Come along for the ride!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Fonz is Cool!

I imagine that being a magician, especially a magician that does only children’s parties, is very, very rewarding. The looks on their faces when the trick is revealed are a picture.

Take Joseph the other night for example. I had read him his nightly story and was about to switch the light off when he says, “show me something Dad” and promptly sucks his thumb.

This can mean only one thing – he is tired but doesn’t know it and wants to keep me talking for as long as possible. I think this is sweet, so I give him a hug, kiss him on the top of the head and lay back down next to him.

Now if my brain were a processor, it would be a fairly slow one so I was more than a little impressed at remembering ‘the floating sausage’ trick.

Do you know it?

You focus on a fixed point in the distance, hold your hands up at eye level about 18 inches apart (but keep your focus in the distance) and, pointing your forefingers at each other, slowly move them together. There will come a point where your finger tips will blur into a sausage shape, floating between your fingers.

So, after a brief explanation, Joseph tried it and, to his delight, there was the “sausage” just like I’d said. After his loud laughter had subsided (but not before I could hear Annabel enquiring what all the noise was), he tried it again and again, amazed that it worked every time.

You know you’ve got it right when the only word your child says to you is, “Cooool!”.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back To The Future

Yesterday morning, we were blessed with a bit of a lie-in. Well, 7.30am is a lie-in in our house.

As the children were playing on our bedroom floor, M and I discussed what to do with our Saturday. We narrowed it down to a choice of two things.

One: Go to Brick Lane market (in East London), get some filled bagels from the Bagel Bakery, which serves beautifully filled bagels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and then on to Bethnal Green museum for children in the afternoon


Two: Go to Wimbledon dog track boot sale for the morning, Northcote Road (SW11) Antique’s Market (to find something for my Dad’s birthday) and then home for roast chicken, “You’ve Been Framed” (Joseph’s favourite), leaving enough time to make “Grandad” a card.

We would normally run the options past the children but this time, selfishly or not, we didn’t. We opted for option two. So we swung into action, had breakfast and was at the boot sale within an hour and a half.

The reason I am telling you this is because, prior to having children – actually, prior even to being married – M and I loved to visit car boot sales. You know, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and all that. Plus, in our culture of use it and throw it away, we always felt that buying “stuff” at car boot sales was a way of recycling.

(Now I feel I have justified buying old rubbish, I shall continue).

Visiting this market yesterday, reminded us why we loved them in the first place. The anticipation of finding something you’ve “always wanted” be it an old record, an antique leather chair, a huge gilt mirror, an old Victorian school type radiator in need of some attention (to name but a few of the things I saw) and when you do find something, the haggling Life of Brian style – 10 for that, you must be mad – even Joseph got in on the act when he spotted a Darth Vader light sabre which lit up and made the “real” noise.

“It’s a pound love,” the woman said.

Following a bit of prompting from me Joseph piped up, “can I give you 50p?”.

When she said yes and gave it to him plus change from his pound coin, his day was made. Annabel then found a talking Barney the Dinosaur for the same amount and pulled the same trick on the poor unsuspecting stall owner but the find of the day was M finding an intact (albeit rather tatty) copy of Mrs Beeton’s Cookery Book for the grand sum of, yes, you’ve guessed it, 50p.


The same book is fetching £85 online, so as you might imagine, she was rather pleased.

Anyway, I suppose the details aren’t all that important (or interesting for you) but the point is, we did something that we used to do before becoming parents, introduced the children to it and we think they enjoyed it, so it bodes well for going again.

Today was my Dad’s birthday and we all went out for something to eat. Always enjoying eating at new places, we went straight back to the gastro-pub we ate in for my Mum’s birthday only two weeks previous and, although our roast beef was a little on the cool side, we were all stuffed and generally had a very enjoyable afternoon.

We arrived outside our house just before 5pm and, as we got out of the car, we realised that it was still light and that spring really is on its way. “The nights are drawing out”, as my Mum would say and had she said it today she would have been absolutely right.

Back in November, I mentioned our neighbour’s boiler outlet making a very strange noise when it “fired up”. This morning it “fired up” at 4am, waking M and me, so I wasn’t pleased.

Statements I want to finish with are:

Thanks for being so good this weekend kids – it was a real pleasure.

Foxes yelping in the night are bloody annoying.

Noisy boilers are even more annoying.

Happy birthday Dad.

I am extremely tired.

Beautiful afternoon sky

Beautiful evening sky

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How low can you go?

M enrolled Joseph on some drama classes at a fantastic little theatre not far from home and he absolutely loves it. It’s only the 3rd week out of 10 but I can tell he loves it because when he joins the queue to go through to the drama hall, he doesn’t look back over at me, asking if I’ll be going with him.

As always yesterday, I left work, drove across town on my bike, got in, got changed and as I went to leave the house thought, “oh no – I’ve got no spare change”.

The problem with having no change is I need to ‘pay and display’ to run into the school to collect Joseph. On top of that, I need to drive to where his drama takes place and then pay and display again.

I search high and low indoors for some spare change (without much luck it has to be said) before, ding, I remember where I’ll find a whole heap of change; Joseph’s money box.

Yes, yes, I hear your sharp intake of breath and I accept that this is fairly low on the scale of cheap tricks to play. It was £2.50 too, so not an entirely unnoticeable amount. The money box is a digital readout one, forcing me to unscrew the thing, lest he should discover my crime.

(Actually, I must remember to put it back tonight to avoid him going through the roof)

So, change duly stolen from son’s piggy bank, I set off to collect him and as we make our way from the school to the car, he tells me the story of how he was playing with his friends at play time, he runs, falls and cuts his hand and knee (showing me both).

“What happened? Were you alright?” I ask, concerned. “Did you tell a teacher?”

“No. I went over to the gazebo, looked at my leg and cried. Then I went and played again”, he said matter of factly.

I found the fact that he sat alone crying in the playground heartbreaking. I know that it’s all part of the growing up process and I know it’s better that he learns to deal with small issues (like a grazed knee) by himself.

But I just pictured him sat alone in a noisy playground, crying and looking at his bloody knee and my heart squeezed ever so slightly.

He had clearly moved on from it though and issued his usual demand of snacks, which was a rather splendid honey sandwich (a favourite of his) with Hula Hoops and a peeled carrot.

“Shall we go to drama then Poops?”

“Yes please Dad”.

Nice, nice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bite your lip and count to five!

Today our humble abode resembled a Second World War trench with mess and bodies lying everywhere.

The reason for this mess? A “simple” lunch cooked for friends (including Joseph’s Godfather); 6 adults in total and our 6 children. Both the couples have two girls and with Annabel, that means Joseph is outnumbered by 5 to 1 and for this reason, I always feel slightly sorry for him as the conversation is invariably about dollies or babies and he ends up getting somewhat bossed around; he doesn’t seem to mind too much though, I have to say.

One family is vegetarian so we improvised a favourite of ours and used sausages ‘sans meat’ and cooked a lovely sausage and sweet potato hot pot. It was very well received and our veggie guests had seconds (which I think is a pretty good gauge on whether or not people really do enjoy what you’ve cooked!).

After my date tart was so well received the other week, I thought I would go for a win-double and therefore presented the same again today. As the admiring gasps faded, one of our guests reminded us that she is allergic to wheat and wouldn’t be able to have any.

Cue M’s shoulder’s to drop with accompanying “oh damn, I forgot, we’re so sorry”. I also apologised whilst quietly thinking that this would actually leave us with more to scoff when they were all gone but naturally I never mentioned this out loud.

Anyway, the reason for my rambling is that halfway through the main course, aforementioned Godfather’s eldest daughter (who was a little out of sorts today), came grumbling over to the dining table and sat her teddy bear on the table. Unfortunately, said teddy bear fell backwards when left to his own devices and knocked over my freshly filled glass of red wine, sending it crashing down onto the table, breaking clean in half and showering her mother (and her mother’s dinner) with Spain’s finest rioja!!


Naturally, Godfather reacted the way Dad’s do; by shouting! Mum jumped up to tell her off too and M sauntered over to get a cloth.

Now, for one thing, over our wonderful dining table there permanently lies a “wipe-able” covering, so the spilt wine genuinely wasn’t a problem. Well, apart from the fact that it was (is) my fave tipple of course.

Mum naturally apologised and said, “I think (child) was responsible for breaking a wine glass the last time we came to eat too”.

“Three wine glasses”, I very helpfully reminded her, thinking back to the time (child) did indeed knock over my glass (again) which in turn knocked over two more glasses which in turn spilt red wine over a framed photograph of Joseph meeting Santa for the first time ever and which has since dried and threatens to tear the photograph if you attempt to take it out of the frame to investigate the liquid ‘mark’.


Back to today however, and (child) was inconsolable, with Dad AND Mum shouting at her, so I put my arm around her and explained that it had been my least favourite glass and that I had been looking for an excuse to throw it out but M wouldn’t let me – she had actually done me a favour by breaking it.

She looked straight at me and miraculously, the tears stopped flowing, the crying stopped (not to mention Mum and Dad’s shouting) and she went back to playing, completely relieved in the knowledge that she had helped out.

My point is this; why is it that when guests or their children damage/break/smash something valuable or dear to you, you can smile, close your eyes and say, “don’t worry, it’s not a problem” but when your own children break something, it's the start of World War III?

It would have been an accident too; they never meant to do it. They cry and are genuinely sorry too but for some reason it’s a bigger deal. They deserve a telling off more than when someone else’s children do something that ends in a breakage.

I was ashamed of myself at how calm I was. A glass got broken. Some wine got spilt.

So what?

I literally told myself, “I hope you remember how you reacted to this when Joseph or Annabel break something. That you remain calm and do not shout when that cup of milk hits the floor or the toast lands butter side down”.


I hope so.

Oh, that reminds me; 20 minutes before our guests arrived today, Annabel announced that she had posted M’s bankcard through the floorboards in the hall.

M has since cancelled the card.

And she never raised her voice either.

See if you can do the same next time your children ‘mess up’.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stoopid like a fox!!

When I was 12 years old (cue tumbleweed and Fistful of Dollars “wah wah waaah” music), my school introduced ‘The Day Book’. This was a bright green little diary in which was written all our homework and tasks to be completed, as well as any nasty teacher comments, which needed to be passed on to my parent’s.

Each page had a space where my parents were to sign and where my class teacher was to sign so the two could effectively “speak” to each other. If I misbehaved in class, my teacher wrote a scathing note for my parent’s to read. They would then read said note and sign it, indicating that they had read note and had meted out appropriate punishment.

“Everyone’s a winner, après moi, la deluge”, as Del’ Boy would say.

Now, although I wasn’t square enough to be in the boffin (or ‘bod’) groups, nor was I cool enough to be in with the 'in-crowd’ either.

Thankfully however, I erred toward the latter. At least, I made some of the cool crowd laugh and I say thankfully because the cool crowd invariably hob nobbed with those we shall refer to as “The Rough Bunch”.

So, by default, I was privy to some of the sneaky and downright clever goings on at school and it was learning about the "double day book deal" that helped me tremendously.

What you did was have a spare day book which you offered to your teacher when a telling off was imminent. You let him or her write their stinky note to your parents and sat meekly down, suppressing a smile.

When your parents ask to see your day book, you offer them the “clean” one, they congratulate you on a spiffing week and sign it.

All that is required then is a close translation of their signature into your “grubby” copy and you’re home and dry.

Naughty but nice, you might say.

Well, although what I want to tell you has nothing whatsoever with dodgy dealings and day books, Joseph and I had an exchange today which sparked that memory.

Having a blazer all those years ago made me feel very grown up and smart. I kept my day book in my inside pocket and this morning, I was helping Joseph on with his blazer when he shrugged uncomfortably, adjusted the collar, then looked up at me and frowned. He opened one side of his blazer, reached into his inside pocket and pulled out ……… a peeled tangerine!

I burst out laughing, both at the contrast of the bright orange against his black jacket and the randomness of the fact that he even had a peeled fruit in his pocket which had clearly been there since the morning before. Why did he forget to eat it? How did it remain there all day without getting squashed? How did it not explode when I collected him from school and gave him my usual bear hug? All completely unanswerable!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008


My new years eve post mentioned that Annabel was feeling rather lonely at nursery just lately due to the fact that her “circle of friends” had moved up to the Learning Centre – the room for the oldest age group before leaving for reception at school.

Out of the blue last week, we were told she would be “settling in” and just like that, this Monday morning she is in the ‘big’ room and she is delighted.

For a good few weeks, all we got from her conversationally was “Anna gone on holiday” or “Francis gone on holiday”. They were in fact only next door but as far as she was concerned, not seeing them equated to them being off somewhere having a jolly up.

Of course, the majority of the children in that room are much older and this has had a major knock on effect on Annabel’s vocabulary, stringing full sentences together as opposed to lots of individual words and I have congratulated her and smiled smugly at anyone nearby at my clever daughter’s grasp of language.

Until this evening that is, when she gave M a cuddle, sat up on the sofa and, smiling broadly, announced to us both, “when my big, I gonna get big boobies”.

Okey dokey.

Slight surprise you could say, followed by suppressing a laugh (both of us) and then we changed the subject.

We would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for the fact that Joseph, who until that moment was engrossed in the TV, looked around, eyes wide, spoonful of yoghurt poised to be eaten and let out a burst of laughter which set Annabel off which in turn set me off!

Children - one

Parents - nil

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I think, no hang on, I know that my parents get just a teensy bit offended whenever they come to collect our children and I remind them to please be careful.

To please make sure they keep an eye on them.

To please hold their hand wherever they go.

To please make sure they don’t go near the (huge) pond should they play in the garden.

To please not feed them too many sweets or chocolate while out.

My mum says to me, “hmph, we brought you (and my brother) up ok didn’t we? I know what I’m doing”.

The thing is, I know what she says is true; they did raise my brother and I (brilliantly) but that was 30 years ago. A great deal has changed in society in that time, not to mention the fact that they are 30 years older!

The reason for Joseph and Annabel spending the day with them was so we could help celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday and to be honest, I thought I would be sat there, not really enjoying myself, worrying about how things were going with the children.

But no.

That wasn’t the case at all.

I actually enjoyed being out, having a few drinks with friends, without worrying about whether or not the children were eating their lunch/dinner/tea, about whether or not they were upsetting the people on the next table (admittedly this rarely bothers me) and I generally had a relaxing afternoon.

I ate a rather terrific piece of cod fillet, served with chunky chips (ie, the chef was too lazy to cut them properly) and a beautifully coarse tartar sauce.

And here I am. Sat looking at my monitor, listening to music when I would normally be being ultra quiet, with M downstairs watching her weekly programme (we live a ker-azee life!) and I should technically be enjoying my free time. I should be relishing the fact that I am free to do whatever I want, perhaps an early night, perhaps go for a late night walk together (or whatever!!).

But I’m not.

I spoke with my Mum just now to ask after the children and she told me how much her and my Dad had laughed with them today, how “young they made them feel”.

And I miss them.
Simple as that.

I think you would have to be a parent to know what I am talking about but ……….. I just miss them.

They were both being naughty early this morning and I remember that I was looking forward to having the day to ourselves.

But now I miss them.

We are driving across tomorrow morning to collect them and I am sure I can hang on until then.

Fairly sure.

I would just like to mention a beautiful food blog that I have been reading for a while now but have recently become slightly addicted to. It is called Desert Candy and I will leave you to make up your own minds about it, but I wanted to thank Mercedes for the amazing date tart recipe. My friend’s loved it.

As did I.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Non, je ne regrette rien

Okay, maybe I do.

We took my Mum out to lunch for her birthday today and we drove to a pub in Kingswood, Surrey called, aptly enough, the Kingswood Arms.

To cut a very long story short, for my starter, I ordered rock oysters with warm scrambled egg and caviar.


And the bit I regret? I regret not taking a photograph of them for you to stare at, open jawed and drooling.

Ho hum, next time eh?

We sat in a huge conservatory overlooking the gardens and the children were free to walk around, laugh out loud and play and a lovely time was had by all.

So there you go; if you’re thinking of driving out somewhere different for a delicious lunch in nice settings and you don’t want people ‘tutting’ out loud every time your children burst into laughter, try it.

I think you’ll like it.

Apologies for blurry pic