I don’t have a shopping problem

We had a little party on November 5th, which is something we do every year, because across the road from us our garden committee holds a fireworks display on Bonfire Night which is open to the public. It brings through about 2000 people in the gates, and the adults pay £10 and the kids a fiver to watch the fireworks and the bonfire. There is also a beer tent, sausage sizzle, mud, lost kids, drama, ouchy bits of firework debris which may or may not singe your arm a little depending on where you stand, and quite often some rain.

We invite a few people around from after school to our place, mostly neighbours and friends, and I bake brownie, cook sausages for the kids, and something for the adults. This year I marinated and then slow-roasted lamb, because Ottolenghi told me how to, and I would follow him and his cookery jiggery pokery wizardry to the ends of the earth, and then topped it off with Jamie Oliver’s massive sausage roll. And while the sausage roll looked like a Halloween-relic giant severed arm, it was ridiculously delicious and it taught me that all a crowd really needs is a hot bit of pastry ‘n’ meat.   All those years of searching wildly through cookbooks to hit upon the Holy Grail of crowd-feeding, where the thing had to be impressive, delicious, and capable of feeding an unknown quantity of people; the wilderness years, where I experimented with chorizo and chickpea stew, and roasted beef and ham and bread rolls and big plates of salad. And it was only ever about a big fat meaty cigar and tomato sauce -what a lesson to learn when you are middle-aged.

Anyway, there was also masses of cheese and chips and crudités and beetroot dip and the weirdest uncooked snickerdoodle biscuit cake thing from the Smitten Kitchen book which was gross and it spread all over the plate in the overheated room and the children uniformly avoided it and a huge lasagne which someone bought along and from which we ate all over the following weekend. And lots of excellent NZ sauvignon blanc from Majestic and more Lindauer Rose than even I could drink.

Some of our guests bought tickets and left the party to go and watch the fireworks, while some stayed in the flat doing dishes and reassuring nervous babies (that’d been me, then) and others watched the display from the top of our stairs with an assortment of other neighbours and randoms who didn’t fancy paying for tickets when you could just look up, for free. Some of the kids from our party sat on the roof of our landrover and watched, in a pre-teen king-of-the-world-type display of nighttime bravado.

All good fun. And then we get an email a few days later from the committee, saying quite politely that they knew many of the residents had hosted parties that night, and not everyone had purchased tickets, and so, it would be MOST APPRECIATED if those households gave the committee a donation. Suggested amount: £10 per adult and £5 per kid, depending on how many people were at your respective flats that night. Which would have meant that we were being asked to pay the committee about £250. I totally choked on my leftover sausage roll and got a bit outraged.

I wanted to write back and say that that would be fine, but I would also like the committee to go some way to pitching in for the costs of the party we had. Suggested amount: £10 per adult and £5 per kid. But I am wimpy and scared of confrontation, so I just dreamt up further fabulous arguments in my head for a few days. I am amazing in my internal imaginary fights with other people.

Then I forgot all about it because it is sample sale season. I have attended so many of the sample sales over the past few weeks, and I have a haul so fabulous that I can’t really sleep well at night for the fevered mental styling that goes on.

A List Of The Sample Sale Things That I Now Own Currently Hanging In My Wardrobe Which Befits Someone Who Has Somewhere Really Great To Go To On A Regular Basis:

1.Balenciaga heels, mid-height, white but cut through with a black leather frill which sits over my massive hobbit-feet and tricks the eye into thinking they are normal sized and elegant.

2. A Christopher Kane black jacket with a python-print silk frilled trim. It is a bit Chanel-like.

3. A Mary Katrantzou silk blue and yellow printed tunic with a little collar and a chinoiserie print.

4. A Mary Katrantzou silk black and white boxy top with a diffused cityscape print. Slightly tight on the upper arms, good with jeans.

5. Erdem red flowered printed trousers, just like my old Erdem blue printed trousers.

6. Erdem white sleeveless embroidered crossover complicated silk top with tiny non-sensical words around the hem and a black trim, just like my old Erdem white sleeveless silk complicated top.

7. A Mulberry granny blouse in a bone colour which I thought was silk but is viscose. Also a little tight on those pesky upper arms.

But There’s An Even Better Thing:

All this though, the great giant haul of ridiculous going-out clothes, pales into comparison when I reveal what I found at the charity shop on Sunday.  Walking past the Octavia Trust op-shop I saw a CHANEL JACKET ON A MANNEQUIN AND IT WAS £65 AND IT FITS AND IT IS REAL! I know, because I spent a lot of time googling youtube tutorials on authentication. It has the tiny chain sewn around the bottom hem and silk pleated lining and apparently it is from the Spring 2000 Cruise collection, according to my expert label-decipering skillz. That’s a bone fide hashtaglifegoal RIGHT THERE!

It is a little bit ugly. It is a bit Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Or English gent at the beach in the 30’s. Striped like a canvas parasol in shades of blue, mint and bone. The youtube tutorials assure me that vintage Chanel jackets are *effortless* to style and they look great with denim, but I am not entirely convinced. But CHANEL! Chain trim! Little buttons with interlinked ‘c’s! I’ll wear it anyway! It’s a bluddy sartorial dream come true, fellas.

Photo Essay Time Because I Am Worn Out By The Excitement (And Styling Concerns) Of The Chanel Jacket:

Casper has been marking his own spelling tests. He is very enthusiastic and optimistic. Also deluded:



Here is Casper and Noah on mid-term break, with Sue who is expertly pointing out London landmarks from the Sky Garden. What a funny little place that was, with its airport security and million-pound hot chocolates and security guards who were upset that the children were playing on the soft upholstered fake logs instead of just sitting on them:


Casper in Cliveden last weekend, running fast to avoid the slippery mud:


More National Trust gorgeousness – a rare moment when the boys are tribe-like in a good way:


The pet cemetery in Hyde Park, filled with Victorian monkeys and beloved dogs called ‘Scum’. I bet you didn’t know there even was one:


And the best, saved til last. This is Mark and Otis bonding over their love of Sam Smith:



It’s hours later, and I’ve been asked for a photo of the Chanel glory. Here it is – this is for you, Jo. Enjoy my Coco hair:








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Slushy pumpkins and cake

Here’s an annoying word which doesn’t adequately express itself very well:


PLAY. Playing. Playing = wholesome fun = laughing = farmyardy rough’n’tumble (non-homoerotic, in our case, because they are small, and brothers, and ugh) = ruddy cheeks and healthy-smelling juvenile horsey sweat from the happiness caused from the playfighting. Not crying, ruined furniture, couches splitting open and leaking foam, glass framed photographs hit with flying detritus mid-playfight and now shattered and spread all over the carpet like malicious glitter. Not red faces from fists and shoes and elbows, or little cuts from pushing brothers into sharp-edged service announcement boxes at tube stations. Not shoving on buses, in queues, lying down wrestling matches in shopping market aisles, not scooter-ramming incidents which push one kid into another random person’s ankles, not chasing which ends up one kid on the road, with a taxi having to slow down and beep at them, with the mother going mental and the kid adamantly declaring that they had no choice but to run backwards into traffic, because they were being CHASED by their smaller, weaker brother. There is not much about this that is very playful. It is actually enraging and traumatic and after one week of it, I am a shaking mess who has to eat all the cooking chocolate after they are in bed just to calm down. Also, some wine.

Play fighting: my ass. And I just want to say that if we have ever knocked you over as we shove our way past you, or smashed our skateboards into your tendons, or made you swerve into your own bit of oncoming traffic just to get away from the enormous vicious rioting mob that we have become, then I’m sorry. Its not me; it’s them.

Last week, things were a bit better, because four of them were in school all day, away from each other and away from me. And Kerry, who is awesome, asked me to an Alice In Wonderland-themed afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. I’ve only ever been there once, and I have ideas of it being the kind of slightly faded place you do debauched, YBAs-era stylish things, like take very fashionable drugs while wearing very beautiful shoes behind the mysterious, sexy, enormous curtain netting shroud that separates the Sanderson people from the rest of us.

Anyway, we went at lunchtime, and so treated the enormous selection of cakes and the three glasses of champagne as a kind of actual meal, which quite soon made us feel wrong and sick, but in that tired, calm, sleepy way where you know you have to pick up the kids quite soon, and there is nothing out for tea, but you just don’t care any more.

‘Why yes, I would LOVE ANOTHER GLASS OF THAT PERRIER JOUET’ *claps hands like a bit of an overexcited nutter, empties second glass, feels a bit disorientated, scarfs another tiny posh biscuit, feels cheeks flaming, sweats a bit* 

It was lovely, and here are photos of the cakes and biscuits and menus slipped between old hardcover books and ice creams made to look like flowerpots:

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There was a gorgeous selection of teas, all presented in little glass bottles for us to sniff and choose. They always smell better than they taste, as everyone knows, but they came out to us in beautiful teapots and by that point, we needed a little hydration.

I have a new appreciation of the Wonderland-related cakey artistry we were presented with because this week is Halloween and I thought I could be a biscuit-maker too. Fired up by a million images of successful Pinterest Halloween baking, I tried to make some finger-shaped bleeding biscuits and they went from pleasingly 3D gnarly doughy embryonic fingers to flat, arthritically misshapen, burnt, fat slugs of dog-turd-like proportions once they exited the fiery womb of my oven. I have no idea why I can’t bake biscuits. Is it the science? Is it magic? It is a lack of patience or correct kitchen gadgetry? Am I missing a biscuit-competence chromosome? They always look a bit rubbish. Here they are:


Also, there is my grouting.

Everyone has been eating them, and I admit they still look cool, but not like those other Pinterest perfectionists. My slightly crap biscuit-making is a little bit like my hair. It’s never quite right. I thought I would get older and these things would just sort themselves out. Like the ironing pile and persistent psoriasis patches and my inability to walk convincingly in shoes with a heel.

And Some More Photos You’ve Probably All Seen

Gratuitous and rare photo of bowl-cut cute baby without his dummy, on the way back from Waitrose which now takes about 47 minutes instead of four, because he keeps stopping to sit down. Here, he is sitting on his filthy naked plastic baby with a greying cotton torso against construction hoardings:


Finally, here we are at Crockford Bridge Farm, picking pumpkins and wandering through the forest following Peter Pan and Wendy and avoiding the poisonous mushrooms.

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And then we rushed home, carved our pumpkins, wasted a whole packet of 50 tealights by burning through them all and making towers with the empty ones that are all still under the kitchen table, spilt a lot of wax on the carpet, played with the pumpkins, damaged each other’s pumpkins, complained that the pumpkins were going grey inside, and then I woke up three days later to find the pumpkins had rotted themselves into a slushy wet mound of mould and slime and they had fallen onto the waxy carpet over night.


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Ut’s Hum

A little housekeeping I need to get out of the way.

  1. I went to see Everest, which was an excellent Friday-night-three-cocktails kind of cinematic extravaganza, except for the accents, which burned me to my very core with the shame. Hearing Keira Knightley and Emily Watson strangle the script with the odd awful word pulled me out of my empathetic vertigo and into disproportionate aural discomfort. Their accent coach had clearly stressed that, no matter what,  New Zealanders don’t say the ‘i’ sound, substituting it for ‘u’; making us sound very stupid – a bit like an antipodean version of those Alaskan Bush People on Sky Discovery who have no teeth and who have developed their own dialect because they are so isolated from the real world. So it was all about ‘Go get HUM off the mowntun! Ut’s rilly MESSIVE and ut’s getting rilly wundy up there!’ It was very distracting. Also they mocked up the weirdest airport which looked hokey and there was a sign in the background for Tuatara Airlines, which ISN’T A REAL THING. We are more than silver ferns, tuataras and the accidental embargo of the ‘i’ sound, you international film-type-people.
  2. My birthday was very lovely, thanks, and I got to go shopping at a Joseph sample sale and buy whatever I wanted. So I bought a navy coat for winter, because usually when I go to sample sales, I buy fuschia cocktail dresses and floor length velvet gowns. This time, I was all about the irrefutable fact that I really just walk to and from Edgware Road all day, sweating, or spilling things down my front, and so the evening wear doesn’t get quite the usage that utilitarian things might. And HOW BORED AM I ABOUT MY COAT? I long for sequins and unwearable lingerie and more handbags that I can tuck away in a dust bag never to be used and silken scarves which end up being used as capes for the dog. Because that’s much more fun that being practical. It’s more youthful to be extravagant and expensive and ridiculous with a wardrobe full of formalwear, am I right? I’M TOO YOUNG FOR MOM-JEANS AND EASY-WASH TOPS AND SENSIBLE NAVY THINGS!
  3. One kid has gone away from the week to camp, and it is almost silent here. No one knows what to do without Noah, the kind, peaceable little guy who is nice to everyone. We don’t exactly *miss* him, but his absence is felt. He waved me off when he got onto the bus and didn’t look back, and I love that about him. Actually, all the kids are utterly unmoved by separation from the family, which I take as a good thing, indicators that they are well-adjusted and secure. It could also be that they don’t like us all that much too, and getting away from the violence and screaming is a massive relief.
  4. Mark has been going to some of the world cup rugby games and taking photos of himself in the stands with his mates, all of them dressed up in tight polyester rugby tops, and sticking them on Facebook. Mark is extremely unvain, which is a thing that has become very clear – all his photos are taken from below and he is always grinning and he pushes his head into his neck and his chin squashes out like a massive goitre. All I can see when these photos come up on my newsfeed is CHINCHINCHINCHINCHIN – never mind the lovely rugby atmosphere or the matey sporty fun they are having – and I have been freaking out on his behalf, in that way that you do when someone tags you on Facebook and you are looking fat and unfiltered and you can’t get the tag off. Because it seems that all these years later, I still feel like his choices represent me somehow. Like if he chooses to face the world looking happy but aesthetically a little off, and honest, and barefaced and chinny, then it might say something about me. I wouldn’t post a photo of myself unless I feel like I look good. I think I may still have stuff to learn from him. Still, it’s a pretty big chin, dudes.


Ned did some expressive dancing for me on Sunday, and the baby joined in. There is a longer version, where he picks up two knives and sharpens them at the right point in the lyrics (his performance gets a bit literally interpretive, and also long, at two and a half minutes) and then swings them around in his dramatic revelry and you can hear me say over the rousing Hozier chorus to ‘PUT THE KNIVES DOWN NOW, BUDDY. THEY’RE TOO CLOSE TO THE BABY!’ Here is the shorter instagram version:

He has something, though. Here he is the afternoon of his dance off, dressed in these clothes, looking so very dorky, and yet, so very, very right:


Ned is my best clotheshorse. He always manages to have an interesting look, even if it is questionable:


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The others just tend to look a little bit orphaned.

To finish my Tuesday morning wordspew, here is a photo of us at the Borough Market on my birthday, all the children drinking £2.50 juices and Mark and I in a photo taken FROM ABOVE. Note how chinless, filtered, tightly cropped and carefully chosen that photo is, with plenty of resulting likes from the social media approval committee. Better, no?

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I’m Not Sulking

Today is the kind of day where I feel a bit like crying, or a bit like whacking someone around the chops with a handbag. For no reason at all. Maybe something to do with demands on me, or lack of demands, where I feel both pulled in all directions and completely redundant at the same time. Hormones?  Probably hormones. But then that thought makes me sad too because one day soonish I shall dry up like a wizened shell without these pesky hormones, and give up on my mooncup and frequent, hopeful pregnancy tests and my face will become parched and dry like a biblical scroll. Or like unleavened bread. Even a dishcloth that has been drying on the radiator and is stiff and ripped in parts, and smells a bit like cat food. You know?

(On the mooncup thing, I need to tell you all that you should be wary of using it after you have been recklessly chopping up chillies without gloves on. Seriously, take care out there in the dangerous world of domesticity, where it is entirely plausible that silicon-meets-capsaicinoids-meets-your-lady-parts. Also don’t take your contact lenses straight out either. It gets me every time.)

So this boring funk I am in may have something to do with the fact that we are parents of a ten year old and things are getting out of hand. I can do babies no sweat, and toddlers are fine, if a little inconvenient at times, and kids make me annoyed in general but they aren’t that bad, but I have never dealt with an actual prepubescent and it is all suddenly a bit trickier and more serious. We went to see an alternative secondary school for our biggest kid a few weeks ago, and I saw parents who I recognised from baby groups when he was tiny, and we were all pacing the halls of Holland Park School nervously, overawed by it, and thinking about our kids fitting in there, and everyone was really just thinking about themselves going there and what it would feel like because we did all this ourselves not that long ago, and it was kind of horrible. (Not Holland Park School, which was so fabulous that I went a bit nuts for a few days after, telling everyone I met about it like boring overexcited parents tend to do. Apologies, anyone who came into contact with me had to go through the prospectus and were given a blow-by-blow account of my exciting open day visit. I won’t do that again.) Horrible because it signals the end of something and the beginning of the growing up and the growing away.

He has asked to walk home from school on his own, and he asked me this morning for a proper tie, not one of the elastic ones he has been using since he was four, and he has been popping out to Queensway for urgent supplies of tat from Tiger by himself, as well as having a little dog-walking job which generates a whole £2 a week. All good things, which I take to mean we have done an acceptable job of looking after him: the whole point of this parenting gig after all being that they start to diverge from you a bit, and stride out on their own, one block ahead of you and their straggling scrapping siblings, proper tie flapping in their small faces, with year six daily homework straining in their one-size-up school bags. But it all feels a bit heartbreaking. Even Otis has shunned the buggy in favour of his new second-hand micro-scooter, and refuses to sit in his high chair anymore, preferring instead to tip his weetabix into the grooves of the wooden table from the more convenient dining room chairs, just like his big brothers do.

It happens to everyone, I know. It’s just a bit new and a bit odd. And of course the other thing is that I am going to be 38 on Saturday and that feels ridiculous. Like completely absurd and stupid. It came from nowhere! I was about 20, and then I had some Christmases and stuff, and now I am filling in that age bracket on questionnaires which goes from 35-45. And inside, you are shouting NO, I’M NOT THAT OLD, ACTUALLY! Not really! Because 38 looked different when I wasn’t 38. When I was a kid, it looked quite old and middle-aged and people got their hair cut short and they stopped listening to new music and their clothes weren’t very cool. I don’t even think people who were 38 had sex any more. Not in my hometown, anyway.

Here is a black and white series of boy photos to distract you from noticing that I referred to my mooncup and people having sex. Sorry about that. If I wasn’t nearly 38, I probably wouldn’t feel I needed to apologise. GAH

Here they are in Kensington Gardens, looking for mushrooms and blackberries which were not sodden and mouldy on an inset day last week, which was really a day off for Eid. No luck, though a very belated Eid Murabak everyone and cheers for the day off:


And a video of Otis drumming:

On Sunday we had a last hurrah picking raspberries at Crockford Bridge Farm and ate gelato, because soon we will be too cold and miserable for frozen dairy products:


And the children huddled onto Noah’s bed, united by episodes of Max & Ruby:

That’s more than enough self-wallowing. Tonight we all have to stay at school for a shared dinner (at 4:30pm) to meet the teachers. It is Casper’s turn tonight, and I am going to have to ‘fess up to his teacher that he has been hiding his homework down the side of his bed in a pathetic and misguided belief that he wouldn’t have to do it if it got lost. Noah has been trying that trick for years now and it doesn’t work. But still they try. Eejits.

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Surprising South American Tamarillo

Before we begin, it is necessary to set down the searingly important, mind-bogglingly-wonderful, most game-changingly amazing thing to have occurred over these 13 years of blessed migrant slumming.

You can get tamarillos in London, and not just at The Providores in a smoothie that costs £25!  Here is the proof:



It’s been about 13 years since I wrapped my ageing lips around a massive bursting red fragrant tamarillo. When we first got them, we were misty-eyed and moved, and put them all together on a Portuguese teal plate for obvious colour-popping purposes, and then we put the plate into our room to keep the children away from them. We love our children and all that, but not enough to let them try a tamarillo. And our room! If you closed your eyes, you could imagine you were in some sort of photogenic New Zealand summer/beachhouse/orchard-type situation, because a plate of tamarillos on a chipped plate in a tiny basement bedroom (which is full of never-played guitars and bank statements in files dating from 2006 and massive haunted brown furniture and dirty balled up school socks sharing space under the bed with nests of hairy tumbleweed from the dog: and all those things have a fragrance of a kind, you know) gives out a delicate yet steady perfume of sweet tangy ripe tomatoey/passionfruity/melony goodness. And masks the dank horror for a moment.

But then we ate them. Mark is a saver of delicious things, in that kind of way where his easter eggs are still around a year later with that worrying-looking bloom all over them, and I could see his precious share of the tamarillos started to hang around a little longer than was probably advisable, with a tiny bit of wizenedness occurring around the edges. So I helped him finish them off, one at a time. He didn’t seem to mind. And now the bedroom smells like melancholy again.


Our neighbour, the mysterious John from Taranaki, spends a lot of time in Church Street Market up by Edgeware Road tube because he looks after a very old Israeli muslim retired judge, and he kindly buys stuff for the old guy from the market because it is full of middle eastern stalls and cafes and little shops full of spices and tahini. And one day a few weeks ago, he comes across a stall with a box of tamarillos, and NO ONE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE! And so no one bought them! But John, keen of eye and nose and swift in the purchase, flooded with childhood memories of tamarillo jams and tamarillo trees and stained fingers and sour juices and scabbing mosquito bites, bought the lot, which seem to have been reduced to clear. He went back a day later to ask about buying some more and the stall guy said it would never happen again, because they wouldn’t shift.


They were South American tamarillos, and if I am entirely honest, they were slightly too pasty-textured near the skin. But oh my. It’s almost enough for me to haul all the children and the dog and my handbags back to New Zealand on a container ship just to eat one fresh off a tree.


Before anyone gets carried away, here’s a small clip of Otis on his second birthday. I made a cake which was accidentally infused with cumin, because we bought half a kilo of it in Turkey and it has laced everything in the cupboard. Don’t have sugar in your tea at my place, unless you like it tasting like a taco. But look at that face!

And, because I have finally got videos to work, here is a brilliant little movie of my mum and dad at the Notting Hill Carnival, kind of sick of the pounding beats that are so loud you feel them in your gut rather than hear them. But they decided to dance for me anyway. And what moves!

And some photos of the children, before the Autumn came in and forced us to put away our shorts and t-shirts back into the storage, after a period of about seven weeks.  (By storage, I mean overflowing IKEA bags shoved on top of wardrobes, under beds, in cupboards, etc.)

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Casper in full armour at the Wallace Collection:


Cute baby before his wispy girl-hair was shorn into a wonky bowl cut at the barbers:


And chocolate and churros on a rainy Sunday at the Spanish cafe, outside the barbers where the shearing takes place, because sometimes it is the only thing a bunch of post-holidayed people can do:


Anyway, it is drizzling outside and I have a cold that is turning me into a whinging baby. And school is back, which is partly good (actually some free time during the day to do stuff like replace the missing sink plug and wash some clothes) and bad (we have to set the alarm for 6:30am and shout a lot, and also homework) while the flat multiplies before my very eyes strewn uriney-pyjama bottoms and broken bits of Kinder Surprises like Tribbles and I have to live with the fact that we won’t go anywhere sunny for about a year. But, dear reader, there is always the memory of our plate of surprising South American tamarillos to keep my head well out of the oven.

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Weeping craters

We have been to Turkey, which is warm, yellow, blue, with lizards and bats and meaty tomatoes that make you feel briefly teary-eyed when you realise how good they taste alongside sheepy cheese – and you know you might never come back because you have a husband who wants to live in New Zealand where the water is cold and the mosquitoes give you scabs, and where the emotional and literal cost to flying back to exotic locales in Europe is frankly too much to bear.

Mum and dad came with us, and let me just iterate right now, really clearly, that having grandparents along on your holidays is much better than not having them coming along.

Reasons Why Grandparents Should Come On Your Holidays:

  1. Higher adults:kids ratio, so you can cast your eyes down to read a chapter of Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were The Mulvaneys or Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend without some kid tripping into the unfenced pool to drown. Or falling out of the treehouse which, to be fair, did happen twice, but it may very well have happened more times, say, if there weren’t so many adult eyeballs regularly looking up and sharing the onerous duty of caring.
  2. Discipline is shared. My dad says his dad taught him judo, on a farm in the 1940’s in rural Te Kopuru, which I guess might well be true, and so he would do quite stingy arm holds on the kids when we were driving anywhere until they stopped wailing about somebody touching their elbow/shoulder/thigh. It was a triumph of ouchy martial arts-related wizardry.
  3. You get to go out for dinner in a consecutive date night frenzy and you get home and the kids are asleep and you just say thanks to your mum and dad and no cash leaves your palm.
  4. Grandparents are more into playing endless games of draughts with the grandchildren than you are and they make up stuff like Olympic Relay Races to entertain the children while you sip gently sweating gin and tonics in the shade.
  5. *EVERYDAY SEXISM ALERT* You mum helps you do holiday-lite housewifey/cooking stuff while the husband and grandad ignore anything that might be a bit domestic, and they play on their tablets and don’t even clear the table of snorkels and crisp packets while you serve them all tomatoes and sheep’s cheese salads and figs and yogurt again and again. And if they do some dishes or chop some watermelon, they figure they have done their bit for a few days.
  6. But your dad finds you a seasick tablet on the boat while you are staring into middle distance, pale and sweaty-about-the-forehead, thinking that squeezing out a baby is more pleasant than being on a big stupid boat which has trapped you in a long day of choppy, sloppy, rocking hell, and everywhere you look you see waves and things smell a bit like diesel and you want to vomit but don’t have the energy and everyone talks to you about things like when they were seasick once. But then your dad gets a pill from somewhere, and it works.

Here are some photos to show off a bit.

Grandparents and kids with slushy ice drinks which apparently comes from the first snow, which is stored in huge deep holes in the mountains all year, and then bought out in summer to be crushed with a mallet and stirred with syrup and sold in a cup for about 10p. The traditional syrup which you can buy from families by the side of the road is black molasses which made Ned weep from the horror of it all. This stuff, however, was bright yellow lemon and fluoro pink cordial.


Grandad chucking Barnaby under the ice-cold shower which spouted from a massive tree outside the villa:


Mum and dad and Barnaby swimming at Butterfly Valley. See the boat-o-sickness to the left, and the lovely way my parents are holding on to each other:


When Dads find pills:


When you get babysitting services for free, you look as happy as this:


And you get to read for longer stretches of time. Amazing.


A leech-gatherer for your viewing pleasure:


2000 year old rock tombs:



The water. Now, really.



Mostly we ate chips:

And melons:

IMG_4118 The Sad And Gross Bit

It’s not all sunshine, bikinis-all-day and turtle-spotting on your annual holidays, though fellas. Casper and I all got hot and developed itchy heat-rash which we scratched and it turned into these embarrassing weeping crater scabs:

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All of which kills my post-holiday buzz a little. Otis, meanwhile, got some sort of allergic reaction to insect bites and we spent five hours at A&E yesterday getting his lesions dressed and blood tests. He is now walking about fully bandaged around his middle to stop the weeping open wounds. But, mostly, selfishly, I feel a bit embarrassed about the way my craters are very cigarette-shaped, like instead of basking in the hot sun and scoffing sour cherries, I have spent two weeks self-harming in a bid for attention. As if I needed any more.

Anyway. We are back, and everything is wet in London, and my parents are wearing borrowed raincoats when I had promised them to only bring t-shirts and shorts on their holiday. Because it’s summer, right?


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No One Wants To Know About Your Cycle

A few days ago, I thought I might have been pregnant. Just a tiny bit. And so I was oscillating between really excited, and then horrified, and then kind of embarrassed, then nervous, and I was attributing everything from headaches to a blocked ear to my SO OBVIOUS HOW COME NO ONE ELSE IS NOTICING new pregnantness. I figured out via my baby-related apps-wizardry on my phone that a baby would come at the end of March, which seemed like an excellent month to squeeze out a baby, and she would be called Eliza Alice because my phone also tells me when to have girl-producing sex. I found an expired pregnancy test, which obviously was negative, and then bought the cheapest Boots pregnancy test, which was obviously negative, because I tested on the third day of my period being late and it was in the middle of the day, after a glass of water. Diluted hormones! ROOKIE MISTAKE. And then I told Mark that my period was late, and he said nothing and went to sleep.

My period came, of course, though later than my phone apps said it should, and so it turns out I am not pregnant; instead I think I might be a bit mental. Mark then says that he was doing the skin crawl of horror when I said we might be having another baby, and what a vast relief it was when he found out my mooncup was being put to good use. And now I am wandering around the flat, trodding on toddlers and accidentally sitting on small children who are playing free games on the smashed screens of the available iPads under mountains of blankets to hide from their brothers whose turn it probably is, feeling sad about how we only have five children, and not six. I want them all to scatter to the far-corners of the flat so I can mope about my phantom future non-babies in some sort of peace. No one called Eliza is coming, no more visits from midwives or milky massive boobs or labour (which I happen to think is an excellent time had by all). No more maternity clothes, ultrasounds, or thick, luxurious hair (before it all falls out and grows back in that awful accidental undercut/tiny pointless fringe kind of way). I have no idea why I am like this and I probably need some therapy. I am even boring myself.

And because it is the school holidays, there is more of a actual real children/phantom fantasy imaginary baby contrast than is usual. They bicker, pull hair and throw bits of mandarin skin in a vague direction of the bin, while the imaginary baby just smells nice and lets me dress her up in leopard print. They pole-dance on the tube and steal biscuits from the Salvation Army cafe, they break my art deco teacups and call me ‘UGLY LADY’ when I refuse them booty from the V&A gift shop, but the phantom Eliza just breastfeeds and lets me take her to Ottolenghi for flat whites and salads and of course one of his cakes because you can eat cake all day after a baby and it doesn’t matter.


I’m glad to have gotten that little nugget of questionable mental tomfoolery out of the way. There are very good things to be grateful for, things that should really be overshadowing my odd infant-neediness. Mum and dad are here to see the existing, real children and to help me over the unrelenting holidays. Here we are, doing London things, mostly involving lunch, and only getting told off from the managers of a park in one of the photos for garden-compromising hide and seeking:




Thirsty work, traipsing around all day, trying to keep the kids from walking into bus lanes and humiliating us with screams and traffic-light-wrestling matches.

Here is Casper and Otis, in the days before the summer left us, in a hat that didn’t make it home from Kensington Gardens. For a moment, we were so together:


And the baby, so cute and photogenic when he isn’t punching my arm or driving his cars into the keyboard to stop me from doing anything of use at all:


Crackers for breakfast, and a surfeit of tiger-print:

Noah turned nine, went to see Ant-Man, ate Dominos pizza and got a wearable water-gun which annoyed everyone so, so much, but look at the delight on his face and manifesting itself in those hunched-up-at-the-ready shoulders:


The baby, meanwhile, is a shoe and traffic-cone thief. I find my never-worn heels all over the flat. He finds them deep under the bed-of-no-more-babies, where he must surely fight his way through forests of tumbleweed dust balls, silicone earplugs and old boiler manuals. Yesterday he did a poo into my Salvatore Ferregamo sandals, though I will spare you the photo:

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And a trip to Postman’s Park where it looked like we were having fun, until we noticed they were breaking into the goldfish pond and stealing the coins at the bottom:


And so it continues. I’ll check in with more photos when I am over my terrible phantom-baby funk.

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