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Friday, 5 October 2012


“ Something simply catastrophic has happened,”  shrieked my husband, staring at his iPad in almost comic disbelief.  “I’ve lost my friends. All of them. How can this be possible? One minute I had masses, the next – whoosh – gone into the ether. Disappeared. I’m friendless.”
“ Dad, you won’t have lost them,” said Tilly sensibly.
“You can’t just lose 300 friends. It’s Facebook. It’s not possible. They’ll be there somewhere.”
“ You don’t understand,” said Johnnie, frantically stabbing the aps on his iPad in desperation.  “I’ve obviously touched something and deleted every friend I’ve ever had.”
“ Dad, you’ve got to get a grip,” admonished India. India is 27 and refuses to pander to   drama.   “Calm down and let me see what you’ve done. Give me your password.”
“ Do I have a password?” asked Johnnie. “ I have so many I can’t remember any of them. Which one?”
“ The password to your iPad,” said India speaking with forced patience very, very slowly.
“ But I don’t have a password to my iPad.”
“ Dad, you do. Think carefully. When you switch on your iPad and play Angry Birds or download clips of Fred Astaire or talk to your imaginary Facebook friends you use a password. What is it?”
By now Johnnie was holding his hands up to his head in despair.
“ But I don’t. Stop telling me I have a password when I patently don’t.”
“ Dad you’re not special. Everyone has a password.”
By now we were all beginning to rue the day we ever encouraged Johnnie to embrace modern technology. He’d stubbornly avoided a mobile for years, impervious to the fact people would just call my phone in order to get hold of him.
“ It’s deeply irritating,” I’d point out “to have to deal with your business calls. I’ve become your unwilling secretary. If people can’t get hold of you at home, they just call me to get your mobile number. Which doesn’t exist, because you refuse to belong to this century.”  
After a decade-long impasse, he dropped his defenses, got fed up with our endless chivvying, saw red and went Orange. To begin with, it was an “emergency only telephone” kept in the glove compartment of his car. He kept it permanently switched off because he didn’t want to “run down the battery” and just occasionally would actually use it; always channeling Arthur Lowe in Dad’s Army. He would shout. And enunciate clearly. Conversations were terse and understandably limited.
However, it wasn’t long before his innate love of gadgetry meant he crossed the Rubicon of resistance. The man who used words like “gramophone” with no sense of retro irony, upped his game.
He got an iPhone, and started carrying it in his pocket. He remembered to charge it overnight. He laboriously texted carefully crafted, and insanely long-winded, polite messages to his children. Occasionally, he even texted to say he’d landed safely when he was off on location. He installed a Parrot on his dashboard so that he was able to multi-task and not pull over to a layby every time he wanted to talk. He even – wait for it – bought a rubber sleeve for it so it didn’t get scratched. He loved his mobile.
Then in a moment of madness the children clubbed together and gave Johnnie an iPad for Christmas. Now being given an iPad without ever having been near a laptop is like getting into a Ferrari having spent your whole life in a Noddy car. It’s a recipe for disaster, and the cause of some of our most spectacular family rows.
Forget guarantees. This is the present that ideally should have come with a live-in computer expert. We have to keep one child permanently living here, as Johnnie requires an in-house technician 24/7. He has embraced the ethos of computer technology but has yet to grasp the concept that he is the master and his iPad merely his slave.
“ My iPad wants me to install a new programme,  you need to come over and do it for me immediately,” he’ll tell India who is happily ensconced in her own flat watching Grey’s Anatomy.
“ Just say no,” she replies wearily.
“ But it keeps asking me,” Johnnie will implore.
“ Dad, it’s probably also sending you emails telling you how to extent your penis by
five inches, but you don’t have to do it. Ignore it.”
“ But it’s bullying me.”       
“ Dad, how many times do I have to explain, your iPad is not real. It can’t bully you.”
“ I am asking for so little, Indie,” Johnnie will say. “ I am begging you to come you over and sort it out. You’re a genius at these things and Mum gets so impatient with me.”
“ I’m not a genius, Dad. I’m just not scaredy-cat at telling an inanimate object to back off.”
And over she comes.
“ Why is it always me? “ she asks. “ Why can’t Tilly or Archie sort this out for you?”
“ They’re not as brilliant as you,” explains Johnnie watching in awe as India flicks his screen on, goes to Safari and types Facebook into his search engine.
“ Or as patient,” I hear her mutter under her breath. “There,” she announces. “ Your friends are all there waiting for you, see?”
“ I swear they’d disappeared.”
“ Well they’ve come back,” she replies.
“ I can never thank you enough,” says Johnnie with the gratitude and wonder of a man who thinks he has just witnessed a small miracle.
“ Now, if you could be a saint and sign me onto my Amazon account and show me how I can order a ladder…..”
“ Go to B&Q,” she snaps. “ With a friend. A real friend. Not a Facebook one. They’re way too flakey.”  

Thursday, 4 October 2012


At last. I’ve been trying to think of a single aspect of growing older I don’t resent and I’ve finally come up with a corker. I realize I’m old enough to dodge the linguistic tangle where nouns become verbs. I’ve never had “to parent” my three children. I’ve mercifully escaped belonging to the generation that earnestly drones on and on about “parenting” as though it were an exam that required extensive after school tutoring. I got lucky. I was a simple noun. A mother. A parent. Times have changed.
When my three kids – now all in their twenties - were young, being a mother left precious little time to worry whether or not one passed as yummy. We were aspirational - but only for our children. We didn’t need, nor seek constant reassurance from one’s peers that today’s young parents yearn for. School run fashion supplements didn’t exist.  We fumbled through the fog, car-pooling in our pajamas, armed with nothing more than a dog-eared copy of Penelope Leach, gut-instinct and optimism. We weren’t bullied by endless theories, manuals and child-care experts. I didn’t fret or feel inferior if I was lousy at breastfeeding nor was I a pioneer of today’s current brag-book culture of public parenting that thrives off constant status updates, posted Facebook photographs and tweets.
I just loved my kids with a passion, gave them boundaries that selfishly worked for me and lived in an era that accorded parents the freedom to wing it without guilt.
In the last three decades being a parent has insidiously morphed into a veritable industry. It’s stopped being organic and become a litmus test of social standing. Being the “best” parent is now the new class system. You’re either in or you’re out. You either cut the mustard or you’re looked down on. It’s a mini-me, competitive, corrosive monster that feeds off insecurities. If Allison Pearson paused to wonder today just how she did it back then, I guarantee she’d be stumped. It’s all become so complicated.  As the recently departed  Nora Ephron astutely reflected, “suddenly, one day there was this thing called parenting. Parenting was not simply about raising a child, parenting was about transforming a child, it was about force-feeding it like a foie gras goose, altering, modifying, modulating, manipulating, smoothing out, improving.” She’s right.
I’m none the wiser as to which method works best; the most one can ever hope for is that your chickens willingly come back to roost. Mine do. But then they have no choice. They belong to the boomerang generation. The recession, house prices, career choices, lack of regular employment (both theirs and sometimes ours) means that we are literally all in this together.
Modern families often have no option but to rub alongside one another in close, often cramped quarters. It’s not ideal. I reckon the only way it works is to find a middle ground and to dance to the beat of a new drum. And if that means Frank Sinatra has to play alongside Jay-Z then so be it.   
Personally, I love it. I love the fact that my nest is still feathered and not yet empty. Both (our) parenthood and (their) childhood may have officially ended yet the adventure continues. We’re neither fish nor fowl; we’re Kidults. We’ve all had to learn to adapt to multi-generational, communal living. If pomposity is allowed to collide with petulance it just doesn’t work. Ageism is over in this house. Johnnie (aged 77) has had to learn to Google with the best of them.
Sunday night has become an extended Family Night. Big supper, everyone can bring friends. It was my idea. I thought by reinstating a bygone lunch-time tradition at night, not only would it be more practical, it might also impose a semblance of normality and order upon the backdrop of natural chaos that exists when trying to co-ordinate lots of busy lives.
The first time I did it the guest list comprised of the five of us, my new son-in-law, a girlfriend of mine, an ex-lodger, a visiting American and a couple of the kids friends.
Dinner was interrupted by a neighbor banging on the front door to inform me he’d just seen a white van  (why is it always a white van?) speeding down our street, with my parked car attached to its wheel. My car was apparently now doing a solo spin in the oncoming traffic.
Whilst my son and his friend pushed the car out of harm’s way, my eldest daughter ran to Victoria Coach station to ask if their CCTV cameras were operating, hoping they might have caught the white van’s escape. They weren’t. I rang the police who insisted I go to the station and file a report. Family Night was over before it began. I cremated the crumble, the lodger had a mini-relapse and found some very strong painkillers in the bathroom cupboard and the visiting American taught my girlfriend how to work Chatroulette.
However I’ve persevered. Last Sunday was real quality time. Full house, good food, no dramas. My married daughter pitched up with two bags of dirty laundry as her washing machine had broken. After dinner, new son-in-law and I played poker. We’re both competitive and decided to up the ante and play not only for money but also for the loser to do vodka shots. I have a worrying suspicion that if this becomes a weekly event I may shortly be financing a new washing machine.
When Married Daughter eventually finished doing her laundry and came upstairs to complain about the lack of Comfort fabric softener she was not amused.
“ I don’t believe this,” she huffed, furiously folding her sheets. “ What are you doing Mum? Get a grip. You’ve got work tomorrow. You’re behaving like a teenager.”
I’m choosing to take that as a compliment. Ageism is dead. And as Frank would undoubtedly say, were someone to switch off The Vaccines, that’s life.         

Sunday, 1 April 2012


My husband had the temerity to ask me why I watched E-Entertainment when I wanted to relax.
" Why not?" I snapped, spoiling for a fight.
" It's just so unlike you," he replied.
The phrase " unlike you" is never meant in a nice way when used between married couples. It's just a polite way of being rude. " That coat is very unlike you," basically means " What a hideous item of clothing you've put on" just as " This dinner is very unlike something you would normally cook," is a euphemism for " Jesus Christ - you really expect me to eat this?"
So being told it was very "unlike me" to watch E-entertainment was a low blow to my self-esteem and one I felt duty bound to defend.
"Why exactly is it unlike me?"I asked.
" Because it's vaguely mindless," my husband replied. " Full of unintelligible Americans I've never heard of. Those loud women you watch going about their numbingly boring lives. The Karchians."
" Kardashians,"I mumbled.
" And programmes on fat people getting thin. And bossy nannies."
" I like making my mind go blank sometimes. I like not having to concentrate. I enjoy being lulled into a state of narcolepsy."
" More than reading? I thought you loved reading."
" I do, but sometimes I don't."
By now this discussion was really getting me riled.
"It's sport for women who don't like watching sport," I retorted haughtily. "You like watching cars zoom round and round racetracks for hours and cricket games and I don't."

" I get it," said my husband, backing down immediately. "Test cricket for women."    

Monday, 9 January 2012


 I don't think I have many grey hairs. And the few that I do have are lovingly, cunningly, expensively, time-consumingly disguised by Sibi at my hairdressers. Yet every time I wear a black or navy sweater they seem to come forth and multiply. My shoulders are always the proud owners of at least five pure white strands of hair that seems to have fallen off someone else's head. It's the weirdest thing. It's as though mysterious forces have carefully plucked these neon white strangers off my head and deposited them like badges of honour on my shoulders. Anyone else noticed this? Is this where grey hairs are laid to rest? Black and blue are becoming the new, unwanted grey....

Friday, 6 January 2012


Just to be both perverse and practical, I'm doing my New Year Resolutions upside down. I'm taking stock of all the things I DON'T want to do in 2012- as opposed to being sanctimonious and listing targets I want to achieve. So this year I am:
1. Never going to speak to electronic voices on the end of the telephone; I'm only going to converse with real people. This will stop me getting frustrated and furious.
2. I'm not going to get excited, pretend to be excited or get involved with the Olympics. I hate them.
3. I'm going to be totally honest about the fact I love watching mindless TV shows called things like "Nanny 911" or " The 75 Stone Woman". They switch my mind off and are a strange form of relaxation.
4. I'm going to continue drinking through January and enjoy it. I don't drink nearly enough to be voluntarily dry for a month.
5. I'm going to accept the fact I need very little sleep and just meet other insomniacs for breakfast.
6. I'm going to eat more chocolate as it makes me happy.
7. I'm going to try to do things that enhance my life ( no matter how big or small) and stop bothering with the small.
I'm also not going to feel guilty about any of the above. Onwards and upwards 2012. Bring it on.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Mimi rant. The total weird pointlessness of e-Xmas cards. What is that all about??? They all go into my Spam and then eventually one opens them....and? Do they fill one with joy? No. Do they make one feel warm and fuzzy inside? No. Are they annoying in their thoughtlessness? Yes. Sod green-ness and eco-friendly wishes, I actually think they are an impertanance.