Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Review of the year 2014

What a great year it's been!

January - workwise, I held my first PR Workshop for beginners which we're doing again this coming January and hopefully every quarter after that. The idea is that local business people will come to our house and brainstorm ideas for doing their own PR.

February - the McBaby visited Paris for the first time! We had a fabulous time, staying in Montparnasse and hooking up with lovely friends.

March - I rediscovered my love of yoga and found an amazing teacher!

April saw us visit the Lake District where we had a fabulous time. The Mcbaby wowed a group of ramblers by climbing up a massive hill.

May - saw the McBaby meet local time-travelling canine celebrity Rolo and I went to a school reunion! Workwise, I started an interesting contract at the NHS, making this a hugely busy month.

June - Two visits down to the sea for the annual World Nettle Eating Championships and the Levellers headlining the inaugural Behind the Castle festival which was amazing. Would love to return this year but can't face an hour-long queue at the bar after having my beer confiscated!

July - second friend of the year back from Oz. Also saw another outstanding Mark Thomas performance. The rest was work, work, work!

August - Some brilliant stories arising from my NHS contract about diabetes work. August is of course Beautiful Days and my sister's festival, plus we added Bunkfest in at the end of the month.

September - Work, work, work, culminating in the Newbury Show where I quit my NHS job!

October - We took the McBaby to Argentina and Uruguay. Amazing month! MrM even went to the Vineyard.

November - A trip to Portsmouth (where my friend and I had a beer with one of my heroes), a birthday party in Cornwall, a trip to Sandbanks and The Cruel Sea.

December - Took the Mcbaby to the Isle of Wight, McBaby's third birthday, a boat trip, a trip up to the top of the church tower and an amazing Christmas in Cornwall.

Happy 2015!!!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

December 2014

The latest adventures of the McBaby -December

1. We climbed to the top of the church tower in town to have a look at the bell tower and then get a view of the town - the McBaby flatly refused to come back down again.

2. Went to Basildon Park to see the Christmas decorations. McBaby played the piano in the main entrance much to everyone's amusement/distress. A nice lady said; "was that you playing the piano -- aren't you clever" To which he replied "NO!"

3. We watched Frozen 4,500 times having been the last people in the world to hold out. McBaby asked for it and when I agreed, he ran down the high street like Anneka Rice in Treasure Hunt, stopping people and saying: "I'm McBaby. Have you got Frozen?"

4. Turned up at a lovely carol singing around the tree event. McBaby stole hundreds of sausage rolls and then when the brass band started up, pointed at the tuba and shouted "that sounds like daddy's bottom". Unfortunately we were standing next to our MP. A couple of years ago, the McBaby called him "daddy" much to everyone's embarrassment.

5. Went to the Isle of Wight. Oh to live on an island and be surrounded by gorgeous beaches. Once again, the McBaby did not want to leave.

6. Took the McBaby to a party or three - all at the same place. I get really nervous at these things and as MrM does the nursery drop off, I don't know any of the parents or children. I tried to get talking to one mum by asking her what her son's name was. She told me and asked me what McBaby's name was.

"Oh HE's McBaby, is he? He got time out for hitting my son on the head." *end of conversation*

7. The McBaby turned three! Can't quite believe the tiny person/huge character was my little helpless baby.

8. Took the McBaby on a canal cruise where he met Santa!

9. Took the McBaby to the amazing lantern procession through town

10. Took the Mcbaby to the Victorian Extravaganza where he asked to go onto the chairoplanes and then cried so heartily they had to stop the ride to get him off.

11. Christmas in Cornwall!

More beaches and more quality time for the McBaby with his cousins.


Silent Sunday 28.12.14

Mawgan Porth on Christmas Day

Monday, 15 December 2014

What I did on my day off

The McBaby and I met for the first time nearly three years ago and in those 1092 days, he and I have only spent one night apart. Until this weekend when MrM took the McBaby down to see his parents. I seized the opportunity to catch up on some work, some reading, some drinking with friends and some using of the complimentary gym pass I was given for gorgeous Audley Inglewood.

In reality, I only did the lazing around in the gym bit. Arriving at Inglewood still retains its majestic splendour even though I seem to be here a couple of times a week and it's fast becoming my second home. The place just looks stunning on a day like today with its white walls contrasting with the pure blue sky.

I headed for the gym and am delighted that the run of exemplary customer service continued here too.

And as I had the pool to myself, I stayed in it swimming up and down for an hour and a half, most of the time fantasising that I was in my very own pool. It's the cleanest, sleekest pool I've ever been in and I have never felt so relaxed. I reluctantly got out and went for a long walk around the town before the day took a much more unhealthy direction.

So, I'm glad to say that I didn't miss my "baby" too much; all it takes is a day out in five-star surroundings to take my mind off him....

The Advent Calendar

This just doesn't get old. Day 15, and we're having the same conversation every day. Note that the pic above is just a Christmsssy one that made me laugh, not the actual advent calendar...

Me: Shall we open your advent calendar?

McBaby: yes please

Me: What is it today?

McBaby: It's chocolate! (in surprised voice).

Me: That's right, it's chocolate. And what's the picture on the chocolate?

McBaby: It's an elephant.

Reminds me of this: Ruud Gullit sitting on a shed:


Saturday, 13 December 2014

Nelson's Diner

I've got to have passed this place on the A339 near Kingsclere between Newbury and Basingstoke thousands of times and have always wanted to stop by; the McBaby and I finally decided it was time to visit and made a dedicated trip. I'm now kicking myself for all of the missed opportunities - this place is a treasure trove!

The outside is a bit unloved but inside, it's full of character with a 50s theme, reminding me of watching repeats of Happy Days while waiting for our tea as youngsters. I was a bit gutted that I didn't get a cheer and around of applause when we went in like the Fonz used to but perhaps I'd jumped the shark at that point. The welcome and service was great and most of the customers in there seemed to be regulars.

The McBaby had a "small" hob nob milkshake which was enormous and he lapped up every bit of it. I had a teacake and a latte (the McBaby didn't really want to share his milkshake) and it was extremely reasonably priced.

We'll definitely be back.

Thursday, 4 December 2014


If you were the staff member in Tesco who was innocently sitting on their chair today before your seat plummeted to the ground suddenly, leaving you peeking over the top of your till, I must apologise on behalf of the McBaby who managed to press the button on your chair in the time it took me to pay for our shopping.

I also apologise for my helpless laughter - not very helpful, I know....


Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Cruel Sea

It was Big Mac's birthday this week, so we all headed to Poole for a meal at the Cruel Sea, a splendid fish restaurant named after the Nicholas Monsarrat novel about his wartime experience in the North Atlantic.

The restaurant opened in 2013 and is a whole lot more welcoming than the choppy waters of the Atlantic. The kitchen is open so you can see the chef prepare your tapas dishes, the staff were friendly and patient, and the atmosphere is relaxed. We tried garlic butter prawns, a bowl of cod fillet and prawn bisque with prawns and mussels, Poole rock oysters and Cornish sprats. The three young boys devoured plates and plates of potatoes and bread, served with hummus, tzatziki and butternut squash.

This is a story of the Battle of the Atlantic, the story of the ocean, two ships, and a handful of men. The men are the heroes; the heroines the ships. The only villain is the sea, the cruel sea that man has made more cruel.

In a welcome and thoughtful touch, the staff brought out Big Mac's lemon posset dessert with a candle and singing Happy Birthday - we didn't even ask them to do this. They were extremely relaxed about the youngsters, even when McNephew kept asking for ice-cream. After being told they didn't have any, he suggested ways in which they could make more room in the freezer for it.

Apparently Big Mac saw a programme about Ben Fogle which included mention of the Cruel Sea, so I'm grateful to both of them for the recommendation- we'll be back!
5 Bank Chambers | Penn Hill Avenue, Poole BH14 9NB

Silent Sunday 30.11.14

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black Friday free zone

Black Friday didn't appear in the UK consciousness until a couple of years ago, and considering it's the day following Thanksgiving, sounds particularly American to me.

Over here, we're making a point of staying away from any shops at all. Most people seem to have a hellish consumer-bent most days as far I can see, buying plastic crap they don't need, loading into plastic bags that they will throw away and then putting the lot in landfill just weeks later - so Black Friday just seems like more of the same with elbowing, fights and other disgusting behaviour thrown in.

Instead of fighting people for a plastic toy that's on offer, I decided to head in the other direction for some greenery and to remember what should be important at this time of year.

Who's with me?


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Tis the season to be grumpy

The McBaby and I are feeling all festive after visiting the annual Christmas fair at Audley Inglewood.

Well, sort of. While the place looks amazing and we were treated to our first carols of the year, the McBaby interrupted the choir shouting "I don't like the Christmas music" and insisting we search for biscuits instead. We couldn't find any and a mince pie was a poor replacement apparently.

I saw lots of lovely people we knew, but had to cut every conversation short because the McBaby wanted to run away.

And then we got to the car park to see someone reversing and going forwards out of a space and scraping the side of our car each time he did so. The noise of the scratching was horrendous and the McBaby shouted at him to "STOP CRASHING INTO MUMMY'S CAR". "But it's a difficult space to get out of" was his reply.

"Sorry" was the answer I was looking for so I showed him the damage. "That will polish out" he said.

Happy Christmas!


Friday, 21 November 2014


Should I be worried that my two-year-old was so desperate to get into a bookie's today?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Yogo Elephant

The McBaby's never really had a favourite toy before, but his new-found obsession with elephants and some rare good behaviour meant that I was minded to buy him a nice elephant to cuddle (it might help him go to sleep without having to hold my hand for hours, I reasoned).

It's not as easy as you'd think. We started in M&S, then WHSmith, then Boots. Nothing. Then the Entertainer who had some massive toys but no elephants and then Debenhams where I made the mistake of asking that question which is also answered with "if it's not on the shelf, then we haven't got any". Followed by "have you looked on the internet?"

Another staff member guided me to the computer and typed in elephant. "Perhaps we could have a look under Keel Toys as they have a concession over there?" I proffered.

"K-I-L-L toys?" she barked?

"Er no, K-E-E-L. I don't think "Kill" tested too well with the focus groups."


Then we tried the bank-busting JoJo Maman Bebe. Bingo! An elephant toy for babies on the shelf, complete with bell.

Let's have a look for something for bigger boys, I said, spotting a lovely plush blue elephant standing tall on the shelf, retreating back to our first choice when I saw the £57 price tag.

So we took the elephant home (and no one was around to hear my "shall we put it in the trunk of the car" joke) and the McBaby named it "Yogo" for some reason. A later visit to some friends (who have a daughter called 'Molly' that the McBaby has renamed 'Polly') say it's from the freaky "Waybuloo" programme that messes with my head. Incidentally, Polly had an Elmer Elephant which upstaged Yogo, so I'm not sure the love affair will last long. I'm already on the hunt for an Elmer.

So I put the McBaby to bed with his elephant on the first night and as hoped, he drifted off happily. The woke up seconds later when the elephant moved and the bell tinkled. And then again. And again. Why do I have a feeing Yogo is going to end up in the canal?


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sorry shoes

This time last week, I took the McBaby to get a new pair of shoes. We got his feet measured, he wouldn't sit still and then we left without buying them because the McBaby was messing about and nearly accidentally kicked a little boy. His mother growled at me as if he had kicked him, so we made a swift exit.

I then realised that I could order the shoes online. Then, all I'd have to do would be to run in, collect them and pay for them, meanwhile getting rich via a cashback site (this didn't work in the slightest. I was promised 6% but received 20p. I'm terrible at maths, but 6% of £34 is not 20p, is it?)

Anyway, I think Clark's deserves this money after our two performances.

We returned to the store, and I don't know about where you are, but it's pretty wet today, cue much jumping in puddles. The McBaby also partook of this activity (I'm joking; I didn't) so had wet trousers, wet socks and wet shoes.

The woman in the shop asked if we "wanted any help on kids", and then remarked that she recognised us from our last visit. I bet she did! I told her that we'd come to collect some shoes which she went to get while I wrung out the McBaby's wet clothes. I then realised that the bag containing his spare clothes was in the car. (If you saw me a bit later drying a very small pair of pants, two socks and a pair of trousers in the Dyson hand drier in John Lewis, this is why).

She returned. The McBaby threw a pair of pink girls' shoes at her. This is an insult in some countries, and not particularly pleasant in ours. I asked him to apologise.

"Sorry shoes", he said, the little sod.

She then had to fit his shoes in his bare feet as his socks were so wet. "This isn't normal procedure" she said. "They're fine," I said, embarrassment winning out over the parental responsibility of ensuring your child's shoes fit.

I went to pay for them and the McBaby made a den under a couple of chairs. I paid and thanked my lucky stars that he had only done a couple of embarrassing things when he yelled; "I DONE A WEE". Cue much frantic whispering between the lady and her surly colleague. Probably pointing out that it should be "I DID a wee" not "done".

I sheepishly asked for some kitchen roll and apologised while on my knees cleaning up what was, to be fair, a minimal amount of wee.

"It's fine" she said in that voice that tells you it really, really isn't.

So McBaby, please don't let your feet grow anymore, as we are not returning; I'm too embarrassed and we're probably barred anyway.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Satan's Trifecta

As we stopped by the side of the A338 for the McBaby to do a wee, I patted him on the back for telling me in time that he needed the loo, and ignored the fact that most of the wee was ending up on my shoes.

Just 15 minutes before this as I was drying him after a hour-long swim, he told me he needed the toilet as I was changing him out of his swimming trunks. Between us, in a tiny, dirty cubicle, we managed to catch most of the poo in the just-discarded swimming nappy, while I caught the rest in a pair of socks.

Then, struggling to find anywhere to put this little package in the boot of the car, I found a bottle of whiskey in a presentation box in the boot of the car; it had been destined for a friend but I forgot to give it to her. I took out the bottle and put the socks inside the box. Note to self; throw that box away; don't give it to anyone as a gift.

So, having dealt with this, why did I not see the next thing coming? As a treat after swimming, I thought I'd take him to the new café that's opened up about 15 minutes from our house. It's lovely in there, very clean and homely with friendly, welcoming staff. We had a look at the menu, and as I turned to ask the McBaby what he'd like to eat, noticed his cheeks puffed out like a plumber telling me about the boiler.

Instinctively, I held him away from me so that my body caught all of the vomit while the lady behind the counter told me the specials. I legged it to the toilet and bless her, the lady came with me and offered lots of kitchen roll, praising me for ensuring none of the sick went on the floor.

We apologised profusely to the amazing staff; I noticed a customer at a table near the door who didn't look too impressed with what she'd just seen so hopefully she writes a blog too so I can experience it from someone else's point of view.

The McBaby and I limboed out of the door and back to the car and made it home. I'm currently doing our fourth load of laundry of the day, but thankful that the police officers that were stopping people on the main road somehow let me go by unimpeded. Perhaps they could smell us.


Monday, 3 November 2014

What we did for our anniversary..

MrM bought me a card and wrote such a beautiful message in it that I cried; he then presented me with two beautiful autumnal bouquets.

I on the other hand wrote him a joke: "Knock knock"

"Who's there?"


"Phil who?"

"Phil Salotlonger than four years!"

No, I don't know why he sticks with me, either.

Anyway, we met, as usual, at the church where we got married on our anniversary. We arranged to meet at lunchtime which seemed to coincide with some community service work. The McBaby and I very nearly found ourselves donning yellow jackets and getting started, but fortunately, the McBaby ran away and stole a worker's rake, proving he's not criminally minded. Fortunately MrM arrived just after that (not the right way round cf our wedding day).

The next day, childfree, MrM and I went to yoga together. Romantic. He then took me for breakfast at Bill's and then lunch at Brebis on Bartholomew Street, Newbury. Now that's spoiling your wife; I really started to feel bad about my joke-writing (perhaps I should also mention my quip about how we had been happily married for two years. "We've been married for four, cheeky." said MrM, patiently.

It's in the former Citizen's Advice office. "I can give you advice, if you like," said the affable Mark Thomas-esque host who was attentive, helpful and knowledgeable. With a fabulous wine collection, I kicked myself for offering to drive and indeed was told jokingly that soft drinks were only available for the pregnant and those who were driving.

The décor is simple and elegant and there's no off-putting music which is very true to French cuisine and extremely laid back and relaxing. The focus really is on the food which it should be.

I started with the salt-baked beetroot for one of my five-a-day; followed by a gorgeous salmon dish, with mussels.

Followed by a blissful chocolate marquise dessert with crumbled shortbread and a salted caramel icecream.

I am going to be nicer to MrM; no more bad jokes, so that we're in with a shout of making it to five years so we have an excuse to come back here. Bliss.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

"Yee ha"

The McBaby's job options are at present likely to be either cowboy, pirate, runner or Peppa Pig episode tester. So to fulfil the first option, we took himto see some real life cowboys when we were in Buenos Aires. Argentina is well-known for its "gauchos" and you can spend a few days in the countryside on an "estacion" living the life of a real life cowboy.

We didn't stray far from the city so decided to do the toddler-friendly version of the gaucho ranch by taking the McBaby to the Feria de Mataderos. This takes place every Sunday in Avenida de Lisandro del Torre which is quite some way from the centre of the city, so we took two buses, including the 55 out to the sticks, making the journey equally eventful as the destination.

(This was the journey where I inadvertently nearly caused a riot because I was holding the McBaby and a young woman didn't give me her seat. On the same trip, the bus driver accidentally closed the door on a woman getting on the bus and so we departed minus one of her shoes. Then another woman got her handbag stuck in my dress, and ripped away, leaving a giant, embarrassing hole in my fabric).

A very helpful woman pointed us in the right direction, and we arrived in searing heat to see people dressed in traditional garb, dancing, waving handkerchiefs and singing. This seemed like one of the most authentic experiences that we had in Buenos Aires; the place wasn't quite was elegant as the rest of the city and most people here were locals enjoying a fabulous party atmosphere. All of the most essential Argentinian food items were available from stall holders and we did our best to sample the lot; churros, choripan (a filled sausage sandwich which I didn't taste but smelled amazing), panchos (ditto, this time a traditional hot dog), ice-cream (wow, Argentinians eat a lot of ice cream!) and empanadas.

There were a number of stalls selling hideous gnome-like creatures. These are called "Duendito" and are good luck elves that you can personalise for people.

The McBaby got a bit hot and bothered, so we didn't buy any of the huge array of handmade traditional crafts on offer or see the Carerra de Sortija where the horsemen show off their skills with a race. Watchign the traditional folk dancing and seeing the colourful characters walking around was a great experience, and one that came quite far down the list in all of our guidebooks, but our most treasured memory of our trip.

Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his blue elephant

As you'll remember, even in his new incarnation and not the shite modern version, Postman Pat drives around in a Royal Mail van with his cat Jess. He does not, repeat, not, deliver his letters and parcels with the aid of a blue circus elephant. Unless you live in our house.

The McBaby has taken Pat out of his van and teamed him up with the elephant from a circus train toy from the 1970s. This odd couple regularly visit nursery, the shops and even came on holiday recently and saw a real elephant at the zoo; all of which he survived. What it did not survive was our walk along the canal. The McBaby had walked for a good few miles, so I popped him onto my shoulders as we strolled along the canal. Then a flash of blue whizzed past my eyes, followed by a soft plop as Pat created ripples in the canal.

"Why did you do that?" I asked.

"I don't know. Can you get it out."

I nearly fell in. My mind was wondering whether to rescue him or to teach the McBaby a lesson. If I find Pat and get him out, he'll just throw him in again. If I don't get him, I'm a horrible mum. I decided to try to get him, but couldn't see him anywhere.

"I'm really sorry, I can't din him".

"Could you use the elephant's trunk?"

I didn't. So Pat is probably in the Kennet and Avon somewhere.

Did I do the right thing?

Have you lost a much-loved toy? I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Le McBaby et sa classe francaise

Bilingualism is one of those goals that most well-meaning parents have for their children for various reasons including the ability to communicate and enhanced self-confidence. That said, my reasons for wanting this are stronger than most and yet another example of a mother projecting their failures onto their little one.

I have a non native mother who DIDN'T teach us her first language, leading to years of missed opportunities and thousands of people asking me why I don't speak, read or understand her language. I made a couple of half hearted efforts at learning Spanish (one day I'll write a blog about when I was about eight years old and led the world to believe that I WAS Spanish), French, Chinese and Japanese, but my knowledge is so lacking that I've happily asked people if they have haemorrhoids*, if they could lick my arm** and once told a friend that I had a big hippo***

So I absolutely jumped at the chance for Le McBaby to try a French class at the language academy in Newbury. This tiny shopfront in the arcade between the Kitchenmonger and Strada belies a HUGE school with hundreds of classrooms upstairs.

I took Le McBaby in for his class to a warm welcome from the staff into a colourful and engaging room occupied by about 8 well-behaved children. The McBaby wouldn't let go of me and wrapped his legs around me like ivy growing around a drainpipe. Eventually he was coaxed away from me by the promise of a soft elephant toy and sat with the others looking terrified and blinking back tears.

They were invited to choose some plastic fruit from the front of the classroom with the aim of learning the construction "j'aime les......." such as "j'aime les bananes"; "j'aime les pommes".

Le McBaby said he liked elephants when prompted. Incidentally, they addressed him as Monsieur [my surname] which is not the same as his. Oops.

He eventually chose a banana although he wouldn't fetch it from the front of the class for fear of relinquishing the elephant, and said he liked it in English.

They then chose an animal and then sang a song about un petit escargot before the lesson continued without us. While the others talked about their favourite colours, le prof asked Le McBaby what his favourite colour was. He stood up and announced to the class that his name was Le McBaby with such solemnity that I nearly cried.

We then tried to exit quietly, but of course, we had to give l'elephant back. Huge tantrum lasting all the way back to the car. "Tantrum" in French is "Crise de colere", just so you know....

*I was trying to ask someone if they had change in Cantonese

**trying to get rid of an attacker when I lived in France, I said "lick my arm" instead of "let go of my arm"

***I was trying to make a joke about my big handbag in Japan.

Saturday, 25 October 2014


Picture the scene; on holiday, glass of wine on the table, looking out onto the street scene and soaking up the glorious evening sunshine. Suddenly there's a massive crash as the McBaby inexplicably has just thrown a cushion, knocking the full glass to the floor causing broken shards and liquid to spread in a thousand directions.

"Why did you do that?" I asked him.

"I was playing with the cushion", he said.

"But why did you throw it?"

"I was playing with the cushion".

"But why did you throw it?"

"I was playing..."

"Yes, I know you were playing with it, but why? Why did you throw it at the glass? Why?"

"MUMMY! Stop saying 'why'!"

That's my line!

Thursday, 23 October 2014


Me: "McBaby would you like some cake?"

McBaby: "NO! I want an apple."

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cafe Tortoni

One thing that is very noticeable about Buenos Aires is that everyone is very child-orientated. It might not be a great place with few green spaces and busy roads, but people are very tolerant of the McBaby's various noises and it's simply not possible to get onto the bus (collectivo) or underground (subte) with the McBaby without people immediately giving up their seat and INSISTING you take it. It's amazing. We even caused a mini riot when we got on one bus and a group of younger women didn't give up their seats.

I've decided to make a note of the places that were nice to the McBaby. The first place was Café Tortoni on Avenida de Mayo (825). This café, open since 1858, is the oldest in the whole of Argentina. It's a bit touristy and we had to wait to get in, but I was charmed by it, as was the McBaby who enjoyed an omelette and a chocolate milkshake. Even the likes of Gabriela Sabatini are former customers although I doubt she stayed to watch the tango show. The décor doesn't appear to have changed since it opened and the menu is a little on the 1970s side, but it's full of history and the service is old-school.