It's a fare(sic) cop...

>> Thursday, 30 April 2009

OK. Here is a picture that Boy #2 brought home from nursery with him today. (Bear with me please, there is a point to this post other than maternal boasting. Just for a change.)

















Not bad, huh? Especially when you remember that he is, in fact, only 3 years and 3 months old. "I'm sure that Boy #1 wouldn't have painted this at the same age" I thought to myself. In fact, the more that I considered it, the more impressed I became with my younger son's artistic ability.

I located him in the sitting room, where he was supervising the removal of a train wreck from the Isle of Sodor, and the subsequent airlift of Thomas the Tank Engine to the local workshop in a super-jet. (I may not have great faith in his artistic talent, but Boy #2's imagination is working just fine, thankyou very much...)

Me: "Boy #2, this is fantastic! (His face lights up). Did you paint this?"

(Now, before you think I went in there to give him the 3rd degree, I didn't. Questioning is just part of the normal conversational technique with this age group. As in ; Did you make that mess / tidy up / push your brother over / find your blanket etc etc.... Obviously, I know he did all those things. It's just a way of communicating that encourages children to answer back... So, I was just making small talk, really, as a way to underline how impressed I was with the picture)

Boy #2: "Yes. No."

Me: "Ah. So you did paint this?"

Boy #2 (totally unphased): "No."

Me: "So who did paint this?"

Boy #2: "Miss M painted it." (Miss M is his teacher)

Me (still grasping at straws): "What, you mean she painted bits of it?"

Boy #2: "Yes. This bit (points to the roof). This bit (points to the boot). This bit (points to the bonnet). This bit (points to the wheels)."

Me: "And you painted....?"

Boy #2: "This bit." (points to the thick black line representing the main body of the taxi).


I'll not be filling in his application for art college just yet, then...

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Gymtastic

>> Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Random thoughts winging their way in and out of my consciousness during my first sojourne on the treadmill for some time, this morning;

God, this is hard work. OK, let's step it up. 6K an hour is not going to cut it in the losing weight stakes...

...does that Rapid Restore stuff being advertised on Sky Sports really work? Because our kitchen work-tops could do with some attention... But then, what if it doesn't, and messes them up, Husband will kill me...

...what? WHAT? She is not really going to wear that frilly top on the stair master, is she? She is. She IS! Well, what do you expect, she's only a size 6 (that's a '2' to you lot over the Pond). Probably dieted away her brains already...

...OK, let's push it now. Up to 10K. What's that in miles per hour? Let's see, 3 miles = 5 kilometers, which means that, bugger, it's only 6 miles an hour. 6 miles an HOUR? Why does it hurt so much, then?...

...I need water...

...ooops! OK, OK, we're alright, nothing to see here people, nothing to see. Just a person overbalancing slightly when their ipod cord caught in the handle of the machine. Could happen to anyone...

...I don't think anyone noticed that...

.... now that wouldn't have happened on the Treadclimber. Maybe I can swap over. Is that scary butch lady still on there? Need I ask? Of course she is. '20 minutes only' the sign says. It's been at least... 10. OK...

... how long is that ad for the Rapid Restore going to last? Maybe it does work... Oh, and look at that, only £29.99 for 3 bottles and a special squeezy thing to apply it. And a whatchamcallit for the end of your mop... Stoppit, stoppit! I must resist. I muuuuusttttt resiiiiiiiissst...

...oh, look at that. The spinning class is finishing. Gosh, they look even hotter than I do. What IS that man wearing? What is it that Crazy Trace calls them on her blog? Budgie smugglers? There must be at least 3 down there...

... whoops! Ha. Just caught myself. Think I got away with it...

...how long now? 14 minutes. ONLY 14 MINUTES? My watch must be slow. Let's check the wall clock...

...it's not slow...

...come on, come on, come on...

...dammit, I forgot to take Boy #1's homework book in again. Hope he doesn't make me apologise to the teacher like he did the last time...

...oh, there they are, the couple in matching shirts doing their matching Powerplate exercises. Sweeeeet. Do they know how ridiculous they look on those things?...

...mind you, they are quite toned...

...maybe I should book a session?...

...19 minutes... Christ! Who's the sweaty bright red creature in the mirror next to me? She should clearly slow down. Ahem. Yes, that is, in fact me...

... slowing down now... 19 minutes and 55 seconds, 58 seconds, aaaaaand Stop.

Thank heavens for that.

I reckon if I walk home, I totally deserve a frappucino...


Note: This is of course all highly exaggerated. I am in fact a finely tuned athlete who takes her training extremely seriously.

Now pass me one of my children's Easter eggs, please.

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It's all about MeMeMeMe!

>> Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Oh, thank god. THANK GOD! I've been tagged. How fabulous is that? And not once, not twice, but three times; by Bush Mummy, A Modern Mother, and Nappy Valley Girl, which means it would be downright rude of me not to participate, don't you think?

(Have you caught on yet to the fact that I am clean out of posting ideas? I blame the unusual purity of the vodka mentioned in my previous post; thankyou, Mr Tyrell, your potatoes have never been put to better use...).

Before I start though, here's a conversation I had with my younger son today:

Boy #2: "And THEN, the helo-lo-lock flew in and SAVED EVERYBODY!!!!"

Me: "Wow! That's amazing! And can you say it the same way I do, Boy #2? Can you say 'helicopter'?"

Boy #2: "No. I can't say 'helicopter'. But you can."


Back to the tag...

1. What are your current obsessions? Whether Mother Russia finally has us in her grasp, and putting words on a page that are even mildly amusing. The two are not related - yet.

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often? It's a dead heat right now between Banana Republic jeans, and a long chunky linen-knit cardigan from Jigsaw that hides the extremely upsetting roll of flab that has appeared around my middle since Easter.

3. What's for dinner? I ate with the boys, so grilled salmon (with thai dipping sauce for me, not the kids), couscous, and green beans.

4. Last thing you bought? The bi-weekly shop from Sainsbury. Rock and roll, baby.

5. What are you listening to? Right now, the sweet sound of silence...

6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be? Tricky one. I would like to say the Goddess of flat stomachs but that would be a lie, so I guess it would have to be the Goddess of Optimistic Self Delusion.

7. Favourite holiday spots? Fowey, in Cornwall. The South of France. Mauritius. Only one of those are on my holiday horizon in the near future, and sadly it ain't the last one...

8. Reading right now? Barack Obama 'Dreams of My Father'. Mr Brave. Mr Perfect. Mr Mischevous. Little Miss Trouble. Other people's blogs...

9. Four words to describe yourself; Trying to get organised.

10. Guilty pleasure? A facial. Followed by a bar of (you guessed it) Green & Black's Butterscotch Chocolate.

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak? My sister. And Michael McIntyre.

12. Favourite spring thing to do? Walking through South Kensington, looking at all the blossoms on Launceston Place, and daydreaming about winning the lottery so that one of those houses can be mine, Mine, MINE!

13. Planning to travel to next? South of France. Or Russia. It's anyone's guess, frankly.

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately? Organic rhubarb stewed with orange juice and a little sugar, served with 1/2 fat creme fraiche and a drizzle of honey. I could eat it forever. As my parents were staying with me at the time however, and thought the same thing, fat chance - it all went in a trice.

15. When did you last get tipsy? Last weekend. See previous post...

16. Favourite ever film? Life is Beautiful. (I can't watch it again, though. It's too sad. There are not enough tissues in the world...)

17. Care to share some wisdom? Life is short; eat pudding first.

18. Least favourite thing about driving in London (or wherever you live)? 4 x BLOODY 4'S


Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people.

So, I tag:

Millenium Housewife
Nixdminx
Boondock Ramblings
ParadiseLostInTranslation
Missing You Already
More Than Just A Mother
Sticky Fingers
Footballer's Knees
and a late addition, Titian Red

Enjoy!

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???

>> Sunday, 26 April 2009

I can't promise much for this post. Possibly, you might already have guessed that by the fact I can't even think of a relevant title for it.

I spent the last 24 hours catching up with a group of girls I used to go on hockey tour with, and am feeling more than a little shabby this morning.

We met up in a fantastic beach house in Wittering on the south coast of England after I had driven down through beautiful West Sussex. I'm a West Country girl personally, but West Sussex has to be one of the most visually pleasing places in the country with it's hills, valleys, picturesque villages and leafy woods. I swear, in the spring sunshine yesterday it so much resembled my mental picture of The Shire (for those Tolkien fans amongst you) that I kept looking for hobbits and doors in grassy banks.

Once I arrived, we spent yesterday chatting, gossiping, reminiscing, drinking, eating too much chocolate (one of them works for a well-known chocolate brand and seemed to have bought most of last week's production run with her for our delictation), walking along the beach, feeling the burn in our thigh muscles as we remembered how hard it can be to walk on shingle, and drinking (again) to recover from the exertion.

Throw in a meal out, more wine, silly games, more drinking on the beach, some embarrassingly bad campfire singing (without the campfire - even 3 sheets to the wind we weren't foolish enough to attempt that) and a restorative cup of tea at 1am and you have the recipe for a rather sore head this morning...

I should have known what to expect, of course. And I should have known that it would do me no good. It never did when we were on hockey tour 10 years ago or more, and now that I'm 40 + why would that lethal combination - vodka redbull - have a lesser effect?

The coup de grace was the fact that I needed to be back in London by 11am today so that Husband could fly off for another week of wooing Mother Russia.

Looking after the Boys, solo, with a hangover.

What was I thinking?

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Shades of grey

>> Thursday, 23 April 2009

Talk about serendipity. Earlier this evening I had a conversation with my mother about her decision to 'go grey', and then what do I read? A post from Nappy Valley Girl about blonding herself - and how despite the fact that she was not dressed to impress, she still elicited whistles from builders on her way home from the hairdressers...

Just to digress for a moment (it's been a while, cut me some slack), I'm not blonde. Sadly. But I have always thought that if could pop back in time around, oh, 43 years ago, and have a word with the Gene Fairy before my conception, I might put in a bid for some blonde locks. For some reason I always thought that if I had naturally blonde hair, there would be no stopping me. No stopping me at what, is something I'm not sure of however.

In any case, I know what she would have said. Auntie Gene would have laughed outright at me. "Blonde! Blonde? Are you crazy? There hasn't been anyone with properly fair hair in your gene pool for around 400 years! Not since before those pesky Moors got washed up on the Dorset coast and got busy with the local senorita's has there been anyone naturally blonde in your mother's family. And as for your Dad's side, well the Irish potato famine and the exodus to Liverpool put paid to the previously blonde Scottish roots there, so really, Potty, fughedaboudit..."

But anyway, this post wasn't supposed to be about my sad blonde dreams. I'm a brunette, and that's how it's going to stay. Indefinitely. Come hell or high water. Which takes me back to my conversation with Mum.

A bit of background here: my mum was - still is - what they used to call in the '60's 'a looker'. Frankly, 45 years later Dad still can't believe his luck. And to add to her natural good looks, she's got excellent genes (so there is something to thank the fairy for, after all), works hard at the gym, and gets her hair coloured regularly. As a result, she looks at least 10 years younger than she actually is. When I was in my 20's and she was only 23 years older, people usually assumed we were sisters. There is a classic story of how, at a dinner party with my father, she mentioned her mid-20's daughters to another guest, who looked at her intently and asked, very diplomatically "And did you... inherit your children?". So you get the picture. She looks young.

But now, fast approaching 65, she has announced her intention to go grey - or at least to try it out and see how it looks.

It shouldn't be any of my business, I know. It's her hair, not mine. Although let me tell you, whilst I am lucky enough not to be very grey right now, the moment I feel it's getting out of control I will be dealing with that; I will not go quietly into that grey night...

So why do I so desperately want her to keep her coloured hair?

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. As my non-naturally blonde sister (also fighting the grey to the last stand) pointed out last night, whilst our mum looks young, then so do we. And frankly, I'll take any help I can get in that respect.

Mum, don't do it!

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Yuck!

>> Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Poo in the bath.

(Not mine, obviously).

(Or Husband's).

(Or even Boy #2's).

That's all I'm saying. Am now off to gag at the memory - and to buy more bleach. For some reason, we're running out...

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Revenge is a dish best eaten cold...

>> Monday, 20 April 2009

It was Saturday night, and we were staying with friends outside London. S, who I've known since college, had taken a decision that we deserved a grown-up night out away from bottles, babyphones, and the detritus of toys underfoot, and had booked both a babysitter and a local restaurant.

Now, Husband and I do go out. Without the children. Sometimes, even with each other, which of course requires use of a babysitter. And since it's now 5 years from Boy #1's arrival, we have 2 or 3 trusted faces who we use, and on the odd occassion they can't do it, we put out a 'calling all cars' alert and usually manage to draft in a grannie or one of our friends' trusted sitters. So it's not as if the Boys aren't used to this sort of thing.

However, given the performance Boy #1 was putting in, you would think that we were planning a 6 month trip away and leaving him and his brother in an orphanage. There were tears, whispered pleas into the babyphone, and heartbreaking weeping.

I was prepared to be understanding about this; he was in a strange house, with an unknown face in charge, after all. But he was with his brother, his friend E, we wouldn't be far away, and dammit, we were going out.

As we were due to leave, I went upstairs for the 4th time since bedtime to try and sort the situation out.

Boy #1: "Pleaaaaase don't go out Mama! I'm scared... " (bear in mind, before you start to worry about his state of mind, he says exactly the same thing when The Numberjacks are on C-Beebies...)

Me: "Boy #1, you'll be fine. We won't be gone long, and before you know it we'll be back and I'll come upstairs and give you a big kiss, which you probably won't even notice as you'll be asleep by then."

Boy #1: "But, But, But..."

Boy #2: "I'm alright mama! I'm a big boy!"

Me: (suddenly having an idea): "Yes, yes you are. And you can have a big kiss to prove it. You can both have a big kiss, in fact."

I kiss Boy #2. He rolls over and closes his eyes. Then I turn to Boy #1, give him a big kiss, and whisper in his ear...

"Guess what? I just gave Boy #2 a magic kiss - and turned him into a princess! But he doesn't know, so don't tell him..."

Boy #1 stopped whimpering. He looked at me, and then at his brother, and giggled.

The babysitter didn't hear another peep out of him.

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Good things come to he who waits...

>> Sunday, 19 April 2009

My father has always loved trains, planes and automobiles. Trains and planes especially. He spent his childhood logging numbers of steam trains as they were gradually phased out and replaced with much more boring dirty diesels, and Farnham Airshow featured more than once in our summer holiday schedule.

Sadly - for him - he was something of a voice crying in the wilderness. My sister and I, though we tried to show willing, weren't really bothered, and whilst my brother showed interest, he was always more of a car guy. And whilst young, a CHiP's guy. (I think Brother's best Christmas present ever was the toy children's police helmet that my father bought and resprayed in Highway patrol colours so that he could pretend to be Jon to his heart's content...).

So you can imagine my dad's reaction when he took his two younger grandsons into a newsagent last week and told them each to pick a comic to take home. Boy #1, true to form, went immediately for a C-beebies publication featuring bright colours and stories about animals.

Boy #2, however, caused me a moment's concern when he pointed out a publication on the top shelf. Surely not, not already? But I needn't have been bothered. To Dad's delight, Boy #2 was desperate to get his hands on a magazine called 'Air Forces' ('Number One for World Wide Military Aviation News' - if you're interested...), featuring lead stories like 'F16 Fight! US Close Combat Tactics', 'JSF & Aircraft Carriers - The UK's Big Debate', and 'On Patrol With France's Securite Civile'...

They managed to contain themselves until they got home, and then Dad and Boy #2 screwed their bottoms into the sofa and enjoyed leafing through and commenting on each and every page.

I could almost read my father's mind. 'Finally, after all these years.'

Like I said - good things come to he who waits...

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Of slugs and snails...

>> Thursday, 16 April 2009

When does it happen, I wonder? That switch that gets thrown in a child's head?

I am a BOY/ GIRL.
I like BLUE / PINK.
I like to WRESTLE / PLAY WITH DOLLS.
I want to be a FIREMAN / VET.

Because it's happened, here. And not just to Boy #1. In fact, if anything, it happened to his younger brother first. Boy #2 marches about the place, announcing his presence in a deep voice, telling us of car crashes, plane rescues, Fixer Men, and subduing any and all who come between him and his objective (usually the wooden train set, but often anything his older brother is playing with) with charm and, occassionally, brute force.

Yesterday afternoon, at my parents, I caught my sons play-fighting on the floor. (It probably wasn't - 'play' - but leave me my illusions, please). My 95 year old grandmother who had been refereeing was watching indulgently, calling Boy #2 'a loveable rogg' (sic) as he pushed his older and bigger brother's head into the carpet in a move that any WWF fighter would be proud of. Boy #1 was unruffled but not amused. I separated them, and instructed Boy #2 to give Boy #1 a kiss to make up...


Boy #2: "OKaaaay. I give you a kiss." (Plants a big wet smacker on his brother's cheek).

Boy #1: "Thankyou."

Boy #2: "A magic kiss."

Boy #1: "Thankyou!"

Boy #2: "It has turned you into... a princess!!!! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!"

Boy #1: "Noooooooo!"


He's three. Where did he learn this one?

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The Smarts have left the building

>> Wednesday, 15 April 2009

It's Wednesday, 3 full days after Easter, and I still feel as full as a Catholic school... 


What is it with me and chocolate?  I mean, what?  I've had enough, I know it, and yet I continue to eat it.  It doesn't make me feel good (after the first 8 mouthfuls or so, anyway), and as I sit here  - sorry, squat fatly here - typing away, my jeans feel tighter than they have in a long time.

To cap it all, I weighed myself last Friday morning in an effort to kick start a healthy eating habit.  I've realised that there are approximately 12 weeks to go before we spend a week on holiday with friends, one of whom is a size 8 to my size Bigger...  What was I thinking when I booked that one?  But more importantly, what was I thinking when I decided to start this healthy eating effort the Friday before the biggest chocolate festival of the year?  

Talk about setting yourself up to fail...

I would go and console myself with another creme egg, but I fear it could all get very messy and 'one more wafer-thin mint, M. Creosote?'-ish if I do.



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Question...

>> Monday, 13 April 2009

When my Dad overheard me, at my wit's end, threatening Boy 2 with the fact that the Easter Bunny can come back and reclaim his chocolate goodies if he didn't get back in bed RIGHT NOW, he commented that I really shouldn't say such things unless I was prepared to carry it through.

Let's see.

Outcome No. 1: I win, if Boy 2 believes me and goes to bed in an effort to hold onto his Easter treats.

Outcome No 2: And I win, even if Boy 2 doesn't believe me and runs about the house like a mad thing until he eventually (as he surely will) falls asleep on his feet. Because despite the fact that I may have been run ragged, once he has retired to sleep I will be able to eat all his chocolate.

So here's my question. There was chocolate involved in this one. Chocolate that - potentially - would be looking for a loving home. Would I be able to carry my threat through...? Does my father know me at all?


Note: Boy 2 is my son. He went with Outcome No.1.

Blast it.

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Of Easter Bunnies and conversation

>> Saturday, 11 April 2009

Ladies, I would like to raise a toast. A toast to a shy, retiring individual who brings pleasure to many and relief (in his role as Fall Guy) to countless more. A creature who brings manna from heaven in one hand, and dispenses justice with the other. Who's rather large feet are at odds with his cute little nose, and who's only fault is to leave raisin-like droppings on my parents' lawn...

You know who I'm talking about, don't you?

Yes, let us thank the lord for the existence of the Easter Bunny. Because - and if you have kids, you know this - the Easter Bunny is not just for Easter Sunday, oh no. His shift starts earlier than that; pretty much as soon as those purty foil-wrapped eggs appear in the shops and make their existence known to small Boys.

This angel picks up where Father Christmas leaves off, in fact. Since around the beginning of March he's been checking that toys are tidied away, and books are put back on the shelves. He's been policing the brushing of teeth and the using of napkins at the table. He's quite strict in his own way; if he says 'just one story tonight' he means it. And woe betide the Boy who climbs out bed and runs woohooing round the flat when he's meant to be dropping off to sleep at the end of a long day. (Although admittedly it seems he took an early night yesterday and Boy #2's rampage passed under the radar).

However.

Just in case you've been living in a cave for the last few days and haven't noticed the chocolate frenzy going on in shops, with grown women fighting over the last Barbie and Ben 10 licenced eggs, Easter Sunday is tomorrow. And the Easter Bunny will have come good on his side of the deal with the Boys - chocolate for good behaviour - by around midday.

What the hell am I going to use to incentivise them after that?


And in other news (and as a tribute to Millenium Housewife who I really hope doesn't mind):

Things I have said to Boy #2 today...

Let's go and use the loo.
No, not me, you.
OK, I will too.
But I just sat down!
OK, let me just... Right, you go now.
Do you need to sit that far back?
Doesn't it hurt your legs to sit like that?
But if you sit that far back you'll wee on the...
OK, off you get.
Yes, I know that your bottom is wet. That's because you sat so far back.
And don't stand there, you'll get your socks wet too...
Take them off, then.
Now, are you finished?
Completely finished?
Come over here and pull up your trousers then.
Off you go.
What do you mean you need a poo too?
What do you mean 'it's too late?'
No, don't tell me. I know what 'too late' means.

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Easter over-indulgence

>> Friday, 10 April 2009

Batten down the hatches and pull out your Spanx pants, because it’s here; Easter, the ultimate opportunity for chocolate over-indulgence.

It feels as if no sooner have we got Christmas and it’s accompanying sugar high out of the way, than the Easter Bunny pops his head round the door brandishing chocolate eggs and chicks. And he doesn’t even have the decency to wait until the beginning of March to start flashing his wares; the first display of Easter merchandise that I saw seemed to appear only a couple of days after Valentine’s Day. Marks and Spencer, shame on you...

Both Boys, of course, are delighted by all this. Forget any religious messages; at ages five and three, Easter is All About The Chocolate. And chocolate doesn’t come their way every day, as I try and push the healthy eating message and so control the amount they get to eat. Add to that the fact that they both have serious nut allergies, and opportunities for chocolate indulgence are limited still further.

In fact, for those who are similarly affected, you may be interested to learn that there is only one UK manufacturer of chocolate – Kinnerton – who will routinely guarantee their product to be nut free. The rest seek refuge behind the catch-alls ‘may contain nuts’ or ‘produced in a factory that uses nut ingredients’. I can’t blame them, of course; in today’s litigation-happy culture it’s best to be clear about these things, but it does force those of us who are affected by this potentially life-threatening allergy to make choices every time we pick up a packet in the supermarket...

But if I’m honest, the real reason for our dearth of chocolate is that if there is any in the house, the chances are that I will have snaffled it long before there is any possibility of it making it into my sons’ snack repertoire.

For I, Potty Mummy, am a chocoholic. I can't help it. If it's chocolate, and expensive, I'm addicted.

I am capable of walking past Rococco and it’s like without so much as a second glance - well, maybe without so much as a third glance – but at Easter? There are just far too many opportunities for indulgence, all dressed up as present buying opportunities for others.

I don’t know who I think I’m fooling. It’s not as if my sons can eat most of it, and let's face it, what 3 or 5 year old wouldn't really prefer a £2.99 milk chocolate Thomas the Tank Engine or Power Ranger egg from M&S - guaranteed nut free - over a plain, boring, unlicensed, totally delicious - oops, getting carried away again - version from Leonidas, Prestat or Rococo?

Still, I buy those shiny sparkly little bags of praline-filled Eggs of Happiness (yes, I do really call them that) kidding myself that I will hand them out to friends and relations over the Easter break. Even though, deep down, I know that if the contraband eggs make it as far as Sunday it will only be because I have suffered a blow to the head and have forgotten what the expensive card bags tucked away on the top shelf of the fridge contain.

Resistance is futile...

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It'll all come out in the wash...

>> Wednesday, 8 April 2009

You know you're back from holiday when you've scaled Mount Bright, only to find that Peak Dark, The White Ranges, and The Light Alps are spread out in front of you like a panorama, and the phrase 'hours to go before we sleep' keeps rattling round your mind...

Yes, your used clothes have exploded out of your suitcases like ectoplasm from a Ghostbuster's villain. The washing marathon following any holiday of more than a few hours has begun.

Your bedroom looks like a chinese laundry, and the washing basket has disappeared completely behind piles of clothes, probably not to be seen again until some time at the end of next Tuesday. You don't need to draw the curtains when you go to bed since no-one can see in past the foothills and in any case, you can't reach them without a pick-axe and breathing equipment.

Sighing heavily as you despatch a team of sherpas to carry yet another load to the washing machine, you do complicated mental arithmetic to work out how much more you can fit on the airer, whether tomorrow's weather will be good enough to dry anything outside (this is England, and it's April. You're dreaming), and wonder if leaving the tumble dryer going all night will mean that you are environmentally beyond the pale. You decide you don't care as you realise - and curse - the fact that you foolishly allowed the laundry to build up even before you left for your trip, and vow never to let it happen again.

Until next weekend, anyway, when you get back from your visit with your parents.

And let's not even talk about the handwashing. Those pretty summer dresses that won't be needed here until quite possibly July. Or at least, not outside of the catch-all 'jeans and dress combo' beloved of mums desperately trying to jazz up their normal jeans and t-shirt combo. So they will sit sadly and guilt-makingly at the bottom of the laundry hamper until I can bring myself to deal with them. Which will probably not be until the weather does actually warm up, and by the time I then get round to washing them, drying them (not in the tumble dryer, of course - that would be far too easy!), and then ironing them, it will have cooled down again.

Marilyn Moore on the Kings Road, I love you. But please; more machine-washable stuff?

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'Instructions Not Included'

Two months back (god, has it been so long?), the nice people at Virgin Books sent me a copy of Charlotte Moerman's book 'Instructions Not Included' to read and possibly review.

Charlotte, after a career in marketing, had 3 sons in quick succession and found that being a full time mum (with a travelling - Dutch - husband; sound familiar, anyone?) pushed more buttons for her than paid (note my use of the word 'paid') employment. She's got a way with words though, so when she started to write down her experiences was soon co-opted into writing 'The Buggy Blogger' and was consequently to write a book based on that.

'Instructions Not Included' is the result, and was published on the 19th March. I enjoyed it, although I did find it jumped around a little, and at times - probably due more to the fact that I only ever manage to find time to sit and read just before I fall asleep - that was quite hard going. However, I can imagine that if you are offered the chance to use your blog posts to form the backbone of a book it can be quite hard to do that in a seamless way. Which isn't at all meant to damn with faint praise; Charlotte writes well, perceptively, and is very funny, and I will definitely spend my own money (!) to read the next book that I believe she's working on at the moment.

And three boys? Let's just say, after reading this, I'm full of admiration for her, and gladder than ever that we've settled for two...

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Observation Post

>> Sunday, 5 April 2009

First off, sorry to all who have have commented and to whom I haven't replied directly; internet time is limited, as I'm sure you'll understand. Especially when two small boys and a husband are currently having a nap and I don't know how long that will last...

And now, for your reading pleasure, here are a few random observations I have made whilst at this hotel...


Food

Our beach-side hotel has a buffet. This spells Disaster for Diets. You know how it is, you walk up there with the best intentions; 'Just a small salad, I think, and then maybe some grilled chicken with roasted vegetables for main course. Absolutely no pudding. And water only. Beer is so bloating and my swimsuit isn't getting any looser.'

But here's how it works. You reach the buffet. OK, you put the lettuce leaf on your plate. Add some blameless tomato, and some innocent cucumber. Maybe just a little of that nice egyptian white cheese. And that beetroot salad looks good. Mayo? Gosh, no. But some potato salad would be good. And dressing, well olive oil never hurt anyone. And that flat-bread is freshly made. I mean, how often do you get the chance to have freshly made flat bread? And butter - it would be rude not to. Right, let's just heave this back to the table....

Gosh, I'm full.

Well, maybe just a little plate of noodles. With some shrimp. And dip. And roasted veg, for the vitamins. And a beer would be lovely and refreshing.

Pudding? Well, I really shouldn't... But look! They have that delicious milk pudding. And some very nice looking Egyptian sweetmeats - I don't get those at home of course because of all the nuts and sesame... Maybe some halva? And that baklava-looking thingy - better try that...

See what I mean? Disaster for Diets, on a plate.


National Traits

Next up, I don't know about you but I always thought that myth about the Germans sneaking out at the crack of dawn to reserve their preferred sun-loungers by the pool was just that: a myth. Not here, it ain't. And the really scary thing is what happens to you when you realise that. Suddenly, you want to do it too! Of course, I haven't. But I must admit to chivvying the boys up just a little over breakfast to make sure we don't get forced out... Oh, the shame.

I won't of course go into detail about the Brits and their national traits. You know them. Though participating wildly in my next point could not be said to be one of them.


Activities

There are 'activities' in this hotel. One of them is Aqua Fit every morning at 11.30 in the main pool. We've not participated, but it makes for excellent viewing. And two things have occurred to me. First, do the people doing this really imagine that 25 minutes of splashing (and believe me, that is all it is) about is really going to have any effect on their holiday equivalent of a full english? There's an (unheated) exercise pool 20 yards away that would have far more impact on their holiday tummy. Though I have to say, it is jolly cold in there. And more than a bit lonely.

And my second question is, am I the only one who suspects the jolly rep leading the aqua fit to be a bit of a fraud? I'm sure he's no more qualified to do this than I am (which is not at all), and I imagine him rolling about on the phone to his mates, saying "And then I got them to wiggle their bottoms in the air and splash their hands whilst shouting in Egyptian. They thought it was '10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 -5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1!' Of course, what I really got them to say was 'I like to take it up the behind!' And can you believe it, they baksheeshed me for the pleasure! Hahahahahaha!"

Although of course it could just be that I have a diseased imagination...

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Independent Thought

>> Saturday, 4 April 2009

We're still in Egypt, and still on the tourist trail, but as usual on Potty Family Holidays, under our own steam.

I am simultaneously both blessed and cursed in the fact that my husband loves ‘independent’ travel. Blessed, because it means we get to do things at our own (for which - more often than not - read ‘his’) pace, and cursed because it means that we frequently step outside the comfortable numbness of package tour organisation.

When, for example, I went over our itinerary with an Egyptian friend recently, she looked at me as if we were stark raving mad. All I had done was mention that we had organised an over-night sleeper train from Giza to Luxor, and that the Boys were incredibly excited about this fact. She tried to hide it of course, but when I asked her if she had ever done the same thing herself I could tell she was biting back the words ‘Take my son on one of those death traps? Over my dead body.’

As we stood on the platform at Giza on a warm evening, and train after dilapidated train rattled through full to the brim of soldiers dimly visible through what looked like the candlelight inside, I have to say that I did begin to question the wisdom of our choice of transport...

The look of wonder and excitement on the Boys’ faces though when the sleeper train finally pulled in were enough to make me decide that we were doing the right thing. Experiences like this one - especially when you're five and three years old - don’t come along every day. The train wasn’t the smartest I’ve ever been on, sure, but it was safe, and clean enough for me to be happy to put them to sleep in the bunks. Although ‘sleep’ was not something I got much of when Boy #1 decided variously at 2 hour intervals that he wanted water, was scared (of the dark rather than anything in particular), and wanted water again, and that I was ‘it’ in dealing with these problems...

We then spent the next two days visiting Luxor’s ancient ruins and tombs, swimming in the hotel pool, and drifting along the Nile watching the sunset. We also – just in case you thought this was all as easy as falling off a log - were still outside the protective arms of any holiday company, so found ourselves haggling prices with taxi drivers, being harassed to buy tickets simply to look at a view, and refusing to stop at alabaster factories where the taxi –driver was a member of the family, and the ground outside was strewn invitingly with cigarettes and glittering stone chippings.

And if you ever find yourself in the Valley of the Kings with time to visit only 3 tombs, the only one worth bothering with is Tomb No. 47. Don’t say I never tell you anything...

And today we stepped still further outside my comfort zone. It’s common, I know, for holiday-makers in the Red Sea resorts to make day trips to Luxor to see the glories of Ancient Egypt. The thing about these journeys though is that you are cocooned in air-conditioned luxury, high up, and looking down on the countryside passing you by. If, however, your husband has organised a taxi (admittedly of the air-conditioned van type, with of course those all-important rear seat belts) to make the same 4 hour trip in the opposite direction to the next destination on your independently organised holiday, you are at ground level. In, you might almost say, the line of fire.

On the plus side you notice the incredible diversity of the crops grown in the Nile Valley, a triumph of endeavour over heat. You see the actual moment when the lush greenery of the Nile Valley gives way abruptly to the arid plains of the first real desert you've ever experienced. But you also see - and worry about - every hand-signal oncoming bus and taxi drivers give your car to let them know there is radar / police / the army around the next corner. You feel the bump of every stick of sugar cane littering the road - and there are a lot - and see every sleeping policeman in the road approaching the army road-blocks, of which there are approximately one every 10 – 20 km, often with more around large towns.

You look right into the mud huts that so many people still live in, and the contrast with your own comfortable 21st century life couldn't be clearer. You see the locals running for the mini-buses with lunchboxes in one hand and rifles slung over their other shoulder. You can hear the wailing of the girl who has clearly broken her arm in the horrific looking pile-up on the side of the road. And you want to stop and help, but not only does your taxi-driver speed up to get past the danger zone as soon as possible, but you are too worried about your sons in the back seat to risk their safety.

In short, you realise that Egypt, whether you properly understood it before you arrived or not, is not the South of France. Diluted though it might be, you are in Africa.

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Being the Curiousity

>> Friday, 3 April 2009

Thanks everyone for your comments on my previous post; as for those who suggested we use a state-registered taxi next time, guess what? Turns out they're ALL like that... Still, they seem to be able to get us from a to b, so am just suspending all knowledge of what passes for 'safe' driving back home and going with the flow for the moment...

Onto my Mother Tourist's Guide Part #2

Sometimes it’s brought home to me what a sheltered life I’ve led. Not often, living in an affluent (though rather less-so recently, of course) bubble in South Kensington, but every now and again when Husband and I step out of comfort zone. As we have done – just a little – on our trip to Egypt.

Clearly you already know about our taxi ride on the night of our arrival. I’m over that now – though I haven’t let Husband know, obviously. And Boy #2 is showing a worrying excitement level every time a taxi trip is mentioned; it seems that the Egyptian style of driving coupled with the lack not only of child seats but any kind of seatbelt as well is just the adrenaline fuelled- ticket as far as he is concerned.

You don’t however yet know about my beloved losing his mobile practically the moment we arrived. Or of his subsequent midnight traipse back to the airport the following night in an attempt to track down the taxi driver who’s car he was convinced he would find it in. Or the fact that the driver from the hotel who took him found the opportunity to get the police involved (despite Husband’s pleadings to the contrary) just too good a chance to pass up.

Or that they both then spent an hour sitting in the office of the Cairo Airport’s Chief of Police who in turn seized his opportunity to use some incorrectly filled-in paper work on the part of said taxi driver to try and make an example of someone. Or that when Husband, finally got the chance to check under the seat of the taxi where he was convinced he would find the missing mobile, there was of course nothing but dust...


Neither do you know about our trip to the Pyramids; not only did we get to actually go inside the Great Pyramid of Giza (hot, claustrophobic, cramped, a bit of a disappointment and at the same time a major rush), but the boys were yet again treated like film stars by the locals in a way reminiscent of our trip to Bangkok last year.

Or even that a woman in full bourka asked to pose for a photo with me. I thought it was the boys she was after – I’m not blonde or anything – but no, despite the fact that neither of them would show their baby-blues to the camera, she persisted. Apparently a western woman in a long skirt and t-shirt was enough of an unusual experience for her to want to take a piece of it home to show the folks...

Now, I’m used to my sons getting attention. But to be deemed interesting enough in my own right for a photo opp? And I also wondered; would it have been acceptable to have asked the same favour of her and requested that she pose for a snap with me? I may be being over-cautious, but that's not a chance I would want to take.

It's odd, though, to have the tables turned on you like that. Has it ever happened to you?

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