Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Gone Bush.

It's been a few years in the making but it's finally happened.

The Bush Babies have traded one Bush for another.  Our new habitat can be found in a rather more attractive, green, leafy borough in Hampshire.  I'm a little busy filling in doctor registration forms and battling with non existent mobile phone signal however early obs are as follows:

1. There are far fewer people in the countryside.
2. And far fewer cars (hence fewer chances of children being run over).
3. You can park everywhere and it's free.
4. You can do everything a lot quicker due to all of above.
5. Mobile reception for Orange is pants.
6. Everyone is very polite and friendly.
7. I go to bed a lot earlier, due to inexplicable tiredness.
8. Settling three children into three different schools is an interesting experience.
9. I am always hungry.
10. I don't miss London (yet).

More soon.

Monday, 1 July 2013

History repeats.

When I was little I would only sleep with one of my mother's pure silk scarves at my feet.  A bit like Cleopatra who would only bathe in milk, I would not settle for anything less than 100% silk, preferably from Hermes as it's heavy texture wrapped silkily around my toes was guaranteed to send me into a deep slumber.

My mother, then a fashion editor for a leading magazine, duly indulged my habit to get a bit of peace and sleep.  The number of Hermes scarves I shredded in my lifetime is too embarrassing to recount.  Each of them sold on Ebay would have fed a family in Africa for a month.  She got given them as gifts in her role as "Grand Fromage" at said magazine.  It was the 80's - everything was indulgent then.

My point is, that my eldest daughter seems to have inherited my expensive taste.  I now find her nightly, upstairs in my bedroom, dripping wet from MY shower, having washed her hair and conditioned it with MY very expensive shampoo from NYC, applying liberal quantities of MY extremely expensive Kiehl's creme de corps from MY Christmas pump dispenser bottle which only costs a mere £45 don't you know?

As she sits there, dripping, glistening, smiling and I try to be cross with her, I think back to the Hermes scarves.

And I smile, once again, at the way that history repeats itself.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Bare assed cheek.

I'm obviously more of a prude than I thought despite my sometimes wanton teenage years.  Last night we took our birthday girl out for dinner at a pub near my mother's house in the New Forest.  It was 6pm and we sat in the garden with friends and our collective five children who played happily in the pub playground.  All very nice and civilised on a Bank Holiday Monday.

We noticed on arrival in the pub garden a small group of young people, probably late teens or early twenties, not being roudy or loud, drinking rose and chatting.  But as the evening progressed my friend, who was sitting facing them became more and more distracted by the action taking place at their table.  Clearly several bottles of wine had been consumed and the group of five girls and one guy were now in a state of advanced inebriation.  Still there was no noise or raucousness, but what was causing the distraction was that at precisely 6.30pm on a Monday night in a pub garden full of children, the girls around the table proceeded to start snogging each other.  Needless to say every man in the pub garden was thrilled to bits at this sudden free entertainment. 

The snogging then turned into groping.  Serious explicit groping of many body parts, yes, ALL body parts.  Enough that it made me feel awkward and uncomfortable to watch (which we all tried not to do, but lets face it who wouldn't?).  So far the kids hadn't notice and their innocence remained intact.

Then things shifted. One of the girls who was disturbingly drunk, collapsed and vomited.  Her friends vaguely looked after her but were too drunk to care.  The one guy struggled to pick her with another equally drunk friend.  The drunk girl was wearing a very very short dress which quickly disappeared up her body as they tried to lift her.  The men's eyes were now out on storks and the kids finally noticed that a naked bottom was on display much to their amusement.  This girl in her drunken pathetic state had become the centre of all of our attention.  She wasn't wearing pants.

It was shocking, upsetting, humiliating, embarrassing, amusing all at the same time.  I felt a bit horrified for her and as a mother, disturbed that a young girl could get herself into such a state.  The snogging and groping was bad enough and was unsettling in that you wonder where it could have led and if she'd have even noticed.  As my husband pointed out, there was only one guy and he looked pretty harmless.  It was the girls that scared me.  But my real concern was that I really hoped that my girls wouldn't feel the need to ever behave like that.  If her mother could have seen her I bet she would have been mortified, as I'm sure she will be today when she gets over her hangover. 

Or maybe she won't remember a thing - even worse?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The little mother.

Last night my (almost) nine year old daughter ran the bath, got in with her three year old sister, washed her, got her out, dried her, put her pyjamas on her and helped her clean her teeth.  This was after she'd helped get her clothes out in the morning and got her dressed.

Every time she does this I feel a slight pang of guilt, but then I think back to the olden days when people had huge families and the eldest children basically brought up the younger children whilst the parents went out to work.  This was common practise and no one batted an eyelid.

My eldest has just reached the age where she loves little children.  On Sunday at lunch with friends she lay on the floor for hours with their eight month old baby, cooing at her, stroking her little fingers and gazing at her adoringly.  We didn't hear a squeak out of either of them for hours - it was a proper little love-in.


She loves the responsibility of taking charge of her sister and relishes the praise (and extra pocket money) that it brings her.  It is a joy to see her looking after her so carefully and lovingly, and equally to see the adoration radiating back on her from her small sibling.  They love each other. 

There is less love going on between the small one and her other sister, who is too young to take an interest and just finds her incredibly annoying.  Indeed upon arrival home from school, the small one is practically sitting up begging with her tongue hanging out, waiting for someone to play with her.  So bored is she at having spent the afternoon with boring old Mummy.  But the six year old is not interested - at - all.  To her, a three year old sister is just a deep source of irritation and annoyance, like a fly buzzing around, something to be constantly swatted.  The subsequent crestfallen expression and predictable crying is too much to bear and I am torn as to whether to scold the six year old for being down right horrid, or the three year old for following her around adoringly.. it is a bit annoying, I can see her point. 


Maybe I should go out to work and leave the (nearly) nine year old in charge.  She seems to be doing a better job than me.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Not in front of the kids.

When I was small my parents always talked to each other in French so that we couldn't understand.  It always befuddled me and then frustrated me enormously, probably contributing to my desire to learn the language so that I could understand what they were going on about.

However as the parent of a very nosey eight year old girl I now get it.  Another revelation of parenting is that once your children get to a certain age they basically listen to every single word that you say and don't understand the meaning of a private conversation.  Indeed having a private conversation when you've got children who are growing up is proving to be very difficult. 

Our house is not very big.  When you stand at the top of the stairs you can hear exactly what's going on in the kitchen.  Basically if I want to talk to my husband about anything remotely private we have to go and talk in the shed at the end of the garden.  Or wait until everyone's asleep by which time I am too, so not much in the mood for talking.   Conversations in the car on long journeys are fruitless.  As soon as we start talking there is a chorus of 'Why?, What ?, When? and Who?'.. I am gobsmacked when my eight year old replays an entire conversation word for word that I've had with her father only a few days earlier.  It is terrifying how good her memory and recall is - she should seriously consider a career in the Government.

Children are curious.  They can't help it.  They also have great antennae for stress so as soon as there is any tension in the house, they are on to it.  This morning I found all three children locked away in one of their bedrooms writing an inventory of the stones or 'crystals' as they like to call them that they found on the beach this weekend.  They didn't want Daddy to know but they are planning to set up a stall outside our house and sell them to make some money to 'help Daddy'.  I was awash with a mixture of admiration and pity for them and quickly reassured them that things 'weren't that bad'.  They've been listening at the top of the stairs again and heard husband and I talking. 

I'm ambivalent about how much children should know about life and money.  I am a believer in being honest and open to the point where it is not going to hurt them or make them anxious.  I believe I was over-protected as a child, about everything, making the world a very scary place when I was finally let loose in it.  I want them to have a concept of the value of money, to know how lucky they are compared to some people but also to understand why we can't always afford to do all the things that other people can do.  I think that fairly early on, they need to accept  some responsibility for their actions and the value of things that are important.   However any sign of it becoming a worry or causing them stress then you know you've taken it too far (like the 'crystals' sale).

So I'm booking us in for Mandarin lessons.. their French is too good for me.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

I'm an English Mum in New York..

Thirteen years ago I lived in New York for a while. It wasn't that long, but long enough to form a clear and lasting impression of the place.

I went again eight years ago, pregnant and desperately claustrophobic.  I didn't enjoy it at all.

I've just returned from my solo weekend there and now remember why I fell in love all those years ago.  I'm not sure whether it was the 18'c temperatures, being with old friends, the stunning triple aspect penthouse apartment I was staying in or the total lack of responsibility, but I feel like I've dropped ten years.   I realise that when you give birth you are essentially giving birth to a lifetime of responsibility, not just a child.  The child may grow up and leave you.  The sense of responsibility never does and escaping it even for a few blissful hours is not straightforward.   

I have never left all three of my children before.  Last time I went away I only had two which is an easier number to leave both for me and for the person looking after them.  But by the time you get to three, the need to get away for a bit is overwhelming and I have to confess that I didn't miss them one bit.  They were being well looked after, were old enough not to contract any sinister life threatening illnesses or choke on a piece of brocolli so I was happy to board the plane and jet off to NYC without looking back.  After nine years of motherhood never before have I so needed my own space nor did I realise just how much good it would do me.  One always assumes that one needs time away with the husband, some quality 'couple' time.. sod that.  From now on it's all about me time and going away without any of them for a bit of peace and quiet. 

Not only did I not have to cook, wash anything, lean down to talk to someone smaller than me or pick anyone up from school, I actually finished a book, read a newspaper, ate out for every single meal for four days, spent an hour getting ready to go to a party, blow dried my hair, had many long discussions with my friend about life and the universe, lay in bed gazing out of the window.  I feel invigorated, inspired, relaxed and rested.  Not necessarily words that you would associate with this crazy city.

And so to the city itself. 

A lot has changed in thirteen years.  The TV is as bad as ever and the coffee stinks (although dedicated European style coffee bars are popping up).  Duane Reade is still on every corner but has had a mega makeover and is all glossy aisles selling everything from cosmetics to frozen peas.  There are Boris Bikes NY style about to launch all over the city although god knows who would dare cycle there with all those crazy cabbies.  There are ice cream vans on every corner which I don't remember and everyone's eating fat free frozen yoghurt.  The pet shops still have floor to ceiling cages full of every breed of puppy you could buy (slightly sick), everyone eats dinner at 7pm, there is dedicated doggie day care with drop off and pick up, blow out bars which do nothing but blow dry your hair, manicures for $12 on every corner and still the whole city goes out for brunch on the weekend - all things that just don't ever seem to catch on over here.  But that is the wonder of New York.  The positivity, the energy, the 'can-do, can-have' attitude.  If you want something you can pretty much get it, any time, any place, anywhere. 

For this burnt out, frazzled London mum - bliss.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Fly away.

Sometimes us Mummies just need to take off and that's what I'm doing this Friday.  At 6am I'll be jumping in a cab to Heathrow and boarding a plane to JFK to stay with my dear old pal who's just moved there, and to party with my other dear pal who lives there. 

Frankly I just can't wait to 'hang' with my sisters.  And they are both like my sisters.. friends I've known for over half my life who I can just 'be' with, without any effort or demand.  Friends where you don't have to talk all the time (although we won't stop to draw breath) friends who you can 'chiff along with' and be yourself.  Friends who tell you it how it is.  No bullshit.  No pretence. 

That's what I need.  To be myself.  To remember who I really am.  Just for one weekend. 

For 365 days of the year I am Mummy, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Parent.  Never really me.  Although I love all of those roles most of the time, lately I've been finding them a little wearing and I need to down tools and get back to who I used to be. 

It's been a difficult year for many reasons.  This time a year ago I unknowingly said goodbye to a man who had shaped my life for the best part of forty years.  A man who raised me as his own, who watched me grow up, who bought me my first car, vetted my boyfriends, picked me up from parties and dropped me off at university.  The impact of his death has had an unimaginable effect on me and continues to do so.  When I think back to a year ago when he was in hospital and I took my youngest daughter to see him, I still can't believe that was the last time I would ever hear his voice.  The subsequent effect that his death has had on us as a family has also been unexpected.  It has changed me as a parent, as a child, as a sister, as an adult.  I have had to grow up, to mature, to accept, to forgive.   It has all been very draining and tiring and I need a break from being the 'responsible one'.

So, I'm off.  To have breakfast in America.  To people watch.  To wander along 5th Avenue.  To sit up drinking wine with friends talking about life.  To party and wander home through Manhattan late at night, giggling. 

To just be me, just for a little bit.