The Curious Case of Sherlock Holmes And A Mum’s Missing Career

It is a Tuesday. The rain is streaming down Baker Street. Still warm horses are steaming gently, their cab drivers sheltering under rough-hewn cloaks, chewing baccy and waiting for fares. Mrs Hudson has let me in and I climb the stairs in anticipation of meeting the great Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant, Dr John Watson.

I have come to interview Sherlock as my private detective in the case of “The Missing Career Opportunity”. His is one of the keenest minds of the last century and, since I have a time traveller’s railcard, there is no other applicant so worthy of an interview to help me find the job I have in mind.

The sad wailing of the Stradivarius greets me.  The great man looks me up and down with some disdain. There is a moment’s pause whilst he meditates on my somewhat bedraggled appearance.

” I see,” he says, nodding to Dr Watson to begin note-taking, “that you have recently travelled a path most dank and wearisome; your coat is cut to suit a woman of much smaller stature and there is an indescribable stain on your left collar”.

I am amazed by these revelations.  “Yes,” I concede, “I have travelled via First Great Western’ Steam Service from Cardiff and purchased this garment at Ye Olde Ebay.  The stain owes much to a toxic substance known as “Ribena”.  Mrs Hudson winces and retreats to the kitchen to prepare a brew of good, iron coloured British tea. Sherlock has his back to me and is toasting his knees against the open fire. When he turns around, his trousers are smoking slightly. “Well, I just hope it was the tooth kind variety”, he opines.

Mrs Hudson appears with a plate of cakes. Decent sized cakes made with real ingredients (in defiance to her own arch-nemesis, the evil Mrs Kipling). “Now,” says Sherlock, “what is this case, this so urgent case that requires my deductive genius and undeniable powers of observation?”. “Sherlock,” says Dr Watson, “your knees are on fire”.  After much flapping of today’s copy of The Times, Sherlock throws himself into a winged armchair and steeples his fingers.  His bright blue eyes are piercing.

“It is the case”, I say, feeling the emotion welling up, “of the missing career opportunity”. “Then, tell all you must,” says Sherlock and he closes his eyes to listen to the sorry tale I have come to relate.

“Some six years ago,” I begin, haltingly, I had a job. Not just a job. I thought of it as a career.  I worked in marketing for lawyers“. A frisson of mild horror vibrated around the room. I continued. “I had worked for many years to establish myself, a humble woman, as a trusty team member, a purveyor of ideas, a steady pair of hands and someone who never shirked from buying cakes”.

Sherlock snored gently. Mrs Hudson whacked him with The Times.

“Then, I… well… I”, “Go on” shouted the great man, “relay all! I am ready to hear”.  “Well, I said, I had a baby. Planned. Twice. And then, I became a stay at home mother“.  “This is indeed a serious case”, said Sherlock,  “the wilful throwing away of cakey-fied employment but, if I may be so bold, it’s not really up to Moriarty’s standard, is it?”

“Oh ho,” I say, feeling my dander rising, “You think not?  Do you know what happens to women like me trying to return to a job market awash with frisky young graduates, all with 10 A* levels?  Do you know how many decently paid temporary jobs there are left for mothers?  Do you know (by this point I am feeling an approaching fit of the vapours), HOW MUCH CHILDCARE COSTS????.

“Mrs Hudson, the gin“, shouts Sherlock, clearly well versed in the universal language of tear-sodden mothers at 4 pm.  I am braced by the aroma of Juniper.  Sherlock gets his pipe out and stuffs it full of something herbal and mysterious.  After the quarter pin of gin, I can no longer feel my feet.

“Your case is simple to solve”.  proclaims Sherlock.  “and you yourself are the criminal here”.  “What??” I say, gripping the arms of my chair since the room has started to swim slightly. “Indeed, Madam”

“Now Holmes,” says Dr Watson, “be gentle, she has to get back on that train”.

“Your crime is simply this – you have underestimated your own talent, dedication and hard work. You do a disservice, Madam, to all those for whom you worked before, who trained you, advised you, encouraged you and ate your cakes. Is it right that their investment should be cast asunder for all time?  No! You must take steps to put matters right”.

By this point, I am feeling vaguely ashamed. “Take steps, Madam” shouts Holmes, “take steps to right this injustice”. “How?” I ask, “Tell me, Mr Holmes, what should I do?  What can I do?  My children are young and I am cruelly constrained to be free only between 10 am and 3 pm”.

Sherlock picks up his violin. Its mournful tones fill the hazy air. Ignoring the fact that the music sounds uncannily like the theme from Coronation Street,  I prepare myself to receive the Holmesian wisdom needed to purchase my liberty.

“You must contact a strange and mystical organisation. They call themselves a “recruitment agency”. They are agents of employment; they help horse-mongers, philatelists, brewers and peelers, nannies and nursemaids and those whose interests are secular and scientific” says Holmes.  “Slow down,” mutters Dr Watson.  “How can I be expected to write that fast with a fountain pen?” Sherlock glares at him.

“You must face your fear. You must…” and here Sherlock stands and returns to toasting his charred knees in front of the fire, “stop making excuses”.

Snatching the pen from Dr Watson’s hands, he scribbles what can only be a clue of momentous importance on the back page of “The Times”. You will need this!”, he tells me, handing over a scrap of newspaper. I look at it.  “Henry Ford builds an assembly line for Model T Fords” I read.  Holmes snorts.  “The man is clearly mad.  No – look again”.  I stare hard at the paper. My eyes are swimming, my head is pounding and the air is full of a miasma of herbal fumes, gin and fondant fancies (without the annoying paper cases).

And suddenly, there it is – the clue I have been looking for – in the great man’s scrawl – “The Revamp-A-Mum Recruitment Agency – We Don’t Pay a Maxi-Mum the Mini-Mum”.

It strikes me at this point that the interview I have come to conduct has not gone the way I planned.  I have been roundly trounced in the questioning stakes.  I have learned little about the great man but, it seems, he has learned much about me.  Somehow, Sherlock has solved the mystery without my needing to employ him.

“Mr Holmes”,  I stammer,  “You have completed the assignment for which I required your help without us discussing fees.  I will contact this recruitment agency of which you speak. I feel you should be justly rewarded for your perspicacity”.

Once again, Holmes steeples his fingers and regards me with some amusement.  “There is one matter, nay one question, one confirmation of a future truth that you can give me”.

I breathe in, in anticipation at what this matter could possibly be.

“I had a dream, a vision”  (at this point Mrs Hudson stares hard at the smoking green fug emanating from Holmes’ pipe),  “that in the next century to come, all communication will be by means of an Apple”.

How could I disappoint him?  The truth needed to be told.  “It is true”.  I say. Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson look at me as if I am madder than Moriarty.

“What ho!” shouts Holmes. “Mrs Hudson, pass me a Bramley”.

Autumn – A Poem

My father, John Brooks, is a wonderful poet and I find his poems very relaxing and peaceful.  I thought this one, about Autumn, might bring a moment of calm to anyone who is feeling a bit frazzled at the moment!

Autumn woodlands

Photo by John Mccann on Unsplash

Autumn

The soft light of early evening

lit the tree whose leaves were

yellow and orange, red and brown;

a kaleidoscope of colour.

A returning crow rattled a branch

which shed a leaf that struck

another as it fell

both dropping with a lazy spin.

And then with the downing sun,

a gentle gust of quiet wind

brought down a shower of leaves,

scooping and hooping them away.

Light faded and a chilly breeze

blew whisps of cloud across

the moon, and in her wake

the line of coming night.

J. B. Oct 06.

Children’s Bedtime Story: Moosie-Moo And The Cheesy Moon

I’ve always loved crafting stories for my kids, nieces and nephew.  This is my first in a long while and there will be more children’s bedtime stories to come. In this tale, Moosie learns that, sometimes, gratitude is more important than ambition.  I hope you and your little ones enjoy it.

Moosie-Moo And The Cheesy Moon

Once upon a time, there was a cow called Moosie-Moo who spent her days happily grazing in Poppy Meadow. Her closest friends were a beautiful fluffy rabbit called Honeybun and a wise old owl called Lennon.


Now Moosie-Moo loved to canter, gambol and kick her heels. She’d race raindrops running down the knobbly oak, she’d race beatles through the long lush grass and sometimes, when the sun was high, she’d even race her own shadow.

Summer turned into autumn.

The Harvest Moon rose like a huge blue lantern and Moosie-Moo became suddenly sad. “What’s wrong?”, asked Honeybun, bouncing like a rubber ball, eyes shining bright in the
moonbeams.

A rustle high above in the leaves of the knobbly oak announced the arrival of Lennon who settled on his favourite branch, spectacles perched on his beak. He let out a long “twit twooooo”.

Moosie-Moo sighed and stared at the moon. “It’s so beautiful”, she said, “I just want to jump right over it”.

Honeybun sat back on her haunches in surprise. “But,” said Moosie-Moo, “I can walk and
run and roll on my back but I can’t fly like Lennon or jump like you”.

Honeybun considered. Lennon closed both his eyes and seemed to sleep. “Well,” she said, “perhaps you should do some training to practise jumping high enough to reach the moon. Why do you want to go to the moon anyway?”.

“That’s easy”, said Moosie-Moo. “I’ve heard that there’s a cat who plays the violin, a little laughing dog, a dish and spoon who love each other and it’s made of lovely, yummy,
creamy cheese! It sounds so much fun!”

Next morning the training session began. Honeybun used her great strong paws to dig a pit filled with warm sandy soil and created a finishing line made from her best carrots at the end of Poppy Meadow.

“Moosie-Moo”, she instructed, “run as fast as you can and jump! Jump with all your might!”.

So Moosie-Moo ran the length of the meadow and when she saw the pit and the line of carrots she threw herself into the air but her hooves barely rose higher than the tallest blade of grass and she sank firmly into the pit of sandy soil.

“Oh dear”. said Honeybun.

Over and over again Moosie-Moo raced the length of the meadow, willing her body to rise into the air. “You make it look so easy, Honeybun” she sighed sadly.

As the moon rose that night, the two friends sat together bathing in the soft moonlight. “I bet it’s the best, most creamy cheese you could wish for up there”, said Moosie-Moo. “Have a carrot”, said Honeybun, “you’ll see better in the dark”.

A swish in the trees announced Lennon’s arrival, but he remained silent in the dark canopy
of leaves above.

“I have heard”, said Honeybun about a magic device made by a cat named paul”.

“I think you mean a catapault”, said Moosie-Moo, “I’m too heavy”.

Honeybun thought again. “what about going on that tram with pauline”?

“I think you mean a trampoline”, said Moosie-Moo, “I don’t think it’d get me high enough”.

Now Lennon could keep quiet no longer. He shook his wings and fluffed out his chest. His eyes gleamed in the moonlight.

“Moosie-Moo”, he said sternly, “the moon is there for all to enjoy. It would be a shame if you were to take dents out of it by eating its lovely soft cheese!”.

“Well,” said Moosie-Moo, “it seems as if I will never get there in any case. I cannot fly and I cannot jump. All I can do is walk and run and roll on my back”.

“Moosie-Moo”, said Lennon, his glasses sliding even further down his beak, “you
can walk in the sunshine and run in the rain, you can roll on your back in the mud. You are tall enough to see right across Poppy Meadow.

I have to fly in the air and Honeybun has to hop till she’s breathless to see the sun setting on the horizon. And your friends the beatles barely get to see above the grass”.

“I suppose I am being rather ungrateful”, said Moosie-Moo.

“We all have our special talents and skills”, said Lennon. “It’s what makes Poppy Meadow the wonderful place that it is.”.

Honeybun twitched her nose, gently placing her paw on her old friend’s hoof said, “We’ll always be friends whether or not you can jump over the moon”.

“Indeed,” said Lennon. “It’s not how high you can jump but what makes your heart jump with joy that matters”.

And with that, he closed his great round eyes and went back to sleep, leaving Moosie-Moo and Honeybun to happily continue moon bathing in the peace of Poppy Meadow.

More children’s bedtime stories to come very soon.




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My Front Door Gives Me Superpowers

Ours is a pretty unprepossessing, some may say scruffy, front door. It does not, it has to be said, rank in the top ten front doors of history. These include (in a straw poll conducted in the queue at Tesco) the residence of master sleuth Sherlock Holmes at 22l b Baker Street, 10 Downing Street, the wardrobe entrance to Narnia (N.B. not supplied by IKEA) and the bridge doors on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek. Then there are the doors to the Big Brother House (most likely IKEA) and, as voted for by Ieuan (aged 5), the doors at our local Pizza Express.

Is it our front door – or a portal to a different space / time reality?

Over the centuries, man has always had the urge to protect his home and property and though we have dispensed with a moat and portcullis, alarms, mortice locks, chains and CCTV systems are important weapons in our armoury against burglary and vandalism. Indeed these items are insisted upon by many insurance companies. Some Tory MPs even still have moats.

Our front doors stand sentinel 24 hours a day, being dressed up only for Halloween or Christmas – the latter being the only time when we actively encourage callers.  I have, however, noticed a very strange phenomenon that takes place on a daily basis, whenever I enter through our front door.

From mild mannered and slightly harrassed wife and mother of two, I become ……SuperMum….. a creature forced to inhabit a different reality spanning numerous time zones all at once. My weapons are not, to quote Monty Python, “fear and surprise” (nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition), rather a collection of displeased facial expressions running the gamut from apoplectic to zen (the latter required a serious amount of vino to achieve).

When I step through the magical portal that is our front door, I acquire the ability to multi-task.This may often involve heating up a pizza whilst shouting but it’s still more than one activity at once, isn’t it?  I am caterer, chauffeur, laundress and moneylender. I am seamstress, psychologist, tutor and nurse.  I am regularly called upon to inspect malfunctioning body parts and required to mend toys with the speed of a ninja.

 Working on my ‘Supermum’ look is very time consuming




It is a job whose description expands constantly and which tests my Supermum mettle to the full. And yet another, equally curious transformation occurs when I step back through that same front door on a Saturday night en route to our local hostelry.  I become – incredible! – an adult (well, grown up) once again. The husband and I are able to talk about things occurring outside our four walls, knowing that our trusty front door will be keeping the kids and babysitter safe and warm.

I suppose given the protection our trusty front door gives us, an extra special Christmas wreath and possibly an extra Halloween pumpkin are in order.  Now that’s a job for Superdad.

This is my entry into the Yale Door creative writing competition.

Where I Find My Story-Telling Inspiration

When I was young I used to share a bedroom with my little sister and, every night, would regale her with (as she recounts it) hilarious tales of her and my adventures in school. Now the clock has turned full circle and I am able to listen to my children (aged 6 and 5) tell each other stories with similarly comedic potential.

My two are always on the lookout for an adventure

To be truthful, this is because there is a rich vein of barely veiled lunacy residing in our family and its precious archives. At tea, my father used to tell us that the gherkin which resided at the bottom of our jar of pickled onions (nope, no idea why) was a monster similar to Nessie but very shy. I spent many a tea time staring at said jar of pickled onions trying to spot the beast. If conversation lulled, father would either take his teeth out or put the tea cosy on his head and pretend to be Napoleon. If mother annoyed him, he would simply place a tea-towel over his head and impersonate a budgie.

My sister and I would frequently get our own back on father, knowing, for example, that he was terrified of snakes and spiders.  On one occasion we left a toy snake (an adder, quite realistic, from Bristol Zoo) in the upper branches of our apple tree whilst he was collecting the fruit. The resulting scream could be heard at the end of the street.

Mother was completely unphased by my father’s behaviour, probably because her father, a man we referred to as ‘Flash Harry’ was a legendary mischief-maker and storyteller in his own right. Harry was a bus driver in Plymouth who had been practically blind in one eye for many years. His favourite tale was how he passed his advanced bus driving examination despite his eyesight – hard to believe these days. He would also take my sister and me to look at the scrumpy drinkers collapsed in a heap in Plymouth Market and sing songs such as “Ain’t it grand to be blooming well dead” (Leslie Sarony, 1932) and claim he didn’t want a funeral, just to be stuck in a black bag and put out for the bin men. Nowadays, of course, he’d be stuck kerbside for a fortnight but that’s local government for you.

My mother’s grandfather was a quaint-looking little man who greatly resembled Hercule Poirot and who was an excellent violinist, despite having a wooden arm due to a farming accident. Her own mother came from a family of 11 and several of her uncles were bandsmen in the marines.

So you can see that when I have to reach into the wine o’clock reaches of my imagination to lull the kids into a state of happy peace, I have plenty of material to use. Not least my own, er, foibles and slightly worrying experiences – for example getting locked in a train toilet and having to pull the emergency cord (always a favourite tale), or during a ballet lesson as a young girl doing a pirouette (well, spinning a bit) and having one of the lenses of my black NHS specs fall out and smash on the floor.

My children love all things spooky so I claim to know all the magical healing powers of various gems and herbs. My daughter and I recently made up a ‘potion’, devised by Caitlin, which consisted of one entire apple, some springs of Rosemary and some wine vinegar plus a rock from the garden which we had left out overnight so it could be ‘charged with the moon’s power’. Is there anything truly more magical than a child’s imagination? They both love tales of the naughty goblins who live in the wood and are just waiting to pounce on unsuspecting children who wander off the path (or annoy their mother one too many times….).

Halloween is always celebrated by draping lengths of pretend spiders’ webs throughout the house, together with black plastic spiders. We have a plastic full-sized skeleton we have named Mr Bones who joins us for tea. My father’s face last year when he came for a Halloween tea was truly a picture to behold, particularly since we had made sure that there was an ample supply of spiders artfully arranged in the bathroom. This time, though, the extractor fan muffled his scream.

Storytelling, to me, is a vital ingredient in a magical childhood because a good story carries with it lessons about emotions, family, morality and even spirituality.  I was, and am still, an avid reader. I somehow managed to finish the school’s reading syllabus first out of my classmates and my English teacher, Mr Jones, would let me have free run of the book cupboard whilst the other pupils dutifully read through the prescribed texts. I can still remember reading The Shrimp & The Anemone (L P Hartley) in the warmth of the schoolroom, basking in the sun and watching the motes of dust from the blackboard chalk swirling in the air. I loved Gerald Durrell’s “My Family & Other Animals” and was lost on the moors with Cathy in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”. Books were places were magic resided – where stories revealed landscapes as surprising and wonderful as Narnia.

I also used to write avidly. My favourite English assignment was always the essay writing tasks and I have begun to write again. My first short story is posted on my blog here. I have in mind a children’s novel too – featuring a hedgehog and his friends on a magical journey to find an enormous gem buried deep underground which is the beating heart of his woodland home.

My children’s current opus is a series of ‘programmes’ entitled “Hulk and Puppy” where a very grumpy incredible hulk (played with practically no behavioural adjustment by Ieuan) is accompanied by a small, yappy puppy (played rather fetchingly by Caitlin). Each episode involves the puppy ending up in a scrape and a subsequent rescue by Hulk bursting in and smashing things. I am required to provide the voice over and plot development as and when required.

When it all gets too much for me, I just put a tea towel over my head …..

Bottle warming – Why My Microwave Makes My Heart Go Ping

Just after I had Caitlin in 2007, The Husband and I invested in probably the most ineffective appliance we’ve ever come across. It was a bottle warmer which you could program to heat the baby’s milk to the correct temperature.  It used a dish of water to steam the milk. 

At 3 am in the morning, we would take turns to stand watching this contraption as it whirred and hissed for about 20 minutes to produce a bottle no hotter than it would have been if we’d just held it in our hands whilst waiting and listening to Caitlin cry. For this privilege we payed about £40.

Caitlin as a baby in her highchair at meal time
Baby Caitlin at teatime

We did this because, in the canon of birth and new born raising horror stories already-parents feel duty bound to share – largely with a feeling of  “ha, you’ll see what we went through soon enough” – there is one that proclaims with almost Biblical fervour that “thou shalt not use thy microwave for heating thy children’s milk” lest the poor infant suffers terrible injuries.

After about three months of counting the kitchen tiles at ungodly hours, we slipped from the path of NASA level health and safety and put the formula in the microwave. It took us about a minute to work out that about 20 seconds was just about right. 20 seconds. Not 20 minutes.

Now obviously, anyone with a modicum of common sense will know that over-microwaving can lead to some very serious burns but we were careful to always check the temperature of the milk and to shake the bottle before giving it to Caitlin and, later, Ieuan.

Once the kids were weaning, the microwave was used again to reheat endless cubes of pureed apple, pear and simple bolognese type dishes gleaned from an acre of Annabel Karmel recipes.

Baby Ieuan laughing in his highchair
Strangely, Ieuan’s reaction to my cooking skills has always been the same ….

That appliance that my father viewed as an evil source of energy which, according to him, required lead aprons to be worn when the first ones were tested, and which I had used at the height of my culinary experimentation to zap a range of different sized potatoes (and on one occasion a large Bramley apple), became the appliance that gave us our life back.

Our microwave
Our beloved microwave in the kitchen here at Downton Shabby

And in many ways, it still does today. We can batch cook and freeze then just reheat portions in the microwave when we’re tired. The Husband can usually find a portion of curry or chilli to enjoy when he returns home later from travelling. Our microwave heats milk for our coffee. It gives us decent porridge for the kids in two minutes flat in the morning. It melts butter for Victoria sponge making and chocolate for a decadent dessert sauce.

It is a bit of a challenging appliance to clean but a couple of lemons in a bowl of boiling water microwaved for a minute or so easily loosens cooked on sauce and removes odours.

Like any cooking appliance, the microwave needs to be respected and treated with care. It is an oven, after all! But of all the appliances we have, it is the one we find saves us the most time – and for busy parents, time is something you just can’t put a value on.

So, it may be a bit battered but it is loved – I love my microwave!

I Like a Bit of “Bleak” on a Monday

“I think that shale may be neolithic” announced The Sybyl, prodding the rain spattered rocks with her hiking pole. It is a Monday morning and we are walking the dogs on one of The Sybyl’s favourite routes. She has several routes, all with a unique mood.

There is Cosmeston (up-beat, slightly flowery, duck-filled and, always a plus, with toilets), Cwm George (beautiful, silent, noble, containing an Iron Age fort – and near toilets (my own) and Bendricks Beach (bleak, windswept, rock-pooled and moody – absolutely no toilets).

The battered red van is parked up in a hedge so tightly that I nearly have to extract a blackberry from my eye. We have brandished our poles and released the dogs, Rumpus and Bedlam, to shout excitedly at the scrubby coppice we have to traverse on our way down to the gloomy beach.

Bleakness at Bendricks Beach, Vale of Glamorgan

We pick our way cautiously down to the shore, chatting all the while. We run through our standard checklist which, since we are both around the age of 50, usually involves discussing those of our acquaintances who have suffered an untimely early demise and then a comparison of ailments. Most of the ailments are mine and most of The Sybyl’s medical advice involves i) shutting up and ii) getting on with it.  

The rain, which I term a heavy shower and The Sybyl terms “light drizzle” is getting heavier. We park ourselves on an outcrop of rock down on the sand whilst Bedlam chases the ball with excitement and Rumpus sits with the expression of a dog who wishes he was back in the van with his duvet. I wish I’d brought a thermos, or a hip flask with Stones Ginger Wine laced with a nip of something Scottish and peaty. The Sybyl is yearning for tomato soup perked up by the addition of melted cheese – like a fondue for truckers.   

I wonder, not for the first time, what other women of our age talk about. We just don’t look or feel our age. Next year I will be 50 and I feel about 13.  On a good day. We have the same preoccupations, the same insecurities.  Does our brain ever catch up with our body? I am reminded at this point of the great moment in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” where the doctor asks Igor where he got the brain for the monster and Igor replies, the jar said “Abbie someone”. “Abbie Normal”.

The rain is now what I term torrential and The Sybyl terms “a light shower”. I suggest we hasten back to the van. The Sybyl looks at me as if I lack the resolve to get to Base Camp on Everest but grudgingly agrees go back.  On the way back we discuss our teenage wardrobes with a certain degree of fondness and concede that clothes shopping today is quite a chore, no matter what Carol Vorderman says. The dogs are steaming elegantly in the back of the van.

We are soaked through but quite content. There is something about bleak Bendricks beach that is, strangely, enjoyable.  As my grandfather Harry used to say “It’s being so cheerful that keeps you going”.  

Tuesday Torpor And Advice From Anthea

Tuesday morning and we are late for school again.

“Mummy”, says Caitlin, “I wish I was a bird”. That’s nice dear I said, sidestepping a recycling bin and the strange pile of furry hair clippings that creates a miniscule drift outside the local hairdressers. “Why’s that?” “Because then I could poo over everything”, she said winsomely.  

Ieuan was far in the distance in full flight mode wearing his Buzz Lightyear jetpack wings.  He is not currently answering to the name Ieuan. He has to be referred to as “Buzz with a belt”, in reference to Buzz’s utility belt, which in keeping with most of the other gadgets in the Hobbis Household (or Downton Shabby as I often call it), doesn’t do much more than light up and make a noise.

Ask yourself:  What Would Anthea Do?

Back from school, I ponder what to do with the rest of the day. The Husband is back doing things with digits in the Big Smoke. Having ascertained that I have no PPI claims and am unlikely to fall off a ladder, I consider making an enormous Shepherd’s Pie for tea but worry that I have not got the Right Dish. Having the Right Dish is very important in my mind. I have a selection of plastic round bowls (previously filled with microwavable Christmas puddings) and a Jane Asher Lasagne Dish. None seem fit for purpose so I dismiss the idea which will no doubt return during the post-school arsenic hours to haunt me. The Husband does not worry, of course, about having the Right Dish. Ingredients are chucked into pans with aplomb and appear steaming on plates as tasty, albeit usually spicy, meals.

I consider clothes shopping for a new winter coat with my mother. This would be a dangerous enterprise because my mother would automatically try to steer me towards anoraks and worse, in colours seemingly offered to ladies over 65 as their most likely preference, viz “eau de nil” (a strange, vapid, bluey green colour) or what I call “beigey beige” – a light to middling Cuprinol type tone. My mum loves her anoraks. To me there’s something ever so slightly utilitarian about them. Who wants to go about looking as if you’re about to tape up the scene of a crime?

I mull over the possibility of doing some housework. I have a natty assortment of rubber gloves and a vat of Barry Scott’s finest (oh, yes, I know how to make the morning go with a Cillit Bang…sorry) so I could in theory remove limescale off anything from a tap to a BMW (although the latter might be grounds for divorce).

Instead, I make myself a coffee and select my favourite episode of “Perfect Housewife” (cough) to watch whilst asking the perenniel question I always ask myself when my lack of Domestic Goddess-ness washes over me.  “What would Anthea Turner do?”