Thursday 19 August 2010

Camp Wales

As we drove through the mountains in a torrential downpour on the way to our camping destination, Tom solemnly said 'suddenly camping in Wales doesn't seem like such a great idea'. Betty sang: 'We're going camping, we're going camping, way up high, pitter patter raindrops, pitter patter raindrops, we're wet through, so are you' pretty much all the way. I was fully prepared for us to arrive, then turn around and come straight home.

Tom and I had the obligatory 'how to pitch a tent' argument as we battled with the giant thing flapping furiously in the wind and rain. Meanwhile the girls were locked in the car, out of our way, yelling and fighting over the bag of crisps I had thrown at them to shut them up. In fact the stationary car became a prominent feature during our trip and the kids would insist on spending much of their time in there - I suspect because it was warm and dry, and they could listen to Lily Allen, and eat stale chocolate buttons and crisps found between the seats.

Having survived the first evening, by going to the pub up the road for supper, drinking lots of cider, and getting Betty and Dolly togged up in their waterproofs and making them play football til 10pm on the campsite, we all passed out til morning. The next day the rain continued so we jumped in the car and headed for the cinema in Swansea. While Tom roamed the city's art galleries with a sleeping Dolly on his back, I took Betty to see Toy Story 3 (her first cinema experience). Unfortunately, despite a wonderful time playing in the foyer, the 'scary baby on the big telly' was all too much for Betty, and half an hour before the end (much to my disappointment, as I was pretty hooked by the film) we had to vacate in a furore of tears and sobs and her saying 'I just want to build sandcastles mummy'.

Later that afternoon the rain stopped, the clouds and haze lifted and sunshine and blue skies came through. We were ecstatic. We dashed to Tesco to buy some sausages and charcoal and alcohol (which is pretty much a must when camping with small children). Tom took the girls for a walk along the beach, whilst I lit the bbq, put the sausages on and then sat back with a large glass of wine and a tube of Pringles and gazed at the sand-dunes. I was in camping heaven.

We ended up staying for nine days, and while it certainly wasn't always plain sailing (mainly because our darling sweet children seem to like brawling and making each other cry), I think it was the best holiday I have ever had. We played in the sand-dunes, swam in the sea, had bbqs on the beach with new-found friends, and old friends joined us for the weekend. We collected snails and shells, had lazy pub lunches, made life-size sand boats, went on long beach walks, found hidden rock pools, and sometimes Tom and I actually managed to read or have a proper conversation.

The camping trip had the added bonus of expunging the final traces of neurosis and Gina Ford-ness out of my approach to parenting. Normally the queen of clean and routine, I really let things slide. The girls didn't get a proper wash for days, and when they did wash I even let them into the campsite showers, and didn't go too mental when they sat down on the cubicle floor with all the dirty hairbands and other people's matted hair and dirt. I resigned myself to letting them eat fruit and veg that had perhaps seen better days, and I let Dolly eat sand on the beach, and encouraged Betty to do a wee on a sandcastle she had made. And I am not sure Dolly's bedtime bottle ever got a proper wash. Speaking of bedtime, what's that? Get me.

Monday 9 August 2010

Play talk

At the playground:

Me: Go on, off you go and play, and stop nagging me for food

Betty runs off towards an older child on the slide

Betty: Hello, I'm Betty and I am three and a half. I love olives. I am wearing Crocs. You are wearing pumps, and they are green. Do you like my Crocs? I don't like your pumps. Shall we be friends?

Betty tries to take older child's hand.

Betty: Ok, we don't have to hold hands. Come on lets run over to the swings and lie on them on our tummies and spin around. I don't like your pumps. But I like your funny socks.

Dolly: Da daaaa.

Betty: Look that's my baby sister, she is called Dolly Pasta [she's not], because she loves pasta, and she is one and a half. Do you want to look at her?

Betty and older child stand over Dolly

Dolly: Grrrrrr

Dolly toddles off towards the rubbish bin.

Betty: Have you got any other shoes at home?


Betty: I think your pumps are quite nice really. Come on, let's run over there and be friends.

(Not a word came out of the older child's mouth for the duration)

In the car on the way home:

Betty: Mummy, did you like that big girl's pumps?

Sunday 8 August 2010

Dolly in a tent (by Tom)

We Buttons have been doing a trial run to get ready for our camping trip next week. To the great amusement of our neighbours we have crammed our giant 'Buckingham' eight-berth tent into the garden. After an abortive first night in which we lasted until just 10.30, Elsie and I had a council of war and decided that the way forward was for me to share with Dolly, while Elsie took on a night with Betty.
I was quite nervous about this arrangement and allowed Dolly four hours to come to terms with her surroundings before I ventured in. Over in the west wing, Elsie and Betty were zedding away happily. I crept into the compartment trying not to wake her up any more than she already was and Dolly immediately demanded to be taken out so she could roam around the compartment. I tried to talk her out of it but she was insistent. I plonked her on my bed and watched as she got annoyed trying to stand up on an airbed, in her sleeping bag.

Dolly and I were having a pretty cross exchange when Elsie appeared at the door with a large purple ball that looks and, bizarrely, smells like a blackcurrant. Dolly loves this ball. She spent a few minutes happily holding it in front of her. For some reason I started tapping it. Dolly started tapping it as well. Dolly and I lay next to each other on a slowly-deflating airbed, in a tent in the garden, at 10pm, taking it in turns to tap a giant plastic blackcurrant. It did not take me more than a few minutes to realise that this wasn't getting us very far towards sleep so I put her back into the travelcot and waited to see what would happen next.

What happened next was that Dolly started yelling, and pretty soon her big sister woke up and told her to put a sock in it. Undeterred, Dolly continued to yell and I put my fingers in my ears, cursing tents.

After a short while Dolly passed out, and I fell into an exhausted and uncomfortable doze. Every half an hour after that Dolly woke up and cried for a while before going back to sleep. This carried on for several hours until 1.30am when she just would not stop yelling. I don't know if she was too cold, or if the flapping fabric of the tent was too loud, or if the freaky bird noises were freaking her out, or if the moth that was caught between the fabric of the compartment and the tent outer was irritating her, or if she knew that she had a perfectly comfortable cot not ten metres away, or if it was a combination of all these things, but finally I understood that Dolly was not prepared to spend the night in the tent. I tucked her under an arm, snuck out of the tent and delivered her back into her cot where she gratefully zonked out. In the garden, Elsie and Betty slept on.
(The trial run we did with Betty over two years ago was a very different experience)

Friday 6 August 2010

Technical blogging

Although I have been blogging for well over three years now, I have been rather left behind with the whole technology of it all.  I have been trying to remedy this and drag my blog into 2010. 

After a lot of tantrums and tears, I have finally added the 'Follow' gadget (or is it widget?) onto my blog, so if you are not following me and would like to, now is your chance!  I have to be completely honest though, what does 'following' actually mean? I have been going around the blogosphere and 'following' all the brilliant blogs that I read, and have been trying to get to grips with Google Reader.  From what I can gather it allows you to read all recent posts from all the blogs that you follow, in once place.  But are you also able to leave comments in Google Reader?  And does anyone use Google Reader?  Why not just use your blog list in the sidebar?

As for burning feeds, and feedburner, and subscription emails, and codes and Rss and Atom, I am completely flummoxed.  The same goes for Twitter - I have been completely left behind, and often watch on from a distance in awe as you tweet away, and retweet, and add pictures, and set up groups.  Where do you learn all this stuff?  Can I use the excuse of having two small children for my lack of brain and technical understanding? No, I didn't think so.

(You would never believe that I was once an ICT teacher in the local primary school - I must have been rubbish)

Wednesday 4 August 2010

What has felt relentless lately?

On a daily basis, I have the '5 a day' ringing in my ears, and if my kids don't get their five I feel horribly guilty. Although I have found this guilt easing the more of a seasoned mother I become. If I am truthful mealtimes having been getting a little slack of late. It has been known that malt loaf is used as a substitute for fruit (it has raisins in it), bread as a substitute for mashed potato, and chocolate as a substitute for cereal.

Trying to think of new and exciting vegetables for my little darlings, other than the trusted carrots, broccoli and frozen peas, is hard work. Trying to think of new and exciting dishes other than pasta, sausage and mash, and something that involves chicken and fish is hard work. Trying to think of new and exciting ways of washing up the countless saucepans, plates, knives, forks, spoons, cups, just to do it all over a again a few hours later, is hard work. Trying to think of new and exciting ways of scraping the aforementioned food off the floor, the chairs, the underside of the tablecloth, and the legs of the highchair is hard work...

It is dinner time and I look in the cupboard for inspiration. Betty says 'please don't give us pasta, pesto and broccoli again'. I sigh and say 'ok what would you like?' 'doughnuts' comes the reply. 'You can't have doughnuts' I say. 'But you gave us doughnuts last night' she retorts.

Strictly speaking, this is true. We were at the supermarket doing a grocery shop at around 4.30pm yesterday and I bought a carton of mini doughnuts for the journey home as I knew the girls would be whingey and hungry in the car. Every so often I would throw a couple of doughnuts their way and jokingly say 'this is your dinner kids'. However they took me at my word, and once home and presented with pasto, pesto and broccoli, Betty said 'but we've had our dinner mummy, remember?' And Dolly gave me a look that said 'What, after all those doughnuts? - you've got to be bloody joking'.

Written for Josie's writing workshop

Tuesday 3 August 2010


It was February 14th 2002, and I was sitting at my desk in White City, staring at my computer screen, and eating a soggy bagel, courtesy of the BBC canteen. I had just had the pleasure of brushing hands with Jeremy Clarkson in the canteen, as we both reached for the same bagel in the chiller cabinet. Now a conversation was going on behind me about the best film directors of all time. I slightly quivered in my seat, dreading my boss turning to me and asking me for my opinion on this. She did ask me, and I went bright red, and then muttered something about Top Gear. 

I slumped in my chair, feeling embarrassed and uncultured, when suddenly, an email pinged into my inbox from Tom, which just simply said 'x'. I was all a-flutter. Although we had spent the last two years building an extraordinary friendship, Tom had just single-handedly taken things onto a whole new level. It was Valentine's Day and he had sent me one single kiss by email. He really does love me!  To me this was far more romantic than being sent flowers, chocolates or being whisked off to Paris, and so I promptly sent him a 'x' right back. 

I then had fleeting moments of paranoia that perhaps I had read too much into it, or that his hand had slipped on the keyboard and the email was an accident. My paranoia was shortlived, because moments later he wrote back listing five of my favourite restaurants, asked me to choose one, and said he was taking me out. 

I called through to my boss 'Platonic Tom has asked me out on a date, AND it's Valentine's day!'

Written for Josie's writing workshop

Sunday 1 August 2010

Omelette offensive

Yesterday afternoon I was out at a friend's house with my girls, willing away that last, often torturous, hour between 4 and 5pm, and before heading home I called Tom to ask if he would have the girls' supper ready for when we got back.

In the car on the way home, Betty, having completely just worn me out by relentlessly play-fighting her baby sister around sharp-edged furniture for hours on end, asked: 'What's the matter mummy?' 'I will be fine once you are both in bed and asleep' I replied. 'Why mummy?' 'Just a few more minutes and we'll be home' I thought.

Tom's signature cheese omelette was waiting for them on the table when we walked in. I had warned Betty a few minutes earlier that she must not kick up a fuss if 'Daddy has cooked you omelette again'. She sighed and said 'I won't'.

Betty and Dolly sat at the table and within seconds chaos had ensued. Betty was saying 'I don't like your omelettes daddy' on a continuous animated loop, and Dolly was either chewing pieces of the offending egg and then spitting it out, or discreetly trying to place it in the trough of her bib, and then pointing at the ceiling to distract us.

Tom looked crestfallen, and even this morning he was still dwelling on it. As soon as he woke up he said 'I remember when Betty used to clamour for my omelettes.'