Wednesday 27 April 2011


Still in my pyjamas, ironing school uniform and admiring the precise angle on which last night’s left over washing-up had been stacked tight in the sink, I heard the doorbell. It was 7.30am.  I suspected it would be one of my eldest’s daughter’s friends at the door, asking with a text-book politeness whether we had any porridge oats for the domestic sciences’ flapjack baking later or nail varnish remover for fear of those pink, chipped nails attracting a negative.
But it was better than that, sweethearts that my daughter’s friends are, it was a tiny woman carrying an enormous bouquet of flowers. They were mainly gerberas, happy flowers, I call them; my favourites.  I really didn’t deserve any but gosh, I’d welcome them with open arms.
‘Thank you,’ I said. “You shouldn’t have!’ Granted, it wasn’t my wittiest line but I hadn’t yet had my three cups of tea.  The lady didn’t even flinch, merely continued to search for something in the delivery note.  “Can’t believe they’re for me,” I tried again.  It was a rhetorical question really, my husband not being prone to receiving mysterious bunches of flowers and my children also yet to discover the delights.
The small lady didn’t speak, simply shook her head. ‘They’re for number ten, will you take them for her?’ she asked eventually, more than a little gruffly.
“Oh, right,” I said, “Didn’t think I’d done anything to …”
“Is that alright then?” she asked again.  “I’ve got loads of deliveries this morning,” and thrust a pen and flimsy note into my hand to be signed.
I did take the flowers.  Miranda at number ten was very happy to receive them.  She gave me a single gerbera for my troubles which now has pride of place in an especially rinsed milk bottle on my kitchen window sill.
As I walked back over the road, I thought about the delivery person who was clearly having A Bad Day.  Part of the flower giving is surely to complete the process of making the recipient feel special, rather than wondering why they bothered to get up that morning.  And I decided that, whilst I’d hate to criticise when untold disasters could have befallen the lady before she left her house, there are certain jobs where Bad Days are not allowed and delivering flowers is probably one of them.  Grumpy holiday rep? Not what you signed up to.  Presenters? There’s only one way Chris Evans is getting out of bed at 4 every morning. I’d think I’d feel short changed if the midwife had delivered my babies into my arms and spoken about how fed up she was with the awful place the world was, these days.  And then there are motivational speakers. You never see them in a bad mood, chance would be a fine thing.
Thankfully, I have a job where I can get away with being incredibly grumpy.  I can be absolutely foul to myself and nobody but the study walls and the pc needs to know.  In fact, I’m quite regularly terribly rude to my computer but that’s another story.
How about you? Can you get away with your smile slipping?  Or do you have to wait until you get home for it to droop a little?

Monday 18 April 2011


I’m not very good at watching TV.  Don’t get me wrong, I wish I was, my general knowledge might not be quite so woeful and I might be able to join in conversations about Peter Andre and, errrm, Oojimeflop without being three partners behind.  My problem is that my mind wanders unless a programme is totally enthralling: I am sitting down, the voices in my head point out, and yet I haven’t put the washing on; the ironing basket is exploding and that chapter won’t write itself.  Your choice, the voices shout, but every night you don’t write, is a night further away from publication. 

Before I leave you in total awe of my unfailing dedication to duty and domesticity, I should point out that there are many distractions I manage very well without a single thought for the dishes in the sink.  Just not TV. 

Unless it’s Hustle. 

Hustle is the one programme which entertains me like a book.  It requires single-minded concentration - drift away from that world for a moment and you’ve lost the plot.  The characters are so quirkily intelligent and far-fetched yet strangely down to earth and likeable, their scams are so obvious when revealed, yet so baffling before.

What I never imagined, was that I would have the starring role in an episode of Hustle.

Alas, I haven’t had any contact with the rather gorgeous, Adrian Lester but I have been scammed.  I haven’t lost any money, as I’ve had my £300 returned, but I am a little red-faced.  And my children have delighted in reminding me what I have tried to teach them about who to trust on the net.

I’ve started renting out a property in Slovakia.  I’m a rookie to the business but the hope is that it will eventually increase my current paltry addition to the household income. In short, a company persuaded me to advertise with them.  I paid my £149 for the year and four weeks later, they took another £149 from my credit card. I noticed, the bank investigated and retrieved it. I was lucky. 

Had I heard of the company? No I hadn’t. Was I taken in by the fancy headed paper of the contract, the spurious webpage they made for me, their spiel? Oh yes, yes, yes.  What was I thinking? This particular company are a private holiday letting company, run as a perk for service men, including the police, their particularly slick agent informed me. So, pleasant, reliable people, they know I’ll be thinking. Just the kind of people I’d like to stay in the house – not that I deal in stereotypes, of course. 

Did I google the company? Yes I did.  Did I research under their correct name or the name they’d invented a few days earlier? Ah!  Oh.

I didn’t even follow my gut instincts. I just wasn’t sure initially, I didn’t like being called out of the blue.  But the lack of push from the salesman, and the guarantee that I’d have a second year’s free membership if I didn’t manage a rental in the whole twelve months, persuaded me that it didn’t matter, I had nothing to lose.

I can feel my twelve year old tutting over my shoulder as I write.  Haven’t I learnt anything in my 42 years?  Little of use, would be my answer. I can’t even think who Peter Andre’s going out with. I’ve just tried to google it, but will admit to being none the wiser. 

Have you been hustled? Tell me! I won't laugh...