Mothballs

Time to put the blog officially on ice.

Apologies for the many breaks in service over the last couple of years. Rather than limp on I will say farewell and hope to pick up later when life has calmed down a bit. The heir and the spare are doing well but leave little time for writing. Any time I do get is spent on my beloved podcast, 4amcab. Please do click on the link and explore past and present episodes, I’d love to hear what you think.

Thank you for reading, linking and commenting. I’m sure there’ll be another blog at some stage and you’ll be the first to know about it.

Lots of love to you all,

Rachel

The Old Manor

On a recent visit to a friend’s house, Him Indoors and I thought we’d swing by a place we used to rent in Battersea. We were curious to see whether the fruit trees we planted in the front garden had survived.

I say front garden. A strip of earth a metre by 30cm barely constitutes a window box, but still. Undeterred, we had planted a couple of apple trees, knowing that they would probably outgrow the space. To our astonishment they were still there, carefully pruned and trained by the current tenants.

“I wonder if Connor still lives here,” I muttered to Him Indoors. Connor must have been 5 or 6 years old back then. He spent his days tearing up the neighbourhood on a three-wheeled scooter, only to be occasionally apprehended by his mother. She would slam an uncompromising hand on the young man’s shoulder as he hurtled past, spitting expletives at the residents, to shout, “Connor! Stop being so f***ing rude!” Or, at a slightly further distance (multiply the matriarchal decibels by a factor of 50), “Connorrr! Get out of that f***ing tree!”

“He’s probably old enough to go twocking by now,” sighed Him Indoors darkly as we parked nearby. Twocking, for the uninitiated, is a slightly mangled acronym of ‘Taking Without Owner’s Consent.’ Essentially car theft, of which there is a fair amount in south London. Luckily, the car survived the evening and we saw neither hide nor hair of young Connor. Perhaps he was inside. His house, or possibly prison, we just don’t know.

It’s difficult to disassociate names from the named. A bad experience can put you right off, leaving an unshakeable conviction that you will never, ever name your child Alison because of that awful girl you went to school with (names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Consequently, choosing a name for a baby tends to result in going through those of everyone you’ve ever met and avoiding most of them.

There’s no reason why naming a child after an old nemesis would make you love them any less. It might even redeem that name for you in the future. Connor however was a pretty pervasive influence. Two couples I know have named their first-born after him, and I eye these lovable infants with utter suspicion against my better judgement. For those awaiting the news of number two next week (hello Mother), I can tell you one name that is definitely off the list.

How did you choose the names of your children/pets?  Did you avoid the names of old nemesises (nemisi?)

Putting food on the table

Most evenings around 8pm, Him Indoors and I embark down a well-trodden conversational cul-de-sac. He removes his head briefly from the Guardian comment threads to ask, “What’s for tea?”

An innocent enough question, you might think. My heart sinks. Luckily my brain rises to the occasion – racing through the full range of options suggested by the contents of the fridge. James Martin would be proud of me.

“Pasta and hummus?” No response.
“Spinach and milk?” Nothing.
“Egg – lette?” One eyebrow imperceptibly rises half an inch.
“What do you want to eat?” I ask, hoping to brilliantly volley the dilemma back into his court (and that the answer will require only eggs, hummus, pasta and milk to make.)
“Tapas.”
“That’s like saying you’d like a buffet.”
“Ooh, I WOULD like a buffet.”
“Soup?”
“That’s a drink.”
“With bread?”
“Still a drink.”

A brief discussion follows about my taking the question “What’s for tea?” too personally, and we go our separate ways. I to write a blog post about my inability to produce a basic meal, he to pore mournfully through the freezer. By now he will have discovered that that particular cupboard is also bare.

Who are these people who keep a freezer full of past triumphs anyway? Who has the foresight to cook for their kitchen appliances? Should I make the toaster a portion while I’m at it? Even assuming I had the organisational skills, I just don’t have the vision to look at a lump of frozen guano and see the chicken casserole I made last Wednesday.

My excuse, and I’m sticking to it, is that the freezer is full. Full of peas, ice, croissants, mince and fish fingers. The idea of shoe-horning a couple of lasagnes in there as well is laughable. Perhaps Alpha Mums have a chest freezer in the garage? Not that I’d be any better prepared if we did have the outbuilding required for such a thing. In that scenario the food would be there, but I’d lack the emotional resolve to reconstitute it.

Thank heavens for Tooting, the curry nirvana of the Western world. I couldn’t possibly move to the actual countryside, we’d surely starve.

Tractor!

The big news is that we’ve given the garden an overhaul.  We’ve ditched the veg beds, the worms have been released into the wild and the compost heaps dismantled.  The small boy needs a football pitch!  Whilst it’s sad to see it all go, we haven’t entirely given up on growing our own.  I hope to be back into it before too long, but the small patch of earth is to be used for sitting about and kicking a ball around for the foreseeable whilst we do more baby wrangling (number two due early May.)

There are four small fruit trees in blossom at the moment, so the garden is not quite barren.  Two apples, a cherry and a plum are all budding away and we hope for some home-grown fruit this summer.  The boy is a fruit fiend and loved the apples last year – fingers crossed we get a good crop.  The raspberries also went in the overhaul, but it might be possible to plant some in pots on our new patio (does that mean I’m finally a grown up, having a patio?)

The most exciting discovery for the small boy was to find that we have a ‘Tractor!’ in the shed.  I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a lawnmower.  He was very excited about pushing it up and down, we may have a useful garden helper before long.  No doubt though by the time he’s strong enough to push it around on his own the novelty will have worn off.

Wood collection

“Crash!” (pause) “Uh-oh.”

The Small Boy had caused some kind of collapse of furniture just along the hall.  It occurred to me mid-leap that the pause had at least been followed by speech rather than plaintive wailing, so with a bit of luck he had either dodged the falling masonry or the sound was worse than the reality.

The child brandished a triangular shard of MDF at me and grinned.  It was one of the larger bits of Him Indoors’ wood collection.  He’s a pretty handy DIY-er, but offcuts are never discarded, they are stored away with the other wood on the basis that they are useful.

Despite the extensive and allegedly ‘useful’ collection, a new project requires new wood, which is measured and ceremoniously purchased from B&Q.  “What about the wood collection?” I ask hopefully.  “We don’t have the right wood.”  When the job is finished, several hundred offcuts are carefully stacked away with the rest.  Due to the (still) impending loft conversion, this treasure trove was taking up temporary residence in our hallway and was a great new play-thing for The Small Boy.

I have consulted with a number of friends and colleagues on this and it seems the wood collection is a universal chattel of the modern male.  Often it doesn’t reside in the loft, but behind the dining room door (where it renders said door unopenable.)  Sometimes it takes up residence under a bed, the baby’s cot or a disused cupboard.

Then one day, out of the blue, the unimaginable happened.  The wood collection was loaded into the back of the car and taken to the tip!  Hallelujah!  I could be seen doing a small victory lap around the flat as the car disappeared over the horizon.

Sadly my joy was short-lived.  Not three days later I discovered a small selection of important off-cuts in the shed.  I returned to the house to remonstrate with Him Indoors, only to find him briskly stacking a pile of collapsed boxes and bits of cardboard down the side of a bookcase.  “What are those?” I asked, trying not to assume the worst.  “These,” he explained proudly, “are useful bits of cardboard.”

Bedtime routine

The small boy’s bedtime routine is now pretty well laid out.  6.30pm is bathtime, during which he can be found running around the flat, laughing his head off while I vainly attempt to scoop him up and into the bath with bubbles, bath crayons and half a dozen grubby ducks.  How they can be this grubby when they LIVE IN A BATH is beyond me, but they manage it.

Then it is ‘teeth’ time, during which the small boy brushes my teeth with a grizzled old toothbrush, pausing occasionally to suck some of the toothpaste off or mither for more out of the tube.

Following this: further running around the house, this time the small boy completely starkers, laughing his head off even more, with me chasing him around trying to remember what it was I once read in a Gina Ford book once about non-rowdyness at bedtime.

Gina is so ubiquitous now within parenting circles that I think she has actually become a verb.  Mothers talk about ‘doing Gina’ with their kids, with varying degrees of success, failure or abject horror at the idea of preparing their little one for a 15 minute sleep at precisely 16.45.  (Gina would never say quarter to five.)  Needless to say it never caught on in our house, but her words still ring in my ears as I find myself doing the very thing that awful mother she admonishes on page 145 was doing which made little Tabitha such an unmanageable pain.

By 7.30 or so pyjamas are eventually wrestled on, dummies deployed, stories read.  However, at some stage the most exciting possible occurrence will happen, when ‘Daddy!’ gets home.  Daddy knows about the importance of non-rowdy bedtime, but being the boy’s father must thrust him into the air, tickle, pretend-drop him and other hysterical manoeuvres which are fantastically entertaining but not at all conducive to any form of sleep.  All of this invariably leads to the small boy standing in his cot singing loudly for the next three hours.

Between 8 and 9, there are a series of incursions into his room to return dummies which have been dropped on the most difficult-to-reach part of the floor, take away beakers of milk and his trousers which he will have removed at some stage and now be being swinging enthusiastically around his head.  I have a fantasy that one day I will put him into his cot and he will lie down with whichever cuddly toy he likes best tonight, muttering sweet nothings to his darling mother and drifting off to sleep, but it has yet to occur.  Dream on Gina.

World under 2’s champion car spotter

We took the small boy round the London Wetland Centre to see the ducks yesterday.

He was very excited in the car park.

“Car! … Car!”

“You just wait,” I said, as we walked over a wooden bridge, past a statue of Sir Peter Scott, the great ornithologist and founding member of the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

“Bus!” he cried, delighted, as we passed the 283 dropping punters off from as far afield as Acton.

“That’s right,” I said, “and now we’re going to see the ducks!”

Silence round ‘Wildside’ amongst ducks, geese and a pair of discarded antlers from one of the resident red deer.

Then, “Tractor!” the small boy points excitedly at a vehicle a mile and a half away across a distant field.

Silence round the ‘World Wetlands’ where we saw coots, black-necked swans and a plaster of paris model of a crocodile.

Two cups of tea and a piece of cake later, back to the car park.  “Car! … Car!”

Next week-end I’m planning a trip to our local used car dealership.