Nothing fills certain females with the need to outdo each other than a seasonal celebration.
In a way, the Autumnal paganfest known as Halloween is a gentle warm-up for the bare-knuckle rivalry of the neverending Christmas ‘celebrations’.
At least we are not American and do not have to don our public-facing preppy grins through All Hallows, Thanksgiving and then Christmas – throat-slitting would seem an increasingly pleasant option were that the case, long live the UK.
Anyway, after a recent six-day stint in fresher-land – when I went AWOL from family and working life and lived in and amongst our country’s most enthusiastically alcoholic and chemically-enhanced young adults – I’ve been feeling a little tired.
As half-term dawned and my other half sodded off on a perfectly-timed five-day business trip, I resolved to be a better mother. I necked a couple of diazepam the Sunday night, so I would feel suitably rested and zoned-out when embarking on the week ahead.
Then, I actually engaged with my four children in a variety of meaningful activities across the first two and a half days of the week – swimming, making shit, watching French films on TV, cooking actual meals, talking to my teenager about penises.
But Wednesday afternoon, as I walked back from the park with my brood and dreamed of gin-and-tonic, I encountered Competitive Mum, who is forever striving to be my nemesis.
Saccharine-sweet, she asked: “How’s your Halloween party preps going? Need a hand?”
“She’s not done anything yet,” intoned my increasingly moody and judgemental teen.
Ah, yes. As I had stumbled through my neighbourhood in the near-dawn of a Tuesday morning, returning home from my fresher-land rampage, I had (literally) bumped into Competitive Mum, who was heading out on a dawn jog (hi-vis tabard on, “It’s the only time I can find to exercise”).
“What are you doing for Halloween?” She’d asked me. I mean, is this is a question you ask someone returning home, on a late September sunrise, wearing dark glasses and an inflatable flamingo?
“Want to come to our Halloween rave?” She’d mewed.
Halloween rave, indeed. She couldn’t rave her way out of a cardboard box.
So, I’d promptly announced we’d be holding our own celebration. Bitch invited herself to that. I forgot all about it and now – here we were – two days from the event with no invitees, no decorations, no sweets, no homebaked-and-Instagrammable food and no sodding pumpkins.
“We’re good, thanks,” I replied – as if I was EVER going to admit one inch of fucking-up-ness in front of Competitive Mum. “It’s all under control.” I ushered my lot home and drew up a battle plan.
My battalion and I spent the next two days folding crêpe paper, making sorties to the holy trinity of John Lewis, Waitrose and Home Bargains, dramatically extending the family overdraft and copying the most badass Pinterest pumpkin designs we could find.
On the day, I transformed myself into a shimmering Morticia – white facepaint hides all sins. I took some smokin’ selfies, photographed my artfully spooky home with my iPhone 6 and shared a selection of filtered images across all my social media platforms.
For the final touch, I upended three bottles of tequila into the Halloween punch.
As my husband arrived home, I promised him a blowie to make up for the overspend, gave him a drink, then disappeared for a quick toot to enhance my hostessing activities and, lo, we were away.
“This is great.” “You look amazing.” “Best Halloween party ever.” These were just some of the superlatives flowing from people’s lips – significantly aided by the concealed tequila.
As I held Competitive Mum’s hair and witch hat for her – while she puked into my toilet and sobbed about how “stultifying” her marriage was becoming – I allowed myself a sly wink in the bathroom mirror.
Caner Mum 1, Competitive Mum 0 – Happy Halloween, bitch.
It’s unwritten. Unspoken of. Stored away in one of my many dark mental recesses
Stroked and stoked only by me.
You might be included thereon. It’s not easy to be so. You have to be a real c**t.
I make allowances for anyone in their dippy 20s. And sometimes – for blokes especially (who wear metaphorical nappies for decades) – I’ll go up to about 39.
But if you’ve hit 40 and you’re still behaving like a twat, you’re on it.
You can have been pissing me off years with yawnsome self-absorption, or an inability to turn up on time to anything.
You can have got all passive-aggressive with me in a work situation.
You can have blocked, obfuscated, undermined and smoke-screened your way through a professional project partnership with me, to mask your own insecurities and the fact that you are absolutely shit at your job.
It can be something as simple as undertaking me at a traffic light, answering a personal mobile call when you are interviewing me for a job, or calling someone ‘coloured’ (I mean, sheesh, really).
But if you’re a grown adult and you fuck with me or mine in some way, you’re gonna find yourself on that list.
It’s an invisible list. It’s not carved in stone, but (elephant-like) I never, ever forget.
For example, a mother at my kids’ school once complained that my 9-year-old was a bully – he’s not, her kid’s a fat, menacing brat, in fact.
With my best Cath Kidston face, I attended all the right meetings, said all the right stuff and made her look like a total div. But that was just an appetiser.
A few months later, she applied to my workplace for a keep-me-busy, low-paid, admin-type role. She made the huge error of asking my advice and alerting me to her incoming application.
I accessed her file. I changed her referee’s contact details to an email account I set up. I put in several good words for her with the interview panel. I coached her through the interview scenario. I encouraged her to burn her bridges and resign from her old job, once she had the new (conditional) job offer.
Then, I faked an excoriating reference – which detailed her penchant for dogging and a coprophiliac incident at the staff Christmas party. The offer of employment was withdrawn and I had the pleasure of watching her sink into a morass of two-stone-heavier, unemployed misery, with only her horrible lump of a whinging son to get her through the dark days.
And that’s what I mean about an arseholes list. Putting someone on it provides instant relief from wanting to throw dog-shit at them and sets an undetermined date for righteous vengeance served at a very cold temperature indeed.
You should make one.
I’ve got a neighbour, who’s got a teenage daughter.
This teenage daughter shags her boyfriend very loudly in the bedroom next door to mine at 4 in the morning, every weekend – and I never complain about the noise.
As a family, they’re often prone to noisy late-night parties, fuelled by cider and Lambert & Butler. And yet I rarely bat an eyelid – publically.
They also have a cat, which – until it recently went on safari – regularly made use of my vegetable bed as a giant litter tray.
So, when this neighbour effed and jeffed about my afternoon acid house set the other day, I was in no mood to tolerate her Jeremy Kyle Show-esque aggression.
It began when I bumped into an ages-ago caner pal of mine, after dropping my brood off at school.
Delighted, we headed to a hostelry, where we enjoyed brunch and Bloody Marys, Leffe with lemon wedges, pints of Stella and jugs of Moscow Mule – we were friends in the ’90s.
Several drinks in, talk turned to my DJ-ing days and I was persuaded to go home and drag my acid house vinyl collection into the light.
I’d forgotten how actually cool I am and what a venerable selection of records I own – and, no, they’re not for bloody sale, before you ask.
Pretty soon, the windows were vibrating, my student-era Boddingtons ashtray was overflowing and we were knocking the living-room lampshade with a broom handle to give a swinging, disco light effect.
And that’s when there came the hammering on the window – Old Ratchet Face was standing in my front garden, nose to the glass, looking fairly angry.
“Turn the fucking music down, will yer?” She foamed.
I put my best Stepford smile on, as I opened my front door.
“It’s too fucking loud.” The neighbour raged, eyes popping.
“Sorry.” I signal to my friend to turn the tunes down.
“You will be, one of these days.” She walks away down the bath and pulls her Primark dressing-gown a little closer to her corned-beef body.
“I’ve got your number, lady,” Then, with pointed finger, “I know who you are.”
And for a minute, while my old pal’s skulking indoors, it’s just me and the neighbour, eyeball-to-eyeball.
“How’s the cat?” I ask, innocence personified.
“He’s been gone a week.”
“Shame,” I say.
I shut the door and head back to my front room to watch her walk down the path.
She’s looking a bit puzzled. A little suspicious, perhaps.
I smile inwardly with my real face and turn the music back up.
I strategically make mates with all rungs of the social ladder when it comes to parental networking.
This pays dividends. For example – a young Mum I have cultivated as a working-class friend, just got a job in the school office.
Wide-eyed with disbelief (poor lamb), she has informed me that my name is on the Head’s top secret Loose Cannons List.
I acted shocked, hurt and confused, but I am inwardly so flattered.
Being a diagnosed sociopath, I get off on making a nuisance of myself. But there is a rub…
Being a mother and someone keen to cultivate a playground image that won’t hamper my little ‘uns, I know that shit’s not good.
My own mother was – and still very much is – a narcissist.
She clacked into my childhood playgrounds in stilettos and leopard-print (when they were still the uniform of prostitutes and barmaids). She drank to excess at my birthday parties and slow-danced with 8-year-old boys from my school. She sported low-cut tops, fag-holders and a full face of make-up and she stood far too close to the Dads on sports days.
As a consequence, the mothers all wanted to scratch her eyes out and I was shunned at each school I went to.
I hated her. In fact, I once tried to poison her with Calgon in her gin and tonic, when she was three sheets to the wind. But she just farted, passed out and I spent 12 hours on my knees praying to ‘Lord Cheeses’ that she wasn’t going to wake up.
But I’m not her. You’ll find me with an artfully pulled-back ponytail and a discreetly expensive playground Mum’s coat. I smell nice. I get make-up lessons from the Bobbie Brown girls. I NEVER let anyone in the playground know that I really think they’re mostly c***s.
Yes, there was the time I was high on coke in a governor’s meeting, but I thought I disguised it well. And I once got into a physical fight with one of the bulldog mothers from the estate – but I gave off like I wasn’t fighting back and secretly kicked her so hard in the foof she was waddling for weeks.
It seems that these incidents – and a couple of others too trifling to mention – have drawn a little unwelcome attention to me. Like Nigella, my halo has slipped a fraction.
Not to worry. Like Nigella, I too have years of meticulous groundwork, which I can quickly recover.
Us sociopaths have rare skills of persuasion and manipulation. In fact, it will give me a great deal of pleasure to mount a refreshed charm offensive. I’ve been so bored lately.
First stop, damson chutney for the Autumn Bazaar and the donation of a Cath Kidston goodie bag to the PTA raffle.
Second stop, getting my name deleted from the Loose Cannons List, by any means necessary.
So, September, eh? Sucks, don’t it?
Still, it could be worse. You could be my eldest. Experiencing the trauma that is FIRST YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL. Or Year 26, or whatever the heck they call it these days.
And now, they don’t wear blazers, they wear ‘business-style suits’. I mean, I work part-time in finance marketing (as dull as it sounds) and even I wear smart-casual daily and jeans on a Friday. What the actual fuck?
She’s four foot-nothing, with half her body weight in out-of-date textbooks, hockey sticks and French and Spanish dictionaries to lug to school each day and she has to do it encased in cheap nylon? Smack, bang out of order.
After only two days of the new place, we’d had tears, moodiness, raging three-again tantrums and a full blown Exorcist-style reaction to High School Hell. By day three, I was starting to wonder…
“Guess it’s the teenage oestrogen making its presence felt,” sighed the husband, as our daughter slammed another door and curled another lip.
“Don’t be a macho prick,” said I. “She’s 11-going-on-9 and there’s more to this story than hormones.” I cogitated a plan for the morning.
Next day, I tailed my girl on her route to school. She looked small and lonely and took a huge circuit round to get to a further away bus stop. And then I saw why, for despite my girl’s best efforts, her tormentors were waiting to receive her.
A sweaty teen girl gorilla, with a couple of acne-ridden acolytes, had decided to make my baby’s life a misery right from the get-go this school year. They taunted, pushed and shoved. They gobbed on her and even stood on her toes.
I felt so sorry for my girl. I also wanted to maim those responsible.
Unfortunately, physical violence is generally frowned upon, so I considered my other options:
1 – Contact the school to discuss their ‘anti-bullying code of practice’
2 – Waste time scheduling a chat with her form tutor
3 – Slap Gorilla Girl down with some public humiliation
I chose Option 3.
I went home and grabbed some chic accessories with which to disguise myself. I practised accelerating starts on my clapped-out Golf. I also did some arm exercises, focusing on an upward-pulling motion (more on this later).
Next morning, I disguised myself in a Coach jacket, mirrored Ray-Bans and a vintage Missoni scarf. I parked up secretly round the corner from the bus stop. I crept stealthily along the pavement – sure enough, there was Gorilla Girl, pushing my young un about. I waited for her to angle herself just so and pounced.
In one deft move, Gorilla Girl received a full-blown wedgie, hooked over her school backpack in front of all her peers. Caught up in the moment’s thrill, I roared and beat my chest. Then beat a hasty retreat to my jalopy and floored it out of there.
I nearly shat myself laughing once I got back home. Then I settled to watch the common populace scream and wail on daytime TV with a packet of chocolate Hobnobs – all bar two eaten in one sitting.
But had it really worked? And what would my girl say? Would she know it was me? Would our perspiring antagonist have been sufficiently publically humiliated?
The answer came at 10.35 that morning – my girl’s morning breaktime – when my phone bleeped with a text.
“You’re the best, Mum x.”
Good work, Caner. Next stop, the nursery teacher who says my youngest doesn’t know how to share.