Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A bear of very little brain

I love my son. I can prove it. I love him even though this morning he woke me up from a dream in which, magically single, child-free and wrapped in a towel, I opened the door of my appartment and Josh Holloway was standing outside telling me he would rather spend the evening with me than at his latest film premiere.

I must have done something lovely for my subconcious recently as this is definitively not the sort of dream it normally lets me have... a good dream for me is normally any dream in which I am not working or Charlie hasn't gone missing. Anyway, there I was, sat beside Mr Holloway on the sofa trying to convince him to go back to his party (my subconcious doesn't love me THAT much...) when Charlie crawled into bed having had a bad dream.

Five minutes later the Frog's alarm went off an hour early; the subsequent humphing about trying to get back to sleep then disturbed the cat who spent the next 60 minutes putting his paws up my nose at irregular intervals hoping this might entice me to the kitchen to prepare the first of his many breakfasts.

I think that the fact I have not harmed any of them today is a measure of my undying love and devotion, frankly.

I have however harmed myself trying to stay awake all day; a job that not even coffee could manage. Come bedtime Charlie is all about the stories and being a bear of very little brain I rather led him to certain stories that come with CDs, allowing a tired parent to sit, potato-like, turning pages and smiling beatifically without having to expend any energy actually reading aloud. This is Very Lazy parenting; however I learned it from the best, my own parents.

As children we had a small collection of excellent stories on vinyl; including a wonderful Winnie the Pooh record which my Mother presented to us on our recent visit. We've been reading Pooh on and off for a while and occasionally I brave singing one of the songs; however I am always commanded to stop; already my singing embarrasses my son. So, having the songs on vinyl for him to listen to is not only very sweet, but a big cheat which allows me to kiss him gently on the head, put the needle on the record and creep quietly out of the room.

Despite the Disneyfication of Pooh, the stories are timeless. Charlie sleeps under the same Pooh blanket that I slept under at the same age, we read from the same books and now listen to the same record. While the 100-acre wood is still new territory for him, it's sending my son off to sleep as successfully now as I'm sure it did me; to, I am certain, the same parental sighs of relief.

The Royal Mail have issued a set of Winnie-the-Pooh stamps featuring the original illustrations from EH Shephard; they're so lovely. I know the official Christmas stamps this year are Wallace and Gromit but I know what I'm putting on my cards this year - a celebration of sleeping children and, hopefully, sweet dreams for everyone.

Now fluff up my pillow; I'm heading back to dreamland.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Magic fingers

My Frog has magic fingers. No no no, I'm not about to let you into any marital secrets, it's OK. But he does have a preternatural ability to fix mechanical and electrical items simply by... and there's barely any other way to put this other than by describing it as... er... a laying on of hands.

It goes like this. You have a broken toaster (I am telling a true story here, I'm just making you the protagonist rather than my Mum for bogus literary effect).

You have for some reason allowed the Sparx family access to your house and, while the Spud turns your livingroom into an ersatz train shed, you stand in the kitchen with the Frog and I making conversation, during the course of which you bizarrely admit to a broken toaster. The Frog shifts uneasily.

Telling the Frog that something is broken is probably the most annoying thing you could do to him. More annoying then not taking out the recycling when it's your turn (you're the hero of this story remember. Not me, nuh uh). More annoying than leaving your shoes in the hallway. More annoying even than reading in bed after lights out.

As the conversation continues (we're back in your kitchen now, keep up), the Frog starts darting glances towards your toaster and gets all fidgety. Eventually we decide to move into the livingroom. We sit down, then realise someone is missing. Back in the kitchen, the frog is casually playing with the buttons on your toaster. 'Oh don't worry about that' you'll say. 'That side hasn't worked for over a year. We've had it apart and everything, we think there's a broken wire'.

At this point I like to put him out of his misery and just ask you if you'd like him to fix it for you. Visibly relieved, he'll pick it up and fiddle with it seemingly aimlessly, possibly opening it up and peering inside, while we all top up our drinks. A few minutes later he will hand it back to you, working perfectly.

You will be amazed. 'What did you do?' you'll ask. His reply is the same every time. 'I don't know.' A gallic shrug. 'The usual'. This is when you will hand him your blender, an old watch and your son's gameboy, all of which he will turn over in his hands a few times, press a few buttons, possibly peer inside and hand back to you in perfect working order.

I'm used to this now. It's ceased to annoy me that he is better than I am at fixing things. In fact, if something breaks I take a great deal of perverse pleasure in dropping it into the conversation and watching him lurch about like I've put a pea in his shoe until he slopes off to take a look.

So, imagine my glee when, the other day, I found him kneeling by the not-inconsiderable stack of aging electronics in our livingroom, unable to get the Wii to display on the screen. He had pressed all the buttons. He had fiddled with all the connections. He had switched things on and off and on again. He looked frustrated.

Don't get me wrong. Initially I was gutted and mentally adding the cost of a new TV into our exigent budget; when the frog says something is broken, you've pretty much got to call the appliance undertakers.

No, my glee came when the spud walked over and said 'Daddy you haven't pushed the button' and, ignoring the Frog's fatherly splutterings, protestations and highly-continental rolling of eyes and blowing out of lips, he squeezed past, laid his hands on the junction box, did some fiddling and... miraculously, everything started working.

'Now you know how I feel' I told my stunned Frog.

Magic fingers. There's clearly a gene for that.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Why you always get sick on planes...

Well that was a laugh. We're back from 2 weeks in Canada, having contracted a wicked lurgi on the flight between Vancouver and Calgary. No fun really. It took the shine off the last week, however it was a brilliant holiday. Here's a bit of what we did:

I watched while my brother let Charlie push the ignition button on his car:

...Then he revved the engine, really high so the car roared. You have never seen a happier boy. And Charlie was pretty thrilled too...

Then there was a bit of this behind the Frog's back (he hasn't forgiven me quite yet...)

...Charlie's used to it now but I'm not sure I am...

Then we did a bit of seasonal stuff which was way fun:

A few days later we headed to the grandparents and did various cosy snowy things with which I shall not bore you... stuff like this:

...yes, that's my Pa, BBQing breakfast in the snow. Well. In a few patches of snow.

Then we went further into the mountains. Charlie was very impressed. You can tell, can't you?

After that there was a lot of whinging about being homesick, at least until the day we took off into the cold to trek to the two nearest neighbours for sackloads of trick-or-treat. Nothing like walking home along a dark and deserted country road with one's 4-year-old to make one wish one had taken the bear horn along for the ride; all we saw were stars, however. Then there were fireworks. Then it was bedtime.

After that we laid low and enjoyed the family until our very good friend Allen came and picked us up for a rip-roaring night in Calgary with old mates. Shortly after that Charlie decided he had a fever. I debated missing the plane and settled for dosing him up. The fever abated. We got on the plane. I apologise to everyone who was on that plane.

I have worked out why one always gets sick on planes however. I reckon loads of people fly out and back in a week. This is just long enough to pick something up on one plane and still be infectious on the flight home, thus infecting another load of people. I see us as just one cog on the great wheel of international plague. I may never fly again.

We spent the last four days in bed. Would have been lovely if we'd been able to move.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

He shoots - he scores!

We're in Canada. By 'we', before any enterprising sod thinks it would be a good idea to work out where I live, I mean just me and the spudlet; the frog has ducked out of this particular cross-Atlantic trip to stay home and look after the cat.

This is fine, although the spud is beginning to wonder exactly what's going on. He woke up this morning and looked at me hard, then said pointedly "we're having a lot of sleepovers here, aren't we?" "Yes" I said. "And we miss Daddy, don't we?" "Yes we do" I concurred.

Five minutes later he was upstairs in one of his three default positions - talking non-stop to his Grandmother, fawning over the dog or hard at play over one of the thousand new toys his grandparents thought would be a good idea to buy for him.

Today we dragged up from the cellar our 30-year-old Crossfire game, sadly no longer on the market. This, for the un-initiated, is a large board with a wire goal at either end and a large ball-bearing wrapped in a plastic puck in the middle. Each player gets a plastic gun sort of thing that fires ball bearings down a shute and essentially all one does is fire at top speed until the puck lands up in someone's goal.

What I remember about this game is my brother getting all tactical about the ammunition and waiting for me to fire all my ball bearings across the board so he could hoard them. He would then shoot them manaically, giving me no chance to retaliate. The puck inevitably slid through my goal. I thought this was unfair. Apparently not.

Well, it turns out that either this is a boy thing, or blood runs thicker than fair play. Two minutes into our first game and the spud had all the ammunition and a devilish gleam in his eye.

Two minutes ten seconds later, the puck was in my goal.

SOOOO not fair...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gratuitous launch party post

OK, so I wrote a book. About 21 years ago, mind you, but I did write it and the very brave Punked Books have published it. In fact, they opened a new Children's imprint for me - Grimoire books. I swear, I did NOT drug them.

So on Thursday The Big Green Bookshop were brave enough to allow me and a bunch of varigated friends into their premises to launch the thing.

OK, so this was a launch for a book I wrote over 2 decades ago. I'm over it. I'd given up on it. It will never make me rich. So this is like, blah blah blah. Right? So I was being all blase about the entire thing until a few weeks ago when I realised I should probably take it seriously and invite a few people. Beg a few people.

So I did. And then I got Very Nervous. By Thursday morning I was essentially a bag of nerves and by the time I got to the bookshop I was pretty wired. I had, however, bought 2 cases of wine for the occasion. This was a good thing.

People started filtering in around 7 and by 8 the locusts had already demolished a case of wine and numerous packets of Wotsits. I did a reading from the book. I tried to make it interesting. People shuffled. But they clapped at the end... I guess that counts.

It was kinda like getting married, launching one's first book. I mean, it might happen again; who knows? One makes a major public committment to the book, the publisher, everything is rosy, all one's mates come out in support and by the end of the night one can't remember anything except... er... that it was a shedload of fun. Then it's just you and the book, heading into the sunset.

There are people to thank. Parents. Sibling. Spouse. Friends. Agent. Publisher. You know. The usual. I'll thank them if the damn thing ever wins anything.

I think it went well. We drank a case and a half of wine. The shop sold out of their copies of my book, the lovely Kevin from Punked (Grimoire) had to unload extra copies from his Bat-Case and then I think some of those might have been sold. And possibly signed. I think I signed some things. I hope they were books.

These are some of my besty friends. That's me on the left with the big schnoz and the target on my boobs.

I had a steaming hangover the next day.

Anyway, so that's it, the book is launched. God bless her and all who sail in her.

Now buy a copy.


PS, I'll be selling and signing at Witchfest International on November 6th. Put on your duds and come along. You know you want to.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Prompted by the lovely DJ Kirkby whose second novel 'Without Alice' has appeared on the Amazon Bestseller list, I thought I'd venture on and see how my children's book The Green King is doing...

...and I'm up to 106,000th on the list! OK, this is not very high, admittedly but considering I was 1.3 millionth a few weeks ago and 306,000th a few days ago, I reckon I may have sold another book.

AND - STOP PRESSES: THE GREEN KING IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE: right here for all you techno-bods...

Thanks everyone!

The launch is tomorrow, I will spare you the tedious begging to come and join me for a glass of wine - if you do fancy it, details are here.

One day I might actually write about my son. At the moment, all I have to tell you is that on weekends we are spending considerable amounts of time on the BMX track where I get all puffed up with pride as the seasoned BMXers admire his bravery. He can now make it up all but the 3 steepest hills by himself and we've been invited for proper training next weekend... finally, my potato is turning into a bean-pole - with all this cycling he's becoming leaner and stronger... my little boy is really growing up... sniff...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

All about meeeee!!

This post is all about... meeeee!!!! Me me me me me. Or rather, my book.

No WAIT!! Don't go!!!! Sheesh.

Seriously, this will only take a moment and you can scroll right on down to the toy give-away just underneath this post. Seriously. I promise. It won't hurt.

Anyway, so I sort of have a book coming out. It's called er... yes that's it over on the right... it's called The Green King. It is an actual book and not followed by the letters IPA; it is not therefore a beer. Or a pub. No, it's a children's book in fact.

No no no, don't bugger off quite yet, I'm about to invite you out for a drink. Settle down a moment.

A drink? Yes, I'm launching the Green King, with wine, at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, North London on Thursday October 14th, 7pm to 9pm, which is in no way nearly in a week and I am in no way panicking about it not even slightly. Not at all. So there.

OK maybe I'm panicking a little teensy bit.

Anyway, so I'm inviting you all, yes you! All 2 of you who have read this far... there will be some wine and a few little munchie things (cough cough crisps cough). Yes, my hospitality will be unparalleled. And there will be juice, just in case there are actual children, or people who perhaps want to get up one day.

A bit about the book perhaps: it's aimed at children 8-14 but, apparently, the odd grown up has been known to read it and, shockingly, quite actually like it. Or so they say...

And, if you do know any children of around the right age, you might consider it a wild-card Christmas present? Hm? And in case you're wondering if the child in question might actually like it, here are some excerpts from actual letters I got from a class of 9-year-olds, to whom I read bits of it the other day:
  • “I liked your book the Green King I think that it will be a best sellers list” – George, 9
  • “When it comes out I am going to buy it” – William, 9
  • “Your book is realy good and adventures” – Megan, 9
  • “I like mystery books and yours is the one” – Ellie, 9
  • “I loved your book it was amasing” – Jamie, 9
  • “I loved your book and it was awesome, it was the cind of book that I love” – Reegan,9
  • “The whole thing was absaloutly brilliant” – Alex, 9
  • "I thought your book was great. I really enjoyed it" – Harry, 9
...Harry continues on, bless him.... "However a few improvements are maybe:
  • pictures
  • a d.v.d. to go with the book"
Yeah Harry!!! Go get those film rights!!!

OK, so I would seriously be over the moon if anyone fancied making the trek up to the shop and downing a few vinos at my expense, maybe even buying the book and making the bookshop happy and, most importantly, saying hello so I can put a few more faces to bloggers.

Oh, and there will be air-kisses too! I go left then right, just so you don't get confused.

Please won't you come? And, er, bring someone?


And if not, the book is available either here on Amazon or from the publisher here or from the link in my RH menu. I'm loving watching it climb the rankings in Amazon - I went from eleventy million to around 40,000 in one day after reading in the schools. Am now back down to 306,000 so help!

Friday, October 01, 2010

...that sort of day

We had plans today - involving, unsurprisingly, the BMX track - which were rained out. The entire day was pretty much rained out to be honest. I woke up with Charlie's feet in my back and as I shifted out of his way I woke the cat.

Waking the cat means instant access to cat-paw hell. First he sits beside our heads and swats us in the face. This escalates rapidly into a quick-march across our heads, back and forth and back and forth. He then goes for the soft parts - eyeballs mainly but he's recently started stomping across my nipples every morning and occasionally the frog's balls. He's also worked out that waking Charlie is the best way to get us up and so if Charlie is in bed, Charlie becomes the main target.

This morning however he interrupted himself halfway through the process in order to be sick on the floor. Shortly after I cleaned it all up I realised that he'd also taken a poo on the bed; a much better way to get me up as it turns out, particularly as he'd been pawing me in the mouth and I had a sudden, over-powering urge to scrub my face with bleach.

So that was us up and looking glumly out the window at the bucketing rain. Not getting to the BMX track was OK as it turns out, which was a surprise as Charlie has been wearing his new full-face helmet everywhere this week in anticipation of his next go around the circuit. He's worn it to bed, to nursery, and, hilariously, in the playground like some sort of mini-Stig going down the slide. He's still quite wobbly on the bike but really gaining in confidence; I was actually quite looking forward to watching him go.

Anyway, so my little spudlet voted with his tum and instead of lurching out into the cold, we washed the sheets and had a rainy-day sort of day which, it turns out, involves a lot of cake; a pleasant diversion from the cat's insides.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Holy crap

Fuck me. I have to show you this. This is, no shit, my son on his new bike today, going around the local BMX track 20 minutes after we took the stabilisers off.

Sadly all we had was an old phone with rubbish resolution but I had to post this up in the general spirit of being gobsmackingly proud of him. And yes, he is wearing a helmet. And knee pads. And that's the Frog paddling helplessly behind him.

Anyway, that's me regurgitating all over your screen. Over and out!

Friday, September 24, 2010


I'm finding this whole Motherly love thing absolutely shameful. The whole thing is a living cliche - how much a mother loves their child; I mean, who wants to hear about that? If you're a parent, you already know, if you want to be a parent, you can guess, if you don't, you don't care.

I spend a lot of my time telling my son off for various things... sometimes I stand back and listen to myself, it's disgusting. 'Don't do that; you're making me cross; you're making me sad; take that off, put that on, do this, stop, say please, say thank you, put it down, what are you DOING???'

I pretty much spend the rest of my time beating myself up about it. A friend of ours has been berated by his brother for the amount of times he tells his daughter off; the brother feels that no-one has the right to tell a child what to do. I can't actually remember the outcome of the conversation, either the brother has no children or his kids are a nightmare; either way we all laughed heartily at the story... but secretly I bet we all doubted ourselves.

Mums confess things to each other. How we shout at our children, how we sneak up on them at night and cuddle them when they can't squirm, how we secretly like it when they fall over and need comforting; how we lose our cool, how frustrated we get. How guilty we feel all the time; about loving them too much, neglecting them, spoiling them, feeding them crap, forcing them to eat things they hate; guilty about secretly loving them clambering into our bed after a bad dream, about how sometimes every word they say is like a knife in an exhausted brain.

It's good, the confession, it shows us we are all the same, that maybe we have nothing to feel guilty about. But it's hard, really, to admit the truth: we are mothers; we did it to ourselves. Mostly.

Anyway, so nobody needs to hear about it, which is why I'm not telling you about our day today; except that it was lovely. At the end, I got told how much my son loves me. There were a lot of 'really's in the sentence. It ended in 'a lot'.

That's what's become of me. Who would have guessed?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fizzing over.

One of the odd things that have happened to me as a result of writing this blog is that companies offer me things. Things to write about. Occasionally, if I think they are good things, I will write about them. I know this is less interesting then, for instance, hearing about me being pulled naked from the sea; but frankly, that's something I'm rather hoping won't happen to me again; ahem.

Click here for a sponsored review of the new Sodastream

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Toys R... er... everywhere...

This is sort of sponsored by Toys are Us, who keep sending us boxes of toys to test.

A review of the Jolly Octopus game - all the charm of a classic and regularly played with - click here for more

Monday, September 13, 2010

Postman Patsy

Charlie has decided he is a postman. This is not, unbelievably, because he's just been given a book about a postman called Charlie (which arrived in the post today from my Uncle Peter) but because... well because for the past 2 weeks he's been obsessed by the post.

What this means practically is that on getting home in the evening he picks up whatever flyers he finds in the hall; says 'I'm just going to be the postman, OK?', then high-tails it heart-stoppingly back outside and shuts the front door behind him.

If one opens the door to chase him, one is met by a small screeching demon brandishing flyers (and we're not even at the Edinburgh Festival) and demanding one goes the hell back inside.

I'm reduced now to peering out the front window and cracking open the front door when he's out of sight so I can peer down the street like some mad stalker. I did grit my teeth one evening and count to 20 before opening the door; when I peered through he was standing right outside talking to two concerned-looking ladies .

"Are you lost?" asked one while the other patted his back reassuringly.

"This is my Daddy's car. He isn't home yet!" he said, randomly

"You poor thing" the other was starting to say (I think) as I burst through the front door with the largest fake smile pasted onto my face that you have ever seen. "Oh, he's just playing postman" I shouted, much too loudly. "I was watching THE WHOLE TIME through the window" I babbled as they backed away slowly in opposite directions...

Ah yes... two random women connected in a moment of mutual humanity over a lost child in the street... how bloody wonderful...

Hasn't stopped him playing though.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Spuddy 4th Birthday

It is nigh upon midnight on my son's 4th birthday and I am propping my eyes open with matchsticks I'm so tired.

It's been an enormous day - in the end there were 21 children here, although not all at once and some of them were younger siblings... but still. 21 children. Twenty one. Children.

We also hosted an all-day play-date for 4 of them as part of our 'nursery is closed, let's all look after each other's kids' rota. Luckily one of the Dad's was over offering support or I would have been under the table by noon.

The mistake, I think, was getting the kids doing party decorations at 10am; by the time 11am rolled around all they wanted to do was eat cake and have a party; making them wait until 3:30 when everyone else got here was perhaps a leetle draconian. Still, it was a day.

It's beyond cliche, any mention of how much a parent loves their child and so just assume I've laid down all the cliches for you here, just sicked them up and rolled them out to pulsate pinkly in the light of the laptop screen... Yes, it is true, I love my son... and today he really shone.

He was, in the main, generous with his time and his toys (to the point where many of them are broken or thrown to the wild winds... we will never have a party in the house again), he cleaned up, he helped out, he led games and was among a small coterie of the best behaved children. He didn't push or throw, tease or bully, he didn't snatch or hog; he was a total gent and I'm a whole other hill of cliches proud.

4 is quite grown up, it turns out. Not as grown up as it seems when one is 3, ie, he has discovered to his chagrin that he cannot drive the car or go to the park by himself or ride his new bike without stabilisers or... there was something else he wanted to do today that I told him he couldn't do until he was a grown up. 'So, when I'm 5?' he asked, hopefully.

Still, in the last year he has grown tall enough to reach the taps in the kitchen, the doorbell outside and a whole host of things I sort of reckoned we had another year or two before he could do. He can take things out of the fridge and pour them into cups without spilling, dress himself, wash himself, get in and out of the bath just by stepping over the edge...

Anyway, all to say that he's remarkably grown up, an illusion that is swiftly shattered when one sees him next to any child over the age of 8 and suddenly he looks so tiny and vulnerable that I feel the need to swoop over him and carry him home; something about which he would in general be quite happy about; chances of a carry when one is nearly three foot six and weighs in at 43 pounds are pretty slim on the ground.

So, that's that. He's 4. Happy Birthday, baby bear.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The poo on the hill and why Somer never sets

We've just got back from a really lovely weekend in Somerset with friends. The spud loves the countryside and he was in absolute heaven - collecting eggs from chickens, playing with dogs, swinging from apple trees; he was very sweet.

'Where are we?'


'Will we see it setting?'

'No darling, Somerset is a place, it's not going to set'

'But then it will go down and then it will be winter!'

'No dear, Somerset is a place'

'But it will be setting when we get there and then we will watch!' ... etc...

Saturday our hosts took us to a well known iron-age hill fort which I'm not naming in case English Heritage are watching. We managed to get the Spud all the way to the top under his own steam which was nothing short of a miracle and we set up a picnic under the rim of the old fort walls. A herd of mixed cows were grazing the fort and their ordure was rather everywhere, something that doesn't bother any of us in the slightest but which has some bearing on the outcome of this tale.

We found a spot. We chased off a cow. We spread our blankets. We ate our hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches. There was a Peppa Pig birthday cake for the hosts' daughter. The views were amazing and it was all suspiciously idyllic. The spud, full of lunch, started wandering over to play with the dogs and just as I was languorously contemplating a second honey sandwich the Frog nudged me and muttered 'Uh oh' under his breath in a certain tone of voice. I looked up and sure enough, the spud was doing the poo walk. Bum clenched tight, legs stiff, he was clearly touching cloth and urgent measures were required.

I'll skip to the part where, after scurrying down the outside of the hill, the spud had dropped a massive steamer into a little rabbit scrape among the thistles and I was heroically trying to clean him up with paper towels and spit.

We'd been completely alone on that bloody hill for at least half an hour but just at the point where I was crouched with my son's nearly-clean bottom a few inches from my face and the guilty evidence gleaming out from the hillside scant inches from my toes, a family peered over the edge and looked down.

I smiled grimly and they gestured for the rest of their group to catch up. I started talking very loudly at my confused son 'That was a good wee-wee wasn't it! No wee wee on your trousers, that was good! Ha! Why don't you put your trousers back on? Go on! Ha ha! Good boy!'; all the time dropping bits of grass and rabbit droppings onto his delivery in a futile attempt to disguise it.

The first group moved on and a second approached.

As my befuddled son put his trews back on, I noticed near my other foot a dried cow-pat and in a flash of brilliance, bent down, snapped a bit off and then stuck it onto the crime scene. Within seconds, and this is a tip I highly recommend if you're ever caught short in the country and don't want anyone to know what you've been up to, I had created a cow-pat mosaic with poo grouting just in time for the final onlookers to stop and gaze down at me as though I was part of the whole iron-age experience. Me and the cow pats.

The journey back to our digs with 3 sorts of shit on my hands was not my finest hour but after all, it washes off and thankfully the rest of the visit passed without incident.

We left this morning with a very happy boy in the back seat.

'I love Somerset' he said. 'Can we have our house in Somerset?'

'No sweetie, sadly not'.

'Are we leaving Somerset now?'


'But we didn't see it setting yet'

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Many hands make boxes difficult to open...

Down to some sort of magic trick on the part of the gods we have been asked, unbelievably, to test toys for Toys R Us.

Road test new toys? Are you kidding?

...Review of Fireman Sam's Deluxe Firehouse  here

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Little stinger

I know many adults who have never been stung by a bee or a wasp, but as of today Charlie has collected his 3rd sting after treading on a wasp in the kitchen. This is his 2nd foot-sting as well as a bumble-bee sting on the lip (and he's not even a teenage model...)

Sadly wasp #2 left part of its stinger in Charlie's foot so we had to spend 20 minutes picking it out with the tip of a needle while he emitted the sort of shrieking one normally associates with teen slasher movies. After five minutes of him howling like we were dismembering him without the Frog ever managing to get needle close to foot, we closed all our doors and windows. Not, you understand, to save the neighbours but rather to save ourselves from the ministrations of social services.

That was Sunday. Today, with no nursery to go to the Spud spent the entire day in his pyjamas. That's right folks, all day and back into bed. Someone give me the Good Mother award, I need somewhere to put my vodka.

We spent the morning doing precisely nothing, by which I mean the spud lay on the sofa watching 'Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom' on repeat; a DVD I've not been able to get off the machine since it arrived - all the charm of Peppa Pig (same production company) with the added bonus of fairies and elves and magic wands. I probably watched it all the way through twice without irritation or boredom - result.

Anyway, 'Little Kingdom' took us from a shameful 10am through to... Crap I'm not sure I can actually type this... 2pm. Yes yes yes. In that time he failed to finish his breakfast but gamely choked down a cheese toastie. Little hero. Sometimes I think kids actually need time when nothing is happening to them, a rainy day to recoup.

After this, but without the social niceties of, say, getting dressed we had 4 of his friends to play and make pasta together, enabling the shut-off of the DVD without having my eardrums pierced. One friend has stayed over and they are currently giggling in the dark while the frog and I are feet up, martini-down.

I could handle a few more days like this, to be honest.

Tomorrow morning we're off to the country; I'm packing the Piriton and on the lookout for a size 4 child's bee-keeping suit.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Marmaduke and other shaggy dog stories

We get quite a few offers to review movies, but I have to say that Charlie's not that keen really, he gets scared easily and films are loud and take place in big dark rooms. Case in point, he counted down the days to the release of Toy Story 3 for months, but he came out and cried for half an hour after not really watching it. Apparently, there is a scary doll.

So, when the team promoting Marmaduke contacted us to see if we'd like to go I rather thought not, however I passed it on to friends of ours whose daughter is very keen on films and asked them to give us the scoop.  Click here for more.

Monday, August 02, 2010

umpa lumpa shove it up your jumper

I like to think that over the years I have learned to curb the worst of my disorganisation and to keep the bulk of the chaos in my head from leaking out and getting all over my life; sadly it seems I am not quite there.

I was in the market recently for a Christening present for my God-daughter-to-be. After looking high and low in every department store in town I was very happy to find exactly what I wanted in John Lewis, a lovely little silver cross on a delicate chain; sadly the clerk checked and double-checked the stock then and asked her manager to go and look again before telling me that definitively there were none left. Seeing my down-cast face, the manager brightened up, opened the display case, took out the cross and then took her time with the silver cloth polishing it. She found a box in perfect condition, located the original silk bag, boxed it, checked it again and only then would she take my money.

By this point she'd spent about 15 minutes helping me out, none-the-less she jumped me to the front of the queue and rang it up, at which point I opened my handbag to discover that my bank-card was gone and I had no cash.

I cast my mind back and clear as day recalled buying a top-up for my oyster card that morning and telling myself as I jammed my card away that I was putting it somewhere stupid and would probably never find it again. Cursing myself under my breath but with renewed effort, knowing that it was just hidden and not actually lost, I redoubled my efforts, patting and prodding and yanking endless piles of crap out of the maw of my bag.

The manager watched as the minutae of my life began to take shape on her counter. I told her, as I pulled out tissues and toy car wheels, that I knew I'd put it somewhere stupid. She smiled, indulgently. I searched. She gamely kept smiling.

Just as I was down to the lint balls and feeling the lining hopefully, I remembered where I had put my card. With a flourish, I dove in and pulled it... out of my bra.

The look on her face was worth every second I spent fumbling around in the damn bag. After we had both fallen about fairly substantially I left thinking that sometimes a little bit of chaos isn't such a bad thing. Nor, for that matter, is a decent bra...

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Incident

It is time, I fear, to tell An Incident from our recent holiday. It has nothing to do with the spud bar the fact that he was 20 feet away but missed it entirely. This is a Good Thing as seeing one's mother pulled naked from the ocean is possibly 'scar for life' material. But I digress.

It was lovely and hot in Biarritz that week. Sadly however work was the order of the day and so I could only manage to get to the sea quite late. Luckily it was still hot and sunny, less luckily the tide was coming in making swimming a bit iffy.

Late one afternoon we went to one of our favourite beaches; a beach with quite dodgy swimming as the sand shelves off quite sharply. This forces the waves to pound their way into the beach rather than roll beatifically into nothing and makes paddling almost impossible. There was a sharp cross-current and after the Frog lurched back from his swim with sand in his hair it was clear that the sea had teeth.

I am, however, made of the sort of stuff that is likely to see me swimming off the coast of Devon in March and jumping into freezing mountain pools for the fun of it. I'm a strong swimmer and secretly I rather thought the Frog was exaggerating and had just bungled his dismount.

The swimming flags were close together and probably 100 people or more were crammed between them, some on the shore, the majority just into the surf line and a brave few in the breakers.

Cockily, I (dressed only in a bikini that someone should have stolen and burned) waded in, expertly dodged the waves and was out beyond the surf in no time. The cross-current was perfect for allowing a good long swim without the dreary necessity of actually going anywhere. 'Heavenly' I thought to myself, swimming endlessly on the spot 'being able to stretch my muscles like this'.

Presently I felt I'd had a good amount of exercise and should probably go in. I monitored the waves. I rode the swell. I held back from the breakers. I was carried into the shore, perfectly vertical, ahead of a wave. I landed, en pointe, daintily in front of the crowd. Just as I was at my MOST cocky, a wave I'd ignored because, after all, I was walking up the shelf on dry land, knocked me flying.

As I got up, I realised with horror that it had pulled my bikini bottoms clean down to my ankles and I was now sitting, naked from the waist down, in front of 100 gurning tourists. I sat in the swirling tide hanging on to my kecks trying to pull them up discreetly and was halfway there when the next wave dragged me under. I emerged still hanging onto my knickers and nearly had them up when the next one came and took me for a proper dragging.

This time when I sat up, I realised my bra was now hanging by one strap and I was entirely nude. Feeling nothing but embarrassment I let the next wave take me, hoping to get back out into the deeper water but suddenly, what's this? Two strong arms had me from behind!!

Was it the Frog? Was it Superman? No! It was a young, handsome French lifeguard! Woo hoo! Sadly, he was trying to drag me out of the water. A wave came, he gestured with his head and we dove under, me still hanging on to my clothes.

At that point, a second life-guard joined the party... and THAT, my friends, is how it took two strapping young men to drag me from the sea, naked, resistant and shouting 'Non! Non! Mes culottes! Mes culottes!!!'

I think being 45 helps in these cases as I managed with some level of experience to both shrug back into my bra and pull up my pants before they stood me up in front of the over-excited crowd. I tried to maintain a semblence of dignity but within seconds realised that there was so much sand in my drawers that they were sagging down to my thighs like a wet nappy.

Lifeguard number one looked at me, puzzled and possibly put out that I wasn't melting with thanks. I looked at him. We looked at the sea. 'C'est dur' he said. 'Oui, c'est dur' I said, manipulating sand out of my labia and pretending nothing was happening.

Ursula Andress, eat your heart out...

Friday, July 23, 2010

No tears

I was woken up by a big kiss on my nose this morning, for a fraction of a second I thought it was the cat licking me - a new tactic to get me out of bed and over to his food bowl; but no, it was Charlie.

He wasn't that miserable that he'd missed his girlfriends leaving in the night (something he might be changing his mind about in another 15 years...) but he was very concerned about the where-abouts of his buses.

This morning he is sitting on the sofa trying manfully to raise a single eyebrow. The problem begins with the fact that he can't even raise them both together quite yet - if he was a girl I might be encouraging him now to keep it that way; I've been able to raise a single eyebrow since the age of 6 and it amazes me that my son hasn't tried to drive one of his trains across my forehead; there are enough lines there to handle the traffic at Clapham Junction.

Oh my. We have to leave the house in 5 minutes. I am in my nightie. Another line hits the forehead...

Notes from Inside my Stress

OK, well putting pressure on myself to come up with something funny is like commissioning my own personal writer's block. 'Yes, it's Sparx here, have you got something dark that can come and sit on my creativity for a while? Really? Excellent, I'll take two'.

It's been a rough few months. I've been putting in some very long hours , the Frog has been booked up solid and our poor little boy is reduced to playing games in which his little buses beg his big buses to 'stop working please Mummy' and whenever his poor Father manages to nip into the loo for a quiet twenty minutes (he is a bloke, after all) I am informed that 'Daddy is at the Studio, Mummy, I will sleep in your bed.'

We tried unsuccessfully to take a 2-week holiday, thank gods we had friends visiting for the last few days or we would never have stopped working long enough to get out in the sun. Finally, while away we got the news that one of Charlie's best little friends has a brain tumour and while the emergency surgery was successful, she is now facing a year of painful treatments, so everyone is a little bit in shock.

Having said that, in general things are quite good at the moment, things are calming down, our little friend is coming out of hospital in one piece and remarkably, the cat is still alive. Boney, down half a kilo and covered in dreadlocks, but still jumping on us at 3-hour intervals day and night demanding whatever meal it is on his Byzantine meal schedule that he thinks we've missed.

Yes, it's all rosy here at Sparx towers. We had an accidental half-sleepover with two of Charlie's girlfriends tonight (a sentence I would never have imagined possible a few years ago) and yet again the gender differences became apparent. Charlie took two buses into the bed, the girls took their little purses and kept waving them around and making 'I'm a Lady' faces while he ducked manfully and made disapproving faces. It was highly comic. Both girls are now home with the parents and my little spud will wake up alone in the morning. I am prepped for tears.

Right. With this non-post I'm off. Will try to visit other blogs soon, time permitting - forgive the lapse.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Well well well. has it been a month since we chatted, dear Internet? Close, I bet.

We've been larking about as usual, 'staying afloat on the great sea of life', I might say, if I fancied waxing poetic at 8am which is probably a bad idea.

I'm using a blog writing app which makes me feel terribly modern and ridiculous. The predictive text on this thing occasionally makes me wee with laughter to the dismay of my fellow passengers (and presumably the next person on this seat... But I digress).

We're off to France tomorrow, leaving our flat and our ageing puss in the capable hands of friends. Charlie has been waiting soooo patiently for this. The promise of a real airport has taken his mind completely off the bloody Transport Museum and for that I fear regular air travel may remain in our carbon-laden future.

We've done lots of things that might have been blog-worthy recently - camping, picnics, raids on our local ice-cream van armed with pound coins and hope, paddling, sleepovers, I've been away - oh, and the first copy of my book arrived in the post on Wednesday - hooray! If anyone owns, or knows a girl over the age of 8 who likes a bit of a read, let me know. I'm available for speaking engagements, parties... er... um.... Ok so anyway yes there is A Book. Fiction. Children's. Enough for now.

I have decided, at any rate, not to post on this blog anymore unless I think something is particularly funny. This blog used to be more like a 3 or a 4 on the 1-5 scale of 'is this a funny blog?' however is now more like a 1 or a 2. It's odd, because 3 year olds are actually quite funny. One of our local Dads is a stand-up comedian and we saw him last night, turning parenthood into the comedy fodder that it is, yet somehow it's been all too serious here at spud towers.

So, anon. This is where I get off. Nice to chat, have a lovely weekend and I'll try to drop in soon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

So wrong...

Playing Chuggington on the computer. Note the headphones and use of mouse pad...

I repeat: he is three. Is this the future?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The meaning of things

I keep forgetting how literal children are. Charlie hasn't the slightest idea about sarcasm, he doesn't really understand exageration or metaphor or parable or the difference between fact and fiction and this is making our poor boy very confused.

I recenty witnessed the breaking of one of his first fantasy bubbles when I gave him a tin of colouring pencils and he was awe-struck. "Wow!" he said "Magic pencils!!! Look Mummy, it will draw all by itself" and he proceeded to try to stand the pencils on their points so they could draw by themselves, the way they do on various children's art programmes. He was so let down, I felt like crying.

I'm learning slowly to watch my mouth for more than just swearing. The other night he was begging to play 'Chuggington' on my computer when he was already late for bed, so I said 'right, I'll cut you a deal, Chuggington and no stories, or stories and no Chuggington and he burst into tears screaming 'no cutting, Mummy, don't cut me!!!!'

It's led to a few interesting conversations, this total reliance on the meaning of words. When he talks about growing bigger, I often tell him that one day he might be bigger than me. I think he's worked this out to mean that he'll be a bigger version of me. A few weeks ago he started asking me why I don't have a willy. 'Because I'm a girl' I said. 'Girls don't have willies, only boys have willies. You're a boy, you have a willy. Daddy's a boy, he has a willy'. 'So' he said, after a moment of silence 'when I get big like you, I'll take my willy off'.

We've had a surprising number of 'when I take my willy off' conversations over the past few weeks, including one where he insisted that he didn't want to be a boy, he wanted to be a girl like his best friend and grow up to be a Mummy. I think this is less about gender confusion (he is only 3) and more about general confusion but one never knows (and I don't think we'll particularly mind either way). I do feel for the little spud though, it's obviously been really worrying him, wondering if his willy is going to be taken away at some point. He's now asking 'is he a boy?' 'is he a girl?' about nearly everyone and today appeared to be quite relieved that his willy is not detachable and that he will eventually become a man.

So, we're being a little more careful about what we say around him at the moment but one never knows when literalism might hit... today as we walked through the park the Frog shouted out to him as he wove through the grass eating his ice-cream 'Watch the dog poo Charlie!' and Charlie stopped and stood there, watching the dog poo.

Ah me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The shame, the shame...

We're off swimming in the morning. Oh yes I feel like a satisfactory sort of Mother, the type who takes a day off to be with her child and takes him to earnest and stimulating events. Last week for example we took the train to Reigate. The train! A real train for my trainspotter son. Then, then, we went to the transport museum for the fourth time this year and bathed in wheeled objects. My love for my son is clearly beyond question. Tomorrow we swim with friends, eat at a local cafe and then who knows... Brixton will be our oyster.

Oh yes, it's all lovely... the sort of day bathed in glowy 70s sunlight... until one considers our third wheel, our little tag-along pal, our unwanted stow-away... the hitch-hiker on the sole of his foot... Charlie's verucca.

It's one thing to go swimming with a group of friends and their three-year-olds, it's entirely another to do this while a verucca squats darkly on the sole of his foot, uttering threats and imprecations at the pristine pads of their little feeties.

I try to make light of it. I carry anti-bacterial gel and make them all wash their feet in it. And they're nice about it. But it's there. Lurking.

We've tried Bazooka which worked but burned him, now we're trying DJ's banana-skin cure... if that doesn't work then sadly we're in it for the long haul.

See you at the pool - bring your disinfectant.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

chocolate starfish

We're having swearing. I mean, proper swearing, the sort of swearing that he's heard on the bus, on the street and um in his house. Sometimes. I have been retraining myself in the art of swearing over the past six months and while 'Bumpers' is not really entering the vocabulary, 'botheration' works quite well. My default go-to swear though is 'crappity' which fills two swear-requirements in that it contains an actual swear word and is unrecognisable as such when fired off at top speed in front of a three-year-old with ear-drums the size of the sea of tranquillity.

Or so I thought.

Sadly it has entered life too late to prevent the 'f' word which is making frequent, shocking appearances in my son's speech. While I admit blame I cannot admit total responsibility having heard the word in his presence countless times in the past few days... outside his window, on the bus, while walking through the park and while standing in the queue to buy chocolate at the local shop. It's ubiquitous, everywhere and all I can do is disapprove and suggest he say something else... like 'poo' for example, which is both valid and funny.

The spud being no fool however has declined to make up a swear-word and would rather use one of mine. He demonstrated this ably today after dropping his fork at dinner. 'CRAB' he said, loudly and disdainfully. 'What?' I asked. 'Crab!!' he said, gleefully. 'Ah, CRAB! said I. 'What about starfish?' 'STARFISH' he said with relish. 'Chocolate Starfish' I said, and we both laughed.

I suspect I laughed a little bit longer.

Sad, isn't it?

Still, I think we're going in the right direction.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Third Way

I subscribe to that popular and yet cock-eyed notion that everything comes in threes. OK, so possibly not everything. Socks come in pairs (although rarely stay so), also hands sadly... legs, eyes, ears, kidneys, cards when you're looking for a full house... Many things do however come in threes: book deals in airports; household Gas-Electricity-Water bills; er... er... well troubles invariably come in threes.

It's not, when something bad happens, that I stand around waiting for the next two things, however if two bad things happen, the third is inevitably ringing at the door before the first two have decently buggered off.

How it was therefore when Charlie nearly broke his arm only days after the discovery of a (gasp) verucca (the shame...) that we failed to notice his ear infection is beyond me, but there you go; we only suffered 4 nights of no sleep thinking, er, that his arm was causing an, er, fever... yes well erm.

We are nearly all better now except for the occasional need to over-react when faced with say, getting dressed or eating one's dinner ('I CAN'T put my jammies on, my ARM hurts... please can I climb up you and flip over 20 more times instead?'). It's not without it's trials, however, this recovery business.

Today he parlayed a little twinge into a post-breakfast ice-cream cone. After lunch, I had a lie-down and apparently he used his wild powers of persuasion to con his Father out of a second ice-cream. We then went to the park and, since both of us thought 'he's only had a little one at home and he's been so brave', he conned us out of a third from the ice-cream van.

He also conned us out of a third of our income at the local fun-fair, but that's another story. I rest my case.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Heading back to mormor...

Sunday. It appears that on this blog, it is always Sunday.

It's been a weird weekend. It's been a quiet weekend; strangely unsettling. Friday we had a long day, Charlie and I. We went swimming with friends in the morning and then had a picnic lunch in a friend's back garden; relaxing, happy, idyllic, flowing from garden to house to house to garden, the kids roving in a feral mass.

Afterwards, we went to the park where I bought him an ice-cream from the ice-cream van, the eternal ice-cream van that marks the passage of the seasons, the ice-cream van that has the power to change the very weather ("No Mummy, it IS hot, the ice-cream van WILL be there... can I hold your umbrella?") As he dripped strawberry and chocolate all down his front we met two of his friends and a final play of the day ensued.

Shortly after the stick from his ice-lolly was deposited in the bin, my little boy was run-down by a boy on a bicycle and has for a few days at least, lost the use of his left arm.

Before the xrays and the certainty that it wasn't broken he passed out twice and lay semi-conscious, rolling his eyes and moaning until we splinted it. In the hospital he would only talk about his bus to the doctors ("He's in his own world, that one...") and he has been sleeping 13-hours a day, so oblivion and dissociation are ruling the roost. It hasn't stopped him from consuming vast quantities of ice-cream and while we are trying very hard not to make a fuss, it's difficult as he can't really push himself up from sitting to standing and if he wants to use his hand he has to pick it up with the other hand and place it near the toys.

Every day he gets a bit better and hopefully he'll be back to mormor in a few days ("Are we back to mormor now Mummy?" as if normal can be found on a map). We're trying to act as if nothing has happened so he's not scared; but I tell you, as if I needed it underlined, bloody anything can happen to anyone in a fraction of a second.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Mother Ship...

Mums log: Playdate: somethingth of May.

I drift half-asleep, fuel reserve are low. I pull against the extra gravity of Sunday morning, drawn to the small, square button on the machine. I push it and slowly it begins to fire up. I've just finished loading fresh ground coffee when the alarm goes off...

MUMMEEE!!!! It's the Stout Controller, something is wrong with his bus. The cat is throwing up. I hesitate - clean up cat-sick or fix the bus? The cat starts to eat it's vomit. I opt for the bus.

Several minutes later the bus is fixed and the smell of warm coffee beans powers me back into the kitchen to press the button. The relief of seeing the coffee flow into the cup is marred only by the realisation that I have trodden in the remains of the cat's stomach contents.

Several hours later I am wrestling with my printer in the cellar as a series of birthday cards are printed, one for a party south of London. The alarm goes off...

WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THAT CELLAR??? It's the frog, left alone too long with the Controller, he has experienced total systems failure.

I take the escape-pod and bundle the Stout One off to the party leaving the frog to stew in his own juices. The Controller doesn't want to go to the party. He doesn't want to go home. He really really wants to go to the party. I launch. The alarm goes off - he's dropped his bus.

We drive, him complaining, me ignoring and the bus clattering around in the hold with every turn. By the time we reach the party he is asleep and when he wakes up he no longer wants to go to the party.

We spend 30 minutes at soft play, him ignoring all his friends and clutching me dramatically. He won't play. Eventually he wanders a few feet away and plays with some balls. The alarms sound, everyone off to eat. He won't leave soft play. He won't eat. Eventuay he eats crisps. He eats a biscuit. He wins sweeties in Pass-the-Parcel. He joins in. He starts to play. The party ends.

The alarm sounds.

And that, my friends, is how I find myself sitting by myself at a soft-play in Leatherhead at 5:30pm on a Sunday.

Leatherhead, the final frontier.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Time time time

Charlie is trying valiantly at the moment to get his head around the notion of 'tomorrow' and 'yesterday', it's all very confusing.

We deliver gold stars on a month-view star-chart for good behaviour and we're really trying to use this to underline 'that was last week, that was yesterday'. It's working to an extent, although he will still tell anyone who listens that Father Christmas came 'last week' and tomorrow is always Friday.

I have this abiding memory of a beautiful Neanderthal I dated in my final high school year; I met him during a brief stint flipping burgers, he was a gorgeous Italian called 'Romano', lusted after by all the female McStaff. For some reason he chose me and we dated just long enough for me to show him off smugly at graduation in a sort of 'ugly duckling gets swan' moment. I went to pick him up from his house one day to find that he wasn't dressed, he was sitting in the livingroom in his shorts and his Mother was apologetically dressing him. He raised his arms, she put on his t-shirt, he raised a foot, she stuck it in a leg of his jeans... it was about that point that I started to go off him fairly substantially.

Anyway, one morning a few weeks ago the spud was robotically eating peanut-butter toast and watching Chuggington with the sort of glazed stare he normally reserves for doing a poo, while I was standing in an apparently sound-proofed bubble waggling a t-shirt at him. He raised his arms. I put on his t-shirt. He raised a foot...

So. Now he gets a star every time he undresses and dresses himself, one for eating dinner without our help and one for tidying his room. When all the stars are gone he's been promised 'a big present'.

it's good, the star chart, but it's not without it's difficulties. The upside is that he is now reliably dressing himself. The downside is that this involves an hour of him dancing about in various stages of undress, displaying 'Mr. Bum Bum' gleefully and crowing about each item that's been taken off or put on. If he takes too long and we intervene there are hysterics over the loss of the star. Getting out of the door at all these days is pretty much completely out of the question.

Still, it's all progress, of a sort and he is beginning to understand about the days of the week. I guess it's a little much to think that he'll suddenly grasp the intricacies of the past and future but at least in that future I won't be dressing him before he goes out on dates. Hopefully.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Legal ranting

OK, this is a major rant and I actually took it down as being a 'bit heavy' for my blog... however Metropolitan Mum has asked about it so I'm putting it back up... but with this warning that my husband, the lovely Frog (the other lovely Frog) thinks that it represents the rantings of a mad woman... you have been warned.

The lovely Frog, from Frog in the Field has offered me this unrivalled opportunity to rant. Actually what she's really offered me is blog material which is thin on the ground these days. It's a tag in which one is asked to list thinks that, essentially, make one very cross.

The problem here is going to be limiting the scope of this, I suspect; as although I am a person who is easily amused and has quite a high tolerance for crap and rubbish, I have a bottomless pit of judgement lurking in the centre of my soul.

  1. I hate stupidity. Which means that much of the time I hate myself because I have an enormous capacity for stupidity. Mainly because my mouth and my brain aren't really connected very well. However be that as it may, rank stupidity gets my goat. I'm not talking here about low intelligence, I'm talking about willful stupidity that can be found in everyone from the unintelligent to the genius. One of the biggest things that gets my goat is how frequently people mistake ignorance and lack of education for stupidity. Just because someone doesn't know something doesn't necessarily make them stupid; just uninformed. Stupid is willfully disbelieving facts because they don't fit one's world view.

  2. After stupidity, I hate violence. Stupidity breeds fear. Fear breeds anger. Stupid people think there is only one kind of fear; the fear of pain which they see as cowardice and which they respond to in the only way they know - with intimidation, threats and reactive violence. They don't know or believe that fear presents in many ways: fear of change, fear of difference or fear of the unknown; so, when stupid people experience change, see difference or suspect the unknown they try to protect themselves in the same way they would if they had been physically attacked, ie, with intimidation, threats and reactive violence. Violence is stupid. It's also dangerous. I hate it.

  3. Violence, ranging from the casual push against a stranger in the race to get onto the tube through snide verbal violence or outright attack, breeds more violence, until we live in a society where violence of all sorts is considered perfectly normal. I hate that too. You get on the tube, someone pushes you, you feel crap all day, you upset people and in turn they lash out at someone else and everything gets that extra shade of 'more shit'. If on the other hand someone smiles and steps aside to let you on first, you are happy, you smile, you're nicer to someone else, you make them happy and everything gets just that little shade of 'less shit' until perhaps everything might actually become 'quite good'.

  4. There is a synthesis of the above three things that I hate more than anything and that's bullying. In the playground, the supermarket, the workplace, I see someone behaving like a bully to someone else and my seething knows no bounds. If I could press a button that would give a shock to anyone who bullied anyone anywhere ever again I would press it, tape it down, put it in the sole of my shoes and stand on it so it stayed pressed until I keel over. Making me, I suppose, quite a violent person. On the inside.

  5. I hate greed. It's natural to want more, we're programmed to want more until the day we die. Seriously, I live comfortably in a lovely flat that in other countries would fit several families. I think it's tiny. I want a house. Eventually, we'll buy one from someone who is leaving for a bigger one. That's how it goes. But there is want and there is greed and greed is what drives people to push each other around. Greed is what litters our landscapes with advertising, interrupts our evenings with cold callers selling windows and bombards us constantly trying to sell us crap all day; greed is what drives up our gas bills and our mortgage rates, our rent and our food bills. Either we are too greedy and buy too much or the companies we buy from are too greedy and keep bumping up the cost. Greed makes life more shit.

  6. Angst and stress. Live in a world where violence and greed and stupidity are the norm and life becomes very stressful. In the last 6 years I've had two motorbikes stolen, two break-ins, cheque-book fraud that emptied my bank account, the frog has been punched in the street and thugs tried to mug him at work; the police found a gun in the bushes opposite Charlie's bedroom window, a boy was stabbed to death in our playground, someone was stabbed outside a friend's house locally, there are regular shootings in the area; it could be worse but it's not that pleasant I'll tell you that much.

  7. Pressure. There is too much to do in life. There are too many wonderful people and great things to see and places to go... I can't do them all or see them all and so I'm finding more and more that I don't want to do or see any of it. I just want to stay home, in my little flat with my little boy and my frog.
But, that's not what life is about is it? (Except the 'staying home with one's family' bit). Life is about getting on, getting by and trying to wring whatever little bit of pleasure one can from the whole sordid mess and you know what? There's a lot of pleasure to be had out there. There is joy to be found pretty much anywhere. People want to know the meaning of life and that's pretty much it; life means living. Living means staying alive. Staying alive means eating and drinking and staying safe and unless we can enjoy those things, we won't do them very well and that will be the end of us. So I think we should all do as much as we can to try to find enjoyment in everything we do, do it better, stay happy and stay alive.

I actually thought I was going to rant about the election. Apparently not.

Thanks Frog! I'd like to pass this on to a few choice bloggers but it's late, I'm going to bed and I'm not going to tell them quite yet. Just so you know though, I'm tagging: Glowstars, Methusula Mum, Pengelly Pastimes Iota and More Than Just a Mother.

Rant on!

Monday, April 19, 2010

rest required

I can't blog. My son is doing nothing particularly amusing and I am knackered and stressed and tired of trying to be funny. I'd throw in the towel but every time I try I find myself a few weeks later back at the coal face squeezing out another post about trains or shoes or the cat's breath because I can't help myself. That and my Mum would worry.

There is, in short, no content on this blog. Not that that makes much of a difference to previous weeks, I suppose; I guess I'm just being slightly more honest. Our days pretty much steam into one another at the moment.

I'm finding the night time routine particularly wearing. From the moment I turn off my computer at around 5:30 and go and pick him up from nursery, the pattern of the day is pretty much set until 9 when the frog and I collapse with our dinner. Three and a half immovable, immutable hours are gone out of every waking day. It's like Groundhog Day in miniature; the alarm pops up on my desktop and off we go... I throw in variation because if I didn't it would be so easy for us to have 365 identical evenings.

I may have said this before, but a couple of summers ago I was standing in the park while Charlie amused himself crawling around and I heard a bunch of Mums talking; one of them confessed to the others that she started obsessing over dinner from the moment she woke up every day. At the time I didn't understand but I think I do now to some extent.

It gets relentless, this feeding and cleaning and playing trains and putting to bed business and it's worse because kids resist; they don't want to get on the bedtime travellator, they want to play. Take a kid away from his game and he might cry but within 5 minutes he'll have found something else to play with. Put a kid into an empty room and he will find a way to play. It's wonderful and fabulous and amazing and blah blah blah - and it's exhausting. Sometimes it's just so much easier to say 'fuck dinner and work this evening, let's just play' and on those days the frog comes home around 8 and Charlie and I are lounging around playing mario kart or hide and seek or we're in the garden with the hose. Some days, even, we'll play and play and play and then I'll run a huge bath and we'll both get in and then get into our jammies. Once in a blue moon we'll even get into the big bed with some books and fall asleep. It's kind of a primal thing, this play/sleep business and we are so far removed from it as adults that we pfaff around writing blogs when we should be sleeping and muck about working when we should be spending time playing and then moan inwardly about how exhausted and overworked we are.

Maybe this is what midlife crisis feels like; this urge to get back to play. Maybe that's what's going on. Maybe it's nothing to do with the blog.


OK. Sign me up for a red sports car. And a parking spot at the train museum.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Received pronounciation

So. I may have mentioned before that we have frequented the London Transport Museum. What I may not have mentioned, although for those who know my child it seems obvious, is that we are actually members. I feel the need to interject here, this is not a sponsored post; sadly we've done this all on our own without the benefit of PR agencies. Face it, it's a tenner to get in but only twenty to get free entry all year. And they subtract your first tenner, so if you've been once, effectively it's only another tenner. And, for those... er... two tenners, one has the priviledge of spending one's life being dragged around buses by a child who lacks only an anorak to blend completely into the display.

Anyway. So, membership grants benefits beyond the free entrance. Every three months an extremely spoddy publication arrives through the letterbox and while the writing may be full of eager gentlemen who have located rare bus photographs on a neighbour's wall, the pictures are enough to keep a small spud spod VERY happy for, well, for the three months until the next one comes.

The latest edtion slipped through our letterbox on Wednesday and in it they announced (sadly this tells you that I read the actual text) that they have put some old films on the website. Ah, I thought. Charlie will like that. And so he does. Endlessly.

There is one particular film which secretly I'm rather fond of. It's a film about the last tram, narrated by a chap (he can only be a chap) speaking perfect BBC received pronounciation, talking about the 'Cockeneys' and waxing lyrical about the trams. It was made in 1952 and there are some wonderful shots of London in it but what makes it both dreadful and sort of great is the mix of this terribly terribly precise British and the use of an old music hall song sung by a stock cockney. It's the sort of thing parodied endlessly by British comedians and here is the real thing in black and white.

The spud's own accent is something we are watching emerge with great interest given that I talk like some sort of mid-Atlantic troll and the frog talks like Inspector Clouseau. We do, however, live in South London and he is coming out with some extremely local pronounciation like 'I'm free yeahs old'; 'I don't want nuffin' and 'yo, gimme more chocolate, innit!' (ok I made that last one up). The killer was today when he was rumbled by his father while practicing saying "Scoo-ah... scooter... scoo-ah.... scooter...". Sadly, it appears he will talk which-ever way he pleases and all the media and colonial eurotrash in the world ain't going to stop him... It actually makes me kill myself laughing whenever he comes out with something really local but I do worry that he's going to be tainted by his accent.

I suppose I should be more worried that he will be tainted by his love of all things train related but anyone who owns a three-year-old boy will agree (I suspect) that anything that can occupy them for an hour without needing intervention is a Good Thing. So, if putting him in his room with the Brio track and the latest trainspotter's guide gets us an hour to ourselves well then hey, I'll watch the damn tram film another 100 times and like it.


Sunday, April 11, 2010


It's time. It's so gone time that it's unreal. It's time, finally, that I blogged about the spud's shoes. I'd like to add the word 'new' before the word 'shoes' however since he opened the box a month ago he has pretty much eschewed other shoes. Eshoed?

This all came about because 6 months ago Umi Shoes gave us a different pair of shoes which, apart from welly-boot days, have been married to the spud's feet like a pair of magic dancing slippers ever since. I tell you, these shoes have not only lived through the two worst seasons in the British Calendar - 'drizzle' and 'puddle' - but their substantial rubber toes have slowed down about a million scooter rides and yet they look practically new out of the box. In fact if your son is going to be a size 27 this summer I'll probably flog them to you on eBay.

Umi mentioned at the time they might talk to us again in the spring and, given how much we love shoes in this house, I didn't quite have the integrity to say 'no, really, you've done enough thanks' and so a month ago we received the latest addition to the spud's foot locker; a pair of Umi 'Action' shoes in denim; a colour which sadly doesn't appear on their website; although you can see a couple of other colours for this shoe on the site.

I genuinely like the Umi shoes - they're not just robust but they're styley and if your kid is going to be glued to a pair of shoes they should probably be a good pair. Umi have also expanded the number of shops in the UK that stock them, so what they have is easier to find.

I'm hoping these ones hold up as well as the last pair because Charlie won't take them off at the moment and it looks like they're going to have to get us through the summer.

Sunday morning ritual

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Easter Frog

A couple of mythical creatures visited our house yesterday; the Chocolate Dervish and the Croup Fairy.

Much like Christmas, the nursery has been winding up the kids for the arrival of the Easter Bunny all week. The Spud came home every day with some Easter-themed concoction - nests made out of cereal; an egg that dyed everything it touched and various other little spring-themed fantasies. The arrival of the Easter Bunny, it was clear, was something we could not ignore.

So, last thing on Saturday night we crop-dusted the flat with chocolate. There were eggs on his trainset. Eggs on his slippers. Eggs on his sofa. A trail of eggs lead to a chocolate Buzz Lightyear. Eggs lurked in nests on tables and chairs, a massive egg hid in the armchair, bright colour eggs sat at Spuddy-eye level on all bookshelves.

About 8am I lurched awake to find him solemnly shaking me. "The Easter Rabbit Did Not Come, Mummy, it DID NOT COME!!' he intoned with no small amount of panic. Clearly he's not much of a morning person.

By 9am he had eaten his weight in chocolate eggs and by 9:15 he had turned into the Tasmanian Devil. After a day of tearing the place apart, he was fast asleep by 8:30; however by midnight it was clear that Bunny may have left the building, but the garden frog had moved into my son's throat.

This is probably the 6th time he has had croup and normally it means 5 hours in hospital plus a dose of steroids. Having recently discovered that the Frog had croup as a child, we resolved this time to treat it the old-fashioned way with steam and night air.

This was a great idea until the kettle caught fire and filled the house with the smell of hot aluminum... after a few minutes we were all croaking. We swaddled him in jackets and blankets and traipsed grimly into the garden to honk up the neighbours and after an hour the entire street was awake, however he had stopped croaking and was demanding Charlie and Lola. Result!

It wasn't a bad day, even with the croup. There was something lovely about sitting in the garden together wrapped in blankets and looking at the stars. It ended well and everyone is fine. Except, that is, for Buzz Lightyear. I am sorry to say that he did not recover from injuries sustained to his head and arms and sadly was put to rest yesterday in Charlie's tum.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Oh Canada

Another monumental thing happened this week, Canada sent through citizenship and my son, here-to-fore only a Frog, is now a Canadian too. I couldn't be happier. What he's going to think in 16 years time when he realises that he has two nationalities but is not formally a citizen of the country he was born and raised in is anyone's guess.

It's odd, I was raised in the UK and have spent more than half my life here, bouncing back and forth between the two countries. I left Canada for the last time 15 years ago and have no real desire to return there to live; however when his card came through I really felt that I had given my son a passport to a better world, a sort of milk-and-honey paradise of staggering beauty and kindness... With 6 months of winter thrown in. Just for the heck of it.

It seems that in my absence, I have grown a LOT fonder of Canada than I was when I was there. Funny that. I seem to have forgotten about white trash hosers and red necks and narrow-minded prairie towns; I've forgotten about the tortuous commerciality of TV (and pretty much everything else); I've forgotten about the long, cold, relentless winters.

All I can remember is how great the bands are; how cool the writers and artists, how amazing Vancouver is, how much I love Toronto, how much I miss my friends and family, how beautiful the place is, how lovely the people are there. I kinda have this vision of Canada as some sort of vast, endless Center Parc full of camping and fishing and mountains and lakes, seas and islands... all that sort of lark.

It's not true. But it's not false either. Tom Brokaw says it well here.

I have no idea how my son will feel about being Canadian but then he can sort that out later if he likes.

Meanwhile, I've just processed my application to become British.

Nothing like consistency.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Daylight spending time.

We found a frog in the garden today. When I say 'found', I don't mean we found its carcass under Sammy's paws. I also don't mean we just happily encountered it hopping along in the grass the way I used to encounter my last frog.

No, I mean nearly broke my back digging out 5 years of leaf-mold from the back corner of the garden and somewhere near the bottom I narrowly missed hacking him* into two with the edge of the shovel. I actually thought I'd had his leg off and picked him up in dread, but there he was; completely whole, a massive fat frog spilling over the edges of my hand.

I felt like I was about ten years old as I rushed him over to the spud shouting 'look what I found in the garden, look look look!! The spud was not as thrilled as I'd have hoped; in fact he didn't even come out of the house, he just stood at the doorway and smiled uncertainly. 'Isn't he lovely' I raved 'Yep' said he said 'It's a big frog' he added, unecessarily, then he went back to playing games on my iphone.

I put the frog back where I found him and half-buried an old planter for him based on my previous frog experience, where I left a small planter with some water under a bush and 90% of the time would find the frog happily sitting in it.

I'm feeling a bit guilty now though, having disturbed what was undoubtedly the perfect frog-hole: an open pile of rotting leaves and twigs full of insects and worms, snug from cold and prowling cats... however I've finally opened up the last awful corner of the garden and now I'm in the market for some ferns so clearly not feeling THAT guilty. I did however leave an area undisturbed and will look into what might be reuqired to maintain the garden as a good home for him.

Between the tone-your-butt Reeboks, the 3 hours of leaf-mould attack and the nightmare of trying to get a three-year-old into bed when his internal clock is telling him it's an hour too early, I am a complete croc at the moment, however am delighted that daylight has been restored to it's rightful place at the end of the day... hooray!

Roll on long summer evenings. I'm hoping to hear a few croaks this year.

* yes, this frog could be female. I don't care. For the purposes of this blog, it has froggy balls.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bin it

We've had an epic week, due mainly to one small thing. One tiny little thing that happened this morning. It took 10 seconds and it has changed my spud's life. This morning - this spring morning - my son walked up to the rubbish bin, opened it, and threw in his last baby bottle. And I, I didn't rescue it.

I mean, I probably still could. I could rummage in there and dig it out and boil it and sterilise it and scrub it a few more time and buy a new nipple and it could see another day but no, sadly for the planet, this bottle is land fill. OK so I may put it in the plastic recycling.

I know, I know he's three and a half and should have lost the bottle two years ago or more but he's not really bonded with a teddy or a blanket or a comforter of any sort, he goes to sleep cuddling his bottle and I think his relationship with it is less about the milk and more about the shape and feel of it.

Recently he's been drinking his night-time milk out of a cup but he still occasionally really wants the bottle and we've been letting him have it. Last night he woke up incoherent. He wanted something but didn't want to say what it was - he was moaning and saying 'I just, I just, I just want, I want... my I want my...'. I knew what he wanted and that he knew he wasn't supposed to ask. He went back to sleep but around 7:30 he got into our bed and he said 'I just want to hold it Mummy, I just want to hold my bottle'.

I told him he could have one last milk and then he had to throw it away and bless him, he did. I could almost hear the funeral march as he walked into the kitchen.

As a reward we're going tomorrow to see his good friend Einstein for lunch and possibly a day in the park, something I'm looking forward to enormously as I've not seen Einstein's Mummy for a month and she always makes me laugh like a train.

She is also somehow involved in this extravaganza for kids which is at the Clapham Grand from 2-5 on Saturday - £10 for a sing and dance-a-thon, face painting and massage for Mums; sounds like a blast.

We'll probably miss it, I feel as though this weekend I'd quite like to spend extra time with my boy as he takes his first steps completely free of the last accoutrements of babyhood. He might need a few cuddles, and me, I'm planning on being in range.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thumb twiddling... and the Peppa Prize

Quick one here - some very amusing responses to the Peppa Pig vs. Thomas debate, however Emily O has won the free DVD because it just makes everyone I know laugh their socks off that I not only have a crush on Daddy Pig but have actually found someone else who has one. Thanks everyone.

So on top of the wonderful world of swearing and potty humour (today he pretended to eat my nose, swallow it and then extract it from his bottom with much laughter) and the sub-world of resistance we have catapulted ourselves into the nightmare world that is Gameboy addiction.

The spud is very keen on computer games and has taken to the games on my phone with the sort of dedication normally seen in spotty teenagers, or perhaps Pixel from LazyTown. Given that we fly a lot and are looking for things to occupy him with on the plane it occurred to us to buy him a cheap old gameboy and a couple of games.

We did this.

He's only 3.

He can now sit for hours making little beeping sounds and wiggling his thumbs and I ask you - is there anything redeeming in this activity at all? He plays outside, he plays with his wooden trains, he loves bubbles and painting and jumping up and down and riding his scooter and... well he loves his Gameboy.

There is something wrong with this; there must be...

Saturday, March 20, 2010 can't catch me...

What I really needed to do this weekend was rest up and play with my son. What I actually ended up doing was going on a Reebok PR jaunt to trial the new Reetone shoes. I wasn't planning on blogging about this today but after 45 minutes walking around in them, my legs are killing me.

The first thing the spud said to me when I got home wasn't "Hello Mummy" it was "Let's make gingerbread!". I keep forgetting that he's not a goldfish, he has a memory like a steel trap and even though we've not made gingerbread for ages, he's clearly spent some time selecting this activity from the list of possible tarifs I might usefully be expected to pay out.

What I love is how things like this show changes in him; last time he was content to stamp out shapes and claw them, broken, to the biscuit tray. Now he carefully wiggles the cutter until he's got the dough out intact - or he did until I made the critical error of letting him eat a broken bit of dough. The next half a dozen biscuits he cut out were, sadly, broken.

I learned something else about him today which is that he has entered the magical world of swearing; apparently I am a poo face with a bum-bum on it. What I learned about me is that I still think this is actually quite funny. We made a few poo-shaped dough-balls and then he ate them. I went 'eugh' a lot and he killed himself laughing.

After we baked them we all sat down and scarfed back a bucket-load of gingerbread and then I magicked some dinner into him and put him in the bath where he spent some time pretending to do poos and cracking up.

I've been looking at my computer for several minutes now trying to work out a funny closing line but my legs hurt, my tummy hurts and I rather think I need to drag myself into bed next to my nice warm frog.

Night night.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How I learned to hate Thomas the Tank Engine and Love Peppa Pig

It's no secret that I hate Thomas the Tank Engine. I hate most moralising children's shows but I reserve particular venom for Thomas despite the fact I loved the stories when younger and have seen a marvelous stage show.

Thomas and his friends are a whiny bunch of disobedient brats; everything about them is gloomy and miserable and tedious. There is no joy and to top it off, every new series has half-a-dozen pointless new characters crow-barred in solely for the merchandising opportunity.

I hate Thomas which is not to say that we don't own quite a lot of Thomas kit. It's unavoidable and part of the reason why I have a particularly soft spot for other, less overtly commercial offerings; 'Pingu', for example, 'Miu Mao' the fabulous Italian claymation cats; and Peppa Pig.

Years ago a friend of mine informed me that her three-year-old son loved Peppa Pig and I was slightly bemused as to why a boy would like a show focused on a pink girl-pig but the moment the spud was old enough to watch TV I understood. Peppa, like Pingu and the cats, is all about fun; there is no harsh moral. Sometimes someone might be a little bit naughty, often things go a bit wrong but there's no breast-beating; only kindness and funny and pigs falling about laughing.

I love Peppa Pig. In fact, I may possibly have just the teeniest tiniest crush on Daddy Pig, as it happens.

We already have two Peppa DVDs - it was Peppa who informed my spud that Santa comes down the chimney; Peppa who showed him that it is OK to jump into a muddy puddle and Peppa who makes him laugh at me every time we hear that Peppa's Mummy loves her computer.

We probably wouldn't have bought the latest DVD however having been given it for review, I have to say that if you have a boy who loves Peppa or who hasn't met her yet, this is officially your DVD. It's called 'Peppa Pig: The Fire Engine and other stories' and in it, Peppa goes on a train, a fire engine, a rocket and there's even a pirate episode. Seriously, all she needs to do now is to go on a bus and an airplane and the spud might never watch anything again. Until he's buying porn on the internet in 10 years time, that is.

Oh, and by the way, the nice Peppa Pig folks have given me an extra copy of "Peppa Pig: The Fire Engine" to pass on to one of you if you can tell me in 20 words or so why you love Peppa (or hate Thomas) and make me laugh in the process - UK format only, I believe.

I only have one copy to give away though so funniest wins, as judged by me and a team of Mummy mates, next Friday.