Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Returning to Oxford didn't go well

Hello! Sorry I haven't posted for a few days, it was caused by a combination of two factors. Firstly, I was busy having a great Christmas, and secondly I was up North, where the primary form of communication is still carrier pigeon.

However, you will be pleased to hear that I am now back in Oxford for a couple of days, and that I plan to catch up with my Christmas blog posts in the next week. Oh, and I should point out how Christmas works with Izzy. She spends Christmas day with her Father, and then she comes back to my house for a second Christmas on 30th December.

'Did you say that you were back in Oxford?' I hear you cry.

Bloody right I am. It took me three and a half hours to drive back from Leeds, mainly because everyone was driving like joeys because it was foggy.

Anyway, once back at home, things got off to a bad start and then carried on like dominos knocking each other over.

Firstly, one of the thirty bags that I was unloading from my car split open and a full bottle of sherry dropped out, and smashed onto the flagstones and rug in my kitchen. Yep, sherry... the stickiest, sweetest drink known to man. Bloody bugger.

Pic.No.1 This is the wet patch where the sherry bottle broke

It took me half an hour to sort out the broken glass and mop up the sticky residue. It was then that I noticed that Naughty George was licking up the bubbles left by the 'Lemon Scent All Purpose Floor Cleaner'.

"What the bloody hell are you doing Naughty George?" I cried, witnessing him shaking and heaving.

Fast forward 60 seconds. 

"MUM!" Izzy shouted, "Naughty George has been sick!"

Pic.No.2 Naughty George barfed on the mat next to the back door

"Bloody hell", I shouted, "it's like a bleedin' zoo in here!"

Izzy and Naughty George looked sheepish and backed slowly out of the kitchen and into the Living Room in order to escape. It was then that Izzy flicked on the Living Room light, and .... would you bloody believe it .... managed to blow a fuse.

The whole house was pitched into complete darkness and silence.

Pic.No.3. My living room during the 'power out'. That square bit of light is my laptop screen

Izzy was crying because she didn't know what had happened, and I was left desperately trying to console her whilst trying to find (without a torch) which fuse out of 20 possibles, had blown.

Welcome home me..... Spillage. Sick. Power Out...... Oh yeh, I excelled myself this time.

Events like that don't generally have a tendency to phase me, but there was one single thing that pushed me over the edge. The whole time I was dealing with the crap detailed above, Izzy's new Christmas present was bouncing around the house....... watch the video below for details ...........

Vid.No.1 Bloody annoying laughing ball thing

WTF?! Who invented that? It was a ball that threw itself around the house laughing manically like Mr Rochester's mad wife in the novel Jane Eyre. It was the first time that I had ever wanted to stab a child's toy. Ah, the joys of Christmas.

So prey, do tell .... do you have any horror Christmas tales?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Sunday, 26 December 2010

And the winner is..... the bingo wildebeest!

So, as you already know, I arrived in Leeds on Christmas Eve to be greeted by cocktails dahlink. But don't be fooled by the thin southern-type veneer that my host was trying to lay on. She was still from 'oop north, and I knew that if I didn't go native, I would inevitably become prey. It's dog eat southern dog 'oop north.

Just imagine that northerners are cheetahs, and that I am a wildebeest, because it is always wildebeests who get killed in natural history programmes......i.e. every time I have ever seen a wildebeest on TV, they have always progressed to having their throat ripped out by a predator.

But hey (and here is a confounding variable), wildebeests do look quite tasty. It's made me feel hungry writing this post. Maybe we could genetically modify them so that their horns taste like Horseradish sauce...... that way we would have a main and a condiment in one go. 

Pic.No.1. Dear diary, today was a bad day

Actually, on another note, given that everything from monkeys to crocodiles eats wildebeests, how come they aren't extinct? I would expect them to be the cow-type equivalent of Do-Dos. Except with more legs and horns.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Leeds and going native.

"What do you fancy doing this evening?" asked Sarah after she had given me a cocktail.

"Erm," I said, remembering that I had to get into type, and therefore adding; "I want to go to bingo." Hah! No flies on me.

"Great stuff," she replied, "they are doing bingo tonight down at the local Beeston Conservative Club."

An hour and three cocktails later, we met Louise and Lisa at the Conservative Club, just in time for the bingo to start. 

Pic.No.2 Sarah (you can just see her hands on the left), Louise and Lisa playing bingo. You can see some of the Northern predators in the background

Bingo is a bloody weird game isn't it? It's weirdness lies in the fact that it doesn't require any skill other than identifying a number and crossing it off a grid of numbers that you have in a book front of you. It was a bit like doing a stock-take at work. I did point that out, and someone told me to; 'stop being a miserable bastard'.

Pic.No.3 Louise (left) and Lisa (hiding because she didn't want to appear on my blog - hell, doesn't the girl crave fame and fortune?)

Anyway, after half an hour, I started losing interest in the game and began relying upon Sarah to cross off my numbers for me whilst I flicked bits of beermat at Lisa and Louise.

Next thing I know, Sarah hollered a spontaneous death-inducing; "HOUSE!"

"Jeez, Sarah," I gasped in fright, "WTF is going on?"

"You've won!" she shouted, waving my bingo card in the air.

"Bloody hell," I said, pausing for a moment to take it in........ and then in dawned on me. I was a winner.

"Carpe diem!" I cried, standing up to undertake a series of flourishing bows.

"What are you doing?" asked Louise perplexedly.

"Appreciating my fans," I said, adding a 'queen wave' to my battery of triumphant skills.

Pic.No.4 That's me with my bingo card and my £20 winnings

You see, going native has its merits. Without even raising my eyebrows, I had morphed from wildebeest to cheetah [taps side of nose in a knowing fashion].

P.S. I know I am behind with my postings but it is because Christmas happened. I will hopefully post about Christmas day tomorrow

P.P.S. What the bloody hell have you been up to the last couple of days?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Friday, 24 December 2010

Bring on Christmas!

Pic.No.1 Yeh! That's me with a cocktail dahlink

Well my bloggy lovelies, here I am in Leeds after a three hour drive. I am staying with an old university chum and she has just plied me with a cocktail. To be fair, I didn't put up too much resistance.
This Christmas milarky is looking good.
Merry Christmas to you!

Why my dog is a complete git

I live in a house in the country, with about half an acre of garden for Naughty George to roam free in.

On top of that, I drag him for at least 1.5 miles a day to keep him fit. He has ample opportunity to erm 'move his bowels' in a sociable location.

Pic.No.1. Don't eat yellow snow

So why, oh why, did he decide to wee on the igloo that Izzy had built for her imaginery pet rabbit, Derek?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Technology meets 'a Letter to Santa'.... great fun!

As you know, this week I self-styled myself as a kid whisperer, and before my enthusiasm for the task waned, I decided to give Izzy a treat in the form of writing a letter to Santa listing all the things she wanted for Christmas.

"That's not kid whispering," I hear you cry, "everyone does that with their sprog."

Ah yes, but I decided that I was not happy with a single act; I wanted a full production, and to achieve this, carefully orchestrated technology was going to form the basis of a three part plan. Don't worry, all will become clear as I progress.

PART ONE. It all starated innocuously enough when we wrote a list to Santa.......

Pic.No.1. Izzy's letter to Santa Claus

It started off "Dear Santa, my name is Isabella, and for xmas I would like...."

And then she reeled off a list of about twenty items. What the bloody hell is that all about then? In the olden days we would have been happy with an orange and walnut in our Christmas stocking, but these days it seems like kid inflation has struck. I mean, I hadn't even heard of some of the things on her list.

"Izzy, what exactly is a Pipi Max?" I enquired. [Note to reader: I included an advertisement link to Pipi Max for you because it is bloody unbelievable.]

"It's ... it's ... it's ... a dog and you feed it water and then it wees all over the place," she shouted excitedly, tripping over her words.

"Izzy, you'll never marry into royalty," I muttered under my breath, before adding, "do you want to send the letter to Santa?"

"Yes!" she hollered, "I need to put my letter in the fire and then if Santa gets it, he will ring his sleigh bells!"

Because there are no flies on me (but you can see where they've been), the fire in the living room was already lit and we gently dropped the letter into the flames and watched as the charred remains floated up into the chimney. And.... (and this is where some of the technology comes in) ..... I had my laptop lined up to play an .mp3 of Santa's sleigh bells, which was activated remotely using the 'Air Mouse' app on my iPhone. Oh yeh, I am smoother than a non-stick frying pan. NASA could boil me down and use me for re-entry.

And so PART TWO was successfully completed: "I heard the bells!" Izzy shouted, jumping around in a slightly delirious manner, "Santa got my letter!"

Yeh, I felt smug. But it didn't stop there. Oh no sirree, I have a kid-whisperer rep to uphold. Once the letter had gone up the chimney, I had scheduled for Steve to give us a bogus call. Bang on target, my phone rang, I picked it up and pretended that instead of Steve, Santa was on the end of the line.

"Iz," I hissed, "it's Santa on the phone, he's got your letter and now he wants to talk to you using the computer." (The computer was part 3 of the plan).

"Oh my goodness!" she gasped, eyes wide and at near-barf excitement levels.

PART THREE: I took her to my computer, and pressed play on the video that was already lined up (oh yeh, everything was meticulously planned in Lady M fashion). And the video was supercool; it was generated using a free website called Portable North Pole (more details later). How it works is that you input your kid's parameters and upload a couple of photograhs of their favourite events, and then a personalised video from Santa gets emailed to you! It's a different gravy.

Vid.No.1. Izzy's message from Santa. Click here to watch

This online video service is the season's 'must have' for kids under ten, and even better it is FREE. Izzy was totally revved up after watching it, to the extent that I worried that she might wee in my lap like a Pipi Max. That's kid-whispering that is. Although admittedly, my kid whispering may have been regarded as more successful if she wasn't still bouncing off her bedroom walls at 10.30pm after being tucked into bed at 8pm. Grrrr (that was me being mad).

Anyway, here you go. This is the link to the free Santa Video website. It is bloody brilliant fun, and the added benefit is that, as well as doing cute videos for your kids, you can also make comedy videos for your friends (not that I would contemplate anything so puerile, obv).

So, do you have any top tips for me (God knows I need 'em!)

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Monday, 20 December 2010

Adversity comes... I shrug it off like a seagull crapping on my shoulder

And so, after making a brief appearance last Friday, on Saturday it came in earnest. 

'What are you banging on about you daft wombat?' I hear you cry.

Why snow, my dear...... and lots of it. At dawn on Saturday morning, it was a bit frosty. By mid-morning the snow started, and by mid-afternoon we had copped about 9" of the stuff. It was truly awesome.

Now, I know that all of you 'hard-as-coffin-nails' Canadians are going to think that I am a complete pansy for being overawed by 9" of snow, but this is the bally UK, godammit. We thrive off adversity, and as such would never dream of using winter tyres, snow chains, or gritting the roads. Jeez, if we did that, life would be easy and we would have nothing to whine about.

Instead, we got 9" snow, and were completely poleaxed. Before moving to Oxfordshire, I lived in London for many years, and the degree of poleaxation (I probably need to point out that I invented that mutation of the verb by the way) there, was considerably less than living in the countryside.

It was London for chrissake. The nation's Capital. The government couldn't be seen to allow 7.5 million people to be snowed in. That would be totally rude. So Terminator-style snow ploughs would be deployed throughout the city if so much as a flake fluttered upon a pavement.

But living in the countryside is a totally different animal. We get 9" of snow, and the Oxfordshire District Council scratches its head and concludes, "we could save £50 by not gritting the road into Forest Hill and the upside is that there are only 750 people living there, so if they all died of starvation, it probably wouldn't make it to the papers. Huzzar!" Ok, so the local councillors might not have shouted Huzzar, but they decided not to grit the roads.

And I know that for sure. A gritter drove past my house yesterday (one of the only vehicles who could make it through the snow) and they didn't have their 'grit spreading' button turned on. Bastards.

Anyway, in the spirit of 'embrace what you can't control', I have taken some pictures for you to have a look at. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Jeanne d'Arc type person when it comes to stoicism in the face of adversity.

Pic.No.1 The road through Forest Hill village on Saturday afternoon. The local pub is that building in the distance with the chimney. Thank god, I think I may be able to make it

Pic.No.2. This is the A40. It is normally a four-lane dual carriageway into Oxford city, and has two laybys which are frequented by doggers

Pic.No.3. I climbed to the top of Forest Hill and this is the view from the peak. I was a bit pissed off because snow in photos doesn't look as deep as snow in real life

Pic.No.4 School's out and then it snows. Life doesn't get much better for five year olds because they don't worry about starving to death one bit

Pic.No.5. This is Izzy on her sledge. She isn't deformed, she just has her mouth wide open.... for some obscure reason

Pic.No.6. Izzy wasn't at all worried that Oxfordshire District Council had decided that gritting the roads to Forest Hill wasn't a 'Priority 1'

Pic.No.7. 'Izzy kiddo, can you dig my car out of the snow? I fancy going for lunch somewhere'. Child labour is great. And you can see how deep the snow is in this picture.

Pic.No.8. After Izzy had dug out the car, Steve, me and her all went for lunch at the Old Red Lion in Tetsworth

Pic.No.9 On the way there, we encountered a flock of crows in the middle of the road. It was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie .... except that I don't have blonde hair ..... and the crows moved when I drove at them instead of pecking me death

Pic.No.10. Inside the Old Red Lion. The new landlady was very friendly and had done a fabulous job of redesigning the interior. The only complaint (I am English for godsake!) was that the place was a bit cold. I had to eat with my coat on.

Pic.No.11. The Old Red Lion specialises in carvery meals ..... yummy my favourite, and they do them fabulously at this place. This is a picture of the door that leads into the carvery. You can see the hot plates with a selection of roasted meat through the door

Pic.No.12. Awww, look at Izzy. She is like a little wallflower. Yeh, I was being ironic.. more like Attila the Hun. All she needs to complete the picture is one of those spikey balls on the end of a chain, and an opposing army.

So yeh, chaos reigns in Oxfordshire and the forecast doesn't predict any change soon, so it looks like the snow is here to stay. Excellent!

In the meantime, a lovely reader of my blog, Dulcie McNulty (there's got to be some Scottish descendency there eh?), sent me these of the snow scenes around her house in Deedee, Montana, USA.

Pic.No.13 What do you reckon, is it worse in the UK or Montana?

Pic.No.14. Another Montana pic. I like the fact that I am not suffering on my own. In that respect, I am not like Jeanne d'Arc at all

Thanks Dulcie for sending them in! If you were in the UK I would snog you. Actually, I can't back that up.

So me dears, how is winter treating you? Have you got any horrors that you want to share with me? 

P.S. I don't know how useful this is to you, but the Blogspot spellcheck does not recognise the word dogging.

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Naughty George living the high life

Now I understand why dogs aren't extinct. That joint venture with humans really paid off.

P.S That black blob in front of the fire is Naughty George in case you were wondering.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

School's out for Christmas........ let the mayhem commence!

Yesterday was the last day of school before the Christmas holidays. Great stuff! Two weeks of a five year old bouncing off the walls and demanding constant entertainment, and then complaining when you make an effort........ you just can't win.

"Aw noooooo Mum, I don't want to learn Newton's laws of motion," she whines.

"Ok, howsabout we have a bash at translating the Dead Sea Scrolls then?" I suggest.

"I want to watch a Hello Kitty DVD," she cries like a heathen, ignoring my attempts to engage her in something interesting.

Kids these days eh? All they seem to do is wear hoodies, hang around on street corners and watch Hello Kitty DVDs. On the other hand, if a Hello Kitty DVD is effective in keeping her entertained, I might be onto something. I have just calculated that if each DVD lasts 60 minutes, I could buy her 112 of them and hey presto! She would be entertained solidly for two weeks (my calculation works on the assumption that she is awake for 8 hours a day).

Anyway, I digress. Back to Izzy's last day of school. For some reason on the last day, they cancel all the school buses and ask everyone to pick up their nippers at 1.20pm. The resulting congestion at the school was pretty bad (the school is in a small village where the only access is down a steep, single-track country lane), and to make matters worse, there was a freak dump of snow an hour before school was out. Not only that, the snow was quickly compacted due to the extra volume of traffic. 

It was like bloody Armageddon. Cars were abandoned, some were sliding sideways down the road, there were parents lobbing their little 'uns into hedgerows to avoid being squashed, people falling over all over the place, and to top it off, the heel fell off my boot so I ended up limping like the Elephant Man. All I needed to complete the look was a sack on my head, and to suck in before uttering each sentence.

Steve and I managed to retrieve Izzy and her chum who was coming on a playdate, and on the long walk back up the hill to the car, we bumped into Guy, the father of Izzy's best friend.

"Fancy celebrating the end of term by taking them to the pub?" he suggested.

"Top idea," we concurred, and after finally making it to the car, we drove to the White Horse Inn, in Forest Hill.

As Guy, Steve and I tucked into our food, the three sprogs went into overdrive, fuelled by the excitement of leaving school for the holidays.

Pic.No.1 Guy (left aka DJ Hyper) and Steve look on wearily as the sprogs run amok scrapping, biting and baying like coyotes

"Do you remember a time before you had kids?" I asked, "A time when you would sit in a restaurant shaking your head disparagingly at kids who were running round?"

Guy nodded with resignation as a Quaver thrown by Izzy bounced unnoticed off his head. 

Then suddenly, I had an idea. I shouted to Izzy and her two friends; "Hey, do you guys want to watch the movie 'Elf' on my iPhone?"

"YEEEEEESSSSS!" they screamed, and in less than a minute, they were in a corner, huddled over my iPhone. No flies on me. My nickname should be 'kid whisperer'.

Pic.No.2. That is me. I am standing next to the fire in the White Horse Inn after kid whispering

And so, with the little dahlinks entertained, we were able to finish our meal in peace. Oh and so that you can appreciate how rubbish the UK is at dealing with snow, I thought I would take a couple of pictures showing the light dusting that caused chaos at the school.

Pic.No.3. Snow in my back garden. It's that pathetic that there isn't even enough to make a snowball

Pic.No.4. Snow on the grave of the dead bloke buried in my back garden. Naughty George subsequently and irreverently pissed on it and made the snow go yellow on the right hand side

Let the Christmas holidays commence! What are you up to over Christmas then?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Friday, 17 December 2010

'Ear' is the winter of our discontent

So yesterday was the penultimate day of school before the Christmas holidays, and disaster nearly struck. It started when I received a phonecall from Izzy's teacher saying she had earache (Izzy, not the teacher that is; the teacher probably wouldn't ring me if she had earache, although she may change her mind after reading this post; taps side of nose knowingly).

"No worries," I said, before adding philanthropically, "I shall come and pick her up."

"It's not quite as simple as that," replied Izzy's teacher, "she is crying just as much about the fact that she will miss Santa Claus visiting the school this afternoon, as she is about the earache."

Ah bollocks. It was a double whammy dilemma. I bloody hate double whammy dilemmas.

I pondered for a while and then said to Izzy's teacher, "when is Santa Claus arriving?"

"In an hour," she replied.

"Brilliant!" I said, "that gives me time to pick her up, drive her home, treat her earache and get her back in time for Santa."

"You think so?" asked Izzy's teacher dubiously.

"It's tenuous," I replied, "but I love a challenge, so I am gonna give it a go." Grrrrrr. I am just madcap I am.

Pic.No.1. A random picture of an ear

Ten minutes later, Izzy was in the car on her way home. Her ear was really hurting and she was flailing around like a trussed crocodile, shouting, "you can't stop me from seeing Santa!"

Even though her statement was technically incorrect, I decided not to labour the point, but rather concentrate on fixing her ear. And I had an ace up my sleeve. My father is a Medical Doctor (not a proper PhD one like me) and following a phonecall with him, he had briefed me on how to treat earache in the proverbial manner of cracking open a walnut with a sledgehammer. 

So, once we were through the front door, it was like a military operation:

1. Sit Izzy on chair. Administer two 5ml spoonsfuls of Calpol to get the pain under control.

2. Lie Izzy on her side on the sofa. Add several drops of heated Olive Oil in the affected ear to loosen any blockages, and gently massage the outside of the ear to work the oil in.

3. Finally, three drops of Olbas Oil were added to a steaming bowl of water. Izzy's head was covered with a towel and she was made to breath in the steam. That apparently, was the final stage in helping clear any blockages.

To be quite honest, I wasn't holding out too much hope about her getting better any time soon after listening to her pain-ravaged cries all the way home. But can you bloody believe it, I was completely wrong! After 40 minutes of the 'regime', she was bouncing around the kitchen with a big grin on her mush, asking to be taken back to school.

I felt like bloody Alexander Fleming....... Step aside. I've got healing hands! I'll be speaking in tongues soon.

Time was running short, so we made the mad dash back to school just as Santa and his Elf helper (who happened to be my friend Claire) arrived.

"Bummer," I said to Claire, regarding her green elf suit and red hat with fake hair attached, "is that in your job description?"

"Yeh, I checked," she replied despondently.

"You carry it off well though girl. I am sure the kids will think it is worth the Elffort!"

Although I am not sure (I was too busy appreciating my own gag), I think she might have mumbled 'bog off you git' as she followed Santa to his first appointment, lugging a sack of oranges and cheap plastic presents.

All's well that ends well. That's what I say. Izzy was uber happy. Her ear had stopped hurting and she got to see Santa Claus.

So tell me, do you have any 'miracle' cures that you would like to share?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The rollercoaster of life with children

Ahhh! The highs and lows of dealing with kids. They are like little curved balls with untucked shirts. You never know what's coming next. So I thought I would do a post summarising the kid things that happened yesterday to demonstrate my point:


It was Izzy's Christmas nativity play which was being performed at the church next to her school, and she was all excited because she had been promoted from the sheep that she played with aplomb last year, to the percussion section of music group. To be precise, she was responsible for jangling her bells at the correct time. There must be a technical term for it, but I'm not sure what it is because I am not Beethoven. And I am glad that I'm not because he wore a dodgy wig.

Pic.No.1. Watching the school nativity play at the local church (I know it looks like the children have no faces, but that's because the Headmistress requested that no pictures be published on the internet, so I blurred them all. Actually, does anyone know the reason behind that?)

So Steve and I traipsed down to the church to watch her and it was fabulous, apart from the fact that the stone pillars in the church obscured 75% of the performance. Izzy was like bloody Miley Cyrus; a consummate acting professional, except for the fact that she paused to wave or make funny faces to us every couple of minutes. Hey, it's not something we can't hone.


After the nativity play, I had volunteered to help with a craft class at the school. I was in charge of a table of six children, all of whom were tasked with painting a Christmas picture. It was all going swimmingly; one kid was painting a pooing reindeer, another was painting a Christmas stocking with a bottle of wine in it 'for mummy', and the quiet stary kid was just painting the picture black.

After noticing that the white paint pot on the table was running low, I picked up a squeezy bottle to top it up, and it made a farting noise.

Highly amused, I laughed "the bottle just made a rude sound!"

One little (and nameless) girl looked at me expressionlessly and asked, "are you trying to be funny?"

I'll get my coat then.


Because I have flatly and consistently refused to produce a sibling for Izzy (it hurts more than a papercut for chrissake), she always gets particularly excited when her friends come home for playdates. And even though Izzy + friend generally equals complete decimation of house, I try to make it a bit special for them.

This time I concentrated on food, buying them Marks and Spencers pizza and oven chips, finished off with chocolate mousse. They bloody loved it because it was unhealthy (I can't blame 'em. Let's face it, every time I eat salad I feel like shouting 'who's got the flavour?').

Pic.No.2. Izzy and chum engaged in much hilarity

Ok, the food probably contributed to them bouncing off the walls for an hour or so, but still they were having fun. But the kid 'high' was seeing Izzy squeezed into a doll's pram, being pushed around by her friend who was teetering in a pair of my high heeled boots.

I laughed my head off at the spectacle, "what game are you playing?" I asked.

Izzy replied, "I am the baby and I've just been borned, and this is my mummy," as she gestured towards her friend.

Aww, wouldn't be lovely if adults could interact in such an innocent way? Actually scrub that, it makes me sound weird.


Phew, the whirlwind of a day was coming to an end. Izzy's friend had gone home and it was bathtime.

As I was undressing her, Izzy turned to me, looking a bit green and said, "I don't feel very well."

"What hurts?" I asked frantically.... but it was too late. Izzy was blowing double her body-weight of chunks all over the bathroom floor. Umm, maybe the pizza, chips and chocolate mousse weren't such a great idea after all.

I surveyed the lake of puke with horror, and the words of numerous ghost parents floated around my head; 'you really don't mind cleaning it up if it's your own child.' Total. Bollocks.

After stripping off the remainder of Izzy's vom-splattered clothes, I plonked her in the bath and then dry-heaved my way through the clean-up process whilst she looked forlornly on. And I came within a gnat's pube of vomiting myself.....twice.

It was the same when she was a baby. The baby fascists would coo, "you don't mind changing nappies when it's your own child." Absolute. Tosh. I used to shake, heave and gag my way through many a nappy change when Izzy was young.

Ummmm, or is it me? What do you think? And do you have any good kid stories for me?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Monday, 13 December 2010

It's a wrap! Let's make those presents look lovely

Hi, this is just a quick note to let you know that I can't do a blog today because I have been wrapping Christmas presents.

If you think about it, wrapping presents is a pretty thankless task. You spend (and I calculated this today) approximately 10 minutes and 56 seconds per present. And when the gift is eventually presented to the recipient, they look at it for a couple of seconds, coo a bit, and then rip all your handiwork off within less than 19 seconds to get to the mass-produced tat within. Let's put it this way, if it was a business model, it would be shite.

Admittedly, I did go for quite a complicated wrapping scheme (for me) which involved silver wrapping paper, black ribbons, black stick-on flowery-type things, and small silver baubles which also double as a Christmas tree decoration.

Pic.No.1. Look at the state of my dining room table! It's covered in present-wrapping crap

Pic.No.2. A sample of the presents that I wrapped this evening. It's like Macy's at my house

So that's why I can't write a blog today. Fifteen presents are wrapped, and nine to go. It's like hiking to the North Pole in flip-flops (or 'thongs' if you are American). 

How are your Christmas preparations going by the way? Do you have any pics for me?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas: It's like a relentlessly advancing zombie

Normally it starts towards the middle of November; people coming up to me, bobbing up and down with excitement, and asking, "so, are you looking forward to Christmas?!"

"Nope. It's just commercialised bollocks," I reliably inform them, popping their metaphorical bubble of euphoria.

And while I'm at it, don't get me started on shop displays, or TV adverts that begin their Christmas campaigns in October. If a shop has erected a Christmas tree in October, I won't buy from them. Same with TV adverts. Yep, I am proper Bah Humbug.

So as usual, it was with a heavy heart that yesterday I decided to put up my Christmas tree and decorations. There was only one thing different this year compared to past Christmases, and it was the fact that Izzy, being five and all, was actually old enough to help. And she was bloody excited about it.

"Why are you excited Iz?" I asked perplexedly, "we are only going to be hanging cheap tat off a moth-eaten excuse for a Christmas tree."

"Because we are making a grotto for Father Christmas, and he will really like it when he comes down the chimney!" she exclaimed.

"A grotty more like," I muttered under my breath, luckily remembering to check myself from adding that Father Christmas was a bedraggled, hirsute, pie-eating figment of someones imagination, who would probably end up being a drain on our great nation's health budget .... if he was real that is. I can't remember who, but someone once told me that I shouldn't tell her these things until she realised it herself. I did point out that it was 'lying by omission', but apparently that isn't the point.

Proceedings didn't get off to an auspicious start. As I was carrying my very fake, and affectionately named (Jordan), Christmas tree up from the cellar, the bottom of the box fell out because it had got damp. So instead of having all the different branches compartmentalised by size, they were all in a Jenga-like heap on the cellar floor. Sacre bloody bleu! And in case you were wondering, it took about an half an hour to get them all sorted again. And it was well boring; a bit like filing lettuce leaves.

And the carnage didn't stop there. Izzy had developed a fascination with my super-sized, Christmas-themed, musical snow globe (oh yeh, I exude class).

"Don't play with that Izzy, you'll drop it," I said to her after she had wound it up for the 24th time, therefore subjecting me to my 24th rendition of a nerve-jangling 'Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I was ready to use my bare hands to rip its heart out.

 "No I won't," she replied indignantly. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what happened next.
 Pic.No.1. Had so much to give, but now gone

Have you ever smashed a super-sized snow globe? Suffice to say, my living room resembled something out of 'Dancing on Ice'. I cleaned the floor twice, but it still glittered like a transvestite's eyelashes. And Izzy was still sobbing frantically. And Naughty George was still cowering in a corner after being stunned by the crashing sound.

'Yeh, it's going well,' I thought to myself, surveying the scene.

Actually, I can't back that up. In reality, I just wanted to sneakily box everything back up and shove it back in the cellar, in the hope that Izzy wouldn't notice that she hadn't had a Christmas. But to be honest, I couldn't see myself getting away with that one (she hadn't fallen for it when I told her that she was a Jehovah's Witness), so I decided to try and get proceedings back on track.

"Izzy! Stop crying," I commanded empathetically. "We are going to decorate the Christmas tree, and we are going to bloody enjoy it!"

"But I broke the snow globe," she heaved.

"It doesn't matter, it was an accident," I replied through gritted teeth.

"Really?" she asked, regarding me with suspicion.

"Yes, really," I nodded, before adding, "look, I need an Elf to help me put these decorations on the tree. Do you know anybody who could be my Elf?"

No flies on me, eh? [taps side of nose in a knowing fashion]

"Yes! Me!" she shouted, jumping up and down, "I want to be your Elf!"

"Cool. Here are the decorations that need hanging on the tree," I said, thrusting a box full of glittery shapes into her eagerly outstretched mitts. That was it. From that point onwards, she was putty in my hands. Watch and learn....... the meister is in action!

Pic.No.2. Izzy decorating the Christmas tree in a contrived fashion

You know what? We spent more than two and a half hours decorating the tree and house, and the whole time, Izzy was absolutely enthralled. Her interest didn't waiver, not even for a second, and I have to admit, it was bloody good fun; for the first time ever.

Pic.No.3. We finally finished decorating the tree and fireplace

After everything was finished, I handed one piece of red tinsel to Izzy. "This is your own special decoration," I said, "you can put it anywhere you want."

She jumped up and down and clapped her hands, grabbed the tinsel and then ran purposefully into the kitchen with it trailing after her.

"I'm going to decorate my toy cupboard," she shouted.

Pic.No.4. You might not realise it, but Izzy decorated her toy cupboard on her own

Phew, finally it was the end of the day, and I was actually really pleased that it turned out to be fun instead of a slog. Ok, the Christmas tree smelt a bit musty after being in storage (nothing a bit of cinnamon room spray couldn't fix), and some of the decorations could do with a bit of.. ummm... updating.... but all in all it looked really quite festive. Even more so when I got a fire roaring in the grate.

Pic.No.5. Our newly festive living room, complete with roaring fire and Izzy with hands-on-hips (is it me or does it look like I am burning a Meercat?)

Izzy contemplated the scene and said to me, "Mummy, I am not going to call our house a house anymore. I am going to call it the North Pole."

Awww, how cute? I had better watch myself, I might be getting sentimental. God forbid!

Maybe I should chant 'I am an engineer!' and self-flagellate for a couple of hours?

P.S. This is how my Christmas tree looks from outside

Pic.No.6. This picture definitely looked better on my iPhone screen that it does in real life. Then again, don't they all?

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Friday, 10 December 2010

He's behind you! A trip to the Pantomime, Cinderella

Cor blimey. Izzy and I had a real treat last weekend. I don't know about other countries, but in the UK it is quite the tradition that you take the kids to see a pantomime in the run-up to Christmas. For those people who live in countries without pantomimes, they are basically traditional children's fairy stories acted out in a normal theatre and performed in a slapstick manner.

Sounds weird? Yep, but that's what us Brits do best. In fact I like to pride myself on the fact that I have mastered weird better than most. Or maybe warped would be a better word?

It was looking like it was going to be even more fun than usual because my chum Sam had booked tickets for her family, and myself, Izzy and Steve, and we were all going together.

The performance started at 7pm, so beforehand Steve and I decided to take Izzy to Pizza Hut for dinner in George Street, Oxford. 

Pic.No.1 That's me in Pizza Hut dressed like roadkill

Now I don't know if it is me, or the fact that I normally eat in Pizza Express, but everytime I go to Pizza Hut, I come away thinking it's shite. 

Our experience started as we arrived to find ourselves at the end of a long queue of diners waiting to be seated. And despite the fact that the restaurant itself was half empty, in full view (because the kitchen door was open) we could see a number of staff drinking coffee and chatting. Workshy critters. 

Pic.No.2. The Pizza Hut menu. It's wipe clean

After eventually being assigned a table, and waiting 20 minutes for our order to be taken, our meal was served one dish at a time with five minutes gap between each. And if that wasn't bad enough, it then took ten minutes to get the attention of a waiter because we didn't have any bloody knives or forks. I was that hungry, I nearly succumbed to eating like a dog.

To add to the calamitous list, the food tasted like the stuff that you order from your cheap-as-chips local takeaway when you have had too many Pinot Grigios. Plus the seats were upholstered in vinyl, so if I had been wearing a mini-skirt, the backs my upper thighs would have been welded in situ. [clarification: the mini-skirt scenario was a hypothetical situation. I would not wear a mini-skirt in the interests of public decency].

Once dinner was finished (and we didn't leave a tip, is that mean?), I marched Steve and Izzy to the New Theatre Oxford in George Street to meet Sam and family. We arrived at exactly 6.50pm; the designated rendezvous time..... except Sam wasn't there.

We hung around for a few minutes before Steve piped up, "I thought we were going to see Cinderella in pantomime?"

"Yes we are, why?" I asked him.

"Well, it might just be me, but this theatre is only showing Peter Pan in pantomime," he said.

I stared at him, slowly comprehending what he had just said, and then stared at the tickets. Then it dawned on me; "Shit! we are in the wrong theatre!" I shouted, "We should be in the Oxford Playhouse, not the New Theatre Oxford."

My fundamental schoolboy error necessitated a mad, expletive-laden dash through the streets of Oxford to the correct theatre with only seconds to spare.

Pic.No.3. The Oxford Playhouse. As you can see everyone was already inside. Yeh we were late. Most unlike me

After buying Izzy a flashing wand (it cost £3.50 the robbing bastards) to wave around during the performance, we were quickly ushered to our seats in readiness for the performance starting. We were nearly the last people to be seated, bar Sam and family who arrived just as the lights were going down. It was most unlike Sam, who is normally Mrs on-time, but it transpired that she had an urgent errand en-route to the theatre.

And so the performance commenced.

Pic.No.4. This is Cinderella in the lead role

Pic.No.5. Cinderella's two ugly sisters. It is traditional that the roles of the female baddies are played by men. They were absolutely brilliant

Pic.No.6. The grand finale. The cast of Cinderella pointed up into the air with their legs apart

The absolutely best bit about it was watching the faces of Izzy and her friend Honey. They were mesmerised, and joined in all the clapping and singing.

It was great fun, and as such, I didn't even have to resort to my backup plan (a film I had downloaded onto my iPhone) to keep myself entertained. Sam called me a heathen for even thinking about it, but there is nothing wrong with contingency planning. 

And so a marvellous night was had by all!

Anne Dickens | The day after yesterday

Thursday, 9 December 2010

I thought you might like this cool video

As I was lurking around other people blogs today, I stumbled upon a rather cool video on Jim's blog, called Ocean Breezes. So I decided (without any remorse) to nick it and stick it on my blog.

I was also going to try and pass it off as my own find, but I thought that plagiarism and theft might be pushing it a bit too far. Anyway, instead of listening to me yack, have a watch of this.........

Vid.No.1. One of those videos where a bunch of professional singers infiltrates a real crowd and then bursts into song

Now you can't tell me that those random acts of culture are not cool?!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

How to: Add Twitter feeds to your Facebook profile

Have you ever wondered if there is a way to automatically post your Tweets to Facebook, so that you don't have to access both sites? Well this is a tutorial on how to use the Twitter application to connect your Twitter account with Facebook, so that whenever you Tweet, it appears on your Facebook page. Cool eh?

You will need an existing Twitter account to set up the feed from Twitter to Facebook. 

1. Login to facebook

2. In the search box at the top of the page, type in 'Twitter'. Click on the 'Twitter Application'

Pic.No.1. Finding the Twitter application

3. The Twitter application will load up. Click on the blue button that says 'Go to Application'

Pic.No.2. Installing the Twitter application

4. You need to allow Facebook to connect to your Twitter feed

Pic.No.3 Click on the 'Allow' button

4. Login to your Twitter account to verify that you own it. 

Pic.No.4. A snapshot of the login screen that will appear if you aren't already logged into your Twitter account

5. Make sure you have given Twitter permission to post updates on your Facebook profile

Pic.No.5. Verification page

Check the box called 'Allow Twitter to post updates to'.

That's it! Your Twitter and Facebook accounts are now linked. Next time you Tweet, your Facebook wall will be automatically updated.

Please let me know if you found these instructions useful by leaving a comment. Many thanks!

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