Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Does not going to sports day make me a bad parent?

In Kids on July 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm

The answer is probably ‘yes’, but hear me out.

At this point in the year, there are, depending on your local authority, two weeks left of the school term. Two more weeks of freedom before you are juggling kids and work and daytrips and deadlines and your whole finely tuned routine is thrown into chaos. (Those in the independent system have just finished term and are already staring down the barrel of some eight weeks of school holiday.)

Now I know I shouldn’t think of school as a free childminding service, but – as was brought into sharp relief by the recent public sector one-day strike – I do. And after the succession of school holidays, bank holidays, royal bloody weddings, and yes/no referendums that meant my children were at school for just five days between 8 April and 9 May, you’d forgive me for assuming I was in school/not school credit.

So why so many ominous demands on parents’ (and, to be fair, teachers’) time this month? Is it supposed to be fun?

Read the rest of this entry »

#65 Most used words

In miscellaneous on December 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I’ve just taken that Facebook diversion that everyone seems to be distracted by today – Your Most Used Words in 2010. Perfect for those of us who are supposed to be doing pre-Christmas cleaning, pre-Christmas emails, or pre-Christmas Christmas card writing. (Obviously post-Christmas-Christmas card writing would be a waste of time, though the more pedantic among us might argue that at any point you are always post one Christmas and pre the next. Unless it’s Christmas Day.) Read the rest of this entry »

#54 Shoot

In Kids, midlife on August 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

It’s not every day that a national newspaper wants to shoot me for the cover of its magazine – and there are many, many reasons why, as anyone who has ever seen, or tried to take, a picture of me will testify. Read the rest of this entry »

#52 The best things in life are free, or courtesy of the French tax payer

In Free, Kids, Travel on August 2, 2010 at 11:15 pm

This week we have been holidaying sur les Plages of Paris at the expense of the French tax payer.

The Paris Plages , now in their 9th year, have been much envied by London, though just to correct a misconception – they aren’t actually a whole stretch of fake beach (though there are a couple of areas set aside for sand and sun loungers), but a series of activities, kiosks, and entertainments along what would usually be a busy road along the Seine’s right bank, and around the Bassin de la Villette. All laid on by the Mairie de Paris.

We enjoyed badminton, pedaloing, outdoor swimming, pétanque, trampolining, rolling around on the Bassin inside inflatable floating spheres, and – my personal favourite – the forests of very fine spray that is just enough to cool you down without actually getting you wet, while surrounding you with rainbows. But we could also have done table football, kayaking, waterbikes, bmx-ing, fencing… And all for free. Read the rest of this entry »

#50 Why buildings matter, especially school buildings

In schools on July 13, 2010 at 11:13 pm

So no more Building Schools for the Future, then. We all knew it was coming, but my first reaction last week was: ‘Phew! Thank goodness the 1950s comp my daughter starts at in September has already been rebuilt,’ closely followed by: ‘There goes that gig I had doing architecture workshops with schoolkids in Ealing getting them to design their dream school.’

But for once it isn’t all me, me, me.  A quick look through the revised, revised, (revised?) list shows that just about every school in Ealing that was scheduled for a rebuild has been scrapped. Some with the pens poised over the contract and the wrecking balls ready to swing after the end of term in a fortnight. In a borough that already has to find several thousand more  school places from somewhere. All those kids who’ve been promised something better, just dumped. And the ones I met were really great kids too. Not to mention all those building firms that thought they had work this year and who will now probably just go bust.

Read the rest of this entry »

#46 Kids

In Jobseeking, Kids on May 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

‘I mean I like spending time with you, Mum, but it would be good if you could get a job.’

Great. Not even your children respect you when you’re unemployed. You spend you working life feeling guilty that you aren’t spending enough time with your children, give up your job even, and it turns out they’re not even that bothered.

My eldest (the one, above, who is sick of me kicking around the house) won’t even let me pick her up from school any more now she’s old enough for an Oyster card. She’s already cut her own door key and we’ve given in and got her a mobile phone so we can keep tabs on her. My youngest still holds my hand on the way to school without realising it, but dumps me as soon as he hits the playground. Read the rest of this entry »

#44 Baggage

In Jobseeking, Kids on April 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Phew, just about made it from ripped-jeaned mum to plausibly employable professional in just 72 hours.

But here’s the inventory of what I had to empty out of my bag in order to restock it with grown up things like business cards and make up:

Two packets of colouring pencils from a child-friendly restaurant

Six 2010 season Match Attax trading cards (happy to trade if there are any Hull fans out there)

Two Love Film DVDs that I STILL haven’t had time to watch

a glittery hair tie

a single, child’s sock

five notebooks (have rationalised down to one)

two biros that don’t work

one pencil, minus point

6 Eurocents

a compilation CD

a wrist support

two miniature bodylotions from a hotel bathroom

a nit comb

the timetable for kids classes at the local sports centre

sunglasses (it was rainy)

a wooly mitten (it was warmish though)

four packets of tissues

a Build-a-bear loyalty card

Return family tickets to Manchester for a fortnight ago

an empty bag of Haribo

a tiny booklet of seed sticks

out of date book bag notes

a cheque book with no cheques left

two pots of Vaseline rose flavoured lip balm

an AA battery

a conker

#41 Be nice

In Family on April 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I have, back in the employed day, been lucky enough to stay in some fancy places in my time.

When I wrote for Wallpaper* in its early days, I got accustomed to their prolific spending on unnecessary extravagance. I’ve gone four-star in Hamburg and Milan, and stayed in the hotel the Queen visited in Innsbruck.

When I got married we honeymooned for a night in a London hotel (the one where Pete Doherty got arrested) rather than going to the Maldives; and when the first of my best friends got married, she put all of her bridesmaids up in the RAC Club and I still regret not taking advantage of the famous swimming pool.

Needless to say, hotels have not featured heavily in my life of late. I’m more likely to be found flat swapping or house sitting, and even on one occasion camping. But a big family occasion last weekend necessitated the booking of overnight accommodation in Manchester. In the pictures, the City Inn (pictured) looked scarily expensive – lofty atrium, sculptural floral arrangements, Macs in every room – but in fact it turned out to be an exercise in how to create the illusion of grandeur through modern design and good service.

In contrast to the budget hotel I visited at Christmas for another big family get together, City Inn eschews patterned upholstery and soft focus prints of crocuses in favour of clean lines, neutral colours, and sans serif fonts. The all-inclusive breakfasts were superb (with some impressive egg poaching and a tasty kedgeree), much better than the more expensive joint on the other side of the city centre, and the service, from staff stylishly clad in black, polite to the point of putting John Lewis to shame. Aside from the Macs, everything is in fact quite pared down, but it still managed to feel sumptuous.

Of these, the biggest value added component was the one that cost the least – polite, efficient staff who knew what they were doing and, most importantly, were nice to you. This is going to sound glib, but sometimes the cost-free commodity of people being simply being nice to you can outweigh any number of marble-lined bathrooms or silk bedspreads when it comes to making you feel special. And when you’re down on your luck, feel taken for granted by your children, are sick of domestic chores, or even (as I know those who still have jobs are) just working your ass of for an ungrateful boss because half the team have been made redundant, then it’s really nice to be looked after. And even better when that niceness is also displayed by the tram operators who bought my ticket for me, siblings buying me lunch, and strangers allowing us to gatecrash their table football game.

I’ve just read my ex-Wallpaper* boss Tyler Brûlé’s recent FT column on how joyful he felt staying at the Hôtel des Bergues in Geneva. While I wouldn’t turn down a business expenses trip to the Hôtel des Bergues, on our more meagre budget we managed to capture the same joys of Spring at 1/6 of the price, albeit with a view of Piccadilly Station in place of the Alps. But then I suppose luxury is relative – I don’t expect M. Brûlé would normally have to wash school uniform or clean his own toilet.

My six-year-old son, who had already had an emotional weekend watching his team lose in the 93rd minute, almost cried when it was time to check out.

#40 No rest for the self-employed

In Homeworking, Kids on April 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

‘Enjoying the Easter break?’

Let us look at this seemingly innocent sentence. Although the people who have asked you this over the past week have probably used the word ‘break’ to mean ‘rest’, as any self-employed homeworker – especially those with children currently on school holidays – knows, the Easter ‘break’ is very rarely restful but more literally experienced as an ‘interruption’. A crack in one’s life.

Or perhaps the speaker means ‘brake’, a thing that slows you down and prevents you from getting on.

While the workaday world carries on bombarding you with emails and issuing deadlines, children demand entertaining and feeding, the house gets filthier, and routine goes to pot. Blackberrys and iPhones have become essential for replying to enquiries while supervising trips to the park – simultaneously pretending to potential employers and clients that you either don’t have children or won’t let them hinder your dedication to the work, and pretending to your children that you are actually paying them attention. Minutes are snatched in between making sandwiches, buying groceries and shouting at people to tidy their rooms.Writing anything longer than a paragraph in one go becomes impossible.

Full-day childcare can be so expensive it wipes out most of one’s wages. That is if you are actually getting paid for what you are doing (which if you are pitching ideas or applying for jobs or studying for a further qualification, you aren’t). Instead we get by on a complex network of child swaps, though I’ve also bitten the bullet and signed mine up for one of those sports day camp (AVP Sports) reasoning that although after taking off fees, income tax and NI, my net profit on a day’s work will be about a tenner, a) it’s good value, including a swimming lesson, bouncy castle, arts and crafts, and sports tuition, b) if I paid for them to do these classes separately, it would cost even more, c) and I would have to go with them, d) it is possible to spend about the same amount on a day trip to town once you’ve been talked into taking them for pizza, e) they have a good time, make friends, and avoid obesity,  f) with freelance work thin on the ground, if you aren’t available 24/7, people aren’t going to call you back.

If you work in an office and need a break, you simply switch on the auto-reply and voicemail, direct the extra workload to an unwitting colleague, collect the holiday pay, and tell everyone to leave you alone for a fortnight. But there’s no rest for the self-employed, no holiday pay, no fallback colleague.

In the mean time:

HTBU is temporarily away from their desk at the moment, but will get back to you as soon as they’ve made lunch, tied football boot laces, hung the washing out, supervised a homework project and practice SATs papers, hoovered the stairs, given in and taken the kids to a playground, broken up a squabble, bought something for supper, made supper, put children to bed, tidied up supper, and poured a large glass of wine. If anyone has bought any.  Thank you for your interest. Hope you’re enjoying the Easter break.

#39 Paris on a budget

In Save cash on April 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm

In our Paris pied-à-terre for the Easter break. We are deep in the garment district, and though the ambiance is artisanal,  the views are less roofscapes of Moulin Rouge! and more Rear Window – straight into the apartments opposite. On summer nights the student on the top floor across the road sits out on her balcony reading what one assumes are philosophical texts; while the family two floors down clear away the dinner and play cards.  Read the rest of this entry »