Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Magical World of Swearing

My kids are 8 and 10 and they are in love with learning. They are learning maths and grammar and geography and all the facts from the Guinness Book of Records, but the thing they are most excited to learn about is The Swears. 

They get this love of The Swears from me. I bloody love swearing. But as a mum, I have to try and make sure that they learn to use these words appropriately.

Swearwords are a bit like wild animals. They are all exciting and colourful in their own way, but each of them has evolved for its own unique habitat. Some of them are a little bit rarer and – frankly – more dangerous than others.

So you’ve got your common or garden swears: Look into your average suburban garden and you’re probably going to see a couple of craps at your bird feeder. At dusk, there might be a bugger sniffing around your bins. 

Then you’ve got the ones that are at once familiar and exotic. They are in all the picture books, but if you wanted to see them in real life, you'd have to go to a safari park or on an organised package holiday. 

If you went on a swearing safari in the Vulgar National Park, you’d be really disappointed if you didn’t see a bastard, arse, fuck, shit and a bollocks roaming the grasslands. 

You'd expect to get a decent picture of a wanker from your stripy landrover, without having to have a special lens. If you're really lucky, you'll see a cocksucker prowling in the bush. You'll take a picture, but you won't post it on the internet because, honestly, it's a bit far away. But you know you saw it. 

Then we have the next category… the ones that only the really adventurous can see. These are the swears that would really scare the crap out of you if you were to encounter them in the wild. They really get the heart racing; Steve Backshall's wet dream. He is crouching in the bushes: "These animals could tear out my spleen, if they catch my scent. It’s very rare to see a motherfucker and a cunt together in the wild." 

My absolute favourite swears are the freaky ones, the duck-billed platypuses of the linguistic world. All you do is take a profanity and just shunt it into another word: Cockwomble, arsebasket, pissflaps, cuntmajor. Fun to do, fun to say, fun to hear. I love them. They are at once hilarious and Advanced Swearing.  It's really easy to get them wrong. To try a combination that just makes you look like a dick. (Another one for the organised safari, I think.)

Language is brilliant, words can have real impact. I hope that my children will grow up to use language in creative ways. I want that to include swearing, because it is fun. But we'll start with some gentle garden bird-spotting before we get out the big guns. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Chin Up, Lass: How to maintain a Cheery Demeanour.

It's a shield; it's a carapace;  it's a jaunty hat; it's make up;  it's the most ridiculous trousers.  It's the force field that keeps you sane.

Mine is called A Cheery Demeanour.

Smile and wave, smile and wave.

Fake it till you make it.

Sometimes my Cheery Demeanour is thick, like armour. An armour made of no material known to man because it is easy to carry, lightweight and fits me perfectly. No rubbing, no blisters.

Other times it is so thin as to be translucent. You might catch a glimpse of the mess within, if the sun catches it at the right angle. It wears thin from overuse, like the knees on a 9 year old's jeans. Eventually, a hole will appear and it will need a patch.

The patch I use is a playlist called "Chin Up, Lass". In its first iteration, it was a C90 cassette, featuring Petula Clark, Leo Sayer and other masters of cheese.

Currently, it is an iTunes playlist with the works of Hall and Oates, Elton John, Dolly Parton... oh just any song that I hear that makes me feel like smiling.

When you sew a patch on, you worry that the trousers will look worse: you will look like a piteous orphan from a Victorian melodrama.  This is never the case. In fact, the patch gives you back the gift of your favourite trousers in all their stretchy, comfy glory; if you choose the fabric carefully, you can actually improve the original garment. Who doesn't want their trousers to look more jolly? Nobody, right?

So it is with Chin Up, Lass.

If you choose the tunes correctly, suddenly you will become the kind of person who dances around the kitchen.  Or who sings loudly at the top of her voice in the car. Everyone wants to be one of those, right?

And lo and behold, my Cheery Demeanour is back. Hello! Over the years, it's become more and more about the patches and less about the original trousers. Which is amazing, because I love patchwork better than almost anything, fabric-wise. And the smile and wave don't feel so fake now.

Do feel free to share songs that you think I'd like on my Chin Up, Lass playlist! (Don't worry, Mmm-bop is already on there)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Naughty bad Loulou!

As part of my ongoing midlife crisis awakening, I have welcomed in a part of Loulou that has been long-neglected: the part that likes standing up in front of other people and making a dick of herself. She is Naughty, Bad Loulou.

I guess I always feared what would happen if I let her have too much sway. How ghastly and self-absorbed and attention-seeking she is! She's the Loulou from the song my mother sang to me:

Don't Bring Lulu by the Andrews Sisters

Anyway, I have decided to embrace her, in all her brassy, show-off glory.

I put a mic in her hand. BIG MISTAKE! They will have to wrestle it out of my cold, dead hand.

I'm now completely addicted to doing stand up comedy.
Here is my first ever gig. I hope you enjoy it: 

 Naughty bad Loulou does stand up!

Definitely not safe for kids, might be ok for work, if they don't mind vagina talk and the occasional F-bomb.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Middle-Aged Ladies' Bottom-Shrinking Classes

Now that I am officially a Middle Aged Lady, I feel moved to attend a bottom-shrinking class. 

I have noticed that my cake and biscuit consumption can no longer be offset by simply pottering about the shops and dancing in nightclubs.  Largely because I hardly ever do either any more. 

Calling it a Middle-Aged Ladies' bottom-shrinking class makes it sound quite gentle. But once you're a Middle Aged Lady you have to work hard, really hard, to shrink your bottom. 

You have to do circuits. 

Circuits is presided over by Wendy. Wendy is made out of solid muscle. Wendy will make you do things with weights. Wendy will make you sweat till you leave a little damp patch on the exercise mat. 

Don't get me wrong. Wendy is no concentration-camp guard, although with her black lycra and smile there is something of the dominatrix about her. She's actually much kinder than you think when she's exhorting you to "work harder, faster". If you lack childcare and should have to bring a toddler, Wendy will patiently hold the toddler's hand while you repeatedly slam a medicine ball into a mat, or do burpees. And she'll laugh along when you fall off the gym ball, again. 

She patiently goes round telling you to keep your shoulders back, squeeze your core or lift your knees higher. 

Not fun. But the results are worth it, right? 

Well boo to you! It is fun. (I know! My sports-shy, cocktail-quaffing, shop-pottering younger self is aghast.)

Firstly, it's a bit like school. We're grown up now; we're parents; we're responsible for everything all the bloody time. For an hour a week (or two if you're keen), somebody else bosses you about. It's such a relief not to be the one making all the decisions. You will do squats with bicep curls (awful), then the bridge with overhead lift (dreadful), then Mountain Climbers (sheer hell!)  and there's nothing you can do about it. 

Secondly, it's women working together. In the Olden Days, we'd have been down by the river, bashing our laundry on the rocks and sweating and laughing. Or we'd have been harvesting, or  - I dunno - whacking rugs with those curly wicker things. Something physical and hard work, but together. Now all that housework takes place behind closed doors. And while I'd never swap my Bosch 250 for a pile of rocks and some caustic soda, doing the washing isn't something we share anymore. Sweating and laughing with other women feels good in an almost primeval way. 

Thirdly , it's a tiny bit like clubbing.  With drugs and everything. 

I'm going back a bit now (Middle Aged Lady, remember). But you know those times when you were in a club and the DJ plays a CHOON and it appears as though everyone has come up on their E at exactly the same?  And the buzz is just amazing and you're using your body, and getting sweaty and you're in a room full of people and everyone's smiling and thinking "this is brilliant, I really am alive!" Well you get that. Fleetingly. Occasionally.  And that's what keeps me going back. 

Actually, what really keeps me going back is the pain, the terrible pain when you stop. 

Your buttocks feel like fists of pain, the front of your thighs are agony. You can't do stairs any more without leaning hard on the bannisters. Let's not even talk about sitting on the loo. 

Go once a week and the pain will last for a day, maybe two. Leave it for a fortnight, or - worse - a month, it'll fuck up your life for a week. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Hand-made Christmas - an apology.

I love to make things. It makes me happy.

Planning projects, finding materials, locking myself away with knitting needles, sewing machine or craft knife is just heaven. It's as if you're doing something useful and productive, but without the useful-and-productive thing being actually that useful.

The trouble is, I'm just not that good at it. In fact, everything I've made is just a little bit rubbish. I'm not very good at finishing things. As in, there are a lot of half-made projects in my house; but also as in I'm not nearly pernickety enough.

The corners of my sewing projects are a bit, well, un-cornery. The sewing-up of my knitting is far from  invisible. My decoupage? Oh lord, my decoupage is lumpy.

And the projects I choose to make: weird, just weird. A pair of knitted breasts; a Ferrero Rocher box emblazoned with a Rod Stewart collage; a packet of chocolates that look strangely like poos: "Loulou's Lumps".

For the last few years, I have elected to use my handcrafting "skills" to make presents for my beloved friends and family.

Poor bastards.

I don't think my brother will ever recover from opening his giant stripy gloves. "There's no such thing as too much space for thumbs, Loulou." Tactful boy.

As the man in receipt of this year's Ferrero Rocher/Rod Stewart collaboration, he'll be glad we aren't seeing each other this year. He'll have plenty of time to compose his face before the Christmas Skype this afternoon.

My theory is: kids'  presents are about "how long can I keep you busy before you start fighting with your siblings?" For adult males, it's "How much can I make you laugh on Christmas morning?"

What the shops want me to buy for my grown-up brothers can do that. A stick-on-moustache? "Vintage" aftershave gift-set? Or if I want to get them something useful, there's vouchers. Vouchers? Oh I dunno... It doesn't say "thoughtful" does it? And in order to make a voucher worth having you have to blow the budget you've carefully agreed. You can make that budget go so much further if you hand-make.

So, dear family and friends, this Christmas you are opening a parcel of something that looks like crap. (Literally, if you're getting Loulou's Lumps) Sorry.

But here's the process:

- I thought about you when I planned it.
- I thought  about you when I bought the bits and bobs I needed.
- I thought about you with every cut (and occasional slip) of the craft knife, every slop of the PVA, with every wobbly seam and every time my swearing machine refused to cooperate.

In every frayed edge, dropped stitch, mis-shaped lump, in every "no seriously, what actually is it?" there is love.

Merry Christmas. I'm sorry I'm not there to see your bemused faces this year.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The one about leg hair

Why, when I am a natural blonde, have I been cursed - cursed I tell you - with the pelt of an otter on my legs?

Actually, not an otter, because I think sleek, glossy brown fur would be a) insulating and b) rather beautiful. If I could grow a thick pelt, I might look like a sort of lady faun. A sexy Mrs Tumnus, in my high heels, with my twinkly eyes. And my furry buttocks.

But no, I have nasty, dark hairs that seem to morph from relatively innocuous blonde to black as soon as I bare my legs on a sunny day. The worst are the ones on the back of my thighs. Not the downy, sparse blonde hair, gleaming in the sunlight I imagine when I feel them. Actually, thick and -in comparison to my Scottish-Blue complexion - DARK DARK and slightly curled. Like my pubes have sent out a mission with a view to colonising.

In fact, it all feels a bit like guerrilla (gorilla?? Oh Ha bloody Ha) warfare down there. There's an inexhaustible supply and appetite for sacrifice among the enemy personnel. No matter what weaponry I use, on they come. On... on... on. I shave, they come. I wax, they come. More expensive weaponry, more blood, sweat and tweezers, here they come, over the crest of the hill. Marching, marching, marching on. It's my superior technology versus their sheer force of numbers.

Okay, so if you're Mediterranean, you're looking at me as if to say "get over it, girl. I've been doing this since I was 12". BUT... BUT.. my dusky friends... now add in the corned beef legs, the broken veins, the not-being-able-to-hang-up-a-washing-without-getting-sunburnt. In May. Where's my compensation? Eh? You have your delicious skin tone that means, once those legs are smooth, you can just bare your legs. Like that. Without thinking. Not me. To get my legs smooth and lightly tanned, is hours of work. Even the palest fake tan looks like orange streaks against my stilton-y legs. By the time my legs are summer-ready, the leaves are falling off the trees.

Maybe this is my punishment for being a bit vain about my fast-growing and luxuriant head hair *swishes in slow-motion*. Probably. I'll just have to keep being a trouser girl. 

A 10th anniversary message. Late but nonetheless sincere

This year, we celebrated our 10th anniversary. We didn't have a party - though we'd planned to. We sort of forgot. We had a lovely weekend camping on Exmoor though. (We quite often do this instead of grand plans and it's almost always better.)
But I've been thinking: I didn't speak at our wedding. I suppose I wanted to let him get a word in edgeways for once in his life. But maybe I'd say a few words at an imaginary anniversary party. A party that would somehow involve speeches (because we are that grand). So here is what I'd say:
"Let's raise a glass in celebration of a one-night stand that went horribly, horribly wrong.
Before I met S, I had a list of requirements for a new boyfriend. I wanted a grown-up: own car, decent job, own hair. [cue laughter: he's bald bald bald] But, across the crowded party, my eyes were drawn (not for the first time, I'm afraid) to a shiny, shaven head. What can I say? I have a type and it's a niche market. But it was the smile that kept me looking.
An evening talking nonsense at party 1 led to party 2 and more nonsense. Then - trumpets sound! - our first kiss. Let's make it clear: I was not going to kiss this man. For once, woman, you are going to have a male friend. You are not going to snog him, ruin it. Just keep it clean for once. Skip the awkward morning after, keep him forever.

Well, the moment - and his lips - loomed large. I just remember seeing the white out-of-focus disc of his face approaching (did I say we'd had tequila?) and thinking "Oh, I'm not going to be able to get out of this one!" He was so funny and friendly, I wasn't exactly going to push him away. So in he came for the clinch.
There is a picture of us, taken almost immediately after this kiss. He is looking a little bit dazed and a little bit stoned (well... it was a party). I like to think he looks a bit smug. I am looking sheepish (and so YOUNG!). I'm pointing at my mouth as if to say "oops!" but my eyes are shining.
So, let's glaze over the details but - ho hum - we went back to his place.
And to use a footballing analogy. It's not so much that it was a great match (I mean, it was fine, honey) but the post-match banter was amazing.
There was no awkward morning after.
I did get to keep him forever.
And because you guys [at the imaginary party, remember] want to get on with drinking and chatting I'll probably leave it there. I won't embarrass you by saying that my favourite thing in the world is still lying in bed chatting and giggling with him. And that I wish we did it more.
I won't tell you how pleased I am that I kept him. That he is the most amazing husband and father, because he looks after his boys and me with such love and hard work. How we all know we're at the top of his list of priorities at all times. He's my best friend - and he's a bloke!
I won't tell you all that. But just for the record. It's true."