The shame of a clean house!

UNTIL very recently I adhered fully to the maxim that only dull women have immaculate homes.

In fact, I thought it was almost a badge of honour – a sign of just how interesting I must be – that my house had a slight air of ‘forgotten’ about it.

After all, I was off doing more important things. Like going to the pub. 

Now a sea change has occurred and it has become a source of much embarrassment – nay, shame – that I find myself positively enjoying domesticity.

I’m supposed to be a modern woman, liberated from a life of drudgery by my foremothers and their brave campaigning for equal rights.

Plus, admitting one has a penchant for dusting is just not normal.

But the fact is, I do. 

Casa Smith has become Casa Beeton. 

My inner housewife has been awakened and now I find myself immersed in such horrendously uncool activities as scouring cookbooks for ‘the perfect Sunday roast’ and steam cleaning the kitchen floor because I like how the sun shines off it in the afternoon.

My husband, obviously, has not been told any of this as he would immediately resolve never to lift a finger again.

Still, he has noticed a sudden decrease in the number of jobs he is expected to do and clearly thinks all his Christmases and birthdays have come at once.

“You sit there and watch the Formula One and I’ll do the washing up,” is a sentence that almost gave him a heart attack the first time I said it.

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he managed to grab a beer and go from nought to spread-eagled on the sofa before I could even draw breath.

I can only hope this madness ends soon and I can go back to my previous, slovenly ways, where I’m blissfully unaware of crumbs in the carpet and dirty washing overflowing from the basket.

In the meantime, though, my life as a 1950s throwback continues.

Now, where’s my pinny? 

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on May 28, 2015


Camembert, garlic and a Poirot-esque moustache…it must be a Eurovision fancy dress party!

IT’S that time of year when Europe joins together for its annual celebration of the downright bonkers.

I am, of course, talking about Eurovision.

This Saturday will see another parade of musical inability and boundary-pushing weirdness take place, when a we and dozens of our continental cousins take to the stage in Austria.

This is the home of last year’s winner, the glamorous yet decidedly bearded, Conchita Wurst.

As per usual, those watching from home will find themselves laughing one minute and cringing the next, possibly interspersed with moments of being just plain baffled.

There’ll be the usual cheesy pop numbers, something a bit space-age, possibly some girls dressed as milkmaids and, of course, several rock ballads with lyrics that don’t quite make sense.

And you can guarantee the UK will be reminded by the rest of Europe that we’ve still not been forgiven for the Iraq war, with a resounding ‘nil pointes’ from everyone but Ireland.

But still, the contest pulls in the viewers – and its enduring popularity is what has made the ‘Eurovision fancy dress party’ a thing that people do.

That’s why Smithy and I will be attending such a party this weekend dressed as ‘France’.

I appreciate that this is not a very specific theme, so we quickly realised that to get truly into the spirit of it we would have to roll out some borderline-racist stereotypes about our cross-channel pals.

With that in mind we’ve gone all out for douze pointes with stripy t-shirts, berets and garlands of garlic and onions.

“Is this really bad?” asked Smithy, as he examined the Poirot-esque moustache that I ordered him on eBay.

“It’s not like all Frenchmen have moustaches, is it?”

I pulled out the rest of our props.

“French people also don’t walk around all day carrying a baguette, a jar of Nutella and a wheel of Camembert,” I told him.

“But we’ll be doing that on Saturday night too.”

Now – hand me the Orangina and call me Marie-Celeste. I’m a method actress if nothing else.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on May 21, 2015.

Challenge The Man! Change The System! 

ON Thursday I had a husband with a passing interest in politics.

By Friday morning he’d been replaced by a one-man crusade to ‘Challenge The Man’ and ‘Change The System’.

“I want to Challenge The Man and Change The System!” he has said hundreds of times since. “The system is broken! Down with the system!”

His Russell Brand impersonation is coming along a treat.

Now, his favourite topic of conversation is why the current make-up of parliament does not ‘accurately reflect’ the wishes of the people – and he has memorised hundreds of statistics to back this up.

“The SNP got 1.4 million votes and more than 50 MPs while the Lib Dems got 2.4 million votes but only eight MPs,” he tells anybody who will listen. 

“It’s just wrong! WRONG! Tell me you can see it’s wrong!”

I take a lot of deep breaths these days.

“Alright, alright, we all know it’s wrong,” I soothe. “But can you stop shouting at my grandma on her 92nd birthday, please?”

He says – and I agree with him – that this is the first general election to really highlight how outdated First Past the Post voting is.

Almost every party gained (or lost) a number of seats which was disproportionate to the number of votes the public gave them.

And a general disillusionment with the result was reflected on my Twitter feed on Friday morning.

“Pack your bags and make sure you’ve got a woolly hat, because we’re moving to Scotland!” was the cry.

With its nationalist-controlled parliament and SNP-domination, Scotland must seem a far cry from the English south and Midlands which voted almost unilaterally for Cameron et al.

Now, if social media is to be believed, you can forget about migrants crossing the Mediterranean – it’s the Solway Firth that will suddenly be full of hoards of disillusioned English voters.

Pedaloes last seen on the shore at Bowness will suddenly be changing hands on the black market, while in seedy pubs you’ll see people taking backhanders from desperate families keen to get a passage on a giant plastic swan.

Personally I don’t disagree with them and I’m concerned to say the least about another five years of Tory rule.

However, if I hear the words ‘proportional representation’ one more time I may be forced to take action myself, possibly by hitting Smithy over the head with the petition he’s taking to carrying around with him.

“Challenge The Man!” he starts up again, in a brief moment of silence. “Change The…”

“Yes, yes, the system!” I snap. “The system needs to change! 

“But it’s 3am and the baby has finally nodded off. Can we please change the world in the morning?”

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on May 14, 2015

11 Truths About Breastfeeding That Nobody Tells You

Every pregnant woman is repeatedly told breastfeeding is the best thing for the baby…but that doesn’t make it easy in the slightest. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt since the birth of my daughter three months ago:

1. Your boobs will never be as uncomfortable as the day your milk ‘comes in’ after the baby is born. They will feel like giant rocks attached to your chest. Expect to be told repeatedly that you look like Dolly Parton because you are literally carrying about a pint of milk around in your fun bags. 

2. Expressing milk becomes a major source of excitement and filling a 5oz bottle in one go is like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. On the other hand, spilling or losing expressed milk is like losing liquid gold. God help the husband who accidentally pours 3oz down the sink because he thought it was finished with…

3. You will feel smug every night when your baby wakes up for a feed and you DON’T have to get up, go downstairs, sterilise a bottle, make up formula, take it back upstairs and then try and placate a by-now screaming baby. All you have to do is pick them up, plug them in and then doze.

4. Your boobs have a life of their own and will squirt milk everywhere at will. If the baby unlatches during a feed milk will go everywhere. Even if the baby doesn’t unlatch you’ll still somehow find yourself covered in milk. You’ll smell vaguely of milk for the entire time you choose to breastfeed your baby. 

5. You’ll find you can’t go anywhere without the baby as nobody else can feed them. If you go somewhere you can’t/don’t want to take a baby it will require some military-level planning. You’ll be very jealous of your partner because he can swan off for an hour and doesn’t need to start thinking about it days in advance. There will come a point when you’ll find yourself expressing from one boob, feeding the baby from the other and trying to push the jealous cat off your knee with your foot. Warning: this is the point at which you’ll feel hormonally, ragefully jealous of formula-feeding mums.

6. You’ll never be on time for anything (especially not ridiculous 9am baby groups) as your baby will inevitably want to settle in for a marathon feeding session just as you’re about to leave the house. When a breastfed baby cries for food there’s nothing for it: you just have to sit down, attach them and wait it out. This also means you’ll never fully complete anything and your house will be full of half-dusted rooms and half-hung washing.

7. Realising you’ve run out of breast pads will be The Worst Thing In The World. There’s no horror like the horror of putting your hand in the box and realising you unwittingly used your last two and all your reusable ones are in the wash. A mad dash to Tesco will ensue as you desperately try to avoid wet patches appearing on the front of your top.

8. A breast pad will make a bid for freedom at some point. With any luck it will slip out discreetly (perhaps peeping out over your top) and you’ll be able to push it back into your bra without any fuss and without anyone noticing. If you’re unlucky it will fall right out and hit the floor while you’re full-on shimmying away in a Zumba class and you’ll have to try and pick it  up and get it back in without looking like you’re groping yourself. This is slightly more tricky.

9. For someone who used to be uncomfortable in a bikini, you’ll become strangely accustomed to getting your boobs out in public. In fact it will become completely normal. At a friend’s house and the baby’s hungry? Pull out a boob. In a restaurant and the baby’s hungry? Pull out a boob. Sitting by a lake on a cold winters day because you thought a bit of fresh air was a good idea? You guessed it! That knocker is coming out! And yes, it will be slightly blue by the time the baby has finished feeding.

10. You’ll become sick of the clicking sound maternity bras make. They’re genius inventions but that noise is annoying as hell.

11. Despite the minor annoyances and inconveniences, there’s nothing like knowing you’re sustaining your baby all by yourself. Breastfeeding also goes a long way to creating a bond with your baby quite unlike any other you’ll ever have. When he or she looks you in the eye while feeding you’ll feel a surge of pure love – and all the complaints will seem trivial.

A Royal baby…and too much glamour.

I GAVE birth 10 weeks ago and I would say it’s approximately 10 weeks since I last looked like a normal human being.

The truth is, I don’t actually know where either my make-up bag or my hair straighteners have got to.

They could be lost underneath the pile of dirty washing that never seems to shrink, or could have been eaten by the cat in a desperate bid for attention that nobody noticed.

I have no idea – and I don’t have time to care.

The point is that I’m yet to figure out how to raise a child and find time to look like a fully-functioning adult at the same time.

Just to be vaguely presentable would be a step up from my current state of ‘of course I can get another wear out of it’.

But I’m assured this is normal – which is why I was both amazed and saddened that the Duchess of Cambridge, just hours postnatal, appeared on the hospital steps looking like she was on her way to a high-society wedding.

I can only imagine how uncomfortable and emotional she must have been feeling.

For several hours after my daughter was born I was unable to stop laughing hysterically, so smiling and waving in a dignified manner would have been absolutely out of the question.

I was also unable to stand up – and anyone expecting me to daintily make my way out of hospital in four inch heels would have been met with no more than a gas-and-air-induced vacant stare (or yet more hysterical laughter).

When I eventually left the hospital I was in a wheelchair and dressed in pyjamas which, I was brutally informed by a midwife, were ‘absolutely not my colour’. 

And had anybody been waiting to get a snap of such a sight, I’m sure they would have quickly changed their mind and beat a hasty retreat.

But that’s how it should be in my opinion.

And somewhere underneath the Duchess’ glossy hair, just-back-from-St Lucia glow and salon-perfect, manicured hands must have been a perfectly normal, hormonal wreck, who wanted nothing more than to put on her comfiest jogging bottoms and spend some time crying and staring at her new daughter.

So I hope for her sake she’s been able to claw back a bit of normality.

As for me: I may even try wearing make-up sometime soon. 

If I can find it. 

And remember what to do with it.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on May 7, 2015