Wednesday, 31 October 2007

After months of absence.....let me share seven things with you

Hi readers

Apologies for the long absence.
So much has happened since my last post.
In short, various things in my life have changed for the better. Bringing with them a lot less angst, and therefore less matter with which to fuel my writing.
It is also autumn, and as such, I spend less time in the garden.
However, I have been roused into postfulness by my friend Steve who's asked me to take part in a blog challenge:

Share seven interesting things about yourself....


1. My great grandfather was a captain of the England rugby team (Shame none of that sportiness rubbed off on me). You could say I come from a 'rugger' family.




2. I can cook a mean Créole curry or Kari. In fact I made Kari Thon just the other night. It was delicious.







3. I am a REALLY bad dancer. I don't want to go into any more detail than that. But if my sister's reading then she could give you plenty of juicy evidence sourced from a now notorious primary school barbeque.









4. As I child I got smacked on the bottom by a farmer (or at least I THINK I did. He might just have given me a good rollocking) for building a child's version of a dam (using rocks) in a 2 ft wide 20 cm deep stream in the field next to my street. He claimed I could have flooded his field. I seem to remember being grounded for the weekend as a result. Horrible man. I remember he smelt funny.


5. I still shed tears whenever I remember, or think, about the birth of my son. Such is the depth of feeling I have for him, and the sense of achievement it brought to me. This happens most mornings on my bus journey to work. I am sure the other passengers wonder why an otherwise normal and suited and booted woman is subtly wiping away tears from her eyes.


6. I order the same meal everytime I go to the few restaurants in my post baby repertoire. Ask: Stromboli pizza: Carluccios: Breaded swordfish with those lovely minted, garlicy, crunchy haricots verts.






7. I have a secret crush on the scottish presenter of Coast, Neil Oliver. It's the accent, the long hair, the outdoorsy gear, and also the fact he's clearly rather intelligent.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A generation of overweight babies, and worried breastfeeding mums

A somewhat bombastic title you may say, but any of you who read regularly, or who know me, will know that one thing I feel very passionate about is quietly promoting all things breastfeeding. I am now considered an extended breastfeeding mother, since our son is more than a year old. I see putting in a year's worth of dairy duty as something to be very proud of.

Who, you might ask, do I have to thank for being able to continue this long (despite working etc): well certainly not the health professionals who 'visited' my son and I in his first six months.

But forget all that...what's the link to the title...???


Anyone who's been reading the news this week will have seen that finally, the government are making plans to trial, yes, only trial, a new set of child growth charts, brought out after scrupulous and sound multicountry research by the WHO.

These charts, surprise surprise, are based upon the growth patterns of healthy babies nourished by their mother's breasts exclusively at least until the middle of their first year. But hang on, why the excitement? you ask - surely that's not rocket science - to map children's growth against averages created from the growth of kids fed in the way nature intended?

Well actually it is.


For years, breastfeeding mothers have had to deal with guilt, anxiety, intrusive interference, and have even sometimes been frogmarched to a peadiatrician, or told to give up altogether because their babies were not growing 'according to the charts'. Charts, dear reader, based upon the growth of babies 20 years ago who were fed on formula milk which contains many more calories than breast milk.

But beyond anxiety for breastfeeding mums, it has now been revealed, in a number of broadsheets, that this staunch belief in growing babies per 'the charts' has possibility contributed to the burgeoning obesity problem facing today's kids. It's not often I quote The Daily Mail - in fact it pains me to do so, but here is an example of some of today's stories: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=475180&in_page_id=1770

I am sure I am not the only mother reading this news to be at once horrified, but also secretly rejoicing that we are now free of the fetters of the formula charts, and not only that, but, it is now recognised that our once 'underweight' babies, are actually our babies are actually healthy and natural.

My own experience with the dreaded charts

Your blogger had to deal with some real tosh from her 'health visitor'.

Having got through the first three weeks of the postnatal period, having dealt with retained placenta, a minor post partum haemorrhage, and a readmission to hospital, I had, amazingly, mastered breastfeeding and had very few problems with doing it happily. At a voluntary check up at the 'well baby clinic', I was then told that my son was extremely slow to put on weight, and was I, was I absolutely sure I was feeding him correctly? Did I not know that I couldn't go out, do anything, eat less than 6000 calories and drink 20 pints of water a day to make sure he gained weight? Was I definitely feeding him every 1.5 hours?
(yes, I exaggerate, in some places)

Amongst this barrage of useless advice, there was not even one mildly encouraging word, or 'well done' for breastfeeding, nor did she spend anything more than 2 seconds looking at my overtly well, plump, happy, baby - oh no, a piece of paper with a line on it was a much better gauge to my baby's wellbeing.

At the end of this productive meeting was I sent away with the number of a breastfeeding group, or LLL counsellor*? No. I was only sent away with a red book which told me 'any baby which drops 2 centiles in the first six months will be referred to a paediatrician' , and, a verbal warning 'you must go straight home and rest now, and we will want to see you next week to check his weight again' ringing in my ears.

Thus started a spiral of fear, self doubt, concern and confusion about what I had done to go so wrong. This led me to interpret every cry of my son as a cry for hunger, or was it even dehydration, I panicked, as I tried to make up a bottle of formula to urgently sate what I imagined must be weeks of hunger (which he refused)

I started making notes about urine output and poos, and the relaxed, demand feeding approach I'd adopted was swapped for a rigid one hourly feed rota. But then should I even continue this harmful, risky breastfeeding at all....might it not lead me to the Peadiatrician's door?


Fortunately my wonderful husband told me to forget packing in the breastfeeding, and to give the well baby clinics a miss from now on. I followed his advice, and here we are one year later.


One year on, we're still going strong. For sure, my son is by no means plump - he's tall and slim, but he's terribly bright, happy and well (touchwood).

So, rant over, but finally, I am so glad, that those bloody charts are on their way out.

http://www.laleche.org.uk/
www.kellymom.com/
http://www.askdrsears.com/html/2/T020100.asp
*La Leche League - who offer fantastic breastfeeding advice at a grassroots level

A grim October day

Except it's August.

Yes, the week of summer we had, has now all but disappeared, to be replaced by an autumnal pallor and dankness to the sky and air.

A shame I spent my monthly clothing budget on three dresses which really would look better framed by sun, bare legs and sandals, rather than worn over jeans and boots. Oh well.

We had a relaxing weekend and finally paid some attention to the garden. Our friends F and S were due over for lunch, and since F is a skilled gardener, and often brings us a lovely gift of a new plant or shrub, we wanted to make an effort. Well, I say we, actually my husband made the effort, whilst I watched over our son, who very cutely found an empty plant pot and a trowel to play with.

I took some photos yesterday: amongst which, the sensorially pleasing wall of sweet peas, the lavender flowers, and our baby figs - oh and the olives on the lithe olive tree which F and S brought for us - which is now standing proud over the garden. A lovely thing it is too.

Of course, the camera battery subsequently died as soon as I tried to upload, and since the charger will no doubt be hidden in some obscure place, I have currently no means to post them. As soon as I can, I will.

It was lovely to see our friends again, and eat a good meal in the outdoors, and our son was excited by the extra adults to talk to, and show off to!

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Slovenly posting

Hi to all and sundry

I'll be the first to hold my hands up and say I've been slow to post recently. What with our holiday in Cyprus, and then the onslaught of coming back to work, I haven't had either the time, or the inspiration to post anything much.

Our garden is looking wild, although my sweet peas have bloomed and smell as sultry and wonderful as I could have hoped they would. My African lily also bloomed with a wonderful reddy orange flower, but due to the heat, the flowers wilted very quickly which was very disappointing.

I desperately need to train my climbing rose - the Maigold. Perhaps a job for the weekend.

So there you have it - a post, but nothing of any interest, I am afraid.

Monday, 16 July 2007

In support of Bobby Goody/Brazier

I read today, in the Mirror, I think it was, that the parents of a well to do private school in Loughton, Essex, are up in arms about the awarding of a place to Jade Goody's son, Bobby.

I do not like a lot of the things that Jade did in the BB house. But as for her kids, well they're innocent, and have the right to be considered as individuals, and not judged through the lens of their mother's recent behaviour.

In its nuts and bolts form I see the situation like this:

Small child enrolled at school, parents seek to bully head of school into barring, or withholding school place for said child, some even threaten to remove their kids if small child takes up place.

To those parents I say: Pick on someone your own size.
Why punish a child for its parent's behaviour.
Why shouldn't Bobby go to this school?
What possible harm is a four year old going to inflict on their kids, beyond the usual playground rough and tumble.

I really detest parents who behave like this. Singling out a CHILD and trying to block its right to come to school. I suspect, these are the same types that colonise my son's nursery, barging into the car park in their chelsea tractors without so much as looking to see if there are any small kids or pedestrian parents like me, crossing the path to get in or out. These are the parents who refuse to say thank you upon having the door held open for them, or, who seeing you carrying a small baby and a rucksack, do nothing to move aside for you, whilst little Tarquin has a tantrum in the middle of the thoroughfare. These are the kind of parents who, to be honest, I see as a bigger obstacle to children's life success than any four year old child born of a mother who behaved badly on TV.

'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone...'

My Toddler


Well that' it, it's official, my son has passed from babyhood to toddlerdhood.
Yes, it was his first birthday yesterday, but in a way the change had happened before that day.

In the space of a week he's started to walk properly, talk, point at things and say 'wotsat?' and 'at', greet people with 'aiya' and wave to greet and say goodbye. He is now an active participant in the world, shaping out his own experiences, rather than being brought to various activities, strapped in a pushchair, or carried everywhere by me. It feels so strange to walk ahead of him, and usher him to follow me. It's wonderful to see the delightful, inquisitive little boy he is growing into.

The party was wonderful, although I have to say I was rather disappointed with the cake, which took hours to make and yet was as dry as the sahara. Whilst making it, I was absolutely convinced the recipe had prescribed too much flour, but followed the instructions anyway...and of course I end up with a madeira cake which actually feels more like stale bread than any fluffy kid friendly sponge. Oh, and rather than looking like a lion, it ended up as more of a koala bear......Hmmmmm. I will not be recommending that particular recipe to anyone else!

But the main thing was that all who visited us had a good time, and the boy raced round like mad, holding court with his fanclub, and was, of course, suitably covered from head to toe in dubious looking food stains by the end of the day! He's also developed a liking for Monster Munch. (Yes, call the health visitor, bad mummy alert!)

In a kind of romantic, poignant spirit, I had planned to mark the exact time of his birth (9.06pm) with a glass of bubbly with his dad, but, suitably enough, 9.06pm saw me cradling my adored boy, stroking him to sleep. A lovely sense of circularity, since at the moment of birth, the midwives put him straight onto my skin, enabling me to hold him close, thus forging the start of the most wonderful bond of my life. And one year on, exactly to the minute, there I was doing the same, with a boy tripled in weight and length, with completely different colour hair, but still the same little tiny, flat nose and slightly pointy out, but rounded chin he had at birth.

I promise a gardening post soon. I am sure you are all getting mummy boredom!

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Long time no see

Well at last some good news to report on the garden front: We have raspberries!
Not many, admittedly, but there is nothing more pleasing than having planted something yourself, nurtured it from time to time(Well actually our unseasonal weather has probably done more of the nurturing), and then suddenly, without fanfare or showing off, it bears fruit.

Also in time for St Swithin's day on the 15th July, the St Swithin's rose has bloomed en masse. Although it is certainly more of a delicate fragrance than a heady one - which, for a fragrance junkie like me is a slight let down.

Also, the sweet peas are climbing nicely up the fence, and I can't wait to savour their perfume - one inhalation transporting me back to my parent's garden and my childhood....

photos to come tonight....
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On the birthday party front:
Well, I've decided on a cake - chocolate, lion's face, looks impressive but low maintenance.
We've bought the main present - the Fisher Price Ramps Around garage
but we still have a considerable amount to do in preparation...
I decided against inviting the other kids along from childcare- since each and every parent I came across this week has exemplified everything I detest about middle class parents....ie mannerless, grumpy, stuck up, unwilling to exchange greetings, or common pleasantries - so why on earth would I want to reward them for being rude by inviting them into our home? What is it with these people? What kind of example is it giving the kids, always in tow, to refuse to thank someone holding open a door, or greet upon bumping in to each other in the playroom. Well this has become a rant, but it gets to me!

Thursday, 5 July 2007

I am writing this from my 'dashboard' - if it works I will be VERY impressed!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Who's a clingy baby then?

Well mine apparently.
The last few times I've collected my son from childcare I've been told he's being unusually clingy.
Now don't get me wrong - I am full of praise for the staff there who clearly look after him with love and affection - but there's something about the word clingy that kind of rubs me up the wrong way.

I was labelled as clingy once by an ex - it sounded the death knell of our relationship! He wasn't complementing me on my staying power, or dedication here!

Anyway, back to the subject. I too have noticed that he's going through a phase of learning about attachment, but doesn't quite have the notion of object permanence sorted yet. So if you're his mummy or his favourite carer, he loves you deeply, and then, if you disappear, he thinks you're gone for good. Quite a thing for a little one to deal with. However, as I walked away from childcare with this word 'clingy' ringing in my ears I felt a bit troubled.

What could be causing his deep, deep upset at having to share the affections of his carer with the other babies, or, indeed, why wont he settle with his darling daddy if I leave the bedroom to brush my teeth in the morning - - and any fervent attachment parents reading this do not read these rhetorical questions as plaintive - I am genuinely wanting to understand if it is indeed a natural phase, or if, there is something circumstantial causing this, and if so, does something in our strongly AP inspired parenting need to be adjusted?

Of course as a working mum, my first thought turned to my own position - is it because I am at work? Is he missing me a lot? Those thoughts, like the use of the word clingy, do not sit comfortably chez moi either. Actually, I am feeling the separation a lot too, at the moment, and am not at all sure about what I want the future to look like in terms of work.

There's a lot of debate on some mummy blogs at the moment about the whole Working mum vs SAHM argument. It's a subject which seems to stir up vitriol, derision and anger in a way very few others do. And at the moment I just can't resolve it in my head for me as an individual. As with all things in life, I guess, it's probably about balance. And perhaps I feel, in fact I think we both feel, that at the moment, that balance isn't there. Not for wont of trying, but simply because of the way in which the working world is stuctured in this country. IE fairly paid part time work for highly qualified professional women just DOESN'T exist.

So, anyway, no resolution, no answers, and probably, tomorrow again, he will have been 'clingy' and I will again feel double unease - one at the use of the word, and two at the belief that my absence during the day may be a cause of this.

But then didn't some wise old fishwife once say 'a mother's place, above all else, is in the wrong'

Monday, 2 July 2007

New Shoes

As he approaches his first birthday, it so happens that our son has decided it's time to begin doing some walking. Not too much walking you understand, since his crawling is much faster, and less risk prone, and so far he's decided that so far, crawling presents the more effective transport option. But, if encouraged, he will do it.(walking that is)

With this in mind, and, paired with a desire to do something fun and lighthearted amidst a weekend characterised by rain and terrorism, off to Clark's we went to get him fitted for his first pair of proper shoes.

I say proper shoes, because he's got several pairs of baby shoes already - in fact a miniature pair of Stan Smiths were purchased for this boy before he'd even really colonised my womb - I am something of a baby accessories addict.

Anyway - we had him measured up - he's a size 4F, and I selected a rather cute pair of 'cruising shoes'. He even had a photo taken, courtesy of Clark's to celebrate the moment. Although they managed to cut off my head, focus on my cleavage, and the boy is pulling an extremely serious face, so not one for the photo album I suppose.

Of course, 2 seconds out of the shop, the boy had already figured out how to remove said shoes, and so, it is almost inevitable that what started out as a pair of shoes will soon be one shoe, with the other lost somewhere between home and childcare....

Oh well here's to the start of a long era of pricey clothing and accessories being lost, scuffed, mistreated, eaten, covered in pen, mud and other viscera. My boy is independent. In charge of his own movements now, and although I feel nothing but pride, there is a small tinge of sadness that he, like all babies, grow up so soon. This time last year he was still in my tummy, kicking away. Now he can climb up a slide unaided. The miracle of life and human development brings about awe, wonder and sadness in equal measures.

Endless downpours

I am starting to look upon the days where I would ritualistically water the garden with my tiny can with a sense of nostalgia.

I am also looking back to last summer's excruciating heat with a sense of nostalgia.

It is June, but you wouldn't know it.

Torrential rain, catastrophic flooding, and little sustained sunlight. I can almost feel myself coming down with SADS a month or two early.

Needless to say, the rain is growing the garden magnificently, and my verbena is looking glorious - like a cathedral with its straight, authoritative spire like stems.

I just long to be able to sit in the garden, of an evening, savour its fecund scents, and enjoy the peace of our corner of the garden city before summer is over. I am not sure whether this will happen now!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The politics of the children's party

Being the mother of a nearly one year old child, I am now having to contemplate the idea of hosting my first children's party.

This is a day I've long imagined. A proud and wonderful moment. Celebrating the day my life changed forever, and suddenly became a million times more amazing than it already was. But somehow, as day gets nearer, I feel less sure about how to 'position' this momentous event.

One angle is to keep it 'in the family' and invite only that aunts, uncles and grandparents. Oh, and some of our adult friends.

But hang on a minute. Whose birthday is this?

So of course the other angle, the one towards which I lean more heavily, is to take the brave step of inviting some of my son's playmates from childcare. This will also mean inviting their parents, and it is the prospect of this which stumps me a little.

I have to admit that the parents of the other kids at childcare are not the friendliest. There's very little 'school gates' chatter, and as such, I am not on first names basis with any of them. So, it's quite possible that if they did turn up, it would be a bit uncomfortable for us all. IT would also mean constantly having to explain away some of the less flattering decorative features of our house, lest they think we chose them, and like them. But something deep inside me is nagging me, saying, this would be a great opportunity to meet some other local mums, and perhaps to arrange some 'playdates' (sic) for my son. I have also seen first hand, how much he loves playing with kids his own age, and how well he socialises at nursery - so I think he'd REALLY enjoy it if I did this.

With a couple of bottles of cava, or prosecco I am sure we'll all be talking about our epidurals and episiotomy scars, whilst the blokes skulk around by the shed, discussing Ebay or some such thing. It's just those first few minutes whilst everyone settles which I think I would find hard.

And that's assuming anyone turns up. What would be even worse is if I invite them all, and then none of them show up.

I will of course update you when the time comes.
++++++++++
On a more serious note, I cannot believe it is nearly a year already. It's been the most wonderful year of my life, or at least on a par with the year I met and fell in love with (happened on the same day) my husband! Here's to many more.

Sullied

My husband decided to go out tonight with his male friends, following a 'shoot' for an ad. Oh the glamour.

Of course he ommitted to mention his intention to stay out to me in the hinterland of the early morning when we last spoke face to face. So I end up at home, with a sleepy baby, no food, but importantly no cash.

The Dominoes pizza website is a leader in its category. It's vanguard. visionary. It's the first food delivery site I've come across which allows to order and pay online. Thus removing the need for any human interaction. A great boon if you're a jaded misanthropist like myself, after a busy day. Also great if you need food delivering but don't have any dollar to pay for it.

Anyway, you know where this is headed.

I had no option but to order from aforementioned site.

So, a processed chicken starter and a pepperoni pizza later I feel sullied. I even wiped my greasy hands down my skirt. How feral is that?

Still working - so here's a whingy, whiny post

It's been the proverbial week from hell, with far too many different things to deal with, meaning quality compromises, cockups and tearful hair tearing sessions in the disabled loos - well not quite, but you know what I mean.

It's also been one of those weeks, where, because I'm obviously REALLY stressed at work, the Gods have decided to make getting home from work extra challenging, just to up the ante a bit, to keep me on my toes. Yes, it would seem adrenaline is running through my veins for about 20 hours of each day.

Tuesday bought chaos to most of the overland lines out of central London, with blanket cancelling of all trains leading northwards. Cue a minor panic attack on the concourse at Kings Cross, desperately trying to fathom out how on earth I would get to my baby on time. Not a nice feeling.

Today, someone had taken ill on a tube, hence the entire network was, hours later, still running with 'severe' delays, with passengers crammed into the train carriages, and seemingly endless waits at every station to 'regulate' the service. I stood there, pushed up against the door, internally screaming a diatribe of horror at both the driver who stalled the train at every opportunity, and the smelly passengers who saw no need to remove their rucksacks from my face. I missed my overland train by 1 minute. Arrived at childcare late. Again. This time had to pay a fine. £1.00 for every late minute. Of course I was not bothered about that, but HATE being late for my boy.

ANYWAY - got THAT off my chest, so onto something a little more upbeat!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Working my socks off

Apologies to my regulars for the lack of post last week
Suffice to say I've been working like a proverbial...well...um...working mother - that's it.
I've come to the conclusion that despite taking a huge paycut, and technically working four days a week, I am increasingly fitting 5 days work into four, and picking up things during my little one's naps on my day off. And. I think I'm being ripped off. And, every other mid management level working mum I know, suffers from the same kind of problem.

I think we work our arses off, because we, somewhere, subconsciously feel like we have to a)show our dedication now we've diluted our devotion by procreating b) 'apologise' for not being as flexible as the rest of the workforce c)give endless thanks in the form of hardcore work for the small crumbs of flexibility we have been able to scrape off the negotiating room floor.

Last week, every spare hour was invested in either writing or thinking...that means evenings after dinner, taking the longer stopper train in to work to give more time and space to think, and, of course working the weekend. I skipped lunch everyday (not good since I am still b-feeding my babe) and by the end of the week looked yellow, sallow and haggard.

Now some might say that this is the price to pay for being able to have my day off, but I don't think it's right. If they wanted to pay me the same and do a kind of 'compressed hours' thing then fine...but like this....ummmm.....no thanks.

ON A GREEN NOTE
the garden is looking great - the beds are starting to fill out, and mix together...
and as if by design my st swithen's rose is just about to bloom, just around the time of St Swithen's day...

Photos, or some other kind of more multimedia post tomorrow.

Gosh, dear blog, I have missed you

xxx

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Finally, something about the garden

I do realise that, of late, my posts have become more sporadic, and I've diversified into a spot of citizen journalism - well an attempt at it, anyway. All this at the expense of any substantial post about the garden.

The thing about my kind of gardening though, is that it's a great deal of slow burn. So it's quite possible for there to be no news for days on end. Although I learned last week that if I take my eyes off it for too long, then pests descend.

Anyway. I don't really have any substantial news. Just some photos of the products of our hard work, and one showing you the aforementioned garden insurgents. Brownie points to anyone who can tell me what exactly they are, and more importantly, how I can get rid of them.

Enjoy.....

Monday, 11 June 2007

Garden City Mummy ~ Post 3 ~ a romantic soirée, avec bébé


Unlike most of the mainstream media, and some corners of the blogosphere, I have so far avoided posting anything about the desperate situation of Madeleine McCann and her parents. And if this introduction gives the sense that this post will be lamenting their parenting, or speculating on her whereabouts, then it's misleading. I intend to do neither, but something we did last night got me thinking.

If I am honest, it had been a particularly fraught sunday. Picture the scene: two grumpy older kids, a teething and very grumpy baby, a sleep deprived and wife deprived dad/husband, and a sleep deprived, me-time, and housework help deprived mum/wife. Things didn't improve when Dad left the house with the two older kids to begin their 3 hour journey home to their mum. Cue much upset for baby who hero worships older brother and daddy, and despair for dad and kids who have to battle with the worst of the rail network at the weekend. Any British readers will know what I mean...

So, as I went through the motions of getting the youngest member of our clan ready for sleep, I decided, since it was such a lovely evening, that it would be really refreshing, and enjoyable to pop the 5 minutes into town to grab some food al fresco. In other words, grumpy husband and grumpy wife would seek to assuage said grumpyness by having a nice romantic meal together. Something we haven't done since january. Yes, you gotta believe it!

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to launch into some kind of self indulgent and subtly glib McCann criticism about well what do we do with the baby, do I do as 'THEY' did? or follow my mummy instincts?

No. It was already a given baby would be coming with us. I'll state now that although I have a point of view on the situation, I do not wish to join in the debate here. What I will say, is that I belong firmly to the camp that takes baby (and for that matter, the two older kids) with me wherever I go unless there is trusted childcare in place - and that's my choice, not a value judgement on others who may do differently.

So, back to the meal....

Rather, what I wanted to say was that, when we arrived at ASK with baby in his lie flat buggy, snuggled up with his blankie and a book, freshly breastfed and primed for sleep, we found ourselves sat next to a large family, the youngest of whom was very cutely gnawing at a pizza in her pyjamas and slippers. How nice, I thought, that sunny evening, with a cold beer in hand, that we're not the only ones who think it's ok to bring young kids to an evening meal in a restaurant. Safety in numbers and all that - they wont mind if he screams, or chucks a bit of garlic bread on the floor.....you know the score...

Let's be honest (yes, this is turning into a polemic) Britain is not a country where kids are cherished massively by joe public. People huff and tut at kids taking up seats on trains, or playing in shops, or ambling along a pavement, and our employment law does little to send a strong message that motherhood, in particular, is valued as an career path equal in importance to sitting on the board of a bluechip. The trickle down of this prevailing ideology is that we parents feel often quite self conscious about bringing kids to places where adults traditionally reign supreme, and, on the flip side, we are rarely welcomed into them with open arms: restaurants - I think, are a particularly good example of this.

And yet, our little boy, and the toddler opposite kept themselves to themselves, did not create a disturbance or a mess, and ate nicely. But most importantly, WE felt as if we'd clawed back a bit of time for us, we'd had a meal together, we hadn't had to go through another cycle of cook, clean, dishwash, and My GOD it felt good. It also felt good, for me, the mum, because I had my boy there, safe. I didn't have to worry about a babysitter. I also think my son enjoyed the slab of garlic bread he gnawed on, and the staying up time.

So how does this link to the McCann's ?

Well, I hope that one of the implications of the appalling loss suffered by the McCanns will be a greater understanding of the need for parents to, on a daily, or weekly basis, be able to do adult stuff, without having to face the kinds of decision making which was a preamble to their loss (not a cause, you note).

I for one, hope any parent reading this, will, the next summer evening they want to go out, spontaneously, and have no available babysitter, just take their kids, rock up at the restaurant, and expect to be treated like any other paying customer, and have their kids also treated as customers. If this were more commonplace in the UK, a lot of us parents would feel a lot less like we needed to 'get away from it all' on holiday, and we'd foster a society more tolerant to the needs of parents, and more tolerant to the fact that sometimes, because parents need to do something which is about them, and they need to do it spontaneously, without military planning for weeks, that the kids come along to the restaurant, say, as part of the package.

Now of course I am not talking about Le Gavroche, or Claridges here, but your average pizza restaurant, or chain restaurant. Let's face it, who wants to go to Giraffe, or McDonalds for a romantic evening meal.

As for husband and me, we've decided that this will be a regular fixture to our sunday evenings, weather permitting, although for anyone wanting advice as to how to make it work REALLY well, I suggest leaving with infants already ASLEEP, rather than on the cusp of sleep, since our little one had a very disturbed night's sleep last night perhaps because of being allowed to stay up too late. I know - the routine led parenting brigade will be flaming me.....Bad mummy and all that - rod for my own back etc...but at least I feel as if we did something romantic!

Update on the garden insurgency


Well, moving on from my doom laden prophecy on friday, having consulted with my husband, and looking at things again, it seems as if all is not lost in the garden.

For sure, I think the nasturtiums are done for, but the other plants have wethered the storm, and following a good soaking with a hose, some of the pests seem to have strayed.

I'll be spraying the rest with a mix of washing up liquid and water, when I finally get a sprayer, as this, I feel is the most environmentally and biologically sound way of doing things.

OTHER GARDEN RELATED DEVELOPMENTS
Also, due to a sustained, but to be fair, benign, harrassment compaign by the neighbourhood kids - staring through the fence to see if my stepkids were coming out or not, general questioning of anything that happens in the garden, and those endless why, why, why conversations that little kids like to conduct with anyone and everyone, we decided to erect a bamboo shield the length of the fence this weekend. It's not that we don't like kids - we have three of them between us, and derive great pleasure from conversing with them on all manner of subjects, but at the end of the day, the privacy invasion from other people's kids was becoming too much.

I have to say I really like the way it looks, and it highlights the climbing plants even more, providing a background for them, but also a better climbing environment. And I wont miss having my every move observed by the kidz.

It's funny isn't it - the erection of the fence is just the kind of thing my parents would have done, and in response, would have heard from us kids no end of objections, embarrassment, accusations of being unfriendly, and risking our ranking in the neighbourhood popularity stakes. So the fact we find ourselves doing it, 20 years on, is tinged with just a little tad of irony. To date though, my husband's kids have said nothing - perhaps they too were getting a bit fed up of the harrassment?

Sociopaths us.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Garden Under Attack


We've had a busy work week this week, with lots of evening work, stress, nail biting (for me) and demanding clients to deal with. Also, the weather hasn't been fantastic. Both of these factors have meant neither of us has ventured into the garden for a few days.

Last night I decided to do a tour of duty, as I'd noticed from a distance that some of my hanging baskets of nasturtiums were looking a little off colour. To my horror, once out in the garden I noticed numerous plants were under attack from a variety of different garden insurgents.

Because I am new to gardening I can't instantly tell what exactly is attacking each plant. Only that it seems we've got greenflies, and some tiny black beetles colonising the roses, nasturtiums, the hydrangea, the bamboo leaves have been ENTIRELY stripped from two stalks, and something has devoured my gorgeous papaver orientale.

I felt a genuine stab of pain looking at the wreckage of these much loved plants. I am not sure if anything can be done to salvage some of them.

This also in a week where it's revealed that exposure to domestic pesticides can cause brain cancer as well as Parkinson's.

Well tonight I'm going to read up on all of this and see if there is anything that can be done without using potentially deadly pesticides.

To say I am upset is an understatement. Also, I cannot believe that so much damage can be wreaked in such a short space of time.

However, a bittersweet tour of duty it was, since I can also share with you that the primula viali has just come into flower and looks amazing, and the clematis and verbena are about to, too.

Photos of the remains of the garden later on.....when I feel emotionally strong enough to go out there and look over the spoils again (yes, a woman of melodrama me)

Also, a proud mummy boast: my son is standing unaided. Wont be long till he walks I reckon. We've been practising all day - calling it 'big boy practice' - he sports a look of confused delight every time he manages to stand for about 10 seconds. He's even done some dancing unaided.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

A stroll through ancient woods, and a nose at other garden city gardens


This weekend we took advantage of the pleasant weather, and decided, that, rather than repeat the usual 'weekend with one child'* ritual of shopping in our local shopping center, lazing around, cleaning, and home based play for our baby son, we'd shun reckless expenditure, and instead commune with nature. Well, in other words, we'd go for a walk in the woods. Although my husband still managed to cram in a bit of retail relief at M&S afterwards.

We're lucky enough to have an ancient wood more or less 10 minutes from our house - it's home to some greats of the English countryside, including the Sessile Oak. Along its border is an old railway line, so overall plenty of potential for a pleasant linear walk, or, a more rugged, muddy ramble through the heart of the wood, taking in the ancient trees.

Of course, we arrived with our somewhat feeble buggy, and me in my sandals. So after a brief five minute stroll towards the heart of the wood, where we saw perhaps 10 or so ravens flying around, like watchmen over a lair, the buggy wheels started to complain, and we ran into cloying mud. Towards the railway line we then went.

Now, the railway line is raised (as expected), and runs alongside the wood, but also at the back end of a long row of some of the more, shall we say, exclusive residences of our town. Exclusive in the sense of posh, huge and well fitted out, but also exclusive in the sense of location: merging your (huge) back garden with an ancient UK site of special scientific interest.

Anyway, I digress. This track allowed us not only to contemplate the beauty of an English wood in late spring; squirrels fighting and chasing each other, ferns, nettles, huge towering trees, but also, we had a right good nose at the back gardens of the Garden City Nobility.

I came home full of inspiration for new planting plans for the borders, which, I feel, need more architectural plants, and variations in height and colour. I also noticed that there seems to be a consistent theme of 'cottage' gardening here, which is good to see. So, despite reports to the contrary, we're not yet a race of concrete and gravel loving desert gardeners.

Nowhere else in my extensive travels of this, and other European countries have I seen consistently beautifully cared for gardens like those I see in my home town. Even the pieces of common land, integrated into the newer housing estates are lovingly maintained by a mix of the local authorities and residents, and even those with the smallest section of 6x6 ft soil at the front of their flat do something with it.

There is something contagious about living in a garden city. Without being asked, or indeed, forced to do so, its occupants, young, old, rich and less monied seem to somehow uphold the values upon which the town was founded.

*The weekends where my stepkids are with their mum

Friday, 1 June 2007

Ashamed and horrified. Please Read

In a quiet moment, as my son sleeps soundly, I decided to check up on the blogs I read regularly. Some of which are listed to the left of you.

To say that one of the stories I came across has moved me to tears, anger and outright shame is an understatement.

I am not going to re-hash from the two blogs I have seen which feature this story - they tell it in a sufficiently comprehensive and compelling manner. But I raise the issue here and provide you with some details of the story, in the hope that the small number of people reading my blog might perhaps visit this important site in support of Janipher Maseko, a Ugandan refugee, who was sent to a detention center in the UK shortly after giving birth to her son Colin. (I should mention that this site is an organisation set up not just for Janipher, but for other women past, present and future(God Forbid) that find themselves in a similarly appalling situation)

The particular focal point of this story is not so much the separation, but rather, the fact that Janipher was/is breastfeeding Colin and therefore the separation will have had a knock on effect on little Colin's nutrition, and all the myriad other benefits of breastfeeding a baby of his age stands to receive. To say nothing of poor Janipher, who, as any bfing mama can confirm will have been in physical, as well as emotional agony with massively engorged breasts.

I hasten to add that apparently she was offered no means of either relieving that hideous pain via a breast pump (Available for around £10 in most big supermarkets or chemists, or loaned by hospitals) nor of maintaining her supply (using that same pump), in order that she could continue to feed Colin by the breast upon their reunion. It would also appear that she was offered no changes of clothes or any other basic hygiene measures needed in the immediate post natal period. Again, any mother, or husband of a post natal woman can imagine what that would feel like.

To be separated from your newborn son, and toddler daughter is something I daren't imagine. Nor can I begin to think about how those innocent children must have felt - little Colin rooting for the breast that was no longer there, and her one year old daughter old enough to know mummy wasn't there. As a mother, a breastfeeding mother, but also as a human being, I cannot help but feel horrifed,disgusted, and ashamed at this story.

Of course - you may ask - well where's the harm, Colin can be fed with formula perfectly adequately. Yes he can, in the UK, with our clean water, sterilisers and when social services are paying £7 a box for formula. Of course, if/when the Maseko three are deported (Reports suggest it may be happening today) then it will be another matter - you only need to look here, and here to understand why the continuation of breastfeeding in Colin's case, could be essential, without being melodramatic about it, to his survival.

The two sites below will provide you of details of how you can write to the various MPs involved. If you don't want to do that, then perhaps you could think about donating to nursing matters, or, simply alerting others to this story, in the hope that we raise awareness of women like Janipher who are stuck in the asylum system and being denied their basic mothering desires, needs, duties.

For a comprehensive rendition of the story please visit The Lactivist, and Morgan Gallagher
There's also a Guardian article on the subject. Again, I re-iterate, this is a story started elsewhere, and better explained by others listed. I am posting it here, merely because I wanted to raise awareness, so it's more a case of passing on the baton.

Thinking of Janipher Maseko and her two children. I will be donating to Nursing Matters.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Garden City Mummy ~ Post 2 ~ Love is....

A comfortable pair of sandals....

Continuing the theme of once weekly updates on being a Garden City Mummy....

You, Dear Reader, will remember that my feet were in shreds after running to pick up my son from childcare in a new pair of supposedly comfortable sandals...

Well - the scabs formed after said event are still visible to the naked eye, and with this in mind, I set myself the task of finding a pair of sandals, which, whilst being feminine, vaguely in line with the season's fashion tropes, and affordable, were less likely, when under stress, to inflict torturous damage to my feet - (oh and could straddle - oh-er missus - key usage occasions of client meeting, and day out with small child, and go with trousers, dress or skirt)

Now, this brief already rules out a number of brands and styles - Birkenstocks - - hmmm...... affordable, yes, fashionable - well, more timeless than fashionable I would say, but feminine, I'm not sure, nor do I think they would work chez client. Although I actually really like them, and have been after a pair for a while...

Same with any kind of flip-flop (an old favourite of mine) which again, can be feminine, comfortable, go with trousers and skirts. But again, these tend to be detrimental to the deference needed at a business meeting AND importantly, can fall off the feet when running.

******

A major, or shall we say, seminal moment in my childhood was the day when my mother finally bowed to my demands and allowed me to defect from Clark's shoes (patent leather, maroon, size 13 and a half width F) and buy the sought after pair of Doc Marten style shoes with an acid man logo plastered onto the side


- from Barratt's no less. I must have been around 11, and this was the same year the Care Bear themed birthday cake was re-modelled into, yes, you guessed it, a kind of off yellow glacé icing rendition of the same smiley face acieeeeed man.

How those acid man shoes hurt me - I still remember it now, but of course I could say nothing to dear mama, for fear of being hauled back to Clark's - I seem to remember they fell to bits pretty soon as well. I should also add that the acid man cake (made and iced of my own fair hand) tasted revolting - too dry and all that yellow food colouring just didn't do it for me.

Anyway, where is this meandering recherche du temps passé leading...

Well, for the first time since said defection, aged 11, I headed back to Clark's, safe in the knowledge that there, of all places, I would find a pair of comfortable shoes - sandals? I couldn't be sure...but it was a starting point.

So with my son in tow, we entered the store.

Now, not only did I notice that their line of kid's shoes has definitely become much more 'on trend' shall we say, but hallelujah - I found at least two pairs of sandals that more or less answered the criteria of the brief.

To cut an already long story short, I am now the proud owner of a very nice pair of sandals, which on their first proper outing this morning, have cushioned my feet at all touchpoints of leather and skin rather than sandpapering them, look elegant, make my feet look nice, and go very well with my black trousers. Oh yes, and when I say leather, I MEAN leather. They are actually made out of leather.

I am now off to my client meeting in them, but the real test, of course, will be the childcare run this evening....

more on which later...

but here's to the re-forging of my relationship with Clark's....
Shoes Designed For Living...........a strapline that really means what it says....a rare thing.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The plague house


Warning, he or she who comes near our house (or garden) is likely to catch the lurgy.

Due in part, I am sure, to the weekend's awful weather, my husband, son and I are all suffering from various manifestations of a nasty cold.

Oh well, the time off work has given me some time to re-design my blog a little, and do some concepting (I thought I said I was OFF work...) about how this blog's postings can work a little harder in terms of creativity, interest, and appeal...

Watch this space!

cough cough sneeze

Monday, 28 May 2007

The bank holiday weekend

Well it's been a while since I last posted.
We've had a busy weekend, but as is the case at the moment, I am afraid, very little of interest to post regarding the garden, other than the destruction wreaked upon it due to the high winds and beating rain.

Luckily, most of our plants weathered the storm, and actually, look pretty healthy. Must be all the rain they've endured.

What else to report from this weekend?
  • On saturday we went to a wedding in Osterley: we had a wonderful day, despite the weather not being great - a really moving ceremony, in beautiful surroundings. Plenty of champers, strawberries, canapés, and, a Waitrose picnic - yum!
  • On sunday we did very little, other than go to John Lewis café, to congregate with other long suffering parents (rain = children inside all day, bored, fed up, too much energy) - much to our delight, there was a live jazz band playing, and I wept tears of pride as my little son bopped up and down to King of the Swingers, and Moondance in his high chair! His older brother, my stepson, was so proud of him, he had to go and tell the band all about his baby brother's antics - another very cute moment.
And from today...? Well actually very little, again, other than a brief tour of duty in the garden, in the pouring rain, and cold, and lots of playing in the living room with aforementioned baby son - accompanied by cups of coffee, quadruple chocolate cookies and a soundtrack which featured amongst other artistes, the Klaxons, The Aliens and Simian Mobile Disco: all of which were enjoyed by our seemingly musically sensitive son - who equally REJECTED the jungle book rip off songs which I chose for him. Silly mummy. Live jazz and nu rave on the playlist next time.

Oh, and I found The Book of Plants (Besler) for 15 quid in our local bookshop. So all good. Although, as my husband points out, I haven't EVEN looked at it yet. Too busy blogging.


Wednesday, 23 May 2007

My new obsession


Somehow, I'm not sure how, I discovered the world of antique botanical prints yesterday, whilst at work.

Thinking back, I am not sure what it was that triggered this, but all of a sudden I found myself searching fervently for suppliers of said prints.

All of a sudden I really want a few to go on the newly decorated walls of our house. Except they don't come cheap. Well not the pretty ones anyway. Since I am already somewhat in the red this month, I don't imagine my husband will be impressed that the money I will be potentially borrowing from him to 'tide me over' materialises into rather ephemeral purchases. Although, he is a frequent recipient of ebay ephemera himself.

One way of getting round this, I think, might be to order a book, a modern day book, which has a large number of these prints reproduced within it. Scalpel out the stuff I like, (douse it in tea, let my son loose on it and then hang it over the gas hob to give it that olde worlde look) and then frame it.

But then this opens up a whole new pandora's box of decision making - which book to go for, and does it have the prints I like etc. and of course the books I like so far happen to be pretty pricey anyway. Take a look at this and this

And then of course, there's the issue of overkill. I think that one or two, maximum three prints of this genre, neatly framed in a few different parts of the house will add some real charm and interest, however, I'll be shelling out for a book of potentially hundreds of them, so what happens to the rest? They can't all go on the walls, as that would not work with the 'creative idea' of our house (not that there is one really...), nor would it leave any room for my husband's delightful 'fantasy' style print of the Rolling Stones. So, they'll end up as coffee table reading, with a few pages showing signs of being hacked at rather clumsily with a pair of child's nail scissors.

And to top it off, my online search of antique print dealers has segued into maps as well. I'm now after some antique maps of places I've visited in the past.....husband and I will be fighting for wall space before we know it. Our own little turf war.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Garden City Mummy ~ Post 1

Motherhood is full of painChinese foot binding shoes
Edward Scissorhands

This is an observation I had today on my way to collect my son from childcare.

How did I arrive at this observation you may ask. Childbirth? Yes, that hurt. Cracked nipples? certainly in the early days...but no, this observation was born (pardon the pun) of a rather more mundane episode, with no blood, gore, or stitches.

Well, as sometimes happens, a combination of events (usually involving the piccadilly line) led to my being in a big rush to get to my boy on time, and it just so happened that I was wearing new shoes. New summer shoes. Which can only mean one thing. Pain. Of course if I were to walk at a normal speed, then the pain would be minimal. It would be nothing more than the familiar pain of breaking in new shoes. However, when one is a mum, one does not want to be late for one's little darling, and so, of course, I had to run. Running in new, tight, kitten heels, with swollen end of the day feet hurts. A lot. Ergo, motherhood is painful.

When I sunk like an ageing trawler into the bath this evening, I have to say that the stinging pain caused by the numerous blisters and scrapes adorning both feet, was only a few notches below the stinging I felt upon bathing immediately after childbirth where I came face to face with edward scissor hands the midwife. They (my feet) still hurt now. Oh well, I think it'll be back to the knackered old trainers tomorrow.

Running a tight garden ship


Well I am pleased to say that thanks in large part to my husband's efforts, our garden can now be compared to the aforementioned 'tight ship'.

The lawn was mowed, the edges trimmed, weeding undertaken, and seedlings planted.

As if by design it rained today, in order to give the garden a nice soaking after the relative dryness of the weekend.

I am now watching the Chelsea Flower show on TV. I would love to get down there on my day off with my son in tow, but, alas, like too many things these days, babies and small kids are not invited.



A red sailing ship off the east coast of the
Ile aux cerfs, Mauritius, Jan 2003


Now don't get me wrong - I don't fall into the camp of parents that think their kids should have guestlist to a whole range of otherwise 'adult' occasions. I for one, would never force my son's presence on a couple who, say, decided they wanted their wedding to be an adult only affair, and as an ex business traveller, I can understand a little the frustration an exhausted business person feels when a mum with a babe in arms plonks herself next to his flatbed in business on the JFK -LHR red eye...I digress, but you get the picture....so,back to Chelsea.. short of potential accessibility issues with a buggy, I cannot for the life of me understand why I couldn't go there with my son. I mean it's outdoors, it doesn't rely on quiet, or long periods of standing still listening to people speak or perform....my buggy is brown, so it would camouflage in nicely, and my son is a lovely cute little child, who tends to provoke adoration in even the sourest of adults. Hmmmm. I think it's all a bit snobby. I suppose they think a buggy pushed by a mum carrying a bit of post preg weight might 'lower the tone' somewhat. Oh well. We'll be giving it a miss then.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Photos

Today's entry is rather more pictorial than text based...well it's intended to be, but as it turns out, there's a little vignette I want to share with you first.

So we've had the anti social dog owner, now what about the accusing parent of out of control toddler.
I've noticed this with increasing annoyance since becoming a parent myself.

Let me explain.

I'm talking about parents whose kids are now at an age where they're toddling around without reigns or any other means of containment. Off said toddler goes, zig zagging across a crowded thoroughfare of a town centre near you, and ooohh watch out, they're coming right at your buggy, so you deftly move your buggy out of their path, only to be greeted with a mix of accusing and barely concealed middle class annoyance emanating from parent of said toddler. For it always is those middle class parents who occupy this role.

We experienced this today. It annoyed the shit out of me. An admittedly harmless, cute toddler almost ran into my son in his buggy - my husband steered quickly out of his way, only to be glared at, deploringly by the toddler's be-chinoed, be-deckshoed father.

I mean, if you're so worried about little Tarka or Misty bumping into a rogue (read non bugaboo) buggy on their race to the Early Learning Centre, then use some reigns, put them back in the bugaboo, or better still hold their hand....but don't glare at my family. Gggrrrrhh.
Anyway, hope you enjoy the photos
.
An inhabitant of an oft neglected part of the garden - beetroot. Hmmm can imagine this in a nice beetroot and feta salad.


The glorious Maigold climbing rose - it smells as good as it looks, and to the right, one example of what I call our 'borrowed' flowers - these are the stragglers from our neighbour's garden, which poke through into our side of the garden. Lucky us. There's about 100 more where this one came from - all of different colours.


And lastly, my 'wild' corner, with Papaver Orientale, Hydrangea Annabelle,Verbena, and another 'borrowed' clematis. Watering can, gardener's own. Wheelie bin, property of the council.

Friday, 18 May 2007

A dog's tale


The town where we live is known as a garden city. This means, amongst other things, that public spaces (of which there are many) are carefully maintained, and really quite beautifully landscaped. Even in the town centre you don't go far without coming across a bed of irises, roses or ornamental grass, planted in such a way as to provide real aesthetic pleasure.

The care that is taken of the town's public spaces, I think, has a knock on effect on the way its inhabitants themselves take care of them....there is very little littering, and you don't see much graffitti, and this will sound snobby, but it's not meant to be: overall, people really seem to care about their houses, and their gardens too. It's infectious.

Well so is the poo that I saw a dog doing in one of the aforementioned lovingly maintained beds of roses and late flowering tulips. Yes. It's true. I was walking to work very early the other morning and I usually pass a couple who walk a large dog. Well on this particular morning I saw the canine and its owner on a side street, and to my horror, I could swear that the owner was almost persuading, nay, cajoling the dog to do none other than squat on the flower bed - not the pavement - and issue forth a revolting winalot flavoured stool.....Oh, she'll pick it up and bin it, I thought, as I watched aghast (because I kid you not, this is what I see most of the octogenarian dog owners do in the town: bending down on their synthetic knees, scraping it up into a plastic bag. Bless em.)

But no. This thirty something woman, just let the dog finish its business, and walked on.

Does anyone else find this a really anti social piece of behaviour? Should I have said something? I felt like it, but didn't, as am still in that London mentality of cause offence get stabbed. But I wish I had. How disgusting. And to do it specifically in the flower bed. Hmmmm. Not sure how owner and dog got through the garden city vetting process!

Thursday, 17 May 2007

aphids, the crocus catalogue and other excitement

Phew...what a week....
It's been a busy one, and finally I can relax.
Funnily enough, evening relaxation in this house in the evenings tends to mean my husband and I each occupying a sofa, laptop on knees, surfing the net, and writing our respective blog entries.
Of course we do talk to each other, but then aren't the solidest, most concrete relationships those where you can 'be' together in a room, and not feel forced make smalltalk or discuss whose turn it is to put the rubbish out tomorrow.

I guess this evening past time is the equivalent of letter writing in the drawing room in the Edwardian, or even Victorian age! Yes, I like that comparison. Makes me feel like less of a social misfit already.

Anyway, onto the subject in hand.
Well, whilst we have practically developed SADS because the weather has been so dull, the garden has seemingly exalted at the oceans of rain thrown at it over the last ten days.
We were out there tonight, it smelt wonderful, a mix of rain water and plants, and looks greener, lusher, more healthy than ever.

My Maigold climbing rose has opened its first flower: the scent is as exquisite as I'd hoped, and my tangle of Verbena, Hydrangea and Papaver Orientale look bursting with life and muddle together very artfully.

However, we noticed, unfortunately, that our other rose, the St. Swithuns is coated with Aphids. Hmmm, this leaves us with a dilemma....we try our best to keep our garden organic, in terms of not using chemical pest control. So do we go against this, and get some pesticide? Or, do we look for, and obtain, an organic means of controlling this pest. I'm not sure what to do. But I have started to get very protective of my plants and will be especially gutted if this rose carks it, as it has a special symbolic meaning for me.

Somewhat assuaging this frustrating dilemma is the arrival of the small, comprehensive, and above all, tempting Crocus.com catalogue. Hmmm, I've got plant envy again and feel the need to indulge in some new stuff....

My eye is on: Tricyrtus hirta, Culver's root, pincushion flower, some pelargoniums and a pineapple lily...I could go on, but wont bore you....

We're planning a garden focused weekend, weather permitting, so for all of my faithful readership, I'll post some photos of the garden city garden in its full green, glory.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Blog Etiquette

Completely off topic this one, but I've been prolifically exploring the blogosphere recently, and sometimes what I find, particularly in comment boxes, disturbs me.

People put their lives, innermost feelings, grief, love, worries, fears, photos of their kids, in a public forum. They write about decisions they've made, things they're not happy about, life changing events.... and all of a sudden some sour, embittered person with an agenda hijacks their comment box with a stream of vitriol, and often, encourages other likeminded vitriolmongers to visit, do the same, and post the link on their blog. Soon, a personal crisis or tragedy becomes public property, a piece of meat to be pawed over, a debating subject. And as such, those commenting seem to forget the human, real, feelings behind the original posting. They talk to the original poster in a way they never would if they were face to face in public.

This upsets me.

Some would argue that bloggers relinquish the right to expect politesse and mediated comments by putting their personal wares out for the world, but why can't we exercise the same manners, compassion, self editing in the blogosphere that we do in the real world? What is it about blogging, apart from the possibility to comment anonymously, which makes this happen?

I'm not going to refer you to any of the most troubling examples of this - as that would be doing the particular vitriol mongers a favour - but suffice to say this blog, for the sake of my mental welfare, and the privacy of my child and husband, will skirt around sensitive or controversial issues. A shame, in a way, as I love a good discussion, but only one where normal social etiquette and human values of compassion, tolerance and empathy are the driving forces.

Good. I've wanted to get that one out of my system for a few days.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

AWD continued

Again, I apologise to my regular readers ;-) for limited output....
It's been a busy weekend. More decorating. Visits from old friends, a trip to John Lewis' café with my little boy for afternoon tea! Gardening, you will see, is prominent only through its absence from this list.

Yes, it's still raining torrentially, and so, I've kind of left things to it, although it does need tidying.

It's amazing what a few day's rain does to growing things...I could swear that everything is at least an inch taller than it was last week. Things are more fulsome, more dense as well. Glad as I am that everything is growing so well in the rain, I would love to get out there and do a bit of work. I'm a bit of a wimp you see, and don't fancy getting soaked, so rain does stop play for me.

I should also mention that the living room is now a vast improvement from the four walled migraine it was last week. A soft blue on the walls (that I am still not quite sure my husband likes), top quality John Lewis curtains no less, and the removal, thank the gods, of the hideous olde worlde fake brass chandelier type thing. Replaced by a very tasteful JL light fitting which if I describe it will sound like it's knocking shop fare, but in reality is anything but. Take a look...

You will see that I am somewhat partial to John Lewis for my interior fittings (amongst other things) - this is what happens when you live within five minutes of one - oh I need a lightbulb, oh better pay £5 for a special John Lewis one, oh and we need a toothbrush holder - oh that'll be £20 then please....it's so convenient, and so NICE you end up buying everything there.

Or at least one did until today, when a cursory visit to internet banking gave me a bit of a jolt!

Anyway, enough meandering for now - I need to go and hunt down a rhododendron. I have rhododendron envy. Our nextdoor neighbour has the most amazing variety in their back garden....

Friday, 11 May 2007

AWOL or rather AWD

Apologies for the absence of posts over the last few days - this has been due in part to the endless rain (rain the garden needs, but nevertheless makes outdoor living impossible!)....but also due to my other 'home improvement' project - decorating.

So, I have been Absent While Decorating.

When we moved to our house, we inherited amongst other things, some slightly spurious decorating. If I say off blue fleur de lys wallpaper with a second rate william morris style border, crossed with off blue on turquoise sponging, you'll be able to envisage our living room.

Now since our living room overlooks the garden, and once the garden is in full swing, I want to smugly sit and admire it, the quarters from which I admire need to be pleasant.

To be honest, that's probably too polite a way of putting it, and I am trying too hard to segue neatly into a garden related motivation.

Basically the room is a HORROR. It's a feng shui nightmare, a Laurence Llewellyn Bowen gone wrong, an interior design crime. It had to be changed as husband and I decided we could suffer its visual assault no longer.

So all week I've been painting over said fleur de lys (yes, we needed a quick fix - we didn't have time to strip all the offending paper off) with a calming blue colour. It's the first time I've decorated a room, and my goodness, it's exhausting, and requires meticulous attention to detail, patience, and perseverance that to be honest not even my darling garden extracts from me.

My son has just woken so I will post the second half of this story later...

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

cheating

I know it's not the done thing to pass off an embellishment of the previous day's post as a new post, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Here are some piccies of the plants I told you about yesterday:

The African Marigold

The small green shoots next to the bigger leaves are new bits of the Hart's Tongue fern I was worried wasn't growing!


The exquisite first bud of my Maigold climbing rose - can't wait to see it in full bloom

I could spend the rest of this post telling you about my latest garden endeavor, but then this ended in a hissy fit - so probably best to try again, and tell a more successful tale later. Suffice to say I am not brilliant with a hammer and garden wire, but somehow want to train my Jasmine and one of my Clematis to grow up a fence.

Ooooh - off to try out my new buggy now - going to pick my little prince up from childcare!

Monday, 7 May 2007

The rains, and my scent concept

As had been promised, the rain finally arrived today.
My Husband swears things have grown almost before our eyes thanks to the steady pouring of water this morning. Of course, I am chuffed the plants have had a good load of water chucked at them, but the rain these days also appeals to my inherent laziness - Oh good, I thought, I wont have to cart 6 watering cans full back and forth from the kitchen to the garden. We have no outdoor tap you see.

So how is the garden looking?

The African marigolds look spectacular; standing tall like bright yellow lolly pops around the front and back gardens, and finally it seems as if my hart's tongue fern is getting to grips with life in our garden, and has decided to make something of itself.
So, more importantly, how is the garden smelling?

For the first time yesterday the wind carried the fragrance of my wallflower and jasmine to where I was sitting playing with my son. That pleased me.


I have always wanted the garden to be a multisensory experience - and had chosen, and placed plants and flowers with that in mind. The garden is a visual feature, of course, but I really enjoy the possibility of scent being carried to the sitting area on our patio, and even beyond.

In fact my 'scent concept' is this: re-create the scent of the garden of my childhood. So far, I recall lupins, wallflowers, roses, hyacinths, snap dragons, sweet peas....some of which we now have in the garden. And of course there are new additions - stuff which wasn't in vogue in the early 80's - Jasmine, and that kind of thing!

The pièce de la resistance scent wise for me, will be a frangipani - when I can find one.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not one of these orientalists that plans to fill the garden with banana trees, and a ton of palms - let's face it, we're in the home counties! But if I were to choose one 'tropical' flower to have at home, it would have to be the heady, complex frangipani. We're still trying to find a reputable place to get one from the UK - and even then, there is no guarantee we'll be able to bring it to flower....and then of course there are SO MANY to choose from do I want a Singapore White or a Tricolore? Each brings with it its own scent nuance as well...

So, the kinds of questions I'd ask, if I had any regular, returning visitors - which so far, I don't think I do.....(weeps silently)

- any good suggestions for frangipani to grow in the UK, and trusted suppliers?
- How difficult is it to get an outside tap in a back garden if the kitchen and bathroom are all at the front?

any answers, anyone? (oh no, I feel like a kid who knows father christmas doesn't exist, still writing a letter to him asking for presents...hopefully, in time this wont be the case!)

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Illness stops play


I've been feeling rotten for the past few days (another head cold, imported from my son's childcare I shouldn't wonder)...so gardening has been put on the back burner.

However, with the slightly cooler weather, things seemed to have managed ok with two days of neglect!

My climbing rose looks as if it's on the cusp of blooming - there's plenty of tiny buds on it, and the fragrant mix seeds I sowed a few weeks back have started to burst through the soil.

Other than that, nothing much to report, other than how struck I was at the beauty of the horse chestnut flower.

Living in a city which relishes trees (unlike our former city who seem to be cutting them down) we are lucky to have entire avenues lined with these noble arbors.

Usually I only see their candy floss like flowers from a distance, but my stepson found one on the ground and gave it to me as a gift. Seeing it from close up I noticed how dainty, and attractive they were, with the subtle difference in colour between each flower, and their almost 'tropical' shape and markings.

In fact I found the 'tropicalness' of the flowers quite interesting given the H.C is a typical find in Britain. Although I've now discovered that the tree originates from southern Europe, so that would explain that!

I kept one to photograph in order to post it here, but of course motherhood and step motherhood meant I had other more pressing chores to perform. Then I forgot, and it has now wilted. So you'll have to suffice with a borrowed photo.

And now the garden has been lovingly watered, husband has 'hoovered' the lawn as our nextdoor neighbour's son calls it, and it all looks fecund, green and cared for once more!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

gardening in the age of instant gratification


Is it just me, or does anyone else find that just sometimes, just for a tiny moment, you wish that things would grow, flower, show their full potential a bit quicker?

......waits for flaming from the orthodoxy of gardening.........

Ok, well what I mean, or what I am pondering this morning, as I sip my huge vat of coffee, is how, in an age of instant gratification, do we cope with those past times, those activities, those phenomena of life which errrr, take a bit longer, or make you wait, and yet, there is nothing much that modern technology can do to speed up the process.

More than ever, if we want something, we get it - and we demand that we wait as little as possible for it.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a polemic about a human condition I see as repugnant and alien to my own. When pregnant with my darling boy there were moments when I daydreamed the possibility of fast forwarding things a bit (in a way which did no damage to either of us of course, and on another post I'll explain why my desire was acute at times). And I, like other mums, am delighted when the little one shows signs of mastering a skill ahead of his age. Also, I'd love it if someone told me I could lose all my pregnancy weight in two weeks, and as for that pushchair I've ordered, well it would have been great to get it today...... But then I am getting sidetracked. Or am I.

In fact, I see many parallels between a growing child and a growing garden. A child wont do anything before it's ready - you can't force them to eat solid food when they're not ready for it, nor can you train them to walk before time. And the same with the plants in my garden. As exciting as it would be to see them all in their full glory, this cannot be achieved by any means known to me so far. Some will flower by the end of the summer. Some wont do anything till next year.

But then, I wonder, if the marching of technology continues, will this be the case forever? Will we, some time in the future, be able to expediate the growing of children, the time spent in utero, the germination, blooming of plants and flowers.

Wow, a heavyweight piece of pondering for the morning. What got me thinking about this? Reading Gardener's World magazine last night, nearly every single plant or flower I saw that I liked were the kinds of things I would need to sow this year, and see nothing much of until next year. I found myself ignoring their possibility simply because I would have to wait to see them at their best. And this is where the parallel between garden and child is lost. One does not sit waiting for a child to come into 'bloom' or become an adult, ignoring all that they do in between time, or seeing it as the means to an end.

Rather we relish every day of their existence, seeing newness and beauty in all that they do, and in a way, cherishing their innocence, newness, their fragility. Perhaps it's time I applied the same motif to my plants, and rather than waiting for the glorious flower of the agapanthus, delight in the green of its leaves, the progress of its growth.