Thursday, 19 December 2013

Bitches, besties and the female clique

When I was a teenager, I was one of the Sydenham Six. While the label would be more fitting for a band of fugitives than a collective of girls from the same school, the meaning it imparted was nonetheless immediate: we were a clique. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The rise of the box set

‘What shall we do this evening?’ asks my husband. It’s 8pm on Monday, supper is over and ahead of us stretch a few blissful hours of freedom. ‘Scrabble?’ he adds, ‘Some garden planning? Or holiday video editing?’ 

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ I bluff, ‘you choose.’ In light of all the useful things we could be doing, who’s going to take responsibility for doing absolutely nothing? Tonight, neither of us is in any danger of opting to decide on the best spot for the garden pond or plotting for a triple word score. It’s been a long Monday and all day, at the back of my mind has been the thought that once the kids are in bed, the kitchen’s clear, lunches packed for tomorrow and stove blazing, we’ll slump into the sofa, each welcome a cat onto our laps and melt into an episode of our current DVD series. Ah – what a gloriously cosy, united way to distance reality on a winter evening. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Happy Cancerversary

At this time of year I tend to dwell on my first cancer diagnosis, because it’s my Cancerversary. Actually, I’m unlucky enough to have two of the occasions each year, with the second falling in the summer. Nicely spaced for a biannual reminder to count my blessings, I think, as I chalk another mark on my mental survival tally. Nine this year. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

It's the thought that counts

There’s no avoiding it any longer, Christmas is coming. I am braced for shopping, wish-lists are circulating, beleaguered mothers are arriving late at the school gates after shopping expeditions, and the shops are full of tat that will end up in a local charity shop before the end of January. 

The pressure’s on again to dream up ideas for ever-more surprising, interesting presents, because when it comes to gifts, we all know it’s the thought that counts.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Mrs and Misses Malaprop

Some things run in families, like red hair, antiques, musical aptitude, cancer and money, to cite a few examples. While some tendencies can be consigned to nature, others clearly fall to nurture. Either way, there are certain characteristics that weave their way through generations in one family to become strong, identifying features.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The vicarious ambition of a mother

The other day, I noticed my daughter singing her school harvest festival song with a vibrato. As I paused and caught her eye, she played along and exaggerated the effect. Lucky Ikea don’t do crystal glasses, I thought as she came to the end of her cadence: ‘The broad beans are sleeping in their blankety be-a-e-a-eds!’

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Cats or dogs?

A couple of years ago, my mother drew an analogy which has stuck with me. It was in light of the respective stages my sister and I were at in our parenting journeys: she had teens, I had toddlers. I suppose we’d both been bending her ear with our gripes, and she compared our children to cats and dogs.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Thoughts in the wake of a Macmillan coffee morning

The collateral of defeating cancer

On Friday, a friend hosted a Macmillan coffee morning at her home. There were pretty cups and saucers, good coffee, delicious cake aplenty, and a jolly time was had by all. There was no mention of cancer, and no need to mention cancer, because among us was an unspoken understanding that all present had been touched by the disease in one way or another. It felt to me like a silent united force – cake-eaters coming together to enjoy ourselves in defiance of cancer.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The self-fulfilling prophecy of social media

What a pretty picture summer painted this year. If social media is to be believed, my friends and acquaintances have spent their summers smiling, whether they were crossing continents or raising a glass beneath the twinkly lights of a garden party. As for we parents in the medley, anyone would think we were in competition with the sun to kiss the freckled faces of our laughing children as they hurdled waves on expansive beaches. Illustrated highlights of the season include granita enjoyed against a Sicilian backdrop, electric eels encountered beneath the Ionian sea, huitres en famille en Bretagne and happy quantities of new wine consumed at a Viennese heuriger. The viewing has been a vicarious delight, and equipped me with some inspiration for next year’s holiday.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The fine art of entertainment

I have recently been involved in the Telegraph’s Kids in Museums award. With hands-on opportunities ten-a-penny, museums are really moving with the times and research shows they are more popular than ever with families. While there’s no doubt that all six museums which made it to the shortlist this summer will provide a rich and entertaining experience for their younger visitors, what of the museum’s more grown-up cousin, the gallery?  Does this more traditional, static experience have the capacity to capture the hearts and minds of our children?

As a life-long lover of art, recently starved of my eye candy through maternal duties, I have a selfish motivation when I wonder if there is room for children to get enthusiastic about art and artefacts that aren’t all-singing-all-dancing. Admittedly, it was with my own interest at heart that I set out with my two-year-old daughter to see if simple paintings on canvas could cut the mustard.