Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A big sloppy kiss for....

....Deer Baby and Very Bored in Catalunya.

These two ladies and blogging buddies were instrumental in getting me off my behind to actually submit an article to a newspaper and, bugger me, it was published this weekend.

A few months ago Deer Baby complimented me on my blog posts and thought I should consider taking it further, maybe sign up for a workshop designed for travel writers. This planted the seed in my head but, in truth, I didn't take it any further at that stage. Then a few weeks ago Wendy at Very Bored in Catalunya sent me an email suggesting I submit something to the Sunday supplements; she specified the Confessions of a Tourist slot in the Sunday Times travel section as worth a go.

So I had a go. I looked at the confessions from previous weeks and, knowing the main theme of the articles is a description of a holiday sexual encounter, considered telling the tale of my steamy romp in Tenerife. I emailed it to the travel department of the paper and thought no more about it.

A few days later I received an email from the Sunday Times saying they liked my confession and they would pay me for it. I thought falling off a chair from surprise was just a phrase.

A few emails back and forth: would I like a pseudonym? Nah, publish and be damned. Contract to be read, bank details provided. I sat back and waited, thinking they would let me know when it might be published.

Sunday morning, Dougie popped out for the papers and, leafing through the travel section, discovered my article under the headline "The Doctor will see you now, Miss.....all of you, in fact".

I can't tell you how excited I was. I don't mind that people will be reading of my sexual exploits as it was all  done in the best possible taste, darling!

Of course if you want to read my confession you'll have to empty your recycling bin and find those Sunday papers or go online, pay £1 for 24 hour access or 30-day trial subscription and have a read.

In the aftermath, Dougie was rather embarrassed at his love life being disclosed to the nation too (it was he, dear reader, who was my partner in the story). He dreaded facing the Monday morning patients at the surgery. However I kept reminding him of the money in the bank and, being a true Scotsman, that cheered him up immensely.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Honeymoon Horror

This is a cutting from the front page of the Daily Mirror, June 25, 1990. Ignore Steffi Graf running on a beach (if you can) and digest, if you would, the dramatic headline on the right. Let me highlight some of the text you might not be able to read:

Two jetliners missed crashing head-on over Britain just 3.6 SECONDS. Hundreds of terrified passengers clung to their seats as a Boeing 727 and a 737 screamed towards each other at 28,000 feet.

The startled pilots could even see each other as they made drastic swerves at 500mph.

The Manchester-bound Dan Air 727 was bringing home holidaymakers from Ibiza when it found itself on a collision course over mid-Wales.

Pilot Captain Simon Spence was forced to duck under the path of the British Midland 737 from Dublin to Heathrow.

Dougie and I were on that Dan Air flight, returning from our honeymoon in Formentera, a beautiful island south of Ibiza. It was quite an eventful honeymoon...

On the second day I ran into the bathroom on hearing my husband's howls, to see a naked man crouched low in the bath wailing and swearing. He had been having a shower when his new wedding ring slipped off and disappeared down the plug-hole. Despite summoning a little man to poke about and check the drains, it was never recovered.

We made friends with two other couples and as a group trounced everyone at the champagne cocktail quiz afternoons as we were the only English-speakers taking part; the Germans weren't as clued up on Top of the Pops as we were.

To top it all Dougie and I even won the cheesy Mr and Mrs contest, due to my new husband's ability to do the can-can, with cartwheels, and his skill with the blind-folded "put straw into wife's ring after being spun round a lot game" ( that's not a euphemism: stop sniggering at the back!).

Then we came home. All I remember of the near-disaster on the plane was clonking my head on the seat in front as I had been rooting in the net bag looking for a book. Dougie recalls his stomach lurching then pointing out of the window saying, "F**k me, there's a plane".

After the plane dived the pilot, ever the professional, could be heard over the tannoy calmly reassuring the passengers in his wonderful, lilting pilot-speak. He apologised for the evasive action, explaining that unfortunately he had been put on a collision course with another plane. As you were. Pretty cool I thought.

There was much cheering on landing: for once, the applause was appropriate.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Mum's Going to Madrid

The first thing I did when we returned from our camping trip in France was to book another holiday. Don't get me wrong, we'd had a great time and the Dordogne was fabulous but the novelty of playing house in a pre-fab had worn off.

I played the blog card. Husband, I said, my blog is called "Mum's Gone to...". I must ensure I go somewhere so my blog is like Ronseal. People might sue me over the Trade Descriptions Act if I promise family holiday posts and then discuss plum jam and Rod Stewart songs.

Okay, husband yielded. Half-term. Find somewhere warmish, three nights, cheap flights leaving at a decent hour of the day. I was like a dog with a bone. I circumnavigated the globe in an afternoon until I settled on a midday flight from Luton to Madrid with Easyjet.

Then I had a silly turn. Got carried away looking at hotels in Madrid on Tripadvisor and fell in love with lots of expensive ones. The lure of Egyptian cotton, thread count, luxury toiletries and complimentary slippers was too much for me. I found my ideal place: Hotel Urban. Who couldn't be ensnared by these website claims:

With a marked Art-Deco style and opting for avant-garde architecture, the Hotel Urban is a boutique hotel from the 21st century, urban, design and ideal for exacting lovers of luxury who shy from conventionality.

Forsooth, that is me. An 'exacting lover of luxury'. Begone lowly caravan wherein I bang my shin on corner of bed for it hath no room around it.

The 102 exquisite guest rooms in the centre of Madrid, the harmony of the materials and the exuberance of the collection of Egyptian, Chinese, Hindu and African pieces on display in them and the careful lighting of each space will make your stay a one-of-a-kind experience.

That will do me. I'll happily share my room with all these Egyptian and Hindu artefacts as long as there's a towelling robe and a mini bar.
So, Hotel Urban, you have romanced me and teased me. Let's see if you can deliver the goods. And good people of blogland, if any of you have been to Madrid and can suggest places to go, sights that would interest a teenage boy, I'd love to know what you think.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Gallery - A Smile - Carnival fun in Nice

How's that for some big, slightly scary, smiles.

My son Rory, aged just 13 at the time, took all of these photos when we visited Nice in February 2009 to see the annual carnival, a series of parades which last for about a month. There were about twenty floats measuring up to 60 feet high, interspersed with Notting Hill style dancers. Rory's favourite was a fire-breathing dragon which was so massive it was quite terrifying. I preferred the silly frogs and the man on a motorbike.

There seemed to be no health and safety jobsworths in charge: you could stand wherever you liked even if your feet were likely to be mown down, and people were encouraged to squirt as many cans of silly string as they could get their hands on at everyone on the floats. I have to say the adults were by far the worst culprits; demure old ladies shrieking and laughing as they covered passing strangers with luminous goo.

Back at the hotel, toes gradually thawing, Rory and I were able to brush off the string quite easily as we had put raincoats on but daft old Dad had to spend a good while in the bathroom picking the stuff off his jacket. Can you imagine that being allowed in Britain - there'd be letters to the papers about ruined clothes, compensation claims etc, whereas in Nice everyone had a good chuckle and a bit of a rub down with a wet flannel.


This post is a Gallery entry for the theme of 'A Smile'. For more cheesy grins, pop over to Tara's website at Sticky Fingers.  The smiles are there to promote Dave Fowler's Mona Lisa Million project which is well worth a look.

Monday, 20 September 2010

With apologies to Rod Stewart

Maggie May is an iconic song, loved and cherished by all of a certain generation. On Friday I probably scuppered that for a lot of people when I rearranged it as a song for a retirement party.

I've been a governor at my son's former primary school for quite a few years now so I was invited to the retirement do for our Bursar, Margaret. We were having a hog roast in a marquee at a local hotel and, on speaking to one of the teachers, there didn't seem to be anything silly planned regarding the speeches. I thought this was a shame as Margaret/Maggie was always game for a laugh and was such a warm, well-regarded lady, she needed a bit of a send-off.

I'm not sure what possessed me to take it into my own hands to come up with a little ditty. Acutally I do know. I have always loved doing this kind of thing. When I worked at John Lewis I could always be relied upon to drag up people's past misdemeanours in the form of a song or poem. The Spice Girls Wannabe and Bobby Vinton's Blue Velvet are two I remember though I have no idea what my lyrics were - should have kept copies.

So I sat down on Thursday looking at the lyrics of Maggie May and made up my own version. It was quite handy that the original words say, Wake up, Maggie, I think I've got something to say to you, It's late-September and I really should be back at school. All I needed to do there was change it to mid-September, say you really should be back at school and it fitted the bill exactly.

The rest of it was slightly more difficult but I managed to get in a verse about how she always used to email the governors attachments without ever attaching them (getting that to scan was a bit of a bugger) and how we had to check our diaries as the dates frequently didn't match.

I cobbled it together, typed it up, and shoved it in my pocket on Friday evening. The invitation said "between 7pm and 10pm" so we arrived, fashionably late at 7.20pm, only to find the whole thing had begun, including the speeches. As other governors snuck in behind us, I told Dougie that I couldn't stand up at the front and perform straight away so I would see how the evening panned out.

In the end, about 9.15, pudding finished, the time seemed ripe to do my bit. I stood up, piece of paper in my hand, and tried to guess what key I should begin the song so I didn't have to sing down in my boots. I guessed it about right, gave it my best shot and, I have to say, it went down remarkably well.

I heard later that one teacher had remarked to the people on her table:
"Wasn't Trish great? She wrote it herself and sang it a capella!"
To which someone on the table had replied,
"Yes...and with no music or accompaniment!"

Friday, 17 September 2010

I've had so many men before... very many ways.

This is a line I have to sing in a charity concert in October. I'm trying desperately hard not to snort or, as they say in the business, 'corpse' after I sing the line, which, if you didn't know, is from I Don't Know How to Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar. In the musical the ballad is sung by Mary Magdalene to a sleeping JC, hence the 'many men'. So it looks like I'm a prostitute again, after my antics earlier this year in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Getting typecast I think.

The concert is a one-night only affair, as a thank you to the local Broad Street Methodist Church who have kindly provided our am-dram society with rehearsal rooms over the years. The songs are all from musicals so we've called the event "From Broadway to Broad Street", which makes me smile.

As usual, what seemed initially like a few rehearsals, maybe once a week for a month, has grown into twice a week for six weeks or more. The whole shebang is getting more complicated with dance moves, not being allowed to read the music as if we were a choir, and having too many chorus numbers we all have to learn. There are always a few people missing at each rehearsal (holidays, sickness, other commitments) so we are forever moaning "We haven't done this one", "Yes, we have, we did it last week", "Well I missed it, can we go over it?", "Where are you standing?" "Were you next to me last time?", "Do we go up or down on that line?", "I've forgotten it already". The under 30s seem to pick up lyrics and moves in an instant. We older ones have brains like sieves.

Struggling with The Rhythm of Life, a song from Sweet Charity which has some over-energetic moves and some ridiculous lyrics, like these, which have to be sung very fast:

Daddy was a new sensation, got himself a congregation
Built up quite an operation down below
With the pie-eyed piper blowing, while the muscatel was flowing
All the cats were go-go-going down below

I looked at the running order last night and discovered my solo is just after this number so I may well mime it, to save my breath for my own song, particularly as I will have to hot-foot it from the altar in the church up to the pulpit. Surely I can't sing lyrics about my prolific sex life on a pulpit? We are also singing  Texas has a Whorehouse in it which should go down a treat too! God forgive us.

The concert is on 2 October so we've a couple of weeks yet and I'm hopeful we'll get there. As the lyrics from Another op'nin, another show keep reminding me:

Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse
Three weeks, and it coudn't be worse
One week, will it ever be right?
Then out of the hat, it's that big first night!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Gallery - A Celebration - Family Reunion

Do you see a family resemblance? That's me on the left and my second cousin, Toni, on the right. We used to go to the same school, Toni was born at the same time as my brother (our mums were in hospital together) but we lost touch and only recently, via Facebook and a lot of chivvying by my mother, did we realise we were both bloggers. Toni is Expat Mum, living in Chicago, author of Rules Britannia. We had both been commenting on each other's posts over at Mad Manic Mamas, completely oblivious to our family connection. I wrote about how we discovered each other in a blog post "We are family".

Whizz forward a couple of months and the photo above shows us eventually meeting up again. When Toni returned to England for a few weeks this summer, our two mums phoned each other and organised a bit of a do. They hadn't seen each other for ages either, so it seemed the ideal opportunity for a family gathering. We travelled up to Newcastle for the weekend and thankfully the weather was warm.

It was a great day. Toni was there with her youngest son and eldest daughter. Unfortunately her 14 year old, the same age as Rory, was back in the States with his Dad. However Rory was a star, played with the little fella all afternoon, patiently making models with a box of Knex my mum still had in the cupboard. As for the grown-ups, well we didn't stop talking all day. The Mums and Aunties blathered about the past and tucked into the trifle: we slightly younger ones drank plenty of fizz, demolished the pavlova and put the world to rights.

Since that weekend the family bonds have certainly strengthened. Our two mums are meeting up again soon, both agreeing that they wouldn't leave it as long again. And now that I've met Expat Mum I can put rude comments on her blog - well, that's what families do, isn't it!

I chose this photo for the theme of "Celebration" on The Gallery this week. Pop over to Tara's page and find more memorable moments.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Case History

My husband has a thing about luggage. Women may have a fetish for handbags but Dougie can't pass an Antler shop or the luggage department at John Lewis without touching up the cases.

Usually when we go on holiday we take checked-in luggage and seem to have acquired a myriad of cases to suit a fortnight on the Med or a short city break. I've just counted them:

2 x extra-big non-wheelie bags

2 x big wheelie bags

2 x medium wheelie bags

3 x smallish wheelie bags (all of which are too big to be hand luggage on a plane).

Hence I was told we NEEDED some smaller ones, so fed up is my man of watching everyone else's cases coming round the carousel quicker than ours. Dougie is also hoping the purchase of small cases will discourage eager hotel porters from wanting to carry them for him. Woe betide anyone who tries to wrestle a bag out of a Scotsman's grip. As he once succinctly put it towards the end of our fly-drive holiday in Canada: "They want a tip for carrying these cases for five minutes, with the aid of an elevator, when I've been lugging the feckers around for a fortnight!"

So please say hello to our new, teeny-weeny, carry-on cases. Sub-0-G, bought from Domo and apparently they are the World's lightest luggage. At 1.74kg and measuring 40.5x29x16.5 cm they are small enough for even the meanest cabin requirements. To me they look like a granny's shopping trolley, especially my flowery version, and they are so incredibly light they seem flimsy. But no, with a 10 year guarantee and made from parachute material, it will be reassuring to know that even if the worst happens, my case of treasured knickers and tacky souvenirs (or is that the other way round?) will happily float to the ground. Would it still work if I hung on? Dougie informs me this isn't what 'made from parachute material' actually means as he lovingly unzips his new toy and fondles the packet of silica gel contained within.

 I'm hyperventilating at the thought of how I will get all my clobber in this titchy bag and I may have to have a few dry runs before our trip to Madrid in half-term. It's also occurred to me that we've spent more on the cases than if we had just paid to take our bigger bags on the plane: but Dougie's playing the long-game here. I've told him I will happily book a few more mini-breaks so we can use our new luggage and thus save money.....!

The one case my husband has never upgraded is his trusty medical bag, a sturdy Samsonite briefcase. Fifteen years ago he crashed his car into a dyke on one of our Lincolnshire roads. He searched for some time for his medical case, only to discover it had smashed through the back window and hurled itself into the dyke on the other side of the road. There was hardly a scratch on it. His beloved case is also strong enough to hold his weight if the chairs in patients' houses he has to visit look worryingly damp. The case can also fend off large, intimidating dogs and be surreptitiously dropped on small, ankle-biting, yappy ones.

I can still remember our old suitcases from 20-odd years ago. They are residing in the loft, filled with old baby clothes and my wedding dress. Ah yes, that faux-leather monster of a case, so easy to spot as it lumbered round the carousel, the colour of baby poo and held together with, you've guessed it, half a roll of gaffer tape. (Add to the list of  "What Dougie Does with Duck Tape": please see HERE and HERE)


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Gallery - Back to School - Little boy, big boy

Here's Rory starting in Reception class with his smart blazer and lunch bag. .

See below for his first day of Secondary school, in 2007, about to walk to the bus stop with his rucksack over his shoulders .  He's now started Year 10 and beginning his GCSE studies. Funnily enough I didn't think he'd be keen on me photographing him this morning! Where did the time go?

This post is for the theme of 'Back to School' on The Gallery. Take a visit to see more entries.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

...see the biggest group of John McCririck look-a-likes

Sound like torture doesn't it? But it was the thought of such an event that persuaded us to go to Huntingdon Races last Bank Holiday Monday. A day of family fun was promised, with the following record-breaking attempts taking place during the day:

  • How many jockeys can you get in a Mini?
  • The UK's longest conga
  • The biggest group of John McCririck look-a-likes
  • The most children's faces painted in an hour
  • The world's youngest racing radio presenter
All this, plus a full afternoon of pretending to be flash betting a heady two quid a time on the gee-gees.

The entry to the grandstand enclosure was steep at £15 but children (including my 14 year old and his mate) were free. We also cleverly booked our tickets online the night before so got in for £10 each plus a free ice-cream for the boys (even sulky teenagers don't turn their noses up at Mr Whippy).

The compere for the day was James McQuillan, latterly a contestant on The Apprentice. He was dressed in a deerstalker hat with pretend ginger John McCririck-style sideburns. Despite looking a bit of a chump, he tried his very best to jolly everyone along with the, unfortunately, woeful record attempts.

Jockeys in a mini - we missed this as it occurred before most people had arrived but I think they managed 12. Not sure if this was a record.

UK's longest conga - the record is somewhere in the thousands. The organisers, however, made a number of fundamental mistakes.
1. They believed this could be completed between races when most race-goers are hoofing it from paddock to Tote.
2. Only people in the Grandstand could take part so the poor people beyond the wire fencing in the cheap end could only watch as their children berated them for being stingy and only buying six quid tickets.
3. To take part in the conga each person had to pay £2 in aid of Racing Welfare. An honourable charity indeed but when people had paid a whack to get in and were saving their dosh for the dead cert in the 4.15, that extra £2 was never going to be easily torn from their grip. Why didn't they just ask for donations and let everyone join in regardless?
4. Many bystanders, including us, wanted to see how many people were joining in before we decided to part with our money. Rory did not want to 'look an arse' so kept his money and bought a hot dog instead.

In the end, even Hugo the Hound, the racecourse mascot, couldn't help Apprentice James rustle up a decent conga line. How many did they manage to get in the line? 180. All of whom had paid two quid to be part of a failed record attempt as they wiggled and hi-kicked miserably on the lawn.

The Biggest Group of John McCririck Look-a-likes Now maybe I was being naive but I somehow expected a group of proper John McCririck lookalikes to have been specially invited to come along to the racecourse for the day. Apparently not. This was, in essence, a fancy dress competition. So anyone in tweed was cajoled to meet up in the paddock for an embarrassing contest. The line-up consisted of a couple of blokes in country-style attire and cigars, some blonde posh totty in riding gear, a few kids with stuck-on sideburns and a heavily-pregnant woman in a checked jacket and hat. We voted by cheering, rather quietly I thought, and James, having flirted with the blonde and accidently stood on the teeniest Mr McC, gave the prize to a five year old girl who will no doubt be mentally scarred for life.

The Most Children's Faces painted in an hour - I have no idea whether this was a success as the tannoy announcements regarding the world record attempts seemed to go mysteriously quiet by this stage. I'm not entirely sure what constitutes a 'painted face': is it a blob on the nose with a splash of poster paint or is the face painter required to produce full make-up for a West End production of Cats? All I can say is that I did see a few little girls with tiny horse-shoes on their cheeks. Whether they were painted on or branded to quicken things up a bit, I shall never know.

The World's Youngest Racing Radio Presenter - Did I miss it? Maybe the pregnant John McCririck gave birth before the 5.25 and gamely introduced the newest Peter O'Sullivan to the waiting crowds.

We returned home with a lighter wallet but there was just enough for a KFC en route. And Rory's friend has now been initiated into the art of gambling: I'm sure his mother is delighted.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Mum, you're embarrassing me!

I wrote this post a few days ago for Mad Manic Mamas

I think I'm turning into my mother. Actually I know I am. I embarrass my child, just like my mum used to embarrass me. I love my mother; she is a warm, generous, funny lady but when I was a teenager her loudness and daftness used to sometimes make me want to hide away. At family parties she would dress up in my brother's school blazer, squeeze into his grey trousers, roll them up to her knees and pretend to be Jimmy Krankie. Everyone loved her 'Fandabbydozy' impressions, they would squeal with delight, but my brother and I would be mortified.

Now I have my own teenager who finds me annoying, especially when I sing, hum or move to music in a certain way - in the car or in the kitchen, even though there is no-one else around to see me. He rolls his eyes, whines 'M-u-u-u-m-m, p-l-e-a-s-e' and I have to stop. I mustn't act silly in front of his mates, ask them too many questions or in any way entertain them although this summer they have all been very grateful that I have been around to feed them bacon butties on a regular basis.

However my mum's Jimmy Krankie impersonation pales into insignificance compared to the damage I may have caused my son by subjecting him to my performance in 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas' earlier this year. I feel he may need therapy.

Yet today I saw a chink of acceptance, a little sliver of hope that he may be growing up a little and is realising that I'm not so bad after all. Getting out of the car he walked beside me as we made our way into town and said,

"Actually it's okay if I walk alongside you now. Just don't sing, ok?"

Thursday, 2 September 2010

I'm turning into my mother....

I've posted on Mad Manic Mamas today on the subject of acutely embarrassing your children.

Pop over there to have a read and maybe share your own feelings on this subject.