Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Gallery - Outside my front door.

Tara said it didn't have to be literal, but you all know what my immediate area looks like - rows of Victorian (or possibly Georgian looking at the end of the road) terraces, interspersed with bombing in-fill or 60s and 70s estates.  It's nothing special, but it's home.  For the next month at least.   If I go further afield, you know what that looks like too.  It's on any teatowel bought by any tourist to London.

So I've gone literal.  Because this sign, right outside my front door, is pretty much the biggest thing in my life at the moment. I'm also accidentally advertising our estate agent in the process, but I hope they'll forgive me. Sadly Tara's deadline has come before the tree outside is properly in blossom, but it's getting there.

But she's also pre-empted me.  It's four weeks tomorrow until we move out, and I've been thinking that I need to record the stuff I'll forget.  The views and sights I walk past every day, and which make this little corner of London mine.  So consider this the first in an occasional, and necessarily short, series of pictures taken outside (and inside) my front door.

I'm really intrigued to see what everyone else's front doorstep looks like.  The rest of the gallery is here.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

In praise of parent bloggers

I read, this morning, between spoonfuls of weetabix (theirs, not mine) an article in last Sunday's Observer Magazine that really depressed me. You guessed it, it was yet another about how difficult it is being a parent (particularly a mother, sorry chaps) in today's Britain, and how the slummy mummies hate the yummy mummies and the working mothers hate the stay-at-home mothers, and in fact we all loathe each other and are actually all gritting our teeth through the playdates; or wanting to tear the eyes out of the mum down the road whose child has matching socks, or an Elmer birthday cake; or wishing we were at work; or wishing we weren't at work; or just generally willing our miserable, lonely, unfullfilled lives away, unsupported and unloved.

And I don't want to get into that debate again, and I don't want to argue endlessly about whether I should, or shouldn't be in the process of giving up my job (three more working days to go), or whether I am or am not a good mother because I enjoy time away from my children.  But what I do want to do is to say that in the not-quite-six-months I've been blogging, I have never, not once, felt hated.  In fact, I've never felt anything other than supported by the hundreds of mummies and daddies I have run into in cyber-space.

Never have I felt disliked, never have I been told I am wrong, never has anyone (other than me) said the words "bad parent". Instead, even when I've posted about stuff where I was wrong, or where I have worried about the choices I am making, I have felt the most immense amount of support, and, dare I say it, love, from the parents I have "met".

I'm not saying that we aren't competitive (see the MADS 2010 - and the ridiculous delight I feel at just learning that I have been nominated. Thank you so much to whoever that was), or that we don't sometimes disagree with each other's choices, but what I do think we're all bloody brilliant at is realising that other people's choices are just that, and although they might not be right for us, they're right for them.

Well done us and a huge thank you to everyone who has been so lovely over the last six months.  Sometimes I think we don't realise how amazing we all are!


ps apologies for gushyness. Normal cyncial service will resume shortly.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

A bookshelf at blogtime (featuring two ghost stories and a photograph)

Since I last posted about reading I've actually, somehow, managed to read three books.

I was supposed next to be reading a bit of escapism, Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

But then it was the beginning of March, I was signed up to the Secret Post Club, and my recipient, Nualacharlie, was (and is) an amazing photographer with a passion for books.  So I knew I had to send her The Photograph, by Penelope Lively.  The thing is, though, I hadn't actually read it myself.  I've read other books by Penelope Lively, but I only know about this one because of an article by Jane Shilling that I printed out from The Times (pause for brief intake of horrified breath at the concept of paying for an online newspaper... there goes my Times reading) in 2003 and have had, preserved inside one of my photo albums, ever since because I was so struck by what she said about photographs and memory, and the way in which we construct our memories from photographs.  I always think that my first memory is of going swimming with my parents. I was wearing a green swimming costume.  But it's not. I don't remember that at all. I've just seen a picture of it.  A fact I'd forgotten until I found the photograph a couple of years ago.

Anyway, as I say, it seemed like the perfect book for NualaCharlie, and I was delighted when I bought it.  But then there it lay, all new, with an unbroken spine and that wonderful smell of new book.  So,  (with big apologies to her) I read it.  I couldn't not, really.  But I was very careful not to break the spine.

And here's an awful admission.  I can't really remember it, even though I only read it at the beginning of the month.  I fell back into my old ways, devouring it so as to have finished it before I had to put it in the post.  I remember pausing to enjoy phrases, and re-reading pages because I loved the images she conjured up. I remember a feeling of melancholy, but not of sadness.  Of wistfulness and of waste.  But I can't remember any of those phrases or images.

Also, Jane Shilling had ruined it for me by telling me what the end was. 

So after that, I was back to where I had started, with Twenties Girl.  I've enjoyed lots of Sophie Kinsella's books before (although not the Shopaholic series which I find immensely irritating) and this one was no different.  But in reading it I realised (with apologies to Ms Lively) that my proper reading is paying off. I found the way she wrote, and in particular the complete lack of self-awareness of her main character (which might have been deliberate, but which has struck me before about her characters so I suspect it isn't, unless she really intends them all to be the same) niggled at me, like the label on a new top where it digs into your neck. 

That said, I did enjoy it: Lara's life is not going at all well until she starts being haunted, in an utterly benign way, by the ghost of her 105-year-old Great-Aunt.  Various pitfalls ensue, but Lara ends up (and honestly, I'm not ruining this for you, it's pretty obvious what's going to happen) a lot happer and more sorted:  job, man and life all firmly back on track.

It's silly stuff but it struck a chord with me, if only because of my own amazing Great Aunt, who died nearly three years ago now about a month before her 100th birthday.  I don't know if amazing twenties Great Aunts are more common than I realise, or if Sophie Kinsella is actually a pseudonym my sister is using, but she could have been talking about the wonderful woman I knew and loved.  There's another post in me I think all about the glamorous Miss Schofield, but you couldn't not love a woman who turned Douglas Fairbanks down and got bought a car by Ernest Kleinwort (of Kleinwort Benson) ("but I didn't fancy him darling.  I just liked the car").  Who loved dancing at the 51 club ("Do you go, darling?") and who used to leave her little dog with the hat-check girl while she did so...

My next book was supposed to be Wolf Hall, but I left it at home when I went to my University reunion last week and so had to buy a new book at Kings Cross in a panic of ohmygoodnessIhaven'tgotabookwithmewhatwillIdoifIneedtoreadsomething?????  Which actually turned out to be a good thing after our train got enormously delayed on the way back to London on Sunday.  The book I bought was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  It was a rather good choice after the Sophie Kinsella, because this too is a ghost story, but this time it's the sort that you have to read with the lights on, and which you have to stop reading at eight o'clock every night so that you will sleep and not see mysterious black marks appearing on your walls, or hear childish footsteps pattering up the stairs (actually that last happens whether I've been reading ghost stories or not).

I was terrified.  It starts so benignly and ordinarily and the tension is slowly and imperceptibly increased until you're jumping at anything and the black smudges of the printers ink accidentally left on page 196 start to look anything but accidental.

But it's not just a things that go bump in the night story. I found the ending fascinating - and would be fascinated to know what others think -  because she avoids the temptation of a glib explanation and instead left me wondering which of several possibilities was the real truth.  So much so that I have now re-read the last twenty pages three times, and each time come away with a different answer.  It's also a fascinating meditation on class.  Not only on the impossibility of the old-style landed gentry surviving unchanged in the modern post-war world, but also on the way in which old attitudes and old senses of the fixed and unchanging nature of one's place in the hierarchy linger on. Like so many unresting souls.

Next up? Wolf Hall.  I have heard both good and bad things, and I don't have a good history of agreeing with the Booker judges so we'll see.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

What's your favourite stage?

This is mine.  Right now.  I remember adoring it with L too.

S and A are now fifteen and a bit months and I LOVE it!  They're little enough still to be cuddly, gorgeous babies, but grown up enough to be wonderful, individual people.

They can communicate, but not talk.
They nod, and grin, and manage to produce an entire vocabulary with about four consonants and three vowels.  They understand pretty much everything I say to them and they can express a preference with an amazing combination of gestures, smiles, frowns and yelps.  Oh, and they both know what noise a tiger makes too.

They are mobile, but can't really get around without me.
A is walking, just, but it's still that hilarious zombie, arms-outstretched walking that invariably ends in a bump and a toothy grin.  S is crawling, very fast, and only cares that A can walk and she can't when A gets praised and she doesn't.  Funny that.

They get stroppy when they are told off, or can't do something they want to, but they also haven't yet worked out that the person who's doing that is me, so it's me they turn to for comfort: "Mummy, it's so awful, I wasn't allowed to pull your glasses off your face.  Comfort me...."

They know what goes where and how their world fits together, but they're still so amazed and fascinated by the tiniest things.
I can keep them entertained for ages with just a hair clip, or a piece of tissue (they do have actual toys, incidentally...), but if I hand out the toothbrushes in the wrong order, or try to put A's shoes on S's feet, woe betide me.

I just think this is the most amazing stage.   Watching them as they turn from babies into children.

And it's not that I don't adore L, or think that the stuff she's doing is amazing, but she is now, aged nearly 3, much harder work.  I remember, as she went from 3 months, to 6, to 15 and then into the ages that are no longer counted in months thinking every stage was better than the one before, but that's not true any more. She's more complicated, and complex, and intelligent and demanding, and has opinions, and thoughts and preferences of her own which I can't (or not always) solve with tickles and raisins.  And I think too, that as she's grown older, I've realised that the stuff she's doing at any given point in time isn't, any more, just a stage that all babies pass through. She's not a baby any more. She does what she does because she's L.

But is that right? Are "stages" just an illusion?  Or are they going to keep getting better (or worse)?!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Gallery - Me

This is me.  The one on the right. Very small and behind the camera.

That's not supposed to say anything about my state of mind.  Just that Tara set us Me as the challenge for this week's gallery, and although I could have reposted the one of my tummy, or found one in which I look relatively presentable, or found a more representative one with babysick and unwashed hair, I've decided to go for this.

Because this was taken on a day, in a weekend, that was all about me.  Not L, A and S's mummy. Me.

For Christmas 2008 my Mum and Dad gave us a weekend away.  The intention was that they would have the girls and would contribute to a hotel so that we could have a weekend off.  Of course at Christmas 2008, S and A were 14 days old, so it was some while before a weekend away was a real practicality, but we started thinking about it the following October and I realised that what I really wanted to do was have a weekend at home, no children, to do the stuff that I like doing when I only have myself and B to think about.

So we did.  I took the Friday off work to do the laundry and clean and pack for the girls (so as not to have to do any of these things over the weekend) and my mum came and picked them up (she's an angel in human form, as I may previously have mentioned).

And on Saturday morning we woke up at 6.  And it was bliss.  Because we went "Oh, it's 6 o'clock", rolled over and went back to sleep... We woke up again, in our own bed, a bit later, and got up a bit later still (ahem).   It was a glorious day and we had no plans, no children and no responsibilities.

We had breakfast sitting outside in a cafe, with big cups of milky coffee and fresh croissants, then we went to the Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy (which is really what the picture is of, of course).  We had lunch in the Japan Centre, followed by a wander around the antique print and bookshops on the Charing Cross Road. Then we came home again, had a little snooze (ahem) and went out for dinner and comedy...

And on Sunday we woke up at 6.  And it was still bliss.  And we went out for breakfast again.  And realised that what we really wanted to do on Sunday was see our babies.  So we got in the car and went and got them.

It was one of the best weekends ever.   It was just about us. Being adults and enjoying each other's company, the sunshine, some culture, some good food and wine.  And it reminded us that underneath the sometimes fraught and always tired parents, we, and I, still exist.


There are, as ever, amazing pictures in The Gallery.  See them here.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Beauty is a Beast.

In my case, apparently, this particular beast.  According to my ex anyway, who used to call me Captain Caveman on a regular basis.  By "regular" I mean about every six weeks, or two weeks after the date on which I should have got my legs waxed....  And if I'm honest, B agrees...

The thing is, I'm not very good at beauty.  I never have been.  I don't get my legs waxed often enough, I don't own any make up that wasn't a freebie (I keep trying to rectify that but I go into spasms of panic at make up counters and walk away empty-handed), I've given up wearing my lenses because I can't be bothered any more and I've still got polish on my toes that was put on in September.  (I worked that one out the other day, was disgusted at myself and then realised that I don't have any nail polish remover either).

I used to have a beauty routine. It went like this:

Every evening, I would:
Clean my teeth and get into bed.

I've enhanced this recently, since I looked at some pictures of myself and was horrified at how old I looked. So now I:
Clean my teeth, wash my face, put anti-wrinkle cream on and get into bed.

It's not great though is it?  Admittedly a lot of this is laziness (have caught my man and no longer need to make an effort, or something) and exhaustion (can't spare an additional five minutes of couldbeinbed time), because I definitely was better when I was single:  I used to stay in on Sunday evenings and pamper myself properly, but that went by the wayside a long time ago.

Either way, when the people at Aveeno wrote and asked if I wanted to try some of their products, my thoughts went something like this:

  1. Why do I get moisturiser when other people get Green and Blacks?  I definitely have opinions on chocolate.
  2. Oh, help! A sponsored post! Do I do sponsored posts? How do I do a sponsored post?  Will people hate me if I do sponsored posts? 
  3. Moisturiser?  What's that....?

So it was in a tryanythingonce sort of a way that I said I would be delighted, and I have been diligently trying their products for the last month (they've probably given up waiting for me to write anything it's taken so long, but I don't really feel you can try a moisturiser once and say whether you like it or not (unlike chocolate - Green and Blacks take note)).

Now for the sponsored bit - please tell me if I've got the etiqutte of this all wrong. It's my first time. Be gentle with me.

They sent me three products.  First off I got Creamy Moisturising Oil and Hand Cream, and then later on they sent me the Daily Moisturiser.  Now the thing is that I started off using the Moisturising Oil and then they said "oh, you must have the Daily Moisturiser too, it's an essential part of the routine" or something like that, so I said I'd be delighted, got it, and then realised that I couldn't work out why I had two different products that essentially do the same thing.  They do, don't they?  And in trying them, I've discovered that to the untrained leg (I've been using them on my legs) yes, they do exactly the same thing.

And that is, well, you guessed it, what it says on the tin (aka somewhat underwhelming plastic packaging).  But they do it well.  My (overdue for a waxing) legs are smooth and moisturised, and still not presentable in public, but that's not their fault.

As for the hand cream, well, I was impressed.  It claims to last for 24 hours even through handwashing.  And probably it does if you're only washing your hands every time you go to the loo. I however, am washing my hands every time four people go to the loo. Not to mention doing about five lots of washing up a day (we don't have enough plastic plates to put them in the dishwasher), and, sorry Aveeno, it doesn't last through that much handwashing.  But it is good.  My hands always used to look unloved. Mostly because they are.  They are red and dry and cracked and sometimes quite sore. Or they were. Now they're still not very pretty, but if you close your eyes and stroke them, they feel lovely.

Now all I have to do is remember to use it.

Picture Credits:
Captain Caveman picture from, but presumably copyright Hanna Barbera.
And Aveeno picture from Aveeno. Funnily enough.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Secret Post Club - March

I've been shamefully late in posting about March's Secret Post Club Parcel - but that's not through lack of gratitude!  I received, about a week ago now, a lovely set of goodies.  A beautiful card, a delicious sanctuary spa gift box and a handmade notebook.

The sender? Why that was the lovely Hayley at Single Motherhood Challenges who, bless her, had put them together to help me "relax and hone in on some creativity" during the move.  I'm therefore being a good girl and not cracking open the Sanctuary stuff until we're actually there. But you can be assured. First bath in the new house? I'll be Sanctuaried up....  As for the notebook and the creativity. I suspect it may actually be used for lists, but no less appreciated for it!

Thank you so much to Hayley, and to Heather (as always) for organising.

Sunday, 21 March 2010


I'm writing this a little after

midnight, lying on my back in a single bed wearing my trackie bottoms and an elderly t-shirt in the hope that, on my way to the shower in the morning, they 'll be taken for pyjamas...

You guessed it. I'm back in an institution. In this case the one in which I spent three years broadening my mind and developing the useful skills of necking a glass of cheap wine with a penny in it and existing on a diet based solely on the major food groups of Bean Feast, tinned tuna and instant coffee.

It's 15 years. 15 years since we arrived. I'd like to say we were fresh-faced, wide-eyed and innocent, and we probably were. But we thought we were so grown up. Wise men and women of the world, ready to spend three years finding a cure for cancer and creating world peace.

And now it's tomorrow morning, 15 years later, and I'm sitting on a train to the wrong destination (engineering works) and what strikes me is that (although we are now all so different, and although we have all moved on) how little has actually changed and how little we have forgotten.

Oh yes, all the boys have to shave now and many of the girls bear similar scars and stretch marks, both emotional and physical, to me. But we're actually all remarkably the same as we were then. And some of that comes out in the fact that, perhaps inevitably, I spent the evening talking to the people I am still friends with and who I love, and not to those who I didn't click with then, and who, despite polite chit chat about children and jobs and house prices, I find I still don't click with now.

But I think some of it also comes out in the fact that that place: those walls, and courtyards, those gardens, that bleak bedroom, are in our bones. Those three years did change us, but they changed us all and we never noticed. You can see this in the way that we all know, without trying or thinking, which doors push and which doors pull. Or the way we all wrinkle our noses in recognition of smells we never noticed at the time but which now instantaneously slice a decade and a half off our lives.

Because the place hasn't changed. There it stands, immutable as ever. (And despite all their trumpeting of development works the kitchens and bathrooms were depressingly the same as they always had been.) and you realise that although it changed us, and shaped us, and made us (at least in part) the people we are today, for it we are just the blinking of an eye, over before it has even noticed it's happening.

And us? Well we move on, and away, and we grow and make new choices and decisions. But those three years, and the changes we then experienced, stay with us. And I suspect that if and when I go back at 20 years, or 30, or 50, I will realise anew how far I have travelled and how little I have moved.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Dear So and So - the follow up.

Dear (same) bus driver,

I'm sorry.  I know you were trying to be kind.  And I'm glad you learned from yesterday's weeping woman.

I'm very touched that you noticed us, that you remembered us, that you slowed down in the rain and waited for us.  And honestly, I would have got on.  And smiled.  But you see, there was no money on my (new) oyster card.  And I just didn't think you'd believe me. Not second time.

Yours apologetically,

Wet Mummy of Three


Dear Estate Agent,

I'm delighted you've sold our house. I really am.  But having got us this far without a horrid board, is it really necessary to put one up now?

Yours house-proudly,

Exchanged Woman


Dear Pushchair Retailer, and Poster of Replacement Parts

I love you! Will you marry me and have my babies? Please?

Yours no-longer-getting-the-busly

Happy Mummy


Dear Return Key

Honestly! What's going on? I thought you were fixed.  But when I try and write blog posts you don't work.

I like paragraphs. Please may I have some?

Yours irritatedly



Inspired, as before, by Kat, who sends wonderful postcards from her 3 bedroom bungalow in crazytown....

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Dear So and So

Dear Estate Agent.

You did it!  Thank you!  I never thought we'd get here.

love Mr and Mrs PB


Dear House

It's not you. It's us.  We've just grown apart.  We've loved knowing you, but we've signed the papers and this time it really is going to be good bye.

We're sorry.  Have fun without us.  We hope they will love you as much as we have.



Dear Pushchair

Nice try but you failed! You're still in warranty!  We can get you fixed.  Eventually.

Yours getting-the-bus-ly



Dear Bus Driver

No, you're right. It was a scam. 

Because I organised the rain, and the three children, and the borrowed pushchair with no buggy board, and the lost oyster card.  All to get a free ride for three stops.

And it's ok, because I honestly love crying in public.

Thanks for nothing.

Cross of West London


Dear Girls,

You could have made a rather emotional day much worse.  Mummy on her own, Daddy out boozing, nasty bus drivers, exchanged contracts, broken pushchairs. But you were a delight. Thank you.

And now you're asleep.

I love you all

Mummy xx


Dear Return Key

What's going on?  Sort yourself out.  Please?

See you at the next post.

Plan B


With thanks and apologies to the lovely Kat who lives in a Three Bedroom Bungalow in Crazytown for nicking her idea, but I love it and I've been looking for a way to use it for a while now.  I enjoyed writing my postcards!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Gallery - Red and Yellow and Pink and...

Tara's Challenge for The Gallery this week was colour.

This picture, of a waterfall in Yosemite, was taken when we were there in 2006.  It was amazing.  I hope I've captured the spray and the motion and the rainbow, but you'll just have to imagine the noise, and the coldness of the water, and the warmth of the sun, and the sweaty feeling of achievement at having climbed to the top...

See the rest of The Gallery here!

Monday, 15 March 2010

The secret of successful discipline

Not been here much recently. Mostly because I haven't been, well, for want of a better word: here.  So apologies for bloggy absence, but we were up in Scotland, looking at The House, seeing the in-laws, making plans and generally having a very busy, totally unrelaxing, but extremely enjoyable week off.

Anyway, it's all been a bit unsettling for all the girls, and especially L. We've been moving around a lot: she's been sleeping in different places, meeting new people, coming to the beginnings of an understanding about what moving is going to mean and generally having her routine totally blown to pieces.  So yesterday morning we woke up in East Lothian at her cousins' house, piled in the car and drove south, planning to stop for lunch with friends in Yorkshire.

L slept in the car and we made very good time, so I was confident that when we got there she'd be on splendid form. 

Not a bit of it. She was properly horrid. Whingy, moany, clingy, refusing to eat, refusing to sit down, refusing to do anything we wanted her to....

So I got cross.  And I find that there's something even more cross-making about ordinary toddler behaviour when you're with friends and you really, really want them to see what a lovely child you have, and that child refuses to cooperate...

After half an hour of detailed negotiations over precisely which bit of utterly delicious lasagna she would and wouldn't eat, I lost it and I told her that either she sat down and ate her lunch or I'd put her in the car. (I am officially turning into my mother).

I put her in the car.
I got her out of the car.

She didn't eat.

I put her back in the car.
I got her back out of the car.

I sat her back down at the table, and we agreed that I would "help" her eat "very little spoons" of lasagna.

She looked at me, put her hand under my chin and said:

"Tickle tickle"

I looked at her.

"I want you to smile, Mummy".

Whereupon all thoughts of being a strict disciplinarian vanish. In a puff of delighted maternal love. 

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Gallery - 2 (or possibly 45, or 36, or maybe even 12)

This isn't a new photo on my blog, but I couldn't think of anything else that so perfectly fulfills Tara's numbers brief:

2: perfect babies inside me. I was sorting out my pictures recently and it struck me anew just how big I was...
45: inches round the middle (and that was before supper. I measured it another time that week and it came out at 48! That's four foot!!! I reckon if I'd gone to term (I was 36 weeks at that point and not allowed to go any longer) I'd have been close to being more around than I am tall (I'm quite short!)

Or maybe:

12: hours until I met them, and my life changed forever.

See the rest of the Gallery here.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Moving house aged 2 3/4 : the visit

We went to see The House today. All of us. A grand deputation consisting of B, me, L, A, S and my parents, flown up for the day to see what they're losing us to.

I've been hyping L up about The House since our offer was accepted, trying to get her excited about the prospect of moving in the hope that it will make the transition easier.

And I think we can say it was a complete failure.

We arrived, after two hours in the car, L crotchety:

"No. This isn't my new house. I'm not going to live here"

That was the high point. Each room we went into she found something else she didn't like, or something else that was wrong, or some other reason why this was not, adamantly not her new house. And all the while I desperately tried to enthuse her, while feeling my enthusiasm for the place ebb away...

We left and I realised that now I didn't want to live there either.

Now, I know that's ridiculous, and I know that she's two and doesn't understand, and I know that my jollying her along will only have made her more determined not to like it (she was in that sort of mood) but I'm also really worried that the transition is going to be much harder than I expected.

L and I had a little chat later on. I realised that she probably thought that we were buying and leaving more than just the bricks and mortar. So I explained to her that the man was going to take all his stuff away, and we were going to bring all her toys and clothes and her bed and our sofa and put them in the new house so that it was like the old house only bigger and better. And she said to me:

"and he's going to take his dogs (L not a big dog fan)...

...but he's going to leave the cat for us."

Hmmm . Am now wondering how high a cat-shaped price we're prepared to pay for a smooth ride (I'm told that she'd prefer a pink or yellow one - there's a whole nother disappointment to come there.)

So I thought we were ok. But then she had a night terror. She won't, apparently, remember it in the morning, but I will. And I will keep worrying about what it means for her to have her home taken out from underneath her. And how, if at all, we can help.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone (and Scotland!)

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The finished product!

Second post in ten minutes. Because I just had to post this:

Conspirators - the book at blogtime

Michael Andre Bernstein's Conspirators is split into three parts.  A brief prelude in 1925, a longer middle section (he probably calls it something proper, but I can't remember what it is and I can't be bothered to go upstairs and find out) set in 1913, and a coda back in 1925.  He poses a question in the prelude, explores its background in the middle and then doesn't answer it in the coda.

Did I find that annoying? Well, thinking about it now, yes.  Very.  But when I finished it last night. No, not really.  Somehow, the question, which seemed so important at the beginning, just wasn't at the end.  In fact, I find myself, now, wondering why he bothered with the prelude at all. 

Essentially, this book is an exciting spy thriller set in the last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Unfortunately, for me the plot was befuddled with lots of digressions into the internal thoughts of the characters.  There are, undoubtedly, some readers who love that sort of thing: The Times commends the "considerable imagination [that] goes into developing the interior lives of all the characters".  Sadly, I'm not one of them. 

Or at least I thought I wasn't. But then, weirdly, I enjoyed it.  Yes, I found looking at a several double pages of print without a redeeming paragraph break rather off-putting (honestly, I'm not as thick as that makes me sound - but really, paragraphs are a good thing.  We all know that, don't we?).  But I found at the end that I really knew these characters.  I understood their fears, their loves, their needs and their motivations, and as a result, even though they were, in many cases, unpleasant, I empathised with them.  And yes, I did feel that it dragged at times and I wanted to get on with the story.  But once the plot gathered pace, I couldn't put it down.  And it made me think, and it will stay with me.  

Which I suspect is less likely to be true of my next book:  Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl.  I need a break of easy reading and light hearted fun after two weeks of political assassinations, torture and doomed empire and I love Sophie Kinsella, so I'm really looking forward to this. I suspect I may have to ration it, if I'm not to be writing another booky post tomorrow!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Gallery - Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner...

...but only for a few more short weeks... that I'm beginning to feel nostalgic for this amazing, sprawly, angry, busy, friendly, noisy, indescribable city that I've been lucky enough to call my home for the last ten and some years.

So when I saw Tara's new meme/theme/gallery, and realised that this week she wants photos of Beauty, I ended up deciding to post this:

It was taken on my phone last Saturday, so it's not the world's best picture (it was taken by me, so it was never going to be the world's best picture anyway!) but it reminds me that even here, in the centre of London, surrounded by more than 7 million people, there is beauty. I love the the sunset and the tree and the crocuses, and L dancing carefully so that she doesn't tread on them, and then the fact that you can see the rows of Victorian houses and the fifteen stories of hideousness that is the hospital and you realise that yes, this is London, and I will miss it.
Oh, and ps, I wanted to post this one too,


because L asked me to take its picture so that she could remember that although it looks purple, inside it's "lello". And I realised that I haven't really looked at a crocus in years.  And I should.


The rest of the amazing photos in the Gallery are here!!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Spot the difference

A and S are identical.  There are differences but you have to know about them. A has a double crown and a little blue mark on her nose.  S makes S faces, and is slightly smaller.  But if you don't know that, you might be excused finding it difficult to tell who's who.

B and I can now (since about their first birthday) pretty much always tell the difference straight away. They just each do things that are totally themselves.  A is incredibly kind.  S is incredibly cheeky.  A can stand up on her own;  S watches.  S can go downstairs backwards; A sits at the top and whinges.  And for those that don't know? Well, I dress them differently, and I'm quite happy to explain that S is wearing red and A purple, or whatever.

But L still can't tell.  She calls them "my sister" or "that one".  Or  says "is that one S?" and when I say "no", says "that one?", as though there were more than two options. I thought that this was an age thing.  She's only little after all.

But her friend F, at the advanced age of just 3, knows.  And he knows all the time.  In fact, he corrected me yesterday when I got them wrong.

Which leads me to wonder - is she doing it on purpose?  

Monday, 1 March 2010

Millinery - week 7

A rather bitty day today. I stiffened my straw and wired its brim. Which is useful, but sadly not photogenic (it looks exactly the same as it did last week). I also started a buckram fascinator; which at the moment looks like nothing so much as a soggy hankie, so not really photo material either, disappointingly.

And I sewed my felt back together, stitched on its petersham trim and started attaching my daisies. It looks pretty similar to how it did two weeks ago, but it's actually MUCH improved. Honest.

Here it is:

Finishing all of that lot in two weeks sounds Herculean... And I've only got one, as we're in Scotland next week. Whoops.

- Posted using BlogPress from the bus. It's now a Monday ritual...