Friday, 26 April 2013

Please Can I Have a New Bathroom?

Rich and I got engaged around seven years ago at a beautiful little castle in Scotland and it feels like a lifetime away.  Back then we could spend time with each other without griping about who was the most tired.  We used to go out and drink cocktails all night, have long lie-ins on Saturdays and, you know, actually paid attention to each other.  These days, we have a very-nearly-four-year-old and castles, cocktails and sleep are but distant memories.

One of the reasons he chose the castle for our engagement was the bathroom in the honeymoon suite; a deep, delicious bath in next to windows with shutters that could be closed or left open so that you could look out at the highlands as you bathed, glass of champagne in hand (a handy window ledge providing a resting place for the glasses), candles flickering, piles of soft white towels in a basket.  The pièce de résistance was the ceiling which contained hundreds of tiny fibre optic lights that gently flickered.  It was the bathroom that dreams are made of.

I tried to take pictures, but I have to admit, they are pretty poor.  This is mainly because we were so drunk on champagne that anything that required any vaguely technical skill was rendered impossible by this point (as evidenced by the barely legible text message that I fired off to inform everyone of our news while I lay face down on the sofa, phone in one hand, one shoe on, cackling hysterically having fallen  over whilst trying to get my shoes on so we could go down to dinner).

There you go - you can just about see the lights of wonder on the ceiling.

Oh, for shame.  Serious drunken blurriness.

*sound of turntable needle abruptly scratching across record*

Lets cut to life seven years on.  My bathroom would not inspire anybody to drink champagne.  I can kind of imagine a tramp lying in the bath, swigging from a can of Special Brew though.  The whole room is a disaster of awful tiles, ill fitting bath, flooring that stop 3 inches short of where the bath starts, huge cavernous holes in the walls, kamikaze toilet seats and spider sanctuaries.  It looks seriously grubby even when it's freshly cleaned and even though I try my best with it, I'm sure that the holes around the sink and toilet can't be hygienic.  And you know what?  I actually feel guilty about the state of our bathroom because if I'd gone back to work when Rory was 6 months old as planned, we'd have been able to afford to replace it by now.  As it was, we decided that I'd stay at home with him, and as much as it's been brilliant for us all, it's felt like a very long three and a half years of having no money.  I'm fed up of having to apologize for the state of it every time we have visitors and damn it, this is not how I envisaged my life would be in my mid thirties.  

However, I could have a saviour in the form of  Bathshop123 who are running a competition to win a new bathroom suite and £500 towards the cost of fitting and the rest of the bathroom.  Got to be worth a try, right?

I've had a look on their website and as a traditionalist and lover of old things (insert joke about husband here), I like this suite the best.  It's perfect:

On with the design:  What I'd really like to do is refit our bathroom in the style of the one in our long lost engagement castle.  Either of the traditional style suites above tick the box, so following on from that, I'm thinking white painted wood panelling half way up the walls, clean white tiles, pale green paint everywhere else, shelves that I'd paint myself and a little wooden cupboard or chest so I can hide all of Rory's hideous tat store my son's beloved bath toys somewhere.  This is a must as I am sick of climbing into the bath and coming perilously close to getting a bubble wand wedged up my flue.

Getting more creative (not to mention ambitious), I would salvage (not buy - salvage - am Kirstie goddamn Allsopp) some old window shutters and paint them white to recreate the look at the hotel.  The fact that leaving the open would not result in a view of the Scottish highlands but one of John-From-Nextdoor hanging out the washing in his string vest is to be glossed over here.  I've also done my research and found that you can buy fibre optic lights for the ceiling just like the ones at the hotel.

Look - here's an example (imagine a bath instead of that cot if possible) - pic from

It's indulgent.  It's frivolous.  I know.  But I so want those lights, and not because I'm a spoiled princess, but because as much as I adore my little family and love my son, it would be lovely if day to day life could contain a reminder of  our relationship pre-child.  I want to sip champagne in the bath with my husband again and indulge in idle chat rather than a frenzied exchange of the latest office politics and how on earth we're going to manage to get Rory's latest felt-tip masterpiece off the radiator.  I don't want to forget that spark, because without it, we wouldn't have Rory.  And quite apart from the sentimental reasons, what four year old wouldn't love a starscape to watch during their bath?

Finishing touches - in keeping with the theme, we'd need lots of tiny tealights, an old fashioned bath rack for the positioning of champagne glasses (or a beaker of milk for Rory), piles of fluffy white towels, Crabtree and Evelyn soap (because I'm pretty sure that's what was in the hotel bathroom - I'd draw the line at a bowl full of plastic shower caps in boxes though) and a vintage looking bucket.  Why the bucket?  Because as much as this is a bathroom reminiscent of our time as a couple, it is also a family bathroom, and, as a friend of mine said recently, every family bathroom needs a bucket in it.  It can be disguised as a receptacle for ornamental shells or whatever to disguise its true role, but it very much needs to be there.  Anybody who doesn't know where I'm coming from has obviously never had Norovirus.  I would also add a sieve to the list of things that a family bathroom needs.  If you haven't got kids, you'll be drawing a blank here, but parents of toddlers will be nodding along sagely.  Believe me.

Fresh green and white, wall panels, vintage accessories, restored shutters, a token bucket - all this and ceiling stars.

Fingers crossed then.  Lets hope the bathroom Gods are smiling down on me.  And lets hope that they're sentimental types.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Robotron Game (AKA what we do to keep Rory occupied on car journeys)

So, the prompt for this post for Travel Supermarket is to write about my top tips for keeping children occupied on long journeys.

I expect I'm supposed to enthuse about the joys of I Spy or come up with some natty little handheld, mess proof game here, or maybe extol the virtues of the car DVD player (pfff, they might be brilliant, but I wouldn't know as we can't afford one).

Instead, I'm going to be honest and share with you our foolproof method of keeping Rory happy in the car.  You'll be pleased to hear that it doesn't include sedatives or duct tape, which is ususual when it comes to controlling a 3 year old.  It's all good, clean family fun.

The Robotron Game:

You will need...
The ability to talk in a robot voice for hours on end
Nothing else (although it's always fun to wear a tin foil covered box with eye holes on your head to enhance the experience)

This is how it goes:

(in car, setting off for 6 hour drive to Scotland.  Robot voices ON)

Richard: "About. To. Depart. Check. Roads. Please. Robotron. One.

Rory: "Scanning. Roads. All. Clear. Robotron. Two."

Richard: "Engage. Power. Button. Robotron. Three."

Me: (button pressing, whooshing sort of noise) "Power. Button. Engaged."

Richard: "We. Are. Off. Robotron. One. Scan. Roads. For. Hazards."

Rory: "Approaching. Traffic. Lights."

Richard: "Slowing."

Me: "Knobby. BMW. Driver. On. Right."

Richard: "Boosters. On."

Rory: (noise of rocket powered boosters)

Richard: "Overtaking. Ha. Ha."

And this continues indefinitely with Rory looking out for hazards and giving directions to his father. We are only allowed to speak 'in robot' for the entire time.  As well as keeping the small one busy and looking out of the window (no car sickness) it's had the added benefit of teaching him some good, geeky long words like negative, affirmative, engaged and so on.  His vocabulary has been extended endlessly by this game, making it very likely that he's going to be that weird kid at school who talks like a computer and spends break times playing with a rock in the corner.

3 long hours later...

Me: "There's a service station coming up, do you need to wee, Rory?"

Rory: "Who. Is. This. Rory. You. Speak. Of? There. Is. Only. Robotron. One."

Me: "Sorry. Robotron. One. Do. You. Need. To. Urinate?"

Rory: "Negative."

Me: "Are. You. Sure?"

Rory: "Robotrons. Are. Always. Sure."

Me: (to Richard) "I think we should stop, just incase."

Richard: "No, he'll be fine.  He said he doesn't need to."

*zoom past only services for 50 miles*

Rory: "You. Know. When. I. Said. Negative. Just. Then?"

Me: "Yes."

Rory: "I. Meant. Affirmative."

Me: "You DO need to wee?"


Richard: "Oh for fu..."

Me: "I TOLD you to stop you...I mean...I. Told. You. To. Stop. Robotron. Two. You. Complete. Wa...."

Richard: "...Do. You. Think. You. Can Urinate. In. This. Empty. Crisp. Packet. Robotron. One?"

Yeah, so basically imagine that for six hours and you've got the idea.  It's tricky at first but with a bit of practice, you can entertain your child and have a small domestic with your spouse under your breath all in Robotron Language.  Now what DVD or iPad app can provide that sort of entertainment?  The Robotron Game: Give it a try on your next car journey.

Monday, 1 April 2013

The Mum Date

Remember the days when you used to go on dates?  Proper dates I mean, not the trips to whichever local eatery has a two for one deal on with the father of your child (long demoted from being 'a proper man' - now just that bloke who lives with you and leaves Weetabix residue to form a crust in his cereal bowl instead of giving it a 5 second rinse under the tap LIKE ANY SENSIBLE, NON MORONIC PERSON WOULD).  I'm talking about dates which might have involved chemistry and conversation about subjects other than teething/frantic comparisons of primary school Ofsted reports/'hilarious' anecdotes of what your kids have done recently.

I always quite liked dates, even though women's magazines would have you believe that they're supposed to be fraught with anxiety.  I like the edge that not being quite sure of each other gives you. I like flirting and getting pleasantly drunk whilst getting to know someone. I would go so far as to say that I'm so good at dates that I have never failed to get a second one.

Then I moved to a town where I knew nobody and had a baby.  Being stuck in the house with my sleep-shy child, counting down the hours until daddy home time whilst being screamed at was truly miserable.  I was going to have to make some new friends.  This meant talking to other mums, all of whom looked worryingly like they knew what they were doing and were therefore incredibly intimidating.  And once I'd talked to them I had up with them.  On my own.  With no wine.  Welcome to the terrifying world of The Mum Date.  Here are some you may recognize:

Marriage Material:
Being clueless and terrified, Rich and I signed up to do NCT classes while I was pregnant.  These mainly involved eating biscuits in someone's living room whilst wanting to belt the smug, yoga pant wearing leader across the face.

One day, one of the other NCT ladies came over to my house for tea and cake.  Turns out we were not only both vastly pregnant, but had both been forced to move to Cheshire because of our husbands jobs, had both worked as actors and both thought that the NCT leader was a bit of a dick.  Within half an hour, we were cackling hysterically at each other (always risky behaviour at 7 months pregnant, what with your pelvic floor not being what it once was) and talking about the sort of things that you usually reserve for trusted old friends.  We met up weekly until we had the babies, at which point she practically set up camp in my living room, both of us pacing the floor with hollow eyes and no idea of what to do with these horrible little bundles of puke.  She was the only person who could tolerate my difficult, screaming baby in the back of her car, the only person who understood when I forgot the wet wipes at baby clinic and had to use a sock to wipe his bum instead, the only person who I knew wouldn't judge the dirt on my floor or my crazy post birth hormones.  We supported each other through that miserable first year and beyond and I truly don't know how I'd have coped without her.   All hail the lifer friend.

Well That Was Awkward:
There's this woman at Jolly Jilly's Sensory Musical Mayhem (which you've been to two miserable times because the other option is sitting in the house picking dried baby sick off the carpet again).  You think you might get on with her because she once rolled her eyes at you when Jolly Jilly harmonized with everyone else during Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so you bite the bullet and ask if she wants to meet up for a coffee.  Turns out you have nothing to say to each other beyond "how are they sleeping", which isn't exactly a great conversation starter because her child has, of course, been sleeping through from 2 weeks old and "what growth centile are they on?" (nobody gives a kipper's dick).  Awkward silences abound.  Disappointingly, this is a platonic thing so you can't style it out with a low-cut top and a bit of flirting. If this was a proper date, she'd be getting a clumsy back slap  instead of a kiss at the end of the night before you go to your respective homes, shuddering and muttering "lets never do this again."

The One Night Stand:
You meet at the park and chat idly while your kids clamber hazardously over the play equipment. Conversation progresses from the usual brain numbing small talk one reserves for these situations, and you spend a marvellous hour deep in the sort of witty repartee that makes you feel alive again.  The kids are getting on like a house on fire.  You talk about the arguments you've had with your husbands recently, you share tales of postnatal depression.  Hell, you throw caution to the wind and tell her about your tricky episiotomy scar.  She asks for your phone number.  She never calls.  You're left with that vaguely familiar feeling of having exposed too much of yourself too soon.  At least you didn't have to do the walk of shame.

The Secret Liaison:
You go to this little toddler group where everyone seems nice.  You like one of the mums better than the others and fancy meeting up without everyone else.  However, organizing this is on a par with an SAS stealth mission.  You know that if any of the other mums find out you'll be Talked About and they'll want to know why they weren't invited, so you agree to meet up somewhere that none of them are likely to be, then spend the entire time looking nervously around in case you spot one of them.  At the next toddler group you live in fear of your child dropping you in it by mentioning the meet-up.  This is the mum date equivalent of shagging someone in the broom cupboard.  It is somewhat less exhilarating.

The One Whose Family You Don't Like:
You'd think that this wouldn't be an issue as Mummy Dating is blissfully free from toxic in-laws.  It is though, because Mum Dates come with offspring attached.  This woman is perfect:  You get on well, feel comfortable in each other's company and always have loads to talk about, but their child is an obnoxious little beast who never stops whining and is generally hateful towards your own child.  "But I don't want to play with Adolf*" weeps your poor, bloodied offspring. "Why do you make me be friends with someone who punches me in the face?"  Because you're going crazy from lack of adult company and need to see his mother isn't going to cut it as a reason.  It's just like Romeo and Juliet but with tea and cake and toddler violence and...OK, it's nothing at all like Romeo and Juliet.

The Total Dick:
"I've put on a bit of weight recently - these age 11 jeans are a bit tight at the moment. I must have been eating too many raisins." Who says that to someone they've just met?  Who? Someone who is begging to be punched in the throat, that's who. Yes, that's a real quote. No, she didn't get the pleasure of my company again. Anyone who eats raisins for pleasure can knob right off.

Now that my son is coming up to the grand old age of 4, I find it easier to talk to other mums and have a small but perfectly formed selection of friends, all of whom ran the gauntlet of the mummy date with me way back when I met them.  I tend to meet up with them on a one to one basis rather than as a group because I met them all in different ways.  Some of them are the sort of people I'd always have been friends with way back in my life before kids.  Some of them are people I'd never have stumbled across in a million  years.  All of them are highly valued.  Not that one who never called me though.  She's a cow.  Never liked her anyway.

*Names may have been changed.