Saturday, 27 April 2019

Back from the grave

Well, not exactly the grave. More like from Co-Habiting with a Teenager for six long years. Which has practically killed me, not least because I've had to zip my mouth and stop mentioning her or even acknowledging her in public. I've had to give up non-consensual hugs. Abandon my normal good manners of greeting the person in my house with a good morning (not that I ever glimpsed Lily in the morning). I am a shadow of my normal gregarious, light-hearted self.

Now Lily's left home, I'm giving up not writing about her. She's a fully fledged adult and can (and indeed does) fend for herself. Now that she's got septum and tongue piercings, bleached and rainbow-dyed hair and practically a full body tattoo, I've finally had to Let Go.

Perhaps, I muse, if I'd Let Go earlier, for example by not drawing a cartoon scroll of James I's life in order to get her through her history GCSE, I wouldn't have pushed her to the extremes of rebellion, and she'd be the most adorable, devoted daughter hanging on my every word.

But it's all too late now. One has to lie in the bed one has made, and here lies Eliza Gray, half-dead. And there, 200 miles away, lies Lily Gray under her duvet at 2.30pm after another hard week at her degree in modern musicianship (I know!), aka clubbing, downing tequila shots at Spoons, smoking and no doubt countless other unsavoury activities I'd rather not know about.

'Well darling,' says Cousin Claude, 'look on the bright side, she's going to make a fabulous rock star.'

'Except most rock stars who were into sex 'n' drugs 'n rock 'n' roll were dead by the age of 30,' I point out. 'Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Jim Henderson.'

'Might you mean Jim Morrison, darling?' enquires Claude.

'Possibly,' I say, my eyes narrowing. 'Who's Jim Henderson then?'

'The Muppet man.'

Hmmm. Or possibly Claude's Alzheimer's is playing up too. Oh well. The thing is, everyone says, hang on in there, your darling daughter will come back, but she's going to come back with a full body tattoo and multiple piercings. That's the thing.

The phone lights up. It's Cass.

'Has Tilly got any tattoos?' I enquire.

'Oh! Don't talk to me about that. A small rose on her left shoulder blade and a star on her ankle.'

'That's nothing. At least she can wear a T shirt and socks and hide them. Lily's going for a full sleeve.'

Ugh! shudders Cass. 'I said to Tills, you can dye your hair bright blue if you want, because at least you can shave it off and start again. But you've got to live with that tattoo until your dying day. You can't just take it in like a pair of bellbottoms when it goes out of fashion.'

'Exactly!' Cass and I are so birds of a feather. 'They'll be marked women. Literally. Except, I suppose, because all their generation have got tattoos, they'll all be grannies together in their bath chairs saying, oh yes, that heart was from my first boyfriend, and this dragon was when we split up, and they'll all be admiring each other's artistry and it'll be, "aah I remember the day when..." and it'll keep their minds razor-sharp.'

A lightbulb sparks in the recesses of my own dull mind. Yes!! This will be my new enterprise. Eliza Gray's Anti-Alzheimer's Tattoo Parlour. It'll be better than a diary or a photo album. A pictorial record of your life imprinted on your very being! You'd have one for every year of your life. A bit like the Christmas newsletter, starting on your ankles and working your way up.

Friday, 9 January 2015


Oh dear. The Alzheimer's is marching on with a vengeance.

As I return from my 'morning' dog walk at 2.45pm, I spy my next-door neighbour, bearing a red woggle (please just google woggle), trying to coax her two little children out of the door.

'It takes half-an-hour to go anywhere,' she says with a tight smile. 'We're just off swimming at Camberwell.'

'Really!' I exclaim. 'Camberwell! That's a long way to go for a swim.'

She looks slightly perplexed, but explains that it's a nice old-fashioned Victorian swimming baths and has just been renovated and is really much nicer than Brixton.

But still! 'Camberwell!' I can't help exclaiming again.

'Well, we used to live there,' she explains, scooping up the smallest child with her woggle-free arm. 'It doesn't take that long to get there.'

I nearly ask if they're tying the swimming in with a weekend away, but then something starts flickering at the edge of my consciousness. Camberwell. Camberwell... No that's not right. Camber... Camber... What's the name of that Army place in Surrey? Camberley! That's it. Camberwell is next to Brixton and Herne Hill, where we reside, and takes about 10 minutes to get to. Rather than the one and half hours I was envisaging to get to Camberley.

Oh dear.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Dream a little dream...

I know, it's been too long. The thing is, you can't go telling all about your teenager. The only thing teenagers like is to be ignored and left to their own devices and indeed vices. However, Lily's dreamworld is more thrilling than anything life can offer.

When I go to wake her up this morning, a little grin spreads over her face. 'I haven't had a dream like that in ages,' she says. 'It was Black Holey and somehow Miley Cyrus got into my dream. We got into this car, actually it was a flying car from Harry Potter except it was a lot easier to drive... No! It was a helicopter and for some reason it was flying upside down, so I jumped on the bottom and opened the hatch and climbed in, followed by Miley Cyrus - she's like my worst singer in the world - and it was like the Tardis. So I took over the controls. You know like when you try to steer and it goes all bouncy, well I managed to smooth the ride. We were over the sea and Everest was there, surrounded by wooded mountains, and I was like, "I want to go and see Everest," and one of my friends said, "You're doing this to annoy me," because she wanted to go home.

'I started telling my friends all these like facts like air density and all that stuff about how clouds form and are made into snowstorms - basically geographical facts. So we got to Everest and somehow the Theatre of Cruelty came into my dream. We'd landed on this ancient temple place and you came into my dream.'

'Yaayyy!' I cry.

'You've only been in two of my dreams ever, like ever! I still remember the other one actually. I'll tell you that later.'

'OK, go on.'

'For some reason the temple was at the base camp of Everest and we could go up a river that goes up the side of Everest, but for some reason we wanted to go inside the temple. So we got in some boats and rowed over to the temple. You know how in galleries they have those guides who tell you about the paintings? You became one of them.'


'There were murals in the temple and the whole place was lit by candles and you were telling us about them, and one was a baby getting all its limbs ripped off which was really gross, and it became a bit like Venice, and between each gallery you had to go by boat, and we saw people being burnt and people being really tortured - basically all the medieval tortures. It was horrible.

We got back into the helicopter and for some reason we all flew to Vesuvius...

'Hang on. Was that it? I am out of the dream again now?'

'Yup. This is the part where the Black Hole comes in by the way. For some reason we'd all grown to like giants, so we were bigger than everybody down at Vesuvius, and when we got there it was rotating like a Black Hole. It was really cool.'

She starts giggling. 'The outside was made of chocolate and the inside was treacle and honey and golden syrup. Seriously. We climbed to the top and started eating it. Considering we were giants, we pulled bits off the size of my bed. And then... Miley Cyrus came back! Why the hell was she in my dream? By the way it was the young Miley, not this retarded Miley we see now.

'Also people from Twilight started to come in as well. Basically we were all lying on clouds eating the volcano slash Black Hole, Miley comes along and asks what we're doing, and I'm like, "you should totally try some, it's so yummy.'

Lily pauses to savour the memory. 'Mmmm, it was soooo good....

'Then I became Miley Cyrus. Then we all felt a massive shaking, because Miley - me's Dad was coming and he's like the biggest person out of everybody in the world. And I was yelling at everyone, "Hold on, Dad's coming!" and he was literally ripping the Black Hole to shreds and eating it and then he started squeezing and squishing the clouds and I said, "Anybody who doesn't want to be squished by my Dad's hands, let go!"

'So we literally all let go and, I don't know how this happened, we all had bungee cords attached to us and we were bungee jumping...'

'What fun!' I exclaim.

'It was awesome. When we reached the ground we were in America.'

'God, darling, you've been all over the place!'

'I know!'

'Miley had gone very very pale...'

'You're not Miley any more?'

'Nope. It turns out she'd become a vampire.'

'Darling, are you making this up as you go along?'

'Nope. This actually happened. She said, "what's happened?" and we're like, "you've turned into a vampire, mate. Tough luck." We came to a seriously weird train station. You know gypsy caravans? The carriages were like that and to get there, this person pulls up in this shabby horse and cart, and for some reason I knew the driver and he was called Stanley, and he got us all to the train station, and then all my friends left. And then I woke up!'

'Gosh,' I say. I feel like I've been on a major excursion. 'Oooh! Tell me about the other dream I was in.'

'That was like ages ago when I was seven, but that was like really boring.'

'So basically I just feature in a really boring dream and then as a tour guide.'

'Yup. In the boring dream we were in the Caribbean or Thailand or somewhere.'

'Hang on, that's quite nice!'

'We were racing down the beach and there was a wooded path through the trees and I was on that and you were on the beach and we were racing back to our bungalow thingamajiggy, and I said. "let's actually race," so then you were like, "OK," and we started running at the same speed and then I jumped and started flying. It was a really lame dream.'

'You realise your really lame dream would be anybody else's really exciting dream?'

'What, like flying? It's really dull.'

I raise my eyebrows as if to say, honestly!

'What? It's really dull. I started flying and got there first and that's basically it.'

'So, feelings of supremacy over your mother at an early age.'


'So basically I'm the loser in a race and a tour guide.'


'And that's it.'


'Have you really not had any other dreams about me?'

'Nope.' She turns over decisively and pulls the duvet over her ears.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Last post of 2013

Lily and I, thwarted by our late-afternoon shopping expedition to the King's Road where we discovered everywhere shut at 5pm, are sitting at the dining room table, wiping up the remains of our takeaway hummus and babaganoush with ragged strips of flatbread.

When the plastic container is spotless, we look at each other blankly.

'What shall we do now?' asks Lily.

'I don't know.'

Lily perks up. 'We could have a biscuit!' She eyes the unopened Christmas tin.

'Not a very good start to our new regime, is it?' I look at her mock-disapprovingly over my glasses.

She grins. 'Only a suggestion...!'

'So, we could do something useful...' I run the idea of clearing out the loft past my mind's eye. What a marvellous way to usher in the New Year. But it turns out to be a passing whim. I just don't have the energy. 'Or we could do nothing.'

'We could watch something on iPlayer ... whilst eating biscuits!' Lily throws back her head with laughter.

'What did we do last New Year?' I ask. But neither of us can remember.

'I suppose we could unpack,' I venture. But Lily is by now lost in the mists of Facebook. Ah well. I clear the table, wash up the plastic takeaway containers (waste not, want not) and set about emptying the dishwasher. I feel, more than ever before on a New Year's Eve, like going to bed.

Something has always turned up in the past. Though I can't for the life of me remember what. I go over to the bookshelves and pull out a handful of diaries.

'Oh, this is what we did last year!' I exclaim. 'We went over to Esme Eddington's... oh yes! And you set fire to your hair when you leant over the candle.'

'And I missed the countdown!' says Lily.

'What were you up to?'

'Getting a glass of Coke from the kitchen.'

'What's this for 2011?' I read from January 1st: '"Blurred vision, droopy eyelids, difficulty breathing, constipation..." What's that all about? "Flaccid paralysis...?" Oh I know, it was when Dan was waiting for his botulism to develop after eating his wind-dried ham.' We laugh. 'Oh look - we had Rose and Richard staying and we all went to Cass and Piers's party - that was a brilliant year.'

I flick through the next diary. 'Oh - we went to the Blakes' in the village. I'd forgotten about that. And 2009... that was the year we stayed with Sophia and Vincent and do you remember, we wrote out our goals for the year. None of which we have achieved.'

I push myself up from my chair and unzip the suitcase. I delve around for any dirty clothes and toss them in a pile, which I then dump in the utility room, where Dolly is curled up in her basket. Feel like curling up with her. Maybe I should just give up and go to bed.

8.30pm though.

Text Rose. 'What are you doing tonight?'

'Not doing nuffink.'

'Just read diaries to jog memory of previous New Years and 2 yrs ago we went to Cass's party. Come over and we cd recreate those heady reckless carefree days....? Time for an hour's kip first...'

'Nice idea but Richard wants to stay put and really don't want to risk drink driving.'

Honestly. What has become of us? London, social hub of the universe, and we're all staying home alone. I had more fun in the depths of Mistlebourne.

9:30. Ah. The phone.

'Hi Eliza. Just checking you're coming tonight.' It's Sam from No 48.

'Oh! Er... yes!' I'm frantically riffling through the mental filing cabinet.

'We're kicking off at 10. Vodka and fireworks. Bring Lily. We've set up a cinema upstairs for the kids.'

Yes! I knew it. Something always turns up! Happy New Year!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Here lies Eliza Gray

Today's work displacement activity is an unexpected telephone conversation with an old friend of my mother's who turns 80 next year. We are swept back in time, reminiscing about my childhood and my dear departed mama.

'How did you put it in your eulogy?' muses Aggie. 'She was a rock for us all...'

'She was, wasn't, she?' I say. 'She was always doing things for other people. She was the centre of operations for the whole family.' 

'I think she was one of those people who's born, not made,' says Aggie. 'She was an exceptional woman.'

'I cannot believe I'm my mother's daughter,' I say ruefully, looking around the room at the untended paperwork, the stack of baking pans that I can't quite get round to washing up. 'She'd have been preparing for Christmas by now. She'd have been making coconut ice and peppermint creams for the Christmas sale and we'd have been stirring the Christmas pudding in that huge pot and making a wish...'

'Oh yes,' says Aggie, 'she made Christmas puddings for all the family, didn't she?'

'Yes, and she'd make food parcels for all sorts of old people and we'd go round delivering them. Like Miss Mitty who lived up that steep hill in an old railway carriage... I was scared of her.'

'Oh yes, well she did look like an old witch,' agrees Aggie. 

I find myself recalling various episodes and vivid little vignettes that had until now been lost in the mists of time. When I put the phone down after an hour and ten minutes, I feel transported, buoyed. 

Dolly suddenly leaps to her feet and patters to the door, where she stands quivering in anticipation, tail wagging. Seconds later, Lily's key turns in the door. 'Hi Mum! What did you get up to today?' 

I tell her about Aggie and our reminiscences about my mother. 'I wonder what you'll remember about me when I'm dead and gone,' I add.

'Probably most likely the spaghetti.'


'When you used to open both ends of the packet by accident and the spaghetti fell out all over the floor. It was hilarious.'

Well there we are. My mother's epitaph:

Ann Gray: a rock for all, an exceptional woman

And her daughter?

Eliza Gray: opened both ends of the spaghetti packet

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Modern family

Lily and I continue to lead separate lives. On school days, she sets her alarm for 6.30am, way before my getting-up time, puts on her eyeliner, picks at a bowl of neat Special K Red Berries and heads out into the rain, defiantly anorakless, while I am still stumbling around in my dressing gown.

On Saturday, while I go to an event in Bloomsbury, she elects to get up leisurely, walk the dog and then catch the bus to Brixton to see Gravity with a friend. I am nervous about letting her loose, but apparently it's normal for 13-year-olds to be negotiating London transport alone.

At 4.30pm I am relieved to get a text. 'Back'

I call her. 'Everything all right, darling?'

‘Oh my God, Gravity was epic! But it’s totally put me off being an astronaut.'

I burst out laughing. ‘You’ve never wanted to be an astronaut! An astronomer…’

I return to my event, where I was chatting to an old acquaintance. ‘Love the wellies-with-little-frock look!’ I confide jovially, nodding towards her friend who has gone to get more wine, wearing a clingy green dress and blue sailing wellies. My comrade looks at me blankly.

‘Oh.’ I strain my eyes to study the diminishing figure. ‘They’re not wellies, are they?’ No, they are flat suede boots with crepe soles. ‘I thought they were those navy sailing wellies with white soles,’ I explain. ‘It’s because I haven’t got my sunglasses on.’

Oh God. What is wrong with me?

I get home - it's a miracle I can remember where I live - to find Lily glued to my laptop. 'So,' I sit down and take off my shoes, 'tell me about the film.' 

‘It's about this female astronaut doctor person,' she says, her face glowing a ghostly blue, 'who went up to space to fix The Arm and she was stuck on it and it got hit by an asteroid and this meteor shower thing... I don't think they actually filmed it in space - that would have been too dangerous.’

I stifle a snigger.

'Aaah, and it was so scary. George Clooney, I forget who his actor was...'

'George Clooney is the actor...'

'I mean his character. Basically, when the whole thing got blasted by all the meteors and things, George Clooney and the female astronaut person Ryan got split, and you know how like space is so big, and you cannot find each other in the dark, well they did, which is really stupid because it's basically impossible. But this is the really really really scary part, well it wasn't scary but it was really creepy, they got back to the debris of the station and they see all these things floating round, and this astronaut guy knocks into her helmet and he has this hole in his head that has been blasted right through and the shot lasts on that for like 10 seconds and I'm like can you please get away from that already?'

'Gosh.' I get up to put the kettle on. 'So, what are you watching now?'  

She grins. 'People post like these coming out videos on YouTube and I clicked on one and thought it was going to be just like this dude coming out of the house...'

We both laugh. I look over her shoulder. A boy with a gelled quiff is looking back at us. 'I'm finally ready to share with you guys, because YouTube and Tumblr and the internet are such a big part of my life and I just feel like I can't keep something that's such a big part of me from you guys...' 

'Seriously?' Lily pauses the video. 'That is quite gay. Not as in gay gay. Cos at school we use gay to mean stupid.' She taps 'chilli challenge' into the search box. 'Oh it was so funny at school yesterday, about five people had to go out of class because they did the Chilli Challenge at lunch. First of all Mrs Lott is like, I have no sympathy for you, but then she made them go and wash their hands. You have to eat as much raw powder as you can. We also have the Coffee Challenge and the Cinnamon Challenge.'

'What do they get for it?'

'Nothing - it's just a really retarded challenge.'

It really is a brave new world out there. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

'I'd like to hear your take on my mad neighbour,' announces Dan from his hands-free in the car.

'Mm?' I slacken my pace. Dan doesn't like wind interference or heavy breathing.

'She's taken to giving farm tours, towing visitors round behind the tractor. She's put a sofa in the wagon and they sit there, drinking wine and admiring her Portland rams.'

'Sounds rather fun.' I flop down on a park bench overlooking the Serpentine. Pigeons are flapping around a toddler, intercepting the chunks of bread he's throwing to the unlucky ducks.

'So then this Bentley appeared in her drive, and it was still there the next morning. The next day there was an Aston Martin - still there the next morning - then the next day, a Ferrari. There's been a constant stream of them. All there the following morning. So then she comes up to me today and says, "I'm going away on holiday, if you see a man in a white Range Rover hanging around, he's one of my Gentleman Callers and you can tell him he's not welcome here any more, because he's not."' Dan lets out an exuberant belly laugh. 'So what do you think, Lize? What can it all mean? Is she a prostitute?' He says it with an endearing touch of naivety, suggesting one who expects to be laughingly given a logical alternative explanation.

'Of course she is!' I snap my fingers and glare at Dolly, who is sniffing around the toddler's buggy, hoovering up stray breadcrumbs.

'Really? "Gentleman Callers!" What else can it mean?'

'Nothing. She's definitely a prozzie. Although she probably doesn't refer to herself as such. She probably calls herself a high-class ... farm hand.'

'Farm hand!' guffaws Dan.

'But what I'd like to know is how come they've all got such posh cars. I've never met anyone like that around Candlebury.'

'I presume she's signed up to I did go on to see if I could find her, but it's full of fairly average people, isn't it?'

'Yees,' I agree absent-mindedly. My mind has sped into fifth gear.!  Maybe this is the answer to my dire straits.

'I did somehow end up on Rate My Prostitute once,' Dan continues conversationally, 'and I was interested to note that what makes a good prostitute is off-street parking and a nice cup of tea.'

'Well that's the answer to why she's so popular! She probably pulls them in with a picture of her drive. "Come and indulge in a lavish forecourt..."'

'"...and a nice cup of Earl Grey!"'

Bang go my chances of being a high-class call-girl, though. No forecourt. It's impossible to park round here after 6.30pm.

Hmmm. Will just check out Oops. Google Chrome couldn't find it. Well, that was too much to hope for. Google 'dating site for rich people with posh cars.' Here we are! With a big red button saying, FIND A MILLIONAIRE NOW! Click.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

New school blues

Lily has moved seamlessly from her St Trinian's country prep school for 100 horse-fancying, rara-skirted girls with names like Cecilia and Tatiana, to a London comprehensive for 1,400 black-suited Jaydens and Kayas.

I, conversely, have been on the back foot since the beginning of term, owing to a) the unfeasibly early mornings after a blissful year of lie-ins, and b) leaving it to the last minute to get her school uniform. The nice jackets had run out at M&S Marble Arch when we got there at 3pm the day before school commenced, forcing us to go to the dreaded official outfitter, whose official jacket combines the stiffness of cardboard with the type of manmade fibre that sparks fly off if you get too close.

The chummy assistant handed Lily an official ready-tied tie that fastens round the back with Velcro.

'Oh God,' I muttered. 'Don't they have real ties these days?'

'Don't want any peanutting,' cackled the assistant.


'Few incidents,' she nodded knowingly at me, miming a tie-tightening throttle. 'Not many, mind, but two or three, back in the old days.' She pulled open a drawer. 'Not as bad as these,' she added, holding up a clip-on tie for another school where even quick-release Velcro is clearly not enough.

Oh lord. This isn't Candlebury.

Since then, Lily has taken up her newfound independence with a hitherto unknown burst of self-motivation, which involves setting her alarm for 6.30am, stomping downstairs at 7.10am (at which point I rouse myself and stumble down in my dressing gown to act like the dutiful mother), standing up to eat a quick bowl of Special K Red Berries while stuffing books into her backpack, before heading out across the park to team up with pals in order to walk back across the park to catch the bus to school.

'The thing is, Lily,' I venture on day 2, 'it's not very ergonomical, this little journey of yours.'


'The way you go to school. You're walking two sides of a triangle across the park and back. If you walked straight to the bus stop you could shave 20 minutes off your journey and spend another 20 minutes in bed.'

She gives me one of her steely withering looks, picks up her door key and heads out without so much as a 'bye, Mum'.

On day 3, Lily glares up at me as I appear on the stairs. 'You don't have to get up every morning,' she says. I shudder. My mother was already down, table laid, bacon and tomatoes sizzling in the pan, when I was Lily's age.

On day 5, as I attempt to hug her unyielding little body goodbye, Lily says, 'Do we have to go through this every morning?'

Oh God. I am officially redundant.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A bravura barney

Dolly and her little friend Secco are scrapping at my feet, Heart FM is blaring some ghastly song and Lily is watching a trailer for some wham-bam action-packed movie on the iPad. Not my idea of a harmonious summer holiday.

'What are you watching?' I demand.

'Pacific Rim.'

'It sounds ghastly. What's it about?'

'It's the near future. And from below the Pacific Ocean, giant monsters known as Kajoo rise to conquer the world. Our only defence is the Jay-gers, huge robots controlled by two human pilots whose minds are locked in unison. Ultimately however it's a losing battle and in desperation the authorities turn to an untried novice, Mako Mori, and a washed-up pilot, Ra-lie Becket...'

'Typical Hollywood!'

'... who are tasked to drive an apparently...'

'Obsolete. It means something that's out of date, defunct, has-been, useless, like every piece of technology you buy, the minute you get it out of the shop...'

'...experimental Jay-ger. With the apocalypse imminent...'

'Quelle surprise. Typical Hollywood.'

'... this unlikely pair make a bra....v.....V-U-R-A...'

'Bravura - accomplished, brilliant...'

'... last stand.'

'You see? Typical Hollywood film - imminent disaster, pair two unlikely heroes together, they're going to be totally incompetent, fall out, the whole thing is almost going to go wrong, and then miraculously they're going to pull it out of the bag and save the world. Totally predictable.'

'Well I find it totally predictable when you watch Pride and Prejudice,' Lily says coolly, switching trailers.

'There's nothing predictable about Pride and Prejudice!' I retort. 'You're just saying that to be annoying.' I catch her eye and she laughs.

But actually, I reflect, she's right. The dark difficult bloke always has a heart of gold and the dismissive heroine always ends up with him. Unlike real life. Typical Jane Austen.

Friday, 19 July 2013

My child prodigy!


Lily and I are in a state of high tension and suppressed expostulation. At least I am. She is doing a music scholarship today, under huge duress, for the local comprehensive school (which has a music speciality and, as I keep telling her, is sending its musicians on a trip to Brazil next year).

In teenhood, I discover, bribes and threats cease to work. We are a step short of mutiny. I try to remain calm in the face of her refusal to
b-r-e-a-t-h-e and warm up her voice before launching into her song. I don't rise when she plays her piano piece at double-quick time and stumbles over the tricky sections. But when she plays the sax, I can't help entreating her to stand with both feet on the ground instead of looking like she's leaning against a bus shelter. She glares and refuses to budge.

'Li-ly!' I take on the voice of a robot. 'Stand-up-straight-and-breathe-prop-er-ly!'

'What-ev-ah.' She holds her glare. We burst out laughing. 'Are you still doing your blog?' she asks.

'Just what I was thinking!' I say. We have turned into parodies of ourselves.


Lily's almost out of practice time. This is disastrous. I gather up her music and the iPad, hoping she'll get a chance to play something she recorded earlier in more harmonious mood, and we get into the car-sauna, whose front windows have seized up.

(As I read through my blog prior to publishing, Lily is standing over my shoulder. 'Can you put in brackets, "Lily thinks we should get an Audi A3, preferably in Phantom Black." I am her obedient servant. This will soon be Lily's and not Eliza's blog. 'Dash, not comma,' she instructs. Sorry. An Audi A3 - preferably in Phantom Black. 'That's a hyphen,' she points out. 'It won't do dashes,' I reply. 'Oh, damn,' she says.)


Purgatory. I am in a soundproofed room full of steel pans. Hate not being able to eavesdrop.


Hmmm. Suppose I'd better not play the steel pans just in case the room's not as soundproofed as it seems.


The door opens. Caught in the act! The head of music smiles knowingly. 'I loved her saxophone playing and she has a lovely voice, good breath control and a great range. I'm able to offer her free singing and saxophone lessons.'

I hardly dare ask the question. 'Does that mean she's got... a scholarship.'

The head smiles and nods.

'Can I ask... Is it a half- or a full scholarship?'

'Full. She wouldn't get the free individual lessons without it.'

Yess! My child is a prodigy! Lily and I head out arm in arm.

'Well that was easy,' she says.



Lily goes up to her room. I open Facebook to post a status about her success, but I can't find her in my Friends. Curious. I call up to her room.

'Darling? What's going on? I'm trying to tag you in my status and it can't find you... have you Unfriended me?'


'You must have - you're not in my Friends.'

'I didn't!'

'Well how else can you have disappeared?'

She comes stomping downstairs. 'Someone else must have done it. It happened once before. Look in Friends.'

I look, and a Friend request pops up from Lily.

'There, you see!' she says triumphantly.

The time of the request is one minute ago. In other words, at the point when I was shouting up the stairs that she must have Unfriended me. I draw her attention to her hasty attempt to re-beFriend me. She can't help grinning as she flounces back up the stairs.


From the green dot next to Lily's name in my Friends list, I take it that she is on Facebook.

'Pooface,' I write in Facebook Chat. 


Chat conversation end
Sent from Balham
you're not in balham
i hope! Unless you jumped out of the window and are on a long-distance run
Yh. It's like. Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo annoying!!
Yh u wish!!
ok ok ok


Chat conversation end
Sent from Balham
you're stilll in Balham though!
Go to Balham n find me!!
i have the police out looking for you as we speak
of course, since you're in communication with me, you could just tell me where you are
Ohhh. In Antarctica
Balham, Antarctica?
Can I have a proper phone with credit??
woss that mean?
Omg. It's sooooooo obvious.
Don't be so rude
Y fronts?
Man with a goatee?
I'm withdrawing my offer of a lovely evening out as congratulations if you're going to be cheeky and rude and mean to your loving caring mother
L: Lolololololololol. It's only a q.
Sent from Balham