Saturday, 30 January 2010

Mum's Gone to Meet Matthew Kelly - nearly!

Big shout out for Linda Jones who has tagged me in the blogging version of "Let's see if we can work out how old you are by reading your childhood memories": my goodness, that old, oh I wasn't even born then..

Unfortunately for me I was certainly around for her Shang-a-lang trip down memory lane. So I will keep her company by sharing a memory from when I was six in 1971 (you're doin the math already, I just know....go on, get your calculator out, best be sure). My mum, a semi-professional singer who had a belter of a voice, decided on a whim to apply for Opportunity Knocks. When she was told she had passed the first audition and would be on the show, my mum told me but said it was a big secret. So the next day I wrote about it at school in "My News" - 'my mum is going to be on the telly but it's a big secret'. The teacher saw my mother in the co-op later that week and gave the game away!

Mum had wanted to sing an aria from Carmen but the powers-that-be insisted she sing a Northern folk song, Blow the wind Southerly so they could market her as a nice housewife from Newcastle. Nice enough song, fishing boat dragged on the stage behind her, but hey, it's not exactly The Habanera. My dad was drafted in to do the introduction with Hughie Green, my mum sang beautifully, she scored 86 on the clap-o-meter but was beaten by the little Scottish boy, Neil Reid, who had all the grannies voting with his rendition of Mother of Mine.

Race forward in time to the year 2000 when in my infinite wisdom, and most probably under the influence, I applied to go on Stars in Their Eyes. I sent in an echoey tape of me singing in the bathroom Don't it Make my Brown Eyes Blue by country and western singer Crystal Gayle. I can't hear those mellow tones of our Crystal now without remembering a trip to a hotel in Nottingham where I joined some other sad buggers to audition in front of the producers. I didn't get any further (they had already had a Crystal Gayle a few years before anyway) but did get down to the last 200 from 20,000 applications (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). Months later I watched the programme and saw the little blonde lad from the hotel transformed into Bon Jovi and winning his heat. Bastard.

The video below is of the actual Crystal Gayle. No, I will not be vlogging my own version.

I think some of my bloggy mates may have done this meme already but I will tag the following to think of their own childhood memory and tell us a song that reminds them of a special place and time. If anyone else feels inspired, please join in.

Footballer's Knees

She was not at all Domestic


Very Bored in Catalunya

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Mum's Gone to Cruise round the Mediterranean

Liz at "Living with Kids" published a post yesterday about cruises and initiated some great holiday memories to come flooding back to me (flooding not quite the appropriate word here!). We took a fortnight's cruise in the summer of 2006, the year before I started making notes about our trips, so I am hoping one or two brain cells will make the effort to connect up and have a look in the old memory bank (I have a vision here of The Numskulls from The Beano running around my head, dusting off huge tomes labelled "What I did in 2006").

I'm not a water person: not a good swimmer, never really been keen on boats. So not sure how or why we decided it was a good idea. Thankfully it was. We booked an informal cruise with Ocean Village, marketed for people who don't do cruises. We wouldn't have to dress up (shame, I rather fancied that part), no need to sit with anyone else at dinner ( a BIG BIG plus: didn't relish enforced chit-chat), and there would be plenty for our 10 year old son to do (kids' club with playstations, organised games, excursions which would interest him). However I think the real bonus was the chance to take a peek at lots of locations in a two-week period without the hassle of packing and unpacking.

Our itinerary? Fly to Palma then over 14 nights visit Tunis, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Genoa, St Raphael, Florence (and Pisa), Monaco and Corsica. I can't tell you how exciting it was every morning to pull back the curtains, step out onto the teeny balcony and then shriek as some workmen in the building opposite waved their tools at me as they shouted "Buongiorno!". Worth remembering that not all harbours are aesthetically pleasing (at some locations I could only see the sea: didn't perk me up half as much).

We had some very memorable onshore excursions: visiting the Nou Camp football stadium in Barcelona, climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, looking at naughty paintings in the ruins of Pompeii (see photo of markings in the pavements pointing the way to the brothel), letting off steam in a French waterpark and laughing at Italian tourists being constantly admonished for taking flash photos in an aquarium. We could have gone rafting and canyoning at some destinations but I think either Rory was a bit young or I was a bit scared (probably the latter).

On board, lots of cheesy entertainment, though we did have Coleen Nolan to entertain us one night and a fabulously rude comedian who delighted our spectacle-wearing son by spotting him in the audience and shouting "Oy, 'Arry Potter! Ow old are you?". We had sessions on juggling and street dancing, entered trivia quizzes in order to win cocktails at lunchtime and our son stayed in the kids' club til very late one night when they had a Big Brother night, complete with tasks (thankfully he was voted out before he was completely exhausted).

My favourite part of the cruising day was the departure each evening from the port. It usually coincided with post-shower-sit-on-the-balcony-with-glass-of-wine time and as the horn blasted and people waved from jet-skis in the bay, I always felt we were starting the holiday over again.

Did we get sea-sick? No, the sea was very calm. But I am not a good sailor as you can discover when we went whale-watching in Iceland the year after, so although I really fancy a Baltic cruise sometime, I am a little wary that we might not be so lucky in future.

I think Ocean Village may well be disappearing soon as there is news it will be taken over by another company. However there are plenty of others out there and the market for attracting families is an important one. Worth doing your homework to decide which elements of each cruise appeals. Although in almost all of them I can guarantee the chef will, at some point in the week, carve a swan from a block of ice.....

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Mum's Gone to a Burns' Supper - at home.

It's Burns Night tomorrow and my thoughts return to some fond memories from last year when I realised it was "my turn" to have friends over for a meal. It was only after we'd all faffed about with our diaries that the date we settled on turned out to be the weekend of Burns' Night so, husband being Scottish, we couldn't just have everyone round for a curry.

So a traditional Burns' Supper was now being planned and our six friends, very excited about this, insisted that Dougie should wear his kilt for the occasion. He relented but now the rest of us wondered about what to wear. I told everyone that if possible they should find something tartan. I have a tartan-ish skirt I thought would look fine with thick tights and boots and I'm sure others could find a scarf or something. By chance I bumped into one of my friends on the Friday and she said, "Ooh I'm going to struggle getting into that taffeta tomorrow". She had given the game away; they had en-masse decided to come in full black-tie evening dress! They were all going to be arriving at mine the night after in full-length evening dress to be greeted by me in tweedy skirt, woolly tights and a jumper. A hasty wardrobe scramble ensued and something long and velvet was dusted down that evening.

The food for a Burns' Supper is fairly traditional. Usually starts with Cock-a-leekie soup followed by haggis with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) and a pudding with oatmeal, cream and raspberries. Sounds manageable until I remembered one of our number is a vegetarian. The starter became a leekie soup without the cock and then when I eventually cooked it on the Friday afternoon I forgot the leeks so it was a Cock-a-leekie soup with neither cock nor leekie.

How do you circumvent haggis for a vegetarian? The haggis, when I looked at the ingredients, made me heave (lamb lung, beef heart, beef liver.....) and nearly turned me vegetarian too. However good old Sainsbury's came to the rescue with a vegetarian haggis made with leek, celery, oatmeal, onions etc. I could manage potatoes and swede and created whisky-marmalade carrots. To try and make the haggis more palatable we found a recipe for chicken breasts stuffed with haggis and wrapped in streaky bacon. Sounded and looked quite good. One of my friends offered to make a pud so I remembered one of her classics was Eton Mess, a concoction of cream, meringue and strawberries. So I told her to swap the strawberries for raspberries and call it Gordonstoun Mess! We really needed another pudding so I discovered an internet recipe for Orkney Fudge Cheesecake. Couldn't exactly get my hands on the Orkney Fudge but made a very good Tesco Finest Fudge cheesecake instead.

This whole supper thing was becoming ridiculously fancy now and I had to make an effort with the table too. So napkins were wrapped in tartan ribbon and I even stuffed tiny heathers into little coloured glasses to place down the middle of the table. The lovely thought that I could have easily just been ordering an Indian for everyone had to be banished from my mind!

All of Saturday was taken up with preparation. Hubby did all the chicken-haggis-stuffing thing in a very Gordon Ramsay way, slapping his palm with the back of his hand shouting "STUFF, FOLD, WRAP, OVEN, DONE!" and bossing me about to fetch and carry for him when I'd spent about two days doing all the other cooking and preparation. We did a practice run making one of the chicken breasts for our son who declared it "gorgeous". Huge sigh of relief: if a pernickety 12 year old can enjoy his haggis then we shouldn't have any problems with a bunch of adults.

Guests arrived in their finery, armed with plenty of bottles of wine and choccies and another pal brought the cheeseboard including some alarmingly mouldy stuff with oatcakes in place of crackers. The meal went down a storm with both the meaty haggis and the veggie version a success. The cheesecake, though unwilling to be parted from the cake tin, was really yummy and the whisky afterwards lead to some very sore heads the next day.

Thankfully this year we aren't entertaining anyone but will be having the chicken and haggis combo tonight as it's now our son's favourite meal. Do you think it's because the haggis gets soaked in whisky?! Ah he's a wee chip off the old block.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Mum's Gone to the Phallus Museum - Shiny Happy People Meme

After a good giggle yesterday with Linda at "You've got your hands full" regarding regional accents, we somehow got talking about the Julie Walters "Two Soups" sketch. Later that evening the sketch turned up again in Linda's response to Rosie Scribble's new meme "Shiny Happy People". Now I've been tagged to come up with a favourite image and song that can bring a smile to my face.

An image that makes me smile has to be this, taken in 2007 outside Iceland's Phallological Museum. Now Linda, don't tell me this doesn't warm your cockles??!

I could attach a link to my original post but to save you the hassle, here's a chunk of it!

Probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of penis specimens belonging to various types of mammal. How bizarre is that! Not a pornographic collection, apparently phallology is an ancient science!! Well I'm
all for extending my scientific knowledge so we take a look. There are over 180 penises in this little room, 49 of them from whales! We've got examples from polar bears, horses, seals and walruses all over the place, attached to the
walls or pickled in formalin! Goodness me, I'm blushing and
Hubby is feeling quite inadequate, probably because of me exclaiming "Ooh, look at the size of that one!" every few seconds. So we move onto the smaller mammal section and he can look at the teeny hamster specimen instead!
The museum also has four legally-certified "gift tokens" from four men who are going to offer their penises to the collection when they die. My favourite is an American chap who has sent in a photo and cast of his beloved member which he affectionately calls "Elmo". Apparently when he dies his wife is going to look after Elmo until she's
had enough of it; she will then send it to the museum........which is nice!

For my favourite song, I have to choose "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from the musical Oklahoma! I played the lead role in 2006 with our local am-dram society and absolutely loved it. My Curly was a local solicitor whose wife even permed his hair for the week of the show for authenticity. I haven't a video of our production, but have scanned one of the photos of the show for you!

Here's the song with Hugh Jackman playing Curly: isn't he just gorgeous and doesn't the song lift your spirits.

Right I need a cold shower now so feel free for anyone reading this to join in the meme. Consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Mum's Gone to Book the Summer Holiday

Apparently January is the month for booking your Summer holidays so, far be it from me to buck the trend, I've been thinking long and hard about ours. However the whole process takes ages as we constantly dither . Far from being a boon, the internet actually makes the whole business so drawn out. Gone are the days when we'd get handfuls of brochures from the travel agent and pick the hotel which was less than 500m from the beach and had a nice pool. Now we compare prices, look at reviews and photos on Tripadvisor, look at endless sites for cheap flights and then forget to take note of them so start all over again the next evening.

I always like thumbing through brochures and, in fact, appeared in one once. In the 1980s and early 90s the brochures frequently showed holiday-makers topless by the pool. This must have been a fantastic way for teenage boys to get their thrills: pick up free brochures from Thomas Cook and share them with your mates. Unsurprisingly the brochures don't do this anymore. But they did when Dougie and I went away together to Ibiza in 1991: the next year there I was in the Thomson brochure, perched on a man-made rock in the middle of the pool with my bosom on show. The family were most amused but I was mortified and have kept my bikini top on ever since. Though I like to pretend that I was a topless model in my youth: there's a certain kudos in it now.

So where are we going in Summer 2010? In an effort to find a good holiday for our teenage son we are eschewing the fly-drives to Iceland or Canada and going back to the type of holiday we had when he was six.......CAMPING! Big deep will be fine....just fine.

When I say camping, I don't mean the proper tent lark: I mean the mobile home with all mod-cons which purists will say isn't the same thing at all. We've done this twice, both times in France. The first time we chose a little caravan as we only have one child. Big mistake: we were cheek by jowl in this poky home for a fortnight and only the evening karaoke gave me some respite. The second year we chose the larger three-bedroomed home (one bedroom for us, one for the child, one for my shoes) and it all turned out lovely. Have fond memories of Dougie whittling sticks with his trusty Swiss army knife and son playing Bayblades with the boy next door. The only spanner in the works came towards the end of the second week when a hurricane tore through the campsite. We woke up the next morning and the Kids' Club tents had literally blown away. No idea where they went; probably in a wood with all the plastic loungers that disappeared too.

So, barring any hurricanes, I'm starting to look forward to our trip. We're driving (despite Bergerac airport being spitting distance from our campsite in the Dordogne) but Dougie says it will be an adventure. I shall remind him of this when we're having the mother of all domestics around the Peripherique.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Mum's Gone to the Fire Station

There aren't that many benefits of being a school governor, save maybe having a reserved seat for the school productions: a double-edged sword, mind you, as I usually try and slide down the chair to make myself invisible and immune from the seething parents behind me. Trust me, I have tried to sneak in the back, only to be loudly instructed to park my behind on the seat with my name sellotaped to it, right in the front row.

Accompanying children on school trips can go either way, to be honest, in terms of having a good day out. Yesterday's trip, however, was up there with the best; Year 2's visit to the local fire station. "Yes, I'm free. When do you need me? I'll be there". I didn't need to be cajoled.

The little tots, their class teacher and I were all very excited as we climbed into the minibus. One girl rather intuitively asked me if I liked firemen. That stopped me in my tracks for a second before I strapped her into the seat and replied, gushing and blushing simultaneously, "But of course I do, doesn't everyone?" and giggled inappropriately.

The class teacher, Mrs C, seemed just as giddy as me. She had baked chocolate chip muffins for all the boys at the station and her voice, like mine, was becoming more girlish and silly as we were introduced to Fireman Bob and Fireman Andy. Her considerably big buns went down a treat.

The afternoon started well, watching Fireman Andy change into his protective clothing whilst trying to listen intently to the safety information. I was given the digital camera so snapped away and got plenty of close-ups (important for OFSTED, you understand, to have photographic evidence). Though most of the time I was trying to suppress a snort as there seemed to be numerous double-entendres being bandied about: or was that just my filthy mind? We were instructed on the length of their hoses, how to slide down their poles and would we like to look at their large tools or helmets? Who would have thought there was so much to snigger at?

Thankfully the children were blissfully ignorant and behaved themselves impeccably. I will never forget Little Miss G's smiling face, and the fire-fighters' surprised look, when she was asked the question "What, apart from the flames, must you be aware of if you are in a fire?" Hoping for the answer "Smoke", which could still be a struggle for many six year olds to come up with, they were completely blown away by her response:

"Toxic Gases"

What a little star! Half a dozen house points for that inspired answer.

Too soon, too soon, the minibus came to collect us, but not before we were treated to Fireman Andy giving us a quick flash....
...of the blue light of course.

Book me in for next year please. I'll do the baking. I'm sure they'd appreciate a tempting tart!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Mum's Gone to coach Billy Elliot

Who'd have thought my talent for impersonating Cheryl Cole every Saturday night for my long-suffering family would reap dividends. During the endless weeks of X Factor, I blathered on to my family, "EEEEH ye just made it yer own, ye nailed that song. Ah just luv ye, Joe, yer like me little bruther". It kept me amused anyway.

Today my skill has finally been recognised. I had a text message from a friend of mine who runs a local children's theatre group. They are performing the youth version of Billy Elliot in February and are looking for someone to give the children accent coaching. I may not have lived in Newcastle since I trooped off to University in 1982 (bugger, that's given my age away!) but it seems the years living down South have made very little impression on my Geordie accent. I suspect it's due to daily telephone conversations with my mother.

The children of Lincolnshire are in need of my assistance so I have grabbed the opportunity to educate and inspire! Once I get the script there'll be no stopping me: shall I set Ant and Dec regularly, old episodes of The Likely Lads? Maybe get them to recite verbs...
Ah luv The Toon
Yoos luv The Toon
He luvs The Toon
We aal luv The get the idea?

Of course, being the luvvie that I am doing my own theatre stuff (soon to be an old tart in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), it won't stop at accents: I'll be singing all the songs, "EEEE...LEC...TRICIT...EEEE!" and stomping around the stage so the kids won't get a look in. Maybe I could muscle in and take over as the Granny? I think she swears. I'd like that.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Mum's Gone to join the meme, despite being NFI

I've been looking at all the "favourite photo" memes over the last few days and, rather than keep sulking that I'm NFI, took a leaf out of Kelloggsville's book and decided just to post my own anyway. Keeping it restricted to 2009 otherwise I'll be here all afternoon and I still need to put the tea on.

Our summer holiday in Lake Garda provided me with plenty of choices but I finally plumped for a "taken from behind" position, always a favourite when one is not looking one's best.

My favourite snow picture has to be one I took a few weeks ago: this has already been admired as being an ideal Christmas card for next year. What are the chances I'll remember to do that come December?

The last one is just plain daft. These are the ladies' loos in a restaurant in Stratford-upon-Avon. Taking the Shakespeare theme a tad too far maybe, but they certainly amused me. Not sure the woman who came out of the cubicle straight after I'd flashed in her direction was quite so delighted.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Mum's Gone to the Whorehouse

That grabbed your attention, didn't it?!

Now I know this sounds like a novel way of earning a bit of pin money in these recession-hit times, but needs must.....

Of course not!! (said in a Harry Hill kind of way)

Auditions were held yesterday for our local society's production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Bit of a raunchy choice for the annual musical, considering in 2009 we performed Guys and Dolls and 2008, Calamity Jane. The last time we tackled something as provocative as this was 2007 when we staged the devilish Witches of Eastwick. That was the year I played the role of Alex (the Cher part in the film version with Jack Nicholson) and startled our local town by singing in stockings, suspenders and thigh-high boots. My husband's patients were most affronted to see the Doctor's wife being so brazen.

The last few years have been good for me as regards plum roles. Whether this is down to some modicum of talent or the fact that a couple of the excellent singers in our group went on maternity leave, who knows, but, with some competition out of the way, I muscled in on the action and have had a blast playing great parts in The Pajama Game, Oklahoma, Calamity Jane (see photo of me as Katie Brown), Guys and Dolls as well as Witches.

This year I decided not to audition for a major part and instead try for a cameo role plus a bit of chorus singing and dancing. I thought the role of Angel would suit me...street-wise prostitute, newly-arrived from the big city. I would get to wear tarty clothes, a gaudy wig and say rude words. This seemed like an excellent part. So I auditioned....and got it!

Came home to tell Dougie who shook his head, sighed and asked,
"What will the patients say this time!?"

Then my son Rory came downstairs to ask what part I'd got.
"Your mother's going to be a whore, son!"

My reputation is in tatters! Though maybe it went some time ago...

Saturday, 2 January 2010

2009 highlights - The High-Five Meme

Many thanks to Very Bored Housewife for saving me from a day of floor-cleaning and Christmas-decoration-removal by tagging me in a "High Five Meme", my top five highlights of 2009. A highlight for 2010 already is discovering what a "meme" is! Apparently "meme", sounds like "cream", is a sort of internet Pass the Parcel and as each layer of the wrapping is removed, a little blogging nugget is revealed. So here's my mini bag of Haribos to add to the tasty morsels we have had already.

1. Holidays.
Well, seeing as the title of my blog is "Mum's Gone to...", I can't ignore our trips of 2009. February half-term we let the train take the strain and chugged down to Nice where we found extortionately-priced Pringles in the mini bar and Dougie is still picking bits of silly string off his coat, following our visit to the Carnival.
Easter in Tenerife, my vivid memory is the lime-green lycra speedos, worn by a very game sunbather, which sported a handy zip.
Summer on Lake Garda, staying in a place very reminiscent of Tellytubbyland. How can I forget the Bardolino Philarmonic Orchestra and Choir entertaining the tourists in the town square with an unusual Italian medley of songs from Mary Poppins.

Finally a big dollop of culture in Berlin: my husband realised that cheapest is not always best when he chose a German-only guided river tour and we were unable to appreciate the apparently amusing commentary.

2. Guys and Dolls
Some of you may not be aware of my penchant for amateur dramatics. A member of Spalding Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society, with the unfortunate initials SADOS, I have performed with them for a number of years now. This year I played the part of the demure missionary, Sarah Brown, who falls for the rogue gambler, Sky Masterson. Obviously my favourite part was playing the inebriated Sarah, strutting her stuff in Havana. I'm told my ability to act drunk and provocative was uncannily accurate.

3. Teenage Kicks
This was the year my baby became a teenager. A year of constant sleep and a diet of Facebook and MSN has transformed my only child, Rory, into a tall, gravelly-voiced, monosyllabic grunter. But I wouldn't have him any other way: he's mine and I love him, unconditionally.

4. Mum's Gone to Newcastle - eventually
After a few false starts due to the snow and ice, we managed to drive to my parents on Wednesday and celebrated New Year with all my family. My dad is disabled, suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. I won't forget how we all gathered round him to link arms for Auld Lang Syne: it was very emotional as he told us that everyone who mattered to him were celebrating with him that night.

5. British Mummy Bloggers
Seems a bit cheesy but I can't tell you how energising it has been, having uploaded my travel diaries onto my blog, to have joined BMB. The network of encouragement, laughter and empathy has been such a boost for me. Many a happy hour has been spent reading other people's stories of parenting: my house is thick in dust now and I lay the blame firmly with you, fellow bloggers!

I am now passing the mantle to some of my new blogging mates (apologies if you've already been asked). Put the kettle on and let's have your highlights too.

Not waving but ironing
Mon Avis, Mes Amis
Older mums are fun
Tattie Weasel
Really Rachel