Wednesday, 29 July 2015

These are my peeps part 2: Are these really my peeps?

Part of the joy of moving house is, of course, getting to know the new neighbours, and so today, I took myself to the local cafe (not the one where Piglet previously disgraced himself by kicking a table over.  We're lying low from that one for a while) in an attempt to do just that.

Well, actually it was more of an attempt to distract Piglet from opening all the cupboards in Granny's death-trap kitchen and extracting the contents (so far today I have had to prise ceramic oven dishes, washing powder caps and a bottle of Tabasco sauce from his little hands).

Anyway, off we went to the cafe, and I almost immediately found myself in conversation with a local.  This particular individual was well over eighty, and was presumably suffering from some sort of age-related macular degeneration, as when I happened to mention that I was looking for a place to live, she suggested the flats where she lives.

These flats are known as "Homes for the Aged."

Now I know I am suffering a daily increase in the number of grey hairs on my 35 year old head, but I hadn't considered that this aged me twenty years, but presumably it must do as you have to be over 55 to live in these flats.



Luckily at that point it started raining and the cafe was overrun with middle class mothers and their offspring, who had been in the park outside, sheltering from the rain.  Aha, I thought, these are my peeps.  Here is my opportunity to make some new, local friends.  

I mean, I am a Middle Class Mother, right?  I have a Bugaboo.  We go to swimming lessons.  Hell, I even wore a Breton top yesterday.

"Look!" I cried gleefully at Piglet, "look!  Other babies!  Maybe you should invite them to your birthday party tomorrow!"

Piglet examined the other babies with interest.  The other babies sat in their pushchairs and ignored him.  The Mothers came in and ordered lattes in paper cups (I drink lattes!  I am a Middle Class Mother, right?)  They were all wearing sensible hiking jackets and flat shoes.  I was wearing these leggings.

And I looked 55 years old.  In THESE LEGGINGS.  Just let that sink in for a moment.  After five minutes, the Middle Class Mothers departed, once all their babies had started crying, and I was left thinking two things.

1.) This area must have undergone a degree of gentrification since the 1980s, when my dad once had to lead a local boy home by his ear after he karate kicked me in the street, and
2.) Are those really my peeps?

I mean, those women almost certainly have husbands.  And they almost certainly have cars, and don't have to take the bus everywhere.  And those women almost certainly never wear Black Milk leggings.  This is possibly because Black Milk leggings are designed for teenagers and not 55 year old women like me, but I am convinced that I will not be welcomed into the Middle Class Mother fold unless I wear sensible shoes and hiking jackets AT ALL TIMES.

I will continue in my efforts to find some friends.  For Piglet's sake, at least.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Piglet vs the World

Ladies and gentlemen, I no longer live in Wembers.

Well, it's not official.  I haven't even notified the bank I've changed addresses yet, let alone actually sold the flat.  However, Piglet and I are currently residing with my mother and are now the occupants of a room I previously shared with my brother in 1985.  It's great being 35.

The journey here was relatively uneventful, except for a few awkward moments conversing with someone I met once at a job interview who sat on the table next to us at Reading Services while I was trying to feed Piglet an appetising combination of Heinz baby biscuits and a jar of "cheesy fish pie," which was the only offering for babies (for some reason the only food available at the services seems to be chips, and I am convinced that once Piglet is introduced to chips, it will be the beginning of a long descent into morbid obesity that will end with him being lifted out of a hole in the side of the house by crane, while a finger-wagging Jeremy Kyle stands alongside narrating a TV documentary warning of the dangers of fast food).

Speaking of food, Mother and I are probably now barred from one of the local cafes after Piglet kicked a table over whilst remonstrating with his grandmother about not being allowed to crawl around on the floor of said cafe and pull himself up on all the other diners' tables and steal their food (which is undoubtedly what he would have been doing, had he been allowed to crawl around at will).  It would be an understatement to say that Piglet does not like being told that he cannot crawl around, especially in restaurants, pubs and train stations.  However, at least Granny is in possession of a highchair, so I no longer have to try to convince him to remain in his Bumbo seat for the duration of a meal, instead of climbing out, smearing food on every available surface, taking all the books off the shelf, pouring water over them, and then trying to push large pieces of furniture around the room as though they were toy cars.

I am pretty convinced that he is lying next to me now, having sweet dreams about which bits of Granny's house he is going to destroy first.  That is, if the house doesn't get him first.  There is quite a lot more babyproofing that needs to be done in a house than in a flat.  We should probably just line the whole place with crash mats.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Partying it Up In Wembers

I will miss Wembley.  Where else, with the possible exception of One Direction's house (do they all live in the same house?  I sort of imagine they do, except the one who left, obvs.) can you walk out of your flat, take the baby for a walk and find yourself in the middle of a crowd of excitable teenage girls all waiting around hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of someone famous?

At least, I presume that was what they were all doing outside Wembley Arena today watching the X Factor being filmed.  Unless there was just a really, really long queue to get in.

Piglet was asleep, so I waited for a few minutes, noting that something must be about to happen as not only was there an expectant waiting crowd, but a paparazzi photographer was stationed on the roof like a sniper.

Of course she may actually have been a sniper.  Watching X Factor sometimes has that effect on me, too, especially when Cheryl rocks up wearing two dustbin lids and shaming a teenage girl on national television for being "a bit of a bully" and everyone swoons and says she's the nation's sweetheart.  Or when they cue the Sad Music and start talking about a contestant's "journey," and how every minute of their existence up until now has been utterly meaningless because all they have ever done with their life is have a normal job like everyone else that doesn't involve singing terrible dated covers to the nation on a glittery plinth every week, and also their gran died last year at the age of a hundred and three and it was all terribly tragic and unexpected, and now she must be watching over their moment of televisual glory from that great big living room in the sky, probably wearing a T-shirt with a picture of them on it.  Anyway, I digress.  Piglet let out a squawk of displeasure at the pushchair being stationary, and I moved on, noting with interest that the real action was not in front of the Arena, but along the side street on the way back to my flat, where Olly Murs was being filmed getting out of a car.  Yes, OLLY MURS.  GETTING OUT OF A CAR.  Take that, waiting public, you missed it.

After all this excitement, (please note I also saw Caroline Flack.  CAROLINE FLACK!  She was only, like, FIFTY METRES AWAY!  And also some other presenter who I didn't recognise, who was interviewing some people whom I can only assume were PROBABLY X FACTOR CONTESTANTS!) I had to calm myself down with smelling salts, and very nearly missed the yearly extravaganza that is the Forum House Residents' Party.

This was, in fact, a welcome break from trying to get Piglet to eat his dinner, an ordeal that basically consists of me repeatedly putting him in his Bumbo seat and him repeatedly climbing out and crawling away, although not before giving his sippy cup a nice big shake so that all the water comes out, soaking at least one book in the process.

Piglet seemed to enjoy the party, and it did have the desired effect of tiring him out before bed, as he spent a glorious hour exploring the courtyard of the building, being trailed by yours truly.  I was trying to strike the right balance between being a relaxed parent who lets my child explore his surroundings, thus meeting his development potential as encouraged by the likes of Penelope Leach, et al, and being suitably firm about boundaries at crucial points such as when Piglet decided to pick up some stones from the ground and attempt to eat them.

The main difficulty in gauging where exactly the appropriate limits might be, is that there is no one else to tell you.  Well, maybe Gina Ford, but like, facepalm.  Or my mother, but is it really necessary to avoid all grass just in case a dog might have once relieved itself on that patch at some point in history?  There is no rehearsal and no going back and putting it right if you get it wrong.  Let's just say that this evening, in the courtyard, no one else's baby seemed to be crawling around.  They were all either old enough to walk, or too young to do much more than sit contentedly in their parents' arms.  And not one of the assorted children of my neighbours were in any way covered in mud and grass, as Piglet very quickly was.  Eventually I gave up and took him back inside.  He crawled most of the way back to the flat, which is probably regarded in some quarters as unacceptable, but hey, we don't have a block party every week.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Piglet Vs. Literature: Part 2

Piglet seems to have developed a rather disturbing new habit.  Several times this week I have caught him banging his head-apparently deliberately-on his cot or my bed.  Upon consulting Dr Google about this distressing new hobby I have learned the following:
Piglet has above average intelligence
Head banging is totally normal
Piglet must be autistic
Piglet is a Romanian orphan

Obviously some of these possibilities are more appealing than others.

Anyway, in an attempt to stimulate the first of these options, today I took Piglet to the library.  Now I must admit that Piglet does not seem to be overly keen on books at this present time.  In fact, whenever I try to read to him he either a) tries to grab the book and throw it around or b) crawls as quickly as possible in the opposite direction, usually right off the side of the bed (I basically have to cling on to him at all times whilst on the bed.  The other night I was woken up by an almighty crash and the sound of hysterical crying, only to find that he had rolled right off in his sleep.  This did not go down well in light conversation at work, where I suddenly felt the eyebrows of all present company rise slightly as I regaled this witty oh-aren't-children-funny anecdote, as though I had just casually admitted to waterboarding my son during his evening bath).  Today, however, there was a Netmums meet-up at the library, during which they were going to be talking about some stuff that doesn't apply to me, such as flexible working (ha ha ha) and starting your own business (I once sold some stuff on Ebay and made an actual loss).

Now one friend of mine, a devotee of Mumsnet, once told me that she preferred Mumsnet to Netmums because the latter was "a bit working class," so I was expecting to feel right at home the place to be populated by people with Croydon facelifts and children called Chardonnay, but it turned out that in fact the Netmums posse consisted of nice well-spoken ladies with well-behaved children who sat still and looked on magnanimously as Piglet crawled around crazily trying to steal their scooters, pushchairs and any shoes they happened to have removed from their feet.  This meant that I ended up somewhat disengaged from the conversation as I was continuously having to run across the library and stop Piglet from emptying entire bookshelves and throwing the contents across the floor, in much the same manner to how he rolls at home with my own book collection, now sadly mostly ripped to shreds or soaked with water on a daily basis.  To be honest though, I pretty much switched off and decided to leave at the point when the speaker, who was talking about setting up a business when her children were small, decisively proclaimed that if you were always working when your child was young, by the time they turned ten you would have lost them forever, and due to your failure as a mother by not putting the effort in during the early years and being there to wipe away their every tear and change their every nappy, you were setting yourself up for a lifetime of emotional distance, bad behaviour, and basically having you and your child physically enact all the lyrics from Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.

That song always made my dad cry.  Not sure why, as it seems that in real life it's generally only mothers who come in for the sort of criticism that blames every one of an individual's personal failings/murderous tendencies/despotic dictatorships on the failure of their female parent to be a cookie-baking, treasure hunt-organising, dedicated to home and hearth Perfect Mother.  The dads can work all they want and no one ever implies that they are neglecting their true vocation and ruining the next generation for all of humanity.

Anyway, my lack of motherly skills evident, I skulked off, only returning when I saw that the queue in Starbucks was a bit long, and I stealthily snuck back into the library to use the coffee shop, hoping not to be seen by any of the Net Mums.  Sometimes I think when Piglet is older he will turn on me and accuse me of loving coffee more than him.  The boy is basically being raised in the highchairs of Cafe Nero, Costa and Starbucks.  The Starbucks staff don't even have to ask me my name anymore. Some of them can even spell it.

And I made him play on his own while I watched an episode of Mad Men this evening.  I'm going to Hell in a Handcart.