Assaults On My Person

Last night, Otis punched me in the eye and I have a red, bleeding-looking red bit across the ‘ball. I saw stars and bright lights and firecrackers as he took his swipe with his sharp finger-nailed little pokey fingers. It was about 3am and he was cross because of his cot, and mad because of lying down with me, and very, very FURIOUS because

 

I DON’T KNOW

 

It wasn’t teeth or temperature or some sort of terrible psychological issue, because this is a guy who wears weetabix as face cream by choice and gurgles a lot and has six people who constantly cuddle him and tell him he is beautiful. The only time he stopped making the horrible loud sounds was when I stood, holding him, and swaying a bit. And you can’t do that for long, because you get annoyed and he got heavy and I get a bit outraged. So it went on, and on, and Mark made rumbling snoring noises, the ones that reverberate through your silicon earplugs and through your pillow and deep into your eardrum, magnified to a million annoying per cent.

Here he is, with his preferred face wear – some sort of yoghurty breakfasty melange:

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And for every one of these – cute, clean, with the good hair and stylish graphic outfit in pebbly tones and coordinating swing -

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There is one of these. Drama, dirt and some sort of melting-to-the-floor-kicking-as-he-goes IHATEYOUGUYSGIVEMEBACKTHOSESHARPSCISSORS kind of scenario.

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Always with those excellent thighs, though, eh?

So I am nursing a painful eye and a bit of baby-resentment, alongside my slapped arse. Which may need some explaining. So, on Sunday morning, I was running around Hyde Park and I got to the bit around the front of Kensington palace, the entrance where William of Orange stands guard in his curly wig to your right, and the path was full of people and kids and to the left is the playing fields filled with kids attempting to learn some ball skills, and a youngish swarthy guy in a puffer jacket walks past me and heartily and unmistakably slaps me on the bum. Which took a few seconds to register – WHAT WAS THAT? Did I run into that man’s open, cupped palm? NO, I DID NOT!

And so I stopped and yelled at him and he just walked on, and then some people were wondering what happened and I mimed a Benny Hill arse-slap and they looked a bit shocked and said “I’m so sorry” and I yelled one final, desperate plea

“YOU SHOULDN’T TOUCH WOMEN, YOU DIRTY BUGGER!”

Which now all seems so lame. I should have whipped out my phone, untangling it from the arm band and the speakers and the velcro while simultaneously running really fast to catch up to him to then spend ages trying to unlock the passcode and finding the camera app, but of course I would have gone straight into Instagram because my brain is wired that way, and then I could have taken a lovely, expertly filtered photo of my Dirty Bugger Bum Slapper for the whole world to ‘like’. Anyway, I didn’t. I ran really fast in my outraged, violated way, looking for a police officer but finding none, sprinting at an amazing adrenaline-fuelled recorded pace which has now ruined all of my running stats for ever because I could never run that fast again. Unless someone assaults me, which, obviously, wouldn’t be very good. How dare that asshole touch me, while I was running along, absorbed and solitary, safe and healthy and fit – how dare he slap me? For a second, I was reduced to his ‘thing’ – his hand on me was proprietorial and powerful.

So I got home and told Mark and Mark wanted to go out and get him. Which was nice. Redundant, but nice.

So yesterday was a day off school, and we walked the dog in the rain and found a tree and made a bridge with rotten bits of wood

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then we went to Westfield for lunch at Wagamamas

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then to the toyshop because the weekend had been a hard one, full of marital discord and soaring Frozen songs and birthday parties and rugby-watching-turned-late-night-unauthorised-benders and so off we went, to buy something plastic and life-affirming. Then we lost Ned.

So I went and found police officers, who radioed the security team, who asked me what Ned was wearing. It was this:

a camouflage army jacket

a matching camouflage vest

blue tight pyjama pants

 

one red sandal

one blue sandal

Dressed, with his usual flair, by himself.

So they told me to go back to the toyshop. I was calm, because that’s my disposition, but Ned is a cute kid and if you want to steal one, he would be quite a good choice aesthetically, although perhaps not temperamentally, but then again, I know the stats and abduction doesn’t happen very much at all. So I was cool, and waited outside the toyshop for a bit, then went through and hollered out his name, trying to make the security team understand his name is NED not NID, owing to my flattened NZ vowels, then they told me they had him, but I had to run, because they couldn’t hold him for much longer. So we all ran through Westfield, me, three small boys preoccupied with their new spud guns, the buggy, sleeping Otis, two police officers and two of the security team, into the main atrium by Starbucks, to find a crowd of about 30, and Ned, lying down mid-freaked-out-tantrum, with people clutching at his pyjama’ed legs while he was trying to kick free, telling them all to

“GET OFF ME! LET ME GO! I WILL FIND MY MUM MYSELF!”

Gah. Not quite the shopping trip I was hoping for. There was no police report this time, just a lot of worried people. I was dying.

Then I turned 37.

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Now I have to go rest my aching eyeball. x

 

 

 

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Post Script: Ironing

Of course, the act of ironing something, whether it be your husband’s underpants or your own office-ready corporate cuffed shirt, isn’t actually related to feminism or feminist ideals in any real sense. Because you can iron, and be a feminist, as my friend S pointed out. Because, actually, you can be and do anything, and be a feminist, as my fellow feminist Emma Watson pointed out, this week, to the sound of a million clicking frantic ‘shares’ on Facebook, in her address to the UN. Right? Right. Which is the right thing to tell the kids, because apparently the world is still full of people who bristle at the word, which is a bit mental and needs addressing. Because being a feminist is a good and reasonable and healthy thing to be, and if my boys grow up not being feminists, I will consider that I failed at my job.

It is perhaps that I am just not the ironing type, and while I can appreciate a smooth crease-free surface as much as the next person, I don’t fancy actually doing it. Ever, for me, or anyone else. Of course, I did feel the ironing pressure regarding Casper’s school uniform, and did a few shirts and then realised that if he wore his jumper all day, the problem goes away. So, yeah, he gets a little hot at times, but it is a small price to pay for my Freedom From Dreary Domestic Concerns and so we just have to carry that particular burden. Or, specifically, Casper does. But it is getting colder now, so. Ahem.

Also, on that note, the baby doesn’t wear shoes even though he walks everywhere, stumbling and drunken and narrowly missing table-corners wherever we go, hands out in front like a pantomime zombie, then teetering precariously like a tight-rope-walker over wide footpaths and floor. But not with shoes, because you need to learn this walking malarkey barefoot, and not with socks, because he takes them off, and there are only so many pairs of baby socks that I am willing to lose along the A40. But how many concerned people point his brown little bare feet out to me, I ask you? Asking me where his shoes are, or his socks, and asking if he is cold, and wincing as he pads along?

It’s a constant conversation.  So I say

“He doesn’t have any shoes yet. I’m from New Zealand. We don’t put little babies in shoes. It’s cultural. And it’s not THAT COLD.”

Whereupon they may well take a sideline glance at my sweltering jumpered sweaty-headed Casper, and then I slink away, fast.

Here is a photo of a roasting ox at Meatopia, a festival of meat food we went to without the children.  We ate so much meat, and quaffed a few rum lemonade-y drinks and became giddy and sweaty with the lack of small people baggage and animal fat.

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Here is the ox meat, carved, served in a huge yorkshire pudding, swimming in gravy and horseradish sauce. I know it looks vomity, but you have to understand it was a kind of life-changing meat experience, the kind of which I may never have again. Salty, smoky, fatty, dripping, warm and earthly and very, very pink. I am misty-eyed as I remember it.

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And here is the dog, lying on the couch, exposing himself and dreaming of stolen chicken carcasses:

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And last weekend, a little wander down to Portobello Road, to eat crepes and hotdogs from the Germans. Noah struggled a little with the boiling nutella, apparently.

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But the real news is this: Mark, Barnaby and Noah are away this weekend at a Cub Scout camp, doing things with climbing ropes and rifles (?) and having room inspections and doing their own dishes. Barnaby, Type A, packed his bags perfectly and thoroughly on Friday morning before school. Noah, half an hour before they were due to leave, lay down on his bedroom floor and practised his Kevin The Teenager routine on me, sarcastic and whinging and self-pitying, and told me to go away when I tried to help him pack. After they left, I found all of his clothes strewn around the room. Mark said he didn’t actually pack anything, so he is borrowing Barnaby’s stuff. Dork.

Anyway, the whole weekend we have had quiet and calm, and as much as I still like the others, and will welcome them back, it’s been really good having them go away. Frankly, they should leave more often.

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Ironing is not feminist

School has started back and the air is a bit biting and everyone has resting bitch-faces and streamy eyes, from the cold wind and the desperate effort to hide their sadness at the slow death of summer. And the terrible nut-brown sun damage, which looked good when you were flouncing about on some European pier, sand-flecked and lithe, probably wearing some white kaftan and golden sandals with an unclipped pedicure and the WHOLE summer laid out before you like a smorgasbord of warm potential, now looks like you need to exfoliate better.

And SCHOOL! Rules! Deadlines! Mean new teachers who are making you feel very bad because you don’t iron your kids’ shirts, and so they have taken you aside and told you that if your kid looked smarter, he might behave better, and you glance at your kid, and he is in some sort of tiny, greyed shirt with blackened cuffs and lots of free school dinner down it, a shirt that has never been properly introduced to either Vanish or an iron, and you turn back to the teacher and say

“I have political objections to ironing. But I take your point.”

Because this:

1. Creases don’t really matter, not really. Some things get creased immediately after being ironed. So, it is a circular waste of time.

2. Irons can burn you, and ironing boards take up a lot of space in small flats, which would be better served housing a pile of books or a painting easel or a camping tent.

3. If all women believed that ironing was important, and they spent time everyday doing it for themselves and their kids, then they would have less time to read, and to talk, and to write. They would stay inside more, and do more unpaid work. Plus, some might do their husband’s shirts because they think that they already have the ironing board out (where the books should really be) and it would be both kind and expedient. And I just cannot support that kind of sneaky, insidious domestic slavery. I bet you they would never have said it if I was a man.

The teacher also pointed out that Unnamed Badly Behaved Son’s trousers were very short. Which was undeniably the case, well above the skinny little ankles, but as I said back to him, he dresses himself, and he should be able to make those decisions about his trousers and their fit and appropriateness, because he is growing to be an autonomous adult who won’t have his mother make those kinds of aesthetic decisions for him. She’ll be reading in creased clothes, somewhere. But it didn’t wash, and so now I am to be found thinking up ways to get the shirts to look less old and crumpled without compromising on my steadfast anti-ironing beliefs. Things like arranging them on hangers as soon as they exit the washing machine, and shaking them out frantically and attaching tiny weights onto the hem so the creases disappear using the laws of physics.

Not really about the tiny magnets, but it is actually quite clever, if only I knew how to sew and stuff.As I tell my dear husband, I can’t be good at everything, or I would be unbearable and the boys would never leave.

Anyway, if the only thing standing in the way of getting Unnamed Son to behave was creases and flappy pants, then I could have nailed this parenting thing years ago. Seriously.

So Otis turned one two days ago, and we had terrible, tasteless Mulberry Street pizzas and Colin the Caterpillar cake in the garden. Here we are, happy about Colin’s thick epidermis and so pleased that Otis was able to attend his birthday with his head still attached to his body.

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Because, the day before his birthday, a wall-sized mirror fell down on him and smashed, trapping him under samurai-sword-sized shards of glass and slashing his lips open. Many A&E hours later, two doctors, one plastic surgeon, plenty of blood, much panic and guilty feelings later, he was ok and now healing very well. Thank you, NHS, for everything.

Here are some more Gozo photos, because there is nothing more galling than seeing where you were a few weeks ago, and realising you will never go back, and it is about to be grey and cold and miserable here until May.

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There was a lot of cliff-jumping and quite a bit of jelly-fish avoiding, and photos of Otis with an intact lip.

Here is Bradley Cooper strutting around in our street, filming a movie with Emma Thompson and just KNOWING he is stupidly handsome and lit well.

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And the fairly crumpled-looking boys, about to start school again for the new school year, with no idea of the domestic challenges about to unfold for their Bradley Cooper-lusting mother.

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Gozo

We are in Gozo! No one actually knows where that is. It is a tiny island off Malta, and Malta is close to Sicily. It takes half an hour to drive across the island, though you wouldn’t be able to do that, because there are no maps and the roads are potholed and you would just give up lost among the tiny identical villages filled with Roman Catholic statuary and golden boxy buildings made with crumbling bricks. Watermelons and tomatoes of the most mythic enormous tasty robustness are sitting in trucks for sale and there is a man who drives around his warm bread and cheese and peas pastries called pastizzi which are shaped like a fanny, all so you can eat them for breakfast by the pool in your bikini and your tasselled fake viscose kimono from ASOS.

 

Heres the cheese pastizzi;

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Tell me you see it.

It takes three hours to fly to Gozo from London, which, of course, feels like 37 hours when you have a baby on your knee who hates you and your hot annoying lap and who wants to headbutt you in the cheekbone all the time. And when you are flying Ryanair with a magazine rolled up underneath your seat because they don’t have magazine holders in the seat in front of you (BUT WHY NOT? IS IT FABRIC COSTS? THE COST OF SOME SCREWS? IT’S BECAUSE RYANAIR HATE YOU, TOO) and the magazine slips and rips and gets smashed underneath the trampling feet of the children who can’t and won’t sit still, and you have no iPad because Ned smashed the screen of the new one in one of his ridiculous rages, and then Casper starts to annoy the man in front by undoing his tray and then doing it back up which rocks the man’s seat, which makes the man keep turning around to look at us and it prompts you again to tell Casper off but you are powerless because your baby is too busy smashing your face up. 

 

But that’s old news. Brad and Angelina have taken over Sanap Cliffs to make a movie, and they have closed it all off and even boats can’t get near. Which feels very starry and rude and not quite in the spirit of things here. I may have thought we would get together socially on the beach, bonded by our love of children and, er, the Early Years Brad (especially those naked photos of him and Gywneth frolicking around a pool) but it seems that we shall not share a friendly cheese fanny pie and local limoncello after all.  It hurts just the tiniest bit. 

 

The baby, while not headbutting me, has been enthusiastically sampling the Gozitan local delights. See below for the impressive culinary range he has attempted and mostly not spat out – watermelon, Maltese sausage, pizza, prune and tomato, and, of course, cheese fanny pie. This evening, he declined all actual food, tossing and spitting and flinging with all the hauteur of a foodie Anna Wintour, and instead ate masses of ice. And then cried because his cheeks got white. 

 

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All this talk of food – it seems the right point at which to have a word on my bikini. Like that woman in the paper the other week I have a stomach that looks as though it has housed five big babies, doughy and stretch-marked and jolly and flappy, and my upper arms are what could best be described as ‘solid’. My Big Legs (my mother says she noticed them as soon as I was born) are finally starting to shape up from the ungainly but dogged running, but the pear-shape remains, and no bikini-bottoms in the world could contain my falling-out bum-bits. But there’s something about being nearly 37, and being fit and strong, and having these five little boys follow me around like badly-behaved ducklings that has made me feel different about my ability to swan about in a bikini – mine, bought from Marks & Spencers last week with my mum for the massively reduced price of £4.98, is being worn with no shame. I used to find it all very tough being on the beach, walking very fast to the water’s edge with a tightly wrapped sarong, dropping it at the last minute then splashily making my way to the water up to my waist, regardless of the temperature, so no one could see my Terrible Bum and Terrible Thighs. And now, I am walking around Xlendi beach OWNING it. It’s really so liberating not struggling any more. The bad news is, you might have to have about five kids to get there.

 

Anyway, the beaches are lovely and the pool is slightly small for all of us but so far we have not had any dramatic near-drownings or babies slipping in to their watery deaths. Mark took the bigger kids snorkelling this afternoon through to an underwater cave and he smashed his head up on a rock and posted it on Instagram, which I think looks a lot like a hairy bleeding testicle and Barnaby has had some loomband calluses, and of course, there has been a little bit of sunburn. But we’re ok, really.

 

Noah had some birthday spending money to blow, and he went for this most excellent solar-powered fan hat, which has inspired respect and envy from all of his brothers. Seriously, that kid knows a heat solution when he sees one.

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Until next holiday-related post, then.

 

 

 

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Scooter troubles

It’s the first week of the holidays and mostly it is just lovely. The calm mornings, no homework, no school lunches to make, late evenings in the garden running under the sprinklers and eating toast and jam last thing before bed. My parents are here staying a street away in a five bedroom vicarage, so they can pop in and out and get over their jet lag and take a rest from the noise whenever they need to. The kids think they are just marvellous and fun, especially the way both of them can take their teeth out. That’s like the most magical gift of all.

But it can’t all be good, right? So yesterday we had two incidences of Terrible Stress, and I was broken by the evening. The morning was all about the yearly trip to the dentist, and our dentist is a tiny, strange set of rooms about a newsagents, with the last few vestiges of the main dentists’ former Christian vampiric ways  evidenced by the angel art on the walls, although no Christian booklets were strewn around this time. It seems Harpers and the Times has replaced the religious tracts for light, waiting room reading. Anyway, we got there early, after I dropped off the baby (gratuitous baby shot of him in a lovely raincoat)

 

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with the kind flexi-toothed grandparents and sat in the tiny, warm, rickety-chaired waiting room for an hour, alas. There was a water machine with about 14 plastic cups and a kind, selectively deaf receptionist. I sat them on chairs, grabbed a Harpers and hissed at them to sit on different chairs, touch no one else, not to move, talk quietly, and NOT TO TOUCH THE WATER MACHINE BECAUSE NONE OF YOU ARE THIRSTY!

Immediately, the Mysterious Switch of Stupid turned on, and the room descended into a writhing mass of wrestling, kicking, screeching, hitting, crying small-boy-chaos. They went through all 14 plastic cups, spilt some, crushed some, dropped some in the bin, retrieved some out of the bin, drank, found a wooden whistle, whistled a lot, hid behind the chaise longue and fiddled with wires, rocked on the old rickety chairs and made loud, worrying noises, fought over which kid sat next to which kid and over their knees touching and ended up lying on the floor in a mass heap, watching themselves in the inappropriate mirrored ceilings. I was so mad, but powerless, which of course they knew, and so all I could do was squeeze upper arms and hiss and threaten to video them and put it on youtube. They kept saying they were bored, and I explained (while gripping their arms in my special vice way) that bored is just something that you have to deal with, sometimes. It’s not interesting or special to find out you are bored, it’s just a thing that everyone feels. It doesn’t mean you are entitled to hang out of the first storey window screeching or ripping newspapers apart.

They were fine when they got to see the dentist because they were a bit scared. Two need to see the orthodontist because their big teeth are growing at alarming angles, and they all need a masterclass in proper brushing. The dentist thought they were cute.

HA! They really aren’t, I told him. We left after some profuse apologies to the receptionist and other alarmed waiting room clients, all no doubt dying of thirst but unable to drink because of the conspicuous lack of plastic cups and overflowing bin. The boys barely made it home with their bulging bladders.

So that was the morning.

Then the afternoon was all fine, although there comes a point when most of them are happy and reading or playing quietly and they swear they don’t want to go out, but you just know that if you buy into the false calm, that it will bite you in the arse later. You know it, but you don’t ever learn. So there I was making Ottolenghi’s beef and lamb meatballs with broad beans, and I’m shelling the beans and it is taking ages but I have to finish, and the two bigger boys are reading and the other two decide to take their scooters around the block for a spin.

Ridiculously, alarmingly, sadly, this bit might require some explanation. But first, read  this.

Clearly, we live in a cultural climate which is overly protective towards children. The status quo is that we watch children at all times, and much of that makes good sense, especially considering the number one danger where I live, which is traffic. Beyond traffic, though, there really isn’t much to be fearful of. We know that abuse of children is nearly always perpetrated by someone known to the kid – the uncle, the family friend. It’s really not the stranger.

It happens, but, according to the Atlantic article, it would take 750,000 years, statistically speaking, for the Dangerous Sex Murderer Stranger to finally come and take your kid from a public park. So, then, what are we so scared of? I want to root it out, I want parents to ask themselves what the danger really is of letting your kids out, letting them have some independence, letting them do some normal kid stuff without our watchful eyes searing a hole in their backs and knee-capping them forever. How about this – I think there may be more damage done longterm to kids by treating them in this barely-concealed hysterical overprotective way that letting them out for a bit on their own, once the risk has been assessed by the parent who knows their kid and who knows the culture of a place. Imagine if we all did that, and kids could reclaim the outdoors again, do a bit of roaming with their neighbourhood friends, and grow up just a little, feeling like they could handle stuff on their own. Surely that’s an obligation on us as parents?

Getting back to the scooters, then. So I let Casper and Ned out, together, to ride their scooters around the block, which takes about a minute to make the circuit, and over which there are no roads to cross. It is a straight, round circuit, passing neighbours and friends’ flats, passing people we have passed for years.

So they did it, and kept coming back to the top of our stairs, then shooting off again, having races with each other, laughing, making a healthy racket, pleased with themselves, a bit sweaty, shirts off. And then.

A woman comes to the top of the stairs, following the kids on their last round. A very nice, older woman, who comes over to talk to us, the parents, because she is very concerned about the children, and wants to know who is looking after them, and why we aren’t with them. She tells us that we can’t let them scoot around the block because it isn’t safe. No doubt because a Murdering Sex Stranger might come and intercept them and take them both, screaming and hitting wildly with their heavy metal scooters, in about 750,000 years. Mark goes out to talk to her because I cannot handle it – the annoyance, the embarrassment of being called out to be not doing my job, the accusation that I am putting them at risk, the way that my parental choices are suddenly up for communal appraisal, the anger about how stupid it is that their lovely, lovely, innocent, healthy scootering has just been taken away from them. I’m just not strong enough constitution-wise to let them do it again. And so I seethe, and Mark comes in, and says maybe she is right.

I think we have it all really, really wrong.

MORE EVIDENCE OF MY LACKADAISICAL PARENTING/CHILDHOOD

Here is me, as a child, in the surf, and no one is holding my hand!

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Here are my kids, at the top of a statue, and I didn’t put a stretchy tarpaulin underneath them in case they fell!

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Here’s the baby with a bit of ice cream cone wafer. Notice I have not pre-masticated it, in case of choking!

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Here’s Barnaby with two bits of wood he nailed together by himself with a real hammer, and he stuck bits of wire to it! He didn’t even use gloves!

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Need a liedown.

 

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Morning face

[Disclaimer: Everyone is actually very nice, and I love them and it's ok, no one is actually in real danger and I think my husband is a good man and the children will turn out fine, most probably. It's just the heat and the painful limping towards the end of the school year. Really.]

My morning face is very often angry. And this is why.

This morning, there was no hot water, and so I had to boil jugs to have a bath to wash my bits although my hair was lanky and stinky like a teenage boy geek in an anorak with a thing for gaming. And when I had boiled up the jug and four pans, I discovered that Mark was in the bathroom reading the autobiography of Ritchie McGraw. And anyone who knows Mark knows that you aren’t allowed to tap on the bathroom door when he is in there because it makes him feel pressured and mad. But I was carrying lots of boiling pans and I was running out of time to perform my morning drill of military precision so I don’t have to sign the The Red Book Of Tardiness and so I had to knock softly to ask him to get out. He did a LOT of sighing, and I had to just wait. That was the first bit of annoyingness.

Then the children could not find their school trousers because they had all disappeared. An entire drawerful, maybe 15 pairs – vanished! Gone! Like Amelia Earhart and Lord Lucan! So we had to find dirty ones from the towering pile of pissy clothes, and there were some squeezing on of tight pants and quite a few tears. I said they needed to get a grip, and pull those buggers on and do them up and be grateful that they even had pants. Because some kids in the world probably don’t have grey polyester very short tight really old pants AT ALL, etc, etc to infinite rolling of eyes and still more amateur dramatics.

Then suspiciously absentee Mark swooshes in and mumbled something darkly about the homemade bread because it was cut wonky, and he shaved a tiny bit from the loaf in an effort to restore the straight lines, heaping shame upon my bread-cutting-rubbishness.

Ned, dressed in his swimming shorts, a ribbon and a pyjama top, demanded a pink smoothie – made by mashing up the frozen rotten little bits of bananas that I find lurking under couches and between school bags and in the dog crate, adding bits of frozen strawberry and milk and some oats and whatever other half-eaten bits of fruit that I find behind the jars of very old National Trust chutney in the fridge.  So I made one, using all the milk because if I don’t make enough there is usually wailing and Mark has a crossface, not wanting to miss out. But then there was no milk for tea and so Mark was sighing again, sad and tea-less, and I said YOU CANT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS, DUDE. Just like my filing. I can’t be a good filer, who deals promptly and schematically with bank statements, AND be a good cook. You must choose.

Then Noah cried because someone ate his toast. Likely the dog, who vomited up an alarming assortment of things on the way to school. Chicken bones, a reddish sausage, stones, leaves and M&Ms.

Ned asked for the leftover croissants, I said there were two so we would have to cut them up and share, although they were almond and he mightn’t like them, and he said

I hate you because of the arms on the croissants.

Then one of them opened the giant jar of catering gherkins and they munched through about seven each, and Casper finished it off by flicking his vinegar fingers into Barnaby’s eye, which left him doubled over, screeching about how he was going blind. While I was putting on my makeup, far, far away down the hallway where the Barnaby’s wails were pleasingly faint, in an effort to distract the eye from the greasy hairline and back onto the face which was at least clean, they started going through the drawers and picking out the knives to chase each other around with.

I came back down the hall, calmly told them to put back the knives, and Mark looks up from Ritchie McGraw to ask me if I have changed the baby’s nappy, in that way which actually means

The baby needs a new nappy, but I’m not doing it.

Then I strap the dog to my torso, pull the buggy up the stairs, drag them all out of the flat, and march onwards to school with an immobile, cranky morning face, and it was still only 8:05am. Ned later lets on that actually he has all of the school pants in his bed. Like a hoarding hamster, sleeping in a grey sea of unbreathable boy shorts, because he is very excited about getting a school uniform in September, and he just couldn’t wait. I check, and there are socks, shirts, jumpers and PE gear all wrapped up and shoved down the side of his cot. Annoying.

But then, it is all ok because I went to Honey & Co for frittata and cake, and then, there is always this little fella:

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Last weeks’ new hair, straight and sleek and blow-dried. It lasted about four hours:

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Ned. He steals trousers:

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Casper pushing Otis on a swing for the first time ever:

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Meanwhile, Noah turned eight on Friday, and Mark iced him this cake of spewy volcanic proportions. We saw The Lego Movie and I guffawed like a man.

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So it was painful, this morning, loud and shouty and traumatic, but we’re ok.

It will all happen again tomorrow.

 

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Luminous

Last night, Mark and I were invited to a Fawlty Towers things at the Charing Cross Hotel by some lovely friends of ours who were having a birthday. Not my usual cup of tea but anyhoo, we arrived and had a drink and started talking that early evening smalltalk in the middle of summer with friendly strangers – the only uniting factor being the one person you have in common – and as we were walking through to the dining room, I turned to the lady we were with and I told her that she had the most luminous hair. And as soon as I said it, I just thought that was the most stupid thing to say to somebody ever. Because what does luminous hair mean? Like the moon? Like a blonde-hair-crafted-lighthouse in the middle of the ocean, able to save the ships from dashing onto the rocks simply through its gleam and bounce? I said that I had meant to say that it was glorious and lovely, but by then my strange compliment stained the air with its offness. She laughed and said she’d take ‘luminous’ anyway, and I was left to wonder why my brain was misfiring. There is no such thing as luminous hair – only perhaps if you were

a) some sort of bearded jellyfish, or

b) if you were reacting to some sort of chemical experiment in a Marvel comic.

And then I was sat at her table and I stole glances at her admittedly fabulous, enormous blonde wavy round bubbles of cascading waves – truly astonishing, but not in any way capable of emitting light. We didn’t really talk after that.

Basil was a little bit attractive, and Sybil looked like this:

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And rather humourlessly, I felt sorry for Manuel and wondered about the political correctness of making fun of an immigrant with English language difficulties. The food was unintentionally 70’s hotel-like, a lonely chicken breast swimming in an oxo cube gravy with a thin vegetable soup to start. But the wine was plentiful, and the hotel was gorgeous and old and someone told me I looked tiny, so it was win-win. We walked half of the way home in amongst the clammy, slow-walking, large groups of pavement-hogging tourists and Soho louche, and got lost in the labyrinthine Crossrail detours and pathways that lead to embarrassing pissy-smelling dead ends and once again, dear Reader, I swelled with pride at my lovely jumbled fancy city, which may well have taken on a wine-soaked luminous glow, if I remember correctly. I even held hands with Mark, even though I wasn’t actually speaking to him, owing to an awkward shouty fight to do with whose turn it was to chose the next Netflix TV show to watch. It was a Friday night awkward shouty fight which ended up with me storming out and pacing the mean streets of Queensway at 10pm, wondering where I could go. I didn’t want to have dessert anywhere by myself, because I had already eaten cake at Honey & Co, and I didn’t want coffee because it would keep me awake, and I thought it would be embarrassing and a bit late to knock at any of my neighbourhood friend’s flats, and the library was closed, and wandering the aisles of Boots looked a little bit boring, and so I slunk back home and locked myself in the bathroom and stripped off, ready for an angry bath with a face mask and a cranky leg shave and maybe some resentful exfoliating, but the boiler packed in and there was no hot water and so I had to come back out into the living room, looking all THWARTED. In any case, he didn’t look up from his Discovery Channel TV show where naked people get released into jungles with no supplies. It was very, very upsetting.

Here is a happier day, after strawberry picking – new Lee jeans, kind of stained, and lovely Otis who is very keen on summer fruits:

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Ned went strawberry picking on his own, and came back with mostly hard white strawberries. Nice shirt though:

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And here’s Ned again, not letting me into the flat unless I paid him to move out of the way. Handsome, but a little bit mean to his mother:

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So today we have been to Surrey to let Mark look at teepees, camping ovens and small remote controlled helicopters. It was extremely boring to have to go and view these things and I feel kind of weepy for my lost afternoon. When they say marriage will be hard at times, they may well be referring to enforced camping gear excursions and selfish TV-watching quarrels, right?

 

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