Black Friday blues

For fuck’s sake. As if I haven’t got enough to cope with, now there’s Black Friday. I have accepted that as a full-time working mother of two that I will have to devote any free minutes I may have between now and December 24 to shopping for food, decorations, presents and alcohol but now it seems I have to be on red alert every evening, little claws poised over the keyboard as Amazon drip feed me BARGAINS OF THE CENTURY THAT I MUST HAVE. I cannot stand the pressure.
Husband is making it worse. If I dare to leave the computer in a bid to find some Walker’s Thai Chilli Sensations and a glass of pinot in the kitchen, he bellows through the wall: “Now you’ve missed the 55 inch Panasonic Smart TV going at ONLY 66% OF ITS RRP!”. My heart cannot stand it.
Carrying out extensive research into Black Friday, which bafflingly seemed to start on Monday, I am now battling between opposing notions – is it a fabulously successful marketing ploy by the retail sector to divest themselves of all the old tut they can’t sell normally or is it a genuine opportunity to save money. I want it to be the former so that I can ignore it and go back to pottering around Kemp Town in my lunch hour but I cannot risk that in case it is the latter and I become The Christmas Chump for paying full price for things unnecessarily.
Modern Life, as I do believe the saying goes, is rubbish.

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The Apprentice! More idiocy, please.

At last. Someone I can identify with has appeared on The Apprentice.

Last night in front of the telly, I nearly dropped my bowl of salt and vinegar chipsticks when Lindsay admitted that actually she wasn’t very good at flogging over-priced candles, probably wouldn’t make a very good hard-bitten, high-flying biznizwoman and should really leave Sugar Towers immediately and return to her day job encouraging five-year-olds to let go of the sides as a swimming instructor.

God love her. This is exactly what would happen if I was in the boardroom with all those ego-maniacal nutjobs seemingly willing to sell their tar-black souls for a chance to be PM on some shitty task that involves real corporate people barely concealing their contempt at their rubbish business plans and poorly-conceived execution of them.

Sometimes I drift off during the really boring bits of the show (the Bridge Cafe of Sorrow recriminations, mostly) and start dreaming I’d somehow mistakenly applied to be on the show (perhaps, sending my application for Pointless off to the wrong studio).

Next thing I know some over-keen, over-gelled 23-year-old from Mansfield is shouting at my sleeping head at 5.30am: “The cars will be here in 20 minutes! We’re meeting at Billingsgate Fish Market! Put on these white wellies and hairnet, grab your clipboard and jump into the backseat!”

The nightmare unfurls as Lord Sugar points his crinkly finger at me amidst the fish stalls and orders me to head up Team Zealous. Our task is to gut a thousand trout before noon and then run around London with them in a slopping bucket trying to sell each one for £50. Every time I try to reveal my PM strategy, someone in my team shouts: “I am speaking! Will you let me finish!” and telling me I have no leadership skills and am not wearing a short enough skirt.

If I were Lindsay, I would be massively relieved that her ordeal is over. Now she doesn’t have to spend any more time with people who think that SPENDING £35 ON A CANDLE OR CALLING IT “SMELLS FROM THE SURF” IS OK.

I felt sorry for doomed Narun too, who harboured a wonderful notion that working on a stall in Peterborough was IN NO WAY THE SAME as working on a market stall in London and that’s why she was useless. I love the idea that London punters are 100% different from Peterborough ones and must be spoken to in a language that Narun simply could not speak.

I will, of course, be watching next time as I don’t feel I had my fill of idiocy this week. I don’t think the producers spent enough time interviewing the contestants individually as it’s then that the real gems come out.

Here are some of my favourites to say goodbye with…

· “I’m like a shark, right at the top of the food chain. I take what I want, when I want. I truly am the reflection of perfection.”
· “If I went to Mars right now, I’d find a way to be excellent.”
· “As a salesperson, I would rate myself as probably the best in Europe.”
· I’m not a one-trick pony. I’m not a 10-trick pony. I’ve got a field of ponies.”

And the best yet…..
· “Everything I touch turns to sold.”


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Sunday night telly let-downs

Homeland. It’s not as good as the first series yet, is it?

When Carrie came over all infanticidal when bathing Brody junior (now come on, WHERE did they find that startlingly-Damian Lewis like baby), I started questioning whether I should have stuck with Our Girl on the BBC (more of which later). I mean, I know she’s nuts, old Carrie, but come on.

Mind you, she’s pulled off some excellent childcare skiving which I could learn from. “I’m sorry, I can’t do the evening feed/bathtime/nappy change as I need to go and oversee a bomb-drop on a jihadi cell that might change the course of 21st century international politics” is pretty tut-proof, I reckon. I may try similar next time it is my turn to get involved in a half-term project to make a First World War bolt-action rifle out of match sticks or create a papier mache canopic jar.

Ben and I laughed a lot at episode two, which I don’t think the programme makers meant to happen, and I even found myself wondering out to the kitchen in search of a Curly Wurly half way through the supposedly tension-infused scenes where Carrie needles an ex-Islamabad case officer with a secret, now demoted to filing bits of paper in a basement archive (This is actually the job I would be badgering for, if I were in the CIA.)

It’s a good job there’s BBC Iplayer so that I could catch up with Lacy Turner in Our Girl, aired against Homeland over on BBC1. The first episode of this was quite good a month or so ago but it saddens me to report that the final episode was absolute tut.

It got really bad last week when we were asked to believe that Smurf the Welsh soldier, whose unrequited love for main character Molly Dawes (sounds like a bingo call – All The Fours! etc etc) had finally sent him doolally, actually risked the lives of all his colleagues in the face of Al Quaida danger just to get back at their commanding officer who the hapless Ms Dawes had fallen for.

This week just got worse. Molly was portrayed as so thick she would have made a plank look sparky (Sergeant to Molly: “The boss is still in hospital. There have been complications”. Molly: “Is that bad?”) yet somehow she managed to beguile her CO into falling in love with her.

Over dinner after they had returned from Afghan, he continually has to simplify his language to primary school levels just so she can understand his declarations of love and he seems entranced after kissing her hand when she suggests that he was just wiping the cabbage off his face. Such sophisticated banter.

Again, much laughter on the Hatch sofa. If I were in the army and had settled down to watch this, I think I would have switched off at the start of the second episode when Molly seemed to forge an intimate bond with a ten year old Afghan girl purely based around giving her a couple of Bic ball point pens. Molly becomes somehow obsessed with the child, despite only ever speaking to her about three times, always in a language that the child does not speak. This biro-based relationship becomes the bedrock of the show and Molly’s raison d’etre and she harps on about it to her squaddy mates every opportunity she gets. Cue crieS from the sofa: “NOBODY CARES, MOLLY, BECAUSE THE PRODUCERS HAVENT BOTHERED TO DEVELOP HER CHARACTER!”

Still, it’s not all bad. I’ve got Educating the East End coming up which always prompts outrage from the sofa on why teachers are paid so little and has me thanking my lucky stars I don’t teach maths to Year 9s with over-plucked eyebrows and enough hormones to feminise the entire male fish population of the North Sea.

Plus my rootling in the kitchen during boring bits in the above shows has yielded a family pack of Revels. Onwards and upwards.

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Listen at the back please! Hove secondary school agony and woe

Oh God help me, it’s time to choose a secondary school.

I have transformed, like some mythical creature, from a fairly lackadaisical, loving mum of small children who always carries emergency creme eggs around in her handbag with some fluff and tiny socks attached to them into SHE WHO MUST FIND THE BEST SCHOOL IN THE WORLD EVER FOR HER DAUGHTER.

I am terrifying. You will find me, wildly roaming the school open evenings of Hove, brow furrowed, pencil sharpened, haranguing innocent head teachers about their GCSE results and what levels their Year 7s arrive with – even though I didn’t know there were levels to worry about until I got back from my holidays in August.

I have become expert at school spiel, can decode it instantly. I am cynical and hard-bitten and Phoebe and I sometimes cast each other wild looks of ennui and frustration in the middle of headteacher talks. She wants to go and do the cool stuff they lay on in the art room while I want to drill down on Value Added scores with the Head of English.

I know. It’s not right. I’m a nice woman, really, and it feels all wrong, this annual circus of scholastic frenzy. But there’s a guilt monster clinging to my back whispering: “If you get it wrong, you could cock it all up for her”. And then of course there are the Hove mums to compete with. Actually, I couldn’t hope to achieve their high quality of mothering, it’s just too late. They started excelling in parenting at the nursery stage, picking the one with the longest waiting list and the web cams so they could stare at their darlings while on the cross-trainer (kerpow!). No such forethought on my behalf.

So you see, I’m taking on the big guns here in Hove and have to raise my game. I missed the Kumon bus, didn’t realise that musical instruments for children weren’t for fun but TO HELP WITH THEIR SCHOOL ENTRANCE EXAM (yes, we have a lot of indie schools in Brighton and Hove) and forgot to enrol my kids in ballet at the age of 2. Shit.

So if you see me, hair matted, handbag heavy with prospectuses and drilling a Year 8 child to within a inch of his life about extra-curricular activities, take pity. It’s only until October 31st. Then I can crack open the Pinot in front of Cilla on catch-up and leave it all in the lap of Brighton and Hove council gods.

Must go, I’ve just seen a friend of a friend who said they once had dinner with this head’s PA…

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Line of Duty confusion fog descends in Hatch household

I know I’m a bit late to the party here but WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED AT THE END OF LINE OF DUTY? After husband read on Twitter that the BBC’s six part cop drama by ace writer Jed Mercurio (loved Bodies) was a must-watch, we got sucked in hook, line and sinker and ended up watching four episodes back to back last night, staying up way past our bedtime, shovelling salt and vinegar chip sticks mindlessly into our mouths and commenting on That Woman From This Is England’s acting abilities (exceptional).

We pulled out all the stops not to fall asleep (as is our usual MO) at 10.15pm as we wanted to remain alert to see if Keeley Hawes did it or not. We got excited about a renaissance in UK drama, said things like “this is worthy of a Scandi Noir show, it feels a bit The Killing-like” and didn’t get up all the time to make tea/rummage for chocolate/put the washing in the dryer or anything.

But as the replay of a few months earlier unfurled and the plot was exposed, a confused fog began to descend onto our crayon-covered crappy brown sofa. The chipstick munching momentarily halted, silence reigned in the living room as we watched intently for the resolution. As the credits rolled, we turned to each other and shook our heads hopelessly. We were still not sure who did what. Who gave Akers all that cash? Did Denton do it because she felt sorry for the missing teenager? We felt old and wrong-headed for not understanding. But it was 12.30 and we were in our mid to late forties and had spent all day decorating so perhaps we had an excuse. It would be clearer the next day.

7am. I woke up to see husband staring at the wall, his eyes skyward. This is his thinking hard face. “So, why did Akers choose Denton…” he started as I wiped the sleep from my eyes.

Googling about it today I see Mercurio has stated that he made it vague on purpose. I like this writing style. I may start tailing off at the end of my articles and leaving it to the reader’s imagination to make up their mind what I was going to conclude. At parents’ evening the other night, our nine-year-old’s teacher told us she needs to learn how to end a piece of writing properly but after seeing Mercurio’s new trick, I may have to email her and suggest that having An End is old hat, just so February 2014.

Still, we must move on. New shows won’t watch themselves. It’s my all-time fave comedy Rev tonight and the writers always have excellent pay off lines in that. Plus I have a small wish-you-were-my-older-sister thing about Olivia Coleman. Is that weird? I didn’t like it when she was in Broadchurch at all, with all that nasty tough policing she had to do, dealing with dead teenagers and such.  I like to think of OC gossiping in my kitchen, admonishing herself for eating too many mini eggs and moaning about her in-laws.

I should maybe spend less time thinking about Olivia Coleman and more about getting a job. I have decided I need to get a job but that’s another blog….

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Poorly-fitting pants, traffic wardens, moving, shitting cats and N Power bills


We’re moving house this week and so far these things have happened.

  • I have been made redundant from my part-time job
  • Charlie has vomited four times amongst the moving boxes
  • I have had a spat with a man I don’t know because my six year old said there was rubbish in his car while receiving a lift
  • I am in pain as I have packed all my pants and am forced to wear a pair today that is far too small that I found behind the cupboard. It feels like they are held up by cheese wire.
  • People think I am ignoring them as I sent my mobile phone off to be fixed so can’t reply to texts.  I smashed it running after a speeding car on our street shouting at it that this is a built-up area and kids live on the street like some demented maternal harpy. Fists were waved.

But look, dear reader, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me because the good news is that I am going to have a small drive in which to put the car in our new gaff. This officially brings to an end my campaign of mental violence against traffic wardens that was threatening to eat me up. I have even poisoned the little minds of my children, snarling openly at the reflective-jacketed idiots whenever we drive past them and jeering a lot (admittedly with the window closed – I am a middle class Hove mother after all).

Now that we are moving, I have entered a new Zen-like phase and all is good. I think the lack of parking worry will make me a better person and mother as I will have more time to worry about other things like the fact that Charlie has just scampered into the study to warn me that “having red in your wee might mean you have cancer” when I thought he was watching Cbeebies.

Things are bound to look up. I’m even thinking about writing a book with He With Whom I Must Share A Study now that I have extra time on my hands. It might work or possibly be disastrous like the time when we worked on our first big story together at a weekly paper and bickered so much about what the intro should be on our article that the news editor made us sit at opposite sides of the newsroom. Mind you, we were terribly competitive in those days. I only got the story because I was at Ben’s house while he was out when the phone call came in and I answered it. He reacted when he came home to that news by getting up super early the next day to claim the story back. By the time I had eaten my Cheerios he had called the police, interviewed everyone he could find and written a rough draught for the next day’s paper.

His ability to wake up some hours before me has persisted but these days works in my favour as he was more time to worry about all the things people in their forties worry about while I doze peacefully until Phoebe brings my morning tea in. That may be called karma.

I better stop writing as I have just spied three cats (my mortal enemies) shitting on the dismantled trampoline in the garden and there’s a letter from N Power I need to focus on demanding £768.

See you on the other side XXXXXXXXXX

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Me, P and a top GP

To save time and long waits in the surgery staring at the same advert for Macmillan Nurses over and over again on the TV until I am mouthing the words of the old man in the flower shop trying to live his life meaningfully despite having only months left, I like to save up my disorders for the GP and get them addressed in one hit.

I do likewise with Phoebe, popping her veruccas and eczema into an easy ailment basket for the doc to inspect in one go. We’ve a joint appointment to attend and I also plan to embarrass myself by asking about the strange crease in her forehead gained when she launched herself like a toddler rocket from the sofa aged 4 and thwacked herself on the corner of a wooden coffee table. Five years on and it is now causing us concern in case it’s somehow affecting her brain. I know this is nonsense but have to get it checked out anyway as Ben has been nagging me to and he nags so effectively that its easier just to do as he says and suffer the ridicule.

In the surgery, I’m just starting to really enjoy March 2009’s BBC Good Homes’ feature on making your own Easter chicks table cloth (I mentally put this plan aside for my alter ego Homemaker Dinah to get stuck into. This will never happen) when a soft, comforting voice calls us into GP Room One. Dr L bids us to sit down and smiles so kindly at us when I start to list what is wrong with us both that she makes me want to weep. Within minutes, we are interspersing talk of my potential carpal tunnel syndrome (I thought it was RSI but apparently no one has been allowed to get RSI since 1992 when they banned it) with where Phoebe goes to school and whether she has been learning her tables. (Dr L asks Phoebe what seven eights are and there is a tense minute’s silence before she delivers the correct answer and I silently thanks her Year 4 teacher’s diligence).

We get onto talking about secondary schools and it begins to feel like the NHS circa 1956 when the family doctor knew your shoe size and had all the time in the world for you. I keep expecting the receptionist to come storming in and demand to know why the build-up of 34 genuinely poorly people haven’t been seen. But no. We talk on. She counsels on which schools she thinks would be best for Phoebe, talks about when she will attend university and what she might study and debates the merits of Oxbridge. We go on to discuss her upcoming holiday, where I went on my honeymoon and Phoebe’s conversational gambit that “Daddy writes books about our summer trips while wearing a dressing gown”. I almost can’t bear to bring up my infected left hand (eczema + Mr Muscle = ill-advised) and Phoebe’s indented head as it might break the spell and remind her that she is not my surrogate mother sent to soothe my every concern (secondary school confusion is all-consuming at the moment).  But all good things must end. We part company, a sheaf of prescriptions in hand, and wander into the 5pm January gloom feeling a bit happier than when we went in.

“Does that lady get paid a lot?” asks P strapping herself into her booster seat.

“I hope so, love” I say. Viva the NHS.


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