Hallow Again…

Where has the year gone?

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Will the kids’ Amazon Prime costumes arrive in time or are they still on a longboat from China?

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I think mine is bottom right, three to the left

Will it be raining on the 31st, meaning the kids’ costumes will be completely hidden under their winter coats?

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So many questions, very few answers.

And yet, each year, we go again with same ol’ routine:

  1. Sort kids’ costumes.
  2. Bring Halloween decorations down from the loft.
  3. Buy more decorations, because nothing really survived from last year.
  4. Change costume idea because the kids’ have seen something better.
  5. Carve half term pumpkins with the kids by myself because the kids get bored after half an hour I’m a control freak.
  6. Re-think kids’ costumes because a few of them want to go as the same thing.
  7. Buy massive tub of sweets for trick or treat visitors me. (Cadbury’s Heroes.)
  8. Revert back to original kids’ costume idea, by which time it’s sold out on eBay, Amazon, everywhere.

Unless you live in America or a certain strip of North West London that totally goes for it under the guidance of their leader Mr Jonathan Ross, it really is just a fabulous excuse to play dress us and have some fun.

And there really is very little to actually scare you. (Unless you count the out of date sweets people try to palm off on your kids.)

So, in the spirit of Halloween, here is a list of super scary things imo:

1. Drop it like it’s hot

I don’t think I know a soul who hasn’t cracked their smartphone screen, even just a tiny bit. For some it’s a weekly occurrence. (You know who you are.) That palpable fear when you drop it and tentatively turn it over to assess the damage…

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2. Where’s the parking angel at?

You’re only going to be 5 minutes… you’ll risk it.  Oh but that that dash back to the car to see if there is a sticky yellow rectangle on your windscreen…

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3. Door Handle Rattlings

When you’re out and about, minding your business, ‘doing’ your business and someone tries the cubicle door handle. Well, it’s enough to make you sh*t yourself…

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4. Non-moving escalators

Stairs? No problem. A non-moving escalator? Huge problem. What if it starts working mid ascent? Or the fact that your brain is concentrating so hard on lifting each foot up to hit the next step? There is just something very unnerving about scaling non-moving escalators.

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5. Sleeping with an open window 

More of a summer problem really when the bedroom windows are open all night. The problem usually occurs around 5 am when you hear that familiar low hummed ‘buzzzzz’ behind the blinds. The bastard has got in…

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6. Fishing for toast

When you toast is stuck and you need a bit of help dislodging it…in the form of a knife. You switch off the toaster. You UNPLUG the toaster. You move the toaster away from the WALL. And yet still, there is that fear of electrocution…

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Don’t worry, I now own some toaster tongs

7. Waste disposals

Similar to the above really. A spoon has managed to slip through the ‘splash guard‘ (yes, I had to look up what it was called) and you immediately switch off the waste disposal, tentatively reaching your hand down into the depths to fish out the mangled spoon. Admit it, you still fear that somehow, like in horror films, the motor will switch back on and saw your hand off.

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8. Keeping it in

When you’re in a ‘quiet’ exercise class – think pilates, yoga – and there are some demanding moves. I know it’s only natural, and some of us are more relaxed about breaking wind in front of others (you know who you are), but for me, I would never be able to go visit that fitness studio again.

9. Go with the flow

When you flush the loo (especially in a friend’s house) and the water level rises…and rises…and rises.  And their loo is carpeted. There is no fear quite like it.

10. Shoplifting

You’ve been browsing, you’ve bought nothing, you KNOW you’ve bought nothing, but when you walk out past those ‘alarm post things’ by the door and that alarm goes off, you STILL feel guilty.

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It wasn’t me

11. Housesitting

When a neighbour gives you a set of spare keys so that you can water their plants while they are away. It’s a simple lock, the alarm panel is literally as you enter and the keys have that handy fob on them that you just tab. You don’t even need to memorise a pin.  And yet when those bleeps sound, it’s panic stations.

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BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!

12. Don’t wish too hard

I’m throwing this in because I feel I need validation. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many films like ‘Vice Versa’ and ’13 Going on 30′ and ‘What Women Want’. Or maybe that I just have a very vivid imagination? But I have this weird ‘thing’ where I’m at home, maybe in the shower and I imagine I have been granted one wish. Except I don’t just wish for something brilliant – I almost mock the faux-wish and think ‘public place’! And WHAM! I magically end up standing in the middle of Brent Cross, starkers…  Anyone?

And finally, in the spirit of Halloween and 13 being a ‘scary number’ and thinking about my thirteen year old and her best friend...

13. Parenting Fails 

When you take your daughter and her friend out for the day and you’re running down the stairs to catch a train and you all manage to get on when you realise it’s the wrong train. So you all quickly jump off before the doors close. Except for BFF is frozen to the spot. And as you shout in slow motion from the platform, “Getttttttttt offffff thhhhhhhe trrrrraaaaaaiiiinnnnn!”, she doesn’t. And the doors firmly close. And the train pulls away.  I will never ever forget the look on her face, my daughters face, probably my face. Fear not – the friend was a mature 13 years of age, in possession of a mobile phone so within minutes I had every station attendant ready to greet the 14:27 from West Hampstead Thamelink into St Pancras. There were even police officers. It was an emotional reunion. There are still some very kind lovely people in the world.

So, with all those sweets entering your household, one way to stave off temptation is a healthy snack and so don’t throw out the pumpkin seeds from your carvings.

According to Google: ‘Pumpkin seeds are a good source of antioxidants, magnesium, zinc and fatty acids — all of which may help keep your heart healthy. Studies have also shown that pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels — two important risk factors for heart disease.’

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Wash seeds. Dry seeds. Lay them on a roasting tin. Lightly spray with olive oil and add some Herbamare. Give them about half an hour in the oven with some midway shaking (tray not you).

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Yes. The lids look like willies. Grow up.

But beware, they give you wind. ‘Apparently’…

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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

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Feeling flushed…

Are you shitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin..

I’d say it takes me a couple of visits to my hotel room toilet until I feel completely at home. I call it:

lavigation: the ability to navigate a toilet which is not ones own, in the dark.

Like one of my own children, I know my loo’s height, width and feel with my eyes closed. It’s a bit like when you unlock your front door – your key is poised at exactly the right height without even looking. Or when you’re in the car and you don’t even need to take your eyes off the road to demist the front and rear window. You just ‘know’, you know?

 

Obviously I’m coming at this whole toilet-thing from a female-perspective. Male loos are a mystery to me and I’m really happy to keep it that way. Don’t even get me started on a ‘shared’ public loo. (Costa Coffee Mill Hill, I’m talking about you).

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Shared loos? I’d rather wet myself

 

Here are my top 10 rules of engagement:

10. Toilet Paper Orientation

Not going to dwell on this. Over. Not under.

 

9. Toilet Paper ‘Stock’

Mentally scared from the crunchy, transparent ‘toilet paper’ of my primary schooldays, I favour simple soft, white loo roll.

 

8. Three sheets to the wind

My youngest thinks she’s the Andrex puppy, wrapping the entire roll around her hand. My eldest loves to scrunch the paper to tear it. Husband has a tendency to swipe the roll, so that it trails on the floor. Me? I’m Mary ‘Poopins’ (deliberate typo) – practically perfect in every way. The perforations are there for a reason, duh.

 

7. Toilet Roll Holders – at home

I grew up with those spring-loaded bastards and swore ‘never again’. But then I saw a loo roll holder so sparkly and pretty, I couldn’t resist for the kids’ new bathroom. Both kids are now completely ‘unable’ to change the loo roll.

In the home, I’m a big fan of single-arm loo roll holders. Simple loading mechanism, no fuss, no muss. Everyone can get involved in replenishing. Except they don’t.

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Easy on. Easy off.

 

6. Toilet roll holders – in public

As Forrest Gump once said (albeit about chocolates, not toilet roll holders), ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’. Definitely the case with public loos.

Could be a transparent double:

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I like these. You can see what’s available and make a quick judgement call.

Then there’s the pathetic ‘napkin dispenser’:

hd230One by one and then all eighty decide to fall to the floor at once, thus emptying the vessel entirely. This leaves you in an embarrassing situation if someone is waiting outside…

“The loo roll’s just run out!!!”

This must be announced VERY LOUDLY. No one wants to admit having to ‘drip dry’.

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5. Laying the foundations

I trust my own cleanliness and that of friends, but in public, I practically decopatch the seat.

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Please note: this is a stock shot. My method is far more anal (no pun intended)

For this reason, I love the USA and their handy disposable toilet seat covers.

 

5. Public cubicles

I don’t like seeing other peoples’ shadows or feet next to me –  I like a solid cubicle wall either side of me. I can cope with a gap under the door as it reminds me of my youth when the locks were often broken and your mate would put their foot under the door to show they were ‘still there’, guarding your privacy.

For this reason, I hate the USA and its freakishly large gaps around the toilet door.

 

4. Locks & flushes

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You’re playing flushian roulette with all three

A locked door is not always a locked door. You could all be acting very British queuing for a loo that is actually vacant but showing as engaged. However, use caution when busting through a toilet door. Some people aren’t ‘lockers’ and this can be embarrassing for both parties, especially if you end up on a mat next to them in Pilates. If the lock is broken and there is no other option, then get practising on your ‘crouch-reach’ agility. It IS possible, but takes some practise. If you can hang your handbag around your neck as well, then this is considered ‘advanced level’. (No photo available.)

I’m a huge fan of the auto-sensor flush and wish more places had them.

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Hygiene heaven

At home, we now have dual flush panels. I just wish at times there was a’total eclipse’ option.

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3. First is the worst…

Actually I’ve found that it isn’t. This is my go-to loo when faced with a bank of loos. Almost always overlooked as people dash in heading for the middle loos, whereas this first cubicle is often the cleanest one, because less people use it.

 

2. Number Two

I like my loo smelling fresh at all times. I’m a big fan of those Toilet Duck fresh discs that stick on the side of the bowl. Add in a reed diffuser and you’re good to go. Unless you need back up, in which case an industrial strength air freshener can be hidden for emergencies.

In public it’s a different matter. I have friends who refuse to go for a number two anywhere but their home throne. (Interestingly, most of these are men.)

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Before she could read, my youngest thought this meant ‘Desperate for the toilet’

And don’t get me started on the judgemental automatic air freshener. I HAVEN’T EVEN UNDONE MY JEANS!!

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Judgemental bastard

1. Seat up/Seat down

I always try to consider the etiquette when going into other peoples’ homes and follow their lead. If the lid is down, I place it down afterward. And if I have time, I like to create a little ‘hotel fold’:

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 The classic one, on the left. I’m working on ‘Number 2’ and ‘Number 3’…