Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Carnival season

My kingdom for a leaf. 
The first yellow leaf on the sidewalk cannot be denied.

This week summer surrendered to autumn: handed over the keys, signed the paperwork, and washed its hands of climatic control for another year. Now the world is autumn's baby to corrupt.

Of course the process is transitional - a soft launch to underemphasize any major design hiccups.

Leaves turn yellow like hairs turn grey. Dust returns to dust. The eternal feeling of summer is an illusion.

But that's me: I'm over-caffeinated and suffer from a crippling case of sentimentality, for which the prognosis is poor. What does seasonal change mean to you?

Here follows a carnival of the season's best posts. You will notice that these writers exercise greater restraint with their sentimentality than I do.

Ella of Notes From Home warily observes five, er four boys marking that classic harvest right of passage: driving a massive combine.

Penny of the Alexander Residence fondly remembers the summer bilberry grounds of her childhood.

Truffle offers a durian toast to the harvest moon.

Christine, an Expat Mum in Portugaltalks about the promise of September for kids and mamas alike: school, new projects, the return of parental nap-time.

Maggie of Red Ted Art suggests that we gather the season's ephemera and construct a house for the woodland elves, so as they don't freeze their pointed little ears off this winter.

Ellen at In a Bun Dance acknowledges that summer is well and truly over, and bravely sends her oldest baby off to high school.

Kerry at Multiple Mummy focuses on the highlight of the warmer months: escape (with kids in tow).

Emma at Mummy...Mummy...Mum counts the passing time in a birthday wish and suggests a celebratory bottle rocket to mark the occasion with a bang.

Diane at Kids Party Heaven has some perennial ideas for how to avoid revenge party bag syndrome (almost as dangerous as inoperable sentimentality).

This autumn carnival was conceived by Brit Mums. Thank you to all contributors. Next week the carousel stops at Really Kid Friendly.

In the meantime, I'm off to kick yellow leaves, pull out grey hairs, and medicate my sentimentality with another truckload of coffee.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

This week at Chaos HQ

Noted from the underground. 
We are bothering pigeons and annoying strangers. Please check out my post over at In The Powder Room on just that.

August has very nearly handed the reins over to September. School is around the corner and our museum days are numbered. So we are riding the rails while we may.

Today we discovered that the Keats House doesn't cause boredom-induced narcolepsy in small children. It's actually kind of a fun place. Ana reckons it's a lot like the bathhouse from Spirited Away.

The end of summer always feels a little sad. Especially if you're a kid who's been munching on a continuous supply of popsicles courtesy of your slave mama for two months.

But time stops for no man, not even a short one.

And this mama is pretty tired of foraging for popsicles and would quite like a nap. 

Monday, 22 August 2011


There is a footpath from Salisbury to Winchester called the Clarendon Way. It is about thirty miles from train station to train station, which means it can be walked in one day if you set out early around the Solstice and walk briskly.

Walking blues. 
Papa and I discovered the Clarendon Way several years ago BC* when we were time-rich and cash-poor, which is very fertile soil to plant the seeds of a lifelong rambling habit in.

The Clarendon Way begins where Salisbury dissipates into a farmer's field. The field is splayed across a clutch of smooth chalky hills that fold into woodland at the creases. Hills like these appear strangely symmetrical to a girl from the Rocky Mountains: like those drawn by a child, or the curves of an egg batter folding in on itself.**

The farmer's field leads upward to the ruins of Clarendon Palace on a hill, where cows graze on tall weeds around the few remaining stone walls of the structure. From here the path meanders off off into deep gruffalo wood, where you can easily get lost if you are not paying enough attention.

Eventually the path disappears in a tiny confusing village, where the local pub is a little like the Slaughtered Lamb. The village has a beautiful name: Winterslow. I suspect it means 'place of many lost ramblers' in old English.

Foraging for mischief. 
All fairly bog standard stuff, if you come from England. In fact, you have probably dozed off by now if you are English, or tottered off for a pint at the Slaughtered Lamb. But the first time a Nuevo Mexicana sees such a landscape, she can be forgiven for being filled with wonder and thinking that perhaps she's stumbled upon heaven.

Papa and I both grew up in the high desert, so we were entirely unprepared for what we saw along the Clarendon Way: a gazillion blackberries. The hedges were buckling under the weight of them, and no one else seemed to be stopping or taking notice except for us two. We ate hundreds - possibly thousands - giggling like little kids. Our tongues and our hands were fuschia. Our entire insides must have turned purple. We ate until we could eat no more.

Youthful memories tend to get sealed in saccharine laminate as time goes by - glossed over and folded into the egg batter narrative of life.*** But there are these little moments of intense sensory discovery that stay fresh and really stick to the mind like cockleburs.

We look for blackberries every year now. When Ana came along, she joined the summer pilgrimage, and Ali has been inducted too.

This year we scavenged on the Heath, and turned what remained of our loot (after taste testing) into pear and blackberry crumble.

I have learned that it is dangerous to return to the actual location of your happiest memories. For this reason, I fear the blackberry way has become more a place in time than in actual geography.

So we will forage wherever the wind takes us. Who knows? Maybe the wind will take us back to Salisbury again someday.

Blackberries grow on thorny indestructible vines - essentially barbed wire - with the sort of scary lust for plant life that is only matched by kudzu. And they did so long before riots went digital.

I suspect the organic not electronic form of my favourite berry will long outlive us mere humans, kept company by twinkies and cockroaches.

*Before chaos.
**As a lapsed Lutheran, I can only visualise things in terms of casserole.
***As above, I blame my casserole genes.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Carnival: the end of summer blues

Gather ye sunflowers while ye may. 
I signed up to host a Brit Mums carnival back in the mists of time and then promptly forgot about it...till this morning when I received my first submission. I will blame my forgetfulness on moving home and the general disorder that is my life.

So please send me your posts! The carnival goes live on Tuesday August 30th. The working theme is: summer passing and the seasons changing

Interpret as you see fit and send posts on anything under the sun to: tomorrowmama(at)gmail (dot)com. Old posts, new posts, red posts, blue posts: anything goes.

In the meantime, I'm off on a wander to the park to check out the local carnival vibe. There is a fun fayre just setting up there now in all it's weird kitschy glory. Next weekend it will be in full swing, thronged by kids with cotton candy in their cheeks and in their hair. Teenagers will be snogging behind the tilt-o-whirl as August goes out with a whimper.

Monday, 15 August 2011

A dumb sort of drought

Last night I felt a deep sense of foreboding as I tucked my baby in. She looked up at me with big innocent eyes and sucked contentedly on her dummy. Her very last dummy.

I woke to the horrible blood-curdling screams of a dummy-less baby at the bleak hour of not-enough-past-five. My baby is an expert in vaporizing dummies, so I considered running away. But that seemed like an awful lot of effort.

Somehow a thriving herd of approximately nine thousand dummies has completely vanished from this flat. I am starting to suspect an international gang of dummy thieves.

A baby's dummy is her castle. 
A dummy-addicted child has a worse oral fixation than a 40 a day smoker. A dummy-addicted child will morph into Cthulhu and bite your leg off if she doesn't get her fix. Which is why I had no choice but to deploy what is known by medical professionals as 'pediatric methadone', or 'lollies'. Luckily we had a stash of strawberry ones on hand.

We ran out of lollies by 8am. In spite of a torrential morning downpour of cats, frogs and other biblical creatures, we had to make a run to the store. To date, we have already spent our family savings on replacement dummies. We are currently negotiating a dummy mortgage with the bank, to replace the lost herd of nine thousand.

Unfortunately there is a lot of speculative tit interest at the moment, and dummy prices are quite high. As is becoming customary in Britain today, the bank has demanded our firstborn as a down payment.

The reason I suspect an evil gang of teet thieves is this: how else could nine thousand dummies could go missing from one London home? Your typical London dwelling is an old house that was subdivided into thirty flats and a pile of money, leaving each flat with approximately three square feet of living space.

In spite of what an estate agent might say to you in a moment of deceptive speciousness, you can hardly fit nine thousand dummies into that kind of habitat, let alone lose them there.

I would phone the police regarding my suspicions, but I worry that they would just refer a recording of the matter to News Corp, who is rumored to be already quite over capacity on such matters. Anyway a doubt crept into my mind today when we returned from the shop with four precious new dummies to tide us over until the dummy mortgage comes through sometime mañana.

While contentedly slurping on one, Ali made a bee-line for the rubbish bin. Then she stopped in her tracks when noticed me watching her. She casually pretended to be checking out some shiny object in the kitchen cupboard.

Ali has previously proved herself to be a bin-enthusiast. So I've had a new idea: maybe my bank can sell me a dummy insurance policy. Perhaps in exchange they will only ask to borrow my firstborn.

Friday, 12 August 2011

This week at Chaos HQ

We are donating the title 'Chaos' to the leaders of our fine city and instead going by 'Really Quite Chilled Out HQ.' We are wondering if pillagers are powered by mozzarella, because they looted the local Dominoes.

Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store?
We are comparing the Camden of this week (above) to the Camden of last week, which was magical sort of grown-up Disneyland.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops. 
We found ourselves there on a sunny summer's afternoon, chasing the rainbows that exist between generations.
Pots of gold. 
We suspect Camden will have a cup of tea be back to its old tricks in no time. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Bonkers in-depth analysis

'The bomb Rupert, the f-bomb.'
For remotely relevant commentary on phone hacking, pillaging and other quaint London pass-times please refer to blogs written by actual grown-ups with intentional hairstyles.

Otherwise, please check out my post on phone hacking for amateurs over at In The Powder Room. This is the first time Chaos HQ has caused major disruption at the illustrious ITPR, and we are currently toasting our excitement with (non-looted) fruit shoots.

Speaking of guest posts, Chaos HQ recently sang the praises of capsaicin to Working London Mummy. Please have a good look around her delectable blog.

As no one seems to have lit Chaos HQ on fire overnight, we will have a cup of tea and carry on posting.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The third law of parental dynamics

The third law of parental dynamics makes child psychologists and entropists tremble in fear. It goes like this: each milestone, while initially exciting, will return to bite you in the arse.

Ali demonstrated the third law of parental dynamics with textbook precision last week, which was an unusual week at Chaos HQ for several reasons.

Most weeks, Britain is a small island perched under a large spigot in the sky. But last week it became a sunny paradise. Our local splash pool teemed with smiling children. Ice cream and Pimms flowed in excess. Grown-ups and children who had over-consumed either lay like wilted dandelions on park benches, still smiling.

Grandma, Uncle Rice, and Auntie A all had the forsite to visit England during the most perfect week of the summer. And for a brief time Chaos HQ - a lonely, wandering, turtle shell sort of home - was snuggled up in the warmth of the family net. A rare pleasure.

Considering the sunshine, we lived at the park for a week. My kin, being nice people, tried not to shout 'FAT LIAR!' when I explained that England wasn't always like this.

Amidst this blissful, pastoral backdrop, Ali uttered her first sentence. Her gullible family clapped. Angels sang the hallelujah chorus. Time stood still and the heavens bent low to get a closer listen. Then what began low, started to grow.
She repeated her first sentence: 'I need a lolly.'  Pause. 'I need a lolly.' Impatience crept into her voice. 'I NEED a lolly.'

Angels cowered. Time slunk away in fear, suddenly realizing the danger of the situation. Sadly Papa and I were legally obliged to hold our ground. But we knew what was coming, and we shook like dry leaves before the hurricane.


Ali needed a lolly as I wrestled her off the playground and into the buggy. She needed a lolly all the way home - a thirty minute walk and an absolute lolly desert.

Kids - like defective electronics - go off. It is just a fact of life: short kids, tall kids, kids who climb on rocks. They go off with persistence and awkward timing, like car alarms through loudspeakers from the pit of Hades.

The funniest thing about these situations is that passers-by look at you like: 'Holy cow lady, did you know your kid is going off?' A perceptive lot, those passers-by.

Ali has needed many things in the days that have followed. Two-ish being more an age of bulldozers than subtleties, we have been unable to explain the needs versus wants dichotomy to her. We will, I suspect still be attempting to explain this to her when she is 25.

Actually I'm still struggling to understand it myself. So this seems as good a juncture as any to say: I need Grandma, Uncle Rice and Auntie A to return again soon.

Guys: as an incentive, I have a lolly waiting for each of you. You'll be pleased to know that I didn't obtain it by looting my local shop. And I promise it won't turn around and bite you in the arse, as per the third law of parental dynamics.

In the meantime my dear family: may the road rise up to meet you and may the sun shine warm upon your face.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

This week at Chaos HQ

We are fingerprinting culprits.

Motive? Chaos and world domination. 
Some of them are not as short as we initially suspected them to be.

Caught pink-handed. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

Public service announcement

Dear men on the Jubilee line circa 4:30pm last Monday,


I was that lady struggling with one buggy, two babies, and three flights of stairs. The one throwing you the ojo for being a bunch of - to borrow from California's illustrious former governator - unhelpful public transportation girlie-men.

Remember, yes?

As I've recently discovered, the tube south of the Thames is a buggy-accessible paradise:  ramps, lifts, angels singing. North of the river, the tube is a syphilitic horse-drawn trolly accessible only by descending a gazillion stairs into the pit of Hades. Sadly Monday found me on the Hades side of the river.

It wasn't that the station was empty. About fifty of you swarmed past me, all fiddling importantly with smartphones because presumably that's what you do when you are a male impersonator with no actual cajones.

But I know you saw me because you stubbornly refused to make eye contact (an activity known in Britain as 'observing'). Finally a fellow mum came to my rescue.

Men on the Jubilee line circa 4:30pm last Monday: WTF? Seriously?

I can only assume that you are the same lot who wouldn't give me your seat when I was eight months pregnant. And I'm guessing you're the ones who go running home to furiously comment anonymously on message boards that if women want to be all equal now they'd better learn to stand on trains and enjoy it.

Girlie-men on the Jubilee line circa 4:30pm last Monday: take an example from my wise other half. He once held the door open for a well-respected professor of ours at university, a woman with famously impeccable feminist credentials.

She turned to him and demanded to know why he'd opened the door. Was it because she was a woman and therefore incapable of opening it herself?

My other half shook his head.

A hush fell. Boys cowered. Girls looked on for guidance in the manner that my toddler does when she's trying to decide if she should kiss her sister or punch her in the kisser. Then my other half delivered a response that  sent boys and girls alike scattering along the corridor, holding doors open for each other willy-nilly.

My other half said: 'I did it because my mother taught me to.'