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.


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 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 thanks.

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


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.


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 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.

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.