The jerk-off theorem


‘Masturbation’, screeched the doctor. ‘She’s masturbating,” she repeated rolling every sound with nauseating relish. Clearly imparting this type of information was her way of getting off.
Now I love breaking a taboo as much as the next pseudo liberal North London twat- but in this instance my reaction didn’t disappoint. Sputtering I asked what exactly she was on about, and indeed was she talking about my daughter.
‘Well it’s one of the three possibilities,” she proclaimed provocatively. “Excessive daydreaming, MASTURBATION, or absentee seizures.”
Let me take you a step back.
My daughter has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia. We were in hospital because, as part of the exploration of this diagnosis, it has become apparent that she has significant problems with concentration and focus. Her class teacher, the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) and me, her mum, had noticed that she has daily periods of blanks. She seems to completely zone out of her surroundings and then, after maybe just seconds, blinks her way back into the present. Absentee seizures, also known as petit mal, offer one explanation.
This is a condition reasonably common in children that the SENCO was keen for us to rule out. The symptoms are quite difficult to pinpoint. Brief, sudden lapses of consciousness -they often seem like someone is just staring into space for a few seconds. The condition is not life threatening, is normally grown out of, and can be treated with anti-seizure drugs.
All this I was aware of. I was just not expecting the jerk-off theorem.
But keen to rise to the oppressively assertive, sexually liberated, guff-gauntlet being thrown my way, I gamely went forward.
“Achieving this state of bliss would, I presume, require some kind of jigging around?” I queried. “Given that we are talking about my daughter going into complete state of still, verging on unconsciousness I am not sure this applies.”
I could also point out that school SENCO and teachers are trained to spot this type of thing. Children do ‘self-soothe’. If it had been the issue I would have happily let her wank on about it. But given there was no suggestion that this was happening I was keen to discuss the other more likely issues behind these absences. Eventually she did and we were finally able to leave when she signed the necessary forms for us to come back for an EEG.
To be honest this doctor immediately got my back up. She was wearing “look at me I have a personality’ pink Doctor Martin boots and “I may be fifty but I refuse to be invisible” type clothing.
After a brief chat with my daughter she asked me to talk through the conditions that had brought us to her consulting room. Well what she actually said was “So Mummy tell me all about it.”
I know that it doesn’t really matter but there is something about a fully grown women calling me Mummy that really grates. I restrained myself from blowing her nose.
Instead I asked for my daughter to go outside and play with some toys while we had this talk. The doctor refused. “She is not going anywhere. She is seven-years old and it is entirely appropriate for her to be in the room.”
I disagreed and told her that all the information she needed was in the notes from the GP. We found ourselves in a stand-off.
I really felt that this doctor should respect my wishes. I know my child and I am best able to judge what it is appropriate for her to hear. I did not want to frighten her unnecessarily by using words like seizure. I also did not want to explain that family members, fellow parents and her teachers were also all observing her. All of this particularly because no actual diagnosis has been made.
Having asked my girl a few more questions, and realising that I was not going to speak in front of her, she did finally ask her to leave the room so that the adults could talk. It was at this point that she took great delight in screaming “masturbation” at me. It seemed a mean, gratuitous and sensationalist way of putting me back in my place.
With the session finishing our toss technician informed me in her best head girl voice that I was to “head straight back to school now.” I’m not sure where she thought we were heading. To score some penny sweets and have a Peppa Pig marathon. As my daughter confided to me in a quiet voice as we left: “That woman. She sure is crazy”

PS: She has had her EEG and we are waiting for the results. I am looking forward to telling her that she was such a day dreamer we had to have her brain professionally scanned.


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Sexing rat traps


I know that the classic song talks about ten green bottles. I actually discovered 12 green bottles in my basement, but I prefer odd numbers of three, five or seven for the purposes of display. The keener observers of my kitchen floral display may note that there are six green bottles in the photo. That is because my Sainsburys’ sunflowers have such fat stems I could only fit two into the aforementioned, rather copiously, green bottles. Of which I have a number but have, in this instance, utilised six. Good.


Onto rats. We spotted one in the house the other day and, after various shenanigans, managed to trap and remove the blighter. It put me to thinking of ways to sex up rat traps. (I’ve been ill recently and not got out) I wondered if there was scope for making the trap base resemble a surf board or some of of sun lounger. Just to give the rat’s final resting spot a degree of levity. On balance I think I just need to cease all thoughts on sexing rat traps. Amen.

In response to overwhelming reader interest I add one, for now, clarification re the green bottles. Two of the six carry Sainsburys sunflowers. The remaining four hold Waitrose’s skinnier versions. Hence the total of six. Although, as mentioned earlier, in an ideal world it would be seven. Could have done three or five but seemed a waste of flowers.

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Very pleasing dimples


I write this with my arse delightfully parked upon a splenderous thing. My very own garden sofa. It is a joy. My daughter and I sit together and read on it. I have had a little wine tete-a-tete aboard it and even a crafty afternoon kip.
I love that it sits so perfectly alongside my Ikea chairs and side tables, all items resplendant in plastic with drainage holes for rain, and crucially nustles alongside my outdoor fireplace. It also has very pleasing dimples, that cleverly echo a Chesterfield sofa.
Although garden furniture offerings remain, for the most part, pathetically staid and boring, a few retailers are upping their game. I guess it’s a natural result of us poncy middle classes wanking lyrically about turing the garden into an outdoor living EXPERIENCE. Whatever the reason I welcome it.
As with squishy indoor sofas the price points of the outdoor version can vary dramatically. I managed to negotiate a big discount on mine becuase I bought it in January at a trade sale and, as a sample, had to wait until it finished it’s globetrot around Europe. Joyfully it, and some welcome sunshine, arrived last week.

Habitat are selling some very cute outdoor sofas, and are offering 30% off outdoor furniture at the moment.Minaji comes in black and orange, £275.
Black 2 seater garden bench, £275.00

For curves try Kartell Bubble Club Sofa, £613.00,

John lewis, Resol Bob sofa, £600,

Plastic Fantastic, POA,

The very first outdoor sofa that I fell in love with is this concrete Chesterfield by Steve Jones. It is an exact replica of the original squishy leather version, down to creases in the cushions and a 50p coin partly stuffed down the back. Magical. I did get as far as asking how much one was years ago and I recall it was around £1500. Needless to say it remains on my wishlist. For up-to-date pricing contact the guys at

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Gotta love an Asiatic Pheasant

The remodelling of my friend’s elegant Rutland rectory continues apace and currently the kitchen is the focus of attention. Having hoiked out the central island, that had totally dominated the kitchen and left little room for any design manevres, the family now sit at a central table leaving lots of expanse to flow around the room. Crucially is also frees up valuable wall space for an antique oak dresser- bought from a local auction house.

My friend absolutey loves the designer Ben Pentreath’s style, a clever combination of classical English tradition with a modern twist. The plan is to paint the kitchen out in a earthy yellow colour and have the dresser decked out in classic blue and white china. The top level, and the most hard to reach, will house some lovely decorative antique plates. including the classic willow pattern, popular in 18th century England.
For the remainder I am going to suggest sticking with the blue and white theme, to keep the look slick and modern, but to incorporate modern and traditional designs. Sort of like the marriage of the house and its occupants, this mix reflects the fact that this is a period property housing a modern family.
I think as a base you need eight or so simple identical plates to stop the thing looking like a hot mess. For this I love either the canteen style from Fairmont & Main at SCP or the Cornish plates from John Lewis. Then you can add on individual extras, such as the beautiful weather plates designed by Faye Toogood from Rockett St George, the blob from Habitat and the classic Burleigh Asiatic Pheasant. I also LOVE adding the ‘fish n chip’ plate from the National Gallery.
Keeping it real with a family of four small boys, all plates below the top level are dishwasher an microwave safe.


Cornishware Dinner Plates
£56.00, set of four

Burleigh Asiatic Pheasants Plates, Blue
£9.00 – £14.50

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion Eliza Dinner Plate


Marimekko Weather Diary Plate, Dia.25cm

All above



Indigo Storm Collection by Faye Toogood – 10 inch Plate £15.95,

Habitat Blot Blue patterned dinner plate, £10.00,

Fish and Chips Plate, £32.00,

Canteen dinner plate, Fairmont & Main, £8.00,

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Rocking the Rolser

I must address one of the most pressing issues facing fashionable women of a certain age in Muswell Hill. Old women’s shopping trolleys. There is no doubt that the jury is out on the merits of the portable shopping trolley, but in a post-pram world who is the idiot? The lady with the rolser or the lady who repeatedly pops to the shops for two items and returns with six heavy carrier bags, limited blood suppply below the wrist and mild to moderate lower back pain?
I had always considered these perambulating bags to be the preserve of the Nora Batty generation but in a curious, and seemingly localised phenomenon, the well-dressed, fashion savvy sisters of Muswell Hill are rocking the Rolsers in their numbers.
My initial reaction of horror gave way to curiosity and in a recent shocking development I found mysef buying a cheapo version of the Rolser from Ikea. Three weeks have passed and I have not left the house with my wheelie wonder. The implications of it’s first public outing are building in my mind. I truly feel that once I physically cross the threshold of the house and go into the public arena with this trolley it will mark a seminal physical and pyscological moment of my life. The abandonment of vitality, child-bearing capibilities and spontaneity and an ushering in of papery hands, wide fit shoes and receding gums.
I have asked my fashionable rollster toting mum mate to accompany me on my virgin voyage. I think it may have to be a night time excursion by way of a public hostelry. So if you see a pissed woman on the Hill, erratically wheeling a shopping trolley late at night, please give me a wave. It will boost morale and soften the blow of impending old age and death.

Aplogies for the hound’s long silence. I got temporarily absorbed in a couple of projects but I am now straining at the designer leash to release random ramblings.


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Deadheading geraniums, the new rock ‘n’ roll


As the funksters next door rocked back from their marathon Hackney clubbing session, at about 4pm one Sunday afternoon, they caught me in the act of attending to my window boxes. “Just deadheading the geraniums” I chirruped like a classic middle-class tosser. “It seems the sex, drugs and rock n roll years are far behind me,” I continued unnecessarily.
Funkster DJ was kind enough to listen politely to my eulogy on the joys of a decent geranium, their longevity, ability to flower profusely and general bang for buck. I like to think the whippersnapper actually learnt something in our brief exchange. Even if it was how quickly childbirth seems to age a woman.
Anyway back to window boxes. For me they brighten your entrance and welcome guests into your home.
I have chosen some bright orange Habitat planters for outside our house. They seem to blend beautifully with the Jaffa hues of my Victorian pathway and indeed bring out the warmth of my gravel. Clever little buggers. I planted them out with correspondingly happily-hued orange primulas and I have to say that they lift my spirits.

At our old house I had taken the plunge and painted the outside window frames and details black. I then bought six revolting polka-dot lime green cup and saucer plant holders from BHS and painted them out in the same Farrow and Ball Pitch Black.

I liked the sort of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ connotations of these cups of geranium. Unfortunately so did the playful little scrappers of Archway and over the course of six months most of my planters were nicked. I would love to say that this crime uncovered an inert but innate design consciousness amongst the local crime fraternity, Sadly I think it was just Archway kids nicking stuff from poncy North Londoners.
Having had the majority of my window box stash stolen I resorted to cheeful red designs from Ikea. I planted red geraniums and come Christmas I adorned these boxes with red stars from Ikea.

Here are some other window boxes to inspire you.

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Planters on the market now.

Anthroppolgie, Kerio Window Pot, £18-£28,


Graham and Green, rabbit planter, £50,


Rockett St George, Concrete Brogue Shoes Plant Pots, £44,


Ikea planter, £4,


Habitat, Rhode planter, £20,

Small pink fibreglass window box plante£20.00

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Magical Walnut Mini Worlds


Some people look at Walnuts and think Christmas, a loaf cake or Floridian pensioners who have failed to apply effective sunscreen protection. Ruth Brickland looks at them and sees magical mini-worlds. I want to be part of Ruth’s world.
Ruth is a a potter, embroiderer and creative curator. Working in ceramics, textiles and mixed-media, she creates a variety of artworks including these magical walnut miniatures. She says: “The walnuts are tiny worlds within a nutshell.They contain figures depicting characters or stories, real and fictional, that are in someway special to me. I like to think that they move around when my back is turned. Sometimes it seems that if you peered into a walnut for too long you might walk into it.”

How utterly delightful. Ruth describes herself as a magpie, who loves both folk art as well as being inspired by extravagant works of art including Renaissance, Baroque or Victorian Naturalistic silver and gold works of art. I suppose this is why her walnuts are so unexpected, unique and evocative. I did a double take when also reading that she particularly loves to sketch Victorian Staffordshire ceramics. I am really beginning to think that I have unlocked a crucial evolutionary bond that will lead me to people I will like. We need to form a “Mutual Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Appreciation Society.” Obviously with crowd control.

Ruth says that she is inspired by folk art, where perhaps slightly unexpected, but readily available materials, are used with unusual results. This is exactly what the Staffordshire potters were doing in the Victorian period. The Staffordshire hounds, or Wally dogs, bit of an obsession for me (see previous posts including Bring Back the Staffordshire Hound) were often decorated by workers, that included children, using fairly primitive materials such as sand and rock. Ruth uses sand, glittered sand, shells and dried moss amongst other materials to decorate her mini-worlds.
I think that part of the charm of these Walnuts is that they make me feel like a child again. They remind me of the smell of powdery rose scent, the charm of little objects and the joy of hiding things in the garden.
Ruth says: “The idea that magical things can happen in secret, amidst our real world is one of the main reasons that I am drawn to puppets, snow domes, nativities, dolls houses and ships in bottles. They seem to have the  potential to animate themselves. It is from my desire to create magical worlds on a tiny scale that the walnuts arose.”

See her work at

My voyage of discovery to Ruth came about when I found a stash of old ‘World of Interior’ magazines in a local charity shop. I never quite know when the conditions will be right, but when that evening comes, I pour myself a glass of red wine, in a beautifully heavy old Italian glass goblet, light a real log fire and explore these interior treasure troves. Whilst absorbing the grandeur and glory of inspiring homes, I also wonder about the provenance of these magazines and imagine that whoever they came from they inhabited a very special interior. I wonder how they came to be in the charity shop. Death is the most obvious answer, or more prosaically a good clear-out. But I like to wonder if perhaps a doomed love affair led to a dramatic departure from the delightful environs of Muswell Hill, and the original owner can now be found in the outer perimeter of the Peruvian Cordillera Huayhuash, blowing engraved glass cameos with a band of artisan sheep-shit creatives. After all, life is there for the taking.

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Mum mates


This is an ode to the joy that is my fabulous mum friends. My fellow pram-pushers, nose-wipers, burp-bringer-uppers. I have got to know these incredible women over the past six years, ever since my firstborn started nursery, and they are a constant source of joy, inspiration, compassion and laughter. I feel incredibly lucky that I can make friends like this amidst the madness of modern motherhood.
Gate mates, mum mates, mum friends, whatever you call them, these are the people that can act like a lifeline in the constantly changing demands of life and new parenthood. In a few snatched minutes of the morning and afternoon, they are often the people who can become most acquainted with events in your life.
This relationship can be a slow burn, but close your eyes and six years have passed and these are the friends who have shared seminal moments of your life.
From a new haircut, cancer scares and house moves to child ailments, pre-birth wax arrangements, parental bereavement, redundancy and homework, to vasectomy timing, depression and what constitutes a decent Cesar salad. Together we can deal with all of this and more.
Topics we have discussed include do pubes go grey? When is the best time and how do you tell your children the facts of life? Catchment areas for schools!!! How to juggle a career and parenthood? The merits of a gamine haircut.
Contrary to the myth that seems to pitch stay-at-home mums against working mums, I have never found this to be an obstacle to friendship. I just want up-for-a-laugh mum, tell-it-how-it-is mum and I-trust-you-with-my-child-and-therefore-my-life-mum.
In many ways it does feel a bit funny making new friends at this stage of your life. Probably the last time you experienced this kind of social pressure/experimentation was when you were a child yourself in the school playground or maybe at university. It can feel quite daunting entering a playground where you know no one and playdates can feel like mini dates for the adults too.
But in many ways this is a great time in your life to make friends. By your thirties you have hopefully worked out your style, taste in music and basic moral compass. You have shed a lot of youthful bullshit and appreciate time spent with good people. I love that my Mum is still making friends in her sixties.
Inspired by my daughter’s recent homework I have written a Kennings poem, rather than an ode, for my fabulous mum mates. A Kennings poem is a riddle made up of several lines of kennings to describe something or someone.

Joy creators
Cheer leaders
Belly laughers
Truth tellers
Solace providers
Sense sharers
Compassion givers
Tosser spotters
Party makers
Drink pourers
Idea suppliers
Blog subscribers
Hug squeezers
Giggle inducers
Boob squashers
Ear benders
Constructive critics
Fashion stylers
Interior admirers
Mood enhancers
Kid sitters
Ailment advisors
Plaster donators
Secret conferrers
My saviours

NB It sounds like I am ignoring my very dear childhood friends, school friends and university friends, but they are sensible enough to know that a Kennings ditty is also due to them. Now there’s something to look forward to…

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Parent/ teacher relations. NB no micro shorts allowed


I vividly remember one parent teacher evening watching the startled expression of the young form mistress as a Dad arrived. Resplendent in micro cycling shorts, he sat himself down in one of the kids mini-chairs, pulled his knees up to his chin, and gave her a frankly biologically detailed view of the physiology of his knackers. How she managed to remain focused on phonics amazes me, but the lady deserved a medal. Navigating parent/teacher evenings, and that communication with your children’s teachers, is one of the many new relationships that parenthood springs upon you.
If you are not part of the teaching profession then, like me, the last time you interacted with this crowd was probably when you were wearing big gym knickers and knee high socks.
I find myself sort of regressing in the face of these memories. Despite the fact that you revisit this relationship a fully-formed adult, with a lifetimes of experiences and knowledge, the undeniable thought persists. That teachers are not human. When I bumped into some my children’s teachers in the pub I was a painful mix of mortified and weirdly over-excited. When I saw the deputy head in the supermarket I adopted a sort of Cold War spy-style crouching manoeuvre behind some lemons and then, when spotted, became incoherently implausible as to why I was head-butting lemons.
When a new head introduced the practice of addressing teachers by their first names the playground rang loud with grown-up sniggers as we battled to call Mr Anderson- Mark with a straight face.
I can only imagine the staffroom conversations centring around why ‘so many middle-aged women were behaving like giggling teenage morons.’
Equally at the other end of the scale I found myself adopting Victorian-era patois when attempting to discuss a new boyfriend with one female teacher, who was at most seven years younger than me.
“How lovely. And you long have you been courting this young man” I found myself asking, in my best impression of a Bronte sister on an uptight day.
There is also the obstacle course that is teacher gift giving. Our current primary school parent teacher association asks for one annual donation from parents. This covers all teacher gifts, a total bargain at £25/year. It completely removes the strain of trying to be thoughtful, creative and impressive with £10. The alternative, which is what we did at their first primary school, is to go it alone or club together with other parents.
General good bets are John Lewis vouchers, a book, bottle of wine or flowers. Not wildly original but generally acceptable.
Be careful if you go off-piste. I remember the snort of derision from one (very wise) mum when she overheard a group of us discussing the etiquette of buying one young teacher a T-shirt and socks for Christmas. “Socks are practically pants. It’s just not acceptable,” she said emphatically.

If you think all this fuss is absurd be grateful that you are not in the the private sector. One local private primary school’s head had to step in, as once again competitive parents, raised the bar on teacher gift giving just a notch too high. In particular she referenced the gifting of a Chanel 2.55 handbag, RRP £2,500, that was closely followed by another family offering a teacher return tickets and a two week stay in the family villa in the Caribbean.
It is important to to form a decent relationship with these people that have such an important, influential and hopefully positive impact on your young children’s lives. But no good teacher can be bought. They just want them in school on time, potty trained with an aptitude to learn. Chanel- always a bonus. Perhaps a nail varnish next time.

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Controlled courting


“Now that is the perfect sofa for four people who don’t get on” quipped my hilarious older brother, on spying the Victorian magnificence that has recently graced our living room.

He was referring to the new joy in my life that is my conversation sofa.
I discovered that this little beauty is officially known as a borne. This is defined as a round or oval ottoman or sofa, often with a tall cylindrical back support. It first appeared around the 1850’s during the reign of Napoleon III. These seats were popular because they created a visual spectacle and allowed several people to sit around and chat. The borne was widely used in grand foyers by the Victorians and often had a flat shelf on it’s back to support a large urn for flowers or greenery.

I have been on a quest for one of these for donkeys, although they tend to come up for sale rarely and then at Bonhams’ auction house for many thousands of pounds. This fetchingly faded pink number was, as I told my husband, an absolute bargain on ebay. And that is all he needs to know.

Here are some others. I just love them. They are pleasingly curvaceous, squishy and decorative. Wonder what that reminds me of….

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My conversation seat is actually composed of four separate seats that easily come apart, perfect if I am having a little soiree that requires extra seats. Posh or what.
Next up on my wish list is a Victorian love-seat, known also as a courting bench, kissing bench or tete-a-tete seat.

images a_victorian_walnut_conversation_sofa_circa_1880_upholstered_by_robert_d5362888h 21faeaeec21b652e3aeb5e1a474c4ad0

What these chaps have in common is that they typically have an S-shaped backrest, resulting in two opposite facing seats with a shared armrest between them. In the era of Victorian prudence this was considered very fashionable and practical, allowing couples to sit closely, face-to-face, whilst keeping a modest barrier between them. Controlled courting at its best. Better ship one in before the kids hit their teens.

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