There was a little girl

Hubble and I seem to be locked in a prolonged battle of wills these days. Dear god, this girl is a wilful, raging little beast. Is this a girl thing?  I’m sure the Microbe was ever more docile and easy to reason with.

IMG_7247Just look at it…

Purest sugar and spice.

Until we raise the topic of hair clips. And getting dressed. And staying dressed. And keeping shoes or socks on. And having one’s nappy changed.

These things unleash baby outrage on a scale of “I HATE YOU ALL!” + door-slam for good measure.

Being made to get dressed is a form of advanced torture that must be struggled through from beginning to end – and preferably SCREAMED through, too.

And heaven forbid anyone should want to wipe away the twin rivers of snot from that little face.  Apparently this is an indignity beyond torture and the correct reaction is RAGE!

FullSizeRenderAnd as for hair clips (sigh).  If I don’t clip up her fringe, she looks like Dougal and can’t see a thing.  If I do clip up her fringe, she looks totally adorable…. for ohh, maybe 20 mins, if we’re lucky.  This is usually how long it takes for nobody to be looking, at which point she tugs them out and hurls them into the St Margarets abyss, never to be seen again.  Along with whatever is on her feet.

We lose approximately two of these bows per day and I’m afraid I’ve started bulk-buying them in bargain basement packs of 30, made by children in Chinese sweat shops.

Bobbles fare no better and alice bands don’t even make it out of the house . Tsk!

Moving on…

In lofty news, my new hobby is staring at the internet in a state of mild panic, trying to buy things for fast delivery because the plumber suddenly needs a valve or a shower tray. I’m never sure if I’ve bought the right bits because, frankly, I know NOTHING about valves and waste pipes and diverter switches.

I wonder how people choose between a thousand different nigh-identical shower enclosures?  I can’t even work out why one of them is £178 and the one next to it is £599… and yet the spec, pics and descriptions appear 100% identical.

Suffice to say I know not what I order…  I’m ending up choosing stuff purely because it happens to be in stock and crossing my fingers that it all fits. We now have about 35 separate deliveries coming while I’m at work and I bet the builders won’t hear the door knocks. I’ve had to make a spreadsheet of what’s coming when. And none of my order numbers appear to exist in the online delivery tracking system.

Excuse me while I breathe into a paper bag…


Posted in Along came Matilda, Domestic Chaos | 1 Comment

Wouldn’t it be loverly?

Hubblepot has most definitely levelled up from baby to toddler and walks all the time now. According to James “she walks like a megatherium on its hind legs“. (I shall leave that to your imagination.)

She’s certainly more of a walky than a talky. I spotted an old blog post from when the boy was her age and he had a much wider vocabulary – albeit made up entirely of words related to farm animals.

Hubble mostly restricts herself to singing along with “Row, row, row your boat” and shouting “NO!” 8,000 times a day. Her other new favourite is “ta” which has been drilled into her recently by nursery. Apparently this means both  “please” and “thank you” and everything in between.

I don’t approve.

Why bother to teach baby versions of words that you’ll only have to train them out of later? Why not just skip straight to “please” and “thank you” in the first place? It’s not exactly “antidisestablishmentarianism“, is it?


And don’t get me started on their accents. The girl is already bellowing “No” in a way that sounds like “Now“. And, after three years of nursery, it’s a task of Sisyphus teaching the boybot that the letter ‘l’ at the end of a word is not pronounced as a ‘w’ – and “girl” does not rhyme with “bell“. Thank god they talk properly at school. I’m hoping it’ll knock it out of him before he starts saying things like “who’s the daddy?

In lofty news, the staircase is up! It appears to be floating in mid air and hasn’t got any banisters yet, but the builder assures me it will defy gravity and stay up.  Meanwhile the cats have discovered that they can get into the 8″ hollow space between the loft floor and the ceiling below. I bet the builders love that.


Last night I sat at the top of the new stairs and looked down over the living room and it was really cool! If only it could stay like this.

Alas, the next step involves putting up walls and doors where we don’t want them, in order to pass building fire regs. It’s SO frustrating and will make everything smaller and darker. I think we might be approaching the ludicrous position of paying to have it all put up and then paying to have it all taken down again after it’s been signed off. (There’s nothing quite like throwing every last penny you own into a fiery pit marked ‘box-ticking’.)


(Yes, I know. FWP).

Anyhow – the shell of the room upstairs is taking shape.  This is what the dormer wall looked like last week when it was first being erected…


Now it’s got proper walls and half of it has been fenced off to become the tiny ensuite bathroom. (You can see through it to next door’s loft conversion which is happening at the same time.)


Three veluxes have also gone in today, one over the stairway and two in the bedroom. It’s going to be very light up there.

I’m starting to ponder things  like decor and whimsy. We’ve got to hurry up and choose a floor and furniture for the ensuite. And we have to work out how to lay out the room, given its size constraints and sloping bits.

Assuming the kids go up there, a bunk bed is looking unlikely, height-wise. So we’ll probably put their beds side by side, with a bedside table in between. (Hubble in a cot to start with).

Their bedheads could possibly go up against this V-shaped wall…


In which case I found some gorgeous wallpaper that might look fab over their beds…

But the scale of the trees turns out to be a bit disappointing when you see it in room mock-up mode so I’d probably end up doing something with paint instead.

Another option is to put their bedheads against the eaves wall, one under each velux.  Having had a quick nose up there tonight, I think this is probably the more viable option.


In this case I have rather a dreamy vision of turning the v-shaped wall into a wall of books, from floor to ceiling – maybe even with a small ladder to make the highest shelves accessible to microbes.

My main worry is getting enough storage up there for their clothes and toys. Space is scant but if we don’t sort out storage their room is going to be a festering pit of foulness from the first 24 hours. We’re already resigned to the fact that James’s current bedroom will have to be re-purposed as a storage room for guitars, sewing machines, keyboards, a metric ton of craft stuff and whatever else is lucky enough to survive the second cull from the storage unit.

Hmm…  I suppose that’s enough about the loft.

In bookish news, I’ve finally given in to temptation and started reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to the boybot. I’ve been trying to rein myself in a bit with books and not get carried away reading him stuff that he’s not emotionally ready to appreciate or understand.  This leaves me with a constant dread that someone might show him the Harry Potter films before he’s reached the ideal age to appreciate the books. I feel like he needs a DNR-style tattoo on his wrist that says “DO NOT SHOW HARRY POTTER FILMS TO THIS MUGGLE”  I wonder if I could get it stamped by the Ministry of Magic.

The lady who runs our gorgeous local children’s bookshop was quite disparaging about parents who read the entire Harry Potter series to their 6 year olds – she also advised waiting a couple of years for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. But then one of my mum friends told me that her 5 year old son absolutely loved it and I couldn’t resist. We retreated to his bedroom for an hour on Tuesday amid the worst of the building disruption and I read about a third of the book aloud to him – and he was thoroughly enraptured.

I also read him a Michael Morpurgo last week that was way too old for him. It’s called The Butterfly Lion and had the allure of being about animals and partially set in Africa. The boy enjoyed it but he also found a bit sad – also I had to skip over a few pages of war stuff that would have been way over his head.  (I get the impression ‘war stuff‘ and ‘a bit sad‘ might be Morpurgo’s calling cards so I will avoid foisting any more of those on him for a few years.)

Poor Hubble has been a bit neglected in the book department, but I think she’s just getting to the age of being interested in such things, so I shall make an effort to do better. I must read her more rhymes, I am sure she will be able to memorise them.

Well that’s it for now…


Posted in Life of James | Leave a comment


Bah! Never mind the omnishambles that is the rest of the country, I am feeling VERY hormonal. Pity the poor, unsuspecting ladies that I’m on my way to have dinner with.

Chaos still reigns at home. I’ll post some lofty pics v soon – once the staircase is up. But, in a nutshell, the dormer bit seems to be up and it’s starting to resemble a room. Albeit a smaller-than-desired room, with a delightful view onto the useless strip of flat roof at the back of our flat on which we are not allowed to extend, by even an inch. But I’m not bitter. Much. (I told you I was hormonal)

Seriously, never buy a maisonette, people. The building rules for maisonettes suck. And Richmond council’s planning department sucks even more.

I know. First world problems, etc. I’ll shut up about it.

In other news, the school hols are suddenly looming and I’m not at all prepared. This is our first experience of having a microbe off school for 6+ weeks and G and I have barely even discussed how we’re going to cover it between us and when to take time off work. I keep meaning to book the boy in for a week at a Fit-for-Sport camp at my work, so he can commute in with me for a week, but we’re feckless fools and have failed to firm up any plans or book anything so far.


In Hubble news, she is deadly cute and toddling about quite often these days but still reverts to crawling if she wants to get somewhere at speed. This week she’s had such a severe attack of nappy rash that she didn’t want to sit down and G thinks it has spurred her on to walk more often. Poor thing.  No idea what’s suddenly brought that on.

Besides that, she is turning into a thoroughly willful little beast. Her favourite word du jour is “NOOO!” I have a feeling this one might be trouble. We never really had tantrums with the boy. He was more into whininess than fits of passion. But I won’t be surprised if the girlbot goes in for the full deal… face-down, throwing things, etc. I guess we’ll wait and see. It makes me laugh because she reminds me quite often of my mum, who was, frankly, not averse to the occasional tantrum.

NHMIn other news, I don’t know why I’m bothering with the loft because we appear to have moved into the Natural History museum. Ever since we got our membership cards the boy thinks of it as his weekend residence. If we went twice a week, every week, it would not be too often for him.

He’s also newly obsessed with a DVD that he got for his birthday in which David Attenborough wanders around the NHM watching extinct animals come to life around him, by the power of CGI.  He’s had it for less than a week and has probably watched it about 87 times so far.

Yesterday G walked in on him watching it and overheard this little piece of supreme pedantry:

Attenborough: “This fossil is called an archaeopterix”
Chattenborough: “No. This is the fossil of an animal called an archaeopterix”

(Dear god. And some of you thought his daddy was pedantic).

Posted in Along came Matilda, Life of James | Leave a comment

Touched by your presents, dear

As if for no other reason than to prove me wrong, Little Miss Hubblepot chose the day after my last blog post to toddle down the hallway on her own two feet.

She seemed quite taken with her newfound skill and did it several times in the same evening… but hasn’t bothered at all since. The important thing, of course, is that she’s proven to her big bro that she’s perfectly capable of keeping up with the James’s, should the mood take her.

Being four years apart, it’s rare that I spot physical similarities between the two of them. Especially as one of them is brunette and looks like a consumptive extra from Oliver Twist and the other is blonde and looks like a squidgy body double for Bride of Chucky. But occasionally I come across an old photo of the boybot, back when he was a baby, and I wonder whether there might be some trace of sibling resemblance after all…


The boy had much fairer colouring back then. I suspect Millybags is doomed to remain little and squidgy, like her mummy. But we’ll have to wait and see whether she turns brunette. Writing this has reminded me that I ought to do a monthly mugshot gallery for Matilda – and probably an updated one for the boy, too. More things to find time for.

In birthday news, little David Chattenborough has turned five and is now the proud owner of an even bigger menagerie, including such things as a giant armadillo, a platypus, a ferret, an echidna, a numbat, a wildebeest, an oryx and about 30 other beasties of the world. This makes him very happy indeed and his bed has been extra-full for the last two nights.


Matilda got him a book of prehistoric creatures and a set of animal Top Trumps and his big present was a bicycle, which he now has to learn to ride.


On Sunday we took him to his second home (aka The Natural History Museum) where he did lots of curator-bothering. Hubble was as good as gold, bless her, and seemed content to be taken on a train and wheeled about for hours.

For reasons best known to my past self, I didn’t get many pics of Matilda’s birthday last month. I had the bright idea of recording a set of shaky-cam video clips instead. Hmmm. Roll on 4 weeks and I still haven’t got round to exporting the damn things off my phone.

Anyway here are a few, for the record…

Moving on to lofty matters…

It’s been one stress after another this week, with grumpy, high-maintenance neighbours, annoying surveyors and feckless solicitors. Between them they seem to be throwing up spanners on a daily basis. Still – at least we’ve emptied the junk vortex. I stuck my head up and took a few pics of the ‘before’ for posterity…

We now have far too much clutter in our storage unit to ever fit back into the eaves, despite freecycling a ton and taking countless car-loads to the tip.

It’s had a whole ‘nother car load added on top since I took this pic. There’s going to have to be a second cull on the way back in.

The building work is supposed to be entering full throttle this week but we’re not holding our breath, what with all the spanner-throwing and neighbourly hindrances. Feh.

On Monday I worked from home and had my first experience of builders galumphing about in the loft, directly above my head. I must admit I felt a pang of newfound sympathy for the downstairs tenants.  (Now kindly excuse me while I place an order for 35 layers of soundproofing underlay.)

Posted in Life of James | Leave a comment

Back to the old house

So… our loft is now 3/4 empty. You wouldn’t believe how onerous this task has been, especially for poor G who’s been doing Olympic-level lugging. Most people’s lofts contain a handful of heirlooms, photos, Xmas decorations and old toys. Ours is more like a giant cupboard of SHAME, stacked floor to ceiling with toppling towers of possessions.

As a result, the rest of our flat is now heaving with piles of junk that haven’t yet made it to storage/dump/freecycle and my past self is weeping at the dismantlement of my hobby graveyard. I’ve given away a ton of stuff. Soap- and candle-making equipment, sketch books and easels and 40+ large, unpainted canvases that were stashed up there, awaiting the return of my mojo. Let’s hope someone else’s mojo makes good use of them instead.

Now the scaffolding has gone up and our neighbours hate us and it all feels real. G stayed home to supervise the scaffolders and enjoy their sound effects. (“I don’t speak a word of Polish, but they have helpfully assimilated “fucking” into their vocabulary to make it easier for us”).  Building work starts on Monday (Jimmy’s birthday) and I’m bracing myself for 8 weeks of domestic hell. Meanwhile I shall try not to think about the cost – or the fact that we’re having to put walls back up that we deliberately knocked down ten years ago.

The loft bedroom isn’t going to be huge but it will at least have a teeny en-suite bathroom. We haven’t decided whether it’ll be our room or the kids’ room. Most days I’m leaning towards putting the kids up there with all of their clutter – but I might feel differently once it’s done. I could lock myself away and be a madwoman in the attic.

However it goes, I’m looking forward to the stage when the build is finished and I can start decorating the kids’ room and making it lovely for them before they trash it, like the savages they are. I have whimsical ideas that I probably won’t do, like making the stair risers up to the bedroom look like the spines of children’s books. (I know my real life is not Pinterest. It’ll end up being a beige carpet.)

NB: friends and family, consider this fair warning to get your excuses ready. We might be begging visitation rights in a month or so, to escape the horror of our living room ceiling being knocked out. Either that or we’ll end up living in the local Travelodge, waiting for school to break up.

As for the kidbots…

Little Miss Hubblepot is still in that prolonged stage of cruising (‘look, no hands!’) and babbling, where everyone assumes their baby is right on the verge of tap-dancing down the corridor and breaking into conversation when, in reality, they have no intention of any such thing. We’re getting sporadic words (such as “Yeah!” and “Bye bye!”) and she likes to sing and clap along with songs – but nothing that you’d call conversational skills yet.

The MMR jabs turned her spotty and snotty but it didn’t dent her chirpiness. I just wish we could get the hyperactive little beast to fall asleep earlier at night. There was a time when she used to go out like a light around 8pm but nowadays she’s like a restless, buzzing bee until 9 or 10pm.

As for the boybot, if I thought he was skinny last year, it’s nothing compared to now. It’s like living with a human spider monkey – a concave being made of gangly, flailing limbs, protruding ribs and knobbly knees. And he won’t fall asleep before 9pm either. Such a delightful family trait.

His teacher has told us that he’s not eating his lunches at school and can barely stay awake some afternoons (sigh). I’d hoped that school lunches would normalise him a bit and put a stop to his food silliness but, if anything, he seems to be getting worse. The presence of tomatoes, in particular, is enough to make any meal immediately inedible to him. If it was left up to him he’d live on a diet of peanut butter and bogies – with the occasional bowl of macaroni cheese. (Sadly only one of those three is served at school).

He doesn’t get away with refusing meals at home and I’m usually fierce enough to coerce food into him. However, this week, we’ve started to find sneaky bits of sandwich stashed in hidden corners… and I doubt we’d even find them if it weren’t for the fact that Matilda is suddenly chomping away on something that nobody gave her! She’s the human equivalent of a pet dog that James can feed under the table. Thank god at least one of them is a chubby little munch bag.

Well that’s all for now. Rambles shall continue at some point… maybe even pics if there’s anything worth snapping.

Posted in Along came Matilda, Life of James | Leave a comment

What a boy needs

Before I forget, this is just a very quick fly-by intended for close friends and family…

Should any of you look at the Microbe’s Amazon birthday wishlist over the next week or two and think to yourselves “what a load of rubbish, I’m not buying that!” …please take it from me that this is the first time he’s been actively involved in putting stuff on his own wishlist and he knows exactly what’s on there and is more than a little obsessed with all of it.

Things don’t change around here… nothing makes that boy’s heart sing like a 3″ plastic skunk or a cuddly platypus.


Thank you for understanding.  Love from his mummy.

Posted in Life of James | Leave a comment

What a way to make a living

Blah. I seem to be made of tiredness and guilt at the moment…

Guilt at going back to work…

Guilt at Hubble’s long nursery days and shunting the boy to something called ‘Fit for Sport’ for almost 5 hours a day in order to make my necessary hours at work…

Guilt that I seem to be spending every day like an automaton, hauling the kids out of bed, into clothes and off to school/nursery, then back home to bed… with seemingly no quality time whatsoever.  Nothing but “Hurry up!” and “Stop that!” and “EAT!” and “Go to sleep!” and laundry.

Guilt that I will not be attending sports day this week, or a picnic for the queen’s birthday or any of the other gazillion whimsical things that school insists on organising for parents during the working day.

Guilt at the state of the housework…

And guilt that I have failed to find time to do a blog post to commemorate all of the cute things about Little Miss Hubblepot that I wanted to remember. It has all been lost in the mists of time. Suffice to say she is a little angel… made of snot. Not to mention the fact that she has turned one and I haven’t sent out thank-you notes.

I was thinking that things would calm down soon, when G’s flurry of work trips is over and I’m back out of single parentland – but now we have a sudden, unexpected deadline for bankruptcy-inducing building work and I could weep. We’ll probably spend every non-working minute of the next two weeks trying to empty our loft… which is literally FULL of crap. Ok the ‘crap’ bit is not entirely literal.

Still… at least once the loft is done I can stop feeling guilty about Little Miss Hubble’s bedroom situation.

I don’t know how we’re going to fit in celebrating James’s birthday… or attending the approximately 37 party invitations that he seems to have received for other people’s birthdays. This party business is unrelenting.

On the plus side of being back at work, I am getting paid again… halleluajah! However, thanks to the loft, we’re going to be too poor to go on holiday this year. The boy asked me the other day if we could go camping and I said “Um… lets ask Daddy about that”..  *that ripple you just felt was G shuddering, all the way from Singapore*

Also it’s nice to have time to read again. Even if it is restricted to 25-minute sessions twice a day in the Black Hole of Calcutta, holding onto a pole whilst wedged into someone’s sweating armpit and dodging rib-poking handbags.

Also I have discovered that my work has replaced the free coffee machines that used to make terrible coffee with ones that make very good coffee.

And my new manager is lovely.

And I’m excited that I am going to get a new niece or nephew this year (an excuse to knit or sew more TINY THINGS!)

So, not all bad.

For want of anything better – I have found these sweet phone pics of the microbes, taken at a friend’s birthday party. (I’m afraid my photography doesn’t get any better than this these days)

Posted in Motherhood | Leave a comment