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!