Friday, 9 October 2015

10 Reasons the School Run Sucks

I was inducted into the dark world of the school run a little over a year ago. If I’d have known what I know now, I sometimes wonder whether I’d have joined the motherhood at all.

Ha! 'Weakling arse badger' you think. Hashtag cocking ‘first world problems’ you blast. Well, please, let me introduce you to 10 terrifying secrets of the school run.

1. Let’s play a gameIt doesn't matter where your little darling's school is located, inner city London or two down from a vacant cow field, there is, and never will be, enough parking. 

Like a sadistic game straight from Saw's Jigsaw, you can hear the words: ‘Hello Parents, I want to play a game. There are four parking spaces to 150 of you...’

2. Breaking the law  Dropping and collecting your child at school will cause you to break the law. 

I’ve done and witnessed countless criminal acts in the bid to catapult my child through the gates before the second bell of doom. Including, pavement parking, off-roading, traffic cone removing and – yes I’m guilty - the tossing aside of large rocks, logs and other detritus residents put on verges to prevent parents parking outside their property. 

If it can be moved, it will be moved motherf*cker.

3. Five-minute meltdownThere is no way to avoid the five-minute meltdown before you leave the house to do the school run. You can try but it won’t happen. 

I’ve woken up half an hour earlier, showered the night before, set out my child's school uniform in the shape of a small human, time travel - nothing works. The last five minutes before you leave the house will always descend into a screamy, stompy rapid fire question round:  ‘Where’s your tie? Oh my god, where is it? Where are your shoes? Put them on. For God's sake, why’s there toothpaste on your jumper? Wait, don’t move, there’s a pterodactyl in your hair.’

The five-minute meltdown pretty much always spills out onto the street at the exact moment your neighbour decides to faff about with their green bin.

5. School run buddies Like all new journeys in life, starting school, going to uni etc. the school run requires you to buddy up to make it through. 

A quick word of warning. Choose your school run chums carefully. These people will see you for 20-minutes twice a day at your best and your worst for the next seven years. 

In just 12-months my school run buddies have seen me hungover, emotional, giddy, sick, with make-up, without make-up, make-up on my forehead, teary and elated. The good news is this crash course in bonding means you've probably made friends for life. Or blackmailers - it just depends how you look at it.  

6. Judgey, judgey  – The playground is a cold, unforgiving environment. Because you don’t know people’s names the labelling starts very early on. For example, in my circle, there’s ‘Fruit shoot Mum’,‘Loomy Dad’ and I’m ashamed to say ‘Hooters Mum’ who has a habit of wearing crop tops irrespective of climate or occasion. Just know that they all have names for you too and you’ll all get along fine.
7. It will make you cry – Sometimes this fraught, time-sensitive journey will reduce you to tears. 

I had my first Michael Douglas Falling Down moment a few weeks ago. I was late, stuck in traffic when a school coach wedged me in. The coach driver grumpily ushered me to reverse back along a road lined with parked cars. It was too much. I knew I was in the wrong but I rolled down my window and loaded 12 barrels of f-you in his direction. Then I cried.

8. You will see dead things – At some point you will see something dead on the school run. 

Pheasants, rabbits and badgers have a habit of dying on verges in the early hours. This means early decomposition coincides perfectly with your morning walk to school. Be prepared for lots of questions and even curious stick poking. 

9. Dads on the school run – In 2016, Dads doing the school run is a very normal occurrence.  However, Dads tend to have their own set of rules which I quite admire. They operate on the periphery, like lone wolves in North Face Jackets. They don't engage in small talk about nits or dick about under the shelter pretending to read their phone. A common technique is to rock up at the last minute, walk in confident, avoid all eye-contact, grab the kid and get hell out of dodge. That's it - in and out, without so much as a f*ckety-bye.   

10. All weathers - It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing because your child’s school will have its own micro-climate. 

Prepare for rain and the playground becomes a back-sweat inducing sun-trap, prepare for sun and torrential rain will ensue. My advice is wear waders with everything.
School run fun? What’s your experience? Also if you like this please share the love, innit. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

This is f****** 40

So, the big 40 happened. What did I expect? To feel joyful that I had reached this milestone? To look at my gorgeous husband and daughter and feel immensely thankful? To wake up, stretch, hungry to know what adventures the next decade has in store?

No. I felt shit-house miserable.

As a child if I heard someone was 40, I imagined they were basically Skeksis from the Dark Crystal - hairless, sinewy-looking vultures, gasping for a fresh slug of Podling blood to renew their life force.  If you were 40, you were essentially the walking dead.       

40 is an unmapped territory.

In your 20s and 30s it’s acceptable to slam jaegar bombs on a week day, flip flap from job to job, try on different boyfriends and friends for size, dip your toes in all of life’s various glorious pots.  But a 40-year-old doing this? Heaven forbid, you’re an adult with responsibilities, plus that subscription to Good House Keeping isn’t going to pay for itself, is it?    

There are lots of things about turning 40 that have made me feel uncomfortable, here’s a few:

What the f*** happens next? In your twenties and thirties there’s a big old, exciting to-do list of activities – finish your education, find a job, sleep with the boss, find another job, secure somewhere sensible to live with a cat flap, find a partner, find another partner, find the one, and if you like and can, have a baby. But your 40s? So far on the horizon I see paying bills, raising your kid(s) and finding cheap holidays during the school holidays. I mean, really?       

Looks – 40 is a funny one in terms of looks. The gloss of youth not quite faded but the wobbly edges of ageing starting to set in. You look in the mirror at home and think you’re still wolf-whistle worthy, only to catch sight of your reflection in the car window and wonder where Gary Busey popped up from.

I want to embrace ageing in a wholesome, wear lots of black, Goldie Hawn kind of way, yet at the same time something in me is resisting – and not enjoying – looking older.  I loathe the ageism you see, especially the items so viciously directed at slating a women’s appearance.

Poor Felicity Kendal was given a saber-toothed tear down in the Mail recently – her only crime, to be and look 68, apparently.  What do you do? You’re lambasted for trying to look younger, yet everywhere you look, the media tells you to worship the cult of youth.      

I’ve spoken to a few friends about the ‘invisibility phenomena’, and how once you hit your late thirties you start to feel invisible to the opposite sex.  In my twenties, all bosoms and bravado, I could sense a pheromone ‘prickle’ when I walked up to the bar, now I’m grateful for the wistful gaze of an older gentleman carrying his wife’s handbag in the fruit and veg section of Sainsbury’s. 

People say it’s about feeling comfortable or confident in your own skin, but if your skin is going south, who feels ‘better?’.  I don’t see my elderly aunt stripping down to her undercrackers in celebration of her crags and crinkles every five-minutes? In fact, most of the elderly women I know sadly operate at the edges of life - beetling in and out of shops as soon as they open and averting your gaze - it’s like they don’t want to be seen. 

Jon Stewart made the point brilliantly in his piece about Bruce Jenner coming out as ‘Caitlyn’. As a man he was referred to in terms of his athletic achievements. As a woman, all the media can talk about is whether they’d 'give him one.’ Women's worth being defined by their ‘bangability’ in 2016. Sheesh.        

Fashion – I’m finding my forties a fashion no (wo)man’s land.  I’ve kissed goodbye to River Island and its skinny jeans and stringy things held together with gold safety pins. I’ve sacked off Top Shop for making too many square clothes – these are fine on whippet thin teenage girls - on a 40-year-old woman you look like Mr Strong. So now I’m left with Zara – the boho garments not the leather panelled jeggings – and *whispers quietly* the slightly trendier section of M&S.

Revealing flesh is a conundrum too. In your twenties boobs are gravity defying flesh Zeppelins, in your thirties they are udders, in your forties, well, as one 45-year-old friend put it, like ‘tangerines in a rubber sock’.  

And knickers. Now I’m 40 the thong years are well and truly behind me. It’s all about the ‘harvest festivals’ – all is safely gathered in. And belts. I’ve seen so much pale bum cleavage from Mums bending over to pick up dropped toys/adjust the buggy in the past few years that the humble belt has become a wardrobe staple.

Health – Turning 40 has made me evaluate my health and the outlook isn’t brilliant. In fact, on my current trajectory I should probably have put a down payment on a wicker burial casket in 1995.
The last time I did aerobics I was 16, I drink at least twice the recommended  booze limit - putting the blue bin out is my bi-weekly walk of shame – and, sometimes, I eat Monster Munch for breakfast.  
When I bend down I say ‘uh’ and if I’m tickled it physically hurts. Need I say more?

There are positives of turning 40, of course.   

I’m not a shy Bambi in meetings any more. I can book a holiday. I can eat an olive without spitting it out. I have a brilliant freelance career and a husband and daughter who I love to the moon and back. I’m also reminded every day to count my blessings - some of my friends didn’t even make it to 35, let alone 40.

I’m still here and life is unfolding as it should. And when the time comes and I’m more crabstick than crumpet I’ll gently remind myself that no-one is promised tomorrow.     

What’s your experience of turning 40?