Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Knitting Pretty - Secret Post Club #1

I heard a little rat-a-tat-tat on my front door but ignored it, thinking it was one of the delightful kids from upstairs, asking if she could come and play with The Celestial One after school. I wasn't being rude, I was exasperated at My Girl's insistence at me hanging threads of red wool from the ears of her new favourite teddy, Sukie Jack Connor: a teddy so important as to merit the bestowing of 3 names.  SJC has to wear pony tails at all times (just like his "mummy"), the adornments fastened so tightly around his ears that the poor's thing's circulation is in danger of being cut off and then from what will she I hang his imaginary hair?  Plus he has a PINK ribbon/hairband around his head, in a early-1980s Olivia Newton John doing "(Let's Get) Physical" style (just like his "mummy"!)

"There, he looks lovely now." Patience wearing thin.


"She looks lovely now!"

It's an on-going game. I say, "he," she says, "SHE!"

"Look, Mummy.  Sukie Jack Connor is waiting for breakfast." Oops.

"Does he like porridge?"


About 13 times an hour, this gendered mistake.  All teddy bears are male to me, just like all cats are female and all dogs are something never to be let inside the house, regardless of chromosomes! Teddy Bears are Edwards - blokes!!  My own little brown childhood bear, the one without any stuffing left, is still around, demoted to the toy box: he's called Knuckles, still one of my proudest name-giving achievements.

I heard the faint knock again.  I didn't answer.  I had a shower.

Through the steam of the faux-glass doors, I see the figure of my child, brown thing in hand.  I hear her crying.

Sigh. "What is it, Celeste?"

"Sukie Jack Connor's pony tail breaked!"

"For God's sake, Celeste, I'm in the shower. I'll find him a new one when I get out!"


Right!  I grab a towel, storm to the kitchen, find some more red wool and tie it extra tight round his ears that would be purple if he had any sense of feeling.  Sorry, HER ears, SHE.

"There, SHE's got new pony tails now."

Knock, knock. Louder. And, "Becky, there's a parcel for you out here."  My neighbour, V.


I squat and bend my still wet arm around the door, pull the packet into the warmth of our flat and read the message on the envelope, from which I determine that it's been posted to me by Ellie at Insomniac Mummy

"I want to open it.  I want to open it!"

No. It's mine. I never get to open anything that isn't electronically sent these days.  I'm taller than her so I stand up, full of excitement.

Ellie, I think, has done her homework on me because inside MY parcel is a book of knitting patterns for children.  Beautiful children with beautiful clothes.  And two balls of the softest baby bamboo red wool. Thanks Ellie, I absolutely love it and I make you two promises:

1. I will learn to knit something more sophisicated than woollen squares that are used currently as blankets for Sukie Jack Connor.

2. I will not hang any of that gorgeous wool from said teddy bear's ears.

You have my word :)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


My Girl and I spent a couple of hours at the North Somerset Museum in Burlington Street today. The museum that the council is proposing to relocate from one of the oldest buildings in Central Weston to the Winter Gardens on the Sea Front. The museum whose potential closure is causing outrage among the local community, who have taken it upon themselves to organise protest meetings, petitions, colouring competitions and a Facebook group with hundreds of followers in a bid to halt these plans.

I haven’t yet met one person in this town who would like the move to go ahead, even if many of us didn’t manage to get to last Saturday’s 10:30 am meeting, organised by The Civic Centre, Friends of North Somerset Museum and the newly-formed Mums for the Museum, at the Blakehay Theatre. The place was packed, thankfully, so maybe we weren’t missed as much as our guilt at not being there might have indicated.

I’d rather not see the museum be ripped from its prime central position in a quiet street close to the train station and the 20 minute commute to Bristol to be dumped onto the struggling Winter Gardens bang on top of the beach, the Phenomenon-that-is-the-Grand Pier, the Wheel, the Sovereign shopping centre, the pubs and the restaurants, where everything cultural (ha!) would then be huddled together.

But I can see why the council might want to, aside from the immediate cash such a project might bring in.

See, what you have to ask yourself is … is Weston a seaside resort or a dormitory town? And is there room for both? If everything touristy was placed in the same square mile, could that free the rest of the town up for the locals?

No, you say, the museum is for locals. Yeah, I know, we are local and like I said, we were there today. I’ve got an annual membership (£4.50 per visit or £10 a year) because it’s a great place to go for someone with a three year old who loves to dress up and draw.

The first time I took the Celestial One to Burlington Street, her reaction was, to me, unexpected. It was among the most excited I have ever seen her: she’d visited once with pre-school and I think the place reminded her of her relationship with her pals. Poor, poor only child. She darted around, diving in the ‘cave’ (a tent) and pulling on the ladybird costume.

Today, her third visit, we stayed for an hour and a half. We had planned on having lunch at the Museum CafĂ© but I hadn’t realised that they only serve drinks and cake, so that’s what we had, with no protestations whatsoever from her, unsurprisingly. She was disappointed that the covered pond in the miniscule courtyard wasn’t a trampoline. She’d smelled lavender and rosemary before (I’m so boring!). She liked the magnets, not dissimilar from what we’ve got on our own fridge. Didn’t bother to dress up this time but she did find a pair of cat’s ears identical to the ones she wears every single day at pre-school, so much so that the staff say they’ve forgotten how she looks without them. She did a bit of brass rubbing. I played my role, explaining how the kitchen in Clara’s Cottage differed from our modern one, informing her that bears used to live by us in the quarry, pointing out that melted bin from the burnt out Grand Pier and showing her how to rub herbs and then sniff her fingers – again!

I showed her a photo of Anchor Head, taken back in the early twentieth century.

“Look, Lestie! Where’s that?”

“Weston-super-Mare,” she replied, barely humouring me.

“Yes, it’s where we climb the rocks, isn’t it?”

Not listening, lalalala, she skips off. The “Laughing Man” amusement machine she loved, she says, but she looked totally freaked out to me. She didn’t want to go on Sophia, the mechanical seaside horse, did that last time. She tried her hand at Punch and Judy but her monkey and polar bear puppets at home are easier to manoeuvre.

“I don’t like this game. I want to go to the library.”

And that might well be the problem with this museum as it stands, if there is one. It’s not big enough. As a social historian by trade, I’ve been to countless museums as a leisure pursuit but also as a researcher and I’m of the opinion that, where possible, museums and libraries should be in the same spot. Actually it’s difficult to believe that the museum only moved to Burlington Street 37 years ago: up until then it was squished into the our little library in Waterloo Street. This is one of the reasons that I don’t understand the sentimentality of keeping the museum where it is: it’s been there for a shorter time than I’ve been alive, though I am turning into a bit of a museum piece myself, it could be said. I do happen to think that the Gaslight is a fine building but North Somerset Council might need to consider buying up the rest of the street so it can expand.

Living in Weston-super-Mare is a bit like living in the States; its known history is limited. It’s a new town, built on the English Nineteenth Century love affair with the seaside and all the health giving properties the salty air was thought to offer. Apart from the natural history of the area, a couple of medieval churches and Priory, a scattering of Roman Villas and a most probably extremely rich but unknown ‘Iron-age’ history, there’s not much to shout about. If the history of Weston belongs to tourism, should we let tourism have the museum?

And as for the facilities at the museum itself - what about interactivity? I’ve listed some of the activities available but there might be an explanation as to why the clientele is limited to young families and pensioners (today, the only other browsers were a mum, her toddler and two people in their 70s and, last time we were there, two middle class boys with their mother). Where are the computers; that’s what kids want, isn’t it? That’s the way the world is going, for right or wrong. Celebrate Clara’s cottage but supplement her heritage with a sophisticated virtual world. Keep the amusements but compare and contrast them to World of Warcraft (or something less violent). I find it astonishing that, in 2010, our museum does not yet have its own independent website and still comes under the umbrella of North Somerset Council’s webpages, which are basic in the extreme.

My Girl is only three and she’ll get years out of the place yet and mostly it will be up to me to make it fun for her. And I might have to.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Our Playground

Spring came to visit yesterday, so we packed a picnic and went over 'our back garden' hill to Sand Bay, where it was near gale-force windy and still very much March.  We gobbled all the food up, managing to not get sand in our wiches, and then climbed back over the wooded hill of Worlebury, where, once again, the 150 year old trees completely sheltered from the cold, biting wind.  Along the way, we found a slide, a swing and a bed:

Monday, 8 March 2010

Dig In

One of my fellow Weston-super-Mums, Lily the Pink, has created a new group on our Community site entitled Little Green Fingers, in which she's posted a link to the BBC's Dig In: Grow you Own Grub, being advertised on CBeebies, apparently.  I don't know how I managed to miss it.  Or rather I do because I don't get involved in CBeebies anymore.  Oh yes, it still goes on twice a day in our house: just before pre-school and for an hour or so in the run up to bedtime.  But I've just about managed to switch my brain off to it completely, otherwise I'd have to deal with Cerrie Burnell and her truly awful presenting skills, with her wide-open eyes and that tiresome gasping noise she does: please, please, give us a bit of variety, Cerrie!  Go on!  Treat us to an "Ooh" sound and, oh I dunno, a "Hoop-de-hoop" or something, anything. 

But this I do like! The Dig In website encourages us to grow our own vegetables by sending out free seeds that should eventually produce courgettes, green salad, basil, carrots and french beans.  I've never grown anything successfully: even the basil I've attempted in the past has always failed to get anywhere near my plate of Putanesca. 

At primary school, we had a daffodil growing competition every single year from the age of 4 till 11 and so, every March, I got a certificate that said "Better luck next year."  Not only did I never get the thing to flower but I hardly managed to coax out the tiniest stalk!  And while, as an adult, my indoor plants don't die, neither do they thrive: my peace lily has been the same size since I was given it as a housewarming present about five years ago.  I've got four indoor plants, all limp but hanging on and all gifted to me.  I don't remember having ever bought a plant for myself. Ever.

I once had a garden and thought that it would be lovely to sit in it during the summer but I never did because the grass was so high that it sort of flopped over on one side.  I've just never been interested, I suppose.  Does that make me a bad bet for a mother?  Celeste seems to be doing alright - I feed and water her, give her plenty of sunshine and fresh air, seems to work.

And now she gets to be nuturer and is already doing better than I ever have.  For the second year in a row, at Funny Bunnies, she has planted and watered her own cress until it reaches the top of the plastic cup standing on our kitchen windowsill.  She's tasted it too and both time has pulled a disappointed face, "Urgh! Don't like it, Mummy."

Fair 'nough!

But now the time has come to show My Girl how our food is produced and, though I'm not doing it on the same scale as my brother, who bought an allotment last year and is reaping in a wide range of crops together with his four year old son, I can at least attempt a few courgettes and leaves of lettuce.  So I've susbcribed to the Dig In on-line newsletter and sent off for the free seeds, which we will grow on our communal terrace (no! Of course we haven't got a garden, I ain't making that mistake again until we can afford a gardener and before I employ one of those, we need to hire a cleaner and someone to do the ironing).

The seeds should be with us soon and then the fun will begin. 

Did I really just call it 'fun?'

I promise to let you know how Celeste gets we get on.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Our Friends on the Wall

I've been tagged by the fabulous Camilla at Made by Milla.

Here are the rules:

1. open your first photo folder in your computer library.
2. scroll to the 10th photo
3. post the photo and the story behind it
4. tag 5 or more people to continue the thread

This photo was taken on my mobile phone a couple of years ago.  The walls of Celeste's bedroom were, like the rest of the flat, plain white.  She wasn't sleeping and who could blame her for not taking to a sterile room, her not yet two-year old imagination unable to make anything of so much bareness.  So, Sexy Older Man grabbed one of her "In the Night Garden" picture books and copied the outline of the characters onto the walls with My Girl's black Crayola crayon.  Then, darting to retrieve some of the paints he keeps by his own huge canvas down the road in his house-come-studio, he made Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, The Ninky Nonk and Makka Pakka come alive.

But would she like it?  We did!  But these five feet plus creatures with big eyes and open arms might be too imposing for a wee one. 

The next night she slept so happily, embraced by the trees, next to the flowers, under the watchful eyes of her colourful friends.  The mural is still there but not for much longer.  The Celestial One is four in July and she may be outgrowing CBeebies.  A local woman I've met on our Weston-super-Mum Community, Natasha, came round for a recce last week and sized up the room that she will transform into a bedroom suitable for Lestie's next phase as the little girl who is leaving toddlerhood behind.

She's asked to keep the trees and in place of the blue phallus with the red mohican, the rasta dancer with the inflatable skirt and the stoned soft figure (my words not hers!) will be fairies and flowers and butterflies - a magic woodland.  All that remains now for me to do is to paint over SOM's work and prepare the blank canvas for Natasha to create her own Wonderland.

Somehow, though, I can't bring myself to do it ...

I now tag:

Keith Ramsey

Tim Worth

Nickie O'Hara

Victoria Wallop

Heather Sunderland

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Seaside Icons

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Tea in a Caff

Clarence Park Cafe has got a Facebook Fan Page!

Of course, when you go to Clarence Park, you can 't actually head straight for the cafe, not if you've got kids with you.  You have to get your appetite up first by playing in the swing area, creeping up on squirrels, climbing trees, trying to uproot trees, chasing pigeons and making mud pies.  Then after a quick hand wash under the ice cold water of the public convenience tap, you're really ready to eat!

Clarence Park Cafe is a greasy spoon, no question.  Bacon, sausage, egg, beans, toast and a mug of tea for £2: at that price, who cares what it's been deep fried in?  Tastes good too.  And there's something very English about sitting in a park on a cold but sunny February afternoon, eating a Full English with a dollop of brown on the side.  Something so comforting that, after you've wiped your plate clean with the toast, the only thing to do is head back up to the counter and order another mug of steaming tea, bag still in.