Monday, 22 October 2007

A Slackers Guide to being beautiful.

Hello again slackfans!

The long summer break is over, christmas is around the corner and I have decided to give myself a makeover.

A few weeks ago I looked in the mirror and realised that I looked a bit rubbish! No longer was I an 18 year old babe who could stumble out the house in ripped jeans and a jumper and look ruddy gorgeous.

No, I was definitely a 33 year old mother of 4 in urgent need of an upgrade.

I analysed the situation carefully and concluded that I needed a 3 pronged approach.

Firstly, my hair.

I have the curliest hair in the world and it has been the bane of my life. If I wear it short it looks like a curly crash helmet, mid length it's wider than it is longer and when it's long it requires a lot of tender loving care.

At the moment it's in a long phase, but I've taken to wearing it back all the time and haven't invested a great deal of time in looking after it.

Secondly, my clothes.

I've got caught in a style rut. I tend to dress for comfort, pulling on old jeans and baggy tops. I think my problem is that I haven't fully grown out of my indie kid mentality and anything that isn't velvet, tye-dyed or a bit 'ethnic' I dismiss as being old fogey-ish.

And thirdly, make up.

Well, I have always been of the opinion that I was so naturally 'gawjus' that I didn't need make up! The times they have a changed! Whilst I do have 'good' skin...not too wrinkly and not spotty...I have started to look a little 'tired'. And in the morning my face seems to take a while to wake up!
I have a box in my bedroom where I keep my 'cosmetics', so I decided to look through it and see if there was anything of any use in there. I found some sandpaper, bank statements, a 4 year old party invitation for one of the kids, a tube of 'bazooka that verruca' and a dead wasp. Not exactly an awe inspiring collection of beauty equipment!

My plan of action!

It was clear that I needed a plan. A Saturday afternoon shopping trip wasn't going to be enough to sort me out. I needed information, I needed research, I needed experts. So, I watched an episode of 'What not to wear' to see if that would help me. It didn't. The two new presenters made their 'victims' look like a right pair of dogs dinners.

I then looked at mums in the school playground, there was a strict division between 'mumsy' chic and what I can only describe as 'hooker-wear'. Neither of which is my cup of tea.

So I turned to the interweb and started looking at clothes. I didn't like anything at all.

Until I found this website:

In particular some of the dresses.



And this:

I thought that they were flattering, practical and age appropriate.

So then I moved on to my hair. My bloody nightmare hair. I had discovered that using coconut oil really helped with my mad curls. But the other week my local source of coconut oil dried up and I ended up buying some of the Frizz Ease range as a stop gap.

Big mistake, it left my hair sticky, dried out and really tangly.

So again I turned to the lovely, lovely interweb and did a search for coconut oil. It was a bit confusing, and some of the oils were pretty costly. However I found this website

I have ordered some of this:

And some of this:

They should be with me by the end of this week! (Please don't go on strike again Mr PostMan!)

I can't wait to try them out!

And the make up? Well, I have ordered a 'line minimising' cream and a moisturising foundation from The Bodyshop. I thought that getting my skin looking fabulous would be a great place to start.

I haven't got a clue about eye make up or blushers or bronzers. I think that I'll probably get a grey eyeliner to start off with and gradually get used to wearing 'proper' make-up.

So this time next week I'll look like a million dollars!


Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The Slack Mums Guide to Going on Holiday. Part 2.

So, you have decided where you are going to go on holiday, and you have sorted out your holiday accommodation. You might be forgiven for thinking that this is the point where you can relax, kick back a bit and start to enjoy yourself. I'm afraid that this is where the hard work really begins.

Before you can go anywhere 'things' have to be packed. And when you have children, you have to take an awful lot of 'things'. If you are a Mum then this will be your job because Dads don't do packing. Their holiday preparations involve looking at maps and 'planning the route'. Never mind that you know the simplest most stress free route to your destination your husband will spend hours poring over an ordnance survey map that he bought when he went on a Scout trip in 1982.

The only part of the packing process that Dads get involved with is the loading of the car. And it will happen like this:

Bags in boot of car.
Boot of car won't shut.
Some bags relocated onto seats of car.
Passengers won't fit in car.
Cry of 'Who packed all this crap' will be heard.
Return cry of 'If you weren't so busy playing with your fucking map you could have done the packing' heard.
Bags out of car again.
Passengers in car.
Bags placed around passengers.
Smallest passengers start to cry because they have been in car for nearly an hour.
Dad gets in car, can't find car keys.
Dad gets out of car and swears.
Mum points out that he put keys in boot prior to shoving the luggage in.
Dad asks why she didn't tell him that.
Mum says that she didn't realise that she was supposed to give a running commentary.
Dad gets all luggage out of boot.
Finds keys.
Gets in car.
Drives off.
Realises luggage not back in boot.
Drives back.
Puts luggage back in boot.
The holiday has officially started.

This brings me neatly to one of the themes of this post. When you go on holiday your husband will turn into the most annoying man alive. This is because when Dads go on holiday, they 'go on holiday'

On the journey your husband will insist that he knows where he is going, and he will blindly follow his meticulously planned route even when it is patently obvious that he is going the wrong way. When I was a kid we went on a holiday to Cornwall. it took my Dad 11 hours, yes 11 hours, to drive from Birmingham to Cornwall because he had 'a route' and he was a bloke 'on holiday' and it was his God given right to stick to his route on his holiday!

So the chances are that by the time you reach your destination you will already want to beat your husband round the head with a tyre pump.

It will be your job to get the children and the luggage out of the car while your husband surveys his holiday realm. When a husband surveys his holiday realm he will swagger around rubbing his hands intermittently while saying 'Ahhhh'. It will not matter to him that the children are crying, the carefully packed clothes are strewn everywhere and that there is nothing for dinner...he is 'on holiday' and none of that will concern him.

For the next week, or 2, your husband will regress.

He will not be able to:
make food,
go shopping,
look after children,
wake up before 9am,
be responsible with money.

He will be able to:
buy a range of plastic objects designed for children to go fishing with...(in his mind he will 'land the big one'),
fall into water,
get covered in mud,
wear surf shorts,
get sunburnt (dads don't do sunscreen on holiday, they believe that they are immune from the effects of the sun)

So, for mothers the annual summer holiday can be a taxing time.

Sometimes people go on holiday with their in-laws. They think that having grandparents along for the ride will make it easier, give them a break. This theory is wrong, incorrect, silly and just plain crazy.

Having the grandparents with you on holiday is the fastest, surest way of tearing a whole family apart. Particularly if it's your husbands parents that you are taking with you.

For a start off, with the in-laws on board your husband will revert fully to his child-like state. He is no longer an adult, he has 2 mummies to look after him! You mother-in-law will reinforce this notion by treating him like a little boy.

After you have struggled with the holiday packing and endured a traumatic journey to your destination and unpacked all your holiday stuff your mother-in-law will look at your husband and say:

"Oh dear, you do look tired, and haven't you got thin...why don't you sit down, we've got everything under control here.."

This will make you feel a bit cross. But do not show any feeling, because if at any point you look tired, annoyed or stressed you will be told to 'get in the holiday spirit.'

Your mother-in-law will be in charge of the kitchen, you might think that this is good when you are on holiday.

It isn't.

Your mother-in-law will ignore anything you say about what your children can/can't eat. And then she will tut whenever your children don't like what she has prepared for them. You will be expected to eat at rigid times and if you have a glass of wine with your dinner she will look at you as if you are one step away from a trip to rehab.

If you try eating out they will shake their heads at the price of meals and complain that everything tastes of garlic.

If you are holidaying near the coast, fish and chips is a fairly safe bet. However be vigilant for fish bones. Fathers-in-law of a certain age have a habit of getting them stuck in their throats.

Remember though, when you are a parent the holiday isn't about you anymore, it's about your children. And it is only once a year.

So good luck to those of you who are yet to go away. May the force be with you.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Slack Mums Guide to Going on Holiday. Part 1.

It's that time of year when our thoughts all turn to holidays. Long sunny days and even longer fun filled, sangria soaked nights. Bliss.

However what no one tells you is that when you become a parent you will not have a relaxing holiday for at least the next 20 years.

Lying on a beach, eating exotic cuisine in a cosy little restaurant, lazy days by the pool....never again will you know such joy.

Pre-children, going on holiday involved no planning, it was a case of 'let's go on holiday tomorrow!' Clothes were thrown in bags and the only concession to organisation was to locate the nearest bar for our relaxing first drinks of the trip.

When you have children the planning involved to go on holiday makes the logistics of the moon landing look simple.

First of all you have to choose a location. At 'home' or 'abroad'?

Going abroad involves travel trauma. As soon as you set foot in an airport if you have a child under 5 it will either have a tantrum or diarrhea from the minute you get in the check in queue until the minute you get home 2 weeks later. Plane travel with small children is so traumatic that parents start to believe that driving overland to their destination is feasible.

It isn't.

24 hours locked in a car with screaming children on foreign shores where they drive on the wrong side of the road is a practice that the CIA might consider adopting when they are trying to break prisoners.

Once you have decided on your location you then have to think about accommodation.

Anything labeled 'Family Friendly' will be hideously expensive. There are a few jolly hotels around the country that are totally geared up to families and children. They provide children's activities and babysitting, but to book rooms there you need to make a reservation preferably before you get pregnant and be prepared to re-mortgage your house in order to afford it.

Many people opt for self catering holidays. The idea is that you book a lovely cottage in the country and come and go as you please. Now, if when you were looking around for a house to buy the notion of being miles away from civilisation, with no TV and no central heating filled you with horror please bear that in mind when you book a holiday. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no TV when you have children is Very. Hard. Work. You might have a fantasy of really getting down to some hands on parenting, but the reality is that you will be uncorking the wine before lunchtime in order to drown out the repeated cries of 'I want Cbeebies on'.

Also self catering cottages are seriously expensive too. And getting a reasonably priced self catering cottage in Cornwall during July or August is more difficult than teaching a dog A-Level Spanish.

So, you can't afford a posh hotel, a self catering cottage isn't your scene...what options do you have left?

There are only 2.



In your pre-children days you might have sneered at Butlin's breaks or camping holidays. You might have wondered what kind of person goes on that kind of holiday. Once you have children you understand that you are exactly the kind of person who goes on that kind of holiday. You will watch the Butlins adverts on TV and think 'Wow, that's my kinda place' or you will wander round your local camping shop and think serious thoughts about camping stoves and portable toilets.

Butlins and other holiday parks are great in terms of activities for your children. The only draw back is that they full of other people's children. Other peoples children on holiday, high on excitement and ice cream being as obnoxious as your own children. And other peoples children come with parents. And the parents of other peoples children can soon have you a breaking point.

Camping holidays are great in terms of flexibility and cost. The only draw back is that you living outside and are subject to the vagaries of the weather. And if it rains, no matter how much your tent cost it will always leak. So you will be in a wet tent, surrounded by other wet tents filled with other peoples children and their parents. Nice.

So, you have decided on a location and you have sorted your accommodation. Time for some fun eh?!

No chance.

In my next guide to going on holiday I will outline why you should never go on holiday with your parents in law, and I shall look at going on holiday can turn your husband into the most annoying human being that you have ever met.


Sunday, 3 June 2007

The Slack Mum's Guide to Choosing a Secondary School.

A slackers guide to choosing a secondary school.

A time will come in our parenting careers when we will have to choose a secondary school for our children.

When we choose a primary school we want teachers who will care about our children, understand their little quirks and an environment where they can be nurtured.

When it comes to secondary schools none of that matters, we all want results dammit! Because secondary schools are where our little darlings will sit their GCSE's, and if we make the wrong choice we could ruin their whole lives, or even worse expose them to 'the underclass'.

When I was a kid (and yes, I was a kid once!) things were so much simpler. There were no league tables, no SAT's, no OFSTED reports and best of all no choice. You just went to your nearest school.

Obviously there were unofficial rankings. For instance, at my school all the girls wore knee high socks...this was a sign that there was a good chance of us passing our O-Levels. At a nearby school all the girls rolled down their socks and wore stilettoes. This was a sign that they were destined for CSE's and marriage to undesirables.

My parents didn't have to think about secondary schools until I was about 10 years old. Today, if you haven't got a plan for secondary education when you are admitted to the delivery suite you are screwed.

I thought that the hysteria about secondary school was an urban myth perpetuated by The Guardian. I realised the error of my ways when my daughter started at primary school. Even when she was in reception there were agonised conversations about secondary school choices. And by the time she was in year 2 at least 50% of the children in her year were being tutored for the 11+ in the hope of ensuring a grammar school place.

I have known parents who have planned extensive rebuilding work to their houses so that they can rent a house in the catchment area of their choice for the duration. I have also known parents who have planned 5 year gaps between their children so that they can afford to go private when their kids get to 11. I have also known parents who trust to fate and send their children to the local comprehensive. They are normally pointed out in the playground as being very 'brave'.

So, if you have a child approaching secondary school your choices are:

Move to a nice area.
Go private.
Tutor you children from the age of 5 to get them into your local Grammar School.
Trust to fate, send them to your nearest school.

And if you don't make the right choice the video below shows where they'll end up!

Good Luck!

Christmas the Slack Way: Part 4.

In this final guide to Christmas I am going to talk about shopping. We all have to do it. There is no escape.

You will have to buy gifts for people that you do not know very well and probably do not like. Just buy them biscuits, hopefully they will choke on them. It will serve 'em right for expecting a present.

You will have to buy a gift for your other half. Men, pay attention. This is a very difficult situation for you. If you spend too much money your wife will assume that you are guilty of something, and you will spend Christmas morning having to provide forensic evidence to prove that you are not having an affair. If you spend too little money your wife will assume that you don't love her any more and you will spend Christmas morning having to provide forensic evidence to prove that you are not having an affair. If you buy her sexy underwear she will assume that you don't find her sexy enough and you will spend Christmas morning having to provide forensic evidence to prove that you are not having an affair. I could go on, but I am sure that you get the picture.

Your children will write a Christmas list in October. Do not make the mistake of being organised and buying their gifts then. By December they will have changed their minds. Resign yourself to the fact that you will be fighting off fuckwits in Argos.

Do not rely on the internet. The internet will not deliver before Christmas, even if you order in January. On the rare occasions that they do deliver before Christmas they will deliver the wrong item to the wrong address. This means that you will have to make drunken phone calls to a call centre. You really don't want to go there. Also your partner will make scathing comments about your shopping skills which will cause a Christmas argument.

In December all shop staff will be miserable. Do not try to make eye contact with them, do not engage them in conversation and do not wish them a Merry Christmas. When they look at you across the checkout they are fantasising about how they would like to beat you senseless with your organic turkey and hand picked parsnips. I can't tell you what they want to do with your sprouts. I would be arrested.

This is the end of my guide, I have to go shopping now.

Merry Christmas slackers!! See you next year!

Christmas the Slack Way: Part 3.

The time has come in my guide to 'Surviving Christmas the Slack Way' for me to discuss 'Family Gatherings'

Whether you have children or not you will be required to show your face and mingle with with obscure relatives that under any other circumstances you would cross the street to avoid.

Here are some instructions on how to avoid any family flouncing.

You will be required to take your children on long journeys to meet obscure relatives. This is your opportunity to demonstrate to your family that you are a competent adult and a responsible parent. Please don't get your hopes up. The combination of excitement and Christmas chocolate makes all children turn into wild eyed, sticky, loud, clumsy brats. Within a nanosecond of arriving at a family gathering your child will have:

Spilt a drink on a white carpet,
Broken an ornament
Pulled over the Christmas tree
Smeared chocolate on an expensive sofa
Pulled another child's hair

If you can manage to avoid a vomiting incident, count yourself lucky.

At any family gathering there will always be Mr and Mrs Perfect and their Perfect children in attendance. They will be very easy to spot:

They will all be dressed in white, beige or cream
Mrs Perfect will smell of perfume and not a heady mix of gin, turkey gravy, burnt custard and brandy butter.
They will smugly eschew alcohol and sip mineral water...pah!
Their children will be clean, well mannered and will never have had nits.
Their children will not be the ones rolling around on the floor fighting over a paper hat.
Mr Perfect will not be the idiot telling the offensive joke that kills all conversation for the next half an hour.... that honour will go to your husband.

You will have the urge to twat the smug bastards in the face. Please fight that urge. No one wants to spend Christmas in the cells. It's just not worth it.

For some couples Christmas is not the season of goodwill. For these couples Christmas is the time to have a big falling out. It is likely that you will encounter one such couple at a family gathering. They will be easy to spot. One, or both, of them will be knocking back the booze faster than Oliver Reed and George Best having a drinking competition at a free bar, they will only speak to each other through gritted teeth and they will make sarky remarks about each other to anyone who will listen. They can really kill a party atmosphere and all conversational topics are off limits. No matter how innocuous the subject matter might be, it will provide one part of the happy couple with ammunition to have a dig at their significant other. There is nothing that you can do, apart from locking away the wine and having the number of your local police station on speed dial should things turn nasty.

If you are the 'unhappy couple' mentioned above, for the love of God please just stay at home.

If you are visiting your in-laws please remember that the volume of alcohol consumed amplifies the annoyance factor of 'relatives by marriage'. You will have to play second fiddle to your significant other while they get fussed over by their family. You will not be fed, watered or allowed to rest. Please don't drink too much wine and tell them all to get lost. Just grin and bear it and remember that one day you will have a say in what nursing home they go into.

I hope that this guide has provided you with the appropriate tools to have a harmonious Yuletide......and remember, Christmas only comes once a year.

Christmas the Slack Way: Part 2.

Last time we looked at the role of booze and school during the season of goodwill. Today we will be looking at visiting Santa. I know, I know, I promised to examine the joys of shopping and family gatherings... but hey, I didn't want to peak too soon.

When you have children they will believe in Santa. And it's a fact that most husbands believe in Santa too... I mean how else do all those presents get bought and wrapped?

So every year you will have to go on a trip to say 'Hi' to the big red guy. Sounds fun? Sounds easy? Yeah, right!!

Your child's faith in Santa depends on this annual visit. Get it wrong and you will have ruined their whole childhood. Yes, ruined their whole childhood.

I have compiled a few tips and tricks that should help you all.

Please do not expect your child's first visit to Santa to be a happy experience. It is a universal law that all children cry and scream on their first visit. While you are dragging your sobbing terrified child into Santa's Grotto remember that you are doing it for their own good.

All elves and helpers at the Santa extravaganza are miserable fuckers. While you are struggling with a screaming child/children and trying to fold a pushchair they will look on with a disdainful smirk. Moments like that are the reason they go to work.

All Santa's Grottos are totally child unfriendly. They are full of sharp things, chokey things, electric shocky things... and they are dark. If you can make your way to Santa without injury, you are doing good.

Be discerning in your choice of Santa. Remember, you will be judged by other parents on the Santa that you choose. My mother took my sister to see Santa at Harrods. She is still dining out on it twenty years later. And my sister is an Oxford graduate... so, do you see how important this Santa thing is?

It might sound like jolly middle class fun to go with your in-laws and assorted offspring on a Severn Valley Santa Express. It isn't. Essentially you are trapped with your in-laws and lots of screaming children on a cold train in the middle of nowhere. If you are very lucky someone might come round with a trolley full of booze. Just ignore your mother-in-laws *lip curl* as you self medicate with brandy.

When you finally get your audience with the big red guy ( after travelling, queuing, getting cold, getting wet and scaring your children) your children will be mute. Even though they will have been wittering on since the crack of dawn about what they would like for Christmas they will be totally silent. Enjoy it, savour the moment. You will not know quiet like it for another year.

Your audience with Santa will be over in approximately two and a half minutes. Santa doesn't like to chat. And he doesn't think it's funny if you ask to sit on his knee and then giggle like a schoolgirl.

Santa will give your child a gift to take home. This gift will be unsuitable, unhealthy, possibly sticky and downright dangerous. Your child will be sobbing within 5 minutes of opening it. I did hear of one poor family being given umbrellas by Santa. Within five minutes of arriving home there were several poked-eye incidents as a result of frantic umbrella opening and closing.

I hope that this guide will help you to have a happy Christmas. If you would like to thank me you can leave me a glass of gin under your Christmas tree.