Thursday, 21 October 2010 - science for boys, art for girls?

The first time I saw the BrightMinds catalogue I was impressed, and pointed anyone looking to buy a present for HackneyChild towards it - the toys were fun, educational and good quality. The company is founded by an ex-teacher and makes a point of the educational value of what it offers.

Flicking through the latest catalogue in search of presents for winter-born nephews I didn't at first notice what was going on in the Science & Discovery Section. But after 20 pages of chemistry sets, weather stations, telescopes and electronics comes a two-page section called In the Pink - beauty salons, perfume making kits, a kaleidoscope, pink Meccano. Hang on, I thought, this is special Girl Science? Who was all the rest of that section aimed at?

Looking back, sure enough in the 20 pages preceeding, and the 12 pages following, the "pink" section, there are 22 pictures of boys interacting with the products (not including the packaging) and two pictures of "Dads". There is one picture of a girl, and one of a mum (bizarrely under the headline "Made by Dad and Me"), and one of a child whose gender is not clear. (There is also a mum and a girl on a video fridge magnet that a boy is looking at).

So where are all the girls? Oh, here they are, bless them, in the Creativity section. Nineteen of them, and not a boy in sight.

This would be bad in a mainstream high street toy catalogue. In a catalogue that touts its educational nous it is appalling and unacceptable. I am affronted on two fronts - as a woman I am incensed that girls' science toys are ghettoised in a two page pink section, and as a mother of sons and aunt of four nephews, I am disappointed that boys are steered away from creativity and art. I had a chemistry set, my sister had an electronics kit. If we were young today would we be making perfume and jewellery boxes instead?

I have nothing against these products, they sound fun, and I'm sure girls, and maybe some boys would enjoy them. I have nothing against products that are mainly targeted at boys or mainly targeted at girls. And I can see that some specific products in the creativity section are boy-friendly. But to have 22 boys and two (at a push) girls in the science section, and 19 girls and NO boys in the creativity section is really saying something disturbing about just who should be taking Chemistry and who should be taking Art.

Monday, 18 October 2010

They say it's your birthday

Time, where have you gone - five minutes ago we were at the zoo for HackneyChild's second birthday and suddenly we were celebrating his third with friends and family. Wetherell Children's Centre was the excellent venue - the centre allows under-fives to use one of its rooms for a party in return for an unspecified donation, and the staff are very welcoming. In return they hope to get more children registered with the centre which I was a bit rubbish at facilitating on the day due to the unforeseen stress of hosting, so I am now running around after guests trying to get them to fill in forms.

HackneyChild seemed to have a lovely time and when our games organising energy ran out the small guests were able to play with the many toys in the room. As most of his friends are from our NCT group, they all have their birthdays at the same time, so next week we will be at third birthday parties all weekend. I'm quite looking forward to parties where I don't have to provide food or games though.

Police crash

The sound of sirens is so usual round here that we don't give them a second thought but when the usual nee naw nee naw was followed by an almighty CRASH on Saturday, I nosily ran outside with HackneyBaby, Hackney_bloke, Essex Brother-In_law and Number One Nephew to see what was occuring.

It was this

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Secret garden

Today we went to Wetherell Children's Centre's Green Fingers Garden Project for the first time. The centre, which backs on to Victoria Park, has a great spiral garden packed with things to inspire and  interest children, including a story den made out of willow, herbs, strawberries, a scarecrow and a compost heap.

The staff were very friendly and welcoming, and HackneyBoy absolutely loved the session, grabbing a wheelbarrow straightaway and getting stuck in with some weeding. I was really impressed with how the project workers treated the children with respect and engaged all their senses pointing out colours, smells, spiders and snails, and so on.

When we got there a number of child-friendly tools were laid out. After the weeding, the children made a picture with leaves and flowers, and then had "snack" and a story (Give Me My Yam) in the den. I could see from HackneyChild's face and the way he responded to the project workers that he was having a great time.

I hardly like to big up this session as when we went there were only two children, which was great for HackneyBoy who can be quite antisocial (luckily he took a real shine to the other boy who he has seen around before, and kept asking where he was going afterwards). But obviously it would be better to reach out to more children. The project workers said the sessions used to be crowded but now they take place in the early afternoon when most children are napping - also, the weather was threatening rain all day although in the end it just lightly showered.

All in all the Green Fingers project is a great example of the best that a children's centre can offer. And I gather the garden either already offers or will be offering sessions to local nurseries and schools so it is definitely reacing more than the two there today!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

A tube with a view

Today the Hackney family made the trip down to the Olympics site, to the View Tube, a viewing platform giving a view of the ever-more-completed-looking stadium, swimming thing, cycling thing, and so on. HackneyChild always enjoys a good look at a digger, so he was happy. HackneyBaby screamed the whole way there, but stopped when we arrived, so perhaps we can infer he too was happy.

There is a nice cafe there made out of a container. I always like there to be a nice cafe wherever I am.

The UK Youth Parliament was having a meeting in the room above the cafe, and a lady called Gemma came down and asked a woman sitting on our table to pick a name from one of her two hands - they were having a ballot, she said. I don't know what the ballot was for,but it might have been simpler and involved less maths if the Labour Party had followed suit and just written EM on one bit of paper and DM on another, popped into the nearest cafe and asked someone random to pick.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A step too far?

Until I had two boys I was very much of the nurture camp in the nurture versus nature gender argument - I had the opinion that boys and girls were genderised by society rather than innate differences. My train, car and digger loving, non sleeping, rock climbing first son has slightly changed my mind, but I still believe that while there are some differences between the average boy and the average girl, gender is on a spectrum and is pretty much influenced by society. (To that end I will be intrigued to follow the experiences of Pop, the non-gendered Swedish child.)

I haven't gone that far but I have tried to ensure that despite the number of trains and cars he owns HackneyChild also has a doll, a tea set, and so on. I have painted his nails and let him rummage through my jewellery, I read him Milly Molly Mandy as well as Thomas the Tank Engine. But my principles were faced with a big test this week in the confines of Clarks on Mare Street, and I am sorry to say they crumbled.

Charged with choosing new shoes, HackneyChild headed straight for the sparkly pink ones. "Look!" he said excitedly. "This one has a birthday cake on it!" I am ashamed to say I went: "Uh...oh look! This one has dinosaurs on it!" I just couldn't buy him the pink shoes. They were so very pink. I really wish I could.

But I don't think its just my social cowardice. I am saddened by the pinkification of girls and ASBO-ification of boys, as evidenced in the inescapable "sparkly princess"/"here comes trouble"-type slogans on clothing. It was so obvious which shoes were girly and which were for boys in that shop. I may be dreaming but I am sure when I was a little girl things were not so gendered - I remember having the same dungarees as my friend's little brother.

They didn't have the dinosaur ones in HackneyChild's size. He now has shoes with diggers on them.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Baby puree or dip?

With HackneyChild we did everything by the book. Not a sliver of solid food passed his lips before six months and one week, as per guidelines. (We were on holiday the week before). I slavishly followed Annabel Karmel's timetable in the Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, with baby rice giving way to the proscribed vegetable of the day.

With HackneyBaby we have been much more lackadaisical. He has already had a suck on a green bean, bits of cucumber, apple and banana, although he hasn't really ingested any, and at five and a half months today he had his first spoonful of baby rice. (HackneyChild said "It smells disgusting".) Any worries I had about starting too early were banished as he grabbed the spoon and started to enthusiastically shovel it into his mouth himself. Baby rice again tomorrow, then onto the wide world of fruit and veg!

On the subject of baby purees, I was at a barbecue yesterday with my lovely NCT friends, three families who have children the same age as HackneyChild and now all have another one as well. As I was filling my plate with meat and salad I saw two bowls of dip, a green dip and what looked like a kind of salsa. "What's that?" enquired my friend. "I don't know, but I'm having some," I said, spooning it onto my plate. It was the one-year-old's baby food.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Tube tracks and pirate ships.

HackneyChild currently loves maps and is never happier than when pointing out all the hospitals on the A to Z. He also likes the tube map and can match most lines with their colours. When we got onto Bethnal Green platform last week he pulled away from me and ran over to the track, saying "What colour is it?" He was most disappointed to find it was not red in real life.

We were on our way to the Princess Diana Playground.It is superb - massive pirate ship, sand, water, little houses. It's enclosed, and you have to buzz to get through the gate, which is excellent, since it was only a few days since HackneyChild disappeared on me at Highbury Fields, and I had to enlist the help of the local children to track him down. I only have a few quibbles - firstly the cafe is remarkably un-child friendly for a cafe in a playground - the only child option seems to be a small pizza, with even the sandwiches being massive baguettes. Secondly if you have a buggy and sleeping baby it's hard to get near enough to the pirate ship and other things to be near your other child, as they are surrounded by sand - but that is part of the charm so it is hard to think what could be done about that really.

Can't wait for the influx of New Yorkers

This is just getting silly. Our street's trendiness, previously chronicled here, has just gone stratospheric with a mention in the New York Times.

"The quiet streets north of London Fields are lined with tidy, modest Edwardian row houses, and at first glance one of those streets, Wilton Way, looked like a quiet business district. But then I noticed that the storefront post office was actually an art gallery called Posted, and that the Wilton Way Cafe had flea-market furniture and a booth in the window from which a Web broadcast emanated."

Let's see if we can work the same magic on the street we are shortly moving to. Currently a quiet Victorian residential road, by the time we leave it'll be crammed with boutiques, cafes, markets, art exhibitions, and a canal will have appeared out of nowhere.

Monday, 30 August 2010

The Siblings' Busy Book - review

My sister-in-law had a copy of The Siblings' Busy Book and I really liked it,so I bought my own. Basically, it is 200 activities that children can do, with sections in each activity focusing on what you can do with a baby, toddler, pre-schooler and school age child. It's an American book so some of the activities are quite US-focused, for example making paper hats for Columbus Day, but the only one that you really couldn't do in the UK (unless you lived in Dartmoor) is letterboxing, as this doesn't seem to take place here (I may be wrong).

You might say, as some have, "surely you can just think of things to do with your kids anyway", and it is true that, especially in the "let's pretend" section, many of the games are things you might play anyway - shops, doctors, and so on. But even here, it is helpful to have new ideas to prolong a game, or make it relevant to different ages, or just save your sanity from having to go through exactly the same motions for the nth time. While we play shops all the time, for example, I wouldn't have thought of playing "libraries", which has become a great game to play when I am feeding HackneyBaby ("HackneyBaby would like a book about squirrels. Do you have one you can recommend? What happens in this book? Is it short or long?").

It's also useful for when your brain is entirely blank at the end of the day. Other sections include music and movement, outdoor adventures, learning and exploring, in the kitchen and rainy day fun. As well as libraries, we have played "mail for you and me" (again, I would have thought of playing post but this gave added ideas like making postcards and using stickers for stamps), Diddle Diddle Doo, and apple printing. The next thing I want to do is make ice bricks and build with them, and do bark rubbing.

A lot of the activities are really for babies over six months ("your young baby will like to watch his siblings during this activity" it says quite often which is not true for HB for any reasonable period of time) so I'm hoping that the book will really come into its own over the next few months.

Funnily enough, HackneyChild keeps wanting me to read him the book itself, rather than do any of the activities. "What is this game called? How do you play it?" he keeps saying. Me:  "Would you like to play it?" "No."

Thursday, 26 August 2010

On repeat

Kids love repetition. They really, really, do. It's most obvious in the books for little'uns like That's not my kitten/ dragon/ princess but older children respond well to series like Malory Towers, where a lot of satisfaction is derived from the repetitive set pieces like New Girls Visit The Head; Midnight Feast; and Lacrosse Match.

So I should have realised when HackneyChild demanded a "story about shapes" (?) that this would not be a one-off. Au contraire, we have stumbled across a winning and not-to-be-deviated-from formula, which I shall now provide for you in the hopes that I can spread the pain. We have had this "story" ten times today alone.

Once upon a time there was a little XY (where X is colour, and Y is shape - eg blue rectangle). The little XY lived in the land of X2Y2 (another colour, another shape). He was quite happy but one day he started to feel a little lonely, and began to wish he had someone to talk to about Xness and Yness, instead of having to go on about X2ness and Y2ness all the time. So he decided to try to find the land of XYs.

At this point the X2Y2s can be dismissive or encouraging, it doesn't matter, as soon the little XY is packing a bag filled with an array of random food and drink and setting out on a mode of transport (car, helicopter, street cleaner) to find the XYs. First he discovers the land of [new colour/ shape combo] whose inhabitants are unfortunately unaware of the location of the XYs, but suggest he try the [yet another shape/ colour combo]s who live by the Prominent Geographical Feature over there. This can go on until your brain rots and the little XY is finally reunited with other XYs like himself. He can then live with them forever or live with them for a bit but then go back to the X2Y2s who have been so kind to him (or both, if HackneyChild is telling the story).

Shakespeare this is not. I remember in What Katy Did Next the eponymous Katy is forced to relate the incredibly dull adventures of two little girls called Violet and Emma to the little girl Amy she is travelling around Europe with. "Now, Violet and Emma, if the truth is to be told, had grown to be the bane of Katy's existence. She had rung the changes on their uneventful adventures, and racked her brains to invent more and more details, till her imagination felt like a dry sponge from which every possible drop of moisture had been squeezed." So she kills them off, to the distress of her young charge. I really feel for Katy at this point.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Go market researcher!

I will review the excellent The Siblings' Busy Book properly when I am not about to go to bed to try to get some sleep in case tonight turns out to involve another 2am trip to Tesco to buy Calpol (or something similar, clearly we already have the Calpol. And I must point out it wasn't me who went, but there was still a lot of screaming for many hours).

But back to the book - HackneyChild has quite taken to one game in it which involves professions and music. You have to say a little rhythmic verse, altering the profession each time, something like: "Hey diddle diddle, Who's in the middle, When you want some bread? A baker, that's who, diddle, diddle doo. Go baker!" (It's an American book, as you may have guessed).

HackneyChild liked it so much that we quickly got through all the child-friendly professions - firefighter, teacher, doctor, etc. So I was forced to turn to family and friends to try to make up new verses. It made me realise that modern day jobs are quite resistant to being summed up in two or three words, like "Who's in the middle, when you want to gather information about markets or customers?  A market researcher, that's who - go market researcher!".

Or: "Who's in the middle, when you want to read an article about promotional T-shirts? A trade journalist, that's who - diddle, diddle doo - go trade journalist!".

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Dinosaurs and diggers

Quick, measure your child, and if they are under 90cm hurry to Milton Keynes before they have a growth spurt, because those under that magic number get in free to Gulliver's dinosaur and eco farm park. Unfortunately HackneyChild is 95cm it seems, and no amount of slouching could get us in for free.

Gulliver's World, bless it, would probably be the first to admit that it is no EuroDisney, or even Alton Towers. But I love slightly eccentric British "theme parks", having magical memories of visiting Black Gang Chine as a five year old.  Gullivers (which also has a main park, which we didn't go to) is definitely of that ilk. There's something a bit homemade about it, a bit amateur, which is not to discredit it at all.

For example the staff were charming but hadn't quite got the hang of the "have a good day" schtick. One ride attendant confided in me, as I idled around in the drizzle with HackneyBaby waiting for Hackney_bloke and HackneyChild to come off a boat ride, that his partner had left him the night before, taking their child with her. "Enjoy your day with us," he added, sadly.

HackneyChild was in heaven as there were so many of his favourite things in one place - diggers, tractors, dinosaurs. He was particularly attracted to a motheaten cat that was part of a singing farmyard scene. I liked the way you were given a seed on entry which you could then plant in a potting shed, the fact that there was no queue for anything even during the summer holidays (although it was raining in the morning), and the way the dinosaurs peered over the foliage in the background of the farm.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Oh, for heaven's sake.

Having been a features editor myself I realise that magazines commission this stuff just to annoy people and get letters (Is the British middle class an endangered species?) But I'll bite anyway. I would have done this on the article itself but it doesn't seem to have commenting available.

"Their three-bed house needs work...They own one 10-year-old car. 'We don't talk about money. We just know we haven't got much.'... The family summer holiday is one week in France.. 'I would like to have a decent holiday.'"

Oh please. One week in France? My heart bleeds. In what universe is that not a decent holiday? What do you want, three weeks in the Maldives? I would be irked even if it had said: "The family summer holiday is one week in Cornwall/ Kent/ Norfolk", as it's not only possible but easy to have a lovely family holiday there, but France?

Anyway, Hackney gets a shout-out as an increasingly middle class area, which is true: "The neat, middle-class enclaves of Edinburgh or Leeds, with their almost wholly middle-class streets and playgrounds, offer a different life from scruffier, more socially mixed but increasingly gentrified Hackney or Lambeth."

Disclaimer: I am myself almost certainly middle class, although it's hard to tell these days, but I would consider a week in France to be a top holiday, considering I am currently getting very excited about a possible off-season week at Butlins.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A Deepness in the Sky - review

A Deepness in the SkyA Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me forever to read but that's because I had a baby in the middle. Last time I had a baby I was reading the same author's A Fire Upon The Deep so I thought it appropriate to follow up with the prequel. I preferred the first book which I found kind of hallucinatory but that was probably due to lack of sleep. This one was brilliant too, but the first was more ground breaking in its view of the universe I thought. I read a review that complained that the aliens in Deepness were too un-alien, but I think that is the point - you do find out in the end why that might be, that the book is basically filtered through another point of view and not everything the Spiders do is to be taken literally.

I found the depiction of ordinary (and not so ordinary) people living under a dictatorship, and how they come to terms with that, to be very interesting, and I enjoyed the portrayal of the ultra-market-led Qeng Ho and Pham Nuwen, although I'm not sure I would enjoy living in a society so driven by market forces.There are many moments of genuine horror here as well, and they slap you in the face unexpectedly - such as what happens to Qiwi's mother and how Qiwi finds out. All in all, great book, easier to read than Fire I think (or possibly I have an easier baby this time). I hope Vernor Vinge is writing more novels, and I would like to read his short stories now.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, 19 July 2010

Telling off other people's kids

At Clissold Park's LolliBop on Sunday, which was generally enjoyed by the whole Hackney family I was watching HackneyChild bounce on the inflatable farm with half an eye and looking at a chair with the other eye and a half, wondering if I would be allowed to sit down on it. Suddenly there was a wail from the inflatable and a mum started shouting at a child: "HOW DARE YOU??? HOW DARE YOU HIT/PUSH ANOTHER CHILD LIKE THAT?? YOU ARE A HORRIBLE CHILD!!".

From my chair coveting position I couldn't see who she was shouting at but I assumed her own child, probably quite an old one, had hit another. Even with that caveat it sounded a bit over the top but parents do get harassed and who knows what the little darling had been up to previously that day. But shifting positions nosily, I saw her carry off a weeping toddler while the child she had shouted at (aged three or four?), clearly not her own, looked kind of traumatised and stood there for the rest of the bounce session not bouncing and looking worried.

Now I didn't see what he did, but I still wondered what my reaction would have been. It's always a dilemma, telling off other people's kids, especially when their parents are right there but perhaps didn't see what their little one just did. I felt sorry for the hitting child. Then again, maybe he won't do it again and I do think we must all have the right to "tell off" children if they behave unacceptably in public, especially if it is impacting on us or our children. I guess there is a line somewhere. What do you think?

Friday, 16 July 2010

Questions children ask

After the "what is die?" debacle, I realised I am not prepared for such questions. So I was pleased to find in the library yesterday a book by Miriam Stoppard, Questions Children Ask and How to Answer Them. It gives different approaches depending on the age of the child, which I like. I am also impressed with the range of questions and the truthfulness yet simplicity of the suggested answers, especially the section on sex. I think it is really important to answer children's questions truthfully, but on the other hand you don't want to worry them.

I have Miriam Stoppard's Complete Baby and Childcare Book  and generally find her to be pretty sensible. It seems, as I suspected, I was completely wrong to say dying was "not being here anymore" as children think the person will come back. The suggested answer for two to four year olds is "'dead' means a person or animal stops breathing and their body doesn't work anymore. Usually people and animals only die when they have grown very old."

Now I just have to wait for him to mention it again. Probably this won't happen now, but at least I am prepared!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Call yourself a writer? Meme response

Way back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the stars were in different constellations, Freelance Unbound tagged me in a journalism meme. It's only taken me slightly less than a year to get round to doing it.

Which words do you use too much in your writing?  
"Lovely", in my blog/ social networking writing - although it's not a word that crops up much when writing about youth policy or social work. "Young people" - but I can't help that. 

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read? 
In raw copy, "launched a new". I hate that.

What’s your favourite piece of writing by you?
Being a hackette for hire, things I write don't tend to stay in my memory. I read past articles and think "Blimey, I knew a lot back then."  But in my first few weeks at uni I contributed a feature length interview with Liam from the Prodigy, arranged off my own bat, to the uni paper. Looking back it is embarassingly studenty and written by someone who doesn't know rave from ballet, but I was very proud of myself at the time. But perhaps my favourite is this Star Trek/ Harry Potter pastiche

What blog post do you wish you’d written? 
Much like my own work blogs are quite ephemeral to me so I read, enjoy, then forget. Perhaps Come Dine With Me In The Tardis.
Regrets, do you have a few? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t written?
Nothing has come back to bite me so far and while I'm sure there have been complaints (although I can't remember any - oh, I recall a company once complained about me saying they had gone bankrupt when in fact it was some fiddly near-bankruptcy thing) nothing has been so inaccurate that I have been sued or anything, so no, unless it was so traumatic I have erased it from my memory. Possibly spending the first half of my career writing about how to market to children (among other things) and the second half writing about the pernicious effects of marketing to children (among other things) wasn't the best idea, but hey.

How has your writing made a difference? 
Hopefully some things I have written have helped youth workers, social workers etc to do their job. Also I do think some of the articles I wrote as part of a general campaign to make writing about young people more positive, or at lease less negative, had an effect. People were always quoting our survey even when it was ancient.

Name three favourite words
Crystalline, champagne, chocolate

And three words you’re not so keen on
"Wherefore art thou", when used to mean "Where are you?" in a headline or standfirst. IT DOESN'T MEAN THAT.

Do you have a writing mentor, role model or inspiration?
I want to be Zoe Williams. She gets to write about TV and being a mum, and gets paid for it. Polly Toynbee is an inspiration in my less shallow moments. When I was younger I wanted to be Polly Vernon but she annoys me now. Who cares what she bought this week?

What’s your writing ambition?
To write a novel. It's about mysterious goings on in the cinema I used to work in. It will never happen.

Plug alert! List any work you would like to tell your readers about: 

Nothing of mine. You should read A Typical Essex Girl, she is great.

I can't tag anyone as it's much too late. ATEG, you should do it - the questions pertain just as much to general writing as journalism. Anyway, Yo! magazine counts as journalism.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Wardrobe fail

Obviously packing for a weekend away is no longer the relatively simple affair it was when I just had myself to pack for. Friday morning I was packing HackneyChild a case for his sleepover at my mum's, which had to include combinations for every kind of weather and emergency it might be possible to experience, ie short pyjamas, long pyjamas, Iggle Piggle, a headless Tango man (that was his request), shorts, trousers, t-shirts, a rain coat, and so on. Also I had to pack for HackneyBaby a case that would meet the requirements of a wedding and a hotel room and constant sicking and pooing, thus including sleeping bags, many different vests and outfits, etc.

Finally I had to pack for me something that would make me look vaguely presentable at three months post partum with a lot of weight to lose and amusing Dolly Parton style boobs, and that would also allow for breastfeeding. The resulting outfit was more summer picnic than wedding but I jazzed it up with a hat, shoes and a necklace.

And we were off - first to Essex to drop off HackneyChild (where, incidentally, HackneyBaby screamed so loud and long that I thought we might be going to A&E rather than a wedding, but then he stopped so goodness knows what that was about). Then to Cambridge to check into our hotel. A cooling shower later I was ready to don my outfit and hit the wedding - but wait! Here's the shoes, hat and necklace - but no clothes for me. In the rush they were sitting nicely in my wardrobe at home waiting to be packed last so they wouldn't get squished.

Cue a hot and sticky run around the shops of Cambridge, where the lady in Monsoon completely earned my undying gratitude by steering me straight to a dress that was both flattering and allowed breast feeding (although not very discreet b-feeding I have to say). So thanks to her I was able to not attend the beautiful wedding in grubby shorts and a T-shirt with holes in it. I know they say no-one is looking at you, everyone is looking at the bride, but I think I would have stood out a bit.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Celeb spotting

In the playground that HackneyChild calls the "digger playground" the other day, I heard a familiar voice. It wasn't a mum I vaguely knew through singing or drop in or whatever though, as is so often the case, but lovely Cerrie from CBeebies with her daughter.

Immediately I was torn. I wanted to go with my usual instinct when confronted by a celebrity, treat them like anyone else (ie ignore them) to show how cool I am/ not invade their space (a technique I also used to use on boys I fancied, to limited success surprisingly). But then again if I was standing right next to any other mum in the playground I would definitely say something to them, and had already conversed with random mums about the age of our children, the best kind of scooter to buy, the relative ease of second children (not) and so on. So I was filled with confusion.

Instead I addressed a remark to the little girl to the effect that she looked like she wanted to chase the pigeons. Clearly this was a faux pas as Cerrie immediately looked horrified and backed away from the now flying pigeons. So consumed with embarassment I retreated back into ignore mode. I shall assume this as default if confronted with a celeb in a playground again. Unless it's Hugh Laurie of course.

HackneyChild by the way showed no sign of recognition, and I wasn't going to encourage him. It must be a nightmare for the poor woman in playgrounds  - she must know that every mum there knows exactly who she is and probably half the kids as well. It's like David Tennant trying to hang out at a Doctor Who convention unnoticed.

Lies we tell our children

HackneyChild, who I am currently trying to prise away from Milkshake to eat his porridge, has just told me that the TV turns off by itself after Thomas. I can only assume this is some magic Hackney_bloke has previously worked with the remote control. I shall follow in his footsteps.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Body Works

There's an interactive exhibition at Hackney Museum (under the library on Reading Lane) called Body Works, which we have been spending some time perusing, usually after toy library on Tuesdays. The museum is fun and educational with a bus (no 38 of course) to play on, a replica boat like one dug up in Hackney with reed baskets full of fish and fruit to trade, bricks to build tower blocks and demolish them and much more. Body Works is a temporary exhibition but it's even better than the general museum. There's a heart tent, a sensory walk for bare feet, a skeleton to rearrange, and a cabinet of curiosity -basically loads of drawers with things in like instruments, feathery boas, masks and the like. You can draw pictures, look in mirrors and press buttons to get sounds. And there is a chair made of stuffed animal toys.

I am impressed by the implied trust in children and their parents which lets them rampage round this hands-on exhibition, touching, feeling, listening, taking stuff out of drawers and putting them back in. It is looking a bit worn now, mainly the bit where you put your hands in to feel different textures as children seem confused about where their hands go, but it is still great. 

It was a shame though that the nursery class we saw there today weren't getting as much out of it as they could have. There were about 12 four year olds (I'm guessing) and three adults, and while the kids were having a whale of a time screaming, charging round the exhibits, and generally causing havoc, I don't know if any of them even knew it was an exhibition about the body. The adults were no making any attempt to engage them with the exhibits, one of them was just sitting in a chair watching and the others were limited to "Stop running! Put your shoes on!". It's a real shame as there is so much learning to be done there, in a fun way.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Conversation on walking through a churchyard today

"Don't climb on that [tomb], HackneyChild."
"It's disrespectful."
"Because that's where people go when they die."[realise immediately have opened can of worms].
"What is die?"
[oh dear.] "It's, er, when someone isn't here anymore. [lame.] Like great grandad, he was here and now he isn't."
"Where has he gone?"
[can of worms part two.]. "Er, I don't know."
"Maybe the supermarket."
"Er, yes. Maybe."

Later I tried again with a feeble explanation involving flowers, but he didn't seem that bothered, thankfully. I don't know if a supermarket based afterlife would be heaven or hell. Maybe it depends if it was Waitrose or Tesco.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Ah ooh, paddling pools of Hackney

That title is supposed to be sung to the tune of Werewolves of London, by the way.

For the last week we have been enjoying the sultry weather by visiting different paddling pools,so here is a highly scientific review of them all.

Victoria Park paddling pool 

Vicky Park boasts the most exciting paddling pool so far, with different levels and cascading water. It's located in the adventure playground near Queen's Gate. I don't know what the opening times are but I imagine the same as the park itself. I have been there 11am on a weekday and it was open then.

GOOD - Afore mentioned different levels and cascading water make it exciting; it's pretty big so doesn't seem crowded even on a hot Sunday (today); room for picnics around the sides; different "rock pools" have various depths for various ages and abilities; the pool is in a playground so there are swings and slides for when the kids get bored of water

NOT SO GOOD  - Not much shade on the pool although shade around about. The different levels can cause slipping and falling, and the design means you can't stand in one place, say with a baby, and watch your toddler, as they keep disappearing from view. The playgournd includes massive slides any self respecting child will demand to go on, but you have to be seven. Not easy to find. No nearby cafe, although there is an ice cream van.

ALL IN ALL: A brilliant pool but best to have one on one adult/ toddler

London Fields

London Fields paddling pool is located next to the Lido and tennis courts at the park end furthest from Broadway Market. It is closed on Mondays and Thursdays and opens at 11am, purportedly, although I have had to wait til 12 before. It's a normal kind of squarish pool with some trees around it.

GOOD - Well, good for us as it's a mere five minutes away but that doesn't really translate for any reader. It is fenced and gated making it difficult for toddlers to abscond. There is shade around the pool and usually a bit of the pool is shaded. The Lido cafe (Hoxton Beach cafe) serves among other things Lebanese meze, sausage toasties, lollies and the best coffee I have ever tasted, although that only happened once - usually it's just normal coffee. There's a friendly atmosphere with kids sharing toys (sometimes under sufferance).

NOT SO GOOD - It is relatively small so can get crowded at weekends and on Fridays for some reason, also after 3pm when the big kids arrive from school. The opening hours are erratic.

ALL IN ALL: This is our default option. I like it as you see the same people there all the time so it feels friendly.

Clissold Park

Clissold Park paddling pool is located next to the deer park on the Church Street end of the park. At the moment Clissold Park is undergoing a lot of regeneration work but the paddling pool doesn't seem to be affected.

GOOD - It's a large pool, the size of a swimming pool, with a slope at one end like a beach (no sand). Plenty of green around the pool for sitting. There's a playground nearby with a sandpit. Clissold Park cafe is lovely but currently being renovated, however there is a temporary cafe which serves a really good range of food including a children's menu by the playground and an icecream van. Tehe pool was not at all crowded when we went on a weekday. I don't know the times but it seemed open when we got to the park at 10.30am. It might not have been though - we went to the playground first.

BAD - The cafe is not cheap, but what in London is?

ALL IN ALL - It's a bus journey for us so I wouldn't go there especially for the pool, but the pool/ playground/ cafe combo is quite winning.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

There's a party going on right here

Or ten doors down anyway, at the launch of Get Posted, the exhibition I wrote about previously. There is free alcohol, as I had hoped, although I'm limited to one glass sadly. We took HackneyBaby in a carrier, and HackneyChild, and had our pictures taken for Hackney Today, so look out for us...
HackneyBaby started screaming and Hackney_bloke got told off for flicking through a book on the Post Office counter - it's not a book, it's art -  so they went home while HackneyChild and I perused the vintage shop a few doors down. Hackney Child says his favourite thing in the exhibition was the "birdy in a jar" and I liked the writing desk and the melting typewriter, if that is what it is doing.
I brushed my hair as a concession to going out but felt a bit wrong in my maternity T-shirt (still!) and three day old trousers with assorted stains from sandpit, lunch and baby sick, when surrounded by arty types in vintage clothing and things in their hair. Said arty types are now spilling all over the road. Hackney_bloke has moved the car.
Lovely though it was to have a free drink I'm not convinced that handing out free booze to the denizens of Wilton Way and randonm passers by is a great idea. I predict a riot.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

On Play Dough and Play Doh

In my mind there are loads of fun and educational activities I would love to be doing with HackneyChild - baking cakes, creating family trees, bark rubbing, reading long books, making indoor gardens, having pretend camps and parties and discos - but the presence of rather demanding HackneyBaby makes this difficult if not impossible. This makes me sad, although I'm hoping in a few months HackneyBaby will be able to watch happily from a high chair or Bumbo without getting tetchy.

In the meantime, I did manage the other morning, while HackneyBaby and Hackney_bloke slept, to make play dough with HackneyChild. I remember my mum making shedloads of this as she ran a playschool, and I remember the salty taste so I must have been eating it, ugh. I had picked up a recipe from the local children's centre, and we duly mixed all the ingredients together. But it wasn't doughy, it was practically liquid. After adding more flour to no avail, I decided the children's centre had brilliantly missed out the instruction "and then cook over a slow heat". It's not the most brilliant play dough in the world but we made cakes in paper cases decorated with, er, lentils and pasta, as all the best cakes are. Next time I hope to use a proper recipe like this one which sounds lovely from Nurturestore.

From play dough the thing to Play Doh the brand - the people at Play Doh kindly sent us a Fun Factory, like the one I had when I was little, so even if all my attempts at making it fail we still have the factory version. The good thing about it is HackneyChild can play with it by himself, although he's not very adept at turning the wheel to get the different shapes - he is six months younger than you are supposed to be though. He likes to make noodles and press the dough (or doh, I suppose) onto the patterns.

One of his first actions was to mix together the colours to create a kind of purple, and I had to bite my tongue and let him - it's his Play Doh after all. I'd hoped my attempt at play dough would be useable in the toy but I don't think it will be, it's too gooey.

So, the home made and the branded in fierce competition - I'm not sure which he likes best, but I'm sure there's room for both, just as with the home made puree versus jars.

Friday, 25 June 2010


Our street just gets trendier and trendier. Excitingly, we have been invited to a private view of an exhibition at the former Post Office, called Keep Me Posted, which is all about "our postal history and heritage". I particularly like the idea of the hand carved seat on which visitors can write a letter and post it in the "elegant George V pillar box" that stands outside the post office.
This invitation is very good news as we never get out anymore what with HackneyBaby and all. Maybe there will be alcohol! Also, maybe the footfall of visiting artists and art lovers will be such that one of them will see the For Sale sign outside our flat and want to buy it. You never know.
Despite the fun-ness of Keep Me Posted, however, I'd rather, on balance, have a Post Office.
Next I would like someone to take on the closed fish and chip shop and turn it into a yummy fish and chip shop, like Faulkners, please. Or maybe someone will take it on as another exhibition space on the history of cod.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Questions questions

A conversation when going through the park today:

"Mummy, do dogs do wees?"
"Do cats do wees?"
"No!" [incredulous laughter]
"No, they do. It's true."
"Do cats have winkies [penis]?"
"Are all cats boys or all cats girls?"
"They are some of each."

 I have no idea what drugs they put in Smarties these days.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

On coping with two. And voting.

I am living a life of extremes. At 11am this morning I was sweatily lugging a screaming baby round the front room, still in pyjamas with my bra undone while HackneyChild pooed his pants, feeling like rubbish because I couldn't cope with two while mothers everywhere seem to manage OK. By 2pm, having taken them both to the park and voted, I was chowing down on glamourous cupcakes and coffee in the garden of our road's new trendy bakery feeling like a model family. If anyone had seen us then they wouldn't have thought that three hours ago I was the picture of not coping. I try to bear this in mind when I see mums looking like they are coping really well and when I am not.

The fact that Hackney_bloke works from home is a huge help though, I don't know how I would manage otherwise. People say that mums are very judgemental of each other but personally being a mum has made me much less so in many ways - anyone who has a baby and has managed to keep it alive and themselves relatively functional  is doing well in my view, and anyone who is a single mum or whose partner is away a lot I bow down to in awed admiration.

Yeah, voting - I enjoy it even if the result is likely to depress me. (Nationally I mean - I think Hackney will stay Labour). Personally I would vote for any party that promised to fund research into colic and pledged that under their government all babies would sleep through the night, but failing that I still think Sure Start is a Very Good Thing and so my vote is still red. HackneyChild spent the morning thinking we were going in "a boat" and after I had disabused him kept asking "What is vote? Where is vote?". Also this morning I discovered that both baby and child "enjoy" (ie one stops screaming temporarily and the other says "again. again")  The Nutcracker Suite, which is nice, even though we had to listen to the march over and over.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Dr Who, hey, Tardis.

Due to colic monster baby I have very limited access to two handed typing, so must write three blog posts all at once when by happy chance he is sleeping and not SCREAMING. [Any colic solutions welcomed by the way. HackneyBaby is transformed at 4pm every day into monster child. I think transporter beams may be involved.]

So my thoughts on Doctor Who so far as I'm sure Teh Internet is just gagging to hear them. I am far too tired to look up the names of the episodes so probably have them wrong.

The Eleventh Hour. Thought the "eating random foods" bit was very child friendly and wondered if we were seeing a metamorphosis into more of a children's show, but no. I liked how Matt Smith Doctor first met new companion when she was a little girl, so the relationship starts with him being older and more authorative and even when she is then older this feeling continues - otherwise with the actor being so young it might have felt more like two equals. Really like MS and Amy Pond is looking like one of my favourite companions ever. But what do I know, I liked Adric.

I went on to dream there was a sinister crack in HackneyChild's wall, but it turned out it led to a Salvation Army hostel filled with Australian backpackers, and our main worry was that they would wake him up.

The Beast Below.  Really really liked this in terms of style and atmosphere. What I love about this programme is the Britishness, there's enough US sci-fi, so UK-in-space rocked. But the plot was pants. Why keep feeding children to the beast if it doesn't eat them? What was the point of the Smilers? Still really liked it though. I love that Amy took about ten minutes to get captured in the grand tradition of companions.

Er, that Dalek one. Not so keen. Liked Spitfires in Space. Liked the robot. Liked Daleks making cups of tea with teeny Union Jacks on. But a bit bored of Daleks now, even Smartie coloured ones.  And what's with Amy having a crush on the Doctor; why do they all have to have feelings for him? Been there.

That Angels one I love River Song. I have no idea if this is a popular view as my internet surfing time is limited, but as with the Adric thing I suspect it is not. I like the idea of a relationship where the first time you meet your "wife" she dies. The angst. I look forward to the next episode.

In conclusion: I am liking the Moffat era.

Trendy cafes are breeding on our street

Now we have not one but two trendy cafes on our road. After the opening of Wilton's last year now comes Violet, a cake bakery and cafe - at least somewhere you can get a cake and coffee -  which is apparently set to open very shortly. This is very exciting, as cake is one of my favourite things.

It is bizarre that we now have two trendy cafes, a gastropub, and an arty vintage shop, when none of these things were here when I moved here, let alone Hackney_bloke who moved in some years before he let me join him. Back then we had a weird and very random shoe shop and a dodgy pub, and Hackney_bloke's scooter was set fire to outside our flat.

Of course, the bookies next door is keeping it real. And it wasn't that long ago we had our front door knob stolen - twice. But cafe owners and arty people, we appeal to you, keep up the good work and let's see those house prices soar ;-)

East London Line

I am loving, loving, loving it. Today was due to meet NCT friend and fellow new mummy of two for lunch and running very late because HackneyBaby did a massive poo just as I was about to leave. But see, the East London line whisked me down a lift at Dalston Junction, sped me through Haggerston and Hoxton and deposited me on Bethnal Green Road (another lift!) in plenty of time to chow down on Thai green curry ( I really hope HackneyBaby is OK with this once it is translated into milk) on Brick Lane.

Meantime Hackney_bloke took HackneyChild on a ride to New Cross gate and back as he was sorely disappointed when we turned up for the launch yesterday and couldn't get into the station. This was because Boris Johnson was faffing about with dancers etc and generally taking credit for something which was nothing to do with him, as the Labour protesters standing outside were pointing out. I wanted to get a picture of BoJo and HackneyChild as they have very similar hair but it was not to be.

It's a shame there is no lift at Whitechapel station, it would be great to be able to get there quickly.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Books for breastfeeding

My memories of breastfeeding HackneyChild are of course mainly from the latter stage of his career, so I remember deftly doing things with one hand while supporting him with the other. I had forgotten that little new babies need careful positioning and adjusting, so my plans to both catch up with my own reading (at night) and read to HackneyChild to keep him happy (during the day) have been knocked a bit.

Still, I am managing to reead to HackneyChild a bit and I am choosing long books in chapters to keep us both interested, mainly from my own childhood. He likes Milly Molly Mandy, and so do I  - I find the writing charming, and I think it is amusing to introduce words like "skein of silk" and "tea cosy" into his early vocabulary.

I also have Meet Mary Kate from my own childhood, which I don't find quite so charming but he likes the story about Mary Kate being ill and having her room redecorated particularly, I don't know why. I'm having to do a bit of editing while reading  - Mary Kate's "black doll Bobo" is either just a doll or has a proper name, and the story where Daddy interrupts Mummy who is cooking to get her to sew a button on comes with the line "Of course, he could just have done the sewing himself". (I remember my Mum doing the same with the Famous Five ("Julian is being very silly. Of course girls are as good as boys.")

I also want to get from my Mum and Dad's Aurora and the Little Blue Car (seems to be out of print), a tale of a Norwegian little girl who lives in a towerblock and whose Daddy looks after Aurora and baby Socrates while Mummy works in an office (again it's all tiny things that are big adventures to children - they make jam, they ride on the mechanical horse at the shopping centre etc) and Matthew's Secret Surprises (they get the car cleaned, they get a new cat). Oh, and Tales of Joe and Timothy (tower block again, also has a character called Aurora, strangely). I wonder if there are any similar more modern chapter books about the small things that children do, that other children like to hear about? The Harry and the Dinosaur books are similar and we like them very much, but they are shorter.

Welcome to the world

I wrote this blog entry already once, at about 3am, but the internet seems to have eaten it. So...

Alexander Philip, hence to be known as HackneyBaby,  made his way into the world on Easter Sunday like a particularly hefty chick (9lb 7). You may feel the name is needlessly Macedonian, but actually Alexander is for Scottishness and Philip for my dad and uncle. (different sides of the family, it would be weird calling both your sons Philip).

Homerton hospital has improved greatly in the last two and a half years; it has a new birthing centre with spacious and clean showers (last time was a miniscule shared shower), double beds, birthing stools and pools. The midwife was brilliantly supportive. The community midwives have been much better than last time too, they actually checked my stitches which I didn't get before and helped me breast feed.

Unfortuately they blew it by losing my delivery notes for seven hours leaving me champing at the bit to get home (after the 24 hours I had to stay in anyway because of Strep B). It's not so bad if you know you have to wait that long but every hour it was "oh yes, nearly there". In the end I burst into tears as HackneyChild was plaintively saying "Come home now mummy!", cueing the most vastly inappropriate response from the ward midwife: "Why are you crying? [Me: "because I have just given birth and am very hormonal and you have lost my notes and I don't know when I can go home"]. I had some sad news today you know, my colleague has just died." OK, that trumps me.

Re: Strep B, I was dismayed when told I would need to be on a drip during labour, but actually it was only for half an hour, so anyone worried about that shouldn't be. The info you get in advance is confusing but the drip doesn't take four hours as everyone seemed to be saying, the antibiotics last for four hours and then you get some more.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A worried little gnome

I don't want this blog to become "kids say the funniest things" (or not as it turned out) so after this I will cease and desist, but it cracked me up.

My pleasant dreams were again broken at 6.20am this morning (James Marsters this time - my brain seems determined to revisit old crushes before the baby comes) by a wail coming from HackneyChild's room, followed by the child himself.

"I'm a worried little gnome", he cried. "I'm a worried little gnome!"

My heart melted in a bemused way. "Poor worried little gnome, come in bed with mummy!" (Sotto voce to partner: "Where did he get that from?" Partner: "No idea.")

Climbing into bed the little gnome sobbed "Wipe it!". "Huh?" "I've got a runny little  nose! Stop laughing!"

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Dreams and proto-stalkers

Pregnancy is supposed to result in very vivid dreams, although this time round I haven't noticed it as much, probably because my sleep is likely to be interrupted by cries of "I am feeling a bit sad" or "I need more milk". I have had the "I have given birth to two tiny tiny thumb sized babies that I keep losing and forgetting to feed" one, and also two where Hackney_bloke brought a new wife home (one time it was Delia Smith...), probably this is me sublimating how HackneyChild will feel about the new addition. Or fretting about my cookery skills.

Last night though I had a, cough, "romantic" dream about Hugh Laurie (he was Dr House but nicer), which reminded  me of how me and Lovely School Friend used to stalk him back in the day (we were mocked by those who preferred Jason Donovan or Bros, but who's laughing now he's a sexy American doctor, eh?). This was before the internet/ Twitter/ Heat magazine and I'm sure today's teen girl stalkers would mock the rubbishness of our stalking techniques. Here is HackneyHackette's guide to being a rubbish celebrity stalker.

1. Identify that your chosen celebrity is appearing in a play in London. Go and see this play as often as your meagre resources and distance from London will allow. After the play hang out by the stage door for your snatched conversation and autographs. On way home tut disapprovingly at the forwardness of girls who asked for a kiss. Never realise that you could actually save money by not seeing the play, just going to the stage door.

2. Discover that your chosen celeb lives in "Camden". Spend half a day touring what you believe to be "Camden" keeping a sharp look out for said celeb's car, the numberplate of which you memorised while engaged in 1. Have little idea of what you would do if you spotted this car, apart from a vague plan about pretending to do a Geography project and knocking on doors.

3. Write to celeb with an amusing quiz for him to fill in and be delighted when he charmingly replies saying "You are very funny, please stop it, the last thing I need is more competition." Actually that was all Lovely School Friend, I lacked the initiative and in fact the funniness.

Monday, 29 March 2010


So today was supposed to be HackneyBaby's due date -  s/he has 4 hours to make an appearance. Today two people on Holloway road stopped me within five minutes of each other to tell me what sex of child I am having - hilariously one said a boy and one said a girl. Are the people on Holloway Road particularly psychic/ deluded/annoying?

Went to Mothercare to pick up last minute essentials - sheets for the Moses basket as a loft monster seems to have eaten all the ones we had last time, and a changing bag - I thought I'd manage with a normal bag but suddenly decided it had to be a "proper" changing one. I was finagled into filling in some form for "money off vouchers" ie "please send me direct mail forever". "Oh, you've put today's date instead of your due date," they said. "No, that is my due date." "You're due today? Go home! Get out of our shop!"

HackneyChild fell asleep in the car on the way and slept soundly while Hackney_bloke did the food shop and I waited in the car, then I did the baby shop and vice versa. He was sorely disappointed when we got home and he had missed the shopping, and had a big tantrum. I tried to talk him out of it by saying "Let me read you that book." "No! That is not a nice book! Someone gets eaten up in that book!" It's a nursery rhyme collection, no-one gets eaten to my knowledge. I also tried Milly Molly Mandy but it appears the same applies, although we couldn't pin down exactly who gets eaten - not Milly Molly Mandy or Billy Blunt apparently.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Coram's Fields

HackneyChild and I went to Coram's Fields near Holborn yesterday. The weather was amazingly springlike considering that today it is back to being cold and grey, and HackneyChild was being angelic, even though the bus journey was stop starty most of the way, so we had a brilliant time.

It's a great place for children with three or four different playgrounds for different ages, goats apparently wandering free, chickens, ducks and rabbits, a drop in for under-fives (we didn't try that) and a vegetarian cafe - no inside tables so wouldn't be great if raining but a good reasonably priced selection of foods children actually eat like normal sandwiches made from sliced bread (hummus, egg, tuna, cream cheese - not all together, even I think that would be disgusting and I am pregnant), pasta, and fruit. We also liked the wooden sheep and the summer house/ bandstand type thing.

Will definately try to go back in the summer, it looks a lovely place to have a picnic and nurse baby while HackneyChild runs around. I guess it might get crowded when the weather is good though.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Cinnamon Kitchen

Our "curry club", a fluctuating but lovely group of uni friends and others, has now racked up quite a good number of visits to various Indian restaurants in London. In celebration of one of our number's sadly brief visit to the UK from Argentina we went last night to The Cinnamon Kitchen by Liverpool Street, an off-shoot of The Cinnamon Club in Westminster, which I have been to twice and loved.

The food at Cinnamon Kitchen was delicious but the staff were weirdly stressy. I have never been to a restaurant where the staff stressed so much. Firstly making the booking my Visa details were taken and I was told there would be a £20 charge per person (!) if we cancelled without giving 24 hours notice; at the same time I was told I must inform in advance if the number of people attending was to go up or down. Maybe this is common practice but I've never had it happen before.

Then when we got there one lady got in an incomprehensible stress about whether we were going to use the A La Carte or Specials menu, as I hadn't specified when booking (hadn't been asked!). There were confusing instructions about being sure to inform the waiter which we were ordering from (the specials menu was exactly the same as the a la carte but with fewer dishes). Then someone else came along (while there were still only two of us there) to inform us that "what I will do for you is I will give you some of all the starters so you can share them." Now this would be quite nice if it was an option but it was presented as a fait accompli. ArgentinaGirl had the presence of mind to ask how much this would be and it turned out it would be more than each ordering a separate starter, weirdly.

On the up side though there was one lovely waiter who was very helpful with dietary requirements and putting orders in before everyone arrived. And as I say the food was delicious - I had fat chillis with spiced paneer and tilapia curry. I would have had dessert, there was something chocolatey that looked nice, but I didn't as noone else was and I didn't want to look like a greedy guts. Thanks goodness for that restraint, as it was I spent half the night in heart burn city due to the foolishness of eating spicy food at 35 weeks pregnant. HackneyChild decided to throw a massive tantrum at 12.45am as well and decided he would only go back to sleep if I came into his bedroom not Daddy. His best comment was "I don't like my bed! You must get me another bed!"

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Back in the saddle again

It's so weird being fulltime carer again. Today we went to Piccolo at Hackney Forge which we used to go to every week, and it was as if we had never left, apart from not recognising so many people. Then we went to the toy shop on Victoria Park Road, where we invested in some glue, scissors and paint brushes for future craft activities, Victoria Park playground and the Pavilion for scrambled egg, smoked salmon and chocolate brownie, with HackneyChild informing me what his usual routine with Daddy was : "I usually have a little plate. And a spoon." After lunch HackneyChild said: "Didn't we have a nice morning?" and he was right, apart from having to bribe him to leave the house with a biscuit and the inexplicable failure of his pull up half way house nappy pants things to actually stop the wee from wetting his trousers.

I had forgotten how easily you start talking to people when you have a child with you which is really nice - talked to two girls on the bus about cravings in pregnancy, and mums in the Pav and at singing about random things. I am always stymied though by my inability to tell whether a child is male or female - they say "ooh, how old is he" and I say "two and a bit. How old is, er, your one?" It just feels rude to say "And is that a boy or a girl?" so I end up addressing my questions to the child "And can you walk yet?". People keep coming up and saying "We know your little boy but he is usually with his daddy" so obviously Hackney_bloke made an impression on the mummies of Hackney.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Hackette no longer

Well, for the next year at least. Probably. Unless dire economic straits forces me back to work before that. I'm now on maternity leave, starting from last Monday, which means I'm now full time carer to HackneyChild and Hackney_bloke is full time freelancer/ wage earner. It also means we have withdrawn HackneyChild from his nursery, which I feel guilty about as he was getting on really well and they can offer such a lot of things that I can't like sand and water play and outside play(we have no garden); also HackneyChild was just starting to socialise with his peers and now I drag him away.

I did have some issues with the nursery (TV and food) but all in all they are brilliant, and getting HackneyChild's development books with all the notes about how he was progressing made me appreciate them even more. And I'm a director now - first meeting next month.

The main theme of this week has been potty training, and on Monday we went to Mothercare and bought a new potty (the first one was so tiny), and 14 pairs of pants. It seems to be going well - there were no accidents today - although I am wimping out when it comes to supermarket trips etc and putting pull up nappies on. We have also been to Discover in Stratford again (nice time but major tantrums on way back as I forgot to take dummy); Hackney City Farm (love it), London Fields playground, and the library. I need to get reaquainted with all the drop ins and stuff.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Big fat spoilers for David Tennant's last Who

I came to the New Years Day Doctor Who episode a bit late as I was bathing HackneyChild when it was on, I think - or washing up. Something.

Anyway, I liked it, although I see from a quick trawl of Teh Interweb many didn't, for varying reasons - they love David Tennant and he's going, they hate David Tennant and he was too emo, they hate Rose and she was in it, they love Rose and she wasn't in it enough...

I did have some issues though and there was one thing I did hate. Here are my thoughts in handy wipe-clean bullet-point format.

  • I love the idea of a world full of John Simms but it was very silly. What about children and babies, did they become little John Simms or full-size John Simms? Also, The Master isn't great at taking orders and I would hazard that this would be true even when it came to taking orders from himself. I can't see squadrons of Masters shouldering arms and saluting, as they did. But it was a chilling and at the same time funny thing to happen.
  • The thing I hated was Donna's arc. I didn't like it when she had her memories wiped before, because it resets her to being the annoying shallow person she was in the runaway bride episode and I really liked how she changed - in fact she's one of my favourite companions. But getting a lottery ticket and we assume shedloads of cash in the end from the Doctor just seemed like adding insult to injury - here you are shallow person, have some material goods, that'll compensate for having your personal growth and memories of the stars taken away from you. I suppose there's history for the memory wipe, with Jamie and Whatsherface - Zoe? - getting dumped back in their timelines also losing all personal growth. But I didn't watch them in realtime.
  • What is it with huge planets appearing in the sky to no apparent ill effect? It happened in the Star Trek film (ooh I can see Vulcan blowing up really clearly but it apparently isn't doing anything to the planet I happen to be on), and again here as Gallifrey loomed massive in the sky, but seemed to do little apart from cause a few bits of building to fall down. I'd expect massive tidal waves at least.
  • I assume we are not supposed to know who Mysterious Woman is but I hope its Susan, even if it is probably Mum of Doctor.
  • I liked how The Masters madness was all the fault of the evil Timelords. The angst! And I liked the Doctor/ Master bonding although "you could be as beautiful as a rainbow" or whatever it was was pushing it a bit.
  • I didn't like David Tennant to start with. I didn't like him and Rose together, thought they were too cliquey and annoying. And he was kind of horrible to Martha and Jack. But I thought he was great in the Donna episodes, and I love him now. Maybe it will even be a retrospective love if I watch past episodes, but not the werewolf one, he's really annoying in that. And, you know, I'd have liked him to continue as long as Tom Baker. But did he really have to draw out his regeneration so long? The other Doctors just keeled over and woke up as Peter Davison or whoever. Why is he suddenly so angsty about regenerating? Maybe its because he's getting to the end of his regenerations?
  • Martha/ Mickey - huh? Wasn't she engaged to the doctor from the last time the Master took over the world?
  • And finally - I liked the new Doctor much much more than I thought I would. I liked his "Trust me, I'm the Doctor" from the next season trailer. And I'm pleased River Song appears to be returning. But "Geronimo" is kind of a stupid catchphrase.