Thursday, 19 January 2017

War and Peace: A Good Night Reflection

Every day is a constant battle.

"Keep still while I'm trying to get you dressed!"

"Don't throw your breakfast on the floor!"

"Hurry up and put your coat on. We've got to go! Now!"

"Don't snatch! Say sorry! Give it back!"

"Eat your fruit! No you can't have another biscuit!"

"Don't stand on the chair!"

"Don't play with the radiator!"

"Keep out of the bin!"

"Don't put that in the loo!"

"I mean it!"

"Keep still! Don't touch it! Stop doing that! Put it down! Now!"

"Finish your supper!"

"Don't splash the water out of the bath! Don't touch the taps! Brush your teeth!"

"Time for bed! Say, 'Good Night'! No more stories! Lie down! Go to sleep!"

"I mean it!"

Peace at last.

The white flag is raised.

That innocent little creature sleeping there looks so harmless. It must be friend not foe.

Why must we be enemies all day? Locked in this constant battle of wills?

If I could have this day again I'd be on your side. I'd laugh and play and join in the fun. I wouldn't lose my temper.

I almost want to wake you up right now so we can enjoy this truce together. Almost...

Good Night little one. Sleep well my love. Get your rest.

For tomorrow the war will rage on.

One Messy Mama
The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

La La Land

"La, la, la, la", crackles a voice over the baby alarm. My daughter is awake and is performing for an audience of stuffed animals.

I look at the clock - ten past seven. Well, I can't complain at that alarm call. I steel myself to throw back the covers and roll out of bed, plod downstairs, make coffee and warm milk, before tackling the morning nappy.

On the radio a reporter is revealing the Bafta nominations. 11 for La La Land, which made the headlines the previous morning for winning big at the Golden Globes.

The musical about Hollywood from Whiplash's writer/director Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone piqued my interest when I first wrote about it being cast back in 2015. But that all seems a world away now.

For ten years I worked as an entertainment journalist. My life revolved around premieres, parties and opening nights. My calendar year was charted out in awards ceremonies and reality TV series launches. I saw at least three films a week, I watched TV shows weeks before they were broadcast and I could pick and choose which musicians I wanted to hear live and what West End shows I wanted to see open.

These days I'm lucky to catch up on an old Netflix show in my pyjamas after I have put my daughter to bed.

But after just over a year away from the red carpet, it still takes me by surprise to be reminded the carousel keeps on turning.

The day I found out I was pregnant I went to a pre-Bafta party. It was sponsored by a gin company and all the drinks on the bar were themed cocktails. I had to ask the barman if I could just have some elderflower cordial, without the gin.

I stood at the side of the room, twiddling an enormous goldfishbowl on a stem filled with ice and elderflower cordial, looking hungrily at the platters of food that went by, piled with seafood and rare meat and unpasteurised cheese.

Nobody knew my secret. But as I watched celebrities arrive and pose for pictures and partygoers take selfies, it was already starting to feel detached from reality.

Now I live in a new kind of La La Land.

I still have to make sure I've done my research, dress for the occasion, avoid certain taboo subjects and handle diva-like tantrums. But as a parent my priorities have changed dramatically.

And when an occasional flashbulb pulls me back from the shadows towards that world, it seems hollow.

I was always on the other side of the velvet rope. But now I am totally blocked off from it, peering over the heads of the crowd on the other side, wondering what all the commotion is about.

The escapism of celebrity gossip doesn't even amuse me. I have seen too much of  the smoke and mirrors from the side of stage to be taken in by it.

Even when I was part of the pack, the real interest for me was the challenge of seeing past the paint and polish, to try and find a glimpse of what truly lay beneath.

Now, in this age where journalism faces so many changes and challenges, where fake news is everywhere and political unrest threatens my child's future, I feel more drawn to writing about real life.

I don't want to escape reality anymore. I want to grab it and stare it in the face. To shine the spotlight on its problems and try to find a solution.

It's hard when you have done something for a decade of your life to stand up and admit, out loud, that you don't think it is important anymore.

But being responsible for another life really puts the hype around awards season into perspective.

That's not to say I am not interested in speaking to Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

I'd like to ask father Ryan about sharing parental duties, Emma about the gender pay gap and both of them about how it feels to live in a country that elected Donald Trump as leader.

I'm just not that interested in who they will be wearing to The Oscars this year.

While the spotlight continues to shine on the glitz and glamour that is showbusiness, I make animal noises and play peekaboo.

The show must go on.
One Messy Mama
The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback
A Mum Track Mind

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Five Kids' Christmas Presents You Wish You Could Give Back

The holidays are over, the decorations have been packed away, the last chocolate coin has been consumed and everyone is plodding back along into their old routine.

Except everything is not quite back to how it was.

Over the last 12 days a number of unsolicited items have been smuggled into your home, wrapped in bright paper and sparkly ribbons. You did not have prior knowledge of what these parcels contained, let alone a chance to grant them your approval.

And now, as the final flurry of wrapping paper has been cleared away, it is beginning to dawn on you that you have been invaded, and it's too late to do anything about it.

Christmas is a time for giving, and that's all very well and good. But there really should be a rule when buying presents for other people's children - you must ask yourself, "Can you go about your daily life with this being played over and over again in the same room as you?" And if you should even hesitate before answering yes, then DO NOT INFLICT IT ON ME VIA MY CHILD!

Here are the top toys heading to a charity shop near me before January is out.

1. The Talking Activity Gadget
On the surface it seems like a great present. A toy that talks to your child so you don't have to.
But why do they all have such irritating, high-pitched voices? Can your little one really be learning anything as they hit the button that makes it warble the alphabet erratically for the twenty seventh time in a row? And why, oh God why, is there no off switch?
Fortunately it uses £50 worth of batteries a fortnight, giving you an excuse never to replace them.

2. The Expensive Collectible
My offspring had been getting through life perfectly happily, blissfully unaware that there was a set of little animals that dress and live like people. That is, people who live in extortionately priced houses with even more ludicrously expensive furniture sold in little sets.
And then someone gave them one for Christmas and now they want to build the whole town.
All their birthday and Christmas and Tooth Fairy money forevermore will be squandered on yet another piece of miniature furniture worth more than any of the full size furnishings in our home.
Until they are introduced to their next fad, and the costly, half-complete collection is left to gather dust with the rest of them.

3. The Christmas-themed Cuddly Toy
As if we didn't already have more stuffed animals than a dodgy fairground attraction, the last thing we needed was another to add to the pile of neglected not-favourites that must bow down before her beloved bunny.
But of all the forgotten cuddly toys, the one with the red Christmas hat stitched to its head is the one I feel most sorry for.
It's almost as though it knew from the outset that its days were numbered.
A favourite teddy is for life, but a Christmas teddy only gets cuddled for a few seconds after the paper has been torn off, before it is quickly cast aside to make way for the next present.
It may get stuffed in the box with all the others, a few chocolatey finger-prints on its white fur indicating that it knew real love for about 30 seconds, but its red and white costume marks it out as the little toy that everyone forgot.

4. The Giant Floor Puzzle
We all had a present like this under our tree. The really big, extravagant one that takes up loads of room and has loads of parts. And requires loads of concentration to play.
It was really exciting when it first got opened. There were exclamations of joy and everyone started joining in and playing together.
But then they got distracted by food or television, or another present and it got left strewn all over the floor.
It gets in the way, it's a nightmare to hoover around, bits soon get lost and it rarely ever gets completed even once.
If it made a noise it would be top of the list.

5. The New Favourite Book
It seemed such an endearing story the first time they settled down on your lap to read it. The flaps were so brand new you had to help rip the perforations in the card to open them, and you were genuinely interested in how it ended.
But since Christmas morning you have read it over, and over, and over, and over again.
They may not be able to read yet, but by golly they can remember every word. And if you try and skip out even half a sentence they'll call you out on it.
"Why don't we read Dear Zoo tonight? You used to love that." But oh no, it has to be that new Christmas book again.
What a shame it seems to have disappeared...
One Messy Mama
The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback
The Pramshed