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 ivegotanincrediblyexpensivecar.com. I did go on match.com 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. Ivegotanincrediblyexpensivecar.com!  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 ivegotanincrediblyexpensivecar.com. 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! www.millionairematch.com. 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... ob...sol...ee...'

'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

Monday, 10 June 2013

Communicating with the Young

I know, it's been all quiet on the Gray front. At least it has as far as my blog is concerned, but that's because life itself has been anything but quiet! More of that, possibly, in due course. :)

Yes, I am now an official smiley and sad-face user, now that I communicate with the Younger Generation. I cannot hold back the tide. Lily has joined Facebook. She has a phone. We Like. We text. We :(. We  :). She also :Ds and :ps and :/s, whatever they may mean.

Our text conversations go something like this:

L: Heey!

Me: Heeey!

L: Lol

Me: Lol

L: Quit copying!!

Me: Darling it's called mirroring.

[Pause while I open up Facebook to see what she's up to. Hmmm. Wish she were a little more discriminating with her Likes...]

Me: Nice profile pic darling. How was your English exam?

L: Arghh!!!!! It was awful!!!!!!!! I hate xams!!! They r EVIL THINGS THAT SHD NEVER HV BEEN INVENTED!!!!!!!!

Me: :( I'm sure you did OK darling.

L: Only got Latin left!!!!

Me: Good oh. Anybody been in tears or tantrums?

L: Me @ the beginning lol.

Me: :( Which exam?

L: Latin :(

Me: Hang on, you said you only have Latin left, so doesn't that mean you haven't done it yet?

L: Ohhh got confused. Lol. Hahaha. I cried before the xams it's called postexamsyndrome

Me: Darling 'post' as you'll know from Latin is AFTER... Preexamsyndrome perhaps?

L: Don't burst my bubble!! I thought I had made up a gd name there!!! :p

Me: If you cry After the exams you could call it Postexamsydrome... :)

L: *epic annoyed face w a thought saying Can't she accept my name for my illness??

Me: :) Right honey pie. Enough texting and facebooking! Pls do some vocab revision and remember to be precise in your translations. Not just a roughly right one! :)

L: Can I just say...

L: I did a translation (cuz I wanted to) harder than CE AND she said I did WELL!!!

Me: Lily! Do NOT put yr phone no on yr FB page. Delete that post quick.

Me: Well done re Latin. I know u r v g at it

L: Is this u?? 447749347296??

Me: It is me your mother. Who else did you think it suddenly was? The 44 is the English country code. if u r in UK u use a 0 instead but on mobiles both work

L: Ooohh!!!!!  Can I get an oyster card??

Me: Yes but it takes 2 wks

L: Dowh :(

L: Cb I gt a tube account?

Me: What?

L: utube

Me: Ah. If u can set up without yr pic or age then yes. After the exams!

L: Kk thanx. Also can I get the NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL 30 YEARS album??

Me: Stop Lily! Go and R E V I S E!

L: Lol

L: Haha

Me: Good luck darling xxx

L: :p

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

From full-time Carer to Don't-Carer

Yes! Am new fabulous guest blogger for Care.com! My passport to fame and fortune! Hmmm. Had better check what Care.com is. Ah. The world's largest online destination for care. As in babysitters, nannies, childminders, carers for the elderly... Which is all marvellous. (Carer for the elderly! Just what I need. Only ten years to go....) Childcare, though? The thing is, at 13 years old, my daughter apparently no longer needs Care. 

Let us wind back the clock to the beginning of term...  Lily returns to The Manor with great excitement (our Easter holiday in Nepal was clearly purgatory for her, given that she slept all morning, Facebooked or Garage Banded all afternoon, and only spoke to order lasagne from the menu in the evening). She and her pals are milling around their dorm, where Violet Winkworth is acting Lady Bountiful and doling out Weetos. But what's this? Tallulah Barker is sitting on a mattress with a Tesco's bag over her head.

My maternal carer instincts spring into action. 'Take that plastic bag off your head!' I cry. 'It's dangerous! You could suffocate.'

Neither Tallulah nor her friends appear to hear me, and so I do as any mother would, snatch off the bag, whereupon Weetos spray around the dormitory.

There's a stunned silence. Tallulah looks at me in sullen incredulity. I turn to see a pink-cheeked Lily staring at me. I pan around the dorm, taking in the newly teenaged faces gazing at me with open jaws or giggling nervously behind their hands. I look at the plastic bag and the scattered Weetos, and it occurs to me that Tallulah was innocently pretending to be a horse, eating from her nosebag. Possibly. 

Feeling like the butt of a Bateman cartoon (The Woman Who Snatched the Tesco's Bag from the Teenager's Head), I mutter an excuse and hasten from their midst. 

So, it has happened. My daughter is Officially Embarrassed. Of me. By me. And I have played into her hands, persisting in my role as Carer instead of Don't-Carer.

The thing is, the transition from hands-on to hands-off is hard to make when you have been the sole carer for 13 years, devoted to your child's every need and move. Aside from the early years when Lily genuinely did need me (at least I think she did, though it's hard to remember a time when she wasn't more resilient and independent than I), I have spent days and weeks researching and booking activities, arranging sleepovers and playdates and parties, helping her with homework, deliberating which school would be the best for her, coaching her for exams, driving her to and fro.... For all these years, Lily came first. As any child should.  

But now, not only does she apparently not need me, I am an embarrassing blot on her horizon. How do other mothers do it? Step back and stop running and ruling their children's lives? While a) not feeling personally wounded and b) retaining a modicum of influence and, dare I venture, respect? Or is such a notion laughably old-fashioned?

'It gets worse,' say my friends of 14- and 15-year-old daughters. 'They're 100% focused on their peer group. And boys.'

Oh God. And this is precisely the time that Lily is due to return to live at home in London. 

Actually, I've done rather marvellously since I moved back to London last summer. I used to be driven demented by her lack of communication. Now I don't email her much any more, given that she rarely reads or responds to my missives. Nor does she phone home. Our last email exchange, over the course of three days, went like this:

Me: Lils darling, try calling me ... wd be nice to have a chat.

Lily:  But with what??

Me:  A phone? Using your phone card? 

Lily: Phone cards too confusing plus none of the phones actually work properly…
I don’t wanna use other peeps mob…
Can a get a phone this term???
Then I can keep in touch my friends and I can talk to after school…
Its wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy easier!!!! 

Yes. Well, given that she's supposed to be concentrating on her Common Entrance, 'keep in touch my friends' is precisely the thing I've been trying to avoid.

But once she's back at home full-time, will I be able to reinvent my Carer role? What will we be? Flatmates? Landlady-lodger? (Is that Lily's tinkling laughter I hear? 'Yes, you'll be the lodger, I'll be the landlady! Ha ha ha.'). I shall be beyond doormatting. I shall shrivel up and slide between the gaps in the floorboards and be found years later, when somebody buys the house.

'Y'wha?' Lily will say. 'Oh, yeah. I wondered where Mum'd got to.'

Ah. Mr Postman! A letter from my darling! It’s marvellous the way The Manor makes them write home on Sundays.

'MISS YOU AND DOLLY!!' she signs off. 'Lots of love from your doted daughter,' which I take to be an amalgam of 'doting' and 'devoted'. And then, in the small print, 'Can you send me a letter instead of an email sometimes??'

Aw. My baby. I rush to my office, grab a biro and pull out a sheet of A4 from the printer. 'Darling Lilykins...'

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day?


Ah. Here he comes. Mr Postman. With a great red satchel full of red envelopes!


Gosh, he's spending rather a lot of time at No 6. I suppose it's their teenage boys. All those lovelorn schoolgirls...


Ah. He's crossed on to our side now. No 5. No 4.


No 3. No 2. No...

Hang on! What's going on? He's turned on his heel and is walking back down the street, his satchel slung nonchalantly - not to mention emptily - over his shoulder!


Maybe he's gone to fetch his trolley. The one with all the really heavy things in it.


Maybe not.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

A New You!

Honestly. All the papers and magazines keep banging on about the New You as if it's the Holy Grail of existence. 90 Days to A New You! 30 Days to A New You! 21 Days To A New You! 20 Days To A New You! Any advance on 20 days? No. Going going gone.

Well it's all rubbish. Once you're past 40, you don't want a New You. You want the Old You.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Muffin tops and spring cleansing

'I can't bear it,' I say to Lily on viewing myself in the bathroom mirror. 'I've got a muffin top.'

'Is it blueberry?' she enquires sweetly.

'Do you actually know what a muffin top is?'

'Not really.'

'Well this one's pinky-white and fleshy and fatty.'


'Precisely. What am I going to do?'

'You should go to the gym.'

The thing is, I hate gyms. The only time I had a personal trainer, and paid him jolly good money I may add, he gave up on me.

'I give up,' he said. 'When we work on a muscle in your calf, your thigh hurts. When we work on your triceps, your neck aches.' I only stayed with him because of the final stretch at the end of the session, where I'd be on my back with my knees up to my stomach and he'd lie on top of me, gazing deep into my eyes with his beautiful green-flecked eyes.

He turned gay soon afterwards.

Ah well. It's a toss-up between the 5:2 and the Alkaline Diet. Except. Darn. Just remembered that delicious lemon drizzle polenta cake Lily made at the weekend. Ah well. I'll start tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Winter warmers

Honestly! I feel like some sort of Nanook of the North these days. And that's in the house.

Today Eliza is wearing: one tatty silk vest c. 1997 from Vietnam, one Uniqlo thermal vest, one Uniqlo lambswool polo neck (not a recommended item since it looks 10 years old after 2 months), one rabbit fur gilet from some posh country barn sale, one Cosi cashmere blanket from Nepal and one wool hat from Morocco 

What's everyone else wearing to keep life and limb together in the freeze?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Zips, golden shotguns and shampoo

I know, I know. Where, you may well ask, have I been? Well, I've been coaching my poor child throughout the Christmas 'holidays' for a school entrance exam and music scholarship. I know, I know. Since when was I a tiger mother? A pushy Chelsea parent? I, who manage to achieve practically nothing in my day? Yes, yes. Good points, well made.

Anyway, Lily has now returned to the Manor, and I offer you a brief digest of choice morsels from the past few days.

1. The Golden Shotgun

As a post-exam treat, Cousin Jaz and I take Lily to see Les Miserables (OMG, btw! Hugh Jackman, once he's ditched the beard and the brown teeth, is a dead ringer for Duncan, with his salt and pepper curls! Mmmm!) followed by en plein air crepes and cocktails (well, chocolate milkshake in Lily's case).

Lily instantly bags the seat facing the patio heater. Except she doesn't say, 'Bagsy,' or 'Bags I this seat'. She says, 'Shotgun this seat!'

'What?' we demand.

'I've shotgunned it, so you can't have it!' she cries, throwing her head back with wild laughter.

'Shotgunned it?'

'You can use your shotgun to shoot down a bagsy. We all do it in the Com. If I shotgun the sofa, then nobody else can sit there. Unless they Golden Shotgun it and then they can have it. Except I've Golden Shotgunned the sofa, so I've got it for the whole term!' She dissolves into self-satisfied mirth.

'So why don't you just walk into the room and Golden Shotgun it straight away?' asks Jaz.

'Because people bagsy or shotgun places and then go and get changed, and you can't take their seat because they've shotgunned it. You have to Golden Shotgun it when they're there.'

'It's a pity there wasn't a philosophy paper today,' notes Jaz, 'because you'd have done very well.'

'But basically,' Lily continues, 'nobody wants the sofa anyway. They like sitting on the piano.'

'So you shot your bolt unnecessarily,' I say.

'Whaah?' asks Lily.

So much for my marvellous English tuition over the past weeks.

2. Zip

Fortified by our caipirinhas/mojitos, Cousin Jaz and I are quizzing Lily about her exams.

'Zip! Zip! Zip!' says Lily, miming a brisk zipping of her lips.

'Oh come on, darling. What did you write in your English essay?'

'It was about a Margarita and a Mojito and a Bloody Mary which were all £4.50,' she says, reading off the happy hour menu chalked on the blackboard.

I change tack. 'Did you have to do any algebra?'


'And did you remember to do the same to both sides?'

'Zip! Zip! Zip-zip Golden Shotgun zip!' declares Lily, eyes blazing.

'How can you Golden Shotgun a zip?' I accuse.

'That's an inappropriate use of a Golden Shotgun,' points out Cousin Jaz.

Lily glares at us with more than a hint of menace. 'Zip!'

3. The Pantene Scandal

'And another thing...' I'm having a satisfying putting-the-world-to-rightsy breakfast with Cass, with whom I'm staying after delivering my darling back to school. 'Pantene! The shampoo and conditioner bottles are exactly the same!'

'I know!' she squeals. 'And you need your glasses to read whether it's shampoo or conditioner...'

'...which obviously you're not wearing in the shower!' I finish triumphantly.

'Piers has been washing his hair with conditioner for years,' Cass adds. 'He didn't realise there was a difference.'

You see? I blame it on the young designers. Someone who needs reading glasses needs to take charge! Maybe this is my new vocation? Design adviser for the over 50s market!