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Monday, 30 April 2007

Rock 'n roll!

We had a BBQ party on Sunday, which lasted from around midday until kiddies' bedtime. There were about 20 people all in all, including kids. Having parties for the adults to which the children are also invited is the way forward, IMHO. Theory is, the kids form a 'posse' and run around generally creating mayhem, but, more to the point, also ENTERTAINING EACH OTHER, thus negating the need for the parents to create additional diversion, thus allowing the parents to sit around in the sunshine drinking and gossiping.
A good old mate of mine who now lives in Hastings has taken this theory to the extreme by setting up a 'day club'. This is a club which takes place during the afternoon on a Sunday. Everyone does all the stuff you usually do in a nightclub, except in the afternoon with the kids in tow. Regular DJs play and the adults dance and drink (though probably don't take Class A drugs, as in most nightclubs these days), whilst in the corner a table is set up with paint and glue and stuff and the kids are left to amuse themselves. It sounds like excellent fun and I think I may instigate a London version.
One thing that made me laugh on Sunday. I knew I'd thrown a really good party because the wendy house at the bottom of the garden had been trashed. Rock 'n roll!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Friday heaven

I work four days a week. Friday is a special day. It's the extra day I get to grab some time with my kids; additional to the weekend, it feels in some ways like a little luxury, and I never but NEVER use it to go to the supermarket or do the housework. The best Fridays are the ones where I bundle everyone into the car and take them on an 'outing'. Like yesterday, when we pootled down to Hove to spend the day with good, old friends Adrian (Caxtonia), and Candida and Corinne of Myriad Editions.
The weather really is unseasonably warm, and as I am reluctant to add 'green guilt' to my already guilt-ridden existence, I decided to enjoy it wholeheartedly. There really is nothing better than taking kids to the seaside. We wandered through leafy Hove and had sandwiches in a cheap caf on the seafront. We finished up scoffing cake and drinking takeaway coffees on the beach while Nath collected stones and chucked them about, squared up to some scary looking dogs who were nosing about on the beach, and generally did what boys do at the seaside, quite literally 'happy as a sandboy'. Ava meanwhile kicked merrily on her mat. This idyllic scene was somewhat disturbed when both of them decided to deposit enormous poos in their respective nappies, but order was soon returned after a bit of a battle involving nappies, sand, very wriggly children and the sea breeze.
We drove home in the sunshine listening to Faithless at TOP volume on the CD player. The kids dropped off almost immediately despite the racket. Covered in grime, with the remains of cake and goodness knows what else smeared all over their faces, they looked like angels made in a Friday heaven.

Friday, 27 April 2007

On being a mawkish bore

Well, well, well! My last post has certainly ruffled a few feathers! How bizarre that posting something so essentially feminine and warm and fuzzy should get people quite so excitable. I can feel myself working up to a rant here, so bear with me...... Why is it that us women - and working mums especially - are expected to be all trouser-wearing and matter-of-fact about our very real emotional lives? I debated posting that email piece by an American mother on Tuesday for a while, then decided to go ahead despite the cheesiness, because I found great chunks of it to ring unbearably true, but also because I could never have written it myself, being well-schooled in the art of reining in all emotional expression. It's just not cool, is it? But hey, nice to have stirred up a debate! And do not fear, tomorrow I will return to my usual glacial self....

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

You say 'Mom', I say 'Mum'

My beautiful, talented and intelligent sister-in-law, who is also expecting her first baby, forwarded me this last night. It's sooooo sentimental - even to the point of cheesiness in places - but at the heart of it, it is also so true. As she said in her email, 'If you're feeling at all hormonal don't read this in a public place.' Of course, believing myself to be of stronger metal than most I completely ignored this advice and read it on my BB in the midst of a crowded commuter train home. What a mistake.

To Be a Mom:
We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of starting a family. "We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
"I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?” that every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her, that when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die. I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub, that an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflĂ©; or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.
I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for child-care, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell, and she will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma, that right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that rest-room. However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.
Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a Caesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honour. My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.
My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Having it all?

It's only Monday, and I'm exhausted. As I set off for work this morning, it occurred to me how often I feel like I've done a day's work before I even leave the front door. For instance, before I left for the office today I:

  • Sent five emails and replied to half a dozen more
  • Wrote a shopping list
  • Scooped all the sorry-looking toys out of the bath and cleaned it
  • Sorted out a pile of clothes belonging to other children that Eden has brought home from school by mistake
  • Changed two nappies (one for Nath; one for Ava)
  • Filled in a form for a school trip for Eden
  • Sterilised some bottles
  • Paid for Eden's school dinners on the school caterer's web site
  • Made everyone's breakfast
  • Fed Ava her porridge
  • Tidied the dishes away
  • Cleaned all the kids' faces and hands

Somewhere along the line I also had a shower, dressed, put some make-up on and packed my bag for work. Since I got in this evening (after a full day at work) I have:

  • Fed Ava her tea
  • Cooked spaghetti bolognaise for everyone else
  • Discussed a school bullying issue with Eden
  • Dealt with a heated row about who was going to sit on my lap first
  • Bathed the kids, changed them all into their pyjamas and put them all to bed
  • Read Dr Seuss to Eden and Nathan
  • Cleared the dinner table and stacked the dishwasher
  • Picked an unbelievable number of small, sticky pieces of spaghetti from Nathan's highchair and the floor
  • Sorted out the dirty washing
  • Sent three emails and answered several more
  • Re-folded and put away all the clothes from Eden's wardrobe that earlier she had flung to one side in the hunt for a particular fairy dress
  • Tidied the huge variety of small toy cars and multi-coloured baby-stimulating gizmos up from around the living room furniture and floor
  • Got Eden's PE kit ready for tomorrow
  • Hunted for Eden's school bag for ages before leaving it by the front door so that it doesn't get forgotten again tomorrow
  • Scoured the kitchen sink
  • Sterilised more bottles

I'm sure someone (probably male) thought they were being very clever when they coined the phrase about modern women 'having it all'. I don't know what you think, but from where I'm standing this feels more like 'doing it all.' It's almost bedtime now but first I'm off to read the end of my Peter James novel, Dead Simple, with a glass of wine in hand.

P.S. If I sound grumpy, forgive me. I'm not really. Do you know the best thing that happened today? I gave Eden two scoops of her favourite raspberry pavlova icecream for pudding tonight. When she reached the last spoonful I noticed she'd saved the best bit till last - a particularly gloopy, jammy bit. She lifted the spoon to my lips and said, 'Would you like my last spoonful, Mummy?' She's the best.

Sunday, 22 April 2007


Last night Paul and I went out for drinks with the lovely Danuta Kean and her partner Eric Perrier (the perfect French name for the pefect Frenchman). It was a celebration of the occasional synchronicity of life. Danuta and I have crossed paths two or three times in our careers. She's a freelance arts journalist and publishing commentator, so that makes sense. On Wednesday, we got to know each other a whole lot better when we had to appear on BBC2 together to talk about the future of the book. (Oh, did I mention that already?) We got on so well that we went off for a long lunch together afterwards. But it was only towards the end of the lunch that we discovered that we live about three streets away from one another in saaath east London - and that we have done so for several years without knowing it. We agreed that we must 'meet up soon', but I was delighted when Danuta actually followed through on this oft-made remark between people who meet by chance and happen to get on. Her text arrived the next day, asking whether Paul and I would like to meet up for a drink with her and Eric in our local. Last night, a good bottle and a half for us and several pints later for the chaps, we were all falling about laughing and gossiping like old mates. Eric and Paul discovered a love of American football (ugh) and much musical taste in common; Paul was stunned to meet a woman who talks almost as much as me in almost as opinionated a manner; we were both charmed by Eric, who reminds us a bit of a slimmer, more intelligent - and French - version of Andre Agassi. We will certainly all see each other again, and we will no doubt find ways to work with each other again, too.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Back to normality

Phew. I've had a lovely, NORMAL day today. Nothing special to report. It was just so nice NOT dashing about being a professional type. The whole BBC thing on Wednesday was really somehow exhausting and it really is a relief that's over. Today I just slung jeans, pumps and a t-shirt dress on, took the kids to a local playgroup, drank coffee, gossiped, met some other mums and kids for lunch, did a spot of shopping and hung out in the garden of one of my bestest Mum pals. We sipped white wine, enjoyed the spring sunshine and watched our children run, shout, laugh, play in the wendy house, scoot about on trikes, have a picnic tea and generally just be. We had such a relaxing time that it was late by the time we thought of leaving, so we ended up putting them all through the bath together and throwing mine into their pyjamas before the drive home. Driving into the oncoming darkness, the sky turning a lazy pink, the kids contented in the back, the smell of washed hair and milk emanating from them all, I just felt soooooo happy. Life is good sometimes, innit?

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

On the box

I was on telly today! My, it was exciting. I appeared for a total of four and a half minutes on Working Lunch' on BBC2 to talk about the future of the book. I only found out yesterday that I was going to be on, which is a good job as I was nervous as hell from that point onwards. Irony of ironies, last night was the first night in, ooh, about five and a half years, that all of my children slept right through the night... but I of course didn't, as I was too bloody nervous about being on LIVE TV today! (Did I mention I was on the telly today? And that it was LIVE?!) Anyway, I took extra care over my appearance this morning (actually ironed a dress; held Ava's porridge spoon at a great distance when feeding her her breakfast; wiped everyone's faces before kissing them goodbye, etc), took a deep breath and left for work, hoping against hope that I wouldn't be asked any overly difficult questions - or worse, that my mind would go a complete blank and I'd have nothing to say. In hindsight the latter concern was utterly ridiculous. Me, without anything to say? Friends and family of mine, feel free to scoff loudly. I have to say that in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The good old Beeb treats you really well. They send a car to fetch you, whisk you through make-up and on to meet the slick and highly professional presenters, then it's on with the show, and, before you know it, it's all over and they have subtly steered you through the whole process without making you look like a complete prat. I was impressed. It was so nice to come home tonight though. I immediately threw jeans and a T-shirt on, relieved not to have to look 'presentable' any more, pulled my kids to me and kissed them as they yelled, "We saw you on telly, Mummy!!" with not a little excitement. It's a good job they and my Mum were watching, cos I'm not sure who else was ....

Monday, 16 April 2007

The unbearable lightness of being

Arrived home last night from, dare I say it, a quite idyllic break in Wales. The bar on our expectations had been set quite low: caravan holiday, in Wales, with three small children. How good could it be? It turned out to be the cheapest and simultaneously the best holiday we have ever had together. The constant sunshine helped of course, but mostly we just really enjoyed spending time with our kids doing the stuff kids love to do. A good beach, ice cream, fish and chips, walks in the countryside, farmyard animals aplenty, a steam train ride... it was a no-frills holiday for sure, but one the memories of which I will really treasure. I must heartily recommend the amazing caravan park on which we stayed - Blaenwaun Farm.
With the bags yet to be unpacked and no food in the fridge it was straight back to work this morning. The spot in Wales which we were visiting was a Blackberry Black Hole, so a couple of hours were spent this morning piling through the emails blocking up my Blackberry before heading off for the London Book Fair. It is always a little hard wrenching oneself away again after time off with the kids and today was no exception. There is that undeniably appealing and yet at the same time unbearable 'lightness' that you feel as you walk away from domestic life once more. Having said that, I'm sure I'm not quite as 'light' as I was before I left for the land of fish and chips and ice cream.....

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Packing it in

We're about to leave civilisation for four days in a caravan in deepest darkest Wales (well, actually, in a caravan overlooking one of the most beautiful coastal bays I've ever seen) but from the looks of it you'd have thought we were taking a small army somewhere very far away for a very long time. See, packing for three small children for four days is really not that different to packing ... well, to packing up most of your belongings, actually. Oh, the PARAPHERNALIA! I have to say that it is absolutely the thing I now hate most about going on holiday. Last night I sat down with a glass of wine (yep, I've given in to the demon drink again...) to write a LIST of all the things we would need to take. And a list is required, believe me. You're not gonna just REMEMBER all this shit. Don't even think about it!
The thing about the packing, too, is that while one is trying to pack, the children for whom one is packing like to 'help'. So, Eden (5) is taking a very large Disney Princess rucksack full of random small things: odd polly pocket shoes, bits of ribbon, naked Barbies, that kinda thing. She also packed her own suitcase, but this I went over and re-packed. The random toy selection I can cope with but it would be good if she left for the none-too-certain climes of Welsh Wales with a little more than some towelling shorts (very short) and some ballet tights. Sigh. Nath (2) meanwhile, has spent most of the day trailing stuff back in from the hall (where it has been neatly piled awaiting removal into the boot of the car) into the living room. He particularly has his eye on a plastic cricket set. Of course, the really annoying thing is that I always pack everyone else's suitcases first. By the time I get to my own I am so tired of the packing thing that I just throw in any old clobber, which usually turns out to be completely unsuitable, mis-matching junk. I may as well leave it all to Eden next time. See you on 16th April!

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Easter Egg Hunt

Being a Very Bad (Working) Mother I was too busy last week to plan properly for Easter. And then of course I wrote off Good Friday by spending the whole of this holy day with a hangover. (Did I mention that I was a Very Bad Mother?) Thus it came to pass that it was only last night that I raced to buy my beautiful children their Easter eggs. Imagine my horror when I found the Easter egg aisle of our local Sainsburies COMPLETELY BARE. As I had of course left it to the very last minute to organise, all the other local shops were closed. But would you believe it, Blockbuster Video came to the rescue. As I whizzed through to pick up a copy of Casino Royale for yesterday evening (may I just say in passing, Daniel Craig: PHWOOOAAR) I spied some rather lonely looking eggs by the tills. And so it was that Eden (5) received a 'Simpsons' Easter egg this morning, while Nathan (2) was shouting, "Egg! Egg! Choclit!" in sheer rapture at the sight of his 'Spiderman' one. Of course I needn't have worried. Neither of them gave a flying hoot what was on the packaging. It was the choclit inside that counted. Later on, as I sat in the garden and watched them 'painting' the patio with water from an old bucket and making pictures with stones, happy as larry, it occurred to me that sometimes we really do make a silly fuss about bringing up children. Chocolate, sunshine and love are pretty much all they require.

Friday, 6 April 2007


Rule No. 1 of being a Working Mum: Never, but NEVER go out for cocktails with Women Without Children Who Can Hold Their Drink Better Than You. Last night I broke this golden rule and where did it get me? Absolutely wasted. That was after the first three glasses of wine, never mind the mind-boggling number of Cosmopolitans that followed last night at Smiths in Smithfield. My memory of the evening's proceedings is somewhat fuggy, but I definitely remember talking quite a lot of nonsense with one of my fave colleagues, Sara Abdulla. I remember being quite relieved when she repeatedly mentioned how wasted she was, and finding it particularly amusing that she accompanied this statement each time with the universally recognised hand gesture / facial expression for 'wasted'. I also have a vague recollection of sharing just a teensy weensy bit too much detail about my sex life with several women I hardly knew. I definitely remember somebody called Charlotte who kept hugging me and telling my how much she liked my 'Biog'. She said she felt like she knew me and she already loved me. See, I knew there was a reason for doing this. Somewhere along the line I managed to get my purse stolen, and I nearly lost my wedding rings, too. Quite how I found my way into a cab and safely home is a bit of a mystery, but it probably had something to do with my excellent friend (and now ex-PA - sob!), Sonie. Her text sent a few hours after I left said simply, "Thanks 4 being U. Thanks 4 coming and 4 getting trashed. You were hilarious". It's nice to think I can provide my friends with so much free entertainment.
Hangovers were never really that pleasant Pre-Kids, but really, it surprises me that hangovers spent in the company of three children under five aren't used as a means of torture. As I write this it is with an enormous sense of relief that I can finally raise my head above the level of my feet without feeling nauseous, that the kids are all finally tucked up in bed and that I have a very large bar of truffle-filled dark chocolate waiting for me downstairs bought for me by my ever-thoughtful husband.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Princesses are not quitters!

As it's the Easter holidays I let Eden (5) stay up late tonight. As a very special treat she came with me to the beauty salon at 7pm and kept the beautician entertained with her banter and me distracted from the intense pain of having my legs and bikini line waxed. Honestly, as if one doesn't have enough to do without having to find time to stay fuzz-free... Anyway, having treated her to an outing that kept her out way beyond her bedtime we snuggled up at home together to read a bedtime story. She chose Princesses are Not Quitters by Kate Lum, which is superbly illustrated by Sue Hellard. I love the moral of this story, which illustrates the sticky situations which can develop when one imagines the grass is greener on the other side, and demonstrates the idea that there is nobility in hard work as long as a little fun is had along the way. If you're bored of your current stock of bedtime stories for girls aged 4-7, this one comes highly recommended. As Eden fell asleep in my arms she whispered, "Mummy, you're a Princess." I replied, "I'm not sure about that sweetheart - but I'm certainly no quitter."

Monday, 2 April 2007


Forgot to say yesterday, the presentation went really well Friday in the end. Clearly I should prepare more conference speeches on the way home from the pub after a couple of glasses of wine. Or perhaps it was the finishing touches that I put together in the cab on the way to the conference? Really, the whole thing was just my life in microcosm: a total SOPJ (seat-of-pants-job). I am fond of this acronym, which I learned from a canny IT project manager who used it to describe a project I had just finished working on with him. I wonder, will I one day do something really thoroughly and perfectly or will my life always be this way? It seems to me quite often that I raise my kids by the same methodology. For instance, I only just got Eden's school applications through in the nick of time because another parent casually asked me which schools I had put down on the application forms, which reminded me to call up the local council, pretend I had never received the forms and get a late application accepted. Phew. Sometimes this approach to life can be a little stressful, but it's certainly never dull. And I like to believe the kids think it's more fun.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Paper Mountain

Nothing, but nothing, is under control in my life. What is absolutely least under control is the never-ending tottering piles of paper EVERYWHERE. Post arrives, junk mail flies through the letterbox, letters are sent home from school, newspapers and magazines are consumed and flung to one side.... and then there are all the DRAWINGS. Eden, age 5 (going on 13) is prolific. I started out trying to keep her artworks but now maintain a scrapbook of a few of the best examples only. Nathan's scribbles currently get filed in the bin pretty much straight away. He doesn't qualify for a scrapbook until he produces something vaguely recognisable. Life is so much harsher for second and third children... Anyhooo, this morning I spent TWO HOURS sifting through the staggering heaps of paper and I still have three enormous piles left. I create a recycle pile, a file pile and an 'action' pile. The whole experience is enough to give one piles, that's for sure.