Friday, February 27, 2009

Springy Spud Friday

I seem to have become the social secretary for my little coterie of parental/toddler units and today rounded up 3 others to accompany us for a return bout with the Science Museum.

Since last time we barely made it out of the playroom in the cellar, today we decided to brave the exhibition. Apart from the tube shutting down and the outrageous behaviour of some of the visitors (and for once I'm not talking about the toddlers) we had a brilliant, if absolutely knackering time. While I didn't get the camera out for the rocket room... or the train room... or basically any bloody other room the following pictures are pretty much in line with the tenor of the day.

And just to round it off, this is Brixton today.

Ignore the roadworks and you can see it's not all lost oyster cards and poo, my life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The search for impossible

I have lost my oyster card. For those not in the know, this is a little credit-card sized, er, credit card thingy that one waves in front of machinery on buses and tubes to get one on to the things. It's connected to my bank account so that I never have to put money on it and it pays my way around London just fine thank you.

This is not the first thing I have lost in the last few month, oh no. In fact, I have lost a wide range of items ranging from flash drives to teddymouse to keys, lipsticks and pens, DVD discs, my sanity, endless pairs of the spud's underpants and enough toy cars to fill a garage the size of the teletubbies.

There is a theme to all this lostness in that all items, including my sanity, are Very Small. Madly, it took me a while to notice this - until yesterday in fact, when the loss of my Oyster card started a flat-wide hunt which turned to light absolutely every last little thing which has gone missing in the last few months.

They turned up in the bottom of un-used cupboards. They turned up 'posted' through the cellar steps, the back of the sofa, underneath drawers, behind furniture, between books and under carpets. It doesn't take much by way of grey matter to realise that we have a single culprit here and wily though our ancient rescue cat may be, I highly doubt he's capable of manipulating a flash drive between two jammed cupboard doors.

I don't know why I hadn't suspected my son prior to this point, I think it's because in general he isn't the sort of little boy to post remote controls into the bin on a regular basis. Not to say that it hasn't happened, just not for a long time.

Perhaps this is what he has been trying to tell me all week with his inscrutable sentences such as 'tuppy GONE!' and 'Rebus GONE'! I've looked high and low for Tuppy and Rebus and it turns out that Rebus was 'real bus', as in his toy double-decker which looks like a bus one might find on the street. Perhaps 'tuppy' is my oyster card, who knows?

Either way I will resume my search very shortly, in hopes of being able to get to a meeting I am expected at in London tomorrow morning. Perhaps I will also find my sanity.

Here's hoping...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rejection rescinded

Nothing stays still in this wonderful world of parenthood and after a few days of being out of favour I have rocketed to the top of the charts. It's all 'Mummy come! Mummy sit down! Mummy play! Mummy hug! Mummy sleep!'... I'm just a playing, talking, sleeping, walking living Mummy doll at the moment. Whatever I'm doing, he's sitting on my lap doing it for me, or standing behind me putting treasures into my pockets (half eaten cheese, anyone?) or grabbing my thumb and pulling me away from it to play with his trains. He won't even go to bed unless I climb in and squeeze myself beside him to have my nose lavished with damp kisses. If I get up while he's drifting off, he lurches awake a few moments later to appear in the livingroom, squinting and shuffling like a pint-sized zombie to grab my thumb again with the call 'Mummy lie down!'.

He's also becoming funny about sleeping in his own bed. He wants to do it, but he wants to sleep with us too. So he's devised a new sleep pattern in which he wakes up at 2am, tries to get me to sleep in his bed and on failure, climbs into ours, shifts Sammy out of his position curled up by my pillow and lies there moaning 'Charlie bed! Charlie bed' over and over and over until I give in. Once he's asleep in his own bed I climb gratefully back into ours, shift Sammy from where he has re-settled on TOP of my pillow and sleep. This lasts for an hour or so until Charlie reappears, pale and rotund like a little potato fairy, hauls himself up into our bed and the process starts again, only with Sammy less willing to relinquish his position each time. On the third try the spud gives up and finally just falls asleep in our bed hanging on to the cat's tail; a process which the cat seems to have adapted to reasonably well, all things considered.

I am in general ambivalent about this state of affairs. On the one hand, yes, I am mad with Motherly Love that he is once again my little sweetie but on the other, I rather wish he would love me and then at 8pm sharp, leave me for the Land of Nod.


Spud Friday

So the idea of having a regular 'Friday' post about what we did in the 100 acre wood sounded like a good idea to me a few weeks ago. Easy, sometimes funny and since our Fridays were for a while crammed with interesting trips around London and elsewhere, perhaps more interesting than the usual run of our days. Well this was all well and good until yesterday when after a morning to lunch playdate, Charlie went to sleep and woke up with eyes that, were they on a hungover redneck, would be described as 'two pissholes in the snow'.

We have a new doctor at the local surgery and he's very good. The problem is that he has the bedside manner of a house fly. On Wednesday evening the spud had a suspiciously sticky eye and by 2am was waking up complaining that 'eye hurt!' By 4am he had a balloon with lashes on the left hand side of his face and in the morning I needed a crowbar to get it open. Off he went with Daddy to Dr. Fly who in under 30 seconds had buzzed over, probed, declared it a scratched eyeball and whisked the pair of them out with a tube of cream and some barely decipherable instructions to wash the goo out of his eyes and apply the cream.

Apart from a general sense of being cheated out of some sympathy we were relieved as this meant no conjunctivitis and the resulting quarantine. So, on Friday when he woke up with both eyes in trouble I went steaming back into the surgery without an appointment, all Righteous Mother, demanding a re-match. The second doctor looked at both eyes and declared - two scratched eyeballs, or 'some other' irritation. Use the cream and wash his eyeballs with salt water if they get gooey.

I have twice in my life scratched my eyeballs and imagine therefore that it's not that easy to do and with no sharp nails or other irritants in sight it was all a big mystery until the frog came home and asked if I had washed his eyes with 'soap' and put the cream in. Soap?

It seems that Dr. Fly's rapid-fire manner, poor voice and lack of eye contact led to the frog leaving the surgery convinced he was supposed to wash our two-year-olds eyes out with 'soap' and water... something bound to make anyone's eyes red.

Anyway, so we won't be seeing this man again, needless to say; also needless to say, the spud's eyes are pretty much on the mend now, all ready for the weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Never Deny The Cake

If there were ever any doubt about the provenance of my son, there would be no requirement for a DNA test. Apart from the fact that he looks EXACTLY like his father except that he is 2, blond and cannot (as yet) curl his eyebrows; he is addicted to cake.

Let me put this into perspective for you. The frog, for all his civilisation and niceties is only French by birth. And accent. And family. And... oh for godsakes. Anyway, he's not what you would call 'into' food, he just wants it to arrive quickly. Yes yes, I realise there may be thousands, indeed millions of French people who don't particularly care for food, although I have to say I've only met the one. He would have lived out of boxes and packets forever if I hadn't coaxed him into accepting home-cooked meals and I did this by introducing home-baked cakes to our lives. And, since they are so ridiculously easy to make, cakes started appearing on a fairly regular basis.

I did, on becoming pregnant, decide blindly that my child would have no processed sugar for at least a year and we did fairly well until around 18 months old he went through a difficult period of teething which his father, under the excuse that "It's the French Way", alleviated via the medium of cakes, biscuits and chocolate milk. 'Bissik' is in fact one of the spud's earlier words with 'cake' added at his second birthday. Since then, he's been an unstoppable cake-a-holic like his Father and the only way I've been able to limit his access to the stuff is to not bake any; however since this equates to 'I don't love you anymore' in frogland, this has been a little fraught.

Last weekend being Valentines, I did attempt an ironic nod by buying some heart-shaped cookie cutters. However, the spud had a particularly large poo just at the critical point and the resulting biscuits were comedy black hearts by the time I actually got them out of the oven. This clearly meant stronger measures and so... I baked a cake. A big one. With icing. And chocolate hearts. And EVERYthing.

My dear sweet darling frog then decided, one morning while Charlie was resisting his shreddies, that a piece of cake would be better than nothing and so there was my 2 year old son, sitting on the sofa eating cream cake at 9 in the morning. God almighty, just call Jamie Oliver and have me shot.

Since then it's been bad. Very bad. Until the cake was gone, the spud was trying every ruse in his little book to get up to the counter and at the thing. He begged, he pleaded, he pretended to be interested in the kettle, he lay on the floor squirming and screaming 'Caaaaake!!! Caaaaaaaake!!!; he batted his eyelashes and demanded hugs and kisses and then added 'and cake please Mummy?' in a hopeful little squeaky voice.

I picked him up at nursery and as his key-worker trawled through his day she said 'and he and his friend played in the kitchen and pretended to make a cake' and when I asked him (as usual) what he did in nursery, rather than ignoring me and pointing at a bus he said 'Cake!' and didn't stop saying it until bedtime.

Perhaps this is why he's been ignoring me for the past few days: I have Denied The Cake.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Clearly I am out of favour with my son at the moment, despite the presents and the cuddles and the stories and the building of train tracks and the tickle fights; no, I am Not Wanted on Voyage these days, superfluous to requirements; last season's stock.

The first inkling I had was on Monday when I went to pick up the spud from his nursery and he blanked me. Not even a sideways glance. His best mate, SHE ran over and gave me a big hug but Charlie? Not a sign. Usually when I arrive he's jumping up and down and saying 'that's MY Mummy! Mummy Mummy Mummy!' and grabbing my legs but on Monday he just pushed me away and started on a new game. I swallowed my pride, grabbed his little hand and propelled him out the door and we were friends again until his Daddy got home at which point it was all 'NO Mummy! Daddy hug! Daddy hug!'.

It's not all bad. He still runs to me in the middle of the night and clambers into my side of the bed for a cuddle, it's me he wakes up in the morning with kisses on the nose but it's been fairly relentless. Today we were on Clapham common with my brilliant friend and her son Einstein of the Bouncy Castle and he wouldn't even let me push him on the swings 'Emma Emma Emma!' he shouted, 'NO Mummy'.

I guess this is it, the moment in which he realises that he is actually an autonomous individual, capable of walking into the toilet, taking down his own trousers, pissing into the loo and flushing without any help at all. Except for the pulling his pants back up bit. And the winding of the loo roll bit.

I'm not allowed to feed him, I have to watch as he delicately eats the tiny dots of food which adhere to his fork until he gives up and shoves his fingers into his plate. I'm not allowed to put him into his high chair, he has to clamber in himself. I'm not allowed to take off his clothes or put them on or give him a kiss on his forehead... or, well not very much really.

I guess I can look on the bright side... the less he needs me the more I can do... hang on, what was it I used to do when I had free time? There must have been something. I'm joking really, the real downside is that all this independence is only half formed; therefore the fridge door gets opened but not shut; the water jug gets taken out but not replaced; drawers get opened but not closed; taps get turned on, but not off and so I trail around in his wake putting things right and normally by the time I'm done he's decided that I'm alright again and he's dragging me off by my thumbs to watch him throw a jigsaw puzzle around the room and blow raspberries at the cat.

I know they, the ones-who-have-gone-before all say that this moment will come but really, I'd quite like to put it off for a while and remain within the inner circle for as long as possible. Or at least until I can afford a maid; one or the other.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spud Friday - and Saturday and... Gods, is it Sunday already?

This Friday we hied ourselves off to that acme of toddler exhaustion and height of style and cleanliness, the soft play area at Brixton Rec.

Soft plays are like catnip for Mums. All I have to do is to send a few texts suggesting a Friday morning in the padded room and before I know it a small army toting pushchairs and spare underpants is marching down Brixton High Street.

The problem with being in a gang of parents in a secure place, ie, a small, deserted soft play area with a guard on the only exit; is that it's much too easy to relax. Once we have taken turns sliding down the tube into the ball pit with our infants, it is surprisingly simple to just lie there cushioned by the balls chatting about this and that while one by one, our offspring struggle free of the pit like escaping sheep to gambol freely around. Occasionally one will re-appear at the bottom of the slide all by themselves to be cooed over by the mounds of plastic balls that once were their parents. Once you leave this algorithm running too long however, inevitably a child will trip, knock it's knees on a cushioned corner and have immediate need of its parental unit. There will then follow five minutes as ewe and lamb follow each other's bleating around the three-tier maze ("Can you see him? He's not in the tunnel, is he under the slide?") until they end up nosing each other piteously through a mesh partition while lamb presents various parts of its anatomy for a motherly nuzzle.

After all that stress, lunch in a cafe was a must and as by the time we left we were 5 Mums strong, we took over pretty much the entire cafe. Miraculously all 5 children were so starving that they sat obediently in their seats stuffing their faces with pitta bread and most of them were asleep in their chairs before we even paid the bill. Except my one, natch.

With this new, warmer weather the park has turned into one giant mud bath and Charlie has been taking every opportunity to enjoy it. Yesterday he jumped up and down in the perma-puddle in the playground until he had mud up to his waist. His boots, trousers and coat were soaking wet and brown and the minute I managed to get him out to take him home he hared over to the sand pit and jumped in. By the time we got home he was encased like a caddis-fly larvae in layers of sand and gunge with little pebbles and other items stuck on for show. When we got home I made him stand on the doormat while I stripped him down, threw all his clothes into the machine and him into the tub for good measure.

All is well however, two days of good sleeping and lo and behold it's Monday and time to do the week all over again. Hey ho.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


There are a lot of wild claims being made around our way at the moment.

Today, a man cycled past us in the park and Charlie said 'BIcycle!' all pleased with himself for knowing the word. I came over all dutiful Mummy of a sudden and said 'yes darling, the man is riding a bicycle isn't he?' at which point he ran after the poor bloke shouting 'STOP! STOP!!! MY bicycle, MINE!!! STOP!!' as if the poor chap was getting away with theft. Other fallacious claims of ownership have been made for buses, trees, the neighbours' car, aeroplanes and various other non-deliverable items. It's difficult as you can imagine, because toddlers aren't all that good at rejection and tend, for example, to lie down in puddles when they can't take a bus home with them.

Most of the above items are tangible and even somewhat desirable but we've had tantrums over less obvious items, my favourite being after he had a mighty and successful widdle in the loo; I pressed the flush and as everything spiralled into the bowels of the city he wept big tears of loss over 'MY wee-wee, MY wee-wee MINE!'

I'm glad he's dreaming big and impossible things and I hope he continues to do so. I'm just not putting my hand down the loo to retrieve any of them.

Monday, February 09, 2009


It's difficult to say at two years old where the line between Best Friend and Girl Friend is crossed but I think you have to cross it in a ship christened 'The Wishful Thinker'... a ship I appear to be sailing in at the moment; or perhaps it's 'The Appalled Parent', my lenses need cleaning.

The spud rough-houses and squabbles with his friend (I'll call her 'L' for 'Lolita') just as he does with his other friends only just that bit less. He plays with her and asks for her the way he does with his other friends only just that little bit more. He hugs and kisses her... er... well they hold hands and kiss on such a regular basis that it can take 5 minutes of standing in the rain for them just to be finished saying goodbye.

They go to nursery together and they've known each other since they were about 10 months old when her childminder hung around with his. When she moved on he was in such agonies that I had to send a note through the childminders network to her Mum and we had a blind date - or rather, us Mums had a blind date; Charlie and L ran towards each other in slow motion calling each other's names and held hands all afternoon. It was so sweet I had to have a splenectomy afterwards.

He even wakes up calling her name sometimes... I mean, don't you have to be 21 and terribly misunderstood for that?

OK, so I'm totally projecting here and it's probably just that they're best best friends but the spud absolutely treats her differently then all his other mates - even the other girls and even his other best best mates.

I do wonder what sort of things they think about each other, what fledgling feelings bloom in their hormone-free little hearts. It's a good thing that she's absolutely lovely, I just hope it all ends well. In the meantime, we will be making a valentine's card tomorrow and posting it off just to hedge our bets.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bouncy Castle Friday...

This is a very cheap post... it's like, the video of yesterdays post... because I'm really inventive and creative like that.

By the way that's not me singing 'Hop Little Bunnies', that would be the lovely and enterprising friend who gave us this mammoth in the first place.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Spud Fridays

Yesterday was another spud day and this time we didn't go anywhere or do anything exotic, unless you include the deployment of the spud's bouncy castle.

This thing was a present from a really good friend who snapped it up for the princely sum of £8. She left the price tag on so I'd know she hadn't spent a bundle and I can testify that the label really did ready 'Bouncy Castle: £8'. It fills all the floorspace in his bedroom, is about 5 feet high and takes half an hour with an electric pump to inflate. My friend and her two year old came over alog with another friend and HER two year old and it was madness. We had to use every cushion and duvet in the house to protect bouncing baby heads from nasty furniture corners - his room looked like '1001 Arabian Nights on Acid'.

You have never seen three toddlers so hyped up as three toddlers razzed up on chocolate biscuits with unlimited access to a bouncy castle. So hyped up that nap time completely disappeared, but so exhausted by the end of the day that we had an actual sleep-through night - two in a row, hold the front page.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

To eat perchance to dream

The spud's new nursery has a dinner chart on the wall, onto which the women who manage the place list what one's child has eaten in a manner that requires one's own personal Engima machine to decode. Each meal has it's own section and each item within the meal has it's own line. Each child has their own column and various heiroglyphs at the intersection of child and food indicate... zzzzzzzzzzzgphpghph... wha? I'm sorry.

I much prefered the system at the old nursery - they just wrote next to the child's name either 'f', 'g' or 'v' for 'fair', 'good' and 'very well'.

There's a certain amount of pressure on when one picks up one's offspring. Firstly, there is the book. The various events of the day are read out haltingly by an harrassed key worker thus: "Charlie used his motor skills today building docks... I'm sorry, that's blocks... He did some role play in the corner and spent some time playing in the, I think that's the snow.. He had no sleep, please sign here" ...hang on... role play?

Once that's done, provided there have been no 'incidents' which require their own sheet ("Charlie hit his head, please sign here") one is talked through each and every trip, or failed trip to the loo, shown guilty little bags of dirty clothes and then one is dismissed to get one's child out from underfoot as swiftly as possible. This involves gathering possessions, checking one's bag for missing underpants and getting one's little darling dressed; no easy task when they are so overcome with delight to see their aged parent that they have glued themselves to a new train set.

In amongst all this one must sneak over and work one's way to the front of the parental scrum in the hope of decyphering exactly how hungry one's little pumpkin is likely to be for his tea, which as we all know is parental code for 'will he wake up hungry in the night God Help Me??'. The chart takes so long to figure out that most parents either stand there in an hypnotic daze or peer for a moment, mutter 'fuck it' and shepherd their little darlings home to stuff them full of fish fingers. Cough.

Today was a very hungry day. I couldn't work out what the spud had eaten but there were a lot of marks in his column which I think is 'v'. He ate a massive tea, demanding 'more loghurt, more loghurt' until we were out of the stuff and he is now sleeping like... well, like a child with a 'v' in their sleeping column. I hope. Not a baby, from experience. Or a cat.

A short visit to India

Hello folks - I should have posted this earlier but my sister in law is in India at the moment volunteering for Families for Children at an orphanage and has posted some great things about what she's doing. For a little visit to the Land of Big Snakes, click here. She's leaving on Friday but there are three weeks of posts for you to read with your morning coffee should you wish!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

snow go

Have a little peer through the trees and climbing frames there and you can see two little igloos which are the sum total of the inventiveness showed in our park during our record snowfall which put everyone out of work for the day on Monday. I, of course, cough cough, would have done something WAY more inventive if, er, you know, er, I had. And that.

I took the spud to the park today partly to get some exercise but mostly so that I could scope out the mass of snow sculptures that surely must have sprung up... I mean, nearly a foot of snow, an unexpected day off, a park full of people and... well I was hoping for snow mermaids and castles, dragons and elephants - at least a forest of snowmen. But no. No, what we have in our park is at least 100 Very Large snowballs. The place looks as though a busload of giant children have played in the snow and are now tucked up in front of their giant fireplaces dunking pillow-sized marshmallows into vats of hot chocolate.

Everywhere there were giant paths down the slopes ending in boulders which simply sat where they had ended up, presumably too heavy to go anywhere else, too large to lift anything on top of and too filthy to sculpt. Kinda says it all really.

Makes Brixton look lovely though, hey?

Monday, February 02, 2009

some more of what we did today

...introducing the spud's very specialest friend...

Stop the presses!

Holy cow, we have snow today in Brixton like anything. Here's some pics I took of my garden at 9am this morning which I've just stitched together using Autostitch... this programme is amazing (

More pics and hopefully some vids to come once I work out how to get them off my camera.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy 101st

Today is Brigid, Imbolc, Candlemas, the 4th birthday of my best friend's daughter and would have been the 101st birthday of my lovely Gran.

Seems a bit early to be celebrating the first day of spring but this date traditionally marks the start of lambing season and the first signs of new growth. We've actually had snow today, unbelievably for London. In fact it's still snowing and outside, London is the most amazing colour - the light from the city is being bounced back and forth between the clouds and the ground and outside everything is a fantastical orange, despite being nearly midnight. Under the snow however we have the shoots of crocuses up already and our cherry and pear trees are in bud... spring is unbelievably nearly here. A time for looking forward to growth in our own lives but for me, a time to look back as well and remember my Gran a little bit.

I was thinking about her all day today and wishing I'd thought before her 100th to make a picture book of some of the great times we've spent together, me and my Gran.

Our first visit alone together was when I was 17 or 18 and after that I stayed many a time with her at her little lake house just the two of us; we would play cards and skinny dip and drink gin and each visit she'd teach me a little more about how to use her massive floor loom, which is now sitting in the attic at the studio waiting for me to string it up again.

We did other things together though, me and my Gran. When I moved back to England in 95, she came out for a visit (she would have been 87) and we spent a week in the Lake District. We got a room in a little B&B and every other day we would have an outing. We took a guided mini-bus tour and I have a great picture of her up by the standing stones at Kendal. We took a boat across Windermere and sat wrapped up and reminiscing about times we had both visited as children. Every other day we would stay in, have our meals delivered, drink sherry and play cards while she rested.

For her 95th, she and I and my parents took the cruise from Vancouver to Alaska and the two of us shared a cabin. Gran, who by that point would convince anyone who didn't know better that she was a complete tea totaller, brought 3 bottles of sherry on board for the week and left nothing but dead soldiers. I may have helped a bit. One night we were reading in bed when she knocked her sherry into the base of her bedside lamp which promptly hissed and started sparking blue flames. I dashed the switch off at the wall and before we called the steward she begged me to clean it up so they wouldn't know she'd been drinking. I obediently sponged down the mess, dried it and we rang for the steward, telling him all wide-eyed that it had just started sparking. He promptly turned it back on to test it and the smell of hot sherry filled the room while the two of us wept with silent laughter and tried not to catch each other's eyes. That same trip we took a helicopter ride - the first one for each of us - and at 95 years old she climbed out of the damn thing and walked on the glacier with her stick.

When she went last year, I was glad for her as she was really ready to move on. She'd lived well, left an amazing legacy of life and laughter and was hopefully at peace with God. Had she lived to today I suspect she would have had some serious words on the matter with whomever was fortunate enough to finally meet her at the pearly gates and take her across to the summerlands and so today I remember her fondly and happily but, nonetheless,with no small measure of loss.