Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Living on a Building Site

You don't think it'll be too bad - before it starts. You wonder why people having building work done - creating their dream home and adding £££ to their million pound property in the process - can complain about it all the time. You (naively) think you won't be one of them. How, you wonder, could a little thing like home improvements end in divorce?

Then, 14 weeks and three days since the builders lopped off the back of your house, you know the answer. 

Whether it's due to living in a confined space with your loved ones, having to go into the building site to get a pint of milk or supper, or the stress of being £10,000 short, whatever the reason, there's a dawning realisation that this could well be the end of your marriage.

There are the shifting deadlines to cope with too. The '4 weeks from now' kept being '4 weeks' even when 4 weeks had long passed. Now we're on the promise of the optimistic sounding 'end of November'.

See for yourselves. Does this look two weeks away to you? Didn't think so. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Harry - day 3

Surprised myself & surpassed days 1 & 2 with Harry the school bear. Today, dear readers, Harry went to the Olympics. Well, admittedly not The Olympics. But The Olympic Park.

Sure, he didn't get to see Chris Hoy win gold nor Tom Daly get a medal but he did hang upside down outside the velodrome and go into the Aquatics centre (without getting wet - learnt a lesson from you, The Reluctant Lauderer). 

Here he is enjoying his day out plus some scenic pics of the park. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Harry the diamond class bear

After weeks, no months, of near-tears over the absence of Harry, the diamond class bear, coming home with us for the weekend, Caitlin has her claws on the coveted fur ball. For. A. Whole. Week.

As luck would have it, her turn has fallen at half term. So the challenge is to see if we can do better than the other school kids who've had the bear and taken him to:

- the park
- the supermarket
- a petting farm
- an Easter egg hunt

I've got a whole week. So far, on day 2, he's been pictured on the Tube, at HMS Belfast, on London Bridge and at a Mini Makers Imagination Faire in Oxo Tower Wharf. 

I'm exhausted. 

And Caitlin's in love. 

Asked about why she loves Harry so much prompted the response: "I get to do really exciting things with him". 

I think I've shot myself in the foot there. Days 3 to 7 might well be "Harry chilling at home". 

Thursday, 7 May 2015


Quite excited to exercise my democratic right today. 

Summoning the energy to leave the house and cast my vote, I was reminded of a small, free exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on the suffragettes. 

What stood out was the lengths these women were prepared to go to get the vote. Vandalising masterpieces, risking arrest, imprisonment and making the ultimate sacrifice. 

Even though I'm a flip-flop voter that no party would want to be depending on (too easily influenced by blatant propaganda in the 6 weeks before the election), it's still thrilling that we get the power to decide who gets to run the country. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Easter hols

2 weeks with the children off school are coming to an end.

2 weeks of unbelievably great weather -summer doesn't get better than this -spent in parks, on beaches, visiting friends, having friends visit. 

Hard to believe it was just 2 weeks, feels more like 4. Which makes the next school holiday, 6 weeks at summer, seem a little daunting. But I'll worry about that nearer the time. 

For now I'll just enjoy the sunshine. 

Here are a few pics from Lyme Regis last week and Notting Hill today. Blue skies all round. Woo hoo. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Legs Eleven

And in other noteworthy news, I got my legs out on the weekend. A moment newsworthy for the fact that this hasn't happened in ooh about, let me see now, where's my diary... 23 weeks and 2 days, or something like that. 

Between late September and early March - that's five whole count 'em months - my pins have been concealed by denim, occasionally fortified by a further layer of manmade fibre leggings to provide insulation on sub zero days. That, my Friends, is what living in England is all about. And that is why I'm noticing with glee some changes around me and not just in the wearing of skirts.

It's with a spring in my step that I'm welcoming signs of, erm, spring... the cherry blossom, crocuses/i and daffs do make my heart sing, fa la la la la! No longer the grey skies and chill winds do blow, (well, they do but not every day) and hello to petals, lambs, blue skies... and legs, blue legs... oh. Dear.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Inventing Impressionism

Daubs of paint close up become stunning landscapes and detailed portraits when you take a step back at Inventing Impressionism, a new display at the National Gallery tipped as "the exhibition of the year" by the nationals. 

The Impressionists were a clever bunch, now rightly seen as one of the most popular movements in art history. But at the time they lived, not so much.

Their popularity today can be put down to one man, Paul Durand-Ruel, who would buy up 23 Monets at a time. When the establishment wouldn't but a single painting. 

Whilst there I also raced through a few rooms of the National Gallery's permanent collection and came across the brilliant Holbein dual portrait of The Ambassadors (the one with a weirdly distorted skull at the bottom).  A not-so-subtle bit of eavesdropping on a guide telling a group of Japanese students revealed it was painted around the time Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, neatly tying in with my current iPlayer favourite, Wolf Hall. Slightly obsessed with it - you can't beat Mark Rylance. 

Here are some pictures I took while wondering around the gallery and Trafalfar Square (none of the actual exhibition; I hate that, when people take pictures of the pictures).

Gift Horse on the Fourth Plinth, Trafalfar Square. 

The National Gallery

Nelson's Column from the National Gallery.

The National Gallery

Monday, 16 February 2015

Hounslow Urban Farm

One of the advantages of having a farm near Heathrow Airport is that you get all of the pets unsuccessfully smuggled in and out of the country. So there are some unlikely characters on the Hounslow Urban Farm. Snakes alongside sheep and tarantulas as well as tortoises. 

This was our second outing to the farm, on a wet first day of the February half term, quite a contrast to our first visit in the summer. But just as much of a success. 

It was knight training day so there were some great themed activities including a quiz trail, sword training, bows & arrows and space hoppers - as horses, I think. 

When the rain really settled in for the afternoon the indoor bouncy castle entertained O for an hour and the mini staff kindly befriended him so effectively I was momentarily tempted to adopt some older children, if only for the free childcare. 

C came away as a beautiful butterfly and I haven't even mentioned the 'meet the animals' bit and the owl display which were both fantastic. An action packed first day of half term. And breathe. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Week of Outings

Last week brought three trips to the West End - two contrasting theatre productions, sandwiching a child-friendly press preview of Shaun the Sheep, the latest Aardman film, which O & C got to go to. I'm sure I didn't go to private screenings and press previews when I was 4! In fact, i was being moved from London to deepest darkest Dorset.

James McAvoy was the big draw and the reason I booked in to see The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios. I'd been looking forward to this one for ages and am happy to report it lived up to heightened expectations. He is magnetic and oh so memorable, playing a mad upper class heir who becomes more acceptable to his House of Lords peers once his ditches his 'God is love' mantra for 'God the avenger'. Surprisingly brilliant, given the (potentially dated) topic. Definitely the best thing I've seen at the theatre this year.

Maybe because it was Thursday night, or becuase it was my third night out on the trot, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I fell asleep in Shakespeare in Love, a theatrical spin off from the romcom film of the same name. I was fighting the heavy, heavy eyelids which kept lowering themselves despite my efforts to stop them in the first act. But things picked up after the interval and I did enjoy the humorous take on Shakespeare, his writer's block and his doomed love for a girl who dresses like a boy to be a player. For my money, the film does it better.

I'm not sure who enjoyed Shaun the Sheep more, the kids or me. As you'd expect from the makers of Wallace & Gromit and The Chicken Run, there's plenty of adult humour (not, ahem, 'adult' humour). Things like the iPhone not working when the haircut pics go viral, the Blue Peter badge on the satchel, or ... There are loads of clever references which are so quick and subtle that I'm not sure 4 year olds get them but they were laughing uproariously at the 'baddie' animal catcher getting dragged along behind the caravan until the bottom of his trousers wore down to reveal his red pants.

Now we've got the Shaun in the City trail to look forward to...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

48 hours in New York

3 and a half years after our honeymoon we made it back to New York! For 48 hours. A dizzying but wonderful trip.

We stayed at the Soho Grand, a dog friendly design-hip place right in the thick of the cool cafes and slick shops. From our hotel it was a short walk to Chinatown, and we found a great Italian (Bianca) for Friday night and lovely Mexican restaurant for Saturday supper - all we needed for our 2 night stay.

Day 1 was so freezing cold I thought my cheeks and chin were getting frostbitten. I estimated a stint of 20 minutes would be the longest time outdoors before bits of my face would fall off with the cold.

Still, we managed to walk past the World Trade Centre on our way to the Statten Island ferry and then on to Brooklyn Bridge, all without loosing any facial features.

We relived our honeymoon with brunch at Cafe Select (LOVE this place) and from there strolled east along Kenmare Street to the Tenement Museum - a highlight of our trip. One of the few (only?) museums in New York where you get a history of New York, the museum is really a house whose peeling wallpaper and original features, pretty much untouched since the last inhabitants left, are wonderfully evocative of the cramped conditions the people living there must have endured.

Just enough time for a quick trip to Chelsea Market for fresh pasta followed by a really fast sprint up the stairs to the High Line before getting a limo (the perks of His work!) back to JFK where - bonus! - I got to hang out with Him in the usually off-limits to regular ticket holders lounge.

We whizzed back, sleeping all the way, just in time to take the kids to school, me not entirely with it, still in need of another 3 hours' sleep, it turned out. 48 hours in New York... what a blast!

Monday, 26 January 2015

NYC bound

Him indoors has left for NYC amidst predictions of an "historic storm" due to hit this evening. 2 feet of snow expected.  I'll be happy as long as my flight on Friday gets there. (Please, please, please.)

It's taking a relay team of four to get me on my way so it had better happen!

It's not often we get to go away sans 'attachments' so it's a hotly anticipated treat - and the north east city was where we honeymooned so it'll be 'moon mark II... If the weather plays fair. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Beautiful boy - throwback to 2014

Just unearthed this picture from my old forgotten camera from August 2014. Love. This. Boy.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

No one is listening to me

Poor neglected child. 

Written without my knowledge after I'd taken the other child up for a bath. 

Is it worse that the poor neglected child didn't point out his unnoticed chalk scrawling for 24 hours?

It's discovery prompted mixed feelings in me: humour, pride, disbelief and guilt. 

Still smiling. 

Monday, 5 January 2015


Things I have heard from my sick boy today...

"My mouth went all wobbly and then the illness came out of my mouth."
"I told you I was feeling sick" - he did, at 4 in the morning, half an hour before he was actually throwing up.
"I love my sister. Just a little bit because she is quite bossy."

This is, to be fair, the first time in oh about 3 years that we've had actual vomiting. Which wasn't Irish ferry related. Of course it had to be on the first day of school which I was *quite* looking forward to (mainly getting stuff done without the distraction of 2 small children demanding things every 7 minutes).

Hey ho, back to the demands of a sick boy. Who is surely less stoic than his sick sister was 5 days ago. Man sickness is always of a more virulent type.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Christmas 2014

3 Christmas dinners
2 turtle doves &
A partridge in a pear tree. 

That was Christmas 2014. 

First off we had my sister & family, Bob & Philippa to our house for Christmas Day lunch. 

Next up was Boxing Day lunch with the in-laws at our house. 

For the third Christmas lunch we shipped out to my dad's in Dorset. Chef Ade catered for all three. Thank god. I couldn't. 

If the price for all that good food is keeping the kids out of the kitchen and washing up I'm happy with my end of the deal.

2014 was the year of Homeland, The Fall and Breaking Bad on the box, Electra, Visitors and Secret Theatre on the stage and Rembrandt at the National Gallery. A year when the children turned 4 and started school, I finally earned some money & got some free time, largely wasted but joyously so. 

One of the better uses of my time was a girls' weekend in Dublin where I read a book - 'We Are Completely Beside Ourselves' - sent from a kind & thoughtful friend in Singapore. All about a chimp girl & sibling love / rivalry. 

As we say "hello" to 2015, welcomed in with the World's Worst Hangover, it's good to reflect on a year of growth, drama & kid related highs & lows... and Oscar's origami... Happy 2015.