The Land of Out Out…

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First published in The Portsmouth News, 24th June 2014

Every so often, one of my mummy-mates breaks free and has a night out. And I don’t mean at bingo or one of their other mummy-mate’s houses. I mean they break free until the early hours; they go Out Out.

The latest brave soul to do so was Leanne. Not only did Leanne go to the mysterious land of Out Out, she reported back on her findings too.

By the time you reach your late 30s, the average night out is a meal with friends, or perhaps the odd leaving-do at Gunwharf. We sit around and like to think that we partake of witty and intelligent conversations. We discuss our children’s schooling, we talk about work and our aspirations for the future; it’s the standard chat of mums and dads the land over. But we do not go Out Out.

Out Out involves dancing. Out Out is the land where you have to stand up because there are no seats. Out Out is inhabited by lithe whippersnappers, all misbehaving in precisely the same way you did a decade previously, only with less of a hangover the next morning and the energy to do it all again. The land of Out Out leaves those of us in our late 30s needing a fortnight off work to recover and a glass of water with two paracetamol before bedtime.

Leanne paid close attention to the youngsters whilst she was Out Out. It transpires that the yoof of today dance in a robotic fashion, with much jerky limb movement and a lot of elbow. Worse yet, they seem to be burglarising the sock drawers of pre-school siblings the town over, for on the end of their legs they are sporting frilled ankle socks. Worn underneath jelly shoe clodhoppers no less.

The general mode of dress seems nonsensical and a small part of me did wish that Leanne were hallucinating when she reported back that girls are wearing what appears to be cycling proficiency test attire. The trendsetters are cladding themselves in high-visibility garments in the manner of roadworkers and those of us who made the unfortunate impulse buy of a Fat Willy’s Surf Shack t-shirt whilst on holiday in Cornwall in the late 1980s.

Team all of this with the fact that every male face that I’ve seen this month, past bum-fluff age, is muffled with a great wiry beast of a beard, and I think I’m better off staying In In.




Mummy & Daddy’s Weekend Away… CHILDFREE!

First published in The Portsmouth News, 17th June 2014

Two weeks ago, my husband and I went away for the night, alone and childfree.

We picked our destination carefully and decided to go to Bath for the weekend. The car journey itself was a shock to the system. Not only did we have conversations, we even finished them. We listened to music, not Roald Dahl CDs, and there were no small people in the back trying to stick their heads out of the windows like dogs on motorways.

We strolled around Bath, stopping for drinks and good food, and we took a boat trip down the Avon. We sat in a bubble of sunshine on the top deck, stretching our toes, and admiring the waterside gardens that wound seamlessly into the river.

In the late afternoon, we left Bath and headed to The Muddy Duck pub, in nearby Monkton Farleigh.

After our bags were taken to our room we went to sit in the garden, where we drank glasses of chilled white wine in front of the setting sun. Hot air balloons skimmed in easy silence across the sky, and my husband and I took the rare opportunity to breathe in each other’s company.

Later that evening, we went to the pub’s restaurant and took our time; a forgotten luxury for tired parents everywhere. We read the menu to one another, we shared starters, and we laughed. I won in the Best Pudding stakes, and out of either love or mild inebriation, shared my hot chocolate fondant. It was a perfect night.

The following morning, we slept until 9.30am, and then made our way back to the garden. We shared the Sunday papers surrounded by open fields, and that particular hum of silence that you only associate with the British countryside.

We were served locally-sourced breakfasts and had our coffees refilled by the discreet and attentive staff, and we relaxed. After checking-out, we returned to Bath and did our best to help the local economy: I never could resist an independent clothing or bookshop.

We drove home cutting through the late afternoon sunshine, and buffeted in a cloud of independence. As we crossed our threshold, two little bundles of scruff hurtled towards us and enveloped us in tiny arms: home.

And so, I must say thank you to the fabulous staff of the Muddy Duck, and of course to my lovely mum, who looked after our girls. Between them, they enabled two tired parents to rejuvenate themselves again.





Muddy Buddies

First published in The Portsmouth News, 10th June 2014



Usually if I hear that a month’s worth of rain is predicted for a Saturday morning, I simply raise my brows and tut at the British weather. However, when the Met Office app on my phone displayed a large black cloud with a lightening bolt shot through it, I admit to feeling a tad unnerved.

For Saturday was Race Day. My buddy Jodi and I had entered the Pretty Muddy Race for Life in Winchester. Alas, not a single training run had been completed, and had we tapered our physical activity beforehand, then we would have essentially not left our beds for the week.

Race Day dawned grey and muggy and we jested that the rain was bound to begin the instant that we crossed the start line. We headed up the M27 and soon enough a bolt of lightening shot daggers across the sky: it became apparent that for once, the Met Office had it right.

After parking in Winchester, we walked with our families to the course. Jodi’s husband Dave was as disappointed as mine to spot hundreds of attractive women clad in lycra: the morning was clearly going to prove arduous for them, poor dears.

My choice of white breast cancer t-shirt became patently naive when Jodi and I went to line up for our pre-race warm-up. As predicted, the heavens burst open and thunder rocked the sky. Winchester was soon clad in darkness and I was apparently clad in just my bra, as my t-shirt became swiftly see-through.

With water streaming in our eyes and ears, and lightening crackling overhead, we set off. Over obstacles we went, and underneath others. Picking our way through the army assault course we raced through tyres, over an A-Frame, through tunnels, and underneath rope netting.

The run itself was 3 miles and included a mix of mild incline, field and track. Just as Jodi and I thought that we weren’t too filthy, we rounded a corner only to be confronted by a giant pool filled with mud. “Hands and knees, ladies,” called the marshal, and we dived straight in. We were smothered; mud in our hair, ears, eyes, underwear, toes. Brilliant, fabulous fun!

We ran on and eventually went down the inflatable slide, into another mud bath, before crossing the finish line in fantastic time. We’d run the entire distance, done it in good time, and finished hand in hand. Next stop: Southsea Common 20th July. See you there!




A night out pre-motherhood… & a night out 10 years later.

First published in The Portsmouth News, 03/06/2014.


My average night out, circa 2004, pre-children: Spend two hours minimum preparing self. All external bodily surfaces pummelled with sea salt scrub whilst hands clad in wiry gloves to aid exfoliation. Slather self in scented unguents and apply make-up carefully. Walk through cloud of perfume.

Leave house after a meal consisting of one packet of Walkers’ crisps and a glass of dry white wine. Skip into taxi, sporting high heels, no coat, low-rise jeans and a boned corset. In mid-winter.

Arrive in Gunwharf at 9pm and teeter down to Tiger Tiger. Head to the main bar, consume own body weight in Archers & lemonade, dance to the S-Club 7/Michael Jackson mash-up that was doing the rounds at the time, teeter back out at 2am and head home in another taxi.

Fast-forward a decade: Sneak up the stairs commando-style, back against the wall, eyes rolling madly in head for sightings of the tiny enemy. Once path is clear, dive into bedroom and throw some products at face, whilst dragging a Hello Kitty brush through hair, praying it (both hair and brush) doesn’t contain any living creatures.

Place foot in slipper only to remove it, wincing. Upon close inspection find a small plastic rabbit residing in my slipper, with ears like razor blades. Resolve to write column about the injuries inflicted upon parents via over-priced children’s tat.

Escape from house at 6.15pm. Shut front door on the two weeping daughters that are fighting over ravioli and try to ignore the voice in my head that whispers, ‘You’re letting them eat horse meat. NEIGH!’

Feet are clad in attractive, yet sensibly low, Russell & Bromley wedges. Outfit consists of cardigan (it could be chilly later), and high-waisted jeans (holding stomach in).

Meet friends, Emma and Leanne, and go to bingo.

One bottle of Rose, three plastic glasses, and a packet of Marmite Cheddars later, and we’re sat down and ready to roll. Lose bingo virginity, realise that nobody actually shouts ‘Bingo!’ and get a full house. Sadly I don’t shout loudly enough to be heard by the caller, who just carries on and gives my win to someone clad in a tracksuit.

Walk home, zip up cardigan due to slight chill in air, and discuss after-school clubs. Arrive home at 11.45pm to find husband worried that I’ve been out ‘so late’ without checking in, and make self a cup of coffee and a slice of toast. How times have changed!

When I had time & inclination to add shine spray to my hair...

2002… When I had time & inclination to add shine spray to my hair…