The middle-aged parent’s guide to getting a tattoo

 

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This isn’t me. I rarely wear a flat cap.

In September I got my first tattoo. A small and simple one. “They’re addictive!” I was warned. I doubted it.

But then this week I got my second tattoo. A bigger and more detailed one. I warn you, they’re addictive.

What do you need to know to make the transition from the school run to the tattoo parlour pain-free (relatively)? Is it okay to wear a top from M&S? Do you need to pretend you’ve heard of Stormsky and Jason Dorito? ARE YOU JUST TOO SQUARE?

Start small

If you’re not sure if you can handle the pain, then start small. There are different entry level points and you don’t need to go the full shebang with a complete tattoo bodysuit. This is a luxury that you don’t have with childbirth, where there is only one entry point and two exit points. If you have squeezed out a baby then in all likelihood you’ll be able to manage the discomfort of a tattoo with ease. (If you’re a man who’s had kidney stones and a doctor has told you some b*llocks about that being more painful than childbirth, then there’s your benchmark. Cling to it.)

You don’t need to get a portrait of your children

Let’s rephrase that: Don’t get a portrait of your children. Or indeed their birthdates, initials or any recreation of a stick man drawing they’ve produced. If you’ve got to middle-age and have decided to get a tattoo, then it should only be for you. Get something you like (that may even rule out your kids), something that reminds you that you are more than simply a bum wiper and a nose blower.

Not everyone will like it – get used to it

Rolling up your sleeve and seeing the look on the face of someone who hates tattoos takes some getting used to. People tend not to hide their dislike. (Remember to return the favour next time they show you a photo of their children.) Yes, you will feel judged, but as Ms Swift once wisely said: the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate. Remember why you got a tattoo – I’m 99.9% sure it wasn’t for other people. My first one was upside down as it was only important for me to see it the right way up. And, hell, you’ve made it this far – it’s time to stop worrying about what other people think.

Show how sensible you are

Waiting until your 40s to get a tattoo is an excellent way to teach your children not to rush into things they might regret. My two now understand that even though Mummy has always wanted a tattoo, she thought for an awfully long time about it. Decades. It’s only now that Mummy is really sure about what she wants, so, no, we won’t be letting you get a tattoo when you’re 18.

Telling your mother

If you anticipate any issues with introducing your mother to your tattoo, don’t tell your child about it and suffix the conversation with “but don’t tell Nanna”. In fact, the sure-fire way to let the whole world know about your inky addition is to tell your children. If you’ve had your tattoo somewhere intimate, be prepared to reassure strangers that, contrary to what your child has said, you’re not going to get it out to show them

Yes, it is a mid-life crisis …

… and, no, don’t be ashamed. It’s not like you’ve bought a sports car and dumped your family. There are far worse things you can do. There are some things you’ll regret because you know you’re too old to achieve them now – winning an Olympic medal – or that responsibilities and mortgages are stopping you from doing, so make the most of the things you can do. Visit places you’ve always wanted to visit, go and see Jedward live if you so wish, get a tattoo (even if it’s just one little one to say “I did it!” and tick off the bucket list).

Tattoos don’t automatically make you cool

If you’re a square (like me), you will still be square – just a square with a tattoo. The tattoo might be a really cool one but, just remember, a Robin Reliant with a spoiler doesn’t suddenly become a Porsche. Donald Trump with an awesome tattoo would still be Donald Trump. Fact.

Don’t expect miracles, but do enjoy the guilty joy of rebellion as you settle down with a sherry to watch Pointless and sew on Brownie badges. You and your tattoo kick ass.

 

Chasing the Sun: book review and giveaway

I’m a bit of a book snob. When I was asked to review Katy Colins’ Chasing the Sun I thought, ooo, ‘fluff’ and quickly filed it under ‘books other people like to read’. But then I stopped and considered what I’d read most recently, or in fact had not read. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – abandoned. Sorry Brontë (Anne), I’m sure an exciting climax was coming (I’ll never know) but did it require such a preamble? And apologies to E.M. Delafield: your Diary of a Provincial Lady was lovely – very funny – but just didn’t do it for this lady.

Suddenly Chasing the Sun (Colins’ fourth novel featuring the character Georgia Green) seemed really appealing. Well, slap it with a label and call it Chick Lit, but it was the start of the school holidays and did I really want something heavy to offset a day of sibling warfare?

Chasing the Sun was everything I wanted it to be: absorbing, funny, a book to forgo sleep for. Says the publisher’s blurb:

“Georgia Green is on the conveyor belt to happiness. Live-in boyfriend, perfect career and great friends, it seems like Georgia is only a Tiffany box away from her happily ever after. But when she arrives in Australia for her best friend’s wedding and is faced with the bridezilla from hell, she starts to realise that she might not want the cookie-cutter ending she thought.”

If you enjoy Bridget Jones then you’ll love this book, complete with its awkward moments (“I’m not pregnant!” I shouted, wishing that he would stop that. “I’m just fat!” I wailed). Katy Colins is also a travel blogger (www.notwedordead.com) and, if you so dared, I reckon you could even use the book as a travel guide to Australia. (I googled the ‘Big Things of Australia’ but sadly couldn’t find the home of the ‘well-known willie’. Snigger.) The author’s eye for locations adds the extra something that makes the book stand out from standard girl/boy/do they/don’t they fare. Chasing the Sun is most definitely a page turner and it’s always a rare pleasure to find a book like that. Proper indulgence. Dive into this rather than the paddling pool and you may just make it through the school holidays.

Chasing the Sun by Katy Colins, HQ (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), paperback, £7.99, published 27th July 2017.

WIN!

If you fancy ditching your Dostoevsky and hurling your Hemingway this summer, I have just the giveaway for you. For your chance to win a copy of Chasing the Sun please just leave a comment below telling me where your ideal holiday destination is. Easy as that. One lucky winner will be chosen at random at 5pm on Tuesday 22nd August 2017. Entries from the UK only. Good luck!

A newbie’s guide to being owned by a cat

black and white cat

After finally relenting to the kids’ pleas, our cat arrived 6 weeks ago (2 weeks before the kids lost interest in it). I’m not a cat or dog person or indeed an any kind of animal person (with the exception of sloths perhaps, I like them) so it has been quite a learning curve. As I blow yet another cat hair off my keyboard – it might have been the one that was stuck between my front teeth earlier but it’s definitely the one I’ll find in my lunch later – here’s what the past 6 weeks have taught me …

Mad cat lady = inevitable

You may snigger at ‘cat people’, those singletons who share their lives and beds with their feline fur babies. You may yawn and wonder how many variations of a cat looking cute whilst licking its genitals someone could possibly post on social media without finding their friend list empty. Believe me, I was the same. Then you get a cat and suddenly you find some stranger has been posting photos of your pet on your Instagram and Facebook accounts and that stranger is YOU.

Really, it happens that quickly. One day you’re a normal person, the next day you’re a cat person (or, as a proper aficionado would say, a cat’s person). You know that such activity will pigeonhole you as someone to avoid, but you just can’t help yourself. You can barely remember how much you used to hate next door’s cat for sh*tting in your garden, the darling little ball of fuzz. Stroking your pussy becomes something you talk about shamelessly, suffixing the conversation with “Gosh, I’ve turned into a mad cat lady already” just in case it stops the other person from backing away from you slowly.

With cats, the parallels with parenting a human being are endless (and not just their fascination with watching you on the toilet) …

Poo

Cat poo in the garden used to make me want to gag. But your own cat’s poo? Smells like roses. Remember how wiping your own children’s bums is completely acceptable but you’d still never touch the faeces of a stranger?

If you get a moggy, I thoroughly recommend clumping litter. For those not in the know, the fine gravel basically sticks to poo and wee enabling you to conveniently lift it out with a scoop in neat little chunks. At its most satisfying it equates to panning for gold. Dig your scoop in, pull it out and give it a little shake to get rid of the loose litter and then see if you’ve got treasure!

By mistakenly feeding our cat squirty cream, I’ve discovered clumping litter works a treat on cat diarrhoea too. When my 6-year-old ‘mistakenly’ fed our cat squirty cream for a second chuffing time, I also discovered that Vanish stain remover can remove a one-and-a-half-foot long cat skid mark from a white duvet cover. And from beige carpet. Fortunately, a white leather Eames lounger is wipe clean.

Cats’ a*ses in places and faces

Cats are supposedly regal, dignified animals, yet they parade their behinds as proudly as a Bulbous Big Butted Baboon. Our feline friends do not deign to use their tail to preserve their modesty. (It doesn’t even help that my cat’s butt looks like a little sleeping baby owl.) Get used to butts waved in your face, butts on your head while you’re sleeping, butts on the worktop, butts on your Lucienne Day cushions. “Remember meeee?” whines the pack of Dettol wipes, just when you thought you’d passed through that stage of parenting.

Mind you, if our cat hadn’t presented his a*se to me I wouldn’t have noticed his issue with follow-through during the most recent squirty cream-gate. I wouldn’t have been able to chase him with a tissue and – casting aside any dignity I had left – wipe his bottom before he found some pale-coloured home furnishings to s(h)it on.

Should you get a cat?

If the quantity of social media likes and shares you get are no longer sufficient to boost your self-esteem, then a cat can fix that. There’s nothing quite like the ongoing battle to win the love of a cat and all hopes being dashed when it farts in your face as it jumps off your lap.

Why questioning Trump’s mental health has set us back years

Trump mental health

Psychiatrists in the US are questioning Donald Trump’s mental and emotional stability. By doing so they have broken a long-standing rule that experts shouldn’t ‘diagnose’ someone – including a public figure – unless they have evaluated them in person. They certainly shouldn’t announce it in public. It’s the latest big gun to be rolled out to attack a controversial president, but it is in danger of setting perceptions of mental health back several years.

Campaigners have long been trying to break the taboo surrounding mental health issues. Most people suffer problems with varying degrees at some point in their lives. After all, who and what is ‘normal’? In reality, struggles with mental health are the norm and the challenge has been to stop it being defined as ‘sick’, ‘peculiar’ or ‘mad’. We seemed to be getting there and then along came Trump.

A clown. A madman. A DANGEROUS madman. A power-crazed narcissist unfit to run a country. It’s very easy to call someone you don’t like names. But with this latest onslaught on Trump comes the label of ‘mental illness’. Labels are very neat and stick easily. They’re also very convenient for applying not just to one person but to a large group of people – the process of tarring with the same unsubtle brush. If you suffer from mental health issues then you’re now as ‘bonkers’ as Trump. You shouldn’t be trusted because you are unhinged. You might not be President of the United States but are you sure you can handle the responsibility of your desk job? Should your employers be worried? Maybe you should be sacked.

The trouble is that Trump has never had the world’s sympathy or affection. If Barack Obama had been perceived as displaying signs of mental illness then would it have been treated sensitively? I suspect so. If a man like Obama could suffer then anyone could – it’s normal and we could all have opened up about our own struggles without fear of judgement. But if Trump is now the poster boy of poor mental health then for god’s sake keep your mouth shut or you’ll be carted off with him.

I have no sympathy for Trump. He’s a disaster as a President because he’s not a politician. This is not about feeling sorry for him. What this is about is witnessing the giant leap backwards as psychiatrists and the media sling mental illness at someone as an insult, as a way to bring them down.

The worst thing US psychiatrists have done is not to break with their principles – it’s to forget their responsibility to everyone who suffers from mental issues to not perpetuate the stigma. And that is far more unethical.

So long hygge, hello lagom!

Hygge

Hold on to your woolly hats, there’s another trend on its way from our friends in Scandinavia. Conveniently, it arrives to coincide with everyone worrying about how to carry off cosy hygge when the weather warms up. Now there’s no need to sweat out the summer in furry blankets with your hands wrapped around a mug of steaming hot chocolate. Out with the (c)old, in with the new. Say hello to lagom.

Translated from the Swedish, lagom means ‘just the right amount’. Not too much, not too little. It’s all about balance, self-restraint and living simply and sustainably. Clever people in the know describe it as a way of living, compared to hygge which is about creating and feeling moments in time. Lagom may be an easier, more universal concept to grasp than its snuggly, subjective counterpart. One person’s experience of hygge as they pull on woolly socks might be another person’s itchy, rash-inducing nightmare.

If you’ve bought into hygge (and I mean literally bought into – Scandi chic adds pounds to the price of any product), then how can you embrace lagom without breaking the bank? Here are some straightforward steps to help bring lagom into your life simply by de-hyggering the sh*t out of it.

Blankets

You won’t need faux reindeer skins in the summer and, let’s face it, hygge will have made a Brexit by next winter so don’t even bother storing them. Embrace sustainable lagom living and limit your impact on the environment. If you can’t turn your unwanted blankets into costumes for school Viking history days then – fleas permitting – your local cats’ home willingly accept them. (Forget the Danes, we all know that cats really invented hygge – let’s give it back to them.)

Nordic deer / moose / reindeer

Put anything with antlers out to pasture. If you can’t manage that then at least take the fairy lights off their horns. Think simple – these magnificent beasts were not created to bear the weight of the Blackpool illuminations. And remember, Christmas decorations are for Christmas, not just for life.

Quality time with friends

Ah, hygge, the ‘art of creating intimacy’. Throughout 2016 you have welcomed your friends into your home to sit on your white-washed wooden bench and share your expensive hot chocolate. If they’re not as middle class as you or tend to follow their own path rather than buy into expensive trends then they may not have returned the favour. Now’s the time to get your own back. Lagom is about moderation, so if your guests outstay their welcome then go ahead, tell them that you’ve had ‘just enough’ of them. It may mean setting aside your self-restraint but it will make everyone happy.

Candles

Burn them! Burn them all! When every candle is gone they will no longer drain precious oxygen and the equilibrium of the atmosphere in your home will be restored.

Be comforted – some things won’t change

Whether you go Swedish with lagom or Danish with hygge, you are without doubt destined for great happiness (although where was hygge when Hamlet needed it?). It seems that all our troubles can be solved with a dash of Scandi. Thankfully, lagom presents precisely the same opportunities to be smug as hygge did. You’re just doing it in a less wintery way.

Of course, as with hygge inspired products, you can also expect to pay over the odds for anything giving off a mere hint of lagom. Warning: following a trend of moderation can be expensive and involve a lot of indulgent props if you want to do it right and really impress your friends. There’s just about the right amount of irony in that.