April 2007: Blame the mother

One of my freelance jobs is to find news stories for a parenting website. I’ve been doing it for just over a month and do you know what I’ve learned? Mothers are to blame. For everything.

During pregnancy, depression causes premature birth and obesity leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, emergency caesareans, wound infections and blood clots. And you mustn’t drink because “even very small amounts of alcohol could result in foetal alcohol syndrome, which may cause low birth weight, short stature, flattened features, heart and kidney abnormalities, deafness and brain damage leading to poor hand-to-eye co-ordination and behavioural difficulties”. Oh and if you eat beef you’re risking damaging the future fertility of your unborn son (but only if you’re American).

But it doesn’t end with pregnancy, no. “From 2009, expectant mothers will be able to choose whether they go to hospital, a midwife-led unit or stay at home to have their children delivered.” To have their children delivered?  We’re talking about babies, not parcels. And I hate to break this to anyone, but babies do their level best to deliver themselves. You could be unconscious and the little critter would still come out. Plus I was under the impression it was already my choice where and how my own child exited my own body. No?

In fact, even before you have kids, you’re wrong. The age of first-time mums has been rising steadily since the 1970s and is now over 30 for the first time ever, “which may be due to increasing numbers of women putting off having a family until they have established relationships and settled careers.” The selfish bitches.

Although it annoys the hell out of me, I’ve kind of got used to it. But a line in the story I read today really put me over the edge:

TODDLERS who are left in nurseries for seven hours a day are more “antisocial, worried and upset” than others, government research has found.

The disturbing study, which is likely to concern Britain’s 4.9 million working mothers, was condemned yesterday as unhelpful by equality campaigners.

Yes, because Britain’s 4.6 million working fathers couldn’t possibly give a shit, could they?

And they say the battle for equality was won in the seventies. (Some interesting info here from the Equal Opportunities Commission.)

December 2006: George Clooney

Yep, it’s that man again. I have been known to bore people with the history of my Clooney-crush and I can’t believe I’ve let you people get away with it for so long (it’s possible that I haven’t and I’m repeating myself, but what the hell – it’s my blog).

So. Back in the olden days when people first had videos, my dad had a mate who owned a video shop and we used to get a lot of films out. One of them was this idiotic thing about killer tomatoes. I remember a scene with what looked like blood on the floor and the police officer tasted it and said “Catsup” or something. I was horrified to think that police might test blood by tasting it, but what did I know, I was only about 10. I remember that the tomatoes could be “killed” by a certain song and that once the song was playing, but the tomatoes kept on coming and then you saw they were massive and they were wearing earmuffs. And I remember this cute guy.

Then Channel 4 started and started to show US comedy shows at 9pm on a Friday night (I think). There was this one called ER or Emergency Room starring Elliot Gould and it had this cute character called Ace. He was thick, but he was cute. Me and my sister loved him. We checked his name in the credits: George Clooney. I was then – as now – obsessed with US TV and whenever I watched anything, I crossed my fingers and whispered “George Clooney, George Clooney” to myself. One day, it worked. He was “Special guest star: George Clooney” on Crazy Like A Fox.

A few years passed and 9pm Friday on Channel 4 was Roseanne. And Roseanne’s boss was Booker. George Clooney. This time he was a bit of an asshole, but he was funny and sexy and my mum joined me and my sister in our crush. (We adored Roseanne in our house.)

A few more years went by and I read about a TV show called ER starring George Clooney. But. That made no sense. It had been years since ER had finished, they surely couldn’t be bringing it back now. It was just a coincidence. A different ER, but the same George Clooney. And goodness me, he’d grown up a bit since Roseanne. He was Dr Doug Ross and he was, well, he was incredible. Sexy, charming, funny, damaged, principled, strong and weak. I loved him.

I loved that he was so upset by giving a little boy (his name was Che-che; and his mother was played by Lucy Liu) a spinal tap that he shagged Carter’s girlfriend. I loved that when he saw the footprint on the back of a little girl who’d “fallen” off a balcony that he ran straight out and smashed her father in the face. I even loved that Hathaway had been so devastated by their break-up that she’d tried to kill herself (and that’s so not healthy). I loved his relationship with Mark and how incredible he looked in that black t-shirt and jeans when he went to retrieve his father’s body from … somewhere hot.

I loved how he wasn’t afraid of anyone and that he was his own worst enemy and knew it. I loved how he tried to take care of the homeless girl played by Kirsten Dunst even though she kept abusing his kindness. And, oh my god, I loved how he burst out of the water, holding that almost-drowned child, wearing a tux, in the helicopter’s spotlight. And I loved his face – and his beard – when Carol moved to Portland to be with him and their twins and his sodding boat.

October 2006: Watch out, watch out

Jarvis Cocker edited last Sunday’s Observer Music Monthly and it included a fantastic piece about unintentionally scary songs.

Suggestions included Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire thanks to the lyric, ‘Hey little girl is your daddy home?’ Billy Bragg apparently called it ‘the rapist’s song’. Ugh. And some really disturbing music/murder connections which I won’t repeat here cos they’re too horrible.

Ultravox’s Dancing With Tears in My Eyes is suggested and that would have to be one of mine too. Scared the crap out of me due to ever-present teenage nuclear war paranoia (thanks to that sodding Protect & Survive campaign). Two Tribes for the same reason. Still can’t hear that siren and ‘if your grandmother or any other member of your family should die whilst in the shelter, put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes’ without wanting to burst into tears.

There’s an in-between bit on Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation album where you hear snatches of different TV or radio channels and (and I haven’t heard it for a long time, so you’ll have to excuse the vagueness) there’s something about a school shooting and in my mind you hear children screaming (though you might not really). I remember listening to that album on my walkman, while on a National Express overnight coach that had stopped for a driver break in a dark garage in Birmingham. Earlier I’d been reading one of the True Crime magazines I was into at the time. The combination gave me a right nervy episode that I don’t like to think about even now.


Hey Matthew by Karel Fialka – god, just got total shivers thinking of that ‘The A-Team, The A-Team, I see the A-Team’ bit.

– In fact, anything with children singing. Grocer Jack, which was on an album we used to play when I worked in Waterstone’s. That one from The Lost Boys.

The Humphrey Song by the Mad Hatters. “Watch out, watch out, watch out, watch out … there’s a Humphrey about!”

Puff the Magic Dragon makes me cry. Well, it would if I ever listened to it, but I get shivers just thinking about it so I don’t.

Bright Eyes is more creepy/upsetting than scary (probably linked to the fact that I had to be carried weeping out of a school showing of Watership Down). Also We Are Siamese from The Aristocats.

Jeez. After all that I’m going to have to go and not lie down in a very bright room.

So what are yours then?

September 2006: Happy Anniversary… now piss off*

My husband is lovely. No, really, he is.

For our wedding anniversary he made me an iPod playlist (the modern equivalent of a mix-tape) – we’d agreed not to buy each other anything, and I thought it was a lovely idea. Until I listened to it.

Goodbye Girl by Squeeze
Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp
I Love You, Goodbye by Thomas Dolby
I Can’t Take It by Cheap Trick
and Kyle’s Mom Is A Bitch from South Park (as D reminded me in the comments!)

I had a moment of ‘well, that’s a great way to break it to me!’ but almost immediately realised that he wouldn’t even have noticed (either that or he’s sublimating his unhappiness into iPod playlists ..). When I told him he was (very) briefly mortified and then thoroughly amused.

But this one was perhaps a step too far – from Todd Rundgren’s Tiny Demons:

One of them plays a piccolo in my ear
Another one makes me smell things that aren’t there
And they know where to hide
And they know everything that’s inside
Of my head
Tiny demons, inside me

Then again, that may explain the whole thing …

* It is/was in February – I’ve been meaning to blog about this since then …

December 2005: Happy now?

Can anyone actually listen to Starmaker by the Kids From Fame without crying? I know I can’t. And my sister can’t. And after the Fame documentary a couple of years ago, Dominik Diamond admitted he can’t either.

What is it about it? The lyrics:

fameHere as I watch the ships go by
I’m rooted to my shore
I keep asking myself why
And if there’s more on the other side
Here as I see the friends I thought I made
A little bit crazed and knowing now
We’ve outgrown one another
Now when I see the things I want
I can take the things I see
But I keep asking myself why
And if there ain’t just a little bit more for me
Here when it’s time to count the cost
I keep measuring what I’ve lost
And wondering if you knew
It would all wind up with you

Here as I watch the time go by
How I’d like to sail away
Leaving all my past behind
But I know I’d only last for a couple of days
Here stands everything I thought I made
It’s the only life I know
And I can’t even call it my own
I’ve got no home, I belong to you

It could be because when Fame was on I was so young and it was all ahead of me and I thought my future would be about great things and excitement and adventure and .. and ..

.. and there has been. Just not quite like I thought. I’ve never danced on top of a taxi in New York, for example. Or it could be that it makes me think of the past I’ve left behind and all the mistakes I’ve made. But that should make me happy because I have learned from them (I hope).

Maybe it’s just because I wanted to be Coco (even though I was more of a Doris) and I now realise I’m not (either) and probably never will be.

Yeah, it could be that.

June 2005: Fish mousse

celerylogI laughed so hard at this today. This one’s my favourite.

When I wasn’t hooting at fish mousse I was quitting my job. Yep, handed my notice in today. Not finishing until the end of August/beginning September, but still, it’s a big step. Particularly since I haven’t got another job.

I’m going to concentrate on my writing. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Like a politician resigning to spend more time with his family, but that’s what I’m going to do. Yikes. So that means I’ve got ten weeks to save up enough money to live on. Oh dear.

January 2005: 100 Things

1. I was born in Canada.
2. We came back to the UK when I was four months old.
3. We came back by ship.
4. It was a rough journey.
5. Paul Newman was on board.
6. But we didn’t get to meet him.
7. Which was a shame because he was my mum’s heartthrob.
8. Along with Burt Reynolds.
9. She also liked George Clooney.
10. As do I.
11. The last night I spent with my mum before she died we watched Out of Sight.
12. I said ‘This is my favourite bit’.
13. And she said, ‘Why? Do you see his willy?’
14. You don’t.
15. Unfortunately.
16. But you do see his arse in Solaris.
17. When I was little I had an imaginary friend named Mr Corbett.
18. He was the dad from the Sooty Show.
19. Once I said I’d left him at my nan’s house and my dad said, ‘No …
20. … he’s running behind the car.’
21. I realised recently that I’ve always thought of myself as Welsh.
22. Even though I’m not.
23. But my name is.
24. At school I was painfully shy.
25. But then I got a job selling Kleeneze door to door and got over it.
26. Now I’m not shy but I am self-conscious.
27. Because I’m very vain.
28. I’m trying to get over it.
29. So that one day I can do karaoke.
30. I once auditioned for Movie Watch.
31. Remember it? It was presented by Johnny Vaughn.
32. I was almost sick with nerves.
33. And didn’t stop shaking for ages after.
34. But I didn’t get on.
35. I used to be in the Bucks Fizz fan club.
36. We were called Fizzers.
37. After Bucks Fizz had their coach crash I fell out with my friends.
38. Because they thought it was funny.
39. But Mike Nolan nearly died!
40. The night I lost my virginity I’d drunk wine, beer, tequila, White Russian, Black Russian and whisky.
41. I don’t remember much about it.
42. Probably for the best.
43. When my husband and I first met we wrote our life stories for each other.
44. They were both pretty boring.
45. My first crush was on Bruce Boxleitner in How The West Was Won.
46. I wonder what he’s doing now …
47. I think he married Half Pint from Little House on the Prairie.
48. I’ve worn glasses since I was 6.
49. My first pair were pink NHS with a plaster over one lens.
50. No wonder I grew up to be a dork.
51. The day before Charles and Diana’s wedding the wind slammed our lounge door.
52. With my finger in it.
53. The whole nail came out from the nail bed.
54. My mum found it on the floor.
55. Along with the spray of blood up the wall.
56. And a note from my dad saying ‘Gone to hospital’.
57. I had six stitches.
58. And fainted when they were removed.
59. Because they pulled them through the scab. (Sorry)
60. The nail still doesn’t grow properly.
61. When I eat peanuts I store them in my cheeks.
62. Like a squirrel.
63. I once met a boy called Jamie.
64. I asked him if he had a Magic Torch.
65. He didn’t laugh.
66. I didn’t really fancy him anyway.
67. I met Robbie Williams a few times when he was in Take That.
68. Campest man I’ve ever met.
69. Lovely though.
70. Sexiest man I’ve every met was Ian Astbury from The Cult.
71. Weird, I know.
72. I don’t know what it was about him.
73. But it wasn’t that he was wearing eyeliner.
74. My favourite song of all time is Could It Be Magic by Barry Manilow.
75. He describes it as a “musical orgasm”.
76. The world needs more musical orgasms, don’t you think?
77. Most of the time I live in a world of my own.
78. I don’t have a problem with that.
79. Sometimes other people do.
80. But none of my imaginary friends ever does.
81. Whenever I go on holiday I always fantasise about moving there.
82. One of these days I will.
83. I’m thinking Canada.
84. Or Italy.
85. A tramp once kissed me in the street.
86. I pick my nose.
87. A lot.
88. I feel cool when I’ve got a cup of takeaway coffee.
89. I imagine it’s what it feels like to smoke.
90. I’ve never smoked.
91. I’d be thinner if I did.
92. I’ve got an obsessive personality.
93. But I’m scared of drugs so that’s okay.
94. Matt Goss might disagree.
95. Since I stood outside his house for two years.
96. In Redwood National Park I hugged a tree.
97. It didn’t hug me back.
98. Apparently if I’d waited long enough it would have.
99. My son is the best thing in my life.
100. And my life is pretty good.