Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Emily Carlisle has written a wonderful piece on leap year babies for the Guardian.

The cult of cake. 
She highlights some interesting facts related to leaplings - for instance, did you know leapophilia is a thing? Neither did I!

The piece serves as a cautionary tale to future parents, by pointing out the feckless cake inefficiency of leapless parents.

You see, my two were both born shortly before Thanksgiving. Each year by Christmas I am knackered, having sacrificed an entire season to the pillar of cake.

By contrast, Emily's twins were born on February 29th four years ago. Today they mark their first proper birthday in four years. That's right: four years, two kids, one cake.

So to all you full-term women out there: I suggest you aim for today should you ever want to have a cake-free moment again in your life.

And to everyone else: beware the leapophile!

Monday, 20 February 2012


We are coming out of the dark.

A gazillion snowdrops are bursting forth from ancient soil, and promptly getting mashed to bits by trainers. The ducks and the humans are looking friskier.

Still cold afternoons remind me of that Tennyson verse:

          Twilight and evening bell,
          And after that the dark!
          And may there be no sadness or farewell,
          When I embark.

February is a pretty useless month, except for eating pancakes and catching up on movies missed in the parenting line of duty. 

I recently turned on 'Life in a Day', the world's first crowd-sourced movie, which is freely available on YouTube. I approached this movie gingerly, because I feared it would be 90 long minutes of people looking really smug while skydiving.

Back in 2010 when there was a call for footage, I considered sending something in. But I didn't on the assumption that Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald wouldn't appreciate clips of kids being whimsical and failing to blow out candles in spite of repeated instruction. In hindsight, I couldn't have been more wrong on this point. 

It turns out that 'Life in a Day' is awesome and totally unpretentious - one of the most uplifting films I've seen. And regular readers (hello Mom!) will know that my tendencies towards cynicism and cake enthusiasm prevent me from getting uplifted easily.

Like it says on the tin, the film is about all the quotidian wonder and pedestrian joy contained in one earthling day. 

One of my favourite clips in the film involves a guy who is travelling around the world by bicycle. He weathers many disasters, like being repeatedly knocked over by truckers. But he always gets back in the saddle, sometimes after a few days in hospital.

The path less truckered by. 
How I would love to embark on a similarly crazy journey. Occasional trucker maulage seems such a small price to pay for pure freedom, unfettered by stuff.

So should dispatches from the land of mañana ever stop, you will know that I have given up silly material trappings like a coffee press and clean socks, and donned my bicycle wings. 

Wave to me from the open road, unless you are a trucker, in which case keep those hands at ten and two.  

May there be no sadness or farewell when I embark.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Happy Valentimes Day, as they say in New Mexico.

Breakfast of happy champions.
My mom writes great letters. A good thing, as her children tend to wander, putting her in the position of homefront correspondent.

Here's what she sent me today:

Have a lovely day, and remember this true fact -- chocolate makes you happy!! 
So as I sit here eating a metric truckload of chocolate, I'd just like to point out that I am merely following my mama's orders. Plus, I already ate my vegetables.

So there.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Snow babies

The snow came.

There were those who said it never would.

December flew by in a rainy blur. January was a brown landscape of wilted Christmas trees on curbsides.

Down the primrose path. 
Then last weekend the sky finally went to pieces.

Now by 'snow' I am referring to an an old Saxon word that means: a modest dusting. Any more would be showing off, and a dusting is all it takes to shut down Heathrow.

We did the only sensible thing given the situation. We took a sled to Primrose Hill.

Four runs down the hill with no broken bones seemed like enough in the luck-pushing department.

So Ali and I scoured the neighbourhood for mama and papa snowmen. I was instructed to assemble approximately ten baby snowmen for each parental unit.

New fallen snow.
Like giraffes, snow parents can be a bit blasé and sometimes need reminding that the moment of reunion with their snow spawn is cause for celebration.

Now comes the part where snow turns to sludge. The sleepy Heathrow dragon grumbles back to life, and naysayers seasonally progress to maligning the Easter Bunny.

Sledges return to closets, where they dream quietly of gleaming white landscapes, never losing faith.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Return to the mothership

Ali has discovered the plot of every story ever told.

Beam me up, mama. 
Here it is: baby misses mama, baby goes searching for mama, baby finds mama, baby is filled with joy and screaming adulation.

A twist on the plot is that sometimes baby is looking for papa. Sometimes even - gasp - mama and her papa.

Ali likes to loudly recount this plot structure during movies. TV shows. Book reading time. Etc.

Lately her parental search algorithm has bleached into the physical world. Toys must be nested with their parents.

Which is why we spent last weekend at the zoo: a baby giraffe had to be reunited with her mama.

There is a London restaurant called Giraffe that tolerates kids more than most London restaurants. And they give away little plastic giraffes with the smoothies.

One problem with little plastic giraffes is that they are pretty cool and thus worth fighting over with your sister. This means that little plastic giraffes are usually missing at least one leg and look a bit twitchy.

Another problem with little plastic giraffes is that they miss their mamas so very much.

And so our twitchy, three-legged plastic giraffe had to be returned to her mother unit. As an added bonus her papa was there too.

You there Mom?
The giraffe parents looked uncertain when confronted with their blue plastic offspring, even though she was offered up to them with much joy and screaming adulation.

At moments like these I am reminded that my kids see me very differently than I see myself. They seem to think I am a super-human who holds up the dome of the world.

I remember having this concept of my parents too. I know it will be replaced  with criticism, then understanding.

Which is a relief: dome-holder is an awfully hard title to live up to. And it can lead to backache.