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Monday, 17 December 2007


The craziness of the Lloyd household just got crazier. Countdown to Christmas is now well underway. We know *exactly* how many days it is until Christmas day because it is the first thing we learn each morning, as we struggle to heave open our eye lids to the sound of Eden's crystal clear tones announcing it. There are also three advent calendars on the go, only one of which contains chocolate (mistake). We've had the school nativity play, enhanced in general entertainment value enormously by the school's insistence (quite rightly) that each and every child should play a part. Hence we were bedazzled by 15 angels, several score sheep and cows, 10 narrators (including the lovely Eden) and ooh, about 50 shepherds. I'm pleased to say they stuck to the script and allowed only one Mary, one Joseph, one Baby Jesus and one star. Back in the real (but far less fun and interesting) world, the same week saw the endless round of Christmas parties, which I saw through in hardcore dedication to the cause of... well, partying. By the third morning after, the concept of Having Fun combined with being a parent of three small children was, admittedly, wearing ever so slightly thin. But I have photographic evidence of dancing till the wee hours to seventies funk music and yes, I'm proud of it. Somewhere between the partying and the usual rush to the end of the year attempt to achieve one's bonusable targets at work, there have been 120 christmas cards to buy and write, what seems like hundreds of presents to buy and wrap (next year I am doing it *all* on the Internet, I swear), and catering to organise for the rounds of Christmas guests. So, yes, I am looking forward to the holidays.... Just as soon as I finish reducing the 292 emails in my inbox and writing this 5,000 word article for the journal Library Trends on the future of publishing. Why did I say I'd do that?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

I Hold My Hands Up

I have been a Very Bad Blogger. It has been two weeks since I last posted. Here's why. First of all, we took off for a long weekend jaunt to Welsh Wales, home of the in-laws, sheep and endless rain, but not, it seems of WiFi or even of mobile phone signals. The Crackberry was all but useless, which did a great deal to restore familial relations, but which did nothing for my resulting workload on our return and of course made it impossible to blog remotely. As we waved the in-laws goodbye and set off back to the M4 through the grey, slanting rain, I felt a tickle at the back of my throat, a dull, achey sensation in my limbs and a fogginess settling into my head. You've guessed it, it was the onset of flu, which, by the time we reached home six hours later was making itself known all too clearly. Well, what do you expect after a weekend in the Welsh rain? I spent the next three days largely in bed, accompanied only by a hot water bottle and occasional random members of my immediate family. Since then, I have emerged from under the duvet but only to stagger to the computer and back to make feeble attempts at working. This bug is a virulent pestilence and I wish it gone. I'll let you know when I'm back in business. Sniff. Cough. Urgh.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Why it is All Worth It

Have been trapped in a nightmarish parallel universe in which I am unable to stop cleaning up projectile vomit from the walls, floors and furniture and I am woken on the hour each night by wailing children, usually covered from head to toe in... you've guessed it, projectile vomit. Oh, the Joys of Parenthood. Those pastoral visions in which you float about in a flowery, fifties-style frock dishing out home-baked gingerbread men seem somehow so naive in the middle of the night as you wring out the third cot sheet of the night over the bath. But I still wished I could stay with the miserable creatures as I instead joined the world of publishing and the media again this morning, which today was busy getting itself into quite a lather over the launch of Amazon's Kindle. Of course, staying out (stupidly) late dancing to celebrate Keely's 36th Birthday on Saturday night didn't do much to relieve the exhaustion caused by the night time hourly sick-clearing. I stand firmly by my philosophy not to let being a parent get in the way of some occasional adult fun, but sometimes, I really do pay the price. But this evening, Eden reminded me of why it is all worth it. She was extemporising over dinner about how much better it would be if one could remain a child forever (I know, existential angst, aged 6) when she remarked, "If you could go back to being a kid again, Mummy, I'd choose you to be my best friend at school, and I'd sit next to you every day and I'd always choose you to sit on Top Table* with me at lunch time, cos I can't imagine having a better friend than you." Sometimes I can't reconcile her version of me ("Best Mummy in the World") with mine ("Crabby, exhausted, left-over-after-work-on-no-sleep Mummy"). I am going to enjoy it while I can, though, because I know it already; I'm going look back at this when she's fifteen and I'm going to cry.

* a privilege to reward good behaviour at Eden's school.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Sick House

The two wee ones, Nath (two and three quarters) and Ava (one), have been sick. Sick, sick, sick. Last night when I walked through the front door, Nath quite literally collapsed into my arms, feverishly hot, and curled his little body, foetus-like, into mine, his damp head sticking to my neck, his breathing loud and rasping. I sat there like that, clasping him close to me, my coat still on, for a good half an hour, while Ava, who was also starting to go down with the same nasty cold, stood shakily, clinging on to my knees and crying loudly, competing for a cuddle. As I sat there I honestly felt I might cry for the love of them. And for the guilt I felt for having been away all day. And for the feeling of not knowing which one to pick up and comfort first. There is only one good thing about sick children, and that is that they become very, very cuddly and affectionate. Actually, there's one other good thing: they make you suddenly feel like a healing goddess, as if by your mere presence you can make them feel better. When I walked through the front door tonight, Nathan ran up to me, full of beans, asking for a lolly. How things can improve in the space of 24 hours. That's the great thing about kids; they can really bounce back.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Tres Bella

Last week was the Week Of Waiting. Waiting for my brother's first child to enter the world; for my kids' first cousin on my side of the family to emerge. We were all bloody impatient about the arrival, so goodness knows how impatient my bro, Matt, and wife, Becky were feeling. On Monday night a gang of us took our kids out to the firework display in Crystal Palace, where we met up with Matt and Becky and a group of their pals. It was funny observing them as they poured scorn on the poor standard of the display with their mates, while the Mums and Dads amongst us simply vicariously enjoyed the excitement of our kids, who are all still young enough to enjoy fireworks of pretty much any variety, especially if it means staying up really late and standing in a field in the dark with all their schoolfriends and eating popcorn. We whooped and cheered almost every firework, whilst the non-parent gang started to boo in disappointment. It highlighted to me just how their lives were about to change so radically - and so much for the better. But that was Monday night, and they were still living on The Other Side. Looking back, it was ironic, as apparently Becky's contractions had already started, and by the next day they were well on their way to parenthood. Early on Wednesday morning, after a wonderfully straightforward labour (thank goodness, and lucky for her!), Becky gave birth to the most beautiful little baby girl, Abigail Bella. My brother rang me in the middle of the night to tell me, with that typical new father tone in his voice, part euphoric, part adrenalin-fuelled, part phased, part excited, part wonderment. It was lovely to hear. Holding my new niece in my arms later that day I was so delighted for them, so in love with her, so .... well, just so relieved that the birth part was over, that Becky had got through it relatively unscathed, that the baby was OK and that finally, now, they might just begin to understand and to know the earth-shatteringly positive difference that being a parent can bring to your life. Fireworks will never be the same again. They'll just always be wonderful, even if they are just a few squiddly ones in the back garden, because they'll always be seen through the eyes of the children.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

House Husband Heaven

This blog is all about being a mum of three and somehow holding down a job in publishing at the same time. Every now and then I mention a chap called Paul, who is my husband of thirteen years, and who has taken the route less travelled as a house husband, at first rather begrudgingly - for largely economic reasons rather than by personal choice - and latterly with a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication and energy and humility. It has undoubtedly been difficult for all of us living this reversal of traditional roles, and I think both of us have done our fair share of moaning, but it has also been rather wonderful. Our children have spent a great deal of time with their Dad, which is something many of us didn't get as children; I've been enabled to continue to follow a career that I love; Paul has learned how to cook (finally, at 50); I have forgotten how to use a washing machine (a liberation with which I am quite delighted), and through flexible working hours and a four day working week I still also manage to squeeze in a considerable amount of time with my kids while - just about - managing to continue to pay the mortgage. The challenge for Paul has been to find some work which he finds worthwhile and fun and which he can fit in around the need for him to manage the majority of the childcare. Last week he started just such a job, working part-time for a friend who runs a gardening business. You should have seen him on Friday morning as he virtually skipped down the drive in his work clothes. And later, when he returned home, all sweaty and muddy, he was so, so happy it nearly made me cry. It brought home to me how much he has sacrificed to stay at home with the children. Work can give you a sense of purpose and definition in the world. It is very empowering to be free to go and do work that you enjoy. Paul hasn't had that for quite a while, but he's given me the ability to go off to work unworried, knowing my children are in the best and safest hands they can be in. And now, just on Fridays when I am at home with the kids, he'll get a little slice of the same.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

This is The Cake. Judge for yourselves. Yes, I know, I should really stick to digital publishing. But Eden loved it ;-)

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


I've come back to work for bit of a rest this week, after the half term holiday juggling and the Weekend Of The Sixth Birthday Party. All went off without a hitch, apart from a few banged heads on the bouncy castle, but not without some impressive military-style planning orchestrated by Kath Bower (Eden's best friend's Mum and co-party-planner), as well as a great deal of help from the angelic sister-in-law, Becky (who indulged in much baby-cuddling and toddler entertaining while I was indisposed, despite being a full nine months pregnant and indeed looking very much as if she might deliver the baby any moment now), the ever-helpful (and beautiful and - yes - clearly slightly mad) cuz Melanie (I say mad, cos she's young, free and single and yet willingly spends whole weekends with me and my kids) and the possibly slightly even more insane but very loveable Ed. Oh, and the cake! Well, it looked *vaguely* like a princess castle. At least, Eden and her friends were pretty convinced of this (which was the important thing) and thought it was 'fantastic', though Kath did mumble something about Madonna's tits, and I'm sure someone else made reference to the Millenium Dome at one point.... Still, it resolutely stuck together, the 'turrets' did not slide off the top (due to the engineering skills of Mel, who patented the toothpicks-as-internal-scaffolding concept over the weekend), Eden enjoyed decorating it (flamboyantly) with lots of pink stuff, and it actually tasted really quite nice. The answer lay in the end not in Annabel Karmel (Good. I never liked her anyway) but in customising the one cake recipe I know (the good old chocolate fudge) and adding a dash of inventiveness (swiss roll turrets with ice cream cone spires, covered in lashings of icing). Pix to come soon....

Friday, 26 October 2007

Baking challenge

Just because I like to make life difficult for myself (it's The Guilt, you know) I've promised Eden that we can spend Sunday morning baking a cake for her 6th (gasp!) Birthday party in the afternoon. Of course, the real mistake I made was asking her what kind of cake she'd like. "A pink princess castle cake, with a Barbie princess on the top of it just like the one in The Princess and the Pauper'", she replied. There are clearly downsides to having highly creative, imaginative children, like the fact that they never just answer a question like, "What kind of birthday cake would you like?" with something simple like, "Ooh, a nice chocolate one would be perfect", which would be far more convenient, as chocolate fudge cake is the only thing I know how to bake. Sigh. So I've spent a more than proper amount of time on the Internet this afternoon hunting the perfect princess castle cake recipe. As of 9.33pm this evening I still haven't found one that doesn't assume a great deal more baking and cake-decorating experience than I can ever hope to attain. I am starting to panic, just slightly.My only hope lies in Annabel Karmel, that kitchen-goddess-of-a-mother and setter-of-standards-that-real-life-mums-can-never-hope-to-achieve. Normally, I hate the silly cow, natch. But this weekend, she might just save my bacon with The Complete Party Planner, which, Amazon reliably informs me, features a recipe for failproof princess party cake. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Clog cleanse

I had the most wonderful day yesterday. Noticing that my diary was clear of meetings (minor miracle) I decided to take a day at home to clear an email backlog that was starting to make me blush. I had over 300 emails unread and more than 450 in total in my inbox. After about six or seven hours solid work opening, responding, filing or deleting I had reduced the number to a manageable 32 and was able to breathe at last. The feeling of relief was palpable. A weight was lifted from my shoulders. Seems to me, email clog is the digital equivalent to scum around the bath, dirt in your toe nails or an uncompleted tax return. Cleaning it up, sorting it out, is a boring but necessary task which, once done, imbues you with a sense of satisfaction and liberation that is not really directly proportional to the achievement itself. It's just something that has to be done to prevent that 'out of control' feeling. So liberated was I, that I decided finally to spend a precious half an hour or so getting myself set up on facebook. Everyone's been nagging me about it for ages and the rebel in me resisted joining in with yet another 'craze'. But I have finally succumbed. And I'm already hooked. Especially since I've been able to import my blog onto my profile using Flog. Brilliant.

Monday, 22 October 2007


Eden (six) has recently been asking some awkward questions again about death and dying. Maybe it was a near accident with a speeding car that brought it on; maybe it's just the fact that her older, more streetwise friend, Jasmine, has been feeding her fertile mind with ghoulish stories in the playground (I think the question, "Will I come alive again as an animal after I die?" followed quickly by, "I don't WANT to come back as an animal!!! I LIKE being me!" might have heralded from one such playground conversation). Whatever the cause, and as much as I've thought about it, I really do think that this discussion is one of the toughest any parent faces. It's coming home to moments like these that really puts some perspective on my day. Problems at work evaporate into thin air in an instant. There are just no easy answers, and suddenly, the sense that one is 'managing quite well, all things considered' as a parent, disintegrates. Even if you are religious and believe in an afterlife, this assurance doesn't always work for children. Eden has heard about Heaven but she doesn't like the sound of it. "And before you say anything, Mummy," she announced to me when the subject last came up, "I don't want to go to Heaven, either. I don't LIKE Heaven. I like it here, in our house!!"And I don't think beginning to read Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach" tonight was the greatest idea, either. Especially when James's parents are eaten by a marauding rhinoceros in the streets of London on Page One. (Why, oh why, had I forgotten that *quite* memorable detail??!) So, how to make death seem far off and trivial and unfrightening without lying? Answers on a postcard please to Traumatised Mummy.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

The wanderer returns

Hello again. Sorry. It's been a while, I know. It's taken a few emails and concerned enquiries along the lines of, "What's happened to babyjuggler? Is she ill?" to spur me to write again. Thing is, I've just been a teensy weensy bit busy. My after work routine has been reduced to: stagger through front door, eat supper with kids, prop eyes open with matchsticks whilst bathing them, reading to them and putting them all to bed, collapse in stupour on sofa and watch some TV, be led by the hand up to bed by my ever-sympathetic husband. Blogging somehow was the last thing on my list of things to do and always slipped gently off the list round about 9pm each evening as I wandered wearily past the computer on my way upstairs to bed.
In my last post I blogged about the planning I was doing for my ex-CEO's leaving bash. The night before last, it all went off, seemingly, without a hitch. Over 350 people turned up, there was a great buzz, the band really rocked, the drinks didn't run out, all the gifts were ready in time, the food was good and, most importantly of all, it seems the main man had a great time. Phew.
Quite a lot of other things have happened since my last post. Firstly, we announced the appointment of our new CEO: Annette Thomas. Annette is a mere snip of a girl at only 42, but she has all the stature and dynamism and creativity and sheer ballsiness that will be required to do the job. She's also a brilliant publisher and, more importantly, she's really nice. Oh, and she has FOUR KIDS. So babyjuggler has a lot to live up to, but really, what better precedent could there be?
Apart from that, Paul and I managed to slip in a romantic weekend away in Paris - sans children (yes! Can you believe it?) - more on that anon; I attended the Frankfurt Book Fair; I celebrated my 36th birthday (quite drunkenly but this time WITHOUT falling over) and I squeezed in some work and a bit of QT with my kids somewhere along the way. So, there you are. Do you forgive me now for the radio silence?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Fire Fighting

Picture this. I'm in a sealed room and the water is rising around me. It's up to my nose now, so I'm straining my head upwards to keep the water from drowning me. That's the dream I had last night. Not too difficult to analyse that one. As a colleague said to me today, "Just keep up the fire fighting".
Fire; water; it's the same difference. At work I'm juggling a quite absurd array of diverse projects and dealing with a lot of other people's stress. Some of the other people's stress seems, quite frankly, meaningless. Meanwhile, at home, Eden has had a tummy bug and been off school; there have been hysterics every evening as we've all sat down for dinner whilst she has plain white toast for the umpteenth time. Nathan started nursery today; he settled in relatively well, but Paul found it quite emotional separating from him for the first time, and called me in tears after he'd dropped him off. Ava is probably the sanest one of all of us. She's popping teeth like there's no tomorrow, though, so she can get pretty noisy.
In amongst the absurd range of projects, I'm organising the small matter of the leaving party for my CEO (I blogged about his departure here). The logistics are quite mind-boggling, with staff being flown in from all over the place to wish him well, coaches to be laid on to bring in people from non-London offices, RSVPs to be logged, entertainment to be booked, decisions to be made about the number of warm / cold / meat / vegetarian canapes to be ordered, catering and cloaks staff hired for the evening, cars arranged for the VIPs, flowers for the reception viewed and approved, PA system hired, etc, etc. On the train to and from work, I'm squeezing in arrangements for my daughter's rather less ambitious sixth birthday party. I just hope I don't get muddled and order the pirates and princesses storyteller for my CEO's bash and have the champagne delivered to the six year olds ;-)

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Can someone please give me a sweetie?

Yesterday this announcement was made, and Richard Charkin, probably the single most inspirational force in my career, departed his role as CEO of Macmillan, where I work. To say this saddens me would be the understatement of the year. I can't remember a single meeting with him when he hasn't challenged me, motivated me and frustrated the hell out of me, usually all at the same time. Richard has this capacity to inject energy into every project he touches, to enthuse and empower people to work harder, faster and better, to push through innovation and change, to shout loudly (and generally pretty eloquently) about unfairness, sloppiness and, well, crapness of any sort. He's the most sought-after speaker at just about any event because he always has something interesting, thought-provoking and contrary to say. Despite the appearance of being wedded to his job, he clearly loves his family and has always been hugely supportive of working mums like me and the balancing act we have to manage (just as long as we continued to do our jobs well!), as evidenced by references on his blog such as this. Since he became a Grandfather, I noticed he even liked to compare pics of the kids. On the down side, he has terrible ADD, so much so that he'd probably get bored before he reached the end of this sentence and find it too much bother to read it all the way through (I say this in only the most affectionate way). Whatever his faults, to me, and to lots of others who work at Macmillan, Richard has come to evoke the spirit of the place. It just won't be the same without him.
Today, a vanishing act of equally devastating proportions affected my almost-six-year-old daughter Eden. Her beloved 'Moo Moo' went missing for several hours. By the time I returned home the search had reached epic proportions (Paul had started emptying the bins out) and the hysterics had reached fever pitch (that was just Paul; you should have heard Eden). I rashly promised Eden that I would 'definitely' find Moo-Moo; that she wasn't to worry; that I'd give her a sweetie if she stopped wailing (I already had a terrible headache). Suffice to say, I did find Moo-Moo, and to Eden it is already as if it never happened. I wish someone could offer me a sweetie and make everything better.

Monday, 24 September 2007

OK, so maybe having three children is a BIT mad

I know I've vented on this blog before about people (especially Londoners) treating you like a freak for having three kids. OK, so it means you have more children than you have hands, say, or eyes. OK, so the kids outnumber the parents. OK, so it's just not as neat and tidy and compartmentalised as having two. But I like it, OK? I like the mess, the chaos, the general zooishness of home with three kids in it. I like the ever-changing dynamics between the kids. I like it when they all laugh together; when they invent games together; when they sing and dance round the living room together. Lately, however, I've been beginning to realise why perhaps so many people pursuing careers as well as trying to maintain family lives stop at one or two. Having three kids seems to have tipped me over the edge on the control front. Over the last week I've been desperately trying to get back on top of an overburdened email inbox and attempting to start at 5,000 word article on the future of publishing for a US-based journal at the same time as managing Ava's first birthday celebrations, circumnavigating the world of children's entertainers (in preparation for Eden's sixth celebrations), planning Nathan's start at nursery and trying to stay on top of Eden's new school requirements (in Year 1 they get Homework and have things called School/Home Contact Books and have to learn Spellings. Yikes). Things crystallised further tonight as I picked up some random hair clips of Eden's from the bathroom floor and mused, for the millionth time, on where all the missing hair clips go. It's the same with missing socks and the tiny parts from toys. These all seem like small things, I know, but the cumulative effect of not being in control of all these seemingly insignificant things adds weight to the other more serious challenges. Maybe it was having No 3 that sent me over the edge. Or maybe it was child No 3 that just stopped me from being a hideous control freak. Instead I am only a mild control freak. Or something. A Mum pal was regaling me the other day about how she carefully pairs all the socks for her and her kids, but refuses to do this for her partner. He throws them on opposite sides of the room when he takes them off, so he doesn't deserve the full sock-pairing service, she reasons. If only I ever got round to pairing any socks! Sigh.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Don't call Social Services.... Yet

Deepening even my usual levels of guilt and misapprehension about my abilities as a mother, the last week has featured an alarming number of accidents. First, when Ava broke out in an all-over body rash the day before her first birthday party, I decided that she ought to be taken to the doctors for a once-over before exposing all her baby pals (and my pregnant friends and relations) to some dread disease. Of course, I instinctively felt it was probably nothing to worry about - probably teething rash - but still..... The rash was indeed nothing to worry about and the day would have ended happily, were it not for the fact that Ava liked the doctor so much that she thought she'd launch herself at him with her full force. She missed the doctor but made startlingly forceful contact with the corner of his desk, giving herself a very impressive, bloody, black eye. The party pics are somewhat marred by the obvious attempt not to show her right eye in any of them. During the party, Eden was attacked by the leg of our garden swing, which jumped up and landed on her little toe. "It isn't real, so it didn't know what it was doing", she said in its defence. Later that evening, I laid Ava on our bed with a warm bottle of milk while I rummaged for some clean pyjamas for her. In the space of a nanosecond she had sat bolt upright and dived head first off the bed onto the floor. The bang as she hit the floor in our second floor bedroom was so loud that Paul heard it on the ground floor. The blood-curdling screams that followed were so loud that half the street heard. Paul wasn't entirely convinced by my rationalising reassurances, "If she's screaming it's a good sign; I'd be more concerned if she'd gone quiet..."
"Don't worry," comforted my Dad, later. "It reminds me of how I dropped you on the floor a few times when you were a baby. Once, I dropped you head first on a concrete station platform! Ha! Ha!" Hmmmm, I'm not sure we should be entirely comforted by that.....

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Supermummy for a Day (well, at least five minutes)

So, we had the party for Ava on Saturday. I am only just recovering. The weekend started well, with a shopping spree with girly pals for new shoes (I'm attending a black tie event on Weds - work thing - and s'funny, but somehow I just didn't have quite the right shoes to go with the red Karen Millen dress I'm borrowing. Well, I saved on the dress, so I could justify new shoes, right? If girly pals are to be believed, they are more than justifed; I deserved them!! Well, what are girly pals for if not for generally making one feel better?) Anyhoo, once shoe spree completed, I squeezed in a haircut before grabbing a fish and chip supper with the kids, cuddling them all into bed, and it was off to Sainsburies for me to shop for the party food. After a somewhat self-indulgent day, dragging the children in my wake, I was of course consumed by The Guilt, and so breezed past the tempting array of beautifully presented Cakes For All Occasions and on to pick up eggs, caster sugar, cooking chocolate and piping icing. Yes! Dammit. I might bugger off to work four days a week, I might sneak in a haircut on my day off when supposed to be making papier mache models with the kids (or something), and Ava might be my third, attention-starved child, but she was damn well going to have a home-baked cake and - be impressed, be very impressed - some home-made puff pastry tarts to go with it. Shopping packed away, I stumbled into bed and set the alarm early in readiness for the baking extravaganza to follow the next morning. The party was at 3pm on Saturday. I started tidying and cooking and preparing and baking at 9am and it was all done by about 2.45pm. Mainly, I enjoyed doing it. Ava sat in her highchair in the kitchen and watched me perform my whirlwind routine with mild amusement, banging plastic spoons together. Nathan ran in and out of the garden grabbing spoonfuls of chocolate icing. Eden went off to another party with Paul (better social life than me). But I did ask myself a few times, "Why did I feel the need to spend my day doing this? To put myself under this extra pressure to Produce Something, to Perform?" I guess the answer's obvious. It became clear when I brought the cake out into the sunshine of the garden, the single candle lit, everyone singing Happy Birthday to my little Ava. Just for a moment I felt like a Proper Mum. And it felt really good.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Importance of Being One and a Princely Reward

At 10.05 yesterday morning a small tear found its way down my cheek as I sat in the garden and contemplated the moment that precisely one year previously my baby daughter Ava entered this world. Sniffing, I stood up to throw Nathan down the slide for the umpteenth time, told myself not to be such a sentimental old fool, and the time ticked on. Ava was entering her second year already, and she didn't even know it. Ava was napping upstairs, gloriously unaware of the poignancy of the moment. Ava was busy growing a new tooth, and that was far more important; or at least, it was far more attention-grabbing, evidenced by a red, snot-streaked face and a great deal of grizzling for the rest of the day. When my eldest daughter Eden reached one, we threw a huge party for friends and family. The celebration was more for us than it was for her; we were New Parents and we had survived Year One! What is more we had done it without any really major disaster and people thought we were doing an OK job of it! People told me that this was a quite normal and acceptable eccentricity of New Parents, but that by child 2 or 3 we'd have given up on the 1st birthday parties. We'd be too exhausted - or too cool about the whole surviving-the-first-year-thing - to bother. That has not turned out to be the case, however. We are equally if not perhaps more delighted to have survived Year One of Baby No 3. Perhaps because it seems even more of a mini miracle this time around. Once you throw gallumphing toddler brothers and older sisters with a dressing-up fetish into the mix, and when you survey the mind-boggling array of completely un-baby-friendly health-and-safety-hazards of toys strewn daily on the floor and immediately in baby's path, it's an absolute wonder that any third child reaches its first birthday. So, yes, we are throwing another party this year. I may even go so far as to bake a cake (or at least, I will buy the very best chocolatey one from Marks & Spencers).
What was a bit different this time around, was that on the evening of Ava's 1st birthday I celebrated in a Very Special Way. I don't think I need say more to any female of my generation than this: Prince. At the O2. In gold pants. Dancing. And singing his soul out. Just for me. And shaking his stuff. Brilliant.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Why Sometimes Group Hugs Can Be Dangerous

Take half a dozen School Gate Mums, at the end of the school holidays, quantities of red and white wine and Hoegarden beer and a late night cocktail bar, mix with equal quantities of over-enthusiasm at being out of the house AT NIGHT Without The Children, some lary hip-hop music and a nationwide smoking ban and what do you get? Well, in Friday night's case you get a group hug gone wrong. In our defence the streets around our local cocktail bar are particularly precipitous. On the other hand, you can't help feeling pretty foolish when a group hug out on the street ends with everyone involved sprawled across the floor sporting cuts, bruises and broken glasses! That's what happened on Friday night. I have the injuries to prove it. And do you know what, I think we were all less than secretly proud of our little fall. It kinda proved that even though 99.9999% of the time we are all pretty responsible, upstanding members of society with Jobs and Children, we can still be as silly as can be. Just sometimes.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

On the home straight

Two more days till Back To School. I've taken the day off, giving myself a long weekend before the momentous day, in order to search Eden's wardrobe from her school uniform, check what, if anything, still fits her (her legs and arms both seem to have grown by about an inch over the summer), buy her new shoes (she's gone up one and a half sizes over the same period), put name labels in everything, search out the book bag and the PE kit, blitz her room so that we can actually find our way to the wardrobe each morning... and get a final few hours of QT in with her before she enters Year 1 and goes all Grown Up on me. The day off has coincided with something of a hangover, post celebrations last night with the lovely Anna and Keely, two oldest and bestest mates. Anna has just had her first short story published in a collection called 'Is This What You Want?', published by Bloomsbury and the Asham Trust, and very proud of her we were too: our friend, a Published Author! As I lay suffering somewhat this morning with a red wine headache and the impact of far too little sleep, Eden crawled into bed with me and whispered, "Y'see, you shouldn't have gone out last night because now you're all tired, you silly monkey!" Whereupon she cuddled up to me and contemplatively stroked my head till I dozed off. It's one thing when your five year old seems to have maturity beyond her years; quite another when she seems to have maturity beyond your own!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Scraping the barrel

Second week back at work after the holiday at home, and it's the last week of Eden's school holidays. Summer (and I use that term in its broadest sense after the dismal weather we've had this year) is sliding inexorably into Autumn, and already things are picking up a gear again at work as people return from their vacations and start looking towards 'back to university' season for academic books and the Christmas craziness that engulfs the mass market book trade each year. Meanwhile, as the pace picks up at work, I sense an increased stir-craziness amongst my family after seven weeks knocking about together in the same small south east London semi. Paul (put-upon house husband) has the air of someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Three kids all at home, no money and endless rain for seven weeks can do that to a person. He regards me slightly helplessly as I arrive home to survey the blue poster pain all over the cream sofa, the raisins and biscuit crumbs trampled into the floor and the general air of chaos that pervades. Last night he commented simply, 'I need a holiday'. The children are also restless. Trailing up the street after me in the mornings in their pyjamas, toast in hand, they cry, 'Don't go to work!' in plaintive tones. And it seems when I return in the evening that the mere fact of my arrival tips them over into hysteria. Ava (nearly one) almost always bursts into tears the moment I walk through the door - as if my sudden presence shocks her into the realisation that I have been absent for most of the day. Nathan (2 1/2) usually spends the next 20 minutes leaping all over me, legs flailing in all directions, irrespective of whether they are coming into frequent contact with both his sisters' heads. Eden (5 1/2) attempts to squeeze in a cuddle between the more raucous administrations of her siblings. And then we move on to the family supper, during which Ava cries every time I leave the room to fetch something from the kitchen, Nathan spreads his food liberally anywhere that doesn't involve his mouth and Eden again attempts to tell me about her day - generally without once being allowed to get to the end of a sentence. It's the price I pay for going to the work - a sense that the bit of the day I get to spend with my kids is the dreggy part; the bottom of the barrel. Thank goodness for three-day weekends!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Kid lag

Hello. I'm back on the blog. Y'know when I said the blog might be 'intermittent' over the holidays? Well, I lied. Turned out both in order to truly relax and to save my marriage from imminent disaster my unhealthy relationship with the laptop had to go. The Crackberry got less attention than usual, too. I didn't even read a newspaper. This was all to the good and I returned to work this week full of vim and vigour (or something). Only problem was, I'd tuned out so effectively from the 'real world', things seemed slightly surreal on my return. I'd immersed myself completely into that eternal summer holiday vibe that children seem to generate during the long break, where the days seem to go on forever, there's really nothing to rush for, no schedule is required, only fun must be had, and bedtimes retreat to a later and later point each evening. It's taken a couple of days back in the office to remember exactly what is I'm supposed to do there, and exactly why I do it. As a colleague sweetly put it today, "You don't have jet lag, you have 'kid lag'".

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Holiday at home

It's day two of my 'holiday at home'. I'm taking two weeks off, but the severe cash crisis caused by one year's worth of reduced (maternity) pay over the last two years is preventing us jetting off somewhere sunny. Thus it's a good job that a bit of sunshine has finally arrived in the UK. It's going to be an interesting experiment, seeing whether 'a change is as good as a rest.' I have this suspicion that spending two weeks at home looking after three children will definitely feel like a change, but almost certainly not feel 'as good as a rest'! We're going to be hanging out around the parks and cafes of south east London, poddling about in the back garden and maybe making a day trip or two to the seaside. Eden (5 1/2) is simply delighted to have me at home. Exotic holidays interest her not one jot. It just about kills me when she exclaims, "That was the best day EVER!', after accompanying me around Sainsburies and then going for a cycle ride in Dulwich Park. Oh, to be so easily pleased again! One thing I've noticed already is how much more I notice the little incremental changes in the kids when I'm hanging out at home with them. Nathan (2 1/2) is really growing into a little tyke; he pushes the boundaries just a little further each day. And quite how he ends each day smeared in mud, covered in poster paint and bedecked with bruises and cuts I really don't know. Ava (11 months now) has somehow managed to sprout six teeth in the course of the last couple of weeks (accompanied by much wailing, pooing and, yes, gnashing of teeth!) and suddenly seems to be attempting to crawl, stand up and talk all at once. The blog may be rather intermittent over the next couple of weeks. I may not be getting much rest, but I'm going to give it a damned good try!

Sunday, 5 August 2007


Have seen off nits. Hurrah! We are on the alert now, though, in case they return. In triumphant mode, we made the mistake of going out partying on Saturday night. V. stupid. The dancing in the street part was really good fun, but it went downhill from there. Got in 2.30am; got to bed 3.30am; first child woke - having a nightmare - 3.45am; came into bed with us and kicked us alternately in the backs until 4.30am; thereupon second child woke for a bottle and woke third child with the screaming; first child settled back into bed 5am; everyone else back to sleep for an hour, and then.... it was 6am. MORNING! Very, very tired. Something blog-worthy soon, I promise x

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Nits cause radio silence

OK, this is going to sound totally pathetic, but the nits have now literally taken over my life. You'll have to excuse the radio silence over the last few days, but blogging simply couldn't compete with lice-killing. The infestation reached magnificent proportions this week as we proved the ultimate closeness of our family by each and every one of us succumbing to the nasty things one by one. Apparently, head lice cannot jump and are only passed from person to person by physical contact between heads. I promise you, even though we do love each other dearly, we really don't spend all our time rubbing our heads together. Nonetheless, the damned things have slithered and crawled their way from head to head, or whatever it is they do. Last night I lost my rag with the daily process of washing, conditioning and combing every single family members' hair on a daily basis. Bedtimes have been receding and mornings getting earlier and earlier to accomodate the processes involved. Time relaxing on the sofa has all but disappeared. Exasperated, I sent Paul out to buy the strongest nit-killing potion he could find. His deeply buried hunter-gatherer instincts exploded into action and he came home heroically bearing several metric tonnes of 'Hedrin', which we applied en masse last night. Having drowned the critters in the stuff, washed everyone's hair this morning (twice), and put every piece of bedding in the house through the wash, we now look forward with eager anticipation to round 2 in a week's time (this is 'critical' according to the instructions, if one is to avoid further 'infestation'). Oh, I also went to work today and did all sorts of stuff between lice-killing sessions. But the lice story just struck me as more entertaining. Or, at least weirder. Thinking about it, maybe I should have thought about another topic.... Hmmm.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

The nits have landed

Oh, the shame! Two days ago as I stroked Eden's hair away from her face my fingers brushed across some surprisingly tenacious, tiny, hard grey pods attached to individual hairs around her hairline. Uh-oh, I thought. I'd been dreading this moment throughout the school year, as one by one several of her class mates were visited by the dreaded head lice. Eden had been scratching her head for a couple of days now, and I had wondered when we'd finally succumb. Last night, the eggs hatched, and, oh my goodness, I was sooooo not prepared for how this would make me feel...! First off, there's the sheer, unadulterated hatred for these very small creatures quite literally INFESTING your child's head (I couldn't help but cry, "Aha! Got another one of the little buggers!" every time I pulled one from her hair - thus teaching Eden a really cool new word to show off to her friends in the playground - ooops); then there's a degree of shock that such a condition can possibly still exist in the 21st century (shouldn't these things have disappeared with leeches / the plague, etc, some time around the middle ages or so??)... and finally, a rather pleasing sense of victory as you visit death and destruction on them through the wondrous miracle of DERBAC-M and a small plastic comb. Oh, the power! We are still waging war on the little critters, forcing me to rise yet another half hour earlier each morning in order to incorporate the lice-killing into my morning routine before work. Parenting, it's full of surprises, innit?

Monday, 23 July 2007


Last week, two of the most important females in my life made it through significant milestones. On Thursday, my eldest daughter Eden (5 1/2), finished her first year at school, receiving her first 'school report', and my Mum celebrated her retirement, aged 60. Both events reminded me how lucky I am. Both events made me feel proud to be connected to the family from which I come and the family which I am trying to create. Both events made me think about the kind of woman that my Mum tried to help me to become and the kind of girl that I hope I'm now helping my daughter to become. I try to avoid doing the stupidly proud parent thing too often, and so I won't bore you with all the details of Eden's school report. But I will tell you five phrases out of the two page document which left me with that unmistakable glowing feeling: 'independent in making choices'; 'very focused'; 'fun'; 'full of positive energy' and 'helpful towards others'. None of these describe Eden's academic skills, but for me, if Eden can retain these characteristics, they'll be so much more important than the results she'll get as she progresses through school. Listening to my Dad's speech at my Mum's retirement party later the same day, it really came home to me how much of a positive influence my mother has been on my life, and just how hard it will be ever to live up the kind of example she has set for us. Mum is a consistently upbeat, balanced and calm person, rarely ruffled by anything. She is 'formidably intelligent', as my Dad would put it. She can talk the hind leg off a donkey. About anything. She has a frighteningly impressive general knowledge about everything from sport through politics. She is full of life and positive energy. She is happy in her own skin. She is very strong. She is a 'coper'. She makes people feel comfortable. She is full of wisdom. She is a natural 'counsellor'. Mum gave up huge chunks of her life and a potential career in social work to raising my brothers and me when we were small, without so much as a resentful word, despite the fact that she could easily have had a very successful career. Much later on in life, when we were all a great deal older, she made herself an entirely new career in teaching, just like that. The main thing Mum taught me was that I could do anything. The world was my oyster, so why not? She always made me feel secure. She always made me feel loved. She always protected me fiercely in a crisis or a confrontation, but at the same time she taught me to stick up for myself. She taught me a particular brand of 'no-nonsense', 'pull-your-socks-up' Britishness which I'm sure still carries me through many a sticky patch. Importantly, she always offered advice and provided a safety net, but she never made choices for me. She vehemently advocated independence. I wanted to say something at Mum's retirement party but I felt too emotional to make a speech: I wanted to make sure everyone acknowledged that her greatest achievements were in her career as a Mother; in launching us all into the world in such an empowering way. And I know now that Eden's school report reads as it does in large part because my Mum's influence is already extending into the next generation.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Diary therapy

When Eden was born, her arrival was greeted with boundless joy... and soft toys. I'm not certain but I'd be willing to bet that she received more soft toys at birth than many children receive in a life time. Out of the countless soft toys that we laid at the foot of her cot, she chose one particular toy as her 'special' companion: Moo-Moo. Moo-Moo is a red and orange cow from Blossom Farm, which tinkles faintly when you shake it. Since Eden's earliest days, Moo-Moo has gone everywhere with her. At night time, it is only Moo-Moo who will do. Its tail is threadbare from constant fondling. The fabric washing instruction label is long gone. But last week, Eden's new teacher decided, after an incident in which Moo-Moo became temporarily mislaid in the classroom and Eden became temporarily hysterical, that it would be better if from now on, Moo-Moo stayed at home while Eden was in school. In order to help Eden deal with this potential trauma, her teacher has provided her with a home/school 'contact book', in which Eden is to record thoughts and stories about her day to be shared with Moo-Moo when she gets home. The two, A4 page-long eulogies that Eden has so far scribbled in this book will be treasured by Paul and me forever. They'd be 'lost in translation' if I transcribed them here. You have to read them in Eden's five-year-old, shaky, uncertain writing, and you kinda have to know her, too. But suffice to say they made us laugh and cry in almost equal measure. And it occured to me tonight as I was thinking about what I wanted to blog, that blogging is to me what that home/school contact book is for Eden. Both provide a kind of separation therapy using the written word. It's interesting just how much the act of writing in that simple green school exercise book is working for Eden. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


Somebody at work very kindly pointed out that yesterday's post gave the appearance that I was 'blowing my own trumpet' about being a 'top executive'. Err, no. That is sooooo far from how I think of myself that I am quite red-faced at the thought of it. No, I was referring to the character in the Allison Pearson novel, who is the kind of be-suited, top flight city exec that I couldn't possibly hope (or wish, actually) to become. I am merely a struggling digital publisher, which, I can assure you, is pretty low down the food chain of desirable / glamorous jobs by anyone's standards in the trade publishing business, and a would-be (but always failing) supermum.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

"I don't know how she does it"

Today for, oh, about the zillionth time since I had kids and went back to work, a Bright Young Thing said to me "You remind me of that woman in Allison Pearson's 'I don't know how she does it!" I *think* and hope I should take this as a compliment. I hope I'm as humble and as humorous as her character is about the role she plays in life as wife, mother and busy top level executive. If you're a Working Mum like me and you haven't read it yet, get a copy. It's absolutely hilarious and captures to a 'T' some of the absurdities of the modern phenomenon that we have become; largely brought on by the insane pressures that we exert upon ourselves to be perfect in every aspect of our lives.
When the Bright Young Thing enquired, "So, how do you do it?" I thought for a moment, then replied, "It's about the ability to compartmentalise, to switch in and out of work mode and mother mode; it's about having quality childcare in which you can completely trust; it's about not beating yourself up and it's about having a sense of humour as well as perspective."
The perspective thing is really important. When I got home from work today in my usual crumpled state of exhaustion, I almost missed Ava (now 10 months) who was sitting up on the sofa chewing a spoon quite contentedly, I was ignored entirely by Eden (5 1/2) who was playing with her fairy dolls upstairs happily in her room, and was waved to merrily by Nathan (2) who was careering up and down the back garden in a plastic car. It just struck me at that moment how absolutely happy they all are and how assured they seem about the fact that I work. I wish the guilt would go away.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Nice to have known you

It comes to something when people to whom you thought you were really quite close start to comment that they are glad to hear that you've emerged from a rough patch or that you had a good weekend - when actually they only know this because they read it on your blog. I did wonder whether life had started to proceed at such a whirlwind pace that it was all beginning to get slightly out of control, when my very own Dad made just such a comment this weekend. So Dad, if you're reading, I love you. You're the best Dad ever.
The four day break that I just had was in fact a great sanity check in a more general sense. I slowed down pretty much to a snail's pace, hardly glanced once at the Crackberry, drank many cups of tea in various people's back gardens and watched my children prance around half naked in the sunshine watering the plants and each other out of plastic watering cans. Ah, the simple pleasures are the best! Just need to wind myself back up now to face the next onslaught at work. Now that I've been given the go ahead on two big projects I guess I'll actually have to get working to achieve them...

Friday, 6 July 2007

Keep on keeping up

The last two weeks have now merged in my mind into one mental, headlong rush towards Wednesday, when the latter of my two major deadlines at work culminated in a meeting at which one of the project teams I have been leading presented its proposals to our steering committee. The meeting went exceptionally well, and the sense of relief afterwards was palpable. I'd already booked an extra day off for the day after, so the journey home from work Wednesday night felt all the sweeter as I headed south into a four day break with my family. One important aspect of this mini-break is that I have made absolutely no concrete plans for filling it; I felt that I needed a bit of free-form time. And it's only now, on the second day in to my break, that I've realised how much the last two weeks I simply 'survived' rather than 'lived'. When you have so much on your plate you just keep going; you 'keep on keeping on'. But what also happens is that you make what seem like partially conscious decisions about which balls to keep in the air and which to drop. So it is that the following things are dropped: managing the household paperwork (one only pays attention to it when the tottering heap on the desk in the office falls over or the red bill arrives from BT); staying on top of household dust (I know we do own some dusters but really, this has got to be the most tiresome household chore next to ironing, which also never gets done in this household); maintaining an in-depth awareness of current affairs (I'm lucky if I have read the weekend papers by the end of the week and have just realised that I have no idea even of who's in and who's out at Wimbledon this year) and keeping abreast of the latest 'theme days' at Eden's school (this latter one became an issue this morning when Eden announced she should be wearing green because it was 'Green Day'; neither of us knew whether this was an entirely fabricated idea but fortunately it was not, as she would have looked pretty silly turning up looking quite so much like an elf if it were). Last night I ended up wondering whether I was the only Working Mum who actually feels relieved at the end of some weeks that we have managed to keep everyone in clean clothes, found food to put on the table each evening and maintained at least the appearance of sanity.

Monday, 2 July 2007

A life more ordinary

Over the weekend, our Internet connection failed. Which was a Good Thing. After my five day week and a fevered rush towards two major project deadlines at work, it was important to be switched off at the mains from work; to be forced to RELAX. I went to see Eden in her end of term ballet show and grinned my way through her nervous, giggling, wobbling performance, stifling snorts of laughter at the silliness of it and almost crying with the strange pain of it; I can never quite get over how much you physically want to carry them through every little milestone, however trivial. We attended a lovely party put on by neighbours, where the babies were passed from one person to another, the children weaved their way between the adults' legs playing impenetrable games, and the wine and the conversation flowed easily. We took a trip to the shops to buy Eden new sandals, had lunch out, visited friends and then settled down to an enormous roast dinner on Sunday. It was all very ordinary - and nice. It's important to have weekends like this at least once in a while. It revitalises you. And it reminds you of the things that matter.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Every extra hour counts

Monday seems such a very long time ago. This week I worked five days as opposed to the usual four, and boy, it's an awfully long week. How do people do it? I now face a mere two day weekend, as well. It'll be over before I know it! For some reason, just to make the week seem even longer, I've been getting home quite late, too. So I've been whisking the children up to bed almost the moment I'm through the door. If there's one thing I'm disciplined about it is managing the hours I am prepared to spend inside an office, so this is really unusual for me. And it's funny how even in the space of just a week this way of living can make you feel like a virtual stranger in your own home. Not only that, it's squeezed the 'me time' down to pretty much nil. Even more to the point, it's made me think about all those men who've worked like that for years, and the testosterone-fuelled women who are now stepping in to their shoes. It's made me glad I don't live that way and helped me to realise the value even just in those few extra hours I grab with the family at either end of the day and in the extra day I carve out with them in every week by taking Fridays off. "Before you know it, they'll have grown up", people say. "Enjoy these early years; they're so special". I do enjoy every single minute I can grab with my children. But I'm also glad that I spend a reasonable part of my life working in an industry that I love, even though that takes me away from my children during this special time. When they have grown up it'll mean there is still something that is mine and which defines me apart from motherhood.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Disaster Recovery

Today I spent a very instructional half day at a training centre in Holborn learning all about how to manage communications in the event of a crisis. Planning for and managing 'disaster recovery' is no simple task, let me tell you, but whatever happens, I hope the video shot of me today attempting to respond to an interviewer's questions in the wake of a dummy-run 'disaster' will never see the light of day. That really would be a disaster from which I'd probably never recover. But while on the subject, it made me think how great it would be to get training for real-life 'disaster recovery'. Like, how to recover from the disaster of staying up till 3.30am partying (I had to drop that one in as we actually did it on Saturday night; you wondered why I'd been so quiet, didn't you?), or, how to recover the disaster zone that is one's body (and, let's face it, mind) after childbirth, or, how to recover one's equilibrium after a challenging day at the office in time to breeze through the front door cheerily and cook everybody dinner without snapping people's heads off unnecessarily (yep, guilty on that one, too). Perhaps I should make my millions writing a disaster recovery manual for parents...

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Gear shift

I feel like I'm always saying this, but it's been one helluva week. You know that feeling you get when you try to cycle up hill in the wrong gear? (I have to confess this is now entirely theoretical for me as I never cycle anywhere). The pedals seem to spin round and round really fast but the bike hardly moves. Well, right now it feels like I'm pedaling like fury but the effort to achievement ratio is just not happening for me. So am I in the wrong gear, on the wrong bike or am I just trying to cycle up the wrong hill? I have to say, right now, I'm starting to wonder if it's the wrong hill. I mean, should I really be expending as much emotional energy on work when the people who really need it are my kids? In fact, I've been so very much at my wit's end that I've started having those fantasies about moving to France, buying up an old wreck and becoming a pig farmer - that kinda thing. I know, I KNOW. The grass is always greener on the other side and all that. But really, don't you ever think some times.... WHY?!

Monday, 18 June 2007

Shift work

Over the weekend we attended a party held by my good friend (and colleague and mentor) Mike. Unusually, it was a birthday party for a dog called Bruno, who had just turned 12. But that's not the point of my blog today. I was struck by the number of times people made comments to me along the lines of, "Goodness me. Three children. You're brave!" Quite a few of the comments came from people with two children of their own. It seems that crossing the boundary from two to three children takes you from average parents to the slightly insane kind. I guess it's the equivalent of moving from one or maybe even two cats to three or four - suddenly you're the 'mad cat lady' as opposed to the innocent pet owner. (Not that I'm in any way trying to suggest that having children is like having pets. Really!) Or to completely bastardise that infamous Oscar Wild comment, "To have one extra child ... may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks like carelessness." When I think about the way in which Paul and I operate when we're out with the kids I always have this funny vision of us passing them between us like rugby players making backwards passes. And I'm sure by the end of it we look about as exhausted, crumpled and generally beaten up as rugby players, too. People seem to look at Paul and I on occasions such as the party on Saturday with a mixture of horror, amusement, wonder and, I like to imagine, a bit of awe (but that last is probably just my ever-hopeful imagination). Oh, what it is to be something of a circus freak show!
The other thing that struck me on Saturday was the number of times people said to me, "Aren't you lucky to have a husband who's prepared to run around after the kids like that?" Each time I looked round to see him picking up Nath from the floor, wiping Ava's nose or generally beating me hands down in the baby-juggling stakes. I probably moan at and about Paul far too much. He is the too-often unsung hero in my baby-juggling reports. In fact, any baby-juggling 'prowess' I might claim is really nothing without him running around in the background. Here's to house husbands. And may they grow in number and in strength.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Stuff and bother

It's been a normal Friday, involving coffee with Mum pals, shopping, lunch out with friends and time out in the garden. I really enjoyed the hour or so I got with Nath alone (an unusual thing). We sat in the garden and blew bubbles together (he says 'bubbles' in the cutest way imaginable; really difficult to reproduce phonetically so I won't attempt it) This ended rather prematurely when he spilled all the bubble mixture onto the patio and made a lovely muddy, gooey mess out of it which he then proceeded to rub onto his tummy. ?? Boys! I also got round to something that I've been putting off for far too long: I tidied Eden's room. I guess it shouldn't matter that half the time we seem to live in a pigsty, but pheweee, I actually feel lighter and happier now it's done. I don't have to avert my eyes every time I walk past her room. I actually filled a black bin bag with stuff that I consider to be rubbish. She may disagree, but I'm hoping she won't notice.... What is it with small girls and endless STUFF?! I found countless little bags full of oddments. She would call them 'treasures'. I didn't throw it all away (I'm not that heartless). Meanwhile, Paul was working on a much bigger project of a similar nature. Over the last couple of months he has been slowly working through one of the larger bedrooms in our house to try to clear a space for Nath to move into and thus enable Ava to move out of our bedroom and into a room of her own. Right now it's full of thousands of records and CDs - many from the time when Paul set up an online retail business; a great deal of them though part of his own (large) collection. These are being divided into saleable stock, stuff he wants to keep and stuff to be thrown. It's a long job, but hopefully we'll get everyone moved into their new spaces before Ava turns one! It strikes me that it's rather a cruel irony that I hate 'stuff' quite so much, what with the 'treasure'-collecting five year old and the vinyl-junkie-of-a-husband. I am learning patience and understanding, I promise, only veeeeery sloooooowly ;-)

Monday, 11 June 2007

Late nights, early mornings

It's amazing what you can achieve by Staying Up Late and Getting Up Early. I know: d'UH! But my mother always taught me not to burn the candle at both ends, see. And I took her advice to heart. So I had my health. I slowed the wrinkles down maybe just a tad. But I just wasn't achieving quite enough in a single day for my liking. Recently, Ava started sleeping through the night, give or take the odd night. (It's only taken her nine months.... ) Taking my categorisation as Superwoman seriously, I took this as a cue to up the ante (Did I mention the self-imposed over-achiever thing?)
So now, I have the full-time job (pretending to be a part-time job), the three kids, the hippy husband AND the blog AND The Project. Speaking of which.... no, I'm not allowed to say anything. Suffice to say that going out with the Fab Four to discuss said project last night was Really Good Fun. It all ended in the usual alcohol-induced haze, with Danuta and I crashing into her flat at some ungodly hour only to surprise her very lovely French boyfriend, who seemed like he wasn't expecting me. What gave me this impression was the nudity. Yep, there's nothing like a naked Frenchman at 1am to lift the spirits.
Anyway, what with all this additional action, here I am again at the computer far too close to midnight. Tonight, Paul went out. I put all three kids to bed, read stories, brought up numerous bedtime drinks, dealt with sleep avoidance / delay tactics from Eden and Nath, watched a documentary about China (VG - presented by Paul Merton), dealt with insomniac five year old (couldn't get to sleep without 'Moo-Moo'; lost somewhere today), read a load of work papers, ate takeaway, wrote a blog, worked on some ideas for the Secret Project, sterilised bottles, prepared milk feeds.... and finally collapsed in the bath. Tomorrow morning I will be up again at around 6am, ready to face another day.... ish.

Nature or nurture?

Sooo, basically, I've got no idea. Not a clue. But it's irrelevant. All my kids are clearly inheriting the very worst of my character defects as well as a smattering of my obsessions as well, either way. Last week, this came crashing home to me when I took a phone call at about 3.30pm on Thursday afternoon. It was Paul, asking me to speak to a sobbing Eden. Between the sobs and the hiccups I managed to ascertain that she was upset about her progress in reading at school and in her after-school French classes. The teachers were going too fast for her; she just wasn't clever enough; she couldn't possibly keep up. Meanwhile, her teachers report that she is doing brilliantly. Both her reading and her French are above average, for sure, yet she is consumed by an entirely self-imposed view that she is not doing well enough; she must go faster, get better, quicker. At the weekend she started reading me the headlines from The Guardian, fergoodnesssake. She's only five! Thank goodness we are not sending her to private school and that I don't subscribe to the pushy alpha-Mum approach; the girl has enough of the high-achiever/perfectionist in her to avoid the need for any additional external pressure. Sounds deeply familiar.
Nath, meanwhile, is increasingly displaying an unhealthy obsession with the hoover. In fact, not just with our hoover. When we visit other people's houses, he actively seeks out their hoovers - even if only to be found in the understairs cupboard (I think he has 'hoo-dar' - like gay-dar but for hoovers). When he sees the hoover, he runs towards it, pointing and grinning animatedly and yelling, "Look! Hoooover! Hoooover!" This one is a kind of perverse inversion of another of my obsessions, i.e. I am obsessed with the concept of cleanliness and tidiness, but never achieve it quite to the level to which I aspire (OK, to anywhere near the level to which I aspire). The problem is, I won't go near the hoover. I hate hoovers. And anyway, hoovering is a mug's game when you have children!
As if it weren't bad enough that the kids offer up a mirror reflection to my stupidest traits, I've really started noticing the way they copy my most habitual speech patterns and phrases. Nathan, who is a little Lord Fauntleroy lookalike, with his mop of unruly blond hair and enormous blue eyes, makes me die laughing every time he greets me with a breezy, "Hello, Dah-ling!" on my return from work (in exactly my tone of voice). And Eden just said, "No I can't, you cheeky chops!" in response when I asked her to clean her teeth. Did I mention she's only five? Little madam.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Frustration, alleviation and delegation

It's been a mixed week at work. It's been a bit of a case of two steps forward, three steps back in some areas, and I haven't always felt buoyed by positivity, let's put it that way. But I forge ahead in my own inimitable fashion, as always (like a bull in a china shop, some might say...) The blog has been suffering again, too. Sheer Bloody Exhaustion is really the only excuse I can offer. But anyhoo, the week was punctuated (and the frustrations alleviated) by two fun events. First, the Blogs and Social Media Forum which I attended on Tuesday. I was delighted to bump into my friend Jon Reed, who always brightens my day. I was also pleased to see the way in which blogs and other social media tools are beginning to have such an impact on the media industry as a whole, and there were quite a few book publishers there, which made me a happy girl. It was fascinating that when the conference hall of 300 delegates was asked for a show of hands by those who wrote a blog, more than half raised their hands. Second, I last night was a guest at a Society of Bookmen dinner. I know, it's a society title to make one shudder to the very bone, (I was told, "Don't go there!" when I asked whether they'd considered a re-brand), and they live up to their name so perfectly that they don't even have a web site... but all that aside, the food was delicious, the wine excellent, the company good fun, and the after-dinner speaker one of the most urbane, witty and insightful about current issues in the broadcast and other media, Michael Grade.
Apart from these two events, something else has really kept my spirits up this week. I've been enjoying observing the way that Eden (my five year old) is beginning to take the role of Big Sister increasingly in her stride. With two tot-like siblings I reckon she feels she's got it all sussed now. It's hilarious to hear the way she goes up an octave and assumes a voice spookily like mine as she confronts Nathan (two) about some instance of poor behaviour (usually pulling her hair, stealing her toys or generally squaring up to her): "NO, Nathan!" But the best bit is that suddenly I have a little girl who takes such pleasure in fulfilling simple tasks for me. She has started to help by feeding Ava her Weetabix in the morning (it's a slightly messier approach, but definitely more fun than when I do it). Even more adorable, she offered to read Nath his bedtime story a few nights ago. He won't hear anything else than John Burningham's The Blanket, so she duly read it to him , sitting on a little white, wooden chair that she dragged through from her room and placed by his cot so that he could look through the railings at the pictures. Since that evening she has read to him every evening, the habits already becoming entrenched, so that the white chair has become her 'story-telling' chair, and she even closes the curtains, kisses him goodnight, and instructs him to 'snuggle up now, and go to sleep' as she wishes him goodnight afterwards, just as I do with her. I have to confess that I shed a little tear the first evening as I heard her reading so sweetly to him and listened to his delighted voice finishing each sentence before she had even reached it. And so it is that the frustrations of the week have already paled into insignificance.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Park Life

This week started well, with a pretty much perfect English day out: a 'grand picnic' in Regent's Park orchestrated magnificently by author and great friend Barry (pictured here with Ava and me) and his wife Mary (Actually, I must say I think the marvellous Mary did most of the orchestrating while Barry looked on in helpless wonder at her organisational prowess).
I love London parks in summer, and Regent's Park was in particularly romantic mood on Sunday, with the whispy pollen from the huge sprawling trees above our heads floating down to rest on us all. Of course, the world and his (designer) wife (plus perfectly planned 1.2 children and matching Bugaboo) was out in force, using the park as promenade. I felt rather pleased to buck this trend, with our extremely un-designer chariot (slightly muddy, slightly sticky Mothercare double buggy bought on eBay for a song; beakers, bottles, picnic rug, football, toy picnic set and all spilling out everywhere) and our proper little motley brood in tow.
One of the things I love about taking kids to an event like this is the way that they almost instantly adapt to the surroundings, find a way to have fun. On Sunday it was the nearby, empty bandstand which seemed to draw the children from all the surrounding picnic-ing groups. Gangs were formed and dissolved and reformed, and multiple games initiated, before the adults had opened the first bottles of wine for the day.
Amongst the parents at the picnic though there was a subtle undercurrent of anxiety, as the variously sized children were watched over in shifts to prevent any falls into the boating lake on one side or any adventurous wanderings into the wooded areas behind. 'Stranger danger' and how to approach it with children was discussed in subdued tones, the news story about missing Madeleine foremost in everyone's minds.
But it was wonderful to observe the insistent, disruptive force of the children, who refused to allow an entirely picture perfect picnic. I love their energy, their ability to make friendships in an instant, to break through social mores with the subtlety of small, rampaging elephants, to ensure that noone gets engaged in too serious a conversation for too long. It can be frustrating, yes, to try to circulate amongst a party of adults only to be constantly interrupted by the need to attend to ones children. But it occurs to me that I spend the majority of my week dealing with other grown-ups, being professional, imposing structure and efficiency on things. Sometimes it's good to be disrupted from all that.
As we loaded our lot into the buggy for the return journey home, Nathan and Ava fell almost instantly asleep (see pic), whilst Eden was virtually keeling over with contented exhaustion. For them it had definitely been a perfect day out. And that's what matters most to me.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Keeping up

Most of the time, I believe I'm a pretty relaxed parent. I watch other parents, fussing over their kids, getting all angsty about this and that and think, "Hey, I'm not that bad". But I think with me there's this kind of cloud of concern always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. With three kids and a more or less full-time paid job, I just worry that I'm not keeping up with all their needs, their developments, their changes; that I can't possibly keep pace with all of it and at the same time keep up the pace at work. With Eden, this anxiety has reached a new high since she started school. Am I on top of her relationships with her teachers, her developmental progress, her friendships? Would I definitely know if there was an issue I should be aware of? Am I in touch enough with what's going on in her life?
I had lunch with a colleague the other day, a real high-achiever who constantly beats himself up about his own performance and is always setting himself goals that must be achieved within certain timeframes. His parents have apparently told him that his problem is that he has no children. Once he has children, they rationalise, he will have less time to think about himself, he'll have to relax a bit more, he'll have a better sense of perspective. All this is true, but what I'm finding as a parent is that if you're the type to set yourself tough objectives in your working life, you're just as likely to continue to do so as a parent.
I'm really good at telling myself I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I'm even pretty good at following this advice most of the time. But still those concerns don't stop lurking at the back of my mind... I guess what you have to ask yourself is not, "Am I the perfect parent?" but, "Am I good enough?"

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Blogged off

Pride comes before a fall, so they say. I've clearly been far too self-congratulatory about all the gallavanting I've been up to of late; patting myself on the back for combining work, play AND children whilst managing to hold myself back from the edge of extreme exhaustion / insanity. The last week or so has really brought me down to earth with an ear-splitting crash. First, there was the lurgy last week. Bank holiday weekend seemed to have seen that off, but then last night, I had put Ava and Nathan to bed, read a bedtime story with Eden, and was about to say goodnight when she asked (as she often does) whether I could climb in to her bed and give her a cuddle before going downstairs. It was just before 8pm. I agreed. To be honest, the thought of lying down in her cosy little bed really appealed. We snuggled up together like spoons, and she burbled about her day for a while, slowly winding down like a little clockwork doll, until her voice trailed off and I could tell from her breathing that she had fallen asleep. I lay there for a while, thinking about my day.... and the next thing I knew, I was waking up and it was after 11pm. The evening had passed and I'd spent it asleep in my daughter's bed. I wandered downstairs feeling faintly cross that I'd wasted the evening and wondering whether there will ever be a time when life isn't quite this insanely tiring. Of course, when I asked Paul whether he hadn't wondered where I was all evening, he simply replied, "Oh, I assumed you were writing your blog!"
Right, I'm off for a radox bath. Oh, what a racy life I lead! ;-)

Monday, 28 May 2007

Save it for a rainy day

It's been an archetypal British bank holiday weekend: glorious sunshine for the week preceding it; torrential rain and freezing cold all weekend. My first reaction to this weekend's weather forecast was probably typical of mothers all over the country - disappointment, even horror: "How am I going to keep my kids entertained / happy / from killing each other whilst cooped up inside all weekend?" But the combination of recuperating from our respective lurgies, the rain and rather severe end-of-month-cashflow-crisis has conspired to keep us indoors for most of the weekend. And I have to say it really hasn't hurt us one little bit. The kids have been more than happy just 'hanging out'. There's been a lot of drawing, colouring (resulting in Nathan sporting an interesting purple and black spotty hairstyle), reading, lego-tower-building, dressing up, camp-building ... and a great deal of sitting around watching telly. Eden and I made a proper old-fashioned sherry trifle to take to friends for Sunday supper. Paul read the entirety of the weekend newspapers for the first time in years. I even read two book reviews! Sitting on the sofa with my feet up!! Sometimes it's good to take time out just 'to be' as a family. And may I just recommend dandling a baby on your knee as the best (and cheapest) therapy in the world.
It's not a very original observation, but I'll make it all the same: it seems to me that today's (middle-class, especially London-based) children are generally over-stimulated brats. I was talking to a Mum-friend the other morning about some friends of hers for whom a typical bank holiday weekend would involve at least two trips to kid-friendly play parks (the hugely overpriced Legoland and Thorpe Park were mentioned), outings to the swimming pool or cinema and generally much racing about according to child-oriented schedules. Result? Spoilt children who don't know how to amuse themselves or simply how to hang out and relax. It's all too easy to fall into this trap and it's actually quite difficult to slow down, stop and reappraise priorities sometimes. Taking some proper time out, releasing yourself from that sense of urgency to be 'doing', hanging schedules and 'to do' lists out to dry for a couple of days - that's what a bank holiday should be all about.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Cinderella's Bottom

Too ill to post much in an intelligent vein, so thought I'd rave about "Cinderella's Bum", a book to save you from the intense boredom of reading the usual bedtime story fare. This one is irreverent and wickedly funny as well as teaching girls just the right way to think about their bodies. I wish I could still have the perspective of my five year old, Eden, about the state of my sorry physique. Of my southwards-journeying boobs she simply commented the other day, "Why don't you just get the doctor to remove them, then? You don't need them anymore, anyway, do you?" Ahem. Slightly more cheeringly, after a rip-roaring telling of "Cinderella's Bottom" tonight, she murmured to me as she drifted off, "I think your bottom is as beautiful as a princess's, Mummy." Ah, thank goodness for my greatest fan.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007


And as if to prove my point (see previous post) I have fallen prey to the same dreaded lurgy Ava has. I'm coughing like an old smoker and have such a blocked head that I sound like that Janet Ellis who used to be on Blue Peter (she says, placing her formative years firmly in the eighties!) This week I've been up against a few deadlines, the most important of which was this morning, and yesterday I had to present our digital strategy to our main board. It's funny how the body just keeps going and going until these hurdles are overcome. Then, as the adrenalin packs up, the old bod collapses. I always used to get ill and take to my bed for a week at the end of term or after exams at university, which was the same thing, I suppose. Of course, in those days I'd simply refuse to get up until I felt better. Today, it's a bit different. I'm off to bed now, but you can bet your bottom dollar it won't be for long.....

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Keep up the day job, love

I have been conducting an interesting experiment, and I can now confirm that it is not physically possible to remain entirely sane and healthy trying to run a day job (publisher) alongside a night job (nurse, provider of flexible sleeping arrangements and chief bottle washer). It is even less possible to do so if you try to run a social life alongside these things. So the last week or so, Paul and I have had an unusually sociable time of it, what with all the gig-going (Electrelane two weeks ago followed last night by the Fountains of Wayne at the Astoria) and dining out at fancy restaurants (luckily that's only a once-a-year phenomenon; boy, it was expensive). I seem to have been spending an unusual amount of time in bars and pubs, too (I'm sure you're all starting to think I'm an old lush - banish that thought!) Then Ava has come down with a nasty ear, nose and throat infection which means she coughs herself awake on a regular basis through each night, cries, comes into bed for a cuddle and drifts off to sleep on my chest while I sit semi-upright trying to aid her breathing and .... not sleeping myself.
Unfortunately it's the day job that pays the wages. I wisely therefore pour quite a bit of energy into 'keeping my end up' as we Brits so delightfully put it, when at work. Which, I'm afraid, sometimes leaves my poor family slightly wanting in terms of love, affection, time, even friendliness - from me. Did I ever mention the guilt? Oh, it comes by the bucketload.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Sugar and Spice

Yesterday was a quiet day, recovering from a night out with Danuta Kean, Peter Collingridge and Jon Reed. I can't tell you (because if I did I'd have to shoot you) but the four of us are up to something. All will become clear in due course if you are one of the publishing industry followers of this blog. For now just imagine that I am tapping my nose and winking....
Anyhooo, it wouldn't be a publishing luvvies' night out if it hadn't involved a top-heavy ratio of bottles of wine to people. So yours truly was suffering a little on Friday morning. I finally heaved myself into a vertical position at about 11.30am (very grateful to Paul for having removed all small people from the general area for a couple of hours to allow me some sleep).
The sun was shining on us yesterday, so I got the kids out in the garden and sat watching them play, allowing numerous cups of tea and the sun's warm rays to sort me out. After picking Eden up from school, a few Mum and Dad pals and their children joined us in the garden for more tea and conversation. The children were 'up to something' in the wendy house at the bottom of the garden, but we didn't pay too much attention. It wasn't until Eden and friend Thea served us all up a 'stew' of very gooey mud and leaves that we noticed the enormous hole they had dug in the middle of the lawn in order to get anough soil for their recipe. Thankfully, neither Paul nor I are fussy enough about lawn standards to really care (you'll never see stripes on ours; more likely dandelions), but it did make me laugh that the girls were definitely the project leaders and the more fastidious boys the followers. And they all ran a mile when Thea and Eden brought their pet worms over to show us....! What's all the nonsense about sugar and spice?....
There was spice aplenty at the very expensive but very superb Cinnamon Club last night, where we went with a big group to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. Needless to say I was off the alcohol for the evening. And I can now officially confirm, there really is nothing like a ruby murray to sort out a hangover.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Skinny dipping

I just wrote that title to get your attention. And to see whether it drives enormous amounts of new traffic to the blog. Sorry to disappoint, but I haven't indulged recently (I'm not letting anyone see the current state of my stomach, and anyway, it's bloody rainy as hell and freezing just now, are you mad??!)
No. It's my new term for the way I have to run my life. Dipping just slightly into a multitude of tasks, giving a skinny piece of me to everything and everyone, but never feeling like I give any of it the time or attention it really deserves. The last couple of days at work, ferinstance, I have 'skinny-dipped' into a number of electronic rights and agent negotiation discussions, tried to pull together our thinking on digital workflows, formats and storage options, worked on a three year budget for digital investments (anyone got a better idea than sticking a finger in the air?), produced a presentation on digital publishing strategy, kicked off a project to embed our eBook publishing programme into our current business processes, written a proposal for an online sequel to a rather well-known book, contributed to a corporate report on PR, and initiated a redesign of our corporate web site. I've raced to and from lunches with colleagues at which it feels like we quite literally 'downloaded' everything from our heads within the shortest time possible before dashing off in our separate directions. Alongside all this I've been taking part in a rather energetic debate on my boss's blog about the future of the book. Actually, listed out like that I feel quite proud of myself now, and I've really been buzzing with the adrenalin rush that all this activity generates. But the problem is that the time I seem to be able to commit to each and every one of these things is just SO limited. And that's before I even begin to think about what a thin slice of me each of the children gets. I race home as quickly as I can each evening, hug them all in turn, try to establish what kind of a day each of them has had, virtually barking questions at Paul about what they've eaten, when they napped, whether he took them out anywhere.... and ... What? Paul? Attention from me? Well, he might as well just forget it for the next, ooh, let me see, about 20 years?! Poor sod.
Maybe this sounds like I'm moaning ('So much to do, so little time!'), but the reality is that's not how I feel. The majority of the time I really do feel like LAUGHING about the sheer craziness of life, the comicality of the juggling, the absurd juxtaposition of the wildly different aspects of my life (from bottom-wiping, mush-feeding, dribble-catching, hurt-comforting, story-reading chauffeur to strategy-setting, meeting-running, opinion-forming, team-leading e-publisher and back on a day-to-day basis)... the absolute joy that my children and I seem to be surviving despite it all. And if you ever see me smiling to myself it's because I'm so delighted that somehow, just somehow, even though sometimes things are a bit frayed around the edges, I seem to be holding it all together.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Under pressure

Yesterday, we had the most relaxing day with friends Debra and Richard and their teenage sons Daniel and Nathan. Over lunch I mentioned that I'd written a guest post about ebooks on my chief exec's blog over the weekend.
"I think ebooks are a rubbish idea", piped up Nathan, their 13 year old, immediately exploding my well-honed pet theories on the future of the book (more on the wisdom of children, later). But we rolled the idea of an ebook future around the dinner table a bit longer, nonetheless, before moving on to other things. Later on, the subject of this blog came up, and Debra and Richard quizzed me about my rationale for writing it, what I get out of it, the kind of people who contribute, and so on.
"Do you feel the need to post every day?" they asked, a note of concern for my mental health (does she have blog OCD?) creeping in to their voices. I explained that I felt the need to post frequently and that I aim for at least alternative days, both to maintain a writing discipline and so as not to disappoint regular visitors.
"But isn't that just a pressure too far?" Richard asked. Funnily enough, I don't think so really. It's kind of a useful outlet for stuff in my head. Though on a more mundane day I sometimes struggle to think of anything interesting to say.
However, I'm glad I don't too frequently have to guest on my boss's blog. At 7am on a Sunday morning with Ava (8 months) on my lap wildly attempting to bash the keys, and Eden and Nathan running around me in ever-decreasing circles, increasingly hysterical for my attention, it was hard to write anything remotely intelligent. Emailing today with a colleague who also gets dragged into work stuff over the weekend sometimes, I laughed out loud when she said, "Oh, I get the hysterics too. But that's from the husband!" I must admit Paul isn't overly keen on what he views as a somewhat over-zealous interest in my work, especially when it runs to Blackberry-itus at the weekends... but then, the tempting offer of a continued roof over his head paid for by the salary gleaned therefrom is usually enough to prevent any escalation to hysteria.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Dishwasher safe

We all cheat sometimes, right? Working Mums specially. We take shop-made cakes to the school cake sale, feed the kids their toast on the way to the childminders and have specially designated cupboards in which to hide the mess when guests are coming round. One of the most accepted cheats in this day and age is using a dishwasher instead of doing the dishes by hand. Well, if you've ever wanted to see a prime cheat come to grief then you should have seen me this week WITHOUT A DISHWASHER. "Omigod" I hear you gasp. Yes, the dishwasher finally gave up the ghost and I have lasted a whole week washing the dishes with my own fair hands. OK, sometimes I got Paul to do it. But really, I can't tell you how unbelievably TEDIOUS I find this process, how much I HATE it when the dirty dish water gets inside the rubber gloves (ewww!) and how I really hadn't realised QUITE how many bottles, beakers, teats and plastic spoons we get through on a daily basis. Somebody bring me back my dishwasher, pleeeeeeease! I know I sound like a spoiled modern yummy mummy, but I don't care. The engineer is booked to come and fix it Tuesday. Meanwhile, I'll be cheating some more I expect: takeaways are sounding good this weekend!

Thursday, 10 May 2007


Last night, Paul and I went to a gig at Scala in Kings Cross. I use the word 'gig' advisedly, because this was no middle aged person's 'concert'. Oh deary me, no. This was your proper dark, sweaty, beer-strewn venue and the band was Electrelane, an all-girl indie guitar band (think Stereolab with riffs) who all look about twelve. Well, their guitars almost dwarfed them, anyway. But oh, was it cool. And very, VERY loud.
As I'm sure you all know, us Working Mums don't really do sweaty gigs or nightclubs much anymore. There is a Good Reason for this. We are TOO TIRED. We know we won't get a lie-in to recover the next day. We know that probably, somewhere between going to bed extraordinarily late (after midnight!!) and getting up extraordinarily early, we will be woken up by one or another of our small people. And if alcohol has been imbibed on top of the staying up late, then you're REALLY in trouble.
But do you know what, going to that gig last night really made my week. For just a few hours I wasn't anyone's Mum, nor was I a smart, professional publishing type. I was just someone in a heaving crowd of music lovers, swaying to the synthy music, letting everything flow over and around me.
Of course, as we left, realised how late it was, and panicked because we couldn't find a cab, my other life started pulling me back along that familiar thread. And tonight I skipped a book launch party because I couldn't quite stand TWO nights out away from the kids. I'm an indie kid no more, but it's good to know the rock chick in me hasn't completely died ;-)

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Choose happiness

I whisked all three kids off for the day yesterday, leaving my husband Paul at home alone to have some 'down time' (hmm, I must investigate this concept some time...!) It was Bank Holiday Monday, but outside it was absolutely pelting down with rain. It could have been a bit of a miserable day, but I felt good driving along the A3 to Hampton Court, with the kids safe and dry in the back and a day out with friends to look forward to.
On arrival, it was announced that we were being taken to the local Pizza Express, which resulted in great excitement all round. Several hours, a handful of pizzas, countless dough balls and too many sticky puddings later, the rain had cleared and the children were almost comatose with repletion. We sent them for a good run around outside and settled back for coffee and conversation. On being asked how work was going, I explained how exciting I'm finding it right now, being part of an industry undergoing so much change. "But how do you feel being back at work?" my friends asked? "Mostly, I love it," I replied. And I think this was a pretty honest response, really. My best mate's husband, Mark, had recently had to continue to run his documentary-making business whilst taking on the running of the household and a big chunk of the childcare while his wife, Keely, saw to some family matters back in her home town for the period of one month. He was run ragged by the end of the month and utterly relieved to have her back. We swapped wry comments about the juggling act that all this entailed.
This morning Keely texted me: "Great to see you. You seemed well. Mark v impressed with how happy you look!"I texted back: "Ah, well, I am very lucky. Not much excuse to be miserable!" And that's about the sum of how I feel. Yes, maybe I don't see as much of my children as I'd like in an ideal world; yes, maybe my house is on the untidier side of acceptable, most of the time; and yes, sometimes I feel like the proverbial swan (paddling madly underneath the surface to maintain the appearance of unflappable calm) and that much of my life is a big, fat compromise. But the bottom line is that I have three happy, healthy children and a great job which I really enjoy. And I choose happiness.