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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Big Furniture

Happy Valentine’s Day, and also happy half term! I trust your place is full of the love, positively pulsating from it, as is ours. There is so much love emanating from all members of the family right now, and from all surfaces and domestic objects – especially from the massive second-hand keyboard that Mark bought yesterday for the eldest to plink plink plunk on (and randomly disco/bossa nova/salsa/tango beat) which now is sitting on one fourth of the kitchen table, all open and exposed to spilt liquids. The table is loving being obscured and rendered useless, and I am loving the fact that soon someone will poke a stolen chopstick from Royal China into the mechanics of the keyboard and something will go wrong with it and there will be a whole lot of anger and shouting about it and somehow it will be my fault. I am LOVING that.

See the magnificent massive musical beast claim my formerly useful table where all seven of us regularly sit to eat:

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See all the random tabletop paraphernalia all shoved to the side with a romantic and dramatic flourish? MAKE WAY FOR THE ELECTRIC KEYBOARD MY TEENY TINY POTENTIAL PARTRIDGE FAMILY! MY LITTLE JACKSON FIVES! YOU GUYS ARE GONNA BE GREAT!

And then, Mark brings in an electric guitar. For Casper! The kid with the broken wrist, the kid who generally uses noise as a weapon to wound and wear down, to destroy and to infuriate. Please, son, have an ELECTRIC GUITAR. Which luckily has not been placed on top of the straining kitchen table but has been propped up in our bedroom alongside Mark’s two (TWO) dusty electric guitars that have followed us from flat to flat and that have been played about three times, when the maudlin musical mood strikes.

Underneath our bed we have two violins in cases that Mark once found at a job site (‘they might be worth something, them violins.’) We also have a bright orange amp that lives in our love-filled bedroom, underneath the office table and positioned just far out enough from the wall so that you can’t stick your feet down properly. We also share our love-nest bedroom with office equipment, filing cabinets and two photocopiers – a normal one that hums and the other a special one that can photocopy A3 floor plans and suchlike. It is the size of a dressing table. It is very, very romantic in my office/bedroom boudoir, and now it is also a burgeoning band practice/instrument storage-type situation.

I swoon. I literally swoon.

I know that this musical instrument enthusiasm comes from a very lovely place – Mark’s mother and sister played the piano and he speaks fondly of hearing them play. Never mind that our kids have been having musical lessons since they were four AT SCHOOL – between the eldest three they are all perfectly proficient on the violin, viola and cello – but now, the keyboard has entered the building. The eldest said that he will have weekly lessons if he doesn’t have to play a sport, and partly, I admire the bargaining skills and on the other I think boys need sport to run off the bubbling erupting testosterone. But then, I’m not going to volunteer to be a soccer mum because you need an ugly parka, some sort of muddy boot situation and you have to both know the rules of sport and care about it. All of which I don’t.

I just have a very real fear that the keyboard will stay on the kitchen table, never get touched again, someone will pour milk into it accidentally or otherwise, Mark will have a heart attack from the rage and will be wounded emotionally because they don’t listen to him or respect things and I won’t have anywhere to feed three members of the family. We will have to have two mealtime sittings – all placed carefully in a radius around the massive keyboard, trying not to flick pasta in between the keys. With, you know, all the love a family can muster.

E-Safety

We have had a few *issues* over appropriate viewing on devices and suchlike, and so I have had to attend an e-safety workshop at the boys’ school, and also have been told that you shouldn’t post naked/embarrassing photos of the children. This one I think is ok though, because you’ll never guess which kid this guy is:

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Or this one:

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As for the appropriate viewing, I came a little too late to the parental controls. Let that be a warning to you all – youtube is a little bit filthy so you have to be vigilant. But you all knew that, right? So here the kids all are, post-panicky wifi restrictions, all watching cat videos and not being corrupted:

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And lastly, the dog. The dog and his bed habits. This right here is grainy, non-musical, unfurniture-related love:

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Wondering When The Adults Will Arrive

Here’s a confession, which isn’t really a confession, because it’s a bit obvious to all who know me (and heck! probably strangers on the street): I am a financial and political dunce. I could have done with money management lessons at school which may well have saved me from the cost-per-wear LIES, and perhaps I may have understood that savings and pensions and things are there to keep you safe, and that keeping safe is a good thing, not just a boring thing, and then perhaps I would think twice about frittering money away on things that are short-term totally excellent, but long-term don’t keep you warm/fed/dry etc etc. Been paid? Great! Prolly time to go to a Christopher Kane sale to get a massive skirt which will look really good the two times I wear it! And if there is some tax to pay, well, hmmmm, prolly someone/anyone/Mark might spring for that….after all, it’s no good using your money to pay the taxes if you don’t have a floor length ballgown skirt to swish around in, right? Too bloody right.

And the same with politics, really. I’ve lived in nice sensible countries whose governments seemed to have a vested interest in keeping people safe and educated and well, and the people around me have earned enough to keep us all collectively afloat and fed and so it’s been easy not to get terribly engaged about adulty political things. We’ve had strong women leaders in my lifetime and relatively pleasant race relations and I always felt that the parties were all saying much the same thing and that there was probably a system in place that would keep basic things going regardless of who was in charge, like electricity and schools and fairness and smooth tarmacs and regular rubbish collection.

Perhaps, even, there was some sort of deep-voiced Kindly Overlord who kept an eye on the politicians and the governments to make sure things were ok and that the good was nicely balanced with the not-so-good things. There might be challenges along the way – Westboro pro-lifers and shameful homophobes and redneck racists muttering a bit of filth now and then, perhaps some sort of difficult situation going on in Taksim Square and some terrible business with Yazidis and abstract anomalies such as Darfur and neo-Nazis and Mugabe and North Korea; but, probably, the Kindly Overlord would sort that shit out once it go too bad or too close. Anyways, there was always a petition to sign to express my concern and indignation. But LO! The scales have fallen off my myopic eyeballs and I am getting that creeping feeling on your skin when you realise that:

a. I was wrong about everything, and

b. no one is in charge, and

c. the world has changed significantly and it’s going to end really badly for everyone.

I took two of the boys on the women’s march, and I made signs that I copied from instagram and the kids made their own:

I saw that our placard messages may have been a bit mixed, what with me championing tolerance and love and feminism while the kids just stated the bald truth about That Man – which at first made me feel a bit like perhaps I have been a bad mother for ignoring the nuance of these things, and that the kids should show a bit of respect and that maybe some sort of balanced non-Trump-bashing kind of approach might have been a better way – after all, Love Trumps Hate. But then Trump had his first week in office and preceded to tear apart all those things that I thought were a given, and really, there’s no nuance here.  Nor is there any Overlord, alas. We are on our own and there are terrifying people with their hands on the wheel.

What, I ask you, do I say to those who think this swing to the self-righteous, liberal-hating, intolerant and unkind right is good and Godly? What do we do? What do you say to the people who see the Muslim ban as a perfectly justifiable way to be safe, just like the guns they are proud to own? And those who keep posting the pro-life videos about embryos but then who want to push out of their borders the kids and families who have fled their own homes by ugly wars?  I really don’t know. What do you say to those who thank Trump for championing traditional marriage, while ignoring his own very liberal approach to fidelity and sexual assault? I am confused and troubled and for the first time in my life, I feel like political dunceness isn’t ok anymore.

Then we read this for bookclub:

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If you thought We Need To Talk About Kevin was alarming, then try to read this one without throwing it across the room in despair. You want believable apocalypse? Completely likely and realistic dystopia? An account of the collapse of all the systems we all believe in? Read that one, my friends, grab those kids of yours close and apologise to them. And then, let’s talk.

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Necks Out For The Lads *winkwink*

I did something to my neck, and now I can’t move it or turn my head, and so when I am crossing the road, I have to do a slow pirouette right around before I know it is clear, and by the time I am done with my full-body circling, then another car comes around the corner to take us all out.

This morning the kids were saying something about Trump (not particularly evolved comments, mind – something about his hair and how he started off with 5 MILLION DOLLARS and got made bankrupt TWELVE TIMES, and how The Simpsons once made up a character with the SAME NAME as Donald Trump and their Donald Trump became Prime Minster of America just like the real one did – CANYOUBELIEVEIT? And then Ned wanted to know who had vs.ed Obama and was it David Cameron?) and all the while I am trying to hear them while the cocaine-fuelled truck drivers whoosh past us along the A40 and my neck won’t move to meet their little noisy mouths and it is all a bit puppety and stilted and awkward. Like:

Give me a minute to get the strength to force my neck in your rough direction/can you hold the buggy and the dog while I do a whole-body half circle so I am facing your little unbrushed heads and dirty lips crusted with shameful chocolate croissant flakes so that your little voice meets my ears and not the wet dirty pavement

By which time someone has talked over someone else and they are all crying, saying I don’t love them because I never listen to their interminably long tales about Really Important Things. Plus, once I was fully spun around and rigidly fixed staring at them, I saw that none of them had cleaned their teeth. They are revolting.

Anyway, in my house, it doesn’t matter if you do something to your neck. No one is much interested, even though I am forced to listen to the full list of my dear husband’s physical complaints, like, ALL THE TIME. It all started about three months ago, with a shoulder thing, which moved to his back, to his groin and now his knees. Of an evening, just when the kids are in bed and we are on the third glass of something and Nashville is on and we are free and happy and lying down on the couch, full stomachs utilised as little curvy tables for leftover crumbly mince pies, he turns to me (see – his neck still has some flexibility so it can’t be that bad) and tells me about how his aches are now migrating down to his calves.

So I say

GO TO THE DOCTOR

and he says

OK I WILL

and he does and the doctor says

Why, it’s arthritis, old fella!

and Mark says to me

NO IT’S NOT

and I say

Pray tell, what kind of medical training have you had that I don’t know about that would lead you to believe you don’t have arthritis, old fella?

And he looks at me and mumbles something and I suspect its is simply that he wants his pain to be something more manly and special. Something that would require more trips to the osteopath, special pills, maybe some sort of cast/sling, attention from me, and a reason to never really move far from the couch ever again. I said it is probably arthritis, just as the GP suggested, and that the best thing for it is ibuprofen and mild exercise. He scoffs and looks sad.

So then he said

The answer, my love, THE ANSWER, is in a reclining chair whereby I can sit right in front of the TV and pull a wooden lever and out of the oversized, over padded chair that looks like it belongs in a retirement home, the kind that are all covered in plastic in case of incontinence, I can stick out my aching legs onto a padded suspended foamy bit and I will be WELL! I will be staring directly into the TV screen, and there won’t be any crick in my neck at all, and I will therefore be as streamlined as a gazelle who is a bit tired. No doubt all my ailments will slowly disappear because of my excellent alignment, and then I will be full of energy and verve like the old days. And then you’ll have to keep up with me! All running about and suchlike!

And I said

You are not 73, and if you ever want to have sex with me again, you had better not be putting yourself to a premature eternal rest by way of an old man’s comfy chair in a living room in a small flat with too many people already jostling for space and a dog and already two couches and numerous bits of furniture you keep adding to the mix because they were being given away by their owners and you thought we might find them useful. And anyway you wouldn’t last very long because those children will fiddle with the lever and sit on the unsupported leg-bit and break the chair and you would have a FLAMING HEART ATTACK from the anger and you might well die.

So, we are at an uncomfortable crux.

Here are my delightful older boys at the Tate a few weekends ago, after the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition, a little zzz’ed, but very grateful for the overpriced lemonade sugar-rush. It was all an improvement on the Paul Klee exhibition I took them too in 2013, though – where Noah ran ahead and then came excitedly back to us, saying

I’ve found the exit! Ive found the exit!

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Then we went mudlarking and Noah found a massive ancient cow’s thigh bone and brought it home on the tube. He kept dropping it and alarming the other passengers as it clattered and slimed its way all over the tube floor. Noah also fell down the wet and green stairs on the way to the Thames foreshore and dropped all of his candied peanuts. He’s ace, that kid. Here are my finds, all about 3000 years old, probably:

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Haircuts and churros on a rainy Sunday:

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Deep despair and chocolate smears:

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And another bit of writing about a clever and lovely woman for Chanel and i-D.

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Jumpers

We are back to school and it is so good. Sad, because of no sleeping-in anymore and the terrible shouty mornings, but good, because there is only one person demanding biscuits every 12 minutes and he, little Otis, is too small to care about exactly where he sits on the couch (there is so much daily crying and violence about this) and he is too young to have vicious fights over which identical pocketknife is his (because he doesn’t have one! HELLO! obvs! He has to be at least nine before I gift him a blade) and there is no one around to softly mouth ‘dickhead’ or ‘kissbutt’ or ‘barbiegirl’ at him while I am not looking. So it’s quiet and uneventful with most of them gone all day – nearly boring, but not quite, because I have a phone to incessantly check and the Selfridges sale has been taking up *quite* a bit of my time. It is just him and me, although only until next week when he will go to nursery five mornings a week and I will become a part time childless mother and will feel guilty and shamed about not having anywhere to go to do objectively valuable and clearly defined work.

Today there was the usual early morning half-dressed thing where everyone is mostly in uniform at 7am, sleepily rubbing eyes and scratching heads and breathing their half sweet half not-lovely baby/adult mashup breath at me, tipping milk into the grooves of the old pine table and leaving overfull cereal bowls to slowly macerate and swell, crying about socks and whinging about breakfast TV news not being in cartoon form, and then suddenly they all seem to have enough time and good cheer for a few rounds of something rated 12 on the new Christmas PS4 (not my idea) and then it’s 8:04 and I shout about getting teeth done and finding shoes and remembering bags and then we get to the top of the stairs and Noah has the dirtiest jumper ever with an unspecified something all down the front and I say, even though we are seriously flirting with lateness, that he has to go and get another one, but he has a glacial pace and so instead I run down and find him a jumper and tell him to change on the icy street and he does but cries that this new jumper smells like sick. And I shout at the top of my ancient, fed-up, mean old lady voice:

IT’S BETTER TO GO AROUND SMELLING LIKE SICK THAN LOOKING LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN SICK ALL OVER YOURSELF, ISN’T IT? and with that, my family, the dog and I sashay down the street and I wonder what the neighbours really do think.

Class. We really have it, and in quite the large dollop.

HOWEVER, CHRIMBO HIGHLIGHTS

Tesco had champagne for nine quid a bottle. It was pink and TOTALLY CLASSY. I started off mixing it with peach juice, to make glamorous bellinis at our New Year’s Eve party, and chatted and sparkled like Truman Capote while we guessed the names of 90’s songs and worked though a list of stink games until 10:22pm, when the pink champagne started to sit like an elephant onto my head and my eyes started to close and the room got wobbly and I lurched from chair to table to radiator in an effort to get into my bed. Once again, at my own party, I was the first to leave.

We went to Italy for Christmas, to the lake parts (lady parts? no. Lake parts) near Como. This is what it looks like, in winter, from the top of a mountain. Really, though…how lovely is that! That’s the Alps in the distance:

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We stayed with lovely friends who were very brave to put up with us for a whole week. There was a massive supermarket down the mountain which had more delightfully packaged boxes of panettone than you could imagine, and tiny little packages of chocolate pralines and artfully tinned butters and the DELI COUNTER! Oh, the deli counter with more cured porky meats that you knew could even exist, with the men waiting for you to present them with a numbered ticket to order your slices of bresaola, mortadella, prosciutto crudo, lardo, bits of cured tendons, speck, etc etc. It was like an antipasto dream. And then, if all that wasn’t awesome enough, they had a proper little cafe inside the supermarket with all manner of salty meaty ready sandwiches and platters of roasted vegetables and cheesy things and a bar counter where you ordered your 1 euro macchiato and drank the few hot fruity rich strong sips with the (very short) locals and you were kind of smiling to yourself because you were being so nonchalantly Italian without even trying to be. Twice a day the Italians stop what they are doing and go and perch at a bar and drink their coffee and talk loudly with their hands swinging about and maybe nibble some free stuff (*more on that later) and then they go about their business with the swift kick of caffeine inside them but also something else – a little community camaraderie fuelling their sprints as they go back to do a siesta or cure a bit of pork or make a lasagne. What a bloody #culturegoal, eh? Then they go out again for an apertivo.

An *apertivo gets its own section. So, Celia and I were in Milan for the day and at about 6pm we went to a bar that looked lively and wandered in and ordered a cocktail for 9 euro. We sat down, then Celia pointed mine hungry thirsty eyes to the bar and there was like a free buffet there! Little sandwiches and chips and arancini balls and some pork things and cured meats and olives and cheeses and salads and vegetables, all on offer, all for the cocktail drinkers, all for free, because the Italians are kind of awesome. I have been to Italy before, and I do know about all this craziness, but there is something about it being Christmas, and the gratefulness you feel when someone (Mark) is looking after your kids all day and the fact that you are swanning about in Milan getting free food that kind of melts your hardened 2016 heart. The heart that expects good people to die and the world to ruin itself and Lionel Shriver’s The Mandibles to become completely true. So for a moment, an Italian Christmassy moment, while I hoovered up free food and let the cocktail do its work on my bloodstream, all was completely ace.

Tiny nutty Italian lake towns. After a ride up the buckets to the top of a mountain overlooking Levona, we came back down again and stumbled into a lake town holding an underwater nativity themed mulled-wine PARTAY. Otis peed his trousers and so went pantless and threw countless rocks into the water, while the rest of us marvelled at the underwater nativity scene that had Jesus sitting in a clamshell. OH YES, WHY NOT?

 

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Here are the buckets. Very un-health&safety:

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So at the top of the driveway where we were staying there was two things of note – a very lovely pizza and gin restaurant and a 2 kilometre pilgrimage further up the hill to 14 chapels which showed Jesus dioramas from birth to the ascension. Here is Otis doing a pose in front of a chapel. No camp tendencies in that kid, OH NO:

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It was a proper lovely holiday (complete with a visit to the overpriced, sickly and revolting Lindt factory shop which enchanted the sugar-drugged children) and other than smashing the massive people mover into a bush, it was another Christmas triumph. Meanwhile, more Chanel artist stuff written by me has been posted online. 2017, so far you have been not so shit as 2016. Here we are, looking a little wonky, days away from celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary via the medium of passionfruit martinis and that movie with Bryan Cranston being James Franco’s father-in-law. Happy New Year to you all!

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