Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Desperate Housewifery

"Jodie wears a hat although it hasn't rained for six days," I sang this morning as I gave the windowsill a half-hearted wipe.

"A girl needs a gun these days, hey on account of all the rattlesnakes," continued Rory, breaking off from sliding a piece of toast and jam down the back of the radiator to join in.

You know it's been a long, wet summer when your 3 year old is quoting Lloyd Cole back to you.  Too much time spent stuck in the house doing Spiderman jigsaws and listening to old CDs instead of running about in the sunshine has taken it's toll and we are bored.

Well, I'm bored anyway, I can't speak for Rory.  He seems to get an endless amount of joy out of playing cars and dressing up in my shoes.

When I first had a baby, I assumed that I'd never have an excuse to be bored again.  There's so many things that you can do with a child, and due to all my experience teaching small children, I convinced myself that I would do them all.  And do them all, we have.

Today, for example, we have:

* Played on the swings
* Chased squirrels around the park
* Posted stuff at the post office
* Made biscuits
* Eaten all the biscuits
* Played in the paddling pool
* Done some colouring in
* Played an educational number game
* Ignored each other
* Worn our pants on our heads (OK, this one was mainly Rory)
* Removed every cushion from the sofa and made a hazardous den
* Watched too much TV
* Done sponge painting
* Rocked out on the V-tech plastic guitar and keyboard
* Poked the toad that lives behind our shed with a stick
* Attempted to make jelly worms.

Brief aside: Saw this tutorial online and thought it looked brilliant:

Nailed it:

That kind of sounds like fun, right?  And when I decided to be a stay at home mum until he started school and do the odd bit of work from home, my reasoning was that in the future I'd want to remember that I spent all this time having fun with my child and nurturing him and being a fabulous mum rather than sticking him in nursery and letting someone else do it.  And in the future I'm quite certain that I will feel this way.  Those rose tinted glasses are pretty convincing.  It's just that at the moment, I don't feel like doing any of the above.  What I really feel like doing is jumping  (child free) on the train to the nearest city, downing a lot of expensive and imaginatively named cocktails in a bar and seducing the attractive, young barman out the back behind the bins.  Actually, I don't really care about the bins.  Bins are not really a feature of this fantasy, they're just there to add colour.  It is good to add a multi-sensory aspect to one's writing, you know.  Also, my husband would do in the absence of an attractive young barman.

Because here's the thing - in years to come, I doubt very much that my son will say "remember that day with the squirrels and the swings and the toad and the sponge painting?"  Because when you stay at home with your child, all those supposedly fun filled days sort of merge into one.  And when you've poked one toad, you've poked them all, you know? Whereas, I'd definitely remember seducing someone behind a pub these days.   Although I could probably craft some sort of pithy analogy from the toad poking thing relating to that scenario if I really thought about it.  Too busy making playdough snakes though.  Poignant.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Lisa's Homemade Home

We love a bit of Kirstie Allsopp in this house.  I'm quite taken with her love of crafts and all her nice coats.  I do appreciate a lovely coat.  Richard just fancies her a bit as well spoken curvy brunettes are his type (much like his wife), but I'm OK with that as it allows me to watch wall to wall house programmes without any complaints.  However, much like Nigella (who we also both heartily approve of), I have a bone to pick with her:

This homemade home stuff - lovingly crafting things to pimp your house with out of metal and fabric and rustic twigs: it's all very well, but you kind of need a nice house to start with to make it work.

This is where Kirstie and I differ.  We may both be my husband's type.  We may both have young children.  We may both appreciate beautiful properties and home crafts, but I cannot escape the fact that she lives somewhere expensive and beautiful whereas I live crammed into a crumbling 1950s ex council semi with Destructochild and DIY Dickie (foe to the electric drill).

Kirstie probably has mice in her charming country cottage.  I have flying ants on a scale that suggests one of the ten deadly plagues of Egypt and a particularly stubborn wasps nest.  Mice are fine.  Jill Barklem made a fortune writing and illustrating books about the Mice Of Brambly Hedge.  Nobody - nobody  has ever made an ornamental plate depicting wasps.  And I am willing to bet that Kirstie has never had a load of flying ants stuck in her hair whilst trying to fend off an infestation with a spray bottle of Raid and prepare cheese on toast for her 2 year old son at the same time.

I try though.  Oh how I try.  Contrary to my slummy image, I can actually make things and my house is full of Kirstie-like homemade treasures.  But....well, let's take a look:

First there's my kitchen.  I sanded down these drawers, painted them white and bashed them about a bit to make them look old.  Vintage scales on top...old fashioned bread far, so Kirstie.

Now lets look one metre to the left.  Here we have the Ugliest Boiler In The World and various piles-O-crap that don't fit anywhere because the kitchen is the size of a particularly meagre prison cell.  It's OK though, because I've used the excellent decorative technique of shoving a vintage biscuit tin underneath it.  There, that did the trick. I don't think anybody noticed the boiler, do you?

We shall now move into the living room.  I'm going to gloss over the works of art on the walls by my son ('Study In Biro' is my particular favourite) and show you my nice fireplace complete with lovingly made bunting and something rustic made out of twigs on it:

I don't usually pose in front of it and pretend to look in a box. It was taken for a shoot for an article, OK?

Now lets have a look at what's displayed on the mantelpiece at the moment shall we?

Never bother making a snow globe with your child.  I had visions of an old mason jar filled with fine, twinkling glitter and a charmingly kitsch snow covered cottage inside.  What we ended up with was a hastily washed madras sauce jar with a plastic Mr Tumble figurine trapped inside it along with blue glitter and a blob of curry sauce that didn't quite get washed off properly.  I'm wondering how long I have to keep it on display without causing severe emotional pain to my child and crushing his artistic soul forever.  I'm giving it another 3 days, tops.

As well as Mr-Tumble-in-a-Jam-Jar, we also have a plastic Bat Cave, a Fisher Price tool bench and various occupants of Happyland decorating our living space.  Kirstie doesn't.  She has a play room.  *Bitter*

On to the garden.  Here's the patio that my husband insisted on laying himself 18 months ago. AND NEVER FINISHED.  We are not allowed to walk on it for fear of cracking the slabs or causing grievous injury to ourselves until he cements them down properly. Which will be never.

And here is that gate which we started painting last summer but ran out of paint and money half way through.

Here is what happened when Richard did some DIY in the bathroom:

And here is a fetching pile of sticks lovingly displayed on an Ikea bag that he brought home from a trip out hunting and gathering a few years ago, deposited in our (unfinished) conservatory and will not allow me to move or throw out.

It's bad isn't it?

I have always turned my nose up at new build houses.  I hate them and their, bright orange brick exteriors and faux marble fireplaces, but at the moment, the temptation is to abandon all attempts at DIY and hand crafted house items and run screaming into one, locking its PVC door behind me and never coming out again.  Failing that, fancy a house swap, Kirstie?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Pest Control

I have this theory that normal families have houses full of stuff that doesn't break.  I'm convinced that nobody else out there has a fridge that resolutely freezes the milk no matter what we do to it.  Nobody else is still using a vacuum cleaner that's been on its last legs for 18 months ever since their toddler used it to hoover up cottage cheese.  Nobody else has a washing machine that clanks threateningly every time it's turned on, or a flying ant infestation in the kitchen or two radiators that have never ever worked even when plumbers have tried to fix them.  Everybody else can afford curtains in all of their windows, not just the ones at the front of the house, and to go on holiday once a year and to do nice things at the weekends like go to the zoo or the beach.  What are we doing wrong? Why doesn't our money even cover the mortgage and bills?  Why does every sodding thing break the minute we think we might - just maybe - have a spare 50 quid this month?

I am scene setting here, because I need you to understand exactly how annoyed we were when John From Next Door came round the other night to inform us that we have a wasps nest on our loft.  Seriously - as if we need any more household inconveniences.  Why can't they just piss off and nest on someone else's house?

"I had wasps a couple of years ago," said John From Next Door, knowledgeably.  "Blasted the loft with wasp spray, stuck the hatch back on then knocked down their nest into a bucket the next day.  Done."  That sounded easy enough.  But when Richard went to investigate, he found that it was going to be impossible to tackle the nest from inside the loft and he'd need to get to it from outside, which looked very difficult indeed.

I Googled pest control and showed the page to him.

"SEVENTY BLOODY QUID?  I'M NOT PAYING SOMEONE SEVENTY BLOODY QUID JUST TO EVICT SOME WASPS" he shouted and stomped off muttering about "working my backside off for nothing",  "no holiday for 5 years" and "living on COCKING beans on toast".  He then reappeared downstairs in a self fashioned  Wasp Buster outfit (gloves, woolly hat, hooded top with hood up and only his eyes showing), brandishing the ladder and a can of insecticide.

"Do you want me to come and help?" I asked.

"No.  No.  I'll be fine.  If John From Next Door can get rid of a wasps nest then I'm sure I can.  He's seventy.  how hard can it be?"

I sat inside watching TV and listening to various scufflings and angry sounding buzzing noises from outside.  There was the odd crash, but all seemed to be going swimmingly.  Then after 20 minutes, he appeared at the front door covered in muddy water with sticks and leaves in his hair.

"Fell off the ladder," he muttered, turning a bit green.  "It's OK. Was only four feet up. Definitely haven't broken anything,  Fuckers didn't sting me," he said, looking exactly like someone who might have some pretty nasty internal injuries.  I lifted up his top to see a great red bruise about 20cm in diameter and a load of bleeding scratches down his arms and chest.

"Shall I call pest control?" I asked.

"No. Just going to go and ask John for some tips."

Five minutes later, Richard was back up the ladder, balancing on the conservatory roof on one leg with John cheerleading from his garden, cup of tea and a biscuit in his hands.  "You want a BLOODY GREAT PIPE," he shouted excitedly.  And "HIT IT WITH A BIG STICK," neither of which seemed like particularly good pieces of advice to me.

After several nailbiting minutes, Richard had sprayed all the wasps and their nest and blocked the hole up with expanding foam.  I'd like to think that this is the end of it, but have a sneaking suspicion that he's just succeeded in blocking the wasps inside the roof and one day they'll erupt out of the loft hatch in a flash mob and seek revenge.  My poor, broken husband stood at the bottom of the ladder wiping the sweat from his brow and shaking slightly.

"Was it that difficult when you got rid of your wasps, John?" he asked.

"Me?  No lad.  I got pest control in to do it for me.  Cost me 70 quid," he said, shuffling into his house.

John From Next Door is on very thin ice.