Thursday, 25 April 2013

Undomestic goddess

I eat choclate...I don't cook it!
Along life’s journey and particularly in my middle years, I’ve finally given myself the permission to be myself. This means conducting lengthy self-analysis sessions in the quiet moments also known as relaxation or emptying my mind.

You can’t hide from your true self or pretend to be something you’re not forever and  being what we’re not is what tends to happen in our active life as we conform to social and professional expectations.. I’ve been a big time people pleaser which has led to the false impression that I enjoy domesticity.

That’s a  misconception. That said, I do like to be organised, clean, creative, eat healthily, cook up a storm (now and then) and keep a budget. Where I fall short is that I cannot do those things in their entirety. Parts of my home are organised and clean, parts of me are creative,  I endeavour to eat consciously (except when apple pie and custard’s on the menu!), cooking is a forced mundane and budgeting  a challenge. I’m imperfect and domesticity doesn’t particularly thrill me.

Of course stability is still attractive……and a white, picket fence with roses around the door with a loving partner to share the good and bad times remains on my wish list.  But I’m not ungrateful for the place that life has brought me as I know myself a lot better than I used to.

Post divorce, I have undomesticated myself enough to not feel guilty for:


·         Staying in my pj’s on Sunday morning through to the afternoon

·         Saying “no”

·         Watching silly movies

·         Chatting to friends on the phone

·         Uncontrollable laughter

·         Relaxing in the garden with a cute bunny for company

·         having a healthy social life

·         Watching the sky at night

In the undomesticated state, the only “have to” is breathing; the rest is second-hand flotsam and jetsam. What other people think and say doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

Domesticity is  anathema to spontaneity. When you’re fully house trained, you buy into routines:

Washing, dusting, folding, scrubbing, polishing, chopping, peeling, boiling, bowing and scraping and stirring yourself into a heap of tedium and ennui. Yes, you might as well jump into the casserole and languish in the greasy juice!

Okay, it’s dull…but someone’s got to do it…..but why you?!

In a partnership of two, equal distribution of labour is necessary if harmonious relations are to be maintained. If chores are loaded on to just one person – the responsible one – then a divide occurs.

“Love me and leave the dishes dirty” is not a recipe for success.

I’m not domestic and yet I’m not inactive. I just prefer not to invest too much of my time in the kitchen. In fact, I’d like to the kitchen to be re-named as the social zone. Food is social and clearing up afterwards  more sociable. Life becomes more fluid when you don’t get stuck in the rut of clearing up, tidying and putting supper on for the ingrates, known as family!

Cath Kidston, the successful interior designer, has said that she would hate to be “a housewife” and I agree. Ms Kidston saw, in her own mother’s experience, that a woman is vulnerable if she doesn’t earn her own money. This I don’t dispute since I also was reliant on a man to “take care of business” for 22 years.  My mother also landed herself in the hapless situation known as marriage. The paradox is that Ms Kidston has earned a fortune by selling a range of polka-dotted and pretty floral homewares. The designs invoke nostalgia and hark back to a more innocent age when a woman’s worth was tied into her domestic abilities. Thank goodness I’ve broken the mould and I’ll work hard to prevent my daughter being chained to the kitchen sink.

In some relationships,  women (and some men) are little above a decorative object. Naturally, some objets d’art are valued and polished, some are unloved and left to gather dust and my experience was much like a Cath Kidston floral tea towel. I looked good, had some practical uses and spent a lot of time in the kitchen feeling lousy. If tea towels could speak they’d complain about being tossed aside after someone’s wiped their hands on them, I’m sure!

I don’t like kitchens. They’re functional spaces no doubt but I only like to look – not touch – them.
I'm allergic to kitchens

I enjoy a home cooked meal but the taste is always better when you haven’t spent time slaving over a hot stove yourself. I’m a prima donna girl – yes!-  and I want the world – far from the madding kitchen!




Monday, 22 April 2013

The secret life of......dust!

Dust is something we have to learn with….just like grey skies, burnt toast, blocked sinks and shoes that pinch. It’s everywhere and if you can find a little space that doesn’t have any then you’re on such a high plain that no dust can reach it...perhaps a celestial one!

Most dust is ordinary. Micro-sized particles that float around  and then land somewhere…unhealthy.... like a glass that you’re about to pour a drink into or even up your nose. You can’t get too picky about dust as you’d want to live in an oxygenated bubble so that you couldn’t even breathe it in.

Over-analysis of dust will make you paranoid. It’s on your clothes, even newly washed ones. It’s on your pillow – yes, the one you hug and kiss every night. It’s in your purse when you open it to flash a few readies. It’s on your hands, even though you believe they’re clean. Hands are huge dust magnets.

Dust...take that!!
Animal magnetism begets dust….and….dust is transferable. Every time your beloved strokes or caresses your hand they’re transferring their unique dust particles. At the start of a relationship it feels like  a sprinkling of magic dust and you just can’t get enough. Hopefully you’ll find that it’s more than dust that keeps you together so a few fine dregs won’t do any lasting damage. When a relationship sours, you don’t want to share each other’s contaminations so having separate beds or even homes is a hygienic option.

. Dust doesn’t care where it gets…because it’s everywhere. It’s joyful and happy when it gets into all the nooks and crannies of your home and life. Have you ever tidied a cupboard and been amazed by the dust when you’ve not opened the door for years. That’s how insidious the little mites are…they’ll sneak into every  crevice before you can say: "Atishoo!"

Your epidermis releases microscopic flakes whenever you move. When you throw back your head to belly laugh you’re also shaking a  good number of those flecks and specks. A good bath or shower daily will dampen dust’s enthusiasm to settle in your exposed orifices. There’s no space that’s safe from dust – your ears, nose, mouth and even that cute little navel.

Dust loves you because you and it are inseparable. You are dust of the finest kind. You are fragments of intelligence and stupidity but when you are feeling un-dustlike you believe yourself to be invincible.

The factories of my mind!
Dust can inflitate most defences but it’s important to keep your mind from acquiring too thick a layer of it. When mental dust accumulates, ordinary polish will not help rid of it.

What constitutes mental dust? Old ideas that have been whirring around in your head for so long that they keep you up at night, doing the same things and expecting different results, general moaning and groaning…in short…the inability to stay young at heart.

Mental dust will suffocate your zest for life and the only antidote to it is to find refreshing activities for the mind and body.

If you keep moving your body and de-cluttering your mind, dust can’t settle. In fact, I wonder if the late Steve Jobs was also making a subtle reference to this when he said: “don’t settle, stay hungry”. What he meant was the fact that we should keep striving. He probably knew  that human beings and their dust enjoy comfort zones. When we get stuck somewhere we lose inspiration – that sheer get up and go – that keeps us alive often helps to  stop dust in its tracks.

Dust isn’t exciting or attractive. It’s a natural nuisance. Hard to believe but some homes are dust-free zones. Dust seems to avoid certain surfaces for fear of being sprayed with furniture polish and wiped away. The most eagle-eyed members of the human race – also known as the neat freaks- can spot the minute dust devils even before they land. Dust is soon zapped and sent packing into the bin. Meticulous is good but it can lead to obsessive. No matter how much you toil to maintain a spotless environment,  dust is watching and waiting to land.

You must accept dust as you would the sunshine. Dust is mostly revealed when those ultra violet rays hit your window panes…ugh! Who doesn’t love to look out of gleaming, dust free glass? But dust will have you splashing water, scrubbing and squeeging until you can see your reflection.
Dust is a powerful motivator in getting clean and organised.

Dust elimination keeps you fit and healthy. You’ll have toned arms if you were to scour every corner but wear a mask so that you don’t breathe it in. It can play havoc with your lungs and other internals. 

Dust and I have a friendly relationship. When I see it.... I remove it.... but what the eye don’t see my heart doesn’t grieve over. One day, we’ll all be dust bunnies terrorising neighbourhoods so don't demonise it but a culling operation will keep it at bay.













Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Thatcher Wonder Years

Margaret Thatcher in death as much as life creates controversy. When you’re made of iron you just can’t help it. Influential people – living or dead -  evoke a wide range of strong emotions in people and Mrs T is no exception.

 Mrs Thatcher was the Prime Minister of my girl and young womanhood - the wonder years of 15 to 27. Though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, she played a part in those important formative years  that I can now reflect upon….in wonder.

 Mrs Thatcher never suffered fools gladly which included the grandees in her cabinet, trade unions and, even to her discredit, some sections of the electorate. She was the Boadicea of politics and she broke the unions and privatised anything that smacked of an old boys network!

 I’m a woman in that ilk too but much less vociferous and forthright as she.  If only I’d taken a leaf out of her book and applied some of this non-sufferance to my own life where I was surrounded by a mish-mash of “ne’er do wells” who thought they could push me around.

 She had a healthy appetite for a fight and was fiercely determined. Her famous line: “you turn if you want to….that lady’s not for turning”….will go down in history and it’s a motto that every woman should adopt.


Frankly my dear...I don't give a damn!
I believe I became a home owner because of the PM in situ, Mrs T positively encouraged it. She wanted  people on even the lowest rung of the social ladder, as long as they were gainfully employed, to become home owners.

 he was passionate and patriotic. In 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic war was declared. The islands were successfully defended despite significant loss of life that Mrs Thatcher is reported to have shed private tears over.

Mrs Thatcher was a force of nature with a unique synergy that found her poring over documents late into the night and rising early to face her day in Parliament.  Her enemies accused her of being ruthless. When does not a woman not have to be to get ahead of the game?

 It was surely this resilience that helped her survive an IRA bomb attack at the Conservative party’s annual conference in 1984. She emerged from the rubble and debris with barely a hair out of place and she vowed that the “enemies of democracy would be defeated”.  Her words were prophectic as the Peace Process for Northern Ireland was put into place and succeeded long after she left office.

 In her private life, Mrs Thatcher was fortunate in meeting and marrying a solid man who was content to play second fiddle to her ambitions. Her husband Denis, she described as “the golden thread running through her life” and indeed a supportive partner is worth their weight in gold! Would that I were as lucky as Mrs T!!


Crocodile teeth not tears!
Mrs Thatcher never considered herself a feminist but she was feminine. She never wore trousers and was careful with her appearance always appearing the well groomed professional rarely without a good handbag and delicate jewellery. She was thoughtful and kind to her staff. At Christmas she would choose and (sometimes wrap) fine china pieces for each of them. Her only failure in my eyes, was that she did not recruit other female members to her political circle, but am confident that she inspired many a woman to politics. Mrs T would have made an awesome mentor!

 Her critics saw her as losing touch and her major catastrophe was the ill thought out Poll Tax which lead to rioting on the streets of London. It was later abolished but Mrs Thatcher was demonised and ousted from the party. The humble grocer’s daughter’s position in a government, made of up of  crusty, old school men, became untenable and they plotted against her. Had she appointed more women to her cabinet I wonder if she would have survived?

 In 1991, she was replaced by the fifty shades of insipid grey  - John Major – who lasted only one term and had an affair with the only female in the cabinet. A very poor show and the Conservatives, who had won thrice with Mrs Thatcher at the helm, now conceded defeat to the opposition.

 My politics are neither left or right. In my view, Mrs Thatcher was an upwardly mobile, free market enterprising and independent thinking kind of gal….and so am I.  Her strength of character is something I’ll remember and I’d like to think that a little bit of her has rubbed off on me.

 The Wonder Years of The Thatcher era were remarkable.  I hope her political model will be studied by future generations.  News reports suggest that there’s a lot of hate over Mrs T’s legacy and that’s coming from the loathsome, political grandees and the far left. It wouldn’t have bothered the lady of iron (and steel) a jot. This is one lady who won’t be turning….even in her grave.







Monday, 15 April 2013

Families need fathers?

This is the slogan of a campaign to encourage fathers to be more involved with their children, post divorce. I say, fathers need as much encouragement in honing their paternal instincts in situ.

Let’s swallow a bitter pill: many fathers don’t give a fig about parenting mostly because mothers do. Ask any long suffering wife, how effective her husband’s parenting skills and you’ll receive some hollow replies.

Men and their offspring are not happy bunnies. When the little tykes are soft, cuddly new borns, Daddy is proud but it’s mostly from an egotistic stance: “I’m fertile, yay!” Children are an endorsement of a man’s virility so whilst strutting around, Daddy forgets that one of his roles is to support Mummy.

Parenting is the problem for men. Their bodies are cut out for it but not their brains. Parenting is a coat of many colours; you’re called to be a hero, a dictator, a philosopher, a sensitive soul, an adjudicator and  clown! What you are not called on to be is a loser, a moaner, a miser or permanent joker!

Sad to say, fathers (like mothers) tend to be a mixed bag. You don’t receive any training and it’s on the job learning. Let’s be honest, some men are just not cut out for hard work and parenting is work…of the toughest kind.

Who’d want to be a parent if we knew all that it entailed? Sleepless nights, tantrums, setting examples – it’s a teaching and learning experience like no other. Can a man be equipped for such hardship? Not very often. Men are not characteristically emotional beings though there are improvements in every generation. Good fathering equates to the kind of fathering you yourself were on the receiving end of.

How many people can truly say that their father was a shining example? Very few is my guess. Fathers, like mothers, are human. Human beings are fallible. No one knows what kind of parent they’ll be until they embark upon parenthood. Some are enthusiastic about their parental journey like an explorer about to launch into unchartered territory. Some are bemused about bringing up another little person and wonder how on earth they’ll ever get the hang of it. Some are downright scared and remember all the trouble they themselves got into.

Fathers are a work in progress and every mother knows it. Mothering is mostly instinctive and carrying a child throughout pregnancy alters a woman’s mind and body irrevocably. Despite all the issues a woman faces, there is an unbreakable bond between a mother and her child.  That doesn’t mean that life post pregnancy is wonderful but a woman showers unconditional love upon her offspring as she gazes at him/her adoringly.

This makes it all the more disturbing that lobby groups such as “Fathers 4 Justice” are trying to win custody and greater access to their children post separation and divorce. There is many a father who would lash out at a former partner by attempting to cast aspersions on their good character. Testosterone fuelled mud slinging is rife in the judicial system and it is tolerated to allow a father to assert his parental rights. When has being a good father included besmirching the character of his childrens’ mother?

It is nonsense to suggest that a father can do the job of caring for children as well as any woman. Any child, who loses his mother (for whatever reason) during the formative years, feels that loss acutely. The loss of a father can also be distressing but a strong woman can play both roles effectively. Fathers cannot justify their roles by putting women down. Worse still are those fathers who abduct their children. Depriving a child of its mother and vice versa is an act of sheer spite and revenge. Men who resort to these methods to “punish” their ex-wifes/partners are the lowest kind.

A woman’s touch in the home is important and it’s not about choosing the right furnishings. If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world then, when that hand is missing, a child’s world can fall apart. A woman, be it a mother or female relative, is pivotal for the healthy development of a child.

Families don’t need fathers as much as they need supportive men. Biology isn’t important in a support role. A good man is worth ten fathers. You’ll appreciate this fact once you’ve had a bad father.

Fathers need to go back to the drawing board and learn parent craft. There’s too little information on this important subject and, if there’s one thing more fathers need, is a little educating!

Families need fathers? They shoot horses don’t they? There'll never be parental equality until fathers man up and get serious about what it takes to be a worthy role model.






Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Anything but lonely

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’ve had good company” – Benjamin Brooks-Dutton

This is the articulate observation from an up and coming blog “Life as a widower”  penned by the afore-named, which catalogues a journey following the loss of his wife in a freak accident in November 2012.

I find this statement both harrowing and poignant as I face up to the fact that I’ve never had good company. I don’t like to admit it but it’s true. Loneliness has been a constant theme running through my life.

I’m not unhappy about it though. In fact, I love my own company and am a person who loves to go within…and stay there. I’m no retiring wallflower and find myself reasonably popular with a sprinkling of close friends. I’m not short of a social life and my phone does ring with invitations at decent intervals. I was married, have children, now divorced and quite content in my own skin but….there’s something missing.
I’m missing a soul mate of the opposite sex. He passed me by or perhaps I didn’t recognize him when he showed up. I was a closed book, socially awkward and deeply insecure.

 I had no idea about beauty so what was reflected back at me in the mirror seemed ordinary. I didn’t excel at anything but I did have somewhat of a wordsmith flair. I loved to write, to paint with words but most of them were for my eyes only.
Loneliness is not a burden if you haven’t known it’s opposite. For me, the opposite of lonely would have been to have memories of a special someone who thought I was the bees knees. To have had a childhood filled with love and laughter would have set me on a better path. 

My childhood and adolescence was spent locked away in my bedroom listening to my warring parents. I heard and witnessed things that left indelible marks on my heart and mind. I didn’t know what happiness was and my early role models were sugar coated characters on TV shows.

I believed in love and craved it but, with little experience of the unconditional kind, I never knew how and where to find it. I wrote poetry in despair and found a talent but not an outlet for it.

I’ve not been completely loveless. I have always attracted a good deal of it but in fragments and slivers through friendship and little kindnesses. I’m a giver not a taker so I guess that’s why my love cup doesn’t runneth over.

I embrace loneliness as I do the other sorrows of life. It’s the only way I know how to survive. I’d sooner smile than cry and laugh than scream. My soul’s sensitive and my heart’s brittle. It’s been broken many times (not in the romantic sense) but by life or God showing me that there’s no straight paths.

I’m not lonely but I am alone. I am alone but I don’t feel the emptiness. My own company is the best I’ve known. I’ve been lonely in a crowd but never on my own.
Being alone is not lonely; it's a rich experience if you know how to spend time.


Friday, 5 April 2013

Lipstick and heels

In the pursuit of satisfactory relations between the sexes it is important to get ahead of your opponent. Sex equality does exist in the stratosphere but it’s rare on planet earth. Nevertheless, in the battle of the sexes , it’s vital to be armed and ready.

The point of differentiation is that neither sex is truly seeking equality. If it’s every man and woman for themselves then each of them wants a certain superiority that doesn’t interfere with the other’s development. Currently, that can’t be achieved in the social model known as marriage.

Relationships place a great strain on the two egos each vying for the upper hand. Climbing on your high horse and staying on this bucking bronco is the goal. A goal so unworthy it leaves no one the happier. If pride comes before a fall then get ready….and may the best man/woman win.

In relationships the weapons of choice for the female are lipstick, perfume and killer heels. That humble tube of colour, cleverly expunges pale and insipid lips and vamps them into a veritable hunk magnet; that’s if you know how to use your cupid’s bow effectively. The sexually predatory pout has never gone out of fashion and it has brought down many a man and helped many a woman to lay the foundation stone to her empire.

If the way to man’s heart is through his senses then there’s no better battering ram than a heavy coating of mascara. One flutter and he’ll throw open the gates of his castle. This visual assault should be accompanied by an age old seduction technique of a spray of perfume in all the necessary erotic spots- hair, neck, wrists and even below the belt will take you far. He’ll be putty in your hands once he’s spied those vertiginous Jimmy Choo’s that match his snakeskin Blahniks. 

Are relationships so shallow? Many are, that’s a fact and I won’t bore you wth statistics.
However, the one crucial additive to the above three is an intoxicant. Once your man or woman has had a skinful then it’s important to note how quickly a new relationship takes off….and before you know it you’ve been together twenty years…how’d that happen??

A little alcohol running through the veins takes the edge of reality and loosens the tongue. It gives you a certain Dutch courage and you may say and do things that are completely in character. Despite what people say, it’s impossible for alcohol to make you do crazy things unless you were thinking of it all along. Alcohol is innocent but you may not be!

A man more often than not finds your lipstick colour more attractive than you. His pupils dilate his heart starts racing and his breath gets a little ragged when he notices the sway of your elegant pins and that subtle aroma that mixes with your unique feminine odour.

Men never feel guilty about being superficial. Max Factor is a man with a sensitive side and he juggles his cosmetic empire efficiently. Men don’t need love if a conquest will do. One night in Bangkok and the world’s his oyster and he can boast about it for years to come.

We live in an increasingly visual world and we are judged by how we look. Sometimes you can get lucky and get the whole package – big looks and good brains – but it’s not essential. A man will roll over and beg if the lipstick and heels live up to what he’s read in GQ.

A man is a creature of simplicity: make up in a good light will cut the deal and with you as arm candy you’ll be irresistible to his ego. For added value (and pleasure) this could turn into a genuine love if he’s willing to jump through some hoops so keep an open mind. He’s from Mars and he could tempt you to leave your cosy pad on Venus.

Oh yes, a women only needs to don her battle gear and he’ll be a pushover. “Move over darling, I’m just about to powder my nose!” A blast of cosmetic dust can fool the enemy and deflower him in an instant. Just try it for yourself……….and leave a comment about your experience.