Friday, 29 July 2011

I'm sorry I haven't a clue (apparently)

Me and the baby visited friends this week who have a four year old and a newborn. I've only been doing this parenting lark for ten months now, so didn't appreciate that their home was not kitted out for my adventurous and somewhat clumsy ten month old. He used a chair to clamber into a standing position until it swivelled depositing him on the floor with blood coming out of his nose. I did my best to appear like a parent who is cool with mishaps - rather that the insane first time parent I really am - while I was there. Then spent the entire drive home panicking that he wasn't actually asleep, but in a coma from a serious head injury sustained while in my care.I only mention this as for the longest time I thought everyone else knew more about parenting than me. I would ask for advice on every little thing until one day I realised that I am allowed to make decisions about my own son. Then I witnessed the world of competitive parenting.

Actually I first witnessed the world of competitive grandparenting which is far more serious. I am blessed that neither my mother nor my mother-in-law pass opinion unless asked. Ok, the latter does comment on my husband's weight, but as she is his mother I figure that's their issue to work out. Both my husband and I were raised by parents from the "in my day" school of parenting. They believed that complimenting their offspring would make us spoiled and unruly so instead they operated a carefully orchestrated system of sarcasm and apparent disinterest in our achievements.

As grandparents, however, they take a completely different approach and dote on their grandson (while never actually telling us that they do of course). Mother-in-law had friends over from Australia and was hosting one of her famous buffets (think Bridget Jones' mother crossed with Ria from Butterflies). Her friends are all grandparents with a few years under their belts so she is used to hearing their boasts. I am new to this world so imagine my horror as they one-upped each other (including sharing which of their offspring was barren) until there was an eventual and clear winner. This was earned by the grandmother who flew four hours to babysit her grandchildren so her daughter could attend a course for work.

In light of this oneupmanship my own experiences pale into insignificance. It starts as who is breastfeeding and who is not - you're out of the game early if you fail at this hurdle. Then it's weaning and whether you prepare all the (organic - naturally) food yourself. Sleep patterns, teeth, crawling, etc, etc. It's the most dull conversation and lately I'm constantly being asked if and when I'm going back to work. Frankly it's no one's business, but as my husband reminded me, people think I am now incapable of conversing about anything other than babies and all matters related to.

The point of this is the comment a woman made to me as she shared a revelation about my grave error in giving my son water to drink as 'a breastfed baby does not need water.' I instantly felt terrible. She then followed up with an invitation to attend a meeting to find out about 'natural parenting' in tones usually reserved for 'specialist' interests. Up until now I'd thought my parenting was pretty natural. My son laughs, plays, eats really well, sits up at the table when we go out to eat and sometimes even sleeps all night. Apparently I'm a terrible person because I allow him to watch Rastamouse while I pop to the loo or make a cup of tea. No amount of eco nappies, bamboo swaddling, organic baby food and soothing music can make up for that sort of negligence !

Friday, 22 July 2011

The sordid case of life imitating art...

You know how the saying goes 'there is a novel inside all of us' ? Well, a few years ago - with some prompting - I decided to unleash that novel. It was a vanity project really as I was convinced that my wit and intelligence would light up the pages and it would be a runaway success. Instead I laboured over this work and found that the characters took on a life of their own and at times I really struggled to find 'their voices.' It wasn't as simple as it seemed when I narrated possible chapters in my head while cleaning or running. Once in front of the screen all my genius prose dried up and I was left with clunky paragraphs that didn't really follow on from each other. I asked a friend to read it and he was nice about it, but I didn't submit it to anyone as it was never finished and I wasn't sure it would be of interest to anyone else. This was about ten years ago.

Then my life started to resemble events in my novel. Things my protagonist did or said which I'd forgotten writing about happened in my life and I wasn't sure whether I was subconsciously channelling the character I'd written or it was just unfortunate coincidence. Then recently I watched a Channel 4 Dispatches programme about the murder of Anni Dewani (Hindocha) in South Africa on her honeymoon. I realised that her name was the same as my character (and the same spelling) and there were startling similarities in her story with the exception that my character wasn't murdered, but left for dead at the beginning of the novel. It was so chilling I decided that in the interests of public safety the novel inside me is best left unwritten !!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

I wonder if Dave Lamb remembers me ?

The story so far:

As anyone who knows me well will tell you I am a fanatic about Come Dine With Me. Recently they advertised for potential contestants in Croydon and for a millisecond I considered applying then remembered my vow to never do reality telly, so I encouraged my friend Gemma to do it instead.

Then I told my hubbie that the voiceover of Big Barn Farm on Cbeebies is done by Dave Lamb (the now legendary narrator of CDWM). He wasn't actually listening so a few days later I heard a cry of "Oh My Days !!" from the front room and he asked if the voice of Petal the Pig in Big Barn Farm was Dave Lamb. I rolled my eyes to the ceiling, tutted and went back to making the dinner.

Then we were watching Miranda and hubbie said "Oh look it's Dave Lamb," and I was open mouthed in shock as I realised he was none other than Janutha from Goodness Gracious Me !! All this time I had no idea.

So today I decided to stalk him even further and was even more shocked to discover that not only was he at the same university as me, but at the same time. Oh hold on it gets better.  He was part of a comedy troupe called the Cheese Shop who I actually knew at the time (well I knew a couple of them from the Radio Station we all presented shows on) so I probably at some point actually met him if not drank in the same bars as him.

In the space of a few weeks Dave Lamb has gone from that bloke who does the funny commentary on my favourite TV show to a bloke I probably met at some point 20 years ago in the Biko Bar !!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

"Rebekah, you're fired !" Go on Rupes, grow a pair and do it !!

That News Corp have withdrawn from the bidding process for BSkyB was nothing like as unexpected as the rapid closure of the NOTW.  What is surprising is that someone as egotisical as Rupert (Montgomery Burns) Murdoch has actually jumped before being pushed. His continued faith in Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) and the blatant disregard with which he sacked people who had nothing to do with the phone hacking paint the picture of a Randolph Hearst character (albeit a less portly depiction than the one Orson Welles made infamous). The political rats throwing themselves over the side rather than admit to having made nice with the Murdoch empire only serve to prove how absolute power corrupts absolutely (to paraphrase). Not one of the main parties comes out of this clean.

Why anyone is in any way surprised that it wasn't just movie stars and John Prescott who were hacked is a mystery. Does anyone truly believe that newspapers write actual news ? Years ago I knew a woman who went on to become Paul Merton's second wife. At the time she had started seeing him her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was doorstopped by the NOTW and asked if he knew that she was having an affair. She found out who had told them as the person had all new furniture paid for by the snooping hacks.

We've known for years that the famous can expect their rubbish to be rifled through and 'sources close to' often means the person's own PR. It isn't exactly a massive leap of faith to see that with the growth of mobile communication it was going to be the next source of information. Private conversations and personal information being made public has led to suspicion being laid at the wrong door and innocent people being sacked (eg. personal assistants to famous folk).

My father-in-law refuses to own a mobile phone and is highly critical of what appears to be an over-reliance on them. He is giddy with schadenfreude over this story as he sees it as proof that nothing good can come of being so available. He reads the Daily Mail so I'm waiting to hear where he thinks they get their 'facts' from.

Monday, 11 July 2011

To Mock a Skinny Bird (and her fella)

So the Beckham girl is called Harper Seven.

It would be uncharitable of me (but entirely in character) to be snooty about this, but I'll suspend disbelief just this once. So let's assume they have read at least one book and her first name is an homage to Harper Lee and I can only make a wild guess that seven was Daddy's shirt number. If you know me at all you'll know I have a pathalogical hatred of all sport so if I'm right about the latter, hubbie will fall over in shock.

While taking the mickey out of the poor child's names would occupy me all day I am far more interested in the error that has been repeated by all the media outlets who've reported this 'news.' The potted history of the Beckham family includes the fact that they were married in 1999 and that Brooklyn is 11 years old. Now I distinctly recall he attended his parents wedding and upon checking he was indeed 4 months old when his parents married in July 1999, so why has no one noticed that he's actually 12 ? Is it the Beckham PR machine rewriting history for us or is it just a mistake ? If it is the former then someone needs to remind them of the existence of search engines and archives.

Ok, you know I wasn't going to leave the name thing alone. What is it with people giving their children more than one name ?  The number of Lily-Roses, Molly-Louises and Tyler-Jacks we meet at various groups makes my head spin. I blame celebrities for this trend and Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis in particular. If you couldn't decide on one name then maybe do the Indian thing and have a formal name  and a family name. It's a truism that a Singh who is Ranvir at work will be called Bunty at home. In my own family we each have at least 4 family names that have evolved over the years and some that we have no clue about the origin of. All I'm saying is instead of naming a child Ocean-Blue or Meadow-Amber why not go for Bunty, Sweety, Tinku or my current fave for my own son, Pookie ?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The cat's been sick and Morrissey is on the telly...

So I decided to start with a momentous first blog and was waxing lyrical about all sorts of nonsense when the cat decided to walk over me to sniff the baby monitor and walked back. In the process he deleted all the writing I'd done. Convinced this was him being a critic I took it personally and told him off. Imagine how guilty I felt when minutes later he was throwing up in the next room !!

It may have been a reaction to my telling him off, but it was more likely to be a result of next door having a barbecue this evening. Neo has been caught on camera in the past licking the cold grills of a barbecue and whenever we eat outdoors he is sick (and mysteriously the last of the sausages go missing !) He has also tried veggie sausages before now and that wasn't a success either. Poor lad had no idea what was going on when he bit into those !

Every year we record a lot of the Glastonbury coverage on the BBC and this year is no exception. The usual course of events is we delete the previous year's recordings which we still haven't watched only to replace them with the new ones. This year we have decided to break with tradition and actually watch them first and have just been watching Morrissey. From the song that signifies when we first met (I want the one I can't have) to the one that was played during our wedding (This Charming Man) the Smiths repertoire is pretty significant to me and hubbie. It makes me realise that the bands that I once thought were so radical and anti-establishment are now middle aged (or in most cases retirement age) and firmly part of the establishment.

I find it hard to let go of things: books, DVDs, CDs, shoes, clothes, memories, expectations. It's a cliche that women love shoes, but in my case it's true. Last year we attended 6 weddings and I was pregnant for all but one of them. As a result I was unable to wear the beautiful shoes I'd chosen specifically to match with outfits and kept for that special and unknown future occasion. When the year of weddings was upon us I was carrying my son and a fair amount else in my frock so pretty shoes were not practical. Ironically I don't really care what I wear on my feet these days, but still have the boxes of magic in case I have a special day to wear them to.

Expectations are far more difficult to let go of. The year before I fell pregnant I decided I was fed up with being unhappy in my body and made an effort to lose weight. Following a sensible eating plan and exercising I became the slimmest I've been as an adult. It was very satisfying to be slim and to feel 'normal' for once. Then I found out that the thing we'd been told wouldn't happen had happened and I was expecting a baby. I was so delighted at the news that I didn't consider how this would affect my body in the longer term as I just thought I'd lose the weight again. What I hadn't appreciated was how difficult it would be to just go back to what I did before. I've heard the term 'getting my body back' and it always sounded a bit shallow, but I think I understand what that is about now. For so long my body has served a purpose and my responsibility has been to maintain it for the wellbeing of another person - from carrying him and supporting him to feeding him.  I barely had time to enjoy being slim and I'm now struggling with the idea that it just won't happen again. It's not the most important thing in life, but it is a difficult thing to let go of.

Right, having managed a blog free of feline interference I'm going to cut and run. The baby is kicking the side of his cot in his sleep (which is pretty much what he did for 9 months when I was his cot !!).

Hasta luego !