Forget the lemonade… I need wine, and a lot of it.

I’m writing this column in the dark from behind a curtain.

Of course I am.

Because Smithy and I decided a few days away would be nice and, without thinking it through, merrily booked one hotel room for ourselves and our eight month old daughter, who goes to bed at 6pm.

This is what life has become. Or, to be precise, this is what holidays have become.

We’re no longer the couple who, at 7pm, are just getting ready to hit the town.

We’re the couple who have already been hiding for an hour under a makeshift curtain-tent, trying to read by the light of our phones, while we drink lemonade straight from the bottle because we’re too scared of waking the baby to look for either the tumblers or the wine.

We’re trying to make the best of the situation though, and Smithy – a man who hears the call of his stomach above all else – had the foresight to bring plenty of snacks with him into our window-cave.

“Please will you pass the crisps?” he just whispered.

“Eh? What?” I responded. 

(I also have a stinking cold and have gone completely deaf, just to make our mini-break even more bearable.)

“What did you say? You’ve got asthma like Chris?”

“No…” he whispered frustratedly, like someone trying to stay very quiet in a cramped hotel room, when they actually want to shout very loudly and then watch the Moto GP. “I said PLEASE. PASS. THE. CRISPS!”

I rooted around in the dark and eventually found over a packet of white chocolate cookies.

“They’ll have to do,” I said.

Thankfully, after several attempts, we’ve managed to connect to the hotel’s wi-fi, so things are looking up: my husband will be able to watch the Moto GP on his phone (on mute) and I’m hoping if I lean out of the window far enough in the direction of the nearest streetlight I’ll be able to read the screen on my Kindle.

I may also, if I’m feeling brave and can remember where I left my suitcase in the dark, venture out of our little den to find the wine. 

Let’s face it: I think we’re going to need it.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on October 29, 2015


It’s not Hallowe’en without a sexy lobster

IT’S almost that time of year when it becomes acceptable to turn up at your neighbour’s house half-dressed and demanding sugary snacks. 

I’m talking, of course, about Hallowe’en – a strange old day when people go begging door-to-door and girls will dress up as absolutely anything as long as it involves knee-high boots, corsets and fishnet tights.

(And apparently anything really does go, as I once went to a party where someone had gone as a ‘sexy lobster’).

It’s a day that gives us a fleeting but revealing glimpse into the personalities of those around us.

For example, there’s always the autumnal version of Scrooge; the person refuses to engage and insists they will spend the evening pretending they’re not home.

“I don’t do Hallowe’en!” they announce. “I’ll have my living room light off and if anyone comes knocking they’ll get ignored!”

These are usually the same people who, come December, will get riled about their neighbour’s light-up reindeer.

(“It’s just an inappropriately high wattage, Margaret!”)

The opposite of those types are the ones who spend the GDP of a small country on Haribo sweets and spend the whole evening keeping everything crossed for trick-or-treaters.

They’ve usually scoffed half the stash by the time they get their first knock at the door and end up handing out anything they can find in their cupboards.

But nobody can say they’ve not immersed themselves in the spirit of the occasion.

There are also the surly teens who can barely stir themselves to put on a plastic mask, but expect buckets of treats in return.

And there are the excitable young children and their even more excitable parents who are keen to spread some of the magic of childhood (and obviously nothing screams ‘childhood magic’ like green face paint and false warts).

This year, as Smithy’s birthday falls on the eve of All Hallows, we will be celebrating with a spooky-themed fancy dress party.

I can only hope there won’t be a lobster – sexy or otherwise – in sight.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on October 15, 2015

Fifteen pence? Fifteen bloody pence?!

THERE are certain things that only Brits can do properly.

Humour, for example, and making cups of tea.

We’re also exceptionally blessed with an almost sixth sense which can locate fish and chips, roast dinners and scones with jam and cream from several hundred yards.

The men of our nation are fantastic at looking like prize twits abroad (handkerchiefs on the head and socks with sandals: need I say more?) while our pronunciation of words such as ‘herb’ and ‘aluminium’ is top-notch (or better than our cross-pond cousins anyway).

But, in my opinion, the thing we do best is grumbling, and we’ll do it about anything, to anyone, at any time or place.

I say this because I’ve never seen or heard so much fuss from the general public than when the new carrier bag charge came into effect on Monday.

You could almost hear the sigh of happiness go up across the length and breadth of the land as we awoke, as one, to the realisation that it was going to be an excellent day for whinging.

In the supermarket I found myself queuing behind a man who declared he ‘could not believe his ears’ that he would have to pay an extra 15p for the three bags he had used.

“I cannot believe my ears!” he told the cashier delightedly, several times. “Fifteen pee! Fifteen bloody pee!”

He did several comedy double-takes, as the bored cashier pointed to the huge sign explaining the new law.

“I’m appalled!” he continued, sounding more and more pleased with how the day was turning out. “Fifteen pee!”

The woman behind me leaned round, keen to join in the revelry.

“This country’s gone to the dogs,” she said happily. “Five pence for a bit of plastic! I’ve a mind to complain! Not that it’ll do any good because the government don’t listen – they’re just as bad! And another thing…”

They continued like this for several decades while the rest of the queue, not wanting to miss out, happily tutted and grumbled among themselves because they were being held up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to practice my ‘disapproving head shake’.

This great British past-time takes work, you know.

Article first published in The Westmorland Gazette on October 8, 2015.