Thursday, 28 June 2012

2 cute

I know, I know, every mother thinks their little blister is the most adorable creature ever to grace God's green earth. But it just so happens, my thinks are facts. Looking back over the two years since Owen turned our rose between two thorns into mixed doubles, he has been charming the pants and any other item of available clothing off people. I swear a day does not pass without someone fawning all over my boy. He is definitively the cutest, in all senses of the word. And he always has been. I find I have nothing to add to previous descriptions of my second born. He is charming, he is funny, he is utterly adorable. Matilda is mercurial; Owen is Owen. He is the first cup of tea in the morning, he is the gentle pat of a handwritten letter on the mat, he is the entire bar of chocolate when no one is looking, he is hot feet on a cold floor, he is curling up on the sofa with a good book, he is the kiss when you come home, he is the hallowed quiet of children safely tucked up in bed and the blessed relief as your head hits the pillow. He is the simple pleasure that will always be there whatever else may come and go.

Happy 2 my O.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Monday blues

Remember how I am cool by geographical proximity?  Well just imagine how cool I am now that our local neighbourhood blues singer, Julie, and her husband, Olivier, also a musician and a true Biterrois (on the right in the photo above), have been for apéros.

They popped round last night for beer and homemade pizza (go me).  And then wine.  And then a bit of a fuzzy noodle this morning...  or maybe that was just me.  Much fun was had by all.  I love doing stuff on Monday evenings.  When we lived in London I always tried to plan something on a Monday.  It made starting the week so much more appealing.

Monday apéros are just another promising sign of our burgeoning social life.  I feel like there has been a déclic, as the Frogs say.  All of a sudden, the seeds of friendship that I have been sowing over the last four years are coming home to roost.  If you'll excuse the mix of metaphors, my seeds are definitely roosting.

I love people and I love making friends.  Feeling like Guigui Sans Amis has got me down quite a lot since we arrived in the south of France.  I sometimes get the impression that people settle down into their lives, they have their family and their friends and they're not terribly interested in opening out their little worlds.  But every new friendship is a whole new world, and you can never have too many worlds as far as I am concerned.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Old fires rekindled

Cour d'honneur du Palais des Papes.  We're going to be here.  Wow.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Tickets for The Master and Margarita went on sale at 10am this morning. At 10.03 I purchased two seats (for the opening night, the only night we can make) and by 10.15 the show was sold out. Huge thanks to my family and the outlaws for the generous donation of birthday funds.

And to Nao of course :)

The show starts at 10pm and lasts nearly three hours. So I blew all my money on the best tickets I could get and have taken the executive decision that rather than bother with an hotel we are going to have a nuit blanche in Avignon. Comme dans le bon vieux temps.

I can't wait for old fires to be rekindled.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Happy Fanf Day

Part of me thinks that Father's Day is a commercial swizz and part of me thinks it only right and good that fathers get a day to make them feel as self-important as mothers.  All of me thinks that baking Fanf a batch of cookies* for breakfast to celebrate his distinguished service to fatherdom is a tradition worth perpetuating.  Fanf is the gentle soul of this family, he keeps his little band of crazies the right side of one flew over the cuckoo's nest.

*No matter what else I bake, Fanf's favourite is still the first goodies I ever made for him: American Toll House cookies.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Adventures in language

O is acquiring words at such a startling rate we can barely keep up. All too often we fail to understand what he is oh so earnestly trying to tell us, or ask for. He is a polite little chap and we frequently hear the "pease" but cannot for the life of us make out what it is he wants. And whether he is attempting to get his mouth round French or English! I try to guess, reeling off a list of possible desires: an apple, a yoghurt, a tissue, to go for a walk, a brief explanation of string theory, greater equality between rich and poor, a biscuit. Sometimes I think he gives up and accepts something just to put me out of my misery and sometimes I think he's a wily little bugger and will keep on being "misunderstood" to see what delights I might offer him in my desperation. Either way, it can be frustrating for all concerned.

But some things are quite clear.

"Tilda's bed", when he wants to snuggle up with Matilda for the bedtime story.
"Stone shoe", when there's a stone in his shoe. The child has an unfeasible number of stones in his shoes. I think they must grow between his toes.
"Pease window", when he wants to go in the window cage.
"Mal" or "hurt", when he's hurt himself and needs a kiss on the proffered body part.
And just this morning, "Sweet nana", when he wants a sweet but considers it politic to slip in his request under the guise of a kindness to his beloved nana.

He tells us when he wants "more" and when he's "finish". He tells us when something is "neyesse" (nice, as pronounced by an Italian gigolo, or how I imagine an Italian gigolo would pronounce nice. I've never actually met an Italian gigolo...) and when something is "'ty" [naughty], for example when he bangs into the door and hurts himself he sternly waggles his finger and tells the door "'ty door".

He likes to order me around "Maman play", "Maman read", "Maman danse", "Maman jump", "Maman dink [drink]", "Maman pousse pease". This last means "Maman, please push me on the swing". Not to be confused with "Tilda pousse", which means "Maman, Matilda pushed me and I would very much like you to go and give her a good telling off".

He has a bizarre tendency to put Ts everywhere. Milk is "milt", Papi Mike is "Mite", bike is "bite", car is "tar", cat is "tat" and book is "but". Though pig, for reasons known only to himself, is "pid".

He says bye bye to everything and everybody. When we leave the house, "bye bye house", when we leave the park, "bye bye slide, bye bye swing", when we leave the supermarket, "bye bye trolley".

And yesterday at the dinner table he said "Love you papa, love you maman". Be solid my melting heart.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monday blues

Pretty much every Monday I feel blue. Me and Garfield, we have that in common.

Here's a song about the blues that I love. Take it away, Mr Coward...

In other, less blue news, Matilda had her first school report today. I remember feeling incredibly chuffed when I got a good report. Turns out, that was nothing in comparison to how chuffed I feel about Matilda's good report.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

FêtonCirque 2012: a good day

My handiwork!

Emilie [left], and Louisa [right]

Yesterday was a brilliant day.  Here's why yesterday was a brilliant day.

[Warning: there now follows an unexpurgated barrage of words and the usual shoddy photos. Yesterday was packed with fun and thoughts, all of which I want to record. And as I have had zero thoughts of late I shall make the most of it!]

1. Swimming at Fleury d'Aude in the morning. Always fun, but especially so now that Owen wears armbands and swims on his own. He is utterly fearless. He and Matilda both tried goggles for the first time and Matilda, who had been afraid to put her head under the water, discovered the delights of underwater face-pulling. She also managed a few strokes completely unaided.

2. A picnic by the Canal de Midi en famille. The minibeasts enjoyed hailing passing boats.

3. An afternoon at FêtonCirque in Ginestas, organised by Cirque Mycélium. A word of explanation. Ever since Matilda first started careering about I have had visions of her as a clown acrobat (or an acrobat clown, if you will). Do you know the kind I mean? They bumble into the ring, falling over, knocking into things, but then gradually you realise, as their pratfalls become ever more elaborate, that in fact they are highly-skilled acrobats. That is how I imagine my daughter growing up. I would love it if she ran away with the circus. Anyway, when our friends, Stéphane and Helke, mentioned that their girls were going to circus school I did a mental backflip of joy. Yesterday Mycélium held a festival during which the students performed and there were opportunities to have a go at various different circus acts. We went along with Stéphane, Helke, Louisa and Emilie. It was so well organised and friendly. Small, but jam-packed with activities accessible to all.

Cirus is a wonderful art form, combining physical strength and agility with artistic expression. Plus a measure of the magical and a soupçon of the strange. Matilda was over the moon when we offered to sign her up for a a week of circus summer school.

4. Barbecue at Stéphane and Helke's in the evening.
We bumped into a friend of Stéphane and Helke's and a friend of my sister outlaw, Anne's at the swimming pool (one and the same person). Béziers is a small, small world. We know her socially. She's nice, but the encounter was empty. This set me on a train of thought as I showered after our swim (the only time during the week that I get to shower in peace, and thus have trains of thought!). I felt as if I had no real friends in Béziers. That the "friends" we have made are merely social acquaintances. My relationships lack depth. I have never had lots of friends, but the friendships I do have are lovingly cultivated and meaningful. I left the swimming pool feeling slightly melancholic.

And then that very same evening we went out and for the first time I felt a real connection with our new friends and an instant connection to another couple they invited. We had never met Florence and Romain before, but as we left we promised to stay in touch. And I believe we will. I sometimes think that making friends is a bit like learning languages; it's incredibly easy when you're little and gets increasingly difficult with age. Adult life is so time-consuming, with jobs and family and hobbies and other friendships to maintain and whatnot, but making friends, forging real friendship, takes time. Happily we are starting to reap the benefits of nearly four years of notre vie Biterroise.

5. French parenting
As we all ate, drank and were merry, the kids (6 minibeasts in total) roamed around us. Every now and again there were tears and kisses were required, but generally apart from a background of happy giggling, we were in essence two separate parties. My impression, and I know you'll correct me if I'm wrong, is that in Britain and perhaps elsewhere, children are sent to bed early (by my standards...) and the evening is adult time. The French don't seem to separate adult time and kid time in quite the same way. The French are much more into family time. The kids are there. Just around. I like this approach. It suits me. We stayed until gone midnight (hooray, how I miss late nights), and the kids happily entertained themselves until then. All except Owen, who crawled into my lap at about 11pm, snuggled up and fell asleep. Good parenting? Bad parenting? The kids had a whale of a time and I had a lovely cuddle. My kind of parenting.

6. And just when I thought things couldn't get any better, we woke up this morning to a miserable grey day. So we were all able to vegetate at home without guilt. Hooray.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday in photos: Parklifers

Me: Are you naughtiddlyumptious or goodtiddlyscrumptious?
Matilda: I'm nicescribblylunchious.

[It may look like I am trying out some interesting new design, and if you think that is the case, bless you. But sadly it is not innovation, merely incompetence. For some reason I can no longer get my photos to centre on the page. Still, if it hadn't been for failure we'd never have had tarte tatin. Some day my tatin will come...]

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Strawberry Cookies

When I asked Matilda what she wanted to make today she told me, in her most strident voice (her "The world will be mine, Bond villain" voice - a voice I secretly encourage):


Never having seen or heard of such a thing I said I would see what I could find. And lo and behold, in the cave of wonders (or bottomless pit of procrastination) that is the internet I found this recipe.

Having tasted the fruit of our labours, I realise I need to tone down my gluttonous gloating, so that when something like this comes along I still have a store of superlatives left in my lexical armoury.

Our verdict: Ambrosial.

The problem (problem! Oh, that I should only have such problems), they have to be eaten straight away. They do. Or they turn into mush. But eating them straight from the oven is not an especially onerous task. I had to leave the house to stop myself eating them. Literally. In the literal sense of the word. But then I forgot my phone, so I managed to sneak an extra one when I came back to get it.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Rocky Roadsters

Sometimes I try to make the GBBE a bit healthy (oats, remember?). Sometimes I don't. And sometimes I indulge in shameless, outright piggery.

Today is la Fête des Mères. I felt piggery was called for.

Getting into the piggery early, the minibeasts and I went to fetch croissants for breakfast this morning and in a stroke of precocious genius Matilda decided that for pudding we should have one of the Lindt chocolates she gave me for Mother's Day. Pudding at breakfast. I'm sure I've mentioned that Matilda is a very marvel of a daughter.

Happpy Mother's Day to all my fellow piggies out there and the biggest thanks in all the wide world to Matilda and Owen for making being your mum so much fun x