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Friday, 16 March 2012

The 10 Signs You May be Turning Into Your Mother

There are many milestones in romantic relationships. The first kiss, the first time you say "I love you", the first time you go ahead and just yawn right in your partner's face when they're going on and on about how Lesley at work eats that rank salad and worries at her hairline with a compass.

One of the key relationship moments for any woman though is when, in the middle of a heated exchange, she first hears the words, "You're turning into your MOTHER." Oddly, even if one's mother is a cross between Marie Curie, Livvy Walton and Carmen Electra, this is rarely seen as a compliment.

But, heaven forfend, what if it's true? What if we are turning into our mothers? So before you take the pinking shears to his "Q" magazine collection, take a long hard look at my helpful list which sets out the top 10 signs that you may be turning into your mother.

1. When you open your mouth your mother's voice comes out.

2. When you put on a swimsuit your mother's thighs come out.

3. Before you go on holiday you decide to keep your jewellery safe by burying it in the garden, marking it with a large stone. Or rather you get your husband to do it. You disapprove of your husband's choice of stone, worrying that it is too similar to other stones in the garden. You ask your husband to find a more distinctive stone. The stone is too distinctive. You work your way through every stone in the garden, or rather your husband does, before you finally settle on a half brick which you arrange casually on top of some dead leaves. You still worry that the hiding place is too obvious. You worry loudly and often on the 14 hour car journey.

4. You start making gifts of packets of mince to dinner party hosts because it was such a bargain, and everyone likes mince. Well, not the vegetarian couple from choir, but it'll freeze in case they change their minds.

5. You have a cavernous drawer of emergency presents and cards for all occasions. Births, deaths, marriages, moving house, driving tests. You also have blank ones with daffodils which can do at a pinch for Easter, divorce or a minor criminal conviction.

6. You engage the Scouts packing the bags at Sainsbury's in conversation. You tell them about your husband being in the Boys Brigade and sing "Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storm of Life" at full belt. You give them a donation, but you do not let them pack the bag.

7. One day, you come home late from work to be greeted by his nibs asleep in front of the Tour de France, 500 pairs of freakishly gigantic putrid trainers in the hall and an empty bucket of KFC. You go postal and tell everyone you are running away. To, to, to, to, er, to ROME YOU SELFISH BUNCH OF SH*TS! You pack a bag full of evening wear and your best bra. You get as far as North Berwick where you go for a pizza and get hammered in your room in a nice B and B.

8. You sigh loudly and roll your eyes whenever your partner speaks, you mock him mercilessly when he is unwell and you behave like a martyr over taking the kids to judo. Oh no, hang on, you don't, because you're not a total cow, your partner is a nice, thoughtful, reasonably stoic man and life is not a Boots advert. Thank Christ.

9. When you see someone you know down the High St who has been going through a rough time you do not pull your jumper over your head and hide in a doorway. Rather you smile and ask them how they are and if there is anything you can do, because you now realise that life's too short and it's really not about you.

10. I don't really have a 10. Anyway, this list is indicative only. Maybe your mother doesn't do any of this stuff. Actually, mine doesn't do most of it either. Mothers are not some homogeneous bunch of clones who think and act alike. (Note to advertisers, if you mention Zumba or cupcakes one more time I will hunt you down. I will hunt you down and string you up by the Bubles.)

Hopefully what most mothers do have in common is that they love their kids, they love them literally more than life itself. So that when the waves come crashing down, your mother will fight till her last breath to keep your head above water and she will do it willingly and with love in her heart.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

If It's Time to Leave the Party, It's Time to Leave the House

The Scottish Labour MP Eric Joyce yesterday resigned from the Labour Party after pleading guilty to assaulting four people in a House of Commons bar last month. Speaking in the House, Mr Joyce apologised unreservedly for his conduct which he said; "fell egregiously below what is required for a member of this House, or indeed anyone anywhere."

Mr Joyce has also, however, made it clear that he intends to stay on as the MP for Falkirk until the end of this parliamentary session in 2015. Interviewed on STV's "Scotland Tonight" programme last night he stated; "I was elected for a full term and that's exactly what I'll serve." He went on; "It's not the easiest thing in the wake of what I personally did two weeks ago... but the simple fact is that I have an obligation to serve out the full term and I will."

So, if I've got this straight, Mr Joyce has been judged unfit to represent his party, but is still fit to represent his constituents. Am I missing something, or is that not utterly disrespectful to the people of Falkirk?

This is where seasoned political types shrug their shoulders and say;"Oh well, it's in the grand tradition of making one last sacrifice for the party by not triggering a by-election which you might lose."

As if that makes it okay. Well it doesn't. "It was ever thus," might be a statement of fact, but it doesn't constitute a compelling argument in favour of the status quo.

Also on Scotland Tonight, the political columnist Ian MacWhirter stated that Labour sources had reportedly commented "Better a nutter than a Nat." If that is an accurate summation of the Labour party's attitude to this issue, then the contempt it shows for voters is shocking.

I would be very happy to give due recognition to the official Labour party view on Mr Joyce's decision not to stand down as an MP, but I have been unable to find it. Prior to Mr Joyce's conviction, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont stated that she thought he was unfit to stand for the Labour Party. Also prior to his conviction, the local Falkirk Labour Party said that if the allegations against him were proven they expected him to "do the right thing." But, to my knowledge, a statement from the Labour Party calling on Eric Joyce to resign as an MP has been conspicuous by its absence.

Their silence is in marked contrast to their swift reaction in suspending Mr Joyce on his arrest and, indeed, the readiness of Labour figures to comment in advance of the trial. (This piece by Tom Gordon of The Herald is pretty jaw dropping in the extent to which Mr Joyce's Labour colleagues were willing to go on record about his weaknesses.)

The whole affair is depressing and infuriating on many levels. Despite the seriousness of the offences, I have sympathy for Mr Joyce on a personal level. I also have huge sympathy for his family who must have been through hell in recent weeks.

But I am horrified that he and his former party, seem to think it is acceptable to put narrow party interest before principle. How can it be that you are unworthy of membership of the Labour Party, but you continue to be worthy of the trust and support of the community which elected you? Why should the people of Falkirk be expected to make do with a politician whose own party regards him as damaged goods? If this doesn't reflect the Labour Party view, why don't they call on him to resign?

What is it going to take for our politicians to realise that they cannot keep treating the electoral system like their own private property? I understand that it may be good for the Labour party to avoid a by-election in the near future. But frankly I'm not interested in what's good for the Labour party. I'm interested in what's right. I imagine that goes for many allegedly sought after floating voters, of which I am one.

We have come to a very dangerous point when our political leaders seem to be serially unable to grasp the extent of the electorate's disenchantment with politics. Despite my whining and moaning in this post, I spend most of my time trying to enthuse people about democracy and defending politicians from the familiar charge that they're all in it for themsleves, or they're all as bad as each other. And then they go and do something like this and frankly I feel like a prize bloody chump.

Mr Joyce wound up last night's interview by saying, "It's easy to sound terribly over idealistic about it, but I am gripped by a sense of public service and I will continue to serve through to 2015." Talk about devaluing the currency. Mr Joyce may be sincere in his view but I doubt he'd find very many supporters on the streets of Falkirk.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Bravo for Bosoms or "It Takes All Sorts"

It's not very often we get excited about the mail in our household. Bills, pizza leaflets, community council newsletters about the lethal front step at the Post Office. Not stuff to set the pulse racing, to be honest.

There is one exception though. Every couple of months I get the new Bravissimo catalogue. For those of you not familiar with this great institution, Bravissimo is a firm which sells women's underwear. Its speciality is bras for ladies with a fuller bust.

Its arrival is always greeted with delight, particularly by my husband who falls upon it like a long lost friend, settling onto the sofa and reverently smoothing the pages as he nibbles delicately at a ginger nut. This is usually accompanied by wistful sighing in the manner of Adrian Mole's Dad admiring his neighbour Mrs Singh's pretty saris.

I get pretty wistful over it too, mainly because it highlights the poverty of my own underwear collection. I have blogged before about how one of the consequences of being in a long term relationship is that your foundation garments hanging on the washing line begin to resemble dead moles on a fence. Flicking through the Bravissimo catalogue brings me into contact with a way of life I have only ever heard about in the movies. Green bras, orange bras, jungle print bras with mauve trim. I feel like a Morlock that's stumbled across the Eloi picnicking in their smalls.

I'm not entirely sure where this Calvinist (no pun intended) streak about underwear comes from. It may be something to do with the fact that for many years, my choice of bra was extremely limited blessed, or perhaps burdened, as I am with a large bosom.

This wasn't always the case. In my teens my chest could have been described as fair to middling in size. It was possible for example to go out bra-less without closing major routes to non-essential traffic. But then I went to University and drank too much beer and ate too much pizza, and properly matured and then I got pregnant and the result was a bosom like the Hindenberg.

Having seen photos of me when I was younger, my daughter is fascinated by the change in my chest. "Where were they before again Mum? Show me. Up about here?" She also finds it hilarious when a feeble bra fails in its duty and one breast lists to port and the other to starboard, like a boss-eyed sailor.

Fashion can be difficult when you have a big chest. Anything with a shawl collar for example makes me look like I am smuggling asylum seekers. Passers-by look down expecting to see several pairs of feet sticking out from under my coat. Frills make me a dead ringer for the dowager from a Marx Brothers' movie. Either that or Maw Broon.

And coming full circle, there is the problem of finding underwear to fit. Years ago, I flirted briefly with a padded bra. The madness of this is akin to the Michelin man buying a puffa jacket. When discarded it stood proud like the dwelling of some ancient pygmy race. My then five year old nephew saw one once and simply cried, "WHAT IS THAT!?!" eyes wide in terror.

I remember going to be measured for a bra when I was pregnant. The sales assistant sucked her teeth, pursed her lips, raised her eyebrows and said, "We've only one that'll do for you dear. It's called the "Doreen". Of course I cried. Wouldn't you?

It's at times like this that it is tempting to hate one's bosom, a more common state of affairs than you might imagine . Breasts are perhaps the most obvious outward signs of our femaleness and, as such, I think how we feel about them is quite important. It is a shame therefore that many women feel their breasts are too big, or too small, or too low, or too round or not round enough.

I'd say that, where bosoms are concerned, it takes all sorts. Breasts are as individual as the women they belong to. Why should we want them all to look the same? There is no more reason for us to have identical breasts than to have identical faces. You may have a whispered hint of a bosom or a rather more "out there" pair, either way, basically, it's fine. I'm just glad that nowadays I can find a bra that fits.