This has been the first visit to London for a long time when I have been willing to risk haunting the old neighbourhood and seeing a whole parcel of old friends, all crammed together in a week. On previous visits, I have had to avoid former routines because it just made me feel bad, this strange halfway house between living here and being a visitor. Maybe I am feeling braver or maybe enough time has ticked on by to be more comfortable about it all. Yesterday on a trip to an East End park with my six-year-old's best friend and his artist father; the boys threw up armfuls of dry autumn leaves and showered in them while the baby girl kept saying: "What dat noyuz?" every time she heard a police siren. The only problem is struggling around London with three children and a buggy requires more patience than I have. Yesterday it was counting grey squirrels and talking about art, today it was all more of an effort. I knew it would be because I missed my slot to go out this morning. If you time it right you can go out before the baby has her nap. This means she goes without the nap but the alternative is what happened today which meant she got the nap and we did not get to go out till after lunch (which incidentally was pasta and all three of them hated it) and which is far too late for an expedition any further than the corner shop. The poor behaviour was all pretty low grade stuff but built up to the point where I was not even out the door when I was forced to utter The Mother's Prayer: "Dear Lord, give me patience." I have variations on this prayer. Sometimes I make it: "God give me strength." Occasionally, I just say: "Fucking hell." We went to a movie, they ate their own body weight in popcorn, had a quick tootle round Canary Wharf shops which meant you had to keep finding and then going up and down extraordinarily slow lifts which smell of cheese, my bank card got declined, I realised my two mobile phones did not work and then we went into a pizza restaurant where we were meeting my husband and I ordered a glass of wine and the waiter said: "Would you like a small glass or a large glass?" If you say large glass you sound like an alcoholic. If you say small glass, you sound like an alcoholic when you drink the first one in 30 seconds and then order another. I felt like saying: "I am sitting here with three children, the baby girl is fractious - despite the nap, the two boys are quarrelsome, getting everyone home is going to be a nightmare, I obviously want the large glass."
I once worked as a waitress in a chain-French brasserie in London. A woman came in and asked me for a glass of wine - in a mug, so people wouldn't know she was drinking. At the time, young, single and childless as I was, I thought she was an alcoholic and sad. Now, toddlerfied as I am, I think it's a jolly good idea.
It's amazing how much you can get onto a postcard, wifey, but for God's sake don't imagine I would like you to shorten them.
I also like the way you send them to yourself but allow us to read them. Great stuff, as ever.
You could always use the Queen Mother's trick: she used to insist on using her own tonic if anybody offered her a G&T. It was, of course, pre-mixed with gin.
That's a fantastic story, Winchester Whisperer. I wonder at what ratio it was mixed!
You could always order two small ones and give the impression one was for a friend then, then when said friend doesn't turn up, you'd be left with no choice but to drink that one as well!
We say the same prayers! Wine all round might have proved soothing, but then again. You're very brave, I'd never go out in London with a pushchair or its occupant...
Personally, I would have asked for a drip full of vino to be attached to a vein in my arm and be done with it.
Very good post.
Also like the last one, hope you're bearing up well. A break is not always a break, you need to just nip out for a mo and leave them with hubby, when you return five hours later, tell him you got lost or were abducted by aliens.
I sense a wisp of nostalgia for lovely lonely Northumberland here. But then again, it could be just my own sentiments I'm reading into it...
Funny, I just noticed the dear wifey, .... love, wifey.
You need a dog. They're very handy for not talking to yourself and for certain kinds of indirect communication. But if you mean dear posterity (which I doubt) that's another story.
My mother used to say Lord grant me patience, and quite a lot about EARLY GRAVES. But it was my Dad, who was a lot more relaxed, who died young.
I have attended many parties where people of a certain officially non-drinking religious persuasion first had a coke and then asked for wine or whatever to be put in the coke can. Everybody got very used to it, even expected it. And nobody minded. But of course NONE was a mother. Mothers are superhuman and do not need a drink. Everybody knows that.
I loved your postcards, they brought back memories of outings with children! I quite miss them now that they are older and don't want to be seen out with me!
Those were indeed postcards from the edge, WITN! This week I am the one at work whilst all the mums of school-age children are doing the rounds of "places to go and things to do" with the children.
Even though it's been busy covering everyone else's desk, I bet I'm the more relaxed one at the end of this week.
I still miss the fun though.
read your first blogs when you started and just read the most recent 20 or so today. you show great stamina and persistance. Keep going. you are an inspiration.
Large is the only choice.
I look back upon my years as mother of a young family as the most enjoyable of my life, so far. I don't think I realised I would ever feel that way at the time, however.
I remember one particularly nightmarish day, when I journeyed, with my 3 young lads to the nearest town, about 20 mins drive away. The eldest 2 argued all the way there. They fought in the high street, on the way to the park, and kicked each other. They complained about lunch. They argued all the way home.
When my husband came home he asked jauntily 'Did you have a good day?' Before I could say anything the lads shouted, with great enthusiasm and eyes shining brightly 'Yes, we had a great time!'
I was stunned into silence.
What a lovely, amusing and thought-provoking post.
I hope this is not depressing - it gets different but never less exercising as your kids get older. I am currently with my girls for a few weeks in the U.K. I am living in Brussels rest of time.They no longer drive me bonkers with wild and exuberant behaviour. Instead I find myself worrying that their happy and witty demeanours might be hiding a deep trauma rather than showing a well-adjusted attitude to life! Maybe mothers can't win - we are programmed to worry.
Wine is not often a bad idea!
Ooo, I do like the Wifey postcard series. Avoiding the old routines sounded like trying to fight your London addiction. And the Mother's Prayer, I'm glad yours involves an f word too. Mine often involves two, For fuck's sake, followed by the really dangerous question (that must not be answered), 'why am I doing this?'.
(Have just realised I may not be commenting on the correct post, i've just read two in quick succession, my apologies.)
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