This morning once again, all down Croxted Road, little posters had been tacked up onto trees. Some poor exhausted parent had been up at the crack of dawn, scanning, cutting and pasting, copying and pinning up the little posters up for all to see. The orange paper flickered in the breeze like tiny flames throughout West Dulwich.
An unfortunate local family have lost their beloved cat - 'Slinky Malinky'. The notice, complete with a photo of an enormous multi coloured bagpus of a cat in a little child's arms made my heart sink. The child's face had been obscured, but the description of how Slinky Malinky had been lost, and the description of the resulting distress to the three little children made me want to rush home to search in our garage, and shed.
I didn’t dash home, clearly - I had to get to work. I texted the au pair, as it was starting to rain, and my bus was coming. I do hope that Ana understands what I have asked her to do, and follows my instructions to the letter. My heart sank in my (beautiful new black LK Bennett) boots as I made my way to work.
My darling cat has gone to live with Grandma Elizabeth in Wales. He has been bringing me home 'special gifts' again....live gifts, and frightening the life out of Ana, when he releases them into the house. Tiny pretty field mice, frogs and birds. Not just little birds. Krug tried to bring an enormous magpie through the cat flap the other night – we thought that a gang of drug infused hoodies were tearing down the door.
Little Krug has the courage of a lion, he reminds me of Freya. He sets his mind to something, and he will dig his nails in and hang on for dear life until he gets what he wants. That poor family, I hope they find their pet. There can be nothing worse than when the children are distressed.
James was determined to banish poor Krug from our house, since puss vandalised the roof of the soft top sports car. Krug is a feisty little beast. I expect he will turn up in London again soon, no-one pushes my cat around!
Wednesday, 28 February 2007
This morning once again, all down Croxted Road, little posters had been tacked up onto trees. Some poor exhausted parent had been up at the crack of dawn, scanning, cutting and pasting, copying and pinning up the little posters up for all to see. The orange paper flickered in the breeze like tiny flames throughout West Dulwich.
Tuesday, 27 February 2007
This morning I was late for work. Darling Max dissolved into tears when I was helping him to get dressed. Apparently one of his little school chums has been hitting him. The poor baby just melted my heart, and we both shed a few tears. I decided to phone my PA, reschedule a meeting, and escort the lambs to school myself.
All of the mothers at this idyllic nursery school are more than approachable. No parent wants their child to hurt another. The teachers are all terribly helpful, sympathetic and experienced regarding any concern a parent may express. Max is the gentle giant in his class - the oldest boy, and never ever hurts another soul intentionally, by word or action. Freya he is not, she doesn't give two hoots! I am terrified that Max could be bullied, and further - that Freya could choose a career in midwifery or rugby.
I discussed my concerns with Mrs Honeywell, while my baby boy concealed himself behind my skirt, kissing my hand.
'I am afraid that Dustin has been involved in some rough play with Max and he is rather fearful. I think it is perhaps childhood exuberance, and with a little guidance all should be well', I suggested.
Mrs Honeywell surprised me by saying she had been a little concerned last week when a child from violet class called 'Panther' (a close chum and compatriot of Dustin) had been prized off poor Max in the playground by our own baby girl - Freya.
There we stood, two grown adults, talking about children called 'Panther' and 'Dustin' - what in the name of God is happening in Dulwich? Where are these names coming from? An episode of Gladiators? Panther it seems is a tiny milky pale boy with red hair, I was imagining a tall athletic dark skinned boy - how did they choose his name? From a comic? What image are we asking these children to live up to. Nothing can surprise me now. Soon I expect Freya will ask to bring children home for tea - called Knuckles and Fang.
Who are these parents and what are they trying to tell the world about themselves by giving their children these names? It should come as no surprise to them that Dustin is a bully. He is forced to fight each day in the playground just to maintain his dignity with the Ceciley's and Hugo's of this world.
My mother-in-law says these parents are simply 'NOCD' - I will not even begin to justify or explain her expression - she has used that phrase about me on more than one occasion......
Monday, 26 February 2007
This weekend, like every other - James was off on his usual tour of the local party venues avec les enfant's. On Saturday morning, Max went to 'TJ's mini Gym' in Crystal Palace, a local soft play party venue. On Sunday morning both munchkins were painting pottery at 'All Fired Up' in East Dulwich.
Our children are like most other small local children - being conveyed by car to an endless stream of parties every weekend. They will bounce in the door of the house every Saturday and Sunday evening, faces painted, with helium balloons and party bags containing all manner of chocolate coinage, mini games, My Little Ponies, Power Rangers, and horror of horror - Water Eggs or other slime type sticky thingamabobs that stick to the wall, or weld themselves onto our fibre optic lights or wenge wood paneling in the study. Is it any wonder that many children voice an ambition to be famous - like (God forbid) Lindsay Lohan and Callum Best - perpetual party animals?
The party bags are becoming increasingly extravagant. Forgive me, I realise they are nothing like the gift bags dispensed at The Oscars, but certainly, they are the kiddie equivalent. Whatever happened to a piece of soggy birthday cake in a napkin? Sometimes, as I dig another gift token from Cheeky Monkey toy shop out from my weekly purchased stash in the kitchen drawer, I wonder if the cost of the gift even covers the cost of the party bag that my darlings will return with that evening.
It was never like that when I was a girl. We had a 'special tea' involving a special cake with candles and a song, - the birthday girl was the only one who got a gift. No, actually I do remember once getting a paper party bag containing a box of sweet cigarettes (very un PC now!), a soggy piece of cake and a rubber ball.
I wonder if I could buy sweet cigarettes on the internet? - I feel like being controversial. I am sure Ana could locate some for me in Latvia on her next trip home. The next set of party bags distributed by moi, shall contain sweet cigarettes and a can of Coke (a can, not a line, although as far as other Dulwichmums are concerned - they may as well be one and the same).
Sometimes the pressure to be a good Dulwichmum gets right up my nose.........
Sunday, 25 February 2007
Max has been up to his tricks again, taking advantage of our wonderful new Latvian au pair.
He told Ana that he and Freya drink Ribena without adding water - apparently Ana has never come across 'cordial' before, and was giving it to the darlings to drink as per their instructions. Further Max has taken Ana to our local Tesco Metro on the way home from school, to restock on chocolate spread - as he told her that we had 'run out'! He is a cheeky little chap. I didn't think that he even knew what chocolate spread was! Also, surely drinking Ribena with no water is totally disgusting? Actually it explains why the children have been a pair of maniacs every evening this week when James and I returned from work.
This is a sign of intelligence as far as I am concerned. Nothing too dark there I feel. But I did rather fear that I would loose my mind completely this evening, when I returned home with Freya having taken my mother home, to find Max had been playing upstairs in my bathroom unsupervised for over an hour on his own while Papa nursed the remnants of his hangover from yesterday.
OHMYGOD! Max had been making a special 'magic mix', in the glass from my bedside table. He had mixed a large portion of Molton Brown 'thai vert' hand wash, with the remains of a bottle of Jo Malone Lime Basil and Mandarin perfume, my Pearl drops tooth polish and a chunk of my Eve Lom cleanser! He was mixing it up with my electric toothbrush. I am losing my sanity!
Have I ever been 'sane' since these sweet children were born? Sleep deprivation and general exhaustion have pushed me to the edge of reason on many occasions. For a long time I enjoyed bath time - but lately, I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when the children simultaneously do that thing in the bath where they move all of the water at once into one enormous tidal wave and out onto the bathroom floor. Bath time has become terrifying - an exercise in damage limitation.
In my innocence (before motherhood) I had always imagined baking with children or even messy play of any description could be the most satisfying fun. Now I am aware of the price of home furnishings, and this form of activity could very well herald a panic attack.
Family life is turning out to be an expensive destructive 'magic mix'. I want a glass of wine! 35 days left of not drinking (if you don't include today). Today is so hard.......... actually, 36 days to go as today is not over yet.
Saturday, 24 February 2007
This evening my little family had been invited to join our friends Francine and Jim and their boys, at their super home in Dulwich Village for a play date. We didn't realise until the men disappeared into another room, that Francine and I had been 'conned' into facilitating a male bonding rugby TV extravaganza. Jim has just installed a super 50inch high definition TV with surround sound, which emerges from the floor of his den at the flick of a switch.
The two men and their boys, were mesmerized as they watched Ireland vs England. Francine, Freya and I were in attendance merely to dispense snacks and beer. What is it about men and gadgets and sport?
Surrounded by male chums and moderately filled with beer - Jim referred to Francine as 'The Commander in Chief' - oh how I laughed..... He said he needed a 'hall pass' to go out for a drink. My blood ran cold however, when I heard James reply - refering to me as 'Mein Fuhrer'. The outragous liar said that he was:
'never allowed out unsupervised',
at which point my own dear son - referred to me as 'Mother Superior'!
No five year old boy ever came up with that expression without the help of his idle father.
Ireland thrashed England to a pulp, and we drove home in silence. I shall invite my Irish mother to lunch tomorrow - to rub salt in the wounds. I had to endure all of this without taking alcohol myself. Lent is much harder than I ever anticipated.
Friday, 23 February 2007
This Western society of ours is corrupt beyond belief. No longer is a mini spa break type delivery - including a planned pain free caesarean section followed by multiple beauty treatments in The Portland (or similar), good enough for affluent Western mums. I considered the 'champagne celebration dinner' on day three and having my bikini line and legs waxed after my epidural had commenced - the ultimate in self indulgence. No longer content, the great and the good are now heading off to war torn famine stricken countries, and adopting the beautiful aesthetically pleasing offspring of the poor and dispossessed.
When a woman has lost everything, her husband, her employment, her home, and her food - she is robbed of her children. I am deeply offended by this practice.
Calista Flockhart, Angelina Jolie, Madonna et al, have put Victoria Beckham, Patsy Kensit and Liz Hurley in the shade when it comes to self indulgent 'deliveries'. Paralysed by a fear of stretch marks these women have purchased themselves ready made families! Babies delivered in airports by nannies not in hospitals by obstetricians.
James and I are so last year with our home made babies.... How quaint!
Gosh, I really am in bad humour! - I am genuinely missing my evening glass of wine. Ho hum, only 38 days and nights to go until the end of Lent.
Thursday, 22 February 2007
Last Friday morning I woke up in a glamorous hotel room in a wonderful European capital, unusually rested for someone with young sleep deterrent children. I was ready to conduct my wonderful presentation - describing my groundbreaking work with all and sundry.
To my horror, over breakfast I read the headline of The Times, cataloging gun crime in southeast London. There was a map on the cover with Dulwich in the middle, and sites of recent shootings - Streatham, Clapham, Peckham and Brixton surrounding it. Oh dear.
We must keep our heads down in Dulwich, for fear that we get hit by the bullets flying overhead. Evidence of violence or aggression such as this, does not usually intrude into my daily life, and so to a degree I can ignore the terrible state of the society in which I live. I realise that I am incredibly lucky in leafy Dulwich in this regard.
Yesterday morning however on the top deck of the number 3 bus (I know, I do go on a bit) two young well dressed white girls got on and sat in a row ahead of me. The bus was unusually full as West Dulwich train station was closed - a man had been horribly beaten at the station the night before on a train from Victoria. Police and yellow tape were everywhere.
I was not in the slightest bit interested in the conversation that these girls were having, but not hearing what the girls were saying was not an option. I made a vein attempt to listen to the MP3 player on my phone - unsuccessful as usual, obviously. The girls talked loudly and articulately for over thirty minutes describing graphically their various sexual experiences while the rest of the passengers sat in silence. One of the very well spoken pair described her recent 18th birthday party, so they were not underage. I really could not bear to describe the content of their conversation in depth, but it was basically describing the merits of a circumcised lover. The bus was very full, and everyone on board was squirming and uncomfortable.
I was horrified and sat praying that my baby girl grows up to have more self respect than these two hapless characters, and further, that my son is never unfortunate enough to fall in love with anyone this indiscreet and hurtful.
Suddenly, I heard a woman's voice from a row ahead say the word;
and she turned around from a forward seat and held her hand out to the girls and continued;
'please stop, enough already'.
I was so relieved. These two very middle class girls, sounded initially rather shocked.
To my horror, within ten minutes they were engaged again in their loud conversation. One claiming that the woman in front was racist, because this girl claimed she is one quarter Chinese!
My heart went out to the woman who had objected. I was horrified by the complete lack of responsibility, self awareness and self respect of these girls, but further by the fear of the charge they were making.
London is indeed, at times, a very threatening place to live......
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Today is the beginning of Lent. Lent lasts for forty days and nights, and for Roman Catholics it involves sacrifice, abstinence and fasting. All this in an effort to become a better person and become closer to God in preparation for Easter.
My mother telephoned me last night, wanting to know my choice of torture for this year. As children - my sisters and I were cajoled into giving up chocolate, sweets (or never and) crisps. As teenagers, we gave up bad language, nail biting, tea, coffee or chocolate. In our twenties we had left home, and at university my sisters and I had the courage to give up Lent.
My mother is working with the assumption, that anything you enjoy - must be bad for the soul. I have been functioning in an exhaustion induced haze for the last six years - I gave up sleep for Lent when I was pregnant with Max, and so I have blindly complied with my mothers request. I am giving up alcohol, chocolate, sweets and crisps! OHMYGOD!!!!
How will I survive?
I only ever drink one glass of wine each day, but I am completely ready for a drink by the time I have it at seven pm. Surely I must be alcohol dependant? I hardly ever drank alcohol before the children were born. My health visitor practically gave me a bottle of Chablis when I was trembling with stress - unable to get any sleep with my new born son.
'Have a glass in the evening', she insisted,
'before you give him a feed and put him down for the night. Max will relax and so will you.'
I drank a glass and we both slept for the first time in days! It was more addictive than Tamazepam. The Dulwich version of mothers little helper.
Before last Christmas I was ill, and thought I had gall stones so I gave up rich foods and treats. I lose almost two stones in weight. I have been drifting back to my old ways, so a good purge would do my figure good for the coming summer. Surely this is a win, win situation? It is half past eight, and I am in withdrawal hell..................WHAT HAVE I DONE??????????????????????
Tuesday, 20 February 2007
Whatever is the point in calling a part of a car a 'bumper'? If it is not actually for...well for bumping? I would have thought, that on a really super car like my Audi Q7, the bumper would be just perfect at bumping, and would perhaps be made of some kind of super rubber substance that would not mark or scratch or leave any evidence of a dent on my (or any other) vehicle. This could save me stacks of cash!
Are wheels not for rolling about? For moving us from place to place? And windows - are they not for seeing out of while we drive? The steering wheel - that does the job we would like it to do - if we remember to turn it......... ohmygod!
Why did the man at the garage laugh out loud at me, when I pointed out what seemed perfectly obvious to me? If my car had a half decent bumper, it would protect it from damage - by bouncing it away from danger - like some kind of lovely air bag, instantly inflating protection device. I would not mind if the bumper was not even that high tech, it could be quite simple - like a big rubber swimming ring all around the car - to protect it from occasional nudging by other cars. Hey, even less reflective paint - not highlighting my minor misdemeanor's so well would be a start.
Am I alone in this? Alone, with a bill for over a thousand pounds it seems. The school run began again on the roads of Dulwich this morning, and my darlings would not walk to school in the scant rain.
I shall hide the bill in the back of my capacious handbag, and pretend the car is in the garage - instead of at the garage - if you see what I mean. Ah well, I shall drive the Aston for a couple of days if I need it at all - such hardship!
Bumpers my **se!
Monday, 19 February 2007
It is Ray Winstone's birthday. Hoorah! In my opinion, he is the sexiest mountain of a man (apart from my own dear husband and Gary Barlow of course). My word, since my sister bought me that DVD of Henry V111 last year - well, my thoughts have often wandered - I must admit!
Freya has been sending shivers down my spine – ever since we accepted a place for her at School 2. The darling tot has been telling anyone who will listen – that she is;
‘not ever going to that school – never ever’.
I really hate conflict. I cannot bear to think about the horrors that could await us at the school gate in September. If I cannot sort out this current line of intimidation, all of our futures will be blighted.
‘Aunt Liza’ and I met in Sloane Square on Saturday morning, for some window shopping and coffee, and the darling baby girl joined us – as part of her essential social development. Freya loves the hot chocolate in Patisserie Valerie, and the marzipan animals always bring a smile to her face (she collects them as she hates the taste of marzipan).
After coffee, we skipped into Trotters to have Freya's fringe trimmed and to take a look at the wonderful fish tank. Freya played for a few minutes outside The Early Learning Centre – chasing the bubbles streaming from their bubble machine as though she hadn't a care in the world. Before she could object, we were in the uniform outfitters at Peter Jones, inspecting the intended school wardrobe for September.
‘I am not going to (School 2)’- loudly.
The patient experienced shop assistant said that she would just;
‘nip into the stock room to see if she had any of the big girl sweatshirts,’ for Freya to see.
She soon reappeared with an enormous red sweatshirt with the name of School 2 emblazoned on the front. Freya reluctantly tried it on, - she looked like a tiny orphan in an over sized outfit, but refused to take it off and danced around the shop. Freya didn’t take it off for the rest of the weekend, and even insisted that we bought her matching Clarins red nail polish - ouch! (thanks Aunt Liza).
We did not give in to her request for a pair of tomato red velvet boots to match from Emma Hope – I must commend Freya's taste in footwear however, credit where it is due.
Dare I say it? I think we have turned a corner. All is well. Equilibrium has returned……… for the time being anyhow.
Sunday, 18 February 2007
You know it is all very well having a soft top car. James had a BMW Z3M for a while. It was rather sporty, but much too hot in the sunshine, too breezy in the cold and it did dreadful things to my hair. I remember we played that Mongo Jerry track a lot - 'In the summertime'.
Oh, we did have fun with that little car for a while, but eventually it was more trouble than it was worth. My darling husband was attracting rather too much female attention for my liking.......
My sweet kitty cat decided that the best place to perch was on the soft fabric roof. Krug is a white Persian with a luxurious long fur coat. He always left a little fluffy circle on the fabric in the spot where he had been sitting. He looked like a little Russian hat when he was sleeping. This really upset James, because his toy car was the Bond car at that time, and puss was rather cramping his style - bless. James would be there each morning with his 'lint roller' from the dry cleaners, in an endeavour to remove the evidence.
Soon, when Krug was not even on the roof of the car (not often), there was a deepening fluffy mark as evidence of where he liked to spend his time. James eventually fell out with Krug, when he began to stretch on the roof of his car, regularly digging in his talons and ripping the roof loudly. James had the cheek to suggest (rather aggressively) that my darling cat 'had to go'!
Krug continues to be a valued member of our family, as does James. The car came and went as car's do. It is most important to get ones priorities right, don't you think?
I mean, where would you choose to perch of an evening if you were my cat?
The 'dry' cat food never left a single mark on the fabric. Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?
Saturday, 17 February 2007
James returned from a birthday party this afternoon with Max, having had a most unsettling conversation with one of the other fathers. Apparently School 1 does not play rugby, and James therefore has decided that Max will attend the 'local comprehensive you pay for' when he reaches his teens. OVERMYDEADBODY..................
James and his family have all manner of unrealistic expectations for my munchkin. James has a cousin who until recently played regularly for Wales. This is not the path I have chosen for my boy. No, no, no...
As a teenager, a local boy called Michael was a joy to behold on the rugby pitch. He would flounce about - all floppy hair and dark good looks (a bit like Simon Le Bon), and the girls at my school (myself included) would swoon simultaneously with delight. His physique was the hi-light of our Winter months.
I remember vividly, the time he was tackled roughly on the field of play. Michael's mother appeared from no-where with an enormous black steel tipped golf umbrella. Mrs Ferrera set about the boy who had tackled her teenage son, while poor Michael squealed like a baby and rolled about on the turf. Instantly he was dethroned. Michael became a figure of fun for the entire locality overnight. No-one dared to socialise with him - for fear of his mother. The poor chap.
I could be this woman - his mother. I know it. Why does James not realise the monster I could become? Just let anyone try to tackle my darling boy........ A cauliflower ear is the least of the injuries I would inflict. GRRRRRRRRRRR.
Friday, 16 February 2007
When I arrived at the conference venue yesterday afternoon, the name badge which had been prepared for me was inaccurate - and contained a title 'Professor'. I immediately pointed out the inaccuracy and scored through the title on the registration sheet. Apparently it was far too late to order a replacement, so a hunt for some correction fluid ensued.
I joyfully checked into my room, took a deep bath, availed myself of the fruit basket and watched Sky TV for a couple of hours, before heading downstairs to partake of the evening events in my super black Prada suit.
Twice I was accosted by delegates requesting random forgotten toiletry items to be delivered to their rooms. Do I look like a staff member from Hotel Babylon? Well - clearly...., but it was becoming a drag!
I discretely scratched the Tipex from my name badge, and proceeded to 'Lord' it over all and sundry for the rest of the evening and most of today! It has been enlightening to observe the attitudes of my fellow delegates as they became aware of my qualification.
Note to self: Enrol on Phd course at earliest convenience - actually, better still -I will investigate the purchase of additional qualifications from the USA in the manner of Dr (ha!) Gillian McKeith..........
Thursday, 15 February 2007
This morning I packed my trusty Mulberry overnight bag and was taken by taxi to Heathrow in order to attend a conference. I must admit to feeling rather choked, leaving my sweet little ones behind making a sponge cake with the au pair. Am I doing the right thing, working outside the home while my darlings are on half term?
On reflection, it is best for the entire family if I am out of the country when they use my wonderful Kitchen Aid mixer and Nigella cookware. The whole scenario makes me more than a little emotional. I should imagine every surface in the house is sticky by now, OHMYGOD.....
I can't handle too much of this messy creative play, and feel much safer when they are safely occupied on the PC playing with their Muzzy French CD rom.
Wednesday, 14 February 2007
My friend Dawn has quite a social conscience and therefor an ethical reason for everything she does. I met her at The Portland, when I was having Max. Dawn's reason for private health care was not that she wanted a little pampering or luxury while giving birth - why no, she simply:
'did not want to be a to be a burden to the cash strapped NHS'.
Dawn reads The Guardian, and every morning after she has dropped Lennon off to school in the Village, she returns to her reclaimed pine kitchen table, to drink a big mug of fair trade organic coffee and have a good read in her big glass house. Her house is naturally 'wall to wall' wind turbines, solar panels and recycling bins.
Just one of the things which Dawn criticises me endlessly about is the fact that I dare to work, since the children have both started school full time. I should be at home with my bread maker in full swing, preparing to undertake the children's next homework project, while harassing the au pair, and supervising the cleaner. Apparently my children are suffering while I seek fulfillment outside the home.
Dawn has (she says) similarly strong opinions about private education. She and Geoff strongly object to the 'hothouse' culture they have heard about at the Dulwich independent schools. We have seen so little of sweet Lennon lately. We have invited him for endless play dates and birthday parties, but he is busy every day after school attending Kumon maths, Kumon English, piano lessons, private swimming lessons, or dance lessons, and on Saturday morning he goes to French Club. As a matter of fact, we haven't managed to meet up for a play date in almost a year! Lennon is such a busy boy.
Dawn phoned me this twice this morning when I was in a meeting. She left me a message on my answerphone to call her back urgently. When I returned her call, she informed me in a panicky tone that The Times are 'giving away' CD's teaching basic Chinese - mandarin to be exact.
'You must come and have my copy' she enthused, so that Freya can get a head start for September at School 1'.
'But Freya will be going to School 2', - I replied.
'I thought Freya had been offered a place at School 1', said Dawn.
'She has', I explained, 'but we choose School 2. Does School 1 teach Mandarin?' I asked innocently.
'I just never took that in!' I lied.
James swore he recognised Lennon with Dawn's au pair at the first interview for School 1, and I just didn't believe him! Don't you think Dawn knows rather a lot about the curriculum of School 1 for someone with a child in the local state school?
I do so tire of constantly being forced to defend our choice to privately educate our children amongst our circle of friends, especially when I think I may be just beginning to understand the real agenda in this regard.
Further, it simply does not naturally follow that our darlings are hothoused..... Hmph!
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
I really hated that expression as a child, it was one of my mothers favourites - or so it seemed. It really was quite an antagonistic expression,and it always seemed to herald an argument. On reflection, it always made me feel powerless and frustrated.
I heard myself say (well, screech would be more accurate) 'because I said so' today, to my pair of doe eyed darlings, in my mothers accent! It came out without thinking. James was horrified, but not nearly as much as I was. I am turning into my mother....
All my recent good work undone.
I have decided that I will never use that expression again. It seemed to be the quickest way out of a tight spot at the time, but it is not the 'right' way, according to my parenting class. I shall try to be a better parent, and endeavour to explain why I make the decisions I do to the children. I shall try to involve them in choices.
In future I will explain to them in hushed but confident tones, why they should not do something which I consider to be dangerous or inappropriate.
'It is not kind to God's lovely creatures', I shall explain gently.
It is only when they blindly ignore me and continue with what they were doing, despite my explanations and pleas to their better nature, and take my lovely cats onto the trampoline with them that I will snap....
They will continue, and I will snap - you can count on it. I am becoming my mother...
Now, what does it say about that situation in 'The Parenting Puzzle' manual?
Monday, 12 February 2007
James took the children to Dulwich Park on Sunday afternoon. It was a joy to watch. I waved from the drawing room window, and then went to surf on the internet and chat to a chum on the telephone.
When they returned, James was vexed. Apparently he was standing in the playground, close to the swinging tyre, watching as our darlings climbed on a revolving rope frame thingy. Two young girls (under ten years old), climbed on the swinging tyre and began to shout at James:
'Push us, push us now', they demanded.
Repeatedly, they shouted louder and louder as James looked on in disgust. No one ever dares to raise their voice to my smiling husband. James is, after all, terribly powerful.........
Apparently the children's mother eventually turned up and said to the pair of feral girls: (No, not 'say please') -
'This is not your father. Do not speak to strangers in this manner. Girls, really, you only speak to your parents like that.'
NOT in our house - sweetie. Not in our family. What are you setting yourself up for? These people are clearly not Dulwich. Sometimes I think we live too close to SE15.
Sunday, 11 February 2007
I like to think I always put the children first.
For example: I buy wholemeal (organic - obviously) biscuits for Max and Freya, but almost identical chocolate biscuits for myself. I only ever allow the children such treats as plain biscuits on a Friday. After all, what would the other mothers say at the school gates if my children were vocalising an expectation of biscuits on a week day? No, usually it is bread and butter, rice cakes, fruit or raisins at school pick up.
If my darlings notice me leaning over the poured concrete surface of my Poggenpohl island nibbling on a biscuit on a Friday evening after school, I am always careful to ensure that the plain side of the biscuit is pointing out. I am putting my babies first - protecting their teeth, ever vigilant of the dangers of childhood obesity. What the children do not know will not hurt them.
'It's for your own good, sweetie', - I think to myself.
I can be sooo selfless when it comes to the children.........
Saturday, 10 February 2007
I went to the beauticians today - not for anything special or injectable (I don't do that) - just some regular maintenance work. You know; a facial, eyelash and brow dye, lip wax, manicure and pedicure.
Anyhow, the young lady providing these services for me just did not seem to have her mind on her work at all. She kept dashing out of the room for a sob and blowing her nose loudly drowning out the sound of wind chimes and whale music. Tania's much loved boyfriend is returning home to Poland, as he finds it impossible to make ends meet in London.
Poor girl, this is just dreadful for her - could she not confine her weeping to her coffee break? It was really rather depressing, my little treat was completely spoiled.
Anyhow, I swear at one point, she almost waxed off my eyebrows and dyed my moustache black. It was a real 'near miss' situation. I feel very strongly that these girls should be vetted much more rigorously, there should at least be a national register. I am off to a conference in Europe next week, and I do not intend to be known by international colleagues as 'black beard'. Needless to say, I did not leave a tip........
Friday, 9 February 2007
My name is mud......
It was all over the school this morning that Freya's 'ditsy' mother has chosen School 2, purely on the grounds that they have rabbits! These people have too much time on their hands to criticize others if you ask me.
Max came home from a play date tonight with tales of how enormous his little friends' house is:
'It's much bigger than ours mummy', he said.
I glared at James in an accusatory manner.
'Tom's house has so many bedrooms that his parents do not have to share!'
Children are soaking it all in at this age, they notice everything, and understand the significance of nothing. Parents can have no secrets. Max made us laugh. Who are the worse gossips do you suppose? These children of ours or their parents?
All bribes have been refused, the decision has finally been made, and the deposit paid to School 2. Surely nothing could be any worse than the ordeal we just endured, the barbaric school selection process for independent pre-prep school?
Thursday, 8 February 2007
This morning, the snow was thick on the ground. In Lambeth, the gritters had been out and ensured that all of the roads were clear and bustling with traffic. I live in Southwark however, and so I was up to my ankles in slush. This is a small price to pay, to ensure that we are a good enough distance from Brixton.
I decided to catch the train from West Dulwich for a change, and so I encountered Lawrence - a father from the children's school, who I do not usually get the opportunity to converse with.
'I hear congratulations are in order', he roared.
How on earth did he find out? I feel as though I am walking through Dulwich with a street sign on my head.
'Good old Freya', he continued.
'You are accepting (School 1) obviously', he continued.
'Why so?' I enquired... (He surely is not aware of Freya's strong views on the subject).
School 1 'is the most selective school around, isn't it?' he asked.
'270 children assessed and they only offer 8 places to the girls. Isn't that so?No-one would ever dare to turn down (School 1). Have you met the head master? An intimidating fellow', he continued.
'Well I like (School 2)'. I said.
Lawrence bellowed out a hearty laugh.
'You are surely not telling me you are going to choose School 2 over School 1?, he mocked.
'They have rabbits, Freya likes rabbits', I said.
He laughed at me:
'Does your husband know this? Smart fellow he is, isn't he? Read engineering, I seem, to remember. I am sure he will set you straight.'
'Freya is just a child, she likes rabbits', I explained. 'We can't go wrong with either choice now surely, it is six of one and half a dozen of the other, and she likes rabbits', I began to justify myself in the manner of a little child.
Wait just a minute here, I don't have to explain myself to this PLONKER. Just because I am wearing a furry hat, it does not mean I am an air head. I want us to decide on the school, based on the needs of our baby, but now I am feeling petulant, and anxious. Freya does not even know about the rabbits yet, I just thought that School 2 seemed more fun.
How very dare he..........
Oh dear. We shall choose School 2 now, just because we can, and because mummy hates to be told what to do, we choose for Freya to have a childhood.
Wednesday, 7 February 2007
This is bizarre, the whole of Dulwich is buzzing. Dulwich mothers are trembling with stress, waiting to see if their little ones will manage to secure a place in one of their chosen schools from the reserve lists.
How dreadful. Before I had the children, I had absolutely no idea that this whole process of securing a place at your chosen school could be so super stressful. Forgive me, I was under the misguided impression, that if you had the money to pay the fees, you could go wherever you wanted. Not so…
My heart goes out to all of them. I feel so privileged (what’s new?). Oh dear, even my sense of humour has abandoned me. That just sounded cruel.
I have had a long discussion this morning with Freya’s head teacher and class teacher. We are all in agreement, that Freya is a very strong willed young lady. She is a natural leader – and yes, I am loathed to admit this too, but she can be rather a bully. We feel that a co-ed environment may be the best choice for Freya. Max puts up with a lot from my baby girl, and little boys may help her to achieve more balance.
In the longer term, we could even look at transferring Max over to School 1 too, thus making the school run substantially easier for any forthcoming au pairs.
Last night we were sure that School 2 was the right choice, now I really am not so sure. The lovely head mistress says we cannot really make a mistake between either school. But then, there are the mothers we know – waiting on the places on the reserve list to consider.
After returning home from the school run this morning, to my horror I was met by Suze - a lovely mum with a daughter in Freya’s class on my door step with a bottle of Crystal (how dare she insult me with such a terribly nouveau riche gift). Whatever is she trying to say? Suze has an older daughter already at School 1, and said she had heard that we would be refusing the place. The bottle (she said) was to congratulate us on Freya's success, and to thank us also, as she was sure that Eliza would now be offered the place.
'Eliza is surely next on the reserve list. Now my two girls shall be together' at School 1.
I would (I must admit) do most things in my power for my children – but not this. This is out and out bribery. Suze was humiliated, she was begging (the poor, poor thing) and I was simply embarrassed and did not know what to say at all. I invited her in for coffee, and assured her that we would bear her situation in mind, but simply must choose, according to the needs of our little daughter. There is after all no guarantee who would be offered any refused place.
Suze left abruptly and took the bottle with her (at my insistence – does she think we are 'a posse of gangsta rappers'?). We only ever drink Krug or Dom Perignon.
This evening in the queue to collect the boy wonder, another mum of a girl from Max’s class who is on the reserve list for School 2 informed me of how grateful she is that we are turning down the place at that school, as her daughter is top of their reserve list. She said that although she knew we were making the decision based on our daughters needs, she was taking it as a personal favour, and invited us to join her family at their summer house in Tuscany for two weeks during the summer!
OHMYGOD…. This is dreadful. These poor tormented mothers. This could not be more stressful for them. I want to turn down both places now, and run away to live in Wales.
OK, sorry I was hysterical, I can't imagine life could ever get quite that bad.
I hold James personally responsible for this entire fiasco. Stocks and shares are simply posh gambling in my opinion. He should buy instead a super second home - preferably at Poole in Dorset, or even Ireland (so we could join a good hunt), thus cementing our social position for all to see. Mothers far and wide would then realise how wealthy we are, and would realise that offering us a bribe is futile.
Why did James put us in this dreadful position?
Tuesday, 6 February 2007
What to do? What to do?...........
There are pros and cons for both wonderful schools offering a place for Freya.
James and I took a second tour of School 1 and School 2 this morning escorted by both head teachers in order to help us to make up our minds and choose the right environment for Freya. Prior to embarking on our assessment, we undertook extensive background reading. Now that we actually have options, we can afford for the first time to be critical!
According to the Tatler's Schools Guide 2007 (I know this is straying off the point slightly) another of the famous Dulwich schools is a 'comprehensive you pay for, employing leather elbow-patched' staff! (Oxbridge 10%) If they only pay the teachers a subsistence wage and keep them in rags, why is the head master housed in grandeur up in his white house on the common? My smiling son shall never be going there!
School 1: The Tatler say has a 'gentle charm'. The head master today directed us around their super computer suite - which I saw the children enjoying. There is also a terrific music room, and the sweet children were in choir practice. I love choirs, and it simply melted my heart. The school also has before and after school care - so that our daily school run could be relatively stress free. It is however co-ed, and the current thinking is, that co-ed is really of benefit to boys only, as the girls do better in single sex schools. Fourteen per cent of students were admitted to Oxbridge.
I was nearly hit on the nose with a football in the cramped school yard, (I really rather fancy a rhinoplasty - but not for a sports injury) and James was hit in the back of the head with a basket ball (ha,ha). The boys were aimlessly pushing each other about in one corner of the playground, and randomly thumping the girls. The girls amused themselves chit chatting without any toys or stimulus (very state school), absolutely uninspiring - a play frame would not have gone amiss. This is all perfectly normal - according to James.
James admitted that he was intimidated by the head master, and would be terrified himself if we were ever summoned to the school to discuss any 'issues' which would inevitably arise with our darling stubborn 'Drama Queen' (mini me) daughter.
The Times 2006 Parent Power guide rates this school nationally as 13.
School 2: The Tatler list as 'a cracker of a school - definitely for the brighter girl'. MMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm (This statement really appeals to the pushy 'show off' mum in me). It was lovely, cosseting, small, and appeared fun and dynamic. The outdoor play space for their junior school is just idyllic, complete with play frame, bicycles lots of green space and even rabbits! No before or after school care, and no IT suite or special music room though.
Twenty per cent of students were admitted to Oxbridge and results at 'A' level are streets ahead of School 1 (bear in mind here, Freya is three and a half)! The lovely female head teacher appears to have a warm rapport with all of the children, knowing every individuals name, teaching regularly herself, and I must admit I was not 'afraid' of her as I was of the head teacher of School 1. I thought she was kind and approachable.
The Times rates this school as number 5 nationally.
The mothers we know at School 2 are a diverse bunch. We are aware of incredibly pushy focused uber mums who have their children there. James is terrified that I will become one of these pushy mums by osmosis..... I know what I am capable of, and he could be right!
I do know a wonderful, kind and gentle normal mum with a beautiful daughter at School 2, and James says that I shall be allowed to socialise with her alone if we choose school 2.
We are still in 'open mind' mode however. Freya continues to insist that she;
'will not be going to Jallops!'
Both of our favoured schools are out of the question as far as she is concerned. She would hate to gain our approval. She wants to stay in her current school or go to School 3 she says, as School 3 gave her bubbles.
Monday, 5 February 2007
I was unable to escort the children to school this morning. I could not work out how I ought to conduct myself. I am proud of Freya, but genuinely upset for her little chums - who may not be so fortunate as to have a selection of offers to consider. I could not bear to enquire of their parents what news they had, and expose our family to ridicule.
One offer from School 1 or School 2, is considered positively respectable. An offer from both prestigious schools is considered completely excessive. I simply could not face the other mothers at the school gate.
When I try to ascertain from my baby girl, which school she would prefer us to accept for her - she sayss she prefers School 3:
'because they gave me bubbles'.
This is not the best rationale on which to base our decision I have pleaded. If we could have accepted one offer by this morning, none of the mothers would discover our shame. We could never admit to our dreadfull excess.
One of the mothers with an older child at School 2 (Nathalie) informed me by telephone this morning that the school is virtually a finishing school for ladies. The only choice for a lady. Natasha also informs me that the swimming teacher is something to do with the Olympic swimming team, and that the girls who excel could be prospective athletes.... I very don't think so. My daughter is certainly not the next Sharon Davies. If I want her to have shoulders like an ox, I will allow her to carry her own bassoon and school books from an early age. She shall be the next Nicola Horlick, or at the very least the next Marie Curie.
Freya has a close chum who would like to go to School 4 - because they gave her a purple balloon. These schools are far too divisive for my liking.
We have made an appointment to visit both School 1 and School 2 tomorrow morning, so that we may make a rational objective decision.
God help us...........
Sunday, 4 February 2007
James has always been a man of few words. I must admit that this is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place. I have always had far too much to say, and I envy his ability not to nervously 'prattle on about any old rubbish' like me. I think that this quality of his, is down to self-confidence. He has a sense of superiority bred into him, it is in his genes.
I shall never forget the first time James took me to meet his parents. I asked him to tell me all about them, so that I could ensure I was appropriately attired for our first meeting. James said very little indeed. One thing he did say, when completely pressed - he described his mother as 'a lady'.
'How sweet!', I thought.
'So separate rooms for the duration of our stay', I deduced.
There is something that makes your spine chill when you discover that the home you are visiting has a gate lodge which is larger than the average vicarage. It transpired that James always prefers to play down such situations. When I thought that he was merely complimenting his mother, he was in fact indicating that his parents are titled.
I have tried to enquire gently, on more than one occasion whether James would ever consider the use of a hereditary title - and he is always disappointingly dismissive.... pah! A title (he clearly does not understand) is worth more to a girl than a string of black Adler south sea pearls.
Today James was whisked off to Cardiff Arms Park to watch the rugby with some clients.
'Oh dear, what a drag' - he lied.
Yes, yes, I will play along, and pretend he is attending (escaping the family) under protest. This I remember - is a grudge match. The Welsh were thrashed by the Irish in this tournament last year. James was in a sea of despair after it. Struck silent with emotion. I sent him a text this evening:
'Where are you my love, and will you be returning for story time?'
In reply I received a piece of trendy minimalistic abbreviated text jargon:
What in the name of God is that supposed to mean? Does it mean he is sending me 'lots of love' - the sweetheart? Or is he indicating that he is 'laughing out loud' at the idea of coming home by bath time? (Wales lost again my darling Max informs me).
Either way, I cannot decide whether to look sullen when he tumbles in the door, ethanolic and singing 'Delilah' sadly to himself tonight. Who can I ask to translate? My friends are either too trendy - (so I could not possibly admit that I don't understand the phrase to them), or else, they are not trendy enough to understand either.
Pah..., I shall take the easy option; take for granted it means 'laughing out loud' and pretend to be crushed. Tomorrow when James has his hangover, and cannot bear my sulking, I shall be encouraged to go to Eclipse on Park Hall Road, and buy that terrific new Missoni top that I have my eye on.
Hurrah! I can be really quite manipulative when I put my mind to it. Perhaps I shall have those implants yet.......
Saturday, 3 February 2007
I will always celebrate my children's success', and help them to accept their failures. It is a difficult day in Dulwich for many people, the offer letters are out this morning from School 1, and School 2.
Considering the fact that Freya practically told the staff at School 2 during her second assessment that her parents are alcoholics, and took several attempts at School 1's second interview due to failure to get her inside the door - she has been offered a place at both of our preferred schools!
We are more than proud.
We danced around the house this morning with delight and are off to see Flushed Away in the cinema to celebrate. We shall not be expressing our delight at the school gates. We never anticipated this success. We will be 'quietly proud'. All of the little girls in Freya's school are perfectly capable bright little bunnies, like all of the little girls everywhere. How these schools can hope to assess one over the other (at age three and a half) is quite unbelievable.
She is our star today. Freya says she is:
'certainly not going to 'Jallaps', I am staying with Mrs Tamworth in DCPS'.
But now we understand - Freya like her mother, can be bribed!
Friday, 2 February 2007
Before we were married, James and I went to Buenos Aires for a week on one of his lovely business trips. We had the most amazing time, shopping on Calle Florida, site seeing, eating out (James adored the beef), staying up late in a 'Tango' club (Tango is just sooooo sexy), visiting the opera, and taking polo lessons. It was just the best 'mini break' ever! I must admit I was puzzled as to how James - a simple 'salesman' for Comet could be sent on such ostentatious business trips. I decided that he must be lying about his job, he must in fact be a spy I thought - or a drug dealer....
On our return journey we had a spectacular meal in the first class cabin on British Airways. We had Beluga caviar and two bottles of Krug champagne - I was more than a little drunk. I remember the white linen duvet cover and pillow slips and the lovely cotton pyjamas. It was the most opulent amazing journey. I still have the Anya Hindmarsh wash bag, and tiny sizes of Philosophy products.
The first thing James bought me when we moved to this house were my two Persian kitties - Beluga and Krug, to remind us of the trip. When the children were born, our priorities changed dramatically. Soon Max will be old enough to go to Winchester - (I think boys must be seven?) then Freya will be off too, and then we can have the house back to ourselves again, and sanity will return.
Soon, very soon. Calm will prevail, and it will be just James, the kitties and I. Hurrah! We will dispense with the sullen Au-pairs, and our home will be our own again. Don't you find me refreshingly shallow?
I wonder if some clever under wiring would help? Pass the gin.......
Thursday, 1 February 2007
Last night poor Freya was having her dreadful nightmares again, and woke the whole house up on SEVEN occasions. The poor baby had a dreadfully difficult start in life, and has never been a peaceful sleeper as a result.
Today I was presenting a major piece of work to my distinguished vintage Big Boss in preparation for an imminent international conference. I was exhausted. The board room was filled with learned colleagues, the caterers were shouting at each other in Lithuanian, and I was suitably attired in my wonderful new Missoni wrap dress, toe cleavage exposed. I wonder if I would not have looked even more fabulous with a different type of cleavage also – very slightly exposed? Mmmmmmmm. Things are never the same when you have had children. Since loosing so much weight of late, my tone has lessened somewhat. Anyhow…..
I had a selection of Power Point slides and handouts at the ready, and was almost demure – my usual ‘charisma’ substantially subdued due to exhaustion from lack of sleep. There I stood in front of this intimidating group of intellectual giants - having flashbacks to last weeks meeting when I announced I was Mrs not Ms. Oh dear....
The presentation did not go too badly actually, I recited the entire presentation in glazed monotone, interspersed with trying to not to yawn (the more you think about yawning, the more difficult it becomes to suppress). When I was finished - the feedback was more than positive. I felt rather proud of myself. I shall take some tranquilizers before I need to present again. Clearly low energy and inertia is key.
BB breezed up to me and announced that he needed my advice as he has discovered I am a mother. He and his (second) wife ‘Danii’ are relocating from their St Catherine’s Dock penthouse, in search of a leafy enclave with good schools, and asked me if I knew anything about Dulwich!
Well,............ you could have knocked me over with a feather. I have always dreamed of using that immortal phrase:
'Do you know who I am?', (ha, ha).
The time was not right, so I waxed on about our wonderful independent schools, and their shameful selection criteria. We are expecting our ‘Dear Sir’ refusal letters this very Saturday from Alleyn’s and JAPS for poor Freya. He would feel completely at home in Dulwich, all of the parents with children at our chosen schools are ‘vintage’. The conversation was going rather well until he asked me to recommend 'the right roads' in SE21. I told him we had been considering relocating of late for Village Infant's state school catchment, and when I said where from - his attitude altered dramatically - he was positively simpering:
'You must live in a detached house then', he enthused,
'Clearly', I replied, puzzled.
'My word', he said, 'with an in and out drive?', he continued.
'Well obviously', I said (eager to move back to the subject of school catchment area).
'I would imagine you have honed granite in your kitchen and an Aga too?' - he probed.
'Oh dear no, that is so last year and would never work with an Alno kitchen. Poured concrete surfaces, a brushed steel Neff range and selection of integrated ovens', I snapped.
Just because he is my boss, it does not mean I am social class 5!
'Danii and I must come to supper one night, and perhaps we could bring little Tyra to play?' he suggested.
'Perhaps.' I replied, quickly changing the subject. James hates people who are impressed by money or position (shame).
Note to self: NEVER get divorced - it plays havoc with one’s place on the property ladder.