Mad Max: Fury Road – drive there now

Mad Max Fury Road - Tom Hardy -

I’m not what you’d call an action movie kind of woman. I’ve never really seen the point of going to the cinema to watch people hurtling about, making a mess and yelling. I can get that at home any day of the week. Fighty  films just seem pointless, ditto chases and jumping out and ambushing ones.

The boys, Panther included, occupy the sitting room on a Saturday night while some very loud film assaults the peace for the best part of two hours. It has been suggested that refusing their kind offer to join them makes me less of a team player, but I’m sure I wouldn’t bring anything much to their party.

It’s The Hobbit tonight and, to show willing, I’ve asked once or twice whether it’s the hairy ones or the ugly ones who are winning. There was some sport in spotting which actor it was under what preposterous prosthetic proboscis, but it really wasn’t enough.

But, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for the Mad Max franchise.

To begin with it was almost certainly something to do with Mel Gibson. I know old Mel hasn’t improved with age, but back then not only was he seriously attractive but he made some very cool films too. Seek out The Year of Living Dangerously and you’ll see what I mean.

This year there’s a brand new Mad Max. Mercifully MG hasn’t got anything to do with it. Brutalised pretty boy isn’t a successful look when you’re nearly 60.

The new version stars Tom Hardy who looks a little bit like Dermot O’Leary might if he’d had a very tense day at work on a badly run building site. This is actually a good thing.

The film itself is mostly a car chase/bike chase/truck chase. In fact, there are hardly any minutes when it’s not a car chase, preparation for a car chase or the aftermath of a car chase. Yet, it’s gripping and much, much richer than you’d think.

From the shocking glimpse of the milking parlour of lactation, to the point you meet mutilated and flinty-eyed Furiosa. There’s nothing token about the female characters here. A pregnant belly is used as a shield and a menopausal biker gang roar into action. It’s kind of the point of the thing and, in case you hadn’t noticed, that’s what the ‘meeting the wives and cutting off the chastity belts’ scene is all about. It’s the bit where you come round the back of a sand dune to find a War Rig, bald and grumpy Furiosa and several golden-limbed beauties swathed in flowing fabric hosing each other down with precious water.

I sighed and resigned myself to enduring the usual sexist tosh and spending the rest of the film considering the lecture my sons would get about the various wrongness of it. Only I was wrong. The golden-limbed babes are every bit as ballsy as the blokes and are fleeing from – not hunting – a husband. One of them glories in the name of Toast The Knowing (doesn’t improve her feminist cred, but it’s a fabulous name).

No feminist talk was necessary on the way home. Instead Boy Two said: “Slow down mum, this is not a War Rig.” I can’t think why.








Deadline for a bicycling beaver…

Way past bedtime on a wet Monday evening and the Panther and I were to be found running up and down a slight slope in the park, him in his work trousers. 

Not, of course, that we had found a new exercise fad. In fact, the Panther was putting more effort into shouting instructions and eating a slightly damp cheese sandwich than actually running. A new take on dinner to go. 

It was because there was another deadline. Isn’t it funny how deadlines are supposed to loom? I rather think they don’t, because if they did loom, then you’d probably have noticed them long before and taken appropriate (ie digit removing) action. 

Anyhow, this deadline was snapping at our ankles like a curmudgeonly terrier. It was the deadline for Boy Three to be able to ride a bike. 

He became a beaver a couple of weeks ago. Proudly following his big brothers into the scouting movement. He’s very keen. His enthusiasm only dented slightly by failure to understand the rules (or the point even) of rounders. It’s very hard to explain. Go on, try it without saying “it’s a bit like cricket, only round”.

It has been announced that next week’s meeting was for them all to do their cycling badge. If they could all, please, bring a bike, helmet and pump. Super. 

Only Boy Three had never actually got round to riding the bike he got the Christmas before last. It was actually dusty. Initial enthusiasm foundered somewhere between the stabilisers on/pedals off debate and the never ending drizzle. 

Unable to face the shame of having the only beaver in town not achieving this milestone (me) and the possibility of his non riding leaving him sobbing (Panther) we sought wise counsel (Google). And so we spent three damp evenings yelling encouragement and rubbing bits better until, by George, he got it. 

His efforts – and ours – rewarded by him earning the title Beaver Of The Week. 

I did wonder though, if this last-minuteness isn’t something of a flaw. Isn’t the more grown-up thing to get one’s act together and do The Thing well ahead of the final few days? Probably. The world is probably full of calm, organised people who have done the packing, bought the right thing, lost the weight and sorted out the stuff… all in good time. Only, I’m just not one of them. 

Must dash…

Airing my dirty laundry just about everywhere

It began with a most insignificant click. Then the lights went out and it was apparent – after several optimistic attempts to ignore all evidence – that the washing machine was, in fact, a dampening and flooding the floor machine. 

There are some definitive parenting moments. The first steps, the gummy smiles, the first time your kid’s internet history gives you a shock. Well this was another one. 

This white good had gone bad. (Yes, yes, I know. But the fact that it has done at least two washes a day, every day for four years didn’t help me right now (2920 washes – give or take, since you ask).) 

Laundry baskets were brimming over all over the house already. (I’d been swanning at a very glamourous Italian wedding all weekend.)

Crusty socks and foosty towels were amassing in every corner.

Boy Two had been camping (it’s amazing how a bit of mud, some rain and a dash of mysterious red sauce-type stuff quickly become considerably greater than the sum of their parts).

I was due back at work in the morning.

The Boys had one day of school uniforms left clean.  

The smell, while not yet intolerable, had moved from ‘a bit whiffy’ to ‘beyond words’ particularly if you stirred any of the heaps. 

The repair company’s office was shut for the night. 

Panic was rising. 

Wild eyed I recounted this to the mother of daughters. In my shoes, she explained, like I was overreacting, she’d simply make her girls wear their uniforms for more than their usual two or three days. Ha ha ha. I only bred boys so I don’t know if this is a gender issue, but, every parent of sons who got wind (hopefully not literally, though it was possible) of my plight didn’t need it spelled out as they gasped and gazed with that mixture of pity and thank-the-lord it’s not me-ness. 

Eventually, the repair person’s services were secured and their visit assured ‘any time between nine and five Tuesday’. Any doubts I’d had about the function of study leave were dispelled when I uttered “my teenage son is in the house all day, so that’s fine”.

Still, that Tuesday was nine days away! Days I filled with, among other things, screeching to a halt outside the nearest laundrette just as the owner was pulling down the security grilles with one of those hook-on-a-pole affairs. “Please, wait,” I gasped. “Noooo. Don’t tell me I’m too late.”

“Well,” she began, eyeing me with alarm and rattling a metal shutter down.

“I’ve got boys and my washing machine is broken.”

“You should have said. In that case…”

Surely it wasn’t always like this. I remember a time when laundry wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Far too mundane and domestic. Wash stuff, don’t wash stuff, it was largely the same. Who cares? I thought. I had bigger fish to fry. 

You don’t read about how the great heroines fretted about getting their smalls laundered, do you? Cleopatra wasn’t distracted by rinsing the asses’ milk out of the towels before it went rancid. And you would definitely want to as it would be pretty nasty if left.

One time, I suppose you were either someone who washed others’ pants and shirts or you had someone to do it for you. Progress must be to blame then. Now we have labour-saving devices to keep us from having to scrub skid marks from our loved one’s undercrackers on a rock in the nearest stream. An activity that would probably attract the attention of the constabulary these days.

Fantastic then (OK not quite fantastic because there’s a whole post to be had on who does the feeding of these miraculous machines, but fantastic enough.) 

Fantastic then, until the bloody things pack in and, suddenly it’s a calamity and, somehow, you’re the one to solve it. Weird. 


A home makeover – the quick way

I have a problem. On the one hand I love to live somewhere beautiful, well-decorated that brings me joy, yet, on the other I’m too idle and impatient to be bothered with getting the paint brushes and tool kit out.

And alas, neither am I rich enough to be able to get staff to do stuff at the click of a finger (or mouse). 

So consequently I live in a perpetual mess state of discontentment about the lack of gleam in my home and my own inability to shift myself to do something about it. The ideas are there aplenty, it’s just the follow-through that’s lacking. 

And I’m not alone it seems. 

Boy Three proudly announced that he’d tidied up his bedroom, and would I come and see it. 

Translation: T-shirts, trousers and PJs, with helpful drawings too.

Translation: wall

His little face was so full of pride and expectation as he explained that at school they had labels on everything and it helped to keep things tidy. Thus, full of fast phonics, he decided to apply the same logic to his room. With permanent marker. On everything. 

I think we’ll live with this version of tidy for a bit. 

Meanwhile, though I got asked to review products from a company called Wallpops. Wallpops are stickers – vinyl probably but I’ve no idea exactly what vinyl is – that you bung up everywhere until you’re bored and then either take them down or bung them somewhere else. 

Ideal for a quick ‘tidy up’. 

They are also useful too. Some are even write-on wipe-off versions of helpful things like shopping lists and calendars. 

Our downstairs loo now includes a large map of the world with a pen for me to mark on all the places I want to go this year. 

I call making travel plans in the smallest room an excellent use of multi-tasking.

I’ve also added some mirrored stickers to the stairs to take my mind off how threadbare the stair carpet has become … and how I have yet to apply myself to the tedious business of replacing it. 

So thanks to Wall Pops for some excellent stickers which are perfect for my home – and for anyone else who is too idle or impatient to effect any other kind of DIY. Plus some of them are just gorgeous. 

There are hundreds of designs to choose from and lots of them are nice and large. They are easy to apply without even much in the way of instruction reading. 

I’m just off to see if there are any Wall Pop stickers to, erm, tidy up Boy Three’s tidying. 

The things we learned in Donegal

We’re still shaking the sand out of our turn-ups because last week we harnessed the Bundance pony and trotted off to Ireland. 

Here’s what we learned: 

Boo: Hanging out in the dunes at Ards Forest Park

Ireland is warm and sunny. Yes, really. Every day we were there we regretted not bringing more pairs of shorts and sun block. Later an Irish colleague told me that this was a total fluke and that a return would almost certainly find rain and cold. 

Eating out doesn’t need to be a letdown. I’d become so used to finding that meals out were leaving a bad taste – either boring, bland, freezer to fryer or, even, simply nasty. Everywhere we went with our appetites we weren’t disappointed as everything was home made, tasty and delicious.

Balls: Boys in a bubble at Dunlewey Centre.

There’s nothing boring about Monopoly. Not the card version anyway. It doesn’t take long to play this game, what kept us at it for hours were the grudges and desire for revenge. Oh, and the fact that it become compulsory to celebrate by doing a the dance of a victoriuos crab. 

Round: Obviously we didn’t take any pictures inside the building! Here’s a bendy fency though. 

Like many of the things of middle age, roof boxes are such a good idea you don’t know why you didn’t think of it sooner. Also into this category fall comfortable shoes, employing a cleaner, early nights, the Archers and a nice cup of tea. 

WWW (or similar) can be a breath of fresh air. The logo is, in fact, for the Wild Atlantic Way. Kids were a bit miffed but recovered when they saw the beaches.

Euro is plural, apparently. On all the TV adverts, big sums of money have no s. It’s “50,000 Euro for a big shiny thing” and only “1,000 Euro to travel a long way on holiday”. Though two cups of tea and a piece of cake will be six Euros. 

Simples: One of the residents of Tropical World, Letterkenny
Hiding in a corner is still possible in a round building. Boy Three tested this in our digs – a perfectly round, three-bedroom flat. 

Bin there: Over the rubbish bin to the Wild AtlanticWay
Roundness is a significant feature in a building. After we had driven around the village of Downings for some time on the first night looking for our accommodation, Boy One tuned in and piped up. “It’s over there,” he pointed, certain. And he was right as he was the only one of our number who had paid enough attention to know what shape the building we were looking for was. 

The Troubles are already part of history. Thankfully. As we discussed painted gable ends and edited Londonderry signs, it became clear that from the kids’ point of view the whole business was as far back in time as the sinking of the Titanic.   

Not everything that looks like fun is a good idea!

Troon – Larne is a ferry good crossing. No idea why we haven’t done that before. Less than an hour down the road, a hop on the boat and then there we were. Easy peasy. 

Sand angels are better than snow ones. They’re warmer and don’t melt. 

Division of labour doesn’t work on a pedalo. Not when you let the five-year-old old do the steering, anyway. 

Why the chicken crossed the road. Because there’s a new Nando’s in Derry. 

Anger: When the rules get broken?

What boils your water? Is there something that sets your teeth on edge? Do you know what’s going to make you see red? Will you be vexed or incandescent? 

I’d love to be able to take a deep, calming breath and let it go – fury, rage or temper. All gone. It only gives me indigestion. However, like most people, I can’t. I get hot under the collar at all sorts of things and irate or indignant at others. 

Of course, it’s just another part of the human condition, like flatulence or ingrowing toenails and, therefore, must be borne with equanimity, mustn’t it?

Not bloody likely. Let’s rage, rage against the queueing at the lights … or something. A sort of primal defence system kicks in when we’re under attack, or when we get that funny look … again, or when that man over there makes that noise with his teeth. 

And then the penny drops. I think I understand what it’s all about. 

The tantrums and the sulks. They’re It’s about the rules. We all have an internal set of rules and when someone breaks one, that’s when Mr Angry comes to call. 

Some of the rules are the ‘don’t run in the corridors’ ones that help keep us safe. Like you mustn’t take me by surprise, you can’t help yourself my stuff without asking, never attack the people I love… that kind of thing. It’s easy to see what happens when there’s a violation – there’s a huge thunderclap and some heavy-duty crossness takes place. And the problem may well find itself solved. 

However, a great many of the rules don’t appear to make much sense at all. For example: 

  • If he loves me, he’ll know exactly what I want to eat/watch/listen to
  • No one should ever give me a funny look
  • Strange noises are forbidden
  • Never jostle me
  • That shade of purple is all wrong
  • Not that shirt with those trousers
  • No one tailgates me 
  • If she loved me she’d know how badly that meeting went just by looking
  • If he cared he’d understand that I’m too hot in this dress
  • To err is human, except when your spouse does it
Can you see it’s a bit like saying setting up a country’s road system but then making the Highway Code a secret. Thus having a hissy fit about a violation isn’t really going to help, especially as no one will know why you flipped your lid. 

So before for you let rip with a satisfying rage-fuelled attach, make sure that you understand which rule has just been broken and by whom. 

Then try saying: “I’m sorry I shouted/threw the tea cup/called you names, but you must understand that I expect that everyone must consult me before changing the channel just when I’ve got into my brand new favourite show, yes, the one I hated last week” and see if it doesn’t spread a little light and love over the exchange…

Things I’ve learned from family camping in the winter…

The bucket list: A lengthy, specific list of wonderful, exciting and exotic things I’m intending to do before I die. 

One of the things on it is not ‘go camping in winter in Lanarkshire’. So why, then, was I to be found snuggling down under canvas in a field on the outskirts of Cumbernauld? 
It was all because of a promise to Boy Two. His 13th birthday (13? Yes, 13. How did that happen? No idea.) looms and what he wanted more than anything (and in the absence of an Apple watch or a hover board) was a family camping trip. 

“Of course, darling. It’ll be fun.”

Oh yes!

Then I started looking at the calendar and it was either that weekend a couple of weeks ago or the middle of May. 

What followed taught me a lot. 

Not many camp sites are open in the middle of March. Really? Except one at World of Wings bird of prey centre. 

Having a very fat sleeping bag makes a difference. The warmest members of the group had cosy 3+ season versions by Vango. 

Sometimes I know what I’m talking about. Some members of the intrepid group didn’t believe me about putting on layers of clothes, did you Boy One and Panther? And who do you think was warmest?

Camping is not just a place to stay, it’s a verb. It’s true. Boy Two is very good at camping and taught us about pitching tents, building fires and lots of other scouty skills. 

I found the question to which roofbox was the answer. The hasty trip to Halfords was prompted by one look at the huge heap of kit needed for just one night. 

Don’t put things into the roof box in such a way as you won’t be able to reach them to remove them. Seems obvious… after you do it. 

Camping can make the improbable very tasty indeed. S’mores, for example. Boy Two gave expert instructions on making these things. They are a loosely packed sandwich of chocolate and marshmallow in digestive biscuits, wrapped in tinfoil and toasted until they’re delicious. I have it on good authority that Abernethy biscuits are better. Something to try next time. (Next time?)

Why vultures are bald. It’s to stop rotting entrails sticking to their heads. They have strong enough stomach acid to ensure they don’t poison themselves by eating carrion. So they do and stop it polluting everything else. Handy. 

Cockatoo is a funny word. I think you have to be a boy to get that. Or just one of my Boys. 

Camping means you don’t have to nag. (Or maybe a different set of things to nag about) But there are no vegetables to eat, no way to wash a face and no tables to set or keep your elbows off. 

We’re now a family that camps. Probably just as well, considering the new roof box and extra sleeping bags. 

International Women’s Day – what does making it happen really mean?

A Sunday ponder: International Women’s Day. What’s it all about?

Of course I’m in support, why wouldn’t I be? Obviously, it’s important and, without doubt, the rights of women, their safety and equality should be at the top of everyone’s agenda. 

There are women and girls in the world who can’t get education, who are in real danger or who have no choice about what happens to them. It’s about them surely. 

I’m lucky. No one abuses me, I got a good education, legislation protects my rights. I’m safe. I have everything I need for me and my family. I have choices. 

International Women’s Day, with its #makingithappen theme, is about those less fortuate.

And yet…

Last night was the Glasgow Press Ball. An annual gathering of the great and good among Scottish journalists to raise funds and glasses. Jolly good fun and probably why I’m slightly less sprightly than usual today. It was lovely, as ever, to catch up with lots of people I haven’t seen for years. 

It’s weird. Some of those people are now fairly lofty – editors and the like. Of note, even. 

But the thing is, almost all of those in elevated positions are men. Odd that. 

Able though they are, I don’t believe any of these blokes are endowed with significantly more talent than the rest of us, men and women, had when we were starting out. So what happened? 

There’s no great conspiracy – not really. There’s no boys’ club secret handshake thing (or at least I don’t think so). And I don’t believe journalism is any different to any other field. 

No. Instead it’s a series of small, almost insignificant, decisions made along the way, for a variety of reasons. Things like concluding that the only childcare solution is the one that requires a job with regular hours; that the sexist comment from a manager isn’t worth challenging; that applying for flexible working won’t make a difference (ha!).

This includes domestic matters too – who does what at home, the kind of care your children get, and how that makes you feel? Who’s responsible for it all – really responsible? 

And elsewhere, every time no one stuck up for a bullied woman, each instance a woman was objectified or demeaned for her gender – and nothing was said, and all the times you wearily sigh and get on with it – because that’s just how it is. They all count too. 

Would it have made a difference? I’ve no idea whether I could have been chief of this or editor of that if I fought harder – or even noticed – every time I made a sexist choice. 

I do know this though – making it happen isn’t just about clear significant campaigns in other part of the world. It’s about seeing, understanding and saying something every time it happens.

#makingithappen for International Women’s Day. 

Why middle-aged women make the best spies

James Bond’s time is up, MI5 has come to its senses. 

British spy bosses have announced that they’re keen to recruit more middle-aged women to the ranks of the intelligence agencies. More? It’s hard to see where they might fit among the well-cut suits, rippling biceps and broodingly mysterious strangers. Do you notice many secret agents with school timetables and kids’ party invites on their fridges?

Among the suave and cosmopolitan do you see people lugging large battered bags stuffed with just-in-case wet wipes and emergency socks? Do some of their number suddenly get the crumpled brow and down-cast air associated with the recollection that it is scouts tonight, fancy dress tomorrow or that there’s no milk in for breakfast and it’s too late to do anything about it?

Disguise (Yumikrum via flickr)

No? Thought not. 

Spies like us? (That has a ring about it, doesn’t it?) How can middle-aged women join the ranks of the dashing and debonair? What would MI5, MI6 or GCHQ want with someone, well, someone like me? 

Well that’s the very sneaky thing. Women in their prime make the best spies ever. It’s obvious. 

How much cunning do you think it takes to do earn a living, keep some children alive, a house from utter squalor and still manage to find time to get to the hairdresser once in a while? Bucket loads, that’s how much. It’s the same skill that allows them to identify which bakery products will look home-made enough for the bake sale and how to head most of tantrums off at the first petulant sigh. 

As for the need for disguise – that one comes easily. All a middle-aged woman has to do to become invisible is to stand still and say nothing. It’s something of a superpower. 

With more hand bags coming into the Service, Q could end up out of a job. Inside the average mother’s bag you’ll find equipment to deal with most eventualities from splinters to explosions of toxic chemicals (even after the nappy years). 

But what about the fitness? I hear you cry. Of course, we’re used to seeing our secret agents leaping into action, bounding across casinos and disarming assassins before you’d even noticed their evil skulking. Well watch what happens when a toddler near a hard surface or a body of water picks up his mother’s new iPhone and you’ll find your concerns put to rest faster than she can say: “Put it down.”

Some intelligence work is about decoding messages and intercepting enemy communication. It can’t be any harder than understanding teenagers, can it? Especially not when they’re trying to keep a secret. 

Obviously spies need keen observational skills. You know. Like the ones mothers have when they think their children are up to something, or when their spouse is hatching a plot. They may wonder how you know everything you know, but, to us, it’s obvious.

Let’s consider covert listening – also known as eavesdropping. Take the ability to become invisible add don’t-wake-the-baby sneaking skills plus a dash of cunning, and there’s very little a mother doesn’t know about in her own home – or else where for that matter. 

There are a batch of abilities a mother – particularly a working one – can bring to the international espionage arena: These include the ability to keep tabs on a whole group of people while appearing to pay attention to the primary task; curing minor ailments (reference working mother encountering minor rash or slight cold); finding things (other people’s); and being in two places at once. 

So it’s obvious really. Mothers make the best spies, they have done for years. The next time you see a woman with a slightly distracted look on her face, she’s not wondering what’s for supper, she’s considering how to handle a crucial piece of intelligence that might just save the nation. 

5X50 Challenge – springing into action

I know it’s snowing outside, but soon it’ll get warmer, brighter and springier. Then there will be no excuse for skulking by the fire.

So it’ll be the time of year for taking up a challenge, or it might be if I could be bothered. In previous years I’ve done half marathons, got on my bike or climbed marathons. This year, well, meh. I haven’t got even an ounce of inspiration.

Until now…

My fit friend Fiona Outdoors nudged me in the direction of 5X50 Challenge. 

It’s a 50-day fitness challenge. You have to do something energetic every day from the day the clocks go forward for 50 days. That’s March 29 until May 17. 

It’s been going a couple of years now and there are lots of ways of achieving the 5X50 challenge. 

Co-founder Kelly Mason said: “with five different 5X50 platforms we hope to see even more people benefit from being more active in 2015.”

Launched in 2012, the 5×50 Challenge called on people to do 5km or 30 minutes of exercise every day for 50 consecutive days.
Now Challengers can choose one of the five platforms to complete their 50 days, including: 
• The movers: Individual/team/school complete 5k distance by walking, jogging, running, cycling, rowing etc for 50 days
• The added extras: Individual/team/school complete minimum 30 minutes of activity/exercise including the above with addition of yoga, weight training, exercise class etc for 50 days
• The pairs: Two people split the challenge to cover 5k for 50 days between them, so each person does 25 days.
• The teams: Five people cover 1km per day for 50 days by walking, jogging, running, cycling, rowing, swimming etc.
• The builders: Individuals build from five minutes of activity to 50 minutes of activity by the end of the 50-day challenge.
Five charities in 2015
In 2015, the 5×50 Challenge, which is a Scottish charity, will raise funds for five charity partners. These are Macmillan Cancer Support, SAMH, Guide Dogs, Chest, Heart and Stroke (Scotland) and Children 1st.

Raymond Wallace, the other 5×50 founder, said:  “The Challenge started off in Scotland as a personal challenge in 2012, to run 5k every day for 50 days.

“Since then it has grown amazingly quickly and with so much enthusiasm from so many people worldwide. Research demonstrates that habits are formed after 21 days, so with the challenge running over 50 days, this makes it much easier for participants to continue beyond the end of the challenge into a new way of life.

“We are very hopeful of a fitter and healthier future for so many more people thanks to 5×50.

So I’m going to put my trainers on every day for nearly twin months – or at the very least get on the yoga mat. Anyone fancy joining me?

Sign up to the 5X50 Challenge at www.5×
Also see and