Lyrically speaking…

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The recent blast of hot weather coincided with a visit to my local Zumba class and combined to bring me straight back to our summer holiday. As I’ve mentioned before, my exercise regime seems to go to pot once the kids break up for school hols. But not this year – I actually moved my lazy butt and cha-cha-cha’d off to the Zumba classes that took place every morning on a sun-dappled ‘village’ square and felt very proud of myself for doing so!

Returning to my local class last week, I heard a couple of familiar tunes and couldn’t resist a smile. In their native Spanish, all these songs sound so captivating and make me want to sway rhythmically, whilst my mind takes me to Dreams-come-trueville, a sundrenched landscape full of bougainvillea and hope. My spattering of Spanish allows me to hazard a guess that the general theme of most of these tunes is something to do with ‘dancing’; ‘love’; ‘home’ and (inexplicably) ‘doors/exits’. The rest of the lyrics are an enigma to me so, as I listen to the lilting voices, I imagine they are warbling out a haunting love song, yearning for a lost lover perhaps, or eloping with a beautiful stranger to a far-off land (romantic retro fool that I am). I try to memorize the lyrics even if I don’t understand them, but they always become an Anglicised approximation, morphing into lines such as ‘Listen to my hair dance’ or ‘Follow the leader now’ followed by a staccato ‘chocca locca, tocca tocca tocca’ when I really can’t fathom what they’re saying.

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So there I am, lost in a stupor of romantic gobbledegook, once again channelling my inner Latina, when suddenly the singer belts out a couple of lines in English and the magic is spoit. One moment it’s all ‘Mi gusta mi gusta, baile amor’, then suddenly some awful cheesy version butts in and bursts my bubble. I am no longer dancing along to what I think is ‘Carry me away on your wild horse, señor’ – suddenly I am swaying to lyrics along the lines of ‘You’re my sweetness and light, my sugar and spice’ – ugh! Or, I appear to be dancing along to a song about what sounds like a ‘Boiler Man’ who gets around a bit…Columbia, New York, Puerto Rica and Jamaica are all on his list apparently (turns out that song was Bailame – translation: Bailame…I imagine it’s something to do with dance!)

As if shuffling along to a tune about a utility lover wasn’t bad enough, it’s so much worse when the lyrics are in full-English, leaving nothing to my imagination. Am I the only person to feel a bit foolish shaking my booty to J’Lo’s ‘I ain’t your mama’.  She’s nagging her bloke about how he’s a good for nothing, playing video games all day, while she’s rushing off to work and basically having a whinge that she’s not going to do his laundry any more. Now, instead of galloping off into the sunset with my sombrero’d hero, I’m grooving along to someone’s domestic problems. What next? Songs arguing about who left the loo seat up, or complaining the dishwasher’s not been stacked correctly?! Come on! Worse are the ones given a grimy feel, where some random female is screeching that she just wants to get her ‘jiggedy… down to the floo-or’, or a deep-voiced ‘Shaggy’ wannabe urges his lover to ‘let me take you from behind…I won’t come until it’s time’ – eek! Given that on holiday these classes were attended by all ages, I wasn’t too comfortable watching eight-year-olds happily twerking along to that one! It wouldn’t be so bad if the woman swiped back at Shaggy – ‘F’God’s sake, will you leave off, I’ve just come back from a double night shift… leave me alone!!’ Surely that would be more of a strike for feminism? I don’t know, I could only hope the little girls didn’t understand English and just thought they were dancing along to a jolly tune, in much the same way I’m under a false impression when I’m moving along to what I imagine is a Latino love song.

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It’s funny when you actually translate the lyrics of that amazing song you heard on holiday. A few years back I returned from Italy obsessed by a Portuguese number called Ai Se Eu Te Pego by Michel Teló (or the Nossa song…). I spent ages trying to track down what this catchy tune was – I finally found it on a holiday forum and discovered on translation it consisted of only about three lines, generally saying, ‘Oh, when I see you at the party… delicious, delicious… I’m gonna catch you, oh yes I am!’ Ha ha! (I still love it though…)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcm55lU9knw

Maybe it’s because I grew up devouring song lyrics in the likes of music magazines like Smash Hits – whether it was love songs by Luther Vandross, clever storytelling by Madness or Squeeze, or more anarchic tunes by The Jam, the words had some sort of meaning or poetry behind them. Now? Well, maybe I’m just old but it seems that the lyrics on most mainstream songs are just a bit lazy these days (unfortunately I am forced to listen to them on most car journeys involving my kids…my parenting has gone badly off-track somewhere along the line). Sometimes they mash up old favourites and put new words on them. Or sometimes they just come up with a tune and stick a load of nonsense on and get a popular singer to back it. Take Rihanna’s recent hit ‘Work’: It wasn’t as if she had a lot of lines to remember, but at times she sounded like she just couldn’t be bothered. Work, work, work, work, work morphed into Ner ner ner ner ner. Come on, Rihanna, you can do better than that surely! Even the holiday dance class decided she just wasn’t making enough effort so thankfully that track wasn’t on the playlist.

Returning home after that recent Zumba class, I had the sounds of summer ringing in my head. I shall leave you with a link to my current favourite – the beautiful La Bicicleta by Shakira and some bloke called Carlos Vives… on translation, it seems to be just as cheesily romantic as I imagined… meeting your true love and pedalling off into the sunset with them on a push-bike (if you discover a less wholesome translation, I’d rather not know, thanks). I’ll let you samba off to it now… best enjoyed with a rose betwixt your teeth whilst adopting a dramatic pose and pained love-worn expression. ¡Olé!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UV0QGLmYys

 

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Where, oh where, shall we go next year?

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Hard to believe now, but I used to be quite the intrepid traveller, whipping off for a cultural adventure in Peru…soaking up the wonders of nature in the Galápagos and Costa Rica… trekking in Thailand… Sorry, have to stop myself there before I get all nostalgic for ‘Young Me’. Those days, of course, were all pre-kids.

Now, I know there are a great many parents out there who continue to have these sort of adventures with their young ones in tow, and I salute and envy these people in equal measure. But I am Not Those Mums, remember. Simply organising a day trip with sterilised containers and 19 changes of toddler clothes was enough to overwhelm me, so family holidays had to take a different path. Continue reading “Where, oh where, shall we go next year?”

NTM Kinda People

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We like to applaud those people who inspire, delight and make us laugh. So this week, please give a big hand to these two lovely ladies…

First up, Claudia Winkleman. Ahh, good old Claudia. Really enjoying her column in The Sunday Times’ Style mag, where she keeps it real, identifying with us mere mortals, while giving us a belly-laugh with her musings. Take her recent thoughts on preparing for a beach holiday, which she describes as ‘truly ghastly’, especially as ‘we all have our perfect friends who are always ready to throw on a size-8, side-tie bikini… the permanently waxed people who order a risotto and only eat half’. I think we all know people like that, for whom it all seems so effortless, so it’s reassuring to know that, while Claudia herself may be heard ordering ‘a great big plate of fennel with a side order of steamed beans, please. Let’s go mad and add half a radish on top’, what she truly desires is a stuffed-crust, extra-large pepperoni pizza.

Claudia-Winkleman in Times

She’s right, it is all a bit of a faff isn’t it. All the hours (days? Weeks?)  spent exfoliating and tanning and toning, never mind the gym work and food deprivation, for just a week or two sprawled on a beach somewhere if you’re lucky.

Looking at the glam pics on Instagram you’d never guess the work that goes into those perfect images, so it’s reassuring to know there are some down-to-earth celebs out there who tell it like it is. Beach body ready? Whatever that is, I don’t have time. This is the body I’ve been given and the beach (and everyone else) will just have to take me the way it finds me.

We’d also like to give a big cheer to… Adele

Adele at Glasto 2016

Doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of her music or not, we think this lady is worth celebrating for her ‘down with the people’ vibe and all-round general loveliness. Headlining at Glastonbury, she appeared on stage with her customary cuppa, engaging with her audience and popping round the stage for a chat with them. Never one to take herself too seriously, this gal wasn’t afraid to admit her nerves about performing in front of the festival crowd, and even stopped belting out her songs a couple of times, saying she’d mucked up and had to start again (we honestly didn’t notice). Nice to know she hasn’t gone all starry on us. Who could forget the BBC TV sketch with Graham Norton, where she’s disguised as an Adele tribute act, adopting a comedy persona and taking the mick out of herself. She proves talented singers don’t have to be a size silly or  expose their ‘bits’ to enjoy global  success – surely a better role model for our daughters than some we could mention. We even forgive that potty mouth of hers – she’d be welcome round ours for a brew anytime!

 

 

No More School Runs

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So, prize for the most embarrassing parent at the Year 6 leavers’ assembly goes to… me. Yep, everyone give a big hand to the mum who couldn’t stop blubbing. Eek! Was it the collection of shiny innocent-looking faces up there on the podium that set me off (notice I say innocent-looking), or glancing down at the programme with the word ‘Goodbye’ scrawled in huge childish letters? Was it the kids’ sincerity when they started warbling out What A Wonderful World without any irony in their sweet voices? Or When A Knight Won His Spurs, a hymn that took me waaaay back to my own primary years with my fellow Not Those Mumma. Oooh, I don’t know, it wasn’t just today if I’m honest – I’ve been feeling a bit wobbly these past few weeks, it has to be said. And indeed there’s enough going on to feel very wobbly about. But, putting disturbing world events aside for a moment, I know my particular jelly-like feelings are rooted in the fact that I’ve reached the end of an era… the school run.

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Now, I know many schools will have broken up already and many of you will be kicking back, relaxing, all thoughts of the classroom banished until September. But if you can bear to, stick with me… for I sort of need a shoulder to cry on (albeit a virtual one).

It’s so strange, this utter emotional wretchedness that has befallen me of late, because if you’d asked me about this a few years ago, I’d probably have said how I couldn’t wait to be relieved of this daily duty – the mad rush in the morning, my child urging me to hurry up (shouldn’t it have been the other way round?), then negotiating all the traffic (hey, give me a break – we live a 40-minute walk away) and cursing people for parking on double-yellows just so they could get that bit closer to the gate rather than ‘park and stride’.

So shouldn’t I be feeling a sense of relief rather than a sense of mourning? Is it because I’m a midlifer that I feel the oncoming change so keenly? Is it my crazy hormones that have been sending me into a tearful mess every time I mentally tick another day off until that final drop-off? Is it just a reminder that I’m getting older or my kids don’t need me so much? Maybe it’s the knowledge that I’ll no longer share a friendly ‘hi’ or pass the time of day with the other parents now. Once they’re in secondary school it takes a very special effort to keep in touch, and that’s hard when people are busy dashing off to jobs as well.

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Perhaps it’s the sad realisation that there will be no more hand-holding or a peck on the cheek at the school gate. Or maybe it’s that there will be no more cheering on at sports day, no more hastily put-together class assemblies or helping out at the Christmas fair. Is it because I know that once they hit secondary school, parents become akin to an annoying gnat in the eyes of their offspring? And even if they’re not still too old for a cuddle, peer-pressure and Snapchat put paid to them ever admitting to wanting one.

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But who am I kidding? Maybe I’ve always been this way. Looking back, I can remember returning to work watery-eyed after I’d dropped my first-born at nursery for his first day. He was fine, absolutely fine being separated from me, turning away from me all too easily and giving his lovely new carer a cheerful gummy grin (then again, he had previous on this – his very first smile at six weeks wasn’t at me or his dad, but at the washing machine!). Of course I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way really, but I felt ravaged. Then, once I’d settled into a happy routine of dropping him off, I would pass a school on the way to the station. One day in early September I squeezed past a group of reception-age kids congregating outside with their parents, all waiting to go in on their very special first day of school – and that set me off on another watery-eyed journey, even though it would be four years before my own would be starting school. I could already see the milestones flying by. Goodness only knows what the nursery staff made of me on my boy’s last day there before he joined ‘big school’ – as they sat there wishing him well and letting him tuck in to a farewell piece of cake, I could only look on, dabbing frantically at my misty eyes and blowing my nose emphatically.

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But this has become a bit of a habit, and a source of ridicule among my school-mum friends – who have witnessed the same emotional outpourings from me, whether it was my youngest sitting in uniform waiting to meet his reception class; or waving the older one off on a school trip (I had to remove myself and go and hide in the car, where I had a good blub before I went home to sniff his pillow). At least I didn’t go as far as the mum who ran after the school bus, waving alongside and bawling her eyes out (though in truth my heart was with her).

So, tomorrow morning, if you should pass a crumpled-looking soul in the street – gaunt expression, eyes covered by huge sunglasses even if it’s pouring down, do spare a thought for her – it could well be me!

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The make-up thief

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So, a plump makeup bag nestles safely in my dressing table drawer as I nod off, happy that my high-end foundation is ready to make me look like ‘me, only a million times better’ in the morning. I didn’t want to spend that much on a foundation, but how could I not when I had such amazing compliments from the orange girl at the counter… “Your skin, madam, is luminous! You’re how old? Sorry? Please! Surely you mean thirty eight, not forty eight!” Ahhh, off I nod with a smile on my face.

7am I awake…pillow creases adorn my sallow cheeks, violet blue arcs dented underneath my eyes. But fear not! Liquid magic is awaiting within my make-up bag and soon all will be well with the world – and my face will no longer frighten little children on the morning dog walk. But…what’s this? The red, leather pouch I’ve come to love like a child, seems less padded than last night. In fact, it’s almost flaccid! I zip it open and almost faint. GONE! ALL MY MAKE-UP IS GONE! All that’s left is a nub of a 10-year-old shimmery lippie and a blunt eyeliner. I run – hobble – downstairs as fast as my poor old hips will allow and, just as I thought: there sitting at the kitchen island is The Teen. Not the exhausted looking one with a splattering of hormonal blemishes on her chin who stomped angrily upstairs to bed last night because ‘it’s NOT FAIR’ (can’t remember what wasn’t fair because nothing is fair as far as she’s concerned). No, here was a teen whose skin looked as if it had been caressed and anointed by the fair hands of a hundred sweet singing cherubs. She was glowing with youth, wrinkle free, not a bloody spot or crinkle in sight. Now it’s my turn to say it: IT’S NOT FAIR!

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Ok, ok, so leaving secondary school means you’re  old enough to wear makeup BUT how come it’s so expertly applied? And how come it’s MINE?!

 

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Lisa NTM and Queen Teen: it takes a lot of practise to get that pout just right you know!

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Goodbye Hangover Mummy

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Growing up with parents whose partying and drinking habits made Mad Men’s Don and Betty Draper look like teetotal squares, means my childhood memories are full of impromptu house parties where I’d sit on the stairs – way past bedtime – with my siblings, watching the exciting goings on through plumes of smoke from Embassy Gold cigarettes and a pumping soundtrack of Diana Ross and Rod Stewart. I marvelled at the colourful concoctions that the glamorous ladies were sipping and wondered to myself why their dancing became more enthusiastic and their voices louder after each glass. Well, now I know.

Nowadays, my mum and dad are happily sipping red wine on the Costa del Sol and have handed over the party baton – or should that be ‘the party bottle’ – to me with the tipple de jour now being Prosecco rather than Babycham.

My love of bubbles is known throughout social circles and I’m often referred to as Fizzy Friday by many friends who know that when that sweet spot of 5 o’clock on a Friday comes-a-calling (or maybe 4.30 in the summer…) I’m off to our local for cut-price Prosecco night!

Sadly though, I’m realising more and more that my love of bubbles has to be reigned in – as my grown-up kids now delight in informing me. After a few drinks, it doesn’t take ‘fun, party mum’ long before she leaves the building, pushed meanly out of the exit and replaced the next day by stumbling, morose ‘hangover mum’. And boy, she’s not a pretty sight.

I need to face it, my mid-lifer’s body can no longer metabolise alcohol as it once could pre-40. And though I may look quite youthful for my age (*cough* so I’ve been told) there’s no hiding from the slowly disintegrating cells inside my body.

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‘Hangover mum’ can be found curled up on the sofa – a shaking, green wreck of a woman, muttering nonsensical sentences littered with foodstuff words from the carb and sugar category in a pathetic, trembly little voice: “Oooh, head… feel… sick… must have Lucozade… pizza… help… noooo… need bucket… crisps…cheese… bread… water…heeeelp…” I still try the “Mummy has a tummy bug kids, you’ll have to fend for yourself today” excuse, but instead of getting a sympathetic response and a blanket tucked around me, I get smirks and eye-rolls from Grown-Up Girl and Uni Lad, who leave me to fester without even fetching me a glass of water. So selfish!

But it’s not even the hangover that’s the worse thing, it’s the feeling of guilt! As I lie in bed, clutching my head and trying to work out how bad this hangover is on a scale of 1-10 (often 8 and above nowadays), I suddenly have hazy flashbacks of sending love texts to friends at about five drinks in…Oh my god, what did I say? But I can’t open my eyes to check my texts because they’re stuck shut with last night’s clumpy mascara…and have I even got my phone still? Or have I lost it, because I can’t remember getting home or having my bag on me when I left the pub!

Finally managing to feel my way along the wall to the loo, one boob flopping its way out of my PJ vest, I’m seriously hoping the kids haven’t got friends staying over. Stomach churning, I crouch down at the loo and inwardly scold myself. At 48, I really shouldn’t be doing this. My 16-year-old Teen Girl knocks at the door: “Mum…are you okay? I heard you fall on the stairs last night.” Oh dear. My youngest child, she still worries about Mummy, bless her. “I’m fine babe,” I call back in my chirpiest voice, which actually sounds like a 60-year-old East End gangster who’s lived his life on a diet of Marlboro Reds and Jack Daniels. “I think I may have a tummy bug,” I venture between heaves.

“Yeah, right Mum. Course you do.” she sneers. “It’s not big and it’s not clever…” and with that, off trots Teen Girl. And you know what? She’s absolutely right!

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The Joy of Stretch

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I don’t know about you, but as soon as the kids are off school for the holidays, my gym routine goes by the wayside… and stays that way for weeks after they’ve gone back. And even though I hadn’t been a couch potato over half term (my nagging Fitbit made sure of that), I still felt old and stiff, with aching joints and a permanent crick in my neck.

“I’m broken,” I complained to The Husband, as I collapsed into bed in a heap one night, grateful for the coolness of the plump pillow, and trying to forget the fact that there wasn’t any bread for The Kid’s packed lunch the next day.

“You must stop with this obsession of seeing yourself as a Lego mini-figure,” he replied distractedly, one eye on his Twitter feed. Then, relenting, he put down his iPad and started half-heartedly to pluck methodically at my back, moving up towards the muscles around the base of my neck. (There’s a reason it pays not to skimp on a professional masseur). I made mildly embarrassing purring sounds while my face formed a grimacing expression. I was grateful for his efforts but, really, this wasn’t hitting the mark. I needed more. Much more…

So I resolved to get myself back down to the gym the very next morning and sneaked into the back of the Body Balance class. And what a wise choice that was. Positioning myself in an area where I could not easily see the mirrors meant I could kid myself I was 20 years younger and have the body of Sofia Vergara. But I digress…where was I? Oh yes, so there I was, tucked at the back of the studio, and I gave it my all and took on those yoga-type stretches with gusto. An hour flew by and by the end of the class I felt rejuvenated – OK maybe not 20, but at least 10 years younger. (Still didn’t look like flippin’ Sofia Vergara, mind, but the five minutes’ relaxation at the end helped – gave me a chance to have a nice little nap and dream that I was indeed Modern Family‘s Columbian sex-bomb).

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SO, going forwards (as they like to say in corporate circles), I will be making this my regular habit and booking on every week… except not next week, as I’ve arranged to meet my friend Sal in town, um… *flicks through calendar* …and then the following week I’ve got that dental appointment – mmm, won’t feel like doing much after that. And the week after that *more flicking through dates* it’s the optician and then…. oh! Well then it’s the school holidays again!

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