my feet, opening the gates to various delivery drivers who would hand over bits of piping, decking planks, jets, nozzles, a woodburner… And when Ali came home from work each day, he would look over his ever increasing haul of stuff and say, in exasperated tones, ‘But I can’t do ANYTHING until the tub gets here!’.
One Thursday morning, I was at home, trying to write (and mostly failing) when the bell for the gates went. I peered out of the window (I never open the gates automatically now, after the Jehovah’s Witnesses came round) and saw a chap in delivery drivers uniform, clutching a clipboard. Heigh ho, I thought, it’ll be something for Alistair, and let him in. As I came out of the front door, I could see he was chuckling to himself. How nice. A happy delivery driver. ‘Delivery for Alistair The Delusional.’ The happy delivery driver said, although he didn’t seem to be holding anything. In fact, there was no van parked in the driveway. Curious. ‘Yep’, I said, ‘That’s us.’ ‘Ok, hang on a sec’ said smiley and amused delivery driver, walking out of the gates towards…. THE MASSIVE BLOODY HGV parked in the bus lane outside.

     Like something out of Doctor Who, a vast blue circle appeared on the ramp of the MASSIVE BLOODY HGV. And I understood the reason for the delivery driver’s amusement. This thing was ridiculously enormous. At least six feet across and four feet wide and absolutely radiant with blueness. It felt like the sun had finally come out and all around were blue skies, when in fact it was a drizzly grey morning in mid May. The stonkingly massive tub of blue was tethered to a wooden pallet at the base and the happy delivery driver and I just about managed to drag it on a trolley across the pavement and into the driveway where we hit the snag of gravel, which was resistant to the teeny tiny wheels of the trolley. Both of us were fairly incoherent with laughter at this point, which didn’t help, so we got it as far as the corner of the driveway before I managed to gasp that as Alistair was responsible for this looming disaster of blue, he could work out what to do next. Shaking with laughter, the delivery driver and I shook hands , and he departed in THE MASSIVE BLOODY HGV. I sent a text to Alistair: ‘Tub’s arrived!’ He texted back: ‘I’ll come home for lunch.’

     Purely for matters of historical record, I decided to take a photo of THE BLOODY MASSIVE SEA OF BLUE now in residence, and approached the damned thing with my phone in my hand. Just as I lined up the shot, there was an ominous creaking sound, and THE BLOODY MASSIVE SEA OF BLUE broke free of it’s moorings on the wooden pallet and began rolling towards me, much like the rock in the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Squeaking in terror I ran away until it’s progress was halted by a convenient bush, then leapt back out to take the photo that would prove to the world that Alistair had finally taken leave of his senses. You probably think I’ve been exaggerating just how stupidly big this thing was. Well, look at this (you can see the HGV parked outside).


     At one o’clock, Alistair cycled into the driveway, caught sight of THE BLOODY MASSIVE SEA OF BLUE lurking in the corner of the drive and did a full body double take, which I rather enjoyed as I looked out of the living room window. By this point, I was quite giddy with laughter, which Alistair did not appreciate. Tsking at me, he set about rolling THE BLOODY MASSIVE  SEA OF BLUE down the drive towards our garden. Alistair is quite tall (about six feet), but this was all I could see.


     There was a brief pause in proceedings when he realised there was no earthly way he could get it through the garden gate, so he went into reverse and removed a fence panel before squeezing THE BLOODY MASSIVE SEA OF BLUE through the gap with millimetres to spare. Still tsking impatiently at me, he tipped it from its side so that it was the right way up. And then he paused. The colour drained from his face. His mouth gaped. And you could track the dawning realisation that THE BLOODY MASSIVE SEA OF BLUE was indeed bloody massive, and completely out of scale for what he had planned.

     By this point, I was pretty close to being hysterical with giggles. I couldn’t help it. The incongruity of this stupidly enormous blue tub in our tranquil garden was too much for me. I’d try to calm down, put a hand on my chest and wheeze ‘It’s ok, I’m calming down now’, then I’d catch sight of it again and would go off into peals of laughter. It didn’t help that all through lunch, Alistair was curiously, and uncharacteristically, quiet, save for a few sentences: ‘Please tell me it’s going to be ok’, ‘Your parents are going to kill me’ ‘I think I may have overstretched myself here’. Finally, he decided that the company had built it to the wrong specifications and took his tape measure out to check. When he returned, I asked him ‘Well?’ as he wordlessly returned the tape measure to the drawer. ‘Itistherightsize.’ He muttered into his chest. Cue more unhelpful laughing from me. 

     For my own private amusement I uploaded this picture to facebook, featuring a 5ft 4in woman who is unable to stand up straight because she is laughing too hard, standing next to THE BLOODY MASSIVE SEA OF BLUE  which was now becoming known as The Blue Circle of Hysteria. A lot of other people were similarly amused, and offered up suggestions as to how we could enjoy it – perhaps as a fairground teacup ride, or our own game of Alice in Wonderland? Others pondered on how we would get into a hot tub that came up to my shoulder – maybe via a cherrypicker? And what a lovely view we would have once in it, of treetops and low flying aircraft.


     Alistair eventually returned to work, walking slowly, in a preoccupied fashion, leaving me in my private world of mirth. For the next two hours I really did try to stop laughing, honestly. But it was impossible. Every time I looked out into the garden, I’d see The Blue Circle of Hysteria, glowing away, seemingly turning the whole world azure and I’d succumb to another fit of helpless laughter. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t that funny. But that was clearly a lie. It was easily the funniest thing I’d seen in years – this ridiculously oversized, out of place BLOODY MASSIVE Blue Circle of Hysteria, lying on the lawn, waiting to be turned into a hot tub.

     I tried really hard to appear normal when I went to pick the kids up from school. But the smile kept tugging at my lips and when another mum asked me how my day had been, I just about managed to bark out a sentence or two about The Blue Circle of Hysteria, before showing her the pictures on my phone which had her in stitches, and before I knew it, my phone was being passed around the playground and everyone else was collapsing into sniggering too. When I got back home with the kids, they were initially mute with awe, before they too were infected with The Blue Circle of Hysteria and we all had a very enjoyable afternoon laughing at the folly of Alistair, who kept plaintively begging ‘Please don’t laugh at me!’ which, of course, had the opposite effect.

     And now it has been three weeks. And, remove your hats and place your hand across your heart, for I am sorry to say that The Blue Circle of Hysteria is no more. After many scenes like this


And this
 It has transformed instead, into The Most Stupidly Ridiculous Oversized Hot Tub In The World…Ever. 


(And don’t tell Alistair, but I love it, And I am hugely proud of him).