Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dear Diary. Or what I haven't been saying.

7th June

After all the dithering and indecision, B told me last night that we can go for it.  I'm seeing the nurse tomorrow for a new patient check up, so I might see about having the coil taken out.

The weird thing is that now this might actually happen all I can think about is how difficult having a fourth child might be.

What if I'm wrong and this isn't what I want?

8th June

Coil still in.  Have to have a week of no sex before they will take it out. B has toothache and is miserable so that shouldn't be too tricky.

Haven't made an appointment yet though.

15th June

It's out.  In fact according to the nurse it was on the point of falling out anyway. That would have been a shock...

I talked to B about it again last night, in an "it's not too late to cancel the appointment" sort of way.  I wondered what he'd think if I changed my mind.  He rolled his eyes, understandably, and said we could wait.  I decided I didn't want to wait.  So I guess I must want this baby (ies!).

The lovely thing though is that B says he'll be disappointed if we don't get pregnant.  We've set a (probably rather flexible) deadline of mid-September, and if I'm not pregnant then, it wasn't meant to be.

In the waiting room I was really nervous. Uncertain about whether this was the right thing to be doing.  In the car afterwards I was sure.

I still am.

I'm still nervous though.

21st  June

The problem is, to have a baby, you've got to have sex.  And what with extracted teeth, temperatures, relations (my family are all here and there's nothing like having family tramping around the corridors to put you off) and periods (periods??? Forgot all about them. Not much fun are they?) we've not exactly been at it like rabbits.

The other problem? It's quite hard to get in the mood when you're thinking "I could get pregnant! Do I want to get pregnant? Is this the right choice?".

I need to get over myself. I want another baby. This is why we're doing this.  I just need to shut up and put out.  And not be too gutted if it doesn't work.

23rd June

Last night I was up four times.  Twice to L and once to each of S and A. They weren't even ill. I don't know what the matter was.  They just woke up and whinged.  A lot.  I haven't had to do that for over a year now. What on earth am I thinking signing up for it all again?

In the morning, B asked me (he'd slept through it all, of course) if I wanted to go back to the nurse. Not helpful. Perhaps the girls are conspiring against us.

25th June 

Just seen some pictures of my friend J's new baby.  This is what I want. But I have realised that it is going to be hard. And if it doesn't happen I think I will accept that.

26th June

I'd forgotten the obsessive over-analyzing that comes with wanting to be pregnant. Everything smells a bit odd this morning and I'm wondering if this is it.  It's not.  If I am pregnant, I'm so early pregnant that there really wouldn't be any symptoms, yet I'm googling "early pregnancy signs" to see if I might be.

What an idiot. This is the third time. You'd have thought I'd know my body better by now.

26th July

A month later and we've stopped (I decided I was too scared of the consequences of a baby) and started (I got my period and was terribly, terribly, bitterly disappointed) again.  I'm still terrified of the consequences of having four children, but I also now know that I can't not try.

30th July

Intense lower abdominal pain. Is this implantation?

31st July

No. Cystitis.  

18 August

My period is five days late.  In anyone else I realise this would be a major sign of pregnancy. It's not for me.  I don't get regular periods. I never have.  If I'm not on the pill I get maybe one period every six or eight months.  Pregnancy signs for me are randomly losing a lot of weight for no reason, being utterly knackered, and just knowing that I'm pregnant.

I'm not losing weight (quite the contrary), I'm totally knackered, but then I've got three children and a million other things to do, and I don't feel pregnant.  On the contrary, I feel like I'm about to get my period.  But...

...But, when I said I don't get regular periods, I'm not sure that was true any more. I've had two periods since the coil came out, bang on 28 days apart.  Maybe the having children has given me a normal body (in one way, not the stretch marks and sag, clearly).

So am I late? Am I pregnant?

I did a test.  I sent B to buy it as I couldn't face asking for a pregnancy test (why do they never put them where you can find them?) with three children in tow.  The woman in Superdrug offered him the digital one (£3 more expensive):

"No thanks, I think I can recognise a blue line"

Turns out he, or rather we, can't.  It's one of those ones where you need a cross if you're pregnant.  I had a very clear downward line and a crosswards line so, so, so faint it was barely there. Except it was.

B thinks it was just showing where it would have been had I been pregnant and that I'm not.  I'm.....well, I'm sort of hoping that if I test again in three days time it might really be there.

Either way, my breasts are now tingling and I'm feeling sick.

19th August

It wasn't a cross.  I've got my period.  What is it about spending £7 on a pregnancy test that makes that happen?

Both sad (although I didn't really think I was, I had allowed myself a little glimmer of hope) and hopeful, because at least getting a period means my body is working and that there is, therefore, the possibility that next month might be it.

I've never had this before - this month to month waiting and hoping (and I realise that makes me incredibly lucky, but there it is).  With L I came off the pill. Then nothing for three months. Then a period. Then a pregnancy.  With the babies I came off the pill, glanced slightly suggestively in B's direction and got pregnant.   Seriously.

Which is why it never really occurred to me that we'd need to get this close to my deadline. I really thought I'd be pregnant by now.

And if I don't get pregnant this month, that's it. Game over.... unless I change the rules.

But there's a point to the rules - I want this baby to be a friend for L, another singleton when A and S have their special club.  And if I get pregnant now, L will be just four when it's born, and eight when it's four, and eighteen when it's fourteen, and I'm wondering whether they'll actually get to be friends until they're in their twenties.... and then there comes a point when it seems silly to keep trying.  And I want this baby while I'm still into the whole nappies thing, and before life takes over, and there is no natural space for a baby, because we're into toddler things, and then little girl things, and then teenage things...

Which makes me very sad for the baby I suspect I might never have.

18 September

Back from holiday and we are agreed.  When my period comes we stop trying.  We don't want to lurch from month to month, and we don't want to make our relationship all about trying to get pregnant.   We need to concentrate on the beautiful girls we already have, and we have so many wonderful things planned to do with them.

So if I am pregnant, we are (all being well) having another baby.  If I am not, we are not.

It is over four weeks since my last period.

23 September

It is five weeks since my last period.  I don't feel like it's about to come on. But then I don't feel pregnant either.

26 September

I'm not losing weight.  I'm not feeling pregnant.  But nonetheless, it turns out I'm definitely not getting my period.

Or not for the next eight and a bit months anyway.

B in shock.  I'm delighted.  Terrified, but delighted.

Five days later and I'm still not sure about publishing this post.  I'm not sure it's the right time, and I'm really not sure about putting this out there when people I know in real life might read it.  

But I find I can't write anything else while this remains unpublished.  So I'm casting my reservations to the ether. 

And if you know me, and reading it makes you cross because I haven't spoken to you directly I apologise.  I think I've told most people, but if I missed you, it wasn't deliberate, honest.   Unless I work with you, in which case it was deliberate.  Because you might tell my boss.  And I need to do that. Just not yet.


Friday, 24 September 2010

What I read on my holiday

I've just had a week of sunshine, sand and babysitting, so I read:

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas.  Which I enjoyed.  Until it started making me feel guilty for being on a holiday, abusing the workers who cleaned the room and supporting an evil corporation who ran the resort, and generally being a bad person.

It did make me think though.  Not just about globalisation and the "rise of big business", but also about marketing, and toys and the terrifying statistic, which may or may not be true that children are exposed to 20,000 products before they are 15.  Actually, that must be true, mustn't it ? As must the fact that toy manufacturers "are in the business of the new and shiny, the biggest and the best, the glittery and magical, the fast and addictive.  The toy industry has two big advantages over other industries.  Our products are the easiest to sell and our customers are the easiest to sell to.

My children are still too little to be materialistic, but that sentence is still one of the most frightening things I've read in months.

Then I picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 

I've wanted to read this for some time, having read extracts from it in magazines, and having had it recommended by several people, including Diney, who has had an amazing, enlightening and compelling encounter on the back of it. 

I cannot now recommend it highly enough.  It is set in 1962 in Mississippi.  Martin Luther King is still alive, Rosa Parks has sat in the white seat of a segregated bus.  It is only fifty years ago and it is a different and horrifying world.  One which makes me, born fifteen years later, and fifteen thousand miles away, ashamed to be white.

I laughed, I cried, I determined to find out more about this period in history, and, more important to make sure that my girls read it. To understand that there are good things and there are bad things, but that some things are always wrong.  And should never be forgotten.

I needed light relief after that, but couldn't face Angels and Demons (which a friend had shoved in my suitcase as we were leaving), so I picked up Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

You'll have worked out by now what a cry-baby I am, so it'll come as no surprise that this one made me weep too.  But it also made me snigger.  It's very silly, but also witty, readable and, yes, thought-provoking.

The Greek gods are real, alive, and living in north London.  Apollo is a television psychic, Artemis a dog walker, Aphrodite runs a phone sex line. Their divine power is waning. They are bored and lonely.  Until they meet Alice and Neil...

I read it in about an hour. I enjoyed every minute of it.  I can't really remember what happens now.

So I went back to intellectual books, and picked up 2008's Booker Winner, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

And yet again, I don't get what the Booker Judges saw.   The White Tiger was fine, it really was, but it wasn't even the best book I read on holiday much less all year, (to be honest it was probably third equal in the holiday rankings, and there were only four entrants).

I found the premise (a series of letters to the Chinese Premier) silly and contrived, and I still don't understand what it added to the novel as a whole.  The plot was interesting, and the descriptions of India compelling and often shocking, but there was little in the way of suspense, and, most importantly, I found the character of the White Tiger himself disappointingly predictable.  The killer with the moral compass would have been so much more interesting had he had more ambiguity.   The Times thought it was a masterpiece.  Nadine Gordimer found it too determined to shock.  I just thought it was a bit dull.   I suspect I am missing something...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Club Med - when it's good, it's very very good, but when it's bad...

Well, it's not horrid, but it's a bit rubbish.
First off, this is totally not a sponsored review.  Club Med didn't ask us to go there, and certainly didn't give us anything for free, although one of the many good things about the holiday was that it was pretty reasonable (in the grand scheme of how eye-wateringly expensive it is to take five people on holiday of course).  I can't imagine they know I've got a blog, and if they do, then they unaccountably didn't think that whatever I can say about them would make a difference.
The good thing about that, of course, is it means I feel absolutely no debt of gratitude whatsoever.
So, anyway, we went to Club Med's Hammamet resort, on the East Coast of Tunisia. None of us had ever been to Tunisia before, and none of us had ever been on a Club Med holiday either and I was pretty excited to find out what both were like.  Turns out, of course, that a Club Med holiday is pretty much designed to ensure you never find out what the country you're in is like at all, but then that might be what you're looking for.
The resort, sorry, "village", was pretty heavenly, let's be honest:  wide sandy beach, warm blue sea, three swimming pools, including one shallow enough for even S and A to paddle in.  Delicious food, plentiful wine and beer.  High chairs everywhere. A two bedroom bungalow an easy walk from the main complex, stocked with a changing mat, cots, a potty, and even a non-slip mat for the bath.  Childcare available for six out of the seven days we were there.  Sunshine. Every day.
It's clearly not the apple of the Club Med eye, though. Parts were a little shabby, and there were five or six things wrong with our bungalow when we got there (missing light bulbs, a blocked pipe, that sort of thing) but they were sorted out promptly and with no excuses.
That's all, maybe, pretty much as we expected.  What was odd was how, when they got so much right, they could also get other stuff, well, just not quite.
I think the biggest problem for us was the language barrier.  Not for B and me, who are lucky enough both to speak good French, but for the girls.  I had thought about this and had been assured that there were English speaking staff working in the Kids' Clubs.  Turns out that that was true, but only if your child was under one or over four.  Which, of course, none of ours are.  It wasn't so much of a problem for A and S, who don't really talk anyway, but L I think found it very disorientating.  She's at that stage where she's incredibly verbal - it's as though she gets a bonus based on hitting a target of using a certain number of words in a day - and so spending any length of time with people who didn't understand her and whom she couldn't understand was clearly upsetting.  I also suspect that the staff didn't make an effort.  I was told one morning that they were going to be making plaster casts of the children's hands.  When I went to get L at lunchtime, I asked her about this:
 No, Mummy, they didn't tell me, and then it was too late.
I'm sure they did tell her. But I'm equally sure that she didn't understand and they didn't go that extra distance to get her involved.
We'd never intended to leave them in the childcare for full days, but we actually ended up just using it for a couple of hours here or there, and by day five, L made it very clear she didn't want to go back at all.  It's a shame as all three of them love their nursery here, and I think in the right environment would genuinely have had as much, if not more, fun there than with us.  If we ever do another Club Med holiday, I think we will make sure it is somewhere that the second language of the locals is English, rather than here, where it was French.
And then there were mealtimes.  I discovered something on this holiday. You know how French children all get taken out to restaurants late in the evening and always behave impeccably and have a much better routine, which allows them to stay up late and still behave themselves and really the British are just rubbish at discipline?
Well, that's nonsense.  Oh, the French do take their children out for dinner in the evenings, but, guess what? They're knackered.  Blind, floppy, exhausted. Lolling in their pushchairs and looking listlessly at a plate of pasta they're too tired to eat.    The same as my kids.
Because the evening meal wasn't served until 7.30 p.m. and that's just too late if you're not quite two.  There was a children's supper as well, but even that (and it was pretty unappetising) wasn't served until 6.30, by which time my three are normally well into the evening routine.    If you didn't want to take your children to the main meal, you could, of course, get a babysitter (although actually that was pretty hard, with only four babysitters in the resort - especially when one babysitter was only allowed to babysit two children, so we had to have two.  It rankled slightly paying two people to sit in front of the telly while my children, who were already asleep when they arrived, continued to dream silently) but even then they still end up being in bed later than you'd like.
It ended up being an exercise in juggling and fiddling, and by the end we'd worked it out.   But I'd have given it more thought in advance had I known, and I'd certainly have booked babysitters earlier in the week!
There were little irritations too: the fact that they turned up with a toddler car seat and a baby one, into which we had to squish poor little S on the basis that she's about a pound lighter than her sister (and a good six pounds too heavy for that type of car seat); or the ridiculous bureaucratic way in which some things were done, probably because it's always been done like that, and no-one's ever turned round and pointed out how silly it is; the failure of the staff to volunteer information, in whatever language:  they were terribly helpful if you asked the right question, but if you didn't you'd miss out on stuff because they just didn't ever think to tell you. 
And don't get me started on the Club Med dance...
I'm being cynical and carping now, which is probably unfair.  We did, all of us, have a very good time.  I read four and a half books!  I talked to my husband. I got (for me) a tan (I'm still the colour most white people are most of the time, but as I normally glow in the dark, this is pretty impressive).  We used the childcare as an opportunity to get out of the resort, so I feel too, I've had a bit of a chance to see a bit of a very touristy, but nonetheless lovely corner of Tunisia.  We got to talk to the locals, and get some differing views on what this beautiful country is really like to live in. We did a little bit of shopping. (Beautiful plates and bowls. Got smashed in our luggage).  I got to spend some really quality time with all of my lovely family.
Would I recommend it?  With caveats, definitely.  Would I go back?  Yes, I would, but I'd rather go somewhere different, if only because it would be different.  I think, though, that the irritations would be less next time and the pleasures greater, because you'd know what to expect.  Would I go back to Tunisia?  Definitely.  B wants to see the Star Wars village next time...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Gallery - Three smiles

I'm sure I won't be the only blogger to do this this week.  But Tara asked us for A Smile.

And how could I pick just one?  I've got three.  Three smiles that light up my world.  And this is when I caught each of them for the first time:


Tara has been inspired this week by Dave Fowler's Million Dollar Mona Lisa project, so why not click over there and see a famous smile.  Or here to see everyone else's in the Gallery. Go on, it'll make you smile.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

We're all going on a....

Yeah, well, you know the rest.

Anyway, we're off.  ETD 2.30 a.m. tomorrow morning. Yes you did read that right.  5.25 a.m. will see us taking off, S probably in paroxysms of rage at having to wear a seatbelt, the other two, crossed fingers, temporarily behaving themselves, on a flight to Tunisia.

We're off for a week of sun, sea, sand and babysitting!  I'm even taking books with me.

PG Wodehouse and Iain M Banks: reminiscent of chalk and cheese...

After the let down that was the Audrey Niffenegger, I felt the need for some light relief. 

Two extracts from the next book that I will be trying to work into every day conversation:

"I wonder why they call this porridge", he observed with mild interest.  "It would be far more manly and straightforward of them to give it its real name."

As an energetic Socialist, I do my best to see the good that is in him, but it's hard. Comrade Bristow's the most striking argument against the equality of man I've ever come across

Not PG Wodehouse's finest, Psmith in the City, but you still can't really go wrong. 

Excession, by Iain M Banks, had some equally amusing moments,  but significantly more sentences like this:

The attack on its photonic nucleus came at the same moment, manifesting itself as a perceived distubance in the space-time fabric, warping the internal structure of the drone's light-energised mind from outside normal space.

I have absolutely no idea what any of that means. 

This was also true of much of the rest of the book, which I only read because there wasn't anything else and B likes them.  The weird thing is that despite the fact that I actually have no idea what was happening or who most of the characters were, I rather enjoyed it.

The jury's out on whether I'll read another one though.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Her Fearful Symmetry? Her dreadful book, more like.

I think in order to understand just how much I didn't like this book, you need to understand just how much I loved Audrey Niffenegger's previous one, the Time Traveler's Wife (deliberate spelling, she's American).

I didn't read it, so much as inhale it, breathing it into my lungs and keeping it there. I dreamed about it, I thought about it, I read and re-read bits of it, because I loved the way they made me feel. I just thought, and think, it was brilliant.

As for Her Fearful Symmetry, well, not so much.

Maybe it's because I'm a parent of identical twins.  The story centres around Julia and Valentina Poole, the identical twin nieces of the late Elspeth, herself the identical twin of their mother, Edie.  When Elspeth dies, having not spoken to her own twin since before they were born, she leaves them her flat in Highgate. They move in and meet a series of eccentric characters, from Robert, Elspeth's lover, to Martin, the OCD sufferer in the flat above.

So far, so interesting.  But it just doesn't work.  Niffenegger's clearly done a lot of research on Highgate Cemetery, which shows. In many ways the book is a hymn of love to the Cemetery itself, and it's perhaps the most convincing character as a result.  Sadly she doesn't appear ever to have met either an British person, or an identical twin.

It's not just the little niggles: the flat is in a building called Vautravers Mews.  All the characters, and the authorial voice, refer to it just as "Vautravers".  Is it me, or is that just plain wrong?  It's Americans who drop the "road" or the "lane" or the "mews". Not we Brits.

Early on, she writes a letter purporting to be from an English Private Client Solicitor.   Now, it's not Audrey's fault that I happen to be an English Private Client Solicitor, but I can absolutely confirm that if I ever wrote a letter, out of the blue, to the beneficiary of an estate that contained the word "bequeathed" or the sentence "please let me know if you care to accept your aunt's bequest", my boss would have the red pen to it faster than you can say "unconvincing".  Not to mention the fact that have you ever heard of an allegedly posh firm of solicitors having a business address of 54 "D" anywhere?

It's all little stuff, but it jars.

And then there's the big issues.  The older twins have fallen out over a plot device so contrived and so unconvincing I found myself having to re-read it to make sure I'd actually understood it correctly.  Plot spoiler below, so that anyone who has read the book, or isn't going to, can see what I mean, and correct me if I'm wrong.  Essentially, none of the events of the book needed to happen, or indeed would have, if any of these characters had had half an ounce of common sense, or indeed behaved like real people.  And I'm not even talking about the ghost. I like ghost stories after all.

What I don't like though, as I look at my wonderful identical girls, and try to help them grow into individuals, to make people see them as the two different and unique people they are, however alike they look, is a book that portrays identical twins as freaks.  As one person trapped in two bodies.

Valentina and Julia are twenty.  They have been brought up in suburban America by loving parents, one of whom is an identical twin who has created her own separate identity by totally breaking off relations with her sister.  How then have they managed to bring up two girls who at that age refuse to be separated, dress alike and sleep in the same bed?  There's some attempt at trying to portray this as coming more from Julia than Valentina, but surely their parents would have, indeed should have, encouraged them to be separate, to have separate interests, separate friends.  They are both virgins because neither of them wants to have an experience the other has not had.

If my girls grow up and feel like that I will have utterly failed as their mother.

It's not as if Niffenegger portrays this as in any way out of the ordinary or odd.  Early on in the book, Robert, the lover of Elspeth, says:

"Elspeth thought there was a limit to how far the twin relationship should go, in terms of each person giving up their own individuality"
Excuse me? The twin relationship involves each person giving up their own individuality?  I cannot begin to explain how wrong that feels to someone who sees her job, as a parent of twins, as being to ensure and preserve their individuality.  I want them to have that individuality.  Even if I didn't want it, they've got it anyway, and they're 20 months old, not 20 years.   The twin relationship is a wonderful bonus, an added dimension to their relationship as sisters, and one that they'll never have with anyone else.  But then the relationship they'll have with me, or with L, is one they'll never have with anyone else too.

I wondered whether my instant convinction that this was wrong was to do solely with parenting twins, and having read too many twin parenting books, and not actually the experience of being am identical twin, but then I talked to one, and she agreed.  She said that she and her sister are close, of course they are, but that they are different, and that they have never felt that their relationship is different, in the sense of more significant, than their individual relationships with their other siblings.  They look like each other, they share a birthday, their children are genetically half-siblings, but they live their own lives, independent of each other, in their own way.

I've digressed from the book, I realise that, but I'm afraid that after that, every time one of her characters spoke, or every time she described what they were (identically) wearing, or the bond between them became too strong to transcend, my hackles rose, and my teeth began to grind against each other.

I finished the book. I had to.  I was hoping that something would happen that would redeem her in my eyes. But it didn't.
I won't be reading this one again, and I certainly won't be buying her next.  But what's really getting to me is that this has, somehow, diminished the magic of her first for me too.

Plot spoiler below. Don't read if you don't want to know...

But if you have read it, am I right in thinking that what happens is:

Elspeth is engaged to Jack. She decides to test him so she swaps places with her twin.  Jack finds himself very attracted to "Edie" and breaks off his engagement to "Elspeth" to marry "Edie".  Both twins then spend the whole of the rest of their lives using the wrong name.  And of course there's a muddle about who actually gets pregnant, and who is the mother of the twins.

So far so predictable.  But aren't I right in thinking that the one he's just fallen in love with and broken off his engagement for is the one he's supposed to be in love with anyway?

Yes, admittedly they've swapped, so he'd have to come clean about not realising who was who (and in fact doesn't it then turn out that he's known all along), but isn't that actually flattering for the new Edie, that he loves her regardless of what her name is?

And assuming that that's right, why then did they all have to go on with the stupid charade? Surely they'd all just have confessed, been a bit pissed off with each other because it would all be a bit emotionally confusing, and then got on with their lives.

Oh, and, if your identical twin had accidentally slept with the man you loved and then got pregnant, would you really want her to keep the babies??

Is it just me or is it all a bit silly?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Gallery - Back to school

This was me, thirty years ago this month. Not back to school, which is what Tara set us for the Gallery this week, but just to school.  For the first time.  Aged three and a half.  The beginning of, gulp, twenty-one years of formal education.

And this was me, on Saturday, five miles down the road from where the first picture was taken.  Back to (that) school for the first time since about 1984.

I couldn't go in, it was the last Saturday of the school holidays after all, but I know that had I done so it would all have been utterly familiar and utterly alien.  I remember almost nothing about it.  I was seven when I left and I have no friends from there and no memories other than those in my parents' photograph albums.

But I found it strangely compelling being there.  With hindsight, that day was the first really independent step on the road to being me.  A person in my own right, separate from my parents and with a life of my own:
Did you have a good day darling?
What did you do?
I've been thinking about starting school a lot recently, not just because lots of my friends, both bloggy and otherwise, have children starting for the first time this month, but also because I'm having to get my head around the fact that although L is now the age that I was then, up here she will start school a year later than she would have done down south. This is because the cut off date for starting school in Scotland is February, and so, her birthday being in April, she will start the August (not September, that's different too) after she is five, rather than the September beforehand.

I've been struggling with this a bit, partially because I was mentally prepared for it to happen next year, so to find out that it won't be for another year after that has come as a bit of a shock, but mostly because she really is so ready for it.

But then I look at those pictures, and I see how young I really was, and I look at my beautiful, precocious, equally young daughter, and I think of her starting off on her road to independence and I realise that getting to keep her with me for an extra year can only ever be a good thing.

Can someone remind me of that this time next year please?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Blogladesh and Save the Children

It'll come as no surprise to regular readers of this or many other blogs to know that three bloggers, Josie, Eva and Sian spent last week in Bangladesh reporting back for Save the Children, and highlighting the work this amazing charity does.

It therefore wasn't very tricky for me to choose the charity to receive my tithed income this month.

Save the Children saves children's lives and campaigns for their rights.

In the time it takes you to read this paragraph, a mother-to-be will needlessly die. By the time you are finishing work or picking the kids up from school, 24,000 babies will not have survived their first day of life. By the end of next year, 9 million children won't have made it to their fifth birthday. Time is running out. It's time to press for change.

I'm not sure that anything could be more important.

You can donate by clicking here, or you can read about the Blogladesh trip here, or you can press for change and add your voice to the campaign here

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Digitally re:Masterpieces - The Black Brook

When I was a moody and overly-romantic teenager (as against being a moody and overly-romantic 33-year-old, clearly) I loved this picture:

It's called the Black Brook and was painted in 1908 by the American artist John Singer Sargent. It's in the Tate Collection, although I can't actually work out if it's on display (and if so, in which Gallery).

Anyway, as I say, I loved it. I loved the melancholy feeling, and the fluidity of the water, and the placid beauty of the model.  I sort of hoped that when I grew up, I'd look like that, and probably that I'd float about in drifty clothes like that too.

Now I am grown up, I've realised the impracticality of wafty linen, and I've accepted that my face is my face, and very rarely looks placid.  I'm not really so given to imagining myself sitting dreamily by a rushy brook these days either, but I still love this painting.

I think now, it's more about the water, and the way the light sparkles, and the cold and freshness that you can feel, even through the oil and canvas, so, in trying to recreate it,  I started with this:

which I'm actually very pleased with, but it's not quite right.  Singer Sargent put a girl in his (his niece, Rose Marie Ormond) for a reason.  So I got myself a model.  Disappointingly that didn't entirely  make things easier. For a start Rose was probably a bit more helpful and accommodating, and she certainly wouldn't have refused to stop sucking her fingers. 

Sadly too, the way the path runs along the river doesn't allow for the same composition, and I wasn't prepared to risk drowning (I know, shameful lack of commitment).   I'm also not sure that the Tweed, one of Scotland's premier salmon fishing rivers, really qualifies as a brook, but I had to work with what I had, so here's my version:

The Black River (2010)

Linky below... go on, join in!  Do this painting, do another one, do a different art form altogether (Tracey Emin's Bed anyone?)...

Oh, and I do know what I want to do next month (clue, it's a sculpture) but again, it's a bit model-dependent, so I don't want to push my luck by telling you want it is, come back at the beginning of October to see if I've succeeded.

And if none of this is making any sense, click here to see what on earth it is that I'm trying to achieve...

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Gallery - One day of sunshine and showers, beaks and claws, pipes and drums.

Welcome to Sunday, 29 August 2010. This is what it looked like where we were:

This week, those of us who take part in the Gallery have been asked to take part in an almighty photo journal, a "what we all did on our Bank Holiday Sunday", a snapshot of blogging life, on one, for most of us probably not particularly important, Sunday in August. 

Because for three bloggers, Sian, Josie and Eva, it was an incredibly important day.  On 27 August, they flew out to Bangladesh to see first hand the work that Save The Children are doing.  They are already sending amazing posts, photos and tweets back.  Please think of them, read what they write, and support Save the Children.

Back in Blighty, and a million emotional  and humbling miles from the poverty they are experiencing, this is what we did. The Floors Castle Massed Pipe Bands Day. A wonderfully Scottish, goose-pimple-inducing, paddling-pool-fishing, falconry-watching, umbrella-sheltering, roast-hog-eating, caber-tossing, skirling, dancing, marching celebration of the idiosyncracies, charm, and weather that the British Bank Holiday (despite it not actually being a bank holiday in Scotland) is all about:


I have a shame-faced admission.  I have amended this post after publishing, because I failed totally to put in the most important part - about the work Sian, Josie and Eva are doing for Save the Children, with the Blogladesh initiative.    I suppose that's a neat image for the way in which we all (at least I hope it's not just me) have brilliant intentions of doing something that helps those less fortunate, but get wrapped up in our own lives and forget to do even the little we can.  I am very ashamed, and apologise to them, and to Tara, who wanted to use the Gallery to publicise what they are doing.

In my defence, I'd left blank the paragraph I was going to put in so I could put the links in, then forgot to do so at midnight last night after a six hour drive and a bad night the night before, then published the post, then linked to the Gallery from my phone and the train, then realised and spent the rest of the day traipsing round London looking desperately for an internet cafe so I could make the amendment.  Without succcess.  I did fall in the Round Pond though, so I've got my comeuppance...