Might Be FREE AT LAST OF THE MEAN LADY

So – I think, I am sure, that today I have filed the content for the most miserable work project with the meanest client I have ever had. I have never really had a horrible boss – there was the coke-fuelled one who made me redundant at 6 months pregnant and who made me cry for taking a lunch break on press day, but she didn’t seem to have a problem with me *as such* – she was just a very brainy, unhinged and hangry narcissist with a penchant for shagging many of the unavailable men in the office and ignoring her husband. Pfft – we’ve all been there.

This other one, however,  seems to really dislike me (even though we have never met in person and she has been happy with my writing for nearly a year) and has been decidedly weird about me being pregnant – WHY DID I MENTION IT? There is no sisterhood.

She has managed, through a process of mostly ignoring my emails and then getting angry about them by way of passive aggressive messages, sarcastic comments about my grammar and a subtle derailing of all my confidence in my ability to write, TO MAKE ME CRY QUITE A BIT. But – (and I expect I am getting excited too soon, because nothing suggests she will accept the work I have just done with anything other than anger and unkindness) maybe it is finished and I can remember about the joy I used to find in my life. I would like to go about the world unburdened by the heavy warty Toad-Of-Work-Related-Despair which has been sitting on my shoulders since late September. Oh! To no longer have dreams featuring spreadsheets and pie charts! To open my inbox and see only kind people and sample sale invitations have stuck something in there! To no longer be cc’ed into emails where my inability to write anything interesting is discussed. It is my dream – and I can only hope I am not asking too much.

Meanwhile, the dog nearly died when he stole an unopened £8 Waitrose fruitcake from the kitchen bench while I was having very serious words with the teenager about his behaviour and then confiscating his phone. We emerged from the bedroom, Barnaby was shut straight back in, I came out into the living room, all hot and sweaty and angry, and found the cake (what a cake! the perfect cake to eat with tea of an evening, while you lie fat and pregnant on the couch, full of acid reflux but still desirous of cake, watching Glow, drinking tea, unable to move) all gone and the dog looking a bit ashamed. The other kids had not noticed the dog and the cake apparently, faces deep into modelling clay and youtube videos. The next morning I made a tiny little instagram story about the dog, whose belly had gotten quite round and whose eyes looked a bit sad, and made a poll about whether eating a whole fruitcake would actually kill him. It turns out that – actually, because raisins cause renal failure in dogs – it might very well have killed him. No laughing matter, fellas. So after many people hastily sent me messages explaining that he was probably going to sadly die, I took him to the vet and they sorted him out.

Who knew the inherent risks of Christmas-time fruitcake? I thought it was just chocolate but no – beware of raisins and grapes and avocados, too – there’s a whole list of toxic foods for dogs, and in all my years of (quite casually, really) looking after a dog, it turns out I knew nothing of this. So Magic spent quite a few days lying on the couch (no change there for him or me), drinking a lot of water and shunning his food, but it was less than a week before he was off scarfing rotten chicken bone carcasses from rubbish bins and bits of very old Subway sandwich castoffs from the side of the road. He has a stomach like a…cast iron oven or something? A vice? A truck? What do you say when you mean that Magic, the furry fat little dude, can pretty much eat anything foul and poisonous and can still bounce back looking a bit peckish?

Face is cute though, and he smells nice, like toasty wheaty biscuits and warm feet:

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Speaking of smell

A few nights later, Magic came out of my bedroom reeking of Chanel No. 5. I raced in there, and found all eight vintage half-filled bottles (I know, it’s a weird eBay ‘problem’ I have) had disappeared, but the smell was very strong. I looked under my bed, under the covers, behind the bed, in my bags, in drawers, and finally found all of the Chanel bottles (but not the Tom Ford or the Prada perfumes) shoved under my dresser in a nice line. One of the stoppers had come off and both the carpet (and the dog, because he nuzzles into the small space between my bed and dresser) were drenched.

Who did this, I hear you cry? Well, there is only one man in the flat who is partial to a bit of fancy 50’s vintage glamour, and that’s Otis, the Human Magpie Of My Nice Stuff. He was asleep, and I was a bit mad and weepy and sick of people touching my stuff, and so I wanted to haul him out of his bed and interrogate him but Mark wisely said no. In the morning, I asked him about my perfumes and he denied all of it, looking very hurt that had accused him of any kind of blatant and disrespectful Chanel No. 5-related theft. I kind of believed him until he said he had seen Magic climb up onto the bed, read the labels and take them into his hiding place. He just went too far – I think it was the reading bit, or the absence of Magic’s opposable thumbs that confirmed it for me.

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Clay modelling – this is why the kids didn’t notice about the near cake/kidney/dog/raisin-disaster (photo taken by Human Magpie Otis as part of a series of Mostly Blurry Living Room Montages) :

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A bit of half term teenage drama

The snoring is back, but softer, less guttural, less like choking, though still quite loud and regular with just enough of a reverberation through the pillow to reach around my silicon earplugs and land into my perfectly good ear holes. So I’ve been hot footing it to the couch in the living room, but we have a gecko tank there and they have a blue light permanently on which shines through my scratchy angry eyelids. It’s a bit like a silent funky disco in this makeshift bedroom, complete with dog who goes nuts at 3am when the neighbourhood fox comes down to laugh at him through the window.

Let’s just say that none of this is ideal, and that very soon it will have to be Mark who has to share the living room with the dog, fox and geckos if he doesn’t learn to breathe quietly out through his mouth like normal people – rather than the very pregnant me who is getting less kind, less nimble and less forgiving by the day.

So it’s not just the sleeping arrangements that feels a bit unnecessarily stressful right now in our two bedroomed flat. It’s also the fact that the children are turning into massive young men, all greasy hair and long legs, adam’s apples and surprising arm muscles (they do no exercise – surely they can’t have formed biceps from the strain of carrying phones/sticks/blue tac blobs everywhere with them?). And because they fight over everything, all the time, from 6:31am onwards, over where they sit and who has the longest tie and how many mini wheats they get and how much milk the other brother got and over the preferred cutlery/last non-mouldy piece of Vogel toast/last available pencil that doesn’t have lead breakages caused by gleeful repeated throwing of it onto the hard tiled floor etc etc and because Casper and Ned both go from room to room wailing over their lost school jumpers and too-small trousers and missing reading books, well, the flat has probably, finally, become too small for a family of seven + new baby soon + dog + geckos and hoarded brass marine instruments and a job lot of 80’s cassette tapes rescued from a bin.

Sometimes – nay, oftentimes – the fights escalate into punches and hair pulling and leaping over furniture to deliver a blow. Early this week, another bloody half term week, the eldest and the 8 year old had a little fight over squeezing past each other. One wouldn’t tuck his chair in, the other exaggeratedly squeezed past but sort-of rubbed himself all over the 8 year old who got blinded by a fit of rage and threw a Halloween skeleton decoration at his biggest brother who flew over the dining room table to go and  get him back, but he knocked over a whole bottle of green milk in the process and I went completely and utterly batshit in response. Screamy and crying and sweaty and I whacked him around the shoulders like a lady possessed and then he went nuts and we were all crying and he got sent to his room after cleaning up the milk and later, I made him go buy some more green milk  – because, consequences! – but I added a request for a bottle of blue milk as we were out. He said no – he would only buy the green, not the blue, just to spite me – so I took away his phone, the playstation, his headphones, and inadvertently ruined the tv reception for days.

We all went out later – I took them to see the Royal Academy’s Oceania exhibition like a good mother who really needs to be finishing her work project but instead she shelves her plans to help her children become well-rounded and culturally engaged citizens of the world, etc etc –  my eyes pink from the crying, eldest wrapped up in a hoodie, still crying and lagging half a block behind, the other boys traumatised into a well-behaved silent cavalcade, and we came across a friend of mine (and mother of a teenage girl) on her way to work. She took one look at us, said she knew exactly what must have gone on and showed me nasty red scratches down her neck from her daughter who had, just that morning, attacked her and called her a whore. I felt a little better that our morning hadn’t spilled over into drawn blood and vicious name-calling, although I remain convinced we have raised appalling, entitled brats who need to get a part time job and feel a little pain and who need to learn empathy and discomfort and to turn their focus from themselves and their perceived needs onto kindness towards other people. And who could pick up a dirty pair of their discarded socks every now and then, ya know?

I think we have to move, and it’ll probably be back to Oceania. We’ve found a house – if we get it, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I am compulsively researching mid-century modern furniture like a new-convert bore.

Here’s me in full tight vintage dress mode, a month ago. I’m even fatter now:

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My birthday, when I turned 41, with my snoring husband:

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An interactive birthday card made by Ned for me. A work of utter genius:

One of the less violent London days of the half term break, which included pork rolls and donuts from Borough Market and a bit of the Tate:

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See, it’s not all bad. But think of the hormonal domino effect as each kid turns teenage and vicious, one after the other, slowly destroying the furniture and my mental health. I should have thought about this when it was all endless baby making fun – but you don’t, do you? Clearly we didn’t.

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I Caved In To Massive Pouched Clothing

There comes a time when the romance of pregnancy wears off. Your gut is as hard as a rock, your bladder muscles barely managing to hold your wee in on a gentle ten minute walk up the road, and you’ve shoved yourself into as many of your forgiving, generously waisted dresses and stretchy banded trousers and husband’s flannel forestry shirts as you can find. Then, you have to go get some maternity clothing to despair in.

This is harder than it looks, because maternity clothes are beyond repulsive. Mostly they are polyester parachute shirts with perhaps a ‘feminine’ self-tie belt which cuts you under your boobs (mine are still tiny, btw – don’t get pregnant just because your boobs are small thinking they will grow into luscious melons because it might not make any difference and then you’ll be stuck with a baby and scrawny tits) or some shit t-shirt with plentiful polyester material which gathers over the lower half to encase your gut or some horrible dress that you wouldn’t ever think about wearing in your non-pregnant civilian life. H&M was just insulting and TopShop lost all of its fashiony edge as soon as I got near the minuscule maternity section, which was filled with stripy t-shirts with the pouchy bit and horrible wrap around dresses which just look so very DVF counterfeit 2003, and so I walked out, vowing to keep ramming on my own clothes until they ripped. Jeans can still be yanked on but no longer can be zipped up, so you have to stick a rubber band between the button hole and the button, and hope your too-short t-shirt won’t ride up and expose your DIY shame.

So I ordered some stuff from ASOS – a £10 jersey tube pencil skirt which is extremely tight across my bum, but this is fine because when you are pregnant, the usual maddening cellulite and dumpy hips and lumpen thigh-issues simply disappear against the massive stomach, and you are a magical walking Bridget Riley optical illusion painting where only the taut middle gets any attention. I also bought a big stripy swinging dress – alright, a bit tenty, and then I succumbed to the leather-look trousers. The leather look trousers were supposed to be quite leather-looking, but they are thin, shiny black disco pants. They are making my legs sweat, sitting here in the cold flat on a greyish Autumn day, just like they would if I wrapped my legs in layers of supermarket plastic bags. They cling and shine on my upper thighs and ruin the Bridget Riley effect big time. I have teamed them with a tight cotton black and flowered tube dress and this morning I topped it all off with trainers, gold hoop earrings and a black silk bomber. I looked very accidentally gangster – sweaty gangster – slightly wee-sy sweaty gangster in plastic pants.

The problem, Maternity Clothes Designers, whoever and wherever you are (are you a group of men, perhaps?) is that I don’t want to spend much money on maternity clothes  because they are a temporary blip. But I don’t want to look old, or conservative, or asexual. I would like to look like me, with clothes that are not inherently flammable, in clothes that comfort and enhance and enable the difficult shape my body is taking. Then I want to give them away and return back to myself (as quickly as I can because I am tired of lugging milk-fed upper arms and pudding guts everywhere). Isn’t there a middle ground? Can’t you make quirky stuff that cheers us up a bit? Also, why can’t I get my cartilage pierced when I’m pregnant, or the tiniest tattoo of five (argh! SIX!) little birds on my wrist when up the duff? I feel like there’s *quite* a lot of loaded morality shizzle piled upon the visibly pregnant among us. These babies are FINE without their mothers having to reign themselves in too much and adopt the visage of the modestly- and age appropriately- dressed. Gah.

Anyway, those children of mine who have exited the womb did a bad thing on Sunday. We went to a party up the road, which was a kid’s party but quite clearly also for the adults, and mine didn’t really know anyone. So they did this thing when they get a bit gang-like, and they crowd around each other for support and make little in-jokes and giggle and do a tiny bit of good-natured shoving, and then they came across the artfully arranged tables of food.

Did they hang back? Did they ask me if they could have something to eat? Did they ask the hosts? Did they take one or two things each, on a plate, eat nicely, and then pop their discards away in the appropriate place?

Readers, they did not. In fact, they found FORTY SHINY INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED FERERRO ROCHERS and ate them all. The whole table was wiped out in minutes like some biblical locust-afflicted horror story. Worse, they hid the balls they couldn’t fit into their praline-filled mouths by stuffing their hoodie pockets with them like Bad Squirrels. They thought it was hilarious and that they were so clever, but the host was not very impressed and made a bit of a shaming scene, and I was hormonal and lost my temper and nearly cried. I bent down as far as the restrictive belly would allow and hissed into their faces that they had to walk home RIGHT AWAY and some of them cried and some of them hid under the food-laden table which made me madder and so I reached under and grabbed them by the arms and marched them out and down the stairs and sent them home in a white whirlwind of fury. That evening, I made them sit around the table and I told them how much they had embarrassed me, and we did some role play of Good Party Behaviour. I also told them that until they move out into a flat of their own, they are forbidden to ever eat more than two items of party food, ever.

Pictorial Round Up:

All five kids go to school now. It’s like a marvellous fantasy. (Is that bad that you can see the name of their school? Don’t steal and try to ransom them because we mightn’t have the cash to pay up, and you’ll be stuck with them scrapping over which end of the couch they sit on, forever – you won’t like it):

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Casper eats burger with massive hair and natty leg-over:

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We went and saw Ottolenghi at Daunt Books and it turns out that the woman in the middle, Tara Wigley, actually does most of his writing. Unsung women – who knew of such a thing? Anyway, the new book Simple is changing my life, especially the cornbread.

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This is 13:

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This is 41 and 13:

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This is 41 after operating on a husband’s skin tag in an unmentionable place with sharp scissors. Harrowing for the both of us:

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Medical Dramas ‘R’ Us

We are back from Turkey, which was two weeks of warmth, swimming, figs, sheep’s cheese, olives, milkshakes, canyons, boats, reading, and an extraordinarily excessive amounts of barbecued lamb. I am brown, the kids have new, enchanting sun damage spots speckled across their shoulders, and we have 5 packets of turkish delight in the fridge waiting for me to single handedly eat them on the DL. We have a new kilim rug under the kitchen table – a source of marital discord because one of us doesn’t like the way it will get dirty and the way it makes scraping your chair in and out kind of textile-y and tricky, while the other one is screaming inside her head (BUT IT DOESN’T FIT ANYWHERE ELSE BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A TINY FLAT FILLED WITH YOUR WEIRD HOARDINGS WHICH INCLUDE TWO CARDBOARD BOXES FILLED WITH 80’S CASSETTE TAPES THAT YOU PULLED OUT OF A SKIP THINKING WE WILL EITHER SELL THEM ON EBAY FOR A FORTUNE OR THAT WE WILL LISTEN TO ONE DAY WHEN WE STUMBLE ACROSS A CASSETTE PLAYER BECAUSE YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND STREAMING MUSIC) but, silently, in that firm, terrifying way of a woman who is a bit pregnant and a bit cross – and so it is staying there. We also have a new/old Turkish rug that we put into the kid’s bedroom which currently doesn’t have any wee or ground cake crumbs on it. It’s day three, though, to be fair.

See new/old kitchen table kilim to the right and the new/old Turkish kid’s room rug on the floor below. See the piles of carpet one has to go literally through to make a new rug purchasing decision? Out of shot is the tiny dog which kept trying to hump me.

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This is Otis and I climbing up St Nicholas’ island after he stubbed his toe and lost his toenail. I carried him a bit, but at 5 months pregnant, it got pretty ouchy pretty fast and we gave up. That kid is tough though – until the nail smashing episode he was up that steep ruinous mountain like a goat in a victorian swimming costume:

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Boat trip:

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Terrifying camel ride:

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Saklikent Gorge, where we met a sea snake, Amanda smashed her knee, and Mark knocked Noah into Otis who landed into the freezing water and freaked out, complete wth compulsive shaking. Pre-adrenaline rush, below:

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Kidrak Beach, where the Shoulder Drama began (more on that later):

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The water. THE WATER!

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Melancholy Otis-face to suggest the sad part of the tale:

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SICK BITS

As a preface, it important to remember that I am not good with the sick and the ailing. I am impotent, bored, impatient, unkind, and entirely unsympathetic if someone has something wrong with them. This isn’t great, I know – it will certainly be on the list of things the therapists will be told when the kids finally crack. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that my parents don’t take a fuss with illness – I have been taught to suck it up and get on with it. I find any wallowing to be anathema to me – I am cold and hard and mean.

So, two weeks before we left, Mark got a virus which made him snore. For these two weeks, I was finding myself out in the lounge sleeping on the couch, cranky and not-very-amused. Mark felt guilty but couldn’t do much about it and so we just did a tired-eye-resentful-marital-dance around each other, not really bringing the snoring situation up, but snitching and scowling at each other in a vague non-reference-reference to it. I was getting anxious about not sleeping, and he was getting sick of feeling like he was a Bad Guy. And he said the snoring hurt his throat and DIDN’T I UNDERSTAND THAT? I’m like, no. I am deadly silent when I sleep. Like a silent considerate angel.

We went to the doctor together before we left and The doctor suggested that perhaps Mark has sleep apnoea which would explain his constant tiredness and loud, alarming, almost-comedy snoring and we talked about the sleeping mask you have to wear and I felt decidedly uneasy about the future. The doctor gave him strong drugs and an inhaler because he said Mark had developed a chest infection as well as sinusitis.

So we arrive in Turkey and he is still snoring and we are playing musical beds to get away from each other and then he goes into Medical Breakdown. The list of ailments is as follows:

  1. The chest infection and inhaler gets him all nervous about walking anywhere in case he can’t breathe, and he queries whether he should walk much or even swim. In Turkey, in 30 degree heat. With a lovely pool outside. I say, yes, please swim.
  2. Splitting headaches (later, we find out this is because he isn’t drinking enough water) – these cause him to sleep all morning and have frequent naps in the afternoon while I waft about like a Holiday Widow With Too Many Children.
  3. Constipation caused by the flight and the antibiotics. He gets very anxious about it and kind of freaks out (I’m like, DUDE, CONSTIPATION IS MY MIDDLE NAME – TRY HAVING 6 BABIES)
  4. He lies down on a sun lounger on Kidrak Beach, there is a plastic bar underneath the mattress, it hurts his shoulder, he asks Casper to massage it, which Casper does with a smooth rock, then his shoulder begins spasming and he drives himself home, instead of coming out to BBQ with us at the lovely restaurant, to sit silently in the dark at the villa with the shoulder and the pain. The pain means he can’t sleep lying down so he moves into the upright chair to sleep. This brings back his snoring, which hurts his throat and causes us all to sleep in weird different places every night.
  5. He goes to see his osteopath when he gets back to London who massages the shoulder (which I think made it WORSE) and he goes back to the doctor to get stronger drugs and now he is vomiting a little, unable to sleep, back to upright chairs and a constant wince and audible sighs. Our conversation revolves around updates of the feeling in his shoulder and queries over what the doctor said. Why no x-ray? Why no steroid injection? I remind him he isn’t a doctor.
  6. On our last day, Mark swims deep down by the side of our boat to retrieve some £6 goggles and his ear drum pops from the pressure. It aches. Of course it aches.

Meanwhile

Some of the rest of us have stomachaches (perhaps constipation, perhaps homesickness) and earaches and deafness caused by the constant swimming, and Casper develops his usual holiday heat rash which covers his torso and underarms and peels his skin off, and he gets stung twice by a jellyfish. He then collapses at the Tuesday Fethiye market after complaining of the smells at the spice stall, going yellow and retching. He is taken to a taxi hut, given water, someone sticks his legs on a chair, and someone else fans him. His hands are held and his hair is stoked by someone other than me because I freeze and just watch. An ambulance is called and he is whisked away to spend the day on an IV drip at a private hospital for £250, because it turns out that you have to drink water in a hot country. Apparently, playing Sausage Run on an iPad all morning in lieu of eating and drinking might well cause dehydration and heat stroke.

I am a bad person, I know. All this illness makes me want to walk away into the mountains and never come back. I will be like a cave woman, like Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear, being awesome on my own, being tough and living in a tidy dry cave with great abs from the self-sufficiency and a happy heart because I have no one to update me on their health status. Sometimes a handsome caveman might visit, but not for very long. I would mostly eat scrambled eggs from my chickens and a garden. No kids? No kids.

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Normal Gas Situation Resumed

You’ll be ever so pleased to know that I am no longer infecting the world with my baby gas every time I walk more than two meters. In fact, I am *quite* calm and restrained again in the bum department. My stomach is sticking out just enough to make people give me a seat on the tube, which is nice although not entirely necessary yet; and sadly, my bosoms stubbornly refuse to grow. Still sore, still tiny, but with just enough of a hang to look as though they are depressed. In a bikini, I look like I was made out of thick, badly rolled tubes of plasticine and then stood on by the dog.

But no matter. It’s the school holidays here and I am making the most of Casper and Ned being in a sports camp for half the week, knowing they are getting very tired out by youths who are getting paid by Westminster Council to play endless games of Camouflage and Hide The Flag (or something – when they get home, they are too tired to talk and I am bad at feigning interest). The others are either going to a dance class (Noah – too young to be self-conscious – hurrah!), playing endlessly with the incomplete Playmobil Nativity Set (Otis – the set has been out of bounds and stuck in a cupboard for many years because the kids don’t respect the importance of the Three Wise Men sticking together, and they lost Baby Jesus about 10 years ago who has now been irritatingly been replaced by a Lego figure, and the animals are also now an assortment of differently sized plastic polar bears and bloody dinosaurs and it KILLS ME but I have lost my resolve and out it has come) and playing on phones and getting mad about Fortnite (Barnaby, obviously).

So – I have pulled the plugs out from the stupid PlayStation and hidden it, because sweating hairy 13 year olds should be outside or drawing, not losing their hours and days virtually killing things.  All the kids are very mad about this, but I have to get tougher and be the boss. Things gonna get harsh round here.

Case in point – this morning, Otis went on about me making him scrambled eggs, and I did, and he ate about two mouthfuls of my precious Burford Brown eggs and then deemed himself full. This made me very shouty but luckily, in a household crawling with young boys, there is always someone who will hoover up the leftovers, so I let it slide with some sort of heard-it-all-before rant about respecting eggs. But then Otis went on and on about me making him a hot chocolate, and I did, and then I heard him and Ned screeching in some sort of loud, exciting game, and later I discovered they had taken the hot chocolate outside, sucked it up with a bike pump and sprayed it all over the windows. OH THE HILARITY!

So I grabbed them both and made them watch me tip all of the Green & Black’s hot chocolate powder into the rubbish and swore I would never, NEVER, buy any more of it again and I would never, NEVER make them hot drinks as long as we all shall live. They were sad and a bit shocked and Casper was very indignant because he says he would still like a hot chocolate every now and then and now he can’t and HOW’S THAT FAIR? And I said he needed to get angry at his wasteful little brothers and then plugged in my headphones so I could listen to the sweet tones of Pandora and Dolly discuss cultural touchpoints and new books I need to buy. So much more rewarding.

In other parenting news, I took Barnaby for a haircut at Aveda which I have justified as an alternative to the Period Party I would surely host if I had been lucky enough to have a girl at some point over my many years of making people. He’s given up on the idea of going to the barber – he said the barber cuts it too short and he wanted to go “somewhere nice like you do, Mum – somewhere expensive” and I was horrified and told him I would only spend £25 and he would have to pay the difference out of his small cash fund. But he said he wouldn’t pay, but also wouldn’t go back to the £11 barber, and so we had a massive hair standoff. I relented, finally, because it is too hot to have a wavy stinky mop of boy-hair in this heatwave and it turned out that Aveda would be £32, not the £40 I was imagining. So he went, and I sat with him, and drank coffee and read magazines and air kissed everyone and he was really sweet and grateful and he got a proper, flattering haircut and sort of – kind of – came of age. Or something. It’s like I witnessed a change in him, of an outward step into manhood – one in which he really owned his gangly, changing, tricky new body and felt proud of himself and felt mature and deserving of something grownup and adult, and it was really lovely. Plus everyone said he had a great head of hair, it finally looked clean and the stylist Kristy gave him the very best choppy, textured, cool haircut ever. We left with some pomade, a larger bill than I had thought,  and a quietly happy tall kid who is emerging into new manhood feeling less like a dork.

 But It’s Not All Posh Hair Cuts

There have been tears and public shaming. Let me talk you through.

On the last week of school, I picked up Casper and Ned with the dog and both kids ran to the bus while I carried on walking home. They have taken the bus together many times, and it is madness to take it because it is quicker to walk once you wait for it and it drops you off only halfway home, but it was a hot day, and so why not, I thought – more time for me to listen to Pandora and Dolly without content requests for a Sainsbury’s stop of for croissants. I crossed the road at the ugly and polluted Edgware Road junction under the Westway and then I see Casper has run back to me. Casper said Ned wanted to wait for the bus by himself, but that he couldn’t be bothered to wait with him. So we carried on and got over the road to the Hilton, but I looked back to try and see if Ned was still waiting because he hadn’t taken the bus by himself before, although I wasn’t worried because I don’t think the kids should be treated like complete morons and have judged getting the bus to be both safe and reasonable, and Ned is no chump. But then I see Ned has materialised on the traffic island halfway across the massive road, looking sulky and sad like a Japanese cartoon and then I clock a man who was holding his hand and bent over talking to him but also scanning the streets for his absentee mother.  I weakly raised a hand and waved, and the guy seemed to be checking with the woeful Ned if I was, in fact, his absentee neglectful mother or just some sort of similar-looking mother-imposter who might well want to steal him away and sell him to work in the mines or whatever, and he stormed over the lanes to me, keeping furious eye contact the whole way and I thought HERE WE GO AGAIN.

“Are you this boy’s mother? Why was he alone? What were you completely unconcerned  when you saw us at the lights?” And THEN he pulls out his badge to show me he is a very angry cop.

I was both outraged by him and scared of him and I ranted in a very inarticulate way about what had happened and why there was no need to overreact and then I cried big gulping sobs. It was bad. He kind of patted me down and said it was ok and left, and I turned to the boys and said something (in between my crying) about social workers and the dangers of appearing like you are a shitty mother and how they can never take the bus by themselves again.

Oh Well 

Here’s a lovely haircut on its way though, and a shy boy:

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And me, out with Celia and Sarah, not crying or farting:

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After a long school holiday midweek day in Kings Cross at the fountains where we lost a zip card and gained some facial hair:

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Noah turned 12 and we ate Portuguese tarts:

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Ned, not by himself, not neglected and in no need of police assistance:

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Til next time, then.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kind words and parping in the street

Thank you very much to everyone who said a nice thing or gave me a real or imagined  emoji *thumbs up* when I left my news bomb at the end of the last post. It has been especially nice to have people who have never commented or said anything to me before (the silent few, because my sphere of influence is a modest little ball bearing in a world of giant inflatable footballs bouncing around the virtual stadiums of proper social media types) and let me know that they don’t think having another baby is totally gross/selfish/embarrassing/unnecessary or terribly damaging for the existing kids who will have less of us both to share around. Of course, some of these responses would be perfectly valid and maybe even true, and yes, I will become even less engaged than I already am, but one parent’s engagement is another parent’s fussy hovering, right? And I’m no hoverer.

Besides, when is a baby not great? The boys are very pleased and have ordered a girl version, and I said I would do my best. Mark is even more excited, and while he initially cautioned me not to tell anyone, he couldn’t keep schtum himself and managed to inform the guy at the paint shop, the woman whose 11pm dog walking coincides with his final Magic evening stroll, the plumber, the gardener over the road, the men at the gun club, clients, potential clients, his osteopath, the communal maintenance guy, the Italian family down our street, the New Yorkers who have just moved away, etc etc etc etc. I spent a few weeks being congratulated by people I didn’t know very well, but figured that everyone’s heart was entirely in the right place and went with it. Besides, why keep early pregnancy a secret? I know it doesn’t always work but surely it is better to share the initial news and then share your sadness rather than to pretend nothing happened to you? Then again, I have no filter, so.

Thus far, I am 11 weeks pregnant, 2 kg fatter than I was in April, most of my clothes have been consigned to a suitcase that won’t be opened for nearly two years, and I moan about the smell and taste of things about every hour and a half. Food has become a less pleasant thing than it was – I long for two Burford Brown eggs on buttered Gail’s cranberry and pecan toast at every meal, but mindful of how more than two eggs a day will actually kill me from the cholesterol, I have to make do with huge amounts of hummus, plums, goats cheese and avocado and macaroni cheese. I’ve previously never met a pasta dish that I liked, but now I have many wistful thoughts (and have had a few attempts) to make bland floury mac & cheese without any additions that will make me burp and fart or taste too much of, anything, really. Out with onions! Down with garlic! Goodbye chillies, chocolate and coffee! Away with you, glasses of prosecco on a hot afternoon and begone, tempting Pimms jugs with your floating strawberries and sprigs of freshly cut mint from our garden! Out of my mouth bacon, mushrooms, fried things, tea, spicy things, citrus, tomatoes, anything a bit umami, Marmite, and WORSE OF ALL, my former favourite thing to eat in the whole world, Honey & Co’s sabich with eggs and aubergine and a raw garlic, cumin, chilli and parsley sauce with garlic tahini drizzle, which at my height of food tolerant superpowers I would cook up every two nights, is now verboten. The very thought of it makes me shrink in disgust.

It is all a terrible bore. I thought that my eyes would be sparkling from my new sobriety and my skin would take on a slick sheen of youth from the raw superfoods ingestion but no. It’s all just awkward gas and fatter upper arms. You know how you meet old people now and then and they let a fart go in front of you because they might not know it is coming out, or they don’t care any more, or they can’t really hear or feel it? That’s actually now me. I am that old farting person who walks along the street trumping in time to my steps and I am simply relived to have some of the outrageous bloat lessen for a while. About the upper arms, I want to scream WHY? to the heavens, because according to my pregnancy app, the baby is the size of a fig and I cannot see what a fig-sized baby in my uterus has to do with my arms. I shall become a round old matronly person with two layers of hair after it all falls out and takes two years to get past fuzzy scalp length.

But OH, its ok because I will have a nice baby and I am very grateful about my super- fertile-accidental-and-entirely-unearned skills. Although, at the moment, the nice baby part seems very far away and not very real. What will we do for space? Will I live through broken sleep? Will I remember how to swaddle and will labour be quick? Will it still hurt? Isn’t there an app for any of this? Will the kids get over the novelty of having a new baby as quickly as they got over the joy of getting a dog? Yes.

 

Anyway, here is a photo of my sample sale Stella McCartney jumpsuit that I scored for a tiny £75. It has a very generous waist so i might be able to wear it out, in really life, and completely fool everyone into thinking I that I am Fat Elvis. With a kind of diaper-fastening for easy access to a stash of peanut butter and banana fried sandwiches. But come on – look at those embroidered horses!

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Our book club read Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home and then we saw the musical at the Young Vic and I wept like no one was listening, in big noisy sobs. I am not a huge theatre fan, but this was transformative. GO! GO GO GO!

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Last week I was kindly invited as a plus one to Paxton & Whitfield’s mid summer Christmas thing where they fed us these cheeses and canapés and a glass of champagne and I forced it down, very happily and only remembered about the unpasteurised thing after. It was worth it.

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Summer in London this year is all about being a little bit too hot, but also stumbling into promotions for free stuff. The children here went a little bit mental at the Lipton Ice Tea stall and Otis wore a jumper in 31 degrees. Also they need haircuts.

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We had a party in the garden for the SEBRA members (that’s South East Bayswater Resident’s Association I think) and LOOK WHO PRESENTED A CHEQUE TO ST MARY’S HOSPITAL! (The clue is in the hair and the polka dots).

It’s Princess Diana’s sister for realz! I nearly choked on my non-alcoholic ginger beer.

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And finally, here I am in a lovely photo with the cast of Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”which leads people to believe I am groomed. But peer on for the outtakes of terrible kinky layered hair (due to being briefly pregnant two years ago and losing my hair and having the layered regrowth confuse everything and make me look quite frosted and semi-permed):

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It’s newsreader from the front, 80’s tribute show at the back.

Never entirely trust Instagram.

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Pox and Eye and a Surprise

It’s a Monday and I have two kids at home with me. Otis has the pox and Casper has had an allergic reaction to either grass or an insect bite while he was camping overnight across the road. You can’t tell quite how it came to be; my kids have mixed up heads and their stories are generally either unreliable or total fabrications. But ouch, though.

 

That eye looks better now. Oh the japes we had this morning, telling him what he could tell the kids at school – hilariously of the “You should have seen the other guy” variety. Because I would have sent him to school, mostly due to the fact that I have a heart of stone. But luckily Mark knows the difference between a mild ailment and a potential infection of the eye/brain, so he went to the doctor with him and he now has a plethora of drugs. Poor kid.

Things don’t look bright for Turkey – every year we go away somewhere hot and Casper and Barnaby get some sort of heat rash or insect bite reaction which blows their faces/eyes up or causes them to tear their skin off in patches and we end up in an emergency ward with glistening raw limbs and adorable but uncomfortable chipmunk faces.  OH TO BE IN CHARGE OF OTHERS! What utter joy.

So, on Saturday, we had our second annual communal garden campout which is where the eye problem sprung forth. We (the esteemed organisers exhibiting marvellous event-management flair) had forgotten to tell any of our neighbours. So on Thursday night we all thought we just wouldn’t bother with the campout, and we wouldn’t mention it to the kids.  Because, as much as *we* (Mark) love camping, there’s something about bothering to put up your massive tent and finding all the stretchers and bringing all your things over the road for one night only, knowing that the kids will go mental all night and you won’t sleep and the neighbours will get cranky, and you might get eaten by the garden fox, only to then wake up at the first shaft of cruel sunlight searing through the fabric walls at about 4:30am and THEN you have to put the tent away.  And your actual bed is about 25 steps across the grass, tantalisingly near, all comfortable memory foam and enclosed by walls and a ceiling.

No competition, right? But word gets around amongst the youth, those smooth-skinned little stinkers, and soon my kids got very gobby about how much they wanted to sleep out in the garden for the second annual campout. They just knew. They must have smelt the truth.

So, we thought FINE THEN, you guys are pretty old now, so sleep without us, but the serious adults in the committee were very firm that there had to be an adult accompanying kids. SUCH A BORE.

Mark swiftly got in with a disclaimer, avowing he couldn’t stay out with them because of his sore back. Putting this into perspective, we have to add the sore back to his list of ever-growing ailments – shoulder, sinuses, potential skin cancers, mysterious no-pain migraines which render his vision a bit wobbly every now and then, sore hips and an arthritic thumb. Personally, I thought playing the sore back card was not really in the fatherly spirit of things. Besides, he is constantly buying better camping gear and shouldn’t he be keen to use it? I suspect his constant camping gear acquisitions are a bit like my wallet/sample sale shoe/handbag problem; buying shizzle all the time for no reason – certainly not for actual usage – but because it satisfies for a moment a deep, yawning chasm of loneliness and unworthiness. Probably.

Anyway, we asked another dad of one if he would like to use our tent – which comes with four rooms, an awning, and FOUR OF OUR KIDS! And he said yes, which mind-boggled me, because who would be so kind/mental? and they all finally went to sleep at 3am.  The dad, who finally shifted his own kid onto another kindly neighbour’s couch at some unspecified hour to keep him away from the shameful display of nocturnal shenanigans of our kids, might never speak to us again – he had fled by the morning. There were various stories of neighbours coming over all night to ask them to be quiet and to stop screaming about ghosts, a midnight feast of coca cola in one of the terraced flats at midnight, and a lot of gaming. And, a bung eye.

This is summer, man. Kind of awesome, full of potential dangers, overheating, FOMO situations, bug bites and OTT gestures because we are SO EXCITED about the sun. You wait, always a bit cold, donning coats of various thicknesses, dressed in jean and boots, jeans and boots, and you remember about summer. It seems to come really fast – so fast that you forget to go to all the things you were planning to go to all year round, mostly because they are all on the same four weekends of probable nice weather. And your arms are white and bigger than they were last year and your toenails are a little bit fungus-y and everything summery that comes out of the suitcases in the wardrobe smells a bit like a dog. Your sandals give you blisters and you sneeze all the time.

We did manage to remember to go to the polo (best bit was when I found £20 on the ground which I quickly spent on two rhubarb gin cocktails), the Soho Food Feast where you buy really excellent food from stylish central London restaurants and pop ups for £2,  strawberry picking and the Westbourne Summer Festival where you could get a snake to climb around your neck for free.

A tree we found in Hyde Park – a source of many an afternoon’s leaping and falling:

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Christo at The Serpentine:

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Soho Food Feast delights:

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Snakes.

Lastly, my get-out-of-camping card:

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WHOOPS.

 

 

 

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