A Fine Romance

Because nothing says I love you like a speeding fine.

Not even the M&S heart-shaped sausage.

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Say it with sausages

One mph over the limit. One!

I know, I know (Dad) – I ‘broke the speed limit’ regardless. And when that camera flash goes off at midnight, it gives you the fright of your life.

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Say ‘cheese’

Was it me?

Maybe it was it the car in front of me? (Please let it be the car in front of me.)

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Or maybe, just maybe, for once, please let that ‘urban myth’ be true…

The one that claims if the camera does a ‘double flash’, then there’s no film inside.

Letter confirmed there was definitely film inside the camera. In some situations it’s worth contesting…

“I think I was being followed by a gang”…

“My foot slipped on the pedal”…

‘It wasn’t me”…

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It wasn’t him either

I now have a choice to make. Points or speed awareness course? No prizes for guessing the choice I made.

At this point, I will admit that I reckon I’m probably one of the few people to actually quite enjoy attending a speed awareness course. Seriously.

1) I got out of the school run

2) No-one could bother me for 4 hours

3) I could ‘people watch’ to my heart’s content

What’s not to like?

So, for anyone who hasn’t ‘done one’, you basically book a morning or afternoon slot on any chosen day, at a venue close to you. A bit like a cinema booking for a very long film, but one that costs you about £100 and doesn’t offer any fun snacks.

I opted for the morning slot to ‘get it out of the way’ and when you book, you have the choice of a ‘flexible’ or ‘non-flexible’ booking:

Non-flexible: you’re booked on. That’s it. If you can’t make it on the day for any reason, they don’t care and you have to pay £100 again to book in for future date.

Flexible: for an extra £12, you can change your time and date as many times as you like in the build up to the course date. Initially I thought “no way, I’m not giving them any more of my money!”, but course-savvy friends said it’s worth it in case things crop up and you need to re-arrange. I think I changed my date about 4 times in the run up because stuff kept cropping up.

The day finally arrived – rotas were in place to take my kids to school, whilst their criminal mother went off to serve her time.

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These gals chose the afternoon course 

As I pulled into the hotel car park where the course was being held, I felt like I was off to have an illicit affair. (A few people loitering outside having a morning fag looked as if they were just finishing up their illicit affair…)

I followed signs ‘welcoming’ me to the course, signed in and took a seat at one of the circular tables in the conference room. On the tables were water, informtation booklets, pens and some Murray Mints in a bowl. It was a bit like a supper quiz. But no supper. And no prizes.

The room filled up and the guy who had checked us in did some intros and ‘a quick bit of housekeeping’ for the 25 of us in the room – fire exits, phones off, etc.

Four hours to go.

The door then opened and another guy waltzed in and joined the star act at the front, cracking a joke about being late and ‘don’t worry – I didn’t speed to get here’. Oh hurrah – a double act.

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No. Ant wasn’t there…

The first question was posed.

‘Why do you think you’re here?’

This was swiftly answered with a heckle of ‘cos we got caught!’ from a bloke at table one.

I took a look around the room and there really was a broad cross-section of people. All ages and races. Real sweet faces. Every different nation, Spanish, Hatian, Indian, Jamaican. Black, White, Cuban, and Asian. I only came for two days of playing. But every time I come I always wind up stayin’. This the type of town I could spend a few days in
Miami the city that keeps the roof blazin’…

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Sorry – briefly lost myself there. Which happened a lot during the course.

I can’t help it. I get easily distracted by things.

There was a pen spinner sitting at my table – this fascinates the hell out of me. I have a friend who can do this. I am unable to do this. I want to be able to do this.

I started doing an awards ceremony in my head: best dressed, worst dressed, most annoying, etc.

An hour into things, I thought I would cash in the first of my toilet breaks. They mentioned loo breaks during ‘housekeeping’ but didn’t mention any limits and a friend told me to take lots of loo breaks to kill a bit of time. Which I did. One every hour. If anyone was doing the awards thing, I definitely won ‘worst bladder’.

There were lots of presentation slides where you had to anticipate things that might ‘happen’, based on positioning of cars, roads, signage. A bit like that scene from ‘Men in Black’ where Will Smith is on target practice.

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“Eight-year-old white girl. Middle of the ghetto. Bunch of monsters. This time of night. With quantum physics books. She’s about to start some shit. She’s about eight years old, those books are way too advanced for her. If you ask me, I’d say she’s up to something.”

(Fully aware this is the second Will Smith reference. I’m just over-excited about Bad Boys 3.)

More slides, more discussions about scenarios, more hammering home about speeding and the catchy ‘only a fool breaks the 2 second rule’. (Basically, as a driver you should stay at least two seconds behind any vehicle that is directly in front of you. Applicable at any speed.)

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Far simpler than understanding the offside rule

I honestly did learn alot, including the speed limit for goods vehicles on a single carriageway. (50mph if you wanted desperately to know.)

I hope you enjoyed reading this and if you’ve got a course coming up, there might be a slide about observation. And how quickly you can react to something. It’s a picture of a messy desk with all kinds of stationery on it. The question that preceeds the slide is ‘how many pencils are there?’

I got the answer immediately. Just remember to alway look outside the box… Unknown-16.jpeg

x

 

 

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.)

Prepare to Be Amazed

I was a Brownie. I was a Girl Guide. The whole ethos of ‘be prepared’ definitely made an impact on me, although half the time I think it’s because I just can’t be bothered with the hassle that comes with not being prepared.

Like in the car:

(loud sneeze)

“Mummy!!!! Quick! I need a tissue!!!”

‘Use your sleeve’ some may say but I just don’t need the extra washing so for that reason, tucked in the side door pocket are tissues. Yup, the flat pack of tissues that you think no-one ever buys from Boots. Well I do.

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Like in the kitchen:

If I can make dinner in the morning and have it on a slow cook all day, then when I come through the door late from the kids’ swimming lesson, I don’t need to worry about dinner whilst washing their hair, sorting their homework and unravelling the swimming costumes that have been rolled tighter than a Havana cigar. (* Favourite post-swim recipe at the end of the blog.)

Like on a plane:

Whilst everything goes up into the overhead storage, I keep essentials with me in my seat so that there is little need to stand up (interrupting my prime film viewing). Kindle, iPad, moisturiser, chewing gum (for plane breath) and sucky sweets for the kids upon landing. Oh, and massive cosy scarf that’s been freshly washed. I then mummify myself by wrapping the scarf around as much of my being as possible. I like to imagine other passengers can also see animated flowers wafting off of me as I move around in my seat.

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I actually use Fairy, but their ads don’t have flowers

Like when I go out for the day:

My bag has the usual suspects – keys, wallet, phone, but amongst it all is a Mary Poppins-style bottomless cosmetic bag of wonders, including things like: plasters, stain remover wipes (best things ever), mini perfume atomiser, calpol tablets (kids) and lip balm. In the 80s it was Lipsyl, but today, it’s Eve Lom Kiss Mix.

 

I am what is known as a ‘lip licker‘: yup, it’s a real condition. I always have a pot of this wondrous stuff with me and can’t bear it when people dip their fingers into the pot. For this reason I shove my lips directly into the pot to apply and it seems to deter others from finger-dipping.  (Win-win.)

But my point with this blog (and I don’t want to sound too Carrie Bradshaw), is ‘how organised is too organised’?

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Carrie? Can you help?

I have a friend (no names mentioned but she will know soon enough), who is so insanely organised, that she readies the breakfast stuff for her kids the night before. Bowls are placed on the kitchen table, filled with cereal of choice and then covered, yes, covered, with cling film. It’s “to stop the spiders going in.”

With being prepared, I do get it. I am it. I had to revoke my Costco membership because I was fast becoming their second biggest stockpiler of loo roll. (And the cookie multi-packs.). It was just too dangerous for me to have access to such a place.

A recent trip to Disney indulged every organised bone in my body. Schedules, restaurant bookings, ruck-sack packing for the parks. I was all over it and loved it.  Including ordering disposable ponchos for the ‘wet rides’. Yup, I did that.

Husband is all for being prepared too, although this translates as ‘I’ll leave my coat out on the couch instead of hanging it up, because I’m only going to wear it in the morning.” Oh, ok. I’ll just empty out all of your clothing onto the floor so that you don’t need to ever open a cupboard or drawer ever again. (He’s tempted by this idea, I’m sure.)

And it’s not just my generation – the older generation seem to be on the preparation path. Although in some cases it may be ‘Preparation H‘. So canny is my mother in law, that juices are Nutri Bullet-ed the night before and vitamins are all measured out. I guess she’d be dead by the time she counted them all out in the morning, so fair do’s…

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Only the half of it

My kids are on it too – they see not brushing their teeth in the evening as ‘no big deal’ (whilst I freak out), as the toothpaste is still on the toothbrush for the morning.

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I think the whole point of me wanting to be prepared is an innate sense of not wanting to fail or let someone down. What if my lovely neighbour needed to borrow some sugar or milk …or even sumac?

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Yup. I have that

And if I ever ask if I can come to Costco with you, just say no.


*Post activity dinner where you come through the door too late to fuss with cooking.

Perfect Pot Roast by Ree Drummond, The Frontier Woman.

I cook it all day long in the oven on 100°C with no worries. Leave out the wine and rosemary if you want a ‘lighter’ taste. My family aren’t mash fans so I lightly toast a ciabatta that I’ve sliced in half along the length. Place in a bowl and spoon over the meat and the juices soak into the bread. Am now salivating. Roll on swimming next week.

(I’m midly obsessed with Ree. She’s was a city girl, moved to the country, married a cowboy and now lives on a ranch with her four kids, writing, blogging, cooking and has recently opened a store. I want to go there and meet her. And eat her food. And say yee-har.)

 

Spring Car-leaning

 

Every week without fail, my husband inspects my car like a skilled forensic at a crime scene. Yes, there is food, yes there are wrappers, yes it’s a bit of a mess, yes I promised to keep it clean. Yes, yes, yes. But you see, my car is not just a piece of metal getting me from A to B (Arkley to Bond Street). No, it is a tank, a larder, an office, a sanctuary.

I have every intention to clear the crap out at the end of each day, but it’s raining or I need to get dinner on or there is homework to be supervised. Just ‘or’. I rarely procrastinate over things and I am fastidiously tidy at home, but everyone deserves a ‘secret closet’ like Monica from Friends. My car is that cupboard.

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Shameful findings that journeyed with me on a daily basis

So with half term fully in swing, here in no particular order, were the top 10 things I found:

10. One ‘borrowed’ country hotel umbrella rhyming with ‘Poor Treasons’. Numerous novelty kids brollies, many of which were broken, with pokey-out bits. I got rid of broken ones. Kept a couple of Disney ones and the one that looks like a giant frog. Kept the ‘Poor Treasons’ to satisfy the rebellious thief in me.

9. An unopened litre bottle of water I’ve had in the boot since last Summer ‘in case of emergency’. For example, dying of thirst on that exceedingly long trip home (from Westfield). I binned it. Well, watered the plants with it. And immediately replaced it. Just in case.

8. Snacks. Spanning the full culinary spectrum of sweet to savory and back again I found crisps, crackers and all other high-intensity crumb contributors. Plus a full set of Ikea clip things. My husband bans food in the car, but needs-must during the half hour lag time between sibling collection from school. (Nature Valley are the most lethal.)

7. Toys. High on the list were the four-pack of duff little pencils that always come free with a notepad or colouring book. Kept one full set – useful for dashboard notes such as ‘ticket machine not working’. (Best thing EVER – fk da system …) Also found the source of the rattling noise coming from the back every time I took a right turn. Kinder and Happy Meal toys. “NEVER THROW THIS WAY – IT’S MY FAVOURITE THING EVER!” say my kids. Relegated to the passenger door pocket after a day and duly forgotten about. Binned.

6. Paperback AtoZ – yes, I know. Should Google maps, my in car SatNav, or a phonecall to my Dad let me down, this would be my resort AFTER the last resort. Even the charity shop didn’t want it. I don’t think it even featured Canary Wharf.

5. Cutlery. I can’t resist an M&S cling-wrapped fork at the checkout. If I can’t have a free bag anymore, I’m filling my boots with cutlery. Never mind the oil lasting for eight days, at the rate I’m collecting, I should have enough to see me through Passover 2016. Along with the plastic glove collection from petrol stations.

4. Some nappy bags and a Potette, which saw me through many a roadside emergency. And petrol station gloves came in handy. Bearing in mind my kids are 9 and 6, it was time to free up the netting side pocket thingy in the boot. Oooh.. so many options.

3. Parking machine tickets. Especially the sticky 2-part ones. I have a friend who drives around with out-of-date ones stuck on her window, like white tinted glass. That I would never do, but there was a serious stash shoved down the side of my door, the majority of them with a discarded piece of chewing gum stuck on them. *hangs head in shame*

2. Various writing implements. I am considering opening a stationery shop to rival WHSmith. I managed to bring it down to a couple of pencils and a few biros.

1. Much like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman in reference to the condom selection she offered (“I got red, I got green, I got yellow… I’m out of purple..”), I am planning on attending Simchas 2016 and hosting a stand with the kippah selection that I discovered my husband had accumulated and chosen to house within my car. ‘Just in case’.

“I got suede, I got leather, I got crochet..”

They were in the glove compartment, side door, armrest and even in the secret pop down compartment that’s meant for your specs. Everywhere. Complete mess.

He should be ashamed of himself…