Monday, 27 April 2009

Twenty Questions

I've been tagged, by both Mud in the City and Nunhead Mum of One, to answer some questions. To be honest, I've spent the whole afternoon filling out incredibly tedious visa forms, and my brain feels as if itmight explode. If I have to answer one more thing about whether Littleboy 2 is married, Littleboy 1's previous work experience, or find out the phone number of a company I worked for 10 years ago and no longer exists, I think my brain WILL explode. So it's a relief to be able to answer some more light-hearted goes.

1. What are your current obsessions?
MOVING (in case you haven't heard).

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
My new-ish Uniqlo jeans. My old Gap jeans. My skinny jeans with the broken get the picture.

3. What's for dinner?
Prawn curry with tamarind sauce. Made earlier when I was supposed to be helping The Doctor with visa forms.

4. Last thing you bought?
A huge Waitrose shop this morning. How dull is that?

5. What are you listening to?
Take That - Rule the world - on Spotify. Littleboys 1 and 2 'dancing' to it.

6. Favourite kids' film?
Chicken Run

7. Favourite holiday spots?
Italy; Southeast Asia; Anglesey

8. What are you reading right now?
Trying to finish weekend papers. Have just finished The Outcast by Sadie Jones, which was fab.

9. Four words to describe yourself?
Curious ; irreverent; anxious; loyal

10. Guilty pleasure?

11. Who or what can make you laugh until you're weak?
South Park

12. First spring thing?
The pink camellia in the garden, looking fantastic this year

13. Planning to travel to next?
The US of A.....if the visa people say yes

14. Best thing you ate and drank recently?
Rare roast Cumbrian beef at the wedding I've just been to; excellent wine at same

15. When did you last get tipsy?
See above

16. Favourite ever film?
The English Patient

17. Care to share some wisdom?
Everything that happens with children is 'a phase'

18. What new blogs are you reading?
My friend Mum of 4's brilliant new blog, Four Down Mum to Go. It's the story of her life with four boys under six, having just had twins. Painfully honest and very funny.

Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people.

So I tag

Mum of 4
Home office Mum
Paradise Lost in translation
Wife in Hong Kong
A Modern Mother
Potty Mummy
Expat Mum
Nota bene

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Blonde ambition

Today I decided to go and get my hair cut, partly because we are going to a wedding this weekend and partly because I am anticipating that the next few weeks are going to be such hell that I need a treat. Yes, I definitely do need to look good for packing, moving furniture into vans and tediously sorting out the detritus of my house. No question about it.

I went for shorter and a bit blonder, ultimately aiming for a sort of January Jones in Mad Men type of look. As usual, I fear the result is probably more Tanya from Eastenders (see above), but never mind.

Anyway, as I walked back down the street afterwards (and bear in mind that I am wearing a slightly crumpled white blouse and flowing linen trousers, not exactly skin tight lycra) I was whistled at by no less than two sets of builders. This hasn't happened for a while; when you are generally accompanied by two small boys and a double pram, wolf whistles are a very rare thing indeed.

So it must be the hair. Either that or my oversized sunglasses (£3.99 from H&M, ladies - yes, you too can look like a film star for less than a fiver).

Anyway, never mind gentlemen preferring blondes. It clearly does the trick for builders.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Picture perfect

We had a lovely family outing on get our US visa photos taken.

Now, these visa photographs are not the same as just any old common or garden UK passport photo, which you could get from a booth or your local post office. Oh no, why would you think that? These are SPECIAL photos, of a completely different size and specification. And you can get them taken at, ooh, about three places in the whole of London (Lord only knows what you do if you live outside London). There was nowhere south of the river as far as I could tell from Google, so we ventured 'oop north' from Nappy Valley, taking the Littleboys for an excursion on the Tube, which luckily they love, followed by a pizza lunch.

The studio had advertised itself as being open at 10am, but we got there to find it looking dark and very shut up at 10.30. There were several other people standing there looking irritated. Eventually a man turned up and starting turning lights on. He informed us that it would be open at 11. After a wander around Covent Garden, we returned to find it STILL closed and the people who had been waiting since 10 slowly giving up and going away. By this point Littleboy 1 needed a wee, and Littleboy 2 was desperate to get out of his pram and run around. When the proprietor did turn up, he was very apologetic and even gave us a discount, but the boys by this time were restless and bored.

Meeting the requirements was a lengthy process, one that involved many instructions that small boys are seemingly incapable of following. For example, closing their mouth; not smiling, touching their face, biting their sleeve, pouting, screwing their eyes up or simply looking the wrong way.

Littleboy 1 was vaguely keen to play the game, being quite into posing for the camera. But Littleboy 2 was impossible. Each shot had something slightly wrong with it; his hair was in his eyes; his mouth was open; the angle of his face was slightly wrong. (All highly suspicious indications, I am sure, of a two year old trying to enter a country illegally and malevolently.)

Eventually the deed was done and we scuttled back across the river to the South Bank, where we had lunch. "They technically cannot reject them," I was assured (about the photographs, not the Littleboys).

I'll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile, I am just thankful the boys don't have to come to the Embassy with us for the 'interview' part of the process....

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

T minus five and counting

I feel as if I have been neglecting the blogosphere recently. It's partly because I've been stupidly busy, trying to organise the big move (just five weeks away), and partly because all of it is so, so tedious I don't want to bore myself with it, let alone anyone else.

So, I won't tell you about the long, long list of phone calls I have to make, letters I have to write and complicated online jungles I have to hack through in order to change postal addresses and reorganise direct debits. Or the hour and a half phone call The Doctor made to BT yesterday, just to cancel our broadband agreement. Or the army of electricians, estate agents, decorators, removal companies and others who have trooped through our house recently. Or how much it annoys me that every time I meet someone they ask me 'All ready to go yet, then?' (To which the answer is, and will be until about the day before we leave, NO).

I won't bore you with the news that The Doctor is looking more and more tense as the weeks go by. Whereas I have been worrying about the move since precisely January 3rd, and am now strangely calm about it all, it is as if it has only recently dawned on him that we are uprooting our entire lives to move to another continent. Not only that, but we still do not have our visas, or a house to live in in the US, or any plane tickets. All of which (for various dull reasons) have had to wait until the last minute. To add to the fun, we have a family wedding to go to in the Lake District, he has a conference to present at in Austria and oh, yes, the small matter of his PhD viva. I feel sorry for him, really I do, but at least it no longer feels as if I am the only one moving house.

But there are some comforts. The Littleboys are thankfully oblivious to the fact that we are about to whisk them away from the only home they have ever known. And there is the knowledge that the world is much smaller now than when my parents, at roughly my age, set off for Hong Kong. They had no internet, email or Skype. There was just the odd 'aerogramme' letter, and the only time we even made phone calls to relatives in the UK was on Christmas day. Whereas now, the lovely world of new meeja now means that I can keep in touch with my friends on a daily basis, look at their pictures on Facebook and talk to them on video calls.

If only American TV would show us the final episodes of The Apprentice, frankly it might be like we'd never left.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Birthdays, courtship and Arthur Miller

It was my birthday the other day. Before you wonder, I'm not afraid to reveal it; 36. A year the wrong side of the demographic I'd really rather be in on surveys (why is it always 35-54? Can't they just leave us alone to eke out our 30s?) , but on the plus side, I am still younger than Kylie and only a few months older than Kate Moss......

The Doctor bought tickets for us to go and see Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, starring the brilliant Ken Stott and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Maid Marian to Kevin Costner's Robin Hood, if you can remember that far back and hum the Bryan Adams song). He claims he picked it for its Brooklyn setting, as well as the rave reviews, as we'll be staying in Brooklyn initially when we get to the States. Let's just hope the storyline is not as relevant as the setting; if our arrival in the US sparks incestuous desire, marital breakdown, betrayal and violence as it does for the Italian immigrants in the play, this blog may get altogether more exciting.

Anyway, it was a fabulous production. And on a subconscious level, I'd like to think he chose it because Arthur Miller played a pivotal part in our relationship.

The year: 1991. The drink of choice at the Union bar: Diamond White cider, the song of the moment: Kylie's Better the Devil you know or REM's Losing My Religion. The Doctor and I were on the same corridor in a University hall of residence. We moved vaguely in the same crowd, but had barely spoken. But for some reason I was strangely taken with this good-looking, slightly dishevelled, aloof medical student in a black leather jacket, who managed to combine hanging out with a crowd of rowdy lads with artistic pursuits such as playing the violin (always a winner, boys).

Apart from the usual studenty exchanges - 'Diamond White for me please,' 'God, I was sooooo hammered' - etc, practically the only conversation we had had was about Arthur Miller. I, fresh from my thesp stage at school, had studied The Crucible for A level drama and even directed it, my sister's GCSE drama class helpfully providing the teenage hysterics. He had studied guess what? A View from the Bridge.

So when I noticed that the University drama society was putting on The Crucible about half way through the first term, I made my move. I snapped up tickets for a group of friends, and made sure there was one going spare. I casually mentioned it to The Doctor in the corridor one day, and he agreed to come.

I don't remember much about the evening, other than that I failed to sit next to The Doctor - some other girl got in the way - and although he was grateful for the ticket seemed completely oblivious to my ulterior motives. I spent the rest of the term fending off the attentions of a motley group of other admirers, all of whom declared their undying love but none of whom I actually fancied (except for one Vet student, who provided some useful snogging practice). He spent the rest of the term ignoring me.

But something about the evening must have struck a chord. Because, when we returned from the Christmas holidays, everything had changed. The very first evening, The Doctor pounced, The Vet was history, and we have been together ever since.

So, eighteen years on and after nearly 11 years of marriage I guess I should say a big posthumous thank you to Arthur Miller for bringing us together. And now for the next Act....

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Marching in April

"So, are you going to be marching tomorrow?"

I was asked this two days ago by the man who came to replace our car windscreen (irritatingly chipped while driving down the French motorway). For a minute I wasn't sure what he was on about - surely tomorrow was the first of April? Then I remembered the protests set to take place in the City around the G20 meeting.

"Er, no," I told him. "I'm going to be working tomorrow."

He smiled. "Yeah, so am I. Good on them, though."

I related this to The Doctor later and his (slightly teasing) response was: "You must have looked like the kind of person who goes on protests."

I wasn't sure whether to take this as a compliment. On one hand, it means that I obviously don't come across like the kind of 4x4 driving, well-dressed yummy mummy whose hubby works in the City and who would be horried by the thought of getting her hands dirty at a protest march. (Well, the guy was fixing our Skoda at the time, so he knew that). Dressed scruffily for working at home, I probably looked more like the kind of Guardian-toting hack that would get out there and wave placards. Still, I did begin to wonder if I could do with a haircut and a new pair of jeans....

And yet. I may (sometimes) be a Guardian-toting hack, but I've never been on a protest march in my life, I realised. At University, my generation of students was always the one accused of apathy; we'd sign a petition against raised tuition fees, but if it meant missing another hour in bed to hold up a placard, forget it. Maybe if I'd been a member of the 60s generation protesting against Vietnam I'd have marched, but when it came to Stop the Iraq War, well, I was too busy, first working and then having children, to get on that particular bandwagon.

When it comes down to it, I am not even sure that protests of the G20 kind achieve much. I do have some sympathy with the cause - I too am outraged at Fred Goodwin's pension - but is smashing the windows of RBS really going to help? And even if I did feel strongly enough, I'd be far too scared of getting caught up in a riot.

But maybe I should change my attitude: get out and reclaim the streets before I hit my late 30s?
Is going on a protest march something that everyone should do once?