The Tooth Fairy Manifesto

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When I became a mother, after exhausting, painful hours of labour and the relief/shock of suddenly finding a new little person in my arms, I was presented with a free Pampers goodie bag. Wow! I remember feeling quite excited. A pack full of free things. How lucky is that? If I’m honest, it was a total and utter let down as I discovered that this bag contained nothing more than money off vouchers for branded nappies and formula and a little NHS booklet containing patronising advice about how to care for a new born baby. Now, some years later, and with the benefit of several years of child rearing, I feel that what would have been a whole lot more useful would have been a book of rules and instructions for some of the more murky areas of parenthood…

Over the years, I have woven a complex and sometimes, although I say it myself, impressive web of lies surrounding the existence and lifestyle of the many and varied members of the magic community who populate our childrens’ lives. What is the MO of Santa’s elves, where does Santa live, what does Rudolph really like to eat on Christmas Eve? What does the Easter Bunny look like and how does he/she deliver all the branded chocolate to our homes? How does the tooth fairy get under your child’s pillow and leave money without detection?

This is a good one – How come the tooth fairy sometimes doesn’t come for days even though your child leaves countless notes and gifts with their tooth? How do parents know that the tooth fairy is sometimes so busy that they can’t come the same night, and why does it often coincide with the fact that mummy has fallen asleep on the sofa after that last glass of wine and has then hauled her fat arse to bed!

None of this is news to any parents out there. We all do it. We collude in the lie, we try desperately to remember all the elaborate tales that we tell and which seem to be swallowed whole and taken on board. Goodness only knows what our childrens’ dreams consist of.

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A recent letter to the tooth fairy – this time she even gave it a hashtag!  Can you see the tooth in the middle?  You might need a magnifying glass!

Anyway, last week, my daughter’s tooth fell out, her 3rd. A tiny, virtually non-existent appendage. I can’t believe something so small had been carrying out a functional role in her mouth! That evening, she wrote a little note for the tooth fairy, placed it and the microscopic tooth in an envelope and slid it under her pillow.

The envelope is a new addition to the saga, following an unfortunate event when the tooth fairy spent a long time fumbling around in the dark searching for another similarly minute tooth. It was nowhere to be found so the tooth fairy had no choice (and was so tired that she just wanted to go to bed) but to leave the money and hope that the next morning the tooth would remain hidden allowing for the tooth fairy to do a full sweep of the bed area in daylight and find the tooth which was clearly not visible to the naked eye. Sadly, the child did in fact find the tooth, so mummy dutifully added yet another string to the bow of lies and explained that the tooth fairy sometimes thinks the teeth are so beautiful that the child should be able to keep the tooth for posterity. She bought it. I made a mental note to remember what I had just said. I should have written all this shit down. I really have no idea what I have said over the years.

So, this time, it would seem I had done belt and braces and this was a bog standard tooth fairy scenario – don’t go to bed and forget, take the envelope, deposit the cash, boom, the magic stays alive.

As my daughter was going to bed she smiled wistfully and told me how excited she was that the tooth fairy was coming that night. I smiled. Yes, she said, her friend had recently lost a tooth and the tooth fairy had brought her a gift.

“Oh” I said, “what was that?”
“A sticker book.” she replied. “Yes, maybe the tooth fairy will bring me that Rainbow Dash book I want”
For those of you lucky enough not to know, Rainbow Dash is a member of the (in my opinion) much reviled and hated My Little Pony franchise that has reigned for too bloody long in this house. The book in question is a free book that comes with the utterly shite magazine that costs far too much and comes adorned with plastic crap and, in this case, a thin book.

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This is Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony.

Oh how my heart sank as she said this. So many things that I wanted to say. So many feelings went coursing through me. The first one was, shit, it’s 8pm and my husband is out so it is impossible to go to a shop that might still be open and that might possibly sell this awful publication so that I can keep the tooth fairy dream alive. The second thing that went through my mind was, since when did the tooth fairy deliver actual presents – it’s money, she/he/it leaves money and surely this is understood worldwide? And yes, she leaves whatever change is available at the time – I guess there is a going rate which these days seems to have escalated to around £2. But let’s face it, at that age, a few shiny coins usually hits the spot.

I made a few comments to try and deflect this certainty on my daughter’s part, that in the morning a magazine would have replaced her diminutive piece of enamel. But it seemed to bounce off her as if there was an anti bullshit force field around her. I abandoned the child and sought solace in wine and master chef.

At midnight, true to form, I woke with a start and remembered that the fucking tooth fairy hadn’t done her duties. So I woke myself up enough to get out of bed, scrabbled around in my purse and managed to find some change. I fell back into bed feeling totally relieved that I had not completely forgotten and that I had pulled the situation back from the brink of disaster. As I drifted back off to sleep I smiled as I imagined how finding the coins would dismiss all thoughts of magazines and all would be right with the world. How ridiculous, the tooth fairy bringing presents, how ridiculous.

A new day dawned. For once, as I came crashing downstairs already racing against time, thinking only of coffee and what I could scrape together for packed lunches, I did not have to pull the duvet off my cosy, snoring child as she was already sitting up in bed. To be more accurate, she was kneeling on her bed, facing her pillow, head bowed. I approached her, expecting to find a face beaming with joy and excitement at finding money under her pillow and the envelope containing her tooth miraculously gone. But no, I found a sad face, eyes brimming with tears. Shit. The acting started:

“What’s wrong? Didn’t the tooth fairy come? What’s happened?”
“No, the tooth fairy came” – she opened her palm to reveal 2 shiny pound coins.
“Oh, that’s great! That’s so much money! You lucky girl. Go on, put it in your money box. Why are you so sad?”

Here it comes…
“Why didn’t she bring the magazine?”
“Well, she’s only tiny isn’t she. Perhaps she couldn’t carry such a big magazine. She’s really busy too.”
“But my friend got the sticker book. She must be able to carry it”

At this point my eldest daughter came into the room. She has ‘known’ for a while but she is committed to keeping the dream alive, thank goodness. She suggested that maybe it was a different tooth fairy. Obviously, there are loads of tooth fairies worldwide!

This didn’t seem to cut it for her at that moment. So we tried another angle: perhaps the tooth fairy couldn’t find that specific Rainbow Dash book;

“After all” I said, “I think that book is very hard to find. The money was clearly left for you to go and buy the magazine yourself.”

Ok, this went down a bit better, the tears were abating. Ah, but then she remembered that she only had £2 and magazines cost more than that. Yes, of course, all those occasions in the shop when I flat refuse to buy these terrible publications stating that they cost an arm and a leg. So, of course, I found myself desperately fumbling around and then I heard myself promising to buy the magazine and pay the difference. Oh for fuck’s sake. This is not what was supposed to happen.

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I found myself thinking, why don’t new parents get the starter pack that we all really need? A sort of guide to the myths surrounding all the magical creatures who will fill our lives. There would be useful role play sections highlighting situations that may occur with your children, giving you possible answers and solutions to these difficult but common scenarios! Things such as, where does the tooth fairy come from? How does she get into the house? What exactly does she leave under your pillow? If she doesn’t come the first night, why not, and when will she actually get here?

Most importantly, there would be a very useful section entitled – Things NOT to do or say. These rules must NEVER be violated as it fucks it up for everyone else, right? Are you with me here? If we all stick to the rules, then we will all be happy, capiche? And our kids? Yes, one day they may hate our guts for a bit as the veil falls from their eyes and they see everything in stark, boring, grown up reality, but then they will understand and they will pass it all on and keep the dream alive. But only if we all stick to the rules – YES?

What’s in a name?

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Actress and all round sex kitten Gina Lollobrigida (Image taken from Rebelcircus.com)

A few years ago when visiting my family in Denmark, my Grandma gave me a huge bundle of letters, letters that my Mum had written to her parents. They spanned the entire time she lived in the UK, from the early 1960’s to 1987, the year she died. I was incredibly grateful and excited and just amazed really to see these piles of envelopes all containing my Mum’s neat, cursive handwriting, all in Danish. I suddenly had a window into a life that I really didn’t know much about. My sister and I agreed that we would put them away and, one day, when we feel strong enough, we will sit down and read them together.

Having said that, as I was gathering them together, my eye alighted on the postmark on one letter – March 1973, the month and year of my birth. So I pulled the lined paper from the envelope and found it dated 8th March, Middlesex Hospital, Westminster, London. I was breathless to think that the day after I was born, she had written to her mother back in Denmark. After I stopped crying, I smiled and my heart lifted as I felt a sudden connection and closeness to her and to an event that I was obviously at the centre of but can’t recall her ever talking to me about.

The best thing about this letter, apart from the simple everyday, arguably mundane chitty chatty content, was the discovery that my name on the day after my birth was not my name!

Here is a little extract from the letter (badly translated by me I’m afraid).

Dear All

It is now 27 hours since my baby was born and we are both doing very well…

We still haven’t chosen a name for the little one, but I’m pretty certain it’s going to be Gina, pronounced like ‘J’ in John, basically, ‘Djina’. We will see if she turns out to be as famous as Gina Lollobrigida. We are still thinking, so maybe it will change before we have to go and register the name.

It’s bizarre don’t you think? To try and imagine yourself but with a different name.  Well, it’s impossible actually.   Would my life have been different had I been Gina? Perhaps as my Mum suggested I might, I would have lived up to my glamorous namesake and become a famous actress/model/socialite!  Would I feel different, would I have an alternative sense of ME?  I was amazed that I had never known this before.

I suspect Gina was one of her favourites, but perhaps my Dad had not paid it much attention preferring something else. I can understand it now having had these conversations with my partner about our own childrens’ names. Had I been writing to my Mum about my babies, I might well have mentioned several names that never eventually made the cut! You know the conversations where you suggest a name that you love and your partner says it sounds like a dog’s name? Or the name that you have been obsessed with for years that turns out to be your partner’s ex-girlfriend or someone they didn’t like at school.

On reflection, it was probably just a passing moment for my Mum and Dad as they settled eventually on a different name. We all forget things that at the time seem to be so vitally important. But she captured that moment and that thought forever in writing and left it there for me to discover 43 years later

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Whatever my name was at the time of her writing this letter, reading her words, in her handwriting and being able to hear her voice through the words in her native language suddenly made me REAL and placed me firmly with her. That sounds strange doesn’t it? It’s hard to explain. Because she is not here, and it’s so long since she’s been here, I find it hard sometimes to accept that she ever was here.  And those few years that she was with me are perhaps one of my elaborate daydreams that I indulge myself in from time to time!

That moment after you give birth, where a new mother is on her own with her new baby – the private words, looks, emotions that pass between them and that sadly her baby will never be able to recall, but those moments that create the eternal connection. Suddenly I felt these moments coursing through me like electricity. A part of me woke up, came to life, the realisation that I am still the daughter of a mother, I have been held and kissed and snuggled and had a random name whispered in my ear! I was suddenly transported to that moment with her. Was she looking into my scrunched up, angry face trying out the name, Gina, whispering it to me as she held me? At what point did she decide that it wasn’t right? What changed her mind? Time and memory are fickle things. It doesn’t really matter I guess. It saddened me that I couldn’t call my Mum, splutter and laugh down the phone as I cried, ‘Gina? Really? Why? How?’

Whatever, I have physical proof now that I was there and she was there too! Sounds mad, but it has brought a person back to life, it has placed me in history with a person who I wish I knew in 1973, but sadly didn’t know that I did. Now, thanks to this beautiful sheet of paper, I can imagine the conversation going on in her head, fitting the name to the new soul in front of her, forming the bond that will tie us together for all time.

#grannysquare

After a brief post Christmas break from craft, I got itchy fingers. I asked my daughter what I should make next, and she asked for a blanket. We looked for ideas together and found a gorgeous granny square blanket in solid colours. Yes, I thought, this will be great and fun and rewarding and I can buy LOADS of brightly coloured balls of wool! I thought I was making good progress with my granny squares. It felt a bit like coming home, the simple, repetitive process of crocheting identical little squares. And much to my joy, I noticed how much faster I was at making them compared to this time last year. Oh yes, all was good. I would whip through this project in no time!!!

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So, I thought I’d sew a few together, just to get a sense of the colours, but also because I genuinely thought I had loads and might really make some headway.

Here are some of the things I learned as I did this:

I would be lying if I said this was either an easy, quick or fun process. It was boring and lengthy and I got really irritated and swore a lot as it dawned upon me that this whole blanket thing is gonna take a lot longer than I envisaged.

I also learned that whilst I think all of the squares I’m making are the same size, they are quite considerably different! This, obviously irritated me MASSIVELY, not least because of all the blogposts that I read where people display their squares all utterly perfect and uniform in size. Why can’t I do this too? I wonder if it’s due to the time of day I’m crocheting or how stressed I feel. Or maybe just because I’m shite.

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The sudden realisation that this is going to take ages!
I’m annoyed. But I’m persevering. I have convinced myself that the squares, once joined together, will stretch and adjust to all seem to be identical in size. I know that as I go on with my massive granny square blanket project, not only will I age considerably but my joining, by virtue of how much I’m going to have to do, will improve. And, I’m guessing that by the end (if it ever comes) the result will be, if not exquisite, then, at least, accurate!

My big girl who asked for the blanket laughed at me when I told her in a concerned voice that it had not started as neatly and as professionally as I’d hoped. Her words were, ‘If you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have noticed’ and ‘stop worrying so much.’ Ah, from the mouths of babes. The student teaching the master and all other fortune cookie, proverb related stuff.

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Well, we all love Yoda!
Anyway, I’ve made about 70 squares. After my morning’s labours, I can now see I will be needing something like 700 squares. Holy shit. Can I really do this? Will it be the unfinished project that sits at the bottom of the cupboard, mocking me, will it be the ultimate let down for my daughter, who asked me to make it? Can I do it, and more importantly, can I get it done before she leaves home? I admit, I am feeling distracted by the prospect of other, shorter and more sexy projects.

I ended 2016 toasting the New Year with a crochet hook in my hand and the pattern for R2D2 at my side! If you type #starwarscrochet into instagram, you are met with 2655 posts, images of hundreds of crocheted Star Wars characters! #Yodacrochet has 135! This means that there are 135 other people out there who either crocheted Yoda or who are interested in yoda and crochet and want to share this with other like minded Yoda crochet people!

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Why? Because. Loser? Maybe, but it makes me smile! It is addictive and compelling to look at what we are all making, all over the world in every language imaginable. I bloody love it! Now that I am borderline obsessive about my craft projects, I spend quite a lot of time obsessing over other peoples’ posts and blogs. I have to admit that I love the colour and the creativity that greets me when I refresh my feed. I also discovered the world of #amigurumi. This whole making little toys/figures thing actually has a name and a cult of its own. I think this is where the really cool, young, beautiful crafters are to be found, surfing the #amigurumi instagram feed! They are not slaving over granny squares. No, they are sipping cocktails whilst creating perfect miniature unicorns, Hello Kitty dolls and rainbows, photographing them stylishly and with just enough irony to make it ok and enviable and making me want to do it too!

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But my increasing proportion of grey to brown hair, my ever more wrinkly skin and my propensity for wearing clothes for comfort rather than style, dictates that I will never be a true member of the #amigurumi club. Perhaps the odd dalliance, Boba Fett or Han Solo? Just one cute little unicorn to cheer me on my way? And then, to operation granny I must return.

Losing is for Losers…

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Obviously this is a lie.  Happiness will never be achieved when playing a board game

What do you do when you are the least competitive person you know but your child is cut from different cloth?

And, what do you do when your child is constantly nagging you to play a game of chance that she is unlikely to win every time, but openly cheats or throws a shit fit if she even looks like she might be losing? And how do you deal with this situation when you, as an individual really don’t give a shit either way but realise in your role as a parent that this is the opportunity to crowbar a few life lessons in; you know, the ones about learning to lose gracefully, enjoying the process, taking it on the chin, chalking it up to experience and going in more determined to win next time. Oh yes, and the fact that it’s supposed to be fun, a shared experience, a chance to interact with each other. Yes, fun!

Half way through one of our ‘game ordeals’ over Christmas, I drew it to an early close as the tears and the huffing and puffing had reached critical levels. My soothing words about a game being a bit of fun and that losing was part of playing were falling on the usual deaf ears. I then dropped the responsible parent routine and let out my inner 6 year old as I exclaimed that ‘nobody wants to play with you if you cheat all the time nah ner ner nah nah!’

I went and sat on the sofa. She was at the table with her back to me. I could see her shoulders heaving. I could feel the indignant heat radiating from her angry cheeks. And still with her back to me she said in her best angry voice:

“I know I cheated Mummy, but it’s just that I REALLY HATE LOSING”

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The calm before the board game melt down. Please note the medicinal wine in the foreground!

I never joined a team. I wish I had. I did not grow up with sport, I never enjoyed Monopoly and I’m not very competitive.

I should say at this point that I don’t necessarily WANT my kids to be like me. I am your ultimate apologist – the sorry box of my childhood being a perfect case in point. My non-competitive nature could very easily be mistaken for apathy or dis-interest. I must stress that this is definitely not the case. But, I cannot deny that I really find it hard to get worked up about winning a game or a quiz, coming first, beating someone else. I mean obviously I’m there screaming for Mo at the Olympics, cheering when England (or Denmark) do well in international sport, and I’m generally just very very relieved when the mighty Liverpool actually win a game because then I know that my house will be a calm and happy place! But on the flipside, I actually feel quite desperate and sad when I see the ‘runner up’ at Wimbledon, or the team that has just been knocked out of the FA cup on penalties. I see their pain, I feel their disappointment and it tarnishes for me the sense of happiness and victory for the other side. Even as I write this I realise how utterly wet and limp and other words describing weak this is! But I can’t help it.

In addition to this, I find board games quite tedious and trying, especially where the children are involved, preferring instead an uncomplicated, non-biased activity such as a puzzle!

I have learned that when children (well, mine anyway) reach the age of 5 or thereabouts, the ability to control themselves when it comes to playing competitive games is tough to say the least. There are invariably tears and red faces and explosions of anger when things are not going their way: when the snakes outnumber the ladders and the lotto cards are filling up faster on the other side of the table, or all the top trump cards are in someone else’s hands. The pale cheeks flush a puce red and the little eyes start to brim with tears. Then the blind anger sets in and more often than not, it’s all over!

But this small person has a big big big persuasive streak. I try so hard to stand up to the barrage of whingeing and whining and cajoling. But invariably, I give in (I am weak I am weak). So, in an attempt to salvage some control over things, I have over the weeks and months tried various game play strategies with her.
1. Let her cheat – By letting her cheat, and subsequently win I am taking the line of least resistance. And, seeing as I don’t give a rat’s arse about winning or losing, it is no skin off my nose. Yes, she is learning that dishonesty and emotional manipulation pays, but, hey, we are in post Brexit, post truth, Trump Land where ‘alternative facts’ are actually a thing! Maybe these are the life lessons she needs to be learning: Go out there, grab what you want and win AT ANY COST.

2. Let her win (a bit) – I let her win for a bit, I ignore some of the the indiscretions and blatant cheating. But then, I start to actually play the game properly, partly to stop myself from falling asleep. Perhaps I even win the game of lotto or spotty dogs! Then, through the tears and the stamping and the wailing, I attempt to explain mainly 2 things, namely, you can’t win everything and it’s luck whether you win or lose and after all, it’s supposed to be fun!

3. No more Mrs Nice Guy – I go in hardcore, from roll 1 of the dice. This usually means a swift conclusion to the game as she walks (or rather stomps in a flouncy way) very fast from impending defeat.

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In my naivety or stupidity (how after 12 years of child rearing can I be this dense?) I think that this no nonsense, teach them what real life is really like, you can’t win em all attitude is going to actually work. Then I take a step back and reflect. She’s 6. She is the youngest (indulged much of the time). She lives in an affluent home in a free (at the time of writing) country. Did I mention, she’s 6? Does she need to learn life’s harsh lessons from A through to Z right now? Do I have to be the nasty person who dishes out the truth every time? Can’t I let her believe for a little bit longer that she will win a game of chance every fucking time she plays it? Is it really that bad to maintain the status quo for a little bit longer? It’s either that or explain that until she learns to lose with some grace and dignity, ain’t nobody gonna want to play a game with her!

But, in all honesty I have to say, how brilliant that she articulated exactly how she felt at that moment. Respect to my 6 year old daughter who gets it more at her age than I can now – it’s ok to not like it. It’s ok to really hate it. And it’s ok to say you hate to lose! I’m guessing, that like her siblings, she will also put herself voluntarily into situations where she might win or lose and she will get upset and frustrated sometimes and she will invariably find herself on the losing team. And she will really really hate it! But I hope by then she will also hear my voice in her head saying – it’s ok to lose sometimes. This is how you learn. And losing well is a great skill and a useful quality to have. But, most of all, she has the voice and the confidence to express this.

So yes, little monster child, continue to hate to lose, just learn to do it with a rye smile on your face and with renewed determination to win next time and then learn to love the process of winning FAIR and SQUARE!

For the love of Pod!

 

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Oh my word, I love Desert Island Discs. That isn’t forceful enough. This requires a shout from the rooftops. I LOVE DESERT ISLAND DISCS! It is possibly the most perfect programme ever devised. I am arguably obsessed beyond what might be considered normal or acceptable with Kirsty Young and her liquid gold voice. I cry at the end of every episode when she says in her heartfelt way, “Thank you VERY much for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs”. I feel like she bores into the heart of these people and extracts things that you will never hear in another interview with them.

I became obsessed with Desert Island Discs when I was on maternity leave with my 3rd child. I would download and listen whilst doing the mundane jobs in the house. It became the sound track to my ironing, my hoovering (headphones on), my utterly interminably boring treks round Aldi, and then, when I had some time to myself, my crochet and my waiting around in the car for clubs and school to finish. I accessed the archives and found people I had never heard of or knew only vaguely about. I critiqued the styles of the various presenters, although I never cared much for Michael Parkinson and whilst Sue Lawley was good, she was perhaps not my type!

 

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But still, the format, the people and the peace it brought me, kept me coming back for more. I have just listened to the 3 hour special celebrating 75 years. I have loved every minute and I am excited that there are more episodes to be found in the archives. It amazes me and pleases me. This humble broadcast is a slice of modern history. It is literally an archive of the people who have shaped our humanity. It is fascinating to hear the evolution of the way people spoke in the 50’s to the present day. The trajectory of the gramophone record over 75 short years – now more of a concept than an object to touch, to hold.

And yet, the one immoveable point remains, and the reason why this programme is as relevant now as it was in 1942; the simple fact that music informs our lives, contains within its abstract ethereal nature, strong, individual narratives and personal memories that turn one global thing into something unique to each of us. It is this fascinating truth, that whoever you are, whether you are royalty, comedian, musician, writer, innovator or groundbreaking scientist, that one piece of music that millions of other people listen to and love, still defines an era in their life, still contains importance and resonates with something in them. It is a great leveller. Perhaps that’s why it is such a clever idea. It is at the same time unique and individual, yet global and proletarian. This is why it is not the sort of interview where us plebs are left feeling like we are less than these great and famous people, but instead that they are just like us and we are just like them – people with memories and experiences which are precariously held in the shared memory and narrative of popular culture.

I believe I am a podcast bore! Podcasts. The thing that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The idea of such a thing. I remember getting our first digital radio and trying to understand that I could pause live radio! that I could come back later and listen to something that had just been broadcast! I reached an age where having music on in the background just didn’t do it for me. Those months where I would be awake, feeding my baby in the middle of the night, they were times when the voices on the radio would keep me company. These voices have become my companion in my world of stay at home mumdom!

I look forward to Woman’s Hour! And I love listening to the news quiz and Kermode and Mayo’s film podcast, or the very funny Adam Buxton, as I go about my daily life. I love hearing other people talk about their wonderful lives and worlds and feelings and thoughts. I feel connected to the world outside. I also often feel like I am a sad loser who has no life and must rely on the lives of others to exist. But in an attempt to remain positive and upbeat it also highlights the diverse wonder of the world I live in and the life I have. I am no scientist, but listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage for instance can provide an insight into concepts and ideas that I have no way of accessing on my own, being a total philistine when it comes to science. And then I always return to and savour my weekly hit of Desert Island Discs, always my favourite, go to place for solace and enjoyment and therapy!

 

I Skyped with my friend in Australia last week. Another treat! My fix of someone who just gets me, my topping up of ‘ah yes, that’s who I am’ conversation. She is the person who just knows who I am so we don’t need to go through all the preamble. It’s just, boom, 2 hours of total connection. Usually, at some point in our chats, she’ll say ‘what are you reading?’ And now inevitably we also discuss what podcasts we are listening to. It is hard when you have come to the end of a run of a particularly brilliant podcast, something like ‘Serial’ or ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’.

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Antoon van Welie (Dutch 1866-1956) Portrait of an Old Woman Crocheting – or, portrait of me!!!

I binge listened to Radio 4’s back catalogue of Soul Music last year and regretted immediately that I hadn’t rationed it because I wanted to experience it all over again. And I guess I feel like I am at this point with my beloved DID because enough time has passed now where I can revisit some favourites, like Lauren Bacall, Dustin Hoffman or Gene Wilder and hear their stories again.

Anyway, I have tentatively subscribed to some new podcasts, I have stepped away from the Radio 4 shed to tread new waters. I feel a little bit like I am cheating on an old and beloved friend. But, it has to be done. I need to spread my wings. I need to try and find some new obsessions for 2 main reasons. One is that I will soon run out of my trusty old faithfuls and two, because I am aware that my tastes are rather old lady and perhaps I should be aiming more at things that are intended for a slightly younger demographic (not that I am young anymore, but I can dream). I realise that whilst many of my friends of a similar age are still listening to banging tunes, applying make up, brushing their hair, keeping an eye on fashion and generally occupying their time with slightly less octogenarian pursuits, I am listening to podcasts, mainly from radio 4 and making sure that I have a crochet hook and a ball of wool with me wherever I go.

So, here I go. My choices today include, ‘The Guilty Feminist’, ‘Radiolab’ and ‘WTF with Marc Maron’. Anybody got any recommendations? I’d be glad to get them and give them a go! Wish me luck, I’m going in, but not before I’ve listened to David Beckham’s DID and had a quiet sob!

Candy Cane Crush!

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Buddy the Elf and the Candy Cane Forest

My childhood Christmas was essentially a traditional Danfest, from the tree adorned with Danish flag garlands and real candles which were lit on Christmas Eve, to the traditional boozy rice pudding dessert at the end of our meal which contained a whole almond. Whoever got the whole almond won a marzipan pig. Santa delivered our gifts on Christmas Eve – he would leave them on the doorstep in a black bag and ring the bell. For 3 years in a row, I was convinced Santa drove a motorbike as every time my sister and I opened the door, we would see a bike speeding down the road into the darkness. I never noticed that my mum was quite out of breath and was coming in through the back door as we were running to the front!

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My Danish Aunt Rigmor’s amazing Christmas Tree from last year complete with real candles and Danish flags.

For me and my sister, there were no stockings on Christmas Day. No, for us, Santa’s elves did the leg work on the long run up to the 24th. Throughout December, our advent calendar or Julekalender was a magical pocket hanging on the wall and every morning, the Nisse (Danish Elves) would leave us a small gift: a pencil, a ruler, a sweetie, a book, sometimes some knitted items that looked suspiciously like things my Grandma might make! Then, on Christmas Eve, the main event.

After my Mum died far too young, it became of the utmost importance to keep our Christmas traditions alive. There were a few incredibly painful years when it just seemed too much as teenagers to keep it going. It felt wrong that the very reason why we were doing all these things was not there. None of us felt like doing it much anyway. However, there was also something so therapeutic about getting the tree, digging out all the old decorations, cooking the food in the same pans and serving it in the same dishes that our mum had done for us.

So what about my 3 melting pot children? Well, they get the Danish Julekalender and, I must confess that there is a stocking in the mix too. Lucky kids, stupid mother! But hey, why not?

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My advent calendar visited by the Danish Elves over the years.

My youngest has this year developed a regular and lengthy correspondence with the elves. This is very heartwarming and sweet. It is however, rather time consuming. On the 1st of December, I was met in the morning with an indignant child who was quite frankly pissed off that she had not received a reply to her picture and extensive list of requests that she had left in her basket. The elves learned fast and the next morning there was a reply!

Then, what can only be described as candy canegate occurred. The elves delivered a very cute candy cane pencil, a lot like the ones you can buy in Tiger! It was well received. This got my daughter thinking. Last year, the elves had delivered real candy canes. She hated them obviously because they were minty but she knew of a candy cane in other flavours, strawberry to be precise. So yesterday afternoon another detailed letter was produced. Yet another list for Santa requesting such things as puppy surprise (retailing at £29.99), some mental interactive chimp doll (retailing at almost £100), a smart watch and ‘my own ipad’. You have got to be having a giraffe my girl. My oldest daughter and I laughed heartily and explained that Santa can’t bring you everything you ask for. Youngest child shed a few tears and exclaimed ‘why not? He’s Santa’.

Anyway, at the end of the note to the elves asking for high ticket items, was this sentence: ‘And please give me a real candy cane tomorrow morning.’

I tried to deflect this. Even my son (still a believer) had to point out that it was unlikely seeing as mummy only lets them have sweets on Saturday (technically yes, in reality this is almost never achieved). But my girl was adamant. Who were we to question her resolve? As if it is any of my business anyway.

So, into the magic basket went the letter.

And finally, everyone was in bed, and finally, I awoke from my usual position, slumped on the sofa from where I had intended to arise to do all the boring shitty stuff that needs to be done most evenings. It was 9.45. The elf had to wrap some presents and write another fucking letter. Sadly, not being magic, there was no candy cane. So, the elf wrote the required response, fully supporting mummy and her rule of no sweets until the weekend. The elf then added strawberry flavour candy cane to the now growing list of requests that the kids have – yo-yo, ruler, smelly pencils, etc.

The next morning, I awoke to a relatively happy child. After all, the stickers she got were pretty shit hot really and she does love stickers. The letter to her (that had been lovingly written in elvish swirly script) was glanced at, tossed aside. There was a bit of crying, but mainly because her brother laughed at her and she was irritated. And then, much to my horror, a new letter was wafted under my nose before being deposited in the basket for that night.

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Dear Elves please please please please give me on Saturday a strawberry candy cane please please love from Ivy

What is this monster I have created? Can I take much more of this? Perhaps the next Elf response will be in Danish. That might slow things down in terms of correspondence. Maybe the elves will explain that there is a postal strike or that Santa has a backlog of notes to respond to. Perhaps I should just suck it up and enjoy this moment which will surely pass as quickly as it has arrived, and hope that one day she will not hate me when I present her with all of her letters.

Suffice to say, she will not be disappointed on Saturday morning, thanks to the local ‘Elf’ shopping centre in Feltham which luckily sells strawberry flavoured candy canes.

planets & unicorns & rainbows, oh my…

Last week, my son had to dress up in a space related costume for his topic at school. I am not very good at that stuff. After a brief chat in between Pokémon Go and some irritating game involving a ball rolling around on the iPhone, we settled on the planet Saturn. Thank the Lord for Amazon and a few clicks later I had ordered a rubber ring – ring of Saturn, an orange tshirt and some fabric pens. Boom. A planet is born. Admittedly, on the day, he just looked like a boy wearing his scruffy trackies, an orange tshirt with some brown squiggles on it and a neon orange swimming pool ring. He loved it. This is why I love him!

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Obviously the first thing you think of when you look at this is the rings of Saturn!

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The fabric pens had been left abandoned on the table. The smallest child clocked them and then the nagging began. ‘Mummeeeeee, can I draw on something, can I colour in my trousers, pleeeeeeeessssseeeeee, mummy,mummy,mummy, please, can I draw on my clothes’. For the full effect of the campaign, just re-read this about 60 times. Blimey, it’s irritating and mind blowing how a 6 year old can ALWAYS do enough to get exactly what they want. I came up with quite a lot of reasons why she shouldn’t deface her clothing. Eventually, I caved. It was the only way I could get on with all the other shit I was trying to do. So I told her to go and get one of her school tshirts. She reappeared a few minutes later with a white tshirt, white pants and white socks. I heard not one peep for over an hour. She sat at the table scribbling away. For a brief moment the allure of Youtubers opening kinder eggs and My Little Pony or Peppa Pig playing on a loop was redundant.

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As you can see, there is a distinct theme here. The rainbow is key. I’m getting strong My Little Pony vibes with a definite nod to naive art. Quite worrying to see that the unicorn in the top left appears to be farting a rainbow. It is literally propelling itself with the magical multi-coloured gas.

The t-shirt received un-solicited plaudits from the siblings. They were impressed and this gave me that warm glowing feeling you get from your children. It went something like this:

Child number 1, ‘that’s really good!’ Child number 2, ‘yeah it’s sick.’
Both children, ‘can we have some ice cream now?’

Listen, it’s enough!

Luckily for my daughter, the next day was wear your own clothes day at school, commonly known as mufti day – don’t ask me, I don’t know what it means. I do know however that it means that we need to bring either jars full of sweets or booze to school to contribute to the Christmas fair tombola. It’s a quid pro quo thing – you have an argument with your kids about what they can wear on a school day, and, oh yes, you also get to have that moment of panic when you realise that you haven’t got anything to take to school for the fair!  Not much of a deal to be honest. More like another way to fail dismally at co-ordinating more than one action that is not routine. Luckily for me, I live a few 100 metres from a petrol station, so cut price, chemical filled wine that will surely give you the hangover to end all hangovers found its way to the school (sorry fellow school people, but you know you do it too)!

The youngest child ecstatically and enthusiastically dressed herself (a rare occurrence). From rainbow striped pants, to socks and finally the tshirt displaying the farting unicorn. I had a mixture of emotions: fear that by the end of the weekend all her white items of clothing would be adorned with wobbly rainbow etchings, joy that she didn’t care about what she was wearing, pride that she had created her own unique art and above all, deep, uncontrollable, inexplicable love.