Thursday, 28 June 2012

Love London

A little while ago I wrote about my special gift of getting lost at any given opportunity. Personally I would have thought a character like Paddington Bear would have been a likely sympathiser but it seems the little marmalade-lover has improved drastically since he first turned up from Peru without a clue. Paddington, it would appear, is now the London guru with his very own guide to the capital.

Paddington's Guide to London

I have a real soft spot for Paddington Bear, not least because in my day job we publish Michael Bond’s Monsieur Pamplemousse series so I’ve been privileged to meet him a few times. I say privileged because he really is a very lovely, charming man with a great sense of humour. Also on his last visit he brought in a bottle of champagne – and if you read my blog you’ll know I’m more than a little partial to men bearing fizz

The reason I was looking at guides is because I’ve decided to get my butt into gear with regards to making the most of London and what it has to offer. For most of my maternity leave I kept to the green spaces of my zone 6 suburb and luxuriated in space and no crowds. So my first few days back in the hub were, to put it mildly, slightly terrifying. Now I’m back in the swing of things though I can’t wait to get out and about more. I’d forgotten just how much there is to do! For instance, this weekend my colleague is off to the Candlelight Club, a clandestine pop-up cocktail bar where she gets to dress up in a flapper frock and party like Gatsby's Daisy.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

And then there’s the Poetry Parnassus currently on at the Southbank where hundreds of poets (and rappers, storytellers and singers) are all gathered to celebrate great literature. On Tuesday there was an incredible display of ‘raining poems’ where over 100,000 poems were dropped from the sky to the waiting crowds below. How amazing is that!

I have to admit to falling a little out of love with London when Little Bean was very tiny. But now I’m back in the game. And open to readers' recommendations?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

BritMums Live: the highlights

As an infant blogger (not quite three months yet) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this past weekend. The agenda promised so much - dare I have hoped it would fulfil my expectations?

Right from the start I knew this was a weekend I would never forget. I was overwhelmed with warmth and openness from just about everyone I met (including the lovely man serving champagne – no blogging tips from him though ;)

Special thanks to gorgeous Gourmetmum, Diary of a First Child (hands full with the second beautiful child), hilarious PracticallyPerfectMums, smiley and award-winning AResidence, and lovely Playactivities for sound advice, lovely words, and introductions – much appreciated!

So, my highlights:

1.    Judy Murray’s tennis court made with string and cereal boxes. I’m ashamed to say I’d forgotten how to be creative with ‘nothing’.
2.     The Vitamix blender – because really soup and ice cream in one, how impressive is that?
3.    Vlogging with GeekMummy – started looking up tripods immediately afterwards. Am threatening videos – watch this space.
4.    Sarah Brown and Cherry Healey – both fantastic speakers.
5.    The finale of blog posts – all brilliant but DownsSideUp was especially emotional.
6.    The food! Felt very jealous of the pregnant/breastfeeding mammas who had an excuse to indulge…

7.    Piggybanks! Inspired. Had great fun making ‘Priscilla – If Pigs Could Fly’. Also a huge fan of whoever did ‘Paris’ covered in tacky jewels… And all for a good cause.
8.    Half-naked men bearing champagne. So un-PC, I should be ashamed but strangely am not. Probably because my focus was more on the champagne than the half-naked men.

9.    Being inspired by experienced bloggers – Red Ted Art’s impressive viewing numbers for one…
10.  Ideas! Have come away with completely illegible notes I’ve scribbled away at the height of excitement. Unfortunately as the champagne has addled my short-term memory, I'm not entirely sure how many of them will come to fruition but at least I had fun.

The only thing I would suggest as a possible improvement to Britmumslive 2013 is for us to be given carts in order to carry home our impossibly generous swag – thank you so much!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

My Superhero

Tonight is my dad's 70th birthday party. And I am on the other side of the world instead of celebrating with him. I'm a daddy's girl - how many daughter's aren't? - and my dad has always been my superhero. He's strong and loving and generous and kind (lets me win at Scrabble when I'm having a bad day). He's funny (usually unintentionally) and clever (beats me at Scrabble the rest of the time) and I've never seen someone work so hard to support their family.

A superhero is defined as 'a figure, especially in a comic strip or cartoon, endowed with superhuman powers and usually portrayed as fighting evil or crime.' This is how I think my dad qualifies.

Superhero credentials


1) Wears an eye-catching outfit - usually lycra

Being Austrian my dad's fashion sense is a bit iffy at best. Fortunately he tends to avoid lycra but he does have a penchant for eye-catching and peculiar footwear - Crocs are a particular favourite. Perhaps they're worn to distract or offend more stylish evil villains?

2) Has a catchphrase

'To the Bat Mobile, Robin', 'This looks like a job for Superman' or even 'Cowabunga!' are all catchphrases we are familiar with. In my household we also got used to 'If you're going to do something, do it properly', 'Put things where you expect to find them' and rather more excitingly, 'Let's have a schnapps'. 

3) Has one or more superpowers

Superpower 1: Never ages. Despite berating my mom frequently for giving him grey hairs, he still manages to look blonde - albeit a bit platinum these days. Also, for some reason the wrinkles that should have afflicted him by now, seem to be giving him a wide berth. I can only hope he's been generous at passing on these particular genes to me.
Superpower 2: Invincible when it comes to hangovers. It doesn't matter how many schnapps or Jagerbombs he's had the night before, I have never witnessed my father suffering from a fully fledged hangover.

Superpower 3: Has scored not one but two hole in ones on the golf course. Personally, I rate this more as luck than a superpower but he's justifiably proud of this achievement so I thought I'd mention it.

4) Is a smooth mover

Footage of him on the dance floor at our wedding should prove this.

5) Has a nemesis

My Mom. (And maybe me in my teenage years.)

I have been stewing for weeks trying to think of a suitable birthday present for such an auspicious event as his 70th and I think I've finally found the perfect thing. It's common knowledge that every superhero needs a cape - and let's be honest, at his age my dad may need a little something to put over his knees on a chilly evening too.

At Superherosupplies (where else?) they stock a large range of essentials for the everyday evil-fighting avenger. Although I am more than a little in love with the gold cape they have in stock I suspect he'd be more keen on the red - it's a little less camp.

Cheers Dad - here's to you and your superness! I love you.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Flying with hippie pilots

It’s coming up to the summer holidays and if you’re anything like me you'd rather eat your own arm than think about packing. Especially now that we have a little person in our lives who somehow manages to fill one and half suitcases just on her own - and that’s after some ruthless discarding and repacking. 

I find holidaying generally quite traumatic actually. Once we got on a long haul flight and as we sat there waiting for take-off (me panicking still because the industrial strength tranquilisers I’d brought back from the US - god bless America - had not yet kicked in), the laidback pilot announced that there was ‘a problem with the door'. Yikes! What did that mean? Did it not close? Was it going to fling open mid-flight? Were we all going to die? (Are you getting a sense of my paranoia yet?) 'Not to worry,' he went on, 'we’re just going to patch it up and we’ll be on our way.’ Yes, he said, patch it up! Was a hippie driving this aircraft? I took another pill.
In the end, take-off was all fine - or I assume it must have been but thankfully the pills had worked their magic and I was completely fuzzy by then. In fact they’d worked a little too well and I had to be forcefully woken up at the other end as we prepared for landing. And then desperately wished I hadn’t been. 

Steeling myself for landing is one of the worst bits of flying - there’s always the teeniest chance things can go wrong. So when our great lumbering boeing was literally inches off from touching the tarmac, and then suddenly put on a burst of speed and took off again, my panic went into overdrive. Were we being hijacked? Were the wheels not working? Were we going to crash into another incoming plane? Why the hell were we still in the sky and not on my beloved ground?  Were we all going to die?

Off to patch up a wing

Mr Bean was also bouncing around in his seat but for a different reason. ‘A missed approach! Never been on a plane when they’ve done a missed approach!’ He could barely contain his excitement and I could barely contain the urge to bash him over the head. 

Apparently the pilot had set down too far down the runway and wasn’t taking the risk of not having enough runway to brake. So instead here we were, the poor labouring plane groaning into the strong headwinds as the pilot did a long, painful circle before heading back down to land. Everyone did that awful clapping business when we eventually landed safely - as if the mighty captain had bravely steered us to safety. I kept my arms firmly crossed glaring at the poor flight attendants as if they were in cahoots with the hippie pilot who was determined to kill me.  
I swore I’d never get on a plane again. But after two weeks holiday Mr Bean eventually wore me down. He argued that as we were 10,000 miles from home and the only way back was trekking through deserts (I burn easily) or taking a month long cruise (not a fan of sharks) it was the only option. 

The thing is, I never used to be so pathetic when it came to flying. I used to love the belly flops you get when flying through turbulence and used to love take off and landing best of all. But my mother was a nervous flier. I used to hold her hand during flights and marshall her up escalators once she'd taken her pills. I really don't want Little Bean to learn the same lessons from me so I'm 'womanning up'. I can't promise I'll be taking part in aerial acrobatics or anything but I'm going to try to my best to set a cool and calm example. Even in patched up planes.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A night spent up a Magic Faraway Tree

This past weekend I slept up a tree. It was surprisingly comfy and not as vertigo-inducing as I expected. But then that’s probably because I was in a luxury treehouse rather than balancing on a splintering branch trying to escape an angry rhino

It really was idyllic - like being a kid again and having your own little hideaway tucked away from any interfering adults. We listened to the branches creaking, watched leaves blowing in the wind (well, actually being thrown about by the gale) and spied on unsuspecting campers in the next field. 

Our romantic hideaway

Luckily we didn’t have to shimmy up the tree to get to the treehouse either. There was a cleverly built set of stairs set against an adjoining tree, and a rather rickety swing bridge leading to the treehouse itself. All it needed was Moonface’s magic escape slide a la the Magic Faraway Tree and it would have been perfect.

The copy I had as a child

Tucked up in bed the next morning we had breakfast brought to our door (over the little swing bridge which made the treehouse rock quite alarmingly) and feasted on croissants, fruit salad and coffee, feeling like thoroughly spoilt squirrels. 

Of course I then got to thinking about the fact that we don't have any treehouse-friendly boughs in our garden - so nowhere to build Little Bean her own suspended play den when she gets older. I realise this is probably best for my nerves as I know it’s impossible to be a tree-climber without being a tree-fall-outer too. But I also know that as she gets older I'm going to have to let her do her thing. That’s just life, isn't it. You climb high, you fall down, you climb higher still, you get breakfast brought to you in bed. Or something along those lines. 

Soothes bumps - or at least distracts for a while

Lucky for me, climbing trees is some way off - she's still trying to master the art of walking - so I have some time to grow used to the idea. Either that or I can get hold of a tree surgeon to hack down every trunk in her path (just kidding treehuggers, I am one of you).  

Do you remember falling out of a treehouse as a kid?