Friday, 30 April 2010

Face wrestling, dream rooms and a new cruelty

Things I've learned from my children.

The cuddle is dead, long live the face wrestle. Boy Three has started to show affection to his favourite people. He'll grin at pretty much anyone including pictures of babies on nappy packets. He chortles easily - melting the hearts of passing strangers. He waves enthusiastically with both arms and both legs (an interesting move while standing). But there's only one way to be sure you're on Boy Three's A list. Meet the face wrestle. This is where you find your head - front or back, doesn't matter - being rubbed damply by the face of Boy Three. The saliva and snot surprise is usually accompanied by enthusiastic hooting.

House pride can be generated. On Sunday, The Panther of News and I worked all day on Boy Two's bedroom. He had asked for a new bed for his eighth birthday - a midsleeper with blue tent, no less. However, the problem was that the room was so full of stuff - largely pointless and plastic stuff - that there wasn't room to swing an allen key let alone a whole flat pack bed. Finally the bed was installed, the room tidy and it does look lovely. So today, during our first daily switch-off hour (no TV or games enforced for one paltry hour every day) I did a little eavesdropping.
Boy One: "Let's play in your room, in the tent."
"OK, good idea. Hang on, you can't come in."
"Why not?"
"You've still got your shoes on - take them off, I don't want it getting dirty."

Over caring is cruelty. It was wear-what-you-want day at school today. Kids get to wear their own clothes for three successive Fridays before the annual May Fair. To earn the right to dress down, the children have to bring contributions for the various stalls - bric-a-brac, books and any other junk you're tired of. Actually it's an efficient village-wide clutter redistribution exercise and life would be easier if we just wrote a cheque to the PTA. However, that's no fun so off the boys went to get dressed for the day. Boy Two looked smart in the surfer dude outfit he got from Auntie L for his birthday. But Boy One, oh dear. Not known for his natty dressing had excelled himself in a slightly outgrown tracksuit pants and back-to-front and clingy jumper combo. My suggestions that he should change were greeted with refusal, sulking, tears and eventually: "You grown-ups just over care about stupid things like clothes. I hate you."

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Gordon Brown: the rest of the tape revealed

We all know what happened when Gordon Brown got into his car after his chat with 66-year-old Gillian Duffy in Rochdale yesterday. But did you know that the Prime Minister kept the mic on all evening? Here's what you would have heard if the tape had kept running:

Some grunting and very thumpy rhytmical noises. Then singing becoming more distinct - a Scottish baritone perhaps.
"We're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If ever-a wever-a wiz there was... "
"Agggh. Ow, my toe! Who put this bloody box here?"
"It was me dear. Sorry."
"Ah Sarah, there you are. I've had horrible day. And now you trip me up leaving boxes around where you know I like to copy the moves from Over The Rainbow."
"Sorry, Gorgeous G. I thought you'd have been back ages and had plenty of time to watch the programme by now."
"I had to go to ruddy Rochdale again, didn't I?"
"Oh? Did you?"
"Stop pretending you don't know. You can't have been too busy smiling knowingly at working mums to have heard, surely."
"Hmmm. Yes, well. I did hear something. Poor Gorders, I'm not surprised you're a little grouchy. Come here, hunkster."
Muffled slurpy noises.
"Better now, Big G love?"
"Yeah. Bit. Now go away I've still got ten minutes left before we find out which Dorothys get the chop. Look, that orange one is so going to blub when ALW puts the boot in. I just love it."
"If it makes you happy, sweetie. Now I'm off to try new variations of coloured tights with my summer shoes. I really don't know why the election couldn't be in a proper season like midwinter or something."
Click, shuffle, thump, thud.
"Somewhere over the rainbow, weigh a pie. There's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are new... "
Sigh. click.
"It's blue. Not new."
"I know that, but I'm just practicing."
"What do you mean?"
"Well I have to be careful of the words I use, apparently. 'Blue' is a word associated with David's lot and 'new' is one of ours."
"Oh, I see. What about 'bigoted' is that usually one of ours?"
"Sarah, don't go on. I've had enough of a telling off from Mandy and the others."
"I'm sure you did. But what happens with the yellow brick road?"
"I'm working on that. Mellow brick? hello brick, smell o' pr... "
"Best keep working on that one honeybun. So, I'll let you get on. But watch out for the box."
"What's in it? More coloured tights?"
"No it's a new box set off Amazon. The Thick of It. Supposed to brilliant."
"Never heard of it."
Breathy humming and shuffling.
Phone rings.
Phone stops ringing.
"Gordon, it's Sky on the phone. They're wondering if you've still got their mic... ."

Monday, 26 April 2010

Monday Moment: what are you waiting for?

Right, here I am. I've put on a very fetching sensibly collared blouse in a man-made fibre and muted tone. My hair is sprayed and I'm sitting on a winged chair next to a little table and a tasteful bunch of flowers in colours that contrast nicely with my shirt. The lighting is soft and the camera doesn't shake. I said, the camera doesn't shake. Cue bland uplifting orchestral theme...

Hello and welcome to Ellen's Monday Moment.

The world is a busy place, isn't it? Everyone rushing around like mad, too busy to pause and have a bit of a ponder. Well here's your chance for a dollop of tranquility in a hectic schedule.

This weekend my notoriously elusive attention was caught by one or two things that got me thinking.

The first was a story written by Melanie Reid in the Times. I don't really know Melanie, but I've long been aware of her and I've worked with her lovely husband. Melanie fell off her horse a couple of weeks ago and... actually I'll let her tell the story. But here's her first piece of writing since and she had to dictate it from her hospital bed.

Then I came across a new blog. In blogging terms, it's like the most tender shoots of an exotic and fragile plant. It's written by a 32-year-old woman whose husband died earlier this year. Three beautiful posts in Badwidow, I hope your writing soothes your pain.

Then I happened upon Radio 4's The Reunion yesterday morning. Sue McGregor had brought together some of the people who were there when Thomas Hamilton burst into the gym of a primary school in Dunblane. Although I've read much about the events over the years, teacher Eileen Harrild's account raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

All of which has stood to underline the fact that everything can change in an instant. Melanie fell off a horse, blog lady's husband died and a lunatic picked that moment in 1996 to unleash his brand of hell. There's almost no point in the hows and whys - from time to time, life just does this stuff.

Before all this stuff popped up, lovely Rachel had asked me to write a post for her blog, Really Rachel. I wrote a list of the things that are still on my Big To-do list.

Here's where the camera zooms in and I take off my bifocals, fold my hands and squeeze out more sincerity.

Folks, my message from this Monday Moment is get your finger out, you never know the minute.

And here's what the credits will roll to.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Pram-pushing as an Olympic sport - guest post

Lovely Rachel Pattisson has popped in from her blog Really Rachel (Mummying. Her way) for a wee guest post. I commend to you her tales of life in the sticky bit of the toddler zone. Very funny.

Late, as usual. I strap EP into the pushchair and realise that FP (walking) will seriously slow me down unless I think of a plan.
“How about a ride?” I say. She agrees to a precarious perch on the so-called ‘parent tray’ – the place just below the handle-bar in which to stow change, cups of coffee and, as it happens, the occasional toddler.

The baby’s in and she’s off! A risky strategy with the toddler. We’ve never seen that before but it seems to be working. Well, they’re out of the driveway and moving fast…

It’s a bumpy ride. No-one can truly appreciate the bone-shaking nature of footpaths until they have ridden in, or pushed a wheeled-chair of some sort.
“Ok, FP?”
She nods. “You can never be sure,” she says, which sounds rather philosophical for someone who is not yet three. “There may be not,” she adds. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to pursue the matter. We have to get to the museum by 11am.
Wheelie bins. It’s one of those universal laws: Whenever you’re in a hurry with a pushchair, it’ll be bin day. The refuse collectors will have just been, leaving all the bins in the middle of the footpath.

Into the slalom now, she’s looking flustered but she’s keeping tight hold of the toddler. Just look at the steering on that pushchair…

“You can never be sure! There may be not,” FP tells me again. I have No Idea what she means.
“Ok,” I say. “Curb! Hold on tight!”

That was a precipitous drop. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a wheel or two come loose after a curb like that, taken at speed. Still, she’s handling the pushchair well and she’s across the road…

If I run, we might just make it. And by ‘make it’ I mean our friend might still be waiting for us when we finally arrive. She has a baby, she’ll understand.
When I’d made the arrangement to meet up, I’d planned to use the car. I had not envisaged this combination of public transport and Olympic pram-pushing.
My husband was working away. We’d discussed it. Since I would need the car more than he would, I would keep the car. He would go by train. It was a great plan. But although he did, kindly, leave me the car, he did not leave me the car keys.
So, I am sprinting along, trying to work out the quickest route and totally overlooking my daughter’s early attempts at deep-thinking.
“You can never be sure there may be not,” she says, again. I’m still baffled. But more importantly, here’s a hill.
No, not just a hill. A near-vertical climb, wending its way up into the clouds. Well, ok, not the actual clouds but near enough. And the museum is at the top.
I take a deep breath and begin the climb.
“Sing, mummy!” said FP.
“Sing! You can never be sure there may be not…”
“Letters through your door, mummy, sing it!”
Then I understand. FP is not philosophising. No. She is singing. And I am expected to join in.

She’s into the final stage of the race now: the uphill struggle, with an interesting twist. Competitors are required to sing the theme to Postman Pat as they make this challenging climb…

It’s KNOCK, FP. “You can never be sure, there’ll be Knock! Ring! Letters through your door.”

Saturday, 24 April 2010

French fancies and a little light music...

Things I learned from my children today.

There really isn't any point in taking little children anywhere special. Wait until they are at school. Boys One and Two had a lovely Easter holiday in EuroDisney with their dad and his mother. They - eventually, thank you Icelandic volcano - came home bubbling with stories about Small World, the Phantom Mansion, Mickey and the parades. Thing is, we went before about five years ago and did all those things. Now, however, they have no recallection at all. Not even the vaguest notion of familiarity.

The Mona Lisa is too small to be famous. During their French foray Boys One and Two went to Paris, The Louvre no less. And the verdict from Boy Two: "It's too small to be that famous."

Music is a question of taste. Boy One has decided he's a fan of rock 'n' roll. Only "not if it's too rock or too roll". Fair enough.

Music is a question of taste. Number Two. Boy Three has a favourite song and, arguably, a word. He likes doing Row Row, Row Your Boat. And now rocks, grinning and yelling "Row, Row". His cousin Baby G knows all the verses and is an expert - time for a visit soon.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The sun has got his hat on and his factor 50 and his sandals

OK, I'm done with dog poo - from a blog point of view - but it does herald the start of summer.
I've also just seen in Glasgow Central Station a girl with short shorts and blue tinged legs crossing paths with a woman in a padded coat, woollen hat and gloves. That's a pretty good sign too.
The sight of her poor goose-bumped flesh set me thinking that the season is often a mixed blessing.

Summer good: Spirit-lifting sunshine and blue (currently clear) skies.
Summer bad: Spirit-crushing revisiting of summer wardrobe. Overwinter fabric shrinkage in evidence.

Summer good: Kids playing outside, free like little birdies.
Summer bad: Kids milk-bottle white and ginger. Daily sun-block battle.

Summer good: Blue-birds nesting in box made by Boys at scouts. Busy little birds flitting around to build home for offspring.
Summer bad: Wasps nesting in climbing frame and eaves of porch. Busy little insects flitting around etc.

Summer good: No coats, gloves and other bumfully and annoying accessories.
Summer bad: Pale, be-veined legs needing urgent deforestation.

Summer good: Lovely illusion of health from sun-kissed skin.
Summer bad: Sun-kissed illusion must be faked and no one likes tangerine, streaks or horrid orangy palms. Not to mention the smell.

Summer good: Weddings, parties, hols, BBQs and fairs.
Summer bad: They're all on the same weekend.

Summer good: Last Big Brother (whichever way you look at it).
Summer bad: World Cup.

Summer good: No socks.
Summer bad: Last year's nail varnish (in a hue called zeitgeist, no less) has gone solid.

Summer good: Lovely lush foliage springing forth.
Summer bad: Ruddy grass.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Spring is sprung the grass is... full of poo again

Summer is around the corner and the reason I know this is the Panther of News and I have already made the opening moves in the it's-not-my-turn-to-mow-the-lawn game.

I wandered the estate this morning to survey the crops and weigh up the failed horticultural projects of 2010.

OK, I opened the French windows and looked out.

Past the climbing frame that really must be dismantled and removed (last year it saw most activity from the wasps that nested inside the tent bit) I spied something that made me gasp.
Three dog turds nestled on a mossy bit of grass.

We don't have a dog or any other livestock apart from the spiders and woodlice who volunteer to live here. And one of the reasons is that I don't want to pick up poo - I've got enough to deal with in the form of infant excrement and the inexplicable puddles of pee around our lavatories.

Over the last couple of years piles of dog muck would appear in the garden and the culprit was the big black labrador from next door. He belonged to a lovely family who were not the kind of people to let their pet defecate on private land. Oh no. They shared home baking with us, for heaven's sake.

But the problem was that when the parents went to work, they left their beautiful twin daughters in the care of one of the grannies. And granny would just open the door and let the mutt out on his own.

When I raised it with the neighbours it was clear that granny didn't let on. It was very awkward but I didn't feel I could go as far as showing the photos that proved granny was an idle, fibbing perpetrator of domestic grass fouling. I couldn't do that to such a nice household.

But eventually the family left for a new life in Australia taking their hound and my problem with them.

The new incumbent - another lovely family - have been there a while now and seem like the perfect neighbours. She works for an animal welfare organisation so obviously they wouldn't let their collie go feral in our back yard. Would they?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Write about now they've gone and done it

There's an old joke about two journalists who meet in the pub.
One says: "What have you been doing?'
The other replies: "Oh, writing my novel."
The first one says: "Yeah. Me neither."

That's the thing they - we - are all writing 'the' novel and waiting to be discovered as a serious writer not just a hack. But as time passes I find more and more of them are actually doing it - getting the book finished... and published.

And this week there goes another one. Martel Maxwell's first novel Scandalous was out on April 15. I've never actually met Martel, but we've spoken and tweeted. Among other things, she's the Scottish Sun's celeb columnist and used to sit next to The Panther at work. From what I can tell she sounds lovely and I wish her well with her book - it plopped through the letter box and is sitting here all tempting.

The list of friends, colleagues and hacks I have some link to or sat in the same room as gets longer every month.

Nicola Barry - Mother's Ruin. Generous and funny Nicola - whose Scottish Sunday Express column I have subbed for more than ten years - wrote honestly about her mother's alcoholism.

Douglas Jackson
- Caligula. Daily Record colleague and all-round good egg. Wrote his toga tales on the train to and from work. Now they're published all over the world. He blogs too.

Ruaridh Nicoll
- White Male Heart and Wide Eyed. Studied journalism on the same course as me at Napier. At the time he said he didn't need to learn shorthand for his career. Turns out he was right and his darkly delicious books are a great read.

Andy Nicoll
- The Good Mayor. Another one I don't actually know but have heard the Panther talking about/to often enough. By day he's the Scottish Sun's political reporter, but night he weaves tales of magic and romance. Who'd have thought? Actually, the book's lovely.

Rory Hegarty
- The Murderer's Apprentice. Panther's old chum tells a riotous story of love, mayhem, politics, climate change and, of course, murder... or not.

Lennox Morrison
- Great chum of my ex husband, inspiring lady and cracking journalist. Margaret changed her name to Lennox and wrote a couple of deeper-than-you-could-tell-from-the-cover novels. Last heard of living the dream in Paris.

Neil Oliver
- another of the Napier alumni (1992). Now housewives' favourite and pusher of hair from his eyes on a windswept Coast cliff. Often to be found on our telly talking about history. His book Amazing Tales For Making Men Out Of Boys is a must-read for chaps (and chapesses)

Anna Smith
- was chief reporter at the Scottish Daily Record and, frankly, more than a bit scary. Her novel Spit Against The Wind tells of growing up and other miseries in Ayrshire of the 1960s.

(Did I miss any one Jill?)

And the upshot of this outpouring of literary lava from the journalistic volcano? If they can do it, so can I... if only I had the time. Actually, if any agents or publishers are happening past, I do have a few chapters.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

C'mon in Martha, I've got a few tips for you

Today Martha Stewart started to follow me on Twitter. I wondered what interest the former third most powerful woman in America, released prisoner and all-round homemaker might want with me.

Then I realised - she'd obviously heard about how fantastically well I juggle my work, motherhood and housewifeliness. I'm a shining beacon of organisation and an inspiration to women everywhere. "How do you do it?" they all say... well some of them... erm.

So Martha obviously saw the previous post about what we affectionately call clutter corner and wanted to learn from me.

So come on in Martha, I'll see if I can find a clean mug. We'll take a look around my lovely home and I'll share some of my secrets. Make yourself at home... no, don't take your shoes off, not in the kitchen anyway. What lovely white socks.

Laundry, oh I'm always on top of it. No, I've never heard of a baby being badly injured in a clean, but unsorted washing accident. Really? Do you think so?

That tray, it's a lovely feature, don't you think. It's nice to have a talking point in the hall, I always say. No, you'd need to talk to the Panther of News for the details.

Sequins on the wall would be unusual. That's not a sequin. Don't put your finger up your nose Boy Two.

Thanks. They are such dears aren't they. Look at their rooms - it's so nice they express themselves there. I call it an installation in Lego and detritus. The other? Papier mache still life.

Life as a working mother? Yes, it's a breeze. I just scribble away and - of course - I'm meticulous with my paperwork. It's clever that the baby's first word was "blog"... that baby, there, of course. I'm sure he was there when I saw him last.

Oh Martha, here's your coffee and a biscuit. It's only a bit fluffy. That stuff? Chocolate? In a custard cream... Um. I don't know - let's have a smell. Oh dear, Boy Three do you need a clean nappy... Martha, wait. Martha...

I could probably rule the world if it wasn't for this

I have a technorati rating of 415 which apparently is nearly half way to being blooming marvellous. I've just been followed on Twitter by Martha Stewart without following her first. And I have two contracts to sign this week. However, it doesn't matter what I do I can't make this go away for more than a few minutes...

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Cheap things to help you survive the first years

I was given a lovely Totseat a few months ago and, while I haven't used it very often, when I need it, it absolutely saved the day. Now I know it's the Scottish Baby Show at the SECC shortly and Totseat are exhibiting there. But I find baby shows slightly scary places because they made me feel like I'm making a poor fist of parenting because I don't want and can't afford all the amazing, organic, hand-made objects of loveliness therein. Therefore I have compiled a pennypincher's portfolio of essential - but inexpensive - things to help you survive the baby years.

Clothes pegs. Amazingly useful things. Can be used to suspend toys to make an instant mobile. Vital on sunny days to clip a cloth to the pram - voila a bespoke sunshade. (I tried one of those cute parasol things, flipping rubbish) For bigger tots, fasten them together to create an instant toy. Choose colourful plastic ones not the mouse-trap-like wood and metal ones.

Muslin cloths. Brilliant and versatile. Variously they are bibs, towels, mopping cloths, light blankets, sunshades, emergency nappies, finger protectors and swaddling cloth. Jam in cupboard doors and around handles to protect squishy little fingers from the slam. Boy One was small and it was hot in the Canary Island so muslins made ideal swaddling.

Rubber bands. The ones the postie drops. Use them to keep small outfits together in the drawer. Far less mind bending than trying to shove them back onto a mini coathanger or rooting around to find stuff that matches while Boy Three is performing morning squirmrobics.

Totseat. Most places have high chairs and that's fab, but sometimes they don't. Our Mother's Day venue of choice had an entirely expected rush of small diners. For once I felt smug and organised as I whipped the Totseat out of the bag and lashed Boy One to the chair.

Sense of smell. I lost mine for a bit as a result of a cold and the baby's bottom suffered the most. Nappies need changed sharpish to avoid A squish spread and B rash bum.

Large bunch of keys. Bigger the better. I've only got a car key, house key and work door fob on it but numerous key rings make it bigger than a fat fist. You can amuse your baby with this and - when you've got a nappy bag slipping off your shoulder, a child slithering out of your arms and it's raining, you'll be able to find the keys in a hurry.

Tissues. Kind of obvious but worth saying non-the-less. Fill pockets and bags and the car with those little packets of tissues. They're stronger and more likely to stand up to the job. There will be snot, sick, milk, poo and wee to be wiped (yes, even in the car).

Pelican bibs. They used to be hard and scratchy and risk injury if broken. Now they're soft and lovely, but just as good at collecting the goo. Practice though, taking them off without spilling the contents of the Pouch of Doom can be tricky.

Lightening reflexes. There is no shame in learning what regurgitation sounds like. There's sometimes a warning gurgle and, if you're quick, you can tilt the puker away from you, thus saving yourself another change of clothes. An the smell of sick in your hair or bra is never good.

Infacol. Three children and when the third one had colic it was something of a shock. I really understood how people get driven over the edge by the constant screaming. It really feels personal. Not much cures it but Infacol and crossing your fingers helps.

Little leather slippers. As soon as Boy Three started pulling himself up, these became essential... either that or cleaning the kitchen floor more regularly.

Image: Totseat

Monday, 12 April 2010

The future in fridge magnets and other lessons

Things I've learned from my children today.

The aftermath of a party will shock me, but leave me ever so slightly proud. Boy Two held his eight birthday sleepover cinema party last night. The very brave Panther of News took four very excited and e-number-fueled little boys to see Nanny McPhee and the Successful Formula. Boys One, Two and I joined them at Pizza Hut for noise, repeated trips to the toilet and reasonably dreadful manners. I'd like to apologise to our fellow diners (although it's Pizza Hut, what do you expect?) One small boy went home and, eventually, Boy Two and his chums went to sleep. The next day they were up and eating Malteasers before I'd crawled out of bed. Once the guests had been collected and the sweetie wrappers thrown away. The message on the fridge was the only sign of damage. Boy Two denied all knowledge but I couldn't keep up stern face long enough to get to the bottom of the matter.

It's possible to have a constellation in your wardrobe. Boy One being named after a star (no not Betelgeuse or Vindemiatrix) has become interested in gazing at the skies. The constellations are proving interesting although we struggle to find his. However, today he told me he'd found O'Brien's Belt. He wasn't amused when I asked if it was on O'Brien's Trousers.

Take your eye off the ball and you'll have company in the shower. Boy Three likes the shower when it's empty and fairly dry - he loves sticking his finger in the plug thing and pulling it out. (It's a big incentive to keep it free of gunk and hair) Until now, however, he's been fairly ambivalent about proper showers, seemingly scared of the torrent of water. Until now. Lost in reverie, I was startled to find that I had a fully sleep suited and benappied person trying to climb up my wet leg. Nice.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Five go to Northumbria (via Cumbria)

Things I learned from our Easter holidays

Posh folk use Jo Malone candles instead of Febreze. In the wonderful Alnwick Castle you can tell the calibre of its inhabitants by the scented candles dotted around. Jo Malone no less - at £38 a pop -in the state rooms where tourists wander. Perhaps not so fragrant, but the rest of the castle is fabulous too. Knights and Dragons Quests and an a yummy cafe.

It doesn't matter how old you are, sand dunes are for leaping off. Boys One, Two and the Panther had much airborne fun on the beach by Bamburgh Castle.

Sand has a life of its own. We went to the beach on Thursday in Northumbria. Children changed their clothes and had at least one shower each. Today (Saturday) I found a heap of sand on my sitting room floor. Could someone please explain?

Bookshops are more than just a place to buy books. We found the best bookshop since the closure of St Andrew's Books in Penrith - Barters Books in Alnwick. It's huge and friendly and also features a coffee shop, a kids' section, sofas and a model train. Please can we go back again soon? Everyone except Boy Three loved it. He was less impressed, what with being unable to read yet.

Pepperoni is delicious. Well, obviously, I know this, but now so does Boy One. For years he didn't want anything on his pizza that wasn't tomato sauce (no green bits) or cheese (no blue bits), but now in M&S he told me: "Oh yes, I like pepperoni, it's delicious."

Boy Two's word of the week - Awesome. This applied to the Star Wars Concert, the spinning corridor in the Dragon Quest, the sand dunes, ice cream and Monster House the movie.

Sticking to my parenting guns feels good. In the Alnwick Castle gift shop Boys One and Two were allowed £4.50 each to spend. The amount was arrived at through some long and involved calculation too tedious to recount. Both Boys found I-need-it-I-want-it objects that cost more than £5 and expected me to stump up. I didn't, not even in the face of begging and strong small-boy logic. Guess what? They didn't ask for anything else from gift shops the whole of the holiday.

Tom Lehrar was a very funny man. He did a song about the periodic table - which is likely to become Boy One's all time favourite. The rest of his material has PoN and I in kinks. Off to buy a CD now.

Grace Darling had excellent PR. Not to take away from getting out of your scratcher to go with your dad into a frightenly stormy night to rescue some Dundonians from a rock, but she really did tick all the boxes. She had a lovely name, a nice shawl and everyone loved the idea of a beautiful spinster sitting in a lighthouse... then she became consumptive.

The Tories are sharpest with the posters. On Friday, the A1 boasted only Conservativia, oh, and a badly punctuated road sign. B&B's! Shame on you.

Silence is golden... and its alchemy is just as hard to do. In looking for amusing in-car games we struck upon the Who Can Be Quietest the Longest game. Brilliant. Only Boy Two just can't. Not for more than 73 seconds anyway. You could see him trying, but the words just kept popping out.

My Manifesto for a more interesting election

There's an election in the offing apparently. And this time it'll be the war of the wives, clicking on the cyberspace campaign trail and the women who win it.

The only problem as far as I can see is you can't shove a Bakugan card between the main parties. They all agree that money needs to be saved, crime is a bad thing and education a good one. Blow me down... actually wake me up. If all they can think of announcing is some tweaking of the taxes that might, or might not, be worth, er, £120 a year, then, frankly, the games a bogie. (And before you point it out I also know that education and health are devolved issues, but what are we left with? Oh yes fox hunting and defence. Live soldiers and foxes are better than dead ones but that's not always possible, is it?)

Instead I'd like to propose some of my own manifesto suggestions apart, obviously, from pot-hole free roads (yes, I know it's the council not the government), dog-turd-free pavements (likewise), nice teachers, NHS waiting rooms that don't make me itch and as little tax as I can get away with.

Here goes for starters:
Full disclosure everywhere. As MPs must declare their 'interests' and foodstuffs their contents, I'd like to see the policy extended. Celebrities must announce their cosmetic surgery and Botox content, fancy car owners must declare the cost and method of payment, stars who lose weight must be honest about how they did it and wealthy people with enviable lifestyles must share the secrets of their success and the size of their borrowing.

Film of the book rule. Audiences must prove they've read the book before seeing the film. Questions will be asked.

Where's that then? Fashion shoots in exotic places must announce where the pictures were taken, which hillside, house or hotel. It's just my thing. I always want to know.

Bill against setting back the cause of feminism. Right ladies, you know who you are. You will no longer be allowed to pretend not to be able to park or take the bins out. Neither will you be conveniently scared of mice, spiders of lightening. Likewise, you will not slag off men and pretend that they are incapable of basic domestic chores. If you really want equality you need to grow up.

What would you put in your fantasy manifesto?

COMMUNICATIONS... or the lack thereof

If anyone has tried to text or call my mobile in the past fortnight, sorry. It's broken and I'm only getting a new one from Orange today. We've also been away. Anyhow, I'm back and - soon - usual service will be restored.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Little trivia party...

I did give a moment's thought to summing up the past three years in terms of their huge events - of which there are many. Then I thought "nah, we've had enough of all the funerals, weddings, jobs, pregnancies and so on. Time for a little levity".

So I decided to share some little-known facts about the key players in my blog.

The Panther of News was once a professional nutter, he put the walnuts on top of the whips.
I wanted to be a choreographer when I grew up (amusing if you've seen me dance).
Boy One would have been Bellatrix if he was a girl.
I once broke a bone in my hand doing a parachute jump.
Boy Two was nearly called Rafferty.
My first car was a banana yellow Ford Fiesta.
Boy Three would have been called Seamus if PoN had his way.
I've lived on a boat at least twice.
I did a coursetry fitting training course.
I can do mirror writing.
I have variously learned (not very well) to play the piano, the guitar, the violin, the French horn, map reading, first aid and Spanish.
I like Gilbert and Sullivan but not horror movies.
Mushrooms are my favourite vegetables.
Our family traditions include Fish and Chip Friday, Eggy Bread Saturday and Pancake Sunday.
Finaly, I've never, ever seen one of those magic eye pictures - in fact, I'm sure they're a big joke and don't actually reveal anything but some coloured dots.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Songs for a bloggy birthday

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear blo-og, happy birthday to you.
My blog is very nearly three years old. Since April 2007 it has grown from a feeble, unformed babe in arms to a stroppy toddler who knows perfectly well how to get into the biscuit tin by herself and that wellies and glittery tights are a good look. Or something.
At the very least, I've learned the value of blogging and how this whole community thing works.
I've expanded my outlook and I also blog at Ready For Ten.
Now this weekend I've been nominated in The Mads - the Mummy and Daddy Blog Awards - and I'm very flattered and not a little chuffed. (Thanks Jo)
Then I got tagged in a blog which, furthermore, I actually understood. *whispers* So far a lot of the blog-lingo and games were a bit mysterious. And the lovely and talented Ms Babyrambles proposed the idea of the infinate playlist - records you'd never tire of listening to.
So thanks for asking Ms B and here's mine:
Cole Porter's Don't Fence Me In by David Byrne
I Dreamed a Dream from Les Mis (in the top five before Subo got her hands on it)
Hallelujah the Leonard Cohen version
Don't Go by the Hothouse Flowers
Oooh, number five is difficult. I'll go for Cracklin' Rosie by Neil Diamond but reserve the right to change at the last minute.
Now Carrots and Kids, It's a mummy's life, Rosie Scribble, Fionaoutdoors and Milton consider yourselves tagged.

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