Sunday, 23 January 2011

You have to be dinosaur friends to take children out together in London.

One of my bestest friends came to stay this weekend with two of her children. We used to work together as a creative team so we know each other really well. This helps when doing really, really challenging and demanding parenting things like a whole day out at a museum in London.

We went to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. There was a child meltdown on the tube on the way there, a child multi-wail in the picnic area about the horrific prospect of eating sandwiches, a child keening session about the fact we didn’t want to go upstairs, and a child group whimper at the fact my friend and I didn’t want to spend the entire time in the shop. Admittedly the shop boycott was a bit of a mummy double standard, given that my friend and I once spend several hundred dollars apiece in a single hours shop in Soho, NY.

In between these freak-outs my friend’s nine year old mercilessly interrogated a museum man about spiders in the precise and confident manner of Kirsty Wark doing a Newsnight piece on arachnids. I tried not to flinch as the husk of the hairy body of a massive spider was put in my hand and I learned the exact way that the living creature heaved it’s way out. I never knew that spiders (well, this one, anyway) breathed by holes in its skin. Apparently this is good as this is the reason that spiders cannot get as big as they could if they had lungs, but a few hundred years the atmosphere was richer in oxygen and the spiders were therefore much, much bigger. I decided that the digital world may possibly be a small price to pay for the lack of ginormous hairy spiders. It’s a close call…

Meanwhile the four year olds spent the afternoon rigorously investigating the grating on the floor and the museum lighting system.

“Well, at least they’re showing interest in their environment,” said my friend, as we dragged them away. But then she was the one that said that even said it was good when we were being made redundant so I never listen to her when she's being so glass totally ridiculously brimming over when it is clearly not even half full. Then we dragged them all off for a melt-down on the way home on the tube.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Pantone Colour of the Year 2011 is pink. Well, Pantone call it honeysuckle but that’s just being fancy, isn’t it. Apparently last year’s bright Turquoise (Pantone 15-5519) reflected the need to get away from the grey of global recession and this year’s Pink (Honeysuckle) reflects a community-style spirit of making the most of things, rolling up your sleeves and just getting on with it. Or so say the trend- setters. Though we all know what the cool-hunter, marketing- guru ,colour-designer at Pantone really did was go to work after dressing their three year old daughter and just couldn’t get the riot of Barbara Cartland shades out of their head when they started work on the grey ‘what colour can we dream up for this year?’ brief.

I’m done with being fed up with the marketing tyranny of pink everything for girls (both little and big), not to mention metrosexual and homosexual men. Which pretty much means everyone in the world who isn’t Jeremy Clarkson or the Olympic shot-putting team. Like Pantone, I’m embracing it. Pink, that is - not the Olympic shot-putting team.

Monday, 10 January 2011

This old litter attendant is ON STRIKE.

There’s nothing to make a person feel more Methuselah-like than a bad back. I’ve been walking around like an old hag, clutching my gnarled spine. The pain every time I bend has made me realise just how many bits of pink plastic I pick up every day. Things will have to change: by hook or by crooked walking stick, X will be trained to pick up her own pink dross.

I used to live in a fairly neat house. I remember when my social worker came to check out the house for suitability for me to be approved to adopt. “Not very child-friendly is it?’ she said disapprovingly, as she scanned my white-walled, newly-shelved, tenant-enticing styling. “There’d be something a bit weird about a spinster without even a boyfriend or state approval to have a child having a house all set up for a baby,’ I seethed – inwardly, of course; I never dared to disagree with the statuesque woman whom I sincerely hoped one day might morph a stork.

I should have seen the writing on the newly wallpapered walls the moment X crawled into the house. After I’d only had her for about a fortnight the architect-designer, who’d helped with my kitchen extension, came over to the house to take some snaps for his portfolio. ” Babies and minimalism don’t really go together, do they?’ he said mildly critical, as he surveyed the 3d version of his computer-aided design accessorised with baby bric -a –brac. I smiled my new smug-mummy smile. I totally knew he was totally wrong and that his boringly perfect design was totally improved by a few bright wooden toys. Just look at Elle Deco, there’s always some vintage wooden horse rocking on the real stone floor. Anyway, we didn’t litter, we artfully scattered. Totally different.

Now things aren’t scattered, artfully or otherwise; they’re definitely littered. Kiddie litter is everywhere. You know the way that little bits of white cat litter kicks into every nook and crevice? Kiddie litter is far worse because it’s not organic. The bits of pink plastic do not ever silt naturally into the floorboards. The older she gets the worse it gets. Baby toys come in manageable wooden lumps that encourage almost OCD neatness in children, rings that stack in size, shapes that post into boxes. Toys to spread the wings of the imagination also spread all over the house. Bubble-wrapped packages spill forth multiplicities of homeless design accessories: little gold phones, miniscule plastic Manolos, tiny hairbrushes. Even the accessories have accessories: the little pink doggie with it’s little pink basket and hairbrush. Where will it end?

Well, now I can’t pick it all up and shove it all into the pink dolls-house. I literally can’t get down to floor level without clutching onto chairs and doing heavyweight lifting manoeuvers just to hoist my heavyweight bottom up again. Finally X has been picking her own litter up and all I’ve been doing is heavyweight bellowing. She’s doing quite well, but I think it’s telling on her. She actually asked me how my back was this morning.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


She's so proud of being four and so angry when her friend teases her for only being three - especially now it isn't true.

Fancy being proud of getting older, yearning for it, glorifying in being a big girl. Why am I depressed to think about getting older? When did I stop being proud of another year? I remember not wanting to be nine and stopping eating because I didn't want to be a teenager. I was probably much younger than many others in that way. In Japan they revere the old, or is that just a myth? And does that stop the old being depressed about getting older?

Is innocence the lack of fear of death? When do children realise they will die one day? X knows the word 'kill' but I don't know if she really knows what it means. I'm pretty sure that she doesn't. No wonder getting older seems like getting better. It's only after a million skincare ads have told you how fabulous it is to wind back time that
you get the idea that backwards is better.

She went to see her half sister yesterday. She fell twice and hurt a different knee each time, racing to catch her up. Her older sister can read. Her older sister is taller and more confident and can climb higher. Her older sister does not spill her hot chocolate. Her older half sister is a whole year and a half older. Why wouldn't a little girl want to be a big girl and do big things?

Why shouldn't I still want to get a year older and do more things? There are surely plenty of people older than me doing great aspirational things, surely? Beyond Elton and David, that is....

It must be nature because it isn't nurture.

Silence for too long from the bathroom.
'What are you doing?"
"Cleaning the bath. It really needs it!"
There she was, in the bath, happily cleaning the tide mark with our facecloth.
I can't think where she learned that from - I don't think she's seen me do it that often and I don't even think that Joyce, our cleaning lady, does it that much either....
Maybe all little girl's just love to clean - when they are four.