Sunday, 20 February 2011

Can a Robber Change his Stripes?

There's a masked man who stands fearsomely in the window of the local locksmith, a stripey-sweater-clad reminder of the wisdom of fitting proper locks. We love him; he features in many of our bedtime stories, always trying to make his way in to steal the Christmas presents/ the 'pooter/ mummy's high heels/ sweeties from the treat box, and is always outsmarted by The Toys.

Lion, The Princess's special toy, her comforter, the one she used to take everywhere until my fear of her losing it forced me to relegate it to the status of Bedtime Toy, is usually the star of the rescue, being, as he is, not only the oldest toy but also the one with the loudest roar. He's led that robber a merry dance, and the poor old robber has not so much as one illicit chocolate button to show for it.

And then came the day, shortly after The Princess's 4th birthday, that Lion Went Missing. Not just missing as in, stuffed into the washing machine and forgotten, or 'What's Lion doing in the dressing up box?'. Proper weeks-on-end missing. The Princess was distraught, hysterical at times. I'd find her gazing mournfully at photos of herself with Lion, tears filling her beautiful big eyes. She'd see other children with their special toys and turn to me, lip trembling, to ask, 'will I ever see my Lally again?' For my part, I felt almost as bereft as if I'd lost one of the family myself.

'It's good for her to learn about loss,' said The Bearded One, irritatingly pragmatic as ever, as I turned the house upside down and uttered darkly suspicious comments about the possible perpetrator, accidental or not, of this heinous crime. Good for her? She's 4 years old! Bollocks, thought I, to that.

A bit of googling quickly bore fruit: no longer available in the UK, the lion could be ordered from France. It arrived, and I began to set the stage for Lally's glorious return. By day, I wondered aloud whether The Robber might have sought his revenge on the wily Lion by taking him away. We shook our fists at him in passing and shouted 'give our Lally back, you bad robber!'. By night, I put New Lion through every washing cycle. I singed the back of his mane to replicate a scorch mark from a caravan heater. I scratched at his eyes with scourers. I picked at his stitching, matted his mane with soap and soaked him in saucepans of tea and coffee, to realistically emulate the discolouration of years of love. He looked pretty good. After all, I had enough photos to work from.

About 6 weeks passed before I deemed him ready. With The Princess and Master C at nursery for the morning, I marched into the locksmiths with The Bub and smiled winningly, if somewhat maniacally.

'In about an hour, I am going to be walking past with my other 2 children,' I say. 'This lion (at which point I brandish it threateningly) is going to have his head poking out of your robber's sack. We are going to come in and take the lion. Is that okay?'

The store is full of tradesman with valid lock fitting queries. They're looking at me as though I'm a middle class woman with far too much time on my hands. In my mind's eye, I see the Bearded One shaking his head. I raise one eyebrow at the locksmith, who merely shrugs and nods.

On the way back from nursery, we stop at the bakery, and I park so that a stroll past the robber is necessitated. As usual, we stop to jeer and shake our fists. And then The Princess stops. Her eyes goggle, she squeaks, she hops, finally shouting, words tumbling uselessly over each other: "My!! Mummy!! Lally!! Mummy! It's it's it's mummy LALLY!!!!!

She runs into the store and we follow; I look sternly at the locksmith. "Excuse me, but I'd like to have a word with that robber." Master C is already enthusiastically bashing him on the bum, shouting 'You bad robber!! You bad naughty robber!' The Princess is shining brighter than a star, Lally clutched adoringly in her arms. That night, as I check on her before going to bed, my own lip suffers a momentary wobble, to see them curled up together, her face in repose so beautiful and peaceful that I almost want to wake her up with hugs.

A few weeks later, on my birthday, we go to Somerset House, where we watch the ice skating and drink hot chocolate. Dressed in burglar stripes of my own - Phase 8's Janice, the poor man's Anglomania and cult wardrobe item in certain maternal circles (it comes in navy too; I have both) I've left a note for the cleaner to please clean/ dust/ generally sort out the top of the children's closet, one of those jobs that I Just Can't Face. We come home to cake (Harry Eastwood's Light chocolate, natch, made by me, double natch, decorated by The Bearded One and the children .. now that's nice) We also come home to a rumpled shape on the dining room table, with a note saying "Wardrobe done! Found this little fella up there. Here's a list of everything else. See you Monday!"

'What a nice robber', says The Princess, when the excitement has abated. 'He knew I was missing my Lally so he brought me Lally's cousin!!'

I stuff more cake in my mouth and avoid The Bearded One's withering look.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Hopping Mad

"You're not going to bloody blog about this, are you?" asks my friend The Milliner, as she orders a serving of chips. She puts on a bitchy falsetto "Ooh, my evening got a whole lot better as I watched her devour a double portion of chips with mayonnaise..."

I smirk, sip Prosecco and adopt an inscrutable expression. It's already been a good night, albeit one that nearly didn't happen (the usual malarkey, for both me and The Editor, of settling children, late-home husbands with switched-off phones and, in her case, a broken boiler) Earlier in the day we'd been at the nursery Christmas party, complete with a visit from the moodiest, least jolly Santa you could ever hope to encounter. The kids have had a ball and now, at the end of a long and, for various reasons, stressful week, it really feels like it's our turn. I've had to drive, so getting hammered is not an option, but I've consoled myself by dressing in a Chloe LBD over Black Rats and suede Sam Edelman shoeboots. It's not freezing like it was a week or so ago, but certainly chilly enough to warrant a coat, and I've opted for my rabbit skin. I bought it 2nd hand for about £30, back in the days when I ate red meat and when my attitude to fur and skin was, "If I'll eat it, I'll wear it." I used to love rabbit. Now that I no longer eat it, I still love the coat.

Almost time to go, and I grab it from the back of my chair. "I bloody love that. Can I try it on?" asks The Milliner. She slides into it, thrusts one shoulder forward and then the other, strokes the fur. "God, that's lovely," she sighs. "Can you find me one?"

Her - friend? acquaintance? I'm not sure - reaches out and touches it. Recoils. "That's real, isn't it?" she askes with a face that is less disapproving, more repulsed. Should I deny? Sod it.

OMFG. The floodgates that open are terrifyingly vitriolic. I find myself adopting my "uh huh, uh huh" face, head on one side, nodding, smiling encouragingly. I find myself saying "I really appreciate what you're saying." I find myself thinking "You nutter!! bring it on!!"

I admire passion and commitment in others. I have similar qualities, although not about animal welfare, particularly. But she is all over the shop. Nearly in tears, so impassioned is she - yet she tells us she eats meat. "Meat that is bred for survival is different from meat that is bred for your vanity," she shouts. She finds it extraordinary that I am a vegetarian. I consider telling her that this is also for reasons of vanity (ditching whole food groups is the lazy dieter's key to weight control) but think better of it. Even so, I'm intrigued by her definition of survival. What kind of survival is it that requires you to eat red meat? She's wearing leather boots. Rabbits are not an endangered species. I'm interested in what she has to say, still more so in how agitated she is getting, but I'm not convinced. Not enough to ditch the jacket, anyway.

I don't feel like I'm being attacked, particularly, but I do bridle somewhat when she says that she finds it hard to believe that I'm a mother. "How can you collude in the torture of animals when you have children of your own?? How would you like it if they were tortured for their skin or hair?" Whoa whoa whoa, stop right there lady - I may respect your opinions, but don't bring my devotion to my children into this. Besides which, I am not one of those people who places animals on the same level as children. Especially not my children. I'm just not. Sorry.

It really is time to go and The Editor and I make noises about it having been nice to meet you, see you again etc etc. She stands to go the loo and says, with reasonable vehemence, "Just remember, you are what you eat and you are what you wear." For the first time that night, I get a look at her size and outfit. Oh my. She speaks the truth.

It's not nice of us, but the Editor and I cackle gleefully nearly all the way home.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

False Economy

Being of the hirsute persuasion means that decent hair removal is vital. Being a disorganised type, however, means that, more often than not, I am sporting something akin to two caterpillars above my eyes. Fringes are the poor man's botox, yes, but they also hide a multitude of hair-removal sins.

Anyway, given half a chance, I'd do a Sunday morning sprint to Clapham to visit the Glow beauty bar in Debenhams. £14 and it's like you've had a facelift. But then an Asian friend - let's call her Miss Z-to-3 - expressed her horror at such prices.

"No more than £3" was her stern instruction. £3?? I live in London, doncha know. Still, allowing for a bit of Southern inflation, I kept my eyes peeled for less expensive options - not an easy task with my fringe hanging halfway down my face and stray caterpillar tendrils getting caught up in my eyelashes.

So, £5. £5 is good, right?

It is. If you're going for the straight in, straight out, take no prisoners approach, then £5 is great. If, on the other hand, you're travelling with Baby L and desirous of him falling asleep before you subject yourself to the not-so-soothing ministrations of a cotton-wielding threader , you may encounter some problems. If Baby L decides that observing the, ahem, rather colourful half-term shopping crowds (pink glittery slogan outfit for your daughter's Pixie Photo portrait anyone??) is more his scene than sleeping, well, then, you may very well be screwed.

I put money into the Iggle Piggle Ride. The Batman ride. The Iggle Piggle Ride again. I bought him a muffin. It was gluten free and delicious, so I ate most of it myself and bought him another one (not GF this time, lest I be tempted to scoff that one too). I bought him a babycino, and myself a flat white. I walked him up and down, up and down. And still his eyes did not glaze over. And nor, for that matter, did mine. They honed straight in on TKMaxx, and I was in like a shot.

I've been slightly obsessed with the idea of fine chain detailing ever since trying on this Chloe dress in Selfridges a few weeks ago - so much so that I even took a photo of myself on my iPhone in the dressing room mirror. Yes, apparently I am one of those people.

So how could I resist when I spotted a sweater with chain-embellished shoulders? Navy, tick, bit of sparkle, tick, slight military feel, button-up back, tick. I love it. And Baby L is still not asleep. No, he saves that party trick for just a few moments after I pay for the sweater, a pair of Anne Klein lace tights, a Calvin Klein dress and a Becksondergaard plaited belt, plus a knit for my mum and some Halloween tat for The Princess and Master C. Right now, £14 for hair removal is looking pretty good.

Anyway, he's asleep, and it's still "Attack of the Killer 'Pillars" under my fringe. I hoon it down to the other end of the centre and am nearly stopped in my tracks by the wailing and caterwauling that assaults my ears. What in the Sam Hill is that?? Oh, of course. A talent contest. And I though the Pixie Photo stand was bad.

So I'm subjected to the torture of simultaneous threading and cat-on-acid-being-violently-ill singing. Just to add to my joy, they're singing songs from Annie.

"The sun'll come out ... toooomoooorrrrow... bet your bottom dollllllaaaaaaaaaah..." Ha! I've pretty much spent my bottom dollar on waiting for my tinker of a baby to go to sleep! I wince, and am swiftly instructed by the stern Bengali lady to stretch my skin tighter. "And you have too much hair," she scolds, not referring to my fringe. "Too much!! When you last come?!! You need come every 3 weeks, so."

"Yes, if we remortgage the house and I get some earplugs," I mutter.

And from the stage - "You're ooooonly... a daaaaay ... aaaaaaaa... WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY."

Baby L starts, shudders and is awake. He is confronted by the sight of a lady bending menacingly over me, and wails. It is indicative of what's going on over on the stage that his cry sounds very small. Trust me, that boy has lungs.

Eventually, we're out of there, a few hundred quid down (I may have gone into the M&S foodhall to soothe my nerves after the threading incident... ) and suffering mild sensory overload. But the caterpillars have been squashed underfoot, and I totally love my new clothes. And really, in the scheme of things, £50 for a CK dress (and it's a classic number, honest - very Aniston, black, chic, quite timeless) is as bargainous as, well, £5 threading isn't it?

Maybe next time I'll just skip the muffin.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Côte d'Brrrrrrrrrrr

Every so often, I put my yearnings for Sydney aside for a few minutes and get kind of psyched about everything that London has to offer. What this generally means is that The Bearded One, desperate to relax on his own sofa after a week or two on the road, gets dragged out of bed early on a Saturday morning so that I can indulge my need to escape the confines of South East London and travel further afield with the children than I would feel comfortable doing solo.

Weirdly, when a visit to the in-laws on the outskirts of London is suggested, I am, like, in love with South East London. Seriously, why would you want to be anywhere else on a weekend?

So anyway, way back at the beginning of the year, I joined the Barbican Family Film Club and we duly set off to see The Wind in The Willows. Given that Master C had just upgraded to Big Boy Pants from a pull-up 3 days previously, my timing was, not for the first time, a bit off. It meant that The Bearded One had to keep harassing him about whether or not he needed a wee, and taking him out of the cinema to 'try'. It meant that when Master C decided to sit on The Bearded One's lap during a scary bit, he weed on him. Fine for Master C, who had a change of clothes. Not so good for the Bearded One, who didn't.

Anyway, for one reason or another, we've not been back since May and now all of a sudden it's coat weather. This is when my longing for Sydney becomes harder to ignore. I hate the cold, hate all the stuff you have to wear, hate it even more now that I have three little people to dress. I resent having to buy a coat, because to do so is an admission of the fact of that any semblance of warm weather is over for a good few months. For years, I shivered through the grey dismalness of October and November, as if my refusal to acknowledge the cold could somehow will it out of existence, as if retail abstinence could effect some form of climate control. Finally, I crack under the unrelenting pressure of frostbite in December, buying a coat in the sales that is just alright, saying that I don't need anything special because it's going to be warm again in a few weeks, isn't it?

With similarly perverse tendencies, the children only sat through half an hour or so of Cars on Saturday, preferring to hang out in the foyer and raid the art trolley for the materials with which to make their very own Lightning McQueen. When we get home, after lunch and much pigeon-chasing, I take out the felt tips and colouring books, and they clamour for a DVD. The Bearded One is already ensconced on the sofa having 'quality time' (read - sleeping) with The Bub. I take off my coat and hang it beside the three others I've acquired so far this season. When I catch on, I really catch on. And being cold sucks almost as much as having to do something on a weekend that you really, really don't want to do.

Wearing: Jaeger red wool & cashmere coat, Gap merino sweater dress in charcoal, Falke tights, Primark scarf and Belstaff boots.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Who gives a Falke?

Well, I do actually (although not so much about the state of my house, as you can probably tell). At £22 a pop, Falkes are more expensive than the sum total of either of the outfits (if such raggle-taggle assortments of clothes can be called such) shown here, but oh my, so soft and warm!! And really, when you spend half the day on all fours impersonating lions and brrrrrrrrrmmming toy cars across the floor, a bit of toasty texture on the knees is no bad thing.

On a slightly less appealing note, there's also the fact that having children, combined with my generally crap approach to time management, means that my legs err on the side of Neanderthalism more often than not. What better than a pair of thick, luscious tights to keep follicular activity hidden from public view? If only my Falkes could work such magic elsewhere, too, deflecting attention from the appallingly badly groomed state of my face and hair - seriously, at the age of 37 (okay, nearly 38), it's about time I started actually doing something about wearing makeup and at least brushing my hair, if not having regular cuts, colours and treatments. That dewy, unkempt, been-partying-all-night-but -still-pass-muster look that worked so well for me in my 20s is no longer relevant, really. And I'm doing that classic couple-y thing of growing more similar in appearance to The Bearded One as time goes on. I mean, I don't have a beard yet. (Yet). And the Bearded One is a handsome devil. But personal grooming? Ha!! Now there's someone who really doesn't give a flying Falke.

wearing Mango tweed shorts (charity shop), Zara sweater (charity shop) and Atmsophere biker boots (Primark) in first picture, same Zara sweater and Atmosphere boots but with Diesel denim mini (eBay) in second. Falke tights from

Friday, 22 October 2010

Matchy Matchy

So I'm totally down with the fact that matching your shoes to your bag is a big sartorial no-no. Big. Huge!! And it's fine by me, since I favour a slightly haphazard approach to dressing anyway. Some would jokily refer to it as ''getting dressed in the dark." I say, where's the joke? Fact of the matter is, I do get dressed in the dark. I set my alarm so as to have 20 minutes of shower, coffee and dressing before the children wake up - I mean, whatever people may say about the perils of co-sleeping, the fact that it hinders your ability to read in bed at night or survey the contents of your wardrobe in the morning is like, hardly ever mentioned.

Anyway. Shoes, bag, no match, natch.

But what about matching your daughter's new winter boots to your favourite bag? Is that ever okay?

I didn't mean to do it, honest. In fact, I didn't even have my pink Marc by Marc Jacobs bag with me on the day we bought The Princess's new boots. But Mini-Me matchiness aside, aren't they lovely? Just pink enough, just embellished enough to be fab and girly, not so pink or sparkly that they reduce me to the sort of trembling rage that bloody Snow White and Disney Princesses of her insipid ilk inspire in me.

A trembling lip though - that's another matter altogether. Suddenly realising that the new boots were, if I remembered correctly, very similar in colour to The Princess's first shoes, I dug them out of the cupboard and peeled back the tissue paper in which they've been wrapped for the last 3 and half or so years.

Look, just look - so diddy!!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Toodle-Loo, Choos

When it comes to kids, some things change quite slowly: conventional wisdom about toilet-training, or attitudes to punishment/ reward, for example. Other things change more or less overnight, so that for me, who had my three in the space of three years (three years and eight weeks, to be precise) it was something of a shock to find that being pregnant with The Bub was going to entitle me to a £190 grant from the government aimed at being healthier in pregnancy.

"It's so you can buy more fruit and veg," explained my midwife, with a roll of the eye that more than ably conveyed exactly what she, for one, thought of such initiatives.

More fruit and veg?? All I bloody eat is fruit and veg. What isn't off limits, in my wheat-free, meat-free and, until I got pregnant again, dairy-free world apart from fruit and veg?

In my wisdom, I decree that The Bub and I are about as healthy as we can possibly be and have no need of the Health in Pregnancy grant.

No, Health in Pregnancy is not my issue. Mental Health in Pregnancy, on the other hand- yes please, can we sort out some kind of government initiative or grant for that? That, I could use.

Happy Mum, Happy Baby, I decide - and gaily, without so much as a glance at the Riverford website or the 2 for 1 asparagus deals in Sainsbury's, use my HiP grant to buy Jimmy Choo's utterly fabulous and totally impractical China Strappy sandals.

Actually, if I'm honest, I use the grant to buy a little less than one of them. The price for the pair? £435.

"Step into these Jimmy Choo sandals for a touch of Studio 54 drama," entices netaporter. "Partner them with matching accessories and your party LBD for disco diva decadence. Heel measures approximately 120mm / 4.5 inches with a 20mm / 1 inch platform."

Yes, because , as a woman who has 2 children under the age of 3 and is pregnant with the 3rd, my life just is full of Studio 54-style drama, isn't it? 'Can't Get a Mum and Baby Parking Space at the Supermarket' drama, yes. 'Really Want Some Raspberries with Greek Yoghurt and Honey Right Now' drama, yes. 'Can't Get Out of the Bath Without Assistance' drama, yes.

Studio 54 drama?? And as for the party LBD and disco diva decadence - my waters might break, I'm laughing so hard.

The shoes arrive, all mirrored loveliness. I try them on for all of 3 minutes, my pregnancy feet making even the 42s a squeeze, my shifting center of gravity making the 4.5 inch heel a terrifying proposition, even standing still.

Still! I won't be pregnant forever! The Bub is due in September; by my birthday in December, I decide, I will be svelte and gorgeous, and celebrating in suitably dramatic Studio 54 style.

My birthday was a lovely, lovely day, make no mistake. I weighed about 16lb more than the maximum that I consider acceptable and breastfed almost constantly. It was freezing, and I wore a purple Princesse Tam Tam dress with a deep button-front for easy boob access, tights and boots. We went for lunch at Jamie's Italian and had friends over in the evening for cake and champagne. It was great. But a Choo-appropriate occasion? Nah.

The Bub turned one 2 weeks ago and the shoes still languished, unworn, tags on, in the box. And, truth be told, I still teetered in them, despite being back down to a normal weight, and they still hurt my gargantuan feet, without the excuse of fluid retention to fall (literally) back on. As the list of things I have bought and am no doubt yet to buy for AW10 expands, the Choos are burning a £435 hole in my wardrobe. At night, they stand over my bed, glinting and winking metallically, maniacally, mocking my aspirational glamour, while my Ash high tops weep muddily in a corner of the porch, sighing that they have served me well; why do I treat them thus?

Enough's enough. I listed them on eBay and, sure enough, they sold. I actually didn't lose that much money on them. And I've gained some valuable closet space.

Now, what to fill it with?