Saturday 31 May 2008

Green Island

So, we've moved a few miles further south. Only a few, though; we're on Green Island, a jewel of a sand cay 45 minutes by ferry from Cairns. It's the only tropical island in the world that has both beach and rainforest, but don't get carried away, you can walk around it in 30 minutes, so it's not a leviathon in island terms (in the way that Greenland is, for example). And apologies in advance if my prose becomes a little flowery, or my spelling a little erratci - I've just polished off 4 glasses of wine...

Green Island is on the inner Barrier Reef, and since arriving here yesterday we've experienced fish-feeding at 5.00pm (where the Reef Sharks, moon fish, yellow-tails, trevali's, seargent major fish and turtles turn up so promptly you can't help but wonder if they have an alarm clock secreted away in the coral), a glass bottomed-boat trip that knocked anything we've seen on Maurituis (sp) into a cocked hat, a plane trip over the reef that sent Boy #2 into an ecstatic trance and Boy #1 suffering from air sickness, and oh, yes. Boy #2 has been ill.

Not convenient in our current location, when it's a 15 minute and A$400 helicopter ride from the nearest doctor, but he seems to be getting it over it now...

Would we come back? Hell, yes. Though perhaps with antibiotics at the ready.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Reality checks...

They're piling up thick and fast... when Boy #2’s first 4 syllable word is ‘Babycino’ – or, as he pronounced it, ‘Beybeecheeenow’... He’s 2 years old. I didn’t even drink my first coffee until I was around 16, let alone know what a cappuccino is. What’s going on? (Note; a babycino, for those who haven't had the pleasure, is an attempt to keep your beloved offspring quiet whilst you sip your own beverage, and consists of an espresso-sized cup of milk froth with a sprinkle of chocolate on the top. No coffee involved...)

...or when you are in a swimming pool with your older son trying to encourage him to float without armbands, and he manages it, shouting in high excitement “Look at me! Look at me!!”
“I am looking, well done!” you reply in your best motivational tone. He replies witheringly “Not you, mama. The girls!”

When you realise that your sons have each flown more miles in the first 2 and 4 years of their lives than you had flown in the first 35 of yours...

When your younger son climbs into his airplane seat – and straps himself in.

I think it’s nearly time to head for home...

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Port Douglas

We're nearing the end of our Australian idyll, and are now in swanky Port Douglas enjoying some classic southern hemisphere contrasts, along with a mixture of rain and sunshine.

To those of us raised in mild, predictable Northern Europe, this can be a bit of a shock...

We've enjoyed blistering sunshine followed by pelting rain, and back again - all within a period of around 10 minutes. A taxi-driver this evening told us that on one day in February this year they had 11 inches of rain. ELEVEN INCHES! This should give some idea of how northern Queensland can be a land of some extremes. It's hot and damp, but dry. It's sophisticated, but not. It's 5 star, but it isn't. We landed in a downpour, but all the rivers seem to be drying out. Apparantly they've not had rain for 2 months - before our arrival, obviously - but I've seldom seen a greener landscape, more verdant hillsides, or lusher forests. On a crocodile-sighting trip up the river this afternoon, which had Boy #1 giggling with delight whilst viewing a 4 1/2 metre example sunning himself itself on a river bank, the tour guide announced that they did have sharks in the Daintree river - but only little ones. Bull sharks. The ones that measure around 1.5 metres.

A 1.5 metre shark is a little one? I'll not be donning a cossie right now, thanks very much - and that's leaving aside the jellyfish lacing the water with their tentacles of death, meaning all but a swimming pool is off limits for a cooling dip. These jellyfish are known locally, and misguidingly, as 'stingers'. To those of us raised in cooler climates to whom 'stingers' suggests something akin to nettles that can lead to a nasty rash, be warned. These things can literally kill you. Whilst looking very pretty in a north Australia styley, of course.

So, in short, North Queensland. Look, admire, but don't touch...

And here's something of a conundrum for you. You're travelling through an airport, let's say, in Brisbane, Australia. You have the following in your hand-luggage; A bottle of milk (for your 2 year old, to help combat any pain in his ears whilst coming down from altitude when your plane lands). A set of nail-clippers with a potentially 'lethal '2 inch file attached. A 500ml bottle of water - or is it? A tube of mascara. A toy plastic snake.

Which of the above do you reckon will be confiscated by the numpties on the x-ray machine at airport security?

I'll give you a clue.

It's the one that results in your 4 year old bursting into inconsolable fits of tears as you have to tell him that the toy he was bought at Australia Zoo was deemed too dangerous (by the numpties) to take on board an airplane in case it frightens the other passengers.

What is this world coming to?

Note: For the tender hearted amongst you, the snake is long-gone in Boy #1's memory. It has been replaced as the object of his affections by a cuddly shark which he has been waving around at every opportunity, most noticeably in the restaurants where we've had dinner the last couple of nights. As a flirting accessory with women on average 24 years older than him it's been an unmitigated success. With the exception of course of the waitress who he ambushed with a cuddly shark nip as she walked past, who responded:

"Don't be riduculous, it's just a stuffed toy!"

I wonder if that's the first time she's said that?

Saturday 24 May 2008

Not enough space to swing a cat...

It’s a scary moment when you realise that you can run through almost your entire morning beauty routine without looking in a mirror. Does that mean I’ve finally given up battling the march of Time? Or does it just mean that we are cruising up the Sunshine Coast of Queensland in a motor home, and I’ve been using campsite shower facilities for the first time in around 20 years?

It’s the latter – for the moment, at any rate.

Now, for any of you who have picked up on Boy #1's long-standing interest in all things Crocodile Hunter, you will be pleased to hear that we have finally made it the Mother Lode - Australia Zoo.

Let’s be honest, the zoo is one of the main reasons we made this trip in the first place, so we couldn’t miss that out. Boy #1 was very excited about our visit, although it transpired when we reached the zoo that he was expecting ‘Princess’ Bindi (his words, not mine – probably related to the enormous poster of her wearing a tiara at the ticket gate) to greet us in person, and when I explained to him that today was a school day in Australia and that was where she would probably be, he asked the following, pertinent, question.

“Why do they put her on all the pictures if she’s not going to be there then?”

Welcome to the deceitful world of Marketing, my 4 year old son... (I can say that, by the way, since it was my bread and butter for so many years...)

In brief, we picked up the van in Brisbane on Tuesday and since then have luxuriated in the sun on Noosa beach, visited The Zoo, pounded the highway northwards towards Agnes Waters, not made it that far (but it looked so close on the map), and settled on Bargara as a stop instead. We are now in Coola Beach, having visited Rainbow Beach on the way, and are heading for Cairns by plane tomorrow. It's been a busy few days. And, whilst I've been mainly pleasantly surprised by camper van living, I'm quite glad it's almost over.

It's been a novel experience for us. Husband has done all the driving since I was foolish /smart enough (delete as you see fit) to forget my driving licence. It’s a decent enough size, which is to say not very big, and is full of cunning little ways of saving space and ensuring that glasses etc don’t get smashed whilst we are bombing along the Bruce Highway. They don't work, by the way; we are two wine glasses down already – must have been the emergency stops we had to make to avoid the traffic jams when going too fast...

Unsurprisingly, Boy #2 has switched allegiance from the 4 x 4 we were driving in the Flinders ranges to this momma, and now his only desire is to get behind it’s wheel whenever we stop. Thank heavens we didn’t go all out and sort ourselves one of the road-kings we’ve spotted in a couple of the camp sites we’ve stopped over in; think Robert de Niro’s character’s Winnebago in ‘Meet the Fokkers’ and you’ll get the picture.

We've seen vans with extensions that telescope out when stationary, some with satellite tv, and others with awnings as big as ballrooms. Of course most have their own welcome mats, and hot and cold running bbq’s are compulsory. I even saw one with it’s own car-port and a retractable aluminium clothes horse attached to it. Some of these babies have left us feeling quite inadequate, I can tell you.

A big drawback though is how awful it is to empty the waste and loo containers of the van we’ve got; with anything bigger, I can imagine you need to get Dyno-Rod in to do the job for you when you want to sort out the toilet. Well, I say it's a drawback. I don't really know, as at the last count, it was actually Husband who has done all the dirty work. (I may be a feminist but I'm no fool). Thank heavens for my gorgeous man... In any case, since most of the serious roadsters we've seen seem to be inhabited by ‘Grey Nomads’ – not my term, one that another OAP used disparagingly about other people of his age who take trips longer than his – I can imagine that those toilet facilities - and the emptying of them - can be very important.

And there are some other factors that you might want to consider if you are looking at this type of holiday yourself. One is that if you are not the driver, you become a sort of in-flight stewardess, at your children’s beck and call when they need a drink, drop their blanket, or start fighting with each other over who has the annoyingly movable table pushed into their knees. Most of this happens in whatever sized vehicle you’re in of course, but if the Boys are sitting 8 feet away from you, you can’t just turn around in your seat and sort it out; it necessitates the sort of unseat-belted swaying progress (at an average speed of 65 mph) that would have any health & safety officer reaching for their notebook. However, as Husband reminded me smugly from the driving seat, this is my punishment for forgetting my driving licence...

The second drawback is that since it is in fact Winter here (ha!), whilst the days are warm and balmy at around 25 deg C, the evenings are just that bit too parky to sit outside in whilst the children drop off to sleep. What that actually means is that the Boys – in particular, Boy #2 – can hear us moving around. He has been taking full advantage of this, sticking his head out of the curtained off ‘shelf’ they are both sleeping on, shouting toddler versions of obscenities, growling like a lion, snorting like a pig, and generally being so frustratingly, adorably, cheeky that we are at our wit’s end to know how to deal with him.

Any suggestions on where in a camper van you can find a naughty step?

Monday 19 May 2008

Note to self...

...high-heeled boots are not necessary for a trip to the Outback.

We've spent the last 3 days travelling north from Adelaide with some friends in a couple of 4x4's, and the weather has finally broken. It's hard to feel bad about that, since parts of this area haven't seen rain for a year, whilst other parts haven't had a proper drenching in 3, but really - couldn't they have waited until our visit was over?

Even with the rain-clouds however we've had a wonderful time, surrounded by landscapes ranging from lush and green, to dry and scrubby, through to bright red lunar desert. We visited Wilpena Pound and took a walk accompanied by kangaroos through mountain pines. We've checked out Aboriginal rock engravings in Sacred Canyon. We've driven off-road through landscapes only previously seen (by us) in spaghetti westerns, and stopped at the side of the track to photograph emus. We also stayed over at the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna, famed for it's local fare (emu sausages, anyone?), which I can highly recommend. I just wish I hadn't had that 3rd piece of kangaroo filet...

But enough of the brochure-speak. You want the fun stuff, right? You will no doubt be delighted to hear that this part of our trip has only been slightly marred by Boy #2 who, having experienced 4x4 travel for the first time in his life, has decided that the only place to be when surrounded by glorious wilderness is, of course, in the car. Preferably in the driving seat. Every time we walked away from the landcruiser, he made a beeline for the best seat in the house, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from it.

Men. If he hadn't had to drive an average of 500 km a day for the last 4 days, I'm sure Husband would have behaved the same way if he thought he could get away with it...

Friday 16 May 2008

Come Fly With Me...

We’ve been blazing a trail along the coast of Victoria and South Australia, taking in the Great Ocean Road, and very beautiful it all is too. The weather has been fantastic; a little chilly, but more than made up for by the same bright bright sunshine we experienced in Sydney, with the result that everything seems technicoloured. Last year I bought my first ever pair of polarised sunglasses, and was amazed by the intensity of sand, sea and sky. I even informed Husband that I might just live the rest of my life wearing them, everything looked so much nicer... Well, along this part of the coast of Australia at least, you don’t need polarised sunglasses to make everything look gorgeous – it just is.

Our plan today was to go see the 12 Apostles (I’m Catholic, how could I not?), and then take in a little-known attraction called The Otway Fly. That was our ‘plan’.

We had not, however, taken into account the following:

1. The possibility that Boy #1's knee would have a disagreement with the paving stones outside the 12 Apostles visitor centre, necessitating a great deal of screaming, crying and shivering, a trip back to the car for extensive first aid equipment (an antiseptic wipe and a couple of Winnie the Pooh plasters), and medicinal biscuits all round.

2. The fact that the subsequent walk down the paved path would take place at snail’s pace due to Boy #1’s hideous injuries.

3. The visiting Japanese tourists wanting to sit down next to Boy #1 and take his photo (have I mentioned before that my children are gorgeous? I have?), and Boy #1’s rather over-dramatic reaction of jumping up screaming, and running to me 5 yards away, before taking another 5 minutes to calm down. (To be fair to Boy #1, if I was 4 years old, and some strange man sat down next to me and put his arm along the back of the bench I was sitting on, it would probably spook me too...).

4. Boy #2’s insistence that riding in buggies is for wimps. Not only was he not going to ride in it, in fact, but he was going to push it – all by himself. Preferably into the nearest group of strangers (mostly yet more Japanese tourists), and if at all possible, into the back of the legs of whomever was taking the group photo.

So, the first part of our day took a little - longer than we had anticipated, and by the time we had reached the Otway Fly and had something to eat, it was gone 1.00pm. (I later learnt that Husband had originally planned on leaving there for our next destination around that time. If you have visited or live in Australia yourself, you will understand at this point that we are both struggling a little with the concept of the distances involved here. Oh, yes, and with the fact that everyone actually sticks to the speed limit. Which, by the way, is no bad thing - we're just not used to it.)

Now, the Otway Fly (check the link if you think you might ever be in the area, it’s really worth seeing), is meant among other things to give visitors the chance to commune with nature in a peaceful and relaxed setting.

Not today, it didn’t. Well, not with us there, at any rate.

Where can I start? Perhaps with the discovery of the Dinosaur walk that prompted loud squeals and shouts of “See that one Mama? See? See?? That one is REAAAAAAALLLLY aggressive. Look out for his claws!” Or perhaps with Boy #2’s shouts of “Wheeeeeeee!”, as he raced down the hill. Or maybe, the peace was finally broken by the rattle & hum of the buggy’s wheels on the metal grating of the Fly (if you haven’t checked the link, bet you’re curious now, huh?), that alerted not just other people but all wildlife to our arrival (I think we saw a total of around 2 birds). Or could it have been Boy #1’s shouts demanding to be carried up the rather steep hill on the way back? Well, you can’t blame him. If I could have found someone to carry me, I would have gone for it. As it was, I was too busy pushing his younger brother up like a pasha in push-chaired splendour. As I told him when I could catch my breath again, and he wanted to know why no-one would carry him, sometimes life just isn’t fair...

The woman at the ticket office had informed us the walk would take an hour. Two hours later we emerged, tired out but unbowed, only for Boy #2 to repeat his older brother’s earlier mishap with his knee on a bigger, bolder, and much bloodier scale – and of course this time the car (containing the replacement first aid kit) was 10 minutes walk away.

All together now....Come fly with me...

Tuesday 13 May 2008

I need a hero...

So. Yesterday afternoon. Circular Quay, Sydney, Australia.

I made the mistake of stopping to watch a street performer with the Boys whilst Husband went to check out the ferry times. On his return he announced we had another 40 minutes to wait - so we decided to stay and watch the Cornish entertainer juggling with fire, knives, and a chainsaw. On a bicycle.

This turned out to be a Bad Mistake.

Not only because Boy #1 now thinks such things are perfectly feasible, and I will probably have to hide the silverware for evermore. My son has chosen to ignore the performer's repeated assurances that it took him a lifetime (well, Boy #1's lifetime, in any case) to learn how to do these tricks, thinking perhaps that this is something anyone can do in between their future careers as a lion (!) and an astronaut .

But also because both Husband and I - and particularly Husband - had a 'life flashing in front of your eyes' moment.

I may have mentioned before that Husband is tall. So when, a few minutes after his return from the quay, Street Performer Man (SPM) asked for an assistant, and specified that he wanted 'the biggest man in the crowd', Husband bent his knees, just a little. But it was too late. He had been spotted. And was pulled through the audience to help SPM climb up onto a 6 metre high pole to balance on his bicycle whilst jugging fire, knives, and eating an apple. (As you do).

For one split second I thought Husband was going to be required to stand beneath SPM during this trick, and images of knives through shoulders flashed hideously through my mind. I saw myself and the Boys languishing in Sydney whilst my beloved recovered from hideous burns in hospital.

And apparantly, from the look upon his face, Husband thought much the same thing.

Of course, nothing of the kind happened. He helped the guy up, retreated a suitable amount of feet, the trick passed off smoothly, and the only damage done was to his wallet when he gave the guy $10 at the end of the show, and to his pride when he raced back to ask if I had filmed the whole thing only to be told he had left the handicam on and that consequently we were out of battery. (And thank god I wasn't responsible for that little mishap.)

But the momentary stress was definitely worth it, because later that evening, I had the following conversation with Boy #1.

Boy #1: "Mama, you remember that juggling man?"

Me: "Yes, darling."

Boy #1: "He was doing tricks on his bicycle with knives."

Me: "Yes, he was."

Boy #1: "And he needed help! He needed the BIGGEST MAN in the audience!"

Me: "He certainly did."

Boy #1: "And that man was MY PAPA! My Papa was the Biggest Man there. Nobody else's Papa is as big as My Papa."

Hero worship can be great.

(Note: apologies if the title of this post means you now have Bonnie Tyler wailing like a Banshee in your subconcious - but at least it's got rid of the refrain from One Night in Bangkok. Oh, have you got that too, now?)

Monday 12 May 2008


I am still reeling from watching a documentary last night featuring Ray Winstone who happened to mention - in passing - that whilst filiming in Australia he was bitten by a Redback.

I'm sorry?

I'm torn between two reactions; firstly, to be relieved that it was such a minor incident (to him, at least) that he can so nonchantly mention it in passing. If it were me, I can tell you that for a very, very, very long time afterwards it would be the first thing I would tell people. "Hi, you don't know me, but I was bitten by a Redback spider in Australia. And my name's Potty Mummy, by the way." A bit of a conversation stopper for the average K&C dinner party, I agree, but I don't think I would be able to help myself.

My second reaction is to do what any reasonable person would, and run around screaming my head off. I mean, if Ray Winstone, living - one would imagine - a reasonably cossetted existence, (albeit in the outback) can be stalked and savagely attacked by one of the beasties that Australia is famed for, what chance do we, the Potty Family, stand when cruising around Queensland in a motor home for a few days?

Don't answer that, and pass me the anti-venom.

Anyway, onto my snapshots...

You’ve got to love a country where a radio ad for a restaurant features a ‘foot long pecker’ as one of it's weekly specials. (Just in case you’re interested, this consists of chicken, goats cheese and tomatoes wrapped in a golden parcel of puff pastry. Personally I would have thought the 'puff' pastry would go without saying, but...) Husband nearly drove off the road.

As this was shortly before we drove past a billboard asking if we wanted SEX (in 6 meter high capital letters) to last longer, and promising to make this happen via a nasal delivery system, you could be forgiven for thinking we are taking a short break in Sodom and Gomorrah.

But no.

We’re still in Sydney.

We were on our way to visit the Blue Mountains for the day, an area of literally outstanding natural beauty, though I’m not sure the Boys thought so from the back seat. They missed the stunning views seen through a smokey blue veil, and instead passed the time giggling at each other’s various wolf, lion, and dog impressions (which, for the record, can become a little bit headache-making after 30 minutes of sustained whooping, howling, and roaring), seeing how many rhyming words they could come up with (a little more challenging for Boy #2, but he did his best with various forms of gobbledegook), winding each other up (not difficult – simply steal your brother’s sunglasses and put them on), and sleeping with their heads nodding forward on their necks in ways that I would think extremely uncomfortable but which didn’t seem to interfere with their naps at all.

When temporarily released from their car seats they ran around in the beautiful Cathedral of Ferns looking for trolls and friendly foxes, tumbling head over heels into the mud, and demanding biscuits with menaces.

We stopped at the view point in Katoomba, hoping to see the famous vista of the valley and mountains, and to be impressed by the 3 Sisters still waiting for their father to find his magic wand and release them from their stone prisons, but of course the mists had closed in, meaning all we could see were the tops of a few eucalyptus trees far below us. The Boys were unphased by this though, choosing instead to enjoy themselves by running up and down the sloping paths shouting ‘wheeeeee!’ at the top of both their vocal registers and their voices, and by being delightedly scared by the rather formidable Aboriginal gentlemen playing the didgeridoo. Boy #1 asked seriously if he was cold – a good question considering we were the chilliest we’ve been up there at around 15 degC, and he was wearing only a loincloth and some kind of sack hooked around his shoulders.

The didgeridoo player’s sartorial approach to the weather was in marked contrast to most other Australians we’ve seen, however, who are all wrapped up warm. (The exceptions to this were the hard-bodied - mostly male - runners out on the streets around the harbour when we went to the collect the rental car at 9.00am. They had clearly decided the slightly cooler weather was no impediment to showing off their toned physiques – which was nice. Husband accused me of looking. Of course I wasn’t...).

And whilst waiting on the quay for the ferry this morning, in glorious sunshine at around 20 degC, a local family turned up kitted out in jumpers, jackets, scarves, and in the case of their 4 year-old daughter, tights. And they looked at us as if we were mad...

Saturday 10 May 2008

In case you hadn't noticed...

we've arrived...

Though not completely. I think my brain is only just catching up with my body. For example, I keep receiving what can only be subliminal messages from home. Last night, in a jetlag-induced half-dream, I imagined receiving the following message from my mother:

Arrived safely at the flat. (Stop). All OK. (Stop). No sign of the mouse. (Stop) But a very strong smell of roast chicken? (Stop).

(Note - the reference to the mouse is probably wishful thinking on my part...).

So, here we are in Sydney. All the stories of 16 degC, biting winds and driving rain have turned out - so far - to be just that; stories. We are wandering around in t-shirts and summer gear, looking hugely out of place amongst the natives, who are all wrapped up against the 'chilly' temperatures of around 20 - 23 degC with scarves, coats and long trousers. The bright blue skies and intense sunshine are throwing our European teeth and the shirts that looked respectably white back in the dingy London light into sharp relief. (It may be time to go shopping).

The Boys are having the time of their lives; having lapped up attention in Bangkok more usually reserved for minor royalty and c-list celebs back in the UK, they now getting used to seeing more sun in one day than they usually see in a month. Both are making themselves at home: Boy #2 is practicing his 'scare the parents silly by running full tilt towards every quay edge that he can find' skills at every opportunity. As there are a lot of such edges in Sydney this can be quite wearing.

Boy #1, meanwhile, is doing his best to fit in, having learned Australian colloquialisms at the foot of the master, and last night had to be restrained from marching through a particularly busy area of Circular Key shouting "Have a go at that! Crikey, Matey!" at the top of his voice. This resulted in a lot of startled glances from the locals and I'm sure I heard more than one person mutter "You're not in Queensland yet, sonny" under their breath.

The Crocodile Hunter has a lot to answer for.

Thursday 8 May 2008

How not to...

... prepare for a long haul flight.

Continuing my interminable series of 'how not to' posts, I would like to suggest that any reader planning on taking a trip down-under not do the following...

1. Despite having sorted out the Boys' clothes weeks ago, leave checking out your own holiday wardrobe until the morning of your flight, when you realise that the summer clothes you've been dragging out year after year have finally had it, forcing you to make an unscheduled, last minute trip to Peter Jones and then - oh foolish girl - to Marilyn Moore on the Kings Road. Thank god I ran out of time...

2. Decide that much as you would like to, your thrifty grandmother's genes simply will not allow you to throw out the chicken you bought in a moment of madness only 3 days before you are due to leave on your trip, and never got round to eating. Instead, you force yourself to cook a roast dinner to be eaten only a couple of hours before you leave, thus saddling you with one of the most time-consuming meals there is to prepare, interrupting last minute preparations, such as packing for a long trip, (something I admit should have been done 3 days previously - when I was actually out making the ill-advised purchase of the afore-mentioned chicken...), panicking about the Mouse having a party whilst you are away, re-making the beds for family due to house-sit whilst we are away, and cleansing the fridge of all the food that should have been dumped ages ago. Which, of course, takes us back to the chicken.

2. Eat the roast meal - which is hardly the best preparation for a 'fight or flight' situation when you get to the airport and the helpful desk clerk tells you that one of your bags is too heavy. The consequent repacking of 2 suitcases on the airport floor is hardly the most relaxing way to start your trip...

3. Spot the Mouse - or one of it's vast family - only minutes before you leave. Clearly, it is much too smart to consider eating some vile-looking green stuff hidden away in a child-safe box with a hole that just happens to be exactly the right size for it. You don't want to hear what I'm imagining might be waiting for us when we get back (and if you are any kind of a blog-buddy - Pig - please don't tell me...)

4. Ignore advice from friends, family, and blog-buddies who recommend various forms of sedatives for your kids that might give you a fighting chance of more than 30 minutes continuous sleep in one go. (I won't be making that mistake again...)

5. Break your journey for one night in Bangkok. Firstly, you won't get to do anything particularly interesting with 2 small boys in tow, though I have to admit that when they say the Thai's love kids, they are not joking. Boy #2 particularly is still coming down from the adoring glances, photo opportunities, and insanely grinning adults trying to get his attention. (I would love to think that it's just that my children are particularly adorable, but - no. Though of course they are to me...). Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you will then be plagued by the constant refrain from Benny and Bjorn's (formerly of Abba) rock opera 'Chess'. Every time you explain to someone that you are stopping for 'One Night in Bangkok' you will be forced to carry on the conversation with 'Bangkok, oriental setting and the city don't know what the city is getting' rattling round in your not-so-subconscious...

6. Not take the sedatives you refused to get for your children yourself. Then, on your second overnight flight in 3 days, you will find yourself lying wide-awake, exhausted but unable to shut down, compiling shopping lists for your arrival of all the things you forgot, along with planning a blog post entitled 'How not to...'

Saturday 3 May 2008

Of Mice and Toddlers

So it seems The Mouse has gone to ground. It made some cameo appearances on Thursday, and again in front of Husband and my mother-in-law (the spiteful little rodent) on Friday, but since I put the poison down at lunchtime yesterday - nothing.

No scuttling across the floor, no nasty little trails, no piles of poo, Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I am not foolish enough to think this the end of it, especially after the comments left on my previous post, but am hoping against hope that all the doomsayers (you know who you are) were wrong and it was just the one. Much more likely however, is that the Mouse Family is rustling about under the floorboards with blueprints of the electrical wiring circuits and and are working out which fuse to attack first.

We'll see...

In the meantime, I am preoccupied with the subject of discipline. Namely, with the subject of discipline with reference to Boy #2.

Disciplining his older brother has never really been a problem. Of course, he's had a few tantrums along the way, and could win medals for his whining abilities (particular commendation would no doubt be given to his 'early programme' of whining with intent first thing in the morning, before we've even made it out of bed - and thanks Rotten Correspondant for the Olympic theme, by the way). But overall, he's fairly easy to handle. When things get too bad, and even Time Out isn't working, you simply use the following phrase:

"Any more of this and there will be no television this evening."


"No tv. AT ALL."

End of conversation, end of problem. For at least 10 minutes, anyway... (And to all the mummies out there who shudder at the thought of losing their time alone with a cup of tea whilst the kids are swept away by Charlie & Lola, Bob the Builder etc, don't worry. I have not yet had to carry this threat through - well, not so far, anyway).

So, that's Boy #1 sorted.

But Boy #2 is a different kettle of fish.

He's usually a very content little chap who just gets on with things, but if life isn't going his way, we all know about it. And dealing with the resultant outbursts is challenging to say the least, since he steadfastly refuses to take any form of discipline seriously.

No television? Well, who wants to watch it anyway.

Time Out in my cot? Great, I could do with a nap - and turn out the lights as you leave, will you mum?

Watch this link, because if I didn't know better, and despite the fact that he can't really speak yet, I would think that Boy #2 has been taking lessons from Catherine Tate. (The mouthy school girl, for the uninitiated).

And then you might understand why I struggle to keep a straight face when trying to discipline at 2 year old who, if he could talk, would lie in his cot during Time Out, saying "Am i bovvered?"

Thursday 1 May 2008

London Zoo

We are lucky enough to live on one of Kensington's sunny garden squares. Living in the centre of a city, a garden square is a pretty good compromise between having your own patch of green, and the convenience of being 'in town'; you don't have to pay the multi-million pound fortune required for the luxury of mowing your own lawn - or indeed, have to mow your own lawn - but you still have access to uncrowded fresh(ish) air and a safe place for the kids to run around.

You get to hear the birds in the morning (until they are drowned out by the sound of the ever-increasing traffic as rush-hour kicks in, anyway), and you get to see green other than that on the District Line Tube signs. And, if you are lucky enough to live on our garden square, you get to occassionally glimpse a vixen bringing up 4 fox cubs.

Now, don't get me wrong. I grew up in the country, with all that implies. I know fox are classified as vermin. But those fox cubs are just so damned purty...

And of course, the Boys adore them. Although given the amount of time she spends dodging their attentions, I wouldn't be surprised if the vixen is making plans to take her litter and move somewhere a little quieter. In fact, this would probably be a wise course of action in any case, since one of our close neighbours is one of the Huntin', Shootin' and Fishin' brigade, and spends most of her autumn and winter weekends on a horse chasing our foxy family's country cousins with dogs. Or did, before the powers that be put a stop to that sort of thing. However, I still don't think our neighbour would take too kindly to the knowledge that these audacious creatures have moved in to taunt her, only yards from her back window.

I don't mind them, personally. I could do without their barking at night (if you've never heard it, think baby crying wildly. A yard outside your window. Wakes you up with a bit of a start, I can tell you...), and I'm not so sure I would be happy for the Boys to be outside in the garden on their own with an overprotective vixen and pups, but overall I like this reminder that much as we try, the Wilderness creeps in to the most groomed parts of the city.


There are limits.

And this evening, I saw a mouse in our kitchen.

Not even a cute, brown country mouse up for the weekend and doing a bit of a touristic explore of one of London's leafier districts. No, a dirty, grimy, cute enough if you see one running over the rails in the tube station mouse, but generally a germ infested creature that you do not - under any circumstances - want running around your flat.

And the worse thing is, I think it might have been here for a couple of days. I've caught glimpses, you see. Out of the corner of my eye. You know; you think see something moving, but when you look more closely, there's nothing there. Although, in fact... there is. (Shudders theatrically)

As far as I can tell, it's trapped in the walk-in cupboard at the end of the kitchen right now. Clearly, this is not a sustainable situation, not least because our fridge is also in there, and our washing machine too. Right now I am reduced to knocking - knocking! - on the door before I go in to fetch anything, in the hope that will scare it enough to hide away and not run helter skelter into rest of the kitchen. (I can almost imagine it sitting there behind the cupboards, hearing my knock and shouting "What?! I'm busy! Pooing being your tumbledryer, if you must know! Now sod off, and leave me alone!")

I'm hoping it will stay there until I can go and get a trap tomorrow morning. I'm also hoping against hope that it just wandered in off the street through an open door (not as impossible as it might seem; we had some work done out the back of the flat a couple of days back and it could easily have come in then - please God), and that once it's gone, that will be the end of it.

Note my use of the phrase 'once it's gone'. Confidently said, don't you think? Actually, I have no idea how I'm going to achieve that. I have drawn up battle plans to head off to our local hardware store first thing in search of a trap that will effectively take care of it and magic it away to some first class mouse resort (think Club Med for small creatures), where it will be so happy it won't ever want to come back to grotty old London town. Failing that, a trap that will kill it humanely - and then Husband can dispose of it. Of course, all of this will have to be done secretly, since if the Boys know that they have their own 'pet' in place, and that the wicked parents are planning on removing it, mutiny would be bound to ensue.

So. An invisible trap, that the Boys can't see. Which Husband can deal with. And then get the remains out without my seeing them. Not too much to ask, is it?

And who knows? Maybe, he can give the remains to the Fox. Waste not want not, after all...