Come along for the ride!!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ooh … doesn’t time fly?

Well yes, actually it does and none more so than when, as the saying goes, you are having fun.

And I think I have had quite a lot of fun in the last 365 days, documented here for your general perusal.

Happy 2nd anniversary to my blog.

Apparently, the modern gift for a 2nd anniversary is china with the more traditional choice being cotton.

Well I opted for a cosy picture of cotton for today but, so as not to leave the alternative out of the frame altogether I will leave you with the fascinating fact that China is in fact the world’s largest exporter of cotton.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Deodorant anyone?

Dear, dear me, I sit down on Saturday to write, completely forgetting to note the most important thing that happened yesterday?? After not receiving anything in the post on Thursday and no post on Good Friday (as expected), the postman finally delivered the letter we were waiting for.

Annabel got her full time nursery place in the same school where Joseph attends. The implications of this are many.

While I readily admit that the financial burden of her current nursery being lifted will be a wonderful relief, the money is secondary compared to how good the school is, how pleased we are she will be in the same place her brother started his school life and knowing what a terrific foundation for learning the school instils in their pupils.

3 cheers for Missy, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!!!

Equally smashing (but on a less important note), we had a delicious Easter lunch, with my mother-in-law cooking a full Lebanese feast including tabbouleh salad, slow roasted lamb, roast chicken, hand made kibbeh, lamb fatayeh, cheese and spinach fatayeh, baba ghanoush and houmous, not to mention the rather strong arak drinks I made for us.

On bank holiday Monday, we went to Brick Lane in East London to buy filled bagels from the 24-hour bagel shop (we had smoked salmon and cream cheese, salt beef and mustard, boiled egg bagels with Danish pastries for dessert) before visiting the Museum of Childhood in Hackney, also in East London.

All in all we had a fun filled, gourmet’s delight of a long weekend and to top it all, I have cleverly booked today off too.

Fascinating fact: arak also means ‘sweat’.

Which is nice.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

“It’s clobberin’ time!”

It would be fair to say that I have a very bad memory. At least, a bad short term memory. My memory stretching back over the years is considerably better.

For example, I can clearly remember going to the cinema to see Superman with a friend and his Dad aged 9.


I was aged 9, not my friend’s Dad.

Anyway, the tag line for the film was “you’ll believe a man can fly”, and you can take my word for it, we absolutely did believe it. We came out of the cinema with my friend’s Dad swinging us round and round, lifting us above his head making whooshing noises and it didn’t seem feasible that Clark Kent was just some actor in a film using clever tricks to make us kids think that flying was possible.

In fact I didn’t grow out of believing that one day I might fly until the age of …….. well, about 28. It just seemed so ……. real.

Yesterday, Joseph saw a film trailer for the Fantastic Four previewing on TV yesterday evening.

“Wow, can I watch it Dad, can I?”

“Umm, I tell you what. I’ll watch it and tape it and maybe you can watch it tomorrow, ok?”

And that’s what I did.

Of course, things never quite go to plan and we ran out of time to watch the film but, to avoid a total bedtime fit, I said he could watch the bit where they get their superpowers and then he could watch the rest tomorrow.

This was agreed so I played the promised clip.

The two bits I found were the Human Torch flying through the air on a trials bike whilst on fire - which made Joseph’s eyes widen with his thumb slowly falling out of his mouth - and Reed Richard’s putting his hand under a door and stretching his arm up to open it from the inside. This earned a “wow, that is cool” response with pleas for more.

As I was watching, looking from the film to Joseph, I thought of the difference in special effects in the (exactly) 30 years since Superman came out but remembered the amazement I felt at seeing someone fly.

How must Joseph feel (aged 5 and a half, let alone 9), seeing one man’s hand stretch and another handle fire? How amazing that computer-generated imagery can make the even more unbelievable even more believable.


No wonder he looked excited.

Naturally I will have my “fire is dangerous” speech ready for when the Human Torch “flames on”. Similarly I will have my “of course there isn’t really a Doctor Doom walking the streets in a metal mask zapping people with lightning” and “of course a man made of stone doesn’t exist”.

Come to think of it, I might see if he wants to watch Toy Story instead.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Don't be a sheep!

Growing up, I can remember the handful of people that I looked up to at different times; those who I couldn’t wait to be with, whatever the scenario. Although there were more than mentioned here, there were a few “key” players.

There was a close friend of my parents who ran a mobile disco company and I would do his “gigs” with him whenever I got offered the chance. There was a cousin who had (and still has) a very successful cleaning company (where there’s muck there’s brass) whom I worked with for a while. Finally there was my Dad although my hero worship was probably less obvious to my Dad.

It was there though.

My point is that on Sunday, while we were out celebrating my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary, I could see in Joseph the same adoration of others that I had. All morning he kept saying, “is Tom going to be there? Is he? Can I see him?” Tom being the teenage son of long term family friend’s and yes, he was going to be there.

Joseph sat patiently through starters and the main course before he could stand it no more and asked if he could go and speak to Tom.

And Tom was very good, very patient and put up with not only Joseph hanging around him for the remainder of the meal but also Annabel who cottoned on to the fact that her brother was with someone other than Mum or Dad which is automatically more fun.

Watching them grow over recent months however, their personalities are coming through more and more and one thing is becoming apparent.

I think that in life, you can be one of two types of person; a leader or a follower. You can inspire people to do what you suggest or you can be one of those who carry out the suggested.

Much as I hate to admit it, I was a follower.

I say ‘was’ because that isn’t the case anymore and I think that being a follower is a little bit ….... sad.

M on the other hand is a leader and, thankfully, so is Annabel. You can see it a mile away.

Joseph will try to get his friends attention, try to get them to run in the direction he wants to run but mostly they run in the opposite direction and he follows, slight frustration written across his face. His friends will tell him to say something mean to someone (I’ve heard them) and he will move to do what they’ve asked – until he catches sight of me looking but of course I won’t always be there.

It’s the same when he plays together with Annabel. “Annabel do this, Annabel do that” but she will have none of this. She usually replies with “NO, I’m the teacher” (while waving a forefinger at him) and amazingly, he will often comply with what she has asked.

M has always been pleased that Annabel is quite tough and that it will stand her in good stead in the ‘big bad world’ and she is right. Annabel seems a perfect mix of girlie girl and tough cookie when need be.

As for Joseph, it doesn’t matter how much you tell them not to do what so-and-so says; if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they will do.

I know from experience.

Knowing this, I am trying to be careful because as we all know, whenever your parents tell you not to do something it automatically makes you want to do it more.

Take the last couple of weeks for example. When I have been collecting Joseph from school, his tie is on the outside of his jumper.

“Did you do PE again today?” I ask, wondering why this might be.


I tuck his tie in and forget it.

It happens several more times before M sees his tie and says, “look at the state of your tie! How did it get so dirty?”

And so, finally, we hear that his friend (or ringleader as I call him) has decided that they must get to school and immediately put their tie on the outside of their jumper, meaning that during a messy lunchtime, the tie is the first thing to suffer.

“Well don’t listen to (friend). He’s only going to get you in trouble. Don’t do what he says, ok?”

Joseph’s answer sums it all up in one easy sentence.

“But I want to”.

What do you say to that?

Again, from experience I know that children want to challenge their parents’ authority. I just thought it might not be for a few more years yet.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Didn't he do well?"

Yes, I had a lovely birthday weekend thank you for asking.

I had drinks with work colleagues on Friday afternoon (and evening), a bit of a lie in on Saturday morning, opened my cards and pressies at the breakfast table, a fantastic lunch at a Moroccan restaurant near to us followed by a tea party with chocolate cake at home.

On Sunday we lunched at a cheap and cheerful little Italian café near where we used to live by Battersea Park, on to an ice cream parlour called Scoop (unbelievably delicious; see here) for a take away box which we then delivered to friends for afternoon tea.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the final year of my thirties stretches out before me into the not-too-distant future and I intend to make it a good one.

I’m ready.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

“And 13 times 3 equals ….”

I can honestly say that I have never really been one for worrying about my age. Mostly because I rarely act it but also because I think it’s just a number, albeit a number which goes up each year.

For some strange reason however, this year’s birthday number has made me think twice.

For some time now I have been happily saying that I am a “thirty-something” without the need to divulge further. Unfortunately, this year is the last year I will be able to say this. And why does no one ask, “how did your birthday go this year?” They all skip over it and say, “it’s the big 4-0 next year isn’t it?”


Yes it is.

But can we please acknowledge the fact that I am not 40 yet. I am …. less than that.

I am “thirty-something”.


Check out my super-smashing card!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Anti-distinctly-minty …

There were a few words that I comically mispronounced when I was growing up that became part of my families vocabulary. As always, you would’ve had to be there to find them remotely funny but they were;

Bloodhound – I said it with the ‘blood’ part rhyming with mood not mud

Cordials – I said it as two syllables; ‘cor’ and then ‘dials’

(I said you had to be there!!)

Well last night, Joseph was reading me his school books – he reads to me and then I read to him – and bearing in mind his teacher last week said his reading was very advanced, I shouldn’t have been too surprised at some of the words he was attempting and getting right.

But I was.

Some of the words he tackled successfully were;







He pronounced each of the sounds out loud before diving in and saying the whole word and I was totally chuffed, with my laughter and congratulations spurring him on more and more.

Great reading Poops, well done.

However, lunch at a Japanese restaurant last Sunday threw up a word which I think (and hope) will stick.

We hadn’t sat down long before Joseph asked for a set of “chip stocks” as opposed to chopsticks.

In the words of Stephen Fry’s wonderful Lord Melchett, “thank the Lord for the gift of laughter!”

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The contented little baby book

If you are a parent you will no doubt recognise the heading above as the title to one of the (many) books by ‘baby and child expert’ Gina Ford. Such is her reputation for being able to practically guarantee your offspring are indeed content, M was reading this book in the very early stages of her first pregnancy thanks to a friend’s nod in the author’s direction.

While (all) the books are incredibly detailed (if a little long winded at times), if I were to summarise in one simple line the basic ethos which runs throughout, it would be this;

Get your child in a routine early and keep them in it.

Of course, it’s not anywhere near as simple as that but if I have any hope of keeping your interest here, that’s where I am going to draw the line. In other words, I won’t go into the fact that you pretty much kiss goodbye to your social lives, that you will be up incredibly early and going to bed even earlier, that you will be spending your evenings making puréed suede and carrot and taking it in turns …. oh the list goes on and I said I wouldn’t bore you with the details, but you get the idea!

Reading the book, it dawned on M and I very quickly that you could choose between two types of baby. These were;

Firstly, a baby that slept through the night from a very early age thus avoiding you going stark raving mad relatively early in your new lives as parents or

Secondly, a baby that will wake and feed on demand for an unspecified number of years with no real sleep pattern of any description and pushing you to the limits of human endurance, possibly forcing one or both parents to drink red wine excessively, oh no hang on, umm …. yes, severely impacting on the mental health of either parent, if not both.

For us it was a no brainer. We chose option 1.

And to cut a very long story short, it worked beautifully. And, credit where it’s due, M was the one who read the books, digested the information, bought the food mixer, expressed the milk (bit obvious that one) and generally followed Ms. Ford’s instructions to the letter.

The result?

A happy, well fed and contented little baby boy. The amazing thing is not that this woman’s books and theories worked for us but the fact that it worked on a fairly prematurely born baby; Joseph was 7 weeks early! Should that have made any difference? I think so.

Naturally, the next book in the series is From Contented Baby to Confident Child and yes, we read that one too and I am happy to report that this book also weaved its magic. Of course, then Annabel came along and, with a quick refresher read of the first book, we were on our merry way again.

Did we kiss goodbye to our social lives?


Was it, as the book said, early to bed and even earlier to rise?


Was it a routine of preparing and blending and expressing and freezing and so on?


Yes it was all the things we were expecting after reading these books but you know what? The books acted like a helpful and supportive friend. Any time your baby or child deviated from the ‘expected’, good old Gina had a game plan, typed out for you in a “problem and solution” section to put straight into action, which invariably solved whatever issue had arisen.

“Dear Gina; my baby wakes on the third night (of the week) an hour before I am due to wake her and this throws out the rest of the days planning. What can I do?” Yours, Worried of Wandsworth.

“Dear Worried, do not worry. Wake baby up three hours earlier on the second night and allow to sleep an extra 20 minutes in the afternoon. This will stop baby waking early on the third night of the week and with the extra 20 minutes you have on the second afternoon, you can express 20mls extra of breast milk whilst watching Neighbours”.

“Dear Ms. Ford; my baby refuses to eat the puréed alphalpha sprouts and chickpeas I spent all morning cooking. He/she looks skinnier today than yesterday! Please help!! Yours, Petrified of Primrose Hill”.

“Dear Petrified, relax. Merely stir in a small spoonful of steamed, diced savoy cabbage and baby will happily stuff its face with your purée until he/she nods off. Provided it is the specified time, naturally”.

The fact is, we knew then (as we know now) that it was a fairly regimented way to approach parenthood.

“Wake him up?” I would ask M, astonished! “He’s only just stopped yelling! Why the hell would I want to wake him up??”

“Gina (she was referred to by her first name in our house; always) says to wake him, feed him, change him then put him back down”.

At the time I could have wept. We both could, I know.

Wake him up? But, but, yeah but, no but …..

And now? With the benefit of hindsight (as the saying goes) it was the right choice.

100%, by far and away and without a shadow of doubt, it was absolutely the right choice.

I must stress however, it was the right choice for us. It was the right choice for us and it suited our babies. It might not work for everyone.

Having said that, we know plenty of people (established friends and those who have become friends) who never gave the book a second glance and have always bemoaned the fact that our children have been sleeping through the night from the age of two months (!) but their 4 year olds are still waking for one reason or another. The fact that ours sleep through the night and theirs are still sitting on the sofa at 10pm asking for crisps.

That was another draw. Yes it was regimented but guess what? After the initial problem of getting them into a routine, you got your evenings to yourself. Ok, this was initially spent sterilising and washing and peeling and cooking but that didn’t last forever! Within 6 months you could steam sterilise less milk bottles and by 18 months you could stick the steriliser on eBay once and for all.

The incredible thing about all this is that at the age of 5½ years, Joseph still has his ‘routine’. I call it ‘his’ routine because although it was us who put him in it in the first place, it is a routine which ‘he’ doesn’t like to come out of. Yes, he and his (nearly) 3 year old sister will enjoy staying up late at my parents when they spend the night there, but it is the following day that they will be tired and lethargic.

That’s not a problem of course. This does not mean that Gina’s planning is ‘monumentally flawed’. I’m just highlighting the knock on effect of any deviation from their routines.

Having said that, knocking their routine out of sync on a Friday or a Saturday is fine. Knocking it out of sync when it is school holidays is also fine. Knocking it out of sync on a Sunday before school however is another matter altogether.

And not just because M and I don’t like to but because it isn’t fair on Joseph or Annabel. It isn’t fair expecting them to adhere to something we established and then shake it up for the sake of one day.

Every generation brings up their children a little differently and this is how we have chosen to bring up ours. It doesn’t work for all. Not everyone likes it.

But it works for us and our children and that is what’s important.

If you’ve just become or are about to become a parent for the first time let me tell you 3 things;

1. Get Gina Ford’s book.

2. Keep going, even at the beginning when you feel like giving up.

3. Stick to your guns. People won’t make it easy for you.

But it will be worth it in the long run, I promise you.

And thank you Gina Ford. We have two happy (and healthy) children.

But thanks mostly to the best Mum in the world; the secretively named M.

Happy Mother’s Day M; we love you very much.

And Happy Mother’s Day also to my own Mum who I wasn’t able to catch up with today.

I love you Mum