Thursday 24 January 2013

Selfish mum act: that'll teach me

Betty's school was closed again today, due to the snow.  And so with another article about Dexter to write, and a serious case of cabin fever, I told her we were going to have a day of work together.

After two hours of sitting in Caffe Nero, with me doing some colouring-in and Betty playing games on my iPad, talk turned to our lunch options.

Betty told me she wanted Jaffa Cakes for lunch.

"I think because you have been so good all morning,  I will take you for a very special Thai lunch to mine and daddy's favourite restaurant," I told her.

I sat there battling with my conscience.  Betty had never had Thai food before, and it was pretty unlikely that she would like it.  But I was really really in the mood for it, and decided nothing else would do.

So we entered the restaurant, and the waiter raised an eyebrow at my little companion.  "My daughter has a very sophisticated palate," I told him defiantly.  "In fact, she loves Thai food, she has it all the time". Well she loves olives and pickled onions, I reasoned to myself.

In a moment of dizzy excitement at being in my favourite restaurant, I ordered my two favourite main dishes, plus rice and prawn crackers. If all else failed Betty would definitely eat the rice and crackers.

The waiter raised another eyebrow at the volume of food I had, in effect, ordered for myself. The food arrived and I optimistically dished out Betty's share of noodles and curry. This still left an awful lot for me - six year olds don't eat huge portions.

Betty took one mouthful of noodles and told me they were disgusting. She then plumped for a prawn cracker which she told me tasted of fish and made her feel sick. And the rice was too sticky, and the curry too spicy.

"Ow, my mouth is really really stinging," she cried just as the smirking waiter walked past. "Well drink some orange juice then," I loud-whispered through gritted teeth.

"The orange juice tastes of lemons," she told me.

So feeling really stupid, and not wanting to get another raised eyebrow from the waiter, I ploughed my way through two meals, very very slowly.

The one saving grace was the decorative carrot carved into a rose shape, which thankfully kept Betty amused while I force fed myself. She took photos from various angles, nibbled it, took more photos, and then carefully wrapped it up in a napkin so that she could take it home and show Tom.

Without the distraction of the carrot, Betty then politely asked me why my face was so red, and when we were leaving.

And when we eventually walked out of the restaurant, me barely able to move and feeling like I was going to hurl, a hungry Betty said: "Can we go for lunch at Pizza Express now?"

Tuesday 22 January 2013

SOS: snowed in with a sick child

Dolly in the snow
Before having children, I loved the snow. Not only did it mean days off school/college and even work, it also meant a lot of fun.

However my love of snow quickly evaporated the moment my first daughter was born. She arrived in late November, in a winter with freezing temperatures and lots of snow. I felt really vulnerable with a newborn baby, and worried about not being able to get out in an emergency.

This year, I tried to put to one side my fears of getting snowed in. Against my better judgment I found myself joining my girls in calling for a load of the white stuff to be dumped on us. What fun it would be with my girls – we had our sledges at the ready.

And sure enough, last Friday we woke up to thick blankets of snow everywhere, and that all-important school closure announcement.

All wrapped up we set about making snowmen, eating snow, and sledging. However, after lobbing a few snowballs around, Dolly quickly became tearful and whingey.

This was her first proper experience of snow and I wondered whether she just didn’t like it. On closer inspection, however, I discovered that she had a very high fever and was doubled up with tummy cramps.

At that point, I decided to start panicking. What if it was something REALLY serious, and I couldn’t get her to hospital? What if an ambulance wouldn’t make it through the snowy lanes in time? What if the air ambulance was too busy rescuing people from the mountains to help us?

Breaking my no-updates resolution, I put out an SOS message on Facebook: ‘Snowed in with a very sick child – help!’  continue reading...

Friday 18 January 2013

Dexter Mayhew: the crush, and the unbearable tragedy

While dumping off a load of old toys and clothes at our local charity shop early last December, I stumbled upon a tattered looking DVD, with a man and woman kissing on the front cover.

I hastily bought it, figuring it might save me from having to watch Apocalypse Now later that night – something Tom had threatened earlier.  But realistically I imagined that even if I did manage to persuade my husband to watch a rom-com, we would get about 15 minutes in and end up falling asleep.

Just over a month later I have now watched this film eleven times, and even Tom has watched it four times (although probably not through choice, and he has started to give me odd looks at my continued persistence with it). 

Almost every scene is either heart-stopping, tear-jerking, or goose-bump-inducing. But it was the Paris scene, where Dexter and Emma finally fall into each others' arms, which was probably one of the best moments of my life (bar marrying my husband and the birth of my children, of course). And then the almost unbearable tragedy happens, for which I will never forgive the writer.  Why couldn't Em and Dex just have a baby or three and live happily ever after?  Why?

This film has taken over my life.  This is mainly down to it being an amazing love story which leaves you alternately weeping, drooling, and screaming at the screen.  But also because I have a bit of a crush on the main character, Dexter Mayhew.  The other main character, Emma (Anne Hathaway) isn't bad either.

I haven't had a crush like this since my Nick Berry fixation when I was 14 years old. I am now 38 and have an obsession with a fictional character from a film. At least Nick Berry was a real person.

A friend of mine pointed out that Dexter and Tom are pretty similar in looks and sound - that melt-your-heart public schoolboy hair and accent. I also think perhaps this love story reminds me of mine and Tom's journey, before we had our  'Paris moment' - which for us happened in Pizza Express in Paddington. Before this, Tom and I spent years being best friends, with lots of missed opportunities, just like Emma and Dexter. How on earth Tom and I didn't realise our love for each other, way back when, as he fed me chicken McNuggets dipped in barbecue sauce, sitting in Budgens car park in West London, I will never know.

During a typical day, it's not unusual for me to watch the film (sometimes on loop if it's the night of Tom's Tai Chi class), listen to the soundtrack and the unabridged audio book, and gaze at photos of Dexter on Google images.

I play the soundtrack while cooking the kids' dinner or hanging out the washing. This way I can replay the film in my head while gazing tearfully through wet clothes and steaming carrots. I am often met with shouts of "TURN IT DOWN!" from my exasperated family, while they try to eat their breakfast.

Towards the end of the film Dexter opens up a cafĂ©/deli between Archway and Highgate - this is an area I know particularly well, and I was positively thrilled that Dex and I have probably pounded the same pavements. I thought about going off to find this deli in the hope that Dexter might be there.  I could tell him how sorry I am for his loss and give him a big hug.  And with his knee-weakening handsome grin and that voice, he might serve me a latte and a chocolate brownie. But then I have to remind myself that neither the deli nor the characters are real.

It is the character and not the actor that I am in love with (sorry Jim Sturgess). Having said this, I have undertaken a bit of Jim Sturgess Twitter-stalking, and I have just ordered another film where he is the lead role - just in case there's another film out there which I might be able to obsess over. 

But I fear I am setting myself up for disappointment. There will never be another One Day - and it is without doubt the best fifty pence I have ever spent.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

When Tom hosted a play-date...

I found myself in a rather strange situation the other day - my girlfriends were all working and I hooked up with a couple of their enlightened Dads-at-home partners.

I can't call it a play-date, because that phrase was banned. I can call it a playfest, because my 3-year-old has never been so entertained within the auspices of a friend's house, for free.

"Was he trying to win some prize for most amazing 'gathering' ever?" I enquired (innocently) as we ricocheted between dough making, cookie cutting, fancy dress and fire building...

The quizzical look I received said it all - "what is it that mum's do when they meet up?" Good bloody question. Natter mainly, obviously. I was itching to share with them the details of my rather bizarre lesbian dream (they possibly would have enjoyed that) but the opportunity just didn't arise.

It was jobs allocation from the outset, of the "you build the fire while I reduce the pizza topping" variety...  It left me feeling a bit spare partish - I'm not used to feeling so useless! (one even brought home-made soup to share)

As one 21st Dad managed the culinary side of things, his comrade in arms fielded potty training accidents (unruffledly) between dressing up WITH the children (I've never actually even thought of doing that) and making wolf noises outside their Wendy house (to squeals of laughter and enjoyment).

I took rather too many pictures.

Thankfully I did get a bit of natter in when Elsie popped home for a light lunch (provided by super-hero/husband, Tom), although not time enough to get down to the nitty gritty of the dream... she was off back to her desk before I knew it and I was left trying to contribute to a conversation about bicycle tyre punctures (seriously).

"Would you be talking about us girls if I wasn't around?" I postured, jokingly. "No, that really is the domain of sad women," came the riposte. "Oh"

Next week it's my turn to host and I've been googling mad ideas for what exactly 3 three-year-olds can do in three hours...I even thought about hiring a circus act in.  I then considered bribing my other half to swap days with me so he could enjoy these heady days of creativity and cavalier fun.

But I've decided to jump in with both feet and grasp this opportunity to learn from the Mars inhabiters, they've got hanging out covered.

This is a guest post from my friend Jules.  

[Jules - after you all left Tom had a large whisky and then went to bed!] 

Thursday 10 January 2013

Thrills and spills

Betty ice-skating with granddad
During that weird and slightly flat period between New Year and going back to school, Betty and I went on a last minute jaunt to London, to stay with my dad.

Although I was sick of the sight of dirty half-inflated Father Christmases, and mulled wine, I took Betty to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

I knew that she would love it, but I had no idea quite how much.

The first thing we did was go down an ice slide in the Magical Ice Kingdom, and we spent the rest of the afternoon with numb bottoms.  Particularly me - I got stuck and so was sitting on ice (without a mat) for far longer than I should have been.  (It brought back awful memories of the helter skelter incident in Cardiff a few years ago).

We also went on the penguin bumper cars, the big wheel, and the roller coaster.  I hadn't been on a roller coaster of this description for at least twenty years, and Betty had never been on one.  And having just terrified myself on the big wheel (where I made Betty and I practically hold our breath all the way round, so as not to rock the carriage), I had no intentions of going on it.  But at Betty's insistence I gave in and bought us a ticket, thinking it might make me feel young again.

However, I had forgotten that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach as the carriage reaches the top of the vertical mile-long drop on the other side.  I just wanted to cry.  I closed my eyes, bravely asked Betty if she was ok, and off we hurtled downwards at breakneck speed.  Once at the bottom I was terrified that, firstly, I was going to be sick, and secondly, that Betty would be inconsolable.  But she was giggling heartily and saying: 'What is wrong with you Mummy? Can we go on again?'

'No, it's time to go back to granddad's house now' I told her hastily, and I marched her out of there, grabbing a £4.50 cup of mulled wine as we went - which I downed.

The following day we all went ice-skating on the South Bank.  And thank goodness my dad was with us to take charge of Betty.  She was like a very determined, high-speed, out-of-control octopus flailing around on that ice.  But there was just no stopping her.  She dragged my dad round and round and round, and credit to her (and him) she got really rather good by the end of the session.

Meanwhile I crawled around the edge, clinging onto the sides and trying to take photos of the heartwarming sight of my daughter with my dad.  The one time I got adventurous and left the side to go it alone, I fell flat on my face.  I sat on the ice, feeling I would look far too undignified if I tried to get myself up, and so waited for someone, anyone, to scoop me up.

So it turns out that my gentle and delicate daughter is a bit of a daredevil and likes all things dangerous and fast - I was most definitely the same at her age.   And having been forced back into these activities, after 25 years,  despite my fears and inabilities, I could quite get used to it, and have already organised another ice-skating trip...

Tuesday 8 January 2013

New Year, new me!

Christmas is over for another year.

No more feeling obliged to eat cheese and Christmas pudding til you feel like you are actually going to explode; no more over-excited kids all hyped up on chocolate Father Christmases and jelly beans; and no more maulting Christmas trees and dog-eared cards littering the shelves.

Feeling ready to take on 2013, this is what I have done so far, in an attempt to strive for a better, more glamorous me:

I have bought myself a new scarf (and from John Lewis, not Primark, what's more).

I have downloaded a ‘Lose Weight Now’ hypnosis app.  The session is only 60 minutes long but I have yet to get to the end of it – I am normally asleep within ten minutes of turning it on.  I am a bit in love with the hypnotist’s East London voice - think Alfie Moon.  One reviewer of this app complained that he sounded like a fishmonger.  Well, what the heck is wrong with that?

I am currently doing a liver cleanse programme – which includes taking pills, and eating lots of walnuts and beetroot, washed down with freshly squeezed lemon juice.  This makes me wee a heck of a lot, which also makes me feel like I am losing weight.

I have treated myself to my favourite perfume – the last time I treated myself to this was over ten years ago, and I got the last squirt out of it this morning.  Does perfume have a shelf life I wonder.

In addition to all of this, I am going to go blonde, shave my legs more often, learn Spanish, abstain from crisp and Dairylea sandwiches, and stop writing inane status updates on Facebook.

Oh, and lose a stone of course.

Happy New Year everyone!