Category Archives: Mum Stuff

Why Does Mum = Skivvy?

How my kids see me

How my kids see me

It seems to me that the number one complaint from all my very wonderful, capable and highly organised girlfriends isn’t that they wished they had Jennifer Anniston’s hair or Kate Middleton’s wardrobe or the body of a supermodel. Nope their number one complaint, to a woman, is that no one else in their house clears up after themselves.

That stairs are magical, making anything placed on them (for later transportation up the stairs) invisible everyone, except the woman of the house;

That houses left clean and tidy when my friends go to work, are like bomb-sites when they return tired and weary after a long hard slog at the office;

That they are treated as a living, breathing search engine, “Mum where are my trainers?” “Have you seen my homework/car keys/phone/gerbil (delete as applicable, list is infinite).  That we know the satellite position, or have the intel of the last known sighting of every single item in the house. Information that can be recalled quicker than a Google algorithm;

That no one realises that clothes don’t wash, dry and iron themselves;

That if the men folk do decide to cook every ingredient is in the store-cupboard ready for them, as if Jamie Oliver’s food porn team have been to prep for them before (and then use every pan in the house). The rest of the time we have to respond to “Mum, what’s for tea?” and come up with an answer that would satisfy the harshest foodies, your own kids. Masterchef critiques hold no fear for me, (although I don’t like Paul Hollywood from GBBO – he is really creepy, and I quite like a soggy bottom myself and undercooked pastry with custard is divine!!, sorry just had to get that off my chest!).

All this puts me in mind of that old joke,

Woman “I wish they would invent something that restocked the fridge every time something in it ran out”

Male colleague “Oh I have one of those already. It’s called a wife!”

Carson - making the disapproving sneer into an art form - mothers of the world take note!

Carson – making the disapproving sneer into an art form – mothers of the world take note!

Well I am putting it out there right now. I would like a wife! Working full time, raising two kids, I need a wife. I want a wife. Why can’t I have a wife! Husband and children are great but they just make more mess and don’t see what needs to be done. I am fed up trying to be the entire staff of Downton Abbey, from Carson to Daisy and everyone else in between.

Another friend of mine tried to get her son to do some cleaning up, she even bought a book to show that other children tidy up after themselves…. the response. The boy just laughed and walked away!

Confession Time!  I do have form in this area myself. I can remember all too plainly my despairing mum telling me the story of the little red hen. She even bought me the book.(Nothing really changes does it!). If you don’t know the story of the little red hen I will quickly recount it now. She asked for help from everyone in the farmyard and everyone refused her, so she worked all alone. When she had finished she had a beautiful feast prepared and everyone wanted to help her eat it. And she refused them and ate it all herself. She was a tough old bird, no one helped her so why should she give them anything?

If you won't help... you won't eat.  Simple.

If you won’t help… you won’t eat. Simple.

Could this be why mum = skivvy because we don’t refuse our children enough! Harry is now at high school, and we have been sent home with booklets about not doing anything for the child that they can do themselves. To get them into good practice for independent learning. To let them do things and let them learn by their own mistakes, in essence not to keep stepping in and saving them.

Well it’s just so hard isn’t it. Besides the fact they are your flesh and blood and it is fundamental to our core to protect them from hurt and pain, there are the practicalities of life. If you are rushing to get a young child to school, you help them get dressed so they are not late. When you want the reassurance that your child has everything for high school, it’s a comfort to you to help pack the bag isn’t it. And sometimes us women just like things done our way don’t we? Like getting everything into the dishwasher so it all fits, just so. It is just much less hassle. Men may further along the autism spectrum with their collections and fixations but I think women lead the way in OCD behaviour (let’s not get into my inability to let washing sit in a machine after the cycle is finished. it’s not pretty).

But this is so like a woman isn’t it, to turn it back on ourselves, to give ourselves the blame,  that our children treat us like skivvies because we let them, that it is easier and quicker to do the jobs ourselves.  So I am not going to do it. I am going to make my stand, I am going to play the interactive you tube clip of the Little Red Hen to my children, (I know my audience) see if I can lure them away from their playstations and tablets. Failing that I am just going to hide their chargers! I will let you know how I get on…. you will probably hear the howls of outrage across Yorkshire.


Playing House

If only houses were as easy to build in real life

It’s been a funny couple of weeks.  All was going well, my Y6 son left primary school for the last time and because I finished work early that day I was able to pick him and his sister up from school. It was a surprise.  They were delighted.  As was I, and in a fit of sentimental bonhomie I invited four or five of the mums and their children round, an all back to mine if you will to delay the inevitable goodbyes for a couple of hours longer.

All seemed to be going well.  Everyone seemed to be happy with the arrangement, children who normally got lifts wanted to walk home with us.  The sun was shining, life felt sweet.  The mums were going to have some coffees with lots of chat, the little ones would play in the garden and the older boys could play Call of Duty.  Yes, yes I lose all manner of gold star parenting points allowing my child to play this hugely inappropriate video game but every other boy in the class seemed to have graduated from Minecraft to Black Ops and Harry’s dad said we couldn’t make him be the only one who was left out.  He pointed out my own father banned me from watching Starsky and Hutch and The Professionals and did I want this for my own child?  Again a debate for another blog, probably called “Never did me any harm just mentally scarred for life!”

Then I got round the corner, it was immediately apparent something had happened. One boy was walking off by himself.  Several of the other boys were huddling around my son.  “He was out of order” said one boy.  “Can’t believe what he said” another reassured my son.

What had this boy said?  What utterances could have soured the day so rottenly and rapidly.  Turns out he said “No offense (the prefix of all major insults) but it will be really boring at Harry’s house because it’s so tiny.”  Excuse Me?  What? My son was so incensed he didn’t even want this boy in the house.  I wondered what did it matter how big your house was if you are all huddled round a screen playing computer games?

But it hurt, the comment from the boy really hurt.  I am very conscious that our house isn’t a big house, that possibly our house is the smallest in Harry and Nina’s classes.  I am mortified that Harry has a friend with an eight bedroomed mansion with a swimming pool in the back garden and what will the mum think of me if she drops Harry off up our little road of tiny and not particularly attractive houses?

A few years ago another boy in Harry’s class said that we had the worst house out of the three friends. I must admit that stung too. But I shrugged it off.  What did 7 year old boys know?  Another visitor then also pointed out how small our house was.  The message was getting harder to ignore.  Thanks everyone for mentioning that we were recreating the Old Woman and the Shoe nursery rhyme, that Julia Donaldson’s Squash and a Squeeze is not just a story to us.

I am not in any way gifted in making a house look good.  Clothes I am great with, I know colours, patterns and how to make the best of my figure.  But houses,  I am severely interior design challenged.  When if comes to putting rooms together, I can’t to do it, it never looks good.  We had a cleaner once,  she could arrange all the cushions on a bed like she was interior styling for a magazine. And so effortlessly.  Oh I watched with envy, and thought surely this is not beyond me?  When I tried to recreate it, a blind man suffering from Parkinson’s and  juggling chain saws would have done a way better job.

Plus I have an ability to make a mess by just getting out bed in the morning, my children appear to have inherited this trait too.  Every day life for me looks like I live in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It it not as if I am not busy all day every day, cleaning and tidying up but I never seem to make the place look any better, I am just fire-fighting.  It’s the home equivalent of a payday loan.  All the time, effort and energy go to clearing up mess and there is never anything left over to actually make it better.

I have never been able to do it.  But everyone else around me seems to be channelling Sarah Beaney, Kirsty Allsop and Kevin McCloud.  Did I just miss out on the appropriate gifts from the home improvement fairies?  Is it too late for me?  Can I never have a good looking house and garden?  I know I curse Margaret Thatcher for relaxing the building regulations when she was in power.  Since then new homes every year have lost a square foot in size.  According to Ikea we live in the smallest houses in Western Europe and their new advert addresses this by trying to flog us storage solutions, the old bijoux is beautiful message.

How Big Is Your House?

I admit I have tried them all, clear plastic boxes, wicker baskets, hessian floppy affairs. Things that had always looked charming in someone else’s house but now in mine looks like, well just more clutter.  I suspect my problem is more about what is in the storage not what is surrounding it.  I love life, I love what my children produce, and they work on a volume principle.  Everything interests me and I find that passion very difficult to box in, to contain, to order.  And writing this, well I wonder, do I really need to?  You can’t take your house with you can you?  Life is about memories and experiences and feelings and sensations and do you know what I think I am doing very well on those, very well indeed.  So as I turn from the computer to go hug my children and see what they have produced since I have been writing this I see a life being lived fully and very happily.  Can you really ask for anything more?


Hello my name is Natalie

and I am a screenaholic.  I have become addicted looking at my screen, usually my phone, to being in constant communication with the world.  I get a thrill every time the text message pings, the inbox swooshes, or I see that  mark of validation that I might have said something funny, a new Facebook notification or news of a retweet.   It’s all so embarrassingly Pavlovian, especially how much I like the vibration on my iphone.  It’s so powerful, it’s almost muscular and it is heralding incoming messages, mentally I salivate every time.

I know I am not alone, everywhere I look I see fellow addicts.  I instantly recognise them by the way they are stood.  Hunched over, head bent downwards at a 45 degree angle,  I don’t even need to see the phone, or the tell-tale tapping.  I know the altered state.  It’s like the most intense love affair, you have eyes and ears for no one in your  physical company, you are completely in the thrall of the tiny light box in the palm of your hand.

I even find I can’t watch tv now without feeling the itch, just sitting down on the sofa I want to pick up my phone and see what everyone else on Twitter is saying about the tv show.  I don’t want to knock social media, there is so much good there, so many laughs to be had, connections to be made, friendships to be forged and treasured, insights to gained and valued.  It has enriched my life, but when I find myself switching from screen to screen, from Facebook, to Twitter, to Hotmail, to Pinterest, and ever more compulsively,  looking to see something new, I know I need to put some boundaries in place, at least I need to put my phone down, or even the unthinkable, turn my phone off.   This is even before I have started on mobile internet shopping.  A one click shop, so easy, so addictive and potentially so deadly for my bank account.

But what really worries me is the effect on my children.  They say if you want your children to read, they should see you read.  My children see me on my phone, it’s not so much of a stretch to realise they are going to want some screen time too.  To them it is part of the fabric of everyday life.  A touch screen is the norm.  Wifi internet connection is as commonplace as turning on the tap for a glass of water.   The children had friends over and we had a queue for the broadband password so they could all get connected to start gaming.

And there are so many games to play, even just on the iphone, (even I can see the appeal of Fruit Ninjas) and that is before you start on the Wii, the playstation or the xbox, the myriad of tablets, pcs and laptops, or even computers, televisions or the cinema.  The choice already to me seems infinite and like the universe its seems to be still expanding.

My son (aged 11) gets alot of his information on the world via YouTube it would appear.   I know I am on the wrong side of the generation gap now.  You Tube?  Mind you I think I got a lot of my own early world views from a band fanzine for the Stranglers, (they  had strong and surprisingly erudite views on a comprehensive list of subjects from the Shah in Iran to mastication, from nuclear disarmament to whether love really exists.  They were all over the book Holy Blood and Holy Grail in 1981 before Dan Brown had even heard of Leonardo Da Vinci).  So maybe I have to relax a bit on this and be happy he is drinking in information, and ensure the parental settings are on maximum.

But what really worries me is how much they want to play one game, Minecraft.  It is so addictive, every child over the age of 5 it seems is playing it.  To the uninitiated, Minecraft is a game where you build things, houses, farms, out of blocks.  Lego, who make THE blocks kids want to play with in real world must be kicking themselves that they missed this digital trick.  Again the generation gap becomes a gulf.   All parents are completely baffled by the appeal, but when Harry talks about Minecraft, it is like listening to Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs.  He talks about form and structure (well as much as you can get out of pixilated blocks) and he selects the materials as carefully as an architect.   So really what I am worrying about?  It’s age appropriate.  It isn’t violent.  There is no worry that the children are having interactions with anyone they shouldn’t.  But it the amount of time they want to spend playing it.  Just as physical world disappears for me, they all get so consumed by Minecraft that, when they are not playing Minecraft, which they would play all day if I let them, they are watching videos of people playing Minecraft on You Tube.  They are watching a video someone has made of themselves playing a computer game.   The pointlessness of it all makes it very hard to witness, especially when the sun is shining.  My son says that he doesn’t like outside, honestly I think I am rearing a battery child, except unlike the chickens, he has a choice and he is choosing to stay inside.

The real nub of my fear is that we are in unknown territory here.  We don’t know the effect on little brains from all the exposure to screens.  If I feel addicted to my phone, and it is a relatively  new experience for me, an adult, about as mature as I am ever going to get, how do we know if those developing brains are going to be hardwired in a different and potentially damaging way.  When there was the debate about mobile phones potentially causing brain tumours, before the research released concluded they were safe,  a friend said this is what it must have been like before everyone knew it was deadly to smoke.  That future generations would look back and say we were all crazy to use those cancer boxes so close to our heads.  Those fears have been alleviated but maybe they will look back at us and say “What were you thinking?  Were you nuts to let children play those games 24/7?” As everyone walks around in a big blobby body that hasn’t been exercised or breathed fresh air for decades but can play 4 computer games simultaneously with their mind.  I guess only time will tell.   So in the meantime I am going to get the kids away from their screens, I am going to step away from my screen, and we are going to play Block 1 -2 -3.  It’s like hide and seek but with a twist.  They love it, and I hope not just because it has the word block in it like their beloved Minecraft.


Christmas Shopping Tips:- Avoid Google, Starbucks and Amazon

I was delighted to see the European heads of these massive US corporations squirming under the gaze of the select committee  a couple of weeks ago.

I particularly enjoyed Margeret Hodge’s ascersion that what they were doing wasn’t illegal, but it was certainly immoral.  It was so good to get that view on all the news platforms across the country.   Why should the rest of us work and live in worsening economic conditions, whilst Starbucks can claim to make no profit in this country because the licensing costs of using the name Starbucks here in the UK costs the same amount of the profit they would have made?

So here is an idea when doing your Christmas shopping try and use companies that haven’t had to explain their balance sheets to Parliament.

May I suggest either John Lewis or maybe even Morrisons.  Both have been in the papers over the past couple of days telling the Chancellor that the unfair tax practices the huge foreign conglomerates take advantage of could put them both out of business.

And with Amazon marketplace traders who are small businesses paying their fair share of tax, please still use them,  you can find them on Amazon and then just contact them direct so that they don’t lose out.

So then when you are gathered in the heart of your family on Christmas Day and everyone are opening the presents they love, you can have a rosy glow you have found the perfect gift AND that you have kept money in this country to help our economy instead of sending it on a wild electronic goose chase to end up in some Scrooge like billionaires pocket in the Caymen Islands, and saving British Jobs to boot.

What could be more in the spirit of Christmas than that?!

Happy Shopping Everyone!

The John Lewis Snowman showing us the Way!




Be Prepared….

This weekend my son went on his first Scout Camp, two days and two nights under Canvas.  He was very very excited, I was very very apprehensive.

I worried about the weather, there was flooding everywhere in the country, would they be washed away in their tents? This lead to my mum informing me that I had been evacuated from my own Brownie Camp for the same reasons.  She got a phone call from the Brown Owl and had to drive up to the Dales to rescue us, apparently I was there cold and soaked to the skin in a thin Brownie Dress. (The trouser and hoodie uniforms  of today are so much more practical, and I can’t imagine how the Brown Owl found a phone box and had enough change to ring all the parents in those pre-mobile days).  I have absolutely no recollection of these events whatsoever.  I can’t even recall it now that my mum has told me about it.  My memory has been so wiped of these events I find it hard to believe it happened.  My sister though assures me it was.  Psychologically I find that fascinating!

Then there was the effects of the rain, if they weren’t washed away would there be more mud than at the Somme?  If I am honest I was more worried about me having to clear up that lot up when they got back.

I was worried about tent politics, Harry wasn’t in the same tent as his best friend, was there potential there for feeling excluded?

I was worried how he would cope with the cold and the wet, would he come back with pneumonia?  Again there was an element of self-interest, I am working full-time now, I couldn’t afford the time off work.

I worried that he wouldn’t find anything in his bag.  This was a genuine concern, I had packed enough clothes for him to wear something different every day for a year.  The seasoned Scouts had their essentials in stuffed rucksacks with any extras dangling outside it like giant baby’s mobiles,  bobbing and swaying from the various straps.  My son had the world’s largest kit bag, crammed so full he looked like a  failed weightlifter when he tried to moved it.

Would he come back with third degree burns trying to make tea and coffee for the leaders? We had been practicing at home, and seeing his little hand wobbling when picking up the kettle of  steaming, boiling water gave me nightmares for a week.

I had been told they would come back dirty and smelly, wearing the clothes they left in and more layers on top.  This turned out to be fairly accurate. I was also told he would not touch his wash bag.  This too proves spot on.

He came back home with a beautiful wood smell of the fire in his hair, if not exactly a massive smile on his face straight away, still with plenty of tales of fun and good times. Harry is the go to boy now for Eggy Bread.  He loved the cooking on the fire.    He came back with all his clothes (a good amount of which had been worn I noted with some maternal pride).  The biggest mishap was a melted marshmallow in his sleeping bag.  He discovered his best friend snores and that camp was good but coming home and sleeping in his own bed was even better.

And what did I learn?  Well I learnt that one of the most painful parts of parenting is letting go.  That at every stage of the process, from the minute we are cutting the umbilical cord, we are preparing our children for independence, to be self-sufficient and to be able to stand on their own two feet.   To let them get out there, to have a go, to make their own mistakes is not only good for them, it is essential.   It gives them confidence and allows them to thrive and flourish.

I guess both Harry and I grew up a little bit more this weekend. But we did have an extra big hug before school this morning.


Prince William.. I think I am falling a little bit in love with your wife…..

This post has taken me by surprise too but watching the Duchess of Cambridge present the wonderfully exuberant Aled Davies with his Gold Medal last night and then heartily sing the National Anthem, I thought congratulations Prince William you really have managed to find the most lovely wife, not just for you but for the country too.

At both Games, Kate in particular, seems to have been ubiquitous and has supported, cheered and clapped Team GB and Paralympics GB at an incredible number of events. Even  in the rain at Eton Dorney yesterday she seemed as delighted to be there as the rest of us would have been.  I have found it very exciting to see her pop up everywhere and I am sure her presence has given the athletes a real boost too.

I know that she comes from a life of great privilege.  I know she will never have to do the weekly shop with that hideous feeling in pit in her stomach, worrying herself sick trying to feed her family well but on a very tight budget.  I know she will never stress about the lecky bill,  or redundancy, or the state of her pension.  But despite that, I still feel that she does seem fairly normal and quite grounded.   She might live in grace and favour apartments but she doesn’t look like she puts on any airs and graces.  She might have a £30,000 a year beauty spend and I am an Aldi Face Cream kinda girl (purely out of necessity!) but still I think Kate has quite similar in outlook to the rest of us, just with a lottery-winner sized bank balance.

I am probably very late to the party here.  I know the British Fashion have been in love with “Kate effect” for some time now, such has been her impact, particularly on the High Street.  Looking back now last year’s wedding was a strong indicator that she was quite down to earth, managing to combine glorious displays of British Pomp and Ceremony without obscuring that at the heart of it we were watching a marriage of two people who truly were in love   The fact that her dress was loved universally, edgy enough for the Fash Pack but classic enough for the traditionalists, was a very good barometer of her innate good judgement and her ability to manage to please everyone, seemingly effortlessly.   She even seems to know how to make the Queen smile.  And as we have seen recently at the Jubilee and the Opening Ceremonies, smiles from the Queen are few and far between.

Maybe the date is significant.  A couple of days ago it was the 15th anniversary of  Diana’s death. Maybe that is why I looked at Kate, and remembered that 15 year old boy walking behind his mother’s coffin, and thought William, I think you have found the right person to support you in your future life, both private and public.  And this I am  not ashamed to say made me feel rather happy.  Both for him and for us!


An Inspiration to Every Generation

It’s funny isn’t it, we came third on the Medal Table, we won a unprecidented 29 Golds, Yorkshire’s  success was noted as far afield as Australia, even Leeds achieved 2 Golds, a Silver and a Bronze thanks to the superhuman efforts of  Nicola Adams, the Brownlee brothers and Lizzie Armitstead, and yet it is the silver medal won by Louis Smith, and the extraordinary graciousness he displayed to Krisztian Berki, after he was pipped a Gold Medal by the narrowest of margins that I want to celebrate the most.

When you have dedicated your whole life to a goal, to have the prize taken from you despite you both having the same score, despite you performing the harder routine, and yet to be magnanimous enough to go straight over and congratulate your opponent. Well that is the very best of British isn’t it?

I would have been screaming and crying and demanding a recount and generally tantruming on such an epic scale I would never have been able to show my face to my family again, never mind the watching world!

And yet Louis Smith went straight over to Berki and hugged and congratulated him and spoke to the media and said he was a friend and he was pleased for him.  In all subsequent interviews I have seen he has been just as gracious and articulate, proud of his achievements and without a trace of bitterness.  I have to keep reminding myself as well that this is not some wise old sage who has been matured by the highs and lows of a long and eventful life but a 23 year old from Peterborough.  The level of maturity from not just him but all the Team GB have been astonishing and rather humbling.

I know the legacy of the London 2012 to inspire the next generation into a lifetime of  sport and fitness but I could definitely learn a lot from Louis Smith on how to conduct myself! Oh and if being “handsome and cool” as The Times said of him yesterday wasn’t enough, he can cook too,  his recipe for Jerk Chicken is well worth trying out too.  It’s so good it’s become my 10 year old son’s favourite dish.  An accolade I don’t think Krisztian Berki is going to snatch away any time soon!


Things I learnt on My Holiday

1. Think about what you wear traveling, don’t just throw on the nearest thing, you might have to wear it all week.

2.  Don’t pack shorts and tshirts and bikinis if you are spending a week in a caravan in Dorset, in June, I don’t care how hot the previous week was, you will need trousers, jumpers and quite possibly a winter coat, certainly one with a hood.

3.  Never, EVER, buy Budget Clingfilm. Never.

4.  The sound of rain pounding down on a static caravan is strangely comforting

5.  That said static caravan can endure winds up to 70 miles per hour.

6.  In a caravan, everyone can hear you being sick.

7.  CBBC’s afternoon schedule is just a repeat of the morning’s with different continuity presenters.

8.   In a strange Stockholm Syndrome way you can become bizarrely attached to those CBBC presenters, especially the gruff, Manc voice of the dog puppet, and truly believe you will come home and put Hacker Time into your sky planner so you never miss it again.

9.  That Clock Patience isn’t a patch on the original.

10.  That everything is comparable and once you have watched static caravans being washed away in flash floods in Wales, really all things considered you had quite good weather!

11.  And finally nothing rounds a holiday off better  than  5 minutes from home finding all routes are flooded and closed sending you a long and wild spray-filled voyage along the river roads.  It really helps you appreciate putting the key in the lock of your own front door and that first cup of tea.


Miro Miro

Unfortunately for Nina we didn’t go and see Mirror Mirror this afternoon. Instead we went to see the Joan Miro exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a lovely day out.  An excellent walk in rolling Yorkshire hills punctuated by works of art of outstanding beauty and  it does have to be said, some sheep poo.  But it just adds to the charm.  There were even lambs flocking around the car as we went to park this afternoon.   We have been many times and with diverse sets of friends and every time we find another previously undiscovered corner to enjoy as well as visiting all the old favourites.  The park is the perfect combination of nature and art.

But today we were there for the Joan Miro exhibition.   After a quick trip to some of our favourite pieces such as the rusted iron HA HA bridge, a bridge of rusted iron with the letters HA HA cut out of both side, and the beautiful smooth granite egg sculptures.  I am afraid they are both so tactile the children love to climb on them despite the signage asking you to desist.  In our defence the signage is quite obliquely placed, it is so subtle and far away from the corresponding sculpture it took us a few visits to even notice they were there. In some cases it is also rather misleading.  This is our favourite:-

Hand on my heart I can promise we have never had a climbing picnic there.

A little further and we were into the Miro sculptures.  They were amazing.  Very elemental. I know nothing really of Joan Miro except he was from Spain, was working around the time of the Spanish Civil War, and that his paintings were very colourful with those broad black strokes and his use of primary colours and shapes.

The inspiration for his work comes from the earth.  His experiences of his family’s farm south of Barcelona had a profound influence on him.    He said himself “It is contact with the earth that enables me to fly”.      And he wanted his work to be shown outside.  I think he would have approved of this exhibition.  I wondered if there was another place on earth so suited to show his work.

The definition of cultured... looking at this sculpture without seeing Wall-E

There were about 10 to 15 pieces outside.  They were unpainted bronzes.  The figures abstract but always appealing.  The children could see similarities to much loved Aardman and Pixar characters.  I am sure to an art connoisseur this is tantamount to blasphemy but thought it said much for the universal appeal of his work.

There was an extensive collection inside includes some of his most famous pieces, the Sun and Moon Birds.   The bronze looked more like wood, it looked like it should be warm, it was hard not to reach out and touch.  Many of the bronzes looked like me in a bad mood sniggered Nina and Harry and this became a great game to compare the abstract forms in front of them to a cross me.

Me before my Yorkshire Tea in the morning apparently.

But reading about the themes I was stuck by the perception of the children’s remarks.   Miro dealt with male and femaleness, with fecundity and creating life.  Miro would also describe his sculptures as “phantasmagorical monsters”  so I think those descriptions of me before my tea in the morning were really rather accurate!

There were some of those world-famous paintings there too.  Seeing them on a wall half hour’s journey away from my house nearly made me cry, it was so thrilling.

The final room of the exhibition went into his working life and techniques.  I was very taken with a quote about life under the Nazis.  He thought he was “done for” that he would only be able to draw in the sand or make pictures with cigarette smoke.   An evocative image in itself and I was a little jealous too if I am honest, jealous of a creativity that would find a way or method of expression, no matter how enormous the obstacles put in its path.

The exhibition is on until January 2013 and I would heartily recommend it.


Mary Poppins I aint.


I am definitely not practically perfect in anyway

Blimey, if I thought it was stressful getting the girls to their technical rehearsal on Thursday night.  I had no idea what was in store the following evening.

It was the first night of the show.  Excitement was running at a fever pitch, there were girls of all heights and ages running around.  The one common factor; they all had immaculate gelled buns.  First pressure of the night. Would Nina’s gelled bun withstand the tests and rigours demanded of it.   The amount of gel and hairspray slathered on it would have kept a medium-sized hairdressers going for a week.  It was a nervous time.

Mrs Hampshore had given full and clear instructions on arrival times.  We knew which mums would be helping in the dressing rooms, runners were organised too.  Drinks and snacks had been provided and we were told to bring board games for the girls.   I had managed to bring some cards.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well for someone who is not a natural sewer, the pressure of having to sew torn costumes was intense.   The girls were doing a routine to Run Rabbit Run and they had neon pink netting skirts complete with a white bob-tail fastened at the back, the aforementioned white leotard and a sequined neon pink bow tie.

You would be amazed and possibly quite disbelieving just how many bow ties could come unattached or how many bob-tails could split just as the girls were being called to the stage.    One girl’s bow tie went on one side, and then two seconds before she went on stage the other side went.   My mind went blank.  I couldn’t even thread the needle in time.  The eye of the needle had become microscopic and my fingers and threads had swelled to the size of a giant’s.  My mind went blanker.  Buddhists mediating for years couldn’t empty their mind anymore than mine was at that moment.   Luckily one mum noticed and her rapid response quick thinking saved the day.  She tied the elastic on to itself and on the girl went.  It took until the interval for my knees to stop knocking.

If we thought the pressure was off once they came back down after the performance, we had to think again.  How do you keep 20 odd girls, ages ranging from 3 to 7-year-old clean for over an hour in a dusty room?  Especially when they are wearing white and have been given orange juice in squashy cartons to drink?  We couldn’t have handled those cartons to the girls more delicately if they had been the most precious finely blown priceless glassware.  The girls were under very strict orders not to squeeze the boxes.  We all held our breath, and miraculously no orange juice spilled on the costumes.   It doesn’t seem possible we were so lucky.

Then all we had to do was keep them occupied and relatively quiet for over an hour with extremely limited resources.  We tried Chinese Whispers.  That lasted maybe two rounds. The girls all wanted to start off the whispers themselves and couldn’t agree who should do it.  Despite all our attempts at arbitration.   We tried Grandma’s Footsteps.  That was successful for about 30 seconds.  We tried singing.  That didn’t even get off the ground.  By this time the little ones were really missing their mummies.  “I want my mummy”.  “I want my  mummy”. “I WANT my mummy.”  One little girl was insistent and was far too clever to be fobbed off with a cheery but vague.  “She will be here soon”.     None of us adults were even sure who her mum was.  This little darling dumpling of a girl was probably not much older than 3.  Still with those adorable plump little toddler legs.  It was well past her bedtime, of course she should want her mum.

Anxious looks went round the helpers.  What are we doing to do?  In the interval I searched for her mum in the audience but she wasn’t there.   It was going to be long long Second Half.

With darling dumpling girl on one knee and her friend on the other we tried some more singing.   The thought went through my mind… how did they keep children occupied in concentration camps.  An extreme thought I know but then I heard one of the other mums saying as she balanced two more babies on her knees ” This is just like being in the war!”.

Every minute of the second Act meant we were closer to the finale and hometime.  It couldn’t come quick enough.   I had brought some pencils and crayons.  We ripped up a cardboard box and I did a raid of The Friends of Guiseley Operatic Society flyers as they were blank on one side and the girls settled down to do some drawing.  Peace (well apart from the squabbles over colours) reigned.  We breathed a sigh of relief.

At last the girls were being called to the stage for the finale.  We are on the home stretch. Things were going smoothly.  Our only obstacle was to get girls to the loo in time.  Getting the costumes off and back on again was tricky but manageable.  Everything was looking good, everything was looking great until Nina, yes my daughter, locked the door of her loo and it stuck fast.   Cue panic from Nina, she wouldn’t climb under the door.  She couldn’t undo the lock.  I couldn’t undo the lock with my thumb nail on my side.  I despatched the other little girl with instructions to bring a mum with a penny!  Which she duly did.  I could hear the stage manager barking for the lines of girls to go up to the stage.  Nina was getting quite hysterical behind the door.  The penny was not opening the door.  I was trying to stop the rising levels of panic that were building all around us.  The mum with the penny tried again.  Nothing.  One last try, the lock opened. Nina was released straight into her line and up the stairs and onto the stage.  Leaving two rather frazzled women in her wake.

Backstage has always held a certain fascination for me, seeing what really goes on to put on the show, being in the “know”, feeling part of something, a sense of community.  I have to say though being a chaperone for those girls has made me rethink that a little.  I realise now the pleasure and privilege of sitting front of house and letting the show entertain you.

And if I am chaperoning next year I will be coming with a Mary Poppins bag of tricks and reams and reams of paper, a dozen pre-threaded needles and strict instructions that no-one locks the loo!