Stale Bread

I have had enough.

I cannot cope with buckets of information thrown at me day in, day out.  Recently I have been:

  •  learning names of current movers, shakers and losers 
  •  following conflicts, debates and other developments 
  •  sifting through facts and irrelevant data
  •  ignoring the latest spats on the feminist scene
  •  catching up on fashion trends
  •  ignoring parenting fads
  • memorising Dear Zoo and Postman Bear so that I can recite them on demand in hope to distract Peanut from diving into the toilet

Do not get me wrong, I like knowing what is going on in the world and there is nothing I love more than a good debate but increasingly I have been feeling like sitting down with my hands over my ears and screaming blah blah blah at the TV, my iPod and its constant updates, newspapers, radio and all the non-fiction books piled in front of me.

There is only so much one sponge can absorb.

I have been trying to be on top of everything and as a result I have nothing to say about anything.

I am taking a break from the world of news and constant updates because this is what it is like to be my brain right now:

Stale Bread

My loaf of brain has gone stale, the crust is mouldy;

greenish-blue stink and sprouting hair, my last fresh slice wastes away.

I have nothing to say.

Bloody politics.  Boring.  VIPs and celebrities dangle

from my key ring.  I don’t even try to understand

interest rates, independence twaddle and modern affairs.

Instead, I stuff my brain with carefully selected poultry grain.

Easy to digest and ready-made.  No complaints.

There

you go and listen. I’ve tried to keep it fresh. Years of whizzing

through university.  Vacuum packed knowledge.  Exams were a breeze.

They teach you what goes into well-made bread – you recite

ingredients in your sleep.  You have no idea

how to mix them.

My loaf of brain has dried out around edges.

Tough.  Dear judge, I have tried.

Put me in prison for letting my brain go off.

Sartre, Kierkegaard and Plato will turn the key

and bury it under the last standing library.

I even froze that stale brain of mine,

plastic wrap, no silver screen and the so called smart

technology – an orgy for hot air that made my brain go stale.

It did not help. There is nothing left. The shelves are empty.

I have nothing to sell.

And you…Yes, you over there.  No browsing allowed.

Either buy my stale loaf of brain or…

Go away.

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Welcome To My Room 101

101

My brain has been cooking up this post for a while.

I am a big fan of Frank Skinner, his dead pan sense of humour and his Room 101  show.  If you haven’t seen it before Room 101 is a place where the lucky chosen can throw things/people/anything that makes their blood and brains boil, shut the door and never have to face the annoyance again.

My Room 101 list has been getting longer and longer over the years and here are snippets of it ( oh yes, and thank you George Orwell for coming up with the concept a long time ago).  In fact, the list is so long that it will take me a few years to publish it all.  It is ok. I have time.

A disclaimer: everything mentioned below is my personal pet hate, I haven’t been paid to dislike any of these items and the views expressed are mine and mine alone.

Fashion: Ugg boots and everything Ugg–related.  Walking badly in Ugg boots.  Soggy Ugg boots.  Wearing footwear that makes one look as if one had skinned a yeti and shaved his feet to then somehow wobble about town is bad for you, your feet (I guess the smell after an average of 8 hour marinating Ugg time could be easily bottled/canned and sold to the military forces) and yetis.

And while I am talking about shoes I might as well say that balancing on heels so high they make the Shard blush is not that great either.  Whenever I spot a woman stumbling forward like a wounded stilt walker I feel sorry for her.  We all have heard it a million times – men love women in high heels, but I am not sure men love women falling over left, right and centre and filing their bunions in front of TV in the evening so that the next day they can squeeze into their Manolos, Kurts and the likes.

A while ago I conducted my own personal market research and asked a handful of representatives of the male species whether stilt tripping was in any way appealing.  The answer was ‘Ah?’

It turns out that most men, unless they are Karl Lagerfeld or Dolce or Gabbana, don’t notice if you wear Ugg boots, stilts or your slippers chewed on by a Chihuahua with an inferiority complex, and as long as they are allowed to watch news/football/the latest 5 hour long documentary about the first rugby players of Pompeii they are happy.  Your footwear is probably at the bottom of their list.  Unlike your bottom, but that is an entirely different type of post that I will not be writing any time soon.

Modern life: Urban 4×4 vehicles taking up all the pavement space and not giving pedestrians their well-deserved priority respect.  I count myself very lucky to be able to live where I do, in a lovely green area, a two minute stroll from the Gallery of Modern Art.  However, our block of flats is sandwiched between two Hogwarts-like public schools and every day on my way to work/nursery and back I face the same challenges and tiger mums and their cars.  And every day I want to ask those women the same question: ‘Should I wheel my buggy straight into your urban tank since you think that pavement equals your personal parking space or should I leave it to the pigeon militia?  And since I am rude enough to try to cross your road are you going to run me and Peanut over now or maybe after you have checked your nails, Twitter and that rebellious Botox-resistant muscle above your left eyebrow?

Travel: This is a tricky one because I love travelling.  Discovering new places, foods and people watching have been my life-long hobbies and inspiration. I am the kind of person who can turn up at the airport 5 hours early (just in case) and not be bored or tired of guessing who the fellow travellers are and where they are scurrying off to, but there is something/someone to do with airports that I am going to chuck into my Room 101, turn the key and throw it into the flames of Mordor.  It’s the type of traveller who will queue at the gate 2 hours before boarding time is announced and once they are allowed to proceed, they and their spouses, children, uncles, grand grandparents and a random stranger that has been following them since last trip to Corfu charge ahead like a herd of wild buffaloes escaping a very irate wolf.

Boarding a plane is not the same as playing musical chairs.  There is (in theory) space for everyone.  Seats are either assigned beforehand or you have to make do with what’s available.  A seat is a seat.  If you don’t get to sit where you really want to some reasonable stranger may swap with you so that you can admire the plane’s left wing, a piece of unidentified propeller and some clouds.  And some more clouds.

But if just before I boarded this Iron Bird you crushed my toes, broke my nose while flapping your elbows and bruised my ribs with your hand-luggage made of granite then no, I’m not swapping. I will keep all those clouds to myself, and occasionally will chuckle so that you think you are missing out on gazing at a brilliant cloud.  Blame yourself.

Writing: I love writing (D’oh) but I don’t love writing self-help books promising to make the next Dickens out of you, if you can only part with a few quid and a couple of hours of your precious time.  While creative writing courses offer human interaction, heated discussions and a healthy dose of destructive  constructive feedback, most of those books give nothing other than a concept of a magic wand (well, I guess it works if you are a magic wand believer or Harry Potter fan or even Harry Potter himself).  Below is the best writing advice I have ever heard summed up in four short statements.  And it’s free:

1.            Just write.

2.            Read a fair deal.

3.            Sometimes go for a walk.

4.            Oh, and while you are at it, live a little.

Modern Attitude to Ageing: Getting older increases the maintenance costs year on year since, after all, aging is a terrible disease inflicted on us by Time.  A disease that has to be fought off with snail slime, nightingale droppings, liquid gold, caviar (not to be washed down with quality vodka unfortunately), seaweed, Dead Sea Mud, Botulinum toxin and chemicals that make Kryptonite seem like a child’s putty.  Why do we find it so hard to accept that life experience, wisdom (ahem, ahem) and a few memories of those nights out that we have been pushing deeper and deeper into the subconscious come, yes, with a few grey strays and wrinkles. The world in which 15 year olds advertise miracle creams for 50 year olds has gone a tiny weenie bit mad.  Leave the snails and their slime in peace.  Use an iron instead. Works on linen and we all know what linen looks like pre-ironing stage.  Sorted.

Current issues/discussions: I know I’m not going to make any friends by saying this but I am bored from top to toe and beyond by all the discussions and rows and about feminism and what it means. Radical feminism.  Lipstick feminism. Floundering feminism.  Mention the F-word at a dinner party and give me 3 seconds so that I can fall into a deep coma.  I have very little interest in debating whether a feminist should wear a lipstick or pretend she doesn’t own lips/breasts/shiny hair just in case a male chauvinistic pig finds her attractive.  Neither am I interested in slagging off men.

Replace the F-word with the E-word as in Equality, chant to me about social justice and I am with you because as much as we have to fight for women to have equal chances in life we can’t forget about the Discarded White Young Males, Unemployed with Not a Chance in Life, the Overlooked Carers or Any Other People in Need of Support.

And when I am done with writing this post I will be off to change the world. If you see a Wonderwoman with freshly ironed face, smeared in snail slime and some lipstick, charging ahead with a buggy and sending pigeons off to bomb luxury 4x4s – that’s me.

Say hello if you dare.  Just don’t mention the F-word or I may throw nightingale droppings at you.

*********************************************************************************************

What would you throw into your Room 101?  Here is your one and only chance to get rid of anything that bugs you!  Feel free to add to my list!

A Report From a Swedish Sandbox

sandbox

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit my friend in Örebro, Sweden.  We don’t see each other very often and both of us are guilty of not responding to emails within the first 3,475 days of having received them but every time we meet up we pick up where we left off.  No awkward silences.  No grudges.  Just good old chat.  This is what friendships for life are all about.

Anyway… there I was, relaxing on the couch, watching the Swedish answer to Antiques Roadshow, sipping red bush tea and thinking about the recent conversations I had with Swedish mums while we (without much success) tried to prevent our merry offspring from consuming all the sand in the sandbox.  The conversation went a bit like this:

  • I tell them about how much Peanut’s nursery costs per month for 4 days a week – they gasp
  • I tell them that after BlueBeretDad and I have spent about 30% of our hard earned salaries on nursery fees, and the remaining 70% on bills, rent and a monthly Blueberry Muffin treat we have enough left to pay for:
  1. about 55 packs of standard nappies
  2. about 55 boxes of Toddler formula milk
  3. 1.8 Alexander McQueen Studded Pump Shoe
  4. 250 Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate bars,or
  5. 416.6kg Asda organic carrots

and the Swedish mums gasp again (Swedish is a very gasp-friendly language).

  • I tell them that a lot of women cannot go back to work as their earnings would not even cover the childcare costs let alone any other essentials, like food or mortgage – they gasp
  • I tell them that we could have sent Peanut to nursery at the age of 3 months (Swedish nurseries don’t accept such young babies) and had I had my first ever job that didn’t provide any additional maternity/paternity pay apart from the statutory support I would be facing a very tough choice or (more likely) Peanut would not be feeding their children with all that sand right now ..yeah yeah, they gasp (I begin to wonder whether I have somehow acquired a new superpower – The Ability to Make Swedish People Gasp as soon as I mention childcare in the UK – and I start cooking up a plan to take over that poor planet Earth). They gasp. I yawn.

When it is their turn to shock me they tell me that:

  • both parents in Sweden are entitled to combined total of 16 months paid leave per child and I shed a tear
  • first 13 months are paid at 80% of the parent-on-leave’s most recent income, rest is paid at flat daily rate and I cry
  • public childcare is guaranteed to all parents with fees capped at 3% of parental income I sob.
  • a lot of shift working parents have access to night time nurseries… Whoop! I know what you are thinking, as I was thinking the same! Until I found out that you need a confirmation from your employer that you actually work nights… Oh well, maybe one day! I blubber.
  • parents have 480 days (240 each) of paid parental leave per child (pay depends on the earnings) that can be used to cover school holidays/sickness etc. until that child is 8 years old I bawl and stuff my face with sand

Now don’t get me wrong, it is not all IKEA and elks dancing on ice in the land of Sweden.  The generous help with the childcare comes at a price – my sandbox friends tell me that there is a higher expectation on mothers to go back to work after having been mammalediga. Being a stay at home mum is not common and may be frowned upon or gasped about.  But there is a choice and if as a parent, you want to continue working the Swedish government does not financially ruin you for having made that “lifestyle choice” to have children.

It also seems fairer that both men and women can take out a considerable amount of paid leave to care for their children, which means that it is not important what gender candidates one employs.  It makes sense and it points Swedish society in the right direction on its way to equality.  It is a shame that Britain is toddling way behind when it comes to taking care of its children citizens.

Just before I went to bed I scratched Nova, a very friendly Labrador with the patience of a Blue Whale,  on her very full belly.  Nova had a great day in her dog nursery today, playing and making new furry friends.  For those of you raising you eyebrows, ready to gasp, it is a legal requirement in Sweden to provide care for your dog if it is on its own for longer than 6 hours at a time.

On the way back from the sandbox I asked my dear friend how much Nova’s nursery cost.  It turned out to be about a third of what we pay for Peanut’s nursery.

They say it is good for a child to grow up surrounded by pets…

Teargas and Tulips

teargas

On 1 June it is Children’s Day in Poland so let’s raise glasses filled with lemonade to our children because childhood doesn’t last long enough.

A few days ago I got angry. Very angry. At life. And the universe. And everything.

There I was sipping my favourite Apple & Dill tea (tastes much better than it sounds), eyeing the last chocolate brownie on the plate in front of me and catching up on one of Radio 4 programmes, From Our Own Correspondent. This is one of my favourite pastimes apart from reading, blogging, doing yoga and drinking cocktails like no one is watching (order depending on the day).  And on the more serious note, whenever I get a chance and have two minutes to myself, I like to listen to stories about quirks and oddities in other cultures.  In that particular episode of FOOC, called The Lap of Luxury and broadcast on 23 February 2013, there was a reportage from Syria in which a BBC journalist visited an old Roman burial chamber and found seven boys hiding in the dark.  Some of them were brothers; some had lost their parents in fights and bombings.  Seven pairs of eyes in the cold tombstone. “We are all afraid.”

(more…)

Help Yourself

help yourself

Hi everyone – you can read this week’s post about self-help and parenting at The Real Super Mum Blog. Warning – those scribblings may change your life!

Keeping Up With The Polish – A Brit’s Guide To Survival

DoodleBuddyOur last day in the lovely and sunny Stockholm – we have been having a great time in Sweden and I will soon tell you all about it!  For now, to keep the blog busy, I will entertain you with a piece that has been hiding in my Drafts for a while.  It was hugely inspired by the Daily Mail.  Enjoy!

2004 was a significant year for me on many levels.  I was about to finish university and was staring long-term graduate unemployment in the face and I managed to avoid watching every single sporting event during the Athens Olympics.   Tony Blair opened the United Kingdom’s borders to the 10 new European Union members, including Poland.  Great Britain and a handful other countries like France, Sweden and Holland kept their doors ajar, while others slammed it in our face for a maximum of seven years.

And so we forced the British doors open a bit more and what happened next is history.  Nobody could have predicted the scale of the exodus from the former Eastern bloc – the Poles were migrating lemming-like to the British Isles, dropping out of the sky (or rather Ryanair and Easyjet) and flooding out of an incessant stream of buses, smelling of sausages and hard-boiled eggs.  They took up jobs nobody else wanted, improving your plumbing, washing up your dishes, building the Olympic stadium and giving the Daily Mail a few headlines to fall back on in case Jordan decided not to enlarge her breasts that week.

The quiet British streets were flooded with Polish delis hiding such dark secrets as pickled cabbage and kabanosy.  There were warnings that the whole of Poland was moving over, only leaving the very oldest and the youngest behind.  That soon “Britishness” would disappear.  The Daily Mail became even more popular.

And now, nine years on, Britain and its people are still here.  And so are the Poles.  Polish has become the second largest language in Britain and even though some of my countrymen and women went home discouraged by the grey pavements not being gold-plated after all, the rest are not going anywhere.  And neither am I.

I have a good job that I enjoy and a wide circle of friends and a baby, who is going to grow up sharing a Scottish and British and Polish heritage.

After a lot of musing and pondering I have decided it is about time to make everyone’s lives easier and debunk a few myths.  The Poles are not that bad, but we are different and out of my affection for the British and their Britishness I am going to share a Keeping Up with the Polish Guide with you.  Read it, memorise it and you might just get away with not having to learn Polish  one day:

  1. We are glum. Life is tough, we know it and will not pretend it is otherwise.  So next time you ask a Polish person how they are don’t expect the straightforward “I’m fine, thank you. How are you?”  No, you had better have time on your hands as you are more likely to hear this: “Ah, my left toe is rotten, my eyes are not what they used to be and my uncle is dead. He died in the battle at Monte Cassino. My cholesterol levels are too high so I ‘m planning my funeral because I don’t trust my doctors. What do they know anyway?”  \My advice – next time someone asks you how you are doing try the Polish way and mention all the possible sickness that has decimated your family, just make sure you go back at least 10 generations.  Mention your bankruptcy and depression, and the impending divorce.
  2. Only Polish bread or chleb counts.  Its secret?  Sourdough and cumin seeds.  Nothing compares to it.  It fills you up and doesn’t taste like cardboard filled with 90% air.  We eat bread when we drink vodka (lines the stomach), we give bread to teething infants (keeps them quiet) and we get it officially blessed by a Catholic priest at Easter.  Our chleb is us.
  3. Limp upper lip.  If we don’t like you or something you have said or done we will let you know.  What do you mean it is too personal to discuss difficult labour and second degree tears with a stranger on a bus?  If in doubt, go back to point one.
  4. Don’t mention the war. Unless you want to thank us for winning it for you.  We are still bitter about Britain not joining in when we needed it most. We never forget.
  5. Never mix up Poland with Russia. Ever. It took us a while but now we know that Scotland is in Scotland and not in England.  Also, to all British TV producers – when you want an actor to do a Polish accent and they speak with a Russian twang it is wrong. Very wrong.
  6. Don’t call me an Eastern-European. Poland is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe. Repeat after me. Central Europe.
  7. No house is too small. We don’t mind housing a three generation family and an Alsatian in a two bedroom flat you would find too small for your goldfish.  If there is no space we make space.
  8. No rounds in a pub. We don’t get the whole pub rounds malarkey.  Mainly because life is tough and you can’t trust people.  We suspect that everyone else orders the most expensive drinks when it isn’t their turn.  So let me buy and drink my own beer and you can buy and drink yours.  Simple.
  9. To beer or not to beer.  Beer is beer and lager is beer too.  And so is ale.  Ale is simply a lukewarm beer.  And here is my family secret, hot beer with spices and raspberry syrup is the best cure for a mean cold.  You are welcome.
  10. Vodka of life. Wine is for wimps, vodka is for real people.  After enough shots of vodka we can even crack a smile at your jokes.
  11. What’s in an accent? In Poland we all sound the same and after the dark years behind the Iron Curtain we emerged as a classless nation.  Our noblemen jumped the ship a long time ago, everybody swears and our cleaners have degrees in ancient Greek.
  12. Public schools, doh. If your parents have to pay for your education then there is something wrong with you and your cognitive abilities to learn to read and add up – this is how we see it back home.  In my free state secondary school we learned two foreign languages, there was an option to study Latin and 90% of my classmates went on to achieve one or two degrees.  I could go to that school because I scored high at the entrance exams. Not because my parents had to pay with their sweat and blood for an overpriced property in an area with a decent school.  Sorry Peanut.  Sigh.
  13. Happy to rent. We don’t get the obsession with climbing up the property ladder.  We are happy that we have a job. And don’t have to share our room with a snoring grandmother, a dog and a baby.
  14. Don’t ever criticise the Polish pope.
  15. What’s cricket about?  Again.  What is it ACTUALLY about?
  16. I’d love to overfeed you. This is how we show love.  With food and vodka on the table.  If you are ever invited to our house, don’t eat for a week before the event and I can guarantee you will not have to eat for at least a week afterwards. Sorted.

Now that you have greater insight into the Polish psyche it should ease your fear of the Poles squeezing the Britishness out of the British until there is not a single drop left.  We actually love Britain, otherwise we would not have stayed here.  Not everything is about money and stealing benefits.  Longer term it is the culture and its people that count.  And all the things we don’t understand about Britain we have learned to admire and respect.  Apart from the bread.  The Daily Mail.  And the weather.

Na zdrowie.

Trust No One

trust no

It started with Roquefort; the blue – veined monster was out to get me and Peanut, who at that time was still a bump.  The thing is, I love blue cheese and the more it smells like old socks the better.  Yet, I convinced myself that as soon as a microscopic piece touched my mouth, both Peanut and I would explode and cover the living room in bluish, sticky goo. In the end, I dared myself to have some.  BlueberetDad nuked it in the oven on my pizza.  My heart melted with the cheese.
As it happens, I enjoy my Stilton and gorgonzola with a glass or two (ok then…. sometimes three) of red wine.   A few months into the pregnancy, I went out with my three lovely friends aka the groovy book club ladies for a night of gossip and tapas.  The waiter came to take the orders.
Three glasses for the wine?” he asked.
No,  four.”  I said; it was my monthly treat and no one was going to take it away from me.  He put four wine glasses in front of us with a glare that said it all.   My child wasn’t even born and I already was a negligent mother.  Alcoholic, borderline cheesehead.  Whom can Peanut trust if not his own mum to make the right choices?  I saw him grab the umbilical cord and make an urgent call to the Grey Matter.

“Hello.  Mother, this is why I have already failed before I am even out.  Cheers.”

Then there were the medics.  You know which ones, the natural birth with no medication haters everyone loves to criticise.  The incompetent sleep deprived and often unable to utter a word of English bunch who were supposed to deliver my baby.  After scaremongering birth story number 1,234,567 brought to me by media and other well-wishers whose job is to flock around heavily pregnant women, I hid behind the couch with one hand over my ears, the other over my eyes.
The size of the baby I pushed out! Think watermelon but worse. You’ll never be the same.”
Life put our worries aside.  The staff in the birth centre, where Peanut decided to make his first appearance, will always have a special place in our hearts and memories.  They didn’t fall asleep.  They spoke fluent English.  They held my hand when I screamed in their faces to bloody hurry up with that pain relief.  They wiped my face when, in response to gas and air,  I was sick all over the place.
Until you have a child, you don’t realise that the world around you is occupied by coffee tables, cleaning products, bookshelves, loose nuts and bolts and every baby’s favourite , Evil Plastic Bags,  just waiting to injure, bruise and suffocate your offspring.  You move the clutter up the shelving, then you move it back down again when you realise that, even though out of reach, if your inquisitive monkey doesn’t choke on it, it will knock them on the head.  In the end, most of the stuff ends up in charity shops.

We are not at that stage yet but….soon there will come a day when any man not wearing his own children as a protective badge screaming “Hey. I’m not a pervert. I’ve kids too so don’t give me that look when I approach at the playground’s gate”   may be a potential threat.  Then again, stranger is a stranger.  Be it a woman or a man.  They may just like children.  Or find it refreshing to listen to the clink of the little people’s laughter.   Like I do.  But it’s ok because I’m a woman and by default unable to harm anyone, aren’t I?

Starting nursery was a leap of trust for the BlueBerets.  How could we entrust our most precious possession with someone else?  Someone we didn’t know.  Someone we couldn’t spy on when we were at work.  I even considered placing a spy camera in Peanut’s hair.  Then gave up as there just wasn’t enough hair to cover it up.  The first day at nursery I left with my heart jumping out of my throat while Peanut waved happily goodbye and went on to snatch his pal’s building blocks.

The truth is that the overprotective mother in me would lock Peanut up in a bubble wrap plastered room for the next 25 years.  No bruises.  No falls.  No dangers.  No UVA and UVB.  The sensible mother in me says it is not a good idea.  The sensible mother reminds me that I grew up running outside all day, with a latchkey dangling around my neck.  My friends and I ventured to neighbouring housing estates, filled with excitement, adventure and pride.  We were free.  Any grown-up watching our mischief could tell us off and we were scared of them.  Well, I was and it didn’t help that I used to accidentally cycle into them and their shopping bags (took a while to figure out the whole left – right steering and braking mystery). Bad accidents happened and bad people happened.  Teeth were knocked out, and knees and elbows were but one big crusty scab.  We had a blast.

One of the best lessons in assessing risk that I learned was when I decided to swing upside down from a tree branch to impress others.  I miscalculated the distance and bashed my forehead on the pavement and I never made that mistake again.

If I wasn’t allowed to figure out the world for myself I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  A strong person.  A trusting person.   A ”life is full of great opportunities so grab them” kind of person.

I hope Peanut will be like that too.  The BlueberetMum and Dad will trust him to make his own mistakes.

We will trust.

Trust but verify.

If Peanut Was a Girl

Peanut & Peanette

Peanut & Peanette

When I was pregnant a day wouldn’t go by without someone (normally a stranger on the bus) asking  “So, you know what you’re having?”  My “No and I don’t care as long as it is healthy” was more often than not met with a pinch of suspicion and a comment: “but you must prefer one. A boy? A girl?”  Sometimes those inquisitive strangers would deduce from the curvature of my bump the gender of the BlueBeretOffspring.  It is really good to know how far scientific advances have taken us.

No, I didn’t have a preference and we were as delighted with Peanut as we would have been with a little Peanette.  And up until recently, I’ve led my life representing the female minority in a male dominated household.  No glass ceilings or walls here even though I couldn’t care less about football, know nothing about music and struggle to tell left from right while driving at my maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.  No glass partitions of any kind in the BlueBeret household, mainly because I think it would be a nightmare to clean all those sticky fingerprints mixed with snot off them.  Enough digressing.

And until recently I didn’t think about “the whole gender issue” any more than I think about the subatomic particles looking for their other halves in Cern’s Large Haldron Collider first thing in the morning.   Slap on the wrist for my internal sluggish feminist.   But maybe it is me being an insignificant bolt in the great Working Mothers Apparatus or working with A Little Bit Rosy (the Girl Who Went To New York to Challenge UN on Women’s Issues).

If Peanut was a girl, he would read Ronia the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren (one of the best children’s authors of all time in my opinion).   Ronia’s story would teach Peanette that little girls are cool, brave and unafraid to speak their minds.   That little girls can stand up to big men and challenge their attitudes and convictions.   That they are free to follow their hearts (and brains, especially when they are attempting parallel parking).

If Peanut was a girl, he would learn that there is more to life that being a TOWIE or MiC gal waiting in a nail bar for a knight in shining Gucci, while the aforementioned tin man is hunting parking spaces in his Porsche.

I would pledge to lay good foundations there, in the wee Peanette’s brain, and build the next Shard of beliefs that little girls can be generals and popes, and whatever they want to be.  And even though I’ve always been scared of Pippi Longstocking I would read to Peanette about Pippi too. Mind you, the irrational fear of little fiery girls with fiery pigtails and monkeys for best friends comes from a person who was also scared of the Muppets, and Big Bird and had nightmares about the Cookie Monster.  I will leave it up to you if you want to trust my judgement.

If Peanut was a girl he would be allowed to wear pink and play with dolls.  But if he chose to play with trucks and wear blue that would be ok too.  It would be ok for him to love doing maths and building bridges.   Or to love covering everything with glitter.  It would be ok to climb trees.  To find out what’s fun and what’s not.  To play in the sandbox on equal terms with the boys.

If Peanut was a girl I would want for him to know he could achieve exactly as much as that little boy, playing football over there.  And since Peanut is not a girl, I want him to know that he is as good as that little girl climbing up a tree in the distance.  Boys need to hear that too.

His “lethargic feminist” mother will make sure that he grows up reading about Ronia and Pippi because if little boys grow up looking up to feisty little girls, girls who are “so strong you won’t believe it”, then they will want strong women to lead them, their businesses, their countries, their armies and their football teams.

If it wasn’t enough, one day, I will ask Peanut to read this post too.

And by the way, at least we didn’t name him Sue.

P.S As for the perpetual gender question – a dear friend of mine, currently pregnant, always answers with: “Of course we prefer a boy.  If it is a girl it is going straight to a scrap yard”.  You asked.

Baby Economics or How To Survive the New Budget

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With the Chancellor soon picking up his favourite red satchel to match his flushed cheeks that he got from having been digging deeper and deeper and sinking this country further and further into the sea of misery I, the self –proclaimed self-chatterer, have been asking myself over and over again: oh dear oh dear, come on Georgie, how much worse can it get? Quadruple abyss recession? How are we, the BlueBeretFamily, going to feed our young?

Let’s face it. Times are tough and it is not going to get any better any time soon if you listen to all the media prophets.  However, as they say recession is the mother of invention and the only way to start digging our way out of this budgetary gap is to get creative.   To think outside the stack of boxes we will all soon be living in if the childcare and living costs increase by even a penny.

Ever since BlueBeretDad and I made the so called “lifestyle” choice and acquired a lively model for a baby, instead of a Jaguar or a property in some foreign up and coming country or a designer pooch, we have been staring into the crystal ball to read our financial future and all we can see is a sinister pitch-black void.  To add to our economic demise, Peanut has started the nursery which is lovely and costs us more than buying a small developing country on Ebay (not that I would ever want to do THAT).

But things are not as bad as they could have been. Have we had fallen under the spell of evil advertising executives right now the three of us would be squeezing into Peanut’s latest city super light super fast super chic baby jogger parked underneath the nearest bridge. Pulling down the rain cover and rubbing our blue-ish hands we would remind ourselves how we used to live in a lovely pastel coloured world where everything was so soft, and handmade and carefully designed with only Peanut in mind.  And then BlueBeretDad would remind us how one day the evil bank people came and took the pastel colours and the beautifully handmade baby bits and bobs and how we managed to just escape in the jogger and this is why we are now living in a barren concrete wasteland warming our hands over the burning credit card statements.

 No, thank god Saint Pound, the patron of the Thrifty Nifty, we knew better than that. Or maybe our plastic cards didn’t stretch that much.  And so after months of experience of that whole parenting stuff here is the final version of the BlueBeretFamily’s Baby on the Budget Survival Guide:

  1. Baby clothes – whenever you find yourself tempted by the soft and organic cotton sailor suit hand sewn by fairy godmothers in a Parisian atelier ask yourself the following question: what is the difference between a lovely soft designer baby sailor suit covered in sick and a cheap and cheerful Three for Two baby gro with sick on? There is your answer. If this wasn’t enough to stop you from waving your purse left, right and centre enough, the offspring grows faster than you can say “Baby ate my last credit card statement.” So next time you struggle to exorcise the temptation imagine the same exquisite garment after you have washed it 500 times in three pukey days. Yes, you are right. It will look like something you have pulled out of the depths of your designer pooch’s mouth. With sick on. And by the way, you are not setting your Beans up for failure only because you dress them in hand me downs. Good for the environment and the bankers will hate you. We need more of that.

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  1. Toys – if an average mini Einstein has a choice between:

A)   Brand new toys designed by a committee of educational psychologists, tested on carefully selected focus group of the brightest mini humans and mass produced by the seven dwarves, and

B)   A recycling box full of cardboard, plastic bottles and other crap

What do you think he will choose to play with for hours and hours? 

The first objects Peanut speed-crawls towards as soon as he enters the kitchen are:

  • the recycling boxes
  • the Tupperware drawer
  • the bin

Who  needs a fancy soft play when all you have t do is to call your council, get the recycling going and there you have the best free entertainment for your young one because nothing compares to being able to chew piece of cardboard or two.

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Also, if anyone is very sensitive about the whole “every time you put on TV it sucks out all the intelligence out of your child’s brain so if they later on fail in life, you know who’s to blame” debate put the washing machine on. Put your child in front of the washing machine. Put your feet up and catch up on the last three seasons of Made in Chelsea. I know, I too hate to admit that with all my degrees and passion for high literature and art and classical music, I am a sucker for the “I’m posh and  have nothing to say but I wear nice clothes so why not be famous “ reality TV show (but that is a different story altogether). Guilt-free pleasure for you, the humanoid is learning a lesson for life: staring at the washing machine won’t make it finish faster but it can make you feel seasick.

  1. Food – if you breastfeed for the first six months (my case) are cheap.  Then when you move on to solids you quickly realise that there is a wide range of new qualifications you can add to boost your CV and therefore start a new career(and potentially earn some cash):

–          Nutritionist – within weeks I have become an expert in mapping out the protein to carbs to fat to veg and fruit ratios.  I have been scribbling down menus and personally delivering the right amount of iron to Peanut’s brain daily so that he can get that Nobel Prize one day. Or at least finish the secondary school and learn to drive so that I don’t have to.  I know my good ‘no sugar’ added fromage frais from the bad one loaded with the evil S stuff. No salt. No E-numbers. Full fat only.

–          Gourmet Michelin star chef – I know the drill. Babies have more taste buds than we do. Hence they are fussy. Maybe I would be too if I could detect more in my food than just sweet, salty and aw bloody spicy. I chop, I puree, bake and mash. All organic and only the best of the best. And the best of the best of the best comes at a price and a high one (especially if you are on the very generous statutory maternity pay).  Squeezed in the middle to the point of breathlessness, I have recently discovered that you get and eat what you pay for does not apply to foods, like potatoes and carrots and other root vegetables. Or pasta. Or rice. Or breadsticks (just watch that salt content). But coming back to the humble potato. So much choice – normal or sweet. Gigantic or miniscule. And it goes with pretty much anything. You can mash it, boil it, steam it, sauté it, roast it… Trust me, this comes from a woman who grew up in times when Jamie Olivier wasn’t even planned and the BlueBeretGrandParents in the Beetrootland had only one kitchen bible entitled “1000 Potato Recipes”. Can you imagine a cook book with no pictures in it?  Horror oh horror, based on the Potato’s success a sequels called “999 Buckwheat Recipes” was released.  Another national bestseller and curse of all eight year olds (the perks of growing up during the communist regime).

The moral of this story is loosen your belt, breathe out and don’t beat yourself up if your Peanut has a non-organic meal or if you are tempted to splash out on that magic fairy powder that all baby meals have to be sprinkled with otherwise your child  will never succeed in life. Chances are they will like the modest potato and cool cod with pulp peas more than the baby soufflé you were perfecting last night.

  1. Baby gear – Peanut’s buggy is so two seasons ago. I know, shocking. When I was in the haze of attending the pre-natal classes I was sucked into long debates over the superiority of the Peach iCandy over the Strawberry and I lost the will to live.  Then I joined the buggynonymous guerrilla group and ordered online a very so-unfashionable-it –is –not even –worth-a – smirk model. Came with a car seat and cost £99.90 with delivery. Toot toot.  So far for the last 10 months or so it has been through daily trudging over cobblestones, uneven pavements, bouncing up and down thousands of steps and bumping into innocent lampposts and annoying passersby (very useful to use as a mini-tank to get people out of your way during the Festival) . The best thing of all, the day its wheels fall off and the basket collapses under the weight of all those potatoes I will know that we got what we paid for and much more.

The same rule applies to bouncy chairs, high chairs, changing mats, anything else that big brands try to make you feel bad about if you don’t get it for the Bub pronto. Put on the Frugality & Reality Goggles because a few months down the line you will wish you had gone for the cheap and simple plastic high chair which tomato sauce can be wiped off, not dry – cleaned.

  1. Other ways of saving money – the good thing about having a baby is that for the next 20 years or so you surrender all your money – chomping hobbies like going out, clothes shopping, putting on make –up (even if you keep up with the makeup routine and applaud if you do, chances are most days you leave the house with only half of your face done which means your face-paint tubes and pots will last twice as long. Unless the baby gets there first) and join the I’m Leaving the House in My Pyjamas ‘n Proud of It club… On the other hand you can expect the wine and chocolate expenses to go up as well as your weight… That is normal.  Extra fat will keep you warm which will make the heating bills lower so a win win for all (apart from the evil gas companies).

        So Georgie show us what surprises you have for us this year.  The BlueBerets are ready.

How are you getting on in this dreich economic weather? Share the penny-pinching stories 🙂