Monday, 22 September 2008

"What a difference a day makes...."

...or, in this case, "What a difference 4 years and 2 months make..."

What have I been doing? Hmm. That's a tricky one. I haven't been in prison and I haven't been single-handedly circumnavigating the globe backwards. I suppose I have been nurturing the Infant Young, spending the Man's money and avoiding the ironing mountain with great success. And possibly suffering from a serious case of blogger's block.

But I am back. I have returned. I am restored to the ranks of blogdom. The first thing I must do is try to remember how to amend the sidebars of my blog to update my references, because no longer is the following true:

The Princess (8) is petite, blonde and funny. She is a renowned expert on the complete works of J K Rowling and in her spare time enjoys attending school and pretending to be a poodle

The Paragon (6) is very tall, curly-haired and responsible. She owns 27 cuddly pigs, has just received her certificate for swimming 25m and is currently immersed in A Child's Atlas of the World

The Cub (3) is short and very cuddly. His hobbies are inflicting pain on his sisters, all motorised vehicles and eating vast quantities of dried pineapple

Watch this space for an update!


Wednesday, 28 July 2004

A bad workwoman always blames her tools

So there I was, happily brandishing the hose attachment of the vacuum cleaner, sucking fluff and detritus from the right angles on my stairs with all the fervour of the newly-converted, breaking off at times to lunge at the Cub with the hose and laugh maniacally at him as he hopped nervously from toe to toe on the landing above, braving the suction in the way only a small boy can, trying to smile confidently but with his widened eyes betraying his qualms.

And then there was nothing. The vacuum cleaner just, well, stopped. Nothing, nada, zip. I checked the plug. I even worked out how to change the bag in case it was too full. I took the Cub for a quick walk to buy strawberries to give it a chance to cool down and rest from its unaccustomed efforts but no, it appears to be a terminal case. It's dead.

I held crisis talks with myself over a cup of coffee as I rifled through the sheets of carefully planned household chores that take me up to the weekend. There was a lot of vacuuming on the list I can tell you. The Cub had to be brought in to administer some calming pats and employ diversionary tactics in demanding orange juice with menaces.

Anyhow, I have rejigged the list of chores until I can get a new vacuum cleaner at the weekend. It's not satisfactory but it'll have to do. Let's face it. The house has been fine for five years without me vacuuming it. It can wait three more days.


Tuesday, 27 July 2004

"You can't get spoiled if you do your own ironing." (Meryl Streep)

When the Man and I bought our first house way back in 1993 I made a very stupid bargain. I agreed that if he did all the gardening I would do all the ironing, forgetting that there’s not much gardening to be done in England for 7 months of the year whereas the Man needs 5 smooth, crisp business shirts every week. Being 6’ 4” tall also means that his trouser legs are too long to fit on the ironing board in one go, thus increasing the amount of my ironing time in one fell swoop. But I kept to my side of the deal, although I did do a lot of grumbling about it and a fair bit of strategising how to get round it.

1996 saw the advent of Mrs Mop, the cleaner, in the Poppins household. I cunningly managed to get Mrs Mop to agree to iron the 5 shirts along with cleaning the house and that left me with only the weekend scruffy clothes and smalls, which can get away with not a lot of ironing if you fold them carefully when they come out of the tumble dryer, you know.

When the Infant Young started popping out all over the place I ensured that I was not deluged further with ironing by making it a clause in their contracts that both the Not Quite Perfect Nanny and then the Perfect Nanny had to do the Infant Young’s ironing. Those of you who are parents will know that children only have to look at an item of clothing to make it dirty and the beauty of my contractual delegation will be much envied I am sure.

But no longer. The Perfect Nanny has driven away into the sunset to put her swollen ankles up on a pouffe, watch some daytime television and laugh hysterically at the sheer delight of not having to do 5 loads of children’s washing and ironing a week. (All I can say is, just you wait, Perfect Nanny, until your own Infant Young arrives in September and you are back with your nose to the washing machine once more.)

So I am now nannyless, cleanerless (Mrs Mop having retired in May and her replacement not having been appointed yet) and back in charge of the family laundry. And, readers, I have risen to the challenge. I’ve cleared the months’ long backlog of the Man’s and my ironing. I’ve done 2 loads of children’s washing ready to be ironed tomorrow and I am swollen chested with pride at the serried ranks of 10 beautifully ironed shirts awaiting the Man’s body. Now, if only I could work out how on earth I am supposed to iron a super king size duvet cover on a normal sized ironing board I’d be cooking with gas.


Thursday, 15 July 2004

I'm a shopping queen!

OK. I know I am the laziest thing since sliced bread but my life has recently improved.

I have been the queen of internet shopping for a while. My forum friend, Andrea, recently introduced me to the hedonism that is Gymboree and, taking into account the still fabulous exchange rate and even the postage and packing, the Infant Young are now decked out in wall to wall Splash for next summer and will soon be acquiring some of the new Sunflower line on which I have spent my Gymbucks.

I am a devotee of Amazon and numerous other online wine, clothing, sports and toy shops.

But what has really tipped me over the edge of internet shopping bliss is finally finding the time to sit down and do my grocery shopping online at Sainsbury's.

My weekly shop takes me a good 2 hours from leaving home in the car to having the final item stashed safely in the cupboard. I often have to take at least one Infant Young with me which hampers my progress considerably with all the attendant counting out of apples, testing said Infant Young on the exotic fruit lines, having to buy expensive duck for the Paragon, stuffed olives for the Princess and a model car for the Cub, and taking time for at least one toilet stop enroute.

Now I just pour myself a glass of Sauv Blanc, switch on the old 'puter and pick my groceries from the wide and eclectic range offered to me by my supermarket of preference. I pick my delivery slot and then sit back and wait.

My first online delivery arrived on Friday afternoon. The Cub had been watching out of the window for several minutes, expecting a large orange lorry to pull up outside. He was a bit disappointed when it was only a refridgerated van with a picture of some grapes on the side, but quickly rallied and flung the door open with a cheery, "Hello, Sainsbury's Man!"

The delivery man was almost equally as enraptured to have a 3 year old boy assisting him with the transfer of items into my kitchen and was good enough to honk his horn specially at the Cub as he departed 10 minutes later.

The Cub helped me unpack everything and then we sat down at the kitchen table and shared a crumpet with lashings of butter in pure happy satisfaction of a transaction well done.

Glorious internet. You have transformed my life.


Wednesday, 14 July 2004

The long and the short of it

I internally giggled this weekend when I weighed and measured the Princess in order to enter her 8 year old statistics on my growth chart. She weighed in at 48lbs and was exactly 4 feet tall. I congratulated her on her valuable, if small, gain over the previous 6 months, whilst noting in my filofax the fact that she weighed and measured exactly the same as the Paragon did at the age of 5 and a half. Funny girls.


Tuesday, 13 July 2004

"All I am I owe to my mother." (George Washington)

My mother had a crisis the other week. We recently completed the winding-up of my father’s estate following his death. The final task outstanding was for my mother to close down the executors’ bank account and transfer the final balance to whichever of her accounts or investments she wanted to.

I got an anguished phone call on the Saturday morning. There were a few gulps, a large intake of breath and then a strangled, “Jane, I’ve lost your father’s savings!” followed by floods of tears. It turned out that my mother had written a cheque from the executors’ account and had sent that cheque in the post to her online bank. The executors’ account had already been debited but the online bank was claiming it had no trace of having received the cheque, let alone having presented it for cashing.

I attempted to calm her down by assuring her that it was most likely to be a delay in clearing the funds or a computer input error with the online bank rather then international fraud as she was sure was a certainty. I reminded her that the executors’ account was in a bank that is closed all weekend and I was sure she could sort it out on the Monday. I think she slept a bit better than she might otherwise have done.

On the Monday she rang both banks in an attempt to locate the missing money. She rang me at home that evening, again in floods of tears. Each bank was blaming the other; neither seemed concerned. I told her to try again the next day, to insist on speaking to the bank manager and not an underling, to tell them she was an old-age pensioner, a widow, that this money was her late husband’s life savings and most of all that her daughter was a lawyer and would be taking this up with them and the relevant authorities if the money was not located pronto.

On the Tuesday she phoned me at work from her mobile phone. My mother’s mobile phone is about 10 years old and resembles a house brick in both size and weight. She faithfully carries it round with her everywhere but never has it switched on and never uses it because it costs money to do so. Consequently she has forgotten how to use it. She’d phoned the manager of the bank that had cashed the missing cheque as instructed early that morning but he wasn’t there and she’d since set off on a hike in the Lake District with the rambling club. She’d left her mobile phone number with the bank manager’s PA and was now panicking as to how to end a call should he ring. Frightening, I know.

Anyway, eventually the bank manager called her on her mountain, while she was eating her packed lunch, and explained that he was very sorry she was so upset and he quite understood why and he had initiated the process to locate where the money had gone, but it would take some time and he hoped she would understand but to try not to worry. My mother was slightly mollified but, at the same time, extremely worried and cross with her other bank, the online one, which could still find no trace of having received the cheque. My mother took me through the whole posting process for the third time.

On the Wednesday my mother phoned again. She’d been due to have a meeting with her financial advisor that afternoon at which meeting she was going to invest the missing money. Since the money was still unaccounted for she’d phoned the advisor up to reschedule and explained what had happened. The advisor apparently sounded perplexed at the end of the long and involved tale. “But Mrs C,” she said, “you gave me a cheque for the very same amount of money last time I saw you two weeks ago. It’s sitting in your account right here waiting for this meeting and your investment decision.”

Yes. My mother, the woman who gave birth to me and has, worryingly, passed her genes on not only to me but through me to my three practically perfect offspring, had a brain fart of massive proportions. She had spent five days in hysterics at the thought that someone had embezzled her money; she had spent five days berating bank managers both real and virtual, only to find that she hadn’t posted the damn cheque to the online bank at all but had handed it to her financial advisor for lodging in yet another bank account, where it had been safely sitting earning interest quietly for two weeks.

The words Mad Old Bat come to mind. Affectionately, of course.


Monday, 12 July 2004

"Next week there can't be any crisis. My schedule is already full." (Henry A. Kissinger)

It’s my last week at work. Forgive me, therefore, if my posting is a touch sporadic. I’m wrestling with getting all my files in order, whilst still being expected to attend meetings to win new work even though it’s a bit tricky telling the new clients to whom we are pitching that I’m not actually going to be around to do the work. Combine that with the fact that work are finally realising that with me gone and no replacement lined up they are rather exposed and are getting increasingly keen to secure my services as a consultant come the autumn.

I’m also wrestling with the Inland Revenue over the methods of paying the Perfect Nanny her maternity pay. The Perfect Nanny is entitled to 100% of her salary for 6 weeks and then £100 a week for a further 20 weeks. I have to pay her that money and sort out all the tax and social security payments, as usual. I can claim 105% of the amount I pay back from the Inland Revenue because she is my only employee. I’m happy with all that. What I am not happy with is the inability of the Inland Revenue to confirm to me whether or not I can withhold payment of the July quarter tax due in order to fund the first month’s maternity pay or whether I have to pay it and then immediately apply for it to be paid back. I don’t even really care what the answer is as long as someone would bloody well hurry up and make a decision.

Then there is the endless round of school commitments. Looking at my diary I see that this week I have Parents’ Evening for the Paragon tonight, an art exhibition at her school on Wednesday at which I am expected to pay £10 for her daub that will have been framed especially, her Sports’ Day on Thursday and her Reserve Sports’ Day on Friday. (They have two Sports Days because it inevitably rains on the first one and requires postponing until the following day. Last year the Man and I drove all the way to the school from work (30 minutes) only for the heavens to open just as we arrived, necessitating us to drive all the way to back to work and repeat the exercise the following day.)

All these school events are held between the hours of 3.15pm and 5.30pm which, when one doesn’t actually leave work until 6pm requires ingenuity and a certain forbearance on the part of one’s colleagues. This is one of my pet irritations – the fact that schools expect that parents have no other commitments and are at the beck and call of the headmistress and her timing whims. I’m as committed to my kids as the next mother in the school playground and I’ve been unfailingly there for as many of these events as I can be. But even I baulk at leaving work early three times in one week and I’m the boss.

Thank heavens that next week, when I will have to repeat the whole week’s events again but this time for the Princess, I will be a free woman.