Household Tips #5 – The War Gene – it’s a thing

Why is it that the second most expensive item I own sits in the driveway next to the first? If I could put the car in the house I’d do some weather damage limitation and combine the value. But I can’t get the car up four steps. Or through the door. It’s a thing cars won’t do.

So it sits out there wondering why I don’t value it enough to give it shelter. I let the dog and the cat in. The weans all have a place to rest their wearies. But, poor car, despite faithful service and being one of my best friends – we go everywhere together – languishes in the great outdoors like an abandoned pet. I talk to him. Usually, it’s, ‘Don’t you dare make that noise!’ and ‘ Come on, boy, you can make it.’ Kinda the conversation I have with my husband from time to time. And I let hubs in the house.

The reason I am a wanton mistress to Ford is because my garage is full of stuff. Stuff it should not be full of. Some of that stuff doesn’t even belong to me or anyone else who now lives here.

There are china dolls with creepy faces.

china dolls

No way are they getting back inside. Eldest daughter left them here when she moved out. Along with a collection of other dolls from far flung parts. It was a thing she did at one point. Years ago. So why are they still there?

That’s down to a thing I do. I’m sure I inherited what I like to call ‘the war gene’. My parents were both ten when WWll began. They lived through the bombs and evacuation, the rationing and the make do and mend years.  Couldn’t get bananas till the banana boats made their way back up The Clyde. Powdered eggs. Wtf! 

So they were raised to cut cuffs, turn collars and stitch repairs. Make your own. Reuse buttons and bits and bobs. Value everything. Waste nothing.

I’ve got that gene.

I recycle everything I can. Want to weep when I visit the recycling plant and see all the TV’s and fridges that have been discarded. I want to find out if they died or if they just became obsolete to a better model. They never answer when I ask.

Part of recycling involves not throwing things away if I think a) I might use that later b) that’s a bloody shame, what a waste c) that’s too good to get rid of d) that stuff’s not mine e) I’m so ashamed, I’ve hardly used that.

When my mum died my siblings and I had quite a time of what to keep and what not to keep. She had the war gene. Everything seemed to have sentimental value or intrinsic value. After attempting to go through them I stored them in the cellar. I now have a cellar with books and papers belonging to my mum and not the heart to go through them again. Still. Six years come St. Andrew’s Day.

Add into the mix two other kids who have flown the coop, left gear, come home again, left more gear. And, in the case of one, is still here because a) she really can’t afford it while at college b) thinks she can but is actually quite enjoying having all facilities for her and her cat c) can’t quite make up her mind. It’s a Mary thing.

The other one is definitely out but is currently in a furnished flat so we’ve got his shit too, including a) a microwave b) bits of furniture c) umpteen boxes d) fishing rods and equipment because he doesn’t want to get rid of them but isn’t fishing for fish at the moment. Bigger fish to fry. That’s a Joe thing.

other folks' stuff 3

Further to the mix, add my husband’s tools/gardening equipment/wood that he can’t bring himself to part with because a) he might use it b) he’s a dab hand at making and repairing c) it’s all perfectly good wood d) it’s my bolthole and I keep what I want here. Wood. It’s a Frank thing.

wood and scooter

And, that’s a scooter hanging from the rafters. Because, maximise space. Clever, eh?

Into the cauldron, add all my paper work from schools (because, yeah, I’ll use that again), years of writing, household crapamailia that has to be kept in case one day I need to prove that, ‘I did so bloody pay that!’, books of mine, more books of mine, a wide variety of craft materials that I’ll definitely get back to using when I have time and little trinkets bought/made by offspring. Why is keeping that tat a thing?

University/college stuff that my kids want to hold onto but don’t want messing up their flats.

A pram. Yup. Beautiful pram that was Anna’s, in the cellar, waiting. I’m not having any more! But, seems a shame to get rid when I have daughters at that sort of age. I know!

Guitars that have been replaced with better models but I feel sorry for.

guitars 4

Poor buggers. They need to go. Nothing can save them now. Wonder if guitar heaven is a thing. They did nought wrong.

Um, what else?

Chairs – because we need extra ones for occasions. But not all the time. Why buy more every time? Common sense thing.

Bikes. Fair enough, they get used.

Clothes. Fecking clothes. Do you have any idea how much room (not to mention washing) clothes for a big household take up? Fortunately, hubs used those tools and wood and screws and savvy to build custom-made wardrobes in every bedroom. Begs the question why one or two of my crew still hang their clothes on the floor. That’s a thing I hate.

I’m also really good at recycling clothes and fill up bags on a regular basis. Put them in the garage till I’m ready to take them for recycling. Then my eldest daughter brings more in that she’s getting shot of, we all have a rummage and snaffle the ones we like. And I send the rest away. To the garage. Pending. It’s an Anne-Marie thing.

With determination, black bin bags and a hardened heart I’m back to asking, ‘Does this give me joy?’ If it doesn’t, it’s going. Apart obviously from the crap I have to keep for the purposes of a) I’ll definitely, maybe use that at some point, b) that’s not mine to decide on, c) aww! my mum/dad/weans/memories.

I don’t see the car having a place to shelter any time soon. What am I, Superwoman? But, I might manage to shift things around a bit, make a few phone calls threatening decapitation of creepy china dolls and I’m definitely throwing out all my school crap. That’s what the internet is for.

Well, that and telling you all about how I propose to spend my Saturday – opting to streamline my life. Again.

It’s a thing I do. From time to time. Genes, got a lot to answer for. Been proven. Real thing.

Another thing. Procratination. Not started yet. Thought I’d blog about it first. It’s a WordPress thing.

And the sun’s shining. Ford is calling to me – take me some place, far from this driveway. Leave all this behind. They do so talk!


Aye, ah wish. I’d make houseroom. Not the Hoff, bleugh! Here Kitty, Kitty.  Weird thing, saying that. I’m not even a cat lover. More genetically programmed for dogs.


Household Tips #4

Child labour.

It’s important as a parent to teach your children self-sufficiency. No one wants them returning, after they’ve flown the coop, with a pile of washing and a petted lip. No one wants to see them starving or malnourished for want of being able to rustle something wholesome up in the kitchen.

It’s vitally important to get the balance just right. The schools here actually issue the wee sods with ChildLine’s number. It hangs on the kitchen noticeboard. ParentLine’s number is pinned beside it, is slightly bigger in red type and is not a random phone number.

Neither number has ever been used yet.

As I said, vitally important to get the balance just right.

With that in mind, honestly, no other reason, I’ve attempted to ensure that my brood can cope for themselves.

My own parents did this for me so it was not quite such a shock to my system when I learned that toilets were not self-cleaning. That flushing in and of itself, while effective for elimination, did not clean the toilet. Who knew?

By the time I was in my teens I could pretty much make a meal for eight while reading a book. Burnt a few, right enough, if I was at a really exciting chapter. Tip:- place burnt side face down on plate and don’t cry or take a strop when your brother calls you on it. Just tell him to cook the feckin’ sausages himself next time.

I was definitely more of a Mary to my sister’s Martha but she never learned how to hang wallpaper and cut into corners first with your paintbrush before tackling the walls. I like all that shit. That and learning to use a jig-saw and various other power tools that were way more fun than a washing machine.

I don’t think my parents used me at all. I think they let me have a go. Some bits I let go. Like ironing. It was shite. Still is. Hate that odd-shaped appliance although it’s not unlike a sander and I’m quite fond of that.

Now, none of my kids have shown any penchant for power tools and they’re not too keen on household ones either. But I feel obliged to force them to at least become acquainted with which end’s up.

This is particularly important when using pots. How humiliated would they be if, when having their own guests round to their immaculate homes, they didn’t know their erse from their elbow or a saucepan from a frying pan?

I was horrified, as were each of my kids, when, in their first year of high school, they were taught how to make Empire biscuits during obligatory Home Economics. Quite impressive, till you learn that they opened a packet of digestive biscuits, spread some jam on one, iced its partner and topped it with a jelly tot.

Meanwhile my crew were all, ‘Can I make spag bol, Miss?’

No, that’s a lie. Most of them were. One, in particular, whose sole purpose in the kitchen, despite my best efforts, was to find out where I was currently planking the goodies, (never hide chocolate biscuits in the tumble dryer), came late to the cooking experience when he started a high protein stint that involved scrambling only the whites of eggs. Flinging six egg yolks at a time in the bin I discovered. Smacked him one on the arse for that. ChildLine was not involved.

Balance, you see. ParentLine was keen to learn about children’s worst excesses at that time. He was very gullible. Once argued with his teacher that the singular of sheep was shoop. Had to be right. His dad had told him. Goose, geese. Shoop, sheep. Oh, how we laughed! He did too. Years later right enough.

So, child labour. Raising weans. Got to get it just right. At least until the schools stop issuing ChildLine’s number. Or ParentLine is invented.


Some child labour, unlike this image, is actually education.

Household Tips #3


Sometimes known as Lazy Sod Syndrome. Or to others, Still On Vacation Virus.

Underexertion may manifest while supping coffee still abed doing a spot of writing. No pain was felt at this time but it’s difficult to say whether the addition of another pillow may have prevented neck strain. I may never know.

Signs of underexertion began when I toasted a couple of cinamonn and raisin bagels, lathered them with jam and strategically placed some homegrown strawberries and raspberries.

It may have been the cutting of those that did it. I think I used a stainless steel bread knife which was quite heavy and unnecessarily wieldy for the task. But it was handy and I didn’t want to exert myself by reaching to the knife rack. Why sully another tool when some bugger’s left one out on the work surface having not exerted themselves to return it to its home?

I felt a twinge then.

By the time I had carried my steaming mug, plate of goodies, kindle and cigs out to the garden to join my husband – I like to be armed with all accoutrements for comfort – the pain had started at the base of my skull. Feckin’ ouch!

Being a trooper of stalwart proportions I ignored it best I could, only allowing a slight ‘whatthefuck’ to escape my, as yet, unjammed lips.

Hubs was up a tree. Yes, it is chain saw time. Lobbing the tops of thirty foot conifers is pretty much an annual task – those craiters can sprout at some.

After dropping some fresh fruit on the patio from my overabundant bagels and cursing the loss of a particularly juicy strawberry the pain really began to hit.

Down the back of my neck and into my shoulders in an absurdly sweetly excruciating stretch or tension of muscle. Fuuuuck! 

Although my husband doesn’t always read my poetry, sometimes does and doesn’t get it, preferring instead others’ poems that I read to him occasionally (bastard!), he reads my pain very well, having attended all seven births of our offspring.

Not that this pain compared. But it was bloody sore all the same.

I don’t get a lot of pain. Well, other than the, ‘Do my legs really want to do another elevation?’, ‘Who needs stomach crunches, anyway, flab is fine?’ and ‘Why does this chair feel so much more difficult to get out of today than yesterday?’ type.

Those pains I can rationalise away.

Other pains I just feed and put to bed after entertaining for the day. I had them, got to do something with them.

My husband is not a swearing man. I do that for him. Along with a number of other things that have got nothing to do with this post. S’ok, usually involves cooking.

At my rather loud, ‘Fuuuck!’, that I think even wee Mrs. O’D possibly heard from behind her blinds, he ministered to my needs with some sort of deep heat spray he uses for buggered muscles when overexerting himself at running. I never need it. Running’s what water does.

It didn’t work. Although my eyes ran a bit.

Two ibuprofen, two paracetamol, a rather strange posturing on my bed, face down with my bum almost up in the air, helped. Kids thought it was hilarious. I don’t know where they get their black humour from.

I’m all better now. But I felt obliged to pass on this handy tip on the dangers of underexerting yourself. Better really just to get up and tackle what’s ahead face on. Not with your bum up in the air obviously. That’s just overdoing it.




The above is obviously not a picture of me. Miley Cyrus and I have completely different hair styles. You google images for ‘bum up in the air’. Maybe not. Quite cheeky some of them.

Household Tips #2

Not quite household. Unless your household includes kids. Kids who are going to their first music festival.

Certainly disrupts the household, so I’m including it here.

It’s now after 2a.m.

All kids of various ages are in their beds. Hubs has been in his for hours. Gotta work, gotta sleep.

Me. I’m sitting with the last glass of a bottle of red wine wondering how in the hell I’m still sane.

Tomorrow, at early o’clock, child number five heads off for five days, four nights of a musical extravaganza known as T in The Park. Known as this because  it once – many moons ago – took place in a park not too many miles from here and was sponsored by Tennents lager.


Now it has had so many changes of venue to accommodate the ever increasing number of young ones wishing to embrace their feeedom that no park can hold them. This year it’s T in Strathallan. I don’t know where exactly that is either so no sweat on your part.

Where it is doesn’t perturb me. What it is leaves me shivering somewhat.

Thousands of young people dying to embrace their inner hippy will converge on a swamp, in a tent, with alcohol, a few basic essentials. And sing and dance.

I’m good with the last two.

Basic, also, I can do.


Seventeen,  on their comparitive lonesome, at a venue ideal for every criminal recidivist known, not so hot with.

Any evidence of that? None to speak of.

But imagination. Plenty of.

My answer.

Lots of food.

Lots and lots of snacks and protein shakes and bagels and all sorts of shit guaranteed to sop up any and all amounts of alcohol.

She’s a good girl. She’s a sensible girl. But she’s seventeen.

And I have to keep reminding myself of being seventeen. Honestly. And with some credence for common sense.

Her baggage has more food than alcohol. I’m resisting the temptation to go and remove all traces of the offending liquid with a love note in its place saying, ‘Mum was here. Love you.’

But I haven’t. And I trust her.

It’s every other bastard under the sun I don’t trust.

I have closed my ears almost, and now nearly my eyes, to some of the stories, only this evening, being recounted to me by older kids laughing at the fun ahead.

I daren’t think. I don’t want to know.

Tomorrow, in about five hours, I’ll kiss her goodbye. On her return, all being well, and previous experience (plus now current knowledge) in place, I’ll be glad to see her home safe and sound. And I’ll listen to all her adventures. Even knowing they are, undoubtedly, censored.

I must have been a nightmare for my mum. Belated apologies, Mum. Hope you can hear me from here to heaven.

P.S. Does a big bag of Haribo count as food?

PPS. Why is seventeen that liminal age? Sweets or/and booze? Babe or woman? Don’t anyone say the two are synonymous. This might be my fifth time around but it doesn’t get any easier.

Household Tips #1

What to do when you have a tube of lipstick stuck in your hoover.

Right inside it. Inside the bit you can’t get at even when you remove the hose.

The bit where all the crap gets vacuumed up making its way to the collection point. But not the hose itself.

Hose itself is easy. Drop something heavyish into the hose and give it a good shake. Or stuff a wire curtain holder down its length. Always keep one handy, me.

But not the hose. The other bit leading from where the hose joins the body into all the invisble bits where the fairy dust suckers live. The bit with nine million screws holding it together. Know that bit?

The bit where your thirteen year old daughter in her laziness  wisdom decided to just go for it and sucked everything up. Keep the auld dear happy.


After figuring something wasn’t working, when I would have been better on my hands and knees with a straw between my teeth, I investigated and saw the culprit. Lovely shade of pale pink lippy. Could see the end label but couldn’t catch the bugger.

Caught my daughter though. She wasn’t much help. Except to bring me all sorts of bits and pieces from around the house to attempt its extraction.

Pliers – grip kept slipping. Toffee hammer – don’t ask. Plastic ladle – it has a long handle. It was a long shot. But it didn’t work.

Guess what did? A paper scraper. I think that’s what it’s known as in the trade. Mibbe not. Looks a bit like a palette knife. I’ve been known to use one to scrape wall paper and plaster small holes. Not brilliantly, I have to admit. But sometimes when you’re waiting for a man to get round to that wee five minute job you’re better making an arse of it first so he can show you how it should be done.

Not that I deliberately make an arse of things. Just turns out that way sometimes. I know my limitations but it doesn’t stop me having a go. Once built a set of wardrobes from scratch as a twenty-something. Apparently six-inch nails into plaster isn’t a great idea. I hadn’t heard of rawl plugs and drills at that point. Nor spirit levels. But the design of the wardrobes was fab. They stood for years. I never did get round to putting doors on them. Which was actually quite handy. I could choose my outfit for the day while lying in bed. So could my sister. Lay there across the room from each other discussing whose clothes we’d wear that day. Saves loads of time.

Anyway, about that lipstick. Fingers into orifice. Hoover’s. Not daughter’s. Grab with fingers of one hand wedged in the opening (this is beginning to sound obscene), edge the paper scraper in. Lever. Voila!

No one gets near my hoover again.

Wait a minute, I might have been had here.