28 December 2006
21 December 2006
Sadly, so many of them look like they've been thrown together at the last minute, with text that seems to have been typed by a dog in a small back room somewhere near Grimsby, and computerised illustrations that someone did with Paint after several bottles of wine. I guess it's one of those things that anyone thinks they can do - ooh, yes, let's write a book for a baby. What a doddle. Write a couple of words, put in a couple of sickly pastel pictures and away you go. Oh, and why not add a musical doo-dah while we're at it, to really annoy the parents.
In reality, because you're working with a more limited vocabulary (although Slinky Malinki manages to include the glorious phrase "rapscallion cat") you really have to make the language work twice as hard. The ones that do it best (and also seem to get the best reaction from my consumer sample of one small child) are those that string together rhymes and silly words, and match them to carefully drawn pictures. Oh, and anything with a cat in it is a winner in our house.
Here's my list of "books suitable for 15-month-olds that I enjoy reading too" (although after the tenth rendition in a row my enthusiasm might take a slight downturn).
Pants (anything that begins "small pants, big pants, giant frilly pig pants" has to be good)
Room on the Broom
Barnyard Dance and Hippos Go Berserk
Miffy at the Gallery
The Baby's Catalogue (reminds me of my 1970s childhood)
M seems to like all these too, judging by the number of times a day I am brought them from the book basket.
19 December 2006
At the moment there's a fantastic exhibition about Robert Westall (of Machine Gunners fame) which M loved because there was a projection of WWII aeroplane flying around the room, and which I loved because it was talking about his links with Tynemouth and Northumberland (and the plane was pretty cool too). We both liked the Blitzcat illustrations (cue much miaowing from M). And we also popped in on story time, listened (ish) to a story about a blue kangaroo, and made a christmas tree decoration. Definitely beats sitting at work staring at a computer screen...
18 December 2006
17 December 2006
Actually, it was quite fun to watch - in a 'oh my god it's so terrible it's really good' kind of way. Top tips include:
- outstanding Telegraph product placement
- the snowy lands of Surrey, where snow appears and disappears from shot to shot
- Cameron Diaz running for a mile along a 'snowy' lane in stiletto heels without pausing for thought
- Jude Law smirking in every scene
- the old bloke who can't walk miraculously discovering that he can run up stairs
13 December 2006
So I've had it with tv cookery for the moment. What I really need is a bit of Julia Child.
12 December 2006
11 December 2006
So I'm proposing a whole new schedule for Christmas 2007, in a bid to avoid all last-minute card-writing, present-buying and mince-pie-making.
January: buy Christmas cards/presents in sales
February-July: write 10 Christmas cards per month, gazing into crystal ball to predict (a) degree of pennilessness (b) progress of diy (c) behaviour of offspring/cat/husband
August: wrap presents
September: make mincemeat/mince pies
October: eat mince pies
November: eat mince pies
December: eat mince pies
By my reckoning that gives at least three months of pastry ingestion, which can't be bad at all.
06 December 2006
I realise that my baking exploits probably aren't wildly exciting, but there's a limit to how much excitement you can squeeze out of suburban life. I keep trying to kid myself that we're still living in the city, but once the Avon lady and the Betterware catalogue man have been round I know there's no hope.
04 December 2006
Not content with attempting to do the domestic goddess-thingy food-wise, I've taken it upon myself to make some Christmas cards. It's December 4, and I've just begun. No pressure, then.
Above, you'll see a sneak preview of this year's card. As the design afficionados among you will obviously guess, it's a Scandinavian theme (which may have something to do with the fact that the wrapping paper I'm using came from IKEA last year) using the traditional four-year-old's drawing of a Christmas tree that seems to be my default setting. I expect the orders to come rolling in at any moment...
Actually, it's rather satisfying cutting and sticking, and takes me back to being about six and making scrapbooks on that weird coloured paper. Did anyone else save sweet wrappers and cut pictures out of the Mothercare catalogue, or was that just me?
30 November 2006
29 November 2006
So here goes.
Item number one: The Tempest. Shortly to be appearing in London, but last week brought to the provincials in Newcastle courtesy of the RSC.
It should have been fantastic - it starred the thinking woman's favourite Star Trek Captain, Patrick Stewart, for a start. I have to say I was distinctly underwhelmed though. It had the usual RSC groovy-yet-ingenious-scenery and staging, some pretty weird music and some really good actors, but to be honest I fell asleep in a couple of places, and Mr Stewart wasn't anything to write home about. I was expecting someone with real stage presence - I've seen a couple of people (Kenneth Branagh and a very young Toby Stephens spring to mind) who were so mesmerising that you simply had to watch what they were doing no matter where they were on stage, but I just didn't get that with him. And he was a bit fond in places of the shouty hammy thing that actors do when they are attempting to get all emotional, so you can't tell what the hell they're on about. Speak the lines dear boy. Us punters in the gallery who can't necessarily see all the facial expressions and movements need to know what's happening. Or we fall asleep cos it's dark, warm and we were up at 5.30am with a teething toddler. You have to allow for these things.
Thinking of Toby Stephens reminds me of item number two: Random Quest on BBC Four. Which didn't contain Mr Stephens at all, but the lovely Samuel West instead. I know it's not much of a segueway, but I'm trying, I really am. Anyway, I saw it completely by accident - you know how it is, you end up eating your tea in front of the telly watching some mindless rubbish, stay tuned, and actually end up with something really really good. Plot wasn't amazing (it was an adaptation of a John Wyndham short story, and lacked a ballsy ending), but the whole look and feel of the piece was gorgeous - the alternative reality segments looked to have been shot in a house that could have been straight out of Wallpaper. Me wantee. Anyway, nice restrained music, great acting...it was one of those dramas that don't leave your head for a while afterwards. And it was sci-fi. Now that doesn't happen often.
Arty-farty stuff over. Toodle pip.
24 November 2006
- Get woken up at 6.30am by overenthusiastic toddler.
- Make exciting breakfast of Shreddies and milk.
- Take a walk to the park, to feed the ducks. Get menaced by starving swans, who turn out to be about 5ft 4in when stood up waving their necks about.
- Eat lunch, while attempting to avoid being smeared with Marmite and toast.
- Go to Sainsburys. Allow toddler to stand in trolley, in direct contravention of about 540 byelaws in order to go round store in less than 5 hours.
- Make tea. Sort out washing.
- Collapse on sofa in front of Home and Away.
I have to say that throwing bread at the assorted swans/ducks/geese was pretty good fun (although a bit scary due to the sheer numbers of huge birds with very pointy beaks who demanded dough with menaces). I quite liked annoying the staff in Sainsburys. And I especially enjoyed the Marmitey kiss.
And I did get to go out to a very fancy restaurant in the evening (Secco, on Pilgrim Street) where I ate my way through the Menu Gastronomico (orichette with squid! tiger prawns baked in sea salt! fig and walnut torte! prosecco!) before collapsing in a rotund heap.
Best birthday for ages, I reckon.
19 November 2006
17 November 2006
In other news, I'm currently watching the back-slapping celeb-fest that is Children in Need. Much as the cause is worthy, it makes for some really terrible tv. Lots of miming bands, awful local tv segments (sorry Wendy Gibson) and Peter and Jordan. I think I need to go and lie down. Or at least top up the glass of red wine that is conveniently sat right next to the laptop.
16 November 2006
Actually, it's been a day of religion, in one form or another. Took M to Durham, to see the cathedral, which is probably one of my favourite buildings in the world. I just love the ridiculously fat pillars, the sense of height and space, and the fact that it's warm in there when it's hurling down outside and the trees on Palace Green are horizontal. I also have rather a sentimental attachment to it, having taken David Rollason's Northumbria course in my third year at Durham and spent several happy hours pottering about looking at cathedral architecture.
No indication of the cathedral's opinions on Satan, though, which was a bit of a disappointment. Where's the fire and brimstone when you need it?
14 November 2006
Anyway, all that is a long way round of saying that I've bought a new t-shirt and long jumper (grey, no less). I'm in touch with fashion, me. But not as in touch as the sales assistant I saw in H&M, who could have have been in Grange Hill, circa 1982. She had Trisha's flicked long hair, a grey and red stripy long-sleeved top, stripy tights, and some killer dungaree shorts. Made me feel very old...
09 November 2006
UPDATE: Oh, come on boys, you're not trying. Where's the dance routine? Or at the very least a few outstretched hands? And shouldn't you be in implausibly white suits that remain spotless despite being in the most windswept and rugged location?
I will say this for them, though, they've definitely worked hard on the pouting over the last 10 years. And top marks for the artfully dishevelled hair. It must have taken days to courier over enough hair mousse for the shoot.
UPDATE II: And of course you can't beat the lovely JRT's take on Back for Good... Go JRT!
UPDATE III: I think I may have spent too much time looking at You Tube.
06 November 2006
03 November 2006
Sadly, you'll be deprived of the literary genius that was my work as I've completely forgotten what it was that I was wittering on about. I could baldly state that Calexico were very good, but it won't inspire you to go and see them as much as my late-lamented post would have done.
27 October 2006
26 October 2006
24 October 2006
Although if you want 21st century disruption in the space-time continuum (aka acres of glass/stainless steel etc) he says he'll climb the Sage as well.
18 October 2006
In fact, France was pretty good. It was sunny, there were opportunities for small people to play in the paddling pool and sandpit with no clothes on (oh, yes, embarrassing photos a go-go), there were lots of interesting places to wander round and new food to try, and there were grandparents to enchant. It was all rather good. Apart from the seven-hour delay at Bergerac airport on the way home. If you've ever been there, you'll know it's just an arrivals shed and a departures shed with a bar in between. Tricky place to amuse a one-year-old for seven hours...
Anyway, now for something completely different. I was going to segueway neatly into a new topic, but it's late, and much as I love writing all this stuff, quite frankly I'm looking forward to getting into a freshly laundered bed. I could go on about the niceness of new sheets, but instead I'll shout "baking", point you at this link to the Guardian (which incidently has a fabulous headline) and then run quickly in the opposite direction. Don't get me started on baking. I've got a banana and hazelnut loaf rapidly diminishing in size on the kitchen worktop, and I'm planning an apple and rye cake at the weekend. I will shortly be the size of a large French cheese. Maybe a camembert, maybe a Roquefort. I haven't decided yet.
04 October 2006
Most amusing was the fact that amidst 80-odd drunk folk standing and swaying along to the music with their beer steins held high, M had a whale of a time. There was much clapping, swaying and stomping about, punctuated only by breaks to climb up and down steps (although the obsession with gravel and twigs continues, stairs have made a comeback). I think gig number two was a success. Although at this rate she's going to have something of an obsession with brass bands, given that gig number one was a combination of New Orleans brass and rap. It's an eclectic mix..
28 September 2006
Actually, Chopwell Woods were rather fine. Lots of huge pine trees, many badly signposted paths and trails, the odd grey squirrel or two (boo hiss) and ridiculous numbers of mushrooms and toadstools. We racketed along with the pushchair, had a picnic and plodged about in the grass looking at bark, dandelions and gravel (an essential thing for any of M's outings - she's now well into the gravel and twig phase). Bring on the leaf prints and collecting pine cones. I'm ready.
24 September 2006
21 September 2006
Dance City didn't smell. And the floor didn't move about at all. The words were no less exotic, but I discovered I am nowhere near as flexible as I was age eight (even if I'm a lot less rotund now).
17 September 2006
Yes, I've been suckered into reading Grazia again. It's one of my guilty pleasures - a good cappuccino and a trashy mag. But if I have to read about "fashionistas" one more time I'll scream. I can put up with the fact that the clothes are never ever going to be in my affordable bracket (until they start featuring the St Oswald's Hospice Shop and Tesco), but the language stinks.
14 September 2006
Returning to real life today involved a singing session in leafy Jesmond, full of proper YMs who arrived in their 4x4s with children named Sonny and Felix, and then proceeded to talk all the way through the songs. If you're going to subject your child to 'Down in the jungle' et al complete with silly actions I always think the least you can do is join in. It's only fair.
11 September 2006
In other news, Connie, Siobhan and Helena through to the final. Two out of three ain't bad. Of course I'm only watching it because M loves it. Mind, she's got absolutely no taste - the first thing she ever took notice of on telly was Brucie doing Strictly Come Dancing...
06 September 2006
Anyway, at the risk of being completely pretentious, we took her to a sushi bar for her birthday party. The expensive rice, seaweed and raw fish zipped round on a conveyor belt, we attempted to feed it to her, and like the sensible lass she is, she insisted on eating a banana. Followed by birthday cake (she definitely takes after Grandpa in her cake-eating habits. He's been known to lurk in the kitchen snaffling chocolate bars and almond slices long after everyone has gone to bed).
I failed to make a-grand-birthday-cake-with-something-marvellous-on, and instead went for the fairy cake, icing and cherry option for everyone, which turned out to be much easier. Very satisfying to bake, and they did look rather good lined up, all 14 of them. M's had one tiny candle on, which looked good, but it was a good thing that she wasn't any older, as I'd had to dredge it up from the bottom of the baking drawer, and it was definitely the last one. And the restaurant staff even dimmed the lights, bless them, so we could light it and sing Happy Birthday. M just looked a bit bemused by it all, and then stuffed cake into her mouth with gay abandon. That's my girl.
01 September 2006
The rest of the day was taken up with the educational pursuits of (a) tidying up (b) hanging out the washing and (c) tidying up. Sometimes I worry that I'm not exactly doing the most earth-shattering stuff with M, but then I think it can't be all-singing, all-dancing all of the time, or I'll go insane. I'm insane enough as it is already, having spent several minutes today pulling animals out of Noah's ark and making the noises (though I'm a bit stumped by the giraffe, so if anyone's got any ideas then do let me know). M now shouts "duck" at anything remotely duck-shaped, "twoo-whit-twoo-whooo" at owls, and moos at cows. I'm working on "mint sauce" and sheep, but not getting very far.
30 August 2006
To be fair, the rap bits were quite loud. And not quite what many in the audience had been expecting - from the deckchairs and silvery hair I suspect that a fair few of them had been expecting to hear a slightly more conventional brass band. They seemed to enjoy it though, especially the New Orleans-y bits, which were probably my favourite too, to be honest. The more punky rap stuff, while interesting, is a bit shouty and doesn't really hit it with my pop sensibilities. Mind, the band did a great job explaining to the oldies and me where their influences came from, and how it was all like performance poetry, man.
29 August 2006
- Try to make kedgeree for tea for wife and parents, who have spent all afternoon slaving away in the garden chopping down evil spiky conifers.
- Boil eggs, cook rice/fish etc, using materials prepared by outstanding sous chef/wife.
- Place lightly steaming smoked haddock on a plate.
- Put tight-fitting saucepan lid on the top, to keep the heat in.
- Leave for a while, whilst you finish off cooking the rest of the rice.
- Attempt to wrestle lid off plate, using a combination of tea towels, mallets, screwdrivers, hot water, brute force and rude words.
- Try to ignore hysterical laughter.
Eventually, the plate saw sense and collapsed under the pressure. The kedgeree tasted fine, once we'd picked out a couple of bits of china...
27 August 2006
In other news, made bara brith yesterday for the first time, and it seems to have turned out ok, despite me forgetting to put any sugar in. Mind, I'm not remotely Welsh (a funny mixture of English, Polish and Irish in fact), or a tea bread connoisseur so it could have been way off for all I know.
23 August 2006
Having blithely claimed to my friend Kate today that "oh, I haven't bought any new clothes in two years", I've realised that it's a complete load of rubbish. I reckon I can cheerfully ignore the things I bought while pregnant, as they're not exactly things I'll wear again day-to-day, so that takes care of at least a year (trust me, even when you've had a baby you still have to wear 'maternity wear' for a while). But if you take 2006 onwards, I've bought (in no particular order)
- a pair of blue sandals by art (£65, and the most comfortable shoes I've ever bought)
- a black La Perla bra set (£20 instead of £80 in the sale at Fenwicks - bargain!)
- a yellow t-shirt (can't remember the brand, but it was a TKMaxx bargain for £12)
- a blue sleeveless t-shirt (TU at Sainsburys, £2.50)
- a brown t-shirt (Tesco, £4)
- a gorgeous brown cardigan (antoni and alison in the department store - one of Debenham's weird designer brands, and another bargain at £20)
- a pair of second-hand jeans (Top Shop, but £4 from the Scope shop in Gosforth)
Oh well. Not exactly fashion-leading is it? This whole trend for skinny jeans has passed me by, obviously, as has the whole 80s kick (I was there the first time round and it wasn't any better then, trust me). But I probably score reasonably well on the bargain hunting bit.
21 August 2006
I'd forgotten all about the delights of sandcastles too. We have a rather natty red bucket and spade set that R was given for his 30th birthday, so it finally put in an appearance. It's a proper castle bucket, with turrets, crenellations, a main door and steps. Quite posh really. You almost expect Archie to come popping out with some mad invention.
17 August 2006
16 August 2006
Sometimes I wonder what I've done with my day, apart from wash up, and feed and change M. It's hard when you've been used to achieving lots at work, and been good at demolishing large to-do lists. And then I remember the cackling, and the huge grin whilst splashing at the swimming pool, and the wide eyes when trying a raspberry and strawberry smoothie for the first time. To-do lists are so last year, sweetie.
12 August 2006
Actually, it's been more to do with the fact that R, M and I moved house. Boxes. Boxes. Boxes. That's all I can say. My life was taken over by evil boxes. Hundreds of 'em. Most filled with VERY HEAVY BOOKS. But thankfully, normality has resumed. There are no more dastardly boxes, sitting mocking me from the corner of the room (apart from a few in the garage which are nearly empty. Oh, and those ones in the wardrobes in the spare room, but as they mostly contain R's classic car magazines they'll be ok for a while yet). I now have a whole new house and garden to play with. Yay! Oh the potential for baking cakes, planting vegetables, decorating Christmas treees...oh god it's all starting to sound rather Martha Stewart, isn't it. I do have a life, honest.
And to prove it, I even had a morning to myself today. It included an educational experience (the bus trip into Newcastle, through some of Gateshead's finer architecture...), a little light shopping (Fenwick's sale), a lot of window shopping (much sighing over gorgeous jumpers by Sita Murt in Fenwick's French Salon, and the realisation that self-employment, a small baby and cashmere do not mix) and a very civilised cappuccino and Guardian-reading experience at Intermezzo. Roll on the delights of next Saturday.
10 May 2006
09 May 2006
03 May 2006
02 May 2006
01 May 2006
Funny, how time suddenly speeds up when you have a baby. I could have *sworn* that it was only a week since I last posted, but I've just checked and it's actually a month. Oh bugger. It's a direct contrast to being pregnant, let me tell you, which actually went on for what felt like years. Decades even. It was interminable.
Anyway, back to the daily grind. Which just gets weirder. Take bank holidays, for example. They used to be great, but now are very annoying. I never thought I'd say this, but they are (apart from the fact that R gets a free day off work). Everything is either (a) shut or (b) open but shuts dead early, and (c) is full of people who should be at work. Except, bizarrely, Fenwicks. To which emporium of delights we hoyed ourselves this afternoon because it was raining, we have a small child and we needed to get out of the house. Strangely the place was deserted, apart from the standard-issue ladies of later years who always staff every counter. I can't quite believe that all of Newcastle has renounced shopping and taken up knitting or visiting art galleries, but you never know.
30 March 2006
But M is becoming very useful at charming middle-aged female estate agents. We're suddenly very memorable if I pop into an office or when I ring up, particularly if she's gurgling adorably in the background. It's amazing how quickly a viewing can be arranged at times. And handily M seems to have the dual purpose of putting off the slightly slimy male variety of estate agent (usually to be found in shiny suit with a lingering smell of aftershave).
The professional editor in me is fuming about most of the house details that I have to read through. If one more house is "warmed by gas central heating" and requires "a detailed internal inspection" to appreciate how "deceptively spacious" it is I am going to scream. It seems that no house in Low Fell is complete without a sun lounge or "atrium", and no house in Whitley Bay is without some sort of "sea view", even if you'd have to be a contortionist with a periscope to see it. Aaaargh. Will somebody somewhere please set up a school for estate agents to tell them how to (a) write and (b) spell?
18 March 2006
If thrashing arms and legs are a sign of enjoyment, then she quite digs jazz. Maybe I should invest in some black polonecks for her?
13 March 2006
According to The Guardian, fairy cakes are now all the rage in LA. Marvellous. Ship me over now. But if you could just do something about the awful Liptons Yellow tea bags that are over there, that would be perfect.
12 March 2006
More houses today, all of them vastly unsuitable. One 1920s terraced house had two gas fires, and a woman who didn't know if they worked or not, as she was "allergic to gas". A very realistic (but undoubtedly cuddly-toy) dog sat in a basket next to one of the fires, which was rather weird. The next house was artexed to death (every wall and ceiling in the house, in a delightful shade of prison grey-blue), and contained a black onyx dining room table and chair set which wouldn't have looked out of place in a James Bond villain's lair. In fact the lampshades, clock, tv set and sofas could have belonged there too. I know you're supposed to "look past the decor", but it would have cost thousands to put right. So maybe another one that wasn't really for us. The search continues.
11 March 2006
House-buying gets more complicated, as plan A to move to the beach has fallen through. But we've seen a really nice place that's too expensive, as is always the way. All we now have to do is explain to the vendor that a low offer is not meant to be insulting to them or the condition of their house, it's simply that we don't have enough money, and are chancing our arms... Think it'll work?
02 March 2006
01 March 2006
All being well, everything will descend into a chaotic mix of estate agents, builders, mortgage advisers and removal men, who will all proceed to suck their teeth and charge us a fortune. Something to look forward to, then.
26 February 2006
23 February 2006
No 7 Stay Perfect Chiffon
No 7 Stay Perfect Rose Truffle
No 7 Stay Perfect Pearly Pink
No 7 Stay Perfect Elixir
Bourjois Very Vernis Rose Lounge
As every yummy mummy knows, it's important to have a wide range of nail varnish, preferably with ridiculous names (I especially like Pink a Dink). Unfortunately, I've not had time to put any on for months (see yesterday), and in any case I suspect the endless washing up would play havoc with the finish. Darn. Will have to find some other way to boost YM credentials.
22 February 2006
One of the least attractive things about motherhood is the lack of time. Or rather lack of free time. There's no lunch breaks, coffee breaks or sneaky fag breaks allowed. And although time might stretch and sag when M is fractious, it runs at double and triple speed for the rest of the day, especially in the evenings. It feels like there is always something still to be done, no matter how many things are crossed off the list. Saturday's newspaper sits on the side, mostly unread (it seems rather pointless now to trawl through the news section), friends are left untelephoned, floors are left uncleaned. The small things take so long, that it's all too easy to discover that it's 11.30pm, time for bed, and the luxury time to paint your toenails or read that magazine has disappeared.
I sloped off last night, minus M, to sit in Starbucks with a coffee and a trashy magazine and find some of my missing luxury time. It felt like only 10 minutes, but it was wonderful.
16 February 2006
I have become a cheapskate, scouring the charity shops for 'new' clothes for M, who will be leaving the 3-6 month sizings in a matter of days. This week saw the ultimate jackpot - a charity shop with a half-price sale. It's maybe more a reflection on how poor the area of the city is (people can't afford to pay a lot, even in a charity shop) rather than a shop which has found itself with too much stock after Christmas. But no matter. I can clothe M for a fiver (and on my last month of maternity pay that's no bad thing), be environmentally friendly and feel good about donating to charity all in one go. It's a jackpot in more ways than one.
15 February 2006
To the coast today, for a brisk walk along the harbour wall to the lighthouse. Cartwheeling seagulls breezed past as giant ferries rolled through the choppy sea. M slept, while I battled against the wind. Pushchair-makers should bolt on stabilisers for days like these.
13 February 2006
M is 5 months and 10 days old. Once I used to know her exact age in days, weeks, hours even. Now I have to work it out, counting on my fingers like I used to at school, complicated by the fact that I often no longer know what the date is. Befuddlement is a common state of mind in our house.
Over the past few months we've come to a compromise, she and I. She is the centre of my daytime world. I am the recipient of questioning looks, playful laughter and unfiltered love. It seems a fair return for such a small investment.