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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Leopard Print and Sequins

Here are some things that you MUST know.

There is a small two-storied Paul Smith outlet shop just off South Molton Lane, where you can buy three pairs of stripy socks for £19 instead of £17 PER PAIR, and it is filled with handsome thrifty men buying their Paul Smith puffer jackets and slim-fittin’ trou, so I reckon you could meet a man for a date there, because a Paul Smith man seems to be a decent kind of man, even if a little bit early 2000s-esque. And the very best thing is you can buy the three pairs of socks and give them out to three people for Christmas and it looks like you have been v v v flash with the cash but you haven’t, you’ve been a bit tight. Or, er, fiscally shrewd.  Male teachers, Secret Santa giftees and husbands – sorry for the spoiler alert but it’s too good not to share.

The cleaner has gone on holiday and everything is going a bit wrong. I had an at-home day today, with a vague idea that I would clean things up a bit, and even casually tossed around the idea of changing sheets and stuff like that. I asked my friend Sue today how long you can not change the sheets on a bed, and she said two weeks seems entirely reasonable, because, you know, we are too clean these days, asthma, etc etc and I was thinking ‘what about three?’ and looked at the calendar for when the cleaner comes back and I think yeah, we don’t need dust mite allergies becoming a Thing in our flat. These things are all in the framing, amiright?

I have been wearing a Matalan polyester leopard print coat which sits on the right side of pub landlady/prostitute that smells strongly of a factory and shipping containers and layers and layers of plastic wrapping, but it looks like vintage ocelot. And so I paired it with bronze and silver sequins today, after finding that Otis had been smearing the bathroom walls with some ancient eyeshadow palette which, it turns out, has the most excellent metallic selection, and so I experimented before the school run with the bronze eyeshadows to match my skirt and I was SHIMMERING as I went up the A40 with the dog and my ankle boots and three kids in tow and when I got to school, I was asked WHERE ARE YOU GOING NOW? Like I had some 8:30 disco appointment somewhere, and I had to say that I was dressed a little like a kind, fertile and shining sex worker to go home and try changing some sheets. Reader, I went home in my flammable evening wear and stayed in it all day, through Dorset Apple Cake making and CBeebies watching and after addressing Christmas cards and wrapping up single pairs of socks, occasionally dashing into the hallway loo to try another metallic shade, all of which have Otis baby-fingered-shaped holes gouged into the middle of them. I realise that in order to get good at makeup, you have to just put it on. Not matter the time of day! No matter the appropriateness of the situation! No matter that you don’t know what bronzer is for! Just throw that shizzle on, ladies, until the cack-handed cats-eye flick starts to look alluring, and the blusher makes you look youthful, not drunk, and the metallic eyeshadow looks like how Kate Moss would wear hers.  And then I walked back to school in the afternoon and took a photo, with the addition of a nappy bag filled with dog poo, and thought, my glitter is bringing some Christmas joy into the streets of Paddington. img_1969

The dog got dognapped today, but I saw the napper and shouted: HEY! THATS MY DOG! THATS MY DOG, LADY!  from across the road, and she was like WHO? WHAT? WHERE WAS YOUR DOG? And I said OVER THERE ON THAT POST! FROM WHERE YOU JUST UNHOOKED HIM! And she was like OH! SORRY! HE WAS ALL ALONE AND HUNGRY! And we look at the enormous, glossy-coated fat dog, lips still shiny from all the chicken carcasses he found on the road on the way to school, with his collar and his look of general content and utter laziness, and I grabbed him back and gave her like the MEANEST stare. And the terrible thing is he was honestly just as happy to be walking along with this stranger than with me. He now looks completely unbothered that he was nearly stolen, and I am thinking he has either a majorly low IQ or is just really over living with us. He didn’t even bark. No signs of residual trauma. He’s sleeping a lot, but then, he is pretty much always asleep so I can’t count that.

This is what Otis looks like after he has also been experimenting with my makeup. Also, he is eating Snack -a-Jacks. This is trashy and shameful, especially when you know that he had just been telling me he wanted to punch me in the face, apropos of nothing:

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This is a video of the kids at a trampoline park in Acton. See how Otis is everyone’s favourite, and see how he knows everyone will deliver him sweaty bits of foam, should he command it be so:

And with that, I am done, for now. Except for this bit….more i-D and Chanel malarkey!

 

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Crime Franchise

I have lost all interest in cooking, because it is boring and unrewarding and no one eats it properly because they are entitled. I am oft heard to say:

JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL YOU REALISE NOT EVERYONE’S MUM COOKS OTTOLENGHI FOOD LIKE PRACTICALLY HALF THE WEEK YOU LITTLE INGRATES and they are like:

So you keep saying. Where are the biscuits?

It’s very wearying. They sniff disdainfully at my Claudia Roden’s lamb and pear tagine and shove away their lasagne (because of the cheese, the Dreaded Cheese) and choke back tears at the sight of Gail’s poppyseed bloomer (‘those black things are DISGUSTING’), and one kid won’t eat pasta (I suspect as a ploy to help me differentiate him from the others, such is the scarcity of individual motherly attention round these parts), while the scabby-faced Otis prefers crisps and popcorn to actual food and mostly they all cry a bit if they are given carrots. Tonight, kids, do you fancy a little something from Nigel Slater? Weeping. How about the River Cottage cookbooks? Shriek. Honey & Co? Trembling all over.

Vegetable-wise, they accept cucumber and broccoli if there is some sort of dessert-deal to be had afterwards- like, eat the head of these broccoli trees and you can get an oreo ice cream thing, you hard-bargaining uncompromising buggers. They agree to rice and couscous but not quinoa or bulgar wheat, and I’m like WHY? Did you discuss all this in the babies’ waiting room in heaven?

All you anglo saxy babies, hear this: There are certain carbs and grains that just won’t ever be acceptable, even though you will have never tried them before and they are exactly the same as all the other grains and crabs in effect. DON’T TRY THEM. FEAR THEM INSTEAD.

Tonight, I have decided that I will fight against my urge to just eat re-presented eggs at every meal, and have decided to brave the freezing cold and take Otis – the Miraculously-Still Growing Otis who has managed to keep on developing into a normal-sized child on a diet of stolen Halloween sweets and babyccinos – and we will make Jamie Oliver’s ricotta cannolini, which is fiddly but is like diving into a cheese and tomato bubbling pasta lake OF YOUR DREAMS. So I have to go and get creme fraiche which, owing to my hasty spelling and autocorrect is now listed on my phone to-do list under tins of toms and mozzarella as crime franchise. So I am apparently intending to go up to Waitrose to purchase a Crime Franchise. Which would be awesome and more fun than cooking endless rejected meals and tidying up other people’s stuff.

This morning, in fact, case in point, etc etc,  we had a drama because Casper couldn’t find his shoes. There is a place for the shoes, and it is by the front door, and it makes a lot of sense both intellectually and by the laws of common sense and basic physical laws to take your shoes off when you come inside and put them in the massive box filled with black school shoes. Then you know where they are when you are heading out, amiright? But no! NO NONONONONONONONONO nonononononono! Putting them there would be too SIMPLE! Too easy! Too drama-free! What you can do instead, and they frequently do, is to put them behind toilets and under strewn towels and firmly under the couch and behind doors and deep into the dusty dressing-up box and under beds and in the freezer and it’s only ever apparent that one shoe is missing when it is 3 minutes past the time you were supposed to run out the door. And I could even handle this if it wasn’t accompanied with wailing and kicking things angrily and the accusations of sabotage and theft and general malfeasance. This morning was the same, and Casper went from room to room, eyes heavenward, incoherently but loudly cursing his brothers who had DONE SOMETHING WITH MY SHOE and kicking walls and occasionally crying a bit or making some sort of frustrated screaming sound, all of which I ignored except when I couldn’t any longer, and went mental a bit and got all shouty and narrow-eyed and unhinged and told him

ENOUGH!

and looked under the sofa-cover and there was the bloody shoe ALL A BLOODY ALONG. So we get to school, late, and he turns to me and says

Mum can you please go back and get my cello? I forgot it and I will get a yellow card if I don’t have it

and I say NO. Suck it up, fella. I hope you get a yellow card AND detention, you unreliable shoe-putter-awayer with a potty mouth and a cranky morning temperament with some sort of inability to lift up sofa-covers with suspicious-shoe-shaped lumps beneath. 

That’ll learn him. Except, of course, it won’t.

And in other news of the children, one of them had a banding test at the amazing secondary school that he will get into in any case because of the sibling policy. He did a test to determine which group he should be in – A, B, C or D. I was confident he would be ok because he is a mathsy kind of guy, so the strength of that might bring him out of the C and D bands, because who knows what kids lurk in the C and D bands. The smokers, probably. Anyway, he came out of the test, we went off to buy posh bread from the Dusty Knuckle which only Mark and I will eat and he told me that he had to write a book review of a novel he had read. And he said that he didn’t think he had ever read a novel, so he wrote about Gary Larson cartoons.

OH NO MIDDLE CLASS FREAKOUT

Here they are, seeing Santa in November:

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And the smallest patchy-skinned member getting a proper old school haircut from the Cypriot barber:

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And another kid, eating artisanal bread for realz:

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Gary Larson, though! *dies*

 

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Head, My Head

It hurts, because last night we went to Taverna Do Mercado for some sort of port and wine-pairing dinner because it seemed like a great idea for a Tuesday night. GET OFF THE COUCH! Turn off Empire, get some heels on and get down to Spitalfields for some portuguese tapas and unrelenting stealthy wine-refilling from the generous staff. There was quite a lot of octopus and mackerel and cuttlefish on the menu which made me sad, though the chatty Italian woman opposite me was really much sadder because she thought she had signed up for the suckling pig dinner, and to find out that it would be a festival of pig’s ears and gross sea creatures instead of the lovely flesh of the baby pig was clearly a disappointment indeed. So I didn’t want to make a fuss after she made a fuss, because who wants to be that wanker who upsets the set dinner? Not me – so I just told the waitress that while I wasn’t *allergic* to seafood, I just really hated it SO MUCH. Even stock? she asked. Yes, even stock. Though, true New Zealander that I am, I finished my tiny protest by saying actually, it was all fine, because New Zealanders know that complaining makes you WEAK. I assured her I could just pull out the massive bits of repulsive fishy things bobbing about on the shared plates and I could sniff everything first in case of horrifying fishy juice leakage and she seemed satisfied with that.

So I just ate quite a lot of garnishes that may or may not have touched seafood-juice and bits of bread that people gave me because they felt a slightly irritated pity and I tried to get over myself. And of course the never-ending wine was quite helpful for making things feel a bit better. So we went for it and we wobbled home, me on my stupid heels which had worn down to the silver stumpy bit and the babysitters laughed at us and we went to bed a little bit ashamed and now there are minions in my head doing some scheduled roadworks with drill hammers.

This is Gaby, who may or may not have been bored by my winey conversation:

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Making things feel slightly worse is that our one remaining fish was bombarded with half a tub of fish food from the heavy-handed Otis a few days ago, and while the fish itself seems oblivious, his water smells like poo and death. I thought it was, perhaps, an actual bit of poo that may have been left under the couch or behind the door stinking up the corner of the living room, because that *can* and *does* happen in our place, but it was just a rotting tank. So I scooped out the fish, the mysterious deathless tiny fish and thought about cleaning the tank but then I thought NO MORE! I hate that fish and his tank and it is going to go to the bins and the fish, the mysterious deathless fish can go and live in the Serpentine. Mark walked in and stepped over the blackened stinking tank and I told him of my plans to release the mysterious deathless fish into the wild and he looked at me with sad eyes and said

But he might not make it

And I was thinking – Dude, you kill deer and pigs. On purpose. You were a butcher. You killed sheep and cows in the meat works. Why the sad eyes for the lone fish? He’s a battler, for sure, but he is also boring and personality-less and brings no joy into the family, only decay. Also his tank is not very stylish and obscures our Petra Borner print (apologises for obvious self-promotion here, but it had to be done). So he’s going to go, leaving the nest as it were, just as soon as my head stops banging and the sweats calm down.

More On Rot

Meanwhile, overcome with rotting pears and half-eaten apples, I made a Dorset Apple Cake. This is an example of when rot is #winning:

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And here is a photo of a cheese truck, with the eldest gulping a hot chocolate on a Sunday-Let’s-Run-Away-From-The-Others date. See the pre-teen ‘tude? It’s going to be harsh for us, having one sulky teenage boy grow into another sulky teenage boy, all wearing hoodies and trying to get away with never washing their hair and with such unrelenting sass coming from their once-baby-mouths:

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Anyway, cheese is quite clearly the answer for me in my current state. As is the whole fish disposal thing. Wish him luck in the Serpentine – it’s a tough world out there in the Royal Parks. It’s been real, mysterious deathless fish. Go well.

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The Donald Burns & Spending Le Cash

So, the baby has some sort of creeping leprous rash on his face and I suspect it is because I only feed him chocolate croissants and leftover American Halloween sweets. He looks cute until you get close and then you kind of back away…it’s the curse of being the last of a big bunch of babies, where your mother knows what she should do re: nutrition and age-appropriate film watching and regular cleaning of small bodies, but she no longer really cares about all that periphery. In return, he gets a lot of love and good-natured cussing competitions with his brothers. This morning Barnaby and Otis had a kind of 8 Mile rap battle cuss-off, but with no swearing and no Eminem. It was like:

Otis: You’re Queen Elsa. Ha! (delivered with surprising sass – kind of like how Cookie Lyon from Empire would have spat that out to Annika just before whupping her ass)

Barnaby: You’re a brown piece of furry toast 

And on and on and on, back and forth until Otis ran out of sophisticated insulting come-backs and instead hit him with these enthusiastic, slightly nonsensical but nevertheless linguistic triumphs of the made-up preschool variety:

Otis: Well, you’re a RIBBER FROG/PO-COCK/WITCH CAREBEAR

and so Otis took that round. In fact, all the rounds – Witch Carebear kind of acing it.

All this was my background noise while I was trying to find a park this morning so I could get the eldest to the orthodontist. When you arrive at the nice St Johns Wood orthodontist surgery, the upstairs is all very nice, but the NHS kids get sent downstairs to the basement where it is like a secret dental factory den of shame where it is clear the policy is the shit-toothed kids must be kept out of the sight of the well-heeled north Londoners. It’s all a bit cramped and sad down there, with nothing on the TV but a blue screen saying something like Radio Hastings will start at 11am. It’s like they just don’t care much, which is pretty sad, especially as the kids down in the NHS Dental Basement of Shit Teeth And Pain have enough to contend with, sporting as they do giant massive wonky tombstone teeth that need painful wiring and various gaps that you could poke chopsticks through. Anyway, mustn’t complain, because the NHS is awesome and looks after us and I love it.

What Else Do I Love Right Now? 

  1. Majestic Wine, because we had a party for Bonfire night and they have all this excellent prosecco which isn’t prosecco, but even more stylish yet significantly cheaper, and when you buy 12 bottles you get two crystal champagne flutes for us to break fairly soon.
  2. Bonfire night parties. Look at our Guy that we made! See how he coquettishly thrusts a polyester-clad leg out and cocks the other in a very Victoria Beckham-esque best-angle-what-makes-me-look-slim photograph manipulation-type scenario! And his ham-fisted hands in which to grab the nearest pussy and flammable hair and the smuggest face which was only hours away from being burnt off. And the party itself was fun and full of slow-roasted lamb and butternut squash and massive homemade sausage rolls. There were some admiring murmurs towards my colour-coordinated bookshelf and for a minute I felt I had made it as a believable adult in charge of various people and animals and stovetops. It was a win, as I believe they say. img_1782
  3. Reasons to buy street food. We went to Druid Street market so that Mark could *look at Japanese knives* but really my plan was to visit Monty’s Deli and to buy £6 hotdogs and drink really strong gin and tonics on a street with lots of bearded men and their girlfriends on a Saturday morning. Here the kids are, a few less than usual because, you know, babysitting each other is surely a perk of big families. They are posing with nonchalance, not knowing or caring that we were in fact about £60 poorer after eating/dropping the hotdogs and rejecting the vegan brownies:

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And barefoot, on a cold day, splashing about in water and FREAKING OUT the English:

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4. Obviously, Halloween and pumpkins and generally this time of year. It’s not offensively cold – it’s more about artful outfit-creation and the enjoyment of novel warm coats and socks and pub situations. These eejits spent about 100 of our good English pounds on these pumpkins which they carved and then cut themselves and then bled. I do not dress most of them, may I just hastily point out. This is all their own work:

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5. Skincare what is el cheapo. Have you heard about The Ordinary? It’s very cheap but magical, apparently – it makes you very young and beautiful in a few weeks and only costs about £5. I threw myself into the entire regime with gusto, and I got a little bit pink-faced and nearly raw on the cheeks, but I think that’s what was supposed to happen. Whatever India Knight says to do, I kind of do. So if you see me at Waitrose or at school drop-off or something looking like a tiny raw-faced naked mole rat, then you know it’s The Ordinary working some kind of heavenly trick.

7. H&M raids. I went to two sample sales over the last two weeks: Mary Katrantzou for a silk top and a tunic and Erdem for a massive glittery brocade skirt for millions less than at the shops, but still at prices that required shifty sleight of hand with multiple bank cards and  general creative payment trickery, but then you go to H&M on the way home and buy this for £29 and you realise this polka dot frilled viscose shirt is actually The One. Keep that on the DL though, ok?

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Restoration and Consolation

Everyone has been so kind. And I have been allowed to talk and whinge and cry and get cranky and I feel ok – so thank you to everyone who said something or provided cake or delivered flowers or took a kid away for a day. I wonder now whether I have been a little bit harsh about people – a bit cynical, a bit quick to decide that they would be unkind about me having another baby, and so

SORRY WORLD! You aren’t all awful people! Lots of you are ACE!

So now I feel uniquely qualified to tell you what kind of things work when someone is having an Awkward/Traumatic/Sad Situation like I did.

Cake

I got a lot of cake – homemade brownies, Hummingbird cupcakes, a whacking great big box full of Ottolenghi shizzle – financiers, friands,  passionfruit meringues, prune and chocolate tart, carrot cake, a mousse thing – it was like God himself sent down tiny heavenly edible buttery baked angels. Honestly, while it probably cost about £500 and I’m now 2kg fatter, it was worth it.

Lasagne

Someone gave us two nights’ worth of lasagne. It meant I could ignore the nagging, unrelenting, boring question of what we were going to eat, and instead, I could turn the oven on, lie on the couch under a ripped whiffy blanket and watch Ghost with the children.

Patrick Swayze

He kind of needs a special separate entry here, because when he dance-walks around NY looking for his killer, trying to protect Demi Moore and to tell her he loves her through the medium of longterm-couple-wordplay (Ditto! DITTO!), and, of course, whenever he does ANYTHING in Dirty Dancing, my soul is soothed, loins afire, my heart beating wildly from the Patrick-lovin’. Swayze as tight-pants-distraction is mind-glowingly effective therapy. David Bowie in his codpiece in Labyrinth would work well here too.

Other Gifts, Tokens, Etc

I don’t want to sound like a mercenary wanker here, but I was very happy to receive posh hand cream and a book. Gift-wise, the last two weeks have been better than my birthday and Christmas combined. LOOK HOW FAR I HAVE TO GO TO GET TRINKETS!

Friends

Obviously. This is the big one. In a sweeping, loose categorisation, I will include the kind and anonymous commenters who said they were sad and sorry, to the neighbours who gave me a street-hug, the eye-contact steady and fast as they let me tell them that I was ok, to the friends who messaged me one way or another in acknowledgement. To the friends who let me explain what a molar pregnancy was while they visibly paled and patiently shifted their overloaded shopping baskets from arm to arm in the confectionary aisle of Waitrose, to those who ate (more) cake with me and let me talk. Those who took a kid or two. The kindness of so many people was very healing, and the most lovely thing in all this was that people weren’t pretending something horrible hadn’t happened, and I was very grateful for that.

Getting Back To Normal With Excellent Women

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Last night we had dinner at the Dean Street Townhouse with most of the women who are in our bookclub. In that group, one had just flown in from Australia, one from Milan, one from New Mexico. One was just back from directing The Pet Shop Boys, one was about to launch an ethics programme for the NHS, one was about to screen her documentary about Sydney gay hate crimes in the 80’s, one was here for a commercial shoot, one was leaving early to feed her new baby and to prepare for her psychotherapy patients in the morning, another is jugging two jobs and is my cake-sister. To be in the company of brilliant, creative women who know each other well, who have witnessed all those things that matter, even if they are small and stupid and mean not much in the end – to have people to bear witness to it and to care – well, that is the most restorative and consoling thing of all. I am so grateful to my hot-flushed HRT-wielding, loud, cackling, brainy, kind friends.

I wrote a different kind of thing on a similar topic on Ben Starling’s blog last week. You can look it up if you have any appetite for musings on the way women share stuff.

Leather Goods & Outfit Triumphs

I also bought a new bag, which cheered me up a lot. It perfectly matches that Yves Klein Blue polyester second-hand sweaty dress I am wearing in the photo, with big seventies fluted sleeves and the distinct whiff of the overexcited overheated armpits of a lady who doesn’t get out much. That whole outfit was a masterclass of stealth thriftiness – £4 earrings from the V&A sale, an old H&M necklace which looked a little Lara Bohinc-esque but totally was not, and a leopard-print tuxedo jacket which was £9 in the Zara sale years ago.

So that’s it really – my recommendations for dealing with people who are a bit shaky and sad. Buy them sugary confections, be kind, take them out for coffee, show them men on film sporting clinging trou, and love them.

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