Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Polished Guide to Excellent Housework

Morphy Richards are looking for Innovators – parents to review their gorgeous kitchen stuff. These people have a ‘colour boutique’ for household appliances. Just look at that toaster. That would change our lives (or at least our lazy Saturday mornings.) All they want  parents to do is share their household tips.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, but I’m getting quite into the idea of becoming domesticated. That doesn’t mean I am any good at it though: like baking, housework is not my thing. Nevertheless, I’ve been (sort of) doing it for a few years now and during that time I’ve learnt a thing or two. I’m experienced at this. So, here are my innovative tips for housework*, some of which I should probably follow myself.

  1.  If you’re drying washing on the radiators, take care when vacuuming. Socks and knickers can be gone in a second with a satisfying, guttural glug. If your brand new knickers do get gobbled up, don’t try to fish them out from the dust and spider carcasses with chopsticks. Just accept they’re gone.
  2. Don’t rest the iron on the sofa ‘while it warms up’ and you run into the kitchen to get the toast out of the toaster, not even for a second. Turns out irons warm up quicker than hair straighteners. If you do make this mistake, don’t carry on ironing your child’s polo shirt afterwards (on a towel, on the floor.) You may have to turn round half way to school because the child is complaining of a ‘scratchy tummy.’ Closer inspection will reveal crusts of golden draylon melded to the inside of their top. (Assuming you have a ‘vintage’ sofa from 1979.)
  3. Avoid dresses labelled as being made of ‘rayon’: they require ironing.
  4. If you must iron, consider a table-top board. This will lessen the chances of your fingers getting crushed in a terrifying, rusty mechanism. You’re also less likely to leave it out and use it as a coffee table or bookshelf. The kitchen sideboard is the ideal height for table top boards, but try not to get the iron wire looped around a bottle of really good rum.
  5. If you’ve got a babysitter coming round, clean up the night before. Don’t wait until you’re all ready in your new dress and they call you to say they’ve just got off the bus at the end of your road. And don’t decide then to do things ‘properly,’ with bleach.  Some designers can pull off bleach spattered clothes, but you probably can’t (especially if they’re made of creased rayon.)
  6. Don’t stand on a bottle of children’s turquoise sun cream when you’re going away for two weeks, look at the stain on your cream carpet, think ‘oh,” then rush out of the door.
  7. Get a mop and bucket. Cleaning the floor by spraying it with bleach then scooting around on an old muslin square is highly recommended, but by the time your child is six, you’re probably running low on muslin squares.
  8. Don’t buy cheap tin openers. They always break. One day, when you’re stressed and knackered and decide to cook a ‘quick and easy’ tea, you’ll end up trying to prise open a tin of beans with a knife and pliers, cutting your fingers, crying and going to the chippy. You will forget about this incident until the next time you decide to cook a ‘quick and easy’ tea.
  9.  If more than one person lives in your house, don’t scrimp on the toaster. If you buy a cheap, two-slot model, you will never be able to sit down and eat two slices of toast together, or one person will always have a cold round. Also, the toaster will probably fail after a few weeks, cutting out the electricity supply to the whole house every time you press down the lever.
  10. Don’t make ‘espressos’ by pouring half a jar of instant coffee into a mug and topping up with boiling water. They might offend your stomach and you won’t sleep for weeks.
* Sadly, all tips featured are based on real life experiences.

Our bottom of the range toaster. Brand name disguised by our otherwise useless tin opener.



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Blue Skies, Rainbow Shins


“I hate this!” wailed Tom, “It isn’t even fun.”

“Yes it is,” I lied, “just think how you’ll feel when you can do it.”

Yesterday was the day Tom would learn to ride his bike (take fifty.) We practised going up and down our street. Every time I let go, he veered into people’s front doors and cars, screaming and landing in a heap, narrowly missing dog turd. He was wearing knee and elbow pads, but was still managing to get quite a collection of colourful cuts and bruises. At one point, I somehow ended up tangled up with him and the bike, a hole in my leggings, gravel in my palm, both of us half-laughing, half-crying.

“I don’t even want to do this, Mum!”

“Come on, let’s go to the park.”

“Do we have to?”


Tom carried on creating all down the street. His shouts and growls drowned out power washers, stereos, lawnmowers and strimmers.  I felt like an evil parent, forcing my child to do this thing he hated when he should have been having a happy day in the sun.

“Go on lad, you can do it,” said a shirtless stranger, smoking on his doorstep.

“No I can’t!”

“No such word as can’t, mate!”

In the park, Tom carried on wobbling all over the place and crashing into trees and bins. I was getting tired and my back was killing.

“Can I not just go on the play area now?”

“Yeah, go on.”

And I lay in the grass, watching him through the spokes of his bike wheels. Everything else has been thankfully easy: swimming, reading, writing (after a shaky, left-handed start.) Perhaps he just wasn’t going to be able to ride a bike. Perhaps we should just forget it for a bit.

“Come on, let’s go in,” I said, when it started to get cold.

“Do I have to push my bike all the way home?”


“Oh! I just hate it. The stupid pedals bash my legs.”

“Don’t be so ungrateful.”

Today was even warmer than yesterday. I hung the washing in the yard and threw out a load of rubbish. Tom asked me to put on Mr Blue Sky by E.L.O. and we had a little dance round the living room. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin the mood with another battle of wills and wheels.

“Do we have to take my bike to the park?”

“Yes. You’re going to do it today, I know you are.”

I wanted to have faith in him, but I wasn’t convinced that the day wouldn’t end with a tantrum in a flower bed.

There were so many distractions in the park: prams, frisbees, dogs, the ice cream van blasting out Match of the Day.

“Can I not just go and play, Mum?”

“Let’s just try, one more time.”

We came to an empty, shady path. I held on to the back of the saddle, feeling him go in a straight line and gather momentum.

“Don’t let go Mum, don’t let go!”

“OK,” I lied, again, letting go.

And this just happened…

“Did I just ride my bike, by myself?” he said, when he finally realised.


“Yesss! Give me five!”

And when he’d finished leaping around the play area, he asked me if he could ride it home.


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I Can’t Bake

.. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t own a polka dot pinny or a ‘keep calm and carry on’ poster or anything remotely connected with cupcakes. I prefer not to have much to do with eggs because of that mucus that trails out when you crack them open. I’m good at stir fries and curries and things on the hob but I tend to avoid the oven. Last week, I managed to plunge my finger into a ready-made shepherd’s pie that was so burnt that its plastic tray had disintegrated. I don’t watch the UK’s Next Top Master Baker. I don’t spend days in a kitchen bathed in sunlight and daffodils, helping my child to make fairy cakes (thankfully, Tom does get to do baking with his Nan and Aunties.)

I can’t bake and if I’m honest, I sometimes feel a bit left out because it looks as though all mums are supposed to. No one teaches you how to bake cupcakes in antenatal classes. (Actually, I didn’t go to those – maybe they do.)

I can’t bake. But I can buy a Morrisons tray bake, shower it in brown sugar and sculpt stuff out of icing to plonk on the top. And I’m bloody proud of that.


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Not Now Hmmm Yes Very Good

This was a post about being a “not now” mum. You know, like the mum and dad in Not Now Bernard. It was about how Tom got that book for his second birthday and I vowed never to be the kind of parent who says “not now” but about how it’s really hard not to do that when you’ve just got so much to do. Sometimes, I’m a “not now” mum, a “hmm” mum and a “yes, very good” mum.

In the post, I wrote about how Tom had been to see Oliver with his Auntie.

“Was it good?” I yawned the next morning, swinging my legs out of bed and scanning the floor for something passable to wear. The cat mounted my shoulders and yowled in my ear.

“Yes it was ace. But Bill Sykes killed a Nazi.”

“Good,” I said.

Hang on, I thought, shrugging off the cat, Dickens wasn’t around in World War II. And I’m not supposed to say ‘good’ about murder, of anyone.

“WHAT?!” I said, at exactly the same time Tom said “GOOD?!”

“It was Nancy. Bill Sykes killed Nancy. Got a bit mixed up there, Mum.”

Anyway, there was more in the original version of this post, about how I think our brains only have the capacity to think about a certain amount of things at once, so when your brain’s going: ‘Work, dinner money, uniform, shin pads, Beavers, friends, birthday presents, food shop, swimming, bills, cat  litter, book writing, hoovering, reading record, swimming, nits, school plays, washing up, Egypt fancy dress, cobwebs, drama club, no toilet roll, bedtime story, dirty pots…’ it can be difficult not to go “hmmm” when your child asks you how many grains of sand there are on a beach, or if a zillion is really a number, or if Edwin Starr is still alive, or what colours are on the flag for Luxembourg.

Christ knows how people manage with more than one.

The post said all of this, but then I managed to delete it right after posting it and then it was Monday and it was work and school and hobbies and I didn’t have a chance to write it again. I can’t remember how it went, but the main thing was the ending…

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote Sunshine on a Sofa Day to try to win us a Thomson Al Fresco holiday? Well, it worked, I won! Come summer, thanks to Al Fresco and Tots100 Tom and I are off to a beautiful beach in the South of France. One week, just the two of us, no “not nows”, no “hmms”, no “yes very goods.” We can’t wait. We’re going to have a brilliant time. I’m really looking forward to relaxing by the sea and giving Tom my complete and undivided attention. (But I’m not counting grains of sand.)


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