We Took The Wine

There have been no repeat threadworm infestation and so I am JOYOUS. Joyous that you can get a pill from your Boots (the family-sized box comes in pills of four, so we have to buy double what normal people buy) which is the most magical bottom bomb and the worms get tortured by it (I like to think they do, anyway, like some sort of painful Agent Orange for Parasites  where they die a really painful death, the memories of which get stored in their DNA and so the next time their relatives come near our house they start involuntarily trembling with inexplicable tiny wormy fear) and then they are DEAD and hopefully no one in your massive family have accidentally stored tiny worm eggs up into their fingernails, only to nibble on later and ingest and the whole thing starts again with a new infection, the kind of which WE DON’T HAVE. So come, enjoy my cooking, sip from our fingered cups of tea and watch as I give you a lovely slice of banana cake made by my very own hand because there are no threadworms here currently AT ALL. I am sure of it. Probably. Ahem.

So that’s a bit of good news. As for the bad news, it goes like this:

We go away soon in a few weeks’ time and it turns out that one kid’s passport will run out two months and 18 days after we get back, which apparently means that we can’t travel. So we have to get an urgent passport, but you can’t get one in a day for kids, so we have a week fast-track passport option, but you cannot get an appointment to get that started in London, only in Belfast and Glasgow or Durham or Peterborough. And there are no humans available to talk to about this, only an infuriating automated lady’s voice telling you things like ‘go on our website’ and ‘we can’t tell you what foreign entry requirements are’, which is all a bit useless and samey and not really addressing the questions that you have, like ARE YOU SERIOUS? This is a money-making racket, surely? And WHY CAN’T YOU HELP ME IN LONDON?

So tomorrow I will get the train to Peterborough at 7:30am and hope to find the passport office very quickly and then I have a half hour appointment to get the passport renewed, and a week to get it back, and if it arrives on Monday, a week after tomorrow, then that will be the day before we leave. And this is all dependant on whether the passport office person accepts the counter signatory witness-person’s signature because it is a tiny bit out of the border, and that is strictly Not Allowed. So I actually cannot cope with the boring passport drama. Then, later, after the emergency appointment was all booked and sweated over and sworn about and paid for, doubly, because I have a London appointment on Tuesday (TOO LATE) as well, only then did I discover that Cyprus doesn’t even care about the expiry thing. DOESN’T EVEN CARE.

So this is just a giant sucky-ball of despair and wasted money and unhelpful adrenaline. And now we have discovered that we have a mean neighbour who listens out for the children and seeks them out and hisses at them to keep quiet like she is Queen Of The Square and actually, she is not, she’s just a young angry lady who needs to practice kindness. It started on a sunny lunchtime a few Saturdays ago, when they were playing a lovely game of ‘Fishing With Those Old Nikes Tied To A String From The Top Of The Stairs’ which of course made them laugh and get a bit shouty in the most kiddish jovial way, and she came down from a flat somewhere above us and asked Mark to tell the kids to keep quiet, quite politely, because then it was all neighbourly niceties. But Mark was busy watching the rugby with all of his heart and soul and so he didn’t really engage with their fishing game. Fifteen minutes later she came back and have a proper go at him for not telling them to be quiet and he was like:

NOW HANG ON A MINUTE I HAVE BEEN HERE THIS WHOLE TIME AND THEY ARE JUST PLAYING, DOING NOTHING WRONG…THIS IS THEIR HOME AND IT IS THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY SO REALLY YOU NEED TO BE MORE TOLERANT…bit shouty…response….bit angry…..shouting a bit again…etc etc

And so I was coming out of the shower and heard the tail end. She had walked away at that point after this first little altercation and she has since been my Faceless Mystery Woman of Spitefulness and Unneighbourly Gestures. And then a few weeks ago I see a lady giving me funny looks at Waitrose as we were lined up at the counter and I assumed she was someone who knew me from something local to do with the kids. She was returning catering glasses to the shop and she was with her handsome fella who was also looking at me a bit funny and when I turned away Mark was like:
THAT’S THE MEAN LADY! THE NUTTY NEIGHBOUR! THE INTOLERANT CRANKY NOISE-HATER!

And it all made sense. It turns out she knew who I was because I am the mother of the kids she hates! I am the maker of them! The one who started it all! So by extension, she clearly cannot abide me or my womb-consequences in equal measures. She now hisses mean stuff at the kids whenever she sees them and I think she is GAGGING for a street fight with me. And that night, after the party she had hosted in the garden to celebrate her engagement (the reason for the Waitrose glasses return) she left a pile of unopened wine and beer in a big crate for people in our square to take with a sign that said “Help Yourself”. And so we did. We took it all by the light of the moon when we walked the dog late at night. And we feel just a tiny bit vindicated when she walks by the kids with her angry little monologue BE QUIET…I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU BEFORE…. because we know that she unwittingly became our most neighbourly neighbour of them all when she filled our extra fridge with nice summery beverages.

Photo Bit:

Here is a photo by Richard Bradbury which is going to go into a book for the Queen, all about kids who live in London. How could anyone not love those faces and knees and associated noises?

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Grandad and Barnaby and Noah at Crockford Bridge Farm. We picked blackberries but they had worms. I have had enough of worms.

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The joy of snapchat filters and the children looking on, wondering why their mother keeps taking photos of herself:

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Grandad and Noah and hot chocolate love:

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The view from the Sky Garden:

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Making plague rats under the stairs at Ham House:

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Lovely Nana and Grandad at Ham House, posing with plague rats:

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Dens and phones:

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The best is saved for last – face swapping with dad and mum:

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Day Five

It is day five of the summer holidays and here is the tally thus far:

  1. I have cried once in holiday anticipatory fear (though if I am honest, the tears were aided by a little too much summertime prosecco)
  2. I lost my temper in the most amazing and novel way ever, which involved me throwing a peach at a boyish leg repeatedly until the peach softened and disintegrated all over the new couch. It was weird and mean and I apologised afterwards, and none of us can quite bring ourselves to touch the remaining peaches because of the traumatic memory of me going completely apeshit so fruitishly and wastefully. Reader, I snapped. With a fuzzy stone fruit.
  3. One case of threadworms
  4. One violent outburst by a middle-esque small boy in public – the base of the Gherkin to be exact, on a sunny Saturday, at a free architecture festival for children, with all of the kind, modern, youthful, calm parents and cultured, well-dressed and probably stylishly named children who were busy making ping pong catapults and lovely collaborative sculptures aided by busy volunteers and art materials all akimbo. My kid had a fight with another of my kids over a ping pong ball; the first kid had three in his hand and the other kid had none, so the ping pong ball Bereft One took one of the many that the first kid was hoarding and it led to a wrestling hair-pulling bitch-slapping Dynasty-style fight, and one of those kids has a splint because of the broken wrist and three strangers went over to split them up and shout at them in a very alarmed kind of way: “HEY! GET OFF HIM HE HAS A BROKEN WRIST SOMEONE DO SOMETHING” then run run run over there and physically pull them apart. Meanwhile, I was eye-rolling and shrinking into my concrete slab, slow to get up and go over because I see it all the time and it is embarrassing and usually everything cools down after a few scratches and kicks have been aimed and fired and tears have been shed. I know this, but to anyone else who is not me, it looks like some sort of terrible dog-fight, where you might well need a high-pressure water hose because the little buggers are LOCKED IN TIL THE DEATH. Afterwards, once they were yanked off each other by the nice strangers, the broken-wristed one went a bit extra-nuts and went back for more to get his ping pong ball back and I had to restrain him by strait-jacketing his flailing scratching hitting arms in a very ouchy bear hug on my concrete slab of shame, hissing CALMDOWNCALMDOWN and trying not to notice all the eyes on us. But he was pulling and kicking and shrieking and so I grabbed his good wrist and pulled him along to the ping pong ball station and asked for another ping pong ball to BRING HIS TALLY BACK FROM TWO TO THREE, and the nice volunteer man was clearly thinking that this child already had more than anyone else, and besides, they were all out of them at this point, so I dragged him back to the slab and found a rogue ping pong ball on the floor but the wailing he-cat wouldn’t take the random ball, because it wasn’t the actual one that his brother took from him. So I dragged him over to the other brother and swapped the random ping pong ball for the original PING PONG BALL OF EXTREME IMPORTANCE and then he calmed down, but not before a lady came up to me and said “Oh, I see he is autistic. It is really hard to manage autistic kids at these types of things, isn’t it?” and she was kind and I just nodded. And we left.
  5.  Played with snapchat A WHOLE LOT. Please note my very tight Stella McCartney flared zippered denim jumpsuit that was in the Selfridges sale for a tidy £150 down from £595. The kids said I looked like I might fix their car:IMG_1159
  6. A tenth birthday. That’s a salted caramel chocolate cake right there, that is:IMG_1174
  7. Kings Cross Fountains with Nathaniel and Gideon alongside many other English parents in their swimming things. It’s a cultural anomaly, this thing the English do, where they dress as though they too are at the seaside – not just their kids. There were beach towels laid down on hot concrete and even buckets and spades, though no actual sand. Otis thinks it was the beach, anyhow, so I guess it starts young:IMG_1178
  8. More inner-city beach dressing, on the kerb next to the Indian restaurant:IMG_1191
  9. On the rooftop at Alfie’s Antiques, the sweetest cafe with very nice eggs benedict. Casper came with us and was totally not into it, which says more about him and less about the eggs:IMG_1193
  10. Yesterday’s open casting audition for a new Spielberg movie. They wanted boys who looked a bit Jewish and Italian, so naturally I took my blue-eyed pale-skinned kids along. I gave them San Pellegrino lemonade before they went in, because it was hot and it was a bit special, but that made Ned get very fidgety and burpy. He told me the lady said that if he didn’t stop burping she would throw him out. They didn’t get a call back, so we went to Soho and ate Sadness About The Lack Of A Hollywood Career Hotdogs.IMG_1208IMG_1215

How are your holidays going? Thrown any fruit yet?

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Showtime, Synergy

In a week, how everything changes. I had started to write something about the silver linings of Brexit, but then I lost my job and now I think any silver linings are massively overrated. I had a plan to point out the good things that were to be found lurking around the shadows of the sad old shitstorm Britain feels like it has become, like the fact that it was Eid last week and cause for celebration for a whole lot of lovely people. And there were two days off school, because our school has inset days set on Eid in a stroke of pragmatic  brilliance because the Muslim kids probably wouldn’t turn up on Eid, and so Tuesday inset day was coupled with a teachers’ strike and it was all FUN CITY with a weekend stapled into the week. This should actually happen much more on a regular basis in real life, because then we could take our kids to the Natural History Museum and buy them stuff and drive around and consume and spend and pick raspberries and see friends and the economy may well improve, as would our relationships, fitness and eduction levels. But that is another topic for when I run the world.

So the other silver linings, which frankly I see now as grasping for straws, was that I thought the apparent political mobilisation of everyone was a good thing – because the referendum fallout continues to make everyone feel something; whether it makes you feel sad, angry, self-righteous, bored, depressed, worried or outraged, at least some kind of collective political cognisance has been injected into people. And it does feel good to be part of something bigger than you, although what a stupidly high cost to get there. All the debates and the Guardian columns and the pleas and the petitions and the marching – if only this level of interrogation had been thrown about before the Leave voters decided to flip the rest of the country the bird. And Westminster!  Oh I wish I was Scottish right about now, and could claim that Nicola Sturgeon as my own – she’s another Aunty Helen.

Frankly, all of it would have been a brilliantly funny and quite ridiculous political satire show if it wasn’t all actually real.

Back To Silver Linings Though

The other silver linings are lovely little things like this:, the Michael Gove public ribbing which is mean and marvellous and lets ordinary people heckle and insult and make it funny, because if you aren’t laughing, you are weeping under a table somewhere, hugging your Polish friends close and remembering when you too were a European like them. The uncertainty about what Brexit means is just vile – it gets you up in the middle of the night to check that you remembered to make your kids NZ citizens as well at British passport holders because if Middle England gets it into its head to annex itself off from the Commonwealth too then you will be between countries, uncertain of welcome in either place.

And finally, the other thing that made me very happy was that I introduced my children to the ’80s cartoon Jem and The Holograms when I saw it spring up on Netflix, because I loved it when I was a chubster kid and I had lots of the dolls and knew all of the songs, so we rediscovered it together, although I was expecting them to shudder and cringe and tell me what terrible taste I must have had as a mulleted nine year old, but instead they too were enchanted by the utter magic of Jerrica and her mansion full of attractive tuneful orphans and now they are ripping through every episode and singing the theme tune all the time. And Ned has sidled up to me and asked me whether I still have the dolls so he could carry on the Hasbro plastic rockstar collecting legacy. And I thought how wonderful it is to have children to do this to.

So this was what I was going to write about, but now it feels like the pointless and desperate mutterings of the formerly employed. Because last Thursday I went to work, wrote my feature on a Nazi looted art hunter, and then got told that there was no more budget for freelancers and so thanks, but goodbye. And I was brave and tried not to cry in the office in front of the boss and so grabbed my stuff and went to pick up the children from school and only then did ugly face noisy crying for a bit outside the school gates. I spent a few days with a stone in my wizened, sad old heart and had blinky tears and told myself that yes, it is true – I  am not much use to anyone from an employment perspective and moped BADLY. The boss mentioned Brexit as being a part of the reason why they are so nervous about the magazine’s budget and so I confess that now I feel Brexit voters are a tiny bit collectively culpable for my fun, useful and flexible job being taken away from me. This is probably unfair but this is no time for logical fairness analyses. Tis is a time for feeling a bit shit.

And then! Noah broke Casper’s hand last night by crushing it in the garden gate and we spent five hours in the A&E and now the poor kid cannot swim in Northern Cyprus. Instead he shall watch us frolic about in the turquoise water from a boat, all sweaty and itchy and sun-creamed and behatted in 40 degree heat, plastic bag-wrapped and probably deeply resentful. So it’s all going JUST SWIMMINGLY, thanks.

Here is a secret gig with Suggs from Madness and the Roxy Music sax guy at the Soho Food Feast last weekend. This was a bit of magic, an *actual* good thing:

And Casper in a suit, on the way to the Natural History Museum, for no reason at all, when his bones were all intact:

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Suggestions for making his summer holiday bearable gratefully received.

 

 

 

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Mood Indigo

So, what’s it like to live in London while the political, economic and cultural system implodes around you, I hear you ask? It is utterly draining and sad, is what it is. All the big stuff with Westminster and sick-looking Boris and weepy-eyed Samantha Cameron, all the horrified posts and the rabble of the media conversation, to the littler things like the Spanish mother at our kid’s school, turning up post-Brexit-day, hugging the tiny French TA, crying together, the Polish caretaker looking on, shocked and worried, the powerlessness that so many Londoners feel as all of the worst warnings from smart people are proved true, while the leaders all freak out and drop out – argh, it is really awful and sad and horrible. The same Spanish mother told me yesterday that she was hassled by someone in a restaurant yesterday, who told her that her time was running out – that she has two years left to live here and then she had better go back to where she came from…so ugly.

I’m obviously an immigrant here, though a privileged one as part of the Commonwealth, so I am currently safe – from what, I don’t really know – probably safe to stay here, and safe from awful ‘we don’t want your type here’ racism, because I am white, from New Zealand (‘just like England in the 1950s’ so the black cabbies like to tell you) and therefore from recognisable UK mongrel stock so I don’t seem to threaten anyone or their jobs. I don’t know what it would feel like to be born here, like my Polish/Sri Lankan friend, and have a half-Polish daughter, and suddenly feel aware, like never before, that she and her kid aren’t really welcome here like they thought they were before last Thursday – before half of the country voted to end of the right for people like her to be here. And what a poorer, sadder, insular, backward place we would be if we cut off European supply. The people and the accents and the food and the culture and the way that people who are not like you, being among you, turns you into a smarter, more tolerant, educated, better person. What a stupid ugly backward step to have taken.

It is hard to feel untouched by this, so I have to post some photos to think about something else.

Here is Ned and then Ned and Casper doing some stuff with sticks in a medieval hunting forest:

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And, you know, convening some sort of den-related forest meeting:

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Mid-term break day at the zoo. Noah has just discovered there is butter on the ham roll. He is TOTES not having any of it:

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Two of the boys getting a Kray twins haircut from the proper Cypriot barber and his son:

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Chocolate and churros after from the Spanish cafe:

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My hair triumph – Ms Neradah taught me the ways of the Alpine plait:

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Marylebone Summer Fair – a journey of food and balloons and real estate-branded goody bags, both free and really not-free (£60 later):

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The youngest in tiny terry towelling running shorts with a rainbow elasticated waist band and spiderman JANDALS:

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These Frame jeans, one half of the Selfridges sale haul – the other, a Stella McCartney tight denim jumpsuit with flares and a zip to the crotch – a saving of £800 and absolutely clothes to wear *everyday*, I thank you:

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Same 70s jogging outfit, really great breakfast at the Riding House Cafe. Otis only ate about three mouthfuls of those pancakes and sugary clotted cream – so I helped him. Total blood sugar level chaos, but very, very good:

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This Sunday, a walk through the park with the dog and six kids to see the new Serpentine Pavillion:

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There is much to love about living here, and I am thankful every day for those things. I really hope we can get back from this tattered, wounded, angry place we woke up to on Friday, but I can’t see how.

 

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Invisible, yet developing whiskers

So, remember how I went to Claire’s Accessories a few weeks ago, all rebellious and edgy-like, and how I let the cool bored teenager wielding a piercing gun do this to my upper ear:

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-who then, after taking payment, only let me go once I had filled out the disclaimer and had a long talk about the importance of after-piercing ear care and who then thrust a huge bottle of disinfectant at me to take away?  And then I went back to see Mark at the Apple store, not exactly hiding my shining new earring, but not showing it off either, and it was then that I made up my mind to prolong the joy of keeping a secret by saying nothing about it; instead, that I would run some kind of covet unscientific love-test see how long it would take for anyone in my family to notice.

And here we are, over two weeks later, and no one has shown any awareness of my new piercing, or, in fact, even looked up to meet the area of my eyes and ear region, otherwise known as approximately my FACE. Even when they sit on my left hand side and I pull my hair up into a high bun and talk with my head facing resolutely forward does the message get through that YOUR MOTHER DID SOME HARDCORE BODY MODIFICATION. Not even when I stopped and stooped down to show the boys the psoriasis patches behind my ears – behind, in fact, the massive new 9carat gold butterfly clip and stud and stem sitting like a huge metal ANOMALY ATOP MY EAR RAVINES. Not even when we all clean our teeth together and I am busy swishing my bruised upper ear with my babyish disinfectant, branded “CLAIRE’S EAR PIERCING AFTERCARE SOLUTION”, does anyone clock the new punk mother they have in their midst.

Not one person out of six can see it, because apparently I am not a new punk mother, but just the same old invisible nagging chef who moonlights as a table wiper-downer and tends to spend a quite a bit of time picking up crisp packets from under the couch. I am all this, as well as school dropper-offer and wee-monitor but not visible in any other sense. This sucks, but this unintentional past-her-prime-and-therefore-so-boring-no-one-can-possibly-engage-in-any-meaningful-manner camouflage situation  could be useful should I take to a life of crime. Imagine the whiteware I could just carry out of Iceland! The electronic stuff from Currys!

I have spotted Mark looking fairly intently in my ear direction a few times, and I suspect he cannot workout whether I have been pierced like that for years, and we have perhaps already had that discussion about his disappointment in my choices, or whether it is…maybe…new….but, I think his internal narrative goes a bit like this:

It can’t be new because she never does things like that except for that time she pierced her navel when she was 18 but that got infected and now you cannot even see the scars among the stretch marks and she’s much older now and she’s a mother and where are my keys/glasses/dog lead/I need petrol/I must call Kevin about that roof/should I play golf tomorrow/what’s for dinner/I wish I was in New Zealand/I want to kill a pig.

And so his sharply questioning eyeballs leave my ear region into a wistful middle-distance stare and then he goes and gets a New Zealand hunting magazine and sits on the loo for a bit.

So I am feeling a bit wounded. I keep thinking that today is the day I march out into the living room and and stand in front of the TV and turn off that show about the last Alaskans  and clap my hands and lift my hair and MAKE them notice and perhaps shame them a little, all the while delighting them with my uncharacteristic  bravado and my utter post-1990’s ironic take on grunge stylishness. But, frankly, they don’t deserve it.

Also, to make matters worse, I have discovered a few tiny, white, thick little hairs sprouting out of my face in a random manner all over the cheek and jowls. Is this normal? Is this what happens when you are not young anymore? Do I pull these out or leave them to grow unheeded and then perhaps plait them out of my way when I eat messy things? Are they WHISKERS? Any advice appreciated.

 

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Cartilage

Well, hello! Here I am, at 38 and a good half, face dropping and furring around the edges, able to walk into a room and have not one straight man notice me, even the lonely-looking ones, and it is all a bit joy-depleting. SIGH. So today, I went to Westfield with Mark and Otis in order to

a) get coffee from the NZ-ish kiosk Sacred, where I accidentally ordered the lolly cake and ate all of it at 10am, and

b) to do something boring with a flicky iphone screen at the Apple store, and

c) to fix a watch face which had been severely wrecked by the intersection of a boy and his bike and the pavement.

But then, in pursuit of buying more drawing paper for Noah (more on that later), I was drawn into Claire’s Accessories ostensibly to buy plastic rings and bracelets for Otis so he would leave my plastic bracelets and rings alone, and then

I DECIDED TO GET MY EAR CARTILAGE PIERCED LIKE BEYONCE.

So I did, and I came back to the Apple store where Mark was doing something that looked suspiciously like buying a new massive iPad, and I was all nonchalant and cool-like on the surface, but inside, it was all CHAOS! Excellent, feeling alive, adrenaline CHAOS! All fired up and pulse-racing because I felt like I did something very transgressive, and bad, and secret and rebellious, although, of course, no one yet has noticed. And it hurts a bit and I am not sure what to do with the long earring stem tonight when I try to lie down and it will sit awkwardly and perhaps cause me some serious pillow recalibration. But oh the joy of doing something a bit off! I’m like a new lady, still with the coarse greying hair at the temples and some sort of burgeoning eye infection, hitching up the too-tight jeans to cover the mum pouch which creeps out over the waistband regardless of how hard I shove it back in – but inside, with my shiny new golden ball stuck halfway up into my ear, I’m about 14 and full of the sass. My inner dialogue is full of self-aggrandising nonsense and maybe a little bit of Beyonce-talk. I totally recommend it – it is much less work than an affair and once my psoriasis calms down, I’m going look HALF my age, I reckon.

On drawing paper tales, my darling Noah drew these two nights ago:

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Ok, so on one hand, this is clearly an open-mouthed toothy python who is rearing up and wants to kill you, and the other is very obviously an eyeball with tentacles and hands made of forks. But on the other, this is a clear case of vagina dentata, which, as urbandictionary.com says, is the Freudian concept that all men are subconsciously afraid that their wives want to cut off their genitals. You decide. It does make me wonder what those boys and their father all talk about when I am at Waitrose buying stuff for dinner.

Latest Instagram Photos To Remind Me What We Have Been Doing:

Cliveden National Trust. A popular little Sunday excursion:

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Handsome dog, bit fat:

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A birthday again. This is not my cake – Mark was very kind and asked for a Patisserie Valerie monstrosity and you can see how BEYOND HAPPY everyone is about it:

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A dramatic expression of Otis’s internal struggles with accepting that he was given a takeaway babyccino, not a sitting-in version:

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How we get home these days now that Otis refuses the buggy – very slowly, and often in the wrong direction. These stairs lead us back to school where we had just dropped off four children. There was no reasoning to be had – I just waited patiently for his return and played on my phone, hoping he wouldn’t fall into any puddles of sick or wee:

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The only other thing to report is that I am trying to sell some stuff on eBay, which is what I do when the unworn sample sale things start angling out of the wardrobe, shaming me for my inability to Just Say No Because It Doesn’t Fit Or Frankly It Is Ugly, and so I raided the wardrobe and spent an afternoon photographing and listing things and selling some off. But on Monday I got a terse, crabby message from the new owner of a nearly new Mulberry blouse who wanted an immediate return because it was dirty. DIRTY! And so I replied, why, yes, ok, though I don’t know what you mean because it was hardly worn and then she sent some photos and it did look a bit grubby and then I was reminded about how I am a bit slovenly and bad at being clean and particular, which I think is part of my charm, but she was OUTRAGED and once I accepted the return, she gave me negative feedback! My first. And so I spent about 24 hours in a state of total shame and rage and depression over it and the lady, and then I thought I need to learn to be tougher.

And now I have multiple piercings (well, three) and I think that that is probably a very good start.

BRING IT ON, FUSSY EBAYERS AND THE LIKE! I’M QUITE LIKE BEYONCE NOW.

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Morning pain

On Wednesdays, I get up, have a shower, get half-dressed into some hopefully-but-probably-not matching underwear and a glamorous robe from the sale at Coco de Mer in order to keep my work clothes free of egg, butter, and cereal smears. Then the lovely babysitter/cleaner/best person ever comes just before 8 and I walk the kids to school (but importantly not the baby, who instead can stay at home languishing in his pyjamas all day following Verna around asking for biscuits) and I drop the kids off and keep going to the tube, and I get to work with a nice flat white in my hand and all day I do little tasks that have a beginning and an end and I stay clean and for lunch I get to go to Pret by myself to buy the exact same lunch of kale chips and the gherkin and ham roll and it feels very good. As well as this UNNATURAL ORDER and SILENCE, I get paid. AMAZING.

So this is in stark contrast to the other days, the days where I only have home to go to, and a baby to keep from running out onto the road or using all of my makeup. And you just know everyone thinks that you have these stupid lazy days at home and that by extension, you are a bit stupid and lazy but really, You Do Not, and mostly, You Aren’t.

So this morning, we have the usual shouty dramas where someone won’t let an other one into the bedroom to get dressed because someone has decided to hit everyone, and Ned hates all of the uniform shirts that are left and Casper will only get dressed up to a point – the point of no socks or shoes, and Noah insists on making his own three tiered peanut butter toast tower but keeps burning himself with the fiery toast and is quietly crying when I catch up with him because the toast is so hot that he keeps dropping it into the full sink and drowning each slice. And then we run out of toast entirely. So he makes do with a two tiered peanut butter tower but he eats so slowly that I want to  shake him a bit roughly. It is sloth-like and painful to witness.

Anyway, we get out of the flat, five minutes too late but I have set the clocks ten minutes too fast so we are ahead of ourselves, sort of, dog on a leash attached to me because even though it is Noah’s paid job, he wants to take his skateboard to ride down Bishop’s Bridge sending all the people at the bus stop flying, and I think:

WHY NOT

and I have the buggy in case the baby is a handful, and the baby starts screaming that he wants to walk, and we have four kids in school bags and uniforms walking ahead and I do let the baby walk, although he insists on wearing the spiderman flip-flops which do not stay on, but they have been bigged-up by his dad because his dad deems them to be manly – a better choice than Otis wearing my heels, anyway.

So we start walking, but Otis is not great with sticking close to the buggy, and the others are too busy telling me that many people actually have tails, and that they just shave them off when they get too noticeable, and Otis walks out in front of a car. So it is all SCREAM and panic, and he is forced to hold the buggy, but then the flip flops trip him up and he faceplants onto the pavement and I get sweary and mad and shove him into the buggy, even though he would RATHER DIE than sit in it. So he screams and cries for 20 minutes, all up in my face about getting out and walking, on and on and on. And he turns around and dumps the lower half of his body into the buggy sleeping bag thing, so the buggy is unbalanced and is nearly tipping, and keeps on with the desperate pleas to get out and all the Marks & Spencer’s elegant youthful head office staff look a bit alarmed at the baby who is so obviously in some sort of pain. But we do get to school, and I tell him that when we get there he can hop out and walk. And so he does, and the tears dry up and the shouting and screaming ceases and we start to walk home and he says sorry for being silly. We walk home by the underpass and he decides to walk along a low wall and I hold him by the hand and I think:

I’M A GOOD MOTHER BECAUSE I AM LETTING HIM TAKE RISKS

and an old man looks out from his window and he eyeballs me in a kind of ‘high-five, you good old fashioned risking-taking mother’ type way and it is sunny and we are snatching back the morning. Then he falls off the low wall while I am rescuing the buggy which doesn’t have a brake because it is broken, and he loses his spiderman flip-flops into the estate garden on the other side of the low wall and scrapes his chin and screams and so I think:

THAT WASN’T HOW THIS RISK-TAKING AWESOMENESS WAS MEANT TO GO AND THAT OLD MAN SAW

And so we recover and we walk along, spiderman flip flops back on the tiny feet which look a little blistered by the plastic straps and then he walks into a massive muddy watery patch and he cries and says he won’t wear the flip flips anymore because they are wet. So I’m like:

OK IT’S ONLY FEET AND WHAT DID GOD GIVE US THICK SOLES FOR IF NOT TO WALK ON PAVEMENT SOMETIMES AND IN NEW ZEALAND WE DON’T ALWAYS WEAR SHOES TO THE SUPERMARKET SO IT’S REALLY OK EVEN THOUGH ENGLISH PEOPLE FIND IT EXTREMELY DISCONCERTING

And so we walk to the nice place with the nice coffee and I get a flat white and Otis gets a babyccino and we walk home with the no shoes and many, many people, mostly those who are nicely dressed and about to enter into various child-free offices look askance and worried and not-amused at the shoeless child and some of them make massive swervy detours to avoid getting close to the shoeless child in case he is catching. And we finally get down the Bishops Bridge to the construction part at Paddington and we just miss the green light but I rush us anyway because I don’t want to spend longer getting home because it has already been about an hour and a man shouts at me for NEARLY KILLING THAT CHILD BECAUSE QUITE FAR AWAY A BUS IS COMING AND IT IS NO LONGER A GREENMAN and I just want to punch his face.

Also we stop a lot to look at ants.

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And so I think that sometimes this parenting lark is terrible and tiring and I wish those people who are lucky enough to swan off into a nice office with a tidy desk, probably with many tea breaks and a bit of harmless flirting with Tony from IT should just stop with the parent-judging. And get over the bare feet thing.

Here we are, doing something else that I think some people might assess as dangerous and verboten – sliding down loose scree getting your shorts really dirty and probably ripped:

 

Here we are at Cliveden on the weekend:

And eating sugar at the Paddington Cavalcade. Lots and lots of sugar. Which makes me REALLY bad:

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Anyone else out there a terrible parent who is a) objectively bad at their job by the standards of strangers and who b) prefers the office?

 

 

 

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