she called me a mensch

“Do you even know what that means?” she asks.

I’m on the phone to one of my good friends, staring blankly at displays of cards: on my way to post my mother’s 70th birthday present, I am suddenly stricken by anxiety over whether she will want a card saying 70 (“Oh god! Did you really need to remind me?!!”) versus cards that don’t say 70 (it’s a special birthday … will keeping it low-key be construed as a being dismissive/ uncaring?)

“It’s like a schmuck, isn’t it?” I ask, absently, picking up and putting down another card. “Or that woman who moved to New York and discovered the power of the pedicure?”

“No,” says my friend, firmly. “It’s a good, solid, dependable person. Someone who’s just there. You’re so there. You’re always there for me.”

I’m slightly stunned. All I’ve done is make sure she has a place to bring her kids for dinner over the course of the next few weeks: she’s having building work done, and her partner is away. And I am a schmuck – I’m still stressing over the frickin’ card.

I found a card eventually. Even made it to the post office. All of that felt good. But someone telling me that they could count on me, hot on the heels of a period of time where, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had to think about who I can count on felt (in the interests of keeping it Germanic) über gut.

 

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he questions fashion, not culture

Children can be mortifying sometimes; of course they can. The open stare, the theatrical point, the loudly voiced question. My daughter had me wishing for the nearest hole several years ago (she was only 2, bless her) when we passed through a supermarket checkout staffed by a rather facially hirsute lady. “Mummy, is that a lady or a man??” she demanded, teeny finger thrusting questioningly in the general direction of the assistant.

They’re better, more polite and more sensitive now that they’re older, of course. Even so, my heart embarked on the start of a little plummet at the airport as my 5 year old son, looking in the direction of a large group of Hasidic Jews, asked loudly: “Mummy, why do people wear stuff like that?”

I launched into a fairly bland explanation about different cultures and customs but was interrupted by “What culture wears pointy shoes?”

I was momentarily stopped in my tracks. “Huh?” I asked, glancing covertly at the shoes the black-robed group of men were wearing.

“There, that guy there,” my son said, with a (I have to say, very subtle) hand gesture towards a big-haired, skinny-jeans clad youth shod in winklepicker-esque shoes. “They look kind of stupid. And uncomfortable. I bet he can’t run fast in them.” He looked down complacently at his own shoes, newly purchased from Gently Elephant. “Not like I can in mine. I’m faster than Usain Bolt in these shoes.”

Curious about sartorial choice yet so accustomed to differences of race and culture that he barely bats an eyelid in their presence. That’s my Town Mouse.

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we had a moment of mutual recognition

A few years ago, my husband bought me a silver Alex Monroe dragonfly necklace for our wedding anniversary.

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Don’t get too excited: he’s a good husband, as husbands go, but present-buying is not his forte. I’d pretty much sent him the web link, with the information that, since it was our 4th wedding anniversary, his gift to me needed to be fruit or flowers. And then – winging it here, since I ate loads of fruit and filled the house with fresh flowers weekly anyway – also things that were attracted to fruit and flowers. Like dragonflies. Or, you know. This necklace.

So. I got the necklace and I adore it, rarely taking it off. I’ve since bought Alex Monroe pieces for other loved ones, too; I’m not selfish about keeping the exquisiteness all to myself. Although the dragonfly is mine, and mine alone 😉

Anyway. I had this nice thing on the train. The lady opposite me – she must have been in her 50s, at least – was wearing the gold bumblebee necklace. I looked at her, and her necklace; she looked at me, and mine. There was a spark of recognition, of “Aaah, you too, eh?”, of “Well done lovely lady, good taste, it looks fab on you.” It was a brief thing, before we returned to our copies of Stylist, our iPhones and our (my) general nosey gazing around at people, but it was an oddly warming, knowing, connective moment.

Never underestimate the power of a beautiful accessory.

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I have pterodactyl earrings

It’s Mother’s Day in several places in the world today; admittedly not in this one, but it is in the place where I’m from. So I get a second bite of the cookie, as it were.

First up, a chance to lounge in bed with a coffee and the Sunday papers, followed by the sounds of busy, important feet trotting up the stairs, and bright little faces chorusing “Happy Aussie Mother’s Day Mama!!”

There were lovely cards from local gift shop Emporia, where 1st birthday celebrations this weekend meant that there was cake and a 10% discount into the bargain. There was a huge Lego construction on which they’d collaborated, a kind of pseudo-cake, bright, multi-layered and completely carb-free. And there were pterodactyl earrings, which I adore.

I first spotted them when I was gift shopping at Magi Gifts in Brockley a month or so back. A local designer uses plastic toy animals and makes them into quirky (I hate that word, but you know what I mean) pieces: lugubrious bulldogs as pendants, lizards dangling down, in a friendly way, from your earlobes. I loved every piece of it and kept meaning to go back and ‘treat myself’ at some stage.

However, my lovely family took matters into their own hands and I am now sporting prehistoric winged beasts on my ears. It’s been a sweet day: nothing fancy, but the chance to go for a long, relaxed run this morning, followed by my favourite breakfast of sheep’s yoghurt, raspberries and fresh mint. We’ve planted bee and butterfly-attracting seeds in the garden, been for a bike ride and checked out the new gelateria, Oddono’s in East Dulwich (verdict: “Can we come here every day now that it’s summer, Mama?”)

I’m more than happy to go back (they do great coffee) but summer? Might be too early for such grandiose statements. Today I wore, in honour of the day, the Splendid tank top that my brood bought me from Net-a-Porter a few years ago for Mother’s Day (the English one). My photo doesn’t show the fabulousness of its colour well enough; this Outnet link is far better. I adore it but alas, unfriendly temperatures meant that it was soon concealed by a sweatshirt. But I wore my hair pulled up so that my earrings, at least, were on show.

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we did a nervous

“Have you done a nervous?” asked my husband, as we made ready to leave our hotel today. I had; well, kind of. Under the beds, in the wardrobe, next to the bath. I sort of felt obliged to do something by way of response, however, so I kind of flicked the bedspread around in a desultory fashion.

And there was my bear.

The thought that he might have been left behind, especially at this time of year, is beyond horrible. He was given to me by my friend Steph, aka Mama Marmalade when we lost – 8 years ago next week – our first child, at 20 weeks. The Teddy Love Club, with whom she was working, aims to ease the heartbreak of the empty arms that attend the loss of a child by giving you something to hold; I placed this bear on our daughter’s tiny coffin and have had him in, near or on my bed every night since – yes, even on holiday.

I’m sure he would have been restored to me by the lovely folk at Bedruthan if he’d been left behind. But I feel much better knowing that he’s tucked safely into my bag as we thunder back down the motorway towards London.

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It’s all Good

Nope, I haven’t been perusing the new Gwyneth Paltrow book. It’s just that today is good, Good Friday, to be exact.

Which means no school, and consequently no nagging this morning; kids loafing about in PJs eating fresh berries and pancakes (made with Dove’s Farm gluten free flour because, like Calgary Avansino in last weekend’s Sunday Times Style, in article that referenced – positively -Gywnnie’s approaches to feeding her family, I’m not fanatical about what my children eat but try to balance out inevitable gluttony – well, it’s Easter, isn’t it – with some less toxic choices) until their sparkling insides were so far at odds with the slatternliness of their exteriors that I had to chase them upstairs and into clean(ish) clothes.

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Next, there was the joy of opening yesterday’s post. Not a bill to be seen but instead, the my-wardrobe SS13 Style Guide and best of all, a lovely, heart-warming card from my friend Rachel with some adorable Mibo paper animals for my children to create.

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And the sun is shining! What an auspicious start to the holidays. I’m off out for a run to soak  it up while it lasts – admittedly, I am running to Ayres the Bakers to pick up Hot Cross Buns for our Easter lunch and egg hunt with friends this afternoon. But like I said, it’s Easter. Gluttony is inevitable. And for grain-free me? Would you believe that the lovely, thoughtful people at my local Budgens saved me the last Inspiral raw chocolate egg? I heart them.

Really better go for that run though….

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Not about to buy 2 for 1 supermarket Hot Cross Buns when Ayres are cranking out babies like these!

Not about to buy 2 for 1 supermarket Hot Cross Buns when Ayres are cranking out babies like these!

I bought a random-brand, low-cost night cream

I mean, who knows whether it will do any good. But if it doesn’t, at least I haven’t had to remortgage the house, or sell my daughter’s long, glossy hair (or soul) to acquire it.

If you’ve read this blog before, you may know that my husband’s track record, when it comes to buying gifts on his way home from overseas work trips, falls rather short of brilliant. So – “Can you get me some Creme de la Mer?” I jokingly texted, as he broke his journey home from New Zealand yesterday.

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I half expected Creme de Menthe, which, to be perfectly honest, after a few weeks of virtual sole-parenting, I’d’ve probably not turned my nose up at. 24% ABV, sure, why not?

But, bless him, he duly went to Duty Free in Dubai, picked up a 250ml pot of the stuff and took it to the register, Visa card in hand.

“I mean you did say Creme de la Mer, didn’t you?”  he asked, looking jet-laggedly incredulous tonight. “Because she said, “That’ll be 3000 and something dirham, and I handed over the card, and then I suddenly thought to ask how much it was in pounds, and it was like, £600!!!! So, you know, sorry and everything, but I put it back.”

It’s fair enough really. Although after the aforementioned weeks of sole parenting (and freezoid temperatures) I do sort of almost think that I need Creme de la Mer, if not reconstructive surgery, to render me halfway presentable again. I’m just not convinced that my budget supermarket buy is going to cut it.

On the other hand, the money I’ve saved on potions can always be put towards a personal trainer. Which is definitely what I’ll need if I so much as get started on the stash of Tim Tams – an Australian icon in the biscuity stakes and my absolute childhood favourite – that he picked up on his stopover in Melbourne. Forget the eggs this Easter – I’m going to teach my children how to do the Tim Tam Slam, which involves biting each end off your biscuit and slurping a hot drink through rapidly-disintegrating chocolatey centre. Good times!

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