‘Spring is sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is’.
My Dad used to recite that line to me when I was a child, and if I replace ‘birdies’ with ‘pinot grigio’ you have exactly my sentiments about the approaching warmer weather. I’m a big fan of a pub garden, of early evenings sat outside while the children play in the paddling pool and run through the wheat fields before leading the country into the abyss. Wait, that’s just Teresa May, my bad.
I adore the good weather, I’ve lived and worked in central Europe and being outdoors suits me entirely. My issue with the approaching summer is that my kid is an only child, which means that I am her playmate, which means no wine, no sitting down, and absolutely no relaxing thank you very much. Despite a social life which would make the Kardashians recoil in exhaustion, my kid wants to play with ME. Which is great, because she still thinks I’m cool enough to play with (time is ticking on that front) but it flies in the face of wine-drenched relaxation in the garden. The first green shoots of Spring signal the end of my peaceful hibernations indoors, and the start of my Olympic training regime in such sports as Kick the Ball Loudly into Next Door’s Fence, Help Me Up on to this Swing, and Mum Can I Have an Ice-Lolly. I need to get fit, quick, these are blood sports and I’ve neglected my training.
Having an only child is an absolutely magical thing. They (maybe a tad patronisingly) allow you to become an honorary child again while they set the rules and run you ragged. I adore it. We can’t have any more kiddos, so this girl will be forever thrust into other people’s gardens, picking up neighbourhood waifs and strays to play with while we are out and about. I don’t think this is a negative thing, and I’m grateful that I’m active enough to keep up with her while she shouts rules at me and berates my obvious athletic inadequacies in public. From what I hear from people with more than one kid it seems to be more of a lion-taming situation anyway, more Chris Pratt with the raptors in Jurassic World and less The Waltons. I’ll never know, but sometimes I feel a pang of gratitude in Autumn when the nights draw in and we can legitimately stick a DVD on under a blanket and ignore the outside world completely. Summer is great, but dear sweet baby Jesus I’m shattered already.
Spring is trying to arrive and our 6 year old is in full swing with her SATS exams at school.
A thoroughly pointless hoop-jumping time of year which does little more than assess how well the school teaches kids remember what >, %, £ and < mean and how phonemes can affect common exception words. (Your guess is as good as mine.) My kid thought the symbols were old fashioned emojis but whatever. As much as my husband and I have little motivation to exhaust our anxious little hard-worker, we have been really surprised with just how competitive she’s become. Seriously, she’s like a Year 2 Terminator. Her teacher commented on how she relishes a difficult test sheet and is super happy when it’s exam time. We’re currently looking into hospital records from 2011 to see if we brought the wrong one home.
Given that she cares so much about her assessment results, we have started to jump on the competitive band wagon and have become her cheerleading squad. She delights in telling us that she got 5 out of 5 on her weekly spelling test or all her homework questions correct, and we make a fuss of her hard work each time. We’ve always held the opinion that rewards are for behaviour and effort, rather than results, so we are still careful not to spoil her when she nails a new maths theory. But I want to, I want to launch glitter-canons in the streets and shout about how clever she is, but it’s wound in and packaged as a ‘that’s great babe, you worked really hard on it’ instead.
As parents we have a couple of degrees and a PhD between us, so we were expecting her to do okay at school. She’s one of the youngest in her class, so we were also aware that she would be almost a year behind her classmates, both socially and academically, but she’s overtaken everything we hoped for and is now an Uber Geek of the highest order, and we are (quietly) really proud.
So, little lady, go and smash those exams. Those silly tests which could be better spent outside digging up worms or making dens. If she’s happy, we’re happy. And if you come top of the class, we might just buy you an ice cream on the way home. If it ever warms up.
Food scenes in films have always existed to remind the audience that even though the people onscreen are much hotter, richer and more talented than the viewing audience, they still need a decent meal like ordinary folk from time to time.
This month I list my all time favourite food scenes while binge eating a bag of own brand peanuts. Please enjoy.
Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene:
Until I was 4 years old I didn’t really believe in love, I thought it was a dystopian ideal circulated by a corrupt government to get people to pay more taxes, but then I watched 2 dogs kiss by accident while eating Italian food and I knew love was real. I still think Lady could do better, though.
Jurassic Park jelly wobble:
This scene still makes me anxious. We learn that raptors can open doors and it still frightens me as much as when my toddler managed it for the first time and caught me plucking my ‘tash.
What We Do in the Shadows:
Regardless of a hilarious late-night chippie takeaway scene, seek this film out for its sheer hilarity. A bunch of vampires film a mockumentary about the perils of modern life, one of which is not having chips after a mental night out. I definitely could not be a vampire, you couldn’t even have garlic sauce on them.
9 ½ Weeks:
This entire film marked my transition to womanhood and gave me a lifelong interest in top of the range fridge-freezers. Bet theirs was A+ for energy conservation. Not sure about a blindfolded buffet though, I’d prefer toast and Netflix if I’m honest.
Matt Damon becomes a farmer on Mars. Stay with me, he does science stuff too and is funny with some actual jokes, but mainly he’s a space farmer. How many crops have YOU grown on Earth? EXACTLY. Impressive stuff if you like extreme farming. Which I do.
Do yourselves a favour and rewatch The Banana Boat Song scene on Youtube. I’m assuming you know what I mean, and if you don’t then I’m afraid we probably can’t be penpals any more. I once showed this to my daughter and she had nightmares about hands coming out of soup for months. She just really doesn’t like soup.
It’s the most wonderful time of the cold, miserable, over-priced, consumerist month. The time we buy too much food and spend money on presents for people we don’t like which they don’t need or want. And yet, I bloody love Christmas.
It’s taken me having a child to bring back its magic, and now as soon as Tesco’s start putting their selection boxes out in August I get a lovely feeling of lets-not-be-horrid-to-each-other which usually lasts until Boxing Day. Now, I know I may be in the minority here, so allow me to lay down a few contingency plans for the more Grinchy among us. It’s all going to be ok.
What to do if the dinner is a disaster: I say preparation is key here. Light a fire on Christmas eve, and if you don’t have a wood burning stove just set fire to a pile of old boxes in a shopping trolley outside. Either will do.
The warmth attracts wildlife, and inevitable something will either fall down the chimney/onto your bonfire and provide a lovely leg of venison/cat/hedgehog for your family the following day. If anyone asks, it’s smoked game.
What to do if the Christmas Pudding won’t light: This tradition is puzzling. I’m all for lighting shots of absinthe on a good hen night then having a Maccys at 3am, but why set fire to a perfectly good liquor which may otherwise numb the effects of an entire day with your family? Odd. My suggestion is to make everyone, including Grandma, down a shot of brandy before eating some profiteroles. No one actually likes Christmas Pudding.
Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.
What to do if Uncle Alan has too much to drink and gets a bit racist: If the conversation gets around to Brexit or Trump, here are my suggestions. Firstly, point to the nearest posh bit of food and explain that without the influence of European cuisine (or the actual word cuisine) we would all be sat around eating ham sandwiches or cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple on.
Everything rich and nutritious has probably come from outside the UK. Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.
How to steer Aunty Dorothy’s dinner table conversation away from awkward personal information: You’re unmarried, and so in Dorothy’s eyes, highly abstract and possibly even ‘alternative’. You are still working in a ‘job’ job and not a ‘career’ job and have yet to put down any money towards a deposit for a house. My suggestion here is to crack open the Terry’s Chocolate Orange and explain that the baby boomers destroyed both the housing and employment market, and that it’s actually her fault that you are so overworked and depressed that no one finds you attractive any more. She’ll come round.
What to do with leftovers: Leave them in the fridge along with your best intentions. Literally no one actually makes turkey soup the next day. Just buy less next year and give the cat a day to remember with a leg or two of roast hedgehog. Your budget will thank me.
That’s it, and just remember folks, I’m not an expert.