It was Hat's party today. There were a lot children in our house. I made a gruffalo cake. If this was your Saturday, would you go out on the Friday night and get so drunk that you threw up in a bin? Thought not.
I've done it. I wrote in the blog for a whole month. It wasn't always interesting or particularly profound, but I did. Haemorraged readers, mind.
I went to Tesco today. Shocking in itself, I know. It's Hattie's birthday party tomorrow, and having promised a Gruffalo cake, I need to deliver, so masses of cake decorating stuff was needed. Even after the great cupboard sort of last week, I'm never quite sure what I've got, and I don't mind doubling up occasionally. After all, none of it goes off and I will use it.
As I went in, two women representing the Trussell Trust approached me to ask if I would be happy to buy something for the food bank, and put it on the table at the front. The table was not very full, which was quite upsetting, even given how early it was, and as I left, I heard someone being rude to the women, which isn't very nice either.
I don't know how I feel about food banks. On the one hand, people need helping, and giving them food when they can't afford to buy it is a very good way to help. But it is like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg - it makes you feel like you are doing something, but does it really help in the long term? Surely we should go upstream, as Desmond Tutu said, and find out why people are falling into the river. Of course we need to pull them out as well, but why have they fallen in? Is it this ghastly bedroom tax, which seems to be totally unfair, or is it the benefits cap, which is also unfair - of course you should be given less money on benefits than you can earn working, but raise wages to a living wage, don't pull the rug away from under the most vulnerable in society's feet.
I am very privileged. I am middle class, well educated, intelligent, relatively wealthy, married to a wonderful man who shares responsibilities with me and I'm white, which makes a difference, much as I hate to think or say it. I have two perfect children who don't have learning difficulties or special needs - Lucy is a bit deaf, but we think it's a temporary thing, and both of us have the education, the will and the power to make sure she sees the people who she needs to see in order to help her. As part of my commitment to actually living my faith, I am trying very hard to look at the world through other people's eyes, particularly at school. I must try to remember that the parents of my children do not have my privileges, and when they wind me up, I must bear this in mind. I must, to use that terrible phrase, check my privilege.
If you are interested in food banks or the Trussell Trust, look here. Jack Monroe writes very movingly about food poverty; you can find her blog here. You can check your own privilege by looking in a mirror.
The worst part of the worst week of the worst term is over. Book Fair on Monday, curriculum meeting on Tuesday and Parents' Evening tonight. I've still got Thursday and Friday to get through, but the worst is over. We made over £400 at the Book Fair, which is wonderful; what is less wonderful is my WET colleague letting the children take the books home without paying for them. I'm going to have to do a whole lot of demanding money with menaces; and she won't be doing my book fair again.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The collect for the day. The will was stirred up, the fruit was plenteously brought forth and the reward will be a Christmas pudding on Jesus' birthday.
As per tradition, we all stirred and made a wish. Hattie wished for a cat, a dog and a hampner; out loud, of course.
A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.
I do not wish to mention the craft fair again. The good bits are that the product I make doesn't go off, so I don't have to chuck it and I paid for the table with earnings. Oh well. I've opened an Etsy shop now, so watch this space.
Apart from that, it's been an ok sort of day. Stir up Sunday tomorrow, so I've getting all the Christmas pudding ingredients together in preparation.
is the Ealing 135 Christmas Fair. I think I am as prepared as I'll ever be. I can't find my nice wooden pegs; so will have to improvise hanging tee-shirts from the clothes airer.
My new hair is a bit too straight - I like it, and shiny and new is better than bushy and scruffy, but it is too straight, and I can never be bothered to straighten it, so I suppose it is a temporary problem.
I finished The Testament of Mary last night; a disturbing read, with lots to think about. I think I'll have to re-read it soon. I recommend it to any one interested in Christianity, atheism, how to start a religion, religion generally, or who has a particular interest in reading about details of crucifixion. I don't care what the Roman did for us; what they did to us and to each other was utterly barbaric. Do look the book up, it is jolly good. You can buy it from here or here (probably). I recommend Bookseller Crow on the Hill, by the way. Via the magic of the internet, I can buy from a lovely independent supplier. Hurrah for the internet.
I've put a round up of all the photos of the baby gros here; it's on Facebook, I don't know if you need an account to see it or not. What I need is a website. New Year's Resolution #1.
I am aware how boring I am (now?), but I've really only two things on my mind at the moment. The sewing pile is getting steadily smaller, and I am nearly ready for Saturday morning; fingers crossed I sell at least five.
The other thing is school, which ebbs and flows between good and rotten; not so much my children, who are lively and hard work, but not doing too badly, but all the STUFF around them. Today has been interesting.
Writing the blog every night when I'm tired and preoccupied is a bit of a chore.
Things I want to write about:
The bloke on the radio this morning suggesting that there should be no prosecutions for crimes during the Troubles.
More parties. Hattie was invited to a party by one of her friends - a friend that she has made independently of us, and most importantly, independently of Lucy. It was at a soft play area in Brent Cross; as these places go, it wasn't too bad.
She excelled herself with four ham sandwiches, two egg sandwiches, a packet of crisps, five pieces of cucumber and a slice of cake.
Lucy. A future career beckons? I hope not, but she had a great time, banging away.
Simon took this one at our friends in Ealing.
The social whirl continues.
A portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.
I believe in equal rights, in equal pay, in equal shouldering of burdens - childcare, mortgages, elderly parents. I don't mind having the door held open for me, why not, but will open the door for others. I like baking, cooking, sewing, knitting, home-making (not cleaning), but also very hard sums, painting and decorating, science and technology. I generally wear skirts and boots, rather than trousers. I changed my name out of convenience - I went from one man's name to another: to be really rational, we should have picked a new surname and used that. I work out of necessity, but also out of choice - I know that sounds strange given how much I dislike my current role, but honestly, I do love teaching and helping to construct our new curriculum is reminding me how important it is. I am not a lesbo-leninist or a separatist; those people scare the hell out of me. I feel strongly that HER-story is a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of language, and reveals a deep and basic lack of education. And if that doesn't age me, nothing will; I think that particular concept has fallen completely out of fashion. I don't think young girls using their naked bodies to sell things is OK, particularly as I don't believe that it is always their idea, and I'm not entirely sure that I agree with slut walking, as it uses a male perspective of what is sexy. Just because I choose to wear a jumper doesn't mean I'm not sexy; actually, a grey v-neck with a ketchup stain on the front is just as sexy as a bra and knickers. Particularly my bras and knickers. March, sure, talk about your experiences, absolutely, but why dress like that? It's far more comfortable stamping in flats than tottering in heels.
I am just so, so sick of women, some old enough to know better, saying "oo no, I'm not a feminist, it's such an outdated word". You are a feminist if you take full responsibility for the decisions you make, if you believe in equality, if you want an end to the "blame the victim" culture, if you believe in a woman's right to choose, if you vote, if you want the Daily Mail sidebar of shame banned.
If you don't like the word, grow up. It's here to stay, so shout it out loud and proud.
One of the many things that Hattie likes to do is show off. She loves to make people laugh, and at the moment is practising different "faces". This one is ANGRY.
We were at Whipsnade today, looking at the new baby elephant - less than a month old. I took some poor quality photos of him, as well as some of wolves, rhinos and things, which shall remain on the camera.
It's not a bad one of Lucy, bit posed, but that's the only way she'll let me photograph her. Vanity, vanity.
Photos of my children once a week, every week, in 2013.
This is where I went today: http://www.renegadecraft.com/london, which was a brilliant thing to do on a rainy Saturday. It's always a brilliant experience spending time with crafty people, although it's quite depressing in other ways. I'd really, really love to do some form of training in craft and design, just to be able to put some ideas down properly. I can draw little cartoon-y pictures, but I've no real idea about anything else; shading is a big old mystery to me, as are fun things like screen printing and lino cutting. One day I might even be able to make half a living from craft, although I fear it's unlikely.
The great thing this year was that some crafty types realise that people who go to these places like to make their own little items, so are selling make your own kits. I've got three cross-stitch kits to work on, and I'm really excited about that. I'll re-type that sentence: I'm excited about cross-stitch.
Today was slightly less damp than yesterday. I suppose it's fair enough sending your child to school without properly potty-training her; why not get your child's teacher to do that? After all, potty training is very hard, as is discipline, so get someone else to do it.
Nothing like a big blank page to stop all thought and creativity dead in the water. Also, nothing like trying to write in the blog every day for a month.
Randomly, on a Wednesday.
1. I am knitting away like mad, and making little or no progress on any of the projects.
2. The Ealing 135 Fair is looming, and my stock is currently about three baby-gros and a bunch of mixed size tee-shirts that are at the Post Office collection place. Bum.
3. We've only been back at school 3 days, and I'm already ready for a holiday.
4. There's the horror of the Nursery Christmas extravaganza to get through first.
5. I need to make a Christmas cake.
6. Hattie will be 3 soon (3!), and wants a Gruffalo Party, followed by an Elephant Party. Both of these require thinking, planning and doing. The elephant party is a trip to Whipsnade, and she's agreed that it should be just family. At the moment, for her presents, she wants a lion, a penguin, an elephant and a pretend cloud.
7. I can't seem to stop buying fabric, and now am the proud owner of two metres of wool blend tartan, and can finally make a green/blue tartan skirt for myself, in time for tartan to be in fashion again. (Winter 2017)
8. It needs lining, which is a world of worry and stress for me, so I am leaving it in a carrier bag and ignoring it for the moment.
9. I'll be able to wear it with my Peerie Flooers vest - estimated completion date Winter 2017.
10. I should probably start doing my Shred again before embarking on even more adventures in handmade clothes.
In the course of my daily life, I am often (never) asked what I've learned from this great journey we call EXISTENCE. So, for those of you (us) floundering around helplessly in the dark, here is clarity from years of experience.
1. You cannot control other people's behaviour, you can only control your reaction to their behaviour.
Even when it comes to your children. They are humans and they make choices. They make ill-informed choices, and they don't understand the consequences of their choices, and need help understanding why they shouldn't make the choices they make, but we cannot control their behaviour, just guide it. This is why I maintain a zen like calm at all time, especially when tired, fed up and hungry.
2. One adult should never have to apologise for another adult's unkindnesses.
3. Ask for help before you start drowning, not when you realise that you can't swim.
Tricky one for me. I prefer not to ask for help, but I've realised that, especially when working in an environment I find difficult, I really need to ask for help as often as possible.
4. Work less, play more.
Again, a tricky one for me; today, I was doing my filing while the girls had supper. Now they are in bed, and I am, what? Typing a load of rubbish onto the internet.
5. Find something you enjoy doing and do it.
I knit, hand sew baby gros, write a blog, make my own clothes, make children's clothes, cook, read, occasionally garden and spend time with people I love. This makes up for my husband travelling, tantrums, doing the washing, washing up, tidying and working.
See? Do those things, and life should be easy, straightforward, stress-free and filled with well behaved, happy children. Just like mine is.
It was my birthday last week, Hallowe'en, and yes, I am very old, thank you Hattie. We generally bring in cake and things on our birthdays, and as mine was in half term, I thought I'd do something a bit different. Also, I like to show off.
The traditional food of my "people" is generally pretty unsophisticated: meat, pies, stews (Potjiekos) and very, very sweet stuff like fridge cake, melktart, koeksisters and Malva pudding. It's good food, suitable for working on the land and easy to make in bulk to feed the five thousand. I have a rather wonderful book that I rescued from the throwing out pile called "Meat on the Menu in Southern Africa", and it contains such gems as "Royal Hamburger Pie" and "Mint Glazed Carrots with Peas"; I will doubtless have a go at something from the book - maybe the Roast Venison. First, shoot your buck.
Anyway. Ouma gave me a recipe from our family archives a couple of years ago, and I love making it. It is a fridge cake, and toe curlingly sweet, with half a pound of icing sugar and a big box of glace fruit in it. It also has a entire block of butter, and three partially cooked eggs, as well as Marie biscuits and desiccated coconut. It is entirely delicious, and very, very bad for you. I used one of my precious boxes of Moir's Glace Fruits, including glace pineapple with a cherry in the middle, and unidentifiable green stuff. I'm not going back to Cape Town for the foreseeable, so I'll have to get it sent to me from now on, along with the Provita and the Peppermint Crisps.
Great Aunt Nellie's Fridge Cake
Chop up a lot of glace fruit, measure out 450g of icing sugar, 450g of coconut, and smash up a packet of biscuits - if you can't find Marie biscuits, plain biscuits like Rich Tea should be OK.
Melt a 250g block of butter in a pan, adding three well beaten eggs to it in order to partially cook them. (At this point, I could feel Ouma standing beside me, poking me for not turning the heat off or beating the eggs before chucking them into the melted butter, resulting in a bit of a scrambled egg mixture - hem)
Put the icing sugar into the egg/butter mix. Stir like crazy, then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour into a flat dish, cut into small squares, then put in the fridge for at least 12 hours. If you line the dish with foil, it will make your life easier once it welds itself to the bottom.
Oh blimey, another fortnight gone. I forgot all about the photos last week; just went clean out of my head.
Here are the girls in the bath at my parents' house. They don't usually look this, well, odd.
What a big tummy my little Hattie has! She's still very much a toddler, not a child yet. She clings to her nappies, dummies and buggy with a tenacity I can only envy, and drives us mad being a BABY (GOO GOO LILLEEE). Lucy is, of course, far too grown up for all that stuff, and only just puts up with (urgh) SHARING (ugh) a bath with her (ugh) sister. Mind you, she can still throw a tantrum that utterly, utterly floors me.
Norwich, Tuesday 29th October. Simon's still travelling there once or twice a week, so we decided to go there with him in half term. I still like it as much as I did in the summer holidays, but now term has started and I'm stupidly busy, I don't feel that we have to MOVE right away from horrible, horrible London.
Mayfair, Thursday 31st October. It was my birthday, and I had what I thought was a free glass of Prosecco at Pizza Express waiting for me. Turned out to be a free bottle, which Simon and I shared, so the afternoon was a bit of a riot. We wandered down from Mayfair to Buckingham Palace, then to Victoria, and actually, I do love London. Very much. Next time, we'll go to the South Bank and on the Eye.
Oh, in case you're wondering, Hattie has decorated herself with stickers, including a rather fine "mit-arsh", which is what you do when you are nearly three and have been given a big sheet of stickers to play with. Happy days.
We had a Hallowe'en party today for the children. Lots of dressing up, lots of running around screaming, and, rather gratifyingly, lots of tears at going home time. It's All Souls Day today, the Day of the Dead, so I suppose we could have called it a "Dia de Muertos" party, but that just seems a bit too Islington for me; so Hallowe'en it is, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.
I like to think I excelled myself with the pointless and fiddly craft this year.
These are from Mollie Makes magazine, and I enjoyed making them very much, despite them being far, far more fiddly and irritating things than I normally care to make. I was going to do something clever like stick them in a hoop, or even onto a cushion cover, but in the end, I just blu-takked them to a window and left it like that.
Another massively fiddly thing, but much appreciated by the children and parents at the party. I only make them once a year, for Hallowe'en, so I suppose it's alright to take a lot of trouble over it all.
We've got another 28 days to prepare for Hattie's party. Batten down the hatches, and prepare for THE GRUFFALO.
My beloved children have introduced me to several new things: goldfish, screaming tantrums over the wrong sort of swimming towel, the concept of being good later at home, not out at the swimming pool, mice and headlice. Another attack, how wonderful. We are combing through with masses of conditioner at least once a day; Lucy is still infested, Hattie appears not to be. Which is understandable: Lucy washes her hair at least three times a week, Hattie likes to keep lollipops and bits of sweet in hers.
I've mentioned the mice before; they are getting bolder and bolder, coming out in the middle of the day while I'm listening to Radio 4 and reading the Guardian (middle class) and I'm sure I see them all the time, although I suspect I'm mistaken. I hope so. I don't want to kill them, as I don't think that that will do any good; clean, clean, clean and fill any holes in the floor with bits of plastic.
The fish were Lucy's 4th birthday present, and she is intermittently very fond of them and neglects them horribly. We have had several deaths, and a couple of trips up to Syon Park to replace them, but recently we have discovered a baby fish living amongst the weeds and stones and murk at the bottom of the tank. Hurrah, and we hope it will survive, as baby fish don't always. I've shown the girls, which might have been a mistake.
We also had a squirrel on the bird table a few weeks ago. We had a friend to play, who rejected all food except strawberry jam sandwiches, and these were partially chewed and then discarded, so I threw them onto the table, expecting the massive magpies and pigeons to descend, but once the girls had gone away, we were visited by a large grey squirrel, who seemed very keen on the jam. I took a few blurry pictures and instagrammed the hell out of them; now it just looks like a grey blob surrounded by magnolia leaves.
Hattie would like a "hampner" for Christmas; I suspect she will be disappointed, but maybe next year.