Watch out for those wrinkly bits!


You know you married a German when your teenage daughter wanders over to you and tells you that your husband is “spachteling” around in the buff. As in completely starkers. Wearing nada. Hanging loose.

People often ask us which language we speak at home. And everyone of us always answers, “Denglish.” Which is a rather confused mix of Deutsch or German and English. The verb spachteln means to fill something in, or smooth something out. Which was in this case with plaster. As native Brits we just love the suffix -ing and half of our Denglish consists of us adding an -ing wherever possible to any German verb, which is a constant source of amusement to our German friends, and is pretty much the only reason we ourselves notice it, as to us, it just sounds so natural. They snigger when we call out, “I’m going einkaufing” (shopping). They giggle at our “spaziering” (going for a walk). And they’d crack up at our spachteling around.

I responded to my daughter that her Papa was obviously taking naturism up as an extreme sport. After all, I have a protective need to wear sturdy footwear when I’m just doing the ironing. I feel positively alarmed at the thought of using actual tools in my birthday suit.

Curious of his bravery, I later approached my husband on the subject. He explained his very simple and pragmatic approach, “I needed a shower anyway, so rather than change into my work clothes…”

Use the right tone with your children and your phone


I am useless with names.

My ex-mother-in-law who very sadly, passed away last year, understood my predicament all too well. Apart from having her own issue remembering the names of her six children, she always used to delight in telling me the story of her old school friend, who not only had an abundance of brothers, but also oodles of dogs. According to Grandma, her friend’s mother would frequently recite all of her son’s names, closely followed by all of her dog’s names before she finally addressed her one and only daughter.

I am blessed with two daughters and two sons. Throughout the years I have frequently misnamed them. And our dog too, of course. I have always been in awe of how, during a telling off, they managed to keep a straight face, when I sometimes yelled, “You, whatever your name is…”

You can imagine my secret joy then too, when our son, who we had originally believed to be our daughter, changed, very thoughtfully in my opinion, his name from Lori to Lawrence, AKA Lawrie for short.

Currently I still have no grandchildren to burden with false names. But that does not mean that I do not grow additionally confused. I have technology.

A couple of years ago, my son, Aden, got a phone he could talk to, not just on. I’d hear him shouting, “Hey Google…” And then asking the phone a question. “What’s the weather going to be like today?” For example.

That same summer, Akasha and I , decided to do a fantastic trip. Travelling by train, first out of Germany, then across France, we hopped on the Eurostar and through the tunnel and then to several spots in the UK, all the way up to Scotland, back down again, with a bit of a detour through Belgium and the Netherlands. Staying with various friends along the way. It was a truly magnificent two weeks which we still often talk about very fondly.

But two summers on, I am still left with a tiny problem.

Two households had a new playmate in their homes. Alexa. They’d whoop, “Alexa! Play [insert name of song].” And she would play that exact song. Well, mostly. Or they’d holler, “Alexa! Turn the volume down!” And she’d oblige. Or they’d ask her questions on all kinds of topics and she’d tell them the actual answers. I was well impressed and somehow Alexa snuggled herself into a little corner of my brain.

We returned from our travels and life continued as normal. I called the dog Akasha and Lawrie and Aden and Joni, before I remembered that her name is Lexi. The dog looked confused and didn’t really know how to respond.

We recounted our journey to anyone who would be prepared to listen.

Then, one day, my mobile gave up the ghost. And my husband suggested, that for the first time in my life, I might like an iPhone? We found an old model which had been on display in a store and decided that that would be my new phone.

My phone arrived a few days later and she had a special gadget. Siri.

She works like this: you call out, “Hey Siri!” she wakes up and then you can ask her a question. Or give her a task. She’s especially useful when you need to be hands free and say, you want to call someone, or you have your hands deep in dough and you forgot the remainder of the recipe.

Problem is, I find myself bellowing “Hey Google!” Then when that doesn’t work, I reselect and screech, “Hey Alexa!”

It has even been known, in our household, for me to complain to my husband, “That iPhone is rubbish. She never answers me.”

The poor, slightly disturbed man, looks back at me, somewhat incredulously.



No bum fun here, little lady!


Last month I had a gentleman’s fingers in my anus. And they were not my husband’s. Not that I am saying that my beloved is into that kind of thing. But I just never really imagined saying that sentence out loud when I was 20 or even 30, for that matter. And now having only just turned 48, that was the kind of congratulatory reward I found myself in for.

No party. Corona times. But a man telling that my butt is stuffed. Quite literally.

I could have told him that. Actually.

So I am getting a pump. Like a little old lady. And a sitz bath. The post birthday gifts kept coming… But the thing is: I may only be 48 (and look a mere 45) but mentally, I’m still only about 30. I’ll give it to you – physically, I concede, I’m probably more 50+. But how the hell did this happen?

Still, I’m embracing the future with much optimism. I have been told, on supposedly good authority, that my life will improve in leaps and bounds. I will be a new woman.

Halle-bloody-lujah.

I am most definitely up for that!!

Reputation Eradication


If I were to list a few adjectives to describe my own characteristics then quite a few come to mind. Like creative. Chatty. Loyal. A little bit impatient. Funny. Friendly. Opinionated. Stubborn. A little bit hot-headed. Instinctive. Passionate.

If you were to ask my husband he’d have a fairly similar analysis: creative, a right blether, loyal, impatient, hilarious, keeps chatting to all and sundry, OPINIONATED, stubborn, impulsive and hot-headed, follows her instincts/illogical, passionate. I think he’d also enumerate: untidy, a good cook, smart, thoughtful, kind and reliable. In private he’d probably also add sexy. But that’s his own, very unique, point of view.

Furthermore, were you to phrase the question to any of my kids, their answer’s would go something like this. Creative. Never shuts up. Loyal. Impatient. Funny. Social. OPINIONATED. Stubborn as a mule (which they’d say proudly). Instinctive. They’d also have their own contributions. Protective – our dragon mother. Tidies up when guests announce themselves. Has a huge laugh that was embarrassing when we were little, but was pretty cool when we got older. Embarrassing in general. A good cook. Wise. Strict. Helpful. Annoying. Unnecessarily anxious. Storytelling. Nosy.

I know all of this well. We often played a game at the dining table that the children had learned at school, where we told each other the other’s characteristics. When each kid hit a certain age group, it became an obsession.

A few months ago I was asked to be part of a panel who answers questions, mostly with regard to advertisements, but based on my own opinions about anything and everything. I get paid for the honour. Literally cents for each questionnaire (I started months ago, do a questionnaire most days and I still haven’t made my first 10 Euros). Obviously, I’m not in it for the money. I’m in for the chance to say exactly what I think. About advertisements. About corona. About supermarket policies. About the government. About holidays. About the media.

But there’s this little issue. I have very little brand awareness. I have a few brands that I know and like but apart from that I just tend to ignore them. So sometimes I’m hit with a questionnaire and I’m really rather clueless.
Then to top it all, this thing happened the other day.

I was sent my questionnaire. I opened it with glee, wondering what I’d be asked to give my opinion on now. (I’m still waiting to be quizzed on what to do about Trump, Brexit, the school system, the neighbour’s constant need to keep drilling – will our semi collapse at some point because there is no actual wall left? Though, to be fair, I have been able to direct some sensibleness with regard to environmental policies within supermarkets etc). Again, unfortunately, the subject was advertising (that one comes up far too regularly, in my opinion) but at least this time they’d tried to make it a bit more fun.
I had to play a game. It was a kind of click game, and at first I had to do practice runs which began with easy steps and then built up to the grand finale. I had to click all over diverse magazine entries. I clicked merrily away on various things that drew me.
Suddenly, my clicking frenzy was over. I’d mastered many clicks. I am after all an internet professional. And, I’ve played many a round of candy crush and am a true expert in clicking.
Swiftly a new page uploaded on my screen, with one single question.

“What was the last film you watched at the cinema?”

I was thrown slightly. I knew that I’d been to the cinema quite recently. To the drive-in cinema. It had been our very first experience of a drive-in. We’d watched a film on the enormous screen. Cricking our necks and wishing we’d brought even more cushions. And maybe some popcorn. And less salty crisps. Perhaps a blanket… What was the film called? It was German… A comedy… I remembered I had specifically looked for a German film because I hate watching dubbed English films. I get totally confused lip reading in English while listening to alien German voices. Nope. Gone. I’d have to look it up. But I had absolutely no idea what it was called. So I typed “German comedy” into the internet. Then I searched. No, no, no… “German film comedy”… No, no, no… “Recent German films”? Ah there it was. Das perfekte Geheimnis!! (The perfect secret – brilliant by the way, really funny, do watch it if it comes to drive-in cinema near you). So I typed D-A-S was that the right article? I doubled checked… Yes, ok P-E-R-F-E-K-T check no? It has an E on the end? Why do they randomly keep adding E’s or ER’s or EN’s even ES’s? Come to think of it, why do they sometimes make the simple A into an Ä? How do I spell Geheimnis? Check. Enter.

My children and my husband may also tell you that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Except when it comes to tidying. And maybe an overthinker?

The screen refreshed and the new question reverted me back to my previous clicking experience. I had to list all the objects I’d seen and all the brands.

I’d been had. They’d distracted me with a simple question and now all I could remember seeing was an onion and a radish. And I’m not entirely sure it was actually a radish. Don’t they know about my storytelling tendencies? Don’t they know, by now, that I would need time to look up the information they required so I wouldn’t make a mistake? Don’t they already know that I don’t really care about brands much at all and what I really want is to tell them, at length, all about my thoughts on Trump and Brexit and the lack of a speed limit on the Autobahn and my disdain at us still using fossil fuels, and that my new favourite author happens to be David Mitchell and that I recently read Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, but I much preferred White teeth. That I believe in the right of abortion, although I would dread having one myself and would find it a very traumatic experience. That I believe you are beautiful if you are homosexual, trans, straight, black, white, religious, atheist, male or female as long as your soul is good and kind. That I think the additional costs to move house are ridiculous. That I love travelling but don’t mind one jolt if I never ever fly again.

The next page was, in my mind, a little sarcastic. It told me that we are all able to forget things. Then it presented me with a huge list of brands and asked me which ones I’d seen in the click exercise.

Was it a trick question? Were all those brands in the game or only some of them? Besides, another of my characteristics is honesty. I actively struggle to tell any lie. So I clicked on just two.

I had to fill out my age: 48.

Sigh.

Now the survey company believes I am a 48 year old woman who has a worryingly high level of forgetfulness. But that I can still spell “Das perfekte Geheimnis”. Almost as if it were my native tongue.

The next questionnaire will probably be a health one.

Oops, I keep doing it again!!


You’d think that I have great, big, massive size nine’s. Seriously. Because I always, always, always, always manage to put both of my enormous feet right into it.

And then I dig.

And dig.

And dig.

And the hole just gets bigger.

Honestly.

And I have no way, whatsoever, of climbing out of it. I just make it worse.

Another man, had bought me a tiny present. Just a little thing. A small token of appreciation for the friendship I’d offered him. Knowing how it is to be a foreigner in a strange land.
Who knows, perhaps his thoughtful gift was even meant for both of us.

I’d sensed a slight stiffening when I’d mentioned it, in my own blase way.
So I tried to make it better. Having experienced the rising of that old green monster myself, on many an occasion. Even when there was no actual cause.

So I explained that we’d been chatting on the internet. The stiffening stiffened further and the eyes narrowed.

So I said not to worry. That one relationship for me was quite enough.

Further stiffening.

Plenty. I declared. Plenty. One relationship is plenty. One relationship requires so much effort, I’d keel over with exhaustion if I had to be involved in two…

Board-like.

You’re the only boy for me! I tried, weakly.

Boy? His eyes attempted to remain serious.

I’m too forgetful nowadays… I wouldn’t manage it. I added, deep in thought… Can you imagine, all the presents? I’d have to give you both the same gifts all the time, so that I wouldn’t get confused…
And that wouldn’t be very personal, would it?

But what I really should have said is:

Husband – I love you because you are you and I am me,
And we fit together
just like a lock and its key.

I love you because you let me be
who I can be
even when
that’s someone
who’s slightly
freaky!

And I should tell you that:

You make my world
complete –
For another
I have no need!

Because you are my soul mate!
You are my friend!
And without you
My whole world would end.

A proper pot-washer pops pots in the dish-washer


A few short weeks ago I treated myself: I purchased a brand spanking new pressure cooker.

I can happily tell you that it is dishwasher safe! That is, except for the rubber ring and the very clever detachable handle. I really like things that can go in the dishwasher as I am totally useless at washing up. I’m the one who misses bits. Even rather large bits. As the oldest in our household, I make the most of it and blame it on my aging eyes. And then, when there are things that can’t go in the dishwasher I encourage other household members to get involved. Scrub a pan. Lift a finger. That kind of thing.

So I got my shiny new pan and I started using it right away and as I did so I informed the household: detachable handle and rubber ring do not go into the dishwasher.

Last night, as usual, my husband went to bed before me.

I took my medicine, put the dishwasher on and shovelled washing into the washing machine. Then I headed to bed. Woke my husband up to tell him some important fact or other. Don’t worry, he always falls asleep straight afterwards, as is one of his many talents. I brushed my teeth and then climbed into bed. Where I contemplated how to get to sleep and came up with the only answer I could think of: I stalked estate agents for a bit.

I woke up this morning. Bright and early. Because, of course, it’s a Sunday. I tried to curl up and get back to sleep. Then I lay there for a moment or two envying my out for the count husband. Finally, I admitted defeat and shuffled out of our bedroom.

Downstairs I pottered for a bit. Then hovered over a few other estate agents’ websites. After that I contemplated what to purchase on Amazon. Was thrown by the sheer volume of choice and so did a puzzle instead.

My husband rose and shone. Being less of a potterer than me, he headed straight to the dishwasher. He’s a get the job done kind of a guy.

I heard him shout, “Somebody’s put the rubber ring from your pressure cooker into the dishwasher!”

“What?” I shrieked.

Panic rose within me.

Then he carried the lid through. “They didn’t even dismantle it from the lid. Look!” I heard the disdain in his voice. I blinked and looked at the pot. Rubbed my head. Thought.

“It was me,” I whispered. “It was me.”

As it turns out: luckily I hadn’t actually remembered to switch the dishwasher on…

My husband dismantled the ring. Offered to make me breakfast. To reorganise my world. Then I heard his voice again, probing from the kitchen:

Somebody’s put washing up liquid in the frying pan and just left it like that. On the cooker.”

I know exactly what that “Somebody” means.

It means: one of our teenagers has done this. I am not sure which one. But I am incredulous. I do not understand them. Why have they done this?

My mind races. I retrace my steps from last night. The dishwasher… A quick rub down of the tabletops… The washing up liquid… The pan… The water? The water? Nope. No water.

“I’m sorry. It was me.” I swallowed.

He looked at me. Kind face. Wide eyes. “You must have been tired, ” he said.

And I just thought, bloody hell, I’d better go and check out the state of the laundry room.

Tick tock says the clock but will there be a beep?


It is 2am! And there’s been a disaster! A calamity!

Sorry. I’ve swallowed a Mr Man book  been reading Mr Men books with my youngest students. Which 30, God no… 40 years on… seem rather more inappropriate. Though, just like me all those years ago, my students adore them.

But I digress.

It started off like this:

My husband abandoned me in the living room.

OK. OK. He left me  watching TV on the sofa. Where I started to nod, then drift… And the next thing I knew, I shot, bolt upright, only to discover that I was splattered with my own dribble.

I staggered through the living room, into the kitchen and desperately tried to remember exactly which medicine I should take and in which order. And not to take any of those correct medicines twice. Or even thrice. And not to take anyone else’s medicines by mistake. After all these years on the planet, I am finally getting used to myself and my own funny ways. I staggered and I blinked and I filled a glass with water. But in the time between the glass moving from the tap to my lips, a suicidal fruit fly had nose-dived into my water and appeared to be drowning.

I blinked a lot more. Yes. It was definitely a fruit fly. So, I calmly emptied the glass, rinsed and repeated. This time, luckily, without the invasion.

I wrote  a quick note for my son, said goodnight to a 20-something, fed the bewildered dog and pottered upstairs to the bathroom where I got into an argument with my own pubic hair. Don’t ask. It was all a bit icky.

Then I tried to find my bed in the dark.

I’ve eaten thousands and thousands of carrots in my lifetime. But they have done me absolutely no good. I have basically no night vision. Normally, I repeatedly switch my Fitbit on in an attempt to shine a light on the whereabouts of my bed (which helps somewhat, although I still stand on or walk into various items in the room, just less regularly. But that’s not so bad any more as my clever husband now wears earplugs to bed and so is rarely disturbed by my frequent shrieking/swearing/banging). But I had accidentally left my Fitbit charging in the car…

I clambered into bed and slapped around my bedside table in my nightly ‘alarm clock search’ routine. As usual, I knocked over the clock then picked it up again and pressed the snooze button down to see the time setting. Due to my acute night vision deficiency this is a repeated action. Without it, I can’t see the buttons or the changing numbers.  I altered my wake up time and I wanted to double-check I’d got it right. I’m a double-check kind of person. The simple fact is that I don’t trust my own brain.

I pushed on the snooze button and the snooze button stayed pushed. As in, it didn’t pop back up.

I pushed and I pushed and then, in desperation I attempted several pulls, with varying techniques. I even put the actual bedside light on to help me with my situation. But to no avail. The pushed button remained disconcertingly pushed.

Would the light remain on?

Would the battery wear out?

Would the alarm go off or would it believe, that in that very moment, when it had intended to beep, that I could possibly have simultaneously hit its snooze button?

And if that should be the case, would it live in some kind of limbo? Convinced that my finger hovered over its button?

Black Friday over by just a mere two hours and I had managed to incapacitate my alarm clock.

I looked over at my Mr Fix-It. Sleeping soundly. I didn’t dare to wake him with my conundrum.

Especially as he’d reminded me, before he went to bed, that I had woken him up at some ungodly hour, excitedly showing him a few early Black Friday deals.

Will I wake on time in the morning?

Should I brave the minus temperatures in my nightshirt and rescue my Fitbit from the car?

Will I ever get back to sleep?

Such a misfortune! What a calamity! A bloody disaster!

 

 

 

Old-ageing alert


Bloody cripes.

I just caught sight of myself in the mirror.

I have herpes. Twice. That means I look like I’m doing a pretty good  impression of the Joker.

My grey has finally rejected my hair dye completely and is stubbornly and proudly making a horrific appearance. As if that’s not bad enough, my thinning hair point blank refuses to be brushed into any even mildly orderly style. It can’t even decide if it wants to look greasy or dry. And I only just washed it.

WHOLE SHOPPING BAGS have attached themselves under my eyes and I look like I have hardly slept for a month. To be fair, I have been burning the candle at both ends somewhat, and suffering from only short bursts of sleep.

On the other hand, my skin looks as if it has been slept in for a whole week…

I’ve done the best I could with what I’m left with. I’ve attempted to yell, pull and drag my hair into submission. I’ve thrust my ever increasing girth into ‘nice clothes’. And I’ve slathered my face with that expensive cream my daughter bought me.

And I swore at the mirror!

Still, on the plus side, my husband still seems to approve.

Shhh! Don’t tell him he’s due a trip to the optician!

Elaborate Dreams


So I know that everybody has dreams.

But the one that I had last night, or should I really say, this morning was totally and utterly bizarre, to say the least.

Firstly, I think I was a man (I actually change gender continually in my dreams, I thought this was completely normal, until I casually dropped it into a conversation with my family and they gave me that mum-you-are-weird look) and I was running around with some kind of hectic, chaotic feeling (at this point I can still relate), I think I was either looking for someone or trying to rescue them, I’m not entirely sure now – it’s one of those hazy bits, there seemed to be a lot of adrenalin involved and a lot of rushing around various streets (some of which seemed remarkably similar to those that I had played in as a child) then suddenly, the man that I was looking for appeared, and you know, this is where I start to think this dream is particularly extraordinary, I think it was a James Bond actor. SERIOUSLY. But with a moustache. I can’t tell you which actual actor though, as in real life I suffer from an affliction called Facial Recognition Incompetence. And to be honest, I’m not convinced he normally has a moustache. Did any James Bond actor have a moustache? I digress…

So, Bond appeared (he wasn’t being Bond, he was just well, being himself, but from now on I will call him Bond anyway so that we know exactly who I am talking about), and some other person unexpectedly just happened to be beside me, he was apparently looking for Bond with me, I felt at this time he may have actually been helping me the whole time, but I just hadn’t noticed him before. Anyway: so we had Bond and we tried, wholeheartedly (and perhaps a little breathlessly) to usher him into a safe building nearby but then, just like that, he scooted off, at high speed, in an old sports car. Suddenly the man I was with, conjured a car out of thin air and we (I am aware that I was changing into a woman at this point) raced off in pursuit of Bond. But he was nowhere to be seen. We decided to separate and I got out of the car and explored the streets on foot.

I found myself in a hairdresser’s and there, sat upon the styling chair was Bond, gowned and waiting to have his haircut while reading a newspaper. Suddenly, I was the female hairdresser standing behind him but I didn’t feel like giving him a trim. Something was wrong with me and I made my excuses and scarpered out back, into another room.

Now to be honest, this is where things got really complicated. The man who had been helping me to search for Bond had reappeared and was now a doctor. I meanwhile, was trying to hide, somehow, between a white partition wall and a  roller blind. It wasn’t working well as the other sides were open to the elements and in truth, the blind was swinging about in some hopeless, swishy swashy way. I realised I was actually in a hospital or maybe some kind of treatment room somewhere. And I was no longer a random person of alternating gender looking for Bond. I was a nurse, or maybe even a doctor and I was hiding from a patient.

Suddenly, a yelling mother pushed her child in on a hospital bed. She was yelling about me. And why I’d buggered off instead of doing the operation.

Finally, it was all clear. I knew what was really wrong with me. I really, really needed to poo. But I couldn’t. I was constipated.

The doctor was awesome. He knew it without me saying a word. He handed me a teeny tiny suppository and a slightly bigger folded bag to poop in. He wanted to test my stool sample, apparently.

Now get this:

There was no toilet.

And in the same room, behind a small partition wall was my patient waiting agitatedly for his/her operation.

So I just crouched down, inserted my medical wonder and waited for a sec. Sure enough, wonders were worked and things started to move.

At that point I noticed the prying eyes, peeking around the roller blind or just standing there, openly at the side. The mother had calmed down. She seemed to have some consideration for my predicament (though not enough not to observe).

I started to unfold my bag, only to discover, it was not a white plastic bag, but a white paper party hat. You know, like the ones that burst out of a cracker at Christmas, just lacking the bold colours. The situation was impossible, that hat had no chance of retaining my deposit.

To be fair, I did wave at the doctor to inform him of my tricky predicament, and concerned, he noticed his mistake and rushed off, into the adjoining hairdressing room to counter that mistake, but alas, what with crouching and gravity and medical wonders…

Weirdly, the prying eyes pried on, unabashedly throughout the sordid affair and then the doctor pushed past and handed me the only thing he could find, a bright yellow shopping bag.

Let’s just say, I bagged a very heavy load and handed the bag right back to him.

Then I went off towards my patient to perform whatever treatment was expected of me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star light, star bright, don’t be sick and sleep at night!


Birthday season is upon us again. My husband said to me this morning, at 00:01, as we were just dialling our daughter’s telephone number: “I can’t believe we are old enough to have a 22 year old daughter.”

I wish I could have answered that I don’t look old enough. Those were the days! But now, my middle age spread is, well, spreading. Fast! For a while, I’ve tried to convince myself that I would, one day, be a slip of a girl again. To be honest, for the last 21 years I’ve kept the dress I wore to my eldest daughter’s very first birthday party. I’m not just a hoarder. I did actually wear the dress. But the last couple of years, I had trouble waving about my arms and well just breathing. So I gave it to her last week. It was slightly too big. I may have stretched it… But I assured the slip of a girl that she would grow into it… One day.

So this is her 22nd Happy Birthday. I can tell you, some of them have been eventful. On one of them, we were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and I was carrying the cake across the room to her, as I approached her to blow out her candles, she didn’t blow, she threw… Up. I’m not sure if it was the sight of all that carefully placed sugar or if it was just excitement. But the cake got tossed to the side and a bucket was grabbed. We videoed it and sent it to You’ve Been Framed. But they sent it right back again without giving us our £250. I was gutted to be honest. I laughed hysterically every time I played it back. But I guess it was far too graphic for public consumption on a family show.

On another birthday, we had the camcorder out again, my ex and I. He was standing there filming, as I ushered her into the room. We’d built up her present, a bike, and carefully covered it with sheets, so she could still unwrap it. Then presents and cards that had arrived in the post, were strategically placed around the big, exciting, surprise. We entered the room and my ex impulsively shouted, “Come and open your bike!!!!” And I almost killed him, right there, on the spot. Seriously. If you go and visit him, there is recorded evidence of it somewhere in his house…

From Birthday One, Joni loved a party. She loved the food, the dressing up, the food, the guests, the food, the games, the cake, being centre of attention and the presents. So the night before her Sweet Sixteenth she got really excited. She’d planned a massive party. Not only had she invited all of her friends, she’d also invited all of mine. We planned to barbeque on two barbeques simultaneously. The fridge was full of meat. I always make too much food because I am petrified of someone feeling hungry, so in actual fact, there was far too much meat for the masses of people she’d invited. Then, in the early hours of her 16th, she started to vomit. And vomit and vomit. In all fairness, she really did puke rings around herself. We did not film it. We cleaned rings and walls and carpets and changed bedsheets and disinfected buckets. And we mopped up tears. Then, from the exact moment politeness allowed, we starting telephoning each and every party guest to cancel. We did not know if she was infectious. We did not know if we were infectious. We did not know how long she would continue to be sick. These questions were answered promptly. As soon as all the calls were finished, she made a miraculous recovery. She was, what’s described in your medical encyclopedia as ‘right as rain’. Physically, that is. Mentally, she crumpled. Luckily, she had invited my friends. And some of them are fearless of bacteria. They are utterly convinced they will never get sick. Besides they know Joni. And they knew that she had recently been to Budapest, where she’d been so excited to be there, she’d thrown up all over her host’s carpet in the middle of her first night. We’d been chatting at the time on the phone. She’d wanted me to know that she’d arrived safely. That the exchange family were lovely. That everything was tickety-boo. Then suddenly she felt nauseous. The phone was chucked to one side, she leapt up and hurled. For several minutes, I listened helplessly to retching noises. She in Hungary, I in Germany. Together, yet so far apart. I couldn’t hold back her hair. I listened as someone else scrubbed up the mess and she cried and apologised. After many minutes, I found myself stuck with the conundrum: should I hang up the phone? Should I keep listening? Is this really supportive? Or is it just plain creepy? Would anyone ever remember I was still on the phone? Should I shout? Would kind words, after the fact, help anyone at all, anyway? Would I ever get any sleep? How long is long enough? Would my own British politeness mean, that I was never actually able to hang up the phone? Then I heard someone shuffling towards me. It was the hostess. Of course, being British, I apologised profoundly. Then they handed me to Joni. Who was tired and embarrassed, but apart from that, right back on track again.

Joni’s ability to empty her stomach at important life events has become a trademark. A party piece if you will.  Exams – check. Birthdays – check. Presentations – check. Travelling – check. First dates – check. I have forwarned her that on her wedding day, there will be no make-up and no dress until all of the sickness is out of the way. Beauticians and lady’s maids will be poised for the last minute dash to slop slap on her face and tug her wedding dress over her head, in an attempt to get her to the town hall on time.

Today, I hope, will be an exception. She celebrated into her birthday with a few college friends, and after a little sleep and a lot of classes we’ll descend upon her and take her out to dinner. I, for one, am really looking forward to it.

To my first born: Happy Birthday! Continue to be the bright and shining star that you are. Live, love and be happy. ❤