Category: Family (page 2 of 3)

Hooray, hooray, the first of May. Again.

Today – as young Bren was keen to point out to me, ridiculously early this morning – is my birthday.

So, how old am I?

Very old.

At least, that’s what my kids are always telling me.

But, age is just a number, apparently.

However, it’s a number that my head disagrees with and my knees complain about… constantly.

I do exhibit many of the tell-tale signs of advanced age, though:

I have no idea what is number 1 in the charts and I doubt I would recognise many of the artists. The best decade for music, of course, was the eighties.

We all know that.

I have no idea about many of today’s ‘celebrities’ – they’re just unfamiliar faces on the front page of the tabloids, as far as I am concerned.

And I fondly remember sloppy disks; diskettes; Compact Cassettes ; VHS, Betamax and Video 2000; Laser Disks; Walkman(s); Fred Housego; Anneka Rice; Kenneth Williams; The Goodies and Bless This House; Stingray and Joe 90 and much, much more.

Better times, I reckon.

Maybe.

The times they are… have changed

“Learn anything good at school today?” is a question I ask the kids almost every night when I get home from work.
Most of the time, they can’t remember what they learnt and reply just with a surly grunt.

“Learn anything good at school today?” I asked thirteen year-old Harry, when I got in, this evening.  “Yep”, he replied promptly. “I learnt how to put a condom on”.
Well, that stopped me in my tracks, I can tell you.

“That’s, er, good” I said, trying to look unfazed and be cool about it. “I take it you didn’t actually put one on, but used a banana or cucumber?”

“Oh no”, he replied, “we used a dildo” Again, that stopped me in my tracks and I decided to leave it there.  The current Mrs Masher, however, was keen to hear more and pushed for more details.

“Well, we also learnt about various sexual diseases, like…” and he rattled off the names of several STDs.

“Anything else?”, Mrs M asked.

He thought for a moment. “Oh yeah, they showed us a femidom and showed us how that should be used and also, they showed us a plastic sheet that you put over your bum if you want to have anal sex.”

I got up out of the chair and went to make a cup of tea, leaving Mrs M to continue the interrogation.

I can remember the sex education that we got at school, back in nineteen filthy-lie. 
We were made to watch a video (a short film on a projector, as it was back then) in a darkened school hall, where we all giggled as naked pictures of men and women were shown to us, each with arrows pointing out their respective sexy bits.
Then, back in the classroom, we were all allowed to ask just one related question – anonymously, to save any embarrassment – by writing it on a piece of paper for the teacher to read out. I can’t remember exactly what my question was… something to do with breasts.

But I do remember the teacher reading it out and then looking straight at me as he answered it! 

And I remember going bright red with embarrassment.

I think I would have just curled up and died, if I’d been told to put a condom on a dildo!

Birthday girl(s)

Today is Amelia’s birthday.
She’s fifteen years old.
Crikey! Where did that go?
I can remember writing about her birth on this very blog – albeit in its previous guise – and it doesn’t seem all that long ago.
But it was.
Fifteen years.

Last week, the dog had her first birthday.
She’s one.
And yet, it seems like we’ve had her forever.

Memory is a strange thing.

Watching paint dry

I mentioned last month that we had finished decorating Amelia’s bedroom.

Well, now we have almost finished doing Harry’s.

Similar to Amelia’s, he has new fitted wardrobes; new carpet; a new bed and new furniture.

And it all looks very nice.

But there is one thing we have recently discovered, during our decorating activities.

Mrs M always used to help out with the decorating, but the bulk of it was always done by myself. 

That has now swapped around.

Because, it turns out that Mrs M is actually a pretty good decorator and, though it pains me to admit it, her painting skills are much better than my own.

I’ve tried slapping it on quickly and I’ve tried putting it on slowly, but however I try it, I always seem to get runs and drips when glossing the woodwork. Doors, especially.

But Mrs M’s doors are always pristine: evenly covered and not a run in sight. It’s quite annoying, actually.

But, it’s an annoyance I am happy to put up with, because it means I don’t have to do it.

And, much as I hate decorating in general, my ego is quite pleased that I still have the edge when it comes to doing the wallpapering.

Doggy Style

Having a dog again has made a significant difference to my life.

Some good differences and some not so good.

Of course, overall, the good outweighs the bad, or we wouldn’t bother having a dog.

Just like with kids, I s’pose.

There are the negatives:

  • like having to take her out for a walk twice a day, whatever the weather
  • or not being able to go out visiting people so much, because we always “have to get back for the dog”
  • or being woken in the early hours because she’s growling at someone who had the temerity to just walk past the house
  • or every coat that I own having all the pockets permanently stuffed with poo bags

But there are also positives:

  • like taking her out for a walk twice a day –  if it wasn’t for that, I’d probably just be lounging on the sofa watching telly 
  • or not being able to visit people – sometimes that can be a blessing
  • or being woken up because she’s growling – let’s face it, twice she has been proven right
  • or every coat that I own… actually, I haven’t found a positive for that one yet.

Caveat Emptor

We all get spam emails.
And occasional nuisance calls.

Mrs M has been subjected to these recently and has been treating them with the disdain that we all do.

Except, it turns out that these have all been coming from one company. A firm of debt collectors, who yesterday, finally managed to get hold of her.

Why should this be?

Well, 14 months ago, she bought something online – can’t remember what, or from where.

As a thank-you for buying from them, this company offered Mrs M a free pot of face cream… all she had to pay for was the P&P – £3.99, so she accepted and sent off her money, via credit card.

A short while later she received the face cream.  It was from a company called RegenesLift.

It was alright; nothing special, but fine for 4 four quid.

Mrs M put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

And then she changed banks.

It was shortly after this that she started getting the calls and mails, but she didn’t connect them with anything, so she just ignored them.

The calls, she ignored: not recognising the number and assuming them to be PPI or some rubbish like that.

The mails and texts mentioned that she should contact them at her soonest as her “account was overdue”.
Very spam-like, so she ignored those too.

But – to cut a long story short – it turns out that  the face cream offer had some small-print attached in the Terms & Conditions  at the bottom of the website, that stated that by accepting the free offer, she was agreeing to having money debited from her account each month for further supplies of face cream.  I hasten to add that no extra pots of face cream were ever received. If they had, we might have been alerted to what was going on.

Fortunately, she had changed her a bank account straight after, so the company (American, btw), had failed to debit her further.

But what they did do, was hand it over to a debt collector to sort out. The debt collector told Mrs M that she now owed £390.00.

Three hundred and ninety quid!

For face cream that she never received and never asked for.

Mrs M spoke to various people, including the Financial Ombudsman, who was incredibly helpful, as he was already aware of this particular rip-off as many others had similarly complained.

A quick web-search has thrown up several sites exposing this as a scam, such as this one.

Anyway, after some hasty email exchanges between all parties, Mrs M has had her “account” closed with the American company and the debt collector (whose website mysteriously disappeared a few hours later) agreed to stop chasing her for money.

 A result in the end for Mrs M, but I wonder how many others didn’t fair so well.

Nobody reads the small-print, do they?

Maybe we need to start giving it at least a cursory glance.

Painting the Forth Bridge

I think I mentioned earlier that we are in the throes of decorating Amelia’s bedroom.

It’s just about finished and it looks wonderful. She is well chuffed.

And so she should be: new fitted wardrobes; new carpet; new furniture; new bed; new lights; new everything.

It’s cost a small fortune, hence no holiday this year.

And now that it’s finished, we get to start on Harry’s room next month. Hurray!

Of course, I’m damn sure that once those two bedrooms are looking all spick and span, Mrs M will want ours doing, to match.

That just leaves my playroom (AKA Masher’s Man Cave) and the bathroom to be done, so that the whole of upstairs is all fresh and lovely.

Of course, if you are going to do all the upstairs, then…

And repeat.

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

I didn’t buy her a laptop in the end, because she changed her mind.

So instead, I spent ages trudging up and down the shopping mall, before eventually deciding that I probably wouldn’t go far wrong with a substantial gift card from Debenhams.

Well, it’s the thought that counts.

And I thought “That’ll do.”

Anyway, she seemed happy enough with it.

We went to the pictures in the afternoon, to see the latest Marvel epic and then followed that up with a meal. Well,  a Nando’s.

At least, that was the plan.

It all started going wrong when Mrs M booked the tickets.  We turned up for the 3:45 showing – a little late, due to Amelia hobbling slowly all the way from where I had parked the car… more on that later – only to find that Mrs M had actually booked the 2:45 showing.  Oops. There’s 32 quid down the drain. So, we spent another 32 sovs and booked for the 4:45 showing and had a coffee whilst we waited.

The film – The Black Panther – didn’t really work for me… not the best from the Marvel canon, in my opinion. And Mrs M didn’t enjoy it at all.

Afterward, I said that I would leg it back to the car and drive it down to save Amelia hobbling all the way.  I expected them to wait at the bottom of Alma Street, which which was the route we had taken when we walked from the car. When I got there, there was no sign of them.

I rang Mrs M. No answer.

I rang Amelia. No answer.

I rang Harry. No answer.

I drove round again, ringing them as I went.

No answer.

I parked the car and walked back to the cinema entrance. No sign of them. I rang again. No answer.

I walked back to the car and drove back up to where I had originally parked it, just in case. No sign of them. I rang again. No answer.

Not knowing what to do, I just kept driving around and ringing… and getting annoyed. What’s the point of them all having phones if I can’t get hold of any of them?!

Eventually, Mrs M answered.  “Where are you?” she asked, “we’ve been waiting ages”  Arrgghh!

“Never mind me, where are you?” I shouted.

Well, you can’t park at the front, so we walked round to the left, to make it easier for you”

“You went left?  Oh, OK, well I wasn’t expecting that. Just stay there, I’ll drive round” and I hung up. I was not happy. Why had she gone left when the obvious direction to take was right: back toward where the car was parked?

With the one-way system, it took me a little while to get there. There was no sign of them. I rang again.

Where are you?” asked Mrs M.

“Me? Where the bloody hell are you? I’m at Guildford Street now.”

“What are you doing there? I’m at Alma Street”

“But you said you turned left”

“Yeah, I did. I turned left and now I’m at the junction with Alma Street”

“To get to Alma Street, you’d have to turn right when you come out of the cinema!”

“Well, I turned lef… no, you’re right, I did turn right.” Aarrgh!  “You wait there, I’ll come to you”

“No you won’t! You bloody wait there!!”

I drove back round to Alma Street and saw them waiting… right where I was expecting them the first time round, twenty minutes earlier.

We drove home in silence.

When we got home, Amelia was in tears. She had stubbed her toe quite badly on her bedside cabinet on Saturday and it went a bit purple. But now it was really hurting her and it had gone black, purple and red and was quite badly swollen. Mrs M decided it would have to be a trip up the hospital. Just what you want at 8 o’clock on a Sunday night.

Four hours later, she returned home, with Amelia hobbling behind her. X-rays had confirmed a cleanly broken little toe.

Ouch.

Best Birthday ever?

Probably not.

Gift Horse

Next weekend is the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

And what does one get for the girl who has, well… me?

Darned if I know.

I can’t get her chocolates, because she’s on a diet.

I can’t buy her clothes because… well, she’s on a diet and what fits now might not fit later.

I can’t get her a 21 piece socket set with a ½ inch drive reversible ratchet,  because I got her one of those for Christmas.

So, I asked her: “What would you like me to get you for your birthday, Mrs M?”

Even she struggled with that one! I was expecting a list of options, but no.

After some thought, she said she wanted a laptop.

A laptop? Now THAT I can do!

I wonder if I should get her a pink one or a white one.

Knowledge Is Power

I don’t mind admitting that, when I was young, I was a bit of a swot.

I loved reading and I loved learning from reading.

Even if I were reading a storybook (a novel, in adult parlance), I would generally learn something. 

About the world.

About nature.

About humanity.

Something.

Many times, I would just learn a new word. I loved learning new words and would often take two books to bed with me: a novel and a dictionary – so I could look up any words I didn’t understand.

It’s no idle boast that as a young teenager, I easily had the largest vocabulary in my family.

My parents bought me a small set of encyclopaedias – I remember they had purple covers – and they took pride of place on my bookshelf.  I’m pretty sure that I read them from cover to cover more than once, over the years.

On a Saturday, I would go into town on the bus and would spend a happy couple of hours in the Town Library… just reading anything that took my fancy or – more often than not – looking up something that I’d heard or read about and just felt I needed to know more.

Once I started work, I never had the time so much, to go into the library. More than that, my thirst for knowledge became more immediate: if I wanted to know about something, I wanted to know about it now! And so, I spent over a thousand pounds on a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

A beautiful set of books and, undoubtedly, the best repository of knowledge that money could buy… at the time.

I kept them for years.

And then Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

A game changer.

In an amazingly short period of time, all the major knowledge houses had their encyclopaedias or dictionaries and the like, online. Even Microsoft got in on the act with it’s own encyclopaedia: Encarta, which, to be fair, was really very good.

And then, of course, we got Wikipedia – another game changer… because it was free.

Nowadays, just about anything you want to know (and at any time you want to know it), is available somewhere online. For free. It’s bloody fantastic!

And, at Amelia’s Parent’s Evening, last night, the teachers were extolling the virtues of several websites, aimed specifically at helping kids with their education, by providing online, extra-curricular lessons and teaching.

Wow! If I’d had all this when I was their age, maybe I would have done better at school than I did.

Maybe I’d have gone on to university and made a huge success of my life.

Or maybe I’d have been a winner on The Chase.

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