A blog recording the thoughts of a mum of one who does a lot of voluntary work because it's more fun than resuming her career and is a bit worried about the state of the nation.

Friday, 24 December 2010

An ex-husband on the sofa

When a couple separates I mostly tend to think "Well, they weren't that well suited, maybe it's for the best - I still like them both, more likely to see her, but no problem having a cup of tea with him should it arise etc etc." But on just the odd occasion I think "This is completely bloody incredible, I do not think I will ever speak to him again"(it's always a "him" isn't it?!).

The separation of my former Latin American neighbours fell immediately, and more conclusively than any previous situation I had ever known, into category 2. If I just mention that he left her two days after she discovered she was pregnant with twins, having been quite insitent that they should have more children, although she suffered from very bad post-natal depression after the first one, you will probably be able to see why Latin American ex-husband shot to the top of the "do not darken my door" category, overtaking oil-trader husband who shut down the joint bank account leaving his wife having to borrow money to buy a pint of milk.

Well, time moves on and, after the return to Bogota, the birth of the twins, the divorce, a few more years and mucho agua appearing to have flowed under various Colombian bridges, it seemed that relations had become considerably more cordial between ex-husband and my amiga. Finally it was time to elevate oil-trader ex-husband back up to the top slot (for a particularly swanky incident involving an ill-timed holiday to Mauritius) and to let bygones be bygones (a.k.a. lo pasado, pasado esta).

So when I got an email in early December asking if ex-husband could sleep on our sofa for a few nights whilst dealing with some business in the UK I thought "Well it will be a bit of a squash what with the Norway Spruce, but the money he saves staying here will add to the maintenance he can pay so why not?" He arrived, he was as charming as ever, I discussed his financial problems and the state of the Colombian economy with him for hours, we all got on fine. A few friends looked at him hard in the High Street and said things like "Haven't you got twins now?" but it seemed as though we were going to get through the four days in a smooth and civilised fashion.

Then the snow came, Heathrow shut and a short visit has become a long visit. Ex-husband has sunk into a depression and lies on the sofa under a blanket listening to internet news from Bogota and drawing bubble diagrams. I have sunk into a cold with washing-machine head and lie on my bed in a darkened room brooding about the fact that I can't lie on the sofa looking at the lights on the Norway Spruce. This period has gone on for days. Everytime ex-husband and I drag one another out to a coffee shop on the high street we bump into my daughter's class teacher who seems to have nothing to do but hang out with her girlfriends now term is over. I feel too weak to explain that ex-husband is not, in fact, my daughter's father, although he came to the carol service last week and I spend a lot of time in Starbucks with him.

But at last the blessed Richard Branson has come up with a flight back over the Atlantic for ex-husband - on Xmas morning and from Gatwick to which there is absolutely no form of public transport whatsoever. My daughter has been persuaded that the presence of a large Latin American on the sofa will not deter Santa from delivering down the chimney and my partner has been persuaded to rise at 6am for a lovely jaunt down to Sussex. My cold is lifting and I feel Xmas cheer finally beginning to swell within me! Feliz Navidad!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Sarah Palin read my blog

I am still not doing too well when it comes to the technical aspects of having a blog. I have moved on slightly from the early days when I had no idea where to find it again each time I wanted to hold forth and had to google, but, since being accepted into the British Mummy Blogging Association a couple of weeks ago I have realised that I have a long way to go. Quite apart from Cath K backdrops, beautiful photos of hoar frost overlaid with whispy writing and offers of free make-up, other bloggers have all sorts of extras, such as statistics showing that people have actually visited their blog, usually many times from the UK and a few times from Benin and North Korea.

After delving into the tabs at the top I finally found a page that showed a couple of URLs and a map of the world with the USA and Alaska shaded in. This seemed to indicate that, possibly, someone had looked at Big Soc. Banshee (twice). For one brief moment of insanity I thought "One of each? But I don't know anyone in Alaska except....and I imagined Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol, during a break from moose shooting, gathered round the laptop in matching hockey jerseys..." But quickly I realised that this was not likely because Sarah Palin is a very busy mom and political leader with no interest in what sort of Christmas Tree I will be buying.

Probably the tab was referring to the servers on which Big Soc. Banshee is hosted. Let me hope fervently that they have no connection with Wikileaks because I have so far failed to work out how to back up my ramblings even by printing them out. Were it all to go down now Big Soc. Banshee would sink without trace almost unread. I have not yet got to the stage of sending out the jolly Xmas email mentioning O-so-casually to a few people that I never see that they can read my thoughts, now and then, on Blogger.

But it is only "almost unread", because one amazing thing has just happened. I have acquired a follower! I find the whole idea of "followers" delightfully evocative of knights on horseback and pageantry and other Philippa Gregory-like images. My follower is "Very Bored in Catalunya" - but even a bored follower is massive when you have previously been unfollowed. I'm not sure of the etiquette about followers, so I will just say "I salute you Bored One and will follow you also - even unto the end of the blogosphere"!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Becoming precious about the Christmas tree

In my twenties I used to put a string of Woolworths' fairy lights round my Swiss Cheese plant. And that was it - because mostly I was out.

Since then I have become more and more precious about the Christmas tree. It started with a build-up of horror at other people's tree tastes, including flashing lights, pink and purple decorations, and colour-themed or fibre-optic trees.

It has now developed into an extreme dislike of Nordman Firs which I spend this time of year inviting others to share. This dislike is:
1. aesthetic - their needles are not the right shade of green;
2. traditionalist - they are the johnny-come-latelies of the Xmas tree world;
3. social - the fact that they are sold as "non-drop" encourages namby-pambiness: getting pine needles in your socks is part of the Xmas experience;
4. sceptical - because it didn't seem as if the "non-drop" part was true when I did buy one in about 2004 so they could still be a danger to pets' paws;
5. environmental/political - because even if they are not imported from Denmark they are mostly grown from seeds gathered by underpaid women in Georgia;
6. practical - they are too wide so if I buy one that is the right height we are unable to get into our living room without climbing over the sofa.

Accordingly I now spurn the school Christmas tree sale, which is a non-drop-opoly, and seek out a Norway Spruce usually from a makeshift Xmas "Wonderland" further out of London where they only accept cash (the British Christmas Tree Growers Association ensures that it is locally grown - www.btcga.co.uk).

Of course the sensible and environmentally-friendly thing to do would be to ditch the tree altogether. Over the last few years I have developed a modern Xmas tree known as "the Christmas Twigs" (silver birch branches with tasteful white lights and silver balls) which gets in the way in the kitchen.

But if we went tree-free where would we hang our massive collection of red, green and gold fairtrade baubles not to mention the glittery sellotape inner ring with added sequins that my daughter made at nursery? I am unable to contemplate that sacrifice yet!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Thoughts about sports

Save school sport! I am very surprised to find myself writing these words as I wasn't exactly keen on sport when I was at school. Needless to say, with all the publicity about modern children becoming obese and getting rickets because they never go outside, I have become keen in a secondhand sort of way. This is probably a bit hypocritical - but then some aspects of parenting are hypocritical I find (discuss?).

Today my daughter was ordered onto the icy playing fields for compulsory participation in the Year 5 football tournament. Her five-a-side mixed team was down to four due to illness: one medium-tough girl in goal, herself and another weedy girl huddled together trying to keep out of trouble, and one very small boy who tries hard but doesn't quite cut the mustard. Their team (Yellow 3) played five minutes each way against a team containing Superboy. Superboy's Dad astroturfed the garden when he was three and he now plays for Fulham under-10s. My daughter thinks Yellow 3 lost by about 6-0 but says she wasn't really watching.

Also today David Cameron has been hanging out with Prince William and David Beckham trying to persuade FIFA to give the UK the World Cup in 2018, despite our nasty nose-poking journalists who keep fussing about bribery, not to mention our budget deficit. It doesn't seem to occur to them that trying to bag another top event when we've not even got the Olympics out of the way could look a bit greedy.

There is a link between these two paragraphs (unbelievably!). My daughter's chilly morning was organised by the local School Sports' Partnership which arranged for teenagers from the local comprehensive to run the tournament. It ensures that lots of different sports are available in schools, including ones like cheerleading and trampolining which are persuading teenage girls to stay active (whilst remaining firmly indoors with make-up on). It also organises sports' tournaments between schools ie. healthy competition which is surely the Tory party's sort of thing? And, of course, the UK got the Olympics because we took all those children to Singapore and promised that we were going to do our utmost to give everyone a chance to enjoy sport which is how the School Sports' Partnerships came to be set up.

But because School Sports' Partnerships are a Labour Government invention they are being scrapped and every school is being given the "freedom" to go back to spending hours ringing round other schools and saying "Send your first and second elevens over on Saturday afternoon for a match and we'll make everyone who isn't good at rugger watch". How very short-sighted!

There is, of course, a non-sporting reason to hang onto school sport too: our rich British sub-culture of school-sport funny stories. My daughter had me in stitches re-enacting the way in which Yellow 3 retreated as Superboy thundered down the pitch. Nothing remotely so much fun ever happened to me at my very dull junior school where we mainly threw bean bags into hoops. When Superboy attains Beckham-like status in time for the 2018 World Cup she will have a wonderful anecdote to dine out on or put in her very own blog!