Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The greatest excuse...ever!

I might have mentioned that I am slightly obsessed with the Olympics. We haven't actually moved out of the house for two whole days, I have choked back the tears on a number of occasions and was in floods of them during the show jumping phase of the eventing today. The kids have wondered and stared at their mother leaping off the sofa, punching the air, tears rolling down her cheeks - worried that I was sad or angry, or both.

Off to bed they went today, at 7.30pm so that I could watch the swimming. And then the sweet pitter patter of not so tiny feet.

"Mummy, I'm really sacred, there are snakes in my bed...." exclaimed P.

"Uh hum, " I replied, ignoring her, my parenting duties over for the day and Hannah Miley was about to swim for Team GB.

"...and, and ,and, then a great big orange and black spider crawled across my duvet..." she added, eyes glued to the screen and inching her way to the sofa as I cheered the swimmers on.

"AND THERE WAS POO EVERYWHERE!!" she added for dramatic effect.

That was the deal clincher. So I swept her up in all her pyjama-d glory and we hugged until the end of the race, when A walked in quietly, pretending to be unnoticed. I smiled at them warmly, adoring them so much, not wanting them to miss out either. So we snuggled up and revelled in the energy of the Olympics together.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Addicted London 2012

How on earth am I going to get anything done in the next two weeks?

It's official, our family is properly addicted to the Olympics. The children are just joyous that the computer is on all day and they have unlimited screen time but they are also entering into the spirit of things quite royally. We are enjoying screaming at the screen when ever Team GB compete and in between events I try to get a load of washing on, weed a bit and the kids are making crafty things in the shape of Olympic rings, making themselves gold medals and little plaster of paris horses, to support the cross country eventing today. I keep telling myself that this will never happen again, in our country, in my lifetime, so it's OK to leave the cobwebs and cut back on the cooking.

But I can't quite handle the emotion of it all. The amount of training, dedication and determination fascinates me. What kind of person can, at such a young age, be so single minded and fierce to want to dedicate their whole lives to a sport? I admire this hugely, it brings a tear into my eye every time, what on earth is going through their minds when they receive a medal on the podium? Its a total inspiration.

"I'm going to run really fast around the allotment, to get muscles like Ussain Bolt," said A just now, holding her skinny, little, lily white arms in the air in a muscle-man pose.

And if it gets my kids inspired too, then I'm all for the Olympics.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Olympics London 2012

I can't believe the Olympics are here already. Not because I am awaiting London to host this prestigious event, not because I love sport, not because I have tickets even. I can't believe the Olympics are here because that means my big girl must be six and a half, and those six and a half years have gone very quickly indeed.

I remember exactly where I was when I heard that London had won the Olympic bid. I was sat at my desk in the office in West London when a huge cheer reverberated around the room, we were to host the Olympics 2012. I clutched at my belly, not yet swollen, a secret inside me and thought:

"When the London 2012 Olympics are here, my little boy or girl will be six and a half,"

I imagined holding his or her hand around the Olympic village and going to the cross country day of the equestrian eventing.

And here we are, the most fabulous six and a half years later. The baby turned out to be a she, the most lovely she, a kind, sensitive, giggly she, a thoughtful and imaginative she. My darling A. I can't believe the Olympics are here and you are six and a half.

Pity we haven't got tickets.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

On the beach

This is my childhood beach. I can't tell you where it is I'm afraid as it's the best kept secret in Somerset. It is wild and wonderful, with blackish silty sand which stains your swimming costume and owns rock pools to rival all others. The walk down to the beach is a fair trek and even locals don't seem to know where it is. The sea was in when we arrived today, the girls stripped and immediately ran in squealing, unbothered by its mud brown colour. As the sea made its way out, pools were created which warmed quickly in the sun. The children played for hours, soon taking off their cozzies and inventing intricate games with a spade and two buckets while I sat on the shingle and caught up with my mum. We talked about the past, present and a little bit about the future as we ate cheese and pickle rolls, looking on at the kids as they smeared great grey rocks with wet sand.

"What are you doing P?" I enquired.

"I'm putting sun cream on the elephants," she replied incredulously.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Pirate day - Arrrrrrrrrrr!

14, 231 pirates came to Hastings today. We counted as 4 of them and are now hopefully in the Guinness Book of Records for the most number of pirates in one place. Imagine that!

There were young pirates, old pirates, dog pirates, pirate babies, pirates in wheelchairs, thin pirates, fat pirates, hairy pirates, scary pirates and a rather alarming number of sexy pirates - it's all that long hair, too much eye liner, unbuttoned shirts and unkempt look. I digress. Phew. Sorry.

Pirate Day 2012 in Hastings was so much fun. The sun was shining and the world of pirates came out to play. Feeling slightly self concious on the train down to Hastings, dressed in ragged shirts and piratey hats we all soon got swept up in the arrrrrrr-ing and shiver-me-timbering.

What wonderful memories, sharing camaraderie on the beach with fellow pirates as we boo-ed and hissed at non-pirate intruders. It really felt it was the start of the summer, the sun was blazing, the sea azure and the celebration everywhere. This is it people, enjoy these weeks, Britain looks fabulous at the moment after such a dismal start to summer. Get a bottle of rum and fill yer tum - or we'll make you walk the plank. Arrrrrrrrr!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Town mouse now country mouse

I used to consider myself a proper Londoner. Granted I wasn't born there but my eldest child was, and he was. I was great at staring straight ahead on the tube, or into a novel, I was particularly good at knowing which end of the train to get on and which door to stand by at each stop so as not to look a nob. I'd tut behind tourists and walk super fast to my very important job - well I was a very important community gardener you know. I'd never go to Leicester Square or Covent Garden say, just find cool places to hang out in Brixton or Hoxton.

But today I looked like a proper country bumpkin on my day return to the Big Smoke, a real numpty, I even smiled at people and spoke to the young woman who served me coffee - weirdo. I fumbled for my Oyster card and created an instant queue for not being quick enough and I embarrassingly got on the wrong train. I wanted to get on the Wimbledon tube and ended up half way to Richmond. Easy mistake to make, both trains are green and are the District Line. A Londoner would not have made that mistake.

I even read my A-Z upside down and openly looked lost in the street. I'm surprised I wasn't mugged, the city being so dangerous and all.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Schools out for the summer

We are all absolutely pooped after an emotional and exhausting day. I'm drinking wine and it's not even 7pm, in fact the kids are not even in bed. I have broken my own rule on the first day of the holidays. And that's what holidays are for, tomorrow we shall paint our toes red and our finger nails blue, we shall cover ourselves in glitter tattoos and forget to clean our teeth. We shall eat yellow food and go barefoot, not get dressed till 10, have long afternoons at the playground and late nights around the fire.

Today was P's last day at pre-school, an emotional end of term play and gifts all round. Teachers constantly asking her if she was looking forward to big school. Excuse me, we have 6 weeks of freedom before we have to contemplate that thought, and 6 weeks is a very long time in a 4 year old's life.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Silver heels

I remember longing for patent leather shoes as a child. I might have been 7 or 8, maybe older. Their shininess made me drool, I wanted them so badly. I wasn't allowed them as they were 'common' - my Mum's word for what we would probably say as chavvy. I didn't see this at all and had a similar need over kitten heels in the 80's, for which I was allowed, but not for school. Oh the power of parents. Oh the joy of being an adult and having what you want - except of course now I don't want red stilettos, I'd rather have a comfy pair that aren't going to rub on the bunions. Nice.

P received these beauties for her birthday. So, so wrong, but so very right.

I know, I know, high heels on a 4 year old - I agree that little girls grow up fast, I love the Pink Stinks campaign, I've even got the T-shirt thank you very much. I'm all for little P to become a farmer, train driver or pilot and give her opportunities that allow her to be who she wants to be. She might just have to wear silver heels doing it. As she went to bed last night, in a sleepy end-of-term slur, she said:

"Where are my silver high heels, Mummy?"

"Under the bed, darling" I replied, tucking her in and kissing her soft cheek.

"Can you move them so I can see them, please?" she asked, so very nearly asleep.

So I did. Knowing exactly how it feels when you love something so much.

Monday, 16 July 2012

9 Summer holiday ideas

I am beyond excited that there are only 3 more days left of school, I am way more hyped than the children. I simply love the freedom, variety and the learning we have in these six long precious weeks. I feel I get to know my children again. I never get bored, ever. Here are nine things I want to try this summer:

1. Go for a walk without shoes
2. Have a fire on the beach at night
3. Make a necklace out of elder, this idea was pinched from yellowfields camping brilliant blog
4. Sit around our new fire pit and toast marshmallows
5. Visit Charleston
6. Set up a nature table at home
7. Use up all the craft gift sets in the cupboard
8. Pirate Day in Hastings
9. Go to as many brown signs as possible on a whim

Thats on top of everything else we have planned, ooh I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait!

And I've just thought of one more.....Make a scarecrow.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Camping #3

Are you kidding? In this weather? Camping?

Nah, we stayed at home instead and had a jolly nice time thanks.

It was little P's birthday today, she was supposed to wake up in a tent in 'Winnie the Pooh' land at the heart of the Ashdown Forest but instead became 4 years old at home, nice and dry. After yesterday's down-pours we were so pleased with our decision, only feeling sorry for the camp site owners who must be living off deposits this year. The promised BBC forecast of bright sun and 18C didn't quite come true today, but do you know what? We were just grateful for no rain and a few hours on the beach. Simple pleasures.

Driving over the downs to catch the first glimpse of the sea blew me away, the hues of green and blue and turquoise glinted in the distance. I felt a lump in my throat, a little bit emotional at how beautiful and wild the view was, I couldn't wait to get down to the waters edge. The children were exploding with excitement as well, two buckets, a few pots, a spade and some sausages to fry, there were a moments of perfection today. 

The children crouched in the rare patches of sand, absorbed in their intricate games, collecting pebbles, seaweed, flotsam and jetsam, the odd shell and smooth green glass - beer bottles made safe and gem like from months on the ocean wave. Squeals and screams as we all hoiked up our jeans as the waves caught us unawares, soaked in ice cold sea water, all giggling as we skimmed flat stones across the meniscus of the sea.

We fried sausages and ate them ravenous between cheap puffy bread roles, dripping with tomato ketchup and washed down with some equally cheap French beer, it all tasted so good and it was wonderful to be in that moment. To revel in the now, to feel the warmth on our cheeks and watch seagulls above us hover on the wind. After snoozes we sang 'Happy Birthday' and managed to light 4 candles stuck into a shop bought cake, second helpings all round and healthy eating happily left at home, discarded until tomorrow.

We found crabs, blobby anemones, shrimps and whelks, rock pool fish and limpets. Treasures of the sea delighted in and undisturbed.

Happy happy birthday darling P. My big little girl. I love you so much and can't wait to share the adventures of your fifth year on this astonishingly beautiful earth.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Body fuzz

He stays in town a few days a month meaning I have the luxury of the night to myself. I don't cook, maybe eating the kids leftovers or hoovering up a packet of crisps and pouring a glass of wine. It's my guilty pleasure night, and once the chores are finished I choose something to watch on iplayer, get into bed with the cats at about 8pm and watch crap telly. And I love it.

Last night I watched Cherry Healey's programme 'Can looks change your life?' believing I was in for a real trashy treat, vacuous, shallow and skin deep. I was surprised at the content and my reaction to it. For a main part of the programme Cherry focussed on our obsession with female body hair, or rather our disgust, our revulsion and complete denial that it is even supposed to be there. She asked men in the street if they would rather break a toe or sleep with a woman with hairy legs...they would rather break a toe. Blimey, I know it was TV and a small scientific study, but really, men would rather break a toe?

It struck a cord, being dark and of the hirsute kind I have always been ashamed at the fuzz on my body, I pluck and shave but only once have I resorted to a wax. It was this year in fact, before our monumental holiday to Cuba, I asked everyone I knew at the school gates about waxing and was pretty surprised that everyone had had it done and most still wax regularly. That is a whole lot of effort, money and pain. Anyway, I trotted off to the salon one cold crisp February morn, stripped and the beautician or waxer, whatever she was, said in no uncertain terms:

"If I was you, honey, I would get this lot lasered!"

Thanks. Am I that hairy?

She then proceeded to tell me tales of 16 year old girls asking for their entire muff hair to be removed, fanny hair, pubes, whatever you want to call it.....because, get this, their boyfriends don't like it.

So what on earth do we teach our girls? My lovely little furry children, P is especially dark and fuzzy and has leg hair that most grown women would whip off in an instant. I want them to feel confident in themselves, to love their bodies, to look after them and respect them, to not feel under pressure to conform. I think I am up against an impossible task, gender stereotyping starts early, like at birth, and my girls are already aware of what the beauty ideal is. And part of this 'ideal', I'm afraid, means nice smooth legs and no fluff under the armpits. Excuse me now while I take a shower and shave, ready for the weekend.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

I heart the Internet

I am having a little, but rather passionate affair with the Internet at the moment, 15 years after having access to this sexy beast I am finally learning how to use it to my advantage. Take this morning, P had dressed herself dramatically in a red whizzy skirt with a large red flower in her hair.

"You look like a Spanish lady about to dance Sevillanas," I commented absent mindedly, half naked from the shower and about to dry my hair.

"What is Sevi - bananas?" asked A curiously.

So I explained it was a dance, like Flamenco and gave a little demonstration, but it did't cut the mustard. Running into the office, within seconds there were Sevillana's being beautifully danced on You Tube for the girls to see as I went to finish drying my hair. A lesson learned before school, how marvellous is that?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Mum's race

That time of year I'm afraid. Sports day in all its competitive glory, little people trying their hardest to win, either loving it, hating it or as in A - completely indifferent to it.


I however, decided to have a go at the Mothers race, being geed on after a spectacular win at the Pre-school Olypmics (this IS tongue in cheek, remember). After removing my shoes, scarf and jumper - it's still blooming freezing - we were off. I ran like the wind, like shit off a shovel, there was no one ahead of me, it was a chariots of fire moment....imagine how proud my children would be! And then disaster, I stacked it out of nowhere, falling extraordinarily in front of the whole school, the whole village, the whole of East-bloody-Sussex. 2012 would be the year I let my children down, I let the school down, I let myself fall muddily down. Next year ladies, next year. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Camping #2 - The festival

I am sitting here revelling in my clean clothes, aseptic toilets, warm and cosy duvets and a healthy dose of real food after a weekend of going large at a festival in Kent for three days. I am pooped, shattered and generally knackered from camping, drinking, avoiding piles of puke and trying not to lose the children on the festival site or down the long drop loos. Yes, festival-ing with children is a whole different affair, very, very fun but a world away from those hedonistic Glastonbury days of the '90's.

Driving to the site the clouds looked darker and more menacing, on cue as we parked the car at the mud fest  the area already was, the rain started hammering down. Now, generally I am a happy and positive person, we were here to have a good time but it was extremely testing under the circumstances, the children started whining, he wanted to leave and the security guard threatened to take away my bottle of whisky - unless we decanted it into plastic - so off we went to pour half a bottle of scotch into P's pink princess water bottle - there was no way he was taking away my means of keeping warm at night.

The only way to enjoy the next few days was to dive right into the fun and entertainment that festivals are. After our first dirt-burger of the weekend, we found a kids cooking kitchen where they made Moroccan couscous, a folkey-dokey singer who we weren't quite sure was a he or a she, we watched a play, some comedy, played on the straw bales, drank some beer and watched the children slowly unwind, drink it all in and start to dance, have face paints, talk to clowns and jugglers. We were having a ball. And then the sun came out!

There is not a lot more fun than being at a festival in the sunshine, talking to strangers, listening to music and watching the plethora or revellers young and old. We may not have managed to watch the headline acts (we heard them from the tent though - who are 'The Wombats' anyway?) or dance until the wee small hours to strange and wonderful DJ's but we met the Zingzillas, got two decent nights sleep, didn't get trench foot or incur enormous hangovers and came home just in time to watch the end of the tennis.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Lethal leaves

Do you know, something strange is happening in the vegetable garden. The lettuces are growing, the rocket is rocketing and the purple basil is flourishing. We have salad! Look:

This is why I grow vegetables, for the tasty, peppery, punchy leaves which are crispy and full of charm - ie little slug eaten holes and grainy bits of soil still attached. Covered in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of good vinegar, this salad accompanies everything we eat from now until October. But you've got to be careful, some of those leaves are damn hot and if you've ever nearly choked on rocket by not chewing it properly and it somehow starts travelling down your wind pipe - then you'll understand how lethal these leaves can be.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


I completely and utterly love horses. I adore their soft velvety noses, their sweet smelling hay and carroty breath, their stature, their prowess and their exquisite beauty. I also really love riding them which started when I was very, very young and still hasn't left the system, you could say it's in my blood.

I'm not really a horsey type (or maybe I am?) and have not owned my own since I was a child, but horses have been a part of my life for over 30 years in one way or another. I rode a friends horse today, a sturdy little grey, a grumpy sort who would rather be turned out at grass - and even though it was pouring with rain, the grin that spread over my wind and drizzle swept face as we cantered through a meadow, makes my adrenaline levels rise just a little thinking about it. Horses spell freedom to me. The speed, the uncertainty, the outdoors and seeing the world from a different and organic level. Oh my, I love horses.

I have ridden cross country at break neck speed, across a Mexican beach, through villages and sugar plantations in Cuba, I have show jumped in Greece, been a groom in Lambourn, I have hunted with hounds, ridden bare back, been a cow girl in Brazil for months, asked for rides at a horse fair in India, swam horses in rivers and even in the jungles of Zaire. I have ridden babies and old school masters, played polo, polo crosse, competed in teams - you name it and I have had a go, not been very good at any of the sports but guaranteed that a wide smile would inhabit my face every time.

The kids? Am I encouraging horses? No way Jose! Have you seen how much they cost? Have you seen the price of riding lessons and the amount of kit involved? No, horses are my personal passion, a little something for me that brings a lot of happiness - unless they beg and plead and insist that their life could not be full without horses - then I would understand, give in and revel at discovering horses all over again.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Camping weekend #1

We have planned three weekends of camping in a row, which have been in the diary for months. This weekends camp site had been booked since January - dreaming of June days in a Shropshire field, with a tinkling stream where the children could play and large skies where the adults could swap stories until the wee small hours around the fire. But as this Summer has proved so far, t'was a complete wash out. Not to say we didn't enjoy ourselves but boy, were we tested.


We arrived at our destination over 5 hours later, after many arguments with the sat nav, and a car laden with the bare necessities needed for one night under canvas. We briefly hugged hello to friends not seen for nearly 10 years. All of us once again a lot greyer, more tired and with an abundance of children. Before beer drinking and proper socialising could begin we needed to get the tent up, which we did pretty swiftly after a few years of no practice. But that good old friend of this Summer, the rain, did not help our efforts. The first couple of showers we giggled and huggled in the car, half way through putting the tent pegs in, the second down pour we smiled a little less, and after that, once our sleeping arrangements had been made, we resigned ourselves to sogginess. The kids where like bullets out of a gun screaming and running around the camp site with oodles of pent up energy, making friends quickly and excited by the change of scenery. Straight into the stream they went, with socks and wellies only to fall over and fill up the said boots so that they now had no dry footwear left. Brilliant, we had 23 hours to go. It was pissing down as we huddled under gazebos, packets of coleslaw slowly filling with rain, open bags of Kettle chips ruined and bread damp from the atmosphere - the saving grace was that the beers were nice and cold in the stream.

It WAS fun though. It is so refreshing to get away and discover another corner of England. And as we fell into the house last night, exhausted by our efforts (only to be greeted by two piles of cat puke - I told them not to eat it all at once - but did they listen? No) we slowly unpacked the filth that is camping and smiled. Once we had bathed, clean jim jams all round, a nice hot meal and clean sheets we all sighed 'Ahhhhh' in appreciation of all things homely. And that is why I like camping, it challenges you, makes you feel like you have had an adventure, we didn't take the easy road , we went ahead with colds and survived, home felt wonderful and safe. Its the yin and yang. Can't wait to go again next week, to a festival this time. Would it be too much to ask for maybe....a little less rain?