Friday, December 19, 2008

Take a Letter

This time last year we were in Lappland, where the Little Ducks were astounded to see that Father Christmas was actually reading their actual letters when we popped in to see him (rude not to, having gone all that way). Knowing that their missives really did reach the Man Himself made this year's task of writing even more meaningful, and even more deserving of a charm offensive.

JP went down the route of softening the blow of the long and expensive list by neatly boxing all his entries and adding please to every one - as follows:




Watch please
Winter Prem Ball please
Super Mario Bros on DS please
Triop Park please (prehistoric shrimp again!)
Cluedo Discover the Secrets please
Scalextric Street Gliderz Set please
Donkey Kong Jungle Climber on DS please
Deluxe Indiana Jones costume please
Horrid Practical Jokes please
Crystal Growing Kit please
Professor Layton and the Curious Village on DS please


Tiddler went with flattery, bribery and a single purpose - as follows:




Dear Father Christmas,

Thank you for the presents that you brought me last year.

I hope you have a safe jouney on Christmas Eve. Please can you bring me a new premier league football and please in red and white.

I will leave you a cup of tea and a mice pie and some carrats for your riand dear.

Love from Tiddler xxxxx I love you Santa

We will await the results with interest next Thursday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scout

'Hello. Is that Duck, from East Lancs Under 7's?'

'Speaking - I reply, putting down my paintbrush carefully, trying not to get emulsion on the new and completely unworkable Nokia E71 I have been issued with - my hints about the object of my desire going entirely unnoticed at work.

'It's Junior Academy Manager here from Manchester United. I'd like to arrange to come and watch your Tiddlers play this weekend.'

On the scale of Coolest Phone Calls I Have Received In My Life Ever , this is right up there with Philip and Fern ringing to give me £7000 on This Morning.

I refrain from leaping up and down, or blurting out that I'm a Huuuuge Fan and Season Ticket Holder and set about a professional to professional discussion about our tiddlers, their performances so far and the competition in the League. I hope he's picturing me sitting in my office, with an assistant and everything - player contracts at my fingertips, match videos and training schedules spread out before me.

Standing in Tidder's bedroom, spattered with paint, wearing low slung tracksuit bottoms* and an ancient baseball cap doesn't really convey the right impression.

Weather permitting he's coming to the next game. I dust off my sheepkin coat in preparation.



*Not a fashion statement. With no elastic left in the waist I have no option but to show off my pants while decorating.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Brunette Moment

I have been having excellent Ebay karma lately.

You know what I mean - when the exact thing you are looking for pops up in the search results with about 10 minutes left in the auction. Just time to swoop in at the last minute and secure the item.

I have become a bit of a swoophound to be honest. Never showing my hand until the end. Watching the other bidders tussle it out, then pouncing at the last second.

Someone tried to outswoop me last week - firing in with 6 seconds to go on a vintage little black dress. Luckily I had set my maximum bid high enough to swoop right back, so there's my outfit for New Year's Eve sorted out. (As you can see here)



I've done lots of Christmas shopping (can't divulge what, for obvious reasons) and also bought two big boys' cabin beds for the Little Ducks for their new bedrooms.

Yummy Mummy was round the other day - checking her 'watching' items, while I shovelled snow and spread grit on Friendly Drive. Incidentally, I was the only one doing so - much to the disgust of all the Little Ducks enjoying the sledging.

When I stopped for a brew, she was busy doing a little swooping of her own.

'It's weird', she said. 'Bidder 1 always seems to want the same items as me'.

I check to see if there are blonde roots showing through in her brunette hair.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tockholes and Treacle

I do Local Walks with Local People at the weekends, following on from the inaugural walk at Grasmere in August. Last weekend, despite the rain, Two Socks, Bli Guinness and I ventured to Tockholes. Now I don't know if it was the proximity to Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night, but there was a definite spooky feel to the afternoon.

When we entered the woods, there was an extraordinary avenue of trees with black, twisted trunks, set against a burnt orange carpet of leaves on the floor, and an ominous dark sky. The photos don't do it justice.

We proceeded along the Witton Weavers Way through the woodland, over swollen streams to the Roddleworth Reservoirs. Feeding into the reservoir was a river of Guinness - opaque dark waters with white foamy edges. We restrained Bli from jumping in at this point.

Crossing the streams involved a variety of bridging mechanisms including a cambered cicane, designed to be taken at speed, or risk falling into a Guinness tributary.

At some point, the conversation turned to the Slaughtered Lamb - and the Locals' sage warning not to stray from the path. By sheer coincidence at the end of the walk, we found ourselves in our very own Slaughtered Lamb, aka the Royal Arms Pub.

From the stereotypically creaky door, to the tiny stone-floored rooms, filled with the scent of woodsmoke from the real fires in the blackened grates, the atmosphere was distinctly Local. Think Royston Vesey.

But definitely not unfriendly. There were more dogs than people for a start, which is never a bad thing. The home-cooked food was fantastic and plentiful; the beer interesting - from Warsteiner for Two Socks, to Tockholes Treacle Ale for me. There were even old-fashioned treacle lollipops in a jar (we bought several), and an eclectic-bordering-on-surreal music shuffle on the jukebox. The pub is always in the Good Pub Guide and we will definitely be back.

Unlike the individual who left his underpants on the reservoir emergency helpline sign. I know fresh water is the life blood of the nation, but I can't condone going to the extremes of stripping down to the buff to plunge in to save it.




Now where did I put that Brita filter?...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Just Like Watching Brazil

After two years of intensive training, East Lancs Under 7s League Football has started in earnest for Tiddler. The season had opened with 7 straight wins including 2 with scores in double figures for us.

It's Just Like Watching Brazil, I thought.

On Saturday, however, we tasted defeat for the first time against another, as yet unbeaten side, although it could have gone either way.

This Is How It Feels To Be City, I thought.

As predicted, Tiddler is one of football's natural defenders and spends the game prowling the 18 yard line, protecting the keeper and watching for danger. It does mean his chances of scoring are few and far between and largely restricted to corners and free kicks. Twice the ball fell to his feet from a perfect corner on Saturday. Twice he balanced himself, turned and shot in one movement. Twice I prepared myself to leap in the air screaming like a mad eejit...


Tiddler's blonde head is just visible, lurking behind the girl defender.

and twice the net failed to bulge, as the keeper gathered the ball at the first shot, and the second went narrowly wide of the post.

So near and yet so far.

I console him with the fact that if this were fantasy football he'd have as many clean sheet points as some of our strikers had goal points, so his contribution is as important as theirs.

Speaking of fantasy football. JP, Tiddler and I have entered teams in a fantasy league this year. Tiddler and I languish somewhere around 20,000th, but JP is right up there in 1000th place in the country. He spots players coming into form and makes canny transfers week after week. Unfortunately there's no cash prize in this one, but next year I'm signing him up for the ones with the Big Money - provided I can prevent him from ratting out on himself for being under 18.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Off Road, Off Piste

The Little Petrolheads had a day out with Sister in China, Cousin and Mrs Duck Senior recently at Park Hall Farm near Oswestry. As well as the obligatory feeding of small furry things, the Park has the added attraction of JCBs, Quad Bikes and an off-road dirt course with mini landrovers for Little Ducks aged six and over.

Tiddler was beside himself with excitement.

Unfortunately it was just before his 6th birthday, a minor detail not lost on serial-rule-obeyer JP, which he felt duty bound to point out when they were on the starting grid. Despite frantic shushing from Sister in China, his voice could be clearly heard declaring Tiddler's ineligibility to race.

Tiddler was having none of it. Before the race officials could step in and black flag him, he revved his engine, floored the accelerator and took off round the course. He pushed the landrover to its limits, managing to crash and then roll it on a particularly steep section.

This is nothing new. In Lappland last Christmas he managed to tip a snowmobile up on one blade, nearly rolling it and that was when it was tethered to a tree for safety!

So if you're watching Top Gear on Sunday, wondering why the The Stig is on a booster seat, wonder no further.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Under The Hammer

The Little Ducks love made-up stories and also made-up games

So we have taken the basic ‘I went to the supermarket and bought…….’ game and customised it to our own preferences. The latest version is Cars – so ‘I went to the Auction (pronounced Oction in this part of the world) and bought ….’

Of course, it can’t just be a Make, or even Make and Model. The Little Ducks insist on exact Model types, so my offering of Red Mégane is rejected with scorn.

It starts simply enough.

JP – ‘I went to the auction and bought a Lotus Elise’
Tiddler – ‘I went to the auction and bought a Lotus Elise and an Audi TT 3.2ltr Quattro’
Duck – I went to the auction and bought a Lotus Elise, an Audi TT 3.2ltr Quattro and a Fiat 500’ (more scorn, but hey, they’re cute)
JP – ‘I went to the auction and bought a Lotus Elise, an Audi TT 3.2ltr Quattro, a Fiat 500 and a Ferrari Enzo’
Tiddler – ‘I went to the auction and bought a Lotus Elise, an Audi TT 3.2ltr Quattro, a Fiat 500, a Ferrari Enzo and a Toyota Celica’.

Several rounds later Tiddler is stuck on JP’s first Ferrari (by now we have the F430 in the list, the Bugatti Veyron, the Koenigsegg CCX, the Aston Martin Vanquish S and numerous other super cars). Note to self: the little petrolheads watch far too much Top Gear on Dave.

Now, in a game of three people where two are great lovers of lists and have fantastic memories, we do try to help 6-year-old Tiddler along the way.

‘Ferrari ……… Umm ……’, - he pauses, angel face screwed up in concentration, staring hopefully at Dave in search of inspiration.

JP mouthes ‘Enzo’ between cupped hands. But Tiddler cannot lip-read.

‘Ennnzzooo’ – JP prompts, in a luvvy-style stage whisper which could be heard all over Friendly Drive, but not by hard-of-hearing Tiddler.

In desperation, with Tiddler still not getting it, he tries a Whittock-style cough - ’CghEnzo’ (covering his mouth with his hand), then looks innocently at me. I pretend I haven’t heard.

‘Cghpardon’ – coughs back Tiddler, from behind his own hand. I cannot contain myself any longer and collapse into giggles.

‘You’re Out’ pronounce the other two contestants, unanimously. ‘You put Tiddler off!’

Friday, October 24, 2008

God Squad

I lunched in Kro Bar with a former colleague during Freshers Week.

Oxford Road is filled with open-topped buses, balloon-bedecked floats, rollerbladers, sandwich boarders and leafleters urging the new student intake to join their clubs.

As I wait for my wild mushroom and stilton ciabatta to arrive, a rapper in black shades with a mike and an amplifier starts up on the opposite side of the street. Eminem he’s not, but it sounds good and goes down well with the fresh-faced hopefuls wandering up and down looking for freebies, the Maths Building or the nearest cashpoint. His entourage unfurl a banner and fix it to the railings behind him, rolling their fists and bobbing in time to the rhythmic and hypnotic monologue. They proffer leaflets to the passers-by.

‘Live A Real Life with Jesus Christ.’

And not a tambourine in sight!

Faithless were right. In the 21st Century, God is A DJ.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where's Duck?



Things are a bit hectic at the moment and life and stuff is getting in the way of writing. Sorry for the erratic service. I'm hoping to get back on track when I get my head round things a bit more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can You Guess What It Is Yet #2?

I hate fun fairs.

I am totally risk averse and have never been on a normal-flesh-coloured-knuckle ride, never mind a white one, in my life. At best I'll throw darts for goldfish or hook ducks for cuddly toys. Oh, and I have been known to gobble a candy floss on occasion

Also people tend to die or get injured when I'm there, so it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to Alton Towers last weekend with Two Socks, Bli Guinness and Amazing Dave. 'I'm only looking at the gardens though', I warned them.

In the end, Two Socks buggered off to London with the entry vouchers, so the three of us set off for Grasmere instead.*

Led Zeppelin, Metallica and AC/DC provided the soundtrack, and I provided the packed lunch (not a picnic according to Dave, on the grounds that we didn't have a tasselled tartan travelling rug).

We headed for Easedale Tarn, trying to avoid Bli's extensive wind display, which was impossible, even upwind of him. The tarn was reached easily and we rested for a few minutes to watch a couple of brave souls taking a swim.

With time on our side, we continued upwards. At a particularly breezy and desolate spot we turned to look back down towards the tarn. It was spectacular. There wasn't another human for miles and the silence was broken only by Bli's backside.



As we scrambled back down in the warm sunshine, an impromptu dip in the Tarn to cool off was mooted. There was talk of dangling and paddling, but I insisted that only a full dip would do (unless the water was icy).

In the end, I swam, Bli waded and Dave dozed on a rock. The water was fantastic. Clear, exhilirating and shared only with a few other ducks. I felt revitalised, alive, and happier than I'd been in weeks.

Back in Grasmere we bought Sarah Nelson's famous gingerbread, which is unequivocally the best I have ever tasted and went for a couple of pints of the black stuff.

All in all a brilliant day.

We walked back to the car to head home, when I stopped in my tracks outside an art gallery, unable to believe my eyes at the sign outside.

Now, we'd already passed a shop called Rock Bottom and were disappointed that there were neither sculpted nor candied rears to be had. But this was in another league altogether.




Now I definitely don't remember climbing that, I thought, as I peered closer.






* Just as well, as there was a fatality at Alton Towers. I'm seriously jinxed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

44 Things




1. I draw smiles in my Guinness
2. I am slightly colour blind
3. I was a finalist on The Weakest Link
4. I once said I Love You to Ian Botham
5. My favourite food is sausage and mash
6. I have a phobia about balloons
7. I can do the Rubik's Cube
8. I love the perfect stolen kiss in The Wedding Singer
9. I have tiny feet
10. I carry a Mighty Sword*
11. Technology baffles me
12. I am a blood donor
13. I speak fluent french
14. I don't like tomato ketchup
15. I would love to have a tattoo
16. I rub my nose after playing a pool shot
17. Old Trafford is my favourite place in the world
18. I drink warm milk at bedtime
19. I would like to model for a life class
20. I own a set of flying ducks
21. I have medals for ballroom dancing
22. I am terrible at geography
23. I am proud to be Welsh
24. My talisman is a tiny wizard.
25. I know how deja vu works
26. I make great cheesecake
27. I remember everything
28. I am completely buoyant
29. I do not park
30. I love the Beatles
31. I hate shopping
32. I have no pain threshold
33. I once held a tarantula
34. I shared a lift with Brad Pitt on my honeymoon
35. I wish my teeth were straight
36. I cry at Coronation Street
37. I wear red underwear to football
38. I get cranky when I'm hungry
39. I know the secret of happiness
40. I hate being tickled
41. I can say the alphabet backwards
42. I like toy boys
43. I hate fun fairs
44. Today is my birthday


*Aka Swiss Army Knife

Monday, August 11, 2008

NotRats

We welcome Torres and Emma - Chilean Ground Squirrels - aka Degus (or NotRats as they have recently been christened) to Friendly Drive.

JP and Tiddler have been keen to have pets for sometime since the demise of the ants and I refuse to allow evil rabbits in the house - it's bad enough just to rodentsit everybody else's. At the local garden centre they have Degus. They're like Dwarf Chinchillas on speed - about the size of rats, but with furry tails with a brush on the end.

With JP's birthday last week, we collected the two six month-old female NotRats, complete with cage, special sugar-free food, toys, hay, sawdust etc. A luxury two-storey accommodation has been set up in the sun room.

Torres and Emma appear to be settling in and will allow us to handle them, grinning all the while with their orange teeth.

The real issue is poo. They seem unwilling to go within the boundaries of the cage. Small mouselike droppings are appearing at a disturbing rate, up to 8 feet from the cage.

My main concern is how on earth they are doing it.

1. Are they presenting their backsides to the wire mesh and firing at will? Is it some kind of bizarre South American pissing contest, if you'll forgive the pun?

2. Are they spitting them, in the absence of cherry pits?

3. Have they hired a pixie cleaner to keep their luxury interior pristine?

4. Have they buried a miniature bazooka in the sawdust, smuggled in by guerrilla rodents, in preparation for defending themselves against invasion by the evil forces of rabbitdom and the poos are for practice?

5. Are they doing their business, then picking it up in their hands and throwing it, like a shot putt?

Which gives me this week's millionaire idea.

Is there a market for Animal Excrement Olympics? I could train mine by painting targets on the floor of the sun room for them to aim at, create special diets to produce perfect size/weight/aerodynamic ratios and invite the world to send contestants.

There must be a lottery grant available for this. Torres and Emma were born in the UK, so would qualify for Team GB.

We could even attract sponsorship from Flash and Domestos, or in a perfect synergy of branding - Toilet Duck

I pen my letter to the Olympic Committee for 2012 and sit back to wait for the money to roll in, all the while avoiding the far-flung dung.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gotta Light?

As kids we camped a lot - in open fields with torches, tiny primuses and smelly ex-army sleeping bags, directly on ground sheets in little ridge tents - and LOVED it.

So last week I decided to borrow a load of camping equipment off Guide Leader, Sister in China organised the food* and the Ginger One dug out some familiar-looking rusty primuses. Our respective Little Ducks were beside themselves with excitement.

We head for Anglesey.

Guide Leader's equipment is a small 6-man tent with assorted chairs, table, airbeds, groundsheets, sleeping bags and so on. We couldn't have done it without them.

Unfortunately, 7 people and 3 dogs make for some overcrowding, and when the heavens open on Tuesday, we acquire a gazebo from the local Focus store - the cheapest, plastic one, with fake Playschool windows.



Bear in mind that we have already borrowed from other campers an electric hookup cable, fridge, swimming shorts, pint glasses, airbed stoppers and plasters.

I consider whether to spray Chez Chav on the side of the gazebo, as it nestles between high-tech pod tents and tourers with oversized awnings.

However, the Biggest Headache of the Week award goes to lighting.

On Sunday night after putting the kids to bed, Sister and I cannot get the borrowed light to work, so we sit in the tiny communal area of the tent (pre-gazebo), on folding chairs, with tins of beer in the arm rests, reading** by torchlight - his a low-beam cheapie tucked under his chins and mine a wind-up high-beam from the glove box, whose charge lasts two pages at a time.

So Monday, I set out in search of a gas lamp and some airbeds which don't go down in the night.

Monday night at dusk, we settle in the tent again, same chairs, fresh beer and Sister assembles the gas light. He burns the mantle off, replaces the glass and asks me for the gas canister.

'Gas???' I reply.

The silence echoes for a second evening to the tune of a wind-up torch.

Tuesday, I set out in search of gas, but no-one stocks the non-standard canisters for yesterday's bargain discontinued light. So on Tuesday evening we sit in the gazebo, drinking beer in the rain under the apricot glow of an brand new electric Argos table lamp - another bargain.

On Wednesday I return to camp in triumph with correct gas canisters...

.. only to discover that the Ginger One has gone home with our only lighter!


* 'I'm in Tesco - I've got beer and crisps - is there anything else we need?' - (pauses to consider) - 'No.'
** - Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett (him), The Jennifer Morgue - Charles Stross (me), if you're interested***.
*** - NB, and if you're not interested, please feel free to skip footnote #2****
**** - oh, too late - sorry.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Addams Family Garden

I know I should be shopping and doing things in the new house, but that would mean shopping. So, no.

On the other hand, the new garden....

It's not purple. It's concrete and Leylandii trees and a Goal (which the Little Ducks are delighted about).

On Saturday the Ginger One - ant-free, thankfully, brought my Sister in China, some serious chain saws, some even more serious chains and a 4x4 with trailer and ratchett straps. The residents of Friendly Drive looked on. There's not much call for Extreme DIY in suburban East Lancs. Most people just get a man in.

I hate Leylandii. Who in their right mind plants these monstrosities in 2008? They're parasites, vermin, the pigeons of the horticultural world. But there were 15 in my new garden and they had to go, despite the pouring rain.

The people in the garden behind had planted clematis against the Leylandii on their side to try to mask them. Over 28 years, it had grown and spread so much that by the time we got to the last tree, it was left draped round the last trunk standing, which now looks like Cousin It. I hadn't the heart to remove it.



The highlight of the day was the Ginger One trying to impress the unsmiling receptionist at the tip. By the third trip and third failed attempt at raising a smile, she admitted that she had a cold and felt lousy.

So on trip four he presented her with a packet of Lockets, which has to go down as the best pick-up effort of the week.

But still no smile - she didn't like blackcurrants! There's no pleasing some women. Maybe I should have offered him one of my bottles of Rosé?

Monday, July 21, 2008

What's in a Name?

The Second Hand Car Dealers have just had a new baby. She arrived a month early, making Tiddler look like the Hulk in comparison.

All is well with Mrs Second Hand Car Dealer and Baby Scrap, but it is strange having a really titchy one around now that the Little Ducks, the Little Yummy Mummys and the Little Second Hand Car Dealers are all growed up and in school. We all look on with a touch of envy until she screams, pukes and poohs and then envy turns to relief and double-checking of condom use-by dates.

Only D is slightly disappointed, Scrap's big brother who wanted a baby brother. He even had the name all picked out - 'Spiderman Jeff'.

Eat your hearts out Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow.

We have baby girls of our own arriving in the next couple of weeks - to coincide with JP's and Tiddler's birthdays. Torres and Emma will be joining us in Friendly Drive. They are sugar-intolerant, have orange teeth and their cage at the Pet Centre has a big 'Sold' sign on it. Oh, and another one saying 'We are not rats'.

The Little Ducks can't wait.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Bollocking Or Two

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Thanks for nothing, you lazy-arsed git.

You know, JP was pretty excited, finally losing that lone front tooth after weeks of being called Nanny McPhee. We spent ages finding a box to put the tooth in under his pillow, since the official tooth box is at the old house.

I know it was a very long, hot day, and a couple of beers were consumed, but how could you let it slip your mind?

Imagine the scene on entering his room to wake him this morning when his first act is to reach for the box under the pillow and his beautiful face drops when it's rattling with enamel rather than nickel and brass. My heart sank.

I comforted him, saying that you must have had a really busy night, and perhaps you hadn't realised he's moved and that you would DEFINITELY come tonight.

But we both know the truth - you totally forgot, didn't you? Just what kind of magical, mythical role model are you?

Duck


In other news.

My brother, The Ginger One, who has been accused, man and boy of having ants in his pants on account of his inability to sit still, found out exactly what that metaphor means on Sunday.

After sitting for a short while outside, he felt a sudden and sharp sting, where only gentle caressing and light licking should take place. He promptly dropped his trousers and boxers, in company, to discover 4 red ants, two of which had bitten him - once on each testicle. Ouch doesn't begin to describe it, apparently and he refused to put his clothes back on, due to the rapid swelling and nauseating pain. Get well soon, Ginger One and let us know when it's on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Welcome

I spent Friday being White Van Woman in a Transit borrowed from Mr Guide Leader.

It made sense to ferry boxes and small stuff from the old house to the new on my day off, so that we could just get on with the big things on Saturday when there were helpers.

I arrived in the cul de sac where the new house is situated, to be greeted by another transit van with a mattress aboard. The Van Men despatched the mattress to my bedroom and one of them handed me a bottle of Rosé. ‘Welcome to Friendly Drive, we live on the corner.' How thoughtful.

A little later Scurrying Woman from opposite came over with an effusive welcome and a wide smile.

Then flowers arrived.

And cards.

And pink champagne (well, sparkling Rosé).

What is the sudden infatuation with Rosé? It's everywhere. Blush bottles line the shelves of the local Co-Op and the Local Pub has at least 3 varieties on offer. Mateus must be sitting smugly at home now watching the New World Cab Savs gathering dust, preparing to follow Blue Nun into viticular obscurity.

Anyway. Just when I'd started to develop a suspicion that I'd moved into Stepford and was checking the Transit for a glazed-eyed Duck clone clutching a bottle of Echo Falls, Next Door appeared.

He seemed eager to come in and emphasise just how welcome I was, as if the flowers and card he was bearing weren't clue enough. 'We had champagne last night, in anticipation' - he started.

By now, I'm slightly worried that White Zinfandel isn't the only fluid neighbours exchange on Friendly Drive, and sniff the air for traces of leather, chocolate body paint and cheese fondue.

'We still can't believe that the Neighbours From Hell have finally gone' - he continued.

My self-esteem crashed through the floor. The welcome committee had nothing to do with me personally, but was more of a leaving do for the previous inhabitants.

Tales of contemptuously-discarded cigarette butts, late night parties, dumped leaf sweepings and excessive and persistant staring filled me with horror.

And then I started to feel something more akin to delight.

If the bar had been set so low by the previous occupants, what dangerous excesses of mine might now be tolerated? I plot a new life of devilment and debauchery, safe in the knowledge that there will always be a welcome and a bottle of Blossom Hill Blush on Friendly Drive.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Football Matters and Size Matters

5.57am - 'Children are smaller than their mums and dads, but some dogs are bigger than children'.

I'm sensing it's a rhetorical question and offer no response.

Blackout linings and blinds are no deterrent to a determined Tiddler, who knows it's morningtime much earlier in June than in winter. Either that or he's in league with the Birds to make my early mornings a misery.

The Little Ducks have been totally gripped by Euro 2008 - sticker books, charts, learning Portuguese (United fans) and Spanish (Mersey Reds), but mostly from comics, so I'm not planning to ditch the phrase books just yet. They've been staying up later than usual as well to watch the first half hour of the evening games, and their first questions of the day have been, who won, who scored, which minute... (apart from at 5.57 today).

It's heartening that for them, the football is everything. As far as I can tell, most of the country is ignoring the tournament without an England team's presence. As a Welsh person, I have yet to see my national team qualify for a tournament, but never let it stop me watching.

Tiddler had a second friendly game last week, and my first chance to cheer him live. It was fantastic. The opposition turned up in full matching kit - warm-up routines at the ready and a girl! 'They're a feeder club for a local League 2 side' - confided another parent.

I needn't have worried. Our Tiddlers were 3-0 up inside 10 minutes and 5-0 up at half-time. It was just like watching Brazil. Now, on some level, seeing opposition faces drop each time our striker got the ball, you want him to slip up. You want them to get a goal back, because they're 5 and 6 years old and this is a friendly. But then you remember that this is football and scream till you're hoarse.

Our coaches had a stronger sense of what's right than the crowd and substituted Tiddler and 2 others at half time. The game ended 6-2, and I tried to feel happy for both teams.

We then had a penalty shootout, with everyone having a go from both sides. Our keeper saved 8 penalties - yes E-I-G-H-T. Our boys put most of theirs away.

There is an air of expectancy around the ground. The coaches sense that this could be a special group. There's potential with a capital P, and our Tiddler is part of it. I will definitely be getting a season ticket for this.

In other news. We are moving house at the weekend, so there may be some service interruption for a short while. Please talk among yourselves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Talisman of Superstition

I got a tearful phone call from Yummy Mummy on Friday, as I waited outside her house for a post-school cuppa.

When she appeared a minute later sporting a bloody face, and leading a sobbing child, it was clear something was amiss.

She had tripped on the pavement while holding the girls' hands to cross the road and basically headbutted it with her face, which was bleeding and swelling by turn.

After an application of Germolene, Birds Eye pea compresses and hot sweet tea in a lidded cup with a spout, we realised it was Friday 13th.

'But I'm not superstitious,' bemoaned YM.

And THAT, Alanis Morrisette, IS ironic.

But it did set me thinking.

If you’re not superstitious and something bad happens on the so-called fateful date, do smug astrologers around the world punch the air with delight? Or is it even more sinister?

Perhaps bad things only happen to non-believers on Friday 13th and the believers are protected by the Talisman of Superstition, which makes them extra vigilant. Maybe Friday 13th is their big recruitment drive? I am considering a precautionary Rabbit’s Foot, if I can bring myself to get near one.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Separated by a Language

Before we left Iowa, we went to recycle everything we'd used over the weekend. As we pulled up in the pick-up, I noticed a big sign.

Clarinda Cheerleaders Can Drive.

Now this puzzled me. Can they? I thought.

I couldn't see why it was such a big deal. Do cheerleaders have a hard time mastering the art of driving? Was it a mass promotion to encourage the pom-pommed teens of Clarinda to take the wheel? Was the sleepy mid-west town so devoid of news that this was the best they could come up with? Given that there had been a mini-tornado only 3 days previously, I doubted that this was the case.

When Lizzie returned to the car, I had to ask for enlightenment. She pointed to the large cage of recycled aluminium cans in front of the sign, unable to speak over the sound of her own laughter.



I was still muttering over this the following day at Newark airport when I realised that I'd left my jersey in Omaha and would freeze on the plane back home without it, so I went to buy a new one. Helpfully they had labelled the clothes in English, so I got what I needed without the need for a translator this time.




Update: July 2009

And just to prove it, here are the Cheerleaders retrieving their cans.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Playing Twister Naked with Dead Cats - (Sort Of)



From New Orleans to Omaha to Iowa and Lizzie's farm on Friday, to find that a mini Tornado had hit on Thursday night, destroying a couple of buildings. The big workshop was a mangled pile of steel about 30 yards from its original position, with its contents strewn across the fields, and a smaller shed ended up half a mile away in the sorghum field. The damage wasn't on a par with the devastation I saw in New Orleans, but my friends literally built this farm themselves. Seeing months of work destroyed in one night, less than 24 hours from when we were due to arrive was very sobering, but not enough to prevent us sitting on the porch, drinking wheat beer and listening to the frog chorus from the lake by the cabin.

Saturday was spent retrieving tools and furniture and other assorted wind-blown objects, and in the evening we had a Jedi-style funeral pyre for three kittens who didn't make it through the storm.

Early Sunday morning, while talking to the Little Ducks across the Pond, I spotted wild turkeys over the ridge. Lizzie called to Andre, who set off after them with his gun in only his skimpy underpants, in his haste to bag a bird. The turkeys took one look and shot off before he could.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Voodoo Queen

Today we went to see Marie Laveau's tomb.

Oh, did I mention that I'm in New Orleans?

'I'm in New Orleans!'

Which is brilliant.

But my luggage isn't.

Which is not brilliant.

I have nothing. This is the third consecutive trip to the States where my stuff has gone awol. Twice before, it turned up the next day, so things weren't so bad. This time, they actually appear to have lost it. It's not turned up anywhere and is currently untraceable.

The worst of it is that I spent 3 hours shopping on Sunday for clothes to bring, as I have no clothes that fit me. 3 hours! And I HATE shopping. And, now, when I should be enjoying jambalaya, crawfish pie and filet gumbo, I have to do it all over again.

So far, I have managed to buy a T-shirt, a cowboy hat and moisturiser. Not exactly what a duck needs for an important conference.

I have even had to borrow a laptop for the evening - mine was in my luggage.

I am in the process of compiling a list of contents while it's still fresh in my mind. So far there are 3 things I am upset about.

My Mighty Sword aka my swiss army knife - a 30th birthday present from the Ginger One which I treasure.

The Cancer Research running vest with my name on, which I wore so proudly last weekend for the Great Manchester Run.

My favourite Guinness T-shirt.

Anyway, back to Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen.

Her tomb has a strange assortment of tributes and gifts in front of it and is covered in graffiti in groups of 3 crosses - like this - XXX. All the other tombs are pristine. The historic St Louis cemetary is bizarre, as all the tombs are built above ground. Because New Orleans is below sea level, you can't bury the dead underground as the graves flood.

There are a few shops with voodoo paraphernalia and XXX marks around the older parts of the city. But I was particularly amused to see one souvenir shop selling voodoo charms and figures. In the window was a sign that read '24 hour CCTV security surveillance on these premises'.

That doesn't exactly instill confidence in the powers of the merchandise, now does it?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reasons to be Cheerful

Part I

I wasn't the only Duck pounding the streets of Manchester at the weekend. On Saturday JP and Tiddler ran in the Great Manchester Mini Run for 3-8 year olds. One mile around the City of Manchester stadium. No mean feat for a seven- and five-year-old.

They raised £160 for the new children's hospital, got T shirts and medals and better goody bags than we did on Sunday! I ask you. You run 10k and all you get is a packet of lemon-flavoured pine nuts and seeds, and a tube of extra strong mints!

Our fears over Tiddler's running were groundless. As soon as the race started, he set off like a mad eejit. He was buzzing and beat JP by a decent margin. I wonder where he gets it from?

Part II

Tiddler had his first football game on Sunday and I missed it. There was the small matter of the Run, so I do have a note.

They played another tiddler team from Bolton and won 4-0. Get in! Identical Twin's tiddler scored a hat-trick and has trials for the local League 1 side. We have a decent goalie, a boy who can throw in half the length of the pitch at 6, and an utterly brilliant, two-footed, pin-point corner-taking, fast, can-pick-any-spot-in-the-goal-and-put-the-ball-there midfielder. I want to adopt him. His dad's pension plan is a cert. Still, we have him on video, so in 10 years I can sell the footage to the Red Tops when he's playing for United and dating Apple Martin.

Mr Duck took the camcorder, so that I could have my very own Match of The Day, but then was so engrossed in the action, he forgot to follow it with the camera lens and I spent a frustrating time watching off the ball footage, while parents encouraged and Coach shouted instructions -

'TIDDLER, STOP SKIPPING!'

So despite the Mini Run, our little Michael Flatley is still at it, it seems. But he tackled like Wes Brown, defended like Nemanja Vidic and went forward like Patrice Evra when the opportunity arose.

Part III

Mr Duck has gone to St Andrews for a spot of golf, so I booked a babysitter and headed to the Local Pub for the small matter of the game last night. It wasn't the same as being there and I felt more than a pang of regret, but it came pretty damn close, as the passions rose and the faithful willed Van der Sar to save us. Which he did.

Que sera sera
Whatever will be, will be
In Moscow we made it three
Que sera sera

So I'm still grinning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hyper



Sunday was the big day. The Great Manchester Run.

I woke up, childishly excited at 4.45am. By 6am I was ironing my name onto my Cancer Research running vest and pinning on my number. By 7.30am, when Mr Duck Senior, a marathon veteran arrived, I was talking nineteen to the dozen and pacing.

I wasn't due to race till 11am! 'You have to calm down or you'll burn out before we even get there' - he counselled.

It was a perfect day for running - sunny but cool. Mr Duck Senior and JP went to watch from the Cheering Bus, while I headed for the Green start. My phone buzzed with good luck messages that warmed my heart.

I just couldn't stop grinning. It was brilliant. I fired up my iPod as I crossed the start gantry at my normal running pace, despite the temptation to set off like a rocket. The course is very flat, unlike my usual routes at home.

I grinned as I ran down Chester Road.

I grinned as I ran up to Old Trafford.

I sang Viva Ronaldo as I ran through the tunnels around my favourite place in the world.

I grinned as I headed towards the canal and the 5k sign.

I felt fantastic, full of energy and slow! So I abandoned my dad's advice and started to run like a mad eejit.

The spectators were calling my name and cheering. I couldn't believe so many people recognised me. Then it occurred to me, perhaps they were mistaking me for a celebrity presenter who shares my first name. They smiled and waved, so I waved and smiled back.

After 8k and a shower, I finally worked out that they were just reading the name that I'd ironed on at 6 that morning.

I waved at my personal support team on the Cheering Bus, who waved back with giant foam fingers.

I sprinted for the finish and posed for an 'after' photo - still grinning and amazed that my teeth weren't black with flies.

I donned my medal and almost headed back to the start. I felt like going round again.

I was hyper all day Sunday, and not much calmer yesterday. Normality was eventually restored today.

With just a hint of grinning, as I stare at the medal on my desk.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And For Dessert?

Now I don't want anyone to get the impression that Yummy Mummy and I are the kind of ladies that lunch all the time, but yesterday, with a last minute day off, we went for lunch again - SomewhereNormal this time, after last month's experience.

YM is bemoaning the pressures on the local Chlamydia Coordinator, in the current climate of public sector targets, not to mention what's expected of the Condom Coordinator*.

I am struggling with the very fact that these are real job titles and ponder the interesting conversation stoppers they could provide at dinner parties, when the inevitable 'and what line of work are you in?' question is raised.

Her work life is so much more interesting than mine, as I keep pointing out. The sexual universe of the under 25s is an utterly alien world, as becomes clearer every time we discuss this.

She then fishes in her handbag and hands me a small, bright orange tube. Now, I don't generally wear my glasses outside work, so I'm holding it aloft and peering closely to read the words on the side, when the waitress appears to clear our plates and then smiles.

At this point, the words 'Fresh Peach-flavoured Water-based Lubricating Gel' finally come into focus.



Hastily, I thrust the tube behind my back. 'God, you're behaving like a naughty schoolgirl,' - YM teases. 'It's perfectly normal'.

'There's 12 flavours including Bubblegum Blast, but that's in a pillow, not in a reusable tube, so it's not very environmentally friendly.'

'Yes, I can see why that would be important, with the Government's green agenda' - I reply, not actually seeing at all. In truth, I haven't yet gone beyond why there needs to be 12 flavours.

* Remind me to tell you one day about the Postman and the Trail of Condoms.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?



It was the usual Sunday morning Match Of The Day ritual. JP commenting in a stream of factual yet inconsequential narrative and Tiddler gawping idiotically, with one hand down the front of his pyjamas.

JP plots, plans and exercises his rather scary intellect memorising the Periodic Table and remembering exactly what he has eaten for the past 7.5 years. Tiddler giggles when someone says the word fart and is fascinated with his willie.

'Who wants Flake icecream?' I asked yesterday. Tiddler's two hands shoot up.

JP then waves his legs in the air as well. 'I've got 4 legs up, so I want more than Tiddler'.

'I've got 5 up including my widgie', announces Tiddler, trumping JP and earning himself an extra scoop.

'They're Pinky and the Brain!' remarked Mr Duck in a perfect, revelatory moment of clarity.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Virginity #2

Losing your virginity has been covered by me before, and yesterday, I'm proud to say, was Tiddler's turn.

For the last home game of the season, Tiddler came with me to OT for his very first game. He has been going to see the Mersey Reds with Mr. Duck and JP of late and has been sporting a Gerrard shirt and singing 'Fernando Torres, Liverpool's number 9' in lieu of 'we all know that Johnny is going to score'.

This was effectively damning me to a life sentence of going to the Theatre of Dreams alone. Not exactly a stretch in Strangeways, I know, but sharing the experience with my son and not having to rely on Amazing Dave to take me when I'm an OAP, was something I have been dreaming of since JP and Tiddler were born. I grew up in a family of Mersey Reds and then married one. It couldn't be my misfortune to rear two as well, could it?

It was utterly brilliant. He pored over his programme, munched his way through a big picnic and it was my delight to thrust him aloft in his United shirt for each of the four goals. My fellow fans welcomed him, tousled his hair and shook his hand, as we marched imperiously towards retaining the Premiership crown.

I took him pitchside for the lap of honour. The proximity of the Great and the Good, smiling and waving just for us, or so it seemed, hopefully secured a corner of his Tiddler heart for the future. He may never share my passion and OT may never be the one place in the world where he feels truly alive, as I do, but as we walked back to the car, eating chips and gravy and singing Viva Ronaldo, I felt a small flicker of what I recognised as hope. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Run Tiddler Run

The Great Manchester Run is now just over 2 weeks away. Cancer Relief have sent me a running vest, a plastic warm up top and some tattoos for the occasion. The running is going ok again, although my knee is a bit twingy today. I suspect it has a lot to do with me jumping up and down like a mad eejit, when Paul Scholes found the net last night.

He scores goals galore,
he scores goals.
Paul Scholes,
he scores goals.

The Good News - I have a ticket for Moscow

The Bad News - I can't go due to work commitments. Not kidding.

Tiddler's football training has moved back outside for the summer. He's coming along nicely as a defender and occasional keeper. The only problem is that he can't run. He does this skippy-dancy thing on tiptoes that makes him look like Michael Flatley, preparing to break into Riverdance at any moment.

This has to be sorted out if my pension plan is to bear fruit.

I hatched a plan to resolve this, by entering him and JP in the Great Manchester Mini Run, a one mile race for 3000 tiddlers, the day before the main event on the 18th*

We have been out training - the full one mile. This currently requires at least one rest stop and major league complaining by Tiddler; whereas running with JP is like having Motty with you - constant commentary, no substance.

I now know why I run alone, with just my iPod for company.

They have just been sent special T-shirts, running numbers and sponsor forms to raise money for the local children's hospital. JP has already taken £5 from his piggybank for the fund. It is starting to dawn on them that this is a big deal, and they are feeling proud.

As am I.

*BBC 5pm if you want to catch a glimpse of me collapsing over the finish line. They will also be showing highlights from the mini run.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bodies and Bacteria

It being our Friday off, Yummy Mummy and I decided to lunch out. We were due for a treat so we went to a LittlePoshPlace in SomewherePosh.

Chocolate leather, marble tables and an unctious, slightly strange owner. It's a beard thing. It was too perfect, too trimmed, too softly-spoken-yet-utterly-mad-scientist-plotting-to-take-over-the-world.

From the black-clad waitress, Yummy ordered tap water, and I ordered sparkling, as I really know how to live.

We were tucking into scallops and calves' livers respectively, when we became aware that the wallpapered panels behind us were in fact collages of photographs of naked men.



I paused on my offal to look more closely. Yes - definitely buttocks and chests and hints of hairy crotches - albeit tastefully captured in sepia.

We chewed on in silence for a while.

Until Madbeard started a discourse on bacteria, when the couple at the next table ordered a bottle of still mineral water.

According to him, the bacterial levels in sparkling mineral water are only surpassed by the levels present in the still version. In drinking such poison, not only do you not cleanse your palate, but you coat it in bacteria, preventing you from the full enjoyment of food and more particularly wine. Tap water, by all accounts isn't very much better, due to chemicals. As he detailed one particularly vicious bacterium, I stole fearful glances at the bottle of Lowland Glen beside me.

Suddenly, the risotto breseola with parmesan crust seemed less appetising.

The couple trying to order still water nodded politely and hurried to the wine list.

'I always wash my mouth out with wine before I drink wine' - announced Madbeard.

I looked up, sharply. Had he really tossed that one in the air? Just put it up there to be shot down?

'So if you always drink wine to wash your mouth out before you drink wine, what do you drink to wash your mouth out, before you drink the wine to wash your mouth out before you drink wine? If it's wine, do you drink wine before you drink the wine, before you drink the wine to wash your mouth out before you drink wine?' - I enquired.

He charged me £5 for the sparkling water.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Littering with Intent



Warning. Look away now if you are of a sensitive disposition.

Our local residential estates are linked by a network of ginnels, so you can reach school, park and friends without taking the car or using the main road. Going green in the suburbs! Yay.

I was heading up our ginnel to a PTA fundraiser at school, when some litter caught my eye. Propped up against a dandelion was a vacuum pack for a Finger Rabbit.

'What an unfortunate name for a child's toy', I thought - particularly after this misunderstanding.

Then I spotted the 'Ann Summers' label at the top.

Two yards on - discarded packaging for a Sex Pistol - and not a Johnny Rotten action figure*.

I carried on walking, only to encounter an empty package for Jumbo Jelly Thai Beads**.

After checking for hidden cameras to ensure I hadn't been set up, I set off once more for school. Without marigolds, and with no wombles in sight to admonish me, I was not a good citizen and could not bring myself to pick up the litter. (Although, on reflection, arriving at school carrying the items, greeting the committee with a cheery 'Everyone had a good weekend?', might have been worth it.)

Is it a little weird that I was secretly rather more impressed than shocked, as I reflected on the level of intent and preparation for the tryst en plein air that clearly had taken place?

Yes, you can pant 'Oh Good Thinking', as a condom is produced at the appropriate moment, when passions overtake reason and it's right here, right now, and hurry up about it!

But is a round of applause at minimum, or some judges' scorecards with 10 printed in bold in order, when the object of your desire produces not one, but three thoughtful gifts for your public-private party?***

Update - March 2009

Keith over at notKeith has done a brilliant cartoon to illustrate the post: Thank you Keith



* Spits and swears with a choice of nose rings.
** If you're thinking 'wtf' as I was, please don't google it. Trust me, let it lie. You'll thank me later.
*** No sign of condom detritus - perhaps they were the edible kind?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Star Struck

I have been lucky enough through work to meet some of my personal heroes over the years, but I still get star struck when confronted with a familar face off the TV, and god forbid I encounter United players, when I just become impossibly giggly and girly; or stand boggle-eyed and open-mouthed like a fish staring into the gaping maws of a deep fat fryer.

I came across Ian Botham on one of his charity runs once, pounding out the miles in pouring rain in Shropshire; just a single car following, no crowds or cameras. Bearing in mind that he has been a hero and heartthrob of mine since my early teens, I stopped the car ahead of him and waited to make a donation. My heart was thumping, as I held out my hand with some money and he ran up to me. He smiled, said thanks and ran on.

And then it happened, I just couldn't stop myself. 'I love you' - I shouted after him.

He didn't turn around.

Some old git pushed past me at Old Trafford the other week in the programme queue. I turned crossly to confront him, when I spotted that it was Bernard Hill. I couldn’t risk the headbutt or the assault with the Sword of Rohan that might have ensued, so I let it go and swung back round, only to accidentally punch Marlon from Emmerdale, who was following behind him.

I'm so the opposite of cool, there isn't even a word for it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meat and Two Veg



I have unearthed a new reason for not shopping and in particular for avoiding supermarkets.

I took the Little Ducks to the Local Pub for lunch - armed with our usual kit of A4 paper, washable felt tip pens, Dinky cars and Top Trumps.

We're working our way through the Top Gear Top Trumps, which basically involves handing JP all the cards as he systematically recalls the winning values for every card and also the order in which they are trumped, as you progress through the pack.

'594? - that's the bhp on the Zonda, which you won last round, so that means you've got the DB9 next, so I'll go 0-60 as your answer will be 4.9 seconds and I can beat that with 3.2'.

The only pack I have some chance on is the Star Wars Starfighters, which are mine and in which he has shown little interest thus far. When I find a way to harness this extraordinary talent and beat the casinos I'll let you all know by postcard from Monte Carlo.

Anyway, I'm down to about 6 cards, when the fact that the three old ladies sitting at the next table are talking about sex filters through to my brain. And once there, is impossible to ignore. They are mid 60's to 70's, stereotypical garish rinses in their thinning hair, eating fried fish and drinking double gins.

The Little Ducks are oblivious - 'price - £668,995'

The debate seems to centre on whether Morrisons offers a better supply of potential sex partners than ASDA. There seems to be absolute consensus on the men needing to be younger than them, with the words stamina and better sex drive being greeted with nods of agreement and approval.

'Top Speed - 245mph'

I try desperately to tune out when their voices get lower and they start to use mime and nudging to get their points across.

'Cool rating - 9'

On all levels I try to see this as a good thing. That sexually-active septuagenarians cruising the produce aisles, hungry for toy boys is a natural and beautiful part of growing old disgracefully.

Instead, all I can picture is three hags squeezing the melons and checking out the plums with lascivious smiles, stinking of gin and fish as they eye up the shelf stackers.

Monday, April 14, 2008

B'Dum Tsh

I am utterly rubbish at jokes. I am usually the last person to get them and I am even worse when it comes to April Fools. The word gullible could have been invented just for me. In fact, I think I'll edit the Wikipedia entry so it just reads

'Gullible (adj.) - See Duck'.

When I was about 17, April Fools' Day fell on the last day of term before Easter. In assembly, the headmaster advised the school that there would be a section of the school grounds cordoned off during the holidays, as botanists would be studying a rare strain of blue grass which had been found there.

I remember thinking 'how interesting', then thought no more about it.

Until 23 years later when an old school friend reminisced about the blue grass April Fool on Friends Reunited, scoffing at the Head for a pathetic attempt which hadn't fooled anyone. I didn't come clean. Perhaps I should contact the McWhirters? Surely this must be the Guinness world record for the longest running April Fool?

My record hasn't improved much over the years and I was caught out by Virgin Radio this year.

I spent the entire day outraged at the plan by Brussels to phase out pint glasses by the end of 2008 and introduce plastic half glasses with slogans in their stead, as a measure to curb binge drinking. I applauded the breakfast DJ who gave the Welsh Euro MP on the line a really hard time about it, although I was a little uncomfortable at how rude he was about him personally. But as I don't read the Daily Mail, I let it go with a few sad head shakes and barely audible tuts. Two days later I heard the DJ mocking all the listeners who'd bombarded the station with emails and texts protesting the ban. I took small comfort in not being alone in my naivete.

There are 3 jokes* which I totally get, so I stick to them when called upon to produce gems of humour.

The zebra, the horse in the bar and the newt joke. That's 3 jokes, not one joke about all 3. That wasn't an attempt at a joke either, the explanation about the 3 jokes not 1.

*I do know a really long one about a jockey and a boiled chicken, but I totally fail to deliver it without dissolving into premature giggles about halfway, frustrating the audience and slightly wetting myself on occasions.

Oh, and I went running yesterday for the first time since I hurt my knee back in February. Knee held up really well, so I'm back into training for the Great Manchester Run next month. I'm thinking of laying off the black stuff in preparation.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy To Oblige

Dear Customer,

Welcome to Picture of a Duck.

Thank you for searching Google for 'Mr. Duck Sex Toy'*

Your order will be dispatched as soon as the Plaster of Paris dries.

We are pleased to accept all major credit cards and Paypal.


Best wishes

Duck


*I kid you not. Full stop and everything.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Do Not Disturb

They are all ganging up on me.

Midnight - return from Local Pub. Look forward to good night's sleep. No work tomorrow.

Late O'Clock: 'Mummy, I've got a nosebleed'

Stupid O'Clock: creak thud thud thud, bang trickle trickle trickle bang, thud thud thud creak*

Really Stupid O'Clock: creak thud thud thud, bang trickle gush trickle drip cough cough bang, thud thud thud creak **

Ridiculously Early O'Clock: 'Mummy I've got another nosebleed'

What Passes for Morningtime in Tiddlerworld O'Clock: creak thud thud thud, bang trickle trickle trickle fart bang, thud thud thud, very loud creak, sniff ***

'Mummy...?'

1. 'You know that thing over the window' - 'The Curtain Pole?' - 'Yes. How does it work?'

2. 'Mummy. How did Daniel die? - 'Which Daniel?' - 'The baby off Emmerdale'

3. 'Mummy. When there's a derby game, do United and City get half the Derby players each?'

4. 'Mummy. My Spywatch is on Rio de Janerio time. Can you reset it?'

5. 'Mummy. Did you know carrots are good for you. They make you glow in the dark.'

6. 'Mummy, I ate some pineapple at school' - 'Really? (in disbelief. Tiddler doesn't do fruit and veg. or indeed, any food that isn't brown) - What colour was it?' - 'The same as all the other pineapples'.

7. 'Mummy, where do Toppenham Hopspurs play?

8. And Fulham?

9. And Barcelona?'

10. 'Mummy?' - 'Yes, Tiddler?' - 'Is it Morningtime?'

* JP
** Mr Duck
*** Tiddler

Friday, April 04, 2008

At The Third Stroke

I love it when we hit British Summertime.

It means the clock in my car will be telling the right time.

Until October.

That is.

I finally got my hands on the object of my desire the other day and I was not disappointed. He was as sexy in real life as in his pictures and when I stroked his face for the first time I knew he was the one for me.

Unfortunately, he belongs to someone else, and I reluctantly gave him up after one last caress.

But one day...



Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Glorious Mud



Sunday being a day of sunshine and inspired by Mister Ronaldo's sublime backheel, Tiddler and I took to the park for some 1 on 1 action.

'That Boy Ronaldo...'

Anyway, I digress.

To say it was muddy after Saturday's downpour is an understatement. The magnitude of which is in the order of applauding politely and saying 'Nice Shot, Cristiano', when screaming with joy and being lifted bodily into the air and swung round by the fireman standing next to you is much more appropriate.

JP and Tiddler are incapable of playing outdoors without getting completely caked in mud, and occasionally, in Tiddler's case, dogshit. So I was resigned to stripping him off on the doorstep and commiting his entire ensemble to the washing machine with a big dose of ACE after the game, before we had even left the house.

I hadn't banked on him recruiting another Tiddler in the park for our game, nor on him slide-tackling, pushing and generally kicking him until he was as filthy as Tiddler.

I also hadn't banked on Second Tiddler's chainsmoking, rottweiler of a frizzy-permed grandmother suddenly spotting his state of cleanliness, or rather lack of it.

She marched over.

I braced myself to bring my Dimac skills to my defence. I think it's perfectly reasonable to get your own Little Ducks dirty, but in hindsight, making other people's kids look like a 'before' shot in a Daz advert isn't so clever.

'Will you be here next week?' she asked.

I nodded slowly, wondering if she was planning to return with reinforcements from the cast of Shameless.

'L's had a brilliant time playing football with you and Tiddler. Can he play with you again?'

Monday, March 31, 2008

Perfect Shuffle Karma

Mr Duck's had a virus all week, so I volunteered to go to Tesco for some shopping, which, as you know, I hate.

Still, I had a relatively short list, so how bad could it be?

The problem is, I don't know where anything is, and there appears to be no logic to the store layout, whatsoever. When you get to the finger rolls and think, 'what shall we have on them?', you then have to retrace your steps about 5 aisles to get to the ham.

Any half-wit knows you start with the bread when you make a sandwich, not the filling! Every little doesn't bloody help, from where I'm standing.

I could just feel my blood starting to boil, when i remembered my iPod.

I love my iPod and today I had perfect shuffle karma.

You know what I mean.

When the lovely nano selects just the right tracks for your mood and you end up grinning like a mental and going 'Yes, Yes, Oh Yes', very loud as the random playlist unfolds, rather like Meg Ryan demonstrating her orgasm technique in that café in When Harry Met Sally, only louder, more realistically - and in a supermarket.

Here's what it conjured up today:

Duchess - Stranglers
All You Need is Love - The Beatles
She Bangs The Drums - Stone Roses
Misty Morning, Albert Bridge - Pogues
Ole Black 'N' Blue Eyes - Fratellis
Boatman - Levellers
Bankrobber - Clash
Konstantine - Something Corporate
Apologise - OneRepublic
Mrs Robinson - Simon and Garfunkel
How Soon Is Now - Smiths
At The River - Groove Armada
Bad Days - Space
Parklife - Blur
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division

Of course, it took me several months to figure out that the reason my iPod was clever and only picked music I liked on shuffle was because it only contains music I have uploaded and therefore, de facto, like.

But still, finding the appropriate tune for the setting and my ever-changing mood, can't just be guesswork, can it?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Crossed Wires



I don't like rabbits. I think they are evil creatures. Particularly Mrs Second Hand Car Dealer's house rabbit, who takes great delight in leaping out and scaring the crap out of me. It shoots out from behind a sofa, leaps into the air without warning and then suddenly changes direction. And they stare.

Long and hard with their beady eyes. You can't outstare a rabbit.

And they can bite through the sleeve of a denim jacket in seconds.

And they're everywhere*. The Second Hand Car Dealers have three, the Yummy Mummys have two, the Scots down the road have two.

But I don't let them get the better of me, oh no. I do my share of rodent sitting of a weekend, as required.

Sister in China is out-Borough and has no knowledge of the local fascination with the creatures.

So when he was emailed late one night by a friend to say that she had a date with a rabbit, he was somewhat shocked at her candour. Where he lives, this is what passes for a rabbit.

*Please show your gratitude in the usual way for the fact that I resisted the temptation to say they breed like rabbits.


Keeganwatch week 9

He has won a match. I have lost the will to post. Skybet has my roll of tenners. There will be no more on the subject.

Well, perhaps one final Keeganism

On winning against Fulham - 'It was a great result and it might stop people saying Newcastle have not won under Kevin Keegan.' Only 'might', Kevin?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Oeufs à la Neige



On Saturday, I spent hours in the icy and often snowy wind tidying the Purple Garden ready for the great Easter Egg Hunt on Sunday morning. With Easter being early, the garden is not really at its Spring best with the snowdrops gone and tulips still to appear. Mid April is much more convenient, if you're listening in the Vatican.

I needn't have bothered, as all Saturday's hard work was buried under 6 inches of snow on Sunday morning, which made concealing the eggs considerably more challenging than usual, with tell-tale footprints giving away all the locations. The Little Ducks and their friends still had a good time, pausing only to throw snowballs, in between searching for shiny eggs, chicks and bunnies. We watched from the kitchen and stuffed ourselves with sausage butties.

I did feel for residents in a nearby cul de sac, who woke to find a giant penis outlined in footprints in the snow outside their houses. I hope the culprit remembered to wipe the trail of prints leading to his front door!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Keeganwatch week 8

Matches Won 0
Goals Scored 4
Goals Conceded 21
Days to Easter 3
SkyBet odds 3/1

The draw against Birmingham means Keegan is still without a win but he believes his players are starting to find some form.

"I thought Geremi was outstanding and Nicky Butt and Joey Barton in midfield gave us a bit of an engine room. They all put in a shift and if they keep doing that we will be all right."

Didn't the captain of the Titanic say something very similar as they left port?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Available With Subtitles

The Little Ducks are under strict instructions not to answer the front door, but to just check who is outside first and then tell a parent.

A sensible policy that meets health and safety guidelines. And foolproof, or so we thought.

Last night I was taking a bath, while JP and Tiddler played with their Match Attax cards and had their tea.

I was just pondering whether having your eyeballs licked was erotic or just plain weird when

Rat-a-tat-tat.

'Find out who it is and come up and tell me' - I yelled, from the comfort of the steaming depths.

Now is probably a good time to mention that Tiddler is slightly hard of hearing and it was he who went to the front door.

'Who is it please?' - I heard him shout through the letterbox.

No response.

The knocking continued, as did the letterbox interrogation.

For several minutes.

So I hauled myself out of the bath, grabbed a robe, headed downstairs.....




and let in the deaf/mute Tesco deliveryman with the week's shopping.

What are the odds?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Testing Testing

The Youth of the Borough are apparently rife with Chlamydia, because they are not making use of Yummy Mummy's condoms and are transmitting it willy nilly - so to speak.

As part of the R U Clear testing campaign, Yummy Mummy and her team have been out and about in local colleges and shops offering to test people. She even bought new jewellery to match her R U Clear promotional teeshirt and matching thong.

Now before you screw your faces up thinking of latex gloves and dropping your trousers, it's a simple pee test, which the Youth can do themselves.

But I'm intrigued as to how you would go about approaching people, without getting your face punched.

'Excuse me, you look like you sleep around, would you like to pee in this pot?'

It knocks those Clipboard Charlies in the street into a cocked hat.

I have given it some thought and have come up with Sniffer Dogs as the solution. If they can detect bombs, drugs and bodies then why not VD?

Bouncers in nightclubs could have one to check people as they entered and stamp the back of their hand with I AM Clear.

You could hire them out for speed dating events to sweep the room before the clock starts.

Club 18-30 could operate teams of dogs to patrol the beaches and pools - part of the all-inclusive package, to avoid the hidden extras.

There's millions to be made here.


Keeganwatch week 7

Matches Won 0
Goals Scored 3
Goals Conceded 20
Days to Easter 12
SkyBet odds 3/1

Newcastle deny holding crisis talks with Kevin after the late defeat against Blackburn and the 3-0 thrashing by the Mersey Reds. 'The Board is 100% behind Kevin. There is no doubt or risk that he will walk away'. I agree absolutely. There is no doubt.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Earth Stood Still

On Tuesday night, the earth moved for Yummy Mummy. Well it would, her being in the sex business and all.

The earth apparently moved for millions of people. But not for me.

I was totally Mrs. Smug in the morning, having heard and felt nothing at 12.55am.

I have always claimed I could sleep through an earthquake, a nuclear bomb or an alien invasion and now I’ve proved it.

On the first count at least.

Bring it on Ruskies.

Keeganwatch week 6

Matches Won 0
Goals Scored 3
Goals Conceded 16
Days to Easter 24
SkyBet odds 7/1

Day 38 came and went. We held our breath and then had to let it out to laugh, as 5 goals sailed past Shay Given. 11-1 on aggregate. Kevin was just pipped to Pitiful Figure of the Week, by William Gallas and his post-match tears. As consolation, he still gets Keeganism of the week.

'I'm 110% committed to this club, and you can't get more committed than that' - Mmm. Try telling that to Paul Gascoigne.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rhythm and Blues

I have not been running for the last two weeks, thanks to a coughy coldy thing and a twingy knee due to wearing unfamiliar, blingy high heels to a party last week.

On Saturday I resolved to set aside all things coughy, coldy and twingy, to keep my training on schedule. I stretched as usual and decided to take it easy and to pull up if I couldn't run it off.

I'd only done about 3/4 mile when something gave. Not in a good, 'I want you to be fully satisfied before I even consider my own pleasure' kind of way. But 'oh, shit, how are you going to get home from here on one leg with no mobile and no access to Dylan'.

Two neighbours apparently saw me in distress (as I found out later in the weekend when they said 'oh, I saw you limping on the road yesterday, was everything all right?'), but didn't stop to see if I needed help.

Ice packs, support bandages, curry at Yummy Mummy's and some splendid sports results have all failed to lift my mood and things have worsened today.

I'm really not steady on my feet, so I have acquired a stick. The problem is, it doesn't come with instructions and I don't seem to be able to get any kind of coordination. I'm taking the Greg House approach at present - leaning heavily on the stick when I step on the right foot, but it's ending up more like Rolf Harris doing Jake the Peg.

Despite having medals for ballroom dancing, it turns out I have no rhythm. Clearly the skills required to perform with a walking stick outweigh anything Strictly Come Dancing demands.

So all I have to look forward to in my old age is sitting on the sidelines in the nursing home sipping Guinness through a straw, while the other old biddies in their silver shoes and polygripped dentures cop off at the tea dance.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Dylangram

Facebook is awash with applications and I'm bombarded with invites to find out what car I am, what drug I am, what kind of eyes I have and so on, ad nauseum.

But yesterday I discovered the one golden nugget that makes having applications worthwhile.

Bob Dylan Messaging.

There is a short excerpt from the Subterranean Homesick Blues video, but you get to choose the words on the cards and then send it.

So far I have used the medium of Dylan to ask my Great Manchester Run partner how her training is going and to find out from Yummy Mummy whether we're still on for a curry on Saturday night. Definitely an upgrade from mere texting.

Couldn't find a way to embed the video as it's in Facebook, but here's a still with some pretentious twaddle (leaving it as 'Bhuna or Biryani?' just looked plain wrong).



Keeganwatch week 5

No match for Kevin's boys this week as they are not involved in any cups. However, he cancels their Sunshine training trip to Dubai to concentrate on motivating them in the freezing cold of their home training ground. Tomorrow is day 38 in his current spell in charge, still looking for his first win - it's Newcastle United v Manchester United. The first time he was at St James' he walked out on day 38, (although they did talk him round).

*rubs hands in anticipation*

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fly Fishing

Doing the rounds of the home parties alongside Pampered Chef, Virgin Vie and Goody Two Shoes, is Venture - stylised photography cum art at outrageous prices.

Bait The Hook

At the party, you buy a voucher worth £165 for only £35. For this you get a professional photography session in the studio and a 10” by 8” photograph. Bargain.

Play the Line

In the empty white studio, you dance, run, jump and play with your kids, while the snapper shouts instructions and music plays in the background.

Reel Them In

A week later you return to choose your free photograph.

In the viewing room, with soft music and dimmed lights, a slide show of beautiful, airbrushed family images plays, while the consultant talks you through the albums, composites and sculptures you can upgrade to from your party voucher. Nothing under 3 figures. All major credit cards accepted.

In the past, Yummy Mummy and Mrs Second Hand Car Dealer have both fallen prey to this clever seduction. Mr Duck and I have held firm and chosen our single 10” by 8”, escaping with our wallets intact.

So, last week, clutching a £35 voucher, we went back for a second session, secure in the knowledge that we could hold firm. Little did we know that J R Hartley himself would be at work this time.

On Saturday we went to see the results. We chose a single, beautiful close up shot of JP and Tiddler hugging the Cuddly Huskies we bought in Lappland before Christmas and prepared to leave.

Then they hit us with the Big One. ‘Before you go, we’ve done a special composite for you to take a look at.’

The photographer had suggested bringing along a football and some kit to take a few themed shots at the session the previous week. Tiddler obliged with a fine display of chesting and shooting, and JP showed off his Cruyff turn.

Mr Hartley revealed a stunning piece of artwork – red, white and black with the Liverpool and United badges, our Little Ducks, a winter premier league ball and enough trick shots to keep John Virgo in exhibition games. Completely irresistible.

Hook, Line and Sinker

We emptied our wallets, re-mortgaged the house, sold a kidney and headed for home.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Things You Encounter When You Haven't Got Your Gun #5



Amid the media hype and frankly offensive suggestions that anyone would mark the anniversary of the passing of 23 people with anything less than full respect, a city prepared to honour the memory of the finest team of players ever to grace the turf of Old Trafford on Sunday.

It was with some trepidation that I walked towards the ground in the warm Spring sunshine. The mood was subdued and the heartfelt sentiments scrawled on shirts, scarves and flowers laid before the concourse expressed the thoughts of thousands. An inscribed scarf and a replica programme from the 1958 game against Sheffield Wednesday were waiting on my seat – a gift from the club for each supporter, which I will treasure. Songs from 1958 replaced Iggy Pop on the PA, just for the day.

I was proud to stand silent, scarf aloft - stifled sobs from Fellow Fan beside me the only sound.

How galling then to hear that many of these priceless scarves were being offered on Ebay yesterday for mere money.


View from my seat. Photo courtesy of Fellow Fan.


Keeganwatch Week 4

Matches Won 0
Goals Scored 2
Goals Conceded 11
Days to Easter 39
SkyBet odds 7/1

Aston Villa 4 Newcastle 1
It started well enough with a goal from the Poison Dwarf, but it seemed like the Dementors delivered the half-time talk in the away dressing room, as 11 strangers took to the field for the second forty five, with no memory of what they were there for. ‘Same 11 players, same numbers on the shirts’ says a crestfallen Keegan, shaking his head sadly after the game. A dark-suited Dennis Wise, looked on grimly from the Directors’ Box, like an undertaker mentally measuring up his client for a coffin.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Bloodbath

JP is prone to nosebleeds. Has been since tinyness.

We're used to it - as is he. He deals with them with no fuss - sitting out from football or snowball fights to sort it out. They come without warning, and not necessarily following a blow to the nose - that's a blow as in knock, not a blow as in Kleenex. Although a blow to the nose as in Kleenex can also set it off.

Sometimes it starts when he's asleep and he wakes up in the morning, dried blood all over his face and bedcovers like a scene from Taggart. As was the case this morning.

Unfortunately, it also happened when he had a friend over for a sleepover, whose parents had not warned us of their son's phobia about blood (- why would they, to be honest? - it's not something that comes up in everyday playground conversation)

We were disturbed by piercing screams from the bedroom. JP was sitting up in bed, bemused, but looking like roadkill and his traumatised playmate in the readybed was completely inconsolable and refused to stay another minute.

He's never been persuaded to come again and JP has never been invited back.

I'm thinking of renting him out for Hallowe'en.

Keeganwatch week 3

Matches Won 0
Goals Scored 1
Goals Conceded 7
Skybet Odds - 7/1

He Who Must Not be Named.
It's Groundhog Day. 3-0 to the Arsenal - again. Then yesterday, an offside goal sees two points dropped at St James Park after Owen jumps unfeasibly high to head a goal in. Has he borrowed Oscar Pistorius' carbon fibre feet? Curiously, no-one will utter Keegan's name in interviews, referring only to 'The New Manager' or 'since the Manager arrived'. Is he Voldemort in disguise?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pirates v Ninjas



The Little Ducks used some Christmas money from Uncle Ginger One to buy themselves the Pirates of the Caribbean PS2 game. It's a 2 person game. Someone is Captain Jack and the other person is Will or Elizabeth depending on the level. You have to work together, and stay close on screen. I'm becoming quite adept with a sword in the Fighty Fighty bits as Tiddler calls them.

It's a little disconcerting playing with Tiddler, though. We're busy blowing up walls and killing soldiers - he's Jack, I'm Will, but Tiddler insists on calling me Mummy instead of Will throughout. 'Come on mummy, this way'. 'Kill that bad guy, mummy'. Not exactly the script Johnny and Orlando were used to.

I have to say being a Pirate is very appealing and I'm thinking of switching sides on Pirates v Ninja on Facebook. I'm currently a Ninja trainee. Globally it's about even with 2 million on each side and similar battle results. There's no clear winner as yet.

Anyway I came across a debate using the tried and tested measure of google results on specific search terms. Here's what they found:

"killed by ninja" 18,900 results
"killed by pirates" 935
"killed by a ninja" 12,000
"killed by a pirate" 12,100
"killed by a raptor" 2,610*
"robbed by pirates" 1,950
"robbed by ninja" 3
"plundered by pirates" 3,300
"plundered by ninja" 0
"stolen by pirates" 643
"stolen by ninja" 9

Groups of ninja are much more dangerous than groups of pirates, a lone pirate is equally as dangerous as a lone ninja, both are more dangerous than a raptor*, but pirates do a lot more plundering, stealing and robbing.

Still too close to call. Your thoughts please, while I try to decide.

* threw that in for our little paleontologist, JP


Keeganwatch Week 2

Matches Won - 0
Goals scored - 0
Skybet odds - 7/1

So. 3-0 to the Arsenal and pipped by Spurs for Jonathan Woodgate. Turned down by Shearer, his hopes for the week rest on Joey Barton returning tonight. Ever the Pollyanna optimist, Keegan tells the BBC 'I think we'll see a new Joey Barton at the end of this'. Yes Kevin, the one in the suit with the arrows on.