we’re more than half-way through the Dadvent Calendar

My husband has been overseas, for work, for nigh on a month. It’s been a busy month, which has been good in some ways – fun, sunny, summery, celebratory – but bad in others, ie : with 3 children in my sole care, each of whom has a packed-out end-of-term calendar, I am exhausted.

To give our children some concept of the time for which he was going to be away, we made what I christened a “Dadvent Calendar” – a series of numbered, decorated envelopes hung with pegs on a string along the length of our hallway. Every evening, the children write on a slip of coloured paper a line or two about what they’ve been up to that day. We kill many birds this way – they get the discipline of regular, journal-style writing, their dad gets a series of off-beat snippets to read when he gets back, so that hopefully he won’t feel that he’s missed out on quite so much and, crucially, I don’t have to answer endless questions of the “When will Daddy be home?” nature, as they are more than capable of counting the un-stuffed envelopes themselves.

Anyway, as I say. We’re on the home stretch. Sorry, did I mention that I was exhausted?



she admired his skills

Sitting in the sun on Peckham Rye with my 5 year old son, I suddenly spy a familiar face nearby. She’s someone I know from a few years ago, from a seemingly endless but happy round of baby groups, toddler gyms and One O’Clock Clubs, places I frequented, especially on wet days, when I had “3 Under 3” children.

My son has scoffed his lunch so as to maximise football time and is practising his ‘skills’. It’s been a recent thing, this passion – and, actually, talent – for sport. Cricket, football, rugby. All of a sudden he’s into, and good at, all three of them.

The woman I recognise is watching him as she walks towards us. I assume it’s because she vaguely recognises him from toddlerhood and is trying to piece his identity together. When she gets closer, I’ll call out to her.

She looks startled when I wave, holding her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun and squinting at me. “Hello! I didn’t see you there!” she says. And then she glances from me to my son. “Is that..? Oh my goodness! He looks so grown up. I was just admiring his footballing. He’s very good, isn’t he?”

I feel a ridiculous swell of pride. He is very good. It’s not just that though; of course it’s nice to have your children admired, but there’s more to it than that. There’s the pleasure I feel in knowing that his dad is a good’un; one who spends time with his children, plays with them and fosters their enthusiasm about a diverse range of things. And there’s the fact that my brother was, or maybe still is, a brilliant sportsman; he’s always lots of fun with the children when we see him but I can’t now help but look forward to when we next visit him (he lives overseas) and the fun he’ll have with them, and they with him. All up, it’s a good feeling. And so nice to see a familiar, friendly face from a time that, despite not being all that long ago, seems to be rapidly receding in the face of the hectic pace of my current state of motherhood.

Master C playing Beat the Goalie at a summer fair

Master C playing Beat the Goalie at a summer fair

we live in the world today

I haven’t posted in a while. Busy, yes. But also not all that happy. There’s been stuff, pretty rubbish stuff, questioning relationships with friends and relatives, and having to make decisions of a ‘moving on’ nature. Bah. Yuk.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to “Today I smiled because…” Even when I’m not happy, there’s always something that makes me smile. Like the dad at the fair today, proudly bouncing his toddler daughter on the edge of the bouncy castle, gazing Pimmsily around at all and sundry, oblivious to the fact that her poo-filled pull-up had slipped down her legs and was bouncing, revoltingly, hilariously, by her ankles.

But there was a thing last weekend that’s brought a smile to my face every time I’ve thought about it. My daughter and I had some time together in the afternoon and went to meet the boys and my husband later, where they were playing football with two of my eldest son’s classmates and their dads. As we walked across the Rye to them, I was suddenly struck by the fact that, of the three dads, one (the one I’m married to) was (boringly) hetero and married. One, Muslim and unmarried, but cohabiting/ defacto/ whatever the acceptable term is. And the other, gay, in a relationship that’s about to hit the 20-year mark, and married in a civil ceremony 4 years ago.

I have clear memories of the problems I encountered as the child of a mixed race marriage in the 70s. The world is by no means perfect now, but I love that my children are growing up to question some things while accepting others without a flicker. And, of course, that they are growing up with a dad who’s brilliant, and would be, regardless of colour, race or creed.

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.


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.





we started watching Borgen

Yes, I know we are terribly late to the party on this one but truly, you should have seen how we dragged our heels over Downton and then devoured the lot in the space of a few weeks.


My husband and I actually don’t have that much in common. Which sounds terrible, but isn’t really. We sort of muddle along in happy discordance. Me: Running. Him: Swimming. Me: Fish. Him: Steak. Me: Breakfast-skipper. Him: Fast-breaker. Me: Books. Him: Football. Me: Shopping. Him: Surfing. Me: Weekends spent exploring and socialising, and as far from anything remotely resembling chores as possible. Him: DIY and pottering in the garden.

Anyway, you get the drift. Factor in work, kids, friends, general grind and it’s hard to get adequate doses of quality time, although surely this is the case for everyone, whether they connect over a shared passion for the History of Mongolia or not?

So I was cheered to read this article by Francesca Hornak in the Sunday Times Style a month or so back. We’re normal! We’re normal! Flopping exhaustedly on the sofa and zoning out to a box set or serialised drama is what we’re all doing. Cool.

Recently, we’ve covered House of Cards and Broadchurch. Last year: The Killing, The Bridge, Homeland and, as mentioned, Downton Abbey. And last night we started on Borgen, which I’d bought from Nordic Noir after meeting them at the Scandinavia Show last year. There was a nice sense of homecoming about it; the by-now-familiar sounds of the Danish tongue and a strong female lead. Not to mention a handful of recognisable faces from The Killing!


And, in other truly excellent revelations: the news that 24, complete with the wonderful (and fanciable!) Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, is returning to our screen in 2014. Hooo-LA!! Now this one really makes me happy. After all, we are the couple whose engagement was punctuated by an episode of 24, with the proposal coming, inconveniently, just as the programme started, meaning that the answer was not given until full 24 hours – oh alright then, one hour – later. What life-changing decisions might we make during the course of Live Another Day, do you think??!!


I took them to see their dad at work

My husband works in film & TV which means that, at best, his hours are erratic; at worst, they’re a pain in the backside, making it difficult to book holidays, plan socialising or make promises about outings and events to the children.

So this current job seemed like a relief, really – 4 weeks of definite Mondays to Fridays, leaving at half six, home for 8ish. No weekends, no all-nighters, no last minute moving of schedules. Rock solid.

Except that, it transpired, the ‘Mondays’ involved in the “Monday to Friday” bit of the arrangement included this one, today: Bank Holiday.

So that was a bit of a bummer, for starters but hey, we’ve had a nice weekend and I’m totally used to being with our 3 kids on my own. The issue was that the talent he’s working with are personalities about whom our children are mildly nuts. How mean would it have been to not take the opportunity to let them visit their dad on set and meet Dick & Dom at the same time?


Again: not a massive problem. Until the weather forecast said that we’d hit the high ‘teens today. I will admit, I simmered with resentment. “To miss out on the sun to sit in a car for nigh on two hours, all up, simply to be in a vast studio for the sake of an hour or so?” I grumbled inwardly as I sat with the children in the garden this morning, legs out in shorts and browning nicely.

Every time they bickered, it was on the tip of my tongue to say “Right! That’s it! No visiting Daddy for you! Such rotten behaviour! As punishment, you must stay home and get changed into your cossies and run under the sprinkler and have water fights and eat ice cream!”

But I couldn’t, of course I couldn’t. My husband was dying to show off his kids and they were dying to see Daddy, Dick & Dom.

So we went. Yes, the traffic was foul in places and yes, the sun beat down tauntingly, tanning my window arm and little else. But when we got to the studio, everyone – Dick and Dom included! – were totally charming and welcoming, and the excitement our munchkins displayed, not to mention the pride with which my husband puffed up (well, possibly the catering may’ve have a hand in that … lord, these film crews help themselves to big portions!) made it all pretty much worth it.

Besides, it’s going to be 21 degrees tomorrow. And I will be sans the lot of them. 😉


he was rocking a Mohawk

I could’ve been a bit miserable today. It’s my husband’s birthday, and the amazing day we’d had planned – complete with wonderful, reliable friends stepping up to collect our children from their various places of education, take them home and feed them, in order to give us more time to hang out in this long-awaited warm weather – was scuppered by work commitments. On top of that, it’s Anzac Day, which means that, celebrations (or lack thereof) with my husband aside, I’m more than a little homesick.

I salved my Aussie yearnings somewhat by baking Anzac biscuits rather than a birthday cake yesterday (yes, alright, alright, he’ll get a cake too – on the weekend, okay?) but with the sun blazing down and both of us at work – no child-free, young lovers day to enjoy, nor a game of Two-Up and far too many beers – I had to keep slapping that black dog away from my shoulder.


And then I saw this chap. I was at Oxford Circus on my way back from work to pick up the children, and he was announcing the arrival of the next Tube service, sporting his high-vis vest, yes, but also a fantastic Mohawk and body art to rival the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I loved that we were right near Carnaby Street, loved the fact that tourists, hoping, even in the face of all of the uniformity of chains and brands, to suck up a bit of what made that area famous, would’ve relished the sight of him. I loved the way he casually reminded people to “mind the gap” as he himself slouched, one leg up, against the train carriage.


I miss Sydney every day, but if I have to live somewhere else for now, then he, and all of the theatricality he represented – plus the lovely friends who insisted that my husband & I reschedule his not-curtailed-by-school-hours birthday mooch whenever – made me glad, and grateful, that it’s London.