Parental Saturday Sleepiness Enabling System Klaxon Alert

So, I’m lying on the couch, the poor, fake leather couch which is spilling its foamy guts all over the living room floor, bits of yellowy sponge occasionally ripping off and reminding me of old folk’s homes’ ancient uriney interiors, ripped open because it is a) cheap vinyl, and b) the children jump on it every single day, even though we shout

US: “Barnaby/Noah/Casper/Ned/Otis STOP JUMPING ON THAT POOR BROKEN COUCH WHICH ISN’T EVEN OURS BECAUSE (OBVIOUSLY) WE HAVE MORE TASTE AND WOULD HAVE BOUGHT ONE FROM THAT SHOP CALLED ‘MADE’ OR ‘LOAF’ OR EVEN SOME CLEVER EBAY REUPHOLSTERED NUMBER”

and they keep jumping, we repeat, they jump again, Mark says something like

“If I have to get up from my chair, then, well, you are probably gonna GET IT BAD”

and then they say

“We aren’t JUMPING, we are SHIMMYING” and they carry on, satisfied that they have won the little showdown through their sheer mastery of unexpected synonyms. Anyway, I was lying down on the couch, hoping not to breathe in too near the foam, because of the likely urine/toxic fumes/etc, and my eyes start to close and I think about this excellent article I read on the interwebs a few weeks ago about how to do parenting when you are lying down, with your eyes closed. And so I asked them to brush my hair, and to be doctors and to examine me for an irregular pulse, and then, the very best thing – to write on my back their full names, dates of birth, three secrets about how they were feeling on the inside, as well as dinner requests. And it was a total EPIPHANY because I realised I could get a bit snoozy, while showing my interest in both how their handwriting was coming along, get some fresh ideas for their tea, AS WELL AS TAKING THEIR EMOTIONAL TEMPERATURE by engaging with their innermost feelings!

So I thought it was worth passing along. The technique isn’t perfect, because their spelling is patchy, and Ned got his small, hard plastic Hulk to give me a ‘punching massage’ instead, and then they all asked for money afterwards because they felt ‘exploited’ and ‘misled’ once they worked out the whole thing was more about me than them. But whatevs, kids. Welcome to the rest of your life.

Anyway, thanks for all of the lovely thoughts and sensible words of advice after I told the world the terrible truth about our marital impasse in my last post. It has thawed a bit, mostly because it was getting boring and lonely, so now we are just not talking about it. Mark is going to go to New Zealand for a few weeks to hopefully get it out of his system, to arrive and be crestfallen at the rain and mosquitos and the poverty and the terrible TV and literally FALL OVER at the price of ground almonds and imported cheese, spluttering at the house prices and the corrupt government and the people who don’t wear shoes in the supermarket. Or, he will get so excited and find a job and fall in love and will start the process of changing our lives in a big scary way, and hopefully I will cope and not get all passive-aggressive and resentful, carrying around a bitter poisonous stone in my heart which may blossom into a depression or general discontent for years afterwards, turning me hagged and mean-looking well before my time. I’ll keep you all posted, obviously, because there are no secrets with me, and I can only deal with enormous profound issues by telling everyone I meet all about them in detail.

And look! We had a kid turn 11 today, which involved this cake encased in hardened chocolate poured over rapidly deteriorating unseasonal fruits. Cutting into the cake was like cracking into an easter egg, with the soft, oozing, rancid fruits reminding me that sometimes, looks aren’t everything. Yes, it looks too fabulous. But it had a rotting core. A BIT LIKE ME.

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And here he is, birthday child liking the cake for its simple cakeness, not knowing that I would manage to turn the cake into a dramatic, tragic, and overblown personal metaphor, sounding a little bit vain in the process and making it all about myself AGAIN:

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But, you know, I’m a little like that. And this is what he was like when he was three, all soft and curly and uncomplicated:

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Argh. I hate how the kids get older, though the alternative is an early death, so I’d best be thankful and learn to like them as they are and not mourn for those early years of scrappy tiredness and desperate toddler manhandling. It all seems like it was so much fun though, which I think might well be the ageing and desperate biological workings of my inner womanly core, screaming for one last baby. *I hear you, screaming desperate womanly core. I’ll do my best!* 

So, back to London on a Wednesday night. Celia waited in line on an unspecified Monday morning for an hour with very enthusiastic pensioners for extremely cheap £10 tickets to see Dominic West and Janet McTeer in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, where we got front row seats, close enough so that I had to swerve out of the way when McNulty did a sword fight with another guy, and I could see the veins on Janet McTeer’s gorgeous uplifted bosoms. £10 and a fifteen minute tube ride. And you all wonder what keeps me here? And beforehand we ate at Peter Gordon’s Kopapa and we had these:

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Tamarillo cocktails.  So, yep. And Peter Gordon was there, and then we got coffee from Monmouth, and swanned around Seven Dials and both of us said that living here was the best place to live, even better than Toronto and Milan. And both of us have to leave here, sooner or later, and it really bites.

More Reasons To Be A Happy Londoner 

Westminster Council do a whole lot of subsidised programmes for the intercity unruly youth, which my boys are, and they get to go boxing at this very old school boxing gym JUST LIKE ROCKY BALBOA DID IN PHILLY, and it only costs £3 and you drop them off for an hour and a half:

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So that’s our new thing on a Saturday, while Mark, Otis, Magic and I go wandering along the canal, being all very urban:

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And here are Magic’s lips, too perfectly labial and furry not to include here:

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There is no neat conclusion here. So I urge you all to find ways to get massages for free, ideally from enthusiastic supple little fingers, and to make cakes and eat unseasonal fruit before it rots and to kiss dog mouths and drink tamarillo cocktails and get your kids boxing like Rocky and go see a play. And find (and share) parenting hacks, because they are awesome.

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A little bit of discord, TBH

Happy New Year. So far, it is a bit of a Miserable New Year, despite a party and a wedding anniversary and the children leaving the flat for hours every day to learn stuff for free and get fed massive English midday post-war dinners with an array of puddings all cooked and served and cleaned up by other people, and despite the Selfridges sale which actually netted me my Best Sale Purchase EVAH. You would think we would be high-fiving each other and celebrating with modest amounts of wine in the evening and booking holidays and basking in the love and warmth and familial chaotic overload of dark cosy January with a grateful face and a rosy glow, lit by a Netflix screen and comforted by a big fat dirty dog. But no. It’s all silences and hissed one word responses and enormous gulfs in the bed. It’s not this:

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(But that, to be fair, was a long time ago – 18 years actually, and we were thin and young with more hair and less arm circumference.)

So at my place right now, it’s war.

And that is because we have reached one of those relationship impasses, where we both think a very different thing about something big. One of us wants to leave and return home to New Zealand, like, NOW, and one of us definitely does not, certainly not now and maybe not ever, and we have to figure out what to do about this enormous, fundamentally different point of view. I think we need a spreadsheet and a therapist to work it out. Mark thinks we just need tickets and a shipping container.

It makes me feel panicky and itchy and claustrophobic to think about going home, like the end of school camp where you think you will never be the same again, and while it would be good to sleep in your own bed and get your mum to do your washing, you will never again feel so free and independent and reimagined and grownup, and you won’t ever have this much fun ever again, and you will miss your friends and the camp so much you might die. You’ve gotten used to the compromises like cramped spaces and the cold, and you are in love with the adventure and you don’t want it to end. So, going home would feel a little like that, but with the extra add-ons of no jobs, no money, no place to live, no sensible plans, no idea about schools, with an orange dog in quarantine and five children who are skinny and white and who are completely English with no rugby skills AT ALL.

Mark says (shouts) he is done here, DONE, I TELL YA! He says he misses family and friends and fishing and he wants a house and a garden and he is sick of work and the dark and the difficulty of it all. Then I get psychosomatic nut-allergy symptoms and have to leave the room, to mutter mean things under my breath and to try to remember to breathe. OH, it’s all too late for me now, but there was a time I would have been happy going back, when I didn’t know there was more out there, when I would have been satisfied with doing up a house and going to the beach a lot, when I would have been ok with never getting on a plane, except for the occasional trip to Melbourne to see some musical theatre. The end of how we live and what we do and the fun we have with the people we do stuff with and the things we have yet to see and the restaurants we haven’t tried yet and the sales I haven’t exploited…it just kills me.

So. I have a big globus hystericus which lives in my throat, just like Cheryl Glickman’s in the new Miranda July novel, and it gets massive whenever Mark starts looking on TradeMe for another million-dollar villa to buy in Dannevirke, and whenever he suggests we buy a bed and breakfast to run. I cannot make my own bed and my floor looks like this:

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I didn’t even set that filth up. That filth is always there because I don’t like to sweep because it keeps me from More Important Tasks. So I CANNOT RUN A B&B because they would shut me down for health and safety reasons. And I would be serving people tea in stained chipped teacups and I would be crying and they would want to complain about how I didn’t make their beds with convincing hospital corners but they wouldn’t feel like they could berate me because of my obvious emotional distress and so they would leave some sort of bad review on trip advisor and we would be RUINED! And my kids would get beaten up by the massive shoeless New Zealand kids because their ball and tackling skills would be so underdeveloped, and because they have prissy English accents. And maybe Otis would be ostracised because he thinks he is Queen Elsa:

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There’s no good to come of this.

Here are my children in their grey London habitat, eating Saturday crepes at Portobello Market, right after they went to skateboarding lessons. Can you even get crepes in the southern hemisphere? Don’t answer that, because, yes, obvs. And admittedly, Ned looks really sad and cold in that photo, and Casper in the other one looks mightily pissed off, but often they are beaming with the London joy, like their mother does.

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Here they are, in Kensington Gardens, climbing a massive tree, enjoying all that outdoor space, the kind of space you might imagine they would get a few minutes from their house in New Zealand, but actually wouldn’t, because it would be more likely to be a highway or a farmer’s paddock which wouldn’t be open to all the kids to just climb trees on, willy-nilly:

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See? Practically Hobbiton, but a well-connected Hobbiton with Selfridges down the road and many tube stations to take you around to the free, culturally enriching things EVERYWHERE. On the Selfridges thing, I got a Stella McCartney leopard print wool coat from this season which was £1340, reduced to £150. Yes, nearly £1200 off. You don’t get THAT kind of thing in High Street, do you? DO YOU? NO, mo’fos, you don’t.

Anyway, my globus hystericus has appeared again with all this traumatic talk. I have to go make a convincing spreadsheet and possibly sweep a bit of that crap from under the table.

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Golf

It’s been a very long Tuesday, in that twilight zone betwixt Christmas and New Year, where it seems everyone is possibly dead, inside their homes, in front of the TV, or they are on holiday somewhere sunny, but you, alas, are neither dead or on holiday, just eating ham and feeling thirsty all of the time, without any idea of the date.

Mark is inexplicably golfing, in that kind of way where last night, he says “Tomorrow, I’m going golfing” and you say “OH” and then he gets up out of bed in the morning, puts on one of his many Hawaiian shirts and takes off, leaving us all in a puff of exhaust fumes, all wishing we too were sporting unseasonal short sleeved comedy shirts on our way to do some golfing, instead of still here, with a dog to walk and vicious fighting to get bored by. And no one wants to walk the dog, even though they all asked for a new puppy for Christmas.

I’m like “Dudes, you don’t even bother to look after the dog we already have” and they are like “He’s NOT A PUPPY” and they slink off, to the TV, or the iPad, or one of the two new nintendo DS things that I so foolishly bought them for Christmas. There has been a tiny voice of caution and wisdom telling me not to bring nintendo DS things into the house, ever, because they would turn my children into future IT specialists, all pale and unwashed, dorky, with weak arms and maybe some small Dungeons and Dragons models to paint, with special lamps to paint with and general weakened eyesight from the lack of sunlight and bad diet of biscuits. But I weakened, from the sheer exhaustion of five years of pestering and hoping and wishing, and then I went onto CEX, the computer exchange store on Queensway which has a mediumly attractive IT specialist guy with a beard and a beanie but also a knowing little grin, and he said the boys would be fine as long as they went outside sometimes to walk the dog. Well. That’s all very easy to say when you are a CEX salesman who knows how to charm an old nintendo DS skeptic, with your youth and your  beard and your superior knowledge of what non-rugby-playing skinny kids actually like to do, without the terrible pressure of having to walk the dog everyday.

Anyway. I see the error of my ways, and I should have listened to that mean little inner voice who said they would be better off with another massive packet of Lego and a book.

We went to Devon again, because staying home over Christmas is just the same as staying here every day, but with more loneliness and more roasting of meats. So we figure we may as well stay in a cottage somewhere with a pool, do the same things but with an air of ‘holiday’ about them, and muck up someone else’s oven with spilt ham glazes and layers of fat. We had duck, ham, roast beef and lamb. Mark made an apple pie but the jam bits leaked through all over the bottom of the oven and he stuck butter all over the top of the pastry because he likes to do things his way, instead of listening to me. There was no good bread to be found in all of Devon and Cornwall, but the butter, cheese and bacon was ace. Here we are, doing some Christmas morning present diving:

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And one of those terrible, terrible consoles:

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Otis got a barrel of plastic dinosaurs, which were quite the hit:

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And I bought myself Acne boots and Tom Ford lipstick on eBay and gave them to Mark to give me. It was win-win, really, and amazingly, the boots slipped over my massive feet with the extra side-bone like they were made for me. All that secondhandedness wore them in over the difficult parts:

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Ned opening his Woody:

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And here we are on the beach at Looe, getting a little bit cold and underwhelmed:

And us in the pubs, eating massive pies:


Before we took off to Devon, we did a bit of pre-Christmas carousing. We had carols in the local pub:

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And a lovely night at Quo Vadis with the bookies, where I wore a massive ballgown and a jumper, just like Sharon Stone at the Oscars with her gap shirt. EXACTLY like that. Then I got hot, and took off my jumper, and displayed my furry armpits, which I have been cultivating since summer. Everyone was disappointed to see how wispy and scanty they were. I didn’t take a photo of them though, because I am not yet awesome enough to document my feminist armpit hair, so here is my ballgown instead, on my artful walk home:

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Here is Ned at the school nativity play, wearing a red cape and bearing gifts of frankenseen (?). Just look at that annoyed little guy in the star headband:

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Mark has come in from the golfing just now, had a shower, and put himself to bed. TO BED! My face looks just like the boy in the star headband right now.

Happy New Year, all of you who are still alive in front of the TV and to those of you warming yourselves in another hemisphere! I’m off to confiscate some screens.

 

 

 

 

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Thifty, shouting, ruined stuff

So, today I have been shouting at my children quite a lot. And I no longer feel any sort of guilt about doing it. You know sometimes people share those parenting articles on Facebook about how the family finally came together once the mother learnt to keep her voice down? How she learnt to control her spit-spraying alarming demon shriek into some kind of meaningful, thoughtful, levelled voice, even when the kids do really bloody horrible things, and now no one is scared of her and everyone feels more loved and calm and stuff like that? Well, I call bullshit on that. What a lot of navel-gazing, anxiety-inducing, guilt-indulging rubbish. Sometimes, the kids are awful, and they need to see what happens to people when you are awful, or if you do awful things. People get mad, people get angry, people express that feeling, kids see what happens when other people have had enough, some sort of reconciliation occurs, kid learns forever not to pour whole bottles of Chanel No. 5 EDP onto the carpet, boundaries are redrawn, everyone high-fives each other, they go out for hot chocolates and no one needs a therapy session.

Current Tally Of Ruined Stuff Which Leads To My Shouting:

  1. As above. Whole bottle of Chanel No. 5, poured onto carpet, making a damp, rapidly evaporating mini-pond which stunk out my bedroom for days, a cruel claustrophobic reminder. The baby did it, the others watched, their bright little eyeballs wide with excitement and fear, and then they came out to the living room to confess what they had witnessed, kind of fakely disapproving, but actually triumphant and delighted by the whole thing. They made out they couldn’t do anything about it, because they were ‘down the long hallway’ and could only just see him do it ‘from very far away’. The baby laughed, I shouted at all of them, then I sulked and bought some more on eBay, which turned out to be 100mls of counterfeit and now I am having an ongoing eBay squabble with a lady in Blackpool who refuses to give me my money back.
  2. You all know about the Tom Ford lipsticks. They now have to be carefully applied by dabbing, not swiping, because if you swipe, the lipsticks, now smushed into little crushed pieces of heavily-pigmented crumbs, get spread onto your lips like tiny bits of cake decorations. There is very little elegance in leaving the house with tiny hunks of broken lipstick on your face.
  3. I found my new Balenciaga sample sale heels out of their box and tipped out next to my bed, with the lid of the shoebox missing. I know that the lid of the shoebox is only a bit of cardboard, but it is Balenciaga cardboard and I sometimes have fantasies of myself becoming that kind of person who stacks their shoeboxes into some sort of order and polaroids a photo of the shoes and sticks it to the box and puts it back neatly into the fantasy walk-in wardrobe in which all things are clean and colour-coordinated and so I liked bringing out the box and just looking at it and stuff. I asked the kids where the lid was, and Ned said the baby had been hitting him over the head with it, and I asked him exactly where he had been attacked with my Balenciaga lid and he said the hallway and I walk down there and find my lid squashed, ripped, folded and with jam on it. I shouted at all of them.
  4. They disappeared for a while today and then they all came back out into the living room and told me they had found a Buzz Lightyear. Which, of course, is one of Ned’s Christmas presents. So they had been hiding in our bathroom cupboard, a nice big cupboard which is largely under the cupboard radar and which has, for many Christmases, housed the presents. Not any bloody more. So I shouted.
  5. The old, glorious playmobil nativity set gets smaller every year, as pieces end up flung and vacuumed and eaten and repurposed. This year I have had to replace the animals with old McDonalds’ toys from the Penguins of Madagascar era and other mismatched playmobil sets, which upsets that tiny part of me who wants colour coordinated closets and polaroided shoeboxes. And it is only December 5, and the nativity set has only been out of its year-long hiding place for five days. But worse – the new nativity set that we bought from the big Cathedral in Ghent when we went away without kids a few weekends ago (scream!) has already been compromised – a Wise Man is headless and the tiniest baby lamb is no where to be found. Probably sitting in someone’s lower intestines. I shouted about that too.

There are many things going on here. I am mostly annoyed by their lack of respect for other people’s things. They have a roomful of toys and boxes and a dog and books and they should be fiddling with those things. Not my stuff. So I shout, I vent, I spit a little bit and my voice cracks, Mark gets alarmed and tells me to stop now. I get a lock for our room.

Baking My Way To Parental Redemption:

I made a beetroot brownie which tasted of dirt, so I had to fashion some sort of chocolatey, creamy, buttery sauce to pour all over it which negated all the goodness but it did get the little ingrates to eat. Here they are, before the truth of the six beetroots were revealed to them, signalling their approval for the drowned vege cake:

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And then on Friday, after getting annoyed at the remains of the granola, all milky and sloppy and half-eaten:

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I scraped it all into a bowl, added some butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon and I baked these rock-hard biscuits and they gobbled them up and I am going to do that every week as long as there are leftovers at my table because thriftiness is next to awesomeliness and therefore I am an awesome mother:

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I also keep those half eaten bits of apple, peach and plum which I find under beds and in the soles of shoes and in drawers and I stick them into the fridge until they outnumber all other types of food and when their mouldering becomes finally a bit too off-putting, I bake them in a cake and they eat that up with proper enthusiasm too. Because I am awesome, as I keep trying to tell you, even if I shout a little bit too much.

 

 

 

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I don’t have a shopping problem

We had a little party on November 5th, which is something we do every year, because across the road from us our garden committee holds a fireworks display on Bonfire Night which is open to the public. It brings through about 2000 people in the gates, and the adults pay £10 and the kids a fiver to watch the fireworks and the bonfire. There is also a beer tent, sausage sizzle, mud, lost kids, drama, ouchy bits of firework debris which may or may not singe your arm a little depending on where you stand, and quite often some rain.

We invite a few people around from after school to our place, mostly neighbours and friends, and I bake brownie, cook sausages for the kids, and something for the adults. This year I marinated and then slow-roasted lamb, because Ottolenghi told me how to, and I would follow him and his cookery jiggery pokery wizardry to the ends of the earth, and then topped it off with Jamie Oliver’s massive sausage roll. And while the sausage roll looked like a Halloween-relic giant severed arm, it was ridiculously delicious and it taught me that all a crowd really needs is a hot bit of pastry ‘n’ meat.   All those years of searching wildly through cookbooks to hit upon the Holy Grail of crowd-feeding, where the thing had to be impressive, delicious, and capable of feeding an unknown quantity of people; the wilderness years, where I experimented with chorizo and chickpea stew, and roasted beef and ham and bread rolls and big plates of salad. And it was only ever about a big fat meaty cigar and tomato sauce -what a lesson to learn when you are middle-aged.

Anyway, there was also masses of cheese and chips and crudités and beetroot dip and the weirdest uncooked snickerdoodle biscuit cake thing from the Smitten Kitchen book which was gross and it spread all over the plate in the overheated room and the children uniformly avoided it and a huge lasagne which someone bought along and from which we ate all over the following weekend. And lots of excellent NZ sauvignon blanc from Majestic and more Lindauer Rose than even I could drink.

Some of our guests bought tickets and left the party to go and watch the fireworks, while some stayed in the flat doing dishes and reassuring nervous babies (that’d been me, then) and others watched the display from the top of our stairs with an assortment of other neighbours and randoms who didn’t fancy paying for tickets when you could just look up, for free. Some of the kids from our party sat on the roof of our landrover and watched, in a pre-teen king-of-the-world-type display of nighttime bravado.

All good fun. And then we get an email a few days later from the committee, saying quite politely that they knew many of the residents had hosted parties that night, and not everyone had purchased tickets, and so, it would be MOST APPRECIATED if those households gave the committee a donation. Suggested amount: £10 per adult and £5 per kid, depending on how many people were at your respective flats that night. Which would have meant that we were being asked to pay the committee about £250. I totally choked on my leftover sausage roll and got a bit outraged.

I wanted to write back and say that that would be fine, but I would also like the committee to go some way to pitching in for the costs of the party we had. Suggested amount: £10 per adult and £5 per kid. But I am wimpy and scared of confrontation, so I just dreamt up further fabulous arguments in my head for a few days. I am amazing in my internal imaginary fights with other people.

Then I forgot all about it because it is sample sale season. I have attended so many of the sample sales over the past few weeks, and I have a haul so fabulous that I can’t really sleep well at night for the fevered mental styling that goes on.

A List Of The Sample Sale Things That I Now Own Currently Hanging In My Wardrobe Which Befits Someone Who Has Somewhere Really Great To Go To On A Regular Basis:

1.Balenciaga heels, mid-height, white but cut through with a black leather frill which sits over my massive hobbit-feet and tricks the eye into thinking they are normal sized and elegant.

2. A Christopher Kane black jacket with a python-print silk frilled trim. It is a bit Chanel-like.

3. A Mary Katrantzou silk blue and yellow printed tunic with a little collar and a chinoiserie print.

4. A Mary Katrantzou silk black and white boxy top with a diffused cityscape print. Slightly tight on the upper arms, good with jeans.

5. Erdem red flowered printed trousers, just like my old Erdem blue printed trousers.

6. Erdem white sleeveless embroidered crossover complicated silk top with tiny non-sensical words around the hem and a black trim, just like my old Erdem white sleeveless silk complicated top.

7. A Mulberry granny blouse in a bone colour which I thought was silk but is viscose. Also a little tight on those pesky upper arms.

But There’s An Even Better Thing:

All this though, the great giant haul of ridiculous going-out clothes, pales into comparison when I reveal what I found at the charity shop on Sunday.  Walking past the Octavia Trust op-shop I saw a CHANEL JACKET ON A MANNEQUIN AND IT WAS £65 AND IT FITS AND IT IS REAL! I know, because I spent a lot of time googling youtube tutorials on authentication. It has the tiny chain sewn around the bottom hem and silk pleated lining and apparently it is from the Spring 2000 Cruise collection, according to my expert label-decipering skillz. That’s a bone fide hashtaglifegoal RIGHT THERE!

It is a little bit ugly. It is a bit Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Or English gent at the beach in the 30’s. Striped like a canvas parasol in shades of blue, mint and bone. The youtube tutorials assure me that vintage Chanel jackets are *effortless* to style and they look great with denim, but I am not entirely convinced. But CHANEL! Chain trim! Little buttons with interlinked ‘c’s! I’ll wear it anyway! It’s a bluddy sartorial dream come true, fellas.

Photo Essay Time Because I Am Worn Out By The Excitement (And Styling Concerns) Of The Chanel Jacket:

Casper has been marking his own spelling tests. He is very enthusiastic and optimistic. Also deluded:

 

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Here is Casper and Noah on mid-term break, with Sue who is expertly pointing out London landmarks from the Sky Garden. What a funny little place that was, with its airport security and million-pound hot chocolates and security guards who were upset that the children were playing on the soft upholstered fake logs instead of just sitting on them:

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Casper in Cliveden last weekend, running fast to avoid the slippery mud:

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More National Trust gorgeousness – a rare moment when the boys are tribe-like in a good way:

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The pet cemetery in Hyde Park, filled with Victorian monkeys and beloved dogs called ‘Scum’. I bet you didn’t know there even was one:

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And the best, saved til last. This is Mark and Otis bonding over their love of Sam Smith:

Adorbs.

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It’s hours later, and I’ve been asked for a photo of the Chanel glory. Here it is – this is for you, Jo. Enjoy my Coco hair:

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Slushy pumpkins and cake

Here’s an annoying word which doesn’t adequately express itself very well:

Playfighting.

PLAY. Playing. Playing = wholesome fun = laughing = farmyardy rough’n’tumble (non-homoerotic, in our case, because they are small, and brothers, and ugh) = ruddy cheeks and healthy-smelling juvenile horsey sweat from the happiness caused from the playfighting. Not crying, ruined furniture, couches splitting open and leaking foam, glass framed photographs hit with flying detritus mid-playfight and now shattered and spread all over the carpet like malicious glitter. Not red faces from fists and shoes and elbows, or little cuts from pushing brothers into sharp-edged service announcement boxes at tube stations. Not shoving on buses, in queues, lying down wrestling matches in shopping market aisles, not scooter-ramming incidents which push one kid into another random person’s ankles, not chasing which ends up one kid on the road, with a taxi having to slow down and beep at them, with the mother going mental and the kid adamantly declaring that they had no choice but to run backwards into traffic, because they were being CHASED by their smaller, weaker brother. There is not much about this that is very playful. It is actually enraging and traumatic and after one week of it, I am a shaking mess who has to eat all the cooking chocolate after they are in bed just to calm down. Also, some wine.

Play fighting: my ass. And I just want to say that if we have ever knocked you over as we shove our way past you, or smashed our skateboards into your tendons, or made you swerve into your own bit of oncoming traffic just to get away from the enormous vicious rioting mob that we have become, then I’m sorry. Its not me; it’s them.

Last week, things were a bit better, because four of them were in school all day, away from each other and away from me. And Kerry, who is awesome, asked me to an Alice In Wonderland-themed afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. I’ve only ever been there once, and I have ideas of it being the kind of slightly faded place you do debauched, YBAs-era stylish things, like take very fashionable drugs while wearing very beautiful shoes behind the mysterious, sexy, enormous curtain netting shroud that separates the Sanderson people from the rest of us.

Anyway, we went at lunchtime, and so treated the enormous selection of cakes and the three glasses of champagne as a kind of actual meal, which quite soon made us feel wrong and sick, but in that tired, calm, sleepy way where you know you have to pick up the kids quite soon, and there is nothing out for tea, but you just don’t care any more.

‘Why yes, I would LOVE ANOTHER GLASS OF THAT PERRIER JOUET’ *claps hands like a bit of an overexcited nutter, empties second glass, feels a bit disorientated, scarfs another tiny posh biscuit, feels cheeks flaming, sweats a bit* 

It was lovely, and here are photos of the cakes and biscuits and menus slipped between old hardcover books and ice creams made to look like flowerpots:

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There was a gorgeous selection of teas, all presented in little glass bottles for us to sniff and choose. They always smell better than they taste, as everyone knows, but they came out to us in beautiful teapots and by that point, we needed a little hydration.

I have a new appreciation of the Wonderland-related cakey artistry we were presented with because this week is Halloween and I thought I could be a biscuit-maker too. Fired up by a million images of successful Pinterest Halloween baking, I tried to make some finger-shaped bleeding biscuits and they went from pleasingly 3D gnarly doughy embryonic fingers to flat, arthritically misshapen, burnt, fat slugs of dog-turd-like proportions once they exited the fiery womb of my oven. I have no idea why I can’t bake biscuits. Is it the science? Is it magic? It is a lack of patience or correct kitchen gadgetry? Am I missing a biscuit-competence chromosome? They always look a bit rubbish. Here they are:

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Also, there is my grouting.

Everyone has been eating them, and I admit they still look cool, but not like those other Pinterest perfectionists. My slightly crap biscuit-making is a little bit like my hair. It’s never quite right. I thought I would get older and these things would just sort themselves out. Like the ironing pile and persistent psoriasis patches and my inability to walk convincingly in shoes with a heel.

And Some More Photos You’ve Probably All Seen

Gratuitous and rare photo of bowl-cut cute baby without his dummy, on the way back from Waitrose which now takes about 47 minutes instead of four, because he keeps stopping to sit down. Here, he is sitting on his filthy naked plastic baby with a greying cotton torso against construction hoardings:

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Finally, here we are at Crockford Bridge Farm, picking pumpkins and wandering through the forest following Peter Pan and Wendy and avoiding the poisonous mushrooms.

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And then we rushed home, carved our pumpkins, wasted a whole packet of 50 tealights by burning through them all and making towers with the empty ones that are all still under the kitchen table, spilt a lot of wax on the carpet, played with the pumpkins, damaged each other’s pumpkins, complained that the pumpkins were going grey inside, and then I woke up three days later to find the pumpkins had rotted themselves into a slushy wet mound of mould and slime and they had fallen onto the waxy carpet over night.

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Ut’s Hum

A little housekeeping I need to get out of the way.

  1. I went to see Everest, which was an excellent Friday-night-three-cocktails kind of cinematic extravaganza, except for the accents, which burned me to my very core with the shame. Hearing Keira Knightley and Emily Watson strangle the script with the odd awful word pulled me out of my empathetic vertigo and into disproportionate aural discomfort. Their accent coach had clearly stressed that, no matter what,  New Zealanders don’t say the ‘i’ sound, substituting it for ‘u’; making us sound very stupid – a bit like an antipodean version of those Alaskan Bush People on Sky Discovery who have no teeth and who have developed their own dialect because they are so isolated from the real world. So it was all about ‘Go get HUM off the mowntun! Ut’s rilly MESSIVE and ut’s getting rilly wundy up there!’ It was very distracting. Also they mocked up the weirdest airport which looked hokey and there was a sign in the background for Tuatara Airlines, which ISN’T A REAL THING. We are more than silver ferns, tuataras and the accidental embargo of the ‘i’ sound, you international film-type-people.
  2. My birthday was very lovely, thanks, and I got to go shopping at a Joseph sample sale and buy whatever I wanted. So I bought a navy coat for winter, because usually when I go to sample sales, I buy fuschia cocktail dresses and floor length velvet gowns. This time, I was all about the irrefutable fact that I really just walk to and from Edgware Road all day, sweating, or spilling things down my front, and so the evening wear doesn’t get quite the usage that utilitarian things might. And HOW BORED AM I ABOUT MY COAT? I long for sequins and unwearable lingerie and more handbags that I can tuck away in a dust bag never to be used and silken scarves which end up being used as capes for the dog. Because that’s much more fun that being practical. It’s more youthful to be extravagant and expensive and ridiculous with a wardrobe full of formalwear, am I right? I’M TOO YOUNG FOR MOM-JEANS AND EASY-WASH TOPS AND SENSIBLE NAVY THINGS!
  3. One kid has gone away from the week to camp, and it is almost silent here. No one knows what to do without Noah, the kind, peaceable little guy who is nice to everyone. We don’t exactly *miss* him, but his absence is felt. He waved me off when he got onto the bus and didn’t look back, and I love that about him. Actually, all the kids are utterly unmoved by separation from the family, which I take as a good thing, indicators that they are well-adjusted and secure. It could also be that they don’t like us all that much too, and getting away from the violence and screaming is a massive relief.
  4. Mark has been going to some of the world cup rugby games and taking photos of himself in the stands with his mates, all of them dressed up in tight polyester rugby tops, and sticking them on Facebook. Mark is extremely unvain, which is a thing that has become very clear – all his photos are taken from below and he is always grinning and he pushes his head into his neck and his chin squashes out like a massive goitre. All I can see when these photos come up on my newsfeed is CHINCHINCHINCHINCHIN – never mind the lovely rugby atmosphere or the matey sporty fun they are having – and I have been freaking out on his behalf, in that way that you do when someone tags you on Facebook and you are looking fat and unfiltered and you can’t get the tag off. Because it seems that all these years later, I still feel like his choices represent me somehow. Like if he chooses to face the world looking happy but aesthetically a little off, and honest, and barefaced and chinny, then it might say something about me. I wouldn’t post a photo of myself unless I feel like I look good. I think I may still have stuff to learn from him. Still, it’s a pretty big chin, dudes.

Ned

Ned did some expressive dancing for me on Sunday, and the baby joined in. There is a longer version, where he picks up two knives and sharpens them at the right point in the lyrics (his performance gets a bit literally interpretive, and also long, at two and a half minutes) and then swings them around in his dramatic revelry and you can hear me say over the rousing Hozier chorus to ‘PUT THE KNIVES DOWN NOW, BUDDY. THEY’RE TOO CLOSE TO THE BABY!’ Here is the shorter instagram version:

He has something, though. Here he is the afternoon of his dance off, dressed in these clothes, looking so very dorky, and yet, so very, very right:

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Ned is my best clotheshorse. He always manages to have an interesting look, even if it is questionable:

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The others just tend to look a little bit orphaned.

To finish my Tuesday morning wordspew, here is a photo of us at the Borough Market on my birthday, all the children drinking £2.50 juices and Mark and I in a photo taken FROM ABOVE. Note how chinless, filtered, tightly cropped and carefully chosen that photo is, with plenty of resulting likes from the social media approval committee. Better, no?

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