Thursday, 30 June 2011

Where it all began

Yesterday night Fanf and I went out for dinner to celebrate his birthday. It is the second time we have been out since O was born (the first time being my birthday). Sometimes I talk to other parents and this seems horrific. Sometimes I talk to other parents and it seems perfectly normal. Well, whatever it seems, it is our life and we don't really have a choice in the matter, the money tree not being indigenous to the planet Earth. Whilst painting the town red with my Fanf is probably something I'd enjoy doing more often than twice a year, only doing it twice a year makes it incredibly special. I was so excited last night, it felt like those first dates. When you're so desperate to be with that one person, to give them all your attention and feel all their attention on you. We had the most amazing night.

We went to La Raffinerie, a classy restaurant in a converted sulphur refinery and sat on the terrace next to the Canal du Midi. It rained (just to stop anyone getting carried away on a wave of southern French romance). We came home and proceeded to play a medley of our favourite love songs, and then any other songs we liked, and drink Fanf's dad's homemade prune liqueur until about 3.30am. We were serenaded, amongst others, by Tom Waits, Cat Power, Madness, General Electriks, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Eric Bibb (of course) and Gorillaz. At 3.30am I would like to say we gently drifted off to sleep in each other's arms but actually Fanf had to pack a suitcase and hotfoot it down to the station to catch a ridiculously early train to Paris for work. And that's where he is right now. In Paris. Allowing me to regale you/bore you with the story of how Bex and Fanf played when the mini-beasts were away. As we left the restaurant we fondly reminisced about how wonderful it was when it was just the two of us. But if it hadn't been so wonderful before we would never have entered the state of constant wonder in which we currently exist, watching Matilda and Owen discover (wreak havoc) on the world.

All that said, if at some point in the future we do manage to ditch the mini-beasts, grab our glad rags and our paint cans maybe three or four times a year, I'm sure I'd still manage to get excited. Nothing is more exciting to me than being with Fanf.

[Photo from those heady Parisian days in one of our favourite haunts, Le Resto-Zinc, where we had one of those life-changing first dates.]

One Singular Sonsation

Yup, our little O has made it to his first birthday. And through rather a lot of banana and chocolate bread (Matilda only got banana bread for her 1st birthday, which goes to show that the second doesn't always get it worse) and strawberries.

We were touched by, and a little jealous of, all the lovely cards and presents that winged their way to France. Matilda is currently roadtesting them all.

I can remember thinking when I was pregnant with Owen, how could I possibly love another one like I love Matilda? And then along came O, and that smile. He's also starting to develop quite a little temper, particularly when it comes to food he wants and is not getting... particularly when that food is chocolate. He's a chocolate chip off the old block.

Monday, 27 June 2011

M & O

This morning we were woken by the sound of Matilda and Owen tootling away to each other in their bedroom. My mind did a leap forward into the future. I imagined them getting up and playing quietly and happily together as I read my book propped up in bed and Fanf slumbered at my side. I can remember getting up and playing with my brothers. We weren't always quiet. We weren't always happy. But we were very often together. Now we're all growed up, my brothers are two of my best friends. Fanf is also very close to his sisters. We want Matilda and Owen to be great mates too.

Matilda can be touchingly sweet with her little brother. She likes to give him a taste of whatever she's eating, she's quick to round up Paddington and return him if he goes astray, she blocks off the stairs with the backpack to curtail potentially harmful escalades (and if he becomes too insistent she picks him up and dumps him unceremoniously at my feet) and she still gives him life-threatening hugs. She can also be jealous, aggressive and mean-spirited. Whatever he's playing with will be ripped from his fingers. If he tries to climb on the sofa when she's there she pushes him off. If she's in Fanf's arms she'll tell Owen there is "pas place" for him, that Fanf is "my daddy, pas Owen daddy". We think all this is pretty normal. We encourage all her nice behaviour but allow her to say if Owen is annoying her.

And sometimes the little tinker can be pretty annoying. He will paw at her face and pull her hair. Or he'll attempt to rip things from her fingers (though he rarely succeeds). But he also has his loving side. The pawing can soften to caressing and he loves nothing better than running about after her. I like to encourage this running game as it makes for nicely knackered little mini-beasts come bedtime.

I imagine the sibling altercations will only get worse as they get older. I fought tooth and nail with my brothers. Literally sometimes. We used to lock ourselves in the bathroom to fight so that mum and dad couldn't stop us. It didn't change the fact that five minutes later we were running around playing Thundercats again. Something I love about being with my brothers now is the feeling that with them, more than with anybody else, I can be myself. They know me, they've seen the best, and the grubby, grubby worst. I can brag, I can whine, I can do a big stinky fart. They won't judge. I won't judge them.

I sincerely hope that when Matilda and Owen are grown up they can do big stinky farts in each other's presence. And everything else that such loving familiarity entails.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Rockabye Baby*, but not as you know it

When the crazy little baby in the treehouse
When tis windy he's got his doudou
And gone to sleep

*It took me quite a few renditions to name that tune but I think it's Rockabye Baby. I prefer the new Matilda-revised lyrics.

Friday, 24 June 2011

What not to wear

30 degrees outside. Suncream? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Sun hat? Er no, woolly hat.

A British, eccentric, sweet and sour approach to summer dressing.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

I want to ride my bi-hiccle

Every morning Matilda, O and I take a trip to the market. O goes on his bike. If I'm lucky Matilda pushes. When O is old enough we can remove the handle and he can learn to cycle properly. These things are brilliant. Easier than a pushchair, more fun and to my mind the kid feels "in" the world.

The bike was given to us by the grandspoilers when the one handed down to us by my belle soeur, Anne, gave up the ghost after Matilda cycled it into bi-hiccle (in Monsterspeak) heaven. Which gives me a rather more important RTBC. Almost everything we use day to day, almost everything we own, has been either given or donated to us second-hand by kind and thoughtful friends and relatives. I do not know how we would have managed without such generosity. Our children would be sleeping in cardboard boxes lined with old socks and playing with bits of wood and dead leaves from the park (oh hang on, they do that now, the playing part not the sleeping part). In fact, I think the only things in the house supplied by Fanf and I are the mini-beasts.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

To Lindtfinity and beyond

My aim this week is to blog every day about the everyday. The simple pleasures. And the good people at Lindt have obliged my modest, and perhaps dull ambition by releasing their latest Creation.

The best thing about mint chocolate, other than the glorious combination of chocolate and mint, is that afterwards you have the agreable sensation that you have just cleaned your teeth. So it's practically good for you.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Dolly Good

At the moment I am mostly listening/singing along to Dolly Parton. I think Dolly is amazing. The emotion in her voice when she sings gives me tingles. So simple, so heartful. I have an energising sense of catharsis when I've spent an hour doing duets with her.

Is it cool to like Dolly Parton? Was it cool and now isn't? Or has it never been cool?

Je m'en fous. I love Dolly.

Monday, 20 June 2011


In search of inspiration I have been digging into The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1, that Nao and Anna gave me for my 30th birthday. I should have done it ages ago.

I sent my collection of scribblings off to a couple of friends recently for some much needed feedback and Jen got back to me today with a most encouraging response. Many were the comments that warmed my cockles but in particular my heart skipped when she told me that my personality shines in the book.

Here's what Truman Capote had to say about personality in an interview with Pati Hill in 1957:

"No, I don't think that style is consciously arrived at, any more than one arrives at the colour of one's eyes. After all, you style is you. At the end the personality of the writer has so much to do with the work. The personality has to be humanly there. Personality is a debased word, I know, but it's what I mean. The writer's individual humanity, his word or gesture toward the world, has to appear almost like a character that makes contact with the reader."

So, according to Jen and Truman Capote, I'm on the right track.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A cornucobbler of RTBCs

This post is three posts cobbled together because I have 3 RTBCs today:

1. It is la Fête des Pères, and our papa is Fanf.
2. Matilda did not have to have an endoscopy.
3. My parents have lent me their camera, I have pictures again!

Fanf began his special day with a quick trip to the hospital for Matilda to have her second x-ray of the weekend. Yesterday she decided to embark upon a culinary experiment to broaden her diet and ate her hairslide. The first I knew of it was when she called me over and told me, "I ate my barrette." I would like to make it clear that we do feed her at least three times a day.

Yesterday the slide was in her stomach.

The doctors were worried that it might get stuck passing from her stomach into her intestines, necessitating an endoscopy, which is why she had to go back today. But thankfully the slide had left the stomach and was on its route south for stinky freedom.

It looks rather big and scary in the x-ray but Matilda seems to be fine and is happily telling everyone that her barrette is in her tummy.

When father and daughter got back from their trip to the hospital they celebrated Father's Day by watching Cars. Again. Every day is Father's Day round here at the moment. And I made Fanf some special Father's Day cookies. I don't much go in for all this Father's Day malarky but any excuse to make cookies is valid in my book.

Just a couple of words about notre papa chéri: bloody brilliant.

Friday, 17 June 2011

RTBC not to have a camera

Today I look kinda prrrurty. I am wearing the lovely red dress Jen sent me post-O last summer (modestly twinned with a midnight blue top, because the world does not need/deserve to see my cleavage... cleavage, hah, I am growing increasingly self-delusional by the day), and the lovely little Joanna Rutter necklace that Katie sent me for my birthday. I was not the most feminine of women before I got me some mini-beasts and things have slipped the wrong side of hairy since. I never wear make-up (nutella, jam, miscellaneous squished fruit, these things do not count) or high heels, I rarely wear jewellery, I do not brush my hair (and thus frequently forget to brush my daughter's) and I shave when I start to trip over my leg hair when walking.

But recently I have discovered that I feel more like a real girl if I:

1. ... put on a dress, and
2. ... wear a necklace.

Feeling like a real girl has never been hugely important to me but I have to admit that at the grand old age of 34, I'm starting to quite like it. Though there is still a total embargo on pink.

So, today I look prrrurty. And because I don't have a camera you're just going to have to take my word for it.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Looking for inspiration

I find myself strangely uninspired to write posts without the aid of my trusty camera. Odd, given that I aspire to be a writer. And I'm a terrible photographer! On Sunday Matilda decided to go to the market in her sundress, and her snake mittens. It was quite the look. Last night she donned one of our Egyptian napkins (everyone has Egyptian napkins, right?) and her plastic dinosaur bucket on her head which looked rather medieval. I would have loved to have taken photos. Also, due to the ridiculous heat (over 30 degrees, now is that really necessary?) my computer goes on strike between the hours of 10am and 6pm. Also also due to the ridiculous heat I go on strike between the hours of 3am and 9pm. But, I have decided to turn scab and try to refind my inspiration.

Here are some things that are giving our little housebarelyholdingtogether RTBCs at the moment.

"Tu me connais, je suis un mec simple: vous. De quoi j'aurais besoin d'autre?" Bless.

Jen and Ju's blogs, both inspirational
Secret thoughts and plans

Cars, especially Flash McQueen, because he's red
Her red shoes with the strawberry and the ladybird (a "cocky nell")
Her red boat dress
(yes, yes, the maternal brainwashing is clearly working a treat, the only colour she doesn't know the word for is pink)
Dancing with mummy

Walking like a miniature happy drunk
Climbing like a miniature sherpa
Eating like a miniature Henry VIII

Friday, 10 June 2011

Friday in photos

Guest cameras, same old shoddy photographer.

Someone didn't want to leave Cessenon Farm.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A very ordinary day

Today was a good day. Today was such a good day that the mini-beasts are both already in bed. It's only 8.30pm. Fanf's not here. What do I do with myself??? Well, obviously the first thing I do is write a post. Hmmm, I do wonder sometimes if blogging is not a huge distraction from something more worthwhile...

So today was a good day. Not because anything special happened. Nothing special happened. We did exactly what we always do. We got up. We went to the market. We played. We ate. O napped. Matilda and I played. We went to the park. We came home. The mini-beasts took a bath (this doesn't happen every day, this happens when they start to smell). O conked out drinking his bottle. Bed for him. Matilda asked (asked!) if she could go to bed at 8.15pm. But somehow this very ordinary day was extraordinarily lovely. Despite the fact that both my children weed on me.

And here I am. There are a hundred and one useful, even necessary activities which I could gainfully undertake. But what I intend to do is take myself off to bed with H.G. Wells. And on that bombshell...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Living Out Loud

The ever thoughtful Ju sent me this in the post today. I've only managed to have a quick flick so far but it looks rather fun. In fact that seems to be the whole point, you have to have fun. According to Ms Smith, "Play is the most important element in discovering who you are." She suggests we try to remember our childhoods in order to rediscover the passion and excitement we experienced as children. As I spend my day with two mini-beasts, play and getting in touch with my own inner mini-beast shouldn't be too much of a problem. It does presume one knows how to knit, which one does not. But I do aspire to be a knitter. I like the clackety clack of the needles. Maybe that will be my first attempt to live out loud.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Bex's Bookshelves: Making Conversation, by Christine Longford

Another gem from Persephone. I'm hooked. I chose this one because in their blurb Persephone said that it wasn't for everyone and that some of their readers hadn't liked it. Ho ho, a challenge. Well I did like it. I thought the central character, Martha's inability to "make conversation", which really means make suitable, socially conventional conversation, was hilarious and I enjoyed Longford's satirical and irreverent take on Martha's world, particularly when she heads to the city of dreaming spires.

Some quotes.

"Miss Spencer had a very wet mouth, which splashed as she spoke."

"If she married she would have to have children, which was boring. But foreign children would be more amusing than English ones; they would grow up speaking several languages, and would be a practical experiment in internationalism."

"Poor thing," said Martha, "If I were a refugee, I wouldn't brush my clothes. I should be only too glad of the excuse to let myself go."

"I hate housekeeping," she said; "I think it's a waste of time. I don't want to apply my knowledge to vegetables."

On applying for Oxford:

"It was an unpleasant thought that in this conglomeration of young women ... everyone's hand was against everyone. The more people were "good", the less chance one had. They were like animals in the jungle, as they sat gobbling their chocolate-pudding."

On Oxford:

"Wouldn't it be heavenly," said Helen, "to lead a life of luxury, instead of being shut up here with all these smelly women?"
"I don't want to be anyone's mistress," said Martha. "I'm not fond enough of physical exercise."

"Well, we've got to stay here," she explained carefully, in words of one syllable, "because we're too poor to have a good time, and we have to earn our living afterwards."

Sunday, 5 June 2011


Sometimes I'm a right moany old crow. One of the things I frequently moan about is that there is no green here. I miss the green of England. When we were in Blighty and roaming around the Cotswolds I was frequently heard to exclaim, "Look at the green." I love green. But look at this.

Green. Beaucoup de green. What is more, a lot of that green is vineyards. Vineyards which turn gorgeous shades of red, brown and orange in the autumn and then yield delicious cheap wine. So this post is a little reminder to myself to open my eyes occasionally and appreciate what I have.

We had a lovely afternoon out walking, catching our first glimpse of sunshine over our long weekend.

Matilda said some things that made me smile.

Fanf: Stop. Listen. What can you hear?
Matilda: Flowers.

Matilda: I need go home because I'm tired and I need do a poo. (Ah, we've all been there.)

And Fanf took a photo of a padlocked gate which made him smile.

If you're thinking "Blimey, who does she think she is, Lord Snowdon?!", make the most of it. The camera had a fatal accident and has departed this world. So for those of you who only check in here to see the mini-beasts, avert your eyes now. It's words, words, words from here on in.

One small step for mankind, one giant giggle for little O

Finally, some evidence of O's ambulatory prowess. Who knew walking could be so hilarious...

Saturday, 4 June 2011

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise #19 Dinosaur Chocolate Biscuits

A four-day weekend. Rain rain rain. Time to get a-baking with my eldest mini-beast. The grandspoilers gave us some dinosaur cookie cutters so we decided we'd make dinosaur biscuits. Only what looked like stegasauri and Tyrannosaurus Reges when we cut them out and plopped them on the baking tray looked like this when they came out.

The plopping should have given me a clue. I think if you want your biscuit dough to keep its shape during baking it should probably not plop. Plopping aside they tasted pretty yummy. So for future batches we abandonned the dinosaurs and went for biscuit-shaped biscuits. They didn't taste any better but they looked slightly more presentable.

In fact the biscuits were so yummy they didn't even get time to cool properly before they all went tummyside.

If you look carefully you can see where Matilda has tucked her last biscuit under the plate. Hidden from prying little O fingers. However, being as she's nice, she did give O a bit in the end.

And he also gave them his seal of approval.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Good things come to those who wait

I have just had a lovely chat with Victoria. Who is Victoria? Well, I don't really know but hopefully I will soon. As I have grumbled on my blog before I find it hard meeting people and making friends here. In an attempt to do something about this, just after Owen was born I put up a notice in my midwife's office to try and start a parents and babies group. I put in jokes, a picture of Calvin and Hobbes (see above) and a thinly veiled bribe involving homemade cakes. Ssssh, Beziers at large does not read my blog, they are not to know that Bexmade cakes have a tendency to stray beyond the bounds of the culinary norm. Or maybe I have more readers than I realise because I got a fabulous zero responses. My midwife said the French just weren't interested. Most of them seem to rip their babes from their breasts and hotfoot it back to work with all possible haste. So when I finally did receive a response today I wasn't surprised that it was from a fellow English stay at home mum. She sounded ever so sweet on the phone. I'm looking forward to meeting up with her.

I'd better get out my pinny and rolling pin. Hooray :)