Sunday, March 30, 2008


It’s been a fab weekend here.

On Friday night, Dani and Pearl went to see friends in a gig. They did very well, apparently. While they were there, Leo and I went to the cinema to see The Spiderwick Chronicles. I remember reading those to Leo several years ago and not being hugely impressed. But, the film was very good indeed. The creatures were brilliantly done and it was well acted. I was particularly pleased to find it had Mary Louise Parker in it. Leo has re-read most of one of the ones we own, in a single sitting, this evening. He also spent some birthday money on a little book based on the movie. During the weekend he has also made himself a beautiful little Field Guide – like the one in the story. He’s written little descriptions of various creatures and done drawing to go with each.

On Saturday, I had to go to work. Dani and the kids had friends A and C to play. They had a great time playing at home and making mud soup in the park. I came home to excited kids performing rather strange little sketches for the adults.

Today I didn’t have to work because the uni term doesn’t start again until tomorrow. Dani and I have decided we have done all the painting we can face and declared our room finished so we spent some time tidying and organising. I am so happy that we now have this finished room – four walls, door, everything!

Dani's Kandinsky picture finds a wall - at last!

I have decided that the green isn't showing through - I hope! It took three coats of yellow.

It isn't suffering to badly from boxitis. Or, if it is, at least they are tidy...

In the afternoon we popped round to see local cousins S and D. My brother was struggling with a curtain rail. We drank tea and chatted to S and D’s mum. Pearlie and her cousin S were devising codes based on different number bases. This isn’t something we’ve ever talked about much but P picked it up quickly and wrote a list of numbers in base three up to thirty. Leo and cousin D did some lovely dragon drawing. When all the kids had gone outside and got muddy, we came home.

I made roast spuds, steamed broccoli and carrots, frozen peas and green beans, tinned sweetcorn and cold Quorn chicken for tea. No matter how many roast potatoes are made they are all, always, eaten! It's been a great day for veg eating here. Pearlie was thrilled to find Lamb's Lettuce at lunchtime and Leo declared the tea-time broccoli 'delicious'.

While I was cooking, the others played a game Leo was given for his birthday – Sardines. It is a visual memory game so P walked it. She can just remember what she sees. I think it was about eighteen months ago that she memorised all the flags of the world. I wonder how many she can still remember?

Dani is working away on this massive blanket project that will apparently use up lots of wool. It is looking wonderful.

Pearlie blogged tonight, which involved the scanning in of photos. Check out her blog.

OK, got to watch The English Patient. I went through a real Michael Ondaatje phase before the movie was made and didn’t expect to like the film. But it is very captivating to watch – especially Kristen Scott Thomas.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Back in the swing

Well, it’s been a busy week here – getting back into the swing of things.

Pearlie has been to Kids’ Club once this week, where she had a wild time running the new go-cart through paint and then over paper. She enjoyed swimming on Wednesday. She and I did some of a funny little 1960s book of punctuation exercises. She learned the hard way about checking pockets before washing her clothes and pulped a notebook in the washing machine. She’s blogging occasionally on her new(ish) blog. She's excited about going to an event tonight where friends are playing.

Leo has been enjoying spending his birthday money. Here he is enjoying purchase.

He also did painting at Kids’ Club and, on a different day, made a fabulous piece of art in the sandpit – using sticks and so on. He went to writing group and wrote this:

Hill hiker
Trash eater
Badger beater
Roller upper
Quick Supper
Food hider
Foot slider
Nest finder
Twig binder

Can you guess the animal?

He is working on a new set of comics all about Milo the Smilodon and also made one about Mustelid Man today.

He’s also back in full-on prank mode. These were in the fridge.

I have been writing. I went to a new group, after an invite from my friend E. It was great and really inspired me. I entered two competitions on Thursday. Apart from that, I’ve been back at work and feeling very tired in the evenings.

Dani has also been back at work. She took the kids to the swimming pool and library on Wednesday. On Thursday, they went to town to shop and drop in films for developing. P is spending most of her money on developing films at the moment but she was pleased to get some free ones as part of a deal.

Kids are doing secret things in Leo’s room and it has been quiet for hours now. Oh well, I’ll enjoy Poirot in peace.

Here's a lovely photo that P took the other night.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

British Museum

We got up as early as we could stand yesterday. We were all rather tired – I guess a day travelling from Cornwall, a day frantically preparing for a party and a day having that party had worn us out a bit! We’d also all stayed up late on Sunday night – P watching the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency with us and Leo watching his new DVD of Primeval series one.

We spent rather a lot on train fares, to make up for the cheap tickets to Cornwall, I guess… Dani was working on the Guardian cryptic Easter crossword, Pearlie and I largely failing to do the quick one in the local paper, and Leo mostly playing with his Iorek Byrnison figure. There were beautiful snow flurries as we went through Croydon.

The main reason Leo chose a trip to the British Museum was that he wanted to have a good look at the Ancient Egyptian stuff. I have to say that I felt it was better than the stuff in the Tutankhamun exhibition we went to in December. The museum was packed, which was a bit of a shame, but at least we’re all old enough to cope with that now. I really felt for the people with buggies, or small people who just couldn’t maintain their interest.

We also looked round the Romans in Britain gallery, which includes the Mildenhall Treasure. I remember reading the kids a Roald Dahl book that tells the story of its discovery. The whole idea of finding treasure is so exciting, isn’t it? When I was a kid, I was always sure that I’d find some one day.

We had a good look at a gallery all about money, which P particularly enjoyed. There was a man in there with some genuine artefacts that the kids could handle. He told them interesting things. I have to say, I like real people better than interactive touch-screen thingies when it comes to making museum collections more accessible. I suppose there’s a place for both.

Part of our birthday present to Leo was a promise to buy him something in the museum shop, but he didn’t find anything he wanted. So we’ve given him the cash to add to his birthday stash.

We had managed to eat all of our picnic food on arrival at the museum, and people were getting hungry again, so we had to buy bagels at Victoria. We got a bus home from the station. I made lots of spaghetti (I guess the cold is making people hungrier than usual?) and then the kids found an old Harry Hill stand-up video to watch. I started to feel very odd, took a Pink Migraleve and fell asleep on the sofa. Dani tipped us all into bed about nine and probably sat up doing her crossword. She’s back to work today.

Kids have got Squeezebox later, followed by writing group for Leo. This evening, I’m off to try out at a new writing group too. A friend has kindly asked her group if they’ll let me come along. Typically, as the house is unusually tidy, I have lost my notebook. Better go and look for it and remind Leo that there is a limited time for keyboard practice.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Yesterday we spent the day getting unpacked, doing some laundry, shopping, baking and icing a cake, re-painting a stairway, cleaning out the guinea pig, tidying bedrooms, sorting out heaps of recycling… It is amazing how much four people can achieve if they just work all day long! Oh yeah, and we didn’t even work all day long because Dani and Pearlie investigated how the length of a pendulum affects the frequency of its swing. They plotted their results on a graph. Leo flopped about watching various things on his new DVD player.

Today we had a local(ish) family gathering in honour of Leo’s birthday. There were six grandparents, two uncles, an aunt, three cousins and the four of us. We provided lots of tea and heaps of party food, which has largely been eaten. It was lovely to spend some time with family and the kids had a great time. The girls organised an easter egg hunt for the boys. There was hide and seek and similar games, involving children behind and under virtually every chair!

Leo got some lovely presents from everyone. He got a Doctor Who fob watch, Primeval series one on DVD (he has watched most of it tonight!), a Iorek Byrnison action figure, some found roller blades, a clinometer and length of pipe that can be set up to catch the sun, book tokens and cash. Thanks to all.

We’re off to the British Museum tomorrow, which is Leo’s choice of birthday trip. Better get some sleep soon. I feel vaguely sick from the amount of party food I’ve been grazing on all day. Luckily, I found the stash of cakes and biscuits that the boys had hidden in Leo's room to 'eat another day'...

Friday, March 21, 2008


St Ives was as lovely as ever.

Visiting so early in the year meant it was much quieter than in the high season. We stayed in the same gorgeous flat we’d been to in 2004 and 2005. Leo has long held that he is going to buy it when he grows up. The window makes you feel like you’re right out in the world.

We visited the Tate, where Dani and I admired landscapes by Margo Maeckelberghe. The kids were captivated by a Grayson Perry work called Print for a Politician.

We did a circular walk of about five miles to the church at Lelant.

When I was a child, one of the things I did with my dad was to go for long country walks to various churches in Sussex. I can remember being more interested in things like whether or not we had any sweets than the churches. But the smell and the strange darkness on a summer day are very vivid in my memories. Anyway, it seems that I have inherited the need to pop a coin in the box and take the little booklet that tells the history of the church. So I wittered on at the kids for a bit and they were pleased with the Norman font…

We were blown away (not literally, though it was gusty!) by the beautiful views as we walked along. I fell in love with the houses huddled against the cliff at Hawk’s Point. We saw a kestrel on the way back. We were alongside the railway line for most of this walk. Anyone who has ever been to St Ives and not arrived by train has really missed something. I think it’s just about the most beautiful train journey I know.

Another good walk was up to Knill’s Monument. The rhododendron bushes are all being destroyed in an attempt to control Sudden Oak Death fungus. This was a bit sad but, luckily for us, the workmen doing that job were having their lunch break at the monument. They were able to confirm that the birds we had spotted were buzzards and they showed us where to spot St Michael’s Mount on the horizon.

It was Leo’s 8th birthday while we were there. I find it rather astonishing that he has got to such an advanced age already! He got a toy alethiometer, a spyglass in little wooden box and a very dinky little portable DVD player. Pearlie gave him a DVD of Ice Age, which they watched together on the train home.

It was a trip that was very heavy on reading (and pasties, as my waistline demonstrates) and I’m not sure if I can remember all the books that were read. Pearlie read two more books in the Ally’s World books she’s been enjoying, as well as a Jacqueline Wilson. Leo read an Alistair Fury book and a new Jamie Rix, Grizzly Tales book. Dani finished a book all about the Natural History Museum, called Dry Store Room No. 1 by Richard Fortey. She also borrowed a book from the local library about communities in Penwith in the twentieth century. I read a Ruth Rendell (that Pearlie and Leo gave me for Mothers’ Day) then wolfed down a Jeanette Winterson called The Stone Gods that I had somehow missed. By the last day I was without book and treated myself to The Accidental by Ali Smith, which I’ve just finished.

One of the most enjoyable things we did was to hide some treasure for cousins who are visiting St Ives next month. I can say no more, but it was good fun and I hope it remains undisturbed until they get there!

Dani and the kids had a good swim at the local pool (I had managed to cut my leg on a stick, so didn't go in) and we ate lots of ice-cream most days. Leo discovered that he loved apple, pear and custard pasties. Pearlie got a nice pair of sandals that should last the summer. Oh, and we travelled very cheaply. It cost just £85.80 for all four of us to get to St Ives and back. This was done by using family railcard and single tickets. The kids travelled home today for £3.50 each! Journeys were simple and we made all connections, in spite of the fact that most of the underground was closed today.

Here's a few more photos to give you a flavour of the trip

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Go West!

We’re off to St. Ives for a week tomorrow, so won’t be around here for a while.

A few swift highlights of the last few days:

  • The kids had a fantastic session at Kids Club this morning, where they made a go-kart!

  • Leo’s Kids Club yesterday was also good. He modelled a Troodon emerging from its egg, out of clay
  • Yesterday afternoon we popped to the library, where Leo picked up one of his reservations, and borrowed another book to bring on holiday
  • Pearl had a friend round this afternoon, for a lovely play, then moved on to her Woodcraft session – also fun. They’ve decided on a campsite for a spring adventure next month.
  • Meanwhile, Leo and I made two batches of chocolate fairy cakes – some vegan, some not. All yummy, and coming with us on the train tomorrow!
  • Allie and Leo finished Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, and Pearlie and I finished The Mystery of the Cupboard. We’ll have a gap in bedtime stories while we’re away, as the kids are sharing a room in the holiday house, so that’s good timing all round.

To keep you going while we’re away, here’s a picture of Bunny (taken by Leo) and a lovely daffodil (taken by Pearlie).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Too busy to blog... again...

It’s been very busy round here lately. Here’s some stuff that’s been going on…

On Saturday, Pearlie went on a bouldering trip with Adventure Unlimited, to Harrison’s Rocks. This would have been higher climbing but it was too wet. She went with a friend from Woodcraft (the only two girls, apparently) but happened upon several boys she knows from other places. She had a great time.

While Pearlie was there, Leo went to a friend’s house to play. They watched some old Doctor Who together, as well as the start of Jurassic Park. (Luckily, Leo and Dani happened upon a copy in a charity shop yesterday, so he’s seen it all now.) They also went under covers and told each other very scary stories by torchlight.

I was at work and so Dani had a couple of hours alone in town. She bought a beautiful wool coat, ‘vintage’ velvet jacket and black/black baseball boots. This was all in honour of the evening…

Once the kids had finished climbing and playing with friend, we dropped them round at their cousins’ house for a sleepover. We ate a quick meal and went out to an International Women’s Day disco. Sadly, this was not the exciting event we’d hoped it would be. I have amazing memories of an 8th March cabaret event in Leeds where this tiny, stocky, leather dyke put on a big wig and belted out Shirley Bassey numbers. This didn’t really come close… So, we had a quick drink there, cut our losses and went to the pub. Pubs are much better now they’re not full of smoke, aren’t they? Then we came home and watched some series three L Word episodes. It was lovely to have some time to ourselves. We talked about how lucky we are and thought about other women who aren't. (There is a petition online but I'm not sure how current it is.)

Sunday was pretty quiet. I went to work exhausted. I can’t imagine how I used to go to work on so little sleep when I was younger. D and the kids relaxed at home.

Yesterday, Pearlie went to Kids’ Club in the morning and to the grandmothers’ in the afternoon. At Kids’ Club she did some work on a magazine they’re making. At the grandmothers’ house she played a French game they’ve been making together – as well as cards and with the trusty, red animals. The red animals arrived in the family in my childhood. They came from Terry, who was a sort of adopted family member, having been on my mum’s caseload when she was a social worker in the 1950s. He had a succession of factory jobs and the red animals were meant to go singly into cereal packets, I believe. He arrived with a big bag full. That was always the way with Terry. When he worked as a meat packer he used to turn up with huge joints. He was such a skinny bloke, I guess there was plenty of room under his jacket! Anyway, those red animals have provided hours and hours of play for children in the family, for the last thirty five years.

Leo and I had a lovely morning at home. We did some maths together and I was amazed at the increase in his speed and skill in things like subtracting two digit numbers in his head. Then he did some more excavating for plastic dinosaur bones, while I read him some of the book we’re sharing. I wasn’t too sure of these books at first (they’re full of American childhood cultural references, so a bit hard to grasp at points) but they are actually very clever. I like the way the author has taken realities of modern children’s lives (like absent parents and diagnoses of ADHD etc) and held this ancient mythological glass in front of them. Leo is picking up loads about mythological monsters and likes to check on the free Guardian wallchart we got recently, to see if there’s a picture of each one that gets mentioned.

In the afternoon, I hurriedly sploshed a bit more yellow paint on our bedroom walls (yes, we’re still decorating that room!) and then went to work. Dani and Leo did some more experiments from his Christmas chemistry set. So, the kitchen is now full of crystals growing and stuff in test tubes.

Pearlie’s forays into the world of veganism are proving a bit of a mixed bag. She’s happy with vegan marg on her bread and toast, which is good. She had some soya yogurty stuff which she said was ok. We all tried some Cheezly vegan cheese and found it revolting! Dani made some of her lovely bread on Sunday, which is super-nutritious.

P is off tidying her room at the mo, as a friend is coming to play on Thursday. The living room is covered in piles of stuff as we are mid-pack for our holiday at the end of the week. There are a hundred things I should be doing, but I think I’ll have a cup of tea. Oh, fab, Leo has washed up all the breakfast things.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Fledgling vegan?

Pearlie is thinking of becoming a vegan. She’s never eaten meat or fish, but we do eat dairy produce and eggs. As she learns more about the production of these things, she’s less keen to eat them. So, we’re on something of a fact finding mission.

If she goes ahead with this she’ll be the only one of us four to do it. Dani and I have long since reconciled ourselves to the contradictions of our ovo-lacto, vege dietary choices. Leo loves eggs, milk and various cheeses, so there’s no way he’ll be joining her. He also likes quorn, which has egg in it. Not to mention milk chocolate!

We are very lucky to know a lot of vegans, from whom we can get info – and from whom Pearlie can get support. These include two healthy vegan boys – both very fit and strong – which calms my fears a little. Pearlie isn’t planning an overnight conversion here – which I think is wise. She’s going to drop and replace things gradually. There is a vegan society approved supplement she can take - with all the vits and minerals in - if we decide that's wise.

I think the toughest thing will be all the cakes, sweets and biscuits that will become no-go areas for her. It is perfectly possible to make yummy vegan versions of these, but you have to get round to it! The days of jaffa cakes, malted milk bics and galaxy will be over.

Anyway, this is her choice to make and we’ll see what happens. It’s a valuable thing to see how far you can go for things you believe in. I’m sure it’s easier for children raised as vegan from babyhood, who have never eaten a bar of Cadbury dairy milk – but we’ll see.

Today we have been to the big, drop-in home ed group. It was a bit quiet, because lots of people have gone on a skiing trip. But there were new people, as there often are. The kids did loads of playing football (and other wild ball games, I think!) in the sports hall. I don’t set foot in there if I can help it – too many bad memories associated with such places.

Yesterday, Dani helped out at Kids’ Club, as the play worker was ill. There were three parents helping and, luckily, the kids divided themselves into three groups. Leo, and two other boys around his age, started making a Kids’ Club newspaper. Pearlie took pictures of other people dancing, and building an obstacle course, for a photo supplement to the newspaper. I cleared up the tip that was the living room, washed up, and did a bit of work on a story.

Leo is hacking away at one of those ‘dig a dino’ kits in his bedroom. Experience has taught me that I’d better be available to help with hoovering in an hour or so… He’s having a mini-revival of interest in dinosaurs. Yesterday he got Walking with Dinosaurs, on DVD, from the library and watched the whole thing. When he was four we damn near wore out the old, library VHS tapes! This is being prompted by a Kids’ Club topic (dinos/prehistoric beasts/reptiles), which is nice. It turns out there are lots of other kids there who are, or have been, dinosaur obsessed. It’s good to share. Between them, they have a wonderful library of books.

Right, off to do useful things. I really do want to get that washing out the machine and put it on the airer…

Thursday, March 06, 2008

No title

I found yesterday a bit draining. I was on the rota as parent helper at Kids’ Club, which was fine. The sunny weather meant outdoor play – drawing life size outlines of dinosaurs, in chalk, on the ground. But it was chilly and at times I felt my lack of ability in handling ups and downs in groups of kids.

I rushed off to work for a presentation by a supplier. Had to leave that early (which is embarrassing when someone has travelled miles to give you their spiel) to do an enquiry desk session with new colleague. Spent a while floundering when trying to find source of quote by Francis Bacon (why do we mess things up when we’re being watched?), only to have it rejected by student as ‘too old’. Entirely my fault for not checking that student had vague notion of who Francis Bacon was when she presented me with the quote in the first place. Ho Hum.

During the evening, as I battled with inbox and heap in my post tray, I was afflicted with sneezes. It was odd – great bouts of sneezing for no apparent reason. At least it was entertaining for my colleagues. Librarians are easily amused. Anyway, staggered through to end of day and we went to bed when the kids did. After ten hours of sleep I feel ok(ish) – just a bit congested.

Dani and the kids had a bit of a stressful afternoon too. A sudden row disrupted plans to go swimming. All was calm by the time I got home. Pearlie had plaited herself a lovely bracelet out of embroidery silks and finished it with a home-made paper bead.

Tuesday was a good day. Kids each had an individual session at Squeezebox, as the rest of their band members are away this week. I spent half an hour reading to Leo, while P had her lesson. I spent half an hour doing fractions with Pearl, while Leo had his lesson. We looked very LEA approved…(joke, joke, I know we don't need approval.)

Leo had a super time playing Primeval with friends, in the park. Pearlie came home with a friend as they were both too cold – and played in her room. She set up a cable car for her Sylvanians. Leo went to Little Green Pig, where he wrote limericks, apparently. This led to limericks over the dinner table in the evening. I have to be watched or they get rude. Well, if you have a family member called Dani…

Monday included a trip to the grandmothers’ for Leo. Pearlie bought a new notebook – something that keeps happening here! She’s enjoying having a new blog. Thanks to all who’ve paid her a visit. Oh, yeah, and I went to town in search of jeans. D and I have a night out planned. I got a pair of brand new Levi’s in a charity shop for a fiver. This was after I almost laughed in the face of spaghetti-shaped sales assistant in the Gap. Here’s a tip for all such beings:

“Woman of thirty seven years, who is five foot nothing, with big bum, is not interested in skinny jeans.”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

12, 9, 6, 3, Now meme

EF tagged me.

Twelve years ago me: LOCATION: This small terraced house in Brighton - but it felt big. CHILDREN: None - but trying for our first. We weren’t using my womb, so the main impact on me was hand-holding and train travel. JOB: Full-time library assistant in small university research unit. TRANSPORT: Bus and feet. EMPLOYEES: None. FAVE DRINK: Coca-cola and tea. LOVE INTEREST: Dani. CONTRACEPTION: Erm, no need. Quite interested in conception for the first time in my life! WISH FOR FUTURE: That little blue line on a stick and resulting baby. SPONSORS: None. HAIR: Just like it is now – short back and sides and brushed back. UNDERWEAR: Plain black or white briefs and the occasional pair of silk boxers. FAVE OUTFIT: When at an appropriate event, green, shiny ballroom dancing dress.

Nine years ago me: LOCATION: This small terraced house in Brighton – full of board boots, toys and piles of cloth nappies. CHILDREN: One. Just started thinking about number two. JOB: Part-time (10 hours per week) assistant librarian (it's a good sign when the words get reversed) in large university library. TRANSPORT: Bus and feet. EMPLOYEES: None. FAVE DRINK: Coca-cola and tea. LOVE INTEREST: Dani. CONTRACEPTION: Erm, no need. WISH FOR FUTURE: Another one of these cool baby people. SPONSORS: The state was helping out. HAIR: Just like it is now – short back and sides and brushed back. UNDERWEAR: Plain black or white briefs. FAVE OUTFIT: Whatever was not covered in mashed banana, mud or wee.

Six years ago me: LOCATION: This small terraced house in Brighton – in chaos. CHILDREN: Two. JOB: Part-time (10 hours per week) assistant librarian in smaller university library. TRANSPORT: Bus and feet. EMPLOYEES: None. FAVE DRINK: Coca-cola and tea. LOVE INTEREST: Dani. CONTRACEPTION: Erm, no need. WISH FOR FUTURE: Sleep and the chance of watching something else on TV apart from a video of The Singing Kettle. SPONSORS: The state was helping out. HAIR: just like it is now – short back and sides and brushed back. UNDERWEAR: Considerably larger black or white knickers. FAVE OUTFIT: Whatever was not covered in mashed banana, mud or wee.

Three years ago me: LOCATION: This small terraced house in Brighton – with educational wall-charts. CHILDREN: Two. JOB: Not so part-time assistant librarian (20 hours per week) in smaller university library. TRANSPORT: Bus and feet. EMPLOYEES: None. FAVE DRINK: Coca-cola and tea. LOVE INTEREST: Dani. CONTRACEPTION: Erm, no need. WISH FOR FUTURE: To feel all confident about this home ed malarkey. SPONSORS: The state had just decided to notice that Dani and I are a couple and so stopped being so generous! HAIR: Just like it is now – short back and sides and brushed back. UNDERWEAR: Same old, same old…. FAVE OUTFIT: Whatever was not covered in acrylic paint, glue or mud.

Me now: LOCATION: This small terraced house in Brighton – finally sorted with three real bedrooms. CHILDREN: Two. JOB: Not so part-time assistant librarian (20 hours per week) in smaller university library. TRANSPORT: Bus and feet. EMPLOYEES: None, unless you count the music teacher. FAVE DRINK: Tea. (Am trying not to drink Coca –Cola, on account of elder child with developing social conscience.) LOVE INTEREST: Dani. CONTRACEPTION: Erm, no need. WISH FOR FUTURE: More of this would be lovely. Would also like to win a short-story competition and see children grown in good health. SPONSORS: The state still bungs us a few quid in child benefit and tax credit. Parents help out sometimes, which is great. HAIR: Just like it is now – short back and sides and brushed back. UNDERWEAR: We finally gave in and share knickers. I favour the ones that don’t have holes in yet. FAVE OUTFIT: Whatever doesn’t feel too tight round my tummy or make me feel like mutton dressed as lamb. Am worried I might start wearing floral things…

Not tagging with this one. Too shy to ask people such *personal* questions…

Have a look @ my new blog!

Monday, March 03, 2008

What we want for our children

On Sunday, we were watching Lark Rise to Candleford. There was a conversation between the parents of the Timmins family about what they wanted for their children. It was rather well done and it got me thinking.

The story is set in the very early years of the twentieth century and the family live in a small hamlet. They have a reasonable income when the father is in work – he is a stonemason. Other families in the hamlet are struggling to survive – worrying about every meal and doing all they can to keep themselves out of the workhouse. The scene where the Timmins parents discussed what they wanted for their children made me realise that this is a universal concern of parents. The details differ between time and place but the core issues are the same.

I have little faith in success, as judged by qualifications, careers and possessions. This is largely because I have seen too many people who have succeeded in these terms – and yet not found satisfaction, peace or happiness. But, I’m not smug enough to suggest that these things are nothing. I have never had to live in abject poverty. I, like Emma Timmins in the drama, want my children to have choices. I don’t want them fleeced by the powerful.

I am very aware that I am only two generations away from a woman who was raised in the care of Barnardos, who had no qualifications and little choice about the work she took. As a young teenager, she was sent into service as a maid. Later in her life she did piece work for a small glove maker. She worked hard for her family – supporting her children and caring for her husband as he died a slow death from Tuberculosis. It is little wonder that she and her husband had a deep belief in education as their children’s route to a life that would be less of a struggle.

But my grandmother was a warm, loving person with great energy. She had dark experiences in her life – a lack of care and warmth in her childhood. She never owned a house or flat. She lost her home (with the sister in whose house she lived for decades) and so lived out the end of her life with my parents, my siblings, and me. When she died she left nothing in the way of cash – just the few possessions she had in her bedroom. But she had instilled in my mum something that was worth a mint – and my mum passed it on to me. She lived for the day. She lived at a pace and enjoyed what she did. She loved her children and grasped new experiences when they came her way. I try to keep that in mind.

I don’t want to come across like Pollyanna here! I don’t think that life is all sun and flowers. There is no way we can give our children a life without suffering and if we could it would leave them poorer, I think. Without darkness we can’t appreciate the light.

What annoys me is the way that a certain lifestyle, a particular kind of career and family, a list of possessions, is peddled as the route to happiness. It is little wonder that people find themselves pushing their children along a path, jumping hurdles as they go, to reach these goals. If someone says that their child is a doctor/lawyer, lives in a big house, has a husband/wife and children and drives a flash car, then surely they should be the epitome of happiness? We all know that real life is not like that. But the fiction is strong. The role of the parent is too often presented as that of the over-eager personal trainer – shouting instructions from the side of the track as our children race for the prize. I hate that. I don’t want my children to treat life as a race – in any way. I don’t want to kid them that a set of qualifications, a particular job or a dream home will bring them ‘success’. They’ll have to find their own definitions. As a parent, I find this both terrifying (as I am pretty powerless in this process!) and liberating (I don’t have to be constantly pushing them on in the race). It’s a bit like I imagine hang-gliding to be – a leap of faith but hugely exhilarating.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday 2nd March 2008

We were woken at about 8.10am by both the children. We got wonderful presents for Mothers' Day. Pearlie had gone to town alone to shop for them – and she’d done a wonderful job. Dani got two balls of wool and I got a new Ruth Rendell book and a pen. Pearlie is so grown up these days and it was lovely that she had taken the lead role in the shopping – something Leo couldn’t have done in secret, yet.

Once we were up I went over to my mum and partner’s house to give them some gifts. I’d made my mum a little box of selected photos of loved ones – and bought her partner some gardener’s soap. Part of what I want to say on this day is thanks for all their help and support over the year – so I don’t see why my mum’s partner should be left out!

I went on to work for the rest of the day.

Dani and the kids met up with another family for a play in the park. This went well, apparently, and the kids are keen to play with those kids again.

Everyone got a bit overwrought just before tea – which was certainly hunger. Dani made brown rice and mixed veg sauce. Pearlie doesn’t eat the sauce but she has peas mixed in and some raw veg as well. I felt the need for pudding so I made a banana cake. We all had two pieces and the kids fell into bed. I’m hoping to follow soon…

Birds, bunnies and blossom

We ventured over to Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve today – to our shame, the first time we’ve been there since the kids joined the RSPB two years ago. It was quite a big excursion for us, as the two trains and a bus needed to get there didn’t connect up very well, and the total journey took about three hours each way.

It was lovely when we got there, though. The weather was bright and cold, and there were hundreds of birds and other wild creatures. There were rabbits everywhere – the kids got very close to one particularly relaxed one.

Leo spotted newts in a pond.

We all enjoyed the views.

Pearlie got some great photos of spring blossom…

… and friendly cows.

I think we’ll go back, though we may investigate different methods of getting there. Paying £5.10 to travel on the bus for less than five minutes was a bit galling, so we may do that bit on foot next time.

Allie and the kids spent most of the day at home yesterday. They all collaborated on the First News crossword, and Allie made some yummy cheese scones. Pearlie went to play at the cousins’ house for a little while in the afternoon.

In the evening, they went swimming, while I made pasties for tea and today’s packed lunch. Swimming was eventful, as the relief lifeguard forgot to come up from the town centre pool, causing a delay to the start of the session and free swimming for everyone who was kept waiting. In an apparent epidemic of forgetfulness, Leo then discovered he hadn’t put his swimming trunks in his bag, and had to borrow some from the lost property at the pool.

He is quite distracted lately... This evening, Allie suggested that he go and wash his hands before tea. He went up to the bathroom and came back a few minutes later, then stopped and said "Oh! I brushed my teeth by mistake!"