Umbilical Cord: The Comeback.

Trachypithecus auratus

MM and Bigfoot back in 1996.

This parenting lark is one crazy ride. One minute you’re cradling a tiny little being in your arms, and the next, he’s morphed into a hulking great thing you tenderly refer to as “Bigfoot”. You find yourself in the car, jammed between the contents of your fridge and a double mattress, aiding and abetting in his departure from the nest.
It felt strangely like the day Bigfoot had started school. The same feelings were bubbling like lava in my abdomen – Pride. Anxiety. Instinct to protect. When we had exhausted all valid excuses for dallying longer in his new abode, we swallowed hard, beamed glassily at him, kissed him goodbye, and walked back down the stairs. The sound of him locking the door was both reassuring and gut wrenching.

Only when we were in the car, driving away, did I feel it.

The tug of that damned umbilical cord.

I swear that I saw PF cut it as I clutched my newborn in my arms. I heard it, too. A sound I have never forgotten, like someone trying to cut through a raw steak with a pair of round-ended school scissors. The symbolic act was accomplished – the physical cord was severed. Yet 18 years later, there we were, driving home down the motorway and discovering a second, invisible umbilical cord that needed cutting, all over again. Bigfoot had gone, and that damned cord was still there. Stronger and longer than a roll of Andrex. For the entire hour’s journey, it silently rolled itself out along the motorway behind us. As slick and  sinuous as licorice lace.

I have been hacking away at my end of it with determination ever since, using basic tools such as caustic self-derision, sharp wit and blunt common sense, but absolutely nothing will sever the bugger. It’s easy to understand why: Umbilical Cord, aka UC, is a determined cow. If she was girl at school, she’d be the one who noticed your hockey bruises in the changing room then prodded maliciously at them as you passed her in the corridor.
So I stoically ignore her as she stabs on the door bell of my mind. I hide. She pushes the letter box open, peers in, and yells through, her voice echoing up the staircase to the Maternal Instinct floor.
“Hey, anyone there? Yoo-hoo, MM, where are you? It’s me, UC. We met 18 years ago at the maternity ward, remember me? Uh… Anyway. I just wanted to say that I think you should check that Bigfoot got home tonight without being beaten up. Maybe he’s been mugged. Or he could have been kidnapped and served up on a bed of marshmallows by a gang of flesh-deprived cougars. After all, he’s a damn good-looking kid. Just saying.”
MM’s Common Sense Official shouts down the stairs that MM is in the bath, and refuses to be baited by such preposterous poppycock. (Yes, MM’s imagination has decided that the CSO is a rather spiffing Martini-drinking gent; a bit like James Bond, but better. So there.) He points out that Bigfoot doesn’t need to be called by his mother every two minutes, and is probably studying. Or watching a film on his laptop. Or out having a drink with his new friends. Or amazing Chosen Counterpart with his pasta-pesto creations. Or even (although highly improbable) doing the cleaning.
Umbilical Cord rolls her eyes, flicks her hair and retaliates, pulling out the heavy artillery. “Oh. My. God…. MM, are you sure he has made new friends? What if he’s alone in front of the TV, crying into a packet of M&Ms ? What if nobody checks on him when he doesn’t turn up for classes, and he’s prostrate on the bathroom floor because he slipped on the soap? You are just suuuuuch a bad mother. You should check if he’s eating right. He’s never too old to get rickets, you know. Then there’s scurvy. Oh, and you should ask if he remembered to send that paper to the bank….”
I drown her in a glass of rosé.
Later, when UC has given up, kicked off her Birkenstocks and gone to bed, I sneak my mobile phone under the covers to send a text message into the darkness: “Goodnight, Bigfoot“. ..and melt with relief when the screen lights up with “You too”.
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Growing Up: The Art of Role Reversal.

Throughout my childhood, I played with my Lego and Playmobils and sang songs by “The Wombles” with my sisters at the top of my voice. I loved the smell of wet earth after rain fall, jumped in piles of leaves, got tearful at the end of the school term and wondered why I got goose pimples when I heard people singing together. I pushed my finger into the corners of the crisp packet to enjoy the hidden remnants of the stinging salt and vinegar flavour. I wondered if all this would magically stop when I was a grown-up, and waited impatiently for the morning I would awake knowing what I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in life. That day, I would stride out of the door with my briefcase in my hand on my way to my Very Important Job (whatever that would be), pick my kids up from school and expertly manage my life as a super mum and spouse juggling children, work and marriage better than Martha Stewart ever could.

When I was 18, I did not know that at the age of 45 I would still be doing all those things (except becoming wonder woman – but I have a s**t load more fun with all that housework and ironing forgotten). I left home to study French at University, thrilled to be beginning my adult life – even if I only knew that I wanted to get my backside over to France and stay there for ever, it was a good enough start as any. My Dad took me to the railway station to wave me off, and although he did his best to contain his feelings, his emotion seeped into my every pore.

Although I didn’t entirely understand his state of mind at that time, the wheel has turned and today I sure as hell understand. In less time than it takes Flash Gordon to get to planet Mongo, I have grown older and the three kilos of my firstborn baby has morphed into a towering bilingual teen with a Baccalauréat grasped victoriously in his hand. He is ready to fly the coop, raring at the bit to move into his own apartment. He is making plans for the future. I am looking on with a mixture of anxiety, envy and pride. He is now making his own choices, and will maybe remember the looks on our faces as we wish him well in his new abode (at least until he arrives home with his first bag of laundry two weeks later). And one day, his choices may lead him to that very same place we stand as parents today. Wondering where the time has gone. Looking back at his youth, looking forward to his child’s adult life…. and maybe envisaging the moment when he will chase me down the street in my underwear and slippers, clutching an empty packet of crisps in my hand and jumping in leaves as I sing “Remember you’re a Womble” at the top of my voice.

Gizmo, the Smarty-Pants Phone.

English: "Stripe" Gremlin figure, le...

Never get water on Gizmo the smart phone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three weeks before my birthday, Norbert the Nokia kindly decided that I no longer needed the bottom row of keys, lined up like baby teeth at the bottom of my handset. From that moment onwards, I was condemned to only phoning the numbers that were already stashed away in Norbert’s memory, and I crossed my fingers that he would not suffer from amnesia as well as paralysed digits.

But that’s not all. I also had to get my head around a texting world that was devoid of the letters W, X, C, V,  B, M, and N. Texting became as easy as simultaneously whistling and cleaning your false teeth – it was like playing Scrabble with half the letters missing from the box. By the time I had found a synonym that did not need any of the missing letters, the person I was supposed to pick up at the bus stop had given up and walked home.

The major disadvantage of being deprived of these letters was that I was suddenly incapable of refusing anything to my children at distance, as I had no way to type the word “no” in a text message, whatever language I used. The absence of an immediate refusal was therefore interpreted as a tacit consent.

I can hear you all from here. “Why didn’t you just phone them?” I hear you ask. Simple. Using a phone to talk with parents went out with the arc (even if this was the only viable argument they had for buying the thing). When we parents call our offspring, we are generally greeted by the answering machine – taking a call from your mother on the school bus is as high on the humiliation scale as showing a pimple on your backside to your family GP.

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Gertrude and Doris enjoyed calling their children on their mobiles and muttering “I am your Mother” through their gas masks. (Photo credit: Foxtongue)

A teenager’s mobile phone could be defined as an alarm clock that allows its owner to play games, communicate with friends (by text message only), listen to music and avoid being spoken to by the kid in your class who wants to go out with you when waiting alone at the bus stop. It is also an ideal means to reverse those parent – offspring roles and keep constant track of your genitors – a bit like Argos transmitters on migratory birds. When I leave the house at the weekend, I have approximately ten minutes of freedom before the tracking squad kicks in with regular calls demanding where I am and what time I will be back. This makes me feel like a fifteen-year-old girl who’s been caught sneaking out the back door in her sister’s high heels and sequined boob tube when I’m just on a mission to fill the fridge for the second time in three days.

Anyway, I digress. When PF, Bigfoot, Little My and Rugby Boy took me off to choose my new phone for my birthday, I was a happy cookie. My offspring pointed excitedly at ultra thin phones – the technological equivalent of Paris Hilton after a run-in with a steam roller. The things just oozed sexiness, and when I saw the price label I realised why – they’d had enough microchip surgery to keep them looking young until the next model elbowed them off the telecommunications catwalk into early retirement six months later.

A salesman cruised around the corner and mooched over to us. Flashing a pearly white smile, he smoothly ran off the characteristics of the über-sexy model in his hand. When he stopped for breath, I asked, “So, does it phone?” He drew himself up to his full height – somewhere around my belly button. “Yes, madame. You can also takes pictures and videos, surf the web, get the weather all over the world, the news…” When he had finished, I asked: “Does it do the washing-up and bring me breakfast in bed too?”

He blinked. I explained that although it may appear strange, I don’t have an internet package for my phone – I actually enjoy the freedom of not being followed by social media and emails when I’m out. I just needed a phone that phones. I pointed behind him to a bright red candy-bar that could survive being dropped in the Atlantic, thrown off a cliff and run over by a tank. This little beauty had probably been designed by Playschool, and would survive well after the scorpions had kicked the bucket in the Apocalypse. I quickly found myself imagining the scene – I would tuck it under my lycra knicker elastic and be the new Lara Croft, albeit with less generous boobs and extra padding on my bottom half, bounding around the scorched remains of the earth. Yeah. The only girl with a phone that would work to call the President when the other survivor, Bruce Willis, got the network up and running…

The iStone: at the cutting edge of technology.

The iStone: at the cutting edge of technology.

Little My shook her head and dragged me out of my dream to show me another phone. Her siblings agreed: this was the real McCoy. And ever since, I have been the adoptive mother of Gizmo. Gizmo is a smart phone who is too big to fit in my jeans pocket but small enough to disappear in my handbag. He’s not just a smart phone, he’s a smarty-pants phone. His insatiable need for attention has driven me to lobotomise him by depriving him of his lifeline to the internet router after more disturbances than I care to mention. A night with a teething child is probably more restful than a night with a phone that pops its cheek at you through the dark every time someone on the other side of the world posts a picture of their lunch on Facebook.

Gizmo is obviously a man – he is very touchy-feely, and constantly requests stroking and TLC. Like a Gremlin, Gizmo must be kept away from water at all costs. Whereas I could just wipe my hands on my jeans and press the button to take a call with Norbert when I was peeling the spuds, Gizmo has to wait until I’ve washed and dried my hands before I can tend to his needs. When he rings in my pocket and it’s raining, I find myself reassuring him that I will release him from the dark just as soon as I find a dry place to stand. The idea of him getting covered in warts, and evil baby smart phones popping up all over the place scares the hell out of me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go… Gizmo’s ringing.

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Stone-Age Mamma and the Mystery of Everybody Else’s Parents.

If I rubbed my teapot one day and the Yorkshire Brew genie popped out to offer me three wishes, it’d be easy. My first wish would be to kick cancer’s butt off the face of the earth. The second to pay off my mortgage. And the third would be to finally meet “Everybody Else’s Parents.”

Our kids all have the same friend, although bizarrely the gender and age varies enormously. Said friend is called “Everybody Else.” You may have met Everybody Else, but never his or her mysterious, generous and philanthropic genitors. Everyone Else lives in a childhood Nirvana – a teenager’s heaven where his or her every wish is the adult’s desire. Strapped for cash? Need a ride to the cinema? Feel an insatiable desire to respond to that Pavlovian reflex set off by the announcement of a new Play Station? Look no further: Everybody Else’s parents are ready and willing to grant their child’s every wish.

These parents are the summom bonum of parenting. They are an ode to educational endeavor; pioneers of parental prowess. They are in synchrony with their kids – so much so, in fact, that they seem to know what their offspring need before they even know it themselves. Walk into the Everybody Else household, and weep: these guys are in osmosis to such an extent that they are inches from melting into a pulsating, lime-green pool of happiness.

Caveman Couple
MM and PF, stone-aged parents, on their way to the butchers to buy a pound of mammoth for dinner (Photo credit: San Diego Shooter)

Now for a little history. Everybody Else’s Parents have been out doing us mere mortals in the parenting stakes since Neolithic times. At that time, PF and MM’s forbearers still had callouses on their knuckles from ambling along on all fours and forcing their kids to be self-respecting, independent hunter-gatherers who checked the pelt of the bear for parasites before they attempted to kill it with their home-made daggers. In the cave next-door, however, Everybody Else’s parents were already at the cutting-edge of flintstone parenting. They were the first to have a cart with square wheels and a matching turbo-charged dino parked outside their cave entrance. They ordered take-out mammoth every weekend and sent their kids to flint-chipping workshops at the local geek’s cave, dressed in the latest designer bearskins. The entire family watched blockbusters like “Menhir Black” on their stone tablets, and were the first to tote the stone-age ancestor of Steve Job’s technological wizardry – the iStone.

Throughout the ages, MM and PF’s ancestors kicked out against consumerism as a basis for parenting, and refused to keep up with Everybody Else’s Parents. Perfection being in the eye of the beholder, our creations are only too happy to point out that although we have progressed to communicating, standing upright and eating with cutlery, we have not evolved as much as they would have liked.

The iStone, little-known ancestor of the iPhone.

I have been measured with Everybody Else’s parental yardstick since my kids were old enough to clamour their indignation about our parental decisions. We are the most unhip, untrendy, tight-fisted, screwed-up old parents in the whole damned universe. If Victorian parents existed in France, that would be us, with a twist of Dickensian malevolence for good measure (I have a real Miss Havisham side to me, letting them see their cake but not eat it, whereas PF is a more Fagin type, forcing his kids to help out around our family hovel).

Now. Everybody Else is a charming kid, despite an upbringing with all the laxity of a eucalyptus suppository. He is never tired, despite the fact that his ultra-cool parents allow him to go out drinking late on school days, and always does his homework late at night in his bed because they allow him to exercise his thumbs on the Play Station soon as he gets home until well after dinner. Everybody Else’s girfriend has been sleeping over for the last three years and has even been encouraged her to come and live with them.

In comparison, of course, we do not cut the mustard.

We do not stand by the door jangling our keys when our kids want to go out to a friend’s house, whereas Everybody Else’s parents are generally scratching at the door like beagles that have picked up on the scent of game as soon as their teen twitches a Prada-clad toe. My general reaction is to ask them to look down, and show them the cheapest and healthiest method of transport ever: feet.

Beef Up Foreign Food Inspection

Trying to convince MM that frozen IKEA desserts are edible (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Food is another bone of contention. Whilst I am no Nigella Lawson, I scrupulously read the ingredients on the rare cakes and biscuits I buy. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it. This puts my children in a different world to Everybody Else, who is rumoured to open the kitchen cupboard on his return from school to choose from overflowing shelves of chocolate, snacks and sweets that no doubt glow in the dark. Everybody Else’s Parents allow their kids to slob out in the rooms alone and eat an entire family packet of M&M’s each until three in the morning, whereas we round up all our kids and watch a film or a documentary together. Shock. Horror.

I have kept an eye out for these parents at every parent-teacher meeting, and casually questioned the genitors of other teens, but to no avail. Everybody Else’s parents never show up. I have a possible explanation for this – as they selflessly fund the most recent technology, driving lessons, cars, generous allowances and designer clothes for their fringe-flicking progeny, they obviously work 24/7 – they are probably dental surgeons or lawyers by day, with a sideline in bank-robbing at night.

So until the Yorkshire Brew genie proves otherwise, I will presume that Everybody Else’s Parents are as mythical as the legendary Prince Charming. But that’s another story, folks…

Shopping Sociology with Earth Daddy and the Dinkies.

It is common procedure to open the fridge within my house within two days of raiding the the supermarket and discover that it is barer than John Malkovich’s scalp. Feed a teenager the entire contents of the cupboard, and within two hours he will be rubbing round your legs like a famished tomcat, wailing that he is starving. Buy him a packet of cereal and it disappears within two days. Teenagers appear to believe in the Kellogg’s equivalent of the magic porridge pot: why is the box incapable of renewing its own contents?

That’s how I found myself wheeling my trolley around Intermarché for the umpteenth time yesterday. As usual, I had the one with the squeaky wheel. As usual, I had forgotten my list on the kitchen table. And as usual, all my favourite categories of shopper were there.

Giant Shopping Basket Feb 2006

An ideal shopping trolley for MM’s family (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Show me the contents of your trolley, and I’ll tell you who you are. Here are a few of the species I met:

Earth Daddy. Earth Daddy is married to my nemesis, Wonder Woman, who is a regular victim of my ire and bad faith on this blog. As she spends her free time at Primary school meetings in the evening, making smarmy little asides to ensure everyone knows that she is on first name terms with the teacher, Earth Daddy does the shopping with his children. He trips enthusiastically down the aisles in his designer cotton clothes, filling his trolley with whole grains, granary bread, Ryvita and Scandinavian yoghurt that has never seen a pesticide, but has made a generous contribution to the hole in the ozone layer after travelling to the South of France by plane and truck. An appropriately sleeping baby is bandaged tastefully to his chest with so much naturally dyed swathing that he looks disturbingly like a child-friendly remake of “The Mummy”.

Baby’s big sister generally has a very tasteful name like Clementine or Prune. (Classy kids in France are apparently named after fruit. Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow is actually French; she called her kid Apple.) Clementine/Prune/Banana’s education doesn’t stop when they shop, as Earth Daddy believes in taking every opportunity to brainwash his child inform Clementine about the best possible choices in life. So he stopped at the chocolate shelf as Clementine enthusiastically pointed to a well-known brand of Swiss chocolate that we all know is made with milk from purple cows then wrapped in the aluminium foil by underpaid but happy marmots.

Milka in der Breiten Straße Potsdam

The purple cow meets a chocoholic fan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She enquired whether they could buy it, and Earth Daddy laughed indulgently. Scratching his designer stubble, he said that she could of course have some chocolate, but he was going to show her something better. I was curious, and tailgated my politically correct suspect and his cargo of organic bran like an off-beat Sherlock Holmes. Earth Daddy homed in on his destination, and beamed as he explained the concept of fair trade to his bemused offspring. I’m not sure she bought the idea, but he bought the chocolate anyway.

The stressed mother and her assortment of screaming kids are reassuringly normal.  They remind me of that family planning advert with the kid having a tantrum (check it out at the end of the post). Whilst a toddler with streams of yellow snot running down its face eats his way through a packet of biscuits in the seat of the trolley, a sibling imprisoned between the packets of pasta and disposable nappies tramples on the fresh fruit with one foot and hangs the rest of her body over the side, screaming “Muuum, want that, want thaaaat!” Stressed mother is haggard, determined and inches from sticking a price label on each kid’s forehead and leaving them on the discount shelf. 

Zero percent is generally female, appears depressed and is on a permanent guilt trip. Her relationship with food is borderline obsessive; she suspiciously reads every last letter of the packaging. She hunts down zero percent yoghurt, zero percent coke and beef that was no doubt gleaned from liposuctioned cattle on a health farm. Her trolley is so light you are surprised it doesn’t float up in the air before she gets to the till and disappear with her hanging on to it like Mary Poppins on helium.

Hot-air-balloon

Zero Percent on her way home with her stash of light food produce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The alcoholic OAP wanders slowly to the wine shelf in espadrilles, sagging trousers, baggy jumper and a felt cap covered with dog hair. His trolley contains two five-litre plastic containers of red wine, two packs of goats cheese and two baguettes. He beams congenially at everyone when he forgets his credit card number twice in a row, then waves goodbye before using the trolley as an impromptu Zimmer frame. He probably won’t see another human being until he does the same shop in a week’s time.

The DINKIES (Dual Income, No KIddieS) are the ones who need a stepladder to access the expensive rare breed of imported Italian pasta on the top shelf whilst you are mining  for the last packet of supermarket brand macaroni in the murky depths of the bottom shelf. Miss DINKIE wrinkles her nose on seeing any of the above supermarket population categories, and goes into anaphylactic shock on contact with children. She can be observed at the toiletries dept, suspiciously sniffing at shampoo bottles whilst her bored boyfriend looks on.

The YFSM: Young, Free & Single MaleEasily identified by the contents of his basket: pizzas, chocolate, pasta sauce, pies, frozen chips and a pack of beer. Heart-wrenching examples are the cute ones who have packets of Petit Prince biscuits and M&M’s to eat in front of the TV. I generally avoid queuing beside a YFSM, as I get inexplicable pangs of jealousy at the idea of being able to not only have the remote for myself, but eat as much rubbish as I like without being told off.

There are more categories to be covered, such as the retired lovebirds, but this post is getting way too long. So I’ll pass the talking stick on to you: who are your favourite shoppers? Here is that advert I promised you, complete with an epic Earth Daddy fail.

Got the school holiday shakes?

It’s the second week of the February school holidays. That moment when the sun suddenly and inexplicably disappears to the very same place we were four days ago, 800 km away, when the weather was awful but we didn’t care. The moment that the heavens open and it rains day and night, the fire splutters and dies and my offspring prowl dangerously along a well-trodden migratory line between the kitchen and the TV, leaving small, telltale piles of dirty crockery heaped around the living room like the signs of discontent left by a malevolent, incontinent cat.

Any maternal attempts to simultaneously keep them occupied during the day and keep up with the house plus my own work fail dismally – on all counts. Bigfoot, Rugby-boy and Little My complain that most of their pals are all whooshing down the ski slopes with their politically correct parents, gaining their piou-piou, bronze, silver and gold consumer badges then pigging out on tartiflette and raclette whilst my poor offspring are being fed survival rations of macaroni and ham for the umpteenth time. So I pour myself a glass of white wine at the end of the day, listen to the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper” full blast in the kitchen and wonder if that bra-burning lark really got us girls anywhere. Does anyone else out there in blogging land identify with this?

Indiana Jones

Super Teacher on an imaginary school outing (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

The next step is that the maternal brain goes into meltdown overnight, and feverishly mixes real life, fantasy and work into a fascinating cocktail. Last night it dished up a fabulous dream in which I accompanied a very good friend of mine on an outing for his infant school class. He ran along creaking, half-rotten wooden bridges spanning underground galleries, transformed into the Indiana Jones of the French teaching world. Backpack bobbing up and down on his back, he happily encouraged the crowd of four-year-olds and volunteer mothers gingerly following in his wake to be brave. He gave the kids rewards of Smarties and pieces of banana when they successfully leapt over the three-foot hole gaping over an abyss then promised to take them to visit a bison reserve for their next outing (I’ll leave you to guess what the work, fantasy and real life is in all that. As I said in my previous post, I love my job.)

Yup, holidays are an upheaval. As all parents know, the school holiday means increased numbers at home. Like the legendary Mohammed and the mountain, if your kids can’t go to school, the school must come to your kids, and the population of our humble abode increases daily as Bigfoot, Rugby-boy and Little My’s mates adopt us. I have learned to smile sweetly at the mother who says apologetically: “He loves coming here, he says it’s so lively compared to our place!” The word “lively” is an understatement: Armageddon has all the noise factor of a library in comparison with our house.

So last night, Little My invited some friends round for a sleep-over. They disappeared into the woodwork like cockroaches, only appearing to glean a tray of food to wolf down in front of the TV. I must admit I was choked up to see them lined up in bed, surrounded by brightly coloured debris of dressing-up clothes and guffawing at the film of their school trip two years ago, saying how “little” they were at the time.

Rainbow Jelly!

A monster rainbow jelly. Ours wasn’t like this. (Photo credit: fifikins)

This morning, I was clutching my first cup of Yorkshire brew and recovering from my strange dream when three little girls appeared in their PJ’s. Little My opened the fridge, and clapped eyes on the jelly she had made the day before in her friends’ honour, only to be forgotten after stuffing themselves with home-made burgers and chips. She pulled it from the fridge and proudly exhibited it to her pals, who all cooed in awe. Little My was proud to introduce her friends to her gastronomic roots, however unusual they may appear to her Gallic chums. She drew herself up to her full height and said “Look! If you shake it, it wobbles!” A murmur of appreciation swelled in the room as she delicately made the jelly shiver. Then it happened. Three eager, synchronised pairs of hands shot out to shake the plate, and the collective force launched the beast into the air. It took off like a drunken UFO then plummeted downwards, sliding down the sheer cliff face of the tablecloth before disintegrating into a gelatinous red pile of roadkill on its impact with the kitchen floor.

The sound of hastily scrabbling claws announced the arrival of our canine cleaning service. Smelly Dog’s radar can pick up on something falling on the kitchen floor from the other side of the house, and she is there, wagging her tail hopefully, within seconds of anything leaping off the table. (Please note that nobody is ever responsible for anything falling earthward in this house: food is either driven to suicide after being cooked by MM, or it has a lemming-like attraction for the void.)

Smelly Dog careened around the door, ears flopping and expert eyes searching as she tensed her body to pounce on her prey. Screeching to a halt beside the pink molehill, she sniffed suspiciously at the jelly then lifted her head. She fixed her Nutella eyes on mine with a mixture of disgust and disappointment before returning to her basket with as much dignity as a dog can muster. Proof of the pud: A dog can happily eat cat vomit, but refuse jelly.

IMG_2064

Smelly Dog pretending to be cute soft toy after eating all of PF except his head (kept for afters, see far left of picture).

Bigfoot had invited his chosen counterpart around for the afternoon, and had even tidied up his lair, proof of unconditional love. I don’t think she’ll be back for a while. PF pulled out his favourite power tool and got stuck in for the entire time she was here, apparently set on sanding a spyhole in the wall to check that they were behaving themselves. Much to Bigfoot’s embarrassment, I did however tell chosen counterpart that she can come back whenever she wants, if it means that I’ll be able to get a foot inside Bigfoot’s room to hoover once she’s gone.

I’m an optimist. That’s why I continued to work throughout the afternoon. Working from home seemed a good idea, which it is  – when the kids are at school. Only four more days, then they’re back to school and I’m back to normality. Bad mother and fully assume it, check.

Melodious discord and the generation gap.

Life without music is as difficult to imagine as fish without chips, a bath without bubbles or Die Hard without Bruce Willis. Music is my equivalent of Mary Poppin’s spoonful of sugar, and I can often be seen using my broom as a guitar as I do the housework, singing myself hoarse along with Billy Idol on my headphones. So it was par for the course that I was chirping along loudly to 1980’s classics on my way down the motorway to pick up Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart from the lycée last week (more about Bigfoot here).

On the return trip, I flipped the radio back on just in time for Bananarama’s “Venus”. “Yeah!!!” I enthused as I turned the volume up. “Have you heard any Bananarama before, guys?” I was greeted by an uncomfortable silence, and glanced into the rearview mirror. Concerned glances were being exchanged between sixteen-year-old Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart, who then flashed an embarrassed smile at the gear stick and said “Urrr, no….” before they both collapsed into giggles. “Don’t laugh, or I’ll start singing. And I know all the words,” I threatened. They obviously took me seriously, as they then asked for NRJ – a radio station for brainless French teens in need of a lobotomy. I know, I’m a bad loser.

As Bigfoot and his chosen counterpart guffawed on the back seat, I got thinking about my music idols when I was their age. The Cure, The Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, the Eurythmics. Go on, admit it, you’re nodding your head in recognition, aren’t you? My parents must have found it difficult not to smile at my conviction that any group called The Psychedelic Furs, Adam and the Ants or Fanny could produce anything even remotely interesting, let alone be able to take Robert Smith seriously with his pointed boots, powdered white face and sullen pout, his blackened eyes glaring out from beneath his back-combed bush of jet-black hair.

Robert Smith is a prominent proponent of the b...

Robert Smith, the dreamboy I would never have dared take home to mum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I realised that like my parents, I suffer from musical and cultural angst when I listen to the rubbish that spews out of Bigfoot’s headphones, and despair that my children may never discover real music. I clutched my steering wheel in horror as it dawned on me that the wheel of life had turned and I had become my parents. They had always said it would happen. Those famous last words rang in my head: “You’ll understand when you have your own”.

When we got home, the boys were keen to show me how wrong I am about modern-day music. They pulled out my laptop and within seconds, an example of something they considered “cool” was on the screen. What I can only qualify as electronic noise was accompanied by a video of tattooed men who were making an admirable effort to dance in unlaced boots and trousers that were at least three sizes too big for them.

Obviously suspicious of Newton’s conclusions on gravity, they were carefully weighed down with heavy chains that made them look more like abandoned pit bulls lifting their legs against fire hydrants in the Bronx than singers. Shuffling around the screen, they shook their arms like overexcited primates and stared threateningly into the camera through white sunglasses with empty frames as big as manhole covers. One by one, they all took turns at stabbing accusing fingers at the camera lens as they did their best to fit as much bad language as they could into one sentence.

He's a GOOD Boy

A modern-day rapper ready for YouTube glory (Photo credit: Gregory Jordan).

Just when I was about to do a runner for the kettle, a pop star mother of two gyrated into sight. My jaw hit the kitchen work surface. Her hair has been bleached since her relatively innocent teenaged debut, and was scraped into a yellow poney-tail on top of her head. She started shaking her booty with the tattooed lads, and I must say she did a very good job of staying upright in her high-heeled, studded sandals. I was, however, a little nonplussed by the rest of her outfit: my resident teenaged Fashion Police would never let me go out in a jacket that didn’t cover the important bits, to say nothing of a leather skirt that apparently had a dual personality and took itself for a curtain pelmet.

The torture session drew to a close. “So, Mum, what do you think?” I stared into my offspring’s enthusiastic eyes, and put down my mug of tea to give my verdict. “Firstly, I don’t call that music, it’s noise. Now let’s see. The lyrics. Ummm…” I dug out the few words I’d scribbled on the back of a supermarket receipt. “Molly’s here, we don’t fight fair/My buzz big, like Lightyear/ Get a grip shorty, you can’t stand here. Well, kids, I’d say the song’s about as deep as the author’s belly button, and has as much impact as a strategically placed Smartie on the great railway track of life. Now, would you like my opinion on mothers of small children parading on internet, wearing nothing more than leather underwear, a pair of tights and high-heeled sandals? If I picked you up at school like that, I’d get arrested before I had the fun of seeing your faces!”

Cue rolling teenage eyeballs. “Now, kids. Let’s talk business. About that CD we’re burning for the car trip. We’re going to start with Queen, The Rolling Stones, the Police and Billy Idol, then if you’ve survived the shock of listening to real music we’ll move on to The Cure, Blondie, The Who and Madness”. I didn’t tell them that if they put up a fight, I’ll let P.F out of his cage with his complete collection of Beethoven. So there.