Friday, 30 April 2010

Who ya callin' Mumsy!?

I was watching the new M&S food ad the other night, semi-comatose on the sofa, when it came to my attention that they'd ditched the 'let's sex up the food' idea for a 'let's play happy families' theme.

I'd got quite used to the old ads - "this isn't just food, this is M&S food" - breathed in an uber sexy way by Ballykissangel's Assumpta and I'd even overcome my annoyance at the fabulous Dervla Kirwan making everyone drool over the food, being married to the equally delicious Rupert Penry Jones and having had the opportunity to wear a fabulous red dress and be mean to the David Tennant version of Dr Who.

Then the new ads appeared. The lovely Caroline Quentin and her jars of Percy Pig sweets ("just because") and M&S food in a whirl of fabulous family summer fun.

"I wonder why they've chosen her," I mused to Brian, who was sitting on my left, equally comatose. (The children were finally in bed, we were finally collapsed.)

He yawned. "I suppose because she's a bit mumsy," he said, rubbing his eyes.
"MUMSY?" I shrieked. "Mumsy? You mean fat."

Brian was wide awake then, alert to the fact that he'd just accidentally driven this conversation into a stone wall at high speed.

"No, not fat, just a mumsy type," he said, hurriedly trying to find reverse to back out of impending carnage, blood, gore and quite possibly fatalities.

"Am I...?" I began, ready to bop him on the nose, but he got his brain into gear first.

"You're not mumsy at all, no way, of course not, no," he said. Collision averted. I don't bop him on the nose.

Hmmm. I hate words like 'mumsy' because it does imply someone of cuddlier proportions, a bit frumpy perhaps. Dervla, mother of two, isn't the least bit mumsy, Caroline, presumably mother of some, is. Caroline seems nice, friendly and warm. Her M&S food is wholesome and healthy, sunny and companionable, sociable and fun. Dervla's was all boudoir dark; food dressed in stockings and suspenders.

Mumsy is, like 'busy mum', red rag to a bull where I'm concerned. Horrid pejorative terms. Why are mums ALWAYS busy? Why do (in advertisement land) 'good' mums have to be slightly cuddly? Note the 'slightly' because the media loves nothing better than demonising obese mums and you should never trust a skinny cook.

Then there's Nigella, who is no thin stick by any description, but neither is she 'mumsy'. I'll bet she's a 'busy mum' though. All that rushing about cooking, writing books and being gorgeous.

Me? I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle. Or perhaps somewhere else completely different. Another planet, perhaps, but definitely not 'mumsy'.

Now, what's for tea tonight? Oh yes, it's not food, it's M&S food (dine in for a tenner). I like M&S.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Spring in my garden

These are all tulips from Sarah Raven's Venetian collection. I think they're just gorgeous, but there are more to come. The oranges have come out first, but there are some dark handsome ones to follow.

I love the fleck of green in this one.

This is a teeny tiny species tulip, just peeping through.

Magnolia Stellata flowering for the first time. It was one of those Gardeners World magazine 'free magnolia for every reader' offers and was little more than a twig when it arrived. I planted it in the garden and, just as it was settling in, it got weeded by mistake. Currently it's in a pot in the lee of the polytunnel until it's big enough to try its chances in the big garden again.

Erysimum Bowles mauve - flowers its socks off for most of the year. What a star!

Dicentra spectabilis - or Dutchman's breeches or bleeding heart etc. 

My favourite paeony fighting its way though the primulas, wild strawberries and aquligias.

This afternoon's project - the wigwam for my sweet peas. Hazel from the hedge bound up with willow. Not the best example of handicraft perhaps, but free.

Merryweather damson, planted just a few weeks ago and now in glorious blossom.

Little gems for a future salad. The polytunnel is bursting at the seams with seedlings.

A tiny fern finds a home in the wall I built last year.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Lovely things...

A really huge loaf of home made bread: I'm still baking my way through Dan Stevens' River Cottage Bread handbook. This is the basic bread recipe with the addition of a couple of handfuls of oats and linseeds. I baked it on my new bakestone - aka a paving slab from Wickes which cost me the princely sum of £2.50.

H8's fabulous new wellies: Hunters, which are the only ones that seem to last as long as their feet grow, this time in a really bright red. These will get an outing to Badminton horse trials on May 2nd, unless there's a miracle and it's still not raining. 

Cycling in the sun: R6 without her stabilisers for the first time. The aim is to get the feet on the pedals, but all in good time!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Sex and the single guinea pig

Spring has sprung and the sap is rising here in the Preseli household. Little lambs are bouncing around in the fields. Maary's still going strong too. More of her in a future post. Of more immediate concern are the antics of the guinea pigs.

Now guinea pigs are sociable animals and must be kept in pairs. To cut a long story short we got these two the Christmas before last - both off Freecycle - hid them in our bedroom for a month (and hell are they noisy 24 hours a day) and sprung the surprise on Christmas day. They are adorable and have led a trouble free existence.

Until now.

Look at him. This is Patchy. Butter wouldn't melt. Eyes like the blackcurrant ones in a box of Rowntrees Fruit Gums. Glossy, shiny coat. Whiskers cuter than the cutest thing. But he's turned from a sweet cute pet rodent into a boiling ferment of libido.

This is his Lucky his friend. Named because he was found in the middle of a field of sheep in the middle of nowhere by someone who had no idea what he was. He was introduced to Patchy and the pair have been firm friends ever since.

Until now.

Confined to his little pink guinea pig palace, even outside in the run on the lawn, Patchy has little opportunity for, to put this delicately, "dating opportunities". So, testosterone reaching boiling point in his tiny body, his amorous attentions could only go in one direction.

Lucky, understandably, complained but being a guinea pig of indeterminate years he really was no match for the younger, fitter and just plain desperate Patchy.

So we keep finding Lucky burrowed into a pile of hay, shaking with fear and singing the guinea pig version of 'Unchained Melody'.

The girls noticed the antics.

R6: "Mummmeeeeee! Patchy's climbing on top of Lucky, I think he's trying to hurt him!" (Actually I think he's trying to shag him.)

H8:  "Mummeee, why is Lucky's fur all sticky?" (Front, as well as back. Patchy, you rotter.)

Patchy, meanwhile, is stretched out like a lord, eyes closed with a happy smile on his exhausted little face.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Bank Holiday Easter Parenting Day

Bank Holiday Mondays at a National Trust property give one the perfect opportunity to observe other parents up close while hopefully hiding ones own shortcomings in the parenting department.

Easter Monday found us at Colby Woodland Garden undertaking nature trails in the name of (as far as the children were concerned) winning a chocolate egg. There were other agendas afoot though (she writes, tone turning towards the sinister). One has to be seen to be a Good Parent and a wholesome run about in a National Trust garden is a Good Parent thing. Exercise for the small thin ones to prevent them becoming small fat ones, despite the quantity (and dubious quality) of chocolate ingested the day before. It also thrusts you cheek by jowl with Other Parents and there were many types on display.

We did the charging about finding the clues, smugly knowing the answers and concealing them from the Cheating Bastard Lazy parents (mostly of boys) who were desperately tackling the difficult green trail.

We laughed (out of sight and earshot) as Thick Lazy Bastard Family huddled around clue number one: What are animals called who do not have a spinal cord? TLB Family, pleased with themselves: Spineless.

The clues were tricky though: The name of a baby eel, a small sparrow-like bird whose name means brown bird, an alga/fungus that clings to trees, I'm not Great or Blue - they haven't got my tail - what am I, etc.

"You're all heart," one CBL Parent wailed as Brian (when asked about clue 11 gave not the answer but a vague wave in the direction of the highest part of the garden).

Smugly clutching our completed green trail (one of only four families to do so that weekend, she says smugly, head swelling) we lunched, watching fat kids being fed twice the normal quantity of food suitable for a child of that age by their Overfeeding Obese parents.

Then R6 and I set off for the easiest red trail in the Walled Garden. Some of the clues were stumping the adults, let alone the children. Shhh! Lacewings are those pretty insects that eat aphids, but whisper it so the hovering Parents Who Don't Know That Sort of Thing don't hear.

There were also a couple of Noisy Jolly Mummy types. The sort whose children are obviously deaf or stupid or both.

We arrived at a clue just after one of these. She was quite the loudest thing in the garden. The clue was what tree is the emblem of the National Trust, with a helpful picture of an oak leaf.

"WHAT'S THAT TREE OLLY," bellowed Jolly Mummy, in an encouraging way grinning manically. "YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS! WE'VE GOT ONE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE GARDEN." Olly dribbled and swung on the sign.

"Oak?" he said doubtfully."

"YES! GOOD BOY! WELL DONE!" JM beamed in a relieved way, as if poor snotty Olly had just won a Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile his sister toddled in the direction of a deep pool of water and made as if to fall in. "YOU'RE GOING TO FALL," yelled JM encouragingly. "THEN THE LADY WILL HAVE TO FISH YOU OUT." The lady, a National Trust volunteer, clutched her mug of cappucino tightly.

"How will she do that?" snotted Olly.

"OH I EXPECT SHE'S GOT A BIG NET," mooed JM, locating the next clue - the national flower of Wales. R6 quietly wrote daffodil on her form. "YOU KNOW WHAT THAT FLOWER IS!"  baaed JM at Olly. "IT'S A DA.... DAFF...."

"Rose," said Olly, eating snot off his index finger. He'll go far that boy. Far away from that mother.

R6 and I found another few clues on our own. We had just one left and arrived at the same time as another Noisily Encouraging Parent.

"What's that flower Lissy," said NEP brightly to her deaf stupid child (who wasn't the least bit deaf or stupid and already had a nice line in rolling eyeballs.) Silence from Lissy. "Come on," said NEP, grinning like a lunatic. "What colour is it?"

"Purple," sulked Lissy, scratching a circle in the gravel path with the toe of her pink wellington boot.

"It's a bluebell," R6 breathed into my ear. We tiptoed quietly away and worked out the clue, then snuck away, met up with H8, G8 and Brian and went to collect our eggs. The helper was explaining to Parents Who Don't Know That Sort of Thing about lacewings. We exchanged knowing glances in a Smug Parent Know It All Oh Shut Up sort of way and then handed in our form.

"You've got all the answers right!" said the National Trust helper, not nearly loud enough. (I resisted the temptation to say pardon.) We beamed smugly. She handed Cadbury eggs out, adults too. We simpered our thanks and went off smugly to eat our prizes in the sunshine.

Then we drove home, smugly, in the 4x4 lite feeling like rather smug but Good Parents.