Sunday, 15 December 2013

How not to take photos of a toddler on a train

I took a lovely picture of McBaby the other day which I thought was lovely. MrM did not. Apparently, I hadn't selected the right setting and he thought it was too dark and grainy.

So MrM kindly showed me how it was done by taking this selection of shots of the McBaby and I riding a miniature train at the Hungerford Victorian Evening.

Actually, the following ones aren't too bad. Shame it's not actually us in the pictures though:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Is it just me? Erm ,yes it is.

Sometimes I marvel at the elegant manner in which women carry themselves. Even more kudos to them when I realise that as well as being brilliant businesswomen, organisers, committee members, they are also mothers. Mothers without food on their clothes. Mothers without banana stains on their leggings.

I am not one of those women. I completely lack any poise or grace and find myself in situations that just don't happen to normal people.

Some examples, all plucked from this week. I simply can't imagine any of my friends in any of these scenarios.

1. We arrived for the toddler splash session to find that no one else had turned up. Singing nursery rhymes on my own to an echoey swimming pool is just something no one needs to hear.

2. I took the McBaby to see two different Santas. I just don't learn my lesson. The same scenario unravelled on both occasions. I hand over cash, McBaby looks at me as if to say 'I am not sitting on a stranger's lap, mother. Particularly when said stranger is wearing a ridiculous red costume and what looks like a fake beard'. He screams. I say: "Do you want to say 'hello' to Father Christmas and he shouts "no" very loudly in Santa's face.

3. If you can't meet Santa in real life, then why not contact via the local newspaper who usually run a "Dear Santa" section. I happily sent in McBaby's photo and letter and was thrilled to find it published in last week's paper. What I wasn't so thrilled about was my inability to get his age correct.

4. No McBaby with me on this occasion: I visit a prospective client. While she's out of the room and before I can move quickly enough, her dog starts drinking my tea. Not wanting to appear rude or unable to look after a dog, I have to decide whether to offend her by leaving the tea undrunk, or drink a dog-saliva ridden brew. No comment on the option I chose.

5. I took the McBaby to a Christmas craft fair to sell fudge - who doesn't love fudge?! I have a rosy view that I can sell fudge while he watches Peppa on my laptop (don't laugh, it worked a treat two weeks ago). This time however, after an tense 15 minutes sitting outside the school because one of the staff members told me to wait there until she gave me the word, but then failed to come back, we were a little stressed. So when we walked past another stall selling Christmas cakes, the McBaby helped himself.

Not wanting to let him do that, I made him put it back, promising to buy him one when we'd set up. A tantrum ensued (him, and me) and the stall holder said he could have one, proving that it was oh-so-simple to stop him from crying.

"But that's teaching him to have a tantrum to get his way," I spluttered, fully aware that she was a much better mum than me. In my haste to take the cake out of his hand again, I knocked his milk all over the floor, prompting a flurry of cleaning activity from more mums and lots of shaking of heads.

At this point, I headed for my stall to find that the person next to me was also selling fudge, and with a still-red-faced and wailing child in tow, I ducked out as awkwardly as possible.

6. I've told two people about this and both were horrified. I have no shame. And there are two excruciatingly embarrassing episodes to this story. You probably don't know this, but occasionally, my PR work entails me to turn photographer, so I rocked up to a job on Monday. Again, lack of childcare meant that I took the well-behaved McBaby with me, but that was fine because I had my laptop and he could watch Peppa Pig.

Fortunately we were early for the shoot so I set up the laptop to find a Modern Family DVD in the drive. As much as he likes the theme music, that was not going to pass muster with the McBaby so we got back in the car and headed up the road to Asda where I bought another Peppa DVD. I also went to buy a sandwich for the McBaby and the local paper (PR purposes!).

McBaby was standing next to me at the fridge and I was surprised he didn't trot along with me to the till. I called him a few times. He just looked at me. I called him again. Nothing. I called him again and started walking towards him. A shopper appeared next to him, looked at me with utter contempt and said: "He probably would come when you call him if he didn't have his fingers trapped in the fridge."

Highly embarrassing, but out his fingers came with my encouragement and without the fire engine once being called.

So, duly admonished, we went back to the car whereupon I noticed that it was time for a nappy change, which I did. I couldn't find a bin, so placed the nappy on the passenger seat ready for me to put in the first bin we came to.

We went to the premises for the shoot but were told that it was just around the corner. "Shall I hop in?" asked the customer. Willing to oblige, while he lent in, I removed my laptop from the front seat to put behind me, only the dirty nappy got caught on it and unfurled, depositing a ripe and very smelly poo onto the seat before rolling onto the floor and coming to rest inches from where he was about to put his feet.

Is it just me?


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Haircut - mission accomplished

Done! And stress free with many thanks to Perfectly Posh!

Lady Davina Dove

The McBaby's heart-warming habit of carefully carrying a book across the room, placing it into my hands and sitting down waiting to be read to has highlighted his favourite stories; Aliens Love Underpants, the Very Hungry Caterpillar and When the Dragons came.

Thanks goodness there's no more need for me to read the truly terrible modern version of Jack and the Beanstalk which unbelievably seems to encourage and applaud theft.

So it was much to my delight that Lady Davina Dove flew through the letterbox in time for Christmas. One of a series of 12 stories in The Manor House Stories by Jani Tully Chaplin, they were written about 25 years ago for her children and only came to life by chance in 2011.

Each of the 12 stories follows characters around a large Manor House in the English countryside, so fittingly, there's a lovely introduction from Mr Manor House himself Julian Fellowes praising the stories for their "wonderful and detailed world in miniature full of truth and consequence like all good stories should."

There's a large cast of characters, some with long names, so little ones may need help to remember them, but this does not detract for the gentle story with plenty of description about Christmas in a manor house in times past that will you leave you with a warm nostalgia.

However, it's the illustrations that are the real draw here and the pictures deserve pride of place alongside the classics such as Beatrix Potter. The pictures are colourful and highly detailed and evocative of magical times. The two-year-old McBaby pored over each one to inspect the myriad goings-on before finally allowing me to turn the page.

Each illustration is a portrait in its own right and really got us into the festive spirit - the Christmas tree is already up!

I feel I may have read the best of the 12 first, but I look forward to the remaining 11 which all focus on other animals in the household from bailiff otters to ducks that are cooks. At £7.99 for each one, this looks like a collection to start with glee.



Tuesday, 3 December 2013


McBaby has been called " a pretty girl" one time too many, so this morning I woke up on a mission - he is going to have his hair cut. I happened to remember seeing a lovely hairdressers at the bottom of town that seemed well set up for cutting children's hair - there was a little car to sit in and a TV to distract the little one, so that's where we headed.

A walk that should have taken 5 minutes took more like 45 as the McBaby refused again to walk, but eventually we arrived to find a sign on the door that said: "Back in 5 minutes".

So we waited for five minutes and a bit more before realising the door was unlocked. So went in and a woman appeared. I asked if they were open, and indicated the sign.

"I was making myself a cup of coffee", she said. I asked if we could have a haircut and she said: "Only if he sits still, I'm not pinning him down."

I didn't ask her to, but I was so gratified that she called McBaby a boy that I didn't say anything but then thought, if does start wriggling, she's not going to continue and I'll have a baby with a helter skelter haircut.

She'd disappeared by then anyway, so I took the McBaby back up the street to another salon where he started crying. "We have an appointment at 11am" she said. "But I'm not doing it if he cries like that".

So we tried place number 3 and we have an appointment this afternoon.

Wish me luck!


Monday, 18 November 2013

PS I love York

Having being a southerner for most of my life, I have been wondering whether I should subject the McBaby to the same fate. Do I want him to avoid eye contact with fellow train passengers? Do I want him to be surly? Do I want him not to let other drivers out at junctions? Do I want him to have a me-first mentality?

It doesn't have to be this way, southerners! We just had a fabulous few days in York and this is the kind of lifestyle I'd like for the McBaby - I know I was only there for a week, but not once did I meet anyone rude; everyone I met was welcoming, relaxed and friendly.

Our first stop was the Premier Inn just south of York in Bilborough. It was clean, well-priced and again, staff were friendly. A quick drive up the road and we were at the park and ride which effortlessly took us for just £2.60 into the heart of the city.

Our next stop was Society café for coffee and Panini. Another warm welcome from a young lad who didn't blink at the mess the McBaby made with his Panini ("The students make much more mess than that") and who also reminded us that if we returned with today's receipt, we'd get half price coffees for the rest of the day.

Autumn sunshine in the Shambles

Next was a walk along the Shambles which, as you know, is one of the oldest and best preserved shopping streets in Europe, although none of the shop fronts you see today are original. In olden times, most were butchers, but now they host a range of pleasing products such as fudge, jewellery and baby clothes), before meeting the market place where we had a lunch in a restaurant called Gert and Henry's after I found this stall highly amusing:

(No? Just me then)

After soaking up the history, we marched into the present century and into Wagamama where again, we were served by a friendly young man who offered to box up the gyoza I'd bought for the sleeping McBaby. Having fallen asleep as the food arrived, I was quite touched at the young man's thoughtfulness in letting the McBaby enjoy his Japanese feast later.

Our next stop was the National Railway Museum to see the Mallard alongside the Japanese Shinkansen in a gloriously roomy home alongside railway memorabilia from adverts to benches.

Lots of trains!

The McBaby LOVED exploring in here and we spent TWO HOURS happily roaming the place for FREE (there's no admission charge, but donations of £3 or more are gratefully received).

After two nights in the Premier Inn, we left Lenny Henry and headed for the Churchill hotel on Boothgate, a short stroll into town. Again, a fabulous welcome and a hard-to-find resource in York - PARKING! The Churchill's rooms share Churchill-themed names, making one of them 10 Downing Street. (Imagine trying to get a pizza delivered to that room).

Other highlights of the trip were seeing Ed Alleyne-Johnson BUSKING in the city centre. Busking!

So thanks to the people of York for ensuring we had such a good time. We'll be back soon!

Friday, 25 October 2013

The unprepared mum is unprepared....

Today was a new low in my parenting abilities as I took the Mcbaby to his splash class at the local swimming pool just up the road.

I'm not going to blame the massive blow to the head that I received in the pool, because the disorganisation came as I packed our swimming bag and dressed us with our swimming gear underneath. The head injury, incidentally, arose because each child was given a little watering can to fill up and pour over their mum's heads before swapping places and being on the receiving end of the water. The exercise is to get them to be used to getting their heads wet.

Coaxed by the teacher into filling up his watering can and pouring it over me, the McBaby just threw the full watering can at my head, spout end first. This was surprisingly painful and may have led to me being too vigorous with the next few underwater games.

But back to the beginning. I forgot my wallet and had to ask them to look our name up on the computer and check we were members. Fortunately, they let us in, and so our 45 minutes of fun (apart from having a watering can flung at my head) began.

After doing the hokey cokey, I got us into the shower and realised I'd forgotten soap and shampoo. Never mind. A quick rinse and we'll have a bath at home.

I then realised I'd forgotten my pants, but you'd probably gathered that from my second sentence. As I took the McBaby's swimming nappy off, I realised the water from my swimming suit was now all over his t-shirt. I then realised I'd forgotten to bring a normal nappy. I also forgot my phone, it turns out, and got home to find 4 voicemails.

And I have one child. Just how did the two ladies at today's session who took two children swimming remember everything?


Friday, 18 October 2013

The Geiger counter....

The McBaby and I ventured to the church coffee morning for the first time in ages, picking up a couple of Christmas decorations and the obligatory candle (I am always fearful that our electricity will run out and we won't be able to see!).

I also bought McBaby some cake which he shredded to pieces. Mindful of the telling off I got last time he did that, I dutifully took the chair to the bin and swept the crumbs into it. Returning to the table, there was a loud bang and I saw the McBaby's chair tip forward and his face hit the table. There seemed to be silence for a few seconds before he started screaming. I ran over to him to be blocked by a substantial woman rolling her eyes and shouting; "Where's his mother?"

"I'm here and I'm trying to get past you!"

McBaby had a ferocious bruise but had calmed down after I kissed it better and gave him lots of hugs. But about 200 eyes were still on us and the tutting around the room sounded like someone carrying out a test with a Geiger counter. I decided that more cake would help both of us.

We walked back to the table where I was repeatedly told that the McBaby had hit his face, including once by the perfect mum that I see absolutely everywhere. In fact, I am absolutely certain she wasn't even in the room when it happened as I hadn't seen her up to then! She must have heard it happen from her house and only popped up to tell me what a bad mum I was.

Undeterred, I let the McBaby choose a cake and in his excitement, unbelievably, he banged his chin on the table. More tears. More internal panic that he had re-opened the wound.

"Rub his chin! Rub his chin!" a woman shouted in my face.

I couldn't decide whether to tell her that I couldn't because he's already cut it open or just rub it as she was still shouting "rub his chin," now with a more irritated tone. So we just left.

"See you next time" said an old lady as we left. Don't think so!


*In the last 24 hours since that happened yesterday morning, I'm pleased to announce that no more McBaby facial features were harmed!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Tony and MIke

We took the McBaby to the theatre at the weekend to see an beautiful play based on the country and city mouse.

Called Tony and Mike, it managed to hold him spellbound for 45 minutes with the need for just one "run outside to the door and crazy dance".

Highly recommended!

Simpler times...

The McBaby and I have had a difficult morning together owing to his reluctance to walk into town with me.

I stupidly forgot to get the pushchair out of the car this morning, meaning it went off to work with MrM; leaving McBaby and I to walk the five minute walk into town. This normally wouldn't have presented a problem, but he would not walk; either posting his head between my legs to let me know what he wanted to be carried, or sitting down in protest on the floor.

Is it my imagination or is everyone a little too ready to comment on a woman trying to walk up the street with a recalcitrant toddler? People telling me he was hungry, that he needed me to carry him, that he was upset?

And it's not just strangers either. People I know have told me this week that I should get reins for the Mcbaby, that I play with him too much and that he shouldn't be in a bed, that he shouldn't be in our bed, that he should spend time with me, that he should go to nursery more often.

However, it all came right this afternoon when the McBaby and I found this old memory game toy from the 1970s in the cupboard. I loved the vintage hand-drawn pictures and the McBaby loved doing the matching...

Friday, 11 October 2013

Domestic bliss

We had to wait in for a parcel that MrM had ordered yesterday so I enlisted the McBaby's help with cleaning and cooking. On reflection, we probably should have done those two the other way round....

So first up, we made an apple crumble. Here's the McBaby eating the butter...

And here he is unknowingly polishing the floor after I hoovered it.

Top tip people: tie microfibre cloths to your child's feet....

Monday, 7 October 2013


What beautiful weather we had at the weekend! What better opportunity to go for long, long, long walks in the woods and to teach the little one how to climb a tree?

This is us at Savernake Forest. What did you get up to? What walks can you recommend?


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Rhyme Time

We enjoyed a wonderful rhyme time session at Hungerford Library today and McBaby had a great time singing his favourite songs and meeting lots of new friends. In fact, I made lots of friends too so feel we're really settling into the town that we've just moved to!

That's the post I wish I could have written. But today's session actually ended 15 minutes after it started for us as I had to remove my naughty little boy from the singing after he snatched a cushion from a little girl. Just to clarify, she was actually sitting on it at the time.

Oh the shame.


Peppa again

Leaving a snoring son and husband in bed, I crept downstairs to do some work and just happened to put the TV on to find Peppa Pig starting on Channel 5.

Does the McBaby have a special sensor or bat hearing that can pick up the Peppa theme at 100 paces? The theme hadn't even finished and he was wide awake and sitting next to me on the sofa!

He has a similar capacity for knowing when his dad is pouring a bowl of cereal - and no sooner is the milk in the bowl, than he is positioning himself for a morsel!

What does your child seem mysteriously able to detect?


Stay at Home McMum

October 1st feels like a bit of a new beginning - I feel all "back to school - new year's resolution"y thanks to giving up booze for a month and quitting my job.

Fed up with getting up early, going to work and then driving home again, I am now back at home full time with the McBaby. Our first day was lovely with an autumnal walk pictured below where McBaby played a game where he leapt from cow pat to cow pat shouting "let's go!" each time. My part in the game was to scrub his trousers and shoes when we got home....

We then fed the ducks by the canal where most of the bread went to the ducks apart from the occasions where I was too slow to stop McBaby eating it himself. We stopped feeding the ducks when one of them flew up into the air and then dive bombed towards my head, quacking like Daffy having a fight. Terrifying for me but entertaining for McBaby and a barge-ful of tourists.

We then returned home via the library and came home to make some banana cake and to put on some laundry. Even though we didn't really do anything, somehow I found the day much more fulfilling than my previous days. I will enjoy this until the money runs out!


Friday, 27 September 2013

A stitch in time....

The inevitable happened yesterday when I got a call from MrM to say that he was on his way to the minor injuries unit with McBaby.

Apparently he'd got so excited about an activity that was planned for nursery that he ran too quickly for his legs and tripped over, landing on his face. A nasty gash ensued that needing gluing back together.

I met MrM and McBaby about an hour later at MRI and could hear the McBaby laughing from round the corner so knew it couldn't be too bad, but it was a sight to see a child covered in blood with a big hole in his chin.

We waited for another hour and then a lovely nurse cleaned him up and sorted him out. To help with making the Mcbaby sit still, I put Peppa Pig (Thank the Lord for Peppa again!) on my phone and held it aloft so the nurse could access the chin. She even helpfully put a bandage on his arm to distract him from the one on his face!

The McBaby then whinged a bit and I asked if it was the stinging.

"No, it's because he wants you to put another episode of Peppa on", MrM pointed out....


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Just switch off your TV set.....

..and so something less boring instead....

Surely the McBaby is too young to remember "Why don't you?" yet he persistently turned the TV off to his own amusement when we were watching it last night.

Just one more downside to having a TV....

Monday, 23 September 2013


I bought MrM a photoshoot for father's day which needed to be used by Saturday. Of course, we completely forgot about it until the last minute and then he couldn't make it. It sounded a bit like I'd arranged it on purpose but I honestly didn't.

The upshot was that the McBaby and I went - but hey, we can give him the photos next father's day, can't we?

I thought the shoot was in the centre of Oxford, so we left our house at lunchtime to give us time to park, find the place, cover up the horrendous red blemish on my nose from too much nose-blowing, go to Wagamama and to generally adopt an aura of serenity for the photo so we can pretend it exists in our lives.

However, it was not in the centre of Oxford, rather it was in a shopping centre somewhere outside the city centre meaning we had hours and hours to kill with just a Wilkinsons and a 99p store to entertain us, oh and a car backing into another car in the multi-storey as we arrived.

We managed to while away three hours but I did have to resort to putting £1 in a kids' ride on toy that saw off 30 seconds for us.

Then it was time for the photoshoot where I noticed that the McBaby had a greenish stain on his t-shirt and chocolate all over his jeans. Might as well include a touch of realism in the shots, I guess.

We had an hour of studio time, so after removing our shoes and socks, we posed for a couple of pictures together where I was unaware of anything other than my sore, bright red nose.

Time to get some pictures of the McBaby on his own. He absolutely relished being the focus of the shots and shouted "cheese" gleefully while strutting around the studio like a seasoned model, offering pouting shots, paparazzi shots and lots of laughter.

The photographer then offered us the use of the props in the room, starting with a leather sofa that the McBaby thought was for pushing across the studio rather than sitting on. When we finally coaxed him onto it, he insisted on standing on it, precariously close to the edge.

We put that back and got out a washing basket. Many's the time I've tried to get the McBaby to pose in a washing basket in the style of Anne Geddes, but he just won't sit in a basket. Or indeed anywhere. And he wouldn't do it for the photographer either, instead preferring to drag a vintage suitcase across the floor. "Hurray" I thought, instead of a basket, we'll get him to pose in a suitcase.

And it all looked promising as he got in. And then out. And then in. And then out.

Repeat 35 times.

Remember those computer programmes you used to write at school:

10 Get into suitcase
20 Get out of suitcase
30 Go to 10

We now have to go back to select some pictures so that should be interesting. Only this time, I hope the McBaby doesn't disappear out of the shop and run across the shopping centre only for me to have to chase him before I've put my shoes and socks on.


Monday, 16 September 2013

It's your party and I'll cry if I want to...

Sadly we weren't able to go to the McBaby's friend's birthday party a couple of weeks ago, but fortunately for us, her mum rescheduled!

Dropping MrM off at the Newbury Beer Festival and muttering something about how times had changed, I left him to have fun, drink beer and enjoy himself while I took the McBaby to the party.

Except he Would Not Go In. After prising him away from the door threshold, I got him in, only to have quite a few parents and children stare at us for what seemed an age until enough was enough and we decided to leave.

"You won't get any cake" I scolded.

We drove back to Hungerford where I realised that MrM had my key. We drove back to Newbury to get the key, returned to Hungerford and realised there was a book swap event at the bookshop. Swinging by our house to pick up an audio book, we went back to the bookshop where we swapped our audio book for a Babar the elephant book.

I then caught sight of a book that would make a lovely present for MrM's dad so queued up to buy it.

The woman behind the counter turned to serve me reluctantly and rolled her eyes. She then took the book I was going to buy and put it aside, then served everyone else in the queue, leaving me stuck holding the Mcbaby's hand.

Then a vairy posh lady pushed past me. Predictably, the McBaby ran off and got out of the shop and down the street before I could catch him.

Happily though, when I caught him up, it seemed that he had got his wish - when I asked what he was holding, he cheerfully showed me the piece of cake he'd taken from the bookshop.



That moment when your son blows a kiss at a builder who's come to the door.....

Monday, 9 September 2013

Blackberry crumble

After a lovely walk along the Kennet and Avon where we got a baby cupful (that's the only container I had with me) of blackberries.


I enlisted help with making some crumble. This is my helper who did a fabulous job of making crumble, ignoring the mess of flour all over the floor.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I've been reading this book recently as it was recommended by MrM. From the third page where I told MrM that this was the most relevant book I've ever read, I later came across this passage which made my eyes pop out of my head:

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions--sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments--both physical and emotional--unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss--another person's shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

I have very rarely come across a paragraph that sums me up so comprehensively and ended up reading it about 20 times, 10 of them aloud to MrM. If I had read this years ago, it would have changed my life. Far from being the loner I thought I was (compounded by my Mum telling me "I always thought you were odd" recently), it's just a personality trait.

The reason I mention this is that always being a bit quiet has had a huge impact on my life and children like me are constantly being told to "buck up and stop being shy". I've done it myself to the McBaby when a stranger has approached him in the supermarket. "Don't be silly," I'll say. "Say hello!", conveniently forgetting that I don't tend to high five total strangers in the shops.

I had a torrid time with people thinking I was a rude teenager when I simply didn't know how to interact with people who wanted to talk about clothes and hair. I realised that I was not coming across well and have masked this social unease, but still would prefer to talk to people face-to-face rather than addressing people I don't know at parties and asking inane questions.

I thoroughly recommend this book, even if you're not an introvert as it will provide an insight into the thinking of the quiet person in the office. It also may stop you making your child think they're something wrong with them.

If you're a busy introvert, then check out Susan Cain's TED talk here:

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Bank Holiday

Can't believe it's all over and we're back at work, but at least this week is going quite quickly!

On Saturday, we headed to Cornwall for a party where every attempt I made at having a conversation with someone was thwarted by the McBaby stroking a dog too vigorously, trying to drink beer, trying to drink wine or running at top speed towards the river. On one occasion under an unnamed person's supervision, he ran straight into the river and soaked himself right up to the waist.

Then back to Newbury where we met with someone toddler friends for a picnic at Snelsmore. How lovely it was to catch up with other toddlers that we've known since birth! Here's a pic of them pretending to be oblivious to each other....

Is that it for bank holidays now? The next one's in December, you say?


The McBaby shushed me this morning! I am appalled!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The lull after Beautiful Days

Sadly, Beautiful Days ended a couple of days ago. These few days are always a bit of a downer.

However, we’re still in festival mode as we’re back at the campsite and in our bigger tent (after an initial glitch where all of us had to “sleep” in the two man tent that MrM had pitched on a slope, meaning a night of sliding into each other and then getting cross – the incident even included an episode where MrM drove over a bag of toiletries in the van), we put up the bigger tent and all is well again.

In fact, the McBaby is so insistent in continuing the party that every time he sees me barefoot, he’ll run off to get my wellies and then will bring them to me and try to put them on my feet.

In his countdown yesterday, he forgot to share some of the funny things he saw at the festival. The first one was not amusing for him but hilarious to watch. The McBaby thoroughly enjoyed Sinead O’Connor, but was not so keen on the headliners Ocean Colour Scene. What a philistine.

Anyway, he proceeded to bawl so loudly that a woman came over and started stroking his head. “I own a nursery,” she said, comforting him and massaging his eyebrows. Well after The Riverboat, he was still screaming, so she looked at me and said: “No, can’t fix this one.” I knew he cried more than anyone else – people always say that your own child’s screaming sounds louder, but I don’t think that’s true and it was good to have it confirmed by someone with experience in childcare!

On a better note, he likes to hide under A-boards and was joined by a lovely little boy when he was under a sign advertising pizzas. You may know that the McBaby is a quarter Chinese and has slightly Asian features. This little boy did too and I wonder if that’s what caused them to have an affinity (apart from their desire to sit under an A-board). From laughing together and playing with the chain, they started pointing at each other’s noses and then the McBaby gave him a big kiss and cuddle! He never does that to me, but never mind. They had a lot of fun until the McBaby started to point out his new friend’s eyes as well as nose and then the boy’s dad took him away.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Beautiful Days Festival - by the McBaby

McBaby here:

We’re all back from Beautiful Days. I know mummy and daddy have been lots of times but it was my second time and now I’m 18 months old, I was able to do a lot more naughty stuff than I did last year when I stayed still in my sling.

Here’s a top ten of what I got up to:

10 (+) the number of bands I had to sit through when I really wanted to go exploring. I liked the Levellers acoustic set but I was bored during the finale and mummy had disappeared down the very front to do something called “moshing”.

9. The number of times I ran off to leap up and down in a muddy puddle. When I started on Sunday morning, it was a couple of metres wide. Thanks to the sun and my persistence, it was less than a foot long when mummy dragged me away.

8. The number of times I threw my ear defenders on the floor each time mummy and daddy tried to put them on me.

7. The number of hours I spent drumming on a plastic bottle in the drumming circle.

6. Number of times mummy tried to put my dog mask on (the theme was Animals) before she gave up.

5. The number of times mummy disappeared in pursuit of one of the Levellers.

4. The number of times I climbed up the outside of the Bimble Inn.

3. Number of swigs I tried to take from a can of John Smiths I found in a field.

2. Number of performers whose face I screamed into (Miser Bill and Wino Tyrone).

1. Way of Life!

Monday, 12 August 2013

It's every boy's dream to ride on a steam train

I was looking for something to do with the McBaby on Saturday afternoon and came across the Cholsey and Wallingford Steam Railway which was free to any child under eight over the weekend as long as they were carrying a teddy bear.

After all, what little boy doesn’t love a steam train? Well, ours as it happens.

As you know, all of our stuff is in storage, but McBaby’s George Pig (why is George the only cast member of Peppa Pig who doesn’t have an alliterative name – apart from Joey Kangaroo?) happened to be in my car under a pile of newspapers, so we dusted him off and headed to Wallingford to find that the train left from Cholsey.

We headed to Cholsey!

We were just in the nick of time for the last ride of the day. McBaby was free and MrM and I paid £12 between us for a return journey.

There was time for an obligatory shot of the McBaby in the driver’s cabin, then the whistle went, the guard waved his flag, and we sat in first class. The McBaby then cried and cried and cried until he saw some cows to mooooo at.

Then we stopped in Wallingford, had our picture taken by lots of interested people and then sedately travelled back to Cholsey.

I think I was the only one who enjoyed it. Just check this face out....

Successful interactions!

As a loner and curmudgeon, I always worry that the McBaby will take after me and be friendless. So it raises my spirits when I see him interact successfully and make people happy.

Here are some of the highlights of the weekend:

1. There was a homeless man in town earning a few pennies by playing the spoons. Very masterfully, I might add. To be fair, some people were giving him money, but there were some people giving him the look and manoeuvring their offspring away from him. However, the McBaby went up to him and danced, applauding at the end of each song. Good boy.

2. We were in a coffee shop when he went and high fived a little boy of the same age. The boy gave him a biscuit (but then tried to take it back!) and the pair parted with a hug.

3. We were in another pub (we’re homeless at the moment, remember!) and there were two dogs behind a fence. One of the dogs was trying to pick up a stone. Worried that he would break his teeth on it, I hid the stone in a flower pot). After our meal, the McBaby retrieved the stone and gave it to the dog.

All weekend, and in fact all of the time, whenever he sees a dog, even if it's me just wearing a dog mask (I am preparing for a fancy dress weekend in which we must all dress up as animals - gosh, that didn't sound convincing!), he will woof at them in the belief that they understand what he is saying.

4. We were in some gardens and a little girl approached the McBaby. He started mumbling to himself, so she backed off. The two of them then performed a strange dance type ritual, ending him the McBaby running towards the gate and the little girl lying on the floor as if in the last scene of an opera.

5. Watching the McBaby playing catch with two lovely and patient children who were camping with their foster parents.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A Pizza Hut, a Pizza Hut......

Poor McBaby.

I moan at him for being loud in a restaurant, but of course he’s not going to be comfortable in the surroundings of a posh eatery or gastro pub.

I realised this as I hit “send” on yesterday’s post (rant).

So last night, I took him to somewhere he’d never been before, and I don’t think I’d been in one for 20 something years. It was full of families and a lot of grandparents treating their grandchildren to a pizza. A treat. So I decided to adopt the same mindset and treated myself to a beer. Only joking!

The McBaby and I went to the salad bar and I ordered him this:

Which I actually ate more of than he did. We then shared a pizza and he quaffed a glass of milk. He was very well-behaved, but what’s interesting is that the laid back vibe, music and cheery atmosphere was probably more to his taste and enabled him to be good. Sitting in a quiet restaurant probably isn’t going to entice him into being quiet. If he did shout at Pizza Hut, he would be drowned out. If he threw some food on the floor, it wasn’t the end of the world.


More tales from the campsite

Leaning over the fence of our campsite and looking at the cows in the next field, the McBaby learned how to “moooo” effectively last night. Then he saw someone driving the same exact vehicle as ours and ran towards it shouting “daddy, daddy!” which was quite an interesting thought process.

While we were loitering with intent, a family cycled up to the gate and asked the campsite manager if they could have a pitch for a night at which point he turned into Basil Fawlty talking to Lord Melbury.

“Have you booked, have you booked? Next time, can you book?”

Picture this against a background of a campsite with massive swathes of empty greenery. And a family of four with wry smiles and quizzical looks on their faces.

Thankfully, he let them in which was a relief as they were a lovely Dutch family who were cycling across the UK and had covered 60 miles by bike that day. They whipped their tents up in no time and then the parents and two daughters who were about 12 and 13 sat down to enjoy a meal, filled with raucous laughter. Wonderful to see and proof that there’s something to be said about living out under the stars.

Their laughter seemed to infect the McBaby who laughed and bounced his way round the campsite, trying to get into two caravans and staring at a man sitting by his tent.

Linden Homes – take your time with building our house!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Places we are barred from....

We can now add The White Hart in Hamstead Marshall to the list of places where we are no longer welcome.

Not delighted at the prospect of eating a salad in the rain, I asked MrM if I could take him and McBaby out for dinner. He chose the White Hart as we had a lovely drink there a few weeks ago and the menu looked lovely.

And indeed the food was great, served to the thumping beat of dance music emanating from the kitchen. I suspect they’d turned up the volume in a bid to drown out the sound of the McBaby wailing about going in his highchair, about being hungry and about not being allowed to watch Peppa Pig (in fact, I had no phone signal anyway, so he wasn’t able to watch it).

He was actually quite good while he was eating his delicious risotto and helping himself to my fish and chips, but he then got bored and wanted to play outside. I am all in favour of his playing outside, but not when there’s a road next to the pub. In fact, on one of his attempts to escape, a Peugeot full of chavs sped past yelling “w*****” out of the window - don't think it was aimed at us, but really it should have been aimed at anyone! So I tried to entertain him with the giant Connect 4.

While he thrashed me at Connect 4, MrM upped, paid for the meal and left, meaning that I hadn’t finished my meal or my drink. So we headed back to the campsite which is now the second place where we are probably not welcome. More wailing ensued.

In fact, there’s a strict rule about closing car doors after 10pm and our normally quiet neighbours repeatedly slammed theirs to let us know they weren’t happy. And who would be? I reached the end of my tether and when I put Peppa on my phone for him, only for him to snatch the phone out of my hand, I tried to get him to say “thank you”.

Neither of us would back down, leading the McBaby to have a crying fit that, with horror, I realised I used to do. I remember thinking my tellings off would never end and used to sob so wholeheartedly that I couldn’t stop. This is what happened to the McBaby who almost had a fit.

What is it about Peppa Pig that is so addictive? Why it one of few things that will enable him to sit down quietly and concentrate?

I’m happy to hear advice on any of the following:

1. How to wean a child off Peppa Pig.
2. How to stop a child screeching and sobbing at the smallest thing.
3. What campsites there are in the Newbury/Oxford area.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Camping - a long term strategy

There are two reactions when we’ve told people that we’re currently living on a campsite:

1. “Poor you!”
2. “My sister/friend/uncle lived on campsite for six months when their house was being built and they loved it!

Likewise, MrM and I have differed on our views about the situation. Mine has largely been positive but he’s starting to get bored of it and has even been to the Linden Homes site with photos of the little man living in a tent in a bid to get them to finish the house as quickly as they can!

The positives are these:

1. Fresh air
2. Getting a sense of freedom and being in the “great outdoors”.
3. Getting by without clutter; no need for lots of STUFF.
4. McBaby getting more robust
5. McBaby having lots of room to run around.
6. The social side of meeting other like-minded campers.
7. At £15, it’s actually cheaper than the mortgage interest charge on our house.
8. No Thatcham thugs driving past the house at 3am with their bass blasting.
9. I’m actually nearer to work so my commute is a bit shorter and much, much more pleasant.

The negatives are obviously that there’s a lack of stability, a lack of privacy (bathing and going to the loo, particularly with the McBaby) is a bit of a pain, nowhere to charge your phone, no post and the difficulty in cooking and washing up.

So all was well until it started raining, raining and raining. Then the McBaby used all of my phone battery up by watching Peppa Pig. Then the kicker was that I took some plates and a pan to work to wash up and then left it there for the weekend by accident. I then decided to call Domino’s to cheer everyone up. There was a long pause when I gave them the postcode and the address.

“We don’t deliver there”

Why? WHY? Wouldn’t a campsite be an absolutely IDEAL place to deliver? I’m now, finally, coming round to MrM’s point of view . All because of a pizza.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Etiquette lessons for the under fives

Say what you like about Facebook, but it's a great way of keeping in touch with your international friends and family and I just love the regular pictures of my little cousin.

The last one really got me thinking - it showed her sitting in a posh hotel having an ETIQUETTE lesson!

She's only four but in the picture, she's being taught how to eat a meal in the correct manner. At first I thought this was too much pressure, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that this is genius. In fact, it's about table manners and teaches such things as holding the silverware properly, chewing with their mouths closed, how to set a table and remember where to place their drink. I could name quite a few more people, aged more than four, who could do with it.

What are your thoughts on teaching children etiquette?

Friday, 26 July 2013

More camping; this time South Winds Touring Park, Polzeath

I’ve seen the Levellers more than 50 times and I still can’t get enough. But even an old hag like me was thrilled to see them “levelling the sand” at Newquay last week , a remarkable setting which is going to make it hard to see them in a musty old indoor venue!

Anyway, that meant that after a night chez McSister, where the McBaby and McNephew met for the first time in six months and got on famously (at one point McNephew came into the kitchen to get “some juice for my friend"), we put our tent up South Winds Touring site in record time (not hard considering this was our second time and the first took more than 6 hours.)

South Winds has a fabulous view over Polzeath and has a wonderful onsite bar and restaurant, as well as a child’s play area.

Check out the breakfast that McBaby enjoyed!

So all was well on our first night despite having yelled myself hoarse. But on day two, things declined from the moment I got up. I tried to say “good morning” to a fellow camper” and instead growled at her accidentally as I had no voice.

We went to the restaurant for breakfast and I asked the man what the lovely CD was.

“It’s Dylan LeBlanc” he said.

“Ah, lovely,” I said. “Just the thing for a Sunday morning.”

Unfortunately I had forgotten that it was Saturday.

He then turned to MrM to get some sense out of him. “Would you like mushrooms or beans with your fried breakfast?”

“Yes please”, he replied confidently.

Night two however.....well, let’s just say that I don’t think we will be welcome there again.

At 3am, the McBaby started screaming and Screaming and SCREAMING. At 5am, I snapped and shouted: “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH!” and put the McBaby in the car. We drove down to a deserted beach and he fell asleep. I calmly turned the car around and headed back to the campsite and realised that I had probably scared MrM half to death with my comments.

We went back to bed until 8am and considered a public apology to the campsite but gave that up in favour of breakfast instead where our neighbour wouldn’t even make eye contact with us.

We’re actually going camping again next week, so please cross your fingers for us, and more importantly, our fellow campers....