men in slippers

We’ve arrived at Poshly Towers for our annual trip to the Lake District with my mother in law.  Himself is hefting the bags from the car, I’m sent in to register.  The smiling receptionist tells me, with huge delight, that we have adjoining rooms.

We’ll draw a veil over that.  Door wedged and headboard secured – one soldiers on.

If only we could draw a veil over what happened next.  He digs into his bag and announces, ‘I’ve forgotten to pack any clothes’, pulling out a pair of sandals.

?!?!?  So what the hell IS in there?  And what is he going to wear for the Poshly Towers a-la-carte?

Then he adds ‘And I’ve got a really big hole in this teeshirt,’ unzipping his fleece to show a ragged hole.  He appears to have been shot, or have inherited the teeshirt from a shooting victim.

I do a quick search to see if there’s a sewing kit, then we try to see if we can score a teeshirt with the name of the hotel on (they’ve sold out).  He flatly refuses to wear my black top.  It is a little low cut and does have long tails, but they could be tucked out of harm’s way.

Last resort.  I colour in the pink skin directly behind the hole with black eyeliner.  Wasn’t my proudest moment.



DIY Red Room

Yes this was the image that accompanied the press release which explained how to knock up a Kinky Corner or Sado-Morning Room.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I’d been living with a Red Room for the last decade – and the rare action it had seen (from me) was occasional mechanical attention – with a vacuum cleaner.

Worse, the space doubles as my office.  I’m writing from there now.  There’s a big mug of coffee on my right (burn-y hot no doubt if applied to certain nethers).  It’s in my ‘Age and Treachery will overcome Youth and Skill’ mug.   Portentous indeed.  On my left is a big tub of Sudocrem (henceforth known as Sadocrem).  The coffee is for drinking, not dunking of various body parts and the Sadocrem, well it’s on its way into the bathroom medicine cabinet, but I was distracted by a phone call.

But, dear reader, a red room it still is.  Because if that picture is anything to go by, then we have all the kit.  ALL of it.

You see my number 1 husband (only husband, actually) is a mountaineer.  He has kit that looks exactly like that illustrated.  Although, to be fair, unlike the ‘model’ in the image he does wear pants with these straps over the top.  The sort of pants that you can zip bits off to conjure long shorts, shorter shorts etc.

He also has a selection of ropes, crampons, clippy things that, well I’m sure could be multi-purposed, and a selection of robust helmets and gimp-potential thermal balaclavas.

Enough already.  However, I’m a horse person.  So the whips, spurs, leather headgear (for the horses, not me) and long leather boots are my contribution.

Much of this kit is housed in a very durable set of shelves he insisted shoving into an alcove in my office.  So all we are short of is the material to provide the folds of red satin.

Contemplating this however I’m reminded of the high thread count on my new Egyptian cotton bedding and Johnny Eff’s dedication to greasing and oiling bits of mechanical knick-knackery.

The pale blue Laura Ashley curtains stay.  I’ll get the vac.






US actor Tom Cruise (L) arrives with his actress-w

It’s not everyday one explores the haunts of honeymooning stars (even if they split up later – ah, Tom and Nicole!).  I was really looking forward to our grown up ladies’ evening of fine dining at the Michelin-starred restaurant, newly opened after an expensive bout of cosmetic surgery.

The aesthetics were good, the wine was phenomenal, the food was indescribable (some good indescribable, some not so good) and the maître d’ incomprehensible.  The company was incomparable so we were ok on that score.

So: Confit eggs.  I don’t care how long they cook them to make them appear and taste raw again.  My brain KNOWS that dry ice isn’t going to deliver sunny-side up versions of the two glutinous globes shimmying in a bed of hay  that appears to be smouldering, but my heart hopes it will.

By this stage we’ve gone through the abused mush (Scousers’ favourite) with the aid of Fronk’s description.  We all nodded enthusiastically.  He withdrew.  One of us ventures:  ‘Did anyone understand anything he said?’  We all shake our heads and give it a bash.

The wine is beautiful, it’s a soaring triumph.

We arrive at what appears to be an upended spoonful of rice pudding with a little frog of bright green mousse on top.  There are little ‘sails’ of some sort of minty (or is it lime, no it was lime, yes, lime) cracker.  The frog foam tastes of soap powder.  We all leave it and have to console a distraught Fronk.

More stunning wine.  Gorgeous, great company, huge fun ripples across more courses.

The pudding arrives.  Some of it appears to be beetroot and liquorice.  I had opted for the cheeseboard.  A huge trolley of cheese arrives.  I choose two miniscule slices from two enticing-looking wedges across of a mountain range of goats’ cheese and the odd Stinking Bishop.

All hell breaks loose as women around the table spot food they can both identify and possibly enjoy sans-trepidation.  They wade in.  Soon I have a plate of 12 cheeses, and have to ask for, well, a plate, in fact more plates.  Like the crows in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds we dive in.  Bliss.

There is more wine, further bliss.

We are sitting in splendid surroundings, much of the food has been lovely, some of it has fallen short – but we’ve had a blast

Sometimes its nice to look back….in Vera Wang-er

I AM feverishly eyeing a colleague’s packet of newly opened chocolate digestives. She must have a bladder the size of an elephant’s. When IS she going to leave her desk for five minutes? I’m supposed to be looking at wedding outfits online in my lunch hour. There are, apparently, only three styles of wedding dress in the whole of the world wide web and I loathe every one.

My wedding, or `dreading’ as it’s now known, is, happily, on the 21st of June…..and I’ve been told I’ve left the whole dress thing VERY late indeed. This is, of course, because I have nil interest in presenting myself to marry the man I love dressed as Miss Haversham. Yes, horrors, I’m a first time bride at 48.

If you’ve recently browsed anything bridal and you’re a female post 30s, it is all a bit dispiriting. Plus it is compounded by the fact that I will also be the largest bride in the world, easily picked out from space like the Great Wall of China.

The good news is I have got some blue diet tablets from the GP, so by rights I should be a size zero by then. The new problem will be the flowing folds of saggy skin. I’ll see what my trusty frock wizard suggests. Perhaps I should go for a ruched look to complement this or just spray myself ivory and opt for lots of burly bridesmaids to haul it after me like a train. Well, we’ve a way to go yet.

But it really is irksome. Even the Brides of Dracula, to a woman all over 400 years old, somehow managed to pull off the old bride thing, but hey I’m not prepared to go quite that far.

My brief to the frock wizard was `hide everything’. Even the digestives, I hear you thinking, but what I meant was the bingo wings, the bum, the tum, I could go on. Ideally, on the day, I’d like to peek out of a twitcher’s hide that Bill Oddie had recently vacated having left binoculars and a `decoy’ bride propped up in the corner. You know, smaller, younger, looks great from the back.

And then there is the coven of good friends who have turned into Trinny and Susannah fuelled with righteous indignation. All stylish women who, I have to say, look back on their own wedding pictures 20 years ago and deeply regret the meringue, the his and hers curly perms, the soft focus wedding pictures.

Didn’t stop one of them frog marching me to a lingerie shop for a bra fitting and then hooting triumphantly when it was confirmed that I was indeed wearing the wrong cup size. I managed to swot at her feebly with a rolled up copy of something glossy with `wedding’ in the title until she left me alone in the cubicle. Actually the bra’s great. I hate that she’s right.

As advice is something I’m not short of I should really count myself lucky. The fact that I’d prefer to get married in pyjamas is no one’s business but my own. My daily ration of advisory calls goes like this. I make a suggestion and all of my senior design gurus yell `Nooooooooo you can’t do that’. I show them a picture of hair, clothing or mumble about undies or try to form the word `trousers’ and again I’m subjected to a low snarling. Blimey, you wouldn’t want to spoil their day now would you!

There are, of course, advantages. My fiancé John is the biggest of these, obviously. As he’s 47, he’s also a little bemused by all the fuss a wedding seems to involve.

His views summed up are: “I don’t know why we need to spend all this money, I could do it all for a grand.” Plus, as he works in construction management and they have a brilliant canteen that feeds 500 construction workers every day, he did offer to ask the canteen cook to do our catering, bless.

“They’re brilliant, pies like your Mam used to make, proper gravy, lovely apple pie and custard,” he assured me, adding thoughtfully – “or we could have disposable BBQs!”

My reaction? “Yes, well, while there is nothing more attractive than a bride covered in gravy sauce, I’m not sure pies and custard aren’t a step too far for a wedding, even for me.” But I have to say, I like his thinking.

Although he does have his romantic moments. Like the day he asked me to marry him – proposing by climbing the highest peak in Spain (while I lay next to a pool at the villa) and journeying down with crystallised ice `diamonds’ from above the snow line.

Inside he’d buried an engagement ring. I got a thousand diamonds from the roof of Spain, the one that didn’t melt in the sun while we drank chilled white Rioja and nibbled olives was mine!

Enjoying the moment

With that spirit in mind we’ve decided that doing things the non-traditional way for our big day could be fun too. Do we have to have wedding cake? Well, no. Do we have to invite lots of people we don’t really know very well or like very much? Not really, no.

Do we have to have The Birdy Song, an irritating DJ, melon, followed by Chicken Supreme and raspberry cheesecake with some manner of coulis from a squirty bottle? Again, no.

Leaving one nod to tradition – we are not allowed to see each other the night before the wedding. A rule we’ll both enjoy snapping like a twig.

Can we `revenge’ months of advice via a wicked seating plan and evil speech? Oh yes. Can the groom stop saying `how much!’ at every turn? No.

I think someone out there should give us older brides a break. Mutton or lamb you are what you are but as a confirmed trouser wearer and devotee of slimming black the whole thing is more than a challenge. I know my friends are right and of course I love them to bits, and I need to do my best to look `stunning’ on the day. But somehow I can’t get that image of the Vicar of Dibley out of my head. She just looked so darned comfy in those pjs!



I may have gone a little Real Housewives of Wolverine – hair-wise


So my colleague is sitting in her house, I’m in mine.  We are both in our home offices trying to work.  We’re on the phone.  We both have loud drilling coming at us from an outside wall.

Her builders are harmonising – very poorly – to some Elvis, we think,  mine are just shouting to each other.

She and I are now shouting at each other down the phone and moving from room to room … and eventually outside to talk strategy for a shared client.

I run my hand through my hair as I walk and talk.  I take a moment to disentangle my hand from my hair and realise my hair has stayed exactly where I pushed it.  I look in the mirror in the conservatory.  I have matching Wolverine ‘wings’ of hair framing my angry face.  Brick dust – the ultimate volume and hold product apparently.

Her bed, she tells me, is wrapped in some sort of cling film and this has to be unwrapped every night for her and her husband to get in.  The family labradoodle (who’s bed is also shrink-wrapped) is prematurely grey with plaster and won’t leave the sanctity of her mistresses’ slippered feet under the desk.

Another big honking blast of ‘burning love’ and we bring our high-level strategy conf call to a close.

As I disconnect JF hoves to, builders’ boots on, funny hat, big red pencil behind his ear.  His opening line: “I’ve had a brilliant idea.”

The frown I’m sporting deepens as I prepare myself for another eye-opener on practical housebuilding.

Thing is, I don’t want a practical house, I want a beautiful house, a radiant house, one I can smooth and caress and slide along the surfaces of.  One I can dress up,  accent and ‘colour pop’ – one I can hermetically seal from ingress by cement, old render and some sort of – WHAT IS THAT SMELL – I think sump oil??

My very clever husband isn’t put off, he plunges on:

“Why don’t I make a heated towel rail for the new en suite out of plumbing scrap.  It will look really steam-punk?  I’ll include the old fashioned valves on the end of the brass pipe and I’ll bend the pipe to suit.  What do you think?” he asks, beaming.

I do the eyebrow thing.

“And it would be more practical to have a washing machine in the bathroom upstairs,” he says.

Muttering joins the eyebrow thing.  He opens his mouth again and I cut in.

“No, No to everything, Not any of that, No.”

He’s crestfallen.

I pipe up again.

“If we have to live in the extension while we do the rest of the house I don’t want it practical or easy, I want it irritating as F*** and twice as inconvenient.  So inconvenient you don’t get comfortable in a microclimate that you crag rats (mountaineers), hobos and hibernating bears feel right at home in.  I want the house finished while the bitter beige anorak, first-hand issues of People’s Fiend (sic), Wednesday morning shampoo and set and the Honda Jazz years are still just a darkly brooding presence beyond the horizon.

“I understand you have to make the kitchen cabinets out of Marine Ply (in case we have to sail around the world in them), I know you want to do everything properly and you are totally brilliant, and I know that the toddler tantrum I’m having right now is inappropriate for a woman of my age – but.”

I have no more, there is nothing.  I flounce off to locate a copy of Homes and Gardens for later – fully intending to add to my consolation stash of pointless scatter cushions.





Give BT its due, Gavin’s personal office person (?)rang me the day my rant landed



It seems the prospect of national media exposure and the discovery that Pixie Dust is in fact ‘a real thing’ for conveying broadbandery at BT spurred the comms monolith into motion.

The telegraph pole (that supplied our telephone line) laid low on Christmas Day, or at least its successor, is now up – the service is restored.  Just the one month then, go Gav.  And a series of other intertaining untruths from BT along the way.  No joined up thinking there either, but we’ll gloss over the pretty far-fetched excuses that are up there with ‘the dog ate my BT van’.

Internet is back, and we have a month’s free telephony on offer (wow, thanks.  Is it the good stuff, powered by Pixies?)  Not much recompense given the amount of hours lost to pointless titting about and listening to hold musak.  I must commend CEO Gavin Patterson’s personal office person though.  She called pretty much every day.  On my mobile, obviously.

Somehow I think my husband was right when he said, write them an actual letter, and  send it recorded delivery.  And a good friend and colleague suggested I address it to Gav, she was right too.  After all, an email wasn’t going to cut the mustard was it.