Monthly Archives: November 2013

A short squeak of something that vaguely resembles a laugh

So our walks to school have left the insanity of E’s ‘guess the colour I am thinking of’ game behind. I am relieved. Or, at least, I was relieved. For a moment there, we had a couple of vaguely normal walking conversations where we discussed the different ways you could receive a TV signal into your house, and why the green boxes on the pavement have lots of different coloured wires in them (because, in case you were pondering, if they were all red, and the man was told to fix the red one, he wouldn’t know which one to fix. Obviously).

But now we are onto jokes, and I use the term loosely. I was quite excited when E asked if we could tell each other jokes. Ah, I thought, at last. My son’s sense of humour is developing. This will be fun.

“Why did the cookie to the doctors?”

“I don’t know, why did the cookie go to the doctors?” I reply with glee.

“Because he was a bit crummy.” Okay, not a perfect delivery, but one step at a time. I duly laugh.

“Mummy, why did the cookie cross the road?”

Ooh, interesting. I haven’t heard this one. “I don’t know, why did the cookie cross the road?”

“Because he was a bit crummy.” Right. I see how this is panning out and suddenly school seems a long, long way off.

“Shall I tell you a joke now?” He nods.

“Knock knock?” I say.

“Who’s there?”


“Who boo?”

“No, you are meant to say ‘boo who’.”

“Oh. Who boo?”

“No, boo who.”

“Right. Who boo?”


“That’s not funny, mummy.” Now it is me who feels like crying.

“Shall I tell you another joke, mummy?” He has obviously written me off in the funny stakes and has wrestled back control of the mic.

” Why did the lamp post lie down in the road?”

“I don’t know, why did the lamp post lie down in the road?”

“Because he wanted to sunbathe.”

I momentarily consider lying down in the road myself, before forcing out a little laugh.

“Mummy, why did the stone not want to go into the road?”
“I don’t know,” I say, grimacing.

“Because he didn’t want to get flattened.”

I summon as much energy as I can to muster some outward sign of mirth, and managed a short squeak of something that vaguely resembles a laugh.

“Mummy, that wasn’t a proper laugh,” E says indignantly, at which point I laugh heartily at the fact he has spotted my fakery.

That’s a real laugh,” he informs me.

“Shall I tell you some more?” he asks.


“Yes please.”

And so the long, meandering walk to school continues, via dogs that wee on mummy’s head because they don’t like toilets, cats that cross the road to bump into the bin, to trees that drop branches on the floor because they have water on them. My sides ache from walking up the hill faster than I thought humanly possible to end this torture as soon as I can. Sorry, my mistake, I mean from laughing so much.

Children, it is said, laugh about 200 times a day, whilst adults manage to force out only a very mediocre 15 to 18 laughs a day. I’m hazarding a guess that these churlish, miserable specimens of adults are in fact parents, who are slowly eating their own forearms as they hear, for the forty-eight time, that the cookie was feeling a bit crummy. (Not to mention the distinct unfunniness of stepping on a piece of Lego in your bare feet, or walking into a room you’ve just tidied to find three jigsaw puzzles sprayed across the floor like some kind of strange confetti at a nerd’s wedding. In fact, who are these sodding exuberant people, laughing like maniacs eighteen times a day?).

So having welcomed this new stage of humour with open arms, I am now facing it with a terrified rictus and my fingers in my ears. “Shall I tell you a joke, mummy?” is met with a non-committal ‘mmm’ and a frantic mental casting about for a topic change that will divert the unfunny juggernaut of chickens, biscuits and stones that is thundering towards me. But it is nice to know that he has not left his old-style humour behind. We are sitting in the kitchen and he lets off an impressive blow off, causing him to collapse into hysterical giggles. And there we go. Forget knock knock and crossing the road. You just can’t beat a good old fashioned blow off to get the laughing gear going.


A vaguely unpleasant affair with sweaty undertones

‘You are invited to my party!’ screams the invite as my heart sinks through my rib cage and comes to rest somewhere around my bladder. I don’t quite know what to be more irritated by first: the retina-straining invite design, the thought that I will now have to spend at least two hours of my life at a kid’s party trying to stop my teeth involuntarily grinding together, or the proliferation of extraneous exclamation marks (because it is not enough just to have fun! Oh no. At this party, it’s going to be fun!!! I can barely hold onto the contents of my bowel I am that excited).

We seemed to have endured a rash of kids’ parties lately. And rash is probably the most accurate collective noun there is for kids’ parties: highly irritating, often unsightly and leaves you with a pressing need for strong medication. Pizza-making parties, soft play parties, the local sports centre, at home… there is seemingly no end to the number of places in which you can ruin a parent’s weekend.

Of all the recent celebrations, pizza making at a local restaurant is my least unfavourite. For a start, the kids have to all sit down at a table, so you are unburdened from having your child hang off you pleading for snacks / a tissue / a party of their own. And they have to wear a paper chef’s hat, which makes them all look ridiculous. Good work, pizza party. Admittedly, you have to watch them delve their dirty fingernails deep into their pizza dough and sneeze over the grated cheese, but you meanwhile have been offered a slice of non-contaminated, bogey-free pizza straight from the oven, so what do you care? And it is quite amusing to see a child pile fistful of olives onto their culinary creation, given that in fifteen minutes time, that is their lunch. Not quite so amusing to hear her mother say in a loud voice: “Oh, Alexandra loves olives, she has quite a sophisticated palette for her age,” at which point I quietly spit the olives that I have accidentally eaten into her handbag. And the other redeeming feature of a pizza party is watching the face of the poor sods who have had the misfortune to choose that precise time to come and have a quiet, adult lunch at the local pizza restaurant and end up sitting six foot from fifteen shouty kids. Welcome to my world, suckers.

Then there is the play barn party. A vaguely unpleasant affair with sweaty undertones slightly redeemed by the fact that the kids are now all old enough to run off and nearly break a bone in a freak limb-trapped-in-netting incident without needing you in close proximity. It becomes less palatable when you child appears from the depths of the primary-coloured vinyl jungle, his face a beetroot red and with his hair plastered to his forehead and decides to use you as a towel, but at least you can pour some lukewarm cordial down his throat and propel him back into the writhing mass of bodies. And then the birthday tea is served. Platters of sandwiches go untouched as paper plates buckle under the weight of a pyramid of cheesy balls and sausage rolls. And before anyone has had a chance to get any of them to take more than a passing interest in anything not covered in salt or pastry, out come the plates of biscuits, leaving the adults to tuck into the sandwiches and the kids to fight over the last chocolate finger (because hoovering up three pink wafers, two jammy rings and a chocolate bourbon is simply not enough biscuit-based sustenance). Noise levels rise as the E numbers start to kick in, and there is a hasty singing of happy birthday as the novelty birthday cake is proudly carried out whilst grandma wrestles with the birthday girl to put down that bloody cup cake and blow out the candles. Five half-hearted attempts to extinguish the flames later, with a cake now splattered with half-masticated cup cake crumbs and spittle, and dad steps in to put everyone out of their bloody misery.

And no party would be complete without a party bag. I have read about parties where parents try to out-do each other, giving away iPods in each bag. So where is my son’s invite to those parties, then? Because the contents of the party bags that we get rarely make it beyond the floor of the car after my son has torn into it like a rabid dog, squealed with delight at the pirate shaped rubber / the tiny plastic dinosaur / the ball maze puzzle, been distracted by something shiny out of the window and dropped it with utter boredom where it will lay, nestled amongst squashed raisins and flapjack wrappers, for the next six months.  Inevitably, I get handed the slice of cake, seeping jam into the crumpled serviette that is dangling off it. But this actually turns out to be a slab of lurid-coloured icing with a slither of cake attached, and that too, is jettisoned on the journey home.

And sometimes, the horror of the party lives on long after the ringing in your ears has stopped. We end up kicking the party balloon around the bloody kitchen floor for a good week or so before it either pops, making one or both of my sons cry, or turns into a limp, slightly damp rubber rag that no matter how many times I put in the bin, reappears on the floor. And the other day, I discovered a piece of party cake tucked behind my son’s car seat. It was from a party several weeks before, had ossified into a small brick and has come in rather handy as a door stop.

This year, to the relief of my sanity and bank balance, we did not have a party for my son (well, it wasn’t as if it was a significant birthday, he just turned five). I figure that he has plenty of opportunity to get together with his friends, eat inappropriate food, make too much noise, drink stuff he is not allowed to at home and throw up without warning. When he’s sixteen.


Forget the bobbin…

Oh, how inspiring it is to have children. I hear many people say that their children have inspired them to change their lives, to change their beliefs, to change the world. Me? Well, I’ve changed my pants today which is not an inconsiderable victory. But recently, they have inspired me to write (I use the term loosely) songs (and that one even more so). Oh yes. Be afraid.

I think it is all those years of singing those goddamn nursery rhymes, over and over again, and even finding myself singing them to myself late in the day, long after anyone under the age of five is even remotely within earshot. Due to not ever really knowing the words, and being irritated by the words that I do remember, and wanting to suck my own eyeballs out and ram them in my ears every time I hear myself singing them, it was obvious that what would really help is to recreate them. But with a more… Mothering Frights kind of vibe.

So, here they are, on my shiny new You Tube Channel (ooh, get me).

You will also find some audio blogs, book extracts and that kind of stuff, but if you just want to take a peek at one, start with Wind the Mummy Up. That will set the right tone.

Warning: these nursery rhymes are not for young ears. Or for those of a sensitive disposition. Or for those who don’t find swearing big and clever.

Let me know what you think. (Not about my singing voice. I am under no illusion about that).

Accidentally stepping on a landmine of curiosity

I am walking to school with E. Seeing as I spend my entire day walking to and from school – okay, maybe not all, maybe just a seemingly ridiculous large proportion of it – we are building up quite a repertoire of games and conversational topics to pass the time.

This morning’s first topic up for discussion was gates. I know. I bet you just wish you could join us for those fifteen glorious minutes filled with sparkling repartee about such matters. This subject matter was not so much helping the time pass as making each step seem like a Herculean effort of mental and physical stamina, but I rarely get to choose what we talk about.

Yesterday, for example, E thought up a game. The rules were, he explained, that he would think of a colour and I would have to guess what it was. No clues, nothing.

“Green?” I asked immediately. A pretty safe bet, given that it is his favourite colour.

“Yes,” he replied, and that was the end of that round. I could barely see straight for the excitement of it all.

“Guess again, mummy, I have a new colour.”


“Yes.” Christ, any more of this high-octane guessing game and I may well lose control of my bowels. Or the will to live, I hadn’t quite decided yet.

“Three-nil to me, mummy, you’re losing.” I learned long ago never to interrogate my son on the logic of his scoring system. Therein lies madness. This is a boy who can lose eight rounds of I-Spy in a row and still confidently declare he has twenty-three points and is therefore victor, replete with a resounding ‘nar-nar-na-nar-nar’ and a fist-pump.

“Guess again.”





Are we nearly there yet? Bugger. Still a good five minutes to go.

“Orange?” Please let it be orange. Please can we play something else? Anything else. Even drain counting, which was last week’s favourite, a game that redefined the notion of ‘the shittiest way to lose ten minutes of your life’. Even that seemed preferable at this juncture.


Ask me a few years ago if conversing with a five year old would be tricky, and I would have laughed in your face. Ask me now… yes, go on, ask me. What’s it like conversing with a five year old, you ask? Well, I am not bloody laughing now. It’s like being dropped into hostile territory with no compass, only a few words of the local lingo and a distinct sense of unease that there is an ambush waiting for you round that next bend.

“What walks faster, mummy, a snail or a slug?” exploded into my face last week, as I accidentally stepped on a landmine of curiosity on the walk home from school.


Luckily, E is getting quite used to my inability to provide answers, and so more often than not doesn’t wait for me to reply.

“I think it’s a slug, as a snail has to carry his shell which would slow him down,” he confidently stated.

Now why can’t he apply that level of logic to his scoring system? I might stand a chance of one day actually winning one of our bloody games.

“Unless the slug had been to Tesco, in which case he might be slower, carrying all that shopping,” I say, to amuse him.

He glances up at me but quite rightly, does not dignify me with a response. I think I am going to have to start reading the encyclopaedia to cope with our school-walk conversations.

Anyway, back to the thrilling topic of gates. The issue is, I am not really at my articulative peak at 8.30 in the morning; these days, my brain seems to reach operational temperature about one minute before lunch and starts to cool rapidly five minutes later.

We talked about how gates are used around building sites, and what they are made of. I scratch around in my brain, overturning dusty boxes marked ‘to file’ to try and find something, anything, that I could say about gates. But there was nothing.

“Say something else about gates, mummy,” E asked. I must be such a disappointment as a mother, what with my utter failure to have anything fascinating to say about hinged barriers.

Then we walked past a house with a purple gate. I hate that purple gate, always have. I find it offensive on the eye. But at that point, I was thrilled to see it.

“Ooh, yes, some gates can be purple…” even as the words left my mouth I knew I had hit an all-time conversational low from which I may never recover.

“Mummy,” E asked as we left the purple gate behind us, “can we not talk about gates again?”

I exhale loudly with relief.

E smiles. “So, let’s play guess the colour. I am thinking of a colour…”