18 Doughty
Street The Spinifex Option

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Watching this with interest - click on the link below

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Monday, October 02, 2006

I had two things to do this afternoon; take some of Gaby's tights back to Mothercare (because they were the expensive obaibi brand and they split the first time she wore them, not because I'm in the habit of returning tights), and take my library books back.

Now I've always thought there should be a separate check-out desk for efficient customers. I don't mean "handbaskets only" or "cash only" (because those lines are full of people who didn't notice the sign and being British, we generally tolerate this). No, I mean "If you know where your purse is, can pack your own bag, haven't forgotten anything, if you are not in possession of any coupons or vouchers and you have no intention of making idle chit-chat with the checkout operator after they have given you your receipt, then stand in this line".

I am a curmudgeon, yes. But I'm also really pushed for time.

In Mothercare, the woman in front of me wanted to open a storecard, pay with coupons and ask advice.

I just wanted to swap some tights.

In the library, the woman ahead of me wanted to know if she could find a book by the same author, if so, where, and could the librarian order it. Oh yes, and could she defer her 80 pence library fine for late return of this book.

I just wanted to hand over three books.

(On what grounds does one defer a library fine? Is this means tested? Do they eventually write the debt off?).

I can't be the only person who thinks this?

Friday, September 29, 2006

I've just been on the phone booking a hotel room for our stop-over in Hong Kong. The man on the phone used the word "actually" four or five times, and never in a really appropriate context. I've noticed this liberal use of "actually" in non-native speakers from all over the world. I wish they wouldn't do it.

Since we last landed in Hong Kong (ten years ago), the old Kai Tak airport has been closed and replaced by an eight storey build out on Lantau island. The airport was in desperate need of refurbishment, but the new location is a great shame. Landing at Kai Tak was surely one of those great travel experiences (if I'd reached out, I could probably have brought in some washing from the balconies as we flew through the skyscrapers at an alarming angle).

Not that I had my eyes open......

Searching for somewhere to live in Sydney is a real headache. Everything is unfurnished and the rental market involves showing up for a 15 minute viewing slot and competing to rent the place.

Still, it's turned up more delicious phrases (antipodean, therefore slightly different). Not content with "boasting harbour glimpses", one flat in Bondi was adverised as "affording ocean cameos".

We might just end up living in the camper van - I could live with that view.

Friday, September 22, 2006

We're back from the South Hams.

I'm sure it's a lovely place, but my abiding memory will be of manically pushing a Maclaren pushchair in the style of Keanu Reeves driving the bus in the film "Speed". Gaby would begin howling immediately that the buggy stopped, which does tend to limit ones enjoyment of a holiday.

She had her MMR three days before we left and subsequently began cutting her molars right on cue. It's an odd co-incidence really, as we spent a week in a barn in Somerset in March, and on that occasion she was also teething for the entire week, so for the second time in our lives, were denied cream tea at the Pump Rooms in Bath (first time we were too poor, second time we were pushing the Maclaren "Speed" bus).

So after two holidays with the little one, I'm forced to conclude that (a) holidays can never be enjoyable for parents of small children and (b) holidays may be tolerable for parents of small children where other family members are available to share the babysitting.

Obviously I'm hamming it up for effect, but the first week really was dreadful. We did manage to see something of Devon. The beaches along the estuary in Salcombe were particulary good; terribly terribly middle class in a Hackett and Joules kind of way, but having young children is a great leveller and I did manage to have some adult conversation in between pouring Gaby in and out of the smallest wetsuit imaginable.

I met a woman standing knee-deep in a rockpool at Mill Bay wearing exactly the same facial expression as me but who had lasted a whole four days to my three before declaring the holiday pointless and demanding they all return home. As though to prove my point, her in-laws were driving down the next day to look after their toddler so that she and her husband could escape to Padstow for the night (to eat at Rick Stein's, predictably).

At Salcombe's North Sands, I met an anorexic London-type sporting enormous sunglasses and a three year old daughter. She had also sagely brought her mother-in-law along for support, and was espousing the joys of Newquay's Watergate Beach Hotel, where there's wall-to-wall babysitting because "it's just not a holiday for the adults otherwise", all the while trilling "Portia, Darling, no...don't hit Mummy, it's not nice".

We stuck it out, but never before have we consumed so much red wine and collapsed into bed so utterly drained at the end of the day. We finally learnt how to play backgammon (I bought Will a set for his birthday this year but we were both so constantly exhausted that we could never concentrate on the instructions for long enough to work out how to play it) which felt like a small triumph after long days trying to entertain a child so grouchy that she would begin to cry if we so much as spoke to one another in the car.

The second week was an improvement on the first. We headed down to St Ives; my favorite place in the UK and possibly the world, where we had a great apartment with a spectacular view. Gaby cheered up a bit, the weather was great, and we hardly moved further than two miles in the whole week (unless you count the frantic drive to Truro to buy the last five-point-harness grobag in the whole of Cornwall for the return journey). Gaby continued her reluctance to sleep; or more specifically, her reluctance to stay asleep, particularly in the day. This has been a problem since she was born (while other babies were napping for two hours, Gaby was snatching a reluctant 20 minutes once a day. At 14 months, her wakefulness has led to developmental advancedness (she uses words like "Octopus", "Medicine" and "Ocean"), but frankly, I'd swap the vocabulary development for a nice kip).

Still, it was a break from the usual routine of being woken by planes or nextdoor's dog. In Cornwall, she was woken at various times from her nap by (1) a seagull, (2) a train announcer announcing that we had arrived at the station and (3) the reversing alarm of a van delivering Cornish Pasties to an internet cafe. This would be amusing were it not for the fact that a short morning nap leads to a terrible day. One day she cried for almost five hours solidly, until we gave in and got pissed at The Sloop pub on the harbour front. Funnily enough, it didn't seem so bad afterwards. On our final night, we took the advice of every other parent of small children and strapped Gaby into her grobag and pushchair after her evening bath. We'd booked a table at the Porthminster Cafe and felt utterly liberated being outside in the fresh air at 7pm. As predicted, Gaby fell asleep and stayed asleep. We enjoyed a relaxed drink at the pub followed by a great meal at the Porthminster. However, unlike every other child, the swish of the sea, hum of conversation and muffling effect of a rainhood were not enough to keep her asleep. She woke up shortly before our puddings arrived, began to cry and had to be removed from the restaurant. We then ate our puddings in shifts; one eating, the other pacing the street outside.

In our wisdom, we drove back north through the night. Gaby fell asleep, the grobag did the job it was born for, and we were home in five hours. However, Gaby woke up at Birmingham (11pm) and stayed awake for hours after we had put her to bed at home (largely, well, crying and whingeing).

I knew she'd wake up in the restaurant and I knew she'd wake up in the car. I was always taught that parents are the experts on their own kids, and now I believe it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another sad case of E-Coli in the news today.

Why is it always in Scotland?

Why has nobody else noticed this?