Thursday, 26 May 2011

What belongs to such as these

I am a slogger, as per a term coined by the wonderful Miss Behaving. This is to say a painfully slow blogger in a fast-moving stream. I move at a turtle's pace in the real world too.

Lately I have been out of words and out of sorts. It has been a hectic whirlwind season around Chaos HQ.

I have been meaning to write this post for days. I have also been meaning to crawl out from this pile of washing and put my life back into some kind of order. But these things, like most things, will have to wait until mañana.

All kids deserve to get the vaccines they need. As part of their No Child Born To Die campaign, Save the Children is campaigning for this ahead of a London vaccine conference this June. They are sending a trio of bloggers out on the vaccine trail and circulating a petition. You can add your support to the cause here. And your artwork.

Performance artist. 
Kirsty of Imperfect Pages tagged Chaos HQ in a self-portraiture linky back in the mists of the early Cretaceous, and Claire of PR Mummy has just done so too (thanks guys). So here is Ali self-portraiting in the medium of chocolate cake batter.

Followed by two portraits that the girls took of each other.

Destruction on Chaos. 
Chaos on Destruction.
I think each managed to capture her sister/fiercest rival quite well.

The camera, you may be pleased to know, isn't actually caked in batter now (although it was a close call). It is a bit late to be tagging other bloggers in this circular, but please consider this an open invitation to take part in the linky, #passiton and sign the petition if you haven't already done so.

In other news, we here at Chaos HQ would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to your interknitting journey by a lack of posting in recent weeks. I blame the wrong kind of leaves on the blog.

But I hereby promise to resume normal posting and life - whatever that means - soon.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Fear of flying (with short people)

You may have noticed that last week was a quiet one around Chaos HQ. This is because I went offline for a spell to hang out with the real world's cutest little boy: my nephew. Spending time with Neffe is one of my heart's true joys. Flying with kids, however, is one of my biggest fears. Unfortunately getting to Neffe involves planes, trains, a gazillion flights of stairs, and an entire galaxy of pacification devices (mostly LULAS).

Cousin airlift. 
Neffe is growing up in Berlin, a magical city where nobody has a proper job and graffiti takes the place of magnolia paint. Visiting from London is a great shift in perspective. Wealth inequality isn't such an awful glaring beast in Berlin, and consequently people seem more relaxed and less preoccupied with money - a nice change.

Ana loves to fly. Nothing could ruin her excitement, even the discovery that her airplane wasn't purple, as requested. Ali took more convincing. But she proved herself to be an excellent judge of character at passport control, where she screamed like a banshee (which is frankly what I always feel like doing). 

Wandering around over the weekend, Tanta and I came across a beatboxing/freestyle rap duo at a flea market. The rapper took thematic suggestions from a rather kid-infested crowd, so his ditties wound up being about ice cream and toys in outer space. The little kids danced in circles at his feet and the grown-ups laughed at the word play. It was wonderful to see kids and grown-ups both having fun at the same thing, mingling freely and naturally.

Faith, trust, pixie dust.
I had to compare this experience to some of my lonely early motherhood afternoons spent cloistered off from the world at the local bounce and rhyme. Those afternoons were like eternities suspended between lunch and teatime in a roomful of other sleepless mamas, all mumbling in monotone about that most soul-crushing of words - ROUTINE - while taking on an increasingly pithed look with each round of 'Wind the Bobbin Up'. 

Perhaps those dark days would have been better spent at a Berlin flea market, mingling freely with all sorts. To this day, I want to scream like an Ali-banshee whenever I hear 'Wind the Bobbin Up'.

Tanta took me to Tempelhof, of Berlin Airlift fame, which ceased to be an airport 2008 and is now a park. But instead of going to the trouble and expense of converting it into an actual park, the local government has simply left it as is and you have to use your imagination. So people have BBQs on the grass in front of the terminal building, and windsurf down the runway with kites and skateboards.

Ant flies into the great wide open.
I love the idea of Tempelhof Park: the notion that you can recycle anything no matter how humongous it is and how broke you are, just by employing collective imagination. Funny how concrete things can become fluid if we agree to see them differently.

The physical landscape at Tempelhof is unchanged: the buildings, the runway, even a couple of airplanes. The only major new addition is a biergarten - which seems sensible enough - beer is tricky to conjure up in your mind, and crucial to the enjoyment of a sunny afternoon in Germany.

Walking down the runway - a habitat normally reserved for giant winged things - is a strangely intimidating and invigorating experience. I felt like an ant. An ant sadly bereft of wings and lots of other stuff. But an ant who could do just about anything, given a little time just a lucky break or two.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Recently someone replaced my sweet little angel with a gremlin. Possibly a gremlin from another planet.

I first noticed something was wrong when the creature I thought was my child scaled a dining room table in a nanosecond and pelted me in the eyeball with an unripe avocado. Followed by a grapefruit. Having never previously been the victim of unripe fruit, I was unsure of the appropriate response. So I stood there like a lemon while the gremlin casually dismounted the table and proceeded to convert all household items into weaponry.

I think this gremlin may be in league with an evil government spy agency. It must be a poorly-funded evil government spy agency from a crap country as the gremlin only appears to have a primitive notion of local custom and language - for instance it seems to think 'NO!' is a polite form of greeting and an adequate response to instructions.

The gremlin has a horrible fascination with crisps - known as 'LULAS' in its native tongue - which led me to initially presume a Brazillian connection. It has repeatedly held the entire family to ransom for these. It can scale any surface, split eardrums with its screams of rage if interfered with, and assume a thrashing, gnashing protest at a moment's notice.

Short of a never-ending avalanche of LULAS, there appears to be no way to negotiate with it. I cannot suss the creature's motive, except perhaps world domination. I have no idea what the crap evil spy agency hopes to find in this house - perhaps lost piles of washing to fund a fledgling space program.

So should you happen to be a representative of the aforementioned crap evil government spy agency, would you please return my darling little cherub at your nearest convenience and remove your chaos agent. Call now and I will even throw in a pack of LULAS.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Mama culpa

Dear Mom,

I'm sorry. Years late, I know. Perhaps it will bring you comfort to know that your granddaughters are currently locked in a vicious intergalactic war with no exit strategy. I'll explain.

As Ana sees it, her little sister is Zuul, destroyer of worlds, habitat-thief and crowing monster. She is like the evil penguin in The Wrong Trousersthe one who takes all of Gromit's stuff and then convinces the Wallace - allegedly the responsible household adult - to behave like a complete tit and a bit of a criminal.

From Ali's perspective, Ana (who is actually just a giant hairball in need of vigorous hair-pulling) should adopt a more relaxed attitude. Ana's toys need a lot of breaking, because they are more fun broken, especially balloons. And if you rip the pages out of books, you get to make up your own story, right? Crowing to high heaven helps to drive this point home.

Their perspectives are clinically insane and totally irreconcilable. There is simply no way to communicate to them in Babish, their native tongue, that 'favourite' is a pretty dumb word to include in the same paragraph as 'I love you both more than the cosmos and would gladly go under a bus for you tomorrow - yes both of you - if only you would just stop squabbling about who gets to push me under.'

You see, all I really want is a little quiet. And to sit down. And for the bickering to go out with the tide, or on the breeze, or with the rubbish - I'm not picky about how it leaves. I suspect you know this feeling well.

Mom, I am guessing that you had a pretty relaxing life before my sister and I landed from Mars. Maybe you didn't enjoy separating claws from scalps on a daily basis for a decade and a half. Maybe the necessity to always have TWO OF EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME because we were too primitive to share ANYTHING drove you completely batty and left you with little option but to ABuse the CApslock FunCTION. Maybe as you went to bed each night, just the thought of waking up in the morning made you feel profoundly beat, because you knew we'd be up by 6 and locked back into our demented prizeless tussle by 6:15.
Keep your friends close and your frenemies closer. 
It's a sick cosmic joke really: kids do the most damage to their captors in the early years before they are even capable of forming memories. It's a watertight defense - better than insanity and innocence put together. Which is why prior to having kids I never even realized that I owed you such a huge apology for all the million awful things I surely did to you in my pre-school years that I can't even remember.

Mom, I wish I could return to you the years of lost sleep and peace. However, rest assured that your revenge is currently being enacted by two very talented horsetoddlers of the apocolypse. Their dedication to the job is admirable, and you'd be proud to know that they have both been nominated for a Nihilist of the Year Award - they are currently trying to out-campaign each other, Miliband-style. They are clearly worth every fruit shoot you (or Zuul) paid them, and more.

'Would I fire my sister? No, but I'd sell her for ice cream in a Night Garden minute.'
Take solice in this: your years of exhaustion paved the way for a great life-long friendship - seriously - Tanta is my best friend. She is not even paying me to say that, although she will certainly dash off and pen something even nicer about me, and then we'll be stuck in a bitter flying compliments war that could last for weeks - who knows, maybe years. But seriously, I haven't clawed her scalp in over a decade and I don't know what I'd do without a friend like her. Or you.

With much love and thanks on this and every Mothers' Day.


*Not that I know what the word means. Seriously, is it Greek?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Worrying pigeons

Recently, Chaos HQ decended on St James's park. Both girls were in their full pigeon-chasing glory, and there there was much winged trembling and gnashing of beaks.

My offspring differ greatly in their avian-stalking habits. Ana chased the same knot of pigeons in a circle for an hour, like some kind of hamster wheel exercise. Eventually the pigeons thought better of it and flew off in the direction of Slough (a mistake). For Ana, bird-chasing and most everything else in life is about pure joy (hers) and clunky attempts at imitative human flight (also hers).

Ali, on the other hand got a hungry murderous glint in her eye when she spotted a clutch of  'peepee'.* She gave chase muttering something about fava beans and a nice Chianti. Her method reminded me of the Tom Lehrer approach to pigeons:

I've mentioned before that I love London parks - to a simple person like me, they are magical. Since moving back into the Big Smoke last month (in a boggling reverse migration from the suburbs) we've been on a mission to stake out all the local playgrounds. We have our work cut out, because they are simply everywhere, and they are incredible. 

Our great pigeon-caper was part of a catch and release mission. We were St James's Park to welcome back two dear friends from the clutches of the wide world, and then release them back into the wild where they belong.

Our friends, Matt and Nickiy, spent the past year wandering around the globe aided by nothing but their wits, a great photographic eye, the odd helpful/drunken guide, and a fearless motorbike called Frank. They kept a travelogue along the way - I admit that I can only look at their incredible photos for a few minutes at a stretch without becoming overwhelmed by insane-travel-lust.

Cielo (photo courtesy of Nickiy and Matt).
I have learned some very useful things from these expert travellors. For instance, heaven - in spite of Bolivia - is located in South America. Not a lot of people know that. Additionally, heaven is full of terrifying yet strangely beautiful bugs. And to judge from Nickiy and Matt's happy glow: extended travel seems to be as much an inward journey as an outbound one. Of course, an alternate explanation is that some bottled enlightenment company is paying them big bucks to serve as a walking advertisement for happiness - a suspiciously plausible alternative.

As I surveyed the pigeon-baiting and basked in their residual sunshine exposure, I thought of a snippet from a letter Nickiy sent us when they first landed in heaven:

I think you would love it here. Great big, snow-capped mountains, green fields and large trees perfect for hugging. There is music everywhere and everyone seems so alive – even the granny’s are dancing salsa into the wee hours of the morning!
Recalling this note caused a little sad thought to take roost amongst the happy ones: the realization that I have taken the path most traveled by in recent years. A path that is infested by terrifying yet strangely ugly buggies. It doesn't lead to heaven, or even to Bolivia, but rather to ketchup stains and the playground. Or maybe ice cream and the zoo on a good day.

Road less taken (photo courtesy of Nickiy, Matt and Frank). 
But before you** get too worried that this post has taken a complainy-self-indulgent turn for the worse, be comforted in the knowledge that I curtailed this glum thought-trail quickly with the conclusion that in this life one simply doesn't get to chase all the pigeons that one wants to. Life - like pigeons - is all about focus, limitations, and variable hygiene.***

Currently my kids require fruit shoot injections every three minutes to remain sociable. The phrase 'pack light' is as offensive in Baby Esperantu as speaking ill of someone's mum is in Spanish. But perhaps I'll hit the open road when they are a wee bit bigger and logistically more reasonable. Or possibly I'll head out into the wilderness after they fly the koop. Failing that, I'll just have to journey out into the great wide open when I get to heaven.

*In Ali-speak, 'please climb into my hand Mr Pigeon' comes out as 'pee-pee ham'.
**Just nod if you can hear me.
***Before you judge this mixed-up pigeon-metaphor-simile-nonsense to harshly, kindly remember that I am severely distracted at all times - huh? what? - and that the stress of hanging out with two short people every day is starting to show on my ability to reason and form googaliblahblah.