They Think it’s All Over. It is Now…

Another week, another blog. (To show solidarity to my kids, I set myself homework – ‘post another blog by next Friday’. #teacherspet.)

Also… Another week, another Boris announcement.

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More things returning to a ‘new normal’, but my kids are still being homeschooled, so I delayed lockdown activity #84 as long as possible: tie dye.

My youngest had done tie dye club at school once (remember that place?) and brought home a patterned pillowcase, so surely that was enough? Why should I have to do it in my own house?

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Aviator Nation – tie dye of dreams

Same reason I guess as having to do slime and rainbow looms. To be fair, thank goodness we’re not on ‘slime time‘ during lockdown. It was hard enough finding glue, hair gel and contact lens solution during ‘normal’ shopping situations.

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Following ‘Tie Dye Tuesday’, we now have no more white items of clothing. I can’t complain though, as they seemed to enjoy it and it was a fun filled ‘afternoon’. (An hour basically, but in lockdown years I would say that counts as at least three hours of peace and thankfully it was an activity that didn’t require the following: my assistance, flour, eggs or sugar.)

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Wear gloves. Whatever you do. #VioletBeauregarde

A lot of lockdown activities seem cyclical. I remember doing tie dye as a kid as well as lots of puzzles. Friends have gone nuts on the puzzle thing. I am not convinced. You do them and then what? I like things that have a purpose afterwards – like those sequin art things that can be money boxes or door plaques.

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That said, I have bought one puzzle. A fancy-shmancy one from Jonathan Adler which I am planning to frame as a lockdown memory. It’s very hard though. And I stupidly set it up in the loft, aka the sauna – and can therefore only manage about 15 minutes at a time up there.

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But back to lockdown activities, at the start of lockdown when everyone was on a clear-out frenzy, my neighbour proffered about 2000 Hama beads.

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Was I really ‘back there’ again?

Seemed I was. And my girls happily took commissions (mainly from bored Grandparents) of various shapes, patterns and animals. ‘Papa M’ is new the proud owner of a blue and white and green dragon/alligator hybrid with an ‘S’ on the front of it. A ‘good luck’ Hama-charm for the forthcoming Spurs season.

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Good luck charm? We’re going to need a bigger dragon…

Yup – we’re back there again too. It’s not coming home. It’s ‘come home’.

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The welcome break from the stresses and strains that my husband feels with every pass of the ball pass. It was good while it lasted, I’m not going to lie.

The ‘green screen’ is back on, in every room in the house. Never mind the fact that we are an energy saving household and we abide by the ‘lights off when not in use’ rule. I totally get it. I feel husband’s frustration of walking into an unoccupied room and finding various lights and lamps left on.

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Our house at night

So when he leaves tv’s on in every room in the house, it’s a bit like the offside rule to me.

I just don’t get it.

From lounge to kitchen, he needs a tv on.

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Me and him. In Costco

During a game, he might need nip upstairs to the loo (downstairs loo is available but certain ‘things’ get done in certain toilets, you know?) So, up he goes, passing the tv in our room which has to be on just in case he misses a goal or a penalty. 

Add to that, everyones windows are open in this warm weather, so there is the additional indicator of activity from the audible cheers and boos heard in neighbouring gardens.

Never mind hearing it in stereo, I’ve got cinema-style Dolby surround sound through my house.

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Those precious household goods…

For me, it’s my washing machine.

For him? It’s the tv. And because of this, Father’s Day was almost a write-off. There were multiple matches happening throughout the course of the day, but at midnight the night before, there was ‘a problem’.

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Our Sky system shut down. Literally. Totally. Completely. Nothing would work.

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There worst message he could ever receive pre-match

Fortunately, we have a ‘tv man’ who could be replied upon to ‘sort it out on a Sunday’. 

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Not our man. But similar

Thankfully, the tv’s got sorted by match start and all was right(-ish) in the world again.

(TV repair man is now part of our family ‘support bubble’ and will be joining us for Friday night Dinner.)

Have a safe week.

x

 

 

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

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.

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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

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

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

LIGHTBULB MOMENT!!!

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

That’s Chrismukkah presents sorted then…