Thursday 22 October 2009

A really great book for London families

For five years our weekends and most holidays were spent at a tiny coastguard cottage on the Solent. It was in the middle of a row of ten. We shared front gardens with our neighbours on the left and back gardens with our neighbours on the right. For some reason the weekenders used the front gardens, which faced the sea, and the full time residents used the back gardens, so we never really had to share at all. But there were long expanses in the mid winter when we simply didn’t use the cottage and felt guilty when we weren’t there, in fact felt guilty whenever we went anywhere else. When it was cold we couldn’t face the drive, the weather and the wind. We gave it up in January, as it didn’t make sense to be paying for two houses in the middle of a bleak recession. At first it was exciting to be in London with so much to see and do. I liked tramping the dirty pavements and going to cafes, and seeing random last minute films. There were friends to invite over and museums to visit, but having exhausted trips to the country to stay with out of town friends and with a five year old and an eight year old to keep amused things became tense. Our small garden, (well more of a patio) is not enough to contain them for more than a few minutes. When we had friends over for lunch the other day they spent quite a lot of time playing on the flat roof outside Belle’s room. The adults ate lunch and pretended not to notice or to care about the potentially life threatening situation.

I heard from a friend about a brilliant little book: Adventure Walks for Families in and around London by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis. Last weekend we drove to the Chilterns in the rain because I was determined and desperate to get out of the city for a hearty walk recommended by the guide. We had decided to do the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Walk. At first the children were reluctant. My five year old sat at the bottom of a hill and refused to budge. We coaxed her up, (well my husband put her on his shoulders) and as we passed the windmill used as a location in the film, she cheered up, and climbed down, and I told her a few back to back stories, until she really got into the walk and sped down the hill towards some grazing black cows, that really did look like an art installation. I forgot to mention that by now the sun had come out and the landscape was stunning. The children ran and laughed and looked for items for a scavenger hunt: a feather, a shiny stone, a piece of animal poo etc. (again advice from the book) and then their moods changed and by the end of the walk they were smiling, happy and rosy cheeked. Luke and I had our usual discussion about moving to the country (which actually never goes anywhere). The walk was two and a half miles and completely restored us. The book also recommends pubs to visit and things to do in the car. Genius.

Tuesday 13 October 2009


My husband often has bad dreams, but I rarely do. However the last two nights I've had terribly anxious making dreams, not quite nightmares but dreams that I have been really really relieved to wake up from. This morning I dreamt that I was a director of a film about to be shot, but I had no experience of being a director. I knew everyone was relying on me and I was in a state,because I was in charge of this huge production: actors, extras, producers, crew. I woke quite slowly realizing that actually no, I am not a director. HURRAY! Although I have to admit I was a little disappointed. But HURRAY that I did not have this huge responsibility and could breath again. I also felt admiration for my friend Martha who is a real director! The night before I dreamt I was on a boat, and there was someone kind of gliding above me and I was holding the string that kept him afloat, and I was suddenly scared that I would blow up into the sky, so I let go of the rope and he went crashing into the sea and I thought he was DEAD. He wasn't dead but shaken, and I couldn't admit it was me. Awful.

What is going on with me? I think I've been going through quite a difficult time, but perhaps that time is coming to an end. There is never enough time to do this blog properly, I sometimes find it hard to write all day for a living, and also write the blog. I still have to answer some questions that I was tagged with a while ago, which I will get round to. I want to read so many blogs, but now, I have to run to pick up the children, bring them home, than rush back for parents evening!

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Talking at the new Sheperds Bush Library

Last week, my friend Josa, me, and a friend of hers, did an event at Nottinghill Waterstones. I couldn't sleep the night before as I had never done anything like it and was SO nervous that I could feel my heart jumping out of my chest. I invited my mother, brother, sister and two friends from school to come along, incase no one else turned up. Josa did an introduction linking us together as apparently we all write about "modern heroines." When it came to my turn to talk, I tried to concentrate on the Waterstones subtext: Feminism meets Chicklit, and I'm still not sure if I was making sense. I was trying to say its still hard for a woman, because half of her wants to stay at home with the children, and half of her is frustrated that she can't get on with her career, (I know alot of women actually like staying at home and being with their children and actually I really approve of that) because in most cases its not going to be the Daddy who stays home and worries about sports day and the costume for assembly,and so if you don't stay home, you will have to hire someone else to do it.

I read out a paragraph from one of Potty Mummy's blogs posts on being a stay at home mother, in which she tells us how hard it is after being a career girl to then be at home, but how she has come to accept it, and be good at it. It is a really interesting read, as are the comments underneath. And of course being a mummy at home won't be for ever. Ellie the character in my book, The Seven Year Itch is shocked when she hears herself walk into Gap and say, "It's a shame you don't do those shirts with the teddy logo any more." It is at that moment that she thinks her life must change, as it can no longer be all about teddy bear logos. She is also motivated by the fact that her husband, the irrepressibly selfish Jack, has lost his job starring in TV soap. She reflects about her time at home that no one praised her for being a good mother and no one reprimanded her for being a bad one, which made her feel truly invisible.

On Thursday (tomorrow) Josa and I will be appearing at the new Sheperds Bush Library at Westfield in London. We are starting at 630 so if any of you can make it, please do. It will be so excruciating if only three people turn up!! Yikes. A weird single man came up to me at the end of the last one, and said you won't like me saying this but it's very Desperate Housewives. I was thrilled.

My 8 year old son was really rude to me yesterday. He was tired and moaning, and walking at 0 miles an hour to school, so I lost it, and was really mean and said "I can't wait for you to be at school," and he retorted, "I can't wait for you to die!" which really shocked me, but later when I regaled the sad little story to my reading book girls, they all laughed, including me, and the wise Denize, mother of two teenagers said, "you have to learn that they will always come back at you with something more hurtful, than what you've said to them" and later when the conversation had moved on and we were talking about parents and children Rebecca said she had read somewhere that "All parents are destined to love their children more than they love them!" Makes you think!

Is It Just Me Or Are Fad Diets a Waste of Time and Money?

I had lunch with a friend the other day. While I tucked into a substantial salad she sipped a sad black tea and boasted that she had lost 9...