Friday, 9 December 2011

Girl in uniform

I remember a time when I despised uniforms. I would deface my school tie as much as I could possibly get away with, wore it tied in the latest styles (long and skinny, short and fat, short and skinny but NEVER how it was designed to be worn), I’d take my skirt up so you could “see what I’d had for breakfast” (incidentally, I’ve never understood that saying, I don’t and have never kept Weetabix in my knickers), or bunching it up at the waist and then dropping it down just for inspections.

Now I love uniforms. Not just in a “ooh he looks fit in his white naval uniform a la that film from the eighties that I can never remember the name of” kind of way. Although, personally I’ve never been a big fan of that white uniform, possibly down to a general aversion to white knowing how difficult it is to keep clean. But I do like a nice man in a uniform. Anyway, I digress massively from my point.

I can’t see any negatives to uniforms. Sure at school I said I hated it (as did all of us, funny how we said we all hated them because we wanted to show our individuality at a time when we all would have done anything to fit in), but I think deep down secretly it was a relief. I didn’t have the confidence to come up with something stylish to wear day in day out.

Lucky, lucky people who get up every morning and have a uniform to put on.

For those of us with uniform free jobs, and not blessed with a natural “even looks good in a bin bag” sense of style, trying to come up with something to wear day after a day is tedious, and not having much time because you have two other people to dress (admittedly one in a uniform, yay) means it is easy to end up with the “covered myself in glue, wandered into wardrobe and wandered out wearing whatever has stuck to me” look. If I had a uniform all that would be a thing of the past.

Schools use the standard line that a uniform makes everyone feel like they belong and avoid difficulties arising when people can’t afford the latest trends. But I suspect that the real reason we have school uniforms is because one clever mother, many years ago, realised that having to think of something to wear every day was just a pain in the backside.

I don’t even enjoy shopping (although the man would disagree with that statement). Sure I love having something new to wear but the elation is relatively short lived when I get home and realise I’ve got nothing to go with whatever I thought looked good in the shop but in the cold light of my own bedroom accentuates how utterly out of proportion my boobs are to the rest of my body (and not in a good way). Besides, my mum always taught me to try on anything before buying it, a lesson I have never faltered from, so many a bothersome hour has been spent in a tiny changing room, with a screaming child pulling the curtain back to reveal my greying knickers to some poor unsuspecting fellow just waiting for his wife to hurry up so he can get home.

Nope, give me a nice uniform any day. I reckon schools should offer a uniform service to mothers as well as the kids. Then we could all get kitted out at the beginning of the new term together. A terms worth of clothing would arrive nicely packaged in cellophane all at the same time.

I’ve often thought that I should come up with my own little uniform, some trousers (non-iron) and a couple of t-shirts and jumpers embroidered with the kids names (they are, after all, my employers). But that would just be weird. So I am stuck with trying to think of something to wear every day and the irritating rounds of futile shopping that go with it. Still there could be worse things. I just need to stay away from changing rooms with uncomfortable looking men hanging around outside, although that is possibly a good rule to live by anyway.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Guest post from Manic Motherhood

I have a special treat for you today, a guest post from my bloggy sister across the Atlantic, Laurie Sontag. Laurie writes a fantastic blog called Manic Motherhood, a mom's tales of navigating the wild waters of her son's teenage years by hiding in her closet waiting for puberty to be over. Read more at or on Facebook/manicmotherhood.

I have a confession to make. It’s a big confession – and it’s one that is slightly embarrassing. First, you should know that usually, I am a perfectly ordinary parent of a teenager. Yes, I have been known to lose my mind on occasion and wear jammie bottoms in the carpool line, but other than that I am a normal parent with a normal life.

Except that I might just be a bit obsessed with the UK.

And by “a bit,” obviously I mean I am completely obsessed and in fact may need therapy. You know, just so you’re clear about it. Of course, there is no possible way I would ever be able to live in the UK, so you can all breathe easier. My husband prefers to live in the sunshine of California, where he’s always lived. So no crazy, Brit-obsessed Americans are coming to live in London soon.

Unless you count Gwen Stefani. Oh, and Gwynneth Paltrow.

Anyway, my obsession with the UK started when I was young. My cousin and I spent hours watching public television because it was the only TV station my aunt let us watch when we were at her house. So we saw a ton of Monty Python – which made much more of an impact on us than the specials they showed on the rainforest and world overpopulation. You know, because we’re shallow that way.

Also? We were quite devoted fans of the Bay City Rollers. And by “quite devoted,” I mean we were crazed young girls who thought we would grow up and marry them. Ahem. Yeah, that’s a bit embarrassing to admit. Actually, that might even verge on humiliating.

Of course, our craziness didn’t just include watching the Monty Python men dress up as women (really; what the heck was that all about anyway?) or listening to S A T U R D A Y Night a billion times. Nope, it moved into what can only be described as stalking. Yes, I admit this. We were not even teenagers – heck, we didn’t even wear training bras at that point – and yet we were crazy stalkers who had decided that we loved anything British, up to and including your Queen.

So one night, after a marathon of Monty Python and way too many Pepsi’s, we actually called the Queen. Not surprisingly, she didn’t answer her phone. An operator did and was quite nice to two young girls who clearly needed to be medicated and reassured us that, indeed, the Queen was fond of the Bay City Rollers, although she didn’t have a favorite. Not surprisingly, the Queen never returned our call. Presumably, she had other queenly stuff to do like address Parliament or something.

And I think you now have a clear picture now of why I had some issues making friends in elementary school.

But I’ve moved on since those days. Yes, because I am now a mature, responsible parent of a slightly wayward teen I no longer expect to speak the Queen. Instead, I have returned to my love of British TV.

I started watching again with AbFab. Seriously? Who could not love Edina and Patsty? They shopped! They drank! They smoked! They burnt down houses! They were like my dream come true of what I wanted to be when I grew up and moved to the UK. Except for Patsy’s hair, of course. I think she had a bunch of birds living in that beehive at one point.

Once I finished with AbFab, I moved onto the serious stuff, like Footballer’s Wives. Oh, I loved that show. I swear to you, nobody does baby switches like British. We’re talking smut and danger and drugs and naked men in a locker room. What’s not to love? Not so much the other show that came out of it - Extra Time. I watched one episode and they were doing unspeakable things with a vacuum cleaner. Let me just say that I don’t want my Dyson doing that. Ever.

And then I became slightly nutty over My Family – which is still my favorite. And I love Law & Order: UK, even though it hasn’t been the same since they got rid of the cute cop. Not to mention that I have trouble understanding some of the accents.

But don’t worry. I’m sure my obsession is limited to your TV shows. Unless I can find a way to have my husband get a job over there without having him actually know he’s applied for one. And I’ll have to figure out how to move the whole family there without anyone knowing what I’m really doing.

But I bet there’s an episode of Footballer’s Wives that will show me how to do just that.

Add to your favourites now! And if you would like to guest post for me, or would like me to guest post for you, get in touch

Monday, 5 December 2011

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Not me. All those flash holidays, big cars and houses with no woodchip wallpaper, you can keep it. OK, I’ll take the flat walls but I’m not sure whether or not the time and dedication that goes into being rich is really worth the hassle. I don’t have enough time or energy to paint my toenails these days (seriously, it’s been months) let alone spend all my time looking for the next buck.

There are two ways of being good with money. Making money and saving money. From what I understand, you need to be good at both if you want to be rich. Last week two programmes aired on TV that seemed to explore both sides of money management.

The first was about the increasing popularity of wealth seminars. That is, courses that claim that they can teach anyone how to get rich. Some of them unveil the mystery behind the property and stock market, but many more of them teach a certain frame of mind supposedly common to people who have been successful at making money. Apparently rich people spend a lot of time standing in front of mirrors doing their affirmations, constantly repeating totally untrue statements about themselves, until they eventually start to believe them and magically things start to change.

Can anyone really be rich if they set their mind to it? I know a lot about how state of mind can change results because of my self help habit. There is always an affirmations section in self help books but I tend to skip that bit because if I had five minutes a day to stand in front of a mirror telling myself lies I wouldn’t have flaky toenail polish.

We all know I have a pretty serious self help addiction, but one area of self help I’ve never ventured into is get rich quick. To me it seems the best way to get rich quick is to write a book or a website about how to get rich quick (maybe I need a bit of that action), but this seemed to escape most of the people on the programme who attended these seminars. As did the irony of getting themselves into thousands of pounds worth of debt in order to pay for them. Then standing up and blithely affirming themselves a “good money manager” as part of their daily rituals.

The programme that explored saving money was The Ultimate Guide to Penny Pinching, on which one woman exploited coupons to buy sixty quids worth of shopping for a tenner. I watched with interest at the prospect of a UK version of Extreme Couponing (an American show about people who manage to get thousands of dollars worth of shopping for just a few dollars by exploiting coupons and offers), because I really didn’t think it would ever be possible in this country, what with Rottweiler like cashiers who growl savagely at you if you attempt to use a coupon that is in date, for something you are actually buying and fully complying with all T&C’s. But the woman who used the coupons was just barmy (and is, according to recent reports, allegedly now banned from her local Tesco). At one point she was talking about how they had lived off microwave burgers for weeks, her son kept saying “they were disgusting” but she kept saying “they were fine, they were fine” while smiling crazily at the camera. Then she and her husband sat down to chicken and vegetables for dinner, while her children ate a frozen pizza, which the son had again said he didn’t like but she had insisted he eat it so she could claim the money back using the coupon on the box. I think the programme was deliberately edited to make her look a bit insane but you’ve got to expect it when you put yourself forward for a programme like that. I love using coupons but even I wouldn’t buy stuff just for the sake of getting the money back, or force my kids to eat microwave crap while I eat healthy stuff. I would at least eat the crap myself.

The road kill man was admirable, driving around country lanes and picking up anything freshly killed, from pheasant and squirrel to more randomly, badger. He then cooked up a barbie for all of his mates and refused to tell them what they were eating until they had eaten it. I don’t think I’d have a problem with eating road kill if someone else prepared it for me. Although I think I would draw the line at badger. But I don’t think the man would take up road kill hunting as a hobby even if I begged him.

I am rubbish at saving money and haven’t had much experience with making it either, so my financial history does not bode well for a wealthy future. But that may be set to change as I am now starting to think about my resolutions for next year and I think one of them needs to be to finally start understanding money, making some and learning to save it. But I don’t want to be a millionaire, I just want enough money to have flat walls once and for all. Anyone want to buy a book about how to get rich quick?