Monday, 24 May 2010


I read some woman talking about mummy bloggers the other day, she said: 'you think that your kids shit glitter'. It made me laugh. Actually I don't think its that true as most mummy writing that I read seems to be only vaguely related to the topic of children. I think most mums these days are too busy twittering to notice what their kiddies poo looks like.

I can see the point of view that mummy writing is either boring or irritating, especially if you're not a mum. In my painful childless years I used to loathe Allison Pearson's special mix of mummy egotism dressed as martydom where ( for some reason I never understood) I was supposed to feel sorry for how tiring her life was when, as far as I was aware, no one forced her to have lots of children, write lots of best selling novels and articles for newspapers and magazines. No doubt Angelina Jolie also gets a bit tired what with her films and kids - not to mention Brad- but at least she doesn't moan in public about her perfect life. I find it hard to feel sorry for women who have what I want.
I can also see that it's easy to fetishise kids these days - obsesively filing all the most ordinary photos of one's ordinary offspring, endlessly recanting personal anecdotes in family blogs, etc. It was different in the past. My mother certainly never thought that I shitted glitter. Not that she would have used the s***word, but she would have appreciated the homemade nature of such shit full of glitter as the stuff in the shops was only for very special occasions when we were children. My mother also always pointedly gave the impression we were terribly ordinary just in case she looked as if she was bragging about us. Or we got the idea that we were special in any way. This might be a good excuse for an inferiority complex but actually I liked her attitude. There's some safety and contentment in being ordinary and in being too run of the mill to be singled out.

I really appreciate that not all about X glitters. Her shit is sometimes just ordinary shit and sometimes it's spectacularly smelly; huge bolders of impressively solid shit. And sometimes her burps are even smellier than her botty burps. She has yellow wax oozing out of her ears and her socks are cheesy too. It's not the first time I've been astounded by the smells of children. As a tutor I frequently had to turn my head at the putrid stench of a child's breath.
But yes, I also do think X glitters. Her moods change like the shifting sands of a tube of glitter. Every time her brain makes a fresh connection an array of sparkles can be seen across her face. And yes, for every sparkle there's also a shadow- it's just the way the light falls. But I'm entranced by how, why and what makes the shadows move and the sparkles twinkle. Frankly, having pushed myself forward to be X's mum I think it would be very sad if I didn't find her interesting if not sparkly. Bu the same is true of any parent who has willingly brought a child into the world. Truthfully I do find X more interesting than most other children because I study her more. But I don't think X senses my interest; she expects her mummy to be interested in her and she knows I think her poo stinks, in fact it makes her laugh when I hold my nose when have to get close to wipe her bottom. And I do enjoy noting down stuff about what she's done. I love celebrating her childhood innocence. Maybe it's because there's no daddy to share the 'guess what she did today' conversation with that I like to write them down. Like today, when asked to put away the clean knives in the drawer she said: 'this knife's clean , I just licked it.'
Isn't that just the cutest glittery shit?
No? Well, tell me about your little ones most sparkly turd today.

Monday, 17 May 2010

-especially to twins or  more. 

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


I nearly did. Not for her first name- that'd already been chosen by her mum. I was planning on a second name as my gift from me to her. I rang up my mother and said I was thinking of Florence. She said, 'really?' So I didn't. By really I really thought she meant, 'Do you really want me to avoid ever even mentioning her name, even in passing conversation?'

When my cousin called his mother bursting over with the proud news that his wife had just given birth to their son his mother gushed appropriately and then asked what they'd chosen to call the baby. 'Caspar,' my cousin announced proudly. He said that there was a sigh longer than it takes for the air to leave a tyre, and then on a downward glissando of resignation, his mother simply said "Oh, really darling, do you have to?" He said he might as well have been announcing that he fancied trying on women's clothes or voting for the Monster Raving Loony party. To be honest, though, I was secretly on his mother's side a tiny bit. Names can be divisive like that.

My father had a mad aunt called Florence. This was my inspiration. Aunt Florence wore short socks- that's what made her look really mad to us as children. But there was also some supporting evidence of a slightly tenuous grip on reality: talking to a tea towel of Arkle the racehorse as if it was a person was one thing, addressing empty dog kennels as if they were full of dogs was another; oh, then there were the rooms filled to the brim with newspapers from yester-year.

Aunt Florence lived in a wooden chalet on the rocks in between Sennen Cove and Lands End. The route to her front door was also used by the Royal Marines to get cliff climbing practice. She had no running water and no electricity and in winter the waves reached her doorstep. When we holidayed nearby my mother used to send us children off to visit her alone. Now I can see that this was because my mother was as scared of her as we were. We thought Aunt Florence was a witch. Every year Aunt Florence gave us a Mr Kipling cake, soggy with sea air and goodness knows what else, to eat in the car on the way home from our summer holiday. We always threw it away before we even got to Taunton. We thought she'd put a spell in it.

I took my mother's 'really' about the name Florence to mean: 'do you really want your new baby who is blissfully clear of any genetic link to your mad Aunt Florence to be inflicted by association to the weakest part of your heritage?' I silently disagreed with my mother about this. Aunt Florence read maths at Cambridge when practically no women went to university. She married a card shark gambling playboy. She was a concert pianist. And she went gloriously mad in a totally independent, batty, positive way. I felt there was lots there for my daughter to find freedom and inspiration from in Aunt Florence.

There are other Florences that also sprung to mind - Florence Nightingale, that Florence who saved a whole load of sailors in a storm, and of course the city of Florence- the city my mother took me to on her hard earned savings when I was sixteen, where I painted prostitutes from the window of our hotel after a hard days trudging around the Uffizi.

And then there was the best Florence of all- Flo from The Magic Roundabout. I didn't much like tv when I was little but I loved the Magic Roundabout and X, with her big hair, big feet, fluffy hair, round face and tippy- up nose could be her younger sister.

But it was not to be. I allowed myself to be knocked off course by a slightly doubtful, 'really?'
And guess what? The other day my mother told me there was a piece on the radio about Eric Thompson, the writer of the UK Magic Roundabout who'd just died. My mother gave a downward little sigh of disappointment,' I was really sorry you know , that you didn't go with Florence as your name for X- she looks so much like Florence from the Magic Roundabout, you know...'

'Really?' I said- with a little sigh of disappointment, a little downwards glissando.

My story's nothing new. Apparently,-according to Bounty magazine who have just done a survery- 1:5 parents regret their baby's name. At least I wasn't giving a first name. And I still have a lot of heart for her second name too. It was the one that her foster family wanted for her.

It's just not Florence.

Monday, 10 May 2010


Tonight the bus was very crowded. I always feel sorry for children in buggies when it's crowded, it must be even worse when you're too low to see out of the window. X was doing well. She was in a chatty mood:
' I have two mummies don't I mummy?' she chirps up, with her little piercing voice. 

'Yes darling, you do.'
' And I don't have a daddy, do I mummy?'
'No darling, not that you know, anyway.'
You can practically feel the air stir as ears flap all around us. 

'Ahhh, good for you, two mummies, that's what we like to hear. Are you and your partner married?' says the nice looking lady standing next to me. She beams and  twinkles her eyes at me. 

Luckily our stop arrives so I don't have to commit myself to a reply. The woman waves goodbye flirtatiously.

Thursday, 6 May 2010




Flexible working. Freelance. They all sound so free and easy, don’t they.Trouble is they seem to end up with some mum’s working practically for free- if they can get the work at all. This is a conversation I had today about possible work in a job that’s slapbang in my skillset and for which I have massive experience. Then client is located in a place that is inconveniently located about ten miles out of London- in a place that no creative would ever dream of living:

Me: Can I do it from home?

Headhunter: No.

Me: What are the hours?

Headhunter: Nine till six.

Me: (computing madly- not having any idea of how I would actually make the journey at all - car? train? magic carpet?) Um, I can only do about ten till five as I have to be in central London for childcare at eight thirty in morning and six at night but I can work at home late into the night to make the time up.   

Headhunter: I SO understand- I’ve got a baby too, in fact I’ll have to go as I’m working from home and he’s tipping everything out of the cupboard- but I’ll sort that.

Headhunter- a few hours later- Ok, sorted that! They’ll allow you to do ten till five- if you cut your pay to make up for the time lost in the office.

Me: -resisting the urge to snap- so not sorted at all then- asks how low I’d have to sink. It’s a lot more than the hours lost - pro rata.

 I sink that low then put the phone down - feeling a bit low. Wonder how headhunters can work from home but creatives - who used to need quiet to think-have to tip up at the office. 

 Look at train times and costs and realise that ( with my knockdown rate, plus the added cost of overtime on childcare for the week which, even with the reduced hours will probably be necessary, plus the trainticket to the out of way place) I’d be working for roughly half the lowest that I’d decided I’d ever sink. I persuade myself it’s an investment in my future.

 Then I have a long conversation with myself about exactly how I can bus, walk, bicycle,  train and then walk from home to minder  and then to the job in under an hour - ha!  Then I have an upbeat conversation with the minder about working longer hours the next week. She is very generous about it. Persuade myself that any overtime I end up paying her would be an investment in my career.

I realise the bicycle needs total overhaul that will cost about fifty quid. Persuade myself it is an investment in my bicycle and my career.

 I was quite glad when the headhunter called up later and said the job had gone. No doubt to someone with a magic carpet or magic children who disappear in a puff of smoke during full advertising creative hours.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Some good things about being an old mum

1)    My mother is bored with aspiring to have perfect grandchildren. Her standards have slipped brilliantly. She doesn’t even expect little ones to remember to put the condiment jars on saucers any more.

      2) My father is too old to be bothered to grouch when little one spreads marmalade over the               tablecloth.

3)    My niece is great for babysitting and loves to take her out because people think that she’s the mum.

4)     I’m too old to remember all the things that I hated about my childhood and always intended to rebel against. In fact I don’t even feel deprived any more that I only ever had a homeknitted school jumper. 

5)    I don’t have to worry about what I’ll do when child leaves the nest. I’ll either be too ga- ga to care or dead.

6)    I don’t get jealous because my little one thinks that her friends mums are prettier than me.  Too right they are – they’re twenty years younger.

7)    I don’t have to worry about how I’ll pay for uni- she can have what’s left of my estate for that and if there isn’t any, well, I won’t be there to worry about it.

8)    I don’t set her demanding career goals, in fact –secretly- I’d be delighted if she was an underage mother as I’d get to see a grandchild.

9)    I can excuse my middle-aged spread as baby tummy.

10)    I think that a trip to Sainsburys, the park or church is as exciting as she does and am only too glad to fall asleep over come dance with me of a Saturday night.


In fact the only bad things affect her not me. But then maybe she’ll also be glad that I’ve left some room for her to live without me breathing down her neck when she’s an adult.





Monday, 3 May 2010

Not so much clunk click  as crickety, shove, arghh, grr, clurkety, euch...

Every baby boy needs to develop their  motor skills so no wonder John Lewis is giving daddies- to -be lessons in all the on board stroller extras and other gadgets that they need to flaunt their new - manhood.

This  is no doubt good marketing. I can imagine all those mummies keen to get their old men excited by their new daddy status booking up for this rather than an NCT course as then mum gets to learn how to breathe through the pain in peace and also gets their Daddy-to - be to be more  to be a bit more generous. 

I just wish that John Lewis also encouraged mums to get involved as I can't imagine that I'm the only new mum who has been brought to tears by my failure to operate a simple gadget - and I'm not talking about the baby. 

For me the week that I met my daughter and learnt how to look after her from her foster mother was one of the most  challenging of  my life. At the end of the week there was to be a conference to decide if I was up to to the job of looking after her.  By day three I still hadn't managed to put her to sleep. This clearly didn't bode well for me. I was fluster fingered with the bottles of milk. I was addle- brained with the vitamin drops. I couldn't stop her crying when the foster mother left the room. I felt tearful myself.  But all these issues were nothing to the angst of being seen to fail so publically at basic things like strapping her in the car seat and the buggy.  Putting the buggy down was like fighting with a giant meccano animal - but not nearly as much fun as that sounds. I still wonder how a design as good as McClaren can be so tricky. Clicking the straps on the car seat was as complicated as doing a rubic cube without any colours. Getting her into the car seat to drive away with her will stick my mind forever. I finally had to stand back and allow the foster mother to click everything together  us both ( and maybe the baby too) wondering how I was ever going to master these most basic necessary things. 

My first solo trip taking her out in the buggy also sticks in my mind- me trying to force my way through some shop doors so hard they almost shattered and a mummy with a baby also about one looking at me in complete confusion and asking why on earth i wasn't doing it backwards. Doing it backwards? The idea had never occurred to me.  There I was out at large in the world with a third hand buggy and a second hand baby looking for all the world like a seasoned mummy when really I was a total mummy virgin who hadn't even done it straight on, let alone backwards. 

All these things are easy after a time- just like tying shoelaces and mastering buttons. But just think - you've had the baby, you're nunny is hurting like a demon from shitting a melon ball and not only have you got to walk to the car holding new baby with all the confidence needed to persuade new daddy that this is going to be the fun next adventure in your marriage, you've also got to perform advanced a 3D rubic cube test to get out of the car park.  Take it from me - forget learning to breath through the pain of contractions, advanced seat belt operations are much more important to the new mum.  And lets face it, even if the daddy has done the John Lewis course the chances are he'll have got carried away with the inbuilt buggy sat nav and won't have a clue how to do basic  the clunk click.  Forget Jim'll fix it. Forget Bob the builder will fix it. It's mummies that have to learn to shout: can we fix it? Yes we can!