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A bit of a grand title – entirely tongue in cheek – and I am now going to reduce it to the little happenings of my little world – no great philosophy essay here.

Little Miss is getting into drawing now. She used to ‘draw’ on anything but paper – hands and feet still a favourite but now she also asks for paper.She then focuses very intently on what she is doing (she pulls her tongue out when she concentrates, so cute). Drawing is still not confined to paper of course. If you want a few more minutes to finish your cuppa at breakfast on a Sunday morning before the energetic play starts, leave the bowl of porridge there. Usually there is a little left. Little Miss delicately takes a handful, smears it on the table and draws in it (yoghurt works well too). I can’t guarantee this will happen of course and you might end up with porridge on your ceiling, but if you don’t mind a little mess, it’s a great way to finish a meal without the Little one getting impatient! And drawing in porridge is quite fun for the grown-ups too.
Anyway, I digress. Sometimes she tells us what she’s drawing (spiders are favourites, or ‘ider’ as she says it). Then she hands us the pen, points at the paper (or porridge) and makes requests: a cat, a fish, a spider, a duck.

 

I can’t draw. Last time it happened, Little Miss asked me to draw a fox. That stretched my non-existent abilities to the limit. I tried a couple of times. She scrunched her eyebrows, looked at me, looked back at the paper – quizzically –  then asked me to draw again (sigh). I turned to Mr B and said,” I’m not sure drawing a box here would work but it’s tempting! I can see why the aviator did it”. I received…. a completely blank look. Mr B had no idea what I was talking about. So I clarified: “you know St Exupery, the Little Prince, please draw me a sheep”. Nope. Nothing.

 

The Little Prince made a big impression on me. When I was young, I liked the planets, the strange characters, the imaginings. A little older, the deeper thoughts resonated with me and I started to understand the melancholy, bittersweet story. Now, I read it and weep at the ending (having a baby really opens the flood gates. Do they ever shut? Even a little?). Apparently it’s one of the best-selling books in the world, and I must admit I assumed that everyone in the Western World, ok maybe just Europe, ok fine, at least everyone I knew, had read it. But Mr B had never heard of it.

And so once again I was reminded to stop assuming.
So back to drawing. I’ve ordered a book from the library. It’s a children’s book to learn to draw animals from simple shapes. I’m not starting anything too ambitious here! I just want to learn a little, and when Little Miss is old enough, I can show her a few things, get her started if she is interested.

I always wished I could draw well but thought that was reserved for those with special talent. A kind of innate ability that just needed a pen and paper to be realised. When I told friends who could draw how talented they were, they never said, “yes but this took hours and hours and hours of practice”. They just ‘humbly’ nodded. I stopped thinking about it, then a few years ago, I realised that maybe I didn’t have an innate talent to draw (ok there’s no maybe about it!) but that didn’t mean I couldn’t practice and enjoy it anyway. I took a day class in botanical drawing and loved it. Then, as with so many other things, life took over and drawing went down the list, dropping off altogether eventually. So I never did learn to draw. But now, I have the best motivation in the world.


So here I go again. And next time I try to draw a bear, Little Miss won’t make the sound for pig then look at me questioningly. No, she will say bear, loud and clear, in that sweet voice she is developing. Bear mummy!

Yes, I can do it.

I am picky when it comes to children’s books. Little Miss is 18 months and very active (understatement of the century that one!) so she doesn’t sit through stories easily. The text has to be short, fun and interesting enough that I don’t mind reading it again and again (and again), with compelling illustrations to keep Little Miss’ focus on the page.
So, in no particular order, here are the offerings that Little Miss currently approves of (from the many many books we borrow at the library or find in charity shops!).

Mij Kelly and Mary McQuillan – these are great fun to read aloud and I love Mary McQ’s illustrations. Favourite quote: ‘Oh what a shock! What a dramas of dramas! A COW in the bed – a cow in pyjamas!

Tiger by Nick Butterworth –  Short text with loads of opportunities for sound effects, roaring and bouncing and miaowing. For the grown-ups, look out for the little blue bird on the very last page!

Yes we still co-sleep a lot and I love finding pictures that show the snuggly, cosy bliss that this can bring. I was vehemently against co-sleeping before I had Little Miss, in fact I didn’t understand the concept at all, but as with many thoughts and convictions, having a child just changes everything!

So to continue that theme (kind of)…

Sometimes I like to curl up in a ball by Vicki Churchill and Charles Fuge – the title slightly alarmed me when I first saw that book at the Children’s centre! As with Mij Kelly’s, it rhymes. There is something very satisfying about reading a rhyming text aloud (I know I know , poetry and all that, but I never really got it until now!). I ask where the — (insert animal name here, mole. wombat, koala, millipede, frog, etc etc!) is and Little Miss loves to point them out.

Still can’t think for the life of me what a wombat is in French though!

The biggest bed in the world by Lindsay Camp and Jonathan Langley – they do have an alarming number of children and animals piled into that bed but a sweet book all the same.

Usborne’s easy words to read – at first I didn’t like the text. The sentences felt too short and nothing flowed. But now I find that there is a certain rhythm to it and they are Little Miss’ current favourites. She asks for ‘Tttt’ (Ted) and ‘Ffff’ (Fox) and loves to point at the little duck on each page (she used to say ouack ouack but can now say duck as of last week!). Whether she will still be interested when she’s learning to read (the aim of the books) is another matter but for now, they do the job!

Shark in the park by Nick Sharratt – It rhymes, it has a window on every other page where you can see the shark’s fin (or is it?), what more could you want!

Ten little ladybirds by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith – counting fun with ladybirds sticking out of the pages and disappearing one by one. There is also one in the series with caterpillars which has a surprise on the last page.

Dear Zoo noisy book – I know the Dear Zoo is a classic but this has been great fun. A flap on each page to discover the animal and the sound to go with it. Little Miss loves it and I’ve had to stick it back together many times to repair over-enthusiastic flap lifting! Which reminds me, I must find the Sellotape again.

Others include: Bringing down the moon by Jonathan Emmett and Vanessa Cabban (I used to read her blog but she hasn’t been active in a while, I miss it. Hope she’s ok. Update: sadly she is gone); Why elephant has a trunk (part of the Tinga Tinga tales which I think was also on telly, though we’ve borrowed a couple of other books which I liked a lot less); and Big Blue Train by Julia Jarman and Adrian Reynolds.

If your baby is a little younger, the Usborne Touchy-Feely ‘That’s not my…..’ series is great (Little Miss has outgrown them now). Favourites were That’s not my dragon and That’s not my lion and sometimes That’s not my car!

And a couple of my personal favourites: Just like my mum/Just like my dad by David Melling. Good presents for father’s/mother’s day (I got them for Mr B this year). And this is just spot on – Little Miss and me in the morning.

I hope these have given you a bit of inspiration if you have little ones. Any other suggestions, do share! I am always on the look out for a good book!

I sat on my pain au chocolat.

I didn’t enjoy it.

I didn’t even feel it. You would think that sitting on a fluffy pastry would give you some kind of sensory experience, but no, nothing.

Now, I didn’t deliberately sit on my pain au chocolat to test this hypothesis – if you are still reading and were wondering. No. I boarded a crowded train and spotted a free seat. I leapt, throwing all my wordly possessions to secure it. A slight over-reaction you might think. Well, I had been awake since 230am because of a particularly bad night with Little Miss (though when I left the house, she and Mr B were sound asleep), so a seat was the holly grail. On went bag number 1, my water bottle, thermos of tea, the Metro, bag number 2, and the aforementioned pastry in a little brown paper bag. I then had to retrieve all of those pretty quickly to sit down and get out of people’s way. And by people, I mean grumpy commuters who had just missed out on a seat.

So I sat heavily, breathing a sigh of relief. The train left the station. I sipped my tea. I looked around, glanced at the Metro. Suddendly I remembered my little morning treat, but no pain au chocolat to be seen. I looked sideways at my neighbour, suspicious. He was earnestly tapping on his laptop, crumb-free. Then it dawned on me. The only place it could be. I lifted slightly and patted the seat. There it was.

I retrieved it, wondering about the lovely pain au cholocat-shaped stain on my backside from the oozed fat (excessive warmth and a significant weight will do that to a pain au chocolat). I looked inside the little brown bag. Flat as a pancake, all the puff and crustiness and fluffy loveliness squished out of it.
Did I eat it? Well, no matter how unnatural a shape it was now sporting – and it was as unnatural as can be for a pain au chocolat – it was still a treat… sipping a cup of tea, sitting in a crowded train, eating a pain chocolat – as much of a treat as I’m gonna get in my lovely commuting life. So yes I ate it, I savoured it, I relished. every. flattened and oozed out. bite.

The end.

I leave the bed and the warm snuggles and soft snores of Little Miss and Mr B way too early. Little Miss had a bad night – teething, the beginning of a cold? Hard to say, but after the small hours, we all pile up in the family bed so even if awake, at least we’re warm and comfy.

One week on and already it feels darker. Autumn is in air. I get up the stairs at the train station feeling not quite right. As I get to the top, I feel my backside, hoping to find my dress, only to feel my tights. I’ve been giving the guy behind me an eyful. Carrying my heavy laptop bag on top of a small cardi has given plenty of friction and my dress must have slowly but steadily ascended all the way from home. Lovely. I pull it back down and decide it’s too early in the morning to feel embarrassed. All day I end up checking that my dress is where it should be, like I have a nervous tick that forces me to touch my backside every few minutes. Great!

The station is cold and gloomy, but hey I have my cuppa and copy of the Metro, a freebie paper (though trying to avoid the news is a bit hard, might have to give up that habit and bring a book).

I get to Paddington, walk through the smoke, look up and see… sunshine… Given that my office area doesn’t have windows and we all end up like moles blinking in the day light every time we leave the office, I enjoy what will probably be my last beam of natural light for a few hours…

Bus 1, bus 2 blah blah. Getting to the office, I change from ‘commuting shoes’ to ‘office shoes’. I used to feel a little self conscious walking around with huge white trainers paired with little office dresses. I now have slightly more understated commuting shoes, but frankly I would wear clown shoes if it meant having comfy feet on my journey.

I feel knackered by mid afternoon – bad night, early morning, frantic meetings – so get a large hot chocolate. I then get offered some chocolate fingers. As the sugar rush hasn’t yet kicked in, I scoff them all. I’m hoping for a burst of energy. I get nauseous instead. Bwauh!

Later, on, in Bus number 1, I’m starting to wish I hadn’t had all that chocolate as the bus starts and stops, starts and stops in slow motion.

Bus 2, I’m sitting besides squabbling sibblings – a first. But muuuuuuummmmmm, tell her to stop, muummmmmm! Tell her to stop copying me. But muuuuuummmmm. Suddendly we all hear: ‘This bus terminates here’, I’m sorry, what? We’re still two stops from destination. ‘The next bus stops are closed’. Ooook, and my train is about to leave, let’s attempt another sprint.

I catch the train, just, and the forced exercise has done me good, I feel a bit refreshed. I open my copy of the Stylist (another freebie for us lucky commuters), and see an interview with the author of the book I’m currently reading. She has a new book out. Ok so I’m a book, and over a year behind, but hey, I’m still reading it. There is hope I might get to the end.

I get home

………………………………….and breathe.

Now you’re thinking, can she make these posts any more mundane? Why yes I think I probably can, and most likely will. Because my life is mundane right now. And I am embracing it!

Now why is reading a book news here? Simple. I used to read avidly, to devour books, to read anywhere and everywhere – when waking up, when going to bed, whilst eating, watching TV, going to the toilet, and more. But slowly, little by little, this slipped away.


I would devour good books, bad books, mediocre books, exceptional books, then I became more discerning. This didn’t mean reading worthy books, the classics, those heavy in intellectual challenges. No, my criterion was reading only those books that truly gripped me. But then I would become despondent when a good story ended …disappointingly. I’ve always tended to read the ending of a book early, just to get a sneak preview. Now I did it consistently. A bad ending can ruin a good book. And I don’t mean just a positive ending (though I hate a sad ending). No I mean an ending that lifts you up, inspires you, gives you a different take on the world, makes you emerge blurry eyed and bubbling with possibilties.
So if an ending seemed disappointing, I would close that book and move on. No second chance.
So slowly slowly, fewer and fewer books. Then, fertility treatment, pregnancy, baby, work, and books became informational, to be glanced at to grab the piece of advice needed (by the way, never read ‘experts’ books on babies, they will only make you feel crap).
I tried a few books along the way, but they always fizzled away. And I miss it.

I miss the escape, the passion. So here goes. My first book in … ooh… a long time. There is so much pressure on you, little book! Will I make it to the end?

What book am I reading, you ask? More on that another day, but

………………………………….so far, so good.

– Tiptoe out of the house when everyone is still asleep, missing our morning cuddles – check

– Enjoy the morning light, knowing soon it will be cold….and dark… and most likely wet… and winter… – check

– Get to the train station just in time then find out the train is delayed – check

– Finally get on the train, after everybody has elbowed their way in and get a seat – check (a seat, woohoo!!)

– Get a seat next to (1) loud music in earphones, (2) loud gum chewing, (3) loud snotty sniffing and coughing, (4) loud mobile conversation (now this can actually be quite interesting – some people are surprisingly open in front of 50 strangers!) or, and frankly worst of all (5) someone who wants to chat (I’m sorry, we’re commuters, it’s 630am, no!) – number 5 today, yeah! check

– Further delays due to a fatality on the line (sadly sadly, fast lines attracts those – and there seem to be ‘incidents’ as the conductor generally puts it, on a regular basis. This morning’s was unusually frank – and it puts everything in perspective, but this post is about the triviality and mind numbingness of commuting so I shall plough on, much like I had to this morning) – check

– Get to Paddington, walk through the cloud of smoke just outside the station and wait for first bus – check

– Get onto bus once everybody has elbowed their way in and get a seat – I’m sorry, what? – YES a seat!! – check

– Get onto second bus and get a seat – WHAT???? – YES YES YES – check

– Arrive at work, 2 hours 20 minutes later, tired hungry and eager to start the day – check

– Spend a hectic day of meetings, meetings and more meetings,  intersperse with a bit of office politics, and … more meetings. Resist the urge to look at photos of Little Miss – check

– Leave and wait for first bus – check

– Get into overcrowded hot bus and stand, much like a sardine in a sardine can – check

– Get into overcrowded hot bus number 2 and repeat – check

– Look in a desultory way at the London landmarks, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Marble Arch, jut wishing to get home – check

– Enjoy the sights of Edgware Road’s Lebanese restaurants, shisha cafes, and arabic-script signs – check

– Arrive in Paddington and start running as train is due to leave in 2 minutes – check

– Join the sea of commuters running for same train, and start maneuvres to move up the queue and get a seat, feeling much like a fish in a great tide – check

– Get a seat next to (4) – see above – sadly conversation in foreign language so no juicy details to marvel at, on the plus side, A SEAT!!! AGAIN!!!, woohoo! – check

– Stare vaguely in the distance, thinking I should either do some work, or at least read something interesting, and not mustering the energy for either – check

– Get to home town and walk home, enjoying the fact that it’s still light and still warm-ish – check

– Get home after short walk, and 2 hours after leaving work – check

– Enjoy our little family back together and the warm cuddles of Little Miss and Mr B – check

The best part of my day

I have stopped watching the news. On hearing this, a friend asked me how I will cope, being cut off from what’s happening in the world. Well, as far as I can see the news are telling us that the world is mostly violence, death and destruction, so I think I will be quite happy in blissfull ignorance.

I admit I never had a thick skin but motherhood has stripped me bare and the news, those snippets telling us so crudely of lives destroyed, are like acid on raw skin. Unbearable. How do I prepare my child for this, how do I protect her, how do I help her keep her wide eyed curiosity, her thirst for the world and all its wonders, whilst also keeping her safe, not too trusting, not too open?

And yes maybe that is the world as it is. Maybe, but that’s not all that the world is. At every turn, there are other news, of good deeds, of good people, of good.

‘The news’ should carrry a health warning, and be followed by a little post traumatic councelling session for us over sensitive news watchers: “Now people, what you’ve just seen is pretty horrible. Here is how you can wipe your soul clean and go about your day without haunting flashbacks”.

So that’s it. Until the news become more balanced – and I don’t mean the token feel-good story on the blood-soaked mountain of horrors, or the quirky ones on a day light on carnage – I will take position behind the sofa with my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears bellowing a phonics song about a gorilla playing the guitar (go guitar gorilla go).  Until the news show us the bad AND the good, the ugly AND the uplifting, in a way that says “there is hope, and kindness, and wonders”, until then I’m out. And you know what, I feel better already.