Big Furniture

Happy Valentine’s Day, and also happy half term! I trust your place is full of the love, positively pulsating from it, as is ours. There is so much love emanating from all members of the family right now, and from all surfaces and domestic objects – especially from the massive second-hand keyboard that Mark bought yesterday for the eldest to plink plink plunk on (and randomly disco/bossa nova/salsa/tango beat) which now is sitting on one fourth of the kitchen table, all open and exposed to spilt liquids. The table is loving being obscured and rendered useless, and I am loving the fact that soon someone will poke a stolen chopstick from Royal China into the mechanics of the keyboard and something will go wrong with it and there will be a whole lot of anger and shouting about it and somehow it will be my fault. I am LOVING that.

See the magnificent massive musical beast claim my formerly useful table where all seven of us regularly sit to eat:

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See all the random tabletop paraphernalia all shoved to the side with a romantic and dramatic flourish? MAKE WAY FOR THE ELECTRIC KEYBOARD MY TEENY TINY POTENTIAL PARTRIDGE FAMILY! MY LITTLE JACKSON FIVES! YOU GUYS ARE GONNA BE GREAT!

And then, Mark brings in an electric guitar. For Casper! The kid with the broken wrist, the kid who generally uses noise as a weapon to wound and wear down, to destroy and to infuriate. Please, son, have an ELECTRIC GUITAR. Which luckily has not been placed on top of the straining kitchen table but has been propped up in our bedroom alongside Mark’s two (TWO) dusty electric guitars that have followed us from flat to flat and that have been played about three times, when the maudlin musical mood strikes.

Underneath our bed we have two violins in cases that Mark once found at a job site (‘they might be worth something, them violins.’) We also have a bright orange amp that lives in our love-filled bedroom, underneath the office table and positioned just far out enough from the wall so that you can’t stick your feet down properly. We also share our love-nest bedroom with office equipment, filing cabinets and two photocopiers – a normal one that hums and the other a special one that can photocopy A3 floor plans and suchlike. It is the size of a dressing table. It is very, very romantic in my office/bedroom boudoir, and now it is also a burgeoning band practice/instrument storage-type situation.

I swoon. I literally swoon.

I know that this musical instrument enthusiasm comes from a very lovely place – Mark’s mother and sister played the piano and he speaks fondly of hearing them play. Never mind that our kids have been having musical lessons since they were four AT SCHOOL – between the eldest three they are all perfectly proficient on the violin, viola and cello – but now, the keyboard has entered the building. The eldest said that he will have weekly lessons if he doesn’t have to play a sport, and partly, I admire the bargaining skills and on the other I think boys need sport to run off the bubbling erupting testosterone. But then, I’m not going to volunteer to be a soccer mum because you need an ugly parka, some sort of muddy boot situation and you have to both know the rules of sport and care about it. All of which I don’t.

I just have a very real fear that the keyboard will stay on the kitchen table, never get touched again, someone will pour milk into it accidentally or otherwise, Mark will have a heart attack from the rage and will be wounded emotionally because they don’t listen to him or respect things and I won’t have anywhere to feed three members of the family. We will have to have two mealtime sittings – all placed carefully in a radius around the massive keyboard, trying not to flick pasta in between the keys. With, you know, all the love a family can muster.

E-Safety

We have had a few *issues* over appropriate viewing on devices and suchlike, and so I have had to attend an e-safety workshop at the boys’ school, and also have been told that you shouldn’t post naked/embarrassing photos of the children. This one I think is ok though, because you’ll never guess which kid this guy is:

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Or this one:

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As for the appropriate viewing, I came a little too late to the parental controls. Let that be a warning to you all – youtube is a little bit filthy so you have to be vigilant. But you all knew that, right? So here the kids all are, post-panicky wifi restrictions, all watching cat videos and not being corrupted:

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And lastly, the dog. The dog and his bed habits. This right here is grainy, non-musical, unfurniture-related love:

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Wondering When The Adults Will Arrive

Here’s a confession, which isn’t really a confession, because it’s a bit obvious to all who know me (and heck! probably strangers on the street): I am a financial and political dunce. I could have done with money management lessons at school which may well have saved me from the cost-per-wear LIES, and perhaps I may have understood that savings and pensions and things are there to keep you safe, and that keeping safe is a good thing, not just a boring thing, and then perhaps I would think twice about frittering money away on things that are short-term totally excellent, but long-term don’t keep you warm/fed/dry etc etc. Been paid? Great! Prolly time to go to a Christopher Kane sale to get a massive skirt which will look really good the two times I wear it! And if there is some tax to pay, well, hmmmm, prolly someone/anyone/Mark might spring for that….after all, it’s no good using your money to pay the taxes if you don’t have a floor length ballgown skirt to swish around in, right? Too bloody right.

And the same with politics, really. I’ve lived in nice sensible countries whose governments seemed to have a vested interest in keeping people safe and educated and well, and the people around me have earned enough to keep us all collectively afloat and fed and so it’s been easy not to get terribly engaged about adulty political things. We’ve had strong women leaders in my lifetime and relatively pleasant race relations and I always felt that the parties were all saying much the same thing and that there was probably a system in place that would keep basic things going regardless of who was in charge, like electricity and schools and fairness and smooth tarmacs and regular rubbish collection.

Perhaps, even, there was some sort of deep-voiced Kindly Overlord who kept an eye on the politicians and the governments to make sure things were ok and that the good was nicely balanced with the not-so-good things. There might be challenges along the way – Westboro pro-lifers and shameful homophobes and redneck racists muttering a bit of filth now and then, perhaps some sort of difficult situation going on in Taksim Square and some terrible business with Yazidis and abstract anomalies such as Darfur and neo-Nazis and Mugabe and North Korea; but, probably, the Kindly Overlord would sort that shit out once it go too bad or too close. Anyways, there was always a petition to sign to express my concern and indignation. But LO! The scales have fallen off my myopic eyeballs and I am getting that creeping feeling on your skin when you realise that:

a. I was wrong about everything, and

b. no one is in charge, and

c. the world has changed significantly and it’s going to end really badly for everyone.

I took two of the boys on the women’s march, and I made signs that I copied from instagram and the kids made their own:

I saw that our placard messages may have been a bit mixed, what with me championing tolerance and love and feminism while the kids just stated the bald truth about That Man – which at first made me feel a bit like perhaps I have been a bad mother for ignoring the nuance of these things, and that the kids should show a bit of respect and that maybe some sort of balanced non-Trump-bashing kind of approach might have been a better way – after all, Love Trumps Hate. But then Trump had his first week in office and preceded to tear apart all those things that I thought were a given, and really, there’s no nuance here.  Nor is there any Overlord, alas. We are on our own and there are terrifying people with their hands on the wheel.

What, I ask you, do I say to those who think this swing to the self-righteous, liberal-hating, intolerant and unkind right is good and Godly? What do we do? What do you say to the people who see the Muslim ban as a perfectly justifiable way to be safe, just like the guns they are proud to own? And those who keep posting the pro-life videos about embryos but then who want to push out of their borders the kids and families who have fled their own homes by ugly wars?  I really don’t know. What do you say to those who thank Trump for championing traditional marriage, while ignoring his own very liberal approach to fidelity and sexual assault? I am confused and troubled and for the first time in my life, I feel like political dunceness isn’t ok anymore.

Then we read this for bookclub:

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If you thought We Need To Talk About Kevin was alarming, then try to read this one without throwing it across the room in despair. You want believable apocalypse? Completely likely and realistic dystopia? An account of the collapse of all the systems we all believe in? Read that one, my friends, grab those kids of yours close and apologise to them. And then, let’s talk.

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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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