Pubic Peer Pressure

At the risk of shocking any delicate or prudish regular readers of this blog, or just anyone who is ‘normal’ and not a stinking hairy hippie like me, let me warn you – I am going to write about pubic hair – I know, how repulsive! And it is something to be terrified of I have just discovered. So please, don’t go any further, don’t freak yourself out with the reality of those short curlies, stop reading now…

I am with a friend and we are about to embark on a well deserved day off from the kids. This has been a long time coming, that’s why it’s so deserved. I actually received a homemade voucher from P for Christmas for a day at the spa. It’s taken me 7 months to actually use it and now I’m here. I book the day price, with lunch. It appears that having your feet tickled and chewed on by a shoal of fish is part of the deal. My friend is a little concerned about the fish, from an animal welfare point of view, but it’s a freebie, we can’t refuse! And quite frankly a day off from childcare, no shit to clean up, no wailing, no one shouting ‘mummy’ 100,000 times is a huge break in itself. I’d happily take a bath with a trout if it was part of the deal.

It is a naked spa, as most are in Holland. I’ve brought a towel, but first I’m told I have to pay extra for a dressing gown. This is so that I can sit in the restaurant ‘decently’, apparently.

Now we’re in and we start to look around at the various saunas on offer. Wow, I haven’t been to a sauna in years, not since the old squatty days when I first moved to Amsterdam. This is like another world. It is a vast complex of luxurious tiled opulence. It’s like something out of a movie. There are so many variants of the sauna/steam room to choose from, log burning, Finnish, colour therapy, Himalayan, etc, all around a lavish central swimming pool and there are even more baths and saunas outside.

At first I am so distracted by my decadent surroundings and the mountain of salt scrub in the shower that I don’t notice, but now as I wander from sauna to plunge pool to sauna, I can’t help but see what’s going on around me. I am out of date, I know that, but now I realise how out of date. Everyone seems to be hairless.

“Are we the only ones in here with pubes?” I whisper to my friend

I have a good look around, and confirm, no, I’m not having a paranoia attack. This is real. Women, men, all of them, whether they’re in their 20’s or 60’s. All the same, just at slightly different stages of the bald to stubble ratio. Doesn’t it itch like hell when it starts to grow back?

I have no problem with nakedness in general. I’m a child of the 70’s with those ‘radical’ types for parents. I have been indoctrinated early on. My mother thought nothing of stripping off in front of me and running up mountains with groups of her friends on spiritual quests to celebrate the goddess of the moon. Luckily for me she didn’t go as far as my step-mum, who made the crazy decision to take my brother and sister on holiday to a naturist camp – when they were teenagers!

Nakedness was a pretty every day thing for me, which is why I’m probably better at handling the whole ‘going Dutch’ thing in the sauna. Well I thought I was ok with it, until now, but I’m starting to have a rethink. I am feeling the pressure. The peer pressure. Why the obsession? I’m wondering, peering down at my own slightly overgrown bush. I trim a bit round the edges, but that’s it. My friend and I are most definitely the odd ones out here and as soon as I can between steamings I grab that dressing gown and cover up.

The dutch word for pubic hair is schaamhaar, very closely related to the verb schaam zich which means to be ashamed. Is it just a Dutch thing, or has this trend for the full on wax job gone global without me noticing?

I’m still worrying about it when we eat lunch on the terrace. Luckily we don’t look like freaks anymore, safely wrapped in our luxury dressing gowns. I’m glad I was forced to pay the extra 8 euros now. The woman on the reception was right. I could never have faced the cheese-board without it. How indecent!

“So how was the spa?” asks P when I get home that evening

“No one has any pubes, nowadays” I reply

“Yeah, I know” says P

“What, how do you know?”

“Well, I’ve been told…That’s what people do now.”

So it’s true. The general population has been tricked into living in a make-believe prepubescent world. I’m starting to feel glad that I am so out of touch.

“From now on” I say “I’m going to let it all hang out!”

The 70’s live on! Power to the pubes! We’re adults. Let’s not let a few stray hairs scare us.

Are you with me?


Sex Sells

Yes indeed, there it is a headline grabber to hook you in.

But here’s the real story.

It is an average morning. I am on my way to work. I lock up my bike at the station and throw a few coins to the busker who is playing guitar. He’s quite upbeat considering it’s 7am and drizzly. He’s giving ‘yesterday’ by the Beatles a positive and charming overtone, smiling at all the passengers as they rush by. It’s one of the favourites I sing to my children at bedtime, so it makes me smile thinking of them probably just waking at this moment.

S will probably be driving P mad with his regular morning meltdown about being first to open the cupboard or it could be the speed at which the milk is being poured into his bowl that is all wrong. Small crucial details to a 2 year old that if you get wrong can ruin the morning.

A will be getting ready for school. Putting on her tights and her favourite ‘twirly whirly’ skirt. At the moment she is following a trend amongst the girls in her class. They seem to always wear dresses or skirts. I thought it odd for a while until I had a chat with some of the parents who said that this was what all their daughters wanted and they’d mostly given up arguing. So it seems that gender is on the agenda for 5 and 6 year olds. I have agreed with A that she can alternate between trousers and a skirt every other day.

I pick up the SPITS newspaper as I walk into the station and up to the platform.

P is dealing with the morning mayhem at home, I have made a lucky escape and it gives me the time to relax on the train and peruse the newspapers.

I shouldn’t have bothered.

The headline immediately disturbs me. There is a full page picture of a female football player smiling a big grin under the headline SEXY SOCCER. My heart sinks – another average day and another very average case of sexism. The SPITS may not be the pinnacle of journalism but nonetheless it’s read by about 2 million Dutch commuters per day. An article about women’s sport where the headline has to immediately denigrate all the effort, hard work and skill of getting to the top of their game and simply refer to their body is insulting but unfortunately also not surprising. Later that day I mention this article to a friend and I’m told that I’m ‘reading too much into it’. SIGH…The objectification of women is so normalised that we don’t notice it anymore and when we do we are told that it’s no big deal, we’re so surrounded that we assimilate and overlook.

I flick past page 19, the movie review page which today is a feature on a new release and displays a promotional shot of the movie, 3 svelte bikini-clad young women and their pimp. I find the sports section. I’m expecting the article to continue in the same vein. I’m ready to be outraged by more blatant sexism, more objectified representations of the female form. But it turns out the article is a bit simplistic but ok, mainly focusing on the rise in popularity of women’s football. There’s an interview with American player Abby Wambach, described as the female Messi. Now we could just discuss her as an international football star in her own right but we better throw in a male comparison for our poor readers who are otherwise too simple-minded to understand. Wambach won the best player at the recent FIFA awards but the fact that Messi also won the men’s award is a constant reference point throughout the article, just to make sure we get it. Yes she’s a brilliant footballer because he’s a brilliant footballer.

But hey, I’m sure Messi has the same problem. No doubt he struggles to be recognised for the talent he is and every article about him is peppered with comparisons to Abby Wambach. It must get annoying for him.

There’s a picture of Wambach hugging her team mate. She looks muscular and has short hair. Yes I know, shocking for a woman and especially one with her public profile! The article goes on to mention Alex Morgan, who according to SPITS is talented, successful, good-looking and a media-hit. After all she has more than a million followers on twitter! I look again at the front cover and I notice that it’s the ‘media friendly’ long haired Alex Morgan who is in the picture. Wambach obviously needs to focus more on her hair and make up and less on winning awards for her football skills if she wants to up her social media profile and to be the face of the SEXY SOCCER headline.

But on the whole the article is more balanced than I had expected and there’s not a lot of reference to the sexiness of either Wambach or Morgan. That’s what makes it even worse that they went with such a cheap lazy headline. I have no experience here, but isn’t the headline supposed to be the promise of the article. Here are a couple of my own suggestions next time boys:

Wambach wonder

Fifa la Wambach!

Football’s new heroine!

Wambach winner!

Soccer finally scores big time for US

Shit I’ve been so busy getting annoyed by the newspaper that I get off the train at my stop and realise I haven’t got around to putting on my mascara.


Mouse Hunt

If you remember there’s a cute little kids song entitled A Windmill in Old Amsterdam which goes like this:

I saw a mouse!
Where?
There on the stair!
Where on the stair?
Right there!
A little mouse with clogs on
Well I declare!
Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair
Oh yeah

I am up early as usual. I haven’t slept more than 6 hours a night in weeks. Today the alarm call is A shouting from her bedroom that she’s scared. It’s 6.15 am. This is becoming a daily occurence and also wakes up her brother so it’s a perfect start to a dark winter weekend. I’ve given up on decent parenting decisions at this hour of the morning so I’m letting them watch Charlie and Lola while shoveling in the rice crispies and I’m nodding off with my nose dipped in a cold cup of tea. I keep hearing a sort of rustling noise coming from the corner of the room. I ignore it for a very long time and just keep my eyes shut. It’s probably one of the various drawings and bits of paper falling off the wall.

We’re down on the floor now killing time doing puzzles until the day begins for the rest of the world. Eventually I decide I better go and investigate. In the corner I remove a hobby-horse and a toy pram to reveal a bag with books in it. Under the bag I find some mouse droppings and something wet, which from it’s smell must be wee. A small plastic dinosaur and some magnetic letters are lying in the pool of wee. I consider throwing them out and then chuck them in the sink with some detergent. I don’t know what specific kind of detergent it is, just the nearest thing I find in a yellow bottle. I then use the same stuff on a load of kitchen paper and wipe the floor. Weird. There also seems to be some red blodges on the floor. Maybe the cat has killed a mouse and it’s wet itself in fright?

Ok, back to the puzzles, but I can still hear something. I pull A’s toy oven away from the wall but there’s just some pen lids and a cherry tomato under there. Then I pull a cupboard from the wall and a tiny grey streak zooms between my legs and out the living room door.

“AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH” I am shrieking.

“CALL DADDY!!!! I NEED HIS HELP!”

“DAAAAAAAAADDY” calls A up the stairs.

He comes in half asleep looking bewildered “What? What is it? What’s happening in here?”

“A MOUSE” I shout

“God, do you need to be so melodramatic! I thought someone had been murdered!” says P

“Sorry, it’s just a mouse, I didn’t mean to scare you” I’m saying to A who looks worried.

“It’s just because it ran so fast under my feet, it made me jump.”

“Ok, can we all just calm down in here” says P

P closes the door to the living room and chases the mouse around the hallway with a pink bucket until it seeks refuge in the toilet.

“Can you get me a box?.. quick” he asks

I root through the recycling and find a bent bit of cardboard that once was a box. P has barricaded the toilet doorway with some magazines and an air freshener.

He is poised at the door with the bucket. It looks like he has come up with a mouse trapping system, so I leave him to it.

“Pixie” A runs at the cat and closes the door. “I don’t want her to get the mouse.”

I babble on about nature and hunting and predators for a while.

A climbs up on the coffee table.

“I’m a hunter” she’s saying “I’m not scared of anything”

Outside the door I can hear some movement and P calls me to open the front door.

“I’ve got it” he says

He carries the pink bucket and the cardboard outside to the pavement. He opens the bucket.

“What? There’s nothing in here! I really thought I had it.”

I find the mouse burrowing down next to the drain pipe in the toilet. I can see it’s furry back writhing about trying to wriggle under the linoleum.

We put the cardboard barricade back in place and watch, but there’s no way to get at it now.

“Forget it, I’m going to have a lie down” I say

An hour later I come back downstairs. P is in the living room. Kids are still in their pyjamas having a great time making whizz, boink, klaxon comedy noises on daddy’s computerised piano. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the mouse invader.

Except me.

After a lie down and a renewed sense of purpose I’m on task, ready for the hunt. The mouse is still there in the toilet. There’s a lot of tiny black pellets on the floor. It’s nasty long tail is flipping about from the hole under the drain pipe.

I pick up the pink bucket and freeze.

He pokes his nose out.

I wait.

I lose sight of him for a second, then suddenly he’s there under the radiator.

I put the bucket down.

I poke at him with an empty toilet roll tube.

He scuttles into the bucket to hide.

I grab the cardboard and try to place it over the opening on the bucket, but he darts out before I make it and the barrier is down so he runs out the doorway of the toilet and towards the coats.

“AAAAHHH! NO!” I shout and I’m clenching my fists and looking around for him everywhere.

“NO!!!!!!! I’ve messed up the system!”

P is at the living room door. “What’s wrong? what’s wrong?” he’s asking.

But I’m beyond help.

“I HAVE TO GET THIS MOUSE!” I’m shouting “I CAN’T FIND HIM!”

I’ve croached down on the floor and I’m starting to cry. I throw a walking boot in the direction of the shoe rack. The mouse runs between the shoes. He’s under a welly. I close the sliding door in the porch and open the front door. I pull the shoe rack away from the wall and find a mass of cobwebs. The mouse isn’t there! He’s already shot across to the other side, under the kids coats. I’m getting hysterical, groaning and flapping at him with the cardboard trying to usher him out the front door.

P opens the living room door and looks at me.

“Can you just be normal?”

“NO!” I snap back

The mouse runs back the other way under my legs and squeezes himself through a 2cm gap in the sliding door and back into the house.

“AAAAAHHHHHHH……He’s on the stairs! Help! He’s going upstairs!!!!!!”

I run at the staircase with the pink bucket and somehow I manage to interrupt one of his mouse hops. I fling the bucket down onto his head.

“RAAAAHHHHHHH!”

He runs in the other direction, jumps over the 2 potties and the toilet brush and he’s back in the porch between the walking boot and the umbrellas. I lunge at him with the bucket in one hand and the cardboard in the other and suddenly I seem to have scooped him up and he’s made a dash for it out the open front door. I see him running over the flower bed and through a gap in the wall.

I stand there holding the cardboard like a shield for a moment and then slam the door shut.

When I go back into the living room I am triumphant, but I feel a bit strange.

“I got him out!” I announce and I’m kind of laughing with a weird squeaky wheezing noise.

The cat is asleep on a chair.

“Well done” says P.

“Are you Ok? It sounded like you were having a nervous breakdown.”


Home for Christmas

I am making a trip to England on my own with the kids. P is at home doing up the attic. We have grand plans. One day (after we finally get the plasterboards up) it will become an all-new, sleek and stylish boudoir….so we’ll see what 5 days without the interuption of screams, bum wipes, tears and mayhem brings.

The only slight hiccup to preceedings though could be that ambition outweighs common sense. In the previous week everything I have mentioned from the stuffing that’s falling out of the sofa to the ripped chairs to a missing birth certificate has been met with,

“Don’t worry I’ll do that while you’re away”

I know he has set himself an unrealistic list of jobs, but of course there’s still a part of me that hopes that it’s actually true, that we’ll walk through the door and be stunned by a whole new home-makover like they do in all those TV shows.

I’m not a fan of flying but I have enough experience by now to have plenty of grapes, crayons, crackers and stickers to keep two small children happy, with the added bonus that flying KLM offers, nibbly bits and free apple juice. I love this part of the journey. It seems to take so long for the smiling blue ladies to hand out all the snacks that we are almost landing by the time they come back for the empties. S is practically spilling over with joy to have charge of his very own mini can of apple juice. The can and fidling about with the plastic cup it comes with keeps him busy sipping and spilling all down his trousers until we’re on the descent.

The apple juice has been a winner but it’s a few hours before we make it to my dad’s house and I can have a decent cup of tea. What passes for KLM tea is wishy-washy warm swamp water. Crap ‘Dutch,’ tea served in a charming blue and white ‘Royal Dutch’ patterned paper cup. The pictures of clogs and bicyles are there to divert your attention away from the contents.

Apart from this, the journey goes well and we make it to my dad’s house without too much drama. My dad is very pleased with himself. He reaches into his biscuit cupboard and offers me a mince-pie to go with my long awaited perfect English cup of tea.

Bear in mind this trip is taking place at the end of October, we haven’t even had Halloween.

“Wow” I say. “Christmas is two months away, you’ve got them in already?”

“No” he says “These are just for now. Look, sell by date is the 9th of November”

So it seems the shops are milking it a bit, selling a Christmas treat that you have to eat a month before Christmas.

My dad loves mince-pies. For any non-brits who might not know, a mince-pie is a a small pastry filled with a very sweet mix of raisins and candied peel.

While most of us moan about how early the shops are filling their shelves with Christmas cards and festive gift boxes, my dad is getting excited, waiting for the first appearance of the mince-pie. You can see a little glint of mischeivous saturated fat inducing pleasure in his eyes.

“Why not” I reply

We don’t delay to warm them up properly, we just eat them straight out of the pack. I don’t think I even liked mince-pies when I lived in England, but absence makes the heart grow fonder I suppose.

During our 5 day stay we really start to settle into all the English traditions. I’m getting my fill of the BBC listening to Radio 4 all day, the kids are eating cheese on toast for lunch, with cheddar cheese that melts properly instead of turning to rubber like gouda, I’m breaking a sweat pushing a buggy up the steep hills of a northern English town. We go to visit my mum too and she makes cottage pie and apple crumble!

The hoards now desend on my dad’s house, my brother and his two kids, my sister and her boyfriend, and my mother comes round and my two other sisters. This is turning into a family shin-dig. One of my sister’s has even planned to take the Christmas theme further. I have to admit I am a bit ‘bah humbug’ about the idea, but we’re all here I suppose and we won’t be when the real thing comes around in December.

So on our last evening we order a stupendous Indian takeaway with all the trimmings, which is our Chritsmas family tradition. Noone has to cook and luckily for me I love it. We wear paper hats and read out bad jokes. We have steamed Christmas pudding with custard. I think it is my brother who points out the date on the custard powder,

“Wait a minute” He says “Is this the same packet of custard you had before you moved into this house?”

It turns out to pre-date the Millenium, but we have a quick family conflab and decide that it’ll be fine. After our grand dinner, we round off the evening with very silly Christmassy games, and the general level of merry cackling in the room rises as my brother starts handing out the daiquiri’s. Unlike my childless siblings, my other brother and I at this point have to switch to tea again. The combination of cocktails does not work well with 7am loud demands for weetabix.

All in all I would have to admit that I too got into the whole Chritmas theme this year, even though it was only October. It has been a jolly affair evoking all my lost Englishnes. I pack my suitcase with the inevitable stash of PG Tips, but I also add a few boxes of mince-pies.

We are products of our childhoods I guess and my kids are excited about going home. To where they feel they belong.

“Airplane, up in the clouds, see daddy” says S

A long drudge of a journey and we are there. We arrive home. The kids are happy to see their own toys and books. Lego is lego, but somehow it’s comforting to find it in the box just where you left it. They get into bed with the familiar smell of home. Before too long, I am nit picking, inspecting the progress.

P has varnished the work top in the kitchen. He shrugs his shoulders.

“Yeah, you can’t really notice the difference”

He has finished the plasterboards in the attic! Well done, but I can’t see a lot through all the dust. There is no lack of effort. He’s been working flat out, while I’ve been off having Christmas, but my expectations are high. Doing it all on his own has been ambitious. Maybe he could do with some help.

I wonder if the BBC would send their DIY SOS team over to Holland?


Naked Snails

I’ve been in the garden scooping slugs and snails out of the sandpit. The slugs have been an on-going problem for a while now. Last summer I must have found hundreds of them. I am not a very keen gardener, or more to the point I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, but we have inherited an oasis of green and even an overzealous grapevine that seems to sprout new shoots on a daily basis. The branches creep down trying to invade the house through the back door.

I remember a time last year that the garden in all its blooming glory almost gave me a heart attack. I was sitting watching a film on the sofa and I kept hearing a scary tapping noise at the window. Luckily it wasn’t a horror film, but we have all seen enough of those film scenes to imagine a light tapping at the window to be the scrape of a scythe or a meat-cleaver. I bravely drew back the curtain to discover that the wind was repeatedly knocking a particularly gnarly shoot of grapevine against the window pane. It just goes to show that I have the mind of a city dweller. I have never really had a proper garden before and I wasn’t aware of the noises they are capable of making.

I am equally naïve when it comes to slugs. Last summer all my pot plants were eaten, and that felt hugely unjust since it took me an enormous effort to even have any pot plants. I had a tiny baby. I didn’t have time for gardening! I just shoved any pretty looking flowers I found into random jars and containers. They were only annuals (my new word) but all the same it is a shame to have your fledgling efforts spoiled by a plague of gluttonous molluscs.

They even started trespassing through our kitchen. I don’t know where they got in but the evidence of their silver trails was there in the early mornings and I wouldn’t risk walking in bare feet. When my sister came to stay, P had warned her about them,

“Don’t be alarmed if you see any naked snails in the kitchen”

“Ok I won’t” she said

In dutch they have one word ‘slak’ . This can mean a snail or a slug, but to clarify when referring to a slug they say that it is naked.

Today I am outside with my daughter and her friend. It is a surprisingly warm day and they want me to open the sandpit. It has been decked in black bin-liners for weeks to guard against the summer rain (?) but now I am peeling it back. There are scores of slugs all over the plastic, both the naked and the clothed variety, and then I discover yet more wiggling through the sand itself. I find a bowl and a spade and I start picking them off. A and her friend stand at a safe distance watching me recoil in disgust.

“Urgh”

I also have to spoon up trails of black poo all over the sand toys. I never realised that slugs poo so much. The bowl is starting to get very full. They’re writhing over each other, like one wet mucousy mass of black slime. Their tentacles are wiggling trying to escape. I have to work fast, as with each new slug I scoop up into the bowl I discover several more that have squirmed their way to the rim and I have to push them back down with the back of the spade. Why did I use this shallow bowl? It’s too late now. I have to keep going.

They’re repulsive creatures, but I’m not exactly trying to harm them. When I was about 6 I kept a family of snails in a tupperware box in the kitchen as pets and I fed them on lettuce.

“ooooghhh” I shout when my hand squelches against a runaway on the underside of the bowl.

P is inside with his back to me, head burried in the computer. He’s sniggering.

“What’s the big deal, it’s only a few slugs”

“I know but you’re not the one dealing with them!”

I run in and shove the convulsing bowl under his nose. I go out front and open the green bin. Is it ok to put them in here I wonder? It is supposed to be for all green waste – this counts as garden rubbish doesn’t it? I start throwing the slugs in, but seeing their tentacles reaching out towards me at eye-level is too much so I just throw the whole bowl in. It’s made out of wood anyway. That’s green.

I can see the neighbour looking over. She says she heard me in the garden. Apparently I was using the word ‘slimy’ a lot.

“Don’t worry I throw slugs in the green bin too.”

Well at least she’s admitted to the militant slug abuse act, so we’re in it together. They’ll be fine. They probably love it in there anyway. All dark and moist.

I go back into the garden to find A and her friend picking the leaves off my pot plants to mix up into a soup. They have lost interest in the sandpit.

It starts to get chilly so I poke and prod at the wayward vine to struggle to close the back doors. There’s a blackbird out there on the path nibbling at a slug, probably one that I dropped.

“Go bird! Kill!”


The Crunch

A few days ago I was making my daughter a sandwich for school. It was very early in the morning so I still felt a bit bleary headed. I asked her what she wanted in the sandwich.

“Cream cheese and cucumber?”

“Yes that’s fine” she answers “no no uum I won’t have cucumber”

I find this puzzling since cream cheese and cucumber has always been a winner.

“Why don’t you want cucumber?”

“Because when you’re at school and it’s time to eat the juffie turns this thingy round and it plays a tune on the music box and then you all have to be quiet.”

(Juffie is the generic term for female teacher)

Listening to this I suddenly feel a lot more awake and attentive.

“Ooh” I say  “so you mean cucumber is too crunchy and it makes a noise?!”

“Yep”

“I’m sure the juffie doesn’t mind if you crunch a little bit when you’re eating”

“Yeah, but I just don’t want to anyway” she says

I am thinking to myself that this is ridiculous. How did I ever produce such a law-abiding goody-two-shoes? How could a bit of cucumber ever be rebellious?

I make a vow to myself to try to encourage a bit more wild disobedience.

I did recently fail to read the note pinned up on the classroom door so I baked jam tarts for a school trip instead of pancakes as all the other mums had done. I was the only one that did something different but this was more an act of disorganisation than of rebellion. A jam tart is not really a symbol of living life on the edge so I needed a new plan.

I bumped into a friend and her two kids at the farm and while our brood were stepping on the goat poo and stroking the rabbits we managed to have a short conversation about our music tastes. This was a good start, just to talk about something other than the kids. It turned out that she was a reggae DJ and I am a big reggae fan. Talking to her was bringing back memories of wilder days at festivals, being young, dancing all night. She was going to be Dj-ing at the weekend.

Here was the perfect opportunity to liven up an old passion with a few “Irie vibrations.”

So I turn up very keenly at 8pm on the dot. Maybe a bit too keen, the place hasn’t even opened it’s door yet! My friend is the first to play at a whole evening of reggae. I have really built this ‘going out’ thing in my head since it happens so seldom. Things start off very slowly and the place is empty for the first hour apart from us two mums and then a few friends of the DJ start to arrive, one of whom is heavily pregnant. We swap birthing stories and talk about pregnancy yoga. Wait! This is not the wild evening I had planned. Then my friend, the DJ needs to go to the loo and quickly shows me what to do in her absence. I’m standing in the DJ hotspot and I’m switching the faders! My heart beats a bit faster and I feel like I’m very cool…I look up from my brief moment of triumph and remember that I’m playing to an empty dancefloor!

By the time the second band of the night plays and it’s really filling up with the proper late night party crowd, ie. the young people I start nervously looking at the time and I sensibly head back home. I have to retrieve my coat from the backstage area though and typically enough the band members are in there taking a breather – smoking up a cloud of marijuana. The smell from outside is enough to almost knock me off my feet and I’m getting a bit nervy about the idea of going in, but I just hold my breath and make a dash for it. OK so my really reckless days are in the past, but I did get close to the ‘rebel music’, at least I danced to some tunes about the ‘uprising’.  And I had four beers! And was home at midnight!

My rebellion might be on the back burner, but I hope my daughter’s is still to come. On Monday I’m planning on slipping carrot sticks into her lunch box.


One Man and His Bike

Hobbies?!

Why do certain men have this urge to take up precious and valuable time with pointlessness? As I have mentioned to P several times of late I consider hobbies a luxury that I don’t expect to have time for until I’m at least 65. There will be plenty of time for leisure activities when we’re retired and the kids have left home. I’ll join a choir, grow potatoes, make wonky pottery mugs with the best of them, but for now, there are bums to be washed, sandwiches to be made, washing up to be done, tax returns, greasy fingers to wipe, sweetcorn to be swept from the floor etc etc. The list goes on…. By the way these domestic chores are not my idea of a pastime, if there are any men reading this I would like to point out that we women have not invented the concept of laundry, it is just there spoiling our fun too.

As far as having hobbies goes, P doesn’t agree. He has a new one to add to his list.

He is building himself the ultimate fan-daby-dozy racing bike. Apparently it has a rare Japanese frame that someone once won the ‘Tour de France’ using in about 1980….I have definitely got these facts wrong, but I am not a geek so I don’t care.

It is not enough for P that he already has a racing bike in the garden, plus a folding bike, a mountain bike, a city bike and a bakfiets (container bike).  This might sound like an affluent collection of transport but showing them off would make a laughable episode of ‘cribs’. They are an assortment of rust and various states of disrepair, so they make up a scene fairly typical in a dutch family’s front garden. And handy for visitors of course.

His new hobby is like the super-duper optimum hobby since it combines other hobbies into one streamlined obsession. One is racing of course, another is spending an inordinate amount of time searching marktplaats (the dutch ebay) for parts, another is general tinkering and the final hobby is photography. Flicking through his camera recently wanting to see his snaps of the kids I found one picture of the chain rings laid out next to the crank set (yes I now know what it’s called) and several shots of the frame without wheels taken from different angles. It’s reminds me of a lover who can’t stop snapping pictures of their sweetheart.

Whether it will ever satisfy him I have no idea, I’m sure that once the bike is finished, he’ll use it of course but the thrill of the challenge will fade and be replaced by the next obsession. No doubt, the flush of new love will lose some of it’s luster, those photos won’t be saved but discarded as the next project begins. I know from experience that there will be a next project.

Meanwhile the laundry. Today I was upstairs with little S just after his nap. We’ve just been on holiday and the suitcases are lying around the hallway not being dealt with so I thought I better get on with it. There are also huge piles of unsorted clothes all wedged in the doorway of our bedroom so I start chucking them vaguely in the direction of the laundry basket. S keeps pointing up to the attic and saying “dada”.

“No dada’s not up there” I say

“Dada” he says again and starts trying to climb the stairs.

“OK I’ll show you” I say and pick him up under the arms and go up.

When I get up there I find the racing bike suspended from the middle of the ceiling, like a sacred centrepiece. The metal parts are gleaming silver and there are several scary looking cleaning products and blackened toothbrushes on the floor.

Apart from that the attic is clear, it has exposed bare wooden walls and no floorboards. P has been up there a fair bit recently. ‘Renovating’. Basically for the last year we’ve been trying to get around to getting it finished and habitable so that it can be our new bedroom.

I go back down the stairs and continue sorting through the heaps of clothing but S keeps on pointing and I have to show him the bike several more times before he’s satisfied.

This evening after dinner I see P is outside talking to the neighbour over the fence. Initially he’s thanking him for watering the plants while we were away and politely listening to him talk about his new job. The conversation quickly moves along and his pet subject comes up, his bike. The neighbour turns out to be a racebike enthusiast as well. P is showing him pictures on his phone. They’re out there a long time and P comes in clutching some brake cables that the neighbour had left over in his shed.

“That’s the chattiest he’s ever been” he says smiling.