Sunday, 30 September 2012

The birth

When A was about three and hardly there at all, we would make many trips to children's farms. Far better than soft play even on a rainy day. 

We would laugh at the chickens funny hair-do's, I would lift the kids up high to reach the shire horse's whiskery nose, we would hold our noses when visiting the pigs and then go and cuddle the calves - who would lick our salty hands and pull at our clothes, much to our amusement.

One trip to Middle Farm on a cold day, just as it was beginning to get dark, I spotted a cow walking around with the tiny hooves of a calf poking out of her, being born. We watched her quietly and privately so she could get on with her job, blowing, sweating, walking around, lying down and standing up again. In between contractions she rested and when a surge came she made a lowing noise, the calf inching its way into the world. A was fascinated and I very excited to see a calf being born. The farm was near closing time and I willed her to give birth before we left, but knowing full well she would birth when she was ready. The farmer came along and looked at his watch, realising the time said to us bystanders;

"If she hasn't had it in 20 minutes, I'll pull the calf out!"

She was up against the clock now. Her contractions were coming fast and she was making more noise as she slowly and beautifully birthed her baby. Next to me, a woman commented.

"Why doesn't he help her? She is in so much pain! Why doesn't the farmer just pull the calf out?" the woman was quite distressed.

"She is birthing so well by herself, " I said quietly so as not to disturb her "She doesn't look like she needs any help."

" I am a Doctor, " the woman replied, "we would never leave a woman like this, it is so cruel!"

And sure enough the farmer reappeared with ropes, which he tied to the calf's legs and pulled with all his might, the cow roaring and bellowing at the intervention. The calf was born and the mother soon licked her offspring and encouraged him to his feet while the placenta was allowed to follow naturally later.

Why am I telling you this? Because A reminded me of this today, how she remembered the details of her first biology lesson. It reminded me of how sorry I felt for this cow and how it is not only animals that are treated like this in labour, but women too.

We need to take back birth and leave the Doctor's out of it.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Green soup

With a chink of sun in the sky, I popped down to the allotment with wellies, to assess the rain damage and to check if anything was occurring. There were the usual mole hills, rotten plants, pitiful slug-eaten beans, some unpicked raspberries and the ever encroaching weeds from a negligent neighbours plot.

But there were joys to be found! One big orange pumpkin, two curly wurly pumpkin/courgettes (I'll have to hunt out the seed packet as have no idea what they are), three yellow courgettes, one mini marrow and a great big bunch of swiss chard. I love swiss chard and so do the kids.

"Go in the kitchen, there's an allotment surprise for you!" I said to the children after school today.

Instead of whoops and squeals over the oddness of the curly pumpkins, they both cried:

"YAAAAY, green soup!"

So that's what I made for dinner, 20 minutes from plot to plate.

Our Green Soup recipe

Big bunch of swiss chard, slugs removed
2 onions
Lots of garlic, 4 or more cloves
A potato
Some oil

Remove the stalks from the swiss chard and chop into small pieces. Chop up onion and garlic. Fry the swiss chard stalks, garlic and onion in some oil, until softened. Add the stock, a chopped up potato and all the chopped green leaves from the swiss chard. Bubble away, adding more stock/hot water as necessary. Whizz with a hand blender. Serve with soft wholemeal bread, chunks of cheddar and a dose of Autumn.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A strange old day

I get really stuck on rainy days like this. I'm not sure if I would prefer it if the kids were here or not. All around the house there are jobs screaming to be done.

"Me first, " says the cooker.

"No, me! I am an unpainted wall, you said you were going to do me last year!" cries the bare plaster.

"Oy, you, the one on the computer all the time, isn't it about time you sorted out this office, look around you its a God damn disgrace!" shouts the room I am in.

But I have ignored them all and spent a happy morning speaking to a long lost friend, having a nosy round The Old Haberdashery and Tatty Tutu's and then finally making the rhubarb and date chutney I promised myself in June. It feels like a major achievement as there is now a gaping hole in the freezer where 2kg of rhubarb once sat, and I have 9 Christmas gifts sorted.

Some days you need a pootle and a potter. Not every day can be a rush from one job to the next productive moment. I needed today and the rain was fitting. My neighbour died yesterday. She was 23. Cancer. I needed today to try and process that.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Yes, I'll marry you my babs!

This was read out at our wedding, happy anniversary to us, 8 years today.

It was adapted from a Pam Ayres poem, written by Tone the Bone

Yes, I'll marry you my babs

Yes, I'll marry you, my Babs
And here's the reason why;
So I can push you out of bed
When the baby starts to cry,
And if we hear a knocking
And it's creepy and it's late,
I'll hand you the torch you see,
And you investigate.

Yes, I'll marry you, my babs,
You may not apprehend it,
But when the tumble-drier goes
It's you that has to mend it.
You have to face the neighbour
Should our labrador attack him
And if a drunkard fondles me
It's you that has to whack him.

Yes, I'll marry you my Blah,
Course you'll have to earn some money
Cos I'll want at least 2 horses
And they're dear, it's so not funny.
Plus that yummy little dinner
Which you served by candlelight,
As I only do organic,
You can cook it very night!

Yes, I'll marry you, my babs,
Even if you are from The Smoke,
And you are a little geeky,
But I loves you, you're my bloke,
I do see great advantages,
But none of them for you,
So before you see the light,
I do, I do, I do!

Well. Erm. Some of that is true. I'll leave it up to you to decide what!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Dear Him,

Dear Him,

I call you 'him' as I know how you love your anonymity, being a Londoner born and bred. You haven't featured on this blog an awful lot but that doesn't mean you're not there. You are my rock, my friend, my drinking buddy, the linchpin of the family, a great dad, my lover and you share my sometimes wayward views.

It's our wedding anniversary next week, 8 years of marriage but we also have 10 years of friendship,1 year of courting and 3 years of living in wonderful, hedonistic sin to add to the relationship. I have known you for 21 years. Darn, that's a long time.

Thank you for everything. For rolling the doobies in Uni, for coming to visit me in Cirencester and rescuing me from the runner beans, for taking us to Spain for a few years to play, talk Spanish and learn about the finesse of sherry and chewiness of jamon. Thank you for joining in my adventures, for showing the country girl London, thank you for moving to Sussex and trying gardening, in your white wellies. Thank you for holding me in labour and taking photo's of the Houses of Parliament, for dealing with that first nappy and the 598 after that. Thanks babs.

Let's have some more adventures! Every year we have tried to push the boundaries a bit further, let's show our children the real world together but save some of the world for us, when the girls fly the nest. I'm looking forward to you coming home tonight so we can light a fire, laugh at the cats, drink too much red wine, get angry at everyone who doesn't think like us, laugh at times past, share stories of the day and listen to hard-bloody-house music.

I love you my babs,
This is just the beginning.


Our week in music








Enjoy, happy weekend y'all.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


When I was in Africa.....(Cue rolling of the eyes from those who know me - not banging on about Africa again, is she?)

When I was in Africa, a long time ago, when I was 18 years old, my life changed. Probably for the better. I was eager for adventure and to nose my way out of the safety and comfort of home. Home being a little village in Somerset full of ponies, A levels and soon, boys. It was time to leave and Africa seemed as good a place as any.

I left with a rucksack and joined a truck, travelled, camped and cooked by fire every night for about 7 months, maybe longer. I didn't have a hot shower for the whole of this journey. Communication was by poste restante. My mum and friends would write me a letter to a far-off sounding place, say Dar Es Salaam or Tamanrasset, and when I eventually arrived at the destination I would present my passport at the post office and pick up the letter. Letters from Africa sometimes got home, sometimes did not.

I had a hammam in Morocco, semi-naked, with the normally hidden women. Crossed the Sahara and rode camels with the Tauregs, caught diseases, ate awful food, saw poverty unknown and bewildering. I went to Rwanda before the genocide and was scared. Zaire even more frightening with naivety being a friend in the heart of darkness. We stumbled upon elephants at night, frozen to the spot in awe of the hulk at the end of the torch light - to run or keep still? We ran. You are supposed to keep still. We swam in turquoise oceans, discovered shells as big as your head in Zanzibar. I got mugged, robbed and ripped off, a number of times. We spoke to the people, sometimes being squashed in so tightly on public transport for hours and hours on end, with chickens, silently content babies and the hopeful tunes of Kanda Bongo Man. We were invited into homes and swapped addresses with people of my age, fascinated with each others lives.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am going to Africa again. I am going in November to see my best friend who lives in Nairobi. And although I certainly will be having a hot shower on this journey, maybe twice a day, I am curious to see if I will see Africa through the same eyes.

I was going to change the world at 18, and now I am just a part of it.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Please don't shout

Nobody shouts at me. Nobody has to shout at me to make me do something. If they ask nicely, politely and with respect and then I probably respond in a positive manner. I like to please people, I go out of my way to be helpful and I wouldn't deliberately disobey. My mum didn't shout at me as a child and I managed to grow up into a decent citizen knowing right from wrong.

So please don't shout at my children or anyone else's children, it's aggressive and bullying and will only serve a purpose momentarily. Read this. Or give up teaching.

Friday, 14 September 2012

"Where is God?"

My children go to a Church of England school. It is a small, country, Victorian school with the church next door - overlooking rolling Sussex hills and with a playground next to rusty brown cows. You could say it is idyllic. Except we had no choice of which school to attend, according to our religion. You see, we are atheists. There are no schools for us around these parts. Consequently my children know very little about God or Jesus, or the bible. It's not that I won't tell them, it hasn't really come up in conversation before, until they went to school.

Day one, last week, P proudly put on her new shiny school shoes, donned her uniform and posed for the obligatory first-day-at-school-photo's. Holding her book bag, PE kit and a bag full of nerves, she bravely stood in her line and entered the school system. I felt the same emotions as when A left for her first day, that time had passed so quickly, that they were wonderful little girls embarking on a new chapter, and sad for me.

"What did you do today P?" I asked, eager to know how she got on afterwards, thinking that she looked too small to be at school.

"We did praying," she replied nonchalantly.

"Oh, what did you have to do?" I queried, thinking "blimey, they got the God stuff in fast!"

"Well, you have to close your eyes really gently, not screw them up like this," cue demonstration
"..and you put your hands together like this, and thank God."

"Thank God for what?" I asked

"For letting me do painting!" she stated exasperated at my questions.

So we left it there. I wasn't going to go any further, just a bit surprised that this is what P remembered and learnt about on her first day. Mmmmm.

Day three, P came home from school.

" Who is God, mummy?"

"Ummmmm..." I was trying to think about a good politically correct answer.

"Because I asked my teacher today," she finished her sentence.

I cringed inwardly, now the teachers knew I was a non-believer, they probably think I vote Labour and read The Guardian as well. Bum, my cover had been blown.

"Well, what did she say?"

"She said that God was there," P pointed at the chair
"....and there...and there!" she pointed to the ceiling and the window.
"God is EVERYWHERE!" she explained dramatically in the way that P does.

"BUT I CAN'T SEE HIM!" she exclaimed frustrated.

I could see her point.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Suddenly I have got some time, not this week in all honesty as it's been manic, but in general - I have time. I haven't been able to say that for six and a half years. You know, since having children.

There is always something to do, don't get me wrong, but if I want to - I have time to stop and smell the roses, or the coffee, whichever is appropriate. The girls no longer need me like they used to. They're pretty self-sufficient these days and happily get their own breakfast, dress themselves and play for hours unaided. I'm here to just break up any quarrels and give them my great wisdom of course. And seeing that school has begun, someone else takes care of my charges and imparts their great wisdom on them, sometimes. So I have time to work a bit, to do the house work, the gardening and allotment, I have time to get a haircut and ride a horse. But the thing is I always made time for those things, so what has changed?

It's the small stuff. I have time to wander around Great Dixter and marvel at the colours of the dhalias, the firey display in the borders, listen to the hum of the bee's and wrack my brain for the long forgotten Latin names of the plants. Without someone needing a poo, without a little one picking the flowers or threatening to, without someone being bored, or hungry, or tired. I had time to have coffee with a friend today instead of rushing off, and we talked while commenting on the dragon flies and the pungent smell of the water mint surrounding the lake.

I like this, having time.

This is Great Dixter, East Sussex. It's incredible. Do go, if you have the time.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

I had a dream....

I had a dream that I had a tattoo done. I had a dream that this tattoo was of the Uffington white horse and was on my hip and that it was darn cool. I woke up from my dream and said:

"I had a cool dream that I had the Uffington white horse tattooed on my hip, I think I will get it done," all hazily and fuzzily at the 6.30am.

Cue gasp, shock and horror from the parents and parents-in-law as they read about this revelation.

I am approaching 40 next year, I feel like I need to mark it somehow. Not very original I know, but cheaper than a sports car and it WAS a very cool dream.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The holiday is over

Ironing name labels on their school uniform and PE kit as well as naming lunch boxes and book bags and the like, gave me time to ponder on the most incredible Summer holiday time. An unforgettable Summer of fun, adventure, sun (yes, sun), learning and play. A six week break without times, rules, uniforms, maths and English work sheets, without homework, reading specific books and saying prayers. A time for us.

I prefer to reflect on the Summer than write about being back at school. School brings me out in hives, makes me rant and is going to give me an early ulcer. So I am going to ignore it and remember the calm.

Piratey bottom

Somerset skies

Olympics #1

The glads


Teeth dramas


                Beach days and allotment evenings            



Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Paralympics 2012

It was the last day of the school holidays today and the last day of P's freedom, for P is starting school tomorrow. So we went to the Paralympic equestrian dressage at Greenwich arena. He came too. To the dressage. I know! It went well, I think.

The day was glorious, it could've been mid-summer, teasing us gently knowing we had conformity tomorrow. With bacon baguettes and hot coffee we found good seats facing the London skyline. Me, ecstatic to be back at Greenwich, the girls putting a brave face on another 3 hours of dressage, and him photographing his works building - I would too to be fair, if I worked in such an almighty place.

Everything was the same as the Olympics. The volunteers enthusiasm was infectious, the arena magnificent, the efficiency impeccable, the food stands serving the same food, maybe fewer people in the stadium which was more than made up for in cheers and mexican waves. The difference was in the athletes and this is what I explained to the children. I wanted them to understand and they retorted in the way children do.

"When's the one with no legs coming on Mummy?" asked P innocently.

"What's wrong with that rider Mummy?" queried A.

So I explained and they accepted. Just like that. Just as they have asked questions of others this holiday. Yes, some people are short, some people are a different colour, some people are in a wheelchair, some people are poor and are hungry and some people are disabled.

James Dwyer riding Orlando for Ireland

Soon enough they stopped asking about the riders and began commenting on the horses, the music, how long it was until the British rider and when they could have something else to eat. 

Just as children do.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Altruism is is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness. According to Wikipedia it is also a motivation to provide something of value to a party who must be anyone but oneself. And I experienced such an altruistic gesture today that I feel compelled to talk about it. In comparison to my previous blog post, which left such a nasty taste and general icky feeling in the house, it is a pleasure to tell you about the act of random kindness from a stranger.

Yesterday, whilst out on a family walk to our Garlic Woods, we bumped into a woman with two beautiful dogs and got talking. The playful puppiness of the Golden Labrador and silky long ears of the Spaniel had the children in giggles, and squeals of delight as stick after stick was thrown. Chat, chat, chatting and more early morning pleasantries were swapped and somehow we talked about A learning to ride a bike. Out of nowhere this woman, who we had known for 10 minutes, offered to teach A how to ride, telling us that she had a passion for bikes and would like all kids to know how to ride them. You could say that this was perhaps not a true altruistic gesture as she gained some pleasure from teaching or wanting children to ride bicycles, but honestly, I was astounded and slightly dumbfounded and took her up on her generous offer.

So early on a Sunday morning, in slight drizzle and September mistiness, we met at a playing field. Bang on time, the lady turned up and gave over an hour of her time teaching A how to ride a bike. She must have gone up and down the field nigh on twenty times. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, A grinning and confidently riding at least 50 metres by herself. I tried to offer money, wine and sincere gratitude but she really was genuinely pleased to help and wanted nothing in return - and rode off in puff of wind seemingly, like Mary Poppins or some other such, lovely fairytale character.