Monday, December 07, 2009

Festive Spirits

On Saturday we decked the halls with boughs of holly for the annual PTA Christmas Fair; the highlight of which is usually the fire alarms being set off by the bacon butties cooking in the after-school-club kitchen, necessitating a visit from the fire brigade - complete with uniforms, helmets and a big red engine. Whoop, whoop.

Sure enough the bacon sizzled, the alarms clanged and hundreds of mums eagerly trooped outside to await the firemen. Unfortunately, the Headteacher had the foresight to warn them in advance this year, so they didn't turn up. Boo.

I manned the plant stall - baby cyclamen, miniature fir trees sprayed with glitter and snow, poinsettas, begonias, azaleas

and two large trays of grave pots, complete with plastic flowers and ribbons.

For a children's Christmas Fair?

I may as well have rung a large bell and shouted 'Bring out your Dead'.

Turns out they were hugely popular and outsold everything else on the stall. There were animated discussions as to whether Uncle Ernie would prefer white plastic carnations or yellow silk dahlias; sulks when we ran out of pink roses and a heated and serious debate over green holly with berries or variegated holly with purple ribbons for Grandad.

It  definitely raised my spirits, if not theirs.

Owen Goal Update

The figures are looking better this week and my roll of tenners is safe again. The goals are coming from elsewhere in the squad and the City fans will be miserable after doing us a favour beating the rentboys yesterday. It doesn't bode well for Owen when he can't even get a run out in a Carling Cup game or against bottom of the league Portsmouth.

Appearances: 18/23
Minutes Played: 725
Goals: 4
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:181
Goals Per Appearance: 0.22
Projected Season Tally*: 10

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (40 mins), goal frequency (every 181 minutes or 4.5 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (23 Prem games and c10 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 78%). So 33 games x 78% = 25 appearances. 25/4.5 = 6 more goals

Monday, November 30, 2009

Man in the Mirror

I was followed to work this morning.

That is, the same car was behind me for most of the journey - not actually stalking me.

Looking in the mirror, I could see the female driver giving her male passenger a tongue lashing of epic proportions - and not in a good way.

She never stopped for the whole journey. Every time I glanced back her hands were gesticulating wildly - finger pointed accusingly about four inches from his face.

At each traffic light, I braced myself for the impact of her pink Honda Jazz on my big-ass Megane's big-ass bumper. She clearly wasn't focused on the road ahead.

She kept taking her glasses off, waving them in his general direction, then replacing them on her sharp, narrow nose, all the while keeping up the tirade of abuse.

I was fascinated by his response, which was to remain completely impassive and unresponsive. I checked the mirror again to make sure he hadn't committed suicide on the way - death being a preferable alternative to spending another second being harangued by a Professional Harpy (First Class).

Or that maybe he was one of those inflatable car buddies women carry around in their cars so as not to look like they're travelling alone.

It was only when we neared the city centre that I spotted it.

The tell-tale white cord, surreptitiously snaking up out of his collar and into his left ear - out of sight of the harrassing harridan.

He was tuning her out by tuning into his iPod.

I'm guessing it was 'Every Day I Love You Less and Less' by the Kaiser Chiefs

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The fabulous Notkeith has once again come up with a brilliant, original illustration to accompany the more bizarre of my posts.

Thanks NK.

If you haven't already checked out his wonderful drawings, go over and take a look now.

From last week's Bike Shed goings-on:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Owen Goal Update

Owen's projected tally has dropped but is still on my bet threshold - just.

6 minutes against Chelsea and 90 minutes against Everton and no goals - so business as usual.

His golfing pals on Match of the Day highlighted the excellent positions he gets himself in as a positive. Surely that should have been a negative - i.e. with all the chances, why did he fail to find the back of the net? Once again they touted him for inclusion in the world cup squad. When asked if he would take him to the world cup, Lineker said 'Yes, IF he stays fit, IF he starts regularly for United and IF he gets goals'

So that will be no then, will it Gary?

Appearances: 16/19
Minutes Played: 617
Goals: 4
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:154
Goals Per Appearance: 0.25
Projected Season Tally*: 12

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (39 mins), goal frequency (every 154 minutes or 4 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (25 Prem games and c12 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 84%). So 37 games x 84% = 31 appearances. 31/4 = 8 more goals

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Behind the Bike Shed

A secure bike shed has been erected behind our offices, next to my parking space. Electronic passes, locks and cameras have been installed to assist the green-conscious in their bid to offset the carbon footprint from my big-ass Megane.

Despite the security, there has already been a theft from it, so the powers-that-be have turned to more extreme measures to protect the contents.

The Megane is a very duck-friendly motor. No keys, just a card that has to be about my person, which in proximity to the car, opens and locks doors, windows, sunroof, activates alarms and immobilisers and switches wipers, lights, CD player and engine on and off - so no fumbling about in handbags in the rain looking for keys.


However, in the last three weeks, when accessing or exiting my car by the bike shed, the Megane has failed to respond to the card signal. Mmm. This has meant standing next to it, trying all the doors and windows, shouting, jiggling my handbag and even in desperation, fishing the card from its depths and waving it about in the general direction of the car. 

Still nothing.

It's definitely not the card, because it's functioning normally at every other location the car is require to pass time. Nevertheless, I tried bringing along the spare card and waving the two together in a bizarre, synchronised ceremonial car-activating dance, with appropriate swearing as backing music.


Now, bear in mind that it's usually cold, dark and rainy when I arrive and leave work, so hanging about by the bike shed, arguing with a stubborn red car is not my first choice for recreational activity at the beginning and end of the day. I've even resorted to removing the little battery disc from the card, licking it and putting it back*. I probably would have been better pointing it through my head à la Clarkson.

I can only conclude that a spell has been cast over the bike shed, or an invisible forcefield placed around it by its owners. Either that or it's a time portal for bees to return to their home planet, and the Megane is cleverly resisting its gravitational pull.

Either way it's unstoppable, so I've thrown in the towel and moved spaces. Now at a safe distance of 20 yards, normal service has been resumed.

Although I fear for the little Fiesta, still parked there, at the mercy of whatever demon is at work.

*This did actually work a couple of times.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Virtually There

The Little Ducks did their Christmas lists last week and I communicated my innermost desires and wishes to Mrs. Duck Senior, for general circulation*

You all know what a fan of shopping I am. Not!

So you will be pleased to know that I completed my Christmas shopping on Sunday. All done.

Not only that, every item I have chosen is brilliant and perfect and will take me to the top of the Best Christmas Present charts in every Duck family residence. I am a Retail Goddess.

Smug doesn't being to cover it.

Until I realised on Monday morning that my shopping expedition was the stuff of Sunday night dreams and not only that, I cannot remember what ANY of the inspired and wonderful gifts were!

So contrary to my previous post and my 45 Things, I do not remember everything.

And the shopping remains to be done.


  • * A new coat for Local Walks for Local People;
  • a new #1 hat, as I've lost my beloved United beanie;
  • new speakers for the big-ass Megane - I've wrecked mine playing super-loud music (the only way to enjoy music IMHO);
  • a Moleskine Notebook (on my list for years and never received - take note Santa);
  • NO chocolate - I'm the one person in the world who doesn't like it;
  • a Philadelphus bush for the Purple Garden;
  • a phone number for someone who can make curtains.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I have realised that I am gradually working my way through explanations of my 45 Things.

Today #27 - 'I remember everything'.

These days that's not quite as true as it has been in the past, and so I resort to leaving myself aide-memoires in my phone - especially for blog material. If I don't make a note straight away - exact wording of the Little Ducks' entertaining observations, for instance, then I can't recall them perfectly and the moment is lost.

However, the prompts can sometimes be a little obtuse.

I try to keep them short, especially if I haven't got my glasses on and can barely see the screen - never mind press the right keys on the miniscule Nokia E71 keypad. So from time to time, I cannot for the life of me remember to what they refer.

This is compounded by predictive text.

Last week I left myself a note that reads:

Obituary Want Knobs. Marilyn Monroe. Mismatch

I kid you not. I have been wracking my brains trying to fathom this all week. WTF? - seriously.

Facebook came to my rescue this lunchtime when the photographs from Saturday's Hallowe'en party were posted and there is a great one of a friend , dressed as Marilyn Monroe

with her partner Obi Wan Kenobi.

Owen Goal Update:

For the first time, Michael's projected tally is over my bet threshold.

11 minutes against Blackburn and once again, no goal - business as usual.

BUT. 90 minutes against Moscow and an important goal.

He must be due an injury about now....

Appearances: 14/17
Minutes Played: 521
Goals: 4
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:130
Goals Per Appearance: 0.21
Projected Season Tally*: 13

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (37 mins), goal frequency (every 130 minutes or 3.5 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (27 Prem games and c12 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 82%). So 39 games x 82% = 32 appearances. 32/3.5 = 9 more goals

Monday, November 02, 2009

Run That By Me Again

I know how déjà vu works.

Look away now if you've heard this before.

Or don't.

Because you probably haven't.

No matter how you set them up, Scalextric cars never perform equally. You know the track length is exactly the same in each lane and it should be a fair race, but the design is fatally flawed.

The track comes in pieces that clip together and the joins are never perfect. Unless you devote permanent space to it, you are constantly dismantling and remantling so bumps, gaps and imperfections appear and the yellow car always loses.

And so it is with how the brain processes new information and how it stores long- and short-term memories. Robert Efron tested an idea at the Veterans Hospital in Boston in 1963 that stands as a valid theory today. He proposed that a delayed neurological response causes déjà vu. Because information enters the processing centres of the brain via more than one path (your imperfect racetrack) it is possible that occasionally that blending of information might not synchronize correctly.

Efron found that the temporal lobe of the brain's left hemisphere is responsible for sorting incoming information. He also found that the temporal lobe receives this incoming information twice with a slight (milliseconds-long) delay between transmissions -- once directly (the red car) and once again after its detour through the right hemisphere of the brain. If that second transmission (the yellow car) is delayed slightly longer (the ill-fitting join after the cicane) then the brain might put the wrong timestamp on that bit of information and register it as a previous memory because it had already been processed.

And that explains the sudden sense of familiarity.

Ta da.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Misery Loves Company

I rely on iPod Shuffle Karma to tune in to my moods - good and bad - and select the appropriate soundtrack.

You know - when it just seems to know what to choose, so that you nod in approval at each fresh track and never reach for the skip button.

It's particularly important for those times when you're closer to oblivion than Heaven and it's all you can do to keep breathing in and breathing out and get through the days.

I'm no Julie Andrews. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens don't perk me up and I definitely don't punch the air in delight at wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings.

I have a theory about misery. If it's there, you should go with it, rather than fight it. The last thing you need is conflict. If you're down, happy music just makes you feel worse, because it's so out of sync with how you feel. Miserable music on the other hand, is the aural equivalent of having your hair softly stroked, your temples massaged and soothing words murmured gently in your ear.

It fits.

So when karma lets me down, I hit the Misery Playlist:

Clash - Bankrobber
Smiths - How Soon Is Now
Beatles - Hey Jude
Cure - In Between Days
Alanis Morissette - Mary Jane
Portishead - Glory Box
Pogues - Rainy Night in Soho
Simon and Garfunkel - Wednesday Morning 3am
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes
Space - Money
Joan Osborne - One of Us
James - Laid
Andreas Johnson - Glorious
Muse - Blackout
Stranglers - Midnight Summer Dream
Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb

Owen Goal Update:

17 minutes at Anfield - long enough to get booed by the beach balls but not long enough to score. On to Oakwell on Tuesday and an excellent goal but in a mickey mouse cup that barely meets the bet qualifying criterion of being 'competitive'. Way to pick your moment, Michael.

Appearances: 12/15
Minutes Played: 420
Goals: 3
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:140
Goals Per Appearance: 0.25
Projected Season Tally*: 11

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (35 mins), goal frequency (every 140 minutes or 4 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (28 Prem games and c13 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 80%). So 41 games x 80% = 33 appearances. 33/4 = 8 more goals

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear Fergie

Today I am mostly stiff and sore, but not in a good way.

I spent Saturday in the rain watching JP and Tiddler play football (winning 4-2 and losing 5-1 respectively) and yesterday playing five hours of football to complete my Level 1 FA Coaching Course.

I am a qualified football coach!

Not one for letting the astroturf grow under my feet, I am sending the following to Old Trafford today:

Dear Fergie,

Further to completing my FA Coaching Course I am delighted to enclose my Curriculum Vitae for your attention.

As you can see, I am now ready to fulfil my destiny and step into your size 10s. After yesterday's lack lustre performance you can now retire, safe in the knowledge that your legacy is in good hands.

My grades are excellent.

I would draw your attention in particular to the A* Highly Commended for gum chewing, kicking a water bottle and remonstrating with the Fourth Official, whilst running my hands repeatedly through my hair.

My FA Assessor had the following to say:

'Duck shows a most impressive command of the Anglo-Saxon, although her Govan accent still needs a little work. If she can combine this with her excellent hairdryer-throwing technique, she will have no difficulty in ruling the changing room. I would urge her to embrace the C-word, if she can, as an especially effective way of dealing with BBC commentators and pundits.'

Yours sincerely,


P.S. Can you leave me your watch?

** BTW - today is Picture of a Duck's third birthday - Happy Blogiversary to me! **

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Things You Encounter When You Haven't Got Your Gun #7

ITV is showing the Star Wars movies over the coming six weeks.

I rub my hands with glee, and then wonder why - since I own the DVDs and can watch them any time I like (and do).*

But here's the thing. If a movie I like is showing on TV, I have to watch it.

Just because it's on.

Late at night, when I should be piling up the zeds ready for Morningtime, ITV 2 will decide to show The Wedding Singer.

'I'll just watch the first 10 minutes', I tell myself.

97 minutes later, satisfied that nothing has been added or taken away since I last watched it, (which may have only been a fortnight before), I warm my milk and crawl to bed.

Star Wars is scheduled for Saturday afternoons. So no sleep issues.

But they're showing them out of order. Episodes 1-6 instead of episodes 4-6, then episodes 1-3.

'1-6 is chronological, it's sequential. It makes perfect sense.' argues Mills' Mess.

No, No, No, No, No.

You must watch episodes 4-6 first. It's the Law - or should be.

You have to meet Vader before you meet Anakin. You have to finish episode 6 and wonder about the awful chain of events that led him to the Dark Side. The essential tragedy of Vader, which is key to the whole series has to unfold in episodes 1-3, with you absorbing it with the benefit of foresight, (or should that be hindsight?)

And besides, the agony of Vader's terrible revelation to Luke in episode 5 is lost, if you already know.*

Totally out of order.

* As an aside, does anyone else use the Force to open automatic doors, or just me? I started doing it to impress the Little Ducks when they were very little, but now find myself doing it whether they're with me or not.
** Of course, if you're a young thing and you saw Toy Story 2 before you saw Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is spoiled anyway.

Owen Goal Update:

19 minutes on astroturf in Moscow and once again, no goal.

Appearances: 10/13
Minutes Played: 338
Goals: 2
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:169
Goals Per Appearance: 0.20
Projected Season Tally*: 8

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (34 mins), goal frequency (every 169 minutes or 5 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (29 Prem games and c14 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 77%). So 43 games x 77% = 32 appearances. 32/5 = 6 more goals

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maximum Break

What's one better than a 147?

Well, this week, a 146.

Mrs. Panther Hunter and I do a regular Tuesday quiz at the Local Pub. We mostly come away with a respectable score, but usually behind either The Burks, The Occasional Table, The Wacky Racers, Us In The Corner et al.

Once, we came away with the last place sweets, but we never, ever get our raffle ticket drawn for the Jackpot Question.

Until this week.

Mrs. Panther Hunter's ticket, #147, is pulled out for the £100 Rollover Jackpot and she elects me to go up to answer the question.

- It is on publishing - the industry in which I work.
- It is about J K Rowling - an author whose works I have read.
- It is an obscure reference to some law suit against some minor publishing house - of which I have never heard.


I retake my seat and apologise to my partner.

The next ticket drawn is #146 - my ticket!

- It is on books - my thing again.
- It is on a book I have read - The Big Sleep
- It is by an author I know - 'Raymond Chandler'.

Mrs. Panther Hunter and I split the £100 and go home happy.

The next day, I get an unexpected £25 cashback cheque for my car insurance. £75 up on the week. We celebrate with new astroturf boots for me, JP and Tiddler.

I also win an eBay auction for a red lace Christmas party frock - for £3.

Tonight we have invested in a lucky dip national lottery ticket..... This time tomorrow, we'll be millionaires.

Owen Goal Update:

With his broken fanny fixed, Sicknote was back on the field for the home game against Bolton and managed 82 minutes without a goal.

Appearances: 9/12
Minutes Played: 319
Goals: 2
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:160
Goals Per Appearance: 0.22
Projected Season Tally*: 9

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (35 mins), goal frequency (every 160 minutes or 4.5 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (29 Prem games and c15 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 75%). So 44 games x 75% = 33 appearances. 33/4.5 = 7 more goals

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can You Hear Me At The Back?

Sometimes I wish I were a Lesbian.

No, not me. Chandler from Friends. Series 1*.

Anyway. He says it in Central Perk - followed up with 'Did I say that out loud?'

Now he did it for comic effect, but I just say things out loud because they're in my head and won't stay there.

Words, like brightly-coloured Spacehoppers, bounce around the chambers lined with grey filing cabinets**, desperate to come out and play.

As you know, I don't restrict this pastime to when I have an audience, and even if I do, most utterances are of the rhetorical kind.

But here's the thing.

Until now, my mutterings have taken the form of monologuing - mostly, but not exclusively, in my own Welsh Lancs. accent.

However, on Wednesday, while driving home alone, I realised I was having a two-way conversation with myself, with both sides being played by me.

And neither side was winning. At one point I found myself pointing repeatedly with one hand and waving dismissively with the other, when I realised I was talking utter drivel. But would I be convinced? No. Total refusal to admit I was wrong, and complete frustration when I couldn't get myself to back down and accept that I was right in the first place.

On days like these I thank God for the hands-free mobile phone kit. I don't actually have one, but I pray that the drivers of the cars behind and in front of me assume I do.

* God how sad is it that I know that?
** full of useless shit, but beautifully catalogued and retrievable in nano-seconds.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Local Pubs for Local People

Our sales manager came over last week before an important strategy conference. So I took him out to the Local Pub for dinner - although it's less of a local these days, following a Greene King refurbishment into an homogenised family restaurant.

After dinner we headed up to another Local Pub, with a rather excellent pool table and juke box, which is our usual Sunday night haunt.

'It's a proper traditional pub', I inform him. 'I think you'll like it'.

We enter, only to be confronted by two drunks at the bar with their trousers round their ankles, demanding that we judge their boxer shorts for funkiness. (Multi-coloured spots won over plain black). They shuffle unsteadily out to their taxi, satisfied.

A three-legged mongrel hobbles around with a sock on its remaining back leg - apparently it's been chewing it. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!

A Samoyed lies in the stairwell - but looks more like a Spring lamb, as all its fur has been shaved off!

Leonard Cohen commits suicide over and over on the juke box.

I check the snug - half-expecting to see the Old Cougars, with their fried fish and double gins.

My guest looks bemused and excuses himself outside with a small cigar. Things improve when he notices a classic, pristine white E-Type Jaguar*, belonging to the Landlord. He has a look inside at the landlord's invitation and comes back in.

'Great pub!' he remarks.

I nod, and thank God for Petrolheads.

*This is my absolute all time favourite car and first on my list when I win Millionaire

Friday, October 09, 2009

That's My Boy

I swear.

A lot.

I make no apology for it. I don't do it in front of the Little Ducks or Mrs Duck Senior and I try to keep it to reasonable levels at work; but apart from that, my speech is peppered with Fucks and Bollocks and Twats*.

I embrace the Anglo-Saxon as an important and useful part of our heritage, but tend to stick to the classics to be honest. The Urban Dictionary is a closed book to me and I am astounded at some of the expressions from everyday life that take on a whole new meaning therein**

JP shies away from it. He even spent the Transformers 2 movie counting the swear tally, while Tiddler just watched the fighty fighty bits open-mouthed.

Tiddler just keeps getting better at it. Normally when you hear kids swearing, it's comical. They can't get it right at that age. They use the wrong one, or put it in the wrong place, or use the wrong tense.

Not Tiddler. When he thinks he's out of earshot, he relishes in bloodys and fucks and hells. Obviously there's trouble if I catch him. Current punishments are confiscations of Go-Gos or Playstation privilege withdrawal.

The trouble is, there's part of me that just wants to give him points for getting it so right. Perhaps it's in the genes.

* But not the C-Word. I just can't bring myself to say it, ever.
** Look up tromboning or bathing the dog. or don't. I'd go with don't.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Morningtime 2009

So we haven't talked about early mornings for a while. 'Are the Little Ducks sleeping till reasonable o'clock these days?' - you ask.

Thank you, but no. They wander into my bedroom, sometime around 6-6.30am - but their established routine of awkward questions has branched out.

Tiddler's had a particularly good week.

Day One: It's still dark outside. He comes in quietly, gets in bed and starts speaking French - specifically counting from 1 to 12. 'We're doing 13-32 next week', he informs me. I'm curious. If you can get to 32, you can pretty much get to 69 - same principles. I don't push it - soixante-neuf is not something I want to hear from Tiddler's mouth at the moment*.

Day Two: I hear a strange noise and open one eye. Tiddler has his face buried in my red bra and is sniffing it. 'Your bra smells really nice', he comments. 'It's Comfort' - I inform him. 'Same as your boxers. Go sniff them'.

Day Three: I am awakened by a flash. Tiddler has my phone and is photographing me asleep in sepia. 'I videoed you asleep as well' - he announces proudly. Then he plays back videos from the Oasis concert. 'How did you get all the pictures and videos back?', I ask him. I had thought they were wiped off by mistake. He shows me and also demonstrates how to zoom in and out for good measure. I resign myself to never getting in touch with my inner geek.

Day Four: Much better. I am awakened by a kiss. Tiddler gets in and snuggles up. I relax.

So JP takes up the baton. 'You can actually rip flesh with your own teeth if you really tried' - he tells us both as he strolls in. 'The Aztecs did it if they didn't have any weapons'.

I reflect on how nice it was to wake up in peace in a hotel last week, as I reach for my dressing gown and go in search of a reviving cup of tea.

*The swearing debate continues with Pink joining Lily Allen as a PottyMouth - more on that another day.

Owen Goal Update

Appearances: 8/11
Minutes Played: 237
Goals: 2
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:119
Goals Per Appearance: 0.25
Projected Season Tally**: 10

** Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (30 mins), goal frequency (every 119 minutes or 4 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (30 Prem games and c15 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 73%). So 45 games x 73% = 33 appearances. 33/4 = 8 more goals**

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Owen Goal

There are some things that shall remain sacred and the allocation of the number 7 shirt at OT to only those special ones worthy of the honour is one of them.

I can just about reconcile myself to the fact that He Who May Not Be Questioned signed the Scouse Dwarf, on the basis that it didn't cost any of our hard-earned Fan Cash, but I just cannot bear to see him sporting 7.

Of course, when HWMNBQ signed Ronaldo and paraded him in the same shirt, there was widespread criticism that an untested young showpony from Portugal should be entrusted with the legacy of Beckham, Cantona, Robson, Coppell, Best et al, but no-one can argue that it was ultimately in safe hands and he proved himself more than worthy.

But Owen - whose pedigree owes more to Darren 'Sicknote' Anderton than to his predecessors in the Sacred Seven - will never reach those heights for United. He can barely reach the physio's table at Carrington.

I think he can score goals, but only if he's fit enough to play and I don't believe he will be - at least not consistently.

So following our Keeganwatch tradition, SkyBet and Lanky Shaq have my roll of tenners on Owen scoring less than 12 competitive goals this season.

Appearances: 8/10
Minutes Played: 237
Goals: 2
Goal Frequency (mins): 1:119
Goals Per Appearance: 0.25
Projected Season Tally*: 11

True to form, he's now out with a groin injury so his possible appearances drops week by week.

I'm quietly confident.

* Calculated as follows: His average playing time per appearance (30 mins), goal frequency (every 119 minutes or 4 games at current minutes per appearance rate), number of possible appearances left (31 Prem games and c15 cup games), and appearance frequency (currently 80%). So 46 games x 80% = 37 appearances. 37/4 = 9 more goals.**

** Maths teacher's daughter. Genes will out!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So I'm quietly going about my business in the house, when I happen to glance out of the kitchen window at the Purple Garden and see this:

I rush outside to check if Tiddler has a pulse, a string of expletives trailing behind me.

I kneel beside him and reach out gently.

He opens one eye, places his thumb and forefinger on his forehead in what is clearly a 'Loser' gesture, grins, and shouts 'Gotcha!'

I am ready to kill him!

But then I realise he has only just turned 7 and this is a quality prank, well-executed.

I grin back. 'Nice one, Tiddler'

We high five, and I get him to reassume his pose so that I can photograph it for posterity.

Noel's House Party is alive and prospering in Friendly Drive - although he doesn't award me a Golden Gotcha as a memento, which is slightly disappointing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

45 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 love tattoos
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 déjà 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. I can cure hiccups
45. Today is my birthday

*Aka Swiss Army Knife

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Uncomfortably Numb

I don't really do Nights Out In Town.

Years ago, NOIT tended to end in disaster for me. For instance:

Walking into a canal fully-clothed at the Water Witch in Lancaster and then trying to persuade a cab to take a dripping, stinking girl home;

Ending up in hospital for a week with concussion, after a shoulder ride race round university campus ended with my forehead meeting a low beam and the back of my head meeting a pavement;

But that was a long time ago, so I wasn't particularly apprehensive when, for the first time since moving to East Lancs 13 years ago, I planned a NOIT.

We went to see Think Floyd at the local Met, following up a trip to The Australian Pink Floyd Show earlier in the year in Manchester. They were fantastic.

So far so good.

It was Ginger Rick's birthday, so we had all arranged to meet up after the concert at a local cellar bar to celebrate. Or so I thought.

Apparently dimly-lit, slippery flights of stairs and three inch wedge heels don't mix and I plummeted unceremoniously down the steps to the bottom.

The results from A & E read as follows:

2 bumps to the head,
Cut cheek - now scarred
Cut and bruised arm
Bruised knee
Severely bruised thigh
2 cracked ribs.

I'm thinking I might leave it another 13 years before doing it again.

And in a twist of ironic fate, while the Little Ducks are holidaying in Mexico, I got Flu last week - the coughing from which has re-cracked my ribs!

Thank you and good NOIT.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Back To The Future

After school each day a motley collection of under 10's with grey shorts and scabby knees dump their schoolbags and congregate on the street.

There is a patch of wasteground by the ginnel with shoulder-high grass and climbable trees - perfect for dens and hide and seek. It's also home to frogs which are carted in tupperware tubs back to home-made habitats in buckets.

Leslie, the icecream man, in an ancient Whippy van signals the children for 99s with raspberry sauce and flakes every Wednesday.

They spend hours making sand out of rocks by grinding them on the pavement.

They build dams with sticks, stones and leaves when the cars get their weekly wash and streams of soapy water trail down the gutters to the drains.

They use traffic cones for goalposts, bins for stumps, and play endless games of Tig, requiring no props save laughter, enthusiasm and the ability to dodge and weave.

Sunny days bring swim shorts and water guns for running battles in the cul de sac.

They trade football cards and Go Gos, ride their bikes in endless figures of 8 and knock on for any child who hasn't reappeared outside within 10 minutes of arriving home.

No, I'm not reminiscing about my childhood in the 60s. This is 2009 in Friendly Drive.

In the 2000s, if the Daily Mail is to be believed, your stereotypical child sits in front of a screen for entertainment - playing Guitar Hero and befriending 400 people on Facebook. He watches TV on demand, takes no exercise and is losing the art of conversation, his social skills and his childhood.

Unless Friendly Drive is in a time warp, I beg to differ.

And I'm glad.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Vanishing and Mass Suicide

I watched a great BBC4 documentary recently about the fact that 1/3 of the UK's and US's bees have died.*

The Acting State Apiarist - (what a great job title) explained that they are calling this phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder.

Am I bothered? I asked myself. I don't have a sweet tooth, so I don't like honey. What's the big deal?

The purple gardener in me should have known better. Bees are responsible for 80% of all pollination in the world.

In the world of flower sex - bees are the King Pimps in gold chains and Hummers. Without them, the planet's flora goes celibate, frustrated and ultimately barren.

Forget global warming. This is literally the end of the world, unless we all pitch in with Q Tips and endless patience, or stick velcro on the backs of wasps to catch pollen so that they can finally perform some useful function on the planet.

In the US, bees get shipped endlessly around the 50 states, purely to allow plants to procreate. The entire almond crop of California alone, which is a mindboggling 80% of the world's output requires 10 billion bees each year for 3 weeks to bear fruit, and almonds are the #1 horticultural export of the US, worth $2 billion annually. The Death of Bees is a seriously-serious economic problem.

I can sense that I still haven't entirely captured your interest yet. I don't like almonds either so it doesn't seem like a great loss. But here's the thing.

The bees are not just dying........

they're disappearing.

There are no bodies.

There is conjecture that it's a virus, or chemical poisoning from the years of ingesting pesticides and whatever else they spray crops with these days, but that does not explain the lack of corpses.

Beekeepers are checking their hives, only to find them suddenly empty, save for a few scattered bodies. And we're talking billions and billions of missing bees - worldwide. If I tell you that it takes 2,200 trucks to transport California's almond bees alone, you can get a sense of the scale. The landscape should be knee deep in stiffening workers and drones.

So theories:

Where are they all?

Have they gone into hiding, fed up of globe-trotting prostitution as a lifestyle?

Are they being stolen to some purpose? Are Evil Rabbits planning some elaborate world takeover?

Have the 456 swapped their drug of choice for getting high from children to honey?

Answers on a postcard please.

Things have taken an eerie turn on Friendly Drive as well. I came down the other morning to discover that the stick insects have committed suicide en masse. All inexplicably dead, in one go. No change of diet or environment or anything.

I can only assume that they've heard about the bees and chose death before privet deprivation.

*Clearly I have no life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Secret of Love - Part IV

No prizes for guessing that when head, heart and ladybits all intersect, I believe you get Love in all its finest glory.

"When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars and he will make the face of Heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with Night and pay no worship to the garish Sun."

Now I know Shakespeare would never have made it onto the back of a £20 note and his sister wouldn't have formed a band, if Juliet had stood on the balcony and said

'My head, heart and ladybits are all intersecting with love for you' instead of the whole stars, night and sun speech.

But the sentiment is the same. It's Heaven and Earth and everything that falls in between.

It's not an exact science, but the triple intersection is the smallest section of the diagram, perhaps reflecting the amount of people lucky enough to experience it and how precious it is.

That is all.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Secret of Love - Part III

Swap the heart for the head, and you're left with this:

Friends With Benefits, or more commonly - Fuck Buddies*.

Now this relationship should definitely carry a Government health warning on the wrapper. This really is not for everyone.

But I do know friends for whom this has worked very well. Both parties are compatible intellectually - they're friends, but with an added spark of sexual connection. That underlying tension heightening the senses and weaving insinuation and invitation through every conversation like a scarlet satin thread caressing the skin.

They can act on it, knowing that the encounters will be charged with passion, but without the emotional baggage the heart brings to the party. Anything involving the heart has drawbacks as well as benefits. It's never a win-win.

But it's the trickiest combination to manage. Locking that heart out is well nigh impossible and if one partner fails and emotions sneak in, the delicate balance is destroyed.

The road to Fuck Buddydom is paved with broken hearts and ruined friendships.

* Sorry mother. Look away now.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Secret of Love - Part II

So we've covered friends.

Let's look at another combination.

I love this one. The cause of more tears, sighs and broken hearts than any other, but we wouldn't be without it.

When heart and ladybits collide, you get this:

Crush, or infatuation - whatever you want to call it - it means fireworks.

The butterflies, the loss of appetite, the increased heart rate.

The 24/7 obsession that's never going to end, it burns so brightly.

But sadly, without the head - the meeting of like minds to fuel the flames of passion, it is consumed quickly and the fire dies.

This is the stuff of holiday romances, movies and rites of passage.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Secret of Love - Part I

While searching the card displays in Paperchase at Euston station recently, I came across this:

Not dissimilar to the Secret of Happiness I revealed on this blog's first anniversary, but the theory differs because it says 'fall in love', not 'get married' for medium term happiness.

It set me thinking about the Secret of Love, which I will reveal in the form of Venn diagrams in homage to Salvadore.

Let us assume that human beings are controlled by three factors - Head, Heart and Ladybits*. Defining relationships depends on which ones intersect.

So: If Head and Heart intersect thus:

You get this:

Perfect Paddy's Day companions.

*or manbits

Friday, June 26, 2009

Things You Encounter When You HAVE Got Your Gun

I don't normally report news stories, but the following item really caight my eye.

A desperate man, out of work, and wanting presents for his kids, took one of their toy guns, sprayed it black and then attempted to hold up his local shop with it.

The Polish cashier was having none of it, shouted at him, grabbed the gun and then called the Police.

Stupid woman, I thought. It's just not worth the risk. Hand over the cash, let the owners claim on the insurance and take 6 months off on full pay with stress.

Turns out, the shop was a toy shop and the cashier recognised the gun.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's In The Bag

There are days when I’d like to be 10’ tall.

Like when I’m standing in Heaton Park with 70,000 others, struggling to catch a glimpse of Noel and Liam on the big screen, never mind the actual stage.

Yummy Mummy and Mr. Yummy Mummy gave up and retreated further back to enjoy a better view and avoid the golden showers*.

Luckily everyone was dressed for the wet weather we’d had all day and I was wearing Bli Guinness’ waterproof coat not mine, so no real harm was done.

The concert was awesome. Barman and I threaded our way to the barriers at the front and bounced to the music as part of a 70,000 strong choir extolling the virtues of Cigarettes and Alcohol.

The layers of clothing did provide plenty of concealed areas in which to smuggle cans of Strongbow**. I chose the back of my jeans and felt very pleased with myself when they went undetected at security. But hats off to Pops, another regular at the Local Pub for cheek and inventiveness and a new gold standard for smuggling.

He’d heard that a friend had smuggled in two boxes of wine the previous day by removing them from the cardboard boxes and concealing them in a 40GG bra worn by his girlfriend. He duly bought his own, ditched the box and arranged the bag down the front of his jeans and under his waterproofs. He made his way to security and was dismayed to see that the boys and girls in Hi-Vis jackets were conducting body searches.

His left breast is patted. - ‘?’

‘Mobile phone’

His right breast is patted - ‘?’

‘Pack of Hamlet cigars’

Her hand moves lower…. – ‘??’

‘Colostomy bag.’

‘Oh. In you go, Sir.’


Update: once again Notkeith has come up with a fantastic original cartoon to go with my words. Thanks a million. Do go and admire his brilliant artistry here.

*Seriously, I get why you’d pee in a cup to avoid the queues at the 40 toilets (the amount deemed adequate for 70,000 people who’d been drinking all day) and also to guard your place near the front, but why feel the need to fling it in the air? If golden showers are your thing, that’s fine, but surely reserved for the privacy of your own home.

** Can’t do the black stuff in cans. All kinds of wrong and lager is just a golden shower in a can, IMHO.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Highs and Lows


So JP and Tiddler did the Great Manchester Mini Run on Saturday following their inaugural run last year. They were both 'going for it' so I made sure we were at the front of the 2000+ kids waiting for Usain Bolt and Haile Gebrselassie to fire the starting gun. JP came an astonishing 8th, yes 8th, in an equally astonishing 6 minutes and 21 seconds. Tiddler wasn't that far behind him having finally discovered how to run without skipping. But then they're both slim and weigh about as much as a bag of fluff, so there's very little to carry round and they're aerodynamically streamlined.


Unlike their mother, who had to try to keep up with them (failing miserably, I'd add here) as the 'designated accompanying adult'.

It was only when I crossed the finish line that it dawned on me that doing a one mile sprint race the day before the Great Manchester Run wasn't the best idea I've ever had and totally wrecked the months of training I'd put in. I never sprint. I'm definitely built for endurance rather than speed and came away red-faced and limping. Not good. Next year I shall watch from the safety of the finish line. The whole course is barriered off and marshalled so even Tiddler couldn't get in much trouble on his own.


So I limped off to Old Trafford to watch United win the title at home for only the second time since the Premiership started and ensure that the Fat Spanish Waiter has an empty trophy cabinet again.

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
We're going to Italy
Que sera, sera


So I was stiff and sore yesterday morning - and not in a good way. My 55 minute target was out of the window as dosed to the eyeballs with Ibuprofen, I was just looking to break the hour. It was close all the way round and I was relying on a sprint finish to clinch a sub-60 time. As I passed Mr Duck Senior and the Little Ducks on the Cheering Bus at 9k, blowing me kisses and waving their giant foam fingers I tried to kick for home.

Nothing happened. My legs just wouldn't respond. The petrol warning light had been on for at least 2k and now I was down to vapour. I finished in a tantalisingly close 61 minutes. Boo.


So a little despondent and VERY stiff and sore, the Little Ducks and I headed for the Local Pub and a celebratory lunch. We had steaks and Belgian waffle stacks and I reflected on the fact that I improved on last year's time, came 2000 places higher than last year and 639th in my gender and age group. I also raised over £500 for Cancer Research. Not bad for a lame Duck.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Things You Encounter When You Haven't Got Your Gun #6


No, I'm not being premature here, although after 3 points on derby day yesterday, United edge ever closer.

Top of the League and THAT'S A FACT, Rafa.

No, Tiddler's team have just won their East Lancs. Under 7's Strictly Alphabetical Order Because That's Fair Division with an impressive:

Played 20 - Won 17 - Drawn 1 - Lost 2 - Goals For - 101 - Goals against - 27

We had a presentation night last weekend, at which they collected a huge league trophy, half the size of the proud captain, who kissed it and held it aloft in finest premiership tradition while the crowds cheered.

Tiddler himself collected his individual trophy and was photographed with the League trophy. Last month's Flock of Seagulls look has been replaced with a Floppy Tulip*, but the smile was worth a thousand jars of hair wax.

The United Junior Academy Manager came to watch an Under 7's tournament we were participating in at the weekend, and we got a sneak preview of some of the teams we'll be playing next year in the East Lancs Under 8's Tough Division. The boys were somewhat disappointed when at the end of the group phase, the organisers announced over the PA that everyone was a winner and would be getting certificates.

Our success-hungry Tiddlers looked confused. Who won? When were the semi-finals and finals? Was anyone going to Rome?

Can you imagine the outcry if at the end of the Champions League Group Phase UEFA issued certificates to all the teams, with a press release congratulating everyone on being winners just for taking part?

I think not.

And in a double TYEWYHGYG whammy, I am not eligible for a ticket to Rome because last summer when I renewed my season ticket, I opted out of automatic Carling Cup tickets. Had I known that this penalty was in the offing at the time, I would have gritted my teeth and resigned myself to watching the reserves progress through the Mickey Mouse Cup, with a Champions League Final ticket at stake. So there will be no mooning over Messi for me in Rome in 2 weeks.


* Starts out as an impressive Beckhamesque mohawk, but with fine, long blonde locks, droops and twists to resemble a floppy tulip after a few minutes despite a ton of hair wax.

NB If you're wondering why POAD has been silent for a few weeks I don't really have an answer I'm afraid, other than my dreaded insomnia has been back and Nothing, I repeat Nothing is funny when you're sleep deprived.

Friday, March 27, 2009

If I Had a Photograph of You

I don't like shaven heads on small boys. There is enough early onset thuggery without the obligatory grade 1 or 2 clippered look. So every 7 weeks we head for Trendy Salon for consultation, hot chocolate, spicy biscuits and expensive cuttage.

JP and Tiddler - have completely different hair type and colour and therefore have different stylists at the Trendy Salon.

JP has thick, dark hair that grows sideways at the back instead of down and sticks up adorably in the front in a calf lick that will dog him his whole life (as mine does). He has his cut pretty short all over, with a little wax in the front for that Cheeky Charmer finish.

Tiddler has fine, blonde, static-prone hair (like mine) which sticks out in all directions when short, so has to been kept in a longish moptop for control and order to reign.

It therefore offers him a range of bizarre styling options, to his own unique requirements.

For Red Nose Day he sported a 5-inch red mohican spike, which rapidly collapsed to a flopping tulip, given the length and fineness of his hair. Headteacher was most impressed, as he took the stage in assembly to receive a certificate for not killing anyone at Fencing.

Last week he informed me that he sometimes takes girls' headbands at school to look like Tevez.

But this week, he has surpassed himself. Trendy Salon being busy, he trooped upstairs with stylist Wendy - out of sight. I should have known better.

Twenty minutes later he catwalks down the stairs, bewaxed and grinning. The entire salon clientele collapses in laughter - foil, caps and rollers shaking in unison.

'It's like that man from The Wedding Singer, Mummy. At the airport check-in.' - JP observes.

Sure enough, the sides are plastered up into two wings and the centre is flattened forward over one eye - a la Flock of Seagulls.

Wendy returns the tub of wax to the drawer and walks off to her next client.

I just stand and stare, trying to calculate the appropriate tip.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Last week over at Misssy's she had the inspired idea of suggesting that notKeith base his cartoon Pic A Day on blog posts. He duly obliged with this after she posted about dog poo.

On Saturday, he chose one of my own posts about finding sex toy packaging in the ginnel, (after I cheekily emailed him) and produced this brilliant, brilliant cartoon.

I am grinning from ear to ear, particularly since I think I can remember which washing line I've seen those boxers on!

A big thank you and hearty recommendation to go over and check out notKeith's inspired artwork regularly.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Early Kick-Off

'Star Player - Emanuel Adebayor - attack 96 points'

It's 5.30am.

I know it's 5.30am because it's still dark outside, and a reminder that the crocuses might be out, but Spring is still a week away.

The Little Ducks are playing Match Attax Football Cards on the landing outside my bedroom.

'Man of The Match - Ashley Cole - defence 82 points'.

Our Dogforaweek is still quiet downstairs, but I know that once I put foot to carpet, his Steve Austinesque hearing will kick in and his bladder will demand that I take him for a tour of The Lampposts of Friendly Drive 1967-2009.

I resign myself to another early start and reach for my dressing gown.

'Why are you playing on the landing outside my bedroom, waking me up instead of staying in one of your bedrooms?' - I demand.

JP drops his shoulders, sighs and rolls his eyes.*

'It's a Cup Semi-final' - explains Tiddler.

When the light of comprehension fails to flicker on my face, JP adds

'Neutral Venue' **

*I hate that. I hate that. I hate that. It's getting so that it invokes a Pavlovian response in me. As soon as I detect the first hint of a revolving iris I find my nails digging into my palms and a pique of inadequacy welling up. By the time he reaches his teens and really knows it all, I shall be sitting in my dressing gown all day, talking to the Stick Insects and licking the barred windows, while Dido plays on an endless loop in the background.

**He doesn't say 'Duh', but I can hear it clearly in my head

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Could you be more explicit?

Tiddler has reached the swearing boundary, peered over the top and likes what he sees.

Sly V-signs with the extended fingers innocently rubbing against the face - when I put the Chocolate Fingers into the special biscuit tin with electric fences, combination locks and attack dogs*

'What's the word for a female dog, Mummy?' - as I wrestle the remote away to switch from Clarkson to Candleford.

'The F-word rhymes with Duck, doesn't it Mummy?' - watching me remove the Football Legends sticker residue from the newly-painted bedroom door with nail varnish remover.

And I'm fairly certain he flicked me the Bird from the bath under the cover of bubbles when I pointed out that he'd been luxuriating in the waters for 45 minutes.

I am now discovering that song lyrics can be a minefield when you have tender but sharp-eared Little Ducks.

'Here's my new download list for my iPod please' - begins JP, handing over a Post-It with blue glitter writing and little kisses and hearts on it**

'Have you got any money?' - (more in hope, than in expectation)

'You can use your iTunes account, can't you?' - the logic of which, of course, settles it.

It's not a bad list - Glorious - Andreas Johnson, The Reason - Hoobastank, The Fear - Lily Allen, Wire To Wire - Razorlight. So I set about the purchasing, copy the new tunes to both their iPods***, and burn a mixed CD for the car including the new tunes.

The Fear comes on. We are all humming along merrily - trying to learn the verse lyrics (we nailed the chorus from the radio weeks ago)

Life’s about film stars and less about mothers
It’s all about fast cars and cussing each other
But it doesn’t matter cause I’m packing plastic
and that’s what makes my life so
fucking fantastic

Clear as a bell and definitely not in the radio version. Too late I recall the big, red EXPLICIT warning next to the song menu on iTunes.

Quick as a flash, Tiddler pipes up triumphantly.

'Lily Allen sang the F-word. That means we can sing it too when we sing The Fear.'

'No you can't sing the F-word - we'll sing Flipping Fantastic instead.'

'But it's part of the song and Lily Allen sings it' - he persists.


I can't see him in the rear view mirror, but I can feel the Bird through the back of my seat.

*He still manages to get in
** I think he thinks it softens the blow
*** For iPods read Pirates of the Caribbean MP3 players - way cooler than my black 8g Nano.

Friday, February 13, 2009


JP and Tiddler have entirely separate approaches to surviving school.

Not that it’s a school that requires surviving. It is an excellent, over-subscribed primary school and we are fortunate to live within its catchment area.

JP has sailed his way effortlessly through the first four years with reports of enthusiasm, excellence, hard work and peer popularity. He is currently wowing Male Teacher with gifts of stick insects and requests for extra maths homework – obviously making up for the video exposé earlier this term.

Tiddler has trodden a somewhat rockier path, particularly in Reception with visits to the Head’s and Deputy Head’s offices after Jason-style threats to his peers and numerous

‘Could I have a quick word about Tiddler please, Mrs Tiddler?’ - from Stern Teacher

to the extent that I used to dread picking him up and took to wearing dark glasses and a wig to remain incognito.

Things have picked up since then and he is negotiating year 2 and its forthcoming SATS testing with aplomb.

But this week he has surpassed himself. He asked if one of his friends could come for tea after school on Tuesday. I confirmed with Tiddler’s Friend's mother and we entertained a small dark-haired boy with football, NotRats and sausage and mash, before taking him home as agreed at 6.20pm.

I knock on the door to deliver my charge and am confronted by the Deputy Head.

My initial confusion and panic that somehow Tiddler had found a way to turn an innocent play-date into infant kidnapping and that the Police were lurking behind the Head with cuffs and a caution, turned to relief when I realised he was smiling.

Genius! Tiddler has recognised the power of influence and networking and gone straight for nepotistic gold.

His new best friend is the Deputy Head’s son.

Nice one Tiddler!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Suburban Stick Insects

When I hear the words 'Stick Insect', I immediately think of tropical rainforests, Attenborough voiceovers or the vivarium at the Manchester Museum. Exotica at the very least.

So when the Chicken Farmer offers me some as pets for the Little Ducks, I jump at the chance. He has hundreds as they breed like rabbits, apparently, but are not as evil*

I beg an empty Bensons Licquorice and Blackcurrant jar from the lady at the sweet shop and prepare for our new arrivals.

The NotRats lick their lips and gnash their orange teeth in anticipation - then remember that they are vegetarian and return to flicking poo and chewing their playtunnel.

10 stick insects of varying size turn up on my desk in a jar, with a net cover like a jam pot. There are extensive instructions printed on the side.

'Eat privet and bramble. Spray once a day with water'

Privet? How suburban. I am fascinated.

I had been scoping out the local garden centre, looking at rubber plants, palms, cheese plants and banana leaves and working out the cost of keeping the little Peperamis happy. But privet? I picture Sir David striding through the jungle, showcasing the privet topiary as he exposes the secret suburban life of our fauna.

Unfortunately, Friendly Drive was built in the 60's - and the front gardens are open plan and largely festooned with Laurel and Leylandii.

I decide to check out 1940's and 50's suburbia, by taking secateurs out on my running routes. But there is a problem. The kind of people who have privet front hedges are also the kind of people who keep them closely clipped (and have pictures of ivy on their wheelie bins) so finding somewhere to pause and snip a few branches proves difficult.

Eventually I find a house with both green and variegated privet - shockingly neglected and ideal Stick Insect food. I knock on the door to ask permission. Cash In The Attic is on the TV, visible through the greying net curtains in the small bay window. No answer.

It is the only untrimmed option in the row of terraces, so I ignore the 'No Hawkers' sign on the door and knock again.

Now to be fair, If I peeped round the nets and saw someone in lycra Capri pants with a see-through crotch**, a baseball cap, a swanky iPod armband, brandishing secateurs and jogging on the spot on my doorstep, I probably wouldn't answer either.

I backtrack 50 yards, assume the start position, take a deep breath and perform a perfect run-by pruning.

I make it back to Friendly Drive in record time, put the week's insect food shopping in some water and touch my toes

- in the kitchen.

* Actually my evil rabbit theories have now been confirmed on national radio - I heard a vet talking about them last week saying they were insuitable pets for children as they can be evil and vicious. I sat in gridlocked traffic with a smug face for at least 20 minutes.

** I kid you not. I didn't notice when I went out running in them for the first time with red lace knickers underneath, until I was touching my toes as part of my warm down on the driveway afterwards.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Straight To Video

'Have we got a video camera?' - demands JP after school.

'No, sorry.'

'Can we use the video on your mobile then? I'll get my costume sorted and you can film me.'

I trail upstairs after him, question marks punctuating the air.

'We can upload the video to the computer (waxing his thick, dark hair into a shock of upright spikes)

.... and I'll put it in a Powerpoint presentation (donning my white dressing gown in lieu of a lab coat).

... then I'll need to export it to a USB stick to take to school to show Male Teacher' (posing in front of the mirror and practising an Austrian accent).

Whilst I am happy to encourage initiative and creativity in the Little Ducks, I decide to enquire further before Orson Welles gets going on his project.

'Male Teacher taught us something today and he's wrong, so I'm going to prove it.' - he explains.

The world has turned on its head, while I have been busy in the Purple Garden. Not only does JP feel empowered to challenge the word of a teacher, but he's making a documentary film to expose the unfortunate pedagogue.

It turns out that Male Teacher had the temerity to suggest that the world was round, when every 8-year-old worth his salt knows that Neil Armstrong's pictures from space prove that the Poles are flatter and the Equator is fatter.

JP faces the camera and indicates his readiness with a brief nod. After half a dozen takes, he is satisfied with the result. We upload the video and he sets to work in Powerpoint - custom animation, imported images of the earth and the all important video evidence.

I hand over a datastick and go off to toast bagels - glad that I at least have charge of something in the house.

Although I can't help feeling that I'll have little more to contribute in the none too distant future.

Geek? Who am I kidding?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Are The Odds?

JP, Tiddler and I have now had the house on Friendly Drive for six months. They love it. There are lots of children their age on the Close for communal snowman-building, bike riding, trampolining and Football Card swapping.

So far we don't seem to be as unpopular as the previous owners, despite the Little Ducks' Morningtime habits. Bizarrely we all appear to share a communal doorbell system. The receiver in our house picks up everybody's doorbell rings. Luckily we have all selected different tunes, so if it's Twinkle Twinkle, or the theme from Disney, I don't get up.

The electrics are dodgy, the new purple garden is only slightly purple so far and very boggy and the donated TV has such an orange hue to the screen that everyone looks like David Dickinson. But things are coming together.

So far so good I thought. Until I found myself in conversation with the next door neighbour recently. He was enquiring politely about my job and on finding out where I worked, told me that his son-in-law used to work there and that perhaps I would know him...

'What's his name?' I asked

My face dropped when he mentioned the name of someone who I'd fired a couple of years ago.

Somehow I think things may get slightly less Friendly when the son-in-law finds out who moved in next door.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Price of My Soul

Yesterday, I did a very bad thing.

We did a great local walk to Jubilee Tower at Darwen - known affectionately as Thunderbird 3. We climbed to the observation platform and surveyed the familiar landmarks we have walked over the past few months, including the wind turbines at Scout Moor which we walked last week. Elegant, extraordinary and spectacular. I loved them.

Anyway, on returning from the walk, we headed to the pub to watch the game against Chelsea.

Hang on, I hear you cry. Shouldn't you have been at Old Trafford in your seat, where no-one else can sit when United are playing, for as long as you live?

Yes, I should. But someone offered me £110 for the ticket, and I didn't have anyone to look after the Little Ducks for me to go anyway, so I took it!

So there you have it. I am a sell-out! The price of my soul is a measly £110. I feel like I sacrificed a puppy.

This year, as has become traditional, I had 10 pints of Guinness - on my nails. A belated Happy New Year to all.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Celebrity Stalker

Lizzie's daughter Juju has been over from the States via France for Christmas and it seemed only fitting that she should take in a game at the Theatre of Dreams as part of her visit. I usually park on the street a few minutes from the ground to avoid the gridlock and to save the extortionate cost of so-called security parking -whose attendants are there when it's time to take your money but seemingly absent when the actual business of guarding your vehicle has to be done.

I was therefore slightly perplexed when a car pulled alongside us as we were preparing to leave the car under a street light. The driver gestured for us to wind down the window and advised us against leaving the car in that particular spot - taking us for first timers, I believe.

I assured him that I had been parking there for years and was prepared to take the risk. But nevertheless, thank you Nigel Pivaro - aka Terry Duckworth, for your interest.

Incidentally this wasn't the first time Mr Pivaro has been my Guardian Angel. A couple of years ago he spent some months guarding a building site adjacent to my office and looking up at our windows.

To be honest, despite Corrie's best efforts to perpetuate the Terry Bad Boy Duckworth image, he's not particularly big or threatening without his make-up and without Jack's pigeons as back up, but I'm now slightly concerned that he might be stalking me...

Either that or he's out for revenge after the incident with Marlon.