Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday night randomness

I'm currently involved in a bidding war on eBay for a 1980 something Barbie Doll. That single sentence probably tells you everything you need to know about me at this stage in my life.

My mother recently informed our neighbour that I'm an alcoholic. We were walking home after a particularly enjoyable dinner at which I had imbibed the dangerously excessive amount of two glasses of red wine, and a small port. The port was a freebie from the Portuguese restaurant manager, and who was I to say no to port? Or a freebie for that matter? I mean, we are in a recession here no?

Anyway, so my mother and I are walking back from dinner. And by that single sentence you will know that we were not in South Africa at the time. No anecdote, set in South Africa in this decade, would start that way unless one were setting the scene for a crime story. But I digress. It was here in London and we were on my street. It was around 11.30pm and it was freezing cold. So cold that there was actual ice on the pavements. So I was holding onto my mother and slipping and sliding thanks to the ice. And we run into our neighbour who is walking his exceptionally small dog. This, despite the port, I found suspicious because they have a garden as big as a football field, and this dog, being the size that it is, could get sufficient exercise on a hamster wheel, but there you go. So my mother sees him and we greet each other and she thinks it's funny to yell out, 'Hello there, I'm just coming home with my daughter the alcoholic here!'

Anyone that drinks more than a glass of wine is an alcoholic in my mother's eyes. I probably don't need to say that she doesn't drink, at all. Another fact about my mother is that she thinks that everyone sees the world the same way that she does, and therefore finds the same things funny. This can be problematic, especially as she is fond of delivering these particular kinds of 'jokes' with a straight face. And the fact that they are often not particularly funny, well, not on the surface anyway. So here's my neighbour looking at me with a new found sense of caution in his eyes, and my mother is laughing her head off. I, as it happens, am a bit tipsy thanks to that free port on top of the two glasses of wine, and I'm laughing too and trying not to slip on the ice, and yelling back, 'No no, I'm not an alcoholic, really I'm not.' And in the middle of all of this, he takes the opportunity to slip into his house with his absurdly small dog.

Me: Mom! You can't be telling the neighbours that I'm an alcoholic. (This is especially true of this guy as he indirectly employs my husband. Oh, and even more importantly, he regularly sees me with a small child in my care.)
Mom: Don't be silly. He knew I was only joking!

Yes, of course he did. Having never met her before in his life, and seeing me slipping and sliding like that, and both of us laughing our heads off like maniacs. My mother doesn't need a drink to come across as drunk at times. She's naturally gregarious, full of energy and fun and, to be frank, is a bit nuts. But then aren't we all?

I am convinced our neighbour and said small dog is now avoiding me. Thank you mother.

I bought a pair of shoes yesterday for 17 pounds, reduced from 60. That's what a recession combined with the pre-January sales does. As in, things get sold for their actual worth. Brent Cross was absolute Bedlam today, and I did wonder: What recession? But with shops selling things reduced by 50 and even 70 percent, nice shops that is, I can understand why people want to stock up while the going is good. Hell, I wanted to stock up too, but I was under the watchful eye of Roberto who's patience is extremely limited when it comes to shoe and handbag shops that are filled with sale-crazed women. I know, downer huh?

Julia has started feeding herself. Not just holding the spoon and putting it in her mouth, but the whole scooping up of stuff and putting it into her mouth. Today, for the very first time, we went to a restaurant for lunch, ordered her something off of the kiddies menu, and she sat at the table with us and we all ate together. I don't know much about children, but this strikes me as rather grand for a one-year-old. Since we've been encouraging this new-sense of culinary independence, she's gone from a little kid that turns her head and resolutely refuses the spoon you are offering her regardless of what's on it, to hungrily enjoying her food. Evidently she craves a sense of autonomy, something which increasingly appears to be the case.

I'm sounding all-knowing here, but it was actually reading a passage in Gina Ford's 'The contented toddler years' that tipped us off that Julia's refusal to eat may have something to do with her wanting to do it herself.

I love Gina Ford. She has saved my arse three times. The first was in the form of an amazing Gina-Ford versed maternity nurse called Elizabeth who taught us how to care for this tiny, strange, lovely, disruptive person who came into our lives. The second time was when I randomly read a passage in Ford's baby book about what to do when your baby is choking, and later found myself in a frightening situation where I actually needed this information. And thirdly, this whole thing about why your 12-month-old may not want to eat and why every meal becomes this massive battle of wills. Seriously, meal times have gone from something I absolutely dreaded to moments that fill me with pride and joy watching my daughter feeding herself with relish.

Gina has got a lot of stick, mostly from people who have never read her books. Funny that? We went online to buy one and there was this review by a person calling herself a child health worker and she was going on about how wrong GF was about this, that, and the other. It had potential to be a convincing argument until she admitted that she hadn't even read anything Ford had written. The fact is, even if you don't buy into the whole routine method, this woman has been working with babies and small children long enough that she has learnt a thing or two. And pretty much everything she has suggested or recommended has turned out to be the case with Julia.

Anyway, it's almost New Year's and I'm already thinking of a few resolutions. One of them is to be better at responding to emails in a timely fashion. The other is to convince our neighbour that I am not alcoholic. Evidently I have my work cut out for myself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Festivities and all that jazz

Jordan and Peter Andre are on this week's cover of OK! Magazine once again prostituting their children posing with their family in some weird medieval getup. Junior, who is about three and a half years old, looks like he has had highlights put in. How the hell do you get a three year old to sit still for foils? I can't even sit still for foils.

Anyhoo, they say a bunch of inane crap as usual, and as usual you read it and think, 'Why the hell did I buy this magazine anyway?' Suckers, all of us. OK, maybe just me.

OK, so now it really is almost Christmas. I have done practically all of my Christmas shopping. Roberto has been dispatched to the arcades of St James's to do last minute bits and pieces, but praise the lord, we don't have to hit Oxford street. The only thing Oxford Street should be hit with is a large stick. I hate it with a passion.

I went to London's Transport Museum in Covent Garden yesterday to meet up with my friend Lucy and her two children. It was a lot of fun for the kids, and a fairly impressive display. A visiting foreigner may even be fooled into believing that our transport system is pretty amazing. OK, I'm being sarcastic, it's actually not that bad. That is when you aren't waiting for forty minutes in the rain for a bus to arrive, or sat on a stuck tube next to someone who smells of raw meat. (Something that actually happened to me). On a trip to Japan a few years ago, Robert and I were amused at how the Japanese were tut-tutting and looking at their watches with scornful expressions when the Shinkansen (bullet train) was 40 seconds late. Seriously.

I used to love Christmas as a kid, even though I never, ever, got what I asked for. My parents believed in getting us what they thought we should have, rather than what we really wanted. This may sound like a middle-class problem to have, but as we only ever received non-essentials for our birthdays and Christmas, a year of waiting could often yield significant disappointment.

I don't even think money, or lack thereof, was the sole motivating factor either. For example, one year I asked for a Barbie Doll (I asked for a Barbie Doll every year and failed to get one) and received a Donkey Kong handheld game thing instead - not exactly an inexpensive gift. I had never displayed a remote interest in one, and wasn't even sure what it was initially, but there you go. It turned out to be a rare and happy accident and I enjoyed it immensely and got rather good at the game. By the time I did get a Barbie my friends and I had largely moved on to more interesting things, namely boys. But I loved her regardless, and can still remember the smell of her which reminded me of her namesake, 'Peaches and Cream.' (PS: Finding this link gave me a big lump in my throat. It is this exact doll that I got given).

Julia isn't aware of the full capitalist magnitude of Christmas yet. She enjoys removing things from the Christmas tree and looking at the lights, and occasionally she will attempt to chew a tag off of one of the presents, and that's about it. I've been told to enjoy these moments, because even the most saint-like children can become consumer-driven demons at this time of the year.

If I don't manage to blog before, then I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas. Let's hope the coming year will mean a safer, cleaner world for everyone and a nice full tummy at the end of each day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Almost Christmas

Julia had her very first birthday party on the weekend. We invited everyone and it was a great success. She didn't really know what was going on except that there was a big fuss and the next day she got to unwrap a whole lot of cool stuff.

I can't believe she's a year old already. A year that has gone by insanely quickly. Last year this time I resembled the Michelin Man and had trouble walking. I was frantically decorating the Christmas Tree in anticipation of going into labour and not having that done. At the time that seemed strangely important. Then, just a week later, our lovely little girl came into this world and life, as we knew it, changed for ever.

We have put our tree up again this year, and Julia is very intrigued. She is keen on examining the decorations close up, sometimes with her teeth. Naturally this is discouraged.

It's odd doing Christmas shopping this year. The recession hangs in the air like a grey blanket, which, admittedly, takes a lot of the fun out of things. But certainly there are a lot of people without jobs this Christmas and indeed homes, so having to spend less on presents doesn't seem like such a big deal by comparison.

On the plus side the posh shops on our high street are always having sales, it seems like every week there is a different one. It's bloody good seeing nice shoes selling for 45 pounds again. It's been a long time since they cost that much in this country.

I know I've not posted in a while. The truth is I got terribly upset by the case of that little baby P that was murdered by his mother, her boyfriend and her lodger, and I just couldn't bring myself to write. Julia, and a lot of the children at the community center we go to, are at a similar age to that little boy during the time he was so severely abused. They are so incredibly sweet, vulnerable, loving, and fragile at this age, and it is so utterly beyond my comprehension how someone could hurt them, especially so systematically and so brutally. There is a line from the film 'Parenthood,' which goes something like, 'You need a license to own a gun, and a license to own a dog, but any arsehole can have a kid.' Too true sadly.