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Sunday, October 02, 2016

The end and a new beginning

My lovely, lovely Ploggers. I have been Plogging for such a long time, over ten years in fact.

The Plog has seen me go from young, free and single aspiring stand-up comedian to married, suburban-with-two-children middle-aged woman with no job and several hundred thousand pounds of mortgage.

Shit, it sounds really bad when put like that.

Anyway, you'll be pleased (please feel free to substitute with "disappointed") to know that whilst this is the end of the Plog, this isn't the end of blogging.

Indeed, I have a new, shiny blog, just waiting for new adventures. Please come and find me at Nunn the Wiser.

There are already three exciting blogs to whet your appetite. Please bear with me for a few weeks whilst I sort out formatting and so forth, but I hope to Plog - I mean "blog" regularly from now on.

Thank you all for reading over the last decade. I hope to continue to disappoint you in the future.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

The beginning of the end

Ploggers, an announcement will follow soon.

I am sure you are in a state of abject excitement and/or worry, but rest assured, you aren't rid of me quite yet. Not today, probably not tomorrow, but soon I think it is time to put this Plog to bed and start on adventures new.

Potential prospective Plogging plans are presently in progress. Please persist.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Load of old pony

I taught myself to bake in the summer of 2010. We had moved to the outskirts of London and shared a car. On Saturdays, TheBloke (TM) took the car and went to cricket for the day, often leaving at about 10 a.m. and not home again until 9 p.m.

Unwilling to do my daily commute on a weekend, to get to London-proper, and a bit stuck in the suburbs without a car, I tended to find myself at home, at a loose end (pre-kids, obviously), and would end up doing housework... and then feeling (unfairly) resentful when TheBloke (TM) came home, as he'd been out having fun all day and I'd been tidying and cleaning.

So I decided that I would find something home-based I could do whilst he was out. I bought myself a copy of The Hummingbird Bakery and started working my way through the recipes. I had a lot of disasters: a lemon meringue pie where the filling didn't set. A Victoria sponge where it was still raw and runny in the middle - so I tried to microwave it to cook further. A tart-au-citron where I forgot to add the cream, and therefore accidentally made a dairy-free version. An awful lot of cupcakes. Slowly I got better. I enjoyed the scientific process of seeing what happened if I changed the order of adding the ingredients. If I substituted this for that. If I did this for longer or shorter. There are so many variables.

Eventually I became quite good. Not great, but could reliably turn out a decent cake.

One thing I have never been good at - nor seemed to improve at - is cake decorating and/or presentation. Partly I am just inept at anything like that (my art teacher pre-GCSE, with a worried look in her eye, and conscious of the school's 100% pass rate, cornered me and made me promise I wasn't planning on taking art GCSE). Partly I think it's because I don't really care. I'm much more interested in what a cake tastes like than how it looks.

So this week saw the preschooler's birthday. As we have raised her with strong feminist ideals and encouraged her to enjoy superheroes and diggers just as much as anything else, she obviously wanted a My Little Pony cake. Well fuck me if I'm making Rainbow Dash out of Royal Icing, so I bought the figurines cheaply from eBay. Rarity looked green instead of white, but all else looked good.

As the preschooler has recently changed her name to Applejack Rainbow Dash, she asked for an apple cake. I made her a carrot cake, but substituted the carrots for apples. All good. Then decorating time came. I thought I would keep it simple. A nice layer of (pre-bought, pre-rolled) fondant icing, then some ponies stuck on top. It would be fine.

However, we all hate buttercream, and as I was using a carrot cake recipe, I thought I'd stick to our usual cream cheese and mascarpone frosting. It would be fine.

And it sort of was. This is what the cake looked like. It wasn't perfect, but for a four year-old's party, it would do.

I stored it overnight in an airtight container (OK, the microwave, but it wasn't switched on).

The next morning I heard TheBloke (TM) say, "No need to panic, but have you got any more icing?"

I gave a calm and measured response, "What the fuckity fuck have you done to my cake?"

He hadn't done anything. Apparently there's a reason you don't use cream cheese icing - or if you do, keep it in the fridge. This is what greeted me on the morning of her party.

He was swiftly despatched to buy more icing. And I re-did it, whilst muttering obscenities under my breath.

So it looked like this again.

Anyway, it was all worth it when the preschooler saw the cake, immediately stripped it of all ponies ("I'm going to keep the figurines Mummy for ever and ever") and announced, "I don't like the cake bit. Don't put walnuts in my next birthday cake, Mummy.") I reminded her about politeness, and how next time she might not have a birthday, let alone cake, and then sat and munched my way through a two-tier apple and walnut cake.

It could have been worse.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Milestones around the neck

With the first child, practically weekly we would check the appropriate milestones for her age, delighting when she exceeded them ("Look! Her eyes are following us round the room and she's only three days old! This website says she's not supposed to do that until at least a month! She's clearly a genius!"), and fretting when they were missed ("She's nine months old and still hasn't clapped yet. I've taken her to literally 12 hours of music lessons. Do you think we should see a doctor? If she does have learning difficulties, surely it's better to get help sooner rather than later.").

At literally day 4 - our first day home from hospital - I suddenly had a panic that we weren't stimulating her enough during her (brief) moments of wakefulness. I insisted TheBloke (TM) printed out a whole load of swirly black and white patterns and adorned her Moses basket with them, so she wouldn't be bored whilst she was awake. If someone else told me they had that worry about their 4-day old baby - that it wasn't being stimulated enough - I would have thought they were completely bonkers.

This time round, I haven't yet had time to check the baby's milestones. However, I did read today that apparently she should be saying "Ma-ma" and "Da-da" in appropriate situations. Our baby does not say that. She has one word: "cat". She says this at the cat. She also says it at her sister, her father, me, and any random inanimate object she quite likes the look of. "Ca. Ca. Ca." All fricking day. So I checked the developmental milestones, and they don't provide any help on your child's excessive cat-mentioning at all. She also likes to chase the cat around the room (she crawls! Not sure what age they're supposed to do that, but she's doing it!) and ideally get a big old fistful of his tail fur or his face whiskers. If she succeeds in pulling any fur out, she eats it.

This is not mentioned as an important milestone in my monthly Bounty emails either.

Just like her sister, she is a late clapper. This time round I can blame myself as I have taken her to exactly 0 classes. By her age, her elder sister had been to:

- Baby swimming
- Baby music
- Baby sensory
- Regular stay-and-play at the Breastfeeding Cafe
- Soft play
- Socialised with other babies of the same age from my NCT group.

Second baby has been:

- Stuck in the baby corner of the stay-and-play whilst older sister does fun activity
- Left in the buggy whilst her sister charges around soft play
- Ignored in a high chair whilst older sister has little friends round. Sometimes they squeeze her a bit too hard. I like to think she's grateful for the attention.

Anyway, she's 10 months old today, and I'm very much now of the parenting school, "Everyone fed, nobody dead".

I'm thinking of writing a baby manual with that title. Though sometimes I forget to feed them too. Shh.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Study in studying

TheBloke (TM) has a working theory that I didn't have a childhood. Tied together with my friend Hazel's assertion that I was born aged 42, I think it's fairly safe to say that I was a tad on the square side.

TheBloke (TM) loves asking me questions like, "Well, what did you do for fun?"

The reply to that - like most children, I imagine - is, "I read books. I did my piano practice. On Sundays - if I'd finished all my homework - I went to Tesco."

He guffaws with delight. "Have you ever climbed a tree?" he goads.

"Why would I want to?"

"Well," he says, "it's fun. Did you ever ride your bike down a really steep hill?"

"No," I say. "That would have been dangerous."

"That's the point," he says.

"I did love that Friday feeling though, when school finished and the weekend stretched ahead of you," I muse.

"Aha!" says TheBloke (TM). "Now we're getting somewhere."

"Because," I continue, on a Friday night Mum would take me to the library, and then it was choir practice."

TheBloke (TM) laughs. I am fairly sure it is with me, rather than at me. Fairly sure.

Well, fast forward a few days and we are at the very lovely wedding of very lovely Hazel herself. TheBloke (TM) decides to use this as an opportunity to tease me in front of my school friends.

"Hey, Erica," he says. "Laura didn't have a childhood. She has never climbed a tree!"

Erica replies. "I have climbed a tree."

I am surprised by this. "Why?" I ask Erica.

"I don't know. I think I read about it in a book once."

TheBloke (TM) says, "At least she climbed a tree."

"Don't start," I say. "Erica is famous for being the rebel amongst us, as she was the only one who ever got a detention. It was for skiving school... and she was discovered hiding in the local library."

Erica cannot deny this.

TheBloke (TM) then tries several other of my friends and comes up with the fact that we are so square that between us we had:

- Orchestra
- Christian Union
- Church youth club
- Guides
- Further Maths club
- Extra curricular literature club
- Computer club
- Chess club
- Handbells club*

and very little underage drinking. At which point he gives up.

He should have known better than to pick a "who's squarest" battle with the alumni of Miss Harvatt's Academy for Very Studious Girls. Though honestly, I think I might have won.

* OK, admittedly five of these were mine.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Groundhog Day the musical - a review (no spoilers)

My brother is a lucky person. To be fair to him, he sort of makes his own luck. He's gregarious, interested in people and will talk to absolutely anyone. On the other hand a) I wouldn't really go anywhere out of choice where there would be lots of people and b) if forced, I would likely corner the one or two people I do know and then leave early. We are different in that way. But my brother has the knack of finding the person who can lend him (for free) a penthouse apartment in Tokyo, or a few hours in a recording studio, or directed his favourite childhood show... and will then invite him for dinner. All these things have literally happened to him.

Well, on Friday, I think I got a bit of his luck. I'm not sure how his day went. Perhaps he had my evening... a quiet night in with some Netflix and a home-cooked meal and a baby that needed tending every six or seven minutes. I don't care. Because on Friday I got lucky. Not like that.

I'd already been quite lucky in that I'd managed to score £10 preview tickets to the new Groundhog Day musical at the Old Vic. I was even luckier that my parents were able to babysit that day, and luckier still that when we arrived at the theatre, the man at the box office told us that this would actually be a dress-rehearsal instead of a preview... so our tickets would be free.

Yes, folks, I got free theatre tickets to what will soon be the hottest show in London - and an extra bonus that before the show started, the director, writer and songwriter came up on stage to introduce the show.  Apparently it was touch and go as to whether it was going ahead tonight - but Tim Minchin's parents were over from Australia and in the audience, so it had to happen! I hadn't realised that Danny Rubin (who wrote the film) had also written the book for the musical, which relaxed me a bit. Groundhog Day is probably in my top five films of all time, and whilst Tim Minchin is an incredibly safe pair of hands, I was a bit anxious about how respectfully the material would be handled. Whilst Matilda is a brilliant musical, I don't think you could really argue that it's incredibly faithful to its source material. For a purist. Side note: Danny Rubin (admittedly viewed from the Gods) looks about 30 years old, so must have written the film when he was about five. This freaked me out a bit.

Minchin always felt a perfect match for Matilda - that perfect combination of hard truths, pulling no punches, but with true sentiment right there in the middle. How would this work with Groundhog Day though? Minchin (rightly) asked that we don't spoil the show for others. In this day of social media, that's a big ask, but this review won't contain spoilers. However, if you see something in it that you feel you'd rather not know, let me know and I'll review. Review the review. See? We're getting all Groundhog Day already.

The set was incredible. The staging was some of the cleverest I've ever seen. There were special effects, which whilst not difficult to work out how they were done, earned a round of applause from the audience. In another production, the set and staging alone would be enough for me to tell you to go and see it.

But not this time. The first song alone had me sitting on the edge of my seat, almost in tears. And I am a hard case. (I could sit on the edge of my seat without inconveniencing anyone behind me as we were literally right at the back of the upper circle. I don't care. The tickets were free.)

Three or four songs will become classics. Probably the only gripe I have for the whole show was that it needed a song at the very end, as there was no proper curtain call. The first song repeated at the end would have been perfect. I would be surprised if this isn't in the pipeline - after all, it was the dress rehearsal we saw. Actually, I do have a second gripe, but it's not really a fair or reasonable one. I guessed that rights issues might cause a problem, but I feel I should warn you, there's no Sonny and no Cher. Phil Connors does not wake up to I Got You Babe every morning. It's no biggie really, but it is an iconic part of the original and I did notice it missing.

What really, really impressed me about the show is that whilst it remained faithful to the film - with many lines word-for-word ("sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist", anyone? Although no sappy prayer for world peace this time.), it reimagined the situation for the 21st century. Gay couples snap selfies. One cameo character unexpectedly has a beautiful, clever and devastating feminist ballad. The familiar Groundhog Day cameo characters are fleshed out, and as an audience we are challenged to think about why perhaps they don't get that depth in the original. Brave and humble rewriting from the person who wrote the film in the first place. The world has moved on. And so, eventually, has Groundhog Day.

Moreso than in the film, we see the turning point in Phil's psyche where Phil sees the prison of endless days as a gift; this volte face is attributed more to Rita in the musical than I remember in the film (which I will rewatch very soon!). It makes more sense psychologically that she is the catalyst that allows him to delight in endless time and use it productively.

As I mentioned earlier, there was no staged curtain call, just all of the actors coming and taking a bow and then leaving the stage. The house lights came up, but they got such a standing ovation - five minutes or so at least, that the cast (and crew) were dragged back on stage, some of them clearly already partly out of costume. The director left us with the words, "Pay for your tickets next time!"

Do. Book now. It's brilliant. I will see it again. And again, and again.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


I have struggled to put words to this. I haven't felt like this in a very long time. And, for now, it is exactly that, a feeling.

It feels like I have been dumped. It is exactly like that. It pervades everything I do. I can be having fun with the preschooler in the swimming pool, or throwing the baby in the air to make her giggle, but a black cloud hangs over everything, making nothing very much fun at all. You go through the motions. Every song - ridiculously - on the radio seems to have echoes, from Queen's Another One Bites the Dust to Razorlight's America. Just like when you've been dumped and the Corrs (I'm not proud of this) are singing straight to you.

The preschooler doesn't, of course, understand why we are sad.

She doesn't realise the doors that have been closed to her; the ability to study in a European university, to become an astronaut, to take place in cultural exchange schemes without needing a visa and a wad of cash we don't have. She doesn't realise the business we have built with the idea of handing it to her and her sister one day, may be worth nothing in a few years' time.

A mixed-race friend has already been the victim of being told that the country is being "taken back" from her. I am not sure who is doing the taking - Farrage? Johnson? (Yes, let's not call him "Boris", that informal, lovable buffoon's address. Johnson is dangerous.) I am not sure who it is being taken back from. (Cameron?) Cameron and Johnson were at school together. They both represent the elite - I cannot see how this was a protest vote for the working classes, to award power to an almost identical elite white male.

I cannot name one European law, with the possible exception of fishing quotas, that has damaged the British economy. In many, many circumstances, the British lawmakers have felt that the EU law hasn't gone far enough, and indeed have enhanced it.

In the meantime, I find myself almost debating with people who genuinely believe that leaving the EU is going to get rid of brown people (because brown people come from Sweden, don't you know?), that they should complete their ballot paper in pen because pencil was going to be changed, and that tinfoil hats will shortly be back in fashion*. I am almost debating because facts seem to have no bearing on a generation who is going by gut feel. You can't argue with gut feel.

They say they aren't racist, but. They start a lot of sentences with, "I'm not racist, but."

They quote misinformation. I honestly think one problem is that the older generation, not having assimilated Google quite as much as the youth, haven't been able to discern between quality journalism, and any old nutter shouting on a blog (myself included). Facts have not stood in the way of this debate.

Our currency has plummeted. Travel overseas - even before the borders come into force in the EU - is now prohibitively expensive. The Brexiters, to give them their due, did say that they expected it to plummet before rallying.

It will plummet. It will then rally briefly as it will take a hell of a lot of people employed for a lot of hours to rewrite and implement every policy in every company, right down to printing labels, redrafting HR policies and restructuring businesses...

... and then we will see the worst depression of several generations.

The majority of the people who voted for exiting the EU (that is, the over-55s) will likely die before they see the economy rally, if it ever does.

Britain has committed economic suicide. It has also defined itself as isolationist. For a country that manufactures absolutely fucking nothing and relies on imports almost exclusively, that's beyond stupid.

It also feels a less welcome place.

We have options. TheBloke (TM) has dual citizenship - admittedly to South Africa, which is hardly known for its stable politics, economics - or indeed lack of racism. But for the first time in my life, the idea of emigrating isn't off the table.

For most people though, the drawbridge is up. You may, may (but probably haven't) stopped more people coming in. But really you've stopped yourself getting out.

So yes, I feel exactly like I've been dumped. And being told to "get over it" or "let's still be friends" isn't helping right now. Right now I need to get drunk, eat too much chocolate, be a bit sick and anxious, listen to some Gloria Gaynor, and then, once the hangover subsides and I start to feel strong enough, only then will I start to be able to see what shovel I can bring to the shit heap. How I can help.

* I made this bit up.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

To sleep, perchance to dream

It has been so long since I've Plogged, that I can barely remember how to do it. My "writing" these recent days is limited to (I flatter myself) pithy 140 character Twitter observations, or amusing captions for baby photos on Facebook. Just typing this short paragraph has exhausted me to the point of potential swooning.

I have lots of excuses for not writing, but my main one is I NEVER SLEEP NEVER. I NEVER NEVER SLEEP. It has got to the stage where I am no longer absolutely sure whether conversations I have are dreamed or real. I have incredibly boring dreams about turning on the baby's mobile, or buying plants at Homebase... and the next day am totally unsure about whether or not it actually happened.

For all I know, I'm not actually writing this right now. It could be just a dream. It is a very disconcerting way to live your life. For example - flying. In dreams, you can fly. Wheee. Try that when you're not actually asleep and it ends up a sticky mess on the pavement.

Same goes for trying to have sex with Benedict Cumberbatch. Dream world: fine. Real world: restraining order, and awkward conversation with my husband.

Of course, the eagle-eyed of you will have spotted a dichotomy here. If I never sleep, how can I dream? Good point. I don't. I think this is why dreams are so vivid/dull - I am basically hallucinating.

Does this sound fun, people? In other news, have you considered contraception?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Card bard

Mindful that the second child's baby book is usually a lot emptier than the first's (though possibly not in our case, as I was pretty slack first time around too), I thought we should do something different just for the second child, so we invested in some cute-but-slightly twee milestones cards. They look like this.

There are various milestones included in the pack - smiling for the first time, sleeping through the night, first steps and so on. It got me thinking that there's definitely a gap in the market for new parents too.

So I have created some prototypes:

I think I would probably have used this card every three days at best in the early days. When you finally do get round to it, it feels like the most luxurious thing you've ever done, and a bit like spending three days in a spa does to normal people. I imagine. I have never willingly been to a spa. It looks a bit boring.

This just isn't going to happen. Babies are instinctively trained to exterminate potential siblings and will start a mammoth meltdown at the tiniest hint of an erection. That sentence sounds incredibly wrong. Long story short, I think TheBloke (TM) may have escaped a vasectomy in favour of enforced abstinence.

I found myself in the position earlier this week of needing a poo. The baby also wanted to spend time with me and was wailing on her playmat. Reader, I positioned her Bumbo facing me on the toilet so she could see me whilst I shat. This, reader, this, is parenting. (And for non-parents, this is a Bumbo.) I look forward to be able to holding up this card. My three year-old still likes to walk in to "watch". If this is her only entertainment, maybe we ought to spring for the Disney channel after all.

Oddly, ever since I answered the door to our postman with one knocker out, we now seem to get a second post as well as a third and fourth. Not really. He actually changed his route and we now have a female post person. I haven't scared her with my tits yet. I did however answer the door to the Tesco delivery man last week not only with my bra on total display, but with my jeans fly unzipped as well. I expect they have a list with people like me on it.

At 10.45 p.m. last night, I told the baby to fuck off. I am not proud of this, but it happened. She stuck around anyway though, and we've made up since.

Everyone complains about babies sleeping. I saw one woman online complain that her 12 week old baby wakes up at 5 a.m. Ours wakes up every 20 minutes. Every fucking 20 minutes. During the day, during the night. (Hence the "fuck off" at 10.45 p.m. last night.) I cannot have a night off because I'm breastfeeding. This is all fine. This too will pass. But I am looking forward to holding up this card with the smuggest well-rested face in the land.

But, in the meantime... Small victories.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


A parent I bumped into recently said that going from having one child to two is like going from owning a dog to running a zoo. There certainly seems to be the sort of volume of poo I'd expect from a medium-sized animal sanctuary, so perhaps he wasn't too far off.

Yes, we have a new baby, with all the upheaval it entails. And it's been so long since I've Plogged that I barely know where to start. So how about at the very beginning?

This time I had a planned Caesarian section because I could not face full labour followed by an emergency Caesarian section like last time. Major surgery is never to be undertaken lightly, but it was the best choice for us.

Here are some things you might be interested to know about a planned C-section.

  • They are much, much scarier than an emergency C-section because you are totally drug-free and compos mentis. In an emergency, choice is taken out of your hands and you just kind of go with the flow. 
  • They still use forceps if they get stuck. I really didn't know this.
  • They have the radio on. Our daughter was born to James' Sit Down whilst surgeons rummaged in my tummy.
  • If you have a bastard surgeon, they will stick the surgical dressing to your pubes. This isn't a problem at the time, but two days later when you try to remove the dressing, you'll realise that your pubes are a mass of glue and plaster and you will vow to hunt your surgeon and his family down. You can't just pull off the dressing with a sharp rip because you have a massive wound. So you have to pick it off slowly, one pube at a time, whilst your partner stands outside the shower room with your screaming newborn.
  • Your surgery might get bumped. I anticipated being bumped by an hour or two, or possibly a day because of emergencies. Then they tried to bump my surgery by ten whole days, until I cried down the phone at my midwife, who pulled some strings. Had I had to have been pregnant for another ten days, I think I would have tried to perform my own C-section, using Ikea kitchenware.

I have two weird and pointless skills in life. The first is knowing - usually to the second - when the oven timer is due to go off. The second is being put in the worst hospital bed in the country.

Last time I gave birth, the woman in the bed next to me used her hospital pay-for TV, but unplugged the free headphones provided, so the whole ward could hear her programmes; she then pumped up the volume, and fell asleep. She then snored so loudly she drowned out the sound of her own baby crying, waking up only occasionally to pop downstairs for a fag.

This time, I had a similar chav in the bed next to me. She was incredibly passive-aggressive, phoning people at all times of the night to boast (quite rightly) about how her own baby didn't cry at all, but everyone else's babies were - and I quote - doing her fucking head in. What she didn't mention was the reason everyone else's babies were crying was she would fall asleep and snore so incredibly loudly, she would wake up every single baby on the ward. They would then start crying; she would wake up, and make another passive-aggressive phone call complaining about the crying babies. It would have been funny had I not been desperate to sleep.

Too long, did not read?

- A planned C Section is better than an emergency one
- I attract chavs
- We have a new baby. She looks like this.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Cat nip

I guess, all in all, it had been a rough weekend for Monty Cat. We are currently awaiting installation of a catflap, so currently he is dependent on us to let him in and out of our house.

On Friday lunchtime, we let him out... and didn't see him again. Now, Monty Cat is not the sort of cat who will willingly skip a meal. In fact, if he thinks he can get away with it, he is fairly likely to try and con us into a second breakfast by vocally pretending he hasn't been fed that morning. We've even fallen for it a couple of times. He also tries to scam visitors in a similar way.

So we were worried that he hadn't come home, not least because we've just moved house onto a new-build estate, and there are a lot of building sites and potential cat-squashing machines all around.

We walked the fields in the area, calling him, with the toddler bellowing, "MONTY WHERE ARE YOU" at a volume that would have scared off a medium-sized shire horse.

It was over 48 hours before TheBloke (TM) found him; the not-too-bright cat had managed to get himself shut in an unused garage next door.. He was hungry when he came out. But he is generally hungry anyway, so he didn't seem to have suffered any ill effects.

The toddler was very sweet with him when he came back. She stroked him gently and told him she had missed him so much.

And today, he snuggled up with me on the sofa and let me take a cute selfie with him. He tipped his head back so I could stroke his furry chin. He purred and wiggled cuddlingly into my hugely-pregnant tummy.

Then he turned round and bit me. On the nipple. Right on the fucking nipple. It really hurt.

The ginger cunt. Anyone want a cat?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Toilet talk

It is a truth universally acknowledged that once you have given birth and shown multiple strangers all of your bits, several times over, any coyness you had about your own body pretty much disappears. This became apparent to me two days after getting out of hospital with my first child. The midwife came over to our house to weigh the baby (it turns out). I thought that she was there to check on me and how I was doing, and before she even managed to sit down on our sofa, I'd whipped out my arse to show her a funny rash I was a bit worried about. The curtains were open. To this day, I'm surprised she didn't report me for sexual harassment.

I thought I was totally beyond any type of embarrassment. I had had a midwife "sweep" pre-labour (medicalised fingering). I had had two midwives simultaneously pop their hands up to "have a feel". I had had at least six different midwives show me how to breastfeed by squeezing my tits. There was no way I could be further embarrassed. I had disconnected totally from my body.

Until this pregnancy.

To put it bluntly, I have always had something of a sensitive digestive system. This is not helped by iron tablets, needed for anaemia. While most people apparently get a bit constipated on iron tablets, they have the opposite effect on me.

Picture this. TheBloke (TM) and I take advantage of a rare afternoon that's free, and head into Romford for a nice meal. After our nice meal, we take a wander (OK, waddle, in my case) around HomeSense. Suddenly I need the loo. There are no loos.

I go to the front desk and ask if they have a toilet I can use. Whilst this is clearly not normal procedure, they take one look at my massive comedy tummy and two members of staff take me through the stockroom, where they have - presumably - a staff toilet. I am in no position to take my time and thank them. I lock the door and proceed to complete what can only reasonably be described as Very Noisy Shitting, punctuated with stomach cramps and religious expulsions. ("Jesus Christ! Oh God!")

Fifteen minutes or so later, with newly-formed haemorrhoids the size of small dogs, I wash my hands and stumble blindly back into their stockroom area. It's at this point it turns out that HomeSense clearly has a policy of not allowing customers unattended in the stockroom, which I guess is fair from a shoplifting perspective. There are three worried/amused-looking members of staff standing right outside the toilet door.

"We were beginning to wonder if you were OK," says the area manager. "You were in there a long time, and making some worrying noises. We thought you'd gone into labour."

"No. Just... you know... iron tablets plus irritable bowel syndrome," I stuttered.

I was led back through to the main store. TheBloke (TM) had found some nice children's books that the toddler might like. But now I knew everyone in store far better than I wanted to, the only option was to get out, stay out and move house in case anyone ever recognised me ever again.

So we don't live in London anymore. And we do most of our shopping online. Where no-one need know that you sometimes have to poo.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The hypochondriac's 12 gifts of pregnancy

In the sixth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: vomiting until week twenty-three

In the seventh week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me, total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the twelfth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: sinusitis
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the fifteenth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the twentieth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: ONE HAEMORRHOIDAL RING (ouch)
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: 24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: acid reflux
24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the thirtieth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: severe anaemia
acid reflux
24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the thirty-first week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: explosive diarrhoea
severe anaemia
acid reflux
24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the thirty-second week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: two leaky boobs
explosive diarrhoea
severe anaemia
acid reflux
24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the thirty-third week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: 15 random mood swings
two leaky boobs
explosive diarrhoea
severe anaemia
acid reflux
24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three

In the thirty-ninth week of pregnancy, my true love gave to me: one baby girl. At least, I fucking hope so.
15 random mood swings
two leaky boobs
explosive diarrhoea
severe anaemia
acid reflux
24-hour back pain
fifteen random nosebleeds
total exhaustion and
vomiting until week twenty-three.

Seven weeks to go. Ugh.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Desperately Seeking Asylum

As a teenager I read Anne Frank's diary. Miep Gies was the quiet, unassuming heroine. It was she who successfully hid the Frank family, who travelled to several different suppliers daily to get food for the family (so as not to raise suspicion), who brought it to the family herself, at great personal risk. It was she, when the family were eventually captured, who went to try to bribe the officials, sadly unsuccessfully, to let the family go.

She died a few years ago at 100 years old, rightly celebrated as one of the world's greatest people.

Another hero, Nicholas Winton, who died earlier this year, rescued nearly 700 Jewish children, bound for certain death, and was dubbed "the British Schindler".

Speaking of Schindler, his great work was celebrated in novel and film format. Tears were wept at the amazing achievements of this man.

These are ordinary people, who did extraordinary things to save people whose lives were in danger. These are people who put their own lives at risk, by going against the regime at the time.

I know no-one (nor wish to) who thinks that the things these people did were unacceptable, or wrong, or anything less than incredible.

And yet, and yet...

As a country we seem unable to accept refugees who have lost everything, risked everything, escaped untold atrocities. There is no punishing regime threatening our deaths if we help these people. There are no physical consequences to our actions. No-one would be punished for taking an asylum seeker into their home. No-one would risk imprisonment, death camps, shootings.

And yet, and yet...

There is a fear that this "swarm" (David Cameron's words, not mine) will overrun Britain, stretching our healthcare system, stealing our jobs.

If you saw a young man lying by the road, clearly injured, would you really ask him his taxpayer status before doing everything you could to save his life? I have seen how stretched our healthcare system is. So let's fund it better. "I don't want to pay more tax," you might say. Fuck you.

Miep Gies, Nicholas Winton and Schindler risked their lives for other human beings. No-one is asking you to personally experience any discomfort whatsoever. Humanitarian response to crises is a tiny drop in the ocean of taxes we pay every day for things we probably don't really believe in or care about.

I once worked for a large financial institution that made literally billions of pounds in profit every year. It was considering moving one of its offices from London to Scotland. Despite the fact that this deal greatly benefited the company (Scotland is cheaper for staff salaries), the firm took a whacking (and I mean whacking) grease-the-wheels payment from the government as the Scottish government was trying to stimulate jobs in the area at that time. This was all above board (details are in the public domain)... though you can imagine the company didn't shout about it. Who benefited ultimately? The massive financial institution and its shareholders. That is what your taxes are paying for.

I bet most of us have sponsored a colleague for £10 or £20 to do something like running a marathon for a worthy cause. Almost all of us have had a cheeky takeaway or expensive round of drinks. It's hardly a sacrifice to spend an extra few quid to help people whose entire existence - their homes, their families, their children - has been destroyed.

And as for stealing jobs, firstly depending on their refugee or asylum seeker status, they may not be permitted to work. Even assuming they can work... well, that's great, isn't it? If they work, they will be paying tax. And how bad at your job do you have to be before you're replaced by someone for whom English is a second language and who only arrived in the country yesterday?

Perhaps we can't all be Miep Gies. But perhaps some of us could open our homes - our spare rooms - to refugees, to support them for a little while until they are able to support themselves. If we can't, then perhaps we could begrudge a few extra pounds of tax each year?

But in order to do that, first these people have to be allowed to arrive here. Sign this - right now.

And here are some other practical things you can do.

I loved the idea of the Amazon wishlist, but it looks like that is currently fulfilled (though worth checking back). A donation to the Red Cross seems a good place to start.

Please stop sharing pictures of dead kids on social media and thinking you've done your bit. Or wringing your hands and saying "how terrible" without doing anything.

History will remember those who helped - those who made some personal sacrifice. And it will also remember those - like the Nazis - who caused human misery, like those who that those people were somehow "other" and deserved it. Or those who felt they somehow deserved their "luck" of being born somewhere where they have the right skin colour and belief system. History will remember you too. Make sure you're being remembered for the right reasons.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Beating off the competition

We are moving house soon. And as such, have decided to get rid of a lot of crap before we go, so we're not just transporting crap from one house to another.

Within this sort-out, I stumbled across my secondary school reports, handily contained in a single spiral-bound binder for future reference, in the case that a future employer may wish to find out what my Latin was like, aged 15 (non esset bonum).

I hate tidying at the best of times, and - as previously referenced - being pregnant is very much not the best of times. So, happy to have a few minutes' distraction, I leafed through my high school reports. I was delighted to come across my Religious Studies report for my upper fifth (Year 11).

I mean, yes, it doesn't necessarily seem immediately relevant to Religious Studies (it wasn't a Catholic school after all), but I think it's nice when the teachers really take the time to get to know their pupils' interests. Odd that the topic came up in the examination, but great for all concerned that it was "especially pleasing".

Thursday, August 13, 2015

School's out for ever

I threw up on the morning of my A-level results day, just like I had on the day of my A-level British History exam, and just as I would find myself doing seven years later on the eve of my first ever paid stand-up comedy gig.

Nerves, you see. Let's not even talk about losing one's virginity. Vomit isn't everyone's idea of erotica.

On A-level results day, I was sitting on an offer to read English at Cambridge; an offer that surprised almost everyone, not least my English teacher. But they wanted three A grades. It was no means certain I was going to get the grades. My French was always weak.

We went to the school to get the envelope. My History teacher wouldn't meet my eye. Whilst I had managed somehow to get an A in French, I had missed my History grade. To get an A I needed 480 out of 600 marks. I had achieved 479.3. My History teacher had to hold the pen and do the maths for me as my hand was shaking too badly to make legible marks on the paper. I was 0.7 of one mark, out of 600 marks away from an A. I had missed my grades by 0.05%.

My History paper was sent for a re-mark.

My friends and I spent a weird afternoon in the park. I think they went drinking that night, but I don't remember going with them.

It took Cambridge five days to reject me, by which time all the best clearing places had gone. My insurance offer uni offered me halls of residence for "young ladies" only, about five miles from the department.

A month later, my History re-mark came back as an A. I had achieved my grades, but it was too late for Cambridge. I felt more adrift than I ever had before. I had never thought I was definitely going to get such high grades, but I also didn't imagine being left in this hinterland of having technically achieved the grades, but still being rejected from my first choice university.

My friends quickly firmed up their futures - the vast majority off to uni, a couple to adventures overseas. I dithered. I dithered some more. I seriously considered breaking contact with all of my friends as I could never be that person I wanted them to see me become. This was madness, depression, desperation, whatever you want to call it. Thankfully, it didn't last.

One day, let out from my summer job early one afternoon, I waited almost an hour at the bus stop by the September blackberries in the hedge. Unbidden, a half-forgotten Eagles' lyric popped into my head. "It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you..." It started to rain.

I turned down my insurance offer. I decided to stay with my summer job for a year, and reapply to other universities with my three A grades, the following year.

My friends left. I made friends at work. I got a car. I visited my friends at their universities. I sent off my UCAS form for the next year. I wrote to my overseas friends. I started enjoying my job. I started getting really good at my job. I got to use my French. I got to travel regularly to London. I learned the basics of sales, marketing, accounting software and how to deal with clients and suppliers. I became a valued member of the team. Fast forward eight months, despite an unconditional offer from a top uni, I didn't want to leave the job, and had to fight myself to take the next step back into education.

University, when I finally got there, was something of an anticlimax. My English degree helped me to land a graduate job, for sure, but I have never used the contents of my degree, nor my English, French or History A-levels in my "real" life. My History is incredibly fuzzy and I still can't remember if it's Cranmer or Cramner. My French is pre-GCSE standard these days. I do still love reading, but as a pastime only.

I can't be glib and say A-levels don't matter at all, but if you're reading this today and the world feels slightly unreal, and the future is foggy, you likely have a very long time left to start becoming the person you want to be. As Mr Nunn always says, "Life is a long race".

What practical advice would I have liked on the day? Probably that which was inaccessible at the time: words of wisdom from my 35 year-old self. So here we go:

"It would be dishonest if I didn't say that I still occasionally wonder how my life might have been different had I gone to Cambridge, been in the Footlights, got that First... but I regret nothing at all about how my life has actually turned out. I am happier than my teenage self ever thought was consistently possible. It may be raining, but there are rainbows above you. Also, try and get some more contemporary taste in music and don't eat that lasagne before sex."

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Out of her (family) tree

"So anyway," said Mrs Nunn, "I told the vicar I'm Jewish now."

Mrs Nunn has always wanted to be Jewish. Not from a religious perspective, I don't think (I assume one is still allowed to convert), but from a cultural perspective. "I just feel Jewish," she says, before going on to list a whole load of stereotypes which she feels apply. "My family is very musical. I'm good with money. I have that, you know, Jewish sense of humour..."

I stop her before she strays too far into unintentionally racist waters.

You see, this is kind of my fault. Mrs Nunn has been enjoying researching her family tree, and has always maintained she's Jewish. This is not as easy to disprove as saying, "You're mental, Mum, back in your box," which works for most situations. This is because Mrs Nunn's maternal grandfather is something of an unknown quantity. By all accounts he was a Greek bloke who popped over to London for a bit, knocked up my great-grandma and then buggered (no racism intended) off back to Greece.

"There are lots of Jews in Greece." Mrs Nunn asserted.

"Are there?" I asked, not being particularly aware of a large Jewish community in Greece.

"Yes," said Mrs Nunn. "Greek Orthodox. Very well known."

"You know that the Greek Orthodox church is Christian, not Jewish, right?" I asked Mrs Nunn.

"Shut up," said Mrs Nunn, thus effectively ending the argument.

So, how is this insistence on her nascent Judaism my fault? Well, for her birthday, we decided to get her a DNA test that she could use with her family tree tracing. Turns out - genetically-speaking at least, she is only bloody Jewish.

And she's told the vicar.

I was surprised that the vicar didn't reply, "Don't worry, mate, so was Jesus." Apparently what actually happened was an "I am Sparticus" scene in which several other members of the Parish Church orchestra also stood up and announced their Jewish heritage. I would have liked to have seen that.

This has also given Mrs Nunn free rein for nagging ("I can't help it; I'm a Jewish mother."), advice on money ("Trust me. The reason us Jews have been hated throughout history is we know what we're doing with cash, and we work hard for it.") and short temper ("It's my Mediterranean temperament" - despite the fact that apparently her temper comes from her solidly British father rather than her calm, half-Greek mother.). She also suggested we could use our Jewishness to get the toddler into some of the higher-performing schools in the area. I'm not sure they accept DNA results as entry criteria, but perhaps it's worth a try.

So yes, Mrs Nunn is Jewish. And apparently so am I. Mazel tov!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Got it licked

There are moments as a parent that you find yourself saying horrific things, completely by accident.

Case in point: the toddler generally has to be bribed to do anything she doesn't want to do. Anything she doesn't want to do can usually be put in the category of "anything you do want her to do". These bribes can range from food (biscuits) to playing whatever game she's into at the moment.

At the moment she likes to pretend to be a dog. This involves saying, "I'm a dog, Mummy," and then panting and licking my face. Every so often she likes to mix things up by having me pretend that I am the dog.

The toddler needed a wee. But the toddler did not want to go for a wee. "Be a dog, Mummy!" insisted the toddler. "Lick me!"

I decided to employ my bribe strategy to get her to go to the toilet.

And this, readers, is how I ended up saying this evening, "Do a wee-wee, then I'll lick you."

I am a terrible parent.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Neti no-no

I am pregnant, therefore I am miserable.

Last pregnancy I wanted to punch each and every person who told me to treasure each special moment. Which bits should I be treasuring exactly? The random vomiting, often striking without warning, mid-sentence, leaving the forehead damp with sweat, dark circles under the eyes, gasping for air and breath that smells of a dog's nadgers? Or maybe the spotty tits, the oddly hairy stomach or the fact that my temper is so short I'm genuinely a bit furious that the space bar on my keyboard is very slightly sticky? Or the fact that when I get out of bed each morning, it feels like I've been horse riding, which is ironic as when you're pregnant you're not allowed to ride a fucking horse.

I am not a new-age kind of person. I am very much of the attitude, "If there's a drug that will sort that out, I'll fucking have it." Unfortunately when you are pregnant, they don't let you have all the drugs. They will only let you have a Starbucks under strict supervision, and if you order a shandy in the pub, three well-intentioned citizens will call Social Services, who will arrive in 12 minutes and patronise you appropriately.

It is shit.

I have a cold. It is not a bad cold, as colds go, but it is a cold nonetheless. My usual cold routine goes like this:

- Vitamin C
- As much paracetamol as the packet allows (or Lemsip if I'm feeling indulgent)
- Sudafed nasal spray
- Cold and flu tablets (obviously not with the paracetamol or Lemsip - I'm not a fucking idiot)
- A tissue shoved up each nostril, and plenty of moaning.

Unfortunately, once pregnant your options are limited pretty much to:

- Vitamin C
- Tissues and moaning

This does not cut the fucking mustard.

Technically you can have paracetamol, but this involves an unprecedented amount of eye-rolling from Mrs Nunn who believes that paracetamol is the work of the devil, and even one tablet will result in irreversible kidney damage. Taking two tablets in pregnancy is basically child abuse. Also, it doesn't unblock your nose anyway.

In a spectacular whinge-fest on Facebook, I was recommended by several friends the use of a neti pot. Reader, I was desperate. I ordered one. It arrived.

I excitedly made myself a saline solution. I watched this video where an attractive woman happily neti-potted herself back to full health, smiling all the time. I would be like her! My nose would unblock! My makeup would be flawless! I might enjoy yoga!

It looked brilliant. It would sort out my sinuses, and I could stop moaning. Or at the very least, find something new to moan about.

I waited for my saline solution to come to the appropriate temperature.

Bent over the kitchen sink, I enthusiastically started to neti. In went the spout. Nothing happened. My nose was too blocked for water to go anywhere. I un-nettied myself, blew my nose, and tried again.

This time I was successful. I waterboarded myself. The stinging pain of the salt, which simultaneously went down the back of my throat, whilst further blocking my nose (rendering breathing impossible, for anyone who's following the biology), made me feel dreadful. Not being a quitter, I blew my nose again, and tried the other side. So I can be absolutely certain when I say I know what it's like to be waterboarded through both nostrils. (I assume this is what waterboarding is. It's either that, or something you have to pay extra for at Centre Parcs.)

Things reached an impressive crescendo as, still struggling with morning sickness (which is always worst - obviously - in the afternoon) I vomited copiously.

Pregnancy is total bollocks.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Luck of the draw

So, tomorrow sees the general election. We will either have a Conservative or a Labour PM. Beyond that, it's pretty much anyone's guess how the rest of parliament will be formed.

Far be it from me to tell you how to vote (I am just about to tell you how to vote), but here are some things to think about.

It would be hard to argue that the Conservatives are not the party that traditionally supports the wealthy, the traditional, the "conservative". They have cut bedroom tax, which affects the most vulnerable people in the country. They have deemed people "fit to work" who have died a few weeks later, and sanctioned people's benefits, causing at least one death from lack of food. The NHS was the UK's jewel for several generations. By the time my daughter is my age, it is unlikely to be free at point of access any more. This is entirely Tory-led and heart-breaking to see.

The Labour party isn't my ideal party. But, they have some solid policies around welfare, around supporting the vulnerable, around making sure that every child has a decent start in life - not just around maintaining the wealth those who were born lucky.

Because basically, luck is what it comes down to.

"No," I see you say. "I have worked hard. I have made sacrifices. My money was hard-earned."

No. You were lucky. You were lucky to either be born with brains to get an education, or with the genes that allow you to knuckle down and work hard, or with supportive parents who were able to provide for you a good education, or help pay your way through university, or even just give you a quiet place in your house to do your homework.

"No," you defend yourself. "I was born on a council estate and was fed gravel. I used to go to the library to do my homework because my grandma used to throw bottles at my head and call me a swot if I did it at home. And I still got into grammar school."

Then you were lucky. You were lucky that you live in a country where there are libraries and safe environments to do school work. You were lucky that you had access to an education. You were lucky that you were born with the grist to make yourself study when the odds were against you. You were lucky that grammar schools (feel free to replace with "that excellent teacher at my local comp") were there for you.

Or, if your schooling was a disaster, you were lucky that you were born with a brain for business, that you had and took that golden opportunity, that you were born with that appetite for risk - or that it was fostered in you during your upbringing.

Contrast this with a newborn baby born to a young, inexperienced single parent. The mother's own parents are not particularly supportive, or educated. There may be alcohol or substance abuse problems in the family. There may be physical, verbal or sexual abuse. This too is luck. Just a different kind. It would be a harsh person indeed who blamed any of this on the newborn baby.

And it is so, so much harder for this brand new person ever to achieve anything in life. The hand she has been dealt is not equitable. Yes, there is a chance that she too will be born with the vim to find the library, to knuckle down, to take those risks. But there is a far, far greater chance that she will be sucked into a similar life as the generations before her.

This is luck.

And if you are reading this, if you care enough to have waded through these political paragraphs, you are likely to be one of the luckier ones.

I want to live in a society where those of us who earn "more" than the average (regardless of how much we think we've earned it) can subsidise those who have been dealt a less lucky hand. Because the life we live is a lottery. And if I was holding a losing ticket, I would really appreciate some assistance to live a dignified life from the millionaire standing next to me, holding their winning ticket.

Don't let the Conservatives fool you with their nonsense about "fairness". There is no fairness. Just humanity. Be the bigger person. Be thankful for your luck.