Sunday, 12 June 2011

Then they were Two: It's Official

I am now in charge of two 2 year-olds.  The Tank and Magpie can be divine little cherubs one minute, and gross satanic monsters the next.  But at their birthday party last Sunday held in their Grandmother's garden, they were as good as gold, despite the washout - dashing around in vintage frocks (read: my own unworn party dresses) in pouring rain, having the sugar-fuelled time of their lives.  A marquee was acquired after a last-minute dash to Homebase.

Cousin Teddy's amazing mother has her first ever go at decorating birthday cakes, which were gooey and gorgeous, despite being wheat-free for me (marshmallow and buttermilk were the secret ingredients)


After the rain comes cake frenzy (look at those desperate hands)
Three sisters (I'm the deranged one in the rain-soaked hat) help the birthday girls to cut (and eat a lot of) cake

Duck-obsessed girls eat iced ducks
...and more ducks
Big Daddy keeps an eye on marquee roof leakage while Magpie is already soaked

Cake carnage

Luisa, maker of the creamiest, yummiest cakes ever, my mother GA (short for Grandma) and Magpie
Me looking a tad eccentric in hat and shades and JJ, friend and toddler-whisperer extraordinaire

Chief toddler whisperer Phoebe (far right) with Alice and twins Archie and Eliza.  The Tank takes a juice break  (far left)
A sneaky hot dog

A push by cousin Joe
Sisterly love on the actual Big Day
As above
Mapie, Purdey and cousin Teddy
The Tank, Magpie and the super-cute, ever-patient, cousin Teddy

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Navel Gazing Q&A (aka my first tag)

Lovely Mama at Manana Mama has just tagged me.  So now I've got to bare all.  I hope my happiest moment is yet to come.  I have gone straight to The Guardian piece that inspired MM's tag, and have not come up with my own version (as the ever-creative MM has).  We have Wyoming in common when it comes to happiness!

When were you happiest?
Oh God - can I have three moments?  No, make that four:

1.When I realised I was pregnant with my twin girls

2. & 3. in South Africa and Wyoming, both times up a mountain on a horse (not the same one, and not when pregnant).

My POV astride the stupendous horse Ace, descending a mountain into a lush valley
4. Walking my dogs down a valley in Gloucestershire where we rented the gatehouse of a famous writer.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Bryn Parry (Help for Heroes charity founder) for showing us that compassion and drive can take us a long way

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What was your most embarrassing moment?
At Prep school when, as usual, I wasn't concentrating in a history lesson and thought shell-shock happened on a beach

What is your most treasured possession?
My under-used office at the end of our garden
My office in the London snow

What makes you unhappy?

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Frown lines

Who would play you in the film of your life?
Meryl-bloody-Streep - sometimes my life is that serious
The most flattering photo of Meryl Streep of all time?
Which living person do you most despise, and why?
Nicole Kidman - overrated and over-botoxed

What is your favourite book?
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate

What do you owe your parents?
I owe my father everything, and I owe my mother a care for personal grooming

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
My father, for not being able to introduce him to his grandchildren

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My children

What does love feel like?
Unconditional, except when I'm tired and somebody is tantrumming

What was the best kiss of your life?
Wiith an ex-flatmate in Antibes in about 1998

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Bradley Cooper for sex appeal, Michael Macintyre for humour, Daphne du Maurier for creativity, and closest friends for friendship.
Bradley Cooper: the photo speaks for itself
If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
My Greek rescue dog, Klefti
Klefti, our charismatic Greek stray and a very pregnant me (not sure why K is wearing a harness and a lead)
What is the worst job you've done?
At the BBC working for a woman who hated.....women

What has been your biggest disappointment?
The conviction that I needed to settle down in my early thirties

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
The Wild West

When did you last cry, and why?
Can't remember, but it won't have been long

How do you relax?

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
A bigger home

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Imagination by Belouis Some

How would you like to be remembered?
Did her best (kind of)

Monday, 9 May 2011

32. Hurrah! Return to Normality

I've had a little blogging break.  A couple of you might have noticed.

Am I the only person in the world who thanks dear God that this is a normal, five day week?  No bank holiday Friday, which means my children are back at nursery ALL DAY, and no bank holiday Monday, which means my cleaner does appear to clear up the domestic rubble.  Hurrah!

I found the holiday weekends exhausting.  I was banished from home for the first one, taking the girls to my aunt's (while Big Daddy, with the help of a cousin, partially rebuilt the garden).  For the second bank hol, I had un-entertained children with pent-up energy while we watched The Royal Wedding (their only entertainent was a crown made by a domestic Godess friend), and then later that weekend we had a BBQ to celebrate our newly-renewed garden.  There was simply too much chez nous and not enough out and about to run my she-wolf cubs ragged.

Cousin Andrew, Hatty the Spaniel with me and my girls during Easter at my Aunt's, where I was banished due to garden improvements that were under way back in the Big Smoke

I now realise that I find comfort in my reasonably rigid weekday routine (playgroup or playground Mon and Tues am; Bishop's Palace gardens on Mon or Tues pm (weather dependent); shopping on Weds am, my mother's on Weds pm and overnight; Creche at a sports club on Thurs am and nursery all day Friday.  Slightly Groundhog Day?  Err, yes.  What really gives my week variety is the work I do (when The Tank and Magpie are asleep), reading manuscripts and scripts for film companies.  Recently, I've read a book about American-Irish animosity on the stormy SW coast of Ireland; a teen zombie yarn set in Aviemore in Scotland, and a book about an imaginary island where atheists rule and people of faith are outcasts.  So my escape from the humdrum is when I read, and I only read prodigiously (instead of using my 'lunch break' to batch cook delicious toddler-friendly dishes) is because I am paid (but not well-paid) to do it. 

Another reason why I hate bank holidays is because I'm a freelancer.  This means that from mid December to mid Jan, Mid April to early May (depending on when Easter falls), and mid July to early September, work dries up.  Right now, having been reading - up until Easter - a couple of hefty novels per week, I have no work.  'Nothing yet.' as the people say in their emails.  'We'll let you know.'  So ergo, I have no excuse but to catch up with blogging.

So here's a little photo diary of recent weeks - Easter, The Royal Wedding and our inaugural child-friendly BBQ.

It's nice to be back.
The Tank is papped at her million pound rural retreat (aka her Great Aunt's Wendy House)

The Tank climbs - as per usual - and Magie sits contemplatively - as per usual - looking the spitting image of Big Daddy
Magpie, with the help of cousin Andrew, feeds her first chicken

Magpie tries to lift the chickens' water dispenser
This blog isn't called dummies and dog hairs for nothing....
Magpie tries to stare out the stone chicken and frog and turn them back into real animals
Princess Magpie (complete with scabby nose) tries on her crown for size
Her Majesty The Tank watches William and Kate tie the knot

The second bank hol nearly draws to a close with a London BBQ: adults mingle with children and dogs
Purdey, Magpie and a lot of grown-up feet
The Tank tries to make a break for the Illegal BBQ area while Magpie creates a distraction
He shouldn't be smoking, you know?
Children-whisperer Ella holds the kids rapt: from left to right, The Tank (standing), Matilda (sucking thumb), Magpie, pretending to be a babe-in-arms with dashing blonde boy Oscar

Sunday, 27 March 2011

29. The Swear Box

I dressed Magpie and the Tank in haste this morning.  We were going out for brunch (to accommodate my and my host's respective toddler routines) and what with the clocks going forward, we lost out on an hour of precious 'fannying around' time (shove girls in cots while I watch the news and microwave my cold coffee for the 10th time).  So we had to speed up the dressing process and the Tank wasn't having it.  Her 21 month-old version of 'not having it' was telling me and Big Daddy what wonderful words she had learnt this week.
Before I ruin my own story, I need to tell you something.  I bought a Swear Box at our local FaraKids (without which I could not live - that's Fara, not the Swear Box).  But today's post isn't about Fara.  I'll save that one for another day.  No, it's about swearing.  Mine, in particular.  Now being the mother of my children, I'm acutely aware of the need (especially other people's need) not to swear in front of them at the crucial 'sponge' phase (the phase from 2-3 years old approx when children are learning to speak and will repeat any old garbage that comes out of your mouth without you realising).

Big Daddy is slowly replacing the F-word with the Fff-ing word; Ga, the girls' grandmother is learing to say 'naughty' girl instead of 'horrid' girl,  and I am learing to say 'hello' to people on the phone insteady of 'hiya' which the girls have copied, and played back to me, so to speak, when I had NO IDEA that such hideousness ever came out of my mouth.  So no, as far as I was aware, I didn't swear in front of them...I just whined down the phone and appalled myself with my own naff use of language.

But back to the joys of dressing the Tank.  As I did up each button on her funky Baby Gap brown corduroy shirt dress, she said:

'Oh my God.'

I did up another button just to check I hadn't heard wrong.  She twisted and turned to show her disapproval at my trying to dress her.'
(Translation - this just isn't going my way.  Oh, want are you doing?  No!  I soooo don't want to get dressed).

The Tank (right) wearing the offending corduroy shirt dress that made her language a little colourful
Big Daddy grinned.  My holier-than-thou ethos with the Swear Box and the 20p fines and the enforcement of my Language-in-front-of-toddlers Rule had just been thrown back in my face.

All I can say, is OMG.  Must do better.

28. Silent Sunday

Sunday, 13 March 2011

26. A Mother or Somebody who happens to have Children?

Extra Curricular activities in the 70s & 80s: if you couldn't be bothered to take your daughter to Brownies, were you a bad mother?
I read unpublished novels and film scripts for a living.  At least that's what I do with two under two at home.  It's very enjoyable, but time-consuming and not exactly as lucrative as I would hope.  I need to find some extra 'from home' income, preferably that utilises my writing and editing skills.  Answers on a postcard please!   But I digress.  I read an incredible manuscript recently by an up-and-coming American writer (his second novel has already been optioned and is being made into a film with a starry cast), but in the name of professional discretion, I cannot name either the book or the writer.  However, the mother of the novel's narrator made a fascinating point, something that I have been ruminating on all week.  She said some women are mothers, while others happen to have children.

It made me wonder, if being a mother (by that of course I mean  a 'good' mother) depends on doing most of it yourself?  Or can you be a good mother if you have loads of childcare, and immunise yourself from the mundanity of certain aspects of mothering (dressing, feeding and bathing are the three things that occasionally I could really do without, but maybe that's because I've got terrible-two-ish twins)?

Fragonard's The Good Mother
I remember my father saying to me 'your mother is so loving, please don't be rude to her.'  My mother is a complex woman, but that's beside the point.  My point is she was most definitely immunised from a lot of the nitty-gritty of mothering.  She was a SAHM but had a full-time au pair from my birth until my sister (seven years younger) was about twelve.  We barely ever went on our summer holidays (always to Italy) without an au pair accompanying us. 

There is no doubt that my mother loves me and my sister to bits, but during our upbringing it was a love that had defined limits.  For example, she wouldn't let me or my sister be a Brownie because she didn't want the commitment of taking us (I was allowed to do tap dance classes as the venue was only five minutes from home).  I don't mean to be mean - my mother did the best she could and is now a doting and very capable grandmother to three grandchildren - but perhaps I envy her prosperity that I think she took for granted? 

If I could afford more help, would I take it?  Most probably.  But because I can't, I realise that one of the greatest virtues of a mother is patience.  And would I have learnt the same degree of patience if I hadn't needed to?  Probably not.  And that surely is a good thing?