Wiping the face of a furious ferret made of jelly


Going on holiday. I have blogged about this topic before, but as anyone who knows me will testify, repeating myself until someone – not necessarily me – feels distinctly nauseous is not uncommon.

This summer, as every summer previously with kids, we have stayed in this country. A UKation, as absolutely no one ever refers to it. Mainly, because the thought of getting my 2 year old to sit still on  a plane makes me both simultaneously laugh hysterically and want to chew my own lips off in anticipation of the horror of it. We simply couldn’t afford the lawsuits of a planeful of people whose eardrums have exploded due to being subjected to three hours of high-pitched screaming. And let’s not even consider the fact that he could happily spend hours repeating “poo poo bum bum boobies” at the top of his voice whilst giggling manically, or his ability to throw any object that is not bolted down at great velocity at least twenty foot in any direction. I can see it now: on go a hundred happy holiday makers. Off come a hundred gibbering wrecks, clawing at their own eyeballs as they climb over each other frantically whilst screaming ‘get me away from that child of Beelzebub’.

However, having a UKation (I am going to keep repeating that word until I see it in the OED, so get used to it) brings it own unique challenges. Packing, for a start. A week in this country in August means that you can leave behind the snow boots, but pretty much everything else needs to be packed. Shorts and sun cream. Wellies and rain coats. And inevitably, holiday packing brings out the siege mentality in me: I pack as if we are spending a year marooned on a desert island. Emergency Calpol.  Piriton (because once, three years ago, one of them needed a dose). Plasters. Extra clothes. Extra pants. Bedtime books (a selection of). Some cereal, in case our destination town with several supermarkets nearby is suddenly hit with a plague of Shreddie-eating locusts. And so it goes on, the stuff piling up by the front door until we need crampons and a safety harness to scale it in order to leave the house. Might as well pack the climbing gear, whilst we’re at it. Well, you never know.

But wherever we go, there is another holiday challenge that will be with us: ice creams. Eating ice cream is not just on my sons’ holiday agendas, it IS their agenda. Given half a chance, they would spend their days with a 99 in each hand whilst licking a scoop of ice cream from a bowl in their laps. I hate ice cream. No, let me rephrase that. I love ice cream. I just don’t like my kids eating it, particularly the 2 year old. It is just so… labour intensive. We are walking along, and they spy an ice cream van. So, we acquiesce to their pleas and all traipse over to the sweaty man trapped in the metal box on wheels. In order to facilitate the consumption of an ice cream by a 2 year old, it requires:

  • Locating somewhere to sit, close by. Do not ask a 2 year old to walk and eat an ice cream. As soon as his tongue starts a licking motion, all other bodily functions shut down. His legs don’t work properly, he can’t see what is right in front of him (this may have something to do with his face being obscured by a bloody great ice cream) and he moves forward so slowly that the spacetime continuum begins to reverse.
  • At least half a packet of wet wipes. There is nowhere that ice creams drips cannot reach.
  • A volunteer licker to stem the tide of molten ice cream as it runs down the cone and races to his elbow.
  • The patience of a saint not to scream when the first thing he does when given his ice cream is to bite the bottom off the cone. Again. What he then basically is holding is a funnel that delivers runny ice cream directly onto his lap.
  • A quick lesson in the structural properties of ice cream when subjected to gravity. Because eating just one side of a Mr Whippy is just blatant stupidity.
  • A head clamp, to hold his head still whilst I try and mop up the third of the ice cream that didn’t quite make it into his cake hole. It is a bit like trying to wipe the face of a furious ferret made of jelly.
  • A full change of clothes. For anyone who had the misfortune to come within six foot of him.


And so we returned from our UKation, suitcases full of ice-cream stained clothes, exhausted, and with the car axles groaning under the weight of all the extra baggage we transported home (I have no idea what this extra baggage is, but what fitted quite snugly on the way had to be crammed, pushed, squeezed and hammered into every car crevice to get it to fit for the return journey).
Friends ask if I had a nice holiday, and I pause. It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, but with two small children, the word ‘holiday’ is not really representative of the experience. We need something a little less… relaxing sounding. Like… Fatigueday. Or Knackereday. “Are you off on holiday this year?” “No, we’ve booked a Knackereday though. A UKation, actually.”

The sound of my life force dripping out of every orifice

The summer holidays. Or ‘an extended period of leisure and recreation’, according to one online dictionary. Funny. No, stop, really, my sides hurt. Actually, that may well be down to wine-induced kidney ache, but I digress.

Six and a half weeks. Forty five days. I am not saying I am counting them down, but there are tally marks being scratched into the wall next to my bed. However, my five year old is not spending the whole time at home. Good god, no. I am not clinically insane. I have traded insanity for an overdraft, as we shell out for activity camps, tennis camps, football camps… anything to a) get him out of the house for a large proportion of the day and b) wear him out.

But I have conceded a couple of weeks where nothing official is planned, and so I am desperately trading children back and forth in a series of play dates. At times, I feel I should be running a clocking in and out system next to our front door just so that I can keep track.

Which is therefore why I have spent more time than strictly necessary (or desired) in the company of five year old boys. It has not been altogether an edifying experience, it has to be said. And as I collapse into bed of an evening, exhausted and with barely the strength to switch my Kindle on, my brain can’t help itself but to subject me to some kind of edited highlights package…

  • Whilst eating lunch, a boy asking my son if he want to see his winkle, to which my son nods enthusiastically and leans over to get a better view.
  • A brief monologue from a boy as to why kissing his brother does not make him gay, but kissing my son would. At this juncture, I offer him another piece of garlic bread and hope he does not suggest a practical demonstration. Not until we have finished our salmon pasta, at least.
  • Repeated exclamations of “BOO-YA!” at any given opportunity. I have no idea where this delightful turn of triumphalist phrase comes from, and I am sure, neither do they.
  • Entering my son’s bedroom to be confronted by three boys, stark bloody naked, bouncing up and down on the bunk bed. My first thought is, surprisingly: ‘if they knew how cheap that bed was, they would not be doing that’, swiftly followed by ‘I am not sure I am liking this CBeebies reinterpretation of Brokeback mountain’.
  • The look of astonishment, then horror, on a boy’s face when I tell him we don’t watch television during the day. To which he replies ‘why?’ and I fail miserably to provide a convincing response. Fast forward twenty minutes, after prolonged yelling and trashing of play room, and I am reconsidering the error of my ways.
  • Repeated requests from any house guest under four foot to get naked.
  • The sound of a five kilogram box of assorted Lego being tipped out onto the floor. Again.
  • The sound of my life force dripping out of every orifice as there is yet another argument over who can jump the highest.
  • Interrupting an utterly hilarious game of ‘let’s throw Lego bricks out of the window’. Well, to clarify, only two out of three of us found this amusing.
  • The most utterances of ‘bum’, ‘bottom’ and ‘willy’ I have ever encountered. And I hang out with people who say these words a lot.

Well, the dictionary got one bit right about the definition of summer holiday: it is an extended period. We are only on week three, and as I squint hard into the future, I still can’t see the end of the bloody summer holiday tunnel. Oh, hang on… I can see a chink of light… oh, my mistake, it’s just the sunlight reflecting off the puddle of orange squash that has mysteriously appeared on the lounge floor. BOO YA!

I predict a riot

Have a 2 year old? Yeah, me too. Pour yourself a large glass and watch this…

Dragons, willies and the Apple of Destiny

Mothering Frights

Being the mother of two sons, it was only a matter of time before the topic of willies reared its ugly head. Hmm. Maybe I should rephrase that… Actually, let’s not bother. I don’t think I have a sufficiently sophisticated grasp of the English language to prettify willy talk.

Obviously, my sons love their willies (well, someone has to). Their appendages are a seemingly constant source of entertainment and intrigue, and they are an ever-increasingly frequent topic of conversation and focus.  My two year old was in the bathroom last week, nude, waiting with me for the bath to finish running. He leaned over and swished his hand in the warm water, and was astonished and more than a little delighted to see a stream of wee burst from his willy. If he wasn’t already urinating, I swear he would have wet himself laughing.  I laughed a little less voraciously as I mopped up a large puddle of piss from around his feet. So now, he is working his way through all the different bath-based positions that he can wield his magic wee-making willy: crouching with his bum cheeks skimming the water’s surface, standing up in the water, lying down, seated with his legs akimbo… and as the bath water turns a pale shade of yellow, the use of the flannel floating in the water is like a little game of Russian Roulette for the face.

Not long before that, my five year old had got out the bath, spotted his rather alert-looking willy and proclaimed: “Look  mummy! Pinocchio Willy!”  After I had eventually stopped laughing, I mused on the fact that quite frankly, it is an absolute crying shame that willies don’t grow large every time their owners tell a lie. It would save me, all other mothers, and let’s face it, humanity in general, from a whole world of pain. Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just lying through your bloody teeth again? Marvellous.

And then, on a walk to school, it became clear that his willy was still very much front of mind. Or front of pants, perhaps. E picked up a small apple-type fruit that had fallen from a tree. He held it in his hand for a while, and then said:

“Look, mummy, it’s the Apple of Destiny.”

I have no idea what he has been watching to have come up with a phrase such as the Apple of Destiny, but I was intrigued (and a little apprehensive) to find out more. After all, if you can tell your future by staring into a glass sphere, I don’t see any reason why taking a nibble from an apple can’t at least predict what might happen tomorrow.

“So what does the Apple of Destiny do?” I asked.

“It saves people.”

“From what?”

“From dragons.”

Well, why not indeed? “Oh, that’s excellent,” I replied. After all, a plague of dragons is surely going to be the next big public health scare, so it is very reassuring to know that we are in possession of the Apple of Destiny to save us.

We walked in silence for a short while.

“Do you know what else it does?” E asked me, holding the Apple of Destiny in his outstretched hand.

“No. What else?”

“It makes your willy grow bigger.”

And right there is a conversation that encompasses a five year old’s universe: dragons, willies and the Apple of Destiny. In fact, where’s that pencil… I feel an idea for a board game coming on…

The debilitating condition that is Book Ending Anxiety

Am I alone in getting BEA? This stands for Book Ending Anxiety, in case this debilitating condition has so far passed you by.

I have been plagued with BEA for as long as I can remember. As I approach the half way mark of a book, I start to wonder just how the book will end. The protagonist will be wrestling with a knotty moral issue, or a terrible event, or an angry crocodile, and things are looking bleak. I am enjoying it, this bleakness. (Generally speaking, I am quite a fan of bleak. Industrial landscapes, winter weather, the music of the Smiths: I find it all quite uplifting on the whole). So what I dread, as I turn another page and somehow the terrible event is now sparkling with a hint of a silver lining, or the crocodile gets sudden onset lockjaw, is a happy ending. Oh woe! Their relationship has irrevocably broken down and they are destined to be locked in a vicious battle of hatred forever! But wait! He has found one of her toenails that he kept in a small jar in the loft, and it has reminded him of his undying love for her, so now they are reconciled and everything is really sodding perfect. And the crocodile has become their pet and has voluntarily had all his teeth removed. God, I find it all so depressing.

And having spent the past five and a half years reading to my sons is not helping one iota. In fact, it has simply aggravated my condition. Because pretty much ALL of the book endings that we have read so far have been irritatingly, nauseatingly bloody happy. We are on the cusp of something interesting, I feel. If I squint hard, I can see Roald Dahl, like a shimmering mirage of wit and naughtiness. But for books for the under fives, forget it. Heroes get a cheer, mistakes get righted, baddies get chastised. Not even locked up. Not even spanked with a wet fish. Just chastised enough so they see the error of their ways, blush politely and everyone sods off home, hand in hand.

So I am thinking I may have to start an alternative library for sufferers of BEA. It would contain such classics as:

tigercametoteaThe Tiger who Came to Tea: a tiger comes to tea and scoffs the lot. Mummy buys a large tin of tiger food in case of a return visit, and sure enough, the tiger, recognising a good thing when he sees it and still a bit drunk three days later from drinking daddy’s stash of home brew, comes back. However, with no opposable thumbs, the tin of tiger food proves too much of a challenge to open, so he eats the family instead.



guess+how+much+i+love+youGuess How Much I Love You: “Guess how much I love you?” he said. “Oh, I don’t think I could guess that.” “Not a bloody jot. Nada. Fuck all. Know why Pops?  Because you stink of wee and you have freakishly long ears.” Quite a short book, this one. Perfect for bedtime when wine ‘o’ clock is approaching.




the-gruffaloThe Gruffalo: Mouse tricks the woodland animals into believing in the existence of the Gruffalo, and on seeing the hideous beast himself, manages to hide under a leaf and escape his evil clutches, primarily because he is a tiny mouse and the Gruffalo is a huge, lumbering idiot. However, on leaving his hideout, he is lynched by the militant arm of the Woodland League Against Vermin (founder members: fox, owl and snake) and is savagely killed. Could have a pop-up end page for added impact.



veryhungrycaterpillerThe Very Hungry Caterpillar:  On Monday, the caterpillar ate through an apple. Unfortunately, this apple belonged to Mrs Bartholomew-Jones of number 48 who abhors creepy crawlies, so she bludgeoned it to death with last week’s copy of the Radio Times.



dear_zooDear Zoo. ‘I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet. They sent me an email that thanked me for my interest in the zoo and their customer service team in Bangalore would respond to my query as soon as possible, and please do not reply to this email as it is an automated account. I am still waiting six weeks later’.




I am sure there are more to add to this list… I will give it some thought when I am feeling a tad less happy…

Who’s up for a game of Top Trump Parents?

I came across a photo yesterday of my eldest as a baby. Scrunched up in a baby grow, little fists clenched, face scrunched in delight – or possibly wind – like an inordinately pleased-looking frog. I was transported back to those days of milk, crying and utter bewilderment. My son did his fair share of crying and bewilderment, too, I seem to recall.

Babyville is not a place I inhabited with joy, on the most part. Being a parent seemed to be just one long ‘I don’t know what the fuck I am doing’ moment, briefly interspersed with ‘oh well, I am officially too tired to care’ thoughts. I did read my fair share of parenting books. I even may  have highlighted a few choice phrases, because in those pre-kid days, not only did I have time to highlight words in books, I could actually find my highlighter because it wasn’t lying behind the sofa with the lid off, having been used to colour in a whole sheet of A4 just for the sodding hell of it.

I may have digressed slightly.

Seeing as most books are wholly inadequate at preparing people for parenthood, given their predisposition to gloss over anything that seems a little bit too much like a challenge, I was wondering if there was a better way. Which is when I realised that, like children, the best way to learn is surely through play. I don’t wish to reinvent the wheel here. Just take some of the games that we know and love, and give them a little… tweak. So, in the future, when a first-time pregnant mum wanders down the aisles of Mothercare, wrestling duvet-sized sanitary pads into her basket and feeling a little queasy, she may stumble across these:

Top Trumps Parents: Want to know the sort of conversations you will be embroiled in the moment your baby pops out? Then play a few rounds of Top Trumps parents. The starter edition contains such gems as birth weight, how many hours sleep a night you get and age when they first crawled. Thrill to being trumped every time you mention your baby’s achievements! Be amazed when a mum claims their daughter walked at 8 months!  The Junior edition has great stats to compare, such as what phase reading book your child is on and how tall they are. Because with Top Trump parents, if you are not wanting to punch a fellow parent in the face, you’re just not playing hard enough!

Parenting Twister: The perennial family favourite has been updated for today’s busy parents. Spin the dial… and it’s one hand to hold the baby. Spin again… one hand on the milk bottle. Spin again… oh, it’s another hand on the soft toy… and again… this time it’s another hand to answer the phone… and again… a hand to eat that digestive… and again… a hand to wipe biscuit crumbs from the top of your baby’s head…  it’s Parenting Twister, the game that ties you up in knots!

Parents’ Scrabble: acclimatise yourself to the incomprehensible rubbish that your young toddler will spout by playing a few games of Parents’ scrabble. Take as many tiles as you like, it won’t make the slightest difference! Randomly lay down a string of letters, preferably without vowels, and read them out. Hey presto! Toddler talk!

Cluedo for Parents: Was it the five year old in the lounge with the felt tip? Or the teenager in the kitchen with the dirty plate? Pit your sleuthing wits in this high-octane game of mystery as you try to solve your offspring’s crimes. Deluxe 2014 edition comes with Interrogation Button – press to hear the suspect’s response, including ‘It wasn’t me’, ‘I always get the blame’ and ‘it was my brother’.

Trivial Pursuit (Overly-Curious Junior edition): Think you are ready to answer your offspring’s questions? This new edition of Trivial Pursuit will test your knowledge of the most random facts,  from ‘Why do bagels have holes?’ to ‘why can’t I see electiricty?’ these questions will have you scraping the barrel for answers before you can say ‘ask your daddy’. Each question is repeated thirty times throughout the game – because we don’t only test your know-how, we test your patience too!

So there you go, Mattel, Hasbro and Winning Moves. You can have those ideas on me. For free. Don’t mention it.

Mr Winkie Dinkie and Upsie Daisy get jiggy with it in the Pinky Ponk

“Mummy, how does a baby get into your tummy?”

There was an apocalyptic grinding noise as the world stopped spinning on its axis. Birds hung in the air, mid-flight. A passing car sat stationary on the road as a portentous silence engulfed us.

Oh buggery bugger.

We have touched on this subject before, my five year old son and I. And I felt then as I did now: torn. Am I the only one to find this topic tricky? As we continue to walk, I consider the issues:

1. I want to tell him the truth.

2. But I want to tell him the truth in a way that won’t put the fear of God in him or give him a life-long phobia of dark tunnels.

3. And I want to tell him that truth so perfectly and succinctly that he won’t feel the need to ask a further thirty-eight supplementary questions and points of clarification and so we can swiftly move on to a topic more befitting the morning walk to school. Like… I don’t know,  who his favourite Scooby Doo character is.

I fear I am not up to the job.

“Well…”I begin. It will be interesting to see exactly what is going to come out of my mouth next.

Luckily, E had had quite enough of my pathetic prevarication, and had decided to take a stab in the dark himself (not the most sensitive of ways to put that, granted, but this is probably a perfect demonstration as to why a more competent parent really needs to be having this conversation right now instead of me).

“Do you take a tablet?”

“No, not really,” I reply, sorely tempted to say yes and be done with it.

“But it would be good if you could, and the tablet had the letter on it that your baby would be called,” he said.

Well, if you are going to redesign procreation, I suppose you could do worse. Mind you, I pity the poor sods who get the ‘Z ‘ tablet. There would be a lot more shouts across the park of “Zebedee, Zanzibar, time to go home!” that’s for sure.

I hamfistedly try to change the subject, being the cowardly, irresponsible parent that I am, by hypnotising him with talk of his next birthday, but even that glittering conversational prize does not swerve him from his mission.

“So, how does the baby get in?”

Can I say that it knocks? I sigh. “Well… there’s a seed.” Not quite the answer to the question he asked, but at least it is an answer, and one that is strictly true, if a little… lily-livered on my part.

“Who put it there?”

JUST STOP IT, WILL YOU? I scream. In my head. There is quite a lot of screaming going on in my head, as I cling on with whitened knuckles to this conversational cart which is careering wildly toward the edge of that nearby precipice, bumping and jolting the occupants mercilessly as it hurtles toward certain doom.

“Daddy,” I tell him.

I know what the next question is going to be. There can be only one question to follow that one. Am I really going to have to start telling him about daddy’s willy? Really?

On the plus side, at least we have never called that particular part of the male anatomy by some stupid name that would just make the explanation sound like some weird episode of In the Night Garden. On the other hand, it could be just the thing…

Derek Jacobi: “Ooh, look. Here’s Mr Winkie Dinkie! Hello, Mr Winkie Dinkie!” [Mr Winkie Dinkie waves to the viewer]

D.J.: “Hello, Upsie Daisy! Upsie Daisy, are you doing a jig?” [Upsie Daisy dances and her skirt lifts up]

D.J.: “My, Mr Winkie Dinkie, you’ve grown so tall! Is that a seed you are balancing on your head?” [Mr Winkie Dinkie nods carefully]

D.J.: “And are you going to give your seed to Upsie Daisy, Mr Winkie Dinkie?” (Mr Winkie Dinkie nods again, then points]

D.J.:  “Oh, you want to do it in the Pinkie Ponk! Off you go then!

STOP. Stop right now. I am making myself feel nauseous.

But perhaps children’s TV is not the right medium. Perhaps a well loved story would be the perfect vehicle to explain how babies are made? I can just imagine it…

We’re going on a baby hunt.

                We’re going to make a big one.

                What a beautiful day!

                We’re not scared.

                Uh-uh! A pink tunnel!

                A deep warm tunnel.

                We can’t go over it.

                We can’t go under it.

                Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!

                Splash splosh!

                Splash splosh!

                Splash splosh!

Hmm. On second thoughts this is probably the single most idiotic idea I have ever had, and boy, there is stiff competition for that crown.

It’s no good. I am going to have to have The Talk.

And then, just as I am inhaling deeply in preparation, the clouds seem to part and the God of Lucky Fucking Escapes looks down on me, tosses his golden locks over his left shoulder, points his well-manicured finger in my direction and booms: “This is the last time, alright?”

“Is it karate tonight?” my son asks.


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