A New Thing – 13

This morning, my eldest child turned 13. Good that he’s lasted that long, yes. Great that everything works and he is growing properly and that he is exhibiting all the signs of a proper pantomime teenage villain, which you would expect, I suppose. He is never without this look on his face which is a painful, practiced distain – eyes to middle distance, mouth arranged in a neutral though joyless straight line, voice quiet and kind of muffled unless he is unleashing a surprising and shrieking death threat to the other kids if they dare to touch him or his stuff, ever. He is pretty tired too, which is probably just a result of the endless framing of the face – I imagine he wakes up perfectly happy but then remembers his life, his dreadful, tiresome, awful life shared with dreadful, tiresome, awful people and so he must employ his only weapon by rearranging his face into The Permanent Mask Of Teenage Emotional Distance Which Implies He Hates Us But Stops Short Of Actual Confirmation. I’ve seen this face every day for the last six months. Cases in point:

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Note the terrifically pursed lips in the blue photo. MUST NOT SMILE OR SHOW ANY PLEASURE, EVER.

So he turned 13 today, as I said, and of course, like every other mother in the land since time immemorial, I am surprised and sad that my baby is growing up. He was all very sweet and booffy-of-hair once:


And I think I prefer the Infant to the Adolescent as a general concept, although I do like the way his legs are long in his tight jeans – he looks like he fronts an indie band. Plus he reads a lot, has quite a nice floppy Hugh Grant-esque wave to his hair and is good at art, so what am I complaining about? There is something fabulous about letting him stay up to watch Peaky Blinders for a bit, and he says he will come running with me sometime, and one day in many years time we shall meet at a pub and he will regale me with tales of his life and I will love it though I might be wailing on the inside, mourning the passage of time and my own inevitable march towards being aged and then dead.

In that vein, the only alternative to him getting older (as he so correctly put it this morning while I slumped around the flat all very morose and maudlin about his birthday) would be his own death. We don’t want that.

I do like the idea of permanent arrested (alive) development of my children –  like a baby Maggie Simpson, always in the background somewhere, being quiet and cute and always about two, but then I don’t really, because then I would never go back to work and we’d have spent a lot on babysitters, plus a lot of time in doctor’s offices wondering what was wrong with the weird static kid. So, what do you do?

I read the Sunday Times piece on Helena Morrissey  (you can’t read it because it is behind a paywall but she’s the head of personal investing for Legal & General – read: massive important well-paid City job) and she has nine kids and a Buddhist-monk husband and I thought THAT’S HOW YOU KEEP THEM LITTLE! YOU JUST KEEP HAVING THEM! THEN THEY HAVE KIDS AND YOU ALWAYS HAVE A BABY SOMEWHERE TO LOSE YOURSELF OVER! all of which I am tempted to keep doing, because…Girl!…might have one….would like one….not likely though….but I love babies….but there’s no room….but that’s never stopped us before…no cot though, sold it on eBay….but could buy another one….but I would be quite embarrassed and everyone would tell me it was time I stopped hiding behind small humans and GOT A JOB…but six is a lovely rounded number…but, no. I’ll have to learn to be content with the existing five. Maybe that thing you feel when you see old photos of them cute and fat and dopey and little is just a thing that you learn to sit with. Maybe it’s a beautiful thing that you willingly step into sometimes, just for you, remembering who you both were for a while, before something else took its place.

Anyway, tonight Barnaby has asked for dinner at GBK which is a win for all of us. I will drink some wine and try not to cry as I look around the table filled with little-ish boys on the turn and instead be grateful that I got the chance to experience all this mixed, mental loveliness at all.



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Dubious Parenting Choices

So, here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about. I listened to Jon Ronson’s podcast The Butterfly Effect on my slow, cold, knee-stiffening runs around the park: the series where he delves into the free porn phenomenon of the last 15 years. The whole thing was kicked off by an incident in a hotel lobby where Ronson meets a porn star for an interview (dressed in an undeniably porn starry way, it would seem) and he can’t help but notice how disgusted the hotel staff are by her very presence.

This is, of course, a ridiculous double standard, because more people watch porn than anything else on the web. Fine to consume regularly from the comfort of your little laptop – free and furtive, infinitely variable and instantly gratifying, immediately forgotten – but the industry and its people are socially verboten, crass, worthless, shameful and disposable. So, Ronson goes out to dig a little deeper at this conflict, looking at where and why the proliferation of free porn began, by whom, and then looks at the far reaching consequences of it – how it has made an impact on lots of people, on culture, and health. And it is all horrible.  HORRIBLE. As a mother of five sons, these bits gall me the most – Ronson cites (US) stats claiming erectile dysfunction has gone up 1000% and teen pregnancies are down, not through compaigns promoting abstinence or safe sex but because heavy users of porn are beginning to be unable to have sex normally anymore. Even the guys making the movies find the naked porn actress splayed out next to them does nothing to sustain an erection – Ronson notes how they quickly flick to their phones during breaks for some digital variety of screwing to get their penises back on track.

Apparently the kids will see their first bit of online porn at age 11, and I think that’s conservative. So what do you do with all this, except to talk openly about what online porn is, and why it isn’t real, and why it is important to be safe online, as well as using every opportunity to bang on about your own values and morals and try to scare them a little bit?


That, my friends, is totally the answer. Because Dawson and his really badly dressed pals are OBSESSED by sex, but also by notions of love, romance, kissing, fidelity, honesty, courtship, reputations, fantasy, the pressure to go too fast, the agony of waiting. It is tortuous and teenage but also imparts exactly the right kind of reverence to sexuality that the free porn thing entirely deconstructs. There is a weight to it all. Imbued with longing, desire and precocious painful discourse, the whole show is like a bad, beautiful poem to the innocent exploration of sex.

Kissing, for example. Dawson is eaten up by the concept of a perfect first kiss. It is endlessly debated until Dawson finally goes to his father to ask how it is done. The Dad gets all misty-eyed (a Hasselhoff-esque big brute of man called Mitch – ha! – who looks exactly like the kind of guy who graces a Mills & Boon cover, all biceps and massive veiny phallic neck) and goes on a long story about his first kiss shared with Dawson’s mum. He finally says something hilarious to poor, confused Dawson about ‘letting your bottom lip dance’. It’s so awful but so great. I tried to let my bottom lip dance with Mark to test out the theory but it was like having a nervous tic, because my dancing is more of the frantic type – and made our intimate moment unsexy and confusing. It wasn’t the greatest advice, but I get the sentiment.

The show is 20 years old and it really shows – Pacey’s brother gets lots of frankly offensive shit about how he might be gay, and there is a lot made of Joey’s sister who is unmarried and having a baby with a black guy. We are (were, I supposed) to be a bit shocked by this, but the shocking thing now is that any of this was even worthy of a storyline. So the political context is something we’ve been having a lot of discussions about, trying to get the kids to see that even 20 years ago things like being black or gay was a big, shameful deal and that the show did nothing to challenge this, but instead embraced a very narrow, dated and arguably harmful worldview. I think these are important discussions to have, alongside dancing bottom lips and the merits of billowing pirate shirts under linen vests and tight little leather necklaces and plum lipliner. What’s more, Joey’s mom jeans look quite cool purely by accident, Jen has the worst blowdries ever and the music sets me off on a nostalgic fugue state. BUY IT OFF AMAZON PRIME RIGHT NOW!

So that’s sex ed. over and done with. My other potentially insane thing I did was to buy Noah, our quirky, emotionally intelligent but workshy non-reader Stephen King’s IT. Because it is scary and horrible, but it is also the book that I devoured when I was about 12. I loved it, loved being scared by it, and for the first time ever that kid is sitting down in a quiet place to be willingly sutured into a story – one that plays out in his head and imagination rather than another feckin’ screen. He is the least anxious of the kids, never once mentioning being scared of anything, robust in his self belief and confidence and just kind of sashays into the world like he owns it. So I told him to stop reading it is if was too scary, or if it upset him, but I think he’s going to be ok. I know I loved dark, unsettling books like Flowers In The Attic, The Clan Of The Cave Bear (ok, I liked that one for the neanderthal bonking), all the Stephen Kings and S.E Hinton’s stuff right about his age, and there is the theory that when you are safe and secure IRL, there is some psychological gain by testing out the waters of terror. So….am I right here, or is this just terrible, terrible parenting?

Here are some pictures to distract you from answering.

I wrote the cover article for Quintessentially magazine all about that extremely handsome man Tommy Clarke on the front. Just LOOK!


This is my bio and my photograph. I thought it was charming and funny but it does look like my Deliverance brothers photobombed me fresh from buggering the tourists:


Here are my children watching TV half-dressed in facemasks and sunhats:


Otis and the dog:


Me in a new, open-backed, reduced-to-26-quid dress that does odd things to the shape of my boobs. I bought it though it is entirely questionable. I wore it last night to Palomar and I looked a little Krystle Carrington, I think:




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New Woolly Pants – A Fashion Treatise

I’ve lived in London long enough to know that ‘pants’ mean knickers here. I do not have any new woolly knickers though – let’s make that unequivocally clear. But I can’t seem to write ‘woolly trousers’ because the ones I’m talking about are just as useful for sleeping in as walking around in, and it doesn’t seeming any way enticing or accurate to think about sleeping in a pair of woolly trou. I think of ‘woolly trousers’ and I think about old men in ancient sticky baggy stained suits eating dinner at 4:30pm at the RSA….you know what I mean? Anyway, that’s a preamble to introduce these (reduced from 44.95 to 18.99, then less 30% so WHO KNOWS what they cost because maths is hard) from Gap:


That there are my nicely baked thighs (recent products of Christmas-ham-and-two-boxes-of-Guylian-seashell-chocolates) cocooned in rainbow leggings which are sort of like track pants but not, because I would never allow myself to wear track pants. But then I’ve fallen down a k-esque instagram-hole which is populated by thin women about my age, who have kids and proper jobs and normally some nicely tasteful house somewhere in Peckham or Ealing and they spend a lot of time suggesting what to wear, including woolly soft pants of the tracksuit persuasion. They are INFLUENCING ME and I will admit it – it is working.

So I now own two pairs of soft woolly trousers – the first pair are these from Moda Operandi:


Which I ordered while exiled in deepest Devon while I was hankering after the city vibe brought to me via FOMO images on my phone. This was the very early days of Soft Pants Experimenting, back to a time when I thought I could do what the Ladies Of Instagram do, and that is to be:

a. very thin and so the pants would float around my legs in an urban kind of baggy way, and then

b. to be able to wear them with heels to elongate my legs and to do that stylist mashup thing of sporty vs lux in a nonchalant, ageless IT LOOKS A BIT NUTS BUT I KNOW WHAT IM DOING ORRIGHT? SHEESH DON’T YOU GUYS SPEND HOURS ON INSTAGRAM LEARNING THIS STUFF? kind of way

But, sadly, I came back to Londontown to find the little buggers tight and woolly and not stylish at all, mostly because my upper thighs aren’t streamlined or thin and so the stripes are erratic out of control wavy lines of mayhem. I tried it all with heels but I can’t walk, I just fall over like a robot trying to manage the stairs and my knickerline gives me two waists, outlined in black wool and punctuated with elastic ribbing. No returns, either, so I have to hide 100 pounds worth of miscalculated tight fluff until the moths mercifully take them.

The rainbow ones are different though – they are just going to be my Home Pants. I have never gone for Home Pants – I had an epiphany when I was about 12 (I may have mentioned this before) when I was home from school and I was wearing a purple t-shirt with black bike leggings and I was watching Beverley Hills 90210 and I was suddenly struck by how ordinary my Home Outfit made me feel. Frankly, it was a bit shit, and so I vowed and declared to always wear something that makes me feel a bit spiky and stylish and ready to run our the door to something better. Which is all very well, but I have spent 28 years wearing things that cut me across the waist and hurt my feet.

NO MORE!  NOT WITH RAINBOW HOME PANTS! This is what liberation feels like – a soft, creeping belly, warm calves, previously verboten vertical stripes encircling my hefty thighs and causing the children to stroke and sit and actually stay there, now that some sharp bit of poky denim zip isn’t making red marks on their baby skin. Also, I got slippers at Christmas and this too is a miracle. To have warm feet! To make whispery padding noises as I stumble over small bits of shape Lego!  It really makes me question what else I have been denying myself all these years.

Anyway we had our 20th wedding anniversary last week and we went to the movies and held hands. Then I took a photo of myself in the toilet. Here we are when we were thin, before the bone structure really took place and before we were burdened by where-to-live crises and hair loss:


And that’s me in the loo in tight jeans:



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Accidentally A Relationship Column

We’ve been in Devon again, colonising the pool and hot tub, making too much noise during the Christmas Day prayers at the Tawstock church, spending all our money buying three types of Christmas bird and two hams and pretty much just lying down for extended unhealthy hours on separate couches, spurning the massive play area (ft. tennis courts and life-sized tin giraffe) and fighting over what to watch on the telly. So far, so everyone’s Christmas, right?

There was a bit of musical-bed-chairs thing because Mark and I are simply TOO MASSIVE to sleep together in a double bed…he turns to face me in the night and *actually dares* to mouth breathe in my direction and I am overcome with rage and disgust, or he places a crooked elbow under my pillow citing his preference for my pillow’s cooler temperature, but my head then rises up on an angle and I am similarly filled with rage and disgust, and so we had to rearrange things – by that I mean children – so that we could sleep and not hate each other in the groggy waking hours. So we had turns sleeping underneath Ned in a tiny kid’s bunk, the kind where you sit up and bash your head on the rails above you when you hear some little kid (that would be Otis) coming to find you at 2am and wailing softly about how he just fell out of his shared double bed with Barnaby and that his arm hurt. It was a dry-eyed slump-jawed aching-limbs and bruised-forehead kind of week. But then CHRISTMAS!

A false 4am start, a second false 4:40 start, then we were all go at 8am to open presents and mostly be very gracious, except for Noah who was a little underwhelmed to find that Santa had given him identical presents for two years. In his defence, I think that Santa is quite busy, and perhaps forgot to notice Noah a little, because he is quite well-behaved (except for shoegate and for the whole bunking off at school pretending he has some chronic illness to do with symptomless stomachaches and unwitnessed ‘vomiting’ thing) and so Santa kind of shopped Noah out for an obvious but actually quite thoughtless doubled-up present. I feel sorry for Santa, really – he has a lot on his plate. So I took Noah’s crestfallen little betrayed face in my wizened horny fingers and told him not to worry – I would give him a fiver and buy the Ten Ways To Prank Your Friends tin off him. Crisis averted, but perhaps the wound runs deep.

So we then went to church and asked the children not to be dickheads but they couldn’t help themselves, especially Otis, who did very loud mock high-pitched nonsense singing to go along with the carols and then just filled in the spaces when everyone was quietly praying or contemplating the Savour’s birth. He then went through the pews and made a tower of those lovingly crocheted kneeling cushions, and then song books, and, obviously feeling very comfortable at this point just sashayed up and down the aisle telling everyone who gave him a look to ‘SHHHHHHHHHHH’. I had to ask Barnaby to take him out to run around the graveyard and look for zombies. Here they are contributing to the service before things got too bad, and then outside running around in total glee, making up violent stories about mummified people exiting the graves and chasing them:

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You can’t help but notice that *someone* has gotten all puberty-ish and now dons a leather jacket everywhere he goes. He makes no eye contact, talks in a low dismissive whisper because PEOPLE ARE SO EXASPERATING to him that he just can’t summon up any sound, and he punches smaller people as he walks past them. He listens to music constantly, spends a lot of  time (and waxy product) on his hair, and he needs deodorant. All of this is new, and quite sweet, if it wasn’t so awful.

We went to the beach twice – once when it was raining and cold and they all just whined and moaned and touched rotten bits of crab and then chased each other around with the Rotten Fish Touch. Notice, too, Casper wearing his mother’s leather jacket in a sad, sweet homage to Barnaby. He hates him, but he loves him, and anything Barnaby does he will do too, but pretends he came up with the idea.

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More beach here, but better:

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And then we drove home.

New Years Eve

We had a party, but only about half the people we invited actually turned up which made playing our shit parlour games a lot easier but I felt a bit sad and rejected. The preparation for our parties is immense – I did my usual ‘bake all day, shout in a grandiose manner at the children to get out of the kitchen/walk the dog/move the furniture around’ overachieving thing from the morning until right before people were supposed to turn up, and while I fuss about in the kitchen getting upset because we have no Nigella seeds, everyone just lolls about not helping. Mark became a weird day-long absentee whereby he urgently needed to get a haircut and he suddenly took an interest in setting up his previously-ignored electronic Christmas presents which meant various trips to Maplins for HDMI cables instead of supervising the shoving of things into cupboards and hasty toilet-seat wiping. It was a trial, I tell you. And now we have to try to get through another bloody leftover turkey in a creative way, because food waste is for Bad People.

Wedding Anniversary

In the flash of an eye, we will have been married for 20 years tomorrow. We are going to the movies to watch that one about the circus, and I will drink three cocktails and probably eat some curry. It will be tres romantique.

These are my words of marital advice for the young and unjaded on this auspicious eve:

  1. Don’t get married too young, obviously. Do what my dad said to do – hang out with a little bit of everyone. I don’t think he meant ‘try everyone out’ but I’m going to extend his message to just that. Try everyone out, a little bit.
  2. When they say marriage is hard work, I don’t think they mean like ploughing a field or being homeless or doing extreme sports. I think they mean that it isn’t always much fun and it wears you down. It gets a bit boring and disappointing sometimes, although it is fun and comforting when it works. People will turn out a bit differently to how you thought they would – and this includes you. The hanging on despite this is perhaps part of the hard work.
  3. Recalibrate often. That’s what Esther Perel says, and she is spot-on about everything, so she’s probably right about this one too. The marriage will change as well as the people inside it, so be open to that.
  4. Find out what your love language is. I know it sounds kooky but everyone has different ways to both feel love and to show it, so find out which of the five broad ways that works for you (I think they are: touch, gifts, time spent, words, acts of kindness) and whoever you are going to hitch your wagon to. It is weirdly good and explains a lot.
  5. Go out together every week and don’t forget to have sex frequently, even if you cannot be arsed.
  6. Be kind, and sometimes don’t say the thing you want to say. Tell it to the bottom of a wine glass, or your friends. Don’t say mean stuff to each other because it doesn’t actually go away, but hangs around like a bad fairy.
  7. You won’t get everything you need from your partner, so go fill the gaps wisely with  friends. Ideally clever, book-reading, food-appreciating, joyful, generous, kind women. When you find them, weave them into your life and look after them. Kids grow up and leave, husbands/wives/marriages end or morph into something else entirely but friends remain (er, I ripped that off Jo Brand in her Desert Island Disc thing, but she’s right), like that wooly-headed darling in the photo below. Get yourself more of these:


That’s it. I’m off to fashion the turkey into something jazzy. Wish me luck and happy new year!



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Advent Confessions

I’ve eaten all of the cooking chocolate over two days.

I don’t buy chocolate anymore, because obviously then I would just eat it, but I do buy the Green & Blacks cooking chocolate for those times in my infrequent baking life where I need to make double batches of Nigella’s brownie. So there is usually one or two slightly dusty and bloomed packets of cooking chocolate up there, up in the far recesses of the Sweet Cupboard (so named by Otis who spends a lot of time investigating it, usually having perilously climbed up badly-attached cupboard door handles and narrowly missing his little thighs getting branded by the red hot La Pavoni coffee machine to stand up on the bench and open the door and attempt to steal anything in there whenever I’m not looking/engaged with my phone*).

*that’s quite often

The Sweet Cupboard is mainly populated by old M&S biscuit tins carrying the gross leftover slightly  weeping sweets from Halloween hauls, and chocolate coins which are neither white chocolate or milk chocolate anymore but straddling hues of worrying grey, as well as unexplained single broken crackers and ten year old packets of lentils. Additionally I have noticed an ironically posh bag of pork scratchings that someone gave us in a Christmas Hamper one year squeezed between the tins and the cupboard walls and because I cannot find the right time or occasion to eat them they just stay there, getting greasier and more rancid as each new year comes and goes.  And so the cooking chocolate has latterly been shouting out my name from about 7:30pm until late. And so I’ve eaten it, and I feel bad about it.

I’ve totally misunderstood how to make money from the internet.

After last week’s succulent-wreath/blogger-event situation, I have become more active on social media than usual because I thought that I would do as those other women do and try my hand at becoming so popular that they’d (‘they’ being people who sell scented candles, who might own a restaurant or two, or a clothing line or a place that sells chairs or personalised stationery) simply HAVE to pay me for withering on and taking bad photographs from my oblivious kids, and so that would become my job, and I would be able to get a mortgage as well as filling the house with trinkets of utter uselessness while people freeze in Calais. #goals

So, I thought the first step was to follow people who have lots of followers so that I could figure out what magic and wizardry it takes to be popular on the interweb and not a total mother truckin’ narcissistic bore. To that end, I have spent time watching other people and liking them and I have even made my own instagram stories about cooking dinner and running at 6am and bad hair (more on that later) and the end result is this: I have gained five more followers and am now 84 quid in the red.

Let me break that down.

Influencers are not called influencers for nothing. In my pursuit of infiltrating the world of women who blog successfully, I found a few who have entered my consciousness and have not left. I shamelessly copied @catwalkschoolgates by buying a jumper she was championing from H&M (it’s a 24 quid Ganni knockoff, she said), which was the first of many strategic stumbles:


See the appeal? I’m wearing it now and it feels a bit Christmas Jumper Without The Christmas Bits.

And then I went all the way to St Johns Wood to infiltrate the charity shops there because she said @chanelofficial had dropped some clothes there. I kept trying to ‘use the lingo’ of the Women Of The Discounted Clothing Blogosphere by phrasing my request like this:

‘Excuse me, has Chanel dropped some clothes here?’ and the charity shop people pretty much uniformly didn’t understand what it was that I was trying to say, instead walking away to ask someone in the back office if there were any ‘drops’ in the store.

Are they like capes? they asked, confused.

No, not like capes. And no, Chanel hadn’t dropped anything. So I had to buy this Chloe cardigan for 60 pounds because it was a long way to go to return empty-handed. I KNOW IT’S A BIT GRANDMA-ISH. I know. Also, chins:


I am apparently balding.

I have been having some hair issues and I thought it was just that I am getting a bit old and my babies have pretty much sucked a lot of life and moisture and youthful chemicals out of me. I had heard that babies ruin your hair as well as your boobs and your teeth and your skin and your waist, so I was expecting and accepting that the curls which once sat atop my head all unruly and fun have begun to thin out and straighten in a mean and scanty way.  But it got worse than that – it’s gotten weird and bumpy at the crown and almost looks as if I have on purpose made a cool bouffant as a statement, but it is actually a short, uneven MULLETY bouffant which makes no sense at all.

So I went to see Ronan at Aveda and as soon as I sat down he told me I needed to go to the GP AT ONCE to sort out my work-shy follicles. He was kind, but there was a bit of urgency (call your GP NOW, he said) and so I tried to be cool about my hair loss while telling entertaining stories and generally trying not to look into the mirror at the sad state of the top of my head, and then he styled it differently by effectively giving me a forehead combover and dried it flat and I looked very odd, in a slick newsreader kind of way. He told me I probably lacked iron and zinc, and then he said that I must never go to a job interview without flattening my hair into sheets of shiny nothingness, like he was doing. And I was like:

HOW DO I DO THAT? How do I become the type of woman who knows how to do her own hair? And he just shrugged.

I tried to go to the GP this morning to sort out the impending badness but I can’t get in until Jan 2. WILL IT ALL HAVE FALLEN OUT BY THEN? You’ll have to wait and see. Here’s my instastory once the rain and wind had gotten deep into the blow dry. I look like Rhys Ifans in ‘Notting Hill’. Imagine going into a job interview looking like this:


Anyway, does anyone else have anything to confess? It can’t just be me.



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Crafting Isn’t My Bag

Nope. I wrote a little about it here:

Because I think it is best to confront your inabilities sometimes, especially at this time of year when it feels that polished, seasonally-appropriate, lovingly and beautifully decorated homes that smell of baking and mittens and washed dogs and pine, with nice mantlepieces and remote-controlled Christmas tree lights that don’t get stuck on the Pulsate Setting giving the geckos tiny little lizard seizures, should be the norm. Because that’s a MARKETING LIE! Some of us can barely manage showering, AmIRight?

[And all that preface, my virtual buddies, is a perfect metaphor for this whole parenting, adulating gig. Let’s have fun with it, but don’t be sad if you find you’re a bit rubbish in bits. Perfection is a bore, chaos is exciting, and mediocrity is entirely underrated.] 

On that note, yesterday I bravely acknowledged my crafty skill-less-ness and yet forged on like a mighty Garden Centre Warrior all the way to Richmond to a succulent wreath-making session with the kind and patient people at NotOnTheHighStreet HQ. To make, on my own (with quite a lot of help) an actual wreath with little repotted succulent plants that would embed into the sphagnum moss and start to grow, living on as a reminder of the time I made something that was good and partly Christmassy, partly New Mexican.

My wreath started out well, a tightly bound very pink sphagnum moss base which turned out to be making the other ladies *quite* jelly, because their sphagnum moss was more green and browny. Then we shoved in the succulents and it looked like this:


There was superfood hot chocolates on constant supply and tiny sphagnum moss-covered squares of brownie for us to break our fast over (I just flicked those little muddy planty bits off like nobodies’ business because I’m no slouch when it comes to free brownie) and – GET THIS – personalised presents rooted out by kind NotOnTheHighStreet staffers who had insta-stalked our accounts to find out what kind of things we liked. That level of loving and personal attention has never been applied to me, I tell ya.

Here it is, all filtered and nice-looking – I would go so far as to call it a seasonal crafting success:


But It Wasn’t All Green-Fingered Christmas Joy


There was a little bit of social awkwardness when a quite famous-ish mother blogger turn up and I got a bit swoony and tried to make her be my friend by sitting next to her and dazzling her with my witty conversation but it just didn’t work at all. She looked a little bit jaded, and also a bit tired, and you could see she really probably had enough friends and she just wanted to make her wreath and then get home to brush the stray sphagnum moss strands from her jumpsuit and hair without having to chat to me, the excitable newby who didn’t quite know what the rules were. Did I stop trying to make her be my new friend at these quite clear contraventions of friendship/blogger-event etiquette signs?


I tried again. I went back to try to save her from her table of wreath-making blogger ladies, because I felt I was clearly a Very Interesting New Person Who Would Be So Fun To Talk To, but her polite-yet-not-really-interested small talk made me lose my nerve and then I just kind of stalled and got shy and averted her gaze and started out into middle distance and eventual silence, hovering over her in a conspiratorial hunch while she breastfed her baby and probably willed me to piss off back to my own wreath-making posse. She was kind, but I really needed to leave her alone.

I realised an urge to tell her I had five sons, as though that might impress her or interest her or even just give us something to talk about, but I later discovered that the blogger next to me also had five sons, two of which were baby twins (which clearly – if this was a competition – would beat me hands down) and so my usual USP was not even a USP in this little alternate universe of blogger eventing. It was a social fail of epic proportions. I skulked out of there quite fast but not before I hung my wreath up on this charming fake mantlepiece:


where it hung for just long enough to photograph before crashing to the ground and squashing a lot of pert succulent leaves and making a mess on the NOTHS shop reception floor.

My wreath and I thanked everyone, and took our many, many gifts, and left our broken bits for someone else to sweep up (I’ll include a little piece of my dignity in that mental imagery) and on the way home, I realised that my wreath was lying succulent-plant-face-down on the tube floor and so further nubbly bits broke off. A little like my self-respect, TBH.





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Foolish Things

So we are spring cleaning in the middle of an unseasonably cold autumn because we have no room and people who live like hoarders are a bit, well, cramped and perhaps a little ill. You may or may not know that Mark has a habit of dragging things into the flat that are, on paper, very good/new/nicer than the stuff we have, but then he is less good at getting rid of the things that we already have, and there suddenly becomes some sort of cosmic crisis because I go mental and hyperventilate at the sight of all the extra furniture and the lack of visible flooring, and he gets mad because I am ungrateful and naggy.  The children, however, are delighted because the flat becomes some sort of fantastical multi-layered soft play area, enabling them to bounce from couch to extra couch, onto various vintage marine wooden boxes, back onto and under a spare study desk, back to couch, and so on, until I have to leave the flat for fear of hitting someone. There was a brief period two weeks ago when Mark dismantled and then dragged in a massive grey couch but hadn’t yet gotten rid of (or even thought about HOW to get rid of) the OTHER extra couch, and the living room became one large bed. It was awful.

Then we freecycled the first extra couch and suddenly the flat felt HUGE again. Here I am, post-cleaner-visit, marvelling at all the floor I can see:


Do you see why I get very scratchy around the neck when more stuff gets shoved in? A bit sweaty and full of the blind rage? It’s a fine balancing act housing five children, me, Mark, the dog, the geckos, the office, totally unused guitars (three), a keyboard (?), more vintage brass marine equipment than an actual naval base might have, recipe books, lego, and my lipsticks in a two-bedroomed flat.

So I am getting rid of more stuff, mostly on eBay. Today, the first auction of six things came to an end, and only one thing sold. Now I am battling hurt feelings. The eBay community, apparently, has viewed my clothes, some have even *watched* my clothes, but then they haven’t bought them, and now I feel inherent rejection from the virtual world for my taste in Erdem silk dresses and Mary Katrantzou lilac sheer cardigans. DOES EVERYONE THINK I DRESS FUNNY? It is humbling, I tell you. Also, it is not a very efficient way to make money. I’ve made 60 quid and used a LOT of my emotional energy writing exciting clothing descriptions, ironing things and assembling cot furniture. I could make more money not buying stuff in the first place – but I suspect everyone knows this already.

A Seemingly Reasonable Idea That Turned Out To Be Very Wounding For The Spirit

So the other thing about having not a lot of space here in this flat is the fact that we should really somehow grow another bedroom for the burgeoning young-man-ness of our biggest kid (soon to be followed by his brothers like hairy pubescent testosterone-rich dominos). But you can’t grow it, or carve up the living room or burrow deep down under the road or extend the loft when you live in a rented basement flat, and so Mark and I had a tiny, tiny, joyful, exciting little moment last week where we thought we could – just – afford to buy a house here, because there are some savings in the bank for once.

Not ‘here’ here, but up the A40 behind the Hoover Building  in a little place called Perivale, near the Central Line station so that the bigger boys could still get to their school in about 18 minutes, Mark could still get to work and to his suppliers, I could still do whatever it is that I do (I realise that no one is entirely clear on this point, least of all me). And Mark could do up a house and put in an extension and we could have some space and extra bedrooms with a little garden and a shed to put his guitars and arm weights into. It seemed like it would be the same monthly repayments as our rent, pretty much. So I scheduled in a few viewings on Tuesday and I had visions of staying here a little longer, with Mark involved in his own project after years of doing it for everyone else, using his knowledge and contacts and some of the stuff he has squirrelled away over the years (massive shower head, anyone?) and the kids having a little space to themselves. But as we drove there, Mark spoke quickly to a mortgage broker who said there is no way anyone would give us a mortgage.

Is this too depressing? I am depressed just writing it.

It’s because we are self-employed, and Mark is getting a little bit old, and we have SO MANY KIDS and I have no proper job and we don’t have a borrowing history. Our house in New Zealand doesn’t count and our 15 years of renting also doesn’t count. So we are a terrible risk. THANKS BANKERS FOR CREATING THAT GLOBAL BLOODY CRISIS WHERE YOU RUINED EVERYTHING FOR NORMAL PEOPLE.

In Other News

Mark was in Wales on the weekend and I was in the shower on Saturday morning and the children thought it would be a marvellous idea to set fire to a wad of paper towels. They went outside in the freezing cold with some tiny plastic cups filled with water in case things got messy, lit the wad, whooped like little unsupervised savages, got sprung by the postman who told them off, chucked on the water and then ran away and hid. I *was* in the shower but then got waylaid very briefly by The Outnet clearance sale, so missed all the drama. I noticed a bit of a kerfuffle and a smokey smell, and ran out in my towel to meet the postman who brought me up to speed and told me to put some clothes on.

I really hope your November has been kinder.







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