Dubai

Last Wednesday, I went to Dubai with my friend C and her baby.

And here we are in Terminal 5, right before we left, drinking a breakfast martini at Gordon Ramey’s Plane Food, which turned out to be the alcoholic highlight of the whole trip. C is channelling Sarah Jessica Parker in that movie about career women with kids, while I am just playing with my phone – recurrent theme number one.

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After that rather fetching and elegant start, we boarded the plane and sat down for seven hours. The food situation took a dive after the flat whites and eggs benedict at Gordons, with a chicken curry lunch thing and then later BA’s finest cold dry chicken sandwiches and tomato juice (spiced, with ice? Yes, please, OBVS) with KitKats.

C did some baby wrangling while I spent about four hours trying to watch Into The Woods with a defective screen which cut out every four minutes and returned us to the main menu. It was arduous, like running a 10k, except the movie took longer and I didn’t get any thinner while sitting on that tiny seat. On my left hand side was dear C with her gigantic baby made of milk and angel skin and the rounded, heaviest head known to babykind, and on my right was an Overperfumed Armrest Hogging Man who was very concerned we were lesbians. Lesbians who got together with some non-lesbian man to make a giant baby. He smelt like Impulse mixed with The Body Shop’s Dewberry mixed with an Arabic man mixed with a souk mixed with wealth mixed with non-sexy general hairy man pheromones mixed with the sweet, sweet stench of too many perfume testers and a hot car and rising perfume-bile. And he didn’t notice or care that we were sharing an armrest and he took it over – he COLONISED that sliver of precious plastic – for seven whole hours and so I had to crunch my arm into my waist and occasionally I would turn to C and I would make the perfume-gagging face and she would return it because he was wafting far and wide and it made us feel really despairing of the world.

When she got up to go to the toilet, she had to crawl from her window seat, under the baby bassinet-hanging-thing, limbo under my defective screen and then do a massive high-leg over Overperfumed Armrest Hogging Man, like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible with the lasers, you know, so as not to wake him and get him moving about, in case that would release another chypre stream. C thought perhaps he had it on a timer – just as we thought he could emit no more, we could both feel it invading our dried out nostrils, sledgehammering its way through our air-conditioned dry snot.

At some point he asked me where our husbands were, and what they were doing. It gave me great satisfaction to tell him, as I did my best to mouth-breathe, that they were at home, looking after the children. I expect he was a bit sad for our poor husbands, stuck at home doing useless women’s work, but equally glad we weren’t filthy lady-lovers who had bred.

But we got there and set up in the Ritz Carlton which was an interior design love letter to orange and brown and gold. And such beds of huge towering softness! And a bathroom bigger than our actual room, all in glass so we could watch each other in the shower and maybe try some lesbionic tricks, though we didn’t really have enough time and, you know, we were kind of tired, so ordered room service instead and had some excellent babaganoush and fattoush salad. This was to become recurring theme number two.

So C was teaching and I was looking after the Best Baby in the world. A baby who loves his toes and his milk and swimming and sleeping in his polyester bear suit hood. You put his arms in and slip the hood over his lovely massive head, even in a country that is 44 degrees outside, and he turns his face into the fluffy brown fake-bearskin and he is OFF.

Here he is, atop the bed’o’feathery mattresses, with the very nicest thighs I have ever had the privilege to squeeze:

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He is actually also the baby in this ad, made by our friend Amanda who is cooler than I could ever hope to be, with her directorial ways and people who get her bacon sandwiches and coffee when she wants them to. Anyway, he was my charge for four days and he and I visited some lovely New Zealand friends, got invited out for dinner by the most extraordinarily fantastic and clever family and took the train to a mall and we ate out and we swam in the pool:

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I got sucked in at the mall by a fake Bloomingdales and bought another Tom Ford lipstick, this time in matt Flame which is lovely but as dry as chalk. Here I am, playing dressups with myself and trying to take a lipstick photo to stick on instagram that doesn’t look like I am a bit stroke-faced. I didn’t succeed – I’m all chin and downy hair:

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I look so sad. Possibly because I realised the fake Bloomingdales charged me £3 more than if I had just bought the orange chalk from Selfridges. I also bought the children many camel-related plastic items and fake gold-foiled playing cards, some hair ties and eye makeup remover. I did ponder buying this:

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But then I remembered that my underarms are probably normal-coloured under the stubble and besides, it might be letting womanhood down everywhere if I succumbed to the pressure to have all-over porn-ready groomed white parts of my body, especially those parts that I had never thought were noteworthy or up for public scrutiny. AMIRIGHTLADIES?

So, C and I had a lovely time, though C was actually working, while I was playing. Below, again with my phone. C said I should smile, but I fear accidental gurning, so I am posing in my Ritz Carlton residential suite instead. It’s not often I get to do that, so bear with me and my insufferable tendency to take selfies like an insecure teen:

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And then I came home to a quite tidy flat, and a lot of relieved faces. Mark told me that things would be different from now on, because everyone was keeping their stuff tidy and there was nothing on the floor of the kid’s bedroom because he would go in there while they dressed and force them to tidy up as they went. And I wondered…Why do I have to go away to have these domestic changes implemented? And by day two, we were back to the strewing of things.

I didn’t really miss anyone. Now I really miss the way somebody tidied up my messy Ritz room every day. I have now come full circle and I have to clean up after everyone else again, but I get NO TIPS.

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Manic hyperlinking alert

I am kind of broken, and it’s not just me. But let’s not get straight to the punchline. Let’s go back about a month ago, to when things were lovelier, and there weren’t any deadlines, and most things were intact.

I had gotten a few emails in my inbox which stood out amongst the random betting spam and those incessant emails from gap and the outnet (from which I don’t seem to have the emotional strength to unsubscribe from) – one from Ogilvy & Mather saying they would run the new version of the Dove ad for another year (Go! Watch! You know you want to look at my generous thighs getting into the bath again!) and another from a company asking me if I wanted to take the kids out for a day courtesy of Three Mobile and use a Samsung Galaxy phone to take photos and review it on here and send it back.

So I said yes, because it is a bit flattering and a bit fun and I was intending to go to the Punchdrunk show anyway (Against Captain’s Orders at the National Maritime Museum), and I like a phone. I like a product! I like advertising! I like social media and its new, tricksy ways! So the phone arrived and it looked like this:

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A bit big, but so clean, and the case is a very flattering navy blue glass, which we all know suits an ageing assisted blonde, and it had very dance-y and excited graphics which made me think there was a tiny party going on in my palm. My iPhone, it has to be said, doesn’t seem to have the same sort of zest for life as the Galaxy. It kind of sits there, a bit not-bothered, a bit stand-offish, if you will. Anyway, I carried both phones around for a few days and got confused and felt like a drug dealer. Here is me trying out the phone for the first time, taking an truly lovely selfie after watching Mad Max while scoffing four cocktails and some sort of Spanish platter which was mostly peppers and chorizo and grease. This photo isn’t my best work – no fault of the phone, more about my dimly-lit bedroom situation.

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Because the phone took gorgeous photos. Really and truly, though you’ll never know, because I couldn’t get the photos to download onto the mac and so there is an emailing-to-myself-thing going on, and something got lost in translation. But no question, the photos were clear and lovely. The dog had a glistening furry pelt, even.

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And that is us, walking to the skateboard park on Saturday looking for bloated dead animals in the canal:

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Casper wanted to try out his new skateboard, which took about eight minutes to take out from under the buggy, sandpapering his fingers and calves as he heaved and yanked and coaxed, then another 17 minutes to strap on his knee/elbow and wrist protectors and then to fasten on his helmet, and then he looked down into the skate bowl, slid the skateboard into it, watched it go really fast and crash, got a little white in the face and then said that we should all probably just go to portobello to get crepes. Smart boy, that one.

But To Get To The Point

Our day out to the Punchdrunk show should really have been excellent, but we were late to leave the flat, and there was some weird things going on with the DLR and we went the wrong way at Bank and finally we got to the Museum and we were ten minutes late and missed our slot. So they said to come back in an hour and try to get a place if there were no-shows, so we wandered the Museum and I tried to be interested in the boats but OH I CANNOT CARE ABOUT NAUTICAL THINGS, I just cannot, and we came back to the ticket people but no, there were no free spaces and so we had to go away again and come back in two hours. Casper was being a little bit horrible by this time, and took to spelling out “F.U.C.K.Y.O.U” quite loudly to no-one in particular, and so I took him outside into the rain and said we had been expelled from the Museum for swearing. He got a bit defensive and then bored and asked if we could go back inside, but I first took him up to a bewildered security guard and told her that we had had to leave the Museum because of our foul language and would it be ok to come back inside if we promised not to talk like that again? She said ok. He didn’t do any more cuss spelling after that.

Then we went to Jamie’s Italian for lunch and two cocktails to numb the pain and kill time, and then things suddenly felt quite good. Here is a bellini:

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We stopped off at a vintage market on our way back and the kids got one pound to spend – Barnaby and Casper bought six old coins and Noah hoarded his pound because he thought he might buy himself a donut. Yes, a donut. Here are the coins, in fine samsung galaxy detail (see what I did there?):

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So we went to the show, and I cannot say anything about it because it is a secret, but it is a most excellent secret and you should all go, though not with my family because they oftentimes make you feel full of rage and shame.When we got out, Noah had lost his coin, and we said that was a good lesson, and he got very mad. He wouldn’t appear in our photo owing to his fury at not getting an extra replacement pound, but he did compromise enough to take the photo. Even when raging, he has a steady hand:

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But he was still really mad about the pound. So mad, in fact, that when we got out, he lagged behind us, and sulked, and dragged his cardigan in the puddles to demonstrate his inner turmoil. I took a photo of him because he was attracting some attention and it was a bit funny. But he got cross with me for taking out the camera because he thought I would post his sulk on youtube, and so, he twirled his heavy, wet cardigan in the wet rainy mud and flung it at me and knocked the Galaxy out of my hand and CRACKED THE NAVY BLUE GLASS BACKING! Here he is, a second before the samsung was smashed to the ground:

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And here is the phone, still navy and stylish, but violated:

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It was a bit mortifying and I went a bit mental and couldn’t really look at anyone in the face. So Mark tried to cheer me up by asking me which of the boys would need braces, and they opened their little mouths and flashed their uncleaned enormous wonky teeth at me in the train and I thought “UGH, YOU GUYS ARE AWFUL”. That’s the general feeling right there, in that train photo. Everyone a little bit sad, even the foreigners:

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But, you know, it was awesome. So thanks, Three Mobile for giving us a day out. I’m sorry about your cool phone, though. It won’t happen again, if anyone else wants to loan me some stuff. Ahem.

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Arrow

Today, this morning, I ran my second 10k race and I was pretty slow and I totally did a torrent of accidental wee at the end. The others were supposed to watch me coming into the finish line, but they had some domestic trouble with sandals, and so they were late, and by the time I found them, I was pretty much dried up. Those tight running pants pride themselves on wicking moisture away, and I think I know what they are getting at. Then when I got home, I found my toenail, which I had been furiously growing in an effort to impress the pedicurist Vietnamese ladies down the road, instead of horrifying them when I ask them to paint my tiny bleeding stubs, had grown indeed, into a sharp point, and it had attacked the other toe during the race and there was blood everywhere in my running shoes. And by then, I smelt like an old public toilet. The moral here? I don’t know. Wear sanitary pads all the time in case your bladder decides to give up working at inopportune places? Don’t pick your feet into a scabby mess, but if you do let your feet go forth and grow like a wild dead-skin-and-curly-toenail-garden-of-despair, then occasionally prune those gnarly edges? Don’t bother entering races? Stay at home and drink tea. But, you know, it isn’t all about urinating in public. In the light of my post a month or so back, when I shared the true horror of having small children go apeshit on public transport, here is a photo to prove that my children can indeed sit down calmly on a train and not pull anyone else’s hair. In fact, they look shattered, which is what a week doing serious learning about stuff at school can do to a kid. They look positively forlorn: IMG_3419 Again, with the kindness and picnic-y brotherly love: IMG_3477 And here they are at the local skatepark, which is where we like to hang out for a bit on a Saturday on the way along the canal to Portobello for crepes and hamburgers. They are scared of the big cool skaters, and you can see them slyly watching the big teenagers with their shirts off and looking cool, and they are wanting to be them, and wanting to be so cool and assured. And then one of them starts a game of frenzied tag, and they forget themselves and act like dicks again. It is funny and sad and sweet to watch. IMG_3426 At the top of Portobello they have a funny little newish foodie space, with tables and chairs and pigeons and stalls which are mostly pretty good. Everyone in the family except for me gets a boner for nutella crepes. Even that poor baby. See him as he takes a rare, unguarded moment to think of his baby teeth and his bad mother who knows that sugar is poison, but gives it to him anyway: IMG_3430 But you stick a filter on everything, wear girl’s stripy tights and some adidas trainers and the pain all goes away: IMG_3457 Yes? Yes. Who needs teeth anyway? We hadn’t been to A&E since Otis got his front tooth smashed back into his upper gum in a hotel forecourt in Wales, and other than needing help with the psychological shortcomings of our children (we have been attending seminars on fixing your children who are a bit nuts, to paraphrase), and a tiny bit of vomiting a few weeks ago, we have been all pretty healthy and unscathed. But then there was this little number – Ned flicked a piece of metal which was attached to a string of  rubber bands into his forehead, requiring stitches. It was rudimentary weapon fashioned by Noah, who had been swinging it around narrowly missing the telly, and then Ned got hold of it and it there was much screaming and blood. Everyone said “Oh, you must have been so upset!”and I look back and think, not really. I think you get a bit used to physical damage and trauma when you have a bunch of kids, and you know they will heal over and scab up and scar but they will be ok. IMG_0749 Here Ned is, just before the bruising came down into his eyes making him look like Vincent in Beauty and the Beast, not bothered, having a ride on a spinning teacup and feeling awesome. IMG_3441 And all this leads me to Mark, who had a birthday yesterday. Ned wore a Jean Paul Gaultier-esque bondage homage apron to help me bake Mark the most excellent Nigella honey and chocolate cake ever, although the icing split and took on that curdled sick quality. But black and white forgives a vomitty surface, and he didn’t mind. Look at the happiness on his slightly grizzled face! IMG_3485 IMG_3487 He is like YAY someone cares about me and YAY tonight we are going out and we don’t have to put the little buggers to bed! That’s all it takes really, a reminder that someone loves you enough to build a cake (as my grandmother would say) and that someone will take away the drudge of an evening. And so he spent the day indulging in his newest, expensiviest hobby, the excruciatingly uncool sport of archery. He spends lots of time reading archery magazines, and has joined an archery club, and he thinks about bows and quivers and that kind of embarrassing shizzle. And he watches “Arrow” on Netflix and it breaks my heart, because the guy wears a Robin Hood-updated-for-modern-times crap outfit and he bothers to kill people with his stupid bow instead of just shooting people, which would be quicker and more accurate, but I am trying to be nonjudgemental about it all. It could be lawn bowls, I guess.

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White Jelly Shoes and OUCH my sympathies to Kate

So, the royal baby was born yesterday, which isn’t that interesting, except if you are me, who loves a baby, especially an elusive girl baby, and if you live close enough to the hospital when she was born to run up there and wave if you felt so inclined (I didn’t) and close enough to the palace to hear the helicopters taking an aerial view of the ride home. It is a funny moment when you watch it on telly but can also pop outside to watch them go by. And OH how my gynaecological-specific insides cringed and cramped in sympathy when I saw her make that little exit from the Lindo wing doors to the crowds and unforgiving world media cameras just ten hours after giving birth. She must have been bleeding and hurt and torn and swollen and bruised and in some sort of sensory shock, but had to get her hair done and look nice and stand up. STAND UP. After a baby, I only like to stand up if I have to. Maybe to stagger to the loo, trying not to get blood all over my feet, steeling myself for the inevitable wee-burning-raw-flesh situation. Right, sisters?

Here are some photos of me, the first two a week after the baby was born, but still in hospital and without much sleep, owing to the baby being sick and jaundiced and us both having to sleep in a room with five other women and newborns with that bloody blue light going all night. The second, maybe a few hours after birth, showing some skin which may well burn your irises out with the horror and the shame of being part of my boob-skin. Shield your eyes if you think you might be forever defiled by the looking.

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There are other photos of me, post-baby, but they almost always show an actual, certifiable nipple. Which is just too much for me to reasonably expect the readership to cope with on a Sunday afternoon, so you just have to imagine. Always though, the photos show me looking post-accident – hair unkempt, face enormous, bits of dried blood and sweat hanging around, dilated pupils from the shock, body massive and drained, like a punching bag that has had the stuffing punched out of it, beaten into some sort of submission.

So props to you, Kate, you poor, lovely lady who is kind of a prize heifer, to be wheeled out and put on show. Some dreadful old lady commentator yesterday on the TV said, just as Kate exited the Lindo doors in her shift dress and with her hair all flowy and makeup done, that she was looking just like an ordinary mum, specifically referring to the swollen belly Kate had clearly not strapped down with a corset. Lady from the telly – normal mothers who just had a baby are actually in their pyjamas, weeping a bit, eating toast and jam with huge stomachs full of displaced organs and blood.

Anyway. I bought enormous white plastic jelly shoes last week, because Simone Rocha seems to be endorsing plastic shoes and getting away with it, and Phoebe Philo has made white shoes ok, and because I needed something to wear that covered up my old man toenails but still let the air in. And because they looked so cool in American Apparel, all lined up on the wall in all the colours, all pastelly, glittery, clunky, and slick.

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Of course, the sales woman was one of those awesome teutonic tall tattooed ice-queens who was wearing massive platforms at the end of her long legs, and she had a hipster plaid shirt buttoned up to the neck and she was young and cool and I asked her if the plastic shoes were too awful and she said they were cool. Reader, I believed her. And I got swept up in the romantic version of myself as some sort of Fashion Leader At The School Gates, and I tried them on and admired my relative suddenly tiny ankles against the vast plastic molded shoe of my surprising fashion dreams. It was all suddenly so clear to me – I could be VERY STYLISH FOR JUST £25 AND I COULD COVER MY HORNED TOES AND KEEP THE OVERSIZED CHILD’S SANDALS CLEAN WITH BABYWIPES! Amazing.

And so up at the till, still so swept away by my new vision of myself as maharajah of footwear fashion, I asked the teutonic ice maiden if all the cool girls wear theirs with socks, and she said of course, and she showed me the rail of red ankle socks. It was all too much. I exist on a fairly relaxed Spectrum Of Stupid, but the socks were way off my scale. Instead I bought a £6 tiny tub of Smith’s Rosebud Lip Salve because once I read that you could only get it in the US, and that it was the drugstore essential if you were some sort of channel-hopping cool person with a propensity for dry lips. And so I have worn them everywhere since, and have been amazed at the blisters, but also equally amazed at the way they wipe down, just as I had hoped they would, like some sort of latex sex suit for my calloused feet.

Seriously, it’s all fun and games with a plastic shoe, even though the school run turns the underfoot into a slimy sweaty wet room and then the road dust gets in and makes everything wetly black.

Though I don’t think everyone approves. Vicki, my elegant friend with a proper job, chose not to mention them at all, as I sashayed into the school hall for assembly, clomping and sliding and blindingly white, which I took as a gently crushing sign that she had nothing nice to say, and so said nothing at all. There were other women at the school gates who told me that they had some too, though theirs were flat and they wore them in the water, which could only really mean one thing, right? CROCS. Which wasn’t quite the look I was going for.

The sad thing is that the older I get, the more limited my choices are. I can’t dress like a mental, or even an art student, because I am too old and the joke doesn’t work like it used to. Alongside the little colonies of soft long grey hairs that form by my temples like a cartoon grandpa’s would, in a village-style cluster, like hair-Vikings, ready to take over my former blonde Wessex-head, or the ravines around the eyes and the cracked-earth dry hands, getting older also means that being appropriate starts to matter. Which is really boring.

And now I want a new baby girl. Luckily, I have an app that will show me how to do it.

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I am not always calm or firm or consistent

There’s a very nice lady who lives in the street and she has a baby and is about to have a new one and she said that she likes my calmness and if I wrote a book on kids she would read it. Or if I took a class she would come along, or something. Maybe she meant if I held a TED talk and it was kind of awesome and it went viral then she would listen to it. Something along those supportive, social media-related lines. So, anyway, I thought about that, especially in the wake of yesterday’s Tubegate, which happened just as we waved goodbye to her and we strolled along to Lancaster Gate to get the tube to the Borough Market to buy delicious things and to celebrate the end of a very successful Easter holiday.

I was wearing the ruined Cherry Lush and a silk bomber jacker with dragons embroidered on it, and I had asked Mark as I left the flat if the jacket wasn’t a bit too excellent to be brandishing casually about, and he said with the flick of his eyebrows (which is kind of his way of answering me all the time – one flick means all, and requires not much work, and I can take from it whatever I fancy -) that it was truly excellent, but perfectly appropriate for a Friday strut.

So it all started off so well, as these things tend to do. We got to the tube and managed the central line to Bond Street, and should have happily sat until London Bridge, but Ned and Casper did a musical chairs thing where they both ran for the seat next to the plexiglass barrier at the end of the row, and Casper got there first, and Ned went mental, absolutely batshit crazy, and Casper hit back. They were like dogs, pulling hair and screaming and crying and biting each other and throwing wild punches, kicking and shouting at each other to get off the seat and not to touch the shared armrest, and it was extremely ugly, extremely quickly. I had the other two and the baby in the buggy, so I put the brake on and tried to separate them, and pulled Ned away but his legs went limp and so I was left crouching over him in the juddering train with one arm on him and the other steadying the swinging buggy while Casper cackled with glee. Most of the people in the carriage were kind of laughing, kind of sympathetic, and Ned wriggled away and went right back to the fight and started throwing his fists around again and wailing. There was a woman sitting across from them who was trying to finish a game of Candy Crush, and she was obviously horrified and entirely inconvenienced by the violence. She would look up at the boys from the phone screen every few seconds, then up around at the other onlookers in the carriage clearly trying to meet the eyes of another similarly horrified person. She wanted some support in the crowd, someone to reassure her that what she was witnessing was unacceptable. She wouldn’t look at me, just at everyone else, with the most awful cranky outraged righteous face on. I was DYING inside, and trying to calm them down and kind of trying to laugh it off, but failing, and this big scary unhelpful ladyjudge watching us with such disapproval was putting me off my game.

So, I tried ignoring them both for a bit, in a shruggy kind of ‘whatcha gonna do? BOYS’ kind of way but the fighting was only escalating, and London Bridge was still about three stops away. I thought it was time to pull Casper away from the seat to stop the Crazy and to keep the mean lady from videoing the mentalness and sending it on to social services because that’s the fear, right?

So I yanked him off and over to the side and OF COURSE he turned on me, kicking my shins and walking up my legs and trying to wriggle out of his jacket, biting my fingers and screaming that he hated me and I should shut up. We must have looked like a group of special needs kids on a day trip from the Residential Home, with a serious staff shortage. I was holding him as best as I could, but telling him that he was hurting my legs with his kicking and no, I wouldn’t let him go because he was fighting on the tube and that wasn’t acceptable.  So London Bloody Bridge finally arrives and we get off and I line Casper and Ned up against the wall and tell them that they WILL NEVER EVER ACT LIKE THAT AGAIN WITH ME, OR ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT AGAIN AND SUCH DISGUSTING BEHAVIOUR I HAVE NEVER BEFORE WITNESSED AND WILL NEVER WITNESS AGAIN BECAUSE THAT CAN NOT HAPPEN EVER AGAIN DOYOUUNDERSTAND? And Ned had big haunted eyeballs and he said sorry, but Casper told me to shut up and flounced off into a wall of emerging tube traffic and then we had to wait for him to find us again and so I squeezed his upper arms really tight. He said his arms hurt and I said

SO DO MY SHINS. THEY ARE BLEEDING INSIDE

I was shaking with my rage and fury and embarrassment and my total lack of control. I did quite a bit more of unhinged tube shouting, and went on and on in a wobbly voice about how terrible they had been, and when we got to the market I told Barnaby and Noah to choose all the smoothies and brownie they wanted, but Casper and Ned could only have water. Then Ned cried and said he was hungry, so I said he could only have half a roasted pork belly roll, but nothing else nice at all, and they should remember that angry mothers don’t give their kids overpriced artisanal products. That’s a natural consequence and an inherent parental rule, kiddos.

BUT WAIT

Then I relented because I am as firm as an overripe brie and as consistent as the Circle Line (read: not firm and not consistent) and I said Casper and Ned could buy a brownie for later if they improved and stopped being embarrassing and violent. That’s a stupid 360 right there, folks. What did they learn? Probably nothing. And it all nearly ruined me, once again. So I had better not do any TED talks because my kids are appalling in public and I am pretty crap at dealing with it and I have no wisdom to impart, just another story to tell of bruised flesh and incandescent fury.

Also, we went camping last week, which was colder than I thought, but also much nicer than I thought. And the baby had a proper barber’s haircut in the same 70’s vein he seems predestined for.

Here he is sliding down the pebbles in East Wittering:

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And here he is eating churros at the barber’s. Always something in that kid’s mouth, eh?

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Tenting. Mixed emotions:

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Just like me about this parenting gig.

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Being five and deluded

Apparently, Ned has been having disagreements with his little five year old buddy at school. Often, they concern things of a lofty religious nature, like who is right – God or Allah – and they get all het up and shouty and then spiral downwards into some sort of ‘you’re going to hell’ mudslinging, and the teachers come and tell us to have a word with the both of them.

Ned comes home and grumpily tells his side of the story, which never makes a lot of sense, and we give a gentle pep talk about not worrying too much about what other people believe, because we all think differently and that’s ok.  His little friend’s mother came up to me on Thursday before Easter breakup and said WHAT ARE THOSE TWO ON ABOUT? And I said I didn’t know, but not to worry, as they also argue a lot about whether gorillas wear shirts. This topic seems to cause Ned the most anguish anyway, and he mumbles about it quite a lot. He is determined that gorillas don’t wear shirts ever, but O refuses to agree, and they drive each other mental with the primate-clothing-conundrum. He told me today that they usually end their fights by blowing ferocious raspberries at each other and then swearing off their friendship for good. Religion, gorillas – it is all a bit awks.

BUT LOOK! The new generation of makeup destroyer is laying waste to my collection of overpriced beauty products!

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The baby has found my lipsticks, and he gouges them out with his fat fingers when ever he is let loose into the bathroom or anywhere near my bag. He smashed up a Barry M one and smeared it all over the toilet cistern, but I didn’t mind that, because they cost about £1. The Tom Fords are obviously a different story, and though it has been happening to me for years, it doesn’t feel any less painful when the newest and cutest member of the family learns the joy of soft highly-pigmented vanilla-scented tubes of overindulgence. Nothing is sacred.

The worst affected is Cherry Lush, an essential punchy blue-red, though in my advancing years, with the eyes sinking a little deeper and the skin looking a little like other people’s mothers did when I was a kid, a bit tarnished and worn out, like homework paper that has been in the bottom of a school bag for a few days, yellowing and with bits of food crusting the corners, I think Otis has done me a favour. Cherry Lush is for the young. Cherry Lush is for the hopeful, for those whose horizons still shimmer with potential career triumphs and unstained teeth. Cherry Lush is munted, frankly, and no longer works properly. It cannot glide over my lips – instead, it is like applying mashed potato to your mouth, soft and crumbly and RUINED. Like my stomach and my hair.

Here he is, the Bad Baby, stuffing a massive Easter egg into his mouth with no sense of shame.

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And here are our eggs, softly boiled in vinegar and water, and eaten really fast because the idea of hard boiled eggs sitting around in this spring warmish weather for days made me feel a bit food poisoning-y. But they looked good, and I thought it might show the children that I care about handicrafts.

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Then on Easter weekend we drove to Oxfordshire to Lasso, the reclamation place, and the kids tried to push over massive plaster columns and stuff, and we ate fried ox tongue and chips, and felt like we were properly in the country. Buoyed up and enthusiastic, we followed the yellow signs to the Thame Country Fair, and spent about £50 getting in, and then it hit me how much I really hate those sorts of things, with the jousting and duck decoys and the stalls of tweed caps and indoor displays of special kitchen equipment that you really wouldn’t ever need, not when you have a knife, and rows and rows of portaloos. Noah went in and fell out of one, and told me later not to do any ‘ureen’ if I went in, because it won’t be heavy enough to push down itself, and I would have to shove my hand down the toilet to release it. I asked him if that is what he did, and he looked a little bit shy and went quiet. Here they are at Lasso, giving me heart attacks with the casual climbing and touching and vampire-impersonating:

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And the awful country fair. Hot, boring, full of people who like watching ax-chopping competitions:

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And this week, Casper has had to wear his uniform and attend Easter school, so he can be more awesome at the SATS exam. All week. So the rest of us have been playing in the park and frequenting cafes for San Pellegrino and reading red tops. Tomorrow, we are going camping, which may break me.

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Woman, hairy, upper arms…

…was a search term some one used to find my blog yesterday. Well HELLO, you there, with your arm hair queries! While I do have verdant blonde growth atop my arms, it’s mostly forearms, leaving the upper arms quite bald. So I won’t be much help, though I have been reading fashionable magazine titles of  late that suggest hair is very of-the-moment – full waxing is no longer as stylish as leaving your natural hairy bits alone, so throw away that razor and let go of your waxing specialist, and instead positively encourage your greying sparse thatches of hair to sprout forth from your underarms, legs and pubis! I can’t think of anything more chicer than a lovely leg covered in downy fuzz.

Anyway, you won’t find any actual helpful information here, on anything really. You will find a photo of a volcano cake, decorated really inelegantly by the children, though I am fully responsible for the icing, which was a split mascarpone and butter effort, and which wept sweet tears of bad chemistry and looked like curdled brown sick. I was so zen about it, and they were delighted, especially as the icing slid off in sloppy chunks which they said was an excellent reinterpretation of lava. Still, I must reiterate that IT WASN’T ME WHO MADE THAT UGLY CAKE BECAUSE MY CAKES LOOK GOOD.

Here it is, after they riotously studded it with so many poisonous sweets:

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and then it languished a bit in the overheated flat, and it drooped and lava’ed itself into a pukey puddle of sadness:

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But no matter! When you are seven, the grosser and more poo-looking, the better. See the happiness on the Middle Child’s face. Overwhelmed with birthday cake delight:

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The Sad Bit

And yesterday was his actual birthday, and he was so incredibly horrible I cried, not just delicately, hidden away in a bathroom or something, but out in public, in the playground next to the school where hundreds of children were not hurting strangers while their mothers looked on. Oh no, that was just my small family of bandits, led by the Birthday Boy, resplendent in a birthday badge and a maniacal grin.

And that was immediately after I picked him up from school where he had gotten a Red Slip (that’s the baddest slip you can ever get and it leads to a meeting with the Principal) and he was banned from attending the after school gifted art class for being so difficult, and so when we got to the park and within about three minutes a mother was hollering “Where is your adult?” and I looked up from my phone (the shame!) and again it was my kid in the middle of it all. So I apologised to her for Casper pushing her kid, and I told him he needed to go into time out, sitting next to me, but he ran off, and I was incensed and embarrassed so I tried to chase him across the park, but he was quicker and shimmied up a climbing frame and left me at the bottom with shaking hands and heaving breathless bosom.

I called out, in my most menacing voice, kind of desperate now to grab him and slink off somewhere “Do you want a birthday cake tonight?” which got his attention, but then I remembered he wasn’t getting another one after the volcano extravaganza so I hastily changed that to “Do you want those M&S chocolate profiteroles tonight?” and he was like “YES, STUPID LADY!” And so I said “Then come down at ONCE!” and so he did, but I had to hold him fiercely in my human-straitjacket-hold to keep him from running off again, while he kicked and shouted and told me he hated me and that he had much more fun when he wasn’t born. Kick, scream, wrestle, stare from other mothers. Kick, scream, wrestle, stare from other mothers. It was very ugly and culminated in a swift exit from the park, but not before I broke and shouted “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!” And he said that it was everyone else’s fault for annoying him and that I hated him and then, for effect, he shouted out “Sex with Ladies!” and I just set my jaw and walked on, with the tears kind of bobbing out a bit.

Happy 7th birthday, Casper. Let’s try to make it to 8. Meanwhile, I am going to find a child psychologist to fix us all before we break into a thousand little sad pieces.

Moving On From That Bit Of Horribleness

Here is the dog and his nose, up close:

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And here is a pasteis de nata from the Lisbon Patisserie on Golborne Road. Really, they are like little bursts of custardy edible angels:

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Cheering Up Now

Here is a movie of Otis, who is cute and so far hasn’t learnt how to make me cry:

Now I haf too wok again. The baby is asleep! No time for lunch!

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