Last Week

Sometimes when I feel like writing something, I don’t really have anything much to say to start with (and it’s possible you can tell). Other times, there is so much to write about – a saturation of things, like how my hideous tooth-stump got crowned, and the night last week when Rebecca, Lorraine, Tomas and I hosted a pub quiz to raise funds for our communal garden play area and pretty much no one came, and then how we went to all those summer fair things over the last few weekends and there was too much lemonade in the Pimms and too much sunburn. It’s a weird time of the year: everything fun is squeezed into a month, and the weather has been so hot that everyone is a bit sweatily punchdrunk and we are all being poisoned by the dirty air while we waft around in last summer’s sleeveless dresses and we wonder why our arms aren’t at all sculpted even after four months of committed yoga classes. There’s a little persistent arthritic knee action and we keep having marital disagreements about who should cook on the weekend. What a time to be alive!

But then, of course, there’s quite a few of us who aren’t alive anymore. Manchester, London Bridge, that dickhead who ran into the mosque last week, and then the terrible, awful, devastating fire at Grenfell Tower have changed my worldview a bit. I have never known a tragedy before – not really, not one that sits so close. The tower is near us; it’s walking distance in the neighbourhood west of ours, streets away from the crummy old soft play area where our kids all had their birthday parties when they were little, a glance to the left when we are all at Portobello Road market scoffing crepes and vietnamese baguettes. It’s the tower you drive past on your way out of the city, along the A40, as you pootle along in your Landrover on your way to a National Trust garden to scramble around the countryside and eat a pub lunch in the manner of carefree middle-class comfortably housed people. It’s in the neighbourhood where some of your friends grew up, where some of your friend’s families lived, where one friend’s mother worked in the nursery at the base of the tower. You could see the smoke filling the sky on Wednesday morning from my Bishop’s Bridge school-run vantage point and on my Thursday morning early jog, the air around the canal was acrid with plasticky chemical fumes. At Barnaby’s secondary school, where they are planning a whole-school peaceful fundraising walk from Holland Park to Kensington Gardens on Friday, one of their pupils escaped, another pupil and his family are still ‘missing’, and an ex-pupil is missing as well. (‘Missing’, of course, is just the shittiest euphemism for ‘dead in the sweltering burned-out tower that used to be their home’.)

So of course I have no ownership over this ugly and avoidable thing that happened last week – it wasn’t my home, or my mum, or my stuff that was cremated, and I don’t want to pretend that I am affected in any real way. I have a safe home. I am cared for. My kids are safe when they sleep. And while it is raw, and it is real, and it is local, it is also so much more that that, because I guess it doesn’t really matter that I can walk down there to sign the wall or that I can say ‘I know someone who knows someone’, because, well, whatever – it is a human thing, and a political thing, wider than the postcode.

There were babies and kids the age of my kids’ age who died in there. There were disabled elderly people in that tower. People from different parts of the world, parents who also took their kids to the soft play area and people who also considered west London their home, all lived there. They probably also ate those crepes sometimes and dropped their kids off at the holiday programme at the Westway Sports Centre to learn how to spray paint graffiti onto MDF and came out to watch the Notting Hill Carnival in August every year and eat curried goat. Some of those kids who lived in that tower wore the same school uniform as my kid does. The week before last, Grenfell residents voted in the general election and some fasted for Ramadan and many of them probably spent too much time playing on their phones. And for no reason at all, their homes burned and some of them died. Or, maybe more importantly, they died because people in charge didn’t see them as worth protecting or caring for, although that was their mandate. A systematic and shameful series of hard-eyed choices led to that horrible burnt out tower and to those few hours of horror and poisonous smoke and ruined lives.

So what do you do? Donations of Otis’s too-small jeans isn’t going to cut it. Visiting the tower again and getting in the way of the people who are busy trying to rebuild their community – well, that’s a bit shit too. Crying quite a lot about it – equally useless.

There was one girl who got out of the tower and the next morning, in the clothes she had escaped in, she sat her chemistry GCSE’s. Smoke in her hair, damaged, without her chemistry notes, and no home to go back to. With neighbours dead. What a bloody hero. We should all employ people like her. Maybe the best thing we can do is start seeing everyone as just as important and valuable as The People Who Are Like Us. And maybe we need to be getting involved and helping when things have calmed down a bit – when it isn’t dominating the news every night, and when the donation money has dried up. Time to join the Labour party, maybe.

Anyway, Tooth

Is fixed:

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Summer Fair stuff

Soho Food Feast and Marylebone Summer Fayre shenanigans, and haircuts and cheap aviators:

Podcast

Second one is down, about to be edited – we will release our 45 minutes of pure conversational brilliance very soon. Probably.

One Last Thing

When I asked Helen, wise and glorious Helen, brainy lady and vicar’s wife Helen, what you might say or pray to God after such a terrible thing as Grenfell Tower, she sent me this. St Augustine, apparently:

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your Angels and Saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Pity Your afflicted ones.
Shield Your joyous ones.
And all for Your love’s sake. Amen.

 

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Teeth and Nails and Jobs

Last night, while I was lying on the couch/reading the Sunday Style supplement/watching Britain’s Got Talent on catchup/playing on my phone/drinking tea/eating the last of the cooking chocolate/chewing a particularly stubborn bit of my nail, doing all this at once, or thereabouts, because I am Queen of Multi-Tasking with a social media addiction and the shortest of short attention spans: well, my tooth broke off in two because of the horny-nail chewing. (This is one of my dirty little habits, alongside the enthusiastic chewing of the skin around my fingers, making tiny animal sculptures out of the hair that comes out after shampooing, compulsive psoriasis-picking of the scalp and behind the ears, swearing and eating food that is well-past the cut-off date or has been scraped up off the floor).

This is not an exhaustive list.

It went ‘pop’, kind of, and crumbled, and it ended up swimming about on my tongue and I picked out out and it was a proper fang. And what is left is a discoloured filling and half a real, dead tooth, and my tongue cannot leave it alone and when I smile, you see the gum and a sad little greying half tooth and I am reminded of those kids whose parents only ever gave them Fanta to suck from a bottle. I look decaying. I look like those enchantresses who take the youthful potion made with some sacrificial fluid but the potion is running out and specific bodily parts are becoming corpse-like as they run out of time to get more potion from the virginal maid whom they must harvest the sacrificial fluid from, but luckily some hero will get to the enchantress first and save the day, etc etc. I look like I have one of Miss Havisham’s teeth.

I AM TOO VAIN TO TOLERATE THIS PHYSICAL RUIN! The NHS dentist can’t see me until Thursday and I fear I won’t be able to smile until then, or even exit the house for any other purpose than an unsmiling school run. Thank goodness I am not expected to look nice this week. No one can fit me in, not even the private dentists whom I would be willing to pay all my money (there’s at least 27 quid in my account) and maybe some of Mark’s. So I must endure this terrible situation for another two days. TWO DAYS!

Here I am, gurning into my phone to take a photo of the true dental horror:

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I might look very devil-may-care, even jolly, maybe mid-punch-line – but I can assure you I am not. I am in the depths of despair.

In Other News

Otis got dressed up by some lovely 11 year old girls last week and Mark got mad:

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I applied for two full-time jobs and no one got back to me. I think I apply for jobs quite badly – I am a bit casual in my covering letter bit because I think that my charm will shine through – that it will bedazzle any potential employer, quite frankly, if I just stay true to myself and chat a bit. It reminds me of the time that I applied for jobs with the Law Society when we first arrived in London – and I got a call back from someone quite quickly. I was delirious with the excitement and couldn’t believe how easy it had been – but then when I spoke to the guy, he was actually ringing me to talk me through my CV because it was so terrible and I couldn’t be representing the New Zealand legal profession in quite so shit a light. I think also he thought he was saving me from myself. And so he went line after line, doing a bit of laughing, if I recall, and a bit of telling off, and afterwards I cried and cried.

Then there was that time I went into the High Court in New Zealand soon after graduating and asked if there were any jobs going in any offices where I could effectively intern and some woman said yes, come back in a month, and I did, but then, all cheaply-suited up and eager, she said she had forgotten all about it and I had best be getting on home.

Then there have been two redundancies, one at six months pregnant from a job that I had found myself hastily plonked in after the project I was originally hired for had been shelved and another because I wasn’t very helpful. The only job I have kept is this one looking after my kids, and that’s because no one else will do it.

Now I have talked myself into the most maudlin mood. Here are some photos of half term outings, which was mostly a happier time and place, when my mouth was an unbroken thing.

Firstly, a day at Southbank, with a food market (below) and a sandpit and some mudlarking on the Thames foreshore even though the sign at the top of the slippery muddy stairs said STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE:

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The zoo, for which we pay a yearly membership of about a million pounds:

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And Kensington Palace Gardens, which takes five minutes to walk to and costs us nothing and where my two youngest boys held hands and played swinging games:

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Right. Cheer me up by letting me know what your dirty habits are.

 

 

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Weekends Away

We’ve had a birthday and a trip to Antwerp and stolen a napkin from Brasserie Zedel. Two kids have been on three camps and I bought another handbag. The kids haven’t asphyxiated yet from the fumes along the Marylebone Road and I lost my passport. We’ve been out to a five course wine-matched dinner at The Providores and paid a thousand quid to fix the bit on the back of the Landrover that I smashed into a telephone pole in Devon. And yet…and yet, the marriage is still intact and life, frankly, goes on, even while you are suffering mid-life crises and cataclysmic life impasses. Family life is good for forcing you to get on with it, after all.

So, Mark turned 54 and so we held a birthday week for him. He got trainers, t-shirts, Nigella’s brownie (but with sour cherries instead of walnuts – a vast improvement), dinner out, brunch out, a naked-y burlesque evening and a conveniently-timed kidless weekend in Antwerp which wasn’t really a birthday thing at all, but we pretended. And how do people with five kids and no family around to help get to have a kidless weekend in Antwerp? This is how:

  1. Two months prior, you spy the cheap Eurostar deal of 29 quid each way, and you ask your architect foodie mates if they want to come and they say yes and you think you have two months to figure out the kid details.
  2. You have a rough idea of who to farm the kids out to, and you tentatively ask a few people and slowly a workable plan emerges. One kid to one family, two to another, and the last two to the third family. You are very grateful and say you will return the favour. You know you could pay a babysitter to come and stay the weekend but you think that will be very expensive (thereby negating the cheap tickets in the first place then really negating the whole point of the thing) and you also think that because you operate a kind of sociable, open house policy in your daily life, where the contents of the fridge are always welcome and the prosecco flows *rather* freely, that you might just see if your mates could help you out for one night in a quid pro quo kind of situation.
  3. Charlotte says she would love to take Magic away for the weekend. This is a massive thing.
  4. You email the people who have said they will help to remind them of it. One says yes, another says ON NO I CAN’T I’LL STILL BE AWAY I’M SO SORRY I WAS CALLED AWAY TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD! and you think – fair enough. Another one (also called away to the other side of the world) doesn’t reply.
  5. You rearrange and wait and hope and wonder about alternatives.
  6. The day and a half before you leave on the 6:57am train, you find out that two kids cannot be farmed out anymore – and you panic.
  7. You ask everyone you have ever met – teachers, TA’s, the parish vicar who lives down the road, a woman you met once at a party, new friends, old friends – to take two kids overnight. You feel embarrassed to ask. It is awkward and it is turning a weekend away into a monstrously self-indulgent, ridiculous thing. Everyone is trying to help and they are ruining their own weekends. You think you should just stay at home, but two overstretched neighbours come to your kid-drama rescue.
  8. You leave at 6:57am. You have a lovely time except for the hysterical phone call from the middle child saying the eldest has smashed his already-broken wrist in a door. You are about to enter the Eurotunnel so can’t do much. Also you lose your passport and have to cry at the man at UK border control to get back into the country.

So I won’t be doing that again. Weekends away are for those with kind mothers/in-laws/more cash. Weekends away are for the childless, the free-spirited, those with au-pairs. They are not for us. We made our too-many-children-to-go-away-cheaply-or-easily-bed, and we just have to lie in it.

Anyway, this is what Antwerp was all about – first, the station, which may or may not still have my passport lost somewhere under a random bit of station furniture:

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One of many daytime kir royals:

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In a pub that was really like a church. A church of kir royals, if you will, and many, many Marys & her religion icon-ilk:

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When we came back, Sarah and I went to a Poetry Reading in Fulham, which was surprisingly lovely and emotional. I thought poetry was too much like think-y maths, but I was wrong. Here I am wearing purposely mis-matched earrings but I think it just makes people think you are slovenly/short-sighted:

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Also, that night (and many nights since) I have worn this Def Leppard t-shirt. The guy at the shop where I bought it didn’t know who they were. I am too old and he was too young. This is happening a lot lately:

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Brunch at Grangers with my beloved. I missed out on Martha’s yoga class for this particular date, which pretty much proves I love him – because I also love Martha a lot. She touches me with tiny little kind movements (‘adjustments’ to my yoga postures is the official line, but I suspect it is more meaningful and I am developing *quite* the crush on her):

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Otis The Wonky-Toothed goes to the barber and gets a Kit Kat:

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There was an afore-mentioned brownie party. I ate seven pieces over the weekend and have had to make an emergency batch for when Mark gets home from Cub Camp:

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More on my yoga crush later. And on the pod-cast plans. THE POD CAST PLANS! JUST YOU WAIT!

 

 

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New Rules

Ok, so cutting a long, fairly painful long story short, Mark and Ned came back from New Zealand and showered us with gifts and Whittaker’s Jelly Tip blocks of chocolate (three – I ate them in less than a week) and perfume and some terrifying new ideas about leaving London for good at Christmas without jobs to go to, without a clear idea of which city to live in, without plans other than getting there and hoping for the best. Blunt hammerish unilateral non-plans that we were all supposed to just get on board with, because that’s what people do when they feel pushed into a corner – they flee or fight, and Mark was ready to fight.  Things got icy and uncomfortable, there were words, and tears, and then some sort of sulking silence and two weeks of that thing you do when you Really Want The Other Person To Notice That You Are Angry/Powerless/Desperate whereby you won’t do much eye contact, and you slink onto the opposite sides of the hallway lest you touch or even get near them. And after two weeks of this sad, mean, unkind coldness the dam broke and we talked in the dark in the early morning about the terrible impasse that can’t really be fixed – an impasse where two people legitimately want two very different futures for themselves and their family and there is no middle ground.

So it’s counselling for us, apparently, once I work out how to be referred by the stricken NHS, just so we can learn to deal with our big uncomfortable ugly stinking opposite-ways-of-thinking problem – and maybe what you do with residual resentments once we make a decision about our future, and how not to let that turn everything poisonous and ruinous to your otherwise quite nice marriage. And in the meantime, much more sensitivity towards each other about the threat that each other poses – no stupid unfunny jokes about the torrential rain in New Zealand, no ignorant musings about how the kids wouldn’t get allergies there, no more subtle manipulation of the children (“In New Zealand we will build you a treehouse!”, ‘If we stay here, you’ll get a proper education!” etc etc).

IT’S SO BORING BEING A GROWNUP

Also this week, some truly awful school reports about three out of four kids – apparently the joys of parental reading aren’t always picked up by osmosis, and it seems that my spelling skills haven’t just been passed on as easily as my myopic eyesight, and that there is a strong undeniable gene trait of laziness that pervades the eldest three when it comes to using their brains. Homework isn’t getting done, and one kid reads worse than the kids whose parents don’t speak English. SO.

This guy is doing ok, mostly because he is too young for anyone to notice any gaping holes in his basic learning yet. In non-academic-related successes (because I have to claw back some parental belief in myself in a week that seems to be all about our combined shameful accidental casual screwing up of almost all of the kids’ chances at getting jobs one day, etc) we did make him a very nice Easter Bonnet for his nursery parade with help from a glue gun and so much Easter-related paraphernalia from Tiger. Why did I take twelve long years of crap crafting with glue sticks and tape when a glue gun sorts that shit out in seconds? No matter the burns when a hat can look this fantastic:

And look! It’s not all swear words and the inability to write their names! There’s Easter jaunts to National Trust properties and hook-a-duck and egg hunts and actual fondness for one another!

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There are also new rules now that Mark and Ned are back. Those three weeks of calm and cleanness and less TV made me decide that we have been doing things wrong. Changes include:

  1. I will no longer cook on the weekends. I don’t care if they come at me, crawling on all fours, crying a bit and asking about Nutella. I don’t care if at 5pm they look a little sweaty about the brow, questioning me about the possibilities of hamburgers and convinced they are suffering from low blood sugar levels. It is no longer my problem. Tonight, they are making toast for themselves and I no longer care. This feels both good, and long overdue.
  2. There will be chores. Chores are boring to organise and the details are dull and if you accidentally and rashly tell them that their jobs will be worth a fiver each at the end of the week, you will soon became very poor. Here is the third amended list which kind of works and I realise I have been shielding both them and me from helping around the house. And what kind of young men am I raising if they think picking your own stuff up should only be done by people with vaginas, paid or otherwise? I hope it isn’t too little, too late:IMG_2566
  3. I am going to leave the children with Mark when I need to and not feel guilty. Like I did yesterday – a full day in Brixton eating and drinking and buying welsh wool rugs and returning home when I felt like it, knowing dinner wasn’t my problem anymore and that any guilt I might be feeling was misplaced. This includes weekly yoga classes and planned nights away with lovely girlfriends in the New Forest and Babington House because this year I turn 40 and so it’s time.
  4. I am going to make some more money of my own and so can both contribute and start to feel that I have some choices available to me. This means I have to try to get work by meeting people and pitching and making contacts and putting myself out into the world – I’ve never done this before and it is terrifying, but not as terrifying as being pulled back by the hair to a place I don’t want to go – so there is some proper motivation RIGHT THERE, fellas.

This all feels rather serious and joyless, doesn’t it? Its fine, really – just look at my face nearly exploding from the inner happiness:

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Nothing that a gin and tonic won’t fix.

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Drove, Swam, Drove Back

I’m still single parenting until tomorrow morning and the pain of it has mostly gone. I think it’s all a bit easier to have one captain steering the ship. Or, like, one film commercial directing the shoot. Or one fabulously dressed diplomat ordering the champagne. You know what I mean. Anyway, tomorrow morning we will have two very tired extras coming back into the flat, happy to see us at about 14%, sad to be back 86%. And needing a shower and maybe needing us to be gone. BEGONE, too many family members! And I’ll be like ‘I’ll give you two days. After that, it’s coffee and therapy for you, my man.” Actually, I won’t, but I should. Must. Exert. Power. Of. Leverage.

Also On My Near Horizon

  1. Serious conversations to be had about where we should live – broken down by hemisphere, country, city, suburb, house vs flat.

2. Serious conversations about parenting failures made evident by trip to Devon last week.

3. Serious conversations about domestic chores divide. (HINT: I am over doing everything.)

4. Serious conversations about how I crashed the landrover into a telephone pole and now it is a bit smashed like a coke can.

Needless to say, I am not excited by the thought of these conversations. Not sure quite how any of us will emerge unscathed.

So, Devon. It was lovely, romantically lovely, with lolling hills and tiny little lambs (we ate some, too) and goats with hair like this:

Oh how we laughed. And then the very next morning, Amanda washed her hair and it did the very same high bouffant-y fringe as though she had slept in wide rollers and we laughed again. Her beard was pretty much the same, too.

We took the kids surfing, and we really didn’t think they would last the hour. The beach was desolate and wild and gorgeous, but so BLOODY COLD. Amanda is from Sydney and I am from the northern part of New Zealand and so seeing the cold British people all huddled on the brown sand in parkas and those wind breaker things pegged into the sand like some sort of plastic room dividers keeping them sort of protected from the harsh coldness, well, it breaks us a little in the heart-place. And there are no proper cafes. WHY ARE THERE NO PROPER CAFES? There was a hole-in-the-wall ice cream kiosk but really, there are hundreds of cold hungry people with their dogs all keen for a big plate of chips and a really good coffee after their brave coastal journey along the wilds of the seaside but they aren’t catered for AT ALL. But enough about me and my imaginary friends – here are the surfing photos:

They stayed out in the sea for about an hour and loved it. And then I thought how smart we were to get them surfing, because it proves that life here is full and outdoorsy and potentially sea-related, and so I sent the photos to Mark, in a kind of ‘LOOK! You don’t need to move to New Zealand! They love surfing here!’ and then I remembered that you don’t have to save up for once-a-year surfing situations in New Zealand – you can do it every day after work. Which I am sure was very apparent to him, and everyone else who is watching our social media war of wills. Anyhoo.

So then, though, the weather got hot and we found a beach called North Sands and we could take off our goose feather Woolwich parkas and leather jackets and the kids swam and crabbed and climbed rock faces and the dog found a little rock pool where he barked and ate seawater and then he squirted it all out of his bum in front of the well-heeled beach goers and they had to come get me to clean it all up.

Otis was having so much fun that he peed his trousers, and so I did this thing that I do quite well – I peeled the old ones off and I fashioned a new pair of pants out of my jumper. His little urine-soaked legs went through the arms of my jumper, I pulled the bottom of my jumper up, up, up and tied the ends over one shoulder. If he bent over to play in rock pools, then yes, his bum was exposed, but provided he stood uptight it stayed intact. He looked like a grecian nymph:

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These are the parenting triumphs. The parenting lows were quite frequent and severe, and included much 9 year old swearing, general violence, a variety of unkindnesses, scowling, early morning stomping, attacking each other in cars with fingernails and boots. There were packets of sweets stolen from the girls, there were six hour long car journeys punctuated by shrieking and screaming. My children used all the milk in their cereal bowls, filling them each morning to the brim but with no intention of actually drinking the milk – the milk seeming to act purely as a kind of aesthetic backdrop to the few bits of cereal they eat, rather than serving an actual food-purpose. I hadn’t really noticed they did this until the holiday. Amanda’s kids didn’t do that. They also took their bowls to the kitchen when they had finished and said please and thank you without being prompted. Small things, but actually, important things.

My phone got spilled in water so took a few days off to sit in a bag of rice and we had no service anyway, and so I stayed off screens which was sort of fun and novel until it wasn’t. We watched movies and drank prosecco and the dog sat in some sort of patrician judgement of us:

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But, like, after the beachside diarrhoea incident, I think he was really in no place to comment.

And then, we drove home after going off-piste to find a Devon cream tea place. Of course, in all of Devon, there really were none to be found, not for like an hour and half of sideways driving and then we decided to take the B-roads at Exeter and the four hour trip took nine hours and then I got lost in Kilburn and nearly cried.

Anyway,  home now. Wish me luck for the coming weeks while futures are being negotiated and serious talks are entered into. I will need it.

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Single Bingeing

So, I am alone and a *tiny* bit lonely. Husband and fourth kid (easiest kid: sunniest disposition, holds my hand, draws nice pictures, good face symmetry, smells a bit biscuity still) have flown home to New Zealand for a mental health break. For my husband mostly, but also for me because when there are five in the flat and not seven, things are a lot quieter. Calmer, more female-centric. There are no shit man-movies being snuck on in a darkened bedroom on an otherwise nice and sunny Sunday, nor is the breakfast tv turned on ‘for the news’ only to be shouted over by bickering half-dressed kids and ignored by the husband who isn’t actually watching it (instead obsessively reading consecutive bad fantasy trilogies on his Kindle) but not reading them so intently that he doesn’t erupt with rage every so often at the noisy disruption of the news and then everyone gets sulky and meaner and louder and we are all in DESPAIR and it isn’t even 7am yet. No arguments about what to do on the weekend, no cheese toast machine being left out for days with congealed cheesy fat in the grooves, no dirty socks balled up under the couch.

The flat seems cleaner and smells better, the domestic chores slighter and more manageable, and the evenings- oh! The evenings! They are like PARTAY TIME for me – there’s dinner done early (mostly eggy concoctions like Israeli sabiche) and then wine and/or tea, then we all pile onto the bed to read and the kids get sent off to their bunks one by one and then finally at 9pm I rise like a queenly phoenix shaking off the mother-ness to reclaim the best sofa and the TV remote like a BOSS. Two episodes of Judd Apatow’s Love a night (getting alternately depressed or laughing at Mickey and Gus and that Australian flatmate), followed by reading in my bed until, like WHENEVER!* (*maybe 10:30pm – I’m not a maniac). And if I run in the morning, I don’t have to creep around banging into electric guitars/keyboards/archery sets or one of the two (TWO) office chairs that are usually rolled directly in front of the bathroom door. OH NO it’s lights a’blazin’ and loud running gear application all round.

But

It got a tiny bit tricky today though – surprisingly or not, there are issues with being a single parent to four kids and a dog with no one to help.

Legs

Otis woke yesterday and said he could no longer walk. He crawled everywhere and said his leg needed stretching out and he cried and slumped to the floor when I told him calmly that yes, he could indeed walk, and that I needed him to go to nursery so I could Do Some Work. He kept it up all morning and I really didn’t know if it was a growing pains/leg cramp situation or, like, bone cancer. I underplayed the whole thing when I dropped him off at nursery, wiping his tears as he collapsed onto the ground, and ran off hoping for the best. Apparently, you (and Social Services) will be pleased to know that the crawling soon became limping and then proper normal walking and all was fine again. But really, I could have done with another grownup to panic privately with.

Mariongate

I had a midday Skype interview with an artist in New York and I really needed Otis to stay in the living room and watch Wallace & Grommit quietly for an hour while I talked to her and taped the conversation. When he got home from nursery I tried to set things up a little – I kept the telly off for as long as I could so he wouldn’t peak too soon, I fed him endurance foodstuffs in the form of boiled eggs, watered him, made the sofa very comfortable with Baby Dolly and his Flanket and was kind, encouraging, all tiny nice voices and promises of a good afternoon once I had Done My Work.

She called in, I ran off to my bedroom and cranked up Skype, warning her that I might be staging an actual Prof. Kelly kid-swaggering-in-type-situation. It was minutes, mere minutes before we could both hear Otis bellowing out for me and then yes, pretty soon he sauntered down and found me in the room, trying very hard to both listen and contribute to a conversation about monumental objects and processes of immateriality. Otis was having none of it, and so after trying to talk to her and singing a bit, he turned to me and demanded Masha & The Bear and popcorn. It was kind of funny, except it wasn’t. I apologised and raced him back to his comfy little TV nest, sorted out the tv and gave him the first of many packets of popcorn and a Kinder Surprise and told him not to come back in. He came in three more times, emboldened by the sugar and the way I gave in to his requests, and after playing the keyboard really loudly and shredding some paper, finally he just sat on my lap, obscuring the screen, going through Daddy’s Stuff on the desk and asking loudly and repeatedly for me to make him a babyccino. He could smell my desperation and embarrassment, and I could only do my very best to keep following the conversation and hoping the tape could pick out her voice over the sounds of Otis scraping bits of metal over the office desk. I could have done with some help.

Moulin Rouge

I decided it was time the kids saw the Baz Luhrmann oeuvre while I was in charge of the family viewing, and we started with Moulin Rouge on Sunday. Oh, the joy of watching Moulin Rouge with your kids! It was practically spiritual. The songs all came back to me and I sang with all the passion of a Parisian bohemian not yet disillusioned by love, and I cried and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The kids were also transfixed – even Otis, although at various points Casper howled and caterwauled and screeched and I got mad, because he was interrupting the Greatest Love Story Ever Told, and he said that he was just singing along like me, and why couldn’t he make bad sounds too? And I thought if your father were here, I would chuck you both out – you don’t DESERVE Baz!  But he wasn’t there to take him away and so I just sunk further down into my sofa blanket and sang along quietly, spirit crushed, chastened by a nine year old whose greatest joy is making me feel a bit stink.

And so last night I thought over the past week – the small triumphs and the despairs, the pre-teen flare ups I handled alone, the morning that Noah tipped Otis out of the buggy onto the road on the way to school, the joys of playing Madonna’s Immaculate Collection loudly over dinner, the pointlessness of opening a bottle of wine to pour one glass for yourself, the irritations of having to fix work problems but not having Mark to help out because he is AWOL hunting deer somewhere, the sadness of watching the kids feel left out while their brother gets time with cousins and grandparents on the other side of the world, and the general concern that Mark will come home and be unsatisfied by our lives here. That we, and this, isn’t enough.

And I thought that the joys of this temporary single life are quite commensurate with the pains of this temporary single life. Do I want them back? Not yet, but I can see that two more weeks of this might turn me.

To Conclude

Here’s some urban shots of us in this dirty lovely city, no deer in sight (only dead rats) and a very disgusted Otis:

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very big lesbian in dubai*

There is joy to be found in the little things, should I need to remind you in the messes of our topsy-turvy world: icy gin and tonics at 5pm to dull the pain of homework insistence, proper coffee after breakfast preferably in eggshell blue Poole cups that you pick up at the Trinity Hospice shop, finding a new tv show that you both actually like (currently Tasmanian hi-jinks in The Kettering Incident) and the resulting anticipation of nights stretched out on sofas staring at screens not talking or moving, the cleaner coming in on Wednesdays to fix up your accumulated filth, the Sunday paper supplements, and pretty much anything to do with eggs.

Also joyful are eBay-enabled collections of stuff to put in dusty corners and occasionally admire. I get all het up about other people’s cast-offs and in my mind I am *quite* the interior stylist – late night eBay scrolling has resulted in numerous babycham glasses and cut-glass jelly molds and button collections. I’m now frantically bidding on (and winning) blobbish 70’s Murano glass bowls and vases, because once I saw a bunch of them in Heal’s and they looked good and it’s clearly going to enrich my life internally and externally if I get some. They look like this and I currently have two, with about three more on the way:

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I know what you’re thinking – probably something about my innate and uncanny ability to find the stylishness in something ugly and redundant and how I need my own lifestyle channel (and also, why doesn’t she at least wipe the bench down before taking photographs of it…? Slattern). I know, I know. If only I could find an actual uncluttered surface somewhere in this flat then I could display my burgeoning decorative glass collection, but alas – these are what most of the surfaces look like (just after the cleaner has been – it’s Wednesday, y’all – it’s normally much worse):

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Clearly, THERE IS NO ROOM FOR MORE BAUBLE-Y RUBBISH.

Speaking of no-room-in-the-flat-for-unnecessary-trinkets, it must be noted that the Keyboard of Physical Substance has been moved from the dining room table (which is good) and found a home on my dressing table (which is less good). It’s not really a dressing room table as such, because that would suggest we had a glamorous 1950’s boudoir and you know that isn’t true – as I told you last time, our bedroom is a musical instrument purgatory ft. an office and a bed and too many pairs of shoes I’ll never wear because they aren’t flat-soled Converse.  I have one side of the room that is marked out as mine, and it used to have little ladylike displays of glass bottles and broken shiny brooches and notebooks with which to write shopping lists and (potentially) romantic musings but that’s all been pushed to the back to make way for the keyboard. Which no longer gets played now that it is out of the dining room. Anyway.

Make-Up Situation 

This will come as no surprise to all long-time, right-thinking readers out there, but I really fear for my make up collection. As has been recorded – often, over the long, long years of child-rearing – each of my children have been very keen on the misappropriation of my lipstick, but Otis has graduated past the obvious lipsticks to Stage Two of Make-Up Ruination: to mascara, eyeshadows, brow pencils and and eyeliners.

A month ago, it was all about the lipstick, and it went like this: You take a lipstick out of a handbag or from the makeup shelf in the bathroom, the one that you need to drag a stool up to in order to reach high enough (BECAUSE THEY *ARE* ACTUALLY OUT OF THE WAY, THANK YOU), preferably a lipstick that you see your mother using often because she likes it so much, and you smear it on and over and above your natural lipline, graduate to a sort of slasher-y clownish blusher on your baby cheek and then you smash the whole shaft into your fingers and spread it around like some cheap poster paint that doesn’t cost 30 quid.  Then you are sad because your mum is cross and so you pout and cry a bit. This is what three year old self-pity looks like (also, what Clinique Crimson Matte looked like):

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Then there was more makeup interference on the weekend. I was called into the bathroom by an older, horrified brother to find an abstract painting on the wall, in browns and blackest blacks, all very smudged and smeared and spiky. The brow mascara (which is proving quite the handy piece of kit now that I am withering and losing all my hair) was very wet – hopefully only dipped into the sink and not into the toilet. BUT YOU NEVER CAN TELL. The new, excellent Revlon brow colour-innerer was snapped, lids missing, the brush of the Chanel mascara sample squashed and deplete of any actual paint, having been so roughly transferred onto the bathroom wall. At, like, preschooler-height.

I got a bit shouty, I made him wipe the walls, I stood over him and got him to rub, rub rub over those new eyeliner-y indents into the cheap paint and a lot of it came off – the paint, rather than the mascara. Because, you know, I only buy the spency stuff that stays on.

Pre-School Hair Situation

It’s not all tears and money-wasting though. He’s now going to nursery in the mornings, leaving me time to write and go to yoga. The writing makes me feel good and fulfilled, the yoga-going makes me feel like I need to get a job. Yoga at 11am – about as shameful as watching daytime TV and going to McDonalds. Anyway, I took him to see George the barber for a little tidy-up, and George found glitter and a large amount of melted chocolate in his ears. None of this makes any sense.

*yesterday’s amusing search term – sorry to disappoint, Accidental Reader.

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