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!

 

 

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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It doesn’t add up!

Maths equation = no dinner

The end of GCSEs is thankfully on the horizon for many, so in support of our teens going through it at the moment, here are three questions that always pop up in our grown-up world:

The Numbers Quiz

Okay, so maths has never been my strong point, but here’s an equation that just doesn’t add up, so can someone please explain: On Wednesday, Mary goes to the supermarket and spends up to £100 on groceries. The fridge is full and nodding matily to its friend, the snack cupboard, who winks back and give a thumbs up. But come Friday and the kids get home from school there is nothing left in the cupboard and Mary is scrabbling around at the back of the freezer trying to find something (anything! 😳) she has ‘prepared earlier’ (as if! She’s just not one of those mums, remember). 😭 Answers to this connundrum please on our comments page. (There will be a prize of a squishy brown banana for the best response.)

The ‘Odds-on This Always Happens’ Equation:

Take your bets, please, ladies and gents: in percentage terms, how likely is it that at exactly the moment your own kids are acting feral in public, you – harassed, red, sweating – will look up and see the perfect Von Trapp family with its cherub-like offspring giving you the snooty one-raised eyebrow treatment, a book titled Brain Games for Clever Kids smugly sticking out of Mother Dearest’s tote bag? (Aren’t all kids clever? They’re certainly manipulative!) We’ll give you the answer to this, as if you didn’t know: it happens 100% of the time. ‘Course it does.

The Aural Comprehension Test:

This is a listening exercise: try it next time you have to phone Apple Support, Amazon, or any technical department of a worldwide corporation. You’ve dialled up, tapped through the various buttons until you finally….FINALLY… get through to an actual human being to talk to. But hang on… is it an actual human being, or is it in fact a robot? Because first there’s the staccato speech. ‘HELLO-MAD-AM. YOU-ARE-SPEAKING-TO- *Indecipherable – possibly a code number* TODAY. HOW-MAY-I-HELP-YOU?’ And then after the sort of autoscript-you’re-not-sure-you’re-listening-to-a-recording-or-not voice, it throws you by asking a question. Oh, it IS a human voice, you decide, but then you make some silly mistake, faff about saying, ‘Oooh, the serial number? Umm, silly me, I don’t seem to be able to find that…er… let me just get my reading glasses…’ and there isn’t the affirmation of a sympathetic, or even fed-up human reaction. So you try to make a little joke. ‘A-ha-ha’ you might say in a jaunty tone, ‘I know those glasses must be in my bag somewhere… I know I had them only yesterday… trouble is, I need them to find them, a-ha-ha-ha… Oh! They’re on my head!’ Big fat nothing on the other end. Come on, even SIRI has the temerity to give you a bit of backchat. But no, these beings are polite, they deal with your problem, they are uncannily effective in sorting out your problem, they don’t tend to transfer you or put you on hold. And at the end of your call, no matter how much trouble you’ve been, in the same staccato tone, they tell you they really enjoyed speaking with you today and wish you a good day. And that’s surely the big giveaway isn’t it – for no mere mortal customer service operator is ever that happy to have dealt with you, surely?

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My Secret Man

I’ve been happily married to Stressed Husband for 23 years now. Well, I say happily but there’s something I should tell him. I have a secret and…it’s another man.

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It all started about two years ago when I first noticed him standing there on my local high street. In fact, I literally bumped into him while I was rushing about getting the weekly shop and remember how my heart skipped a beat. I’d been looking for a guy like him for what seemed like forever.

I marvelled at how intelligent he seemed– so powerful. There were days when I’d see him surrounded by a group of people, each one enthralled with what he had to tell them… he had women hanging on to his every word. I didn’t approach him at first – it seemed wrong. I thought he was too good to be true.

Until one day, I woke up and knew I had to talk to him. He was all I’d been thinking about and I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on anything until I’d seen him…spoken to him. But what if he wasn’t what he seemed? What if he just looked the part but couldn’t actually do the deed I wanted him to…needed him to so badly?

I knew Stressed Husband was beginning to wonder why I didn’t text or call him during the day like I used to. But I just couldn’t.

And so the secret meetings started. Every time I left him I felt elated – I couldn’t wait to call my friends immediately and excitedly tweeted about my happiness and then… my daughters found out. I decided to sit them down and explain everything, very calmly. They understood and promised not to tell their dad… I felt more guilty than ever.

Seeing this other man has been costing me a fortune and I’ve been hiding the joint bank account statements, worrying that if Stressed Husband notices the regular cash withdrawals he’ll start to question me.

What’s worse is that I’ve found out my daughters are talking about this man and have even said they want to visit him too! I’m going to have find another way…

So now I’ve invested in some hard-core screen protectors for me and my girls. The fabulous Cell Phone Guru on the high street won’t be seeing me again and Stressed Husband need never know our Special Relationship. But ladies, if you’ve got any cracks that need attention…he’s amazing and worth every penny!

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