Welcome To My Room 101

101

My brain has been cooking up this post for a while.

I am a big fan of Frank Skinner, his dead pan sense of humour and his Room 101  show.  If you haven’t seen it before Room 101 is a place where the lucky chosen can throw things/people/anything that makes their blood and brains boil, shut the door and never have to face the annoyance again.

My Room 101 list has been getting longer and longer over the years and here are snippets of it ( oh yes, and thank you George Orwell for coming up with the concept a long time ago).  In fact, the list is so long that it will take me a few years to publish it all.  It is ok. I have time.

A disclaimer: everything mentioned below is my personal pet hate, I haven’t been paid to dislike any of these items and the views expressed are mine and mine alone.

Fashion: Ugg boots and everything Ugg–related.  Walking badly in Ugg boots.  Soggy Ugg boots.  Wearing footwear that makes one look as if one had skinned a yeti and shaved his feet to then somehow wobble about town is bad for you, your feet (I guess the smell after an average of 8 hour marinating Ugg time could be easily bottled/canned and sold to the military forces) and yetis.

And while I am talking about shoes I might as well say that balancing on heels so high they make the Shard blush is not that great either.  Whenever I spot a woman stumbling forward like a wounded stilt walker I feel sorry for her.  We all have heard it a million times – men love women in high heels, but I am not sure men love women falling over left, right and centre and filing their bunions in front of TV in the evening so that the next day they can squeeze into their Manolos, Kurts and the likes.

A while ago I conducted my own personal market research and asked a handful of representatives of the male species whether stilt tripping was in any way appealing.  The answer was ‘Ah?’

It turns out that most men, unless they are Karl Lagerfeld or Dolce or Gabbana, don’t notice if you wear Ugg boots, stilts or your slippers chewed on by a Chihuahua with an inferiority complex, and as long as they are allowed to watch news/football/the latest 5 hour long documentary about the first rugby players of Pompeii they are happy.  Your footwear is probably at the bottom of their list.  Unlike your bottom, but that is an entirely different type of post that I will not be writing any time soon.

Modern life: Urban 4×4 vehicles taking up all the pavement space and not giving pedestrians their well-deserved priority respect.  I count myself very lucky to be able to live where I do, in a lovely green area, a two minute stroll from the Gallery of Modern Art.  However, our block of flats is sandwiched between two Hogwarts-like public schools and every day on my way to work/nursery and back I face the same challenges and tiger mums and their cars.  And every day I want to ask those women the same question: ‘Should I wheel my buggy straight into your urban tank since you think that pavement equals your personal parking space or should I leave it to the pigeon militia?  And since I am rude enough to try to cross your road are you going to run me and Peanut over now or maybe after you have checked your nails, Twitter and that rebellious Botox-resistant muscle above your left eyebrow?

Travel: This is a tricky one because I love travelling.  Discovering new places, foods and people watching have been my life-long hobbies and inspiration. I am the kind of person who can turn up at the airport 5 hours early (just in case) and not be bored or tired of guessing who the fellow travellers are and where they are scurrying off to, but there is something/someone to do with airports that I am going to chuck into my Room 101, turn the key and throw it into the flames of Mordor.  It’s the type of traveller who will queue at the gate 2 hours before boarding time is announced and once they are allowed to proceed, they and their spouses, children, uncles, grand grandparents and a random stranger that has been following them since last trip to Corfu charge ahead like a herd of wild buffaloes escaping a very irate wolf.

Boarding a plane is not the same as playing musical chairs.  There is (in theory) space for everyone.  Seats are either assigned beforehand or you have to make do with what’s available.  A seat is a seat.  If you don’t get to sit where you really want to some reasonable stranger may swap with you so that you can admire the plane’s left wing, a piece of unidentified propeller and some clouds.  And some more clouds.

But if just before I boarded this Iron Bird you crushed my toes, broke my nose while flapping your elbows and bruised my ribs with your hand-luggage made of granite then no, I’m not swapping. I will keep all those clouds to myself, and occasionally will chuckle so that you think you are missing out on gazing at a brilliant cloud.  Blame yourself.

Writing: I love writing (D’oh) but I don’t love writing self-help books promising to make the next Dickens out of you, if you can only part with a few quid and a couple of hours of your precious time.  While creative writing courses offer human interaction, heated discussions and a healthy dose of destructive  constructive feedback, most of those books give nothing other than a concept of a magic wand (well, I guess it works if you are a magic wand believer or Harry Potter fan or even Harry Potter himself).  Below is the best writing advice I have ever heard summed up in four short statements.  And it’s free:

1.            Just write.

2.            Read a fair deal.

3.            Sometimes go for a walk.

4.            Oh, and while you are at it, live a little.

Modern Attitude to Ageing: Getting older increases the maintenance costs year on year since, after all, aging is a terrible disease inflicted on us by Time.  A disease that has to be fought off with snail slime, nightingale droppings, liquid gold, caviar (not to be washed down with quality vodka unfortunately), seaweed, Dead Sea Mud, Botulinum toxin and chemicals that make Kryptonite seem like a child’s putty.  Why do we find it so hard to accept that life experience, wisdom (ahem, ahem) and a few memories of those nights out that we have been pushing deeper and deeper into the subconscious come, yes, with a few grey strays and wrinkles. The world in which 15 year olds advertise miracle creams for 50 year olds has gone a tiny weenie bit mad.  Leave the snails and their slime in peace.  Use an iron instead. Works on linen and we all know what linen looks like pre-ironing stage.  Sorted.

Current issues/discussions: I know I’m not going to make any friends by saying this but I am bored from top to toe and beyond by all the discussions and rows and about feminism and what it means. Radical feminism.  Lipstick feminism. Floundering feminism.  Mention the F-word at a dinner party and give me 3 seconds so that I can fall into a deep coma.  I have very little interest in debating whether a feminist should wear a lipstick or pretend she doesn’t own lips/breasts/shiny hair just in case a male chauvinistic pig finds her attractive.  Neither am I interested in slagging off men.

Replace the F-word with the E-word as in Equality, chant to me about social justice and I am with you because as much as we have to fight for women to have equal chances in life we can’t forget about the Discarded White Young Males, Unemployed with Not a Chance in Life, the Overlooked Carers or Any Other People in Need of Support.

And when I am done with writing this post I will be off to change the world. If you see a Wonderwoman with freshly ironed face, smeared in snail slime and some lipstick, charging ahead with a buggy and sending pigeons off to bomb luxury 4x4s – that’s me.

Say hello if you dare.  Just don’t mention the F-word or I may throw nightingale droppings at you.

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What would you throw into your Room 101?  Here is your one and only chance to get rid of anything that bugs you!  Feel free to add to my list!

If Peanut Was a Girl

Peanut & Peanette

Peanut & Peanette

When I was pregnant a day wouldn’t go by without someone (normally a stranger on the bus) asking  “So, you know what you’re having?”  My “No and I don’t care as long as it is healthy” was more often than not met with a pinch of suspicion and a comment: “but you must prefer one. A boy? A girl?”  Sometimes those inquisitive strangers would deduce from the curvature of my bump the gender of the BlueBeretOffspring.  It is really good to know how far scientific advances have taken us.

No, I didn’t have a preference and we were as delighted with Peanut as we would have been with a little Peanette.  And up until recently, I’ve led my life representing the female minority in a male dominated household.  No glass ceilings or walls here even though I couldn’t care less about football, know nothing about music and struggle to tell left from right while driving at my maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.  No glass partitions of any kind in the BlueBeret household, mainly because I think it would be a nightmare to clean all those sticky fingerprints mixed with snot off them.  Enough digressing.

And until recently I didn’t think about “the whole gender issue” any more than I think about the subatomic particles looking for their other halves in Cern’s Large Haldron Collider first thing in the morning.   Slap on the wrist for my internal sluggish feminist.   But maybe it is me being an insignificant bolt in the great Working Mothers Apparatus or working with A Little Bit Rosy (the Girl Who Went To New York to Challenge UN on Women’s Issues).

If Peanut was a girl, he would read Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren (one of the best children’s authors of all time in my opinion).   Ronia’s story would teach Peanette that little girls are cool, brave and unafraid to speak their minds.   That little girls can stand up to big men and challenge their attitudes and convictions.   That they are free to follow their hearts (and brains, especially when they are attempting parallel parking).

If Peanut was a girl, he would learn that there is more to life that being a TOWIE or MiC gal waiting in a nail bar for a knight in shining Gucci, while the aforementioned tin man is hunting parking spaces in his Porsche.

I would pledge to lay good foundations there, in the wee Peanette’s brain, and build the next Shard of beliefs that little girls can be generals and popes, and whatever they want to be.  And even though I’ve always been scared of Pippi Longstocking I would read to Peanette about Pippi too. Mind you, the irrational fear of little fiery girls with fiery pigtails and monkeys for best friends comes from a person who was also scared of the Muppets, and Big Bird and had nightmares about the Cookie Monster.  I will leave it up to you if you want to trust my judgement.

If Peanut was a girl he would be allowed to wear pink and play with dolls.  But if he chose to play with trucks and wear blue that would be ok too.  It would be ok for him to love doing maths and building bridges.   Or to love covering everything with glitter.  It would be ok to climb trees.  To find out what’s fun and what’s not.  To play in the sandbox on equal terms with the boys.

If Peanut was a girl I would want for him to know he could achieve exactly as much as that little boy, playing football over there.  And since Peanut is not a girl, I want him to know that he is as good as that little girl climbing up a tree in the distance.  Boys need to hear that too.

His “lethargic feminist” mother will make sure that he grows up reading about Ronia and Pippi because if little boys grow up looking up to feisty little girls, girls who are “so strong you won’t believe it”, then they will want strong women to lead them, their businesses, their countries, their armies and their football teams.

If it wasn’t enough, one day, I will ask Peanut to read this post too.

And by the way, at least we didn’t name him Sue.

P.S As for the perpetual gender question – a dear friend of mine, currently pregnant, always answers with: “Of course we prefer a boy.  If it is a girl it is going straight to a scrap yard”.  You asked.

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4.33am  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

4.34am  “Maybe he will go back to sleep”  – mumbles an unidentified deep voice from underneath the duvet

4.35am  WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

4.36am  No he won’t.  I emerge from the cosy depths of the king size bed.  Argh

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

4.38am  I reappear in bed with Peanut clinging on to me.  Right.  Let’s move on swiftly from that minor glitch and go back to sleep.   As I dive underneath the covers, Peanut grumbles and mumbles and holds on to BlueBeretDad’s armpit hair for dear life.

Sometime between 4.39am  and 6.33am – Peanut sticks one finger into my left nostril and pulls out a handful of my hair.  I put an arm over my face to protect it from the ferocious attacks of a not-so-sleepy-anymore baby which makes Peanut re-think his strategy and pull the skin on my neck instead, pinch my arm and put his whole hand into my mouth to carefully inspect one tooth after another.  In silent protest I roll away and push Peanut over towards BlueBeretDad who has been snoring blissfully for the last hour or so.  After yet another spell of fierce inspection from the Peanut front (this time he is digging into my ear) I move away a little bit more and there I find myself with my right leg, buttock and arm dangling off the edge of the bed.  I swear I have managed not to tumble down by sheer will power and nothing else.  Then the numb and cold half of my body almost melts away when I see Peanut snuggle his head into the den of BlueBeretDad’s armpit and suck the dummy to the rhythm of his Dad’s Great Snore Libretto.

6.33am I finally succumb to gravity as the alarm goes off.  Here we go – yet another day ahead of me and I have already hit, literally, rock bottom.

Sometime between 6.33am and 8am  Get up.  Kitchen and breakfast.  I struggle to slice the mango fast enough to the orders of our little Emperor banging his plastic throne in the corner.  Fresh mango, porridge with blueberries, and a piece of toast – Peanut.  A dry piece of toast and cold mug of tea – me.  We get dressed. We brush our teeth.  When I stare into the square eyes wincing back at me in the mirror a funny thought crosses my mind.  Something is not right.  No, not Peanut. He is happily (and not without success) trying to tear down the house before we head off to the nursery.  No, it’s something else.  Something in my mouth.  On my teeth.  The toothpaste is off.  When I check the tube and my eyes go from square to round and square again.  For the last three minutes of blank staring into the void I have been brushing my teeth with Bepenathen Nappy Cream.  Mental note to self – don’t keep that stuff next to your toothpaste as it is impossible to get off your teeth. And it doesn’t taste good.

8.03am Bye Bye bye Dadada.  Only 3 minutes behind the schedule Peanut and I set off to trek across the sleepy streets of Edinburgh, traffic – clogged roads, wheeling into flocks of office people who are clearly before that first coffee, and up Mount Everest aka the Mound.  Time flies by as I assume a half horizontal position, the wheels on the bus go round and round runs the broken record in my head and up we go.  Clickety clack clickety clack.  As usual, I consider taking off layers of vests and jumpers in public as the first wave of sweat flushes my back. So much for the fresh straight out of the shower smell.

9am  Peanut happily installed in the nursery. I manage to spill only half of my coffee all over myself as I slump in front of my desk and off we go. Pear pear. Banana. Banana. Avocado. Avocado. Kiiiiiwi.  Note to self – stop listening to the Baby Music CD. It has infiltrated your subconscious and people are looking.

9am – 5pm  Work.  Work.  Work some more.  Half way through the day I consider crawling underneath the desk and hiding behind a stash of spare photocopy paper. Decide against it when I realise the only sleeping position I could assume would be on all fours with my bum up in the air, pointing strategically towards the door.  Having ruled out that option I go back to the spreadsheets.

6pm  With BlueBeretDad away on business and unable to come to the rescue I drag the buggy up the narrow staircase all the 1001 steps (no, not really that many – only 999 steps).  As soon as we reach the flat I start crawling around the place to set up Peanut’s bath. Peanut crawls after me. Good. A tired baby equals a sleepy baby. Toot!

7.30pm  On My Still To Do List: Tidy up those bloody toys strewn across the living room I remind myself as I pull out Sophie The Giraffe from underneath my slumped body. Squeak.

7.35pm  The couch has swallowed me and refuses to spit out the remains.

7.38pm The TV is on but it all seems to be in gibberish. More gibberish.  Oh look, even more gibberish.

9pm  Finally I enter the kitchen to attack the heap of filthy plates, mini Tupperware boxes, wee plastic spoons, pots, pans and four sad looking dummies that I retrieved from the washing machine and the recycling boxes.

11pm  Done. Both lunch, dinner and breakfast for Peanut prepared and packed. The floor has seen better days but it will have to do for now.  Can it?  Bugger. Forgot to eat. One glance at the fridge, another at the clock. A sneaky peak into Peanut’s lunch box later, my stomach is not a half empty type anymore.

11.05pm  As I creep out of the kitchen and into the bed the clock shows me the finger.

11.09pm  Teeth. Forgot to brush my teeth.  My only remaining brain cell registers that BlueBeretDad is only back tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  Is.  Another.  Day.
P.S. Dear feminists and other politically active fellow women.  Please don’t misunderstand me as I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had in life that I wouldn’t have had if the suffragettes hadn’t left a long line of bite marks in a poor uncle Bobby’s arms.  You have fought for the gift of education, gender equality and equal opportunities for your fellow sisters and I will never forget that.  Yet, I cannot shake off the feeling (it sticks like a nappy cream on my teeth) that in the stampede to buy into Feminism we all failed to notice that we, the women folk, have been slightly short-changed.  With equality and rights and careers came double responsibilities.  Double guilt.  Double amount of dishes and laundry.  Half a job. Half a motherhood combined with being half a partner/wife/girlfriend.  Worse.  Forgetting when the last time was you spoke to your endangered Other Half as they disappeared behind that pile of laundry a few months ago and haven’t re-emerged yet.
As they say “There ain’t no such thing as a calm and content working mother.” Unless you can convince me otherwise.