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 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:


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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I’m Not Sulking

Today is the kind of day where I feel a bit like crying, or a bit like whacking someone around the chops with a handbag. For no reason at all. Maybe something to do with demands on me, or lack of demands, where I feel both pulled in all directions and completely redundant at the same time. Hormones?  Probably hormones. But then that thought makes me sad too because one day soonish I shall dry up like a wizened shell without these pesky hormones, and give up on my mooncup and frequent, hopeful pregnancy tests and my face will become parched and dry like a biblical scroll. Or like unleavened bread. Even a dishcloth that has been drying on the radiator and is stiff and ripped in parts, and smells a bit like cat food. You know?

(On the mooncup thing, I need to tell you all that you should be wary of using it after you have been recklessly chopping up chillies without gloves on. Seriously, take care out there in the dangerous world of domesticity, where it is entirely plausible that silicon-meets-capsaicinoids-meets-your-lady-parts. Also don’t take your contact lenses straight out either. It gets me every time.)

So this boring funk I am in may have something to do with the fact that we are parents of a ten year old and things are getting out of hand. I can do babies no sweat, and toddlers are fine, if a little inconvenient at times, and kids make me annoyed in general but they aren’t that bad, but I have never dealt with an actual prepubescent and it is all suddenly a bit trickier and more serious. We went to see an alternative secondary school for our biggest kid a few weeks ago, and I saw parents who I recognised from baby groups when he was tiny, and we were all pacing the halls of Holland Park School nervously, overawed by it, and thinking about our kids fitting in there, and everyone was really just thinking about themselves going there and what it would feel like because we did all this ourselves not that long ago, and it was kind of horrible. (Not Holland Park School, which was so fabulous that I went a bit nuts for a few days after, telling everyone I met about it like boring overexcited parents tend to do. Apologies, anyone who came into contact with me had to go through the prospectus and were given a blow-by-blow account of my exciting open day visit. I won’t do that again.) Horrible because it signals the end of something and the beginning of the growing up and the growing away.

He has asked to walk home from school on his own, and he asked me this morning for a proper tie, not one of the elastic ones he has been using since he was four, and he has been popping out to Queensway for urgent supplies of tat from Tiger by himself, as well as having a little dog-walking job which generates a whole £2 a week. All good things, which I take to mean we have done an acceptable job of looking after him: the whole point of this parenting gig after all being that they start to diverge from you a bit, and stride out on their own, one block ahead of you and their straggling scrapping siblings, proper tie flapping in their small faces, with year six daily homework straining in their one-size-up school bags. But it all feels a bit heartbreaking. Even Otis has shunned the buggy in favour of his new second-hand micro-scooter, and refuses to sit in his high chair anymore, preferring instead to tip his weetabix into the grooves of the wooden table from the more convenient dining room chairs, just like his big brothers do.

It happens to everyone, I know. It’s just a bit new and a bit odd. And of course the other thing is that I am going to be 38 on Saturday and that feels ridiculous. Like completely absurd and stupid. It came from nowhere! I was about 20, and then I had some Christmases and stuff, and now I am filling in that age bracket on questionnaires which goes from 35-45. And inside, you are shouting NO, I’M NOT THAT OLD, ACTUALLY! Not really! Because 38 looked different when I wasn’t 38. When I was a kid, it looked quite old and middle-aged and people got their hair cut short and they stopped listening to new music and their clothes weren’t very cool. I don’t even think people who were 38 had sex any more. Not in my hometown, anyway.

Here is a black and white series of boy photos to distract you from noticing that I referred to my mooncup and people having sex. Sorry about that. If I wasn’t nearly 38, I probably wouldn’t feel I needed to apologise. GAH

Here they are in Kensington Gardens, looking for mushrooms and blackberries which were not sodden and mouldy on an inset day last week, which was really a day off for Eid. No luck, though a very belated Eid Murabak everyone and cheers for the day off:


And a video of Otis drumming:

On Sunday we had a last hurrah picking raspberries at Crockford Bridge Farm and ate gelato, because soon we will be too cold and miserable for frozen dairy products:


And the children huddled onto Noah’s bed, united by episodes of Max & Ruby:

That’s more than enough self-wallowing. Tonight we all have to stay at school for a shared dinner (at 4:30pm) to meet the teachers. It is Casper’s turn tonight, and I am going to have to ‘fess up to his teacher that he has been hiding his homework down the side of his bed in a pathetic and misguided belief that he wouldn’t have to do it if it got lost. Noah has been trying that trick for years now and it doesn’t work. But still they try. Eejits.

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Surprising South American Tamarillo

Before we begin, it is necessary to set down the searingly important, mind-bogglingly-wonderful, most game-changingly amazing thing to have occurred over these 13 years of blessed migrant slumming.

You can get tamarillos in London, and not just at The Providores in a smoothie that costs £25!  Here is the proof:



It’s been about 13 years since I wrapped my ageing lips around a massive bursting red fragrant tamarillo. When we first got them, we were misty-eyed and moved, and put them all together on a Portuguese teal plate for obvious colour-popping purposes, and then we put the plate into our room to keep the children away from them. We love our children and all that, but not enough to let them try a tamarillo. And our room! If you closed your eyes, you could imagine you were in some sort of photogenic New Zealand summer/beachhouse/orchard-type situation, because a plate of tamarillos on a chipped plate in a tiny basement bedroom (which is full of never-played guitars and bank statements in files dating from 2006 and massive haunted brown furniture and dirty balled up school socks sharing space under the bed with nests of hairy tumbleweed from the dog: and all those things have a fragrance of a kind, you know) gives out a delicate yet steady perfume of sweet tangy ripe tomatoey/passionfruity/melony goodness. And masks the dank horror for a moment.

But then we ate them. Mark is a saver of delicious things, in that kind of way where his easter eggs are still around a year later with that worrying-looking bloom all over them, and I could see his precious share of the tamarillos started to hang around a little longer than was probably advisable, with a tiny bit of wizenedness occurring around the edges. So I helped him finish them off, one at a time. He didn’t seem to mind. And now the bedroom smells like melancholy again.


Our neighbour, the mysterious John from Taranaki, spends a lot of time in Church Street Market up by Edgeware Road tube because he looks after a very old Israeli muslim retired judge, and he kindly buys stuff for the old guy from the market because it is full of middle eastern stalls and cafes and little shops full of spices and tahini. And one day a few weeks ago, he comes across a stall with a box of tamarillos, and NO ONE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE! And so no one bought them! But John, keen of eye and nose and swift in the purchase, flooded with childhood memories of tamarillo jams and tamarillo trees and stained fingers and sour juices and scabbing mosquito bites, bought the lot, which seem to have been reduced to clear. He went back a day later to ask about buying some more and the stall guy said it would never happen again, because they wouldn’t shift.


They were South American tamarillos, and if I am entirely honest, they were slightly too pasty-textured near the skin. But oh my. It’s almost enough for me to haul all the children and the dog and my handbags back to New Zealand on a container ship just to eat one fresh off a tree.


Before anyone gets carried away, here’s a small clip of Otis on his second birthday. I made a cake which was accidentally infused with cumin, because we bought half a kilo of it in Turkey and it has laced everything in the cupboard. Don’t have sugar in your tea at my place, unless you like it tasting like a taco. But look at that face!

And, because I have finally got videos to work, here is a brilliant little movie of my mum and dad at the Notting Hill Carnival, kind of sick of the pounding beats that are so loud you feel them in your gut rather than hear them. But they decided to dance for me anyway. And what moves!

And some photos of the children, before the Autumn came in and forced us to put away our shorts and t-shirts back into the storage, after a period of about seven weeks.  (By storage, I mean overflowing IKEA bags shoved on top of wardrobes, under beds, in cupboards, etc.)

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Casper in full armour at the Wallace Collection:


Cute baby before his wispy girl-hair was shorn into a wonky bowl cut at the barbers:


And chocolate and churros on a rainy Sunday at the Spanish cafe, outside the barbers where the shearing takes place, because sometimes it is the only thing a bunch of post-holidayed people can do:


Anyway, it is drizzling outside and I have a cold that is turning me into a whinging baby. And school is back, which is partly good (actually some free time during the day to do stuff like replace the missing sink plug and wash some clothes) and bad (we have to set the alarm for 6:30am and shout a lot, and also homework) while the flat multiplies before my very eyes strewn uriney-pyjama bottoms and broken bits of Kinder Surprises like Tribbles and I have to live with the fact that we won’t go anywhere sunny for about a year. But, dear reader, there is always the memory of our plate of surprising South American tamarillos to keep my head well out of the oven.

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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.


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


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:


When Dads find pills:


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


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


A leech-gatherer for your viewing pleasure:


2000 year old rock tombs:



The water. Now, really.



Mostly we ate chips:

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.


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:




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:


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:


Crackers for breakfast, and a surfeit of tiger-print:

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:


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:


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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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.


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:


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:


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:


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:


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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