Friday 31 October 2008


So, even in the prosperous area of Kensington and Chelsea, the credit crunch is starting to bite.

Exhibit 1

Walking along the Kings Road on Saturday, I popped in to SpaceNK to buy a birthday present for a friend. I spent a good ten minutes mosying around before deciding that the amount I wanted to spend and what I could get there for that money were not adding up to a decent 40th birthday offering.

My hand was on the door to pull it open and leave when the manageress accosted me. "All our gift boxes are half price today."

Half price? But there were no signs, nothing to tell me this. Could it be that they were so desperate for a sale she just decided to be proactive with a customer who looked like she was about to leave? In any case, the sort of present I wanted to give was suddenly a lot more accessible, and what do you know, I spent my money in that shop.

Exhibit 2

Then I walked over the road and looked in the window of a jewellers I've always liked. Not fancy schmancy, just decent costume stuff, all made on the premises and pretty in an unassuming way. Guess what? 'Credit Crunch Christmas Sale - 70% Off!' The money I had spent in SpaceNK would have bought an even better present here, I thought. I walked in, had a look, wished I had gone there first, and left empty handed (Husband has started asking me to keep reciepts, if you know what I mean...).

But I went back there on Tuesday and bought 6 very respectable family Christmas presents for only £90. And nothing for me - which nearly killed me. (I LOVE that shop). Still, we're keeping receipts - if you know what I mean... (which I guess should feature as Exhibit 3).

Clearly, however, the powers above don't want me to save money. Because yesterday afternoon, beset by two wailing boys, what felt like 57 bags, coats, umbrellas, and in the pouring rain, I parked up outside out flat and didn't notice that that particular resident's bay was suspended. This morning? No car. It had been taken to the pound, where a £260 bill awaited us.


Wednesday 29 October 2008

And so, the end is nigh...

You'll never guess. Well, you probably will, but I'm going to tell you anyway.
Boy #2.



My work here is done. So long!

OK, you didn't think you were going to get off that easily, did you?

I know, I know, you want all the details, but in a fit of motherly reticence I'm not going to share with you his assertion that no, he was not having a poo (despite the all-too evident smell and effort that convinced me otherwise), or the family rejoicing that followed the discovery of the wonderful gift he had made us in what has in many ways been a shxt week (nice of him to stick to the theme, don't you think?), in case in years to come he should be embarrassed by such revelations.

Let's just say that he was probably in the right place at the right time, and I'm not holding my breath (though perhaps given this morning's performance I should be) that we will see a repeat tomorrow...

And in non-potty news...

It's coming up to my grandmother's 95th birthday.

95 years! My grandmother is an amazing woman. She still lives on her own in a bungalow on the south coast of England, still does all her own cooking, shopping, and cleaning, travels by bus, and has a bit of a thing for a nice sweater from the Scottish Woollen Mill. She's happy to spend an entire morning at the garden centre, planning next year's displays of hardy annuals (she gives very good pansy and begonia), and remarking on how cheap the set roast lunch is in the cafe there.

When she visits my parents in Somerset she changes her outfit around 3 times a day; it doesn't do to let the side down just because you are rurally impaired, she believes. She visits the hairdressers every week for a 'wash and set', and despairs of my mother, who in most people's eyes is the epitome of style and elegance, because she wears trousers occasionally and puts highlights in her hair. At one coffee morning when Mum was visiting her, Nana commented to a mutual friend "Don't mind G - she lives in the country, you know." This was because my mother was wearing a trouser suit. And there was also the notable time when, whilst mum was growing up, Nana discovered that she wore her vest over rather than under her bra, and called her a trollope, but I think that 50 years later they've both put that behind them now.

She's a remarkable woman. She's lived through 2 world wars, lost a brother to a tragic accident as child, worked 'in business' (as she charmingly calls it, rather like a Russian Mafia-Wife), borne 2 children, built up a successful caravan park group with her husband, lost that much-loved husband to leukemia only a few months after he retired, with one exception lost her 4 siblings, seen 6 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren (so far) arrive, and still doesn't touch a drop of alcohol.

Every Christmas she visits my parents and good-humouredly puts up with the crowds, the noise, and not being able to hear us all speaking at once through her hearing aid, though when there's a programme she wants to watch on television it is advisable to find ear-plugs. She walks to the end of the village and back for her daily constitutional, stoically ignoring the mud of the 'working countryside', and when the weather is bad she simply walks around my parent's house instead, counting her steps until she feels she has reached a respectable total.

She is a redoubtable lady, who takes no messing about, and puts her longevity down to good genes and a slug of olive oil in a sherry glass every day.

I'm pulling together a photograph album for her birthday, which is why I have the picture below to hand. In my mind it's a piece of history. The fact that a person in such a dated and clearly Edwardian photo is still here with us today is astounding to me.

My wonderful Nana is the little girl on the left.

Monday 27 October 2008

Don't mess with the messer...

Being mother to a nearly-three year old can be a pretty frustrating job at times, especially if you also have an older child. The temptation is to assume that your younger child is just as emotionally and mentally advanced as their older sibling.

For example, my mother tells this great story of how, when I was tiny and playing up in the supermarket she found herself barking "For heaven's sake Potty! You're behaving like a two year old!" at me. And then stopped herself, as she remembered that actually, I was. Two years old.

I try to keep that in mind on the rare occasions (ha!) when I'm shocked at my younger son doing two year old stuff. Spilling drinks. Messing things up. Throwing tantrums. You know, all the things that sound perfectly normal child behaviour whilst it isn't actually happening to you. But whilst he isn't as grown up as his brother in many ways, in others he's more than a match for his parents. New parents, be warned. Don't try the same tactics on your second child as those that worked on your first. Big mistake.

This evening at the dinner table, Husband and I were trying to encourage our younger son to eat his dinner by himself. Some mothers would no doubt be shocked to encounter a child who prefers to have his food spooned into his mouth at the great age of 2 years 9 months. Others simply roll their eyes and mutter 'been there, done that, am wearing the filthy t-shirt'. I'm one of the latter.

Don't get me wrong, Boy #2 can feed himself. If he's hungry enough, or if he likes it enough, or if it's finger food, no problem. Quite often though, he just can't... be.... bothered. And whilst I would like to be of the 'if you don't feed yourself, you don't eat' school of mothering, I don't have the time, the inclination or frankly the hardness of heart to carry that through. So, around 20% of the time, there I am, playing mother hen to a baby bird.

This evening, after fruitlessly trying to encourage him to eat solo, Husband decided to try some reverse psychology on our little angel. It worked - and still works - on his older brother, so why not?

Husband: "Actually, don't do it Boy #2. I don't think Boy #2 can feed himself, do you Mama?"

Me (it's risky, but let's try it): "No, you're probably right. I don't think he can either."

Boy #1 (catching on fast, as ever): "And neither do I."

Boy #2 looked around the table in amazement. What were we all saying? Could he hear us correctly? He reached for his spoon. Grinned. And handed it to me. "No. Can't. You. Do. It. Mama."


Sunday 26 October 2008

It's a Mystery

Some of life's great mysteries (to me, at any rate):

Whatever happened to Shergar?

How can it be that so many men swear blind they like the natural, non-surgically augmented girl-next-door look, and yet Pamela Anderson is a star?

Did my older son really believe that the bogies he's wiped on to the wall next to his bed would never be spotted?

Why can't I walk in reeeaaaaaallllly high heels without doing myself and anyone around me an injury?

Did anybody actually properly understand the novel 'Sophie's World'?

Who decided that black and blue don't go together in a fashion sense?

Will I ever manage to wean myself off Diet Coke?

Backcombed hair, 80's style. Why did we do it? Actually there are a whole load of 80's fashion crimes I could ask that question about. Ra-ra skirts. Robotic dancing. Jumpsuits. Legwarmers. Pantaloon trousers. Batwing shirts. Knickerbockers. Ruffled necklines. Fluorescent bead necklaces...

How come Tracey Emin's unmade bed is 'art' and mine is just messy? (Or rather, would be, if I didn't bother to continuously remake it after my sons have snuck in and used it as a tent / hiding place / jungle / trampoline / train ten times a day).

And finally...

How can a man reach the grand age of nearly 40, excel at just about everything he does, be a wonderful husband, father and friend, and yet still not be able to put a cover on a duvet?

Thursday 23 October 2008

To Russia, for Love - Part 2

Back in March I wrote this post.

You probably forgot all about it. No, let's scratch that. You definitely forgot all about it. But I couldn't, and didn't. The possibility of a family move to Russia has been there continuously, ever since, at the back of my mind. And once Husband started a consultancy stint in Moscow this summer, I decided that it was time to step out of denial and find out what living in Russia would actually mean.

This is not because such a move is imminent, however. It's not. It may happen early next year, it may happen next summer, it may not happen at all (though that last is probably the least likely scenario of the three). It's just that I prefer to be as informed as possible before I make life-changing decisions.

So, Husband and I have spent the last 5 days on our own in Moscow, investigating. And here is what we found out...

That amazingly, there are schools in Russia. Who would have thought it?

That just like everywhere else, some schools are good, and some are not. No names, no pack drill, but the school where the kindergarten teacher rushed past us on her way out during her break and, finding it impossible to shake the 3 year old clinging onto her, simply pressed his little hand into mine and left him crying before disappearing through the playground gate - without locking it behind her - is not on our list of possibles...

That, also just like everywhere else, expats can live as involved or detached a life as they like.

That a detached life can look pretty attractive when it includes a driver, a picturesque house in a secure compound, and the chance for your children to roam free inside that compound.

That a detached life can also look pretty lonely if your husband is spending his 'normal' amount of time in the office.

That Moscow has changed a great deal since we last spent time there. Though of course when we last spent time there we were without children, so most of what we saw on this visit had as much relevance to us then as a conversation about whether disposable nappies were better than non (they are), and whether or not you will use a washing machine more once you have a baby. (HA!)

That whilst Moscow has changed a great deal, it still has a lot of the same characteristics. Amazingly prompt trains (never more than 2 minutes between metros), incredibly entrepreneurial people, and more dust - a fine layer of it that seems to get everywhere - than you would expect in a capital city.

That I still get a buzz just from walking around it.

That I haven't actually forgotten all the cyrillic I learnt back before my first visit in 1995 - but also that since a large number of signs are now printed in the Roman alphabet, the letters I have forgotten are not that much of a problem.

That there are fewer cars you can hail as taxis by simply standing on the kerb and holding your arm out at a 45 degree angle than there used to be. (Husband muttered darkly that there is clearly too much money around if you can't find in a cab in the good old-fashioned way). Personally I was just delighted not to be on the road and in the Traffic, which is...

Awful. To the extent that what would be a 20 minute journey in London - not, as you may know, the world capital for successful road layouts and polite drivers - will take you at least an hour in Moscow, and if you make the mistake of looking out of the window will also decrease your life expectancy by about 10 years.

That Russian drivers love their tinted windows. This could account for their sombre mood in Winter as it is quite gloomy a lot of the time, and so looking at the world through dark glass is not advisable...

That sometimes though the sun will come out and tint the city a shining, misty blue, making you disregard the dust and the traffic, and notice instead the domes, the spires, and the possibilities.

That I would still prefer to be safe and cosy in reliable London, with the school we've chosen for our boys, the friends and family we have nearby, in the neighbourhood we have made our own.

But with that said, actually, I think we could do it.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Civil Disobedience...

....Boy #2 Styley

The time: Last Friday evening
The place: my parent's house

It's dinner time for the Boys. Boy #1, delighting in his Granny Food - which of course always tastes so much better than the almost identical meal I cooked for him the previous day - is tucking in with unaccustomed vigour. Boy #2 is being a little more lackadaisical about the whole thing, and I find myself spoon-feeding him in an attempt to get him to eat a respectable amount before bathtime. Despite the fact that we have forgotten the travel high-chair, all is going well, until I notice he is slumped over his plate like a recalcitrent teenager...

Me: "Boy #2. Can you take your elbow off the table please?"

Boy #2 looks at me. If he could raise an eyebrow, he would. He takes his elbow off the table.

Me: "Thankyou."

Boy #2 slowly and deliberately puts his other elbow on the table instead.

Me: "Very funny. Could you please take that elbow off the table?"

Boy #2: "Why?"

Me: "Because it's rude to have your elbows on the table whilst you're eating. Please take it off."

He looks at me, considering his options, then takes his elbow off the table. Thirty seconds later, watching me whilst he does it, he slowly and carefully puts both elbows on the table at once.

Me: "Elbows off the table Boy #2 please. Now."

Boy #2: "Why?"

Me: "Because I'm asking you to."

No reaction.

Me: "And because if you don't, I will fetch the high chair from the garage and you will have to sit in that, rather than in a grown-up chair like you are doing now."

Boy #2 looks at me for a few seconds longer, then even more slowly and carefully, takes both elbows off the table and sits up straight. He glances at his grandmother who is barely holding it together on the other side of the room. He looks back at me, and grins, eyes twinkling. "OK. Love you, mama!"

Give me strength.

The latest reports, after a few days away from my beloved sons (more of which in my next post), are that both of them have behaved like little angels. Of course...

Thursday 16 October 2008

Step in time

Half term starts tomorrow. Which means Boy #1 has been in 'big' school now for just over 6 weeks. Amazing things have happened in that time frame; he's learning at a rate of knots, much more so than I expected given that the school we chose for him is supposed to take it easy on it's pupils for the first couple of years. He still has wobbles now and then when I drop him off in the morning, but overall there's been a great improvement. He's made friends; at the playground after school it's heartwarming to see him running round with a little group of schoolmates as if they own the place.

And this evening, Husband - after a few days away - witnessed one of the more physical manifestions of his growing knowledge base.

It's called 'front-trotting.'

What on earth is that? Well might you ask. I certainly wondered when he first mentioned it last week in association with his 'sports' classes. Boy #1's school is big on physical education, so much so that they have some form of it every day, whether it be gym, swimming, running round in the park, or music and movement. Frankly this last class, inocuously slotted into his time-table between 'topic' and 'break' puzzled me a little. What sort of thing do they learn in 'music and movement', I wondered aloud. So he showed me.

It was one of those moments when you know you should be keeping a straight face. Your child certainly is, there's nothing strange about this to him. But when an activity has a name like 'front trotting', well, I for one suspected before he even demonstrated it that we would be onto a winner in the entertainment stakes.

So let me talk you through what he showed Husband on his return from Moscow this evening:

'Front Trotting' for Beginners

The correct stance to begin your 'front-trotting' is to place your hands on your hips.
  • Tip-toe/skip (oh dear, this really is tricky to describe) quickly and exaggeratedly across the room, picking your feet up and pulling your knees up each time as high as you can in front of you, rather like a Monty Python silly walk or an Irish Dance in which you actually move (rather than simply bouncing on the spot)
  • Don't walk though; dance your way across the room.
  • Hands on hips all the time.
  • It helps to have a rather intent expression on your face at this point.
  • It also helps to be 'front-trotting' away from your parents so you can't see them trying and failing not to crack up.
For those of you who are interested, 'back-trotting' is when you repeat the process but kick your heels up into your calves behind you rather than to pick your feet up in front of you.

And finally, for added entertainment value, do all this immediately after your bath before you've had the chance to put your pj's on...

I just remembered where I saw this before. The sweeps dancing on the roof in the Mary Poppins movie, the bit where Dick Vandyke shouts 'Kick your knees up!' Though, thank heavens, they had their clothes on.

I've included the link for your entertainment...

Monday 13 October 2008

Look! Look!

I can take photos too...

In answer to the great number of beautiful autumn shots out there (you know who you are, Iota) I've decided to show you this one from a garden square near us. I won't wax lyrical on the hues and shades - other people can do that far better than I. I just wanted to show that life in (this) town doesn't have to be grey and colourless...

And this little snapshot is what I planned on posting; on the street outside our flat last Friday I saw the following: a very tall, very thin mummy and 3 children (ranging in age from around 9 down to 5), with assorted violins and flute cases, all about to climb into a G-Wizz car. (Click the link, or think of those Fiat Bubble cars from the 1960's if you can't be bothered). 'Tricky...', I thought.

Boy #1 thought so too, but put it somewhat differently.
"Look Mummy! Look! What a large lady! How will such a laaaaaarge lady and all the children fit into the tiny car?"

She laughed. Luckily.

Sunday 12 October 2008

20 Elements for the Perfect Day

Every now again I try to convince myself that I am a cultured individual, and pick up the Weekend FT. Now, of course I don't read the business section. Or the Homes section. Or indeed that other section, the name of which escapes me right now but is probably something like 'The Bit for All You Masters of the Universe Currently Seeking Employment'. (There's a lot of it about, apparantly.) No, I'm afraid I cut straight to the chase and go for the Lifestyles and Leisure section.

This features articles about luxury food and wine, expensive shopping, high-end fashion, and comments on world events. So far, so Sunday Times, so wish-list for me... But on the back page there is usually an article by the very interestingly named Tyler Brûlé. Our Tyler (who, I must say, looks a bit of a fox in his byline -though I am of course far too old and cynical to be taken in by a shot that may well have been taken 20 years and 20 kilos ago), in addition to contributing to the hallowed pages of the FT, is editor in chief of Monocle Magazine. (Great title or not? You decide...)

I'm not sure why Mr Brûlé's thoughts catch my eye on the rare occasions I pick up this paper. I'm a simple person; it may well be as obvious a fact as his surname reminding me of one of my most favourite puddings (a list I will save for another post). And yes, I know it's spelt differently, but my tastebuds are not bothered by that. Or it could be that I'm simply interested in what a person who seems mainly to jet around being cool, composed, and effortlessly (one might almost say 'smugly') stylish has to say for himself. In any case, this week's offering got me thinking, as he profferred ' 20 elements to at least provide a framework for the Nobel Prize for a Perfect Day'. Click on the link if you want to find out what they were.

Of course, Tyler, you don't get the last word on this matter. Here are my 20 elements.

Please note however, that rather than listing such vital things as 'the perfect cappucino' I have stayed within the bounds of reality and worked within the framework of my life as it stands... If you want a stylish Nobel Prize winning day, I suggest you go to the FT site and visit the custard dessert.


1. Waking up before the alarm clock and realising that I have slept the entire night through without midnight (and 2.00, 4.00, and 5.30am) trips to either of my son's bedrooms to detangle them from bedclothes, minister to 'itchy legs', accompany to the loo or - and this is my particular favourite - refold a 'comfort' blanket that has dropped to the floor. Usually at 3.00am.

2. A whine-free wake-up of the Boys, and no fighting or spilt milk (literally) when they come into our bed for 5 minutes of cuddle time before the morning fracas that is 'getting out bed' commences.

3. Having Husband at home on a school day, which means being able to shower in peace whilst he deals with exploding nappies, early morning complaining, earnest assertions that no, there will be no school today, and arguments over who gets to play with the Bumblebee Transformer Toy.

4. Having been organised enough to get the breakfast stuff ready the night before. (Oh, how I used to mock my mother for doing that. How little I knew...)

5. Boy #2 miraculously having learned to pooh in the potty overnight removing the need for a last minute nappy change (and possible subsequent change of clothes - usually his, occasionally mine) before leaving for school.

6. Not having to ask Boy #1, at gradually increasing volume levels, four times to 'please Put ON YOUR SHOES!'

7. Not having to apologise to the Boys for shouting about the shoe incident.

8. A smooth trip to Boy #1's school, free of expletives (funny how 'blast!' sounds ok when an adult says it, but definitely not when it's repeated by your 2 or 5 year-old), roadworks and Chelsea Tractors. Oh yes, and not being trapped on a particular one-way street in South Kensington whilst a certain (very exclusive) school minibus stops to pick up one of it's highly cossetted passengers who is never ready and who's mummy, daddy and nanny all have to traipse outside to give the little darling a goodbye kiss and check that said angel is safely ensconsed in the bus. I know, I know. I should change my route. But, on the other hand, the child should be ready!!!!!!!! (God,I didn't know that was all in there, but typing those exclamation marks felt good!!!!!)

9. A drop-off without emotional wobble for Boy #1. ('nuff said?)

10. A parking spot outside Boy #2's nursery. (ditto)

11. Achieving both drop-offs in my tatty gym-clothes without being spotted by any yummies in their spotless work clothes. Oh, hang on a moment. This is my perfect day, right? So, this is a day without a gym trip! Hurrah!

12. Sailing effortlessly through chores like laundry and tidying when I get home. I would write that they should have already been done by our invisible maid - Muriel by name, again, check this link if you wonder what on earth I'm on about - but this is supposed to be within the bounds of my reality, so sadly, it's down to me.

13. A postal delivery consisting of a free sweater from Boden (in the right size rather than made for a some petite 14 year -old as they so often seem to be) and some interesting, amusing and handwritten letters from friends and family. Rather than the usual mish-mash of estate agent missives (ARE YOU TRYING TO SELL YOUR HOUSE? We have 50 thousand buyers all lined up WAITING TO BUY IT FROM YOU!), bank statements (shoot me now), utility bills (HOW much??), fast-food menus, and letters from the garden committee telling me that they are considering banning children from the garden before 10.00am at the weekend (too cross to post on this one right now).

14. Logging on to find a host of other bloggers have been interested enough in my last post to bother commenting (now I sound needy...)

15. A smooth transition from morning through lunchtime, with no frenzied attacks on the biscuit tin when the munchies set in around 11.20am and it seems just that little bit too long to wait until lunchtime, and a trouble-free pick-up of Boy #2 from nursery.

16. An absence of delinquent behaviour from Boy #2 when we go to collect his brother from school.

17. A sunny afternoon allowing the Boys to run around the garden / local park and let off steam before coming home starving hungry and eating all their dinner. WITHOUT COMPLAINT. (OK, I know I said this was supposed to be based in reality, but I can dream, can't I?)

18. A boys' bathtime when all the water stays in the bath and the mop stays in the kitchen, followed by an unexpected strike at Nick Jnr thus meaning no 'Max and Ruby' on tv. (If I have to hear that theme tune one more time...)

19. A picture-perfect bedtime for the boys, with stories enjoyed, lights out when requested, no need to switch off Boy #2's dimmer at the fuse box, and no jack-in-the-box appearances to complain it is too dark, he's thirsty, or his blanket needs re-folding from Boy #1.

20. Being in bed myself at 10.00pm. (Like that's ever going to happen...)

You know what? Unsurprisingly, having read my list through, I think I want Tyler's...

Friday 10 October 2008

Note to self #797;

Do not go supermarket shopping whilst hungry.

In an unprecedented guerilla attack, two (not one, but two) bars of Green and Black's chocolate threw themselves into my basket this morning whilst Boy #2 and I were out stocking up on frozen goodies for future babysitter visits.

Since we got home, one of the bars has already been opened.

No sharing with the family has been in evidence.

And in other news;

the Mouse is back.

I suppose these facts might be related..?

Whilst it's tempting to answer that with an ex-colleague's favourite response of "No shxt, Sherlock..." I fear that this was, instead, an 'accident' waiting to happen. I've - just about - reached my target weight. My jeans are finally loose again. So rather than standing still and simply enjoying the moment, I react as countless other women do in this situation.

Yes. Sabotage.

Don't worry on my behalf, though. I will throw the chocolate bars away.

Well - I will certainly throw the empty wrappers away, in any case.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

A fruity issue

Can you tell Husband is away? Can you? Does it show? No, of course it doesn't. I normally post 2 days in row, don't I? Anyone?

Moving on...

As he was climbing out of the bath this evening, I had the following conversation with Boy #1:

Boy #1 (face assuming a 'cat who got the cream expression): "I did something really cheeky at school today, Mama."

Me (stay calm, stay calm, no-one asked you to step into their office when you picked him up): "Oh yes?"

Boy #1: "Yes."

Me: "So... what was it?"

Boy #1: "Well, for pudding today, they gave us grapes..."

Oh god. The Fruit Issue. I knew this would come up sooner or later. Now don't judge me. But Boy #1 hates fruit, in it's natural form at least. He does eat it, but not knowingly. He gets it in juice, smoothies, yoghurt, muffins, and in any other way I think of to hide it. He just won't eat it when it looks like fruit.

Note: this is not a family phobia. I love it, Husband too, and Boy #2 will go into stealth mode whenever he sees anyone with an apple, hunting it down until it's in his chubby little hands...

I know, I know, I should force the issue. Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. But food has been something of a sticking point for Boy #1 for a very long time now. Up until age 1, he ate well, in fact he ate pretty much everything. And since I was doing all the cooking myself (even down to making my own chicken stock, god help me), he had a very healthy and varied diet. But then, aged 1, he cottoned on to how important it was to me that he ate. Being a working mum (at the time), food was one of the few things I felt I could deliver on to meet my internal blueprint of a 'proper' mother. Hence the late night stock making sessions.

(Don't worry - I'm so over that now. In fact, I was over it the moment I realised Waitrose did a salt and additive-free liquid version, though sadly that epiphany didn't happen until I was weaning Boy #2. So any Annabel Karmel disciples reading this out there planning on making their own chicken stock, step away from the chicken. And get yourself down to Waitrose...)

Anyway, back to Food. And how doing it by the baby-friendly recipe book made me feel slightly less guilty about being away from my son for 9 hours a day. My older son may be a lot of things - cheeky, adorable, hilarious, an emotional rollercoaster, an interesting contrast of confident and shy, affectionate - but slow on the uptake he is not. Even aged 1 he spotted that it bothered me when he didn't eat.

So, he stopped.

Well, he stopped eating for me, at any rate. For other people, he would eat just enough to get by. But for me? No way, Jose. And I'm not talking toddler tantrums or willfullness. No, he just wouldn't eat, not without a knock-down fight, anyway. I tried all sorts of tactics; I stayed calm, I got cross, made it fun, I was furious, I was defeated, I was guilty. But nothing really made that much of a difference.

Eventually I took the decision that I would not turn meals into battlefields. Food is important, yes, but so is not having a phobia of it, and I could see where things were leading. I also knew that he was doing this entirely to manipulate me. No-one else, not really, just me. It was hard, but I backed off. Every time he refused more than a few mouthfuls of something that I knew he had eaten properly the previous day for someone else, I counted to 10. Of course, it still upset me. It still drove me crazy. But I tried - and on the whole, succeeded - to let it go.

It's taken 4 years but now he eats most things. Sometimes protesting, rarely the entire plateful (though that's happening increasingly often as he gets older) but he does eat. And grow, more to the point. It's not as if he's one of those children who will only eat chicken nuggets and chips either; he will eat pretty much anything, his repertoire doesn't just include sausage and mash. He loves fish (of all kinds and including squid), couscous, lentil sauce (admittedly he doesn't know it's lentil - so sue me), anything Italian, Indonesian food, chinese food, you name it.

But fruit? Forget it.

So, back to my sinking feeling during our bathtime conversation.

Boy #1: "Well, for pudding today they gave us grapes."

Me: "....and?"

Boy #1: "I waited until no-one in the kitchen was looking, and then I, then I, tipped them under the table!" (Big triumphant smile).

We discussed this further, of course. I explained that tipping food away is not acceptable behaviour, and that perhaps he should just leave them next time. He told me that this is not allowed. So then I suggested that perhaps he share them with his neighbours - when no one is looking.

Was that the wrong thing to do? Am I encouraging him to flout authority? Or am I simply teaching him coping strategies? I mean, he does eat, for heaven's sake. Just not fruit.

Not that he knows of, at any rate.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

The A-Z of Pottyness...

So, it's Tuesday night, I can't face - whatever it is - on TV, and the book I'm reading is requiring me to work just a little harder than I would like. (As in, it's not mindless chicklit, so frankly it's toast...)

Anyway, blundering around blog-land I came across this meme on Nutty Cow's blog, and being a self-centred individual and bored with writing about potty training - enchanting though that is - I took her at her word to jump on the bandwagon. So here it is, the A-Z of me. You can even believe it if you wish...

A. Attached or Single? Attached. Definitely. For nearly 14 years now, and without being overly soppy, can't imagine life without him.

B. Best Friend? Do I have to name just one? Husband for, well, everything, really. Sister for side-splitting laughs and reminiscing. S for shared history and because she knows too much...

C. Cake or pie? You really have to ask? (If you're new to this blog, it's cake. Obviously.)

D. Day of choice? Good question. Being a 'domestic engineer', they all tend to roll into one. Can I just go for the first day of the holidays? Oh, it's my meme, so yes...

E. Essential item? The family's passports. And a good kitchen knife. Really. I have been known to pack one in my hold luggage and take it all the way to Australia just in case the ones supplied in self-catering accomodation weren't up the job. (They weren't. Nothing worse than a blunt knife when you're trying to cut up vegetables, undo the string on a parcel, or defend yourself against marauding whatevers. Thankfully I never needed to use it for that last one... )

F. Favorite color? Used to be blue. Now green. Which is unfortunate because I just bought a nice soft tank-top in my favourite colour to wear over a white shirt with jeans - and so did one of my good friends. As I found out when both wore the same ensemble to one of the birthday parties I attended this weekend. (I caved and took mine off. Why do I do that?)

G. Gummy bears or worms? Neither. If it can't be chocolate, can I go for lemon sherberts instead? (Mouth watering at the thought...)

H. Hometown? You've got me there. After 22 years here, I guess it would have to be London. My parents have moved too often for it to be anywhere else.

I. Favourite indulgence? A night out with my husband or any one of my best girlfriends, and of necessity involving too much wine and fatty food.

J. January or July? Depends on where. Sorry. If it's in the mountains then January. Though July is pretty nice in the Alps, too. If it's by the sea, caiparinha in hand, then it would have to be July... (Get me. This year I spent both of those months in rainy old London.)

K. Kids? 2 boys. The lights of my life. But that's enough now, thankyou.

L. Life isn’t complete without? Time off.

M. Marriage date? I wanted May, but got June. It rained - obviously...

N. Number of brothers and sisters? One of each.

O. Oranges or Apples? Got to be Braeburn apples. Though in Australia this year I tried locally grown Fuji's and my god they were delicious. Sadly they don't taste as good when they've travelled 6 thousand miles.

P. Phobias? Spiders. And Sharks. Can't bring myself to say any more about either of them.

Q. Quotes? Not able to choose between the two I have written in the front of my diary, both by Marcus Aurelius:

'Waste no more time arguing about what good man should be. Be one.'

'Let not your mind run on what you lack as much as on what you have already.'

Note - I never studied the classics, just picked these up somewhere along the way...

R. Reasons to smile? My boys. And my Husband. And the fact that within the last few weeks I have reached my pre-pregnancy weight. Which is amazing considering the number of chocolate biscuits I consume.

S. Season of choice? Do I have to choose? I would like to say Autumn, for the host of fragrant memories that word brings to mind. In reality, at this point in my life, with two small boys in tow, it's got to be spring or summer for the outside play opportunities... (I know, I need to get other interests).

T. Tag 5 people: Yeah, right. What Nutty Cow said. You want it, you got it.

U. Unknown fact about me? Can't believe I'm admitting to this. As an over-pious school-girl I once wrote to Top of the Pops to complain about a video being too raunchy. The real kicker was when the letter got published in a local newspaper - with my name on. What was I thinking?

V. Vegetable? Got to be aubergine. (Or is that a fruit?)

W. Worst habit? Procrastinating. Especially about getting out of bed in the morning.

X. X-ray or Ultrasound? Just the latter. You can't get through pregnancy in this country without it, and who would want to miss the sight of that little heart beating away?

Y. Your favorite food? You think I'm going to say chocolate, don't you? In actual fact, anything Indonesian (which with 2 sons suffering from nut allergies, doesn't happen very often).

Z. Zodiac sign? Aquarius. For what that's worth.

Still awake?

Monday 6 October 2008


I don't want to boast or anything, but....

MORE WEE IN THE POTTY TODAY! (From Boy #2 that is, not me. I'm not wee'ing in the potty so I can tell you that there was wee and not be specific about who put it there. That would be sick...)

So yes, rejoice! The pull-up nappies are in use, the sanitising wipes are installed in the bathroom to regularly clean out said potty, and... What? Why the wipes? Well, I said there was wee in the potty. It is also visited on a regular basis by comfort blankets, cars, trains, the occassional book, and even the odd flannel thrown out of the bath in a rage (or to wind up mummy. But that's another post). So the wipes are used after the wee has been disposed of to ensure things don't get even smellier and more disgusting than they naturally are with two boys in the house and a mummy who's contact lens prescription probably needs updating...

But stop. Calm down, Potty Mummy. I think this may have been yet another triumph of timing, and that my beloved Boy #2 has just been lucky in producing the goods 2 nights in 3. Why? Because of the following comment, said in wonder-struck tone as he sat on the potty:

"Loooook! It's. Coming. Oooouuuut!"

Celebrating too soon, do you think?

Still, Boy #1 and I high-fived each other anyway. And if you're asking why he cares, well, for pity's sake, isn't it obvious? He has to share a bath with his younger brother...

In other news...

The birthday party season is well upon us. After spending Sunday morning at one celebration in Gambado on Chelsea Wharf, and Sunday afternoon at another in Kensington, I had only one thought on Sunday evening.

I need a flotation tank.


I've never been in one, you understand, but the thought of complete silence along with an absence of; flashing lights; rushing, shouty and hysterical children; fatty salt and sugar rich snacks; and party bags, is strangely appealing.

And yes, I know that the parties are not about me, that the children love them, and that before I know it they will have grown through the stage when my presence is not just expected but wanted. Which is why, although I invariably sit in my car muttering "Never again. Not ever. No, never again" like a madwoman as I drive away from Gambado, the boys will keep going and I will keep taking them.

Besides, in my current existence, when else do I get to have grown up conversation and cake at the same time?

Saturday 4 October 2008


OK, so some notable things have happened today.

Firstly, I just noticed that this is my 201st post. I ignored my blog birthday back in July because, well, simply because I never got round to noticing it, but 200 posts!!!!!! Who knew I had so much to waffle about? Admittedly, it's taken me nearly 18 months to get there, but still, 201? Really? Time flies when you're having fun...

Secondly, Boy #2 - bless him - is developing a sense of humour. Well, he's had one for a while now, but it appears he's fine tuning it. Hence the following conversation at the dinner table this evening;

Boy #2: "Finished. Let. me. down."

Me (using our parental stock answer when please's and thankyou's are not in evidence): "I beg your pardon?"

Boy #2 (slowly, as if to an idiot): "Let. Me. Down."

Me: "Come on, Boy #2. You know how to ask properly."

Boy #2: "Down."

Me: "When you ask properly. Like this. 'Please may I get down from the table?'"

Boy #2: "Yes."

Me: "No, not may I get down from the table, you. 'Please may I get down from the table?'"

Boy #2 (barely cracking a smile): "Yes. You. Can."

Me (struggling by now to keep a straight face): "No, Boy #2 say it. 'Please may I get down from the table?'"

Boy #2 (openly grinning by this stage): "Yes. Can."

And so on....

God help me when he's three.

And thirdly. Well, thirdly. I can't believe I've been able to leave this until the end of the post, it's such a milestone. Today, as he often does, my younger son sat on the potty before climbing into the bath. And today, as he often does, he assumed an air of concentration. What usually happens here is that he finally consents to stand up again, 5 minutes later, with nothing to show for this performance. But today - oh happy day - when he stood up, there was wee in the potty! Hallelujah! (Of such little triumphs is a mother's day composed...)

I'm trying not to get too excited though (well, if you call not getting 'too excited' texting the news to Husband in Italy and putting in a long distance phone call to his grandparents). Primarily because no-one seemed more astonished than he did by this development. And also because, after the bathwater had drained away, he wee'ed again, in the bath. And then asked "What's. That?" in a mildly interested tone of voice.

I think we still have a way to go before I need to change the name of this blog.

Wednesday 1 October 2008


So, this evening's post was meant to be one of those 'things I wish I had known earlier' essays.

You know the type of thing...

1. I wish I had known before I had children that when I thought I was tired, I wasn't, not really. Tired is not when you find yourself needing an extra diet coke to make it through the morning. Tired is when you find yourself incapable of answering a straightforward question about what you did at the weekend because you really, truly can't remember, and I must remember to pick up some nappies before I head home and oh god did I leave the iron on and who are you, anyway?

2. I wish I had known that I wasn't alone in feeling so alone when I first gave up work, and that most people deal with that if they've had anything approaching a job they enjoy. I also wish I had known not to get so het up about it, and that life without office politics is a thing to be treasured. (It gets replaced by school-gate politics soon enough, in any case. More of which another time...)

And so on...

But then I read this excellent post by Valley Girl.

And I can't help myself. I have to talk about the elephant in the room. I know, I know. You've got enough gloom and doom coming at you from the tv, radio, newspapers and on-line news-sites, the last thing you need is to come here and find more of it.

But I'm sorry. I have to say it. Be afraid. (Insert Jaws music here if you like that kind of thing. Which, I can't deny, I do...) Whether or not you are directly employed in finance, whether or not you think that the banks and their employees have simply got what was coming to them, don't kid yourself. Wall Street and Main Street are simply different ends of the same thoroughfare. What is happening in the markets is going to affect just about everyone.

Living where we do - Bankerville, London - you can't help but feel it in the air. There is an atmosphere of muted panic, a sense of helplessness, a 'waiting for the volcano' feeling. One friend - closer to market movements than most - described the situation as follows:

'Imagine a picture-perfect little alpine village, nestling in a valley at the foot of the mountain. The villagers slumber peacefully in their beds. But up on the higher slopes an avalanche has begun, and is racing towards the the sleepers. They don't know it's coming. But it's coming anyway. Wake up!'

Scared yet? Good. If you spend a few hundred pounds / euros / dollars less on your credit card in the run up to Christmas I will consider this post and the resultant fall in visitors worth it...

Sure, there are a few - a very few - fat cats who have made their money unscrupulously and should pay for putting reputable financial institutions at risk, or even under. But there is a vast majority who were simply doing their jobs. And whether or not you think they were paid too much, what happens to them and their employers will impact on your life.

For example. Want to remortgage to; get a better interest rate when your introductory period runs out; build an extension because you need a bigger house but can't afford to move because the market is so rubbish right now; pay for a newer car because your old one has clapped out, etc etc? It could be tricky, if not impossible. And what if you simply can't meet the repayments on your home?

I don't want to be a harbinger of doom, but sod it, I'm going to be. All those people who think that the markets should be allowed to descend into chaos because a 'natural readjustment' is preferable to pumping in billions of dollars to pull the 'greedy bankers' out of the muck? I sympathise, I really do. Why should we support them? The buck stops at their door, right?

Not right.

If something isn't done to stop this helter-skelter ride, the buck will stop at yours.

Note: Apologies for the gloomy tone of this post. If you want to read news and comments from people who do actually know what they are talking about with regard to the credit crisis (i.e., not me), I suggest you check in with the Financial Times on: