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.


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.


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….


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?’


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…)


*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.


… 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.


This is her utility room. Joke… (ish)

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


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.)


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


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?)


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.


Photo credit: AAP IMAGES

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


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.


Smells Like Teen Spirit..

.. and by that I mean snakebite n’ black, pot noodle and mouldy bed linen.

Packed to the roof like they’re up for some serious car boot sale action (old Kodak centre in Harrow anyone..?), I’ve spotted many laden cars heading North with wide-eyed teens in the back, clutching their teddies in excitement as they headed off to University.

I (vaguely) remember being one of those teens and it’s only now in my 40s that I can look back at the experience and truly understand why my friend’s mum hung about for hours at our student house, scrubbing at the bathroom and kitchen until her marigolds wore through and she left the house sobbing.

To me and my Uni girlfriends, it was a palace. To our parents, it was a cesspit that we had foolishly handed over a deposit and a month’s rent to our landlord. Having housed six boys prior to our arrival, it took many weeks to embed it with our ‘girl smell’. The basement however, was another level (if you will pardon the pun.) I can still smell it now…

If I could go back and re-think my career, I wish I had gone into perfumery. I can happily spend hours in the candle and fragrance departments and if you’ve ever wondered why coffee beans often appear alongside candles, it’s to neutralise your sense of smell before the next sniffing. I don’t think the yearly coffee bean crop of Latin America would have helped our basement.


Milk and two sugars please

Smells are so important to me. They trigger memories – happy, sad, funny. These are a few of my best/worst smells:

GOOD: Lavender – reminds me of my late Grandma who loved the smell of it. I always travel abroad with lavender oil and a couple of drops on a pillow at night definitely helps the kids get to sleep. Also great for a relaxing bath. I had a relaxing bath once in 2005. I have kids now.


BAD: Baby poo. I remember the horrific baby poops that seeped up the back of the baby-grow. Usually when you were in the John Lewis toilets, already sweating, lactating and trying to get a feed in.

GOOD: Tarmac. I actively seek out roadworks. I called my Dad recently to ask about some signage on the back of a truck. ‘Paving, rendering, tarmacadam’. After mocking me for  pronouncing it ‘Tarmac Adam’, he informed me that it’s actually the full name for ‘tarmac’.

BAD: Damp clothing – so, you wash your clothes and hang them to dry. You go to wear a top and notice the cuff was stuck inside itself. Oh well, it’s dry now and all is fine.   No. It’s not fine. Stinks all day long. Wash it again.

GOOD: Comfort Sunshiny Days fabric conditioner. Best ever. I like everything to smell clean and fresh. My sister in law has the market cornered on that. Her whole family have animated flowers wafting around them at all times. Even the dog.

BAD: Dog poo. Even the tiniest amount (always stuck in the tread of your trainers) is enough to make me retch.

GOOD: Husband’s after shave. You can keep your Creed Aventus (fyi, now available for women too). Robert Piquet ‘Notes’ is the one I love on him. Unfortunately it’s no cheaper than Creed and is so-called ‘Notes’ because you need bucketloads of banknotes to pay for it


BAD: Gefilte fish. You can’t roll a shit in glitter. And the same goes for a carrot ‘hat ‘on top of minced fish…


GOOD: Hotel foyers – I love how the good ones smell amazing when you walk in and almost set your mood. I remember my honeymoon and my obsession with the smell of the place where we stayed – a friend would always bring me back lotions and sprays when she visited South Africa.  Luckily ‘Charlotte Rhys’  is now available to order in UK, but it never smells quite the same at home. Possibly the lack of sea view and room service.


BAD: Earring butterflies – I’m as hygienic as they come so don’t pretend and act holier than thou. It’s a real problem for us all.

GOOD in a BAD WAY: Original stonewashed denim. When I was a teen, drooling over the Levis commercials featuring Nick Kamen and Brad Pitt, there was a tiny shop on Golders Green Road called ‘Yankee Doodle’ that catered to the Levi 501 obsession of North West London. (South London crew had ‘Soldier Blue’ on the Kings Road as their mecca.)


The old site. The entrance was where ‘Gentle Care’ is and about half of ‘Virgin Money’

Small but perfectly-stocked, it was stacked ceiling-high with bandanas and converse and my favourite Levi 501s. The jeans had been through a stone-washing process that an intoxicating bleached smell. Ripped, stained, ink splattered, torn, worn. No wonder there was a sign up stating that you had to have your parents permission to buy from there.


An original display from Yankee Doodle (thanks to Dani who owned the shop – more stories please!)


GOOD: Freshly baked bread, specifically challah, in the boot of your car.


Better than the artificial smell of the yellow vanilla trees dangling off your rear view mirror.


Controversially, I have a friend who prefers the black ice scent to vanilla – something about the musky, manly smell. They should actually manufacture challah-scented Little Trees…


“Hello, Little Trees? I’ve got a new scent idea for you…”

That’s Chrismukkah presents sorted then…