Tuesday, 26 February 2008

All's Not Lost

In my rant about stereotyping, I forgot to mention the one big and beautiful example of bucking the tired old gender-based trends. The Girl and I arrived at a 4th birthday party - she in fancy dress - to be greeted by no less than 5 pink ballerinas. 
"You were supposed to come as a ballerina," said the obnoxious birthday girl.
"Well I'm a pirate," said The Girl, proudly, and proceeded to spend the rest of the party chasing the boys around the church hall, waving her homemade telescope and shouting "Arrrrr!"
That's my girl.

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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Not For Recycling

Sometimes it seems like the world is trying to tell you something - the same message gets played over and over in a 24-hour period until it finally clicks. And then it's up to you to do with that message what you will.

It started yesterday. We were enjoying a typical evening at home (typical when you have two young children and require a month's planning to do anything but stay in watching telly), catered for adequately by Lloyd Grossman and Uncle Ben, followed by a parting of ways to Do Our Own Thing. I sat in front of the telly, half doing my rewrite and half watching Pride and Prejudice, followed by a documentary on why Pride and Prejudice is so utterly brilliant. It was heaven. There's the moment in the Jennifer Ehle / Colin Firth version when she tells him her feelings for him have changed and she doesn't think he's a complete arse any more - real chest-tightening, heart soaring stuff; the kind of scene that makes you want to swap your jeans for an empire line dress.

At around midnight a friend cycled over for a cup of tea. He'd been boozing with other friends since lunchtime, so he was feeling fun and spontaneous (and he won't be able to drop in on us for much longer . . . *sniff*). I noticed he was wearing slippers.
'They're nice, are they new?" I said. He nodded, grinning, the way people who've been drinking for 10 hours do. 
"They're Ted Baker," he said. And then he lifted one foot and then the other to show me the soles, which had messages on them intended for The Wife: the right foot said "Tea, Please", and the left said "I'm busy". His wife had bought them for him for Christmas, completely unaware of the "hilarious" messages, and I could well imagine how many times an evening he lifts one or both feet. Jokingly, of course - he's a lovely man. But it's the kind of funny that I find incredibly sad and wearing, like babygros with "I'm A Complete Pain-In-The-Arse" written on them, or t-shirts for pre-pubescent girls that say "Total Slut". Jokingly, of course . . . 

This morning we met for breakfast with Slipper Man and his wife and another couple, and while I divided my English breakfast into thirds to share with the children I was vaguely aware that The Australian (munching his undivided English breakfast) was telling the others what a completely hopeless map-reader I am, hahaha, and how many times I've got us lost, hahaha, what a silly woman, hahaha. He too is a lovely man, and yes I think I may  have got us lost once or twice, but it all felt a bit disappointing, somehow. 

But the icing on the cake came this afternoon in WHSmith, when I spotted a retro Ladybird collection "For Girls" in the children's book section. The titles were: Helping At Home, A Book About Knitting, In A Big Store, The Nurse, Shopping With Mother, and Understanding Maps. I'm pretty sure that this collection is intended by the publishers as a nostalgic purchase for adults, but that's not how it will be interpreted, is it? Well, not by WHSmiths, who have it alongside Charlie and Lola and other titles for tweenie girls.

So, the world has been trying to give me a message and the message is: Emancipation my arse. As to what I'll do with it: I've got a scene in the novel I'm rewriting between a teenage girl and a boy who has treated her very badly, and I think she's just about to have her say . . .

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Friday, 22 February 2008

Let Me Eat Cake!

I have found a small chink in the armour commonly known as: You ARE Going To Live In Australia, Like It Or Lump It. Australia is worried that I may be a burden on their health care system. (They obviously haven't read this blog or they'd know that I'm not even a burden on my own health care system, preferring to give birth in my living room attended by horror-struck family members - in fact I saved the NHS money by providing tea for two (tardy) ambulance crews.) They are making me undergo a full medical on Monday morning, followed by a chest x-ray. For the knock-down bargain price of several hundred pounds.

I was really dreading the medical, until I read up on the some of the reasons I might be denied a permanent visa . . . apparently, they don't want fatties. Granted, I can just fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes and I'm not exactly what you'd call large (I'm exactly what I'd call large but that's rather dull and typical), but I reckon if I defy all logic and breathe out instead of in when they take my waist measurement, and bear down really heavy when I step on the scales instead of willing myself off them, I might creep into the 'Access Denied' category. With my family history of diabetes and heart disease, it'll be a shoo-in! 

So, I've got until Monday to really pile on the pounds. I'm starting tonight, with a big fat Chinese takeaway and a large glass of wine. 

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Tuesday, 19 February 2008


The arrival of The Girl and Boy's Australian citizenship certificates brought a lump to my throat. I know Australia isn't exactly stealing my children but that's how it feels. 

It got me wondering (not for the first time - I'm not that bad a mother) how this move will affect them. The Boy probably won't notice, I guess, though he may wonder why mummy is permanently covered in a thick white film (Factor 60) and keeps reciting How Now Brown Cow. But The Girl is nearly four, as she tells me fifteen times a day, and has a solid foundation here involving Very English Grandparents, Marmite and Mary Poppins. She is the happiest little thing I've ever known - what if our Big Adventure turns out to be a Big Disaster for her and she can't adjust to life Down Under? 

And okay, she might be running around the house all day since she got her certificate yelling: "G'day! G'day! I'm an Australian!" But what if that's just a smokescreen for the trauma she's going through?

The trauma doesn't seem to have affected her love of asking me difficult questions. "What's a polka dot?" she asked earlier. Which was fine. "Yes, but why is it called polka? What's the polka bit? I know the dot bit." Anyone? Anyone? Maybe the Australian heat will slow her down a bit . . . 


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Friday, 15 February 2008

It's My Non-Surprise Party And I'll Cry If I Want To (Or Even If I Don't Want To)

There's an awful lot to do when you're emigrating, I've discovered. For weeks I've been fending it off. I'd managed to convince myself that I was doing more than enough by killing off the house plants, not putting anything in my diary post-April (not that I can ever find my diary) and using up the jam and all that body cream stuff that people give you for Christmas that otherwise sits in the bathroom cabinet for decades (sorry to all those people who have given me body cream in the years when I was not emigrating, but I can never be arsed).

Behind the scenes, however, my mum and some of my close friends have been plotting . . . not, I discovered to my dismay, plotting to keep me here, but arranging a surprise leaving party for us. However, it got much too complicated to surprise The Australian and I, mainly because all our trusted babysitters would naturally be at the party, and apparently people actually wanted to speak to us instead of politely observe us singing How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? to The Boy - he can do the woofs in all the right places, why wouldn't anyone want to watch that over and over? And then something about me being house-proud and yet arbitrarily a total slob, which made them feel uncomfortable about having it here without my prior knowledge. So all was revealed over the phone a couple of nights ago. 

While my friend was spilling the beans, I felt tingly and warm at the thought of the secret plotting and wanted to ask her to carry on talking for hours all about me and how much they'd miss me and the lovely surprise party . . . but I thought she might worry I was using her for phone sex. And then I felt a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes: we are really going. I know, I know, it's obvious we're going - we have tickets, the packing boxes have arrived, blah blah blah. But the fact is that if my mum is actually planning parties, that means she's accepted it. She is the last person to do that. Correction: she is the penultimate person to do that.

However, I am working on it. Yesterday, for example, I switched on Home and Away and snuggled up with The Girl, promising beautiful shots of the beach, happy-smiling-beautiful people and a jolly knees-up at The Diner. Seconds later we witnessed a dog run over by a car. "Oh look!" I said, hurriedly thinking of a cover-up. "The doggy is hiding under the wheels of the Ute." "The what?" she said. And then we got talking about Utes and that seemed to distract her from the yelping, bleeding pup. It was a close shave. We were almost not going to be able to go at all, what with her being so traumatised . . . hmm, it's on every day, isn't it? Maybe there'll be a helicopter crash tomorrow, or a mad gunman will open fire at the caravan park . . .

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Monday, 4 February 2008

While You Were Rewriting...

I'm forcing myself into a brief blogging coma in order to get on with a sudden, urgent rewrite of another novel. Meanwhile, if you haven't already discovered Taking Life For Granted, I urge you to read it.

Before I go, a snippet of those endless questions I was telling you about last month:

The Girl: Mum, what's a fiddler?
Me: Someone who plays the violin.
The Girl: Oh. Am I a fiddler?
Me: Do you play the violin?
The Girl: No.
Me: In that case, no, you're not a fiddler.
The Girl: Okay. Just checking.

See you soon!

(And no, Ross, I was not tempted to call this post Kiddy Fiddler.)

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Friday, 1 February 2008

Child Health Alert!

This hot off the press! Err, well not the press but CBeebies: popular nursery rhyme Pop Goes The Weasel is a potential health hazard. As the CBeebies presenters explained earlier today, before you do the POP, you must wash your hands . . . 

Excuse me?

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That's the way the money goes - 
[WAIT! Hang on . . . scuttle-scuttle . . . splash-splash, squeeze of Kandoo, rinse-rinse, dry-dry . . . scuttle-scuttle . . .]
POP! Goes the weasel.

I am amazed I'm still standing, frankly, with all the filthy-handed popping I've done over the years. Perhaps the BBC could offer us further nursery-rhyme-related health n' safety tips. 

Knee-pads for Ring-a-Ring-a-Roses 
Helmets / life jackets for Row Row Row Your Boat
Protective gloves for If You're Happy And You Know It
Steel Toe Cap Boots for This Little Piggy

Feel free to add your own. 

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Look After Your Penny...

Great excitement last week as the local POUND STORE had a closing down sale (practically throwing their stock at passers-by). What, I wondered, would they put in its place? It's got great square-footage, and while I wasn't dumb enough to hold out hope for a bookshop or some gorgeous cafe where you can let your children run wild, cared for by a bunch of highly trained staff, while you read the paper (hey, I can dream)... what I wasn't expecting was:


All my Christmases have come at once.

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