Sunday, 28 October 2012

4: the year of the Princesse

When Matilda requested a Princess costume for her birthday (a pink one), I quietly demurred. When she asked for a cake with Peppa Pig Princess on it (a pink one, with raspberries), I smiled sweetly and said "Of course my darling girl". You all know that I hate princesses and I hate pink. But. But... I am not a monster. If she needs to feel at one with her pink princess loving peers then I am not going to stop her. Besides, I am aware of the attraction that parental disapproval gives to anything disapproved of. And at least Peppa Pig is a feisty little princess.

At four Matilda is quite princessy. Demands have to be met IMMEDIATELY. Any demands denied are met with flouncing huffs. When she bestows her love and affection, she does so fiercely and with an understanding of the honour granted by her attentions. I feel that at four she is becoming conscious of her place in the world and of the roles she might choose or others might ask her to play. And it is fascinating to see her negotiate her way through.

But she is still my Matilda, who lives boldly and happily. When we were on holiday this summer it really struck me how enthusiastic she is about life. She takes an interest in anything and everything. When she laughs it is raucous and full-throated. She careers about with very little sense of physical boundaries and when she hugs Owen, his feet leave the floor and I frequently have to intervene for fear of strangulation.

So I have bought the princess costume, but am under few illusions as to how long it will remain in one piece. it is already ripped and one of the flowers has been torn off.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Mummy Jekyll // Mother Hyde

In company, I suspect I come across as a very reasonable, gentle, nurturing parent.

Why are you crying sweetie? What happened? It's not nice to hit your sister/shut your brother in the cupboard/systematically destroy any sliver of your sibling's happiness. How do you think that makes him/her feel? I understand you're upset because you can't have a sweet but eating too many sugary foods can be bad for our health and ruin our appetite.

I don't raise my voice, I explain, I am firm but kind and all my children, heaven bless them, they both look up to me and mind me...

Yes, so there is Maria von Trapp and then there is Mrs. Wormwood (the other Matilda's mum). When there is no one watching, it's not so much caring maternal patter, as vitriolic tirade.

Shut up, good god, just SHUT UP. Go away. I hate your whining, stop whining. Let go of me. Oh well just kill each other then, and see if I care! Why? Why??? Because I say so. Got it! And no more bloody sweets, your teeth will turn black, cause you excruciating pain, drop out, and you'll have to eat soup for the rest of your life!!!*

Does anyone know what I mean? There's my "Sunday best" mothering and there's my "Not in front of the neighbours" mothering.

* I recently overheard Matilda giving Owen a version of this no holds barred ban on sugar. She had remembered pretty well. I was impressed.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

(Mini) Greedy Bird Baking Enterprise: Choccy Melts

There's healthy (last week we made apricot, pineapple and coconut muffins), and there are Choccy Melts. This week is a Choccy Melts kind of week.

At one point Owen came over all Heston Blumenthal and asked if he could put his fire engine in the mix. Matilda, quite rightly, told him not to be silly.

Sadly the biscuits were not very sweet, but intensely rich and chocolatey and the mini-beasts didn't like them. Sad, yes. Terribly, terribly sad.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Have you heard of fado? I hadn't. When I asked Fanf he looked at me as if I'd just asked him if he'd heard of cheese. So clearly fado is known in France. Fado is a type of Portuguese blues. Rather beautiful. I came across fado because I am working on a translation for Aurélie about the Portuguese fado singer António Zambujo. As part of my research I listened to some of his songs. The kind of research I like.

Translation can sometimes seem a bit like dog work. But when I'm asked to translate interesting texts through which I can learn and broaden my horizons then I think translating is wonderful.

Have a listen:

Old António is rather easy on the eye too :)

Monday, 15 October 2012


I've not really been in a bloggy mood of late. The big things I can't find the head space or time (or actual space and time) to corale into words and sentences that have meaning and the little things that tickle me come and go with such rapidity I can't keep up. Though these are the things I like recording. Anyway, if in doubt, note stuff down at random. Stuff that could have been spun out into posts, but instead lies in a tangled pile between my ears.

1. I love Owen's charming mispronunciations. A rabbit is a "battit" and a picnic is a "mic mic". O is very fond of "mic mics".

2. At Matilda's school, each of the children has a métier, or job in the classroom. Matilda is in charge of the paint brushes and currently, as far as I can tell, and I have dug and dug on this one, the only thing she does at school is paint. Recently, in a home painting session, she decided to paint her face.

3. Owen has been channelling his feminine side. He enjoys putting Matilda's clips in his hair and pronouncing gaily "Me princesse, me princesse". And can frequently be seen chuntering up and down with Paddington in the pushchair, informing me "Owen mummy" whenever he passes by.

4. I read a French book that was actually funny, La délicatesse by David Foenkinos. Such revelations really require a whole blog of their own. I am now snuggling down with E.M. Forster, whose writing is one of the greatest arguments for being English that I can think of.

5. My lovely friend Julia recently wrote on her Facebook page that getting her 4-year-old daughter ready for school was like herding cats. Genius. And so true.

When I talked to my brother about having lost the will to blog he candidly requested that I just stick up photos of the mini-beasts. I aim to please, so here you go Benj.

And one last one, because I does aspire to a bit of arty fartfulness every now and again and I was rather chuffed with this photo from the Orchid Festival at the beautiful Abbaye de Fontfroide.

What's that you say? Another video. Oh go on then.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A 24-hour window

Ralph Fiennes?

Yesterday my parents came and fetched Owen at half four, then headed off to pick up Matilda from school and whisk the mini-beasts away for the night. They brought them back about 5pm today. Fanf had already left for a three day work trip on Tuesday morning.

That's 24 hours, or 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds, or the first two seasons of Mad Men (with loo breaks... I was tempted) of freedom. And the mouse did play.

Last night I went along to a 3-hour theatre workshop. I was incredibly nervous. The lady from the theatre company (who I spent 6 months working with after Matilda's birth) warned me that these were amateurs, they wouldn't have my knowledge of the theatre. I explained to her, that I might well know a thing or two about the theatre but that I knew not a great lot about acting. Think Ralph Fiennes on a bad day. (Of course for that analogy to work you have to believe, to the core of your soul, that Ralph Fiennes has all the talent and charisma of a soggy sandwich. Like what I most wholeheartedly do. Ralph Fiennes - plank of wood - Ralph Fiennes - plank of wood, no, can't tell which is which.) Anyway, me being a bit nervous and a bit rubbish aside, it was fun.

Then I came home and slept like a big human splat sprawled across the bed. I do love you Fanf, but blimey I love to fill a double bed.

Today I have been working on a translation for Aurélie. Sipping tea, dunking biscuits, popping out to post a letter when I needed a break, eating hummous on toast at my desk so I don't break my concentration. A window into my past and the single life. A wonderful window but one that I was happy to close again when my sweet little mini-beasts came trotting home tonight. Though I would like to reserve the right to open the window again whenever I need a breath of fresh air.

When I'm on my own I feel like my senses are heightened, without the constant noise, mess and activity I can hear what's going on in my head and the world beyond the domestic has a chance to penetrate my eyes and ears. My favourite moment was wandering around Béziers in the balmy autumn dark, letting my thoughts drift along with my feet.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Béziers Home for the Young and Gifted: Floor farts

I would like to make it clear that this particular skill is entirely self-taught.