Thursday, 22 December 2011

That's Not My Name...

I’ve never met anyone that said, “ I love my name.”  I’ve not met a person that said, “ I’m so grateful my parents gave me this name, I couldn’t have chosen a better one myself”. Because, let’s face it, when we’re born we’re given a name and that’s that. Most people, just accept their name for what it is, a gift bestowed on them by their parents.  Some may not like their name; I know a few people who use their middle name instead of their registered first name, but it seems to me that most people, apart from the odd ‘I’m off to Deed Poll’ renegade, just grin and bear it with what they were given.

Unfortunately, Mum and Dad aren’t the only people that can bestow names. In those very early days, as a little pink wrinkly person; unable to say a word and barely able to keep your eyes open, you are unaware that siblings, grandparents and yes, Mum and Dad again, are bestowing yet more names; cutesy names, nicknames.  Fast forward through life, and schoolchums, work colleagues, lovers, husbands and children are all adding their own monikers. Before you know it, you’ve gathered enough names to make carving out your headstone rather expensive.

The highly descriptive Older Mum has challenged me to reveal some of mine, and whilst I don’t think I can match her wonderfully entrancing alias of 'Tantra', I am game for a laugh, so here are a few of mine.

Moonface – Enid Blyton had no idea what she was doing to small children with round faces when she created this character in The Magic Faraway Tree.  Let me conjure up the image for you; my school photograph aged five.  There I was, resplendent in grey pinafore dress topped with a face the shape of a plate, framed by two bunches swinging side to side.  Yes, Moonface, not exactly flattering for a young girl. Thankfully when you’re 6 or 7 years old, you get over these things quite quickly. At least, I did.  (And in case you're wondering, my face is more platter than plate shaped these days.)

Sweetie Pop – Back in the day, before the era of mobile phones, when people still manned telephone exchanges, my Dad, ever the forward thinking man he was, bought a CB radio. He had a two fold purpose in doing this, firstly to liaise with fellow travellers on optimal travel routes but, more importantly, to be able to contact my mother and say; ‘Put the dinner on darling, I’ll be home in 30 minutes”. We all had a ‘handle’: mine was SweetiePop.  I remember the machine in our living room with its twiddly buttons and funny handset. If my Dad was going to be home later than bedtime, we’d have a quick chat on the CB before I went to bed. I liked being Sweetie Pop and using the CB. It felt very cool at the time.

Dotty – A moniker from early secondary school. Coined on Brownie camp, this little beauty followed me around for a while. Possibly because I was a little bit scatty.  After a while it was shortened to Dot. Suddenly I got very fed up, grew up and sought to disassociate myself with the name.  If Dot had been a full stop on a piece of paper, all I would have needed was one of those smelly strawberry erasers you had in the late eighties and I could have been free of her.  As it was, it took a while to shake this affectionately meant, but annoying nickname off.

A long period followed where I was just known by my first name. (Of which, there is nothing remarkable to note.) Then, as my love life started to flourish, a series of saccharine, cringeworthy names followed. You don’t mind (so much) when you’re in love.  It’s afterwards you look back and shudder.  So, for obvious reasons, I’ll gloss over these.

Bear - My god-daughter’s mother bestows new names on people as if she is giving alms to the poor. In some ways it is flattering, you have been welcomed into her inner circle once you have received your own ‘special’ name.  I find it impossible to even keep up with what her own name, and those of her daughters are at any one time, they change so frequently.  But Bear rhymes with my first name, hence why I am called Bear or sometimes Aunty Bear. Although why this is the case I don’t know, as I am not their Aunt.  Anyway, as names inflicted on their extended ‘family’ go, I’ve got off quite lightly.  Take my poor husband for instance; he’s been christened 'Badger'. Now there’s a name that can make a man feel bad about his increasing mass of grey hair….

Mummy Plum- is this my name? Sort of. Mummy Plum came about as the title for this blog because it’s what Pip actually calls me.  If I’d never let him watch television it wouldn’t have been a problem; ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ and the vagaries of a 2 year old’s mind are to blame for him deciding my name was Mummy Plum.  It looked like it was a moniker I was going to be stuck with until a few weeks ago, when I started to be called:


To which, I firmly say:  NO. That’s NOT my name.

I don’t want to be Mum.  I want to cling on to the innocence and loveliness of the little voice saying ‘Mummy!’ as he snuggles up for a cuddle or, shouts to be rescued from a tree-climbing mission gone wrong.  Time is passing so quickly and he’s growing up too fast as it is.  So, he can call me Mummy Plum, Mummy Moonface, Mummy Sweetie Pop, Mummy Dot, I don’t mind.  But not, Mum.  Not yet.  I’m just not ready.

What does your child call you? Did they transition from Mummy to Mum? When? Did you mind?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


This morning I felt exasperated.  During the short few minutes it took me to get washed and dressed, Pip had managed to find his ‘safety’ scissors, snip through the cotton string on most of the baubles at the bottom of the Christmas tree, and also open the few straggling Christmas cards I hadn’t managed to post yet.  I was not amused.  These things always seem to happen to me on a day when I’m trying very hard to be somewhere at a certain time, and also when I also need to do something super organised like make a packed lunch.  Uber efficiency is not my strong point, and these extra grenades thrown into the early morning routine test my motherhood skills to the limit.

As it was, only half an hour later than I had hoped, we found ourselves in acres of open, green space looking for ‘Mr Christmas’.   After our picnic lunch, and a spot of face painting, (I always find it a pleasurable experience to be accompanied by a snow leopard), we stalked an elusive reindeer.  My fantastic imagination eyesight meant that we followed Rudolph’s trail to the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens.   A short walk through a winter wonderland and we encountered the man himself.  He sang a song (Rudolph the red nosed reindeer) and gave Pip a badge, and told him not to light a fire on Christmas Eve, as hot chimneys are problematic.  Little Pip seemed rather impressed with Mr Christmas. He offered him a marshmallow he’d saved especially for him, but Mr Christmas said he was too busy to eat it right now, and to move along, as there were lots of other children to see.   Pip took this rebuttal with good grace and said he would save it for him for when he comes on Christmas Eve.  Lucky Mr Christmas.

Afterwards we walked through the grass in the darkening afternoon light towards the mesmerising bygone carousel spinning round and round in the distance.  Brightly coloured painted horses and cockerels, with names painted on them, enchanted children as they glided up and down effortlessly on their gilt poles.  Small legs take small steps; at times the carousel seemed like a mirage, and it felt like we would never get there.  Whilst we made our pilgrimage to this wondrous sight, Pip decided it might be fun to see how much goose poo he could accumulate on the sole of his shoe, treading in as much as possible in an attempt to build a tower of it under the toe area. Not for the first time today I thought, I turn my back for 2 seconds….and look what happens!  Thankfully one advantage of our location was the vast quantity of sticks.  Once a girl guide - always a girl guide. I know a good scraping device when I see one.

Our long walk over, we finally arrived at the carousel and Pip chose a horse called Milly for our ride.  We rode her tandem style, Pip holding on to her mane, whilst I held on to him for dear life, as we glided up and down to the piped organ music.  ‘Giddiup, Giddiup’ Pip cried, his face aglow with pleasure.  I held my little snow leopard close and savoured the moment, and the magic.  As we circled round and round and high then low, I thought; motherhood is rather like a carousel. Yes, there are ups and downs, even on a nice day like today; there are trying moments – the baubles, the Christmas cards, the goose poop, but even those moments become happy memories; moments to laugh over.  We had a super day together, Pip and I, and as we rode up and down I reflected on how extremely lucky I am to have him, what a wonderful, breathtakingly magical ride it is on the motherhood carousel, and how I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Finding My Christmas Groove

This week I’m joining up again with the Grooving Mums blog hop. It’s been a few weeks since I last took part. If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling and haven’t felt that groovy.  But, onward and upward, this is the season to be jolly so, party poppers at the ready, here I am.

What have I been doing to get into my Christmas Groove?

Trying to get Ahead
I am doing my best to try and be not so last minute this year. Last week I felt I was in quite a good place, however, I’m not sure if I then just put my feet up for a little too long or whether I was missing half the ‘To Do’ list, but suddenly there seems quite a lot to do. On the bright side, I ordered my photobox calendars and even had them delivered before the deadline. (Simply unheard of for me). And for once, I sent off all my international cards on time.  I haven’t quite written all my Christmas cards but I’m looking forward to finishing them off tonight.  I enjoy writing notes to my friends in them, but as a consequence they take me ages. The cards I enjoy receiving most are the ones where someone has made an effort to write a personal update and I try to do the same. It’s made me realise how little I write anything by hand these days. My hand aches after writing notes in just a couple of cards!

Getting Crafty
I’m not a home spun, crafty type of girl but, the little man does love to make things, and the sheer reward of seeing his excitement, and hearing him say; ‘This is fun!’ has made me make more of an effort recently. This week we’ve made some homemade Christmas cards for him to send to close family. They’re simple, little Christmas trees covered in starry stickers and lots of glitter.  The kitchen now looks like the inside of a snow globe but actually, I quite like it. If you can’t have a glittery floor at Christmas, then I don’t know when you can. We’ve also been making a Christmas tree collage out of Pip’s handprints, to give to my mum when she visits this week. I’m really pleased with how it is turning out.  I think she’s going to love it.  

Dressing for the Occasion – New Years Eve
This year, I was determined that for New Years Eve, I would make an effort.  Each year there are 10 of us for drinks, dinner and games at one of our houses.  Adamant that my ‘vintage’ sparkly top would not make yet another appearance, I set myself a challenge to find something new to wear. Mission accomplished.  In fact, I did something I, ‘jean wearing mamma’ would never normally do. I bought a dress.  The dress is from a shop I’d never normally go in.  I walked past the shop window countless times, and eventually, I went in and tried it on. I was surprised at how much I liked what I saw in the mirror. It’s a maxi dress, which is not a style I’ve worn before, but I felt it was suited to the occasion and I’ve teamed it with a little black tux type jacket and my favourite pair of vintage (also known as seven year old, but still very lovely shoes.)  I just need some chandelier bling style earrings to set it off and I think I will be ready to rock around the clock into 2012.

Each week Kate gives a couple of prompts to the Grooving Mums. One of  the recent prompts was laughter.  Seek something out that makes you laugh.  I’ve felt like I needed a laugh recently.  Luckily there was a long-standing date in the diary, with two friends, my flatmates from fifteen years ago. We met at a restaurant in the West End, drank far too much wine, unwisely followed it with some complimentary Lemoncello and reminisced about the good old days.  I haven’t had such a fun evening in a long, long time.  I laughed and laughed. It really lifted me.

On my Christmas list:  Something for 2012
One of last week’s prompts was to think about something you might like for Christmas that may help you with your Grooving Mum journey.  I’ve asked Santa for this book. It looks like a lighthearted read, and something that is easy to dip in and out of.  It’s rare I have the time and focus to finish a novel these days so something I can read in bite size chunks is great for me.

If you’d like to read more from other Grooving Mums head over to Kate on Thin Ice.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Listography - 5 Christmas Singalong Songs

I’ve found myself rather enjoying the listography over at Kate takes 5.  So, this week I’m linking up again.  The theme this week is Christmas sing-along songs.  These are my 5 all –time favourite Christmas jingles.

1. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Katie Melua
This is such a romantic, hopeful, classic Christmas song. Judy Garland is a legend, but these days I think her voice does sound a bit shaky, possibly because the wonders of digital mastery weren’t available way back then. I vote for Katie Melua’s superb rendition instead, still true to the classic version, and every bit as good. 

2. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin Stevens
Ah, back in the day, I loved a bit of Shaky.  He was the first person I ever saw perform live.  This song always makes me feel Christmassy.

3. All I want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey
I’m not a massive Mariah fan,  but you have to hand it to the woman. She can sing AND, this is an amazingly catchy, festive tune.

4. Last Christmas - Wham 
Swoon…George Michael. As a girl, I was seriously in love with George Michael. I had a Wham poster on my bedroom wall. One of those free ones that you got folded up inside a magazine.   Sadly, I did not realise for many years, that he was likely to be unavailable.   I love this song and I love the video that goes with it too.  The Wham boys are in a ski resort with George sporting wonderfully long floppy hair and looking doe eyed and lost as last year’s lover frolics around with Andrew Ridgely (who only has marginally better hair).  Classic eighties genius.

5. Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
A little bit of  retro rap to finish off with. Go girls!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Faulty Towers

Faulty Towers is meant to be our 'forever' house. We saw this house and dreamt of creating a wonderful home, filled with laughter and lots of children.  We bought it on a whim.  We weren’t planning to move, our own house wasn't even on the market. Within a couple of weeks it was, a week later it was under offer and we were in the race to buy a dilapidated old wreck, the phrase 'carpe diem' cursing through us from vein to brain. 

A year on, we're coming up to our first anniversary in residence, and I look back and wonder if we were seized by madness for the month of November last year.  The obvious plus points of the house were the size and scale compared to our old house, the size of the garden, the 'location, location, location', and the fact that we could afford it.  The small matter of there being 47 steps from the bottom of the house to the top, and the fact the ground floor was on three different levels, was of no consequence. And therein lay the compromise - buy complete topsy-turvy wreck of house to do up ourselves, which otherwise we would never have been able to afford.

As potential purchasers, we did not appreciate the enormity of the challenge before us.  Sometimes I wonder what the hell we were thinking.  Big Daddy's DIY skills are pretty much limited to banging a nail in the wall to hang a picture.  I can daub the odd bit of emulsion on the walls, but am not known for my skill at 'cutting in'.   On our first night here we sat on the steps leading down to the kitchen with a bottle of wine, drunk and in silent shock. What had we done? I honestly thought I might cry.
In the following days, the neighbours made themselves known, or eyed us up from a distance, with smiling, sympathetic eyes. Silently I felt that they were mocking; 'You fools’, although they seemed happy enough that someone had taken on the challenge.  Others were kinder, 'It needs someone young and with the energy to spend time on it.'  Young? Full of energy? Oh dear, I hadn't realised they were prerequisites for a renovation project.  A friend popped by to see our new abode and described it as a ‘beast of a house’. A beast? I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, but a year on it seems that there was some truth in her comment, it is a bit of a beast. On occasion, I do feel like this old place is pulling and tearing at me. It’s almost as though it doesn’t want to be bought back to life.

The place in which you live can affect your state of mind.  I had never really thought about this or experienced it, until living here.  One day, I hope this house will be everything we have dreamed of, but sometimes, living with it as it is now, challenges my sanity and gives me the black dog.  Pretty much everything here is broken, in bad repair and needs to be restored or replaced.  The entire back of the building needs to be pulled off and rebuilt. It needs a new roof, the floor levels need to be changed (a ground floor on three different levels is ridiculous.) And then there’s the new ceilings, new floors, new skirting boards, new windows, new plumbing, new electrics.  Yes, new everything.  The outside fa├žade will stay the same, but everything else will either be restored or replaced, including the dry rot, woodworm and  damp.

We haven’t started any of the work that needs to be done yet,  all we’ve done this past year is complete the necessary red tape. Finally, this week, after months and months of delays, the council approved our planning application, and the local conservation society finally got down off their high horse about the design of the front fence and gave their seal of approval too.  A long time coming, but we finally have a reason to celebrate.

Sometimes it does feel like we are camping in our own house. Has it felt like home this last year?  What makes a home anyway? Not flashy fixtures or fittings. Not the latest trends in wallpaper or interior design. For me, home is a secure, private place where we can all be together, happily and safely.  It’s a place for us to laugh, to cry, to play, to eat together, to talk together, to make music, to share memories. A place where, when we lay our heads on the pillow at night, we all sleep easy, a place we’d rather be than anywhere else. But it still takes time to feel at ease somewhere, to feel this way about a place. That it’s your place, that it is more than just a house, that it is a home.

I think we’re getting there.  We've put paid to the mice - courtesy of the council's last supper. I've stopped thinking that the painted birds in the stained glass windows are quite as evil as I did.  And I can actually be in the house on my own with Pip for the night, without feeling scared. The cellar; damp, dark, and still full of the previous occupants unwanted furniture, still freaks me out, but Little Pip's affectionate moniker of  'The Gruffalo's Cave' has made it seem less scary. The heating also seems to work most of the time now and I have found that walking up and down the many stairs day to day is great for building calf muscle strength.  I would however, love it, if the moths could all bugger off.  Yesterday I found the gorgeous slipper socks I got for Christmas last year, with the soles completely eaten away.  Likewise, I wish we could identify where the wasp’s nest is; the odd sleepy wasp crawling about is rather perilous when walking around in bare feet in the middle of the night.

In the new year we will start work on our grand design. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to making the house look festive, I might even paint the lounge wall a bright jolly red colour.  Garish? Who cares? It’s going to be knocked down anyway.  I’m looking forward to hanging Little Pip’s stocking on the big old fireplace and explaining to him, that on Christmas morning Santa will have come, and if he has been a good boy, he’ll find some presents in it.   And I’m also silently hoping, that this time next year I might be able to hang another stocking on the fireplace, because now we’re here, this old house really does seem rather large for just the three of us to rattle round in.  But, if not, I’ve decided I might just get a cat, or even two cats. Leafing through Old Possum’s book I’ve decided that I’m not going to christen them with a typically West London pretentious name. Mistoffellees and Deuteronomy will have to reside elsewhere; Faulty Towers is going to be the home of Teacup and Mr Spoon.