You can all come back, now. Please.

Look! It’s Robert Smith from The Cure! Really, it is. Both of those tiny, fuzzy, completely blurry little men are actually him, with huge hair and adult-emo-alarming makeup, in a kind of comfortable post-workout hoodie and bovver boots, singing The Love Cats and Friday I’m In Love with the current band line up, and we are primly sitting in the circle at the Hammersmith Apollo, politely clapping along like your gran might do, kind of amazed and overawed because it’s THE CURE down there! On a Thursday night! In Hammersmith! And you didn’t know they were going to play! You thought you were going to see scientific comedians make jokes about scientific things! Which they didn’t, by the way, but that was fine, because they did talk about alchemy and the Big Bang Theory and what it is like to be photographing Saturn and they did some live algebra, which made me feel claustrophobic and panicky, as well as some detonating of things on stage and some terrible, terrible rapping by an American neuro-scientist husband and wife team, who should (quietly) go back to the lab and leave the rapping for the rappers, and we learnt about botflies and sloths and statin drug-testing and watched a clip of a man who spoke space languages, gifted to him by aliens via lasers. So, basically, I know more than you do about science, and now I am REALLY MUSICALLY COOL AS WELL. Deal with it.

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So, if London continues to be so cool, and giving, and full of unexpected treasures, as well as have really good window displays, really great new buses and appropriate seasonal temperatures (more on that later, but I’m looking at you, Southern Hemisphere), then why have you all left? Eh? EH?

We’ve had a mass exodus of friends, mostly scurrying back home to New Zealand, mostly for good, a few are bound for Dubai and one lot to Melbourne. Eight sets of friends, all over a two week period, with the two who have gone “just for Christmas” actually actively  looking for ways to go back for good. Gah. It’s enough to make you think that they all know something you don’t. And so I’ve been a bit lonely, and have had to fill the void with food, sample sales, gingerbread houses, laughing at the children and nativity plays.

Someone should really have taken the dog with them, though, right?

Here’s a manifesto, to convince you all to come back.

London: Why Leave?

1. It’s quite often full of free, fun stuff, plus famous people.

Here are street-performer bubbles and the Tate and the Thames and a stretch of sandy mud, just perfect for mudlarking on. Dig a little through that lot, avoid the anaerobic anthrax just waiting to be unleashed, find some Roman relic, and pat yourself on the back for doing free stuff in a free city. Seriously. Cheap and educational. Plus, one of the guys in our square plays football against Stella McCartney’s team, and last week, at the prize giving, Cameron Diaz gave out the prizes at our local pub. IT’S PRACTICALLY A MOVIE SET HERE.

 

 

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Here are three of us, atop a ferris wheel in Marylebone, after school a few weeks ago, really liking the free Santa visit and the candy floss and the hot chocolate, and wondering if we will ever get into the Chiltern Firehouse to maybe see Cameron Diaz or some other such ‘sleb, because I like that sort of thing:

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2. There’s a zoo.

Here’s the zoo! Not free, but you can buy a membership and hang out there all the time. The sadness of the zoo never really leaves you though. That’s a melancholic scene if ever I saw one – outside the new tiger enclosure, not seeing the tigers.

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Luckily the children are shallow and can beam maniacally on cue:

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3. You can go to Portobello Market whenever you like and gorge the children on crepes:

They become small, sophisticated men-o’-the-world who can eat international street food while squatting on a dirty pavement. Looking homeless, without socks.

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4. Roman stuff is very relevant:

The kids go to school just off the Edgware Road, which used to be a forest where Queen Boudica was attacked, or something. In AD 60, according to my rudimentary googling. WHICH IS REALLY COOL! And then school asks you dress up like a Roman and they give you olives and grapes to eat, and you learn some Roman fighting moves and sing a song about Romans, and underneath your feet are some actual Roman roads. Apparently, Roman Day was as fun and as hotly anticipated as this guy’s birthday:

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5. The place where you go and get your Christmas tree turns out to be your grandfather’s farm, once upon  time. 

Yes. This one is hard to explain. But it turns out that Crockford Bridge Farm, just outside of London, where we have been going to for years for Halloween and Christmas and for picking your own strawberries and for days out in the Surrey countryside, is where my mother’s father was born. They owned it, for a time. That weird land/family/ancestry link thing! Imagine the oddness of finding that out. Here are the kids at the farm, writing wish lists for Santa, walking through the (ancestral) forest and visiting him in his warm cabin.

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6. Christmas makes a bit more sense:

The spicy gingerbready warm cosy Christmas thing DOES make more sense than a BBQ with some crayfish, a sweaty head from the polyester Santa hat from The Warehouse and a sunburnt swim. I’m not knocking a summer Christmas, I wouldn’t dare – but the seasonal appropriateness here is pretty nice.

More photos which don’t fit my nonsensical list:

Here is Ned’s Christmas wish list, dictated by Ned, written out with care by Barnaby. It’s an excellent list. Especially the (real) toast.

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Photos of the kids for a community art project through the school, looking a tiny bit mugshot-esque:

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Gingerbread houses from IKEA for £2.50: Thanks be to God, they actually worked this year. No one cried.

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My peppermint bark. Ugly to look at, delicious to eat for breakfast:

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Self-explanatory:

 

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And a lovely dancing angel at the nativity:

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Merry Christmas everybody. You can come back home, now. Please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An assortment of not much

I have been running! With Kerry, faster and faster, and we are going to run in a race in January and it is all very exciting. Two weeks ago, running along Bayswater Road in the dark at 6:20am, I fell over and did this:

That’s a hairy knee:

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That’s an elbow and forearm (Instagrammed and filtered for your viewing pleasure):

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And no filter:

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Have you ever seen a bruise more spectacular? Several friends suggested arnica, but I was like NO WAY, CRAZY LADY! I was all about letting this bruise come into full, painful flower, so I could dazzle everyone with my awesomeness and high pain threshold, and get some sympathy and attention while I was at it. You got to take it where you can get it, frankly. So I was at a Parent Council meeting last Thursday, and I was pushing up my sleeve, talking quite a bit about ways to get the community involved in the school, and kind of gesticulating with my damaged arm, wildly, pathetically, and no one was noticing, even though under the fluorescent lights my arm was fifty shades of grey and purple and yellow, and so at the end of the meeting, I pointed it out to the Council.

Have you seen my bruise, everybody?

And they were all like, yeah, you put it on Facebook and Instagram. And then I thought that maybe I could do with a job.

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That’s an excellent drawing of an anxious skeleton that Ned did, and I post it here to show his skill with a pencil, but also to show the inner state of my mind when I remember that I turned 37 in October and I forgot to carve out a career for myself other than having babies. That was never the plan, and now I am getting a bit too old to be a coffee girl on a documentary set or an intern at a newspaper. So I went running this morning, and I was thinking about the day ahead, which is mostly about wiping things clean, and wondering why I was such a short-sighted fool, and where my ambition went, and actually, why I didn’t ever really have any in the first place. And then I thought about my failings as a parent, and then I had to run faster to exorcise the anxiety skeleton that was threatening to EAT ME.

I don’t know. It’s a very privileged, middle-class, boring non-problem to have. In any case, Kerry and I ran 5.41kms in 32 minutes, so something worked.

Other Things To Worry About

I have a sun-damaged bit of skin on my nose and I will have to have that bit biopsied and then cut off, and have stitches and a scar. Which is hard for a terribly vain person. And four of our friends are returning to New Zealand and Australia over the next two weeks, and you think OH NO! WE SHOULD LEAVE TOO! and the panic rises up and makes you a bit sweaty. And yesterday a lady told me off for not watching Otis as he unsuccessfully tried to squeeze his head through some railings.

There has been a lot of rugby on the weekends over the last month, and that has made for many cranky parental fights and small children getting in between the tv and the couch and much shouting and solo parent outings and much, much resentment. It all culminated in a game last weekend at one of the many farewells we have been attending, where the early part of the evening was spent in a pub, in a room, with all eyes on the screen. I cannot even fake it. I was all about the prosecco and the food, refilling glass and plate with alarming speed. I don’ t think I spoke to anyone, not that anyone would have been able to tear their eyes away from the match. Here is me, many glasses down, many yorkshire puddings down, playing with my phone and singing softly to myself, making shapes with the food with my teeth, crying a tiny bit and wondering if I should show my bruise at half time:

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There’s a whole roomful of lonely, right there. So hours later I ended up outside, in the cold, in a tshirt, next to a teepee, doing a slight sway and telling the smokers that I REALLY REALLY admired them all. It was a bit embarrassing. There is probably some sort of lesson here, about sport, and prosecco, and wearing jackets outside in the autumn, but I am not quite sure what.

Here are shots of the children stuffing their faces on the streets of W2:

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Hot chocolate, crepes, and spanish chocolate and churros (an alarming chocolate theme, I notice). Casper has been getting into lots of trouble at school for his distracting behaviour, mostly  tickling other kids and dancing at inappropriate moments, with an afternoon of Tourette’s style compulsive shouting out of the word “PIZZA!” thrown in. And so I take some comfort from that fact that, even though we have some “issues” to deal with, they do eat and sleep, although it may be a little heavy of the cocoa side of things. Still, take it where you can get it, as I said before.

And here is Otis, climbing through a tunnel, carrying off a scarf expertly and nonchalantly. I think we can all learn something from that guy.

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Teeth and Police

There have been dramas, exceeding the bad haircut variety. Mostly, dramas involving the sweet baby, for which I am eternally sorry and horrified.

But FIRST! We went to Wales to see our friends and sample welsh cawl and go deep underground into a mine. On the way, about an hour away from the hotel, the truck started to lose fuel and there was a smell of diesel and the back window got all greasy. We pulled over and had to call the RAC, and while we waited, the boys played some sort of feral roadside war game involving polluted damson berries and sticks. It looks bucolic, but it wasn’t. Every time a huge fast lorry went by, and we were swayed by the vacuum, I thought we might well die by the roadside, like a badger. A family of badgers.

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But then, thanks be to the RAC Man’s clever way with the tightening of a Very Important Nut and some really expensive diesel from his emergency diesel tankard, we were on our way to get artful photos of bridges and to the cawl, which was hearty and delicious and life-affirming.

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We went to the Big Pit, which is a truly excellent name for a big pit, down to through the mines and into the museum and through the old was house which was stylish in an institutional sort of way. And there was a proper canteen with the most excellent, rib-sticking, proper food. I had faggots and mushy peas and so many chips, with barabrith and teacakes after. The faggots hinted of liver.

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The plan on Monday was for us all to go to a National Trust House, but as we were checking out of the hotel, Otis had an accident. He fell over in the hotel carpark on his face and Casper fell on top of him and his front baby tooth got pushed up inside his gum. OH YES. So we spent the day at the A&E and I felt very sorry for the terrible life Otis has had thus far, with mirror accidents and baby tooth horrors. It was bloody. Meanwhile, there was pumpkin-carving for the others which was painless and autumnal.

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Here is Otis at the A&E, looking a little bit like his mouth REALLY HURTS and he doesn’t trust anyone anymore:

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So that was regrettable. It seems we wait for his poor, lost, confused tooth to either come back out again, or for his gum to grow over it. Really.

So then we had another thing. Last Monday it was an inset day, so I had all of the kids and the dog and we had to walk him, so off we went to Hyde Park. They always moan about going out and the retrieval of shoes and jackets is a painful endurance exercise, but we finally made it and we played around for a bit and then it started to spit, so we wandered back. Barnaby and Noah were having some sort of their usual pushing over fight, which I ignored, and kept on making my way through the paths to the gate that leads to our street. Finally, Barnaby runs up to me and says Noah is on the ground somewhere crying, because Barnaby pushed him over a bit too hard. I tell Barnaby to go and sort it out, to apologise to Noah, and to bring him back. He runs back to him, but Noah is really mad, and kind of angry at all of us, and starts sulking and falling behind. We get to the top of the path, wait for Noah who has been winding his way through the trees, slowly and sullenly, and then, I can’t see him anymore.

So we all turn around, and look for him, and yell for him, through the now-solid rain, but he has gone, girl. So I take us all to the Pirate Park cafe and ask for the parks police number, I call them, we wait, they find him 10 minutes later, he gets brought to us in a police van followed by a cop car, details are taken, Noah looks kind of half embarrassed, half smug, we go home, all the while me telling him that walking off is a massively bad idea, no matter what kind of fight he has got himself into, and no matter how mad he feels.

And then, I get a call from social services.

Very concerned about the incident, the social worker wanted to know exactly how it had happened, blow by blow, and she said that as it had also happened in 2012, would I like some support with this? And did I give my permission for her to look at Noah’s school and health records? Permission granted, of course, owing to the fact that I have nothing to hide and I am not someone who actually needs any help from social services. REALLY, THANKS BUT NO.

So I had an internal freak out, despairing over how scary all this actually is, and then the phone rings again and it is the Westminster Council asking me to answer some questions about how happy and satisfied I was about their contact with me. So I say that actually, I am really upset and feel threatened by the police referring me to social services based on my dreamy 8 year old kid wandering off in our local park, and that when this kind of thing happens, it makes you feel very exposed and frightened, and that it made me feel that asking for help from the parks police was actually the wrong thing to do. I said that it seemed to be a rather heavy-handed way to deal with the matter, and I would be disinclined to ask for help again, fearful that I would suddenly come under scrutiny from the authorities again.

Am I wrong here? Does this seem completely horrible and awful? I know that this kind of approach may well help some kid who isn’t being cared for properly by their parents, but HOW ABOUT SOME COMMON SENSE?

Thoughts?

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Hair woes

My 9 year old kid has very shaggy, longish, Oasis-era hair, which he likes. He also likes skipping baths, which is currently grossing me out. I cannot fathom why someone who is a bit OCD about cleaning their hands and not touching dirty things can go without cleaning themselves regularly. Anyway, he likes his shag hair, and he asks me who his hair makes him look like, which gets to be a very boring game, because he doesn’t know who you are actually referring to, so you start off by saying “Liam Gallagher” and you think you must be a good, engaged parent, and that you should make it your job to extend your children’s cultural education, and so you must sit with him THIS VERY EVENING and watch Oasis music videos on youtube while you regale him with tales of your awkward/cool/embarrassing teenage self, and then maybe you could throw in a bit of Vanilla Ice, and MC Hammer, instead of becoming distracted by anthemic karaoke clips of “Let It Go” (which we all chip in to, to be totally fair, and we all sing very loudly, but I am the only one who consistently gets carried away and weeps a little bit) but then he asks you again who he looks like, and you say “Barry Manilow” which he seems satisfied with, and then he asks you again, and you say “Purdey, from The Avengers” which he seems very pleased by, and when you ask him again, you say “Donald Trump”. All in all, a good way to enliven the kind of game that makes you want to lie down in a darkened room. But I digress. His hair, which looks like this:

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was all a bit too-shaggy and so he and I decided that I would give his fringe a trim to keep it out of his eyes, not an actual haircut at the barber’s, because he leaves there looking like a skinny, frightened shorn baby lamb with patches of pale, virgin skin and haunted eyes.

So last night, after a fine and quite large glass of Tiki sauvignon blanc, I decided in a wave of uncharacteristic and sudden enthusiasm that it was time to trim. So, I grabbed the only scissors that remain, the ones that have melted plastic handles because they were clearly involved in some sort of near-burning-the-house-down kind of scenario that I have no idea about, which is worrying, and I just stuck that lanky long fringe in-between my fingers like we all intuitively know how to do, right, because haircutting simply cannot be that hard, and I cut, cut, cut. Snip, snip, snip, while the hair kind of slid out of the unyielding scissors. But still I cut. And then stood back, ruffled the blunt, wonky fringe, and maybe I did a tiny little chuckle, then told him to look in the mirror.

And he began to cry.

OH MAN I RUINED HIS HAIR.

My haircutting skills are very, very non-existent, as it turns out, and I am not the best person for the job, and cutting fringes is actually more complicated than the hair-between-the-fingers-mime that you might do in a game of Charades. My tools were not really right, and no doubt the alcohol didn’t help. So then Mark looks up from his Discovery Channel show about mining for rubies in the Yukon and he gets mad at me and says that I can never do it again. And that I should have taken him to a barber. And I’m like

HOW IS THAT A HELPFUL OBSERVATION RIGHT NOW?

And so my son goes over to his father and they mutter together (once the tears have slowed) and they throw dark glances at me and I get all sulky and tell them that they are hurting my feelings. Which they do not respond to. Instead, they get a comb and start working out ways his hair could be brushed in place to cover the bits that now look a bit balding and wildly uneven. And then I try to stop myself from being a big baby because this is actually about my kid feeling ok about himself tomorrow at school. And that if he doesn’t and that if this bad hair thing translates into him feeling like a big loser, then it is MY FAULT. Mine, and those IKEA Scissors of Doom.

So this morning we tried to find some gel, but all I could find was some tousling beach-hair stuff to make your hair look like you just stepped out of the surf at Bondi, which wasn’t very helpful. I stuck it on anyway, and said we could make it go all shaggy again, but Barnaby just looked at me with deep, deep disappointment in his eyes and said

“I’ll go and ask Dad to comb it for me.”

Reader, I did fail my kid.

Here is a photo of me and Otis, who incidentally has the pox. Otis hasn’t yet been let down by me. There is still some light left in his eyes. He still thinks I could do a good job:

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These two – it’s a matter of time.

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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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