The first thing I did after putting the kettle on this morning was to peep through the blinds to see whether even a few flakes of the snow causing near havoc in many other parts of the country had managed to find their way over towards to Bristol Channel. Nope - nada, rien, a big fat zilch.
With no reluctance whatsoever, I climbed back into bed with a steaming mug of tea and biscuits for me and a beaker of milk and a biscuit for her: I get the M&S Pistachio and Almond Cookies and she gets the Tesco Malted Milks. Is that a bit too Mr Wormwood from Matilda? No, actually, it's fair enough - Marks' Cookies are too good for children.
An hour, 2 episodes of Peppa Pig and a fight to wash her hair in the shower later, I switched on the Christmas tree lights and then had another peek - LOOK, it's snowing! Finally! Horray!! We pulled the blinds wide open and My Girl stood on the window sill to *Gasp* and *Wow* at the sight of snow on the hills of Somerset, snow on the roofs of all the houses, snow on the roads and snow on the terrace.
"I want to go out in the snow, Mummy!"
So, of course we did, up to the Woods of Worlebury Hill:
Sometimes I think we must have the best back garden in the whole world ;0)
Yes, you did read right. You see, finally, the rain stopped: I would dance about it but that might be interpreted as a prompt for more. Instead, I pick My Girl up from Funny Bunnies, armed with fruit, drink and a woolly hat. The lack of cloud cover has welcomed the frostiness in and there is more than a nip in the air but at least it’s dry.
She jumps up from her chair and runs into my arms as I appear at the pre-school door: “Where we going today, Mummy?”
“We’re going to the beach. For a picnic.”
“Hooray!” Smiling excitedly, she tells her pre-school teacher. “We go to the beach.”
“Have you got your bucket and space?” her teacher asks. Er, no, I forgot about that and, anyway, I’m not sure I want to be sitting around, inactive, for too long after the food has gone. Not today.
“Have we got sandwiches, Mummy?”
We haven’t got sandwiches so we stop off at Astill’s in West Street to buy a warm sausage bap. I ask whether the sausages are local and the woman serving informs me that the pigs belong to the owner of the bakery, in Lympsham. You don’t get much more local than that.
The sea front is a building site and the part reconstruction of the old Grand Pier seems so out of place in our beautiful bay but at least you can still see all of Brean Down through it. The promenade is looking good and feels safe now the sea defences separate the pedestrians from the busy road.
We go onto the sand and almost straight away sit on the new wall to enjoy our plump sausages while they’re still warm. Lovely. I stare at the Channel, at Brean and Knightstone Island: we really should venture down here more often. I get out my camera.
“Mummy, are you taking photos of the picnic?” Yes, of the picnic, of My Beautiful Girl, of the vista, of footprints.
My ulterior motive for picnicking on the beach in full winter is to get some shots of any footprints left on the beach by other people. It’s for a new website I’m working on, which is dedicated to open spaces in the UK and tried and tested picnic spots such as this. Because so few Westonians are brave/fool enough to stroll on the beach on such a freezing cold day, my options are limited so I stamp in the sand and make some prints of my own.
“Can I do that, Mummy?” My Girl runs along the wall and slides on a slimy moss-and-seaweed mixture and I’m impressed that she has landed on her bottom, legs in the air, while managing to cling onto her bap. She cries but is fine, a little damp and shocked but not hurt enough to neglect her food. She sits on my lap, transferring watery sand from her coat to mine: she’s taken her gloves off to eat and her hands are scarlet. A woman with a dog goes past and I snap evidence of this with my camera, pointing it at the floor.
“Come on, Lestie, let’s finish the berries later.” I cover her exposed fingers with her mittens, pack my bag and we chase each other along the sand, where we can’t slip but we can warm up a little. A workman opens the barrier for us at the Knightstone entrance and, once My Girl has overcome her mistrust of the noisy digger, we speed down the ramp to Marine Lake. Her gloves are off again.
“Mummy, look, I throw seaweed into the sea. You do it too.” I wince as I take off my own gloves to grab the wet seaweed. She thinks this is brilliant so we throw some more into the water, counting as we go. I think she’s trying to reaching the seagulls bobbing on the Lake.
“Mummy, I’m cold.” We dry her hands and pop the gloves back on. I emit a grunting sound as I mount my heavy daughter, clad in at least four layers of clothes, onto my shoulders. We say goodbye to the beach, the footprints, the seaweed and the building work and head up to Nanny and Grandad’s for a well-deserved hot chocolate.
Each week the articulate and funny Josie at Sleep is for the Weak posts five writing prompts in her Writing Workshop and invites us all to add more than a pinch of our own creativity. This is my first contribution to the WW and I've taken the prompt "Put yourself into the mindset of someone else," for which I've tried to get into My Girl's head. Thanks Josie, here it is:
A couple of weeks ago, an old friend Facebooked me that she had spare tickets to visit Father Christmas in his Harrods’ Grotto so I thought I’d knock several robins out of their Norwegian Spruce with one glittering bauble and take My Girl to London.
She’d been a few times as a baby, when having her with me was no more complicated than hauling around an extra piece of cooing luggage that needs a full breast and a bum wipe every now and then. In toddlerhood, I visited without her because I have a degree of common sense and because I’m lucky enough to have parents who are happy to have their grand-daughter to stay over with them for periods of longer than a couple of hours. So I’ve enjoyed the occasional Big City re-fresh at a gig, show or wedding. Ah, re-fresh.
Now she’s well into her fourth year, My Girl knows what’s going on and is ready to test life outside of our own little triangle of Woods-Quarry-Beach.
Let’s go and strike those robins:
On the day of departure, she pulled on her best-ever-charity-shop-buy fluffy purple Disco Diva mini-rucksack at 7:30 am and watched Milkshake, all ready for the mid-day train to London, keeping it there, on her back, until we arrived at my Nan’s at gone 4pm. On the train she was very well behaved but aren’t three year olds extremely loud in confined spaces? Drawing is loud. Reading Julia Donaldson books is loud. Playing roll the squash bottle is loud.
The Flat in Pimlico is home-from-home: after a visit from my cousins, together with an almost edible one week old baby boy, My Girl went to bed at the normal 7pm, I watched Corrie with a cup of tea and me Nan, curling up with a Kathy Reichs’ book in the double bed next to my snoring daughter by 10pm. A lack of signal on my mobile and no computer access meant a real holiday for me. In the morning, I had my prescribed couple of cuppas and she watched her usual Milkshake. A steady morning and then it was time to hit the West End, meet a couple of friends and show My Girl the sights of London.
Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that our children are brand new people and that there are so many first-time experiences for them, isn’t it?
This is how one little girl seemed to see things:
Tubes – Look at all these people! That tunnel is so dark! Feel that fast wind on my face when the train comes. Woo-hoo. If I hold this pole in the middle of the train, how far back can I lean without falling over? Isn’t it noisy in here? Can we go on another one please?
Escalators – Weeee. This is brilliant. We’re really high up. I think these moving stairs are the best thing ever. I want to go backwards. I can balance and I don’t even need to hold Mummy’s hand. Let go Mummy, I can do it by my own. That’s really interesting; look how dirty my cream coat gets when I rub it along the metal side.
Buskers – What’s that lady doing in the middle of the tunnel? She’s making music by blowing that big metal thing. I want to watch some more of this. Can we stand here for ages Mummy? I can’t even close my mouth, I’m so astonished. Isn’t she wonderful? Yes, I’ll put the coin in the box. Bye bye lady.
Father Christmas’ Grotto (Day 1) – Ooh, that pretty lady who is all dressed up has put PINK fairy dust on my hands, I like that. Knock, knock. That’s Father Christmas, he’s very big and his beard is huge. I’m not sure I want to get too close to him though. Oh, he knows my name and he’s given me a big chocolate coin and a book and a badge. Can I put the badge on? He’s nice. Can I give you another hug, Father Christmas? Can we take another photo of us standing together Father Christmas? I want a scooter please. Bye bye. Oh, hello Mrs Christmas, can I hug you too? What a friendly place.
Oxford Street’s Crowds – Tsch, I’ve seen people before: I’m not fazed at all.
Christmas Lights – There are loads of them in the sky, on buildings, in the shop windows and they are all different colours but I’m not too impressed really.
Carnaby Street – Look, Mummy, Look. A big PINK reindeer flying high above us. And massive hearts with writing on them. There’s another PINK reindeer and another one. I want to sit down now. I like it here; it’s happy.
Leicester Square – I want a Burger King.
Trafalgar Square – Can I please stand in the rain and watch all the people singing underneath that really big Christmas tree? I’ll put my hood up. And I can jump on the steps. I’m not even tired and it’s been dark for ages.
Science Museum (Day 2) – What’s that, Mummy? Oh. An astronaut? He goes to the moon in his rocket? He has to go in his rocket when it’s night-time though Mummy, doesn’t he? Ooh, here’s a big tunnel. I shout my name and Mummy’s name in it and I can hear it again, it’s called a echo. Look, I made a flower out of magnets, they’re all stuck together. And I built a really tall tower with numbers on it and then I knocked it down. Hooray, I made my own puppet show. Can we stay in here a bit longer. Please ….?
In short, it was a chilled-out yet exciting affair. Tucking her into her own bed last night, I asked here what she’d done in London, wondering which aspect of her mind-expanding journey had embedded itself the most. I was sure it would be the tubes or the escalators or the echo.
“I watched Peppa Pig at Great-Nanny Josie’s,” she said. “I saw the one about Teddy’s Day Out.”
Do you ever lay in bed at night and have all these ideas to share and you want to get up again but you know that to do so would be detrimental to tomorrow and your mood of it?
Last night I was mulling over all this stuff I wanted to tell you, which seemed witty and lol-able to me then, when I was snug and wrapped up in my sun-yellow duvet. Now, in the cold light of this December day, I'm struggling to remember any of it. My Mum would say, 'It couldn't have been very important then.'
Mostly, in that time between awake and asleep, the events of the previous 16 hours whizz around in my head and so, yesterday, that would have been Peppa Pig and Footprints. Oh yeah, and assuaging my guilt with the help of Mummy Pig, curiously. And knitting. Let's take them in that order then:
Peppa Pig is My Girl's program-du-jour and I'm lucky because it's one of the better ones, in my opinion: sweet with the odd bit of snorting and colourful without being Tweenie-sickly. The trouble is that the episodes are so short. No, the trouble is that the episodes are so short AND I've recorded them on BT Vision, which means I have to actively scan through the Recordings on my box. God, that sounds so lazy! But when you have a 3 year old directing you, 'Mummy, I want Grandad Dog's Garage,' 'No, Mummy, that's not Rebecca Rabbit's House,' you may as well not bother trying to get anything else done.
And what I'm trying to get done (with success) is ...Ta-da .... a new website called Only Footprints, dedicated to all those open spaces we can enjoy in this beautiful country, whether they be parks, beaches, moors, woodlands, walks, public gardens .... the list is endless. The site is now live and the twitter account is gaining followers, so it must go from strength to strength. Only Footprints is looking for contributors, people to write reviews of their favourite outdoor spots, send in photos, write poems, whatever is your thing really. Please take a look and email us with your thoughts and ideas. Plug Done. But I'll be back, don't you worry.
So, I'm feeling the Guilt because, while I'm pfaffing about on the computer, Celeste is behind me, playing by herself: building brick towers, throwing parties for Noddy and Fairy, making art, watching Peppa. She interacts with other kids at least 3 hours per day, 5 days per week though, then we go to the park, woods, beach, town or quarry most days and we eat and play together - yesterday I role-played a bridge, which is better than role-playing a road, I suppose, or a plank. And although she has every thing she needs and more, I DO sometimes feel I should be giving her more of my time. Is this just me? Do you suffer from this? Am I being hard on myself? Am I being hard on her?
Here's where Mummy Pig comes in. One of My Girl's favourite episodes of Peppa Pig is called Work and Play, in which Mummy Pig works from home on the computer while George sits on her lap, mini-grunting, and Peppa goes to playgroup with all her friends. Mummy is not playing, she's working: educational, thanks Mummy Pig.
And Knitting! Aha. A small group of us have just set up a Tea, Toast and Knitting Group and yesterday was our first get together. A small collective of six ladies turned up with our balls and needles at Loves Cafe in Weston, two of us having never knitted before, me being one of them. After sitting, post-tea and -chat, in the swing area of Grove Park with my Number 6's and a charity shop mass of cream wool, clickety-clacking away, I can safely say that I think I may already be hooked. I even managed to knit 3 rows in bed last night, trying to get my mind off Peppa Pig, Footprints and guilt ....
I took My Girl to pre-school this morning and my first thought, as I tried to convey to her the importance of putting up her fleecey waterproof hood, was "bloody weather." I wasn't in a particularly good mood because head lice is going around at the moment and I find it difficult enough to brush that wild hair just once a day. To an onlooker, the daily scene of me running around the flat after her with a detangling strawberry smelling spray in one hand and a brush in the other, while she screams "No, Mummy. DON'T," might be comical. In reality, one of us is crying with stubborness and perceived pain and the other is close to tears with stubborness and exasperation. How the bleedin'eck am I supposed to check for lice? And if she's got them/when she gets them, how do I get one of those stupid little combs through her hair (the NHS recommends: "with a fine tooth nit comb ...work methodically over the whole head for at least 30 minutes"). Hahahahahaha - I can just about sit still for 30 minutes, and even then I get a break for adverts, but a 3 year old with a mortal fear of hair brushing!? This morning, as ever, I pinned her down and gave her really beautiful, really difficult locks a once over and then tried to get her to let me fasten a pony tail so 'the little creatures don't live in your hair.' She'd go for a small one at the front a la Pebbles Flintstone but would have none of the tie-back idea and, anyway, you can just tell she thinks that little creatures living in her hair would be pretty cool.
My grumpiness soon dissipated once I'd deposited her with wet and free-flying hair at pre-school. My load considerably lighter for the next 3 hours, I walked home, studying the openness above me as I went and I noticed that, actually, once you get used to it, these grey winter skies are really quite beautiful. I tuned into the Grey Spectrum and I marvelled at the bluey-grey, juxtaposed with a sort of white-grey, a touch of slate-grey, a smattering of charcoal. And just look at the layers of cloud and the shapes they create.
Am I deluded? Can grey be beautiful? Am I attempting to dress up this seemingly everlasting weather of cloud, cold, wind and rain? Is it just a way of getting through the day/winter? Or am I so used to detecting all those shades of brown in Weston's landscape, particularly when gazing at the seafront on a stormy day, that I can now appreciate subtleties in colour, whatever the colour?
In explanation, I grabbed my camera and darted outside to take a few snaps of grey for you. I hope you appreciate them because I got soaked!!
Jill Dando is something of a legend in Weston-super-Mare. Our small-town Mercury reporter made good with a glittering career at the BBC. A couple of years after her murder in 1999, the Ground Force team built a garden memorial to her in Grove Park, central Weston.
Yesterday afternoon, we played hide-n-seek in the blueness of her shrine and I asked myself, "What is a legacy?"
We're back in our favourite place, Worlebury Hill, My Girl with her Barbie - so outed - and me with my camera. Sheltered up here, the relentless wind hardly touches us but we stop to listen to the trees waving frantically, shedding the last of their yellow leaves, lamenting as they fight to resist the gusts we've all become so used to lately.
"Listen, Lestie, what's that noise?"
Creak, creak, moan, moan. She opens her mouth in surprise and gasps.
"What is it Mummy?"
"It's the trees in the wind."
"No. That's not the trees!"
"Yes, it is. Listen, they're blowing in the wind. Creaking."
"No, Mummy, it's not the trees," she looks at me as though I'm a nut and skips off in her own world. "Can we have a party for Barbie when we get home?" This is my fault for singing Aqua's Barbie Girl (Come on, Barbie, let's go party). I just can't help it but, in my mind's eye, instead of seeing the doll in My Girl's hand I picture the fabulous Katie Price, who is so professional and bloody minded that it's almost a relief to call her just that - fabulous - in a #thereisaidit kind of way.
When we get home, we lay a PINK picnic blanket on the living room floor, scatter cushions and settle down to eat sandwiches, vegetable sticks, fruit and cake. The three of us, Celeste, me and the fabulous Katie Price Barbie.
The use of public loos increases forty fold once you have kids, especially when you are lucky enough to frequent Weston's Grove Park. My Girl is now a very grown up 3 year old who insists on doing the wee-wee operation completely unaided and this gives me the perfect opportunity to take in the ambience of these toilets. Yes, I know it's unusual to survey a public convenience but really, this place is a treasure trove of either kitsch or plain bad taste.
Happy, summery music can always be heard, often soundtracks from the 1960s, and it's very clean in here though you can smell the Gents next door and, sorry, I just have to do this:
On entering the party at Rik, Vivian, Neil and Mike's house: Girl 1: Ooer, smells like a gents in here. Girl 2: A gent's what?
(The Young Ones, "Interesting", 1983)
Tacky ornaments and fake plastic flowers adorn the sinks and window ledges, in contrast to the beauty of the naturally lovely park just out the door, and there are always at least two women working here, often spotted in red aprons having a cup of tea and a fag with the bloke in the small road sweeping vehicle. But it's the selection of photos on its walls that absorbs me. As you wash and dry your hands or re-apply your lipstick and titivate your hair, you have the delicious company of the following peeps:
Jill Dando (local dead heroine) Princess Diana (dead national heroine) Will Young (gay pop idol) Daniel O'Donnell (dubious Irish crooner) Sharon Osbourne (feisty celeb wife and manager) Duffy (Welsh songstress) Captain Jack Sparrow (fictional Keith Richards with a twist of camp-foolery) Robbie Williams (international superstar) A selection of Playgirl male models (really rather unattractive ones with long hair)
They've won awards, you know? Something like Public Toilet of the Year, 1999.
At the risk of being labelled a complete weirdo and/or dangerous, I sneaked my camera in, just to show you:
Would you believe that, about 18 hours after posting Scooter Girl, below, The Scooter broke? I could have shared this gem of an odd twist of fate with you earlier but, you see, the story comes with a compulsory visit to the Confessional.
OK, I broke The bloody Scooter. I can’t even blame the memes.
Thursday was about the tenth torrentially rainy day in a row. Outdoors, we’d done the jumping-in-muddy-puddles-like-Peppa-Pig thing to death and, indoors, we’d completed more paintings than Leonardo, so I thought I’d have a spring/autumn clean. No-one really likes housework, do they? But I dislike it so much and do so little of it that I have to whisper the word. When I say spring clean, it may have been more like a weekly tidy up for many of you: bleaching the kitchen and bathroom, mostly, then wiping off fingerprints from the walls and doors (this for the first time ever, I must admit: the interior of our house was a criminologist’s dream, that is if Angel were more culpable of anything other than pissing me off big time) and, of course, the dreaded vacuuming.
There and then, I made a promise to myself that, when I am eventually sitting anywhere north of the poverty line, I will employ a regular cleaner and I will pay that person double the minimum wage.
The plan had been to get My Girl involved in this rare process, engage her in early training, just in case I can never afford said cleaner. An old, rinsed Flash spray bottle full of lukewarm water and a new dishcloth were her tools and she was instructed to wipe the bath clean of her multi-coloured bath crayon drawings, which I’d meant to remove in September. She did well, the kid, but her concentration waned and she very quickly succumbed to the lure of anything else at all as long as it didn’t involve elbow grease. Like mother like …..
For once determined to get on with the job, I made her a den out of dining stools and lots of pretty blankets and material and left her to her own devices.
Kitchen stripped of grease, onion skins and bacteria. Bathrooms removed of mud, dirt rings and spiders’ webs. Any other shit I would prefer not to have to look at shoved under beds, into drawers and beneath brightly coloured sarongs that double up as throws. Mission nearly accomplished. Right: the mothersuckinghoovering! Floors are what I loathe cleaning the most because they are low down and dirty and for walking all over. No-one should have to subject themselves to backache, whilst casting their eyes in a downwards motion just to ensure that floors are rid of all that crap that inevitably gathers on them, not even cleaners working for £11.60 an hour.
But what if my mum comes round? What if I get an unexpected visitor?
I vacuumed most of the lounge with Artic Monkeys blasting out some and then some more. I had to dismantle the pretty den in order to get to the floor beneath it because if a job’s worth doing…. I pulled out The filthy dirty rotten mud-caked Scooter and bits of brown fell all over my freshly vacuumed cream carpet. For Fuck’s sake! In the den, I realised, The Scooter had been resting upon her white, yes white, duvet cover (with duvet inside, obviously).
I carried the lot into My Girl’s bedroom, dropping a trail of dried mud after me, really annoyed. In her room, she had pulled out all of her clothes, again, and draped them over the floor. What IS the sodding point?!? I delved not that deeply, as it happens, and pulled out my inner petulant child, throwing The stupid Scooter across the bedroom.
“Yes, Mummy.” Butter wouldn’t.
“Come and tidy these clothes up. Now!”
She simpered into the bedroom and I left her there, not really caring whether she was doing as I asked, just so long as she was out of my road.
Two minutes later, she appeared behind me, holding The Scooter’s handlebars and front wheel.
“Mummy, my scooter broke.” ShitShitShitShitShit – snapped in two.
In the spirit of the day, I came clean, explaining that I’d thrown it in a temper because I was angry because she kept making so much mess and that I was very, very sorry.
“That’s OK Mummy. I get a new one for Christmas. A PINK one.”
About 18 months ago, I went scavenging around the neighbourhood and came back with a scooter.
It's not strictly true: I was walking down my road and a few doors up someone had thrown out a perfectly good green and orange kids' scooter. I knew of a very good home for it.
"Ah, it's got a little crack in the base but it's house-worthy. Yeah, I'll grab that and customise it." So I put a fairy sticker on it, not very imaginative but these were from a collection My Girl and I had picked up in Glastonbury when out on a Fairy Hunt. On that trip, we also found a pretty little rag doll for 25p that she named 'Fairy' and who she still takes to bed with her. It took me months to notice that someone had dreaded the back of her yellow hair - very Glasto, don't you think?
So this scooter was very much appreciated and I have been dizzy on countless evenings, watching her spin around the room on it like a Whirling Dervish. Once mastered, it started coming out with us, up and down our local more-than-just-a-gentle-slope hills. Well, mostly ridden full pelt down the hills by her and carried up again by me, of course. And how fast she travels; lighting speed with all the agility and skill of a 14 year old on a BMX bike. She loves it.
Today we took it to the park, where the wheels collected mud and leaves and inspired a few tears and dirty knees (at one point she went to beat it up after having skidded on the wet ground. Temper, temper, Sweet Thing). The little crack, however, is growing and, although I hate to spend over-the-top on new items, I think I would be willing to stretch. She gets so much mileage out of this one but I don't believe it will last much longer and what with Christmas coming up?
This is where you come in. Any suggestions for a decent on-the-market scooter for a 3 year old? Preferably one that will last at least another couple of years?
The lovely Insomniac Mummy has tagged me. My challenge? Ask My Girl to draw a picture of her extraordinarily pretty and intelligent Mummy and post it right here to show you rabble.
My Girl spends half her young life painting and drawing and so it was an easy ask, although I must say she does seem to be in the midst of her Minimalist Phase.
Last week I bought her her very first set of marker pens. "What? Marker pens, cream carpets, a cream sofa and a three year old? All mixed together?" I hear you scream. "You're a loony."
It's rare I get to live dangerously these days so I threw caution to the wind and paid £1.99 for 8 Crayola Washable Markers from Wilko's and told her to "use them only at the TABLE and NOT on the floor! And put the lids on when you've finished, please." The face on it; so happy with her new found grown-upness. The floor is still cream, save the red wine stains, ingrained Weston-super-Mud/Sand, candle wax and baked bean juice but her butterfly top had red and brown marker pen blotches all over it. Guess what? It washed out. After one wash. Marvellous.
Here's what she came up with:
To begin with, she couldn't conceive of drawing me without her
so I'm the purple one
We got separated, sort of. She drew herself on another sheet and put us side by side.
I'm having a really good week. All this rain has meant more time indoors and while My Girl is painting, drawing, gluing, watching CBeebies, I'm plotting, planning and doing.
I've got a brand new project, which some of you will already be aware of. I've started a blog called The Unfoldlings, which is contributing to the research stage of my latest novel and here's the description:
The format of my new novel remains undisclosed but the workings of my mind are henceforth laid bare. You, The Readers, are the Unfoldlings. Each week, I will pose new questions and I'd like you to supply answers, some of which will be incorporated into my own work. I will credit all authors but if you wish to remain anonymous, please indicate this clearly at the foot of your posting. I'm peeing myself with excitement. Are you?
I remember when my Auntie was out shopping for clothes years ago with her toddler daughter. In one of Topshop's changing rooms (you know them, where everyone can hear everything), she squeezed into a rather tasty, sexy number, thinking this was The Outfit She Must Have, when her little girl protested extremely loudly:
"No, Mummy. Too tight, too short." Brilliant, though Mum was mortified.
Fast forward sixteen years and I could well be saying the same thing to my daughter, not the other way around (I think).
I told you about this clothes obsession of hers very recently, didn't I? It doesn't matter what she wears, as long as it defies me and what I think she should be sporting this season. I'm not a fussy mum, honest I'm not, but I would at least like the pretty little thing to wear something that is a) warm b) her size c) on its way to being passably clean. She, of course, has other ideas.
Today she managed a Big Fat Fail on all three counts and demanded to put on a T-shirt (it's the end of October), age 18 months - 2 years (she's 3 and a half) that she pulled out of the laundry basket a heap of clothes stuffed into the cupboard next to the washing machine.
In my second ever Weston Mercury blog post, back in March, I grumbled about the number of times that My Girl changes her clothes every day and, seven months on, if I have managed to better direct this obsession, I haven’t eliminated it.
Yesterday, for example, I coaxed her into a dress of all things and a very pretty one, with brand new woolly cream tights. Success.
“I don’t WANT to wear a jumper!!”
“OK then, that’s fine, no jumper. And no cinema.” Tough Love.
She put the jumper on. Fabulous: cute, clean and warm – miracle of miracles. The concession? Of course, there was a concession; in the form of way too small, paint-and hot chocolate-stained white shorts underneath the dress. Shorts are le mode du jour (or should that be de la saison?) in our house – shorts, naturally, because the temperature has taken quite a dip during the past few days and who wouldn’t want to have their flesh exposed in mid-autumn?
I bought her a gorgeous, colourful matching and warm hat n gloves set the other day and so, maybe, she’s demanding to wear what she considers the direct opposite of winter woollies just to wind me up/assert herself. I say coat, you say sunglasses. I say winter hat, you say bandana. I say “put your bloody socks on,” you say “I want my Fifi sandals.”
But she did get dressed in the warmish gear and made no mention of this hardship whilst watching Madagascar – Escape 2 Africa (how’s this? I sussed out that Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer voice two of the main characters in Madagascar! I’ve always been crap at determining voices – seen Zoolander and Friends too many times, obviously). No whinge about her outfit in the park either. But when we got home, the first thing she said, and I mean as soon as we walked in the door, was “I put something else on now.”
Had she really been thinking about that for 3 hours?? If so, may I call my 3 year old daughter a great big loser? Just this once?
During the mornings, when My Girl is at pre-school, I’ve taken to popping into town to buy the provisions. It’s only a ten minute walk from here and once I’ve counted with her the acorns/conkers/pine cones we’ve collected on the way to Funny Bunnies, I’m half-way there.
A grocer’s has recently opened up next to the butcher’s, which is next to the baker’s, by the Silica-Carrot-Turnip-Phallus Structure in Weston Centre, turning that little area into a food shoppers’, if not Paradise, then convenient Shop Local outing.
This morning I whizzed into Tesco Express for the necessities (milk and a big bar of Mint Aero) en route to seeking out other items from the mini-parade of shops. I quizzed the butcher over the price of sausages because I thought he’d undercharged me and I congratulated myself on buying a decent amount of grapes for 50p in the adjacent shop. Shopping local has its advantages – offering mostly less expensive produce than I’ve become used to at the Supermarket. And the people are friendly. Well, they have to be, don’t they?
I head home with two large and strong carrier bags: don’t frown, I recycle them as rubbish bags. Damn, I’ve forgotten the butter but at least I have chocolate. Not to worry, there’s a corner shop on the way home (where, yes, you have to buy Anchor. And yes, it costs 51p more than the Asda Smart Price stuff), so I’ll just stand here behind this woman topping up her electric and gas and mobile phone and wait with an air of “Oh, it’s fine, I’m not in a rush”. Taking my own mobile out of my back pocket, I realise that this little excursion has swallowed up nearly an hour of my child-free time and I’m not even home yet! I could have stocked up on everything we need for a couple of weeks at said Asda or Tesco in a bloody hour.
I pace up the huge hill back to nuestra casa, even breathed, wondering whether I should be economising more wisely on time? But, look, we’ve lots of (mostly) healthy grub and my arse is definitely getting firmer. Plus, it’s a great divisionary tactic for actually getting things done!
Her 4-year old boyfriend, L1, came round to play yesterday afternoon. They behaved well enough (My Girl was only sent to the yellow Chill-out Chair once for throwing play-dough all over the carpet after being asked not to). They made a general mess as kids do but nothing that couldn't be picked up and jammed into a cupboard, drawer, wardrobe or trunk once they'd finished. Lunch was a competition, as was most everything else, and the little lady gobbled hers in record time with the jubilant annoucement "I the Winner!"
And then they fought over who would take the lead role in their own version of Lazy Town.
"I'm Sportacus," he cried.
"No, I'm Sportacus," she replied.
"No, I'm Sportacus,"
Over and over and over again until I felt as though I were in a very odd re-make of a Stanley Kubrick film!! (Click here to view)
This award was passed onto me by Babyrambles a couple of weeks ago and so apologies to her for not honouring it any earlier - I just don't know, since My Girl started pre-school five mornings a week, I have achieved less than at any other point since she was about 8 months old...? My blogs have become much less frequent, our treks of outings are shorter, the house is messier, my writing is dry and my tweets are almost inaudible! Finger out tomorrow, the start of a new week. Off to the library to do some more research on Worlebury Hill but for now ....
Each question must be answered in only one word, like this:
1. Where is your mobile phone? Handy
2. Your hair? Bedlike
3. Your mother? Working
4. Your father? Babysitting
5. Your favourite food? Spicy
6. Your dream last night? Fading
7. Your favourite drink? Tea
8. Your dream/goal? This
9. What room are you in? Living
10. Your hobby? Sleeping
11. Your fear? Pointless
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Content
13. Where were you last night? Here
14. Something that you aren’t? Energised
15. Muffins? Indifferent
16. Wish list item? Property
17. Where did you grow up? London
18. Last thing you did? Re-focussed
19. What are you wearing? Little
20. Your TV? Off
21. Your pets? NO!
22. Friends? Changing
23. Your life? Smooth
24. Your mood? Relaxed
25. Missing someone? Nope
26. Vehicle? Bicycle (sorry, I know that this is more than one word but it's a bike PINK with high handlebars. I bought it 2nd hand from the Old Town Quarry a couple of days ago and I love it. My car is still dead in the drive and we're still not missing it, although as the winter approaches ....)
27. Something you’re not wearing? Underwear
28. Your favourite store? Food
29. Your favourite colour? Red
30. When was the last time you laughed? Yesterday
31. Last time you cried? Friday
32. Your best friend? Analytical
33. One place that you go to over and over? Woods
34. One person who emails you regularly? Twitter
35. Favourite place to eat? SOMs
Can you tell that I haven't been out of bed for very long? It 1pm (hehe, I love it when that happens).
I pass this award on to Rachael Blogs, To give her something to think about, besides tanned men and blue skies, when she gets back from her holiday in Sicily :-)
As we run through the Woods chasing fairies, escaping witches, there is a part of me that is happy to have this little delight of a daughter all to myself, not to have to share her with anyone. It’s selfish, I know. But it’s also self-preservation.
Her father doesn’t take an active a role in My Girl’s life as I would like. In fact, he plays no role at all and I lay little blame at his door: it was my decision to have a child, he has had very little input and I knew that I would be ‘going it alone’ from the outset. But we do have a daughter who is strong, healthy, beautiful, lively and as independent as I’ll allow. She’s in my life now and thank God! It’s her and me.
And just look what he’s missing out on!!
I’ve contacted him, of course I have – she started asking about him before she was 3 years old: most of her friends have a Daddy, even Peppa Pig. Just simple questions like, “How old is the doggy? How old is my Daddy?” but ones I thought I might be ready for. In a few years time!! Naive ...
I continue in vain to contact him – for her sake and for mine. I’d like her to know more about herself, to not feel a sense of rejection or a mistrust of men (something I will do my utmost not to foster) and I want to protect my relationship with her, to let her know that I did, at least, try.
So I persevere. He no longer responds.
But what about those fathers who, when love no longer lingers between Mum and Dad, just refuse to let go, attempting to keep the mothers of their children captive in a foreign land, using their offspring as pawns to hurt and silence the ex-partner? How damaging could that be to a young child? And how confusing? Unfortunately, this type of scenario is the reality for some children and their mothers, unable to live the lives they choose, kept away their loved ones by the courts. This is what has been a living nightmare for Save One Mammy. What is she to do: leave the land of her ex-husband, Ireland, to return home, over the water in England, also leaving Small Child with him, thus losing custody? Or stay prisoner there but remain with her Baby?
It a choice that I, thankfully, will never have to make.
She's been drawing ever since she worked out that having opposable thumbs was fun and that they enabled her to do more than simply feed herself and the floor; if she got it right, she could hold a biro and make unwelcome marks all over our white walls (come to think of it, Celestial Graffiti pre-dates the thumb-awareness thing and began as soon as a fist could be clenched forcibly enough to support a pen).
She has her very own Junk Arts and Craft Cupboard in the kitchen, into which I bung any old shit that I come across place all sorts of delights for her to transform into an art form (old food boxes, washing up bottles, used wrapping paper and, more recently, conkers, pine cones and acorns). We're very Mister Maker (her inevitable hero) about the whole thing.
I really can't be sure but I think she's rather adept at drawing - she can already do a fathomable cat, person, face and flower. She draws an awful lot of spiders, which look a bit like her depiction of the sun but with eyes and a thread from which to dangle. The sun isn't always yellow - it can be PINK or blue or even black, like this:
This particular drawing, which I had to smooth out after she'd screwed it up into a ball, had me singing that fabulous Soundgarden tune all day yesterday. (Click here to listen to it)
The Black Sun and creepy spiders fixation could be seen as somewhat macabre ... but that sort of analysis is the property of adults who have learned too much and have lost all innocence, isn't it? Or should I expect the Social Servies round at some point in our future?
Whilst belting out tunes with her amazing voice to Bristol Festival partygoers during the early hours of Sunday morning, a friend of mine fell off stage and broke her ankle. That's pretty shit right?
She broke it in 4 places! OUCH! She'll be out of action for 3 months! DOUBLE OUCH!
This means that she can't do any more gigs for a while. It also means that she'll find it extremely difficult to entertain her lively two year old son, which many of us know can be trying at the very best of times.
So, I'm asking you all for ideas - how can she keep herself and her gorgeous little fella occupied with restricted mobility and (because she can't work right now), I'm guessing, restricted finances?
It's the first book she grabs at bedtime. We have to read it twice - she to me and me to her. I welcome this - it's fun and endearing to see her put her own words to the pictures. What's more, it displays a keenness to learn and a sense that she is at one with her imagination.
But, I wonder, is Lauren Child a children's literary genius or is My Girl actully becoming Lola?
She's always been an independent little girl - even though she could barely hold the little plastic spoon, she insisted on feeding herself that rank baby-rice stuff that I introduced into her unexciting Mummy's Milk Diet way back when. She has always wanted to put her shoes on herself or mix the glue into the paint herself or jump from a great height herself. I've become used to hearing "I do it! I do it!"
But now she has a new mantra and before putting her skirt on inside-out, back to front, she takes a breath and nodding her head, informs me that:
"I can do Everything that's Everything all on my own." An ever so slight Lola mis-quote, which I'm not about to correct.
The night before last, we read the book (twice), read Peppa Pig and the Tooth Fairy (twice) and said our goodnights. She jumped out of bed, as eagerly as if you'd just offered her a bar of Cadbury's.
"I do the light!" But before she did so, she stood still and announced proudly with a pronounced bob of the head:
"Today, I get dressed ALL ON MY OWN, I push the red swing ALL ON MY OWN, I ride my bike ALL ON MY OWN, I brush my teeth ALL ON MY OWN, I read my book ALL ON MY OWN and I turn the light off ALL ON MY OWN. I can do Everything that's Everything ALL ON MY OWN."
But just how fine is that line between independence and willfulness?
Before I was a mother, a friend sent me that email congratulating me and everyone else born before the mid-80s on having managed to survive childhood (there's now a Facebook Group dedicated to it). We were allowed to eat mud, walk down the street on our own, climb trees and play out until night-fall - all this without choking on germs, being abducted, cracking our heads open or getting lost.
I remember pelting down Ashbury Drive, Weston on my yellow and blue roller discos. My cousin, Johnny, and I (we were always the naughty ones) used to skate so ridiculously fast down that really steep hill, right from the very top. We had no brakes so our only means of stopping was to smash into a wall on the other side of Worlebury Hill Road and just pray that no cars were coming. They weren't. We used to clamber up the tallest trees in Weston Woods, helping us to more easily plan and plot our homemade maps of that wooded area, which, even back then, I treated as my very own Back Garden. With my teenage and recently deceased friend, Ma, I spent evenings dangling my legs over the top of the Quarry, watching the town below (no chance of doing that these days; you can't even get near the edge).
And I made it into adulthood! We all did!
Now I've got a child of my own, I encourage her fearless spirit, showing her how to climb those same trees and allowing here to scale the rocks at Anchor Head. I want her to run free and to get dirty from those muddy puddles, jump off the stones. If she falls, I pick her up, ask her if she's OK and tell her to get on with it. I make sure that she's safe and isn't taking mad risks, trusting that her own intuition will alert her to extreme danger.
She recently got her first bike; PINK with stabilisers. She bombs around on it outside the house and takes corners like a teenage boy on a BMX. Thing is, she also owns a bike helmet, knee pads and elbow pads - did you have anything like that? We never! And the truth of the matter is that, even though I don't want her to harm herself (of course I don't!), all this protection is as much for the benefit of others - I mean, imagine all the tuts and looks we'd get without it!!
I drop her off at pre-school and you'd think I'd go home to relax or at least to do something different while I've got some time to myself, wouldn't you? But no!
I take a new-to-me path from Cecil Road up to the Woods. It's a steeper, stonier course than we usually take, one which requires more input of energy - or is it just that I'm unemcumbered by my very own Wood Pixie and so I'm able to march along, working those leg muscles harder than they have become used to? I snag my bare legs on a few blackberry brambles but nothing to invite tears and I head up to Worlebury Camp, taking a few photos of trees on the way.
The Camp/Encampment/Iron Age Fort is a substantial clearing in the Woods at the top of Worlebury Hill, offering delightful vistas of Sand Bay/Point, the Bristol Channel and Wales - the view is stunning on a clear day such as today. Once there, I examine the holes or pits that I wrote about in my latest Weston Mercury Blog post and I realise that they are more circlar than square and are larger than I first thought (maybe 6, 7, 8 foot in diametre). These holes have been purpose-built for ... well, there has been some (but not nearly enough) speculation as to exactly what these stoned-lined wells were built for. One thing is clear; they have been here for hundreds, probably thousands, of years. Moss and ivy crawl up the walls and there are more of these pits than I had first imagined - dozens in fact. Most have been maintained (by the Rangers?) while those situated a little away from the path are disguised by brambles. As I venture inwards through the stinging nettles, I tred carefully, mindful that another seven or eight foot deep hole could well be hidden by overgrowth. I fancy that I'm swallowed up, pulled down into the opening and that I find myself in one of these crevices that, in ancient times, may have been used to store grain and/or as burial grounds. Research tells me that faeries have been spotted here - my mind frees itself.
The moon is visible in the cloudless, daytime sky, dragging the sea inwards: in an hour's time it will be high tide. Up here on Worlebury Hill, exposed to the elements, I explore not only this mysterious terrain but also an unseen space, creating my own Fantasy World.
I went to view a primary school for My Girl this morning. The deadline for applications in North Somerset is 23rd October 09 (for admissions for next academic year) and I have to apply for three, in order of preference.
I’m viewing four schools, all of which are in close proximity (within 1600 metres) to where we live.
Two are Church of England schools, voluntary aided and small, with an intake of 30 children per year. The other two are community schools of no religious denomination with double the intake at 60 kids per year.
All have “Good” Ofsted reports – though one narrowly missed being classified “Outstanding.”
The outside playing/sport area is, I think, restricted in at least one of the primaries (we’re close to the town centre here) and outdoor activity is vital, especially to a child as active as My Girl.
Two of the schools do not have websites, which, in 2009, worries me.
Ofsted reports, proximity, technology, sport, size, religious instruction and, of course, the place she would probably be happiest: what else do I need to consider before I fill in that form? Most people say that you get a ‘feel’ for the environment and you instinctively know which school would suit your little darling.
What are your criteria for choosing a school for your child?
The Great Read Award has been passed onto me by Insomniac Mummy, who tells us that she experiences sleep deprivation from bringing up two young children, though you'd never guess it from her writing, which exudes wit and vibrancy. Insomniac Mummy has revealed to us "Ten Simple Things that Make Me Happy," and it is my role to take this and adapt it to my style.
I accept the baton and clasp it gratefully. I had meant to write this post yesterday. My Girl began pre-school - hooray!!! - freeing me up for five mornings a week and so, during her first session, I was going to share with you ten smells that make me happy, which would have included the aroma of Sexy Older Man and the whiff of a blown-out candle. However, despite having three whole hours without a little person trying to persuade me to dress up as a faery or turn the carpet into a giant jigsaw puzzle, the time just whizzed by and the post never got written.
During the afternoon, My Girl and I climbed up into the woods, which you can read all about in my Weston Mercury Blog. While we were there, I got to thinking about how much time we spend up on Worlebury Hill and why I would never want to move away from this area. Therefore, my Great Read Award considers just this: ten things I love about the Woods at Worlebury Hill, Weston:
The way my lower body gets exercised and how aerobically fit all that walking makes me feel.
The varied shapes and colours of the trees.
The smell of the ground after a spell of rain.
Playing hide and seek with plenty to hide behind.
Watching My Girl jump, sit and lie in muddy puddles.
Eating faeries in our role of Big Witch and Little Witch.
Taking photos of the views over Brean Down/Somerset on one side and Sand Point/Wales on the other.
Noticing the moving shadows of the leaves and branches against the Wood floor.
The seasons - all of them!
Spending quality time with My Girl with no-one else around.
I now pass the Great Read Award on to the wonderful Tim Worth, full-time carer and father to two teenagers.
She hops into the front room on two feet. So, I suppose, she jumps into the front room.
“Mummy, I done a poo. Wipe my bottom.” I pull her back into the loo, where I oblige: “One day soon she will be able to do this unassisted”, I assure myself.
Job done, dinner served.
She spoons in the ketchup solo and then eats one of the homemade mini-burgers, most of the spaghetti hoops and all of the cucumber (she loves cucumber and so, in a bid to tick one off of the five-a-day fruit and veg list, I now serve it an accompaniment to every meal, regardless – roast lamb and cucumber, beans on toast and cucumber, spag bol and cucumber, you name it). Then down go the grapes, berries and good old Tesco Value Chocolate Mousse.
Due to my tighter-than-tight budget, practically everything I buy these days is Tesco Value or Asda Smart Price and either I’ve managed to convince myself that it’s as good as those brands you pay two or three times the price for or it’s true and retailers are robbing us blind most of the rest of the time. Anyway, I have no complaints about their chocolate mousse and, at 26p for four of the little devils, how could I? I sit down to watch the Corrie I recorded last night with a pot of my own.
“Finished, Mummy,” I look over. She’s been plopping the grapes into the mousse and the stupid stuff is everywhere.
“Right, let’s wash your hands and face,” I say, carrying her into the bathroom by her armpits.
We wash and dry her hands and she skips off.
“Bloody Hell!” I mutter as I spot a small splodge of chocolate mousse on the cream carpet (no, I’m not that dense! They are; it’s a rented flat). I bend down and I really, really don’t know why I do this but I pick the offending mucky stain off with my finger, which I then suck.
A nanosecond later I realise, with horror, that the brown blob that was on the cream carpet and is now in my mouth is NOT Tesco Value Chocolate Mousse.
Before the North Somerset Rangers fine me for actually setting up camp and moving our tiny family into the woods, I thought I should prove that we do go to other places sometimes. I’ve got photographic evidence too!
Yesterday, after having, erm, walked through the woods and hidden from the witches, taking a completely new and somewhat steep path, which posed a challenge and promoted a couple of tantrums (her, not me), we had a burst in Grove Park, a 5 minute trot from our house, although by the route we took – an hour!!
My Girl wanted to reach for the clouds (plenty of ‘em) on the red swing, which she is beginning to outgrow but, while she still fits, she’ll continue to insist on “higher, faster.” Her feet can now reach the floor, leaving me somewhat redundant and that suits me fine: I just wish I could remember to bring a book.
“Let’s go to the bandstand!!” she yelled. Ok, let’s go to the bandstand – at the bottom of the park, down the steps, by the café that sells PINK iced lollies (get where she’s coming from?), which she couldn’t have because …. well, just because I said so, OK?
I sat, she got silly-dizzy with all that running around in circles and then we headed back up to the swings via Jill’s Garden (erected and constructed by the Ground Force Team shortly after the murder of local girl Jill Dando). It’s really beautiful at the moment, all colour and butterflies. In fact, the whole park is gorgeous; hanging flower baskets everywhere.
On this, our second visit in half an hour, we had the swings all to ourselves. Lovely! But come on Lestie, let’s go home now for some strawberries and ice-cream.