Not suitable for people with irony deficiency and
cannot guarantee nut-free

Monday, 31 May 2010

Volcanic ash ate my cash

Hounded by the paparazzi

The boys are on holiday from school again. But this time we are staying put. We are still traumatised by our Easter holiday experience when we had decided to be adventurous and fly to Venice. But, as I merrily told everyone, just for 3 nights, as we couldn't afford any longer. Little did I know that a certain volcano was getting a bit restive over in Iceland.

The result was 3 extra nights in Venice, an overnight train journey from Venice to Paris, a day in Paris feeling slightly missplaced, and an evening Eurostar back to London.

It was all very unsettling, what with me and Mr B not knowing when we would next get a soothing cup of tea. But to be honest, I was thrilled, it is the most exciting thing to happen to me since Boy 2 won the egg and spoon race in 2007. (The travel situation seemed so dire, I suggested it would be best just to apply for Italian citizenship and get the boys into school in Venice. But Mr B exercised his special Euro veto, much like Mrs Thatcher in her prime). Boys 1 and 2 took it all in their stride as they quickly worked out they could increase their total gelati consumption by 100%. Only Mr B was perturbed as he was not sure the EU Regulations on compensation for air travellers were drafted with this situation in mind (my husband, the mad, impetuous fool).
So, I thought I would share what we learnt from our unplanned adventure, just in case it can be of help to anyone else ( I was told Brangelina were in Venice at the same time, so I am sure they could benefit from my handy tips).

• JEEEEEEZ, Venice is expensive
• If you take small boys to the Lido and tell them not to get their trousers wet, you are deluded
• Hand dryers in Lido cafe loos are not designed to dry small boy trousers, plus you get pitying looks from people who think you are incontinent
• When the man in the Murano glass shop gives you a special tour upstairs of the really high end glass artefacts, don’t go with small boys (who, as we all know, never look where they are going and often walk backwards) and expect to breathe until you get safely downstairs again; even the man seemed to realise the enormity of the risk once upstairs and clearly regretted his offer: Why in God's name would you put glass things on free-standing glass plinths in the middle of a cluttered showroom?? And then take 2 small boy/whirling dervishes there???)
The only thing I want to see on a plinth. Well helloooo!
Sorry, got a bit distracted there, back to key learnings:
• Jeeeeeez, Venice is expensive
• Small boys will watch any cartoons/sport/ads for washing powder on hotel room TV, even if in Italian or German

• It really adds to the ambience if you customise your hotel room with 7 pairs of underpants festooning the radiators

I kept up with the washing while we were away
• It is great fun for small boys to go on the top bunk of the Venice-Paris overnight sleeper but their parents will spend all night awake, fearing small boy disastrous unplanned descent to ground level
• Jeeeeeeeez, Paris is expensive
• Small boys will shoot up the stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower like rabid mountain goats but once at the top will not be interested in the view; their mother (who once watched a documentary on climbing Mount Everest will collapse after only a couple of flights, gasping "It's no good, you try to summit, leave me, we're in the Death Zone, you'll never get down if you stop to help me..." to which Mr B will cheerfully reply "OK"
• Taking small boys into Notre Dame and suggesting they compare and contrast it with the interior of Venetian churches is the dumbest, most over-optimistic idea ever
• When asked by teachers what they did in the Easter hols, small boys will grunt and say nothing except bowling in High Wycombe
A lot nicer than Tescos

Small boys attempting to escape from yet another art gallery

Sunday, 30 May 2010

All new parenting manual

It is painfully obvious that I need some sort of guide to parenting. I have read quite a few parenting books, and enjoy them tremendously as works of fiction. I love the case studies, where Child A, a serial bedwetter, occasional arsonist and hardcore kleptomaniac is transformed by the appropriate use of a star chart. But although they provide great entertainment, I find them of little practical use. Boy 1 and Boy 2 are always several steps ahead of their befuddled parents and can subvert any reward/punishment system to their own Ends.

But now, my luck has changed: I have found the book I need, quite by chance, at our local library.

In "The Willoughbys" the author Lois Lowry explains in an amusing and easy to follow way how parents can "formulate their own thoroughly despicable plan to rid themselves of their insufferable children.."

OK, I admit this is not exactly a parenting manual in the conventional sense; actually not in any sense. But it is a brilliant, very funny story, which can be enjoyed by children of all ages and easily read in one go.

Without giving too much away it features the Willoughby children: Tim, twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and Jane. They have horrid parents. For example, the twins have to share a jumper. One evening they find their mother knitting and express the hope it is another jumper for them. But no, it is a jumper for the cat. " "I've explained and explained," their mother said in exasperation. "A, you wear it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. B, you have Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. On Sunday you can fight over it." "

The parents go on holiday, leave the children with a nanny and put the house on the market. The plot thickens with an abandoned baby, a lonely old man, an eccentric woman stranded in Switzerland and her son who has developed his own version of German. ("Schlee you later, alligatorplatz"). Eventually everyone lives happily ever after. (Well, almost everyone).

The author sounds a really interesting lady, now a grandmother! Wonder if she is available for babysitting?

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Glamour at All Times

It is so important to make an effort to look glam, even when hard at work at your computer keyboard. This is a little outfit I just pulled together, I love the way the orange gives that "pop" of colour against the turquoise of my necklace.
Some people have commented that they don't think I really look like this. Well spotted! I admit I am wearing coloured contact lenses, my eyes are not really this Daniel Craigesque shade of blue.
Do you see what I have on my paws? Yes, the oh so hard to find Chanel Particuliere, and ever one to overdo things, I have also applied it to my face. Fab!
I think I'll go hang round TopShop Oxford Street now in the hope I'll get photographed by The Sartorialist. Just as soon as someone brings me a stepladder to get down from this chair.

Friday, 28 May 2010


I had hoped to start my blog with a description of my life as an international supermodel, wife, mother of two adorable boys, living in a beautiful country house with organic free range peacocks roaming in the park and -er- stuff. I would have liked to tell you about my charity aimed at bringing aromatherapy to stressed out bankers around the world. And how I am an inveterate fantasist. But none of the above is remotely true, except the last bit. Instead I am starting with a photo of small boy pants. Why? Because for me, being a mother sometimes feels just a little bit pants. I had a day like that yesterday. It went something like this:

Before school - Boy 1 and 2 playing rowdy, good-natured (and to me totally ANNOYING) game of hurling at least 15 soft toys to each other in the kitchen; followed by the standard "male of the species" non-hearing of shouts to come and eat breakfast; then long negotiation of whether Boy 1 can take my ski sunglasses to school (he gets full custody but I get access once a year for ski trips), removal of toothpaste and most food substances from boys while chasing them around house and/or sitting on them.

So far, so good. Then things go sour when Boy 1 dons blazer and rucksack, and heads decisively for the door. I laugh as I notice he has forgotten to put his shoes on. A minor detail but an important one.

Boy 1 FURIOUS. Terrible wounded male pride. Some back peddling by me, general smoothing, I wish Boy 1 luck with his cricket match that afternoon and I remind Boy 2 to be nice and not shout at the other boys (to which he shouts "I DON'T SHOUT AND THEY'RE ALL IDIOTS!").

Drop off done, back home, exhausted, for a soothing cup of tea.

Fast forward to 3.30pm. I pick up Boy 2. His first and only words: "Can I play on the computer?" No, I say, we have talked about this, no computer on weekdays. Boy 2 goes PUCE. Massive eruption of displeasure "You never let me play 'puter, never, it's not fair, can I play, pleeeeeeeeeeez, waaaaaaaaah" Other parents watch with the quiet satisfaction that at least this time it's not their offspring who is kicking off. Boy 2 keeps up his vociferous protests as we walk home; neighbours turn to see what is going on, cats hide, car alarms go off. When he bangs his head repeatedly against a wooden fence I am horrified: what if he damages the fence? I try to record the tantrum on the voice bit of my phone (some half-baked idea of playing it back later to shame him, or at least it could be produced in evidence at the Bad Mothers Tribunal), but I am so distracted that all I find later is some stressed woman whining "oh, it's not recording" ...

At home Hurricance Smallboy continues. A moment of calm, then further Boy 2 wailing when DVD player won't work. Ring Mr B for technical back up but he is not at desk. I have evil vision of him lounging around in colleague's room eating biscuits and drinking tea. Eventually get DVD to work but now time to fetch Boy 1 after cricket. Cue further wailing from Boy 2: he wants to be left at home on his own and I say no, he is only 7, I am not leaving him on his own till he is 30...

Get to school in car, Boy 2 appears and shouts at me "Go, Go" as if he has just pulled off heist of the century and I am his wheels. "How did the cricket go?" I ask. "Cuthbert got 4 people out" he says. "That's good" I reply. "No it's not!!" yells Boy 1, going an even deeper puce than his brother's earlier shade. (I am puzzled, my cricket knowhow is sketchy but I am sure getting people out is good).

"The people he got out were on his own team!" screeches Boy 1.

There follows a furious, sobbing explanation: Boy 1 went into bat with Cuthbert as batsman at the other end. Boy 1 hits the ball straight at the other team's fielder, so he shouts at Cuthbert "No, stay!" But Cuthbert runs anyway, forcing Boy 1 to run and so Boy 1 is run out.* The harshness of Boy 1's fate is underlined by the fact that this was his first go and he has spent hours waiting to bat. I comfort myself that this is Good Life Training, for example, if he ever attempts to fly with British Airways ("Sorry your flight is cancelled").

*Apparently this tactic worked so well that the unfortunate Cuthbert tried it successfully three more times, making for a somewhat strained atmosphere in the minibus home from the match. Names have been changed, so I apologise to any real cricket playing Cuthberts out there.
When Boy 1 hurls abuse at his chair at dinner (chair not behaving) and then unleashes the full force of his wrath at me, I really feel that I Have Had Enough. "Come home now" I tell Mr B reassuringly on the phone, "otherwise I will murder your children".

And guess what happens when Mr B arrives? Yes, of course, the boys are 110% adorable, so sweet and good-natured and eager to please. Mr B looks at me enquiringly as if to say "What is your problem?"

Pants. Just a bit.