With all the exhaustion of a middle aged man, my five-year-old son declared that he was struggling to get to sleep. He didn’t know precisely why. He was forlornly resigned to his fate. But it would surely be nice if slumber was an easier bedfellow.
Amen to that brother. I know exactly what you mean.
Leaning over, seizing an opportunity to impart fatherly wisdom, I told him the answer was lists. Try and name every kid in your class and keep count. Name as many TV shows as you can and keep count. Before you are half way through your first list, I assured him, you will be fast asleep.
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The end of a friendship is a bewildering experience. Even talking about it feels taboo.
Perhaps that’s because it’s hard to admit there’s a problem in the first place.
Friends don’t cheat on you, or fight with you like romantic partners, but that doesn’t mean you must stay friends.
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Blindfolded in a room, I could smell her. I could seek her out, smack kisses on both cheeks as is her continental preference, feel the swing of thick red hair, then throw off the blindfold to laugh into eyes as dancingly brown as mine are blue.
My friend. My lovely long-distance friend with whom I’ve traversed nearly half my life in conversation as tangential as it is profound; hair, husbands, miscarriages, mothers, books, babies, crumb-wiping, bum-wiping – all tumbling out down the phone. A lifeline of succour and good sense.
I can’t imagine life without her, or the other half-dozen women who both anchor and buoy my world. Friendship, I’ve learnt, is a love story as sweeping and sustaining as anything you’ll find in a romance novel.
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We were 15. Girls still, as this was another era. Our lives fused through Friday night sleepovers, caravanning holidays and shared tubes of Clearasil.
Saturday morning sport. Afternoons with the blow-dryer. Then off on our bikes in our pastel jeans – no hands, no helmets – squealing through the park as we pedalled to meet the boys.
Discos, where I’d kiss them and M wouldn’t because she was always cooler than me. Dancing to Depeche Mode – “I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough”. And we couldn’t. But it all changed that summer of 1982.
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Ten things I hate about gifts: shopping, choosing, wrapping, posting, forgetting, worrying they cost too much or they don’t cost enough, giving (what if they hate it?), receiving (what if I hate it, but have to pretend I don’t?) and – the worst – opening something from someone you love and feeling as if they don’t know you at all.
I should be a terrific gift giver. I see things I’d love all the time. And I’m always stashing recycled ribbons and baubly bits in the hope of having a Martha Stewart moment.
But as the occasions that demand a gift proliferate – Valentine’s, baby showers, divorce parties – I become more Grinch-like or, as my husband puts it, “meaner than a mouse’s turd”. He’s justified: I did give him cutlery once. But, for several years, he gave me cookbooks until, one exhausted Christmas morning, I snapped: “If you want to eat Nigella Lawson’s food, then you should’ve bloody married her.”
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We all know kids can be a handful sometimes, but what happens when your friend’s child is turning into a little terror? Can you say something? ‘Gladys’ writes:
My friend and I had our children at around the same time. We try and get them to play together but her son tends to break things or rip books - invariably these are gifts that my daughter has received from other people - and I have to repair them or get rid of them. In one instance, he broke a maraca and I found it in the bottom of the toy box later that week. I think she put it in there so I wouldn’t find it while she was there.
I realise he’s just a little baby (boy now), but she never urges him to be gentle or to respect other people’s things. First question: Can I tell a young visitor, under the supervision of his mother, to be gentle and not to break things? Second question: am I being silly thinking she should offer to fix or replace the things he breaks?
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Much has been written about Facebook and its apparent devaluing of friendship. If you want to be friends with someone, or are already friends with someone, it does seem strange to go through the mechanised process of requesting and confirming that friendship online.
Especially in such a public setting – even though some people, such as former Adelaide checkout chick Caz Marshall, sacked last week for bagging a fellow shop assistant on Facebook, still clearly struggle to grasp its public nature.
The flipside of course is that Facebook is a great way to share photos, anecdotes, to arrange to hook up, organise a visit, whatever – that is, if you have the wit and the enthusiasm to work out how to use it. I am not in this latter category.
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