Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tigers - coming to tea and turning to butter

There I was at one of my jobs, subediting for a paper - pushing stories into boxes and making them look accurate and pretty.

It's a lovely thing to do, a bit like being paid for doing a crossword, that has a pleasant side effect of keeping you quite up-to-date on the news, or at least some of it.
And then I came across a story about which books elderly Scots remembered more fondly than others (Hey, I didn't promise cutting edge).

One of their favourites was Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman.

And then suddenly - whooosh - there I was back on the kitchen floor of my childhood, all red-painted concrete and warm Aga front.

I had the book, I knew it. My colleagues were entirely underwhelmed and somewhat skeptical that LBS got the tigers to run round a tree until they turned in to butter. They didn't say it but you could see them thinking 'yeah, right, how're you gonna get butter out of tigers?'.

So I googled and I found the whole text of the book with the illustrations from the edition I had. You can see it's a tale of cunning and the triumph of good over evil. Not in the slightest bit racist really. The boy in the story is little, called Sambo and he's black. And, er, that's it. More of a lesson about taking responsibility for your new clothes.

I'm much more bothered by another childhood favourite, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr.

If you aren't familiar with the work - a tiger rings the bell and comes to tea and eats all the food in the house, including all the water in the tap. The sated tiger walzes off leaving the mother and child unharmed but hungry.

Instead of ringing the police, a national newspaper or the RSPCA, what do they do? They dither in a feckless manner until daddy comes home "he'll know what to do", and he whisks them off to the local cafe for a slap up supper, which he pays for. Wait til he gets back to the office and tells the chaps how come his supper wasn't waiting for him. Later mummy buys tiger food at the supermarket on the off chance...

The messages there about gender roles, ambition and financial independence are shocking. It's a much better candidate for the banning brigade.

How do you make a shrunken human head mummy? and other imponderables

I was taking Boy One to youth club on Monday evening. The sun was shining, but low down so dust motes sparkled, the day was more or less under control and all was well.

Boy One was talking about Walkers Crisps and their Flavour Cup range.

In case you haven't noticed, and if you're over 12 and don't have a thing for Gary Lineker then it's quite possible you haven't, they have World Cup themed flavours. Only, to make sure they don't limit themselves to the ones that qualify, they've gone for flavours from any nation that has food and balls.

The flavours are:
American Cheeseburger
Argentinean Flame Grilled Steak
Australian BBQ Kangaroo
Brazilian Salsa
Dutch Edam Cheese
English Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding
French Garlic Baguette
German Bratwurst Sausage
Irish Stew
Italian Spaghetti Bolognese
Japanese Teriyaki Chicken
Scottish Haggis
South African Sweet Chutney
Spanish Chicken Paella
Welsh Rarebit

See what they did there?

Well Boy One spotted a packet of haggis flavour in the supermarket and he was instantly hooked. Knowing the Panther of News is partial to a little haggis, he nagged and nagged for a packet.

"But why will you try haggis crisps when you'd rather eat Lego than real haggis?"
"Oh, this isn't for me, it's for PoN. He's going to love it."
Of course he is.
Actually it seems Boy One is a better judge than me, PoN reported they were quite yummy.

However, since then crisps have become a fixation - which flavours to try and who'd which best. I was secretly flattered to be linked to Brazilian salsa.

So in the car the conversation was at American cheeseburger again.
"How do they make it taste so much like American cheese burgers?"
"I don't really know, but I'm fairly sure there are no burgers or cheese in it."
"I think they have burger flavour, cheese flavour and bun flavour and they mix them."
"They might well."
"PoN is from Yorkshire, he'd like the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding flavour, I know he would."
"Well yes, but he would probably rather have real roast beef and Yorkshire puddings."
"What's a Yorkshire pudding?"
"It's delicious. It's a close relative to a pancake, but when you cook it in the oven it it puffs up and gets full of air. The PoN is actually very good at cooking it."
"I still think he'd like the crisps. We must get some."
"Why are roast beef and Yorkshire pudding crisps better than real road beef and Yorkshire pudding?"
"Because they're cheaper."
"How do you make a shrunken head?"
"How do you make a shrunken head?"
"You mean a human one?"
"Yes, I'd like to make one."
"Um. Where did you hear about that?"
"The Simpsons. So?"
"I don't really know, but I'm pretty sure you'd have to start by cutting someone's head off and I don't think that's a very good idea."
"OK, see you later."

UPDATE: The Panther of News gave me - among other lovely things - a packet of Brazilian Salsa crisps. Awww.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Fish and Chip Friday is important

I've just written a post over at Readyforten.com about family traditions. Our faourite is Fish and Chip Friday, but now I learn that it's actually good for the family... yum, pass the ketchup.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Worm holes, the Rubicon cross code and boozer babies

Coalition is a splendrous thing... while it lasts. Boys One and Two spent a diligent afternoon in den building. Here's the result.

Pluto is in the Kyper Belt and it's 'only' a dwarf planet. Boy One was fascinating me with his outer-space chat at breakfast time and we fell to discussing space travel. He believes a space probe should be sent to Pluto but that the problems of the great distance and length of Plutonian years may cause difficulties. He also suggested that the traveller may pass through a worm hole. I asked him what a worm hole is. "It's like a portal and you can travel through time and space. Imagine this is the Kyper Belt and you've found that the gap between the table and the high chair here is a worm hole, then that bit there by the door could be absolutely anywhere and any time."

Growing up is harder for me than them sometimes. This week Boy Two has gone off on his bike with his pal to the park for the first time. It's what, for me, childhood and living here should be all about, but, goodness it was nerve-wracking. The park is about a quarter of a mile a way and the roads are fairly quiet. He knows the route and we've been through the 'look both ways' drill a million times. PoN passed them on the road and said they looked "quite the thing", confident and careful I hoped. Isn't it funny though how all kinds of nasty stuff flashes through your head? What's to be scared of? Cars - well they should know by know how to cross the road. Accidents - yes, but it's part of life and there are two of them so one would, presumably, get help. Bogie men - Rory Blackhall, Maddie McCann were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is nothing we can do to protect against psychopaths but luckily there are very, very few of them.
(I was trying to work up something about crossing the road being easier than crossing the Rubicon, but, not surprisingly, I couldn't get it to work)

Babies and drunks have a lot in common. Boy Three has started to pull himself onto his feet and, with support, take a step or too. It's very funny and much like those bendy sort of characters you see two-step-forward-one-backing their way from the boozer in town. You know, leg wide to the side, as if not certain of the horizontal. And that's not where the similarity ends. Babies smell, rant, shout, puke, want one thing then change their minds, love you fantastically for a moment then hate you. They are greedy and rude.

UPDATE: I am informed that it is actually Kuiper not Kyper. Now you know.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

If I roll up my sleeves can I make it clean and lovely?

I am resolved, summer is a-comin' in and all that. While stopping short of actually spring cleaning, I'm going to start solving the domestic mysteries that have beset me lately.

These include:

Why there is glitter in the tumble dryer when this is a house full of boys and we are miles from Christmas?

Why there was butter all over my mobile phone after a brief walk with Boys One and Two in the middle of the afternoon that went no where near any butter, marg or similar?

Why do all the woodlice in the world want to make a final pilgrimage to my house?

Where the blasted clutter comes from - it's always there. I turn round and there's more?

Why it is impossible to remember to clean the squashed food out of the high chair until the sink is emptied and everything wiped?

Why I believe I have many more things to remember than everyone else who lives here, yet they can't find the space in their CPUs to remember to flush, put the seat down, wash away the blob of toothpaste or put the lid back on?

Why it is rarely possible to walk through the front door without tripping over something?

Who empties the cartons, jars and tubs in the fridge and cupboards but PUTS THE CONTAINERS BACK WITH NOTHING IN THEM?

Who performs some magic act whereby my words are rendered inaudible to everyone in the house until I'm puce and spitting with crossness?

Who does all the annoying things, when everyone here says it wasn't them?

It's a big fat mystery because according to my family it's not them. Watch out lads Mummy's on a mission. We are going to remove the things from our lives that are not useful, beautiful or of huge sentimental value, whether you like it or not. We are drowning in stuff, unnecessary chores and general clutter. The Time has come. Be warned.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

How important is your blog?

A grave warning

Spare a thought, if you will, for a former colleague of mine, the Pop Cop. Obviously when we chipped away at the coal face of truth at the Scottish Daily Mirror, that wasn't how we knew him.

However, for several years now that's what he has been called as he pounded a cyber beat in search of new music and top tunes. (See what I did there..)

Anyhow, PC Pop built up quite a following, grew in confidence and experience and, basically, committed the best bits of his life to the world of blog.

Then disaster struck and his blog was taken down. In his words: "It feels like I’ve popped out to the shops to buy a loaf of bread and come home to discover the locks on my front door have been changed. However, my possessions are still inside and I want them back before they get torched."

With no warning, Google - owner of Blogger - wiped the Pop Cop's Police Station off the face of the blogosphere. PC Pop was understandable gutted. His story is told here and he's calling for people to write to Google so, at the very least, he can get his content back.

It got me thinking, how would I feel if Bundance vanished in a puff of slightly smelly smoke? It would be awful. The thing has been many things to me in the three and a bit years I've been coming here and I'd hate to lose it.

I'm wondering what the best way to save blogs is and how something that doesn't actually excist in real life can mean so much to me.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Hold on, you are in the right place

I've had a bit of a bit of a tidy up here. A lot of lovely people at British Mummy Bloggers were telling me it was a bit busy and the white text on dark just didn't work. I thought this was a bit better.
What do you think?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Attack of the tuneless earworm

I'm quite often under attack by the earworm. You know the one - he usually brings music to your ears but not in a good way. He'll sneak in and, before you know it Twenty Love-sick Maidens We, Agadoo, doo, doo or Do The Shake N Vac is on some kind of hellish loop.

What's been happening of late, though, is that the worm is bringing words or tiny phrases into my head. It's most peculiar.
Here are the latest.

Ornery - stubborn, vile tempered or low. For example, I was in an ornery mood when I told the baby it was time he sorted out his own milk.

Redacted - which mostly means a political kind of crossing out where all the interesting bits are missing. It also means to edit or prepare for publication. I've come across it most in information arriving under freedom of information requests.

Didactic - with a message or teaching. For instance, my didactic lecture about avoidance of vegetables fell, with many of its sister lectures, on deaf ears.

Sidewinder - nothing to do with sides or winding but is, in fact, either an American snake or an untrustworthy person. That honest politician is a bit of a sidewinder, isn't he?

Jukebox musical - one of those shows that takes a collection of cracking songs (usually from one artist) and lashes them together with an approximate and flimsy plot. Mama Mia is an excellent example and We Will Rock You isn't.

Picture: Smithsonian

Gorse flower wine, wild footballs and ice cream adventures

Other things I've learned today.

Gorse doesn't grow in Newfoundland. During a splendid walking, talking, pushing infants morning with sister Super Pharmacist (like Wonder Woman but wearing a white coat over her shiny knickers) we met a couple of Newfoundlanders. We were marching around the woodlands near the Falkirk Wheel and all was the livid green of new spring leaves. The Newfoundlanders were pondering the yellow gorse: "What's this stuff? It smells amazing."
SP said: "It's gorse. Very common here."
And there ensued a conversation about how gorse flowers could and were made into a delicious alcoholic drink. I was dubious, thinking this tipple would be a tad spiky. However, I stand corrected by River Cottage Hugh. And hot-foot from Falkirk I report SP, her missus, Baby G and their dug all in good order and ready for their move back to Auld Reekie soon.

SSPCA wild animal catching nets are the very thing for fishing footballs out of substations. Boy Two has lost three footballs into the sedate, fenced-in suburban substation next door in as many weeks. Now he's reduced to kicking and doing keepy-up with other things which isn't the best for anyone concerned. I mentioned it in passing to our neighbour on the other side of the substation. Neighbour L said: "No problem. I can help, I'll use one of my nets. They're in the garage."
"Oh!" What else could I say?
It turns out, she's an SSPCA inspector and catching wild animals is her specialist subject. She made short work of rescuing Boy Two's balls with a very flash looking net on a long pole and some fancy technique. Huge thanks from Boy Two and all the things he was considering kicking.

You can can use a Jamie Oliver blender to make ice cream. I'm writing an article for the Daily Record about how celebrities are bringing their style to our kitchens and pondering whether it's possible to buy some of Sophie, Nigella or Delia's culinary style. I've been sent a couple of Jamie 's kitchen gizmos to have a play with. At first glance, the grill thing looked most promising - panini (aka hot, squashed sandwich) anyone? But then Boy One noticed that the Jamie Oliver blender could, apparently, be used to make ice cream. It's our mission for tomorrow - does anyone know any good recipes?

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Men - mine in pictures

I'm not really a joiny-in kind of person but I like the idea of Tara's Gallery.
She suggests a theme, you go off and take pictures and somehow, the magic pixies of the internet join it all together.
This week she threw 'men' up in the air, not literally, you understand.
I wasn't really going to bother, then yesterday the sun shone and my main man, the Panther of News, suggested we take the smaller ones to the other park in the village. (Yeah, we live in a two-play park town, so what?).
Here's the result. My chaps having a laugh together, what more could I want? Er, well, probably a guarantee they'll never make me go on that swingy thing.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Husband of the Year Show

When we're not giving razor-sharp analysis* of the hot current affairs and media issues or discussing literature or music, the Panther of News and I occasionally indulge in flights of fancy. Hard to believe, I know.

The latest I must admit was a little one-sided. I was telling the Panther of News how he is simply my best husband ever. Technically his position is assured due to previous incumbent being disqualified due to homosexuality. However, he still likes to hear it, so before I continue with my story - PANTHER, YOU ARE THE NUTS, THE WHISKERS AND THE PJS.

The conversation set me thinking: How good is a good husband? How do you know if yours is a winner? Is there a gold standard of man-about-the-house-ability? What should they be aiming towards?

While I absolutely refuse to play the All Men Are Rubbish, Poor Loves game, an image popped into my head. Husbands, teams of them, in Lycra and rosettes marching around the echoey arena kicking up sawdust as the Tannoy announces the competition open "Welcome to the 2010 Husband of the Year Show".

And here are some of the categories.

Points awarded for spontaneity and credibility, however, judges will be on the lookout for formulaic answers and backhandedness. "Lovely dear, like always." and "Wonderful, considering" will result in instant disqualification.

Paying proper attention at all times is essential and simply reciting the last sentence or two would be considered a novice's error. This is a disqualification competition with increasingly difficult challenges as rounds progress. Points lost for glazing and yawning. The final will comprise listening to the finer points of a work bitch-fight with due empathy during an end-of-season crunch match.

Observers consider this the true test. Competitors must match, and deliver, the appropriate pamper with the correct ailment factoring up to half a dozen other elements and all against the clock. For example a foot rub will not always be the appropriate response to weeping with frustration, not when you consider the day it is, the time it is, the weather it is, who's in the house and what's on the telly. A hot bath will rarely be the solution expect, of course, when it is. Following protests in 2007, chocolate has been banned as an option.

The matrimonial tightrope of displaying exactly the right amount of possessiveness. Not too controlling but yet looking like you give a hoot. It will consist of a written exam and close examination of facial expression.

Ooooh. All wives like a surprise... but not a shock. Good husbands need the capacity to come up with exactly the right treat at the right time without frightening the Mrs or making her feel pushed around. "Honey, I've got tickets for a show and a reservation at Chez Swank for tonight. Baby sitter comes in ten minutes, get your frock on" will score more than "you know the neighbours we always suspected, well they're having a 'special' party tonight and we're going. Baby sitter comes in ten minutes, get this new PVC frock with accessories on".

Here's where hubbies have to demonstrate their masculine superiority - taking bins out, carrying heavy things - without ever crossing the invisible, and ever moving, line into the patronising danger zone. Of course we know how to do things, we would just rather you did it for us.

So there you have it husbands, there's just time to start training.

*Nah, look at her earrings, I wouldn't wear them if I knew I was going on the telly, mebbe she's doing it for a bet."
"See Dan Brown his books are pants. Badly-written and really annoying pants."
"How can books be pants, badly written or otherwise?"
"Well I'd rather read the label in my knickers than anything written by Dan Brown."
And so on...

Picture: LSE Library

Monday, 10 May 2010

Buckets, baths and boring grown-ups

Things I've learned from my children today.

All you need is a bucket and a song. Boy Three likes a good tune, but his favourite is, without doubt, Row Your Boat. Thanks to cousin Baby G for reminding us how good it is, especially the crocodile bit.

You're never too big for bathtime fun. Boys One and Two vie for the chance to get in the bath with Boy Three. Today's solution was that all three would get in together. I got an idea of why mother birds look so harassed when their chicks are all chirping at her from the nest. Then it became apparent that Boy Three was actually not the attraction, so I fished him out and left Boys One and Two playing happily in the bath together until they were wrinkly.

The definition of grown-up might be someone who understands that politics is important and cares about what happens next. The younger noses in the house were very out of joint today while The Panther of News and I tried to keep up with the next thrilling installment of who's in bed with whom and what did it cost to get them there. Eventually they gave up trying to get us to turn it over to the Simpsons and started dejectedly watching.
"Who's he?" asked boy Two.
"Um. He's on the Conservative side and used to have an important job in the government."
"Then why are they calling him that?"
"HURD. LORD HURD. That can't be a real name."
And, Boys, nice idea that it is, I don't think they'd go for taking turns and setting a timer so they know when to swap over, would they?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Farage, Lembit, Nubo, Clegg, Burley and pakora

New words for my dictionary this week.

- this is what happens when you pretend you aren't even ever so slightly slightly miffed at not being shortlisted for an award such as The Mads. But then you see the high calibre of the shortlistees and make this noise. It's no wonder you weren't included. Take heart though The Slummies are here.

- a lesser form of schadenfreude. Delight at someone else's misfortune once you establish they haven't been seriously hurt tempered with the uncharitable thought that it should really have been someone from the BNP then it would have been really funny.

- that squirmy sense of unease when a vulnerable person is firstly exploited and then patronised. Applies to the mentally ill, aged, very young and terminally stupid.

- feeling sorry for someone you didn't think you ever could. Could be brought on by watching them being picked on by the merciless class bullies.

Burley - not to be confused with a Lembit. In the case of a Burley, even if you're not sure why, you know they deserve it.

Clegg - when the current infatuation loses its shine and reveals itself to be more troublesome and involved than you ever imagined. (Compare the turbo juicer, acrylic nails, cashmere jumper and cut-price deep-fat fryer)

(synonym prawn toast-remorse) - the sense that despite long deliberation you've plumped for the wrong option.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Briefly beachy, tackling issue and a bored boy

Things I've learned from my children today.

Some things make getting up early on a Saturday worthwhile. This morning Boy Two's team, coached in part by the Panther of News, was playing at 9am at Gourock's Battery Park. (I was going to say ably coached, but this morning the PoN was looking slightly less than his shiny self) The sun was blazing and the sand in the play park freshly raked. Boy Three explored, Boy One buried himself in sand and Boy Two's team won seven - one.

There is a sure-fire measure of how clean a tackle is. Boy Two in the blue jersey and the goal mouth commented as one of the opposition hit the AstroTurf. "It's OK. It's not a dirty tackle. He's not even crying."

An interest in current affairs might not always seem healthy. This morning, feeding Boy Three, I sat down in front of the telly - just to see if we're any closer finding a way to run the country, you understand. Do you know that, apart from BBC and the grown-up stuff in the news department, Sky can't offer anything apart from children's programmes at 7.35 on a Saturday morning? So the only option was the BBC and its talking heads. Boy One in disgust said: "This is so boring to me. You have to understand that not everyone cares about this. In fact, I think it's an obsession. I'll put it off and we can all watch Phineas and Ferb."

Friday, 7 May 2010

Towering ambition, knotty stuff and funny old tubes

Things I've learned from my children today.

Competition is hard-wired. Boy Two had Little Friend D over to play yesterday during the jolly polling day holiday. The boys had a lot of noisy and violent fun together. Over supper the conversation turned to whose dad had gone higher up the Eiffel Tower. "Mine went to here and had a French crepe at the top."

Inconsistency is sometimes surprising. My big Boys know what an aglet is, yet both struggle to tie their shoe laces well.

Spelling is funny. Boy Two was mugging up on difficult words for today's spelling test while Boy Three was sitting on half of his supper and applying the rest. Boy Three's repast is a protracted affair. So we were sounding the words. "Tube, gnarled, screw." And Boy Three got the giggles. "Screw" is funnier than "gnarled", "people" than "thirsty", but "tube" is the absolutely funniest thing ever.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Disco biscuits, being grumpy and TWATs

Other things I've learned today.

An election is exciting for journalists. The Panther of News had a spring in his step this morning when he headed off to work. He'll doubtless be facing the usual pictures of polling stations in remote pubs, with sheep, the great and the good voting and the 'hilarious' lengths folk have gone to to have a say. He's also got a pocket full of these.

You have to be 40 to qualify for being grumpy and old. Wendy Peters was talking to Graeme Norton on the radio this morning about her recruitment for the cast of Grumpy Old Women. "You're over 40, you'll do." Every cloud...

In my head, I've invented the ultimate gadget. It's called The Wedge of Alternate Time - TWAT for short. It's a wonderful thingy that you can use to prise more time into every day. With it you can sneak a phone call between the breakfast and the nursery run. A little retail therapy between the nappy aisle and the fishfinger deep freeze. Some me-time between Cubs and husband homecoming. A yoga class between filing glittering copy and cooking home-made meals. A romantic and passionate weekend break between football training and fish and chip Friday (yes with you, PoN). A heart-warming chat with a chum between sweeping Cheerios off the floor and getting ready for work. If any politicians can come up with one - or at least funding for research they'll get my mark. In fact vote I'd vote for the TWAT. (Wasn't that a long way round for a lame joke?)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Catapults, sausages and keys

Things I've learned from my children today.

Medieval weapons beat modern labour-saving devices every time. Boys One and Two are on a bit of an inventing thing at the moment. Boy Two asked what I'd like him to invent for me. So I started a bit of a monologue about my domestic fantasies (No, not those ones!). They included a magic self cleaning floor, junk picking up pixies, skid-mark eating robots and a laundry production line. Then Boy Two cut across my reverie: "Right then. What will I need to make a Medieval catapult for you."

An inconsistent approach to fire safety is fine, then. Boy One is very keen that we follow the fire safety officer's advice to the letter. There has been much nagging on the subject of shutting doors at night and unplugging things. It's obviously worked because I turn my computer off and unplug it at bedtime now. However, it was campfire night at Cubs yesterday and a very malodourous affair it was too. But Boy One had a ball. "Little friend K set fire to a sauage and ate it while it was burning. And I burned a marshmallow. It was awesome."
"Isn't that a little dangerous?"
"No. Just awesome."

Keys are the key. The best and most entertaining thing that Boy Three can get his hands on are the keys. Real ones, mind. He has rumbled that the big bunch with the mysterious keys on are dummies and only gives them a quick chew. This must stop though. Last night he grabbed my bunch and wouldn't give them back for me to unlock the house door. There followed a very unseemly struggle between a grown woman and a squealing 11 month old to get them back.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

A month for springing forward... no?

Things I've learned during April

The train makes for a very smooth transition for the big Boys from their dad's. I've written before about the trials of transitionitis at Readyforten. So when the ash clouds stranded the Boys at Euro Disney, poor lambs, and they had to come back by train I thought I was in for a rough ride. Eventually they were delivered to me at Birmingham New Street and the three of us had a thoroughly pleasant six-hour journey home. Really.

PD James writes lovely books. The Private Patient is no exception. Actually I didn't learn it, but I just rediscovered it.

Boys of all ages like a den. Boy Two had his eighth birthday this month. He picked his present after a long hard think over an Argos catalogue. He wanted a new bed and this is what he chose. Since we built it all the boys in the family from the Panther, 43, to Boy Three, ten months, seem to find it impossible to resist the lure of the tent/cave/den/whatever.

Blogging is 'proper'. I've been writing at readyforten for a couple of months for now and it's really picking up momentum. I've 'met' some fabulous writers and written about the election, middle children, our trip to Northumberland and ideas for getting children reading.

The election is actually quite interesting. Hmm. This is probably because I'm now around the same age as some of the candidates. Maybe. I've also written a bit about what it means for women at sofeminine.co.uk resisting, without much difficulty, commenting on what the women look like. That wouldn't help, would it? And while still officially floating, I was impressed by the Lib Dem's manifesto promises to address the portrayal of women in the media. Maybe this could be extended to the portrayal of women in cartoons and toyshops. I was appalled to see that Dora the Explorer now cares about getting her hair done. (Removes Milly Tant's Doc Martin's)

Edinburgh is a long way to go for a show, even if it is Les Miserables. Great show, comedy sketch journey with the Panther of News.

Next month, I am hoping to get round to putting up the five-a-day fruit and veg chart, get a virtual gastric band (by hypnosis), see Whistle Down the Wind with my Super Sister and Mother (who is super too), celebrate my 43rd birthday and get rid of some of the clutter.

Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails.

What's so bad about boys then?

A friend who is pregnant with twins has just found out she's got two little boys in there. She already has a three year old. She was just looking for reassurance that having three boys is a breeze. This one's for you, Cath.

BC (Before Children) I believed that boys and girls were largely the same until they got hormones, therefore should be brought up in a gender neutral environment. Hah, funny that.
On the other hand, I get quite cross with the women for whom taking a pop at their 'crap' husbands' male characteristics. It's too easy and really doesn't help any of us get along and understand each other. That said, I don't have a daughter so I'm not really qualified to make a proper comparison.

In the 11 years since I spotted my first child's testicles in an ultrasound scan I have had two more sons and learned a few things about male children.

The penis is endlessly fascinating. From the first time a baby finds his and realises it's attached, it will prove to be their favourite toy. What else can give target practice and sensual comfort in the same moment? Boy Two was spotted on the sofa this week with his pulled through a hole in his PJs, absent mindedly stroking it gently.

Farts and other bodily functions are funny... always. OK the look on Boy Three's face was comical when he tried to figure out where that noise had come from, but later when every single toot, parp and guff triggers gales of laughter the joke will wear thin.

There aren't very many ass-kicking female role models for little boys. Bob TB's pearl wearing Wendy, Thomas TTE's Clarissa and the other boring carriage, Minnie Mouse, Peter Pan - another wet Wendy and Harry's swattish Hermione.

Wheels, guns and building toys will always be popular. Even if you only give them 'soft' playthings like dolls and crafty stuff, they will craft a weapon and take Peppa Pig off for a road trip.

Household chores are interesting too, providing there is machinery or construction. Boy Two's favourite toy for a long time was his baby Dyson, Boy Three can't get enough of the dishwasher, tumble dryer or washing machine and Boy One spent hours reorganising the contents of his dolls house. The same wooden dolls house is still one of the most popular toys amongst visiting kids, especially boys.

If you're a boy, what's not to like about traditional role models. While recognising differences, kids appear to be instinctively egalitarian, however sexual stereotypes sneak in and it's easy to see why. If someone suggests that women are there to cook, clean and look after you while you go off to have adventures you're not going to argue, are you?

Boys' don't get the sensibilites of the female ego. Their comments can cut. "Mummy, what are those lines beside your eyes?" "Boy Three is nearly a year old, when is your tummy going to go flat?" "Don't put your hair in a ponytail, that's only for little girls, not old people."

A complement from your son is just the best. "You're beautiful mummy." "You're really sparkly." "Your hair is nice and slippery."

They cannot stop themselves from kicking and throwing things. Live with it. I'm trying to channel it to some use. Currently working on the best thing to get the Boys to throw at the cobwebs on the skylight over the stairs to knock them off. A muslin cloth tied in knot is current favourite.

They will like Doctor Who, You've Been Framed, TV Burp, The Simpsons and anything with superheroes in it, you might as well mug up and join them on the sofa.
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