Monday, 30 August 2010

Street Party

A few weeks back we received an invite posted through the door from some of our neighbours suggesting a bank holiday street party. Given that the last street party I attended had a mandatory red, white and blue dress code to celebrate the Queens silver jubilee back in that hot summer of '77 it was clearly time for me to give it another go in the hopes that this time I would not skin both knees and elbows following a bitter dispute with Dianne Holland over who had spent most time in the paddling pool. Fortunately there was no dress code (or paddling pool) this time around, just a generous kitty for food and a request to bring your own bottle.

As our road is a cul de sac we were able to block it off from traffic so the kids could whizz about on their bikes and scooters and spent a lovely afternoon mingling with our neighbours, many of which we knew by sight, but had never actually spoken with before.

Don't get me wrong I am not a naturally neighbourly person. My policy is usually to get from my car to my front door whilst manhandling children, shopping, handbag etc with the least distractions, and I have been known to circle the block unnecessarily so as to avoid encountering another conversation about the weather with a random neighbour. However I think I have mellowed somewhat with age and with putting down definite roots in a road where I want my children to grow up. Despite the fact that it is quite a small road, there are a lot of under five's, and these are the children I have fond hopes will be part of a neighbourhood gang of pals with my two as they grow up.

I desperately worry about the lack of freedom our children have these days, with my biggest fear being not strangers or illnesses but the level of traffic which is now on our roads and the attitude of some people behind the wheel who drive their vehicles as if they are a weapon. As a personal injury solicitor I am all too familiar with cases of children being catastrophically injured on the road, and I think it is this fact which will make me reluctant to let my children out and about on the streets, exploring, having adventures and learning how to manage risk and make decisions. However I do want them to be free to play on the road we live on, and so it is nice to get to know the people who share our little road with us and who will hopefully be happy to facilitate this in the future by careful driving and by keeping a general eye on the road's younger residents.

Anyway, the party is still in full swing at 9pm as I post this, but I am a bank holiday weary mum who has been up since 5 am with two rampaging toddlers, so I am now finishing this post, making a cup of tea to retire to bed with and leaving the partying to those with more stamina than I!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

One Day of Sadness, Another Day of Pride

Friday was a sad day as I attended the funeral of my uncle who sadly passed away due to ill health at the age of 73.

His funeral was a dignified and respectful ceremony attended by such a large number of friends and family that there was standing room only. This was a mark of the genial and gentle man that my uncle was.

My Aunt (my uncle's wife) is real trooper and a formidable lady. During her working life she rose to be headmistress of a large comprehensive school, and I recall such was the esteem in which she was held that at her retirement event a message of congratulations was sent by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair. She has travelled the world both with my uncle and as a solo traveller and is a strong and compelling character. The loss of her steadfast companion is however a fundamental loss to her and for me was symbolised by the dignified and utterly heartpiercing bow she took before the coffin as we left the crematorium. In this one simple act was reflected her loss, respect and love for her life's partner who will be dearly missed.

After such a sad day I spent today in an entirely more frivolous manner. I met a friend in the city centre to watch the Manchester Pride parade, an annual event put on by the Manchester lesbian, gay and bisexual community and which has long been a highlight of the August bank holiday weekend for us Mancunians.

The parade was led by Gandalf no less, the lovely Sir Ian Mckellan, whom I have been fortunate enough to encounter once before at a book signing and who comes across as a very twinkly eyed, friendly and excitable person when in public, which is lovely considering his impressive thespian stature.

Here are a few photos of the event which was wonderful to be a part of. Despite the rain there was an abundance of friendly good spirits, and it did the heart good to be part of such a fun filled, happy and big gay community!

Sir Ian Mckellan

The cast of Coronation Street were out in force,

as were representatives of the police, NHS and emergency services.

There were also angels, creepy synchronised swimmers, the obligatory navy boys, doctors, many gay icons, and my personal favourite - the lesbian, gay and bisexual WWII land army.

A good day was had by all, including myself as I then got to squeeze in a bit of shopping at a vintage clothes fair, purchasing a few bargain bits of jewellry and a lovely brown leather satchel for under ten quid, followed by a couple of civilised glasses of wine and the tram home for 7.30 pm.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Simple Things That Make Me Happy. Parts 2 (i) & (ii)

(i) I was walking past the bookshop near my office at lunchtime and spotted in the window that one of my favourite authors has a new novel out in hardback, and that it was being promoted with a half price offer. I excitedly went in to the bookshop to treat myself only to be told that I had double loyalty points on my reward card to cash in, all of which reduced the price of the book from £18.00 to £4.51!

Am now looking forward to an extra early bedtime tonight, engrossed in a bit of quality crime fiction. Curled up under the duvet is my favourite place to read.

(ii) Everyone has at least one dark secret - one of mine is that I am a self confessed frivolous clothes junkie.

Having long coveted the J Brand Houlihan cargos - so flattering but at £245.00 a seriously painful investment, I just happened to pop into H&M the other day and found a perfect copy of this celebrity staple. I took them into the changing room with great trepidation and sweaty palms, expecting to be disappointed only to find that they fitted like a dream and were just as nice to wear, if slightly less elastic. As it this was not enough they cost the grand total of £29.99 - it was a happy, happy day for my purse, and for my thighs which last wore a flattering pair of skinny trousers some time in the 80's......
J Brand Houlihan low-rise skinny cargo pants

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sunday Melt Down

This is a highly scientific illustration of what happened to me on Sunday at dinnertime.

Following on from Saturday's day of loveliness as described in my post Just So Great, Sunday was not so good. The kids fought all day and my son in particular turned into some sort of ferral animal. Specifically an animal that constantly roars & shouts, finds it hillarious to loudly and publically describe our baser bodily functions, bounces all over the furniture and its parents and generally is as rough, out of control and noisy as is possible. This ferral animal is better known as a three and a half year old boy. My son's button pushing behaviour usually hovers around levels 1 - 2, but Sunday was a level 4 day.

So I had endured a day of bad behaviour and tantrums and looking back this was not an auspicious time in terms of my hormone levels. Whilst I usually function around level 1, Sunday was definately also a level 4 day.

After a final dinner-time battle to get my recalcitrant son to eat my lovingly prepared, home made roast vegetable lasagne, I snapped.

I took the plate of lasagne and in a fit of pique, without a shred of forethought or analysis, I threw it into the garden through the patio doors in our kitchen. Unfortunately by this time my son was already heading out of the doors thinking he could wisely use the time he would have otherwise spent eating to play outside. Suffice to say the pasta from the hurled plate did connect with my son's head (fortunately not the plate itself), and he was left open mouthed and slightly stunned by my bad behaviour.

After a few moments of fuming 'mummy-time-out' I managed to calm down and explain to my son that whilst clearly I should not have started a food fight, his behaviour had really not been very good, and we should both try harder in future.

Coinciding level 4 days are not our better ones.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Just So Great

Once upon a time a young man called John met and wooed a lovely young lady called Alice by the shores of a lake in Staffordshire, England. They fell in love, married and had such fond memories of their time at the lake that they called their first born after it. The lake was called Lake Rudyard, and the baby was a welcome son to proud Mr & Mrs Kipling.

Fast forward 147 years and some special mum's and dad's decided to start their own children's festival in a beautiful woodland setting next to Lake Rudyard, and call it the Just So festival in honour of the great Rudyard Kipling's famous children's stories.

Unfortunately by the time I had been alerted to the festival by a friend all of the weekend camping tickets had been sold, but I will definitely be first in the queue next year, as the lure of pyjama sing songs around the campfire and night time lantern processions, together with a firm child friendly bedtime curfew, hot showers and luxury flushing loo's sounds wonderful!

So here is a summary of our time at the festival;

We visited the story telling field, and loved the fun rendition of 'Aliens Love Underpants' a firm favourite in our household. Whilst my son was enraptured by this my daughter went off exploring - a pretty new experience for her
given she only started walking last week.
She was lucky enough to chance upon a
nearby fairy glade. Honestly, the number of
times I have gone looking for fairy glade's
without any success, and yet she manages it
at only 14 months of age. tsk.

We then braved a rather torrential downpour by sheltering in a fancy dress tent where my son created the concept of a horse-riding shark pirate. Unfortunately this unique event has gone unrecorded as it really was too soggy to get my camera out. Ah well.

Once the rain stopped we found ourself at a beach (in a field - go figure). My daughter loved playing in the sand, much of which is now firmly entrenched in the permanently damp and dribbly folds of her chubby neck.

My son in turn loved paddling in the paddling pool, with no shortage of rain water to keep it topped up.

We then enjoyed a soggy picnic and sampling the lovely coffee available. I was truly impressed with the standard of refreshments available: luxury hot chocolate with real cream and marshmallows, wood fire oven baked pizza, Gloucester Old Spot burgers and sausages and fresh spicy Thai curries being far superior to the usual festival fare I am used to - coffee seasoned with floor sweepings and a dose of high cholesterol with your burger and chips.

Well the rest of the afternoon was spent in a flurry of activity; playing in the adventure playground, circus rides, yoga, live music and dancing, punch and judy shows and, oh, the simple joy to be had by splashing in puddles when you are wearing wellies for the very first time! Much fun was had by my daughter with this activity!

Then, just as our tummies were starting to
rumble, along came our favourite food

After a lovely dinner of organic deli baby food for the little one, and pie and mash for the rest of us, we bundled two happy, sleepy heads into the car who barely roused when we got home and put them to bed.

A huge thank you goes out to the organisers of this magical and fun festival. We can't wait to come back next year!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Simple Things That Make Me Happy. Part 1.

The fact that my son has inherited the freckle I have just to the right and slightly above my tummy button. He noticed this the other day and now he regularly asks to look at our tummy freckles although sometimes in the most inappropriate places.

With the best will in the world I am quite sure that the majority of shoppers in our local Sainsbury's do not wish to see my nearly 40, had-two-babies-in-quick-succession tum. But it still makes me smile when he asks.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Festival Fun

It's Sunday night and I am weary, muddy and blissfully looking forward to a night on a non-air filled mattress having just returned from a weekend away with friends and my three year old at the Summer Sundae festival in Leicester.

Pre-children I was a regular festival attender and Glastonbury stalwart, but once the babies started coming I couldn't think of anything worse than facing three hours in standing M5 traffic only to spend the weekend dragging a screaming baby through the mud filled trenches of a Somerset dairy farm. However last year I made a decision that this summer I would take my boy to his first festival, and this has now been achieved!

We survived torrential rain, a head first dive onto concrete resulting in an egg sized lump to the head (the boy), several over-tired and over-stimulated tantrums (me), some great bands (highlights were Kirsty Almeida, The Abrahams, Summer Camp, Eliza Doolittle and Seasick Steve) and some not so great (The Go Team and Tynchy Stryder - not for me thanks).

My son, who is normally tucked up in bed for 7pm (officially wine o'clock), loved the treat of being out until midnight, although was normally parked in the beer tent fast asleep by 10.00 whilst Mummy was sat next to him enjoying a (responsible) beer or two with friends. He was also delighted at learning the trick of nightime pee'ing in a cup....gross I know, but the lesser of two evils when faced with tramping across a dark field to an even darker, smelly portaloo....

Here he is enjoying his chips at 9.30pm (as part of a healthy balanced festival diet - namely bacon butties for breakfast and chips for everything else) whilst listening to the Saturday night headline act.

And here he is as his daytime alter ego:

We had a great time and I'm definitely up for trying a larger festival next year, although was very covetous of my friend's caravan - a hot shower and flushing, clean toilet being in rare supply at these events, so may well look into hiring one. In the meantime I'm off to my comfy bed, without fear of some drunk tent diver interrupting my sleep, and with some happy memories. Festivals are great.....where else can you sit with a fair trade cup of chai tea whilst watching a policeman being taught to hula hoop?!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

I Think It's Going to Rain....

The view from my garden 10 mins ago......

I'm staying indoors today.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Where's The Rest Of It?

Without any helpful grandparents in the vicinity, and with two kids who can be slightly bohemian in their sleeping habits, I can count on one and a half hands the number of times my husband and I have been out together of an evening in the last three years.

Being aware that one should be seen to be making an effort we have therefore decided that we should book the odd days holiday and take advantage of the kids being in nursery by having occasional date days as opposed to the more traditional date nights.

Friday was one such day. We try to mark the occasion by indulging in a bit of gluttony and trying out some lovely restaurants in the local area which usually offer a pretty good value business lunch menu.

As I'm partial to the odd celebrity chef we decided to go to Northcote Manor near Preston, home to Nigel Howarth who normally does quite well in the Great British Menu programmes. It was clear from the off that the usual clientele it caters to is, shall we say, north of retirement, and fond of matching their brown sports jackets with their socks. However the welcome was warm and the wine was very nice.

The food was delicious but, as a healthy sized northern lass who likes her carbs, the portions were miniscule. The veg for my main course fitted quite snugly under a two square inch piece of mackerel, which in turn was nearly obscured by the microscopic portion of caviar on top (approximately 7 eggs). We were so hungry that we decided to order cheese and biscuits for our last course hoping to fill up on some bread, however this turned out to comprise two wafer-thin (which of course has to be pronounced Monty Python style) dairylee triangle sized slices of cheese which you could probably have read newsprint through, accompanied by a handful of homemade cheese crisps (bit like posh quavers). Oh and 5 grapes. I laughed so hard when I saw the plate and my husbands naked disappointment that I actually snorted with laughter thereby incurring the disdain of several nearby brown sports jackets. You just can't fake good breeding. Needless to say we had chips for dinner that night.