Monday, 25 June 2012

Sam Taylor Wood has married her 'toyboy'

Sam Taylor Wood and Aaron Johnson have tied the knot!
Well good for them - Aaron clearly has more staying power than I predicted (in an earlier blog post) when it comes to throwing himself into family life at such a tender age.
And for any of you cynics out there tutting and saying that he is clearly just using her to forward his career/fame etc, I've also been reliably informed by a film biz friend of mine, that they are genuinely mad about each other.
And why shouldn't they be?!
Regular visitors to my blog will know that this is the point when I rant a little bit about the fact that people are so suspicious of any relationship with a significant age difference.. but it still stuns me that any media report I've read of their wedding has used the word Toyboy in the first few words, called their relationship 'controversial' and pointed to the 23-year age gap before the first paragraph has even finished.
Even poor Sam has felt compelled to tell one reporter: "In the old days 'controversial in a relationship meant same -sex or mixed race. Now, it is a woman with a younger man. That would not happen with a man."
And Aaron, bless him, pointed out: "We don't see an age gap, we just see each other."

click here to read the Daily Mail's report of the wedding

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Prologue - THE NEW STORY

It was the tenth text that morning. And it was still only 9am.
     Anna had cycled through the park and into the university with her phone vibrating repeatedly in her jeans’ pocket. She had ignored it buzzing while she was locking her bike up against the stack of dismembered frames at the foot of the tower block and, once again, as she climbed the three long flights of stairs to the Media department (the lifts never worked). But now, as she fished blindly in her handbag to find her office key, it was buzzing yet again.
      ‘Ok, ok, let me get in first!”
       Not that she was in any rush to read them. She knew full well the messages were only going to be spam, a reminder about her bill, or some stranger suggesting she should get compensation for an accident she hadn’t had. No one else texted her at this time in the morning.
     ‘God, unless it’s the school?’  But surely even Charlie couldn’t have got into trouble this early?
     She eventually found the key (in her pocket), opened the door and was able to drop the heavy bag of books off her shoulder and onto the desk. Finally her arms were free enough to pull the phone out of her jeans and scroll through the messages quickly. None from the school. Thank God for that. But how odd that so many people had chosen to text her this morning.
     Unbuttoning her jacket with one hand, she opened a message at random. It was from Rob:
     ‘Hey honey. Why didn’t you tell me?! You OK?’
     ‘Tell you what?’ she wondered, but then Rob was always a bit of a drama queen, so it was probably nothing vital.
     The next was from Lisa: ‘Anna! I can’t believe it. I wish you’d told me. Tied up in shoot all day, but will call ASAP. Hope you’re OK xx.’
     ‘What?’ What had she neglected to tell everyone? And why was everyone asking if she was ok?
     The next message was from Molly. Now, Molly never texted at this time of day; her early mornings were a helter skelter of school runs and board meetings. In fact she rarely texted at all because it ruined her manicure.
     “Just seen the Daily Mail! You dark horse! Call me.”
     The Daily Mail? Anna felt a sudden tightness in her stomach and, with the growing sense that something very, very bad was about to happen, she sat down at her desk, flipped open the laptop, typed ‘Daily Mail’ into Google, and took a deep breath.
      It was only as the overloaded laptop struggled to crank itself into action, that Anna realised how pointless her search was. She didn’t know what she was looking for, or even which section of the paper she should start to look in.  But just as she was about to shut it down again, her laptop lurched into life, the Daily Mail’s home page opened up in front of her  - and it became clear that Anna needn’t have worried. Well, worried about where to look for the story anyway. That was now the least of her concerns.
     Smiling brightly at her from the centre of the page was the Duchess of Cambridge at some charity do but, just to the right of the Duchess, below a snap of an A-lister flaunting her new boobs and above another of a C-lister revealing her cellulite, there was someone a lot more familiar.
     It was her.
     Anna squinted at the screen for a couple of seconds to absorb the full horror of what she was looking at, scanned down the growing number of comments from the public, then put her head in her hands and groaned.
     “What have I done? What the hell have I done?”
     And then her phone started to ring, and ring, and ring.


Sex and the City's Mr Big marries his 'toy girl'

The tabloids' double standards when it comes to age gaps in relationships are in evidence yet again!
The Daily Mail, National Enquirer etc have all featured the story about Sex and the City's Mr Big (Chris Noth) finally tying the knot with his long term sweetheart...
He is 57 and she is 29, yet NOWHERE is the age difference mentioned. Nowhere is he referred to as sweeping his 'toy girl' off her feet or have the journalists used the phrase 'Despite nearly a 20 year age gap, the couple, blah blah, blah "
Compare that to the pressure that Demi and Ashton were put under, or the 'toyboy' references that have littered any story about Madonna dating a man any younger than her.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Cougars discussed on Radio 4's Woman's Hour

Click here to listen to the cougar discussion on Woman's Hour

Earlier this month the world of the Cougar came to the attention of Woman's Hour, who kicked around the idea that dating a younger man was a bad idea because  he would only be interested in playing on his X-Box, rather than enjoying any more sophisticated persuits.

If only I'd been on hand to call into the show and tell them about my 'toy boy's gadget collection.

Since living with Ad Man I have been introduced to a few new bits of technology, I must admit.. but they have all been a far cry from the  X Box.

The first to arrive was a tea maker (yes, the proper old fashioned kind, that sits by the bed, gurgling and hissing first thing in the morning). This was then followed by a mini deep fat fryer (for making himself the odd portion of chips) and then to top it all, an electric blanket, so he could snuggle down into a cosy bed at night.

So, let this be my warning to any of you aspirational cougars out there... Don't think having a toyboy is your passport to a life of wild parties, or even all night gaming sessions - you could be signing up for something much more sedate. That said, I am not complaining. Although I'm still drawing the line at a TV-dinner tray...

Monday, 19 September 2011

A very male solution for mums missing university bound teens

So, on Saturday, I drop my lovely daughter at Uni. We say our final farewells, and then I find myself sitting in the car, alone, outside her hall, watching as she strolls back up to her new room without a hint of a backwards glance towards me. Oh, well, that's it then. Job done.

"Parenting is about giving them roots, but also giving them wings," my wise friend Jim said to me last week.. And there's no doubt that my fledgling daughter has found her wings in no time at all. I should be  a proud old bird, I guess. But, somehow...

Back at the empty nest, I confide in Ad Man that it feels very odd to see L's room, lying vacant, without the usual clutter of electronic gadgets and H&M merchandise..

"Well, shut the door then" he suggests.

A practical solution, yep. But not quite what I was looking for in terms of comforting words.

Welcome to my new male-dominated world...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Your teen is off to university? Why you should be celebrating, not crying..

Autumn is here. Britain is being buffeted by storms and, in houses all over the country, families are bracing themselves for their own emotional tempest as their teenager packs a big bag and finally leaves the nest.

Already, mothers are sidling up to me, tears in their eyes, and confessing that the imminent departure is leaving them feeling devastated, bereft, and unsure how they are going to cope in the months that lie between now and the Christmas vacation. I can sympathise – really. My gorgeous daughter Lucy is leaving home herself, and heading off to study Art at a university which is over three hours drive, or a very tedious and complicated train journey, away.

I was so proud and pleased when, after months of sweating over her portfolio, she got her university place, but now I’m faced with the reality that, when she goes, it will just be me and a bunch of boys left at home.

My husband is a truly wonderful man, and my 14-year-old son is a  warm and gentle giant, but lets face it – they are not going to be bringing home copies of Grazia or Heat for us to enjoy together over a cup of tea, nor will they have much of an opinion on  whether or not I am too old to embrace the latest fashions in it. And, being boys, their musical tastes and mine couldn’t be more different. Whereas Lucy and I could hum together to a bit of gentle Laura Marling, or Mumford and Son, the men-folk are only happy doing air guitar to a bit of hardcore rock.

Even my friend Mia, normally a source of solace in  my darker moments, has done little to appease me. “Gosh, just you and the boys left then,” she observed. “Have you not noticed how women who live only with men, often start wearing men’s clothes themselves?"

Great. But actually, despite the fact that Lucy’s departure will clearly leave a massive girl-shaped hole in my life, I still feel that I, and all the other Fresher mothers out there, should be celebrating, not crying as they wave goodbye. Why?  Well, here’s my ten ‘reasons to be cheerful’:

1.     Firstly, you should take pride in the fact that you have produced a son/daughter who has the ability and confidence to leave home and look after himself. Good parenting is all about preparing your child to be happily independent  - so if your son is packing his drum kit into the car with barely a backwards glance, then feel good about it. You’ve done a good job.

2.     If your teen is starting uni this year, they are avoiding the massive hike in tuition fees that will hit students in 2012. This may make little difference to you right now, but essentially means that they are saving themselves in the region of £18,000 plus. So thank your lucky stars that they are currently heading to the likes of Reading, Warwick, Bournemouth or Oxford, and aren’t packing for Goa in a quest to ‘find themselves’, and planning to start uni next year instead..

3.      Feel proud of your Fresher’s ability to have secured a place at uni this year, of all years.. The rush to get into uni before the fees went up has meant even greater competition for places than ever before. Yep, all the kids who have been hanging out in Goa for the past two years, suddenly realised that this was probably their last chance to get to uni - so your clever child has beaten off applications from a whole bunch of 20-somethings, as well as their peers.

4      And, while we are on the subject of fees, bereft parents should also be celebrating the fact that their offspring are actually leaving home to study, and not heading to the local uni and living at home for the next three years (which will inevitably become more common in the light of the fee rise). Living with a teenager is one thing, but living with a student who is partying as hard as he or she is studying, is a whole other story.  Plus, we’ve all heard the horror stories about parents who dream of entering a new stage once the kids leave home, only to find the ‘kids’ are still living there at the age of 30 or more..

5      At the risk of invoking wrath from all of you far, cleverer and better parents (who will tell me that I should never have been doing it in the first place) I also know that my daughter leaving home will mean I have to do less laundry/cooking/cleaning etc.. Hurrah.

6      With one fewer child putting demands on your time, maybe this is the year that you can find more time to do something for YOU. Add up all the hours you’ve spent dropping off, picking up, doing their laundry and so on… all that time is now YOURS - so make the most of it. Don’t spend it all sitting in the empty bedroom weeping..

7      Enjoy the peace. Not only will you no longer be woken up by your baby elephant returning home at 4am after a good night out,  but if your family is anything like ours, you also won’t have to listen to any more grumbling and bickering between a) baby elephant and siblings and/or b) baby elephant and your partner/husband. I am particularly looking forward to no longer having to be the middle (wo)man who runs around tidying away the teen’s discarded shoes/bags/coffee cups, to avoid listening  to the moans and curses from my husband when he falls over them.

8      Enjoy your wardrobe/make-up remaining intact. Ok, maybe this is not so relevant for those of you whose sons are leaving home, but I for one will find it a pleasant surprise to discover that my mascara is just where I left it every morning – plus my shoes, my velvet jacket, my hairbrush, the hair dryer, and so on and so on.

9      Empty house = more sex. Sex – remember that?

10  And finally… oh, who am I kidding..? All the above may very well be true, but lets face it, however wonderful it is that my daughter is about to start on a new and exciting future, there is no doubt that I will still feel a knot of emptiness in my stomach whenever I see that my mascara is still sitting on the windowsill where I left it, that there are no shoes cluttering up the hallway, that one of our bedrooms is sitting empty and perpetually tidy, and that there is an empty space at the dining table. I too will be fighting back the tears when I drop my daughter in halls and when I make the long car journey home with an empty back seat.  Yes, even if my daughter is a hundred odd miles away, I am still a mother, I will always be a mother and, as a mother, that’s my job.

Friday, 19 August 2011

A level results pressure - and how to avoid it

So the A level results are out. And, like thousands of others around the country, our house was in a vice of anticipation yesterday morning waiting for  them to finally go online. 

In our case there was slightly less pressure because daughter L wants to study art, so gaining her university place was all about the quality of her portfolio rather than her grades, but nevertheless she still wanted to do well. But then of course, everyone has a different perception of what  doing ‘well’ actually means.

If you read the Daily Mail, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, come results day,  every attractive girl in the country can be found leaping into the air, holding hands with her best, and equally attractive, mate and clutching a piece of paper littered with A-star grades. Every year, the media is full of stories about how the level of grades is getting higher and higher so, although the reality is still that only 8.2% of students get an A grade, the level of expectation from the outside world also gets greater and greater, and arguably more and more unrealistic.

Poor kids. For two years or so, they potter along, doing their coursework and maybe the odd flurry of revision, in relative peace. Parents, for the most part are happy if they feel their kids are turning up at college regularly, spending marginally more time reading books than on Facebook and only being washed along in a wave of WKD or cheap lager once a week or so.  Then, come August 18th, the whole extended family, and friends of the extended family, and other parents that you see once a year at most, all want to know exactly what grades have been achieved. Suddenly a smattering of healthy B and Cs doesn’t seem quite enough (even if that’s exactly what the parents themselves got back in their day), and parents and grandparents begin to feel somewhat cheated if their little darling hasn’t got at least one A-star to boast of to their colleagues.

Daughter L, thankfully, got just what she hoped for and deserved (and did very well indeed) so we had the prosecco out to celebrate quietly together first thing in the morning. But although I was absolutely delighted for her, I still felt it was a bit crass to broadcast L’s actual grades to anyone and everyone. Maybe I'm the odd one, but I was acutely aware that there were other students out there who had worked incredibly hard to get a clutch of Cs and felt they really didn’t need to know about anyone else’s A grades. One of L’s friends had to cope with the death of her mother as she started her studies, while another has missed much of the past year due to a chronic illness, so for them, achieving any A levels at all, let alone securing a university place, was a truly remarkable achievement – and sod the lack of A stars!

The problem was, I soon discovered that the rest of the world didn’t feel quite the same. It wasn’t just the kids either. Everyone deserves to feel very proud of their successes of course, and I would never deny anyone a moment of glory, but Facebook was awash with students posting A grades onto their status, with only a few poor souls brave enough to come online to admit to their failings. And the parents were far worse. My phone was buzzing all day with queries from other parents, curious as to how L had done. Many of course were genuinely interested in L’s wellbeing and plans for the future, which was great, but with others I soon discovered that simply saying she had done ‘well’ or even ‘very well’  wasn’t enough to keep them happy.. They wanted every detail to pick over, to analyse, in order to make a judgement on L’s abilities, those of the sixth form college she’d attended, or to help them put their own child’s results into context.

And yet, for many of the kids, whether they got an A or a B in a subject will be almost immaterial from this day on. As long as they’ve got enough qualifications to go to university if they want to, and get a step closer to achieving their dreams (whether that is to become an astrophysicist or a hairdresser), that’s all that matters.

“Shall we just lie,” I eventually suggested wickedly to L. “Lets say you’ve got five A stars.. and are a bit disappointed not to have got six. It would be much more fun.”

L, of course, is a far better person than I am, and made sure I stuck - I felt rather boringly - to the truth, but I have to admit there’s part of me that still regrets not trying it out on a few people.

So, for any of you out there with a teen doing A levels next year, I strongly recommend finding a remote holiday destination for results day and then, once you’ve ensured your child has got their results and are OK, turn off your internet and your mobile for the rest of the week. Or maybe just lie to anyone you’ve never really cared for anyway – it will be a great excuse to never see those people again. Oh, but don’t forget to post a picture of your daughter leaping off a wall, with a big smile and a results letter in hand – then it will be truly convincing.