Sunday, 20 December 2009


Sunday, 20 December 2009
Victory for the Rage Against the Machine campaign... Tom Morello says, "Thank you, the people united can never be defeated."

Rage Against the Machine have promised to play a free 'thank you' gig in the UK some time next year -- now all we need to do is campaign to get them to play it in Joe McElderry and Cheryl Cole's home town of NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE.

Thanks to all my fellow downloaders; faith in humanity restored this evening.  Hurrah!

Rage Against the Karaoke Machine

Never before in my life have I woke up on a Sunday morning and asked, “What’s number one in the pop charts today?” But I did, today.

A little bit of background: over here in England there always seems to be a bit of a fuss made about the singles charts, especially the week leading up to Christmas. Hours of fun for a music junkie like me, right? WRONG. The charts are full of fluff and novelty records, nothing half decent and I pay about as much attention to them as I do the sliced salami at the supermarket. Take a look at this; here is a list of the Christmas number ones for the last few years and you’ll see what I mean (from

What a load of crap, right? I can never quite wrap my head around the music industry in this country – on the one hand we’ve produced the Smiths, the Stone Roses, U2, the Cure... a significant proportion of my music collection consists of artists that have come from this tiny isle. But I’m here to tell you that the ratio of crap to credible is probably about 20:1. It’s very depressing, and a quick glance through the years on the chart above should be all the testimony you need.**

In addition to having to painfully endure this musical equivalent of hotdog water on the every radio station in the land, our prime time TV slots are also imposed upon at regular intervals over the year. We’ve got ‘Britain’s Got Talent!’, we’ve got ‘Pop Idol’. We’ve also got ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor’. All of these result in what is usually tantamount to nothing more than a nationally televised karaoke competition, save for one important detail: the X Factor show just happens to announce its winner the week before Christmas, and it’s a pretty safe bet that whoever wins this fromage-fest will release a single just in time to be a contender for the renowned ‘Christmas number one’.

But the eagle eyed amongst you might notice a recurring theme over the last 4 years, and his name is SIMON COWELL. He is behind all of these god-awful TV shows, and he is the driving force behind all of these ridiculous warblers getting their number one in the penultimate week of the calendar year.

Well, I’m not the only one who is tired of it. There has been a movement to knock the current year’s X Factor winner off the top spot by a resourceful couple who started a Facebook group to encourage people to download Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ as a protest against all this manufactured drivel which threatens to suck the last dregs of credibility out of the music industry in the UK. You can read more about it here, at

As I type this we are waiting for the result. Being a Rage fan, of course I downloaded the single. But what made me download it more than once is reading what Joe McElderry (aka X Factor winner) has recently done – throw darts at a picture of Zack de la Rocha for a publicity stunt, saying, "I wouldn't buy it. It's a nought out of ten from me. Simon Cowell wouldn't like it. They wouldn't get through to boot camp on The X Factor - they're just shouting."

What a stupid idiot. As if Zack and Tom and the rest of RageATM are right now re-evaluating their life’s work because some crappy teenybop crooner has said that Simon Cowell wouldn’t like it? Hilarious. HIL-FREAKIN’-LARIOUS. If Joe McElderry’s ‘success’ was reliant upon the respectful way to earn his place in the charts (ie; writing it, busking it, gigging to 5 drunks and a dog in a bar which should probably be condemned, etc. etc.) he’d not last 5 minutes. On the flipside, if he understood anything at all about Rage Against the Machine and the kind of integrity it requires to be a shining light of awareness on behalf of many of the world’s injustices, he wouldn’t be on the bloody X Factor anyway. While Joe ‘Nothing-But-A-Ringtone’ McElderry is spitting his dummy out of his cot, someone should point out to him the comical irony of the lyrics of the very song he’s hoping will get to number one this afternoon:

There's always going to be another mountain / I'm always going to want to make it move / always going to be an uphill battle / sometimes you’re going to have to lose.

A dartboard? Seriously? Well, with Cowell in your corner no wonder you’re resorting to those kinds of riotously amusing tactics.

Rage Against the Machine aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – granted. But that was precisely why the track was chosen. I totally love it, and them, and I esteem Tom Morello for being one of the greatest guitar players of the last twenty years – his style is absolutely unique and innovative, and makes those six strings do things that sound effected to the rafters, but are usually pre-production. Check out the solo in this Audioslave track, ‘Like A Stone’ for a great example of what I mean:

Anyway – we’re all on tenterhooks in the Proctor Household waiting to see if a classic Rage track pips the Cowell Machine to the post in the race to the Christmas number one. I’ll be back later with the result.

**If you’re a fan of any of the above music, I offer no apology; I’m not here to debate whether or not Robbie Williams is any good. If your finger is hovering over the ‘Post a Comment’ button to try and convince me of this fact, bring it on; I love a good argument! ;-)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow and the English

Friday, 18 December 2009
Only a week before Christmas, and we've already had a little flurry to make us all get in the mood.  Well, you know what I say:  ho, ho, mofos!  Bring it on!  As a displaced (replaced?) Canadian living in the North East of England I always like to see a bit of the old white stuff. 

At home in Canada, they measure precipitation in centimetres.  Here, I like to use the equally accurate but admittedly lesser-known depth guage of 'Adidas Print', as illustrated below:

Put the Army on standby; it's a white out.

That's what we woke up to this morning.  Ben was practically apopleptic with excitement, and all the way to school it was snowball this, snowmen that, and jingle all the way.  It made the trudge over to the school enjoyable indeed. 

"Look, Mammy!  I can make snowballs all by myself!"

I told my (British born 20+ yrs Canadian resident) Mum that it was snowing last night.  She says to me, "Buy the kid a toboggan."

Isn't language funny?  Imagine a scene in which the family walks into the nearest reliable retail outlet and asks the Geordie salesperson to sell us a toboggan.  I hope people on both sides of the ocean will find the provded translation helpful:

Salesperson: "Eeee, what’s SHE gannin' on aboot, like? What d'yer mean? Ah divvint knaa aboot nee 'toboggans', are ye askin' for a chinnin'?"

[Gosh! To what, exactly, are you referring? I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with the word ‘toboggan’. Are you being deliberately impertinent? Would you like a slap?]

Me: “Dude, it's TOTALLY snowing, eh? My kid wants to go tobogganing, so I’ll be needing a new toque and a muffler as well! It’s cold!”

[It has snowed overnight. I would like to enable my child to partake of some snow-themed winter recreation. Also, if you have any woolly hats and scarves to protect me from the elements I would be greatly appreciative.]

Ben: How man, mutha man!

[Please, Mother. Don’t embarrass me.]

Jason (to the salesperson): Eeeh man, ye knaa what a mean leik (rolls eyes). Ahm gannin te the booza.

[I have put up with this ridiculousness quite long enough. I am off to partake of liquid refreshment in the nearest licensed establishment.]

Salesperson: Alreet, lass.  Ye’ll find a stack o’sledges in Aisle Forr. Mind, gan canny or ye’ll dunsch into summick if ye gans too fast doon the hill!

[Certainly, Madam.  The apparatus you require is in Aisle 4. Be careful, lest you crash into something during your recreational exertions!]

Ah... I love living here.  Canadians:  I love you all.  Geordies:  I love you as well.  My Mum said, "Perhaps I'm a bit more Canadian than I thought..."

Me in my toque and muffler this morning; this one's for you, Mum!

Undoubtedly quite the most ridiculous-looking Mama on the school run, but I don't eff around with snow.  Comfort and warmth before fashion, without exception.  I chuckled a little when I walked past a gaggle of Mammies talking about the state of the roads, who said what everyone the world over says when they talk about winter driving:  "The main roads are okay, " which is fine.  When the Canadians say it, it looks like this:

Jason, Christmas in Canada 2007

But when the English say it, it looks like this:

The view of my house from the school run this morning.

I am feeling homesick this week... in the run up to Christmas I flip-flop between mental-institution-excited for the kids, but lump-throatingly bereft at not being at home in Ontario. Sometimes a mile is no distance, especially with Skype and webcams, etc... but on mornings like this, one mile feels like a thousand.

So it is my Friday wish that we get some more of the white stuff for Christmas, and that my Canadian loved ones get a little less of it this winter.  And by way of apology for not giving you a Friday track to listen to in a couple of weeks, I'll leave you with this -- Jason's favourite Christmas song:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tragically Hip: Manchester, UK, 2nd December 2009

Wednesday, 16 December 2009
FYI, Husband: If Gord Downie asked me to run away with him, I totally would.

I really am bonkers. I’ve started and stopped this concert review a million times this morning and each time it spirals into what looks like a shopping list of reasons why Gord Downie is Hands Down No Contest Undoubtedly Indubitably Undeniably Absolutely The Sexiest Man in Canadian Music Indeed. I will try my very hardest to continue this review without dragging into the hot and sweaty gutter where my mind is. I can only endeavour to try; I shall not make any promises.

So if any of you, dear readers, remember back to what seems to be a thousand years ago you will recall me absolutely losing! My! Mind! With excitement when The Tragically Hip announced they were doing a UK tour. I’m sure I was still pregnant with Jude and my fingers couldn’t put the credit card number into Ticketmaster Online fast enough... the nearest gig to us was Manchester on the penultimate night of their UK tour at Academy 3 at the University.

Oh, my friends. Oh, my heart! Such a gig. SUCH a gig. There was maybe 500 people in the whole place – the heads of my fellow Canadian Hip fans will likely explode at this point; so few for a Hip gig is nearly unheard of, but so it was. And I’d bet fifty bucks that 480 of them were Canadians. Straight to the front skipped we, waiting for them to take to the stage. The full setlist can be found here, courtesy Mr JackStraw.

Set 1 Setlist

GAH... three paragraphs in and I can’t NOT say anything about the delectable Mr Downie. The fact that he’s scrumptious to look at is nearly secondary – for me, his appeal lies in his intellect. His lyrics are poetry; poignant, witty, laden with Canadian stories and myths and interwoven with such delightful eclectic little observations that arouse almost immeasurable levels of artistic respect that I find nothing short of awe inspiring. Throw into the mix his between-song rantings and a lot of sweat – a LOT of sweat – and an arse like two eggs in a hanky and it’s SOLD TO THE BLONDE LADY IN THE FRONT ROW!

Not zooming in, y'all... we really were that close.  Hurrah!

The gig itself was top-notch. Jase was beside himself; having never saw them before, or really listened to them save the odd song which hit the iPod shuffle while I’m behind the wheel of the car. And living here in England for the last 10 years has certainly kept the band off my radar; I don’t think I’ve got any releases post-2000. But he loved it. He kept tapping me on the shoulder with regular assertions of how BLOODY BRILLIANT they were, mixed with the occasional reprimand that I hadn’t previously taken the time to explain to him just how BLOODY BRILLIANT they were in the ten years we’ve been together. (Which I totally have, obviously... :::sigh::: he never pays attention to the important things.)

Did I mention the sweat? If you’ve ever seen The Hip live before you’ll know that my fantasy husband Gord Downie sweats on stage A LOT. He keeps lots and lots of white handkerchiefs around to mop up said sweat to keep it from dripping everywhere.

*          *          *          *

(sorry, just needed a moment to swoon, there...)

So, imagine the fever-pitch of hot-and-botherederisation I experienced when this happened during “Courage (for Hugh McClennan)”:
• Gord Downie whips out hanky, wipes sweat off brow
• Puts it over his face, sings a few lines
• Walks over to me (singing along complete with goofy grin on face)
• BLOWS ME A KISS (and, consequently, my mind)
• Throws me the hanky
• I blow him a kiss back, he smiles at me

Who DOESN'T want a sweaty hanky?

I tried to maintain a dignified composure but inside I was as giddy as a Granny within underpants-throwing distance of Tom Jones. Jason was all, “HEY HEY, MY WIFE, EVERYONE... KISS RECIPIENT, RIGHT HERE!” and I was all, “Take THAT, other front row biatches!”

So the (subsidized) pints may have had a (very) little to do with it, but it wasn’t long before I was crying. Gord sang this line (from “Bobcaygeon”):

“...went back to bed this morning / and as I'm pulling down the blinds / I saw the sky was dull and hypothetical / a nd falling one cloud at a time / that night in toronto / with its checkerboard floors...”

Well, I only had to hear the word “Toronto” and I’ve go tears streaming down. Oh, lovely, lovely.  They were impeccable, very tight, note perfect... a total musical journey.  The songs they chose to share with us are the exact songs, in the exact order that I would have chosen myself.  It was a priviledge to be witness to 5 guys who were, to most intents and purposes, having a blast jamming in a basement.  I didn't mean for this gig review to be primarily about Mr. Downie's sweat (honest) because of course, it's about the music.  Which was BLOODY MARVELLOUS.  The first set was pretty intense, full-on, in your face, straight ahead bare bones rock-tastic - Courage, Fully Completely and Poets were particular highlights.  The second set was a bit more laid back; they came in and sat down and played a few of my very favourites.  Best track of the night?  Nautical Disaster, without a doubt.  Check out their official website -- grab a cup of tea and sit through my high school soundtrack the videos section.

Anyway – please enjoy the pictures I took, and some video, too. I always take my camera to gigs... but I only take snippets of the introductions of songs (otherwise I can’t dance!) so I hope you don’t mind the disjointed feel. (NB: the quality is AWFUL but I think it’s because I had to shrinkify the .mov’s so much to make them uploadable)

Thanks, fellas. A sweeter, more enjoyable homesickness I have never known.

Mammy P:  2 December 2009 - Tragically Hip, Manchester

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Isn’t it weird what triggers childhood memories? Lots of mine are linked to music, which will be no great shock to any of you, dear readers... but recently I blew several layers of brain dust (TO MY VERY MORTAL TERROR) from a memory which -- for bloody good reason as well -- my school-age self had very tidily repressed; shoved waaaay deep into the wooliest bits of the ol’ grey matter, as far down as could possibly be pushed.

When I was very little my Dad had a Nancy Sinatra record... you all know who she is, right? Boots of the sauntering variety? Bouncy hair, enviable thighs? Famous Daddy? Yeah, her. Anyway – Dad had a Greatest Hits LP and one of my earliest memories is a strange fascination with the cover of the record. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

Even the zombies in the Thriller video aren't scary enough for these mofos.

As well as your usual ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ malarkey, there was also a track called ‘Lightning’s Girl’ which used to scare the pants off me. Pay particular attention around about the 1min 30s mark – and switch the lights on just in case you’re at the computer in the dark right now. Sorry for the shitty ‘high school media project’-ishness of this video, but it was the best YouTube had to offer. Are you ready? And... go:

Now, I’ll bet it’s been at least 25 years since I heard that track, but I’ll tell you – I was instantly back to our house in 1982. The 6 year old me is playing innocently playing Yahtzee on the mustard yellow carpet of the living room floor, and the minute that record comes on I’m seeing spooky shapes in the effing spider plants which hang from macramé plant holders in front of the bay window.  Christ knows what is underneath the dining room table and I'm terrified.

I’m not kidding; abso-freakin’-lutely shiteypants terrified. Like... can't-turn-my-back-to-exit-the-room-I'll-go-out-backwards-instead terrified. Not-going-into-the-kitchen-by-myself-in-the-middle-of-the-day terrified.  Don't-linger-at-the-foot-of-the-bed-it'll-grab-your-ankles-and-pull-you-under terrified.  Not-even-admitting-to-my-Dad-until-28-years-later-on-my-blog-I'll-just-hide-under-the-covers-whimpering-instead terrified.

Terr.  Riff.  Eyed!  Is it just me?!

What kind of unearthly creature wears boots like that, I ask you? One who TOTALLY EATS PEOPLE, for sure. Eats little blonde girls, its grotesque figure stomping up driveways knocking banana seat bikes off their kickstands JUST BECAUSE. Thumping closer and closer to MY FRONT DOOR to the exact beat of that song. No cautionary “FEE, FI, FO, FUM’s” offered here, no siree... and don’t even think about trying to hide; that chintzy sofa ain’t gonna protect you now, kiddo, no matter how many 4-of-a-kinds you rolled that afternoon.

GAH! I'm a nervous wreck! And seriously considering sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs tonight.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

My Baby is 5

Sunday, 15 November 2009
What a day.  Busy, busy, busy.  Took 9 of Ben's friends bowling this afternoon.  Am I mad?!  He had a wonderful birthday which I will write more about at length, later.  Right now I am going to slip happily into a coma.

Just thought I'd share this little tidbit -- here is Ben showing his Granda what he got for his birthday, and Granda showing Ben how to play it.  Could this be any more wonderful?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Fortissimo Fridays: Hunters and Collectors

Friday, 13 November 2009

Another oldie.  Sorry I haven't blogged all week, and sorry again for not blogging more right now... but there is a Subway Veggie Delight downstairs with EXTRA PICKLES with my name on it, and the kids are both in bed.  Another oldie... but I'm sure you will concede -- what a beautiful way to say, "Let's just have a one night stand." 

Who wouldn't fall for that?

"Throw Your Arms Around Me" - Hunters and Collectors

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Fortissimo Fridays: Inspiral Carpets

Saturday, 7 November 2009

An oldie but a goodie -- just back from Cas Vegas with t'little 'uns and AH Lisa, AH Babs, AH Katie and AH David. 

Totally love this tune; particularly the harmonies in the chorus -- simple but eyesrollbackinheadingly effective.  Is it just me?  Goosebumptactular.

Now then -- a bit of explaining:  some of my favourite, favourite, FAVOURITE music can all be related back to the reason why I like the harmonies in the chorus of this Inspiral Carpets track.  It's all about tension and resolution.  Do you know what I mean?  Being a practicing heathen, I'll likely get struck down for getting all church-o-rama, but bear with me while I endeavour to explain:  you'd probably need to hark (pun intended) back to hymnbooks for me to verbally illustrate what I mean -- whenever you sing the word 'Amen' in church, the 'ah' is the 'tension' (ie -- you know it's not the end, and the chords are going somewhere, for lack of a better term.  The 'resolution' is the 'men', wherein the chords settle themselves into the place where they were destined to finish.

So AMEN to the Inspiral Carpets, for this 4-minute religious experience; as close to heaven as I'm likely to get.  ;-)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Happy Birthblogoversaryday!

Thursday, 5 November 2009
Well, well, well. This morning I was feeding the baby and realised that it was about this time last year that I wrote my first post on what started out as a pregnancy blog; a quick check revealed it was THIS VERY DAY, 5th November, that I first started blogging. This will be the 51st entry – so I’m averaging about a post a week.

NOT BAD, though I say so myself.

Thank you, dear readers -- all nineteen of you -- for allowing me to force you to poke your nose into my life for a whole year. And because I’m an idiot and let last Friday pass by without giving you a song to read by, let me give you a gift -- oh, isn't the gorgeous Johnette Napolitano JUST LUSH?

Concrete Blonde -- Happy Birthday

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Spinning Plates

Tuesday, 3 November 2009
I’ve just had one of those moments. This morning I washed the cushion covers on my living room furniture, and I’ve dried them and put them back on and they’ve come up looking nearly spanking – brand spanking. I’m so pleased with myself. I even did a little dance. Fortunately, the postman had already been so there was no one to witness the little shake of my boo-tay but the potted plants in the room.

And then I thought to myself, “Excuse me, Self? Uh... exactly when did you become the kind of woman who gets excited by getting baby milk stains out of upholstery?”

If I look at my 33 year old life with the eyes of my 23 year old self, she'd be all: YEAH RIGHT, I’M SO SURE, and would stick her fingers in her ears and LALALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU before promptly bursting into flames.

Back then, I had lofty ambitions of filling up my passport: our first ka-dunk of the stamping machine at Customs brings us to the South of France, anyone care to join me? Bienvenue, cherie -- absolutement. Alors, et maintenant we’re off to Marrakech – let’s sashay about the souks in a kaftan and drink mint tea. Malta? Check. Florence? Si, si, si, bella signora... and the list goes on. I planned to show up with a bag full of dirty laundry at my parents’ place when I was 30 and then start looking to settle down.

But I met my would-be husband on my first port of call and I now live in England. Which is great... but the Cushion-Covers-Washing-Incident is one of my life’s occasional curveballs where I am reminded that at one time, I was having a blast being just 'Girl'... no responsibilities, no limits, no worries. No worries of course, other than, 'What time is that connecting flight?' or 'How much are tickets for that gig?' or 'Where's the corkscrew?' or 'Oops, that was kinda slutty.'

Me, circa 1996.

And now here I am with all these plates in the air: Mammy / Wife / Daughter / Friend / Colleague, etc., etc., etc ad infinitum... and sometimes the spinning gets too tricky and regretfully it’s 'Girl' which gets put down, to make the rotation of the others more manageable. And I’m sad to say that sometimes? It really is a regular struggle to remember where I left her, and to pick her up and dust her off and give her the occasional whirl.

Does anyone else do this? Why do we choose THAT plate – our first one – to set down out of the way? Can’t put down ‘Mammy’; that’s totally out of the question lest I condemn myself to an automatic visit from Social Services. Spiritually bonded to the lovely Jason such as I am, it is imperative that I keep ‘Wife’ up in the air, too; you all know how bonkers I am for him anyway.  There are a DILLION (there’s a “Ben-ism” for ya) reasons why my ‘Girl’ plate is over there in the corner not seeing any twirly-action.

I’m pretty sure it’s a matter of self-preservation. I’m no martyr – it’s not like I’m painting a picture of being pitiful and self-sacrificing; don’t misunderstand me, I don’t have any regrets. I have a fab life with a dreamy husband, I love the bones of my two wee lads and things are good.

Looking a little closer... that dusty plate over there in the corner on the ground isn’t delicate fine bone china, make no mistake. She’s tough, she’s earthenware, her glaze isn’t as shiny as it once was but whoa, nelly – she can handle a chip or two. She is cherished, she is big, she is central... and she is protected over there, out of the way, the heart of the dinner service. She doesn’t jostle for place and insist on heavy rotation like the other plates. Not because she doesn’t really enjoy a good old gyration once in a while, but because she knows that if she is dropped and shattered, then there’s not a hope in hell for the rest of them.

Couldn't put these two down if I tried. 

(I took that whole plate metaphor thing WAY too far, didn’t I?) But you know what I mean.

I take great satisfaction by paying homage to my cool ‘old’ self by refusing to cut my hair short and stomping about the neighbourhood with the pram in my Doc Martens/Chuck Taylors (delete as weather appropriate). I went to see Blur at the end of June this year, 2 weeks before Jude was born! That girl with the pregnant belly with the glow sticks at the back of the arena while Prodigy rave it up on stage? That was me, back in April. I’m still collecting tattoos and wandering around used book stores and record stores.

I’m still (intermittently) the same ol’ Nick – just with baby barf on my shoulder, bags under my eyes and always, ALWAYS a box of snack raisins in my purse for kid-related-snack-emergencies.

I’m all right, me.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Surprising Myself

Monday, 26 October 2009
Now, before I crow too loudly I need to remember that it’s only Monday. I was so dreading this week; it’s Half Term, you see.

For my Canadian pals, half term is sort of like March Break... British kids only get 6 weeks off in the summer, and instead they have a week off every six weeks. To describe my feelings about having both of my kids home all week on my own? At best, apprehensive. At worst, hyperventilation-inducing.

But today I had one of those days full of ‘step back and enjoy the moment’ moments, despite a bit of near-death-related drama. Okay, maybe not ACTUAL DEATH, like the dead kind of death... I’ll rephrase: near-maiming-related drama. Here are the headlines:

Noteworthy; Ben was really well behaved and very cute on the bus and I was even having a good hair day and it was all going swimmingly... until, that is, the driver almost killed us. He must have been daydreaming that the double decker he was driving was really a Mini Cooper and thought he’d chance his luck zipping through a roundabout in front of an oncoming vehicle when he didn’t have the right of way. When he snapped out of his reverie at the last possible millisecond to slam on the brakes, the violent continuing inertia of the bus threw me out of my seat and down the gangway while Ben smashed his cheek off a pole. All within a time span of about three and a half seconds. Total nightmare. Luckily, Jude had been unsettled so I had him on my knee; I shudder to think where he would have wound up if he’d been asleep in his pram. Anyway – all’s well that ends well, dear readers. We’re all okay – Ben screamed and burst into tears at first, but I think it was the shock of it more than anything. He is okay bar the purple bruise he’s now (somewhat proudly!) sporting on his left cheekbone. When I got off the bus, I managed to have a proper look at him and calm him down within a minute or two. What a brave little soldier! A few minutes later, crossing the road he rubbed his cheek and said, “Ow, Mammy. That KNACKED.”

We were walking down Northumberland Street when we came upon a busker that was singing a pretty decent rendition of Oasis’ “Half a World Away”.  Ben stopped and had a little dance. He asked me for some money; I gave him some loose change and he went and put it in the guy’s guitar case. Oh, my heart!

Went into Fenwick’s to check out the toy department. Ben buzzed from shelf to shelf bumblebee/flower style, pointing out the toys which Santa’s elves might start building him, if he’s a good boy. Santa made notes. ;-) Then we went to the Northside Diner for a milkshake. It’s this 50’s style retroey dinery type place in Fenwick’s on the Toys floor... didn’t know it was there, it was fab! While we were waiting for our shakes Ben went over to this big old Wurlitzer juke box they had in the corner. He’s pressing loads of buttons, and the next thing I know? The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” comes on.

Ben and Jude, waiting on a shake.

I was frightened of today, and it turned out to be one of those spontaneous great days that no amount of careful planning could initiate. Priceless. Happy half term, everyone.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Fortissimo Fridays: Billy Bragg

Friday, 23 October 2009
You can't take me to the symphony.  I mean, you can... but you better bring a purse full of Kleenex.  The mere sound of the orchestra tuning up makes me sob my big fat heart out. 

And I can't drive the car if this song comes on my iPod shuffle, for the same reason.  Happy Friday, friends.

Oh -- and I'm sorry about the annoying 'pop ups' on this video; I couldn't find any other version of it. Try and listen to the words and not read the head-smashingly frustrating bits of irrelevant trivia.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Concert Review: Brendan Benson/Cory Chisel

Sunday, 18 October 2009
So, on Friday 16th October a few of the lads from work and I went to The Sage, Gateshead to see Brendan Benson.

Permission for a slight digression? There aren’t that many of my favourite bands left that I haven’t seen perform live. If you read my last post it won’t come as much of a surprise to you to hear that my aforementioned appetite for music has a suitably associated ‘live shows’ offshoot which, over the years, has taken me from festival to coffee house and everything in between. Suffice it to say there are only a small handful of bands that still remain on my wish list and Brendan Benson being one of those, I can’t tell you how delighted I was to finally be able to cross him off!

Before I tell you about the gig, I mustmustmust tell you about the venue. Has anyone ever been to a show at The Sage? Oooh, though!!

The Sage, Gateshead, UK

It’s that lovely curved glass/stainless steel building you see pictured above; it’s a purpose-built “acoustically perfect” music venue, and features all kinds of performances from symphonies to rock concerts to percussion workshops for toddlers and all sorts of lovely stuff. Despite it being about 15 minutes from my house, I’d never been for a gig there... having only ever went actually inside once when it was first built (with Jason and Ben as a toddler, when Ben was in a difficult phase of liking the sound of his shouts in any echoey building; needless to say we didn’t stay long!) but the Brendan Benson gig was in Hall 2, about a 400-seat capacity ten-sided room with seating on three different levels. It was like going to a gig inside a spaceship! Almost beyond description, I felt like I was inside a gigantic coffee machine -- click here to do a 360 degree virtual tour and see what I mean.

Anyway – back to the show. BB was supported by someone I had never heard of before – a guy out of Wisconsin, USA by the name of Cory Chisel. He looked like Dave Navarro’s skinnier younger brother but with a voice reminiscent of the best bits of Tom Waits and one of Newcastle's favourite sons Eric Burdon (of “The House of the Rising Sun” fame). Poured into a pair of grubby skinny jeans and a hat on top, he had us all captivated with an acoustic set; just him and a guitar, with backing vocals/keyboards provided by the beautiful lady you see in the video to follow. Hope his record will be available over here soon, but for now check him out on YouTube – totally loved him -- let me know what you think:

BB and his band came on at 9 o’clock and it was a disastrous start. The excellent Mr. Benson needs to sack his roadie, because when Brendan ripped into the first chords of his opening track it was apparent straight away that his guitar was totally wonky out of tune! Ooh, he looked so pissed off -- understandably – what a way to start a show! My heart just went out to him, he looked so disappointed.  He stopped the other guys with a raise of his arm and needed a few minutes to tune up. I felt so awful for him; how embarrassing! I was right at the front too, see?

Crappy phone shot... but elbows-on-stage close up!

But ever the professionals, they started again and delivered a really solid set... good amount of between-song banter and he even played requests for tunes shouted out by the members of the audience – EVEN ME! My favourite track – “Crosseyed” made up part of the encore:

Brendan Benson has all my favourite things in a musician: jangly guitars; narrative lyrics; whistleable melody... with the odd chord progression that pays cheeky homage to The Beatles thrown in now and again for good measure. Most of you will only know him as a member of The Raconteurs but his solo stuff is leaps and bounds different from his work with them, I’ve always thought. Much more melodic and layered, the depth of what is going on in all his compositions is really beautiful; he’s not afraid to bear all... for me that’s what makes him and his music so endearing.

It was a great show in a fab venue and he could have played for another couple of hours and I would have happily stood and listened. I even got a set list at the end. Yay!

Here’s another favourite track called “Metarie”. Enjoy! Go out and buy all his records!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Fortissimo Fridays - Portable Music

Friday, 16 October 2009
The Apple iPod combined with a bright, crisp autumn morning in Newcastle is the best tonic for the soul a girl could ask for, bar none.

Walking back from Wallsend, this morning.

Isn't it fantastic how the accessibility and portability of music has grown over the years? My lifetime obsession with all things sonic began just as I was finishing elementary school to go to high school. I became a music junkie and was never to be seen anywhere without headphones and a portable cassette player – walking to the bus stop, on the bus, between classes – hell, even IN class if we had a particularly inattentive teacher... I had this great method of putting my headphone wire up the front of my t-shirt and then out through the left arm hole, so that if I were leaning my head on my left hand, one ear of the headphones could be sneakily concealed in the palm.

Crafty, eh?

Oh yeah, I was a properly kitted out portable music lover – the bottom of my schoolbag a veritable treasure trove of double A’s and always a ‘BIC’ pen on hand to rewind tapes without wasting valuable battery juice.

A significant bulk of those halcyon days was spent assembling tapes to listen to on my teenage travels. My insatiable appetite for new music would lead me to recording songs off the radio – be still my nostalgic heart – leaping across the bed from the other side of my bedroom to press record as I heard the opening riffs of a favourite track, and not even minding recording a bit of DJ banter at the start and end of the track. Remember when you could fit a whole album on one side of a C90? And the devastation you would feel when your Walkman ATE YOUR BEST MIX TAPE?!** Ah, those were the days.

I happily avoided talking to just about everyone at University while I ambled around campus with my headphones. I learned to especially love those tracks whose beats per minute mirrored the tempo of my own footsteps.

I learned to drive so I could put my own music in the car stereo. True story. It was LOUDER than my Walkman. Even now, at 33 years old my first questions about buying cars aren't about mileage, fuel efficiency or service history, rather: “But what’s the stereo like?”

And so now with my lovely iPod I can walk virtually anywhere my feet will carry me with almost my entire music collection magically housed on a piece of metal and plastic that is not much bigger than my credit card. That sentence would have been tantamount to telling my 13 year-old Walkman-wearing self that in the future she would eventually live in an airlock on the moon... cue exploding head!

The movie of my life has got a GREAT soundtrack. Happy Fortissimo Friday, everyone! Here is one that matches the beat of my footsteps if I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere.

Stockholm - New Fast Automatic Daffodils

**I’m such a dork I could even mend ‘eaten’ tapes by unscrewing the plastic cover of the tape, cutting out the worst of the chewed area with manicure scissors then realigning everything and using sticky-tape to splice the tape back together again. I was a tape SURGEON, man.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Fortissimo Fridays (oops it's Monday) 2: Imogen Heap

Monday, 12 October 2009
Just a quickie while I break from the old Florence Nightingale routine... Jason had The Snip on Thursday so the poor lamb is still off work with some achy ouchies.

In the meantime, have a listen to this... I've already recommended it to a few people already so sorry if this incredibly lovely song is old news, but I just can't get enough of it; it has been circulating around in my grey matter for a number of weeks and I'm still not tired of it.  Enjoy!

Imogen Heap "Little Bird"

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Reminiscing: Barcelona 2008

Wednesday, 7 October 2009
One of my favourite days EVER was when Jase and I went to Barcelona last year.  We never get to go anywhere without our kids (date night!) and this was one of those rare occasions; my parents looked after Ben back at our hotel.  After a really long day exploring the city, we got on the wrong train to go back to the coastal town where we were staying.  I was just looking at some pictures of our trip on Facebook (you can see the full album here and here) and laughing at what I wrote beneath them; I thought I would share here.  Ole! 

The face you make when you're on the wrong train.  In Spain.

Me: Do you think we're on the wrong train?

Himself: I dunno. Wasn't the sea on one side of the train the whole way here?

Me: Yes... is that the sea out there?

Himself: I dunno. Black dark, can't tell.

Me: Why don't you go ask someone?

Himself: Why don't YOU go ask someone?

Me: Because I ALWAYS am the one who goes and asks someone; it's your turn to look like a tit.

Himself: But you're better at Spanish than me.

Me: Bollocks. I only know 'si', 'gracias', 'sangria', and 'vino tinto por favor'. None of those words are going to help us now.

Himself: That's 6 more words than I know...

Me: Si.

Himself: Well, why don't we stay on a few more stops to see if we can see the sea out of the window?

Me: Si.

(a few minutes passes)

Himself: There's definitely no sea out any of these windows.

Me: So it would seem. What shall we do?

Himself: I will go and try to read that sign over there.

(nonchalant getting-out-of-seat manouevre under the guise of stretching legs commences, Himself goes to check out sign on wall of train. Completely in Spanish, by the way. After a moment, he comes back.

Himself: That sign is completely in Spanish, by the way. I couldn't make head nor tail of it.
(scratches beard in 'pondering' (aka panic stricken) way.)

Me: Ooh! Another sign, lets read that.

(both lean obnoxiously over man who sits beneath sign, pointing, ummmm-ing and errrr-ing, apologising for leaning over man)

Me  and Himself, unison: We're definitely not on the right train.

Man Beneath Sign, irritated: You need help?

Us, together: Yes. Please.

Man Beneath Sign: Where you want go?

Us, together, pointing to station on sign: There. Please.

Man Beneath Sign, laughing: You want by the sea. No, no, no. You up in mountains. Get off train, next stop. Si.

Us, together: Bollocks.

Long story longer -- cut to us getting off train in middle of Spanish mountains in the dark, in the middle of nowhere. Cut to us trying to figure out whether there was another train back to Barcelona, what time it was, and whether it would be cheaper just to get a taxi... complete with trying to mime to Spanish bartender select phrases e.g. 'How many Euros for taxi?' and 'Why doesn't this pay phone take my money?'

Morals of story:
1. Don't just jump on random trains in Spanish city centres. Good idea to always check destination first.
2. Buy a Spanish phrase book for next visit.

Not Just Yet

Do you ever feel like you’ve always been supposed to do something? Like there was some pre-ordained task or purpose that you know your life’s path will lead you towards that just sort of looms in your future, sometime, but you’re not there yet? ‘Bride’ and ‘groom’ know that one day they will metamorphose into ‘mother’ and ‘father’ but just not yet... that kind of thing?

I’ve always been a writer. My formative years are well documented by the diaries I used to keep. Forage around in our loft long enough, you’ll find boxes of them. Never intended for any audience, in the majority they existed purely for the purpose of a medium for my ‘will-he-won’t-he-call-me’ debates peppered with the occasional poignant observation about the state of the world/my life, etc. But the act of writing is something I have always done; this blog being testament to that fact when I swapped a biro and notebook for monitor and keyboard.

I’ve always wanted to write a novel. A voracious reader as a child and through to the present day, I always read anything and everything I could lay my hands on; happily diving headfirst into a world of someone else’s creation for three or for hundred pages. Always following up a recommendation from a friend: “Nick, you HAVE to read this...” But always, I have to admit, with a small pocketful of envy along for the ride reserved for those authors that were doing what I really always wanted to be doing. I like when authors put their photos in the back of their books. Why? So I can try to discern whether I might one day look like I belong amongst them.

For years I’ve (half) joked: “When I’m on maternity leave, I will write my bestseller so I don’t have to go back to work.” A lofty ambition, to be sure. But I am happy to report that I am actually doing it. Finally! I’ve always had a basic premise for a story... that is to say, for many years I have known a bit about the personalities of the people that would make up my novel, but it is only in the last few weeks that these personalities have started to come a little more alive in my mind. That the doors of the houses in which they live have opened themselves to me, and that the conflicts and twists and plots and subplots have started to materialise as an actual narrative. I never had a rock solid world for these people to live in – until now.

I’m writing this now because I’m celebrating the fact that is finally the time to start. But I’m also suitably petrified about the amount of work it is going to be. It’s not just a case of ‘once upon a time...and they lived happily ever after.’ I’m in a whirl of contrasting emotions – excited; daunted. Calm; anxious. Confident; small. AGH! But I may as well give it a try.

Watch this space.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Fortissimo Fridays - 1. Biffy Clyro

Friday, 2 October 2009
Okay, so I'm totally and shamelessly stealing this idea from a blogger who I totally adore -- GirlsGoneChild -- who shares with her readers a favourite song every Tuesday.  I'm sure she won't mind AND ANYWAY music is a gift to be shared and I hope she will be happy that she has inspired me to do the same.

Those of you who know me will remember that one of my faaaaaaaavourite pastimes used to be making mix tapes and CD's.  Now that we're in the age of the iPod, it's something I don't do much anymore.  I know, shocking, eh?  Yeah, yeah, I had a 'Save the LP' button on my schoolbag and will wax melancholic and forever mourn for the noise of a stylus hitting vinyl... but to mine own iPod be true; I am converted.  So in tribute to those good old days, here is Track 1 of a mix tape I'm making -- just for you.

I'm missing a wedding on Saturday that I dearly would have loved to have gone to; alas, new babies and the supplies they require aren't really conducive to having the kind of bank balance which allows for international air travel. 

So in my absence, here's a lovely love song which I would like to dedicate to my dear, dear friend Sean and his gorgeous Jenn.  Shut the bedroom door, you two... and have a little dance on your Wedding Day Eve.  (NB:  don't you just totally love that you can hear their Scottish accents while they sing?)

Biffy Clyro - Mountains (acoustic version)
"...nothing lasts forever except you and me / you are my mountain you are my sea
love will last forever between you and me / you are my mountain, you are my sea..."

Monday, 28 September 2009

Those Pesky Elephants

Monday, 28 September 2009
It appears I am in the middle of one of those weeks. You know what it’s like, don’t you? When you have an absolute stinkin’ elephant of a day? When you feel like you’re wearing one flip-flop and one stiletto but you can’t quite figure out why you’re walking funny? And then Thursday’s smelly trunk grabs Friday’s hairy tail, and then and so on, and so on, until you’re hobbly-limping amongst a parade of pachyderms getting the occasional tusk in the arse but you can’t work out how to work it out?

Yeah. That’s me.

I’m in a bit of a funk at the moment, to be sure.

It’s a combination of a number of things: the rubbishey weather settling in for the long haul; the nights closing in (on this side of the Pond it’s dark at 3:30pm in the depths of winter); and my almost-5-year-old being an almost-5-year-old. Let me tell you: he’s good at it.

EVERYTHING* is an argument at the moment. It doesn’t matter if it’s:

“Brush you teeth, Ben, “ or...

“Eat your tea, Ben,” or...

“Pull up your underpants, Ben,” or...

Bedtime, Ben, “ or...

“Time to go to school, Ben,” or...

The-house-is-on-fire-we-need-to-flee-by-the-nearest-safe-exit-or-we’ll-burn-to-a-crisp, Ben,”...

...they’re all met with the same resounding, “NO!” closely followed by a million BUT’s to explain the reasons why THE WORLD WILL END if he doesn’t FINISH the UNDERGROUND WORLD in Super Mario3 RIGHT NOW and he can’t stop to go to the toilet because eventhoughhe’sdancingonthespothereallydoesn’tneedtogo...

That kid is unbendable! He is so determined, his resolve is made of STEEL. Or something stronger than steel! Kryptonite, even. His father and I are a bit frazzled with trying to keep up the old ‘Supernanny-positive-reinforcement’ stuff. BECAUSE OF ALL THE YELLING.

It’s my own fault – he’s EXACTLY like me.

I know it’s just a phase and I’m absolutely certain that there are other mothers who have had a professional almost-5-year-old in their households at some point in time (my own mother included), but I had been getting a little scritchy with it all. We all make connections between the behaviour of our children and our parenting abilities, don’t we? So needless to say there has been a lot of nostrilley-flarey breathing and counting to ten going on in the past week. Like a lot of my fellow Mammies/Mummies/Mommies out there, it is vitally important for me to ensure that there is no prolonged inequities in the delicate balance of all my ‘selfs’... Girl and Mother and Wife and Friend. Needless to say, those scales were a little wonky.

Then the other morning? I had one of those ‘Life’s Little Moments’ and I knew that everything was aaaaaaaaaaaall good, really. I dropped Ben off at school after a pretty trying morning (toothpaste and Weetabix everywhere; it wasn’t pretty...) and Jude and I went for a long walk to the shops to pick up a few bits and bobs.

When we were walking home, we were just passing the schoolyard as Ben’s class was coming out for their morning break. He came flying out of the classroom doors, all Tazmanian-devilish and giggly. He didn’t see me at first, standing at the fence. I watched him for a couple of minutes and then he saw me and zoomed, blurry-footed across the yard. “MAMMY!” he squealed, delighted in having a sneaky, unexpected visit from me in the middle of the school day.

I bent down to talk to him and he kissed me. Through the fence! And then ran off.

Balance restored.

Ben & Me - Bolam Lakes, 26 September 2009

*sorry about all the CAPS, they are making me bong-eyed, too.  Honestly.  Sorry. Rrrrrrrrreally, really mean it.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Snip Snip Cher-eeeeeeee

Friday, 25 September 2009

Nice one, Jase.  :-)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Not Hating Scarlett Johansson

Monday, 21 September 2009
Imported from Facebook Notes:  28 May 2008
So the other day I was reading a review of Scarlett Johansson's record... for those of you who don't know, she's recorded an album of Tom Waits covers.

I can't pretend to be a fan of Tom Waits -- actually, let me clarify; I'm not NOT a fan of Tom Waits either, I only know him as the loony guy in Dracula -- but I know that as a musician he has a healthy cult following, but that's about it. Not really my cup of tea, but then I can't say I've given him a fair chance either, if you know what I mean.

But I thought I had better check out her record, not because I particularly like her, or him, or not, or whatever, but because I read this review that said:

'Would someone tell Scarlett Johansson that The Jesus and Mary Chain want their distortion back?'

... and I like the Jesus and Mary Chain so I thought I would check out what all the fuss is about.

Which begs the question -- what IS all the fuss about? I've listened to only one of the songs, 'Falling Down' (link attached) and I think it's pretty good! The video is kinda lame, I couldn't really get to what it was trying to say, but the song is all right. Until you get to the end and there's some a cappella warbling where her voice is really flat and a bit grating. But there's the rub -- where is it written that just because she's master of one trade it should automatically follow that she should receive identical acclaim for another?

I wouldn't say her vocals are particularly strong on this track, even though I have heard her sing before and she's got a very sweet voice. But some of my favourite recording artists can't hold a tune to save their lives, and that's what makes them good. Jack White (hubbahubbahubba) isn't reputed for his vocal accuracies. Kylie Minogue is an excellent singer -- but it doesn't make her good. Courtney Love is a totally shit singer -- actually, wait a minute -- no... that doesn't make her good either. My train of thought is derailing!!!!

But my point is this: music is for listening to, isn't it? You don't need the video, you don't need the flashy MySpace page, you don't need the promotional paraphernalia, ringtone or t-shirt... you listen to something and you decide if you like it.

And I like this!

Moody vocals: check.
Wall of noise distortion and atmosphere: check.
Maudlin haunting melody: check.

The fact that she's getting such stick for also being an actor -- no big deal. In isolation, the song should be a hidden gem for its own sake instead of Hollywood's.

Here's the link to it anyway -- YOU can make up your own mind as well.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Remembering Jonathan - Hoc Quoque Transibit

Sunday, 20 September 2009
As soon as I reach for the thermostat and jolt the radiators into life after their summer of rest, I know that Autumn is on its way and with it comes an unwelcome reminder of a time of year I would rather not remember at all, much less commemorate. Tomorrow marks 13 years since we lost my baby brother, Jonathan Corking. And in less than two weeks time (4th October) it will be what would have been his 31st birthday.

July 1996 - the only picture in which 
I can see our family resemblance.

We all acknowledge these anniversaries in different ways – across oceans and over the years. My parents feel it keenly; rattling around in that big old house, the emptiness of the rooms a cruel reminder of the absence of their son. Me? I’m different year on year. Some years Jonathan’s Anniversary has passed and I have barely noticed it amidst the chaos of formula milk and pooey nappies and ironing school uniforms and the minutiae of Mammy-ing. Some years I can tell Jason stories about him, recall fond memories with a smile, have a drink for him and keep it together. Some years I’m paralysed by my grief, crippled and bedridden with it, sentencing myself to a bitter purgatory of clockwatching – “What was I doing this time on that day? Where was he? What was he thinking? What was he feeling? What could I have done differently?” So it will always be.

hHead... remember them?  Supporting the Candian music scene... right on, kiddo.

But mine is a quiet and private mourning, for the most part. I have learned enough over the years that it is preferable for me to keep it to myself, as a preservation technique so as not to upset my Mum and Dad, really. People in grief are like pillars of a temple – you can’t adjust your position to lean on another lest the whole structure wobble and crumble. At least that’s how it works in our family. Don’t get me wrong ... that is not to say that we don’t stand close and frequently remember together what he was like, and how much we miss him. Because we SO do. The daily rigours of missing him is like a blurring of your peripheral vision; your view of the world is permanently altered and mocks you every time you open your eyes with a painful reminder of things not being quite as they should be.

But then I think – is it as it should be? Was Jonathan’s mortal coil predestined to be years and years shorter than the rest of ours? Did he shuffle off it before his time, or was he in our lives for exactly the amount of time he ever was supposed to be and not a second longer? If I’m honest, I take comfort in the latter. Because as much as I would have him back in a heartbeat, I can’t find any peace in imagining what his life would have been like if he hadn’t ended it when he did. Maybe he would have got better? Or worse. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

So today, as I type this, I am sad. Tomorrow, I might be worse, I might not. But the shape of my sorrow, 13 years later looms aching with regret and disappointment as opposed to the sharp heartache of when our loss was fresh. I regret that he never met my husband. I grieve for the fact that my sons will never know their uncle. Ben isn’t even 5 yet – all he knows is that Uncle Jonathan has gone to be an angel, but beyond that we have never discussed him, save for passing references about how much Jonjo would have doted on his nephews. And dote he would: he’d have been their rough-and-tumble tag team wrestling partner, he’d have built the best Lego rockets and towers, he’d have taught them to play guitar, showed them how to skip stones on still water and make words rhyme. I’m sad that the only presence he has in their lives will be pictures in frames. Of course, there then follows the myriad of questions about the direction my life’s path took after Jonathan died – would I have met Jason, and consequently had my two beautiful boys, had Jonathan not gone when he did? Who knows.

"Hoc quoque transibit” – roughly translated from Latin; “this too shall pass.” Something I would have never believed in 1996, 1997, 1998 or 1999 when I was attempting to scramble my way upwards out of a dark well of grief and depression following Jonathan’s death. But it’s true – and to kill a cliché – Time Heals All Wounds. True, but it has taken its time scabbing them over and there are bruises and scars left as souvenirs of remembrance.

Part of Jonathan's ashes are here in England, in my grandparents' grave in Castleford.

Miss you, little brother. Love always.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Reverse Piñata Uterus Incident

Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Inspired by the latest episode of Momversation, which is all about BIRTH CONTROL (“Condoms and Diaphragms and Vasectomies, Oh My!”) I thought I would capture a few words while we are, it appears, on the precipice of one of those moments that might just wind up being quite a significant chapter in the history of our little family.
Jude at 10 weeks:  Canuck Aboot Toon Junior!
How appropriate this has come up now (no pun intended) as Jude is only 10 weeks old, and already we're talking about The Big V. That's right... Jason is just about decided that he is going to get a vasectomy.

Hurrah! (and there was much rejoicing)

Let me set the scene for you a little. It is a topic that I have dared to broach more than just a few times over the course of our relationship. My Dad had one as did lots of other men in my Mum’s extended family, so I grew up sort of assuming that it was one of those things that husbands just did, as a matter of course, once you were through with all the baby-making malarkey. Not so, as I found out! Jason was quite adamant that he wouldn't ever consider getting one, despite regular protestations from me. He was unmoved.

You all know the story of my delivery with Jude, which resulted in a ruptured uterus. Which I have decided to dub henceforth (with genuine affection) “The Reverse Piñata Uterus Incident.” Jude made such a thorough job of bustin’ on outta there, that apparently my uterus is so gnarled up and punked out now that it couldn't withstand another pregnancy. Damn – that’s harsh.

Anyway – Jason’s thinking on the matter started to sway when I was in hospital, recovering from the birth. I’m totally not kidding when I tell you that honestly? Just about every single midwife/doctor/consultant that came to check me out post-op followed up their initial salutations with, "And what are you doing for contraception?”

We were not left in any doubt of the fact that if I were to get pregnant by accident (have you met my eldest son, Ben?) then we’d most likely be facing a termination. Double harsh. So what do we do?

The Pill turns me into an unreasonable raging hormonal basket-case plagued by monthly migraines: I become a 3-days-off-work-sick-can’t-stand-any-light-noise-skull-cracking monster, so that was quite out of the question. And condoms? Well, as Amanda recently commented on this very subject on one of my favourite blogs (Girls Gone Child):  “I hate condoms. They're just...ugh. Why put a balloon on your tongue when you eat cake?” Well said INDEED, girlfran.

So let me tell you this: a couple of weeks ago, after persevering with a mysterious pain in one side of his jaw, Jason decided to go to the doctor to get checked out. I was talking on the phone to my friend Lindsay at the time, and buoyed up with bravado at having one of my girlfriends ‘in the room’ (in a manner of speaking) just as he was heading out the door, I said to Lindsay, “Watch this,” and cheekily shouted downstairs, “ASK THE DOCTOR ABOUT GETTING THE SNIP!!”

My request was met with the sound of the front door shutting behind him.

But then! When he got back (just a toothache; nothing to worry about) he held in his hand... a piece of paper! But no, dear readers, not just your everyday generic boring old common-or-garden NHS prescription or anything, but a leaflet! About VASECTOMY!

A couple of weeks has passed and we haven’t really discussed it, save for the subject coming up again when I received this Facebook message...

...which Jason just LAUGHED OFF. And that’s that. I think he’s going to do it. I am constantly in awe of this incredible man. I mean, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that someone has wanted to hang out with me this long, much less marry me? And give him babies? And now he wants to end all our birth control woes once and for all by getting A NEEDLE IN THE NUTS? My hero.

When my son is old enough to realize the ins and outs of the whole thing (damn, I'm on birth-control-pun FIRE today!) I will shake his hand for his reverse-pinata move, and tell him thanks for helping to influence The Most Difficult Husband/Wife Recurrent Dispute In Our House of 2008-2009.

So what about you?  Does your other half go green at the thought of a needle in his unmentionables?  How do you cope with the prospect of accidental pregnancies?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Big School!

Thursday, 10 September 2009
Ben and Scarlett:  Foundation Stage 2
FREEDOM. And.........exhale. I’ve not long been back in the house after dropping Ben off at school. His first day of being in school ALL DAY.

Am I a rotten mother for being glad that he’s there? I have to admit, I have struggled with Ben over the summer holiday. He’s not the type of kid who will play quietly by himself... he needs constantly to be entertained and occupied and interacted-with; someone needs to be dedicated to giving a stream of feedback and praise and answering the inevitable plethora of questions that he has about whatever it is he’s doing -- he needs that element of interaction and recognition otherwise he questions the point of the activity and gets bored. So I hold up my hands (not without a little bit of shame) and admit freely that I have had to resort to The Electronic Babysitters (aka the TV and the Nintendo) more than a few times in recent weeks when I just couldn’t give him the attention and stimulation that he needed during these rainier-than-usual summer months, especially those days when I couldn’t even brush my teeth for having Jude permanently attached to either one of my gazongas.

So – he’s in Big School. Where I know he will respond really well to the structure of the activities of the school week, and has no end of little friends to chase and giggle with. He (with his friend Scarlett) RAN to school this morning, such was their eagerness to see all their little pals from nursery again.


I know some mothers get emotional at the school gates and some kids get separation anxiety and there are tears, but WHA-HOO that is SO not a picture of this Mama and Boy. Ben is fiercely independent – on occasion, detrimentally so as it leads him to mischief – but recognising this and encouraging him to do things for himself and be a ‘big boy’ is what made him march into that classroom this morning, head tall, brandishing his Wall-E lunchbox, stocked full of his first ever packed lunch.

I wish there was a Classroom-Cam or something where I could spy on him today, to see him being all grown up and on his own.

I’m so proud.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Tuesday, 8 September 2009

In a conversation with Ben just now, I said, "No honey, Daddy was just pretending, "

"No, Mammy, " he replies, "He wasn't pretending, he was REALing."

Labour Story, Part 3

My Handsome Jude-o aka Joodles Noodles Doodles

So, no more babies. Should I be more freaked out by this? I mean, I know how lucky I am, both in terms of the fact that I have two kids and in how much of a lucky escape we had in terms of the whole ruptured uterus scenario. But now I’m one of those women who can’t have any more kids. My body no longer is capable of performing the thing that it was designed to perform. I suppose if I only had one child, this would be really devastating news for me. But I’m not too bothered, if I’m honest. It just sometimes feels a bit surreal being really rather unaffected by circumstances which are, at face value, really quite enormous.  I know there are millions of sister-wives around the world who can't have babies... I feel a bit fraudlent claiming to join their ranks, especially as I type this with two babies safe under this roof, but my heart goes out to them with some slight sense of recognition anyway.

The day after Jude was born I was very tired and didn’t have a lot of energy. I felt like a ghost of myself – a tremendously elated ghost of myself. Very strange! I’d suffered quite a substantial blood loss during the Caesarean, according to my midwives. 2.5 litres, if you please.

Two point five?

SRSLY, people.

That’s like... one of those big bottles of Diet Coke plus a glass. Ouch!

Now THIS piece of information freaks me out a little. I’m funny about blood... I don’t like injections or withdrawals of any description, and I’ll never be a blood donator. This latter fact will make me sound a bit assholy in light of what I’m about to tell you, but something in my silly little head says that the stuff that’s inside my body is obviously there for a reason, and should remain in there because... like... I NEED IT, okay? But, the ghosty me was faltering, so the Doctor came to recommend that I should have a blood transfusion. “Well, of course you don’t have to have one, you are well within your rights to refuse, “ she began, “So you could try iron tablets for three weeks or you could have a transfusion and get the same results instantly.” I opted for the transfusion. The doctor recommended it as the best course of action, in light of the fact that in the weeks to come my body would not only be breastfeeding but also trying to mend a substantial C-section belly scar. So, here I am typing this with SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOOD SWIRLING AROUND INSIDE ME.

Peculiar, indeed. Someone, somewhere, lay on a sun lounger in one of those blood-donation sessions and gave some blood so I could have it dripped into my left arm over the course of an hour so I could have a bit of colour back in my cheeks and have a good shot at feeding my baby. Thanks, Anonymous Person-Less-Selfish-Than-Me. Really, totally mean that.

I was spoiled rotten by the night-time midwives during my convalescence; because I was Very Serious Terrible Delivery Girl, I had a lot of help (and consequently, a lot of sleep!) during those first few nights. Jude was quite mucousy, and I couldn’t close my eyes for fear of him choking and gagging on little globs of snot/throat-gunge, etc., during the night. Poor little bugger really suffered with it, but my tummy was really sore and I couldn’t get myself in an upright position quick enough to pick him up so he wouldn’t choke. So the midwives looked after him through the night for me. Oh, love the lovely midwives! Lovely Lynnette’s Ashington sister-midwives are a bunch worth their weight in gold. We were both discharged on the Friday afternoon (after a stern talking-to about CONTRACEPTION by a very matronly nurse... but that’s a separate blog entry in itself, watch this space).

A few days later, the Lovely Lynnette came to remove the staples in my belly and here I am 8 weeks post delivery and I feel a million bucks. Belly totally healed, everything back to normal. I am even in my pre-Jude jeans. Wha-hoo!

Lashings of apologies, dear Internet, for taking 8 weeks to finish my labour story, but it really has been a whirlwind “summer”. I say “summer” because it has been distinctly autumnal for the majority, but that’s the way things are on this side of The Pond. But I hope you have enjoyed reading How I Fell In Love Again in July of 2009, as I have enjoyed recalling and reliving it all to write it down.

So I guess this is officially the last pregnancy-related post I will write! What began as my online pregnancy journal has morphed into an official blog – you’ll notice I changed the URL – but I hope you will continue to visit my little corner of the web to read about how we are all doing here on Canterbury Avenue in the coming months. Thanks for reading.


Saturday, 5 September 2009

Blog Transfer Post 4

Saturday, 5 September 2009
Blood Red Shoes, 20 October 2008
Carling Academy 2, Newcastle upon Tyne

So, as promised... a few thoughts about Blood Red Shoes.I was sooooo excited to see this band; couldn't get either of their albums out of the car stereo for months, and they're still there. I first heard them on Zane Lowe's BBC1 radio show at the beginning of this summer... they were on his show and I caught the tail end of his interview with them. I remember him being really impressed and flirting his gorgeous arse off with Laura Mary Carter, saying, 'You know you're going to wind up on the cover of Guitarist magazine, you know you want to -- admit it!'

Immediate interest piqued -- I do pay attention to girl guitartists; being one myself it's a useful yardstick. But a yardstick isn't enough for this girl -- the sounds this fabulous woman is producing is the stuff of dreams, she's a total legend. It's just her and Steven Ansell (drums) and for just a two piece --what a wall of noise! It's danceable-to, punky, punchy, melodic, hard-hitting, louder-louder-louder stuff and I'm aaaaaaalllllllllll over it.

So off we go to Carling Academy. From start to finish I totally loved the show (apart from support; see previous note) they covered most of the material from their EP and full length albums and just had such infectious energy it made for really good watching. I was half dead with flu, so stood at the side up the steps for most of it which made for some good photos and video, but rest assured I would have been right up front bopping away if my ailments would have permitted -- which says something... I'm old now, and usually stand at the back (who'd a thunk that?!) but I would have been right up there.

You must must must download their records; they're so young and fresh and doing things the likes of which I haven't heard done so well in a long time -- I hope for their sake they take over the world, but for mine that they don't so they'll play little teeny venues like Carling Academy 2 for ever and ever. When they come back next year I'll be the first in the queue.Enjoy the links below:

This is Not for You (video):

It's Getting Boring By the Sea (video):

I Wish I Was Someone Better (video):