5…and counting!

The little man was 5 on Sunday. Mental! He’s gone from this:

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to this:

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in the blink of an eye.

His birthday was a whirlwind day with family visits, a chaotic and extremely loud soft play party for 19 kids and then a jaunt to the pub and a huge table of 20 at one point! I think we were all exhausted by the end of it!

It was certainly a more enjoyable time than 5 years ago, with the uncertainty of motherhood, immense responsibility and zero sleep happening almost overnight. I found those first few months pretty weird – even when Jake started sleeping through I fell victim to my first (and thankfully only) major bout of insomnia. If it wasn’t for the kind words of a great health visitor I might not have emerged unscathed from the other side. Your first child brings with it great self doubt and worry. I didn’t bath Jake for the 1st three months of his life, too unsure of myself to do it. It was left to my hubby to show me the ropes. Anyone who knows me well will acknowledge this is not like me at all! Even small things like talking to him while changing his nappy, understanding why he was crying and learning how to soothe him did not come naturally to me at all. I think this is normal for most new parents but it was a steep learning curve to me in life. I almost wished away those early days, hoping for a time when he could tell me what he wanted, what was wrong and how he felt. And here we are!

And with 5 comes another set of challenges (for me more than anyone). We have new opportunities to “play out” with the boys over the road, who are a little bit older and more streetwise. I know I have to let him, but the thought of him crossing roads without his little hand in mine is very stressful! I know – I need to get a grip. But he’s my little boy, and I will always want to protect him whether he’s 5 or 55!

And what a character he’s turning into – a sparky little chap who insists on shouting “morning” at the top of his voice to the lollipop man every day. A keen footy player with a definite aptitude for it (those Little Kicker sessions have certainly paid off!) – he’s off to Cramlington Juniors this weekend to try it out. His confidence is soaring but not to the point of arrogance. I love that he’s a sociable little man, no doubt a result of his Mammy chatting incessantly to him (or around him) since birth!

So I wonder what the next five years will bring. Hopefully there are still many more cuddles and moments to come with my son that just melt away my worries and make them pale into insignificance. And lots of great memories to be made for him, fun to be had and knowledge to be learned! Time will tell.

Xxxxxx

Officially Old!

Christ I can’t quite believe my last post was in November! I am getting worse at this as I go on. Christmas is but a distant memory and since then I’ve had the BIG 40! Actually it’s still ongoing – I’m about to enjoy my final week (of four!) birthday weekends. If this is what 40 is all about then I’m not complaining!

The big day itself was bloody brill – my hubby deserves a medal for all the effort he put in. Not just with pressies (which were fab) but all the added extras like banners, balloons and badges and a particularly embarrassing cake complete with a picture of me on it. Isn’t it just delightful…

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To be fair I embraced the whole thing, even getting up on a chair in front of an entire restaurant on my birthday itself. Hey ho you only live once! Thankfully the hubby managed to chop my head off the video he took on his phone of this momentous occasion – phew!

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Looking back I feel quite overwhelmed by the effort and generosity I enjoyed from both family and friends on this big day. From flowers sent from Singapore to a full body massage, beautiful jewellery to spa vouchers, a mini break to Edinburgh, lots of champas and LOADS more , I was truly spoiled.

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It’s funny how turning 40 makes you reflect on life and, as you enter what is probably the 2nd half of your life, deliberate over any regrets, outstanding ambitions or highlights of the past. I’d say my biggest regret is only having one child. I know I am more than blessed with one, but it was always in my life plan for two. I guess fate took us on a different journey but it’s up there as my biggest disappointment. As for outstanding ambitions, I have a list as long as my arm of places around the world I still want to visit. Whether I get any further than the likes of Spain for a while yet is debatable (or even further than Centre Parcs for that matter!) but I’d love to tick Sydney, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris off the old bucket list.

Like I said I’m about to enjoy my fourth weekend of birthday fun, and this time it’s a mini University reunion in Leeds itself. I can’t recall the last time that my two friends Nikki and Debra and I got together just the three of us, but I know that despite the distance and time between us, this weekend will be filled with a LOT of laughter and funny memories of our time as Leeds students. I’d like to think that we’ve moved on from “pound a pint” type of nights and have become sophisticated, professional ladies supping our glasses of sauvignon blanc with great decorum! Time will tell!!!

On a final note – I’m very very very excited for another milestone this year – namely becoming an Auntie! Yes, my little sister is having a baby girl in July and I just can’t wait. I think that the M62 will be taking a bashing come the summer, as I for one can’t wait to have a cuddle of Baby Timms! Exciting times indeed. x x x

Festive fun, a time for reflection and impending old age!

Well it’s finally peaceful in the Taylor household so I thought it about time I did another blog before the third series of Borgen starts later (can’t wait!).

I have my Christmas candles on tonight, they smell gorgeous, and it’s safe to say I am DEFO getting in the Christmas mood early this year. Jake’s presents are coming along nicely, even though all he wants is a vile game about Buster’s Bones (don’t ask!) and another one about dog poo! Well he also wants a real doggy too but there’s no chance of that, despite my husband sending me links to puppies most days. YAWN!

We’ve loads of things planned and it’s safe to say Chrimbo will be here in a blink of an eye. We’ve a family jaunt to the panto, a trip to Santa’s grotto on Christmas Eve with friends (with booze for the grown ups – yey!), Christmas Day itself, the Holly Ball on Boxing Day and THEN we’re even sorted for NYE. Very organised indeed… There’s also the small matter of a work Christmas do and several nights out with friends too. PHEW!!! Pass me a new liver!

And before all of that excitement we have our 6th wedding anniversary coming up, a friend’s 40th and Mark’s birthday. Life is well and truly full on.

It’s strange to think that this time last year I was about to embark on one of the most stressful times of my life, namely about to be made redundant for the second time in 10 months and the loss of my Mam in December 2012. As it happens, the redundancy turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me as it saved me from a job I still have nightmares about!!! It also meant I was on gardening leave when my Mam died, which again was a godsend, all things considered. I can feel the anniversary creeping up on me, mostly at the back of my mind, but admittedly memories and emotions are being triggered more frequently than normal. I’m not quite sure what our plan is for December 17th, but I will be spending it with my Dad and sister – time to reflect and support each other. Family time is more important to me than ever, my priorities have changed and I think I have changed too. It could be down to last year’s events, or it could simply be a case of growing up, getting older, being happy with the people around me and less interested in the frivolities of life.

Which brings me to the social event of 2014 – my 40th! I realise time is ticking but I STILL can’t decide what to do. I’ve deliberated over a party and even wrote a list of potential invitees (over 100 people!) but it’s just not for me. Maybe it was for the old me, but I just can’t be chewed with the hassle, stress (and expense!). At the moment I’m considering a mini-break with the hubby, a family meal perhaps on the day itself and maybe a girls’ boozy lunch on a different weekend. I think that will be a nice balance. I need to get my finger out and sort it ASAP (once I’ve decided for definite!). Maybe such indecision is just a further sign of old age…! Christ I can’t believe I’m nearly 40! HELP!

My little man at 4

This post will probably bore many readers but I am using it as more of a diary entry to remind me of my little boy at 4, now he has started school full-time. I just want to be able to look back and remember the little things I’m likely to forget, once he’s a stroppy teenager or (an even more scary thought!) a strapping grown man.

So here you are, Jake, having been in reception for a couple of weeks and already we can see a difference in you. Almost overnight you’ve calmed down and changed in many subtle ways (although the grandparents may disagree on any signs of calm!) After a long summer holiday you were definitely ready for something, and full-time school was the answer.

On day one, we both took you to school, worried about the change to a different teacher, a new classroom, new rules and procedures, school dinners and LONG DAYS! Many other parents were in tears as we chatted in the school yard that morning. But we needn’t have worried. It only took that one morning for us to be there, to show you your way, and since then you’ve embraced it with a new confidence and that cheeky smile.

I want to remember how you love being first in the queue, but are torn between that and running off with Luke and your friends to see who can run the fastest, shout the loudest or run in the wet grass even though it’s not allowed. I like chatting to the school mums while we wait for the bell, new friends in the making for me perhaps. When the bell goes, you give me a kiss and skip off up the ramp to your classroom, carrying your reading bag, walking with a jaunt like a little old man. Sometimes you forget that I am still there, waving and watching, my heart sinking as you go in without a care in the world for me, your Mammy. But then I am just so relieved that you are happy there and that is all that matters to any parent.

Other days you DO remember I’m there and I get a kiss or a high five though the railings or you blow me a kiss through the air. It makes my day! One day I know the kisses and hugs will stop, so I intend to make the most of them now (until it’s just completely uncool on your part!).

We’re already having to drag out of you what you’ve done at school (already teenage-like!) and often you even pre-empt my daily questions about your day with “I don’t know what I’ve done today or had for my lunch, Mammy, so don’t ask!”. That’s me told. You must be doing something right as we’ve had a multitude of merits already – long may it continue.

You even like doing your homework which I know for a fact won’t last! Helping to teach you to read is a privilege and, even though it’s sometimes hard to find the time, we will do. I wish I could bottle your enthusiasm for school, for life, for learning, as it is now. It will wane in the future, as it does for everyone. But I hope we can keep the magic alive for you for as long as possible.

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On my own in my childhood home…

I’m currently sat at my Dad’s house – we’ve popped over to deliver Jake’s cupcakes that we baked yesterday. It was our first baking attempt and I learned a couple of lessons along the way, even with a packet mix!! After a lot of mess and licking of bowls they turned out pretty well I must say. In fact there’s only one left out of six! But this last one was for Jake’s “Grandad Marrs”, so here we are.

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We’ve been up since 6-30am this morning, which is always a delight on a weekend. So we were up and ready early, and decided to drop some cakes off at my in-laws before we came here with the remaining one. Then we’ve got a full day ahead, with a gymnastics party at 2 (whatever that means – time will tell!) then a friend popping over later. Just another relaxing weekend for me* (* insert sarcasm!).

My Dad has taken Jake to climb up Penshaw Monument, as Jake acquired some new walking shoes on our hols in the Lakes which are perfect for the job. So I am sat here all on my own, with an hour or two to kill. I could pop and see one of my Sunderland friends, or nip to the supermarket, but to be honest I just can’t be bothered. Instead I’m writing a long overdue blog post and acutely feeling my mam’s absence here in my childhood home.

If she were here no doubt she’d be asking her usual questions about work, my friends’ latest antics and how Mark/Josh were, to which I’d probably be rolling my eyes at being asked the “same old stuff”. How I’d kill to be answering the same inane questions now. I still can’t bring myself to go in her bedroom, where she was found, despite an overhaul on my dad’s part. I think I’d lose the plot and, with a busy day ahead, it’s not going to happen today despite being here on my own. It wouldn’t be good to see the “school mums” this afternoon with a blotchy face.

On a cheerier note, we had a lovely family holiday 2 weeks ago to a gorgeous house in Windermere. We all met up there – us, my dad, my sister and her boyfriend and Dexter the dog. It was a very relaxing time, the weather was good, and there was no pressure to do stuff every minute of the day. Just what the doctor ordered. It also meant that my dad had a full-on week of company – whether that was a positive thing for him is debatable!!!

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It made me laugh to think what a “good holiday” now consists of and how different it is from holidays we enjoyed pre-Jake. Like when we woke up after noon in New York after a night out clubbing and we were gutted that’d we’d pretty much wasted a day of sightseeing. And our pre-wedding trip to Malaga which was spent sipping sangria which was hand delivered to the rooftop pool. And even before that, on girls’ holidays away, where cheesy chips were the staple diet (along with florescent dodgy cocktails and shooters – ugh!). How times change (and drinking habits!). Mind you – you still can’t beat cheesy chips after a night out!

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Cocktails, camping, coping

Well a disgraceful 2 months has passed since my last post so I seem to be getting worse not better at this blogging malarkey. Moving swiftly on!

Life is hectic at the moment – work is busy, home is the usual chaos you’d expect with a 4 year old and everything in between is jam packed with play dates, housework, date nights, time with the girls and (now and then) a bit of “me” time.

Since I last wrote, we’ve enjoyed an amazing wedding at Newton Hall which seems like a distant memory now. The company, weather, venue, location and people made for a magical and special day – one of the best weddings I’ve been to in a LONG time! I got a spray tan for the occasion, wore a nice frock and also went blonde too so it’s fair to say I didn’t look much like “me”! 

 

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Since then I’ve decided I quite like being blonde so that’s the current look for the summer (and I’m growing it but we all know how long I usually last with that!). Next time I post I’ll probably be a cropped red head again!!!

I’ve also enjoyed (* note the sarcasm!) a random first time camping experience thanks to Jake’s school – something I would NEVER have even considered before. We beg, stole and borrowed all the requisite equipment as I was pretty secure in the knowledge that it would be my first AND LAST camping trip! And I was right! Don’t get me wrong – the weather was perfect, Jake had a ball with his school pals, we enjoyed a tinny or two in the sun, but then basically got NEE SLEEP!!! It was horrendous! From crying babies, to needing a wee, from those uncomfortable airbeds through to my step son’s incessant snoring – it was HELL! And topped off with a large dose of sunburn too!

I think I’d only ever contemplate it again once the trauma of that night is long forgotten!

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The following weekend was much more civilised, namely a weekend jaunt to Edinburgh with the girls which consisted of cocktails, great food, fun company and many many laughs. Just what the doctor ordered!

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More recently we had Jake’s graduation from pre-school, a really lovely, emotional morning with so much effort put into it on the teachers’ parts. He sang his little heart out to his songs which he’d rehearsed countless times, and we clapped and clapped when he got his certificate. So proud!

So life continues in the usual manic fashion. I miss my mam and think of her loads, often when I least expect it. It’s lovely that Jake also talks about her SO much, and I know she’d be chuffed that she’s still very much in his thoughts. (So much so that he told the checkout lady in Sainsbury’s that “my Nana used to buy me them (his chocolate Freddos!) but she’s in heaven now”. GULP.) And today he said, whilst at my Dad’s, “Nana’s still not here, what a shame”.

I couldn’t put it better myself. xx

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Regrets, running and random obsessions!

I seem to start every blog apologising for leaving it so long between posts. So this time I’ll skip that bit and just crack on!

To be honest I’ve had a case of “blogger’s block” – I haven’t been able to think about what to write nor had the inclination to put down my thoughts. It’s now just over 5 months since my Mam died and the grief is still taking me on a strange and random path. The last few weeks have been tough, which I guess is to be expected as it’s still “early days” apparently. I’m filled with regret for not appreciating her more, not telling her how much she meant to me and generally not spending more time with her. I’ve spent more time than usual on my own, and wanted to, which isn’t like me. All quite normal I can imagine.

Lately there’s been so much stuff happening in mine (and my sister’s) lives that I know she’d be proud of were she here to see it. Firstly I’ve lost 17 pounds in weight at good old Weight Watchers, and plan on losing even more. I remember before I met my hubby, my mam helped my with my first attempt at WW and I lost about 2 stone. I’d come home from work to a variety of salads and other calorie controlled meals – she was so supportive even though one night I actually cried over my WW beans on toast claiming the diet to be “boring” and “not worth it”! What a drama queen!

On a related note I’ve taken up “running” (AKA jogging!), primarily for the Sunderland BQ Relay Marathon of the North which I completed with my work colleagues a few weeks ago. I’d never done anything like it before and the whole day was such a refreshing and inspiring change that I intend to keep it up. As I ran along the seafront I thought of my Mam and how proud she’d be to see me run and give up my time for such a great cause.

Recently both my sister and I have enjoyed some success professionally, and in my sister’s case it’s both long overdue and well deserved. I can imagine that Mam will be watching down bursting with pride that her hard work has finally been recognised. Again, it’s hard to think that it’s happened too late for her to appreciate it in person.

On a non-morbid/miserable note, there’s LOADS to look forward to in life, including what should be a fabulous wedding this weekend (including a child free mini-break!). Plus there’s a trip to Edinburgh in July with great friends and a week in the Lakes in August with my Dad and the family (as well as Dexter the Dog!). We’re in the middle of decorating and improving the house too, so after two years of living here the final touches will finally be complete and it’ll be just as we want it (well – to a point! A lottery win would obviously help…)

Jake has been accepted to the school of our choice so he’ll be moving up to reception in September. We’ll all have to adjust to seeing him less during the week as he starts school full time. He’s growing up TOO fast. But it’s all good stuff. His latest obsessions range from Tom and Jerry to yoghurt-covered raisins, from picking the fluff out of his feet to harping on about a dog! All pretty random! That’s 4 year olds for you!!

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Moving on. Slowly.

Well it’s Saturday night and for once I’m having a quiet weekend. Well, as quiet as it gets with an almost-four year old! What I mean is that I’ve not made my usual back to back weekend plans and, although it’s felt a bit strange, it’s also been quite liberating as well as productive. The chores are done, the house is clean, I’ve enjoyed “quality” time with Jake…and now he’s asleep and the hubby’s at work. And I’m bored!

Then I realised I’ve neglected the old blog of late so thought I’d hop on for the latest installment.

It’s almost 3 months since my Mam died and I guess those of us left behind are trying to deal with a world with a mam-shaped hole in it. My sister and I are constantly worrying about our Dad who, it seems, is doing ok all things considered. Jake has taken to mentioning his Nana at completely random intervals, with real gut-wrenching questions like “How did Nana get up to heaven”? It’s taught me to think on my toes and I guess it’s preparation for later questions like “Where do babies come from” and “Does Santa really exist?”. It certainly knocks the wind out of your sails when you realise that his little mind still thinks about her and misses her in his life.

Jake spending time with his Grandad

Jake spending time with his Grandad

So life is moving on, the texts asking “how are you?” are ebbing away (understandably) and we all just have to adjust to this new way of life. Mother’s Day was tough (in fact the whole weekend was), but I survived to tell the tale. The strangest things can set me off, for example my hubby the other day randomly asked how I learned to put make up on. Well, as most girls will say, their first lessons were always with their mam, invariable putting some garish eye shadow on and a spot of “rouge”. It’s memories like that which keep popping up at inopportune moments and knocking me for six. I also now work quite close to where my Mam worked for twenty (plus) years, and I sometimes drive past her old place of work, remembering Saturday mornings spent typing letters for my dad, stealing post it notes and generally “helping out” with my little sis. I am quite sure we weren’t meant to be there, but in those days no-one seemed to mind.

In other news, our little boy is FOUR next week! So this time 4 years ago I was eating pineapple by the bucket load and drinking that bloody raspberry leaf tea by the gallon (neither of which worked BTW). And I was about to embark on the toughest few weeks of my life!!!! But the subsequent rewards have been worth it a million times over…

So for the big day he has a new cabin bed from us and his grandparents – he is one lucky boy. To say he is excited would be an understatement! God help us on the day itself! Everything is currently being counted in batches of four in anticipation of the big day – four hugs before bed, four kisses as I leave for work, crumpets have to be cut into four etc etc. Bless him.

Batman obsessed and "nearly four"

Batman obsessed and “nearly four”

As for me, well I’ve embarked on another weight-loss mission and so far it’s been hard work but it’s paying off. I’ve lost ten pounds in about 6 weeks. I also signed up for the Great North Run in a moment of temporary insanity, only for my hips to seize up after one POWER WALK/JOG!!! I’m now being referred for physio after x-rays showed nothing. So my dreams of a 13-miler may have to go on the back burner for now. I think it’s my body’s way of telling me I’m basically nearly forty and am therefore SUPER OLD!!!!!

On that note, I’m off to bed soon! xxxx

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Tribute to my Mam

It’s my birthday today. It’s also a month to the day that my lovely Mam passed away, suddenly and without much warning, leaving us completely devastated and with so many things left unsaid. So it’s my first birthday in my whole life, all 39 years of it, without my Mam. Now I know it’s the natural order of things, but still it just feels wrong that the person who brought me into the world 39 years ago today is no longer here. It’s still early days and I still go to ring her or see something I know she’d love (invariably floral in nature!). I still have “Mam and Dad” in my mobile for their number and I can’t bring myself to change it.

I miss seeing her when I go to their house. She would jump straight to the window waving when we pulled up in the car, excited to see Jake, her golden boy. If he was asleep in the car she’d let me go in the house for a cuppa. She’d sit in the car for ages, watching him breathe, waiting for him to wake up and reveling in her grandson who had truly brought the life back into her life in recent years.

It’s strange how death evokes random memories, such as her stroking my hair when I lay broken hearted on my bed crying about being dumped. How she always said “There’s a pretty girl” when either my sister or I were dressed up for a night out. We certainly knew we were loved. I read once that the greatest gift you can receive is the knowledge that you are loved. In that respect my sister and I had no doubt. My mam never failed to praise or defend us, no doubt boring friends to death over the years about how great we were (in her eyes anyway).

I miss her and Jake playing hide and seek when I come home from work, giggling like partners in crime as I pretend to not have a clue where they are. Her endless patience with Jake, the laughter and fun they had, is something I hope he never forgets and I will do my utmost to keep her memory alive for my son. We have sent a balloon up to his beloved Nana in heaven, telling her how much we miss her and loved her. (Words I wish I had had a chance to say, but for now the balloon will have to suffice).

Mam and her golden boy as a baby

Mam and her golden boy as a baby

I remember her generosity, not just in her love, but in other ways like slipping us some cash when we were destitute students. And if she came along on a shopping trip you could guarantee she’d insist on treating us. She would not take no for an answer, even in recent years when we both had decent jobs and salaries to match! But that was just my Mam. Then when Jake came along there was a little treat for him most weeks – a new book or paints, a bar of chocolate or a little t-shirt she had picked up on in town. We were all very lucky and blessed in that respect.

I have great memories of my Mam helping me pick my wedding dress, and I could just tell she was over the moon to help. And her coming along to one of my midwife appointments (it was actually my “sweep” when Jake was overdue) and Mam just loved being involved and supporting me when I was about to become a mother myself. Maybe in retrospect I should have involved her more. It’s a powerful thing, hindsight.

My family on my wedding day

My family on my wedding day

Over the years I know I must have inflicted a lot of worry on my Mam, rolling in drunk (or not rolling in at all!), moving away to Leeds, going out clubbing instead of revising for my A levels, plus the usual dramas with friends and boys along the way. But her love and support never wavered. As a Mam myself now, I totally get this now. It is unconditional. And yes that is a cliche but it is a killer when it’s gone. I miss you Mam, and always will.

Your daughter Joanna
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My beautiful Mam

My beautiful Mam

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Intolerant – moi?

I was driving to work yesterday and noticed two people driving whilst merrily puffing away on a cigarette (something which I am sure is slightly illegal!). Now not only is it illegal (I think) but it really drives me mad. Surely they can wait til they get to wherever it is they are going without a bloody fag! GRRRR! Anyhoo, I had a chuckle to myself as I realised that this is simply one of many things that drives me round the twist. Intolerant – moi??! Admittedly, smoking has to be top of the list, but it’s quite a long list. Here goes…

a) Smoking, smoke, smokers (you get the idea)
b) Noisy eaters and any food related noise especially at the cinema (that’s why we never go!)
c) Any slurping of drinks
d) People who interrupt incessantly
e) Checkout staff who chat away to each other while you wait (im)patiently to spend your money paying their wages
f) Cold callers or suppliers who you hardly know asking you how your day is going and engaging in other inane chit chat
g) Men (namely my husband!) who change channels assuming that you want no say in what crap beams of out the telly. Ditto the music in the car!
h) People who say they’ll call then don’t
i) Gym classes you can only book a week in advance and are full when you call at 8am
j) Potential eBay buyers who ask if you’ll ship to Outer Mongolia
k) People who call you back when you’ve sent them an email and just want them to reply
l) Reality TV shows which are a total fix, especially those who whinge about such shows on social networks. Don’t bloody watch them then!
m) Soft plays that charge for adult entry – it’s no fun for us!
n) Sniffing – get a tissue!!

I may add to this list later as they come to me. Feel free to add your own!

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