My children (three and a bit years old and almost five) have been learning to ride their bikes and it is at once a massively rewarding experience and a very new, very fresh hell. On the one hand, seeing them learn a new skill and become fully-functioning mini-people makes me brim with joy and pride; on the other, my nerves are shot to hell and I have more scratches on my lower legs than an intern at the Big Cat Sanctuary.
You have to wonder at the wisdom of putting very small humans in charge of what amounts to a welded-together collection of metal bars, sharp spikes and hard rivets. If you deconstructed a kid’s bike and threw all the pieces into a sack, it would be the sort of thing you’d have found being passed around the tavern before a medieval uprising. So you have to ask yourself whether it’s sensible to let a three year-old, who likes bashing pan lids into walls, sit astride this scaled-down weapon of destruction.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy that they’re racing along without a care in the world. Any milestone the kids reach makes me brim with joy and pride and seeing my only-just-stopped-being-babies careering away down a cycle path is somehow ridiculously liberating.
But at the same time I’m proudly watching them power away on their own steam, I’m usually pondering the new depths of pain and discomfort that I’ve managed to plunge myself into. It’s almost as though, as a parent, you have to give yourself something to make life more awkward. Sleeping through the night? Tick! Nobody biting on your nipple? Tick! Stopped having to wipe poo off the carpet? TICK!
What can we introduce now, I wonder?
I’ll tell you what: bike riding. The fear of them falling off and smashing something or other on the path, the fear that they will wobblingly meander into the path of a proper cyclist, like a drunken badger staggering into a dual carriageway. And then there’s the worry for your own wellbeing – the worry that you’ll trip over their back wheels as you jog along behind them, or get your shoelaces caught in their spokes, or have a nasty run-in with the stabilisers.
Oh, stabilisers. Stabilisers are terrifying, with their jagged metal hinges and their fast-moving wheels of certain laceration. Pushing along a child using stabilisers (this is the four year old, actually – the three year old has a balance bike) means taking the survival of your ankle bones into your own hands. You thought you were going for a pleasant Sunday jaunt to breathe in the scent of meadow flowers and look at the freshly mown fields, but really you’ve agreed to sacrifice the flesh on your shins, ankles and possible knees. But once you’re out there, with an enthusiastic cycle maniac, there’s no turning back. There’s no escape. It’s like finding yourself inside the Colosseum with one of those chariots that had the spikes sticking out of the wheels – if you’re taking a kid for a bike ride with stabilisers then you’re basically Gladiator.
And that’s not the only physical torture involved. Remember Quasimodo? That’s biking-expedition me, pushing a four year old up a hill when she’s too tired to pedal the bike. Bent double, shoulders hunched, face twisted into a terrible expression of pain and humiliation, staggering sideways in great, ungainly leaps.
“Here she comes everyone! The troll of the tow path! The bells, the bells!”
The three year old on the balance bike presents less of a problem, physically. He just races off, his little legs working away as though he’s powered by clockwork. But then his batteries run out and he gets tired and Mr AMR ends up with child on shoulders, child’s bike in one hand, dog lead (with dog attached) in the other. Like some sort of circus act.
And I’ll be bringing up the rear, huffing and puffing along, near-prostrate in the wake of the Queen of Sheba who is oblivious, upright on her cupcake bicycle and singing songs about how wonderful the world is.
“And I wake up, yeah, and the birds are amazing, the birds are great, the birds know my so-ong and the birds love my dolly, oh yeah, oh yeahhhh.”
Not a care in the world, just comfortably watching the hedgerows whizz by as I expend approximately the same amount of energy as a small shire horse ploughing a field, pushing with a gentle hand on the small of her back. She obviously has no idea how tiring the pushing is – she had the audacity, the other day, to actually yawn as I was navigating a particularly steep slope.
I fear, though, as with all things child-related, this phase will be fleeting and before I know it we’ll be onto the next level, where they race off without us, and another tie will be painfully cut. Another phase will be just a beautiful memory. I’d take lacerated ankles in exchange for a slowing down of time. Any day of the week….
I think I need a lawyer. Not because I’ve done anything illegal recently (unless plotting to kill the man who keeps strimming his bushes at night counts. Who the hell strims in the dark? Surely as an activity that presents so many dangers that it makes the whole endeavour entirely unfeasible? Decapitating badgers is one peril that comes immediately to mind. Slicing hedgehogs in two, like they’ve unwittingly volunteered themselves as participants in a magic trick with the world’s worst magician, is another. Then there’s obviously the danger to your own limbs. Although…the perfect murder seems to be developing in front of my very eyes!)
Where was I? Lawyer. Yes, I’ve decided that I need a lawyer and I need him or her to follow me around 24/7. Not for legal advice, you understand: merely to get me quickly and efficiently out of conversations that I don’t want to have and/or prevent me from doing my usual “nervous rambling on for twenty minutes at the end of meetings to the point where everyone else on the call/in the room can’t wait to get away from me” trick.
I don’t know whether it’s because I spend a lot of time alone, but as soon as I’m thrown into an intense conversational situation – whether work or social – I go into meltdown towards the end. The part where I know that someone – everyone – is going to have to say goodbye in an elegant and gracious manner.
I just can’t do it! Either I feel bad, as though I’m snubbing the other person by wanting to go, and so compensate by being overly nice for five minutes too long, or I begin to panic that I’ll be trapped for hours and hours and so say something stupid.
Which is why I need one of those shit-hot lawyers – preferably an American one – to extricate me. Whether it’s a meeting in person (you know, in the future) or an informal phone call, I want them there, smelling of Tom Ford Private Blend and writing stuff in their Smythson notebook with a golden pen.
And if all of this is confusing and you haven’t got the faintest clue what I’m on about then you need to watch more American crime series on the telly. Because if there’s one thing that you can rely on in an American crime series (and many of the British ones too) it’s that the lawyer will always know when to cut a meeting short. There’s no situation too tricksy for a Netflix/Amazon Prime attorney – if they want their client out of the room then they just utter three words:
“We’re done here”.
We’re done here is lawyer speak for “I know my client’s rights and we don’t have to say any more so there, we’re off matey!” but in television, it’s also code for “the writers have trickled out all of the tantalising evidence they want the viewer to see but are now too lazy to think of a good way to get to the next scene whilst retaining that nail-biting sense of mystery and suspense”.
“I think we’re done here.”
Ugh, so sauve. So assured. The cops never argue with it – the lawyer is usually scraping back their metal-framed chair as they say the magic sentence, standing up beneath the unflattering interview strip-light and gesturing to their client to follow them. It’s so brilliant! Just a few words and it stops everything. It’s like when you’re little and you wouldn’t go to sleep so your Mum would call your Dad and you’d hear him coming up the stairs and he’d say “that’s enough now, get to sleep” and that would be that. Eyes closed, no arguing, asleep in sixty seconds.
Bad analogy, possibly, but you know what I mean. There’s a sense of authority and “don’t mess with me f*ckhead” when the lawyer on the telly says “we’re done here”. Sometimes they get called out – we get double-bluffed and the detective has more damning evidence on the criminal/murderer/trickster than they initially let on – but not often.
Anyway, I digress. I want one of these lawyers to follow me about, to sit and listen to what I have to say (God, how boring!) and then, when they can see that it’s time that I shut the actual fcuk up they could just put a steady hand on my shoulder, look directly at the person I’m babbling to and say, confidently,
“I think we’re done here.”
To be fair, one hundred percent of the time at the moment that person would be my husband, so I’ll allow them to be a bit softer – maybe “I think we’re done here?” with a question mark – but if I’m honest, in lockdown the lawyer is needed more than ever. The number of conversations about bins, painting, hedges and grocery orders that should have been pretty straightforward but that have turned into full-scale wars could have all been avoided if we’d both had a sharp-suited LA attorney next to us.
“Oh that’s right, you always do the bloody bins don’t you and let’s not forget it! Well let me tell you sonny-Jim, doing the bins isn’t all that, because back in 2005 I did the bins for a week so I could -“
Weighty hand on my shoulder. Stern nod. “Ruth, I think we’re done here.”
Could have saved me a dozen arguments, nearly all my fault. Although, thinking about it, maybe I’d have won them more often if I’d had a shit-hot Bosch-style lawyer in a ten thousand dollar Chanel suit! And imagine all of the awkward questions that could have been avoided – all of those ones that tell you you’ve lost before you’ve even begun:
“Erm, did you actually remember to order the dog food when I said because he has none left and it takes a week to be delivered.”
Shit, shit shit.
“No….I think we’re done here.”
Ha. Wouldn’t it be great? I’d definitely my lawyer to sit in on all of my Zoom meetings, which seem to turn me even more random and rambling than usual, if that’s possible. I just can’t shut up! But sometimes it’s other people who can’t shut up, and in that case my attorney (I’m going to call her Barb Wire) would just raise an eyebrow and inch ever so slightly closer to the laptop camera:
“I think we’re done here.”
Bam! Goodbye. I’d never be the last one in the Zoom Room! I can never work out how to exit the bloody thing without looking like someone who has accidentally pressed the “change PIN” button on the cash machine. Fumble no more, my friends, Barb Wire Esq. is here to cut this meeting off at the knees! At the first inkling of anyone beginning to ask what everyone’s up to at the weekend,
“We’re done here.”
The entire group has started to talk about Love Island or I’m A Celebrity?
Oh! Here’s the best one. Barb can’t stand it when a pointless meeting is called – usually to “talk over” a presentation that has already been sent by email. She hates those meetings with lots of people on speakerphone, when one assigned representative reads out the presentation word. for. word. The presentation you’ve already read thoroughly the night before and now also see before you with your own eyes. This one calls for an early exit, if Barb is involved.
“Okay everyone, thanks for joining! I hope you all got the email with the PDF of the presentation attached – if you haven’t seen it then it’s on the email titled PRESENTATION ATTACHED. What we’re going to do over the course of this call is a) talk about what we’re going to talk about on the call and b) talk through the presentation word for painful word until your eyes and ears are bleeding and c) any questions? Yes, Barb, fire away!”
“We’re done here.”
Four times in the past week my children, who are almost-five and three years old, have unknowingly grabbed onto one of my nipples to stop themselves toppling over. 75% of the time it has been when I’ve been putting their shoes on, which is always a precarious sport – and also explains why my nipples have been within grasping reach – but there was one particularly memorable case that saw my right nipple used as a sort of living climbing hold so that my youngest could scale my body like a mountain and sit on top of my head.
I’ll stress again that neither child has the faintest idea what they’re holding onto in these fleeting moments – for all the world it could be a button or the end of a zipper. On reflection, it took me a few seconds to work out what they were grasping in their little hands, mainly because after two solid years of being gummed and chewed at (referring to breastfeeding, obviously – Mr AMR isn’t some kind of low-key sexual deviant) my nipples tips have almost no feeling.
They may as well be steel-capped. If I was into body piercings, I’d have no qualms about getting some hoops through them – maybe then I could thread a dainty rope through the hoops and tie it around my neck, giving myself a free breast lift!
So anyway, the nips seem to have suddenly gained an extra practical use. And I’ve realised why it’s sudden and a brand new phenomenon: it’s because for much of the day I can’t be bothered to put a bra on. Previously my nips would be incased in a t-shirt bra, safely behind moulded cups. And now they are swinging free, a good four or five inches below me as I duck and dive to successfully complete the Crystal Maze Shoe Application challenge.
It’s a tricky old manoeuvre, isn’t it – putting small kids’ shoes on? There you stand, prone and vulnerable, your face necessarily next to the back of their head, which is for all intents and purposes a huge, solid, fast-moving canonball, ready to smash into your nose or eye socket at any given moment.
For it is impossible for a child to stand still whilst being shod; they toss their heads around, bob up and down, jig on one foot like a demented goblin. And the one time that you want them to move – “bend your leg! BEND YOUR LEG!” they stiffen every muscle like a board, knees locked out, so that you have to give up and plonk them on the table to get at their feet.
And even though you couldn’t be more clear which foot you’re tapping for them to raise – “THIS ONE” – they always lift the other one. And then they lose balance, because it’s all so overwhelmingly complicated, because their brains are (rightly!) wholly concerned with the mystery of “why bees don’t ride about in helicopters to stop their wings from getting tired”, and then a tiny hot hand shoots out and grabs onto the nearest convenient thing.
Pendulous, available, dangling right there like a welcome hand-strap from the ceiling of a packed London Routemaster. Topple, tipple, grab my nipple. It’s a wonder they’re still attached.
I’ve (perhaps unwisely) started testing out online exercise videos. There’s a whole other post to be written on the various hazards to be avoided when partaking in Youtube workout classes, but I have a pressing question about the fundamental essence of my being and that is this: do I, Ruth Crilly, have the emotional maturity of a fourteen year old boy?
Am I hopelessly, embarrassingly immature or do other people chortle their way through the workouts, smirking at the utter smut-fest that is the running commentary? It’s like innuendo bingo! I have to say, too, that it is almost always the videos from the US that have the richest array of double entendre – the instructors across the pond seem to have absolutely no clue that what they’re saying sounds like it has been lifted from a porno script.
Here are some choice cuts from the Youtube videos I’ve been testing out this week:
“OK, I’m really feeling that in my booty right now, guys. Wow, that is deep, I can feel it deep inside my butt.” (Glutes exercise.)
“Oooh, that is good in my butt right now!” (Plank with mountain-climbing legs. Don’t ask. It’s no wonder the majority of people give up exercise after January.)
“Mmmm, okay, now let’s pump it, pump it, pump it, PUMP!” (Sumo squats with a “pulse” at the bottom. We will talk about “pulses” in my next exercise post when I’ve thought up enough expletives.)
I’d like to add that all of these things are said quite breathlessly, by women wearing lycra so tight you can see every gynaecological peak and trough. Nothing remotely wrong with that in itself, obviously, but it’s more than a little off-putting having a visual as well as the soundtrack. Puts me right off my stride! It’s almost impossible to balance on one leg and outstretch your arms “like an aeroplane” when you’re shaking with barely-contained mirth.
I find the word “pump” amusing in almost all circumstances, to be truthful, irrespective of accent. Depending on where you’re from you’ll know that “pump” is an alternative word for trump, parp or – as I insist on it being called in this house – bottom burp.
Unfortunate, really, when “pump” is such a commonly used word for…loads of things. Petrol pump, air pump, pump up the volume. I can deal with all of those versions, it’s just when someone’s talking about the action of pumping. Oh, the number of adverts I’ve filmed with beauty brands where I’ve had to say something like
“do two or three pumps into the palm of your hand!”
“spray two pumps onto your face and breathe deeply to inhale the scent!”
Kills me every time.
Anyway, back to the “feel it deep inside your booty” gang: surely they know what they’re saying? Do they come out with things like this deliberately, in a wild stab at humour, to get you through the workout? Or do they just assume that 99% of viewers aren’t as immature as me?
Answers on a postcard please. And happy Easter. I did mean to do some sort of intelligent, heartfelt post about new starts and beautiful life and #thankfulness but this issue seemed more important.
It’s life update time again, and rather than bore you with all of the tantrums and CIA-level negotiation we’ve been having to do around here, with our three and a four year old, I thought we could talk about bedtime routines and (more specifically) some of the crazy things I’ve done to get the kids to bed over the years.
Because the other day I suddenly realised that I’d almost forgotten the first little baby bedtime routines. The ones that we started right in the beginning. Those halcyon days when you could just plonk them in the cot and they couldn’t get out. Bliss! Now the routines are more like challenges on Crystal Maze; “can YOU get your three year old boy into his racing car bed without cracking a dent into one of your shins and saying F*CK F*CK B*GGER at the top of your voice whilst managing to give him a drink of fresh water and not allow it to spill which would mean changing his duvet? Work it out, release the crystal and I’ll stand here outside the bedroom door tootling away on my flute.”
I’m not saying that the baby days were easier – the crackling of the baby monitor, half an hour after you thought they were asleep! The feeling of utter weariness at having your three hour window of “me time” interrupted again! – it’s just that bedtimes now are so much more demanding. I’m like a court jester crossed with a minimum security prison officer. I love it and treasure the moments, because I know that in the blink of an eye they’ll be teens and I’ll be barred from even entering their rooms, but my God is bedtime intense!
I’ve nearly always done my daughter’s bedtime, mainly because my son, who is eighteen months younger, never used to go to sleep until he had breastfed from me for hours on end, and so when he was about ten months old Mr AMR started to give him a bottle to make things easier. We then inevitably ended up splitting off into our separate teams in the evening – one child each, and each of us with our own little bedtime quirks and (probably inadvisable) habits.
We’re very lucky in that – mostly – both of us are around for bedtime and so we’ve kept up this “girls’ team / boys’ team” sort of split. Trying to put two young children to bed on your own is chaotic and soul-destroying in equal measures, like herding cats, and I absolutely doff my cap to anyone who does it on a regular basis. Or all the time.
But let’s rewind back to the first proper bedtime era that’s still reasonably fresh in my memory: we can call it the Robot Head Cinema Era. I had bought the kids an Early Learning Centre plastic robot that was large enough to house a moon buggy (toy, not real one) and spacemen figurines. I worked out that if I opened up the doors on its head, the resulting space was exactly the right width for gripping my iPhone horizontally.
And so I used to fire up iPlayer, select a trippy programme called In The Night Garden (if you don’t know what this is then I recommend a viewing for research purposes, but only if you’re not taking mind-altering drugs. It would be enough to send you permanently bonkers) and we would watch baby TV from inside a plastic robot’s cranium.
Total madness, really. I would sit there hunched over, watching along with her (I have no idea why we did this on the world’s smallest screen when we had a huge telly directly beneath us, and a comfy sofa, and a roaring fire, etc etc) and I would feel my neck begin to slowly fuse to my shoulders and my lower back go into spasm, but I was always too tired to shift position.
Then there was the “rap song nursery rhyme” phase. I have no idea why I started this, and it’s the sort of thing that really you should take to your grave, not write about to hundreds of thousands of people, but anyway: I used to do this very bad “beat box” thing and then rap out a version of Little Miss Muffet.
Don’t even ask me to do a rendition, it is never happening and so it’s pointless going there. (I can tell you though that after the “whey” I did do a very funky “hey, hey-hey-hey!” I also did a vague form of twerking when the spider “sat down beside her”.)
The rap rhymes started off a new phase, what is now known as “doing the lullaby”, and we’re still going strong a couple of years down the line. Ah, that’s sweet! you might think, especially as my daughter is going to be five in the summer. But no. It’s not sweet. It’s a magnificent feat of poetic improvisation, that’s what it is. Because not only do I have to make up a new song ON THE SPOT every night, the song also has to rhyme and it also has to be relevant to the chapter of the book we’ve just read.
So, for example, we did a great lullaby about George’s Marvellous Medicine and the horrid grandma, although admittedly I did completely crib the tune (and some of the words) from the CBeebies Christmas panto. (Sniff-Sniff, Delicious Children!)
I sang about Grandma’s puckered mouth looking like a dog’s bottom and her face being as hairy as a mole, except that I had to make “bottom” rhyme with “mole” so ended up saying “bottomhole”, which isn’t ideal.
But it’s actually a very good brain workout, making up rhyming songs with no notice. Firstly you have to think of a tune (usually I nick one from an advert or popular song du jour) and then you have to – completely on the hoof mind! – come up with some lyrics.
And it’s not like Baby 1 is a particularly easy customer – she frowns at anything resembling a half-rhyme and definitely picks up on nonsense words that I’ve just thrown in because I’ve gone into panic mode.
George stirred his pot all day and night
Grandma was really in for a fright!
He stirred it with his wooden spoon
And even put in some of the moon…
“Mummy what? How did he put in some of the moon? Are you sure he did that?”
Anyway, it’s fun and I wanted to write it down because one day she won’t want the lullaby, she’ll say “ugh, you’re so embarrassing, get OUT OF MY ROOM!” and my heart hurts to think of that so I want proof that it happened.
Mind you, some nights I am totally not up for composing what amounts to an eighth of a low-budget West End musical on the spot. Especially if the chapter we’ve read, the chapter that must (it’s the rules) provide the inspiration and bulk of the content, doesn’t quite lend itself to a lullaby.
Last night I read the bit in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Grandpa Jo uses his last pennies to buy a chocolate bar for Charlie, in the vain hope that there might be a golden ticket inside. It’s called Chapter 10: The Family Begins To Starve.
Not so jolly.
“Do a lullaby about the chapter, Mummy!”
“Why don’t we do yesterday’s chapter, about Charlie’s walk to school and the smell of the chocolate? Sniff-Sniff, Delicious Chocolate?”
“No, it has to be about the old people in the bed and the cabbage soup and the snow. And don’t sing it in the Oompa Loompa tune again!”
Last night’s lullaby tested my artistic talents to the max, I can tell you. I’m the flipping lullaby master. I know you’re desperate to hear some of these lullabies, but again: not going to happen. Satisfy yourselves with the knowledge that I sang about cabbage soup to the tune of a Les Mis hit and managed to rhyme “cabbage” with “baggage”. That has to be enough.
The current nighttime routine doesn’t end with the lullaby however; I then go into Baby 2’s room, negotiate his floor, which should be called “The Torture Garden” because you can’t go two steps without spearing your foot on the upright plastic ladder of a toy fire engine, or the spines of a toy Stegosaurus, and I have to sing him a lullaby.
He only likes two tunes: the first is Soldier Soldier (won’t you marry me with your musket fife and drum? Oh no sweet maid I cannot marry you for I have no [insert item of clothing] to put on)
and the second is Five Little Ducks (went swimming one day, over the hills and far away. Mummy duck said “quack quack quack” but only four little ducks came swimming back).
With both songs, I have to think of more and more outlandish versions to keep him satisfied. In terms of the soldier’s clothing, we have moved on from actual items (pants, socks, a gaberdine) to abstract ideas (sadness, time, reluctance); last night the solider had “no happiness to put on” and had to get himself a “loud thunder” from the grandfather’s chest.
In the “five ducks” song, the ducks have become dinosaurs. Which would be find, except that they don’t quack, which totally bollocks up my rhyming pattern. I can’t work like this. The pressure is too immense. Especially now that “five little dinosaurs” have become “five big stegosauruses” and they stomp instead of swim, roar instead of quack. I should be paid for this level of superhuman lullaby effort.
Anyway, I’m sure this is boring you to absolute tears, so I leave you with the comforting fact that the bedtime routine, including fetching dolly from two floors down, then coming back up and going back down to fetch Calpol, then coming back up and going back down to find Batman, Bumblebee transformer and Heat Wave transformer, then going to the bathroom to collect fresh water – cold tap run for forty-five seconds to ensure suitably icy temperature – and then supervising various toilet trips and so on, consumes approximately 2,300kcal, which means that the many chocolate-based “evening snacks” I subsequently devour are completely A-OK and justified.
What’s your bedtime routine? Kids, no kids, dogs, no dogs; I need to know any weird, over-indulging stuff you do. If it involves a robot’s head, all the better.
Hurrah! I finally have internet speeds that are faster than the ones that we had back in 1999! And all it took was Mr AMR hanging precariously out of the top window, holding a 4G router above his head like a possessed telecommunications engineer. It’s the same router I’ve had for a while, but we had never tried positioning it 80cm outside the house before – more fool us!
Only others with painfully slow internet will share my joy in finally finding a workable solution to the problem – if you have internet, and it’s fast enough to do basic things such as watch a film on Netflix, then my revelation (indeed this entire post) will hold no interest for you. Move on, smugly, knowing that the next page you click to will take approximately 2.1 seconds to load and not fifteen minutes.
A bit of background, for those who are still with me: I live in a rural hamlet and we don’t have high-speed broadband. Our download speed with BT is around 5MB, upload speed is about 0.8. Netflix can be slow to respond, large files are impossible to upload and, if we have an important email to send with attachments, we find that it’s easier to dictate it to an aged monk and then summon a messenger on horseback to deliver the manuscript directly into the hands of the recipient. Godspeed, Cedric, Godspeed.
When we bought the house, we knew that the internet speeds were dire but the owners had installed satellite internet. Which seemed like a good fix. It really wasn’t – it was temperamental, didn’t like cloudy days and was very expensive to run. I think we kept it for a couple of months before realising that it was a complete waste of money and barely any faster than the bog-standard BT line. This might not be the case for everyone – it can very much depend on geographical position, whether or not you’re in a valley, for example – but the overall feeling about satellite internet, when you read online, seems to be that people aren’t overwhelmed with enthusiasm for it.
So what was my next line of attack? Well, I’ll admit that I was a bit stuck. The residents of my hamlet had been promised Truespeed, which is one of the providers trying to bring FTTP (fibre to the premises) to people in areas without any high speed broadband. They quite literally build the network, from scratch, and connect each home to a network that’s often higher than you’ll even find in the cities.
I have a love-hate relationship with companies such as Gigaclear and Truespeed and also quite a lengthy relationship. The village I lived in just outside of London didn’t have fibre (more forgivable in 2014, I suppose) and one day a meeting was held in the village hall about a high speed network that would be put together by someone called Gigaclear. So we all duly signed up and those of us who were desperate for it (freelancers, mainly, and people running businesses from home) even took it upon ourselves to go out personally and get new sign-ups. Everyone had to give their bank details, sign the forms – we were at 99% they told us! Only less than one household to go! – and it looked like a done deal. But nothing materialised. Even by the time we moved, in 2017, there was no Gigaclear. And I’ve just checked online now, in 2020: still no Gigaclear.
It’s the same with Truespeed. Promised it way before we bought our house in Somerset and for almost two years we’ve been receiving updates but there’s always one more barrier, one more problem that needs to be overcome.
So I had to put aside my hopes of getting Truespeed for now (fibre speeds of up to 200MB!) and seek other remedies. Thankfully, the best one – and I shall be eternally grateful – came from one of my neighbours, Adam, who had beaten us to Somerset by around four months and had therefore exhausted most internet-improving avenues. Now I must be clear, before you get overexcited: this method of gaining miraculously high speeds does depend on your 4G reception. I’ll admit that many rural places have crap internet and barely any 4G coverage, but for those luckily enough to have good phone signal, you’re in for a treat.
4G coverage is ever-improving, so it’s worth checking coverage maps for all providers, not just the one you happen to have stuck with for the past fifteen years. See who comes up trumps on the coverage maps and then get hold of a pay as you go SIM card for that company and test out the 4G reception in all areas of your house.
The areas of the house thing is incredibly important, by the way; in my office, my 4G router gives me download speeds of 6.8MB and upload speeds of 0.98. If I shunt the router forwards into a front bedroom and balance it on the windowsill (or, even, out of the window on the end of Mr AMR’s arm) then I get a ridiculously speedy (for here) 12MB download speed and 26MB upload. (I have no idea why the upload speed is faster, I suspect it’s not a good sign but quite honestly I can’t be bothered to rock the boat when I finally have a workable connection!)
But I’ve gone too far ahead and missed out important information here: neighbour Adam had been experimenting with various internet things and had settled on the very satisfactory method of using a 4G data-only SIM with a router he had bought on Amazon. He was getting fast, reliable internet and paying around £25 per month.
I immediately ordered the router (this one here* (AD/affiliate link) in case you’re interested) and went for the same data SIM he was using (Vodafone, 50GB limit) and the next day slotted everything together and crossed my fingers. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the speedtest came back with 25MB download and 8MB up. Hurrah! All of my work (and Netflix) problems had been solved!
Huawai Router* + Data Only SIM + Reasonable 4G Coverage = Rural High Speed Internet
There was one more twist in the tale, though. Left to its own devices, my Macbook Pro was a champion devourer of data. It chomped its way through data like one of those people who eat hot dogs to break world records; the remaining gigabytes dissolved in front of my very eyes as my iCloud synced the ten thousand daily photos that I took on my phone and my iPhoto uploaded all of my DSLR photos to the iCloud and my iTunes did things that only iTunes really understands, because who can actually access any of their music anyway? It’s all locked up in some virtual shipping container somewhere and you can only play it if you ask really, really nicely, even though you spent forty-nine days importing all of your CDs into your iMac in 2004. (What a bloody waste of time! I swear, the number of weeks I’ve spent copying records onto tape cassettes, tapes onto CD, converting CDs to MP3s. Oh! And the brief yet painful era of the mini disk. Remember those? You couldn’t even buy music on a mini disk, so you had to make the world’s most labour-intensive mix tapes and the whole set-up only lasted for about a year anyway! Which meant that my in-car mini disk player and my mini disk walkman were both an epic waste of hard-earned cash…)
To cut a long story short, my 50GB data was lasting for around two days if I left my MacBook running. So I had to turn off iCloud, which meant I couldn’t sync my photos and I couldn’t see my emails either because they were burning up data like psychopathic data fire-starters. Unlimited data SIMs weren’t yet a thing, so I had to try and find another way to limit my usage. Firstly I bought two SIMs so that I would never run out – I just swapped them over when one ran out for the month. But then I looked into how to manage my usage and found a very handy app called TripMode. I can’t really rave about this app enough; it’s inexpensive, it works, it will probably save you tens of pounds each month, especially if you work from home.
TripMode automatically limits your data usage by blocking things on your computer (or phone) that are data hogs. So iCloud, for example, and Mail, and even iPhoto if you tend to take a lot of video footage and photos with large file sizes. You can preset which apps to block and toggle TripMode on and off so that if you do need to quickly email or sync something it’s easy to do. It also monitors usage and can set data caps – all for about six quid. (At last glance.) Find that here, it’s an absolute must if you don’t have unlimited data.
Luckily, more and more data providers are now doing unlimited data SIMs that you can slip, with an almost sexual level of pleasure, into your router slot. Oh, the thrill of knowing that you’ll be able to load a page on ASOS without getting the spinning wheel of doom! Oh, the sparks of passion that will fly as your fingers caress the keyboard and open New Tab, New Tab, New Tab, as you frantically absorb all of that internet information and even play a Youtube video in the background! Stick a fork in me, unlimited data SIM, I’m done.
Virgin do an unlimited data SIM for those who are already customers, SMARTY have one that’s very cheap and doesn’t have a contract (I found this the slowest for speeds in my area so cancelled), 3 have one, Vodafone have an unlimited SIM but they say it’s just for phones. I have yet to test this. For many, 3 will be the best bet – they have exemplary coverage when you look at their maps. I think that 3 own SMARTY, but I found speeds higher with 3. Go figure.
I hope, sincerely, that at least a few of you that have been struggling with rural – or just plain bad – internet will find this useful. Some will be eye-rolling and saying “duh, like I hadn’t thought of that!” but at least a dozen people in my immediate geographical vicinity hadn’t known about the router + 4G sim option, so I’m going out on a limb and putting it out there.
And at the risk of being even more obvious, I’m going to precis my rural internet findings below, with the Three Useful Things You Should Know If You Have Very Slow Internet. You’re welcome.
1 You can easily find out whether you’re in an area that’s being considered by providers such as Truespeed and Gigaclear. Just type your postcode into their websites (linked above) and it’ll tell you whether there’s a build in progress or any interest at all in your area. You can also (actually is maybe a better first call) check on Open Reach to see whether fibre is coming to your area, or whether your cabinet (not like a kitchen cabinet, it’s bigger and further away) is due to be upgraded. Check that info here.
If your community isn’t eligible for any sort of network building scheme then you could also look into Community Fibre Partnerships, which is when you all get together and basically foot the bill. I’ll side-step the politics on that one, because it seems slightly ridiculous that a community should be having to raise massive funds for something that others get for free… Trying to be all zen at the moment.
2 If you can get 4G signal then you are massively in luck, because you can try the Router + 4G SIM method that works so well for me. You can find 4G coverage maps for most providers here. If you have a reasonably strong 4G signal with one of them then you can buy a 4G router here (that’s the one I have) and data SIM cards from most mobile phone providers. If you want unlimited data (why wouldn’t you?) then try Three (here) and EE have literally just launched theirs onto the market, the deal is £34 per month here. (Please do your own checks as to suitability for your router and so on!)
3 If you don’t get any 4G reception then all is not lost. Though it may be a matter of doing some heavy research and/or digging a little deeper in terms of costs. If you want to try satellite, because you’re desperate (I found it twitchy) then try a larger provider such as Avonline. I also found this website incredibly interesting: ruralinternet.co.uk. You can also contact Open Reach and see how much it would cost for fibre to your premises privately – ie, the road gets dug up just for you, the price depends on how far you are from the nearest cabinet. I don’t need to tell you, I’m sure, that it’s probably going to be really, really expensive. There’s a rudimentary price list here if you can get your head around it…
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I am sandwiched between two lone male diners. Not in the biblical sense, obviously, they wouldn’t be dining if they were sandwiching me (if that is even a term) and I’m not sure I’d refer to them as “lone” males if we were midway through performing some kind of debaucherous act.
No, I merely mean that I am sitting (also alone) at a table in a restaurant and the tables either side of me are occupied by lone male diners. I could have said it like that to start off with, but that would have deprived you of the lasting mental image of me being “sandwiched”.
Anyway, I write with important news, because I think I may be at the end of my love affair with burrata. You know burrata, the incredibly rich and creamy italian cheese – it looks like a ball of mozzarella di buffala, but it’s milkier and more surprising. If I was to accurately describe it, I’d call it a cheese sack filled with cream, but that has to be the least appealing description of any foodstuff ever, so I’ll leave it to finecooking.com who say:
“burrata is a supple pouch of tender mozzarella stuffed with stracciatella, a luscious blend of fresh cream and soft mozzarella shreds”.
Supple pouch. Supple. Pouch. I’m not sure which is worse: cheese sack, or supple pouch.
Getting back to the matter in hand; my love affair with burrata. We’ve been all over the world together – Paris, L.A., New York, London, Tokyo – and I’ve been faithful, dear reader, choosing burrata over almost anything else when given the choice. But things are fizzling out. It’s not actually the burrata’s fault, because I still love it, the big supple pouch of a bastard, the plump white orb of goodness; it’s what chef’s are doing to it that is turning me off. What they’re serving it with.
It seems to have become de rigueur to serve it a) completely by itself or b) with something that simply doesn’t do it any favours at all. Gives it no help. And you might say “oh, but burrata doesn’t need any help, it’s perfection the way it is!”
But try eating a whole, large burrata with nothing else on the plate. Which is how I’ve been served it a few times. It’s just too decadent, too rich. My body can’t cope with it. It’s so gloriously creamy, with its mozzarella shell and liquidy insides, but it’s (whispers) too much of a good thing.
In my very humble opinion (I say humble, but I must have eaten over eighty thousand burratas, so in a way I’m probably a world expert) the best way to eat a burrata is with something ever so slightly sharp, or tangy, beside it. My preference would be that there was something involving tomatoes, but equally it could be some peppers that have been charred, skinned, marinated in something slightly acidic. A quality balsamic, perhaps.
I don’t know, I’m just giving you my thoughts.
Of course the ultimate delight, if bodies didn’t have arteries that had to be kept relatively unclogged, would be a huge bowl of penne with an incredibly spicy tomato sauce and then a massive great big sac magique of burrata plonked on the top. Quivering. Ready to explode all over the spicy sauce and extinguish the fire. See? Balance!
Instead, I get given: a burrata on a plate, a sea of cream, some sprigs of what looks like thyme sprinkled on top. Which also makes no sense – why thyme? Or, in one overly-wholesome place, a burrata served next to an avocado purée, which was just nonsense, a triangular plate-shaped mess of expensive baby food.
And now I sit here, amongst my lone male diners, staring at another burrata creation: burrata with pine nuts (meh) and chargrilled broccoli. Broccoli!
The broccoli is offering nothing in the way of flavour, nothing strong enough to contrast with the milkiness of the cheese. It’s just faintly like guff, broccoli, and I love it but at the same time it’s not worthy of a place at the table with King Burrata.
And this meal was going so well, too. The ceviche starter was excellent. I even gave it my undivided attention, because my iPhone battery has died and I didn’t want to accidentally make eye contact with other humans. Not the ones here, at any rate. I’m not cool enough for the people here – the men all have fisherman’s beards and are wearing jeggings and there’s a girl wearing what seems to be a non-ironic tiger outfit, complete with tail. When I walked in wearing my tracksuit I saw the sea of eyes upon me; I’d have been less conspicuous had I weaved my way through the restaurant on a Penny Farthing blowing on a hunting bugle.
Now the dessert is here; deconstructed fig tatin. I thought that a tarte tatin was pretty deconstructed to start with – pastry, fruit, caramel – but here we are with it brought down to even humbler components. Wait: two of said components are missing. This is just figs and ice cream. Where’s the bloody pastry? Where’s the tatin? It costs 8.5, which means eight and a half pounds, to those of you who are used to the normal pricing system, which tends to work quite well so why mess with it, which I think is extortionate for three figs and a scoop of vanilla.
But this is not a restaurant review, I merely popped in to talk about burrata. Pressing issues, people, pressing issues. The man beside me has just leant in and asked me a dubious, conversation-opening question about wine – wine! – which means possible social contact and a potential awkward situation: time for me to run like the wind! I’ll not be the filling in your lone diner sandwich, matey!
Questions to answer: do you like burrata? If so, am I right about the accompaniments or amiright? Opinions below.
NB: the burrata in the image is actually a Claridges one, which was – incidentally – delicious, but appearance-wise scored low. Whatever the hell it was served upon looked like a bed of maggots. The cheese was, as expected, delightful, but where was the tanginess? Something contrasty? Nowhere to be seen, that’s where!
I finally caved in, after over ten years of owning an iPhone, and bought myself a protective case. Why the prolonged hesitation? I’ll tell you why. I genuinely think that most phone cases are horrendous. They’re like the tech version of Crocs. Plasticky, garish monstrosities that just seem to be needlessly bad. Design abominations. And what’s worse is that they take an object of great design beauty, the iPhone – so divine in its apparent simplicity, so streamlined! – and clothe it in fancy dress.
Whether it’s a rectangular neoprene wetsuit affair or some kind of angular, metallic thing that adds four kilos to the total weight of the handset, pretty much all iPhone cases look shite.
But anyway I bought two. (I kept my old phone – see below.) One is all gold and shiny and jagged, like a teen’s drawing of a futuristic supercar, the other is a rubbery coral-toned sheath. A kinky flesh suit for my new iPhone 11 Pro Max, which was a very kind Christmas present from Mr AMR and I had no idea quite how kind until I accidentally stumbled upon the price online whilst looking for phone tripods. It’s the sort of price that warrants full-time security and a driver, or at least one of those briefcases with a chain that you can handcuff to your person.
Anyway, back to the rubbery sheath. It has this funny pop-out thing at the back that looks a bit like a weird nipple; it pulls out with a satisfying thrrrp and helps you to grip the phone, if having a phone almost entirely covered in non-slip material isn’t grippy enough for you. Perhaps your fingers are made of banana skins or the tips produce a constant flow of melted lard. I don’t know. You’d have to be pretty bloody clumsy to not get a grip on a silicon case.
And I look at these cases and think this: why have I spent a fortune buying an iPhone, an object that has surpassed all usual standards of design and function, an absolute tech icon, and then put a case on it that’s so ugly you have to question the designer’s sanity? It’s like throwing a polyester dog blanket over a George Smith sofa, or wrapping a Ferrari FF in sticky back plastic, or clothing Michelangelo’s David in a tracksuit from Boohoo.
But I’ll tell you why I’ve put a case on: because the iPhone is too naked and vulnerable without one. With its glass casing it’s more like a phone foetus than a fully-formed piece of tech – one wrong move, one rushed pants-pull-down to go to the loo when it’s in your back pocket, one child’s clumsy swipe and the whole shebang is game over. Carrying an iPhone about is like being responsible for a Fabergé egg – you’re constantly catching it mid-air, comedy-style, and breathing a sigh of relief when a knock results in “just a small crack in the corner but it doesn’t affect the screen”.
And all of this is the fault of the iPhone designers, who have made what is now our most-used modern-world thing out of the most fragile material they could think of. They may as well have folded it out of origami paper or covered it in the crumbling pages from a 12th century monastic ledger. I just can’t even conceive what was happening in the meeting where they discussed manufacturing.
“OK guys, I am loving this iPhone idea. It’s like a cell phone, but so much more. I mean, I totally see people using this all of the time – like all the time. Not just for calls, but for everything. Schedules. Emails. Taking photos. I want this to be in people’s hands constantly, I want them to carry it with them everywhere. In the car, walking down the sidewalk, at the mall, on a family trip to the ocean…”
“Yeah boss, this is so awesome. It’ll be, like, the accessory. The most-used thing people will ever own. Question is guys, what do we make it from? This piece of expensive tech that the world will carry with them and probably put in their back pocket loads? Let’s put our heads together here guys. Over there in the corner, you there – Sam, what d’you reckon? What should we make the iPhone out of?”
“Awesome Sam. Alright team, let’s go ahead and manufacture in glass. If you could also make it super-slippy to hold, and also create weak points in the screen and casing so that if a spider sneezes it immediately shatters, that would be super-awesome. Let’s go guys, let’s do this!”
I still haven’t gotten used to my sheathed iPhone. Sometimes it takes me surprise and I look at it and think “that phone cannot possibly be mine.” Alas it is. I feel as though I’ve had a horrific hairdye job and I sort of forget about it until I look in the mirror and then, for a few seconds, I have a sense of disbelief. How could I have gone so dreadfully wrong?
But anyway, my iPhone now has the equivalent of a hi-vis hazmat bullet proof wetsuit on and so I’m sure it feels a lot safer. (It ponders upon this as it lies there on its charger-pad bed. The fact that it’s so brilliantly, perfectly formed, yet it needs so much help to survive. “Why did Daddy make me so weak?”)
I bought another case, too, for my old iPhone, the one that I didn’t trade in. WHAT? you may well ask. One always trades in, surely? Not I, friends, not in this case. And do you know why? Yes, the £350 was a massive temptation, but I can tell you a bigger temptation: having a spare phone filled with noisy/educational game apps for the sproglings to play on when I want a moment’s peace. Because do you know what I like to do when I’m having that moment’s peace? I like to play on my phone! There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down with a cup of tea and a slice of Christmas cake (it’s still going strong, well done Mother) and realising you can’t actually scroll through Instagram or read the news because the very thing giving you a spare five minutes is the thing you need!
Anyway, I bought a case for the games phone (extravagant, but quite honestly there’s no price you can put on sanity, is there?) and good God it’s even uglier than my silicon nipple-backed one. (Nippleback. Could be a Nickelback tribute band!) It’s all angular and weird like Kryton from Red Dwarf.
The oddest thing about it is that it has a porthole cutaway so that the apple symbol can still be seen. Oh good! At least if people see the apple then they won’t think that the entire phone is an Early Learning Centre replica. It screams “there is good design inside me! You just have to look deeper! Beauty isn’t all skin deep you know!” Good bloody job really isn’t it?
Putting a sleek, flawless iPhone into the Kryto-case is like making Gisele routinely wear a suit made from egg cartons.
“We’re shooting Gisele for the cover tomorrow and we need to keep Chanel happy but she’s currently working with Dior, so…we have the bias-cut Dior drop-neck slip or we have the Chanel bikini styled with the snow boots.”
“Uhh, really? OK no, scrap those. Can you just go to fifth floor and ask if they’re still recycling the egg boxes? I’ll make them into a suit.”
“A…suit? We’re paying fifteen thousand dollars for a phone – I mean a model – and we’re going to hide her in an egg carton suit?”
“Yeah don’t worry, we can cut a hole out somewhere so that you still see how good her body is underneath.”
Don’t know where that semi-analogy was off to! Anyway you get the gist. I’m not impressed with these cases – even the apple ones look rubbish, although slightly less rubbish. To be quite honest I do wish I’d bought the silicon Apple one, which doesn’t have a Nippelback and is a nicer shade of pink. I think it was cheaper, to add insult to injury…
If you’re looking at these cases thinking I don’t actually think they look that bad then a) observe an unadulterated iPhone – isn’t it quite smooth and perfect and wonderful? – and b) you’re probably right but if I didn’t fully exaggerate all of my thoughts then I’d have nothing to write about.
Mind you, the three lens thing on the back of the new iPhones is almost as hideous as a Nippleback – I feel as though my new phone is an escapee from a robotics junkyard and any minute the front will open and little wheels will drop down and it’ll start beeping at me like R2D2. It’s an excellent camera but jeez. Chill out on the lens orgy!
Notes so that I don’t get sued: apparently Apple have made the new phone out of the strongest metal-strengthened glass known to the entire universe. The extra lenses are necessary for the super-duper image quality and both of the cases shown above are top-rated, high-performing cases that shouldn’t be mocked.
Why is it that when I have an early wakeup call, I simply cannot get to sleep? And by the way, I’m talking early-early here, when the owls are still hooting and the foxes are still tearing open the bin bags and rooting for chicken bones. Witching hour early, 3.30am early, not your pedestrian kind of early. Not 6am early. Pah! I spit on 6am.
Before Christmas I had a hideously early wakeup time – 4am – and the night before I could not get to sleep no matter how hard I tried. It didn’t help that I started packing at 11pm and couldn’t decide what to wear to travel to Paris. (Luxury problems, I know.) It was a toss-up between two terrible options; the skinny jeans that garrotte my Pleasure Garden in half with their seam, or the dress that makes my underarms overheat. And the choice of travel attire of course affected all of my other packing, because one option needed a longer coat and the other required a shorter type of coat and the whole debacle sent me into a late-night, overtired tailspin of organisational hell.
Even when I finally got into bed and closed my eyes (the kids woke up twice between 11pm and 1am) I tossed and turned for hours, unable to get comfortable or stop my brain from whirring.
And then after all of the whirring and tossing, I was too hot. Far too hot. This phase lasted for an eternity, roasting my feet and legs even though my shoulders and chest were cold. Which was a worry in itself, as I had a chest infection and we all know you have to keep your chest and back warm! God, you might get pneumonia and die! I’d already tackled death and the depressing certainty of it in the first couple of anxious hours.
It’s that first era of sleeplessness that always kicks everything off, isn’t it? The anxiety era. It starts with the worry of missing the alarm going off, then it moves to the worry of travel in general – things that can go wrong on car journeys, on trains, definitely on planes. After twenty minutes you’ve played out at least eight horrific scenarios involving masked men, suspicious packages, air hostesses with exploding tea trolleys, pilots with a death wish. Then, once you’ve exhausted all possibilities and turned your pillow over to the cool side again, you move onto life in general and all of the things that can go wrong, compiling an almost exhaustive mental list and committing it to memory so that you can refer to it again and again in times when you really need to be getting to bloody sleep.
Anyway, I finally got to sleep at three, but it could have been later because three was the last number I saw on my phone and we all know how time flies when a wake-up call is looming! And then, my friends, guess who sauntered up to the front door HALF AN HOUR EARLY?
The taxi driver. He knocked on the door at four, waking up the dog and then the toddler and then the small child who had until then been peacefully, blissfully slumbering, no worries or hijack scenarios keeping them from their beauty sleep.
I imaginary-throttled the taxi driver. Had I been living in the Georgian times and not merely living in a house from that period, I would have thrown open the bedroom sash, upturned my chamberpot and doused the man with piss. Alas I live in 2020 and we have a toilet. Also, if anyone can “throw open” a Georgian sash window I’ll give them a medal, because it takes about eleven minutes of jostling and joggling just to get them open enough to poke a hand out, even if you’ve had the frames reconditioned and all of the sashes re-weighted. Just saying.
So the kids woke up when the taxi driver knocked and – bizarrely – one child puked and the other did a poo. They were like an effluent-emitting version of a cuckoo clock, pyjama’d kids instead of cuckoos. Cuck-koo-BLEUGH! Cuck-koo-pppppllllllllllop. (That’s the universally acknowledged sound of a poo happening.)
Why could the taxi driver have not just been on time? Why half an hour early? Why knock on the door? It’s not as though we’re short of places to stop and pull over, near us. Yes, it’s dark, yes it can be slightly sinister and the trees look like witches fingers and you might get a bat flying into your windscreen, but for the love of God it’s four o’ clock in the morning! Being early is worse than late, in some scenarios – any decent person knows that. It’s as bad as turning up half an hour early for a dinner at someone’s house – you just don’t do it. They might be shaving their legs, or they could be peeling potatoes; if it’s a couple then they’ll likely be stressed and shout-whispering hateful things at each other, things about divorce and who makes all of the social arrangements and whether chicken past the sell-by date should be thrown away if it smells faintly of cheese.
If you book a taxi for 4.30AM, who in their right mind turns up early? It’s not like 4pm, when the passanger-to-be will most likely be doing that pacing, hand-wringing thing whilst waiting for their chariot to arrive. Daytime passengers are always ready for their car approximately twenty minutes before it’s due: morning passengers are not. Nobody sane chops a full thirty minutes from an already truncated sleep just so that they’ll be ready for a taxi – if you have all of your faculties then you’ll time it to a tee. Wake up, brush teeth, slide into pre-laid-out clothes, quietly creep downstairs and let yourself out of the front door – taxi idling outside, but preferably engine should be off so that you don’t disturb half the world.
You’d think that these would be basic and obvious default settings in life. Mind you, you’d also think that knowing how to pack a suitcase would be, yet I fail each and every time I do it. On this particular trip I managed to pack four different moisturisers yet only one matching pair of shoes – the other pair were both made of the same beige leather but the left foot had a 6cm heel and the right foot was a whacking great 10cm! Oh how I hobbled.
Anyway, those anxiety-fuelled sleepless nights are a total bore, aren’t they? And there’s nothing worse than finally dropping into a deep slumber and then hearing the alarm go off. I should have had one of my Epsom Salt baths (I tip five large mugfuls into a warm tub) but I was too busy hunting my wardrobe for the jeans that would leave me permanently disfigured in the nether regions.
Why don’t they make jeans with a gusset?
PMT has now become a major event in my life every month; for the entire week before my period I really struggle to get anything done at all. I’m confused, fuzzy and I just want to sleep. In PMT week I don’t want to speak at all, I want everyone to go away and leave me alone in a semi-darkened room so that I can variously scroll through The Outnet for things I’ll never buy, Whatsapp my insecurities to people who don’t want to listen and quietly and internally hate on anyone who is posting holiday pictures on Instagram. (Although only if they’re on a beach holiday. I couldn’t care less if they’re “travelling” or snorkelling or doing anything that involves effort, because to me that’s not a holiday.)
My PMT week has become so disruptive that I have downloaded an app to track my periods so that I can be forewarned as to when I’ll be completely useless and potentially dangerous to society; a raging, insecure mess of a woman with a bloated torso that feels like a bargain-basement water bed and a brain that can only function if it is given one simple task at a time.
Writing this is painful, quite frankly. It’s not that I can’t string sentences together, it’s that I have absolutely no motivation to. I just think what’s the point? and this is my default setting for about six or seven days. That’s a quarter of the month! Twenty five percent of my life!
Twenty five per cent of my life spent trying to find my glasses when they are on my head, a quarter of the month spent walking into door handles, dropping heavy books on my feet and writing long mental lists of wrongs that have been done unto me. (Almost all of them entirely fictional.)
The period itself is a walk in the park; I used to get cramps, pre-kids. Cramps no more – barely a twinge. I used to get spots, pre-kids. Now I hardly get any, though that is almost definitely thanks in part to my superb pre-period skincare routine.
No, folks, it’s now the pre-period week that hits me full on in the face; headaches, mood swings and a general feeling of intense pessimism. I’d use the word depression, but I don’t feel as though I know enough about what depression might feel like, and I would hate to reduce or trivialise other people’s experiences, so I prefer “intense pessimism”.
I’ve always had a slightly morbid and overactive imagination, but this kicks into a whole new level when I have PMT. Going to London the next day? I visualise myself being pushed off the edge of the tube platform by an unhinged passerby. Then follows the shocked faces of the people on the platform – a tear runs down the cheek of the kind old gentleman who had tried to help me up using the hook of his umbrella handle, alas too late, and then there’s the mourning scene that always takes place graveside, a la the USA, with (inexplicably) six uniformed military personnel giving an emotional three-volley salute.
(Note to people reading this (hopefully) far in the future – give me another forty years at least if you don’t mind – if my funeral is any less than the above then I shall be frowning down upon you all. I demand lots of tears and full black mourning attire, I also require a lengthy slideshow of my best life moments set to a moving song. Tiny Dancer by Elton John will do it.)
Anyway, see what I mean about morbid? My imagination runs riot. You see a friendly giraffe’s head sticking out over the fence at London Zoo, I imagine myself being mauled by it. Giraffes don’t even maul people! You see a bus, but in PMT week I just see a big red killing machine. I see danger at every corner – in PMT week it’s amazing to me that anyone manages to stay alive.
So yeah, that’s what I’m dealing with. Excuse me if I just want to lock myself in the wardrobe and sleep.
Does anyone else have these particular PMT symptoms? Are there any effective remedies that you’ve tried?
Oh! Good God, I almost forgot the most important and life-disrupting thing that I’ve recently noticed during PMT week: I’m about ten times more likely to get a bout of cystitis. True fact! It has taken me years to realise this, but I started to write down the dates and I almost always get cystitis about three days before my period. The good thing about this revelation is that I can now watch out for it – like a hawk – and do whatever I can to fend it off. I actually have some antibiotics that are specific to treating that type of infection and they are intended to be taken as a precautionary measure (eg after sex, if that’s your usual trigger) and they’ve worked incredibly well so far. In fact the one time I knew I should have taken a tablet, and didn’t, I got a full-blown water infection.
That was a bit of sudden sidenote and perhaps “too much information” – hi Auntie Margaret! – but so many of you commented on my original cystitis post that I thought it was a sidenote worth sharing. Anyway, proceed with your PMT anecdotes and tips, please…