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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Quite A Few Selfies And Some Ruined Blusher

I notice that in my last post, I said I might be going to new York. I meant NEW YORK. I think there is a definite difference – I imagine new York is just York, but the new part of it, which is probably all post war 60’s buildings that have been turned into a high street with Superdrug and a WH Smiths. So, no one is taking me there. Of course, no one might take me to NY either, but I live in powerless, inarticulate hope. I don’t want to appear too keen when the bosses mention it, just in case they don’t really mean it, or there’s no room in the budget or if I am terrible at my job and by October and November they have chucked me off.

On that note, it’s a bank holiday which leads into a mid-term break, so today I will do no work but finish reading Edward St Aubyn’s first Melrose book, Never Mind. It is beyond horrible and I felt tainted when it got to the abuse part, especially as I have a small nearly-five year old boy who was sleeping in the room next to ours. I really liked reading Alan Hollinghurst’s novels with 80’s aristocratic excess woven through with seediness and a bit of druggy, sexy filth, as well as Will Self’s Dorian (same) but this one is not so much funny as sucker punch trauma and it sort of suggests that yes, English aristocracy – with its wealth and privilege and money and homes and maids and power is not just silly as you suspected, full of well-meaning buffoons with bad breath, ancient tweedy items of clothing, weird political ties and drinking problems – but actually sick.

So thoughts must then go to lighter, happier places, like the Royal Wedding last weekend. What a JOY! What  triumph! Privately, I love Kate much more than the Markle, but when I said as much on a weekend away with my book club ladies, they were a bit rattled and wondered if I had gone mental.

I like her for many reasons, but a lot of them have to do with her ability to be very regal and queenly while still recycling dresses. I give huge brownie points for this. I think things went a bit sour for me with the Markle when I thought about her alliterative name, very expensive Ralph & Russo dress (those two ‘English ateliers’ seem like crass charlatans, do they not?) and then I just feel so confused about the way that she had no childhood people at the wedding. It was a weird evisceration of a past self. Where were the high school buddies and the favourite aunties and the agent and the best friend since the pre teen years? So that seems all very odd. Anyway, of course, none of this really matters, but it was good to effectively go along to the wedding in my polyester dress via Owen and Chris’s living room and watch it all projected onto a screen with plentiful prosecco and home made scones. Nothing quite unites the country like a big old royal wedding, except maybe the Olympics and Love Island. I cried a bit, laughed, marvelled at the dress and crown and got a bit jealous of her perfect halter-neck-worthy shoulders and Diana’s massive aquamarine cocktail ring. LONG LIVE THEM ALL, I say (especially Kate, but keep that one a little bit quiet, because I don’t have the energy to justify myself).

Photo Essay For Your Viewing Pleasure

Mark had a birthday, we went out for lunch, he got 8 small Ottolenghi cakes for his birthday tea, and we went to bed early because we were too tired to even go to the movies. This is what being middle aged is actually like – quite nice, relatively inexpensive and mostly calm:

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I had a meeting with a few people last week and wore this Victoria Beckham shirt with oversized cuffs and two appliquéd swans on it (Selfridges sale), and a Stella McCartney blazer (eBay) and when I got to Queensway and raced in to a new coffee place, the barista said that I was “rocking a cool ’90’s vibe” and I said (ungraciously, I realised immediately after I said it) “that’s because I am old” because, of course, the ’90’s wasn’t that long ago. Anyway I took a photo of myself when I got out to preserve my unwitting fashion zeitgeistiness for later, but I tried to do it without people seeing I was doing it and this is my resting-bitch-face-flattered-but-confused FASHION GLORY MOMENT:

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And then there was this total TRIUMPH  – the St James and St Johns’ school pub quiz fundraiser which our team won by one point. I don’t want to blow my own pub quiz trumpet (yes I do) but the one point could have been the single question that I knew the answer to, which was

  1. Which novel does Captain Yossarian appear in, and who wrote it?

I almost exploded with shock and joy because we had only just read that book for bookclub. No one finished it, and I eventually threw it across the room because it was so annoying and unfunny. But – useful at a pub quiz, so there you go:

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This is us, at the royal wedding. Mark loves a royal wedding even more than I do, which is pretty great:

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And this is what happens when Otis gets into the bathroom for an extended period of time, and he starts looking at my makeup, and my shiny hair clips, and decides to open the new Benefit blusher, and feels it first with his finger, and loves how soft it is, and then he digs some out with the shiny hair clip, and then he smears the lumpy peach blusher onto the wall and makes some sort of abstract fish design. I was not best pleased:

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If I did the maths, and gave myself £1 for every time one of my kids had ruined some makeup, I would have about £18. Which would replace half a lipstick. Casper suggested I lock it up, but then, you know, HOW ANNOYING WOULD THAT BE? Imagine the mornings, with me trying to find the key to the makeup cupboard (we don’t have a makeup cupboard) that someone had used as part of a pirate treasure game prop. How about they just ruin their own things?

HA! Says bereft half-made-up mothers of magpie children everywhere. Ha. Sigh.

 

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No Theme To Speak Of

I have nothing to say that would hang together nicely in a tag, or a category – I’ve not wet myself for LITERALLY weeks, for example – so you’ll have to just make do with a collection of thoughts and events which have been screaming through my pastry-befuddled brain.

I say ‘pastry-befuddled’ because we, at Fray Inc. Towers, have been buying the expensive Waitrose croissants of late (twice a week at least), the ones that have the enticing words ‘Croissants Au Beurre De Charentes’ strewn across its single-use plastic packaging. I think it means ‘These are proper croissants, made with a lot of butter that has been produced in the best kind of proper butter-producing place, and they will accordingly be both crunchy on the outside and also stringy and soft and stretchy and very moist in the middle’. This is all correct. Since we went to Puglia last summer (*proud middle-point adoptee alert*) and discovered that they cut open croissants with scissors to slosh in two hefty slatherings of nutella, only then putting them into the oven to crisp up, we’ve been doing the same. So I ate mine this morning (AFTER A RUN, THANKS), and the end bits from Otis’s uneaten stash, and then….I’ve topped off the empty-calorie carb-debauchery with a cinnamon roll from Ole & Steen because my friend Lawson told me, after a lot of cinnamon roll research, that they do the best ones.

Unfortunately, I had an altercation with a woman in the Tottenham Court Road branch of Ole & Steen, because when you get in, you take a ticket from the prominent ticket-box at the door like you might at the doctors, or the passport and post office, but here there was no helpful ticker tape calling out your number. So it was awkward, and I wasn’t sure it was my turn, and first some other person swooped up from behind when the lady at the till asked for ‘next’ and produced his ticket and I shrank back, feeling ashamed I had not really believed in their system. So then someone else yells ‘next’, and even though I am at the front of the chaotic, non-overly queue, I look around in a coy, unconfident way (which is a bit how I drive – I lose my nerve at the last moment and become a hazard) and this brassy older lady in workout tights and a ballet skirt and cascading blonde tonged curls with a denim jacket says:

OH! JUST GO! 

With all the ennui and yet barely contained rage someone in a ballet skirt and three-quarter length leggings can authentically muster.

And so I was a bit hot, and said (sarcastically, pointedly, crankily, probably rising to an indignant higher register as we get near the end)

OK!  Thank you – I haven’t actually even been here before and so I don’t know the system…? 

And maybe I said ‘SHHEEEESH’ loudly and made a bit of an embarrassing fuss.

And then felt very hurt and cross about the stupid shop and mean ladies with no tolerance for new consumers. As I exited Ole & Steen, I stared very hard at the back of the ballet skirt lady’s golden, fluffy head and mouthed ‘COW’.

But the cinnamon roll was really good, so.

Things that have happened 

  1. I got stopped in the road by a Range Rover which pulled over and the driver yelled something out to me. It was Joely Richardson, and she asked me where I got my dress. It was Zara, btw.
  2. I had an interview scheduled with a lawyer in Washington, D.C. for my new job and I needed Otis not to come in and ask me to find him an obscure soft toy/a glass of water/biscuits and so I set him up with Monster High on netflix on my laptop and a glass of water because I knew he had had hot chips for lunch (ace parenting right there) and he would need a drink and I would be mid-serious interviewing and so I preempted it all and asked him not to come into the office ( which is really my bedroom – but you knew that). When I did come out, Otis was sitting there looking a bit sheepish, the laptop was swimming in water, and he told me that a ghost had tipped his glass over. It cost £400 to fix, which means that my last two weeks at Selfridges were only to pay for that.
  3. This morning I went to a blogger thing for the launch of a new Cartoonito channel with Otis, who was totally not feeling it and who would only sit and glumly eat cheese straws and tell me how much he wanted to go home. I watched as a bevy of ex-footballers wives, TOWIE stars and Big Brother contestants came in, tanned with gleaming white teeth, followed by their kids who uniformly wore matching playsuits (girls) or matching short back and sides haircuts and bomber jackets (boys), all very enthusiastic, and the mums were like eerily familiar, and yet not. Like….somewhere in your head, you have a scrollable Daily Mail sidebar of shame, picked up from breakfast TV and overheard conversations on the tube and Metro newspaper articles in the celebrity bit, and of course from the supermarket when you are waiting in line at the checkout and your phone doesn’t get signal and your eyes settle on a bewildering shit magazine with someone orangey on the cover. Well. Those people were all there, and one lady (whose kids were matching, obvs) asked me if I was blogger and I said yes, and asked her if she was a blogger, and she looked surprised. She was only Miss Wales, circa 2003! The shame. So I was totally unfamous and really, probably, should have just left the branded cupcakes and cheese straws to those who had already done their time on British TV.
  4. I left Selfridges and now I am working on a US magazine called Diversity & the Bar, and I am also working on editorial for the Luxury Law Alliance. All you need to know is that both jobs will (probably, maybe, I need to calm down) take me to new York this year. I thank you.

Photo essay for your viewing pleasure

 

Casper got sunburnt while swimming in the freezing waters of the Serpentine, and his face puffed up in an allergic reaction very cutely:

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Mark went away doing something with guns and baby deer (*wince and cringe*) and we spent the morning in Paddington Basin playing with the fountains and my camera effects:

Barnaby tried to teach Magic how to do tricks worthy of Britain’s Got Talent. This was the highlight (he wouldn’t do any other tricks):

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At Cartoonito, both of us feeling unfamous and unworthy (spot Vanessa Feltz and Danielle Lloyd) and so channelling our feelings into tiny colouring-in:

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Otis and I, immortalised in cartoon form:

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And that is all. Until next time, then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Under Pressure *sang my bladder*

Well, I do like to keep things real. And in that spirit, I’ll tell you what happened this morning, because why gather humiliating things to my bosom when I can release them into the web to be revisited forever until the Apocalypse does something bad to computers? Exactly.

I went running with a new guy, someone I have never met, who is American, charming, well-groomed, does something with finance and tech, and who is a seasoned runner fresh from the Boston marathon. Over the running whatsapp group I have repeatedly told him that I am slow like your garden variety grandma, and that this is not a humble brag – I like a crawling jog where I can take photos of blossoms and fiddle with my podcasts and he said he didn’t care.

So we met at 6am this morning and had a lovely chat and he said he will follow my route around the Hyde Park corner bit all the way home. He didn’t plug into his phone because he said he likes to hear himself breathe, which was a tiny bit disarming because no one (especially not me) would like to hear me breathe, because it is a heaving, rasping, punctured lung kind of sound when I run, and also, if people aren’t listening to music or podcasts, then do they actually want to talk? I don’t.

So we started off and I was kind of leading the pace and I was being a bit showy offy/ambitious and began at Quite The Trot which I had to sustain the whole way around because otherwise my usual pace would be exposed and I would be shamed for being a fraud. I started my usual throat clearing which leads to frequent hoicking onto the pavement and then my nose started running and so I just had to blow out lots of snot and wipe it on my new grey leggings. This is what I usually do, but usually I am by myself, in the dark or with people who know I leak from orifices when under any pressure. So I am aware that my new guy wasn’t making any sounds or leaking, spitting, rubbing, wiping, hoicking or even breathing very ugly, at least, not that I could tell over my loudish very emotional episode of Where Do We Begin, an hour’s marriage guidance counselling podcast session which seems to me to be perfectly matched with a 5km run around the park.

At some point around the 20 minute mark I just gave into the excretions and thought ‘well, I just might never see him again’. But still he stayed next to me, kindly matching my pace, not looking over as I gargled and spat too slow, hitting my trainers with dribble. We got near the end (three whole minutes faster than I usually make it) and I put in a tiny bit of extra effort to finish because it had been hard and embarrassing and tough and I just wanted it to be over, and when we got to the gate, I stopped and

DID A BIT OF WEE

which flooded into my new grey leggings and spread. It wasn’t a whole lot of wee, just a little amount, almost a celebratory amount – my bladder was like HURRAH YOU’VE STOPPED I THINK I WILL JUST RELAX FOR A SECOND – but you know, leggings these days have fabric that wicks moisture away which I think just means ‘makes it look as though you have pissed a litre’ and so I had to walk home with the unavoidable incontinence patch taking over half my inner thighs.

I kept trying to pull the leggings way up into my crotch, hoping that the fabric would sort of fold into itself and that the wet bits would be hidden in the great folds of my ageing pudenda but it wasn’t working. I tried to hold my earphones over the offending wet patches but that did nothing to hide them either. Meanwhile we were discussing quite serious matters such as role division in marriage, the impact of children leaving the home, career choices in later life – all very engaging, and to his credit he did seem to be keeping his eyes to the forward, firmly away from my frontal shame. It was only when he waved me off at my gate that he turned and faced me, in the bright 6:50am daylight, moisture still apparent. Luckily, luckily, our goodbyes were hurried and brief, which might well have been more about his eagerness not to prolong my humiliation rather than any need to go somewhere fast. I will never know.

I came down the stairs, immediately showered (chafing issues) and told the kids, showed them my leggings for an honest appraisal of the likelihood that I had been busted and they just laughed and said it wasn’t their fault that they wet the bed – it was because of my bad bladder role modelling. They also more kindly said that with any luck, the new guy wouldn’t have seen because what kind of man looks at other women’s groin and I said

‘Thank you for saying that – it helps – but….peripheral vision, dudes. Peripheral vision.’

The only other thing that I take comfort from is that this guy’s wife has had four kids, so he might well be used to women’s bladders being prone to a little celebratory leakage. But still. Argh. All a bit much for a Tuesday morning, if you know what I mean?

 

 

 

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Honeymoon

So, Mark and Barnaby have been away for 12 days and we have been variously calm, happy, ordered and clean. Life as a solo parent of 4 plus a dog is actually easier than having Mark here (with surly teen) and it is because I am in the throes of a Singleton Honeymoon.

I am sure it would come to some sort of shuddering halt quite soon (certainly when the money ran out) if it was actually for realz, but for now, I am basking in being in parental control, sleeping in a bed by myself, watching the third season of Love on Netflix without protracted negotiations/discussions/compromising (‘you choose this series, I get the next’ waaah boring zzzz), going to bed whenever I want to, reading for as long as I want to, begging the dog to sleep with me (although he won’t – he is frightened that the Hairy Alpha Guy will burst out from behind the curtains and catch him), getting my running gear on in the mother truckin’ bedroom at 5:40am with all the lights blazing instead of panto-sneaking into the bathroom and doing it there, and eating leftovers that are eked out all week, minimising cooking and maximising TV time e.g. the spaghetti bolognese has become a lasagne-esque pasta bake once I added ricotta and creme fraiche all over the top, while the first week I just ate up a huge mound of rejected sweet potato mash by adding eggs every night. The kids, meanwhile,  are just eating whatever our kind neighbour brings down for them.

HAVE I NEVER TOLD YOU ABOUT OUR NEIGHBOURLY BENEFACTOR?

We have a very kind, extremely mysterious man who lives upstairs with the 98 year old Israeli ex-judge/ex-Chief of Police/ex-serially married guy in a carer-capacity. He is from New Zealand, grew up on a farm and is now also a full-time accountant while looking after the old guy who, like Magic, tends to run away whenever the front door is left open. His other occupations are weird late night activities – when you walk the dog at 11pm at night, you can often spy him on a phone somewhere midway through the Estate, and he is also – crucially – committed to shopping for reduced bargains which he brings down to us. Often, we will have a late night delivery from him of four loaves of reduced Hovis bread, 32 brown bananas, four packages of slightly greying sausages and 18 M&S sausage rolls, all marked down to about 8p. I think he literally does a Supermarket Sweep for his household and ours right before the shops close, both because he loves a bargain and because I think it is his way of showing us that he loves us. Some of this bounty is gratefully received, and some of it just sits on a kitchen bench, getting more moist and way past the due date, as I wonder what to do with it and who I can give it to. There are only so many banana loaves a busy lady can make, if you know what I mean.

DISCLAIMER: I am perfectly happy with old food. I hate waste and I love reconfiguring meals until they get up and walk out of the fridge by themselves (see the spaghetti bolognese/lasagne hybrid that might stretch out for one more night, but might also have to be given to the dog. I think you can always tell by sniffing it fearlessly, no?). But I am also a terrible bread snob and sometimes, trying to use up seven bunches of kale before they get mouldering is just beyond me, and the constant stale hoards can get a bit annoying. Besides, no room.

But this week, he has come up trumps with two cooked chickens (why, who wants stir fried rice and chicken, kids?), 17 sausage rolls, four heads of lettuce, three Hovis loaves, gluten-free hot cross buns, M&S chocolate fudge cake, 14 pork sausages, six donuts, eight croissants and some very odd coffee spritzer. Tonight, the children will positively feast on the second round of sausage rolls with…lettuce. It is like a party, I tell you.

Pitfalls of Singleton Honeymoons

  1. I got a bit giddy with the whole staying up thing and watched Manchester By The Sea until midnight, and then couldn’t sleep until about 3am. Because of the sadness, and the wine.
  2. I keep thinking that if I want to get a tattoo, then I should get one while Mark is away. So the children and I have been drawing on ourselves in readiness. Casper keeps saying “LET’S GO TO THE TATTOO SHOP NOW”, calling my bluff and freaking me out. I like to think I might get one. I don’t actually want to take my ten year old along with me to get some terrible accidental prison tattoo, chosen in haste and adrenaline, do I? Or do I?

Balanced with Other Good Bits Though

  1. The rules have been thrown out the window and we all watch nightly 90’s rom coms. After our old, out-of-date suppers, we’ve binged on You’ve Got Mail, Mean Girls, Mean Girls 2, Clueless, and moved on to race issues with 12 Years A Slave and Rabbit Proof Fence. Next on the list are The Truman Show, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hidden Figures. I would like to think the boys are now very well-educated in the charms of preppy outfit matching as well as having honed an acute sense of the wrongs of racial prejudice – and shall soon be woke to the perils of social media, racism at NASA and the non-animated quirk of Wes Anderson.
  2. Casper has turned into a lovely, kind boy. All those years of being a total pain in the ass have crumbled away. All it took was ten years and an absent dad. He seems to have risen to the challenge Mark set before he left – the old ‘Look after your mother’ chestnut. The only kids who have let the side down are Otis (swearing) and Ned (dramatic breakdowns and a lot of wailing). But mostly, mostly, we are very well indeed.

Here we are on Saturday, dressed up in our pyjamas because Carluccios was giving away free breakfasts for those in their nighttime attire:

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And the Easter Bonnet parade, where Otis choked but was saved just in time by Noah:

 

And finally, my one time out since being on my Singleton Honeymoon, with Neradah, darling Neradah, my buddy since we were 11. She knocks me out with her cuteness (and fierceness). In this filter, we still look preteen:

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Wish me luck with the whole ‘readjusting to sharing my bed and going to bed at 10:30 and cooking properly’ thing. I am going to need it.

 

 

 

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Hiatus

I’ve been having a hiatus (an hiatus?) because of this new work malarkey. It has been a bit trying, I have to say, because I have had to relearn how to work a PC. This is a slow and awkward thing. It feels like being back in the dial-up age – the cut and paste works funny and you have to open your computer using control, alt, delete. But could I find ‘delete’? No. NO! It wasn’t very obvious, to be perfectly fair. Hidden in plain sight, you might say.

So on my first day, one of the very kind permanent copywriters who was tasked with showing me what to do had to watch me try to find the delete button, sweaty olden day hands hovering over the keyboard, quite lacking in conviction, while he willed me to find it and find it quickly so he could go back to doing his own work. It was a palpable force of good intent – FIND IT, FIND IT, LADY! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IT IS JUST TO YOUR LEFT! went his eyes and his aura, and I was right there with him, wishing it were all over and I could go and have a cry somewhere. The pain of being a new starter has quite the run-on effect, as I am sure all my ‘helpers’ would attest. I just forget stuff a bit. It must be my middle age, or the deeply rubbish IBM system which embarrasses me with its clunk and constant errors, not all of which have anything to do with me.

There are all these file paths too which seem to be unnecessarily complicated, with 80 style guides hidden in mysterious places, and you are supposed to refer to them, but you have to find them first. But I don’t have time, because I am slow, and like to research a little bit about the designer who bothered to make another crisp white tee, otherwise you can’t add much to the copy. So if each time you do a bit of googling and each time you try to come up with a fresh way to write about pretty much identical stuff, then the ten minute time frame you have allotted to write about your product gets eaten into, and before you know it, it is 10:15am and you have only written about three things and OH MY GOODNESS you’ll have to work through lunch, ignore the whats app texts showing you photos of what the school dinners look like on any given day (purely for quality control reasons) and you start to forget to go to the toilet.

Your copy gets a bit erratic, shifting from horrible stock phrasing (‘take your traditional t-shirt styling to a contemporary level with this camo print’) to drunken-rant-sounding stream of consciousness nonsense (‘if Stevie Nicks had a cloth baby with Kate Moss, it would look just like this woven wonder jumpsuit with added pocket detail that will make you scream with restless-hands-related-delight…’) and you get a bit dizzy, but can’t make a cup of herbal tea because you are scared of all the people standing by the kitchen. And you realise that you will have to work for two hours longer than everyone else has left the building just to finish your allocation, and the lights keep switching off and the cleaner is vacuuming under your legs, and then you have to write about a belt but you just can’t find any information on it so you have to go on about it having an adjustable fit. That’s right – this belt has an adjustable fit. Also punch hole detail. As in, it has holes in it so you can do it up.

GROUNDBREAKING PIECE OF WRITTEN WORK, THAT WAS.

And you do your maths and work out that, because of the no lunch and the overtime, you are paid less than your cleaner.

In Less Depressing News, Vaguely Work-Related

Not On The High Street invited me to an International Women’s Day breakfast at the Hoxton Hotel to hear some entrepreneurial women talk about imposter syndrome being a little like a secret weapon and the uselessness of guilt. One woman said something about how hugely maddening it is to be working but still have to do all the domestic crap, and then everyone got quite noddy and a bit angry. I did too, although Mark as been a trooper during the new J.O.B crisis, feeding the children (a bit late) with salmon and rice (no veges though) and I have been trying to say ‘thank you’ and not ‘why so late and would a bit of broccoli on the side be the undoing of you, eh?’. There has also been a rather cocktail-heavy restaurant review at Pomona’s in Notting Hill where we wisely made friends with the barman. More fake-expert mothering advice right here, and something on never leaving London here.

More Stuff

Amanda and Josh came from New Zealand to stay on our couch for a week and we went up the Sky Garden for views and five hot chocolates that cost £20:

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See my quite sweet optimism here, full of love and pride for my disinterested, grumbling tribe of boys:

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After, we got lost in the City, battling the mini Beast from the East, walked up the 315 steps to the top of the Monument while Mark held the fort at the bottom with some craft ale and a heater, and topped it off with hamburgers at Borough Market where I went apeshit because Ned stole Otis’s fries, so I went to his little heap of fries and stole them back, but squashed them all in the process so Ned also went apeshit and pushed a chair over and the lady asked us to leave. Here is my cold face attempting a jowl-free angled selfie in the freezing cold:

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Mark and Barnaby have left for three weeks in New Zealand, so we are all currently luxuriating in the spaces they have left – my bed is now sporting a massive duvet, usually not allowed because *one* of us gets a bit hot, while the children cannot believe that they can go near the playstation without Barnaby punching them in the throat. The food we eat can have some sort of cheese component without Barnaby gagging and we don’t have to listen to Mark tell us that one of us has taken his glasses/keys/wallet/phone. We might well miss them, but I doubt it.

If you’re reading this – LOVE YOU GUYS! Don’t kill too many small animals like you did last time, and I promise Magic isn’t allowed to sleep on the bed, tucked up on your side like a sweet fat hairy husband-replacement. Nope.

Finally, Otis and I went to Tiger and got a glue gun, and the boys came home last night and made him this to wear for the nursery easter Bonnet Parade. To say I am proud would be quite the understatement:

 

 

 

 

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