Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wonderful World, Beautiful Days – Joe Blogs about the weekend

The parents took me to a field in Devon again. It must be that time of year where we load up the campervan, set off singing Levellers songs loudly, arrive in a field, mummy starts drinking cider and daddy puts up the tent.

Despite the large quantity of cider drunk (or owing to it?), we had a brilliant weekend – I spent most of it running from one muddy puddle to another, splashing around and shrieking. I also got to go on the Ferris Wheel, on the big helter skelter and the chairoplanes. I also spent hours and hours hitting plastic bottles with sticks. Mummy has generously called this “drumming”.

On the Friday before the Levellers acoustic set, my mummy congratulated daddy on buying a new tent. She said that she liked this tent because every time she opened it, someone famous walked past. The first time she opened it, Seth Lakeman walked past. The second time, it was John Robb, then the third time, my friend Elsie appeared. She’s two as well but nowhere near as naughty as me. Unlike me, she didn’t shout into all of the bins, heckle any bands or spend half a day making a den underneath an A-board for “moustaches and coffee”.

But as well as being great for me – there’s also lots for adults to do too. Mummy and Daddy hauled me in to watch lots of fabulous - and hugely eclectic - bands. Unfortunately this meant watching the pair of them dancing like muppets to a line-up that included Jimmy Cliff, Seth Lakeman, 3 Daft Monkeys and the Levellers (twice!), needless to say. I particularly liked Dreadzone, even though I have seen them before, and danced so madly that lots of people asked mummy if they could take my picture.

They also planned to watch acts like Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, but I thought that would be a good time to have a tantrum, meaning that it was a two-man job to put me to bed.

The next day, we decided to get some t-shirts although me and mummy were a bit surprised that daddy bought three that were exactly the same, making us look like the substitutes for the next Holland international game. At least in my bright orange t-shirt I was highly visible, making it much easier for mummy to chase me when I kept running away.

None of us wanted to leave on Monday morning and this time it was my mummy who was the one that kept disappearing. We drove home waving goodbye to the lovely field, already looking forward to next year’s event.

The same place two years ago

Monday, 23 June 2014

McBaby at Behind the Castle

Here I've wittered on about my love (unrequited, sadly) for the Levellers and how amazing it was to see them in my hometown.

What I didn't mention were my parenting fails.

Number one- MrM asked me if I'd packed any nappies for the weekend. Triumphantly, I told him that I'd brought a whole pack of nappies. "They were open, but there are plenty left," I said as he took the McBaby upstairs to put on a new nappy.

A scream from overhead alerted me to something I'd done. But what?

"That's a bag of USED nappies!" he screamed.

Things would improve at the festival, wouldn't they. No.

While watching Newton Faulker, the McBaby pushed his way through the crowd, wearing my ridiculously oversized trainers.

He then zoomed all over the place; through stages, under chairs and even sat in a man's chair when the current occupant stood up temporarily. However, when he ran in to watch Rodney Branigan I was aware of a few people tittering and then the sight of the McBaby mooning at the performer. Who taught him that?!

Behind the Castle

Returning to my home town of Sherborne in Dorset is always a joyful, if sedate affair. So ever since I found out that the Levellers were coming to a festival set behind the castle and next to the lake, I've been driving everyone mad. All Levellers gigs get me excited, but this one was ultra special, because just a mile up the road from Sherborne Castle, my life changed 24 years ago when a friend called me into her study room to play me a tape.

I'd never heard this band before, but bounced around the room to a song called One Way that shook me to the core. When you consider the kind of stuff that was around at the time - Jason Donovan, Vanilla Ice, this handmade music where it seemed so much was happening in one song almost made me cry with happiness.

The rest of Levelling the Land can't be as good, I thought. Since playing that tape and hearing The Game, 15 years, The Boatman, Liberty and Far From Home, I've never, ever, ever failed to regain that sense of wonder at an album that's says so much to the catchiest tunes I've ever heard.

Then you turn the tape over and there's more! Sell out, Another Man's Cause, The Road, The Riverflow and Battle of the Beanfield. I played that tape so much that it disintegrated. Twenty four years on, onto my fourth copy of Levelling the Land, and not far from my old school, I nearly pop with excitement when the Levs' crew are preparing the stage. First time? A woman asks me. I laugh. More like 101st time!

It's been a great day, save for the slight niggle of waiting an hour at the bar, coupled with having our cider confiscated. But that's a minor point in what's been a lovely festival with Seth Lakeman, Steve Knightley, Sheelangig, Cara Dillon and most importantly, POSH TOILETS.

Those old favourites from Levelling the Land are all here tonight. One Way, of course, plus 15 years, Sell Out, Liberty and Riverflow, as well as Carry Me, England My Home, Life Less Ordinary, Cholera Well, Mutiny and the must-have What a Beautiful Day. Also Too Real which I haven't heard live in ages and the brilliant Belaruse. As I bounce home with the Devil Went Down to Georgia echoing in my years, I feel that life has come full circle and can't quite believe I've seen the Levellers in my hometown. I am 15 again, very sweaty and very happy. We'll be back next year if there are two bars!

Friday, 30 May 2014

Morning routines

Since reading “What the most successful people do before breakfast”, by Laura Vanderkam, I’ve been wistfully aiming to get up early. This way, she says, you can get the important stuff done. Stuff that takes a back seat because there just isn’t time, such as exercising, reading, pet projects such as writing a book, and praying. Since I read it, two weeks ago, I’ve managed it twice. I got up early, went swimming and started the day with a fresh focus. It works, it really does. Unless you’re ill, or your husband is ill or you start a new job, or your child won’t get out of bed. All of these have happened in the last two weeks.

Today for example – can’t see Laura Vanderkam thinking much of this:

6.30am – MrM’s alarm goes off. He tells me it’s 6.30am and I curse at my phone for not going off at 6am. I pick it up off the floor, drop it onto my face and notice that it’s run out of battery. Which is interesting as it was on 53% when I went to bed. This is the phone that EE replaced with a faulty handset and I haven’t had time or enough battery power to call them about it.

7am After being woken up three more times, I creak downstairs and do the washing up and put the washing machine on. I make a cup of coffee which I spill everywhere. Run upstairs for more towels, as most of them are in the washing machine that I’ve just switched on.

7.15am Run the bath for the McBaby. He refuses to get up and groans like a teenager. Finally, he wraps his legs around his dad, like Ivy but I prise him away and get him into the bathroom. I turn around to get his toothbrush and find he’s gone. He’s got back into bed.

7.30am After much screaming from all of us, he’s back in the bath, but not happy about it.

7.45am I bundle him into the car. He has to be at nursery at 8am, so I’ll go and get his shoes and let him have a banana and some milk in the car.

8.02am I realise I forgot his shoes. We go into nursery in wellies.

8.03am I hear him tell the nursery staff “my mummy is doing a poo”. No time to dispute this, so drive to work.

8.04am Realise I have not exercised and work starts in 26 minutes. I haven’t prayed (well, not properly -don’t think ‘please, please, please can you make all of the traffic lights green’ counts), I haven’t written my book and I haven’t achieved any personal development goals. I do have half a banana and some milk in the car though.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Domestic bliss

As I posted a few months ago, since the McBaby's arrival, we've started hoovering about four to five times a day. That frequency rivals that of my tea-making and so it's probably not too surprising that the nozzle got blocked the other day. I put a pen, followed by a coathanger, into the nozzle to displace the blockage, only to lose them in there somewhere. Clonking the nozzle with great force onto the patio removed some of the weird fuzz that was in there, but it also meant that I have now split the hose.

I trudged back into the house and tried to find the hose online. Success! I got this email from "Partmaster" that contained this link:

"We are pleased to inform you that we have identified the item you require. To order or to view the latest stock availability and price information you should visit http://www.partmaster.co.uk/cgi-bin/product.pl?PID=3260704

Sorry, the product you have selected is unavailable on this site."

But didn't we buy a Dyson after Christmas the last time I broke the hoover? I found it in the cupboard, and switched it on to find that, unlike my life, it didn't suck. I called MrM who told me that it had stopped working last year 5 minutes after he got it out of the box and that we were now the only people in the UK with a Dyson that didn't work.

So we headed to town to look at hoovers, with me grumbling all the way there about how much I hate retail parks on Sundays. I may have grumbled so much that MrM nearly turned the car around, so our Plan B was to head to John Lewis. At least they sell cake as well as hoovers.

At the display, MrM told me I could have whichever one I wanted which was very kind of him. Perhaps he'll let me choose my own ironing board next. Anyway, I selected the Roomba which hoovers when you're out!

"No, not that one."

"You said choose one so I did."

Bravely an employee approached us and asked if we needed help.

"I'd like the Roomba but my 'husband' disagrees."

He advised us that they're great and do an average of four rooms before running out of steam and room in the cylinder. Perfect. We only have two rooms downstairs. But they don't go upstairs (or downstairs, I clarified) and are best for "busy families" which MrM and I couldn't ascertain was the right category for us.

"How about a Dyson?" he asked, to which I said that we had one but it didn't work. "That's very unusual," he said. "Have you called them?"

I assumed MrM had. For some reason he thought I had. Quite why I would have called them when I didn't know it wasn't working, I don't know, but I hadn't. So we sheepishly said we would call them before coming back to buy the Roomba/another hoover.

So after a silent car journey home, we got the Dyson out. In trying to find the phone number and model number, MrM dislodged a large piece of glass from the pipe before finding the McBaby's cricket stump in there. Apparently, hoovers don't like random bits of rubble inside them. If I'd known this, I wouldn't have contemplated a life with a Roomba to do my cleaning.

To misquote James' Sit Down: "If I hadn't seen such riches, I could live with a dirty floor".


Silent Sunday 27.4.14

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The allotment

A long Easter walk we'd planned got panned five minutes in when the McBaby managed to put his hands in some dog poo that the dog's owner didn't feel necessary to clear up. As well as Toxicariasis which could cause blindness, we were also faced with getting a toddler absolutely covered in foul smelling dog poo home and into the bath. Still furious with him, myself for not stopping him and the dog owner, MrM suggested a trip to the allotment might calm me down.

So we got digging and finally sowed some plants and seeds! We couldn't find the trowel anywhere, so used the McBaby's pink beach spade. He was most put out about this and wouldn't let us use it. We distracted him by enlisting his help to fetch water in the watering can and marking off his own garden within the allotment where he will be growing sunflowers and tomatoes.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Happy Easter!

We're off to the Lambourn open day tomorrow, so in the meantime, check out the card and Easter basket the McBaby made for me. Apparently, there was some chocolate in the basket when it left the nursery. It did not make it home.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Did you enjoy the jam tart we made you?

Lovely guy at McBaby's nursery:

"Did you enjoy the jam tart we made you for mother's day?"

Me: "Er what jam tart?"

"The little monkey must have eaten it! We made you a jam tart on Friday". Pauses. "Did you not get the cornflake cakes or the biscuits last week or the sponge the week before either?"

Someone's got a sweet tooth, just like their mum!



It was the armbands that gave me a clue.

Usually when the McBaby asks for "waty", it means he needs a drink of water. But on this occasion, he wanted to go swimming.

I had a look on the local leisure centre website to see if we could go swimming. After getting a blank page three times, I finally ascertained that there was something called "Aquazone" going on. I typed "aquazone" into the site's search box to see what that mean and it said "no results for your search."

So I put us into our swimming outfits and then put him in the car much to his annoyance. "Waty!" he shouted, as he marched down the street towards the leisure centre. When I eventually put him in the car (sadly, I had to take his armbands off to do this), and we arrived at the leisure centre, he couldn't contain his excitement and bounded up the reception desk.

"Sorry, it's swimming lessons," she said as a heartbroken McBaby peered through the glass at two people in the pool, cordoned off into their own compartment taking up less than a quarter of the pool. The majority of the pool was being unused, creating devastation as I explained to the McBaby that he couldn't go in.

I asked about the sister leisure centres in the two neighbouring towns. "Same story", she said. "Are there any other pools anywhere?" I asked. "Well, there's the private place down the road". Yes!

I called them from the car, via that directory enquiries number with the runners. They put me back through to the leisure centre we'd just come from. I tried again, finally getting through to the posh one who said it was adults only.

I tried the hotel where I used to work. No day passes. But would I be interested in joining?

Then I tried one in town that we'd considered joining some time ago as it's gleaming clean! Yes to day passes! And the toddler goes free! And I'd get a tour!

I headed there along the main road, with the McBaby now purple in the face shouting "WATY, WATY, WATY" for 20 minutes only to sense halfway there that someone's nappy needed changing. Let me say that again, someone's LAST swimming nappy. I stopped by the orange supermarket and as he was so upset, and as I'm so responsible, decided that I would run in and out. Except I joined the slowest checkout queue in the world. What seemed like an hour later, I ran back to the car and we went to the posh gym.

We pulled up, got tutted at by a posh lady on the way in (not sure if this is because I look foreign or because we didn't arrive in a 4x4 or if it was because I'd brought our swimming stuff in a Tesco carrier bag). And because of that, the McBaby REFUSED to go in. He lay down on the floor and shouted "NO!"

So we're back home, in our swimming suits. "Waty day."


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A tenth series.....

"The writing team behind "The Adventures of the McBaby" is pleased to announce a 10th series starting today. The sitcom about long-suffering MrM and his ridiculous sidekick MrsM was first shown in 2004.

Critics said it would never last after a patchy pilot episode but the show took off quickly when the characters shared a flat in the first series. In series three, MrsM moved to London and MrM moved to Margate; the pair later reunited in West Berkshire for series five.

Further episodes took place in France, Hong Kong, New York and Toronto, as well as Hungary (remember the episode where MrM turned out to be fluent in Hungarian?), India (where MrsM repeatedly got mistaken for a waitress by the tourists) and a cliffhanger in Norway and a race to get to work on the Monday morning before the Duke of Kent got there.

Writers set the last two series in West Berkshire with the addition of a new character. Originally, there were fears that the series might have jumped the shark with the addition of the "Scrappy Doo" type character but the McBaby has proved to have added to the laughs.

Head writer Unpreparedmum said: "Happy anniversary MrM!"

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Whatever happened to Goosey Gander

I took the McBaby to a play and learn session that we'd never been to before. It was an eye-opener. Firstly, I tried to hula-hoop to show the McBaby how to do it. Except, it's gone! I can't do it. He just watched me stick a red hoop over my head, whirl my hips madly and look panicked while the hoop slid to the ground.

Anyway, more importantly, I realised that hardly any of the nursery rhymes sounded familiar.

1. Twinkle twinkle, chocolate bar?

What?! A song about rusty cars? Why? What was wrong with the star? Last week at a different rhyme time we had "Old MacDonald had some rain". For the love of Noah, why?!

2. Wind the bobbin up

I have heard this before obviously, but I don't recall hearing it when I was a child, although it sounds like it might be quite old.

3. Horsey horsey

Clippety-clop, no we did not.

4. Flippy floppy scarecrow in a flippy floppy hat

The only scarecrow I was familiar with was Worzel Gummidge.

5. When I was one, I had some fun, the day I went to sea

We didn't have fun.

6. Five little ducks went swimming one day

The tune sounds familiar, but not the words.

7. Sleeping bunnies?


While I'm on the subject, when we used to row our boat, we didn't do any screaming either.

How about these that time has forgotten:

1. Goosey goosey gander.

Probably got consigned to the history books because someone got thrown down the stairs for not saying his prayers.

2. Little Miss Muffet

Again, I suppose those tuffets are hard to find these days. As for curds and whey....

3. Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross.

Haven't heard this one for 20+ years

4. See- saw Marjory Dawes

She's just a character on Shooting Stars now.

5. Jack and Jill

Haven't heard this for yonks - possibly because anyone who uses vinegar and brown paper should be kicked all the way to A&E for not ruling out concussion.

6. here we go round the Mulberry Bush

Has anyone else heard this one recently?

7. Sing a song of sixpence

8. Doctor Foster.

I told someone that I used to know a Dr Foster (who wasn't from Gloucester). My friend didn't know why this was funny.

What other new ones do you sing? What nursery rhymes do you remember?


Monday, 3 March 2014


Ah Paris, city of light, city of romance. How excited we were to find out that our lovely friends were visiting! We’ll have a long weekend, meet them and show the McBaby around!

After all, who doesn’t love the Paris cafĂ© scene? Well, the McBaby, as it turns out. Looks like we won't be going back to Paris any time soon....

His thoughts on the wonderful food...

His thoughts on the gorgeous architecture....

HIs view on the classic street scenes...


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Our new allotment!

We're now allotmenteers!

We've just taken the keys to a massive 3 pole plot and braved the wind and rain this morning to get started. I say "we". It was MrM who did the work while the McBaby and I stomped all over the ground pointing at worms.

Poor MrM got home drenched through - a mixture of sweat and rain thanks to hours of digging and clearing the stones and previous occupant's sweetcorn, only for me to tell him that he was working on the wrong spot.

Sadly, he didn't fall for that at all.

Silent Sunday 2nd March 2014

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Good Life

In 2006, shortly after moving house, we received a letter that began "we note that you are now 0.1 miles outside the catchment area for our allotments and we will shortly be reallocating your plot to someone who lives within the area."

After losing the plot, so to speak, I've missed the allotment every time I've handed over cash for overpriced and overpackaged veg. The good news is that we have reached the top of the waiting list for the allotments where we currently live and will soon be digging, growing and sowing!

With a growing toddler whose appetite expands every day, I'm so thrilled that he'll be able to see that potatoes come from the ground and will experience that wonderful feeling of cooking something that's come directly from the ground.

So exciting. Cue Mr Bloom soundtrack!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Don't jump!

"Well done! How did you get up there? You're not going to jump, are you? How are you going to get down? Well worked out, well done!"


Two different reactions to finding the McBaby on the sideboard. Not sure which one was right!


Monday, 20 January 2014

Compliments of the season..

The McBaby was on the receiving end of the strangest compliment I've ever heard: "He has a very symmetrical face".

Has your LO been complimented in unusual fashion?


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Getting crafty

One of my many, many New Year's resolutions, was that I wanted to be one of those wholesome mums who sits down with their children, a pile of twigs and some spray paint and makes a delightful ornament, that's tied with gingham ribbon and presented to a loved one who is thrilled and puts the objet d'art on the front door to welcome guests.

Because the McBaby and I just don't do craft, probably because although I think I'm a creative, I am terrible at art and just don't know where to start after purchasing crayons and colouring pencils. Many's the time, we've sat down with some pencils and paper only for the McBaby to make a game out of how far he can throw everything.

And even the McNephew is at it, proudly telling the ladies at his new school that his favourite present from Father Christmas was a pair of scissors (before finding that it was more than one day that was required of him. Oh, how many of us in our family have cried and protested 'but I went yesterday!' when being told we had to return to school for a second day).

So, this year, McBaby and I have painted the carpet red in an attempt with straws, brushes and scraps of sponge. This isn't too bad and was accidental. My mum still tells anyone who will listen that as a small child who watched one too many murder mysteries, I deliberately drew the outline of a body on my carpet in marker pen.

After painting the carpet, McBaby tried to drink the paint through the straw. However, we've found an outlet for our creativity with chalk that we've liberally blasted all over the back patio. And with all of this rain, it's literally self-cleaning.

Are there any other adults but me who don't know what crafts to produce? Any seriously simple craft projects are welcome!!

PS. While we had the paint out, we painted a card (because I forgot to post one in time) and I fear for the recipient that it looks like a ransom note.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The beach

Living in land-locked Berkshire, having grown up within sight of the sea on the south coast, one thing that's missing from the McBaby's life is the ability to stroll down to the beach and skim stones into the ocean.

Many's the time I've lamented to MrM (who also grew up near the sea, albeit on a completely different coastline) that there's nothing like a sea view, before going on to mentally construct a lifestyle that would permit such a move.

My sister is lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK and has literally thousands of beaches within driving distance, on which she can surf, build sandcastles or simply walk the dog.

So at the weekend, it was with some disbelief that I found myself leaving the beach 15 minutes after arriving, strapping a sodden and weeping McBaby into the car and shouting "never again!" as I emptied the water out of his boots.

MrM was out "thrashing" (that's 'beating' to most people), and the ladies plus the three boys had driven down to Watergate Bay, with at least one of us hoping for another glimpse of Seth Lakeman, as he'd been surfing there last time we visited.

Small McNephew slept through the visit while the bigger McNephew met two friends and the three of them dug holes in the beach, occasionally splattering us with cold, wet sand.

Meanwhile, the McBaby had his eye on the sea. Not a calm, blue sea, but huge, rolling waves and a tide that could, and did, knock you off your feet, even at ankle height.

So he ran towards it at full pelt. Repeatedly. Every time I thwarted his efforts, he'd scream and wriggle ferociously to get out of my grasp. I tried to hold his hand so he could wade in the sea, but his only desire was to let go of my hand and run into the sea.

We'd attracted a bit of a crowd by this time, so I took my now purple-faced and wet boy back to the car, with my mum trailing behind us, pretending we weren't together.

Living in Berkshire means more than an hour's driving to the sea. On reflection, that's probably the right distance.


In other news, in the time it took me to put a milk bottle in the recycling bin outside, the McBaby had climbed on the kitchen table and thrown six eggs onto the floor one by one. Now that's self-entertainment.

When I put him to bed, I tucked him in with his favourite teddy who received the same treatment as the eggs, only with a look of disdain on his face.


Friday, 3 January 2014

Cream and Sugar the Milkmaids; Snowfall and Snowballs

What a lovely surprise to get a comment from the lead character herself when we recently reviewed the lovely children’s book Lady Davina Dove in a series of 12 by Jani Tully Chaplin.

The McBaby and I loved this Christmassy tale about a manor house and enjoyed harking back to times past when the festive season was more about family and less about shopping. In the review, I said that the book was the probably the best of the 12, simply as we found it enchanting – it certainly wasn’t a comment on the quality of the other eleven.

As if to prove this, the publishers of the Manor House Stories kindly sent us another in the series; this time about Cream and Sugar, the milkmaids. We received it on Christmas Eve, so it could not have been better timed as I read it to the McBaby just before settling him for the night so that Father Christmas could visit.

Again, it’s beautifully illustrated with detailed pictures evoking snowy Christmases and characterful animals. This story is about the work that goes into preparing a meal for a foreign guest - a beautiful, mysterious visitor from Russia. There are snowball fights, sledge rides and magnificent ice sculptures, again with a delightful, nostalgic story complemented by gorgeous and detailed illustrations. Not only that, but it actually tells you how to make an ice bowl which we will definitely try when it gets colder!

Highly recommended! We can’t wait to read more!