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.)

Reverse Psychology

I asked a friend if she knew what ANPR meant and she had absolutely no idea. To be fair, neither did I up until a couple of years ago. I just thought was a generic plate meaning ‘A Number Plate Registration’, like when you see ‘A N Other’ credit card template.

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(I also had no idea what DHL stood for. ‘Delivering Heavy Loads’?)

I remember when I first passed my driving test aged 17. Buzzing, I drove straight to school in my terracotta (not brown) Ford Escort – PLW 930W. I have a freakishly good memory for things like number plates, most of my bank cards and the rap to ‘Buffalo Stance’ by Neneh Cherry, which was most likely playing on my car stereo at the time. It was a face-off one that I would casually hold with my car keys to indicate, “Hey, I’m driving”. Then it got a bit boring lugging the case around so I’d hide it under my driver’s seat instead. (Yes, the radio got nicked.)

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I actually think this current eBay listing is my face off. I might bid. My ‘Five Star‘ cassette may still be in there and I want it back.

In the early days of passing, me and my Escort plus my suction-cup Garfield (still available at Argos) didn’t stray too far from home. On Day 2 I got a bit gung-ho and ended up heading North on the M1 instead of the North Circular. I pulled over in a panic onto the hard shoulder (I know.. so illegal) and called home on my Mercury One2One, sobbing down the phone that I wasn’t sure if my petrol would last. Dad calmly told me about these clever things called ‘exits’ every few miles.

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Simpler times

I was taught road courtesy early on and if someone lets me out of a space or at a junction, I’ll give the universally understood ‘cheers mate’ with a palm raise/blink of the headlights or a hazard flash if they are behind me. Careful on this in Spain – it means “Hola mi amigo. I’m slowing down”.

Call me OCD (you can, I really don’t mind), but I always prefer to face the direction of traffic when parking on a road. It feels ‘neater’ and it’s a bugger to pull out if you’re on the ‘wrong’ side of a busy road. Plus, as my local dry cleaner who is based on a congested roundabout says, “People get really horny.”

When it comes to parking in a car park, I will almost always reverse in. Again with the neatness, plus it’s quicker and easier to pull away. But back up a sec and let’s get IN to the actual car park.

Pop Quiz:

Two barriers, the left one has three cars queuing to go in, the right barrier has just the one car just pulling up. Go for the shorter queue on the right you say?

Don’t be so hasty. I try not to create stereotypes but watch out for:

1) Foreign number plates: think about it.. LEFT HAND DRIVE!! They’ve got to lean over, or even GET OUT ALTOGETHER AND WALK ROUND in order to ‘press for ticket’ (painful)

2) Lil ole folk: the arms don’t quite reach the button, or they can’t quite achieve the ‘lean n reach’ out of the window. They open the door to get out. Then they press the assistance button instead of the ticket button. Then, they still have to get back in the car, buckle up and get back into gear.

Face it – you’re already well and truly through your barrier on the left. And yes, I know I will be this OAP one day.

Husband is a big driver – literally and metaphorically. He is very, very tall and often referred to as ‘Hightower’ from ‘Police Academy‘ fame. (Go on, watch the link. Best scene ever.) He drives in to Central London for work every day and I have suggested that he and one of his equally route-savvy mates pack in their day jobs and start up ‘Jewber’ – a private taxi service run by ‘Nice Jewish Boys’. MESSAGE FROM DRIVER: “Hymie is coming in a minute. Hold on. I know you’re on schpilkers to get to dinner.”

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In case you can’t be bothered to watch the link it’s the bit where he rips the front seats out and essentially sits in the back

Whilst we are still on the car park thing, big props to Spanish car parks I use on holiday in the summer. No time wasted cruising up and down aisles looking for spaces, for they have these genius lights above each parking space:

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Green = available. Red = occupied

No false hope of a space when you discover a smug little Micra (or worse still, a motorbike) nestled in what you thought was an available space.

I’d say I’m pretty calm on the road but bus lanes throw me. We’ve become so trained not to enter them that it doesn’t matter how many times you read the sign, you’re never quite convinced that you can drive in them because no-one else is. Pack mentality – much like when you go as a group across a box junction, praying you will all make it to the other side without stopping.

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Yes? No? Maybe? What about Bank Holidays?

It’s a similar thing I suppose with parking. Even if you chance it because you’re 99.9% sure that sure it’s ok to park between 2:48pm and 4: 36pm on a residential road with a yellow line, your heart still races when you approach your car.

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Even worse when you think you’ve got away with it but it’s tucked down below the wiper

I usually contest these tickets to the bitter end, with evidence, photos, back up documents etc. I like to present it all as if I was fighting a high profile court case, sending everything off by courier. Usually DHL – that’s Dalsey, Hillblom & Lynn, the founders, if you were still wondering.