MM, Beyoncé, and the Hideous Hag.

I feel like a hideous old hag today. I have decided to take this with humour, so here is a hideous old hag poem penned especially for you (and you, and you, and you). Step aside, Wordsworth. 

Snow White Mirror 1

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know how the story goes:

“Snow White and Queen Crooked Nose”.

A corny tale. All soft and sappy.

Boy meets girl, and all ends happy.

Snow White’s young and Snow White’s simple,

 Each cheek sports a little dimple.

(Fore or aft cheek? I won’t say –

I think it’s funnier that way).

On her skin there’s not a wrinkle,

crows’ feet or the slightest pimple.

Now what about Queen Crooked Nose?

Everyone knows one of those.

Over fifty, smells of bleach,

and wears men’s Y-fronts on the beach.

An evil cow, she has been known

to lock up kiddies all alone

Then bully them as they implore

her not to make them lick the floor.

Abruptly from her slumbers torn,

Crooked Nose awoke one morn,

Dreams of Prince Charming on a ladder

Disturbed by morse code from her bladder.

Crooked Nose said, “Bugger me!

My bladder’s full – I need a wee!”

She lifted up her evil head

and staggered slowly out of bed.

In the bathroom, washing hands,

in front of mirror Crooky stands.

She nods her head and says, “Woohoo!

Snow White, I’m prettier than you!”

Pulling close she strikes a stance

Like Cindy Crawford in a trance.

“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?”

The mirror chokes.

The lightbulb flickers

As Crooked Nose drags on big knickers.

Into the mirror the old hag stares,

Her hairy nostrils widely flared.

“I asked a question!” she declared.

“Please answer, then I’ll go downstairs.”

The mirror said, “I’ve had my dose

Of vanity in panty hose.

You’ve asked for it so here we go:

Don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

You’re an old hag, through and through,

So please wake up and smell the brew.

Although the news may make you blue,

Snow White’s light years ahead of you.”

This little ditty is the result of a rude awakening at breakfast this morning (I only wake up when I have drunk my coffee). You can either read on to understand, or turn off your computer and go and do something more exciting, like writing a poem. (If I can do it, so can you.)

All mothers remember that moment when your child comes up really close, holds your face in his hot little hands, and stares earnestly right into your soul. He informs you with great seriousness that you are “the most beautiful mummy in the whole wide world” before planting a heartfelt, soggy kiss halfway across your eye and running off, leaving you with your heart fluttering, your stomach jiggling like a gym bag full of crickets, and salty, happy tears mingling with the trail of snot they left on your cheek.

Well, this morning, after seventeen years of reign, I lost my position as Most Beautiful Mummy in the World. Yup. Heartbreaking stuff. I’ve been demoted – I’ve lost my Most Beautiful Mummy Badge. I am gutted.

I would get over it, cos hey… shit happens. Seventeen years have taken their toll on me – gravity had the great idea of pulling my boobs downwards and sticking them on my butt. Yet what peeved me isn’t the fact that I’m not as beautiful as I was 17 years ago. It’s because I have been thrown off the podium by none other than Beyoncé. Bigfoot informed me this morning that she had been elected “the most beautiful mother in the world”. As he grabbed my laptop to show me a video of her gyrating and pouting across a beach, my heart sank into my boots.

Beyonce

“Bigfoot! Yoohooo! I’m over here!” Beyonce waiting for Bigfoot at Los Angeles Airport. (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

Beyoncé is a mother; all resemblance with MM stops there. Her assets have enabled her to pip me to the post: apparently, a pert bosom, a butt tauter than Rocco Siffredi’s jock strap, and the aptitude to fold herself in half whilst singing and pouting into a camera outweigh my meagre contribution to Bigfoot’s happiness. I’m weedy competition – my lousy getting up every night for two years on the trot, cleaning up sick, wiping up tears, lying through my teeth to lovesick teenaged girls at the door whilst he hid behind the sofa and taxiing him to and from parties in the dead of night don’t appear to come anywhere close.

So Beyoncé, as the Abba song goes, “the winner takes it all”. I’m sad, but you’ll be inheriting him just as soon as I’ve got his ticket sorted. Just a couple of things: Bigfoot needs lots of food. If he slaps you on the backside and shouts « Run, everyone –  tsunamiiiii! », it actually means that he quite likes you. If he goes all quiet on you, leave him be and he’ll be back to talk when he needs to. And watch out at the shopping mall, he’s got expensive tastes in clothing. When you’ve both had enough, can you ask him who the most beautiful mother in the world is? Thanks.

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Guidelines for a Harmonious Home.

Domestic Diva Depression.

Domestic Diva Depression (care of MM Playmo productions).

 

Ok, kids, let’s get this straight. Since I became a mother I have discovered a side to me I had never imagined in my wildest dreams. The amazing ability to give you the piece of chocolate I got with my coffee. A capacity to wake up, get up and clear up your vomit at 3 am and even soothe you back to sleep afterwards.  The willpower to drive 60 km back to the zoo to rescue your favourite toy from a night with the monkeys. I have covered for you when you’ve cheated on eating your veggies. I’ve even run for you, something I usually only reserve as a solution for urgent predicaments like being chased by a three-headed monster.

 

But today, when I walked into your bedrooms, something happened. Somehow, that blind instinct to clear up behind you backfired then disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving me wondering why, oh why, I’ve been so downright passive for so long. Any burglar breaking into our house would take one look, presume that someone got there before him, and leave.

 

Being a cool kind of mum, I’ve thought this over and have drawn up a short list of helpful comments for your future assignment: clearing up after yourselves.

 

Sorting out the escape kit

The pile of dirty laundry had become difficult to handle for the boys after Mum decided to go on strike (Photo credit: theirhistory)

 

1. CLOTHING.

 

In this house, clothing mysteriously takes over each and every room. Orphaned socks sob inconsolably in baskets, prowl dangerously under the beds and scream to be released from the depths of hastily deserted, concertina-ed trouser legs. Forgotten pullovers drape casually over armchairs, shoes pile up at the door like a modern-day mecca.

 

You know what? Contrary to common belief, clothing is incapable of clearing itself away. The underwear, shirts, jeans and pullovers that you leave on your bedroom floor will not miraculously drag themselves through the door like Private Ryan, crawl down the corridor and clamber, exhausted, into the laundry basket for salvation…. however long you wait. I was curious enough to do the experiment myself: after leaving the clothing on your respective floors for an entire week, the only direct result to be reported was a mini-Kilimanjaro in each bedroom, and three children who stoically mountaineered though the debris to their beds but strangely had nothing left to wear.

 

I would also like to stress the importance of picking up the piles of carefully folded clothing on the bottom stair, and taking them upstairs to the relevant rooms. Yes, another scientifically designed “Mum test” has proved that in the case of clothing piles being neatly and equally distributed over the width of two consecutive steps, the average family member somehow still manages to step over them and climb the stairs empty-handed (the alternative theory being that folded laundry is merely visible to the person who folded it, dexterously dematerializing on the arrival of any other human being, but this is much more difficult to prove).

 

Please bear in mind that any clean, folded clothing found abandoned on the bedroom floor as a last-ditch attempt to get back to previous more “enlightening” activities such as TV or texting to (officially ex-) girlfriends will result in a maternal desire to burn the aforementioned articles and innocently claim that they have been eaten by the washing machine.

 

2. THE BATHROOM.

 

Unlike the universe, a roll of toilet paper cannot be argued to be infinite, and it is really not cool at all to finish the roll and leave the cardboard tube for the next person. FORWARD PLANNING, guys…. Think about it. It’s either that, or you get woken up by a snarling genitor screaming for loo roll at 6.30 am.

 

English: Two cats in a bathroom; Moxie attacks...

Yeah, sure. It was the cat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

And now, a special request to male members of the family (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one…): As we so nicely say in England, “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie: wipe the seatie”. Strangely enough, we girls don’t miss the target, yet we’re the ones who get to clear up after you guys, who seem to confuse part of your anatomy with a pressure hose. It would also be an added bonus to female members of the family if you could put the seat back down and flush: Innocent mothers who go to the loo in the dark to avoid waking the entire house generally jar their backs falling the extra unexpected centimetre and scream when they hit cold porcelain with their pyjama-warmed behinds.

 

3. THE KITCHEN.

 

a) If you know how to get things out of a fridge or a cupboard, then you know how to put them back.

 

b) Here’s a bit of Kitchen Pythagoras: The distance from the table to the sink is equal to the distance between the table and the dishwasher. Just to remind you: take a straight line south from the tap, then follow through left to the dishwasher door, which opens and gratefully accepts all donations. Please realise that if there had ever been a gas leak in the dishwasher, I would have died years ago given the amount of time I spend with my head stuck inside it.

 

c) Note about reactions on seeing full cupboards and fridge.

 

  • RIGHT: “Wow, thanks Mum! We’ve got food for the entire week!”

 

  • WRONG: “what do you mean, that was meant for lunch on Wednesday? School canteen was crap today.”

 

4. ELECTRICAL HOUSEHOLD EQUIPMENT.

 

All our electrical equipment has been thoroughly house trained, so please feel free to create a lasting relationship with any member of our menagerie. Take the vacuum cleaner for a walk through your bedroom; he will be delighted to discover the unknown territory underneath your beds, and will happily eat the monsters lurking there so that they don’t devour you as you sleep. A vacuum cleaner is a bit like a man; you can easily turn him both on and off, and all you have to do is fill his stomach to hear him purr with pleasure.

 

A vacuum cleaner from AEG

It’s the household equivalent of Nike: Just Do It.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Likewise, the tumble drier does not bite, and when she politely requires assistance by beeping gently, a gentle push on her door will suffice to remove the contents of her tum, hence relieving her of the laundry equivalent of constipation and filling your drawers with clean, fragrant clothing. It’s a win-win situation.

 

So, my darlings, there you have it. If you have any questions, I’m chilling out with a glass of rosé in the vegetable tray…

 

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My Letter to Father Christmas.

... Mitzi Gaynor flaunts her tree!

MM waiting for Father Christmas (Photo credit: x-ray delta one)

Dear Father Christmas,

I know I’m technically too old to write to you, but if you add the two numbers in my age together it makes nine, so please hear me out.

You noticed me last weekend. I was peeping anxiously through the frosted panes of your wooden cabin, and talking in hushed tones with my daughter, Little My. You were trying to reassure a little boy who was screaming uncontrollably on your knees and beating hell out of your shins with his heels. His eyes were wide with terror, whilst yours were watering from the pain. But you managed to force a smile, and his grandmother laughed and took photos with her telephone. I bet she has a coat made of Dalmatian puppies at home.

As I watched children wander in and out of your cabin, I wondered if Mother Christmas has to serve you a large whisky and several mince pies to get over your emotions when you kick off your boots at the end of each long day spent in that artificial winter wonderland of tinsel, spray snow and canned music. Although you must get lovely children coming to visit, I reckon you have a fair deal of spoilt brats too, and there must be times when you have an overriding desire to let a rabid Rudolf loose in the shopping centre on a seek-and-destroy mission.

I told Little My that it’s a good job you’re not on the same contract as Tinkerbell, or you’d be a gonner by now, with all the kids who have said they don’t believe in you. I met a six-year-old recently who had already cracked the Christmas Code. My cheerful enquiry about what she had ordered from you was met with incredulity, and disdain dripped off her like fat off a spit-roasted duck as she coolly enquired, “Didn’t you know that it’s the grown-ups who buy the presents?”

Like many other primary school children, she is gunning for a gift from the mean team that hangs out in the fruit bowl  – Blackberry, Orange and Apple. She did not appear the slightest bit sad that your warm, reassuring light had gone out in her young existence, and I was flummoxed; when Little My realised that you didn’t exist, hot tears of frustration had poured down her face as she whispered, “Can we rewind to yesterday, please?” I felt so badly for her, torn between wanting to grow up and retaining the comfort of childhood.

You interrupted my thoughts and smiled at us through your beard, beckoning graciously to my daughter with a white, glove-clad hand. Except it wasn’t Little My who was hesitating about coming to sit on your lap. It was me. And although Little My was encouraging me to go and talk to you, I decided I wouldn’t show her up (or break your legs).

The last time I sat on your lap and asked you for something, it was in 2009. (My age at that time was 41: adjusted age 4+1= 5.) You listened patiently, nodding your head, then gave me a piece of gingerbread. Your kind eyes sparkled as you said that I hadn’t reversed PF’s car into a street bench on purpose, and that the evil detector on the car had no doubt deliberately omitted to tell me that the bench was there, just to get me into trouble before Christmas. Then you let me down gently, telling me that your elves didn’t know how to make bumpers for cars, and that even if they did, it would be too big to fit down the chimney. But I felt better, and I had a sneaking feeling that you enjoyed having a big girl sitting on your lap for a change.

Gladys looked through the instructions for the part about ramming the Hoover down Robert's throat. (image  Jaes Vaughan, Flikr)

Gladys looked through the instructions for the part about ramming the Hoover down Robert’s throat. (photo credit: x-ray delta one)

You may have noticed that for the moment I have not asked you for anything: as a (fake) grown-up, I now have the liberty to buy my own playmobils. Apart from that, with age I have come to realise that the important things in life cannot be bought or made by elves and put into a Christmas stocking. They must be earned and maintained: love, laughter, trust and respect being just a few.

I do however have a few Christmas wishes. I don’t want any Domestic Goddess accessories, so feel free to give them to someone who will actually use them. However, If your old magic still works please could you sort out the following:

  • Health, happiness and serenity for everyone. Please bring good news and a peaceful, joyful break for those who have uninvited guests called Illness, Uncertainty or Sorrow for Christmas.
  • An intravenous drip of lucidity, humility and common sense for the leaders of nations who are slowly but surely stifling freedom of expression and reducing human rights for their citizens, and a well-aimed kick in the nether regions of any religious representatives, whatever their persuasion, who use their position to extol the virtues of hatred and preach intolerance under the guise of Godly goodness.
  • The long-term loan of a few elves during your low season (ten months) to do the housework, clean the car and go to the bottle bank. They would have full board and lodgings, and be able to play in the garden in the summer. That way you’ll have time to get your head around next year’s delivery schedule. It’s a win-win situation.

Thank you for reading, Father Christmas. A very Merry Christmas to you.

Love,

MM.

The Secret Diary of a Smug Married.

Bridget Jones is back. She has apparently gone full-circle, and is now Mark Darcy-less once again. The question is, am I going to read a third serving of Bridget?

I really don’t know. I remember loving the first two books. Then a few years and three births later, I picked up the first book again, and realised that my initial sympathy for the misunderstood, nicotine-addicted bachelorette had not only waned, but had been replaced by a sneaking desire to slip into the pages and stick her oversized knickers over her head. After a day knee-deep in toys, trying to deal with the laundry equivalent of Vesuvius whilst a newborn baby mistook my nipples for chewing gum, a wailing, incontinent two-year-old clung to my shins and my five-year-old cut up the magazine I had bought in a feverish moment of optimism two months before, the last thing I needed to read about when I had five minutes barricaded in the loo was a singleton wino whining because she was alone with a bottle of wine and the TV remote.

Many years further down the line, I must admit that I am curious to know what kind of mother Bridget became. Did she finally realise how lucky she had been to be able to fall out of bed after a full night’s sleep and have a shower without a posse of screaming under-fives trying to batter the door down? We will never know. Not only is Mark Darcy dead (no more Colin Firth for the next film, sniff), but the novel starts when Bridget is 51 and widowed; we will never see Bridget testing the water as the Smug Married she detested so much. So without wishing to step on Helen Fielding’s toes, here is an extract from “The Secret Diary of a Smug Married” – an example of what really happens after being swept off your feet by your personal Mark Darcy.

Tupperware advertisement featuring a Joe Stein...

Wonder Woman, the ultimate Smug Married, admiring her stolen collection of Tupperware Trophies. (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

  FRIDAY.

6.15 a.m. Dream involving a beach, a book and a huge Italian ice cream interrupted by two-year-old peeling open eyelid and saying, “Bekfust.”

6.30 a.m. Test pain threshold by stepping on Lego brick in the dark. Track down reluctant school-age offspring hibernating under quilts. Stagger downstairs. Trip over cat. Find coffee jug. Cat bites foot. Pour coffee. Cat bites other foot. Feed cat. Drink coffee.

6.45 a.m. Husband appears, requests specific item of clothing. Establish that said garment is still in sodden, wet ball inside washing machine. Make secret wish to transform into hybrid of Adriana Karambeu and Martha Stewart who wakes up with perfectly toned body, brushed hair and perfect make-up, and always finds the right lids for her Tupperware boxes.

7 a.m. Step on bathroom scales, see with pleasure that weight is still “LO”. Push scales lovingly back into place, vow never to change the batteries again. Run downstairs and polish off remaining pain au chocolat on kitchen work top. Congratulate self for altruistic act, thus ensuring that thieving, bulimic cat will not be sick on floor and children will not argue at breakfast table.

7.45 a.m. Leave for school with eight-year-old, five-year-old and two-year-old. Spot Wonder Woman carrying cake box. With sinking stomach, remember promise to make cake for infant school cake stand.

8 a.m.  Kiss child number one good bye. Buy Wonder Woman’s overpriced organic carrot cake as soon as it arrives on Junior school cake stand.

8.15 a.m. Drop off child number two at infant school. Cheerfully hand over home-made carrot cake. Magnanimously inform teacher that you are available to accompany children on school trip to local fire station. Teacher declines and expresses delight at unexpected mass of mothers ready to make time for school activities. Roll eyes. Explain that line-up of firefighters is somewhat more attractive prospect for 30-something mothers than traipsing to library in pouring rain. Recommend giving priority to mothers who may decide against attending further winter swimming pool sessions to dry and dress 25 shivering five-year-olds in five minutes.

8.20 a.m. Leave school having secured place on school trip.

1950s Modern Kitchen, Automatic Dishwasher, 1953

“…and Mummy’s left enough room for you too, unless you go and wash your hands NOW”. (Photo credit: classic_film)

8.30 a.m. Clear collateral damage from breakfast and emerge from kitchen to find two-year-old recreating M&M’s scene from E.T using cat food and enthusiastic family feline.

9.30 a.m. Switch into professional person mode and work on laptop as two-year-old remains miraculously quiet in corner.

10.30 a.m. Discover reason for offspring’s silence: Little My has thoughtfully illustrated and coloured each page of sibling’s library book. Play figurines and fight with daughter over casting Prince Charming as broom-pusher and Cinderella as heroine on horseback.

11.45 a.m. Realise that PF’s sodden clothing is still waiting in machine. Drag into back yard, hang it on the line. Hide underwear behind sheets just in case neighbour has underwear fetish.

12.30 p.m. Open fridge. Regret self-satisfied purchase of healthy stuff for lunch at supermarket instead of the chips and pizza seen in other mums’ baskets. Stare at phone and will it to ring with invitation for calorie-loaded lunch and bottle of wine. Phone remains mute. Push salad to back of fridge. Eat fish fingers and pasta with Little My.

1 p.m. Attempt telephone conversation with insurance company. Reassure person on other end of line that it is not her you are telling her to stop picking her nose, but your two-year-old.

1.15 p.m. Cuddle child to sleep.

1.45 p.m. Awaken dribbling into pillow beside snoring child.

3.45 p.m. Lift head from work, realise that child is still asleep and siblings will be released from class in 20 minutes. Recognise sound of rain on window. Run outside to get soaking laundry, put in washing machine on full spin. Wake up two-year-old with cheerful “Let’s get dressed!”

4.10 p.m. Arrive at school to collect children with red-eyed, triumphant child wearing Fairy Queen costume, rain coat and Wellington boots. Nod head modestly at congratulations for wonderful cake with fingers crossed behind back. Make mental note to ask Wonder Woman for recipe incase anyone asks for it.

5.30 p.m. Homework vortex. Faced with suspicious face of oldest child, acknowledge inadequate mastering of rocket science (aka primary school maths), and agree that sub-standard mother trailing meagre literary excuse for University education cannot understand said subject of genius. Invite child to consult the Oracle, aka his genitor, on his return from the land of the living.

6.30 p.m. Return of family silver back. Cook dinner with a little wine (wine in glass, not in dinner).

Dan

The Tooth Fairy’s husband (Photo credit: obscene_pickle)

7.30 p.m.  Write letter to Tooth Fairy after epic tooth fairy fail on previous night : “Dear Tooth Fairy. Mum is sorry about last night. She swept up my tooth with the bread crumbs by mistake. But it was a pretty tooth. If you want it, Mum says it’s in the wheelie bin.” Consider asking Tooth Fairy’s husband to brandish magic wand at crack of dawn for a change. Decide against this: karma may bite Tooth Fairy on backside if husband interprets the notion of waving magic wand differently than intended.

8 p.m. Argue over choice of film. Wish self was Bridget Jones alone on sofa with bottle of Chardonnay and TV remote.

10 p.m. Throw self headfirst on bed in dark yelling “Geronimooooo!!!!!!!!!”. Find bed surprisingly lumpy. Bed says “ouch” and giggles. Make mental note to check if children are hiding in bed before repeating exercise. Feel like smug married. Enjoy.

10.30 p.m. In dark, husband enquires about item of clothing. Realise that it is still in sodden ball  in the washing machine.

The Final Curtain

Try as I might, and much to PF’s amusement, I have never managed to avoid shedding an emotional tear or ten when faced with a pint-sized line-up of singing pumpkins, wise men or flowers at primary school events. I’m a soppy so-and-so, and being reminded that my kids are growing up way too fast kicks me viciously in the lacrimals each and every time.

Needless to say, there is nothing delicate or feminine about an MM going into emotional melt-down. Unlike the delicate mums who roll their eyes towards the ceiling to subdue the solitary tear in each rimmelled eye, my face generally crumples up like a 2CV in a motorway pile-up. I then reach into my pocket for a tissue, realise that I used up the last one to clean my hands after I dripped diesel on my fingers at the petrol pump, and end up with a choice between my sleeve or a vintage shopping list.

Kleenex logo

Kleenex: my trusty sponsor for thirteen years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year I was proud to get away with red eyes and a large lump in my throat. Thirteen years of primary school for my children had flashed by in what felt like the blink of an eye, and before I knew what had hit me, I was in the playground for the last junior school concert I would attend for one of my offspring.

Wonder Woman had already set up residence in the front row with her groupies, and was impatiently drumming her perfect nails on her video recorder (which, needless to say, had both a fully charged battery and a memory card). I will miss seeing her and her immaculately groomed kids. For those of you who don’t know her, Wonder Woman is the misunderstood matriarch of the maternal mafia. She’s the one who lurks by the refreshments stand at the school fête to police the access to her organic carrot cake. When you battle up the hill to school on your battered old egg-beater of a bike, Wonder Woman is the one who overtakes you with a sadistic, self-satisfied smirk, comfortably perched on her electric broomstick bike as she glides up the hill like a sinister, modern-day version of Mary Poppins. And at the concert, Wonder Woman was the one who had attacked her kid with a pair of curling tongs, making her look like a crossbreed of Orphan Annie and a Crufts contestant.

A hybrid of Orphan Annie and a Crufts contestant.

As I can see you wondering, here’s a hybrid of Orphan Annie and a Crufts contestant, courtesy of Little My and Smelly Dog.

The show began. A member of staff started battering at her glockenspiel as if it had done her an injustice in an earlier life. The beaming music teacher gesticulated wildly in front of the class, and stabbed her finger energetically at Annie Cruft, who obligingly broke into a warbling, off-key rendition of a Polynesian lullaby.

It took me a while to spot Little My in the sea of costumed children. My daughter was hiding in the back row, swaying imperceptibly in her Hawaiian dancer costume. My throat tightened as I glumly realised that this moment was soon to be archived in the family records under “Primary”. A wave of emotion welled up in me, but it was nipped in the bud by the wonderful sight of a miniature Speedy Gonzales. He was singing half-heartedly in the second row, gazing into oblivion from the shade of his sombrero as he absent-mindedly ferreted in his nostril in search of an afternoon snack.

The show was fantastic  – except for one vahiné who ended up in tears when her safety-pin let her (and her grass skirt) down mid-tamuré, it all went smoothly. The children had come a long way since the infant school gigs where baby squirrels seized up in a panic attack, dropped their papier-mâché nuts and ran off screaming into the arms of embarrassed mummy squirrels in the back row.

Speedy Gonzales (film)

Now you know what Speedy gets up to under that hat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The spectators were fun viewing, too. A small child danced in a happy trance in the no-mans land of trailing cables and maracas between the pupils and the parental posse. An adult tutted, turned and stared malevolently at the kid who was kicking the back of his seat.  Beaming grandparents took photographs. A child loudly announced that he wanted to pee and stumbled his way along the row of seats with his embarrassed father, who tripped over the tripod of the man who was filming the show just when he’d made it through the jungle of legs.

As the cast lined up to a standing parental ovation, babies wailed and grandmothers wiped away proud tears. Speedy Gonzales wiped his finger on his trousers. My face tried to fold into maternal origami, and I swear I saw Wonder Woman rolling her mascara-ed eyes towards the ceiling to catch the tears. Annie Cruft waved enthusiastically to the audience with one hand and readjusted her knickers with the other as the curtain fell on my Primary parenting years. It was time for us to start a new chapter in life….. but only after one last slice of Wonder Woman’s organic carrot cake.

Rest In Pisces.

Jamie's last resting place.

Jamie’s last resting place.

“Dearly beloved.” It was worthy of a Sicilian funeral. Little My’s Best Female Friend cleared her throat and grinned at her pal from below the syringa tree at the bottom of the garden. The cicadas scratched relentlessly in the hot stillness of the Provençal afternoon. Sitting on one of the garden chairs that the girls had neatly lined up for the funeral, I repressed the urge to laugh at Gargamel, strategically positioned to spy on us through the hole he had crafted in his garden wall.

“Please bring me the deceased”. Little My rose from her chair and shuffled forwards. The recently bereaved goldfish owner was stylishly clad in a frilly black taffeta skirt, a spaghetti strap top and bright green flip-flops. She proffered the lifeless body of Jamie the goldfish,  nestled in the palm of a bright red washing-up glove: the matriarch dictator, alias yours truly, had insisted that Jamie’s state of decay required protection for her hands.

BFF opened a small wooden box, and Little My ceremoniously laid her fishy friend in the bottom. (Sorry, Granny, the box you kindly gave Little My several years ago was the ideal size for a goldfish coffin, and is now buried at the bottom of the garden. We sincerely hope that you bought it from the Salvation Army shop).

The funeral eulogy was short and sweet. “Jamie will be missed. He was a good goldfish. He loved water, and played in it every day. Rest in peace”. BFF flashed a smile at her pal, then they both dissolved into peals of laughter. As Little My peeled off her rubber gloves, she muttered: “Hey, you missed something out!” She spoke into the box. “Marie and Eva are both sorry you died too. Well, they would have been if they’d known, but they’re on holiday”.

BFF passed the miniature coffin to the bereaved owner, and enthusiastically grabbed the garden spade whilst Little My sanctimoniously closed the lid on Jamie’s 18 months of watery existence. The coffin was gently laid at the bottom of the hole dug by the girls earlier that afternoon. BFF shovelled earth over him, then the two friends stamped the earth down and laid pebbles in the form of a cross on the freshly turned earth.

Silence ensued. BFF’s anxious face betrayed the fact that she had noticed Little My’s distress: despite the fun they had derived from this unusual activity, her friend was now feeling sad. She stretched out her hand and gently squeezed Little My’s. The two little girls held hands and looked solemnly down at the grave.

“I’ll miss him,” Little My said with a wobbling voice. BFF didn’t say a word, and put her arm around her pal. I fought the lump that rose in my throat. BFF turned Little My to face her, and stroked her cheek compassionately. As tears welled up in my eyes, BFF said, “Hey, don’t worry. If you miss him, we can always dig him up from time to time”. Now that’s what friends are for.

One Fish, Two Fish? Dead Fish: Goldfish.

English: An image of a Common goldfish

RIP Jamie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jamie, the kitchen-dwelling goldfish, is no more. He is no doubt at the gates to that great goldfish bowl in the sky, finding out if he will spend the afterlife swimming around Paradise Plaice or grilling with the despicable small fry in the Deep Fat Fryer.

I found him flapping around his tank in distressed circles yesterday morning, bumping clumsily into his Easter Island statue. He then went into a slow tail spin that ended in a soft landing on his pottery fish. Neptune looked on with compassion as Jamie wallowed helplessly on his side like a drunk marooned on a park bench.

As I strode over to check him out, something viscous squished between my toes. Suffice to say that MM now has irrefutable proof that it is indeed unlucky to cross the path of a black cat, particularly if it has confused your kitchen floor with its litter tray overnight. With the relative hindsight of a whole day, MM can also assure French readers that walking in la merde with your left foot does NOT bring you good luck. Even (-or rather, particularly-) if the foot is bare.

Jamie was as off colour as a vibrantly orange goldfish can be, and I prepared myself to inform Little My that her finned friend was in his final death throes. I’m sure that the sensitive readers are no doubt already dewy-eyed, muttering “poor kid” and grabbing a box of paper tissues before continuing this post. Don’t bother. Little My has a very candid approach to life, hence her nickname. I was already sure that I wouldn’t have to deal with histrionics – a fish is a fish. A dying fish, however, is fascinating.

I called my daughter and brought her to the patient’s bedside. Her eyes widened in surprise. She put her hands on her hips, then stooped over the tank and bellowed with authority, “Oy, you! You can’t die now, we just gave you a bigger tank!” The kid is reality on legs. I had to agree with her. He had a groovy tank with fake plants, Neptune and his sidekicks to keep him company, a gravel bed to sleep on, regular food and water changes, and a REAL Easter Island statue (albeit a little one). It was downright ungrateful of him to try to die on us when he had the goldfish equivalent of Bucks Palace all to himself.

Whilst I ruminated about ichthyic ingratitude, Little My scooted over to the cutlery drawer and returned with a spoon. She carefully prodded the prostrate orange comma on the gravel bed. “There! That’s better! See, he’s straight!” Jamie flapped his fins bravely for the sake of appearance, then bellied up like a walrus, eyes bulging and gills heaving.

With the help of her faithful spoon, Little My transferred the patient to an improvised intensive care unit – the kitchen sink, filled with cool water. She gently sprinkled fish flakes over the surface, a little akin to a fisherman’s widow throwing flowers over the choppy black waters of the North Sea.

Operating room in the Elliot Community Hospital

The tender beginnings of goldfish surgery. (Photo credit: Keene and Cheshire County (NH) Historical Photos)

Meanwhile, a rapid diagnosis by a friend online had revealed that Jamie had a problem with his swim bladder. (Bladders are becoming a recurrent leitmotif on this blog.) Thanks to the link she provided, I discovered that all was not lost. The solution was easy: I could feed him a frozen pea to help him digest. I kid ye not. Pea sorbet for bloated bladders. Having no frozen peas available, the only other solution the website proposed was to take the fish to the vet for an operation. I was amazed. Do they operate under water with the help of a surgeon fish? Does the goldfish get the equivalent of an oxygen mask with water in it instead? Or does he have to hold his breath out of water, like in “Finding Nemo”? One day I will grow up. But not now, I’m having way too much fun.

Rugby-boy turned up, and they coached Jamie with enthusiastic fish physiotherapy. Aided by high-tech spoon support, Jamie swam a labourious lap of the kitchen sink, encouraged by raucous applause from my offspring. As Rugby-boy and Little My downed tools, victorious, Jamie rolled his flank sideways and bit the dust. Or rather, chewed gravel. (He’s a fish. Or was.)

“Mum,  I think he’s dead. Can we bury him in the garden?” Two enthusiastic little faces turned towards me. “Can we, Mum? Pleeeease?”

“Of course you can. Just make sure you bury him deep enough, or the cat will find him”.

They appeared satisfied. That was that, then – and family life immediately returned to normal. “What’s for lunch, mum?” The answer was automatic: “I dunno, kids… Anyone for sushi?”