Date Night – aka ‘We Need To Get Out More’

MY husband and I have decided for our own sanity to reinstate ‘date night’ – and last Friday, for the first time since the baby was born, we went out alone.


“Don’t rush back,” we were instructed by the babysitting grandparents, as we haphazardly pulled on coats and shoes. “Take your…”


I slammed the door and we ran for the car.


Within seconds there was nothing but a Smith-shaped cloud of dust outside the house.


“Ohmygod! This is SO EXCITING!” I shrieked, as I pulled a lipstick from the depths of my handbag.


“Look at this – I’m putting on mascara and everything! I haven’t worn make-up in FOREVER!”


“We’re FREE!” laughed Smithy hysterically. “We could go anywhere! ANYWHERE!”


Eventually we vetoed driving to Manchester Airport and flying off to the Bahamas (“I don’t think I’ve left enough expressed milk for that,” I said sadly) and the cinema (why would I want to sit in the dark when I’ve gone to the effort of getting dressed?) and we settled on going for a meal.


“I’d forgotten non-microwaveable food existed!” whispered Smithy reverently, as we surveyed the menu 15 minutes later.


“Not a ready meal lasagne or packet of crisps in sight!”


I gazed adoringly at the waiter as he brought over my large glass of wine.


“Look at all these people,” I breathed.  “Real, grown-up people!”


For the first time in nine weeks I ate an entire meal with both hands.


I also went three hours without singing a nursery rhyme, hiding my face behind my hands or asking in a goo-goo voice ‘who’s a gorgeous girl then?’


And apart from a brief wobble when I pretended to go to the loo but actually phoned home for an update, my husband and I managed to sustain an entire adult conversation without interruption.


At the end of the meal we reluctantly pulled our coats on and headed out to the car.


Then Smithy turned to me and said suggestively: “We don’t have to go home just yet. 


“We could always find a secluded spot, park the car and…y’know…”


I gasped in shock.


“You mean..?”


He nodded naughtily.


“Yes,” he said. “We could go somewhere quiet and have a sleep.”


A handbrake turn later and there was nothing but a Smith-shaped cloud of dust on the car park.


Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on April 30, 2015

Time to wake up, mummy!

I’m writing this blog post to explain why I haven’t done a Gazette column this week.

The truth is I was just too damn tired.

A slight change in routine (and bedtime) because of my husband going back to work after Easter seems to have completely thrown my daughter. From sleeping for five or six hours every night, she’s suddenly waking almost hourly all night. I’m exhausted!

This morning I’ve woken up with a twitch in my right eye and a fatigue I never thought possible (not even the night Smithy and I thought a 1am ferry back from France was a good idea, which meant we were driving up to Manchester from the south coast at hours I didn’t know existed).

All I can say is thank goodness my boss is a lovely man, who agreed to find someone else to write my column this week.

Anyway, I promise next week will be back to normal. Or at least it’ll be back to the new version of normal, where I mainly look and act like a fully-functioning adult, apart from the strange ocular spasms which are now wracking my face. 

And in the meantime please keep everything crossed for me that my daughter goes back to the pre-Easter routine – a routine which doesn’t involve breakfast at 3am…

“James Bond doesn’t smell like peas…”

BEFORE my daughter was born I thought taking a child on holiday would simply mean packing three bags instead of two.


What I now know is this: I was an idiot.

I can only assume the most complex of MI6 missions must require less planning, stress, blood, sweat and tears than one night away with a six-week-old baby.


Getting to my sister’s wedding on Easter Sunday took organisational skills I didn’t even know Smithy and I were capable of.


“Tiny babies do not travel light!” said my husband, an hour after we should have set off, as he surveyed the mountain of things still waiting to be loaded into the car. “I think this pile is actually bigger than the car!”


His voice rose in a slightly hysteric way with each syllable.


“I can only assume it’s some twisted law of the universe that babies are so tiny and yet need SO. MUCH. STUFF!”


I tried to calm him down.


“I agree that six suitcases is quite a lot for one night…” I said. “But what can we do? The child likes to vomit!”


Strangely, he didn’t look calmed.


In the end, however, we managed to get everything loaded up, with the baby shoved in unceremoniously between a Moses basket, pram and a large bag of books and toys.


Dozens of spare outfits (for all of us) were crammed in, among pram wheels, changing bags and packs of nappies, while an expensive bottle of champagne for the happy couple was balanced precariously on top of a waterproof pram cover.


In a twist of genius, we even managed to dig out a bag of frozen mixed vegetables to use in lieu of a missing freezer pack, to keep several bottles of milk cold on the journey.


“We’ve done well!” I congratulated us, once we’d finally arrived and unpacked. “I think we actually remembered everything!”


“We have done well,” conceded a slightly more relaxed Smithy, as he pulled on his suit for the wedding. 


“However, I wish we could have found that missing freezer pack.


“We might be more organised than the likes of James Bond but I’m pretty sure his clothes don’t smell like peas…”



Article first published in the Westmorland Gazette on April 9, 2015

“Burger, chips and a side order of roof tiles, please.”

MASTERCHEF is back on our screens and a crop of amateur chefs have once again set out to baffle the nation.

Not happy with cooking vaguely recognisable flavour combinations (cheese and onion, salt and vinegar, garlic and bread) they’re once again creating what can only be described as downright weird – only it’s lauded as very clever and if we question it we’re obviously a bit dim-witted.

“I’ve made you a stew of beef and old roof tiles with a jelly bean jus and a medley of seasonal buttered video games,” is what the average contestant says.

“That sounds delicious!” said no-one, ever.

Except presenters, John Torode and Greg Wallace, who dig in with gusto.

“This dish is very, very clever!” they say. “The only thing wrong with it is…there could have been MORE roof tiles!”

The other one will add: “I agree. And maybe a little more seasoning.”

A lot of contestants also seem to have an issue with using standard-shaped plates.

Last week a perfectly good burger and chips (a dish so normal it’s very rarely seen on Masterchef) was ruined by the contestant serving condiments in what looked like mini ice-cream sundae glasses.

Next they’ll be serving chocolate and coriander cake on old vinyls and spinach and KitKat ravioli in their grandad’s slipper.

Of course I jest – and it’s possible that I’m a little jealous of those who are truly skilled in the kitchen.

I wish I had the imagination and ability to make some of the dishes that have had viewers’ mouths watering over the past few weeks – and I’m the first to admit that every single contestant has more talent in one finger than I have in my entire body.

But it’s not for lack of trying and since Masterchef returned I’ve been announcing every meal I make in my best impression of its breathy voiceover lady.

“Today Anna has made a creamy fromage and onion sauce encased in a pastry shell, with potatoes chipped and covered in a beef and hot water reduction.”

Smithy, a no-nonsense northerner, examines his plate.

“You mean…cheese and onion pie, chips and gravy?”

“Yes,” I reply. “And if you’re very lucky I’m sure I can find some old roof tiles somewhere.”


Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on April 2, 2015