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.


El museo de los(t) ninos

We're on holiday in Buenos Aires at the moment, having a late break, trying to catch some sunshine just as an autumnal feel falls over the UK. It's a gorgeous place; romantic, soulful and arty. Try telling that to the McBaby who wants to do nothing but "do running please mummy" along the busy streets (avoiding the copious amounts of dog poo) and to eat the Argentine favourite "dulce de leche."

So, after a couple of days of walking, watching Tango and generally getting a feel for the place, we took a long walk up Avenue Corrientes to the Abasto Shopping Centre, home of the only Kosher McDonalds outside Israel and also home of the Museo of Los Ninos. MrM jokingly called it the Museo of Lost Ninos. How prescient that would turn out to be. Earlier that same day, he had the McBaby on his shoulders and managed to trip over a paving slab. Somehow, I turned around to see this and managed to catch the McBaby who was plummeting towards the ground head first.

The Museum is brilliant - highly colourful, and pleasingly more expensive for children to enter than for adults. It's set out like a little city so that children can sit in cars, stop at the bank, try working at the docks or in supermarkets and see how the water system works (complete with giant toilet and pipes).

The McBaby particularly enjoyed piloting a boat (and setting off the ship's horn) while some other children loaded fruit crates onto it. Then we entered a tactile room with lots of soft, rubbery green fronds hanging from the ceiling. I took a photo of the McBaby and put my camera away. When I looked up, he'd completely vanished. Unfortunately he is not the sort of person who feels inclined to return when you shout his name, not matter how loudly or panicked. And after a minute we truly were panicking, checking the exits (my way was blocked at every one by the staff encouraging the children to run across in front of me - I almost thought it was deliberate at one point in my hysteria), and my brain was going crazy by reminding me that I'd been reading about the fate of aviator Charles Lindbergh's eldest son).

I was screaming the McBaby's name now, imagining the worst and wondering if I'd ever see him again. MrM was much calmer and strategically looked in each different part of the "city" rather than running and screaming indiscriminately. I seem to remember wondering why the staff weren't more concerned and trying to ask in if they could have a look on the cameras, while desperately constructing sentences such as "I've lost my son" in grammatically dubious Spanish.

Eventually, someone said they'd seen him go into another room where we found him, completely unfazed by the panic. I was so relieved to see him I nearly crushed him with a bear hug. I tried to thank all of the staff that had experienced by terrible Spanish with one of them telling me that it happens quite frequently. A member of the public told me that she had six children and hadn't lost any of them - I only had one! Not helpful. Perhaps her children actually come when called?

We tried to cheer ourselves up with a pizza in the shopping mall (keeping a hand on McBaby's shoulder at all times). Don't let our experience put you off visiting this brilliant attraction which will keep young children entertained for hours.


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The sitcom (episode 4)

Sometimes my life is so farcical that I wonder if I'm living in my own version of the Truman Show but my version is a comedy of errors about a hapless mum who is always in over her head.

I spent a recent post moaning about having to work in an office which was so bonkers that a recruitment agent apparently refused to place staff within because it would be "bad for their health", so yesterday was my first day of "freedom".

This is a list of what happened:

*My mum is staying at the moment, so while "chatting" away and having a book read to him, the McBaby pooed on her floor. While clearing it up, I found that he'd also managed to poo inside her handbag. I have to admit, that I did hesitate about cleaning it up as I shouldn't really have been looking in there, and it would have been uproariously funny if she'd found it a few days later. I cleared it up. What a champ.

*I took the McBaby into nursery for a couple of hours so I could write something. I picked him up later and he was wearing nappies, but came with a pooey pair of pants, which I managed to drop on the kitchen floor while showing MrM my domestic skills. I had to clear it up before I realised that they were not the McBaby's pants and he was wearing a nappy, so couldn't have been his poo.

*He also came home with a photo frame complete with photo of him inside. Except I protested that it couldn't be him - "it's a blind child!". Or a child squinting into the sun.

*I then had to take him to a photoshoot that I'd been asked to do for a local charity, so I asked my mum to look after him while I did some snapping. I dragged the main players away from the buffet and posed them for the picture. I did get a few usable pictures, but one of them contains my mother in the background throwing a scone into a hedge. "The McBaby dropped it on the floor so I didn't know what to do with it," she protested.

*During the speeches at the same event, the McBaby threw a conker at the window while the local MP was cutting the ribbon.

*Bumped into a friend on the way home, so invited them to our house. They have a house built by the same construction firm, so friend's DH embarrassingly showed me that I had been locking the door (and the window, it transpires) wrongly since we moved in. This was no help at all when my friend then locked herself in the bathroom and I couldn't get her out, so MrM had to break the lock with a screwdriver. I have form with this topic (see Christmas Eve when father-in-law got locked in and also our old house when a new babysitter got locked in the back bedroom).

*Saw another friend selling her beautiful food from a new stall, so bought the McBaby some cake which he dropped on the floor. So I had to buy another. And another.....

End credits roll....

Next week on Unprepared Mum.....