RIP everyone

Remember last post when I was talking about theoretically being a conspiracy theorist? And how obviously I am not, but if I was…yada, yada, so much yaddering. Well, there is more on that, because of course that tiny beautiful Prince died, which seems so completely wrong and apocalyptic, and it lead me to a further thought about all the people who have been dying this year. And here is my thought:

What if there was someone wealthy and wise and concerned about humanity and who valued culture and comics and magicians and Eurovision, kind of like a Batman for the entertainment sector, or a Richard Branson-type fella who had some sort of handy luxury island (stay with me here…). What if this person made a plan to squirrel away everyone who has been meaningful and impactful in some way over a cross-section of artistic endeavours for a gloomy Year Of The Dead, a fake Year Of The Dead, because it would make us all stop listening to bad music and spending too much time looking down into our phone screens instead of investing in vinyl records and staging Bowie appreciation nights and laughing at old clips of Open All Hours? What if Alan Rickman has been taken away to be fake dead just so we would watch him in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and marvel at his wonderful voice and Kevin Costner’s mullet? What if, somewhere near Necker Island, Terry Wogan and Prince and Victoria Wood and that guy from Motorhead are lying on sun loungers with drinks and sharing funny stories with David Gest about Elizabeth Taylor’s diamonds? Paul Daniels could be doing card tricks and Howard Marks would be taking drugs and Harper Lee would be saying: I TOLD THEM THAT FIRST DRAFT WASN’T MEANT TO BE PUBLISHED. HOW EMBARRASSING. They might well be sharing a chuckle about the outpouring of twitter-grief and they could at last see the youth pay attention to how great the old stuff is. The kids would listen to Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and wonder at the beautiful lyrics and watch the music video and cry with Sinead and be jealous of her bald head.

It’s just a thought. In any case, I don’t think they are going to come back.

Anyway, that’s enough about sadness and death. Let’s talk about broken ruined things! As loyal readers will know, I have a thing for Tom Ford lipsticks and as you also will know, so do my boys. They are like little naughty magpies, attracted to the black and shiny gold of the lipstick cases, and delighted by the swivelling tube and even more enervated by the squishy pigment which gets spread over carpets and cupboard doors. Friends, it happened again. Otis took Flame and made reddish orange scribbles on our bedroom carpet:


This photo was taken after some exhaustive googling about the best ways to remove expensive cosmetics from cheap carpet. I rubbed and tutted and scrubbed and then gave up because the carpet is pock-marked with unidentifiable patches of green and pink patches anyway. At some point, you just have to give in to the filth and recalibrate your standards. (Mine aren’t very high to begin with, but you knew that). Then Otis did it again, but this time it was my lovely Lipshine in Frolic. It wasn’t just used as a fancy floor crayon this time – Frolic was instead expertly scooped out with fat little fingers and then pasted onto our cupboard doors. There is no more for me to scoop out of the plastic little nub. And Mark says:


and I’m like:


and then Otis came out of the bathroom looking like this:


and I reckon I broke.

So he was properly told off and I went to great pains to tell him that touching my things was a big fat NO NO and so he sat at the table and had to wear the TEA COSY HAT OF SHAME:



  1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. First season fun for the whole family, except when the jokes veer into ‘foot slut’ territory, which can get a bit awkward.
  2. Always, the Lisboa Patisserie on Golborne Road.


3. The Scottish hunk in Outlander with the sexy billowing blouses and kilts and virginal ways and proper erotic chest. His hair can get a bit ‘Prince by way of Farrah Fawcett’ though.

4. Youtube clips of Prince, especially in the rain at the Superbowl.

5. Vietnamese baguettes in the Acklam Road part of Portobello markets – our new Saturday love. Porky and spicy and crunchy and coriander-y. Though the children here are eating £6 waffles with cream and terrible chocolate sauce.



I will leave you with this. I have a single diamond earring stud because the other one fell off while I was running in the park a few years ago. I often feel like getting one of those ear piercings at the top of my ear, in the curly bit of cartilage. But I have red scaly psoriasis behind my ear. Is it weird to stick a shiny diamond in a place which is very close to my secret skin shame? Kind of counter-acting my twin needs to show-off and hide? Shall I just adorn my blistering red ear-skin anyway, in an act of body activism? Opinions, please.

Also, I went to a parent council meeting tonight and I discovered that sometimes, even though we can be running over time, I like to talk about things that are slightly off topic, because I really like talking, and having other adults listen to me and nod their heads and murmur encouraging words. I think this is a negative trait I should attempt to control and it might have something to do with the fact that at home, my voice is a vacuum, existing in some sort of powerless tunnel of silence, audible only to me. Anyway, I’m working on it.








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Camping & the youth

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would be

a) even more boring than I am now, obviously; and

b) would suspect some sort of insidious, crafty, brazen Youth Army was taking over the world.

There are various factors which would lead me to believe in the Youth Army, were I some sort of anxiety-ridden worrier. Not only are those career pages in the Stylist magazine always showcasing those grown up, properly and interestingly employed people who are still 3oish, but my new boss is 24.

Which is just a bit awful, although my friend Vicky said that, at some point, you have to suck that kind of stuff up. So what if he was 14 when I got married? So what if every single cultural reference of my youth is entirely lost on him? So what if I see us as sort-of equals, but he sees me as someone’s mother who insists on wearing young people’s clothes? He can see all of my grey hairs from the side of me where he sits, and he doesn’t know that it just happens to you, without your consent. He doesn’t know that it is an accident that my eyeliner gets stuck in creases, because these creases are new – they just appear, and I think well-groomed people who are not in denial are supposed to recalibrate their eye makeup situation to accommodate. But I don’t know how to stop the eye shadow from shifting up my eyelid into the new, gaping folds, because I am a makeup dunce and watching youtube tutorials about Mature Skin Eye Make Up Application seems a bit like giving up. And so the new boss is just too young and too blond and too millennial to understand all this of course, and it feels a little creepy (crepey?) to be 38 and so junior.

And anyway, where did the millennials get all of their fancy chutzpah? Running empires from their laptops and staying awake all night and never suffering from the nerves and imposter syndrome? Eh? EH?

It is a bit worrying, all of this. I went out to a work thing last week and sidled up to the gang of Youths, and I am sure I was fine, though they seemed to handle the champagne reception with much more maturity that I did, and my new boss was apparently concerned enough to bundle me into a taxi at the end of the night. I was TOTALLY about to grab an Uber, with the dexterity of a little monkey, all over that app with total panache and nimble fingers, but I may have been obviously wobbling and so he GOT ME A CAB. This is embarrassing, yes?

This was me, attempting to practise making eye flicks for the week before the work thing:

I decided to open those eye pallets that have been given to me for free over the years, and I  went nuts for the purple and the bronze and the gold glitter. And then obviously instagrammed it.

In other exciting news, I tried to sew these patches onto Casper and Noah’s cub uniforms last night and it is fair to say that I am not skilled in that area:


I find sewing to be a painful process. I always get a needle shoved up into a nail, and there are issues with getting the thread through the needle, with thick fluffy cotton and tiny little holes and the needle always breaks at some point and last night I ran out of thread when I was nearly ready to tie it off, and so I just cut it all off and hoped that no one fiddles with the bits of sticking-out cotton too much. I find sewing cub badges makes me angry and mean. Is fabric glue the answer? Or does that just make me slatternly?

We went camping in Wales in the last week of the holiday and it was cold and in a paddock, but lovely when the sun came out. We were taken to Tenby, which looks like this:


We all slept in a massive tent with beds and rugs and hampers full of the eating gear, and it was the right mix of roughing it, but in a nice, clean, easy way. So much better than setting up a tent with a cranky dad telling the kids to STOP MOVING THE TENT PEGS WE NEED THEM GO AWAY RIGHT NOW DONT TOUCH THE TENT BECAUSE IT WILL LEAK GET OFF THE ROOF DONT ROLL YOURSELF UP IN THE AWNING THOSE ROPES ARENT FOR TYING AROUND YOUR NECK etc etc.

Here is Otis getting repeatedly out of bed to tell the others to get back into bed even though they were staying in bed the whole time:



So camping in Wales was a triumph, and Mark wants to buy a caravan there. I have no idea how that fits in with moving back to NZ, but I’m going with it.

The Carhartt jumpsuit arrived, and it is a little tight on the thighs. And it picks up dog hair in the most ungroomed way, but I think with a little bit of squatting and dog hair removal, I am going to look ten years younger. Kind of as young as my boss.







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Easter, etc

Want to see some Easter craft?

Ok then. Below you shall find the boys making tiny hot cross buns from Nigella’s recipe, but doubled, because I thought that everyone would love them because they would be fragrant and soft and warm and buttery and better than the shops, and of course if you make your own hot cross buns when you are a child then you are bound to want to eat them, because that is what the Annabel Karmel-type people tell you. They say the same with salads, I think. Anyway, no one ate them but me, so for days and days I dutifully heated up two for breakfast and broke into the burnt sugary crust with my little enamel-deficient teeth, wondering why they were so little and hard and doughy. It’s a baking mystery, I tell you. Also, those boys no doubt had very bottomy hands when they mixed up the dough and I will have eaten all the bottomy-hands residue, for sure, but I am my mother and father’s daughter (obviously) and I don’t let a thing go to waste. Especially when the thing has been proving for days and I went so far as to infuse the milk with cardamom pods and orange zest. Honestly.


Then we boiled eggs in vinegar and gel pastes but it didn’t work: all it did was turn the brown eggs kind of darker brown, so we blew out some other eggs and painted them in acrylic and Tiger stickers. And I made a massive pot of scrambled eggs with the blown-out innards but I didn’t have any, because of the communal spit. To be fair, I had my share of bottom-hands, as above.


I do try, I really do. See the bowl of blown eggy insides and collateral fluids just waiting to be turned into a wholesome thrifty breakfast for my beloved brood. HAHA, SHE CACKLES!

And then on Saturday we went to Portobello where we found people dressed as vegetables who were attempting to get the 5 A Day message across to the impoverished Notting Hill kids (*eye roll*) with such inventive means as Make a Fruit Kebab and Eat It, and Throw a Bean Bag at a Stuffed Fabric Vegetable to Win A Sticker. Excellent fun and good intentions all round, but surely this is preaching to the converted? To the privileged converted? This is Clean Eating Central, after all, with some very stupid-looking new restaurants popping up all over the neighbourhood recently, all screaming about their clean virtues. So, we already get it, Giant Benevolent Veges:


But, you know, there were balloons and I did finally work out how to use boomerang:

So that was Easter. Also we had a hunt in the communal garden, but the hailstorm interrupted things and then when it got nice again, the other families got there first and so we had to wait for them to find their own eggs before we invaded the garden with ours. My kids still think the Easter Bunny hides theirs, so it got a bit tricky with the complicated subterfuge and then when they went for the hunt, they found eggs that I hadn’t hidden. Which meant that they were from the other families, but I wasn’t sure how to tell them that M’s mother must have hidden that one, because our Easter Bunny only had eggs that were from the Pound Shop – it was all a bit close to shattering their childhood innocence. So we just let Ned take an enormous expensive rabbit and we really hoped M and his sister hadn’t seen Ned traipse out from under the bushes with their massive bunny. Later we saw M and his sister searching under the same bushes but it all felt a bit too little, too late.

So in other news, I went out to Electric House with Liz on Tuesday, who is always gorgeous and cool,and she was wearing the most excellent jumpsuit and, upon inquiry, I found out it was Carhartt – proper workwear cotton, all stiff and sleek and fitted. She wore it with her curly hair to the side with a magical assortment of necklaces which never seem to get tangled, like she has some necklace untangling spell, and it was unbuttoned and sexy and I swooned. So we ate and talked and drank Negronis, but really, for the evening, and the next day, even though I was ostensibly doing other things, my mind was like this:


And so I could stand it no longer and I ordered a pair of my own. Because I am impulsive and a bit obsessive.

OK I have to go because the kids are watching Goosebumps and they are probably terrified and they very well might start down a path of trauma and teenage badness unless I take them outside and away from early 90’s crap TV.

I hope your Easter was ace and your buns were edible.





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Old Napoli

Ok, so, last weekend we went to Naples in search of Elena Ferrante for REALS! Though she wasn’t immediately obvious, because she is anonymous and mysterious and so we went looking for the characters in her book (you know, the tetralogy beginning with My Brilliant Friend, a sell out everywhere, a massive epic tale of two best friends who support each other but who also have these festering underlying jealousies and wish each other dead fairly often, and all about education or the lack of it, lovers, careers, babies, other actual dead people, the Neapolitan mafia, pizza, the way you can’t do lots of good work if you have kids to look after, etc) and we didn’t find them either.

We did convince a raffish and mildly handsome cab driver to take us into what is believed to be the setting for the neighbourhood where the story is set, though the cab driver was very dubious, and said:

“Why do you want to go to the shit zone? The shit zone is shit! We will have to drive extra fast and it’ll cost you ten more euro”

and of course we were all exhilarated like pumped up old book club ladies out on the town (which we totally are) and we nodded and were like:


though we didn’t say that out loud, you could just tell, because all of us had shining eyes and were a bit sweaty.

So we drove around to the shit zone, and it was a bit shit, and even though the sexy cab driver had amplified the sense of danger, there wasn’t much more than ugly estate housing and some nonnas shaking rugs out of their stories-high windows. But, you know, it was probably pretty dangerous. *coughs*

We stayed in an airbnb place for my first time ever, thanks to the airbnb wizard that is Celia, and it was just as excellent as you would hope for. An original mid-century modernist apartment five stories up in the old centre of Naples, with motorbikes zipping around every corner and fish mongers hawking their still flapping fish and shellfish in giant shallow pans of water down at street level , and corner shops selling the most ridiculously camp easter eggy things. Everywhere was graffitied, everywhere looked old and dirty and buzzy and alive. We all loved it.

Here we are, in our apartment, worrying about no one but ourselves and our stomachs. Where to eat? Is it time for another aperol spritz? Shall we try on each other’s clothes? Swap lipstick? Finish the fourth Ferrante? Not think about anyone else? Yes. Reader, it was very good.


Here is the street outside with the motor bikes and the european-ness:



Well. It was all cheap and so good, so dreadfully good. The aperol spritzers were very frequent, as were the lattes and MORE PASTRY. We learnt from a handsome Milanese fella that when you go out to eat at a trattoria, don’t order appetisers, primi, secondi, side dishes, and dessert, or you won’t sleep. Just go for the secondi, because it is usually better, and side dishes to share. Otherwise you will be an ungainly digesting fatty, lying awake all night with the pasta sweats, and the dry mouth, reliving the aged goats cheese and oily tomato sauces, despairing over your inability to PUT THE FORK DOWN. So we took on his clever ordering strategy, but too late. We were leaving by then and we were still digesting.



Obviously the seafood thing was a bit traumatising, and I really tried to man up about it, especially when we went to a place called The Miracle Of Fish which was pretty much only fish on the menu. I suppose that is kind of obvious. Anyway, the lovely Miracle of Fish family learned of my seafood phobia through Sue, who did some excellent Italian-speaking from her year of being an Italian babysitter, and they were thrown, frankly, that a) I was scared of fish and b) I went to a place called The Miracle of Fish for my lunch. But they accommodated my glamorous New York-y off piste menu ordering and gave me a steaming plate full of aubergine pasta which was delicious and did not have any fishy smells to it, though I was cautious with every bite, like a terrible food bore with an imagined food allergy.

Here is Sue, with consistent good lip, sunning herself in the sun after doing some Italian and awaiting a huge plate of fish, miraculous fish (see above):


And then the pastries. Well. Because it was Palm Sunday, there were San Giuseppe’s zeppolla in every bar which are round choux pastry circles dusted with icing sugar, with custard and cherries on top. They were in every restaurant, in every bakery, every food stall, all slightly different, some more eclair-y, some a little like portuguese custard tarts, all with a hit of sour cherry and lemony custard. We just ate them and ate them. This is about the seventh one, found in a little bar across the road from the Museo which held the Pompeii mosaics, made by the bar proprietor’s mamma who lived upstairs:


And these, which were also found everywhere, all crunchy and buttery with a lemony orange-blossomy ricotta custard inside. Amazing. Life-changing. Ouchy when the sharp bits stabbed your gums, but totally worth a little gum-bleed:


Here is Vesuvius and views from the apartment terrace, enhanced quite nicely by filters, obvs:

And we did a little spot of shopping because it was sort of research for the book, and because Italian boutiques are tiny and brilliantly curated and cheap, compared to London when you aren’t at a sample sale. I got tiny coral earrings from an old man on the Vomero who was carving out cameos and other lovely things with his chisel, and this dress, a proper vintage number. I am also shimmering from the sunburn and aperol:



Here we are eating out on the first night, in instagrammable surroundings:

It was very female and bonding and lovely. We didn’t find Ferrante, or Lenu or Lila, but we did get a bloody rest from everyone else. And that was perhaps finding Ferrante after all.


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Solo: cleaner, quieter, lonelier

So I have another five days of solo parenting to go, and it has surprised me. I have never actually ever looked after the children on my own for longer than two days and that was only once and I am sure there were less of them. And Mark and I are a bit co-dependent in general, usually a bit clingy and couple-y and always prefer to do things together. And so this 17 day break has been actually very good as an exercise in learning a few things. Like these things:

  1. I am not cooking elaborate Ottolenghi meals every night in an effort to keep both of us culinarily sated/happily married. And as such, I have much more time and much more money. I eat what I give the children, which is generally dreadful, or I eat some classy combination of eggs and kale/broccoli/spring greens, which I happen to actually love, as opposed to being hypnotised by the clean eaters, and everything is done and cleaned up by 7:30 and I have a long evening in which to do stuff.
  2. What stuff? Well, indeed. I don’t know. This is where it all comes apart somewhat disappointingly. I could read, but I leave that until later. I could watch documentaries with Barnaby, which I did at first but after Making a Murderer we switched to more age-appropriate stuff like The Secrets Of The Tower of London and The Secrets of Scotland Yard and they were badly made and boring. Of course, that was once we could access Netflix again, after we had to order a new Apple TV remote because someone had lost the second one down the crumbly, sandy, hairy sticky side of the couch, which, once you shove your hand down there and dredge it back up, yields fistfuls of detritus and scratchy dried-up things which go under your nails and make you bleed and then you think THAT’S IT I WILL JUST ORDER ANOTHER ONE BECAUSE THIS IS REVOLTING and then I tried to watch The Night Manager on Sky but there was a mysterious PIN number needed and Mark wouldn’t respond when I sent desperate texts asking for the PIN and so it turned into evenings of wistful sighs and many lost hours biting off my split-ends. Also, some shameful hours spent watching Gentlewhispering open plastic packages and tap boxes, boring me rigid but enchanting me in equal measures, all with a tingly head.
  3. We, the remainders, are cleaner, tidier and less yelly than Mark and Casper.
  4. I sleep better by myself but still need to wear earplugs because the silence bothers me.
  5. The dog rejected my advances and still sleeps on the floor, even though I ask him again and again to come up on the bed and I enthusiastically pat the space next to me and I reassure him that Mark isn’t here. He just snorts a bit and sinks down back into his bit of the floor, kind of embarrassed for me.
  6. So it is a bit boring. Today the neighbour walked the dog, another neighbour took two kids and the school took Noah to see Fulham vs Bristol and I was like THANKS EVERYBODY but really Otis and I were very sad to see that everyone was gone. We see a lot of each other, and he isn’t really that keen on hanging out with me because I don’t like elaborate games involving crocheted blankets and hiding. And I wander around the flat, the cleaner, quieter flat, feeling like reading Vogue would be wasteful and self indulgent and so I should sort out things to take to the second hand shop, and Otis is deep in some solitary kind of game about spiders, and it’s really a bit lonely here.
  7. You would think all that kale would make me thin, shining, white in the eye and glossy of the hair, but actually I have spots and conjunctivitis. I have to wear my glasses constantly which slip down my nose all the time and give me tension headaches, and obviously my eyes are un-magnified through the thick blind-person lenses and so they look tiny and wrinkled and weepy and red. And everyone stands quite far away from me once I point out the sickly eye in case I give them the conjunctivitis just from existing. I want to shout NO YOU CAN ONLY CATCH THIS IF YOU STICK YOUR FINGER IN MY EYE JUICE AND THEN YOU STICK YOUR FINGER INTO YOUR OWN EYE JUICE but I don’t because I am weary of medical ignoramuses.
  8. Word on the street was that solo parenting is kind of fine throughout the week, because of the egg/kale situation and because of husbands usually being at work, so no difference, etc etc, but the weekends are a bit long and dire. So last weekend I primed them and bribed them with the 10am cheap movies and brunch at the Skandi KUPP and packets of star monsters, provided they were good and went to kick boxing without crying the whole way there. There is some ‘issue’ with the 100 pushups and sprinting and sweating bigger guys hitting them. Anyway, they went and then we did our movies/brunch/buying extravaganza and it was all kind of calm and good. This is what it looks like in the kick boxing gym, with an added wall of humid kid-sweat.


Here is Otis running up the three stairs at Paddington Basin after our pancakes, in a homage to Rocky Balboa:


And when it wasn’t about children, it was, of course, about me. Luckily I have glamorous women friends who are BAFTA members because they have done some important filmy contribution thing, so they get to watch new movies for free, and they get a plus one, which it quite often me. So last night I went to see Anomalisa at the BAFTA place and there was a veerrrrry dirty cheeseburger and twice-fried chips to get through first and a lot of prosecco to wash it down with, and I got excited and took a photo like a tourist:


So Mark and Casper get home on Thursday, right after I have left to spend a few days in Naples, because of the Ferrante novels. It’s a bookclub Ferrante-hunting-holiday.

To finish, a very profound video of Otis vacuuming in a terry towelling Elsa dress/bathrobe:

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Lingerie and a Long Journey

The big news: Casper is flying to New Zealand tomorrow evening with Mark, and the baby has developed a daily habit of ferreting through my lingerie drawer and discarding everything with a sassy flick of the wrist until he finds camisoles and singlets and chemises and negligees which he can wear as Elsa Dresses. Anything is an Elsa Dress, provided it has a thin strap, a swinging a-line, and a deep vee.

As for Casper, it seemed a most brilliant idea to send him to New Zealand with Mark, because Mark likes company, and Casper likes attention, and they both need a holiday in the sun. So we bought Casper a ticket without thinking the consequences through too much, and then went to have a quick word with the headmaster about getting approval to get Casper out of school for two weeks.

How do you think that went?

So my argument (in my head) went like this:

The Pros

Casper is seven, and therefore a few weeks out shouldn’t be terribly detrimental to his chances at future success, because, well, he is seven. And so, like, his school work is probably fairly basic building-blocks foundation-y type stuff which shouldn’t be too tough to catch up with….right? Casper is perfectly bright, just a little disinclined to do his work. So, it’s not like a few weeks would permanently knee-cap him and send him spiralling downwards into a dangerous vortex of future substance abuse, unemployment and eventual life on the streets, right? And he could be sent to New Zealand with some homework, right?

Going travelling is good for your brain connections. You learn things that you couldn’t in a classroom, which is the very same rationale the school uses for school day trips and foreign exchanges.

Seeing your New Zealand family (some for the first time, some for the first time on five years) is a good thing for anyone to experience, right? Good for the whole child? A good way to meet some emotional and psychological needs in that tough little challenging boy?

Being with your dad and getting his full attention without having your annoying brothers getting in the way is a really good thing for a middle child who struggles with being part of a big family. And spending time with eager and enthusiastic grandparents who love you is a good thing for a kid who isn’t always sure about the whole love thing.

Going to another continent and hemisphere and being on a plane for about three days there and three days back is something to learn from, I am sure. Like how to sit still and how to sleep in a hard small seat and how to control your need to sing operatically on a fairly frequent basis. And then you arrive and look at the different landscape and people and notice a different language and cultures and maybe swim a little in the Pacific Ocean and get to eat a pie from a dairy and grandad may well take you out to inspect goats and sheep.


Well, the school disagreed and said some things which made me cry, because they suggested that these good reasons were not bigger than the badder thing of taking him out of school for 12 days. And that the consequences of those missed days would potentially be pretty bad for Casper. And for the teacher and for his classmates and then the WHOLE WORLD. (They didn’t actually make this a global issue, but they may as well have done.) So I panicked and cried two times more and asked Mark to try to cancel the ticket and we both looked at each other with combined parental guilt and shame and then a few friends of ours said


And then we thought, actually, it is the very best thing we could do for Casper and so everyone else can go find a carrot and sit down heavily on it.

As for the baby, I may have gone a little heavy on the Frozen soundtrack in the early days and so he loves a bit of Elsa, and I have never shied away from encouraging him to play with any toy, because I am normal and intelligent. And so his best things are his two baby dollies which he loves to cuddle and put to bed. And then one day he asked for an Elsa Dress and we fashioned a silky knee-skimming gown from an old lacy singlet and now that kid just OWNS the polyester fest that is my knickers drawer. Daily, he takes my hand and leads me to it and rifles through and asks me to tie up the straps with a PWEASE? and I am enchanted and I do it and he flits from room to room twirling with joy. On the weekend, we found some tights and someone plaited the legs and he wore them on his head as glorious blonde swingable tresses.

And to half the world, this is a boring non-story and to the other, it is a bit challenging. Mark was horrified, and cannot be comfortable with it, and says things like

‘You will confuse him’ and then offers him a Spiderman costume and I say

‘How is that less confusing?’ And ‘who’s confused anyway?’

And I imagine Otis sitting there as an adult, head in hands, wondering if he is a woman or a man or a spider, based on the terrible fact that his mother and father gave him various types of clothes to dress up in when he was a kid.

So it seems to me it is all based on some terrible fear of the vagina. An irrational, base fear that I cannot help to dispel except to continue to let my kid be a kid without taking any notice of adults being weird and repressed and making something normal seem to be not normal.

Here he is, playing and dressing up and being unfiltered by adult neuroses:



And that’s my brilliant, funny, gorgeous little kid, in an apricot peplum peeking out from weather-appropriate casual wear. And he is perfect.






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Last Wednesday night we ate Honey & Co’s sabiche. That used to be our favourite dinner, which was good because

  1. it is quick,
  2. it is healthy and full of raw garlic and chilli and roasted aubergine and orange-yolky Burford Brown EGGS, my eggy little loves,
  3. there is no meat in it,
  4. it tastes like the heavenly angels, but with some fiery heat in them. Tough, urban heavenly angels from the middle east, maybe, and
  5. also, it has garlicky tahini drizzled all over it, with flatbreads from the middle eastern shop, warmed and crunchy with the hot garlic chilli lemony cumin honey parsley sauce and the rich delicious posh eggs and aubergine and OH MY.

But then Mark said one night, apropos of nothing:

‘I think I am over sabiche. Eating it every second night for this past year has dimmed the fierce passion I had for it. Could we please have steak and mashed potatoes and cauliflower cheese?’

And I was both sad, and mad. So now we have it whenever I get it through the Dinner Suggestion Selection process, about once a week when his resolve is down, mostly from his being distracted by larger things than Dinner Suggestion Selection. So Wednesday night, we ate it, and we loved it again, because absence makes the heart grow fonder, etc etc, and we got ready to have noisy stomachs from the raw things in it and garlic-extruding pores for a few days, because it is frankly worth it. And after two episodes of Nashville season two, and a chapter of The Luminaries (not loving that book AT ALL) we went to bed.

An hour and a half later, the light goes on in our room and Mark gets up and yelps.


and he rolls onto the floor and gets up and splays himself on the bed and clutches his side and rolls back onto the floor and crawls to the bathroom to loudly retch and gets back into our room and moans and goes all clammy and grey. And I pull my earplugs out and look across and see a man having a baby. Or a heart attack or some such other alarming thing and I think:

‘The sabiche is killing him! I have poisoned him with too much raw garlic and chili and now he is going to die because I JUST REALLY LIKE MAKING SABICHE FOR DINNER EVEN THOUGH HE IS PRETTY MUCH OVER IT AND IF I WAS JUST KINDER AND STUCK WITH MEAT AND POTATOES HE WOULDN’T BE DYING RIGHT NOW’

And so, because I am quite calm in a crisis, I ask him if he is, in fact, having a heart attack, or whether he thinks he has been poisoned by the sabiche, but he cannot reply because he is too busy lurching himself from surface to surface, bellowing and making crying noises. So I obviously start googling in order to work out what to do, because with him down, there wasn’t exactly any grownups on the premises to help. Only me, which makes you realise that just because you are nearly 40, you aren’t necessarily very good at being in charge or knowing what to do when someone starts dying in front of you.

The googling thing wasn’t brilliant and my usual sharp researching skills were dulled by my growing panic and that shaky nervy lack of sleep cack-handed slowness. So I called the ambulance, and the guy at the other end was going through the list of questions, asking me to ask Mark whether the pain felt stabby or dull, thuddy or trickling, and I could barely hear the man over Mark’s vomiting, and so we mutually agreed to stop the q&a phone charade and just get him up to the hospital.

And – who knew? – the A&E at 12:30am on a Wednesday night is just FULL to spillage of glassy-eyed, belching, whiffy people shouting at each other. Mark and I walk in, him kind of bending and twisting and stopping and moaning, still grey and clammy, in the zone of pain just like you get when you have a baby exiting your bits. And a blokey triage nurse takes a look at him and pulls him into a room and says:

‘Mate, I think you have kidney stones. And I am sorry.’ 

And they whip him in and strap him down and give him morphine and oxygen and I ask the doctor if he will ever be normal again and she says yes. I say:

‘Is it like having a baby?’

And she says yes, and I say:

‘I’ve had five.’

and she looks at me and we do a tiny little bit of mental fist-pumping, and she fixes him with kindness and care and drugs and I take photos of myself and the curtains because there wasn’t a lot to do except listen to the heart rate monitor and the drunk guy snoring next door, and Mark said he didn’t want to be Instagrammed. Actually, he didn’t say that, he was still whimpering through the pain at that point.

This is me at 3:30 am:


And the curtain:


We got home at 6:00am, and two kids were up playing on the iPad and they didn’t even notice we were gone. And Mark went to bed and I felt sorry for myself because I was tired, and I realised that I have never before stayed up all night. What kind of nearly 40-year old sheltered clean-livin’ dull-type person hasn’t ever stayed up all night? WHY DIDN’T I JOIN THE 1990’s RAVING YEARS OF MY WORLDLY PEERS? There’s a world of regret in that sentence, although I do like some timely shut-eye.

Mark has recovered very well and I have done my best to be kind and supportive and loving and nice. I am not great with sick people, to my eternal shame, but there was no doubt this was more than your usual man-flu-type situation. And guess what we are having tonight for dinner, fellas?



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