‘Tis the Season to be Poorly

Okay, so a bit of an over-reaction, but there’s ‘alot of it going round at the moment’ and no-one likes to be off sick this time of the year. It mucks up your best-laid plans, gets in the way of fun stuff and generally ruins your festive spirit.

Last week, daughter #2 started off with a cough, which manifested itself as croup. I remember first time heard the seal-like cough from her bedroom – she was about 3 years old and it was 3am.

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The other seal

Luckily Google was wide awake and gave the advice to get cold, fresh air into her, so we stood shivering by her open window with me pretending to be all calm and parental. Luckily it did the trick.

In my day (yes, I’m that old), I had a Wrights Vapouriser in my bedroom for this type of thing. It was a metal lantern with an absorbent block nestled inside the lid, onto which you’d pour this magical vapourising liquid. You’d pop a tea light underneath and the heat would warm the block, releasing this potent whiff that eased all kinds of breathing difficulties.

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Would never pass Health & Safety today

It smelled a bit like coal tar and filled your room entire house with the fumes, but boy did it help. I still wind down my window and inhale when driving past freshly laid tarmacadam. (Yes, that’s the full name for tarmac.)

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Dream job

In my family, everyone copes differently when they’re ill:

Daughter #1 – gets a bit narky if I ask her how she’s feeling. Allergic to Penicillin. Refusal to take medicine in pill form.

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Just one sodding spoonful is all I ask…

Daughter #2 – goes through a drama of epic proportions each time a medicine syringe goes anywhere near her. You know that scene in Airplane when that woman is in panic mode and everyone is trying to calm her down? That is my youngest. With a steady line of friends, parents, grandparents (and cleaner – yes, she was roped in as well) all approaching her to try and help with the medicine-administering process.

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Get a hold of yourself

Husband – no words…

Okay – words. He is hypochondria re-incarnate and can often be seen retreating to the spare room at first sign of anyones’ illness.

If you search ‘Dr’ on his mobile, it can take at least two full swipes of his contact list to scroll through the directory of consultants he has on file, in all major postcode areas and even on the continent.

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His desk at work is a sight to behold: tissues, anti-bac gels, Vicks First Defence, vitamins, pro-biotics. I actually think he is stockpiling to start up a pharmacy to rival Boots and am considering getting him a faux-Doctor sign for his desk.

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Still tickles me

Me – I just get on and deal with it, a trait inherited from my dad. That said, if I’m truly struggling I will admit defeat and start on anti-biotics. Dad just battles on through with liquid Night Nurse. He is old school. I reckon his blood is green.

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The taste never leaves you…

So, what to do with the days spent at home playing Florence Nightingale to the fam?

Clear out the bathroom cabinet of course!

The stockpiling – again, mainly husband – is insane. How many packs of Dioralyte does one actually need in their lifetime? The majority of these meds have an expiry date, so go check your cabinets and stock up on stuff for when the shops are shut over the holidays.

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Almost identical to my bathroom cabinet situation

Please sing along – you know the tune:

#…On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me, some shower caps in packs of three.

On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, six plasters boxes, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes….four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

(Bear with – nearly there – hope you’re still singing)

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love sent to me, ten squashy ear plugs, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love sent to me, eleven headache tablets, ten squashy ear plugs, nine tubs of hair gel, eight packs of tooth picks, seven body lotions, six packs of plasters, five tooth pastes…four shower gels, three nail files, two cotton-buds and some shower caps in packs of three.

(Deep breath…)

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

twelve Calpol bottles

eleven headache tablets

ten squashy ear plugs

nine tubs of hair gel

eight packs of tooth picks

seven body lotions

six packs of plasters

five tooth pastes…

four shower gels

three nail files

two cotton-buds

and some shower caps in packs of three!!!…#

Happy Clearing. x

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Hallo-mean

In a blink of an eye, somehow it’s end the of October and Halloween is upon us all. No longer is it just a small celebration compared to our American friends across the pond who go large or go home for Halloween shenanigans.

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Otherwise known as ‘All Hallows Evening’.

Which became ‘Hallowe’en.’

And now, as we commonly know it, Halloween.

No wonder they simplified it. People can’t even get their apostrophes right at the best of times, especially when high on sugar.

Some believe that Halloween ends the harvest season, which, spookily coupled with the fact that it occurs at the same time the clocks go back, it does seem to make sense. If you’re in this blog for some big facts about where it all originated from, then  The Telegraph link gives some pretty interesting viewpoints, including the fact that people used to carve turnips, not pumpkins.

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Can’t take credit for this

Without wanting to sound like a misery (which would be a totally apt costume), Halloween doesn’t sit well with me.

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“I’ll take good care of you. I’m your number one fan.”

This nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it is a Pagan festival. (Room for all beliefs on this blog).

It’s just because I like getting value for money with things and I’m a big punter for cost-per-wear when buying clothing. So, try as I might to get my kids to recycle something from ‘the dressing up box’, they’re not having it.

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“What about a fairy princess zombie?” I ask.

(raised eyebrow from daughter #1)

“How about a rainbow unicorn devil?” I say cheerfully.

(raised eyebrow from daughter #2, although very, very hard to tell as she is super blonde and the eybrows will definitely require future tinting.)

“Maybe a mermaid monster?” I suggest helpfully.

(They both leave the room at this point.)

I summon up all the determination I have remaining after a two week half term stint and suggest a fun option for the youngest.

“How about bloodying up the fabulous pink tafetta ballgown that your sister wore in the school concert last year?” (Ebay £12.99)

Eldest throws a tantrum and refuses to give up the dress that she will never wear again and which no longer fits, simply that she loves it as ‘a memory’.

My turn to raise an eyebrow, which doesn’t go un-noticed by eldest.

“Mummy, can I customise your wedding dress then? It doesn’t fit you and you’re never going to wear it again….”

Fair point, well made.

But no. My dress shall sit in the loft, in all its tissue paper and boxed glory, until I can re-eneact the scene from ‘Pretty in Pink’, thus living out all of my John Hughes 80s fantasies.

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Andie – my hero

With a heavy heart I drag myself to the computer and thank and berate in equal amounts, those clever people at Amazon for inventing Prime.

My girls hear the keyboard click and come rushing in…

“That one! That one! ‘Zombie cheerleader’, Mummy!!! Quick – turn on 1-click!”

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They are not fools, my offspring.

Upon me questioning the ‘zombie cheerleader hybrid’ being akin to a ‘zombie princess mish-mash’, ie. ‘scary’ merged with ‘sweet’, I am again met with a double set of raised eyebrows.

At the end of a two week half term stint, I am weak. And I give in, high on fumes of ‘We love you! Best mummy ever! Thank you thank you!’

It all just escalates from there really…

The loft decorations are brought down and as if by some Chanukah oil-burning miracle, the Poundland spider wreath decoration still has life in it and the battery is still going strong two years later.

As if by magic (dark fucking magic), there are lanterns and plastic ghosts and jars of eyeballs now adorning the front of my house that would make Jonathan Ross proud.

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Woss’s house

Just when I thought I had gotten away with it, the annual pumpkin request is made and we head off to Morrisons for pumpkins.

So we’re pretty much Halloween ready.

Costumes  –

Pumpkins – 

Decorations – 

Sweets for visitors –

The trick part? Getting my kids to bed so I can hunt down the Bounty miniatures.

If that makes me a freak, I’m happy with that.

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A bounty of Bounty

Happy Halloween. 

Pour Aller au cinéma?

My nephew recently emerged the other side his GCSEs (he did brilliantly, thanks for asking) and I loved hearing all about his studies and progress along the way (as well as being extremely thankful that I didn’t have to sit mine again, let alone understand the latest grading system to come into play.)

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It was my nephew’s grasp of languages that impressed me most, as I have complete admiration for people like him who study another language and shine at it (a nice shiny A*), with particular props to those who opt for the language route without bi-lingual parents.

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Standard

At school I was surrounded by people studying everything from Chinese to Russian to Latin. I then went onto University, with many friends choosing to study Business with a language. When I started working at MTV, I was in the hub of the European Marketing Department and surrounded by colleagues who were multi-lingual, which I could only throw in the odd ‘ja’, oui and non, much like Joey in ‘Friends’.

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Ouais, ouais, naturellement

As I sat back and listened to them commandeer events in French, German, Spanish and everything in between, I wish I had taken my studies further than just French and German A-level, in order to be able to get more involved at events. Whilst I had mastered fluent Avagav, it just wasn’t a widely recognised enough language.*

 

It’s some time ago, but random foreign words have stuck in my mind.

For the Germans out there:

Mein Vater ist ein Tankwart – My dad is a petrol pump attendant. (He isn’t, but this phrase was my GCSE pull-it-out-of-the-bag to impress the adjudicators one.)

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Add to that a selection of favourite German words that friends and colleagues taught me:

Meerschweinchen = guinea pigs

sehr lecker = very tasty

Fledermaus = bat

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Yes. Potato salad is very tasty

..and for the French lovers:

 

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Ahh, Louis Laloupe. Good times

Je suis une fille unique – I am an only child (Yep, still am.)

Pour aller au cinéma? – Which way is the cinema? …I wonder if anyone studying French has ever actually used this in a real life situation? Or the Town Centre for that matter. So cliché. (Pun intended.)

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Tournez  à gauche

Pamplemousse = grapefruit

Parapluie = umbrella

That amazing ability to converse confidently in a foreign language still impresses me and  revisiting languages is definitely up there on my list of things I want to do in the future.

If not just to be able to sing certain song lyrics properly. ‘Despacito’. ‘Mi Gente’. I’m singing something but it’s definitely not the right words.

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I mean, if Justin can’t even do it…

Each summer I visit Spain (okay, just Marbella) and I can now confidently chuck in the odd ‘una bolsa’ (a bag) and ‘una mas’ (one more) in the ‘supermercado’ (oh, come on it’s not that cryptic). In my mind, with just a couple of words, a smile and a nod, they believe I am Spanish.

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In reality, when the cashier tots up my shopping and announces, “Setenta seis euros y ochenta y ocho céntimos,” I freeze and hand over a €100 note and simply hope for the best. Literally, I have no idea past ten.

You see, communicating is ‘my thing’ if you haven’t realised. I get terribly frustrated when I can’t get my point across, which is the issue with my limited Spanish. I often get panicky when I have to make a restaurant booking, even with the help of iTranslate

I can do the days of the week, thanks to a catchy little song my youngest learnt at nursery.

I can specify number of diners and the time I need the table for. When they reply with ‘Perfecto’ (great) or ‘Hasta mañana’ (see you tomorrow), it’s all good. Anything other than that and I usually hang up and pass the role onto a better-equipped person. (Husband.)

Even when I do manage a successful booking it can sometimes go wrong. Case in point this summer, when my kids really, really, really wanted to go back to the equivalent of Benihana’s and have scrambled egg flipped into their mouths from the hibachi grill. I try to get them to eat scrambled egg at home, but no such luck. Am considering flipping all non-desirable foodstuff at them with a spatula.

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‘Joséhanas’

I had booked it for ‘Debbie’ (that’s me) for 8pm. I had booked early enough in the week. I had confirmed the day before. The kids were living for it.

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Arrive at restaurant.

“No. No booking for Debbie, but you can sit at a normal table and order from the menu.”

“Errr. No.” I said. “My kids want omelette flipped at them.”

After much ‘discussion’, arm flapping and referring to the reservation book, it was 8:15. The other booking had clearly not shown up and I suggested we have the table or they lose custom anyway.  On the way to the table I casually enquired who this other reservation was for.  The other person was ‘Waby’.

Yes, I’m ‘Waby’.

I guess things get lost in translation.

x

(*campaigns to GCSE board to introduce Avagav as a recognised language option)

 

Keep Calm and Remain Stationary…

I don’t need my iPhone display to tell me that September is upon us. You can feel it, see it and even smell it in the air.

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If July and August were all about shell collecting for me, then September brings the conker harvest. Memories of going to school with a carrier bag full of conkers and chucking the contents across the playground with an accompanied, “SCRAMBLE!!” (Wouldn’t happen today – the bags are 5p…)

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Of all the seasons, Autumn is my favourite as it reminds me of walking to synagogue with my dad to celebrate the start of the Jewish New Year. On our journey, we would look at the change in scenery, spot figs on a neighbour’s tree and I would collect conkers, storing them in his prayer bag to add to my collection at home. (Conkers, not prayer bags…)

You can just ‘smell’ autumn in the air – if I was cryogenically frozen a la Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper’, I could easily sniff out Autumn.

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A futuristic conker

It may also be because there is another distinct smell in the air – that of parental relief that the kids are going back to school, quickly followed by the whiff of panic that a lengthy list of items needs to be bought from the uniform shop and stationers.

With a queue to rival that of ‘Thunder Railroad’, including ticketing and barriers, unfortunately the uniform shop ain’t no Disneyland. And there’s definitely no option to buy fast passes. (I would if I could.) Everyone is treated equally and there is no favouritism.

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There is a method of course…

Step 1 – Make a fucking list

Seriously – it’s uniform shopping 101. You have a line of bored, angry, frustrated, irritable people, many of them who would choose the returns queue at Zara over this shit. Make a list and make your time in the shop as quick and painless as possible.

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During a quiet period

 

Step 2 – Muster up lots of patience

As Axl Rose once sang, this patience needs to be doled out in bucketloads.954d455cd24bfa8eeac06c668042940d.jpgPatience with your kids, for other hapless parents and also for the poor staff dealing with your precious darlings who are arguing over the length of their skirt, itchiness of their jumper and the ridiculously oversized track suit.

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“It’s fine. You’ll grow into it.”

However, my patience wears thin when you consider that the usual staff count will have been bolstered with ‘holiday staff’. Under normal circumstances, I’m fully willing to give people a chance, but not the uniform shop. I have no shame in offering up the risky-looking temp staff member to the person behind me in the queue. I would much rather wait another few minutes for an experienced member of staff.

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The above rule also applies when it comes to buying school shoes. My youngest is ‘full of personality’ when it comes to shoe shopping and only one staff member will be able to fit her with minimal fuss. (She knows who she is.)

Armed with a supply of coppers to keep them occupied at the swirly-whirly helter-skelter charity box, I patiently wait until I get ‘my person’. Job done in just a few minutes.

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‘The Money Spinner’. (Trademark name fact fans)

 

Step 3 – Choose your branding wisely

Whether you go for sew-in, stick-in, stamp-in or reckless Sharpie daubing, the choice is yours when it comes to labelling it all. I have one friend who goes supersized on her sew-in labels, meaning her kids’ items can be identified from Mars.

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Personally, I opt for a mixture of all the possibilities listed above, but just know that I have it on good authority from a teacher friend of mine, that they’re more likely to hand back the easily identifiable stuff, than a biro scribble that has faded in the wash.

There is just so much to do, and we haven’t even covered my favourite part of it all – the stationery.

Much like new toiletries for holiday, there is nothing like filling a new pencil-case with smelly pencils, ridiculous rubbers and highlighter pens that never seem to be used for highlighting anything, just drawing emojis.

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I take it as a time to replenish my own home-stock – new sticky tape, glue, pens, post- its…all of which have depleted over the holiday with the amount of arts, craft and the slime factory which was shut down months ago, but I believe is still operating via an underground cell.

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The joy of throwing out the pencils that no matter how many times you try to sharpen them, the lead gets stuck in the sharpener. Or the pen that has no lid and has inked up the entire inside of the pencil-case. Colouring pencils that are down to the nub.

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And if you were ever in doubt of the correct spelling of the word ‘stationery’…

Stationery – it has an ‘e‘.. as in ‘envelope’. Which is a form of stationery.

(And yes, the use of ‘a’ in the word ‘stationary’ in the blog title is deliberate.)

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And proud of it

Good luck to everyone starting new schools. (Particularly those with correctly labelled stuff.) xxx

Final Call…

I’m a big fan of getting to an airport on time early. There. I said it. I detest rushing. I will happily get up in the middle of the night (okay, so maybe it’s only 05:30), birds tweeting, to catch that first flight out of Luton. I’m not saying I would choose to rise that same time every single day, but there’s something exhilarating about watching the sky change colour, as you journey excitedly towards an airport.

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Highway to the danger zone… (okay, Malaga)

I’ve usually amassed about 4 hours sleep the night before because I have packed, unpacked and repacked to remove and replace various pieces of redundant clothing, additional medicines, another bottle of suncream, etc. I have also checked and double checked my alarm is set. Again, no rushing for me. I want my shower, I want my breakfast. Otherwise I’m not fun Mummy.

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Shower-fresh before a flight. Always

Travelling outfit is laid out ready for the whole family, because I physically don’t have it in me at 5am to concern myself with what everyone is wearing. And it would definitely become my concern.

Whatever I choose to wear, it will usually include a wrap-around scarf thing to mummify myself from plane seats (see earlier blog) and trainers with socks. I can’t deal with sandals in an airport –  too many trolley wheels and stampeding feet. I ‘sandalled’ once and at security we were told to remove shoes. Me. Barefoot. Airport floor. (*insert dry heave here*) Hence, always socks.

The packing side of things is a whole other blog (useful, if you’re after packing tips), but for years I avoided buying luggage scales. My bathroom scales were sufficiently accurate, if a little painful to read…

  1. Step on scales to set the display to ‘0.0.’
  2. Swiftly dump case on scales and pray that it doesn’t topple over
  3. Case topples over before registering a proper reading
  4. Repeat steps 1 & 2 until successful (usually 5 or 6 attempts)

As long as I was within a pound or two (weight, not money), I knew I was okay and could feign disbelief to husband at check-in, that official reading was a good 6 or 7 kilos more than my reading at home. “Ah, it must be because of our tiled floor surface.”

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However, those days of blagging extra kilos are long gone. (Even though, for the record,  the kids and my stuff weighs nothing and giant husband’s clothes are far heavier per item. Just saying.)

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Money saving travel outfit option 

One-click Amazon Prime a couple of years ago and I became the proud owner of a proper set of luggage scales which give an accurate digital reading.

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360kg? Sounds about right…

In fairness, and I have got better, (honest Guv) the majority of the weight-bulk in my case is toiletries. I can’t help it – I’m allergic to so much stuff that it’s not worth the risk of local purchases. I tan badly enough as it is. I don’t need an eczema flare-up on top of it.

Plus, holidays are a great excuse to go nuts buying new toiletries and bump up your Boots points. New toothbrushes, new toothpaste, new shower gel, new ‘shooshie’ – we love a shooshie in our house.

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Shooshies. Why? What do you call them?

I know someone who ‘sparks joy’ (that Marie Kondo method) at finishing something, such as a box of cereal or some face cream. For me, I’m all about new and not just around holiday time.

Butter – the peel-off of that paper bit on top – heavenly! And that first butter curl? The best. Just stay away with your toast crumbs please.

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Nutella – I’ll give the gold foil a satisfying stab, but then every single piece of foil needs peeling off. Every last bit.

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Unacceptable

Greek yoghurt – that protective paper film thing confused the hell out of me the first time I bought the product.

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How do you pronounce it?

Milk – Once the lid is off, I am wary of people who don’t fully remove the peel off part. I’m live with people who do similar to tins of sweetcorn and tuna. It pains me.

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The horror of it…

Face/eye cream – a BIG favourite, especially if it comes with a protective lid thingy that makes direct contact with the product. I can eek out at least a week’s worth of usage from lid excess, before even touching the product inside the pot.

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New toothpaste – those first few pumps to get the toothpaste out? That’s what dreams are made of. We are a pump dispenser family, although to save our marriage, I no longer share a dispenser with him. (FYI, He does still have his lid. It was discarded at first use, although it’s sits in the bathroom cupboard. ‘Just in case’.)

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His (on the left) is no longer my problem…

Must go to bed. I’m getting up in 4 hours and am still swapping things in and out of the case.

Happy summer. xxx

P.S. It’s pronounced ‘Fa-yeh’!

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No, really. It is.

You’re Either a Swift or a Swallow…

Ahh, June. Weather gets (marginally) better, pasty white legs come out, fake tan gets badly applied in lieu of a proper spray tan and we can hear cheers of ‘COME ON!!! GO! GO! GO!!!’ at school Sports Day up and down the country.

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Or is that all just applicable to me? (The fake tan at least.)

My kids’ school has ‘Houses’ – the school splits into two and you are a ‘Swift or a ‘Swallow’ (denoted by the tie colour you wear to school.) Watching my two at Sports Day fills me with joy and fear in equal measure.

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Joy…

1. They’re ‘taking part’ and learning about team spirit.

2. They believe the medals are made of real gold. Youngest at least.

3. They know that a pre-midday finish means a going somewhere usually reserved for school holidays that will (hopefully) not be too rammed. Mega Jump here we come!

Fear…

1. If they hurt themselves. (Bag fully stocked with antiseptic spray, water, plasters, foil blanket like the Marathon finishers get given. Okay maybe not in my bag but I have one in my boot. No, I really do.)

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2. I’ll miss capturing the moment on my iPhone because husband keeps texting through to ask, “Well? Well? How are they doing?”

3. That the school will surprise us with a ‘Parents Race’. (I have nightmares about this.)

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If Carlsberg did Sports Day

So after all their ‘relentless’ training (running back and forth in the garden and jumping over ‘three tiles’ in the hallway) , it reminded me of my own Sports Day fifteen.. no, twenty.. shit, thirty-odd years ago.

Like the Swifts and Swallows, you were one of four houses: ‘Pine’ (green, me!), ‘Willow’ (yellow), ‘Rowan’ (red) and ‘Birch’ (blue). We had to wear those bands of coloured material across our chest to denote our competing House colours. We would then all pretend to have broken arms, using the sash as a sling. Crazy kids….

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Simpler times

Even today, given the choice of those four colours, I would till choose green. I stick with what I know. Pine through and through. A bit like my Spurs-mad husband, he would never ‘turn Arsenal’.

But every now and then I like to mess with the balance of my Libran scales and do things out of my comfort zone. Big or small, they (usually) make me feel happy or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo the Folding Queen says…

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Such as:

Food – some people have ‘sticky chop’ night. ‘Fish night’. ‘Pot-luck’ dinner night. For my family, as previously mentioned, Monday night is up-the-bum chicken night. My family look forward to it come rain or ridiculously-sweltering-shine of recent days in London. In light of sweaty weather, last Monday I thought I would serve the chicken with a cold salad. No-one spoke to me for the rest of the evening.

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How she deserves to be served. With rice

Going out-out – Last year, a friend’s husband asked if I wanted in on Guns n’ Roses concert tickets and I immediately said yes. As the date came around I did question my 40+-year-old decision to trek to Hackney Wick on a Friday night, but it was the most amazing concert, which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. On the way back to the station, whilst trying to avoid eye contact with men pee’ing all along the barriers, my fellow giggers asked me if I enjoyed it. Yes, I said, as much fun as last year’s Secret Cinema ‘Dirty Dancing’ event. (I’m no longer invited to the Metallica gig.)

Online shop – It always comes on a Wednesday. Every Tuesday at swimming, I bore my swimming mum friend with what interesting things I can add to my final order. One week, friend didn’t show up and I got paranoid she was avoiding my food interrogation – so I went all gung-ho and swapped my delivery day to Tuesday.  Liberating I tell you. (I just run out of things by Thursday.)

New restaurants – I love food. Literally. Obsessed. So when we go to a new restaurant, I go with a vague idea of what’s on the menu. For those who are diet-restricted, I appreciate that checking beforehand is a necessity, but I love the surprise of a menu and checking out what dishes are going to other tables. when I go out with my Uni girls, one of them always seems to order wrong – it’s fine we’re used to it. There are five of us to basically feed her bits of our meal. She’s like a toddler that won’t eat something, but put it on your plate and she wants it. (Except she’s 41.)

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Diary – if you’re still a paper-diary fan like me, then you fall into one of two camps. Mid-year buyers (freaks) or January buyers (me, completely normal). I can’t be swayed on this.

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Petrol – I had a friend (still my friend 35 years on) whose mum would never let her petrol tank go below half-full. (Or half-empty depending on the type of person that you are.) A shrewd way to operate, sure, but often I quite enjoy that reckless feeling of ‘will I/won’t I make it’. That said, the initial thrill soon disappears when the petrol station you had in mind is closed. Panic sets in and you begin to sweat. “Does the car always judder like this?”

Some handy advice in case you didn’t know…

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… the arrow next to the fuel pump denotes which side your petrol cap is on, particularly handy on a hire car. nB. Not all cars have this, but lots do.

Go on – you know you want to check yours. Or maybe you’re one of those reckless types that parks up regardless and drag the hose the whole way across the back of the car if necessary.

(Sorry, but that’s not for me.)

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes….

I would’ve liked to have called this post ‘Changing Rooms‘, but was worried you’d be hoping for home improvement tips from Handy Andy and Lawrence Lleweyn Bowen.

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Fixing and florals

I’m talking actual changing rooms, in a shop. For the most part, I try to do everything online as I just find it more efficient (and I’m all about efficiency), but from time to time I like to have a ‘shmy‘. Shmy is a wonderful word of yiddish origin (I think), which essentially means ‘to browse, have a looksie, without necessarily having something in mind that you’re looking to buy.’

I’m sure there have been a hundred blog posts about these horrific confined spaces that we voluntarily enter into, but here’s my observational two bobs worth…

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1. The Gathering

Once I’ve lacerated both arms and almost cut off my circulation from holding existing shopping bags, my handbag and potential purchases, I finally make it to the changing room.

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Serious arm damage

I long for the service you get in the States: “Hey, would you like me to go on and start a fitting room for you?” (Yes please, I just may need a reminder of where it is.)

 

2. How Many is Too Many?

Some shops’ changing rooms have a five items or less policy, some take you up to ten. I like the ones where they are completely unmanned and you just stroll right in armed with the entire store’s ‘nueva colección’. Basically stuff you like, stuff you know won’t suit you but someone was wandering around holding it and stuff you want to try because your favourite blogger said it was ‘the’ seasonal piece and it’s sold out everywhere.

The issue with the number tags they allocate against your item is when you start swapping stuff in and out. So, unless Carol Vorderman is manning the changing room, you’re leaving there holding six items, giving back a tag for ten items and there are three excess hangers on the floor, that may or may not have been there previously. (Either way, you’re made to feel like a shoplifter.)

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Scene of the crime

3. Curtain or door?

I must admit I like a door, preferably with a lock. Curtains don’t tend to close all the way and it plays havoc with my OCD, whilst I faff about trying to get it central enough to hide my modesty.

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The one on the right’s killing me

I also like to be positioned near enough to the rail of swap-in potentials. This means you have the ability to do the ‘peek-round-in-your-undies-with-the-curtain-wrapped-round-you’, politely asking staff if they’ll pass you the red top with the frilled sleeves. (And no, you’re not keeping the frayed hem jeans.)

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“Have you got this in a size 10?”

4. Added Extras

A stool, or even better, a chair is a nice touch. A shelf is always useful too. Big fan of the buzzer to alert staff that you need another size or just to ask their opinion without having to do the head poke.

A mirror is a given – preferably a flattering one. And shame on you Selfridges – some of your departments have changing rooms WITHOUT A MIRROR!! I don’t to share a mirror with a Russian model.

Plus, stepping outside is always a risk, especially when you need a particular item in a different size and the person right next to you has the only one left on the shop floor/in the entire country. *prays they abandon it upon exit*

Hooks, double hooks, rails… chuck it all in. The more hanging space the better.

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New Look hook situ, if you’re interested.

5. Order! Order!

The likelihood is, you’re shmying in your active wear and wearing the most unflattering sports bra. (And that’s just the men.) So, if you’ve got a variety of things to try on, strip off and do it properly – the floaty Vitakin dress is never going to look right with gym leggings and a battered pair of Asics poking out the bottom of it.

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Strong look

7. What’s That You Say?

You hear all sorts when you’re in a changing room:

…Crying baby and nappy definitely being changed (yuk) – Primark 

…Click of iPhone camera. Someone definitely taking multiple shots of themselves in different outfits and sending to a friend. I know this for sure as I heard them follow up with a phone call to said friend, demanding an immediate opinion – Topshop

…Teens discussing whether to get the black vest top for £2.99 one or the white one – New Look

…People taking calls and pretending they are at work/just not shopping in general – Zara (for the record I hate their changing rooms – they’re so tiny that your nose is almost against the mirror, so you’ve little choice but to swoosh back the curtain for a proper look in the big mirrors outside.

“I”m busy, Doll. Will call you back in a minute, I just need to finish something.” Me, today, Brent Cross, Fenwick changing room, on phone to husband dearest, taking photos of myself, Whatsapping to stylist friend. Standing, sitting and jumping up and inspecting from every angle. And if I like the item, I will of course take a ‘fresh one’ from the shop floor.

Oh come on, you know you do it too…

You’re a Hard Habit to Break

My family have a ‘whistle’. A code. We do ‘the whistle’ and we know we are in the vicinity of each other in public areas. To be fair, my dad was the originator –  I think it began as a ‘call’ for our cat ‘Tiddles’ when it was time for his ‘Whiskas‘. However, over time it became the family call-sign.

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Here, Kitty Kitty…

It signalled Dad’s return home from work, whereby I would eagerly race downstairs and shake his Evening Standard open in the hope of a Walnut Whip falling out, which was usually on a Friday.  Mid-week I might get a small paper bag selection of a white chocolate fish and chips, a foam banana and a squishy mushroom. Penny sweets = simpler times.

‘The whistle’ has forged its way into my own family, although the kids find it hard to get the exact tone right, especially the youngest who is still struggling with whistling full-stop. A replica high-pitched ‘wooohhhhh-hoooohhhhh’ is sufficient to get the ‘call sign’ out though.

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What’s your call sign?

In a busy shopping centre, or in a public toilet it’s super useful, particularly as I have kids entering the ‘Mum, you’re sooooo embarrassing’ stage:

“Are you still in the toilet, darling? Did you put paper on the seat?”

This vocal check is apparently unacceptable to my eldest whereas ‘the whistle’ is fine and thankfully met with a responding ‘wooh-hooh’, so I least I know she is still in there somewhere.

So that’s how it goes – at busy airports, theme parks, on a packed train, on holiday.

To me, there’s nothing more special that watching a loved one who is unaware that you’re present. I love seeing that instant recognition upon on their faces upon hearing ‘the whistle’ when they click that a key member of their crew is close by.

So this is one of my habits. My ‘thing’ which I brought to the family table. When you live with others you tend to adopt each others ways – my youngest now says ‘anyway’ a lot, as apparently picked up from my use of the word. People have even started to comment that my husband and I have have begun to resemble each other. (His boobs are thankfully smaller than mine.)

I’m not saying I surround myself with a bunch of circus freaks, but all we have our weird ways, habits, nuances. Am listing a few anonymously for fear of losing friends and alienating people….

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See if you can recognise yourself in any of them:

…saluting an ambulance.

…speaking directly to magpies with the whole ‘Hello Mr. Magpie, how’s your wife and kids?’

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Where’s your mates at?

… the need to peruse a menu online before eating anywhere.

…feeling genuinely upset if someone else cleans out the lint drawer of the tumble drier. (ahem…)

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*Must peel away in one swipe for maximum satisfaction*

…the inability to eat a biscuit like a normal person – jam sandwich creams get prized apart, marshmallow teacakes get dissected and my heart goes out to a Tunnocks caramel.

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… having to touch a plane exterior upon boarding. (Okay so that’s me, but you know that from reading previous blogs, so pointless me hiding it.)

…can only buy things in pairs, ensuring you never run out of something. Deodorant, fabric conditioner, Diet Coke, bin liners.

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This is her utility room. Joke… (ish)

…never walking on cracks on the pavement. (Standard. Who DOES that?)

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nB. Not my actual shoes. (Although ideal for crack-avoiding)

…won’t walk under signs. (It ruins your sex life, apparently. Watch people avoid them whilst wandering down a road. It’s hilarious)

…saying ‘Wed – nes – day’ in your head when saying or writing ‘Wednesday’

…no carbs after 7pm. (Definitely not me and I know some of you adopt the 6pm cut-off.)

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…enjoying carrots cooked, boiled, roasted, chopped. But if you grate them, forget it. (Also me.)

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Shouldn’t be allowed

…won’t dip into the new eye cream, moisturiser, whatever is in the pot, until the protective lid bit that has excess product on it has all been used up. (Would you believe it if I said this is me as well?)

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Lid product is life

…if you buy something online and it’s no good, no matter your plans the next day, IT MUST BE RETURNED!!! There are no exceptions even if it means dragging the kids to Brent Cross at 7:30 at night. Yes, even if it’s Zara.

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Photo credit: AAP IMAGES

…morning alarm can’t be set for ‘on the hour’ or ‘half hour’ (Yes. Me)

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Alarm bells ringing…

…will never wear an item of clothing again until it’s thoroughly washed should it have made direct contact with public transport. Nor would I they sit on their lovely, clean bed in said clothes.

Anyway…

Happy Birthday To Ya…

For as long as I can remember, my dad would annually crank up the record player on my birthday for five minutes and thirty-three seconds of pure Stevie Wonder ‘Happy Birthday’ joy. The opening ‘dn-dka-dn-dka-dn-dka-dn-dnka-dn-dn’ synth sounds would contagiously creep their way upstairs and I would awaken to the ‘big drum fill’ preceding Stevie’s warbles.

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Now I’m grown up (sort of), my kids delight in this tradition and blare out the song for me (albeit on Sonos).

But do I love my birthday? It means I’m getting older. Horrific surely? Well, no. Along with Snoop Dogg, Francis Boulle, Danni Minogue and Danny Boyle, I’m a proud October baby, along with some of my closest Libran friends and I’m embracing my forties, always awaiting my yearly Colin the Caterpillar cake.

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If it’s good enough for him…

I have great memories of my birthday parties complete with ‘St Michaels’ marshmallow teacakes and orange squash in a corrugated plastic container, that you pierced with the accompanying straw.

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Did someone say artificial sweetener…?

Little parties turned into bigger parties, evenings in, discos and hiring out pubs. I am still great friends with many of the people I grew up with, including one who loves her June birthday so much, she celebrates annually with a monumental ‘tea party’ at her house. Almost like Glastonbury (albeit less muddy), the old faces would reunite and new faces would be added. Over thirty years later, it’s still an annual pilgrimage and the atmosphere is just as warm and wonderful.

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(AFP/Getty Images)

 

However, I married a man for whom his birthday is a no-go zone. Whilst the kids and I are conveniently booked on a flight to Spain, my other half sees out his birthday at work, with the minimum of fuss made, under the radar, no-one the wiser to this momentous day in August. He then conveniently joins us a day later in the sun.

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(Not my husband.)

Each year I call him at work on his birthday and ask “has the cookie basket and strip-o-gram arrived yet?”  He threatens divorce.

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A couple of years ago for his 40th, I convinced him that he had to be with the fam in Spain on his actual birthday (or I would threaten divorce.) He conceeded and a wonderful (low-key) time was had by all. To keep him on his toes all day, I kept him guessing if I’d really arranged a birthday banner on one of those aerial advertising planes.

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“Heads up at 3pm!”

I have a very dear friend who, on approaching her big 4-0 there was much fanfare and discussion about how it would be best celebrated. This planning began well over a year ago …it’s still going on.

Oh the decisions for the birthday girl or boy about what to do, how to celebrate, the food, the drink, the invites. But what about the pressure for the friends, whereby you are obliged to fulfil at least one, if not all of the following, depending on friendship status:

  1. Facebook post –  totes oblig. You get a notification FFS. All you need to do is a quick ‘Happy birthday x.’ Maybe a private joke, caring message, etc. Just don’t piggyback someone else’s wall message. That’s considered lazy.
  2. Photo upload – if it’s easily accessible, it’s a nice touch, but be wary of friends posting seemingly well-meaning wishes where they look fabulous and you look ropey.
  3. Photo collage – now we’re talking. A random three or four pic selection is all well and good, but you may as well go big or go home. Mosaic nine-grid minimum, black and white plus colour selection and if you’re tech savvy, a video inclusion within the grid is highly acceptable
  4. Duplicate all of the above for Instagram, where it’s acceptable (IMO) to piggyback a wall post and give well wishes.

That’s it surely?

Think again. If you’re dealing with a milestone birthday then drop everything, as there’s even more pre-prep to consider when you get messages like this in your inbox:

Hiiii……!!!!

It’s so-and-so’s birthday coming up in a year so please can you email so-and-so in two days time with the following:

  • A photo of you
  • A photo of you and the birthday girl
  • A photo of you and birthday girl aged five or younger (if you were friends)
  • A photo of you and the birthday girl’s second cousin, twice removed

nB. Photos needs to be landscape, 300DPI minimum, no compressing or genetically modifying.

Thanks. x

P.S. One more request: a poem or message (not too long, not too short) using times New Roman 14 point, saved as a PDF file with a greyscale filter set to a saturation of 39%. xx

P.P.S. Actually really need this by tomorrow afternoon, but the day after is ok if you’re blood-related. x x x

—-

You know it doesn’t make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration
‘Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you would agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world party on the day you came to be
Happy birthday to you….

Words and Lyrics by Stevie Wonder (the song, not my blog. Stevie Wonder did not write my blog.)

Happy birthday everyone x x x

 

 

 

Back to the Future

To say that I am film-obsessed is an understatement. Maybe not as much today as in my youth, but I put that down to the loss of Joan Rivers fronting Fashion Police on E! However, this year the Oscars came good for me in the form of Marty McFly. (And the envelope drama at the end, of course.)

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Part of the ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ generation, my childhood bedroom was plastered wall-to-wall with pictures of my heart-throb Michael J. Fox, plus guest appearances from Andrew McCarthy, C. Thomas Howell and Kirk Cameron.

I would sit for hours on my faux-hamburger bean bag, creating imaginary meetings and conversations.

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Hello, old friend

My Guy and Look-In were torn apart for pictures, lyrics to chart hits and snippets of information about celebrities. My filofax, (because apparently I worked and needed a filofax aged 11), was full of notes from friends, acknowledging my fully fledged addiction.

I cut my teeth on shows like Mork & Mindy, Family Ties, Growing Pains and Fresh Prince. I couldn’t get enough of American films too: The OutsidersPretty in PinkCan’t Buy Me Love, Mannequin, plus all the Back to the Futures. Okay, so the third BTTF wasn’t so great but I managed to go to the Premier and that was big news for my 15 year-old-self. Alas, the Fox wasn’t there. His aunt had died.

But if there was a million-dollar question along the lines of “in which year did BTTF3 Premier?”, I would know without hesitation the answer is 1990. I know this because I was 15 in 1990 when I went to the Premier. Great scott – I’m a genius.

That same year, Pretty Woman was released. Not only did I own the same yellow Sony walkman that Julia Roberts had in the bathtub scene, but I also had a Hunza dress, made from that crinkly swimming costume material of her street walker outfit. Admittedly mine was less short and hooker-y, with a satin puff-ball bit at the bottom and black velvet splatters all over it .

 

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I feel I’m truly torn between the old and the new. How can I resist my old favourites when they are aired? Bueno Sera Mrs Campbell, Calamity Jane, The Poseidon Adventure, Tootsie and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – the list goes on. For years, I dreamt of marrying Russ Tamblin until I realised he was Tom Thumb, but then swooned again when I discovered him as Riff in West Side Story.

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“Now I know Tony like I know me…”

I also noted down in my Purple Ronnie diary that if I had a boy (with Michael J. Fox obvs), I would name him Caleb – after one of the seven brothers: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank and Gideon. (nB. This was proudly typed with no help whatsoever from Google.)

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Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

 

The feeling of being transported back to something memorable is just the best. Much like a song can remind me of a film, they have also become the soundtrack to my life:

Firstborn (emergency C-section) – ‘I don’t feel like Dancing’ by Scissor Sisters was playing in the operating theatre, so I know the song was released in 2006.

Secondborn (elective C-section) – ‘I Gotta Feelin” by Black Eyed Peas, so I know this was a 2009 release. (I’m great on radio phone-ins for ‘name that year’.)

On my wedding day, I didn’t want a traditional wedding song played as I ‘step-together’d’ down the aisle. I say ‘I’ because if left to husband it would have been ‘Ossie’s Dream‘.

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For me there was only one choice – ‘Moon River‘ from Breakfast at Tiffanys. My great Uncle Harry was the key chorist at Great Portland Street Synagogue and he sang so beautifully as I walked towards the tall, nervous man under the chuppah humming Ossie’s Dream.

A bit like the ‘useless’ knowledge Dev Patel picks up in Slumdog Millionaire, I can’t say that my memory has made me a millionaire, but I’ve checked, and the next episode of Mastermind features a specialist subject of Seinfeld. If they’re running with that, it can’t be long before I get my call to participate…

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“In which year did Michael J Fox’s aunt die?