Friday, 31 July 2009

Let's go fly a kite...

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You're a bird in a flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

The sun popped out yesterday so we went to the beach. As did everyone else! (I blame the Observer for calling this beach "the new Rock".) It was lovely though.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Secret Seven

I have been tagged by the elegant ChrisH of Home Thoughts Weekly to describe myself in seven words.

My first thought was that I couldn't think of seven words. Then the one that immediately came to mind was "shy", but that's a habit I'm trying to get out of. Actually one of those TV psychometric testing things boiled me down (after ages and hundreds of questions) to an 'extrovert introvert', so I'm shy, but in a noisy way...

Anyway. I'm not using shy as one of my seven, so what else am I?

1. Domestic. In my head I am a Doris Day kind of a domestic goddess with immaculate 1950s style house, pinny neatly tied, not a hair out of place, baking a pie ready for hubby when he returns home from work. In reality I like the house to look nice-ish and clean-ish, but I'm not a tidy person. I iron only the front of clothes (who looks at the back? It only gets sat on and crumpled.) But I do like to make things like bread, elderflower champagne, jam and marmalade, there's always pudding on Sundays and it's a pretty poor day if there isn't a homemade cake of some sort in the cupboard.

2. Creative. I like creativity. I write because I have to, not because I want to. I have completed one novel, the first draft of its sequel and the first draft of a third book. I have the synopses/ideas for at least three other novels stored away for when I should fancy writing them. I like the creative aspect of newspaper work too - page design, picture usage, the headline. There something very satisfying when you put components together on a page and it looks nice.

3. Chatty. I talk too much. My excuse is that I do spend a great deal of time working on computers or stuck at home on my own with nobody to talk to. When I do find someone I can talk to, I find it very hard to stop. I love a good conversation and fortunately I seem to be the sort of person complete strangers will stop and chat to. I had a great conversation about chocolate cosmos at a garden centre on Saturday, much to the horror of my children. "Did you know them?" asked H7 afterwards. "No," I said blithely. She was horrified. She's always being told (by school and CBBC) not to talk to strangers and there was me chatting away to a big group of them. I over e-mail and talk far too long on the telephone too.

4. Undiscovered. I'm undiscovered. So far...

5. Dogged. I'm not a giver upper. If there's something that has to be done I'll do it - eventually. If I've climbed to the top of a mountain (Helvellyn) I'll get back down again. If I've said I'm running 10K, I'll damned well run 10K. If I've said I'll write 50,000 words in November as part of National Novel Writing Month, I bloody well will. (And I have. Twice.) If I've decided I'm NOT having a caesarian, I sure as hell won't, even if the baby (H7) is facing backwards and the midwife has written my name on the list for theatre...

6. Dreamy. I live in a very busy inner world of complicated thoughts and day dreams. It's very annoying when the real world interrupts.

7. Tongue-in-cheeky. I couldn't think of the word to describe this. What I mean is that I'm not always serious. What I say, write or do might seem serious, but I'm possibly (or quite probably) being glib, or flippant or witty. People don't always get this. Perhaps I do it with too much of a straight face? If anyone does know the word to describe this, please could you tell me?

Now I have to tag other people so I hereby tag: Bovey Belle, Her on the Hill, Mark, TattieWeasle, Dan, Pondside and Pipany.

* The picture is 'Sun' by R5.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Simple things please simple minds

Little things that please are what makes life livable sometimes. These are a few of mine from the past week or so.

1. The Sales. Sometimes I don't bother with the sales. I'm not one to thrust in elbow to elbow with fellow shoppers and fight over bargains. Occasionally, though, the mood takes me. This is how the mood took me this week:

What we have is: Bedspread from Laura Ashely (half price), golden, silky, utterly glamorous. I adore it. Handbag, also from Laura Ashley. Reduced from £45 to £12 and big enough to carry my sandwich box to work and a lap-top should I ever get one. Two pairs of sandals from Clarks. I only bought two pairs of shoes. Brian bought three. Clarks love us. Really bright skirt and brown linen trousers from Monsoon. Utterly gorgeous. If the sun doesn't shine, at least I'll have that skirt to brighten my day!

2. I saw it and I wanted it. This is a Ben the Bin as seen on Dragon's Den. "Give him your money", I yelled at the Dragons in the style of Bob Geldof. Thankfully they did and I got my Ben the Bin.

Why did I want one? I hate smelly kitchen bins, so we've always just used a supermarket bag, tossed in the bottom of the cupboard under the sink. The Ben the Bin holds the bag. Simples.

3. Lauren Bag. I wanted one of these too. Available from in various lovely fabrics, this one is called bubbles.
I was lucky enough to win mine in a Pipany giveaway and it is as fabulous as I'd anticipated. I have a huge collection of various types of re-usable bags, but this one is king (or should that be queen?) It is very lightweight when empty and folds up into my handbag. The two pockets on the outside are perfect for water bottles or suncream or other such things (and it's a good place to hide bars of Green & Blacks chocolate). There's a big pocket on the inside too, which is where I stowed all the important maps and instructions for our London trip. In the picture the bag has swallowed: a toy horse, a toy goat, three waterproof coats, a magazine, a paperback book, a large tub of popcorn, a camera, a packet of hula hoops, three muesli bars and The Observer. The straps are wide and comfortable and (most important of all) it doesn't fall off my shoulder and clonk my five-year-old on the head (another bag is guilty of that). I love it.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

London or bust

Crikey. It's only the first Tuesday of the school hols and already we have done so much. Less surprisingly it is raining and I have long since given up shaking my fist at the sky and saying: "Why? Why? Why?" in anguished tones. Now I just open up the curtains at the crack of doom, look at the weather and say: "You bastard!"

Will the children of today remember long , hot summer days of childhood, as I do? Somehow I doubt it. Memories have to be made of other things not reliant on weather.

There was a film recently where the main character (was it Jim Carrey?) had to say 'yes' to every suggestion. I haven't seen the film, but the premise lodged in my mind, so when Kerry at Think Parents.Net/Digital Outlook asked me, as one of Disney's blogging Blu-ray ambassadors, to come up to London and be filmed for an internet advert extolling the virtues of the glorious Blu-ray, what else could I say, but 'yes'?

So we got on a train, all four of us, on Saturday at 7.33 am and headed for Paddington. H7 and R5 hadn't been on a train before. We broke their duck with three different types: Arriva slow but comfortable with a buffet trolley, Great Western fast thing with buffet car and Underground fast, mad, hot, squashed thing.

Brian and the girls headed off to find the hotel (Crowne Plaza) and then got back on the Tube again because two small girls had a whim to see where their Harrods bears were 'born'. There was a sale at Harrods. They had to come back out again to breathe and washed up on the steps of the V&A some time later.

Meanwhile I Undergrounded up north to Kentish Town to meet other Blu-ray bloggers: Gorgeous Jo, Handsome Dan and Lovely Linda and her Terrific Twins to sit on a squishy sofa in someone's living room and talk about the wonders of Blu-ray. Not difficult because we LOVE Blu-ray. (And if you've got an HD-ready TV and no Blu-ray player, you're MAD). Rachel, the hair and make-up artist, attempted to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear ready for the filming, then we sat and talked and then paused while Underground trains tunnelled underneath and a helicopter circled noisily overhead.

Handsome director said: "Can you say that good bit you were just saying again please?"

Me (thinks): Er, what was I saying?

It was a different way to spend a Saturday afternoon and was enormous fun.

Then it was back onto the squash of the Tube to the V&A to be reunited with the rest of my family and have a quick tour of the fashion exhibition.

H7 (in a loud voice): "Why are we looking at these? They're just dresses. Boring." Said in front of a heavily embroidered evening dress from 1775, just down from Diana's iconic beaded number.

The V&A provided refreshments in the form of brownies and cappuccino, then it was off on the Underground and back to the hotel.

"You're not going to believe this Mummy," said R5 skipping down the Embankment in the direction of the Hotel. She hadn't stayed in anything like this before.

It was pure Hotel Babylon of course. Which was why Brian and I were grinning so hilariously at the staff. I bet they knew why.

In the room the children discovered the mini bar while we discovered the prices. Then, after one of the children (OK, me) had removed the mini Glenfiddich and said how much! we discovered that it electronically counted what you had removed. Oops. We had to confess and blame it on the children.

H7: "Why blame it on me? It wasn't my fault!"

Then we hoofed across Blackfriars Bridge to Tate Modern for a whistlestop tour of my favourite paintings: Barnet Newmann's Adam and Eve (reunited at last); a Jackson Pollock; one of Monet's later Waterlilies; the full-sized version of the Rothko that we have a print of hanging on our stairs and finally The Snail by Matisse.

R5: "That isn't a snail Mummy."

Mummy: "Yes it is, see the way its shell curves."

R5, firmly: "It isn't a snail Mummy."

Dinner was back at the hotel in its Locatelli-satellite Italian restaurant. The food was utterly divine, from the complimentary Parmesan crisps to the tiramisu. The staff were adorably attentive and looked after the children brilliantly, bringing their ice-cream (Which flavour? Everything! No problem.) while we ate our entrees and polished off the Pinot Grigio.

By 8.30pm we were all asleep in our beds.

At midnight I awoke to an anguished gaze from H7 who was sharing a double bed with R5. The latter had her feet in H7's lap. We swapped.

At 2.30am R5 kicked me thoroughly on the bottom. I turned over to defend my posterior and she sneezed in my face. Twice. You swine. Swine flu? Eek!

Breakfast was a buffet. Anything you wanted to eat served up with a sea of coffee.

Bleary Mummy: "Any more coffee in the pot?"

Waitress (appearing as if by magic): "Do you need more coffee?"

I love hotels.

We then spent £30 on taxis taking the suitcase over to Paddington station. Are we mad? No. It's not as if we had to pay for anything else and it was convenient. And worth it for the sheer joy for H7 and R5 of travelling in a taxi for the first time.

We spent the morning in the Vue in Leicester Square watching the first showing in the UK of a Disney film, but I'm not allowed to mention it because it's embargoed until the end of the month. It was in 3D which we've never seen before and it was fantastic.

(To buy a similar fabulous spotty bag for London trips, picnics, on the beach etc, see

We then walked to Paddington. Quite mad, yes, but we saw Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery (more Monets, toilets); called in on Liz and Phil (who were out) and then walked through hoards of Race for Lifers across Hyde Park. We hadn't planned to walk all the way, but the tube was full of the aforementioned runners and we'd had enough of the Tube after yesterday.

Then it was Paddington and, ultimately, home and we felt as if we'd been away for a week.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Dog days

We've been watching films here in the PM household over the last couple of days. It's been raining and, after a spell of lovely sunny weather it's sometimes nice just to kick back with a good movie (or three).

Yesterday we headed over to Cardigan to watch Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs at Theatr Mwldan. This was one of those Saturday cinema visits when they have to turn up the volume to cover the good-natured crunching of a hundred little hands into buckets of popcorn. It didn't drown out R5, however, who laughed so joyously at Sid the Sloth's antics with his three dinosaur eggs that people had to turn around and Look.

It is totally hilarious. Sometimes sequels can be disappointing, but I think Ice Age gets better and better with every film. The biggest laugh of all though was when we heard the first cry of Ellie the Mammoth's new baby and it was answered by the baby in the audience.

We've also been watching two more Disney Blu-ray discs supplied by ThinkParents.Net. This time we were treated to Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Bolt. The former has real life action and has a somewhat thin plot whereby Chloe the Beverly Hills chihuahua gets lost in Mexico and roughneck chihuahua Papi goes to rescue her. On the way Chloe discovers her 'bark' and that, though diminutive, chihuahuas can be tough and save the day. Not my cup of tea, admittedly, but H7 and R5 loved it to bits. Real dogs 'talking' is very much their kind of thing.

Much more to my taste was the animated Bolt, with the lead (geddit?) voiced by John Travolta. I'm not a massive Travolta fan, but he does good dog. Astonishingly even the annoying Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) is excellent as the voice of Penny, Bolt's devoted co-star.

Bolt is the super-powered dog star (with Penny) of the biggest show in Hollywood, but he does not know that really he just an ordinary dog with special effects. He accidentally gets sent in a parcel to New York and has to find his way home aided and abetted by Mittens the cynical cat and Rhino the hamster. In Disney-speak on the journey from East cost to West Bolt discovers that he doesn't need his superpowers to be a hero.

I roared with laughter all the way through. So much so that H7 and R5 were forced to turn around and Look. Like Ice Age III it has many levels, the kids laugh at the slapstick and the toilet humour (as do the dads) and the mums laugh knowingly at the other bits. Clever stuff.