Weeping craters

We have been to Turkey, which is warm, yellow, blue, with lizards and bats and meaty tomatoes that make you feel briefly teary-eyed when you realise how good they taste alongside sheepy cheese – and you know you might never come back because you have a husband who wants to live in New Zealand where the water is cold and the mosquitoes give you scabs, and where the emotional and literal cost to flying back to exotic locales in Europe is frankly too much to bear.

Mum and dad came with us, and let me just iterate right now, really clearly, that having grandparents along on your holidays is much better than not having them coming along.

Reasons Why Grandparents Should Come On Your Holidays:

  1. Higher adults:kids ratio, so you can cast your eyes down to read a chapter of Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were The Mulvaneys or Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend without some kid tripping into the unfenced pool to drown. Or falling out of the treehouse which, to be fair, did happen twice, but it may very well have happened more times, say, if there weren’t so many adult eyeballs regularly looking up and sharing the onerous duty of caring.
  2. Discipline is shared. My dad says his dad taught him judo, on a farm in the 1940’s in rural Te Kopuru, which I guess might well be true, and so he would do quite stingy arm holds on the kids when we were driving anywhere until they stopped wailing about somebody touching their elbow/shoulder/thigh. It was a triumph of ouchy martial arts-related wizardry.
  3. You get to go out for dinner in a consecutive date night frenzy and you get home and the kids are asleep and you just say thanks to your mum and dad and no cash leaves your palm.
  4. Grandparents are more into playing endless games of draughts with the grandchildren than you are and they make up stuff like Olympic Relay Races to entertain the children while you sip gently sweating gin and tonics in the shade.
  5. *EVERYDAY SEXISM ALERT* You mum helps you do holiday-lite housewifey/cooking stuff while the husband and grandad ignore anything that might be a bit domestic, and they play on their tablets and don’t even clear the table of snorkels and crisp packets while you serve them all tomatoes and sheep’s cheese salads and figs and yogurt again and again. And if they do some dishes or chop some watermelon, they figure they have done their bit for a few days.
  6. But your dad finds you a seasick tablet on the boat while you are staring into middle distance, pale and sweaty-about-the-forehead, thinking that squeezing out a baby is more pleasant than being on a big stupid boat which has trapped you in a long day of choppy, sloppy, rocking hell, and everywhere you look you see waves and things smell a bit like diesel and you want to vomit but don’t have the energy and everyone talks to you about things like when they were seasick once. But then your dad gets a pill from somewhere, and it works.

Here are some photos to show off a bit.

Grandparents and kids with slushy ice drinks which apparently comes from the first snow, which is stored in huge deep holes in the mountains all year, and then bought out in summer to be crushed with a mallet and stirred with syrup and sold in a cup for about 10p. The traditional syrup which you can buy from families by the side of the road is black molasses which made Ned weep from the horror of it all. This stuff, however, was bright yellow lemon and fluoro pink cordial.

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Grandad chucking Barnaby under the ice-cold shower which spouted from a massive tree outside the villa:

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Mum and dad and Barnaby swimming at Butterfly Valley. See the boat-o-sickness to the left, and the lovely way my parents are holding on to each other:

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When Dads find pills:

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When you get babysitting services for free, you look as happy as this:

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And you get to read for longer stretches of time. Amazing.

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A leech-gatherer for your viewing pleasure:

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2000 year old rock tombs:

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Camel:
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The water. Now, really.

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Mostly we ate chips:
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And melons:

IMG_4118 The Sad And Gross Bit

It’s not all sunshine, bikinis-all-day and turtle-spotting on your annual holidays, though fellas. Casper and I all got hot and developed itchy heat-rash which we scratched and it turned into these embarrassing weeping crater scabs:

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All of which kills my post-holiday buzz a little. Otis, meanwhile, got some sort of allergic reaction to insect bites and we spent five hours at A&E yesterday getting his lesions dressed and blood tests. He is now walking about fully bandaged around his middle to stop the weeping open wounds. But, mostly, selfishly, I feel a bit embarrassed about the way my craters are very cigarette-shaped, like instead of basking in the hot sun and scoffing sour cherries, I have spent two weeks self-harming in a bid for attention. As if I needed any more.

Anyway. We are back, and everything is wet in London, and my parents are wearing borrowed raincoats when I had promised them to only bring t-shirts and shorts on their holiday. Because it’s summer, right?

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No One Wants To Know About Your Cycle

A few days ago, I thought I might have been pregnant. Just a tiny bit. And so I was oscillating between really excited, and then horrified, and then kind of embarrassed, then nervous, and I was attributing everything from headaches to a blocked ear to my SO OBVIOUS HOW COME NO ONE ELSE IS NOTICING new pregnantness. I figured out via my baby-related apps-wizardry on my phone that a baby would come at the end of March, which seemed like an excellent month to squeeze out a baby, and she would be called Eliza Alice because my phone also tells me when to have girl-producing sex. I found an expired pregnancy test, which obviously was negative, and then bought the cheapest Boots pregnancy test, which was obviously negative, because I tested on the third day of my period being late and it was in the middle of the day, after a glass of water. Diluted hormones! ROOKIE MISTAKE. And then I told Mark that my period was late, and he said nothing and went to sleep.

My period came, of course, though later than my phone apps said it should, and so it turns out I am not pregnant; instead I think I might be a bit mental. Mark then says that he was doing the skin crawl of horror when I said we might be having another baby, and what a vast relief it was when he found out my mooncup was being put to good use. And now I am wandering around the flat, trodding on toddlers and accidentally sitting on small children who are playing free games on the smashed screens of the available iPads under mountains of blankets to hide from their brothers whose turn it probably is, feeling sad about how we only have five children, and not six. I want them all to scatter to the far-corners of the flat so I can mope about my phantom future non-babies in some sort of peace. No one called Eliza is coming, no more visits from midwives or milky massive boobs or labour (which I happen to think is an excellent time had by all). No more maternity clothes, ultrasounds, or thick, luxurious hair (before it all falls out and grows back in that awful accidental undercut/tiny pointless fringe kind of way). I have no idea why I am like this and I probably need some therapy. I am even boring myself.

And because it is the school holidays, there is more of a actual real children/phantom fantasy imaginary baby contrast than is usual. They bicker, pull hair and throw bits of mandarin skin in a vague direction of the bin, while the imaginary baby just smells nice and lets me dress her up in leopard print. They pole-dance on the tube and steal biscuits from the Salvation Army cafe, they break my art deco teacups and call me ‘UGLY LADY’ when I refuse them booty from the V&A gift shop, but the phantom Eliza just breastfeeds and lets me take her to Ottolenghi for flat whites and salads and of course one of his cakes because you can eat cake all day after a baby and it doesn’t matter.

BUT ANYWAY, MOVING ON

I’m glad to have gotten that little nugget of questionable mental tomfoolery out of the way. There are very good things to be grateful for, things that should really be overshadowing my odd infant-neediness. Mum and dad are here to see the existing, real children and to help me over the unrelenting holidays. Here we are, doing London things, mostly involving lunch, and only getting told off from the managers of a park in one of the photos for garden-compromising hide and seeking:

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Thirsty work, traipsing around all day, trying to keep the kids from walking into bus lanes and humiliating us with screams and traffic-light-wrestling matches.

Here is Casper and Otis, in the days before the summer left us, in a hat that didn’t make it home from Kensington Gardens. For a moment, we were so together:

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And the baby, so cute and photogenic when he isn’t punching my arm or driving his cars into the keyboard to stop me from doing anything of use at all:

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Crackers for breakfast, and a surfeit of tiger-print:
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Noah turned nine, went to see Ant-Man, ate Dominos pizza and got a wearable water-gun which annoyed everyone so, so much, but look at the delight on his face and manifesting itself in those hunched-up-at-the-ready shoulders:

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The baby, meanwhile, is a shoe and traffic-cone thief. I find my never-worn heels all over the flat. He finds them deep under the bed-of-no-more-babies, where he must surely fight his way through forests of tumbleweed dust balls, silicone earplugs and old boiler manuals. Yesterday he did a poo into my Salvatore Ferregamo sandals, though I will spare you the photo:

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And a trip to Postman’s Park where it looked like we were having fun, until we noticed they were breaking into the goldfish pond and stealing the coins at the bottom:

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And so it continues. I’ll check in with more photos when I am over my terrible phantom-baby funk.

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Life Rules: Part One

So, absolutely no one has asked me to write a guide for being less worried, or about parenting, or about eating more vegetables. No one. And I’m not qualified to give any advice because I live in a two-bedroomed basement flat with five badly-behaved boys and I am slovenly with the domestics and my law career stalled somewhere in the early 2000’s and I don’t iron anything.

But, I was on the no. 94 bus today and I was trying to distract myself from the shouting snaggle-toothed baby and so I mentally composed some Life Rules. They turned out to be quite good. So I think I should write down some of these thoughts because there’s no use just having internal monologues all the time without releasing them into the interweb, right? Because that’s where we get all the wisdom, right?

1. Food

You should not eat that much, and you should know by now that sugar makes you fat and cravey and that butter and cheese and eggs are really all you need for breakfast. If you buy Ottolenghi’s “Jerusalem” and you try one thing a week, you will become brilliant with vegetables, and thinner and excited about how roasting broccoli and cauliflower changes them from flaccid grey depressed lumps of soft sulphur into bright crunchy delicious oniony food of the angels. It’s true. And then you might discover tahini and roasted chopped nuts on everything and then you are like ‘Vegetarians, I get you now! And I’m sorry for thinking you were all pale and clueless! And I think that restaurants that only offer you mushroom and cheese puff pastry things are really insulting!’

2. Children

Have them, if you fancy, and don’t worry too much about them. Look around you, when you are drowning in a sea of parental anxiety and guilt and woe, and notice how many people have grown into adulthood and who are functioning perfectly well. Yours will too.

You must:

1. love them,

2. feed them a variety of good food and let them feed themselves,

3. give them a safe home,

4. put them to bed earlier than you think,

5. get them reading or making useless things with the recycling or dancing or running around, although some screen time is inevitable and actually perfectly fine.

Dangers are:

1. cars,

2. crap food,

3. stupid violent movies,

4. tvs in their bedroom,

5. early exposure to bad porn,

6. not enough sleep.

Don’t worry too much if they climb things or get grubby or take physical risks. Let them shimmy up a tree and go barefoot and eat a bit of food that fell onto the ground. Let them walk to school on their own when they can handle traffic and encourage them to buy milk from the corner shop when you run out, and get them doing some chores. I never do this, but it is undeniably a good idea.

If they fall out of the tree and bleed a bit, or if they even BREAK SOMETHING (!) it’s ok. Because scabs heal and broken bones mend and they need to feel what it feels to take a risk. They need to fail and fall sometimes and you need to let them. No more helicopter parenting, because it is gross and makes them wimpy unappealing adults with no good stories to tell.

Remember that your kids aren’t actually more special than anyone else’s are. And you should probably all go out to a homeless organisation and volunteer the next time you are overwhelmed by your crap parenting. Because it probably isn’t that bad. Your kids probably aren’t that bad either – certainly nothing that some running around outside won’t fix. And if you shout at them and you are mean to them, then apologise and move on, because it is quite possible that they were being horrible and they deserved to see you get mad.

6. Belief systems

Be tolerant and good towards other people, because that’s what Jesus said to do, and (I imagine) all the other great and good people who have inspired religions said the same thing. I remember a song we sang in the Salvation Army hall when I was small, about a sparrow, and the words were:

“For if the Father’s eyes are on the sparrow, Then surely he will care for you.”

This sentiment, of a big kind God keeping an eye on you and caring about you, even more so because you aren’t just a sparrow, has been a very good thing to carry with me. I am not an anxious person, and I don’t worry about things too much, because I have learnt to abdicate responsibility for things beyond my control. So, when I tell people we are going to Turkey for our holidays again this year, and they look aghast and say something about terrorists, I say it’s ok, I probably won’t die from terrorist activity, and if I do, there isn’t much I can do about it. Right?

So it is good to have a belief in something, ideally something kind and big and good.

7. Running

If I had donned a tight pair of lycra pants and massive teeshirt and ran around Tikipunga’s streets when I was 12, instead of this late-blooming running-love, I wouldn’t have had to feel weird about food and fatness and stressed about my bum in jeans for all those years. I would have been strong and fit and toned and I would have felt that I had some control over my body, the way I do now, at nearly-40. I haven’t been thinner or fitter ever in my life and it is enormously gratifying and liberating.

8. Mooncup

Never buy tampons again. Get a mooncup instead. It is amazing, and it turns the squeamishness and grossness of your period into a new experience. You bleed for less time, and you come to know your body really well, and you are like ‘If only I knew about this when I was 12, along with running and tahini.’ 

I feel I have so many more wise things to say, so I had better have a part two. Which I think will be something about how if you had to summarise everything I have ever learned, it would be this:

Don’t Be A Dick.

More on that later. Can’t peak too soon.

Photos Now To Lighten The Mood:

Barnaby sang at the Westminster Hall with some other schools and the Bach Choir. Oh, how I cried and how Mark cried (internally, mind). It was fantastic.

IMG_3632 It is obviously summer here, with heat waves and pooling upper-lip sweat, and summer fair after summer fair. In direct contravention to what I said in point 2.2 above, here is the baby with an enormous mound of candy floss, to rot his teeth and make him mental:

IMG_3640 Father’s Day nice moment at Crockford Bridge Farm. No one is crying or shouting and there are children dressed in farmer’s overalls everywhere you look:

IMG_3643 IMG_3646 IMG_3653 IMG_3655 We had a teacher’s only day a few Fridays ago, and I took all five kids to the Southbank to see the Carsten Holler show at the Hayward Gallery. They behaved like proper nice kids and I almost wept with the shock and gratitude. Sometimes, you are reminded that you may well be raising good people who can listen and who will help you drag the buggy up tube station stairs and who can respect gallery objects.

IMG_3665 IMG_3671 IMG_3681 Me in a £12 leopard-print playsuit. Why? Because Turkey will be hot and my running has ironed out the back of my thighs for the first time ever. Necessary? No! Kind of hideous and spooky in equal measures, like a big lunging toddler mixed with Bet Lynch? Yes. Mark was really kind and said it was fine to wear, but only at the beach in Turkey and only inside the flat in London. And I’m down with that. I don’t think he thought I would post this odd come-hither instagram photo to the world either, but why not? A little bit of wrong can only be right, once it is filtered enough:

IMG_3741 More of my brilliant insights next post. Feel free to add your own.

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Dubai

Last Wednesday, I went to Dubai with my friend C and her baby.

And here we are in Terminal 5, right before we left, drinking a breakfast martini at Gordon Ramey’s Plane Food, which turned out to be the alcoholic highlight of the whole trip. C is channelling Sarah Jessica Parker in that movie about career women with kids, while I am just playing with my phone – recurrent theme number one.

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After that rather fetching and elegant start, we boarded the plane and sat down for seven hours. The food situation took a dive after the flat whites and eggs benedict at Gordons, with a chicken curry lunch thing and then later BA’s finest cold dry chicken sandwiches and tomato juice (spiced, with ice? Yes, please, OBVS) with KitKats.

C did some baby wrangling while I spent about four hours trying to watch Into The Woods with a defective screen which cut out every four minutes and returned us to the main menu. It was arduous, like running a 10k, except the movie took longer and I didn’t get any thinner while sitting on that tiny seat. On my left hand side was dear C with her gigantic baby made of milk and angel skin and the rounded, heaviest head known to babykind, and on my right was an Overperfumed Armrest Hogging Man who was very concerned we were lesbians. Lesbians who got together with some non-lesbian man to make a giant baby. He smelt like Impulse mixed with The Body Shop’s Dewberry mixed with an Arabic man mixed with a souk mixed with wealth mixed with non-sexy general hairy man pheromones mixed with the sweet, sweet stench of too many perfume testers and a hot car and rising perfume-bile. And he didn’t notice or care that we were sharing an armrest and he took it over – he COLONISED that sliver of precious plastic – for seven whole hours and so I had to crunch my arm into my waist and occasionally I would turn to C and I would make the perfume-gagging face and she would return it because he was wafting far and wide and it made us feel really despairing of the world.

When she got up to go to the toilet, she had to crawl from her window seat, under the baby bassinet-hanging-thing, limbo under my defective screen and then do a massive high-leg over Overperfumed Armrest Hogging Man, like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible with the lasers, you know, so as not to wake him and get him moving about, in case that would release another chypre stream. C thought perhaps he had it on a timer – just as we thought he could emit no more, we could both feel it invading our dried out nostrils, sledgehammering its way through our air-conditioned dry snot.

At some point he asked me where our husbands were, and what they were doing. It gave me great satisfaction to tell him, as I did my best to mouth-breathe, that they were at home, looking after the children. I expect he was a bit sad for our poor husbands, stuck at home doing useless women’s work, but equally glad we weren’t filthy lady-lovers who had bred.

But we got there and set up in the Ritz Carlton which was an interior design love letter to orange and brown and gold. And such beds of huge towering softness! And a bathroom bigger than our actual room, all in glass so we could watch each other in the shower and maybe try some lesbionic tricks, though we didn’t really have enough time and, you know, we were kind of tired, so ordered room service instead and had some excellent babaganoush and fattoush salad. This was to become recurring theme number two.

So C was teaching and I was looking after the Best Baby in the world. A baby who loves his toes and his milk and swimming and sleeping in his polyester bear suit hood. You put his arms in and slip the hood over his lovely massive head, even in a country that is 44 degrees outside, and he turns his face into the fluffy brown fake-bearskin and he is OFF.

Here he is, atop the bed’o’feathery mattresses, with the very nicest thighs I have ever had the privilege to squeeze:

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He is actually also the baby in this ad, made by our friend Amanda who is cooler than I could ever hope to be, with her directorial ways and people who get her bacon sandwiches and coffee when she wants them to. Anyway, he was my charge for four days and he and I visited some lovely New Zealand friends, got invited out for dinner by the most extraordinarily fantastic and clever family and took the train to a mall and we ate out and we swam in the pool:

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I got sucked in at the mall by a fake Bloomingdales and bought another Tom Ford lipstick, this time in matt Flame which is lovely but as dry as chalk. Here I am, playing dressups with myself and trying to take a lipstick photo to stick on instagram that doesn’t look like I am a bit stroke-faced. I didn’t succeed – I’m all chin and downy hair:

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I look so sad. Possibly because I realised the fake Bloomingdales charged me £3 more than if I had just bought the orange chalk from Selfridges. I also bought the children many camel-related plastic items and fake gold-foiled playing cards, some hair ties and eye makeup remover. I did ponder buying this:

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But then I remembered that my underarms are probably normal-coloured under the stubble and besides, it might be letting womanhood down everywhere if I succumbed to the pressure to have all-over porn-ready groomed white parts of my body, especially those parts that I had never thought were noteworthy or up for public scrutiny. AMIRIGHTLADIES?

So, C and I had a lovely time, though C was actually working, while I was playing. Below, again with my phone. C said I should smile, but I fear accidental gurning, so I am posing in my Ritz Carlton residential suite instead. It’s not often I get to do that, so bear with me and my insufferable tendency to take selfies like an insecure teen:

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And then I came home to a quite tidy flat, and a lot of relieved faces. Mark told me that things would be different from now on, because everyone was keeping their stuff tidy and there was nothing on the floor of the kid’s bedroom because he would go in there while they dressed and force them to tidy up as they went. And I wondered…Why do I have to go away to have these domestic changes implemented? And by day two, we were back to the strewing of things.

I didn’t really miss anyone. Now I really miss the way somebody tidied up my messy Ritz room every day. I have now come full circle and I have to clean up after everyone else again, but I get NO TIPS.

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Manic hyperlinking alert

I am kind of broken, and it’s not just me. But let’s not get straight to the punchline. Let’s go back about a month ago, to when things were lovelier, and there weren’t any deadlines, and most things were intact.

I had gotten a few emails in my inbox which stood out amongst the random betting spam and those incessant emails from gap and the outnet (from which I don’t seem to have the emotional strength to unsubscribe from) – one from Ogilvy & Mather saying they would run the new version of the Dove ad for another year (Go! Watch! You know you want to look at my generous thighs getting into the bath again!) and another from a company asking me if I wanted to take the kids out for a day courtesy of Three Mobile and use a Samsung Galaxy phone to take photos and review it on here and send it back.

So I said yes, because it is a bit flattering and a bit fun and I was intending to go to the Punchdrunk show anyway (Against Captain’s Orders at the National Maritime Museum), and I like a phone. I like a product! I like advertising! I like social media and its new, tricksy ways! So the phone arrived and it looked like this:

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A bit big, but so clean, and the case is a very flattering navy blue glass, which we all know suits an ageing assisted blonde, and it had very dance-y and excited graphics which made me think there was a tiny party going on in my palm. My iPhone, it has to be said, doesn’t seem to have the same sort of zest for life as the Galaxy. It kind of sits there, a bit not-bothered, a bit stand-offish, if you will. Anyway, I carried both phones around for a few days and got confused and felt like a drug dealer. Here is me trying out the phone for the first time, taking an truly lovely selfie after watching Mad Max while scoffing four cocktails and some sort of Spanish platter which was mostly peppers and chorizo and grease. This photo isn’t my best work – no fault of the phone, more about my dimly-lit bedroom situation.

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Because the phone took gorgeous photos. Really and truly, though you’ll never know, because I couldn’t get the photos to download onto the mac and so there is an emailing-to-myself-thing going on, and something got lost in translation. But no question, the photos were clear and lovely. The dog had a glistening furry pelt, even.

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And that is us, walking to the skateboard park on Saturday looking for bloated dead animals in the canal:

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Casper wanted to try out his new skateboard, which took about eight minutes to take out from under the buggy, sandpapering his fingers and calves as he heaved and yanked and coaxed, then another 17 minutes to strap on his knee/elbow and wrist protectors and then to fasten on his helmet, and then he looked down into the skate bowl, slid the skateboard into it, watched it go really fast and crash, got a little white in the face and then said that we should all probably just go to portobello to get crepes. Smart boy, that one.

But To Get To The Point

Our day out to the Punchdrunk show should really have been excellent, but we were late to leave the flat, and there was some weird things going on with the DLR and we went the wrong way at Bank and finally we got to the Museum and we were ten minutes late and missed our slot. So they said to come back in an hour and try to get a place if there were no-shows, so we wandered the Museum and I tried to be interested in the boats but OH I CANNOT CARE ABOUT NAUTICAL THINGS, I just cannot, and we came back to the ticket people but no, there were no free spaces and so we had to go away again and come back in two hours. Casper was being a little bit horrible by this time, and took to spelling out “F.U.C.K.Y.O.U” quite loudly to no-one in particular, and so I took him outside into the rain and said we had been expelled from the Museum for swearing. He got a bit defensive and then bored and asked if we could go back inside, but I first took him up to a bewildered security guard and told her that we had had to leave the Museum because of our foul language and would it be ok to come back inside if we promised not to talk like that again? She said ok. He didn’t do any more cuss spelling after that.

Then we went to Jamie’s Italian for lunch and two cocktails to numb the pain and kill time, and then things suddenly felt quite good. Here is a bellini:

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We stopped off at a vintage market on our way back and the kids got one pound to spend – Barnaby and Casper bought six old coins and Noah hoarded his pound because he thought he might buy himself a donut. Yes, a donut. Here are the coins, in fine samsung galaxy detail (see what I did there?):

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So we went to the show, and I cannot say anything about it because it is a secret, but it is a most excellent secret and you should all go, though not with my family because they oftentimes make you feel full of rage and shame.When we got out, Noah had lost his coin, and we said that was a good lesson, and he got very mad. He wouldn’t appear in our photo owing to his fury at not getting an extra replacement pound, but he did compromise enough to take the photo. Even when raging, he has a steady hand:

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But he was still really mad about the pound. So mad, in fact, that when we got out, he lagged behind us, and sulked, and dragged his cardigan in the puddles to demonstrate his inner turmoil. I took a photo of him because he was attracting some attention and it was a bit funny. But he got cross with me for taking out the camera because he thought I would post his sulk on youtube, and so, he twirled his heavy, wet cardigan in the wet rainy mud and flung it at me and knocked the Galaxy out of my hand and CRACKED THE NAVY BLUE GLASS BACKING! Here he is, a second before the samsung was smashed to the ground:

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And here is the phone, still navy and stylish, but violated:

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It was a bit mortifying and I went a bit mental and couldn’t really look at anyone in the face. So Mark tried to cheer me up by asking me which of the boys would need braces, and they opened their little mouths and flashed their uncleaned enormous wonky teeth at me in the train and I thought “UGH, YOU GUYS ARE AWFUL”. That’s the general feeling right there, in that train photo. Everyone a little bit sad, even the foreigners:

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But, you know, it was awesome. So thanks, Three Mobile for giving us a day out. I’m sorry about your cool phone, though. It won’t happen again, if anyone else wants to loan me some stuff. Ahem.

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Arrow

Today, this morning, I ran my second 10k race and I was pretty slow and I totally did a torrent of accidental wee at the end. The others were supposed to watch me coming into the finish line, but they had some domestic trouble with sandals, and so they were late, and by the time I found them, I was pretty much dried up. Those tight running pants pride themselves on wicking moisture away, and I think I know what they are getting at. Then when I got home, I found my toenail, which I had been furiously growing in an effort to impress the pedicurist Vietnamese ladies down the road, instead of horrifying them when I ask them to paint my tiny bleeding stubs, had grown indeed, into a sharp point, and it had attacked the other toe during the race and there was blood everywhere in my running shoes. And by then, I smelt like an old public toilet. The moral here? I don’t know. Wear sanitary pads all the time in case your bladder decides to give up working at inopportune places? Don’t pick your feet into a scabby mess, but if you do let your feet go forth and grow like a wild dead-skin-and-curly-toenail-garden-of-despair, then occasionally prune those gnarly edges? Don’t bother entering races? Stay at home and drink tea. But, you know, it isn’t all about urinating in public. In the light of my post a month or so back, when I shared the true horror of having small children go apeshit on public transport, here is a photo to prove that my children can indeed sit down calmly on a train and not pull anyone else’s hair. In fact, they look shattered, which is what a week doing serious learning about stuff at school can do to a kid. They look positively forlorn: IMG_3419 Again, with the kindness and picnic-y brotherly love: IMG_3477 And here they are at the local skatepark, which is where we like to hang out for a bit on a Saturday on the way along the canal to Portobello for crepes and hamburgers. They are scared of the big cool skaters, and you can see them slyly watching the big teenagers with their shirts off and looking cool, and they are wanting to be them, and wanting to be so cool and assured. And then one of them starts a game of frenzied tag, and they forget themselves and act like dicks again. It is funny and sad and sweet to watch. IMG_3426 At the top of Portobello they have a funny little newish foodie space, with tables and chairs and pigeons and stalls which are mostly pretty good. Everyone in the family except for me gets a boner for nutella crepes. Even that poor baby. See him as he takes a rare, unguarded moment to think of his baby teeth and his bad mother who knows that sugar is poison, but gives it to him anyway: IMG_3430 But you stick a filter on everything, wear girl’s stripy tights and some adidas trainers and the pain all goes away: IMG_3457 Yes? Yes. Who needs teeth anyway? We hadn’t been to A&E since Otis got his front tooth smashed back into his upper gum in a hotel forecourt in Wales, and other than needing help with the psychological shortcomings of our children (we have been attending seminars on fixing your children who are a bit nuts, to paraphrase), and a tiny bit of vomiting a few weeks ago, we have been all pretty healthy and unscathed. But then there was this little number – Ned flicked a piece of metal which was attached to a string of  rubber bands into his forehead, requiring stitches. It was rudimentary weapon fashioned by Noah, who had been swinging it around narrowly missing the telly, and then Ned got hold of it and it there was much screaming and blood. Everyone said “Oh, you must have been so upset!”and I look back and think, not really. I think you get a bit used to physical damage and trauma when you have a bunch of kids, and you know they will heal over and scab up and scar but they will be ok. IMG_0749 Here Ned is, just before the bruising came down into his eyes making him look like Vincent in Beauty and the Beast, not bothered, having a ride on a spinning teacup and feeling awesome. IMG_3441 And all this leads me to Mark, who had a birthday yesterday. Ned wore a Jean Paul Gaultier-esque bondage homage apron to help me bake Mark the most excellent Nigella honey and chocolate cake ever, although the icing split and took on that curdled sick quality. But black and white forgives a vomitty surface, and he didn’t mind. Look at the happiness on his slightly grizzled face! IMG_3485 IMG_3487 He is like YAY someone cares about me and YAY tonight we are going out and we don’t have to put the little buggers to bed! That’s all it takes really, a reminder that someone loves you enough to build a cake (as my grandmother would say) and that someone will take away the drudge of an evening. And so he spent the day indulging in his newest, expensiviest hobby, the excruciatingly uncool sport of archery. He spends lots of time reading archery magazines, and has joined an archery club, and he thinks about bows and quivers and that kind of embarrassing shizzle. And he watches “Arrow” on Netflix and it breaks my heart, because the guy wears a Robin Hood-updated-for-modern-times crap outfit and he bothers to kill people with his stupid bow instead of just shooting people, which would be quicker and more accurate, but I am trying to be nonjudgemental about it all. It could be lawn bowls, I guess.

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White Jelly Shoes and OUCH my sympathies to Kate

So, the royal baby was born yesterday, which isn’t that interesting, except if you are me, who loves a baby, especially an elusive girl baby, and if you live close enough to the hospital when she was born to run up there and wave if you felt so inclined (I didn’t) and close enough to the palace to hear the helicopters taking an aerial view of the ride home. It is a funny moment when you watch it on telly but can also pop outside to watch them go by. And OH how my gynaecological-specific insides cringed and cramped in sympathy when I saw her make that little exit from the Lindo wing doors to the crowds and unforgiving world media cameras just ten hours after giving birth. She must have been bleeding and hurt and torn and swollen and bruised and in some sort of sensory shock, but had to get her hair done and look nice and stand up. STAND UP. After a baby, I only like to stand up if I have to. Maybe to stagger to the loo, trying not to get blood all over my feet, steeling myself for the inevitable wee-burning-raw-flesh situation. Right, sisters?

Here are some photos of me, the first two a week after the baby was born, but still in hospital and without much sleep, owing to the baby being sick and jaundiced and us both having to sleep in a room with five other women and newborns with that bloody blue light going all night. The second, maybe a few hours after birth, showing some skin which may well burn your irises out with the horror and the shame of being part of my boob-skin. Shield your eyes if you think you might be forever defiled by the looking.

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There are other photos of me, post-baby, but they almost always show an actual, certifiable nipple. Which is just too much for me to reasonably expect the readership to cope with on a Sunday afternoon, so you just have to imagine. Always though, the photos show me looking post-accident – hair unkempt, face enormous, bits of dried blood and sweat hanging around, dilated pupils from the shock, body massive and drained, like a punching bag that has had the stuffing punched out of it, beaten into some sort of submission.

So props to you, Kate, you poor, lovely lady who is kind of a prize heifer, to be wheeled out and put on show. Some dreadful old lady commentator yesterday on the TV said, just as Kate exited the Lindo doors in her shift dress and with her hair all flowy and makeup done, that she was looking just like an ordinary mum, specifically referring to the swollen belly Kate had clearly not strapped down with a corset. Lady from the telly – normal mothers who just had a baby are actually in their pyjamas, weeping a bit, eating toast and jam with huge stomachs full of displaced organs and blood.

Anyway. I bought enormous white plastic jelly shoes last week, because Simone Rocha seems to be endorsing plastic shoes and getting away with it, and Phoebe Philo has made white shoes ok, and because I needed something to wear that covered up my old man toenails but still let the air in. And because they looked so cool in American Apparel, all lined up on the wall in all the colours, all pastelly, glittery, clunky, and slick.

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Of course, the sales woman was one of those awesome teutonic tall tattooed ice-queens who was wearing massive platforms at the end of her long legs, and she had a hipster plaid shirt buttoned up to the neck and she was young and cool and I asked her if the plastic shoes were too awful and she said they were cool. Reader, I believed her. And I got swept up in the romantic version of myself as some sort of Fashion Leader At The School Gates, and I tried them on and admired my relative suddenly tiny ankles against the vast plastic molded shoe of my surprising fashion dreams. It was all suddenly so clear to me – I could be VERY STYLISH FOR JUST £25 AND I COULD COVER MY HORNED TOES AND KEEP THE OVERSIZED CHILD’S SANDALS CLEAN WITH BABYWIPES! Amazing.

And so up at the till, still so swept away by my new vision of myself as maharajah of footwear fashion, I asked the teutonic ice maiden if all the cool girls wear theirs with socks, and she said of course, and she showed me the rail of red ankle socks. It was all too much. I exist on a fairly relaxed Spectrum Of Stupid, but the socks were way off my scale. Instead I bought a £6 tiny tub of Smith’s Rosebud Lip Salve because once I read that you could only get it in the US, and that it was the drugstore essential if you were some sort of channel-hopping cool person with a propensity for dry lips. And so I have worn them everywhere since, and have been amazed at the blisters, but also equally amazed at the way they wipe down, just as I had hoped they would, like some sort of latex sex suit for my calloused feet.

Seriously, it’s all fun and games with a plastic shoe, even though the school run turns the underfoot into a slimy sweaty wet room and then the road dust gets in and makes everything wetly black.

Though I don’t think everyone approves. Vicki, my elegant friend with a proper job, chose not to mention them at all, as I sashayed into the school hall for assembly, clomping and sliding and blindingly white, which I took as a gently crushing sign that she had nothing nice to say, and so said nothing at all. There were other women at the school gates who told me that they had some too, though theirs were flat and they wore them in the water, which could only really mean one thing, right? CROCS. Which wasn’t quite the look I was going for.

The sad thing is that the older I get, the more limited my choices are. I can’t dress like a mental, or even an art student, because I am too old and the joke doesn’t work like it used to. Alongside the little colonies of soft long grey hairs that form by my temples like a cartoon grandpa’s would, in a village-style cluster, like hair-Vikings, ready to take over my former blonde Wessex-head, or the ravines around the eyes and the cracked-earth dry hands, getting older also means that being appropriate starts to matter. Which is really boring.

And now I want a new baby girl. Luckily, I have an app that will show me how to do it.

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