Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The One With the Snooker And the Phonics

We are still having a daily struggle with the boy and his reading. He loves books and he loves stories, but the moment you sit him down to do his reading from school it’s like you’re torturing him.

His ‘mark making’- which is bloody stupid trendy talk for writing- is getting much better. Currently it’s all about drawing pirate treasure maps, with X marks the spot, so that’s one letter he can do.

But the reading isn’t going anywhere. Granted the reading books from school are piss boring, but he’s not even trying. There’s only so much ‘Sam has the nut. The Nut is up the tree. Sam goes up to the nut’ that I can stand, so no wonder the boy buggers about rather than read that lot.

So on the advice of other Mums I’ve started trying to engage him in looking at letters and words in everyday life; cereal boxes, signs, shopping lists, DVD covers and captions on the TV.

So last week, when the snooker was on, I pointed out the player’s names to the boy on the screen. This didn’t inspire any interest in him until Judd Trump was playing.

Now someone on the telly called ‘Trump’ is the height of sophisticated comedy to a 5-year-old boy.

‘Those players are called Ding and Trump’ I explained

‘Trump?’ the boy said with his eyes wide with wonder. ‘Trump?’

‘Yes. His name is Judd Trump.’

‘Trump’ he was really laughing now ‘Mr Trump’.

‘Yes Mr Ding is playing Mr Trump’

He was rolling around on the sofa now holding his sides.

‘Ding and Trump’


He went over to the TV screen and pointed to the name ‘Does that say Trump then?” he asked

I joined him and sounded out the letters as I ran my finger along them. Luckily Ding and Trump sound out beautifully and aren’t ‘tricky words’ - which is bloody stupid trendy talk for words whose letter sounds don't then sound like the word when they're 'blended' - which is bloody stupid trendy talk for using the letter sounds to read the word. 

He was still giggling about it all when he went to bed about half an hour later.

So this got me thinking. Maybe the only way to get the boy interested in phonics – which is bloody stupid trendy talk for learning your letters – is to teach him rude words.

Not really bad rude words. Not your four letter eff’s and jeffs. Just some mild schoolboy stuff. After all his main vocabulary currently consists of not just trump but bum, poo, wee, winky, boobies, stinky, smelly and pants, so why don’t we write them down and sound them out? We could spend a pleasant afternoon together trying to ‘blend’, stinky, bum and poo.

Yes I’m that desperate for him to read.

Shall I call social services or do you want to do it?

Friday, 24 April 2015

The One With Paddington Bear

The boy is obsessed with Paddington. We went to the cinema to see the film and then on holiday recently he spent his pocket money on a toy Paddington bear. He’s even developed a taste for marmalade sandwiches.

As a kid I adored Paddington too. I loved the books and the cartoon series on TV. When I bought my first car, a clapped out old Mini, I called it Paddy because it was the same blue as Paddington’s duffle coat.

So as an Easter present we got the boy the Paddington movie on DVD. We had all enjoyed the film, and we figured that with the boy’s hyperactivity issues it would be a less dangerous gift than loads of chocolate Easter eggs.

Little did we know…

Last Sunday afternoon I was in the tip that doubles as my office, when the boy kept running in with mischief written all over his face and declaring,

“I’m not doing something.’

This. without fail, always means he is doing something and that ‘something’ is always something he shouldn’t be doing.

I went to look in the lounge but I couldn’t see any thing untoward going on. The boy kept laughing, looking sheepish and running in at regular intervals to reassure me that he wasn’t doing anything.

I went to have another look but he stopped me,

“Go back to the computer,’ he giggled

I was getting nervous now.

It’s at this point in the story I think I should tell you that hubby was up a ladder clearing out the guttering at the side of the house, so when I heard running water I assumed that it was coming from him.

But it wasn’t.

The sound was too close.

The boy was still holding me back and laughing.

I pushed past him, through the kitchen, to the downstairs loo. There I found a small, red, crab finger puppet, wrapped in a baby wipe and jammed into the plug hole to stop the water from both taps, which were on full, from escaping.

I had reached it just in time to stop the water from overflowing the small cloakroom sink, which was currently full to the brim.

Needless to say we had words and the seriousness of what nearly happened was explained him. I think it went in, but you can never be sure with the boy.

Then I asked him why he’d done it?

He looked up at me, with his big, brown, soulful eyes and said in all innocence,

‘I wanted to be like Paddington and flood the house.’

If you’ve not seen the film you’d better watch the trailer and then you’ll see what he means.

Next Easter I’m buying him chocolate. It might cause mood swings, but at least it’s cheaper than replacing everything in the house.

I could swing for that bloody bear.

Friday, 17 April 2015

The One With Middle Age and Michael Ball

Apparently 60 is the new 40 and because we are living longer, healthier lives we all have to redefine our ideas on what middle age is.

If you take that piece of wisdom from this weeks newspapers as gospel, then we'll all be living until we're 120. I don't know about you, but I don't want to still be here when I'm 120. I'd have had enough long before that. 

Last Friday I turned 45. I consider this proper middle age. I have no idea why. I haven't had anyone tell me I'm going to live until I'm 90. I just have 45 in my head as a pivotal number.

It could be that my 40th birthday passed by in a whirl of nappies and night feeds, as the boy was only 6 weeks old when I reached that particular milestone. So somehow 45 felt special and defining all in one.

The night before my 45th birthday I did the most middle aged thing I've ever done.

I went with my Mum to a Michael Ball concert - and I enjoyed it!

There's no reason I shouldn't I suppose. I like a bit of 'The Ball' and musical theatre. I wasn't just there to keep Mum (who is a massive Michael Ball fan and has seen him in concert on several occasions) company. I asked to go. I asked my Dad if he'd buy my ticket as a birthday present.

I feel like I'm at an AA meeting.

My name is Random Woman, I'm 45 and I like Michael Ball. 

There I've said it.

We had a cracking time me and me Mum. We sung and clapped along, swooned a bit and even had a cheeky glass of wine at half time. 

It did occur to me, while I was bopping along to 'One Step Out Of Time' (Michael's 1992, 2nd place Eurovision Entry), that in my younger days this was the venue where I'd seen 'The Damned', 'Everything But the Girl' and 'Suede'.  Mind you it's also where I'd seen 'Bucks Fizz' (twice), 'Five Star' and 'The Mavericks' so I wasn't all 'that' cool. Quite an eclectic mix you might say. 

No one can fault Michael's voice. His vocal strength and tone is beyond question, whatever your musical taste. That boy can sing. He is also, by all accounts, a lovely bloke with a wicked sense of humour.  Never the less, half way through the 'gig' I had this uncontrollable urge to laugh. Not at Michael, giving his all on the stage, but at the crowd. We were pretty much all 'ladies of a certain age', some older than others, with the odd man here and there, probably to keep their wives company. One chap was asleep. 

Anyway the combination of static from the nylon and menopausal hormones rising in the air was enough to start either a fire, a riot, or an orgy. In the end it started nothing more than my giggles. 

Mum asked what I was laughing about,

'Are you taking the mickey?' she enquired.

'No' I exclaimed, but I'm sure she didn't believe me.

So, as much as I enjoyed myself and would go again, I was relived to know that age hasn't dulled my irreverent piss taking nature. 

Age is however dragging me into the slow descent of comfy shoes, support tights and elasticated waists. The inevitable slide into wanting to come home early from a night out for a cup of tea, indeed not wanting to go out at all, carrying a cardi in case it turns chilly and asking for gardening gloves as a Christmas present.

When it was all over I phoned hubby to pick us up.

'Are you done already?' he asked 'That's early. It's only ten to ten.' 

'Yep, all finished.' I replied 'I don't think this audience want to stay out too late. They probably have to get them back to the home before curfew.' I giggled.

Mum threw me one of her looks, like a Paddington hard stare.

Secretly I was glad it wasn't a late night. I'd worn heels for the first time in ages so my feet were killing me and I was gaging for a cup of tea..... 

I'm right rock and roll me.....

Michael Ball rocking Eurovision 1992

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The One With The Rehearsal

Last night I went and watched the theatre group I belong to rehearse for their forthcoming production of Fawlty Towers.

I haven’t acted since autumn 2013 and although it’s not unusual for me to have a break from theatre for a while, this is probably the longest I’ve been gone. Hubby’s job take him away from home quite a bit now, so what with that, work and the boy starting school, making rehearsals felt nigh on impossible and I couldn’t see when or if I’d be going back for a long time.

Then last night happened.

Everyone was so pleased to see me and I read in one of the parts while sitting next to the director and watching the action. I love Fawlty Towers and I adore acting comedy so I really enjoyed it. It was lovely to see all my friends again and be back talking about scripts, lines, direction and timing.

Most of all I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed acting and need it in my life. It’s in my bones, my soul and my heart.

I’ve been horribly down recently. I’ve been back to the doctor and gone up from 10mg every other day to 20mg every day of my anti-depressants. I’ve felt lost and uninspired, especially since the New Year.

Last night was like a breath of fresh air. I felt like I’d come home.

I know what I’m missing now and I need to go back to it. I went through a stage of worrying when I was in a show that I hadn’t sold enough tickets and got enough people to come and see it. I realise now that’s not important. Yes we need bums on seats to carry the group on, but that isn’t my sole responsibility. If friends and family want to come then great, if they don’t, no worries. I do this for me, no one else.

I also went through a stage of being in some ropey old rubbish or taking on too much. Mainly because I was too scared to say no and let everyone down. Again it’s not my sole responsibility. I need to be in plays I enjoy. The part doesn't have to be huge, I don't need to be the star. I just need to act.  I’m no longer falling for ‘Well if you don’t do it I can’t see how else we can cast that part. We’ll just not do a play this time.’

That’s balls!

No one person is bigger than the group and plays can always be cast.

The theatre doesn’t need me that badly.

I, on the other hand, have realised that I need it. Very badly indeed.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The One With the Made Up Meals

I’ve been making up a lot of meals in my head recently.

I can’t actually claim to have written any recipes but neither am I following any. It must be something to do with being more right brained than left and not wanting to follow instructions

If I do make something from a recipe book I can’t help ‘tinkering’ with it until eventually it’s beyond all recognition of the original. I rarely look at a cookbook anyway, unless it’s for the proportions for Yorkshire puddings; for some reason I always have to look that up, or buy Aunt Bessie’s, who is known in this house as the patron saint of the roast dinners.

I’ve been creating desserts with bags of frozen berries, making apple and leek stuffing to accompany roast pork and rustling up a sort of bubble and squeak with left over roast potatoes, ham, cranberry sauce and peas. Don’t knock until you try it. Although I’ve had several friends question the existence of a ‘left over roast potato’.

The boy had a run on brioche for breakfast recently. For some reason he called them brioche sausage rolls, (they were rolls but contained no sausage), and it was all he’d eat for weeks, then suddenly he announced there were ‘balls’ in them and he wouldn’t eat them anymore.

No, I don’t know what he means either. I can only assume it was a dry bit or a clump of dough or something, but once he’d found it that was the end of the love affair with brioche.

So when my friend Actor Laddie and his family came for Sunday lunch I had a whole 8 pack of brioche rolls that needed ‘using up’ as my Mum would say.

So I came up with 'White Chocolate and Raspberry Brioche Bread and Butter Pudding'. 

Split a pack of 8 brioche rolls lengthways so you have 16 pieces and butter them.
Arrange a layer of 8 pieces in a deep roasting dish.
Scatter over half a punnet of raspberries and half a 100g packet of white chocolate chips or a white chocolate bar broken into pieces.

Do it all over again with the other 8 pieces of brioche, the raspberries and white chocolate.

Make a custard with 3 beaten eggs, 600 ml (1 pint) of milk and 50g of light soft brown sugar whisked together until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are incorporated. I added a dash of single cream as well because I had some to go with the pud once it was cooked.

Pour the custard over the brioche and let it soak in for about half an hour before baking at 180C (160C fan) Gas Mark 4 for 40 to 45 minutes.

I did it on 160C for 40 minutes because my oven is fierce and even after nearly a year in this house I’m still coming to terms with how it can burn something to a crisp in seconds. My cake baking prowess is nowhere near what it was because of that bloomin’ oven.

The pudding was declared a success and I would’ve posted a picture but we wolfed it all down before I thought about taking one.

After this makeshift masterpiece I’m going to have a go at something that doesn't sound like a proper recipe but actually is; brussel sprout risotto, which was sent to me by a fellow blogger and Twitter pal. 

There’s a glut of sprouts on the fields round here so they’re going for a song. Well they can be rather a ‘musical’ vegetable…