I’ll just book a hotel, won’t take a minute…

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I would give anything right now for a room in this hotel!

I want to start by saying, before I get lots of people dissing me for moaning about this – I have 3 children by choice. Nobody forced me to have 3 children. I am blessed and lucky and totally realistic about my situation. I understand that booking flights and hotels and eating at restaurants and getting into overpriced venues around and about the place will be more expensive because, no shit Sherlock, I have 3 children. Yes, I get this.

But, and it has now grown into quite a big, towering, throbbing but – should it really be so unbelievably impossible to book a relatively good value hotel in the UK for one night without it costing THE EARTH? I really can’t stress enough that I do not expect to get something for nothing. But really people, you must agree that hotel rooms in the UK are overpriced however many people you are booking for. It’s just that it is intensely magnified and very very incredibly impossible to find anything for a group of 2 grown ups and 3 non grown ups.

So, innocently, a couple of weeks ago, we started talking about the logistics of going to visit a family member who lives in Norfolk. It’s quite a long drive back to SW London so we usually stay overnight somewhere on the way home to avoid falling asleep at the wheel and causing a massive road traffic accident. That’s all we want though, a bed, a few hours sleep. In the past we have booked places on Airbnb which were great! A whole property to ourselves, not necessarily the cheapest, but very very comfortable and welcoming and happy to let us stay for just 1 night.

We are planning to go on our little jaunt up the M11 on the August bank holiday weekend. So, after having spent one evening a couple of weeks back having a cursory look, it dawned on me that this might be a bit more tricky than originally thought.   It’s bank holiday weekend in the middle of the school holidays, and this part of the world is quite popular with holiday makers. Everything on Airbnb seemed to be booked up. Never mind I thought, Airbnb is out, but surely, surely there is a little b&b, or failing that, a generic, heavily advertised motel type establishment out there. You know, the ones that always advertise a friendly welcome, affordable yet comfortable accommodation.

The other important thing to point out is this:  I have come to learn that now that our youngest is almost 6, and our oldest is knocking on the door of 12, we absolutely cannot get away with 1 big room in a hotel. In years gone by I fondly (through gritted teeth and wearing very very heavily rose tinted spectacles) remember the kids topping and tailing in a variety of pushed together sofas or beds. In reality, it was hell on earth.  The kids were out of control, over excited balls of energy most of the time and me and the husband had to turn lights and tv off in order to trick them into going to sleep.  We would lie in a pitch black room trying not to move until the sound of their breathing indicated sleep and by then we were probably snoring too.  Invariably we would wake up the next morning, in a sweltering hot room with the stench of 5 sweaty people up our nostrils! However, at least it was cheap-(er)/ish!

The watershed moment happened when we all piled off to New Zealand for a holiday of a lifetime. Half of the time we were in a great big camper van – the kids were still just about small enough to all fit in the cabin over the driver’s cab and it was very cute seeing them all snuggled up together. This was fun and manageable for about 2 weeks. For the other part of the holiday, we stayed on the road in motels and hotels and had 2 rooms or on one lucky occasion, a massive room like a dormitory with a bed each! Everyone slept much better and we didn’t take hours to recover the next morning! So, we knew that there was no going back.

Fine. That’s fine. It’s all good you know. But in the UK there seems to be some disconnect. Like I said, I have not been forced to produce 3 offspring. However, I do ask that I am not penalised or vilified because of it. Here are a few things I have learned in my quest so far today:

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I always start my searches with this type of place in my mind. Dream on!

An allegedly swanky boutique type hotel in a nearby village to where we are going actually does not take bookings from people with children.

Several hotel and comparison websites have those little boxes for you to fill in number of adults and children, but the number of children box only goes up to 2. So what do you do if you have more than 2? Is it just not allowed? I get very excited when I see hotels have ‘family’ rooms. On closer inspection this means that there is a double bed the size of a large single bed and a sofa with a sheet on it. By my reckoning this is a great room if you are a very skinny couple with a kid. One hotel had double rooms for over £100 but with a shared bathroom!

I have spent the last 4 hours and I am not shitting you here – 4 hours, looking for 2 rooms in a guest house/hotel that will accommodate us for one night to rest our weary heads and will not fleece us so that we are spending on 6 hours sleep what we might spend on a weekend away somewhere in Europe.

I have tried every conceivable combination of rooms, I have tried most comparison websites and lists and individual listings. I have sat with my road map locating places that are alleged to be ‘near’ to the place I have typed into the search box – they are in fact an extra 40 minute’s drive and they are not available anyway. My computer has frozen. I have sworn a lot in front of the kids, in fact I have just told them to stop talking to me because I can’t be responsible for what I might say or how much I might explode.

Is it wrong to feel like there should be something out there that will work for me and my situation? Last time I looked, there were quite a lot of people in this situation. Oh, but does that mean that we (meaning adults who need somewhere to sleep with their children) shouldn’t book hotels or if we do, we should definitely not expect to get something worth the extortionate amount of money we are paying for it? Is it right to expect me to book 3 double bedrooms for 2 adults and 3 children under the age of 12 at a cost of £300 plus, or to get a room that is so small and yet stuffed so full of extra beds still at a cost of around £200 that it feels more like a punishment than a good night’s sleep?

And is it really really true that every single fucking hotel in the region we are visiting is fully booked? I mean, if that’s true, then the tourist industry in this country must be doing considerably better than I had been lead to believe. Respect is due, especially seeing as most of the reviews on these comparison sites for a lot of these places are damning to say the least and put me off wanting to book them anyway. Having spent hours poring over these reviews I find myself seriously considering whether I should choose a bathroom with damp mould all over the ceiling over a room where all the furniture is dirty and the bulbs are broken in the lamps, or where the décor is late 80’s chintz and polyester, or where the hot water doesn’t work, the shower leaks and the toilet doesn’t flush. Oh yes, but they have a large family room for £250 – quick book it!

Seriously. Hoteliers of Great Britain. Get your finger out and do something about this!

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What a lovely view. I think it is totally worth £220 for one night not including breakfast!

I always start these searches in good faith, with an image in my mind of breezy, bright hotel rooms with lovely squishy beds, beautiful views of countryside from the windows, welcoming smiles, fresh air and a relaxing night’s sleep, oh, and change from £100.

I have now reached the predictable yet depressing point in my search where I am ignoring the fact that the hotel looks like a maximum security prison, sits at the intersections of 3 major roads, the windows are un-openable for security reasons, and the view at best is of a carpark, at worst of bins backing onto a carpark, at the edge of a busy dual carriageway.

Just because they are children, oh b&b owners of the world does not mean that they are little shits intent on destroying your Terry and June décor. They just want to go to sleep in a bed without their faces squashed up next to their sibling’s smelly butt. They, like you, want what is referred to as a good night’s sleep in comfortable surroundings.

My only other hope, apart from a miraculous finding of a generic heavily advertised motel type place at the eleventh hour, is to go to the free public event that a man has just handed me an invitation for. Yes, in the midst of my hotel search, I opened the front door to find a man standing in the pouring rain. My heart sank as I realized he had one of those bags stuffed full of those leaflets inviting you to let Jesus into your life. I felt bad for him as he must have clearly seen my face drop (I thought it might be the M&S delivery of school socks and pants). Luckily, he made a quick judgement call, handed me the ‘invitation’ and scuttled away and I closed the door relieved that he was not going to try any preaching on me today. On reflection though, maybe I’ll pop along. Maybe I need Jesus right now, because google, booking.com and tripadvisor are not cutting the mustard. It’s at Excel in London on the weekend we are supposed to be going away. But what the heck, apparently they can answer all my questions and there’s even a movie about someone called King Hezekiah. Could be good….

The Shopkins Effect

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can you tell that this was not created using a template from the internet?

Back in May I talked about my youngest child’s 2 week abstinence from poohing! As a result, I hastily created a sticker chart. I say a chart, I drew some wobbly lines and wrote Pooh Stickers all over it which amused me because it made me think of Pooh Sticks in Winnie the Pooh. Nobody else seemed to get the joke though.  Oh well.  The rules were as follows: 2 small rabbit pellet poohs get 1 sticker, a medium sized pooh (left to discretion of inspector) gets 2 and a mahoosive log gets 3. Fair enough I thought. When she has filled in one row, she would get a prize up to a certain value.

Anyway, the Pooh Sticker Chart is going very well. There have been leaps and bounds and massive mounds of pooh! And stickers galore. This has resulted in an abundance of Shopkins.

What, I hear you ask are Shopkins?  Good question. I had no idea either. They are very small plastic collectible figures that mainly resemble items of food from celery to doughnuts, but sometimes home appliances like vacuum cleaners. They have little faces and come with tiny shopping baskets that I assume they must live in. They each have a name that relates to what they are like Cheekie Cherry and Pamela Pancake and some are apparently more rare than others.  Having investigated on the internet, I am informed that they have their own Youtube channel and a Twitter account.  They seem to have no provenance like a TV show or cartoon. They are utterly utterly bizarre, useless and I am unable to understand their purpose. Yet, they are truly a victory for the world of marketing as they are advertised mercilessly on the childrens’ tv channels resulting in children like my daughter believing that this is something they really really need.

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the ever increasing Shopkins collection

What does the kid do with them? Well, she mainly tips them out of her bag and lines them up and then she puts them back in her bag. Nice. That’s worth it then!

But actually, on balance, at the moment I am forced to say that yes, it is worth it as it is currently providing the most regular bowel movements of her 5 year existence!

One question I have asked myself is, when will the pooh chart be able to be safely shelved? How many weeks, months, years will the chart be the crutch, the incentive for a regular bowel movement? And, more crucially, how much more money can I justify spending on this stuff that, let’s face it, may well find its way into the bin before the year is out? There is a large part of me that feels guilty for denying my oldest daughter the joy of Silvanian Families or the other odd collectibles that were the rage when she was 5. I happily bought all that stuff for her friends’ birthday presents, delighting in palming off the tiny furry figures and their even tinier accessories.  Ha ha I would chuckle to myself – no child of mine will collect strange little items that will sit gathering dust and silently mocking my errant cleaning skills and chiding my empty bank account.

And yet, here I am in desperate times, bribing the youngest with tiny plastic avocadoes with scary faces. This is not helped by her obsession with Youtube and its abundance of films of what can only be described as saddo (though undoubtedly very shrewd) adults, usually American, who collect these things and film themselves opening the packages and cooing over them in high pitched whiney voices. The most prolific of these is Cookie C Swirl who seems to like Shopkins as well as the miniature My Little Pony toys that come in Kinder Eggs.  She gets hundreds of thousands of views which is just mind-blowing to me and inexplicable really.  But, whilst totally freaky, it is I guess, harmless and is clearly very lucrative for Cookie C Swirl!  And hey, because of it, my daughter is producing body waste every other day and is a whole lot more chirpy. We all have our crosses to bear.

2 weeks ago I lived in a different country…

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I wrote something a few weeks ago about the EU. It was late, the time I usually get the urge to write. The next morning, I had second thoughts. I don’t want to be political. I don’t want to alienate people. I don’t want to make it personal. I decided against it.

But after what happened yesterday, I feel a bit different. I can honestly say that I feel sad, angry, scared, frustrated and downright impotent. I was always concerned that this country of ours might vote to leave the EU, but I always finished my thought with, ‘but that won’t ever happen’. When I woke up at 3am on Friday morning and heard Farage making his victory speech before the official results had even been announced I was too scared to go back to sleep. I cried on and off until the rest of the house woke up, and then I cried again, from shock mainly. And the sudden realisation that actually, yes, this is personal. Nigel said this was a victory for ordinary and decent people. Well, what does that make me then?

So, I’m not going to have a rant. I’m not an expert. I have already read numerous, brilliantly written articles expressing exactly how I feel and more about the nightmare that I woke up to yesterday. I know how I feel and how I will always feel. But I have decided that I would like to share what I wrote 2 weeks ago. Perhaps, luckily, hardly anyone reads this anyway. But I would like my feelings to be out there should anyone wish to see it…

 2 weeks ago:

I hesitate when I think about how to describe my national identity. I am British and I am white. But this is not enough of a statement for me.

Like many other people in the UK, my sister and I are the product of two people who cannot trace their name back through multiple generations. My Mum came to the UK from Denmark in the 60’s and got a job as an au pair. My Dad, a child of Jewish parents, whose own parents had arrived in London escaping persecution from Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s, was born and raised in Hackney in East London. He met my Mum and the rest, as they say is history. I am devastatingly proud of my Danish/East London/Jewish roots. It’s an interesting combination.

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Wonderful Copenhagen in Denmark
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Best city in the world (in my opinion!)

 

 

 

 

Essentially though, to everyday life, and in my role as ‘me’, this is irrelevant as I am just a British person who grew up in a North London suburb.

Now that I have children of my own, preserving some connection to my Danish/Jewish heritage is one of my goals in life. I am sadly aware that with each generation it will be diluted further and further. Their sense of belonging to a wider more far reaching community might be completely lost if we leave the EU.

When I think about what makes me, I have to come to the conclusion that it’s complicated. The main thing I think is that I am bloody grateful that I was born in Britain, and perhaps more specifically, in London, and that I am British. And the reason I think that is because I am the sum of many parts that are definitely not British. This nation comprised of so many other nations. This place that for whatever reasons has allowed people from other nations to settle here, shaping a society and a culture that is unlike any other. How lucky is that?

I don’t belong anywhere else. I love that I am a Londoner. But I have this invisible cord that ties me to other places, other cultures, other philosophies. And I can see how they make the country I live in such a potentially wonderful place.

The glow of pride I feel every time someone praises Danish design, or raves about a Danish crime drama is ridiculous! I am grateful for my crafty crochet/knitting gene, and for my pickled herring and snaps gene and for my love of cosy but minimalist interior design gene! Equally, I am proud of my Jewish heritage and its Eastern European influence on me, the fatalistic, unique sense of humour, the connection I feel to East London, love of pickles, chicken soup and chopped liver!

And more than any of that, the pride I feel when I tell people that I am from London surpasses all of those things. It all sounds very flouncy I know, but the diversity of it all is a precious precious thing.

Perhaps now, what is important to me is knowing that my children will be given the opportunity to perhaps forge their own unique dynasties comprising multiple cultures and experiences, or at least mix with and live alongside them. I hope they will anyway. Perhaps, if things change for us as Europeans, we will have to find a new place to settle where that kind of freedom and inclusiveness will still be available to them.

So, that was 2 weeks ago. What a difference an EU referendum makes. What about today, Saturday 25th June 2016? Suddenly Britain feels like a different, less diverse, less tolerant prospect.

I guess I would have to say that if you asked me right now how I would describe myself, I would say that I would like to stand up and be counted as a European first and foremost, and, from now on I am proud to call myself an immigrant citizen of London.

Finally I want to end with a quote from my incredibly sensitive and intelligent 9 year old son, who when asked about his thoughts on the UK leaving the EU said the following:

“A lot of people are living in the past. We are a tiny island in a massive world. We haven’t got an Empire any more; it’s not the same. We aren’t as powerful as we think we are.”

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11 things I thought about at the supermarket today…

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Ahh, she looks like she’s having so much fun…
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hmm, choices, choices. What the hell am I going to do with this?What is it anyway?

 

 

 

 

 

1.Why am I in a supermarket again… on a Saturday? I mean, I did a mammoth shop at Aldi on Monday and felt really smug. Yes, I walked out thinking I’d got a load of shopping for much less than had I gone to Sainsburys or Waitrose and it’s Monday, and I won’t have to go shopping again until next Monday. But don’t I ever remember that I find myself in some form of supermarket every single fucking day? And especially on a Saturday because I always think, oh, never mind, the weekend will be chilled and laid back and laissez faire and I have no idea what to make for dinner EVER. But obviously laid back and laissez faire still requires real edible stuff that will sustain and nourish, not just the sodding idea of it.

2.  Mmmmmm, crumpets. Mmmmm bagels. Mmmmmm bread products.   Hmmmm, should have eaten before going to the supermarket in order to avoid craving massive doorstep sandwiches and crisps and doughnuts and other baked items.

3. I’m buying super expensive plastic punnets of fruit AGAIN. I hate buying so much prepackaged stuff, I hate all the plastic and I don’t understand why I have to buy so much fruit. Sudden warm glow comes over me as I realise it’s because my children must have a bit of healthy shit in their diet as they seem to get through a lot of really bloody expensive fruit.

4. There’s so much stuff in the fridge, freezer, cupboards at home. If I was better at this whole stay at home mum thing I would have batch cooked loads of pulse based healthy meals like daal and chick pea stew that everyone would obviously love and derive great nourishment and positive health benefits from and I would be spending my Saturday in the bosom of my family playing rewarding and educational games with my children. They would absolutely not be watching back to back football/my little pony/Netflix whilst demanding sweets and bickering. I would not be pushing a trolley up and down the aisles hoping that inspiration will leap out and grab me, giving me the ability to so something unbelievably exciting and delicious with the same old ingredients.

5. If I was on my own, I would quite happily eat sandwiches or cereal every day for dinner. It’s not that I don’t adore food and all the different ways it can be cooked. It’s just that I really cannot be arsed to be the one to do it.

6. I know I will get to making packed lunches on Monday and there will be NOTHING in the house to put in them.

7. I will get home and realise I have forgotten the one thing I went to the supermarket to get. (I did by the way)

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I love you Pepa Pig, but no-one EVER looks this happy when they take their children to the supermarket!

8. People who take their children to the supermarket are either saints or like to inflict as much damage on their own mental state and those of their fellow shoppers as possible. The last time I was forced to take all 3 children into a supermarket at the same time, I had reached full volume and had used up all of my (ropey) techniques to distract, threaten or blackmail by the end of the vegetable aisle. I literally had nowhere to go emotionally or in a disciplinary sense and I looked like a totally incompetent and sad individual. Respect is due to the parents who manage to get round a supermarket with all their children behaving beautifully.

9. Respect is also due to people who are so organised that they work out meals for the week, check their cupboards first, write a shopping list and stick to it. Happy and fulfilled are the people who achieve this, I am convinced. I have been to a supermarket on average once a week since I was 14, on my own, doing a weekly shop. I hate it. I am no better at it than I was when I was a teenager.

10. LET’S JUST GET A TAKEAWAY EVERY DAY. I DON’T CARE WHAT JAMIE OLIVER SAYS. CHICKEN NUGGETS LOOK FINE TO ME.

11. Why? Why won’t the self service till recognise my bags?! Why am I attempting to converse with the self service till? Why am I fulfilling my destiny to become that embarrassing mother who makes her long suffering children cringe because I am moaning at electronic machines and cooing over random babies that I come across.

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I’ll have the empty plate with the food ‘on the side’

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This is a picture of my youngest 5 years ago. One of those smug mummy pics that so many of us are guilty of posting on social media. I must apologise for this now! She was 9 months old, in an Indian restaurant, chomping away on a poppadum. How proud I was and how sure that my baby led weaning had been the right decision. Here we were, in a restaurant and everyone was eating the food we had ordered, no complaints! I saw the years stretching in front of me of relaxed family mealtimes full of smiles and squeals of delight as curries, tagines, pulses, complex flavours were paraded in front of us and I only had to cook one meal for the whole family because they would all be happy to tuck in.

What a difference 5 years make, the benefit of hindsight, the realisation that there is no prescribed way to do things with your children that will get the desired result. When number 3 was on the way, I pretty much knew that for the foreseeable future, I would not be returning to work. The oldest was at school, the boy would be starting nursery, and I would have 3 hours a day alone with my baby. I started to create a world in my head where I would be an earth mother and I would implement all of the baby rearing methods that I had not had a chance to indulge in before – baby led weaning being the most notable. I even read a book about it!

When my oldest was born, the big name in weaning was Annabel Karmel. My sister had handed me a puree splattered, well used copy of her book with advice about the best recipes, having religiously mushed and pureed good, healthy meals for her babies. It had worked well by all accounts. My friends in my NCT group were all following her meal plans. It was a rewarding if time consuming business. My oldest loved her nosh and it was rewarding to shovel in the spoons of multi-coloured semi solid mush. The boy loved it too. Never had any trouble with them eating. And yet, and yet… I seemed to think in my baby number 3 fug that I should change a tried and tested formula.

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Oh Annabel, why did I ever doubt you?

So there I was, 6 years on from baby number 1 and there was a new buzz amongst the mummys of suburbia – namely, the mind blowing realisation that you could feed your baby the food you were eating without liquidizing it to an unrecognisable, unappetising beige sludge. Looking back I’m a bit embarrassed. I was guilty of buying into a craze, a new way, because someone wrote a book saying it was ok, and not a terrible, irresponsible or dangerous thing to let your 6 month old put a piece of food in her mouth that hadn’t been pre chewed. I was up for it. My daughter was going to get the best dietary start and would be ‘that’ child who would eat whatever we threw at her!

I know that possibly millions of people have derived nothing but success and pure joy from baby led weaning. I salute them and their very well fed children. I realise that I am definitely substandard and for this I do apologise. But, in my considered opinion, baby led weaning has about as much chance of success as England winning the Euros.

Yes, we had a honeymoon period of my gorgeous, hilarious child smearing chick pea stew all over her high chair, face and floor – some might have gone in. She ate all sorts of vegetables, meat and fish and she gorged on fruit – yes, I learned not to fear the gag reflex and I was fascinated to witness my precious load gagging and then launching a chunk of carrot half way across the kitchen. I learned that babies and small children have absolutely miniscule stomachs and that the portion sizes I gave my other kids were far too big. I learned that my baby would eat until she was full and then she would stop. All good things, all good things.

But then I also learned that for a toddler, choice is BAD! I did not have the wherewithal or the energy to be honest, to create inventive and healthy selections every day and, as a result her main diet turned into what I hope most people will admit to – fishfingers, pasta, the odd pie, chicken korma etc and oh yes, fucking chips. Over the months and the years, her repertoire dwindled quite alarmingly. The beans on toast, boiled egg, pasta pesto options that I guess were acceptable suddenly turned into pasta with nothing and the odd baked bean.

She turned into Sally from ‘When Harry met Sally’ requiring everything ‘on the side’ – spaghetti with bolognese ‘on the side’, baked potato with beans ‘on the side’, empty plate with crumb of food ‘on the fucking side’. We are now in a situation where my brilliant, energetic daughter survives on a diet of oranges, raspberries, wheetos, mini cheddars, the odd mouthful of protein, the odd forced broccoli floret and cheese. I am bemused.

I also read in a book (which clearly means it’s kosher and 100% true) that toddlers are often grazers and THAT’S OK. They might not follow the traditional 3 meals a day rule, but instead enjoy healthy ‘snacks’ throughout the day, chomping on a carrot stick and some cheese and salami whilst playing with their wooden blocks and lego. Fine I thought, my youngest just likes to graze. The problem is, as the toddler years turned into pre-school years, the ‘snacks’ and the ‘grazing’ turned into frubes, mini cheddars, mini biscuits, fruit…. Mea culpa! This is not healthy grazing.

I don’t think I’m a terrible mother. I attempt to cook from scratch most days. The other 2 children eat a varied and mainly healthy diet. But I have to admit that I cannot bear the moment when the 5 year old comes to the table, makes a face like I have put a pile of steaming pooh on the table and declares she doesn’t like it before she even knows what it is. My resolve has gone. I don’t know what to do! I am hoping that one magical day she will wake up with new taste buds, feeling hungry and will devour that chicken pie, the lasagne, the roast dinner. Please, let me dream as I prepare yet another plate of toast with beans ‘on the side’ with as little bean juice as possible!

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“Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side.”

 

6 crafty things I’ve learned this week

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apparently this is going to look like that!

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  1. Don’t interpret a pattern for a crochet project slightly more ambitious than a square when it is late, I am tired, I am not wearing my reading glasses and I’ve had a glass of wine.
  2. Unravelling a whole sodding week of work is faster with crochet than knitting.
  3. Re-doing last week’s work is a lot fucking slower than you think.
  4. Don’t take your craft work to your son’s cricket match in an attempt to get something to show for 3 hours of sitting in the freezing cold on camp chairs, whilst the wind is blowing, several hyper 9 year old boys are chucking cricket balls around very close to you, and the five year old is shoving shopkins toys in your face. This is not condusive to following the pattern correctly or relaxing in any way.
  5. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are a craft genius because you have completed a few projects, mainly blankets, hats or baby booties. You should not entertain ideas of setting yourself up on Etsy or Facebook as a crafter to sell these items. Bloody hell, you have just spent most of Saturday unravelling your work and trying to interpret the so-called ‘simple’ pattern which may as well be written in Swahili. Who did you think you were, dreaming of a stall at a craft fair and having people coo over your incredible handiwork, and making loads of money and covering your house in crocheted/knitted gorgeousness?
  6. This would not make anyone else in your family happy. Only you…

P.S. There was a lovely, heart lifting rainbow at one of the many cricket matches last week which admittedly meant that it rained, very heavily, but hey, every cloud and all that!

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An FA Cup final remembered

 

FA Cup Final - Manchester United v Everton
photograph:Popperfoto/Getty Images

Next week it will be 29 years since I lost my Mum. Actually, I hate that phrase. It sounds like I lost her in John Lewis and never found her again. She lost me once, at Brent Cross shopping centre. She told me to ‘stay there’ sitting on the fountain ledge outside M&S. So, of course I wandered off. A little girl found me and took me to the information booth where they made an announcement over the tannoy system. My mum bought the little girl an ice cream to say thank you for finding me. I howled and sobbed all the way home because I wanted an ice cream!

29 years is a very long time. It’s a lifetime really. I have a bit of a problem piecing large chunks of time together in my memory. I’m not sure if that is something that has happened as a result of things that have happened in my life. Or perhaps that is just what I’m like. I’d love to know if anyone else out there has a problem remembering stuff and putting it all in the right order.

But occasionally something will bubble up to the surface and explode in my head and it’s like I’m watching a silent, technicolour movie.

It’s the FA Cup final this weekend. I’m not really interested in the outcome this time – Crystal Palace v Man Utd – May the best team win and all that, just so long as it’s not Man Utd. No, only joking!

Strangely though, The FA cup final is one event that always brings back a strong memory of my Mum. The technicolour film plays out in my head. She is of indeterminate age in these memories – she’s a mummy age, which now I realise, is rather young. She was in her mid 30s – hard to compute now. I can’t really relate to her as a woman of a definite age, as she is just a mummy to me, the way my kids see me now I imagine.

I grew up in a suburb of North London called Stanmore, right at the end of the Jubilee line, 4 stops from Wembley. When there was a big match, people would often park down our road and get the tube from Stanmore. It annoyed the pants off my Dad. You know the stuff that annoys me now if I’m being honest – driveway being blocked, people dropping litter everywhere, someone peed in our front garden once! But my Mum, she just took it in her stride. Her attitude was very much one of, hey, it happens rarely, just ignore it for a few hours and they’ll be gone. Basically, suck it up!

So, I’m hazy on the year and the teams involved – it was probably early 80’s, and therefore some combination of Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton. You choose. There was definitely a blue team!

It was a warm, sunny day. My Mum was outside doing some gardening (she loved gardening). All the cars had parked and people had gone off to the pubs for the build up before the game. About an hour later, a lonely figure in a blue and white t-shirt came weaving slightly unevenly back up our road. He looked incredibly dejected and a little the worse for wear. I’m not sure if he had a ticket for the football, maybe he’d lost it, or maybe he had been in the pub too long and had got to the stadium too late to get in. But, for whatever reason, he had not made it to the match.

My Mum took pity on him. On that May afternoon, this disheveled football supporter lay on the grass verge outside our house in the sunshine, listening to the game on my Mum’s radio. I have a feeling she made him a mug of tea and a sandwich too, but this might be me romanticising the memory a bit (allow me a bit of artistic license here, it’s my way of saying she was a bit of a dude really).

She was a country girl who grew up in a one-horse town in rural Denmark. It would seem that she did not listen to the cynical and dis-trustful voice in her head, the one that so many of us (me included) cultivate over the years. On that particular day, she was not suspicious or scared. She just felt sad for this man who had travelled a long way and who had been so disappointed.

I don’t know if his team won. When the match finished, he got up, left the radio on the doorstep and went away. I’m guessing he waited for his lift, or perhaps he drove off (what was the legal alcohol limit back then?). I’m not even sure if he thanked my Mum. But that doesn’t really matter does it? She did something for this man that hopefully made the whole sorry experience a bit better. She touched this stranger’s life. That was her in a nutshell really.