Friday, 29 June 2012

Freaky Friday.....and the rest of the week too

Well, I am now officially on holiday, having finished up for the summer last Friday at the nursery. The last day of term is always a bit of a strange day of mixed - and fairly high - emotion. Since the education authority, in their wisdom, decided to only pay us in whole weeks, the last day has also always been on a Friday irrespective of when the schools are actually finishing up. This, however, was a genuinely Freaky Friday (loved that book, film was awful.)

We always have a wee  "graduation ceremony" for the children moving up to primary school and of course it is the end of term for all the children so there's a need to give out certificates and things too. This unfortunately means that I have to do the one thing in my job that I really am not very good at - speaking. 

OK, pick yourself back up off the floor and behave. I mean PUBLIC speaking. Speaking itself is something I am fairly well practiced at, some may even say I am quite proficient, accomplished or even over-qualified to just speak, but it's the public bit that I genuinely don't like doing all that much. I have taken my cues from Siggy for this, which is probably a mistake. he often has to make some public address or another, whether at work or in his various other roles, and for a Scout, he never, ever bothers to "Be Prepared." As a matter of fact, I remember some years ago heading down with him to a weekend training course he was leading in Manchester (not my favourite place at all now, but more of that later) and we stopped at a service station on the way down. This would have been at about 4pm or so and the course started with a Friday evening session at 6pm. After calmly finishing his coffee Siggy opened the boot when we got back to the car and I asked him what he was doing. "Oh, just checking what the course is this weekend." He then sat for all of five minutes looking over the course - which run for over two days - before pronouncing "Right, let's go" and putting away the notes. I don't think he looked at them again all weekend but apparently the course went really well!

I don't really have notes either for my annual half hour (ok, ten minutes) of horror, but I have to go over it again and again in  my mind before I can stand up in front of the assembled parents and tell them all how wonderful their children have been. It should be easy and it's always honest as every child has loads of good points to comment on. In my heart of hearts, after all, I know I could probably stand up and say "gibberish, garbage, nonsense, KATIE, blah, blah, blah" and the cameras would still flash and the mums and grannies would still cry beacuse there's only one word they would hear. I'll let you decide which one.

As I was practicing my words of wisdom in my head, our resident "psychic" gran, we'll call her Meg, came into the nursery and started to talk to me. At first, it was a bit off putting as I was listening to voices in my head - sorry - concentrating on my own inner monologue - until I realised that I was getting a bit of a free "reading".

"You really are right up here," Meg was saying and holding her hand a foot or so above her head.

No, it was definitely a hand, not a foot.

"Sorry, Meg," I replied a bit absent-mindedly, "I was miles away, just thinking about what a busy morning it is in here"

Undettered, Meg went on, "No, I wasn't meaning in here, Aud, I just mean in general. Those boys of yours really are OK, you shouldn't worry so much about them"

Now, I'm no believer, really, in all this kind of stuff, but that was me hooked. You see although - or perhaps because - we all know that Meg is a bit of a psychic and she has been with the group for a while as her eldest is just leaving us and her youngest just starting next session, neither I nor any of the other girls have spoken with her much about any family things, etc. As soon as she said I shouldn't be worrying about the boys, I had to know more. Why? Of course, I do worry about my boys a lot and how could any fake, charlatan, or shyster possibly know that without speaking in some depth to a forty-something mum with three TEM's (Teenage Eating Machines) and one wannabee TEM that she was worrying about her kids? Anyway, she went on telling lots of really, really accurate things about the boys and I have to say I was somewhat freaked out. She also told me - really freakily - that whatever I was doing with Siggy that night, I should have stuck to my original plan. My original plan was to stay in a hotel, but more of that later too.

So, Freaky Friday was well and truly underway and even if I say so myself, the Graduation went well. All the kids were happy and well-behaved, all the mums and grannies needed to re-apply their mascara and all the dads and grandads tried to look really bored and unaffected by it all, but there was definite moistness around their eyes, too. The staff and I also got some very nice gifts - the usual smelly stuff and bottles of wine - and I also got a really bracelet, Thanks, DJ!

So, the day had been going fairly well and when I got home I recounted all that Meg had told me to a cynical and fairly grumpy Siggy. I put the cynicism down to his genuine and long-held disbelief in all of that kind of stuff and his grumpiness I put down to the fact that I was on holiday and he still had two weeks to go.You'd think he would have been a bit cheerier, given that we were heading off to Manchester that night to use his Christmas pressie of tickets to see The Boss - Bruce Springsteen for those of you who live under a rock or think that Rod Stewart is the epitome of musical talent - in the Etihad Stadium. After weeks of really intense work preparing for the Day of Action the day before, though, Siggy was still really busy, ergo, really grumpy.

We got away very nearly on time though and mad it through some really horrendous weather to arrive, park up and walk into the stadium complex just after 7pm and just as "Badlands" was belting out as the opening number.

Now, I have to be totally honest and admit that I was not a huge fan of The Boss, but I am close to being converted. Anyone who can go on for three and three quarter hours, without once leaving the stage and still leave thousands wanting more after an amazing set of absolute classics, has to command some respect. Siggy was beside himself and was Dancing in the Dark with the best of them. He was near to tears himself when the entire stadium stood applauding in the middle of one of the later songs - Tenth Avenue Freeze Out - when the antire band and The Boss went silent to watch still photos of their late, great band member and all round Big Man, Clarence Clemens, fill the enormous screens. the outpouring of genuine emotion rivalled the scenes at my earlier speech and I was actually near to tears myself.

Of course, my heightened enjoyment may also have been down to my fantastic discovery. Around the stadium, to save you wandering too far from the space you had managed to find on the pitch, there were mobile bar people with refrigerated packs containing beers and ciders and - hugely importantly - glasses of wine. Yes, glasses. They may have been plastic glasses with a foil lid, but they were decent quality glasses and the wine was OK, too. I now have three at home, which I brought back in my poncho at the end. I was even a bit of a role model as there was woman in front of me who seen me drinking my wine from a glass and complimented on what a good idea it was. I had to explain to her that you could buy them in their and that it wasn't really my idea, I say role model, but thinking of it now, what kind of girl does she take me for? Did she think I was the kind of person who would take glasses of wine with me to an outdoor concert? Fair play to her I suppose. I am now.

I thought I had been well-behaved in only drinking three glasses of wine throughout the concert and as it turned out this was a very good decision.

You see, everything began to unravel as we were leaving the concert and this was when I remembered that my original plan had been to stay over in Manchester as part of Siggy's Christmas present, but he had typically moaned about the cost and using babysitting credits, etc., so we had decided we would just drive back up the same night, just like we had in 2007. that was with the kids, though, and while it was a disaster (Zenit won 2-0), it pales into insignificance now.

We had got back to the car and Siggy handed in the security ticket that I had been entrusted with by the nice lady on the way in  (£10 for parking, but the money went to school fund and it was manned by some nice PTA types). Siggy, trusting as ever, had taken it from me on the grounds I had not zip pockets and no handbag and I have to admit there was a tiny piece of me hoping he lost it. He didn't, but it might have been better if he had.

if he had lost it, we wouldn't have got out of the car park until later when the crowds would have thinned down a bit, but he hadn't lost it and we ever so slowly crawled through the surging crowds heading back towards the city centre. I was just BBMing freinds to let them know we had had a great time and that the ETA for home according to SatNav was 2:14am as a taxi came up in the opposite direction, Siggy guided the car into the towards the side of the road and that's when we heard it.



No, no-one had bombed a snake. Siggy had clipped a steel pipe left at the side of the road works in the street which couldn't be seen for the crowds.

He drove slowly on, knowing there was nowhere to stop and no point anyway as there was no way he could change the tire in such a big crowd and if he stopped, the small but significant queue of traffic behind would quickly become large and angry.

A puncture is never a good thing, but to get one amongst such a large crowd, most of whom think they're being really helpful by tapping on the windown and yell "You've got a flat, mate", is even worse.

Eventually, Siggy found a quieter area where he could pull over and survey the damage. He pulled into a bus stop as it happened and looked at the tyre. Now, he knew when we got the car that there was no spare, just one of those compression gun thinks that seals the tyre so you can get home. As the pipe had actually ripped into the side wall, though, there was nothing to be done and so it was obvious it would require a new tyre.

Siggy phoned the insurance, who pointed out that he didn't have breakdown cover included and he remembered at that point that he hadn't added that as the car had been brand new and therefore covered by warranty for recovery for a year when we got it just under a year ago. Unfortunately, we had no details at all of the warranty company and we werent even sure if there was a 24 hour number.

In hindsight, we should have know the details, but we didn't have them to hand, so we called home, explained to Twitter (TM) and my dad what had happened and asked them to check for any 24 hr tyre replacments in Manchester. They duly did this, as did Gordon who can be  really good with crises (must be all the practice), and texted us the numbers.

Not a single one answered and we faced up to the fact that we were going to have to find a hotel for the night. Which is when I remembered Meg's warning that I should have stuck with my original plan. I decided not to mention this to Siggy at that point as he was a bit hacked off at his own stupidity. Deservedly so.

We moved the car as SIggy decided we couldn't sit on in the bus stop and he asked a taxi driver where he could put the car that would be safe. The taxi driver suggested we use the railway station car park and so we parked up there and headed off looking for a hotel. By this time it was just about midnight and the pubs were emptying, so the streets were teeming with drunks and stag and hen nights (I know, I know, that's all the same thing basically) and this did not help Siggy's mood.

We tried three hotels before we had to accept that there weren't going to be any rooms. Anywhere. Also, I don't think Siggy could trust himself not to lamp the next doorman who helpfully told him "Bruce Springsteen was playing tonight, so all the hotels are full"

It was then that we saw some police standing nearby, just watching the crowd. We went over, explained our predicament and the WPC called through to her control room to ask if they had numbers for a 24hr tyre specialist. They, really helpfully, told her to google it on her iPhone! I was incredulous, but she just took out her phone and Googled away. honestly, what are the police coming to? How can they afford iPhones?

Whilst she was googling, the young PC was doing a good impression of an emergency plumber as he sucked in his breath and shook his head. As we walked away, having not surprisingly had any different numbers from those my dad and son had googled from some 200 miles away, I asked what the PC was on about.

"Bloody station car park! £7 I've paid for that" he ranted.

"What about the car park?" I asked.

"The cop was saying, he wouldn't leave his car in there in broad daylight and certainly wouldn't sit sleeping in it" he replied and we both sped up and headed back to the car.

Siggy manouvred very carefully down the streets looking for somewhere safer to park when he spied a bit more upmarket hotel with a well-lit car park.

"Think we'll just try and park up there" he said, but the hotel was on the side of dual carriageway and could we find the way in? Not a chance. Three kerb-crawling trips past later, Siggy took the decision that "No Entry" and "One Way" did not apply in what he now viewed as an emergency situation and so he swerved into the street that clearly led to the hotel. Of course, as you would expect, there had to be another car coming down the street who, as ever, blasted the horn and shook his head.

Siggy was out his seat like a shot and I had already decided that he was going to kill him. it was about 1245, though, and I really didn't care any more. Amazingly, he somehow composed himself and just half got out the car, pointed to tyre and made an apologetic gesture, waving his hand towards the car. The guy immediately understood, gave a thumbs up and waited for us to manouvre past him.

We still had to circle the hotel twice to find the entrance to the acr park, which was an imposing, solid set of elctronic gates. "Bugger, we won't be able to get in" said Siggy. Then we had a stroke of luck as the gates were obviously set to pen on the approach of a car and in we drove.

Another stroke of luck - there was one space left in the car park.

The luck had to end somewhere though- I mean, we'd been having so much luck it was beginning to feel really weird. We got out and walked back to the gates, only to find there was no way out without a code. There was an intercom button though, so we pressed that and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Siggy trudged back to car, got his phone out again and called the AA. He explained things and they helpfully allowed him to join on the spot. A bargain at £158 and the man would be with us by 1.50am, Then, we got out of the car and went back to the gates, from where Siggy called the hotel. He started with "You don't have any rooms do you?" and I waited for the reply. "Oh, right, worth a try. yes I was there too. Yes, he was fantastic, but we have a problem in that our car is now in your car park with a puncture. We are waiting for the AA to come but can't get out of ....oh, forget it"

The "Oh, forget it" was because, by sheer coincidence, someone else was coming into the car park and so we could nip out when the gates opened for him. This was really lucky as I, after three wines and building on my boot camp capabilities, was begining to eye the fence and had decided that ten feet was easy enough to climb.

We headed into the hotel, explained what had happened and asked if we could use their toilets The staff were very helpful and obliged. They weren't so helpful as to allow us to sit around and wait in the plush lobby, but you can't have everything. 

We went back to the car and waited again. the next time I looked at the clock it was 2.14am - the exact time we should have been home and I may have started to cry at that point. Partly because the AA hadn't turned up and partly because the three wines were really worked through now, my bladder was about to explode and I wasn't up to navigating past the gates and the hotel front desk again.

I have to admit it, and I am not proud of this, but it was then I realised that a brightly lit car park, whilst much safer for parking in, is also much less dignified for peeing in. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure of anywhere outdoors without either walls nor canvas surrounding you which has any degree of dignity when you're squatting behind your own car for a pee after two o'clock in the morning.

That indignity over, I got back in the car and Siggy was back on to the AA. he had been on to them when I had left the car and they actually hung up whilst trying to locate their driver. When he called back, he was greeted with the news that the driver wouldn't be with us until 3.30am.

"Better get him to call me when he's near then," said Siggy.

"Why?" the controller asked.

"Cause I'll be bloody sleeping as I'll have to drive up to Glasgow later" he yelled into the phone, and hung up.

We chatted for a while and I was brave enough to mention Meg warning again. SIggy was obviously really tired too because he just shrugged and said, "Yeah it's been really freaky tonight" and stared out the windscreen at the already lightening sky. Then he said something else that as really weird "You know, I sent a text as we were leaving the stadium to Marie (a female work colleague) and said the gig was fantastic and we'd just been twisting ans shouting" That was the last number and it really went down a storm , so the memory brought a smile to my face.

"She texted back straight away," he went on "And said, "that's spooky", it's playing on the jukebox here right now".  Freaky.  

Astonishingly, a local garage van did arrive and somehow found us as early as 3.45am, only 15 minutes late. The driver hopped jauntily from his cab, tyre wrench in hand and asked Siggy if he had the spare.

"No, there is no spare. If there was a spare, it would be on the car and I'd be in bed in Glasgow" Siggy said through gritted teeth. "I told the office that when I signed up"

"Oh, I'll have to call them" he said, much less jauntily, and got back in his cab. Two minutes later, he was back out, told Siggy "It's a recovery job now, someone will phone you," and left.

Brilliant. Some two and a half hours after we had told the AA that it would need a replacement tyre, they told us that it would need a replacement tyre. Thanks AA.

A recovery vehicle was then scheduled to be with us by 4.30am. This was good and bad as Siggy had still had no sleep, but by this stage we would take anything that could be seen as progress.

At 4.40am, the driver called to say he was 7 miles away and he eventually showed up at 4.50. 

I have to give this very nice man his due, he got things moving. He called control, asked them to check if they did Chevrolet warranty recoveries - which they did and he knew this as he had done one recently anyway - and before we knew it we were offered to either be taken home to Glasgow or to a garage for 8.30 to get a new tyre. We were also told that we could get the £158 back, which was very, very nice.

There then followed what seemed to be a lot of phone calls for 5am - the control were call Siggy to explain the options, the very nice man was phoning the control room (apparently he was due off shift so there was no way he was taking us back to Glasgow and that meant trying to find another very nice man), the control were phoning the other very nice man and our very nice man was phoning another local supplier that he thought opened at 5.30am! I have to say, this chink of light in an otherwise bleak night (albeit it had been daylight for well over an hour by then) was very welcome indeed. Before we knew, the car was on the back of the lorry and we were moving through the backstreets of Manchester, which was by now slowly coming to life for the day.

We passed the Etihad Stadium, now an unwelcome sight for more reasons than ever, despite the fantastic concert which seemed a dim and distant memory. We paased a 24 hour Asda, but noticed breakfast didn't start until 6am. Somehow, just about 5.20, we found ourselves in a real run down industrial estate in which there was an even more rundown tyre suppliers. This was a real, traditional looking workyard, right down the mangy cat patrolling it's territory and the wet and clearly mad cocker spanile bounding around looking for all the world as if would lick any intruder to death. Despite my love for cocker spaniles (since we got Dappy at any rate), I can't say I was well-disposed to playing with the mutt that morning and to be fair he gave up investigating the new visrtors pretty quickly.

For 5.30 am on a Saturday morning, with no sign of any other customers around, there seemed to be a lot of people working in the TYre place. The head man had a word with the very nice man and Siggy and disappeared behinn an enormouse Pisa-like tower of tyres to look for a spare for us.

One of the other workers, a friendly-looking man in his fifties, cam over to me.
"Oh dear, love, you look you've had a rough night."

"I have, thanks," I responded poabably a little too dully, but by now every part of me ached and I just wanted to sleep.

"Wanna brew?" he offered, miming a tea cup at the same time. I couldn't help thinking of Peter Kay, except this time it just wasn't as funny.

"No, thanks," I said, I think we're going to nip back to Asda for breakfast"

"Are you sure? Don't need to go back there - we've a room with a kettle, a telly and couch through there. There's even a shower if you want."

Now, I really don't think I've led a hugely sheltered life. Granted, I like my mod cons, luxuries, even, but I still think I can rough it a bit when required. I even used to go camping when I was in Venture Scouts and have recently considered doing so again, but only for a night or maybe two. How, the, do you get be 40-something and and now get to have a really worrying new experience. Honestly, I didn't know that flesh could actually crawl. I mean, I've felt a degree of abhorrence before, been turned off in many, many, ways (sorry, it's true Siggy), but I had never, ever actually felt my skin try to pull itself away from my body before to head for the "comfort" of the front of an AA recovery trucks.

"No, it's OK, thanks," I said just as Siggy appeared back.

"Wanna brew?" the oder man said to Siggy

"Yeah, that'd be nice" he said.

WHAT???? WHO IS THIS GUY? I was screaming in my head. Had Siggy gone blind and lost all sense of smell? Why in the name of God would he take a cup of anything in a place like this?

He turned to me "Apparently, he's got a spare and should have it fitted in 20 minutes. Then we'll be on our way, so no point in going back to Asda for breakfast."

Another new experience. My flesh re-conected to the rest of my body and suddenly, from nowhere, the tiredness and grumpiness melted away.

" Oh, go on then, " I said, "If we're only going to be twenty minutes"

And twenty minutes - maybe twenty-five - later, we were back on the road and only £30 lighter. The tyre was "very" part worn but it would get us back to Glasgow and that was all the mattered.

We made one quick stop at a Tesco on the way out for essential supplies - Red Bulls for Siggy as he still hadn't slept a wink and hair bands for me. A girl has to keep care of herself, after all.

Astonishingly, the journey home was really uneventful, though wet and including two further stops as Siggy was so tired (however, not so tired that he would succumb to being a passenger and I had after all, had three plastic glasses of wine 8 hours earlier and only about an hours sleep). We got back home aroun d 1015, some 8 hours later than expected but at least that was my Freaky Friday out of the way.

The rest of the weekend passed in a a bit of a sleepy haze and things sleepwise were'nt much better by Sunday night when SIggy went to bed just before midnight to get two hours before taking Peter up to the school at 2am to catch a bus to Alton Towers. This is part of "Activities Week" which, as far as I can see, is teacher-sponsored skiving for the pupils in the last week or so of term and Peter had been lucky enough to get one of the seats on the two buses for the most popular trip by far. After our experiences down the M6 on Friday, I did feel a little apprehensive, but just told myself I was being silly and should forget about it.

Instead, I decided to start on my own activities week and chose shopping as my activity. I am actually quite good at shopping and obviously my choices were really outstanding as Siggy was quite speechless on my first return. It could have been the fact that I showed the various garments whilts he was in his office on a phone call that contributed to his speechlessness, but I thought the best way to check was to see if his reaction remained consistent. Therefore, it was time for day 1, part 2 of my holidays. I headed bravely back out to some different shops.

When I came back in a few hours later, Siggy was again on the phone. Result! Except his reaction was slightly different this time and he finished his call too quickly and I had to actually ask what he thought of each outfit.

In the end, I got seven "Yes, that's lovely"'s, so I kept all of those.I also got three "maybes", so I kept all of those too. And then he had the cheek to say "No" to two outfits that I wasn't too sure of. So I'm only keeping one of those.

I'll show him the rest next week.   

I was out on Monday evening too, just for one my annual few sunbeds to get myself up from "pale to the point of see-through" to "one shade above standard foolscap paper" before we head off on holiday. I was probably only out for about twenty minutes, but when I came back in Siggy told me Peter had phoned. " They on theire way back then, " I asked.

"Kind of, " he said and I knew by the look on his face that this was not good news. He then did what he always does - spoke really quickly so I would get the good bits as well as the bad. "There's been a crash. Not the bus he's on - the other one. No-one is badly hurt but the bus driver of his coach drove away with no teachers on board." He pasued and could see I was about to speak, so he ploughed on quickly "Anyway, Peter called the teachers and they sent the police after the coach. They caught up with them at Sanback services and the drivers being questioned just now by the police." Another pause, I began to spe-"So now they're waiting to get another bus and they will be a bit late, probably about 2 in the morning rather than midnight. Peter's fine. I think he kind of took charge as he always does. Sit down - wanna brew?"

I skipped the coffee but did sit down and there followed several hours of calls between me, Peter (on one of the teachers phones) and my friend Joanne, whose son was also on the bus. She was even more frantic than I was and I think, perhaps beacuse she is a single parent and has young foster children too, she felt even more helpless. Siggy had offered to drive down and get them if needed, but eventually we got messages through that another bus was heading down for them and would bring them back up. That produced a fresh panic that the driver would be too tired, but we accepted it was the best way forward. Last text, 3.36am . Absolutely shattered again.

Siggy picked Peter and his pal up just after 8am and that, we thought, was the end of that.

It wasn't quite. That evening, beacuse we had clubcard vouchers to use and it was already booked, we went out for a quick meal in Cafe Rouge. Whilst we were there, it turned out that our friends Phoebe and Bobby, who were on holdiay in England, were also in a Cafe Rouge (different one, of course).

The usual BBM's and Facebook posts followed and I noticed a comment on the FB check-in which read " Does your Cafe Rouge also have a speccy, pretentious student sitting alone (obviously) reading a French paperback?"

I looked around and sure enough, just to my right was exactly that - a speccy, pretentious student sitting alone at the next table reading a french paperback! I alsmost pee'd myself with excitement, looked at the FB post again and drew a sharp intake of breather, looking up at Siggy, "you'll never belive...." I begand, but very quickly stopped myself.

The look on Siggy's face really told me all I needed to know, but I thought I'd try to cover it up anyway. A million thoughts ran through my head all at once "What an incredible coincidence","Who would believe that", "Why is Siggy looking at me like that", "Shit, who posted that again?", "Damn, it was Siggy.", "Wonder if he noticed me pee myself with excitement?", "Shit. He did", "Wonder if I can cover it up?"

No, I couldn't. So we both just dissolved into laughter and the pretentious French student looked over disapprovingly. Who cares, I needed the laugh.

Just then though, another friend posted on FB that the bus crash story was on the news, so we had to compose ourselves and call the grannies in case they saw it and panicked. They hadn't and didnt.

Anyway, we were home by 945 and all was fine again. Two days into my holidays and all the excitement, hopefully was over.

Oh, and I had another wine glass to add to my collection. Except this one was full size and made of glass. No-one noticed it on the train home and I'm sure they would grudge me. And neither would the pub it came from. Sorry.

The incredible thing was, I didnt even feel like drinking it on the train on the way home and so Siggy had to finish it off for me before we got off. Just as well, as the same bladder issue was beginning to become a problem and I really didnt relish the idea of squatting in the busehes in the local park. You'll be pleased to know I didn't have to.

Things can only get better?

Friday, 22 June 2012

Remember Summer Specials?

As I sit down, shivering and listening to the rain hammer down, I strangely find myself thinking about the old Summer Specials I used to read when I was a little girl. You may think that strange, but it is, of course, perfectly sensible and logical in my world.

You see, tonight is my last "school night" until August and after I get home from work tomorrow, I will be on holiday for a whole seven weeks. Not "holiday", holiday, but off work at least. I love having a term-time contract. 

When I was younger, I loved Jackie and Blue Jeans and especially loved the big summer special you used to get especially for the big drive up north for the holiday. In those days, it really was a big drive - 9 hours or so punctuated for my long-suffering parents with either me wanting to stop to throw up every half hour or so or my brother - more of whom later - wanting to stop for a pee at odd intervals but never at the same time as I was puking up at the side of the road. The big summer specials were meant to be the saviour of the journey, but what I have only realised in later life is that I can't actually read in a car without feeling sick, so that's that explained. I loved Jackie and Blue Jeans so much that I didn't even move on to Smash Hits when my friends did (or Melody maker and NME for my more adventurous best and oldest friend - more of whom also later) and really really got upset some years down the line when my dear mother bought me a copy of the Summer Special of some grown-up rubbish like Best or Bella and I finally had to accept that I wasn't really a young girl any more. I think I was about 32 at the time.

So why am I going on like this about "big" summer specials on a cold and rainy night? Simple, as it's been the end of term and really busy as usual, I have again had to hold off for two weeks in the one blog, thus this is effectively a big Summer Special. See, logic and sense reign supreme in my world.  I'll still do a weekly update through the summer, I promise. Therefore all you have just read was, at it's very heart, just a big bloody excuse for being lazy over the last few weeks.

So, plenty of news over the last few weeks.Most importantly, because I know you all need to know, I haven't found the drawing pin again and therefore am assuming it has completed it's journey unnoticed and without causing any damage. I have stopped being Gillian McKeith and checking for it and have put it all behind me. Pardon the pun. I do have a lingering worry about the next time I pass through airport security, but am trying not to think about it too much.

I have changed my diet, though, as I am planning ahead to the "holiday" holidays and have cut out midweek vino and chocolates. Well, mostly, at any rate. I really was finding it helped as I went to Boot Camp last week and did really, really well. By that I mean I got through the hour of hell and pain without throwing up, fainting or pulling anything. Siggy wasn't so fortunate last week. HE claims that he pulled a stomach muscle right at the start when his foot slipped on a setting up for press-ups and that is why he spent most of the hour holding his side and not managing most of the exercises. He then couldn't walk until Sunday - from Wednesday night for heaven's sake. What a woose. To be fair, he didn't start limping until Friday but by god did he make a meal of it. Unlike me this week. I wasn't feeling great and nearly didn't go, but I battled on and got through it without a word of complaint. And I still beat most of them in the sprints!

I had even been behaving quite well at work and karma seemed to be working it's way around for my good behaviour which meant I had resisted the urge to explode with an exorcist-like headspin. End of term can be like that and it hadn't helped that I had heard that part of our funding was being cut, had received a stupid anonymous complaint which meant we were inspected and I had had to call round a few future parents of the nursery to tell them they weren't going to get a place with us after all. Karma had rolled around by the complaint not being upheld and each of the parents being really kind and understanding. Funding was still cut, but two out of three ain't bad.

I had also got all the end of term reports on the children out and the councils ever-increasing bureaucracy taken care with more than a week to go, so I was rightly quite chuffed with myself.  So chuffed I took a night off to go and see Toni, who had been in quarantine for almost a week as her youngest had chickenpox. It had even stopped her going to the 5K we all ran the previous Sunday - another moan from Siggy.

We have different running styles. Siggy's is kind of a take it slow and easy style that gets him their in the end and he can keep going like that for ages. I prefer quick bursts of activity with rests in between - I was a sprinter after all - but Siggy cant do that. Once he's stopped, he cant get started again. He was therefore mega unhappy when he slowed down about 0.5 Km from the end to let me catch up so we could get over the line together (awww, I know) as I had taken another rest shortly before. It's not my fault that my natural instincts kicked in and I went off in a final flourish and finished ages before him!

Please note - the last paragraph was genuinely about the 5k. It was not a euphemism (although the analogy therein may be close to reality, if I'm honest).

On the Thursday, I even had time to take the night off from stupid bloody paperwork and had another night out at the cinema - a proper girly one with Toni and Phoebe. Not a girly chick flick, though, The Pact. Seriously scary and therefore should really have gone for the three handbag-size bottles of wine, but unfortunately I had to drive as Siggy, who was supposed to be at cubs and could therefore have run me there and back, had to work. Selfish sod.

Anyway, it was a good night even if none of the three of us are really that keen on scary movies. It was quite quiet when we arrived - sorry, until we arrived - and all of us kept saying, in a bit of a stage whisper, that we didn't really like scary movies. Oddly, most of the rest of the audience appeared to be mildly asthmatic, as we moved three different times before it started and every time we moved the people behind us seemed to have breathing problems, going by the huffs and puffs they were going through.

By the Friday, the house was on red alert for The Golden Wedding. My mum and dad were celebrating fifty glorious years of marriage and we were having a small do with just our family and my brothers family. Once I got over my 2am shock - I remembered suddenly that as we were all going away we would need to get Dappy watched overnight and bbm'd anyone I could think of to take her. Not the best idea at 2am, but it was only one I had at the time. Siggy got up the next morning, did what he calls "patient listening", then walked out of our bedroom, sat down at his desk, called the hotel and pronounced everything sorted as they took dogs. That was going to be my next idea, but I didn't like to spoil his little moment of glory.

For the record "patient" listening looks a lot like "switched off after the first three seconds because I've decided what my answer is already and I'm no longer" listening.

Anyway, we got sorted out in what has to have been some sort of record for us and arrived at the hotel only an hour later than planned and an incredible 15 minutes before the table was booked. We had to take both cars as we were leaving separately the next morning and when we got there there were two buses emptying out at the main reception. OMG - a school prom was arriving and Gordon, Peter and Donald were all doing pretty good impressions of those cartoon characters who instantly fall in love with their heat pounding out of their chest, eyes out on stalks and tongue lopping out to the floor . Well, maybe not the heart bit, but definitely eyes and tongue out. Siggy was the same, even if he does claim he was just shocked that there was actually that much fake tan available in the West of Scotland. I have to say I did think they looked more than a little ridiculous myself, but I didn't do quite as much inspecting of them as Siggy did, or Julian later.

Julian is what I have decided to call my brother. it was going to be Richard, as in Gere, but more for one of his earlier movies than the one I love where he's a hot millionaire picking up Julia Roberts (Siggy loves that one too, but not really for Richard). But then I thought sod it, we'll go the whole hog and just call him Julian. Just Google Richard Gere and Julian and I'm sure you'll see why.

Anyway, I love going out with Julian and his wife, Michelle. We have the kind of fantastic relationship that means we can not see each other for months and months, hardly even needing to talk on the phone or anything, but when we get together the chat and fun just flows. Of course, the wine also flowing tends to help. Siggy, Julian and the boys spent most of the early part of the night getting up and down from the table to keep tabs on the England game - all faithfully supporting whoever they were playing. I know it was Sweden, but they do all have a strict policy of supporting whoever plays against England, so it's easier to just remember it that way.

That's another thing - what is it with these Euros? So far, we have been supporting France, "because we're going there next month", Italy, "because we were there last summer", Germany, "because they'll probably win it", Spain, "because they will if Germany don't" and, eh, whoever is playing England. Whatever team they are supporting, it means night after night of football without any sign of anyone I've ever heard of. No wonder I drink. But not midweek.

Needless to say, the boys paying attention to the football meant that Michelle and I had a really good chat and even my mum switching into her Witter©™ mode couldn't dampen our chatter and nor could the copious amounts of wine. I think the tone was set when the gifts came out and ours were both vouchers from a well-known one of those voucher sites - I mentioned to Michelle there had been a few good offers recently including one for a pair of matching "adult" toys and I queried why you would need two. Michelle soon put me straight and explained "one might break." I was really pleased as I had been trying to work out where the second one went for over a week!

And so the night went on. Julian spent most of the night giving tips from the movie of his early life to Julian, whom he kept referring to as a man after his own heart. This worries me greatly. I should say here and now that Julian was what we used to call " a bit of a player". That all stopped the minute he met Michelle but the stories he could tell are just too much at times. We told him so several times when Siggy had to keep correcting the bits where he said "I must have been about 14 at the time" to "I must have been about 19 and a half at the time" in front of our 15 and 16 year olds. The biggest worry, though, was that there didnt seem to be a single play that Gordon didnt already know. And Gordon offered a few other ideas that even Julian hadn't considered!

We finished our meal and adjourned to the boys room as they had a family triple which had a nice sitting room bit. When we got there, we had a little champagne - as we could still walk and talk, it seemed a reasonable thing to do - and I noticed that both Julian and Gordon were missing. Siggy volunteered to go and look for them and it was then the penny dropped. Julian and Gordon were, of course, in the bar where, of course, there was the largest concentration of fake tan in the west of Scotland gathered for the evening. Gordon, I can understand. Julian, as so often over the years, I don't even try to understand.

Siggy "rescued" them, but only after being there for a while himself and, of course, getting in another round. Being dull and responsible, compared to the rest of us, Siggy took Scott back to our room as he had to get up early to take Gordon to work in the morning.

Michelle and I stayed on to finish our drinks and then headed to our own rooms. Sounds simple really, but not when our rooms were on a different floor and neither of us had paid much attention when we came in to what our room number was. After ten minutes or so of wandering giggling around the corridors, I eventually had to give in and BBMd Siggy, who replied that it was room 246.  As we still couldnt find it, he had to come out and find us to take me back to the room, perhaps just a little grumpily.

Next morning, though, he was really fine about and even said "don't worry, dear, it could happen to anyone and it's not like it was an easy, sequential number to remember or anything." Isn't he sweet sometimes?

Bugger. I've just done what you did and have read back up to see the number. Wait til I get a hold of the sarcastic git.

At any rate, we survived The Golden Wedding and the most important thing was that dad and Witter©™ had a great night reliving a lot of lovely memories with us all, whilst Siggy and I diverted one or two of Julian's stories involving what we got up to and what age we had gotten up to them at before the boys could work them out.

When I got back - having had my nails done in the spa first - I picked up Gordon at his work and went straight to the School fete Siggy, Peter and Scott were helping out at for the rugby club. It was really busy, even though it was cold and threatening to rain and I had to park a few streets away. When I got there, Siggy was outside at the front and Donald was showing off how pass and catch a rugby ball. Gordon joined them and immediately showed how not to pass and catch the ball, but he is really good coach and I know Siggy was pleased he could help out as he is great with the younger kids. I met Phoebe and chatted for a while about her holiday as she was going off on the Monday, then went in and had another chat with Toni, which was a mistake as Toni was the bingo caller and no-one in there is allowed to chat. God, some of these old biddies take that seriously, don't they? Toni - bright, bubbly, never-knew-she-had-a-volume-control Toni was barely recognisable as she called the number in muted monotones and only using the "proper" bingo rhymes for most of the numbers.

Getting cold and suspecting that I may be slightly hungover, and with only about half an hour left for the fete anyway, I told Siggy I was getting off home and I'd see him and the boys later and off I went to find my car.

Now, you have to remember here that when I got out of my car, I was in a wee bit of a rush, I had Gordon with me and I was parked about two streets away. Therefore, just like checking into a hotel the night before, I had no real need to be paying attention to things like landmarks or directions.

With ten minutes of the fete left, I trudged back into the school playground and told Siggy "I've lost the car." At least that's what I thought I had said, but clearly it came out as "I think the car must've been stolen, " as Siggy immediately looked really worried for all of about three seconds.

"What?" he said, slightly open-mouthed.

"I've lost the car" I repeated. This time he obviously heard properly, or perhaps heard what I should really have said, which was "I have no sense of direction, I'm a little hungover, Gordon was with me when I parked the car and I have absolutely no clue where the hell I parked it".

I know that's what he heard because, he just smiled, or maybe giggled ever so slightly and pointed to the street he has seen me walking down on my way in. It'll be somewhere over there," he said calmly, "That's the way you came in".

Now, it doesn't actually bother me that he might have giggled a bit. Or that he was right and I did find the car in that general direction. It doesn't even particularly bother me that I really don't have a great sense of direction. What really bothers me is that it only took him a few seconds - maximum - to dismiss the idea that the car was either stolen or impounded and to decide that I had just lost it again. Even worse than that was the fact the Gordon - and Peter and Donald and even 11-year old Scott - didn't even flinch or consider laughing. they're just too used to it I guess.

So, Sunday passed quietly, if you don't count Phoebe and Bobby coming round to borrow some audio books for their trips south the next day and them thereafter having to pack at 2 am because they had stayed a little longer than expected with us. I blame Siggy and Bobby as I had no intention of opening the third bottle of red, but they insisted. Anyway, I was almost in training for my holidays by then.

The start of this week has been relatively smooth too. I had one day out at a big council end-of-session meeting with no mishaps apart from the circling seagulls in the car park choosing to use Siggy's car for target practice. Honestly, he had only washed it on the Sunday (Fathers day, but he was  quite pleased at being able to walk again so had felt he should do something) and boy had the seagulls done a job on it. of course, the fact that the meeting was at one of the football stadiums in the city - and in Siggy's eyes completely the wrong one - was enough for the seagulls not to get the blame but, as far as he was concerned, it was a conspiracy plotted in the bowels of the stadium by "That wee ginger nyaff" of a manager.

The rest of the week has been spent on end-of-term treats for the children. Have you ever order McDonalds for 40 at 11am? You get less "Have a Nice Days" than normal when you do. And have you ever heard the way a magician can make common courtesy disappear when you tell him his booking was cancelled? Rude, silly man.

Today was the annual sob-fest that is the school awards ceremony. it was a bit funny this year as Siggy wasnt giving out the prizes for the first time in nine years as he was working and couldn't get away. Next year will be Scott - and therefore Siggy's - last year at primary, so I used it as a bit of a practice for the huge joy that will be. Remind me, though, not to take my dad and Witter©™  next year though. She Witter©™'s throughout, asking questions like "What's that prize for?" when the Headteacher has just spent five minutes explaining what the bloody prize is for or "Is that his teacher? She's awful young" when it's blindingly obvious that she is his teacher (and she does look young, but I and the other mums try not to admit that)  and various other remarks at high volume just when I'm trying to get all emotional. He just switches off his hearing aid, I'm sure of it!

Anyway, this morning will see the Nursery party, another sobfest but officially the start of my holidays. Can't wait and I have already been filling the diary with lunches with all my term-time working pals, much to Siggy's chagrin, which is an added bonus.

I have already started on the lunch round with an evening out with Harriet, my oldest and best friend and bridesmaid from nearly twenty years ago - did I mention it's my twentieth anniversary in August? Oh, all right, it's Siggy's too. Anyway. Harriet is the only one who can really remember the days of Jackie and Blue Jeans, even if she did abandon them for NME in her punk/art school phase. Now though, she has reinforced all the respect and love I have had for her over the years. After we had our meal, Siggy dropped into the pub on his way back from picking Scott up at Scouts and she chose that point in the conversation to mention that she has ordered some hand made shoes by getting a friend to Tweet a celeb and find out where she got her shoes! She didn't tell him the price, but she has now planted the seed in Siggy's head that hand made shoes are a reality and not just for outrageous celebs. Oh we don't go back all these years without having our own unwritten rules for twisting husbands around our fingers.

So good to nearly be on holiday. I might even go out and buy some Summer Specials.

Friday, 8 June 2012

I'm almost living on a movie set!

What a short week it's been. Seems like hardly any time has passed since I was last writing this up, but, as usual, so much has happened in such a short space of time.

The week started oddly, partly because of the bank holiday and partly because I changed my diet, but only very slightly. Having had such a busy weekend last weekend, I realised on Monday that I hadn't got around to turning the calendar over to June - we have a calendar for longer-term planning to support the whiteboard - so I did, taking it off the wall and quickly looking at what birthdays, etc there are this month. The drawing pin had came out of the wall as I took the calendar down and as I picked it up I noticed that the "pin" bit was twisted, so I tried to straighten it. I didn't do much of a job and only succeeded in flattening it down even more. Not to worry, there are more in the low cupboard beneath the whiteboard.

Should have worried really. If I had, I might not have held the broken pin in my mouth as I bent down. Had I worried, I might not have sucked in a breath as I was standing back up and the pin might not have shot down my throat.

Then I worried. I went through to Siggy's office (he was working as usual even though he shouldn't have been as it was a bank holiday and he was meant to be off). "I've done something really stupid, " I said.

I really should be concerned that Siggy's reaction to this was, frankly, hardly a reaction at all. "Oh, yeah," he replied, not even looking away from the computer screen.

"No," I said, " I mean REALLY stupid". Perhaps I should also be worried that I so easily accepted his lack of reaction as an indication that, yes, I do do stupid things quite often. It did at least get a reaction, of sorts. Siggy turned away from screen, looked me up and down and said and just raised an eyebrow.

"I've swallowed a drawing pin!" I blurted out , beginning to rub my throat with one hand and my stomach with the other.

"A whole drawing pin?" Siggy asked. What the kind of question is that? I mean, it's hardly as I was going to eat it in small portions, nibbling away until I suddenly found I'd eaten a whole one and then felt guilty like you do when you've reached the last square on one of those big bars of Galaxy. No, wait a minute, I don't ever feel guilty when I do that. More like the surprise you have when you realise the whole bottle of wine has, actually don't do that anyway. Some of you might, so hopefully you get the idea.

SIggy did look concerned and offered to run me to A&E and get it x-rayed and questioned whether I might need a stomach pump. I could feel myself beginning to blanche at the thought. Then beginning to heave. "Oh, yes, that might help, bring it back up then it might do some damage on the way back up as well" Siggy said.

I realised that made sense and tried to to settle down a gain. Then Siggy suggested they might have some magnets at the hospital and they could safely guide it back up that way. It had taken me a while, but I then realised he had been grinning from ear to ear throughout. I flounced, in my best possible flounce, out of the room. What do you have to do to get some sympathy around?

As I left, I could hear him shout after me "it's lucky we're not flying to go on holiday this year, you'd never get throughs ecurity with a whole drawing pin in you" Git.

Anyway, I have been watching for any developments all week and thus far feel no ill-effects, but equally haven't seen any reappearance yet. I feel a bit like the doctor on You Are What You Eat, but you don't need to know about that.

Tuesday saw us having a lazy day and watching the highlights of the Jubilee concert on TV. In summary, Madness were brilliant, Elton John was awful and Prince Charles made a very nice speech. 

Tuesday night though, seen us make an excellent, if somewhat selfish decision for once. The twins were off to the cinema with the Explorers and as we realised that we were going to have to go home and come back up 2 hours later, Siggy noticed that "The Angels Share" was on at almost identical times, so we told the twins they were babysitiing Scott by taking him into Men In Black 3 (PG) with them whilst we would go to The Angels Share, which is a 15.  I made the necessary arrangements, getting two-for-one offers from Morrisons on bags of Revels and Minstrels so the boys wouldn't be asking for the hugely over-priced pick and mix and, of course, picking up two handbag sized bottles of rose wine. Some cinemas have the foresight and eye for profit to treat you like adults and serve wine from a wee cart at the start, as we found out some time ago and it does add to the experience. As this cinema doesn't though, you have to plan ahead and it's their own fault that they're losing potential profits. Juts for info., though, anything over about an hour and a half is probably more of a three-glass job, but it probably clinks a bit much.

The Angels Share is, however, absolutely laugh out loud fantastic. It is pure Glasgow humour and bits of it might not travel well, but I have not enjoyed a movie as much for ages and am seriously thinking of going back again (with three glass-sized bottles). Anyone who want to go and needs a partner, give me a shout. Most fantastic of all was the second from last scene which was filmed about 100 yards from our house, so I now feel like I'm living in film set. Even the fact that the "driving into the distance" shot is actually heading into a dead end didn't matter to me, although Mr. "I even criticise adverts for continuity" Siggy had to comment on it.

Honestly. It's hilarious, go see it.

That apart, the Twins are now in senior school, so got new ties which the school dedicated a morning to teaching them how to tie, Donald also gets a new tie as the school suddenly cottoned to having a middle school tie as another fundraiser and Scott now very much views himself as a big P7. The P7's are still at school, but as the football season is over, he now regards himself as a P7 because he will be next time he plays.

They grow up so fast, why don't they move away quicker?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Be careful what you wish for (2)

I suppose it was inevitable that the week of my twins 16th birthday would be so busy I had to split this into two, but what I didn't expect was that it would last for a whole week. That only used to happen for the "big" birthdays  of 18ths and 21sts, but apparently 16 is the new 18. I was asking myself why the hell anyone would want to grow older more quickly, but then I remembered what it was like to be that age. God, it was good and bad and fantastic and awful and exciting and frightening and well, simply wonderful.

So Monday arrived and we had a reasonably low key start since the twins are still off on study leave - although with only exam to go between the two of them, there was hellish little studying going on. They seemed pleased with their presents and I headed off to work. 

Mildly disappointed at the lack of flashers gathered outside, I was greatly comforted by the fact that I was heading for a nice, easy three day week. Why did I think that, really? Three day week, yes, nice and easy, not a chance. Within an hour of starting the week, I had to deal with a complaint which had been sent to the Care inspectorate.This is the first - and hopefully only - complaint we have ever received and it really wasn't what I needed this week.  I wouldn't have minded, and have often thought an unannounced inspection or even just a visit would be a good opportunity to prove that we don't just put on a show for the regular visits and that we operate to the required standards at all times. I did, however, mind getting a complaint on this occasion as it did not come from a current parent, but from someone who had decided not to send their child to us. Not that she could have anyway, as the waiting list is too long. The Inspector, though, was absolutely fine and I think all went well. She told me at the end that as the complaint had actually been ANONYMOUS, they wouldn't be able to respond to the complainant, but would send me on their outcome. Honestly, if someone has a genuine complaint or concern, you would think they would be keen to know the outcome, rather than just bloody mischief-making.

When I returned home from work, then I was probably not in the best of moods to receive visitors, but receive them we did, including what is becoming a mandatory appearance by the local constabulary. Thankfully, though this was Bobby dropping in for a coffee and to give the twins their present rather than an official visit. It does worry Siggy quite a bit that he no longer reacts when he arrives home and finds a police car outside, as it is normally either community council stuff or Bobby introducing another colleague to a somewhere to get a coffee whilst out and about. Even the neighbours have stopped walking their dogs or finding an urgent need to put out their bins when a cop car arrives.

Siggy had made the mistake of working form home all day and had used the brilliant sunshine as an excuse to do a bit of bush trimming at lunchtime. By the time he was finished work and the various visitors had arrived, the back garden looked suspiciously like a lawnmower repair shop and the twins, as part of their birthday present, were being taught how to mow the front lawn. This meant Siggy had to get to work too, not really what we wanted to be doing as he explained to me several times later.

I'd just like to pause at this point, having re-read the paragraph above, to point out that everything in it is literal. There are no euphemisms in it at all. 16th birthday or not.

All in all,the birthday itself passed off without a great deal of incident or excitement, but we then had the out-and-out fixation that followed on the big 16th party. This lasted all week and never have I had to witness such angst about who should be invited, who shouldn't be invited, who was coming, who wanted to be encouraged more to come and what to wear. That was just the boys - the girls are another story altogether and I have seldom been so pleased that I only have boys. Anyway, for Monday, the guest count was sitting somewhere around the dozen mark, which seemed about right for a 16th birthday party in the house.

Tuesday saw Gordon sit his last exam - Accounts - and also saw the guest list grow to about 18, as they remembered they needed to count themselves and one or two were at the accounts exam that Gordon felt he "needed" to invite. Apparently this was necessary as they would go in the huff in they weren't invited and Gordon wanted to avoid upsetting anyone. Apparently I am not "anyone" so upsetting me by inviting people we have all agreed are "undesirable" was not seen as an issue. It wasn't an issue, according to Gordon, because they wouldn't come anyway (he had heard they were going somewhere else before he invited them). I asked if they had said they wouldn't come when he invited them. "No," he replied, "they're thinking about it and might come here rather than the 18th they were going to." I gave up.

Wednesday. Guest list count now 22.The 2 undesirables had declined, but it was though that Donald should be allowed to bring a few friends. in accounts speak, outgoings = -2, incoming =+6, nett position +4.  

Wednesday also seen me taking my life in my hands and going to boot camp at the rugby club. This is meant to be a fun, but tough, fitness session and I had agreed to go to it with Phoebe (Toni was invited too but as she is running loads of Zumba sessions every week just now, she doesn't really need it). I had been reassured by some of the rugby mums that they had been and it was indeed fun but tough and overall a good workout. It also helped that that first session was free. As it turned out, they had got it half right - it was tough. I am still waiting for the fun. Mind you, perhaps I didn't make the best start by wandering around the clubhouse and talking to various people wondering when the session started. When it was pointed out to Pheobe and I that the session was down next to the pitch and had already started, we went outside and were quite surprised to see a group of about 20 going through their paces whilst be yelled at by a pretty tough-looking guy in full combat fatigues.

We jogged gently down to join and I was immediately pounced upon by Gavin, one of the second XV and a coach for the club. I say "pounced upon" but don't mean that in a physical sense - yet. All he did was congratulate me loudly on making it along so that Stevie - the guy who was running this because he the SAS thought he was being too hard on them - knew my name right from the off. Well, they might as well have painted a target on my arse from that moment forward.Every single drill seemed more and more complicated and Stevie didn't seem to care that I had came along without my bracelet or my watch on, so how was I supposed to know which way was left and which way was right?

"Run." "Jump". "Run backwards." "Crawl." "Carry the man next to you on your back." "Jump" "Run". "Lift those weights" "Dodge."

I though I was going to die. You may have noticed the "Carry the man next to you on your back" bit. The man next to me was Gavin. Gavin the second XV player. Gavin the second XV player and coach. Gavin the bloody 15 stone plus second XV player and coach. He was a gentleman though. He didn't shout too much when I was trying to carry him  - you'd think he'd carry me, but no.

"Change Over, One Left"

"Thank God," I thought.Now Gavin would have to carry me. I turned around to get carried a bit but Gavin had disappeared. Next thing I felt was another huge lump landing on my back and screaming "Go" into my ear. I went. I'm not even sure who I was carrying, but I know they were even heavier than Gavin.

"Last change. Three Right"

I had given up. I had no clue what the second bit meant, but it was later explained to me that it mean I had to move three people down the line in a the direction of my non-existent bracelet - I can only tell my left from my light with the help of the useful visual clues of my watch and bracelet, but because I didn't have those clues, I was too slow and ended up as the carrying every time rather than being carried. Thankfully, the next partner I had turned out to be Pheobe. Not a second XV player Pheobe. Not a coach Pheobe. Definitely not even close to 15 stone Pheobe. And since I got to carry her AGAIN, not a kind caring, considerate friend Pheobe. Wait until next week. I'm wearing my watch and bracelet and I'm carrying no-one. 

I have made arrangements to make sure I don't get caught out the same way next week. I've told Siggy he's coming too and that way I know there someone much slower than me there and if thinks there are any circumstances that may lead to me having his 16 stones plus on top of me then, well then he can forget having his 16 stone plus anywhere near me for a very long time!

Thursday. Mild pain in thighs and knees, but can still walk and generally breathe with only mild pain. Guest list; incoming:+2; outgoing:0; nett position:24. Peter had remembered another 2 names who should be invited or his girlfriend might be upset. Note: Mum no longer anywhere near as high on priority list as girlfriend. I am both gutted and pleased. Gutted because it makes me feel a wee bit old. Pleased because there is hope that one day, he will be someone elses problem. I know that one day may be years and years hence, but can now live in hope.

As I hadn't actually died as a result of boot camp, and with a rather extreme degree of optimism brought on by the combined effects of now being off work for a long, long weekend and the idea that boot camp will make me drop two dress sizes before my holidays, I went for the even bigger torture that is a wardrobe clearout. This was achieved relatively quickly and the only real problem was that I broke one of the plinths (whatever they are) on my chest of drawers, so i left that out for Siggy to fix. You'd think I'd asked him to repaint the Forth Road Bridge the way he went on about, but to be fair he did get it fixed whilst I was out with Toni and Pheobe for a drink to completely negate the Boot Camp efforts from the night before.

Here's another strange thing. Siggy pointed out that when Jesus managed to feed five thousand people using just a few loaves and fishes and miraculously had dozens of baskets left over, they hailed it as a miracle and put it in a book. Why, he asked, did we not have the press around clamouring for pictures of the Miracle Of The Wardrobe. Having weeded out a bit, I had produced five black bin bags of clothing to dump -although we will give to the Scouts who are collecting Cash4Clothes money for their funds - and yet, according to Siggy, the wardrobe remain full. What an idiot. I had to show him the spare hanger I had when I was finished and he just can't understand my logic that, as I now have a spare hanger, I need a new outfit to put on it. Men!

Friday, or P-36 hours as Mission PartyPartyParty would have it. Legs now completely on fire and thighs screaming in pain. Guest list; incoming: +4;outgoing: 0; nett position: 28. Apparently one of the twins invited guests - we'll just call him "S" - had asked if Donald could bring some girls as well as "all of the girls in my year know me, so I have no chance." True though that may have been, I was now concerned that I appeared to be organising a party which involved a degree of pimping for the less successful boys in the twins group. Who was I kidding? I wasn't organising anything, i was just paying for it. 

Paying for it meant that Saturday arrived with a whirlwind of issues to deal with with. Most importantly, my legs seemed to have been extinguished and I could now walk again. Guest List Final Count: Incomings: +4, outgoings: 0; Nett Position: 32. Apparently there were some others  who had asked if they could come and the boys didn't like to refuse. I shall say no more on that.

Siggy made an early exit. 8.30am early to be exact. He had conveniently volunteered to take Scott to day 1 of his two-day football tournament leaving me to run around getting in all the food and drink for the party, but I had an even greater trauma to deal with before that.

Dappy, the mad cocker spaniel, appears entirely incapable of shedding any of her winter coat except in the living room, which has began to look like it has a black carpet when really it is just discarded dog hair on laminate. She therefore was booked in to be groomed at 8am, because he had to leave at 8.30, Siggy had left this take to me as well. Dappy was bounding around as happy as could be when she found out there was an early morning car trip on the cards and even better when we were taking Siggy's bigger car as she had even more space to bounce around in. She was still this happy when I drew into the driveway of the groomers, which is actually run from the groomers home. I put Dappys lead on her and she scrambled over me to get out the car, excited as ever to be somewhere new. 

Except it wasn't actually somewhere new. We had been at the same groomers about a year ago and as soon as her paws hit the ground Dappy froze. It was like having a statue of a cocker spaniel with me as she sat resolute and refusing to move.I could see the curtains twitch as the groomer had obviously see me arrive and so running away wasn't an option. I pulled Dapply along on her lead and but all this meant was that she became more like a stute of a seal as hse lay as flat to the ground as possible and hid her paws underneath her body. I dragged and dragged her until we got to the door, at which point she did stad up, but wrapped herself around me and hid behind my legs.

The groomer was impatiently sympathetic. By that I mean that she told me it was fine and not to worry, she was used to it, but she did keep looking at her watch and encouraging me to get Dappy in as quickly as possible. I left her there, shaking and unhappy in the stirrupy-thing (Dappy, not me) and the groomer assured me she'd be fine and she would muzzle her if need be.

I returned just after 10am to find a shorn Dappy in major huff and a groomer who did very little to make me believe that "she was fine, really." Perhaps I should have asked her about the scratches on her arm and the teeth marks on her hand, but I was in a hurry and anyway, she chose the job, not me.

Next stop was the cash and carry for pizza, cake, crisps, drinks, etc for the party. Bobby, in what I thought was a nice gesture to help, had volunteered to come along with me and this was appreciated when Siggy wouldn't be there to do the lifting and shifting. Now, I'm not in any way ungrateful, but what is it with men and impatience? It's like driving with a constant commentary and really, if I wanted that I'd just tape Siggy and play it on a loop. 

Thankfully, when we arrived, Bobby buggered off with his notebook to take note (I guess that's what note books are for after all) of prices for stuff for a future course he is running and he needed an idea of pricing as they have asked for catering as well. The cash and carry is fairly big, but not big enough for me to avoid him the whole time,although I did clip one old woman's ankles and almost had a nasty accident with a display of laptop accessories when i had spotted him almost turning into the same aisle as me. I should have known to stay away from laptop accessories as I knew he might need some after his dog (yeah right) spilled a cup of coffee over his laptop.I really, really tried to be sympathetic when I heard that. Honest.

Got to the checkout and was then forced phone Bobby as, as is any man's wont, he was nowhere to be seen when he was needed. He eventually turned up and had only the one case of drinks and I had a trolleyload, so I really was glad of the help. At first.

"Why do they need to check your trolleys again on the way out?" "Why cant they make all the wheels on the trolley go in the same direction?" "You'd think they would have a lower bit of pavement to save you bumping the trolley down" (They did but it was five yards away and I wanted the fastest possible route back to the car to get him to shut up) "Wish that bloody driver would make up his mind where he's going to park" "My God, you could have got a bus in there sideways in the time it's taking him"

I was, you may have guessed, pleased when we got to the car and Bobby could stop commenting on every little thing in the 50 or so yards he was left in charge of the trolley.

I began to pack the car and realised that, genuinely, all bloody men are the same. As put each thing in the car, Bobby viewed it as his manly duty to rearrange it for me. I didn't see that putting a case of beer - heavy and hard though it may be - on top of the three catering sized pizzas - soft and squidgy though they may be, but if it made him happy to rearrange things, who was I to argue. I did think that squaring up the pizzas and other boxes into nice straight lines did smack a bit of a place somewhere towards the far left of the autistic spectrum but didnt say anything.Well, not much anyway.

And so we faced the journey home. Bobby doesn't understand me the way Siggy does. Siggy knows that "I know the way back" means "I kind of know where I'm going but I'll just talk a lot and check with you every so often but you dont really need to answer or express an opinion" Well, I think Siggy understands that but as he is the self-confessed world's worst passenger and never lets me drive, I can't be sure. I can be sure that I was glad to drop Bobby off though.  

In fairness, though, I have to thank both Bobby and Pheobe for coming along to the party and keeping Siggy and I company in the garage whilst 34 (I didn't even ask!) teenagers marauded around the house.

Now I know that you all want the juicy details of the party but I have to be honest and say that we didn't see much in the way of juicy detail. We pretty much left them to get on with it and only nipped in every half hour or so to make sure there were no major traumas and I have to say that the kids generally behaved really, really well.

OK, it was noisy, the music was awful and one or two of the girls did seem to be a wee bit squiffy, but no-one was sick, nothing was damaged and if there were any tears on the stairs, we never seen them Honestly, do kids these days really know how to party.

Oh, there was one incident involving a girl climbing out of a skylight window whilst two blokes had their hands on her bum. But that was me so it doesn't really count, does it? Just to explain, we were in the garage and Siggy went to do one of his regular patrols when he found out that we were, in fact locked in. Thinking it was a cunning ploy by the partygoers to stop us interfering, Siggy call all three of our boys (Scott had been banished to my mums earlier, didn't want his tender mind corrupted by anything that might have went on) and of course received no answer. Determined not to let them get the better of us, I volunteered to climb out the skylight and unlock the door from the other side. Even with the receding pain in my lower limbs, I was able to get on the back of the couch and grab on to the sides of the open skylight. As Siggy will tell you, though, I have absolutely no strength in my arms  - he has learnt this over years of asking me to help manoeuvre furniture, carry in shopping (well, groceries, proper shopping isn't a problem for me) or generally assist with any task where I have to hold stuff for a long time. I get giggly and did so again as I was hanging from the sides of the velux. Next thing I knew, at least two hands were shoving me up by the bum and through the skylight. The skylight faces into the conservatory and the sight of me appearing suddenly out of the garage roof must, Im sure, have served as a very effective warning about the evils of drink and drugs  to the open-mouthed teens sitting in the conservatory at the time. In the end, it turned out that they hadn't locked us in, it was just that the handle, which Siggy was supposed to fix, had broken again. Anyway, they knew then not to mess with us and all passed off very well.

I should just say for any parents of attendees of the party who may be reading this that you can all be very proud of your offspring as they were all very polite and well-mannered with us around. I'm sure they are not always that way, but we could genuinely have no complaints about them. Actually, maybe we should be disappointed at their lack of invention when it comes to parties, but they have plenty of time to learn!

Hope you all have a fantastic Jubilee Holiday. After last week, I certainly need it.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Be careful what you wish for (part 1)

Some of you may have read my previous weekly update, when I rather stupidly said things had been a bit quiet in my world. I really must remind myself to be more careful what I wish for.

Less than hour after I had posted about that quiet week, I was flashed at. Not in the speeding camera way, in the good old fashioned guy-gets-his-bits-out-and-shakes-it-all-about kind of way. I was amazed - I really thought people didn't do that kind of thing anymore. I mean, we're living in a digital age when exhibitionists can get their kit and their rocks off to a worldwide audience from the comfort of their own bedroom with the aid of a webcam. Weirdly, though,I also heard that same night about someone receiving that other right of passage of yesteryear - a heavy breathing phone call. Good to know some of the old traditions are still on the go, I suppose. However, I didn't get the heavy breather, so can't comment on technique or anything like that for them.

The flashers, though, I can comment on. 9am on a Friday is not really when you expect to be getting mooned at but a group of young boys who had clearly had a sherbet or two, but mooned I was and not just once - time and time again. OK, the extra times were really because I kept going back out to check them out again, so perhaps I should explain.

I arrived at the nursery on Friday morning and parked at the back door as normal. When I got in, it seemed a fairly ordinary day, with parents coming in and dropping off children. Then at about five past nine, one of the mums came in looking a bit flushed and giggling nervously. In my best diplomatic and sensitive manner, I asked her if anything was wrong. "I..., I've ....I've just been mooned at!"

Biting back my excitement, I asked "Oh, dear, that's awful, are you, OK?"

She began to laugh, waving away my concern with her right hand, "Oh, I'm fine, it was just some young guys waving their bums around as I came in. They'd better watch, looks like it's going to be really sunny today and they really don't want those pasty white backsides getting burnt"

Well, what could I do but go out to check? Sure enough, young lads, clearly the worse for what I assumed was a heavy nights sessions, were in the park outside, trousers at their ankles and pulling down their boxers at each of the mums as they came in to show what were definitely very pasty and very white backsides. I know they did this to each mum as they came in and told me. And if they didn't mention it, I took them back out to show them. A bit of naked flesh is, after all, a bit of naked flesh.

I also called the police because, funny though a bit of mooning may have seemed at the time, the fact is that it is entirely inappropriate behaviour for anyone, but even more so for the children coming in as well. We also had some of the older children from the school coming across for our weekly "book buddies" session (book buddies is our initiative to improve literacy for both our children and those at the school. It has been highly praised from many quarters and is quoted as a model of excellence. I like to remind people of this whenever I can). I wanted to school to be aware so they could take the children in a different way to avoid the idiots (or so that the teachers could be ready to get a better view, you decide).

Now some of you may be thinking, a wee bit of mooning - so what, it's hardly "flashing"? Not just a bit of mooning, I'm afraid.

Having called the police, who agreed on the phone that this was disgraceful and given that we were a nursery they would make it a priority, nothing happened for the next half hour and they still hadn't arrived. I nipped back out to see if they had left, being conscious of the potential waste of resources if they had moved on and thinking I could cancel the police call out. That's when I realised what a lucky girl I've been all these years.

"Aw, here doll, you wanting a bit of this?" He didn't actually say "this", but I couldn't make out exactly what he said, think it was something to with male chickens. Anyway, I wasn't really listening as the brave young lad had decided that showing off his bare bum wasn't really enough and had now turned around so he was facing me, boxers still at his ankles and waving his manhood around with a degree of pride. I really don't know why. I mean, we were having a bit of a mini-heatwave , so it was definitely very warm that morning. And he was clearly quite excited to be out in the sun but honestly - "a bit of it". This was not something that would required to split up into smaller portions and either he had really, really big hands causing a bit of an optical illusion or I have really been spoilt. Must ask Siggy what he thinks.

Eventually, the local boys in blue turned up. Unfortunately not Clive, who is a fairly regular visotor and really cute, but another officer we didn't know and he began to ask some questions, mainly the usual, "What's your name" "When did this start", "Did other people see them", etc.Then he told me that they had actually picked them up and asked "Would you be able to recognise them again?"

Well, that got me started. Not ranting - giggling. "Well, which bit exactly do you want me to look at?" The poe-faced officer looked a bit puzzled, so I added "I wasn't really looking at their faces." Still no danger of any upturn at the corners of his mouth, even though I was now shaking like mad inside as I tried to bite back the giggles. Honestly, it was like being back in school when one of the teachers went off on one. I always dissolved into helpless giggling then and spent most of my time in the corridor as a result. I thought I'd go for more physical comedy, "I mean, what's the ID parade going to look like," I half-turned, directing my own bum at him and pointing.

"I'm not sure you're taking this seriou..." he began, but just at that Marie, our French tutor arrived for her session.

I've always thought of her as a bit of a no-nonsense character, despite the slightly hippy attitude - she arrives on her bike and always wears big floaty, flowery clothes, which is enough to be a hippy in my book. "whats going on here she, " she interrupted, "We've not done anything wrong I hope?"

"No," I replied, "There's been some flashers hanging around outside this morning waving their bits at our mums." I shot a sideways glance at PC Poe-Face and could see he was unimpressed with the "waving their bits" part of that expression.

"Oh, excellent, " replied Marie, "Where are they now and are any of them tasty?"

Well, that was me finished. I burst out an excited giggle and relayed as much as I could to Marie who was more animated in responding than I had ever seen her. We proceeded to to debate potential viewing positions and compare approximate sizes with wholly inappropriate hand, well, finger, gestures.

"I don't believe I'm listening to this, " intoned Poe-Face, but I'm sure there was just a hint of of snigger behind his attempt at a stern gaze and there was a decidedly pinker tinge to his cheeks. Maybe he prefers hippies.

After a short time, we had cleared up the fact that yes, there were four of them, yes around 19-20 years old, various heights, various types of denims and joggers on (ok, we did revert to giggling again when I said some of them had white joggy bottoms, but come, on....) and the police were ready to leave.

"So had they been partying all night then?" I asked as they were about to leave.

"No, just a bottle of vodka for breakfast it would seem."

Unbelievable. Perhaps that explains the rather less than well-endowed pair.

(Vodka, though, featured again later in the week as we prepared for the twins birthday party, but more of that later. I told you it had been an exciting  week.)

Later on the Friday, despite Gordon still having one exam to go, the Twins were off on a mountaineering camp with the explorers. Siggy was working from home and had taken Peter during his lunch out to get a few last minute bits and pieces such as energy bars but otherwise, miraculously, the twins had pretty much got themselves entirely ready for the weekend and were mostly all packed. This is definitely one of the advantages of the boys getting older and having had all those years of experience in Scouting. They can be pretty independent when they want and to be honest we had not had to take much to do with the camp, except paying for it of course.

When I got home from work, Siggy asked when they were leaving and, as it was to be 4.45pm, he volunteered to take Gordon round his papers first, but said that he would need to work on then and I'd need to take them down to the hall. He also texted Bobby, who's also the Explorer leader just to check if he was needed to transport them to camp, but he was told it was alright, they'd manage.

Looking back, Bobby must have though this was a strange question because, when I dropped them and we were just chatting about the weekend, etc, I casually asked where exactly the were going, "because Siggy didn't think there was much mountaineering to be done around Auchengillan" Auchengillan is a scout campsite about 16 miles from us, which presumably explains the peals of laughter from Bobby and Tom, the other leader.

"The Lake District," they replied in unison.

"Oh, right" was all I could find to say and for a while I was genuinely concerned that I hadn't realised this and thought how awful it is that my children are growing up so quickly and need me so little. That lasted nearly half a minute before I got over it and just smiled in satisfaction over how we are looking towards having a life of our own again, With Scott nearly 11, we reckon another 15-20 years should do it.

And so we rolled into the weekend, which was pretty quiet with the twins away and incredibly no overnight garage guests with Donald and only the task of getting birthday presents for the twins that really needed dealt with urgently. We settled on headphones for both plus a MP4 player for Gordon as his ipod died some time ago and the headphones he wanted were quite a bit cheaper anyway. Clothes for both had already been bought by me on a shopping trip on the Saturday morning which was super-efficient. I only visited the one shop and came home shortly afterwards. I say shortly afterwards, Siggy said, "How did it take you two and a half hours to come back with three bags from one shop? " He also said, "Why do the twins need two sundresses, a couple of vest tops, size 4 Converse trainers (they're both size 12's), two pairs of tiny shorts, new underwear including three bras, a bikini and a sarong?" He just doesn't understand the concept of efficiency in shopping as he proved on the Sunday.

On Sunday,Siggy had to take Scott to a football tournament on the Sunday morning. It was a fantastic day again and latter we were to see why there really is value in putting sun tan lotion on, even in Sunny Govan. As he has stood at the same side of the pitch all morning watching the football, Siggy had managed to turn a deep shade of red down one arm and one side of his face as well as having a genuinely red neck. By Sunday night, it was like having our own wee belisha beacon in the corner, but that may have been due to his "heroics", more of which later. I digress. Sorry.

Once I had came over to Govan to find the last game was going to penalties and therefore came over to watch and found that, you guessed it, I couldn't watch.They lost in the shootout, but at least it wasn't due to Scott this time and so the level of distraughtness in the car was minimal. Well Siggy's car. Scott went home in that so I was only left with Dappy bouncing around in my car like she always does when she gets out on a car trip. I honestly don't know how you see dogs with their heads out of car windows - if we opened the window whilst moving, I know for sure that Dappy would jump out after a bird or something.

We went home left my car and Dappy there and set off to HMV to get the Adidas headphones Gordon had asked for.None there, damn. Off to Argos. They had the MP4 player we were going to get but not the headphones, so we decided to leave the MP4 and head off to Currys instead. This meant leaving the shopping centre and riving to another retail park, but we reckoned they would also have MP4's so that would be fine.

We arrived in Currys and couldn't see the headphones. This created a problem for Siggy. There are two things Siggy is incapable of. Actually, there are a lot more than two things, but only two are relevant right now. Firstly he doesn't use the phone to speak to anyone except work and friends - therefore ordering chinese, arranging holidays, etc all falls to me. Of course, he will sit in the same bloody room as me and add in his thoughts (criticisms, corrections, call them what you will) as I go along, but no, he doesn't do phone calls. Actually, I've just realised that that isn't relevant, it just annoys the hell out of me so thought I'd share.

The other thing that he is incapable of, and this is relevant, is asking for help in shops. If he cant see what he's looking for, he is more likely to look around for half an hour then leave the shop grumbling that they "didn't have anything" than he is to ask for assistance. I have reminded him before that they are call "assistants" for a reason but, apparently, he doesn't need any help. I have honestly seen him respond to assistants with his standard "No, we're just looking, thanks" line when they approach him, even if it is blindingly obvious that he does, very much, need help. Therefore, when we got to Currys and they also didn't have the headphones, I had to go and find the assistant to see if they could help.

Some people say they dream of getting into a threesome. Some people even lie and tell you they have had one. I am not telling any lies when I say I have now had a threesome and it was not fun. Nor did I find it in any way satisfying in the end. Picture the exchange - just to be clear, this occurred with all three parties within touching distance of each other, as you would expect of a threesome:

Me (to assistant): We're looking for some headphones for my son's birthday.
Assistant: Certainly Madam, any particular ones?
Me (to Siggy): Which ones was it he wanted?
Siggy(to me): It was the Seinhesser Adidas ones.
Me (to assistant): the Seinhesser Adidas ones.
Assistant (to me); Is it in-ear or over-ear you're looking for?
Me (to Siggy): In-ear or over-ear?

To be honest, I had no idea what that question meant

Siggy (to me): Over-ear
Me (to assistant): Over-ear?
Assistant: I'm not sure if we do those ones
Siggy (to me): Well, they had them on the website, ask him if he can check the website.
Me: You had them on the website, could you check, please?
Assistant: Of course, which website did you use - Currys or PC World?
Me(to Siggy): Currys or PC World?
Siggy(to me): Dunno. Thought they were both the same one
Me(to Assistant): Sorry, we're not sure
Assistant: Ok I'll just have a look
Me: Thanks
Siggy (under breath); Not much bloody assistance him, is he.
Me: (under breath): He's trying
Siggy: Yes, bloody trying
Me; Shut up.
Assistant: Any idea how much they were/
Me: ?

I didn't actually say anything, juts raised an eyebrow and made sure Siggy was facing the assistant

Siggy (turning to me): I think they were around £50 weren't they dear?
Me: Yes, about £50.
Assistant: Ah, found them (shows me the screen) Is that the ones?
Siggy (looking over my shoulder); Yes.
Assistant: Sorry/
Me: Yes, that's the ones.

The poor assistant hadn't heard as Siggy, as usual, was talking to me and facing away from him.

Assistant: We don't have them here, but we seem to have them in our Coatbridge branch.
Siggy: Could he phone them?
Me: Could you phone them?
Siggy: And ask them...
Me: And could you ask them to put them aside?
Assistant: DO you want to pay them here or when you get there?
Me: We'll just pay up there , thanks.
Assistant: Certainly, just give me a minute.

Off he went. "What bloody difference does it make if we pay here or there?" said Siggy, moaning.

"I don't know, why don't you ask him?" I replied.

"Doesn't matter".

Unbelievable. Mind you, he has passed on his patience for shopping to his youngest son. Scott spent this entire episode moaning about having to be out shopping, but then wandering away to look at ipads. He had spent all his time in The Fort also moaning and also wandering away - in HMV, he went to look at games, in DW Sports, he went to look at footballs, then rugby balls, then Rangers strips, In Argos, he wandered out altogether and went to game. All of which meant it took us twice as long as we had to try to find him again! Sometimes, having had years and years of experience with children and therefore losing any semblance of self can be a blessing. It means that you are no longer embarassed about a lot of things and therefore you no longer need to go for subtlety, even in public places. Instead of continuing the usual frustrating and very time-consuming task of searching for hie from aisle to aisle. I resorted to the much simpler and less energy-sapping option of standing roughly in the middle of the shop and screaming "Scott!" at the top of my voice. I had to do this several times in HMV, but by the time we got to DW Sports, one call was all that was needed. See - efficiency is important.

The assistant came back and we headed off to Coatbridge where not only could we get the headphones, there was also another Argos so we could get the MP4 whilst we were there. The ones in Currys were too expensive so Siggy wasn't going to part with the extra cash when we could get it in the Coatbridge Argos.

We got to Coatbridge. Of course Argos didn't have the MP4 player, so we got the headphones, headed home and dropped off Scott and I as I had had enough and Scott was very close to tears. It wouldn't be the first time he has actually taken to crying just because we asked him to come to Tesco with us for ten minutes. Siggy traipsed back to the original Argos to get the MP4 player. Amazingly, they still had it, but honestly, could he have been any less efficient?

So that night, with the twins safely home FROM THE LAKE DISTRICT, we all settled down, exhausted and with Siggy glowing half-red-half-milkbottle-white in the corner.

"I think that tree's on fire" said Gordon, looking across the street to where we can see a neighbours back garden.

"No, it'll just be the way the sun's setting down behind it" said Siggy.

"I don't think so," Gordon replied, getting up as the rest of us looked out and saw that yes, a 25 foot tall conifer was indeed fully ablaze. The three older boys and Siggy ran out and went across the street, whilst I dialled 999.

Before we knew it, all four of them have jumped over the garden wall across the street and a fair number of others were beginning gather in the lane next to the house.

Siggy tells me that when they got over the wall, Ronnie, the house owner was nowhere to be seen and one of the other neighbours was standing looking at the tree as ash started to drift towards the garage roof.

"Better watch, that roof might catch," said the neighbour. Siggy just stared at him and wondered why he was standing next to the garden hose, already plugged into the garden tap.

By this time Ronnie had appeared, understandably shocked as various neighbours had banged on his front door and told him to get around the back a s the trees were on fire. He just stared, saying "Oh my goodness" a lot. Several other neighbours all came around the side of the house then. Siggy reckons that including our three boys, there were about a dozen people in the garden, all staring at the tree scratching their heads and saying really useful things like "We've phoned the fire brigade", "That ash might set the garage roof alight" and "Do you think it was deliberate?"

Siggy, being a bit more practical, said, "Maybe we should put it out then," turned on the tap and pulled to hose over the tree where, miraculously, lots and lots of water seemed to put the fire out. Meantime, all the neighbours stood back and said more helpful things like "There's a lot of steam," "You missed abit there, " and "Do you think it was deliberate"

I was being far more sensible. I stood in the lane with with collected dog walker and generally other nosey folk whilst I bbm'd everyone I could think of to tell them that there might be some firemen here shortly and top get around if they wanted to see some hose action. In the end, they did arrive, asked Siggy if he wanted a job and left. What a bloody disappointment, especially as one of them was a firewoman and Siggy reckons she had been an East German shot putterin a previous life. Or perhaps just earlier in this one.

Anyway, I said I wanted a more exciting week and you can see I definitely did have, but that was only the weekend and we still had the 16th birthdays and associated party to come.

For now though, I reckon I need a coffee and you will need a fresh one, so look out for part 2 later today. Thank goodness this is a long weekend.