Sunday 26 May 2013

Week 90- Michael Jackson, Wonder Woman and watching paint dry

Nancy and Ben are visiting Granny and Grandad for a couple of nights while I write a funding application.

And I’m thinking, lie in.

Hollyoaks omnibus.

Having a beer in the middle of the day while writing, and listening to Michael Jackson.
All the things that feel like a different person’s life.

I waved them off, with Nancy chirping, ‘bye, bye mummy!’

I match her enthusiasm, turn on my heels and virtually skip back to the house, shut the door.

And then it hits me.

They’ve gone.

And I felt completely weird.

Nancy and I have spent the night apart before. Lots of times in fact.

But it’s always when I’ve gone somewhere.

I hadn’t thought how empty the flat would feel without her. The flat that could, Tetris style, fit into a porta cabin, felt massive.

I couldn’t bear it.

I gave myself a talking to and attempted to get down to work.

I’d got an unmanageable list of stuff I was going to get through in their absence.

 All the stuff that is virtually impossible to do with a little person around.

 Like painting a front door.

But, turns out a job like that doesn’t only need a child-free house.

It also needs a certain degree of skill.

So. Day one without Nancy, and the flat feels huge.
Which is lucky, as I can’t leave it as I’ve painted the front door a colour described on the tin as ‘pillar box red’. But over the previous black door, just looks like the scene of a heinous crime.

And on top of that, I can’t close it, as it will dry shut.
I’m sat off on the computer with a cup of tea, wearing two jumpers, as a strong breeze tears through the flat, Googling 'how long does paint take to dry?'

What did I used to do pre-Nancy? I have a quick nosey on Facebook to see what the rest of the world’s up to.

And it’s all, ‘Having a picnic in Hyde Park’, ‘Off to the pictures-yay!’, ‘The sun’s out, yippee- PUB!’

And I’m sat off in multiple layers, staring at a menacingly empty page.

At least I can have a lie in.

But nooooooooooooooo.

6.45am on day two my eyes spring open. I’m wide awake sans Nancy.

I’m lying in bed waiting for a ‘mummy, get out!’ holler from the next room, which obviously doesn’t materialise.

 So there’s only thing for it.

Paint the bloody door again.

Day two. And I’m pretty much where I was on day one. Except I forgot to buy more milk, so can’t have the addition of tea.

And I realise, I need to man up when Nancy’s not here.

And also accept I’m not Wonder Woman.

There are certain skills I have acquired as a consequence of becoming a parent. Typing an e-mail while a toddler sits on my foot playing horsey horsey, for example.

And other skills that haven’t magically appeared. Doing a year’s worth of major house jobs in three days.

Next time it’s going to be different.
It’ll be all staying out late, daytime drinking, and watching 18 films in the middle of the day.

Instead of literally watching paint dry.

Friday 24 May 2013

BRIGHTON FRINGE- bleeding knees, downing cider, and doing the festival for free this bank holiday...

It's bank holiday weekend and Brighton Fringe.
Tick and tickski.
On top of that, there’s a bucket load of stuff for free.

So... where to start.

There’s Fringe City, on New England Road, which is a fab thing to do as a family; wandering around to get a taste for shows you might want to see.
It sets the festivally atmosphere up nicely.
There’s a man there who makes the most gigantic bubbles. Like, huge. Just don’t stand too close if you don’t want to start your day covered in washing up liquid.

The Fringe City Family Picnic is also on this Saturday, which takes place in Pavilion Gardens. Fingers crossed it's nice weather, mind, as it doesn’t look too hopeful given today’s apocalyptic downpour.

Then at 4pm on Saturday, there’s a Vintage Fashion Show at the Spiegel Tent garden, where they’ll be men and women’s clothes from the 1920s to the 1950s.
That just sounds immense.
I went to the Spiegel Tent for a pint the other night after seeing Failure at the Nightingale, which was anything but. Performance artist, Mary Pearson, gave a high energy performance of an 'aspiring pop diva, and chronic underachiever'. She didn’t even bat an eyelid when she cut her knee open and was standing on a plinth with blood dripping down her leg.

But I digress. The Spiegel Tent never fails to put you in the festival spirit. I downed two pints of cider in record, time and momentarily forgot it was my turn to get up with Nancy at 5.30am the next morning. 
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about.

Hendrick's Carnival of Knowledge, at Angel House, Hove, has lots of free literature events going on over the weekend, so would be worth a look in.

And there’s free comedy events going on as well, at different Laughing Horse @ venues throughout the city.

You could literally do the whole festival this bank holiday on beer money.
Just set your alarm if it’s your turn to do the early morning wake up call.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Week 89- broken bones, Peppa Pig and An Officer and a Gentleman

Turns out I'm more hardcore than I realised.

I thought I was tough, getting through childbirth with my bits still pretty much intact.

But, turns out I've been walking round with a bit of broken bone in my foot. And I don't even remember doing it.

I fell over my foot on my walk home from work.

Who does that without a drink?

They weren’t high shoes- more Tom Cruise's elevators than Naomi Campbell's nine-inchers.

There's something so toe-curlingly embarrassing about stacking it in public.

I’d go so far as to say, falling face down in a car park, with only a couple of fellas in a white van pointing at you for sympathy, has to be up there as one of life’s absolute clangers.

And there’s only one outcome.

Have a quick cry.

A quick, ugly-faced, cry.

Then pick yourself up, and hobble to the bus stop.

The next morning, as I attempted to get up, I couldn’t put any weight on my right foot at all.

I sat, wincing through the pain, at breakfast, as Nancy attempted to climb onto my leg to play ‘horsey, horsey.’

I could only hop to move.

Now, hopping isn’t the easiest way to get about at the best of times.

But hopping, carrying a toddler, is like the parent version of Total Wipe Out.

Ben took me to A and E after dropping Nancy off at the childminders.

The closest we could get to the door was miles away, so, after attempted to hop for about 10 metres, I asked Ben to carry me.

I had a vision of An Officer and A Gentleman.

The reality - being picked up by my midriff; like a Scottish log thrower, and deposited at reception.

And after a prod from the nurse. An x-ray. Another prod. And a look at the x-rays. It turns out a bit of bone had already chipped some time ago.

Like, years ago.

There was literally a bit of bone, disconnected, floating about it my foot.

Wowzers. Totally grim and completely fascinating at the same time.

So, turns out hopping about with a toddler is tricky.

But, attempting to carry a toddler with crutches, is near on impossible.

You also can’t push a pram with crutches. Which means you can’t leave the house.

To go to the shops. To the park. To see friends.

And there’s only so much Peppa Pig you can watch before you’re silently willing Mummy Pig to tell Daddy Pig to do a bit more round the house.

So. I’m hardcore. Possibly.

But good at playing creatively when a bit of me is out of action? Possibly not.

Please don’t let me ever break anything.
Or it’s going to be Boresville central in this flat.

Friday 17 May 2013

BRIGHTON FRINGE - Mummy dance-offs and surviving the festival with kids

Experiencing Brighton Fringe with your kids is exciting and exhausting in equal measure. There is so much to choose from. Over 600 family-friendly events throughout the four weeks, in fact.

So, thank you The Warren, a fab pop-up venue tucked behind raucous West Street, for providing the perfect oasis.

With an enclosed fairy-lit garden, two venues and a bar, it’s the perfect place to take a pitstop – whether for a pint, a play with the little ones, or both.

The programme looks pretty impressive as well, for children and grown-ups alike, which is no accident. Nicola Haydn, from Otherplace Productions, which runs The Warren, flags up how important it is to have events that appeal to all ages, ‘because parents should enjoy the children’s shows too.’ Hurrah!
If your child is over eight, then The Wrong Crowd’s The Girl with theIron Claws, a story of a girl who dares to follow her longing, on 21 May, is cited as one to watch at this venue. 

It’s a tough one trying to find the time or energy to go out dancing when you have young children. And when you do, there’s the little niggle that kids have stripped you of any sense of rhythm and you’ve swapped raving for the ‘baby rock’.
Baby Loves Disco, 27 May, is the perfect solution. 

It’s clubbing.
But not as we know it.

Set in Brighton nightclub Audio, the bar is transformed into a childproof space. Disco and pop are played by a club DJ, with the entertainment ranging from musical statues to a mummy dance-off.
Seriously. A mummy dance-off.

With cocktails as prizes.
There’s even a chillout area, complete with play tunnels and circus tents.

HijackFamily Fringe looks worth a gander, too, with nine days of shows, 25 May-2 June, curated for 2-12 year olds and their families.  We are promised theatre, film, comedy, dance, music and digital, at Komedia and other venues across the city.
So take a deep breath, get the rice cakes at the ready, because we’re going for a family-friendly four-week extravaganza.

Just as long as I win the mum dance-off, we’ll be laughing.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Week 88- Fake tans, double glazing websites and walking home without your trousers on

Any free moment to get stuff done when you have kids is totally precious.

The things I can get done in ten minutes now, would probably have taken me a good two hours, pre-Nancy.

The panic takes over.

The realisation that if you don't hang out the washing in the short time when she's having a nap, it will sit in the washing machine for another couple of days, until it starts to smell like the boy at primary school that no-one wanted to partner up with for country dancing classes. For example.

So when Nancy's grandparents came down for a couple of days, it was like, woohoo, let's sort out EVERYTHING.

Which was a tad ambitious.

I now realise that:

a) you can't set up a website in a morning, unless you want it to look like you're selling double glazing.

Which I'm not.


b) it's important, no, essential, to listen to the instructions from the woman at the salon before going for a spray tan.

It was the wedding of one of my dearest friends at the weekend.

I've been going on for over six months about doing some exercise to look how I wanted to in my bridesmaid's dress.

And then suddenly it was two days until the big day.

And a bit late to even crank up the Slendertone.

So I thought a bit of colour might do the trick. Especially as I'm so pasty I was a bit worried I was going to look like an uncooked human sausage in my beautiful pale pink dress.

So I made an emergency booking at the treatment rooms a few streets from my flat.

Nancy was hanging off my jeans announcing she'd done a poo, so I only half listened to the list of things the beautician told me to remember to do while on the phone with her.

And the next day, I left Nancy happily playing with Granda and Nana as I rushed to make my appointment.

It was a bit Ghostbusters, the whole experience. Getting into a dome shaped tent while I had fake tan fired at me through what looked like the Proton Pack that Ray used to zap the Marshmallow Man.

But it was when she came back to check on me as I dried myself with an industrial hair dryer, that I realised I'd over looked something.

'Have you not brought anything loose to wear like I said on the phone?'

I told her I hadn't.

'Well you can't put your jeans on,' she said, 'coz it will make your legs go all streaky.'


'And you can't wear your shoes either, have you not brought flip flops like I said?'


'Right, well I don't know what to suggest.'

There was clearly only one solution.

I'd have to walk home, barefoot, in my pants, clutching my jeans and shoes, like some kind of simpleton who'd forgotten how to get dressed.

I don't know what was worse.

The fact I looked like I'd been on holiday to Jamaica.

Or that my nextdoor neighbour who'd said hi whilst washing his car as I'd left the house, was now greeting me sans trousers on the way back in.

So I've made a bit of a promise to myself to do things a bit slower.

Or at least listen a bit harder.

Because I might be getting things done quickly, but Im not sure how productive it is if it means waking the streets half naked to do so. 

Sunday 5 May 2013

Week 87- Michael Rosen, safety nets and toddlers on leads

We took Nancy to see Michael Rosen this morning as part of The Brighton Festival.

She loves We're Going on a Bear Hunt, so I thought it would be a right treat to see the man himself performing it.

And it was.

For Ben and me.
Turns out the green food bag clip used for keeping the rice cakes fresh suddenly became massively interesting.

As all the children were shouting out, ‘I’m not scared!’, Nancy was shouting, ‘open it, open it!’ as she thrust the clip at me, which I did, for her then to close it, hand it back to me, and the cycle continued.
It was an alternate version of opening an expensive birthday present, and thinking  the wrapping paper is by far the best part of the gift.

I’m quickly realising that you can’t second guess a toddler.

They are a law unto themselves.
And for that reason I have invested in some reins.

Nancy sees something she fancies, and she’s off.
Pegging it down the aisle of the supermarket, or squiggling out of my grip when we’re walking along the pavement.

Or worse still, having a full on tantrum, lying on the floor, going rigid - the works. Which is a right laugh when you’re on your own with her.

So I thought reins would be the answer.
She feels independent, like she’s walking around on her own.

And I have hold of her at the other end.

But I’m not sure how I feel about it. Without over thinking everything, is it not a bit intrusive, keeping a hold of someone like that, however small they are?
While schlepping along on the seafront, I saw lots of people walking dogs, and I felt a little bit like I’m walking Nancy too. It is attached to a ladybird bag, but I still basically have her on a lead.

But then we went down to the sea, and at the water’s edge, Nancy made a run for the nearest wave.
Shoes and socks on, along with the only pair of trousers I’d packed.
She fearlessly threw herself at the sea.
And I totally shit myself.

But then remembered she was attached to me via the lead, and we were back in control.

I don’t want to be the panicky mum who’s kid turns up at school packed with remedies for everything and a letter saying she's not allowed to take part in team sports, just in case...
But I also don’t want to watch Nancy hurl herself in the open sea, when she is still mastering the ‘kick, kick, kick’ bit at the swimming lessons.

So maybe it’s OK.
Maybe it’s not controlling someone; it’s just providing a safety net.

And I guess that’s what you do throughout their lives.
Give them the opportunities, and see what they like.

And if all else fails, give them a green food bag clip.