Sunday, 31 July 2011


Once upon a time a little girl and a little dog set off on an adventure. The dog went one way, the girl went the other, the lead strained.

"Back!"shouted the little girl but was so surprised when the dog obeyed she fell right down on her behind.

Later that evening when she was having her bath the dog wandered in. Her Grandmother had told her that dogs were annoying when they watched one doing personal business. "Out!" the little girl roared. Surprisingly the little dog obeyed. The little girl was thrilled. She felt a very big girl indeed.

Friday, 29 July 2011


My daughter and I went to Sainsburys with my mother today and all three generations coped without tears or tantrums. This was a minor miracle.

My mother shops with the ruthless determination of a professional homemaker. She goes to the the same Sainsburys every week at the same time with a carefully made list, prods meat, circles the fruit stands until fresh goods are unpacked rather than buy a banana that isn't green. She weighs her fruit and veg, snaps the stems off the broccoli and forages right to the back for the best sell by dates. She knows the ladies on the tills by name and uses a system of plastic containers introduced by Sainsbury's some years ago that mean she never uses a single plastic bag. When she gets home she actually checks the things off against the things on the receipt which only varies within pence from week to week. She believes in Sainsbury's Basics with calvinistic zeal, for a carefully monitored list of products, but will only buy absolutely the best if she thinks it necessary, for instance, cocoa powder for her heavenly chocolate cake. If you want my mother to feel that you are a sensible person, tell her that you would never, ever consider buying pork on Sainsbury's online.

My daughter and I are the type of shoppers that drive my mother to distraction: no lists, no plan, meandering around the aisles aimlessly, leaving the trolley while we run to the toilets, loosing the trolley, finding stuff we fancy at random, daughter running off, me never even having a menu in mind. You would never think we are the ones that are both time and money poor. Unlike my professional shopper mother we shop as a leisure pursuit on a saturday and play games like:' find the jabba jockeys', (otherwise known as jammy dodgers) and fetch the first thing you see that begins with 'f' (or whichever letter needs a bit of practice).

Today's minor shopping miracle included my mother making a rare random purchase on a cardigan for her granddaughter. She even asked X to find the 'f' for Flash and only swapped it for the Sainsbury's Basics cleaning product after X had turned away. We drove home happy that the task had been so satisfactorily completed. X didn't rip open anything and eat it straight from the packet in the back of the car.

After we got home my mother came to me in distress. She'd been doing her normal inventory and the cardigan wasn't there. It took a little while and a call to Sainsburys (helped knowing the name of the lady at the checkout and the fact she always goes to the same island in Greece on her holidays) to establish that the cardigan had not been found at the checkout. And then I realised what had happened: when we got home I'd casually slung some stuff I'd bought in the back of my car. No checking off the things on my list, no careful unpacking, no checking anything against the receipt, no sorting by sell by date - everything just slung any- old-how in the boot of the car. The cardigan my mother had bought was also there.

We were so pleased to have found the cardi that we all has a kiss and child did a twirl. But later, when I managed to break a sherry glass, my mother tartly told me she couldn't believe she had brought up such a careless daughter. It's day six of our week's holiday with my parents and, though it has been a lovely break, maybe it is nearly time we took our slovenly selves home again.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


But packed breakfasts when you are only four doesn't seem right.
Mummy, why can't we have a baby?

Um...quick decision: no, this is not a birds and bees conversation. This is hungry mouths one.
"Well, mummy works hard to give us a nice life and so I can't look after a baby."
X clearly think I am being a total wimp about this:"but I'll look after the baby and you can look after me."

'Mmmm, but a baby isn't quite the same as a doll, is it?"
She looks unconvinced. I remember my mother fostering several children all at once and me having a real life baby in my dolls pram so I totally can see where she is coming from.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A big night out.

I have now been a mother for over three and a half years. My daughter is now four and a half. Tonight was the first night since she came to live with me that I went out in the evening and left her. This was a big night for us.

It had to be a pretty special thing to get me out. My friend has been employing me in freelance role at her company. I have not been in such a creative hot house since I was in my first ad agency ever. It is the same vibe - work thrown from all directions but unjudgmental creativity given from bright people at all directions. So, when her creative director was having his ten year party, I just had to go, if nothing else to say thank you for having me for a few weeks, but also because my dear friend, knowing my situation, had insisted that it was a networking opportunity I should not pass up.

Daughter had been primed, babysitter had done due diligence the weekend before, our rituals had been walked through and discussed in embarrassing detail: 'yes, she sleeps and bathes with me; yes, I let her have custard after her bath; yes, she is allowed to watch grown up tv...." It probably isn't normal for the baby sitter to be shocked at the evening ritual, is it?

It all made me nervous, but tonight X seemed totally up for it. As usual on the way home she told me she had been on the Gold Tree at school- the place where only saints belong. Then she caused so much trouble running away from me and nearly getting run over that I actually screamed at her that I would pull her knickers down and smack her if she did it again. In mitigation: she nearly killed herself. I was upset.

All in all, however, by the time our lovely babysitter arrived I was a bag of nerves. Enter Holly. Holly does not like to be called Holly, this is her family name. I taught Holly when I was an impoverished private tutor and she was a clever little 10 year old girl. Her reference, together with the rest of her family, helped my local council agree I could be a mummy. She was the only person I could trust to do this job. She is now in her 20's.

She arrived, so multitask cool from her freelance PR role. I was out of the house before I had time to draw breath and say," don't forget to brush your teeth. "

The drive there was the best bit of the evening. It was so strange and scary to be out after seven, driving into the setting sun with my sunglasses on. I honestly suddenly realised that the rest of the world does not got to bed and work every night, they go out and have fun. I drove into the setting sun playing X's Adele song as loud as I could but I was scared of myself. Maybe I would just forget about everything and walk home across the city at dawn. Been there , done that - do it again? There was a diversion on the road of the party. So I had to drive miles to get at the street another way. After all my planning, I was late. I was tempted to go home before I got out of the car.

The night was actually every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be. Half way though I ran to the loo to scrabble in bag as I realised my phone was right at the bottom and had there been an emergency I would have missed the whole thing. I sipped my coke and made polite talk but no one was in the least bit interested in me and why should they have been? I talked to lots of under twenty fives who all work till eight then have a massive list of creative activities - making films, designing clothes, writing blogs that I was thrilled and exhausted in equal measure. I tried to keep my mouth shut about my daughter but on hearing from my friend that it was my first night out I had several comments from young women telling me that they would adopt at a moments notice and it was no different from having your own and they were going to do it very , very soon themselves ,even if they never had their own. The best conversation I had was from a cool German lady who work s at the company but is also a mother who says she swaps pebbles for babysitting hours with friends.

My friend at the company, trying to really help, tried hard to introduce me to people who were not interested in me- why should they have been?I was only there to try and get a job. But it was so nice of my friend to try and the people she was trying to introduce me to were also so nice that none of us could be rude enough to give up on the conversations. It was hard for everyone.

I am just not much good at networking with strangers when the music means you can't hear even when you shout and anyway you are twice as old as everyone else. I had a good moment with my friend outside when i discovered everyone was actually upstairs on the pavement outside, smoking. But this was a problem too, as I was parked nearby. It would have been too obvious - or so my self obsession dictated - to just get in the car with everyone watching and go.

Finally I went. On the way home I saw a bicycle under the wheels of a car with a policeman taking shots with a big ,black, heavy camera. I think the person must have died, I can't imagine anyone on that bicycle surviving.

I got home and my darling little girl was curled up next to Holly, in bed. She had said she couldn't sleep without my hair, but she did. It was a big night for us. I was so thankful for Holly, the little girl I taught and now I was leaning on the give me the courage to leave my little girl.
i went to bed thanking my lucky stars for all kinds of things.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


On the way back from church of a sunday morning
Errol, the flower seller, often gives X a flower.