Tax, Brad Pitt and bagels

It’s Bagel Sunday again, which means I have spent another £21.50 on five bags of fresh mixed bagels from the new Jewish deli on Westbourne Grove which I pop into at the end of my morning run. I never bring a backpack because I think if I ran with a backpack I would collapse from the strain of carrying it, or would get sweaty along my back or would look like I was running to work with some sort of polyester creaseproof suit shoved into the backpack to get changed into later like I imagine corporate people in the 80s did, and I just don’t like the idea of any of those. Instead, I run home grasping two paper bags that always rip. But these bagels are really good with bacon, so there you have it.

Bagel Sunday also involves everyone sleeping off their Friday and Saturday night socialising and very often we have nothing to do except read the papers and attempt some homework. I think these are my favourite times of the week, each couch accessorised by a lanky boy, the ever-so-slightly too strong smell of teenage boy coming from their bedroom, cups of coffee to drink and washing to do and some sort of cake perhaps to make, but nothing pressing us too deeply. I hope the boys take something from these mornings into their own lives, a slow and sleepy end to the weekend with reading and quietness except for Debbie Harry singing French Kissing in the USA somewhere in the background pleasingly like she is right now.

It’s not always about the bagels

Last weekend we did a non-Bagel Sunday thing. We drove to Burnham Beeches for a session on forest bathing which does not involve actual swimming. Rather, it’s a Japanese discipline where you go and get a hit from the air, sights, smells, texture and the light from the forest, slowly walking through it in silence. It was quite marvellous and we all felt better afterwards but were also a bit embarrassed when we had to close our eyes and smell the soil and normal families walked on by. The soil smelling was an active thing, meaning we knelt down and scrabbled the ground to get a proper nosefull. Mark thought this was one step too far for him, and said he felt like laughing out loud when he peeked open his eyes and watched us get too near the base of trees to scrabble and sniff because, ‘that’s where a dog pisses’. Sure. One of us did seem to develop an allergic reaction on the lips after something fell on her or bit her during the smelling part, but, sure. Nature. Bugs. Dog piss. All probably better than an overheated basement flat and the whiff of a badly washed 16-year-old, right?

There’s been more birthdays – three weekends in a row, so that has exhausted us all by the singing and the cake making and the amazon packages arriving. We have four teenagers in the house now which is fun except for when it is not. Moods are boring, meltdowns are boring, and so are the times that they get offended by stuff we say and do and attempt to ‘call us out’. My eye-rolling right back at them doesn’t go down very well.

This is what three weekends, three different kids, assorted girlfriends, three cakes, various reused candles and a dwindling budget looks like:

The dwindling budget is a bit of a thing. I got an email late on Monday night from our accountant telling me that I personally owe HMRC a hunk of GBP, the same amount as my student loan added up to after five years of studying. Which is, frankly, a whole lot of GBP. I thought it was a mistake, but apparently it is not, and now I have to do some terrifying growing up in the money department. We have to budget, figure out a replayment plan, stop taking ubers willy-nilly, give up cremant, stop subscribing to Vogue, never order a cocktail again, go out a lot less, return things, pay the children less, give up gym memberships, sell our truck, never buy another dress again, stop Amazon packages every darkening our door. No more hair coloring, no more Soho House dinners, no more buying gold like an Italian heiress well might. I’ll say no to sample sales, late night ebay trigger-happiness, weekend trips to Portobello’s food market, too many TV channel subscriptions. No more sending the kids up to Waitrose to buy stuff and have them come back with sushi and individual Cawston Press fizzy drinks. No more Waitrose? Certainly no more bagels. Today was a send-off, of sorts.

I did a big cry, fretted, got ashen-faced, told everyone, panicked, cried again, checked the calendar and realised with some relief there won’t be any more birthdays for at least six weeks, so we are over the latest expensive hump. I used to think that having more kids simply wasn’t an economical consideration because they could just share clothes and shoes and books and we could make traybakes for everyone but it seems that my understanding of economics was, and is, fundamentally lacking. 2023 looks like to be our family-wide Year of Austerity and it’s probably not a bad thing. But oh, to be 45 and financially stupid is a bit shit.

To cheer me up, and perhaps any of you who enjoy bad haircuts, here’s a selection of my most intense mullety-looks. The first two were taken before puberty where the main bits of hair had a wave, but not an uncontrollable one, the kind of hair you would brush softly and maybe push back to half stand up. There was possibly some hairspray involved to keep the ‘shape’. Please note the same jumper in both photos over two years. My mother knitted it, I loved it, it was worn purposefully for school photo day. My mother is a wonder.

Back to the hair. Puberty brought out the big powerful curls and it all became simply unmanageable as a mullet. See below for evidence of this:

A few years later my mother took me to Wendy Moser, an at-home hairdresser and part-time opera singer, and she cut the long bits off. My cool older brother, I remember, was quite relieved.

Enough of that. When I was feeling more flush, before the Terrible Tax Sitch, I went to see Babylon for a Bafta screening not because we thought the movie would be any good but because Brad Pitt was going to be there for a Q&A. Just look at him:

All sexy and thin in his nice-fitting suit. It was pretty much the best thing that has happened in 2023 thus far.

We did celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary which was nice and involved cocktails before we instigated the new, brutal cocktail embargo. This is us, all free and financially uncompromised in a land far, far away:

Lastly, but never leastly, here is Chris in a Christmas present shirt that features Magic the communal dog:

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1 Response to Tax, Brad Pitt and bagels

  1. rose says:

    What a wonderful family you have!
    A joy to hear from you and see the pictures. Clearly you are enjoying still having them all around. Special time.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting.

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