Fifty Shades in Hospital

One of my two dads, Papa Le Bike (so, the one who taught me to ride a bike), was in hospital in April and I dashed back to the UK to see him. Despite sounding like he was on death’s door over the phone, when I turned up he was surprisingly cheerful. I spent the next two days visiting him in hospital and I noticed he had the literary classic “Fifty Shades of Grey” on his bedside table. I asked him who had given him that to read and he said a nurse had. Could this be the latest NHS way of perking patients up? He said he’d flicked through it but it didn’t grab his interest so he was leaving it for the next patient to stay in the bed he was in. He slipped it up on the little shelf behind the bed, next to the bible.


I like to imagine the next patient being a devout Christian, reaching up to the shelf to get the bible and instead grabbing Fifty Shades of Grey, opening it up for a calming dose of spirituality and morality and instead getting a hit of Christian Grey shoving lychees up Anastasia’s bottom.

The next day, at Luton airport on my way back to France, I noticed the Daily Mirror front page …


Needless to say, I didn’t send this to Papa Le Bike. In any case, he survived his stay in hospital and went home a couple of days later. Without his copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Tour Guiding Again

I did some tour-guiding three summers ago when I was pregnant with Léonie in my belly. It was in a coach, along the perillous, twisty-turny road that follows the twisty-turny Ardèche river and its famous and gorgeous gorges. You can read about that here. I was covering for another guide who had asked me to step in when she was busy guiding elsewhere. I wasn’t sure about it to begin with but she was convinced I’d be fine, and even good at it. So I tried, it worked out well for me and I really enjoyed the whole experience. Even the twisty-turny roads, as they were beautiful and every now and then I’d spot a wild goat with crazy horns munching on a bush.

Last year I began tour-guiding for Viviers tourist office. They phoned me up out of the blue and asked me if I would be interested in playing a ghost. I said no. Not on your nelly. The idea of dressing up as a phantom and “scaring” tourists felt like the equivalent of playing Santa in Tesco’s, or one of Mickey’s nephews at Disneyland. The tourist office persuaded me to at least go and see the actor already doing the job, so one freezing December evening I bundled myself up in a duvet and went along to watch him doing his ghosty stuff in very tight tights (him, not me). He was funny and he made the job look like a laugh, so I told the tourist office I’d give it a go. I got free reign to create my own mad, medieval ghost, mistress to a certain notorious Noel Albert who had lived (and loved) in Viviers the 16th century. My audience was made up of groups of Australian tourists whose luxury cruise boat was moored at Viviers port. It was fun performing the scenes, but there was a lot of hanging about in cold courtyards, waiting for the groups to arrive, and running through the cobbled streets in a medieval dress at 11 p.m. trying to avoid Viviers’ teenagers. One sweltering August evening I had to clean up cat poo and sick before the tourists arrived in that particular courtyard. And the whole thing was a bit cheesy. I felt like a character in ‘Allo ‘Allo, mostly because I was speaking English with a heavy French accent, but partly because my text could well have been written by the same screenwriters (ahem… I wrote my text). But the tourists laughed loudly and I got good feedback. However, the whole solo thing was getting me down (the actor playing Noel Albert and I never performed on the same evening, so our two characters never met), so I was relieved when the tourist office announced that I wouldn’t be ghosting this year as that particular boat has changed its itinerary, or something like that. I celebrated the end of my ghost career with champagne that evening.


Marguerite de Lévis. A character worthy of ‘Allo ‘Allo.

The other thing the tourist office asked me to do last year was actual tour guiding. Once again, I said no. I had no interest in medieval or Renaissance history, or architecture, or religion, and the walking tour through Viviers is basically all of those things. But once again, they persuaded me to have a go, so I spent 6 weeks reading up about Viviers as if I was studying for my finals, swotting and cramming and wandering about the town on my own, talking to myself and imagining what I would say to 30 Americans. As I worked I realised I had actually become interested and even passionate about the history and architecture of Viviers. When you can link the past to a building or a feature or a tree for example, it becomes real all of a sudden. I also followed a few different guides to get an idea of what to do, but in fact I learned more about what not to do. For example, panting heavily into your microphone whilst climbing the steep slope to the cathedral is not a good idea; your headphone-equipped tourists get your heavy breathing right in their ears and after five minutes of this they will be ready to kill you. The same goes for chewing gum noisily whilst wearing your microphone headset. I also didn’t like those who talked about “The French” as if the French were an inferior species. But I did follow a couple of really good guides too, that made me start to look forward to my first walking tour.

It went well. Really well. And it kept going really well. I enjoyed the job, I felt good about myself because I knew I was doing a good job, I was using my English and my skills as an actress and storyteller, and as an added bonus, I was pocketing fantastic tips which paid for all our shopping throughout the spring and summer. I hit it off with the tourists and was invited to visit a few of them in New York, Toronto and Edinburgh, and I became good friends with a lot of the other tour guides. But… there were a few of the tour guides who were very unwelcoming and hostile towards me from Day 1, and this only got worse throughout the season. I even received a couple of angry emails, one of which ended with “Good Riddance.”

Except, I’m not gone. I’m still here. Ha ha. And I begin this season’s tour-guiding on Saturday. I’ve been swotting up and I’m looking forward to starting again. On Saturday I’m with a bunch of friendly guides, which always makes the whole experience just lovely, as there are no killer looks or backs turned on me or curses muttered or clay effigies of me spiked with rusty pins and trampled underfoot. The downside is, it’s going to rain.  A walking tour of a medieval town in the rain with umbrellas up and blocking all the Renaissance buildings and gothic spires and view across the valley is always a bit frustrating. But given the choice between a rainy day with friendly colleagues and a sunny day with a group of griping, frustrated battle-axes, and I know which configuration I’d choose every time.

Some readers may have guessed that my blog has already been found and read by the aforementioned begrudging harpies. Or maybe you yourself are one of them, reading this with eyes wide open and feeling (hopefully) slightly sick as your stomach turns. If that is the case, just remember that I invited all of you to sit down with a cup of coffee and discuss what went wrong last season. No-one took me up on my offer. There was either total silence, a refusal to meet or a jolly “good riddance”. I did all I could to open up a dialogue and try to understand each other better, but nobody was interested. So here we go, for another season of pointless dark looks and hostility. I shall be countering this by totally ignoring it all and getting on with my job. And actually, I can’t wait to start.

Roll on tourists, I’ll be waiting for you on the quayside. I’m the one grinning and imitating all of your accents.


Rue Chèvrerie, Viviers, Ardèche.


No, this isn’t me guest-appearing with France’s latest boys band, it’s the only photo I’ve got of me guiding, except this lot aren’t off the luxury cruise boats…

Just oiling cogs.

Here I go. It almost feels embarrassing to write anything. Three months of silence makes me feel like I have to write something really amazing, like it’s been worth the wait. Alas, this is not to be the case. But if I don’t write something right now, this very evening, I will never write again, ever.

They say once you hit 40, if you stop doing something you might never be able to do it again, so you have to never stop doing anything, or in other words, keep doing everything, which seems like a lot of things to do in a day. My day is technically over as it is half past midnight. But I’m still determined to write a snippet of something, just to oil the old writing cogs and get things going again. Also, I have something disturbing to share with you.

Léonie, my 3 year old daughter, has been threatening me. If I don’t do what she wants, or if I ask her to do what she doesn’t want to do, she gets mean. Really mean. Her latest threat is, “Mummy, I take your teeth out and put them in my mouth!” This is frightening. Not least because I don’t have dentures, which means the taking-the-teeth-out bit would involve a painful and bloody operation. And the putting-the-teeth-in-her-mouth bit doesn’t even bear thinking about. As a result, I have to do everything she asks of me, keeping my mouth tightly shut.

Another unsettling thing she says is “Ow! Mummy! My back is cracked!”. This cracking of her back happens on a daily basis. And when she can’t get up the stairs to the front door she complains that her leg bones have fallen out. Just like Jennifer Saunders, but I don’t think Léonie has seen that particular French and Saunders sketch. 

There, that’s it. Cogs oiled. Hopefully they’ll be working more smoothly tomorrow. That would be good, as I have some juicy things to write about. 


Meilleurs Voeux 2014

This year I had decided to make some Happy New Year cards, or “Meilleur Voeux” cards as the French say. Here they don’t send Christmas cards but they do send cards in January, wishing the best for the year to come. We went on a family walk in the sunshine on the 1st of January and by a total fluke we managed to take a few photos of us all together that would make good cards. So, feeling very creative and very organised, I immediately downloaded one of the photos onto a site to get them printed into cards and drew up a list of friends and family to send cards to. However, they arrived a week later and they were tiny. Photoweb had got the order wrong. I reckoned that by the time I sent them back, complained, reordered and received the order, it would be mid-February and my Meilleurs Voeux cards would look ridiculous. So instead of sending lovely handwritten cards with silvery envelopes and pretty stamps, I am sending emails. Not at all what I had planned on, but better than nothing I suppose. Here is our family photo… Meilleurs Voeux to you all.  x x x



Here we go, tip-toeing into another brand new, shiny year full of promises. Mostly promises of keeping the promises that we made last year but then broke. Mine are : to stretch every single day of this year (I have 20 mins before midnight), to pick up an instrument on a regular basis and blow down it/strum it/press its keys, to write daily, and to be more patient with the children. Ha ha ha, I can hear most of my readers laugh to themselves (most of them being family and close friends and/or hostages in my own home), as you all know in 20 minutes I will have broken at least one of my resolutions. But the 1st of January doesn’t count as most of us are recovering from last night’s party.

I would just like to say Happy New Year to those of you who do actually read my blog once or twice a year or even more. HAPPY NEW YEAR. I hope 2014 brings good things you were hoping for and other good things that you didn’t imagine in your wildest dreams. Good things galore to all of you. To everyone!

I barely wrote last year (that’s 2013), my blog slipped down to Very Low Priority status while I went back to work, a new sort of work, and started to earn my living again. This year is already filling up with quite a few projects, either lucrative or artistic (rarely both at the same time) and all very enjoyable, which means I don’t have to put in as much time re-training or finding work, I just have to do the work, which somehow is easier then looking for it. So… I’m hoping to write more often.

No promises, mind. Just a Happy New Year to y’all.


Hunters Backlash …

Well, it had to take something pretty strong to get my writing my blog again. I just had a very angry comment about a post I wrote just over 2 years ago: The Wild Boar Hunting Society. The person writing the comment was so angry at me, threatening to spray pig slurry on my home, that I went and re-read the post. And I have to admit that reading it with fresh eyes, I realised that I had made some big sweeping statements two years ago. In the blog post I come across as a raging extremist. I think it was partly because like the person who was angry at me, I was also very angry when I wrote the post. That week I had been in close, conflictual contact with some very drunken, selfish, rude hunters who had blocked the road to our house with their massive jeeps. And it was the two year anniversary of the death of a young man who had been out on his mountain bike and shot and killed by hunters. And I was breast-feeding and hormonally sensitive. Especially when walking past the cut-off tails of baby wild boars that had been nailed to the door of the hunters’ hide-out. But that doesn’t excuse everything. I did write “I hate hunters. I hate them with all my might. I delight in tales of them accidentally shooting each other.” That was pretty nasty of me, I have to admit. And I went on to write, “When I see them, I scowl and send out deadly rays of painful cell-shrivelling terror, aiming for their inner organs. The more hunters who perish, the happier I am. This is because all the hunters I have ever met are : 1/ boorish, 2/thoughtless, 3/self-important, 4/narrow-minded, 5/ macho. They are also all red-faced and ugly.” Ahem. I can imagine that someone who doesn’t know me might have read that post and come to the conclusion that I am an absolute raving loon, wrapped up in a fog of hatred and bitterness. And to lump all hunters into one category is totally unfair, I know. I can’t stand people doing that, yet I did it 2 years ago having just had a run-in with a nasty bunch of blokes who all happen to like shooting animals of a winter morning.

Since then I have met some nice hunters. Ones who are careful and respectful of nature and the families living in the countryside. Ones who warn you they’re hunting in a certain area so that you don’t stumble into their crossfire. On two different occasions I have found a couple of lost hunting dogs and have phoned their owners so they could be reunited with their faithful friend. I even offered them a coffee. I have had a meal with some very nice hunters who are friends of a friend. One of my colleagues, who is now a friend, turns out to be an occasional hunter. So my view of hunters has changed. Some of them are utter idiots, still stumbling drunkenly through the valley shooting too close to the village houses, but some of them are very decent chaps.

Here is the angry comment on my original ‘Hunters” post:

“If only you could see yourself for what you are. In my opinion the sort of Brit who gives other English people in France a bad name. Who or what gives you the right to be critical of the local traditional culture. Hunting in France has been practiced for a very long time & certainly long before you imported your intolerant towny views. Rarely have I read such a demonic rant as yours about the hunters. You are obviously the wrong sort of person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either you should ship-out or get professional therapy for your intolerance & try to blend with your locality. Thank God you don’t live anywhere near me or I’d be delivering a couple of tons of pig slurry via pressure pump all over your house. Surpised no one has done so already, it’s long overdue.”

In response to this, I have a few things to say.

Who or what gives you the right to be critical of the local traditional culture.” Well, anyone has ‘the right’ to criticise anyone or anything, including local traditional culture. It’s called freedom of expression. And criticism shouldn’t come as a surprise when certain participants of a traditional pastime are disrespectful of the people actually living there. The hunters who tend to block the village square and all access to the houses below the village don’t actually come from around here. They’re not locals at all. They drive down from Lyon and St Etienne, hunt, drink, hunt a bit more while still drunk, drink more, then drink-drive their way to their weekend gîte. I’m not the only one who is annoyed with the behaviour of these particular hunters; lots of other villagers are bothered by them, our mayor too. They are renowned for being disrespectful and aggressive. Very different to the hunters I have met who live around here. The local hunters are far more careful of the environment and the villagers.

“Hunting in France has been practiced for a very long time & certainly long before you imported your intolerant towny views.” Hmmm. How do you know I’m a “towny”? I’ve been living in France for 18 years, most of that time in the countryside. When I lived in central France I ran a farm with my French boyfriend. I have birthed lambs, calves and foals. I tended to a vegetable plot so huge we didn’t need to buy any vegetables for five years. I know my plants, my trees, my mushrooms. Not exactly a towny then. It’s these particular hunters who are “towny”, driving down from the big cities to have careless fun in the countryside. And even if I was a towny, just because something has been practiced for a very long time doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be criticised. Hanging was practised for a very long time until someone started to make noises about it not being a very nice ‘tradition’.

“Rarely have I read such a demonic rant as yours about the hunters.” Yeah, you’re right there. I did indeed sound demonic. And I was indeed ranting. Sorry about that. I was really pissed off with those disrespectful drunken men. And I went and lumped all hunters in the same bucket, which isn’t fair, I know. It’s quite a revelation to read something I wrote so long ago, now in a very different state of mind, and to actually be regrettably surprised at what I wrote.

You are obviously the wrong sort of person in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Erm… hang on. Maybe those drunken hunters were actually the wrong sort of people in the wrong place at the wrong time. ie: rowdy, drunken blokes in a sleepy little village at 2 in the morning, parked so that the inhabitants couldn’t drive down to their houses, or out again in the event of an accident and/or a dash to the hospital.

Either you should ship-out or get professional therapy for your intolerance & try to blend with your locality.” Yeah, thanks mate. I help the local farmers out when they need a hand, visit the elderly ladies in the village, only buy local produce from the local farmers, give free English lessons to the neighbourhood schoolchildren, translate all sorts of things for the villagers and help them when they don’t understand documents in English, take all our vegetable peelings and leftovers down to the farm to feed the pigs, give guided tours based on the local architecture, history and geology of this corner of the Ardèche, speak fluent French with local slang thrown in… if that’s not blending in with my locality then I don’t know what is. You have hastily judged me on one angry blog post without knowing anything about me or my life.

“Thank God you don’t live anywhere near me or I’d be delivering a couple of tons of pig slurry via pressure pump all over your house.” Wow. And you talk about intolerance and demonic behaviour. Nice one, the pig slurry and the pressure pump.

Surpised no one has done so already, it’s long overdue.” Well, now things are getting interesting because I have never been “ranted at” before in my life, yet just yesterday someone had an email rant at me for something entirely unrelated. Or was it? I am beginning to wonder whether the two angry rants are in fact coming from the same source. It’s so easy to find people on the internet. All it takes is typing my name into Google and there my blog is. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s pure coincidence. But the writing styles are VERY similar… which makes me wonder… hmmm…

Four times a year.

“WHAT?” you are thinking, “Four times a year?! She only does it FOUR TIMES A YEAR?” Yes. Statistically speaking, I am now down to four times a year. The last time I did it was the 3rd of June. Exactly 4 months ago. This is not good.

And the last time I did it, not many people were involved. I clearly don’t have the pulling power I used to have. They say that when you do it often, you get better and better at it, so people remain interested and keep coming back for more. Regularity keeps the cogs oiled and the wheels turning. My cogs and wheels are now so rusty it will take a harsh iron brush and a pint of WD40 to get things moving again. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and admit defeat: I am not cut out for writing a blog.

“Oh, she’s talking about writing a blog? WE thought she was on about… you know… doing it.”

Look, I can’t help it if my readers are a bunch of depraved, sex-obsessed wierdos, although I quite like the idea that you are. It rather inspires me to keep going, but to re-angle this blog into a daily, depraved collection of sex-obsessed stories for wierdos. Maybe that is the way forward. So I shall try it out here and now, as this afternoon I did reach a sort of climax, and it did indeed involve a washing machine.

(And no, it’s not the old cliché of housewives sitting on their machine during the spin cycle.)

There I was, alone, in the cellar of an old stone French house, wearing nothing but a pair of hugely sexy tracksuit bottoms, wondering how I was going to tackle the hulk of a machine in front of me. In my hands, “la carte electronique”, the soon-to-be new brain centre of my friend and lover, Arthur Martin (model AM1200). I tentatively dipped my right hand into Arthur, taking him from the top, and gently caressed the eight zillion coloured wires trailing from his upper body. Without hesitation, I grasped one of the thicker braids of wires, felt for the plug at the end, and eased it gently into place. It fitted perfectly into the electronic card and I felt Arthur Martin groan with pleasure. I felt for another plug and rammed it in harder. Then another, then another. I hoped each one was in the right place, that nothing was forced or uncomfortable (I hadn’t used any lubrification) but it was too late to turn back now. I then slid the card into the top of Arthur’s body and screwed it as hard as I could; my boyfriend had previously warned me to screw hard, in case the vibrations of the spin cycle loosened things up too much. Arthur didn’t seem to mind. I was encouraged. I slammed the lid on his head and plugged him hard into a socket. That turned him on. He lit up, I grabbed his dial and twisted it to “30 minute Flash”, and then stood back to watch him operate on his own. It was pure pleasure to see him juddering and shuddering, to listen to the rush of water and the ejection of his waste fluids, to watch him spin into a frenzy and then collapse in a heap, to hear the BEEP BEEP BEEP of the end of the wash cycle, and to know that at last, my washing machine was bloody working again. Dear Arthur Martin, how I have missed you. You do a spin job like no-one I know.


That really is quite depraved and definitely for wierdos. And very possible written by one. I can’t put this on Facebook or send it to family as I will be immediately cut out of any wills I was still in and never again be invited to parties and barbecues. If I rule out readers who are friends and family that means maybe 3 people in the entire world will read this, and only because they were on internet searching for info on how to change the electronic card of an Arthur Martin Electrolux washing machine. But at least I’ve managed to keep up my rate of 4 times a year.

NB: I am not (yet) sponsored by Electrolux.


When I’m Chopping Onions…

Who writes the helpful tips and friendly advice for keeping young children entertained for Clearly not a parent. Or else a totally hypocritical parent. Or an alien from a planet where what we like to imagine actually IS. I just received this in my email inbox; it’s a link for various articles on the site including one entitled “Nine alternatives to television sure to entertain the kids“. Well the only time I let my kids watch telly (and it’s not even telly, we don’t have telly out here in France because French telly is utter crap and I haven’t yet sorted my life out to get BBC stuff beamed in to my house, so we just have CDs of Madagascar, Toy Story, Dangermouse and Top Cat amongst other classics), is when I’m cooking their dinner. So I didn’t really need to click on the link, but I did and in fact the article is based on that exact period of time; ie. preparing dinner time, and as I read the article I discovered that putting cartoons on for kids while I’m busy in the kitchen is now NOT RIGHT. It can, and I quote, “restrict a child’s ability to think and imagine”. Yikes. Even forty minutes a day? Now, I’m sure too much screen watching is not a good thing for anyone, especially not kids, but we all know that when it comes to cooking dinner at the end of the day and simultaneously refereeing a small children’s wrestling match, the most sensible thing to do is to wham a bit of Hong Kong Phooey on while the fish is frying. Or the cheese is grating. Or whatever. But once I had read the first line of the “Nine Alternatives to TV” article, guilt crept into my bones and I had to read on.

It turns out all nine ideas are great ones. Get your child involved in helping make the dinner, make a mini-kitchen, pretend you’re at your child’s favourite restaurant and set a table up for all his/her stuffed animals, get your child pouring water and rice through a funnel, ask him/her to sort the cutlery, make some play dough, set up a crafts table and get your child to make a place mat with glue and pasta shapes… YEAH, RIGHT, AND THEN WEEP AS THE WATER AND THE RICE AND GLUE AND THE PASTA BITS AND THE STUFFED ANIMALS AND THE CUTLERY ALL END UP ON THE FLOOR AND YOU SLIP ON THE PASTA AND LAND ON A SMALL POINTY TRACTOR WHICH THEN REMAINS GLUED TO YOUR BOTTOM AND YOU SWEAR YOU WILL BURN BABYCENTER.COM DOWN TO THE GROUND IF IT’S THE LAST THING YOU DO.

images Has the person writing the article ever had to look after a small child, or two, or three, or four, on a daily basis? Has this person ever made 365 dinners in a year? Not counting lunches and breakfasts of course? Does this person realise that ALL nine of the ideas involve triple the amount of energy and patience and then another 20 minutes of tidying up at the end, and that’s not counting cleaning up the plates and pots and pans after the meal. I’m all for creative activities and playing games but not at the end of the day thanks. Not while I’m cooking yet another meal and then doing the bath-brush-books countdown to bedtime. As I chop carrots and fight with the freezer drawer I thank the Gods of Light Entertainment for creating cartoons and bringing them to me, here in the nether regions of southern France, so that while I make dinner, Tommy and Léonie are momentarily transfixed, immobile and very VERY quiet. So there.

Long Live Pingu. All Hail Shreck. Wallace and Gromit for President. That’s what I say.


Old skin, young bottom. Yikes.

Following my last post, written sometime in the last century, I have had a number of people ask me if that’s me in a swimming costume and snorkel set in the photo. The woman being chased by a gigantic frog in marshland somewhere in the world where frogs are gigantic. Well, no, that is not me. I am glad to say it’s not me for 2 reasons: 1/ I am not as wobblesome nor as pasty as that woman, and 2/ I have never been chased by a gigantic leering frog. However, I reckon that woman must have a wicked sense of humour as the photo makes me laugh every time I look at it. And to write the last five sentences I have just looked at the photo at least six times, resulting in precisely six laughs/grins. This may be a sign that tonight I have little to laugh about, or it may just be that that pasty, wobblesome woman in a snorkel set is a fine comic actress. Or maybe it’s just that I am a strange, twisted soul.

I searched for a photo of me in a swimming costume and then thought how utterly pointless it would be to post it up on my blog. Either I choose a good photo of me in a swimming costume, which would just be vain and boring and annoying, or I choose a crap photo of me in a swimming costume which would be brave but just as boring. And that set me wondering whether I will actually wear a swimming costume this year as we live in the south of France where you can usually count on it being hot and sunny from April until November, but this spring it has turned into the Outer Hebrides (I had to just check that the Outer Hebrides are where I thought they were, and they are, they haven’t moved, phew) so I don’t reckon I’ll be putting my winter boots, woolly tights and scarves away this year.

This may be a good thing. At least for my sun-damaged skin. Sorry, sun-destroyed skin. Sun-ravaged-and-ruined skin. Sun-totally-fucked skin. My step-mother makes soaps and skin creams and serums and when I pointed out the 8 zillion lines and creases around my eyes and criss-crossing my face and cleavage and entire body, and asked why oh why oh WHY, she screwed her nose up in a sort of apologetic manner as if there really wasn’t much she could do for me and replied “well, you know, sun-damage”. This made me fast face up to the reality of my sun-baked childhood years in Egypt, Ghana and Brazil and then summer holidays in France soaking up as much sun as I could take without turning into a cockroach or a cactus. It also sealed my fate. There is nothing you can do for sun-damaged skin except accept the fact your face is lined and always will be.

My skin is ten years older than it should be. But my bottom is 20 years younger than it should be. This makes it very confusing for people meeting me on the beach. I have turned into one of those women who look pretty hot from the back, and then the woman turns around and you realise she is old enough to be your granny and you wish she hadn’t turned around or at least that you hadn’t seen her bottom. Those women used to give me the creeps. And now I am one of them.

So I went to a beauty shop to ask what skin protection I should wear on my face and the woman handed me a balaclava.

That last sentence was a lie. But it could well happen. Which is why I’m not going near any beauty shops. I am pretending that “beauty” is not for me. Nah, I don’t care, me. As long as I’m healthy, who cares about looking young and gorgeous? Not me. Honest. HONEST, REALLY I DON’T CARE. What? The bottle of Argan oil on my dresser? No, I had no idea it’s meant to make SUN-DAMAGED SKIN look smoother, what a total and utter coincidence. What? Photoshopping photos of my face? Blurring out the lines? ME? Nah, I wouldn’t do that. Honest, I don’t care about beauty and stuff. No, really. Honest. I’m just happy my kids are healthy. Pass me that skin rejuvenating laser machine thing, please.

Wrinkled skin? Wear a balaclava.

Wrinkled skin? Wear a balaclava.

Frightened of the Frog

Every evening, when it gets dark, Léonie (2) points to the window, shivers and says “Mummy, me frightened of the frog.” Tommy (5) and I always chip in to check we understand what she means, “do you mean frightened of the dark?”. She nods and replies, “Yes. Me frightened of the frog.” So we just assume she is mis-pronouncing the word dark.

But maybe we are wrong.

Maybe there is a gigantic, drooling frog out there in the garden, one who creeps up from the valley every night and waits for me to feed the cats outside or get the laundry in, ready to leap on me and suffocate me in his frog slime, or simply blight me with his dreaded frog curse: “You will never EVER return to the stage again, NEVER! You will forever be wiping bottoms and carrying potties in your handbag and will never EVER get to sit down to eat a meal without getting up every 90 seconds to get a spoon/the ketchup/more kitchen paper. Your eyes will forever look tired and your eardrums will suffer permanent damage from toddler screams. Your friends in the theatre and film world will drift away, referring to you as ‘The Lost One’, you will end up filming yourself in character and putting the videos on YouTube in a sad attempt to continue acting, but NEVER EVER AGAIN will you reboot your career. HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAAA!!!”

Blimey. Now I’m frightened of the frog.