Monday, 31 March 2014

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Summer's a comin'...

Okay, so we all had coats on while nursing our pints, and someone did order an Irish coffee to keep warm, but we managed to spend yesterday afternoon in the beer garden after school - staying outside until nearly 6 o'clock, which was just heavenly. The children were flushed with the outdoors, playing vigorously on the pub garden equipment which overlooked a field of spring lambs. The neighbours cat joined us to see if anything interesting was occurring. We ate 6 packets of crisps for our tea and grinned, for this was a sure sign that summer is on its way.

There is a rumour of a heatwave this year.

a_cold_pint_by_perbear42-d3gq2ha.jpg (848×1067)

Monday, 24 March 2014

My bezzie

My best friend is getting married, to a sailor no less. All the nice girls love a sailor and you, my bezzie, are certainly a nice girl, a freaking great woman in fact.

We met over 21 years ago, in freshers week at Leeds Uni. You mentioned you had just been in Brazil and I had recently returned from Africa - thinking ourselves worldly-wise we clicked over foreign lands and cows intestines. We smoked fags outside our long science practicals, ate chips in the refectory and chose Mars bars for breakfast. We were inseparable, me the Hippy Chick and you the Samba Queen. We danced the night away in 'Up yer Ronson', snogged dodgy fellow students and waited for dawn, eating cold pizza. We did get a degree, a pretty good one too, leaving behind the revolting shared house with its peeling kitchen surface, mouldy peach bathroom and carbon monoxide emitting gas fires.

I joined you in Brazil one summer. We rode with the cowboys all day, raced down the mall - me on Bakhana and you on Bonito. We rode one handed, smoking Lucky Strikes in the other - avoiding the armadillo holes and the rattlesnakes. And we giggled about your rat in your bedroom, the toads on the walls and the unidentifiable, crusty insect that stayed on the shower curtain for the whole 3 months.

I came to see you in Holland. A crazy glass-smashing fraternity experience. I think I puked that weekend.

I visited you in Switzerland, three countries in one day and trotti biking down the mountains. You came to see me on the organic farm where we made risotto on top of the wood burner polishing off a fair few bottles of red. You are the reason I live in Sussex, Gardeners Cottage always a welcoming place after the smog of Brixton.

And most recently I joined you for the best riding of my life - in Kenya, amongst the giraffes and the elephants. Gin and tonics at sunset after the fast canter across the savannah, huddling under a maasai blanket with my bezzie - it doesn't get much better than that.

I can't imagine a nicer person for you than your sailor - you deserve him so very much. I feel privileged to be following you down the aisle this summer and celebrating the next part of your journey.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Travel jabs

It almost put me off going to India, the travel vaccinations. They are only 5 and 8 years old my girls and the injections were a really frightening thought for them. There is no getting round it, jabs aren't nice, even I tense and have to use all my labour/relaxation skills to get through the part when you can feel the liquid going in. Ughhh. Sorry if I have put you off your food.

But bless those brave little beans of mine, they did it and without tears too. Here's how (for anyone needing to take children for any sort of vaccination):

1. Don't tell them when the appointment is - I gave them a vague idea when it would be happening - a couple of weeks before the holiday- but I didn't tell them on the day.

2. Use Emla cream - I had never heard of it either - but it is magic. It anaesthetises the spot where the needle goes in, apparently they feel pressure but no pain.

3. Give them glucose with the Emla cream - mine had theirs in the form of chocolate, lots of it. There is study you can read here why it works.

4. Take their favourite toy. Of course A took Flumpy and P took Sizzles.

5. Let them sit on your lap and cuddle and kiss them as it happens.

6. Suggest that they take a deep breath in and then sigh out slowly.

7. Give them permission to cry - being brave doesn't mean not crying.

8. More chocolate afterwards, a good dose of cbeebies on the sofa and a great big hug - avoiding tender arms of course.

Well done girlies - only 18 more sleeps to go!

Saturday, 15 March 2014


There are three Flumpies. There is Flumpy Original, New Flumpy and Brown Flumpy. Flumpy Original was a gift to my first daughter A, when she was born. He is a blue elephant, with long gangly legs, a small soft body, an unfeasibly large trunk and two lovely white tusks. When A first held Flumpy, she put her thumb in her mouth, fiddled with his flicky tusks and slowly closed her eyes, Flumpy was her first best friend.

We had an emergency thought that most first time parents go through, what if we lost Flumpy, we need some replacements. The problem was that Flumpy came from Thailand. By fortune, the parents-in-law were visiting the country for a holiday soon enough so they had strict instructions to bring a replica home. Hence New Flumpy. Brown Flumpy arrived by post, an arduous journey no doubt, a well travelled elephant - he got delivered to the wrong address and went on the aeroplane all the way back to Thailand, only to be re-sent to our current address. Despite his colour he was welcomed with little chubby, open arms. So much so, his eye fell off and needed replacing with a rather bulbous one. Slowly all their tusks disintegrated, their bodies became soft and floppy with a lack of stuffing and their fluffy coats became worn and loved.

"Which Flumpy is coming to India?" I ask A, starting to think about packing and preparation.

"Well, it depends on who's turn it is to sleep with me on that day," explained A. "I take it in turns sleeping with them because it is only fair, they all want to be in my bed. And if I love one more than the other they will get sad and the one I love the most will get worn out."

I like your thinking A.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


We watched Life of Pi at the weekend, in preparation for India, and although I found it completely trashed the wonderful book, the opening scenes made me smile as they reminded me of P. Pi, short for Piscine, decided he enjoyed all the religions to be found in Pondicherry, South India. He loved the heroes of the Ramayana; the monkey god Hanuman, the elephant god Ganesha and the blue face of Krishna. He discovers a church and the priest shows him Jesus Christ, and in the mosque he enjoys Allah for company. Pi decides to be all three religions.

My daughter has decided not to be a Christian. But she doesn't mind Jesus because the stories are nice.

"Mummy! I'm not a Christian." she pronounces. I wince slightly, I don't know why, I'm not a Christian but it took me a number of years to reach that conclusion and to be sure of my decision, P is five.

"My teacher said that I am a Christian because we are all Christians in our school, and I told him I am not!"  I wince again. It's a Church of England school, there are no secular schools in these parts.

"That's OK P, if you don't want to be a Christian that is entirely fine with me but you must respect other peoples beliefs. Lots of people do believe in God and Jesus all over the world, they also believe in lots of other things as well."

"Fine. I'm not a Christian!" she reiterates and continues to play.

About 4 weeks later.

"Mummy, I told my teacher I am not a Christian, he doesn't believe me." she seemed distressed at being told she is something that she doesn't want to be.

Oh holy cow. Time to mention it to the school.

I very gently asked the teacher to respect P's beliefs and I told the teacher that she will not bring up her non-Christian-ness again. I told the teacher we are teaching P that we respect and love people from all cultures and religions and we mustn't impose our beliefs on others. The teacher said that it is a Church of England school. And I said that I understand that, but if we were a Sikh family we wouldn't be having this conversation.

As we respect and love everybody for who they are, I hope the school can find it in them to respect P's atheism - even if her non-Christian-ness only lasts three days.

Life of Pi 540x299 Life of Pi

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Rat race

She's young with fresh, dewy skin and an athletic dancers physique. She teaches my children street dance with some pumping tunes overlooking The Weald, an area of outstanding natural beauty, possibly the prettiest dance studio in the country but not very street. I ask how she has come to teach street dance and she tells me a story of being classically trained in ballet, of dancing professionally in Paris, of the gruelling hours and fierce competition. She then tells me she gave it up to settle down, because it's about time she did. She can't be more than 24.

Do you stop following your dreams at 24 because you are terrified you might be left behind in life's race? To stop dancing because you need a mortgage, to stop travelling because society tells you need a proper job, a partner, maybe some kids but definitely a mortgage.

I feel I am encouraging my girls to be inspired, to seek challenges, to follow their passions and the ultimate, to find happiness. The test, exams and endless learning starts at 4, so they can obtain meaningless qualifications, to get a good job - and finally the pinnacle, a mortgage.

"She's a perfectionist P, she likes to get things right," her school teacher told me at the parent consultation this week. "She will do very well in her GCSE's."

She's 5. Five years old. I want her to be her wild self and make up dance routines in her bedroom, make cakes with mud, giggle endlessly at poo and fart jokes because according to this life she only has another 15 years to be able to do this. Before she settles down.